Sunday, May 25, 2014

Who Lives in Your City - Follow-up

I have to admit, that at least a part of this concept (from the last post) developed when I was told about an event where only the “old money” of Chicago was invited. Having grown up in Chicago, I did not consider the idea that there was “old money”. Boy was I wrong! The grandchildren and great grandchildren of all those robber barons you once heard about are still not working, but are going around in their own little culture intentionally excluding those who actually worked for their money. I’m not suggesting that every rich person is an honest, hardworking member of the community, but I do have a bias against the children of privilege.

If you are like me, there is a really good chance that you don’t know any folks who were born multi-millionaires and may have forgotten to add them into your game world. The thing is, these are exactly the types who would hire adventuring groups - folks who have more money than sense and an overdeveloped sense of ego. Now to be fair, some of these folks are also philanthropists, but you may not have thought about adding those folks to your world either. Keep it going! These people have wealth and nothing to do. How do they spend that wealth to maintain their luxury? You’re adding servants, service providers, high end restaurants and social gathering places (clubs, opera, casinos?), and the merchants who deliver the high end goods to the city - often using adventurers for guards. Those goods run the gambit, and should be vastly more expensive than most people could hope to purchase (even the adventurers). I’m talking about prize winning horses, silk lace, artworks, rare jewels, and the highest tech available to your fantasy world (things like extremely thin platinum wire for jewelry or magical tools). At this point, whether you’re a role-player or a gold farmer, you must have seen something in here that will add to your world!

More NPC ideas - Who lives in your city?

In reading this blog, you have likely seen that I believe in the concept of idea sparks. I think most game masters can come up with NPCs, missions, locations, etc., if they only have the spark of an idea to get them started. I know it works for me, and as most people do, I believe that everyone else is like me, at least GMs are.

So, this is a bit ghastly, but I have found a new pool of NPC ideas: The obituaries. Google something like “notable deaths 2013”. Best if you use a city that is in some way similar to the city you are trying to flesh out (port city, ag city, major rail or highway crossroads, etc.). Avoid terms like “celebrity” and certainly avoid “Hollywood”. You’re not looking for famous movie and TV stars, you’re looking for folks who are more local in nature. Flip through the inevitable photo gallery, even clicking into some of the descriptions if you need more details to build on. You are going to find a parade of local folks: politicians, business types, philanthropists, yes, some entertainment folks too, but not just actors. There are a million stories in the naked city, these are just six dozen or so of them. Each and every one of those people had a fairly major impact on the city who’s newspaper has put them in the annual perspective piece. Shouldn’t they (meaning their fantasy counterparts) also have a place in your city?

As always, you need to make the genre shift. Union officials become guild masters. TV stars become actors in plays or even operas. Journalists probably don’t have a counterpart, unless your world does have a “press”. Be careful - all newspapers have some manner of bias, and they will forget about people from the other side of the political spectrum. Newspapers are also biased in thinking that their employees are famous, when rarely do people actually notice or care about them. Sorry - Print is dead, don’t bother arguing with me.

Yep - It’s a bit gloom and doom to be reading the obits, but the ideas are vast. Not only do you get a small glimpse into their lives, but you know their accomplishments. Famous entrepreneur? Why not place him in your city just before he gets famous? Now you have news for the next few years on how he is growing his business. Socialite? Same thing - place her in time right before her scandalous news breaks. These aren’t just ideas for NPCs, but possibly for missions or even just news about town. The more invested in the city your PCs are, the more they care about what’s going on in town. Even for you non-role players out there. Do you spoon feed news to your players or do you hide the important stuff within a whole bunch of news points and let them sort it out? Well, then you need a whole bunch of news points to sort through, don’t you?

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Collecting Treasure - Gathering it all up

To be honest, what started me thinking on how you count coins was reading about sunken treasure. Adventurers never have to worry about these things, do they? They come upon a sunken treasure or a dragon’s hoard, and they just shovel coins into their back packs (or their extra-dimensional bags). They know almost immediately how many coins they have. If they worry about anything, it is if they have enough encumbrance to lift everything and carry it back home. No one thinks about counting it.

