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The Turakian Age is Seriously Underrated

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I came late to Turakian Age and I never actually fell for it as written. It always seemed better suited to something like the Wheel of Time to me, where humans were the overwhelmingly dominant species and there was a lot of detail regarding the individual nations and cultures therein. Even the map evokes that feel for me. Using Tolkien/D&D staple races always seemed to detract from the setting at large. I could force a sort of "Forgotten Realms in Hero" vibe overlay, but it just wasn't as satisfying to me. Ultimately, I gave up and just decided to work on more personalized settings. I still tinker with them from time to time, though I doubt that much will come of them. I haven't been involved in a game since 2009 and these days, where taking offense at every little thing seems to be a new art form, I don't feel really confident in looking for a new group.

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On 8/2/2019 at 9:31 PM, Nolgroth said:

I came late to Turakian Age and I never actually fell for it as written. It always seemed better suited to something like the Wheel of Time to me, where humans were the overwhelmingly dominant species and there was a lot of detail regarding the individual nations and cultures therein. Even the map evokes that feel for me. Using Tolkien/D&D staple races always seemed to detract from the setting at large. I could force a sort of "Forgotten Realms in Hero" vibe overlay, but it just wasn't as satisfying to me. Ultimately, I gave up and just decided to work on more personalized settings. I still tinker with them from time to time, though I doubt that much will come of them. I haven't been involved in a game since 2009 and these days, where taking offense at every little thing seems to be a new art form, I don't feel really confident in looking for a new group.

 

When I adapted TA to my own use, I expanded the role of various non-humans, giving them a more prominent "footprint" in the setting. For example, I made more explicit the economic and political ties between the score of named Dwarven kingdoms and their human neighbors, as well as their role as trade middlemen between the surface world and the Underdark. I also tried to individualize each kingdom as done with the human nations in TA. I inserted more Elven forest realms into several areas where there was space on the map without much else happening in their vicinity. I also gave more independence to various Gnome and Halfling communities. I added communities of Drakine driven from their original homes by the wars with Men who had adapted to new living arrangements, e.g. "barbaric" clans living within the Ulimar Jungle; and boat-dwelling Drakine "gypsies" roving the coasts of Lake Beralka and the Sea of Mhorec. I also established a couple of underwater kingdoms of Merfolk in places I thought they would logically fit, and expanded the presence of aquatic races like the Uthosa in Mhorec and Beralka.

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It's worthwhile noting that the TA resources go much further than the TA setting book, Fantasy hero Battlegrounds and Nobles, Knights and Necromancers.

 

Fantasy Hero Grimoire and Fantasy Hero Grimoire II are specifically noted as being the grimoires for Turakian Age - in their spell descriptions (and even names) you'll find snippets of background lore on wizards and the occasional historical events. These were removed (and spells renamed) when the two volumes were combined for the 6th edition Grimoire. Personally, I rather like the fanciful names of the 5th edition grimoires.

 

Enchanted Items, by Jason Walters, also draws on TA for items' backgrounds. Monsters, Minions and Marauders provides stats for many of the species in the core setting book.

 

Some published elements of the setting go back further. The Ulronai Warrior-Mage and the College of Warrior-Magery were first detailed in Fantasy Hero Companion II (for 4th edition) back in 1992. Steve is listed as a contributor to that volume.

 

I must admit, I very much enjoy the Turakian Age. I've set campaigns in Aarn and the Westerlands, and in Mitharia. I've even set the classic Keep on the Borderlands (converted to Hero 6) in the borders between Kirkhovy and Vestria. Like others, I find it has a Greyhawk-ish flavour, though with more plot ideas secreted in its background.

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While Aarn has the reputation for being the largest city in Ambrethel, for big-city adventure I find the Free City of Tavrosel, in Mhorecia, to hold more interesting potential. Tavrosel is described as "an enormous city, second in size only to Aarn." (The Turakian Age p. 85)  Its government is a semi-democracy with an elected ruling Triumvirate, so there's lots of potential for political intrigue. Tavrosel's excellent port position on the Sea of Mhorec linking most of Mhorecia, and proximity to the Great Pass between Mhorecia and Khoria, make it a major meeting place for the cultures of West and East, giving it a diverse, cosmopolitan populace. It also lies in an area of overlapping interest for several larger powers: Besruhan, Velkara, the Sirrenic Empire, and the Hargeshite Empire of Vashkhor. Tavrosel's diplomats spend much time and energy to deflect those states' acquisitive intentions.

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2 minutes ago, Lord Liaden said:

While Aarn has the reputation for being the largest city in Ambrethel, for big-city adventure I find the Free City of Tavrosel, in Mhorecia, to hold more interesting potential.

