Category Archives: Cities

Trade Goods

TRADE GOODS

I’m always thinking about specifics of what might be on a caravan. The town that is the main focus in my AD&D campaign has frequent caravans, and as yet, I have not needed to know what is in them. In case it every comes up, I wanted ideas. I put together the following list to give me ideas for general categories for developing tables.

WATER: In general, this would be a local resource, but in a desert scenario, water could be worth its weight in gold. Merchants will carry enough water to get to the next known source of water.

Adventurer/Explorer: Some merchants will be adventurer merchants seeking to expand the trade routes, or find something new to trade. Think Marco Polo.

SALT: Whether mined from a salt flats, a salt mine, or recovered by evaporation from the ocean. It is a key preservative in pre-industrial societies. Salt does not go bad. Roman soldiers were paid in salt.

Spices: All various kinds. More exotic spices from more distant lands cost more per pound or ounce than local spices. Most spices have a long shelf life if kept dry.

Produce: Fruits and vegetables. Only fresh would be available locally within about 100 miles or so. Beyond that only dried fruits and vegetables, or pickled. Dates, grapes, and figs were common dried fruit that formed into blocks for easy transport and had a relatively long shelf life in a dry climate.
NOTE: Preservation methods for transport are the same methods used to help people make it through the winter or whatever time is between growing seasons.

Meat: As with produce, fresh meat, including fish would usually only be transported about 100 miles or so. Beyond that, dried, salted, pickled or otherwise preserved meats could easily be transported over longer distances. “On the hoof” is the best way to transport fresh meat the farthest, such as with the cattle drives of the American west.
NOTE: Preservation methods for transport are the same methods used to help people make it through the winter or whatever time is between growing seasons.

Honey: It does not spoil and it has anti-bacterial properties. If it crystallizes, heating returns it to liquid. Honey from ancient tombs has been liquefied and was still good.
Gaming Hooks: Supply will be limited by the supply of various bees, bumblebees, wasps, etc. and flowering plants. A hive of giant bees, etc. could be used by some society of humans that had special tools or magic to allow it. Perhaps some giants could be beekeepers and there be some form of trade with other races.

Raw Materials: In general, raw materials are first shipped to where they are made into an intermediate or final product. An example of an intermediate product is ore processed into ingots, wool spun into yarn, or logs processed into lumber. Sometimes two or more raw materials are combined to form an intermediate material, such as charcoal or coal and iron ore to make iron ingots. Some craftsmen/tradesmen, such as blacksmiths might process their own ore for further use, or be specialized in processing ore for others.

Intermediate Products: Materials in a state that further products can be made from them. Iron ingots are made into weapons and armor, yarn from wool is spun into cloth, etc. Some intermediate products, may be made into further intermediate products. Rough cut lumber may be formed into various sizes and quality of boards for specific uses. Spun cloth may be died and cut to make clothes or other items.

Textiles: Raw materials include wool or bundles of harvested plants. Clothing, rugs, tapestries, table clothes, napkins, towels, rope, armor, paper, etc.
NOTE: Related to textiles will be the raw materials.

  • Plant based: Cotton, linen, flax, jute, hemp, bamboo, straw, grass, rush, sisal
  • Animal based: Wool, silk (cocoons of silkworms)

Plant textiles: SOURCE:
Grass, rush, hemp, and sisal are all used in making rope. In the first two, the entire plant is used for this purpose, while in the last two, only fibers from the plant are utilized. Coir (coconut fiber) is used in making twine, and also in floor mats, doormats, brushes, mattresses, floor tiles, and sacking.

Textiles involve some form of spinning into thread and weaving and/or braiding.

Straw and bamboo are both used to make hats. Straw, a dried form of grass, is also used for stuffing, as is kapok.
Fibers from pulpwood trees, cotton, rice, hemp, and nettle are used in making paper.

Cotton, flax, jute, hemp, modal and even bamboo fiber are all used in clothing. Piña (pineapple fiber) and ramie are also fibers used in clothing, generally with a blend of other fibers such as cotton.

Nettles have also been used to make a fiber and fabric very similar to hemp or flax. The use of milkweed stalk fiber has also been reported, but it tends to be somewhat weaker than other fibers like hemp or flax.

Acetate is used to increase the shininess of certain fabrics such as silks, velvets, and taffetas.

Seaweed is used in the production of textiles: a water-soluble fiber known as alginate is produced and is used as a holding fibre; when the cloth is finished, the alginate is dissolved, leaving an open area.

Lyocell is a man-made fabric derived from wood pulp. It is often described as a man-made silk equivalent; it is a tough fabric that is often blended with other fabrics – cotton, for example.
Fibers from the stalks of plants, such as hemp, flax, and nettles, are also known as ‘bast’ fibers.

