Background for the Tales of Gor RPG adventure that will be commencing on this blog very soon now.
The Lady Rosalita lives in Telnus on the coast of the island of Cos which like all Gorean cities is a bustling, thriving and colourful place in which to have adventures. I like to flesh out settings and so this is a short list describing some of the locations that the gentle Lady Rosalita will be familiar with at the start of the interactive Tales of Gor role-playing game. Any of these places can be visited and more locations will be created as the story unfolds.
The House of Yellow Lanterns: So called because of the yellow lanterns that hang from the outside walls facing the Thassa – yellow being the caste colour of the builders. This is your house, cylindrical in design, built by your father atop a cliff overlooking the main harbour of Telnus. It has an impressive sea view, narrow but three storeys in height with an extensive basement below. The sea facing part of the house opens out onto a beautiful courtyard verandah that extends to the cliff's edge itself where a crenellated safety wall of about chest height allows you to gaze down at the waves crashing against the rocks three hundred yards below. The courtyard faces the sun in the mornings and has beautiful plants and fruit trees growing inside. It is protected by strands of tarn wire set high above head level. You own your father's business and tend to draw from the profits the sum of five silver tarsks a month (roughly $10,000). The business runs itself with only moderate involvement on your part unless you wish to assume more control.
The Caverns: something of a secret, discovered by your father when he first designed and built your house, there is a cave mouth at the bottom of the cliffs below your house, open to the surging sea, which can only be accessed by small boats (if at all). Your father always forbade you from going down there for it was far too dangerous (there are many rocks close by, some submerged, and the tidal pull can be quite strong on that part of the coastline). Some years after your father died you discovered that the cave actually leads to a set of tunnels that stretch far underground and lead eventually to a small hamlet nestled maybe a pasang from the city walls called Luden. In olden times smugglers and pirates used to use the cave entrance late at night to unload contraband goods and convey them from the cliff side to the hamlet itself. You discovered the truth about the cave mouth when you were visited by a man called Barras several years ago and he enquired whether you might perhaps turn a blind eye to comings and goings at the foot of your cliffside residence, for technically the cave mouth sits within the boundaries of your property. Your lifestyle is such that additional income is always welcome and so you agreed to allow Barras to come and bring his small boats below your cliffs late at night without mentioning anything. In exchange for this every month you receive a silver tarsk coin (worth approximately $2,000 in current Earth terms). You have no idea what this constitutes as a percentage of Barras's profit, since you've never enquired what he is actually doing, and possibly you don't really want to know. There is a very heavy wood and iron bound door in the extensive basement of your house that has always been locked (you don't have the key – presumably it was lost long ago) that you suspect may lead to a narrow passage that connects somehow to the tunnels below for you can feel and smell a sea breeze from behind it.
It is possible that if you were in need of help from a man who was somewhat vulgar with his fists and not exactly unaccustomed to hurting people, that Barras might be amenable to helping you out for a price. You are after all incredibly beautiful and you can be exceptionally charming if you want to be. Past experience has taught you that men often want to please you. Barras would surely also fall for your charms, and you do after all already have something of a business relationship. You don't know where he lives, but you have a way of contacting him if need be – a one way dead drop that is checked regularly where you can remove a brick in an alleyway and leave a copper tarsk bit there, replacing the brick. That is your signal you wish to speak to him. He has warned you however that he is not a man prone to idle chit-chat, and that you should only contact him on matters of importance.
