Bereket


Round 2: Design a country

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Grand Lodge Dedicated Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8

Jason Nelson 20 wrote:


Nooooooo, not The Mummy Returns. I thought I had succeeded in killing the brain cells that remembered that movie existed. Now, thanks to you, I'm seeing pygmy mummies and flooding rivers with Arnold Vosloo's face and an annoying kid and the worst-animated big-budget movie monster of all time in that claymation-looking Scorpion King. Can't really complain about Rachel Weisz and the other girl's fight scene, though, rrowr, so maybe it's not all bad.

I'll agree with that!

The magic item wouldn't have made it through the first round. Holograms? Next!


Place your votes.


Hmm. Evil druids are great, though I have to agree that the whole thing is quite hard to keep as secret so I couldn't quite visualize that positive gloss on the top...so it fell for "another evil country" group for me.

Good country, well-written but didn't really reel me in.

Sovereign Court

I like it, but I'm not sure I'd run a game in it. What I think I'd do is put it in my world and see if my players wanted to go there, or if it became part of a bigger plot. As someone said, eventually the scab gets lifted off the facade of niceness and the players see the oozing pus underneath and say, let's knock off the druids. And seize the all-powerful artifact. And remake the world in our image. Hmmmmmm, maybe it does have some merit!


I like the troublesome (to the land's rulers) djinn in the desert, and will be voting for this one. Thank you very much for this country, Jason.


Interesting. But I'm torn as to whether it's interesting *enough* for top 5. Since there's one main conflict I worry that this region is a "one trick pony" - good to go into and try to overthrow, but otherwise not of much use.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 16 aka amusingsn

I really REALLY like your enthusiasm!


I've only read a few so far and this is my favourite. I'm a sucker for Arabian-themed stuff with genies and I like the evil druids. Good luck!

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32

One of the things that I like about this setting is that it reminds me of the lost cities in the deserts of Robert E. Howard's stories where a nominally good but decadent elite masks an underlying evil. Bereket just needs more lotus eating.

Scarab Sages Contributor, RPG Superstar 2008 Top 4, Legendary Games

Jeb Boyt wrote:
One of the things that I like about this setting is that it reminds me of the lost cities in the deserts of Robert E. Howard's stories where a nominally good but decadent elite masks an underlying evil. Bereket just needs more lotus eating.

Mmmm... lotus...

It's pretty apparent that I do like the old REH stories and flavor. It isn't always a great fit with the more high-fantasy/high-magic feel of D&D, but it's a great theme for adventure.


Overall, the entry didn't grab me until the DM Secrets portion. That's where the real "a ha!" was for me.


I like the names, even if they are Arabic-sounding names made for a desert setting, which is cliché. Clichés work, though, that's why they're clichés. 'Bereket' is some form the word 'kneel', right?

I like that you have druids using their powers for political gain. Too many druids are played as misanthropic near-hermits.

I like the Oninku. They feel like a royal police service done right for the setting.

I like that the Impola go out on hunts. It's a nice twist on a traditional aristocratic hobby, and it's application emphasizes that evil is in power in Bereket.

This is well-written, clear, well-organized, and never awkward.

The last adventure hook is a bit too grand, as it runs the risk of killing the setting if the PC's succeed.

I could definitely run a campaign here. The mega-oasis fixes most of the limitations a desert setting usually comes with, but the desert in all its harshness is still there and available for use.

I like this one.

Scarab Sages Contributor, RPG Superstar 2008 Top 4, Legendary Games

Eldrich Gaiman wrote:

I like the names, even if they are Arabic-sounding names made for a desert setting, which is cliché. Clichés work, though, that's why they're clichés. 'Bereket' is some form the word 'kneel', right?

I like that you have druids using their powers for political gain. Too many druids are played as misanthropic near-hermits.

I like the Oninku. They feel like a royal police service done right for the setting.

I like that the Impola go out on hunts. It's a nice twist on a traditional aristocratic hobby, and it's application emphasizes that evil is in power in Bereket.

This is well-written, clear, well-organized, and never awkward.

The last adventure hook is a bit too grand, as it runs the risk of killing the setting if the PC's succeed.

I could definitely run a campaign here. The mega-oasis fixes most of the limitations a desert setting usually comes with, but the desert in all its harshness is still there and available for use.

I like this one.

Thanks for the kudos. I don't know what the meaning of Bereket is; I just liked the sound of it (originally I was going to use it for the name of the queen, but I decided I liked it better as a country name).

'Kneel,' however, is an awesome hidden meaning for the name of a country like this. I wish I could take credit for being that clever.

