Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Amphitheater of Vandez

Vandez, though rival to Bloodhelm, is a center of culture and of the arts for Martapa.  So much so, that Vandez built a large amphitheater to the north side of town to house over a thousand people, enabling them to watch plays, listen to speeches, even watch epic one on one battles.  The seating is stair stepped, curving around the wooden stage in a semi-circle.  The seats are stone in the lower sections, but there are higher level ones made of wood and boxes made for the rich and noble so they can be catered to in style.  A troop of actors permanently makes Vandez their home and put on plays every weekend, and small skits during the week.  Music can usually be heard floating from the amphitheater when not in use, as musicians like to practice here.  Most events take money to get into, but some speeches and plays are given for free.  Many nobles use this as a place to make private deals right out in public.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Jessum, the Traveling Merchant

Most major roads in Martapa have nice inns to stay in about a day a part.  Usually they are well stocked with food and those little things that just need to be picked up.  Boots, cloaks, rations, saddle straps, the like.  For these inns to keep supplied they rely on the traveling merchants that simply go from one major city to another, supplying not only inns but travelers as well.

One such merchant is Jessum Thunderhead.  He works the major road between Calabay and Eton.  He has three wagons, each pulled by a team of draft horses.  (He saved up long to get horses over mules.)  He has three guards and a cook, which he pays well.  He isn't rich, but the people who he supplies keep him well fed and able to pay his team on time and what they are owed.  Jessum is honest enough, though like all good merchants he tries to get the best deal.  He is a major life line between Eton and Calabay so even the patrols know him by name and give him aid if need be.

Though Jessum likes the life of a merchant, he also helps the crown as well.  In the time of the High King's Sword he is part of the Society of the King.  Because the northern Houses desperately want a new High King, they are always searching, though not openly.  Calabay and Eton, especially, are trying to find the King and work closely with each other to find clues.  Jessum lets them pass such information back and forth easily.

In game you can use Jessum to get your players involved with the Society of the King or you can use him as an information source, or even a source of employment.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Bad Guys Are...

So every good roleplaying campaign, as well as story, needs a well thought out bad guy.  Oh, you are going to have those bad guys you just throw in, the thugs, the bandits, etc.  But to make a campaign come alive, and a book, for that matter, you need a good protagonist.  Here are some ideas that might help you.

1)  Flesh the main bad guy out.  Not just the main bad guy, but some of his henchmen, as well.  Where did he or she grow up?  What is his motivation?  Did he yearn to be Knight, but was scorned because of his low upbringing?  Give him or her some depth.

2)  Think of a good name.  You do not want your bad guy named George, (no offense to those of you named George).  In the Princess Bride, Wesley makes the point that no one would surrender to the Dread Pirate Wesley.  The name is very important.  It should drive fear into your players, or at least get them to sit up and take notice.

3)  Description.  You don't have to make him or her look creepy, but the description can give a clue or two about the protagonist.  Does he limp?  Carry a sword?  Walk with a staff?  And some bad guys are going to carry something to fool their enemies.  Who would believe a wizard walks around in chainmail?

4) Think out when you want to bring the main bad guy in.  He might make a cameo appearance at the beginning, but afterwards may not show up for awhile, but instead send out his minions.  Does he always seem to be one step ahead of the party or taunting them from near by?

Happy Gaming!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Ancient Books in Bloodhelm

This small, out of the way place holds some great treasures.  The building is a single story wood structure, with shuttered windows, steep roof and some river rock to trim the bottom of the building.  The front steps are carved stone and there are carvings etched into the wooden door.  A little sign with a book hangs above the doorway, swaying in the breeze.  The owner, Jack Canard, spends very little time helping his customers, which are few, but lets his apprentice, Tracy, do all the talking.  Jack prefers to spend his time reading or copying tomes he found in his youth or others have found.  Ancient Books is a good place to find ancient, and not so ancient, history of Martapa, along with old maps, treaties, and other sorts of paperwork.  They are not cataloged well, and will add a good week to research if there is a certain amount of time a person has to spend to find their information in game play.  Jack charges 2 gold ducats a day to research and 100 ducats to have a book copied.  (Treaties and wills and the like cost 10 gold to be copied.)

