Here are some bits and pieces from “A World of Qi” that I cut for length, but felt compelled to write here.
A Note on Numbers: Most are pretty speculative.
- Earth Qi probably tops out at 10 or 12, since it represents dice rolled to avoid death, among other things.
- Basic Qi – Fire, Metal, Water, Wood – and Chaos represent pools of points
expended to fuel effects or neutralize damage.
- Middle World creatures have natural Qi comparable to their Earth Qi.
- Lower World creatures can store and channel Chaos to fuel their spells.
- Subtle Qi – Light, Shadow, and Aether – represent dice rolled to resist
damage or generate power for effects, much like Earth Qi.
- All corporeal conscious beings have Aether Qi equal to their Earth Qi.
- Upper World spirits have Light and Shadow Qi only.
- True Demons are composed entirely of Chaos energy.
- Some Spirits use their Aether Qi directly to influence the Aether Qi of other beings. True Demons and Upper World spirits are immune.
Creatures of The Middle World
|1 .. 12
|3 .. 9
|3 .. 6
|6 .. 9
|one of Fire, Metal, Water, Wood
|3 .. 9
|alchemical preparations and artifacts
|6 .. 12
|Fire, Metal, Water, Wood
|6 .. 12
|6 .. 12
|3 .. 9
|3 .. 9
|1 .. 9
|one of Fire, Metal, Water, Wood
|- of Sorcery
|9 .. 18
|3 .. 9
|9 .. 15
|6 .. 12
|2 .. 12
|Aether or Chaos
Normal animals lack reasoning and language ability. Innumerable species abound in nature, while civilization domesticates only a handful of species: horses, riding birds, oxen, chickens, and dogs. (Cats aren’t truly domesticated.)
Beast Folk are either animals that assume a human form, or humans that can assume animal forms. They generally dwell in the borderlands between human settlements and the wilderness.
- A form indistinguishable from a human, although certain mannerisms might indicate the true nature: the nervousness of ratfolk, the expansiveness of bearfolk, the aloofness of catfolk, etc.
- An intermediate form with the claws, teeth, and fur of their animal forms but human-like hands and human-like bipedalism. Beast Folk larger than a human will be stronger than a human but clumsier; those smaller than a human will be more agile but less strong.
- A form indistinguishable from a specific animal species save for its size (slightly larger than normal), intelligence, and understanding of human language. In this form Beast Folk cannot speak or use tools, but they have the natural advantages of that species of animal.
All three forms have the same Earth Qi and the same intelligence.
Humans dominate the Middle World. Other native sapient species – notably Beast Folk and Spirit Folk – number in the thousands or at most tens of thousands, while humans number in the hundreds of thousands if not millions.
Qi Users have been previously described.
A small minority of humans have powers outside the Qi paradigm: hearing thoughts, influencing wills, sensing things beyond normal senses. Some even claim to leave their bodies at night and explore the Spirit World. Sometimes called psychics, shamans, or witches, these individuals sometimes become honored members of a small village, but more often find themselves shunned, ridiculed, and sometimes hated.
Spirit-Touched seem unable to use other Qi abilities, although a few manifest powers associated with Light and Shadow Qi. Most supplement their powers with alchemy (usually potions and poultices), keen intellects, eclectic educations, and sometimes rigorous physical training.
Not all Qi Users are human. Some animals seem to be able to use Qi instinctively. Some animals may use Metal Qi to take down their prey or compete for mates against others of their kind. Others may use Wood Qi to boost their running speed or make prodigious leaps. One rare subspecies of large lizard uses Fire Qi to breathe fire; a type of deer uses Fire Qi to create mirages while it escapes.
All such animals have a limited repetoire of tricks, and usually bear some sign of their magical nature: unusual coloration, a single horn in the forehead, unexpected anatomy or proportions. Their origin is mysterious. Intervention of the Spirits? Natural variation? Experiments by sorcerers?
Sorcerers seek out such creatures as their bodies yield a lot of Earth Qi.
(See also “A World of Qi”.)
Chaos Vents between the Lower World and the Middle World mutate Middle World animals, plants, and people into Monsters. The influence of Chaos also drives them mad, so they rampage out of the Chaos-infected area into villages, towns, and even capitol cities.
Heroes’ and Adepts’ first duty is to put down the Monster. Chaos energy acts much like Metal Qi to protect it from harm and endow it with lethal strength. Chaos also gives the creature bizarre and uncanny stunts, even spell-like powers. Monster-hunting is therefore not for the faint of heart.
Once the creature is put down, it’s best to burn what’s left. Unscrupulous sorcerers may try to steal body parts, as the residue of Chaos remains a source of power.
With Monsters dealt with, adventurers and priests (or Saints) must seal the Chaos leak, to prevent more Monsters from erupting. This can be as dangerous or moreso than Monster-hunting.
