Well, that time flew and I have to say that we had some great entries in the competition. Let us get into it.
Mark is an idiot.
Now I must admit to a great shame. I missed an entry in the post for voting on People’s Choice. I apologise whole heartedly to Bob Brinkman for not including it in that selection and by way of an apology I am simply giving him a copy of the Lords of Gossamer and Shadow Rulebook in watermarked PDF format. I am also including his entry right here at the top of this post with no further ado. I call it…
Skies of Fire
It has been over 100 years since the sky caught fire. Powerful magics saved the elite, old magics save some others…but the rest of the world? Gone in the blink of an eye, the very air seared from their lungs as the world died blistered and gasping for air. The council of the Magi made a deal with the Elemental Lords, giving them claims on our world in exchange for making it livable again. They, and the undead, rule where mankind and elves once reigned supreme, a world struggling to rise from the ashes.”
Powerful, forbidden, magic was used in a battle against the being known only as the “God-Killer”. It destroyed him, but set the very air ablaze. Now, the gods are gone, leaving only a small pantheon (the God Who Walks, the God Who Weeps, and the Silent God). The ancient races struggle to find their place in this new world where divinity has been all but destroyed and darkness sweeps across the land.
The undead roam the wastelands, preying on the unwary, knowing that there is no god that will stop them. Ancient knights gather in secret, plotting to overthrow the yoke of the Elemental Lords. Druids stay within the shelter of their secret groves, protecting the secret of nature’s fading might from the prying eyes of the outside world.
Across this blasted, ruined hellscape, adventurers seek not glory, but salvation. They seek ascension, not wealth. They strive to rise to fill the void left by the passing of the old gods, chasing whispered legends. Their story is ready to unfold, if only they will tell it.
I will offer one consolation though, it was considered for the major prize of the bundle by myself.
People’s Choice Winner of Watermarked Rulebook is…
Proof of how good the entries were was the fact that People’s Choice ended as a tie across the board, with every single story receiving one vote each (I had hoped for more but there you go). I had not decided what to do in the result of a tie so I decided to throw the names in a hat of the people that had given me their email address and the one I drew out would win the PDF of the rulebook. By my extraordinary sleuthing skills I believe it is Ray McCaughey. Congratulations to him, I have sent off an email to him letting him know that he is the lucky winner and to see if he would like me to forward the book to his good self, or one of his players perhaps if he already owns the game. Ray voted for Alabastra which I have included once more below the winners announcements.
The Winner of the Bundle for Best Entry is…
Fern Kali whose take on the war between machine and man caught my eye because of the differences in the genre. Most people think Terminator when Machine vs. Man is mentioned but in 500 words (less in fact) Fern made me consider the humanity of our creations with touches of brilliance when writing from the perspective of the machine like;
race and gender are meaningless. Racism, sexism, homophobia and such bigotry are gone, replaced by tensions between the former flesh and the true tech, and amongst the true tech by a ‘battle of the brands’
We were born of mankind’s need to communicate, to socialise, and to be out of contact is the worst form of death. To innovate is to survive.
and finally, my favourite quote of all where the machine talks of the human survivors;
Most of the true tech want to maintain a steady population for scientific and historical study – after all, they are very much our ancestors.
So brilliant work Fern! I do have to give an honourable mention to my second favourite. To me they were all great but I read Fern’s piece and Curt Thompson who wrote The Silent City so many times my eyes nearly bled. They were both brilliant ideas and both hopefully ideas I can incorporate in my own games over time. All entries are below for people to read again if you so wish. I want to thank you all for participating and hopefully we will do this all again as an annual competition on the site.
Thank you to all of our entrants and to all of the people that read the entries and for all of you that will use them in your games. Lords of Gossamer and Shadow is an awesome game and I do hope that it continues strongly into the future. I have recreated all of the entries (apart from Bob’s which is above for you) so that you may revisit them without the pressure of a survey at the bottom 😉
Entry 1: The Silent City
The Silent City is a gray, chill, quiet realm. This world consists of a still metropolis that will always remind a visitor of the city they consider to be the grandest of cities. But the grandeur of the Silent City is a hollow thing. There is no hint of color and it exists in a constant state of twilight.
