Sunday, June 23, 2013
Admittedly, the lion’s share of modern folks are monotheistic, so our perspective may be skewed, but we have numerous religions surrounding one God. What about the pagans or more to the point the fantasy folks in your game world? I think you should complicate your world and divide the worshippers of the same god(s) into different groups. Here’s the easy way: There is one main religion per divinity, however, there are various sects that believe other things. This works pretty well for keeping things really easy while allowing for heresies and other religious conflicts. You see, that’s kind of why you do it - to generate conflicts. Nobody fights to the death like two groups that believe almost exactly the same thing with only a slight difference. For example, despite Protestant propaganda, the Spanish Inquisition is only known to have killed around 825 people (assumed to be more than that, but still less than 1500) over the course of about 160 years. The Inquisition was actually a monitoring device against Jews and Muslims (again, contrary to Protestant propaganda). Meanwhile, Henry the VIII executed at least 500 for religious treason over the course of six or seven years, amongst the tens of thousands he executed in his lifetime. Let’s not forget (though it isn’t similar religions fighting) the ballpark 50K who were executed for witchcraft over the course of about 300 years, again mainly in the English controlled areas. Henry was killing Catholics, a religion he was raised in. The Spaniards were killing Jews and Muslims who had (at least in theory) failed in their religious conversion. The closer “relationship” was by far the bloodier. Let’s take the elephant in the living room: estimates have 20K Templars (just Knights Templar) dying in the crusades. A druid or pagan looking in from the outside is likely to see Islam and Christianity as the same god. I won’t argue that point right now, but I think there are certainly people in this modern day world that are still fighting the crusades. I mention the Templars, because they fit so well into a fantasy environment - warrior monks fighting for their religion. A lot of this always comes back to my desire to see paladins fighting paladins. I am setting up a wonderful world war in my game world. In the end, it will come down to pallys fighting pallys, both knowing that they are fighting on the side of what is right and good. (No, we don’t use paladins as a class, but these are knights of religious orders, and it is a lot quicker to write “pally” then what I just did.) How do I handle the religions? Close to the one major religion with smaller sects and cults. There are more than one religion, but most of the major religions of the major gods are not hostile to each other, and people raised under one religion can easily worship at the temple of their god within another religion. I can accept this because there isn’t a central authority in my religions. With no central authority, there is far less consistency from church to church. If some preacher in the middle of the farmlands is preaching that a particular god is god of life and harvest, while the same god is worshiped as the god of luck and justice in the city, there is no one to say one is right and the other is wrong. Well, at least there is no one to enforce an opinion like that. How to use them? Well, a fanatic sect may start causing trouble to the point of forcing the more mainstream religion to have to put them down, either for heresy or to avoid being vilified by association. Maybe one sect believes a similar one has no right to certain relics. Always fun to force the PCs to choose sides! Need ideas? Remember that the assassins were a religious sect, as were the aforementioned Templars. Shaolin monks? What about conflicts between worshippers of the goddess of plants? Would the wild worshippers (more druidic) be at conflict with the farmers? If you really cannot think of at least a handful of ideas without trying, maybe you’re not cut out to be a game master.
Sunday, June 16, 2013
We’ve mentioned the semi-new Fletnern wiki before, and it’s getting some traffic, but we want to reach out to any of you who are using it. What are you mainly looking for? We’ve dumped some content out there, but the real question is: Would you like to see more short subjects or should we start giving more detail on the subjects we have out there? For anyone who does not know, the Fletnern wiki is a wiki about the World of Fletnern. Fletnern has always been free and the base/starter pack can be downloaded on our main site: www.boardenterprises.com/Fletnern. More and more details are showing up on the Fletnern wiki. Just because it’s free doesn’t mean we won’t support it, though it may not be the main priority at all times. The truth is, Fletnern (by the way, that translates into Titan as “far and wide”) has been in use as a gaming world for over 30 years, and there seems to be about 1,200 pages of content on it. Just tell us what you want to see and we’ll supply it, because it almost has to have been written already.
