Sunday, May 21, 2017

Being (Fantasy) Conservation Minded

    One of our more common examples of economics in a fantasy realm is the way that one adventuring party found a way to harvest mastodon tusks and flooded the world with cheap ivory.  But nothing is without consequences in the world of Fletnern.

    Not too long after the source of the ivory became apparent, a group of pacamen came looking for the person who was selling all the ivory.  The pacamen (for those who don’t yet know) are like minotaurs, except that they are elephant headed instead of bull headed.  As such, they have tusks - short ones, but tusks.  They see elephants as incredibly important objects of their religion.  And they are willing to fight to protect elephants and elephant graveyards.  Their assumption was that someone had discovered some manner of elephant graveyard and was lying about the mastodons.  They came to put a stop to it.

    The point really isn’t about ivory or pacamen, but instead about religions and perceived morality.  Chances are, no matter what a people find to be valuable, there will be some group that believes that the items of value should not be disturbed.  It could be ivory, the hides of predatory cats, special aromatic woods, or the landscape that was once atop a coal strip mine.  Especially in a world with elves and numerous gods, someone is going to be upset by just about anything.

    So what do you do as a GM?  Well, I let the players do whatever they want, but then decide how to punish them if they seem to be doing something too easily.  Truth be told, the pacamen were not really a deterrent to the PCs harvesting the ivory.  This was because the pacamen couldn’t survive the frigid north where the mastodons were, plus they were not numerous enough to start a war with the humans.  But the threat was there - a reminder that nothing can be gotten for free.  The PCs hired on extra protection for their ivory caravan, expecting trouble from the pacamen, slightly decreasing their profits.

    Yes, I think everything can turn into a mission or quest spark.  In this case, nothing really came of it, but it was a part of what the party had to consider when taking missions:  Could they risk being away while these guys were in town sort of looking for a problem?  Loot doesn’t have to be easy!

    So what else can you do?  Major jewelry items were stolen from a temple decades ago and are now cursed.  The elves think that the emeralds taken from that mine belong to the goddess of {green or whatever} and should never have been taken and certainly not cut.  The centaurs’ god is actually a zebra centaur and they therefore object to anyone killing zebras for meat or hides.  The ironwood grove is sacred to the fairies and they refuse to allow anyone to harvest the trees.  Jet or ebony is seen as being evil, and no one in town will buy it.  An alchemical potion requires the heart of an eagle, but taking the heart from an eagle causes the eagle to haunt you for the rest of your days.  This is high fantasy after all!

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Small Bites Debut - Take 2

Well, we’re still talking about Build Your Fantasy World in Small Bites or “Small Bites”.  Why?  Well, because it is the biggest project we’ve ever taken on.  The Legend Quest Omnibus Edition was over 300 pages long, but this is running at 40 pages per month.  So within a year it will be bigger than the Omnibus Edition, and I can tell you - that’s a lot!!

Have you seen what we’re doing with Small Bites?  Why not?  Is $ FREE $ too much money for you?  Come on - check it out!  You know you want to.  Not sure where it is, well here:

Each one is 40 pages of content - stuff you can use in your game worlds, stuff that will spark your own creative juices.  Sure, it’s all written like it comes out of our FREE (there’s that word again) World of Fletnern, but if you honestly have trouble carrying an idea from a different FRPG world to yours, you shouldn’t be game mastering.  (That’s really not harsh, because we know you can!)

So what’s Vators about?  Well, the truth is, it started out as All About Knights, but knights are nobles with lands and horses to maintain.  Adventurers are a lot more like the men-at-arms who serve under the knights, so as we got further into it, we thought men-at-arms was more directly valuable to players and GMs.  We’ll do knights!  When?  Well, that depends on what you folks tell us you want.  We weren’t just floating those surveys out there for fun; we honestly listened and changed the lineup of when themes will come out depending on the stuff you told us!

We really want you to come and share our world.  A novelist I like and sort of know signed a book to me saying “Welcome to my world!”  That is exactly how I feel!  I want to welcome you into my world, and I want you to become a part of it!  (and Rick, if you’re reading this, let me know your new email!)