The point today isn’t really about counting it; it’s about finding it. When the ship goes down in a hurricane, thousands of gold coins go spilling into the sand. Spilling into the sand over the course of a quarter mile or so. How much time do the adventurers spend searching for coins? How much time can they afford to spend? If the coins are underwater (as in our sunken treasure example), do they have enough breath to gather them all? The coins are several inches deep in the sand. How do you find them all? Can you filter them? Do you take the sand and water into your extra-dimensional thingie?

I have a practical solution. When I set up something like this, where it is impractical to believe that the party can actually gather up all the treasure, I put time limits on it. If the treasure is spread out like this, I might say that in the first hour of searching, they find 500 gold coins. In the second hour, they find 200gc. Third hour, 75sc. Fourth hour, 25. Fifth hour, 0, unless they shift their search pattern to increase the range they are searching. In that case they find 20 more in hours five through ten. Hour 11 and maybe +5. Now all these are controlled by searching and Senses skills, so the results won’t look as smooth as what you see here. Maybe in total there are 1,000gc, of which you find 800gc in three hours, but have to make successful Senses tasks to find the other 200 and you’re only finding 5 per hour. Is it worth it? Is it worth 40+ hours to make an extra 200 coins? Maybe not.

After a few hours of missing Senses tasks, the party may assume they are done. That will teach the gold farmers to stop worrying only about how much damage they can do and start thinking about “worthless” skills like Senses. Adventurers need to be more than just killing machines; they need to be explorers.
So what else works? The same type of idea can control coins in a dragon’s hoard (built on gravel or with a cracked “ground” surface), finding gold coins lost in a mound of copper coins, gem stones (raw) in a pile of rubble, diamonds in a pile of broken crystal, just about anything on the floor of a leaf covered forest, mink pelts in a pile of rat skins, and on and on and on. Don’t think of it as punishing the players; think of it as rewarding the good finders.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Collecting Treasure - Even when it’s pay

There is a point at which the counting of money must be considered a chore in and of itself. Who cares - I think most adventurers do. Give me just a minute here to show you why. Well, Alexander Dumas claimed that Fouquet’s “treasurers” could count out a million coins in a day? Now I never fully understood the monetary system they were using, so they may have been using higher denomination coins to reduce the work. Also remember that they must count and recount to confirm the count, and at numbers that high would probably count a third time.

So if the party is to be paid a huge amount of money - unless the treasury has prepared for this by counting out the money, arranging it in some meticulous fashion, and preparing it for travel, then the adventuring party is bound to wait for it. This would most likely be the same even if the number were somewhat lesser. Assuming that you count one coin per second, and careful counters would be unlikely to do better, 50,000 coins would take 14 hours, or at least all day. Also figure, if one guy counts it all - assuming he arranges it on a table or something - then another guy will come in the next day and spend all day counting it. Then possibly a third guy on a third day and maybe a fourth guy to pack it all up. Even if the third guy packs it, it is still three days to get a 50,000 coin reward. Fouquet was assumed to have an army of guys working for his treasury office, so they went faster, but even still ...

But you don’t have to do that, right? I mean, you make one stack of coins and then line up the others next to it. Not in my world. Coins are minted by hand, and hand minted coins don’t stack like modern machine minted coins. You could weigh them, and just hand over a certain weight in coins or even bullion. That would probably be a lot easier to do and quicker, but you have to accept that even this would be a meticulous process. No one likes to give out money, even if it was fairly earned. Those guys with the money and their guys who handle it are going to be extremely slow, if for no other reason than they want to be.

Again - who cares? Well, if you return the princess to her father and expect that big reward - expect to be held up in the capital while they get your reward ready. Did you pull some trick that might be discovered in the four day waiting period? Do you have the cash on hand to live for four days while you wait for the king’s financial guys? Do you have the time to check their counts or could they short you 5% without you catching on? Makes you start thinking that checks aren’t so bad, huh?

