Sunday, August 20, 2017

Passing 350

So the World of Fletnern wiki is now 350 entries long.  The Small Bites project is doing what is was intended - getting content out to you based on the feedback you’re giving us. 

If you haven’t taken a look at Fletnern, click here to go to the World of Fletnern wiki.  350 pages and growing!

If you like what you see and want to learn more and/or get involved, check out our Patreon page.  It will loop you into the project and give you the means to help us start prioritizing our monthly themes.  That is what we want!  You getting involved and letting us know what you want.

The Hoof Wars

We posted the World Walker edition of our latest Small Bites:  The Hoof Wars of the Hasslem Plains aka All About Equines.  Click to go check it out - because it’s FREE!!  

So what are the Hoof Wars?  Well, in Fletnern, the unicorns and the pegasi herds both originated in the same general area.  That works great when the rains are falling and the grasses are growing.  But if the season turns dry and there isn’t enough food to go around, the stallions are willing to fight each other in order to eliminate the competition.  So the two critters best known for “goodness” are reduced to ambushing each other in hopes of proving enough food for their families.

Oh, there’s other stuff about unicorns, pegasi and the most common FRPG equine - horses.  Lots of great stuff from our common sense approach and easy (for the GM) way of including it all.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Campaign Homebase - Sea Port

Because I like to have easy mission starters, I like to have campaigns based in spots that bring out all sorts of easy missions.  One of these is sea ports.

Sea ports allow for a number of major campaigns and sub-campaigns.  The easiest of these is the basic starter:  trade.  Sea ports are the trade hubs of the fantasy world.  Every manner of good can be found for sale in a sea port, which allows the players to buy what they need, no matter how exotic.  But trade means money, and money means missions.  It is easy to have merchants hire adventurers as guards, to retrieve stolen merchandise, or any number of trade related quests.

Sea ports are also the stepping off point for explorations.  Whether they are sailing over huge distances, charting islands chains, searching for ... well, whatever - if they are exploring, those missions are likely going to start off at a sea port.  Sure there are land based explorations as well, but even those often start at a sea port, because it may be quicker to sail part of the way there.

The other mission that almost has to start at a sea port is anything having to do with the under sea.  These are high fantasy adventures.  Mermaids and sea creatures live underwater, and if your party plans to go there, they are going to be leaving from a sea port.  Whether that means jumping in there and walking along the bottom or sailing out and then diving, they still need to start at a sea port.

Want more?  Pirates!  Pirates work in so many different ways.  They can be encountered on the open sea.  They can be based on islands that need to be invaded.  They can be hunted in so many different ways - as bounty hunters, as treasure seekers, as recoverers of stolen items, or as those seeking to form an alliance with the pirates.  Does that last one sound odd?  It shouldn’t be.  History has shown us many times when “privateers” came to prominence.  Sometimes they don’t even pretend to be privateers, but just pirates, but they still wind up being allied with official governments or rebels.

Of course we’re trying to convince you that sea ports make for great campaign homes, but we’re hoping that most of that has been accomplished.  Not only do they allow for varied styles of missions, so they never grow old, but they allow for a huge number of quest givers.  Work for the merchants, the government, the navy, or the kooky old explorer or map maker.  Any one of these can sponsor missions and get the party moving forward.  That is what you need right?  Something that gets the party active, because an active party is typically a happy party.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

The Original Cartels - Whaling Vessels

How many of your read Moby Dick?  OK, not that I’m suggesting you follow my lead on this, but I never read the book, even though I was assigned it, twice I think.  But I have watched the movie (instead of reading that huge book) and I did get far enough into the book to get to the part where they join the crew.  Upon joining the crew of the Pequod, Ishmael receives a 300th lay and Queequeg gets a 90th lay.  That means that Ishmael gets 1/300th of the profits, while Queequeg gets 1/90th or 1.11%.  Queequeg gets a much bigger share because as a harpooner, he is vastly more valuable to the ship as a whole compared to Ishmael who is a sailor who has never been on a whaling vessel.

This is also how the cartels of Fletnern work.  The cartels are better known for the caravan business, especially as it is run out of Forsbury, but the whaling ships do work this way as well.  Splitting the profits of a business venture tends to incentivize the employees to maximize profits, and to watch the others to make sure they aren’t stealing or goofing off.

But the point is - if you go to work for a business, you get a salary.  If you go to work for a cartel (and you have a skill that is of value to them), you get a share of the overall profits.  Let’s compare this to other jobs:  farming (share cropping) - you do all the work and you actually get to keep maybe 50% of your profits.  Sheep herding - you’re pretty lucky if you get fed and clothed, but you’re probably working for your parents, so that’s that.  Fur trapping - Well there you get to keep your profits, or at least the profits you are able to get from the trading posts.  Here on a whaling ship, you get a piece of the profits and you don’t own the ship

So, why?  Well, the whole watching each other thing!  Also, the incentive thing.  That really cannot be overstated, because this is dangerous work.  People die on whaling expeditions, OK, not all the time, but it happens!  Sometimes the whale wins.  Sometimes the ship catches fire while they’re trying to render the blubber into oil.  Sometimes they don’t find any whales.

