[SotE Xmas special] A monster for the jolly season

I am still at home writing this, but when this appears on your screen I am celebrating Christmas with friends, hopefully without too much computer happenings.

I give you a description of another monster for the season. You can hazard a guess which movie I saw last week.

The Old Goat Of Midwinter

According to legends that circulate in Karelia, somewhere in the north there lies an enormous barrow, one large enough to mistake for a fell. No one is really certain of how old it is, but it is Old with a capital letter. Surrounded by ancient iron pillars that jut out from the ground at regular intervals, the barrow has three peaks and is about a quarter mile high or so. The forest around the fell has withered and died and the dead trees are petrified.

According to the legend, an ancient evil, even more ancient than the long-gone Old Enemy, was sealed within the barrow but as the years passed and the caretakers of the barrow died, it got loose again. By that time, it had  lost most of it’s old power but was still an imposing sight: half giant, half goat, with a permanently blood-caked beard and fiery eyes.

The Old Goat only comes out of the barrow during the midwinter solstice and roams the fells, looking for victims to eat. Entire herds of reindeer have been found dead and partially eaten after the Old Goat has appeared from it’s barrow. The Sami know to steer clear of the barrow during that time of the year.

Fellvindr the Cunning, the ancient dragon of Lapland, has in her hoard an old scrap of an Old Empire-era manuscript that details the burial. Some brave explorer once actually entered the barrow and saw the sleeping monster. The manuscript details what has diminished the monster’s strength: hundreds of Baubles, the antimagical spheres much desired by everyone today. Along with the Baubles, the barrow is full of the ordinary grave goods: golden goblets, silver plate, Elven weapons and even more preciously, actual Old Empire era swords.

If you dare, go north and raid the monster’s tomb.

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Me posting stuff on GamerXP and SotE things

I have recently written a couple of things for GamerXP which is an excellent site. I am partial of course since it publishes me, but go take a look.

If you’d like to know what I don’t enjoy about GRR Martin, click here. And generally want to know about misrepresenting history. That too.

Here is another one about elfgames and history.

And finally something about private dicks and elfgames.

In case you have been wondering where my game is right now, things progress towards the end. I had a fairly productive weekend, got my last exam this year on friday and after that I got lots more of spare time to do a last polish before my co-author Artemis starts filling out what I didn’t bother to write. As soon as we get the art together, we can probably start putting the KS together.

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[SotE] Patron-Client Rules

A somewhat cleaned up version of something I posted earlier on G+.

I came up with a rather simple system of representing patron-client relationships in Swords of the Eastsea. This happened after I watched Alatriste. Aragorn had a great moustache in it. And there was swordfights too.

Patronage is sort of a fixture in the early modern world. Though there are other structures in society, almost anyone can still benefit from having a relationship with someone above their status. And because your status is lower then theirs, they can have you do their dirty work.

Ground rules: you can only have a patron that’s of higher rank than you. Your patron will give you small sums of money and other benefits no questions asked, because they can afford to. In return, you are expected to show up and take care of things from time to time, but you are not an employee, you’re part of their retinue or household, even if you’re not there all the time.

Your patron has a level of status, starting from minor officials and merchants, going up to merchant princes, dukes, counts and the highest officials of any given nation. Actual rulers don’t have clients tho, they’re not represented by this system.

When you do stuff for your patron, you receive Favor Dice. You can roll them whenever you want something out of the ordinary. Money for new boots is ordinary,  dinner at their manor or townhouse is ordinary, a full suit of armor is out of the ordinary, a chartered ship for your personal use is out of the ordinary. If you don’t succeed with the roll, you lose a Favor Dice because you thought too much of your own importance.

Of course, since this is a dice-matching system, it does mean that it’s sort of easy to blow a roll. Here’s two things: you can get modifiers to your roll by presenting your case in a good way, actually spending time on it, getting someone to recommend you for your patron, and so on. At the same time, it represents the dynamics of a patron-client relationship. Any patron has a whole lot of people asking them for favors. They’re not going to actually pay special attention to you before you’re standing out in some way. So you have to make an effort and not just hang around drinking their booze. Try saving their lives or something.

If your character rises in social status above your patron, they actually become your client, so now you got someone you can jerk around.

