Life goes on

It has been an interesting few weeks, that has thrown a couple of new challenges my way.

It started when government Covid restrictions relaxed enough permit large outdoor events, which meant that I could go re-enacting again.  The first thing I was able to attend was Military Odyssey in Detling, a multi-period military extravaganza, although WWII is very heavily represented.  I went down with the Wimborne Militia, to represent an opposition for the Pirates – so lots of cannons, musketry and sword fighting, all backed up by a Living History camp that lets us talk about the history of the time.  That was quickly followed by another event at Mount Edgcumbe, for a living history camp, with beautiful views across the River Tamar towards Plymouth and the sea. 

It is only in the last few years that I have moved away from re-enacting battles, towards the living history side (age catches up with all of us), but I have never really established a LH role for myself.  I have been re-enacting for a long time, I do a long of research –  but I am a bit of a butterfly, and I jump from subject to subject, which means I have a lot of interesting knowledge, but I am not a specialist or expert in any of them.  Certainly not knowledgeable enough to set out a stall and demonstrate.  However, I have worked out that I can play a ‘man in a pub’, with historic pub games, beer and conversation.  I have quite a lot of experience of the ‘Man in a Pub’ role, so I should be OK with that.  Sounds daft, but it will be a serious vehicle to get people to sit down and talk to me.

But then we (The Wimborne Militia) got invited to take part in a Games Convention, in February next year.  Apparently, they often invite Living History displays to set up inside the convention.  Possibly for LARPers, possible for the Cosplayers – possibly just to fill up space.  Who knows, but having been to a few conventions, I am used to seeing a wild and wacky range of stands, stalls and displays.

Long story, short –  it made me think about writing a board game.  So I did – well I have a prototype, anyway.  It might be rubbish, but I won’t know until people play it.  Militia Vs Pirates (Yeah, it needs a catchier name) that features …

Team and individual play. Twin boards (slightly different) one for Militia, one for Pirates. D6 to move (I guess about 20 rounds per game) collect coins as you go, with penalties and rewards on board squares. Cards to boost your game and disrupt the opponents. Game finishes as first player hits Home – but winner is the one with most coins.

…  Not one for serious board gamers, but while it has randomizers (Dice & Cards) there is plenty of room for strategies and tactics – and it could well be fun for half-an-hour.   Which left me printing off game boards and card fronts –  then sticking them to a second hand scrabble board, and a deck of card.  *grin*  I enjoyed the process, and we have something for the gamers to ‘play test for me’  when we are at the convention.  And, let’s face it, if it is any good, I will be in the right place to find a small games company to sell it to.


To make it worse, everything seems to have slowed right down.  Stolen Lands is slow, the games I play in are slow – one is so slow that I think it may well be dead in the water.  So I applied to join a new game.  It is a long story, but I finished up getting accepted into a game that I didn’t really apply for – which just happens to be set in a part of Varisa that I know well and enjoyed playing in.  Just as importantly, I had a ‘interesting’ character who was based in the region, and I thought it would be interesting to write up one of his children, and explore that background in a bit more detail.

Gagak helped settle a village, Skids Landing, on the very edges of the Sandpoint hinterland – but that grew when I used the village (later) as a base for some adventures that I DMed for that playing group.  So the first thing was to roll the village back to something that doesn’t impinge on the new DMs game.  So I finished up with a village based on Dwarf quarrymen, lumberjacks and hunter trappers – and a suitable rough and ready place it is too.  Just right for a semi-civilized barbarian and his three wives.

Then it was onto family life – how d one half-orc barbarian, three wives and seven children get on with each other?  And what do you get when the kids grow up?

Find out at Raven’s wiki page.

The Green Friars

Sometimes, ideas come to me at the most inconvenient times, but if I don’t write something down, I have a habit of ‘moving on’, and perhaps don’t think of it again for a while – perhaps even a year or two …

This morning is earmarked for packing up the van ready for a weekend away, dressing up in 17th century clothes and giving a public display – that might (or might not) include a small battle. However, I got the Green Friars instead, when thoughts about old-fashioned ‘slang’ names (such as White Friars, Drey Friars, Black Friars) for different group of community monks coincided with thoughts about the game, religious developments and the Narlemarch. And who knows when that strange mix is going to happen again?

Even so, I DO need to get ready for the weekend – so just a brief overview.


The Green Friars

The Green Friars are the most influential political force in the Southern Region although they, as a group, would deny that they had any political motivation at all.  However, their philosophies are adhered to, and enforced almost all the way from the Brevoy Border (Bar-Z) right the way though the Narlemarch to Old Keep, and possibly beyond.

Composed of Druids, Clerics, Rangers and Adepts, dedicated to several deities, they all value the benefits of the natural world above the civilizing influences of large towns and cities.  Small towns and villages are OK …  But wilderness is important and should outnumber the small developments at the core.  They aren’t all about wilderness and wild animals –  but they are all about people living in harmony with their natural surroundings.  Hunters, Fishers, Foragers, Woodsmen, Loggers1, Farmers2 and Beekeepers are all welcome, as are many other trades, so long as they respect the local environment.

They all have a tendency to wear dark green cloaks when they are out an about, generally with the symbol of their deity on the left breast.  Influential members of this supposedly informal group include …

  • Zelona, March-Lord of Old Keep (Druid of Gozerah)
  • Loy Rezbin, Governor of Tatzleford (Ranger)
  • Laticia, Mayor of Tatzleford (Cleric of Erastil)
  • Aris’ta Devo, Commander of Hunters Rest (Ranger)
  • Rook Sanderson of Elkwall (Ranger and Cleric of Erastil)
  • Zorah of Bar-Z (Druid of the Green)
  • Maril of Grenal (Adept of the Green)

Notes

  1. Forest Friendly Loggers  take selected timbers in ways that do not damage the forest or the local ecology.
  2. Forest Friendly Farmers cultivate crops that don’t need clearance for fields and farm forest friendly stock animals, such as pigs and chickens

Fjord Orcs

Found in the Great Fjord, the local orc tribes are more organized than many others.  That doesn’t stop them bickering among themselves and raiding each other – but they are held (partially) in check by the Great Shaman, who trains their tribal witches, builds ships and makes weapons for them.  Technically, the Great Shaman doesn’t do all those things personally, but her ‘people’ do.