I have often gone on and on (and on and on) about allowing your game world to not become stagnant, but instead letting the years roll by. Let the nobles marry and have kids. After a major war, have an uneasy period of rebuilding. Allow other organizations to grow in the spaces left open after your adventurers destroy the previous groups. But there is another way that you really need to let your world grow - let it evolve. What I mean isn’t obvious. Let me use an example: I made up a barony, back before I was married. The baron was a wimp and his father pretty much still ran the barony, but by intimidating his son into doing what he wanted. The barony had been turned over when the father had an illness, which he never recovered from and is now bedridden. But he screams from his bed until his son comes in and promises to do everything the father tells him to do. This of course is a bad idea because the father isn’t out there mixing with the people or the other nobles, and has a VERY skewed perception of what is going on. Anyway - The baroness was supposed to be this nice, kind of mousey woman - a match to her mousey husband. Truth be told, when we were role-playing the baron hiring a party, I forgot to include his wife. I just forgot she existed. After all, I had named her probably 4-6 years prior, and cannot be expected to remember everything. So later on, when I sort of had to explain why this baroness who did not seem to exist now existed, I said that she had been ill during the earlier meeting(s). Well, that kind of took root. She happened to be ill a lot! Through role-playing the NPCs, I converted a boring mousey character into a woman who controlled her husband through the passive aggressive use of her hypochondria. She is always pretending to be sick in order to get his attention, to avoid going where she doesn’t want to go, to avoid eating foods she doesn’t want to, etc. Now - She’s interesting! Now she is hated more than most of the villains I write, because the baron is actually a nice sort of guy and the players have taken a great dislike to the way his wife and his father abuse him. Hopefully that helps to describe the sort of evolution I mean: Just because you wrote that the NPC was a certain way doesn’t mean they have to stay like that, especially if they have not yet been revealed to the players. Changes on a whim are OK too. And if it doesn’t work out, then you can explain to the players something along the lines of: No, you met her during a really troublesome period. She was a real bitch that season because of other things, but she’s healthy again now, and her nicer personality has returned. They don’t have to believe you, but that’s part of the fun too - when different players have different perceptions of the same NPC.
Sunday, June 9, 2013
The more I design my world, the more I want to put in places of power. Here, I’m talking about places of magical power. Ley lines crisscross the world enhancing magic where they pass, and really turning up the magic where they cross. Places of wonder like Stonehenge that somehow attract or harness other powers. Here I think mainly about druidic tree circles or the druidic circles of the tiny folk (mushroom circles). I also think about placing statues in certain alignments to match the star constellations and harness the astrological powers. (Some of the more fringe folks believe this is what the Egyptians were doing.) In Legend Quest - getting more powerful spells is pretty tough. Every +1 to power means (typically with combat spells) more damage and therefore they are pretty hard to come by. (Standard powerful mage typically only has four power levels and probably a +1 talisman.) That makes these things a big deal. So should I put them in or not? I think yes, and here’s why: Attacking should always be more difficult than defending, and giving the defenders a bonus to their magic should be fine. After all, they got to choose the spot they were defending. Also, if I make the magic of the spot specific enough or make the spot uninviting enough, the players will not be able to make use of it. I’m always looking for ways to beef up the bad guys without risking giving the player character more power (like when you just give out magic items). Now I just need to keep coming up with cool reasons that certain spots are magical and determining how magical. Most will just be a +1, but that really does make a difference. See Magic Strategy for Legend Quest. By the way, the reverse is true too! There are spots where magic does not work that well, and those creatures, cultures or races that don’t use magic will flock to these spots to give their enemies a problem. I love these for dwarves, orcs and kobolds. Not that these guys never use magic, but it helps keep them safe from those rotten mages!
The unfortunate nature of war is such that when people return from it, they are forever changed, at least most of them are. We see this in the number of PTSD cases coming home from war, and I think most of us can see that this was an issue long before we labeled it PTSD. On top of the likely physical scaring, there is emotional scaring. Do we put these into our games though? In a full on role-playing game, these sort of emotional issues could add an enormous amount of color to the game. It wouldn’t just be the one issue; it could be one or more of a multitude of issues. Think about it this way: As horrible as real war is, imagine what it would be like facing the undead, especially those (vampires and ghouls) who can turn those they attack. Imagine how much worse it would be to be in an underground whatever and constantly having traps around you, monsters dropping from ceilings, and magical spells that you can’t even name. If you didn’t come back a little jumpy, then something must have been wrong with you from the start. I do put this into my game, but only on a limited basis. The one I do use is “cold blooded killer”. I remember my first D&D characters. We’d use that sleep spell and then go around cutting throats when they were all asleep. Really? We just cold bloodedly killed a dozen orcs or whatever. I’m not saying you have to stop them from doing that, but do it in my campaign and you’ll never be able to talk to an innocent again without terrifying them (unless you use Acting skill, for acting like a normal person). Innocents can sense when they’re talking to a cold blooded killer - they can see it in your eyes. It’s scary! I’m starting to develop Adventurers’ Syndrome - not one thing in particular, but a list of mental issues that I think adventurers would likely develop while out in the field. I’m thinking that there should just be a chance that after every harrowing adventure, you get an emotional scar or two. A small chance, but by the time you’re a master adventurer, you likely have a problem. The problem is that I don’t want to put too many numbers on it either. If I put percentages around being a cold-blooded killer, then we may as well be playing an MMO. Still ... Some ideas I’m playing with: jumpy (reacts without thinking, typically violently), depression, haunted by ghosts (no really haunted by ghosts), sociopath, manic, adrenaline junkie (needs the risk), death wish or maybe believe self to be invincible, cold and unfeeling, obsessed with something, often something completely unrelated to whatever caused the trauma. I’m still thinking!