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Tales of the Intrepideurs’ Guild, Pt 3 (Game Session 0)

This weekend, we actually had “Session 0” of my Fantasy AGE game, where players made characters, including asking about the world, talking about relationships to one another, and so on.

Despite all the work I had done on the Intrepideur’s Guild itself, I had not yet spent any effort on the region the PCs will be starting in. As with the guild and the entire campaign concept I didn’t need much–just a frame upon which I could hang a paper-thin narrative for the adventures. But players generally have more fun when there at least a few concepts and place names for them to build their own stories and ideas off of.

So, I took 5 minutes to create the loosest of frameworks for a town. But I wanted the players to be more invested in it than if it was just a long list of imaginary words and sounds with dashs and hyphens thrown in for fantasy flavor. So, instead of naming everything myself, I creates a Mad-LIbs-stype series of options, and asked each player to fill in two of them.

Here’s the framework I used.

Welcome to the major trade town of [Adjective][Word Associated with Elves], located on the shores of the [Word associated with seas or oceans] and bordered by the [Word associated with rock or stone] Mountains with the [Terrain feature] Woods, and an important part of the [commodity] Route.

It is a [form of government], ruled over by the [Any fantasy species] King, [Impressive or noble adjective][word GM picks based on the king’s species].

Then after each player gave me a word I tweaked a tiny bit (I originally had swimmingly forest, which I disliked, so I jogged it slightly to Forrest Swim, which I think is a great town name and immediately makes me begin to wonder how it got that name.

Welcome to the major trade town of Forrest Swim, located on the shores of the Sextant Sea and bordered by the Igneous Mountains within the Outcropped Woods, and an important part of the Silk Route.

It is a Dictatorship, ruled over by the Unicorn King, Gloryhoof.

(Art by Kate Smith)

Then we got to making characters. Everyone choose to roll for ability socres, rather than use point-buy, just to get a feel for how Fantasy AGE feels when done that way. We restricted ourselves to the Basic Rulebook, and had characters done with plenty of time left for a quick adventure.

I used a single house rule, allowing characters to pick a specialization at 1st level.

The players all worked together, comparing ability scores and social status results, talking about what they’d like to see the party be able to do, and so on.

In the end, our heroes came out thusly–
Drahul (orc warrior, two-weapon fighter with battleaxe and longsword)
Folas (elf mage, arcana of healing and heroics)
Hannah (human rogue with assassin specialization, sister to)
James (human warrior, two-handed spear fighter)
Winter (elf mage, arcana of lightning and power)

The game notes, adapted from those taken by my wife Lj, are short but to-the-point.

Session 01:

We’re all tin-level Intrepideurs. We’ve all been on our initial quests with overseers and passed our evaluations. We’re ready for the bigtime.

Only Hannah and James know each other. The Guild recommends this group of 5 band together, at least initially, as an Intrepideur’s party.

We take our First quest: Escort quest (pays 50s per member of the group) – A request to the Guild from King Gloryhoof, himself

  • Five orphan children, arrived by ship. Need to be taken to a holy site of their order up in the Igneous Mountains. Their escorts were killed by Pirates, who were paid by a cult known as The Fists who want to kill the children. The pirates were driven off before they could harm the children.
  • Four days to the end destination, then four days back. Have a cart for the children, and the Guild provides food and basic supplies.

Day 01

Ambushed by 5 members of the Fists on the road. GM says this fight LOOKs too tough for us and it may be a TPK, but since part of this is playtesting and getting used to the game, we all agree to play it out.

  • Everyone knocked out at least once, and in the end everyone but Hannah and James are killed.
  • Except the GM retcons having a near TPK in the first session, as a blessing from King Gloryhoof for those carrying out his errands keeps the “killed” PCs from quite dying.
  • We get the kids to the mountain and back

Day 09

  • We get 50sp each + another 60sp from selling the gear we took off the Fists. Several characters take light chain recovered from the Fists. Including Winter, a spellcaster.

GM says to level up to 2nd level, and everyone gets one common temporary magic items to represent adventures between now and the next game.

So, that’s it. I ran the game… and nearly killed all the PCs with a fight WAY too tough for them. And that’s okay, we all got to use the death and dying rules, which often don’t get played with much, and learned I was right–that fight was WAY too tough!

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Tales of the Intrepideurs’ Guild, Pt 2

So as I noted a little over a week ago, I am starting a Fantasy AGE campaign, specifically designed to help me have a place to try things out as the Fantasy AGE developer for Green Ronin Publishing. This will be the “Tales of the Intrepideur’s Guild,” and have as a framing device that the PCs are entry-level professional adventurers belonging to the aforementioned guild, and doing jobs it sanctions.

