Wednesday, June 26, 2013

When to Allow Followers

We've spoken on followers and what they should be, but we need to talk about when.  If your characters are only 1st level, even if they somehow talked you into that Leadership Feat, you should not allow characters that low to have followers.  That is not to say you can't start back weaving a story for a follower in the future.  Say the character saves a young man from certain death or pays for him to go to bard school.  Wouldn't he remember the act of kindness and seek the character out to pay back the debt?  Back stories are good, considering you really don't want to say one day, "Alright, you have 20 followers?"  Where did they come from?  Why did they come?  All important things to know. 

Personally, I don't allow followers until at least 8th level.  By then, the players have established their name, are pretty powerful in their own right and won't be greatly augmented by adding another person with talents to the party.  And even if the Leadership feat says they get X number of followers, you don't have to throw them all in at once.  Ease them in, make it make sense.  People don't just pop out of thin air.

Happy Gaming!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Mystic Potions in Bloodhelm

This small, smelly shop has a small store front with an alchemy lab as a basement.  Potions of all sorts are made here and thus the stalwart adventurer can find most potions he needs, if they have enough money.  The stock depends on the time of year and how rare the components for that potion are.  Healing potions are the most common, and are quite expensive, but well worth the purchase.  Other types of potions can be found, but that is up to the GM.  The owner, Jander Hogwallow, loves his job and hates working with people.  He buys components from adventures for about 20% of list cost and will not budge on that price.  There are no magical wards on this building, but there are master quality locks on the doors and windows.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Charles, the Merchant

Charles, like all merchants, likes to make money.  A human, with his dark hair and tanned skin, he is an average looking man not quite to the age of thirty.  He has built up his transport business slowly, starting with a single wagon and he and his brother making the deliveries to over three dozen wagons, teamsters, and mercenaries now protecting his loads.  He takes his job seriously and loves making money.  He tries to balance his gain to danger ratio, but sometimes he has been known to get in over his head.  One such time involved heading into Black Wizard territory to deliver silk from Ariella, but it paid well, even if it did almost cost him his life.

Charles hires on extra protection, now and again, and is not averse to having people travel with his caravan for a small fee.  (He sees them as extra protection for a profit.)  He knows a lot about the countryside problems, problem areas on the roads, and where to watch out for bandits and the like.  He likes to talk by the fire over a good ale, so long as you don't pry into his finances or how his business runs.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

A Little Language for Your Campaign

The elf is talking Elvish, the tome is in high magic, the dwarf curses in Dwarven.  These are all things your character will experience while they travel  your world.  It's alright to say, "the dwarf curses in dwarven", but wouldn't it be cooler if you actually cursed in dwarven?  Granted there isn't a dwarven tongue all spelled out (though I believe Tolkien did write up a written alphabet), but there are so many languages in the known world that you can just "borrow" one for your dwarven tongue.  With Google language, you can look up phrases and words and throw them in.  Add a little anger to your words and your players will get the point that your dwarf is cursing (or at least very angry).  It adds depths to your character and to your non-player characters.  I love looking up Latin phrases for my spells in books and roleplaying games (I mean, come on, Latin has to be the language of magic, right?).  But it tells your players you are really trying to give your world depth and they enjoy the extra mile.

Happy Gaming!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Hiring those Hirelings

Hiring peons to do what your characters don't have time to do might be a game changer or just add some spice to your campaign.  Once a character gets beyond the first few levels they start making a name for themselves and making money to hire people to do what they just don't want to do.  Here are some things to keep in mind.

1) Hirelings should never be higher level or more powerful then the PCs.  In fact, they should only be 1st or 2nd level if they are just typical hirelings.  Mages and bodyguards might be exceptions to this rule, but you never want the hirelings to outshine the player characters.

2)  While you don't want them running around with a troop of hirelings, don't make it impossible to have them.  Make the prices reasonable, but not cheap.  Have the hirelings want to be treated well and have food provided for them.  They aren't there to roll over, just add to the party.

3) Give them personalities.  In the original published Hackmaster there was a roll for perks depending on your status in life.  One of my characters had the fortune of gaining bodyguards.  Two in fact.  Warrick and Paxton.  Just giving them names and a small description added life to them, then my husband, (who was GM), made them annoyingly protective, which just made them even more likable.  Nothing like giving a hireling a little life.

