Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Settling the Feral Shore

It's been quiet here blogside as of late, real world business, writing and gaming (ironically) have conspired to delay my triumphant return into regular blogging. (But really how much is there to say about a hobby?)

Besides the Reavers of the Weird miniatures campaign which launched this week with six players, the weekly Hill Cantons game has been going in some interesting directions in the new explore/clear/colonize the Feral Shore sideline. In other words doing domain-level play several levels before "name level" and firmly shaking out the notion that it is some kind of end-game retirement phase. 

A thriving (if squalid) little Jamestown-like fort settlement has sprung up and the players have already accomplished some rather heroic (for their general murderhobo scumbaggery) feats such as freeing an old pagan god chained to a lakefloor (who they think is the Cantons version of the Slavic god Veles), finding a book of a god, clearing a massive dam made wholly of human bones, exploring the Valley of Grot and its temple, etc.

As the foothold in the Weird expands, I find myself adapting many of the collection of subsystems designed for the two Domain Game experiments and the Borderlands (yeah, yeah eventually). Here is one of the ones I am currently using to set out what kind of broke-in-the-head people would be attracted to a muddy little clearing in the howling wilderness.

Settler Rules
Colonists can recruited to the settlement by the promise of free or cheap land. Colonists will only begin to arrive when the following conditions are met:
1. A two-mile hex and it's surrounding hexes have been rigorously explored and cleared of threats.
2. The players have set twice a week patrols of all six of those hexes.
3. The passage from the coast to the settlement is also explored, cleared, and patrolled.

Every three months a call can be issued back home in the Cantons. With each seasonal call, the player can grant and settle up a square miles of arable land in the settlement hex. Each hex is assumed to have four square miles of potentially grantable land.

Colonists work their own land and provide their own means, thus the players have no direct obligation to house, feed, and pay them as they do for their retainers, hirelings, and followers. They do however come under the obligation of paying taxes, tithes, fees, tariffs and obeying the rules set by the players within reason. An average rate of taxation—1 gold sun per family per month--will tend to not produce riotous conditions.

Roll on the following two tables for each seasonal settlement (or if a special campaign event calls for it).

Interesting Immigrants Table
Roll d20
1 Crazy old coot
2 Village idiot
3 Local gossip (also practices some kind of trade)
4 1d3 wanton harlots or strutting gigolos
5 Slave trader/Indentured Servant dealer or other scum bag, 1d3 slimy henchmen
6 Tavern/Wine den/Hallucinogen parlor keeper
7 Smelly kozak horse caravanserai and trade herd
8 Evening or Morning Star society heretic (also craftsmen)
9 Starry Void mystic (also craftsmen)
10 Silent God rebbe or Old Pahr pagan (also vinter, metalsmith, or sage)
11 Feral Dwarf hill scout
12 Half-Ogre goon
13 Black Hobbit professional maker of trouble
14 Fishing boatkeeper and family (or hunter if not on navigable water)
15 Recovering (perhaps) bandit/outlaw/poacher
16 Kezmaroki shabby gentily family (extravagant title but destitute)
17 1d3 defaulted Bonders (mercs) from Kezmarok (come with armor and weapons)
18 Guild of Condoterrie, Linkboys and Scalawags member (owes back dues)
19 Non-inimical monster from the Weird
20 Something truly fucked up (GM's discretion).

Boring Immigrants Table
Roll d10
1 none
2-3 16 families of tenant farmers
4-5 14 families of tenant farmers, 2 families of freeholders (80 suns for sale of land)
6 12 tenant farmers, 4 freeholders (160 suns sale)
7 12 tenant farmers, 4 military colonists
8 10 tenant farmers, 2 freeholder (80 suns sale), 1 boyar (160 suns)
9 10 tenant farmers, 2 military colonists (160suns sale), 1 boyar (160 suns)
10 8 tenant farmers, 4 freeholder (160suns sale), 1 boyar (160 suns)
*Any emigrating family can be substituted for a family of tenant farmer if desired.

Tenant Farmers
Free farming family that works a leased grant of 40 acres in exchange for farming work, militia service, and taxes. Typical family will be five with three working bodies that are available to work the landowner's seeding and harvest. The household will provide one unarmored combatant with club, dagger, or other makeshift weapon.

Free farming family of five that works a purchased grant of 40 acres. In an emergency situation, the household will provide one combatant with leather armor and a long bow or spear/shield.

Military colonists
Family headed by former mercenaries, landsknechts or Kezmaroki bonders that works a leased grant of 40 acres in exchange for militia service. The household will provide one combatant with half plate, short sword and a pike or crossbow.

Wealthy, but not titled landholder that purchases 120 acres. One family of five with 12 servants. In an emergency situation, the household will provide one mounted warrior with half plate, shield, sword and lance and three unarmored combatants with club, dagger, or other makeshift weapon.


  1. Migration is often interesting, in real life too, and maybe a little underused in all the fantastical landscapes riven with strife. Stories from the wending of the world.

    1. Agree, hard not to pick up on that as a compelling theme as third-generation immigrant living in a borderland area myself (San Antonio, Texas).

      I will likely expand this out quite a bit (into a d100 table) with more color to model

  2. Neat stuff, thanks for sharing.

  3. I like this, it seems like you're running a really interesting campaign. I agree 100% that the "endgame" shouldn't be reserved exclusively for high levels. I'm running a campaign right now where the players control a multi-generational noble house over several generations as they try to return to power. Characters have been created, traveled the world, bought property, etc. without gaining a single level, and it's some of the most fun I've ever had running a tabletop game.

    I like how you've got two charts, the interesting one and the more solid, realistic one. It looks like there are some good rules here for anyone looking to do something similar.

    This was an interesting post, and I'd like to hear more about how this game develops.

  4. I agree. Fantastic, simple and workable approach.

    I do, however, have to take exception to all three of the "For Settlers To Arrive" rules.

    Under them, none of the American West would've been settled. Nor even any part of the continent. But, I understand the *point* of the 3 Rules; to provide enough safety to allow settlement.

    But how would they know? Patrol schedules and "Acres We've Conquered" reports aren't regularly published.

    What brings settlers in is the PERCEPTION of safety. Most often, in the literature I've read, time seems to be the greatest indication; the longer a post, fort or town has been there, the safer it is. The "...but it's still there." mentality.

    Maybe have an abysmal Saving Throw chance to attract 2d4 new settler families. Give a +1 for every week/month the settlement's been there, extra garrisons, extra coverage in gossip, news, published works, etc.

    This way, the more a place grows, the more likely it is to attract new settlers. You'd have to come up with a "tipping-point", though... Once it reaches a certain size or status, these rules wouldn't apply anymore. It would just be run as a normal city or fort/castle.

  5. BTW... the tables you made are great! Brief, but apt. Great as-is and as seed-material...