Wednesday, May 16, 2018

More About Rogaland's Dev-5 Culture

I'd like to try and get this post squeezed in today before I have to go do something else ... so I'll give it a try.

On the right, we see the rest of Rogaland, as it appears in a stage of 5 development (or "dev-5").  Haugaland, that we covered in the link, is not shown, is attached to the upper right corner of the map.

With Haugaland, we can loosely divide the region, or tribe, into four parts.

The clan of Harald, at the top of the map, is off by itself, and from the type-7 hex, we see that it isn't any more than a very obscure enclave.

At the bottom of the map, the two clans of Verda and Orre form an enclave around the lake of Orrevatnet.  Again, both are type-7; we may assume they are interrelated and friendly, but that is not necessarily so.

Finally, in the middle, surrounding the mouth of the Bokna Fjord, the large circle of water that surrounds the islands shown, we have four clans ~ Randa, Osthus, Loda and Skuden ~ and one actual village, Stavanger.

We can see that it is the end point of a circle of communication, which we presume extends overland to Verda-Orre and up the shoreline to Haugaland, pulling the Land of Roga together.  Stavanger is the only settlement ... all of these other hexes are clan lands, without agriculture, where hunters are able to sustain themselves on the rich natural game, fish and other forage that exists.  There's nothing here, except for Stavanger, that is different from what we learned about Haugaland.

I want to stress that this is in our favor.  By designating these places as "not much," we don't necessarily make them cookie-cutter replicates of each other.  All it gives is a very definite sense of what players would find there if they went: foragers, who fish a little and hunt a little, living a subsistance lifestyle.  It doesn't say every hex is the same!  A hex could have a special shaman in it, or an object that could wash up on the shore in only this hex, that the players could only find if they chose to explore there.  We are freed, however, of having to invent a whole culture from scratch in every one of these places.  These are basically all clans belonging to the same tribe, with the same basic beliefs, the same anthropological social structure, the same familiar foods and habits ... and representing something to the players that can be embraced as a reliable consistency that can be banked upon, exploited, used as crutch or however the players want to see it.  There's a weakness in making everything staggeringly different; the inconsistency becomes a malaise, which the characters just don't embrace.  We've all created a bit of something we consider imaginative and ready for adventure, to have experienced players respond to with a shrug.

There is something comfortable about consistency that we should not discard, thinking that everything about the game world has to be jazz hands and sparkly fire streamers.  Players are going to grow familiar anyway ... why not make your preparation process as a DM a bit easier by giving the players a bit of what they want?

Let me step out of that argument a moment and bring up the fact that there are no type-5 hexes here.  Even the settlement of Rogaland is type-6.  Type-5 hexes in a dev-5 culture are rare.  We can imagine them as a sort of sylvan paradise; the atmosphere that is usually associated with the elven settlements of Lorien or Rivendell.  Places where we do not have merely common beauty, like an emerald-green forest or a field of flowers, but startling, eye-popping beauty, with waterfalls, or magnificent oak trees hundreds of feet high and a thousand years old.  Where the fish leap out of the ponds and into your bucket.  Where the water is so fresh that your grandparents can taste it.  These would be places of pilgrimage; where the tribe would gather once every five years, or where the tribal chieftain would be crowned.  And they would be places where rare herbs were found, where faeries would congregate and remain in contact with the common tribe.

Most of all, and I cannot stress this enough ... not every part of the world would be lucky enough to have such a place.  Rogaland does not.  And before we move onto where we describe Rogaland as a more developed culture, a type-5 hex will have a different meaning. In a more sophisticated culture, a type-5 rural hex won't be occupied by hunters and gatherers; it will be occupied by people who till crops for living, who grow things.  Whatever the hex was when the land was mostly empty will have been altered.  There may be a sylvan  hex-block in such a culture ... but it won't be the sort of sylvan hex that exists in a completely hunter-gatherer culture.

Too, there's nothing that says that a sylvan hex has to be associated with any civilization.  Just as an eradicator monster such as a lich or a beholder can wipe out all life in a hex block to make a home, a faerie culture can expand life, making an obscure sylvan hex block as beautiful as an eradicator hex block is ugly.  The key is to imagine that the world makes sense, then to set up those hex blocks in a pattern that evokes adventure, rather than crushing it.

I need to talk about Stavanger, but time is running short.  I can put it in its own post.  This will suffice for now as content.