Marcus L. Rowland (ffutures) wrote,
Marcus L. Rowland

Amazing Things Every Dragonet Should Know

The Tooth and Claw RPG will have two full-length adventures and a framing plot for adventures designed by the referee, which I'm posting here for comment. What I need for this is a dozen or so questions that might be asked as part of the research I'm describing. I've written one as an example, and will add more as they occur to me, but I need to concentrate on the other big adventure first. If anyone happens to think of something good I'd be VERY grateful if you could let me know. Any ideas will be credited to their authors (e.g., "based on an idea by xxx") but that's about it for compensation.

It will help if you know the Tooth and Claw background, of course, but even if you don't suggestions will be very welcome. Main points are that the characters are dragons and that society and technology are comparable to the early to mid Victorian era.

Note: I've cut a couple of bits that refer to characters in the other adventures etc., or inserted text in square brackets [like this] if extra clarification is needed.

Amazing Things Every Dragonet Should Know

The Blessed Jamanah is perhaps the best-known and most beloved author in Tiamath. Parson of a quiet country parish, he has ample time to devote to his literary career. Over the last four hundred years he has published a succession of educational books for dragonets, each a model of clarity and accuracy, covering science and natural history, the arts, history and geography, and of course religion. His fame isn’t just confined to Tiamath; since his books are easy to read, and give a good idea of the draconic view of things, they are widely read by Yarge students of the draconic language and culture.

Exactly how the adventurers come to know him is left to the referee; they might be neighbours, friends, fellow authors, fans, or related to him. They should not be employed directly by Jamanah or his publishers. Whatever the reason, they will become aware of a crisis that threatens to bring his career to an abrupt halt.

For more than two hundred years A Dragonet’s Book of Amazing Natural Science Wonders has enthralled young readers. Three years ago a young engineer happened to refer back to his childhood copy, and discovered a dozen small errors in physics, astronomy, and basic calculation. For example, the original text of the section on the calendar (see Page 12 [of the RPG]) defined the second as the time for a drop of water to fall thirty feet from rest; in fact, the correct distance is fifteen feet. Jamanah, or someone involved in the production of the book, seems to have mixed up the distance and the rate of acceleration due to gravity. It’s an easy mistake to make, but in Jamanah’s mind that is no excuse.

The snag is that after two hundred years nobody can remember who is responsible for the errors. Was Jamanah a little careless in his writing, or did someone make several mistakes while setting up the type? Since these errors were discovered Jamanah and his publishers have been frantically going back through all of his books, looking for more mistakes. Unfortunately they’ve found some – nothing quite as blatant, and nearly all of them at least a hundred years old, but nevertheless mistakes Jamanah regards as inexcusable. Someone should have caught them, either Jamanah or the publishers’ readers and editors.

Currently Jamanah is working on a new title, Amazing Things Every Dragonet Should Know, a wide-ranging book which covers natural history, science, geography, astronomy, Yarge and Draconic culture, travel, history, etc. He’s as sure as he can be that everything in it is correct… but some of the information is years old, and refers to fields that can change rapidly such as Yarge engineering; some comes from dubious sources; some may be difficult to verify, or require subjective opinions. He’s decided that before the book sees print every fact in it must be checked, as far as is possible. And given his parish duties and the wide-ranging nature of the book, there’s no way that he can do it all himself. As a result Jamanah and his publishers are trying to call in every favour they can, to get as much fact checking as possible done as quickly as possible, preferably with independent verification. About half of it is routine research that can be done by any competent hack, but the rest will need more effort.

Exactly how the adventurers become involved is left to the referee. For example:
• They happen to know something that isn’t common knowledge, e.g. eye-witness details of the death of [a certain person] (see the previous adventure), but may not want to tell everything they know.
• They happen to be about to go somewhere that the book describes: “While you’re visiting Samindra would you mind taking a look at the old ruined temple? There’s a theory that dragons built it…”
• They’re involved in some field that’s relevant to the science in the book. “I’m sure you’re right to say that the atom is indivisible, but can you prove it?”