 

You've convinced me. No colossus can replace that east-meets-west vibe. ;)

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Thanx for the kind words, folx! It's always great to hear that people enjoy what I've written. ;)

 

While I definitely don't have time to tackle any book-length works related to TA, the next time I get the itch to do a little Fantasy work in and around researching MYTHIC HERO and whatnot, perhaps I can come up a group of bad guys, or an unusual cult, or something else fun for TA. :hex:

 

Quote

 It's one reason I like Bujold's "World of the Five Gods" stories so much.

 

Hmmm -- I am not familiar with these. I will have to check 'em out, since I've enjoyed the four or five of her "Miles Vorkosigan" books that I've read. Thanx for the suggestion!

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2 hours ago, Steve Long said:

Thanx for the kind words, folx! It's always great to hear that people enjoy what I've written. ;)

 

While I definitely don't have time to tackle any book-length works related to TA, the next time I get the itch to do a little Fantasy work in and around researching MYTHIC HERO and whatnot, perhaps I can come up a group of bad guys, or an unusual cult, or something else fun for TA. :hex:

 

Thanx for writing it. :)

 

My suggestion from the setting for potential elaboration would be the Shadow-Priests of Khem (TA p. 179 sidebar). The cult's schemes and operations can be fairly widespread, and as faithful servants of a malevolent god can be as petty or grand as desired. The brief outline of the history of Khem implies an interesting back story. We already have a representative of the Khemites in Alarch Denbrose (Nobles, Knights, And Necromancers), but very little detail for the rest of his order.

 

Although I never got to expand the Shadow-Priests for my own games, I did outline a connection between them and the priesthood of Kaphtor from the later Atlantean Age. My concept was that Elion, the Khemite who founded the Shadow-Priests, discovered an enormous yubha crystal, an enchanted gemstone from Thûn, which had been carried north by magma currents and came to rest beneath Khem. It became the focus of the Shadow-Priests' worship and was charged with the dark power of their god Mordak. It survived the sinking of Khem, and provided an anchor for Mordak's essence, so that he "awoke" with the rise of magic during the Atlantean Age. Having evolved as "Mor'daki," the god raised the crystal, that would be known as the Noctis Shard, above its resting place, which had become the land of Kaphtor.

 

Obviously I would have adapted and modified elements of Kaphtoran society and magic to the Shadow-Priests.

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I started a re-read of the Turakian Age book today. I, admittedly, didn't go beyond the Introduction today, but I figure I will probably read a few pages to a chapter every couple of days until I get through it. So far, my impression of the Turakian Age re-read is going pretty well. I do not have quite the same hardline stance against its inclusion into the Hero Timeline. Not much else of note beyond the Chapters summary. I'll have more commentary as I read further into the book.

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On 8/2/2019 at 9:31 PM, Nolgroth said:

Using Tolkien/D&D staple races always seemed to detract from the setting at large.

 

THANK YOU! 

 

Thank you so very much! 

 

Not something I am pointing at TA about, but at the vast majority of fantasy games and settings, etc.  If I wanted Tolkien, I'd play MERP.  If I wanted &D&D, I'd play that. 

 

On 8/2/2019 at 9:31 PM, Nolgroth said:

these days, where taking offense at every little thing seems to be a new art form, 

 

And thanks again.  :)

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3 hours ago, Duke Bushido said:

 

THANK YOU! 

 

Thank you so very much! 

 

Not something I am pointing at TA about, but at the vast majority of fantasy games and settings, etc.  If I wanted Tolkien, I'd play MERP.  If I wanted &D&D, I'd play that. 

 

 

And thanks again.  :)

 

Uh...you're welcome? ;)

 

I don't specifically dislike multiple species in a setting. It's just I rather think that a well-designed setting only needs humans (or another predominant species) and maybe a couple more, at most. I could actually see TA being Humans and Drakine. There could be hints at older, now lost species. In fact, there should be. I can almost picture TA being a surrogate for the Fourth Age of Middle Earth, when the world starts shedding dwarves, elves and hobbits. The Drakine rise and fall during the TA and eventually become the "serpent people" so prevalent in Pulp Fantasy (Valdorian Age) and maybe rise again as a force to be reckoned with for the Atlantean Age before finally descending into another long period of decay that leads to yet more tales of serpent people during the modern, horror themed pulps. 

 

As I said above, I am re-reading (as opposed to referencing) the entire TA book for the first time in over a decade. I'll see if the "kitchen sink" aspect of the setting persuades me this time around. Personally, I think I'll skip MERP and most editions of D&D. If anything, my advancing age has guided me towards me rules-lite systems like FATE. I only cling to Hero because I am familiar with it.

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3 hours ago, Nolgroth said:

 

A Personally, I think I'll skip MERP and most editions of D&D. If anything, my advancing age has guided me towards me rules-lite systems like FATE. I only cling to Hero because I am familiar with it.