Monsters of Sorcery
Occasionally a sorcerer or mad alchemist will create a Monster as part of their grim experiments: reainimated corpses, parts of living creatures fused together, plants and animals warped by drugs and unbalanced Qi.
Such creatures can be more dangerous than Chaos Monsters. Instead of wearing down their Chaos (or Metal Qi) protection adventurers must overcome the unnatural vitality of their Earth Qi.
Monsters of Sorcery that used to be human may display cunning and even traces of humanity. Adventurers must judge for themselves whether the creature can truly restrain itself or poses a threat to humanity.
Scholars believe Spirit Folk had human ancestors, but either intermarried with spirits or fell under a spirit’s influence. Thus, while flesh and blood (and possessing Earth Qi) they have abilities beyond any Qi Adept.
Below are some of the best known species.
Gnomes stand less than half the height of normal humans; they tend to wear rough undyed fabrics and leather clothing. Most carry orichalcum weapons and armor that they forged themselves.
Gnomes have mastered Metal Qi to a point far beyond that of human Adepts. They have also learned the arts of warfare and fortifications and or human commerce. While often portrayed as greedy and amoral, gnomes never break their word and usually deal fairly with mortals who respectfully ask to buy their jewelry and weapons.
Gnomes dwell in caves and on mountainsides. Contrary to popular belief Gnomes have a symbiotic relationship with Kobolds. Kobolds provide Gnomes with gems and metal to sell, and occasional chunks of orichalcum to forge into blades. In return, Gnomes guard the deeper caves of Kobolds from theft by big folk.
The blue-skinned Ifrit stand taller than most humans. In addition to their mastery of Fire Qi spells unknown to human Adepts they can disappear in a whirlwind from one location and appear at another.
Ifrit either serve or command Jinn; which is master and which servant is not entirely clear. Most Ifrit dwell in extended families in wasteland villages, often with human slaves.
Kitsune have large, mobile ears on the sides of their head and fluffy tails, resembling a cross between a human and a fox. Kitsune can augment their abilities with Wood Qi, but their most notable trick is illusion. Kitsune can make themselves, any object, or even the landscape look, smell, sound, and feel like anything they wish if they overcome a subject’s Earth Qi with their Wood Qi. However, a Kitsune do not actually transform themselves or their surroundings: fires will still burn, objects will still fall, and the Kitsune themselves cannot give themselves giant strength with a mere illusion.
Kitsune live among Fairies deep in the wilderness. Some Kitsune venture into the borderlands or even at the edge of rural areas, where they encounter humans.
Corpses given a semblance of life by sorcerers of the Middle World or Lower World, Undead span the entire cycle of corporeal decay:
- Intact, sometimes preserved corpses
- Rotting, sometimes mutilated corpses
- A cloud of dust or miasma
Most undead are not too bright; animated by fragments of Aether or Chaos, they have just enough consciousness to obey their creator’s orders and perhaps use a weapon. Rarely an undead is a mostly intact soul bound into its own corpse; these become either leaders or rebels.
Undead can take a shocking amount of punishment; one must destroy the head or else dismember the thing before it stops moving, and even then sometimes the severed parts start crawling on their own. Fire (mundane or magical) or Light Qi can destroy undead efficiently.
For dead reanimated by evil spirits, see Revenant.
Creatures of the Lower World
Much of what we know about the Lower World comes from My Travels in the Lower World by Rin Tsu In Do. The Church has condemned this book as a forgery and a heresy, but accounts from interrogations of the so-called “Demon Folk” support some of its assertions. Nevertheless, many reject the suggestion that the Lower World isn’t a roiling pit of evil energies but a world somewhat like the Middle World.
(See also “A World of Qi”.)
|12 .. 18
|1 .. 24
|3 .. 12
|1 .. 5
|9 .. 24
|6 .. 12
|6 .. 18
|1 .. 9
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|12 .. 18
|1 .. 24
|2 .. 12
Archdemons rule the Lower World. The Demon King presides over all; beneath him are the Demon Chancellor, the Demon High Priest4, seven Demon Princes, six Demon Dukes, four Demon Generals, and two Demon Marquises. Below them are twelve Demon Earls and forty Demon Knights.
Or so Church tradition tells us. Travels only tells of the Demon King and several “archdemons” of unknown rank. The King looked human save for his ram-like horns, and the others looked neither more or less varied than other Demon Folk.
Scholars have speculated that Archdemons are Demon Folk with a bloodline that gives them extraordinary mastery of Chaos rivalling Greater True Demons. Others believe that Archdemons belong to a distinct species, perhaps one able to change their shape. A few even spin a fanciful tale of Immortals cast from the Higher World to the Lower World.