Scarab Sages Contributor, RPG Superstar 2008 Top 4, Legendary Games

Bereket - Responses from to comments

Okay, now that the moratorium on comments has passed I can post this response that I’ve written up. Some of the feedback was along the lines of “it’s just not my thing,” and that’s fine. Everybody likes what they like, and this contest has given ample evidence that there is a huge variety of taste and style in D&D.

In terms of general design, I think I fell more on the depth rather than breadth side in creating my entry. Choosing between putting out a lot of stuff in a thin layer or taking one big piece or theme and just polishing the hell out of it, I tried to go more for the latter.

In general, Bereket is not really an evil country. Evil rules & government, HTF yeah. Most of the commoners, though, are neutral. I would say they see there is some danger, but in general their life is far easier than it is in other lands because of the wealth and fecundity of the land. Bereket is such a fertile garden spot, and the benefits of living there sufficient that a typical commoner will tell themselves that those bad rumors they heard about Joe getting eaten by a leopard can’t really be true, or it was really unfortunate how that happened, but on balance it’s not such a bad price to pay, the off-chance that someday something bad MIGHT happen. Come on, you are living a life of relative ease and luxury. You could be living in misery in some other land and a horse might trample you or you might get arrested for not paying your taxes and thrown in prison and shipped off to the Islands of Doom, or some nobleman might kill you cuz you looked at him funny. It’s not like other places don’t have their dangers. Besides, it’ll never happen to ME… (famous last words)

The specific criticisms about my entry fell into a couple of main groups:

1. How is this all a secret? Wouldn’t SOMEBODY know Bereket was bad news?

Well, you got me. The version I submitted was a revision after one of my players said much the same, but obviously my revision didn’t go far enough. I probably would have had very few of these comments if I had even put in an extra sentence or two stating something like:

“There are whispered rumors in the desert and surrounding lands that sinister things come from Bereket and theirs is a dark hand guiding much disaster, but these rumors are often drowned out by other voices (inspired and manipulated by the Oninku) that Bereket is a kindly and gentle nation, that these are natural disasters, that other hands are responsible.”

This would have acknowledged explicitly that yes, the Oninku Thought Police were not perfectly successful in quelling negative talk about Bereket. They are good, but NOBODY is THAT good. Sooner or later, someone will talk and someone will listen.

That stated, if you had an evil organization that wanted to work hard at hiding its involvement and used magic to do it, I think it could be VERY effective at doing so. Think about these:

a. The modify memory spell would see heavy use. People could remember things that never happened, like Bereket soldiers HELPING in a situation, or that in fact demons DID sack their village. You are creating eyewitnesses, nominally with no allegiance to you, who nonetheless can corroborate your stories. You can also eliminate eyewitnesses, either the old-fashioned way or by wiping out or altering memories that they do have. Detect thoughts finds the people with thoughts that need altering. Modify memory takes care of the rest.

b. All of (a) above is predicated on a country deciding to invest the resources into thought police, but I envision Bereket as a relatively wealthy nation (good resources, plus tribute) with relatively few expenses (borders guarded by the desert itself, no large standing army), and that's where they put their emphasis.

c. Even in tribute-payers, everyone wouldn't know about it. The only people that have to know about tribute arrangements are the rulers of the countries/towns being blackmailed, and their secrecy is easier to ensure. Not a sure thing, obviously, and I should've said so, but probably feasible if you have the talent and the will.

d. Bereket’s druids could enhance their defamation of the genies by using summon nature’s ally spells to actually summon genies and FORCE them to perform heinous acts. Summon spells like this are not like a planar ally or planar binding; the creature doesn’t have to like what you force it to do. It just has to do it. You can use a summon monster spell to force a good creature to murder or an evil one to help a little old lady cross the street. Also, the summoned creature just arrived; it doesn’t necessarily know that the acts it must commit are against its nature. If your druid says “those people over there” are her enemies and commands a summoned jann or djinni to attack them, it has no choice but to comply. The common folk don’t need to take the Bereket leaders’ word for it that the genies and elementals and wild animals are causing all the problems—they can stage their own incidents to PROVE it.