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[SotE] Fiction Time: Beer Good

The Old Town of Stralsund was a dirty and smelly place, with filthy cobblestone streets, wooden piers jutting out into the filthy water like rotten teeth and all in all, not a very pleasant place to be.

The Swedes had descended on their newest acquisition like locusts. After the Hanseatic League turned over the city to the Swedish Empire, it had taken mere hours for the first Swedish officials to arrive through Bifrost gates. They set about to confiscate the entire treasury of the city to pay for the army that was en route, most of the trade goods in the port were confiscated as well and it seemed like half the city was forced to help out in one way or another. Mostly through having Swedish officials sticking their hands into their purses.

That was a year back. Now, things had more or less settled down, what with the Swedish army making their way south. The inhabitants and the old power players of Stralsund had salvaged what they could, but as a free city, it no longer existed. Above the turrets on the city wall now flew the gold-blue flag of the Swedish Empire.

Along the alleyways of the Old Town walked an imposing figure. Wearing a cuirass decorated with images of gauntlets, most people knew who she was. Major-General Stålhandske, commander of the Nyland Regiment of Cavalry, Hell On Horseback, scourge of Mecklenburg.

She had been in town for a while. Her regiment was being shipped back to Ostland and she had lingered here until the Archduke would return himself. Not that she liked the north shore of  Danubian Empire, but she had wanted to stay for a bit longer. Maybe because during the time she spent campaigning in Mecklenburg, she had slept only three nights in a real bed, and she wanted to catch up on real beds before the long and dreary sea voyage back to Ostland.

And there was the question of drink and companionship. Though she most assuredly was noble, the lower nobility and the higher nobility didn’t have much in common. She didn’t want to spend more time in court than she had to, as long as she had a say in it. Though the King himself was a jovial and a pleasant man, he was still a king and one had to remain on ceremony in his company.

So, she had settled on a middle-tier tavern. Not one of the dockside alehouses, which barely consisted of three walls and something that might have been a roof, and not one of the fancy inns for rich traders, nobles and merchant princes. A honest but clean place where she could have a drink without standing out too much. And some company would be nice, though she didn’t have much expectations.

She spotted him outside the tavern. A tall man (though shorter than her) with a Castilian-style felt hat with an enormous brim, a leather cloak slung over his left shoulder, on which sat a young cat, a grey tabby, more ears and eyes than head. He had a sword on his belt along with two pistols. He was muttering something to the cat, and Stålhandske felt somewhere in her head the magic he used. Apparently he had some business he needed to explain to the cat. She paused for a bit, taking a second look. It certainly was the person she thought he was.

A young pickpocket crept up on her, and she brushed off his hand gently, almost as if to remind the cutpurse that there are far easier marks in this town than the strongest woman in the world. The pickpocket ran, startled.

“Good evening, Schoolman.” She said. The man turned to take a glance at her and stopped talking to the cat.

“Good evening, Major-General.” He replied while reaching with his right hand to pet the cat. “I was planning on having a drink. My guess is that your business here is the same.”

“Would you care for some company, Schoolman?”

“I would not mind, as long as you stop calling me Schoolman. It feels odd.”

“Try having a School of magic named after yourself. Never mind that whenever the high and mighty mention a Schoolman, they are talking about you.” She said with a smile.

“The high and mighty need someone of low birth but sufficient status to take care of their more unpleasant business. Someone like me.”

“Or me. But lets not dawdle here. I am thirsty.”

The tavern was rather brightly lit, surprisingly. In addition to ale, they served a perfectly good red wine from the Transrhein, which the Schoolman ordered. Stålhandske ordered beer, because she was rather fond of the local bitter. They found a small table with three chairs, and on the third chair the Schoolman set down his hat, and the cat almost immediately jumped off his shoulder into the hat and went to sleep, curled up into a ball.

“I think he was tired. Matter of fact, I was going here more for his sake than my own. Can’t be easy to be perched on my shoulder all the time.”  The Schoolman said. “Got him from a man in Hålogaland. A Karelian.”

“Yes, they do like cats over in Karelia. I’ve heard it’s a cult thing”

“More than that. They have an actual Goddess there. Loviatar. The Queen of Disease. Since she loves cats, she’s made everyone in Karelia love them too.”

“Actual?” She asked, a bit puzzled.

