Thursday, January 31, 2013

Populating the villages--Doonbeg

Now that I’ve taken care of local cartography, the next step in building my world is detailing the towns and villages of the local area.  The area I’m working with is sparsely inhabited, so none of the villages will be remotely large, which should make detailing them slightly easier.  At this point, I’m not actually mapping these villages, and in fact there’s no pressing need to do so.  Later on,  I might do so, but that might be more of an attempt to see what Campaign Cartographer can do with villages than anything else. 

The World Builder’s Guidebook breaks down detailing communities into the following steps.  First, size and population, which defines the community in terms of 500 person “blocks.”  Smaller communities, which we’ll probably be dealing with here, have in general 20d20 (20-400) people. Part of this is also coming up with its physical description.  Secondly, there is a fairly detailed chart indicating the services and jobs available in the community.  Some of these need to be slightly modified based on the community concept—for example, there’s not likely to be any full-time shipwrights in Doonbeg, but there might in Landsberg, and there would def. be one in Furrst.  Thirdly, we come to demographics.  The WBG assumes that 5-10% of the population in a cut above the rest, and have a class and level (all others are 0 level).  Half of them would be level 1, half again level 2, all the way up until we’ve hit the limit.  So, in a town of 500, there could be 50 classed NPC’s.  25 are level  1, 13 are level 2, 6 are level 3, 3 are level 3, 2 are level 4, and 1 would be level 5.  There’s then a percentage breakdown based on class—i.e., fighters are more common than wizards.  Fourth, we actually come up with a couple of interesting NPC’s, who may or may not be the classed ones we figured out above—the PC’s might be more interested in the 0-level yet gregarious inn keeper than the 3rd level Sergeant of the Watch, after all.  It’s only after that we need to worry about mapping the community, if we feel the need to at all.

All right, having said that, I want to get going developing some of my towns.  I’m going to focus on the smaller Bog People villages, and will do Landsberg last.  At this point, I’m not going to bother detailing either the Goblin or the Mossmen villages—neither I imagine have much in the way of services to offer the players, and they are not organized into anything like what a human town would be. 

Moving from north to south, we first deal with Doonbeg.  The northernmost community is the most heavily defended of the villages, and is under constant threat of Goblin raids.  It’s also seeing its economic and political influence slowly fade thanks to the arrival of Landsberg.  First, I need to roll its population.  A village in a sparsely settled land has 1d4-3 population blocks.  I actually rolled a “4” for this, meaning the population is roughly 500 people.  This fits my idea for it pretty well, so I keep the result.  It also makes the next step easier, as I won’t have to modify the results for “blocks fewer than 500.”  The population isn’t EXACTLY 500, of course, but its close enough for us to go forward. We’ve already done some work on Doonbeg’s physical description—a good sized village full of many sod built longhouses, surrounded by a rammed earth, a basic ditch, and a stout palisade.

Next, we need to see what services Doonbeg offers.  It’s a fairly large table to roll on, so I’m just going to post the results. Here’s what I come up with:

1 Baker
1 inn
3 Taverns
1 Blacksmith
4 Traders
1 Cobbler
2 Leatherworkers
1 Miller
2 Tanners
1 Weaver
1 Woodworker
1 Bowyer/Fletcher
1 Jeweler
1 Tailor
1 Weaponsmith
2 Teamsters
1 Barber
1 Dragoman
1 Fence
1 Interpreter
2 Laborers
1 Minstrel
1 Priest

Doonbeg is actually relatively bustling.  It’s obviously a center of trade (an inn and 3 taverns), has a few full time merchants/traders, Teamsters, and free laborers who are looking for odd jobs.  There’s also a full time minstrel, an Interpreter (probably quite proficient in a number of languages) and a Dragoman.  Now, a Dragoman is more of a local “fixer”—someone hired by outsiders to help get things done—they know the local languages, the people, where to buy things, and how to get things done.  All for a small fee, of course.  The fence is probably a full time merchant, but unlike the others, he’s willing to buy gold jewelry and dented goblin armor without asking any questions. 

As for the Demographics of Doonbeg, we’ll go with the ratios we worked out before—500 people, 50 are PC level, and broken down the following: --25 are level  1, 13 are level 2, 6 are level 3, 3 are level 3, 2 are level 4, and 1 would be level 5.  70% of these are fighters & thieves—so, that’s 35.  10 are priests or bards, with 5 being wizards. 

Here’s my take on what I rolled.  The Fighters and Thieves are actually broken down into 18 fighters, 8 rangers, and 7 thieves.  Most of the fighters work as normal farmers in the village, but are known for their ruggedness and willingness to take the fight to the goblins.  I really can’t anything like a thief’s guild operating in Doonbeg, so I’ll say that most of them and the rangers make their living out in the wild, as hunters.  Of the 10 priests and bards, I’ll say that 4 of them are in town.  2 clerics of the Galtic faith, here to spread the Word, 1 secret follower of some banned god or other, and the minstrel is a bard, though most are completely unaware of his magical abilities. The remaining 6 are actually druids who live near the area, but slightly off on their own.  Finally we have 5 mages, which is a bit more than I was assuming in this village.  I could pull the GM fiat card, but so far I’ve rather liked the random results, so I’m going to keep them.  I’ll say they are a secretive group of merchants and tradesmen, secretly learning ancient elven lore, and always fearful they might get caught.

Levelwise, I’ll say the highest level character is a Druid, the local religious leader.  Level 4 is a Ranger and a Fighter—the Ranger is a well-respected scout and hunter, while the Fighter is the Chief of the village.  Level 3 characters are one of the mages (the self-proclaimed “High Sorcerer” of their little group), one is a fighter (the chiefs second son, the first is just a sad disappointment), and the other is the Galtic priest.  The rest are all level 1 or 2.

Now, we don’t need to detail a lot of the NPC’s in this village, but I will take the time to work out some of the major ones.  I’m going to take a spin on the “General Traits” table to help come up with the NPC’s.  Here’s what I come up with.