Tribal Villages

Each ‘tribe’ consists of between 60 and 90 bodies –  Made up mostly of Orcs, a few half-orcs and a few captives of other species.  About 20 of the Orcs are Marauders, males who are in their prime and the main raiding force of the tribe.  Another dozen, or so, are those male orcs who are passed their prime, and are no longer allowed to go marauding – they lead the hunting parties, guard the village and train the youngsters.  There are about the same number of Young Bloods, not allowed to go marauding yet,  but hunting and training under the elders.  Most of the rest is made up of Females and youngsters – who are responsible for the captives, gather seasonal food, repair gear etc.   There are a few fields and animals, mostly looked after by captives and youngsters, although they only add a small amount to the village’s stocks.

Every village has a witch, who has been trained by the great shaman.  The witch is always female and is leader of the women – she knows the secrets of brewing good grog, making healing potions and is the tribes main contact with The Great Shaman.  Hurt a witch, too much, and the Great Shaman will be angry with you, and the tribe.  You don’t want that.  Orcs who seriously upset the tribe’s witch are often half flayed and sent to the Great Shaman, before she comes for him.  Most witches have an ‘assistant’ already trained by the Great Shaman, who is preparing to take over when the old witch dies (Natural causes, or maybe the new witch is ready to ‘step up’)

There are always leaders.  A tribal chief (L7 elder), a War captain (L6 Marauder in charge of the marauding party and chief in waiting)  two or three lieutenants (L4/L5 Marauders), Chief Hunter (Elder, L5) to round out the numbers.

  • Marauder = Male Orc, Warrior-3 – fully armoured and armed with battle weapons
  • Elder = Male Orc, Warrior 3 – (Middle aged or old) with light armour & hunting weapons
  • Young Bloods = Male Orc, Warrior 2 with light armour & hunting weapons
  • Females / Youngsters – Orc, Warrior 1 – unarmoured, two-handed clubs
  • Witch = Orc, Female, Witch 3 (assistant witch 1 or 2)
  • Grog = Fermented honey and berry mix.  The type of berry changes throughout the year and is often supplemented by other things that you wouldn’t expect to be in an alcoholic beverage.  It is not to the taste of most races, but Orcs seem to enjoy it.

Village life

Everyone lives in one great longhouse.  One end is walled off for livestock and the less desirable captives, everyone else lives in the main part of the longhouse, leaders, marauders, witches, (some) captives – everyone. Along with half a dozen (guard) dogs. Life is hectic.

Young Bloods get to practice their seamanship in the village’s Faering  (Rowing boat) while the females fish. Elders and Young Bloods, hunt game, females cook, repair clothes, carry out basic crafts and supervise the captives as they work in the fields and with the animals.  Marauders hang around disrupting everything, unless they off on a raid –  either skirmishing with another village, or a ship-borne raid of a foreign town or village.

Raids are short and sweet and often directed at small towns and villages. The Orcs land, set fire to things, loot, steal food, drink, weapons (basically anything of value) and kidnap a few of the locals.  Then back home for a party.  Occasionally, they will send out a larger expedition,  under a Warchief, where boats from various villages work together to hit a larger town.  The large groups have been known to take whole ships and hold them for ransom. Once they have landed, it is mayhem, each Marauder doing their own thing until they are sated and have enough loot.  Smaller towns and villages are often left devastated, when the drunken orcs have finished their pillaging and plundering.

There are land raids as well, the hills around the Fjord are home to Cavemen clans (Neanderthal), and there are often clashes between Orc  hunting parties and parties of Cavemen.  Sometimes the cavemen are followed home and their caves raided for food and captives.

The Ship

The tribe’s ship, known as a Karvi, is the pride of every village – long sleek and powered through the water by twenty oars, although it has a square sail for when the wind is in the right direction.  A cross between a Viking Knarr and a Greek Galley, this open vessel is seaworthy, deals well with open water, and is fitted with a ram. It can deliver a band of about 20 marauders to the shores of any settlement, and is fast enough to make a decent get away, if they are outnumbered.

Karvis are made by the Great Shaman’s people, and each tribe must pay their ship off, and then pay extra for maintenance.  Fortunately, the Great Shaman likes payment in loot and captives – particularly young captives.  She doesn’t mind what race they are, humans or elves are best –  but any race will do, even cavemen.  But if you can’t get enough captives, you will pay her in Orc children …  She doesn’t mind.

And that is on top of the ones chosen by the witches to be sent for training!  Some of those come back as new witches, some stay with the Great Shaman –  but even some of those disappear.

The Great Shaman

The Great Shaman lives in a burned out tower close to the head of the Fjord, although the stone structure has stayed intact, the areas around the windows and doors are burned and blackened, and there is always the smell of stale smoke in the air.  She keeps half-a-dozen witches with her, as servants and assistants, and a number of others, who were not suitable for her special training.  These few have been trained as shipwrights and weapon smiths – and they make both the Karvi and the battle weapons that then tribes depend on.  A few try to run, or to sell their services elsewhere, but they are always brought back and punished –  before they disappear completely.  Just like any other captive that doesn’t live up to her standards.

No-one is really quite sure what the Great Shaman looks like – sometimes she is an elderly Orc Female, other times a well-muscled half-orc, and sometimes even a human or elf – what ever she really is, you don’t want to mess with her.

