Sunday, August 25, 2013

What Kind of Sandwiches Do They Eat?

“a nice MLT: a mutton, lettuce and tomato sandwich, where the mutton is nice and lean and the tomato is ripe. They're so perky, I love that.” What kind of sandwiches do they eat in your fantasy city? Do they eat sandwiches at all? Mine don’t. There is one culture, the Angles, where they split rolls and put meat in them. But it’s considered cowboy food. After all, a slice of roast beef inside a roll wrapped in a napkin is a great lunch for a cowboy who needs to carry the food with him and eat while in the saddle. Nobody else does that, in fact it’s considered incredibly rude. “Greatest thing since sliced bread” - There is no sliced bread in my world. In fact there aren’t even loaves of bread in my world. It’s either flat bread or rolls. And it’s eaten on the side, or perhaps dipped in the soup. I was going to write a book called 100 Bar Foods, a companion to 100 Bar Drinks, but I don’t think it will sell, at least not on its own. I don’t think there are enough GMs out there who actually think about stuff like this. What do they make the bread out of here? What types of meat are available? What’s common and what’s upper crust (no bread pun intended)? How do they eat? I like Rome. I like the history. I like the lessons we should learn about what happens when you have too few people controlling too much governmental power. Rome had a lot of fast food. They had to; their apartments didn’t have kitchens. They had hamburgers. I don’t know what they called them, but there is documented evidence of something that you might call a meatball sandwich using a flattened meatball. They probably did that because you could buy it at the counter and eat it while walking away. No plate necessary. I needed something like that, so I made the waurglars, but they’re a lot closer to a stromboli. It shouldn’t be hard to figure it out, but GMs seldom take the time to do it. Maybe that’s better for me, because quite a few of them seem content to pay me to do it for them. You know what the climate is, so it doesn’t take too much to figure out what grains grow best there. You know the terrain, so you should know what kind of animals will work there, domestically or wild game. You put the two together. Admittedly, I add some culture: Do they bake, boil or broil? Do they use salt, spices, sauces or pretty much plain? How does it affect your game? Well, when the characters hit the tavern during or after a mission, they probably don’t have a choice of what to eat. They ask for a meal and a beer and they eat what the tavern has cooked. As GM, wouldn’t it be better to add a little flavor (this pun was intended) to the game. In the Rhoric Hills, they sit down to a plate of goulash with spatzle, red cabbage and a rye roll. In Brinston, they’re served fish stew with wheat rolls and salted wheat toast. In Scaret, they get a pile of “earthmeat” (mashed potatoes, turnips and carrots) with boiled cabbage and some roast mutton. Maybe you think your players don’t care. Then again, maybe they would if they only had the chance to experience it.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Burial Methods

So I was watching something the other day and there was a Viking funeral. I got to thinking - You know, that makes a lot of sense in a fantasy world. Think about it this way: While there probably is more than enough land for graveyards, do you really want to offer up your ancestors to the necromancers? Zombies are horrifying, but imagine how much more horrifying they would be if it were grandma and grandpa? Assuming your culture does not believe in whatever it was that the Egyptians believed. (I don’t pretend to know why they went with mummification), incinerating the dead makes a lot more sense. I know they’ve dug up some Vikings buried in their boats with all sorts of treasure and tools, but the tradition (fantasy as it may be) of putting the dead in a ship with whatever they need for the afterlife and setting them adrift in the burning boat - Sounds good! No zombies, no skeles, no cursed ground where necromancers can gather power. Kind of makes you think - What are your fantasy world’s cultures doing with their dead, and why?

Monday, August 19, 2013

Three Missions - One Stone

Maybe you folks are smarter than I am, but as a GM, I almost always send the party out after one goal. Now the best I have done is when I set up what would be the world’s largest adventure, if I could ever get around to finishing it. (The interior portions were a palace a half mile in diameter, five stories tall, plus the 15 mile by 8 mile valley wedged between three volcanos and chasing ogre bandits amidst a massive buffalo migration over 150 miles of wilderness. - Sorry for the departure from the topic.) OK - So the post was supposed to be about sending folks out on more than one mission at a time. How to make it work? Well, there’s the easy way. The party gets a mission to travel to the capital city, report for duty, and go fight in a major war. Well, before they leave, they talk to the merchant’s guild - any one need a message delivered to the capital city. Maybe someone else is travelling there and would like to be protected by the party. Maybe a weapon shipment needs to get there too. Maybe the place they are about to attack holds some really cool treasure and while they are following orders and attacking the city, they might be directed (by a third party) to divert just long enough to recover it. Maybe a unit of their army is concerned that their orders are going to get them all killed, so they want to team up. Thus the party would still being doing what they were supposed to, but would have more tweaks and twists in their seemingly straight forward orders. Maybe the enemy is using hellhounds, and an alchemist lets them know that he’ll pay 10sc for each tongue and 1sc for each tooth recovered from the beasts. Maybe the enemy’s weapons are more valuable to a certain fence then to others. Maybe the enemy’s provisions are kind of disgusting (at least to the party’s culture), but are finely preserved delicacies to some other culture. So some sutler is willing to trade actual fresh food in exchange for the captured provisions. So what does this turn into? Well the party first off makes extra cash just getting to the next adventure, and then while they are out in the field fighting, they are stopping to take hell hound teeth and enemy provisions, possibly when they should be fighting or advancing. It means more is going on than simply the main adventure. Maybe that other stuff isn’t important and doesn’t affect the action itself, but it might, and it will serve as “more”. I think the best way to handle something like this is to change the way I handle the Adventurers’ Guild. Instead of effectively being the introducer of missions (effectively the bounty billboard), it could turn into an Adventurers’ Manager. By managing their careers, the guild can work to make everything they do more profitable, for all concerned. Managers can be helpful, motherly, or just plain evil (maybe not evil, but really greedy). I don’t think it takes that much more planning on the GM’s part, well, inconsequentially more. This might also be a way to make adventuring more of a business and less of a gamble for loot. (Check out a previous post on just that here.) When someone offers a bounty for someone, it is very likely that the bad guy pissed off someone else too. Will the party of bounty hunters need to decide who to collect from or will they be able to “double-dip”? What if one bounty demands he be captured alive, while another demands he be brought in dead? With a skilled manager, the party doesn’t even need to do the research; they can just make the decisions during combat.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Pen and Paper First Person Shooter

