Reality Makes the Best Fantasy: Moving

Moving Company from SLC, Utah. 1911.
Moving Company from SLC, Utah. 1911.

I’m moving in a few weeks, from Central California back to our family’s hometown of Portland, OR. While I’m really glad to be getting out of the work/living situation we’re in right now and back to my friends and perpetual cloudiness*, there’s a part of my brain that is dreading it. I hate moving. I lived in the same apartment for the first 19 years of my life and I love carving out a little spot for myself and then planting my butt in it. In the last ten years I’ve moved eight times, not including a few times when I crashed at places for a few weeks and two times when we moved down the hall. Every time, I’ve felt probably something akin to a hermit crab. Uprooting my butt and planting it in another shell. Steadily growing into it. Eventually feeling comfortable again. Not wanting to move. Having to. Grumpily doing so, hoping a seagull doesn’t bite me. Wait.

In the grand scheme of moving, I’m very lucky. Thank goodness for the internet, I can actually look at places before I move into them. We can have all our stuff loaded into a giant truck and have someone else drive it, loading essentials, child and kitties into our car and drive up to Portland. This day in age, there’s a bit of certainty we can expect. I know what Portland’s like and if I didn’t, I could find out. I’m not moving on a promise of gold or riches in the hills or being pushed out of my current home because of war, famine or some other hardship. We have a definite time constraint and a budget but we won’t be fleeing in the middle of the night.

Moving requires you to, well…move your stuff. It’s not just the moving of the people, it’s the objects, the things those involved decided would be needed in the new location. Sometimes families move, sometimes businesses. But always, there’s a time of going through your things. Do I need this table? Am I going to read this book again? Should I fold these clothes or just throw them in a box? What can I get in my new location? Most everything is gone over, some things trashed, some things donated while most of it winds up boxed and moved. Some people (like myself) get caught up in looking over their things, remembering where they got them. Often one finds out they have accumulated WAY too much stuff and they can get rid of a lot more than they thought (this happens to me as well, I’m looking at you, eight million papers on my desk).

Things have to be organized, boxed, labeled, loaded, transported. Whether this is a huge truck or a donkey drawn cart, things can happen along the way that can delay the trip, leaving you without your stuff for longer than you anticipated. Sometimes things speed up the trip so your items arrive ahead of you; with no one to receive the goods, the driver puts them in storage, eager to get their other deliveries out on time.

And then there is the unpacking, making sure nothing broke, arranging your things, hoping everything fits and adjusting to your new location. Even if you’re a pro at moving and love a change of scenery, it can still be a stressful time. Your tiny corner of the world is in chaos, erased from the map for the moment and en route to another locale. Even if everything goes right, the change in routine and adjusting to a new little shell is hard for any hermit crab.

Adventurers are generally on the move, but travel is different when you’ve got all your worldly possessions in tow. What kind of mishaps can happen when all of someone’s material goods are in the adventurers’ hands?

For GMs

  • How likely are people to move? What are reasons for people to move? To find better work? Start a family? Strike out on their own? Do people move because they choose or are do they have to be forced out of their homes?
  • Do people tend to make shorter relocations within the towns or are moves usually long treks to greener lands?
  • Who moves? Do the poor stay put while those with more income have the luxury of changing the scenery when they want? Or do the poor move frequently, pushed out, trying to find work and inexpensive homes while the rich settle into large homes, secure in their stability?
  • When people move, what do they pack their stuff in? Fabric? Baskets? How do they transport their goods?
  • Who moves the goods? Do people move their own stuff or do they entrust moves to be handled by professionals?
  • Is there a deity of moving? Rituals for moving house, for cleaning out the new abode, leaving the old one?