Class & Level
Fighter 4
Fighter 3
Chiefs Son
Mage 3
High Sorcerer
Druid 5
Chief Druid
Thief 2
Cleric 3
Mage 1
Thief 1
Fighter 2
Fighter 1
Tavern keeper

And Doonbeg is basically done.  I’m going to go ahead and work up the other villages of the land.  The WBG comes with a decent Village sheet, which I’m going to slightly modify and use for tracking my own communities.  

Play Area, with Map!

I've finally sat down at created a map of the initial play area.  Right now, it's still in "beta"--the basic terrain and settlements are there, but it still needs some work before it's ready to be done.  Here's what I have so far.

None of these locations would be larger than a village, and some are even barely that.  The largest, Landsberg en Maas, is the home of a minor Galtic noble who is technically the Baron of this land, but his actual authority doesn't extend any further than the few miles around his village.  He's undertaking an ambitious program, both trying to build a proper stone keep as well as beginning to drain the bog to make it more suitable for agriculture.  Landsberg would be the trade hub of the area, and despite it's small size, would have most of the gear and services that a team of adventurers would need.

The three Umbrian/Bog People villages would have only a few hundred members each. From north to south they are Doonbeg, Ballymena, and Portadown.  Doonbeg, being the closest to the Goblin Hills, is the most heavily fortified of them all, with a stout wooden pallisade and a crude moat.  Until recently, it was the dominant village of the area, as it formed the first line of the lands defense against goblin raids.  Recently, Portadown has supplanted it in importances, and they form the key middlemen in trade between the Galts and the Mossmen.  In general, the people of Doonbeg are the most concerned about the presence of the Galts in this land.  Despite the Baron's promises, the Boonbeger's believe they intended to permenantly alter the land, destroy the Bog People culturally, and force them into serfdom.  The people of Portadown and Ballymena are more impressed with the easy trade and coin flowing from Landsberg, and willing to work with them.

The Mossmen still don't trust the Galts, but continue trading with their longtime partners.  It is unknown if they understand that the recent increase is demand for peat and other resources is tied to the Galts or not.  They are an inscrutable people.

Aside from the lakes and the Maas River, the waterways of the land are barely navigable, being to shallow to support most boats.  Aside from transporting bulk goads, most travel is done overland. The reason the Umbrians choose their village sites is more to do with terrain than trade.  They sought land that fit their style of agriculture, had decend fodder for their animals, and was near a fresh water source.  They also look for areas that are slightly raised compared to the rest of the land.  The river Maas has a tendency to flood unexpectedly in this area, and the ground around is far to wet for their comfort--a local fact that the good Baron is only starting to learn, to his chagrin.  Next up, I'll start detailing the individual villages.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Inspired by disaster

Back in my first post, I explained a little bit about my inspiration for starting this blog and trying to create an AD&D world.  It was accurate as far as it went, but I skipped an additional, yet major, influence—the Knights of the Dinner Table comic.

I recently dug out my old and minor collection of these comics and have been rereading them.  For those who don’t know, Knights of the Dinner Table is a comic series that retells the adventures of a group of D&Desqe players and a satirical look at the most extreme and horrible things that happen in the game.  It doesn’t show the characters but instead focuses on the players as they sit around the eponymous table—a bunch of adults sitting around, rolling dice, yelling out things like “I WASTE HIM WITH MY CROSSBOW.”  It’s supposed to show, in a humorous fashion, the WORST aspects of D&D style game play.

And I every time I read them, I want to pick up an Old School game and play that.  I LOVE hearing stories about the worst things that happen in a game.  The more crazy and off the rails a game goes, the more I’m excited to not only hear more, but also makes me want to pick up the game and give it a whirl.  For example, for years I had no interest in Shadowrun.  I knew of it, but it sounded goofy and lame and not interesting.  What stories I head of it just seemed over the top and ridiculous.  But then, one day, I stumbled upon the Shadowrun C.L.U.E. archive.  The C.L.U.E. is a collection of just utterly horrible Shadowrun games, where idiotic gamers managed to get not only themselves killed, but often wiping out their teams, their target, and their families in glorious fashion. After reading the entire archive, I called up my friend who has run Shadowrun in the past and INSISTED that he run that game. Hell, even though he’s now halfway across the country, I still give him a hard time about running another game over Google Hangout.

Because the chance for everything to go disastrously yet delightfully wrong is what inspires me to game.  For the players to spend an entire session meticulously planning their assault on a target, carefully move everyone into place, and only at the last minute realize they forgot to bring flashlights, and the entire mission goes sideways.  Or, a storyline from KoDT, to randomly go to a Gladiator arena, come up with a plan to use magic to cheat and win huge at gambling, then spend the next two sessions running around the place as your careful plans fall apart, and the “real adventure” is on the other side of town. 

When I talk to fellow gamers and they tell me about their awesome games, where they beat up the big bad NPC using their cool feats or magic items, or how they came up with a plan that went off perfectly, my eyes start to glaze over.  I just don’t care.  But when halfway through the story, half the party is already dead or in jail, the GM has thrown their notebook aside, and the remaining PC’s have a brilliant plan to rescue their friends by disguising themselves as pizza delivery guys, only the pizza is made of plastique—well, hell, I’m hooked! 

It’s not that I want my game to descend into such chaos, it’s that I want the potential to be there.  I want the chance for failure, for player death.  I want that challenge, and the freedom to respond to it by coming up with other tactics, other strategies.  I’m not a huge fan of most modern games—I like the idea of looking at my character sheet and going “crap, I don’t have a flashlight” rather than saying “well, I have an Infiltration Kit, so I have a flashlight, right?” Or, having an Always Prepared Feat, or spending a Character Point to edit the scene so there’s a spare flashlight around.

Because, for me, that’s what makes gaming so much fun and exciting.  When the game goes off the rails, when there is no script, and both the players and GM are riffing on each other and neither has any idea what’s going to come up next, that’s when the magic happens for me as a gamer.  When this happens, there’s a chance for some truly inspired roleplaying and epic results, but these only happen if there’s also a chance for a sudden total party wipeout and the entire campaign collapsing on itself.  But, no matter what happens, it’s going to be FUN!

