Reality Makes the Best Fantasy: Anniversaries

Hindu Calendar corresponding to Gregorian Year 1871-1872.
Hindu Calendar corresponding to Gregorian Year 1871-1872.

A few weeks ago I was sitting at my computer, wondering to myself, dang, Tristan. I wonder how many ‘Reality Makes the Best Fantasy’ articles you’ve written? How long have you been doing this? Imagine my surprise when I realized I had written 54 articles and it had been a little over a year! WHOA. Reality Makes the Best Fantasy had its one year anniversary and I didn’t even know it! That’s a lot of time flailing at the computer, trying to think of a topic for an article.

‘A year’ is generally the allotment of time we use when we speak of anniversaries. I mean, it’s right there in the freaking word. Sometimes we like to say, oh, it’s the one month anniversary but let’s face it, ‘anniversary’ comes from Latin, derived from ‘annus’ which means ‘year’ and ‘vertere’ meaning ‘to turn’ (the Online Etymology Dictionary and taking Latin for three years is your friend). We celebrate the turning of the year on New Years. We celebrate birthdays, the anniversaries of our births. Many state holidays are anniversaries of momentous occasions such as signings of declarations, treaties, peace accords, laws. Marriage garners wedding anniversaries, full of more flailing and trying to remember. The anniversary of a death could require certain rites to be performed or could be a time of solemn remembrance.

There are many important dates to remember and as the years pass on, the holidays and events can take on new meanings as new generations celebrate and as new events take place, changing the meanings or context of the original occasion. Those involved in the original happening might remember the raw emotion, the energy that it took to accomplish whatever took place that day. The next few years might warrant feelings of triumph, with subsequent years falling to reflection, symbolism or the movement even being co-opted by newer, fresher movements with more energy behind them.

Anniversaries are a time of observance, celebration, contemplation. When the wheel of the year has made a turn, what are the PCs remembering in your campaign? What is worth celebrating 365 days later?

For GMs

  • What types of annual celebrations are observed by the people? State holidays? Personal celebrations?
  • How long is a year? Who keeps track of the passing of the year?
  • Are there certain gifts that are given for a certain number of years passing?
  • What are the rites, rituals and celebrations to properly commemorate the passing of time?
  • Is there a deity of the year, who opens and closes it? A deity of time?
  • How carefully do people record when things happen? Who generally is in charge of record keeping and keeping track of time?

Plot Hooks

  • Ten years ago, the PCs took part in a political movement which had a great impact on their society. However, a new political group has decided to use the anniversary as the leaping point for their own agenda, an agenda the PCs don’t quite fall in line with. The PCs must try and defuse the situation before all their hard work and old dreams are undone. What did the PCs originally fight for? What did they and their friends accomplish? How many of them are still alive? What does this new group advocate and why do the PCs disagree? How do they intend to stop them?
  • After some traveling, the PCs find themselves in a town or village they had been in a year ago. Whatever went down while the PCs were there evidently had an effect as the citizens are gearing up for a huge celebration. Asked to be the guests of honor and stay on, it isn’t made entirely clear what the celebration will entail. Why are the townsfolk celebrating? What did the PCs do? How is it remembered by the people of the town? What are they getting ready to do?
  • On the one year anniversary of the rulers wedding, they and their spouse must make a pilgrimage to a certain temple in order to guarantee the fertility of the couple. The PCs are asked to escort the royal couple there, avoiding things that would delay the pair and things which might bring bad fortune to the marriage bed. How long do they have to arrive at the temple? How does the couple feel about each other? What rites must they perform?
  • When their employer suddenly remembers it is their wedding anniversary, they quickly ask the PCs to obtain an appropriate gift and track down their spouse to give it to them before nightfall. What do the PCs obtain? How do they track down the intended? Did the other spouse remember and give a gift already? What will happen if the missive falls through?
  • On the anniversary of a terrible catastrophe, the city is somber as they remember those who perished and those who were injured. The PCs must organize and facilitate an event sponsored by their church, to comfort those who still mourn and commemorate the dead. When another temple wishes to perform a ritual to ensure it never happens again, the PCs are sent to negotiate and dissuade them, telling them it is too soon. What religious order do the PCs belong to and why are they volunteering? Have they lost loved ones? How do they comfort those who are grieving? What is the ritual to be performed?
  • Local customs holds that after a certain number of years of being dead, an individual’s soul finally leaves for the afterlife. On this anniversary of their gone missing, a group of travelers/a military regiment returns to their homeland. They can’t account for their disappearance and seem startled to hear so much time has passed. The PCs are sent to investigate what happened. Why did the group disappear? Have they aged since they left? What did they originally set out to do and what were the conditions of their return? How have their families adjusted and how do they react to their return?

For PCs

  • Do you celebrate any local holidays that are annual commemorations of things?
  • When is your birthday?
  • Do you tend to try and celebrate anniversaries of events more traditionally, to reflect on the past or do you use any excuse to party?
  • Are there any events that have taken place in your life that you commemorate yearly? Do you share these events with other individuals or are they personal triumphs/tragedies?

What say you? What annual triumphs have you had around the gaming table?

