Sunday, February 3, 2013

Lairs and adventures

Now that I have a fairly decent idea on what the local area looks like.  I move on to placing a few lairs and monsters.  Much like the towns and kingdoms, the The Worldbuilder's Guidebook includes some very nice handouts for detailing individual lairs.

I have a few ideas for specific areas.  First off, I've placed the dragon, and I'm not sure what to do with her. My initial plan was to have her trying to establish her first hoard/nest, and I decide to go with that.  I decide that there is a ruined Elven temple in the area, full of mystery and treasure.  The dragon does not wish to go there herself, and so instead has dominated the local goblins to find it and loot it for her.  Why doesn't she want to go there?  For now, I'm going to say that within this temple lays an ancient Elven hero--buried with her is a powerful dragonslaying sword.  While the weapon is buried and lost, it's energies keep the dragon away.  Besides, she is more interested in actually building her lair proper, and so has delegated the "getting the loot" to the goblins.

As an aside, I wanted to do something with coinage in this Kingdom.  I decide that copper and silver are the common coins of the real, with gold being far rarer.  Electrum and Platinum, on the other hand, are far more ancient, and the coins of the Elven Empire.  The electrum coins were common, and still fairly well used--they can be melted down to extract their gold and silver.  Platinum is far rarer, and is unknown to most people.  Only collectors and wealthy merchants would have use for these.

Also, this area as a whole is relatively specie poor--most trade is handled by barter and long standing ties and relationships.  The only sources of hard currency are from the Galts in Landsberg or the loot taken from Elven and Gnomic sites.  Landsberg provides copper and silver, the ruins provide electrum.

I also include a Druidic Circle on my map--while not an evil place, these ancient clerics are neutral and continually under threat.  They have little love and less trust for outsiders, but are the most ready source of magic and healing in the area.

I also include a Shambling Mound Nest--a particularly wet and vile part of the swamp full of these horrible creatures.  They have been slowly spreading southward, attacking the Mossmen, who find themselves ever in more need of their human allies.

As part of the idea that the Elven religion, with it's focus on ancestor worship  is views by many as one step away from necromancy, I decide to include an actual necromancer.  He's a Fairian (actually a half elf) who is obsessed with restoring the Elven Empire.  He is technically an ally of the Baron, who has been granted his own estate along the Maas River.  He too is secretly hunting for the Elven Ruins, in pursuit of the ancient scrolls and books that still exist there.  Also, he is most likely supporting another adventuring party, who could end up being allies, rivals, or enemies of the PC's.

Finally, I can't have a bog without some good horror tropes.  I decide on two--one is based off Johnny the Homicidal Maniac and the other on "An American Werewolf in London."  The first is a small farmstead near Loch Fen--the family was brutally murdered by a roving band of theivs some time ago, killing all but the youngest, Johnny.  The poor young man has been on his own ever since.

Unbeknownst to all, the thieves never existed.  In the cellar of the house lives a horrible Living Wall, a monstrous creation of dead flesh.  It consumes all around it, drawing in even the buried dead.  The Wall spoke to Johnny, urging him to feel it.  He believes that if he does not, the vile thing will burst fourth and consume the world.  He murdered his family to satiate the monster, and now hunts the area for more sacrifices.  Most of his attacks are explained away as the work of goblins.

Secondly, there's Reid.  A long time resident of this land, he seeks his nephew.  The young man was bitten by a werewolf a few months ago, and fled his village.  While he hasn't killed anyone yet, his attacks are growing more violent.  Reid attempt to confront and help the boy, but lost his leg when he changed.  He is seeking someone to help him find his nephew and bring him to his home (in a ruined watchtower) safely.


  1. Preface: I like the minor plot ideas: the Living Wall, the werewolf, etc.

    The Gist: Let's think about a money-free economy. I really dislike how D&D tends to assume that currency is fungible. That is, you can take a 1,000-year-old coin and give it to the barkeep for a beer. I really hate the phrase "I trade my gold in for gems" as much as I hate the words "buff" and "debuff". In fact, it would have been pretty rare to have a system of currency at all in many places of the world.

    But OK - you enter the realm, you change money to something that people will accept (you lose money doing so). If you don't do that, you have to negotiate with merchants that you want to buy from (Eh? Mercian gold? 'taint as pure as Galician...), of course, people in the wilderness are used to this.

    But barter and trade are interesting. David Graeber ( argues that, while often people have the IDEA of money, actual currency never really played into it. So it's like "Hey, I'll give you this hock o' ham. Should be worth about 30 GP for that ol broke donkey cart that looks about 20 GP, plus that there spear." Of course, gift economies are also omnipresent around the world (what's the price of beer? Helping me finish the roof on my barn is the price of beer).

    Working this into a playable economy is the tough part, but you can at least give the feel of it by emphasizing the tangible nature of "money" objects (You have a donkey cart, two bolts of cloth, and a small bag of spices) and by outlawing those damn "10, 100, 1000-GP gems"

  2. Thing is, "currency" is something that is inherently flexible. There's a pretty major gap between "currency" and "specie." Currently includes hard money like gold and silver, but can also be credit, bank notes, furs, shares, promies--all kinds of ways people can conduct business transactions. In a close knit community, where everyone knows everyone else (as well as their friends and kin), "tabs" and promises count as currency, since they're pretty sure you'll be around in a week to deliver those pies you promised--and if not, your brother will take on your debt. Even in these societies, though, there will be some short hand--they'll saying something is worth 1 gp even if they've never seen an an actual gold coin.

    Outsiders are different though. They need something TANGIBLE to trade with. Coins and metal are the easiests, but any portable item of value can be used. In general, copper, silver, and gold coins are used as a convience, as I'm not seeing a complicated trade system really adding much to the game. If the players travel to a different kingdom or society, I'll probably just apply a 5-20% "cost" to transfer their coins into something the locals use.

    Of course, the best method to transfer wealth between two areas are through letters of credit--but that involves knowing the right people, as nothing resembling a banking system exists yet in this world. This assumes they're travelling in human/elven territory--Centaurs and Trolls would have little use for human coins at all.

    I haven't read David Graeber's work--I'm trying to base the average person's economic activity more on Sudhir Venkatesh's "Off the Books" ( For players, I'm fine with the use of coins for convience sake.

  3. I haven't actually read Venkatesh, although the informal economy is what I'm working on in Thailand and he's currently here, at Columbia. I do know he's under ethics violations scrutiny:

    Speaking of gang work, though, Philippe Borgois is quite good ("In search of respect") - heard of him?

  4. I personally like Venkatesh, though it sounds like his celebrity went to his head a bit. I'd skip "Gang Leader for a Day" (which is really more of his own biography than an actual study) and go for "Off the Books."

    I've read "In Search of Respect" and it was pretty solid, but I'd put it in more of a "Gang Leader" category. Haven't read anything else by Borgois.

  5. Got the Kindle version of "Off the Books" here - I should always be familiar with what's going on on the topic of informal economy, and it might be perfect to use in a class sometime. I'll get to it once I'm done with the pile of journal articles I've got to read - this spring is my "reading semester", where I need to get myself up to date on what's been published and fill in the gaps in what I haven't read in the past.

    Speaking of which... ah, I'll post up in the mythos section...


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