Populating the Wastes

As I begin to think about the local adventure area, the first thing I need to come up with is, well, who the heck lives there.  In my last post, I decided to focus on the north eastern part of the map, particularly the Northern Wastes.  The terrain is dominated by a massive bog, and I’ve rolled that the major industry in this location is, well, industry.  My first thought was that this is a liquor producing place (the various berries that naturally grow in bogs have long been converted to sweet and potent alcohol), but Brian sent me an excellent link regarding Norse bog iron production, which is part of a truly fascinating site.

So, thanks to that, Wikipedia, and Google, I have some solid ideas.  The average person lives either in a tiny village or a small family farmstead.  The architecture is based around sod walls and turf built longhouses, which contain all of the family’s cattle and goats.  The people survive with their light farming, their herds, fishing, hunting, and gathering.  Vast fields of berries (blueberries, cranberries, cloudberries, huckleberries and lingonberries) are harvested for both consumption and for distilling into liquor.  The berries are too fragile and bulky to be effectively transported to the cities, but liquor is far easier, and therefore more profitable.   The people also gather peat iron and smelt it for the manufacture of iron weapons and tools.  Unlike most peasants in the land of Galicia, pretty much every man and most women in the Northern Wastes are armed—many also have some kind of armor.  There is no lord or guard in this wild land, and each family must stand on its own. 

For Man is not alone in this land.  One of the things I learned poking around Wikipedia is that bogs are often home to carnivorous plants.  Well, if that is true in our world, then there’s no reason some kind of plant men can’t live here.  I flip through the Monstrous Manual (as well as Paizo’s Pathfinder SRD, as it sorts monsters by type, something the MM doesn’t do) and fail to find anything that fits.  Most of the plant men are supposed to live in tropical/semi-tropical places or underground.  So, I’ll create my own—the Mossmen!  I’ll write up their stats later, but for now I’ll say they are the most native of the inhabitants.  In fact, I’ll say the Northern Wastes are not a purely natural phenomenon.  In fact, the land was devastated in one of the many Imperial Wars, as the Elves unleashed vast and powerful magics on the land, permanently warping it.  As a result of this devastation, the land was changed from its once rolling green hills dotted with gnomic villages to the boggy waste it is now.  Over time, some gnomes changed to the vile goblins, while others became one with the land and were the ancestors for the Mossmen.

For generations the Mossmen and the Umbrians lived in relative peace.  There was some violence, but the two groups gradually learned to respect each other’s boundaries.  The humans traded the Mossmen iron tools and weapons, and in exchange the Mossmen traded peat (the major source of fuel not only in the Waste, but in the more urbanized Maas river valley) and tolerated the humans hunting parties.  Now, humans can (and do) harvest their own peat from the bog lands, but the Mossmen are able to grow particularly potent and rich peat which is far superior to anything the humans can offer. 

This delicate peace is currently under threat.  The humans of the Maas river valley are recovering from the chaos of the Galtic invasions, and starting to grow numerous.  They are looking to the lands of the Northern Wastes, and seek to drain the bog and bring the land under cultivation.  The native humans (generally referred to as “bog people”) view this with alarm—their own way of life is threatened, but the demand for iron, liquor and peat promises wealth.  The Mossmen do not yet know or trust these valley humans, and are even more concerned.

Secondly, there are the goblins.  Scattered bands of these monsters have long plaqued the Wastes, but recently their numbers have increased significantly, and they’ve seem to become more organized, launching kidnapping raids against isolated human settlements.  The reason for this is the recent arrival of a juvenile Black Dragon!

Ok, I know I said last post I didn’t want to throw the party up against a dragon to early.  But, I have some very compelling reasons.  First off, I rolled “dragons” on my races table for Galicia, and haven’t done much with them.  Second, the area is a big swampy bog—I mean, how can I not include THE iconic swamp creature?  Third, speaking of iconic, the game is called Dungeons & Dragons.  Dungeons are easy to come by, but Dragons?  Pfft.  They need to show up in more games.

Finally, and most importantly, Dragons are cool. 

I don’t know what the Black Dragon is up to yet—probably trying to gather up a hoard and get him/herself established, and is using the goblins as his minions.  I might come up with a better idea later.
But, the area needs some more creatures: a land is more than a few villages and monsters to slay.  The World Builder’s Guide breaks these down into a couple of generic types—locals, non-locals, Small Herbivores, Large Herbivores, Carnivores, and Monsters. One could add a few more categories, I imagine, but we’ll stick to that list for now.

Locals we’ve already covered above.

Non-locals could be anyone we’ve discussed before.  Some options include: Centaurs, Adventurers, Galtic explorers, Priests out to convert the locals, or a merchant from Furrst hoping to cut out the middle men and deal with the Mossmen directly.

Small Herbivores—rats, mice, variety of birds, chipmunks, woodchucks, badgers, possums, rabbits, squirrels, beavers, minks, shrews, muskrats, and a variety of fish and insects.

Large Herbivores—Deer and Moose

Small Carnivores—weasels. Raccoons, foxes

Medium and Larger Carnivores—Wolves and bears

As for Monsters, we already have goblins and a Dragon.  The Mossmen would fall under the “local” category.  But we need more “bog specific” monsters, so I’ll add Molds, Giant Insects, giant leeches, shambling mounds, Giant Toads.  Hrrm…I might add a pack of Owlbears to that list, just to give something satisfying to fight besides goblins.

Obviously, this won’t be all that’s in the land.  Later on I’ll be placing specific “adventure sites,” ruins and lairs and the like, which probably will have unique monsters.  If I end up with something like an undead haunted ruin, then zombies or bog mummies will probably find themselves added to the above list, but it’s a good base line for now.

Finally, a note about population density.  As was determined back in “Subsistence andSettlement Patterns” this area is sparsely inhabited.  Per the World Builder’s Guidebook this means there will be 3-8 villages, with a total population of 1,000-2,000 people.  Most likely, I will divide this up among the main races we discussed above—1 or 2 for the Mossmen, 1 for the Galts who are just starting to move in and drain the bog, 2 or 3 for the native Umbrian “bog people” and maybe 1 full scale village of goblins.  Obviously, I won’t know for sure until I actually sit down and work up the map, but there’s what I’m thinking of for now.