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: Ethnic Neighborhoods

A street in Chinatown, NYC
A street in Chinatown, NYC

Loisaida. The Lower East Side. Chinatown. Little Italy. K-town. New York City is full of what are referred to as ‘ethnic enclaves,’ areas where a significant portion of the population shares the same ethnicity. I grew up in on the Lower East Side in the 80s and 90s which had a large Puerto Rican/Nuyorican population. Many people were bilingual and the comforts and foods of home were accessible. There’s something about eating a hot alcapurria when it’s snowing that is a bit comforting. A bit farther south of the bodegas, joyerias, cuchifritos and churches of the largely Latino population were the delis, garment stores and synogogues of the Jewish population. Fixing grocery on Saturdays meant seeing people coming back from synongogue; sometimes I’d run into my friend from school. Farther south on East Broadway the open air fish and produce grocers, storefronts and restaurants of Chinatown surrounded me. In HS my best friend took me to a Indian neighborhood in Queens where we stared at the gorgeous jewelry in the jewelry store windows, drank lassi and looked at movie theater posters for films with amazing dance numbers.

When people immigrate to a new land, they tend to find people they can relate to to help them settle in. Different reasons might drive populations from their country or land of origin in large numbers but once they arrive at their destination, a bit of familiarity makes the move a bit easier. When the location won’t fill in the hole, someone who speaks the language, has the same traditions or is even a distant relative or friend of a friend will make the move less scary. Sometimes people arriving might find while technically they are allowed to be in certain locations, they are not always welcome. In addition, well established and nicer areas might not be financially feasible. Unsettled or undesirable land might be what is available and through hard work and working together, a community can be built.

Once these communities are established, many newcomers gravitate towards these neighborhoods, hoping to gain from the experience of those already settled. The already established want to help their friends and fellow countrymen succeed, offering tips, housing or even employment if they’ve set up their own businesses. People settle down, start families, put their children through school, send home money to loved ones. They build grocery stores, religious communities and recreational centers where they can teach tradition and language. They bring their food, their martial arts, their style of dress, their music, their ceremonies. Sometimes they start organizations, both legitimate or illegal. Sometimes they dream of ‘going back’ but sometimes the conditions in their homeland make it undesirable or even impossible. Some do go back. And others stay, becoming citizens, contributing to the society and culture they have decided to stick with through thick and thin.

Most major cities will have ethnic diversity; in the same vein, if there is diversity, it will probably be concentrated in cities. Despite how New York City is depicted on television, it’s rare to go a few blocks without seeing someone whose family came from a different part of the world than your family. Cities being centers of commerce, business and major ports, they tend to have the most varied populations, the streets rippling with the sounds of different languages, the scent of different foods, the color of different kinds of clothing. Sometimes ethnic differences can stir up trouble but at the end of the day a vast majority of people want to be happy, safe and with their loved ones.

Ethnic neighborhoods in your campaign can expose your PCs to various issues, both political and social and is a good way to prime them for a trip to another country or region where the culture is different. Depending on your character’s background, a trip a few blocks down can be an eye opening experience or a respite from spending most of your time in a culture that doesn’t understand you. What comforts and adventures can ethnic neighborhoods offer in your setting?

For GMs

  • What ethnicities lie within your setting? Where did they relocate from? How long ago? Did they come all in one huge wave? What facilitated or necessitated their move?
  • What kinds of communities have they set up within the larger region? What part of the city do they live in? What are the boundaries of their neighborhood and how were the boundaries set? How have they grown over the years?
  • Why have they settled in the locations they have? Was the land similar to home? What was made available? The first safe place they could find? Empty?
  • What kinds of businesses have they set up? Do they import foods and goods from home or have they adapted to local fare and offerings?
  • How many generations are currently living residing in the country?
  • What issues did the population face in their homeland? What issues do they face in the new country? Security? Lack of food? Illness? Prejudice? Lack of resources?
  • Are there any locations where they make up a majority of the population, despite not being the indigenous one?
  • Does their country of origin have any issues with/affiliations with other countries? When their descendents meet in the cities of the land they’ve immigrated to, what happens?
  • How are they similar to the indigenous culture? How are they different?
  • How easy is it to move out of the neighborhood? What are reasons for wanting to leave? Reasons for staying?
  • When are people with different backgrounds considered citizens? What can they do to gain citizenship? Are their children born here considered citizens?

Plot Hooks

  • All the PCs grew up in the same neighborhood and have the same cultural background but have since moved away. When someone they have in common invites them back for an important function/ceremony, they run into old acquaintances and customs and must maneuver through the ‘old ways.’ What things are asked of them? Who do they meet? Who did they have connections to? How long are they ‘in town’ for?
  • When an ethnic neighborhood starts creeping into another neighborhood, setting up businesses and moving into domiciles, the PCs are hired to sabotage the storefronts and make the place unappealing to the newcomers. What reasons are given as to why these newcomers aren’t welcome? How do the PCs go about keeping them away?
  • While traveling through the countryside, the PCs come across a town populated by people from a different culture altogether. Far removed from the country they originated from, they have set up a small community that appears to be thriving. How did they all arrive there? Do the surrounding towns and villages know they’re there? How have they acclimated to the dominant culture? How do they receive the PCs? Do the local authorities know they’re there?
  • When the country goes to war with another country, the neighborhood that corresponds to the enemy country comes under scrutiny. The PCs are sent to see who goes in and out, monitoring the populace and watching for spies. When people start disappearing, their neighbors and friends are too afraid to give any information. Why are the people disappearing? Has the mood changed in the neighborhood? How are the people treated by others? Do the PC suspect anyone in the neighborhood and how are they regarded by the would-be traitors?
  • The PCs are all parents/guardians of children who attend the local language and tradition school, where the next generation is taught the ceremonies and ways of their people. When the government decides to cut funding which would shut the school down, the PCs are sent to convince the government otherwise. Why is the government pulling its funding? Where does the funding from the school come from? Why do they as parents care and why are they the ones sent? Can they obtain the money for the school elsewhere? What would it mean if the school were to close down? How many schools would be affected?
  • When crime becomes a problem in the neighborhood, the local police force blames it on the tempers and attitudes of the citizens, blaming their background for their violent behaviour. The PCs investigate the reasons for the sudden uptick in crimes. What kinds of crimes are on the rise? Who is committing them? Who is helping to commit these crimes? What are the police threatening to do to curtail the lawlessness?
  • After a few years of trying to establish itself in a new land, the elders of the community decide to try and hold one of the larger festivals publically and invite citizens to join in the revelry. The PCs are selected to help organize the event and spread the word. What is the large festival about and when is it to take place? What must be prepared? Why is this the first year it is being held on this scale? Which elders proposed the event? How does the local government respond?

