The setting of Jorune

We find it easiest to explain Jorune by following its history.

Jorune was the first habitable extrasolar world discovered by humans. The first visitors discovered many surprises. Unusual for a planet its size, Jorune had seven moons. The planetary core was not nickel-iron, but crystalline, and it created strange energy forces around the planet that were difficult to measure. The planetary ecosystems were odd, seemingly the product of several different biological evolutions. There were many intelligent species, but the ones with authority were the scarecrow tall, eyeless bipeds who called themselves shanthas.

The exploratory teams negotiated permission to settle in various locations, and then the colonists arrived. After the first successful wave, the colonists received word of an apocalyptic war on Earth. No further supplies would be forthcoming. The colonists were cut off. In desperate need for heavy elements they had planned to import from earth, the humans decided to invade lands forbidden to them by treaty, waving off protests from the shanthas, who had only stone age technology. But the shanthas controlled unknown energies and were able to unleash nuclear level devastation on the colonies. The shanthas focused their attacks on Terran technology, so the colonists buried as much as they could in safe caches deep underground in the hope of escaping attack. Meanwhile, the colonists released biological warfare agents on the shanthas, and both races were reduced to subsistence levels in short order. The shanthic war ended in a horrific draw.

It took over three thousand years for humanity to rebuild civilization, working against malnutrition, disease, mutations, and war. There are now a number of human nations, but the game focuses on the pre-eminent state of Burdoth. Burdoth's technological and social organization is roughly on a level with early Renaissance Europe. Armies fight with sword, pike, longbow and crossbow. There are enough printing presses and literate adults to make cheap books viable. There is a spirit of discovery and experimentation in the air, and political alliances serve to hold a balance of power against further wars.

The reason for Burdoth's pre-eminence is their discovery and exploitation of caches of Earth-Tec, the hidden legacy of their colonist ancestors. Elite Burdothian soldiers are equipped with power armor and weapons, and the dharsage, ruler of Burdoth, is constantly seeking more. The dharsage is an educated man who has based his society's governance upon the ideas of ancient Earth philosophers. One is not a citizen until one has given service to the state. Citizens, called "drenn," are entitled to many powers and privileges, including the right to own property, collect taxes for the government, and obtain the loan of Earth-Tec items from the dharsage.

Isho

As mentioned above, the crystalline core of the planet produces strange energy fields. The shanthas refer to this as "isho." Isho can be manipulated by some races, producing astounding effects. The shanthas are acknowledged masters of isho. The isho has seven different frequencies, described as colors, and these colors are linked to each of the seven moons. Each color is best suited to creating different effects. For example, Desti, "red" isho, is best for channelling destruction. Tra, or "white" isho, is best for creating warps, twists in space that permit beings to cross vast distances in a single step. Launtra, or "green" isho is trickled over the body to cause a variety of effects such as bodily repair, enhancement of vision, and so forth. Many native organisms on Jorune use isho-senses to interact with the world, and have weak or no vision. A few can manipulate some isho to create physical effects, such as the dhar corundon's ability to throw electrical blasts. As a game device, isho takes the place of magic, but the game feel is somewhat different, as isho is more constrained and limited than most magic systems.

The isho is also responsible for another iconic feature of Jorune: occasionally large chunks of land are ripped loose and go sailing into the sky, supported by crystal formations repelling the surface. These skyrealms float around the planet, and are usually well worth exploring.

Races

Humans share the planet with many other intelligent races. None of them are "monsters," but some have goals that are incompatible with humanity's, making encounters with them likely to turn violent. Humans themselves have spun off a number of mutant races. The most common of these are the boccord and muadra, who often live alongside normal humans. Boccord tend to stand a head taller than humans, and are physically robust. They have greater sensitivity to the isho than humans do, and are able to perform a limited number of tricks, such as fooling the isho senses of others. Besides living in human nations, boccord inhabit their own realm of Ros Crendor, which is largely closed to visitors.

