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PostPosted: Wed Oct 09, 2013 4:17 pm 
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A Guide to Hoi Lan Fa and Beyond
海蘭花街道地方指南


Hoi Lan Fa, the Orchid Upon the Sea, was once a small port city at the southern edge of the Jin Empire. It was known for its half-submerged beauty, with canals cutting between the summer homes of the northern gentry and pouring into floating garden shrines. Also known as the "Fragrant Bay", mountain mists would roll down over the city on cold spring mornings, carrying the heavy smell of the flowering forests. The common fishers lived along the mainland coast, Saifeng, while the aristocrats of the Ten Yellow Houses lived across the bay on Orchid Island, carving their estates into the mountain sides.

After a ten year war between the Jin Empire and the Olgaeth Republic, Hoi Lan Fa became a colony of the global dwarven empire. Under colonial rule (or “guidance”), Hoi Lan Fa expanded from a small seaside town to a bustling port city, encompassing the entire peninsula as well as all the surrounding islands. 150 years later, the deva in the western continent of Baharam ousted the dwarves from their lands, and the entire empire collapse in what is called the Great Liberation.

A century later, the common people of Hoi Lan Fa now hurry down the streets to make the public ferry across Arrow Bay with silk scarves wrapped around their faces. Being late to their double shift at the factory means not just docked pay but fines for wasting company time. The thick fog lightens at dawn. The bankers and traders have breakfast at the second-floor cafes before work, while the Phoenix Daily shills call up to the balconies to offer the headlines of the day. University assistants run up to the open kitchen downstairs to place orders for their masters, while students run past the other way to class. The air is especially bad today and the boats can barely navigate through the trash-filled canals; the city sanitation workers are on the fourth day of their strike.

This is the only city of its kind in Saigai, a metropolis where races from all over the world work side-by-side, where technology is finally recovered from the loss of dwarven science to begin to lead the world into the future, where a single city can be torn asunder or saved by a band of adventurers.

Index

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Last edited by DS on Wed Oct 16, 2013 11:20 pm, edited 8 times in total.

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PostPosted: Wed Oct 09, 2013 4:18 pm 
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Basic Overview for Players

This post is meant to be an overview to introduce players to the setting and to guide their character creation. I mainly want it to be accessible.

Hoi Lan Fa 海蘭花

Hoi Lan Fa is a port city undergoing rapid industrialization and the wealth and poverty that comes with it. While a colony, it was used as a port city by the dwarves and it has remained a center of trade since its liberation a century ago. The people of Hoi Lan Fa, though diverse, are commonly proud of their city as a vanguard of technological progress and of political freedom. Many see their city as blazing the path to the future for the world.

Legislative Council. The legislative body of Hoi Lan Fa is made up of ten councilors. Five of these are elected by popular vote, and the other five are chosen by functional constituencies: the Ten Yellow Houses, the New Territories, the indigenous elves, Culture and Education, and Industry.

Saifeng. The mainland side of Arrow Bay, Saifeng is where most working and professional class folk live in the city, as well as most of the city’s businesses and shops. Saifeng rests in a river valley among the mountainous coast, though the natural waterways have been diverted into the brackish canals that have seen better days.

Arrow Bay. The busy throughway between Saifeng and Orchid Island, Arrow Bay is named for the days during the Jin-Olgaeth war when defenders of Saifeng and Orchid Island rained arrows upon the dwarven ships for days. It is said that the sea floor is completely covered in arrowheads.

Orchid Island. The island side of Arrow Bay, the mountainous Orchid Island remains home to the city’s wealthy in the east but the western side of the island, which had been relatively undeveloped before the dwarves, has become the city’s industrial center. Between the two sides, the rapid development of Saifeng has spilled across Arrow Bay.

Saigai 世界

Saigai, as the Jin call the world, is home to diverse peoples but they are finding each day that the world is shrinking around them. This sections is broken up into the three major continents of the world. Roheisen is the largest continent, stretch from the far north to the far south, and has the greatest racial diversity, though it began with only humans, eladrin, halflings, and orcs. Baharam is the next largest continent and is characterized by its large eastern desert. Only minimal interaction had happened between these two continents in the past, and only between the dragonborn and the orcs, but Baharam and Roheisen are growing more familiar. Most isolated from the other two continents is Gheim, a small, very mountainous continent most dominated by fierce creatures and even more ferocious weather.

Roheisen

Baharam

Gheim

Races

The races of Saigai are diverse and have traditionally lived in monoracial societies though interaction have always existed. In the city of Hoi Lan Fa, though, the races have begun to blend together, from the native humans and elves to the large immigrant community of deva, from the disgraced dwarves to the exotic dragonborn and minotaurs.

Races

Religions

Although some take the great power of the devout as proof of the existence of gods, there is little definitive proof of the divine. Religious practice varies wildly from culture to culture, and no mortal has heard of the "Astral Sea" and they instead postulate a variety of afterlives and/or divine realms.

