Friday, December 28, 2018

Character Motivation in OD&D – More Than Murder-Hobos

A fundamental assumption in OD&D is that all player characters want treasure (after all, it's the source of the vast majority of XP awarded). But this does not have to make characters simple murder-hobos. Treasure can be thought of not as the character's goal, but rather as the necessary means to attaining some larger objective. When thinking of our character's motivation – why she or he goes adventuring – we might ask ourselves the question: why would my character need a mountain of gold and magic items?

Here are 1d20 possibilities to use as-is or to inspire more original ideas:

  1. Your character is from an impoverished noble family, seeking to regain the family fortune and reestablish the family lands and legacy.
  2. A beloved person in your character's life died, and a necromancer has promised to bring him or her back from the afterlife – for a price.
  3. You are a devoted member of your religion; every coin you can donate to your church will promote the interest of your god(s).
  4. You seek revenge against a powerful lord or lady who did some great wrong to you; but you'll need to buy an army to make that happen.
  5. Monster-hunting is a family trade; slaying monsters and taking their treasure is how members of your family have always made their fortune.
  6. You're simply ambitious and you seek to become the most powerful / feared / respected warrior / magician / religious leader in the land.
  7. You come from a poverty-ravaged region and wish to bring wealth back home to reinvigorate your homeland's economy.
  8. You seek a king's ransom – perhaps literally – to secure the release of someone important to you who has been imprisoned or enslaved.
  9. You grew up in abject poverty. You watched your parents and grandparents slave away for a lifetime and die scratching a living out of a patch of mud. That life is not for you.
  10. A plague is ravaging your homeland; the sages might be able to find a cure if only they had sufficient money to complete their research.
  11. Your homeland is the constant victim of raids from surrounding territories. If you could bring back enough money, your people could build fortifications and hire troops to defend them.
  12. Your homeland is ruled by a petty tyrant. With enough money and power you could overthrow the despot.
  13. Enemy raiders come to your homeland once per year demanding a tribute in gold or slaves. With enough gold, you can keep your people safe by paying them off . . . or even drive the raiders away once and for all.
  14. Monsters killed someone dear to you. You won't rest until you've extracted weregeld (or exacted blood revenge) from every monster in the region.
  15. Your homelands were conquered and occupied by a neighboring enemy. You need gold to take those lands back.
  16. Having seen the injustice of the world, you want to create your own utopian country, and you'll need gold to do it.
  17. You are an agent of the king / queen with orders to undermine threats to the region; you are to self-finance with loot, and hand over the rest to fill the royal coffers.
  18. An oracle declared you would grow up to be a great and powerful hero / mage / champion of the faith. You are simply fulfilling that destiny.
  19. You are obsessed ancient artifacts, books, magic items. No risk is too great to secure these precious items.
  20. You fought in a war that recently ended. Apart from adventuring, there's just nothing else to do with your skill set. Getting rich is an added bonus.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Factions in Ravensburg

I've been working on developing Ravensburg some more during my week off for Christmas. So far I've just sketched these out in broad brush strokes (essentially what any average person living in Ravensburg would know). I'll detail them later bit by bit as play develops around them. There are a total of 29 groups, which I think should suffice for now.

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Surface-Dwellers: Humans, Dwarves, Elves, Halflings. All four races exhibit a variety of skin colors, from alabaster white to mahogany brown and every shade in between. All four races live above the surface, even the dwarves, who build their towns and cities into the faces of mountains to allow as much light and fresh air as possible into their settlements. The city and its factions are mixed-race as a rule, and lines of tension tend to be drawn between factions, not between racial groups.