“Yes. People sometimes see her walking about in the woods. Met a shieldmaiden once who had seen her. ”

“Now, that is something. And unnerving.” She said, repressing a shudder.

“I think we should not talk about her. Another subject, then. Have we actually ever talked before?”

“Just a few words. I pointed you to Archduke Tott’s pavilion one time when you had captured a defector. A Bifrost Priest, as I recall. Always wondered how you did that. They’re a slippery lot, always disappearing into the Gates and walking along the Rainbow Bridge to distant destinations.”

“Here’s my secret. Most wizards — no offense to you — use magic as a crutch. They neglect to develop other skills in favor of magic. Me, I am not a wizard. I know some charms and tricks, but nothing worth the name of magic. I know the secrets of counterspells and detecting magic. I am a fairly good shot with a pistol, I can outfight most people with a rapier. I learned wrestling tricks from the Norsemen.”, he said and paused for a bit. “What I think I am trying to say is that most wizards learn to be on top. I learned to fight from below.”

“A good answer. And unsettling too. I do not have high hopes for winning this war with magic. There are so many Germans here, and we have not yet even touched the armies that are massing in the south. I fear that our king has bitten off more than we can chew. Unless we make allies, unless the Danubian Empire collapses in on itself, we cannot finish this task at hand.”

The Schoolman sat quiet for a long while and sipped his wine.

“You are probably right. I know that even the wizards have taken losses here. There’s not that many Winged Wizards or Dragonspeakers in the army anymore. Most of them have reached the end of their contracts and are going home. I do hope that our king has something planned. ”

“My own involvement in this war in this wretched country is coming to an end though. I am leaving for Ostland with the Archduke, to see what we can do to safeguard the East against foreign incursions.”

She was interrupted by a drunken dragoon that approached their table. The dragoon had one hand on the hilt of his sword and a ugly scar running across his cheek.

“Who do you think you are, Dutchman, for bringing a filthy animal like that into this place?” The dragoon said, pointing at the asleep cat.

“I think I am Cornelis de Vries, Schoolman of the Winged Wizards.” The Schoolman answered, rising up. “And you should perhaps leave.”

The dragoon made a move, trying to pull out his sword, but was interrupted by the dagger that was now firmly shoved in through his eye socket. Stålhandske, still seated, had not even seen the Schoolman pull it out of his sleeve. The dragoon collapsed, dead.

“That was unpleasant. Though I think I made it more unpleasant than it should have been. ” The Schoolman said. “Despite the fact that I did enjoy talking to you, I should probably leave.”

“Should you ever come to Ostland in the future, look me up.” She said with a smile that revealed gleaming steel teeth. “My regiment will be there, and I could always use someone decent to drink with.”

“That I shall do.” The cat perched once again on his shoulder, the Schoolman left the tavern.

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[SotE] Fiction time: The Dead Speak

It was almost the tenth hour, but still dark. The fires had been stoked, the lanterns lit and even the great chandelier above the great hall had been lit to ward off the dark. Through the large Hollandian windows, the Count could see the people of Copenhagen going about their affairs.

Like every morning, he had his servants dress him in the latest fashions. His new Domain-style shoes with three-inch heels were a new acquisition. His wig was made of from the hair of ten ladies, his sleeves had more lace than the average Ostland cloth merchant had ever seen. The fine cravat at his throat covered an unsightly red blemish that went all around his neck. He did not cover it up for the sake of other people, rather the cravat made him forget about it, should he catch a reflection of himself in the mirrors of which there were many in this house.

He sat down in front of the small breakfast table which he only used when he ate alone. Today was one of those mornings, when he had sent his servants to chase away all callers because he had things to do and things on his mind. From a small cup he drank the finest Ottoman coffee, bought from the great markets of Smyrna. White bread, butter and honey was all he ate. Not because he was watching his figure – that had been quite unnecessary for the last 20 years – but of habit.

His last cup of coffee he took standing in front of the fire, again out of habit. He had not felt cold for a long time. He rung a bell and his servants arrived. He felt like putting off what he was going to do, but since it needed to be done, he might as well get on his way.