The Demon King in particular is an enigma. Over the centuries of battle with the Lower Realm scribes have recorded different names for the Demon King, yet other sources insist the Demon King is immortal. Does the Demon King change names every century or so? Does the spirit of the same King reincarnate in his offspring? Is the Demon King ever a Demon Queen? Few in any world have met the Demon King, so for now these questions remain unanswered.
Despite looking monstrous to Middle World eyes, demon beasts fulfill the same roles in the Lower World as animals in the Middle World. Their equivalent of a horse or riding bird, for example, is a four-legged reptile with the general outlines of a horse but clawed feet, fangs, and horns. In the Middle World, oxen draw carts and ploughs; in the Lower World, something like a large beetle serves the same role. Their equivalent of a dog has leathery skin and six legs. And so on.
Demon Folk resemble humans with unusual skin colors, animal-like eyes, pointed ears, horns, hooves, and/or tails. No two look alike. Like Archdemons, they seem to have some sort of Earth Qi (Underworld Qi?) which persists after they exhaust their power.
In the Lower World even the lowliest Demon Folk can store up and use small quantities of Chaos energy to perform minor spells, usually to make their lives a little easier. Nevertheless they seem to fulfill the same roles as peasants, knights, and bureaucrats in the Middle World.
In the Middle World, Demon Folk lose their connection to Chaos and must rely on Chaos artifacts and their own physical and mental qualities. They prefer to let the True Demons do battle while they give orders.
Thaumaturges appear to be Demon Folk with greater mastery of Chaos:
Artificers, like Middle World alchemists, bind Chaos into objects to give them unnatural properties and abilities.
Channellers, like Middle World sorcerers, shape the raw power of Chaos into concrete effects on the phenomenal world. Unlike Middle World sorcerers, Lower World sorcerers don’t have to seek out Chaos. They merely call it to them.
Summoners call forth and (mostly) control True Demons. They also open gateways to other worlds, like the Middle World and the Spirit World.
In the Middle World, scholars believe, all three types must cooperate to extend the Demon King’s domain.
- Summoners creates Chaos Vents from the Lower World to the Middle World and larger, more stable gateways to allows Demons through.
- Artificers build Chaos weapons for the soldiers and consumable Demon Stones to power the spells of Channellers.
- Channellers weave Chaos from Chaos Vents and Demon Stones into spells that warp Middle World reality.
A subset of Demon Folk have no discernable mastery of Chaos. They rely primarily on their size, prodigious strength, heavy mundane arms and armor, and uncanny vitality. In Demon society, Ogres act primarily as guards and sergeants leading lesser Demons on the field.
True Demons are Chaos given form and intelligence. (How much intelligence is hotly debated.) Their forms vary from the almost human to the unspeakably grotesque. As creatures of pure Chaos, however, they return to the Lower World once they exhaust their power.
Observers divide them into three categories:
Minor: Either weaker than normal humans or not much stronger. Minor demons exhibit the most intelligence. Typically the Demon Army uses them as scouts and sword fodder.
Lesser: These beings exhibit greater physical and supernatural powers than most mortals. A group of Qi Adepts or a well-prepared conventional squad can usually take one down.
Greater: A challenge for even a Hero, greater demons exhibit spells and stunts unknown to any Qi User in the Middle World.
Some among the Demon Folk disagree with the war against the Middle World. Others, no doubt, use the Middle World in the endless power games among demonkind.
For whatever reason, these “Eudaemons” have power comparable to Archdemons but choose to help humanity and other natives of the Middle World resist the Demon King’s invasion. Unlike Archdemons they disguise themselves as humans, although not perfectly.
Reports of these “good demons” remain incomplete and controversial.
Monsters of the Lower World
Through accident or design, normally resistant Demon Beasts become infected with Chaos and turn into monsters.
Undead of the Lower World
Some Thaumaturges reanimate the dead as sword fodder or shock troops, or sometimes as a strange memorial.
Ghosts, Revenants, and other Spirits on the other hand are unknown in the Lower World. Whether that’s because ambient Chaos disrupts discorporated Aether or because the Lower World is hell and the demons are already there is a matter of considerable debate.
Creatures of the Spirit World
The Spirit World is made up of Aether, the “octessence” or eighth type of Qi after Earth, Fire, Metal, Water, Wood, Light, and Shadow. (Chaos is more of a “zeroth” type, the inchoate root of all Qi.)
Aether Qi bestows consciousness and awareness more than power, although it can sometimes affect the phenomenal world.
|Aether? Light? Shadow?
|3 .. 18
|4 .. 24
|3 .. 18
|3 .. 18
|3 .. 18
|3 .. 18
|3 .. 18
The Church has forbidden the worship of all gods but the Eight. Even Spirit Cults which merely “venerate” helpful spirits fall under this edict. What, then, were the (allegedly) Ten Thousand Forbidden Gods like? It’s hard to say, as the Church has gone to great lengths to erase their names, cults, and myths.