I explained a bit about why such a guild would exist in the imaginary game world of Fage I am creating for this campaign. Now I want to delve a bit into the guild itself.

For this article, we’ll discuss the guild’s place in the world of Fage.

The Intrepideur’s Guild is one of the major “Slate League” freelance unions (an unofficial designation that comes from only the most successful such groups able to afford slate tile roofs for all their guildhalls). It among the oldest still-active freelancer unions, third only to the Ratcatcher Society and the Right and Honorable Order of Dragonslayers, both of which are a good deal smaller and not considered Slate League institutions (though the Dragonslayers were, at one time). It is also among the most trusted (along with the Lady’s Sewing Circle and Heroic Alliance) most widespread (challenged in that regard only by the Council of Warlocks and Alchemists’ Consociation), and most successful (consistently placing in the top three best mission-clearance rates, often with the Court of Justiciars and Council of Warlocks, though it worth noting the Lady’s Sewing Circle refuses to discuss their clearance rate, or who their clients are).

Nearly every major city has a Intrepideur’s Guildhall, along with many towns, trading posts, and crossroads. Outside of emergency or disaster relief, only members of the guild in good standing can stay at a Guildhall, and they can do so extremely cheaply—though anyone staying for more than a few weeks without taking on some missions (officially called “Quests”) will get relocated to another Guildhall if members who are on quests need the room.

Because the guild will only accept and sanction quests from individuals or groups that agree to a set or rules regarding the treatment of its members, most city-states and townships have formal treaties with the it. these treaties insure that the guild will have a guildhall at a set rate or tax, that income from performing quests is not taxed, and that guild members are treated fairly and legally always have the right to demand to see an Intrepideur’s Guild representative before being taken to trial or having any criminal punishment carried out.

In many ways, the Intrepideur’s Guild is a government itself, run by a Guildroyal (currently Guildmistress Akachi), overseen by a Council of Senior Hallkeepers, and able to negotiate with the most powerful city-states on near-equal footing. Of course the Intrepideur’s Guild lacks a standing army, and city-states can gather in alliances… but since the guild also shows no sign of wanting to impose its will on anything beyond how its own people are treated, most governments consider the benefit of access to its quest-boards more than worth the cost of agreeing to its terms.

After all, sometimes you need a high-level Intrepideur.

(Art by Jesse-lee Lang)

So, how does the guild decide what Quests to take? How do you join? What’s in it for the Intrepideurs?

Well get to that stuff in time!

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Tales of the Intrepideurs’ Guild, Pt 1

It should come as no shock that, as Green Ronin’s developer for the Fantasy AGE RPG, I want to run a Fantasy AGE campaign. Running (and playing) the games I write and develop for is an important part of being connected to the material as-played for me when I can arrange it, and it helps me build and maintain system mastery.

I have been *meaning* to start a Fantasy Age game for months, but (waves hands at… everything).

However, since I’m only going to be able to run a single campaign at the moment, I want to set up its framework to maximize its benefits to me. That means organizing it so I can run no matter how many of my players can show up, maximizing the amount of time the campaign focuses on game mechanics, and having a framework lose enough I can experiment with and playtest new material without having to spend a lot of effort working it into the game.

My players are, of course, aware that these are goals of mine. I’m currently only able to play in-person with the very small group in my social bubble, all of whom are folks I’ve been playing RPGs with for 20 years or more, so that’s not an issue.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t want ANY framing device for the campaign. I just want one with a great deal of flexibility and a focus on small, variable groups going and doing dangerous or difficult things.

And for this game, that’s going to come in the form of the Intrepideurs’ Guild. Which immediately leads to the question, what the heck is an Intrepideur?

(Art by Luca Oleastri)

The word is a portmanteau of Intrepid and Entrepreneur that I am intentionally creating for its slightly cheesy flavor. It will, in-world, be used the way “adventurer” might be in a lot of fantasy game settings. Within the context of the fictional world I am creating, an Intrepideur is someone who makes a career out of being brave and bold, and facing things most people don’t want to.

So in our fictional world (which, for the moment, I am naming Fage), its considered normal to have your day-job be facing dangerous things to make money. In many cases, someone will pay you to do this, because the dangerous things make their lives difficult. In other cases, a group might decide to seek out and face a danger because they think there’s money to be made in doing so. Folks of Fage treat Intrepideurs the way our current world treats first responders, extreme sports athletes and mountain climbers, and entrepreneurs. It’s not for everyone and it’s a bit off the norm, but in general it’s seen as a reasonable choice for people drawn to such work.