Wooden goods: Raw timber, i.e. logs, and lumber are the simplest. Finished products include tables, chairs, plates, mugs, shields, hafts for spears and javelins, staves for bows, barrels, arrows, lumber (planks, beams, etc.), carvings. Types of wood, from the common to the rare and exotic. Wooden trinkets, like lacquered necklaces, tableware, handles, spinning wheels, looms, etc.

Metal goods: Unprocessed ore and ingots are the base goods. Finished goods include arms and armor, copper goods, tin goods, bronze goods, tableware (of various quality from copper, tin, bronze, pewter, silver, gold, perhaps electrum or platinum), coinage (ancient coinage bound to a collector(s), or coinage for a payroll for troops, workers (miners, lumbermen, builders, etc.), tribute, etc.), Jewelry of all sorts. idols, icons, craft goods, collectibles, etc.
NOTE: Coins can be counterfeited using base metals. Wizards can use fool’s gold and the surprise comes when the spell expires….

Antiques: From all the dungeons and ancient battlefields and ruins, there can be all kinds of antiquities. These would be many of the same things that are recognizable for what they are, or items that no one living knows what it is. Go to a flea market or estate sale at an old farm and look at the strange gizmos. It is amazing what kinds of hand tools our forebears used and to look at them, it is not always obvious what they are. Get an old timer to explain some of it.
NOTE: Forgery will be an issue. Adventure hook, trader is swindled, or trader is the swindler of his clients, etc.

Art: This can be antiques or current carvings, statues, monuments, paintings, tapestries, rugs, etc.

Stone: Statuary, construction blocks. Usually construction blocks are not hauled very far. Some prince or wealthy patron wanting a rare marble might ship it overland in a long line of wagons running miles. What an adventure hook. Slate for chalkboards, roofing tiles, etc. Chalk for writing or building, etc.

Gems, jewelry, precious stones: These can all be transported by a single poorly dressed man as he moves between venues. A fortune for trade could be had. How does he pull the switcheroo to his respectable clothing to make a legitimate trade is another hook. Counterfeits and forgeries would also be a possibility.

Slaves: If you have slaves among the humans, elves, dwarves, etc. There can be long caravans of them. Humanoids, such as orcs, like slaves to do the jobs they hate. Humans could make slaves of war captives of other humans, or orcs, etc.

Exotica: Rare items, ingredients, metals, wood, animals, etc.

Circus/Sideshow/Carnival: Group of performers travelling town to town on their own or as part of a larger caravan.

Anything you use on a daily basis had to come from somewhere. In the ancient and medieval world people made due with what was available locally, within about 20 miles. Trade developed as a means of acquiring something that is needed, useful, or desired from AWAY, i.e. non-local. Most food was local. Most building materials were local. Only large or special construction projects were not local.

Any list of professions will suggest products. If you create a town or city, the occupations of the inhabitants will indicate what they have to trade and suggest items they import.

Only very small towns or cities can be self sufficient. After a certain size, neighboring towns, villages, farms and herds are needed to support it. Rome imported grain from Egypt, etc.

In the ancient world of pre-history, there is a lot of evidence of the tin trade over many thousands of miles. As the easily accessible tin petered out, bronze became scarce. I read an article online that says some theorize that the iron age was helped along by necessity. That is, the scarcity of tin to mix with copper to make bronze was the necessity to figure out how to efficiently heat iron ore enough to separate it from the rest of the material so that it could be worked.

Type of Materials/Goods in a Caravan or on a Ship

  • Raw Materials
  • Intermediate Materials
  • Finished Goods

Raw Materials

  • Food
    • Livestock – Sheep, goats, pigs, cattle, fowl (chickens, ducks, geese, etc.) Driven by drovers/herders.
    • Fresh Food – Fruits, Vegetables, Meat, Fish, Eggs of various fowl., honey. Carried in crates or baskets, or perhaps jars.
    • Dried Food – Fruits, Vegetables, Meat (jerky/pemican), Fish. Can be wrapped in paper or cloth or stored as is in kegs, barrels, or crates.
    • Grain – Oats, Wheat, Rye, Rice. Usually transported in sacks or barrels. Can be used for seed or eating.
    • Processed Food – Flour of various grains, bread, crackers, pickles, pickled meat or fish
  • Logs
  • Stone/Rock
  • Ore
    • Tin
    • Copper
    • Iron
    • Silver
    • Gold
    • etc.
  • Fibers
    • Wool/Silk
    • Plant fibers for spinning/weaving (Hemp, sissal, etc.)
  • Animal By Products
    • Ivory
    • Bone
    • Hides (From butchered or trapped animals, i.e. cows or beaver, for ex.)
    • Horn