The Circularium: There are of course many slavers operating distinguished business premises within the city of Telnus, but most of them are dangerous looking men with weasel like faces who regard Free Women as potentially new stock, even if they don't act on such thoughts. This slaver house however offers a rather more respectable welcome to Free Women should they be looking to purchase a slave. The House understands that it can be an intimidating and somewhat traumatic experience for a Free Woman to make enquiries of a business nature with a slaver, and it therefore has a rather more welcoming customer area to set a woman's mind at ease; a place where she can recline in a pleasantly decorated room with soft cushions, good quality complimentary refreshments, pleasing aromas from scented pomanders and gentle soothing music. The considerate and understanding slaver staff are polite, well spoken, sympathetic towards the anxious feelings of Free Women and they will do everything in their power to make a customer of the fairer sex feel relaxed and comfortable. Slaves will be paraded individually within the display room or perhaps in twos or threes depending on the woman’s time and preferences. The slaves will of course be presented in a tasteful and less salacious manner than if they were being viewed by men. They will be dressed in modest tunics, they will be clean and demure and they will not be sexually intimidating in any way to a Free Woman. Orders can then be recorded and deliveries made so that a woman need not have to visit any of the, shall we say, less salubrious areas of the slaver house. All girls are given a thorough health assessment and once sold will be delivered freshly fed, washed and groomed, along with a complimentary guide on how to look after and get the best out of your new kajira.
Slaves from this house tend to be a bit more expensive than if you purchased them from the Street of Brands, but it is surely a price worth paying to avoid such a seedy and alarming part of town.
The house will also consider the purchase of unwanted slaves and can make house calls to assess your property if the girls are presumed to be of sufficient quality.
The Chambray is the most fabulous boutique in the whole of Telnus. It’s where the wealthy women of the city shop, and perhaps the less wealthy too if they understand that they need to wear robes and gowns from the Chambray if they have any ambition to advance and be accepted within polite society. All garments are made to measure – a fitting is arranged where your measurements are taken. A woman may browse through display models of currently fashionable garments and consult heavy books of sample fabrics. Garments are then sewn to an incredibly high standard based on a woman’s requirements. It would be unthinkable to attend High Caste social functions wearing garments of lesser quality. So in demand is the Chambray that there is often a waiting time of up to 3 months for orders to be completed. High Caste women can usually reduce this to a maximum waiting time of 3 weeks. Women who can wield influence of some sort may have special priority and receive their finished wardrobe within 3 days provided the materials are in stock.
Galliano’s: a high quality perfumer in Telnus. The perfumes are exquisite and made from rare ingredients and secret formulas that other perfumers can only dream of obtaining. Sadly, Galliano himself tends to be brusque, humourless and rude to his female customers, often treating them with little respect, safe in the knowledge that he offers a premium product that cannot be equalled by any of his rivals. Free Women of high caste can sometimes be kept waiting in the shop for an hour or more while he rudely ignores them because he is perfecting a particular scent at his work table and doesn't wish to look up. The woman in question knows that if she leaves prematurely in a fit of annoyance, Galliano will remember and make a point of then making her wait again twice as long next time she visits.
Lumina’s is a luxurious bath house that caters for women only. It is a place to go to relax, bathe, unwind, be pampered and enjoy social interaction with other ladies of the city who happen to be there as well. Often friends will arrange to meet up and will spend an entire morning there, maybe breaking off for a light lunch served in one of the cloistered alcove areas. The waters are heated, the air is scented and everything is in exquisite taste. Low caste women are only admitted as guests of high caste women. This gives the place an air of exclusivity that adds to its desirability.
The 49: A favourite restaurant within the city that is particularly welcoming to Free Women, whether in groups or whether they choose to dine alone. There are no menus as such – a Free Woman (or women, or indeed men) will give the girl who waits on their table an idea of what they are in the mood for – fish perhaps - and then the experienced chef will arrange a plate of food on this theme with a surprising array of innovations and flavours rarely imitated elsewhere. Prices are expensive, and rarely advertised anywhere in sight. It is considered uncouth to query the price of your meal in advance. Only Cosian wines are served at the table, but the quality is always first rate. The name refers to the fact that statistically on Gor, 49 out of every 50 women are Free, and therefore being a Free Woman is the natural state for females and they should celebrate that fact, possibly with a very expensive meal?
