EDIT: When I wrote this, I didn’t know that it was John Wick, the designer of this game’s birthday.
Happy birthday, John! Wear some purple and be entertained!
We’re considering what to play for our Thursday game once the latest Burning Wheel mini-campaign is done and one of the games on the table is Houses of the Blooded. This always get’s me thinking of ways to make the game a little easier to ease into.
I wrote two previous posts on color aspects based on what different colors mean to the ven and past job quasi-lifepath aspects based on the different vassals barons can have working for them. My next aspect post will have childhood aspects.
Hopefully, having menus of aspects will allow players to not only pick and choose if they want but will give them models of solid aspects that are also cliff notes for ven society and culture.
I like having the barons be related through some kind of geographic feature, some way to bring them all together under one count. Houses of the Blooded, just through its dice, estate management and initial set-up has enough situation so that the county itself really just needs to have color and not impending doom dripping from every word.
Once everyone made up their baronies we’d likely make a rough map of the area.
Also, this kind of thing is helpful to have around so that I can have an idea of the larger world outside of the players baronies, with outlined counts and other baronies around shanri. This was a whole lot of fun to write up, so I’ll likely bang out six more in the coming weeks.
Here are half a dozen counties, roughly sketched out so that we can flesh them out through chargen and play.
Description: These islands are on the easternmost face of Shanri. The seas beyond Dawn County are guarded by ferocious orcs, bred by the Sorcerer Kings to both guard their eastern shores and thwart the escape of their slaves by boat. The county seat is a sprawling port city called Garshan di’Nathorc Haas (Where Slaughter Rests) or as the peasants call it, Scabbard City. Unethen I’ilinnen (High Kings Sword) is the river that runs from the capital city in central Shanri to the east coast.
Nickname: The Sunrise Barons
Count: Your countess is a fearless admiral of a fleet. A baron would have a difficult time figuring out where she might show up as she is often out hunting sea orc or whaling or using one of these pretenses as an excuse to visit one of her barons without warning. She is an old ven, the crone of the sea, who will likely fade from the world before too long. Some say she will become a suaven prayed to by sailors and fisher-folk.
Her husband is Blooded of the Bear and rules the city with an iron fist while raising their many children.
Invoke: You gain 3 dice when you are traveling by sea, braving Shanri’s tides.
Tag: Your opponent may gain 2 dice when they use stone terrain against you.
Compel: Feels compelled to risk life, limb, ship and crew while at sea for glory.
Invoke: You gain 3 dice when you awaken at first light to get work done.
Tag: Your opponent may gain 2 dice when they are in a conflict with you late in the evening.
Compel: Feels compelled to take terrible risks at first light.
Description: The westernmost edge of Shanri is where the Sorcerer-Kings are said to have sent their failed experiments and is infested with orc of all kinds who have bred and roared in the western lands for centuries. The lands beyond these shores are unmapped by ven. The county seat is the count’s own modest castle with a village built up around it. The castle’s most notable attribute is a watch-tower, built by the Sorcerer Kings that reaches into the clouds.
Nickname: The Frontier Barons
Count: The count is a quiet sorcerer, Blooded of the Serpent, who studies the orc and any markers left here by the Sorcerer Kings, sending his findings back to the capital. As taciturn and introspective as he is, his wife is a vibrant ven, Blooded of the Fox. Born and bred in the capital, she is often throwing parties to show off her husband’s latest discoveries, admiring art and hatching conspiracies.
Invoke: You gain 3 dice when you enter into a romance with the spouse of your betters.
Tag: Your opponent may gain 2 dice when they call you into a duel for your indiscretions.
Compel: Feels compelled to woo the ladies/lords with the most dangerous spouse possible.
Invoke: You gain 3 dice when you study or attempt to communicate with orc.
Tag: Your opponent may gain 2 dice when they call you out in ven society for having an orc stink upon you.
Compel: Feels compelled to bring orc closer and closer to their lives and show them more and more mercy.
Description: The senate has bound something fell in the middle of your county and it is your duties to keep it imprisoned. The county is a valley, surrounded by natural boundaries upon which each of your baronies are founded. The county seat is a nearly deserted city that has not been fully populated since the days of the Sorcerer Kings.