Intermediate Goods

  • Rough cut lumber
  • Ingots of various ores
  • Spun fibers
  • Woven cloth – undied and uncut

Finished Goods

  • Wood – Furniture, Weapons, Tools, Shields, Musical Instruments, cups, mugs, plates, etc.
  • Fibers – Rope, Yarn, String, Thread, Bolts of colored cloth, clothes, rugs, tapestries, curtains, etc.
  • Metal – Needles, weapons, armor, utensils, tools, hinges, locks, chains, coins, ingots, cups, mugs, plates, eating utensils, etc.
  • Ivory – Carved items. As inlay in other items, such as a table top.
  • Bone – Needles, corsets, inlay in wooden items.
  • Horn – Bows, drinking horns, musical/hunting/war horns.
  • Glass – Windows, containers, lab equipment. (What level of glass technology is in your fantasy campaign?)
  • Ceramic/Clay – glasses, mugs, plates, jars, etc.

Containers

  • Keg – Dry or liquid storage.
  • Barrel – Dry or liquid storage.
  • Sack – 50 pounds
  • Basket – Bushel
  • Crate – 20 – 50 pounds
  • Jars
  • Amphorae – Large jars for transporting olive oil or wine in the ancient world.
  • Chests
  • Coffers
  • Bags

See my article on Caravans & Pack Animals and Loot Carriers for more ideas on how goods might be transported.

Convoys

Related to caravans are convoys. Convoys are used as a way to protect merchant shipping from submarine warfare. They can be used in a modern setting, from the Victorian/Edwardian era to  the present, and beyond in science fiction or apocalyptic settings.

Convoys are basically naval caravans, but rather than being in a line and limited to the available space of the road or terrains, convoys can spread out more, yet remain close enough to provide support to the other ships nearby. There are still “choke points”, like the English Channel, or other narrow straits that require the ships to go single file.  Such places would be avoided unless it was absolutely necessary.

The idea of convoys and navies is often applied to space travel, and convoys of merchant craft might be a way to deal with cloaked ships.

Unlike planet bound surface navies, the areas where things narrow would tend to be an unavoidable asteroid or debris belt. Approaching a space dock, planetary orbit, or landing planet side would be the choke points that an enemy or pirate ship(s) would exploit. Only the most advanced of planetary defense systems that include planetary shields and heavy weapons both in orbit and planet based.

Convoys also apply to motor vehicles, like a convoy of supply trucks with gear, food, fuel, etc. It is also the name of a popular song from the “trucker era” of music from the late 70’s and early 80’s. The song was later made into a movie with Kris Kristofferson and Ali MacGraw.

Convoys of motor vehicles will be limited to roads and passable surfaces if they have wheels or tracks. Hovercraft will have more flexibility of terrain. If the water transport variety, they are limited to relatively flat surfaces on land. Anti-gravity hovercraft will be limited based on the altitude they can maintain. If they are limited to a meter off the surface, they cannot cross the Grand Canyon directly, but must make the descent as any other traveler. However, if they can basically fly, there is no practical limit to the terrain they can cover.

Convoys can be used to transport the same or similar goods, or a variety of goods. Troop convoys can be used to move armies and their supplies and equipment across the sea or the stars.

See my articles on See my article on Caravans & Pack AnimalsLoot Carriers, and Trade Goods.

Loot Carriers Table

Loot can be carried by an individual or group, or be carried by a pack animal, or a conveyance, like a wagon.

Table or Tables for how a monster is carrying it’s loot. This set of tables will focus on individual monsters & NPC’s and how they carry their stuff.

Let’s call anything that is used to carry something, mean that the contents are loot, at least valuable to the one carrying it, or valuable to the one they got it from.

I was reading the Grand DM‘s Belt Pouch Table post, and then it struck me. I don’t recall a table or other tool to define what kinds of things different monsters use to carry their loot.

The classic, you’ve killed the goblins and loot their bodies, is easy to gloss over what their paltry few coppers and silvers are carried in.

It occurred to me, perhaps different groups of humanoids will carry their loot in different containers. Perhaps certain kinds of loot might be carried differently than other loot.

One idea I had was what if goblin tribes had a medicine pouch that they carried around their necks, and it included things like the tooth or other body part of those they have killed? Such a pouch might also contain the most valuable thing that they own that an adventurer might consider treasure, like a small gem, gold coin, or other small but valuable trinket. Different tribes could carry different body parts. Different humanoids might have similar pouches, but their size, material, and craftsmanship could vary.

