sábado, 28 de julio de 2018

Bookhounds of Vornheim

This is a translation of a post originally published in 2013.

These days I've been reading two modules that are quite interesting.

One of them is Vornheim The Complete City Kit by Zak Smith, from whom you have probably heard of if tou read me frequently. Beyond the description of the city of Vornheim (dark, strange and, above all, metal) it's a tool kit to make your own Vornheim (or any other city) however you want. I like it quite a bit, especially because it gives much thought to books--there are book generators, rules to search in libraries, a dungeon that is in fact a library... And the setting reinforces it too with bits like stating that the skin of snakes (and snake-like monsters) are books and that the animals constantly siss their own titles.

The other module I've been reading is Bookhounds of London, a supplement for Trail of Cthulhu by Kenneth Hite. It offers a dofferent way to present investigation campaigns based on the mythos (although if you use mythos in plural it should be mythoi): the characters are not good samaritans that save the world just because they had an uncle that died or something, rather than that they deal in rare and valuable documents, specially books. And if they save the world on the way, they expect to profit from that. It also provides an interesting description of London in the 30's, designed for this type of campaign.

And of course, having a pot for head, I can't help but mix anything that goes in it. Thus I started thinking about how would it be a medidval fantasy campaign centered around document dealing. And it certainly doesn't seem too hard: copy the mysterious words at the bottom of dark dungeons, steal from some wizards to sell to other wizards, provide diabolist cults with summoning rituals, publish the journal of a vampire lady as a romantic novel...

Instead of "recovering" just gold, our brave adventurers would also search information... To sell it for gold. In old school D&D you got experience from the gold you could recover from dungeons, here you'd get experience from... Reading books. It sounds crazy, right? And everything gets easier mixing resources from the two books, like the instructions to create bibliophile characters in Bookhounds or its descriptions of cults with a great interest in books.

The only problem that I can think of right now is that the Middle Ages don't get along with books: they older and beat them. But it is always possible to say that printing press is already invented (which is usually assumed) and that rather than medieval we could go for late renaissancd, XVI century, which I think is cooler. And even then in this age books are rare and expensive--if you had more than ten, you could start calling yourself a scholar. The biggest libraries in the world barely reached a hundred volumes. And let's not forget that hand copied books would not totally fall from use until the 19th century. But even then, with as many past and future cultures in fantasy games there are many places to get valuable information.

If I were to play such a campaign (who knows? With strange aeons even death may die) I would start with the characters in the classic backwater village and with a mission tl finish off a sorcerer that is messing around cursing harvestes and ruining the milk of cows. So, the PCs get to his tower, beat him senseless and now the only valuable thing is his small collection of books. And given that in that god-forsaken village they won't give you a dime for them, you have to go to the big city. From there on it writes itself. The PCs start making contacts with local booksellers, enemies with people that want their books...

I think it is an interesting perspective, although it would probably require players ready to adapt themselves a bit, but I don't think that it will be too hard. After all we would keep everything that you can expect from a fantasy game: you steal from wizards, explore dungeons where you can find books, kill hydras for their skin... But you also deal with booksellers, publish, falsify, research... That's what being a bookhound is.

Thank you for reading. Valmar Cerenor!

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