For PCs

  • Did you grow up in an ethnic neighborhood? Are you part of an immigrant group that came here from another region/country? Born to one of these groups?
  • What have you heard about the different neighborhoods? Are their neighborhoods you go into for certain reasons/items? Ones you avoid? Ones you avoid at certain times?
  • How have you seen the neighborhoods change over your lifetime? Do you think they’ve changed for the better or worse?
  • Do you like places with more diversity or less?
  • What do you do in neighborhoods where the cultural background is different from your own? Do you just eat food? Buy goods? Talk to people? Receive services (clothes washed, armor repaired)?
  • If someone invited you to their home in a neighborhood you heard questionable things about, would you go?

What say you? Where we come from can be a big deal, both geographically and culturally. One doesn’t have to leave the country to necessarily encounter someone very different from us. The differences and similarities can make for a wild ride indeed. Do you have ethnic neighborhoods in your town or city? How can you translate that to your campaign?

Reality Makes the Best Fantasy: These Boots Were Made for Adventuring

Combat boots.
Combat boots.

When I was in high school, I had a pair of boots. Not just any boots. Grinders. 10 eye. I got a friend to buy a pair for me in Poland because they were less expensive there. I loved those damn things. I wore them with skirts. I wore them with Dickies. I wore them with fishnets. I loved them. They made me feel like I could kick someone in the ass and break them. I loved how heavy they were on the concrete streets of NYC. I loved how they looked and hugged my feet. They were perfect.

My mother was not as enthusiastic as I was. My mom’s taste in clothing and definition of what is feminine is a bit different from mine and I got a lot of looks and offerings of shoes with heels and flowery dresses from her. Those boots moved with me to the Pacific Northwest and got me through many rainy days till my pregnancy made my feet too big to wear them. I passed them on to a young woman who I’m sure is getting good use out of them but I miss them like whoa and am planning on getting a pair of Corcoran Jump boots when we move back to Portland.

Shoes can be useful. The right shoes can make an arduous trek easier. Wearing basketball sneakers on astroturf to play soccer is really not the best idea. Wearing hiking boots that are a size too small on a long journey is a recipe for discomfort at the very least, physical deformity or injury more likely. Footwear made of porous material can be miserable in wet weather. Too big, too small, too unsteady can make for poor adventuring. Showing up to a ranger’s lodge wearing the daintiest of sandals will raise brows as much as wearing the clunkiest, furriest boots to a formal ball. Ranging in materials from animal hides, plant fibers, wood and more, protecting one’s feet from injury, keeping them out of rough weather and whole, shoes can be an adventurers best friend. Important tools or status symbols, they can get you into or out of lots of trouble.

In some places, barefoot is the way to go. In other locations, it is a sign of being impoverished or even a slave. Some cultures frown upon shoes being worn indoors while others insist upon footwear staying on most of the time. Different religious orders have taboos or rules about feet and footwear while the secular world might call for highly embellished shoes. What your characters chose to wear and where they wear it can mean the difference between fitting in or offending a very important person.

For GMs

  • What is standard footwear for the everyday citizen? Is this for people across class? Gender? Position?
  • Do shoes or any special types of footwear symbolize anything? Are shoes used in ceremonies?
  • What are shoes made of?
  • How do shoes differ from culture to culture? What shoes are appropriate for the different climates?

Plot Hooks

  • When an important individual is murdered in the inn, the only clue left is a strange pair of shoes left by the killer. The PCs must use the shoes as a clue as to who has committed the crime. What do the shoes look like? Where are they from? Do they actually belong to the murderer?
  • The boots of a long dead historical figure go missing from their tomb and it’s up to the PCs to locate the relics. Who has taken the relics? Why did they take the footwear, of all things? Is there something about the shoes themselves that are special or is there something hidden in them? What are they planning on doing with the shoes?
  • Unhappy with the local government’s excess and hedonism, the citizens begin to wear simple but well made shoes to show they are good enough to wear such things. The PCs are sent to confiscate any of these simple shoes they find and close down any store selling them to curb the solidarity and demonstrations of the populace. How did the shoe movement start? Who started it? What do the shoes look like? Who is selling them? Who is making them? What are the people’s reactions to the shoes being taken?
  • In order to infiltrate a fancy dance gala, the PCs must wear very awkward but fancy shoes in order to blend in with the crowd, each design saying something about whoever they are pretending to be. What shoes do they manage to get and what will people assume about them because of their footwear? Why do they need to get into the gala? How long do they have to perfect walking in the shoes?
  • When an enemy invades the town, they learn the spiritual leaders go barefoot to be closer to the earth; they then inflict a strict shoe-wearing policy. All found barefoot on the streets are thrown in prison. The spiritual leaders go into hiding and the PCs must try to maneuver the bizarre rules enforced by the invaders while keeping the spiritual elders safe. What is the result of the religious clergy now being shod? How do people react to the new, strange rule? How is the rule enforced/how do they encourage the people to follow it?

