Pen & Paper
Qíahn RPG: The coin of men, is a traditional RPG project, a pen & paper RPG, like it’s called nowadays. Young people believe RPGs are M.M.O.R.P.G. (Massively, Multiplayer, Online, Role-Playing, Game), while the general public refers to anything with an elf, dwarf, mage or dragon, as a role-playing game.
Qíahn’s universe started, almost sixyears ago, as a role-playing game. It could be said, in fact, that it started some time before that. Its creator, Javier Ordax, started compiling and sorting through all his papers and PC files, all full of descriptive paragraphs, sketches and rule systems, accumulated since high school. Eight years later, the night of the sixth of august 2010, he directed his first trial with the game.
Since then more than a hundred people have tried, and polished, the game with their contributions. Some of them have even put in a small piece of their soul, making the game into what it was originally intended; a game for and by the player community.
The Genesis of Qíahn
The origin was everything but complicated. It’s been over three hundred years and the authors, five spoiled gods. Tired of observing the stars and the evolution of time they decided to create a world with the only purpose of relieving their boredom. For that, they would populate it with creatures and living things that would entertain their joy and misfortunes.
They had the motive and also the means, the biggest source of power in the universe, a mysterious energy even older than them: the magic. Their control over the five elements that it is composed of, allowed them to give form to an impossible world, a world with the shape of a coin. Water, air, fire and earth resulted in seas, rivers, clouds, volcanoes, flat lands and mountains. The Spirit, the fifth element, exclusive patrimony of the gods, created life. Since then, the existence of Qíahn has been possible only thanks to the magic contained in one place: the Orb.
It is a white sphere with a uniform and shiny surface, like a pearl wrapped in a halo of light. It is located exactly at the center of Qíahn, and it is so big that it sticks out in the upper and lower half of the coin. It concentrates all the magic left by the gods to guarantee life. It emits so much light that living near by turns out to be blinding, but the moons of Tails would not reflect anything without it, and its inhabitants would have an even darker existence.
Little more is known about this sphere. The access to the interior is prohibited for all the non-magical species from Qíahn, included the so-called Exhalants and the main intelligent race: the human. Only once every fifty years they gain the path and never more than a hundred thousand people are allowed. Mainly the gods select the fortunate, because it is the moment when they visit their creation. The rest must earn such privilege through their actions and among them a group stands out: The Exhalant-Hunters.
The Exhalant-Hunters are some kind of paladins or sacred guardians. Their reward is the honor and the glory of defending their world, also the highest privilege for a human in Qíahn: the entrance to the Orb.
They belong to the Sacred Order of the Exhalant-Hunters, for many the most powerful organism in the world. They usually travel in a group, accomplishing missions or waiting for their next task. A metal stamp issued by the Order, works for them as a safe-conduct. It is the visible symbol from their authority and it grants power over the civilians and over the world’s army. Taking action in one side of the coin that doesn’t belong to them is considered a serious offense and it involves the immediate expulsion from the Order, or death.
They are loved and hated, respected and feared. For some they are heroes, for others they are bounty hunters. They didn’t choose their destiny. It was their exceptional physical, mental and magical abilities, the ones that attracted the attention of the gods. Long ago alchemists, assassins, adventurers, hunters, explorers, doctors, warriors, thieves, wizards, marines, rogues, or savages abandoned their lives to fulfill the most sacred mandate of the gods: the capture of the Exhalants.
The Exhalants and the magic
Talking about Exhalants is talking about Magic in Qíahn.
Magic is something natural. It’s learned in an intuitive way by a large number of its inhabitants since childhood. Managing it with safety requires training but there are almost no schools and the spell books are seriously scarce assets. The Exhalant-Hunters Sacred Order has their own, as well as the School of Magicians, but no one from outside of their ranks are accepted.
Their character is elementary and any living thing can, in principle, connect with the four physical elements: Water, Air, Fire and Earth. The two first belong to Heads, while the last two are part of Tails. That doesn’t mean that in one world it’s impossible to use the distinctive elements from the other. It will just be more difficult and badly seen by their fellow citizens.
