Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Game of Taps: Answers to Jeff's Campaign Questions, Part 3

As it says in the title, here's Part 3 of my answers to Jeff Rients's campaign questions.

Where can I hire mercenaries?

Though anyone with a large enough sack of gold can find villagers desperate enough to throw their lives away on behalf of any cause at all, a would-be patron looking for men expert enough to kill for him is best served by "hanging the color:" a universal signal of intent known to mercenaries and thugs from all lands consisting of making a prominent show of a red cloth, scarf or bandage about one's arm. Though the quickest and easiest method for hiring professional killers, hanging the red usually only manages to hire a handful of cutthroats or retired soldiers. For truly large numbers of mercenaries, Ur-Hadad's Spearmarket is a place not only buy weapons and armor, but also where large mercenary companies have permanent offices and contract their professional soldierly services out to the highest bidder, although some companies have attendant policies restricting their deployment contracts. The Brotherhood of the Blue Mark, for example, will not take a contract that includes violence against commoners, whereas the Hand of Redwall will lower their rates if their employer agrees to allow them pillaging rights.

Is there any place on the map where swords are illegal, magic is outlawed or any other notable hassles from Johnny Law?

Inside of Ur-Hadad, anything can be considered illegal so long as the Grand Vizier, his Lord General or any of the various heads of the different watch companies across the city decide that it is. Legal officials have been known to suddenly declare a thing illegal within their particular sphere (a ward of the city for the watch captains or the entire city for the Lord General or Grand Vizier) for a short amount of time in hopes of catching violators; assessed high fines, those who cannot pay will be arrested but, rather than being sent to prison, they are usually remanded to the custody of one of any number of penal details operating within or without the city. Nominally regulated by the government of the First City, these penal details are usually organized by merchants or nobles of Ur-Hadad to accomplish a particular task (such as building a fortification or repairing an old road) or to exploit some dangerous resource (such as the silver mines full of monstrous spiders). Often, these merchants will hire mercenary companies from the Spearmarket rather than rely on First City for protection.

Which way to the nearest tavern?

Once you're in a settlement, usually no more than one swaggering hundred paces away. Every town maintains some sort of drinking establishment which may serve as a town hall, flophouse or even temple depending on the priorities of the locals. Mustertown's famous Soiled Dove is the first tavern most adventurers see after the long trek through miles of swamp en route to Ur-Hadad, the First City. Here, Old Soily pours watered-down ale, often-sour wine and harsh liquors that border on paint thinner but provides many essential services for adventurers, including finding buyers for many of the treasures dredged out of the ruins of the Sunken City. Behind the First City's walls, tavern after tavern line the streets, but few are more storied than Swigden Bolsk's Charred Sheaf. The placard of this tavern bears no words, but instead a graven sheaf of wheat (a common enough sight on taverns' signs where most folk are illiterate), and bears the obvious signs of fire (the "charred" part of the tavern's name) from the Sinners' Inferno three generations back. Bolsk's great-grandfather saved the sign while the old tavern burned to the ground and rebuilt on the same spot, vowing that so long as Man held the First City, the Bolsk line will be there to provide drink, food, women and vice to him. Swigden has kept the Bolsk Vow and works closely with the city's thieves guilds and less-reputable merchants to keep a steady flow of diversions, digressions and toxins to the folk of the City.

What monsters are terrorizing the countryside sufficiently that if I kill them I will become famous?

Aside from the princes and captains of any number of barbaric and piratical hordes threatening the settlements of Man, many monstrous beasts threaten Man and his endeavors. Of these beasts, the most legendary is the Sargovax of Pluur. Even the greatest sages know neither what a "Sargovax" is nor where "Plurr" was (or if it's even a place), it is widely recounted how a mountain of fire and rock fell from the stars a millennium ago and crashed into the ocean near Saskoval and how, two days later, the colossal best known today as the Sargovax of Pluur heaved its way out of the bay and devoured those parts of the city that it did not crush beneath its immense weight. Resembling a titanic, gray, six-legged and many-tentacled lungfish, the Sargovax turned the ruin of Saskoval into a nesting mire that, though few of its young survived to hatch and none of those ever reached the size or might of the Sargovax, attracted great swaths of chaotic humanoids who came to worship the immense beast. It was from these first priests that history would learn the names "Sargovax" and "Pluur," though these priests will share no more information on the matter. Since the ruin of Saskoval, the Sargovax has dragged its way across the countryside, devouring everything in its path that it cannot lay waste to, leading (as it were) a column of chaotic humanoid scavengers. This scourge spares nothing and no one, despoiling the land permanently, leaving sites of unholy blasphemy in its wake. Were some brave adventurers to bring the Sargovax's reign of terror to an end, no doubt they would be the subject of legends and songs themselves for ages uncounted.

Are there any wars brewing I could go fight?

Although no major wars are currently being waged in the countryside around the First City, a truly belligerent adventurer could try to start one. Since much of the land lies unclaimed and/or unpatrolled by proper nobility and their retainers, adventurers laying claim to any wilderness will undoubtedly face opposition from other humanoids, from beastmen and man-apes to serpentmen and lizardfolk. Surely, wars are likely as the dominion of man tries to once again wrest lands from the grasp of these other races. Further, one never knows when the forces of Chaos will threaten Man's current lands.

The part about the Sargovax of Pluur is one of my favorite details of Kickassistan I've written so far, if only because "Sargovax of Pluur" is terribly fun to say and that when I admit that I have no idea what a Sargovax is or anything at all about Pluur, I feel kinda Douglas Adams-y. I don't tend to throw much humor into my games -- my players always handle that well enough -- but prefer to add it absurdity and general strangeness. The Sargovax fits my need to make things just a little stranger than they would have been otherwise.