Partellus is a reliable service that can provide palanquins for a Free Woman to travel around the city. A palanquin is basically a small carriage like convenience set on long poles that is carried through the streets of Telnus by four burly male slaves, shackled to the poles. A ‘driver’ walks beside the shackled slaves with a short whip, guiding the palanquin through the often crowded streets, moving low caste individuals out of the way with a wave of his iron shod walking stick. A Free Woman need only tell him where she wishes to go and she will be conveyed there via the most efficient route as the driver has an expert knowledge of the streets. The palanquin can wait for her or arrange to return at a required time. Rates are triple once it gets dark because obviously the security of a palanquin is in demand then, and because a guardsman also accompanies the carriage.
The Vestibule : a ceremonial shrine of sorts to the Priest Kings, officiated by members of the Caste of Initiates who burn incense around the clock and make ceremonial prayers at regular intervals. It is considered good luck to make small offerings at this shrine before embarking on any worthy venture where the outcome is important.
Talon’s Point: a popular place for citizens to walk and enjoy the city’s parks and landscapes. The city authorities maintain cages of exotic beasts on display here as an amusement and there are often side stalls selling food and drink. When night falls the place is not safe for Free Women to venture in unless they have burly guards at their side. Young men take to the park late at night with botas of paga and strong spirits seeking a little amusement. They drink, they may brawl and if they happen to come across a woman reckless enough to be passing through the park grounds late at night on her own, they may perhaps take her into one of the bushes for a bit of ‘rough and tumble’. The authorities view this simply as the high spirits of young men growing into maturity and turn a blind eye to their antics provided they do not get too carried away. They would have little sympathy for any lone woman who reported being accosted, as they would view her decision to enter the parks after dark as an invitation for trouble on her part.
The Square of Justice: curiously mis-named as it is quite obviously a rectangle in shape, this is a popular venue mid week when it hosts the public enslavements for penal reasons. Justice is often served with slavery for certain crimes and the good citizens of Telnus love nothing more than a good public enslavement, especially if the poor wretch happens to be a once lofty Free Woman who has transgressed the city laws in some way. Only last week the insufferable Lady Clara was enslaved after it was revealed she had slept with a male slave belonging to one of her neighbours. In doing so she had broken the couching laws that originated in Ar thirty years ago but have since spread to many other cities in Gor. How she cried out and begged for mercy as her fine clothes were stripped from her and she was made to kneel before the magistrate to pronounce sentence. Citizens are advised to arrive early if they want to get a good view of proceedings. Stalls selling spiced vullo on a stick are usually present.
Malvara: Almost certainly the subject of an urban myth, but it is one that every Free Woman in Telnus knows and occasionally talks about over cups of ka-la-na when she is alone with the company of her own sex. The place does exist – it is a small coastal inn nestled in a sheltered fishing cove, approximately 5 pasangs outside the city walls, reached by a winding road that passes along the high cliff coast line through low wind-swept scrub countryside. It is surrounded by a small hamlet of buildings belonging to fishermen who ply their trade in the coastal waters of the Thassa. But according to the urban myths, that place has a stranger and darker purpose at times – on certain nights Free Women are kidnapped from within Telnus itself and they are carried out to this hamlet where they are made to don the scandalous silks of dancing slaves! Bells are tied to their ankles and wrists and with the sprightly encouragement of playful whips, they are made to dance on paga soaked wooden tables for the laughter and sport of young masked men of high caste who converge and meet at the Inn late at night to enjoy the sport. The women are forced to perform well in all manner of degrading ways, not knowing who their captors are, for the men are masked and cloaked to conceal their identities. Then before dawn they are returned to the city and released. In their shame the women of course dare not tell anyone what has happened to them, for fear that the good citizens of Telnus might believe they were complicit in their treatment, or that perhaps they went looking for such treatment. Their shame is absolute, and for months after they fearfully wonder whether they might perhaps pass their masked captors in the street, never knowing whether a random face in the crowd might be one of the roguish men who seized them and made them act like slaves on that dark and miserable night.
It is almost certainly a cautionary tale simply created to scare Free Women of good breeding into locking themselves into their homes late at night instead of venturing out after dark. After all, wouldn’t the authorities have put a stop to such practices by now if they truly occurred?