But there is a fifth element, the Spirit. It belongs to the gods and they forbid its use in the genesis of Qíahn. It is such the extent of it, its capability for life and no life, that no mortal body can contain its energy without suffering alterations. Here is the origin of the Exhalants, humans able of coordinating naturally with the magic of the Spirit.
The Exhalants have the power of a god, but no its willingness to dominate it. It constitutes a threat for the integrity of the world and an aberration, an insult to the divinities. That is the cause of the sacred mandate to capture them, alive or dead, to be carried to the Orb. There they can’t harm any creature from Qíahn, including the favorite of the gods: the humans.
The human race is the most abundant intelligent specie in Qíahn. It doesn’t exist census as such, but it is estimated that it represents the 90% of the population known in the coin.
The human beings are located preferably in the obverse and reverse of the coin, in Heads and in Tails, even though there are some that decide to live in the dangerous border of the coin: the Edge.
The human being is grouped in five ethnicities:
a) Pale: Called like that for their white skin (equivalent to the Caucasian in our world)
b) Reddish: Characterized by their tanned skin, the tone is more or less incarnated (encompasses Indian, Latin American, as well as the native-American Indians)
c) Darkish: Of all ethnicities, they have the darkest pigmentation (here we would have the children of sub-Saharans Africans)
d) Sharpened: They are differentiated not by the color of their skin, but for their chiseled futures, and their taste for beards sparsely populated, but very defined, or pointy or curly goatee (for us it would be the Arabic and Persian from the folk tales “A Thousand and One Nights”)
e) Slanted eyes: The almond shape of their eyes identifies them over their white skin, slightly yellowish or reddish (our inhabitants from the Far East)
The predominant political system is the feudalism. Ruling nobles, alone or not, more or less tyrant depending on which side of the coin they live, govern the destiny of thousands of vassals.
There are a dozen kingdoms, empires, and pseudo democratic states in each half. There is not an only sovereign or emperor that can rule them all, but a central council where all the leaders keep a permanent delegation: the Dubitative Committee. The headquarters is located close to the Orb so its light can bless them with the wisdom of the gods.
Every year the most responsible personalities from each territory gather together somewhere in their world. The location and the date are revealed one month before by the gods to the Dubitative Committee. They transfer it to their lords and they get ready for the great meeting where they agreed upon politics (typical from Heads) and they will smooth things over (very necessary in Tails). It is a great event, a great responsibility for the hosts and a duty for the Nobles. The gods observe with caution everything that happens, and they are easily upset.
Life in Heads and Tails
The inhabitants of the world of Heads are happier and no wonder why: there are abundant sun, plants, fruits, clean water and animals. Their personality is genteel and calm. They are social and welcoming, always eager to share the enjoyment of life with their congeners, chatting, eating, and drinking in the warmth of the sun.
In Tails, they have it much worse because of the lack of light they have to eat fungi, roots instead of fruits, drink water that always smells funny and hunt animals that most likely will try to gobble the hunter first. They are surly and forthright, wary and apprehensive. However they are loyal and passionate once you gain their trust, thus fighting for survival marks the daily routine and they are always willing to live every day as if it was the last.
In Heads they dress with elaborated clothing, fancy fabrics and silk, thin and vaporous, thanks to the always-warm climate. The tones are green, blue, violet, and yellow, also the white and the combinations of sand. The Nobles use soft tones, in contrast with the less wealthy ranks, where they are used to be vibrant.
In Tails, the clothing is much more rough and furs and leather are abundant. It’s always very cold, except for the vicinity of the volcanoes or when the North moon dominates the firmament. The tones used are earthy colors (brown, reddish, orange) besides grey and black. They are always intense, as if everything was colored with acrylic or oil.
