Monthly Archives: August 2016

The World and its People: The Radford House

I realised that my Atlas Inspirare articles lend themselves more to historical/traditional fantasy themes so I’ve decided to do a series with a more modern/darker twist. Articles concerning ‘The World and its People’ will usually contain some sort of folklore about a specific location and a handful of people interested in that location.

As ever, if you want to re-skin the things described to suit a different theme, feel free to.

Enjoy!

Bubbles / Ryan


The house isn’t haunted, all the stories agree on that. No. The house is possessed.

The Stafford boys say that they spent the night there and the walls themselves spoke, ordering them to leave. Neighbours often report strange liquids pouring from the windows and the eaves at night and it isn’t unknown for the doors to slam open suddenly, as if thrown wide with great force.

It’s been there since the town was founded and records indicate it was one of the first buildings erected. Folk memory claims that the first of the town’s mayors lived in the ornate house until his death. After that, they say, a string of criminals and politicians lived there until it was abandoned after the last war.

The years since then haven’t been kind. Most of the glass in its windows is missing, the doors remain intact but seem to be visibly rotted and the roof has patches of exposed framework where the slate tiles have fallen off. Decades of unruly children have scratched, painted and otherwise marked a wide variety of expressions onto the outside ranging from names all the way to song lyrics and declarations of love.

No two recollections of the inside of the house match, however. The Stafford boys claim that it was full of mouldy furniture and broken walls. Mavis Clifford, the nearest neighbour, says that when she followed her dog inside after it escaped, the house was in perfect repair. She says that had she not lived next to it for ten years, she would not have known it was empty.

Then, of course, there are the other stories. Young couples breaking in for a moment of passion report relaxed inhibitions and the sensation of being watched. A thief, hiding there over night, was found the next day whispering to himself about the arms that reached out of the walls and grabbed him. Wilder, more lurid, tales tell of the floors bleeding and the furniture animating to trap intruders.

The truth of these stories is not known and for now, that is all that they must remain. Stories.

 

People

Nigel Harrow – the latest owner of the Radford House. Rumour has it that he bought it on a whim and intends to demolish it in order to build a bigger property on the site.

Tabitha Radford – the last of the Radfords and a permanent patient of the local psychiatric institute. Whispers abound concerning the unnatural deaths of her brother and her husband.

Clark Engel – an infamous ghost hunter in town to investigate the Radford House.

Alice Thrush – a local girl obsessed with the supernatural. She is convinced she can use the power she believes to exist in the house for her own purposes.

Advertisements

Atlas Inspirare: The Fademarsh

The Fademarsh is a spectral place of unseen threats and hidden wonders. It has existed for as long as there have been stories. Legend tells of a portal to another place that once existed in the middle of it, sealed long ago by a band of mythical figures.

If a traveller manages to make their way into the depths of the Fademarsh, they will find a collection of ruined villages.

Iron Well, the youngest of the villages, is in the best and most complete state. For some reason, the marsh has made little progress in reclaiming the land and the buildings are mostly complete, their contents largely undisturbed.

It is only as one makes their way to the centre of the village that signs of battle and conflict become apparent. Large rents in the stonework of the houses tell of gigantic weapons of war, and bones, far larger than any person, lay scattered on the ground. The focus of the village itself, the Well, is a large, fortified building.

At its very centre is a well leading down into the depths of the earth. They say that at certain times of the year, something makes it way out of the well and roams the village.

The oldest of the villages was inhabited, on the other hand, has been almost completely subsumed by the marsh. Carrock’s Rest used to be an important site for pilgrims and grew rich on the money brought in from the world outside the Fademarsh.

Now, however, it is a collection of stones and piles of decayed treasure. Rumours tell of a beast, large and terrible, that has made its lair in the broken bones of the long dead god that the village was built over.

Of course, the truth of these rumours and of the existence of the god’s skeleton is anyone’s guess. All the people living on the outskirts of the marsh know for certain is that, every now and then, a terrible roar can be heard, echoing over the still waters of the marsh.

The Vigil, a former staging post for a long lost kingdom, could only be loosely termed a village when it was a vibrant, thriving community of soldiers and camp followers. Many heroes of yore are supposed to have grown up here.

Quite what The Vigil was guarding has long been lost with the slow decay of the official records. What remains now is a large area of cleared and irrigated land in the north-western corner of the Fademarsh. Large piles of weapons lay rusted and decaying around the edges of a strangely clear patch of land.

For the traveller who wants to risk it all, it said that hidden among those weapons is a treasure wielded by the kings and queens of old. It is doubtful that such a potent artefact, if it exists, has remained unguarded for so long.

The name of the other village has long been lost, if it was ever known. Built by a strange race long before the coming of settlers to the region, it had been long abandoned by the time the first explorers found it.

Constructed of a strange stone not native to the area, the buildings have stood the test of time. What their purpose and contents were, however, has baffled academics for years. Each and every stone is covered in a strange script belonging to no known language.

In recent years, there have been discussions about establishing a permanent academic presence there. A joint venture between several universities has been proposed several times, the latest only weeks ago when two of the stones were revealed to have seemingly changed position without assistance.