It is said that when the great Shaman is finished with them, she gorges herself on their flesh – but there are very few who know for certain.  In the past various tribes have risen up against her, while they might have appears to win a victory, the Great Shaman has always returned and taken her revenge  on the tribe’s leaders.  Leaderless tribes don’t stay leaderless for long, there is normally a fight between powerful orcs from other tribes.  Eventually, one will take over – those who can’t adjust to the new regime are killed and staked out as a warning to others.

The shipwrights work and live in a shipyard locally, while the smell of smoke comes from the weapon smiths.  The ‘normal’ weapons, taken as booty, are melted down to be refashioned as Falchions and Great Axes suitable for marauders, or even as boar spears suitable for Hunters.   At the same time, they ‘fix’ armour that is brought to them.   Payment by captive, food, booty …

  • The Great Shaman = Ash Hag + sorcerer 5  (orc bloodline)

Refining Entourage

I started thinking about the entourage system a while ago, but got sidetracked. I think this streamlines the current system and makes it more flexible for players – while still keeping numbers reasonable (almost) 🙂

Entourage-Assistant

  • Free at L2 in campaign games.
  • Purpose= Junior assistants / followers
  • NPC class
  • Can’t go adventuring
  • Max number= CL/2 + Char Mod
  • Can take one per level.  All start at L1.
  • Cannot exceed 1/2 PC level – max out at L5.

Advanced-Entourage.

  • Available at L6.
  • Purpose = senior assistants, companions, allies.
  • NPC Class
  • Can’t go adventuring
  • Bring BP’s
  • Can promote a L3 Entourage-Assistant to an L4 Advanced-Entourage
  • Max number= CL/4
  • Cannot Exceed 2/3 PC level.
  • Advancement after L5 = very slow.
  • Entourage-Cousin Vs Entourage Ally

Minor Cohorts

  • Available at L5 – by spending a feat/trait.
  • New Trait  (Minor Cohorts:  Convert two of your entourage to Minor Cohorts.  Counts against Entourage limits)  Can have this  Trait alongside Leadership.
  • Feat  Recruits  (Lots of minor cohorts, who don’t count against your entourage limit)  Cannot have this feat alongside leadership.
  • Purpose = senior assistants, companions, allies.
  • PC Class
  • Does not bring BPs
  • Can go adventuring
  • Max number (feat) = Character Level/2
  • Max number (trait) = 2
  • Cannot Exceed  PC-level – 4
  • Advancement steady – gets to higher levels
  • Can take one per level. 
  • Does not count against entourage number limit.

Cohort

  • Available at L7 – by spending a feat
  • Purpose = senior assistants, companions, allies.
  • Does not bring BPs.
  • PC Class
  • Can use Squire or Torch Bearer  feat to get Cohort early
  • Can go adventuring
  • Max number= 1
  • Cannot Exceed  PC-level – 2
  • Advancement steady – gets to higher levels quickly
  • Does not count against entourage number limit.

Entourages again!

I can almost hear the players groaning already.  Why is he doing this to us again? 

I have been thinking about the core concepts behind the Campaign Rules.  Don’t worry, it isn’t the Economic Rules again, or a swathe of changes in building stats – but the Role Playing and Character Building aspects of the Campaign Rules.  Not character building, as in optimisation, but ways in which players can grow their characters and add new life experiences to their back-story.  While I have had conversations with many players that impinge on this, four come to mind at the moment – so you need to blame  … thank Andalon, Alisa, Dom & Zelona for this  :}

The various subsystems give (homes, entourages, businesses, merchant houses, strongholds etc) are the building blocks for Character development.  Because of these I can say, for example that:

  • Andalon is the Bishop of Tusk, an astute businessman, a significant member of Tusk Council and respected across the region.  His main assistant is called brother Florin.
  • Adoven is a merchant with international and regional connections.  He is a minor noble with a broad range of business, religious and political interests.  Robert, one of his trusted men, runs a large sword school in Tusk.
  • Marik is a minor noble, landowner and a mining magnate, with land spread across Midmarch.  Gabriel, his main supporter, has a military training school in New dawn.

I could use other examples, and I could say something similar about every character who has been in the game for a while.  Not something that I have been able to do in many games – so (for me) that is a big win already.  As players create their life stories, they create the ‘world’ around them, and I can take little credit for the settled areas in The Stolen Lands game.  Land distribution, management, politics, rulership and cultural development has mainly been controlled by the players – either directly or indirectly.

The biggest change (so far) came because a couple of players wanted to run independent holdings and one wanted to be able to have adventuring parties work for them, rather than for Lord Henry.  That brought about sweeping political changes, and the formation of Greater Tusk and Old Keep as independent holdings.  Exploring the area around Old Keep could have been commissioned by Zelona, although that didn’t come off.   Tusk has decided to ‘sponsor’ an expedition to Candlemere Island, with a view to settling and incorporating it into Greater Tusk as a secondary town/settlement under the control of Lord Adoven.  I foresee similar expeditions in the south and east, at a later point in the game.

So far so good.  However, those changes have put pressure on the Entourage system – and that needs to be refined to meet the needs of this new reality.

Entourage Basics

Entourage-Assistants:   Entourages started off as a way for players to have a bit more role-playing in the Fuzzy threads and to help round out the character / game a bit.  They quickly became a ‘must have’ for people building towns, cities or strongholds – especially when they want to work alone, rather than with other people.  We tend to get two different types of Entourage-Assistant – quiet ones  who act as a part of a settlement’s council, and chatty ones  who are an extra RP outlet for their player.  There are, of course,  a few chatty entourages who fill a role as well.  And that is all cool.

These guys are meant to be a PC’s friends, colleagues and assistants.  They have NPC classes, aren’t proactive, and only do what they are told to do – they support the PC, but they also rely on the PC to provide a living for them.  They never go adventuring, and rarely even leave the safety of the home settlement and top out at  L5 – in the longer term, they become part of the gentry. 

