Sunday, July 25, 2010

Roll up a backstory - BoL style

Keroki captain of the inner palace guards slowly let out along breath as he knocked his bow and sighted on the target down range.The crowd was still as he drew back the cord and then in one smooth moment left loose. The shaft sped forward and smashed directly into the centre of the target.Around him the crowd - courtiers and commoners alike burst into applause.Grinning maniacally the brawny soldiers began to saunter up the stairs to where the king or Urceb and his inner council awaited.Keroki had served as captain of the inner guards for three years now, just as his father had done before him. An unpopular figure at court, despite his family connection, he knew the courtiers mocked him as a comic, uncultured figure.He knew they called him ‘‘the butcher boy’’.But nothing mattered today, he mused, as he strutted forward - barely noticing Tor the Axonian, the newly appointed captain of the middle guard, taking his place on the shooting platform.The brawny soldier hawked and spat in contempt for the barbarian who had appeared suddenly and wormed his way into the palace guards’ ranks.Still intent on walking towards the royal box where he would be acclaimed champion of the New Year Archery Competition Keroki was oblivious to the commotion as Tor aimed and shot – knocking his own arrow out of the way.As the crowd laughed at chanted he turned bright red and watched in horror as the barbarian mounted the steps to take the winner’s chalice.Everyone knew the barbarian could swing a sword, shoot a bow and throw a javelin better than any of the other guards - but to reward him like this was too much.

So how do you kick off a BoL campaign? It’s far too convenient to have your pcs meet over drinks at the local tavern and decide to go a-adventuring.But Howard rarely started his Conan stories with the Cimmerian looking for adventure. No, Conan normally started as captain of the palace guard, a mercenary working the supply routes or a new in town thief looking for extra coin.I’ve knocked up a quick and dirty ‘‘starting occupation’’ table.You’ve decided to start a nice little campaign in Parsool - but what are the pcs doing in Parsool and how do they get involved in the quest to find the ancient relics, save the beautiful priestess from sacrifice at the hands of crazed cultists and broker a treat between warring clans?Simple - roll up a nice little starting occupation. The idea is not to replace the careers but I figure it’s a good idea for getting started. If the pcs roll up a couple of soldiers and then a no good sort, it’s pretty easy to decide that say the two guards captured the thief breaking into the palace but the trio decided to work together, etc.1) the pc is new in town and makes for the nearest tavern to hear the latest gossip and wet his whistle2) the pc has entered the area with a trade caravan - either as a caravan guard, a merchant, a general all rounder or a teamster3) the pc is involved in the local fleshtrade. Either as a prostitute - high class or common street walker - or a pimp operating a stable of girls (or boys). Maybe the pc in fact stands guard for the brothel or works as a stand over man4) the pc is a cop with city watch or town guard - walking the beat and keeping the peace5) the pc is employed by a wizard or sorceress or alchemist. But in what capacity? Apprentice? General Dog’s Body or test subject?6) the pc is a sellsword looking for work - with sword in hand the pc has arrived in the region looking for work and spends his or her day hanging around the market, the hiring halls and soldiers’ flophouses and taverns looking for employment7) the pc is an enlisted man with the local army or a common sailor in the fleet. You’re a grunt, perhaps drafted or maybe a volunteer in the irregular company8) the pc is living off the land - maybe they own a farm or they are working as a farm hand, cutting wood and clearing brush for their keep9) the pc is employed in an honest trade - blacksmith, metalworker, tanner, etc10) the pc is an officer - maybe the first mate of a ship or captain of the palace guard11) the pc wakes up in a cell - have they been thrown in the palace dungeon caught inciting a riot? Involved in a drunken brawl? Mistaken for a master criminal? Or maybe you’ve woken up deep in the bowels of the thieves’ guildhouse? Or a cult’s secret lair?12) the pc has somehow ended up as a noble of the kingdom? How? You decide...