The carriage ride to the Qvellstjerne estate was not very comfortable. As always in November, the roads were terrible, muddy and uneven. The sights were not much better: late autumn fields, brown and empty. It had been a while since the harvest festivals took place. He saw a few serfs trundle along the roads, carrying bundles of wood. The cranes had flewn south too and the countryside felt dead. The Count was feeling uneasy about this whole thing. He had not brought along his household guard as he usually did when travelling and his only escort was a single footman who right now was sitting beside the driver of the carriage, silently. It wasn’t a time for idle conversation.

Three hours later, he arrived at the small estate. Surrounded by an amazing amount of fields and orchards, the rundown manor house stood in a garden full of weeds and thorny wild roses. The pale red, almost pink paint was flaking from the manor house walls, making the manor look as if no one had lived there for years. The Count let out a chuckle, the first one this morning. After all, it was true that no one lived there. He did know, as his carriage passed the old gatehouse of the estate, that he was being observed. It was not as if the old lady would not know of everything that was going on on her lands.

Taking a brief look at his driver and the footman, he said that they should wait outside. They seemed relieved.

Entering the old house, the Count took a brief moment to examine the surroundings. Everything he saw was extremely expensive, from the deep carpets to the tapestries and the paintings, but everything was moldy, dusty or otherwise wracked with the passing of time. No one had come to open the door for him or to announce a visitor, this he was familiar with. The lady of the house did not care for servants.

The Count found her in the library, as always. In a padded chair, there sat a dessicated corpse, clothed in a ragged and moldy dress. From lace-adorned sleeves, bony fingers covered by ragged skin protuded.

“Baroness Qvellstjerne, good day” said the Count. With a rather audible creak of old dry joints, the corpse opened her mouth, revealing a row of blackened teeth.

“Young Count Lüttichau, or should I call you Arch-Mage. You have come again.”

“Calling me Lüttichau is fine, Baroness. Count and Arch-Mage are just for those who fear me.”

“I expect that this is not a social call. My little friends have told that you have once again taken silver from the vaults of the Kinship of Cold and sent agents eastward. You are still looking for old Egil, are you not?”

“That is what I have been doing, Baroness. The Kinship of Cold needs the things he knows. The spells that we have lost. ”

“Now, do we?” the corpse-woman said, with a dry dusty giggle. In her terrible mummified face, her brilliant green eyes, as alive as the day she had died three hundred years ago, glittered with mirth. “Do sit down, Lüttichau. After all, I am merely an old relic of those old days and you are the self-declared chief of our School. No offense meant, Lüttichau, but you do know that your titles don’t mean much here.”

“None taken. There are precious few in our Kinship left who have been here since the days that the Kinship was outlawed. Since you are one of them, and there are no witnesses, you might as well say things as they are.” Lüttichau took a seat on a stool near the corpse-woman.

“I can see you looking at me. If I am not mistaken, I do disgust you. Not because I am dead, because you too are dead and you work with dead things – as I used to do – but of what I remind you of. The thing we will all become, once we stop pretending that we are still alive. ” Again, there was a bitter mirth in her voice.

“You speak the truth again, Baroness. I have been dead for twenty years, but I have managed to keep my appearances up. My wounds from my hanging never healed, but there is not any mark of decomposition on me. Which is why I can meet the Queen and all those high nobles at court and play the part of Arch-Mage of the Kinship of Cold.”

“Dear Lüttichau, you seem to indicate that I might want to be Arch-Mage in your stead. No. That is the one thing I never wanted. I died and Transformed so I could stay here until the world ends. Not to be a grand wizard. I merely wanted to stay here. Away from all living things.” She sat silent for a while. “But what of all those pretty young things that have now joined the Kinship? Killing themselves to gain power and status? Hah! You must not have told them what is the fate of a Necromancer: to eventually forget how you used to be a living being, and then one day realizing that you have decomposed over the last ten years and no longer are you young and pretty.”

Lüttichau sighed. “Yes. Most people don’t realize that. I did not. That is why I keep a strict regimen. Sleep, eat, drink, even though I do not have a desire for those things anymore. I will try to remain intact for as long as I can. Forever, if I can.”

“Nothing truly lasts forever, Lüttichau. Except death. You and old Egil are alike in that regard. You decided to become Necromancers for all the wrong reasons.” She turned towards Lüttichau, looking at him with her intensely green eyes. “I wanted to not live. That is why I still have my faculties. I am not you, who pretends to live. I am definitively not Egil, who has hidden himself after realizing he had become a monster. I have always been a monster.”