Sizes: 1d8

  • Really Tiny
  • Tiny
  • Small
  • Medium
  • Large
  • Extra large
  • Enormous
  • Gigantic

Loot Carriers Type: d18

  • pouch/purse/medicine bag (not the same as a belt pouch)
  • Belt Pouch (My interpretation of a belt pouch has always been that is fastens securely to a belt, with loops, hooks, ties or a combination.)
  • Sacks
  • Baskets
  • Coffer
  • Chest
  • Cask
  • Urn
  • Vase
  • Vial
  • Scrollcase
  • Amphorae
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Blanket/Sheet/Quilt/Curtain
  • Skull
  • Femur
  • Backpack
  • Saddlebags (over one or both shoulders)

Material: 1d14

  • Leather
  • Wood
  • Hide
  • Skin
  • Hair
  • Felt (pressed hair – For example the Mongolian people make their felt for their tents from horse hair.)
  • Flax
  • Burlap
  • Cotton
  • Silk
  • Bone
  • Gems
  • Other “normal”
  • Other “exotic”

Quality:  1d6

  • Crude
  • Poor
  • Functional
  • Sturdy
  • Overbuilt
  • Excellent

Condition: 1d6

  • Rotted/Falling Apart
  • Holes/Tears/Threadbare/Runs – One more bit of damage or piece of loot, and it will start to fail without immediate repair.
  • Used but Functional
  • Used really good condition
  • Nearly new
  • New & unused

Decoration: 1d6

  • None
  • Missing/Damaged
  • Simple
  • Standard
  • Fancy/Ornate
  • Ostentatious

Construction: 1d5

  • Make-shift – (Like a classic trop of a burglar grabbing a sheet or tablecloth to make a bag.)
  • Self-made (Whether out of necessity, a point of pride, or a right of passage.)
  • Special Made (All Medicine Pouches are made by the tribal shaman, or a special craftsman, of with a special process.)
  • Standard (Made by standard craftsman or process.)
  • Custom (Made by a craftsman either to special order, or by the best known craftsman, or with special materials, like dragon hide.)

Properties:

  • 1-80% Non-Magical
  • 81-00 Magical

If Magical What Qualities?:

  • Does it glow?
  • Does it give off heat, cold, mist, smoke, or something else?
  • Does it present these, or other characteristics, when in the presence of a certain type of creature or substance. For example cold in the presence of copper, warmth in the presence of silver, heat for gold, and hotter for platinum, adamantium, or mithril? Something made by dwarves or other mining races to find veins of metal.
  • Is glowing its only effect? Is it some party favor that glows different colors in different patterns at randome or non-specific intervals? (This is begging for another table.)

Extra space – Like a bag of holding, but specifics could differ.
Bonus – Adds +1 to +5 for saves (can vary to have different saves for different things.)
Detection – Standard detections, evil/good/alignment, invisibility, magic, truth/lies, etc.
Protection – Evil/Good, undead (all or specific types), demons, devils, other planar, etc.
Control – Humans, demi-humans, humanoids, dragons, giants, elementals, etc.
Communication – For example, speak a specific language, tongues, comprehend lang., telepathy, esp, speak with animals, etc.
Cursed – Can look like any other item, but have an opposite or corrupting affect. For example, a protection dweomer is evident, but it actually attracts undead. Perhaps only zombies, and gives clerics in the area a -1 on their roll to turn/control, or -2 if the cleric attempting the turn is the one in possession of the object.
Duplication – Items left in the container for 24 hours are duplicated. This only works for the specific type of item a device was designed to duplicate. Dor example, a scroll case might only duplicate maps, or only message. It cannot duplicate magical scrolls. A cursed or evil item might “bite” the user for 1-2 hp for blood to power it. A purse might duplicate coins, but they would be illusory, or fool’s gold as the spell and only last for the minimum caster level. A special wand case might re-charge the wand at 1-3 charges per day of the minimum caster level in the want. An uncharged wand would either not be charged, or roll to see if its magic is drained away, or it turns to dust, or explodes.
Abundance – Food, water, or whatever the container is designed for never seems to run out.
Containment – Geni, Djinn, Demon, Devil, Angel, or other powerful creature. Could work like a magic lamp and give conrol and wishes, or could only appear to be so and rubbing it frees the creature for good, or only a few rounds to wreak havoc. Perhaps it will try to capture the bearer to trade places.
Travel – Dimension door/teleport/fly/jump/spider climb

Team Carry:

Monsters/Bearers/Porters can carry stuff in bags, packs, or baskets on an individual basis, but larger items require two or more to carry. Such as elephant tusks, a caged live animal, a dead trophy animal, large chest, etc. Such means of carry can be simple carry and manhandling, to using a pole, poles, or other device. Long trains of such bearers can make up a caravan for a merchant, adventurer, or tribute taken from the defeated, or tribute offered to avoid the devastation of war.

