This piece continues on directly from part one ( http://www.harnforum.com/viewtopic.php?t=1723
At this stage we should probably give some though to the PCs who will be the focus of this campaign. Harn, as we noted earlier, doesn't seem to have a class of "adventurers", so where do our heroes come from? They certainly don't spring, Athene-like, fully armed and armoured from the minds of their creator. HarnWorld persents a system for determining when and where a PC was born (Harn 35), and notes that 90 per cent of PCs will come from villages, rather than towns, but little more than that (tip: all of the potential birthplaces are covered in a little more detail in HarnDex). However, we know a great deal more about Harnic society from the background material on feudal culture we skimmed over earlier. We know that the social background of the PCs will play a significant part in how other people will relate to them, and thus in what they can achieve when in civilised areas. Any doughty fighter will be a useful companion in the wilderness, but if he's a knight, he'll wield far more influence in society than a peasant or barbarian. We also need to consider each PC's freedom to operate: most people in a feudal society have obligations to lord, master and family, yet for this campaign to work we need the characters to be mobile. A knight, therefore, might be a free lance (mercenary fighting for pay) or knight-errant (young knight in search of adventure); a common-born soldier may be a mercenary; a priest may be a mendicant travelling from place to place to spread the Word; a serf may be a runaway; a craftsman might be a journeyman in search of work. It's worthwhile spending a little time thinking about the kind of characters you want int the campaign -- you could leave it completely to the players, or you could ask them to create characters with a particular kind of background. A party made up entirely of scions of a noble family, or of peasants from the same village, will give the campaign a different flavour to a party of disparate, footloose adventurers.
We should also consider the ties that bind our PCs (a) together and (b) to the campaign. In either case, the bonds may be loose or tight. Characters who are bound together tightly may be from the same village, or may be related to each other (ie, members of the same clan). Loosely-bound characters are probably relative strangers brought together by circumstance. Likewise, characters who are tightly bound to the campaign have something in their background which drives them (perhaps they have run up against these magi before, their clan once owned an Earthmaster artifact that was stolen and must be recovered, or a relative disappeared near an Earthmaster ruin). Without these background ties, only in-play events and players' natural curiousity will keep them on track.
HarnMaster has a very useful concept, which can be used for any game system and any setting, called the "pre-game". The pre-game is basically a one-on-one session between the gamesmaster and a player which aims to explain how a PC (a) chooses his profession and (b) ends up in the location where the first adventure will be staged. Parts of the pre-game might be played out in character, but a good deal of it will be out-of-character discussion between the GM and player.
For instance, let's say our PC is a serf from a village near Nenda (see Harndex) in the kingdom of Kaldor. Some games systems, notably HarnMaster and Chivalry & Sorcery, provide a method of randomly determining social background in a feudal setting; others, such as GURPS, Hero System, Ars Magica and Rolemaster, allow players to buy high-status as a benefit, or choose low status as a flaw; still others, such as D&D, provide no set meothod for determining social background. In this case, we'll assume the group is using D&D, and the decision to make the PC a serf is one mutually agreed upon by the GM and player. At the start of the pre-game, the PC is 14 years old and has no significant skills (ie, is a level 0 character).
The player tells the GM he'd like to play a Ranger. The GM knows that the first adventure in his campaign is going to be set in Trobridge Inn (see Harndex), though he doesn't tell the player this. The GM also knows that serfs aren't usually allowed to leave their villages, but might buy or win their freedom. He tells the player that his character can choose either to stay in the village or run away to a freetown (the nearest one is Thay, nearly halfway across Harn), or become a miner (the PC's family are too poor to choose the third option: to buy his freedom). The player, not liking the sound of the running-away option, elects to stay in the village. The GM tells him that a year passes, and in that time he's learned a little bit about farming and, in his militia training, how to tell the sharp end of a spear from the blunt end. The player, realising this isn't getting him any closer to being a Ranger, asks a little bit more about the running-away option.
"Well," replies the GM, "the lord may well send men out to look for you, but if you can evade them and make it to a mine or a freetown, and live there for a year and a day, then you'll be free. If you manage to evade them, and don't spend the time in a freetown or down a mine, then you won't be free -- but no one will know that except the people in your village."
"And this freetown, Thay, is a long way away, right?"
"Yes. But you know that there merchant caravans travel to Thay from Tashal, which is the capital of your country and is much closer. Maybe you could get a job as a caravan guard."
The player decides he'll try it. He tells the GM he'll wait until a dark night, then take some food and whatever coin he has (not much, the GM tells him) and slip away from the village. Now knowing the lord may send someone after him, he tells the GM he'll travel by night and hide up during the day. The GM thinks for a moment, and decides that will be enough to avoid the pursuers. After a couple of weeks, the PC reaches Tashal (see Harndex). From the Harndex entry we know that caravans converge on Tashal in spring, and leave in autumn, but the GM has a bit of a brainwave, and tells the player that although he's arrived in summer, there is one merchant who's going to leave for Thay early, to try and get a better price for his goods, and he is hiring a fair number of guards, because the road can be dangerous. The player decides his charcter will sign up.
"The guard captain looks at your peasant clothes a little suspiciously, and asks if you're a runaway serf," says the GM.
