Tuesday, 8 September 2015

In a world of Heroes

So your local king is a real douche, you live suppressed in a world of pain and misery, In Earths History, you worship a god that gives you hope that, if you don't give up, and keep trying, at least you'll live in paradise when you die. In a fantasy setting, you can actually call upon that god to come down and smite the king.. or at least have some heroes sent over to do it for you.

Why would an Evil dictator exist?

I've asked this question to myself often enough, Things are the way they are in our world because of so many small significant, as a whole, things. Bad people get away with bad things because good people don't band together to fight, and fighting isn't good, or the status quo is not so bad, so lets just cope with this small disturbance, and hey at least it gives us something to complain about.

But, in a world of heroes, magical items, spells, powers, gods, kings are going to need a few thousand defences if they want to be bastards.

Lets take a simple example.. Krona the Barbarian, His Local Chief decides to raises the tributes for the year, and his village is unable to pay, so as an example, the Chief sends over thugs to rough up the village, killing Krona's mum. Krona utters an oath of revenge, which a god hears, and now she's god a slight amount of protection.  She heads out into the wilderness, fighting goblins, bears, bugbears, owl bears (lots of bears in this wilderness) even a random polar bear (encounter chart, rolled a 00) and makes all their bones into some sweet bear-bone-scale armour. Gets it blessed by a sacred temple, enchanted by a witch, finds a sacred blade in a Crypt, and returns to her lands.

She finds the a-hole that slaughtered her mum, and kills him. In the process, having to slaughter all the guards and champions that protect the chief, reducing the defences against standard local armies, triggering invasions, reacting to those invasions by having to slaughter the next chief, etc etc..

Can you see where this is going? No Chief, King, Duke, Lords in any kingdom is truly safe.. heroes are going to rise up, greater power levels than the local guards & even kings champions.

The only people capable of stopping great heroes, are other great heroes.. 

Which is probably why the kings of the land are constantly sending heroes out on missions.. the poor quality ones will die, while the survivors are rewarded by the king, given ceremonies, befriended, and are now part of his 'entourage' & 'protection' from other heroes.

Why bother with armies then?

 So, I've got this big bad-ass 18th Level Sorcerer buddy Symion, and his 17th level Necromancer cousin Nevvar, and their 19th level Assassin Andy, and they hang out in my palace. My neighbour kingdom is a bit peeved because some villages cut down some trees.. should I send 25,000 troops to attack them? knowing full well that they'll send their 20,000 against me? are they as well trained as mine? how much does this army cost me? 25,000 well train soldiers + conscript the villagers, rations, etc.. wow, I'm going to have to spend over 100,000 gold.. 

oh wait.. Maybe my friends can help? Andy pops over to the kingdom and just assassinates the king, Symion casts spells to charm the commanders of the army, Nevvar quells any uprising with hoards of Skeletons.. we declare to the populace that they are now part of our kingdom.. and viola.. problem solved..  100k gold enough for them? maybe.
Andy and his mates

Follow that through and yes, every kingdom is going to have some powerful heroes on the payroll.. AND armies, just in case.. but I bet that this becomes very much a cold war.. no-one wants to attack anyone because they all have enough information (scrying, teleporting, messages, clacks towers) about the odds, and the WMDs "Warlocks, Mages and Demonologists" will keep everyone just a little bit scared to 'push their buttons'

Will border controls, passports, customs become standard between countries? Will wars even exist? or will they all start representing modern life? 

I ran a campaign once, the world was 'skinned' with fantasy races, Russians were Dwarves, French were Elves, Arabs were Dark Elves, players started at 8th level, couldn't do much below 8th.. and it just turned into a spy game.. sure there were some goblins in the caves, but it was more interesting to travel over to the Dwarven Steppes (Russia) and ride the Minecarts(Metro) between Lybyanka (Spy Central) and Kransaya Plochad (The Palatial City) dressed as Dwarves(Russians), trying to get information about the movement of Troops into the Southern Duergar(militant) lands of UnChrome(Ukraine), and spread dis-information about their own funded Duergar as they pretended to the world, they were Snerfnebblin(United Dwarves).

Now, be careful, I'm not trying to include the 'boring' parts of history, nor make the whole scenario into a real time simulation. Its just the whole 'lit streets' issue, making sure the world build includes the realities that would happen as a result of the differences in realities. You don't add in 'diseases' so players can sit at home in bed for three weeks.. you build them in as cash/time sinks, to build suspense, to make them feel like the world is more complex, to take the edge off their skills when going into the next combat.. 

Online Fantasy Kingdoms Map,
Helped players make decisions, raid villagers, etc
In my board game "Fantasy Kingdoms" you need to maintain a fairly decent happiness of your people, if the value drops too low, they'll convert to independants, electing the local highest level paladin as protector, or if you attempt force to keep them, you need a force ratio high enough to block any uprisings, at least until you get that happiness back up again.. Kings have a hard time maintaining a level of popularity lest the locals allow (or hire) outside influence, while maintaining the political level of the game.

Its a hard thing to try to make your Fantasy world more real, but if you want your players to really appreciate your game world, you want to do it. Everyone shrugs their shoulders, rolls their eyes and just goes and hacks apart the local Ogre, when the village has a component shop, a blacksmith selling magic swords and a healing sage who sells potions, but give the players a witch who only has what she uses herself (herbs for poultices, cures & agricultural needs) The Smith bangs out nails, horseshoes and the occasional pot, and the Towns sage grows weed & smokes it to calm his nerves, the players will pay more attention, and really appreciate the sword of "Carbannog"

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