Sunday, August 27, 2017

Dungeon Biology

I’ve mentioned that I don’t really like the idea behind “dungeons” because they don’t make a lot of sense to me.  Tons of villainous creatures all living together in a confined space with traps preventing them from escaping - Why don’t they just eat each other?  Sure - dungeons can be laid out in an intelligent fashion, but they rarely are.  It’s like watching a bad movie filled with plot holes - Why doesn’t the dragon eat the orcs?  Why don’t the stupid trolls wander into the trap area and die?  Who’s feeding the wolves or the giant spiders or whatever?

But I do have underground races, and I worry about feeding them all the time.  After all, there are only so many mushrooms that can grow in complete darkness.  So when I was working on one odd race of humanoid turtles, I started thinking about how they really survived.  When I first created them, I gave them mushroom fields, which still makes sense.  There was also an area of their “kingdom” where the “roof” of their underground city was turf barely held together by roots and supported by a sunken city (buildings that had collapsed into an old mine).  So here there was a small amount of sunlight getting through and thus they were able to grow a sort of cabbage/rhubarb hybrid - the huge leaves collected a large percentage of the minimal sunlight and thus were able to grow.

Like real turtles, I wanted them to be omnivorous.  At first I thought maybe I’d give them a colony of giant ants nearby - something they could hunt and would probably never run out.  I still think that’s a good idea, but I decided that they might not be mighty enough warriors to be constantly “at war” with a colony of giants ants, even if they were a food source.  So I went with three sources of protein that I think anyone could use in any dungeon setting.

The first is a cop-out and used by nearly every GM and author:  blind fish in stagnant pools.

The second I think is the easiest “hidden” food source.  I had already given them mushroom fields and the rhubarb stuff, so why not have huge earthworms.  Not only are these long (some nearly a foot), but they are fat!  The largest of them is nearly an ounce.  With these things both helping fertilize the gardens and serving as a food source, it seemed a very easy win, and the adventurers wandering through may never realize they are there.  Though having a foot-long, hot dog sized earthworm in your sleeping bag with you when you wake up could be fun! (for the others)

Lastly I added some crickets.  If my home is any indication, crickets can get into anywhere!  I have only done a little cave exploration in my life, but I do recall finding crickets in caves at least twice.  Now of course, this is high fantasy, so normal crickets won’t do.  These need to be 5” long crickets.  I tried to work it out mathematically and I believe that 18-20 of them would equal a pound.  The turtle people catch them with butterfly nets, so the “hunting gear” and baskets filled with live crickets will be more obvious to the invading adventurers, but this really seemed like a decent idea.  Being nocturnal, they would seem to appreciate the darkness.  They likely need to have some means of reaching the surface world, but they could be flying in and out and still offer a decent amount of food to the underground dwellers.

I offer these examples, because I think they are the type of thing you can “include” in your games.  You don’t need to make a big deal out of it, but if some players ask you how the turtle people could survive this far underground without any food sources, you can pretty easily say - “Didn’t you see the nets?  The mushrooms growing along that one corridor?  I told you about hearing crickets in the tunnels, right?  I didn’t mention it, but there were worms slithering through the moss pit the mushrooms were growing in.  Now, do you want to play the mission or do you want to discuss the ecology of the dungeon?”  Maybe it’s silly, or maybe it’s just enough to support the willful suspension of disbelief.

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.