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Yora
2014-07-26, 01:45 PM
I've been running into a bit of a problem with my current campaign. The setting is a bronze age world with very few larger city states in which most people live as clans of a few thousand people in small clusters of villages in the wilderness.
Great setting, but it turned out to be quite troublesome to create adventurers for the PCs in such an environment. The territory of their clan is rather small and every clan has a good number of warriors, many of them more powerful fighters than the PCs (though the vast majority doesn't have any class levels). Their duty is to protect the villages, but for the really great threats there are the actual champions to take care of things, at least until the PCs reach 4th or 5th level and join their prestigious ranks. At the same time, the other clans neither need the PCs, since they got their own warriors, and they would also be outsiders who would be expected to complete their business with the clan and then return to their own people.

Essentially, at 1st to 3rd level, PCs are stuck in their home village with guard duty. Not really a situation that leads itself to going on adventures.
However, there is a huge wilderness outside their home territory full of mysteries, ancient ruins, and magical wonders, which can greatly help the clans to improve the safety and life quality for their people, but could be very dangerous in the hands of their enemies. And I don't want the PCs to be independent wanderers either. Making it a campaign in which the PCs have responsibilities to their people and need to play by the rules of societies is something I want to be very much an important part of the campaign.

Do you have any ideas how I could make it so that the PCs retain their duties to their clan while still encouraging that they leave their home from time to time for long journeys into the unknown?
I guess one option would be to say that all people with class levels are already belonging to the elite of the clans. No longer guarding the entrance to the village or patrolling the fields of the outlying farms, but already being kept in reserve for special emergencies. (The maximum level in the campaign is 12th, and most clans don't have anyone higher than 6th.) But I would also like to keep having 1st and 2nd level PCs being among the common warriors of the clan (though with exceptional potential to become much more).

AMFV
2014-07-26, 02:04 PM
Give the players family back at the tribe, spouses and children. So that way they have a concrete stake in the tribe.

Palanan
2014-07-26, 04:04 PM
Are you looking for specific adventure seeds per se, or general advice on keeping your players invested in the idea of staying with their clan?

I think it's a given that they would have families in their settlement, since this is their culture and their extended family. I'd also say that the settlement wouldn't necessarily need the PCs for "guard duty," since they'll want people on lookout who have the sharpest eyes and can see trouble from the furthest distance. Once the alarm is given, the warriors can gather from around the settlement and be ready for the defense in minutes.

As for getting the PCs out into the world, I can think of a number of situations where they would both have a reason to leave their settlement and a personal obligation to return. The first that comes to mind would involve some form of honor killing. One character's cousin has provoked a fight with another warrior in the settlement (or vice versa) and killed him, and then escaped into the wilderness to avoid the vengeance of the dead man's kinsmen. The character is ordered by the chief or headman to pursue his cousin and return him for justice--and the character will naturally want to bring his loyal friends (the other PCs) to help him track and retrieve his cousin. Once out on the trail, you can introduce whatever encounters or additional challenges you like--such as attempting to explain to a rival clan that the PCs are simply trying to return one of their own, and mean no trespass nor disrespect.

A less dramatic, more everyday option would be for the PCs to serve as escort for their settlement's herbalist, perhaps helping him negotiate a steep ravine where a clifftop fern is known to grow. This is exactly the sort of thing you'd send a few first- or second-level characters to do--provide a competent guard for a valued clan asset, protect him from whatever might pose a danger in the wilderness between settlements and help him as required. Not something you'd ask a fifth-level clan champion to do, and the herbalist is a little too revered to entrust to a couple of untrained spear-chuckers, but a small group of first-level characters would do fine. Again, this gives an opportunity to include wilderness encounters and other challenges flavored to taste.

Sartharina
2014-07-26, 04:21 PM
Do you have any ideas how I could make it so that the PCs retain their duties to their clan while still encouraging that they leave their home from time to time for long journeys into the unknown?

Hunting and scouting parties, obviously.

Genth
2014-07-26, 04:57 PM
How about this?