Muadra are about a head shorter than most humans, and are physically slight and delicate. Muadra are second only to shantha in their ability to manipulate the isho, which makes them the subject of fear and prejudice from humans. In Burdoth's capital city of Ardoth, muadra are forbidden to weave isho except in specially designated areas, and trained police called "daijics" patrol the city to detect illegal isho use. Muadra have no nation of their own, which adds to their insecurity.

Iscin races

Immediately after the shanthic war, a colonial scientist working in an isolated research facility believed he was the sole suriviving human. Theodore Iscin used the gene stocks of his station to create intelligent life to carry on human traditions. He created the blount (frog people), crugar (cougar people), woffen (wolf people), bronth (bear people) and tologra (lion people). Iscin died a tragic death and the resulting infighting between the crugar and the other races has been a motivation for a great deal of Joruni history. The game designers spent considerable effort developing the backgrounds of the crugar, woffen, and bronth, making interactions with these species a rewarding area for role playing.

Other races

Other intelligent beings were found on Jorune when humans arrived: besides the shanthas, one may find thriddle (amusing beings with eyestalks, who are master translators and scholars), cleash (insectoids who are nearly always hostile), and ramian (tall, skinny stoics who are vicious warriors and frequently raid merchant sea-lanes). And these are just the primary races! Jorune has a number of mysteries and backstories, and these different races are deeply involved in them.

Other features of Jorune

Jorune details more cultural artifacts than just weapons and treasure. The authors describe musical instruments, entertainment (mayoo, shambo, and slap hands), beverages (malmis, rusper, and many others), and food, including sweets and the snacks to be had from Ardothian street vendors (deep fried byritts, durling cakes, gimlit melons). There is particular attention paid to food, as humans did not evolve on Jorune and a diet of Joruni foodstuffs leaves them weak and susceptible to disease. Theodore Iscin was working on a plant that would supply the lacking nutrients, but the war interrupted him before he could complete his durlig project. Durlig is a massive root that keeps humans healthy, but it is difficult to grow and harvest and tastes terrible. Much of Joruni cuisine is an attempt to disguise the awful flavor.

Jorune also includes recos, biological robots supplied to the colonists. They are grown from watermelon-like "incupods," and when a "cork" of genetic material is inserted into them, the programmed reco is grown and hatched. Recos serve specific functions: as beasts of burden, crystal diggers, as temporary bridges, or to excrete mortar to be used for building material. One of the oddest is the "milkshake maker," a reco that produces a thick whitish liquid with an odd, gummy taste. Recos tend to live short lives, and produce a new cork before their death that can be inserted into a fresh incupod to create a new one. Such biological technology is referred to as Bio-Tec, and skilled scholars in Ardoth are able to make minor modifications to manipulate the reco types.

Mysteries to be solved

The designers conceived of the world as a living place with a history that would develop over time. Clues are scattered throughout, waiting for players to investigate. Some of the mysteries that await exploration are:

Why are there so many different biologies on Jorune? Where did races such as the cleash and ramian come from?

Why is the thriddle fortress of Mountain Crown built to accommodate creatures much more massive than the thriddle?

Why are the cleash living in the near arctic conditions of the Ice Fields of Gilthaw? How and why are they appearing in increasing numbers in the East Trinnu Jungle Lands?

What motivates the thriddle to interfere in the affairs of other nations? They taught the crugar the Lightning Blast dysha, the woffen the Power Hold dysha, and revealed the Earth-Tec cache that propelled Burdoth to pre-eminence.

Is ramian aggression purely to seek out shirm-eh, the plant they must have to recover from injuries? Would they be better neighbors if they had an adequate supply, or would it fuel even further aggression?

What is the purpose of the milkshake maker reco?

How do the thivin manage to sell snack foods at such bargain prices in Ardoth, and why do they never sample their own wares?

Jorune has nearly everything a gamer might want: mysteries to solve, political intrigue, strange and unusual beings, ruins, magic-like powers, and high technology to be found. It's no surprise that the world still has a dedicated following.

—RAD
April 29, 2007

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