I’ve been thinking of how to mix it up when it comes to missions and I have a couple of ideas: First - There’s a reason that run and jump games are fun. Even if you’re too old to remember Pitfall, you have likely played or at least watched Lara Croft or Prince of Persia. Running, and jumping and killing bad guys - It’s fun. (Yes, yes, we role-players are a sick and twisted bunch!) How to do that in a pen and paper RPG - Well, it depends on your rules. In nearly every RPG, the characters have speeds and jumping distances. If not - get a new game. OK, we don’t really mean that (but we kinda do). In any case, as a GM, you probably know what they can and cannot do. If your game does not apply percentages to those skills, you can figure them out yourself with a quick modifier. Let’s say that a running long jump is Strength + Endurance + Agility (in feet - Attributes for humans are on a 1-10 scale). So your decent warrior is going to running long jump about 20’. Modify that for armor and any extra equipment he might be carrying. So if he needs to jump a 20’ gap during an adventure, make this like a 75-80% chance of success. Why? Read the post about rolling dice - nothing is certain in combat. Maybe he misses his step, slips a little, twists his foot as he leaps - whatever. If he has to go 24’, well maybe each extra foot is -10%, so 35% chance of Success (CoS). Maybe if he misses by less than 15%, he has a chance of grabbing it with his hands - probably a Climbing skill. So what do you do with all this? Urban adventures! Either they are chasing a thief across the rooftops, trying to escape from an invading army (across rooftops), etc. Maybe it could be a chase over some uneven mountain tops or bad lands. They’re running, they’re jumping, they’re killing bad guys when/if they can catch them. They’re fighting bad guys that catch up to them. Imagine the difference between a “open the door - fight monster” dungeon adventure, and a leaping across buildings, chasing the bad guys urban adventure. If you can’t get the heartbeats of your players going with that kind of action - and not all of it violent! - then you are clearly doing something really wrong as a game master. OK - the rest of these are not as well thought out, but should be good to go in any case: 2 - There is some sort of alarm that goes off if it detects any sort of magic item. So you need to leave all your magical equipment behind and go in “naked”. Maybe spells don’t set it off, but any items would. 3 - The bad guys are tiny, but dangerous - think pixies or fairies, probably spell casters. Sure a dagger hit will kill one, but how many are you going to get. It turns the logic of most characters (how much damage can I do) around. Now they have to think - how often can I hit? Maybe they’re mostly immune to magical spells too, to avoid one fireball clearing the room. 4 - A military mission where an infantry unit is assigned to the party. They will act primarily as meat shields, but should add to the drama. Most players are not use to characters dying around them, and the constant death toll will change things up. They cannot be wasted either, or there won’t be enough of them left at the end to accomplish the mission or shield the party during the final epic battle. A twist on this might be the infantry guys constantly pulling the “You go on, I’ll hold them off as long as I can”. This twist should make the adventure more of a chase too. We all know that combat takes a while. It’s one of the benefits of playing on-line games - the computers do all the math and just say the damage or miss. If you need to pick up the pace of your game, drop some of the combat and put other action in its place. Everyone rolling together to see if they jumped the alleyway will still be suspenseful, and take a lot less time than fighting through three or four enemies.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Economics of Adventuring - post-script

See the previous post on the Economics of Adventuring in order to make more sense of this, though it does kind of stand on its own. I have come to a conclusion - Adventurers are actually gamblers. They are willing to gamble their lives in order to find loot. Let’s be honest - the best stuff from an adventure is seldom the pay you receive. It’s what you loot off the bad guys. So adventuring is in many ways, just a means of having a reason to go slaughter some folks and take their stuff. The reasons might be really good! but they are just an excuse for looting. Let’s not make too moral a statement about this. Learn more about the Roman legions - This is basically what they were doing. The soldiers didn’t really like their jobs or their pay. What they liked was going out, conquering other nations and getting rich off the loot. If the general wanted to keep his troops happy, he had to give them a chance to go and get killed - so that they could gather up other people’s stuff. I mention the Romans, because most of the tribes that attacked Rome were a little more honest about it. They knew they were only there for the plunder, while the legions pretended they were there for the safety of the Roman civilians. Maybe they were - They had a fairly good reason to go and attack other folks, but they certainly profited by it as well. I think that’s how I’ll continue to look at adventurers - Gamblers looking for loot. Post post script: Let’s also remember that the loot that the Romans brought back was most commonly slaves. How you handle that is entirely up to you and how your game world runs.