A once-in-twenty-year festival is going to be happening in a couple of months, venerating the tribal cultural hero god, who became deified for defeating some powerful enemy. All the warriors need to find some worthy tribute to give to the Shaman for honor, glory, and respect. The PCs, while escorting the Shaman out to gather some herbs, are told by her of a great prize that was lost to the tribe - the Hero-god's 'Golden Spear'. The adventure could be them investigating and trying to seek out this spear, easily enough of a hook to get them to 5th level, and since the whole point of the quest is centered around their home, there's little danger of their not returning.

Thrudd
2014-07-26, 05:08 PM
I've been running into a bit of a problem with my current campaign. The setting is a bronze age world with very few larger city states in which most people live as clans of a few thousand people in small clusters of villages in the wilderness.
Great setting, but it turned out to be quite troublesome to create adventurers for the PCs in such an environment. The territory of their clan is rather small and every clan has a good number of warriors, many of them more powerful fighters than the PCs (though the vast majority doesn't have any class levels). Their duty is to protect the villages, but for the really great threats there are the actual champions to take care of things, at least until the PCs reach 4th or 5th level and join their prestigious ranks. At the same time, the other clans neither need the PCs, since they got their own warriors, and they would also be outsiders who would be expected to complete their business with the clan and then return to their own people.

Essentially, at 1st to 3rd level, PCs are stuck in their home village with guard duty. Not really a situation that leads itself to going on adventures.
However, there is a huge wilderness outside their home territory full of mysteries, ancient ruins, and magical wonders, which can greatly help the clans to improve the safety and life quality for their people, but could be very dangerous in the hands of their enemies. And I don't want the PCs to be independent wanderers either. Making it a campaign in which the PCs have responsibilities to their people and need to play by the rules of societies is something I want to be very much an important part of the campaign.

Do you have any ideas how I could make it so that the PCs retain their duties to their clan while still encouraging that they leave their home from time to time for long journeys into the unknown?
I guess one option would be to say that all people with class levels are already belonging to the elite of the clans. No longer guarding the entrance to the village or patrolling the fields of the outlying farms, but already being kept in reserve for special emergencies. (The maximum level in the campaign is 12th, and most clans don't have anyone higher than 6th.) But I would also like to keep having 1st and 2nd level PCs being among the common warriors of the clan (though with exceptional potential to become much more).

You probably don't want my advice any more, but I would suggest that all the player characters be the sorts who are dissatisfied with the status quo for some reason. The assumption being, from the start, that the game will be about adventurers leaving their homes for parts unknown. Each player should come up with a reason why their character no longer wants to stay in their home village and goes off into the wilderness to seek their fortune and make a name for themselves. Alternatively, society requires young people of their professions to undergo a sort of rite of passage which takes place over a somewhat lengthy period of time, where they go off into the dangerous parts to prove themselves. Those who survive the required "adventuring" time period and return will be accepted as protectors of the tribe.
When they are higher level, possibly they return, now proven heroes, and participate in the inter-tribe politics and warfare. Or they cut out their own places from the wild and start new tribes/villages.

Mark Hall
2014-07-26, 05:26 PM
One option is something like a spirit quest... the priest/shaman of the tribe sees that something needs to be retrieved from the wilderness, and that these folks are the one to go. It has the downsides of making death a little harder to work in, but means they've got adequate motivation. Or you could say "Before you can become a great hero, you must go into the wilderness and have a spirit quest". And in the spirit world, they meet up and have an adventure, even though they went separately.

You might also go with "clan hostilities". Not quite full-blown war, but starting to get there, and some beligerents are pushing patrols into opposing territories. This could also go with "retaliatory raid"... they get raided by someone, and so strike back into terra incognito.

Unless you've already boxed yourself in, there's also the option of an open box... you've got tribes to the north, south, and west of your tribe, but none... that you know of... to the east. Some scouting into those lands, looking for water sources and good farming/ranching land for later expansion might be a good way to get them out on a bit of extended journey.

Don't neglect the "lost child/granny" option. Someone's kid goes missing. The big guys are all busy with this other thing. The PCs, being experienced and available, get voluntold. Maybe an old warrior... Old as in age category... went into a place to prove his valor, and hasn't come back out?

Yora
2014-07-27, 05:08 AM
Are you looking for specific adventure seeds per se, or general advice on keeping your players invested in the idea of staying with their clan?
Primarily I am looking to define "what is a Player Character?" What's their role in society and what do they do?

