Nifflas: Where Librarians Mean Business

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I must say, Mostly Ghostly, this is among the most creative shameless theft I’ve seen in awhile. It’s interesting, eclectic, and moving in some wonderfully imaginative way.

I like the concept a great deal, but as you made clear in your first post, one fundamental canon must be obeyed at all cost: People act like people. I’ve had many ideas fall apart when I came to satisfying this restraint, and any attempts to skirt this canon will result in disastrous undercutting of the believability of the setting. This isn’t a criticism of the existing material, but a caution, one I feel is important to stress considering my own failures in creating cohesive settings.

So, the library:

In trying to install the library as the primary power broker of The Islands we need to give the comparatively exclusive access to some scares recourse. Knowledge seems a reasonable choice, but it also tends to spread, rapidly. Even with patrols keeping a lid on copies (as james gaines suggested) information would get out, especially if it’s freely lent.

Could it be that the library controls the mills somehow? Or at least the people think they do? If that were the case the populace would be scared of upsetting the libraries order, as a power struggle could lead to closing of the mills. And even a temporary (at best) disruption would cause mass starvation, if not extinction.

And in a world where song, poem, stories, and even name have intrinsic value, I would imagine books would carry the same, considering so much inspiration comes from readings.

edit:

Will all the ‘core’ 4e races have a place in this setting?
And
Do you have a handle on how the mills actual operate? Especially when processing intangibles, and I assume they do not conform to conservation of energy principles when processing actual matter.

Don't drink the holy-water; we don't like it when you drink the holy-water.

I'm sorry but all I have to say concerning your setting is:

Greyhawk: Mostly Harmless
Thanks, Kord's Boon, both for the compliment and for articulating what was bothering me about the way the Library works. How about this - stories are the power source of magic. The mills work by special magical processes, and thus are essentially fed stories. Some mills are special - they take other intangibles or material objects, but are not nearly as common, reliable, or useful as the ones that feed on stories.

Stories are also the base power source for aircraft and a great deal of the more advanced technology (anything not purely mechanical). I like this solution because it doesn't change the fundamental nature of people, and also provides a striking image - frantically whispering stories to an engine to fix it in mid-crash.

As before, stories can be copied or repeated, but lose their power with each successive copy. That is, the same story can be used for more than one effect, but each is less powerful for it.

I'm not sure how this will translate into game mechanics, and I'm not sure where this leaves Warlocks (a class I like), but I think it works well enough.

Also - I don't much like the "demi-humans", as elves, dwarves, halflings, etc. seem to be exactly like humans except for different hights or ear shapes and different cultures. I'm including Dragonborn as Dinosaurs, but don't plan to include elves or the others, basically because they're too human. I may use them as populations of humans with distinct cultures (possibly work in some of the cultural bonuses halflings get as profession bonuses for traders, somehow), but probably not as PC "races".

I hadn't really thought too deeply about how the mills would work. Ideas would be welcomed = ]

Also - I'm definitely using your ideas for the cultures of different groups of Junkmen, The_Fae.

Valiorin - That would make a good rumor, methinks. Maybe some skerry settlements have built their settlements on the bottoms of islands for protection from Dragons/storms/etc?
Vaeliorin - That would make a good rumor, methinks. Maybe some skerry settlements have built their settlements on the bottoms of islands for protection from Dragons/storms/etc?

Works for me. I just have this weird image of people building out the bottom of the islands, especially since space is so scarce.

Still, in a world so dependent on stories (and thereby books or other writings) it seems like there should be some thought given to the level of literacy. It seems like not being able to read would be a serious hindrance in such a society (even more than in modern RL society), and that perhaps there would be some sort of fanatical religious groups that opposed writing and stories in general.

All Glory To The Inebriated One. Cheers! (Yes, I think "Cheers" or some other such toasting word would be an appropriate replacement for "Amen" as we know it in modern religion :P )
I was going to write about Warlocks, but that got me thinking: Bards. The bard isn't a basic class in 4E, but they fit perfectly into this setting. They have traditionally been performers and storytellers, able to retain thousands of tales and gather new ones almost at whim. So how does this fit in? Are you going to wait til PHB2 comes out?

Maybe Warlocks have taken up part of the bards role. I unfortunately haven't played warlock, so I don't know that much about them, but working off the 4E fluff I know:

"Stories have power. Yes. Some use them for high magic, like the unkindlie wizards, some use them for power, like the tinker-mechanics, some use them for food, like you and me.

But there are others, thieves. Tricksters. Story-snipes. They steal the stories out from under you and use it against you. They say that they even trick the dark ones, and the wild ones, into selling them the tales of the world. You have to be careful."

Warlocks make pacts with outside entities for stories. The different powers give them tales for different reasons.

Infernal Warlocks bind demons and devils and take stories from them. Sometimes they take them by force, but most often the devils are happy to tell them, for they always put a seed of evil in each one. As the infernal warlock tells his stories doubts are put into the minds of good men, temptations are imbedded in the fertile minds.

Feypact warlocks do it for a different reason. Just like the stories, names have power. If you know the name of one of the fairfolk, that gives you power over it. But just the same, for every time you speak their name, you lose a little more of yourself. Fey give warlocks stories because the old stories give them power. The most powerful fey, beings like Oberon or the Unseelie Court, are known by nearly all. Feypact warlocks are the most like your traditional bard. Tricksters and jokesters. Some are traveling story tellers, some are ringleaders of bizarre circuses. But everywhere they go people remember the stories they tell.

Starpact warlocks are given horrible knowledge by the outer beings in order to drive men mad and weaken the fabric of the universe. This are most like cultists. A starpact warlock might be the madman on the street corner, or it might be the offkilter advisor to a regent, convincing them to fund horrible experiments with the fabric of the universe. These would most resemble the scholars from H.P. Lovecraft (they delve too deep just to see what there is).
Thanks, Kord's Boon, both for the compliment and for articulating what was bothering me about the way the Library works. How about this - stories are the power source of magic. The mills work by special magical processes, and thus are essentially fed stories. Some mills are special - they take other intangibles or material objects, but are not nearly as common, reliable, or useful as the ones that feed on stories.


Stories are also the base power source for aircraft and a great deal of the more advanced technology (anything not purely mechanical). I like this solution because it doesn't change the fundamental nature of people, and also provides a striking image - frantically whispering stories to an engine to fix it in mid-crash.