First steps in making the play area

The next step in creating my world is the final zoom--to actually map out the initial play area.  The Kingdom of Galicia has a number of different locations that can serve as adventure sites—from a potential mega-dungeon that was once a mighty dwarven kingdom in the Forsaken Mountains to urban politics and intrigue in the Sea Islands.  Since I’m aiming for a fairly “typical” style of campaign, I’m looking for an area that will allow a decent variety of exploration, combat, brigandage, monsters, with enough of an urban environment to allow some breathing room.  Per the World Builders Guidebook, this should be an area of roughly 40x40 miles.  This is a very small area.  An unencumbered human could easily cross from one point of the map to another is 2 days (24 miles per day per the PHB) and even a lightly or moderately encumbered one wouldn’t be far behind.  At this scale we’re placing specific locations—actual villages, specific monster lairs, etc.  A 1 mile area still allows for a decent amount of exploration and movement, but we’re dealing with character scale here.

So, for the next step, we’re going to need to get very specific.  First, though, I need to determine WHERE we’re going to focus on.  Since I want a place with a variety of options, three locations on the Kingdom map immediately stand out, all on the fringes.  Once again, here’s the Kingdom map.

To the northwest, we have a nice border land between the Forsaken Mountains and the Grunewald.  Lots of potential for monsters and mayhem there—but nothing there really wows me.  I don’t really want to focus on a huge Dwarven fortress or immediately put the PC’s up against a nasty Dragon at level one.

The southwest has more potential.  There’s still the Forsaken Mountains for nasties, and the land itself is ripped apart in near endless civil conflict.  No adventurers worth their salt could fail to find danger and coin along The Wild Coast.    There’s also a nice variety of terrain, between coast, hills, forest, and mountains.

But it’s the northeast that I find my attention drawn, around the city of Furrst.  It’s relatively isolated from the rest of the Kingdom, which helps to keep the King and his champions away in most cases, and it’s a cultural middle ground.  I know, thanks to my Regional Map, that to the east and north are vast steppes populated by Centaurs and few other sylvan creatures.  An interesting land for exploration and trade, to be sure.  Immediately to the west in the Northern Waste, a land dominated by independent people who barely acknowledge the King, and spend their time smelting iron and making whiskey.  So, we have the Galts, Umbrians, and Fairians in the central part of this land, with wild men in the swamps and centaurs and fey creatures running around.   A nice place for all sorts of conflict.

in addition to the raw act of mapping, I’ll also need to populate this location.  And I can’t get away with the handwaving I’ve been able to use on the Kingdom and Regional maps.  So, before I start putting pen to paper (or, to be more precise, loading up Campaign Cartographer), I’ll need to figure out who exactly is going to live there.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Culture and Religion

It appears that my initial plan to zoom into next step of the Kingdom—the actual play area—has been placed on hold while I focus on some more higher level ideas.  This is fine—it’s still interesting to work on, and will give me plenty of stuff to work with when I actually take the next step.

First, I want to answer some questions that Drew asked a little while ago and the politics and structure of the Kingdom. I’m going to through each of them, and go over some of my own current thoughts.

“Who are the king's subjects within the kingdom? Are there others within the borders over which he has limited jurisdiction (dwarves, forest people, etc)?
The Kings basic subjects are divided into the three classic classes of medieval society—warriors, priests, and peasants.  The warriors and most priests are ethnically Galts, with the Umbrians making up the majority of the peasantry.  They have an agriculture based society, revolving around tightly knit communal villages which have been parceled out to various nobles and knights in a classic feudal structure.  When the nobles talk about the people of their Kingdom, this is what they are referring to. 

Of course, it’s more complicated than that.  Ignoring for a moment the myriad variations among village life, there are key groups that are exceptions to this organization.  First off, most of the cities remain more or less independent and free.  The Galts, due to a combination of ignorance and cultural heritage, have little interest in trade and commerce, and as such the major cities of the realm enjoy a unique position of freedom and independence, often electing their own government and seeing to their own immediate defense.  Of course, none are bastions of democracy and liberty as we would understand it—where republicanism does hold sway, it is the province of adult male guild members, and often only those of certain rank in the “right” guilds.  Others are under the control of either high ranking clerics or particular nobles, but even these cities have far more freedom than the towns and villages of the realm. 

The cities of the islands of the Great Sea are an extreme example of this; in fact they are practically independent states in their own right.  Of course, the cities pay a heavy tax to the king and local powerful nobles for these freedoms, and the islands in particular are required to build, equip, man, and fund the ships of the Kingdom.

The Dwarves maintain their own separate societies, working as highly skilled craftsman and money lenders.  In fact, the Dwarves are the only group officially exempt from the usury laws—a privilege they must pay a hefty tax for.  In theory, the Dwarves independence and privileges are guaranteed by the King, but he is in many cases a distant and preoccupied protector. 

The core areas of the Kingdom would be areas 7 and 8, which follow the “proper” structure mentioned about.  The coast would probably be similar.  But, between these areas are huge stretches of thinly settled land (4,5 & 6).  The forest people of 4 would be more closely tied to the Faririans of the Islands, and under little control of the Galts.  6 is a thinly settled scrub land—full of poor and distant communities, barely under control of any lord.  The Northern Wastes of 5 is populated by small bands of swamp people, who care little for what King claims to rule them, and not worth the effort to wring the meager taxes from. 

The maps a little faint, but hopelly what I'm saying will make more sense with it.

