Tuesday, 22 September 2015

New Places, New Cities, Getting Lost

If you haven't travelled to a new city, or better yet, a new country, even better.. a new culture new language, everything so different its just alien.. you won't know how it feels for your heroes, and you won't be able to express their feelings, nor would your GM be able to explain it to you

Experiencing the Wonder and Fear of being lost

As I stepped off the plane, to the familiar surrounds of the airport, the customs control, scowling faces, suspicion, fear of being arrested, the baggage handling, the lack of trollys, the guards ready to pounce on me, strip search my bags for suspicious sets of jeans, and the slew of taxi drivers trying to tear me away from the throng and overcharge me to go in circles.. I felt the pangs of excitement, as I was back.. in Russia.

But, all those little fears, they were familiar little jokes to myself, reminders of what actual fears I had the very first time I flew out of, and into Moscow.

Sure, our Heroes travel through dangerous forests, biting sands, caverns filled with lava, creatures of unimaginable horror, its hard to truly understand this feeling (unless you have the chance) so as GMs its a bit hard to describe them, beyond the movies and books we've seen (in our minds)

But Medieval Cities? that's do-able.

Let me take you on a ride, through a memory of mine. 

I have arrived at the small coach house, to my left, a building, tavern like. I can see some revelers dining outside. I could join them, but the parchment with a map, and an address, suggests I go further into the keeps grounds

( want to see: https://www.google.com.au/maps/@59.4393671,24.740173,3a,75y,138.69h,90.66t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sLpCm64CA09Bgi55VZIKFpQ!2e0!7i13312!8i6656!6m1!1e1?hl=en )

I travel east, along the cobblestone roads, To my right, peeking between the trees, a giant wall of stone, what seems like a mile above, small buildings, stone-works, defences. I am indeed at the keep of Tall Inn.
Further along, the battlements present themselves. High walls, protecting the city within. My heart shudders, its enormous. I hope I'll get through the gates, I'd hate to be turned away from such a glorious place.

I pass a large Hostel, A Tavern, Bakery, Iron worker, Book maker, Theatre for children, each place strange and exotic to me. Goods displayed in the windows, on shelves. Something I have not seen in my own city, at least not like this. Its like a little 'vignette' rather than shop shelves.

The Cafes are exquisite, Little places for one, maybe two people to eat. The Taverns not much different, three people can sit at the bar, not more.. how can they stay in business I muse to myself.

Rounding the corner, Street sellers are setting up stands, selling beer, Kvas (a dark sweet & salty brew) Trinkets, Markets can be heard now as I walk the street.

I am a little lost in thought.. my map shows that I must go left, but there is no left. I ask the beer seller and she looks at me dumbfounded.. I speak a strange language, and she doesn't seem to understand that I am lost. She offers me beer..

So I walk onwards, Passing a fountain, a Tavern again, devoted to only those who like the bards who sing within, a shop selling weapons (yet it is not a blacksmith). Building after Building, each, wonderous to look at, different, stone with flat faces, marble, right here on the street. I have walked too far by the time I stop myself and have to return to the start to get my bearings.

My bags are heavy, but I must get to the Border Guards Building first, else I will be arrested.
You can climb the tower, and walk the battlements for a small price, Worth it if you're a fan of all things medieval.

It takes me an hour, but eventually I get there.. I'm not too late. I go to enter, but am told to wait outside the building. The guard won't let me in yet.. probably it is full. I wait.. and wait. and eventually I am let in. The rooms are not full, they are mostly empty, I go to the window, I ask questions, I get answers, I get questions and give answers. Eventually they stamp my parchment and I am admitted entrance to their lands... in two weeks.

Returning to the street, I may now find a tavern to stay at, or a hostel.

Or Maybe I need a new Hat.

Eight years later, I have traveled this route almost 20 times, Its no longer a strange and exotic place, its my third home, my favourite home. I return here as often as I can. I have friends here, a small life here, but no work, and probably no possibility of work.

The Walk from the Coach House to the Border guards is repeated, but now, I walk down Nunne street, turn left onto Lai, and arrive quickly. I ignore the guard, he wants a bribe from strangers. I enter the building, submit my papers, answer maybe one question. The woman I speak to has become my friend over the years, she smiles when she sees me, I have a quick chat, but not so much to be overtly friendly. I tell her, sorry, but this is my last trip. I return home, and likely to never return. I am sad, so is she. I thank her for the years of help with my parchments. 

My route is not as exciting as it once was, sure, I remember the first time, getting lost, being confused, but also being full of wonder at how different it all is, this medieval city of Tall Inn.

Ok, so I jazzed it up, Medieval Style.. and hope to be doing more of my travels like this in the future. My Point is that as GMs sometime we gloss over things that for characters should be drawn out. Its hard to 'create' entire cities worth of feelings, and players as often as not, want to just get their healing potions, upgrade their weapons and armour and get back to the dungeon. So mixing it up with a bit of 'lost in the city' might not be your style..

but maybe it is..


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