Monday, August 1, 2016

Vagabond: Gaming Edition Version

Welcome to Vagabond Gaming edition! I debated including some ideas on how I’d use Vagabond in my previous post but decided I wanted that to just sit as its own post as a review of the book. Any opinions on that or is it better to just keep review and inspiration ideas all together? Sound off in the comments!

Note, a lot of what I pull from most sources, isn’t necessarily for dungeon crawl games. It’s not that I have anything against such games, far from it. It’s also some advice that you may have read before. Perhaps even here on this very blog!

But when reading books, most don’t involve dungeons at all. Most involve characters and locations and when you enjoy a book and can bring the elements of the book you enjoy to the table? That’s a win.

Names: “As well as Hellgiver and Widowmaker, thee was Stone-Hurler, Crusher, Gravedigger, Stonewhip, Spiteful, Destroyer and Hand of God.” In the book these are the names given to siege weapons but damn, don’t they sound powerful? They give each siege weapon their own identity outside of siege weapons one through nine.

Names can also be descriptive in terms of the person they belong to. Beggar for example. “…but Beggar was an enormous man, a shambling giant with a face so bearded that his nose and eyes alone could be see through the tangled, crusted hair beneath the brim of the rusted iron cap that served as a helmet.”

Languages: I appreciate that almost every fantasy and science fiction setting includes a “common” tongue or a “trade” language. But it the real world that’s such nonsense eh? Even if you give players a “trade” tongue, keep an eye out for how you can use other languages in your game. At this point in England’s history, the French language is seen as a “noble” language. Latin is a “scholar” language. English itself may be a common tongue but it’s the vulgar one if so.

Give ethnicities their own languages and have them use it to communicate amongst themselves in front of the players. Give one culture historical reasons why it doesn’t like speaking another culture’s languages.

Holidays: There are numerous named days for various saints. These peppering of saints’ names throughout the book act in a few manners, but one of them is to tell the passage of time.  Other holidays may be very localized. For example, in Thomas’ old village, they used to drown rats on ships at high tide from boats weighed down with stones and those rats that sought escape, it would be similar to the old Simpson’s “Snake Whacking Day”. Hey, there was no television back in those days!

Freedom of Choice and Consequences From Freedom of Choice: I’m sure there’s a better way to say this so sound off in the comments if you have one.
At the start of Vagabond, Thomas is on a mission to retrieve information on the Grail from an elderly priest. He decides instead that he’s going to hang around and fight and sends his lover and friend to get that information. 

By not choosing to go, Thomas unintentionally gets his lover and friend killed. See, in a “living” setting, the bad guys are doing things too.

The villains of the campaign, especially one that’s not a dungeon crawl, should never be sitting around sighing that their bored waiting for the hero to come and kill them. They should be doing their own things and these things should be on a set schedule that can change as the setting changes.

For example, if Thomas has gone, the book would have taken a much different turn as Thomas would lose half his motivation for the rest of the book and might actually be done in about a third of the pages!

In your own campaigns, are there situations that require the players to be in two places at once? If they don’t go to both, what happens? A lot of the older adventurers set up adventures with rumor wheels but often, nothing happened regardless of which order the players took the challenges.

If you have time, don’t do that. Update the rumors. Change things up. Make sure the players know that the world is not waiting on them to do things.

Destroy Your Village: The small village Thomas comes from is an overgrown ruin. It was destroyed in a raid. Animals have taken over. How many times has a traditional Dungeons and Dragons campaign started in a small village that couldn’t handle a wild owlbear much less a powerful foe? When the players leave the village and if they ever return, have it destroyed. Showcase the power of something like a dragon or wizard who were something for something the characters were rumored to have left there in the past.

Places changes. People change. Settings change. Sink Waterdeep and think about how that changes the power structure in the north. Do the sea elves and merfolk take over the drowned ruins? Do aquatic dragons guard the still shielded libraries? Modern ruins are much more relevant to characters than ancient ones because there is a personal connection to them.

Vagabond has a lot going for it. If you’re one of those who picks up on different bits when you’re reading, it’s well worth the read.