"Ah... no," says the player in character. "I'm a freeman... I just got bored of farming, and I want to see the world a bit."
"The guard captain still looks suspicious -- you don't think he believes you, but he tells you to go and get a spear and shield anyway," the GM replies, making a note that, in addition to running away, and stealing food from his family, the PC has now lied. This may have some impact on the PC's eventual alignment.
Rangers are basically wilderness warriors. If the player continues to act as a caravan guard, he'll probably become a fighter, rather than a ranger, so the GM decides he needs a way to get the PC into the wilderness. An ambush on the caravan, with the PC left for dead looks like a choice option -- he just need to decide where. Also note that because this is the pre-game, rather than the game itself, no dice will be rolled. Checking the big colour map of Harn and the cultural map in Harnworld (Harn 2), he notes the caravan's route passes through three tribal areas: the Pagaelin, the Hodiri and the Solora. He checks Harndex and finds that the Pagaelin are a blood-thirsty lot who do sometimes attack caravans, and are under the influence of a set of Navehan heretics from Bejist, which is an Earthmaster site. It's too good to pass up.
He describes the journey from Tashal to Oselbridge, then tells the player that the caravan is entering the wilderness. The guard captain tells everyone to stay alert, because the Pagaelin sometimes attack caravans. Sure enough, after a couple of days, they do. He describes the attack, then tells the player that he's hit in the chest by a spear and blacks out. He awakes to the smell of bacon frying; his chest hurts and he's in a hilly region he doesn't recognise.
"You're awake, good," a voice says. The player looks up to find a weather-beaten man in his late 30s carrying water back to his campfire. "My name's Rodrek. You're lucky I was passing your way -- your friends had left you for dead."
During the subsequent conversation the player learns he's been unconscious for two days, that Rodrek lives in the wild uplands of Anadel, where he's friendly with the Bujoc tribes and where he hunts gargun of the Chindra nation. He has saved the PC's life, and begun dragging him on a travois-like stretcher to his home in Anadel. He offers the PC the coice of staying with him or returning to civilisation.
The player, recognising a ranger opportunity when he sees one, elects to stay with Rodrek, who becomes his mentor. Over the next four years, Rdorek shows him how to live off the land, how to hide, track and hunt gargun. He introduces him to the Bujoc tribes. At the end of four years, the GM tells the player his character is now a first-level Ranger, whose chosen enemy is gargun. He lets the player develop his character, but stipulates he must spend at least one skill point in Profession (Farming) -- remember that year the PC spent working in his village before running away?
During these four years, the PC also learns that Rodrek worships a nature-deity called Siem, and he teaches the PC Siem's ways. The pair of them twice join the Bujoc for their tribal moot overlooking Telumar (see Harndex). Rodrek seems quite interested in Telumar, though he avoids going too close to it. He tells the PC that it was built by a mysterious race called the Earthmasters, but was abandoned thousands of years ago, even before the Elves (who he calls Sindar) came to Harn. He also tells the PC that a dangerous wizard lives there now, and he should avoid the place. Eventually, he tells the PC that when he found him, left for dead by the side of the Genin Trail, he was returning from an expedition to another Earthmaster site called Bejist, also very dangerous and inhabited by a sect of assassins (see Harndex).
One day, as they are camped in the Anadels, Rodrek suddenly becomes alert. "Soldiers are coming. Too noisy for Bujoc, and they've given no signal," he mutters. Then, cryptically, he adds, "So, it has come at last." He rummages quickly through is backpack and hands the PC a bowl made of some strange material -- not clay, not stone, though something like both -- and a sealed letter. "Take these to my cousin. He's the innkeeper at Trobidge Inn, halfway down the Salt Route between Tashal and Coranon. Now get away from here, quickly. I'll join you at Trobridge, if I can. Do not expect to find me back here." Remebering Gandalf's last words to the hobbits in Moria, the GM can't resist adding: "Fly, you fool, fly!"
As the PC runs from the camp, he glances back to see a dozen armed men emerge from the woods. Rodrek's arrow drops one of them. He continues to run, glancing backwards now and again. Two more of the armed men drop, then another man, dressed in robes appears from the woods and, moments later there is an unnatural flash of lightning that seems to flash from the robed man's fingertips to Rodrek's camp. The PC turns and runs again. Eventually he realises there is no pursuit, and over the next few weeks he makes his way to Burzyn, Tashal and evenutally to Trobridge Inn.
That's one way of handling a pre-game. The process is repeated in one-on-one sessions with the other players, who may all have radically different backgrounds. Note that in this case, our Ranger has no particuluar ties to any other PC, but he does have very strong ties to the campaign we looked at earlier: he knows a little about the Earthmasters, that his mentor was involved in something to do with them, and that at least one wizard opposed him. He doesn't know whether his mentor is alive or dead (and the GM doesn't even have to decide that at this stage). He also knows that he has friends among the Bujoc, the locaiton of two Earthmaster sites, and that he probably shouldn't go anywhere near his home in Nenda if he wants to avoid punishment as a runaway serf. He's a much more interesting character than a plain old first-level ranger, and the pre-game gives the player some insight into his character (though he'll probably continue to develop him as play goes on), and some background on the campaign setting.