Posts Tagged ‘ place of power ’

Tsar Dadon the Glorious

What follows is a retelling of The Tale of the Golden Cockerel by Alexander Pushkin. The illustration is by Ivan Bilibin, originally published in 1906.

Buyan sits in the sea more than 2,000 miles away from Ismailli, now in ruins but once a powerful city ruled by Tsar Dadon the Glorius. A strange tale of brutal ambition and cruel revenge links the Vanishing Island to that ghost-haunted place.

In his youth Tsar Dadon waged war against his neighbors, taking their lands and wealth for his own and subjugating their people, reducing thousands to a level barely on par with serfdom. For decades, Tsar Dadon ruled Ismailli and the surrounding, conquered realms. In his twilight years, after the death of his queen, the tsar set aside his war-like ways, believing Ismailli secure and feeling confident that his son, Prince Dadon, would rule one day.

But, as Tsar Dadon relaxed his iron grip, unrest spread through the conquered realms. The people nurtured deep-seated resentments against Tsar Dadon, and soon rebel armies formed. Surrounded on every side by determined enemies, Tsar Dadon grew frightened, for he never knew from which direction the next threat would come. Rumors to the west resulted in Prince Dadon leading Ismailli’s armies toward the setting sun, but then rebels struck from the east. If the armies marched to the north, rebels attacked Ismailli from the south.

“How can I defend my beloved Ismailli,” cried Tsar Dadon, “if I cannot meet the enemy on the field of battle?”

A stranger stepped from the crowd in the tsar’s court. He wore the ornate robes of an astrologer and wizard.

“O, Tsar Dadon the Glorious! Please heed my words,” the strange said, bowing low. “I am Nikto, and I alone possess the means to protect your beloved Ismailli.”

Tsar Dadon commanded Nikto to explain himself, and the wizard pulled a sack from his sleeve, and the pulled a fantastic golden cockerel from the sack. Its feathers gleamed in the sunlight spilling through the high windows in the court.

“Place the Golden Cockerel atop the highest spire in the center of Ismailli,” said Nikto. “When any enemy army approaches to within eight days march of Ismailli, the Golden Cockerel shall face their direction and cry out an alarum. Thus, O Glorious Tsar, you will be able to meet the enemy on the field of battle.”

Tsar Dadon said, “If what you say is true, return to my court in one year’s time, and I shall grant you any wish to just short of half my kingdom.”

“I accept your terms, O Glorious One, but be warned: Forget your promise, and doom shall be your reward.”

With that, the wizard vanished, leaving behind the Golden Cockerel. Tsar Dadon ordered the fabulous bird be placed atop the highest tower in the center of Ismailli.

A few days later, the Golden Cockerel faced to the south and cried out loudly, “Enemies approach from the south! In eight days, they reach Ismailli’s walls!”

The watchmen brought word of the alarum to Tsar Dadon, and he sent Prince Dadon out at the head of an army. They met the enemy on the field of battle four days away from Ismailli, and Prince Dadon returned victorious to be covered in glory. During the next several months, the Golden Cockerel performed just as Nikto had promised. Each time, Ismailli’s army commanded by Prince Dadon met the enemy on the field of battle and emerged victorious. Nearly a year passed, and the Golden Cockerel sounded another alarum. Prince Dadon rode away at the head of the army toward Shamakhi, Ismailli’s fiercest and oldest enemy.

More than a week later, Prince Dadon had not returned. Tsar Dadon, frantic with worry, commanded his armor and sword be brought to him, and he himself sallied forth at the head of an army for the first time in years. Near the western border of Shamakhi, the tsar looked down into a valley and the great slaughter that had taken place there. In the middle of the field of battle stood a lonely pavilion flying Shamakhi’s ancient flag.

Tsar Dadon rode to the pavilion and stumbled from his horse when he saw Prince Dadon sprawled dead on the matted grass in front of the pavilion. As he gathered his dead son into his arms, a beautiful princess of Shamakhi exited the pavilion.

“Welcome, O Tsar Dadon the Glorious,” the princess said. “Please enter my pavilion so that I may ease your grief.”

The tsar entered the pavilion. The princess washed his hands, feet, and brow, and bade him sit at a kingly table. She fed him fine foods and filled his flagon with excellent wine. Tsar Dadon ate and drank his fill. The princess bade him sleep on a kingly bed, and throughout the night she tended his grief-haunted sleep.

The tsar woke in the morning and said to the princess, “You shall return to Ismailli as my bride. You shall be mother to my new heir.”

The princess lowered her head and smiled. Tsar Dadon and the princess rode back to Ismailli. The people there lamented the loss of Prince Dadon, but they rejoiced that their tsar had a new bride of such exceptional beauty and grace.