The folks that got advanced copies felt Vators was far better than Avatar, not that Avatar was bad!  but they did feel that Vators was more cohesive.  I don’t know that I see that, but I’m trying to so I can make the next ones that much better.  What is the next one?  Well, if you sign up as a patron before the end of the May, you will immediately get Killer Crime Families of Garnock aka All About Organized Crime in Fantasy.  After that comes Hoards and Other Treasures  - not surprisingly my favorite subject!! 

It’s time!  come get involved.  Welcome to my world - let’s make it our world!

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Why should you patronize Board Enterprises and Small Bites

That is the big question, right!  Why should you give your money to us in order for us to issue blog posts every week and world posts every month?  We’ve already said that we’ll keep doing that regardless, so what does it benefit you?  Well, the honest answer is this:  Board Enterprises makes a small amount of money by selling game reference materials.  It’s not a lot!

Do I think you should really care?  Well, no.  But, the reality is that the more money that the Patreon project Small Bites can generate, the more we can concentrate on it rather than on the more “hard dollar” stuff like Legend Quest and our generic supplements.  The Fletnern wiki is over five years old now, and it sometimes falls a bit dormant when we’re working on big projects, like our recent reissue of Legend Quest under the Omnibus Edition.

But I don’t want it to go dormant for months at a time.  I want to expand it - I want to share it.  and we need your help to do that!  So if you want us concentrating our time on Fletnern and Small Bites (and the blog), then please, become our patron!  Yes, you get loads of stuff in the Small Bites editions!  Yes, you get to support the continued growth of the Fletnern wiki and some of the other things we’d really love to try!  and YES!! you get to help us figure out what’s coming next.

The folks here at Board Enterprises are a passionate bunch.  We’re passionate about gaming and we’re passionate about the projects we work on.  We react to passion in other people too!  Show us a bit of interest and I guarantee you will be surprised at how much interaction you get with us, and how much we’re willing to do to bring you what you’re looking for!

Sunday, April 30, 2017

The World of Fletnern Wiki

Well, it may not be the most impressive milestone in the history of the internet, but our Fletnern wiki has now grown to over 300 posts.  This is the point of our Small Bites (Patreon) project.  We want to focus our attention (and yours) on the World of Fletnern.  We’ve been doing a good job so far holding to our monthly update schedule, and this new milestone is a pretty good indicator.

Do you care?  We hope you do!  Not only do we think Fletnern is a good world that you can use if you’d like, but it also serves as a good example to spark ideas for your own world.  Sites, people, religions, and “stuff” - everything is there for you to use or transport into your world.  

What we’re trying to do is keep Fletnern free - Yep, it’s FREE!!  Use what you want, change what you want, it’s all good!  But honestly, we cannot keep it free without you.  We need your help on Patreon, and we also need your help in determining which themes and subjects are most interesting to you so we can prioritize them.  

Please click here to check out the wiki.  We’re confident that you will find some interesting stuff that you haven’t seen before in other FRPG worlds.  But also click here to check out our Patreon page and hopefully get involved.  If you want to see what you get by being our patron, check out the first edition for free.  and Thank you!

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Urban Adventure Information Gathering

When an adventuring party goes out to a dungeon, they may learn who built the dungeon and what they are after, but they rarely plan for it.  They don’t try to get the right tools, other than possibly getting extra rope if they know they need to repel to get into the dungeon.

But in an urban adventure, you not only have the time to plan, but you should be forced to do it.  You also have the ability to choose when to attack.  Not putting in this extra effort is foolish.  It will likely involve people in the mission (battle) that you don’t want there.  Like who?  Well, innocents, the police, or battle ready neighbors who may think you are after them as well.  So how do you choose your battles?  Through information gathering.

