Sunday, June 28, 2015


I spend a lot of time trying to get my fantasy cities to be cosmopolitan. You know - How do elves and dwarves fit into a mainly human setting in an intelligent manner. Why? Because my players tend to play all different races and if the city the campaign was based in didn’t like non-humans, then it would be kind of crappy to play a non-human.

But how realistic is that? In many case, it is probably OK. Truth is, most of my cities do have racial biases (racism if you will). The Rhorics of Rhum don’t like elves, because they sided with the dwarves in the recent Elf-Dwarf War. Similarly, the Marils of Brinston don’t really like the dwarves because of the same reason (as in they sided with the elves). Meanwhile the Angles of Myork really don’t like the elves (because they consider the elves of the nearby Circle Forest to be rebels) and they think all dwarves are incredible blacksmiths. Yes, it is still racism if you think someone is cool just because they are a certain race.

But shouldn’t there be places or at least pockets where other races are not welcome? Yes! One way I have tried to reflect this is when halflings or dwarves intentionally build inns and taverns with 5’ ceilings. They don’t want humans and they don’t want any humans that come there to feel welcome. Not only that, but it’s pretty tough to brawl while your head keeps knocking into the chandeliers.

But how else can we do this? It is not as if it has to be as subtle as short ceilings. Signs on the door reading, “No humans allowed here” should do the trick. Or simply having a deputy stand on the road into town gesturing for anyone of the wrong race to take the side road around the town instead of the one through it. Any adventurers who feel that the deputy would be an easy kill (and he would) should have been smart enough to think before they slaughtered a member of law enforcement and should soon be fighting in the shade of all those arrow volleys coming in on them. Yes, killing a deputy is reason to have the army mobilize and rain death down upon you, especially if they think you have magic and can only counter your magic with enormous numbers.
But race is only one reason to hate an entire group of people. Some cities should be deemed “holy” and members of the wrong faith(s) should be barred from entering upon pain of death. There are still some regions in Fletnern where magic is considered evil (or at least certain types are) and anyone deemed to be a “witch” will be barred or arrested. Some small towns might be closed to anyone who is not a member of a specific tribe or other small group within a race. How exactly they tell who is or is not a member of the tribe could make for some interesting role-playing and problem solving.

The more I think about where I want to do this, the more I realize that I already have, but need to be a little more clear (even to myself) about exactly who is or is not banned from certain places. My centaurs are pretty xenophobic, and so are my orcs. It would certainly make sense if the people they barred were ready to bar them right back. Great, now I have to start thinking about the wilds of Fletnern again, when I was actually getting somewhere on the more civilized parts.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Risk Takers

I am not a risk taker. It’s just part of my personality make-up. I don’t do anything without having a Plan B, and I never risk more than I can afford to lose. If you study business, you will likely read in management books various theories on whether or not risk is essential or foolish. Let me tell you my bias, and how I worked it into my world.

The city of Forsbury is known for being a “depot town”. That means that it is at a crossroads and as caravans come in, they drop off loads into the warehouses, pick up other loads and head back out. This is not a manufacturing center, it is a trade center. So it makes sense that the town is primarily controlled by the biggest merchants in the city. (There is a Baron who intentionally keeps his army strong and his taxes low in order to keep these merchants here, but who exactly is “in charge” is often questionable.)

Now, when I started the campaign in Forsbury, figuring that being surrounded by money and trade but not really manufacturing - this would be a great place for mercenaries, I established the merchant houses. There are about 30, but only the top eight or so really mattered. Some of them were long established, but most of the time that I was writing up the history of the houses, similar themes kept coming out. Why? Because I have studied business. The really successful folks are those who take risks and work their tails off.

For example - The Masterhills. The father of the current brother team running the cartel was a teamster who knew he could do it better. He loaded up his wagons and ran them at top speed from the river (where fish were cheap) to Forsbury where they weren’t, and he was able to do it fast enough to sell “fresh” fish. Then he loaded up his wagons with more rock than was safe for them to carry and ran that faster than he should down roads that weren’t good enough. Guess what - he undersold the competition. By the time his wagons fell apart from the stress and problems, he was rich enough to start doing things right.
But his sons, they were raised rich. They knew what to do to maintain it, and admittedly, they had enough initiative to go out and take more business from their competition, but by and large, they were playing defense. That was until Caitlin came along. A professional mercenary, sell sword, adventurer or assassin, depending on who you asked, she had spent her life risking, well, her life. Risking money was no big thing to her. She put together several expeditions to the arctic to hunt the mammoths (hey - it’s high fantasy) for their ivory. She brought back so much ivory that she altered the world market on it, though not until she too had become rich.