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[SotE] The Beard-Inspectors

A long time ago, both the Hanseatic cities and the Danish Union State tended to finance conflict through poll taxes. Since back in those days, there was no actual efficient administration to collect these taxes, there was a surprising amount of deaths in every community every time a tax collectors came around: after all, a dead person will not pay taxes.

A practice arose then, where tax collectors would demand to see the body of the recently deceased to examine it to confirm the death. Frequently, the aides of the tax collectors would pull the beard or the hair of the corpse to see if the dear departed had actually departed. So, the aides tended to be called Beard-Inspectors, which initially was insulting but the name stuck.

Over the years, a specific duty was given to the Beard-Inspectors: they were made responsible for investigating cases of death, because if someone had during poll tax time murdered an individual, they were not only responsible for the murder, but owed the state the poll tax money.

With reforms, the original duties of the Beard-Inspectors were no longer necessary, but the idea of having a specific group of people responsible for investigating murders where there was an economic interest in having it solved was still quite useful. Beard-Inspectors stopped being public officials and instead were chartered as a guild, initially in Denmark but now they have a presence all over the Eastsea.

Most large cities only have one or two Master Inspectors and a few Apprentices. Every local guild is completely independent, and thus only allowed to ply their trade in the cities where they are chartered. There’s no major cooperation between the various city guilds but most Beard-Inspectors tend to at least show some professional courtesy towards colleagues.

The people who end up as Beard-Inspectors tend to be a diverse lot: some are simply people looking for a paycheck, some have been government officials, some are former sellswords looking for easier work.

A Brief Comment About This Thing Here

The Beard Inspectors did not actually exist irl. Their origin story is this: a while back, I presented on the FB page for SotE the painting “Duke Karl (or Charles for you anglos out there) Desecrates The Corpse of Klaus Fleming”, which will probably be included as an illustration in the game, since it’s a lovely painting.

edelfeltThe story behind the painting is that Duke Karl waged war against his nephew Sigismund, because Sigismund was Catholic and Sweden was a protestant country, or at least that was his excuse. Personally I just think Karl really wanted to be king. The dude in the casket is Klaus Fleming, the Admiral of Sigismund who was the strongest man of Sigismund in what is now Finland. Karl laid siege to Turku Castle, which is located about two kilometers away from my computer chair and Fleming died of natural causes during the siege.

When Karl took the castle, he pulled the beard of Fleming and said “If you were alive, your head would no longer rest on your shoulders.” To which Fleming’s wife answered with a mad burn going “If my dear departed husband would live, you would not be standing here now.” One of my favorite stories, along with Karl’s brother Erik XIV going mad, stabbing a dude and running away to hide in the woods.

But I digress.  Anyway, a fan of the game made a joke about Beard Inspector being a class. Later someone commented that they had thought that Beard Inspectors were actually a typically strange title for someone collecting taxes or something. So I kind of ran with that idea. I am terrible.

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[SotE] Major General Alkaida Eufrosyne Stålhandske, Hell On Horseback

Remember, Reiters: knees behind knees, plow formation, fire before you hit them, blades out and never stop yelling. 

Hell On Horseback

Alkaida Eufrosyne Stålhandske was practically born in the saddle. She was born during a war against Novgorod, and her mother, Colonel Eleonora Stålhandske was at the time commanding a regiment against Samogitian cavalry raiders in Revalland. Around this time, the Stålhandske family’s school of magic had been officially approved of as a school and she started practicing the magic of strength.

The Stålhandskes were simple frälsadel, nobles that were tax exempt because they armed cavalry for wars, but her mother’s capable leadership in the war that ended with Ingria being made neutral (which suited the Swedes fine) got her some attention when she was growing up on the Stålhandske homestead near Borgå. King Christina saw Alkaida as a capable young woman and paid for her education at the university of Uppsala. In addition to that, she made her a lieutenant in the Life Guards cavalry.

She fought in tourneys successfully, but always wanted to be faster, stronger and more resilient than she ever was. So she decided to Transform, a step most of her family never took. Afterwards, it was like her hands were made of steel.

