Sunday, November 17, 2013
Fads in Fantasy
Anyone who reads my posts will have seen that I like modern ideas brought into fantasy games, but only when they make sense. One thing I have added from time to time is the notion of fads. For you gold farmers out there who are thinking, “This is going to be another one of those posts about culture and who needs that in a role-playing game” stay with me. I may just thrill your gold lust. What’s a fad? Something that becomes culturally significant, but only for a short time. Why do adventurers care about fads? Well, because depending on the fad, they could make a huge amount of money. When a fad hits, the merchants go crazy. They are willing to pay any sum and risk anything in order to fill the market (and make huge profits). For this they most always need adventurers. Why do they need adventurers? Well, even in the most mundane fads, the fad desired product will become so expensive that the risk of robbery will skyrocket (as will the cost of robbery). So that dull caravan guarding mission now becomes an actual adventure. What is the fad item? Well, they are seldom common things. Some of the fads I’ve used have been certain colored clothing (the dyes become extremely expensive - this one is more mundane), bearskin rugs (certainly a good adventurer type of product), and dragon meat (which is really an adventurer required product). But think for a moment: bearskin rugs need to have as few holes in them as possible. Sword swingers are of no use. (Yes - I have actually had adventurers who using a touch of magic wrestled and strangled bears. Oh they got hurt, but they did the job.) With dragon meat - It’s not like it stays fresh for weeks on end. So you either need to find a local dragon (nearly impossible if there is an army around) or find a way to either transport it without spoiling or transport it extremely fast. These are the challenges that make what might seem like a grinding type of a mission into something with a little problem solving. The risk is always that the fad will end before you get back. Once it’s over, it’s over! This means that if they get lucky and do a couple of runs, the third one (you know, the one where they’ve got it down now and know what they’re doing) is usually a bust as the fad ends. So they make some money, but are often all whiney about missing that last opportunity. This is what keeps the game balance in check - prevents them from becoming Persian kings. Think about it. Not only is it a fun way to add some zest to your urban encounters, but it really can create adventuring quests, either working for others or out on their own.