The fine distinction that the particular genies doing the bad stuff are summoned rather than the natural desert genies is likely to be lost on townsfolk who see their depredations. Genies trying to clarify the situation can be explained away as “he said, she said” double-talk to try to cover their own guilt. “Oh yeah, you killed that family because that little birdie on the tree told you to. Uh huh. REALLY plausible. Look, genies killed them. We SAW it. The queen is right about you guys. YOU’RE EVIL!”

e. It’s not like armies of jackbooted thugs with Bereket uniforms are marching into the destroyed towns and planting the flag. Bereket is simply destroying them, not taking them over, through what honestly COULD be entirely natural means. Drought and desertification, storms, wild animals, or even rogue genies rampaging out of the desert. Bereket has few conventional troops, no soldiers that can be directly connected to them (if they do have them, they would be more like city watch or almost park rangers inside the country, not soldiers outside of it, other than maybe as caravan guards). Bereket would destroy its enemies indirectly, using nature itself as her weapon. If your town perished because of massive drought, would your first thought be “Those damned druids off in the middle of the desert?” Maybe. But you might also be written off as a kook and most people figuring it’s just a couple of bad years in a row, and now it’s time to clear out. There’s nothing left here but death.

f. Sure, in the grand scheme of things it’s strangely happened to LOTS of towns, but there’s no internet in D&D or newspaper and not even much information sharing necessarily. The people in town A might know about town B over yonder, and maybe heard tell of town C back in the hills, but towns D through Z that have also been laid waste by Bereket? Never heard of ‘em. Or if you have they’re in rival kingdoms, or maybe on the far side of the desert. It’s hard for anyone but the DM to have the wide-angle view needed to see the potential connections.

Anyway, the “big surprise” critique is still a valid one. I should have done more to allow for the fact that, no matter how good its spies and secret police, SOME people would be talking about it and would at least have suspicions that everything was not on the up-and-up.

2. Come on, evil druids manipulating nature on purpose? They need to be corrupted by something.

Actually, that was part of the point of this setting, to turn on its head the general concept of druids as basically nice people. Benign. Harmless. Hermits. Loners. The only bad druids are the extreme eco-terrorist types, and they just want to protect nature, keep everything in balance. I think that stems from our old 1st & 2nd Ed. rule of druids, always true neutral, or the idea of druids being treehuggers who just luv, luv, luv nature. In 3rd Ed., though, druids can be only partly neutral. This was probably put into the rules so druids could be good, but the result is that druids can also be evil.

So as to the question of how did these druids become evil? They didn’t. They weren’t druids first and evil second. They started out evil, and THEN became druids.

Why do people become evil? Lots of reasons. Check out the Book of Vile Darkness, Champions of Ruin, and the like. The idea is, if you’re already evil, druid is just a career choice. You could be an evil fighter or rogue if you like doing your evil with a blade, or an evil cleric if you like consorting with undead, or an evil bard if you just like singing badly (JOKE!). I never really detailed how the Impola went about recruiting or training its members, but I’m sure whatever it is, it’s nothing very nice.

The point is, the essence of evil is about power, about domination. As an evil druid, you can exert your power, your domination both OVER nature and THROUGH nature. You bend nature over and make it your… well, your female dog, if you know what I mean. Treehugging? Leave that to the wuss druids. YOU are the boss of nature now, and you will tell it where to go and what to do. And another thing, you can also use nature as your tool to be evil to other people. Somebody looks at you funny? You don’t need to stick ‘em with a sword or shoot ‘em with a magic missile. You can just summon a swarm of rats to chew off their ears, or lay them low with poison or disease, or strangle them with plants and vines while venomous vipers do their work. Or turn yourself into a beast of the field or forest, sand or sky, and feast upon their flesh, break their bones, and spill their blood in the most intimately personal way possible.

Best of all, you were never there. It was just a wild beast. It was just a natural accident. No, it was some OTHER creature. Me, I’m just a harmless chickadee, just a little house cat, just a harmless crocodile. See my tears? I’m sad about the whole thing. Here, let me comfort you. NOM NOM NOM!!! (burp… mmm… tastes like people)

So, were these druids corrupted? Hell no, they are just evil as the day is long, and they found that druiding was a highly efficient field of endeavor in which to be evil.

That stated, I could’ve written an origin story of how the original evil druids got together and founded the Impola and stumbled upon the Verdant Obelisk and got this really awesome idea for an evil country, but I decided to focus on the present for my entry and not on history.

3. Bards? WTF?

That one’s easy. As per the SRD, Bards are the only class that gets the modify memory spell, which was an essential component for the thought police model of the Oninku. I probably could’ve made them psions instead, but I thought bards were the best choice for also their great social skills, charms, suggestions, illusions, etc. The main role of the Oninku was to keep secrets and to find out secrets, to negotiate and bargain, and bards seemed ideally suited.

4. Not enough variety of monsters/challenges

Fair enough. Like I said, I was going for depth within a theme instead of broad coverage. As it is, we have the core conflict of druids/bards vs. genies & people. Wild animals include both real wild animals and (as someone pointed out) the REAL ‘wild animal’ danger, which is of course the druids themselves. The 'aristocratic hunt' given a whole new meaning, as someone recently said.

