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A Town like Mparntwe

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  • A Town like Mparntwe

    I've started setting building for my Alice Springs (Mparntwe) chronicle and I'm posting partly as an exercise in talking out loud and partly to invite feedback/ideas.

    Alice sits in the MacDonnell Ranges in the arid heart of Australia and about a third of the 20 thousand odd population are indigenous. The Arrernte are the traditional owners and largest group but the town is also home to other language groups from across the central desert.

    Alice is the only substantial town for a 1000km in any direction. It's main industry is government and it is no coincidence that its tallest building is the brand new five story glass and chrome Supreme Court building. Alice is the transportation, communications, police, medical and administrative hub for central Australia.

    Central Australia was rich in Mana flowing along it's Songlines and Dreaming Tracks. This mana flow has been drained and channeled into a Seer constructed transcontinental Ley Line stretching from Adelaide in the south to Darwin in the north. This line was constructed along the 1872 Overland Telegraph Line matching the modern Stuart Hwy. The Ley Line's strong Resonance of Control aided European expansion along the line during the early 20th Century. Alice is bisected by and sits at the centre of the Seer's line.

    The normally dry Todd River runs through the center of the town, roughly parallel to the Seer's line. This dry river also roughly divides the two major Songlines. On the east side are dreaming sites associated with the caterpillar story (Yeperenye) while on the west the local dog story (Akeyulerre) created most of the landmarks. The Seer's line has overwritten about a third of the local dogs Songline.

    The Todd River flows with water only about 10-15 days a year. When the Todd does flow dreaming sites on the east side of town produce huge amounts of Mana and Tass in the form of living caterpillars can be picked up from the ground by the handful.

    Alice is nominally a protectorate of the Adelaide Consilium and a Herald from Adelaide sits as the Hierarch of the Mparntwe Consilium with a representative of each of the four known local cabals.

    "Wardens of Mparntwe" are an Adamantine Arrow cabal based at ANZAC Hill who are sworn to destroy the Seers suspected of operating in town. The Wardens have never found any Seers and live in perpetual frustration and pent up violence.

    "Utopia Desert Art Collective" are a mostly Mysterium cabal who collect indigenous art and stories in order to map Songlines and glean hidden supernal secrets.

    A pair of Guardians, Eye and Hand form the "Die Auger" cabal. Other then their involvement in the Consilium they keep apart from other mages.

    The largest cabal is actually a Nameless Order (although other mages like to pretend they are Free Council). The "Railtchawa" keep traditional Arrernte, Warlpiri and Kaytetye magical practices. Originally they were hostile to the Pentacle seeing little difference between them and the Seers. Over the last 50 years they have come to a grudging working relationship with the Orders and now sit on the local Consilium.

    It's commonly believed that there's a Seer Pylon operating out of Pine Gap a joint US/Australian Intelligence gathering base about 16km south west of Alice and staffed by a collection of intelligence agencies. However the facility has proved to be impenetrable to magical or mundane infiltration.

    Next post I'll look at the Local Dog story and it's dreaming sites.

  • #2
    How would you present the Herald of one Consilium being able to function as the Hierarch of another one?


    I have approximate knowledge of many things.
    Write up as I play Xenoblade Chronicles.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Isator Levi View Post
      How would you present the Herald of one Consilium being able to function as the Hierarch of another one?
      Good question. I was using the title as a short hand. The local Consilium Hierarch position is vacant with the Silver Ladder Herald from Adelaide stepping in to cast a deciding vote when required but otherwise sitting in as an observer.

      Which doesn't mean it's nonpolitical, once you have a vote it's a political post.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Old Dog View Post

        Good question. I was using the title as a short hand. The local Consilium Hierarch position is vacant with the Silver Ladder Herald from Adelaide stepping in to cast a deciding vote when required but otherwise sitting in as an observer.