It always surprises me when players build them in the same was as they would build an adventuring character.  These guys don’t need combat feats, but they should be the best administrator / managers around (if they have a council job)  or have an interesting personality / hobby /quirk / etc –  if they are chatty. Combat skills, not really required.

Advanced Entourages

Entourage-Cousins – were added to allow a bit of differentiation and reward, and to help sell the concept of Noble families.

Entourage Allies – do the same sort of thing but allows the PC to build small alliances, in support of their goals.  We have two alliances to date – both with local Dwarf clans.

These advanced Entourage members are the PC’s active supporters.  They expect to be given responsibility, to have a position in society, to have businesses, organisations or villages of their own to run – and they expect to become a part of the aristocracy.  Not very senior ones  (Lairds, College Principal, Commander of the guard, High priests etc) but aristocrats, nonetheless.  Unlike entourage assistants, these advanced entourages can advance beyond L5, although their advance is very slow.

It got complicated, when I allowed entourages (Assistants and Advanced)  to take a PC or prestige class when they reach level 5.  In hindsight, I shouldn’t have done that, although (In all honesty) it doesn’t make a blind bit of difference really. They still can’t go adventuring :} However, a level of Aristocrat at L5 would make for a better transition.  That said, there are a couple of PRCs that are suitable –  for example, Swordlord & Student of War are good alternatives for warriors when they eventually reach  L6.

Minor Cohorts

While I have seen the Recruits feat previously, I didn’t pay much attention to it – probably because I have never (personally) had a use for it, nor seen a player use it.  All of which meant that Minor Cohorts had passed me by.  However, a recent conversation made me look at it in more detail – and I realised how useful Minor Cohorts could be – both in its own right and as an extension of the Entourage system.

Wording, for the feat, is a bit vague – but it implies that all the (non-cohort) benefits of leadership apply, when the PC gets to L7  (Recruits can be taken at L5).

As  stand-alone feat, the PC gets up to half their level of Minor Cohorts who are four levels below them.  The minor cohorts have PC classes and  (one at a time) can go adventuring.  These don’t count against your Entourage numbers  so, in Game / RP terms, this means that you can have a much larger entourage, with a wider range of skills, some of whom can adventure …  However, you cannot take the Leadership feat as well.

However, I like the concept – so I think that I will draft a home-brew trait, that allows a PC to advance an Entourage (or two) to a Minor Cohort.  These minor cohorts will count against the PCs number of entourages –  so it is just another way of advancing (probably) an entourage assistant.  Effectively, the Trait is payment for retraining the entourage member – so they have PC classes, instead of NPC classes. I would expect the classes to be similar/close/compatible – so that it is an improvement rather that a rewrite.

Like advanced Entourages, Minor Cohorts will expect to be rewarded with lands, property and titles.  If, for example, the PC takes a Fighter as a Minor Cohort –  when the PC gets to L10, the Minor Cohort will be L6 and eligible to become a knight or a swordlord.  As soon as they go adventuring, they get inducted into the Southern Order, so they can own land and build defensive buildings – they might (eventually)  be able to qualify for Lord -Dominus status.  These are powerful and important entourage members.  While Cousins and Allies are the junior members of your ‘court’, cohorts are almost your peers.  If you want people with allegiance to you – build a large entourage  :}

The same set of thinking could apply for a Thief’s Guild (NO!), a Spy Network, a Religious Network – or any other organisation that is run by a single PC.

Cohort

That favoured follower who comes with the Leadership feat – Minor-Cohort on steroids :]  All the same thoughts apply –  you only get one of them, they are PC Level-2 – and, therefore, more use when adventuring and quicker to gain levels, titles etc …

Note:  Some PCs will have a Squire or a Torch Bearer.  These both turn into a Cohort at PC Level 7.

More player controlled NPCs?

I started off thinking about Horse Racing.  I need some more downtime activities to act as ‘background’ for some RP.  I have Scrymball now, and I expect my next Fuzzy RP thread will be based around a scrymball game.   That will give me some sort of background activity to report, and gives the Characters in the thread something to talk about.  Perhaps a bit of betting on the side, or even a formal book maker …  Probably not the book maker.  Well, certainly not until I have tried to Write/Commentate a game, and have some idea of how it is going to pan out.

Scrymball has a second RP side –  PCs can own a Scrymball team and some of their entourage members can play in it as well.  Could I do the same sort of thing with Horse Racing?  Horse racing is really flexible –  there could be a hippodrome for ordinary horse races, perhaps even chariot or sulky races  (perhaps both) and there are cross-country style events too – all with a single rider / driver.  That give more scope for both PC/entourage races and NPC spectacle but, it involves horses – and horses can be trained to learn ‘useful’ tricks, so there is another variable for PCs to play with.  However, horses can also be animal companions and horse animal companions are, basically, super horses – which starts to make things complicated.  Would that blow all sense of competition out of the window?  Maybe if I make formal races NPC only – but that still leaves the possibility of a Ranger cohort …

Anyway, my research led me to a page that dealt with companions of all sorts – and I got distracted. I don’t need horse racing yet, so it will have to wait for a bit.  While I have read that page before, and some sections were very familiar, other parts were less so – and some sections started me thinking  :}

There are lots of feats on the d20PFSRD that deal with companions, although I discount third-party feats automatically, and I am not particularly interested in the ‘Kingdom’ related feats –  as I have changed the kingdom rules significantly, and this type of feat would need reworking.  However, there are still Leadership, Squire, Torchbearer and Recruits that are interesting.  Dynasty Founder would have been interesting, had I thought about it before the game started :}

However, it is the Leadership feat that is key – the other three can all evolve into leadership when the PC advances to L7(or 8 in the case of Lantern Bearer).   