Many RPGs have a pretty well defined premise for what kind of people the PCs are going to be. Legend of the Five Rings is for Samurai, and the setting of the game is designed to provide a background in which there is lots of things to do for samurai. But not a lot for other hypothetical characters. Shadowrun is made for professional thieves and mercenaries. Mouse Guard for Guard Mice, Birthright for nobles, Call of Cthulhu for Investigators, Conan d20 for mercenaries and thieves seeking riches, and so on. I think a game actually benefits a lot from focusing on a specific kind of PCs, rather than being "you can play whatever you want".


A less dramatic, more everyday option would be for the PCs to serve as escort for their settlement's herbalist, perhaps helping him negotiate a steep ravine where a clifftop fern is known to grow. This is exactly the sort of thing you'd send a few first- or second-level characters to do--provide a competent guard for a valued clan asset, protect him from whatever might pose a danger in the wilderness between settlements and help him as required. Not something you'd ask a fifth-level clan champion to do, and the herbalist is a little too revered to entrust to a couple of untrained spear-chuckers, but a small group of first-level characters would do fine. Again, this gives an opportunity to include wilderness encounters and other challenges flavored to taste.
Good point. It provides an opportunity to both travel and perform their duty to protect the clan at the same time. It's probably a good idea to give the characters a certain amount of responsibility at a rather early level, like 3rd. I think usually you expect 3rd and 4th level characters to be pretty ordinary and unremarkable, with greater responsibilites being asigned only to those of higher level like 6th or 8th. But in a setting where most warriors are below 1st level fighters, there's no reason why 3rd level characters can't be already seasoned veterans who rank among the chiefs most trusted men and women. Shaman characters would work especially well, as even as 1st level characters they are still apprentices to the head shaman of their village and would recieve tasks from their master that would not be trusted to even high level warriors.


Hunting and scouting parties, obviously.
Also a good point. That increases the radius of the PCs activities considerably. And it doesn't just have to be border patrolls, but can also include visiting neighbors in an even larger area, to exchange news and information between allies and keep everyone informed what's going on in the larger world.

As odd as it may seem, given the setup of a few villages surrounded by monster infested and ruin covered wilderness, I think a campaign like this could probably be one of the least suitable for a sandbox game. The duties of PCs pretty much prevent them from roaming around freely to seek fame and fortune.

Perhaps a bit unconventional, but instead of starting an adventure with "you are sitting in the great hall when the chief approaches you to send you on a patrol", it could simply start with "while you are out on one of your regular partrols...".
It's "a bit frowned upon" in certain circles, to put it mildly, but I think a viable way to set things in motion. I think an episodic adventure format is probably particularly useful in a campaign like this, as it can be assumed that PCs are mostly living a rather ordinary life, in which they go after their tasks and duties without anything special happening. In a more basic dungeon crawl campaign, it seem to be the default assumption that PCs are resting a week or maybe two between adventures, and once all the healing, identification of items, and selling of treasures is done, they set out to the next place where monsters and treasure can be found. That probably just won't work if it's assumed the PCs are mostly staying in one settlement for many years. There just are not that many monster lairs nearby, and they are far from the only people of their kind around.
However, I would prefer not to be pretty much force feeding the players adventure hooks. While they do have a duty to perform, I would like for the players to deal with any potential threat autonomously, without superiors telling them where to go and what to do. Not quite sure how to start an adventure for such a group.

Saladman
2014-07-27, 06:24 AM
Essentially, at 1st to 3rd level, PCs are stuck in their home village with guard duty. Not really a situation that leads itself to going on adventures.

I'd consider not playing this out, or only a one session prelude of it, and starting players at the lowest level where they've got some status and freedom of action.

But the thing about green young warriors is they typically want to prove themselves and gain glory and prowess. And their elders probably have an outlet for that, rather than just telling them to stay home and guard the gates. That can be counting coup in battles, or raids for livestock. (Hellfrost, a setting for Savage Worlds, has a neat subsystem for cattle raids (http://www.tripleacegames.com/free-downloads/hellfrost/), for instance.)