Plot Hooks

  • A prestigious family is moving to the new capitol and having their household goods transported by professional movers. The PCs work for the moving company and must be sure to transport the belongings safely. News of the move is well known among the citizens and the PCs have word bandits are going to try and make a killing as many nobles relocate. How do the PCs plan on avoiding trouble? Are they in charge of the operation or working under other movers? Do they have any connections that can help them? What would pulling through this unscathed mean for them? Is the family traveling with the caravan of goods or are they going a different way/at a different time?
  • When they arrive to move a family from one house to another, the PCs find out the reason for the relocation: the head of the household has been demoted for some reason and the whole family must move to a smaller home for financial reasons. When the spouse of the shamed individual locks themselves in the house and refuses to come out, it’s up to the PCs to convince them to exit. What was the reason for the demotion? What is the family moving into? How long do they have to get the person out of the house? Are other members of the household watching and able to help? Or do they hinder the process? Why do they lock themselves in the house? Are they dangerous to themselves? To others?
  • When the PCs arrive at the new headquarters of the dignitary they are escorting, they find out all their goods will not be arriving for quite some time. The PCs are sent out with a budget to acquire interim goods for the official and allowed a much smaller budget for a few things so the PCs aren’t miserable. While out bargaining in the market, the PCs get the impression the locals aren’t too thrilled with them or the new person being there. What do the PCs try to buy? Why is the dignitary there? Why are the goods not there yet? Were the PCs items being transported as well? Why are the locals upset with their presence? Is there another reason why the goods are delayed?
  • Records are starting to show inhabitants of a certain town are moving out at a rate much higher than usual. When asked about it, the families all claim different reasons for packing up house but all seem on edge. The PCs are sent to investigate this strange migration. What do they find when they arrive at the village? What percentage of the population is left? How do the townsfolk react to the arrival of the PCs? Are the remaining villagers aware of the mass exodus? What is causing the people to leave?
  • While unpacking the goods of an eccentric client, the PCs have problems fitting the contents of several boxes into one room. When they suggest certain items be moved to other rooms, the client grows irate and insists it will all fit, claiming they mapped it out themselves. However, the client fails to produce a floorplan proving this. They insist the PCs arrange the furniture so it all fits in the allocated room or they won’t be compensated. The client then leaves for an important meeting. Who is the client? What do the PCs do? Does the client give them a clue as to how it can be done? Can it be done? Why does the person insist on having all the items in the same room? How do the PCs feel about the assignment?
  • The PCs are sent to look at several houses for their employer, as they will be moving their household and business in several months. They are given the specs regarding the type of house and storefront their boss would like and are asked to stay in the new location several days to ascertain what the various neighborhoods are like. The PCs will also be moving to the new location and must tour homes and buildings, bargain and gauge what their potential new locale may be like. What type of business does their boss run and what role do the PCs play in it? How many towns/homes do they check out? Do the people who own the various buildings know why the PCs are there? Does their employer have a reputation that would work for or against them in their bargaining? How do their families feel about the move and do the PCs have any personal connections in any of the locations?

For PCs

  • How many times have you moved in your life? What were the reasons for moving?
  • Do you have a permanent residence to return to? When did you move there?
  • What kind of items do you get rid of before a move? What kind of things do you keep? Which items absolutely HAVE TO move with you?
  • Do you like moving? Hate it?
  • Would you ever pay someone to move your stuff for you or would you rather do it yourself?
  • How do you scout out places to live? Do you check them out yourself? Go on hearsay? Send someone for you?
  • If you were being forced from your home, what items would you grab before you ran?
  • What kind of house would you want to settle down in?

What say you? How can an adventurer’s familiarity with moving around help them help others with their relocations?

Reality Makes the Best Fantasy: TAXI!

Taxi Cabs in NYC during rush hour on 5th Avenue. Photo by Joseph Plotz
Taxi Cabs in NYC during rush hour on 5th Avenue. Photo by Joseph Plotz

Did you know that “Taxi cab”’ is a shortened form of “Taximeter cabriolet?” I did not. And I don’t know how I feel about that.

Taxi cabs! A few different kinds come to mind. In New York City we had the yellow cabs which you could catch on the major avenues and busier streets of the city. More common in my neighborhood was the “car service.” These were cars (generally Lincoln Town Cars) which would show up in front of our building after we called the service, letting them know where we were going. Because we could call, we could get quotes on the cost of a trip. As a kid who suffered from chronic ear infections, I took more than a few trips to the Emergency Room with my mom in a car service, my mom frequently asking them to turn down their music to help ease the pain. Back in the 80’s and 90’s, both services took cash only and you just assumed the cabbie knew where the hell they were going. Nowadays taxis take cards and most cars have GPS’s, meaning even the most unseasoned cabbie can get you to 28th and 1st Avenue from Grand and FDR lickety-split and without going in circles.

Taxi cabs offer the convenience of cars, the ability to get from point A to point B without making stops along the way or leaving you, you know, a few blocks from where you really wanted to go, without the hassle of having to own a car in a big city. You don’t have to park it, insure it, or hope it doesn’t get stolen. Unlike a bus or train, you don’t have to worry about strange passengers or unexpected delays beyond a traffic jam. In a busy city where you just have to get someplace as quickly as possible and the bus won’t cut it, a taxi can get the job done.