Nickname: The Wardens
Count: Why in all of the hells won’t the Senate replace this count? The agents of the senate in silver and black who are sent through here to inspect the seals and wards refuse to take any part in county politics but it is clear that your count is mad. His Falcon wife never seems to be around long enough to notice how erratic his behavior has become.
Touched by Yellow
Invoke: You gain 3 dice when you communicate with spirits or other mad folk.
Tag: Your opponent may gain 2 dice when they are calm and reasonable.
Compel: Feels compelled to show the weak foundations of ven society through simple profane actions.
Shanri is a prison
Invoke: You gain 3 dice when you are trying to keep something confined.
Tag: Your opponent may gain 2 dice when they are not physically controlled by you.
Compel: Feels compelled to hold prisoners for their lord.
Description: Unethen I’ilinnen (High Kings Sword) is the river that runs from the capital city to the eastern edge of Shanri. It is a mighty river that brings fast travel, floods, trade and piracy. The county seat is a raucous river city through which every craft shanri has to offer is bought and sold.
Nickname: The Drowned Barons
Count: Your count is of House Wolf and is obsessed with hunting the river pirates and seeing them all dead, often traveling to the senate and demanding that his personal guard be allowed to be expanded so that he might keep the river traffic safe. His martial mind means that his wife, a more sensible ven of House Serpent, sees to the trade.
Invoke: You gain 3 dice when you hunt pirates.
Tag: Your opponent may gain 2 dice when they are evading you on land.
Compel: Feels compelled to put off other important matters in order to hunt pirates.
Invoke: You gain 3 dice when you are taking something by force.
Tag: Your opponent may gain 2 dice when they lawfully attempt to stop you directly, invoking the word of law.
Compel: Feels compelled to take that which is not well enough defended.
Description: These are the barons who guard the capital city, well positioned to know the going’s on all over Shanri. These baronies surround the capital city monitoring all traffic in and out. They also take a particular interest in any ven whose ambitions give them delusions of high kingship. Wars that attempt to turn coronets into crowns cause bloodshed in Hub county more than any other.
Nickname: The Hub Barons
Count: Your count is an overly ambitious Blooded of the Elk, married to another overly ambitious ven of the same House. He has made no secret that he does not plan to be Count for long and is hatching plans to claim the Elk’s Ducal seat. The baron and baroness have made it plainly known among the Hub Barons that they will raise up any who aid them along the way.
Power Behind the Throne
Invoke: You gain 3 dice when you give advice to those in a position to gain power for themselves.
Tag: Your opponent may gain 2 dice when they confront you bluntly and directly.
Compel: Feels compelled to manipulate the ambitious and powerful in dangerous games of thrones.
Invoke: You gain 3 dice when you are flaunting the latest fashions from the Hub of all Revenge.
Tag: Your opponent may gain 2 dice when they are in a political battle with you outside of the capital.
Compel: Feels compelled to belittle those who are not up snuff on the latest style.
Wheels within wheels
Invoke: You gain 3 dice when you are putting into motion plans that are part of even bigger plans.
Tag: Your opponent may gain 2 dice when they see that a trap is set but walk into it anyway.
Compel: Feels compelled to best their enemy through complicated machinations.
Description: The Sorcerer’s Wall is a cyclopean mountain range of unknown origin. Scholars who study stone formations and natural philosophy say that it is clearly not from shanri itself. They say that the Sorcerer’s Wall is too arcane even for Shanri’s alien geology.
Those who decode the histories of the sorcerer kings say the wall was made during a civil war among the ven’s former slavers. This hypothesis says that the wall is a mountain range made to be a threat to the capital city or even launch lost war-lore down on enemies in the valleys below.
Nickname: Sky Barons
Count: The Count is Blooded of the Serpent, fascinated by the lore left behind by the Sorcerer Kings. His wife, Blooded of the Wolf often accompanies him on adventures and keeps him from harm’s way. Together they frequently winter with whomever offers the finest party at a Riddle House.
Sorcerer King’s Spell
Invoke: You gain 3 dice when you are studying something dangerous left behind by the Sorcerer Kings.
Tag: Your opponent may gain 2 dice when they use an artifact of the Sorcerer Kings as bait for a trap.
Compel: Feels compelled to put family and allies into danger through uncovering lost Sorcerous lore.
This menu of counties is based on counts, barons and baronial duties mentioned in several pillow book fragments and opera folios recently translated by professors Loinaz and Fuller in the Ithaca University Pre-Atlantean History department.