The Index (Setting Artifact)

The Index is a book, similar to a phone directory, dictionary, or encyclopedia, that specifies all of the types of gamesmen that exist in The Land of the True Game. It contains the proper name of each “piece,” details of their power (called “talent”), and their distinctive form of dress. (It is forbidden for a gamesman not to wear their identifying costume, yet this rule is often broken.)

Since the technology of movable type is unknown, books are rare and valuable and must be copied by hand. They’re also bulky. That means a copy of The Index is too valuable to carry with you.

Most copies of The Index that the players will encounter are technically called abridged, compact, or “pocket” indexes (even though they are still too large to fit into a pocket. A “complete” or unabridged index is very rare, as it is said that there are 1,000 talents.

An index may also be subdivided, categorized, or cross-referenced to contain the “type” of piece for each gamesman, but different authorities subdivide talents differently, and there is no standard way to categorize gamesmen. For instance, Jorumial’s Index might categorize by presumed lineage, the Index held at Battlefox Demensne might categorize by function (“talents of the dead,” “talents of healing,” etc., a Mertyn’s Schooltown Index might categorize by strategy suggested to be used in play, and The Trader’s House Index might categorize by the rarity of each talent.

An example entry in an abridged index could be:

  • Midwife. Lesser ephemera. Talent to assist in childbirth. (White apron.)
  • Shapeshifter. Greater durable. Talent to change shape into beast. (Beast helm and cloak.)
  • Prince. Lesser nobility. Talent of ruler. (Small crown.)
  • Witch. Lesser ephemera. Talent to hold power, make fire, and beguile. (Black gown and pointed black hat with wide brim.)

Children of gamesmen study the index in schooltowns to learn how to play The True Game. There are rhyming songs and mnemonics to help people remember the entries in the index. There is an annual memory contest to remember all 1,000 entries in an unabridged index.

It is widely known that a poor-quality index may be filled with misinformation.

GM Knowledge Only

  • Barish’s Eleven: In the true lore of this setting, there are only eleven talents, not 1,000 (possibly twelve, depending on how you count, but let’s say eleven). Every other talent in the index is a combination of the “basic” eleven, or a limited/aspected version of one of the eleven, or both. (This is setting lore and does not have to do with the translation of each talent into a GURPS rule/power.) The authors of almost every index don’t know about the base eleven, so the index is usually organized more like a directory with these eleven base talents mixed in with 989 other talents (e.g., alphabetically). The eleven, called “Barish’s Eleven” is the setting’s “true” or “real” categorization of powers, known only to the GM and a few wizards.
    • The eleven “base” talents are: flight, mind (telepath), travel (teleportation), moving (telekenesis), seeing, fire, power, flesh (healing), ruling (beguilement), shape (morph), and death (necromancy).
    • In most indices, different words are used to describe the same power, making it seem as though there are more powers than there actually are. For instance, a King is usually said to have the talent of “ruling” whereas a witch is said to have “beguilement” but these are actually two different words for the same talent. Similarly “walk on air,” “walk on water,” “levitation,” and “flight” are all actually “flight” in more or less limited versions.
    • Example: A Herald might be listed in an index as “having the power to make official announcements heard over a long distance while hovering in the air, and also to perceive such announcements.” Yet in the “true” categorization a Herald actually has limited versions of three of the “base” talents: flight (limited to hovering), moving (air so as to amplify voice), and seeing (perceive official announcements).
  • Missing entries: There are talents that appear in no index because the authors of the index do not think these people have talents or the authors think these gamesmen are mythical. Examples:
    • Magician. People think Magicians are not real.
    • Immutable. This is not thought to be a talent, and these people are thought not to be gamesmen, so they don’t appear in an index. (But immutables do have a talent–psionic resistance.)
    • Gifter. Gifters are not thought to be real. (But they are real.) No one knows what their talents are.
    • Pawn. Pawns aren’t listed because they aren’t gamesman and have no talent. (This omission is correct.)
  • Incorrect entries: There are a talents whose index entries describing their powers are often or always wrong. Examples:
    • Shapeshifter. Shapeshifters are common enough that everyone knows about them, but they have successfully misled the world into thinking they are less talented than they are, so if there is a detailed discussion of powers it always underestimates them.
    • Dervish. People do think Dervishes are real, but they are extremely rare and only appear in the most complete indices. No author of an index knows what the Dervish powers are, so the index might say “unknown powers.”
    • Midwife. It is common for the index to state that a midwife is a lesser healer who assists in childbirth, but in fact a midwife is a combination healer and seer, yet this talent of seeing is not as widely known. The midwife’s seeing is limited to detecting pregnancy and seeing whether a newborn will grow up to have a soul or not.
    • Wizard. Wizards are common enough that everyone knows about them, but wizards have successfully kept the specifics of their powers out of the index. Every index simply says, “Strange are the powers of wizards.” (This is a folk saying.)