Sounds good, however I do have some adjustment that might work so you can keep the original (read ‘awesome’) flavor of the mills while simultaneously asserting the library’s importance:

1)Mills are very rare and powerful devices, requiring either material (corpses) or conceptual (names, hope see below) input to operate.

2)The only well know mills are those in Day, other exist but are inefficient and unreliable

3)Even with input the mills won’t turn without encouragement: Secret and powerful stories told by profoundly experienced Librarians, gleaned directly from the surface of the mill in intricate rituals.

In essence the Librarians must act as caretakers, even if you find your own mill on a skerry you’re bound to the library to make it operate. Even then, the Librarians will need years to study it.

Being the key to the mill’s operation secures the library from political turmoil; even a momentary disruption could prove fatal to the entire society, and that’s not counting their unparalleled knowledge of the Library. It reminds me a little of Dune’s political system.

On the issue of mills I had an idea for the origins of the undead.

Imagine some great deal of time ago, a group of settlers came across an undiscovered mill on one of the skerries. When examined, the mill began to operate immediately; spilling forth a bounty rumored to have volume greater then both the Day’s mills combined. The settlers were naturally ecstatic, having a mill that needed no input, and many more refuges came to partake. It was, of course, a cruel joke; for the mill took something in secret no man can be without: hope. The settlers discovered their folly too late, and when all hope is lost…well…you take matters into your own hands.

Those who had slain themselves rose. Their souls and bodies corrupted by the mill’s influence.



Mostly Ghostly had a story to tell:

"Go to bed now, or the Hollow Men will eat you."

"Who are the Hollow Men, mama?"

"Not who - What. They were men once, but they found something terrible, out in the far Islands, and in changed 'em. It made them hollow, just shells like a dried up old beetle husk. And it made 'em hollow inside, too, so that they're always hungry, always wanting. They're never full, and they don't just eat food. They'll eat your hopes, or your fears, eat your memories and loves and even your name, and leave your mind full of spiders."

"What if they're here right now?"

"They daren't come here, boy. I'm too old and tough and mean for 'em - one of 'em once tried to eat my mind and had to spit it right back out - too much gristle.

- My Grannie, Captain of the Pirate Ship McCoy

Don't drink the holy-water; we don't like it when you drink the holy-water.

Also - I don't much like the "demi-humans", as elves, dwarves, halflings, etc. seem to be exactly like humans except for different hights or ear shapes and different cultures. I'm including Dragonborn as Dinosaurs, but don't plan to include elves or the others, basically because they're too human. I may use them as populations of humans with distinct cultures (possibly work in some of the cultural bonuses halflings get as profession bonuses for traders, somehow), but probably not as PC "races".

Depending on how humans were created, the 'demi-humans' (isn't that a 2e term? I don't think I've used that since) could be a simply 'flavoured' version of humans (literally). Say, when a human dies the Inebriated One eats his soul (or whatever, thats probably not a great idea), he'd probably get tired of the same-tasting humans every day. So he spiced things up by making dwarves, elves, halflings, etc.

*shrugs* Just a thought.
The Inebriated one doesn't need to eat souls! He distills them into spirits of course. Possibly quite literally too. This could be an explanation for ghosts: Those people who somehow escaped the Great Distillery in the Sky but were in the process of being turned into god-alcohol.

I think I will steal that idea from you Mistress, its rather interesting. Plus it gives the PCs another possible creation story to believe or disbelieve.

On the note of gods are there any other major ones beyond the Inebriated One?
M.S. Cadaver, of the Storm-Born in the original post spoke of other gods. Ones with a far more vengeful attitude, and of creatures of enormous power that stalk the space between our ‘points-of-light’.

If we can find more of the Storm-Born (a human sect perhaps?) we might be able to Extort the names of their pantheon.

And I don’t think he was referring to ‘God’, considering I’ve been to his apartment, nice guy that God; good tea too.

Don't drink the holy-water; we don't like it when you drink the holy-water.

The_Fae - The way I imagine it, the Library hires people from all walks of life. Librarians do all sorts of things - searching through the Library itself for new card catalogues, tracking down people who haven't returned books, expanding the knowledge of the almanac. Librarians can be of any class - it's a job, and certain skills may make you better at parts of it. For example, a warlock may develop his skills independently, then become a Librarian, just as one would become an adventurer. Is that helpful?

First of all, as a librarian I must admit that I like your setting, and also encourage you to read those books others already suggested (China Melville, in particular, may be "the" author whose works are very similar in "mood" and "feel" to your ideas).

Still, to be a "full-fledged", professional librarian D&D you need certain key (Knowledge) skills and INT, so I'm not sure how I feel about fighters, barbarians or paladins being 'Librarians' (certain routine tasks might be done by anyone even in our contemporary libraries).

However, having said that, one of my teachers was a tiny but highly charismatic and authoritative woman who could silence an auditorium full of people with a mere scowl or shushing. I often imagined that she could do well as a security guard or a drill sergeant -- no to mention that most of the time she seemed to be in a foul mood (I always felt that she signaling "If you disagree or interrupt me again, I regrettably have to break your arm" ;)). Once she told me of a fight between students (not library and information science students, though ;)) she had to break up. I asked her, jokingly: "Um, you didn't have to use Krav Maga or anything like it to break it up?". She replied: "No, my attitude and using angry voice was enough... although I *do* know Krav Maga and some other combat sports." (NOTE: we had often joked, among students, that she knew 50 different ways to kill a man in an eyeblink). I was so taken aback, that I promised never to skip her classes again.

So, my point was that in some cases it would be too far-fetched to stat a librarian as a monk, assassin or warlord (my teacher's a living proof of that). Some PCs could also be "hired hands" who are simply supposed to work as "muscle" to those rogues, bards, wizards, warlocks and clerics (i.e. the "true" librarians).

Probably one of the most important duties would be locating and collecting rare books (folios, grimoires, codexes etc.) or even whole collections, and I think you could build a whole campaign just around that theme.
See I thought that was an eladrin talking, like how the dragonkin had their one person to talk I figured the eladrin would get one as well. Maybe they are a human cult with Ghostly's feelings towards the demis.

Also I thought when the paragraph said Leviathans it meant things floating between the Islands, as I suspect there are more than just the 5 that Day rests on.

