A quick and dirty summary of the game. Most of this information is available in greater detail elsewhere on the website, but this is a convenient at-a-glance version. Stolen from the sample game template at Phoenyx.net, because we know a good thing when we see it.
Shazrad: City of Veils is both the name of the campaign and of the setting, an independent port in a fantasy world where magic is evident in every turning of the world but is rarely available to the individual; a city whose intrigues within and without bring both peril and promise to its denizens. Djinni are referred to but rarely seen, metal-and-crystal mechanical dragons and warships armed with soldiers and chemical fire guard Shazrad's harbors, and a walk at night might lead you around a corner into another Veil, a different vision--or version--of the world. Shazrad, a unique creation, is inspired by the Arabian Nights but doesn't stop there.
If this campaign were a movie, it would reach PG-13 or, conceivably, R. Sexual situations are alluded to but rarely discussed in detail beyond the existence of courtesans and affairs; violence, while it exists, is never explicit just for the sake of throwing gore at the reader or player, though it can be brutal. Drugs are a part of life, both in black-market trade and medical treatment.
Characters in this campaign are, on the surface, searching for ways to survive in a dangerous social environment, as well as uncovering clues--wittingly or otherwise--to a conspiracy that may endanger all of Shazrad. On the way, though, they may discover their heart's desires or worst dreams, friends for the years ahead or enemies who haunt their steps. As they say, there are as many possibilities as there are Veils.
"Good" and "evil" have never been clear-cut notions in Shazrad, which thrives on self-interest and a certain ruthlessness. Even in this city of survivors, though, there are moments of mercy: a dragon serenades a mad young girl, beggars and paupers find a night's respite at the Temple of the Starborn Word, a House takes in a woman about to be wed against her will.
Perhaps "plausibility" would be a better term. Every action has its consequence, and this is a constant approaching law in Shazrad, as in the real world. While the GMs are interested in keeping the PCs alive, they will give fair warning but no deus ex machina. Every act of heroism, every despicable deed, has its price--and its reward.
Characters may expect to be drawn into mysteries beyond their current means, but in their own ways they are influencing events greater than they may realize at first.
While there is an overarching story behind the campaign, we have not even begun to explore all its nuances and ramifications. For the foreseeable future, the game is potentially indefinite, though the current characters' own stories will someday reach resolution. New players are added when they can be connected to one or more current characters' continuing narratives, and when the GMs feel there is a need for another player, which will be seldom unless someone drops out.
In general, we are looking for well-rounded characters with a stake in the world (meaning Shazrad itself) and willingness to interact with it, though we ask that characters not be put into positions of great social, political or economic power. There are no predefined "classes" or "roles"; the best applications surprise and delight us in some way (or in many ways). Characters past and present have included: a bastard who rejected his father's political machinations to become a guard in search of heroism; an obsessive inventor whose only concern for society is as it hinders or helps her work; a boy who lost his foot and grew up to become an inventor working on prosthetic limbs; and a merchant who is that rarity in Shazrad, an honest man. Our application page gives extensive guidance on character-building.
PC Group Structure
While we welcome it (actually, we beg it...) when characters work together toward a common goal, we don't require them to stay together ad absurdum. We will, however, never force characters into explicitly adversarial positions toward each other, and we discourage feuding between PCs.
Characters may expect to be drawn into mysteries beyond their current means, but in their own ways they are influencing events greater than they may realize at first. We ask that players not create characters who are already Shazrad's "movers and shakers," but there is a strong possibility that PCs will reach something of that importance as the game progresses.
There are two of them jointly running this game. You can read about them here.
The game is run on Yahoo! Groups, which does have its share of problems, but is more or less reliable and provides too many nifty functions that the GMs are too lazy to program for themselves. Anyone can subscribe by going to this page or sending a blank message to firstname.lastname@example.org, but only players and the GMs may post to it; all others can lurk.
The campaign does not use a prepackaged system in the usual sense of the world, such as D&D, Shadowrun or GURPS. Play is freeform style, with each player writing narrative that intertwines with that of the GMs and other players. This does not mean, however, that there are no rules, just that the rules relate to interplayer/GM conduct ("thou shalt not control another PC") rather than "mechanics" ("thou shalt roll 2d6 for your Attack Value this round").
Experience with roleplaying per se is not a prerequisite, though we are certainly interested in hearing about past experiences in applications so we know where you're coming from. One advantage of freeform is that it requires very little memorization of "mechanics"-related rules. We do, however, require strong writing skills--the current players' archived moves are excellent examples--and that prospective players read the rules (which they should learn) and familiarize themselves with the setting and past events. Nobody needs to memorize the website--we don't--but players ought to be aware of where to find information if they should need it.
Moves go out approximately every 2 weeks, though this is not an absolute figure. We ask that players respond within a week (often they respond much more quickly) and let us know if they have no response or will be unavailable; we are very free with extensions as long as we're notified ahead of time (or even afterward, for special circumstances). Players who wish to drop should inform us as soon as possible, though we hope anyone who joins Shazrad is interested in a long-term commitment. The game has been running for over a year and shows no sign of shutting down anytime soon.
PCs will be "downgraded" to NPCs after a) 2 consecutive missed moves without notification (preferably prior) or b) if the player drops from the mailing list without notice. There's no blame involved--Real Life happens--but we'd like to keep the game moving. Generally if a move is over a week due without explanation, we'll try to contact the player to see what's going on. While we'll try to keep characters available for resumed play, we can't guarantee it, and such NPCs may be killed or put into situations you wouldn't have chosen for the sake of game continuity. For our part, we will do our best to inform you when a set of moves will be posted later than usual due to circumstances on our end.
We do insist on some standards to ensure everyone can understand each other, so we've set up a whole separate page on this.
On occasion, to get a storyline moving, the GMs will take temporary control of a character or offer OOC prompts to that effect. Players are always welcome to let us know when we've overstepped in an assumption and to suggest ways that we can go back and revise the offending move. Likewise, players are welcome to assume minor actions on the part of most NPCs with the understanding that we may ask for revisions. Players should not, however, take control of other players' characters. Tardy PCs will be run on minimal "autopilot" if they are interacting with others, or possibly suspended in limbo if they are in a lone storyline.
Since the world is predicated on intrigue and social interaction, combat should be minimal. If it does come up, we'll let you know what to do.
Copyright © 2000-2001 by Alioqui & Yoon Ha Lee
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