Friday, March 29, 2013

Making it Real

I find, as I'm writing, to make even the fantastic feel real can be difficult sometimes.  Sure, magic is flying all over the place, but the people involved still have to move, speak and interact like any other person in the world.  Here are some rules I like to follow.

1)  Make the unreal seem natural.    Don't bring undue attention, from either your character or from the writer's point of view, into the situation.  These characters see fireballs thrown all the time, so don't make a huge deal about the fact, (unless the character hasn't ever seen one...).  Act as if it's just part of everyday life, which it probably is in a fantasy world.

2)  Describe magic, weapons and other fantasy items as if you were describing everything else.  Magic and weapons all have colors, shapes, the way they move.  Make that how you describe something, but don't hang on how magical everything is.

3) Ignore the common.  In my High King's Sword books the characters acknowledge the fact there are "light stones", but only in the capacity that they are lighting the area the characters are in like a lamp or torch might.  Yet, light stones are magical and wouldn't happen in real life...though glow sticks are probably darned close.

Happy writing.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Brotherhood of Healers in Bloodhelm

This small building, holding just one large room and about six small rooms, is a very busy place.  This is a small house of healing where the poor go for those cures they just can't afford else where.  Run by clerics of all faiths, as well as some mages, everyone here volunteers their time and healing.  Most of the time, only small things like broken bones, sicknesses like flu or colds, or open wounds can be fixed, because the people who come to help are not always that powerful.  But sometimes a higher level cleric, who remembers what their order is for, will come and spend time at the Brotherhood.  Then almost all ailments can be cured, though only for a few, (since the effort of healing large health problems takes its toll on the cleric performing the healing). 

The Brotherhood does not ask any questions, other then those needed to help the patient.  No money is required, but they do accept donations.  Many pay with farm animals, baskets of fruit and bread and at the most copper pennies, all of which goes the the churches the clerics work for.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Warwick and Paxton

These two guards, who man the gates of Bloodhelm are as opposite as night and day in appearance, but the best of friends, none the less.  Warwick is a middle aged man, with a bit of a belly, but still in good shape.  His hair is starting to thin, he takes his time at things, though he always does them right the first time, and he likes to talk about just about anything.  Paxton is a young man, willow thin and tall for even those of Bloodhelm.  He is awkward, to say the least, but tries his best at everything he does.  He's fair with a sword, better with a bow, and horrible with women.  Women make him incredibly nervous.

Warwick has taken Paxton under his wing and tries to teach him everything he knows, which is considerable for a simple gate guard.  Warwick knows strategy and tactics better then some Knights and generals.  Paxton hangs on Warwick's every word and defends him against those who think he's too old to be in the home guard.

Warwick and Paxton can always be found, seven days a week, from sunrise to about mid afternoon at the main gate of Bloodhelm.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Tax Collectors of Tridon

Since we're getting on that time of the year, I figured I'd show how Tridon natives feel the pain, as well.  Twice a year, in the spring and the fall, a man escorted by a dozen guards, rides the roads of Martapa.  Actually many men, usually three or four for each House, maybe more.  They go to every steading, village, town and city and extract a tax for each person in that place.  Depending on the House, the tax could be as little as a half penny per person up to several ducats.  Goods, such as cloth, food or other trade items can be substituted (and often are in rural areas).  This money is supposed to go to road construction and the military, but doesn't always.  Other taxes, such as gate fees and merchant fees pay for other items such as the royal Houses and the like.  Those who are unable to pay the tax are given thirty days to pay otherwise they end up on a work crew for the House until the tax is paid for by their work.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

A Note on Magical Arms and Armor

So a side note on magical arms and armor.  On Martapa, and on many fantasy worlds, there are lots of magical arms and armor.  Different kinds and shapes, materials and magic, but one ability stays constant.  On Martapa the weapon, shield or armor shapes to the wielder or wearer.  An example of this is the magical elven chainmail Richard Goldenstein uses and is mentioned in the High King's Sword.  Richard was a large man, but later on Sebastion Blackthorn, though not that small, gains the mail and is smaller then Richard.  Yet, the mail fits him perfectly.  Richard's shield, which Elly acquires, also shrinks to fit her small stature, but is no less magical.  There are limits to the magic of size change, such as a dragon size item will not shrink to a fairy sized item or visa versa.  This size changing does not damage the magic of the item and is hardly noticed by the new owner of the weapon or armor.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Griffon Tavern in Bloodhelm

This tavern is a gathering place for merchants, mercenaries and laborers, a place to talk, find work, and just relax after a day of work or travel.  There is a few rooms upstairs, nothing fancy, just some place to lay your head after a day of travel.  The tap room is fairly large, seating about forty.  There are two fireplaces, one on each end, which keeps the patrons there longer when it's cold outside.  The food is descent, stew, bread and sometimes pies the most common menu.  Sometimes there is roast beef or pork, and fruits are common during the summer.

