Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Somewhere Down the Crazy River

This article originally appeared at the Old School Heretic Blog.

Down along the River Senube you can hire an independent octoraft, rental prawn-gondola or one of the swarms of small boats that act as vaporetto-style 'waterbuses'  to take you out to one of the one hundred and twenty island or thirty-six major sand bars located along the length of the Senube.  Some of the crab-boats and driftsails will likewise take on a few passengers for a quick jaunt out to a nearby island -- as long as it is not one of the Asylum-Chateaus.  No one will take you there if you lack the appropriate permission, at least not openly, or during daylight.

For the right price, and if the conditions are favorable, you can get passage to anywhere you like.  One way or another.

There are several different, competing cliques and enterprises who pride themselves in arranging discrete transportation, private (inspection-free) courier-services, and personalized assistance in making informed travel arrangements, such as pre-arranged extraction services for urban spelunkers, trespasser-parties, and the like.  Often it is not getting into a particular place that is nearly as difficult or bothersome as getting out afterwards, and getting out without making a mess is something that quite a few people pay good money to these folks to handle on their behalf.  It cuts down on scandals and it alleviates nuisance legal fees.

"We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And to know the place for the first time."
Little Gidding,
T. S. Eliot
You might consider hiring a Guide while you are at it, though that would depend on your budget and your intentions. Guides are professional explorers who have already been to any number of locations and they know what they are doing.  Independent contractors with years of experience and myriads of personal contacts along the caravan trails, coast-road, pararail lines or Plaza Gate Trade-routes or sovreign captains of their own river-vessels, bioaerostats, hoverboats, or other watercraft, the Guides can get you into and out of places only they know about.  They keep proprietary records and maps, encrypted GPS coordinates and clandestine buoy-codes that they keep private and locked away as tricks of their trade.  No two Guides have the same maps, charts or experiences.  When you hire a Guide, you contractually agree to allow them to retain all geographical and topographical data, whether any of it ever gets released into the Public Domain or not.  They also reserve the right to place a black-out lien against any data you disseminate that derives from the Guide's personal databases or experience--you can share your experiences, but not the exact coordinates and must employ a database placeholder that redirects inquiries to the specific Guide involved.  It is tradition and it is highly effective as well.  The Guides can make a difference in whether you return from a particular expedition, or not.  That's their job.

As you explore the River Senube's deltas and islands and sand bars out past the Low Esplanades and throughout the Estuarial Zones, even though you're still well within sight of the Upper Tiers of Devukarsha, there are places here that even the most experienced larker or islandhopper will insist upon hiring a Guide.
Guides can also take you out past the Tributary Gates, along the various canals and back-channels, and even deep inside the Grotto-Districts, underchannels, subterranean exurbs and tunnels that lead out from beneath Devukarsha to locations as distant as the Black Ziggurat, the Buried Sea Gate or Mnorkris (Mah-NO-kriss).  Some Guides specialize in facilitating their clients travels to various locales along the Pararail, past the canal-gates, or up-river through one of the Twelve River Gates, such as along the Zonges.  Others specialize in exploring the various Synthecosms or in visiting exotic locales such as the Bleak Worlds, Bad Land Worlds, or the various Planar Layers, though these last do tend to be rarer and far more demanding than their peers and colleagues who explore the Orbital Regions instead.  But one gets what they pay for, in the end, and some forms of travel and exploration are more difficult and/or inherently dangerous than others.
But Guides do not just lay about on their backsides waiting for rich and silly clients to fall into their laps.  The majority of them are out in the field, exploring and discovering new routes, blazing trails, overseeing the construction of canals, roadways, Gate Plazas and mapping-out Satrapies and Exurban Districts or surveying Wilderness Worlds for potential settlers.  They work with Voyajeurs and extreme explorers, L&C Outfits and tourism bureaus, and all manner of folks in-between.

When a Noble takes to the skies in a saucer-dirigible fresh out of the manufactory-pits on Aegron and sets off to locate and lay claim to what might become their own Barony, they often consult with Guides before making their journey.  The smart ones do, in any case.  Those that do not get advice from a reputable Guide most often are the ones who wind-up leaving a ghost-town out past the Perimeter.

Cryptozoologists, xenobiologists, and paranthropoligist as well as a host of other, even more obscure academic-types are always heading off into the Wilderness Worlds, the Tributary Gates and other places in search of rare plants, exotic beasts, new cultures and/or any number of other things that might or might not be understandable or pronouncable to any given Guide.  Many specialist academics employ interpreter polyglot-telepaths in order to deal with non-specialists and laymen.  These groups are more often than not strictly and adamantly mandated by the Academy and their sponsors, patrons and grant providers to employ a Guide for their expeditions and exploratory journeys.  This being the case, there are several areas along the canals and banks of the Senube where Guides gather or their representatives and agents can be found by representatives from various Faculties, Campuses, Offices or Colleges who come there looking for Guides interested, available and able to assist them in their investigations.  Usually they find someone willing to take them on.  When they can't, they either wait, or attempt to hire-on a less than reputable Guide or an apprentice just starting out on their own.  Both are risky propositions, but usually for entirely different reasons as some groups find out to their chagrin.  (Can you say press gangs and slavers?  I knew you could.)

Even those pressed for funding and unable to hire-on a Guide or even an apprentice, will often invest a sizable portion of their operating capital in getting a consultation with the best Guide they can afford.  Sometimes a Guide will cut them a deal and offer to buy any relevant or interesting data that a group can acquire, especially those just starting out.  Guides are always buying maps and journals of other explorers.  Sometimes there is enough interest, such as when the logbooks and records of a particularly notorious lost expedition are recovered, that an auction is held amongst the interested Guides.  More than a few small fortunes have been made in this manner.  Many adventurous sorts start their careers hunting down previously lost explorers and expeditions.  It's almost as lucrative as finding ruins or forgotten cities, but often much safer (relatively) and usually requires far less overhead or preparation.

Becoming a Guide is fairly easy.  Go somewhere no one else has gone.  Look around.  Document your findings.  Return.  All it takes is one trip out past the Perimeter and you can claim to be a Guide and start leading groups of dilletantes and debutantes out past the Third Gate and expose themselves to the Near Wilderness.  No one takes a party of such folk out past the Twelfth Gate.  Not without very good reason.  It's just asking for trouble.
Guides rarely ask for trouble.

A selection of Islands and a table of random Wilderness World (plot-seeds) past the Tributary Gates are to follow shortly.  After the Pararail gets a little more attention.


  1. Cool. So there are no bodies to vet guides? One would think at least some people would want a "bonded and insured one" or the equivalent, even if it wasn't required.

  2. Insurance is gambling, in Riskail, and thus your problem, not the Guide's.

    As for being bonded...yeah, there are a few ways to get that sort of thing handled, and the Academy often insists upon it, but in general, if a Guide has been in business for more than a couple of years and actually done anything, then they're probably fairly suitable.

    Keep in mind that the Guides police themselves--anyone pulling a fast one on a client will have to watch out for other Guides who might get curious, investigate the matter and retaliate on professional grounds. They don't tolerate impropriety amongst their ranks. They have pride and an unspoken code, and they have remained autonmous for a long, long time because they don't tolerate frauds or fools.

    Seeing as the only real body that oversee a Guide is another, more senior Guide...they might have to set up some sort of formal bonding society to supplement their current system of reputation and vouching. That'd be a good situation for a group of player characters to get involved in...

    And, like I said above, the Academy really does want this sort of thing, but the Guides have been stubborn and not too quick to provide it so far. Maybe it's time for that to change. It just takes a few to cooperate together to set things into motion...


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...