Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Ritual Entrances of the Palace Semi-Infinite

One of the main inspirations for the Palace Semi-Infinite is The Gardens of Ynn, and one of the things I love about Ynn is the ritual entrance. While I prefer to keep the exact relationship between the palace and reality nebulous, this is an option I'd consider for similar ritual entrances.

The Main Entrance

Anyone can get to the Palace with an invitation. A valid invitation must:

  • be written in ink. Some frequent visitors even tattoo their invitations, although this is considered gauche.
  • state the parties invited. The scope can be specific ("Jane Doe") or broad ("the bearer of this invitation") but must be somehow limited in number ("with a retinue of not more than seven") and time ("before the feast of St. Alouicious in the year 2003").
  • be signed. An invitation will not work for the person who signs it, even as a plus one.
  • be written (technically, only signed) inside the Palace.

Present your invitation to a guard or doorman at the entrance to any building and convince them to open the door for you. When you pass through, you will arrive in a random (but consistent) room of the Palace. (Some people claim that the guard must "announce" your arrival as part of the ritual, but this is in fact unnecessary and increasingly old-fashioned.)

The Servant's Entrance

  1. Find a coin on the ground that is not yours and which you did not see drop. It must be worth at least 12 of a smaller denomination of coin. Pick it up and keep it.
  2. Recite: "I, [insert name], gladly accept this payment for a week's honest work."
  3. Enter thru any unwatched door.

You are marked as a servant of the Palace for the next week. This means:

  • a small bonus to remain unobserved by palace inhabitants (other than servants).
  • a penalty to the reaction rolls of palace inhabitants.
  • you are unable to sign invitations to the palace.

At the end of the week, you will be ejected from the palace (if you haven't escaped already), unless you secure more stable employment first.

Monday, September 26, 2022

Other Crews

Rival adventuring parties are a classic device. But if I expect one to appear more than once, I'd like to make it an explicit foil to the party, differing most in only one aspect. This is not a complete taxonomy, only a brainstorm of common narrative roles.


Anything you can do, these guys do better. In the best case, they're friendly and distant, fighting far-off battles. Maybe they like you and occasionally check in. Maybe they really like you and they'd go so far as to sacrifice for you.


These guys are Gary: they look down on you and just by chance know all your weaknesses. It's not that they're better, they're just accidentally your worst matchup. And they'll take your girl/guy/job/reputation.


Anything these guys do, anyone else could do better. These guys are you, half a campaign ago. Maybe they're fans! Maybe they're impostors!


After you have everything you want and settle down, you might become these guys. Of course, anything that risks the status quo might stir them from their comfortable retirement.


If you were to give up or turn back, you might become these guys. They'll fight to stop anyone trying where they've failed before: after all, they know it's no use.


These guys will cross every line you've ever drawn. They'll betray allies, fight dirty, lie, cheat, steal, kill, all of it.


This crew didn't earn their strength like you. They bought themselves tools and influence. They took shortcuts and their power is consequently brittle. Tools fail, followers defect.


These doppelgangers just did small things different. Maybe they're aligned with an opposing faction, maybe they're from a different homeland. But they want the same things as you and operate similarly.

Thursday, September 22, 2022

RPG Linguistics

In many editions of D&D, everyone learns a handful of languages at character creation, and then either never thinks about them again or never has the one they need. I propose an alternative, with 5e as a base.

Characters learn fewer languages.

Everyone knows common. There are no racial languages. Only learn a second language if your background calls for it.

Each language satisfies a narrative function.

Common—common is great. Everyone knows common unless there's something strange happening. Don't think about it.

Ancient—dead civilizations speak and write this language. You might know it if you're a treasure hunter, a time traveler, or a classics major.

Ceremonial—this language is a secret for religious or magical reasons, like Druidic or Hebrew. From a world-building perspective, I'd limit myself to one of these per setting, even if that requires some contortion.

Underworld—this language is a secret for reasons of discretion, like Polari or rhyming slang. Dialects change, but learning on-the-fly is built-in to its rhythms. Written, this is the ability to read hobo signs, notice graffiti, etc.

Technical—this is how experts in a field talk about stuff. Even if you're a published author on the topic of applied divination, you can still muddle through someone's notes on optimal well-drilling or drop some convincing techno-babble.

Otherworldly—aliens and old Gods speak this. (Angels, devils, and other outsiders speak common: they want you to understand them.)

Foreign—someday you will find yourself somewhere where they only speak French. Until then, it's a social signifier of a misspent education, a party trick or a bit of flavor.