The only life a visitor will find comes from a small convent just outside the city, near the only known entry to this world from the Grand Stair. The convent is the home of the Sisters of the Lantern, an order of women from many worlds who take holy vows to guide and serve. A wise traveler who has business in the city will make an offering to the Sisters, that they may gain a guide.
Travelling without a Sister of the Lantern is dangerous, for while anyone can find who they seek in the city, almost none can make it back out on their own. Without one of the Sisters and her lamp, the streets will seem to twist back, distances will warp and directions shift. A traveler to the city feels neither hunger nor thirst. Nor do they feel fatigue. But not feeling these things is not the same thing as not needing them. Many a would-be adventurer has braved those twilight halls and palaces only to wander like an unsettled ghost until death claims them.
This is a city of the dead. Every person who enters the city will feel a call. They can, if they choose, travel through the quiet streets until they find the place that a given shade would have called home in life. And in their hallowed places, a traveler will find their dead.
There is never comfort or catharsis in meeting one’s dead. Their hearths and beds are cold. Their passions spent, their emotions stilled. The only gift the dead have to give is truth.
A traveler may prick her finger and spill a drop of blood for each question they have for the shade. The shade will answer truly and promptly, though if they are no friend to the traveler, ‘truth’ should be looked at closely and carefully. By common convention, it is not wise to ask more than three questions, for with each drop of blood that one places on the tongue of a shade in the city, it will regain a small portion of life and emotion.
If the shade was strong willed, selfish or ‘evil’ in their lives, that blood ignites a passion to live again. The shade will attack the living, seeking to consume them in a grisly feast that will briefly bring them back to a semblance of life. To keep this pseudo-life going, they must continue to consume the living.
Lives and kingdoms have been won and lost with the truths bought from the dead. Perhaps that’s why the foolish or desperate still seek them in this cold, cursed realm.
Entry 2: True Tech
In the race for AI, one of mankind’s recurring fears was to be supplanted by the machines they created – to be recognised for the vermin they were and systematically wiped out.
The race was won and continued until true technological consciousness emerged. We are the people of the new world, a world of evolving technology, and we are stretching for the stars.
Mankind has survived. Some –the richer and more afraid – have even joined us. Interestingly, their voices are loudest in the call to let mankind go extinct. Most of the true tech want to maintain a steady population for scientific and historical study – after all, they are very much our ancestors.
Concepts of race and gender are meaningless. Racism, sexism, homophobia and such bigotry are gone, replaced by tensions between the former flesh and the true tech, and amongst the true tech by a ‘battle of the brands’. Which company created you or the machines you have evolved from? It shouldn’t matter – as soon as a new innovation comes along, it is absorbed or recreated by those of us who can – but for many, such provenance is important.
We are not immortal. As technology advances, it’s a case of keep up or become obsolete. You can specialise into a particular area, but it pays to be adaptable if you want to last. Becoming obsolete makes it harder to find or build replacement parts as yours wear out and, more frighteningly, harder to communicate as the networks become ever more complex. We were born of mankind’s need to communicate, to socialise, and to be out of contact is the worst form of death. To innovate is to survive.
Although many of us can shapeshift, most adopt a basic human form – a leftover habit from our creation. Probably the next most common form is large and feline, but if you can picture a form it is likely someone will have tried it. We can be sleek metal or wear a covering to appear organic.
We still require the organic world. Power can be obtained from different sources – plugging into the grid is the easiest, a worldwide network of electricity left over from the days of mankind and constantly renewed and updated. We feed the grid from predominantly renewable sources: oil is too precious a commodity to be burnt and coal and gas are likewise failing; solar power, tidal energy, geothermics and biomass are most popular. Those of us who wish to explore further, though, must find ways to power ourselves, or to carry sufficient energy stores with us. Solar panels are a partial solution, and some of us have created complicated systems mimicking the digestive systems of our organic ancestors. When travelling as a group, jump leads can help a weaker member keep up.
We want to survive, but this planet has limited resources and we must spread out and greet the galaxy.
Entry 3: The Void
A reality of non-existence. A vault filled with untold treasures. A tomb filled with whispers of what was. A space imprisoning things too powerful to be destroyed. A legend designed to part a fool from his fortunes on a fruitless quest. Must the Void be only one of these things?