Knowing the name of one of these gods allows a worshipper to contact the god and channel its remaining power. The effects resemble spirit possession: the subject acquires the personality and powers of the god. Whether the god or the subject gain control depends on the strength of the subject’s will and their Earth Qi.
One can also pray for miracles from a forbidden god: it’s safer but far less reliable.
Ghosts are remnants of a mortal’s Aether Qi that remains after their death. Some scholars believe non-lethal traumatic experiences also leave Aether Qi remnants, but no one has reported a ghost forming after a near death. Conversely, sites of multiple deaths, including mass graves, exhibit the most Aether Qi.
Most ghosts are doomed to repeat the events of their death. A few re-enact strong but pleasant memories. Often ghosts mimic other types of Qi: the illusions of Fire Qi, the physical force of Metal Qi, the adverse mental effects of Wood Qi, even the curses of Shadow Qi. Typically ghosts want something; satisfy their desire and they “move on”.
Rare benevolent ghosts can perform minor miracles similar to Light Qi. Those that persist for generations become ancestors, virtually indistinguishable from Forbidden Gods.
Some mortal spirits do not return to the Great Cycle, either because of sorcery or because their attachment to (or grudge against) the mortal world is too strong. Unlike Ghosts, Undead can reanimate or recreate their own corpse and pursue whatever obsession drives them. To maintain its grisly body the revenant frequently must devour the flesh, blood, and spirit of human or humanoid victims.
Physical attacks can disable the Revenant’s body temporarily, but its spirit will rebuild it from the flesh and blood of its victims. Only completely burning its body or sufficient Light Qi to consume its Aether Qi will destroy the creature forever.
It’s also possible, but far more difficult, to sate the desire of a Revenant if its desires have a logical “end”, e.g. kill a finite list of people, right an injustice, etc. Frequently Revenants have boundless desires like an endless hunger (for food as well as lives), a hatred of all living things, or a drive to remain “alive”.
Spirits have been previously described.
Creatures of the Upper World
The Church regards In The Name by “Su Ti Fu son of Ja Ku” as sheer blasphemy. In their view the Upper World is a realm of Light populated only by the Gods and their messengers the Immortals. The very idea that other beings might exist there, or that the Upper World has its own internal conflicts, contradicts the Church’s “Vision of Saint Jang”, one of its holiest scriptures.6
Below are the creatures of the Upper World who on occasion descend to the Middle World.
|18 .. 24
|- Trickster God
|12 .. 36
|1 .. 6
|1 .. 6
|9 .. 24
|8 .. 18
|8 .. 18
|8 .. 18
|2 .. 12
|1 .. 6
|8 .. 18
|1 .. 6
|2 .. 12
|12 .. 18
|Spirit of Light
|2 .. 12
|Spirit of Shadow
|2 .. 12
|9 .. 12
|12 .. 18
|- War Maiden
The Church officially denies the existence of demiurges, but encounters over thousands of years suggest they do exist.
According to reports, Demiurges stand slightly shorter than a human but twice as wide, all muscle. Their faces are grotesque caricatures of human faces with three eyes, the third in the center of their foreheads. Their skin shines like metal, their eyes glow like fire, their muscles striated like wood, yet their movements flow like water … according to one poetic account.
Demiurges prefer not to interact with humans or humanoids. Their primary activity seems to be reshaping rocks, growing or withering trees, digging or filling in caves, and molding creatures seemingly out of clay. When questioned a demiurge said that Creation was a “rush job” and his people are fixing “mistakes”.
Even if attacked, a Demiurge will casually bat the attack away and continue with their work. Only when a mortal threatens the work itself will a Demiurge use the prodigious strength in its arms to knock an attacker senseless. They like to talk about their work, however, especially if one complements them on it … so that the Demiurge can tell them how substandard it is.
Demiurges can be found in all Worlds, even the Spirit World, going about their mysterious business.
The Eight Great Gods, according to their Church, order and control all things in the Middle World. Freethinkers openly question how much the gods ordain and how much they simply take credit for later.
Even in the Upper World one does not meet the Gods in their full majesty. They disguise themselves, usually as mortals, but their personalities if not their true nature inevitably shine through. While in mortal form they can only manage the same kind of miracles one of their Saints does, albeit with an unlimited amount of “divine favor”.
The Trickster God
The other gods cast the Trickster God, a.k.a. the Nameless One, out of the Upper World. Their8 whereabouts are unknown.
The Church believes they are the god of the Lower World. The Lower World believes the Trickster God is orchestrating events in the Middle World. Some scholars believe the Trickster God has joined the Forbidden Gods in the Spirit World, or even hiding somewhere in the Upper World. Freethinkers believe the Trickster God is dead, if they even existed.
