Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Introducing the World - Part I Redux

Here are things I and my co-DM have developed for Bugbears for Breakfast and done some detail work on. More will follow.

Chartered Adventuring Companies
To speed up the exploration of the Found World and reduce the cost of doing so, most governments in the Old World now issue Adventuring Charters. The cost up front is negligible and mostly involves establishing that the members of the charter company have the financial means to purchase transportation through a Moon Gate. The charters allow adventurers to explore the Found World, gather up what riches they can, and then pay a Charter Fee to return to the Old World with their wealth. The Charter Fee is very steep and is one of the revenue generators for the issuing governments. Some governments allow chartered companies to make incremental payments until the entire amount is paid, but increase the total fee by 20 to 50% if this option is taken.

The advantage of issuing Adventuring Charters is manyfold: adventurers explore the territory being colonized, adventurers clear out dangerous monsters, adventurers provide income (in the form of the Charter Fees), adventurers return as wealthy (and taxable) citizens, and adventurers are not hanging around the Old World looking for trouble.

Goldland Crossing
Goldland Crossing is built in the ruins of a walled city on the coast of the Southern Sea. It surrounds one of the better known Moon Gates. The ruins could once have sheltered thirty to forty thousand people, but is now home to approximately 5000 people. The two inner districts (the Gate District and the Market District) are mostly rebuilt and well patrolled by the city guard. The Lower Docks have been isolated from the rest of the city by the New Wall and are also heavily patrolled. The upper Docks and the three outer districts have only received spotty attention and only the routes from the main gates to the inner districts are patrolled with any regularity.

Everyone living in the city is required to spend one day in ten serving in the city guard, providing a pool of nearly 400 guardsmen on any particular day. Most citizens see this as a necessity for keeping the city safe and willingly spend the time. Anyone missing an assigned day is rescheduled and assigned a penalty day, which must also be served. A side effect of this is a willingness of the citizenry to assist guardsmen who call for assistance (as next time it could be them needing the help). In addition to patrolling the city, guardsmen also are assigned to work details, which is how the New Wall was constructed.

With a high number of chartered adventuring companies based in the city but usually out in the wilderlands, theft of property from homes is dealt with harshly in the city. Those caught and convicted are publicly executed (and remember, the use of magic to prove guilt is regularly used).

Otter's Barony
Adjacent to Goldland Crossing is Otter's Bay, a bay that is unique in several ways: the bay is uniformly 30 ft deep, there is a conspicuously vertical cliff surrounding three-quarters of it, and the ruins of an ancient city sits at the bottom of the bay, with taller buildings poking up above the waters. It is clear to most that once the city was above the waterline and was sunk by supernatural means. Evidence of this is easy to find – there are the remains of roadways that lead to the edge of the cliffs and stop, only to resume at the base of the cliff, 30 ft under water, continuing into the sunken ruins.

The bay comprises Otter's Barony, a fief granted to a human named Otter. Otter was once an apprentice shipwright and built the first ship able to sail back to the Old World, bringing the riches of the Found World to the Old World's attention. In return for this service, Otter was granted the bay as a hereditary fiefdom and the right to collect docking fees in the bay named in his honor. The current baron, Otter III, maintains these rights, plus runs a business harvesting oysters and owns several fishing vessels that work the Southern Sea, providing fish for Goldland Crossing.

The population of Otter's Barony lives in the portions of the sunken city that are still above the water's surface. The walls are made of stone and those buildings still standing are very sturdy. If the building had stone floors, they are still in use, but many buildings have had internal structures of wood added. Most buildings have at least limited oyster and clam beds in their lower structures, which provide food and a limited crop the tenants can sell in Goldland Crossing on market days.

Occasionally an aquatic monster will find its way into the bay and endanger the oyster divers and other residents. The baron will place a poster in the Goldland Crossing market and hire adventurers to deal with the monster for either a fee or the right to set up in one of the unused towers in the bay.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Creation Process

I've decided to get a bit more structured on my postings here (and, you know, keep track of what I've posted), so if any of this is repeats, my apologies.

Once I decided to run a 4E game, I needed a campaign setting. There were several things I wanted in the setting:
  1. Lots of interesting places for the PCs to adventure in.
  2. Enough "room" for both my co-DM and myself to operate without stepping on each other.
  3. The ability to add things as necessary, instead of needing to build everything up front.
  4. The ability to place both home built and purchased material (like RPGA stuff after modifying it).
  5. The ability to incorporate anything half-way reasonable the PCs might want to play.

