Nifflas: Where Librarians Mean Business

705 posts / 0 new
Last post
Mmm... I like the idea about UK. Maybe it's a forbidden book? Full of the names of horrible alien intelligences... or maybe just a bunch of weird syllables.

I think the acquisition of a name might in fact be the impetus for a Halfling to leave the Day and seek adventure. After all, a halfling is just a human without a name - the racial traits are cultural. Thus, they would still keep their traits after they got a name, they just wouldn't technically be a Halfling any more.
Maybe Librarians would "back" names with stories, in the same way US currency was once "backed" by gold. So, when a person accomplishes a great deed, they go to the Library or tell a Librarian about it. [...] Family names would accumulate value the older they were, as they would be the collective history of the family.

Another adventure hook: Two noble families are arranging a political marriage; the weaker of the two families hires the adventurers to investigate the site of an ancient battle out in the skerries, hoping to find evidence of noble deeds by the family's ancestors, to make their name more valuable and therefore more attractive to the more powerful nobles.

On that note - what happens if someone just makes up a story? Can people "appraise" names and stories, to see what weight they have behind them? The main source (v1.1) implies that stories made up on the fly (as low-level wizard powers, for example) do have power behind them.
On that note - what happens if someone just makes up a story? Can people "appraise" names and stories, to see what weight they have behind them? The main source (v1.1) implies that stories made up on the fly (as low-level wizard powers, for example) do have power behind them.

This is something that's been bothering me for a while, actually, so I'm glad you pointed it out.

The thing is, there seem to be two sorts of stories: those that tell of events that actually happened, and those that are fictional. Obviously only the first sort could "back" names. Then again, maybe the distinction isn't that clear cut, as any account is bound to have fictional elements, especially with tales of legendary people and monsters.

Then there's the distinction between books and oral history. I've pseudo-solved this by saying that written stories are more powerful, as they last longer, though this doesn't entirely make sense.

Really, all this stems from a few key ideas:

  • I want names to be currency, both because of all the cool stuff that comes out of it and because it's an interesting thought in and of itself.

  • I want Librarians to be able to go out into the Skerries and find new stories a la Hitch-hiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

  • I want Librarians to research the story of a dead person's life when they die, as I think this would lead to some interesting adventures.

  • Finally, I think it would be really cool to have a magical craft held together by stories, so that when it's crashing, the pilot has to frantically make up stories to repair it.


I don't need a unified, set in stone system for how stories work (which would go against the spirit of the setting in any case), but I would like to be able to include all these things in my campaign.

Edit: Here's a possible solution - There is an ancient Dragon in the Yebba Dim Day, who eats History and breathes wishes. A person can speak with the Dragon and tell it a story about something that happened in the world, and the dragon will grant a wish depending on how good the story was, then he will eat it. Of course, the less true the story, the less he will give, so the natural solution is to write down important stories, which is exactly what Librarians do. The Dragon particularly likes names - they are spicy, he says, being the distilled story of a deed, a life, or even several lives, and so they are more valuable. However, when the dragon eats a name, it loses all value forever, and the person may never use it again.

Wizards have discovered the art of speaking to almost anything, including inanimate objects, and telling it a story about itself, changing what it is. They can talk a lock into opening, convince the air that it is really fire, or tell the sky a story about how good it is to storm.

Warlocks have discovered the names of powerful creatures beyond the world, and use that name as a source of power. The names of those beings are all long and polysyllabic - one of the lesser one's nicknames starts Xendric'pphyt'Nar-Schilgc'm'pah... So, whenever they want to create an effect, they say a piece of the name, and call on its power.

Clerics are called the "Redefined", for they have discovered power in changing their identity. In the same way that wizards change the world by convincing it it is something else, Clerics convince themselves that they are something else, behaving and acting in the way their particular God would, and changing themselves in the process.

How these groups came to this knowledge is a mystery, though there is one clue: when the dragon eats a name, it sings. It's rumored that the first Wizard listened to the song so many times that he began to catch the meaning behind it, that he heard the trick of turning stories into power buried in the sublime notes of the ancient beast's voice.

How's that?
Everything I say here should be considered prefaced by "In my opinion," and also "Sorry if I'm incomprehenble or inane, I'm sick today."

The thing is, there seem to be two sorts of stories: those that tell of events that actually happened, and those that are fictional. Obviously only the first sort could "back" names. Then again, maybe the distinction isn't that clear cut, as any account is bound to have fictional elements, especially with tales of legendary people and monsters.

If names are a form of story, and names are transferable, then there must be even less of a distinction between real and fictional stories than one would think. "Slayer-of-Dagon" could, were she in a bad spot, sell her name like any other, then presumably someone could buy the name "Slayer-of-Dagon" without actually having to slay Dagon again. In a world like Nifflas, it seems that the boundary between fiction and reality would be thin, anyway.

Then there's the distinction between books and oral history. I've pseudo-solved this by saying that written stories are more powerful, as they last longer, though this doesn't entirely make sense.

Another possible distinction that could have an effect on the setting is that oral history changes over time as it's told and retold by different people in different contexts, and then ceases to evolve once there is a permenant reference point, like an account in a book. Look at the proliferation of different Arthurian stories before Mallory's Morte d'Arthur, and the relatively uniform retellings that followed it.

Really, all this stems from a few key ideas.

If I may generalize your points, because I am an inveterate rephraser:

  • Stories have power,
  • Names "contain" stories; therefore
  • Names are used as currency,
  • People search for stories, and
  • People make the lives of the dead into stories, even as they make the corpses of the dead into flour.


Honestly, my million questions to the contrary, this seems like enough to be going on with. How each individual campaign fills in the blanks is what makes individual games unique. I think I've just been overthinking it. Although I'd still like to come up with a system for "appraising" names.