 

Oh, 5th edition D&D has a pretty light rule set. The chief objection to it is that it's still D&D, with classes and levels. If you don't mind that, it's quite playable. And unlike Pathfinder, you can get by just fine with only the corebooks: It's a finite ruleset.

 

Dean Shomshak

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You know, I've often thought of the tragedy of Hero Earth's prehistory. So many civilizations, nations and empires, whole sapient species... gone with practically no trace remaining. No monuments, no records, from the older eras not even legends. The accomplishments of their thinkers, builders, conquerors, heroes, expunged from history. Their art, literature, philosophy, as if they never existed. A person translated from that past to the modern day would find almost nothing recognizable -- even the continents have changed. It would be like being cast onto an alien planet.

 

To contemplate everyone and everything you knew, your entire world, dead and forgotten... it would be hard to avoid despair. 😭

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2 hours ago, DShomshak said:

 

Oh, 5th edition D&D has a pretty light rule set. The chief objection to it is that it's still D&D, with classes and levels. If you don't mind that, it's quite playable. And unlike Pathfinder, you can get by just fine with only the corebooks: It's a finite ruleset.

 

Dean Shomshak

 

For all of its flaws 5th edition D&D is a pretty compelling blend of crunch and playability.  Definitely lighter weight than the editions that sent casual players running for the hills, but complex enough to leave room for clever builds, maneuvering and play styles.

 

What my convert players like best about HERO is the ability to get off the rails and create something much, much closer to the character concept.  The extra combat maneuvers and options are pretty popular as well.

 

 

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7 hours ago, Duke Bushido said:

I have little issue with multiple races.  I have to wonder why it's always the _same_ multiple races. 

 

IMO the cliches are at least partly self-perpetuating. A great many gamers are used to and expect those races, so game publishers keep using them. But some settings do make an effort to give them some variety, including TA as I mentioned in a previous post. My favorite dwarf-variant appeared in a setting book called Atlantis: The Lost World from Bard Games, the publishers of Talislanta. The Dwarves of the southern hemisphere were dark-skinned, beardless, wore their hair in dreadlocks, lived above ground in "poured stone" structures, and rode into battle on giant ostriches shod with fighting steel spurs. They were known more for being peerless jewelers than as smiths.

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Okay, started to delve into the history of Ambrethel. What I really liked about this section is that it made me want to open up the sections on the first of the human kingdoms and regions. It did little to make me change my position about human versus drakine. I need to delve further, of course, in order to give the other species a fair shake. Right now, though, the other playable species/races are looking more and more like boxes that needed to be checked off in order to make an epic fantasy rpg setting. 

 

Getting back to the early history, my biggest compliment and complaint is that the text left me wanting more...and there was a lot of information that was not available. Sure, a lot of that can and should be filled in by the individual GM. I almost feel like I need to build a timeline of events to see how things play out over the larger area. Also, the creation myth section is so bland and vague that it could have been replaced with something more concise. The format of the TA book makes a bit of light research a must. Learning the lore of, say, the Sirrenic Empire is going to involve jumping through at least a couple of sections. Maybe the NPC and GM sections will even have more information. This scattering of information has also sort of dictated how I approach the consumption of information from the TA book. A chapter by chapter review is simply not going to satisfactorily educate me on the lore of the setting. This might have been one of the things that caused my initially lukewarm response way back in the day. Also a warning to anybody just jumping in on the setting. Homework is required. :)

 

So far, enjoying myself.

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I feel you, Nolgroth. The sheer density of the history, culture, and geopolitics of the setting means you can't absorb everything you might want about a particular nation, region, social construct etc. from just one section of the book. I've found having a PDF of TA to be very helpful in research, enabling me to search for every reference to a particular term. And the Encyclopaedia Turakiana also goes a long way in helping track things down and define them.

 

Despite the very detailed timeline included in the book, I often feel I'm not clear on how the world of Ambrethel arrived at the form it has at the default campaign start date. How did certain ethnicities come to live in the regions they occupy? Why do they have the beliefs and customs they do? I often don't see the logical through-line I would like to tie these elements together. It's why, as I posted earlier, I've modified the setting in many ways, some minor, others major, to try to give it a greater coherence, to fill what I perceive as gaps, and to enhance elements I'd like to emphasize more. But I don't believe anything I've altered has rendered Ambrethel unrecognizable, or changed the fundamentals of its "present day." Moreover, if those kinds of details don't concern you, the world plays out just fine as written. :)

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On this post I'm going to outline one of the major changes I made to the background and history of Ambrethel, as I mentioned above. Should anyone express interest I could describe other such modifications in subsequent posts.