The Webpage on companions speaks about the Followers associated with the <i>Leadership</i> feat, and suggests that some of them could be named and used as a network of contacts.  However, that has pretty much been subsumed in the home-brew <i>Entourage</i> feat and the staff associated with the campaign round.  The Leadership feat is mainly useful for the leadership score (Bigger Entourage) and the Cohort.

<i>Squire</i> and <i>Lantern Bearer</i>, are just ways of getting some Cohort Benefits by committing to the leadership feat early.  And while Squire has and some minor modification to make it useful at L3, they can pretty much stand as they are.

However, <i>Recruits</i> is different, and much more interesting :}  Taken at L5 recruits may be converted to <i>Leadership</i>  –  but it doesn’t have to be, and the PC could continue with a number of lower-level minor cohorts, rather than one conventional cohort.  However, they can only take one of these minor cohorts with them, when they go adventuring.  Realistically, this isn’t much good at L5 –  who wants to take a L1 NPC adventuring with a L5 party?  I can’t see that Minor Cohort lasting all that long.

I have been asked, in the past, whether I would allow a character to take both Leadership and Recruits – I said no because Recruits specifically says it can’t happen.  However, I am reconsidering my thoughts on this.  We have all those Entourages, Entourage-Allies, Entourage-Cousins and Cohorts – does an extra layer of minor cohorts make a difference?  I would, certainly, implement a one travelling companion per Character  (Gods know I have enough characters to worry about in game) – although I suspect I am going to have to deal with a Ranger Cohort and their Animal Companion at some point  (I like horses as animal companions for rangers  :P)

I need to think about this.  Are extra NPCs good value for a feat?  How about the flexibility of swapping out your main Cohort for a Minor Cohort with different skills? 

Perhaps, if someone were to take Recruits alongside Leadership, I should restrict recruiting to one new recruit per level?  In that same way as entourages are restricted. It might make an interesting upgrade path for Entourage Cousins/Allies – and would mean they progress to higher levels faster… 

Hmm.  More thought required.

Enhancing NPCs

Recently I have been thinking about integrating NPCs into the aristocracy of my game world.   It was always the intention that the PCs would become the major nobles and that the junior aristocracy would be composed of ex-PCs, Entourages and other NPCs.  Some of the longer standing PCs are making good progress in the ‘Aristocrat Stakes’ – while others have chosen not to participate in  that part of the campaign rules  (not every character has a goal of becoming Noble and influential – and that’s cool and as it should be :} ) 

However, now I need to find a way of bolstering  the lower ranks of the Aristocracy.  The aristocratic system I use has three parts.  A Chivalric Order (lifetime), Aristocratic Titles (hereditary) and Noble Titles all of which are geared towards PC advancement.

The System

The Southern Chapter (The Chivalric Order) act as a gateway to the ‘higher’ titles that allow a character to establish a dynasty that has an ongoing place in the Aristocracy of the game world.  It has two classes (Officer and Knight) that are accessible to any character and another (Knight Commander) that is restricted and semi-symbolic.  A Knight Commander (technically) leads the troops in wartime and provides leadership in times of peace –  but as those are primarily NPC or OOC activities, there aren’t any extra privileges for the character.

Membership is not onerous, with few responsibilities, but it gains some important rights for the character- and so far has been limited to characters who are (or have been) active PC adventurers.  All members are required to support the order, support their ‘province’ and enforce the law –  pretty basic and what PCs are generally expected to do in a kingdom building game.  They are also required to recognize Brevoy as ‘The Kingdom’ and follow the King’s Laws and Dictates –  although there is huge tension in Brevoy and the King is not secure enough to enforce his will – He tried, and failed, with the Southern Order taking an ambivalent stance in the threatened Civil War.

The rights are much more important, as they give all members to right to own land, create estates of their own, and to recruit private armies.  No character (including the Senior NPCs) has done that without being a member of The Chapter.

The Aristocratic Titles (Laird, Lord-Dominus and Lord) are normally landed titles and generally rely on the character owning land, while progression is measured by the size of the character’s private army (Laird <5, Lord-Dominus <10, Lord <15).  Neither of which are possible without being a member of the Southern Chapter.  The only ‘Noble’ title open to PCs at the moment is Baron, which is fully land based, and is an extension of the aristocratic titles – which kicks in at Def 15+.  The King can ‘gift’ titles to his cronies, of course, but seeing as we aren’t on the best of terms with the king …

The Problem

During the game, a number of NPCs have become significant.  For example, Mother Beatrix run the most widespread religious institution, a church or Pharasma that I have used to assist PCs building strongholds.  Beatrix offers graveyards and religious building to (just about) every settlement as they are getting established – which makes it a bit easier for the PC to get their stronghold established.  Others, such as the Roths and House Yitis, have appeared at times the economy has needed a boost or the game has needed a plot line.   Brother Lutz, chief cleric of Torag, was originally built as a PC, but the player left before he went adventuring.  Maril, Yolen and Helga have all travelled with the PCs (although not necessarily on adventures) and have become well known to some of the PCs.

Then there are the player run NPCs – Cohorts, Squires and Entourages.  Some of these adventure with the PCs, but others stay at home and run  their estates, which means they can be quite significant in the Fuzzy (non-adventuring) threads.   These are the guys who run and administer our lands while the PCs are all away slaying monsters and doing ‘interesting’ stuff.  Currently, I am aware of two who are negotiating quite serious investment programmes between them, on behalf of their PCs, of course.  Another, recently, negotiated an investment deal  (on behalf of his PC) with a different province.  They play a significant role as it is.  We are also getting to a point where some players want to increase their holdings and build up their own ‘court’ of land owning chivalric/aristocratic followers. Something that has been promised for a while.