4) Don't let your players overdue it.  Even if they an afford an army of hirelings, don't let them have it.  The campaign is supposed to be about the players, not their army of hirelings.

Happy Gaming!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Dark Sage in Bloodhelm

This small, unwelcoming building is two stories, about ten by ten feet, with a living quarters above the small business is tucked away in Bloodhelm.  There are few windows, a lone chimney and a stout wooden door.  Inside, the owner keeps the building very dark, with few decorations and only enough furniture to make it functional.  Dar Blackwood, a half elf, covers himself in black robes, speaks little but tells a lot.  He is a Seer, a real one, who has been scarred by the effects of this strong magic.  People only come to Dar if they are in desperate need to know something, and even then the price may not be worth the outcome.  Dar doesn't soften the blow on anything, he tells it like it is.  He's been threatened many times, but he is secure in his strong magic (make him the highest level your campaign allows and hold nothing back) and takes each threat in stride.  His prices are steep, because he does see the future as it is, and many who want to can not afford him.  He may hire someone on occasion for errands outside of Bloodhelm, but he will never tell the person exactly why he hires them.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Gloriwynn of Bloodhelm

Gloriwynn is a dwarven healer who has stationed herself in Bloodhelm.  She is powerful, a true believer in the Goddess Tinaka, but she has some issues.  Some of it is self confidence.  She lost a very important person amongst the dwarves because his wounds were so bad, but she blames herself for her inability to heal him. Thus why she left the dwarven homeland to come to the mainland.  Second, she has a drinking problem.  Dwarves are known to drink, but she takes it to a whole new level.  Dwarves rarely drink enough to get drunk, but she does it on a regular basis.  She drinks to forget her mistakes, drinks to keep herself happy, drinks for no particular reason.  Gloriwynn is a nice, easy to get along with person, but she blames herself for a lot.

If the party is looking for a temporarily healer, Gloriwynn might be their person.  She is willing to see the world and help out as best she can, but always has the drink with her.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

A Little Description Hurts No One

When I write, I like to show how things look, sound and feel.  The tall buildings, the smell of smoke, the musty smell right after a rain.  I want my reader to feel and see what I see.  There is nothing different when you are being a game master.  Whether doing an email campaign or one at your kitchen table, there is no reason you can't add description.  Here are some basic rules to keep in mind.

1)  Try to make all your descriptions about the same length.  If you make the more important stuff longer, your players will catch on and listen only to the super long descriptions.  Never put emphasise on the things you want them to notice.  Make them figure it out.

2) Have your descriptions premade.  It's a little extra work, but it is well worth it.  It was easier when I was doing my email campaign, but table top gaming needs notes as well. 

3) Along with places, have people, too.  Sometimes I sneak in the animals as well, to just make sure the players aren't sure what is important and what isn't.  You want them to feel the people and places around them.

4)  Don't write a novel.  As fun as descriptions are, don't take a half hour for each building.  Just hit the highlights so they know what's going on around them.

Happy Gaming!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Typical Port of Martapa

I speak of water travel a lot in my stories and the commerce of Martapa depends greatly on ships sailing the oceans blue.  So ports are an important part of life in Martapa.  Though most are attached to a House in Tridon, there are other ports that are simply important because they are a port.  A typical port of any kind will have berths for at least three deep sea going vessels at any one time, with some of the biggest having up to 20 berths.  Most of the docks are made from native woods, though the dwarves have some how enchanted steel somehow to float and have metal docks at their major ports.  There will always be a port master who takes the fees, directs the boats to the proper berth (via magic communication or flags, depending on the port), and helps to find storage facilities for traders who are off loading.

Ports are also an excellent place for a person to find work, either working on the docks or finding a ship that is willing to take them on as an extra deck hand.  There are small time merchants that wander the docks selling food, drink and small items that the crew may want after a long time at sea.  Young boys often come and offer to act as tour guides to crews who have never been to that port for a small fee.  There are usually guards on the docks themselves, not only to protect the merchandise being loaded and offloaded, but to keep the peace, as well.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Anne Marie, Servant of Bloodhelm

Anne Marie is a quiet, homely looking girl, barely into her majority, with a need to please everyone, yet remain unseen.  She always seems to be right there when one of the Bloodhelm scions needs  her, but never underfoot.  She does general clean up and housekeeping, though sometimes she works in the kitchen and has been known to help with handmaiden duties, as well.  She has never been in trouble, never causes problems with the other staff and does as she's told.

