Wednesday, June 16, 2010


Out along the River Senube, as it passes from the urban districts and through the Lower Esplanades, there are a few small islands that even the most desperate or unscrupulous of the Guides won't take anyone.  One of these islands is known to be infected with Zadris Pods.  Another is the quarantined birthing-grounds of the free-floating silicaceous dome-like aerojellies that are trapped, harvested and domesticated as mobile aerial abodes by the Venduu who deeply resent anyone interfering with their sacred and ancestral traditions.  Some of the islands are warded and posted as hot zones where various memetic, viruxive or biomechanical infections and ordinance have been sealed behind killfields, nanomembranes, planarsheaths or other even more exotic and dangerous forms of defense and protection.  A few islands are the private refuges of certain individuals, the Insane Genius Lujeel once maintained a laboratory on one of the smaller islands of the lower Senube and several have become elegant apiary-gardens under the watchful eyes of the servants of Kilverrin.  Beembalmers are known to have established more than one secular reliquary amidst the islands, but few know why they have been drawn to these locations nor what their over-all plans might be, but as the designed spawn of an insane genius they are accorded a wide berth and some emasure of discrete privacy.  It is not wise to ask too many questions, nor to peer too intently at the doings of such things or beings.  It could be interpreted as impolite.

Of course there are the usual ruined temples, desecrated shrines, heavily haunted historic sites of previous massacres and atrocities dating back to one of the many and various Revolutions, as well as failed, fallow or feral wildlife preserves, deranged municipal parks and all those sorts of things which one could just as easily find somewhere along one of the canals, back-channels or the Street of Sibyls.  The various Islands of the Dead and especially those with disputed thanoteristries or contramortal cemetaries are usually blocked from all boat's registries of acceptable destinations.  Recognized Kurtzian enclaves, known nest-sites of Jagderphrenzer Bundists, Hollowmen Drycellars, freekid-claimsites, despicable Sademoreau painhouse-estates and other such Impolite locales are likewise banned, blocked and unavailable as landing choices even in the midst of motor failure or other forms of distress.  They are simply unavailable and unacceptable under any circumstance and no boat operating on the River Senube will voluntarily go to any of them under any form of coercion or beguilement.  Most of these rather disreputable islands are avoided like centers of pestilence, lingering psychometric aftershocks or unexploded transbombs.  Guides don't even like to discuss them, as they are just plain bad-luck and they prefer to relegate them to the same category of topics as any other unpleasant hazard to navigation one might encounter on the River Senube.  These are places to avoid, islands best left alone and the less said about them the better.  You wouldn't want to attract the attentions of a River Marshall, would you?

But the most singularly avoided of all the islands is one in particular that appears on no map nor in any database as per tradition amongst the Guides and riverfolk.  Only those privy to the oral traditions and folklore of the River Senube know anything about this place, and of those only a very few know anything beyond its existence or name.  No one says its name for any good reason.  No one goes there for any good result.  No one comes from there for any good.  Period.  So goes the saying down on the docks.

But things do come from this unnameable place.

People come from this nameless and secret island.

People who have never existed before in any way, shape or form.  Completely new and unique, each person who swims out and away from this island and wash-up along the banks of the River Senube, naked, hungry and alone are often feverish, innocent and confused.  But not for long.  Never for very long.

They learn fast, these newborn newcomers whom the riverfolk refer to as Noobs.

They learn fast and have no ties to anyone or anything other than themselves.  They owe nothing, own nothing, and have no way back -- only the way forwards.

This makes them dangerous individuals.  If anyone could lay serious claim to being a self-made person, it  would be the Noobs.

Some get rescued by the boats that cross their path, others make it to the docks, wharves or floating piers and climb up the sides or lurk around underneath until they figure out just what they intend to do about tehir situation, or they are rousted by shore patrols, rat-gangs, scugnizzi or urchins unhappy to have competition or interlopers on their turf.  Others get damaged, accidentally or on purpose, and wind up charity-cases in one of the Sanctuaries of one of the Madonnas, or they get hoisted aboard a slaver's cloaked raft and hastily hidden away from prying eyes.  They have no friends, no allies, and no idea of just what they've gotten themselves into.  But they learn fast.