      Factions among the Surface-Dwellers in Ravensburg:
  1. The Council of Magistrates: the city's governing body.
  2. The Black Guard: keepers of law and order in the city.
  3. The Church: worshipers of Numina, the one true goddess
  4. The Druids: worshipers of the Old Gods; they are not outlawed, but the practice of their religion is scorned and they inhabit the wild lands around the city.
  5. The Duality: secret cult that worships Demogorgon; outlawed enemy of the Church and frequently at odds with the Covenant.
  6. The Covenant: The secret cult that worships Orcus; outlawed enemy of the Church and frequently at odds with the Duality.
  7. The Creed: a company of highly skilled assassins.
  8. The Veil: a secret society of spies who can get information on anyone – for a price.
  9. The Syndicate: the city's biggest thieves' guild.
  10. The University of Ravensburg: a group of scholars with knowledge historical and natural, ancient and current.
  11. The Laborer's Guild: serves the interests of those who neither produce nor sell merchandise, e.g. porters, torch-bearers, tavern wenches, lackeys, valets, teamsters, etc.
  12. The Artisan's Guild: serves the interests of those who produce physical objects, e.g. black-smiths, gold- and silver-smiths, gem-cutters, leather workers, potters, book-binders, basket-weavers, rope-makers, bakers, etc.)
  13. The Merchant's Guild: serves the interests of those who sell goods and services provided by others; e.g. brokers, shop-owners and vendors, traders, peddlers, etc. 
Under-Dwellers: These are varieties of humans, dwarves, elves and halflings who live underground instead of on the surface. Each of these is a racial/cultural group -- so they, too, will have factions that the players will uncover through play. Each of the under-dwelling folk have their own language, though 20-25% will also speak the common tongue of the surface people. Because of their insular tendencies, the under-dwellers have no common tongue of their own. They are not so insular, however, that they will not forge alliances with or go to war against other groups -- on the contrary, there is constant strife and the making and breaking of alliances in the under-realms. The specific race of each group appears in parentheses, along with that group's alignment tendencies (L, N, C) in order of prevalence.
  1. Cavemen (human; N, C): primitive hairy pale-skinned men with bulging eyes. They hunt and eat whatever they can find underground.
  2. Carnelians (human; N, L, C): Folk with red skin and long yellow hair, the skin around their eyes is tinged with mineral flecks and sparkle faintly. Highly civilized; their alchemists are legendary.
  3. Ceruleans (human, L, N; also called "The Blue-men"): bald folk with pupil-less white eyes and blue skin. Highly civilized; renowned for their philosophers who seek "the deeper truth in the darkness."
  4. Mantians (human, N, C, L): green skin and short, spiky black hair. Tribal in nature and very warlike. 
  5. Morlocks (human-ish, C, also called "Near-men"): man-eating humanoids, covered in fur from head to toe. Tool-using, but even more primitive than cavemen.
  6. Sludgers (humans C, N): the dispossessed and their descendants, living in the sewers beneath the city. They are scavengers, thieves and kidnappers. 
  7. Stonemen (humans, N, C, L): black hair and thick scaled gray skin that looks like cracked stone. Tribal in nature, they are well-known as underground farmers.
  8. Lightbringers (elves, L, N): albinos with fiery red eyes. Highly civilized, they are masters at crafting sustainable underground light sources. 
  9. Shadowfolk (elves, C, N): grey-skinned elves with flowing silver-blue hair, often pulled back in a pony tail. Highly civilized, they seek to expand their civilization through conquest and are rivals to the Rockbiters. 
  10. Carvers (dwarves, N, L): similar in appearance to their surface-dwelling counterparts, but with ruddier skin. Highly civilized, they literally carve cities out of the solid rock below the surface.
  11. Rockbiters (dwarves, C, N): dwarves with purple-grey skin and braided black hair, with males sporting Van Dykes instead of full beards. Highly civilized, they seek to expand their civilization through conquest and are rivals to the Shadowfolk. They are renowned for their fortification and sapping skills. 
  12. Muckers (halflings, C, N): halflings who live in the sewers beneath cities. Like sludgers, they are scavengers, thieves and kidnappers.
Demonic Under-Dwellers: Demonic under-dwellers are all chaotic. Some non-demonic under-dweller groups may ally with the demonics; others will hate them. Each group of spawned creatures (#1 below) has its own language (though again 20-25% may know common). Intelligent undead and all demons (groups #2-4 below) speak a language known as "cryptic," though again the same proportion of them may know common or some other language(s).
  1. Goblins, Orcs, Hobgoblins, Gnolls, Bugbears, etc. – these are all corporal beings spawned by demons or their minions. They serve as foot soldiers of the underworld. Each of these has its own language.
  2. Lesser Undead – otherwise normal surface- or under-dwellers who have died. The lesser undead are those whose remains have been animated by chaotic demon-magic. These, too, often serve as foot soldiers of the underworld.
  3. Greater Undead – otherwise normal surface- or under-dwellers who in life made pacts or in some other way gave themselves over to demonic forces.
  4. Demons – these are the rulers of the underworld, who attempt to extend their influence upward into the material world of the surface- and under-dwellers. The two greatest whose influence is felt in Ravensburg are the rivals Orcus and Demogorgon.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Another Ravensburg Map

I've been map-obsessed lately, working and reworking Ravensburg trying to get something I really like. This is my latest.

I traded out the original neighborhoods for streets instead. Making streets an entire hex wide helps keep the labeling a bit less cluttered, I think.