Monday, August 29, 2011

Sir Percival of the Stone Bridge

At the narrowest point of the river, where the old post road crosses, sits Sir Percival's bridge. When his grandfather, Halstead, built the bridge many years ago, it was a busy thoroughfare that connected the mining towns in the hills with the farmland and the big city in the plains. He charged a fair toll for crossing the bridge and in return he patrolled the area with a company of knights and kept bandits away. He enjoyed much prosperity in his time, and left a sizable inheritance to Sir Percival's father, Richard.

Richard had the ill fortune of presiding over a time of decline in the area. The mines ran out and travel became less desirable. As the revenue from the bridge declined, many of Richard's knights abandoned him. Even his two oldest sons moved away to seek their fortunes elsewhere. When it came time to declare an heir, he cut out his older sons and left his land his third son, Percival.

Sir Percival had to leave his formal religious studies unfinished to return home to manage the estate. He brought with him a very conservative priest as an adviser. He still makes occasional patrols with a few men-at-arms, but life near the stone bridge is quiet. Few travelers pass, and with little money to be made from robbery, even the bandits have moved on.

But not all is quiet in the riverside manor. Some say Percival has mad, and he forces a very strict piety on his household staff. Not only are the men and women completely segregated from each other, but he and his priest are the only people allowed to mingle with both groups. And while he has protected the countryside from the few bandits that still haunt the hills, he has become a scourge in his own right.

Though he never bothers merchants or tradesmen passing over the bridge, he always stops and interrogates young couples. If he feels they have been impious (and few people could live up to his standard of piety) he takes them into 'protective custody' so he can reform them and save their souls. They are never seen again.

Great advice from Neverwinter

I haven't made it all the way through the new Neverwinter book yet, but I found a piece of player advice that I just love. On page 19, in the Character Themes section, there is a sub-heading titled "Making Fun Choices," which I have excerpted below:
As you roleplay your character's theme, avoid making choices that you think might annoy other players or make them uncomfortable. ...
Regardless of what makes sense for roleplaying, sometimes it should take a back seat to what would be fun for everyone. When you're confronted with a situation in which you think your character should do something that you know the other characters will not like, think about how those chracters' players might react. Sometimes the mischievous, improper, or stupid thing you think your character should do adds to the fun of everyone at the table. Sometimes such an action only makes you the center of attention at the expense of making the fame less fun for everyone else. Make sure you know the difference. 
I was really surprised to see this advice in this book, and especially in the character theme section. Neverwinter is the stomping grounds of the ultimate self-sufficient loner, Drizzt; and character themes are usually constructed so they add power to characters and make them more self-sufficient. I was pleasantly surprised to find that almost all of the themes in Neverwinter are designed to encourage the PCs to work together, even when they might have radically different long-term goals.

This is a departure from other character themes that I have seen so far. Existing character themes tend to take a character up to the moment of their first adventure, but not a lot of them inform your future RP choices. The Neverwinter themes are tied strongly to the region and give your character a past as well as a direction for the future. The price of adding this specificity is that it makes the themes less flexible. I'm curious to see how this plays out in LFR. I think in a home campaign, these themes could add a lot of story hooks and make the party feel really connected to the game world. In LFR, I just dread sitting down at a table with 5 Neverwinter Nobles.