Anne's little, dirty secret is she's an agent for Vandez.  As she goes about her business for Bloodhelm, she gathers information for her true employers.  A good way to work her into a campaign is one of two ways.  Either the party is trying to meet up with her to get that information for Vandez or they have been hired to root her out.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Mystery of the Teleportation Circles

I hint in the third book as to why the Teleportation Circles are no longer in use in the time of the High King's Sword.  It's a small hint, more of a whimsy at the time, but something which I believe will grow into something bigger, eventually.  As Targon is talking to Taniger about the circles, Taniger mentions it was reasonable what the High King did by shutting down the circles, after what happened.  I never say what happens, but here is the gist of what happened.

The High King, and all the nobles, frequently used the circles to get from one House to another for business and visiting far off relatives in a short period of time.  The High King at the time of the accident was away fighting pirates and his wife, son, and soon to be born child were going to Weatherworn to see her mother and be somewhere safe while she gave birth to her second child.  They left Stormvale but never arrived at Weatherworn, though the circles were both activated.  It was the biggest mystery of the time and many mages were banished because they could not answer the King's questions as to what happened to his family.  As a mage of the time said, "Magic is as unpredictable as the God of Magic, himself.  They could have been whisked off to some far off circle, ported to some place in the past or even the future.  I'm sorry, my lord, I wish I could tell you more."

Because of this, the High King shut down all the circles, hurting trade and ease of coordination at the time, but in a generation or three hardly anyone remembered the circles or their uses.  But the High King's family was never found and it is hinted that a seer "saw" them still alive, but in a far off time or place.  Perhaps the High King yet to be crowned is floating through time and space just waiting to be released by the magic holding him and his mother.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Teleportation Circles

This is possibly the most vague, and most powerful, magic item and location wrapped into one in my stories.  This was something which moved people quickly in a high magic time of Martapa, but by the time of the High King's Sword the ability to even use them has been lost.  There isn't even a person alive who could actually make one to add into the system without a lot of research, not to mention the amount of magic needed.  But it is a crucial part of my plot lines, not only is it motivation for one of my main bad guys, but also gets my heroes to places they want to be and need to be.

Here is a general description of a teleportation circle:
1) Each will have a great stone circle set into the ground with gems of all sorts set in particular circular pattern to amplify the magic worked into and on the circle.  Great amounts of magic have been set into the circle, as well as the gems.  If any of the gems are damaged, new ones have to be etched then empowered with magic.  This is a simple enough task if the mage is powerful enough, but takes a lot of magical energy on the mage's part.

2) Each circle will have a stone map set on a wall  or on the ground near the circle.  Each map will have insets big enough for a small gem at each of the circle locations around Martapa.  There are two gems, one permanently set at the circle's location and one that can be moved to the location some one wants to travel to.  These gems can also be replaced, if need be, but take just as much magic to replace.

3) Each circle should have a Circle Guardian.  This ghostly figures are tied to the circle, but can interact with less ethereal and more worldly objects.  They operate and maintain the circles and teach others how to use them.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Wolf Pack of Varanath

There are rumors, spread in the middle of the night, of a wolf pack that protects Varanath as if the House was their own cub.  Sometimes the wolf pack is used to scare little children, or as a source of pride for those who call Varanath and Ardiango home.  The wolf pack is said to consist of over a dozen wolves, bigger then the normal wolf, perhaps even bigger then dire wolves,  with eyes that whirl with sparkling magic.  They are said to be everything from black to silver, for no one knows for sure, but some say that in the right light they sparkle with a tint of gold.  Rumor has it that they tried to save the heirs of Varanath from Mathanos, but the dark wizard some how kept them out of Varanath.  Others say the protectors felt that Varanath no longer needed their protection because they had become corrupt.

There have certainly been people killed by wolves near Varanath, but always they have been people of questionable morals.  And there has been reports of children being rescued by wolves as well, though many think such stories are just tall tales.