Monday, August 27, 2012

The Falling Dominoes of World Design

One of the major features in Weaverham is the road West. The discovery of the route west through the mountains was one of the defining features of the town. When I came up with this distinctive feature, there wasn't really anything on the other end of that route, it just existed as a point of interest. Now, the players haven't questioned this; however, it's not something that could stand for long. So the Walled City of Mirandir came into being as something Worth Going To, in this case, a strange city with a lot of wealth and access to exotic stuff, justifying the existence of trade caravans.

Then, there was another issue. Considering that there was a medium-sized city on a major river flowing west just a few days march south of Weaverham, why was that route through the mountains so important, especially considering that it was only open during the non-winter months? Why wouldn't merchants just jump in their boats, sail down the river, then cut north back up the coast to Mirandir?

The answer clearly was that there was something bad in the way, something terrifying enough that only the extremely foolhardy would risk sailing that route. Now, that something could be on the coast itself because the current state of sailing in the Weaverham campaign is such that few people have the technology or the cojones to sail out of sight of land.

Originally, the answer was: pirates. An established camp of them preying on water traffic -- everybody likes a pirate city and that would certainly "work" within the established world. That doesn't really have the "oomph" to it that I'd like, especially if we were talking about something that had been around for generations.

Add in another bit of world background, the Hyperborean ruins scattered around, roughly equivalent to those left behind by the Afternoon Cultures in M. John Harrison's Viriconium series. In this case then, there is a port/castle complex on the north lip of the river entrance, mostly destroyed; however, some towers and halls still remain and in them dwell a clan of mutated pirates, warped by their surroundings and granted power due to their possession of what they refer to as a "firelance", a cannon mounted in one of the towers and capable of splitting ships in half from miles away.


- Since few, if any, ships dare to sail past their hideout, the pirates make their bones by raiding Mirandir and the shipping going into the river mouth (the south part of the river delta being outside of the range of the firelance). They strike quickly and then retreat.

- The mutating effects of the ruins have the effect, aside from making the pirates gruesome in appearance, of rendering the inhabitants sterile. The pirates then rely on increasing their numbers through abductions, either through their shipping raids or attacks on nearby settlements. For obvious reasons, children are preferred targets, although young males work well too.

- It's probable that the pirates have some way of dredging stuff off the ocean floor. Maybe some kind of Hyperborean submersible. Maybe some of the mutants have gills. Maybe they have a deal with some undersea dwellers who give them a cut of the detritus that showers onto them from above. Lots of possibilities.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Heroes of Weaverham, cont.

Our Heroes continued north from the bandit encounter and the next day found a large gathering of nobles and men-at-arms camped around a small tower-and-bailey castle. The servants collecting water and washing clothing in the nearby stream were happy to inform the party that the group, about a hundred strong, were holding a tournament to decide who was worthy to lead the small army into battle against the brigands of the woods, who apparently had a large hideout and numbered twice as many as the men in this camp. The party decided to continue north to Stavros with their caravan.

After successfully seeing the caravan to the Trade Syndicate warehouse, the party took a few days to procure goods and then leave Nyxa, the girl who was ravished by the goat-beast, with the priestesses of  the local church of Tittivila. It was decided that the group would head back to Weaverham with the goal of getting the fourth stone skull that they knew to be in the possession of the sheriff and then see what happened when all the skulls were placed on the pedestals in the goblin caves west of town. The journey south involved repeated encounters with a group of savage men living in the woods who made hit-and-run attacks over multiple days. One of the wizard's hirelings was killed and a near-TPK loomed at one point; however, clever use of a light spell and the net they'd carried out of the goblin cave turned the tide enough for the party to escape mainly unscathed.

Reaching Weaverham safely, a successful Charm Person from Brains resulted in the sheriff happily handing over the skull and when placed upon the pedastal, the group found a secret entrance into a long-forgotten Duvan'ku hideout. Brief exploration led to a few traps being successfully triggered from distance by the thief and while the party avoided touching the various unsettling objects within, they did find a secret door in the chapel that revealed a relative mother lode of treasure in the form of tithed silver coins. Deciding to get out while the getting was good, the party returned to Weaverham and promptly caroused with their newfound wealth. Only one major mishap occurred (Olin got a pretty cool looking tattoo) as Forest Woodtwig was compelled to go on a quest by his gods, Dogar and Kazon.

(A reminder: Forest Woodtwig is an Elf that was raised by Orcs who told him they were Elves and then taught him a falsified version of Elvish culture as a joke. Part of this apparently was teaching him to worship nonexistent terrible gods. We decided that what he thinks are Dogar and Kazon is actually Tsathogga.)

The quest in question is to go down to the swamps south of Larm (itself 3 days south of Weaverham), recover a frog idol and return it to its proper place. The journey south involved a couple of encounters with hostile orcs in which one of Brains' followers died again, now making him 4/4 for deaths of hired infantrymen. He's already paying double rates for hirelings in Weaverham and he's likely to get outright refusals soon.

Arriving in Larm, the party again hit the local merchants and searched around for a good base of operations. Carousing again (our sessions wind up being pretty short and there was plenty of discussion before decamping for Larm) led to Forest insulting Lady Orchid, one of the town's nobles and a mysterious figure from the exotic West. While Forest went into hiding, the remaining party members took part in the local Rat Festival, in which armed men compete to see how many swamp rats they can kill. The party wound up being 2 rats short of the eventual winners, which they accepted as a decent result considering their lack of knowledge of the surrounding terrain. As the last session ended, the rest of the party was preparing to meet Forest at the Gallow Middens outside of town before setting out in search of the frog idol.