Thursday, May 24, 2018

Horik's Block

If you've not been following along with this series, you'll want to start with this index post, with a list of the foregoing content relative to what's written below.

There are still some threads I need to pull together before I can start creating an adventure around this old Stavanger village I've posited.  First, we need to return to those four keys that a village block ought to possess.  I'll just repeat them here, adjusting the language a bit.
  1. The block should service the players' needs.  In the construct of the world, think of the block as being a microservice ~ functioning as an application to provide for a particular need.  This could be a market, or an embarkation point, or a source of information, or whatever other everyday service we might expect the world to provide for the busy player on the go.
  2. The block should have a personality ... a recognizable, though interesting environment with a character that can be predicted, examined, interacted with and challenged, according to the basic "rules" of behavior and respect that the inhabitants require.
  3. The block should offer an opportunity for adventure.  Essentially, this means the presence of a conflict of some sort that the players might choose to resolve, if they're willing to risk failure.
  4. Finally, enacting the value the block provides, winning over the inhabitants and successfully resolving the conflict should "unlock" some sort of reward.

This Stavanger village from 892 is not the Stavanger of my world.  It is an exercise that I am employing in order to demonstrate block and adventure creation to the reader.  If this were my game, I would set up a few of these blocks initially, then add more as they were needed.  The concept of the module, where every block needs to be specified, is the model that says the DM should not learn how to fish, but to let others do the fishing so the DM can eat.  My purpose is to teach the DM how to fish ... and I don't need to make every block here in order to do that.

I would like to make seven blocks; this will enable seven types of reward, as stipulated by the link above: wealth, toys, power, status, novelty, enlightenment and purpose.

Because I intend to go through this process with each development level of Stavanger that I intend to show going forward, over the next few months, I'll ask the reader to continue to imagine running characters that are very low-tech and crude in terms of both motivation and worldliness.  Let's say the player characters are all fighters, all from the clan of Sand in Haugaland.  We can make more sophisticated parties later, when we discuss more sophisticated environments.

Let's start with this hex.  On the above map, it would be 0302.  This is the hunter's lodge, or perhaps more correctly the chieftain's lodge.  The residents of the hex are overwhelmingly of the Sauda clan; most of the lodge itself is Sauda, or owe fealty directly to the chief.  This numbers about 55 persons.  Three of the sod houses are Sauda; the other three belong to the Loda clan. While the Sauda also stretch into other hexes, these three sod houses are the whole Loda clan in all of Stavanger.  All of about 15 persons.

Now, remember, this hex is only 435 feet across. That's 142 yards.  I used to be able to run the 100 yard dash in just over 12 seconds, when I was in Junior High School track.  So remember how small this area represents.  And yet, seeing the map, having a grasp of the scale, we can imagine we're here, can't we.  We can see the boats moored on the mud flat, the grass roofs of the houses; the smell of the trees as we lean against the side of the lodge.  That's the sort of tactile understanding we want.

We can talk about the smell of the fish drying, or the fish guts, which are used to attract sea birds that are then killed.  But really, we should talk about what sort of person the chieftain is.  Remember, point 2 is that the hex should have a personality.  The personality of this hex relies on the chieftain's character.  As I said, we have those 24 motivations to choose from, each positive or negative; we want to start there.

Because this Stavanger was founded only 20 years before, and because we know it is going to develop into an important city, I'll visualize this chieftain ~ we'll call him Horik ~ as possessing social intelligence.  That is, he's empathic of others, and he's very concerned with directing the behaviour of his people towards a better, more comfortable life.  Horik has some understanding that a better existence involves everyone working to improve the village, make it more secure, promote the birth rate, build new and better boats (though how is an issue) and bring everyone else to his way of thinking.

He isn't any smarter than his people, but he knows that others are smarter and he knows a good future is in acquiring knowledge.  But he doesn't know how to read, or do much of anything, except to hunt.  And thus we are setting up a conflict: Horik wants, but he doesn't know how to get.  And between Horik and the village, he sees, but the rest of the village potentially does not.

Horik's block is the most diligent.  The Sauda work hard, as do the Loda ~ though the former are hunters and the latter are fisher folk.  There's virtually no conflict with these two groups.  There is a conflict with the rest of the village.  Most of the clans support Horik and such, but there are six young men ("bully boys") in the village that do not.  Four of these are Orre clan; one is Erfjord; the last is a Verda boy.  The chieftain Horik has had trouble with these; but he doesn't want to start a clan war and he needs everyone.

As the party arrives in Stavanger, they are pressed to visit Horik and declare themselves.  They may wish to visit their relatives first, but these are distant relatives and what there might be to say is put off in favor of letting the chief know there are strangers in Stavanger.  The party meets Horik, hopefully acts properly (respectful, supportive, curious, perhaps moderately generous in giving a gift if it occurs to anyone), and Horik offers his hospitality for one night.

So, we have conflict; and we have personality.  The party watches everyone work to make a meal ready for 100 people and wins respect for themselves if they help.  They win respect if they ask good questions. They win respect if they give a gift.  They win respect if they listen to what others have to say and do as they're told.  The puzzle here is for the party to win respect.

If they get it, they will hear a story, told during dinner, by several Sauda clanspersons.  The party is seated no where near Horik, but everyone talks about the chief.

About two months ago, the bully boys were told to rebuild one of the enclosure fences, a defensive line make with brush and thorns, near the clan of Harald.  About a week later, a big wolf broke through that defense and killed a six year old child belonging to the Harald clan.  Everyone suspects that it happened because the bully boys slacked off and didn't properly mend the fence.  But no one knows for sure.  And now the issue has hung over the village like a cloud, without anyone knowing how to resolve it, Horik included.

The available reward here is STATUS.  Status comes in many forms.  Winning respect is one.  It lets you be recognized by clan leaders, who then treat you well, and potentially share information.  It makes what you say matter to the listener.  It entitles you to stay in Stavanger, and to come and go as you please, knowing that when you return you'll be welcome.

Having privileges given is much more.  Privilege gives the right to do things, like build a house, walk freely around the town, teach others how to do things, take part in hunting parties, ask for a place to sleep, sit near the chief and thus speak freely with him.  Eventually, you may be allowed to build here.  Or marry someone.  And have your children be considered part of the tribe.

In a role-playing game based on only this much technology, these things are very, very important.  Not having them means being completely outcast.  There is no other village in Rogaland; and the next village might be no more advanced.  It might be run by a real bastard, and you'll have no clan of your own that you can turn to if you're in trouble.  You really don't know what's out there, because this is 9th century Europe and things like trade, learning, an abundance of food, even actual population centers, are very few and very far between.  Most of Europe hasn't been founded yet; and it's a long, long way to the parts that are, without roads.  It's very important that the people around here like you.

So Status is something that you're going to want.  And the person who can grant it is Horik.  So in effect, you need him a lot more than he needs you.  He has a whole village under his control?  What have you got?