Do you have any ideas how I could make it so that the PCs retain their duties to their clan while still encouraging that they leave their home from time to time for long journeys into the unknown?

"Duties to their clan" might come more in the form of obligations to family (and sometimes cults or warrior societies) than "the tribe tells you to work on X this season." Warriors might raid, scout and plunder ruins as they please, but still be called home both for defense, and to defend the honor of their relatives.

Yora
2014-07-27, 11:28 AM
Give the players family back at the tribe, spouses and children. So that way they have a concrete stake in the tribe.
I just realized that it goes farther than this. Family can easily be used as simple hostages why the players would want the village to be safe. But that would be the same thing in the capital city of a large empire. What I think would be really important is to make the players feel that it is their tribe. They need to be actively involved in internal events, otherwise they could simply be mercenaries who "just work here".
Which is a thing I almost completely neglected. There is a shaman and a headsman in the village, but I could't tell you their name without diving deeply into my notes. I also wasn't assertive enough when I told the players to create some backstories. Only the fighte is actually a real member of the clan. The others are just outsider who got permission to live in the village. But we never got beyond establishing the basic ideas and I wanted to go over the details with them again next session anyway. Since the players know so little of the setting, I think I will try to convince them to go with some details I've come up with that would go together well with the general idea they made up.
The cleric who was trained by a hermit could still have at least some uncles and cousins in the village, and the halfelf who got kicked out of his elven village as a kid would not be a wandering shaman but been taken in by his human relatives. As he is grown up now, he could still have left their household but have other connections with the clan as the apprentice of the village shaman who trained him. Not really ideal to get involved with that as GM, but I think for a homebrew setting this might be necessary.

Sartharina
2014-07-27, 12:18 PM
I just realized that it goes farther than this. Family can easily be used as simple hostages why the players would want the village to be safe. But that would be the same thing in the capital city of a large empire. What I think would be really important is to make the players feel that it is their tribe. They need to be actively involved in internal events, otherwise they could simply be mercenaries who "just work here".
Which is a thing I almost completely neglected. There is a shaman and a headsman in the village, but I could't tell you their name without diving deeply into my notes. I also wasn't assertive enough when I told the players to create some backstories. Only the fighte is actually a real member of the clan. The others are just outsider who got permission to live in the village. But we never got beyond establishing the basic ideas and I wanted to go over the details with them again next session anyway. Since the players know so little of the setting, I think I will try to convince them to go with some details I've come up with that would go together well with the general idea they made up.
The cleric who was trained by a hermit could still have at least some uncles and cousins in the village, and the halfelf who got kicked out of his elven village as a kid would not be a wandering shaman but been taken in by his human relatives. As he is grown up now, he could still have left their household but have other connections with the clan as the apprentice of the village shaman who trained him. Not really ideal to get involved with that as GM, but I think for a homebrew setting this might be necessary.The DM should work with players to ensure that their characters integrate into the setting, when the setting's important like this.

Lord Torath
2014-07-27, 06:53 PM
Similar to the Spirit Quest idea is the Coming-of-Age quest. To be fully considered an adult, the youth must retrieve an artifact (note that's artifact, not Artifact) from the ruins. No aid from the moment the youth leaves the village until he/she returns may be given by any adult or the quest is void, but other youths may assist as needed (allowing the party to go together and become adults together).

Once in the ruins, the characters may learn of Artifacts that may be of use to the tribe (but useless to an individual warrior - something that is beneficial, but not in combat. Something vaguely like a Sankara Stone from Temple of Doom), prompting several more trips to the ruins (or other, different ruins) after becoming adults through a ritual following their return.

Mark Hall
2014-07-27, 10:38 PM
Also consider impact of their actions. Have them rescue a patrol... and then the sister of one of the people saved starts making dinner for one of the people who doesn't have anyone else. She doesn't seem to be courting, just "He's back in town, he saved my brother, I make him food." If they go on a medicine hunt, have a pregnant woman whose family member was saved name a child after one of them. If you have demi-outsiders, offer to have some of them adopted for really big things.

Basically, since you won't be rewarding them in gold or magic items, reward them in connection to the tribe.

Yora
2014-07-28, 12:19 PM
Lots of really helpful advice. Much thanks to everyone.