Monday, April 22, 2013

Venza, Sister of Vetch'doran

In my last book of the High King's Sword, Vetch'doran goes back, at the behest of Elly, to his people to ask his people to side with the light and help stop Kahalla from returning to the mortal and immortal realms.  During his visit he is with his brother-in-law, who married his sister Venza.  Her husband is a blacksmith and she is a warrior, like her brother.  She fights with two battle axes and wears chainmail with links as fine as any elven chain.  Though not as strong as her brother, she is just as bright and leads a small force of her own.  When not fighting, this red furred woman likes to dress in flashy clothing, fitting of a swashbuckler and drink all her male friends under the table.  She loves her husband, Thervan, who is one of the best blacksmiths in the area and adores her older brother.

She would be encountered if the group traveled east of the Tsalagi Mountains, and probably as the leader of a mercenary group guarding a caravan.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Divisions of Labor

I try to make Martapa an equal opportunity world, where men and women are looked upon as equal in most circles, (even if economic situations are not), but there is some different expectations for both sexes like there are in this world.

1) Woman are expected to be keepers of the house and children.  They bake the food, clean, sew, raise the children and, in rural areas, keep small kitchen gardens.  Laundry and gathering of berries and fruit also rank up there.

2) Men are expected to be the farmers, the wood gathers, the hunters.  They build the houses to keep their families in, make the tools their women and themselves might need, and train their sons to do a trade.

3) Both men and women can purpose, but usually it is the men that do so.  Women can hold trades, but usually the men are the "bread winners".  And lastly, sometimes the men take care of the children, but most often it is the women that do so.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Transportation of Martapa

I know I've talked about mounts earlier in this blog, but there are other modes of transportation used through out Martapa.  Let's discuss them from most used to least used.

1) Walking.  This is everybody's form of transportation.  Most people do not have mounts or carriages so must rely upon their own two feet.

2) Carts, Wagons and Carriages.  Farmers do have carts, but usually this is to haul goods, crops or other items to and from markets as well as around their farms.  Wagons are used by merchants, armies and some of the bigger farmers.  Carriages are used by the rich, hired coaches, message and passenger coaches between cities and for state funerals.

3) Mounts.  Mainly the rich use mounts, along with the army, but adventurers, merchants, and independent mercenaries often have mounts.

4) Translocation.  The ability of magic to move people and items are very limited.  It drains the user and isn't always that accurate.  People only use this if they feel it's a real emergency.

5) Transportation circles.  Introduced sometime after the time of the Chosen, these circles made permanent magical translocation spots that didn't drain the user and could move lots of people or equipment at one time.  They still had to be maintained and directed by someone, but the enchanted circle took the strain of the magic, not the person.  These are no longer in use in the time of the High King's Sword, unfortunately.

Happy Gaming!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Homegrown Spices in Bloodhelm

Spices are a big deal in Medieval times (personally I won't cook without them in this day and age) and thus were worth a lot of money.  On my world, spices will travel long distances and cost lots of money, so Homegrown Spices tries hard to grow spices from around the world right in Bloodhelm.  Tandy and Garrett Spice have small "greenhouses" on the second floor of their building.  They've modified the roof so they have the ability to build it back up when the weather gets too cold and warm the inside with magic.  Because of this they can grow small quantities of rare spices from around the world.  Mostly the manor of Bloodhelm and other minor nobles buy the spices, but sometimes the merchant class can afford such things.  They don't live at the building and don't hire guards.  They do have magic locks upon the doors and window, though.