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Super bronze plate mail

So I mentioned super bronze in a previous post, and I mentioned armor stats a while back. I thought some folks might wonder how those two worked.

If you’ve read through Legend Quest - Optional Weaponry, you’ve seen the rules for Breech, Break & Batter. Without getting into the details of it, combat ready, steel weapons have a strength of x3. Super bronze would be x3.5. So how does it work? Let’s look at plate mail armor: Steel plate mail is 75@5 w/ AR=6 (Damage Absorption Limit@Damage Absorption Rate then Attribute Reduction). Now, you can use the stronger super bronze to lighten the weight (reduce the AR) because with super bronze being stronger than steel, less metal will yield the same strength. Or, you can use “the same amount” of metal to yield a stronger suit of plate mail. The math follows (and you can ignore it), but the lighter suit of armor is 73@5 w/ AR=5 and the same weight suit results in 88@6 AR=6.

The math works like this: x3 is 85.7% or x3.5. AR of 6 x 85.7% is 5.14, but since you only need an AR of 5, and 5 is 97.2% of 5.14. So the DAL of 75 x 97.2% is 72.9. x3.5 is 116.7% of x3, so the DAL goes from 75 to 87.5 or 88 and DAR of 5 goes from 5 to 6 (5.83). I might want to lower the DAL to 85 since 5.83 really isn’t 6.

On weapons, I don’t think it is appropriate to make it easier to do damage. So I assume a Strength Needed =6 long sword is not going to do more damage if you make it lighter. However, x3.5 vs x3 means 6=5.14. So while the lighter weapon does the same damage, it does change the Combat Rounds calc (how long you can wave the weapon around before you start getting tired). So the super bronze long sword can be used longer before it starts to tire the wielder.

When to attribute it to divine intervention

So your adventuring party is exploring a ruined city that has been inhabited only by monsters and bandits for the last 1,000 years. During the adventure, they stumble upon a secret door that leads them into the laboratory of a long dead alchemist and discover his recipe book. They bring it back to civilization and it winds up revolutionizing the field of alchemy. Normal stuff for adventurers, right?

But does it make any sense? No. The lab has been lost for centuries, but these guys who never spend more than 10 minutes searching any room happen to find the secret door, open it and reveal an intact lab, with valuable loot, that no one else has discovered in 1,000 years. And it isn’t materially damaged. Right!

I did this recently. A party I GM for was searching a ruined giant city. This thing is only a couple of days away from a major city and has been gone over by historians dozens of times. But they found the secret smithy. Granted, no one else was really looking for metal working; they were looking more for treasure or historically significant artifacts. But they found it. Some of the traps no longer worked. Some had been set off by previous treasure seekers. Some they avoided themselves. In the end, they walked out with the Rosetta Stone of smelting - a stone tablet with the formula for “super bronze” carved into it in several languages.

So was it that easy? No. They knew what they were looking for. They investigated any ruined building that might have at one time been a smithy. They spent about four days covering the area. But they found something that had been lost for centuries, even though others had looked there harder than they did. How do I justify that?

Divine inspiration! The alchemical spirit of super bronze was getting desperate. No one remembered how to make his aspect substance. Without it actually existing, he was starting to fade into being a legend, and he didn’t want that! So he inspired the monk who went looking (hired the party) and then led the party right to it. He needed them to find it.

My main point is this: Sometimes truly lucky things happen to adventurers. OK, really lucky things happen to adventurers all the time. Sometimes it might just be luck. Fortune favors the bold. But sometimes, it might be something else. There are a lot of gods out there in fantasy worlds, or at least angels, demons and other spirits. Does one of them benefit by the luck the adventurers received? Might they have played a hand? Maybe. Will the party ever find out? Maybe, depends on how you play the game.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

What is Board Enterprises working on?