Differentiation between the divine power source, the divine, and religion in general is important here. The divine power source objectively exists; it allows the divine classes like the cleric or the paladin to actually work. But the powers of the religious may come from any of the other power sources and individuals or organizations do not necessarily understand or recognize the difference. A warlock who worships a demon as a god, a druid who worships a personification of nature, and a cleric who worships an unverified deity may each create fire from nothing and their personal conceptualization of how that fire came to be may be identical.

Although the religions are centered on races or cultures, they are not exclusive to them. The religions of Roheisen, in particular, blends at borders and are most prone to syncretism. The religions of Baharam are more racially exclusive as they directly deal with the formation of the deva and the dragonborn races.

Religions of Roheisen


Religions of Baharam


Religion of Gheim

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Last edited by DS on Mon Jan 05, 2015 1:06 am, edited 16 times in total.

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 Post subject: Design Notes
PostPosted: Thu Oct 10, 2013 12:52 pm 
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Design Notes

Goal

To create a fun, explorable, interesting, and customizable setting for games, focusing on Fourth Edition Dungeons & Dragons.

Values

These are things I keep in mind as I work on this setting. I try to make sure to go back to this whenever I am stuck.

  • People drive the story. The emphasis should be on individuals and peoples making decisions and not gods or similar great beings. Conflicts should be conflicts of interest, of political will, of ideology, of need, not vast cosmic conflicts to which mortal beings must dance.
  • The setting must be for games, not my own non-existent novels or whatever. This means the world must be ready for adventure and hooks must be built into the setting. The world needs to be alive and ready to react to and act on the adventurers.
  • The world does not need to be nor should it be fully fleshed out. It needs to be complex enough to really get your teeth into it, but it needs space for GMs to do what they want with it.
  • Humans are not white and they are not the end-all, be-all. I am tired of fantasy settings that center humans as the most diverse and most complex race, but they also only represent or reflect European cultures while American indigenous, African, and Asian cultures are relegated to non-human races. This also means that humans can't be the generic Mario of races; they must have their own racial perspective. It doesn't need to dominate all human thinking, but just as other races have 'tendencies', so must humans. This leads into the next point:
  • De-center the humans of modern Earth perspective. The races should have worldviews that make sense to them rather than fitting into our good or evil preconceptions. This also means we can't make assumptions about how society must or must not work. Things that we know as real people should not be the default for the setting, e.g., modern nation-states, racism, sexism, etc. It's a fantasy setting: Explore what can be!

Inspiration

Hong Kong is an obvious inspiration. After World War II, there was a moment when the British colony could have pushed for independence but, of course, this didn't happen and now the city has transferred back to China as a Special Administrative Region. But what if Hong Kong broke free of its colonizer but didn't return to its home nation but rather, became a sovereign city-state?

Late 1800s to early 1900s Europe is an obvious period that I drew inspiration from, a time where capitalism was not yet a certainty and the destiny of nations was fought over by anarchists and fascists and capitalists and communists. Less obvious is that I drew upon the idea of the Hundred Schools of Thought period of Ancient China, when many philosophers and writers argued for different ways of governing and living. The First Emperor of China took up legalism, while his successors took up Confucianism. But I want Hoi Lan Fa to feel like these periods, where there is no predetermined destiny of the world around these people, where everyone was holding their breath.

Another inspiration is the Magic: The Gathering setting of Ravnica. Specifically, I wanted to explore new ways for the color pairs interact and form ideological factions beyond the now-standard ones we see in Ravnica. For example, what if red and white came together not to create a fervent army but a social movement for democracy and economic liberation? Although I started off exploring ways to make this a MtG setting, Magic is a poor system for representing social and political elements of its worlds and I eventually moved onto D&D.

So, the easiest comparison I think is Avatar: The Legend of Korra, which also takes place in a city based on Hong Kong, experiencing industrialization and social unrest. I actually started working on this idea before I saw that first image of Korra standing over the city (which I recognized as Hong Kong), but it was when I started hearing about the premise for the new series that I thought, "That sounds neat!" and "That is what I am already doinggggggggg." But I hope that my setting will stand on its own merits away from Korra, which turned out to be not that great a follow-up series anyway.

But the other comparison I want to make is to the Bioshock series, which I think does a good job of showing you the dreams and hopes of ideologues and how it all went wrong. I want players to feel the passion and hope of the characters around them and the despair and pain of extremism and desperation.

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 10, 2013 1:26 pm 
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I added [PEACH] to the thread title because I didn't know if it was clear that I am trying to workshop a lot of my ideas rather than let them sit around in a folder on my computer.

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PostPosted: Fri Oct 11, 2013 7:41 pm 
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Hm, so this is sort of Industrial Revolution in Venice Plus Hong Kong?

As an elevator pitch, that would definitely win me over. I like what I'm seeing here.


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 11, 2013 11:57 pm 
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I'm going to comment more after I read all of this, but it looks amazinggg.


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PostPosted: Sat Oct 12, 2013 1:59 am 
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Interesting. Just a few problems: First, the kind of segregated nations like that seem highly implausible. Think about it, in a world of relatively simple transportation, can you think of any countries that could easily be described as a "white country," "black country," or "Hispanic country?" Predominantly a race, sure, but it's still jarring to say the least, especially with colonization going on. Second, seriously, describing entire races with three adjectives like that? That manages to cause even more unfortunate implications than the favored class system. Third, it feels like we're only getting a tiny fragment of the story here. What about the rest of the world? What about history? What about political relations? And finally, it's an exclusively 4e setting. Jus' saying, to me that's a dealbreaker even if the rest of the world was flawlessly beautiful and whatnot.


