Wednesday, January 23, 2019

4 reasons to visit Whitspur

In a recent D&D session, the players arrived in a new city.  I didn't want to just give them a giant exposition dump about the city at the get-go. Exposition is dangerous -- if it goes on too long, the players will tune-out while the GM rambles. If it's kept short and sweet,  it tends to give the players a razor-sharp singularity of purpose that can strain verisimilitude or rail-road.  I wanted to provide the facts on the ground in a way that would give the players a personalized window into the setting, get them engaged, but not necessarily all on the same page from the first scene.

So I made four note cards. On one side they listed a nutshell reason why the PC would be coming to town, just buzz-word summation, for the players to choose from: "Glorious Adventure", "Conspiracy Theory", "Paycheck, then a Vacation", and "Family (Is Thicker Than Water)". Based on just those titles, the players split them up between themselves. Once everybody had chosen, they were allowed to read the other side quietly. The idea was to internalize some facts and goals to inform their roleplaying, rather than just blanketing the party with all the info at once. Everyone knew a different unique thing about the town, and had a slightly different reason for being there.

Here's what the other side of the cards said:

Family (Is Thicker Than Water)
I have family that lives in Whitspur. Cousin Edreth and Cousin Bjarne. They work at the Whitspur Mill and Grainery (like their fathers before them). I haven't seen them in a couple years, but we used to visit their family every year when we were kids.

On those visits, us kids would sneak out at night and climb the silver steps on the outside of the giant white stone tower. It must have been 200 feet tall, at least. For fun we'd knock on the silver door at the top, and sometimes something behind it would knock back at us. We used to make up horror stories about what was inside.

One particularly windy night, Edreth's best friend, Krisjof, fell off the steps and died. That was the last time my parents ever took me to Whitspur. 

Glorious Adventure
Whitespire is named for the white marble tower at it's center. They say it's a mile high, and no one has ever been inside the tower! The only door is at the top, made of indelible Electril (an alloy of Silver and Mithril) and magically warded.

There's a riddle carved into that door, known as “The Riddle of Blood”, that's never been solved. They say only the cleverest adventurer of them all could solve that riddle. Whoever does will find untold riches inside that tower.

Other rumors say The Riddle of Blood is just a euphemism for human sacrifice. There's a noble family of Paladins, the Elfenbeinspeers, who have guarded that tower for hundreds of years against all evil that has tried to release it with human blood.

Whichever story is true, I'm confident a great adventure awaits me in Whitespire.

Paycheck, then Vacation
The Duke owes me 20 gold, and 2 weeks vacation in a room with a view of the gleaming spire of Whitspur.

Last spring, I helped drive off some bandits from the township of Thegdress. Despite being far to the east, Thegdress owes fealty to the Elfenbeinspeer family of nobles, who summer in Whitspur.

This payment letter I've got here says that I can collect my reward from the Innkeep and Paymaster at Duke Elfenbeinspeer's family Inn in Whitspur. For my past service to Thegdress, I will receive 20 pieces of gold, a “Magic Lantern in a Bottle”, and 2 weeks room and board with the “full Elfenbeinspeer Elegance Experience”. It's gonna be a good two weeks.

Conspiracy Theory
Whitspur has a famous impenetrable tower made of white marble, with silver stairs running up the side of it. It's over 100 feet tall, and covered with runic sigils. I haven't seen the sigils yet, but I suspect they are runes from the ancient Authrek civilization.

The Authrek reigned in the Age of Madness, more than a thousand years ago. They were powerful necromancers who worshipped Orcus, with human sacrifice. Most Authrek ruins are deep beneath the earth, which is why most scholars don't realize Whitspur's climbing tower to be one. I suspect the foundations of that tower reach deep into the underworld. I believe this site is the epicenter, the great temple where the Authrek sacrificed millions of victims.

There's an order of Paladins that guard that tower, led by Duke Elfenbeinspeer, and I bet they know dire ancient secrets they aren't telling us.

It worked pretty well. All the players internalized their little bit of unique info, and only shared it via in-character dialogue when it came about organically. A few subplots kept them from just rushing straight to the tower -- there was some shady business going on at the Inn, and cousin Bjarne was in the stocks in town square -- and they rode into town in the middle of the night. When the first light of dawn showed them that the cursed tower was physically missing and the white stone blocks from it were being used in new construction at the edge of town, everyone felt the tension level rise real suddenly.

No comments: