One of the players in Autumn Frontiers, my Savage Worlds sandbox campaign, has expressed an interest in pursuing that most old-school of endeavors: the construction of a stronghold. It’s the perfect springboard for a discussion about transitions, this month’s RPG Carnival topic, especially as it pertains to player characters who evolve from simple adventurers to lords of their own domains.
The player in question is Ben, my loyal co-author here at RPG Diehard, and he’s playing a gallant paladin serving a flame goddess. We’re only 5 sessions into the campaign, but Ben is already laying the groundwork for his character’s future: he’s starting to improve social skills so he can sway commoners to his cause, and he’s expressed interest in eventually building (or conquering) a small castle to better serve his character’s deity.
Very cool stuff indeed, and Ben is going about it in the right way, by putting things in motion early. But it begs the question: how exactly does a character transition from small-time adventurer to lordly ruler? The AD&D Dungeon Master’s Guide is quite explicit in describing the mechanical aspects of territorial expansion — mapping the surrounding areas, driving off enemy hordes, paying labor crews to build your keep, etc — but is somewhat more nebulous in terms of what is asked of the aspiring ruler.
Surely there’s a transition coming at some point in the future, as the sword-swinging holy knight assumes the role of castellan of his own citadel? I’m thinking this will involve the social landscape of the game. As the paladin’s influence grows, the various groups and factions in Autumn Frontiers will react differently to him as he travels the lands. At some point, he won’t even have to travel to project his will — rather, he’ll be able to dispatch diplomats or companies of soldiers to carry out his business. Leaving him free, of course, to pound on Orcus.
In any case, Gygax’s meticulous mechanics for clearing a territory, mapping the landscape and building a keep don’t fit well with our somewhat more free-wheeling Savage Worlds game. Whatever transition is in store for Ben’s paladin is going to be decidedly stripped-down.
PS — My Obsidian Portal campaign wiki is growing, albeit slowly, as I add in details and adventure writeups.