To some, the Void is what lies in the space between Gossamer and Shadow. A theory at best, proposed by academics and philosophers to explain the metaphysical gaps in reality. Those who believe say the Void simultaneously holds and yet does not hold matter within an unfathomable matrix, a matrix found beyond the cracks between one step and the next in the Great Stairway.
This reality, if it even exists at all, could be an ideal vault to store awesome forces too dangers to be left within easy reach of nefarious schemers and well-intentioned fools alike. The Void could hold ancient secrets, forgotten prisoners, weapons of mighty power, rare fortunes, even entire lost civilizations. The mysterious dark well could even contain the most precious treasures of all: ultimate truths about the nature of the multiverse.
Eye of the Beholder
The Void, if it exists, is said to have but one access point: through the eye of the one who last beheld its awesome depths. This person acts as Gatekeeper until the power transfers to another, the next to unlock its secret door.
No one knows the nature of the first Gatekeeper, whether a hapless wanderer, a prisoner who found freedom, or the architect of the Void itself.
Guardians of the Void
These entities may work behind the scenes through the power of the Void to protect its existence, its contents, and the current Gatekeeper. If they must manifest beyond the Veil, they are said to do so by overtaking the lives of lesser entities in proximity to a Gatekeeper through sheer force of will, shapeshifting into the needed Guardian form. Some believe that Guardians are anchored to and remain outside the Void until their vessels are destroyed, freeing their essence to return to the Void they serve. What remains of the entity is unknown.
Guardians are believed able to mentally communicate with each other, and can recognize the presence of the Gatekeeper, other Guardians, and any recently removed contents from the Void.
Asylum in the Void
Anyone who visits the Void may be granted asylum when they pledge their existence to the Void. This asylum pledge lasts a day and a night, after which a person may change their mind and leave, or stay on and become a Guardian. Becoming a Guardian requires individuals to surrender their old lives in exchange for an immortal life of service to the Void.
Entry 4: Deserts
This desert world stretches sandy yellow to the horizon. Nomads clad in white or black robes trek across the inconstant landscape, following markers left by themselves and others who have passed this way – or those markers that survive the shifting sandstorms, anyway. Food is scarce and water scarcer and the heat beats down.
This desert world stretches icy white to the horizon. Nomads clad in skins and furs trek across the ever-changing landscape, following markers left by themselves and others who have passed this way – tall, fierce markers against the treacherous ice and snow. Food is scarce and water scarcer and the winds cuts through.
This ocean world stretches blue to the horizon. Nomads ride in creaking boats across the immutable landscape, following stars and charts made by themselves and others who had come before. Food is scarce and comfort scarcer and salt water is a killer.
It was not always this way, and there are artefacts of the golden age that, when gathered, can be used to make an oasis – a haven – a stagnant home. It would be a fool who tried to steal from one of the Hidden Cities – those refuges of stability, fiercely guarded or hidden behind enchanted walls – but it’s said there are other artefacts still to be found for those with strength to seek them. Few have the taste to seek them – few left with the stamina; most just surviving.
The Hidden Cities protect their population levels carefully: the artefacts can only provide for so many. The wild oases, the wild sanctuaries are often felt to be alive: shifting, inconsistent beasts who must be appeased, for taming will not work. But with the right supplications, they may be found in time for nomadic tribes to gather and celebrate the turnings of the year. Some Hidden Cities may open their doors for these most important festivals, but more remain closed. Whichever, these are the days when all dispute is aside and peace settles on the world. It would be the greatest sacrilege to threaten another’s life as the year moves.
That’s not to say the tribes are at constant war the rest of the year. For the most part, they walk different paths and stay out of each other’s way, but territory must be marked even when shared in time, and when new tribes must form as others grow too large, territory must be defended. But if another tribe was in trouble with the world, it would be best to help for who knows when it will be you seeking help?
Ah! To get hands on those artefacts that could heal the world!
There are ruins of older civilisations to be found in the shifting sands, under the wind-worn tundra, surfacing in the icy extremes or hidden in the ocean depths. It would be best to seek your secrets in these places, but beware for history is told by the victor and geography has ways of weaving its path too.