Ahhh I didn't know he had an apartment, I figured he was just squatting somewhere as to avoid people noticing him.

I wouldn't even have a clue as to were to start for other gods in this setting. I could see most of them being aspects of the Inebriated One, similar in a way to Brahma, I think thats the name, in Hindu beliefs. Which for those that don't know, Brahma is the force that is within everything and it is what Hindu followers try and get to, to commune with that force. All of the Hindu gods are aspects of Brahma and are supposed to represent different ways to get to the same point. Some Inebriated followers might not drink while others act like it is water. Some might think that living in a monastery, practicing martial arts while drunk and making alcohol of all types is the way to Him. Whatever gets your airplane in the air.
Ghostly, have you read Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman? It might have a couple of good examples for the Labyrinth.

Gyah... totally beat me to it. I was just about to make the same suggestion.

The Inebriated one doesn't need to eat souls! He distills them into spirits of course. Possibly quite literally too. This could be an explanation for ghosts: Those people who somehow escaped the Great Distillery in the Sky but were in the process of being turned into god-alcohol.

Really cool idea. Clever little plays on word can really give a lot of feeling to a world like this.

I wouldn't even have a clue as to were to start for other gods in this setting. I could see most of them being aspects of the Inebriated One, similar in a way to Brahma, I think thats the name, in Hindu beliefs. Which for those that don't know, Brahma is the force that is within everything and it is what Hindu followers try and get to, to commune with that force. All of the Hindu gods are aspects of Brahma and are supposed to represent different ways to get to the same point. Some Inebriated followers might not drink while others act like it is water. Some might think that living in a monastery, practicing martial arts while drunk and making alcohol of all types is the way to Him. Whatever gets your airplane in the air.

I really like this idea better than trying to shoehorn other gods into the setting. Maybe there are extremely powerful beings (archdevils, archons, archangels, Baba Yaga, whatever), but trying to force a whole pantheon into the mix might be a little much. For those who feel like digging through my somewhat neglected Gleemax blog, you'll find an article I did about monotheistic campaign settings. Might be useful for you. Regardless, I don't think overly active gods or "pantheon wars" would be of any great benefit to the story. Leave it detailed enough to be interesting and ambiguous enough to not distract.

Depending on how humans were created, the 'demi-humans' (isn't that a 2e term? I don't think I've used that since) could be a simply 'flavoured' version of humans (literally). Say, when a human dies the Inebriated One eats his soul (or whatever, thats probably not a great idea), he'd probably get tired of the same-tasting humans every day. So he spiced things up by making dwarves, elves, halflings, etc.

I like this. However, again I would advise you to take the course of ambiguity. This is the type of setting that can just be. No one is going to expect it to make sense, as long as it is internally consistent. That said, I think that within the realm of campaign building unless you have a very good reason not to include something, then you should try to include it. The reason is that if you don't, you're going to irk a significant fraction of people before you've even left the gate. "What, can't play my favorite race? Meh, I'll try Eberron."

There are times when leaving out a race can help the overall composition of a setting. In an intentional mishmash like this, you just need to find the right flavor for them. Maybe halflings are sewer dwellers. Maybe dwarves live on the underside of the island. Maybe elves are the pirates that have left the islands for the open skies and live in airships and zeppelins. In a setting like this, as long as they're cool no one will ask questions.





This is similar in a lot of respects to a campaign setting I had been working on that incorporated a lot of Grimm's tales, and I really like where this is going. I'm going to read through it a bit more thoroughly and see if I can't make a few suggestions as well. Additionally, the tone and tech seem to match up *fairly* well with what I have planned, which means the stuff I will be putting out for my setting could make the transition easily.

If anyone is interested, I have been working on putting together a website to publish material for 4th Edition. I am currently working on a more generic campaign setting (working title "Dark Renaissance" though that is likely to change) that I was going to use as the basis for my adventure series, but I am actually really digging this as well. If Ghostly is interested, I would have no problems working with you all to really put the spit-shine on this and get it published alongside my own campaign and distributed as a professional looking PDF (without cost) through my website. My original intention was to release all campaign specific material free of cost anyways, so this wouldn't be changing anything at all... just adding a bit more work to my plate.
Ahhh I didn't know he had an apartment, I figured he was just squatting somewhere as to avoid people noticing him.

You are correct, I meant ‘apartment’ only to indicate it as his current place of habitation.


What I really appreciate about this setting is that it takes the emphasis off needing to know everything. For instance: what does the third mill in Day grind? Initially I wished to quantify it but then I realized that, no, I don’t need to know this. It’s a mystery, a plot tool; it enriches the story simply by being an enigma. In fact, with it deliberately left open to interpretation a DM could use it for his own story without stepping on any toes.

A similar approach could be taken with the Gods. So far we assume their existence from the powers of their clerics, but in truth we don’t know, and nor does anyone on The Islands (unless maybe they are really-really drunk). We have the Inebriated One, perhaps a smattering of other, relatively minor, recognized faiths (storm-born, Junkers etc.) but it’s really just a matter of personal belief.

I like concentrating on the Inebriated One as the chief deity, but I can’t imagine one or two powerful entities existing in the minds of the populous would be bad thing. A rich song of belief, with a few major melodies running through, clear and deep, like the song of a dragon.


Also good to meet you Tao, I'll be sure to take a look at your blog.


edit:

Just read it, makes good sense

So, the storm born might believe the ancient gods that tore the world asunder are distinct for the inebriated one, while His Drunkenness’ clerics insist the storm born’s deity is simply an aspect of their god

And either way they are both occasionally harassed by the atheist flotilla.

Don't drink the holy-water; we don't like it when you drink the holy-water.

Maybe there are alternate stories, other myths, and other Religions, but the followers of the Inebriated One simply see the other Gods as aspects of theirs.

Some other ideas:

Sometimes, if a person is caught outside when a storm passes, they will be changed. They will no longer simply be the person they were, though they will have all of that person's memories: they will carry with them a piece of the storm that altered them. These people are known as the storm-born, composite entities of both elemental power and human mind. They know the languages of humans, but when they speak, they speak in a voice of thunder, and lightning lives behind their eyes.

Of the above: Maybe the Storm-born could be the equivalent of Eladrin, what with the similar "a part of two worlds" flavor?