For PCs

  • Do you wear shoes? Why or why not?
  • Do you have a favorite pair of shoes? What are they like? Why do you like them? What do they say about you? Do you take care of them? Are they worn? Broken in? Stylish?
  • If you could have any pair of shoes, what would you have? Why?
  • How do you feel about other kinds of footwear? People who go barefoot?
  • When is it appropriate to wear shoes? When is it appropriate to go barefoot?

What say you? What shoes does your adventurer wear and why?

Reality Makes the Best Fantasy: Aphrodisiacs

'The Merchant's Wife' by Boris Kustodiev. Watermelons are considered an aphrodisiac by some.
‘The Merchant’s Wife’ by Boris Kustodiev. Watermelons are considered an aphrodisiac by some.

Note: This article deals with things of a sexual nature. You have been warned.

*cue Barry White*

Aww yeah. You know what I’m talking about.

Many substances are supposed to help get people ‘in the mood’, and when I say ‘in the mood’ I mean the mood to have sex. The pressures of life with its anxieties, the weariness one feels after a hard days work, the ingesting of a rather delicious but perhaps too large burrito…many of these can be dampeners of the mood we hope to be in while adjacent to people we desire. Sometimes one person is ready to go but the timing is off. It’s just not really what they’re down for at the moment.

Enter aphrodisiacs. Throughout history people have reported certain things can increase libido, by suggesting sexual parts of the body, by perhaps delivering nutrients, hormones or other chemicals that tell your brain ‘ACTIVATE NETHERS.’ Some say arousal and sexual desire is more complicated than just eating a gallon of raw oysters and jumping into bed while others swear by the lusty effects of powdered deer parts, ground chilies, melted chocolate, juicy figs and other things that activate all your senses.

People want to enhance everything we get our hands on and sex is no exception. For many sex is an important part of life and we want it to be the best it can be, for all parties involved. Some want to be the best and if that means snorting a dilution of whale penis up your nose, then by Kord, bring on the whale penis. Many want harmony in the home and a happy and satisfying sex life can contribute to that. Some might think a romp enjoyed by all might increase the chances of having children while might others being amazing in the bedroom might garner favors in public society. If it takes a hack to ensure any of these, many people would be willing to try it at least once.

If there are people in your campaign, chances are some of them are having sex and some of them might want to enhance their drive, the drive of others or the performance itself. Love will drive people to do crazy things but sex? Well, look up a list of aphrodisiacs and you’ll see.

For GMs

  • What are well known aphrodisiacs in the culture? Less well known aphrodisiacs? Are the aphrodisiacs for all sexes or just for one in particular?
  • Who prescribes aphrodisiacs? Doctors? Herbalists? Midwives? Do they also make the concoctions themselves or do they hand their patients a shopping list and make them obtain the ingredients?
  • Are aphrodisiacs and sex drive spoken of openly in the culture or is it something handled behind closed doors?
  • Who is supposed to take the reigns when it comes to making sure all parties involved in the bedroom are satisfied? Who’s in charge of ‘stoking the fire’?
  • What benefits are associated with a healthy libido?
  • Where are these aphrodisiacs obtained? How do the aphrodisiacs supposedly work? Why do they work?
  • Are aphrodisiacs expensive? Who has access to them? What are some of the more hard to obtain substances? The ones people grow in their backyards?

Plot Hooks

  • A clergy member claims the deities have given them a recipe for a sacred aphrodisiac that will bless the beds of all who partake of it. The concoction is available only at the temple. The PCs are sent to investigate the mixture and its effects. Who sends them to investigate? What is the concoction? What are its exact effects? Who is buying it and is it working? Is the potion actually blessed or is something else at play?
  • When couples are found dead in their beds, further investigation points to an aphrodisiac being the cause of death. The PCs are sent to find out where the substance is coming from and prevent further deaths from occurring. What is the substance? Does it kill everyone that uses it or is something else at play?
  • A certain animal is being found mutilated in the woods, left to die after certain parts of it are removed. A poacher reveals the parts are being used for very expensive aphrodisiacs that are sent to another region where the people pay top dollar. The PCs must try to stop the poachers and deal with the demand for the aphrodisiac. What parts of the animal are used? What are the effects? What will happen if the supply suddenly stops? How badly is this substance wanted and how badly do poachers want to cash in?
  • After letting a huge shipment of an aphrodisiac across the border, the PCs get wind of a plan to ‘poison’ the capitol city’s water supply with the substance to distract key portions of the populace so usurpers can sneak in. The PCs must try to intercept the caravan without their superiors knowing they dropped the ball and in time to foil the lustful plans. What is the substance? Who is planning on carrying it out? How likely is the plan to succeed?
  • An important official needs the ingredients for a powerful aphrodisiac in the hopes that it will secure them an heir. The PCs are sent to retrieve the ingredients discretely in order to maintain the dignity and privacy of the household. Why are the PCs chosen? What must they obtain? What is their cover? What do they stand to gain by helping this individual?
  • When a conservative faction bans foods that are suggestive in nature the PCs start smuggling them into the country to meet demand. What kind of foods are banned? What are the penalties for being caught with such foods? What is the faction trying to accomplish by banning these foods? What are the results of these fruits becoming forbidden?

For PCs

  • Do you consider yourself a sexual person?
  • Do you pay attention to your sex drive? The sex drives of others?
  • Do you think that aphrodisiacs work? What do you think imbues them with their properties? Is it divine? Psycological? Natural?
  • Do you think of a lack of libido as something normal to experience or an indication of something being wrong?
  • Would you take a substance said to be an aphrodisiac on someone’s word? Or are you wary around such things?

What say you? How can you spice up your next campaign?