The Copernican: Gorean theatre is of course commonly vulgar and insensitive to the delicate feelings of Free Women. But sometimes a play with more refinement and virtue may be performed in the Copernican (though usually to much smaller crowds than say a bawdy romp such as 'Three Suitors for the Golden Courtesan' which always packs out the floor space). Lofty and high theatre tends to concentrate on impassioned oratories between actors on stage, proclaiming verses of exquisite beauty, but not much ever happens plot wise. Nevertheless such plays are suitable for Free Women and they may find it pleasant to attend in the afternoon after a light but heartening lunch.
Places to avoid:
Paga Taverns: Free Women would not be welcome in a paga tavern and would be dissuaded from entering, not that any respectable woman would consider doing so anyway. These 'men only' ‘taverns’ serve (surprise, surprise) paga which is essentially very strong ale, and they offer a place for men to socialise away from the distraction of Free Women. Paga slaves serve the alcohol and are available for use as part of the price of the drink. Small curtained alcoves are available for men who wish privacy with their chosen paga girl, though it is permissible to use the girl at your table if you prefer. Men will also gamble with dice, wrestle and (once they are drunk) sing bawdy songs loudly. The air tends to be warm due to hearth fires at night and can smell of sweat, fermented brewing and cooked food, not to mention sex. There is quite often a sand pit slightly sunken below floor level in which wrestling matches might take place (often spilling past to knock over tables) or paga girls with some dancing skills may perform. Paga slaves are not trained pleasure slaves as such, but they are experienced at serving men in all capacities. They tend to be at the cheaper end of the spectrum when it comes to block prices. Expensive girls are rarely purchased by paga taverns. Paga taverns are common place throughout Telnus, but particularly so in the back streets away from the more refined city areas.
Anywhere at night: Once dusk falls a Free Woman is advised to shut herself into her home sliding back all the bolts to the outer doors unless she has paid for guardsmen to escort her somewhere. The streets of the city are generally not safe for a Free Woman to walk alone after dark. Not all streets are lit – only the main thoroughfares in Telnus have lamp lights ignited. The back streets and dingy alleyways can be gloomy and may hide all manner of disreputable individuals. A Free Woman of Telnus cannot be legally enslaved within her city, but common rape and assault may still take place if a perpetrator feels he can get away with it. Once dawn rises, Free Women may emerge from their homes once more.
Outside the city walls: Again, this is as unsafe for a Free Woman as roaming through the back streets of a city at night. The authority of Telnus theoretically extends far beyond its city walls, encompassing a wide area of land that is home to many peasant settlements, but really the authority of Telnus only extends to the frequency of its mounted patrols. A Free Woman can pass safely through the countryside with a male escort, but again she would be foolish to do so alone.
The Street of Brands: a misleading name as it’s often more than one street, but the area usually centres on an actual street that is indeed called the Street of Brands. It is where the various slavers operate their businesses ranging from sole traders who may have small establishments with a mere handful of cheap end girls, to the larger slave houses with maybe hundreds. Generally speaking the finer houses have the best stock, though prices are accordingly higher. Free Women can of course visit the Street of Brands, but it might be considered improper do so unless you have business to transact. A free woman who frequently wandered through the area to view the various public aspects of slavery, they might be considered a little too curious. It is generally thought to be improper for a Free Woman to express too much interest or curiosity into the nature of slavery. Free Women therefore make a point of showing considerable disinterest in such things. A further reason for not visiting the area known as the Street of Brands is that they are likely to be viewed with a degree of curiosity by the slavers there, men who might consider objectively what sort of wrist shackle size they might take, or what sort of block price they might fetch. Free Women are of course protected within the walls of their own Home Stone, but the way the slavers might look at them can be unsettling.