The Tieflings sometimes speak of "The God Between the Walls" in tones of equal reverence and terror. It seems that they speak of something in the place they left, but perhaps not. Perhaps it creeps between our walls, scuttling under the floorboards of the world and watching the people of Nifflas, biding its time...

The books of the library are alive. They whisper to each other, and the more powerful can even move. Once, a Librarian wandering the stacks late at night thought he heard the books begin to whisper with one voice, to speak in a voice of power. He called this being "Sussurrus", and has spent his life wandering the stacks, plumbing the depths of the Library, trying to find it again.

What if Clerics, or perhaps just a small group of weirdos, worked in the same way Avatars do in Unknown Armies? That is, rather than "worshipping" a God, per se, they simply acted like the God. Rather than asking the Inebriated One for power, they drink, they make weird little things, they imitate the God and so gain a fraction of its power. I'm really not sure how this would fit, but I like the idea, as it works very well in UA, and makes the source of the power ore enigmatic. Does the power actually come from the God? Or does the worshipper generate it himself? Does the God even exist?

Also, I like your ideas about demis, Tao, but, it still seems that they would still be better represented by unique human cultures, not separate species. It's just always seemed odd and rather wrong to me to impose a single culture on an entire species. Traditional elves, for example, are essentially humans with unique culture and habitat, but because they are described as a race, it shoehorns an entire species into a very small box. It seems much more believable to create a distinct culture of sky-pirates or sewer dwellers made up of several races than to create one "sewer-dwelling race" or one "sky-pirate race". These are just my personal feelings, however.
Some other ideas:



So it would seem, by some peculiar turn of events, that everyone came independently and simultaneously to the same conclusion about the religious structure of Nifflas.

By golly that might be a sign.

Don't drink the holy-water; we don't like it when you drink the holy-water.

Maybe there are alternate stories, other myths, and other Religions, but the followers of the Inebriated One simply see the other Gods as aspects of theirs.

Yeah, definitely. As long as he gods aren't actively manifesting, anyone can claim anything and there's no way to prove what is "true" and what is "false" concerning the gods. In a setting like this, that kind of flexibility can lead to a more interesting type of interaction.

Sometimes, if a person is caught outside when a storm passes, they will be changed. They will no longer simply be the person they were, though they will have all of that person's memories: they will carry with them a piece of the storm that altered them. These people are known as the storm-born, composite entities of both elemental power and human mind. They know the languages of humans, but when they speak, they speak in a voice of thunder, and lightning lives behind their eyes.

Of the above: Maybe the Storm-born could be the equivalent of Eladrin, what with the similar "a part of two worlds" flavor?

Love it. Exactly the kind of thing I was thinking about when I said, "Take the race, add a new flavor".

Also, I like your ideas about demis, Tao, but, it still seems that they would still be better represented by unique human cultures, not separate species. It's just always seemed odd and rather wrong to me to impose a single culture on an entire species. Traditional elves, for example, are essentially humans with unique culture and habitat, but because they are described as a race, it shoehorns an entire species into a very small box. It seems much more believable to create a distinct culture of sky-pirates or sewer dwellers made up of several races than to create one "sewer-dwelling race" or one "sky-pirate race". These are just my personal feelings, however.

Oh yeah. There's no reason that they have to be genetically distinct. Cultural distinction is often sufficient (and is, in large part, what I myself am using for my campaign setting). There may be some races that end up deserving a greater degree of separation, but for the most part it shouldn't even have to be explained in any concrete manner. That's part of the beauty of a setting this fantastical. You can just say "The elves live in the canopy of a giant tree that floats through the sky. They have pointy ears and like to hunt the giant flying whales that swim through the skies between the islands." and you don't even need to go into the why. Sometimes things are fantastic, just because they are.
The books of the library are alive. They whisper to each other, and the more powerful can even move. Once, a Librarian wandering the stacks late at night thought he heard the books begin to whisper with one voice, to speak in a voice of power. He called this being "Sussurrus", and has spent his life wandering the stacks, plumbing the depths of the Library, trying to find it again.

To me, this conjures up evocative images of a scary, exciting X-Files-type adventure set in the Library. Great idea! (The name Sussurrus is brilliant, too!)
"You mean to say you can't even understand the books?"

John Grottle's face wrinkled up under his crow-helmet; through the netting around the eyes, the Librarian could see disgust tinged with fear. "Blimey, no!", he said. "S'too dangerous. Who ever 'eard of such a thing -- an Unkindly that could *read*."

"I can read. Read my whole life."

Grottle's head bobbed in acknowledgment. "But you ain't read none of the good books, right? The ones wot it's illegal to make copies of." He tapped his crow-helmet, making a metallic ping. "I mean copies in the 'ead."

"Aren't you even interested?" The Librarian's cheeks went pink, and he leaned forward. "By the Inebriate, man. You *kill* people over what they say."

Grottle paused. Shook his head. "Can't say as I've ever been much interested in what the books say. 'Sides, they used to use Unkindlies wot could read. Used to put their eyes out, they did -- so's they couldn't read the books wot they ain't supposed to. Now I see you's got red robes on. You got access to all the books? All of 'em, roots to branches?"

The Librarian wasn't used to being interrogated. And not by an Unkindly, born and bred to be as incurious as a stump. The experience was unnerving. "Roots to branches, yes," he repeated -- more an echo than a confirmation.

"But there's books wot you still ain't supposed to read," Grottle said.

"And I haven't," the Librarian protested. It was a lie.

"T'ain't true," Grottle drawled. One hand disappeared under his feather cloak. "Now, I ain't never had much of a talent for reading books. Brains, on the other hand -- now, there's an interesting subject."

The Librarian had just read the title. Read it off the spine. Read it in passing. It was something like, "An Entirely Infallible Directory of the Stars, and a Complete Census of the Inestimable Gulfs Between Them." And by the Inebriate, he was sure he didn't even remember it right.

He thought: I should blubber something; come up with some excuse, some defense. But he was always better at thinking than at action (the reason he became a Librarian to begin with), and the time had already passed, and it would never have worked regardless. Unkindlies weren't interested in excuses.

Grottle withdrew, face screwing up in disapproval. "Oh, don't go and *think* about what you ain't supposed to know," he said. "You'll make me have to get me own box cleaned out." A pause. "You know what comes next."

