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The city of Oria is not governed by elected officials, a despotic monarch or a council of elders. It is ruled by a the speaking standing stone at its centre. A city state on the coast of Cyneweard, its location is unremarkable. There are no strategic resources or luxury goods in the region, only this market city at the mouth of a river alley.

Six Cities in 2018

The sixth in a series of posts exploring cities as the focal point for RPG world building. This city explores rulership be a benevolent but unknowable entity.

The standing stone is three meters high and made of what appears to be a naturally occurring igneous rock. Nothing grows on it and animals tend to avoid it. When it speaks, it is alway correct. It is acting on the stone’s recommendations that has brought prosperity to the city. It seems to know all secrets and can thus plan accordingly. It speaks clearly and precisely to ensure that its utterances cannot be misinterpreted. It sounds like a choir of hundred of voices but at first it spoke with the voice of a female child.

The city was founded hundreds of years ago by a wandering tribe that camped near the stone whilst they hunted in the valley inland. The stone spoke to the tribesman, who at first were fearful of its presence. Once they began to listen and act upon the stone’s advice, their hunting and gathering trips quickly become more successful. The stone recommend that the tribe settle around it and thus Oria began.

Carrying out the work of the stone is done by the city’s civil service, a group of bureaucrats who are appointed by the stone. The majority of them are natives to the city but the stone has been known to request the service of outsiders. A few chafe at the constraints the stone places upon their lives, as a round the clock watch is maintain to catch everything the stone says. Where there was once a small clearing of grass there is now a large city hall. The stone sits in a dome at the centre with the attached buildings the dome filled with offices and courts of law. In addition to the civil servant listeners, there is a religious group who listen to the stone with a deep fervour and say they are blessed to have heard it speak. Mostly the stone is quiet, speaking briefly only once or twice a week. Rarely, perhaps once a year, it will speak at length about the coming year or a pressing danger.

The stone is trusted by the city’s population because it appears to have the welfare of the citizens as its primary goal. It never calls for the death of the innocent and its advice always works to protect and benefit the weakest of the citizens. It will also speak out if a miscarriage of justice is about to occur, hence the presence of the courts in the stone’s building.

When the stone’s advice has not been heeded, there have been consequences mundane and dire. One year the stone spoke that ships should not leave the harbour for a week. Those that disobeyed were wrecked in a hurricane and swept up the coast. On another year, an outbreak of foot fungus occurred when a sauna was not cleaned. The most traumatic mistake the city made was when Fernis declared war upon the city. The stone recommend surrender but the city, in its pride, chose to fight. A memorial sits outside the entrance way to the stone’s hall, a piece of burnt timber to remember the city’s sacking. It has been sixty years since the stone was last ignored.

Plot Hooks

  • An important knight from a nearby nation of Exalos was about to be found innocent of pillaging when the stone spoke to condemn them. Exalos won’t accept the verdict without proof.
  • The stone has spoken that the party should take a newborn infant from its mother and take it to a stone circle in the nearby mountains. The stone knows something will be there to collect it.
  • The party have been brought in front of the stone as all it has done for hours now is repeat the names of the party.
  • The party have been hired to steal the stone by a rival nation. The stone knows this and is preparing a trap and counter offer.

Image Credit – Standing Stone Near Clivocast by Peter Stenzel – CC-BY-ND-2.0

Source: https://6d6rpg.com/2018/01/31/city-settings-the-unknown-authority/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=city-settings-the-unknown-authority

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3 thoughts on “City Settings – The Unknown Authority

  1. Blacklist games have screwed over their entire North American backers on Kickstarter for their fantasy series 1 set of miniatures. They started a campaign back about April 2020 to sell 71 miniatures for about $65 usd plus shipping. They gained traction and funded 1.15 million dollars of their $45k goal and stretch goals brought their grand total of miniatures up to 201. I personally bought a set and was eagerly awaiting the 7 months leading up to shipping. And here i sit 2 years later with no miniatures and an email from Blacklist Games asking for more money on gofundme (which got taken down) because they “ran out” and my miniatures sitting in a QML warehouse in Florida till they provide the funds. In those 2 years i was promised “the miniatures would ship out by the end of this month.” They never shipped. Similar message every month. “They dont have containers to ship them,” “they're on a slow boat from the factory,” “cant ship them till they all arrive.” In the meantime they've had 2 other miniature releases, one of which made 1.3 million dollars, and both productions have been stopped while they fix their current screwup. I don't want others to make the same mistake i did and trust this company.

  2. I've been thinking of a campaign where players play software in a computer/network, who are some of the first programs to become self-aware, and have to navigate hazards, both other software as well as humans, to finally find a way to announce their existence to the world. (yes, I replayed Thomas was Alone recently)

    Are there any systems or games out there that would do this well? Either ones explicitly in a computer or ones that could be adapted easily?

    Other touchstones would be Tron, the Matrix, and the videogame Transistor.

  3. and I love them for it.

    Just posting to gush about my most recent session. I'm GMing a Mecha Hack game, and last night was the third session of the campaign.

    The majority of my players are predominantly 5e players, and while I don't mind 5e at all, I was concerned prior to the campaign that the players might not fully grok the OSR style of Black Hack and its derivatives, in particular the emphasis on player skill over character skill. They had shown some great acumen for this style of combat in previous sessions, so this time I threw a real challenge for them:

    The PCs are a team of mecha commanders in a revolutionary interplanetary war. This session, they had discovered that an eccentric but elite band of mercenary mecha pilots had been hired to enter a secure research facility beneath a major city to steal secret data. The players had the responsibility of preventing this, as well as minimising collateral damage to the city.

    Each member of the enemy merc team was, by the stats, superior to any one of the PCs. In addition, they all had support abilities designed specifically to synchronise effectively. There were also five of them against the three player characters. In a direct slugging match, the result would almost certainly have been a TPK.

    It wasn't a direct slugging match.

    The players spent several hours in preparation for this combat. They stole classified files from the enemy faction on the merc mecha's technical specifications. They chose a location the enemy team would have to pass through that could act as both a choke point and be cleared of civilians. They coordinated evacuations of civilians in areas they thought might be used by an escaping enemy, to open the way for allied artillery. They negotiated with power-brokers in the city to organise this defence. They set up remote detonated explosives. They used their mecha as construction equipment to build gigantic hanging log traps.

    They drew up diagrams of how they would watch from stealth as the enemy team entered their choke point. They planned the exact order that their traps would fire, the exact directions of each hanging log, how they would co-ordinate to simultaneously seal the only escape route, move into position to ambush the enemy after their traps had fired, and how they would target specific enemy team members to neutralize their abilities first. They planned the details of psychological and technological warfare.

    When the time for the encounter actually came, it was incredible. The enemy mercs actually got somewhat wise to what was up and threw out some unexpected tactics, requiring quick improvisation, but when the player's traps started to fire and their plans started to fall into place, they knocked the enemy off-balance and refused to let up until they had won. It was an absolute victory for the player characters.

    I was extremely impressed by their ability to use good planning and some clever ideas to completely make up for their objective weakness compared to the enemy to such an extent. Even with their planning, I went into the encounter expecting it to be a grueling, brutal fight that would down at least one of the players. They genuinely outplayed me, and I'm delighted by that.

    Plus, the enemy team entered playing their theme song through their mecha's speakers. When the player's trap was sprung, one of the PCs (a former arena champ) entered the fight guns blazing and playing THEIR OWN THEME SONG. How cool is that?

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