Adventure ideas needed

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Marras
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Adventure ideas needed

Post by Marras » 13 Feb 2015, 03:54

I have been slowly building my test game setting and I bumped to a writer's block about how to kick off the game (when beta comes available). So, if you have any ideas, please share :)

The basic outline of the setting is sort of pseudo Italy transferred to an island. The island is not a nation but it has six (6) competing city states. I decided to set my adventure to one of those city states called Ralorna.

Ralorna is a port city and a commercial powerhouse a bit like Venice. I am not yet sure if canals are predominant feature of Ralorna or not. The city is ruled by 7 major noble houses that elect a duke to act as the supreme ruler for a term of 4 years with possibility of unlimited re-election.

As a general idea I wanted to use some sort of rivalry between two noble houses as a catalyst and generator for things to happen in the game. Here are the best candidates.

I have decided to have firearms in this game but I suppose it doesn't affect the general ideas for adventures.

House 1. Manordo

House Manordo is the oldest surviving noble family in Ralorna and it can trace it's roots all the way back to founding of the city. The house is in the decline due to almost complete wreck of their (merchant) fleet and the death of the heir. Fortunately the head of the house is still in condition to act and his son had two children before his death. Children are a 20 year old daughter and a 16 year old son. The 60 year old patriarch of the house sent away his son's widow as they never got along. The widow still has too much influence over her children for the patriarch's liking.

The daughter is planned to be married to a better off family and the son is groomed to be a new heir. Still, the children are just pawns in the game between the patriarch and the widow.

House 2. Tramora

House Tramora is the newest noble house being originally a merchant family but got to a noble status by marrying to an old noble family that withered away. Tramora is rich but has some nasty rumors about their dealings (of which some are true). Their influence is comparatively low but the drive for significance is great.

House Tramora has a young son as a heir. They might want to marry him and the daughter of house Manordo when he comes of age and then get rid of the heir to house Manordo. But that is still some years to future.

House 3. Lorano

House Lorano doesn't own a fleet but they have money and make more of it by loaning it. In a sense they are bankers. At the moment they just run their business without immediate threat to their future.

The family has a heir a some spare sons but also daughters that house Manordo would like to get their heir to marry to.
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higgins
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Re: Adventure ideas needed

Post by higgins » 13 Feb 2015, 08:02

Great setup! Here's the very first question that comes to mind:

Are the players expected to take over some of these mentioned characters? Because if they are, that's brilliant!

If there is a single defining feature across all the games that I've enjoyed the most in the past, it's just this kind of "restrictive" setup.

Not only does constraint breed creativity, but this kind of setup gives players a framework beyond just the setting, which makes the allies, acquaintances, enemies and goals they create for their character ten times as relevant as they would be otherwise.

In essence, you're not waiting for your players to come up with the concept of a Band, but you've already provided one for them, which is a totally valid approach in my book.

Now, my main suggestion would be for you to compile a comprehensive list of options for the playable characters, including some wildcards where players can have some free reign, but still be tied into the defined ensemble thus far. For example:

a) Either of the House Manordo children
b) Majordomo (and the right hand man) of the aging Patriarch of House Manordo
c) Any member of the House Tramora
d) Any member of the House Loran
e) A prospective groom for the daughter of House Manordo

Notice that E could be run on its own, or it could be combined with C or D. Or even with a secret B. Or an obsessive B, depending on the game's tone.

And depending on how you prefer to run things, you might even allow the Patriarch and Widow to be played. Or not.

You can add additional options such as "a bastard of any of the three houses" but you have to be careful as you're giving way to the possibilities of players opting out for the agreed social circle. So, if anyone would be playing such bastard (no pun intended), (s)he'd have to be tightly knit in the family affairs for whatever the reason.

Damn, that's a good setup. I'd play it in a heartbeat! :twisted:
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Re: Adventure ideas needed

Post by Marras » 13 Feb 2015, 09:45

Thanks for suggestions, Higgins!

For some reason I always thought that PCs would be more of the hired help than so directly involved. Now that you put it this way, I think it would have a merit to have part of the PCs more or less established like you suggested.

I think a bastard might be appropriate for house Manordo to have as a trusted retainer. Maybe that bastard is even plotting with the widow?

So far I have thought to reserve house Tramora as "bad guys" so if PCs act like normal PCs then they will show up more. But a prospective groom from House Loran might be an interesting option. Actually, if players create those as their characters things could take a very nice twist that I couldn't see coming (always nice bit for a GM).