A golem is an animated clay, stone, or metal statue given life by a god. It serves as a mystical servant for a significant temple or powerful Saint.
When a Golem’s Light Qi and Shadow Qi are in balance, the servant does what its master – the High Priest or Saint – tell it to do. A Golem with an excess of Light Qi will disobey orders or wander off to do what it thinks are good deeds, no matter the context. A Golem with an excess of Shadow Qi, on the other hand, will become increasingly disobedient and, if the situation does not improve, it may run amok, lashing out an anything and everything in its path.
Keeping a golem’s Qi in balance is nearly a full-time job, as one must balance orders to do violence with orders to do good works. Most temples have either destroyed any golems they possessed or keep their golem as a guardian for the temple treasury or similarly secret chamber. The Church officially condemns the practice of making golems, but some Saints do it anyway …
Allegedly the true forms of Immortals are bizarre and terrifying; in the Upper and Middle Worlds they take on the guise of mortals, albeit nigh-perfect and intimidating ones.
Immortals convey the will of the Gods to mortals of the Middle World, and gather information about the Middle World on the Gods’ behalf.
Peri appear as beautiful winged beings. Many describe them as winged humans or winged women, but some scholars believe that humans merely ascribe humanlike characteristics to a bright, indistinct shape between the wings.
According to folktales Peri are beings barred from the Upper World until they atone for some unspecified offense. Thus Peri wander the world doing … mostly good.
Shedim are Immortals cast out of the Upper World in the same manner as the Nameless One. They have the abilities of Immortals but are weaker, and when first found are wounded and near death.
Shedim tell of a war in the Upper World between the Immortals who serve the Gods and Immortals and “lesser beings” who support the Nameless One. The Church has decreed that all Shedim are liars and tempters like their master the Nameless One, and decreed that any Shedim found be brought to the Great Temple at Omphalos for … questioning.
Servants of the Upper World
Some tales of Immortals tell of them being attended by servants, also apparently immortal but humorously incompetent. Some Saints, too, have attracted lesser guardians of the Upper World posing as servants.
While these servants manifest no Light or Shadow Qi, they prove to be formidable warriors when the times call for it … and clowns nearly every other time.
Spirits of Light
Resembling balls of pure (and sometimes blinding) white light, Light Spirits have the same healing and miracle-working powers as Saints using Light Qi. Light Spirits understand little of the Middle World, and often use their abilities on the wrong target or for a superficially positive but naive cause.
Spirits of Shadow
The counterparts to light spirits, Shadow Spirits resemble solid shadows or a black mist clinging to corners and hollows. They cause mischief through misdirection, concealing important things, and curses. Most settle for minor embarassment or cruel pranks. A few shadow spirits, however, have fixated on a subject and hounded them to death.
One of the most disturbing passages of In The Name, and the one which led to its banning, was the narrator’s description of a vast plain beneath the holy mountain, where groups of warriors in outlandish garb fought viciously and died as Warlords directed them and urged them on.
When the fighting ended, a mist swept across the battlefield and War Maidens shining like suns wandered among the dead, bringing them back to life. The formerly dead followed the maidens back to their base camps, the mist cleared, and the battle began again.
When the narrator questioned his guide Bie, she replied that this was merely a pastime of the gods.
Despite this account being not merely denied but ridiculed by the Church, scholars have unearthed similar occurrances in the Middle World.
Organizations of the Middle World
While the previous article gave a high-level overview of some of the organizations of the Middle World, this section will detail the adventurer-level view.
The Adepts’ Guild
The Adepts’ Guild consists of independent “schools”, each of which has a small faculty of Qi masters and a library of scrolls and books containing spells and techniques. Any Qi User can pay a fee to learn a specific spell or stunt, or to improve their alchemy skills. (Adepts’ Guilds do not welcome sorcerers.) Larger ones have alchemical laboratory space for rent.
Of the three Guilds that arose as the High King’s power waned, the Adept’s Guild is the least organized. Its only real role in binding the kingdoms together is issuing certifications to students and masters which most border guards accept as travel passes.
The Adventurers’ Guild
The Adverturers’ Guild has chapters wherever Adepts and mercenaries gather. Chapters in towns near the wilderness have more active members than those in suburbs or capitols. The central guild chapter in Omphalos mainly acts as a liason to the High King and a clearing house for jobs throughout the kingdom.
The Adventurers’ Guild post jobs – sometimes called “quests” – that vary from collecting wild herbs to killing monsters. Some guild chapters also include town jobs like catching thieves, hunting down wanted criminals, and mucking out the city privies. Each job pays according to the effort, danger, and potential unpleasantness involved. Only registered members may take jobs. Some members only take jobs for extra cash, but most adventurers make their living through the guild and allied fields like bounty-hunting.