This pretty much said "home brew campaign world" all over it. We could have tried Greyhawk or maybe the implied world in 4E, but the implied world was sort of boring and Greyhawk wasn't something our PCs were terribly interested in (plus, tons of pre-existing storylines and possible player knowledge). I had done some initial design work on the MMTRPG (massively multiplayer tabletop role-playing game) with some of the forum users at Fear the Boot (most of which is now sadly lost due to the forums reset two years ago), but we never reached critical mass and it fizzled out. I decided to re-tread that as the background for the campaign.

Basic Details:
  • There's the Old World, which is mostly Standard Fantasy European Places.
  • The Old World comprises the Northern Hemisphere.
  • There's the Found World, which comprises the Southern Hemisphere and bears the ruins of an ancient, glorious civilization that was clearly struck down.
  • The two hemispheres have been separated by a world-ringing storm that cannot be passed through north-to-south (but can south-to-north).
  • The Found World was devastated long, long, LONG ago for reasons no one remembers, not even the elves. In fact, the Old World long ago forgot about the Found World.
  • Moon Gates recently re-opened. They connect two points, one Old World to one Found World, for a short period of time.
  • Different Moon Gates open at different times, based on the positions of the moons (which means there is more than one moon).
  • Some Moon Gates are open for seconds, some for minutes, some a few hours. The longer they are open, the longer the time between openings. Open for hours equals opens once every two to three years. Open for seconds equals opens every week or so.
  • On the Old World side, the gates open in remote locations. On the Found World side, they tend to open in the middle of ruins.
  • Old world governments are stuffing colonies through the gates because lots of gold and magic can be found easily there. So the culture the PCs will operate in will be "Gold Rush boomtown on the frontier".

With that framework, I wanted to start creating the Found World, where the campaign would actually happen. I really don't care about the Old World as PCs going there retire and become NPCs. So I wanted the names of places already in the Found World. I use several random generator sites online (Seventh Sanctum and Serendipity) and put together a list of 20 fantasy-sounding fiefdoms and used their names as kernels to create around.

The main campaign city became Goldland Crossing, as it sounds like what you'd call a place where people show up from the Old World to find gold. The others gave me ideas and based on the short descriptions, I started placing them on a vague map, just to get their relative positions. (I'll be posting the short descriptions in later blog postings.) Yes, I'm a bit vague here, but I'll post more on this as time goes by.

Next I met with my co-DM and we started hammering at it to get it into shape. We moved some stuff around, placed some new stuff, and worked out what the culture and society would be like in order to function something like believably (not realistic, just believable). We now know why the campaign city exists and why it works the way we want it to. We also went over the conceptual map I created for Goldland Crossing using Zak S's Urbancrawl method and added stuff to that (mostly some interior walls to divide up and define the city better).

So that's where we are world building-wise. I have a framework for the local adventuring area, the reasons why adventurers are here, why there are places to adventure, and a jumping off point for the campaign. The rest we're going to build as we need it.

The First Adventure
The first adventure is going to be the PCs claiming a building in Goldland Crossing, clearing it out, and learning how the city works a bit (which covers a multitude of sins that I'm planning on inflicting on the PCs). Once they get a level or two under their belts, they should be ready for adventures out of the city. Plus, we'll all be more familiar with the system by then so I can start getting creative. Heh.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Artwork in the Banner

[UPDATE:  It's now June 2019.  I've changed the art in the banner several times since I wrote this, so it is no longer accurate.  In fact, I'm not really certain which piece of artwork the post refers to anymore.  I'm leaving the post up for archival reasons.]

The artwork in the banner is Pruuma the She-Bear, by Kalman Andrasofszky. This is a cropped version so it would fit. All rights belong to...who ever owns it at the moment (either WotC, Paizo, or Kalman).

I ran across this piece in a Google image search, looking for something to put in the banner. It works for one of the PCs in my game (yes, one of the players put together a bugbear defender). As the work appeared in "Vault of the Drow" in Dragon Magazine, I imagine the rights are somewhat tied up. I'm going to use it for a bit until I find something else, commission something else, or am asked to take it down, whichever comes first.

I'd like to get artwork for each of the PCs that I can feature here, either individually or as a group. If anyone is interested in doing some fair trade, their art skills for my editing skills, please let me know. I have nine years as a technical writer in the oil and gas industry and three years prior to that in PC hardware, so I have some skills and am willing to work a deal.

