Queen Defender of the faith: Primus

Thursday, November 27, 2008


A Quick Guide to Primus

Primus is a coastal city. The coast runs east/west to the south. Climate is generally Temperate/Boreal: colder weather in general, but milder winters. Forestation is an evergreen/deciduous mix similar to the Pacific northwest. Of course, distant regions will differ from this, with mountain, desert, and jungle climes used as story (or backstory) requires.

The seat of government is located in the Spire, a towering metallic structure found at the nexus of all roads to Primus. The Spire watches over all, and even its shadow passes over the city like the sweeping hand of a sundial. It is the axle of a half-wheel, with roads stretching outwards like spokes.

The Kark River empties out west of the city in a great delta. As such, the industrial sector starts in this part of the city. Residential areas are generally to the east. In between is the commercial sector. Government and support buildings are found closer to the center of the web, followed by higher-rent districts. Low-rent areas are out towards the perimeter, leaving plenty of acreage for expansion before rural farming areas are encountered.

Primus ("The First City") is the center of the known world. Or, rather, the world as known by its inhabitants: those who have traveled far and wide enough know that every land mass has its *own* "First City"! Its domain is always expanding as roadways consume the countryside.

The city-state is governed by a sole Patrician, who tends to ascend to office by the tacit will of the people for past achievement. There is no formal electoral process.

Primus has no external enemies and thus does not maintain a standing army (in fact, there are no foreign borders within the surrounding horizon), opting to rely upon The Defenders for protection. It's very clean (mostly), prosperous, bustling, and peace-abiding. There is a city watch that mainly helps people when their carts bust an axle and ushers the drunks home peacefully. They're armed with truncheons, crossbows, and knives (oh my!).

Technology is of a curious range, with a lower base mainly around the medieval level ("Iron Age Plus", let's say) extending up through Elizabethan outfitting, but there is also a tradition of invention fostered by the Patrician which pulls segments of society towards Victorian realms and sometimes beyond.

A High Artificer is counted upon to make life easier for the people of the city through ingenious mechanical wonders. These inventions occasionally find their way into the daily lives of people, but mostly they remain a symbol of class separation.

Talented smiths can do amazing things... especially when gifted as the offspring of gods (knowing or not). Machinery is likely, and steampunk style engines aren't entirely out of the question for the particularly gifted. Of course, it's likely that someone somewhere in distant lands is experimenting with black powder weapons.
Buildings and Public Works

Architecture is simple but sturdy at the low end (wood, stucco, shale roofing). Business blocks are often built in long stone and brick units with flat roofs. The wealthy have miniature baroque palaces with pointless adornments such as stained glass windows, precious metalwork, and absurd topiaries.

Main roads are made of paving stone, which is gradually being used to replace the cobblestone cross-streets. Back ways are still packed earth (sometimes with embedded wood slats to combat erosion and wagon-ruts during the rainy season).

Some notable features of Primus's public works:

* Irrigation, sewage, and plumbing (varying by class)
* Phosphorescent swamp gas lighting (excited by static charge)
* Ceramic heat batteries for cooking and heating
* Semaphore towers for long-distance communication


People in this civilization are less prepared for a fight in general. Few people own a sword, let alone know how to use one (not that a knife or an axe aren't just as effective). However, the upper-crust do dabble in dueling with light swords (having nothing better to do with their time).

Most people are normals, and few have had personal contact with the legendary heroes. Sure, your cousin's friend probably saw a man fly over his farm, but he never got to shake his hand. Still, when heroes have saved the day, they touched enough lives to inspire songs and stories for generations. In a sense, The Defenders are the true celebrities of the day, though they tend to inspire quiet awe moreso than clamoring mobs.

Most people have never seen a "monster", though adventurers are said to have encountered many of the "classic myths" from our literature: dragons, minotaur, phoenix, kraken, "prehistoric" mammals, and whatnot (these do not encroach upon civilization in marauding hordes!), and most people believe in the restless dead. Moreso, there have been increased sightings of Demonic influence in the city as of late.

Even though this is not a game of historical Earth, I'm not going to get wacky with the language: the "common tongue" is essentially English. No made-up words here. And we won't get silly and prescribe artificial personal name spelling conventions (e.g. CVCVC) to try (and fail) to be needlessly "unique". Mostly British and Germanic names are used for locals, and other nationalities can be used to make them "foreign" or "exotic" (without overtly saying, "He's Chinese").

In fact, surnames are mainly prized by the upper-class who link lineage to social status. The "low kinds" will generally just go by first names, especially in rural reaches: everyone knows who "Gunter" is in those parts, and if there are two Gunters you can specify "Willhelm's Gunter".

