Friday, August 7, 2015

What Services Exist in Your Fantasy World (And Do You Use Them)?

Before we get started on today's topic, I'd like to remind all of my readers that I'm giving away tasty, tasty stuff this August to all my new Patreon patrons. If you'd like to support me, and keep Improved Initiative going, you can check out all the details in this post, or go to The Literary Mercenary's Patreon Page to become a patron today!

All right, now that that's out of the way, let's get on with this week's Fluff topic...

The Service Industry In Your Fantasy World

Your party of heroes has assembled, and you've been given your latest quest. You need to reach the city of Aergon, near the Bay of Scoundrels. It's a long, perilous journey for adventurers traversing the wilderness, even for a hearty, deadly band like yours. Despite that, you accept the responsibility of this job, leave the tavern... and immediately book passage on an air ship so you don't have to deal with all that nonsense.

Come at me, random encounter table!
That example seems silly, but it hits on a serious issue; we often completely ignore the fact that the service industry exists in our games apart from inns and the occasional restaurant. Just take a look at page 159 in Pathfinder's Core Rule Book. The chart on the far right lists prices for passage on a ship, the cost of a carriage trip, the cost of a messenger, and the cost of hired spellcasting services.

Let me ask you something; how often have you used any of those features?

Digging Deeper Into Your World

By deciding the services available in your world you aren't just laying traps for your party to waste precious coin on; you are adding another layer to the depth of your game. You may also be simultaneously clearing up a problem your adventurers have, but which they aren't dealing with.

Here's a simple scenario for you; gold. At level one most adventurers barely have a few coppers to scrape together for an ale, and even truly wealthy starting adventurers could wear their entire fortune around their necks in leather pouches. After you've delved a dungeon or two, perhaps collected a reward on a marauding band of orcs or turned in a certain number of bandits, though, you have enough personal wealth that the barbarian has to carry the bard's share. Even changing your gold coins for platinum ones (if such a thing is possible where you happen to be) isn't going to make the burden you're carting around substantially less.

So what do you do? Well, you either buy a cart with an iron-bound chest built into the back, or you do what a normal person would do and open a bank account.

It's safe as a... you get the idea.
The Church of Abadar is one of the most common institutions throughout Golarion, and in addition to being a church, every place of worship is built like a vault. They keep balances for the wealthy and common alike, which may be of particular use for those who want a safe place to leave their wealth while they're out adventuring. They also tend to finance projects for the public good, which may very well mean the Church of Abadar is your paymaster if your party is clearing out aberrations from the sewers, or ensuring that goblin raids stop.

You could take this a step further, as well. Say, for example, that you have been given a commission by a lord to undertake a dangerous assignment. Killing a dragon, slaying a horde of giants, etc. You may be able to do it on your own, but you'd find the job significantly easier if you had a keen-edged sword, or a staff of evocation. You don't have the money up-front for these things, but if you have a reputation as an adventurer the bank might provide you a loan for the item, with terms that say you have to pay the cost upon completion of the job, along with an additional percentage of any treasure you find on your adventure.

Communication, Transportation, and Healthcare

There's more to adventuring than gold, though (or at least there is for a lot of adventurers). For example, if you have a paymaster in another city, how do you get word to them when circumstances change? Or if you want to send a letter to your family up north, telling them of your great deeds, how do you get it to them? If you come limping back to town with the necromancer's head in a bag, but suffering from a wasting curse he put on you before he died, who do you turn to?

What if you could just pop in at the corner apothecary?
All of these tasks, and others besides, should have some kind of service your party can use. For example, an enterprising bard might have founded an organization called The Wanderer's Way. It operates as a kind of volunteer postal service, carrying word far and wide for no more than gratitude and a few coins. Waystations are found at prominent inns, as well as churches dedicated to gods of travel. Traveling circuses, caravans, and even adventurers may pick up a few letters as they go, bearing the badge of Wanderers (the silhouette of a traveler holding a staff) on their cloaks.

Adventurers who intend on going to dangerous locales might hire the services of the Iron Horsemen. These experienced coachmen drive heavily armored carriages that will keep adventurers safe, and its been rumored that some of the carriages have been enchanted so that they're spacious and comfortable on the inside. These expert transporters are commonplace in cities that deal in secrets and assassination, as they provide top-notch security, but branches are often found near the borders since fearful merchants or savvy adventurers will engage their services so they don't have to worry about the dangers of the road.

The Order of the Healing Hand is a group of dedicated healers. Aspirants are trained in the medical arts, as well as magical ones, giving them the tools to provide services for those who need them most. While low ranking members of this organization are little more than apothecaries, bone-setters, and barber surgeons, chosen members of the order can heal more grievous wounds and carry away diseases with the touch of a hand. Some even whisper of dedicated resurrection men among the order, whose knowledge of life and death is so great they can call back the soul.

These are just a handful of organizations you could throw into your world, but remember that not every business or charity is international. Maybe there's a small courier service that works in a region, but won't go further, which is why your party is contracted to deliver a package. Perhaps the area your party is in happens to be on the frontier, a place risky enough that better-established security services won't take jobs there. Will your reputation as a problem solver earn your party job offers from the Harrigan Agency, originally founded by a retired knight who wanted to protect all the people instead of just the nobles?

Most importantly, if these services don't exist in the world, will your adventurers create a place to fulfill that need? The Greenscar Alchemical College, educating the finest students of the next generation in tested incendiary dungeon clearance techniques? The Barracks, an organization known for taking recruits and turning them into unbeatable soldiers? Will you form a counter-thieves' guild to train guards and detectives in your methods, or will you raise a new church to minister to the people who have come to know your deeds?

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1 comment:

  1. I've been reading some reviews of bad fiction *cough*Ayn Rand*cough* that involves the author having no idea how much work and supporting infrastructure goes into building a society.

    I like it when NPCs are shown as helpful supporters instead of just screamers to rescue from Godzilla. Yes, your hero is insanely good at combat and can stroll into an orc camp without fear. But don't forget the little hireling who cooked you a nice hot meal and sharpened your sword so you wouldn't have to go in on an empty stomach, carrying an over-sized butter knife.