Reality Makes the Best Fantasy: Substitutes

Empress Dowager Cixi, regent for the Tongzhi Emperor
Empress Dowager Cixi, regent for the Tongzhi Emperor

(There is an ANNOUNCEMENT at the end so read through, homie.)

My daughter is in kindergarten and has had a substitute teacher for most of the year. The teacher she was supposed to have is out of commission for health reasons and so the kind woman she met the first day of school was replaced a few weeks later by a substitute. That teacher had to leave after the holidays for personal reason so the children are on their third teacher until the teacher they were supposed to have is well enough to teach them all about their letters, numbers, science, social studies and more.

My daughter has taken it in stride. Her first few days of school with teacher number one she called ‘boring.’ First days with teacher number two resulted in complaints that I don’t currently recall because it was soon overshadowed with admiration for her. The third teacher, my daughter gave the most ridiculous complaint. ‘She sings too much. She sings at the end of the day and I just want to get on with it already.’ Now my daughter runs around the house, singing the songs, leaving me to complain about them.

People have to have stand-ins for various reasons. Sometimes business takes us away from work and someone has to step in and pick up the slack while we’re gone. People get sick. People go on vacation. Things happen with families that call us away from our work-related duties and well, those work-related things can’t just not get done.

In the case of rulers, they sometimes fall prey to the same terrible illnesses afflicting the ruled, sucummbing to viruses and mental illnesses which require someone to rule in their stead. War or international affairs dictate the ruler be present to oversee, command or represent their country; just because they’re gone doesn’t mean the country should fall into anarchy. Someone has to hold the reins. Occasionally rulers come to power too young so a regent is appointed; this could be someone related to the future ruler, usually the mother of the child and one of the few ways a woman could get to rule in male dominated monarchies. Sometimes councils are left in charge, ministers and politicians left to rule while the head of state is away. When the ruler is away or still growing into the throne the power left in the hands of the regent is supposed to be limited but it sometimes provides the opportunity for more ambitious individuals to carve out places for themselves in history.

Substitutes don’t have to step into key positions of political power to shake things up. A different mail carrier or bartender could throw us off of our games, wondering where the people we’re accustomed to could be. Seeing an unfamiliar face behind the espresso machine could have us order a drip coffee instead of our usual latte. Who are these strangers? Do they know what they’re doing? Are they going to mess things up? Are they going to be better than the person who is usually here, leaving us pining for them once they’ve left us forever?

In games where PCs pass through the same haunts frequently, a change of command or new faces can be a shock. While we know people are less permanent than landmarks and have a tendency to move around, it can still be jarring to not see the same people in the places they usually are. Will the PCs even notice? Take it in stride? Or lament the absence of their favorite leatherworker?

For GMs

  • Who are the regular NPCs in the game and what are their jobs? How often do they interact with the PCs?
  • What are reasons these NPCs might not report to work? Illness? Family business? Other obligations? How open are the NPCs with their personal lives?
  • Where do their substitutes/stand-ins come from? Are they part of a profession that has a guild which might try to fill the need? Family members who might step in? Colleagues? Is there a temp agency set up?
  • Are the substitutes chosen by the NPCs themselves or is there another governing force dictating who must step up? Or does the alternate slip in while the regular is away?
  • What character traits does this new person have? How are they similar to the predecessor? How are they different?


Plot Hooks

  • The PCs are used to being the adventuring party of choice in a region. But when a mission calls them away for a long period of time, they return to find another group has taken up where they’ve left off, solving problems for locals, vanquishing things that need vanquishing, etc. How do the PCs take to being replaced? Who are the people who have replaced them? Is there enough adventuring for both parties or is someone going to have to move over for the other?
  • When an important professional within the community is called away for personal business, they send their good friends, the PCs, to the city to find a suitable replacement. They are given a list of candidates, all fresh out of school and must choose the the person who will best serve their community. Who are the candidates? How long must they work for? How do they all feel about the temporary gig? Is there a chance the job could last longer? What qualities are they looking for in the individual?
  • A bartender well known for confiscating the weapons of anyone who causes trouble in their establishment goes missing, a new bartender in their stead. Somewhere is a large cache of weapons this person may or may not know about, and quite a few people are aware of this fact. What kinds of weapons have been confiscated? Are any of the PCs weapons in the stash? What would it mean if the wrong person found these weapons? How did the original bartender get them from the troublemakers? Does the new tender seem up to the task?
  • The PCs are all the substitute guards when the regular crew is called away for training. What kinds of crazy things do they encounter as they stand in? Who tries to pull one over on them, the unseasoned? Who tries to take advantage of them? What do they learn about the guards they maybe didn’t know know before?
  • When the ruler dies, the spouse is left as the regent while the heir comes of age. A small group of advisors, seemingly loyal to the now deceased former ruler has also been appointed to oversee affairs of the country, trying to mandate matters regarding the heir’s schooling and training to the spouse regent, pushing them out of political matters. The PCs are all servants in the royal household and are asked by the spouse to help them gain more power, as they do not trust the council to run the country and feel they are better suited to the task. What is in the best interest of the PCs? What must they do in order to help the royal family? What are they promised for good services? Does the spouse regent have good intentions? What is their reputation? What would be the consequences of working against them? For them?

For PCs

  • How do you feel about unfamiliar people in familiar spaces?
  • Do you have any people you rely upon for things like getting your gear fixed, acquiring gear, to make your favourite food or drink just the way you like it? If you went to see them and someone else was there, how would you react?
  • What would you let a stranger do for you? What things would you rather have your ‘regular’ person deal with?
  • Who do you think could replace you? Your fellow PCs?

What say you? How can you use out of place NPCs in your campaign?