“O, Tsar Dadon the Glorious! Please heed my words,” said Nikto as he appeared in the tsar’s court. “One year has passed, and I’ve come to claim my reward.”

“Welcome, Nikto,” said the tsar. “The reward is yours. Claim anything just short of half my kingdom.”

The wizard leered. “I claim the princess of Shamakhi.”

“Never!” Tsar Dadon said. “She you may not have!”

From a high window, the Golden Cockerel flew like a bolt from a crossbow. It landed on the tsar’s shoulder and pecked him once on the forehead. Tsar Dadon the Glorious staggered from his throne, fell to the floor, and died. The princess of Shamakhi walked to Nikto, and, when she placed her hand in his, both she and the wizard vanished. Shortly thereafter, Ismailli’s enemies triumphed, laying Tsar Dadon’s beloved city to waste.

Today, the Golden Cockerel sits atop the highest spire in the center of Retra, one of the two cities on Buyan. Nikto and the princess of Shamakhi live there as well, and neither one seems to have aged.

July 27th, 2015  in Product Development, RPG No Comments »

Getting More Serious and Buyan

I’m trying to get more serious about my writing, which includes posts here, game material to sell or give away, my school blog, and some fiction. To help, I found the nearby illustration by Ivan Bilibin, an early 20th-century Russian artist who died during the Siege of Leningrad in 1941.

The adjacent picture shows Buyan Island as imagined by Bilibin. Contemporary Russian author Alexey Trekhlebov writes that Buyan sits near the Baltic Sea’s southern shore. Island denizens call two towns, Retra and Arkona, home. Retra houses the temple of Radgostu, the god of war and hospitality, while Sventovit, the god of war and fertility, presides as chief deity in Arkona.

Storytellers set many myths in Buyan. Some of the myths claim that all the weather in the world originates from Buyan, created there by Perun, god of thunder and lightning, and then sent out to the rest of the world. Owing to its magical properties, this amazing island disappears and reappears, perhaps at random, perhaps in accordance with Perun’s will, perhaps both.

Fabulous tales of Buyan’s wonders and wealth attract adventurers from all over the world. They brave hardship and danger, crossing monster-filled wilderness and hostile barbarian lands. Those that survive reach the sea’s shore maybe at the right time to see Buyan in the distance.

In the next several posts, I want to further explore Buyan, writing posts about some of its more exceptional people, places, and things. At least to a small degree, I’ll try to base my posts on both Bilibin’s art, much of which is in the public domain and available on the Internet, and on Russian and Slavic folklore and myth. To whet your appetite, my next post will feature Koschei the Deathless, who hides his soul on Buyan.

July 23rd, 2015  in RPG No Comments »

The Bakemono of Kaosunoie

Are you familiar with the art of Domenico Neziti? If your answer is “No”, you owe it to yourself to check out his on-line portfolio. If Spes Magna Games had an art budget, I’d love to commission Domenico to do a cover and some interior art.

Domenico’s art has a definite voice that sets it apart. His character studies are evocative and stylized in a way that reminds me of Tony DiTerlizzi‘s Planescape work. Domenico’s monsters are usually scary, but some are adorable. His action pieces are dynamic and vivid.

Domenico has graciously permitted me to feature two of his pieces on site for this post. If you click on either piece, it will embiggen for greater clarity.

And now, some game content for Fate Accelerated Edition.

Sitting adjacent to a narrow, shallow canal that angles its way between barley fields, Kaosunoie appears as little more than a smallish, sturdy stone building. Its single entrance is blocked by nothing more than a silk curtain. Its small round windows hold nothing within their panes, presenting no real obstacle to sun, wind, or rain. The nearby well offers fresh, crisp water, and the dai-dōrō next to the winding path leading up to Kaosunoie hints that the structure is some sort of shrine.

Only the most aged locals remember a time when Kaosunoie was not there, and in the decades following the buildings mysterious appearance after a thickly fogged, windless night, everyone in the nearby farming village has made their peace with the strange structure. At the appointed times, they offer sacrifices of barley, rice, and braided hair, leaving these offerings around the dai-dōrō. In return, the bakemono that live within Kaosunoie avoid destructive mischief and even defend the village against threats.

Kaosunoie’s interior exists within two overlapping realities. In the mundane reality that the village also occupies, the building houses a single room with a dirt floor and unadorned walls. For those who, like the bakemono, can cross over into the spirit realm, Kaosunoie’s interior is a bewildering maze of corridors, ladders, chambers, and courtyards open to a starless, cloudless sky locked in eternal twilight. Dozens, maybe hundreds, of bakemono live in Kaosunoie, and the spaces harder to reach are home to more dangerous creatures, including at least one oni.

