Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Mining Mystara #1 - The Shearing

There have been many reviews of GAZ1 - The Grand Duchy of Karameikos. This isn't one of them.

Instead, this is the first in a series of short articles on the little things that I liked about the Karameikos setting that made it perfect for a first-time GM's D&D campaign.

Background
The Grand Duchy of Karameikos was once considered a useless part of the Thyatian empire, and the native human races -- the Traladarans -- were just fine with that. When Duke Stefan Karameikos entered into a little-known agreement with his friend the Thyatian emperor, he effectively got this entire land as his own kingdom, but being sneaky, named it as a Grand Duchy so he still enjoyed the perception of being part of the Thyatian Empire.

The Traladarans were less than thrilled about the sudden seriousness of the Thyatian invaders, and revolts were sparked. Karameikos is now more or less stable, but unrest still simmers.

The Shearing
This Traladaran custom -- which was adopted enthusiastically by the Grand Duke -- involves "shearing" children when they come of age. They are given a small amount of money and gear (this is the initial money they get from character creation) and are officially detached from their families and their claims of inheritance. They take on new names, go out to find their fortune, and can only return when they have made something of themselves, and are then welcomed once again into their family.

Some apprentice themselves to master craftsmen, others learn new skills and try out new careers, and others become adventurers.

The Grand Duke saw it as a way to get rid of the "dead weight" of younger nobility that had followed him, even going as far as having his children go through it.

Using the Shearing
Not only is this a good rationale for having young folks who would otherwise be farmers or craftsmen suddenly deciding to take on a life of adventuring -- it's also a great justification for the sometimes flippant names that people adopt for their characters (like Vulgar McKickface or Bob).

Adventuring parties could then arguably be a mix of the wealthy Traladaran merchant offspring, rich Thyatian nobility, and other human of more humble origin.

Furthermore, despite the public 'disowning' of the sheared, nobility that is important enough would likely become targets for unscrupulous individuals hoping for a ransom. In fact this was a potential plot element for the Duke's youngest son, who had just reached 'shear-able' age.

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