Thursday, October 4, 2012

Physical Landmarks

Quick post today. How many of you use physical landmarks in your game, whether real or fictional? Are there locations in your game the repeatedly pop up? A favorite watering whole the party goes to after an adventure? Perhaps a theater one of them likes to take shows in? If you don't use landmarks and repeat locations, have you considered the possibilities they can bring?

Regular NPCs
One of the best things a standard location can give your game is a cast of regular NPCs. Maybe they aren't vital to the game, but they help give the game a sense of life. If the location is a tavern, maybe these NPCs are a couple of regulars. Good sources for town gossip but also with some gripes and moans about their own lives and how unfair things can be. Thing is, mention these people enough and your players will start to react to them. They will, without thinking about it, begin to develop attachments to those NPCs. Which is when a problem in Bob the Mailman's life can become the launching point for the next adventure. At which point, well, you have your PCs nicely hooked.

A Place For Roots
Adventuring is a listless lifestyle with lots of traveling. These repeat locations give the game some roots to grow from, check back in, and show how things have changed. What has happened in the world while the PCs are away? What has happened to their favorite haunt? Has anything changed? Maybe it just presents the normal welcome feeling of a home.

A Different Side Of Your Game
The best thing these locations can do though is let you explore a different side of your game. If your game is all about the adventuring, then maybe a session or two in the repeat locale gives RP and quiet time for everyone to enjoy. A bit of scandal, a bit of gossip, and a bit of fun. Maybe the place gives respite from the local drudgery of cops and robbers, or a neutral ground for the war between werewolves, vampires, and hunters. The point is, this lets you explore different sides of characters, both NPCs and PCs alike. You just have to use them.


  1. I often use the same bars when I'm running a game, or at least the same hotel/pub/what-have-you. I have a few reasons for this, but the two most important are that quite often the place becomes an out of game talking point. If you play CP2020 with anyone of the old group I've been part of for over a decade, you will have drank in the Bat Winged Bimbo, and people always ask if the place is going to get a look in any any other game that is run.

    My other big reason is that I like the idea of game time occasionally continuing outside of the regular meet-up. This isn't always possible, but if the session ends at a logical point for re-supply and socializing, then it's assumed by most GMs that it happens off camera. If there's a bar that the players frequent, then they can hang out there and start planning what's happening next, what they need to do/buy/bribe etc, and also have a chance to mingle with the other clientele, possibly picking up plot hooks. It also gives those people - like myself - who love the role playing side of the hobby the most, the chance to just sit and chat in character.

    Of course having a forum for this to take part on is a big help.

  2. I ran a 'Dark Conspiracy' campaign (near-future horror) where the players had a 'home base' at an old hotel in the mountains of Colorado (think the place from 'The Shining'- only slightly less haunted). For the most part, this was their 'safe haven'- the place they'd rest between missions battling horrors. There was a staff of NPCs for them to interact with, facilities to work in, places to recreate, etc. Was great.

    And then one day, they returned from a particularly difficult mission to find the entire place gone- as if it had been gouged out of the side of the mountain- along with all the people.

    Needless to say, that set the campaign on its ear and motivated the folks to find out what happened.

    So, Landmarks are awesome- and can be just as awesome if they suddenly disappear.

  3. Landmarks form a critical framework for a persistent reality. As a GM I can shorthand their details on repeat visits, which frees me up to introduce story hooks.

    Taverns, shops, and small villages are great for this. One group of my PCs is famous in the village of Old Saumer for their antics during the annual cheese-wheel race.