        Which doesn't mean it's nonpolitical, once you have a vote it's a political post.
        I don't think that quite answers my question, and I'm... not sure which title you're referring to as a shorthand or what you quite mean by that.

        What I mean is that the Herald is a Consilium position that is expected to be available for the council, serving functions ranging from conveying announcements to the member cabals, maintaining relations with other Consilia and welcoming visitors. The kind of job predicated on service and a lot of mobility.

        I'm just wondering if that's being presented as an occupation simultaneous to functioning as a tiebreaker.

        On a related note, what would it mean for one Consilium to be the protectorate of another?


        I have approximate knowledge of many things.
        Write up as I play Xenoblade Chronicles.

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        • #5
          My thinking was that Alice didn't initially have sufficient Pentacle mages to justify a local Consilium, so the Adelaide Consilium took it upon themselves to provide adjudication for any central Australian disputes.

          Now as the mage population has increased and the Railtchawa have started cooperating with the Pentacle a local pseudo Consilium has formed but still somewhat under the overview of Adelaide.

          The Herald position was originally the envoy from Adelaide but has evolved into this tiebreaker role. But the Herald is still formally the envoy from Adelaide and is meant to act in that Consilium's interest.

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          • #6
            Before I get into the Local Dog Story I'll just explain a little what Songlines are.

            A Songline is a dreaming story/journey about specific characters associated with specific sites. They are always a journey and the story is a type of map which explains how landmarks were formed and where food and water can be found. While also giving instructions on how people are meant to live either by parable or example. These journeys happened in the dreamtime but are still in someway happening now.

            A dreaming story can be told, sung, painted or performed and in order to fully know the story all the methods really need to be understood.

            Sacred sites and their stories are owned by a Traditional Owner (TO) of the appropriate dreaming (totem) who has inherited the story from a relative. The basics of a Songline will be known by everyone including uninitiated children, adults of the opposite sex or people of other dreamings. Sites are very sex segregated (Men's Business and Women's Business) But the "long" story of each site on the trail will only be known by the TO of that site and whoever is being trained to replace them. This does mean that the "long" story can be lost after premature death or not having an apprentice. Lost stories can be rediscovered by interpretation of rock paintings and remembered dances (or Astral research). It's worth noting that TOs are not mages (Clever Men) but respected elders, although Clever Men can also become TOs.

            In Mage terms Songlines are ley lines (tho rarely straight) and the dreaming sites along the trail Nodes/Hallows. Exploring supernal central Australia is exploring geomancy. For my campaign changing a Songline with Prime is more difficult and eventually it returns to how it "should be" (but I've not determined the mechanics of that yet).

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Old Dog View Post
              My thinking was that Alice didn't initially have sufficient Pentacle mages to justify a local Consilium, so the Adelaide Consilium took it upon themselves to provide adjudication for any central Australian disputes.

              Now as the mage population has increased and the Railtchawa have started cooperating with the Pentacle a local pseudo Consilium has formed but still somewhat under the overview of Adelaide.

              The Herald position was originally the envoy from Adelaide but has evolved into this tiebreaker role. But the Herald is still formally the envoy from Adelaide and is meant to act in that Consilium's interest.
              I was actually wondering if it was something like that, but didn't want to pre-empt you. That makes perfect sense to me, and an interesting idea for how environment might shape politics.

              I like the Mystery you're developing regarding songlines. I feel as though something that would help what you're going for is messing around with Duration factors; perhaps making them impose more dice penalties per step and Indefinite is not possible, or decaying like an unsafely relinquished spell under all circumstances.

              Do you mind if I ask if you ever saw what I said about the Dreamspeakers?

              Also, I have a query about these Adamantine Arrows.


              I have approximate knowledge of many things.
              Write up as I play Xenoblade Chronicles.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Isator Levi View Post

                I like the Mystery you're developing regarding songlines. I feel as though something that would help what you're going for is messing around with Duration factors; perhaps making them impose more dice penalties per step and Indefinite is not possible, or decaying like an unsafely relinquished spell under all circumstances.