Here's a possible solution - There is an ancient Dragon in the Yebba Dim Day, who eats History and breathes wishes.

That's a really neat idea that should stay in the setting, but I don't know that I'd call it a solution. I don't think that a single entity should define what's basically a law of physics in the world of Nifflas.

Wizards have discovered the art of speaking to almost anything, including inanimate objects, and telling it a story about itself, changing what it is.

Warlocks have discovered the names of powerful creatures beyond the world, and use that name as a source of power.

Clerics are called the "Redefined", for they have discovered power in changing their identity. In the same way that wizards change the world by convincing it it is something else, Clerics convince themselves that they are something else, behaving and acting in the way their particular God would, and changing themselves in the process.

I -really- like the distinction you draw between wizards and clerics here, M_G. In fact, this makes the distinction between the arcane and divine sources make a lot more sense to me in general.

How's that?

Great! :D
I don't think there is a difference between reality and fiction, both can be lied about and both can be believed. Even stories made up on the spot can have power, possibly more than a normal written story because it is unique, which leads me to think that the Universe, and possibly the Dragon of Day, doesn't care whether the story is true or real it just matters that it is a good tale for its genre. Anyone can boast that they killed Dagon, as long as they have the name to back it. The universe only sees the name not the truth.

The entire world of Nifflas is fictional so really Nifflian reality = fiction. Another reason for no difference between reality and fiction.

Appraisal of names could come from the skill History or Arcana. For a higher DC I would allow the players an insight check to tell if the person is lying but it is hard to tel fact from fiction.

How does one go about getting a title? Do they just start calling themselves that and wait for librarians to come and record the reason or do people go to the Library to start a Title account in their name?
I don't think there is a difference between reality and fiction, both can be lied about and both can be believed. Even stories made up on the spot can have power, possibly more than a normal written story because it is unique, which leads me to think that the Universe doesn't care whether the story is true or real it just matters that it is a good tale for its genre.

The entire world of Nifflas is fictional so really Nifflian reality = fiction. Another reason for no difference between reality and fiction.

How does one go about getting a title? Do they just start calling themselves that and wait for librarians to come and record the reason or do people go to the Library to start a Title account in their name?

Yes, exactly, I agree wholeheartedly again. And that's why I think there needs to be some process to 'solidifying' names and titles (one could handle it mechanically with a ritual) because if people could just make up names, they'd have no value as currency.

Hehe... I'm starting to think of names as if they were magic items, mechanically.
I had that idea for war forged/Junk folk. Basically they would write stories on their arms or backs or even their fingers to convey a specific effect. I might change it a bit and say that wearable magical items have a way of changing themselves into their 'founding' stories. Founding stories would obviously be the story that created an item.

On to a bit of a mechanical anomaly I just thought of; How are we going to handle Residuum? It seems odd to have a magic item not break into a story, whether the story transfer from the item to the mind of the disenchanter or in some other fashion move into the disenchanter's possession.

I propose one idea right now; Maybe residuum as a concept is good but its name and flavour need to be changed. A disenchanted object retells its story to the disenchanting party and then turns to useless dust. This story sits in the back of the player's mind, always right below the surface. These stories have intrinsic value, to anyone, as they are almost pure magic, as pure magic as humanoids can hear anyways. A person's names and titles can be used to fuel magic items, as long as their deeds convey the power of the wanted item.

Names and Titles become the equivalent of residuum. Residuum is 500.000 gold to a pound or some such in standard D&D. Well now it weighs nothing I guess. I don't have a system for how to price out a name, but that at least gives us a possible direction to take Names and Titles as a currency. Maybe instead of a parcel of gold, once a level the players gain a parcel of Deeds which add value to their names instead of their pockets. I would use the Deeds reward sparingly and only for monumental moments in the adventure because that value can be turned into magic items easier than buying them.
On to a bit of a mechanical anomaly I just thought of; How are we going to handle Residuum? It seems odd to have a magic item not break into a story, whether the story transfer from the item to the mind of the disenchanter or in some other fashion move into the disenchanter's possession.

I propose one idea right now; Maybe residuum as a concept is good but its name and flavour need to be changed. A disenchanted object retells its story to the disenchanting party and then turns to useless dust. This story sits in the back of the player's mind, always right below the surface. These stories have intrinsic value, to anyone, as they are almost pure magic, as pure magic as humanoids can hear anyways.

Have you played or seen played Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time? (if not, you should - brilliant game) I picture the process of disenchanting an item kind of like what happens when the Prince reaches a new save point in that game. The Prince is struck - violently - by disjointed visions of the next few minutes of his life (this gives you clues as to how to solve the next battery of puzzles), with lots of jump cuts and creepy whispering in the background. Similarly, a wizard d/e'ing an item could see flashes of its history and hear a voice whispering snippets of its story.

Semi-unrelatedly, I also picture residuum as looking like a loose, luminous swirling ball of twine, except that the string is actually fine lines of spidery text floating in the air.


I don't have a system for how to price out a name, but that at least gives us a possible direction to take Names and Titles as a currency. Maybe instead of a parcel of gold, once a level the players gain a parcel of Deeds which add value to their names instead of their pockets.

Let's see... let X equal a value in gp that will be determined later. Each syllable in a name is worth X. Each silent letter in the name (Eddwin, Baughb, Ye Olde Shoppe) is worth, oh, let's say, half of X. A particularly euphonious name - one that rhymes, or is alliterative (Finjinn, Gorgalgoth) - is worth an additional X. Any history or reputation the name carries is treated as a magical enhancement and priced accordingly. That's assuming that there are magical enhancements in 4e that affect things like intimidation or diplomacy.
I have played PoP and I prefer the second one over the first, more challenging in my opinion. I could see that as well, the disenchanter getting various different ways of picking up the story, from whispers to floating text and flashes. I don't think anyone else should see or hear them though. Unless they are somehow splitting the 'residuum'. Which we should probably rename as it doesn't sound as good for the flavour.