All of these could be brought to heal with dedication and focus, but the King is preoccupied with the chaos that is the Wild Coast.  I’m not sure why this land is so full of brigands—my gut is to go with numerous disputed successions for the local nobles, resulting in near constant civil war, made only worse by the constant raids by the Orcs and Dragons of the Forsaken Mountains.  The King lacks both the military and political might to end this constant conflict, and so he is forced to focus on containing it as best as possible, all the while dealing with more direct threats from the Orcish tribes into the heartland (7).  The rich minerals of the Forsaken Mountains are also far more tempting than the central wastelands for the King and his followers.
What are the freedoms that people have within the kingdom? Slavery doesn't have to be what Americans think of it - we can have people selling themselves to get out of debt (debt-bondage), indentured servitude, and, of course, serfdom. Can a person move from his hometown to a far-off place freely? Can a person choose his profession? Can a woman do the same as a man? 

I covered this a bit under “Predestination”—but in general we’re dealing with the beginnings of a bound labor system.  In theory, each peasant is legally bound to his village, and can only leave with the express permission of his lord.  In reality, the Kingdom lacks the will or the ability to enforce this rule, and many peasants escape to the cities or to the empty scrublands in hope of a better life. 

Building off the last point but more apropos to adventurers: what is the legitimate source of violence? I mean: who can carry weapons and use force? Can anyone carry a sword? Does one have to be the "man" of some particular noble (in my mind, the most interesting option) in order to carry lethal weapons and metal armor? Is this restriction only in cities (again, that's how I would do it)? 
Only a lord’s man can carry a sword or wear armor, though this proscription is honored more in the breach than the observance.  This is particularly true in the frontier areas, where monsters and bandits are common.  Cities, however, generally enforce these rules scrupulously.  If one is not a noble, one cannot bear arms in a city.

One thing I haven’t really gotten into yet is the subject of religion.  I don’t want to go into too much detail, as the World Builder’s Guidebook has a later section dedicated to religion, and since I’m going through it “in order” I want to wait till then.  But there are already a few ideas germinating in my head.

First off, I see religious conflict as being one the major divisive issues in this kingdom, often wrapped up in to matters of race and cultural identity.  If the Free Cities of the Islands ever attempt to throw off the yoke of the Galts, it won’t be be due to actions of the Galician King, but instead the actions of the church. 

In short, here’s my current ill-though out ideas.  To recap, Galicia is comprised of three different human ethnic groups—the Galts, the Umbrians, and the Fairians.  The Fairians were the humans who most identified with and became “elite” under the Elven Empire.  Their very name is a derivation of “Fair Folk” and reflects this connection.  Their culture and faith is very “Elvish” in many ways. 

The Umbrians are the peasants, ground down by both the Elves and the Galts.  Their faith endures, however, and remains the Old Faith—one of Druids and local deities and cults.  It is officially banned, but the Kingdom has no tools available to actually root it out.  So long as the loca l cults don’t cause any issues, they are generally ignored by the nobility and the church.
Finally, there’s the religion of the Galts.  Now, I originally was thinking they should have their own pantheon, but I rather like the idea of them converting to the religion of the elves/Fairians, combining it with their own traditions, than claiming that the Fairians are heretics who need to be brought into the light. 

My thoughts right now is that the Fairian faith was one of ancestor worship combined with distant and uninvolved gods, and a healthy dose of Buddhistesque reincarnation philosophy thrown in for good measure.  The Galts have taken many of these tropes, elevated certain gods even higher (and maybe placed their own ancestral founder as one of them), and attacked the “necromancy” of the Fairians.

The issue I run into, however, is that D&D religion is, by its very nature, extremely chaotic.  The average person is quite likely to change their temple based on which god has the most powerful cleric in the immediate area.  I mean, I know I would be a lot more likely to follow the guy who has shown he can Raise Dead than the guy who can only Cure Light Wounds. 
The solution to this, I believe, is the most dreaded force in the universe—Rule by Committee.  A variety of Temples have been granted special and unique privileges and lands—while they might focus on one particular god, they all acknowledge and support the worship of all the gods.  The high-priests of each temple form the Synod (Elvish (ok, really Latin) for assembly) which overseas faith in the land.  Some of these high priests are appointed by the King, others come from their own temple hierarchies. 

The solution to this, I believe, is the most dreaded force in the universe—Rule by Committee.  A variety of Temples have been granted special and unique privileges and lands; while they might focus on one particular god, they all acknowledge and support the worship of all the gods.  The high-priests of each temple form the Synod (Elvish (ok, really Latin) for assembly) which overseas faith in the land.  Some of these high priests are appointed by the King, others come from their own temple hierarchies.  More so than the King or the Noble, it is the Synod that is behind the banning of the Old Faith, and the conversion of the Fairians to the "proper" Way of the Gods.

Monday, January 28, 2013

PC's and Races

All this talk of alignment has got me thinking about something I haven’t really touched on before, but is pretty dang important for a game—the PC’s.  Specifically, who are they supposed to be, and what options they have for creating their characters.

Since one of my design goals was to create a “generic” setting, I don’t want to make any radical changes to the core classes.  Fighters, druids, paladins, thieves, mages and all the others will be pretty much in place “as is.”  But based on what I’ve come up with so far, races are something that will need to be addressed.
Per my rolls, Galicia has a number of different humans (Galts, Umbrians, and Fairians) as well as Dwarves, Orcs, and Goblins.  Dragons are right out, as a PC race.  There are a couple other races around that could be playable in the setting.  Obviously Elves have a place in this world, and could even be “locals” if they’ve been living blended with the Fairians—Half-Elves even more so.  As Galicia borders the steppes of the Centaurs, I can see busting out the Complete Humanoid Handbook and bringing in Goblins, Orcs, Half-Orcs, Centaurs, and probably a few other fey races (who live among Centaurs). 

I am missing, however, Gnomes and Halflings.  I’ve never been a huge fan of either of these races, and I’m willing to dump one of these.  Gnomes, I feel, are more interesting.  They have a bit of a fey connection, which makes them likely to have some association with the Centaurs and others.  Also, all this talk of races and people changing has made me rethink my take on Goblins.  Initially, my thoughts were to make Goblins immature Orcs, with the idea that as they kill and eat enough meat they become more powerful, until they become full-fledged Orcs.  What if instead they were corrupted Gnomes?  What if something happened to the gnomes?  Maybe whatever tragedy befell the Elven Empire also affected them?  Or maybe the Gnomes began following a strange cult, which warped them?  Or perhaps the centuries or war turned them into something baser, viler?  In any case, the Gnomes are now a rare race, hiding from the large, armored humans as well as their own evil kin.  But, they’re playable.