The Index:

Here are seventy types of gamesmen that could be found in an index. Barish’s Eleven are in boldface. Some details are given where they are specified in the source material. Otherwise, the GM is free to specify the powers for each talent. These are largely useful as color for the setting, but they can also be player types if desired.

  • Afrit – power + flight
  • Archangel
  • Armiger – flight
  • Basilisk – reading, beguilement, shifting (lizard)
  • Beast-Talker
  • Bonedancer – raise only skeletons
  • Borderer
  • Churchman – fire (lights candles) + beguilement (minor)
  • Cold Drake
  • Demon – reading/mind (telepath)
  • Dervish
  • Divulger – read (surface thoughts only), move (minor telekenesis – crush, causes pain)
  • Doyen
  • Dragon – shape (dragon) + fire-making + flight
  • Dryad
  • Elator – travel (teleportation)
  • Empath
  • Examiner
  • Exorcist
  • Explorer – seeing (minor – routes, new places)
  • Fairy Godmother – power-holding + shapeshifting
  • Fetish
  • Fire Drake
  • Firedancer
  • Flugleman – said to be the least talented of all talents
  • Forgetter – healing (erase memories only)
  • Ghoul – raise only the newly dead and eat them
  • Guardsman
  • Halberdier – firemaking (very minor), beguilement (very minor)
  • Healer – flesh (psychic healing)
  • Herald – flight (levitate), seeing (official messages), & moving (air)
  • Heterotelic
  • Hierophant (v. rare)
  • Invigilator – fire-making (very modest), reading (surface thoughts only)
  • Keratinor (v. rare)
  • King/Queen – beguile/rule (telepathy: control: aspect)
  • Magician (usually not in index)
  • Medium
  • Mermaid
  • Midwife – healing (childbirth only) + seeing (pregnancy, souls)
  • Minstrel
  • Mirrorman
  • Necromancer – death (summon, control)
  • Negotiator
  • Ogre/Ogress
  • Orieiromancer (v. rare)
  • Phantasm
  • Priestess
  • Prince/Princess – beguile/rule
  • Prophet
  • Pursuivant – reading + seeing (lost people)
  • Rancelman – reading + seeing (lost objects)
  • Referee
  • Revenant
  • Salamander
  • Seer – seeing (divination)
  • Sentinel – fire (pyrokinesis)
  • Shapeshifter – body (morph)
  • Sorcerer – power
  • Talisman
  • Thaumaturge
  • Timereacher – reading + seeing (the past)
  • Totem
  • Tracker
  • Trader
  • Tragamor – moving (telekenesis)
  • Warbler
  • Warlock
  • Witch/Warlock – firemaking, power, beguile
  • Wizard – “strange are the powers of wizards”
  • Woodsman

(The image credit for the picture at the top of this post goes to: Valerie of Britain Loves Wikipedia. It is a picture of The Book of Hours downloaded from Wikimedia Commons and licensed CC BY-SA 2.0 UK.)

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