On the names and syllables idea I kind of have to side with my own idea, simply because basing value off of syllables doesn't really seem right to me. Syllables aren't what make a story, Bob's name is worth 15 King Cubes of Junk because he went out and slew a tribe of Giants with his bare fists not because it has 3 letters. I think as of now I am going to go with the Deeds idea and just tell my players to keep track of when they get Deeds. If you want to take the time you could set up requirements in an adventure to be met, optional ones for all but the most important adventures, and if they are met the group or one specific person gets Deeds and/or a title. Kind of like the system of Deeds and Titles from LOTRO, Lord of the Rings Online, except more valuable.
On the names and syllables idea I kind of have to side with my own idea, simply because basing value off of syllables doesn't really seem right to me. Syllables aren't what make a story, Bob's name is worth 15 King Cubes of Junk because he went out and slew a tribe of Giants with his bare fists not because it has 3 letters.

No, you're right, you're absolutely right. :embarrass Don't know what I was thinking. I guess that's what I get when when I try to contribute to a campaign setting whilst feverish.
I have a concern with the idea of names and stories as resources. The problem is that for the Library to have power, stories have to be valuable. But for stories to be valuable, they must be scarce. This means that stories can't be reusable, which gives Librarians the impetus to search for new stories, but means that the actual content of the Library (previously used stories) has no value. Does anyone have any thoughts on this?
Here's an idea for the books (sorry if someone's already written this):

The books, rather than being a source of sustenance, are an energy source, tapping into the intricacies and mastery of some of the most beautifully written prose. Books can be read to machines or to people in order to energize them, to heal them, to strengthen them. However, not all books are as effective energy sources as others. The energy of a book can only be harvested as quickly as the reader can read, and the effectiveness of a book lies in how well written it is. That is to say, if a man reads a book to his ship at a normal speak speed, but the book is one of the most masterfully written works of fiction ever created, the ship will fly through the air like a blur, because each word sends a huge pulse of energy surging through it. If the book is more along the lines of pulp fiction, the reader would have to read extremely quickly in order to get anywhere close to such a speed.
The reason the library needs the books back is because once you've heard the story, it'll no longer provide you with nearly as much energy. You might get a couple little surges every now and then during some of the best parts, but by and large it won't be of much service to you. When reading the book to someone or something, the energy is divided based on how much of the story each person hearing it knows. If neither the reader, nor anyone else present has heard the story before, they'll all get an equal energy boost. However, if the reader has read the story before but the listener has not, almost all the energy will go to the listener. Well-read people are favored as readers, as they will allow as much power as possible to reach the listener.

Any good?
Also, remember that no D&D campaign setting has ever had a realistic economic model (to my knowledge). Any world in which groups of adventurers regularly dump vast quantities of previously out-of-circulation wealth from tombs, etc., would be unstable to the point of collapse. It's the question all PCs ask at one point or another - when a single CR 1/2 (sorry for the now obsolete terminology) kobold is carrying more coins than most commoners see in a month, why don't all the farmers buy swords and go adventuring?
The economic model in any campaign setting - Nifflas included, I say - is set up around allowing PCs to acquire ludicrous amounts of wealth and then spend it all without having any appreciable effect on the daily lives of the NPCs around them.
Actually the only reason D&D doesn't have a realistic economic model is because no one sits down to think about it. Someone in Redgar's Repository figured it out that a farmer will often see a lot of wealth in the 3.5 D&D world based on profession, most of it is in the form of grown materials though and most of it is traded for other needed services. The money the PCs dump into the economy support an apparently large and diverse middle/merchant class. The merchant class will trade with nobles or will themselves effectively be nobles and therefore support an artistic class within any decent sized town. The only reason why there are still peasants who see little coinage is because often times the merchant class is traveling or resides in large towns, only trading supplies for food and board in a village.

Anyways, rambling done. I agree that stories need a more or less one time value, or at least one time per a person effectively. Kardin's idea works well I think. Names on the other hand should return there value because telling someone a name never loses its flair. If you watch Doctor Who both the Doctor and Captain Jack have a lot of legend behind their names and it is always interesting to new people and to people that have heard the name before when one them says there name. Why? Because names hold some instinctual importance in the universe, to move over into Nifflas fluff. A name won't give energy like stories but it will convey instantly the importance of someone, sometimes even literally flashing deeds into the listeners' heads. To trade a name is to give those deeds away, that power behind the sense of importance. That sense is why people value names and is why people can weigh names in gold. Or Junk.

I am keeping names as a monetary resource, but not stories unless the PCs move into illegal spice-story trading.
So I ran across, in the course of working at my day job, a reference to "The School of the Built Environment" in Liverpool, UK. The delightfully archaic phrasing of the name immediatly made me think of Nifflas. Is there any sort of organized education, in the Day or elsewhere?

Crypto-!
Also, has anyone seen the new "The Incredible Hulk" movie yet? The establishing shots of the Brazillian favela in the beginning - add towers and tram lines to that, and that's how I picture the Day. Especially during the chase scenes through the 'streets'.
Hey team.
First off; wow!

second; what follows are observations and ideas.

I have a concern with the idea of names and stories as resources. The problem is that for the Library to have power, stories have to be valuable. But for stories to be valuable, they must be scarce. This means that stories can't be reusable, which gives Librarians the impetus to search for new stories, but means that the actual content of the Library (previously used stories) has no value. Does anyone have any thoughts on this?