Which brings me to one of my issues with 2nd Ed, it’s balancing of races.  In general, I love the system, but it does trip up when it comes to the mechanics or races.  Elves and Dwarves and, hell, Gnomes get all kinds of neat bonuses, making them far superior to a comparable Human PC at the lower levels.  In theory, this is balanced by level limits, but this always seemed like a crude solution.  Most games don’t ever make it to the higher levels, and those that do, well, it’s rather harsh to hit a player with such a penalty after a year or two of gameplay.  And if they do make a new character, they get to retire their old PC and come in with a brand new 14th level character.  Hardly an effective balancing act.

3rd and 4th Ed obviously did a better job with this; to the point that most “character optimization” threads list humans as the best race in most cases.  So, I could steal from those editions—maybe give humans a +1 to any attribute, and additional Non-Weapon Proficiencies.

But, I really want to make humans the “default” race, the one you WANT to play, with other races being chosen by people who are interested in really roleplaying a different race, even if that means taking a penalty.  So, my thought right is to allow Human PC’s (and only Human’s) to use the attribute mechanics of the Players Option books.

For those who don’t know or don’t remember, the Players Options books allowed for a degree of customization and “min/maxing” in character creation.  For the attributes, they divided each stat into two separate ones.  Each had a starting value equal to the original one, but you could drop one down by 2 to increase the other by a like amount.  For example, Dexterity was divided into things.  I don’t recall their names, so I’ll call them Aim (which added your bonus to ranged attacks) and Agility (which modified your AC and Initiative).  So, a PC with a 14 Dex could choose to have a 14 in both Aim and Agility, or he could divide them up to 16 Aim, 12 Agility (if you were playing an archer) or a 12 Aim, 16 Agility (if you were going melee).  Yes, it was a bit broken, but not too much, and it was fun.

So, a variety of PC races are available, humans are hands down the most mechanically powerful.  If you don’t particularly care about your race, play a human.  I think I’m ok with that.


Brian and Drew brought up some very good ideas/questions about the spontaneous generation idea I mentioned a few posts back, and I wanted to take a moment and focus on those before moving further with the world creation.

As a quick reminder, Spontaneous Generation is a now defunct theory that living creatures can develop without descent from similar organisms.  So, fleas can develop from dust, and maggots develop from meat.  It’s obviously bunk to modern people, but it was a fairly respected theory for millennia.  Now, the reason why I like this is that it allows for the creation of evil monsters and creatures without needing to explain how exactly they evolved, or if there are groups of little orcish children being sung to sleep by their orcish mothers before getting up in the morning, being fed a healthy breakfast, and then going off to orcish school and playing with their orcish classmates at recess before a group of heavily armed humans show up and murder their parents.  It’s not that I don’t care for moral quandaries in RPG’s, but I don’t want this one.

On one hand, it’s been done, to death.  And it’s annoying.  It’s not fun or shocking anymore.  On the other, sometimes you want the monsters to just be monsters and not have to worry about complicated societies.  Of course, there is nothing that precludes the development of a society and a culture after the generation occurred, so I certainly still have the freedom to bring that in, if and when it makes sense.  At the same time, it also helps to justify the weird and bizarre monsters like hippogriffs and owlbears and tendriculos.  Anyway, to spare you from having to read through earlier posts, here’s what Drew said:

Just a thought experiment: what if "elf" and "orc" were sort of possibilities, instead of absolute peoples? Elves could have become human once they lost sight of the Light of Elsassar (or whatever). Humans could become Orcs over too many generations in the Broken Lands (or whatever).
And Brian: 
What would you say to spontaneous generation of all races; goblins and orcs, but also humans, dwarves, and elves? If tragedies and violence creates orcs, maybe acts of charity or civility creates the good races. If a church was devout, it would generate its own orphans... and like all good spontaneous generation phenomenon, it is indistinguishable from more mundane/accurate explanations like people hiding babies in the pews. Anyway, it might be a good hook for a character, especially a cleric or paladin, if they were literally a child of a church or a city.
There's also a neat bit in the spontaneous generation article about "had to be trials of combinations of parts of animals that spontaneously arose. Successful combinations formed the species we now see, unsuccessful forms failed to reproduce." There's your bestiary, there's your explanation of why there are owlbears.
I like both of these ideas and concepts—as they allow for the chance for change among a person or persons, as well as justifying “miracle” births and truly bizarre creations.  I don’t want to go into too much detail or thought about what the actual “cosmic rules” are for such creations, as I don’t feel I can effectively map it out in advance, nor do I believe it would benefit the game.  Obviously, in this world, philosophers and theologians have numerous and heavily debated theories about these rules, and there would be scholars and sages who spend their lives trying to catalogue and explain this phenomenon.  For now, we’re going with certain creatures are created based on the world around them, and strong and powerful events can create new species or new people, or even fundamentally change a person or persons based on their choices and experiences.

It also implies a very strong sense of predestination in peoples general world view.  And this might explain the “Lawful” element I rolled up earlier for my setting.  In a world like D&D (and, again, I’m building this world assuming that the standard rules of AD&D 2nd Edition are the default), alignments are more than just a person’s general behavior or worldview.  They are cosmic powers and constants.  There is something of an absolute Law and Chaos and Good and Evil. 

