Saturday, May 18, 2019

The Lost Treasure of...

Going on an expedition for lost treasure is a staple of adventure stories, from Indiana Jones to the Argonauts.  It's an easy formula, which is why it works: a prize to inspire you, a journey to find it, trouble along the way.

Signs in the Wilderness is about the bright future that lies ahead, opportunity for those bold enough to take it.  Treasure is one of the great opportunities that drives an entire campaign.  (Previously we looked at a gold rush and a great migration.)

For a treasure hunt, first you need to know what you're hunting:

Treasure (d8)
1-3lots of valuables(d6) 1: gold doubloons, 2: silver dollars, 3: rings, necklaces, and other jewelry, 4: diamonds/rubies/emeralds/sapphires, 5: paper money or certificates, 6: set of identical statuettes/carvings
4-6single piece of artwork(d6) 1: statue/figurine/mask of stone, jade, ivory, or gold, 2: painting/tapestry, 3: crown/scepter, 4: large gemstone, 5: intricate necklace, 6: chalice/bowl/cauldron
7-8miscellaneous(d6) 1: taxidermied body of an unknown creature, 2: book of secret knowledge, 3: ancient sword, 4: ship, 5: bones of a saint/ancestor, probably wrapped or in a decorated container, 6: great new invention

A good treasure needs a name.  It's going to be talked about a lot, from gossip to newspapers to ancient clues, so be sensational.  Some names to get you started:
The Scepter of Ranava, the Lost Treasure of Bear Canyon, the Chalice of the Flying Serpent, the Beacon of the Dawn, the Tapestry of the Green Temple, the Accursed Emerald, Captain Hill's Treasure, the True Relic, the Silver of the Seven Shrines, the loot from the Ten Century Heist, the Great Wonder of the North, the Ivory Standard, the Empress of the Isles, the Thirty-Seven Certificates...

What you'll have to do to find this treasure depends on how it got lost in the first place.  Roll to see how it was lost, which might suggest the type of clues left behind as to its whereabouts:

Lost (d8)clues
1lost by accidentshipwreck, wagon went off a cliff, fell overboard during a storm, left behind when its keepers were driven offthere might have been survivors, someone recorded/remembers them passing by, the owner of the vessel/treasure knows where it should have gone
2deliberately hiddenburied/hidden/disguised to keep it away from the law, tax collectors, pirates/bandits, enemies in warthey might still be alive, left clues/map for their allies/heirs to recover it
3keepers are gonekept in its usual spot, but everyone who knew about it died, could be recently lost or from an ancient civilization rumors that they had a treasure, historical clues about who they were and where they lived, accounts from those who saw it on display
4stolendiscovered and taken to a private collection, stolen while in transitwitnesses and survivors, signs of a break-in, someone tried to sell it
5-8complicatedIt was lost one way, then lost even further another way.  Roll (d4) for each.

If this treasure isn't sounding fantastic enough yet, roll up an exciting fact or two about it.  The treasure needs to be so important that adventurers might risk their lives for it.

Significance (d12)
1many treasure hunters have lost everything seeking it, both fortune and blood
2many people have died defending it or keeping it hidden
3reputed to have magical or healing powers
4religious/ceremonial: from a shrine, long used in political ceremonies, too sacred to gaze upon, etc.
5from the founding ancestor of a tribe/lineage/city
6from a major historical event: famous explorer, major battle, day of peacemaking
7a war or great battle was fought over it
8many believe that it was not made by people, but instead fell from the sky, grew from a seed, was made by the spirits, etc.
9said to be cursed, or is part of a widely-believed prophecy
10very large, or a set of similar objects
11contains something very valuable within it (possibly another random treasure)
12a small piece of it is already famous, on display, used in ceremonies, a symbol of an entire tribe or city, etc.

Where do you first learn the information that gets you started on the treasure hunt?

News (d6)
1article in the newspaper or news from the town crier
2dying words of a stranger or something they're carrying
3someone you know asks for help or wants to hire you
4finding a clue hidden somewhere, maybe in an old book
5overhearing/reading a private conversation
6public discussion, everyone is talking about it

Other people will make this treasure hunt more complicated.  Roll twice:

Trouble (d8)
1A rival treasure hunter/expedition is already on its trail.
2Whoever's responsible for it being lost wants to keep it that way.
3The people who live near it will fight to keep outsiders away.
4The rightful owners want it back, or there's a dispute about ownership.
5Whoever has it now (or controls the area where it's hidden) will do anything to keep it.
6Everyone knows you're searching for it and they all want a cut.
7The authorities demand their share, possibly the whole thing.
8Someone has information you'll need, but they're in jail, exiled, or in hiding.

How is it situated now? Roll twice, then put the results together in some way: they both apply at once, or one happened first and then the other.

Situated (d12)
2sunken into mud, possibly in a swamp or marsh
3in a gully, gorge, or canyon
5in or under vegetation that has grown around it
6deliberately sealed in a crypt or locked away in a safe or vault
7on display in public, but disguised in some way
8in a private collection, maybe in a temple/shrine
9surrounded with traps and hidden spikes, maybe in a giant's trapped treasure hoard
10very far away from where the party is or where they might expect it to be
11in the territory of a very hostile group
12in difficult terrain: rugged mountains, harsh desert, thick swamp

Roll up your own lost treasure:

random lost treasure
how you hear the news

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Hucksters, tinkers, and peddlers

Out in the wilderness, far from the cities of the elven strangers, manufactured goods are hard to come by.  If they don't make it in your community, you'll have to get it from a wandering trader.