Have you ever read Reality Makes the Best Fantasy and had your own ideas for articles? Would you like to write for Troll in the Corner? Well, Reality Makes the Best Fantasy is now open to guest submissions! If you’ve got an idea for an article and can stick to the same format, (write-up, For GMs, Plot Hooks, For PCs), drop me a line at trisj at backthatelfup dot com with your pitch and few plot hooks. Your article will be posted on a Friday, just like any other RMtBF article only it’ll be YOUR article with your name and your bio attached. Oh snap! Guest spots will be open once a month with a few extras probably popping up in late April/May, since myself and my crew will be moving at that time. Can’t wait to hear from you!

Reality Makes the Best Fantasy: The Flu

Recreated 1918 flu virions.
Recreated 1918 flu virions.

Have you caught the flu this winter season? I’ve caught it twice so far. Each time it was different. The first one was typical of what I normally experience. Chills, headache, lethargy, fever, loss of appetite. I laid on the couch a lot and watched all of John Adams. All of it. Except for one part with the guy from Dark City because I drank Theraflu and passed out. The second time I caught it, different animal. Headache and tiredness, throat issues, which is terrible for me since I already have larger than normal tonsils.  It’s downgraded into a pretty gnarly head cold that is still with me as I type this.

The flu is one of those things which seems kind of…mundane. While we hate being plowed under by it, it’s a part of life. ‘Flu season.’ We expect it. Flu vaccines are made, you’re told to get one especially if you’re a kid or have a compromised immune system. Yet when you’re hit by it, all you can think is “Why, why me? Who gave this to me? If I decapitate them, Highlander-style, will the sickness leave my body? I’m too sick to pick up a butter knife, let alone a sword. Where’s my kilt? Is that the bad guy from A Knight’s Tale wearing a fancy wig and talking to George Washington?”

However, the influenza virus mutates quickly and spreads rapidly. In 1918, the Spanish flu pandemic hit the world. During the tail end of The Great War/World War I, troop movements and increased travel in general helped to spread this horrific strain of the virus which killed not the very young, old and infirm like most types of flu but the able-bodied, people who had been healthy just a few days before. It killed soldiers in the trenches and in military hospitals, inundating sick wards already filled with injured soldiers. The infection rate and mortality rate were catastrophic. The symptoms were atypical, causing the infected to be misdiagnosed and drowning people in their own fluids. The numbers are frightening. It’s said to have killed more people than the Black Plague. And mutations of this bug are still floating around, waiting on toilet seat handles, desks, doors, dressing room mirrors, in petri dishes being sequenced and observed by scientists. We’ve probably all had a mutation of this ‘bug.’ This bug was far from mundane. Genetically related to what we’ve all been passing around all these years, it’s a reminder of the power that lies within this tiny organism, undetectable to the naked eye.

It doesn’t matter if your STR is 18: if you have the flu, you will probably be in bed, or on the floor if you don’t make it to the bed. And even if you escape its chill-giving, headache-inducing, fever-addled grasp, a town ravaged by the flu will probably be hesitant to open its gates to you. If they do, you’re likely to find empty shelves and maybe a few days knocked out for yourself, if you’re lucky. As common as the flu is, it can put people out of commission, in some cases…permanently. Seasonal or not, the flu forces those affected to take it seriously.

For DMs

  • What kinds of seasonal illnesses sweep through the region? What are the symptoms?
  • When does it usually start showing up? Does it have a nickname?
  • Who usually catches the sickness? Does it usually start with a certain age group? Certain profession?
  • What are people told to do in order to prevent the spread of the illness? What is most effective?
  • What can alleviate the symptoms/speed the healing process? How long are people sick for?
  • When are people most contagious?
  • Where do people go to get healed? Do they stay home and administer home remedies? Go to temples and pray for sound bodies? Visit healers for the newest medicines?
  • What types of things would help an illness to spread quickly? A change in the weather? Improvements to transportation? Transient populations? Introduction of new animals/plants/substances? Holidays? Combat? What would prevent its spreading and how can this be effectively implemented?
  • How do people know when the illness has started to manifest? How is information about the virus transmitted from person to person?

Plot Hooks

  • The PCs are sent to ascertain symptoms of villagers; if the illness is deemed to be something serious and worth quarantining, the PCS are ordered to quarantine the locale to prevent further infection. What tools are at their disposal to enforce the quarantine? What criteria is given to judge the severity of the illness? Do they try to track down people who may have left the village within a certain time span? Who do the PCs work for? How do the villagers react when they hear they are being quarantined?
  • The PCs work border patrol for their country, their people staying neutral during a conflict between other national powers. Refugees are pushing at the borders, trying to escape the armies and severity of the conflict. However, the hardship of travel, crowded quarters and bad weather has caused the refugees to grow ill. People are demanding to be allowed to cross the border to escape the illness or to get help for their sick friends and family members. The PCs must guard the borders and keep the refugees from freaking out and pushing past the boundaries. Is the sickness limited to the refugees or are people from the PCs’ nation also sucumbing to it? How is the border guarded? Do they have orders to keep people back or are they allowed to evaluate cases and make exceptions? Who do the PCs answer to?
  • When a village has mysteriously avoided getting ill during the last epidemic, the PCs are sent to investigate how they were able to elude an illness that has greatly affected the rest of the nation. Where is the village located? How do they receive the PCs? How do they say they were able to stave off the illness? Are there any other contributing factors they may or may not know about?
  • When the countryside is overrun with a particularly virulent strain of a virus, a group of people try to leave to a more secluded area before they can be affected. The PCs are hired to guide them there safely. Who is in this group of people trying to escape the illness? Where do they wish to go? Why have they hired the PCs in particular? How are they sure to avoid infection during their travels? What other problems has the illness caused that they must deal with on the road?