Now some of this work is pretty intermittent stuff — if bandits have taken to preying on a road between countries, you can hire Intrepideurs to guard you as you travel it or even to clear off the bandits entirely. Need someone to hunt down and stop an arsonist? Protect your sheep from wolves? Hunt down giant crabs suddenly tearing up fishing nets? Gather the prophetic and altering spice Mordant from the Shifting Desert? Intripdeurs are your best bet.

But there are also some things that happen at least as often as severe weather, tornadoes, hurricanes, and wildfires, and that really do call for a society to maintain an entire class of people trained to deal with them. Here are some common sources of ongoing Intrepideur work.

Bone Stars — It’s well known that the night sky is the inside of the skull of the giant that was slain by the First Gods to make the world (though there is significant disagreement on which giant, and which gods). Sometimes, the long-dead giant forms a wicked thought in its skull, which flakes off a bit of the bone from the skull and plummets to Fage in a bolt of colored fire. Bone Stars can be seen for days before landing, and are often signs of misfortune or the death of a ruler.

But they also often have actual… things… on them. Screaming, mobile fungi that consume all they come across. Metal spiders that build webs of crystal that drink sunlight. Evil, psychic rats. And whatever it is? It does not belong on Fage. it does not seek balance with its environment. The things from Bone Stars was plagues on the land that, if not dealt with, can eventually scrub whole kingdoms clean of life.

And if one of those Bone Stars lands near your town? You want some Intrepideurs to show up and take care of it. Quick, while it’s small.

(Art by Dominick)

Catacairns — There have been waves of evil spirits, demigods, and demons that have attacked the World of Fage in the past, sometimes swarming over entire continents. When those things are defeated, it turns out they mostly can’t be “killed” in the mortal sense of the word. But they can be placed within massive underground tomb complexes, which are filled with puzzles and traps and hazards to keep the spirits from ever finding their way to their physical remains, or out into the world. these tomb-prison complexes are known as Catacairns. Some are centuries old, built by fallen empires or lone genius/hermit mages, marked by weird mehirs and monuments.

Mostly, they are pretty stable prisons. Mostly.

But sometimes some energy leaks out of an abandoned Catacairn into the nearby wilderness or town and… CHANGES things. That usually mean a seal or lock has cracked, and SOMEONE has to both deal with the twisted “cairnite” abominations it creates, and go fix the thing. And sometimes cultists or power-mad idiots crack into a catacairn intentionally, to siphon such power, or even release what is within in hopes of being rewarded with vast power. Sometimes the outer locks and traps fail after centuries of disuse, and minor spirits even escape outward, and have to be put down and trapped again.

And sometimes? Sometimes the worst things, at the lowest levels, wake up and start to tear down their whole prison, block by block.

(Art by info@nextmars)

Prismatic Mountains — There are multiple ranges of Prismatic Mountains throughout the World of Fage, and they… shift. Not all the time, but always during the winter. A pass found one year is likely useless by the next. Residents, animals, monsters, even weather shifts from year to year. And Prismatic Mountains are almost always right where you want to take caravans of trade goods through.

So, every year, there’s a huge demand for Intrepideurs to go into the nearest Prismatic Mountain range, and map what they can, learn what they can and, if possible, find a route through. With trade routes cut off nearly all winter, the first group who can prove they can get a caravan through can command steep prices of their route, and some small traders will risk heading into the mountains before a pass is established, with many escorts, hoping to be the first to reach the trade routes on the far side so they can charge premium prices for their wares.

Finding a new route can make Intrepideurs reputation. Finding the FIRT route through in a given year also makes them temporary celebrities.

So there’s the campaign basic set-up. Players will be members of an Intrepideurs’ Guild, starting as Tin-ranked members, hoping to work their way up to Copper, Silver, Gold, and Mithral ranks. They get jobs dealing with problems, each one designed to be a single night of gaming. If a player isn’t free a given night, their Intrepideur can’t make it for the mission that time. Weird things and dangers are built into the campaign setting, so I can test things out and, if they don’t work, discard them never to be mentioned again.

Given the popularity of the Really Wild West session recaps, I may recap my Tales of the Intrepideurs’ Guild game sessions as well. And if there’s interest, I can go into more details on how the Guild is set up to speed play along.

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Want me to create more campaign setting notes? Want to see more stuff for Fantasy AGE? Want something else? Really Wild West content? generic GM advice? Would you rather see more material for 5e, Starfinder, or industry insider articles? Join my Patreon for a few bucks a month, and let me know!