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Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Campaign Notes: Providing players room to Breath.

In this post I'm going to share with every one The most recent handout or "player info page" (It's all computerized now days, I host this stuff on another blog.) from my fantasy style game. (Usually run in  D&D , but has been run in several flavors over the years)
I'm posting it just to point a few things out that are probably not helpful.

  • First off there are implied hooks in the text but, but nothing overt, no jump out and grab the player things going on, it's all very  vanilla. I limit the description to things that the character's might know when arriving in the area.
    • Why? I need room to breath. If the  players go off to do something I never even gave a thought to  I will have enough room to fill in the blanks, also if I have a lightning bolt idea for an adventure hook I can place it with out having to contradict or overwrite some hook I already had in place.
  • Why so much odd ball information about population and what these  towns sell?
    • These are things people would know  if they were going off into these areas. I might no know the millers name in Hill Fjord but the mills are relatively well known as far south as Torin. Just like I don't know much about Hampton New Hampshire, but I know Smutty Nose Brewery is there. This group of characters might well know that Twin Streams is a place furriers operate out of, considering one of the party members is a druid and he might decide to burn the place down. (stranger things have happened)
  • No hex numbers?
    • I made this in Gimp so I have another layer overlaid with some  random encounter locations, and  hex notes. I don't do anything as detailed as could be called  a "hex crawl." I mostly note things left behind from past settlements, old ruins, battle fields, things like that  that the  players might not know, but might be able to stumble on.
    • This is a land and a game world of  amazing loss. The war that tore through this area  wiped out a generation, and left uncounted ruins behind. If the  players put their swords in the ground anywhere there is a good chance they will hit old cobble stones and ground bone. The map and text I give the players is what the characters see now and what their historian Johann might know off the op of his head without doing any research.
  • You say in the test that there are small  villages every few miles but they are not on the map or named what gives?
    • For me there needs to be some sort of  population density that is  at least sort of realistic. There needs to be  some kind of small settlement at least each day swalk from each other, and when I say days walk I mean a peasant on foot carrying  gathered wood or  turnips or what ever. Not  "Joe Barbarian and his band of retainers, carrying a sword, and his  flask of ever full ale." A peasant farmer is not walking  alone out into the wood 10 miles from home and back, that decisions would shorten his already  short life span. For whatever reason I am determined to make peasants in game have some sense of self preservation.   In other words stay close to home, keep your head down mouth shut, and toil. 
    • There should be small groups of buildings every few miles especially along waterways, even though these are small, fast, foothill  rivers that are not as suited for the transport goods, I am sure the locals would ply them in small craft.
    • I don't name them all to lessen clutter. If I need to give a name of some small three family village I'll do so at the table. If the characters inexplicably decide to put down roots in one of these villages I'll flesh it out more completely. 
    • Fleshing out the tiny villages before hand would be helpful at the table but in actuality it might be allot of work I may never use. Think of it this way, do you know where Tivoli New York is? Tivoli for the record is a cool little town. I grew up near there (in Red Hook) so I know quite a bit about it. It has businesses, and cool history.  Nearby is a large historic mansion with a state park and a well known college. A person might have never heard of it and if that person is traveling to New York City there aren't many reasons to stop there, or worry about who the mayor is. As a Gm I wouldn't flesh out the villages of Tivoli, Annandale-on-Hudson, or the town of Clermont unless the characters somehow ended up there.
  • Why did you only outline one ruling  family in the  text?  Won't the player want to know more about the areas NPC power players?
    • They might , but those are the ones they may have heard of  as they traveled into the area. They run the largest town in  a pretty large area so their name woudl be out there.
    • Sure there are others and I have a few notes , but it the players don't need to know they unless they choose to get involved in the high county politicking that goes on at the  Glaston Fields Market. They might never decide to do that.
    • As an aside. In an area like this a group of 5th level  characters pretty much become the power players while they are passing through. They have retainers,  money,  magic, and generally don't give two shits beyond what there current goal is so they can be unpredictable. In my mind a Duke and Dutchess of a small town like  Glaston Fields would be wise to court their graces.
Below is what I provided between our last sessions:
(Admittedly we have not gotten back to D&D in a while due to scheduling and  the  holidays.)