The Librarian could only say, "Yes."

"And it ain't pleasant," Grottle said. "But I'll make it as pleasant as it gets, for a tip."

The Librarian found it a surprising that he could still become indignant. "Are you asking me for a *bribe*? To kill me quick?"

"A bribe would be for me to not do my job, which would be something I ain't going to do," Grottle explained. The hand beneath the feather cloak emerged, holding a dagger with a peculiar, hooked hilt. "A tip is for me to do a little job for you on the way. Th'sharp end's for paying customers. Hook end's for the impolite."

When he arrived at the Inebriate's gate, would he be given a new name? The Librarian decided he wouldn't need it anywhere.

"Bartolemeo Hoof," the Librarian said, but then paused, considered. Then begging: "But please don't take my family name. For the Inebriate's sake, I've got a sister. She needs it too."

Grottle hooked the name out of the air with the tip of his finger, inpected it, and deposited it in his belt-pouch. "Hoof? S'a little short name, and ugly. Barely worth an apricot. Suppose as I could leave it." A pause; through the mesh eyes of the crow-mask, he watched a short flicker of relief dawn on the Librarian's narrow features. "You ready?"

"No," the Librarian said, truthfully, and touched his throat. Why were his fingers wet and red?

"Bit of advice for you," Grottle said, though the Librarian wouldn't be needing it for long. "You're never ready, when it gets there."
"That's crazy. You know what happened last time they tried that?"

"Died horribly. All of them. But we won't, since we know better."

"Know better than what? The mill works, sure, but you'll never be able to use it. It ruins you, Bottleby."

"Ah, yes! But I know the trick to it, now." Pause. "I hope it won't!"

"But it'll eat that out of you. Give it a day, two days, and you won't hope it won't anymore."

"And there's the trick: I hope fervently that I'll keep hoping it won't."

"You're mad, Bottleby. I hope you know that."

"And there's the trick. I've got all these mad hopes. An infinite chain of them, all the way back to first causes; all the way back to the center of the universe. I'll never run out, because I hope for things that aren't even vaguely possible."

"Like making your fortune off of a mill that eats hope and makes -- well, what does it make, Bottleby?"

"I hope it makes biscuits."

-- The Last Voyage of Godfred Bottleby, Volume I
"You want to know about warlocks?" asked the baker. "Tonnas!," he called into the back room, "You remember that warlock that came by here a week ago?"

The tiefling stuck his head into the room, "Yes, sah."

"How much did he take off with?"

"Oh, about fave or six loaves, sah. In his defense I was greatly entertained."

"Yeah, yeah. But you know what happened when I went to the mill to get me moneys worth?"

"What sah?"

"I couldn't remember a damn blasted detail of the story!" The baker turned back to the stranger, "And you know what's worse? I went around telling people my name was Sphincter for three days afterwards."

"You weren't doing that on purpose, sah?"

The baker turned back around and stared at his hired help. "What?"

"I thought you were being funny."

"NO I WAS NOT BEING DAMNWELL FUNNY!!"

The tiefling retreated to the backroom as quickly as he could. The baker turned back around.

"Eh, between you and me, I'm not too mad at 'im." He snuck a look backwards and then smiled. "He still hasn't realized that he ain't wearing pants."

-Baker, on the nature of warlocks
"They call us halflings, for we are only half in this world, only half human. We are the Nameless, the forgotten folk. Some of us lost our names, some were born to this life. We live in the secret places - we are the people of the labyrinth, that secret world of tunnels and basements, rooftops and the spaces in between the walls, under the floorboards.

They see us on the street and pass us by, like we have something contagious, and they're afraid they'll catch it if they're near us too long. They give us nothing from the mills, then call us thieves when we take what we need. We build our lives from the scraps of theirs, taking what they have cast aside or forgotten.

Some of us leave the Day, stow away on a ship bound for the Isles or join a pirate crew. Some become Librarians, some just look for a new life in the skerries. We are the forgotten and the unnoticed, and that can serve us as well as curse us. We know how to go unseen, how to listen, how to wait. A name gives you power, but it also binds you, ties you up. We are the Nameless, the half-folk, the forgotten. We are free."

- ...

"Have you ever seen the Flying Circus? Run by the Sky-Folk, you know. Elves, as they call 'emselves. I believe the owner is a man called Python.* They're strange ones, them Elves. They spend their whole lives in their air, moving from island to island, trading mostly, or just wandering. Some live in the bigger sky-trees, building houses in their branches and floating along with the wind. 'Course, a good number of 'em are Pirates. Wouldn't expect nothin' less from a folk that never stays in one place.

Hah. 'Ave ye seen their ears? Big, curved and pointed, they are. They say it's so that they can hear the wind speak to them. Maybe that's true. Though they're prolly jus' full of it.

The Circus, though, that's somethin' to see. It's like a city in the air, held up by a thousand balloons of every color ye can think of. It's a maze of rickety wood, packed with every wonder you can imagine. Beasts from every corner of the Islands, women who spit fire, men who can twist themselves into all manner of unnatural shapes... I'll remember it te the day I die."

-Dren McTaggart, Inhabitant of the Pyramids of Zuzangi

* Sorry, I couldn't resist. =]

'S a lovely place, the Junk. Ye can find most anything, if you look long and hard enough. An' sometimes ye find somthin' ye weren't lookin' for, but needed jus' the same. It gives us our homes - we tunnel into the piles, or else take pieces of it and build houses. I gather tha's why they call us Dwarves, cause we've grown to fit our home - it pays to be small when yer clamberin' around in a pile. I once saw a Dayer try to squeeze in between two gears, an' I swear, I'd pay to see it again.

It doesn't mind, I know, 'cause I've realized the same thing the Junkmen knew all along - everything on Nifflas is a part of the Junkyard. Everythin's made from somethin' used, something old. And it all goes back to the junk in the end. We take pieces of it, and rearrange 'em, or reshape 'em, but it's all the same when ye look at the big picture. It's like a cloud, forever movin' and changin', but still a cloud. And there's a joy in makin' things, in takin' old bits and bobs and makin' somethin' new out of them. An' seein' the look on a dragon's face when you punch it with the robot you're piloting... worth all the books in the Library.