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PostPosted: Sat Oct 12, 2013 10:31 am 
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KeeperofManyNames wrote:
Hm, so this is sort of Industrial Revolution in Venice Plus Hong Kong?

As an elevator pitch, that would definitely win me over. I like what I'm seeing here.
Thanks

miss_bun wrote:
I'm going to comment more after I read all of this, but it looks amazinggg.

Thanks

Cyclone_Joker wrote:
Interesting. Just a few problems: First, the kind of segregated nations like that seem highly implausible. Think about it, in a world of relatively simple transportation, can you think of any countries that could easily be described as a "white country," "black country," or "Hispanic country?" Predominantly a race, sure, but it's still jarring to say the least, especially with colonization going on. Second, seriously, describing entire races with three adjectives like that? That manages to cause even more unfortunate implications than the favored class system. Third, it feels like we're only getting a tiny fragment of the story here. What about the rest of the world? What about history? What about political relations? And finally, it's an exclusively 4e setting. Jus' saying, to me that's a dealbreaker even if the rest of the world was flawlessly beautiful and whatnot.
I am just going to say that I am not done posting. If you look at the index I posted up there, there is a lot of content to roll out, but I also have like 55+ hour weeks, so even when I'm not working, I'm exhausted.

But yes, the setting was built towards 4E, which becomes apparent if you look at the races in the world and how I've more intentionally built in the power sources in 4E. I don't think it's 4E-exclusive though.

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PostPosted: Mon Oct 14, 2013 2:38 am 
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Okay so I read all of it, and my main criticism is why aren't you running a game. :stare:


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PostPosted: Mon Oct 14, 2013 4:03 pm 
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City of Hoi Lan Fa

Sketched Map

Hoi Lan Fa is the name of both the historical area covering just Saifeng and Orchid Island and the modern city-state region covering the peninsula off the south of the Jin Empire and the nearby islands. Most of the population live in the city proper of Hoi Lan Fa, and more than half of the cityfolk live in Saifeng.

History


Legislative Council

The Legislative Council is governmental body of the city. Five councilors are elected by popular vote, all of them running under the same ballot and the top five being put in place, while the other five are elected by the functional constituencies of the Ten Yellow Houses, the New Territories, the Elvish Population, Culture and Education, and Industry. This ten-person body carries out its duties through a spring and an autumn legislative session, with elections in winter before the new year. They make laws through majority vote and commission and empower ministers to carry out the law. Each district councilor serves a four-year term, with elections every two years for half the seats. The Council President is the councilor that won the general popular vote.

The Council is heir to the colonial government called the Hoi Lan Fa Intermediary Senate, which conceived itself as a body to oversee the transition of Hoi Lan Fa into a modern Olgaeth-style city.

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Adventure Hooks

Saifeng

Originally a fishing village, Saifeng has become the lively heart of the world's first metropolis. The city's travel mostly follows the myriad canals, both natural and artificial, with footpaths that grow wide enough for multiple ox carts in commercial and wealthy areas and shrink to dangerously narrow in others. Dizzying alleys cut through neighborhoods to create pathways but they are usually only wide enough for a two humans to walk side by side comfortably. The canals that have long characterized Saifeng have been shored up and stabilized by dwarven engineering, but the waters in the canals are sickly and thick with waste.

The summer brings the worst winds to the many endless boat homes that line the shore of Saifeng. The network created by the boats and connecting planks extends the land out into Arrow Bay, but this traditional way of life is under threat as more and more of Saifeng's docks are cleared out for commercial and industrial use.

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Arrow Bay

Arrow Bay is named for how its bed is said to be entirely covered in arrowheads.

Orchid Island

Historically, Orchid Island was solely home to wildlife and the homes of the southern nobles known as the Ten Yellow Houses, as well as the summer homes of

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New Territories

The New Territories were annexed rapidly by the Olgaeth Republic when the Jin Empire collapsed into civil war with the death of Emperor Yizong. They claimed it as a part of the armistice agreement and the Jin Empire has been unable to reclaim it. The New Territories is primarily farmland, as crisscrossed with rivers as Hoi Lan Fa city proper is with canals.

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Islands of Hoi Lan Fa

Tudo Island

Far Islands

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Last edited by DS on Wed Oct 16, 2013 9:58 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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PostPosted: Mon Oct 14, 2013 6:36 pm 
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miss_bun wrote:
Okay so I read all of it, and my main criticism is why aren't you running a game. :stare:
I actually did run a game with friends for a few sessions in this setting, but I just became too busy so we missed a couple sessions and then it just died out. Maybe I'll run a PbP game in the future here.