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

BoL foe: Zolique

Zolique raised his goblet in a mocking salute and then drank deeply from the silver chalice.
"May Ka, the Master Maker shine bright on your endeavours Lord Prince," he said once he had swallowed.
Reclining on the opposite pillow Prince Likia ah-Hakk grimaced at the ironic toast but also drank. The wizard had demonstrated now that none of the food or drink was poisoned and he felt slightly more at rest.
Around them more than two hundred courtiers, merchants, and nobles rested on great silken pillows arrayed around the long tables that took up the centre of the gilded hall.
The prince had received the elegant invite the week before - a long papyrus scroll, sealed with black silk and wax and written in a fine hand.
Curious to be invited to a feast by his one his primary rivals he had accepted and now found himself in the great hall of the wizard Zolique.
"I am glad you came Lord Prince, I feared that some of my... indiscretions had caused a great gulf between our houses," the wizard said, gesturing with one hand for more wine while using the other to stroke his wispy grey beard.
The city's ruler almost barked in laughter. The dammed wizard had appeared less than a year ago and in that time he had erected this great, slab-sided, pyramid near the centre of the city without permission and then turned the entire kingdom on its head.
First he had drawn half of the women in the city to his bed - never to be seen again and then he had incited the bloody peasants into open revolt by declaring that taxes were a sin. That, that had cost the prince dearly in soldiers and gold.
The sorcerer flouted the rules of the city at every step.
"On the contrary my friend. You must forgive our provincial ways here in Ulldulla, it is far too rare that sorcerers of your calibre live among us," the prince said oily.
Never let it be say that I cannot honey my words like the best of them, you snake headed bag of shit, he thought inwardly.
Drinking from his goblet once more Zolique craned his head, looking over the lord's shoulder.
"Ahah! at last, the entertainment begin," he said as a sudden wave of drum and flute music flooded from a corridor.
"You will have to forgive me, Lord Prince - until recently I was very much unaccustomed to the pleasures of high society."
Likia knew this from the rumours he had sourced: the wizard had been a mere beggar child in some far-flung city before being discovered by a magician who had taken him in.
The wizard suddenly clapped like a child, as dozens of beautiful women swirled into the feasting hall to the tune of flutes, drums and bells. Each woman - some dusty skinned others pale and flaxen haired was clad only in the briefest of silk girdles and jewellery. And all of them had glazed over, totally empty eyes.
With a start the prince recognised several former ladies of the court - the ones who had disappeared into the wizard's lair months ago. Most he didn't know but he guessed they shared a similar fate.
Hours passed in a blur of good food, strong wine and the swirling, twisting flesh until finally Zolique stood, raising both gaunt arms to the domed roof as he did.
The music stopped and the drunken diners finished with a clatter.
"My friends - it has come time to tell you all why I have gathered you here!"
Around the table there was nervous muttering, which dissolved into laughter at the drunken belch of a fat silk trader at the far end of the table.
"Enough!" the wizard shouted. Letting the room sink once more into silence.
"More than 40 years ago I was nothing more than a beggar child on the streets on this very city, a nothing living in the gutter,"
Likia's eyes widened at this revelation - he had not known the wizard was born here.
"For years he scratched out a living, and not once did any of your ilk bother to notice me- none of you.
"Tonight we have gathered the riches traders and merchants, nobles who live in opulent villas and the great men of the city - including our lord prince."
As he spoke the wizard gestured wildly at the gathered host. His dark eyes bored into the soul of each one - a brawny soldier rewarded with a title, a fat wine merchant and his young wife who had drunkenly pulled down her gown to reveal great, pale breasts and finally the hawk nosed Prince.
"Tonight you die"
Suddenly with a collective feral growl, the dancing girls leapt at the guests - their mouths warped into hateful grimaces and their fine fingers suddenly hooked like sharp talons.
Gore flew as the screams rang out - all the while Zolique cackled with glee.
Watching as his subjects became red puddles Likia spun, kicking aside his pillow as he fled - only to be confronted by the wizard who had moved with blinding speed.
"I think not, Lord Prince," he smiled mockingly.
Turning, Likia saw he was the only one left - the others were crumpled, bloody messes, and the girls had now gathered around him.

Ag: 1
Mn: 3

Bwl: 2
Rng: 1
Dfc: 1

Lifeblood: 10

Beggar: 1
Thief: 0
Scribe: 2
Wizard: 4