To post a job, the potential employer must provide a clear written statement of the job, the abilities required or desired, and the criteria for earning the reward. Unless they are the King they must also provide the reward up front. The Adverturers’ Guild will hold the reward in escrow until the job is complete.
Each chapter ranks their members according to their abilities and the difficulty of jobs they have taken. Many jobs are only available to the higher ranks, mostly for safety concerns. The guild’s official ranking system uses metals: tin, copper, bronze, iron, silver, electrum, gold, platinum, and orichalcum. A few use a letter system from G (tin) to A (gold) plus AA (platinum) and AAA (orichalcum). Orichalcum jobs include “defeat the Demon King”.
The Adventurers’ Guild maintains close ties with the Merchants’ Guild and the Adepts’ Guild. The Adventurers’ Guild provides guards for the Merchants’ Guilds vaults, and the Merchants’ Guild stores job rewards and member rewards in those vaults. Likewise the Adventurers’ Guild refers Adepts to the Adepts’ Guild, and the Adepts’ Guild apprises the Adventurers’ Guild of their students demonstrated abilities.
The senior staff of each guild chapter tend to be retired adventurers themselves, and therefore not to be trifled with. Even junior members can handle themselves in a fight.
A membership medallion – made of steel and usually worn around the neck – guarantees the Adventurer can pass between kingdoms without having to pay border and gate tolls.
The Church of the Eight Great Gods
The capitol of each kingdom has a Main Temple of the Church, with sattelite temples in the outskirts and larger towns, and shrines in smaller towns and large villages. Each Temple is an imposing eight-sided stone structure with a great door through which worshippers enter. Next to the temple are the homes of the priests and acolytes, usually reflecting the wealth of the surrounding area.
Each temple has a Head Priest to lead the other priests. Each Main Temple has a High Priest, and the Great Temple in Omphalos hosts the Eight Patriarchs who lead the entire religion. Priests attend to important duties like collecting (money) offerings, conducting rituals, teaching the laity, and “advising” community leaders. Nearly all temples have acolytes – priests in training – and lay volunteers.
Shrines usually have only one priest or priestess to perform all the functions of the throngs of priests at a true temple. Most shrines are wooden buildings resembling miniature temples.
Those who want healing, blessings, or miracles from the Church must pay handsomely for the time of multiple priests, dozens of acolytes, and a throng of lay members to ask the God(s) for their aid. Results are not guaranteed.
To travel between Kingdoms, a priest must receive a letter from the Head Priest of either their home Temple or the Temple at the end of their journey. Usually priests with these credentials can travel without incident.
The Demon Conquest
While Chaos Vents, monster rampages, and demon infiltrations happen throughout the Middle World, the land of Stygia has wholly fallen under the sway of the Demon King.
Always a desolate land, the last human Stygians fled years ago. The Demon King erected a system of watchtowers to safeguard his new domain and fortified gates in the mountain passes that lead to his new capitol, Pandemonium. (At least that’s what humans call it; the Demon name is barbaric gibberish just like all demon words.) Those humans who have ventured deep into Demon King territory describe a warped mirror of a human kingdom: Demon Folk peasants in demon towns guarded by demon folk soldiers, and a demon capitol with demon knights and demon sorcerers binding demons, building temples to Chaos, and raising monsters9 under the direction of Archdemons.
Neighboring kingdoms have attempted to reconquer Stygia, but its fortifications and armies make anything less than a full assault by a Hero, bands of Qi Adepts, and a multi-kingdom army a messy form of suicide.
Freethinkers organize in small circles in a kingdom’s capitol and in surrounding towns. Most are highly educated: scribes, spare children of lords, kingdom functionaries. Most also maintain “laboratories” for alchemy or their proposed “natural science” and libraries of works by other “naturalists” and philosophers.
By definition, all kingdoms have a King (or Queen) who rule the kingdom. Usually the Royal Court includes one or more Royal Consorts who assists in producing the next generation of monarchs, a Prime Minister or Chancellor who organizes the Royal Court, and an assortment of nobles or Lords who serve at Court or manage the Kingdom’s lands. Knights are low-ranked nobles who defend the kingdom and the Royal Court.
The High King of Omphalos has devised a number of titles for his nobles: Barons run towns and manor farms (“baronies”), Earls rule groups of baronies and the lands between them (“counties”), and Dukes administer groups of counties (“duchies”). “Viscounts” assist Earls in their domains and at court. Apart from the hierarchy, the High King’s nobles do little different than their counterparts in other kingdoms.
Most commoners only encounter the non-noble servants of the Kingdom: city guards, provincial sheriffs, tax collectors, and census takers. Occasionally a commoner may encounter a knight or even a lord, which depending on the circumstances can be very good or very bad.
