Friday, April 2, 2010

Introducing the World – Part 1 Theory

My plan is to post a couple new areas and then follow them up with the thought process that went into creating each area. I may eventually tie the two together into a single post (especially once I have adventure summaries to post), but for the moment they are going to be separate posts. I was going to post this particular entry Monday, but after sleeping on it, I decided that the gap between work and theory would be too great. So here it is, on a Friday. Enjoy.

One of the main themes for the Found World is "something awesome and terrible happened here in the far past". The players will see evidence of immense power unleashed in the dim past and it should be spooky and intimidating, putting them on edge. Goldland Crossing and Otter's Barony start showing this theme to the players from Day 1.

Chartered Adventuring Companies
The traditional band of adventurers is a bit troublesome for a Medieval/Renaissance ruler to accept. Adventurers that last any length of time in their chosen profession can quickly become individually powerful and unless you have something for them to do, they have a tendency to find their own adventures, which might not be in the rulers best interests. There's nothing worse than having some adventurers turn up proof that you are up to something lucrative but unethical. Peasant uprisings are expensive to put down.

But! Send them out to a dangerous frontier with lots of treasure that has recently opened up and you can solve two problems at once. Charge them a fee to register for access and passage to where the treasure is with a hefty fee to return and they'll leave you alone. If they are successful, you get a large chunk of whatever they bring back and they are looking to settle down and retire, becoming taxable citizens. If they fail, they are either dead (and no longer a problem) or alive but poor with no easy way back, putting potential malcontents far, far away.

So that was the thinking behind charted adventuring companies. There are several other things they offer the DM. There is a pool of down-on-their-luck adventurers in the adventure area looking for work, providing an easy way to introduce new characters, replacement characters, hirelings, and followers. You have a reason to keep the PCs in the adventure area that is new, reducing your workload, especially when starting. You also have a way for player characters to retire and move off stage – they made enough to pay their Charter Fee and return to the Old World with their wealth. Finally, it is a good way to tie the starting characters together in a logical manner without tons of backstory. Think of gold prospecting groups during the Gold Rush in California and later in the Yukon.

Goldland Crossing
This was a little more direct. I had a list of fantasy place names (from Serendipity) and while looking them over I saw "Goldland Crossing". Hm. "Crossing" ties into the fact that this is where the Moon Gate dumps out and "Goldland" sounds like an easy stretch for a place being billed as the place to find gold and magic items just laying on the ground. Done and done. Put it in the ruins of an old walled city and I have a reasonably quick-started colony. Make the ruins much larger than the number of emigrants and we have a partially civilized/partially wild area for beginning PCs to adventure in without needing a lot of travel time. Plus, as the PCs level up, I can make the city grow to reflect this.

I've added details about the area around Goldland Crossing and the Moon Gates and the Gate Guild while discussing this with my co-DM, mostly as we talked about other areas. I'll highlight how things changed Goldland Crossing as I discuss those areas.

Otter's Barony
So with a name like Otter, I was thinking of a mellow guy with a tie to water. So where to put it? Word about the Found World only made it back to the Old World via ship, which would put the Moon Gate near water. As I wanted the theme of "something awesome and terrible happened here in the far past" for the campaign, this seemed like a good opportunity to add that element. Otter's Barony comprised Otter's Bay, the sunken ruins of a city that was next to what is now Goldland Crossing. It is clear that the city was sunken by unnatural means – the clearly delineated cliffs and even subsea floor underscore this.

The barony needs someplace for its people to live. The obvious answer was for the people of the barony to live in the parts of the ancient buildings that stick above the waters. In fact, this will become a running theme in locations for the campaign – the people arriving now are adapting the ruins of an ancient civilization for living space and defense. This will be seen when I talk about the Fief of the Empty God and the Candlestick Marches.

I think I need to change Otter III to Otter II in the write up for timeline purposes. It occurs to me that if too much time has passed, then the frontier vibe will be less believable for the players. I think 15-20 years will still be reasonable. I'd be interested in hearing what other think on the subject.

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