If all stories are erased once read (aloud or in your head), then you'll have rooms and rooms of empty books. Maybe the stories fade a little with each reading. Slowly becoming unintelligible scrawling; words are missing, the ink has browned to the colour of the paper, the pages brittle, glue or stitching that held them together breaking. The cover of the book which once was a deep, rich leather is now dusty and tattered. The title that once glittered gold on the spine is tarnished and all but rubbed off. The oldest, most well told stories are pretty much empty books. The librarians are searching for those particular stories, aswell as new untold tales to refill the books.

Are they more or less valuable if written down as opposed to passed on via word of mouth?
If written stories are more valuable, because they are distilled, then verbal retellings could be the wild, untamed, tribal stories passed from elder to elder, or story-teller to story-teller.
What is the power in an anecdote? Can a shaman say a quick poem to make a poisonous mushroom edible? Can an army general tell the tale of a great warrior to inspire courage (ala braveheart), Can you say a haiku in the middle of fight to put your opponent to sleep?

The power in books/words/names/stories depends on how eloquent the reader/writer would be. The bigger the words, the more descriptive, the longer the tale, the emotion in the poem, the structure and stanzas, the pictures painted. They'd all need to be taken into account to work out the value;
Surely a limerick is not as valuable as a sonnet? Whereas a well written haiku worth more than a badly written screenplay.
The title 'grand master of the seventh order of street sweepers' is more valuable than 'Emperor'? (i guess Emperor would also include the deeds to an island or kingdom?)
Is the name 'Will Pungleston the third, wielder of the sword Armondhurst" more valuable than 'Gristle the Blacksmith, forger of the sword Armondhurst' ?
Or what about 'Opus the ever hungry ('coz he ate two deer in one sitting) compared to 'Grottle; writer of words'
I think that the value of a story/words/names/books can't really be laid out in excel.

And whats the value of a dictionary or thesaurus?

The education of a person would limit them in how powerful or valuable their read stories are. If someone can't pronounce a word surely that would diminish the value?
"... the warrior gow-ged out his eye with a blunt spoon-"
"gow-ged? let me have a look... oh that's gouged, as in plucked."

Would people (adventurers, common folk) pay to have their tale written down? A librarian would need to carry atleast one book, If not many smaller tomes, notebooks, scraps. As well as mechanical pens.

Your library card could be a damning list if anyone got a hold of it. Especially since it'd have your name on the top.
Wow. I've only read a little more than the first half of your world, but I have to say, it reminds me alot of Neil Gaiman's stuff... most notably Neverwhere. If you've read any of his stuff... yeah. At first I was thinking Pratchett, but then it got... wow.

Also, I know I've seen some of those pictures elsewhere, I wish I could recall where.

Anyway, wow. This is fantastic. Kudos my friend.
Kudos.
Oh, and bookmarked.
Also, remember that no D&D campaign setting has ever had a realistic economic model (to my knowledge). Any world in which groups of adventurers regularly dump vast quantities of previously out-of-circulation wealth from tombs, etc., would be unstable to the point of collapse. It's the question all PCs ask at one point or another - when a single CR 1/2 (sorry for the now obsolete terminology) kobold is carrying more coins than most commoners see in a month, why don't all the farmers buy swords and go adventuring?
The economic model in any campaign setting - Nifflas included, I say - is set up around allowing PCs to acquire ludicrous amounts of wealth and then spend it all without having any appreciable effect on the daily lives of the NPCs around them.

Not true. Imagine a world that depends on the recovery of lost wealth! Fallen and poor, unsustainable, needs constant flow of magic and gold to survive...sometimes pocket towns in south america thrived shortly by pawning their local treasures as a means of survival.
I think it's time to start posting some playable stuff. I'm working on a stat'd version of the Unkindlies as well as some other monsters. How about having Irony and Sarcasm as high level monsters?

Pirate: "Get the thing bef'r I goot an' skin ta lotaya! It's only a thingie!"
Thingie:"Ooo, Pirates! I am so afraid."
*Howls of pain*
Excellent setting. I'm green with envy at your crafting ability. Bookmarked.
Still working on it, but here's my beta-version Unkindlie. This uses the stalker Unkindlie, not the wizard.

Show
Unkindlie Stalker, Level 15 Elite Lurker

Medium humanoid; XP 2,400

Initiative +17; Senses Perception +12; detect thoughts*
Detect thoughts: The Unkindlie can sense thoughts. Cover and concealment don't affect the unkindlie's attacks.
HP 226; Bloodied 113
AC 32; Fortitude 25, Reflex 30, Will 29
Elite: +2 to saving throws
Speed 6, Climb 6, Teleport 3
Action Point: 1

Stabby-stabby (basic melee; standard; at-will)
+18 vs. AC; 2d6+8 damage
Eviscerate (melee; standard; at-will)
The Unkindlie makes two stabby-stabby attacks
Crippling Retort(melee; free; immediate interrupt)
Whenever the Unkindlie is the target of a melee attack by an adjacent attack the target takes 1d10 psychic damage and is slowed (save ends).
Wall of Shadows (standard; encounter; recharge when first bloodied)
Wall 6 within 10; lasts until the end of the unkindlies next turn; The wall grants superior concealment to anyone targeted through it. Creatures can walk through the wall, but the first time they cross the area on their turn they are immobilized until the beginning of their next turn. This effect can be sustained as a minor action.
Excise Mind (standard; recharge 6)
+24 vs. Fortitude; target is grabbed. On the next turn, if the grab is not broken, target takes 4d8 + 6 psychic damage and forgets a piece of information. This either represents a story point or the target can't use one encounter power until an extended rest.
Sneak Attack (*)
The Unkindlie adds +3d6 damage to it's melee attacks when it has combat advantage.