As an aside, one of the issues with standard D&D alignment is how subjective it is.  One of my friends made a very compelling case for playing an “evil” Paladin as the “typical” Paladin can easily slide into religious fundamentalism, an inherently Evil state of being.  I had to deny her that character--the game we were talking about was an out an out “evil” game and was intended more of a “yes, we’re evil!” and less of a “I’m good and I know what’s best for everyone around me—do what I say or I’ll kill you for your own good.”  Also, I’m not sure I was convinced by her logic.  I mean, sure, for a normal person, that risk is very present; but a Paladin is, at least in my mind and definitely in Galicia a person who is both purely Lawful and purely Good.  Now, this raises the question of what is “good” but I would have a hard time coming up a definition of good that does not include toleration and compassion. 
Anyway, I’m not as interested in Good vs. Evil as I am in Law vs. Chaos.  In the fantasy literature upon which D&D is based, it was this conflict that drove most of the plots, not the classic good against evil.  Of course, even in these pulp novels, Law and Good were almost always intertwined, along with Chaos and Evil.  But is that necessarily the case?  And what really is “Law” and “Chaos” anyways?  Chaotic Good is often an alignment assigned to a “freedom fighter”, but what about someone like the American Revolutionaries, who were, after all, fighting a conservative rebellion initially to maintain the status quo—would they not be Lawful? 

So, I’m going to use my own definitions of Law and Chaos, at least on a cosmic scale.  With spontaneous generation, there is a belief in the land that how one is born is how one is supposed to live one’s life.  If you are born the son of a pig farmer, you are supposed to BE a pig farmer, marry another pig farmer’s daughter, and raise children who are to become pig farmers. If you are born a noble, you are supposed to be a noble—fight, rule, and conquer. You don’t challenge the status quo—you do what you are told, eat your vegetables, and get to work.  While society is still recovering from the collapse of the Elven Empire and the forming of new Kingdoms, castes and social classes remain rigid, with strong distinctions made between them.  Peasants wear brown and earth tones, nobles get to wear bright colors, and only priests can get away with wearing all black. Purple is right out unless you are a sovereign. In this world, everyone knows their place, and everyone expects you to know your place. When you live in a world where some giant underground ant thing can burst out of your field at any time and eat all your animals, you damn well cling to traditions and proper behavior to keep some semblance of life going. 

But, there’s always another force, isn’t there?  For every garden, there’s a serpent, whispering in your ear, asking questions—questions you can’t answer.  Questions that make you doubt what you’ve been told.  That makes you want to try something different.  To stop being a pig farmer and pick up a sword.  To defy the fate that has been handed to you and strike out on your own.  To become powerful enough to put on a slimming all black outfit with a giant purple hat because what are the priests going to do to you?  You’re 7th level!

These are the adventurers, those people who aren’t going to play by society’s rules.  Some are rude and crude punks who love to challenge the social norms just because they can.  Some are called to a higher purpose, to fight the great fights no one else will.  Some were just born different, strange children with odd hair or are left handed.  And some…some were just dissatisfied with their lot in life.  They look at the Galts and see not a race “born to conquer and rule” but a group of illiterate savages who stole the purple from the elves with daring and guts, and realize that could be them too.

So, again, most people are Lawful; they do what they’re told, and live the lives that have been laid out for them.  In terms of gender, women are, generally, second class subjects.  Though how “second class” depends on your class.  Noble women are really just there to manage estates, bear children, and to be passed around in the ever shifting game of alliances and betrayals.  The lower you go down the social ladder, the more rights they enjoy and the more equal they’re treated—it’s hard to keep someone locked up in a house when everyone has to work.  Of course, mechanically, there’s no difference between male and female characters, and if women have even more of the deck stacked against them in terms of what they are supposed to do, then they merely have all the more motivation to throw off the shackles of society and form their own lives. 

But how does society deal with Chaotics?  Well, on the local level, it varies.  In general, the Chaotics are viewed with a mixture of fear and disdain.  So long as times are ok, and the Chaotics seem to be having it worse than those around them, they’re tolerated and maybe pitied.  Cities tend to be more accepting of these odd balls, and many temples become safe refuge for them—certain faiths believe that the Chaotics are just waiting for their fate to be revealed to them.  In times of hardship, or if the Chaotics seem to be having it better than those around them or are perceived to be making a nuisance of themselves…well, things can get nasty for those who are different.  The close familiar ties of most villages and towns prevent outright persecution of such people—but it doesn’t mean that violence up to and including killings don’t occur.

Which leads me to spell casters.  Clerics, to one extent or another, are pretty much always seen as being Lawful.  Even if a particular character is chaotic in their personal alignment, they are part of the society.  Even if they are hermits In the woods or itinerant preachers, they are following the gods’ will and are expected to be a bit “weird” compared to average folks.  Wizards, on the other hand, are always viewed with suspicion and fear.  By definition, they are not following the rules; they break out of the places man was placed by the gods, and challenge the very idea of how the world should be.  They’re not killed on site (most of the time), and many people secretly hope to either learn magic or to avail themselves of the services of a spell caster, but they are few and distrusted all the same. 

No one really likes having someone challenge their deeply held beliefs, especially if that person does it while flying over their muddy village and lobbying fireballs everywhere.  Seriously, screw that guy. 

Of course, success confers legitimacy.  The pig farmer who grabs a sword is greeted with laughter and a bit of pity.  If he survives his first battle, he was lucky.  If her survives ten battles and shows up with a small army at his back, he’s no longer treated as a pig farmer; he’s now a noble.  Same thing with woman—sure, they might be second class citizens, but Sir Elaina is no longer a pig farmers daughter, she’s a damn bad ass who held the pass for an hour against the Goblin Horde! 

As an aside, the handful of women who do manage to attain knighthood are referred to as “Sir,” same as a man.  None of this “Lady” or “Dame” crap or what have you.  A knight is a knight, a knight is called “Sir” and you will address her as such, or she will gut you like a pig—and Sir Elaina has had plenty of experience gutting pigs.

And maybe that’s how society deals with these weirdoes—you just put them in a different category.  A woman who wears armor, carries a big honking sword and kills everyone who looks at her cross-eyed?  Clearly a man who was born into a woman’s body.  A man who likes to sleep with other men?  Clearly a woman born in a man’s body—so long as he wears a dress and behaves as a woman, everyone can accept him in “her” new category.  Of course, getting to that point isn’t easy—your family and village want to keep you in the same box they thing you “belong” in, but people make it work.  Many of them end up leaving their villages, to move somewhere else where they can more easily adopt their new roles,

Having said that, I think I’m going to change the results of my “society alignment” roll from Lawful Good to Lawful Neutral.  Seems a bit more fitting for what I’m thinking of.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

New Map

Apparently the maps I've been posting aren't coming through as clean as I would like.  I've gone ahead and resized some of the text to hopefully make it clearer.