In Heads prevails the shape over the purpose. The buildings are slender, similar to the late gothic or to the renaissance style from our Europe, Gaudí’s style included. The most important buildings from one or another territory (city hall, temples, dragon stations, etc.) are the reference of each city or village in its friendly rivalry with the rest of populations.
The common people dwellings typically don’t exceed three stores high plus the garret and/or terrace. All of them have a basements with bedrooms, the cheapest solution to be able to fall asleep in a world that the night never comes.
The cities are decorated with gardens bursting with exuberant plants, healthy trees with leafy crowns and colorful birdies. It perfectly harmonies with the pale marble with grey or bluish highlights as well as the gold and silver ornaments from the important buildings. The rest of the constructions go from niveous white to blue, violetish and green tones. They are never saturated, as if everything was painted with watercolors or pastels.
In Tails prevails the purpose over the shape, they don’t put up with rough or boring constructions. Its buildings are even higher than the ones in Heads; it’s a perpetual search of the light that is denied to them. However, they are sharp, full of edges, and with less rounded finishes. Its appearance is characteristic of a flamboyant gothic style, dark and dreadful, with the most twisted shapes from the Gaudí’s style. The architects can’t abstract to the hardness of their world, even when they try to create.
Vegetation is scarce. The trees are stale and with only few leaves. They form forests where it’s scary to enter. There are plenty of dry, sharp and sterile bushes, in all shapes and sizes. But overall prevail the molds and yeast. It’s easy to deduce that the gardens aren’t comfortable places for a walk, even part of the defense system, sometimes labyrinths. Not just few unhappy people get lost in there, turning into the main course for the crows, the distinctive “birdies” from Tails.
The predominant color in the constructions goes from grey to black, although orange and red are used. The ornaments are made of bronze and copper, although there is also gold and silver. The severity of the climate and the ashes from the volcanoes limit their durability.
Finally, the houses from the plain village reach three or four stories high plus the garret. All of them have basements where to safeguard themselves from the attacks from other humans as well as vermin and monsters, they are even connected between them through escape tunnels.
The population in the shining side is more abundant than in the side of darkness. Its cities are bigger and more populated. The light and the fresh food create miracles in the longevity of its inhabitants, as long as they don’t abuse from the harvest of the earth. Then, why aren’t there more massive migrations from Tails to Heads?
Heads has more water than mainland, the opposite of Tails, but its land is more exposed to the territory of the Edge. The navy mostly guards the coasts, basically because of the pirates, since the open ocean is so dangerous that little civilians dare to navigate to the rim of the coin.
In land, the alternative is to pay retired explorers, as well as smugglers and other criminals: anyone that knows paths through the coin, different routes that guards the army of Tails. The tunnels that bore Qíahns crust, one of its more lethal peculiarities, is to receive the name of Worm Hole.
The Worm Holes
The Worm Holes are tunnels that communicate both sides and where the laws of physics mix with magic. They are located far and wide along the coin, in firm land, as well as in the seas.
We should look for its origin in the creation of Qíahn. The story tells that the gods thought necessary to communicate the oceans from both sides. That way they would facilitates the natural circulation of water, preventing from boiling in Heads and from freezing in Tails, but also the surfaces, to facilitate the temperature regulation.
The goddess Earth refused to perform the task. She was exhausted after the huge effort from generating the coin. The four remaining gods accepted it and decided to bring some living things that they had discovered in a dark region from the universe. They were chosen for their big worm shape and its capacity to melt the stone in their way. One time enslaved, they forced them to drill through Qíahn.
For months they executed the task with effectiveness and obedience. Almost all of them lost their lives, drowned by the waters, boiled by the volcanoes or burst by the pressure. The remaining were sent back to their home, resentful forever with the gods of Qíahn.
The four moons cause notorious tides between Heads and Tails. The biggest ponors, some have a kilometric diameter, turn into deadly traps for navigation. Fortunately its position is stable and known. Every self-respected ship captain avoids its gigantic swirls, but it isn’t bizarre that shipwrecks appear on some beaches of Heads and vice versa, exemplary punishment for inexperienced sailors or arrogant pirates.