For PCs

  • Do you get sick easily?
  • What is the sickest you have ever been?
  • What do you do in order to avoid catching ill? Are these family traditions, things you picked up through observation or did you read/hear about them somewhere?
  • How do you feel about sick people? Do you avoid them? Would you help someone if they were visibly ill? What if you knew they weren’t contagious? What if you knew for a fact they were?
  • How do you think disease is spread?
  • Do you avoid certain things to prevent getting sick?
  • What is the worst part about being sick?

Weird fact: The ‘Spanish Flu’ got its name because Spain was one of the only countries not involved during World War 1 and didn’t have as much censorship happening in its media. This led to reports of the flu’s presence in Spain being more widely known, giving the illusion it originated there. There are theories as to the virus’ origin but no one is really sure where the virus mutated into the strain that wreaked so much havoc across the globe.

Reality Makes the Best Fantasy: New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day!

Note: Because of the winter holidays, Reality Makes the Best Fantasy will be taking a break for the rest of 2012. We will return with even more reality for your fantasy January 4th, 2013. Hope you all have a great end to 2012!

In addition, if you read Reality Makes the Best Fantasy and have any suggestions, favorite moments or want to see something covered, let me know in the comments or shoot me an email at trisj at backthatelfup dot com. Here’s to 2013 having more fun, more gaming and more fantasy!

Fireworks at Taipei 101 in 2008. Image by SElefant
Fireworks at Taipei 101 in 2008. Image by SElefant

THE NEW YEAR. Are any of you ready to kick 2012 in the face and embrace 2013 for an awkwardly long time, rocking back and forth, relief washing over your body as 2013 tenses within your desperate hold? That’s what I’m gonna be doing. Hugging it. To my body. Soft music playing. Like Bauhaus, or something.

Out with the old, in with the new. The end of the year is a momentous occasion for many people, the end of a cycle and the start of a new one. It’s a chance to begin again, to put the past behind you and forge ahead with new hopes and expectations.

Many traditions center around destroying or putting away the old and welcoming the new to ensure abundance and prosperity is yours in the New Year. Many people clean their homes, getting rid of old, worn out items, disposing of them in the proper ways. Feasts are prepared, usually items representing prosperity and richness such as pork, pots of beans (the multitude of beans are supposed to represent money), greens and pastries. Special clothing items are worn to ensure good luck; one of my favourites I read about was red underwear. People stay awake and set things on fire and blow up fireworks! In the winter! HOW AWESOME IS THAT?

New Year’s Day is more of the same. More food, wishing good luck in the new year, more visiting with friends and family. In some communities, people exchange gifts to ensure good fortune and again, prosperity in the new year. Many people make resolutions, using the turn of the year as an opportunity to do something new, to change their behaviour. People visit shrines and temples to pray for the new year, make food together (like mochi!), give more gifts and wish each other well.

The end of the year is a time for people to look back and reflect, to see how much they did (or didn’t) accomplish and plan for future projects and undertakings. Unlike some other holidays that can bring frustration, depression or anger, New Year’s Eve and New Years Day tend to be met with a little less ire. Regardless of any number of your affiliations, the turn of the year is a time for everyone to anticipate the best. Reflection yields experience which makes people feel better equipped to deal with whatever the new year can throw at them.

At least one can hope.

What kind of hope can a New Year’s Celebration bring to your campaign?

For GMs

  • When is New Year’s Eve/New Year’s Day? What determines the end of the year?
  • What year is it? Are there any projections being made about the coming year (astrologically, economically, agriculturally)?
  • What has the last year been like? What will it take in the new year to make it better than the one about to slip away?
  • What foods are traditionally eaten on the New Year?
  • How is the passing of the New Year shared? Bells? Gongs? Fireworks? Trumpets?
  • What are important ‘firsts’ of the new year? First person you see? First joke? First animal seen?
  • What traditions are done to ensure the new year will be good? Cleaning, both physical and ritual? New clothes obtained? Offerings? Gift giving?
  • How do traditions vary from country to country?
  • What represents the New Year? A baby? A seedling? Something else?
  • Are there EXPLOSIONS?

Plot Hooks

  • The PCs are hired to help clean a large home for the New Years celebrations, getting things in order for a huge party to take place later that evening. When they discover a secret corridor that leads to an unknown part of the house, they must decide whether they should investigate or continue with their cleaning. Where does the tunnel seem to lead? What do they think is down there? How does the tunnel relate to their employer?
  • The PCs visit the local shrine and make public resolutions as is the custom. They can now spend the rest of the campaign keeping themselves in check regarding their resolutions. What do the PCs resolve to do? What will it mean if they break their resolutions?
  • While the PCs are wandering in a strange land, they are drawn to a village holding a large celebration. As one of them is the first stranger to enter the village in the New Year, they are charged with being in charge of the village for a set amount of time, as is the tradition. Which of the PCs wandered in first? What will the villagers do if they try to leave? What kind of duties does the job entail?
  • The personification of the New Year, a religious clergy member dressed as the ‘old year’ must be ‘hunted down’ in a parade and laid to rest so the ‘new year’ can be born. In the midst of the parade, the person goes missing, leaving the crowd nervous and wondering if it’s a bad omen for the new year. The PCs must find the ‘old year’ before the new year is here so the theatrical ritual can be carried out. What happened to the ‘old year’? Who has told the PCs to find it? Does the onlooking population know the ‘old year’ is missing or have they been led to believe it is a new part of the ritual? Is the identity of the new person playing the ‘old year’ known? Where is the ‘new year’?

