Thursday, 17 December 2015

How Much, How Big ?

Horses (from the blog les-verts-tacots)

This is a question which arises in many situations during a game, and many settings propose guidelines or even price lists. But in an economy based on exchange, it is difficult to set any price list, and in an oral culture, accounting documents are missing. We are therefore obliged to extrapolate from reports written by foreign visitors. The following guidelines try to give a comprehensive estimate of numbers to be found among nomads, either for exchange or to estimate the size of an encounter. I based these numbers on reports from visitors or on the amount of beasts sold every year at the town market in Bukhara.

The following numbers are very rough, may vary widely and are only given as guidelines to create an encounter or as background elements for player characters.

Size of a camp
The camp of an important Bey can be as small as 50 yurts, split in groups of 3-6 yurts, each one housing a family. Such a camp would have 5-6000 heads of sheep and 3-600 horses. Goats, cows and camels are less numerous. The usual ratio between animals could be the following:
10-20 heads of sheep / horse
50-100 heads of sheep / goat
1 cow / 10 horses
1 camel / 5 to 20 horses (depending on the area)
An average family consisting in 6 members is expected to have 4 yurts and take care of 40 horses, 400-head flock of sheep, a few goats, 4 cows or yaks and 4 camels. In desert areas, increase the proportion of camels. Since camels and cows have a similar usage, it is possible that an isolated family lacks one of them.

Costs of goods
These can widely vary according to variety, scarcity or quality. The BRP rule using item value levels instead of money is therefore well suited to this setting. One can use sheep as kind of reference, if not as currency.
Cheap items are supposed to be made by the Nomads themselves.
One sheep is an “inexpensive” item.
An average item like an average horse costs about 10 inexpensive ones (sheep).
An expensive item “costs” at least 10 horses or 100 heads of sheep. For example camel, slave, metal armour, high quality silk dress, or wolf fur coats. Of course, there is no price limit to expensive goods.

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

The 7 treasures of the Buddhism

flicker user dknisely

Although Buddhism is a religion of renunciation, the temples are very rich, holding precious items like gold-plated statues decorated with pieces of jewelry. The rich Buddhist worshippers and the merchants travelling along the Silk Road have been encouraged to make gifts to the temples they visited on their ways, thus leaving there pieces of silk, gems and other materials, and in particular the Sapta Ratna, the “Seven Treasures”.

At first conceived as symbols of the authority and sovereignty, like a wheel for the law, an elephant for the king and so on, they slowly changed to more mundane goods like gems and jewels. As a real sign of respect for the Buddha, the caravans transported these treasures to the numerous temples spread all other the Silk Road… and at range of marauding Nomads. The Sapta Ratna can inspire a GM wanting to offer good reward to plundering Nomads PCs, or as precious goods to be protected by courageous caravan guards or pious monks.

The Seven Treasures of the Buddhism were: Gold, silver, pearls, lapis-lazuli, rock crystal and most probably coral from the Mediterranean. The seventh could have been amber, diamond, agate, cornelian or ammonite.
These treasures would be found in Buddhist temples, should anyone want to plunder them. Caravans transported of course much more other precious goods like musk, glass, furs, gems, art work and so on.

[note: despite the temporary unavailibilty of Wind on the Steppes, I'll continue to feed this blog, although at a slower pace.]

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

A Crowd-Funded Revolution

As I mentioned in a comment of the previous post, Alephtar Games, the editor of Wind on the Steppes as well as other excellent historical fantasy settings, started a crowd-funding project to develop its own OGL rules, called Revolution D100. This project deserves very well the term “crowd”, since it will not only be OGL, but involve all the backers in the play-testing. The publication is scheduled for Spring 2016, together with first supplements about medieval England, Mecha anime and perhaps a Multivers. I strongly encourage you to have a look at it and to read the “news” where the concept is explained in details.

After this first wave of publications, it shall be the turn of WotS. It requires of course a lot of work to adapt WotS to the news rules, provided they have first been publicated, so it’s too soon to take any commitment on the time it will be available again. It will stay a D100-based system and will be the chance to correct and improve the first edition of WotS.

So if you missed the first edition of Wind on the Steppes and are still interested in it, keep your eyes wide open.

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Wind on the Steppes (provisory?) not on sale anymore

As some of yours may already have read somewhere else, the collaboration between Alephtar Games (the editor of Wind on the Steppes) and Chaosium (the owner of the BRP-engine license) has been terminated. As a consequence, the book is not on sale any more neither at Alephtar games nor at Chaosium. It is a pitty, moreover when you consider that Wind on the Steppes has been released a few months ago only and did not get its chance to reach its full public.

I'm not sure about the future of WotS, but I'll do my best for it to be available again in any form, so keep an eye on it. I however don't know today how and when, or even if I'll manage to.

Nevertheless, I'll keep going feeding this blog. If you have any question, contact me using the contact form.

Edit 23.09.2015 : it looks like WotS will probably get a second life, indeed. Praised be Mayin, the Guide of the Dead's Souls ! But it will take time, so you'll have to be patient.

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Pagocynocephali and Other Strange Creatures of Piano dei Carpini

Giovanni dal Piano dei Carpini, the Pope’s emissary who travelled to the Mongol Empire from 1245 to 1247, wrote a report of his journey which can be found online for free (e.g. on Play Books). He not only told what he witnessed himself, but also what he had been told. Among weird things, Piano dei Carpini mentions several times strange creatures or people who he never met by himself. These are not described in Wind on the Steppe, but a GM could use them if he wanted to bring more fantasy to the game. They are mostly more or less humanoid and intelligent and are dwelling in remote areas like deserts. Piano dei Carpini describes them only very succinctly, in one or two sentences: I tried to imagine a bit more about their culture and characteristics. These are of course suggestions.

