Monday, December 31, 2012

Mercenaries Continued: Part 1

So apparently my mercenary company idea is popular. How neat is that? Since I like it too, I think I'll continue the concept and flesh it out a little more and throw it into Hekinoe somewhere. There are lots of empty places on Hekinoe, so I have plenty of room to throw another continent. This post is going to bounce around a lot and is basically a written journal of me coming up with campaign ideas and forming a campaign. If it gets too long, I'll break it up into a second post.

So since the focus of the campaign is a mercenary company, I think I'll make that a main feature of the continent of the campaign. I'm picturing a fairly aged and decadent collection of empires. Basically a lot of money and resources and power, but without high populations. A war in this situation would be very disruptive to trade and that sort of thing, so the various kingdoms and city states settle disputes over territory and that sort of thing with mercenary companies that wander off to places far away from valuable farmlands and innocent civilians to bloody each other's noses. So you'd have various mercenary companies wandering around guarding things and getting contracts and that sort of thing. Some would be legendary companies with a lot of prestige and very lucrative longstanding contracts with the city-states, others would be cheaply bought bastards with a reputation for switching sides and reneging on contracts, others would be new companies trying to get prestige so that can charge what the legendary ones get. The campaign would likely center around a new company trying to make a name for themselves. Maybe they make a name for themselves by saving the world or just surviving some nasty fights. Dunno yet, just rolling around ideas.

I'm thinking that an environment like this would have very formal rules and guidelines for paying mercenary companies, so the fees would be fairly standardized. The company makes X amount of gold per task with a bonus dependent on your company's reputation and level of skill. I'm thinking something like a bonus to cash where the bonus is equal to your company's reputation as a percentage bonus or penalty. So if your rank, reputation, prestige, whatever is 5, you make 5% more when you guard a place or whatever. If it is -5, you only make 95% of the normal wage. I think the reputation would also serve as a gauge of how much recruiting you can do. Like you start with a company of 20 or so and as your company grows in reputation, you can manage more members. It would also perhaps be used to do recruiting. A negative rep might make it easier to recruit bloodthirsty cutthroats, but more difficult to recruit decent folks, while a positive one would reverse it maybe. I dunno, still kind of batting things around here. Getting some ideas though.

So I'm thinking that in addition to the standard mercenary work that the mercenary companies and those that hire them engage in sort of an annual games, kind of like gladiatorial combats and that sort of thing to show off their talents. This is a way to gain reputation and popularity, and also kind of a way to pick up job offerings and that sort of thing. I'm thinking that the mercenaries operate out of one specific city and are overseen by like a guild of veterans or something from companies or something. I'm not entirely sold on that idea there, but I feel like there would be some sort of oversight to a situation like this where mercenaries are such an integral piece of the politics and whatnot of a continent. Hmm, I keep thinking about this aspect, this mercenary oversight committee, not really liking it. Maybe instead it's just a bunch of vets that decided to set up a watering hole for fellow mercenaries and the games are held there and various nations have embassies so they can do hiring and whatnot. Maybe lots of these places exist scattered across the continent.

Ok, so I have the basic structure of the continent down. What I have here allows a fair bit of political and battle focused mercenary work. But what about adventure staples like ancient tombs and that sort of thing? So these very decadent, civilized empires of this continent would likely have schools and museums and that sort of thing. So maybe there is this chunk of the continent with some fallen empires in it where universities hire mercs to guard archaeological digs to recover artifacts and that sort of thing. What brought this civilization to ruin? Magical disasters always work, but I think I've touched on that enough with the fall of Kaleshmar, so maybe something natural? I'm suddenly remembering the Fallen Empires set of Magic cards and the kingdoms of the elves. The elves created thallids out of fungus and they eventually gain sentience and overran the elves. So maybe something like that happened, fungus destroyed the empire. I like that. It's weird and not precisely ye olde hand waved magical disaster that changes the world.

Alright, we have this ancient empire full of ancient stuff. I don't want to make them magically or technologically superior, there are enough of those in Hekinoe. I'll make them psionic and I'll make psionics kind of a lost art among the rest of this continent. So the reason all this stuff is fascinating and worth digging around fungus stuffed tombs for is because psionics aren't unreliable like magic. I think the race will be called the Shale. The Shale are actually a race from a campaign I was creating a year or two ago, maybe more, when Lance, Shawn, I were talking about doing some DnD. Never happened, sigh. Anyway, so the Shale are these big stony guys prone to deep thoughts and slow to action. I think that fits well with a race of Psions and Monks. I think I am channeling Eldumans too much though, so to change them up I think I'll make them a dimorphic race, so they have two types of the same race. We'll go with half the race being more methodical and stone like, with the other half being somewhat quick to anger and action, we'll call them Stonehearts and Firehearts or something. They'll both have stony skin, but perhaps the Firehearts will have a tendency for their veins to look like webs of lava running through their stony skin. Fuck, maybe they'll bleed fire, I dunno. These are just the broad ideas here. Anyway, so we have this race and this fungus. The Shale are stone and metalworkers and psions. Their cities are made of stone and crystal and metal and they live kind of in a cooler portion of the continent. I'm thinking there is a lot of moss and fungus hanging around in the cool damp of their stone buildings and maybe this fungus gets where it shouldn't and somehow becomes psionic (so basically I am going with the psionic variant of ye olde hand waved magical disaster that changes the world). Again, these are just broad stroke ideas. So now we have this crazy psionic fungus that ends up devouring the empire of the Shale and the Shale end up coming close to extinction with their empire falling apart completely and their only advantage over the far more numerous other races being the closely held secrets of psionics. I think initially, Shale would not be a playable race, but they would be recruitable at some point via special circumstances and you could play one eventually. I think that the Fireheart Shale would likely outnumber the Stoneheart, what with the fiery blood and all being somewhat useful against the fungus.

So earlier in that previous paragraph I said something about magic being unreliable. Magic is unreliable in most places in Hekinoe, with Orcunraytrel being a very very special case. The reason magic works fine there is very very bad, much worse than a measly 36% chance of misfiring meteor storm. Anyway, with this continent of the Shale and mercenaries, I don't want the unreliability of magic to overshadow everything else, so we'll just go with a simple 1% rate of misfire per spell level with cantrips having a 0% chance, and intuitive casters adding a 1d3-1 to their caster level and misfire chance. This rate is a little bit lower than The Known World and is actually the "normal" rate of magic unreliability in Hekinoe, which means all the stuff that is janky and causes mutations in The Known World is working properly in this mercenary continent. Divine magic is the next question. Do I allow it? No. Gods still don't exist in my world and I have already played with the "we're gods but not really" thing with the Immortals of Orcunraytrel, no need to revisit it here. If the concern is healing and such, read back a few weeks and read the post about healing. Now, I've said that the Shale were the masters of psionics and have guarded those secrets from the other races. I think what I'll do is make Wild Talent available to all races, and that gives access to psionic feats (which have some cool abilities), but the Shale have a monopoly on actual psionic classes. Perhaps I'll institute something like the ability to use psionic classes as a reward for services rendered to the Shale or something. I think I'll restrict the use of the Monk class as well, just as I do in The Known World where most races have to pick a trait when they start at level one that allows them to play a Monk.

Alright, I think this post is long winded enough. We'll call this post part one and I'll pick this up Friday or next week.

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