Noobs have an innate capacity to pick-up languages, to learn skills and to develop capabilities such as social telepathy through repeated exposure, as well as trial and error.  They also have tremendous healing capabilities and innate access to the lower-ends of the public access datasphere.  They are capable of having a direct, personal conversation with the City itself, if they choose to develop this ability.  But that is the thing with Noobs -- they have to develop their own resources, connections and abilities through their own efforts, on their own terms.  Nothing is pre-determined about them.  Everything is fresh, new and indeterminate and wide open for exploration or personal discovery.  Everything is permitted, but nothing is allowed; they need to define themselves through their actions and decisions.  And it is for this very reason that riverfolk dislike and distrust these beings -- they literally don't know any better.  They lack all common sense and have no folklore, no oral tradition -- no traditions at all in fact.  They are rootless, nameless and blank-slates just itching to make a name for themselves, to establish an identity, to prove themselves...and that always leads into conflict, trouble and attention...the three things riverfolk prefer to avoid after taxes, census-takers, revenuers, or missionaries.

But not everyone has a negative view of Noobs.  Conscript-Militias love to 'recruit' Noobs in order to train them up as slavekillers, priestfinders and cult-hunters.  Cultists of various types dearly prize Noobs as ideal sacrifices to their ever-hungry deities and masters.  Oupirs will pay large sums of antiquated coinage for the mere taste of Noob blood.  The Casino-Bosses and gladiatorial Stables are always eager to acquire Noobs for their entertainment programs as they learn the tricks of the trade quickly and no one cares about them and best of all Noobs have no legal standing until they apply for citizenship, register with the City, or are entered into the records and databases of the bureaucracy.  Until then, they do not legally exist.  It's a loophole left-over from one of the previous regimes that fell out of power during a civil war and was unable to fully implement all of their social reforms, leaving dozens, if not hundreds, of partially-implemented or instituted policies that were cut-off in mid-upload.  The Courts are still debating each instance of such fragmentary policies and so far only a few have been struck-down, repealed, revised or completed.  Parliment has dragged its collective feet in addressing the matter, and since many of them benefit from the status quo, most of those involved in reviewing these things tend to just ignore them, let them go, and prefer to discuss more pressing and urgent matters.

So, you're a Noob.

Welcome to Riskail, you've just entered the jurisdiction of Devukarsha the City of Tiers.  You're on your own, naked and penniless, unarmed and hungry, without legal representation and no one cares if you enjoy your stay.  What would you like to do first?

Welcome to Old School role-playing.  At least you didn't have to burn your boat...


  1. A specifically Riskail take on the universal fish-out-of-water AFGNCAAP archetype. Very nice.

    I'm assume that "Where do Noobs come from?" is one of the never-to-be-answered questions of the setting.

  2. Very cool! An excellent way to introduce new players to the setting. They aren't supposed to know anything, so all questions are good ones, all paths are there to be explored. Fun!

  3. A nice way to intro player's to a setting with a steep learning curve--and an interesting mystery, to boot.

  4. @Chris: There are no 'never to be answered' questions in Riskail--someone just needs to play a character who goes and finds out the answer is all. Like sailing up-river past the plague-barges to find Old Earth--this sort of mystery or loose end is left dangling there for some player to sieze upon and wrestle with and bring back the knowledge of what really is out there or over there or whatever.

    @Yanantil: Thanks. This has worked well in the past. I plan on running somehing like this at a local con next year.

    @Trey: Thanks--it's more fun to give players something to try to sort out or solve in order to get them into the setting than to jam sixteen pages of dense text down their throats. The fun part about a richly developed sandbox is that the players really can develop their characters as they play along and learn the ins and outs as they go. This approach eliminates the need to learn anything up front. And it is a lot of fun. Challenging, but fun.

  5. @Chris: I just looked into the AFGNCAAP you provided above--interesting, but almost totally opposite what I'm doing--the Noobs in Riskail develop into specific and very real characters almost from the get-go, as they literally begin to define themselves through their choices and actions. They begin as tabula rasas and rapidly blossom into definite beings. The AFGNCAAP description seemed to suggest that such characters remained faceless and undeveloped and ultimately, that'd be quite counter to the whole idea of how I run Noobs. I really appreciate you pointing this out to me, though--I was unfamilar with it previously, and it has given me a good idea for how to do an Anti-Noob sort of thing...

  6. I'll take a dozen. It should be interesting to see what happens when turned loose on a worldboat with only necessary warnings about things like vacuums.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...