The Pagocynocephali (or Ice-Dog-Headed-Men)

They are people whose women look like normal human beings but whose men have the head of a dog. These half-dogs males have a special power: when they spring into a river in Winter, they turn into a powder which, mixed with the water, turns in turn into ice with their original shape. Thanks to this hard and solid constitution, they are very tough and dangerous opponents which the Mongols had to fight once. You may either allow a 6 pts body armour, or consider that only blows with at least half of their hp hurt them (they break), or simply double their hp. Otherwise use the stats of humans, with a bite attack and a smell skill like dogs.

Pagocynocephali are hunter-gatherers, with embryonic agriculture and stock breeding. They prefer to live near to their ancestor-river where their dead are dissolved for a last time, never getting back their form but becoming part of the river instead. Their human intelligence combined with their doggy senses makes them unsurpassed hunters and excellent scouts, almost never surprised. Their empathy to dogs allows them to sneak into the Nomads camps without making the watch dogs barking. They are envied and feared for this and, as a consequence, hated and despised by humans. However, PCs who manage to go beyond their prejudices may discover a rude but peaceful nature. If humans can gain their confidence, they will be eager to trade furs, skins, amber or fish eggs against manufactured items, silk or weapons and so on. If only they could cease this unpleasant habit to smell the bottom of theirs visitors…

Their shamans are mostly black with allegiances to Animism and Ancestors. They have a dog spirit or a river spirit as ancestor, or both. They have the power of adaptation [cold water]. When turned into ice, they can float and swim.

Pagocynocephali mate only with normal human females, giving birth only to males, which explains why all their women are human: they must however be captured, which is after all the traditional way in the Steppes, or sometimes traded for. Pagocynocephali grant however a strong respect to their women and developed a matriarchal social order, which could explain why the women seem not all to be willing to go back to their former human mates.

Piano Carpini may have mixed up these creatures with the Kyrgyz, which, among other versions, are said either to descend from dogs or from a piece of water, lake or river.

Scenario hints (which can be combined):
  • Women are disappearing !

-         The Ice-Dog-Headed-Men are seeking new women, but this has to be found out by the party which task is to rescue the clan’s women and girls who strangely disappeared.

-          A woman has been abducted by the scarying Ice-Dog-Headed-Men a few years ago. The party is in charge of avenging the humiliated clan and rescuing the unfortunate woman from these monsters, which could not be achieved before for some reasons left to the GM (may be simply the Ice-Dog-Headed-Men –or the clan- left the country but are now back). But the former young girl has now several husbands and children whom she doesn’t want to leave, being quite happy with her new life.

-          Women and girls are missing. Evidence of dog presence can be found (excrements, hairs among human footprint…). Everything designs the Ice-Dog-Headed-Men as the perpetrators. Actually, the women have been captured by another clan, tribe or nation to be sold as slaves: the abductors are trying to lure pursuers with false hints.

-          Same as above, but instead only one young woman took flight with her lover for any reason.

  • Guides and scouts are needed for an expedition in Siberia, and the Khan heard about the Ice-Dog-Headed-Men: the Bek or the Khan puts the party in charge of finding them and proposing to hire them as mercenaries.

  • The Qaghan wants to subdue the Ice-Dog-Headed-Men as Tengrii orders and sends scouts to find and spy them and make a report.

  • Pagocynocephali can simply be an encounter during any travel through a remote country.

Other strange humanoids:

The Stiff-Limb-Men
In a desert south of the Kara-Khitai Empire (may be the Kara-Korum?) live semi-bestial human beings with no knees, so that they need help to stand up when they fall. They don’t speak but only growl. Assume an intelligence of 2D6 and a movement 4. I guess they are as developed as early hominids.

The Cynotaurs
Near the Arctic Ocean, close to the country of the Samoyeds, live humans with the head of a dog and oxen hoofs instead of feet. They talk a little but most of the time yap. Culture: similar to Inuits, with professions like hunter (adapt the Siberian hunter to the tundra), shaman-ess, Fisher, dog breeder. Skills : Bite and Smell as a dog and Kick 1D6 + db. They can call dog spirits and yack spirits as ancestors and are able to communicate with dogs. They are basically Tengriists and know a lot of local nature spirits.

The Single-Limbs
In a desert close to Armenia dwell humans with a single arm issuing from the belly and a single leg, so that they need to be two persons to shoot with the bow.

Monday, 10 August 2015

The Mongol Derby

Participants of the 2015 edition (Mongolderby on Facebook)

The Mongol Derby is reputedly the longest and toughest horse race in the world: 1000 km on half-wild Mongolian horses, 12 days long. Its aim is to experience the life of the messengers of the Mongol Empire, riding discontinuously for days, changing horses at the next nomad camp every 40km. It is only for tough experienced riders: accidents are common and hospitals are hundreds of km away. Not speaking about being lost in the immensity. So any participant must know the serious hazards he will be confronted to.

The 2015 Edition is currently beeing ran. Today shall be the 6th day, so it is the right time to write this post. You can follow the race in -almost- real time on Facebook.
Or on the web site

I would not recommend to take part to this race if you're the kind of adventurer sitting at a table and rolling dice, but instead to watch a movie made in 2013 “All The Wild Horses”. It is a documentary about the race, which the director ran twice. I still haven’t seen it but there are some trailers on the web page.

Enjoy the race !

Wednesday, 29 July 2015