Stats for gangs of bakemono:

Bakemono Gang
Skilled (+2) at: Ganging up, pranks
Bad (-2) at: Staying focused, maintaining current form
Stress: [] [] [] (6 bakemono)

Stats for a bakemono character:

High Concept: Bakemono Shaman of the Void
Trouble: No Such Thing As Too Much Sake
Other Aspects: My Shapeshifting Powers Are Strong, Look! Over There!, I Can Smell Your Weakness

Approaches: Careful Mediocre (+0), Clever Average (+1), Flashy Fair (+2), Forceful Average (+1), Quick Good (+3), Sneaky Fair (+2)

Like the Wind: Because my form is fluid, I gain a +2 to Quickly create an advantage or overcome an obstacle by changing my shape.

Refresh: 3

June 19th, 2015  in RPG No Comments »

Y is for Yondral in the Sky


The island of Yondral with its collection of some half dozen buildings floats on invisible, eldritch currents, perpetually surrounded in mist. Once upon a time, an order of mystics called Yondral home. Peaceful, contemplative, and erudite, these mystics practiced arcane meditative arts, seeking to divine the mysteries of reality for no other purpose than the pure joy of learning. Life on Yondral was peaceful, even idyllic.

That is until one of the mystics named Blaise turned his mind toward darkness. A malignant force wormed its way into Blaise’s psyche, and slowly the mystic became more wicked while the force became stronger. Before the other mystics could figure out what was wrong with Blaise and take steps to heal him, the force lashed out. Yondral was sundered, but not into pieces. Instead, beneath the floating island, there appeared a demon-haunted mirror image of Yondral.

Today, Yondral and its twisted opposite drift about, abandoned but not abandoned, perhaps still home to ancient wisdom but certainly home to ineffable evil.

April 29th, 2015  in RPG No Comments »

Kisima’s Tomb

Heavy loads stone slung over shoulders, workers climb up the logs leading to the low-ceilinged cave leading to Kisima’s tomb. It’s not an easy climb, but the only other point of ingress, a stone shaft rising more than 70 feet to the surface, doesn’t leave a better option.

At the shaft’s bottom, supervisors from the Imperial Cartographical Society loiter around the shallow pond at the bottom of the stone shaft. Other workers carry jugs of water from the lower caves, emptying the containers into the pond, which drains away in trickles and traces some distance away from the wooden ladder.

In the lower caves, workers labor with picks, shovels, and ropes to break up and haul away stones. Much of the work has already been done, and the ornate carvings stand out boldly in the flickering torchlight. Serpents intertwine intricately. High up on the wall, a lizardman king stares down, his stance imperious. He holds a human skull in his left hand and a spear in his right. The stones that remain block a descending flight of stairs.

The Imperial Cartographical Society believes those stairs lead to the tomb of Kisima, the last of the kings who ruled in Salmagunderland before lizardman civilization fell into its current state of barbarity. It’s only a matter of time before a sufficient quantity of stone is shifted out of the way and the stairs stand unblocked.

At least that’s what the foremen hope. The workers murmur about curses, and yesterday’s accident, several large rocks that fell, crushing three men, hasn’t helped the mood. The tension and fear are palpable, made worse by the drums echoing through the jungle each night.


The Imperial Cartographical Society (Cabal)
Impulse: To expand frontiers

Grim Portents
* The ICS oversees the excavation of the tomb.
* The stairs are cleared and the lower chambers revealed.
* The lower chambers are explored and the sealed door found.
* The seal is broken.
Impending Doom: Pestilence

Lizardman Tribe (Horde)
Impulse: To drive out intruders

Grim Portents
* The drums’ noise draws nearer.
* Venomous serpents become more common.
* Lizardmen skirmishers attack the camp.
Impending Doom: Destruction

Description & Cast
Kisima’s tomb rests undisturbed, sealed centuries ago. Kisima died of a terrible plague that has not died off since the lizardman king’s corpse was interred. Rather, the pestilence has grown, becoming a virulent biomass. The local lizardman tribe learned that intruders were violating taboo territory, and they are gearing up to massacre the foreign trespassers if they do not take heed of the warning drums.
* Renata Cottee, Ranking ICS Official
* Sessih Besmil, Lizardman Scale-Talker
* Dridsa, Influential Laborer

Custom Move
When exposed the wasting pestilence in Kisima’s tomb, roll+CON. *On a 10+, choose 3. *On a 7-9, choose 1.

* You do not suffer the weak debility.
* You do not suffer the sick debility.
* You do not suffer the shaky debility.
* You do not become highly contagious.

Can the pestilence be cured? If so, how?

July 3rd, 2014  in RPG No Comments »