I think traditional treasures from exploring dungeon does indeed not fill a big role in a tribal society. If you want to trade your finds, people will only give you as much as the item is worth for them. Even if you could get a 1000 gold pieces from a rich merchant supplying great kings, there normally isn't a way to get it there. So you either trade it for a pair of boots or a good dagger, or keep the damn thing yourself. And what would you be doing with 20 silver rings and a dozen gold necklaces?
And even if you could get all the coins, what would you buy with it? There are no smiths who make plate armor or enchanters of magic swords in your tribe.
What I decided is to treat treasure as another source of XP, which is the motivation for players to collect it. It can then be shared among the village, to trade it with other settlements or clans for cooking pots, horseshoes, nice pelts, or whatever raises the standard of living.

I've found two more things mentioned on another site.
In a tribal society, settlements are probably both quite small and far between. I think that's a mistake that I've been making with my setting for quite some time. I decided early on that 90% of the land would be completely uninhabited and unexplored. But I've still been treating the remaining 10% as quite densely settled and well pacified. Regardless of the actual reality in human history, for a game setting travelling between villages should not be a casual thing. Maybe have three or four villages within an hour or two walking distance of each other, but after that you are essentially following trail through the wilderness. Maybe reasonably explored wilderness, but still untamed and barely patroled.

What also should work well in a fantasy setting is that some of the people living in the area might be even much more barbaric than you are. The savages from The 13th Warrior would be a good example, and in Hyborea, the Nordheimer clans have the more brutish Cimmerians as neighbors, who in turn got the completely savage Picts. A similar role in Middle-earth would be the orcs to the wood elves of Mirkwood and the dwarves, who have their small city states in a remote barren land.

Mark Hall
2014-07-28, 12:32 PM
Also consider where on the traditional "gifting" culture this tribe falls. Do gifts create or acknowledge obligation? This becomes especially true if the party starts getting phat lewt and spreading it around... is that a political power play? Could it be a political power play?

Yora
2014-07-28, 12:44 PM
...you are asking complicated questions! :smallamused:

Questions which might be fun for the players to deal with. Do you have something in mind?

Mark Hall
2014-07-28, 01:31 PM
...you are asking complicated questions! :smallamused:

Questions which might be fun for the players to deal with. Do you have something in mind?

It can result in people gifting "up"... I give you a gift, and you are obligated to give me something; otherwise, you look bad. So I gift a valuable piece of jewelry to a subchief, and he gifts me a masterwork or enchanted weapon. Now, if I give a gift to a family member, it's different... the family bond is a bit more intimate, and assumes a lot of give and take. If I give it to someone below me, who cannot afford to pay it back, then it's expected that they owe me.

That's a pretty standard gifting culture. It's why kings among the Norse were known as "Ring-givers"... they gave valuable gifts to their men, and received loyalty in return. IIRC, in the Pacific Northwest, giving things away was seen as a sign of wealth... "I have so much that I can give things to you." It showed status.

Palanan
2014-07-28, 03:00 PM
Originally Posted by Mark Hall
It's why kings among the Norse were known as "Ring-givers"...

Also in Anglo-Saxon culture, as seen in Beowulf for example, in which being a ring-giver (in the broader sense) was part of what made a man a "good king."

And it wasn't simply a single act of giving, but a constant stream of gifts--not just treasure, but also land and titles, such as those King Alfred showered on Asser.

Sartharina
2014-07-28, 04:23 PM
And what would you be doing with 20 silver rings and a dozen gold necklaces?Looking absolutely fabulous, of course!

Palanan
2014-07-28, 05:20 PM
Originally Posted by Yora
I decided early on that 90% of the land would be completely uninhabited and unexplored. But I've still been treating the remaining 10% as quite densely settled and well pacified.

Unless there's a strong pressure against colonization from the populated 10% into the unexplored wilderness, there should be a steady expansion of the settled and pacified areas. People like their room, and there will always be a few who will feel drawn to the emptiness--and a few more who will be forced that way, for their having committed crimes or otherwise run afoul of their society.

