Monday, December 10, 2012

Sword & Sorcery Character Backgrounds

In my previous post I created several characters from the USR System  for Newt Newport's mini sandbox module Blood of the Dragon, and added random profession rolls from Chaosium's Elric! This random profession received a further roll from Eric Simon's background tables for the Elric! game. I then suggested these sparse details be fleshed out by the players in which to establish starting relationships which tie the three players together at the start of the campaign, however loosely.

The idea to establish starting relationships amongst the new players is inspired by the game Fiasco from Bully Pulpit Games. With further consideration I believe the Game Master should go all the way with this random method.  Grab a Fiasco playset, and use its relationship tables to further define the starting relationships the players will need to discuss.

For this exercise I've pulled out Transatlantic, a Fiasco playset by E. Tage Larsen, and rolled two six sided dice for each of the starting players. The background details so far for these beginning S&S heroes were as such;Executioner's Guard, Penniless Peasant, and Hunter with an Animal Companion.

Drawing from Fiasco's set up guidelines the results from the Relationship tables will define these initial relations. The fact that the playset's genre does not match our Sword & Sorcery game world does not matter. The relationships found on the tables are general enough that they should be able to be shoe horned into the story.

The rolls end up being; 5-2 "ships passing in the night", 4-4 "dedicated bon vivants", and 1-5 "in-laws".

The Executioner's Guard and the Hunter are brother in laws. Married to the Guard's sister, he was brought into the family for his skill with hunting dogs. The Hunter enjoys his new found status as a minor celebrity among the cruel nobility of Dipur.

The Penniless Peasant is a friend from the Hunter's past life in the bleak hills of Karjah Pass and has been partying with the Hunter, putting on airs to impress the local lords and win service as captains in the army.

Unfortunately this has left them both broke. To gin up the cash they need to save face the Hunter wishes to use the family's prize hunting dogs to track down a dangerous and elusive beast from the Near Spires. It could be sold on the open market in Dipur for much coin. You may even be able to sell such beasts in the miserable village of Craigspire. A Lord Blackthorn is purchasing exotic animals. Some say for a menagerie, or circus for the entertainment of the locals.

Problem is those dogs are not entirely the Hunter's. They belong to his brother in law, a guard in the fearsome troop which carries out the will of the Grand Inquisitor. And the Penniless Peasant fears the wrath of such connected men. Unable to dissuade your friend from such a reckless act you are now far along the desolate trail  to Craigspire with the Hunter and his hunting dogs. Perhaps you could return the dogs to the Inquisitor's Executioner and explain all, seeking pardon for your aid in returning the prized dogs back to Dipur.

The aggrieved party is indeed furious, and frantic. The guard's position in the ranks of the Grand Inquisitor is dependent on the quality of his family's hunting dogs. Unfortunately no one has an eye for dogs better than his brother in law, a no good, thieving Hunter. And now he has taken some of the best into the Spires! The Grand Inquisitor has a lovely lion hunt planned in the next fortnight and will want Dipur's champion dogs along!

The party can now find itself gathered somewhere on the trail, or just outside of Craigspire, and dive right in to complications and dangerous NPC's!

For example;

Meeting on the shores of a dead lake on the road to Craigspire the Executionar's Guard demands of the Hunter to turn over his dogs. He cannot, they have been taken by Lord Blackthorn. The Hunter is expected to return to Craigspire in the morning and lead the dogs on a hunt into the Near Spires for the despotic lord who claims rule over the desolate plains. The maniacle Lord Blackthorn is obsessed with capturing several "Man Rats", vicious hybrids of demon-spawned magic found in the area of the Serpent's Tooth.Craigspire itself is three miles further north. The sun is setting low over the desert hills. A cold wind blows across the grey water, twisting the small fire lit at the Hunter's feet.

The Penniless Peasant is compelled to speak, "The two of you are the best animal handlers in Dipur. Surely we can deliver what this man asks and get paid for our troubles as well!"

"Or perhaps I should give this Lord Blackthorn you two bandits in exchange for my property!" Threatens the Guard, his hand on his blade. "Show me where this cur resides, lead me to our family's dogs." The Guard waves his meaty fist in the air, glaring at the Hunter.

"Cousin the dogs are safe, well cared for." The Hunter answers, shifting on his feet on the ash shore. "The Lord is absolutly mad about hunting. Obsessed in a way. He has insisted I lead the dogs in tomorrows hunt for these monsters he describes", the Hunter says.

"He took them inside his keep. A miserable brick pile from the ruins of some long dead empire, a single black round tower stands complete amongst ruined walls. The walls are manned by foul tempered nomads and watch the small town below."