Titles are often used in place of surnames for the professional class and tradesmen. "Emil the Butcher" is a fairly specific identifier. Similarly, honorariums can be bestowed: "James the Kindly", aka "Kindly James". Which of course brings us to nicknames, good and bad: "Knuckles", "Ratty", and "Bernie the Pungent".
Culture and Entertainment

Here are some diversions for you to pass the time and talk about around the water cooler at work:

* Theatre, music
* Books, periodicals
* News one-sheets and kiosks
* Cricket, Aussie rules football, boxing, wrestling matches


Some other points of interest about Primus society:

* Population: Pushing 50,000
* Education: generally literate society, free education, trade mentoring, no unemployment (for those who desire work)
* Cuisine: Pan-ethnic, spices, much seafood (being on the coast)
* Fashion: time-shifting between classes, peasantry in Middle Ages garb, with the elite being close to Victorian styles (the wealthy are also extremely fad-prone)

Economy and Business

The people are hard-working and most everyone "knows his place". Currency is both paper and coinage, but a greater deal of barter contracts are made between skilled craftsmen.

Typical businesses one might find:

* Street: Bakery, potter, glass-blower, blacksmith, tailor, grocer, builder/architect
* Coast: Fishery, importer
* Rural: Ranching, farming, hunter/trapper/furrier
* Culture: Theatre/sports venue, library, printer, school

Business names are a bit antique but straightforward. A quick guide:

* Proprietor: "K.A. Menendian, Carpeter", "M. Azzaro, Barber"
* Location: "Northside Grocer", "Vine Street Bakery"
* Mix and match is often used for inns, pubs, and oddities:
o Modifier:
+ Colors: Red, Blue, Green, Teal, Magenta, Violet, White, Black
+ Materials: Stone, Wood, Glass, Jade, Paper
o Object:
+ Animals: Rooster, Dog, Tiger, Elk, Dragon, Camel, Elephant, Bear, Moose, Skunk, Monkey, Eagle, Crocodile, Phoenix, Bull
+ Plants: Oak, Rose, Bamboo, Lily, Willow, Reed
o Examples: "Glass Rooster", "The Paper Dragon", "Black Lily"

Businesses are taxed a percentage of their income for the upkeep of public works in their area. Unfortunately, there are also non-government groups who take it upon themselves to collect "protection fees", because buildings can be rather, y'know, *flammable*...

Primus is a self-reliant closed economy, for the most part. Most goods and raw materials come from within the realm itself. It does not generally export goods, and most import companies tend to dabble in curiosities and esoterica rather than hard and soft goods.

The gods have lost direct sway on this plane, particularly in the city. People do not "worship" in overt ritual ways anymore. Instead, they tend to believe in the adage that a life lived purely is worship of the Creators in its own right. A hard day's work, day after day, is the road to a comfortable afterlife.

Still, some gods influence the world by inserting themselves into it and steering the course of humanity. Others do this by proxy, finding a mortal suitor to produce offspring with.

Some of the old gods are still revered in small circles, though, and in those areas they still have sway. Farmers still have an Earth Goddess they're respectful of. There's a goddess of the hunt. Artists still petition the muses. And of course there are mages and witches who gain their power by divine contract.

Demonic forces are the main antagonists in the city (and as such can be considered the "replacement" for BtVS's vampires). It is their way of life to corrupt the people by tempting them to the deadly sins.

Demons have a normal human form. In this form, they can use only limited powers: the only benefit they retain is resistance to damage and magic. However, if they are the successful target of a significant amount of either of these, their human form is dropped and they show their true visage. Physical stature is generally larger than the average human and of an idealized build. Non-human attributes are always present, generally consisting of several of the following: horns, tail, fangs, facial ridges, claws, unnatural colored skin or eyes, fur, scales, other animal attributes, foreign matter composition (stone, wood).

This transformation also includes change of attire and is instantaneous, accompanied by a puff of smoke, flame, burst of light/dark, electrical discharge, or other Nifty Special Effect.

While the human form is used, it must be maintained: food, drink, sleep, waste, etc. Most demons prefer returning to their own plane (in their normal form) on "downtime": they can port in and out in the presence of a personal shrine or a general "weak spot" between realms.

Their modus operandi is to "convert" people by granting wishes pertaining to the deadly sins. They gain energy through this process. Formation of cults is also paramount for "spreading the word", and outright worship produces even more energy.

Creating an actual contract between demon and human (either oral or written) additionally allows the demon to bestow minor demonic powers to the human... but also at the cost of the recipient manifesting demonic attributes while using the power. Sometimes this will get them mistaken as demons, though officially they are merely "demonspawn". Such empowerment can be removed by the will or death of their patron, and the demon is limited to how much power he can bestow in total (i.e. it draws from his "reserves").

Demons operate at physical penalty while in sunlight, though they do not take direct damage. Still, it's something they tend to avoid, and they stick to night operating hours most of the time. They are also like vampires in that they are dusted by a stake through the heart or decapitation.

Demons do drink blood (and eat hearts and brains when peckish!) simply for the perverse pleasure, but they can only turn humans by completely owning their soul: it must be a willing process. At that point, if the body is drained, it can be reborn with a "soul kiss". Essentially, the demon eats the human's soul, which also grants a "blood-bond" sort of control over the new demon.
A Short History Lesson

The PCs are all in their mid-30's, so they're about 15 years older than they are in the New Orleans game. However, they don't all have a shared experience that dates back that entire time: they started out scattered geographically. Backstories will overlap in varying quantities, as dictated by individual character write-ups, but they all have at least 3 years together working as a team.