Of course, like everything, not every taxi is perfect. In cities where they aren’t often used, the service can be less than perfect (I’m looking at you, Portland, OR 2006. WTF, I waited on 28th and Glisan for like an hour, jerks). Sometimes the cabbie picks their nose or has no idea where they’re going, running up the meter unnecessarily. Sometimes the drivers are sketchy as hell. Cabbies can also be targeted by criminals, especially since cabbies are known to have money on them. Cab drivers keep all kinds of strange hours to make sure people get where they need to go all times of day and night. Being on the road means they can be involved in traffic accidents and dealing with a constant stream of customers means they can come across unsavory sorts. Because driving the streets of a busy city is not the most desired or well-paying job on the block, this workforce can be made up of people newly arrived to the city, looking to make ends meet. Taxis are also pricey. When you’ve got $20 in your pocket and the meter’s at $18.50 with a block to go, a person can start sweating.

In a fast-paced urban campaign, taxis and taxi-like transportation can get the PCs where they need to go quick as…well, whatever is doing the moving. Walking is for plebes! Throw them all on a taxi and see where the cabbie and the adventure takes them.

For GMs

  • What is the taxi-like transportation in your campaign? Is it powered by people? Animals? Something else?
  • Are the taxis run by companies? Are there rival companies or does one person have a monopoly on all the transportation services? To whom do the taxi drivers answer?
  • What differentiates a taxi from a regular vehicle? How are they made to stand out on a busy street?
  • How do people summon taxis? Do they wait in certain areas? Hail them? Call them?
  • Who generally uses taxis? Do they use them to get to work or leisure?
  • Where are taxis most used? What streets do they frequent, looking for fares?
  • Who drives the taxis? What esteem is this job held in?
  • Do the cabbies keep logs of their fares? How detailed are these records and where are they stored?
  • Who regulates the taxis? Makes sure the vehicles are well maintained, that the drivers are knowledgeable regarding the city? Can communicate with passengers?
  • What are fares like and what are the alternative forms of transportation they have to compete with?

Plot Hooks

  • When someone starts a litter carrying service in the city, the PCs are hired to carry one such litter to make some cash. Well-off individuals and those who wish to have others think they’re well-off hire this service. Why do they take the job in the first place? What kind of customers do they pick up? Do they make any connections with their fares? How do the PCs get people to move out of their way and get their charges where they need to go as quickly as possible?
  • When the PCs arrive in a foreign city for official matters, the individual in charge of seeing to their stay insists they take a taxi when travelling the streets. Between engagements, they are driven from one place to another, never allowed to walk the streets themselves. Why is this? Are the PCs allowed to look out onto the streets? Do they like being taxied around or would they rather walk about? Is this being done for their safety or some other reason?
  • In an effort to encourage safety a cab company offers a monthly cash bonus to the cabbie with the least amount of accidents. When the same driver wins three months in a row, a few coworkers get suspicious and hire the PCs to investigate. How is the driver able to avoid accidents so well? Are the other drivers jealous? Where do their concerns come from? Is the owner of the cab company concerned or do they just wish their other drivers would follow suit?
  • A string of grisly murders occurs and the victims all have one thing in common: they’re all cab drivers. The PCs must investigate and get to the bottom of the untimely deaths. Is driving cabs the only thing they have in common? How are they killed? Who are the suspects? Who can help them find their last fares and are they connected to the murders?
  • Word on the street is the powerful people are moving important papers or products through the city, using cabs as a cover for the operation. The PCs must find which cabs and which individuals are involved and intercept the information or items. Why are the cab drivers in league with people much more powerful than themselves? What do they have to gain? Who are the PCs working for and why are they interfering?
  • People are forgetting large chunks of their day and by all accounts the last thing they are remembering is getting into a cab. What are they people doing while they are blacked out? What is happening to the people? Are the cabbies involved or is it the vehicles themselves that are causing the strange phenomenon?
  • Someone loses a very important item in a cab and hires the PCs to track it down. Discretion is important and time is of the essence. Do the PCs split up? What is the item? Do they know exactly what it is or just what it looks like? How do they track it down?

For PCs

  • Have you ever driven a taxi? Can you drive? Are you strong enough to carry a litter or at least help carry a litter?
  • Have you ever been in a taxi? What were the circumstances?
  • Are you ever in a hurry? Always in a hurry? Or do you take your time?
  • If you were stuck taking a cab and then found you couldn’t afford to pay the fare, what would you do? Bolt? Try to barter? Something else?
  • Do you tip your cab driver?
  • While in a cab you find something of value. Do you keep it for yourself or give it to the cabbie to turn into the lost and found?
  • Would you share a cab with a stranger, if they said you were going your way? What would make you say yes? What would encourage you to tell them to get the next one? Or would you let them have the cab and wait?

How can you use cab drivers and cabs in your campaign? Can you turn it into a hilarious sitcom with Tony Danza? What say you?

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