Alkaida first held a command during the last war against the Polish-Livlandian Commonwealth, where she, along with her younger brother Torsten and the Archduke Åke Tott perfected new cavalry tactics. Tott was very much impressed with the aggressive attitude she showed counter-charging Polish hussars and her ability to break apart plate armor with a single blow from her sword. In addition to that, for some reason, the ill-tempered Archduke was able to get along with her quite nicely.

She got her moniker Hell on Horseback from some Polish cavalry commander who saw her hacking apart ten of his best Hussars single-handedly.

Big Sister

She was eventually promoted to Major General and served as one of the commanders of Tott’s cavalry during the invasion of King Gustav III and saw combat all over the northern Danubian Empire, cutting to pieces the cavalry of the Kaiser at the battle of Lüneburg and evicting the Reichsarmee from the northern parts of the Empire. However, when Tott was due to return to Ostland, he asked her to come along to take command of the cavalry regiment left in Ostland. She agreed, since she was tired of the dready life in the camps and needed a change. 

She was reacquainted with the little brother, who now served as the castellan of Turku Castle, though they have never been really close. Her brother’s continual issues with the Archduke occasionally annoys her even today, since she thinks of her brother as sort of a prat: a highly capable prat, but still a prat. They are an odd pair of siblings in general: she is 6’7″ long, has prematurely gray hair and has muscles on top of muscles. He is 5’1″ and while he is very strong, he has a rather slender build and long curly brown locks.

She now commands the Nyland Regiment of Cavalry, which acts as a fire brigade for Tott whenever there are issues that need a military solution. While she went from commanding several thousands to commanding less than five hundred cavalry, she actually relishes her current tasks. She gets to know her soldiers personally and is allowed free rein by the Archduke to deal with threats and raids according to her own judgement. Last but not least, she doesn’t have to sleep in a moldy tent in the middle of a muddy field most of the time.

She is now fourty-eight years old and hasn’t married. She has in rather frank terms delegated the responsibility of keeping the family line going to her little brother Torsten. Torsten has not married either, at least not yet.

Beyond being a soldier, she enjoys the theater quite a bit and tends to visit Turku whenever there’s a troupe in town. Her old mother lives still on the family estate outside Borgå, but with the success of her children, she is now an old colonel with significant social status.

Alkaida Stålhandske as a patron for player characters

She is a rather straightforward ally for anyone wishing to keep Ostland safe. If someone else handles bandits or raiders somewhere, she doesn’t have to do it herself. She has some leeway in delegating tasks assigned to her by Tott to other people and often prefers to do so, whenever something looks like a problem that can’t be solved with a cavalry charge. This might mean she hires player characters to go scout the wilderness for bandit camps, rogue wizards, owlbears, troll caves and worse. Her main concern is to keep the common folks safe from anything that might come out of the woods or across the borders, be it natural or unnatural.

Having her on your side might also mean that a squadron of cavalry might turn up when it’s really needed by the players. Since player characters tend to get into trouble a lot, it might help out quite a bit.

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[SotE] Åke Tott, The Snow Plow of the North


The Snow Plow of the North

Åke Tott is a distant cousin to the King of Sweden, and currently serving as Archduke of Ostland. He made a reputation for himself in the wars against Novgorod and the Polish-Livlandian Commonwealth, where he got his nickname from. King Gustav III named him “The Snow Plow” for opening the way for the army with his fierce cavalry charges. In the opening stages of the war against the Danubian Empire, he led the cavalry in many battles and was made a marshal.

He, along with the Stålhandske siblings Alkaida and Torsten reformed the Swedish cavalry, preferring to charge instead of fighting with pistols.

While he holds the rank of Riksråd, a rank usually reserved to those nobles allowed to speak at the Crown Council, he was made Archduke of Finland after the previous archduke died. He himself did not want the position, because he was happier leading the cavalry, not having to deal with administering a backwater part of the Swedish Empire. However, King Gustav III didn’t have anyone as capable to handle the challenge of dealing with both the Karelian raiders and the constant Novgorodian threat.

Lord Hang And Burn

His second moniker came from the months immediately after his return from the war against the Danubian Empire. While the capable administrator Per Brahe had served as Governor General of Ostland in Tott’s absence, the local tax collectors and magistrates had been allowed to become corrupt and the local population was turning against the Swedish crown as a result of the depredations of the crown officials. Per Brahe is a kind and gentle man who was never successful at reining in the crown officials. Tott was not.

