Sunday, 6 November 2022

The Popinjays of Knarr

 The KICKSTARTER for my incredible book SPEAK FALSE MACHINE is at about 97%!!!!!!

But first... 

The Popinjays of Knarr

Knarr! The jewelled city hanging in vermillion crowds like a balloon in a kids dream. 

Mistress of Adventures lost behind the rains of time. A Versailles of the mages, the crown city of multiversal nobility, streets very literally paved with gold, where pocket realms trapped in gems are gambled on baccarat games. A city without an underclass as all the servants are mind-wiped, time-looped Kings and Queens released into their home causalities at the end of service with a pocket full of magic dust or occultum coins brought forth from Knarr.

Coffee houses, swept-hilt blades, long-stemmed pipes and bone cigarette holders. Beauty spots, feathered hats, exquisite bows, puffed sleeves and brocade. Fine dining, late arrivals, tiny glasses, potent drinks. Exquisitely sensitive taste. High couture, connoisseur culture, (honour culture), highly strung, razors and ridicule, monocles and business cards; "my man here has the details".

Here the popinjays gamble for magic lamps, the keys to polar fortresses, the maps of labyrinths, small kingdoms held in glass spheres, or enchanted in paintings, or lost continents hidden behind teleport gates, or micro kingdoms in jars, or lands grown from the dreams of a sleeping child.

Swordplay; its an age of exploration, the multiversal spiderweb highway. But this is not a city of the explorers, or of those who fund the explorers, not even those, but those who back the backers. An army falls or rises, a realm burns or glows with light, all pieces on a board, marks in chalk, news for the coffeehouse.

Bejewelled are the swordsmen of Knarr. Perfumed and pungent, wealthy beyond reckoning. Most travel with an ogre butler who takes care of basic needs and holds the mirror when they re-apply makeup in the morning (what kind of gentleman can't apply his own mascara and beauty spot?). The butlers never fight of course, what would be the point? ad of course, returning home without ones jewels would be a crippling shame in the transient city of Knarr. To return home after having been mugged, or ransomed, or having to pawn a jewel for food, one could never show ones face in society again. Life would be over.

Of course its fine to lose these things and get them back, of course of course, that adds wonderfully to the tale; tied up in a sorcerers cave, captured by orcs, tricked by a Pixie, so long as you get the jewels back by the end, all is well. Better than well even, the greater the disaster the finer the tale, so long as you get them back.

Treasure is all very well. Most adventurers treasures are less than a Noble of Knarr starts out with to be frank. One returns with a chest of bloodstained gold, a broken crown, a half-burnt magic text, for the aesthetic of the thing.

These are the treasures valued in Knarr, the correct treasures, the proper adventuring treasures. It doesn't matter if its a goblin riding a pig, in fact that might be better, so long as the story behind it is good. In Knarr, so incalculable is the Wealth of everyone that treasures are like a kind of fashion, an art of selection and display. The display halls of the Palaces of Knarr hold whole dragons hordes, with the dragons bones too, not for their monetary value but for the quality of the experience, the classical nature of the adventure (neo agonists might turn up their noses at such a predictable display; "another dragon, oh my" but it is a classic for a reason).

So tour the multiversal swordsmen of Knarr, roughing it in micro-realms, hanging around in taverns, volunteering as caravan guards or for the city watch during a siege, trying to bump into wizards or hermits, practicing their duelling, hopping onto pirate ships, or getting marooned, (in a sense they could leave at any time, but in another more accurate sense, they could not, as to return to Knarr with an adventure incomplete, unresolved, or to go home beaten, would truly mean a kind of social death, and to be ostracised in the transient city is to die, to become nothing, even less than nothing. For wealth and power mean nothing to those whose streets are paved with literal actual gold. Nothing coin buys back a reputation once it is lost. Nothing can end the ridicule, and it is ridicule the Popinjays of Knarr fear more than lesser souls fear death.


  1. I can already imagine my players feeling insulted by the jeweled swordsman who thinks their entire aesthetic is so authentic

  2. Rococo as fashion period / aesthetic and the whole era around it as a history (opulence, slavery, early industrialization, lead up to revolutions, nascent western humanities and sciences) always looked so underused to me it in RPGs as a period. But Popinjays as extra-dimensional 0.1% following social trends as if their life depends on it and slumming in our poor material world for the experience of it is fitting very, very well into the period.

    They have lobotomized Kings and Queens from the regular world because nobody else is worthy to serve them, correct?

    1. I think so yes, though tbh I improvised that bit. Maybe anyone who works for them ends up as a king as a severance package.

  3. I enjoy the points about social reputation--feels like a good way to restore permanent consequences at a high level. Yes, you could come back from the dead, but in doing so you'll be off the invite list for the coffee house because resurrection is so *gauche*.

  4. I like that when you have a kickstarter going, you are forced to post more often :-)