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 Post subject: Factions of Hoi Lan Fa
PostPosted: Tue Oct 15, 2013 7:22 pm 
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Ten Yellow Houses
十黃家

“To try to govern the people of a chaotic age with benevolence and lenient measures is like to drive wild horses without reins and whips.” — Han Feizi (韓非子)

The oldest of the factions of Hoi Lan Fa, the Ten Yellow Houses are also considered the most anachronistic by the rabble, but the noble families of Jin have seen the results of dwarven republicanism: political impasses, inefficient , and political corruption. They may have been long isolated from the monarchism of the Jin Empire, but the Houses understand that only the nobility of the gentry can rule a nation, not selfish mobs or star-eyed poets. Like a father come home to an unruly house, the Ten Yellow Houses would see Hoi Lan Fa brought to heel and returned to unity and glory.

The Ten Yellow Houses are most physically present at the Peach Garden Court, a large mountain courtyard-plaza surrounded by the receiving houses of the families. Though historically these homes were only rarely used, each family preferring estates more secluded from the others, the noble families were confined to these houses under the Olgaeth rule to keep them in check. The Peach Garden homes of the families are now where most business with the nobles take place, and the nobles see it as a gesture of public openness and accountability.

Members of the Houses can be usually distinguished by a single long fingernail, each finger corresponding to a different family. They tend to wear their hair long and up with ornate decorations meant to evoke crowns. Metal neck cuffs that keep heads held high are common. No matter how decorated, though, no aristocrat will cover their face or put on extensive make-up to show honesty.

Houses

Wu. The most prominent of the Ten Yellow Houses, the Wu have a strong tradition of priests in the family, including heroic clerics. The current scion though never went took to religious training and instead went into politics and is now the Council President.

Min. Previously declining, House Min has been led to new prominence by scion Min Mao Yi when she was able to claim and build the largest coal mines of southern Jin along the western Hoi Lan Fa mountains. These mines directly feed the new industries of Hoi Lan Fa, and the unkind refer to the smog that overtakes the city as Min's Breath.

Shu. One of the original Ten Yellow Houses, the original house was destroyed and their titles stripped away by the Jin Emperor for forgotten crimes. The current House Shu was established 260 years ago by a claimant to the original family, supported by Olgaeth diplomats. Though originally seen as spies for the dwarves, House Shu proved itself by funding much of the resistance during the Jin-Olgaeth war. Shu remains a military powerhouse.

Han. The Han have the strongest arcane tradition among the Ten Yellow Houses and it was them who introduced the practice of using goengsi servants to the families, though few other nobles have actually taken to it. The goengsi are vampiric corpses animated and controlled by magic, though when free, they hunger for the living breath of humanity.

Tang. One of the more ancient families, the Tang have the most ties to the Jin Empire and actually consider themselves not an independent noble house of the south but estranged from the Tang gentry of the north.

Adventurers

Adventurers from the Ten Yellow Houses are usually more minor family members, as the more prominent ones are usually pressured into following their duty to serve family and city. Rarest is a scion adventurer as the scion is expected to succeed as head of the family, not to gallivant about like a beast. All the families are human in origin, though individuals may be half-human products of affairs. Suggested skills: Diplomacy and History.

The Ten Yellow Houses see themselves as leaders of people and thus adventurers tend towards the leader roles of artificer, cleric, shaman, runepriest, or warlord. Bards are rare as they are seen as flighty artists and ardents are seen as wild, failed monks. Shamans here tend to be more focused priests or keepers of ancestral shrines, appearing as a commander of spirits rather than an eccentric who speaks to the air. Artificers, as well as wizards, appear among the younger ranks, recipients of the best education money can buy, while warlocks only appear among the Tang and they pretend to be wizards as well. Rangers and the non-shaman primal classes are also seen as highly uncivilized.

DMing the Ten Yellow Houses

When interacting with the Ten Yellow Houses, players should feel condescended to, but once they have proven themselves, they will find the Houses are loyal allies. The Houses are generally earnest and sincere about wanting the best for everyone, but they openly look down on those of non-noble blood. The Houses squabble a lot and think little of trying to one-up the other but unlike the stereotype of conspiring aristocracy, the families generally present a united front and it would be difficult for players to turn one family against another. On the other hand, individual family members are more vulnerable to corruption.

Unless the players seek out the Houses or vice-versa, there will generally be little indication of the Ten Yellow Houses. Outside of Tin Ming-influenced areas, charities like soup kitchens are generally funded by the Ten Yellow Houses and these tend to be staffed by a mix of rich young volunteers who see themselves as saving the poor and hired workers who care little for the cause. "Min's breath" is a common term for smog. Decorate docks with the rare personal yacht, trimmed with gold paint, and mention ornate litters or carriages pushing through crowds.

Adventure Hooks

Secrets

Inspiration

This faction was originally meant to represent legalism, which is characterized by autocratic statism as a necessary control on the innate evil of people (see also: The Leviathan). The state is right by virtue of being the state. They want power and to rule by domination, but they do so to create order. The Houses believe they inherently have the moral rectitude to rule properly, but they embody noblesse oblige in that they want to rule but for the good of all.

Though the Houses share some elements with the Orzhov Syndicate (appreciation for hierarchy, aristocratic families, moralistic trappings), the Houses reverses the relationship between white and black. While the Orzhov use religion and order to establish their power and accumulate wealth, the Houses wishes to use power and money to create peace and order.