* 15 years ago: Primus was ruled by Ian the Green Alchemist, who was corrupted by a demon. Upon this becoming known, he was deposed and imprisoned by his own pawns, The Defenders of the Realm. This act was led by Jacob, who ascended to Patrician office by will of the people soon thereafter. After a governmental house-cleaning was completed, The Defenders disbanded and parted ways.
* 10 years ago: Debralla Touchstone graduates from University Mechanica with highest honours and is recruited to be the new High Artificer upon retirement of the old one. She would also subsequently teach at UM as well.
* 5 years ago: Petro comes to Primus. Jacob recruits him for "odd jobs", including that of occasional Executioner. It's rumored that there is "something between he and Debralla".
* 3 years ago: Lady Midnight and Erin the Lost come to town. They are soon recruited and the new Defenders are made official to combat the rising tide of demon insurgency!

The Defenders of the Realm
Pete Malraux as Petro the Executioner

* Age: 35
* Size: Hyuge
* Inspiration: Astaroth (Soul Calibur), Lobo, Trencher (Keith Giffen's *other* Lobo)

Petro is a huge man with a huge double-bladed axe to match. He is typically shirtless, masked by an executioner's hood, and wears a heavy lashing of chains around his waist to support additional weapons (and his blood-red leggings). The rippling muscled skin (swoon!) on his chest, arms, and back is covered by scars and magic runes, thought to be the source of his ability to speak with the dead.
Jessamine Pitot as Lady Midnight

* Apparent Age: 37
* Power: Faerie envoys
* Inspiration: Faerie tales, creepy Hellboy chicks

The Lady has ties to the faerie lands, and is almost undoubtedly more than human herself despite her apparent form. She wears a gown of blackest blue that scintillates like moving oil on water, the long tails of which move and flow with seeming living animation. She commands fey entities that do her bidding, calling them from their world to ours. She can also travel the In Between, opening doorways that span many leagues with no effort.

She resides in the Red Room Inn, where she keeps a faerie dragon which causes no end of comical trouble for Georges.
Debbie Human as Professor Debralla Touchstone the High Artificer

* Age: 35
* Marital Status: Widowed (but rich for it)
* Inspiration: Girl Genius, Secret Adventures of Jules Verne, "Ichabod Crane, Girl Detective" (Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow)

She believes in the future! She believes in science! As well as doing her duty as High Artificer to the Realm, Prof Touchstone applies her knowledge of natural law to protecting the people in a more direct capacity as a Defender. She wears a grey-silver pants-suit with ruffled waistcoat, over which is donned a similarly colored duster with myriad pockets, from which she pulls her creations: weapons, clockworks, lockpicks, scrying glasses, and other tools that the common man has never seen and can only guess the purpose thereof.
Erin O'Reily as Erin the Lost

* Age: 19
* Demeanor: Cocky
* Inspiration: Swashbuckling miscellany

Adopted charge of Lady Midnight (who is said to have found her in the In Between), she can adeptly bargain with the fey (though not outright control them). She's able to win any combat with her dueling skills with rapier and main-gauche. She wears the white garments of a high society lady, being trained in courtly arts, but needs no man to defend her honor!
Other Personalities of Note
Jake Ruth as The Patrician

* Age: 35
* Coolness: Ultimate
* Inspiration: Jedi Council, Star Trek ambassadors

Patrician Jacob is a brilliant, cunning gentleman who can visualize plans within plans, wheels within wheels. He has a short beard and long hair, and wears spectacles and a long grey vest-coat. He uses his abilities of uncanny insight to both plan what's best for his people and to oppose the forces of darkness. The Defenders report directly to him, answering his call when he sees a need for their services once again. As a former Defender, he also is said to have incredible powers of his own...
Lorelei, Queen Siren

* Apparent Age: 30
* Hotness: Extreme
* Inspiration: Lady Death, other various CHAOS! Comics cheesecake

In her human form, Lori typically wears clothing befitting the disgustingly wealthy, absurdly impractical for anyone but the layabout elite who live a life of carriage service and high tea. She's extremely attractive, though her cruelty also manages to shine through. Her demonic form is considerably taller (reaching to more than 6.5 feet), build is "enhanced" (aherm), her skin and hair are chalk white, and her eyes glow blue and pupiless. Oh, and she's wearing significantly less clothing of a leather/dominatrix style (i.e. This is pretty much a direct rip from Lady Death)

Lorelei is set up for "the good life" by residing in the Red Room Inn (Georges allows amnesty to any manner of being there so long as they don't use the grounds for "business", keep a human visage whenever possible, and do not manifest powers). The Queen Siren is dedicated to Patrician Jacob's personal corruption. To do this, she only occasionally (though grandly) threatens the well-being of Primus itself, putting pressure on Jacob to hopefully martyr himself to the cause. Generally, though, her process is one of slow decay, such that there will eventually be no more First City for even the Patrician to believe in.
Ian the Soiled

He is the former Patrician, deposed for his treachery against the Realm. He still has his uses, though, and is kept in the deepest dungeon in case his knowledge is required. His abilities as an alchemist and herbologist occasionally come in handy for analysis of clues. His spirit for escape and retribution seems to be broken, but you never know...


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