                Do you mind if I ask if you ever saw what I said about the Dreamspeakers?

                Also, I have a query about these Adamantine Arrows.
                Playing with duration is a great idea. I'll give it some thought.

                I did see your comments on Dreamspeakers and having changed my mind will incorporate them into the game. I've only read over the legacy once and will think about it for a bit before tweaking them. I also picked up Astral Realms but have not finished reading it yet.

                I also picked up werewolf to see it's Alice write up. I'm still of two minds about using them, the werewolf myth feels very european to me but given that one of the major stories of the town is a dog story I may include one or two as antagonists.

                Please ask any questions, it helps solidify my thoughts.

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                • #9
                  I kind of feel as though a presentation of itching for a fight and being really irritable that there is no fight to be found is a bit... reductive as an instance of the Arrow ethos, but one that would fit as an in-character flaw in the reading of a particular group.

                  I've seen people in the past take a bit of a dim view of the Arrow, so I'm just wondering about the intentions with this.


                  I have approximate knowledge of many things.
                  Write up as I play Xenoblade Chronicles.

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                  • #10
                    It partly depends on what the players want. If they want to go with investigating songlines then the Arrows will be an antagonist. Newcomers and newly awakened are watched and tested by the Arrows to make sure they're not Seers. Which might really be a Guardian role but at the moment I'm not sure what I'm going to do with the Guardian cabal yet.

                    If they want to go looking for Seers and undermine their transcontinental Ley Line then I'll let them find clues about Seers and the Arrows will be an ally/mentoring group.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Old Dog View Post
                      It partly depends on what the players want. If they want to go with investigating songlines then the Arrows will be an antagonist. Newcomers and newly awakened are watched and tested by the Arrows to make sure they're not Seers. Which might really be a Guardian role
                      As far as roles that local mages may take by Order goes, that kind of thing is not quite a strictly defined division of powers. The norm for Pentacle society is that cabals have a lot of leeway to decide their own business, and being concerned about Seers is something that basically any of their Orders can give focus to (even to the point beyond reason). One could have a Consilium in which it's a cabal heavy on mystagogues that has the reputation for aggressively grilling newcomers to ensure they're on the up and up concerning magic. There are plenty of things particular to the Guardians, even in the concerns that lead them to spy on other Pentacle mages, that can set them apart even if somebody else is taking point on a matter of rooting out Seers.

                      Although noting the fact that the leeway of cabals is also the kind of thing that makes such aggression liable to be looked upon poorly unless the cabal has had a noteworthy past incident of being undermined by Seers in that fashion, and even then there can be lines. The Consilium not being a government would also mean it technically lacks positions to allow it to become a police state, although this Consilium being so small does seem like suitable ground where there's nobody within to really gainsay this cabal on a day to day basis.

                      Although if it was me, I'd have a mind for these Arrows to not have the highest reputation when they show up to their Caucus. If they do; I would find it logical that this is a group who refuses to attend the Caucus until they have some impressive achievement to report, keeping them away from the types who could try to help them understand the flaws in their application of the ethos.


                      I have approximate knowledge of many things.
                      Write up as I play Xenoblade Chronicles.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Isator Levi View Post

                        Although if it was me, I'd have a mind for these Arrows to not have the highest reputation when they show up to their Caucus. If they do; I would find it logical that this is a group who refuses to attend the Caucus until they have some impressive achievement to report, keeping them away from the types who could try to help them understand the flaws in their application of the ethos.
                        Good idea, I'll keep it in mind when I start NPCs.
                        Last edited by Old Dog; 06-21-2021, 11:09 PM.

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                        • #13
                          Local Dog Story

                          In the dreamtime a Warlpiri dog from Nyirrpi came from the east walking along the MacDonnell Ranges while Alhekulyele the local dog was sleeping on Mt Gillen. The Warlpiri dog could smell Alhekulyele's female and crept past Alhekulyele making his way to the small cave where she slept lower down the slope.