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Last edited by DS on Tue Nov 26, 2013 7:26 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Wed Oct 16, 2013 4:28 pm 
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Nganfong University
銀風大學

“Science is the great antidote to the poison of enthusiasm and superstition” — Adam Smith

The dwarves were not wrong. The scholars of Nganfong do not necessarily remember the Olgaeth colonial government fondly, but they are not too proud to admit that the dwarves revived this poets’ retreat in the clouds as a monument to knowledge and progress. That the magic that placed this beautiful campus on top of clouds is now lost only demonstrates how much more about the universe there is to learn. While the Jin Empire continues to languish in technological stagnation and to be held hostage to the whims and irrationalities of emperors, Nganfong University will lead the way to a brighter future for Hoi Lan Fa. Science will democratize the privileges of magic, will allow humanity mastery over nature, and will be the salvation of the world. Those who refuse to change with the times will be left behind.

The university drifts around over the city proper, protected from the worst storms and winds by magic. The same magic allows people to walk upon, buildings to be built on, and even water to float in gentle streams over the clouds that form the base of the beautiful campus. Still, the clouds provide little traction and over time, more and more of the base cloud is covered by solid flooring to allow messengers to run about more easily. Teleportation circles in key locations of the city, including Republic Square and the Peach Garden Court, connect to the Reception Hall and are serviced by convenience mages. There are several terrestrial satellite campuses, including one by Lake Laogai and one in Irondeep, also connected by teleportation circles.

Nganfong University is hard to forget as one only has to scan the sky to see the rising pagodas of the campus among large clouds, but on the ground, it is far more common to see students rather than faculty, who often live in on-campus residences. Many of the technologies of the university go unrecognized because they quickly become ubiquitous in daily life due to usefulness and because the designs are manufactured and thus branded by corporations. Popular among many associated with the university is a whistling system where length and tone of whistles combine into tunes that can be quickly spread by messengers, human, bird, or mechanical. Silver keys are often used as university ritual foci or in the place of wands to hold common spells, but otherwise, Nganfong faculty and students dress plainly for the most part.

Faculty

Chancellor Harriet Brightsmith was elected into position to some controversy due to her being both half-dwarf and a woman, but her incisive ability to point out fatal flaws in any engineering scheme or philosophical treatise that passes through her hands won over her fellow academics. Of late, she has been more reclusive, disappearing on long research trips.

Vice Chancellor Lei oversees the day-to-day administration of the university. Where Chancellor Brightsmith is fixated on the pursuit of knowledge, Vice Chancellor Lei has a love for management and bureaucratic efficiency. If he were a less busy man, he would accept the many requests that he consult for outside businesses and even the city government.

The Gwok brothers are ethnologists who continue the tradition of scientific travel writing and it is through their work that humanity is discovering the world. They are most known for their overarching themes and theories of societies, which they expound upon in their lectures and books. They propose that societies who resist industrialization only doom themselves to future obsolescence.

Doctor Tshamba is a deva biologist most often found at the Laogai campus. She differs from her peers in being religiously devout, but she believes that she worships through studying and thus better understanding the creation of Jabari. She seeks to find a unifying theory for all of life and its complexity, and she thinks a key may be in humanity, who is able to interbreed with so many other species.

Adventurers

Adventurers from Nganfong University are more often students in need of adventure and/or real-world experience, if only because there are so many more students than faculty members. Researchers and explorers also join adventuring bands to explore the world and continue the tradition of travel writing as the dwarven sky expeditions once did. Adventurers associated with Nganfong University are diverse in race, though humans, dwarves, and deva are most likely to follow the path of higher education. Suggested skills: Arcana and Perception.

The arcane arts are the most practiced at the university, specifically the art of wizards and artificers. Sorcerers and warlocks also are among the student body, but their magic comes from personal mastery and can rarely be transmitted in coursework. Psions also find a place at the university, though they are taught more through mentorships than curricular activities. Divine and primal classes are looked down upon as perpetrators of superstition and illogical thinking, and martial adventurers will not find trainers here.

DMing Nganfong University

Dialogue with Nganfong faculty should be filled with jargon and be intellectually impressive. Important is that although each faculty member, researcher, etc. has an area of personal interest, they have been given an education which treated history, philosophy, poetry, science or natural philosophy, and politics together not as distinct subjects but parts of a whole education. Therefore, they should generally not seem like specialists. They are prone to healthy debate and enjoy careful consideration before executing plans or committing to anything.

Forensic investigators and civil engineers are commonly associated with the University, so crime scenes and scenes of public destruction will often see at least one or two university staff along with student assistants. If players establish a relationship with Nganfong University, they are a good place to drop off evidence that need analysis or to find obscure information. If the players become antagonistic with the university, they may find themselves blocked from using the teleportation circles but otherwise unharmed.