A man’s home: it would be scandalous for a Free Woman to attend a man's home unless there were people she trusted there such as close family, or other ladies of irrefutable repute. Well attended social functions are of course perfectly okay, but there would be the whiff of scandal if a Free Woman were to call upon a man at his domicile, particularly if the assignation was after dark. She would be considered promiscuous at the very least, even if the meeting was perfectly innocent. Other Free Women would soon ostracise her and she would not be welcome at the more respectable establishments within the city.
Similarly a Free Woman would be ill advised to permit a strange man to enter her own home unless there were other people present. Again, Goreans would assume the worst. The proper way to meet and converse with men would be at a public venue with lots of other people in attendance. The social customs are relaxed somewhat if a relationship with a man is heading towards that of Free Companionship, but even here in the early days some form of discrete chaperone would be recommended.
Public Kaissa tables: Telnus has many areas of the city where there are free to use kaissa tables. These can often be found in park spaces, close to the sea walls and public piazzas. Men often take long lunch breaks to sit at one of the tables and play against strangers or friends who may turn up. You are required to bring your own kaissa pieces, but the tables themselves have the board patterns engraved on their surfaces. Gorean men take their kaissa very seriously, and although there is no prohibition against women playing the game, some men can be very irritated by the sight of women doing so. The caste of players for example would refuse to play a woman and would probably rise from the table in obvious disgust at the proposition, taking their pieces home with them. Occasionally though women may be brazen enough to ignore the muttering and scowling of the men and they may kneel at a table to play between themselves. A particularly bold Free Woman might even challenge a man to a game, and suggest he is afraid of losing if he appears to be about to refuse. The humiliation for the man if he is indeed beaten by the woman is considerable. The women however find that sort of thing funny. “A woman defeated you at kaissa!” they would call out at the man as he shuffled away, keeping his head down, not wishing to see the look on the faces of other male players nearby. The kaissa tables tend to be very busy and crowded during the various carnival and festival days.
There is a possibly apocryphal tale of a mysterious veilled Lady who once sat at a kaissa table all afternoon inviting men to play her at Kaissa, offering herself as a slave if they could beat her. Man after man failed to do so, and within a few hours large crowds had gathered to cheer each new man on in the hope of seeing this arrogant Lady lose to her own wager.
Soon men began muttering that the pride of kaissa was at stake, for if no man here could beat this mysterious veiled lady, then shame would fall on Telnus. Crowds rushed to the home of the tournament kaissa player and beseeched him to step out and defend the pride of the city against this woman.
“I do not play women,” was his answer, but as the crowds grew larger and as even the Ubar of the city grew concerned that the woman might eventually leave the table undefeated, the Player was persuaded to take up the challenge. He played with disdain for his opponent, refusing to look or acknowledge her beyond the movements on the board. He thought he would finish her with ease, but soon he found himself facing complex strategies that he rarely encountered and he found himself playing hard for his very own title. It even began to look like the woman might win as she took several high value pieces from him, but then as if by luck, she seemed to make a reckless mistake, perhaps due to the fatigue of playing all afternoon. It was a foolish mistake, hardly worthy of a beginner in fact, and the champion swooped on it, seizing her Home Stone three moves later.
“I have won,” he said simply with relief. “You are mine.” The crowds cheered. The foolish woman had over reached herself with their champion. They called on her to remove her veils, taunting her that she would now be a slave. She did so, stripping her face before the kaissa champion to reveal a face he knew only too well – Lady Angelica - the beautiful daughter of a close family friend – a woman with whom he had grown up since childhood.
“For many years I have known you to be my natural Master,” she said with tears in her eyes, “but I knew you would never claim me for yourself, for my father is the closest friend of your father. And yet my life is worth nothing if I do not wear your chains. I have studied kaissa for years to bring about a situation where you would enslave me without realising what you were doing. But now it is done. I am your slave. I can only hope that you will keep me, that you will take your pleasure with me and that you will not cast me aside as worthless.”
The player was speechless, for it transpires that he had always dreamt of this noble lady in his collar and chains but he had always kept himself aloof and disciplined, knowing he could never surrender to such emotions because of who she was. But now through this strategy, she was his slave. They presumably lived happily ever after.