Partial Solution

We already have a partial solution, with Cohorts, Entourage Allies and Entourage Cousins able to join, or contract to, a PC run family.  This allows a PC to start building a ‘court’ of significant NPCs as part of their entourage, but it doesn’t help with land use, defence points or titles.  There are ways to get around some of those issues, such as Brother Lutz or Robert being ‘nominally’ in charge of defence points –  BUT it can be a complex process.  And, perhaps more importantly, it doesn’t help with estate management.

The rules work well for small estates and holdings, but it is difficult to build a large estate.  That is probably easiest to illustrate using Lord Henry’s holdings – his estates are split into two parts that are managed and accounted for separately, and he has people working for him that are specifically configured for the task.  However, The Gates (his personal estate) consists of a small town and two villages – he can add one district to his town (or promote a Village to a town) before  he runs out of ‘Consumption Bonus’.  That doesn’t stop him developing, but it starts to slow him down – now that isn’t a big issue for a wealth NPC, BUT it will be difficult for a PC.  Midmarch (Henry holds it via an administrative title) had the same problem, until a change in the way that infrastructure benefits were calculated.  Before those changes, it would have been very difficult to run the two ‘estates’ as one. 

Now, I need to develop a new, semi-independent, town – with its own economy -and it is becoming more difficult again.  If I have those problems and GM, any PC trying to build a large estate will have them as well – but I have the advantage of being able to bend the rules – after the event  :]

Enhancing the solution

The key to much of this, is the Southern Order – the gatekeeper to the rest of the structure.  In effect membership of the order, in any of the current classes, is almost like Full Citizenship – it gives land and defence rights, but also allows a voice in the most important meetings that decide game-changing decisions –  such as how to react to a potential civil war.  And I see that, primarily, a ‘right’ given to  characters who have taken an active part in securing the province – be they PCs or (the few) NPCs who have been adventuring.

However, I could add a Junior Class to the chapter that gives restricted rights to those characters how take a less active role.  I favour Member of the Order (although Companion  would also work) that confers limited ‘citizenship’ rights.  Maybe the right to ‘own’ a single village, or perhaps a Hamlet, and be award the lowest aristocratic title of Laird and to recruit a limit number of troops (perhaps 2 or 3 defence points worth) – although not enough to advance to Lord-Dominus status (at least not at the moment).

That means that I can give Landowning PCs (with the title of Lord or Lord-Dominus) the right to appoint their own Lairds and start building a court.  Later, when the PC gets to Baron status, they might be able to ‘promote’ their NPCs so that they can recruit enough troops (5 def points) to attain the title of Lord-Dominus.

At the same time, it means that the Lairds estates can be run separately (with their own stewardship council) and make it easier to grow an estate.  Income from those estates still falls under the purview of the PC, although they MUST take the NPCs’ needs into consideration  as they plan their spending.

Significant NPCs

Some NPCs, House Yitis, The Roths, Mother Beatrix and some entourages, don’t fit that profile, however they have significant roles in game –  either financial or religious – and there may be other areas come up later.  This is more difficult as it is much more subjective.  However, for straight NPCs I find that, at some point, I need to move them to from my overview spreadsheet to the main Business spreadsheet so that I can keep a proper track of them.  This is normally when they have four, or so, different buildings spread around the Southern region, so that seems like a suitable cut off point.

Level

The next consideration is at what point do NPCs become significant?  Most established NPCs (including commoners) are level 3, a few are level 4 –  but there are very few who are level 5 or above.  So, perhaps, Level 5 should be the minimum criterion for Membership of the Chapter.   It works for my NPCs, and it works for entourages – and it works for the game.

Perhaps, L7 for NPCs to be able to advance beyond the title of Laird?

Bunt Ball

I have  Scrymball – a football like game that takes elements from a variety of modern football games – now I want a bat and ball sport that does the same sort of thing, that I can use in  a semiformal setting.  It is for a Pathfinder Game, so it needs to have madcap elements that encourage a semi-free-for-all on the pitch.  After all, if there wasn’t some sort of jeopardy, no one would have tried to define the rules for the game :]   My first thoughts are elements of Cricket, Baseball and French Cricket – because I think and that should lead for some interesting concepts.  I’m going to take the bat and wicket from Cricket, the bases and diamond from baseball and the bowling rules for French Cricket!  The bowling rules for French cricket are ‘there are no bowling rules’ –  OK there is generally an agreed minimum distance –  but the ball could be delivered by any of the fielders from any direction.

The Pitch

One wicket and three bases laid out in a flattened diamond shape – each base is 20 yards from the wicket and there are 20 yards between each base.  There is a Foul Line that runs to the edge of the playing area, from the wicket that passes through the first and last base.  The game is played in a fixed area, with an outer boundary.  When played casually, the boundary is agreed by the teams, when played in an amphitheatre or stadium, the boundary is the wall in front of the first row of seats.

The Equipment

The bat is made of a solid piece of wood, no more than 40 inches long and no more than 3.5 inches at the widest point, with a semi-circular profile.    (Think of a fat baseball bat with one side shaved flat).

The ball is three inches in diameter, made of a wooden core wrapped in hide.

Wicket keepers may wear padded hide gloves, other players are permitted to wear plain leather gloves.  (not baseball style gloves)

The wicket is a set of five stumps, arranged in a semi-circle (to make a target from all legal angles)  The stumps are 36 inches high with a gap of three inches between each stump.  Bails are balanced across the top of the stumps.  (In the same way as a traditional cricket wicket).

Game Play

It is a very simple game.  The ball is thrown at the wicket, from anywhere outside the lines of bases.  If the wicket is broken (ie one of the bails come off)   the batter is out.  The batter must be ready at all times.

The batter may strike the ball and, if the ball does not land in the foul area,  run to the first base. If the ball lands foul, the batter may not run.   If it is a particularly good strike, they may continue running to try for second, third or home.  If they get home (the base around the wicket) they have scored a run.  They may stop at any on the interim bases (they are then known as a runner) and hope that they can gain more ground when the next batter strikes the ball.