 

Plot Hooks

Strange and unearthly creatures have been spotted in the Fademarsh, creatures that have not been seen since the rumoured portal was closed.

A monster hunting guild has been contracted to hunt and kill the beast that lives in Iron Well. Such a job would pay handsomely and carry no small amount of reputation.

A pilgrimage recently set out to reclaim Carrock’s Rest. All contact with it, magical, mundane or divine, has since been lost.

The current monarch is looking for explorers to retrieve a hereditary weapon from the ruins of the the Vigil.

A professor of good standing in the university recently returned from his studies in the marsh. He has not been the same since and refuses to speak of what happened to him there. He will say only that ‘They are returning for what they left behind’.

Roleplaying 104a -An Alternative Route to the Same Place

I have discussed character creation previously and presented my thoughts on the subject in brief. Today, I wish to expand upon them and describe how, and why, I do certain things. If you haven’t read the previous article, it isn’t necessary to do so. This is more of a supplement to that article but it can stand on its own.

This article offers an alternate way to create characters to the method laid out in the earlier post. That method stuck, in my opinion, quite closely to the generic character creation prompts given in most role-playing games and was written that way as an introduction to character creation. Neither that method or this one is ‘wrong’ and, honestly, I’m a firm believer in everyone finding a process that they find easy to follow rather than one hard and fast routine.

With that in mind, here is my alternate method of character creation.

1

I usually start with the theme of the character. This is most often something evocative that I wish to bring to the table, but sometimes can just be something I’m interested in dealing with in-game. For example, in the campaign I am currently playing, my first character was heavily socially focused because I wanted to deal with my own social inhibitions and force myself to interact with the game and the other players more.

That isn’t to say you always need to use the ‘real world’ and its problems as themes, although I know of a few characters inspired by things from outside of the game that are pretty cool. My current character (the first being retired temporarily to go fact finding) was created because I wanted to explore what would happen if a naïve, innocent person possessed of powerful magic stumbled into the life of an adventurer. If you’re curious, it’s going great. By which I mean, she’s growing as a person in both positive and negative ways whilst having her worldview and opinions constantly challenged.

2

Which brings me neatly onto my second point, growth. A good character, one that everyone remembers for good or ill, should have room to grow. You should not approach the table with a character and say ‘This is how my character is. They will not change. They will not be altered.’ This can work, but in my experience and opinion, doesn’t make for a great gaming experience.

Characters should have flaws and foibles that they can overcome, just as they have strengths that can occasionally fail them. If you find you have a theme that interests you and that you can see at least three or four ways in which that theme could be explored and developed, odds are you have an interesting character in the making.

3

This is the point at which I usually start looking at the character creation rules. For some themes, building atypical characters is more apt than building characters who play exclusively to their strengths. Different games have different methods for creating characters and have wildly different character options (like race/species, class, profession etc.) and so this is where I look over what my options are to see if anything sticks out for me.

Something usually does, but if nothing does stand out, it may be because your theme or your ideas for character growth need tweaking slightly. Of course, you are always welcome to discuss with your GM whether or not something in the character creation process of the game can be added or altered.

4

By now, I usually have a good idea of what my character’s driving force is, what it is pushing them towards and who they are likely going to be when correctly built according to the rules. With these things in mind, I go through the mechanics of character creation and build them for the GM’s approval.

All this gives you, however, is a character sheet and a somewhat nebulous goal for your character’s personal growth. It is at this point that I usually start working on character history. Because you have a character built within the framework of the system, you know what they are doing at this current moment. You know who they are, and you know what they’re good and bad at.

What you don’t know is how they got to this point in their life. That’s what the character history/backstory does, it answers that question. I try to create a general overview of their life up until the present and then fill in one or two key details about their past. Obviously, the more you create at this point, the more well-rounded your character will be and the more information you can draw upon when portraying your character at the table.

I don’t do this for a very simple reason. I REALLY enjoy playing to not only discover where my character is going, but where they’ve been as well. Asking yourself why your character reacts in a certain way in the spur of the moment keeps them from being predictable, prevents you from feeling like your character’s backstory is a rigid frame-work, gives the game fluidity and allows other players to influence the direction of your character.

My first character, the one built with a social focus, had only a few key points of her backstory for a few sessions before I started adding to it as I discovered through play why she reacted to things the way she did.

5

With backstory and a character sheet, you’re pretty much ready to go. The final step is to note down a few things about your character’s personality. This isn’t necessary but it might give you some help when the spotlight is on you and you have to quickly decide what your character would do in this situation.

While single word notes are good, I try to for three to five short sentences to describe whichever aspects of my character seem important at the time. These sentences may change through play, characters (as noted above) should change and evolve as the game progresses and, from time to time, you might want to alter these notes to better suit your character as they currently are. That’s fine. That’s what’s supposed to happen. But as long as you have some way of remembering the core bones of your character’s personality, you should be ready for any situation.

 

So that’s my (less generic) approach to character creation in more detail. I hope it’s been moderately useful. If you have any thoughts or wish to share your own methods, let me know in the comments or contact me through the e-mail address in the ‘About’ section.

Thanks!

Bubbles / Ryan