                          The Warlpiri dog attacked the female and her puppies fled the fighting north east to ANZAC Hill. Alhekulyele awoke and ran to her aid. A titanic battle between the two dogs took place along the range heading east shaping the ridge.

                          Tufts of fur were ripped out forming a low hill behind what is now the Territory Wildlife Park. Further along the range part of the Warlpiri dog's intestines were pulled out forming rocky outcrops behind what is now Larapinta Valley Town Camp.

                          At Heavitree Gap the intruder was finally killed and he sank into the earth. Alhekulyele walked slowly north heading towards ANZAC Hill and his puppies but tired he only made it a little past Billygoat Hill before turning into a boulder and half sinking into the earth.

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                          • #14
                            If there are suspected Seer infiltrators, then the Arrows might want to work with the Guardians to setup a more discrete intelligence network, using solutions both mundane and arcane. Especially since there is the possibility that this paranoia is seeded to distract them from a bigger threat.

                            Since there is an supposed impenetrable facility, then there is even more reason for them to prepare to launch operations against it, its both a clear target and a major strategic point for the enemy. They may even get some aid from the Free Council if they double down on their tenet of "Destroy the followers of the Lie".

                            All that builds into challenges to their ability to adapt, plan and investigate. Overall I see them driven rather than frustrated. So in theory they would be very busy with all the complex challenges. They may even be skilled or very practical, but very blunt and bad at building bridges. In such a way, once they verify the cabal are not Seers, then they may offer boons exactly to help them make headway towards their more ambitious operations.


                            New experiences are the font of creativity, when seeking inspiration, break your routine.

                            The Agathos Kai Sophos, an Acanthus Legacy of strategists (Mind/Time)
                            The Szary Stra┼╝nik, an Obrimos Legacy of Scholars of the Glyphs of Fate (Fate/Prime)

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                            • #15
                              Alhekulyele (Mount Gillen)

                              Mt Gillen ridge is the major dog dreaming site in the region. During the dreaming many dog spirits were created here and many Arrernte with dog totem are tied to the site. In addition to the local dog songline the Three Wild Dogs songline crosses here coming from the south east before raising straight into the sky.

                              The site has been little disturbed and the land is now controlled by aboriginal people. A walking track runs up to the summit, it was infrequently used and was closed to the public in 2020 at the request of traditional owners.

                              The Railtchawa have their primary Demesne here.
                              Ley Line's: West (Lust), East (Anger), SE (Greed), Up (Flight)
                              Men's site
                              Hallow: 2 dot (formerly 5), Loci, Arcanum (Life)
                              Resonance: all Ley Lines plus Dog.
                              Tass: The flesh of wild dingos - addictive (The three wild dog story has a lot of dog eating)

                              Alkwerrperetateme

                              On the northern slope of Mt Gillen is a patch of green vegetation on an otherwise barren hill. Inside this patch is a small cave where the female dog rested and where she remains to this day. Like the rest of Mt Gillen it has been little disturbed and is controlled by traditional owners.

                              The Railtchawa have another Demesne here.
                              Ley Lines: West (Anger), East (Bloodlust), NE (Youth)
                              Women's site
                              Hallow: 3 dot, Arcanum (Space)
                              Resonance: All ley lines plus Dog
                              Tass: Blood or Ochre on the cave walls
                              A crawl space at the rear of the cave leads into a Pandemonium Verve, a twisting network of tunnels that appear to cover the whole range. These tunnels are inhabited by dingos who will savagely attack anyone who is not an initiated Arrernte of the dog dreaming. Painting on the walls of the tunnels are said to hold all the secrets of the dog dreaming to any who can interpret them.

                              Deep in the verge is a Thurae beyond which the female dog sleeps. Speaking her forgotten name is said to be the key to unlock this gate.

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