Sunday, November 6, 2022

The Island of Death and Rubies

Today I'm rolling up another random campaign.  I'm choosing two of the three starting adventure opportunities to test out their roll-up tables, then letting the dice decide the rest.

You can follow along with the process below, or you could skip straight to the resulting one-page campaign.

Settlement on the Frontier

The three adventure opportunities: a new Frontier Settlement, some sort of Raiders or Pirates, and a Military Expedition.  We'll start with the frontier settlement, which has plenty of details to roll up:

  • The plan is short-term resource extraction: pan for gold, gather jade, etc., then go home.  No one wants to invest in this town, they're all just hoping to strike it rich and leave.
  • But that's never going to get them rich.  They'd be better off growing crops for export: tobacco, coffee, tea, etc.
  • On the way there, the settlers run into dangerous creatures who attack, eat their livestock, pursue them, something like that.
  • The authorities from their homeland expect to extend their rule over the new settlement.  This is supposed to be an outpost of the motherland, not an independent settlement.
  • The site is near a river, a lake, and a cavern.
  • There's a local power here that makes demands of the settlers: taxes, tribute, allegiance, something like that.
  • The settlers are well-stocked with food to start their colony, but they have a problem with how others view them: they're not respected by the neighboring people, they follow the wrong religion, the authorities back home find them a nuisance, etc.
  • They'll have three projects that ought to be tracked for their completion: making peace or defeating a dangerous enemy, getting a consistent source of clean drinking water, establishing a proper food source.
  • The people of this country all died in the apocalypse, leaving ruins that aren't entirely understood.  Everyone here is new to the land.
  • There's a seasonal problem that they don't know about: flooding, drought, wildfires, hurricanes.

An Island Country

I think we need to see the country where all this is happening.  Let's roll that up now:

  • It's somewhere near Alligator Gulf, down in the hot and humid southern part of the continent.
  • There's a cliff / mountain range / escarpment that runs east and west with many waterfalls coming down it.  Up in the high country live independent or rebellious folk.
  • Waves beat against rocky cliffs, making it hard to find safe landing sites.  This country is an island or a chain of islands.
  • The south coast is deeply indented with many bays, inlets, and little coves.
  • This is a largely-forgotten country with ruins of a lost civilization or kingdom, a place mostly known by legends elsewhere.

That's enough to start sketching up a map.  I'll grab a big messy brush and rough out some islands, then draw the coastline.

Continuing on the random country tables, let's see who lives here:

  • Goblins (+1 modifier: +cliffs, +forests, -islands).  Villages of three major clans.  People travel here from far away to study, trade, visit renowned hermits.
  • Elves (+1 modifier: +warm coast).  Largely controlled by a far-off company: resource settlements, trading posts, old fort.
  • Giants (-2 modifier: -forests, -far south).  Scattered trappers, fishers, traders.

The frontier settlement we're following sounds like an elven one, so that's an easy choice.  They were sent here by a far-off trade company.

We already know the people are all newcomers to the land, within the last thirty years since the Starving Time.  Let's say the other elven stuff in the isles is all from before, from a colonial attempt that failed and left behind mysterious ruins.

This is a major center of goblin cultural activity.  Let's say their people lived here before the apocalypse, died off, then the region was repopulated by other goblins of those clans.  All their settlements today could be arguing over clan rights to different areas, since the people who knew the exact demarcations are now gone.

Recent elven ruins isn't quite a forgotten kingdom, though.  Let's check the ancient civilization tables to see who used to be here long ago.

  • As the story goes, there were once five ancient cities that warred with each other.  The table gives several question prompts: Why was the greatest city overthrown?  How could they move such stones?  Where was the fifth city?  I think it was here in these islands.
  • The symbol of the city is a mountain with a single eye.
  • This city fell a thousand years ago, remembered only by one culture as part of their founding myth.
  • Remnants: tunnels for irrigation or transport, hidden knowledge of ancient arts passed down in families, great stone statues of people or animals (marking sacred sites or buried treasure).

I think the city might have been the origins of some group of giants, so their ancient arts might still be known by some of the giants who fish and trade in these waters.

Populating the Map

We've got a lot of things to add to the map, so let's add those now:

  • The mountains running east-west, cliffs along the north coast.
  • A few rivers.
  • The new elven settlement we're following, near one of the lakes.
  • Hidden ruins of the ancient city.
  • Ancient aqueduct tunnels.
  • Ancient statues.
  • Goblin villages, including one that's powerful and near the elven settlement.
  • Elven ruins from the previous attempt at colonization.

Also I'm redrawing the coastline -- I did it with a really thick brush for some reason the first time and it's bugging me.

To figure out the icon to use for goblin settlements, I rolled on the clan tables.  As it turned out, all three clans in this country build different kinds of homes, making it easy for the map.

  • The Shining Skull clan lives up in the trees, with hammocks and rope bridges.  They use tobacco smoke in rituals.
  • The Red Snake clan prefers to live in caves or on cliff ledges.  They use the hunt for wild honey as an important ritual.
  • The Wounded Hawk clan is originally from wetlands and prefers to build log dwellings in ponds with underwater entrances (like beaver dens).  They eat the flesh of their fallen enemies.

Red Snake Raiders

The second adventure premise is where desperate times have led many to a life of banditry.  Let's see what these pirates are up to.