How does this affect your game worlds? Well, on Fletnern, the old money tries to play it safe. They bribe and control the governments to make it more difficult for other people to get into business. If they hire adventurers, it is more likely that they are doing it to attack a rival or try to destroy something that someone else has built. The young money guys - They are out there risking new ideas. They are exploring new regions looking for wealth they can take or trade for. They are running into lost cities and tribes that no one even knew were out there. Both of these can be employers for your player characters, but the missions are going to be completely different.

Monday, June 8, 2015

The Power of a Lesser God

The cat’s out of the bag, so I may as well let it all out. Apparently one of my players was reading through Gods and Demons and noticed Pemblin. Actually another one of them had read through it earlier and for whatever reason thought I just liked the name and reused it. Yeah, I didn’t. After reading it and rereading it, he got it - the NPC who had attached himself to the party was actually a god. A really low powered one, but a god.

I got the idea from Swords and Ice Magic - at one time the last of the Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser books. In it, the two adventurers wind up meeting Odin and Loki, but the gods are past their prime and starting to fade. That story had a huge effect on me and the way I portray divinities in Legend Quest. I liked the idea of putting in a god who had some magic left to him, but wasn’t really at the “miracle production” level.

So what could Pemblin do (as a god)? Well, on a scale of 1-10, he’s a 1. That means he’s really only about as powerful as a journeyman spell caster. He did have both spell singing and illusionary magics, but only at a (mortal measure) power level of 3. Admittedly, he typically had some pretty decent chances to succeed on his spells, but it wasn’t the sure thing that the players have now accused me of. There were some clues. He never slept. He did concern himself with things they couldn’t have known about. He knew every bit of trivia about every god (and there were a lot of missions for the gods in this campaign). OK - not huge clues, but I had hoped it would prove enough to make them suspicious.

While they never knew it - the campaign was caused by another minor god. So where Pemblin was the kind of god that gold farmers want, Kemple Tukk is not, but he proved to have far more impact on the world. Kemple Tukk is also a “1” on the divine scale. He is the spirit of items lost to the sea, a junk collector of everything that hits the bottom of the ocean. Sounds useless, right? But what is his motivation? He wants there to be more stuff that hits the bottom of the ocean. These things then become part of his “realm”, stuff he can control, actually sacrifices. So how does he get more of this stuff without pissing off every god who can squish him like a bug?

One of the things that had found its way into Kemple Tukk’s grasp was an ancient book of summoning spells from an aquatic race mostly forgotten by the surface dwellers. The last spell of this book was a way to summon the spirit of the leviathans (gigantic barracudas - 125’ long barracudas). His plan was simple - create a situation in which a group of surface dwellers would find the book, be able to translate it, and be foolish enough to summon this monster, preferably within the port of a major city. You see, he prepared a version of the book that left out what the proper sacrifices were to appease Neachoah (the spirit of the leviathans) when you summoned him, so Kemple Tukk knew that Neachoah was going to go berserk.

Yes - Kemple Tukk enlisted the aid of some other spirits, including some who were more powerful than he is, but the plan was his. The execution was mainly his. He hoped the blame would be spread around if anyone got too angry over what he had done. He sort of got lucky; one of his allied divinities convinced Marina goddess of the seas that the surface dwellers weren’t showing her the proper respect and this would be a great time for her to remind them that they needed to pray to her a little harder if they wanted to avoid having Godzilla’s little sister swim into their port and eat most of it.

Is there a point? Is there a moral to this story? Yes - Just because a divine creature is “lesser” or otherwise of minimal divine power, they are still viable influencers. They can have an impact on the world. Also, they all have different motivations. Few gods would have thought that tricking humans into summoning Neachoah into the port of Scaret would benefit them, but Kemple Tukk showed a half dozen or so of them that it was a good idea, but best of all for him. Motivations - they need to be diverse, but even though they have no impact on your damage rolls, they are vitally important for a good fantasy role-playing game.

This blog is not intended to simply be an advertisement for Board Enterprises products, but all of these divinities can be found detailed in Gods and Demons. If you’re looking for 200 divine creatures (gods, spirits, angels, demons and minions), this is great place to get ideas. There is also a full set of rules for using divinities in a FRPG that we think really supports the power of the gods without giving the player characters control over the gods.