There may be environmental considerations; the lands across the river or the mountains may be colder, or with a different sort of forest your people don't know how to live in--but humans are immensely adaptable, especially when driven by desperate need, and over generations there will be diffusion and adaptation far into the wilderness.

So as it stands, you'll need a compelling reason for why 90% of the land is unknown and empty of people. Or you'll need to decide who lives there, and why. It may well be unexplored by the characters in their particular tribe or clan--but someone will almost certainly be living there.


Originally Posted by Yora
What also should work well in a fantasy setting is that some of the people living in the area might be even much more barbaric than you are.

This is largely a matter of perspective. :smalltongue:

Different cultures will be "barbarians" to each other--even when materially they're almost identical, even when genetically and linguistically they're closer than they realize. Culture and identity in tribal societies can be intensely focused against the Other, with the result that neighbors can be the worst of enemies.

This also ties in neatly with the idea of unexplored wilderness, at least as understood by the people in those societies. Many people in tribal cultures never travel more than ten or twenty miles from where they were born, and their understanding of the world would be radically limited in comparison to someone who crosses oceans for a living.

In the southeastern quarter of North America, the first Spanish to explore the interior found constellations of tiny chiefdoms, some of them loosely allied and some of them implacable enemies. There were often "dead zones" of several days' travel between them, grown up into a "wilderness" that the locals simply didn't explore--they had their fields and hunting grounds closer to their own settlements, and traveling too far in the wrong direction could land you in the territory of someone whose language you didn't speak and who would likely kill you on sight.

Thus there was a patchwork of settled regions, interspersed with unpopulated wilderness which was essentially a no-man's-land. The balance was more towards settled regions, but there were certainly broad areas which were as much "wilderness" as could be found. You might give this approach a try, since it allows for a mosaic of settled and unpopulated areas.




Originally Posted by Yora
Primarily I am looking to define "what is a Player Character?" What's their role in society and what do they do?

I don't know if the PCs would necessarily need a distinct "role" per se; I would see them as promising young warriors who have a restless nature and the occasional unexpected talent.

They would certainly be among the elites of a tribal society; they won't be spending all day threshing wheat or weaving sandals. They'll be out hunting as a matter of course, testing themselves against wild animals and hoping they might come across a worthy enemy to fight.

Keep in mind that hunting doesn't just provide meat for the settlement; the ability to distribute meat confers status in itself, and while the hunters would almost certainly present the meat to the headman, they'll earn status from having provided it.

And beyond this--hunting provides the opportunity for the young warriors to learn the landscape around their settlement, to know it intimately as their home and refuge. Wider-ranging hunts will give them the opportunity to learn the terrain further out: and this becomes an asset in time of war, whether for simple raids or a determined assault, because taking the fight to the enemy requires an understanding of the landscape you attack and retreat across.


Originally Posted by Yora
But in a setting where most warriors are below 1st level fighters, there's no reason why 3rd level characters can't be already seasoned veterans who rank among the chiefs most trusted men and women.

In general I would agree with this, but I tend not to assign particular roles or values based on the character level alone. Individuals will be trusted by the chief for other reasons besides how many arrows they can fire in six seconds; the chief will weigh other factors, like character and honor and kin relationships, which aren't really modeled by a simple leveling system.


Originally Posted by Yora
Only the fighte[r] is actually a real member of the clan. The others are just outsider[s] who got permission to live in the village.

Well, even outsiders will develop personal ties if they've living in a concentrated social environment. If there's clan exogamy in effect--a preference for marrying outside the immediate clan--then those "outsiders" might be seen as hot properties by leading men in the village who want good marriages for their daughters. There may well be some cultivating and politicking going on, as the various fathers try to impress the outsiders with the benefits of becoming a part of their families.

This could lead to some fun roleplaying--and would also give the outsiders reason to consider becoming insiders, since marrying into the elite power structure would certainly be a valid goal for an ambitious young warrior.

And if he's not interested in marrying, this could lead to some truly hilarious roleplaying.

:smallbiggrin:

Yora
2014-07-29, 03:12 AM
I don't know if the PCs would necessarily need a distinct "role" per se; I would see them as promising young warriors who have a restless nature and the occasional unexpected talent.