Team Carry Methods/Devices: 1d7

  • Two or more carrying/manhandling a large item. (Think of moving an upright grand piano up and/or down stairs, without equipment, and you get the idea. If you’ve ever done it, you know what I mean.)
  • Two Using a Pole to carry something.
  • Two using two poles to carry something. This could be a litter or other heavy object.
  • Four or more carrying something with two large poles. This could be a caged live animal, or something like a palanquin bearing someone, or an idol.
  • One or more pulling something with a travois.
  • One pushing a wheelbarrow.
  • One pushing a pushcart.

Animal Transport: 1d4

  • Any pack animal
  • Any riding animal that can carry something in addition to it’s rider, or
  • Any animal, monster, etc. that can carry a container, or pull a conveyance.
  • NPC/Slave (This would be anyone forced to carry the loot of another. It’s not their loot, and in the case of slaves, for the newly enslaved, it might have previously been their loot.)

*NOTE: Most pack animals have specialized pack saddles designed to maximize the amount that can be carried and distribute it in a way that it allows the animal to carry the largest load the farthest distance without injury. Those that don’t see the pack animal as more than a means to the end of getting their loot where they want it, and don’t see the animal as loot, may not treat it well.

Conveyances: Any device used for transport.

Land Based: 1d7

  • Carts
  • Wagons
  • Sleds
  • Sledges
  • Travois
  • Coach
  • Other (Includes any type I don’t know about, and magical, or cars or land speeders from other dimensions.)

Water Based: 1d6

  • Raft
  • Canoe
  • Boat
  • Ship
  • Canal boat (either pulled by a mule team and driver, or poled by the crew.)
  • Barge

Air Travel: (This will be limited by the weight limit. Only used for the most critical, priceless, or time sensitive transport.)

  • Magic Devices/Spells
  • Flying Creatures

Magical Travel: (Travel that is not obvious to non-wizards. Even more weight restricted than flying. Usually by device or spell.)

  • Teleportation, etc.

 Who might be carrying loot? 1d5

  • Individual
  • Small Group
  • Medium Group
  • Large Group
  • Horde

Type of Group/Reasons for Hauling or Moving Loot: 1d4

  • Expedition (Adventurer(s)/Explorer(s)/Knowledge Seeker(s))
  • Raid (Bandits/Monsters/War)
  • War (Hauling spoils of war as campaign continues, or after victory and returning home.)
  • Trade (Caravan/Local, Regional, or Small Merchant)

2015 A to Z Challenge Reflections.

I planned to write a follow up on my A to Z experience this year, and a survey that arrive just before midnight alerted me to a Reflections Post, that needed to be done by May 8th. I am doing catch up on articles and clearing a backlog of things to review, on this rainy, thunderstorm laden weekend.

This was the second year that I participated in the A to Z Blogging Challenge to write a post every day, except Sundays, in April. As with last year, 26 blog posts is not difficult for me. I had most of them done and scheduled before April. Also, like last year, I only had time to keep up with the blogs in the (GA) category. This year, I read most of the posts.

For me, the hardest part of the challenge is a theme that I feel good about. This year, I wrote about different aspects of planning a city, whether it is a living city or an abandoned/lost city. Once I had a topic, I came up with 26 topics. I then scheduled each topic for the appropriate day and wrote on the topics that interested me.

I had most of my topics written with at least a few paragraphs or notes of things to be sure to mention. I dug in and wrote several posts in a marathon session, so that I only had to let them sit to do cleanup before they posted. A few topics seemed a bit harder to write, and I got a bit repetitive when some topics had overlap.

I did not come up with as many tables and generators as I had hoped. I did get some ideas for building them. Once those ideas have sat for awhile, I will gather them and see about making a more coherent PDF to share.

My goal of a system to randomly generate parts of a city did not materialize. I think because of the all the dice table in Metal Gods of Ur-Hadad #1, that +Adam Muszkiewicz showed me. It touched on most of what I was after. I don’t really need all the details I think I do, I just WANT them.

Since I scheduled each post, I had no problem posting on the correct day.

I am currently on the fence as to whether or not I will participate next year. I like that I used it to help me clarify and flesh out ideas for my own use. If I participate again, I will have to use it to do something helpful to my own needs and desires as a GM; whether it be a module, series of new creatures, a collection of maps, or NPC’s, it will have to be something that serves a dual purpose.

This year, there were twelve blogs with the (GA) tag for games. Of those, one was geared towards game books and not directly RPG related, that I could tell. Perhaps it was just not my thing.