  • They are skilled in camoflage, hiding in this land.  (I'm thinking the raiders might be the goblins of the Red Snake clan, living up in the highland interior.)
  • They raid settled towns, farmers, local forts and their treasure.
  • Their fearsome sign is a circle drawn in blood.
  • The die roll said they sell goods at some kind of lawless border town, but I'm not sure how to make that fit here.  Let's say they sell their plunder to someone from the mainland who visits the islands, willing to buy from these fearsome raiders.
  • These people turned to raiding to survive after being on the losing side of the recent war.  This is actually a surprise

I'm starting to get a picture here: the other goblins here grow crops and gather gold or jade or something, the Red Snake clan raids them and sells their plunder to the mainland.  The first two clans came back shortly after the apocalypse, then there was the war, and then Red Snake came here to raid the others. 

Military Expedition

The third adventure premise is a military expedition to the isles.

  • The expedition is sent by the remnant army of the Viceroy.
  • They're moving against a trade company that owns vast lands.

That puts the frontier settlement in grave danger, though they don't know it yet.  The trade company must have extensive holdings elsewhere, maybe causing some kind of trouble for the Viceroy.  The settlement is going to have to make alliances with the local people to survive.

  • The goal of the expedition is to scout out the trade company's strength here and to destroy a fort or ship of theirs.
  • The expedition has no knowledge of this country, with bad maps or no maps at all.
  • If they attack the goblins, both sides will be willing to massacre each other.
  • This expedition is likely to spark another war.

I think the company settlement is going to be a great source of adventure drama.  They're in a lot of trouble from different sources, but they'll have some chances to play off those problems against each other. 

Some open threads that we'll need more information about before the adventure is ready to go:

  • The company that's in charge of the settlement.
  • The trade good that people are raiding these islands for.
  • A few details about the different villages on the map.
  • The second half of the random country tables.  (I just realized that this country doesn't have a name, which means I got distracted halfway through rolling up the country and never came back to it.)
  • The dangerous creatures here.
  • The secret art passed down from the ancient city of the giants.
  • Hermits among the goblins here.

The Imperial Gem Society

The trade company that's sending the settlers:

  • They have remote trading posts in many lands, but the company is short on arms for a conflict.  This means the settlement probably won't have much gunpowder with them.
  • Their original purpose was to buy local goods (furs, silver, ivory, etc.) but since the apocalypse they've branched out into shipping as well.
  • The company's charter for this region was recently revoked by the Viceroy.
  • They're about to make people angry by engaging in trade of some unlawful goods.  (I think their charter to trade in the local products here is what was revoked.)
  • They're called the Imperial Gem Society.  Probably just Imperial Gems or IGS for short.

As for what they want in this land, I think it's going to be rubies.  The goblins here have been finding them in streams or in certain types of soil, but they're not common.  No one has found a place to mine them from the rock.  It's hard to get rich just searching for rubies.

The giants come and buy the rubies then resell them on the mainland, unless the Red Snake clan intercepts them first.

Details of the Islands

Finishing the random country rolls, an interesting result came up:

  • There's a rising warlord or a rogue general here.

Maybe the military expedition is unauthorized, its leader being on a vendetta against the company based on the previous war, and now the expedition might start a new war.  There might be a military group sent to rein in the leader, but if the expedition gets into enough trouble, the new group might just be reinforcements.

  • A marsh/swamp in a low region.
  • Waterfalls, rapids, sandbar, or hidden reef.
  • Colonial goods that are traded here: alchemical products, copper pans/kettles.
  • Country goods that are traded here: fish, shell beads, plus the rubies we already know about.
  • These islands are named for local wildlife: the Cottonmouth Islands.

Settlement Details

The colonial settlement they're trying to establish:

  • Smells like tar, from weatherproofing wooden structures.
  • Doesn't have a defensive wall yet.
  • Fearful of raiders, enemies in the woods.
  • They've brought some indentured laborers to do the heavy work.  (Let's go with giants, so we don't have to introduce another species of people to this story.)
  • They have many dead bodies to deal with.  (I'm assuming this is from the dangerous creature attack they had on the way here.)
  • The settlement is called Crow's Nest.

The nearby goblins are of the Shining Skull clan, living up in trees with hammocks and rope bridges.  This settlement:

  • Has shaped paths through thick undergrowth to funnel prey and passers-by into ambush points.
  • They fear ghosts and avoid abandoned sites from the people who lived here before.
  • There's a shipwreck nearby.
  • They want to drive away the outsiders who have invaded their territory, also they want to take their metal.
  • They make many smoky fires to seem more numerous than they are, and to lure would-be invaders away from their actual village.

I'll keep rolling on those tables for the other settlements.

Dangerous Creatures

What are the dangerous creatures here?  We know they attack the settlers early on.  I think I'd like them to be mainly based on crocodiles.  Let's roll for their features.

  • Better at swimming.
  • Inedible, as their flesh is poisonous.
  • They hunt in packs.
  • They dig impressive dens where they keep bones of their prey.

The Secret Art

The ancient city had some kind of magic art that has been preserved in secret, passed down by some lineage of giants.  Some of the ones who visit the islands know the art.

  • Ability to go unseen.
  • It only lasts as long as you hold your breath.
  • Those who practice it don't make a sound when they walk, even when not using the art.

Goblin Hermits

Goblin society has a role for hermits, the hidden ones, recluses who live outside the village.  I'm going to roll up the hidden ones for the three clans in the isles, then only use whichever one sounds most interesting.

  • They perform divination to see the future.  They live at an old ruin in the woods, staying hidden.  Anyone who visits them must not look at them or speak directly to them.
  • They take you on a journey to the spirit world by way of hallucinogens.  They live in caves in the woods.
  • They perform healing rituals.  They live up on hills and high places.  Visitors are to bring a gift of animal teeth.

There are other loose ends we could keep rolling for, but I think we've got enough here.  I'll make up an encounter table and write up all the moving parts, and I think the adventure will be done.