Sunday, September 14, 2014

A Few More Thoughts on Vadhyislavia

Normally, I'd be asleep by now, snoring like a freight-train.  But my stomach's irritated and I'm waiting for a chicken to finish roasting so my girlfriend can rip the flesh from its bones and turn the bones into soup stock tomorrow, so here I am on the couch waiting for the incessant beep of the timer.  My brain is foggy and tired, so let's see what sort of gaming material I can draw from it while my conscious mind isn't all there.

I played through part of a session of 5E today, confirming the streamlinedness of the rules to me.  I also ordered my own personal copy of the 5E PHB.

Thursday night, while aforementioned girlfriend was in class at the local community college, I got out the graph paper and my PDF of the excellent Renegade Crowns supplement for the Warhammer Fantasy RPG.  I've never played WFRP, I was into the miniatures game in high school (though I never played, or so much as put together a whole army - I was way too "ooh! shiny!" to commit to one faction for more then a unit or so), but this supplement is basically written for what I have in mind for Vadhyislavia.  If you're unfamiliar, the first half of the book is just random tables for generating terrain, dungeons, settlements and petty rulers.  Pencil and 2d10 in hand, I started working my way across the page, laying out terrain -- treating any result of "Barren" terrain as "sparsely forested," any result of "Scrubland" as "moderately forested" and any result of "Forested" as "densely forested."

No scanner handy, so I don't have a scan of this preliminary map just yet, but I'm really pleased with it.  Much of the terrain of Vadhyislavia is hilly and at least moderately forested, which fits with my conceptions of what the area *should* be like, and I got a few nice bonuses as well - the north-west corner of the map ended up densely-forested mountains, limiting travel between Vadhyislavia and its neighbor on that side, the Holy Empire of the Iron Crown - specifically, the principality of Schwartzadlerberg.

It is from Schwartzadlerberg that the colonizing "pseudo-Germans" that make up the new aristocracy of
Vadhyislavia began arriving a half-century ago, and the King of Vadhyislavia, King Ruprecht von Kupferberg, was originally a Grand Duke of Schwartzadlerberg before being assigned the task of "pacifying" the province.  I'm thinking the heavy winter snows of Vadhyislavia block the mountain passes that allow access from Schwartzadlerberg (something that the first colonists might have learned in the most bitterly brutal fashion possible), and have thus contributed to limiting Schwartzadlerberg's efforts in trying to reclaim the seceded province.

Renegade Crowns also gave me some unexpected surprises - three rivers, three waterfalls, a fair amount of cliff, a ton of caves and a massive, densely-forested swamp.  So what does this turn into?

[NOTE: Everything before this point was written between 11:00 and 11:45 at night on September 13th.  Then I got called to help eviscerate a chicken, then handle clean-up and going to bed.  The following was written around noon on September 14th.]

A spot on the map where part of the Underdark has collapsed in on itself, opening a giant sinkhole into which three rivers flow, pouring over the edge in spectacular waterfalls, the sides of the hole riddled with cave entrances and the center of which is a huge, mist-shrouded bog thick with gnarled, sickly-looking trees, Underdark and surface flora growing side by side.

Also a surprise was a small patch of "Barren Badlands" that I decided not to treat as lightly forested - because I couldn't imagine what "lightly forested badlands" would look like.  I stuck that patch of land in the extreme southeast corner of the map and started thinking about monstrous humanoids.

An idea I'd had at work for Vadhyislavia was that orc raids on settlements were becoming more frequent and more destructive, but that this wasn't the true threat - the orcish tribes of the deeper forests were being displaced and pushed west, forcing them into conflict with humans, by expansionist gnolls emerging from further east; I think this badland area is going to be where the gnolls are emerging from.  So the gnolls are attacking the orcs and the orcs, fleeing from gnollish raids, are being pushed into human lands and, desperate for food and supplies, attacking small villages.  It's the sort of situation where the players can mindlessly kill orcs if they want, or can explore the situation deeper and find other solutions, and then go mindlessly kill gnolls.

This led me into thinking about Vadhyislavia in terms of being divided into cultural "bands."  There's certainly precedence for this kind of thinking -- if you look at old Chinese maps, they're divided into zones, with the innermost being China itself, then things like "zone of the allied foreigners," "zone of the non-allied foreigners," "zone of the cultureless barbarians" in increasing concentric circles around China.

Instead of concentric circles, I'm thinking going from northwest to southeast, Vadhyislavia is divided up into the Settled Zone (90% of the pseudo-German settlers are here, the King's Law is upheld, basically no monsters), the Native Zone (not as many of the settlers, mostly the native people, the King's Law is upheld when it suits people or when an overzealous tax collector is watching but most people still live and settle disputes as they did before the coming of the colonists, some monsters but mostly it's a pretty peaceful place to live), the Wild Zone (orc tribes, trolls, hill giants, ruined castles and dungeon crawls abound) and the Forbidden Zone (forests give way to desert, savage tribes of brutal, "eat you then kill you" humanoids roam, Ape Law is upheld - kidding!).

I want to run Vadhyislavia as at least a semi-sandbox game and give the players the freedom to go where they will and do as they please, and I think starting the campaign in or around a "frontier" settlement near the edges of the Native Zone and the Wild Zone gives them plenty of options for monster-slaying, dungeon-delving, or social interaction, then pepper the map around them with, in essence, toy dinosaurs and clues to where those dinosaurs are buried in the sand.

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