They would certainly be among the elites of a tribal society; they won't be spending all day threshing wheat or weaving sandals. They'll be out hunting as a matter of course, testing themselves against wild animals and hoping they might come across a worthy enemy to fight.

Keep in mind that hunting doesn't just provide meat for the settlement; the ability to distribute meat confers status in itself, and while the hunters would almost certainly present the meat to the headman, they'll earn status from having provided it.
I'd say that's already a fairly well outlined role.

Suppiluliuma
2014-08-02, 09:31 AM
I have a couple of suggestions which may or may not fit into your world. They are derived from real-world Bronze Age (and early Iron Age) phenomena, but they require political structures that you might not be interested in having. You might also be able to adapt them to fit your setting better.

My first suggestion would be some kind of vendetta situation, which another poster already mentioned. What I would add is that, if you have religion in your setting, there can be some interesting interplay between the right of a victim's clan to exact vengeance and the right of a sanctuary to grant asylum. One or more of your characters could have killed someone (or some other grave offense) or they could be tasked with pursuing the killer of a kinsman. Either way, they are engaged in a race to a sanctuary. There are some additional complications you can add if you want. For example, asylum in some cases was available only to unintentional (or at least non-premeditated) killers, so you could involve the players in an investigation of the nature of the killing. Another possibility is that the victim's clan, if they are powerful enough, could try to flout the sanctuary's right to asylum and kill the killer anyway. (Both of these happen in the Hebrew Bible, but the first one involves law and the second one involves a monarchy, so they might not interest you).

My second suggestion is to create a group that exists outside of clan and other boundaries that the players can join. This group would live on the fringes (which, in your setting, seems like much of the world) but would be large enough, powerful enough, and organized enough to threaten more civilized areas. They could also potentially be hired as mercenaries but they would not be bound by clan politics. The group I am thinking of (Habiru/Apiru) operated in the context of an international economic system of empires and city states and caused a lot of problems for that system. I think they could easily fit and even be more prominent in a less settled world. The point of having a group like this, like most serious "outlaw" groups, is not just to let people do whatever they want but to provide a more viable alternative for people who have no opportunities to prosper within "the system." If your players joined such a group, you could make things difficult for them by having the group decide to undertake raids against their (former) home. Theoretically, the players could try to use this group as a way to accrue power for themselves (i.e., level up) and try to aim the group in ways that benefit their clan. If they are able to leave the group on good terms, they could potentially enlist their help against other clan/tribes/etc. in the future.

CombatOwl
2014-08-02, 10:55 AM
Great setting, but it turned out to be quite troublesome to create adventurers for the PCs in such an environment. The territory of their clan is rather small and every clan has a good number of warriors, many of them more powerful fighters than the PCs (though the vast majority doesn't have any class levels).

How does that work? It takes a fair amount of land being farmed to support a few thousand people with ancient agricultural techniques. Especially if they're supporting large bands of dedicated warriors. 90% of people have to be farming to support the other 10% doing something else. If you have one warrior, remember that there are 9 agricultural workers behind him making sure that he has a stable supply of surplus food and goods. Not something you put into a small area.


Their duty is to protect the villages, but for the really great threats there are the actual champions to take care of things, at least until the PCs reach 4th or 5th level and join their prestigious ranks. At the same time, the other clans neither need the PCs, since they got their own warriors, and they would also be outsiders who would be expected to complete their business with the clan and then return to their own people.

Natural resources are not evenly distributed. "Our warrior's blacksmiths require iron, go forth with Old Joe here to go collect iron from <other clan here>. We will bring things to trade."


Essentially, at 1st to 3rd level, PCs are stuck in their home village with guard duty. Not really a situation that leads itself to going on adventures.

Now you see why adventurers aren't an actual self-supporting profession in real life. There isn't much actual calling for it without reshaping the world to have vast piles of loot hidden in ancient ruins filled with danger. AKA why D&D isn't realistic. If you want to have an ancient setting with characters who do things, you basically have to have them working for an expansionist state, or engaging in some form of banditry. Good aligned adventurers need not apply.


And I don't want the PCs to be independent wanderers either. Making it a campaign in which the PCs have responsibilities to their people and need to play by the rules of societies is something I want to be very much an important part of the campaign.