'S a good life, though my boy, he seems restless. Keeps talkin' about becomin' a ship's mechanic, 'bout bein' a Librarian and explorin' the islands, ever since a few of 'em came through last month. How're you gonna keep 'em down on the Junkyard, once they've seen an airship?

-Greth Brokenwatch, Inhabitant of the Isle of Nonce
“It’s not the fall the kills you, it’s the boredom. If I could have gotten all the bodies we’ve lost to the mills, well, I’d be rich enough to have all my names rhyme.”

-Atticus Belo, Midshipmen of the Rook’s Navy


So a quick note on some mechanics

I’ve noted that 4e will have quite I few powers that allow you to move your opponents, in a standard setting this not a huge issue. However, in Nifflas this could be a problem for obvious reasons.

So I was thinking that if your character gets pushed off an island/skyship/etc. you could instead spend and action point to mitigate the effect and remain standing. Monster and Npc’s with actions point could do this as well. A one shot safety net of this kind could come in handy during low levels, and get the message across: Don’t stand next to edges!

Without the 4e rules in hand in can’t really make judgments on how mechanically sound this would be, just though I would run the idea by the group.

Don't drink the holy-water; we don't like it when you drink the holy-water.

"The captain's name is John Pineapple. Leastwise, it is now."

"Pineapple? Poor bloke, then, is 'e? I assume as he's giving' share of the haul?'

"No, no. Leastwise, not to deckhands. But he's promising us a dozen names each at end of the voyage -- when we're all done.Think about it. It's not just poor blokes wot mill their family names for food, but blokes with a name wot's doing them more harm than good. Rumor says 'e's a prince from out the skerries, come to Yabba Dim Day to hire a crew."

"Pfh. I got a dozen names for anyone who'd swallow a story like that. How's this: Dunderhead. Ninehammer. Fool. If he milled a king's name, 'e'd get more than a pineapple for it. An' if he's got a dozen names for ever last one of us, where'd they all go, mm? Why not now?"

"Think what you want. But if he's poor, then why'm I sporting these two fine peach-pit earrings? And ate two peaches yesterday, I might add. And why's he building a crew of fighting men, if not to reclaim his stolen throne?"

"Cor. Two peaches in a single day. Well, maybe 'e's got a tame dragon."

"Well he's not poor that way either, now is he?"

"Point taken."

-- Librarian's Notes, Parrot's Head Bar. See also: "The Coronation of John Pineapple," World Tree Almanac, 54th Edition, pg. 54.
The High Janitor held his gleaming blade to the Unkindly's face. A scowl scrunched under his helmet, "My job is to rid the Day of scum like you."

The crow mask that rested loosely on the scum's face began to slip with sweat as he raised his hands in defeat. "I-I'm s-s-sorry," he stammered.

The paladin thought for a moment, breathing heavily. Running in such heavy armor was not a peice of cake. "When dust and dirt build up on the Inebriated One's junk it is my job to clean it."

"I-I c-can can be clean! I swear!" The man ripped off his mask, "I'm a changed man already!"

"You're filth. The Inebriated One demands for me to sweep you off his world," the High Janitor tightened his grip on his sword, "If I let you free you would turn back to your dirty life in an instant."

"C-come on, man," the Unkindly loosened up, he was sure he would be able to escape now, "You know that Inebriated stuff is a load of junk."

Big mistake. With one quick sweep the dirt was gone from the Junk Room.



[EDIT] I'm making a short little campaign guide for my players but I can't find much on the roles of Dragonborn or Half-elves.
* Sorry, I couldn't resist. =]

Love it. If you can get away with nonsensical pop culture references in any setting, it is this one.

I love the background you've given each of the races. Definitely interesting and fitting to the setting without losing the flavor of the races themselves. We may have to make tiny adjustments here and there to keep the mechanics working, but thats easy enough. As long as you keep pumping out the ideas I'll find ways to make 'em work with the mechanics.

The High Janitor...

Paladins as the "janitors" of the world is a reference that I never would have thought of. I don't know how you guys are coming up with some of this stuff, but I am enjoying every second.
I'm making a short little campaign guide for my players but I can't find much on the roles of Dragonborn or Half-elves.

Maybe Half-elves exist, but in such small numbers they don’t have a cultural niche. While elves and humans are occasionally attracted to one-another, their children are non-viable (sterile) and so the union is generally frowned upon as being fruitless.

Don't drink the holy-water; we don't like it when you drink the holy-water.

I can't figure out what the value of books would be. What is in the Library books? Why would people want to borrow them? I like the idea of players hunting down those whose books are overdue, and I want the Library to have an important place in the world, but I can't figure out what it would be.

It has been suggested in this thread that books would be used as somekind of spice. I don't like this idea.

First off, it doesn’t quite fit the poetry of the world. Books as food is kind of Sesame Street, and not in the steampunk/gormenghast/kafka-esque/new weird style of this world.

Second off, treating books like spices or food doesn’t add interest to individual books, and it doesn’t make the books especially valuable to player characters or their opponents. It turns books into valuble gems.

Third off, it doesn’t explain why books can’t be copied.

What I would do instead is something like the following:

Words have a particular power. They were sung be the dragons of olde, and slurred by the inebriated one himself at the beginning of the world. The memory of all the uncountable things in the sky is maintained via written words. It is traditional for all thinking beings to keep diaries of their lives and thoughts so that nothing will be forever lost in the flotsam and jetsam of space and time. By writing a book, a person creates not just a third hand written record, but rather a kind of psychic portal into their experience, imagination, and understanding—they create an object of unique magical power.

When someone reads a book, they create a magical bound with the work. They experience what is written there in as though they were the writer. Even after they have completed the work, the reader can maintain this contact if the book is near them. The exact distance varies depending on the book, and the reader. Having created this bond with the book, the reader may use some sort of magical power. The power gained depends on the book and can vary wildly, from the ability to cook excellent stew to the ability to stop time, summon creatures, or open gateways to other times/places/dimensions. Normally a person may only be bound to a single book at once, but some people have found ways to extend this.

Now some books are truly valuable and dangerous. But the library must lend them out, because it is the duty of the library to maintain the memory of all things and stave off the oblivion of the Final Drunken Stupor.
Maybe Half-elves exist, but in such small numbers they don’t have a cultural niche. While elves and humans are occasionally attracted to one-another, their children are non-viable (sterile) and so the union is generally frowned upon as being fruitless.