The story is obviously a fiction, for how could any woman possibly be that skilled in playing kaissa?
The cities of Ar, Port Kar and Argentum: all Gorean cities have enemies somewhere, but the nation of Cos probably has more of them than most. Over the last fifty years it has waged ill-fated wars against Ar and Port Kar in particular, and it has a long standing enmity against Argentum (because Cos sided with Corcyrus while Argentum was backed by Ar). Goreans have long life spans and equally long memories and so it is safe to say that a Free Woman of Cos would be running an exceptional risk if she entered the walls of Ar, Port Kar or Argentum, or indeed ventured into the regions controlled by those powers. In Ar a woman of Cos can be legally enslaved on sight, such is the hatred still felt after the Cosian occupation.
Ships: Gorean sailors are very superstitious and one of the things they feel uncomfortable about is having a Free Woman on board ship. Apart from the sexual tension involved in having women in close proximity to sailors in an enclosed space where those sailors have no other means to sate their sexual desires until they make port, something that can often be bad for ship’s discipline, it is considered to be an added burden for a ship to cater for the various complex needs of a female passenger. Many ships are simply not set up to cater for passengers with the level of expectations that Free Women have. Transporting slaves on board ship is a different matter entirely for they are simply livestock and can be stored in the hold as such. Free Women take up precious cabin space and make stringent demands on the captain and his meagre resources. They are a distraction to the crew and a source of discontent. All told, women are generally discouraged from travelling on a ship. Sometimes of course they need to do so, especially if they live on an island such as Cos and need to reach the mainland. They should be aware though that there will be a level of resentment on the part of the crew and they will at best be grudgingly accepted unless they are of such high rank and status that they have influence.
Lady Rosalita Sanchez of Telnus (Cos)
So, here are the final character stats for chloeK's character in the upcoming Tales of Gor RPG game. The higher the number, the better, and normally the ratings range from 1D to 5D+2 as a maximum. I will use these numbers to determine how well she does at times when the outcome is uncertain.
Draft Beast 1D+1
Rope Work 1D+1
Animal Handling 1D+2
Slave Handling 1D+2
Agent of the Kurii
Health: 28 pts (you are crippled when health drops below 14)
Power Damage bonus: 1D (how much damage you do unarmed)
Accuracy Damage Bonus: 1D
How the game mechanics work:
When Rosalita attempts to do something where the outcome is in doubt, I roll a set of dice using a combined attribute and skill combination that seems most relevant in her situation. She needs to roll a number that is equal to or greater than a target difficulty number from the table below:
TARGET DIFFICULTIES (roll over this to succeed):
Very Easy: 5
Very Difficult: 25
In some cases the target difficulty numbers can be adjusted by one of the following factors:
Variable factors to add/subtract to that:
+5 Difficulty: Lacking a necessary skill, poor lighting, poor footing.
+10 Difficulty: A significant drawback, climbing a stone wall in the rain, tracking through old snow.
+15 Difficulty or more: A decisive disadvantage, a driving storm, a heaving ship deck.
-5 Difficulty: A well equipped workshop or set of tools, a wall covered in handholds.
-10 Difficulty: A significant advantage such as a knotted rope for climbing a wall.
-15 Difficulty or more: A decisive advantage from a wonderful set of tools, a rope ladder and so on.
The degree of success is then measured by the difference between her dice roll and the target number that had to be met. See the below table:
Quality of success (how much you rolled above the target number):
Minimal Success (0): The bare minimum needed to succeed.
Solid Success (1-4): An effective success, a competent display.
Good Success (5-8): You succeeded to a better degree than was necessary. +1 pip of damage.
Superior Success (9-12): You may get a bonus for the amount you have succeeded by. +2 pips of damage.
Spectacular Success (13-16): You performed as an expert, with notable ease and grace. +1D of damage.
Incredible Success (17-21): You did so well that stories may be told about it for some time. A
masterpiece. +1D+1 of damage. Every five points higher adds another +1 pip of damage.
And that's basically it.