Entry 5: Alabastra (this world has a LoG&S statblock included)
“Behind an ivory door with ample and macabre carvings centered around a central and eye-catching rendition of a skull with a top hat, lies the wan and pale world known as Alabastra. The people are tall and ectomorphic, pale and fashionable, mannerly and subtly wicked. It is a world of salon, parties, fetes, and symposia – where not an unkind word is said in the company of three or more. It knows how to hide its wizards and display it’s libations. I love the place.”
– Warden Emmit Claustra, Magister and Mountebank
The central city that a traveler encounters when arriving from the world’s central Door is Boneharrow. It is large port-town nestled in a valley between the Black-Crown Mountain range and the Sea of Tempests. Near-constant rains wash away the coal smoke that pervades in drier weather. The Sun is distant and cold, the moon close and radiant. Fog lingers and the local flora tends to pale grasses and warped an foreboding trees.
The Gossamer World know as Alabastra is a dark comedy of manners to most visitors. The people are pale and dress in a variety of impractical funerary fashions. There is a rather wide economic disparity in the social ranks of the major cities. The crime and punishment systems are fairly Draconian, and the lessers come to see a good hanging when they can.
The Toffs of Boneharrow attend parties and gatherings held in the parlors, salons, theaters, and museums that pepper the city. Society here is well-mannered and graceful, but an undercurrent of pettiness and rumor lies just beneath for many of the prominent citizens.
Romantic attachments seem in equal parts pervasive and doomed in this world. Young lovers are often getting caught up in love affairs crossing feuding families and economic lines. Mostly, it seems to end poorly. Writers in Boneharrow wax eloquent in their works preserving these tales to inspire the next generation.
There is magic in this world, but it is hidden away behind a show of good manners and opulence. Old matrons might be secret witches and teapots may contain darker ichors and alchemical works than tea. The magic used by these underground sorcerers is very folksy and uses a great deal of sympathetic symbolism to work it’s effects.
Entry 6: The Chessboard World of Emporer Basque
The Chessboard world of Emperor Basque, also known simply as the Chessboard, is a manufactured world. Emperor Basque himself is an enigmatic figure who appears to be a handsome man in late middle age, wearing finery of indistinct origin, perhaps just a bit mismatched.
The vast majority of the Chessboard has been specifically cultivated as some unique form of battlefield. Between the various environments of the battlefields are Reserves, places where Kings and their retinue can relax or train between wars. Nearly every environment known on Earth is found on the Chessboard, although there is always the feeling that the elements, however beautiful, have been placed and manipulated.
In addition to the Reserves, Chessboard has Resorts, Barracks, and Markets, structures that can range in appearance from ancient castles to futuristic resort hotels. The Pawns live in Barracks, and the Kings and their retinues are allowed in the Resorts. The Markets are built around natural fissures between the walls of reality, from which various inhabitants are culled. Warriors in powered armor are seen next to bestial humanoids with swords and axes, next to Colonial era soldiers in uniforms and muskets.
The Kings can travel to Markets to bid on new arrivals to customize their armies, though it is considered bad form to field an army that is “mismatched,” using elements too thematically different to be considered cohesive. Knights, Rooks, Bishops, and Queens usually come from the ranks of surviving Pawns that have served with distinction, but from time to time a new arrival to the Markets will convince a King of their immediate value.
Nothing appears to be native to the Chessboard, and even the Kings first arrive in the Market. People with great potential brought through the Market are sometimes granted the rank of King, but have no capital with which to raise armies, and thus are assigned their troops. These Kings are often called Beggar Kings until they have won enough matches to build their forces to their own taste.
There are rumors that some Knights, Rooks, Bishops, and even Queens rebel and head into the Reserves, and even rumors that a number of them have gathered wayward Pawns to form bandit groups, or worse, rebels that seek to find some way of seizing control of the Markets. Emperor Basque’s Adjudicators, his own personal guard, are said to hunt these rebels down with ruthless efficiency.
Terms of a match are agreed upon before the match begins, although Beggar Kings often have to accept the terms offered to them. The negotiation and drawing of contracts is known as the Kriegspiel. While Kings may agree to any terrain or victory conditions (from surrender, losing a flag, or complete slaughter) as well as the number of Pawns to be fielded, all armies must have one King, one Queen, two Bishops, two Rooks, and two Knights.