Thursday, 19 March 2015

Sleepy Hollow in the Steppe

Sleeping Tsaatan Girl. Photo Hamid Sardar-Afkhani, all rights reserved
I’ve read in the Siberian Times about the Kazakh village of Kalachi where people are suddenly falling asleep for a few hours or even for days. The village has been since given the nickname of Sleepy Hollow. Scientists keep trying to find the reason of this illness. But we know, of course, that spirits could cause such troubles!

In WotS, you may replace the village with a summer or winter camp, and the explanation of these phenomenon is clear: this is telluric magic. An üör, a demon from the underground like a Jelmoghouz, or more probably an Old-Copper-Woman (or any combination) is walking around causing these troubles. The reason is unknown. It could be simple wickedness, or the creature may be looking for somebody having a sign of recognition on his body (like a tattoo or an old scare) or holding something it wants to get back. Or it may want to scare the clan to have it leave the place for some reason, or collaborate with a nasty shaman of an enemy clan.

Any idea to exploit this scenario seed is welcome.

The picture is from the photograph Hamid Sardar-Afkhami, who made wonderful pictures of Mongolia -among others- and in particular of Reindeer People (Tsaatan).

Saturday, 7 March 2015

The Moon and its Phases

I've been GMing a WotS game (blog in French) for a while and since I am sometime a bit of a stickler, I wanted at some point to know the true moon phase, sometime in the middle of the 6th century, as the action took place during the night.
There are actually multiple reasons to want to know a moon phase:
- visibility in the night (can adventurers come up to a place without being sighted? Do they see approaching foes? How shall the GM describe what they see?)
- beliefs and supernatural forces (is this a good moon for an endeavor?  How powerful is moon-magic tonight -see the new powers below-?)
- calendar & events (is there a festival? Is this a special period for ceremonies or rituals?)

I found a web site where you can find out the moon phase at any time in the past or in the future. It is in French but shall not be very difficult to understand. This is the web site of an official office for calendar, so it shall be fairly sure.
Of course a GM may choose the moon phase randomly or decide it according to what he sees more fit for his scenario. But when playing a historical game it can become important for a GM to know what it actually was.

As explained in the WotS book, Nomads used a lunar calendar and waited very carefully for the right moon before for instance starting a military campaign or burying a dead. The moon calendar ruled the dates of the religious ceremonies. According to Chinese sources, the Köktürk sacrificed to Tengri in the 5th month around full moon, to the ancestors on the 7th day of the 7th month, and may be to the Earth on the 3rd day of the 2nd month. And more coarsely, visibility is decisive when hunting or sneaking up on an enemy camp.

The Great Ancestor K'Dai, beyond his function as fire demon and ancestor for shamans and smiths,  was related to the moon. I therefore propose two more powers which you may like to use in your campaign:

- Recover Power
Granted by: K'dai
Range: self
Duration: see description, permanent
Power point cost per level: 1

This power reduces the time required to recover lost power points. During 1st and last quarter, the rate is reduced by 1/4 (all power points in 18 hours). During 2nd and 3rd quarter, rate is reduced by 1/2 (all power points in 12 hours). During full moon, rate is reduced by 3/4 (all power points in 6 hours). On new moon days, the power is ineffective. Each level divides the required time by the level. Ex: during 1st quarter, a use of this power at level 3 allows to recover all the Power Points in 18/3= 6 hours.
If you don't know the phase of the moon and want to find it randomly, roll 1D20: 1= new moon, 20= full moon, even = 1st or 4th quarter (-1/4 rate) and odd = 2nd or 3rd quarter (-1/2 rate)

The power can be proposed as Heroic Power:
Base range: self
Duration: permanent
Heroic Point cost: 3 per level
Power Point cost: -
The power is inoperant if the Batyr is under cover or until the moon raises, let it be in the night or in the day.
Taboo: never fight, dance, play, work or have sex on new moon

- Favorable Moon
Granted by: K'dai
Range: self
Duration: see description, permanent
Power point cost per level: 3
This power allows to know the best date for an endeavour. On this day, and for 24hours, PCs involved in the action can receive skill bonus. The total of all skill bonuses are equal to the highest Allegiance of the shaman divided by 5 time power level and can be allocated at will among any skill the GM sees acceptable (*). These bonuses are not permanent and are discarded as soon as used. The GM decides which day is the best. The shaman may also ask which day is the worst, in which case the effects are inverted: the GM chooses when and how much penalty shall be applied.
Ex: a shaman with 83% allegiance and CHA 13 will allow up to 68% skill bonus points at level 4 ([83/5=17]*4). These 68 points could be used for several skill rolls, e.g. +40% for one single archery die roll and +28% for one single use of a spell.

(*) optional, the total amount of skill bonuses a single character can enjoy cannot exceed his Allegeance [Tengri]  (or Ancestors for shamans and smiths, whichever is higher)