Then you need to set the society up to be less conservative about risking the lives of young warriors for questionably valuable quests.


Do you have any ideas how I could make it so that the PCs retain their duties to their clan while still encouraging that they leave their home from time to time for long journeys into the unknown?

A new tribal leader comes to power promising great wealth and power, and his plan for doing it is to subjugate the surrounding villages and claiming the ancient loot to pay for it. Don't have him attack everyone at once, just start having him picking off the weaker villages nearby until he's got so much territory and population that even an alliance of surrounding villages can't do anything.

Suppiluliuma
2014-08-02, 11:16 AM
How interested are you in incorporating mythological conceps and beings? There are plenty of dragons, demons, and other "chaos monsters" that inhabit uncivilized places and/or times. If you are willing to fudge things a bit, you can provide some honest-to-gods bad guys to fight and get around the problem raised by CombatOwl that there isn't much adventuring for good guys to do.

A major aspect of some ancient mythologies (Mesopotamian, Syro-Canaanite, Egyptian) is that a god of order has to subdue a god of chaos for the (civilized) world to exist. The god of order tends to be a storm god and the god of chaos tends to be a sea god, but god of life vs. god of death is also a possibility. In any case, there are annual ceremonies to commemorate/reenact the victory of the god of order. Underlying these ceremonies is the idea that chaos is a constant threat that must be kept at bay.

Imagine what would happen if the power of the god of order waned, and the god of chaos started encroaching on his territory. Monstrous beings that were normally confined to the sea and the desert (or, if you go with death god, the underworld) would threaten the typically more hospitable parts of the world. PCs could act as agents of the god of order/life, both by fighting various chaos monsters and by restoring the god's power. You could even have the God die (which is a regular part of myths of this type) and have the players somehow involved in his resurrection (usually this role is served by his sister/wife, but I see no reason that this divine conflict can't be played out on the human level).

Yora
2014-08-02, 11:50 AM
How interested are you in incorporating mythological conceps and beings? There are plenty of dragons, demons, and other "chaos monsters" that inhabit uncivilized places and/or times.
Very much, actually. In my setting there are no personal gods looking down from Heaven, but the world is pretty much ruled by spirits and the humans constantly bring sacrifices and plead to them for favors and mercy. Nymphs, spriggans, rakshasa, treants, oni, and the fair folk are major powers in the world. And then there's even more powerful and enigmatic mountain and river gods above them.
Religion is much more animistic and in the hand of shamans than in the form of state cults or churches.

Another element specific to my setting, is an awareness of primordial chaos. The universe sprang forth from the chaos and is quite stable now, but nothing that exists is eternal and universes will die and disappear after some several billion years. It's unavoidable and a fact of reality. It has happened many times before and will repeat itself many times again. In addition to shamans and wild wiches, there are also sorcerers who are opening conduits to the primordial chaos to reshape the world around them. And many people believe that this can hasten the natural decline and bring the end much earlier than it's meant to be. Being changed by chaos also makes plants and creatures sick, so even in short term their dark magic is spreading suffering.

AMFV
2014-08-02, 03:53 PM
Now you see why adventurers aren't an actual self-supporting profession in real life. There isn't much actual calling for it without reshaping the world to have vast piles of loot hidden in ancient ruins filled with danger. AKA why D&D isn't realistic. If you want to have an ancient setting with characters who do things, you basically have to have them working for an expansionist state, or engaging in some form of banditry. Good aligned adventurers need not apply.

If only there was some profession that involved traveling long distances with only a few people and protecting and guiding large, dangerous animals against bandits, the weather and natives. Or wait, no that's a real profession...

If only there was a profession that involved seeking gold in dangerous high mountain locations where people might try to kill you for the information you had, where you were fighting the elements and other people... that's also a real profession.

If there's bandits, then there is money in protecting caravans from bandits. Or religious obligation.

If there's an expansionist state then there is money in protecting people from it (or no money) as with the Magnificent Seven.

One could be traveling to a remote land on a religious pilgrimage, protecting people on religious pilgrimages. There are real cases of adventurous travel throughout history, most are not as glamorous as portrayed, in my experience dangerous professions involve more boredom than not, but they still exist in the real world.