A runner may try to run to the next base at any time during play, however, note that they can only ever be one runner on a base, and that a runner can be tagged out at any time.

Batters are ‘out’ if the wicket is broken by a throw from one of the out-fielders, or if one of their hits is caught by a member of the fielding team (including the wicket keeper) before it bounces.

Runners are ‘out’ whenever the wicket is broken by a member of the fielding team, and they are out of their base area.  If there are two runners in a base, both are out.  NOTE: If a ‘batter’ is out of their base, they are considered to a runner.

Any runner not in a base, is ‘out’ if they are hit by a ball thrown by any member of the fielding team, or they are otherwise touched by a ball under the control of a fielder (holding the ball, ball kicked etc)

If the ball goes out of bounds from a hit (in a formal game that means into the audience) the batter is out, but they are credited with four runs.  Runners may all jog home (in the same way as baseball)

Fielders may throw the ball, from any position in the scoring area of the  playing area, so long as it is outside the line of the bases.   They may use any throwing technique – pitch, bowl, underarm, over arm, etc.  – and the ball may strike the wicket direct or bounce before it hits.

Armed Vessels

Over the last couple of days, the subject of armed vessels has come up two or three times, and while they are represented in the Campaign Rules, they aren’t well-developed.  The larger merchant vessels can have defence points (at extra cost) and we have Military Launches –  but none of that has been defined particularly well.

Overview

So a quick review of the position.  The Stolen Lands game is set on a large river system, dotted with lakes, swamps and marshes.  It is a long, but narrow, water system, where the water can be very shallow.  Compared to the sea, it  is a very restricted system – and suitable for different types of vessel and, perhaps, different types of fighting.  The vessels that work the Sellen are much smaller than seagoing vessels, carry less sail and generally have a very shallow draft.   While most of them would cope with estuaries and sheltered coastal waters, very few would survive at sea.

Pirates, Monsters and Barbaric Tribes (human or humanoid) are the main risks, the same as at sea,  but because the waterway is so narrow the risks are different.  In the deep ocean, the tribes and monsters are aquatic, and pirates tend to sail the open seas in large vessels searching for prey.  On the River, you are more likely to be attacked from the riverbanks, rather than the seabed.  Sure, there are fully aquatic monsters in the river system, but there are many more semi-aquatic threats such as hydra, lizardfolk or crocodiles.   River pirates are more likely to launch attacks from the riverbanks in small boats and try to swarm the vessel, rather than to hammer it into submission with siege weapons.

That all leads me to conclude that armed, or defended, vessels are likely to have crews with military training, or a unit of specialist soldiers to defend them, rather than any fancy weaponry such as ballistae or bow-rams.

Vessels

Let’s get the very small vessels, that can’t be bought with BP, out of the way first.  Punts, Skiffs, Dinghies, Row boats, Coracles etc,  have a very small range and are normally used very close to home.  They are normally crewed by one or two commoners and perform mundane functions within a mile or two of their home base.  These vessels  can’t be armed or defended, however, the fishermen will defend themselves with their work knives (Treat as Daggers and proficient)

At the Jetty

The first vessels of significance are those found at a Jetty.  In the rules you will find Fishing Boats, Shallops and Military Launches  that can be purchased and kept at a Jetty, although you might also find the  Great Punt at swamp or marsh jetties.

Fishing Boats, or Great Punts in wetland areas, work further away from home and normally have an expert as Skipper, supported by a crew of commoners.  They generally act as fishing or local work vessels, but also have a secondary role as small scale local trade vessels.  While they can travel up to five hexes, they generally work within a couple of hexes from home.  The Skipper is likely to defend themselves with a belaying pin (club) or fishing spear (shortspear), while the crew use their daggers.

Shallops are larger vessels, commonly used for fishing, although many also operate as local trading vessels. While they can travel up to ten hexes, they generally work within four or five of hexes from home. A shallop may well have two experts (skipper and mate)  aboard, supported by a couple of commoner fishermen/sailors.

A Military Launch is a similar size to a fishing boat, but normally rowed by a crew of a dozen marines and is dedicated to very local patrol duties.  With such a large crew, and powered by oar, the vessel stays close to its home jetty, although it can be sailed (slowly) over longer distances.  Marines (in this game) are L3 warriors (soldier/sailors) equipped with light weapons and armour who specialize in water-based combat.  Military Launches are not found at commercial jetties, but can be found at Military or Public jetties.

A Patrol Vessel is almost identical to the standard shallop,  except that it fitted out for twenty-five marines. The central hold has been converted to a cabin area that can sleep half the complement of marines at any one time, with minimal catering facilities.  It can stay away from base overnight, but it is cramped accommodation, and these vessels aren’t generally sent on long missions.  Mainly used for local patrols within a couple of hexes of base.  Patrol Vessels are not found at commercial jetties, but they can be found at Military jetties.

At a Wharf

There are no specifically military vessels found at a wharf,  because the river system  doesn’t really allow for naval style warfare, however, any large vessel can be tasked (on  a temporary basis) with delivering  troop units to specific location.  The downside is that you need to get the troops from somewhere – mercenary units work well, or you could transport part of your army.

Most vessels follow the same pattern as the smaller vessels – a Skipper with a mate or two (experts armed with simple weapons)  supported by a crew of ordinary sailors Commoners armed with daggers, to provide basic defence.  However, these larger vessels are intended for trade and can travel much longer distances.  Keelboats are the smallest, but they can navigate the Vallani Canals  that connect Feyfalls to Whiterun and enable trade between Tusk and Restov.  Wherries and sailing barges are larger and carry more cargo but can’t work between Restov and Tusk.

