Friday, July 11, 2014

Campaign Events in Taenarum

The next step of bringing the Taenarum campaign to life is the addition of a calendar and campaign events.  For game calendars, I usually just replace the names of the Gregorian months with flavorful names that fit the setting.  I'm not interested in leap years or alternative durations for weeks or months; that kind of stuff isn't high impact on the game and is too much of a chore for everyone to remember.  It'd be like replacing feet and miles (with apologies to the rest of the world).  For Taenarum, the Gregorian month names get replaced with month names like Gamelion, Anthesterion, Elaphebolion, Mounichion, Thargelion, Skirophorion, Hekatombaion, Metageitnion, Boedromion, Pyanepsion, Maimakterion, Poseideon.  In the campaign, the current month is Thargelion, corresponding to May in the Gregorian calendar.  Finally, I add a bunch of holidays, festivals, and religious observances to the calendar to round it out.

Next I develop a giant list of potential events, with a percentage chance of annual occurrence.  One of the themes I want to develop in Taenarum is that the gods are petty and manipulative, and frequently intervene in human affairs to the detriment of ordinary people.  Per the Deities and Demigods approach, they're supernatural bullies statted out like big old monsters.  There are a handful of events on the list that are explicitly divine - like when rampaging beasts or gigantic 20 HD monsters are sent out into the world, to punish some city or region that offended one god or another.  I've also included a straight 50% that any major event has a god behind the scenes pushing the matter.  Storms are natural events, for instance, but there's no reason a god couldn't also be behind pounding a region with a storm.

Here's the giant list of events (so far):

  • Assassination - 10% (Unnatural)
  • Bandits - 50% (Unnatural)
  • Birth in Ruling Family - 20% (Unnatural)
  • Border Skirmish - 40% (Unnatural)
  • Comet - 30% (Natural)
  • Cultural Discovery - 10% (Unnatural)
  • Death (natural) - 10% (Natural)
  • Death of Official (accident) - 25% (Unnatural)
  • Divine Disfavor - 15% (Divine)
  • Divine Favor - 15% (Divine)
  • Divine Plot - 25% (Divine)
  • Earthquake - 10% (Natural)
  • Epic Hero - 10% (Divine)
  • Explosion - 10% (Natural)
  • Famine - 10% (Unnatural)
  • Fanatic Cult - 10% (Unnatural)
  • Fire, Major - 10% (Natural)
  • Fire, Minor - 50% (Natural)
  • Flood - 30% (Natural)
  • Great Beast (10+ HD) - 75% (Divine)
  • Hurricane - 15% (Natural)
  • Insurrection - 10% (Unnatural)
  • Lycanthropy - 15% (Unnatural)
  • Magical Happening - 30% (Unnatural)
  • Market Glut - 20% (Natural)
  • Market Shortage - 25% (Natural)
  • Marriage - 20% (Unnatural)
  • Meteor Shower - 20% (Natural)
  • Meteor Strike - 1% (Natural)
  • Migration - 10% (Unnatural)
  • New Religion - 2% (Unnatural)
  • Plague - 25% (Natural)
  • Plague - 10% (Unnatural)
  • Population Change - 20% (Natural)
  • Pretender\Usurper - 10% (Unnatural)
  • Raiders - 25% (Unnatural)
  • Rebellion (minor) - 10% (Unnatural)
  • Resident Specialist (new) - 20% (Unnatural)
  • Resource Lost - 10% (Natural)
  • Resource New - 10% (Natural)
  • Sea Monster (20+ HD) - 75% (Divine)
  • Sinkhole - 5% (Natural)
  • Spy Ring - 60% (Unnatural)
  • Storm - 80% (Natural)
  • Tornado - 10% (Natural)
  • Trade Route Lost - 15% (Natural)
  • Trade Route New - 15% (Natural)
  • Traitor - 30% (Unnatural)
  • Vengeful Stranger - 10% (Divine)
  • VIP Visitor - 25% (Unnatural)
  • Volcano - 2% (Natural)
  • Wandering Monster (20+ HD) - 75% (Divine)
  • War - 40% (Unnatural)
  • War in Heaven - 10% (Divine)
  • Waterspout - 25% (Natural)
  • Whirlpool - 25% (Natural)

I used the list (and excel formulas) to calculate whether an event happens that year, and then calculate the month and day.  Taenarum is in southern Laconia, the region of Sparta, so I went ahead and created events for the year for that region.  If the players ever travel, I'll do the same for the remote regions.  I use a random list of Greek gods to determine whose favor or disfavor is earned if a divine event is indicated.  I also have a list of the major cities, their rulers, and ruling houses, to randomly generate the other party where an event implies an outside power.  The famous rulers of Greek mythic history - villains like Menelaus and Agamemnon - make great power mad tyrants to put in the game world, starting wars and stirring up trouble and intrigues.  I have a hope that any high level Taenarum campaign becomes 'A Game of Thrones, Greek Edition'.

Here's a quick look at a practical example for Laconia.  I created a list of events for the Laconia region; 13 events are happening over the course of the year, and by dint of random results, 4 of them are happening in the current month (Thargelion).  Here's the list:

  • Day 13 Fire, Minor
  • Day 19 Famine
  • Day 22 War in Heaven (Hades and Hermes)
  • Day 24 Storm

The day 13 event is also where I've placed the festival of Thargelion on the calendar.  Thargelion is a fertility festival honoring Apollo, involving sacrifices and fires - criminals were even used as human sacrifices in earlier times.  Dice indicated the fire is divinely influenced.  Allowing the inspiration to guide me, here's how I'm interpreting the results:  the local lord (a bit of a malefactor) has framed a political rival as a criminal so he could hand him over to the priests for the Thargelion sacrifice and burn him alive.  Displeased with the injustice, Apollo causes a fire in the town that ends up destroying the granary, causing an immediate food shortage for the isolated home base of the campaign (the famine).

The players may or may not be involved in the events - I'm perfectly comfortable if the events happen behind the scenes (as news and rumors when the players return to town) or whether they become potential plot hooks.  The players might hear about the unjust arrest and someone might try to hire them to foment a rescue.  Perhaps the local priests ask for help appeasing Apollo in the aftermath.  I just like having interesting things going on in the background when the players return from the dungeon.  Additionally, omens and oracles are an important part of the Greek theme, and the list of events provides plenty of material for supporting prophecies and omens and foreshadowing some major future catastrophe.  Maybe the players have a vision in the dungeon (there are plenty of oracles and seers down there, hags and magic statues and scrying pools and whatnot) and some of these events can be foreshadowed through visions.

Looking ahead to Day 22, 'War in Heaven', consider this:  Hades is the god of wealth and the Underworld, which makes him the ideal patron for a dungeon like Taenarum and its many vaults of gold and wealth.  Hermes is a god of Thievery.  I'm thinking the 'War in Heaven' event will involve a bold heist in the depths of Taenarum by Hermes or one of his well known followers - it's the kind of event that could have ripples throughout the dungeon.  It suggests more potential plot hooks for the players, too - like if Hermes or a messenger approached the players undercover to do the heist, or Hades approaches them to foil it.  "Wait a second, that cloaked stranger literally disappeared in the alley - were we just visited by a god?"  Great fun, right?

Anyway, wrapping up this particular post - these steps aren't that hard to do - build a calendar, create a list of possible events, generate a list of actual annual events for the local region, and then use inspiration and dice to add details and get them ready for play.  The mileage you get out of a small amount of work is phenomenal.  Time-bound events add a ton of inspirational value to the referee, while adding depth and dimension to the setting.  What are you waiting for - get out there and add campaign events to your game!