Let me know if it helps!

Subsistence & Settlement Patterns

Now that I have the rough terrain worked out for my Kingdom, it's time to work out where people live and HOW they live.  Following the World Builder's Guide the first thing we need to work out is the basic subsistence systems of the Kingdom.  Now, since the Kingdom is fairly large and contains a variety of terrain, there's going to be a number of such systems in place.  First thing I do is print out a copy of the map are mark off various areas of the Kingdom--I figure this Kingdom has 10 distinctive regions, which is a bit on the high side for the WBG (it recommends 1-10 for a Kingdom), but it fits with what we have.

For the sake of convenience  I've labeled them as numbers.  Obviously I'll need to come up with cool names for these place, but for now we'll stick with numbers.

Area 1 is the islands to the south
Area 2 is the hilly and heavily forested west
Area 3 is the main coast line
Area 4 is the lightly forested plains
Area 5 is the swampy north
Area 6 is the scrub lands
Area 7 is the hilly and barren grasslands of the west
Area 8 is the richly watered river lands of the east
Area 9 is the low mountains of the east
Area 10 is the major mountains of the west.

Each one of these is going to have their own subsistence systems, and therefore their own population densities.  In fact, I can see the coast line and the river system in the east being fairly heavily populated, while others are fairly sparse if not abandoned all together.  The tables in the WBG will help me determine not only the main economic system of the area, but also it's general population density.

Population density is divided up into 6 tiers--Non-inhabited, sparse, low, average, high, and very high.  "Average" is of course medieval fantasy average, indicating a still significant amount of empty terrain and wilderness.

1 survives by trade and industry.  I see this as heavily settled area, probably dominated by the Fairians. (High population)
2 got an odd roll--Banditry and Brigandage   Not what what I was expecting, so rolled again on a different chart--same result.  This could be an area fallen to chaos, an area currently under conquest--perhaps the center of the Orc/Galt war?  Or, it just might be a land dominated by fiercely independent lords who spend most of their time battling each other. (Low population)
3 is Grazing/Herding.  (Average)
4 is Forestry (Low)
5 got industry.  I have no idea how a distant cold marsh land could sustain any sort of industry, but it's certainly more interesting than my initial idea of "eh, let's stick the goblin there."  Right now I'm thinking a combination of peat cultivation and liquor distilling, but I'll need to do some more research on these kinds of terrain before I make my final decision.  (Sparse)
6 is light agriculture (Low)
7 is heavy agriculture.  This has flipped my initial assumptions, as I assumed this would be a relatively empty area, but it looks like 7 will be the heartland of Galicia. (Average)
8  is also heavy agriculture, which makes for a nice, divide kingdom (Average)
9 is herding and grazing (Sparse)
10 I rule is relatively empty, aside from the handful of mining operations.  It is the realm of Dragons and Orcs, who spend their time raiding the humans to the East and looting the ancient Dwarf strongholds. (Sparse)

Using the information on population density, I place the major urban areas of the Kingdom about--at this point just cities and major towns.  I also start naming some of the areas--I combination of German, English, Fantasy gibberish, and my own whim.  Here's how the kingdom looks now:

Gotta admit, I'm rather proud of how it's turned out.  Next I could either focus on the Kingdom--detailing the King, his top nobles, major players and the like.  Or, I could zoom down further to the playable area.  I think I'm leaning in that direction right now.

Galicia's Terrain

Now that I've decided on which area to zoom in on for the next step, as well as a general idea of who lives there and who they are, it's time to focus on the geography and basic terrain of the Kingdom.  Since I'm working my way way "down" from the world stage, most of the major features are already accounted for--the major rivers, mountain ranges, coast lines, etc.  I use a combination of advice from the World Builder's Guide and whim to fill in the rest--I added some forests, swamps, scrub land, hills, and a few islands.  Below is the basic terrain for the Kingdom of Galicia.

Next up, I'll need to start looking at where the people live.  Just as a reminder, I have a variety of people to place:

Humans 1--the dominant group, by power if not necessarily numbers, are the Galts, who conquered this land from the decaying Elven Empire.
Humans 2--by far the most numerous, they are the Umbrian people, who have been under the heel of one conqueror or another for centuries.  Most of them have been reduced to serfdom under the Galts, but a number find some measure of freedom in the handful of towns and cities that still remain.
Humans 3--the descendants of the humans who incorporated themselves into the Elven Empire generations ago.  They were once the dominant power in this land, but now they most navigate between the hatred of their formed Umbrian subjects and the suspicious Galts.  While originally of mixture of Umbrian and other human stock, they are now referred to as Fairians, due to their long and continued association with the Elves.  They are the most educated and the most mercantile of all the peoples of the realm.

Dwaves live among the humans, but mainly in the few towns and cities that still exist.  I've decided that I like the idea of a millennial long struggle between the Elves and the Dwarves that ended with the collapse of both empires, so the Dwarves hold a particular disdain for the Fairians.  Given that both peoples tend to prefer to live in an urban environment, this means the two groups bump up against one another often.

Finally I have Orcs, Goblins, and Dragons.  The Orcs and Goblins most likely inhabit the same lands, with the Orcs being the dominant force.  I assume that they rose from deep in the earth and were part of the cause of the collapse of the Dwarven Empire, and as such they tend to make their homes in the mountains and the lands surrounding these hills.

The Dragons are a bit more complicated.  Any given Dragon can range from "bad ass apex predator" to "scheming Machiavellian mastermind" to "Dark Lord."  I don't have a particular idea for a Dragon or Dragon's to have a lot of influence in this land, so I'll say that are more of an "apex predator" type for now.  Their numbers are few, but each is significantly powerful.

New Year, New Character Day 22: Pendragon

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