Alignment Unaligned; Languages Common
Skills: Stealth (+18)
Str 16 (+10) Dex 23 (+13) Wis 15 (+9)
Con 14 (+9) Int 20 (+12) Cha 20 (+12)

Unkindlie Tactics:

The Unkindlie will select one target before the encounter begins, then either jump or teleport next to the target. If the Unkindlie can get the chance, it will try to isolate the target by spending an action point to put up a Wall of Shadows (to prevent allies from interceding) and then use Excise Mind to lobotomize the subject.


Whatcha think?
Hey everyone. First off, I'd like to apologize for not posting for a long while, and thank you guys for keeping the thread alive. I've just started a new job, and that's been keeping me very busy.

I'm currently working on a Version 1.2, which I hope to finish soon.

I also had a thought, which I'd like to bounce off everyone.

It seems to me that the idea of all stories having intrinsic magical power generates more problems than it's worth. It's been a topic of much discussion, and some really cool things have come out of it, but I think I have a way to avoid the confusion it generates while keeping what I think are the coolest bits.

Nifflas is a setting which is very consistant with the "Points of Light" model presented in 4th Edition. It consists of much unexplored territory dotted with isolated settlements. The Yebba Dim Day and surrounding areas are pretty well known, but it's a big world out there. So, if you are living on one of the skerries, you rarely hear news from the outside, you know little of the world, and you're pretty much stuck with stories you've heard about a thousand times.

Stories are valuable in Nifflas because people want to hear them - they want news of other Islands, they want knowledge of the world outside their little floating rock, they want stories to pass the long dark nights with. Thus, a Librarian's job (along with their duties at the Library itself), is to bring stories to the Skerries, and to write down whatever new ones they find. A Librarian sets off with a choice collection of books, and goes from Skerry to Skerry, reading stories to the townsfolk, even letting the few who can read (and who by some stroke of luck possess a precious Library Card) borrow a book or two, though woe betide the unlucky man who loses or damages one of the precious books, or keeps it past its overdue date...

Thus, stories are not magical in and of themselves, but have value because they are desirable to the people of the Skerries. Wizards, however, have learned the trick of harnessing the power of stories for their own ends, and can use them for all sorts of things, from spinning a flying ship out of tall tales and paper, to convincing the air that it's really fire, to inscribing on a piece of armor the story of the one who wears it, imbuing it with power.

They say that every wizard has their own book, and that the book of a wizard is special, that it can speak, even move... And they say too that there are some books in the Library that can do terrible things if they are read. Perhaps these books were written by powerful wizards, or perhaps they've always been there. Whatever the case, the Unkindlies will make sure you never find out...
When I stared reading about this Library, the first thing I thought of was the short story, The Library of Babel by Borges. I'm not sure how useful or not it is, but I think it's worth taking a look at for an interesting philosophical bent.
Stories are valuable in Nifflas because people want to hear them - they want news of other Islands, they want knowledge of the world outside their little floating rock, they want stories to pass the long dark nights with. Thus, a Librarian's job (along with their duties at the Library itself), is to bring stories to the Skerries, and to write down whatever new ones they find.

People's worlds end at the boundaries of their experience, and vice versa. Learning more about the world - from travelogues - and more about the nature of people and the way they think and hope - from myths and fables - is how people expand their minds, which, one could argue, is where magical power comes from. Whether that makes stories intrinsically magical is basically a semantic question.
It seems to me that the idea of all stories having intrinsic magical power generates more problems than it's worth. It's been a topic of much discussion, and some really cool things have come out of it, but I think I have a way to avoid the confusion it generates while keeping what I think are the coolest bits.

Nifflas is a setting which is very consistant with the "Points of Light" model presented in 4th Edition. It consists of much unexplored territory dotted with isolated settlements. The Yebba Dim Day and surrounding areas are pretty well known, but it's a big world out there. So, if you are living on one of the skerries, you rarely hear news from the outside, you know little of the world, and you're pretty much stuck with stories you've heard about a thousand times.

Stories are valuable in Nifflas because people want to hear them - they want news of other Islands, they want knowledge of the world outside their little floating rock, they want stories to pass the long dark nights with. Thus, a Librarian's job (along with their duties at the Library itself), is to bring stories to the Skerries, and to write down whatever new ones they find. A Librarian sets off with a choice collection of books, and goes from Skerry to Skerry, reading stories to the townsfolk, even letting the few who can read (and who by some stroke of luck possess a precious Library Card) borrow a book or two, though woe betide the unlucky man who loses or damages one of the precious books, or keeps it past its overdue date...

Thus, stories are not magical in and of themselves, but have value because they are desirable to the people of the Skerries. Wizards, however, have learned the trick of harnessing the power of stories for their own ends, and can use them for all sorts of things, from spinning a flying ship out of tall tales and paper, to convincing the air that it's really fire, to inscribing on a piece of armor the story of the one who wears it, imbuing it with power.

They say that every wizard has their own book, and that the book of a wizard is special, that it can speak, even move... And they say too that there are some books in the Library that can do terrible things if they are read. Perhaps these books were written by powerful wizards, or perhaps they've always been there. Whatever the case, the Unkindlies will make sure you never find out...

I have to agree all the ideas we came up with do tent to complicate things. If we give stories ‘magical’ value without tying it to anything solid, we run the risk of damaging verisimilitude and game balance: “how many loafs of dead-bread will that story about the goblins net me”, I can imagine the abuses.

The solution you posted would work, as had been mentioned before information is valuable in it own right, and to top it off I just realized paper would be a very scarce resource; hard to make copies when you have to chisel them down.

But before you ratify it, there might be a solution we have overlooked that is very viable: Rituals.

In addition to the standard (mundane) text the library’s books have, many could contain ritual instruction, those whom have the books, proper training, and the correct resource (i.e. the ritual casting feat and the necessary funds/residual) can utilize the book’s ritual. Some rare books even allow free castings, but only so many times to each person, similar to a genie in a lamp (optional).