Feedback got me even more excited about this but please, keep suggestions and questions coming. Those will help me define the setting even more.
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Re: Adventure ideas needed

Post by higgins » 13 Feb 2015, 11:51

Marras wrote:I think a bastard might be appropriate for house Manordo to have as a trusted retainer. Maybe that bastard is even plotting with the widow?
Yes, although it would probably greatly depend on who's bastard are we dealing with. The bastard could be the Patriarch's, or it could be the widow's late husband's... in which case the co-operation would probably be nebulous at best. :lol:

The reason I mention this is that the leeway given with the bastard's role could be a problem, if not handled correctly. For example, we had a game about court intrigue where one of the possible character choices was "a noble in the city" ... Every other player chose a distinct family from the setting, but fourth guy chose the random noble route. The character he made was legit in every way, had the right connections, etc, but somehow just didn't have high enough ambition to ever really ally or clash with the other characters who were much more active in the politics and intrigue.

Basically imagine three characters being involved in international espionage with murder plots and high treason that would shake the realm to its core... And then the fourth guy holding incriminating, crown-shattering evidence deciding to play it low key and deal with petty blackmail to profit in minor ways.

So, whatever you decide to allow, make sure that there's a "tightly knit to the three core families" clause in the more vague options.
Marras wrote:So far I have thought to reserve house Tramora as "bad guys"
Bad blood rarely runs throughout the entire family and keep in mind that since the whole ensemble profits from trade, all three families have at least some common interests in mind. So, instead of writing one of them off as "bad", you could try coming up with established goals for each of the houses, which should ideally:

a) be relatively short term
b) clash
Marras wrote:Feedback got me even more excited about this but please, keep suggestions and questions coming. Those will help me define the setting even more.
The initial beta won't be including the GM section, but one tool we're definitely include is the three whys. Some of which you have already answered here. Let's take house Manordo and take its main established goal.

House Manordo has decided to marry off their daughter.

Why?
Their house is almost bankrupt.

Why?
They lost both their merchant fleet and their heir in a storm.

Why?
Okay, the... Impersonal nature of a natural disaster thing makes this last why a bit difficult, but we can try and come up with something. Perhaps...

...the heir was bragging and reckless, much like his son.
...blinded by profits, the patriarch insisted on a more direct route.
...the doom of House Manordo was foretold by the Duke's witch.

Pick one, or write your own. Then follow up with the other two houses. :)
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Re: Adventure ideas needed

Post by Marras » 14 Feb 2015, 06:00

higgins wrote:Yes, although it would probably greatly depend on who's bastard are we dealing with. The bastard could be the Patriarch's, or it could be the widow's late husband's... in which case the co-operation would probably be nebulous at best. :lol:
Good point! I am still thinking about the bastard being the Patriarch's who is very (blood) family first. So he took care of his bastard despite what his late wife said. But I have to think about it.
Basically imagine three characters being involved in international espionage with murder plots and high treason that would shake the realm to its core... And then the fourth guy holding incriminating, crown-shattering evidence deciding to play it low key and deal with petty blackmail to profit in minor ways.

So, whatever you decide to allow, make sure that there's a "tightly knit to the three core families" clause in the more vague options.
As I don't know anything about your group I would easily "blame" the lack of ambition on player as that would be the case in my group. The bastard would hold a position within the House even if he is never going to inherit a noble status. So he still will have some interest to operate for or against his House.
Bad blood rarely runs throughout the entire family and keep in mind that since the whole ensemble profits from trade, all three families have at least some common interests in mind. So, instead of writing one of them off as "bad", you could try coming up with established goals for each of the houses, which should ideally:

a) be relatively short term
b) clash
They are not bad like evil I was more like thinking that they would be a common enemy for PCs. I would love to have intra party conflicts but that sort of stuff kind of ended my previous game. Over all I rarely if ever run games with clear black and white but rather everything is shades of gray, including PCs.
The initial beta won't be including the GM section, but one tool we're definitely include is the three whys. Some of which you have already answered here. Let's take house Manordo and take its main established goal.

House Manordo has decided to marry off their daughter.

Why?
Their house is almost bankrupt.

Why?
They lost both their merchant fleet and their heir in a storm.

Why?
Okay, the... Impersonal nature of a natural disaster thing makes this last why a bit difficult, but we can try and come up with something. Perhaps...

...the heir was bragging and reckless, much like his son.
...blinded by profits, the patriarch insisted on a more direct route.
...the doom of House Manordo was foretold by the Duke's witch.