There are dozens of other possibilities; what’s important is that the question asked is something that one or more of the characters is likely to be able to answer, but not without a certain amount of work, some nosiness, and so forth. Even an easy answer can lead to complications, of course; for example, in the examples above:

• [a certain person's] heir probably won’t be too happy about an entirely accurate account of the death, and if the optional ending for the adventure was used may now be in a position to make life very awkward for anyone who blackens [the character's] name.
• The Samindran temple may be full of booby-traps or venomous snakes, or contain information about the ancient Draconic religion that the adventurers might prefer to keep suppressed; perhaps the ancient dragons worshipped Azashan, or ate healthy dragonets, or warred against each other rather than the Yarge.
• Splitting the atom isn’t exactly a trivial exercise, and the consequences of proving that it’s possible might be much more serious than expected. Dragons need to take a long-term view of things, decades and centuries rather than months and years.

Some of the questions relate to matters that can cause serious arguments; “why don’t Yarge eat their young?” is a good example. A few of the ideas behind the questions are just plain wrong, years out of date or based on “facts” now known to be erroneous.

Once the adventurers provide an answer, they will be asked again and again. There isn’t a huge amount of pressure involved; try to present it as doing a favour for someone (such as Jamanah or his publisher) who may eventually be able to do a favour for the dragons. It’s always “While you’re in the neighbourhood would you mind looking into this?” not “Go there and find this out.”

There is no need for there to be any connection between one question and the next; there isn’t a plot here as such, just a book that needs a lot of answers. Of course this research may be used to disguise other activities; for example, dragons working for Tiamath’s intelligence service might be given a cover as dilettantes researching some obscure fact for Jamanah, which requires them to visit odd corners of the Yarge nations. Or dragons who have been helping Jamanah may suddenly find that the intelligence service wants to recruit them.

Following are some questions to set the ball rolling; there’s no need to prepare dozens in advance. The first few have Jamanah’s answers, and some suggestions as to how the adventurers might verify them; it’s up to the referee to create a few complications, and decide where the truth might lie.

Q: What are “pets” and why do Yarge keep them?
A: Dragons visiting the Yarge lands are often surprised to notice the presence of many domesticated animals which are not kept for food, used as drafters or mounts, or otherwise utilised in a manner that we would recognise. These animals are often referred to as “pets.”
Generally speaking pets provide some Veld-given capability which the Yarge do not themselves possess; for example, various species of small carnivore kept to eradicate smaller vermin, which have the agility and speed so obviously lacking in most Yarge. Larger carnivores are used as hunting animals, sent to retrieve or chase down wounded prey. Some animals have no obvious utility, but exhibit what the Yarge regard as aesthetically pleasing coloration or song.

There have been suggestions that Yarge may also have curious emotional responses to pets, much as they do to their hatchlings, but this seems unlikely in the extreme.

The obvious way to investigate this is for the dragons to find a few Yarge who own pets and ask them about them. There are snags, of course; for example, most of the Yarge who actually live in Tiamath don’t own pets because they tend to get eaten by young dragons. Dragons visiting the Yarge countries will find that asking about pets tends to lead to an automatic assumption that the dragons want to eat them; for some reason very few Yarge seem to think that this is a good idea. Questions about the psychology of pet ownership will make the Yarge think that the dragons are planning some sort of strange psychological warfare, and so forth. As an experiment the dragons might think of buying a few pets and seeing if they experience any of the benefits claimed by the Yarge. They might even start an interesting new fashion!

That's what I've got so far - mostly I'd like the total length of each question and answer, and the GM stuff that goes with it, to be no more than half a page; I might include a couple of longer ones if they seem interesting enough, but a page long at most.
Tags: forgotten futures, jo walton, rpg, tooth and claw

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