That’s a big part of the issue here.  When we’re talking about a cartel, you share in the fortunes, but you also share in the losses, well, not the loss, but the lack of profits.  Outfitting the ship with all the supplies necessary to undertake the voyage requires a massive amount of money.  That money gets “repaid” first.  Anything left over is profit, and those profits are split.  So if there aren’t any profits, then nobody gets paid.  That’s a pretty big risk for someone to take with six months to a couple years of their life.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Prequel Missions

OK, admittedly, I’ve only done this once, but I really like the concept.  Here it is:  Most of us hate exposition.  OK, the first time you see the history of the universe scroll in front of you from a 70mm projector, it is really cool, but after however many years, it’s dull.  Unless you get James Earl Jones or some other phenomenal voice to read you all the history stuff, it’s boring.  Let’s be clear, when one of us as GM reads the history to the players, it’s dull!

So - the goal is to avoid the exposition - the monologue that most GMs need to read aloud at the start of most campaigns (and most missions).  So here’s what we do - You play a mission that gives clues to the history of the world and/or this campaign.  I like to think of it like the start of a Bond movie.  Ever notice that Bond movies always start with some fantastic action scene?  Does that scene set up the movie?  Sometimes.  Sometimes not.  This would be one of the “sometimes”.  But nobody cares about the why and who and the motivation during those action scenes; they just love the stunts!

That’s what we’re going for here!  Here’s a good example:  Everybody is told to pick one of the stock characters out of the pile.  All the characters are rather basic soldiers, though there are humans, halflings and centaurs.  No healers, no mages.  (This would be a great way to teach the rules to new players, too!)  The mission start exposition is this:  Do you all have a character sheet now?  OK, It’s dusk.  You are soldiers protecting the city of Villai.  The warning horns have just sounded and your city is under surprise attack by the Latvich army from Garnock.  You are fully armed and armored.  You walk out of your barracks and you see a squad of Latvich soldiers running towards you.  Initiative.

Really - that’s it.  Where is Villai?  you don’t care.  Who are the Lats and why are they attacking?  you don’t care, and you don’t know.  How come none of us cast magic?  Because you’re grunt soldiers - roll initiative or I’m going to attack you.  But what does my character want to accomplish, what’s my history?  you don’t care.  You want to accomplish survival.

But you won’t.  Massive battle is going on and you as GM just throw them right into the middle of it.  You could have this be a couple of gaming sessions if you want to!  They could connect up with more senior officers and bigger units.  They could protect a family home from looters.  They could get chased down the streets by chariots with archers and only be able to stay ahead of them by quickly ducking around corners that the chariots cannot manage.  They could take to the roofs and try to be snipers only to have a company of soldiers working their way up the stairs to the roofs to kill them.

HUGE action!  No role-playing, but huge action and fun!  During this massive melee, the party sees two halflings being chased by three enemies.  They intercept the bad guys and save the two halflings, who promptly run off hopefully to safety.  But just before the halflings turn a corner, the one looks back as says, “Thanks buddy.  Go cover my retreat, OK?”  Does this matter?  Not at the time, no.  This is a one shot mission and the party is going to die before dawn breaks -You’ve stacked the odds completely against them.

Then you start a new campaign and the party is based in Villai 25 years later.  The city has been mostly rebuilt and life goes on - standard adventuring stuff.  Eventually they get caught up in the whole issue of who stole the crown jewels of Garnock and why did that cause Garnock to burn Villai 25 years ago.  That was the battle they were fighting.  Now it makes sense, sort of.  They run into the same units; not the same people, but the same armor, weaponry, etc.  So it sort of seems familiar, because they were exposed to it before.  Oh, and the “retreating halfling”?  Yeah - he actually had the crown jewels on him.  Their seemingly unimportant characters who died before anyone knew what they did, saved the life of one of the conspirators and thereby prevented the crown jewels from being recovered by Garnock.  Had they failed to save the halflings in that first fight, Garnock would not have burned the city.  By saving the burglars, they doomed their own city.  OK, I think that’s pretty cool, even if it takes you a dozen game sessions to get to that reveal.

I said I did this once before.  We had a May convention - local, small, but we felt we had to go.  They wanted me to run some relatively big Legend Quest games.  OK, I can do that.  But my eyes were on GENCON in August.  I was planning to run The Endless Siege, a game that would fill every slot at the world’s biggest (arguably) gaming convention and a spiritual sequel to The Endless Dungeon we ran in 1991.  So here’s what I did:  The May convention mission was for a team of adventurers (sort of a special ops unit) to destroy the Flying Fortress - an actual flying building (not that big, but big) that was to serve for the bad guys’ HQ at the Endless Siege.  If they succeeded, there would be no Flying Fortress at GENCON, but if they failed, it would become a focal point of the 60 hour mission.

They failed - The Flying Fortress was the focal point of the Endless Siege, and truly the most fun we had during the event.  But that was cool!  The folks at GENCON knew that the May team(s) had failed and therefore it was the fault of some other gamers that they now had to contend with this thing.

I know you will still have to do exposition!  But running a prequel mission that helps to set up the action in the actual campaign can help to jump right into the action without everyone starting to get bored.  Honestly, I like the idea of fighting the Sack of Villai before basing a campaign there, even though the retreating halfling seems a bit overdone, and unlikely to be memorable enough to be the “big” link.  I think having the party play through the destruction of their city and then jumping 25 years forward will help root them in pride in their city and a hatred for the Latvich forces.  Passion is a tough thing to generate in a role-playing game, but it is awesome if you can get there!