For PCs

  • How has this last year treated you?
  • How do you break up time, regarding goals?
  • What were your goals for the last year? Did you meet them?
  • What are your goals for the new year? Do you tell anyone about them or keep them to yourself?
  • What traditions must be observed in order to promote success in the new year?

What say you? How can you be sure to have a Happy New Year in-game?


Reality Makes the Best Fantasy: Gifts

A special envelope for presenting a monetary gift or a tip, used in Japan.

To the clothes and toys given to children to the flowers and food left for the deceased, life is peppered with events where the giving or exchanging of gifts is customary. Every culture has a tradition of giving, ranging from the customary extra donut from the baker to the ultimate sacrifices of martyrs for others’ benefit.

Gift giving is complicated. Depending on who is giving, who is receiving and the occasion, a myriad of rules and customs apply. Bequeathing an inappropriate gift could be more disastrous than not giving any gift at all, and a gift given in the wrong manner can cause the giver to lose face and insult whoever is receiving. Because of the encroaching holidays, many of us have gifts for loved ones, liked ones, acquaintances, and perhaps co-workers in mind, trying to find a good deal on the perfect gift, finding the right box, wrapping it, and taking it to the post office. If you’re like me, you order as many gifts as you can online to avoid having to be around people, I mean, wait in line around the holidays. A gift for the jerk in the cubicle across from you will probably look vastly different from what you get for your boss. And you wouldn’t dream of giving that same present to your grandma, I wouldn’t think.

There are many kinds of giving to be done. There is the giving of gifts at a time of joyous celebration, to help individuals on their next stage of life. There are gifts given to help those in need, such as those who have just suffered a great tragedy or loss. Tributes are a kind of gift, given to honor leaders, to show allegiance, and to provide goods and wealth to fund endeavors to (hopefully) benefit both the giver and receiver. Potlatches and other customs dictated that the wealthy show off their wealth by giving gifts to their guests, often at large parties with spiritual and social ceremonies.

A gift freely given and graciously accepted is a common theme in many stories, the mark of the hero or the sign of a good ruler. Greed, ungratefulness, and stinginess are often signs of a villain, someone to be avoided. Personal slights can follow people across the land and sea and not paying your tribute can mean trouble for your tribe and loved ones.

It’s more than just something acquired and handed over. What is given and how it is given says a lot about the person doing the given. And what the receiver expects and how they react reflects on them as well. What are your PCs giving and taking in your games?

For GMs

  • What occasions dictate the giving or exchanging of gifts? What are the typical types of gifts given on these occasions and who is exchanging?
  • What customs surround the giving the gifts? Are there elaborate rituals regarding the gifts? Do they have to be wrapped a certain way? Given on certain days? Certain gifts not given for certain occasions (such as not giving a potted plant to an ill person, lest the illness become ‘rooted’)? Things that are never given as gifts?
  • What are gifts wrapped in? How are they presented? Are they handed over from person to person or left in a specified location with some kind of indicator as to the giver?
  • Is there a system of ‘tribute’? How is this structured and what projects are the goods and money put towards? What is considered worthy to offer as tribute? Who may present the tribute?
  • How are anonymous gifts viewed? With suspicion? With curiosity? With admiration?
  • Who makes the finest gifts in the land? Offers the best goods? Grows the best specimens?
  • What is the proper attitude one should have when giving or receiving gifts? Humility? Pride?
  • What stories and myths are centered around giving?

Plot Hooks

  • The PCs are part of a retinue escorting tribute to an important individual, and the gift must be presented in a certain manner. When the person who is supposed to carry out the elaborate ceremony is hurt so that they cannot perform the ritual, the PCs all must train in the rite; the best of them will be allowed to carry out the presentation, knowing the fate of their company and their people rest on them pulling it off. What is the ceremony? To whom are they giving the tribute? What are the risks of not showing up? Of giving the tribute late? Of messing up the ceremony?
  • After accompanying an important official on a mission to a foreign city, the official gives the PCs a bonus for a job well done to buy something for their loved ones back home. The PCs are allowed to roam the city in plain clothes and look around, trying to find the perfect gift for those who are waiting for them to return. How much money have they been given? What kinds of items do they have here that the PCs don’t have at home? What do they purchase?
  • The PCs help a group of people with a local problem. In thanks, the locals give the PCs goods that are special to that region. Later, when the PCs return, the locals snub the PCs, treating them coldly despite their earlier help. Upon investigation, the PCs find it is local custom that when one receives a gift, the receiver gives something small in return. How do the PCs correct the slight?
  • When an important individual receives a lavish but anonymous gift, they ask the PCs to investigate so the receiver might reciprocate and not lose face among their fellow elite citizens. What is the gift? How was it given? Who is the receiver and what is their relationship to the PCs? Who is the giver of the gift and why did they give the gift anonymously?
  • A local church practices ‘sowing’ back into the community, taking surplus money left at the end of the year and distributing it within the community. When the money box containing this money goes missing, the PCs must find it before the ceremony is scheduled to take place. Who has taken the money? Why? What would it mean if the money isn’t distributed back into the community?

For PCs

  • What is the best gift you’ve ever given? Ever received? What was so great about it?
  • Are there people you always bring presents for?
  • What is your most treasured possession and what would it take for you to give it to someone else?
  • How do you feel about personal sacrifice?
  • If someone gives you a gift, do you feel you need to reciprocate or do you simply graciously accept it? Do you think expecting something in return is in good taste or tacky?
  • Do you prefer to give presents or receive them?
  • How do you show your appreciation for gifts?

What say you? Are your PCs ready to give and take?


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