Terrance Thunderclaw runs a tight ship.  He doesn't let things get out of hand and makes sure there is always ale and food on hand.  His servers are never overworked, but he makes sures they work for their pay.  This average looking man is fair, but hard if he thinks he is right.  He doesn't cheat anyone, but if he thinks someone has cheated him he flares up and his two bouncers, Saint and Jack, come to clear the area of any problems.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Melody, Cook for Bloodhelm Manor

In the High King's Sword novels I have a cook at the manor named Melody who Tarkil, even in his roughest stages, loves.  He loves her personality and especially the food she makes.  So here is a short sketch for you if you might have an adventure in the manor.

Melody in around fifty, though no one knows for sure and no one is going to ask.  It's impolite to ask a lady her age.  She has grown children who live else where, and many grandchildren.  Her hair is red, a rarity this far south, but streaking with gray.  She always has a smile upon her face and a good word for who ever comes her way.  She's a little heavy set, mostly from her bigger frame, but some from age and years in the kitchen.  She dresses in blues, even though the house colors are red and black.  No one has seen fit to tell her otherwise for two reasons.  First, even the adults of the House treat her as if she is their grandmother.  Second, everybody loves her food and doesn't want her to go away.  Though she doesn't enjoy the company of many of those who rule Bloodhelm, there are several she makes sure to have special treats for or their favorites just waiting for them, what ever the hour. 

Melody can be found mostly in the kitchens or store rooms of Bloodhelm, but once a week she personally goes to the market to look for ingredients and supplies she wants to pick out for special meals.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Making those Strongholds

Eventually your players will gain enough money that they need for nothing but a place to stay.  A place of operations is actually a good idea.  It gives its own possibilities of adventures and someplace for your players to store their stuff.

Here are some basic things to keep in mind:

1) Location.  Where they want to build it, is it near a place to get people/supplies easily?  If it's not, materials and people are going to cost more.

2) Did they get permission from the local lord?  Unless they are out in the middle of absolutely no where, there will be a lord or lady who rules the area.  They will not want someone squatting on their land.  Perhaps if the party does some small deed for them they might get a place to put their stronghold.

3) Supplies and money.  This is a little more subjective.  If the place is near a stone quarry, then obviously a stone stronghold will be acceptable.  The money is a little harder.  There are some good roleplaying books with costs, like D and D's Stronghold Builder's Guidebook, but ultimately it's up to you whether the characters have the money.  In my current Pathfinder campaign we found an old ruin that we are fixing up.  Plenty of stone, we just had to supply manpower and a few other things, so the price is lower.

4) Treatment of people.  If they don't treat their workers well, things may go wrong.  Hey, why did that wall fall over?  Why is the water foul?  On the other hand if the workers are treated well they may work far better.

Happy Gaming

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Noble House Merlinous in Bloodhelm

Noble House Merlinous is a very large manor, though not as big as the Bloodhelm manor, but it is fair sized.  The building is two stories, with fifteen bedrooms, a large ballroom, two offices, a large kitchen and dinning room and a large meeting room.  Everything is highly decorative, considering this is one of the oldest buildings in Bloodhelm. There is a lovely garden surrounding the manor, along with a stable of fine horses and kennels of well breed hounds.  The whole area is enclosed in a six foot stone wall.  A small army of people care for this manor, living in a small bunk house in the back of the property.  Few enter without permission or without invatation, for House Merlinous is very private.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Chez the Caravan Driver

Chez Streamdriver has been driving wagons for most of his life.  His father owned a small caravan service for a while, but when his father broke his leg and it didn't heal right they had to sell the business.  Chez loves the open road, working with his horse or mule team and seeing new and exciting places.  He loves talking to people about where they came and where they are going.  In fact, it's almost impossible for him to stop talking once he starts.

Chez is in his middle years with a young wife at home, as well as two children.  His brown hair is thinning, his middle is gaining some girth, his face is a little narrow with a larger nose.  He makes pretty good money, able to hire on a helper at home to help his wife with the farm when he's gone.  He usually caravans between Bloodhelm and Weatherworn, which means he's gone off and on all year.