Wizards are distinct in the same way you mentioned, they can manipulate the mundane text as well, and their books come alive, even away from the library.

This has many advantages over our original brainstorm.

1: ‘Stories’ as ritual now have finite power and precedent in the 4e core rules

2: Since the stories have limited utility the books themselves can be magical with little consequence, still have language etc.

3: The books are potent enough to justify the library’s having to lend and retrieve them. In addition the unkindlies have a definite interest in making sure the most powerful rituals don’t fall into the wrong hands, or any hands for that matter.

4: Where before the mills needed a story catalyst to operate, the librarians could have access to a secret and expensive ritual instead, which makes more sense.

5: The rituals do not interfere with the functionality of the normal text and the populations at large can’t simple generate wealth on a whim, causing greater reliance on the Day, and reinforcing the “points-of-light” mandate.

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

The reason I fell in love with this setting is because it is crazy and open ended. There is no feasible way to min/max or rules-lawyer your way to victory. Its fluid, and thats how it should be.

My personal vision is that stories themselves are food for people in this setting. Telling stories and reading them is sustenance and there is no food as one would know it from regular DnD. Smaller villages would gather together and tell stories for dinner at the town hall or gather in the middle of town. Rich families in the city would have bought the best books to read outright, and parents would have to watch for their kids trying to read comics before the dinner story, lest they ruin their appetite.

The value of certain stories would be completely personal. If you have heard the same story a million times it loses its value to you, and becomes less nourishing. After reading from a source for a long time, the ink fades and pages become worn, and the village can't wait for the Librarians to come with their new books to give to the villagers, given they have a library card. If you are rich enough to buy books from an independent source, imagine the literary cuisine you could have, reading new stories every meal.

Librarians would go from town to town trading books and making sure no one is abusing the books, or stealing them from circulation. They would be collecting the used books, so that new stories can be written upon them. Smaller villages would save up to have one library card, and share the book or books with everyone. Richer parts of the country would have families rich enough to afford their own Library card. You can wait for the Librarians to make their rounds to your village, or send someone with the library card to the Library and bring back a book.

Their library would not only house books, but scribes would copy books onto the empty pages the librarians would bring back from the field. The library itself does not deal with selling or buying stories, their librarians handle the collection of new stories from the field and making sure new stories enter circulation. If you wanted to buy or trade stories or names you have come to acquire personally, it would be a black-market deal and be treated more like stocks than having a specific value. Lots of bartering and trading. Knowing what stories are in circulation currently from the library would help you know which type of stories are more rare and how much you could get from the richer families looking to supplement(or replace) their regular diet from the Library.

The stories are magic, and they rub off onto those who read them. If you read enough heroic stories of epic adventures, you have the urge to do that; to live your own adventures. Read enough depressing tales of vile evil-doers and you will become one yourself. Most of the evil or dark stories are sold and dealt on the black market, and would be treated like drugs or pornography are treated in this world.

To keep me motivated as a GM, I need to NOT have everything be broken down in rule form. It makes me feel restricted to what I can or can't do, and it makes me feel like I have to have hard written rules for everything I do or create, which definitely stifles my creativity. I would resist the urge to create a way to find an exact pricing or value to stories because it ruins the setting. It would be a shame to create a game world on magic and wonder, and have a simple formula to break all that down to a number. It would ruin it for me anyway.
I see names being intrinsicly magical and are concentrated stories. The same way the names of Zorro, Luke Skywalker and Frodo hold power and conjure up images, names in this setting would be more influential on not only the world but the person who has that name.

I have attempted to write how I think names would affect those who possess them, but I've had to delete it time and time again, as there is no game mechanic that is universal to this. If you bought a name that had the same connotations as Darth Vader, you would slowly turn into Darth Vader; mind, body and soul.

The names would be like magic items, and used as titles rather than actual names. If Bob the Farmer bought a royal name, he is now royalty. If he can keep his name long enough, he might get bonuses to etiquette rolls for diplomacy, or know the names of other noble families without having to actually learn them. Depending on your world, he might then be able to own his own land, or keep a small army for himself.

If that same farmer traded that name for the name Grosh the Orc Slayer, he would slowly turn into a big warrior, who is apparently good at killing Orcs. His body would change, he would become knowledgeable with weapons, etc. He would no longer know proper etiquette for royalty or the names of noble families, but he would know how to keep his armor and weapon well kept and where the best places are to find Orcs to kill.

The same way names can affect you slowly over time, you can affect the names. If someone bought the name Grosh the Orc Slayer, and all they did with it was bake cookies and give them away to kids, then the name might change, because it's meaning would. Grosh the Orc Slayer would turn into something like Grosh the Soft Hearted. That name would have a different value on the open market, depending on if someone wanted that name or not.

Just my two cents. I like this thread a lot, I'd like to see it keep going for a while.
To keep me motivated as a GM, I need to NOT have everything be broken down in rule form. It makes me feel restricted to what I can or can't do, and it makes me feel like I have to have hard written rules for everything I do or create, which definitely stifles my creativity. I would resist the urge to create a way to find an exact pricing or value to stories because it ruins the setting. It would be a shame to create a game world on magic and wonder, and have a simple formula to break all that down to a number. It would ruin it for me anyway.

I’m not so convinced that quantifying magical stories will ruin the setting, if I recall correctly ‘stories as power’ was an addition after the fact as a way of strengthening the library’s hold. In addition there is already a great deal of mystery associated with the setting and GM latitude abounds, Mostly even gave us a specific mandate to throw out what we don’t like.