Nemo’s Lounge gave up doing custom NPCs with a drawing after 16 posts. Both the drawings and NPC’s were great!

Wampus Country was doing a town a day and got up to E when it stopped. He had some interesting ideas, that I enjoyed while it lasted.

 

Others missed a beat here and there, but most of us managed all 26 postings for the month.

Tower of the Archmage had a great series of vignettes of a party of adventurers. He often included a map. He hiked the Appalachian trail and was gone for the whole challenge, so he wrote and scheduled all of his postings before he left. This series would make a neat short story and/or a module/dungeon.

Tim Brannon at The Other Side did vampires, as he promised he would last year, after doing witches. Who knew there were so many vampires in different cultures. He began with A for Aswang, which I not too long before learned about from watching Grimm. When White Star came out, he even did an A to Z special with a Space Vampire, modeled on the one from the 80’s Buck Rogers TV Show.

Mark Craddock of Cross Plains reviewed his favorite things about D&D.

Keith Davies of In My Campaign built several mythologies/pantheons and had a system to help him build them.

Sea of Stars had a series of NPC;s.

Spes Magna Games did a series on the “Boogie Knights Of the Round Table”. I have not seen the movie, Boogie Nights, but I got the reference. What if King Arthur and his knights where in the age of disco? He kept it going until the last few days, but did all 26 posts.

Another Caffeinated Day did a series of NPC’s,

The Dwarven Stronghold did NPC’s and magic items.

If you need NPC’s, items, maps, images, vampires, or city planning suggestions, there is a lot of good stuff collected in these posts, check them out.

Kingdom of the Dwarfs

 

I bought the book, Kingdom of the Dwarfs [Aff link], by Robb Walsh [Now a food writer and critic in Texas. Made me hungry for some good BBQ….] and illustrated by David Wenzel, back in the 1980’s. The copyright date is 1980, so I’m not sure what year I bought it. I know it was before I graduated high school, so sometime between 1980 and 1983.

I keep it with my RPG materials. I was trying to think of something to post about, and I remembered this book. I have not read it probably since I first read it after I got it home three plus decades ago.

I have looked at the art since then, and marveled at the skill of the artist, and wished I could do the same. Perhaps with intentional practice and some art classes I might do better than my present attempts.

I strongly identify with dwarves for some reason. I really liked the dwarf character from The Sword of Shannara [Aff link].

Oddly enough, my favorite character is a half-elf. Although I play a dwarf in my Wednesday night online AD&D game.

The Wikipedia article about David Wenzel calls this a children’s book. As I recall, it was in the fantasy/science fiction section of the bookstore, so it was not marketed or sold in that store like a children’s book. I don’t think the theme is of a children’s book.

I remembered the basic story, but of course, the details eluded me. So I read it again.

It is a fast read. The text is mostly a set up of the book and then brief blurbs to set the scene for the art. The art tells a very detailed story.

Now I’m in the mood to detail the dwarven realms in my campaign. There’s never enough time to do it all!

If you want to build a dwarven kingdom or lost kingdom, this is a great source book!

Day 26 Z is for Z Axis

Z – Z Axis

As Kirk and Spock discussed in Wrath of Khan, don’t have two dimensional thinking.

Think of below the street level and above the tops of the towers.

Is there an issue with burrowing creatures or flying creatures?

Would a dragon or someone riding a dragon attack the city?

Is the ruined city so isolated by geography that the only way to arrive is by magic or by flight?

Is it a living but hidden city?

Is there a magical effect above the city, like the area of a rope trick, or other pocket dimension type space that is hidden from view? A place for observation of the surroundings and a great spot to ambush invaders, or trouble makers.

Day 25 Y is for You Owe

Y – You Owe – fines, taxes, tariffs, fees, tolls, etc.

If there is a fine, fee, or tax, where are the tax collectors? Where might the remnants of ancient taxes be today? This ties in with X Marks the Spot and with Vaults.

If a living city, where are the points where the government or local gang imposes fees for its services?

If a fallen city that is now occupied by new inhabitants, do they impose taxes and fees? If inhabited by ogres, they will just take all your stuff as the fee, as will most other humanoids and intelligent monsters. The ones that don’t eat you, will likely enslave you, or just kill you for the sport of it.

Intelligent monsters might impose exorbitant fees on passing caravans to let them pass mostly unharmed. This would affect the price and availability of certain goods.

If the city is not fallen, how far beyond the city walls to taxes and fees begin to be imposed? Is there a fee for every bridge and ferry, beyond the operator’s base fee? Are their toll booths at key locations along the road? If you have never had to pay a fee to cross a bridge or to drive on a tollway, this concept might be foreign to you. The AD&D DMG has a good overview on this. If the PC’s hang around civilization, they will run into lots of taxes and fees, which might induce them to go seek further fortunes.

