Writing Sample & Transparency
To all our backers,
Thank you so much for your support; you are all amazing people. This update contains one article from each of the authors, but first, we wanted to talk briefly about transparency.
We plan to make this whole process as transparent as possible. Starting with this update, we'll begin posting articles from the book and excerpts from the comedy rpgs available at the $30 reward level. All our backers will get a full expense report, so you know where your money is going. And we'll keep you up-to-date on our progress in writing the book. We hope that transparency will be a two-way street. We want to hear what you have to say about where we're going with this project. Are there rewards you'd like to see? Exciting ideas about the project? Let us know!
We'd also like to point out that this project is based around stretch goals. While we feel that the product we will produce if we get a (very economical) $2900 will be worth every penny of your money, if we can meet some of our stretch goals, you'll get an even better product for the exact same amount of money. So consider getting your friends involved – they'll get a great book and be helping you all get an even better one.
Finally, before the writing samples, we'd just like to express our gratitude one more time. If there's anything that WE can do for YOU, don't hesitate to ask.
Desert Galapagos of the Indian Ocean
Socotra is a Yemeni archipelago of four small islands, 220 miles off the coast of mainland Yemen. It has been a base for sailors for thousands of years, from Palmyrene merchants to British steamships to Somali pirates. Treacherous seas around the island led to tales that the Socotrans could control the winds and caused shipwrecks in order to scavenge from them.
Perhaps most unique about Socotra is its flora and fauna – it is the archipelago with the third largest number of endemic species (species that only exist on Socotra) in the world, after the Galapagos and Hawaii. These species have adapted to the isolated desert environment, like the mushroom-shaped “dragon's blood trees” with upturned branches to absorb moisture from fog. In all, 700 endemic species have been found on Socotra, and the islands are far from completely surveyed.
This diversity is due in part to the island's varied landscape – despite its size, it has mountains rising 5000 feet above the sea, limestone plains with elaborate cave systems, and gleaming sandy beaches. Another cause is Socotra's 250 million years as an island detached from other landmasses. Its cornucopia of desert life led to Socotra's fame in Roman times, as a source of rare spices and plant extracts, like frankincense, myrrh and dragon's blood, the dark red sap of the eponymous tree. In fact, the name “Socotra” has two possible etymologies related to this: it is “Island of Bliss” in Sanskrit, and a combination of the words “Market” and “dripping frankincense” in Arabic.
Since Roman times, the Socotrans have been largely isolated from the world. Local legend has it that they were converted to Christianity by the Apostle Thomas, and the Socotrans were Nestorian Christians until the 17th century. The island has its own language, and a 24-month calendar. The Socotrans have traditionally made their living by fishing, herding goats, growing dates, and exporting spices.
Recently, Socotra has been attempting to establish an ecotourism industry, to bring development without despoiling its environment. This has met with some success, especially with Italian, French and German tourists. However, Socotra's unique environment still has many problems. Development may reduce the mist and fog that waters trees on mountain hillsides. Feral cats threaten the island's birds. And long-running overgrazing has desertified much of the island over centuries.
Using Socotra In Your Game:
Socotra can be a useful setting for many campaigns. A game set in the Classical world could involve a trade mission to the island – with or without fantastic beasts in the caves. In a fantasy campaign, Socotra is a great model for any isolated island with a unique ecology and culture. In the modern or near-future world, adventurers could be after the unique genetic resources of the island – or a villainous corporation could be planning to exterminate one of the island's species so they could have the only genetic sample.
Fearless, working-class general
Lamachus, son of Xenophanes, was an Athenian general in the 5th century BC, most notable for his service in the Peloponnesian war. In a culture where generals were publicly elected and typically wealthy, Lamachus was in many ways a professional soldier, dependent on his general's salary to pay for basic needs.
The general's military prowess was highly regarded in Athens. The contemporary playwright Aristophanes unironically compares Lamachus to the mythic heroes Teucer and Patroclus. The Roman biographer Plutarch, presumably drawing on older sources, describes him as a stout-hearted soldier, fearless in battle. Indeed, Lamachus' skills as a warrior are proven by his surviving at least twenty-one years of more or less constant war, fighting on the front lines beside his men. His long career also speaks highly of his skills as a commander; the Athenian assembly had a habit of executing or exiling officers that displeased them. During all that time, he only had one recorded military failure, and that was due to natural disaster.
Lamachus was also very poor. When he submitted his expense reports after a campaign (turns out those are as old as time), he would often claim expenses for his clothes and shoes. This poverty tended to reduce his prestige and authority: a dangerous state for a general, as we shall see.
Lamachus first appears in the historical record as a commander in the Black Sea. Lamachus was given thirteen ships and a land force with which to depose the king of the city-state of Sinope. He was successful in his mission, and the reins of power were handed over to the Sinopian people. It's worth noting that the Athenians did not do this out of the goodness of their hearts: once the Sinopians were liberated, they passed important pro-Athenian legislation.
The most notable military campaign of Lamachus' career was the doomed Athenian expedition to the mighty city-state of Syracuse, in Sicily. The Athenian assembly elected three co-generals to head the mission. Lamachus urged an immediate attack on Syracuse, before the city could muster its defenses. In hindsight, this was absolutely the right decision, but the other two generals rejected the plan. Therefore, Lamachus backed another general's idea to gather allies before assaulting Syracuse. Ultimately, the expedition failed to find many allies, but this gave plenty of time for the Syracusans to heavily reinforce their city. Meanwhile, one of the Athenian co-generals was arrested for impiety. Because the other remaining co-general was an aristocrat, Lamachus deferred to his decisions, effectively handing over command of the force.
Lamachus died as he lived: as a warrior and a general. He was leading an attack on a Syracusan fortification that was still under construction. The battle began with spears, but devolved into a melee, as men hacked at each other with short swords, polearms forgotten. The Syracusan forces broke, and the Athenians pursued, but lost formation. Lamachus found himself cut off from the bulk of his men when the famed Syracusan cavalry arrived. The Syracusan commander called Lamachus to single combat, and the Athenian accepted. The Syracusan was fresh and rested, and armed with a short spear. Lamachus was tired and armed only with a sword, his spear dropped by the wall. When they closed, the Syracusan dealt Lamachus a deathblow. Lamachus, ignoring the wound, stepped inside the Syracusan's guard and returned it. They both died on a hill overlooking Syracuse.
Using Lamachus in Your Game:
Lamachus can be used as a military officer in virtually any setting, but works especially well in societies that have clear social distinctions between the rich and the poor. Lamachus' deposing of the king of Sinope could be made into any sort of imperialistic military expedition, from replacing the ruler of a sovereign state to putting down a rebellion in a vassal state so as to allow a friendly faction to regain control. It could be especially fun to have your PCs meet your Lamachus during his siege of a Syracuse-equivalent city. The story of Lamachus at Syracuse is particularly compelling, but works because he was not the only general. As shared commands are not common, consider replacing his co-generals with a political officer, a royal emissary, a priest, or even an abstract concept like 'the will of the people'.
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