Pick one, or write your own. Then follow up with the other two houses. :)
Actually I had written that part down already but I didn't have time to include that to the original post. The fleet got lost partly by storms and rest got raided by pirates. The heir was aboard a raided ship and got killed.

Why did pirates kill the heir instead of ransoming him? Pirates were part of House Tramora crew and the heir could have recognized them and thus he had to dies as well as other crew. I am not yet certain if all raided ships were sunk or not.

I have to think similar whys for those two other families as well.

Thanks!
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Re: Adventure ideas needed

Post by higgins » 14 Feb 2015, 11:55

Marras wrote:As I don't know anything about your group I would easily "blame" the lack of ambition on player as that would be the case in my group.
Yes, that was my very point. The concept of the bastard isn't bad in itself, but it is loose enough for a miscommunication to make it a problem. Like... imagine if the player of the bastard decided to pull a Jon Snow on you and head off in a completely different direction, or more realistically in your setting, deciding that he was an outsider due to his status and surrounding himself with NPCs that have nothing to do with the core families. As long as you make clear that doing so will essentially cut him off from the rest of the players and the main action, the concept of a bastard should not be problem.

In short, if the allowed concept is kind of loose, you need to double and triple check the character in question to make sure that some odd assumption or a miscommunication won't spin him in a whole other direction compared to the others.
Marras wrote:Actually I had written that part down already but I didn't have time to include that to the original post. The fleet got lost partly by storms and rest got raided by pirates. The heir was aboard a raided ship and got killed.

Why did pirates kill the heir instead of ransoming him? Pirates were part of House Tramora crew and the heir could have recognized them and thus he had to dies as well as other crew. I am not yet certain if all raided ships were sunk or not.
Oh, nice! That definitely ups the stakes. I like it.
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Re: Adventure ideas needed

Post by Marras » 14 Feb 2015, 17:43

higgins wrote: In short, if the allowed concept is kind of loose, you need to double and triple check the character in question to make sure that some odd assumption or a miscommunication won't spin him in a whole other direction compared to the others.
I will keep this in mind, thanks for the tip!

I think I will introduce the bastard as a sort of floating character. If he stays as NPC he will be a bastard of Stephano Manordo (the Patriarch). If he is taken as a PC I will let the player choose if he is a bastard of Stephano or Matias (the dead heir). I like the point that this affects how Maureta (the widow) will deal with him.

In any case the bastard will be integral to Manordo family so he should have a place in the story. How it ends up depends on the player, if chosen as a PC.

Here are some more goals.

Joakino Tramora (head of House Tramora, a widow):

Get married with daughter of an older noble house. Why? To better the standing of the family and to get more children with more established noble blood. Why? Standing of the House Tramora is still a bit shaky. Why? Joakino has only one child and Joakino's father rised the status of their family from a merchant family to a nobility, not to mention all those nasty rumours.

Maureta Orlado (widow of Matias Manordo, of House Orlado)

1. Get Tiana Manordo (her daughter) married to Joakino Tramora. Why? To get help from House Tramora against House Verreeda. Why? Houses Orlado and Verreeda having been feuding for generations. Why? Because of land disputes at the countryside.

2. Ruin Stephano Manordo. Why? Stephano sent her away from her children. Why? Stephano never seemed to like Maureta. Why? He always thought that Maureta was just a schemer but allowed the marriage as he wanted his son to be happy.

Now I noticed that I have already drawn two more noble families to upcoming conflict. I guess I have to begin to write some motivations for those too.
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Re: Adventure ideas needed

Post by higgins » 14 Feb 2015, 19:30

This is good stuff. Just make sure you're not going overboard with creating factions... You added two families and the scheming widow essentially makes a sixth faction on her own.

I'm not familiar with your group, but you definitely need to take into account their attention span, the estimated length of the campaign and... the planned frequency of the gaming nights (as in, how much will they forget between the sessions).

So, my advice here I would be to flesh out the core three families first and then estimate whether the ensemble is sufficient to run this kind of intrigue. Chasing realism, you don't really want all the plotlines to be scattered too wide. If you can, meld similar factions and characters. Their repeated use and recurrence in different situations only makes them stronger.

Also, with the number of factions growing broader, you also risk the chance of players being more apart in-game. Now, this isn't as much of a problem if you game online, but for a tabletop session, unless you have some technique of handling separate storylines and keeping everyone engaged that I'm not aware of, you probably don't want them striving too far from each other.
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Re: Adventure ideas needed

Post by Marras » 14 Feb 2015, 20:23

All are more than valid points, Higgins.