Let me draw a contrast between how information gathering is done in Garnock and Forsbury to show how this can work.  In Garnock, they are watching their own people, while in Forsbury they tend to watch the travelers who come into town.  Because of this, in Garnock they rely on street informants like street vendors, street sweepers, and even street walkers.  Meanwhile in Forsbury, they rely on the cab drivers, bartenders and most of all, the bellboys in the hotels.

But how does a party get this information?  There are really only two ways.  The first is the best way - by having the PCs already have established contacts in town - people who know them well enough to trust them and share gossip and other information.  The other is through bribery, most commonly through bribing an information broker.  Information brokers are the people who make their living by having already gathered all the information that people are probably looking for, or they know who to go to.  But it is important to remember, that very few information brokers are freelancers.  They work for someone.  So whatever the party is trying to figure out will be reported upwards.

Honestly - I suck at bribes!  In real life, I never know how much to tip a maĆ®tre d' for a good table, or any of that stuff.  I’m probably too much of a rules follower.  But in game, GMs need to understand how much of a bribe is required.  Here’s the only way I can figure out how to do it:  Take a guy like an information broker.  How many customers does he get in a day?  He probably averages one per day, so he’s learning everything he can just to inform one person.  This guy wants a full day’s wages to share his information; otherwise, he’s going to go broke.  So for relatively public knowledge (info that could be public for anyone who had the time to do the recon), he wants 12sc.  A bartender on the other hand who has a job and gets info requests three times a day (on average), he’s maybe looking for 3sc (x3 customers equals a full day’s wage for him).

But what if it is not public?  Well anything that could get the broker or his informants in trouble is worth a lot more - probably five times as much.  This includes things like who did the merchant leave the sleazy hotel with - gossipy stuff that isn’t public and probably shouldn’t be.  For something that could be dangerous, as in tell me the right time to assassinate the target, something that could get the informants involved in a murder, now we’re talking about two weeks’ pay or say 250sc.  Why?  Because first of all, the informant is going to lay low for a couple of days in hopes that nothing blows back on him, plus if he is in danger, he deserves a lot more.  How much do you have to bribe him to keep his mouth shut while the enemy is getting ready to torture him?  Yeah, that number doesn’t exist.  These guys are not the ones you rely on with secrets!

Small Bites Debut

OK - So we’ve been talking about Build Your Fantasy World in Small Bites or “Small Bites” all year.  But what is it?  Well now you can see!  and since it’s Board Enterprises’ World of Fletnern - You can see for FREE!!

The first edition of Small Bites has now been released and is available for FREE at RPG Now - click here for The Avatar of Manoto aka All About Warrior Priests.  It is 40 pages of stuff about an extended story line concerning the Avatar of Manoto (a demi-god just born in the mortal world), the city of Helatia, the World of Fletnern, warrior priests, being a player in a FRPG, being a game master of a FRPG, building your own fantasy world, and game mastering in general.  Sounds like a lot, right?  It is!  One of our favorite quotes from the folks who got the sneak peek at this edition was:  “Wow!  Way more content than I expected.  This is great.”  No kidding - that’s a direct cut and paste.

This edition (and the next one) are free!  No tricks, no gimmicks, no credit card necessary.  The blog is free - only partially because we cannot figure out a way to monetize it (mostly kidding).  The World of Fletnern wiki is free - as it was always intended to be.  The guides to Fletnern are free - again, from the start and on purpose.  But we are asking for help.  Please read through it.  If this is the kind of content that you think you’re going to like, please take a chance on us and help us out through Patreon.  We absolutely accept that you might want to start smaller, like with $1, but we’re hoping that that is just the opening that will give us a chance to really earn your patronage!

We’ve been talking about this for months now, so the time has come to shut up and show you.  So check out our first edition of Small Bites.  The feedback has been great so far, and we think you’ll find it to be just the thing that an experienced game master needs to fire up his imagination and guide him in all the work he/she does.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

The Thrill of the Heist

Ever watch a heist movie?  Ocean’s Eleven, The Italian Job, Kelly’s Heroes (my favorite movie of all time).  You know what I’m talking about.  A bunch of guys get together, and they are going to steal something.  Quite often they try to give the thieves some manner of reason to make it seem like they are Robin Hoods and not actually thieves, but well, they’re criminals.  Did it stop you from rooting for them?  Yeah, me neither.