Nearly all residents of a Kingdom stay in that kingdom. The major exceptions include members of the Adepts’, Adventurers’, and/or Merchants’ Guilds10, priests, pilgrims (led by a priest), messengers of a king or powerful noble, and anyone with a letter of safe passage from a Royal court. All others are presumed to be bandits, poachers, or spies, and up to no good.
The Merchants’ Guild
Chapters of the Merchants’ Guild operate in each kingdom’s capitol and in larger trade towns. Depending on a kingdom’s prosperity, a guild may keep a representative in a village square or near a lord’s manor.
The Merchants’ Guild takes on many duties: liasing with local trade guilds, managing real estate for the lords, running a bank, bringing new investment into the town, investigating allegations of fraud, and many others. Standing in the guild depends mainly on wealth and volunteer work for the guild. Those who put in the most time and money have the most clout.
Among all the multi-kingdom Guilds, the Merchants’ Guild has worked hardest to keep kingdoms aligned and the roads open. They have also taken over – “revitalized” – various local guilds, especially in the banking, real estate, money-lending, and street cleaning industries. All managers of local branches are members of the powerful Men De Chi clan from Omphalos. Notably, the Men De Chi lend money only to Guild members … never to nobles or kings, whom they regard as unacceptable risks.
All Merchants carry a wooden or metal plaque attesting that they are members in good standing of the Merchants’ Guild. Most border guards will see this plaque and let the Merchant and their party pass, as the Guild pays each kingdom handsomely for free passage. But there’s always that one guard.
Spirit Cults have little organization. A priest or priestess erects and maintains a shrine to the spirit, anything from a statue with a roof to a small wooden building. Believers go and make offerings to the spirit whenever they want the spirit’s blessings. Some priests and priestesses “channel” the spirit on special days like equinoxes and solstices. Whether the spirits speak through a mortal or the mortal speaks for the spirit is a matter of faith.
In areas where the Church holds power the shrine lies in a secret grove or underground cave, and believers wear cloaks, hoods, and even masks when they visit. Far from the capitol, however, rural priests and believers operate openly.
Most kingdoms discourage if not ban sorcery. Nevertheless secret schools or chantries exist throughout the Middle World, usually in secret rooms, catacombs, and remote manors.
While not organized like the Adepts’ Guild, each school has roughly the same structure inherited from trade guilds across the Middle World:
Apprentices learn the fundamentals of sorcery while they cook, clean, and run errands for their Masters. Sometimes that means defending the school from outside threats.
Journeymen, having mastered the fundamentals of sorcery, leave to deepen their understanding, learn from other sorcery schools known to the master sorcerers, and gather power from sources of Earth Qi. Those who create new spells or otherwise distinguish themselves become Masters.
Masters return to their old school or found their own, and begin teaching apprentices. Each Master has accumulated knowledge and power to make them the equal of most Qi Adepts. They are the last line of defense of their school; if the Masters fall, the school falls.
Currency of the Middle World
The Middle World mostly uses commodity money: gold, silver, bronze, and sometimes other metals or minerals. In some places, notably the High King’s city-state of Omphalos, authorities have introduced a fiat currency called the qian. Some regard the Merchants’ Guild’s “bank notes” as the beginning of a universal fiat currency.
The Merchants’ Guild has set the following standard currency conversions:
|One gold talent
|One silver talent
|One bronze talent
A talent is the weight of a Merchants’ Guild coin. There are approximately 635 talents in a stone.11
Everyday transactions use bronze12 or silver; large transactions use gold. As far as most of the Middle World knows, the relative prices of gold, silver, and bronze are fixed. The other Guilds quote prices and fees in Merchants’ Guilds talents.
In reality the price of gold in silver fluctuates, although only those who deal in large quantities would notice the difference. The price of bronze may likewise vary with the availability of copper and tin, but only those who deal in large quantities of metals would care.13
The Merchant’s Guild offers “bank notes” for any quantity of gold or silver. They also print standard bank notes for 1, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, and 1000 silver or gold talents. Many merchants (and others) exchange these notes as if they were gold or silver.
|preprinted 1 s notes
|preprinted 5 s, 10 s, 20 s notes
|preprinted notes ≥ 50 s or 1 G
|handwritten bank notes14
Certain kingdoms and provinces have other coinage.
|over 10 G
|piece of eight17
Often “bits”, “halves”, and “quarters” start as full size coins literally cut into halves, fourths, and eighths. In response some localities mint coins that are exactly a half, fourth, or eighth the metal.
Berith has had its own idiosyncratic currency for a long time. Attempts to change to Merchants’ Guild standards have met with stiff resistance.
|about 1 b
|about 2 b
Nerisia has only mines for copper and base metals; gold and silver must be imported. Thus it developed its own coinage to minimize use of precious metals, especially gold. Prices tend to be cheaper than in other city-states.