 

To justify the widespread cultural and religious uniformity of much of Ambrethel, in my version the Ilurian Empire lasted much longer and expanded much farther than in official history. Through a combination of diplomacy, economic subversion, and occasional aggression, the Empire eventually conquered or colonized most of the Westerlands and Northern and Central Mitharia, and part of Kumasia. Over the same period active missionary work spread the High Church and the spiritual authority of the Bonifact over that whole area, and beyond.

 

Eventually the Ilurian Empire did fragment into independent realms; its capital city of Iluria, largest and grandest in the world, became a Free City under the direct governance of the Bonifact. Iluria remained free until the coming of the Lord of the Graven Spear, who demanded the submission of the Bonifact. When he refused the Spearlord devastated and cursed Iluria, but the Bonifact escaped with the help of the gods, and fled to Mitharia.

 

The legacy of the Ilurian Empire includes the feudal system of governance followed in most of its former territories; establishment of the High Church as the most widespread religion among Men; and its language, called "High Ilurian," as the liturgical language of the High Church, as well as of scholarship across the Westerlands, Mhorecia, and nearly half of Mitharia.

 

(The precedents inspiring most of the above should be obvious to anyone with a fair knowledge of Classical and Medieval European history.) ;)

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I've browsed through TA off and on. The strongest part is certainly the sheer scope and detail. The weakest part, as others hve mentioned, is Kal-Turak himself. But I suspect that is an unavoidable consequence of including a world-menacing Dark Lord who is general enough to be useful to a wide range of gamers.

 

Mordak, God of Evil, has the same problem. He's a cipher. But to make him and Kal-Turak not be ciphers, you have to define what evil is and, by extension, what good is. This risks alienating some readers who don't agree with your philosophical tenets.

 

So you stick to the basics. When Kal-Turak wins, the world groans under his tyranny. Got it. Check. We don't define what he wants to rule the world for, unless it's sheer blind love of power and cruelty.

 

(That Kal-Turak is literally born to evil as the progeny of a demon is part of the avoidance of definition.)

 

I am not sure Steve could have, or even should have, done it any differently.

 

I would have liked to see a page on "Deciding What Kal-Turak Wants," for GMs who want more than his generic, motiveless "Evil." It could have replaced the completely awkward, out-of-place page about the Multiverse copypasted from Champions Universe.

 

Dean Shomshak

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You raise some interesting points, Dean. Some of those I've considered, particularly in light of other bits of data that can be found in TA.

 

You know (since you're the one who established it) ;) that Mordak, and the other gods, are products of human belief. Thus their behavior and motivations conform to what their worshipers expect of them. Mordak is a "cipher" of evil because that's how he's defined. Rarely has anyone asked why Satan tries to lead people into sin. It's his job, his function. In this regard the gods of the High Faith have more in common with modern ethical religions than with pantheons from pagan mythology. From the cultural references throughout TA, I've concluded that definitions of "good" and "evil" relative to that faith are intended to be similar to the Abrahamic faiths.

 

But the gods in Ambrethel are not really present on Earth during the Turakian Age, in the way some mythic gods are. They mostly act through their proxies. They aren't confrontable by PCs, so their "character" rarely impacts specific plots. It's the motivations of mortal adversaries, whether or not they support the tenets of any god, that really drives the stories in that setting.

 

On that front, let's consider Kal-Turak. You're right that we get little about his specific motivations, but until he begins his campaign of conquest he's almost as removed from the world as the gods themselves. Even his machinations are mostly behind the scenes. And as I described earlier on this thread, it's quite easy to run TA without Kal-Turak.

 

"Power for its own sake" seems to have been the goal of many conquerors and dictators throughout history. As an example from fiction, it's not really relevant why Sauron wants to rule Middle-Earth; he just does. And we have a clear example of how bad the world would be under his dominion -- Mordor. But it's a fair question to ask what Kal-Turak did with power once he had it.

 

I'm reminded of his father, the Lord of the Graven Spear. During his years of rule the Spearlord mostly left men to govern their own affairs, as long as they provided regular sacrifices to the Scarlet Gods and obeyed his occasional commands. If he didn't get those things, though, his punishments were horrific. TA p. 274 notes that when Kal-Turak ruled all the world, "the people of Ambrethel had no choice but to obey his every whim and give him whatever he wanted -- their wealth, their sons and daughters for his foul experiments (or for the pleasure of his armies), their very souls." P. 275 notes that those demands became even heavier after he returned as Takofanes, and "while he sometimes allowed the Four Peoples [Men, Elves, Dwarves, Drakine] to rule themselves according to his law, he demanded a heavy tribute."

 

Kal-Turak/Takofanes' pursuit of power may have had the ultimate goal of what happened: as the number of people who actually worshiped him as a god grew, he attained true godly status and strength, included empowering his priests with divine magic. But I can't help thinking that the worship which made him a god may have had a "feedback" effect on him, changing his mentality to pure Evil, as so many people perceived him to be.

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