There is something about stealing things that is thrilling.  Something in the breaking of the law, something in the danger, something in the “beating” whoever is there to stop you from doing it.  There is something there that gives you an adrenaline rush.  In rare occasions, I have been able to insert that feeling into games.  I want to do it more!

The vast majority of FRPG quests could have this feeling melded into them.  Sometimes the party is recovering a lost artifact ala Indiana Jones.  It can have that same “heist” feel to it.  Think about Indy and the golden skull.  Remember his assistant mirroring his moves at the dais?  It’s like that.  We need to get the players to be doing that; feeling the tension as their characters weigh the bag of sand.

So how do you do it?  I think one of the best ways is through melodrama.  It’s sappy and a bit silly (especially for guys trying to be cool), but to bring some of that style of tension into the game, you have to schmaltz it up as a GM.  What I mean is this:  OK, I’m going to roll this die.  If I roll a 12 or over, your character is going to succeed in sliding down the hall on your stomach without the guard noticing you, but if the number is lower, then the guard hears or sees you and will instantly raise the alarm.  Your whole plan hinges on this one die roll.  Either way, this is it; it all comes down to this.  Are you ready?  I mean are you really ready?

I admitted it was silly, right?  It is, but just as it is silly for famous actors to take a pie in the face for a movie, sometimes, you have to evoke your inner ringmaster.

These GMing tactics can be used in nearly any situation, but don’t go overboard.  Yes, you can do the same with a swing of the sword.  Yes, you can do the same with the casting of a spell.  But it is typically in the thieving rolls where one roll decides the fate, as opposed to a sword/spell needing to roll damage, and even then it is rarely final, but just the start of an long combat.

This is one of the reasons (I think) people like to play thieves.  Picking a pocket?  It’s a yes or no - one die roll, big gamble.  Yes - get money.  No - start the chase music boys.

It does not have to just be about these types of rolls.  The other way to get it is what I think of as the “gold effect”.  In the movie Kelly’s Heroes, every time someone saw the gold bar for the first time, there was this glittering music, and they were stunned in awe of the beauty of the gold.  This is what I’m going for when I reveal a treasure horde to the party.  The most anti-climactic thing you can ever do when introducing a dragon sitting atop a mound of gold is to start talking about numbers.

Look, in truth, the reason I’ve never written a novel is because I cannot write dialog and I find writing most descriptive narratives to be way too much hard work.  But if you have any spark of story teller in you, you should be able to weave a tale like this:  You know you’ve reached the final chamber of this cave system because the dragon is there.  In the blink of an eye, it all comes to you.  The mighty dragon is coiled upon heaps of gold.  The light of your torches gleams of multi-colored surfaces in the pile that must be gems, while the helms and armor of ancient warriors are mixed into the piles.  OK, I said I don’t do that well - often I can do it verbally better than I can write it because I can see what is or isn’t working for my “audience”.

It works for a single target too:  This must be the gem you’re after.  It sits on a pedestal with two hanging lamps providing the light to emphasize its many facets.  The gem is huge, bigger than you have ever seen before and of such a striking, true-blue color that the angels themselves must have crafted it.

Want to get back into the more roguish style?  Try this one:  Your target sits there in the restaurant, piggish and obese.  Shoveling food into his oafish mouth, you can see his stubby little teeth as he chews like a cow with cud.  This is the demon of a man that your client needs dead, and he is right in your sights.  He may be surrounded by witnesses for now, but you’re going to get him, as soon as he (falls into the trap the character has laid out).

The morale of this story is that especially when it comes to the single action, suspenseful things that rogues do, a little drama or melodrama can go a long way.  It is storytelling.  It is acting.  You don’t need to be James Earl Jones with a booming voice to play up the tension and anxiety.  Be yourself, but be a little bit bigger version of yourself, and bring those players into exactly how important this one moment in their characters’ lives really is!