For fallen cities, will random coins be found periodically near abandoned toll booths? Will the coin box be lost and found in some random location?

Will a tax collector have a hidden stash of his share, legal or illicit? In the ancient world, taxes were collected by tax farmers who bid how much they could collect, and they got to keep what they collected beyond that point, thus making them quite disliked by the taxpayers.

 

Day 24 X is for X Marks the Spot

X – X Marks the spot.

Note important locations, map it out – It does not have to be fancy, even a node map and rough idea of where things are will suffice.

With all of the free maps from so many talented artists and map makers in the OSR, and via many various websites, like Cartographer’s Guild, one can easily come up with a map. There are also lots of maps from the medieval and renaissance periods that are available online to give one ideas. There is more than one G+ community for maps and world building ideas. There is a surplus of riches in maps and adventure ideas, thanks to the internet.

For some city and town maps, I have taken something I found online that was close to what I had in mind, and used that to help craft something for my own needs.

Where is the important stuff? Where is the treasure in relation to the palace or the temple?

Have the rich buried or hidden their wealth when they fled, is it still there? Is it inside the city, or somewhere outside the walls?

If an abandoned city for hundreds or thousands of years, what groups, monsters, wizards, cults, etc. have made a home or base? Is that base still there? Is it inhabited by the original founders of the base or has it changed hands over the years?

All of the other articles in this series mention many different things that will have a location. Each of those things will have a quality of the original construction, degree of routine maintenance given when in use,  and the use, damage, neglect, etc. that these things have undergone if the city is abandoned.

Day 23 W is for Waste Disposal

W – Waste Disposal/Toilets/Outhouses/Sewers/Drains/Teleporters/Gelatinous Cubes/Otyughs/etc.

Water, food, and other things come into the city. This results in an unpleasant production that needs to be handled to avoid unpleasant odors and disease in the close quarters of a city. Even with clerics and paladins running around to cure disease, they could not heal everyone in a major plague.

Disintegrators could be used for the most hazardous waste, gelatinous cubes could be an invention for waste disposal and they become a menace in the collapse of a fallen city. Otyughs and other carrion eaters could be placed in the sewers to deal with waste, and could still be down there.

Breaking a barrier between the water supply and the sewer system could be more dangerous than mere exposure to disease. It could allow carrion eaters to get to other places. It could flood the sewers and drown the players, etc.

I can see a waste disposal/sewer system that is “dry”, that is there is not large amount of water coursing through it, if storm drains shunt water elsewhere. Gelatinous cubes and carrion eaters would go from one concentration of waste to another, removing what nutrients they can get from it. Even a fallen city, where the sewers are mostly intact might have some form of occupation that leads to waste, small animals, lost humanoids or adventurers. The sewers with such critters to handle the waste would have areas of near pristine, floors walls, and ceilings as all the contents of the sewer is picked clean. Any minimal accumulation of waste will “move” or “appear” and “disappear” as any PC’s explore.”Something” is down there but what?

I mentioned a series of teleporters to move about the ancient cities and empire. Such technology need not move people and goods. Using teleporters to move waste elsewhere could have interesting results. The location that receives the waste could have a huge number of carrion eating monsters. Anyone transported by this means, will have a nasty surprise both in waste and in what eats the waste. Such teleporters could either be constant, whatever enters the area of the teleporter is instantly transported, or it could cycle every so many hours or days.

Finally, disintegrators could be used for the most dangerous waste. Poof, it’s gone. Anyone or anything wandering into these areas would have some signs of warning, perhaps bars to block access. Bars might indicate blocking something valuable. It could be interesting to see characters break in to check out a room that is a disintegrator. Much like the teleporters, are the disintegrators always on, or do they have a cycle of so many hours?

Is the rain water/flood control using the same channels as the sewers? In an arid climate, minimal water would be used to move waste, as much water as possible would need to be gathered for later consumption.

Are there public latrines? Do people have latrines in their homes and businesses, or do they use chamber pots and haul the waste to a neighborhood waste pit? If gelatinous cubes and other dangerous carrion eaters are used to deal with waste, there would need to be some mechanism to prevent them attacking the populace. Only someone foolish enough to go into the sewers would counteract such safety measures.

Maps and adventures don’t often touch on the actual waste and chamber pots and latrines. However, if one is to use carrion based monsters, many of them presuppose waste. For villages, and even towns, they wouldn’t go to the efforts to deal with waste that is needed in the crowded confines of a bustling city. Chamber pots, outhouses, a back corner of the yard, or area outside the town limits is where human waste would be collected. Human waste can be composted for use in gardens, but it has to be extra hot in its composting method to use it on food crops. When human waste is used for fertilizing food crops, it often leads to the spread of disease.