Adventure Hooks

Secrets

Inspirations

The European Enlightenment and particularly the Scottish Enlightenment fuels Nganfong University. The Scottish Enlightenment emphasized the role of science and technology to improve society, such as agricultural innovations. Nganfong University has ties to Hoi Dai Jyut as twin forces behind industrialization, but while the corporation is motivated by personal gain in a free market, the university aims to improve all of society rather than just personal gain. Many would rather distribute all their inventions to all of society but lack the resources to do so and instead must contract with private companies. To resist innovation, to them, is a madness driven by fear and superstition. Rationalism is the philosophy that motivates the Nganfong University.

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Last edited by DS on Tue Nov 26, 2013 7:34 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Wed Oct 16, 2013 9:53 pm 
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Northern Committee
北村公所

“A spirit of innovation is generally the result of a selfish temper and confined views. People will not look forward to posterity, who never look backward to their ancestors.” — Edmund Burke

It is the way of the cityfolk to be constantly riled up about something, but the farming communities of the New Territories know that it all comes down to the simple things that never change: family, food, work, virtue. When the villages of the northern farmers were given the task of creating an electoral body to choose their representative on the Legislative Council, they decided that this duty could only be held by the wisest of them all. Priests technically sit on the Committee but they channel spirits not just to appoint their councilor but to adjudicate difficult cases and to make policies for the whole of the New Territories. Committee members have since come and gone, but the same spirits continue to speak through those mouths. The ideologues and industrialists of the city are like great winds, but the earth stays firm.

The farmers of the Northern Territory dress simply in loose worker's clothing and tend to show their hard life in their hands and faces. When traveling, meeting in public spaces, and gathering for parties, they will wear outerwear like cloaks or overcoats that have been passed down over many generations. This clothing will look almost like quilts, heavy with patches embroidered with pastoral or religious scenes, and are treated reverentially. Travelers will carry and decorate their wagons with pendants for protection from the ancestors.

Committee Members

Chairman Tou is the oldest committee member, having reached his centennial birthday some years ago, but he is still a powerful shaman. He commands almost as much respect as the venerable spirits, but he is particularly wary of foreign races and their strange gods.

Grain Child is soft-spoken but invariably wise. It has been secretive but hints at a relationship to the god, Spring Teacher. Grain Child will only speak through young children, before they have even come into their own as shamans.

Seoici is an imperious spirit who demands recognition as a minor goddess of irrigation. She speaks through a young man, Brother Hung, though none dare to laugh at Seoici while she speaks and acts through him.

Adventurers

Adventurers from the Northern Territory come from humble backgrounds but would diverge from typical Northern thinking to be leaving their hometowns. No matter their role, a Northern adventurer will tend to stay in the background; leaders will see themselves as supporters. They tend to be bewildered by fast city living. Most are humans though half-elves and half-orcs also live among the Territories. Suggested skills: Nature and Religion

Rarely do psionic or arcane adventurers come from the Northern Territories except for the occasional ardent or sorcerer is born into a random family. Shamans are prized, as are Clerics. Rangers are an easy fit into this rural life. Monks are also common, even if they are not native to the Northern Territories, as monasteries prefer to set up in the quieter communities.

DMing the Northern Committee

Northerners should be pleasant and generous while remaining conserved around strangers. Adventurers who stay in the city proper will encounter Northerners in markets as crop and meat vendors. They are especially wary around more foreign races and will tend to believe broad racial stereotypes. They are also wary of those with flashy powers like arcane casters.

When the farmers of the Territories encounter what they consider to be defilement of nature or destruction of traditional ways, they react negatively, either cautiously or hostilely. There is a tension between wanting to take advantage of new technology to ease their work and wanting to resist drastic changes, and so they have a tenuous relationship with Nganfong University. They care a lot for ritual and young adventurers who do not pay proper respect to their elders will be dismissed even if their services are direly needed.

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Iron Skies
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Last edited by DS on Wed Nov 27, 2013 3:13 pm, edited 4 times in total.

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PostPosted: Wed Oct 16, 2013 9:56 pm 
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Hoi Dai Jyut, Inc.
海底月會


“Man—every man—is an end in himself, not a means to the ends of others; he must live for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself; he must work for his rational self-interest, with the achievement of his own happiness as the highest moral purpose of his life.” — Ayn Rand

Hoi Lan Fa is a liberated state. It is no longer the vassal of a distant emperor or the chattel of dwarven colonialists. So why should the city put a new yoke on its people? Greatness is not achieved when a man is swaddled like a child, but it is when the child goes forth to become a man that he takes greatness into his own hands. Anything else is a schoolteacher scolding simple children for not sharing. Hoi Dai Jyut is monument to the possibility of the individual’s ingenuity and ability. It has grown from a single elf’s dream of a better life to the leader of Hoi Lan Fa’s unprecedented industry. Its brand, a crescent moon beneath the waves, is more recognizable than national flags; its products more vital to the citizen than food.

Key Individuals

Industrialist Trung. Founder and president, Industrialist Trung often reminds people that he was an orphan in the fishing slums of Hoi Lan Fa. He scrambled in junkyards for the local tinker and it is by the skill of his hands and mind that he built up this corporation that is literally changing the landscape of the city.

Hekabe. Trung's chief rival is Hekabe, a tiefling who has set up a business to begin mass producing magical items like wands for common use. Despite their corporate rivalry, Industrialist Trung has resisted laws to restrict the sale of Hekabe’s products, citing the free market as where the virtues of her products will be tested.

