Saturday, September 14, 2019

DM Notes: Seaward, the Celestial Bureaucracy, Genies, and Cambions

  As I have written about extensively, clerics, religious brothers, and all 'good guy human/semi-human/demi-human/etc.' NPCs/PCs in the Seward area are essentially Medieval Catholics. I vaguely mention that druids, Oriental Adventures PCs/NPCs, my guys from Arabialand, cultists, and humanoids aren't.
  But what are they?

  Lets start with genies. I had added lesser efreet, minor djinn, and least genies waaaaay back in the early '80's. I embraced the new stuff in the MM2 when it came out and had alreadt made mephits part of genies by then.
Then I went to the Defense Language Institute and started studying Farsi and reading Persian folktales. Hooo, boy; that helped me change things.

  If you've read the play reports you'll know that right now in Seaward the party has a messenger genie (Musad) who was essential to their mapping expedition. They have encountered guardian genies, craftsman genies, and more. Recently they encountered a librarian genie! And the NPC-only class of Summoner relies upon a genie familiar for their magical powers.
  But why? Why do genies willingly enslave themselves?
  For what they call 'merit' but might well be called 'energy credits'. Genies are elemental creatures and are, in a real way, 'shadows cast by the Prime Material plane'. As such all time they spend on the Prime Material plane creates a sort of conduit that sends more power to their own elemental realm, a portion of which they keep for themselves. The more powerful the genie the more power is sent and the more they retain. So they have a huge incentive to go to the Prime Material - it makes their realm 'eicher' and themselves more powerful!
  But - it is very difficult for genies other than Jann to travel to the Prime Material plane unless summoned. And summonings last a very short period of time. So how do they overcome this? My volunteering for contracts that send them to the Prime Material. Bound to some object from the Prime they are able to exist on the Prime until their contract is fulfilled. The more they interact with the Prime and its inhabitants the more 'merit' they gain.
  These contracts/pacts are forged by the most powerful of the genie lords - they pacts allow the genie lord to gain power, it's realm to gain power, and the genie in the pact to gain power in a way akin to feudal taxes paid up through baron to count to king.
  so a least genie might spend 3-4 lifetimes as a Summoner familiar before earning the power to be a messenger genie or such. After a few centuries as a messenger they might 'move up' to being a craftsman or gurdian. This will continue. If they are lucky, honor their contract, etc. they can eventually be a djinn noble, marid duchess, or even higher!
  Unfortunately, they still retain their core personalities - self-centered, proud, and prickly about honor. This clash between their best interests and their extreme vanity can make dealing with them a chore, even though it is often mutually beneficial!

The Wellsprings of Power
  The world of Seaward is a magical place, but not like a tourist trap. There are springs that magically heal the sick; blighted woods that sap the soul; meadows where no lie can be uttered; caverns that let no one of pure heart enter. Some are the natural result of elemental forces interacting, some are where Saints perfomed great miracles, some are where a foul demon lurks, bound to the stones by an ancient spell.
  Druids tap into the places of elemental force, the concentrations of life, health, and light. While outside the Church they are protectors of life, making them Good (PC Druids are not neutral in my campaign).
  Cultists and evil humanoids tap into the places of blight, rot, and darkness. Foes of life, they are evil.

The Celestial Bureaucracy
  When I first got Oriental Adventures I did my best to read up on various Asian folklore cycles, especially China. I ws intrigued by the concept of the Celestial Bureaucracy and adopted it whole cloth, plus some modes.
  What happens is that in the Asialand of Seaward (and often beyond) all supernatural creatures and many natural ones are subject to the various departments of a massive bureaucracy. The Jade Emperor leads the entire enterprise and there are departments for oceans, weather, earthquakes, mountains, the stars, etc. all the way down to the bureau of woodcutting and the committee for the oversight of ribbon dyeing. The Spirit Folk are part of the Celestial Bureaucracy as noble houses. Some powerful oni, ghosts, etc. are also part of it. The members are in some ways akin to genie or a human bureaucrat - they have specified duties; they might be good and competent, stupid and incompetent, or corrupt and greedy; they might be audited!
  Sometimes members of the Bureaucracy travel beyond Asialand, heartily confusing the natives of far lands!

Cambions and such
  Through magic some powerful supernatural creatures can produce offspring with mortals, often humans. These beings can be very powerful, but... They might be caught up on everything from the remnants of a genie pact, the "contract" that led to their birth, or even an hereditary position in the Celestial Bureaucracy! In Seaward I use the cambion and alu-demon write ups as templates allowing for such thing as genie-human hybrids (Jann, essentially), and a lot more.

  As a result of these ideas the players are often aware that they are moving through a complex net of varied and conflicting oaths, duties, and responsibilities.


  1. Your explanation of djinn’s behavior is very good. Have you got some lore about Jann as well?

  2. I really like your take on the genie cosmology.

  3. If Seawardians are essentially Catholic, where in the theology does the Jade Emperor lie?

  4. Matthew: As my oldest says "Once we're in Asialand animism is real?"
    The Jade Emperor is a power spirit akin to an elemental or genie (in my head "genies" shift to conform to the Prime Material cultures they interact with, so Oni and Efreeti are cousins, in a way). That's why cleric analogs from Asialand lack some of the powerful life-giving spells but have better combat spells - they are more akin to Summoners than Religious Brothers.
    Scott: Jann are like elves - the fae *can be* Sylphs that wander between the Plane of Air and mountain peaks, needing no food. Or they can be cobblers in a tree village, depending. Jann are the merest/least of the genies and are bound to a the Prime - like elves, many want to 'ascend' to a higher form.