What do guards on watch use? A latrine in the corner of the guard tower, or a chamber pot, or just over the outside of the wall? How common is it to be walking down the street and someone toss out their chamber pot to the street below? What is the chance that someone rises in the middle of the night to take care of business and dumps the chamber pot, with bleary eyes, to the street below and it hits the thieve(s) sneaking about on their way to or from their latest heist? If on their way to their heist, are they “marked” so well, that they decide to postpone, either long enough to get cleaned up, or for another night? Is the nature of the heist one that they can’t re-schedule? If this happens after the heist, is it close enough to the location of the heist that it makes them easier to track?

UPDATE: May 31, 2015 – I found this article at the Register about London’s sewer system. the key point is that it still dumped into the river, just not where there was a large enough concentration of people to complain about the stink. Also, the capacity of the system when originally built 150 years ago, was such that a large part of the current sewage system of London still uses it.

Vikings Season 3 Finale

I just watched the Vikings season 3 finale. I like how they pack so much into seasons of just a few episodes.

It is interesting how they take historical and semi-historical figures and weave a story among known historical events.

I won’t post any spoilers here, but I will say there are multiple surprises of how they wrapped up a few loose ends, but left a twisted trail of many more things to come in the next season.

I wonder how many years they will skip when it comes to the next season.

I like how they have portrayed vikings as more than bloodthirsty plunderers. They show social divisions among the vikings and what we know about them from their own stories, first hand accounts, and archaeological finds. Of course, with fiction, they take many liberties and insert things the writers made up that are very fantastic.

There seems to have been a revival of interest in vikings in various RPGs or RPG add ons, like adventures and campaign settings, in recent years.

This is a big change to how vikings influenced my original experience of their influence on AD&D. That is, the berserker, under Men in the Monster Manual. This single narrow aspect of some viking warriors is all that some knew of them, beyond their raiding coastal towns and villages.

The vikings were great explorers, who sought new lands and new goods for trade. Their influence via trade was perhaps greater than that of their raids. However, it is the dreaded viking raid that made the biggest impression on most of Western Europe. Of course, the survivors of many of these raids were the monks who were able to write about their experiences and preserve their side of these encounters. I am not aware of any direct connections to the viking side of these raids. Do the sagas that we have today hold such information?

What I do know is that a population growth lead to seeking new lands and new wealth. When money is based on gold and silver, of which there is a finite supply, one has to find it through either mining or taking it from someone else. Thus, a common motivation throughout history. This same motivation will exist in RPG’s, like D&D, whose economies are based on coins of precious metals. Land and certain other items that don’t decay will also hold value.

So as the vikings were motivated by an expanding population and so forth, other groups of men and humanoids will have similar motivations for their raids and efforts at expansion. Other motivations might be doing the bidding of their deity or being manipulated by someone on a quest for power, whether it is political or magical. A shortage of females might prompt gathering brides, or for a female dominated society, it might prompt gathering grooms.

Concentrations of wealth, such as cities will be attractive. Only walls that are well defended will provide the most protection. Even that might not be enough for a determined and motivated force. Caravans or convoys of merchant ships might also be targets.

Bribes, threats, tricks, and other things might be used to get inside the walls of a city to allow a large force of raiders inside to get what they are after.

Some ruler or other type of power broker or power seeker might seek to manipulate a viking like group into going after his enemy or some other target to facilitate his own plans. A powerful wizard seeking a specific item, might use a raid to distract all the guards to defend the walls, to make it easier to pop in and take what she is after. An evil cleric might do something similar to gain an item, desecrate a good temple, of establish a foothold of evil in a city.

Related to my A to Z series on cities, this fits in nicely as a second article on V. Who wants what is in the city? Who are the enemies of the city? Who or what is the reason the city has walls and gates? As with anything, there are two types of threats to a city, known and unknown.

Obviously, it is much easier to plan for known threats. Unknown threats can only be guarded against based on how similar they are to known threats. For example, in a world without known magic, how would one guard against it? In a fantasy setting with magic, one can only guard against the types of magic one knows about. Invisibility, illusions, and disguises are all general categories, but some specific magic items, or unique spells would present a threat to undermine all defenses.

For physical threats that are unknown, it can be a new tribe or group of humans or a resurgence of humanoids whose population has recovered after their last beat down.

Vigilance against a threat is hard to maintain all the time without discipline and a very regimented dedication. It always happens that in time, people tend to forget the bad times, and don’t see the connections in events that lead to some “sudden” occurrence that in hindsight was building towards its outcome.