Start Player text:

yes I know East and West got reversed, no I don't know why. i'll fix it.
(I do know why I'm dyslexic and I did not notice it until latter)

Movement of roughly three Hexes a day can be expected.

Small villages of  between  20 and 100 people can be found  about every  three to four  miles.
with an average population density of about 50 per square mile on average. (Making it more populated than  the British isles during the  mid evil times , but  less so than say France or Germany.)

The country side is littered with burnt out farms and ruined villages all but taken over completely by the local forests. There're many unexplained hedge rows and low walls crisscrossing the  country side which speaks of there once being a much greater population in the area.

A historian  woudl be able to  speak about there being much  death and destruction  in this area during the  Alerian / Orduth Wars and that this is still considered a frontier. The area is too far North of Aleria to be considered under the empires control and  yet South of  the  Orduth ruins.


The  Rivers flow  North, away from the large Iron-Spine Mountains that loom further to the  South.

Twin Stream and  Hill Fjord are small towns
Populations around 1000 to 1200 people.

Hill Fjord is a walled town situated on the only high country crossing of the river Clear-Mead. The town has grown up around a large milling facility  leftover from pre war times. A stack of  six water wheels following along the waters edge drive several large grinding stones, the nearby population will travel to bring their wheat to the mills and pay a fair price from grinding. The  town is also known for it's  dried pasta products and is a popular setting off point for those traveling to the mountains from the south.

Twin Stream, is a hunters village that in known for its furs and it's furriers. In the  fall caravans will head south from Twin streams to sell their goods to mountaineers who will then sell the furs to merchant caravans heading into Aleria, or Torin to the south. Twin streams is one of the many small villages that are the first cog in a system that feeds the empires hunger for materials.

Glaston Fields is notable in that it is the largest town in the area.
Population 2000.
Situation on excellent farmlands Glaston Fields is a  walled town  that is  nearly 100% agrarian.
The town also hosts tradesmen that are needed to support it's population, but it's bread and butter is in the  growing and trade of  food stuffs with  smaller towns and villages. every  20 days there is a large street market held in Glaston that attracts vendors, travelers and merchants from a fair distance.

Glaston Fields is maintained and overseen by a Baron, a position  currently held by  Baron Richtag Sveld and his wife the  Baroness Sveld.
this title was granted by a regent of the Alerian empire generations ago. The Sveld Family still holds the authority in Glaston the title provides In truth it is  a forgotten title held by a forgotten frontier patron, whose family has not  been to court or paid a tax levy in well over a hundred years.
Regardless the Sveld's rule fairly and have produced two heirs, the people seem happy and the title is not in dispute.

Traders leap is a a tiny  village of under 100 regular residents. It is only notable in that it's the place where adventurers and treasure sneakers mount sorties into the ruins of Careth.
In fact the things coming out of  the  ruins in the form of art, gold and  usable tidbits and the people going in to find such things are the  villages only industry. Farms nearby make a solid living selling food and consumables those who pass through.


End Player text

So how will I outline the actual ruins of Careth?
it is the biggest feature in the area and no, I'm not going to map it all square by square old school style. That woudl be allot of drawing that I may never use.
I think I will dedicate a post in the near future about how I plan on mapping the vast ruins of the once great breadbasket city.

An outline like this is all about players/ characters having room to breath. They're in the ruins of Careth, staying at Traders Leap. They have made one sortie into the ruins but nothing concrete. By providing an outline of the surrounding area the players can breath a bit and  take in their options, getting involved where they want rather than the GM (me) shoving some adventure down their throats. Sure I have notes about the surrounding area and I know whats what, but that's up to them to explore or discover on their own. In reality, if each square covers 23 square miles a map this size could support a great deal of campaign style exploration. They may never do that and that's OK with me I will just do another map for the next area they travel to with the same concepts in mind. In the end the game is about the players creating their story and  chasing their wild rabbits.


Thank you for reading I hope you enjoyed.
Please leave your questions and comments in that gossamer purse of forgotten dreams resting quietly under your pillow.
-Mark.