Archive for the ‘Earth & Sky’ Category


Going Retro with New Deliberateness

September 7, 2007

We’ve been talking a lot about the strength of traditional systems lately, the SI group and I. One of the things that we find they do best is, by supplying details, both in setting and in character, they help a play group converge on the same page about events and persons in the game. They help us lock in on a coherent vision, and provide repair routines for when the vision’s consistency suffers. The result is a form of play where formal procedures often recede into the background, being pulled out only when the group agrees they are required for something. I find it to be a really rewarding kind of play.

I’m trying to take what I’ve learned from the Forge school of indie design and import it into this form.

One of the big things I want to touch on in Earth & Sky is the matter of far-flung and far-different cultures, so I wanted to provide a system tool for evoking these. This tool is the Sky: We all live under the same stars, but in different parts of Heaven, the stars are differently arranged.

Each star represents a location of activity – the place for study, the place for eating, the place for cleansing, the place for combat, the place that is refuge, the place of business, and so on. The constellations of each planet describe the planetary culture’s arrangement of their places, and how their skills lie and interrelate.

I’m not sure how to lay out the constellations for the different cultures yet, or how to name the resulting relationships (since we really only have words for them corresponding to cultures that are quite familiar), but I’ll get there.

Sorry for the long delay in posting, by the way. My family has been visiting and it’s been really hectic at work! It’s been a struggle to find the time and the mental energy.


Grandmother Darkness

August 7, 2007

We were tethered to the Earth, until Grandmother Darkness came back from her journey. No one know where she went and she will not say, but she brought back something: a canoe that sails across the sky.

So I was talking to Jon about what to post and then I though about a setting for Earth & Sky, and I mentioned Victoriana, and he’s like, what? And I’m like, yeah, anime-style. And then somehow, this came out, and it’s not Victorian at all. Whoops. Or anime-style, for that matter. But I think it’s something neat. I’m going to try and do this Last Days of Old Macau-style, encapsulating everything I can in game-mechanical concepts.

The quick lowdown: The culture we’re talking about here is fragmented across the stars, but it has some customs that all the branches inherit from Earth; these are those. I want to get across some like faux Native American colour here, in the naming customs in particular. Naming the self-culture Us is part of that too; I’m imagining here a thing where some fictitious Plains nation becomes an imperial power and comes into control of America prior to the European invasion, and retains its identity and status while it picks up technology and customs from the Europeans.

Note that none of these rules are unbreakable or even unbendable. Every Earth & Sky character must, as a core part of her identity, break at least one. They should also be, from the players’ point of view, sex objects. That means only that, when you create a character, you must include in that character some aspect that stirs your blood. Create someone desirable, or someone lovable, or someone you could use.

Boys Have Names, Girls Have Families

The naming customs of Us are strict. An adult may call himself whatever he wishes, within these rules: A name has one or two descriptive words, plus, for a man, a name from a sacred text, or for a woman, a family epithet. Family epithets are name elements used only by women, heritable from either grandmother. They are words that specifically denote femaleness: Lady, Mother, Woman, Maiden, Girl, Witch, Queen, Concubine. That’s not an exhaustive list, but there aren’t really very many of these. Feminine names are known, but they are seldom used.

The epithet Grandmother is no longer in use by anyone except Grandmother Darkness, who brought the first sky canoe, and the Black Bird Women, her cult, women who feel a mysterious calling and paddle out into the night and return robed in black, blind and with feathers in their hair, with a sky canoe of their own. There are five “families” of Black Bird Women: Crow Grandmother, Raven Grandmother, Fruitbat Grandmother, Swan Grandmother, and Vulture Grandmother. Apart from the head of each family, all the Black Bird Women add an additional descriptive word to their name.

The naming custom reflects the attitude Us have toward aid; men are expected to be very independent and self-reliant, whereas women have fairly free access to the support of their community and others. There are women who professionally give advice, &c., but it would be absolutely unheard of for a man to consult one.

Boys Go Out, Girls Stay Home

It’s been hundreds of years since any of Us have had to diligently tend a fire, but it’s still expected that boys will go out into the world and girls stay at their mother’s side until they are grown, and then they will settle in a new place. To this day, girls’ schools are local affairs with classes conducted by teachers resident in the community, while boys’ schools are typically large boarding schools or even caravans that run a yearly circuit around the communities they serve.

It’s expected that men, therefore, are adaptable and well-roundedly capable, but their inability to settle makes it difficult for them to achieve the deep mastery of a specialised field that is considered the province of women.

Boys Do Things, Girls Know Things

Whenever there’s a task that needs doing or action that needs springing into, ask a man to do it. When there’s a question that needs asking or answering, ask a woman about it. That’s how people among Us get things done.

Boys Must Cover Their Flesh, Girls May Wear What They Please

Male flesh causes unseemly and unnatural urges in all people who see it, so men must wear long pants and shirts with cuffs that cover their hands, leaving just their fingers exposed.


Boys Drink Whiskey, Girls Drink Wine

July 16, 2007

Here’s a quick sketch of how Earth & Sky might work. I think it’s kind of blunt-edged and not very interesting in this state, but it at least gives you an idea of what issues I want to hit.

Start the game: You have one statement about sex. Maybe you make it up. It’s of the form, Boys (verb) (X), Girls (verb) (y). For instance, “Boys play sports, girls play house.” Write it down.

Most of the time, just describe what you do. Aggressively describe its consequences! If someone disagrees with your description, then they can say, “Hey wait,” or something. Then you can defend your action, saying, “Well, based on statements x y z…” and so on, and for each statement that aligns with your action, you get a +1 bonus to do it. But the other person gets to prosecute your action, saying, “Well, based on statements u v w…” that oppose your action. This doesn’t have a mechanical effect yet!


If you failed, end of story.

If you succeeded, but you didn’t get prosecuted, end of story.

If you succeeded AND you DID get prosecuted, then you gain a Target. Someone chooses one of the rules you were going against, and you write down the part of that rule that pertains to the character’s gender. Net to it, write A NUMBER DERIVED FROM YOUR RESOLUTION SYSTEM.

If someone is acting against you while you’re disobeying a rule, he can relate it to one of your Targets (not more than one) to get a bonus to his roll. That removes the Target. The most straightforward way to relate a Target, naturally, is to observe that you’re violating the same rule again, but he could simply express disapproval for that action, if there’s some way to bring it up, or show an expectation for you to follow the rule in the present.

Finally, whenever you resist a rule and succeed, place a mark by that rule. If it has more marks on it than the total result you rolled, then you’ve made that rule outmoded. When you’re acting against one or more rules, you get a +1 bonus per each outmoded rule.


Earth & Sky

July 13, 2007

It’s my turn to talk about a new thing!

I like pseudoscience space animes, like Tenchi and Oh! My Goddess. I don’t like the harem bit, but I think it’s really interesting how the gender roles of the characters constrain what they can do. I think that’s what Earth & Sky is gonna be about…what parts of your stereotype do you live in? What parts of it do you throw away?

I have this idea for a pretty cool mechanic that I think I can use for this, too. More on that later, after I’ve talked some of this through with my brain-trust.