That's it for now. First actual game session is tomorrow night and I'm really looking forward to it. Later!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Introducing the World, Part 1

This is the blurb I sent to my new gaming group about my proposed campaign:

The Worldstorm, an immense series of continual storms that forms the southern border of every map of the world, separates the Known World from the Found World, an area recently rediscovered. Once it was thought that the Worldstorm formed the southern edge of the world. Any ship that tried to sail through it either never returned or was found as floating wreckage. The storms themselves are constant and maintain a churning westward movement, never letting up. Ancient legends claim that the gods set up the Worldstorm, but the reason why has been lost as the gods are silent on that topic.

Sometime within the last century, the Moon Gates started resumed opening and closing after millennia of inactivity. They were accidentally discovered and it was learned that they offered passage to lands south of the Worldstorm. The gates are only open for a relatively short period and only during certain moon phases, hence the name. Eventually roughly built ships sailing back from the Found World were able to make it through the Worldstorm with some regularity – indicating the Worldstorm apparently was to keep people out, not in.

When the first ship returned, laden with gold and magic items, everyone took notice. Gold fever spread across the Old World and small wars were fought for control of the best Moon Gates. Expeditions were organized and sent through and rude colonies established.

The PCs are new adventurers that have decided to make their chances in the Found World as a chartered adventuring company. Scraping enough money together to buy their charter, their gear, and Moon Gate passage, you found yourselves in Goldland
Crossing, a rough town built in the ruins of an ancient castle, run by the Chartered Gate Guild. After checking in with the Guild Office, you secured inexpensive lodgings and started looking for adventure.

At the game I added to the description of Goldland Crossing, pointing out how it was situated on the edge of a sea-side cliff. The cliff itself formed a very circular bay with the ruins of a city in it, now uniformly at a depth of 20 feet. Based on the remains of roads, the city used to be level with the fort until magically forced down into the water. The area in Goldland Crossing known as The Docks consists of warehouses and cargo cranes that reach down to the water, 50 feet below, where docks have been built out of stone reclaimed from the sunken city.

The next nearest city ruins now comprise the Mammoth Fall Mines Barony. A nearby mountain was apparently forced to avalanche en mass onto the city below it, mostly burying it. There are now operations digging down into the buried remains of the city and looting it. The original explorer brought backlarge amounts of gold and magic and was made a baron with the right to control all diggings on that site (provided the Crown gets its cut of the profits).

A small fief near Goldland Crossing uses the hollow remains of a 400-foot stone statue as a sort of ready made fort. The statue itself is buried from the waist up and is heavily weathered, so it is uncertain if this was a king, a hero, or a god. It is now the Fief of the Empty God.

I have several more areas named and a base description, but they are not plotted on my sketch map yet. These should give a basic feel for what things are like - an area once very civilized and apparently strong with magic, long ago fallen. This provides the rationalization for: dungeons where ever I want them, wierd tribes and monsters for the PCs to interact with, easy to hand off the DM's Hat to my co-DM whenever I want to play, and a (mostly) lawless frontier starting point that will go through some growing pains as the PCs progress. Sort of like Deadwood, but based in the ruins of an ancient castle. And possibly with less swearing. Possibly.

Mapping Experiments
I'll be using Zak's Urbancrawl Rules for Slacker DMs to map out Goldland Crossing. My city is much smaller than his example in several ways, the most critical being I'm only using six city areas as opposed to his ten. I'll make updates as I expand it and determine how well this method works for me.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Because Zak Said So

[UPDATE: It's now June 2019.  I know there are issues here.  I'm leaving this post up for archival purposes.]

I've recently started a 4E D&D game and have been thinking about using Blogger, so I've also been thinking of using Blogger for posting adventure logs and information related to the campaign, but hadn't committed to the idea yet.

At the first session, I only had two of the players, so we did some background work and I started explaining the campaign world to them (I'll post about it later). One of the players created a bugbear defender, the other a tiefling rogue. Interesting mix and we talked about it some, working out how dwarves and bugbears fight each other like Scottish highlander clans, occasionally adopting each others orphans. The tiefling is a bit more vanilla, but we'll work on it as the game plays.

So I haven't named the campaign yet and was thinking about "Adventures in the Found World," which makes more sense when you know the background, but is still kind of "enh". Then I was reading Zak at Playing D&D with Porn Stars talk about Monsters Starting with G and, in relation to gnolls eating bugbears for breakfast, "Why isn't there a website called Bugbears for Breakfast?"

And suddenly, I had the name of the campaign.

Not exactly what he was talking about, but an awesome name I could not pass up. Plus, I agree with him totally about gnolls - they rock.

P.S. - This is just the basic site. I'll spruce it up over the next week or so - it'll be Sunday before I have time due to running two different games this weekend (one 4E, the other Pathfinder). Check back in a week and grouse at me if I'm sluggish about it. Thanks!