Chez might be a good rumor monger for the party if they are traveling with the caravan he's driving for.  Also, if they do him a good turn he might vouch for them.  He is well known through out the merchant world in the south as a good, hard working teamster so if he vouches for the party they are more likely to get what they are looking for.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Sunflower the Flower Girl

This little ray of sunshine in Bloodhelm comes in each morning during the summer with her mother who sells eggs and fresh chickens.  She picks flowers as she waits for her mother to get ready then sells bouquets to the ladies who like to shop the market.  It doesn't make the family a lot of money, but it keeps her busy and every little bit of coin helps.  She feels as if she is contributing to the family even if she can't do much.

This little cherub is always happy, no matter the day or the weather.  She always smiles, waves and takes rejections of sale with a hardy "Good Day".  She wears a plain dress with braids that reach her waist.  Though just a tiny bit of Bloodhelm this  might be a good flavor text or even a good plot line for your players.  What happens if she's kidnapped?  Do the characters see and offer to go find her?

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

That Little Added Touch

For those running a campaign, your players will appreciate when you go that extra mile.  Here are a few things you can do to add just a little more realism to your fantasy campaign.  (Good laugh on that!)

1) Make sure you have NPC names and short descriptions.  If you plan on having them interact with your characters they need to have some sort of descriptions to make them more then 2 dimensions!

2)  Have descriptions of where the characters are going.  Even if you just mention the stones of the hallway under the keep are slick with slim and moisture, you've helped to add a bit to your ambiance.

3) Individualize rewards.  Don't just have the Duke say, "And here is your reward".  Have him had the fighter an etched sword, the mage a new book or the cleric an enemy holy symbol to crush.

4) Make sure to have something for each character's abilities.  Don't forget the thief when you go into that dungeon.  Throw a few traps in for him to disarm.  Undead in there?  Clerics can turn them.  How about something the mage has to dispel to work?

Happy gaming!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Chimera Jewels in Bloodhelms

Chimera Jewels is a small hole in the wall where gems from all over, especially from the Dwarven Islands, can be found.  The owners, Nan and Papa Thornside, don't set the gems, but just sell them and cut them the way their buyers want.  Jewelry makers are their biggest customers, but sometimes adventurers like to have something a little easier to carry then bags and bags of gold and thus turn them into portable gems.

Nan and Papa can cut the gems how ever a person wants, even cutting pictures into the faces.  They will put necklace hooks on to larger gems, but that is the only jewelry work they will do.  They will buy gems, as long as they are of good quality, even if they are already cut because they can always find a market for them.  They have several very loyal guards and many magical traps, so getting into the building to steal the lovely gems may prove harder then one would think.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Sven the Dog Handler

Sven loves his job and loves his dogs.  He makes sure each is well taken care for, he has names for all of them, and knows each's history like his own.  He was always loyal to Bloodhelm, for they gave him the job, the job his father had held before him, but after one hunting trip everything changed.  He was always in charge of gathering up the hounds after a hunt, but he had to stop at some point during one to look at the leg of one of his hounds.  While he lagged behind his favorite hound ran in front of the Lord Raphael's mount, scaring the horse, and nearly bucking Raphael off.  Raphael had the hound killed immediately.

Saddened by the loss of his favorite dog, he vowed revenge upon House Bloodhelm.  When a recruiter from Vandez asked him to spy on the House during hunting outings, he was more then willing.  He thinks only of the safety of his dogs and getting revenge on House Bloodhelm.  If the party is out for Bloodhelm's blood, this may be a way to get into the House.

Friday, March 1, 2013

The Role of Royal Mages

Magic is fairly common in my world.  People are healed by magic, light stones light rooms, and projects are built, if possible, with the help of mages and priests.  Because of this, every House has a Royal Mage, or a whole stable of them.  They need protection against outside magic and someone they can trust to put magic upon their weapons and houses, not to mention persons.  The mages are kept well, but can always be dismissed at a whim.  The only exception to this is the House of Weatherworn.  Nearly all the women, and some of the men, who are born into the House become mages.  There is something about their bloodline where the women make powerful weathermages.  They do not have a "Royal Mage" but it is just assumed all women of the House, whether married in or not, are mages.

The title gives the person some power and recognition, though the extent of that power depends on the House. The Royal Mage of Bloodhelm or Vandez is more likely to wield more power in terms of influence then the House Mage of Calabay or Goldleaf, even though they may, in truth, bare more magical power.  To upset any Royal Mage is a bad move.  Not only do they wield great magic, but if they are loved by the House the person may have an army after them.