I think half-elves being a bit different than the standard elf-meets-human-and-mates cliche might not be a bad idea. Perhaps humans who have lived too long away from the city... the wanderers, as it were... have essentially "gone native" and adopted some elven traits and culture. They aren't actually "half-elves" in any genetic sense. They are just people who have adopted elf-like traits and habits.

I'd have to see more of the mechanics behind half-elves to really pin anything down, but that would be my best take on it.

(And no... I'm not even attempting to do the quote thing... I know... I'm lame and boring... but at this point, I am just throwing out ideas. I am not in the position, I feel, to really be pinning things down. I like contributing, but I don't want anyone to feel pressured to use my ideas. Its not my baby, after all.)
I think this turned into the creativity corner for a few hours. Those shorts are pretty amazing and I am not talking about the ones on your legs. The High Janitor confused me until you later said paladin and then it made sense. So at least one sect of the Inebriated go against censorship; I need to remember that.

The demi-human cultures are very nice and they still feel very human to me. The cosmetic changed can be explained off, as they were, and when you get down to it they still feel human. Love the Circus and Python, didn't catch the Circus at first though.

I agree with Kord, although if your player's don't understand that edges are bad in general there might not be anything you can do.

I would love to see this take on more steampunk aspects but I would rather not fiddle with 4e's balance without too much technology and all. Gormenghast, I suspect you are referring to the 'mannerpunk' *I love wikipedia sometimes* aspects of it, I do agree with. I haven't actually read the series and didn't want to read the synopsis because I might read them one day so I can only guess or have you explain more of what you mean.

Kafka I have no idea who that is or what style this person writes in unless you are referring to a 19th century jewish writer, the only kafka I could find, who wrote about bureaucracy a lot.

Anyways on to what you actually said Moonglum. I like the idea of books being spices simply because it means that unless the PCs want to get into trading and dealing books and what not it doesn't have any value to them. There is enough other Junk to pick up around the Islands and Skerries that the PCs don't need to worry about picking up the books and spare pages as well. Unless they want to side deal illegal copies or get a little extra for turning in an unknown book. Not everything needs value to the PCs to have value in the world. We don't have to design like WotC does, 'If it doesn't have good play value we don't need it.' Which seems to be the basis for every decision in 4e.

Books can also have more than one power. I might have put what I originally wrote in my above posts or I might not have. Either way what I originally wrote for wizards is that they can use the same books and poems that chefs use to garnish reality with different effects. Spells, at least in my version, are based off of intent and will. It also leads to interesting speculation on whether the universe isn't just a giant turnip or some other odd root vegetable. Adds another group of roaming philosophers to the streets.

Just my ideas, and I think the point of this setting is to use what you like and run with it.

On another note: This setting is starting to feel like a british comedy right about now, The Flying Circus and God hiding from Paperwork and what not. Add a little more of the new Doctor Who flare and we might have a show proposal for anyone in Britain to submit. It off sets Tao's dark game very nicely. Good work by the way Tao I like the changes to the dragonborn and hope to see some info on the halflings other than just pirates.
I would love to see this take on more steampunk aspects but I would rather not fiddle with 4e's balance without too much technology and all.

One of the things that actually drew me to undertaking this as a side venture is the fact that I have plans on releasing a "steamtech" power source supplement shortly after the launch of 4e to go along with my Dark Renaissance campaign setting. The fact that this could also incorporate that work makes it that much more appealing for me.
I would be interested in helping you make that, I am hoping once I see the PhB for 4e I will be able to start working on ideas for my own power sources. The tech/steam one is one that I see going around a lot 'as its too close to this or that' or 'it shouldn't be done because its too steampunkish.'

*Goes to work on more ideas for this setting* I feel like I should be adding something every time I post here.
I think that Half-elves should be clearly destinct from both Elves and Humans. Although, I must say I like the idea of Humans who travelled with Elves for a time, their mechanics (if they'll be anything like 3.5) probably won't look anything like elves.

Additionally, is there anything on Dragonborn (perhaps I missed a post or something)? I saw the part about dragons breathing life, perhaps the Dragonborn were given 'extra' life by dragons (follows how most other races were once human).

On another note, what about Planes of Existence? Will there be anything more than the Prime Material Plane (Junk Room, I think)? There was something of a Backstage mentioned (I think in the bit about Tieflings) which I took as a kind of Shadowfell equivalent.
I came up with a rough list of possible planes I might use in my campaign:
The Distillery (a sort of afterlife where the *spirit*s of humans [and others] go to age for the Inebriated One)
The Boiler Room {possibly Furnace or something} (the 'hell' of the setting)
The Garden (the equivalent of the Feywild, lush and full of trees, etc.)
Anyway, that's just a thought.

In roughly 5-7 days I'll be receiving a copy of Keep on the Shadowfell which I'm thinking about using as both an intro to the game and an intro to the setting. It'll probably take some major adaptation but nothing's too much work for a good session.

Finally, I'm having a hard time seeing Warlords in this setting (they rub me the wrong way, I might as well just do away with them all together, but one of my players is really looking forward to it). Anyone care to shine some light?
Anyways on to what you actually said Moonglum. I like the idea of books being spices simply because it means that unless the PCs want to get into trading and dealing books and what not it doesn't have any value to them. There is enough other Junk to pick up around the Islands and Skerries that the PCs don't need to worry about picking up the books and spare pages as well. Unless they want to side deal illegal copies or get a little extra for turning in an unknown book. Not everything needs value to the PCs to have value in the world. We don't have to design like WotC does, 'If it doesn't have good play value we don't need it.' Which seems to be the basis for every decision in 4e.

There are just so many good adventure hooks if the books have magical powers. There could be a book that allows you to hide things inside mirrors, a book that yets you change your appearance once a day, a book that lets you build internal combustion engines, a book that lets you find your way to each of the 12 ancient dragon isles, etc.. There might be a spy that has checked out the book of new identies, and has not returned it because he has not yet completed his mission, for example.

There could be feats related to book magic and book magic paragon paths.

