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!


  1. Was just reading this in Small Bites: Treasure and thought that a great twist for the players in the tusk scenario would be to have them explain to the pacamen (depending on how intelligent AND materialistic their culture is) about , how small I say it, the Tulip Effect. See ing character try to explain markets to possibly life threatening pacamen would make a memorable scene ("It's actually'better' for the elephants! Honest!)
    Still reading through Small Bites: Treasure! And loving it.

  2. The issue we have had to deal with - both in game and out - has been differentiating between "white" ivory from elephants and "yellow" ivory from mammoths. Guess what - the pacamen have the white ivory - better quality and making the folks watching them drool with ideas.
    Glad you're liking Small Bites!