Frankly, I had a bit second thoughts about including all those factions in this story. Not really because of the reasons you mentioned but because the whole plot tends to grow to ten times as big in players' minds as it really is :)

Of course now that you mention it, with our current rate of gaming players will probably forget many of the things between the sessions. Although I have thought about using a shared document stored in a cloud to serve as a common notebook about various factions, NPCs and what has happened.

In any case Houses Orlado and Verreeda will be just NPC factions if I will include them at all. Perhaps Maureta will be a daughter of minor country nobility? At the moment a heir to Lorano family is engaged to marry a Verreeda to make things more complicated to have him marry Tiana. I will probably keep him as engaged but to a daughter of a minor noble as well.

It is so good to have a sounding board to these ideas as it have been quite some time since I have really put my mind to build factions and a good basis for a sandbox where I set my players loose :) Thanks again!
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Re: Adventure ideas needed

Post by higgins » 16 Feb 2015, 05:29

Cloud document could work, but I've found that having players recap "the plot so far" at the beginning of each session works far better. Not only will they pool what they recall, but they also get into the mood much quicker. Plus it gives you an insight on what they have liked the most so far, as they reveal the things they've paid the most attention to. :)
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Re: Adventure ideas needed

Post by Marras » 16 Feb 2015, 09:57

That's a good idea. I have sometimes used this to some extent but then we managed to play much more frequently than these days. I never thought to analyze it that way that what players remember best is what they liked most. I have to use that in future.

I updated Maureta's first goal but I am not entirely certain that it is good enough. But here it is: Get Tiana married to Joakino Tramora. Why? To sabotage Stephano Manordo's plans. Why? Maureta wants to keep a grip on her daughter and not let Stephano be in charge. Why? Maureta wants to raise her status using Tiana.

I also added a new NPC to flesh out House Lorano.

Augustino Lorano (head of House Lorano)

Augustino wants to disrupt Joakino Tramora's plans as much as possible. Why? To keep House Tramora from gaining more power and status. Why? Because he believes House Tramora is a threat to his House. Why? As both Houses are rich and that is their "niche" their interests collide.

Now I think that I have all the major Players in place. Next step is putting some game mechanics stuff there, but it happens when Beta is released. Fortunately I still have plenty to do before that. Houses need more detail written down. How much detail you usually use with factions? Number of household troops? Resources?

I also have to put more details to city of Ralorna itself like draw some sort of map. I am still wondering what kind of map it will end up being. I might use a pretty abstract one that uses some sort of descriptors like in FATE rather than more conventional map.
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Re: Adventure ideas needed

Post by higgins » 16 Feb 2015, 15:27

Marras wrote:That's a good idea. I have sometimes used this to some extent but then we managed to play much more frequently than these days. I never thought to analyze it that way that what players remember best is what they liked most. I have to use that in future.
Between this and SAs, you should rarely wonder where their interests lie. :)
Marras wrote:Augustino wants to disrupt Joakino Tramora's plans as much as possible.
Making this more distinct would give it way more punch. Don't just say what the goal is, say what the plan is, like you did with the others. You already improved the such details with Maureta. Now do it again with Augustino. Most likely, you won't even have to rewrite your whys. ;)
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Re: Adventure ideas needed

Post by Marras » 16 Feb 2015, 16:12

I think this is already what I had in mind when writing Augustino's goal. His goal is to get one of his sons married to Tiana Manordo.

As his eldest son is already engaged with someone else he will offer the next eldest son but as this is not good enough for Stephano it will generate some nice something to work on :)

Thanks Higgins! I suppose now all the major Players have their goals set. Next step is to further define the factions and also make some broad personality choices for these Players that will be the basis for their SAs. Or are NPCs supposed to have SAs?
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Re: Adventure ideas needed

Post by Marras » 17 Feb 2015, 07:12

A quick addition.

I made a short list of possible playable characters. Some of them will be a bit problematic and I have to make sure that players understand this before choosing them. I think I have to list some more as possibilities just in case players don't like these options or I happen to get more than four players.

Here is the initial list by faction.

House Manordo
* Paolo, a 16 years old heir to the House
* Vico, a 30 years old bastard of Stephano Manordo. Current head of House guard
* Dego, a 40 years old Majordomo, the right hand of Stephano

House Tramora
* Antonio, a 25 years old brother of Joakino Tramora

House Lorano
* Gino, a 19 years old heir to the House
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Re: Adventure ideas needed

Post by higgins » 17 Feb 2015, 17:30

I notice that all the playable characters are male. Aren't there any female gamers in your group? Getting a player on Tiana would be a gold mine.
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