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PostPosted: Wed Oct 16, 2013 10:01 pm 
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Phoenix Daily
鳳日報

“We muckraked, not because we hated our world, but because we loved it. We were not hopeless, we were not cynical, we were not bitter.” — Ray Stannard Baker

Whether it’s an exposé on working conditions in the newest Hoi Dai Jyut industrial park or where Councilor Kam was again seen with a prostitute, the Phoenix Daily is there to greet the citizens of Hoi Lan Fa every morning. The paper espouses liberation of the mind as the foundation of a free society and headlines blaze with the latest information to stir the hearts of the people. Others accuse the paper as a gossipmonger and warhawk, and the editorials lash back with accusations of censorship and suppression

Paper Staff

Editor-in-Chief Kenshin is known for his wild mood swings. There are times when he is out making headlines, joining protests on one side or the other and exulting in bloody honor duels, and he is otherwise sulky and reclusive. Either way, he always seems to be half-smiling at a private joke.

Dobrogost. It is said that Kenshin first gave his top journalist a shot because it amused him to see a goblin outsmart the proud races, but since then, Dobrogost has demonstrated incredible skills of investigation. No amount of security seems to be enough to stop him. There are many disgraced men and women in the city who would love ten minutes alone with the goblin.

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PostPosted: Wed Oct 16, 2013 10:02 pm 
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Chrysanthemum Guild
菊花團

“I asked myself, had the day been wet or fine?
the spring wind was telling the mango-bird.
Moved by its song, I soon begin to sigh,
and as wine was there, I filled my own cup.
Wildly singing, I waited for the moon to rise;
when my song was over, all my senses had gone.”
— Li Bai
李白

The moon does not try to turn in the sky and the tides do not try to rise and fall. The constant struggle that the supposedly intelligent races experience comes from their constant need to control and manage their lives and environments. Shed the worries of the day and the ache in your bones and let the Chrysanthemum Guild remind you of your animal heart.

Named for the district dominated by these bohemians and artists, the Chrysanthemum Guild does not act as a strict trade association, enforcing membership and regulating prices, but rather, is a loose association of the people who light up the streets of Hoi Lan Fa at night but are cast from the light of day. They like to associate with the revolutionaries of the day, but they find it all a bit too serious. The universe is beauty, and when people cease resisting the rhythms of the universe, they will be too.

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PostPosted: Wed Oct 16, 2013 10:06 pm 
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The Wasafiri
蛙紗花莉

“To attain knowledge, add things every day.
To attain wisdom, remove things every day.”
— Laozi
老子

The wasafiri deva are the second largest minority group in Hoi Lan Fa, after the elves, and the largest immigrant group.

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PostPosted: Wed Oct 16, 2013 10:10 pm 
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Tin Ming Movement
天命運動

“Let us develop a kind of dangerous unselfishness.” — Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Mandate of Heaven puts sovereignty in the hands of the righteous and it is taken away from those who have failed the people. Beginning as a movement to unify the industrial working class of Hoi Lan Fa to demand better working conditions, the Tin Ming Movement has grown into full-scale movement that seeks not just reforms but revolution. The republicans of Hoi Lan Fa have shown themselves to be new oligarchs and puppets in the industrialists and the aristocrats’ hands; they do not represent the people and it is thus the righteous action is to seize the government for the people. Towards this end, the Tin Ming revolutionaries are diverse in specifics and means and are philosophically opposed to centralized leadership, making the movement difficult to suppress. And although the revolutionaries differ in their approval of violent means, they all agree that violence is defined by harm to people and that destruction of property is always a viable tactic.

In neighborhoods with strong Tin Ming presence, the revolutionaries have set up public services like medical clinics, soup kitchens, and food co-operatives, sometimes transforming entire neighborhoods into urban communes. In these places, the Tin Ming's symbol of the three-toed dragon claw is displayed openly on banners and signs in windows.

Revolutionaries

Grandmother Zhen is a popular public face for Tin Ming. Her pleasant, elderly countenance is lost in the fiery blaze of her eyes when she speaks of the movement.

Comrade Lau leads the Street Dragons, an armed group tasked with protecting the common folk, protesters, and strikers from violence, retaliation, and police abuse.

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PostPosted: Wed Oct 16, 2013 11:15 pm 
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Four Sisters Tong
四妹堂

“In the north there is a beauty; surpassing the world, she stands alone.
A glance from her will overthrow a city; another glance will overthrow a nation.
One cannot know whether it will be a city or a nation that will be overthrown.
But it would be difficult to behold such a beauty again.”
— Li Yannian
李延年

In the end, we all just want the same things: security, wealth, belonging. A tong is a local organization created to protect the poor and the neglected slums they live in, particularly those of immigrant neighborhoods, but many of them grew into becoming loosely organized gangs running the economy of the underclass. Rivalry between gangs only promotes violence, unnecessary death, and loss of profit. Then came the Four Sisters, quadruplet leaders of a small but rising gang from Little Nchi. Almost overnight, it seemed, they crushed the leadership of the major tongs and gangs of Hoi Lan Fa and banded them together into the Four Sisters Tong.