Armed vessels  (Keeler, Wherry, Barge) have larger, enhanced crews of about a dozen.  The normal crew are  trained in arms and combat techniques, the  numbers are rounded out  by marines, and the Skipper has a level of Aristocrat.  Overall, they count as an Auxiliary Unit, if they ever get involved in the mass combat system.

A secure barge follows the same pattern  for their crew, but also has a unit of marines aboard.  If they become involved in the Mass Combat rules, they count as one Auxiliary and one Light Foot unit.

Business and Trading Reports.

Business and Trading Reports for the Stolen Land. As the rules on Cross-Border trade and development are progressing, I needed to think about how they would be applied across the game. There areas that could be ripe for trade, at some point – the Lebeda holding at Silver Hall, Stonewall and even Nikvata’s Crossing – BUT those aren’t on the agenda at the moment.

River Kingdoms

Mivon (Large City)

Political: Mivon is controlled by eight major houses and their allies, who run the city for their own benefit.  In their view, everyone else is lucky to receive their protection, and can pay for that privilege.  There is a large premium (1bp) for developments in the Central District.

Risks:  Mivon is not well patrolled, various Aldori Houses vie for the right to patrol the city, and they patrol the upper city regularly –  although you can never be quite sure of who will be on patrol and their outlook on life.  The lower part of the city, ins not patrolled by the Aldori, and in the control of various gangs.  So long as they don’t encroach on Aldori territory, the patrols leave them alone.

Tax Rate: High

Jovvox  (Small Town)

Political: A small town dominated by Gnomes.  They are aware that expansion will bring in more members of the larger races, and they want to keep things small, compact and primarily Gnomish.  Getting permission to build here is difficult, and will always be restricted.

Risk: Inconsistent government, via and ‘open’ council where every member of the community can take part in decision-making.

Tax: Medium

Brevoy

New Stetven (Metropolis)

Political:  Since the Surtova took over, trading here has become less profitable – Favoured Status goes to those who support The Surtova.  They charge a premium (0.5bp) for developments in the city, which even long-term residents pay.  It is believed that the Surtova are protecting their Port Ice trade routes.

Risks: The river route along the East Sellen through the Hooktongue Slough and beyond has become more difficult in recent years.  Pirate numbers have declined, but attacks by monsters and monstrous humanoids has increased.  Many merchant houses  use armed vessels to improve their chances of getting through.

Tax rate:  Very High.

Brundeston (Large Town)

Political:  Run by members of the Al Golka clan of dwarves, to serve as the new Dwarf Home, to replace the mines and holdings in the Golushkin Mountains (Gray Haven) that ‘disappeared’.  Leaders of Dwarf Clans are favoured Developers.  Humans may be given ‘Standard’ investment rates to provide services the Dwarves need, but other developments are restricted.  Somewhat isolationist.

Risk:  Very Little.  Stable government and a secure area. 

Tax: Medium High

Eastern Region

The Eastern Region is a political alliance between East Rostland, Restov and House Khavortorov.  They share a Chapter of the Brevic Order, in the same way as the Southern States do, but it is unclear whether this arrangement will last, nor quite how the three power groups will work together in the longer term.  Both Restov and House Khavortorov seem concerned that East Rostland will simply swamp them.

Restov (Large City)

Political:  There has been little change in the City Council’s makeup, since Lady Jamandi was made Countess of East Rostland, but the balance of power has shifted towards a more conservative philosophy favoured established businesses.  There is some concern that they will become less influential as Lady Jamandi takes full control of East Rostland. The Mayor and Advocate are both from merchant families, and any Merchant House wishing to get established will be in direct competition with them.  There is a 0.5bp premium for developments inside the city walls.  Part of the Eastern Region.

Risk: The city is patrolled by independent Guard units associated with the most powerful faction in a district.  However, the Guard Unit is consistent and follows the same philosophy every day.  There is a risk of hot-headed young duellists fighting in the street.

Tax Rate: Medium.

Sway (Small Town)

Politics:  Owned by House Khavortorov, Sway is a satellite town to their main holdings at the Khavortorov Citadel, it sits on the New Steven road and provides access to many of the small estates in central Rostland. There is some concern that they will become less influential as Lady Jamandi takes full control of East Rostland. House Khavortorov get favoured development rates while everyone else is treated as an outsider, and only given limited development permission.  Part of the Eastern Region.

Risk:  Low.  Stable government and a secure area, although with political concerns about their neighbours. 

Tax: Medium

Sirian  (New Town)

Politics:  Set on the Restov/Brundeston road this destined to be the capital of East Rostland – the county created for Lady Jamandi Aldori after the recent ‘disagreements’.  The town is still very new, and it is not yet clear how it will develop. Part of the Eastern Region.

Risk:  Lady Jamandi’s rule is not yet fully established.  There is still contention with The Surtova, nor has everyone within her new County acted her rule.  It could be in for turbulent times.

Tax Rate: Low

The Colonies

The Southern Region

The Southern Region is a political alliance between Midmarch, Tusk and Old Keep.  They share a Chapter of the Brevic Order, in the same way as the Eastern States do.  The political position in Midmarch, is well known. 

MidMarch:

Tusk:

Old Keep: Old Keep has broken ranks with the rest of The Southern Region and has a Medium Tax rate, which leads to commercial profitability of 0.4bp.  Lady Zelona  has stated that Old Keep will stay a rural and wilderness estate, and as such she wants to encourage investors who will help promote those aims by accepting a lower return rate.

Others

The two other colonies remain independent and are not part of a regional organisation.

Fort Drelev

Politics:  The original settlement was sponsored by The Surtova, Lebeda and Khavortorov, although Surtova are the most influential patrons by far. However, Baron Drelev’s reputation has diminished as trade south via the East Sellen has fallen. 

Risk:  Is in danger of becoming a dead-end trade route.

Tax: Very High.

Varnhold

Varnhold is not currently trading.  This is under investigation.