But then, information is valuable in and of itself. Books that describe how to catagorize the flotsam from other worlds, the location of the the 12 ancient dragon isles, the ritual of inchanting internal combustion engines, etc.. are going to be in demand, and it is likely that the library will find that they are often way over due. Time to send out the repo-librarians, with their retinue of janitorial staff and paper trial trackers.
Mistress_of_Mockery - I wanted to make dragonborn not just "dragons, only not quite as cool". I am also of the opinion that Dinosaurs are awesome. Thus, I decided to make Dragonborn essentially intelligent raptors. The idea is that dinosaurs are relatively common on the Islands: herds of apatosaurs roam across the larger islands, pterodactyls and even allosaurs are sometimes used as mounts, and they are all sentient to a greater or lesser degree. Raptors are the most intelligent of the lot, and have to some extent integrated themselves into Nifflian high society.

On the subject of books, I like the idea of stories being tied to food because it gives the Library direct and immediate power. However, I am also partial to the idea of books as the power source of magic and the engine of technology. This is why I like the idea that they power mills, rather than being their input.
Mistress_of_Mockery - I wanted to make dragonborn not just "dragons, only not quite as cool". I am also of the opinion that Dinosaurs are awesome. Thus, I decided to make Dragonborn essentially intelligent raptors. The idea is that dinosaurs are relatively common on the Islands: herds of apatosaurs roam across the larger islands, pterodactyls and even allosaurs are sometimes used as mounts, and they are all sentient to a greater or lesser degree. Raptors are the most intelligent of the lot, and have to some extent integrated themselves into Nifflian high society.

Oh, I like that idea. Could have some problems with racial abilities/feats (wings, breathing fire, etc.) but it can definitely work.
@Mistress: They are raptors, who says they can't breath fire? That would be a cool picture to find online. Actually I will have a friend make one for me. Post it up here if she agrees. Wings I have no ideas for since they should look different for a raptor but again this doesn't have to make any sense, just be consistent.

On Books: There is no reason why the books can't be all of these, the fiction can be used for a good read, a supplement to food or even as spices. The nonfiction can sway and flavour reality, through magic or machination. Remember the more powerful books can move and even speak common so nothing is outside the boundaries for these things. I personally just don't like everything being of value to the players, or apparent value. Had a group member who took the chair legs of every wooden chair and later staked vampires with them. Only one of his oddities in that campaign but thats what I think is encouraged when you say books work like spices without telling them the full story, they get to play with the idea and then discover more of it.

You know we have no speak of the gnomes. I would like to actually see them around in this place, they could be humourous. If the Garden being the Feywilds goes through then we could have the gnomes be tenders and growers sent to the Junk Room to make it into a green house or a plant room or something akin to that. They would try and plant everything everywhere, from the littlest dragon's tooth to the bastard sword the PC was carrying until he was disarmed.

Also for the Garden in the 'lighter' areas I can see Alice and Wonderland like environments, talking flowers and mushrooms with mystical powers. As the the light from the top of the rabbit hole fades things start to get crazier. I'm sure no one would have issues thinking about Wonderland in a much darker way.
You know we have no speak of the gnomes. I would like to actually see them around in this place, they could be humourous. If the Garden being the Feywilds goes through then we could have the gnomes be tenders and growers sent to the Junk Room to make it into a green house or a plant room or something akin to that. They would try and plant everything everywhere, from the littlest dragon's tooth to the bastard sword the PC was carrying until he was disarmed.

Also for the Garden in the 'lighter' areas I can see Alice and Wonderland like environments, talking flowers and mushrooms with mystical powers. As the the light from the top of the rabbit hole fades things start to get crazier. I'm sure no one would have issues thinking about Wonderland in a much darker way.

They could be literal Garden Gnomes :P

Alice in Wonderland is amazing. I could definitely see the Garden as a very Wonderland-esque place.

Wow. This is a productive post.
"They say the gnomes is planting special trees that could be used for more of them special books the Librarians don't want no one to be thinkin' about. What ya mean why do they need special trees?! Everyone knows the more powerful a book is the stronger the material needs to be written on. Go up to the 163rd floor and look at the steel written Snapper up 'ere. I wouldn't read it if I were yous because of the Unkindlies and oll but you can still look at 'em and be oll good. Well these is trees 'em gnomes be growing not steel; nice, soft paper with eldri...edlri... arcane power written oll over 'em."
-Thal, Rumour Monger of Thindel Alley

I really don't like writing like that but I figured I would try my hand at the people talking thing. I think that is going to be the first adventure for my group, depending on the power of the gnomes and all.

I was intending the Garden Gnomes part but that is a good idea.
On the outskirts of the Kingdom of Cuckoo (not too far from the day, nothing a reasonable Skyfolk can't handle), the island of Winterhaven is a wondrous getaway for Dayers during the winter months. For whatever reason the island is always warm, showing no sign of freezing or snow anywhere. The resort town of Winterhaven serves as a popular retreat, but it also serves a darker purpose.

During the peak of the Raven-Cuckoo wars the first Raven Queen opened a rift to the Backstage from which mighty creatures entered the world. These creatures struck Cuckoo’s flank and provided a mighty edge for the Raven Queen’s armies. Many years ago, so the tale goes, a great Cuckoo knight traveled to the island and sealed the rift, creating a keep to protect the resort from the evils of the Raven Queen.

A dangerous criminal steals a powerful book from the Library in hopes he can reopen the Backstage rift. Sending Unkindlies or a group of Librarians would be much too obvious. A search is sent out for talented folks of the Day in hopes that they can pass through the Winterhaven resort relatively unnoticed.


The Raven Queen is the name of the Goddess of the Shadar-kai, and (IIRC) the Shadar-kai make an appearance in the adventure (and are from the Shadowfell), so it all makes sense (at least in my head).

Unless I decide to make Orcus a Leviathan, the BBEG will likely get a major rehash (actually, what am I talking about? The whole adventure will).
On the subject of books, I like the idea of stories being tied to food because it gives the Library direct and immediate power. However, I am also partial to the idea of books as the power source of magic and the engine of technology. This is why I like the idea that they power mills, rather than being their input.

Well, if stories (i.e. books) are a power source and a spice (as proposed by The Fae) the library’s dominance can still be secured. As I suggested in an earlier post, if we simply stipulate that secret and powerful stories are needed to run the mill, and the Librarians are the only ones who know these stories and have the skill to deliver them. Then they will have a great degree of political influence especially when combined with their ability to manipulate the Library itself

Don't drink the holy-water; we don't like it when you drink the holy-water.