Ausrufer mit Hobeln

It's always an exciting day when the huckster comes to town.  Loaded up with plenty of doodads and knick-knacks, the huckster has a little bit of everything for sale.  Need some new shoes?  He's probably got a few (mismatched, of course).  Need a new musket?  She's probably got one that's in fairly good shape, just missing a screw or a spring.

Hucksters trade in odds and ends, the leftovers of manufacturing everywhere.  Like a convenience store selling loose cigarettes, hucksters are who you go to when you can't afford to buy the whole quantity at the general store in the next town over.

Peddler (Eric Sloane)

Roll to see what this wandering trader looks like, how they're carrying their goods, and what sort of goods they're most likely to have.

What they look like (d10)appearancetypical goods
1-3giant(d4) 1: pack almost as big as its bearer, 2: pulling a travois, 3: pulling a sled, 4: pushing a one-wheeled cabinetwide variety of goods and news
4-6human (from a tribe)(d4) 1: canoe full of tightly-wrapped bundles, 2: dog pulling a travois, 3: dog pulling a cart, 4: on snowshoes and hunched over with a big packagricultural products and metal implements
7-8goblin(d4) 1-2: big bundle slung over one shoulder, 3-4: many small bagssmall scavenged valuables and metal items, drugs, bones, claws, shells
9-10elf(d4) 1-2: riding a fancy painted cart pulled by an ox/donkey, 3-4: group of elves carrying small packsalchemical products, cloth goods, cookware

(If you're looking for a deeper character, try rolling up a random personality issue as well.)

Most hucksters follow a general circuit, making their rounds of the usual settlements over time.  Roll to see how long it's been since they were last here:

How long since the last visit (d8)
1days, something happened to make them turn back
2-3weeks, they have news from a nearby town
4-6months, everyone is glad to see them
7-8never been here before, might be a swindler

Roll to see where they've been recently that you might want to know about:

Recently been (d6)
1at a nearby settlement, fort, or trading post, where something is wrong
2selling something strange to enemies of the people who live here
3in a hidden ruin, cave, shipwreck, etc.
4selling shoddy goods to allies of the people who live here
5in jail, held captive, chased by enemies
6on a route they can't return by: bridge washed out, landslide, fallen trees, hostile people

a Chinese porter (William Alexander)

They've acquired something interesting that they're offering:

Something interesting (d10)
1news about a great opportunity
2rumors of danger
3news about someone gathering followers
4a tiny artifact from an ancient kingdom
5a small sacred item lost by a human tribe during the apocalypse
6a new invention that they're trying to sell
7a key, an old doubloon, jewelry, a strange edible object
8a part for some kind of machinery, something powered by clockwork
9an old book, a certificate or bearer bond, a map, a contract that someone still cares about
10a powerful alchemical product, but only a small quantity

If you want to buy something from a huckster, they'll usually sell it for up to 2× trading post prices.  Hucksters' goods aren't cheap, but you can buy in tiny quantities and you can find them out on the frontier.

This traveling trader has picked up something that they're tired of and would like to unload cheaply, for less than post price:

Trying to unload (d4)
1perishable food: eggs, berries, mushrooms
2clothing: a warm coat, a fine hat, some shoes
3a tool/weapon that has something wrong with it: knife, lockpicks, axe, musket
4some troublesome alchemical product

If you want to sell to a huckster, they'll take things off your hands for less than ½ post price.  You won't get rich selling to them, but you can make a little coin when you need it.

Roll to see what they're especially interesting in buying or trading for.  They'll pay extra for this:

Looking for (d6)
1a new pack/canoe/cart, something to help them carry things and get around
2something people make on the frontier: rope, pottery, cloth, cornmeal, dried fish
3something nice to pass the time: alcohol, tobacco, a musical instrument
4an armed escort to their next stop, a guide to get around an obstacle
5something to use as a gift: a silver locket, shell beads, a golden bracelet, fine gems, a music box
6an introduction to the leader of a town that does not allow outsiders

Tinker (Franz Feyerabend)

Most peddlers pick up some kind of skill on the road:

Skill (d6)
1good at fixing things (goblin: good at identifying things)
2entertaining: stories, jokes, singing
3know all the trails and back ways for many miles around
4owed favors by people all along their route
5always have an inkling where you might find something
6allowed in to places outsiders normally can't go

When the party wants to buy something from a huckster, you can usually use your GM sense to decide if it's available (A deer's jawbone? Sure, why not.  An axe handle?  Yeah, I guess so.  The jeweled scepter of the viceroy?  Definitely not.) but sometimes players ask for things that you haven't decided about.

If you're not sure the huckster has what they want, roll for a random response:

Do they have it? (d6)
1They have exactly what you're looking for, but it'll cost you.
2They have one, but it's broken or in bad shape.
3They have only part of one, much less than you were looking for.
4They had one just recently, but they traded it to someone.
5They know who has one, but you won't like who it is.
6They hear you can buy one at the store / trading post (somewhere nearby, if possible).

Japanese peddler 1901

Roll up your own random peddler:

random wandering trader
how long since the last visit
recently been
they have something interesting
trying to unload
looking for
do they have it?