The Four Sisters Tong have styled themselves as the provider of impoverished neighborhoods who have no other allies. By taking in the disenfranchised and putting them to work separating others from their wealth, the tong redistributes wealth far more quickly than the Tin Ming Movement ever does. They run the underworld economy, including brothels, gambling dens, and the drug trade, and proclaim that they are only guilty of cornering the market of vice.

Tong Members

Big Sister is known as a powerful enchantress with vast powers over the mind, such that she is often credited with artificially uniting the gangs of Hoi Lan Fa with her powers. Although many deva hate her and her sisters for corrupting their youth, she truly believes in doing right by the deva and funds more legitimate services in Little Nchi.

Second Sister oversees much of the gambling activity in the tong. No cheating escapes her eyes and fingers and she keeps the finger bones of punished cheaters as proof.

Third Sister is the most reclusive of the sisters and is a powerful alchemist. Although she does not manage the drug trade itself, she ensures the quality of the tong's product and is known for creating her own exclusive variants that has many wealthy men and women on their knees before her.

Little Sister. The "face" of the group, Little Sister is often found singing at the Snake Lounge and is where people start when they want to do business with the tong. She is known for being able to talk the gang and its members out of tight legal situations, but part of the power of her charm is the knowledge that it is backed up by her sisters and lethal force.

Longinus. Operating out of the Chrysanthemum District, Longinus is the tong's orc accountant and head loan shark . He often stacks on a second interest rate for personal profit on top of the standard loan interest rate on tong loans, but the sisters see it as gratuity for a job well done as long as he doesn't dip into the tong's earnings. He is said to be a bookie on the side and that he even runs pit fights beneath his office.

Adventurers

Adventurers generally cannot be current members of Four Sisters Tong, unless the whole band is a team of enforcers for the tong. But unlike other gangs, the tong is generally okay with lower level members leaving the gang, as long as they keep their mouth shut and know nothing they would open their mouth to reveal. Depending on the bridges burned when leaving the gang, adventurers may have a great network of contacts to draw upon and this should be represented by training in Streetwise or a background that provides a bonus to the skill. Suggested skills: Streetwise and Thievery.

The gang accepts all classes and races, but the divine classes rarely find the underworld of the Four Sisters suitable. Fighters and rogues are the most common classes, followed by sorcerers and warlocks. Youth who feel disenfranchised are drawn to the gang, which include humans, deva, goblins, half-elves, and even shifters. Dwarves are probably the least accepted.

DMing the Four Sisters Tong

As the adventurers enter less wealthy areas, the Four Sisters Tong should become more prominent, especially in areas with large racial minority populations. They are noticeable by enforcers on street corners, marked by face paint in a line over the left eye and a hook over right to create the character for four (四) with the face as the outer strokes. Almost all dealings with the underworld should have the Four Sisters' hand in it and as the adventurers begin to ruffle feathers, the tong will take notice. The four sisters will do anything to protect each other, their secrets, and their freedom, in that order.

Importantly, the Four Sisters Tong is the least idealistic of all the factions. They should be characterized by practicality and find little value in posturing pointlessly and pissing contests. The sisters themselves should seem like they are just making reasoned economic choices, but they will quickly lose control if any one of them are hurt or eliminated. Their gang members should have the same sense of economics of the slums, though they may range from secure to desperate. They are the most willing to compromise but if the adventurers prove themselves a thorn in the sisters' side, they will think little of ordering their deaths. They should rarely appear 'shaking down' businesses or randomly mugging or bullying people on the street; their approach is more that they are there to fulfill the vice needs of the city. Don't bother them, and they won't bother you.

Adventure Hooks

Secrets

Inspiration

The four sisters are some of my favorite characters ever. The conception of the gang was somewhat difficult as Rakdos was already such a great implementation of black-red, but I decided I wanted to shift the focus from sadomasochism and the cult of the self to a more realistic faction. One problem Rakdos have is people expressing disbelief that anyone would join them. The Four Sisters Tong is supposed to capture the same sort of nihilism and desperation that must drive people to join the Rakdos, but in a way that doesn't involve mutilation. Rather than exulting in personal vice, the tong exploits others' vices. While Hoi Dai Jyut thinks of money and power as the end, the Four Sisters Tong thinks of money and power as the means to achieve personal freedom (for Second, Third, and Little Sister) and liberation for a community (for Big Sister).

This is definitely a more sympathetic approach towards gangs and that is couched in my own understanding of urban sociology and the history of tongs in Chinese immigrant communities. Tongs appeared in Chinatowns in the U.S. at first as a response to the lack of resources for Chinese Americans, but these tongs became criminal organizations in the poverty and isolation of these immigrant enclaves. Immigrant and impoverished communities continue to have similar experiences, with disenfranchised youth finding the order and prestige of gang membership preferable to the apparent lack of opportunities for them.

Also, the name of the group is a pun: "Four" and "death" are homonyms so another way to understand their name is that they are sisters of death.

_________________
White Autumn, Red Spring
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Iron Skies
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Last edited by DS on Tue Nov 26, 2013 8:20 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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