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Friday 13 December 2013

Arrows of Indra Q&A: Presenting the Familiar

Today, we had a "question" of sorts, though it seemed more like a suggestion, that I wanted to respond to with regards to this idea some people have that Arrows of Indra must be hard to somehow grasp if you're a regular gamer who's used to medieval European fantasy.  Short answer: it isn't. But there's still people, perhaps terrified by the specter of Too-weird-to-live games like Tekumel, that are convinced that if they got Arrows of Indra, they wouldn't know 'what to do with it', they wouldn't find anything 'familiar' with it.

I suspect these people haven't actually bought the game. Because if they did, they'd see just how familiar it already is.  Anyways, case in point, here's the "question":

Q: "Here's a useful question:

If I was to start a (Familiar Campaign Premise X) where in the world would I start it, with who, against whom, and how structured?

For example, take the big campaign genres: dungeon crawl, city intrigue, no man's land, frontier life, stranger in strange land, domain management, etc.,

and add refined premise detail: corrupted disused temple, ksatriya city politics, border open clan warfare, fringe merchant caravans, barbarians in the city, brahmin land management.

So for beginners, put it where & when, with who, what, how, and why?

i.e. (Stranger in Strange Land + City Intrigue) Party of new thieves to a new city. pre-Ashoka Calcutta, v. established thieves guild, initiation rites, beginner thief missions.
Basically, explain to new players what they can do with it. Especially how they can accommodate the familiar."

And now, my response:

A:  This is, all in all, fairly well-covered by the Arrows of Indra book; in the Gazetteer, plus the first appendix. Players could make use of all the stuff you listed.

Dungeon Crawl: If you wanted something short-term, you could use an abandoned building or temple on the edge of the Thar Desert, or a ruined temple (or Rakshasa city) in the southern jungles. For longer-term, there's the Patala Underworld, an enormous (as in, covers the whole planet) "underdark"with multiple levels, and containing entire civilizations within it. The latter has its own chapter in the AoI rulebook, with details on each level and random tables for generating segments of the Underworld.

"No man's land" and frontiers are pretty well covered in the regional sections (and with different encounter tables in each area). The City Intrigue part could use more detail (for example, a sourcebook I would like to do is one that chooses a specific area of the Bharata Kingdoms and provides more information on specific cities), but there are City Encounter tables, road encounter tables, rules on caravanserais (taverns/inns), rules on getting work as an arena fighter, random tables for jobs offered by patrons, rules for mercenary work, rules for running your own business (or farm, too), higher-level rules (domain management) for handling your own territory, thieves' guild, school of philosophy, temple, etc. Rules for getting attention from Rulers and honors, missions or problems that they might give you. Not to mention marriage and family mechanics.

The one "theme" that I don't think is really covered is "stranger in a strange land" because I REJECT THE PREMISE that you need to start as an outsider to then understand the Bharata Kingdoms a-la-Tekumel. The Bharata kingdoms are not nearly as incomprehensible; you don't need that because the basic answer to "what do you do in an AoI campaign" is "basically the same sort of things that you'd do in ANY D&D campaign", only in a slightly different but easily-learnable cultural context.

(mind you, you can still do some "strangers in a strange land" stuff by having people visit the lands of the non-human yakshas, gandharvas or vanara, or on a slightly lesser scale the slightly more barbaric Bahlika Kingdoms)


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