What? Another manor in Kaldor? |
The last oneÖI think.
With Blixthís final publication, Iím left with only Medtald to complete Fethael Hundred. The problem is that Iím lacking the time and motivation to go through the manor creation process one last time.
Medtald was designed to be the bridge into the ďThird ActĒ of the campaign. The Gazetteer set up Medtald with the idea of having a succession problem ala King Lear. I restructured the campaign last year, cutting a lot of the second act out. This leaves Medtald without a theme to center it on. I had a similar, but smaller, problem with Blixth and muscled through.
Medtald is just going to have to wait. Iím not sure what itís waiting for but Iím sure time and inspiration. Most importantly to me, Iíve got to shift focus and get the campaign up to the point where Medtald is needed for the plot instead of just being filler.
Getting back into gear
It's been a while since I've had the time and inclination to write my own stuff. I'm still having
fun writing with Harn Writers' Group but it's nice to return home to Fethael Hundred, so to speak. The last couple of years
have flown by. New jobs, more school, bad bosses, new bosses, graduation, and promotion; everything blends together. It's been
fun, but I've finally found the time to get back to the manors and adventures that I started over five years ago!
The latest burst of creativity started when I arranged to have lunch with Brian McNeilly in Vancouver. It was a questionable pub for lunch,
but the meeting was great and the conversation got me thinking about finishing some of the things I'd started.
Elmeze had lain in a
state of near completion for years. I'd been toying with the financial model of a tourney knight and, although I still don't have
it perfected, the manor and
its adventure (which has nothing to do with tournaments) is now ready for release.
Since the original group of playtesters wandered off to Tashal and bigger things, I've been at a loss for how to continue the
original Knights of Kaldor campaign. The original plan had been for the knights to ride into the Sorkin Mountains, find the cairn
deal with the Agrikans, survive the dragon, and come back as heroes. The trouble was/is that taking the group that far outside of the
Hundred shatters the local campaign model that I've worked so hard to build.
So instead of pushing a weak position, I went back to the drawing board. I'm working on a mini-campaign set completely in the Hundred,
that started out as a series of events Allan Prewett ran for his group. This series of adventures will use all of the background of Fethael
Hundred and could be used as an introductory adventure, set in a campaign timeline before the Letters of Arlin. I hate issuing teasers, but there
What? Another manor in Kaldor?
Yes children, I am going to clean off my desk and release the
all of the manors in Fethael Hundred. I started this very
ambitious project over Christmas 2003 with some notes on what
would become the Knights of Kaldor plot. The Fethael Hundred
Gazetteer followed in early 2004. From then until now, scores of
emails and phone calls have kept the project rolling along. As a
writer, I can tell you that nothing keeps you motivated more
than a support group of folks that are interested in what you
are doing and are happy to help.
The project has succeeded because of a number of happy
coincidences. I'd come up with a good draft of the FHG and
was starting to get into the Getha article when the
HârnForum got me linked
up with Robert Barfield, an old friend who I hadn't been able to
find for years. Robert had just retired and I was able to tap
into his wealth of Hârn knowledge to make up the macro-plan,
especially the economic balance of the Hundred. His views on the
Laranian church also helped shape Lethyl Abbey and the chapter
houses of Hakstyn and Jenkald.
While Robert and I were figuring out how trade and services
flowed around Fethael Hundred, I was tinkering with a Thonahexus
article on Building a Manor. I contacted a HârnForum member
named George Kelln, who had posted a detailed account on the
manpower and time needed to build a manor house. It turned out
that George is also a talented map maker and he jumped right in
and drew interior and exterior maps.
In addition to the manor articles, I had created an overview
of the campaign I called the Knights of Kaldor (KoK). I posted
the FHG and the KoK Overview on
Lythia.com in March 2004. As a result, another HârnForum
denizen, Allan Prewett, contacted me. He had a group of players.
I had a campaign. It worked. Allan not only runs the play-test
group, he also gives a lot of creative input.
Over the following months there have been many people that have helped keep
me going. I can't hope to remember all the names but I thank them for caring
enough to write encouraging words and constructive comments.
Local campaigns use a small geographic area for the setting. The small geographical scale encourages intimacy,
re-use, and continual conflict. The players benefit from living in a fantasy world as opposed to moving through it.
They are able to build inter-personal relationships with NPCs through continued interaction. They are also able to create
their own characters within the setting's recurring events and more deeply developed locations. All this detail enables a
richly interwoven plot without forcing too much information at the players at once. Plot threads lead players from location
to location without railroading.
The scenario is built in three layers: strategic, tactical, and personal. Strategic level hooks remind the PCs that the
setting is bigger than they are. These are events that the PCs observe from a distance but that impact them from a broad
perspective. I developed these hooks from the region's unfolding meta-plot, as described in the HÂRNDEX and canon kingdom
modules. I decided to work with the Kaldoric Patriot Movement, friction between the Indamas and the Dariunes, and the vague
command relationship between the Order of the Spear of Shattered Sorrow and the Order of the Lady of Paladins.
Tactical level hooks come from the campaign's plot line. These challenges require the group's combined talents to solve or
overcome as the players pursue their goals. As vassals of the Sheriff of Neph, the PCs start the campaign pursuing bandits. In
addition to their "day job," they find themselves attending the social and religious events that make up the life of a young
nobleman. Fighting bandits becomes tougher and tougher, as they are pitted against an organized band of outlaws that have a dark
While the other levels could be crafted, personal level hooks are allowed to emerge from the combination of the character
history and the setting. This level uses the detailed setting extensively. For example, the romances that have blossomed between
the player characters and local noble women provide motivation for the PCs to seek glory. Another example is the enmity between
the player characters and a jealous young knight from a local manor. In both cases, the player characters are bumping into these
hooks whenever they have a moment that they're not "saving the world."
Ideally what happens during campaign play is that the player characters are fully engaged with tactical level hooks.
Strategic level hooks occur sporadically, bringing new villains and obstacles into the campaign's scope. While personal level
hooks fill in the blank spaces between the larger dramatic events. I think the appearance of personal level hooks is the
difference between moving through a game setting and living in one.
Developmentally, a local campaign is easier to write, as locations in a small region share a lot of characteristics. I
approached the creation of the campaign and setting from "the top down." Writing the settings from the "top-down" allowed me to
see the effect that one idea might have on the rest of the locations. I started by writing a plot overview (Knights of Kaldor
Overview), filling in blanks while writing the setting overview (Fethael Hundred Gazetteer). Next, a hundred-level economic
model was constructed. This model helped emphasize the inter-dependency of the manors in the area. The population of Fethael
Hundred is small and each manor relies on trade with its neighbors. Once I knew where all of the craftsmen were, I created
article shells for each location and adventure. This way I could add to articles as I wrote.
The hardest part in creating a quest campaign is keeping the PCs interested in following the quest through to the end. I've
played several linear campaigns where the group got bored and headed off to explore a blank spot on the map. Once the framework
had been constructed, I wrote the locations that would feature throughout the campaign. The prologue set the "big hook,"
provided some background hints, and hinted at the identity of the main villain. After the prologue, I wrote the ending so that
events could build toward a point. With the campaign's plot anchored at both ends, I started writing the adventure articles from
the beginning, filling in details and foreshadowing clues where needed.