I posted a while ago that I liked the concept art for the new D&D. Now the final product is finally delivered and we get the real thing. I can only say that it is probably what I like most of this new edition.
I’m a hard sci-fi fan, and I don’t think fantasy is equivalent to half-naked female elves, or swords longer than a glaive. There is a minimum of “reality” required to hook me into the story. I don’t need a full genetic study of elves, or a linguist to design every single language of every single species. I just don’t like illustrations to look too cartoonish.
Two good examples
Dwarves. Dwarf women were a joke among fantasy fans. I doubt anyone has ever played a female dwarf, and if someone has, the character probably had a beard.
This is a huge improvement over most of the fantasy illustrations I ever saw. I want to play one of those female dwarves, they are not just funny, they now look ready to be the center of epic adventures.
The same with general adventurers. Conan is Conan. Great character, great stories, totally recommended. But not every single warrior is a huge mass of muscles. And the slender types are not just elves.
Scimitars wielded by cultures not used to face heavily armored opponents. Compound bows built in dry climates, because they fell apart in humid regions. Cultural diversity in clothing.
A trend I support
The truth is Paizo is the company who I believe initiated this trend. Their Pathfinder roleplaying game and adventures did include different cultures, colors and complexions. Diversity to make our imaginations fly.
The only challenge I think they both have not properly addressed are non-human cultures. All dwarves belong to the same culture, as elves do. Let’s see the final Player Handbook, which we can buy this August.
Modeling reputation of a party in any role playing game is tricky. You can give it a number, and use it for interaction with any faction, but then it is not the same a good reputation or a bad reputation, being famous or unknown, being known for your strength feats or for your magical skills. When all is said and done, we DMs need a stat to track the reaction of NPCs, or set a standard for the effects of the party fame in the village they just arrived to.
So how could we handle it? A good option is tracking trust. Apart from the difficult social interaction trust involves, the neurobiological structure of the brain and the chemicals inside may also play an important part. So modeling trust into a role playing game seems like a terrible idea, a cumbersome bookkeeping work with little benefit… let’s give it a try!
Guluk and Treb were exhausted. The two barbarians had finally found a nomadic settlement after several days wandering through the dessert. They didn’t really expect to be welcomed as heroes, although killing that nasty chaos beast which ate shamans for dinner certainly had made them famous in the region. Those goat riders however seemed to be in a less than friendly mood…
You can obviously simplify trust to the minimum (following the KISS principle), and treat it like any other ranked stat. This approach seems to have pleased many readers of ENWorld (http://www.enworld.org/forum/content.php?825-Steal-This-Rule-Trust), and it has some ideas worth mentioning. The article is very weak, the ideas being the usual ones for a reputation system, but I will try to squeeze some juice from them.
A goal in itself: Trust is a bidirectional relationship, so you just need to keep track of the trust of each NPC or organization. Before meeting, any NPC will have a standard trust rating according to the reputation of the party, higher if it is in line with the NPC moral, or lower if it is against it. In addition, if the party does not show trust to a NPC, that NPC will lower its trust rating towards the party.
Guluk and Treb were sated. Their god Orlanth should be really pleased to treat them with those servile nomads. Scaring a few predators of the dessert was the job of the day, got their unfair part of the share, and now they were sleeping with all their belongings tied to their bodies, just in case…
Stay where you are trusted: There are some benefits to a trusted hero. You know… discounts, free meals, friendly guides, and those kind of things. Getting trust may be a goal itself for the party, but after all the effort it takes, the party will be willing to get some return on their investment. This helps the DM to develop a community and recurring NPCs to give more depth to the campaign.
With a great trust comes a great responsibility: People who trust the party will ask them for help, try to get their services, or even choose them to rule their organizations! If they refuse, they will lose part of that trust…
Guluk and Treb were exhausted once again. Those ungrateful goat riders on their hideous mounts were hunting them! Did they really thought the two barbarians could take on a full broo raiding party? What if a couple of tirbesmen were killed, Guluk and Treb had saved all of them several times!
Well, I know, you can obviously do all this without a trust rating. As the good DMs all of you are, I’m sure you have already implemented some of these ideas. So what’s the point of this article? For me, the key part is to remember all the things that make the villagers begin to think in hiring some trolls to fight the adventurers out of their home.
Distrust generates distrust, ignoring people needs generates distrust, and boredom in small villages generates huge amounts of distrust towards everybody else… Players are usually do-gooders and expect everybody to love them. Offer them the benefits of trust, and begin to turn it against them if they grow too comfortable.
The shaman sat in silence. His people trusted him, his spirits would haunt the barbarians, their cries of pain would be heard from miles of distance, they would pay. Fair or not, it is what the tribe trusted him to do, and he knew trust is a dangerous thing to test…
I’ve been busy at work, and shooting my bow, so my 15mm terrain project goes too slowly. I did buy some 6cm trees in eBay (N HO scale), which are now glued to cents and waiting for a decent basing job.
I got 20 of them for less than 10€ including shipment costs, so I think they were a good investment. If you want the name of the seller, just leave me a comment 😉 .
Like with the marines before, good basing tips for those trees will be welcomed 🙂 . I need something easy, cheap and good-looking… I know, that’s too much.
Patrick Rothfuss + Numenera + Planescape
In addition to a bad photo of my trees, and begging for advice, I need to share something I found out today. Three worlds surprisingly close…
Patrick Rothfuss is a fantasy writer, author of two books of great success, part of an unfinished trilogy: The Name of the Wind, and The Wise Man’s Fear. I strongly recommend you to read them, great story with great characters. I’m eagerly waiting for the last volume of the trilogy which is already behind schedule, but nothing as painful as Mr. Martin’s neverending Game of Thrones…
I wrote about Numenera, one of the other worlds colliding, and how I missed its Kickstarter. It’s a new RPG by Monte Cook, which looks very good, although some of the last illustrations released were too ordinary fantasy. The setting describes a future world with lost technology which is similar to magic for those without the knowledge.
Planescape: Torment, the last of the three, was a computer RPG published in 1999, and had some of the best dialogues and stories every written for a computer game. From Wikipedia:
Planescape: Torment is primarily story-driven; combat is given less prominence than in most contemporary role-playing games. The protagonist, known as The Nameless One, is an immortal who has lived many lives but has forgotten all about them, even forgetting his own name. The game focuses on his journey through the city of Sigil and other planes to reclaim his memories of these previous lives. […]
The game was not a significant commercial success but received widespread critical praise and has since become a cult classic. It was lauded for its immersive dialogue, for the dark and relatively obscure Planescape setting, and for the protagonist’s unique persona, which shirked many characteristics of traditional role-playing games.
Of these three worlds, the one I’m more interested is in Patrick Rothfuss finishing his trilogy 🙂 . You could think it upsets me to read that he is working in this computer game instead of finishing my trilogy, but according to his blog, it may be speeding up the writing 😀 . Good news!