No human being could survive the trip between Heads and Tails through the underwater Worm Holes. A very different thing would be trying through land. Despite the wind currents, the pressure and the extreme temperatures, it was possible to accomplish it. To avoid it, the gods infused magic in all terrestrial Worm Holes.
Crossing one of these tunnels is a horrible experience for the body and the mind of the traveler. The laws of physics of gravity, the time and space are temperamental inside, altered by the magic of the five elements. Anything imaginable can occur: suffering visions, be devoured by the ferocious creatures, coming out from an area that isn’t usual, travel to unknown places…
Fortunately not all of them are so dangerous. Even the gods make mistakes, even though nobody utters such a blasphemy out loud. The smugglers use tunnels called “safe”, channels where magic is minor and the risk assumable. Many explorers die verifying it, the majority no because of their willingness. Knowing a subterranean route in between Heads and Tails, away from the inhospitable edge, brings huge benefits. In fact, the people suspect that the Nobles from both sides tolerate them: the ones from Tails to obtain fresh food and medicine; the ones from Heads to obtain better armor and rare gadgets.
If the secret tunnels are a source of wealth, the well known are a start for dispute. They compose the frontiers of each world. In its perimeter the armies places their best troops: of attack in case of Tales, or for defense in case of Heads. The fighters wait in their forts for the moment of the next assault, one more in the eternal war of Qíahn. In their eyes is the fear of getting lost inside a Worm Hole. In their heart, the hope of winning the favor to the gods in the next Balance of Life.
The Balance of Life
It is the name of the ritual of renovation that performs the gods in their visit to Qíahn. It takes place every fifty years and there is no other event that is more important.
Day one and two
The five deities, the god Fire, the god Air, the goddess Earth, the goddess Water, and the god/goddess Spirit, manifest physically and spend three days inside the Orb. The first two meetings are devoted to the maximum leaders of Heads and Tails, as well as all the nobles and characters, relevant or not, that won the consent from some deities to enter the Orb. They listen patiently their good deeds, their accomplished responsibilities, and their stories of greatness, trying to resolve which of the two worlds behaved better. And they note everything in their mind, so the details would result decisive later on.
The third day is the peak of their visit. The Exhalant-Hunters that transported the Exhalant to the Orb, living or dead, during the previous half-century, make their entrance. The ceremony follows with the count of the Exhalants: on one side, the ones from Heads; and on the other, the ones from Tails. The world that has acted better depending on the gods’judgement starts with an advantage, but the one that has contributed with more Exhalants would have much more possibilities to be the next one inhabiting the half illuminated by the sun. The other, the loser world, will suffer the curse of being in the dark side.
If the inhabitants from Heads win nothing special happens. The gods dismiss until the next Balance of the Life, the Exhalants are healed and all the guests return to their home. But if Tails becomes the winner the biggest cataclysm would be unleash: Qíahn, the coin, turns around.
The turn over is lethal. Everything happens within a few minutes. The center, the Orb, is the only safe place. Outside, the living things suffer the agony of extinction. The ocean washes the firm land in a never-ending tsunami. The tectonic plates crash into each other unleashing quakes. The volcanoes burst releasing magma and causing clouds of ashes. The winds from the Edge, always ferocious, breaks their frontiers in hurricanes and whirlwinds form.
The possibilities of survival are scarce. Maybe to shelter in a Worm Hole, a protective magical sphere, a refuge in Edge, a stroke of luck, and not much more. With the death of countless people their stories disappear, their lineage, their knowledge, their art, and their memories.
Everything starts over. The gods use their skills to calm the elements. They form a new Heads and a new Tails, not necessarily the same as the older ones. They create cities and villages, farms and houses, so the survivors don’t start from scratch. They inherit a new land, a new life, the weight over their souls from seeing a world perish and the obligation to shut it down forever.
That is the willingness of the gods. This is their creation.
Welcome to Qíahn, traveler: choose a side, choose a life.