Monday, April 15, 2013

John, the Beer Man

There are these "lovely" taverns through out Bloodhelm and Martapa, but where do they get all that beer?  Near Bloodhelm is a small hops farm run by a man named John Hops.  His family has been growing grain and hops for years, as well as brewing beer for the local taverns and personal consummation of nearby farmers.  The small brewery is running as often as they have materials to make beer and even the house smells like brewing beer, (even though the house and the brewery are over three hundred feet apart).  John is a rounded man, with a good sense of humor that only gets better with more beer, (which he can drink a lot of before feeling even remotely tipsy).  He has a wife, Maggie, and five children, the boys helping him with the brewery now that they are old enough.  He ships a wagon load of beer at a time, picking up what he needs for the brew when he does so. 

He can be used as an NPC if the the players are planning a party, looking for certain ingredients or even as small job on their way to a larger one.  (Maybe just to get them headed in the right direction!)

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Buying a Mount

In most games, both roleplaying and video, getting a "ride" is always a big thing.  I know in World of Warcraft, (which I play too much), getting to 20th level is always a big thing for one of our "toons", where you can finally ride off into the sunset in style.  So when you are roleplaying, and a character has enough money to buy that new mount, make it a big deal to get.  My husband and I usually  have a fine selection of animals for the characters to choose from, (and of course this depends on what race and where they are), and a range of prices, some of which will just be too high.  There was once a Dragon Magazine article which had tables to flesh out horses with good and bad traits, but I can't remember what number it was.  We like to use the tables to make very personalized horses.  Make sure to have descriptions of each animal, maybe some bad habits and good bonuses, (which you don't have to disclose off the bat unless the character knows how to look for them).  And have your characters bargain for them.  This is, after all, horse trading!  If not the character buying, maybe one of the other players.

Happy Gaming!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Poison Rings

Since Tarkil is spy and assassin, I had to think of things like this, and poison rings would be very appropriate for a spy campaign.  These rings, highly decorated to very plain, hold a small amount of poison, usually in the base of a gem or small token.  Usually there is just enough poison for one use.  Follow the poison rules for your campaign and poison, but here are some other guide lines.
1) The person needs to roll to hit. You can factor in armor if you wish, because someone wearing plate may be harder to hit with a tiny needle then someone in a robe.

2) Remember any bonuses against poison.  Some campaigns have bonuses for certain races against poison, don't forget those.

3) Make how they poison the person plausible.  From five foot away? No, they need to be up close and personal with a good in-character reason for touching the person if they don't want to be discovered.

Happy Gaming!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Beautiful Aromas in Bloodhelm

This small shop wafts with all sorts of scents to please the senses.  A single story, with a basement, there are small bottles all over the place on the neatly sorted shelves and counters.  The owners, Janice and Johannen, make all the wonderful perfumes themselves, though they can, and do, important scents from the Empire and the Dwarven Islands.  This place is frequented by ladies in waiting who come to buy for their mistresses, since every good noble woman needs a good perfume.  This is also a place where the ladies in waiting unwittingly, or willingly, spread rumors and secrets.  Janice and Johannen pass such information on to the Theives' Guild for a tidy profit and thus live more then comfortably.  (Though Janice squirrels away quite a bit of it so if they have to leave in a hurry they have some cash to resettle.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Chester, the Sprite

Calabay has always been a haven for magical creatures, mostly sea elves, but other creatures as well.  One such "person" is Chester the sprite.  His real name is Chezastorous, but he likes the name Chester his human friends have given him.  He stands just a foot and a half tall with bright blue hair and wings and almost pale white skin.  His big, blue eyes take everything in with a sense of wonder, though he is no naive fool.  He was sent by his king to watch over the city of Calabay and see how things faired, since Calabay has always been kind to the magical creatures of the area.  Chester relishes his job, having made many friends and discovered what the wonders of a "tavern" are.  He can be seen in one of the many fine establishments every evening, though during the day he is talking with or helping important people around town.  He also likes to play with children, who hold him awe, and help the everyday person with their chores.  House Calabay has declared no harm shall come to him so long as he does not harm another, so he has an unusual protection when he is in town.

The GM can use Chester to start an adventure, spread a rumor, or perhaps find that magical plant or item they may need for some other adventure.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Planning the Event

I try to emphasize how important it is to have a well thought out adventure planned, but not everything with a gaming session is the adventure.  Here are a few things to keep in mind.