We also have elementals in one of the adventure hooks. Vermin and plants would be natural additions to the setting, and perhaps undead. Actually, one idea I had (too late unfortunately) was to have had the genie clerics (or recruiting clerics from elsewhere) to recall the spirits of Bereket's dead, both to testify to the truth of their deaths and to turn the undead against the druids. Druids are okay vs. undead but not great, and it might be a weak point to exploit for the resistance. Factoring in desert dragons (brass & blue in particular) might have also been an interesting twist, some working with Bereket, some against. Still, only 1000 words and I wanted to focus on the core of things.

5. Level issues

One person said levels were too low for NPCs, that the idea of “low-level bards and druids” fighting a desperate resistance of genies was ridiculous. I would counter by suggesting that #1, the genies are greatly outnumbered; and #2, who ever said the bards and druids were low-level? Admittedly, if you had an army of genies, that would be pretty hardcore, but if they are outnumbered 5 to 1 by an opponent with heavy spellcasting ability and the ability to summon TONS of allies (including other genies) to oppose them, I envision it as much more of a guerilla war on both sides. Both genies and druids are good at stealth if they want to be, so I would imagine it as being both sides picking off their rivals and undermining them in an ongoing struggle, not a pitched Pelennor Fields kind of battle.

Another person thought Jayyousi, the head of the Oninku was too high level, “16th level too high for a ‘servant.’” Hey, the dude is like 2nd in command of the kingdom, the head of the secret police and chief advisor to the queen. Maybe he’s Queen Errani’s cohort. Anyway, I didn’t think it too big a stretch. There are certainly lots of fantasy kingdoms where the ‘court wizard’ or ‘high priest’ are similar level to (or higher level than) the nominal ruler.

I think those were the main things I wanted to comment on, but I'm open to questions if anybody has one.

Jason

P.S. Thanks for everybody who liked Bereket and especially if you liked it AND gave me a vote. The exit poll makes it look like I'll be going on to round 3, so I hope my deliciously evil villain will strike your fancy as well.


Great job on Bereket and I am one of the dudes whose questions you just answered with this post (thanks by the way).

My biggest problem is with the bards but that was an easy enough reason. I guess I just have in my head this whole goofey-minstrel-bard thing and not a secret-police bard thing. I can see this being fleshed out in a setting somewhere where the bards are bad@$$. I like that.

I liked your entry, in fact I voted for it. My earlier post on your entry were just things going through my head as I read.

Good luck,
Goo

Scarab Sages Contributor, RPG Superstar 2008 Top 4, Legendary Games

Forged Goo wrote:

Great job on Bereket and I am one of the dudes whose questions you just answered with this post (thanks by the way).

My biggest problem is with the bards but that was an easy enough reason. I guess I just have in my head this whole goofey-minstrel-bard thing and not a secret-police bard thing. I can see this being fleshed out in a setting somewhere where the bards are bad@$$. I like that.

I liked your entry, in fact I voted for it. My earlier post on your entry were just things going through my head as I read.

Good luck,
Goo

Happy to oblige, and yes, the bards were intended to be chock full of badd-@$$-ery. No jester hats and lutes and lyres required or desired. Only smoooooth operators need apply.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32

Jason Nelson 20 wrote:

3. Bards? WTF?

That one’s easy. As per the SRD, Bards are the only class that gets the modify memory spell, which was an essential component for the thought police model of the Oninku. I probably could’ve made them psions instead, but I thought bards were the best choice for also their great social skills, charms, suggestions, illusions, etc. The main role of the Oninku was to keep secrets and to find out secrets, to negotiate and bargain, and bards seemed ideally suited.

Plus, people seem to always underestimate bards. With a combination of Charisma-based skills and arcane magic, bards make excellent spy masters.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32 aka Aotrscommander

I enjoyed reading your explanation. I always feel that doing so give me new appriciation of the subject matter once you know the thoughts behind it and this was no exception. I look at Bereket in a new light!

(Plus it's nice to know I'm not the only one who wrote more in the explanation than in the actual event!)

Scarab Sages Contributor, RPG Superstar 2008 Top 4, Legendary Games

Aotrscommander wrote:

I enjoyed reading your explanation. I always feel that doing so give me new appriciation of the subject matter once you know the thoughts behind it and this was no exception. I look at Bereket in a new light!

(Plus it's nice to know I'm not the only one who wrote more in the explanation than in the actual event!)