If we were writing a book, it would be appropriate for stories to have a more nebulous description since we could tailor the character actions as needed to maintain continuity. However PCs are out of the GM’s immediate control and it would be much easier on the GM for stories to have defined power then to have him/her adjudicate every situation involving an exchange of stories. The existence of the rituals does not necessarily prevent you, or any GM from expounding on the idea of stories as power/food either (I discourage food, as that lessens the importance of the mills/dragons/land), rather they serve as a concrete and tested starting point which preserves balance and overall verisimilitude.

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

Definitely, one of the best floating island settings I've ever seen. The main theme of the campaign fairly cries out for a bard class. Because they don't exist in 4e yet - and so we don't have everyone wanting to play a bard, perhaps a bardic Paragon Path for a few of the classes would be in order? Perhaps with their own bardic specialties depending on what their basic class is?
Hey everyone! I'm proud to announce that for anyone who is interested, there will be a play-by-post game set in Nifflas here. Please check it out and sign up if you're interested.
"Help me. They won't shut up. I do what they want but they lie and won't leave me alone!"

"Bugger off! Motherless tart, you'll finish your work and like it! In my day-"

"You see?! I told you but you didn't believe me and please tell me you saw the screwdriver yell at me I'm not crazy I'm not I'm so sick of being crazy..."

"An 'at's why you dunnat go near th'Junk without th'aid of a professional. Tsk, poor duck always was her own worst critic."

"I guess so...but if you want to know the truth, the fact that our Yohiko be thinkin'everything with a spring and a spark can talk to her. I can handle eccentric."

"What's the issue then, boss?"

"They're starting to do what she tells them, Everyman. My own toaster went and saved my live when Julie the Beige got me with that poisoned cook book, turns out it wanted our gel teaching it first aid in case of just such an emergency. It ain't that I ain't grateful, but imagine if she decides the wood wants her to teach it to rot, eh?"

"...I'll be by and by tellin'th crew about our side trip t'the Jungle of Psychiatrists, cap'n."

From "The Birth of an Artificer: A Love Story".
Just found this thread. I love it.

The philosophers reminded me of this: http://dresdencodak.com/cartoons/dc_031.htm
I am really really happy to see someone else bring up dresdencodak.com
So, the stuff on here has got me thinking and now I need to develop stuff for a unique campaign setting of my own, perhaps I'll post it a little later for some brainstorming.
I love dresden codak =] I should have listed it as an influence, actually. I'd love it even more if he'd update more frequently

Cervante - if this stuff inspires you, I'd love to see whatever you come up with. The more the merrier!
Dresdencodak started this story arc pretty much as I started a posthumanism philosophy class at my university, it just about blew my mind.
This is the most fantastic, magical and intriguing setting I've seen! :D Congrats! Nifflas has a definite Final Fantasyish feeling to it. In fact I could see this as the setting for a Final Fantasy game, complete with an epic worldshaking plot .

I love the way it is presented through stories, rumors and NPCs, makes it truly feel alive. Also it's fitting for the theme of the setting as stories are (maybe literally?) the lifeblood of Nifflas.


I'll throw in some ideas:

I liked the Necronomicon idea presented earlier. So each librarian or a group of librarians would carry with them a Book of Death and a Book of Life. In these books they would write down the names of those born and deceased they encounter on their journeys. Once a year at the Council of Rooks (or where the librarians gather) they would present the books and every name would be scribbled down in the Almanac.

I can imagine a scene where the players happen upon a funeral on a skerrie. There the deceased's story is told and his name honored and remembered. Or another scene where the PCs are in a naming ceremony for a newborn baby. The parents bestow a name upon the baby and the librarian writes it down in his Book of Life.

There's been some debate about stories and food. I personally don't think that stories should be used as food because then it would make the mills obsolite, as mentioned before. They could spice it up, maybe make it provide more sustenance sure but not be used as food just by themselves. But hey, every GM does as it suits them. Here's one thought:
-Food is the ultimate resource (everyone needs to eat)
-You get food from mills with names and corpses
-Also plants produce food but they are very rare (if there's not a dragon nearby)
-Dirt and seeds grow plants so they are valuable as well

People would trade what they need with each other. Certain things are considered *universally valuable* that is names, dirt, seeds and even corpses at least in Day, because they get you food. Food by itself is valuabe and can be traded for anything. Then there's things that are *individually valuabe* eg. a magic sword for a soldier, tools for a skyship mechanic, pretty stones for a dragon... etc.

An example of trade between librarian and junker:

Librarian: "I heard that you found a book in the Junkalley. Word says it tried to bite your fingers off." *snicker*
Junker: "Bah! Maybe me found, maybe me hasn't... What's it worth to ye, anyway?"
Librarian: "I might have two stories and a Name floating around in my pocket."
Junker: "Well fancy that... What's tha' stories about? An' Name?"
Librarian: "One is called "All The Scary Things That Hide Under Your Bed" and the other "Sir Valiant Defeats A Big Troll" and the name is "Pea".
Junker: "Hmm.. tha' stories sound alright but tha' Name is rubbish. No deal."
Librarian: "How about an extra Name "Doolittle" and this screwdriver."
Junker: "Ooo.. nice an' shiny! Fine, it's in tha' dumbster there, take it."

Name prices
I really like ChuckyD's idea to use names as magic items. This would explain the difference between knowing a name and owning a name. And in a game mechanical sense it could also solve the price tags put on names.

4 ed prices magic items based on their level so there would be names and titles of different levels. Depending on how many names you'd want your PCs to be carrying around, you could set the value of names to be one-fifth, half or full value of an item of certain level. Names are generally the same level as their owner. So if a 6th lvl PC would like to sell his name it's value would be that of a 6th level magic item (or a portion of it).