Omphalos, the High King’s Domain
Omphalos uses its own currency, and only allows Merchants’ Guild members to trade in gold and silver directly. All others must exchange their gold and silver for kua and qian.
|1 qian coin
|about 1 b
|20 qian coin
|about 1 s
|1 kua note
|about 5 s
|5 kua note
|about 25 s
|10 kua note
|about 1 G
|20 kua note
|about 2 G
|50 kua note
|about 5 G
|100 kua note
|about 10 G
|500 kua note
|about 50 G
|1000 kua note
|about 100 G
Qian coins have a hole in the center. Most people carry their coins in their sleeves or shirts on strings; the length of a string determines how many 1 qian coins it holds, so merchants often use string lengths rather than count out coins by hand.
Paper money goes in a flat pouch usually worn on a belt inside one’s clothes. Generally only the landed gentry carry paper money.
Note that moneychangers will charge for their service, generally 1 q per 1000 converted to bronze, silver, and gold (rounded up, minimum of 1), and 1 b per 1000 converted to qian and kua (rounded up, minimum of 1). Less scrupulous moneychangers will charge more, e.g. 1% or even 5%.
Stygia, the Demon King’s Conquest
In the Lower and Middle Worlds demons use their own currency based on a dark and eerie metal from the Lower World.
|roughly 24 b
|roughly 4 b
|roughly 0.2 b
No merchants outside Stygia will accept drachmas and obols. In attempts to trade with the human world, the Demon Kingdom has begun minting coins of gold, silver, and bronze … in odd sizes.
Finally, here are the many things I need to do if I ever want to turn this into a real game.
Find a handier name for the Earth Qi value.
Determine player character creation
- Earth Qi
- other Qi values (point distribution? Earth Qi x 4)
Playtest and tune the existing system.
- Alternatively convert to something else (2D6, nD6, Fate, OQ, PDQ#)
Spell Lists for
- Fire Qi
- Hero / Mage
- Spell Preparation
- Thaumaturgy (same as Sorcery?)
- Summoning / Binding / Banishing / Opening
- Using Demon Stones
- Fire Qi
Stunt Lists for
- Metal Qi
- Hero / Champion
- Water Qi
- Hero / Healer
- Wood Qi
- Hero / Sage
- Metal Qi
Talent/Power Lists for
- Aether Qi
- Possession by Forbidden Gods
- Earth Qi
- Light Qi
- Shadow Qi
- Aether Qi
- medical treatments
- orichalcum weapons
- protective devices
- one-use cyphers
Develop the Setting
- Other city-state
- Locations in and around a starting city-state
Honestly there’s enough here for three or four settings.
An external pool of unaligned Qi points rendered from the Earth Qi of magical objects and beings, used to power Sorcery spells. ↩︎
The amount a demon can store at any one time. Demons must replenish their Chaos reserves from the ambient energies in the Lower World or Chaos Vents and Demon Stones in the Middle World. ↩︎
Supposedly worshipping the Nameless One, a.k.a. the Trickster God. ↩︎
Whether the spirit’s powers rely on spending points from a pool. The alternative is making dice rolls (or equivalent) to channel power from elsewhere, or some other power or spell system. ↩︎
Some Freethinkers have challenged the authenticity of the “Vision”. They claim the language of the text indicates it was written well after Saint Jang’s death. ↩︎
The typical Qi of a god’s mortal avatar. ↩︎
The Trickster God, alone among the gods, has no fixed gender. ↩︎
Or Demon Beasts. Sources aren’t clear on the distinction. ↩︎
Belonging to more than one of these guilds is not uncommon: many Adventurers are Adepts or Qi Users, and many Adventurers make enough money to invest in businesses. ↩︎
For simplicity a talent is about 10 grams. ↩︎
Bronze tends to be the currency of beggars and working poor, enough to buy simple meals and basic goods. Only professionals touch silver. ↩︎
Nearly all weapons and most utensils use iron or copper. Bronze has relatively few uses in the current era save as a token for a fraction of a silver talent. ↩︎
Written on a large sheet of preprinted paper with room for the amount in digits and words, signatures, the bank stamp, and a date. Generally only used for large, irregular amounts of silver or gold. ↩︎
Common near orichalcum mines, rare elsewehere ↩︎
One of eight pieces of a gold doubloon. ↩︎
Platinum’s value depends on its rarity, but a new vein of platinum in Chu Province threatens to upend that. ↩︎
In advanced iron-rich city-states a minted steel coin is worth about a bronze, if that; it’s common enough that it’s essentially fiat money. In iron-poor regions, though, a coin made of good steel is worth its weight in silver. ↩︎
Some gold, mostly base metals. ↩︎
Nickel-copper coins have a silvery finish, but cost slightly less than bronze since nickel is more plentiful than tin. ↩︎
Created by poorer residents who hardly ever see an obol. ↩︎