As always, we have too many projects going at once and it interferes with our ability to accomplish anything. In addition to running two campaigns, this blog and trying to increase the Fletnern wiki’s size, we are working on:
100 Character Histories (pretty close to completion actually), 100 Religions, 100 Commoners, 100 Bars (including bar foods, bar types and bar tenders), several Baker’s Dozens: Archetypes, Carnivals, Hoards (the treasure kind), and one double dozen on the lives of 13 Mundanes and 13 Magicals; oh, and: Pockets (a d1000 of things found in pockets for looting or picking), Mercenary’s Greed (another d1000 loot table, but with obvious differences), Facets (on gems, their values and magical abilities), Mass Market Magic, Speed Characters (faster LQ character creation), the “silver anniversary” edition of the LQ rule book (including a ton of extra notes in an admittedly less professional style), Siege Magic, a couple of Campaign Starter Kits (OK more like six), and a supplement on Slavery.
Ever bite off more than you can chew? Yeah, I do that a lot. If you want to see what we've actually accomplished, check out our products at RPGNow and/or Warehouse 23. Thanks!

Can Your God Come Out To Play?

The Anglic pantheon has a storm god, but not a sea god. This is mainly because although their capital is now a sea port, they were originally a plains culture based on their horses. So what are they to do?

Well, one goddess sees this as an opportunity. Marina, the Dinsthain pantheon’s sea goddess, is looking to become the Anglic sea goddess as well. This isn’t that difficult to imagine, because Marina’s stronghold is right across the straits from the Anglic capital of Myork. The pantheons are rivals, but Marina is seen as a bit of an outsider in her own pantheon. She’s sort of the rebellious one. She’s not evil, but because oceans cover most of the planet, she believes that she should be at least the number two god in her pantheon. If they won’t give her the respect she “deserves”, she’ll go looking for it elsewhere. But how does she do that?

Well, she needs to send missionaries. Myork is a rare city that refuses to allow “foreign” temples outside of the foreigners’ district of the city. So she has a pretty big temple there, but that’s not getting the job done. She has to start converting enough of the locals that the government will accept that she is not a foreign god. But she also has to convince the other pantheon (the actual gods) to allow her in. Here she has to prove that her admission to their pantheon will not reduce any other god’s power and that she is not some manner of spy for their rival pantheon.

Doesn’t sound that difficult does it? Well, convincing a god of just about anything can take decades, maybe centuries. Marina has been at this for some time now. How/when will she convince the Anglic gods that she is not a threat or a spy? Well, not to let the cat out of the bag, but the Dinsthain and Anglic gods are going to go to war. Marina’s actions during that war will likely prove to be the deciding factor.

So why did I tell you all this? Because I’m running a campaign based out of Scaret - Marina’s stronghold. The party has been involved in all manner of missions on behalf of different temples, mainly Marina’s. So Marina needs someone to go to Myork, not as missionaries, but to do good works on her behalf - to help convince the government there that she is working on their behalf. Do the players fully understand all of this? Of course not. (Well, maybe they will when they read this, but I haven’t let anything out of the bag, yet.)

I like adventurers working on behalf of religious organizations. Not only does it give them a solid base of operations, but there are an unlimited number of missions they can go on. They can do missions that make the gods look better to their followers (or prospective followers). They can do things directly on behalf of the gods (gathering sacrifices, meting out vengeance, etc.). They can do things for the clergy - which may or may not really be in the interest of the god(s), but you know how that goes. Not only all of this, but with the god(s) taking an interest in them, the party has a serious level “contact”. This has manifested in the gods sending the party out to specifically “gift” the party with magic items they believe the mortals will need for upcoming missions. I’ve been running campaigns for over three decades. Divine “employers” are one of the best ways to go. If you’re stuck - I would strongly suggest this as a theme.

One last item, because I don’t actually have gods speak to mortals typically: All the conversations between powerful gods and the mortals have been between minions (“angels”) and clergy. So the party has to trust the clergy to properly communicate what the gods want. Takes a little faith, huh? That makes it more fun to me as game master.