Almost immediately after his arrival, he sent out letters admonishing the tax collectors: anyone found stealing would be punished according to the law. Anyone found misusing their privileges would be punished too. He did know this would not have an effect among the officials who had become accustomed to running their own affairs as they liked.

One day in May he arranged a court session at small village of Hollola, and required all tax collectors and military commissioners to attend. Most of them came. There he revealed his investigation into theft, corruption, misuse of authority and other crimes committed by them. He then, in front of a shocked audience, convicted thirty tax collectors to death. The sentences were carried out immediately and by hanging, without regard to the usual custom of allowing convicted nobles to be honorably beheaded. Their properties were confiscated and their houses burned down.

The draconian measure worked and afterwards, taxes were collected in a responsible manner. The local nobles were disgusted, but the peasants and the burghers supported Tott fully.

Tott has become a popular figure and while he still utterly hates being the Archduke, he carries out his work efficiently and with an even hand. His main issue is that there’s not enough troops in Ostland to figure out a solution to Karelian raids and the porous borders of the country encourage smuggling and banditry.

Tott as a patron for player characters

Tott can be a terrible adversary, if the player characters find themselves acting against him. He has no problem with sentencing people to death if that’s what it takes.

However, he can be a valuable patron. Ostland’s administration now works well, but finding capable and educated people is always a bother, especially for any task that requires an independent mindset. So, he would always be interested in hiring capable player characters to carry out his plans or to simply police Ostland. There are smugglers, pirates and bandits aplenty, and they need to be dealt with before problems become endemic. Never mind the nobles who might be plotting to remove Tott to be able to run Ostland as they please.

Corrupt crown officials are still an issue, because Tott cannot personally investigate every claim of misdoing. He might well want to hire outsiders to investigate. Same goes for rogue wizards who have broken against the Crown Compact and have to be hunted down. Quite a few of them try to hide out in Ostland.

While he isn’t quite as rich as the Brahes, he is quite able to reward loyal service with plentiful silver.

[edit] A Quick Comment

In case someone’s interested, Åke Tott was an actual historical person during the early 17th century, and he’s buried in the cathedral of Turku, where I live. He was extremely famous during his lifetime and over 40k people came to his funeral. He was only 42 years old when he died.

This fictional version doesn’t have tuberculosis, though.

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[SotE] Action resolving, modifiers and combat paradigms

I should really talk about rules more, but generally I avoid it because writing up rules to the blog takes far more time than setting material.

This thread on rpg.net made me think about what past editions of D&D have done really, really wrong. One of my pet peeves is situational modifiers. Technically, in 3rd edition and 4th edition you rolled a dice, added your attack modifier (Base Attack Bonus + Strength or Dex) and compared it to the target number. However, in practice everything could either add or subtract from your roll: spells, feats, your positioning, class abilities and so on. This made resolving rolls really annoying. If you can’t tell at one glance if you hit or not, there’s something wrong.

SotE uses a system where everything goes into your roll, and rolls are 95% of the time only modified by your gear and possibly your combat disciplines. The combat disciplines should get neat cards which you have for reference, so you don’t have to stare at your character sheet and try to remember what some esoteric word means. Looking at you here, feats.

About combat paradigms: I’m a really bad amateur sword fighting hobbyist but even I know that there’s no such thing as a pure attack or parry when it comes to actually trained fighters. Rapier fighters used to call an attack without a defense “a blow of two widows.” In the Fiore school which I practice myself, attacks have defenses, defenses have counters, counters have counter-counters and so on, and of course every defense can turn into an attack. However, this is pretty hard to do in a game while keeping it interesting. Beyond my skills anyway. Instead, there’s fighting skills and a couple of defense skills, and the dice pool system guarantees that only a good fighter can fight without opening themselves to counterattacks. Which I like, because it allows really good fighters to shine in duels.

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[SotE] Your standard update about progress

Yeah so this is the basic gist of it: we’re pretty much done now. As soon as we have some additional art and a video to present, Liberi Gothica will be launching a KS. The video might take a while.

All that’s left on my part and my co-writers part is the first batch of editing for clarity.

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