I did kind of chuckle to myself at that, but hey, there ain't no word count on the explanation! We can blather as much as we like and make as many jokes/be as smart-alecky as we want.

Glad you enjoyed the 'extended dance remix.' I haven't had the time today to read any of the other threads yet, but I may try to sift through 'em a little later on tonight.

Paizo Employee Creative Director, Starfinder aka Robert G. McCreary

Haven't had time to read your explanations yet, but I really liked Bereket (and indeed, voted for it!). I'm a sucker for good desert settings, and I'm known to use an apostrophe or two in my names too. The Verdant obelisk was great, and I loved the dark druid aspect and the fact that Bereket's magic is spreading the desert into other lands. Oh yeah, and the genie resistance too! Your writing was fantastic as well, I thought.

One minor note: think about formatting on the next rounds. A little bold or italics can really make things stand out and break up what would otherwise be a solid block of text.

Hope you make it to the next round - I want to see what else you'll come up with. Good luck!

Scarab Sages Contributor, RPG Superstar 2008 Top 4, Legendary Games

SargonX wrote:

Haven't had time to read your explanations yet, but I really liked Bereket (and indeed, voted for it!). I'm a sucker for good desert settings, and I'm known to use an apostrophe or two in my names too. The Verdant obelisk was great, and I loved the dark druid aspect and the fact that Bereket's magic is spreading the desert into other lands. Oh yeah, and the genie resistance too! Your writing was fantastic as well, I thought.

One minor note: think about formatting on the next rounds. A little bold or italics can really make things stand out and break up what would otherwise be a solid block of text.

Hope you make it to the next round - I want to see what else you'll come up with. Good luck!

Thanks for the good words on the content and the style, and I hope you like my evil idea for a villian if the exit polls are correct and I'm in the top half.

As for bold & italic, yep, I had them when I wrote the document in word but didn't think about putting in the tags when I cut and pasted the document over to here. I must have assumed those formatting things would port over, and of course they didn't. Wolf dinged me for my spell names not being italicized and I was surprised and had to go back and find that they weren't in my magic item either. I have since learned a little more about the tags and how to use 'em, so I should be good to go.

Of course, another reason I didn't give it the final once-over was I didn't have time--I couldn't find the link to submit right up almost to the deadline and was getting pretty worried. It wasn't until almost noon that I figured out it was because I had turned my computer off and when I went back into Paizo I was logged on as 'guest' - not as myself! When I finally figured that out (you'd think it would be obvious, but no, sigh), I cut and pasted and submitted with 9 minutes to spare.

I think one or two others submitted after I did, one with only seconds to spare actually--STRESS!

But all's well that ends well I hope.

Legendary Games, Necromancer Games

Jason, let me be the first to congratulate you on moving to the next round. I wanted to comment here becuase of how solid I thought this submission was. You really should be proud. Keep up the good work and good luck in the next round.


Hmmm. Mr Peterson has implied you have made it to the next round but top 16 doesn't appear next to your name?
I hope its just an error as I am hoping to see you next round. I Love Bereket. Al qadim was my favourite campaign setting (Thanks Wolfgang!) and while far more fantastic in flavour my interest in your entry advancement was natural.
A well deserved victory if it is true and can't wait to see what pearl you lay before us next round Jason.

Scarab Sages Contributor, RPG Superstar 2008 Top 4, Legendary Games

Renewal's_Plume wrote:

Hmmm. Mr Peterson has implied you have made it to the next round but top 16 doesn't appear next to your name?

I hope its just an error as I am hoping to see you next round. I Love Bereket. Al qadim was my favourite campaign setting (Thanks Wolfgang!) and while far more fantastic in flavour my interest in your entry advancement was natural.
A well deserved victory if it is true and can't wait to see what pearl you lay before us next round Jason.

Thanks for the interest and the kind words. I hope my next entry fares as well. As for a top 32/top 16 tag, I don't know how that is managed in the computer system. All I know is I got villainizing to do!

Grand Lodge Dedicated Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8

Jeb Boyt wrote:
Jason Nelson 20 wrote:

3. Bards? WTF?

That one’s easy. As per the SRD, Bards are the only class that gets the modify memory spell, which was an essential component for the thought police model of the Oninku. I probably could’ve made them psions instead, but I thought bards were the best choice for also their great social skills, charms, suggestions, illusions, etc. The main role of the Oninku was to keep secrets and to find out secrets, to negotiate and bargain, and bards seemed ideally suited.

Plus, people seem to always underestimate bards. With a combination of Charisma-based skills and arcane magic, bards make excellent spy masters.

No argument here. Bards are ideal for the role of heralds and envoys, if their alignment will allow it.

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