Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Happy Vandal's Day!

GURPS Myth: Now that I've introduced you all to GURPS and Myth in previous posts, I think I'll start sharing some of the setting that I've fleshed out for my players. Those of you playing other RPGs might take direct or indirect inspiration from it, and the rest of you can simply enjoy it as I share a bit of the story of our Myth campaign.

My approach to world-setting for the Myth campaign is exhaustive and ongoing. I already showed you a peek of the Myth map that I've broadened and deepened, which also represents a significant addition of population distributions, political boundaries, and ethnicities. Oh, and I also dubbed the world in the setting 'ceorth', since there's no reference to the actual name of the world in the official literature. What I've done to the official Myth map, I've also done to the Myth calendar by adding holidays and related histories, traditions, and festivals throughout the year of the setting.

The official canon for Myth didn't offer a lot of guidance for the calendar. The journal entries from the game were all dated with familiar days and months. The flavor text for the Journeymen and members of the Heron Guard also make mention that their names--Nine Skull Crocodile, for example--are taken from the year in an ancient Cath Bruig calendar. Finally, the thousand-year ages that define the Myth series take somewhat whimsical names--such as the Wind Age, Wolf Age, and Sword Age.

So, as I fleshed out the calendar with holidays, I had a lot of room for creativity. I began by looking at medieval holidays for inspiration, and so a lot of holidays that revolved around agriculture were set up to define the planting and harvesting seasons. I liked the idea of taking the old-style Day of Fools and making it a late winter holiday at the end of February--a time for the free peoples of ceorth to cut loose and enjoy themselves before spring duties and the potential of military action could begin. But there was one anomaly to consider: leap year. Based on the cyclical nature of the Myth setting, I decided that leap year would be a fun parallel to the fatalism of the cycle of Light and Dark. Specifically, it's a time for people to indulge in acts they view as aligned with the Dark and lose their stuff in wanton acts of medieval tea-bagging. So here's a sample of the descriptive text for today's holiday. In the course of our game, as the march of time reaches a specific holiday, I normally present the players with note cards with info on the pertinent holiday and their specific culture's traditions. There's currently three cultures represented by the players' characters, which will consist of something like the following:

Fool's Day (February 28) and Vandal's Day (February 29)

A day of revelrie, outlandish costumes, and the Fool’s Parade. Fool’s Day is a throwback to a festival of violence, said to pre-date the Cath Bruig, which held that the world needed a day of excess vice to minimize that of the rest of the year. It is thought that the Dark Gods require a certain amount of chaos to exist in ceorth, and so the people seek to placate the gods and maintain balance with outrageous acts of frivolity, pranks, and minor violence upon their neighborhoods. It is considered especially bad luck to discourage or refuse fools on this day, as though doing so dares the forces of chaos to visit their wrath upon them. The leap-year extension is even more raucous, with the fools resorting to mass pranks and acts of vandalism, and so it is called Vandal's Day.

Cath Bruig: The people of The Realm are especially stoic and worship the meritocratic elements of their society. And since the Church of Wyrdras, their patron deity, is especially devoted to service, order, and excellence, local temples of Wyrd receive particularly bad treatment on Fool's Day. The Fool's Parade in any town or city normally features a march of revelers in ghoulish garb circumscribing the city and then moving into the settlement and ending at the Temple of Wyrd. Along the way, the participating fools release crows, get raucously inebriated, and splash paint over windows. On Vandal's Day, marked windows get kicked in, all alcohol is taken outdoors and left in the street to be drunk by revelers, and fights swell throughout the settlement. These excesses are normally followed by ritually killing boars as part of a penitent meal sometime on March 1, embracing the values of discipline once more. 

The Province: In The Province, Fool's Day is in particular about the commoner's relationship with the local nobility. The Fool's Parade is more gluttonous than elsewhere, with revelers inviting themselves into noble kitchens--kicking down doors if necessary--and feasting in the streets. Wise nobles will usually leave the doors open to their kitchens, or even lay out a feast in advance of the parade. On Vandal's Day, however, the participants often strip down to their small clothes in and around the lord's home. Servants of the lord are known to be beaten in proxy on this day, and many nobles take to dressing in rags on Vandal's Day in order to embrace the chaos of the day and mitigate any violent urges towards them specifically. Still, most commoners know that being a conspicuous Fool or Vandal, while ostensibly protected by the traditions of the day, is a good way to find one's dues inexplicably increased.

Gower: Fool's Day in Gower is especially grim. Participants dress in funerary garments, act out scenes of death, and leave grisly totems and talismans at the doors of homes. It's a rather more serious, close to home, observance than those in the rest of the Empire, in which Gowern embrace death and chaos in a more sober manner. The Fool's Parade will normally employ at least one Doom-sayer, a soothsayer employed specifically to cast dire predictions as part of the public spectacle. Fool's Day dinner will normally be especially opulent and decadent--symbolizing one's last meal. Vandal's Day, on the other hand, will see a fantastic amount of creativity as participants dress up as ghosts and spirits and haunt local burial sites, even going so far as to eat, drink, fight and otherwise indulge themselves over their future resting places.

Hope you've all enjoyed your Vandal's Day, and be sure to split a boar tomorrow to pay for it.

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