1)  Do you have your notes?  Top item on my list.  My son, who wants desperately bad to be able to GM like mom and dad, spends about 20 minutes looking for his notes before he does an adventure.  Make sure you have your notes before hand.

2) Do you have appropriate books/dice/equipment?  You need dice, and lots of them, as a GM and your players are going to ask obscure questions, so make sure the rule books are close at hand.

3) Pencils and scratch paper?  Your players are going to need to keep track of hit points and spells used and you and your players are going to need to take notes. 

4) Do you  have food and drinks?  Several hours of playing will require food or drinks of some sort.  If your players are well stocked, it will go a long way to having them like your adventure.

Happy Gaming!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Center of Knowledge in Bloodhelm

The Center of Knowledge is a fairly large, three story building, plum full of books, scrolls, and other items of knowledge.  Run by mages who once roamed the world and acquired a lot of the knowledge first hand, this building is a good spot to research about obscure history, magical knowledge or just general knowledge.  The mages charge a gold a day to research in their building, and writing material can be purchased there as well.  Meals can be bought and brought in, if a person so chooses, the mages having a deal with a nearby inn.  The building as three stories, all stuffed full of books and the like, while the basement is set up as the mages' living quarters.  There are supplies, a work shop, sleeping rooms, and other rooms full of stuff one would find in a mage's house.  There is a small "treasure room" where the mages keep some of their items from their adventures out in the wild.  There are no guards, but everything is magically warded.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Tahline and Caelzair

These two human twins, born only minutes apart, are very close and work well as a team.  Tahline has raven hair, opposed to Caelzair's shock of silver hair.  Caelzair is the bigger of the two, towering over his "little" sister, but he is the magic user of the bunch.  He specializes in lightning spells and some healing, but is a force to be reckoned with.  Tahline has always liked being in the thick of things and uses sword and shield with ease.  Both have bright blue eyes, are more then pleasant to look upon and are friendly to all who come their way.  Caelzair is the more out spoken, loving to joke with those around him, even breaking into dance for no reason.  Tahline will mingle, but she prefers to sit back and watch what is going on so she can protect her "big" brother from himself.

These two are always geared well, looking for work as caravans when they are not looking for some ruin to explore or evil to fight.  They would be good to meet if the party is in need of help escorting something or someone, or if they just need a little extra muscle.  They will not help those who are out right evil and Tahline seems to have a knack for seeing through anything evil or devious.  Otherwise, their prices are reasonable, and they may even do something for free if the cause is right.

Monday, April 1, 2013

The Death of a Character

In real life we tend to get attached to our family, pets, even objects and when bad things happen to them, we tend to be upset, sad or become detached from the world for awhile.  So it shouldn't seem strange when a person loses his character to death or some powerful curse that they also get a little detached.  The good thing about roleplaying games is the character could always come back with a little magic (depending on the genre), but the lose is no less.  Here are some things as a DM you might do.

1)  Talk to the player after the session.  Talk to him about why the character died, that it wasn't personal.  This is a biggy.  Some players may think the GM is out to get him and think it has become personal.  Talking to them about why the death happened may ease that tension.

2) Ask the player what he wants to do with the character.  Not all players what their characters "rezzed".  We had a college friend who was actually upset with us that we had his character raised from the dead, so make sure they actually want the character to be brought back to life.

3) Plan some nifty way for the character to come back.  Perhaps the rest of the party has to go in search of some magical artifact or do a favor for the person doing the magic.  At the same time have a mini-adventure for the player as he fights his way back to life.  Maybe the character died saving some godly item and the god himself comes down and resurrects him.  Perhaps the king of the area orders him brought back to life because his sacrifice saved the kingdom.

4) Don't gloss over the death.  In this day and age where video games just allow instant resurrection, make a big deal about the death.  Make your players feel upset, sad, or scared for their own lives.  Make it real.  Don't trivialize the moment.

Happy Gaming!