I started developing an original seating to go along with a little homebrew system I've been working on. I started a thread over at rpg.net about it to give the system and setting a run for a play-by-post game. On Friday I'll be posting more information about the system itself. It's just a bit of a hobby production right now, but I've been working on this stuff in one form or another for a while now. Let me know what you think!
They say one could walk the streets of the great Al-Haran their entire life and never cross the same path twice. The city is larger than any other of the former Belarn Empire, and since its downfall, the four houses have risen to the challenge of filling the power vacuum left behind in the dust of the Uprising of Al-Haran. While the revolt wasn't the sole cause of the fall of the Empire, it was a great spark that lit the powder keg of all those ruled by the Emperor.
At the center of the city sits the Seat of the Sultan. Emptied since the Emperor's governor was lynched in the in the streets by the city's people, it is now the coveted empty throne of the nobility. To the South of the Seat lays the Street of Spear where the Princess Areebah raises the armies and arms of Al-Haran. To the East of the Seat lays the Street of Sun where the Prince Jawad raises the crops and fine sand silk that allow the people of Al-Haran to eat and prosper. To the North lays the Street of Wind where Princess Yafiah leads the people of Al-Haran in their faith and reverence toward the one true Lord of the Desert. Finally, to the West lays the Street of Sand where Prince Yusuf leads the heretic tribe of Sandspeakers, those who master the wild chaotic magics of those things which otherwise go unseen in the dunes of the great desert.
Who are the characters?
The characters are part of what's known as an "Auxiliary" hired on by the main small security force of the town, known as the Prophets. The Prophets, on a basic level, have mastered the ability to deny reality as we know it, but they are very rare. Given their special position in Al-Haran society, the four houses (Sun, Spear, Sand, and Wind) have agreed to mostly put themselves under the jurisdiction of the the Prophets. There are less than 500 Prophets to keep the peace between the houses in the city of over one million people. Peace keeping, not warfare is their role. They keep the peace between the houses through diplomacy and espionage.
There are clearly not enough Prophets to go go around, and so they often rely on Auxiliaries to do the work they are unable to do whether for lack of manpower or because it would be too threatening for a group of Prophets to publicly be seen performing the task. Auxiliary work draws all types. Soldiers, misfits, mercenaries, merchants, even Prophets may be part of the Auxiliary. This is where the players choose a Vocation which will give them some basic benefits toward their ability to be successful. In addition, the characters may be from any of the four houses or be poor as dirt. All player characters are human, but they each gain unique benefits as a result of their Origin. While there are Vocations and Origins, I use these words instead of Race and Class because they're just a starting place and not very rigid at all.
What kinds of things will they be doing?
Players will be given an assignment and given, essentially, free reign in how they decide to complete it. There will be little-to-no contact from the Prophets once the players have their mission. Given the extremely secretive nature of Prophet plans and missions, there may even be times where an Auxiliary is asked to stop another Prophet from completing their mission. Characters will have to navigate the courts of the four houses, the streets and thousands of beggars of Al-Haran, and potentially leave the city from time-to-time to deal with a threat to the West, in the Great Desert. They may also have to deal with the remnant forces of the Belarn Empire because, although the Emperor has fallen, there are still several massive armies lead by charismatic generals looking to carve out a place in the new world for themselves and their men.
What kind of capabilities will they have?
The system is very descriptive in nature. So mechanically speaking, there are six basic functions of a character: Coordination, Constitution, Interpersonal, Academics, Fight, and Awareness. Unlike most other systems, all the fighting abilities can be found in the Fight function. Each function has a number one through three representing its rank. The rank for the function is the beginning of any dice pool. In addition, each function has a number of specializations associated with it equal to the function's rank. These specializations, all the would be applicable to the action, would add dice to the dice pool as well. Maximum dice pool size is eight dice, and for every multiple of two above eight that would be lost is instead converted into an automatic success. Range is simple: Engaged, Near, or Far, and every weapon has its own values at each range, so we definitely won't need a grid or some other way
So that's mechanical stuff, characters will be able to do the classic D&D stuff of flipping, running, arm wrestling, debating, charming, stabbing, sneaking, etc. To be honest, I'm still working on a magic system that keeps things simple and quick to account for the magic of the Sandspeakers, the clerics of the Lord of the Desert, and the denial powers of the Prophets.
What's the tone?
The tone is pulpy, star warsy, fairy tale, mythic, prince of persia, conan, fafhrd and gray mouser kind of adventure. It's not too serious and should be full of snark and fun. It's not high fantasy, but there are less-than-human beings such as goblins and fair folk, but generally speaking, they're all considered lower class by the human-dominated Al-Haran.
Magic is dangerous, and unpredictable, but it's accessible by many even though they probably shouldn't be using it. The Sandspeakers and Clerics of the Lord of the Desert are much more disciplined, although they appear to pull their magic from different sources. As I mentioned above, there are lesser fantasy races within the city itself, and there are a lot of rumors about what they're able to do with a lot of human-caused magic accidents blamed on the goblins and fair folk. The Sandspeakers tend to work with the "Desert Folk" - the things that walk the Great Desert and are rarely seen by the average citizen of Al-Haran, at least for the last 150 years while under the rule of the Belarn Empire. The Clerics' magics are much more subtle and work more to induce faith and awe in their followers. Cynics would say because their parlor tricks tend to raise donations to the Temple.
Think Aladdin or Prince of Persia. There are some absolutely amazing architects in the City, and the one good thing about the Belarn rule was the insistence of the governors over time to push the architects and break the back of the builders which have only added to the splendor of the city. Generally speaking curved swords with offhand daggers, spears used with both hands, and javelins are the most common weapons found on the streets. The house of Spear have just recently developed an extremely primitive hand cannon that may be just as dangerous to the user than the target, but one can tell just by walking the streets that Al-Haran is on the brink of technological revolution with steam technology probably only a few years away.
Power/Affluence of the starting PCs Level
My design goal is to have starting characters be about as powerful and heroic as Luke and Han throughout A New Hope. Basically mooks are no big deal, but trying to cross arms with one of the big NPC's will probably result in the proverbial lightsaber to the face.
The characters are important to the city, but they will need to make a name for themselves as a group. Individually they might be extremely well known, respected, and even feared (which may or may not help them in different situations) or they may be a beggar off the street who's quick with her hands and knows how to pick the right mark for her next scam. Regardless, they are skilled at what they do, and more often than not they'll succeed in the face of a challenge.