Family names could be more valuable than given names eg. lvl+1... Some old and powerful family names could have set levels eg. Pendragon is a lvl 20 name. Titles could have static values eg. sir is worth lvl 3, lord lvl 8, king lvl 20... Just making this up as I go! :D But you get the idea.
this is definitely going to be the basis for my setting, though I'm going to make some changes.

Race and culture have been replaced by Suit and Piece, Alignment has been replaced by Color.

For example, instead of being a Lawful Good Dwarven Fighter, one might be a Red Bishop Fighter of Spades.

I don't have the stats firmed up yet, here is a quick overview

SUITS:

Hearts tend to be in creative fields: science, theater, painting
+2 Insight, +2 Bluff
Wildstep

Diamonds tend to be in fields requiring great detail. Merchants make up the bulk of the caste, as well as engineers
+2 Healing, +2 History
Extra at-will from class

Clubs tend to be in fields where there are winners and losers. Lawyers, soldiers, and marketers are clubs.
+2 Intimidate, +2 Athletics
Free Weapon proficiency

Spades tend to be in fields where simply doing the work is key. Household servants, porters, and fishers are spades.
+2 Nature, +2 Endurance
Con bonus to healing surge

Jokers are drifters, ruffians or celebrities.
+2 Thievery, +2 Arcana
Bonus Feat
Wild Card – can select feats as a member of any Suit

PIECE:

The known world is very human-centric. Four subtypes of humans exist (rook, bishop, knight, and jack). They are very similar and crossbreed more often than not. Doppelgangers are an asexual race that lives parasitically among human society. Scrapkin are a race of automatons crafted by humans from bits of scrap.

Human (Rook)
Rooks are straightforward and determined
+2 Con, +2 Int
-1 Square of forced movement/+1 square to forced movement against foes

Human (Bishop)
Bishops are generally well-rounded but often have a blindspot
+2 Str, +2 Wis
Second Wind as Minor Action

Human (Knight)
Knights are aggressive, but indirect.
+2 Dex, +2 Cha
Feystep

Human (Jack)
Although they all share the same name, Jacks are unpredictable and unique
+2 to Str, Con, or Int. +2 to Int, Wis, or Cha. The combination chosen cannot match the Rook, Bishop, or Knight bonuses.
Second Chance

Doppelganger
Doppelgangers are shapeshifters that live parasitically in human society. Doppelgangers steal human babies and replace them with their own. Young doppelgangers are called changelings. They take the form of the stolen baby and cannot change form. During the onset of puberty changelings change form but cannot control the transformations. Often changelings will take the form on an attractive member of the opposite sex and can't change back. Sometimes only part of the changeling will change form. These transformations cause most changelings serious psychological troubles and alienate them from human society. After a few years the changeling fully matures, becoming a doppelganger. Most doppelgangers end up living on the fringes of society, after murdering and stealing the niche of a local. Instead of adding to the power of the names that they use, doppelgangers wear them out, thus doppelgangers generally have to steal new identities. A few doppelgangers embrace their powers and become thieves, bodyguards, or assassins.

Dilettante
Education
Changeshape

Scrapkin
+2 any one ability score
Scrapkin Resistance (hobgoblin)
Scrapkin Accuracy (elven)
Resist 5 necrotic, psychic, or force (choose)
Vulnerable 5 to fire, cold, thunder, or lightning (choose)


COLOR

Characters aren’t born into a color but may be initiated into one with a simple ritual. Some characters wear their colors proudly, others wear strictly neutral colors. Most will wear a simple accessory to show their colors. Wearing one of the other three colors is generally frowned upon, but quite acceptable when the situation calls for it (black at funerals for example). Divine characters must have a color.

White
+1 Will, +1 Fortitude

White is dedicated to universal principles. White supports equality, markets, and entitlements. White is cruel benevolence.


Red
+1 Reflex, +1 Fortitude

Red is devoted to romantic notions. Red is opposed to modern institutions such as industrial production, and industrial unions, preferring smaller craft-specific guilds. Red doesn’t worry about tradeoffs and often fails to see the big picture. Red is foolish common sense

Black
+1 Will, Reflex

Black is concerned with practical concerns. Black doesn’t have principles and focuses on making the best of the situation. This generally works well, but often allows one of the other colors to play it off against the other. Black is unstable equilibrium.

Uncolored
+1 Armor Class

Uncolored are uninvolved in the philosophical struggle between the colors. The masses of uncolored are generally uninformed and unconcerned when it comes to politics, yet it is their vote that swings elections.
Oh and as source of adventure. You see the reason that the library stores stories is not for their value, but because untamed stories are dangerous. Think of it as the ghost containment unit in ghost busters. Out in the Skerries stories run wild. Sometimes you'll encounter the characters from a story, or worse, the plot. You might be living a placid life out in the Skerries when your family starts doing crazy things and next thing you know you wake up in a strange jungle filled with monsters from the story and you have to carry a barrel of sugar. So librarians have to hunt down and capture stories, and bring them back to the library, where they can be domesticated. Of course without stories the world would be a very bland face and probably collapse into entropy, so the library has to lend the stories out. There is too much political pressure not to. The stories spice up food, make your jokes seem funny, can be used as makeup, perk up the crops, and otherwise make life bearable.

Wizard spell books are specialized story books. Rituals on the other hand, are plays. That is why they take so long; you have to actually act them out. As you can imagine plays are very dangerous as they are apt to get loose. Ritual books, or "scripts" as they are sometimes called are tightly controlled by the library. Thespian licenses cost a small amount but more importantly, thespians are frequently summoned before a jury made up of members of the Esteemed Order of Naysayers. Most ritual casters end up as unlicensed thespians or "witches" and are hunted mercilessly. However most of them have saved up enough names that they can generally stay one step ahead of the law.

I'm going to have a great time with this setting, my group consists of a librarian, a theater person, a carpenter/artist, another artist, and a philosopher.