Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Relic Hunters: Stories from the Bazaar

Almost exactly a month ago, I had some big words about setting design and promised (or threatened, as appropriate) to show you how some of how I do things.
Relic Hunters started out as a d20 setting, but was later converted to Savage Worlds for a second campaign that never quite got off the ground.  The pulp mashup of the setting was a lot of fun, and it has built-in excuses for a lot of fantasy RPG tropes.

The "elevator pitch" for Relic Hunters would be: Indiana Jones (or Lara Croft, if you prefer) as a postapocalyptic fantasy western.  This is the intro fiction I wrote for it to establish some of the setting elements.

Tales from the Bazaar

The colors are earthy and bright: reds, browns, yellows. Little blue, even less green. The sounds are the incessant conversations in three tongues and a dozen accents for each, and the almost unintelligible calling of those who have been hawking their wares for so long the words have lost all meaning. The scents: bodies crushed together, spiced meat and smoky fire, aromatic oils, a whiff of animal from the pens at the other side. The air that blows off the desert is dry and gritty.

mule plods slowly in a circle, every step pulling more water from deep beneath the sands. Occasionally the withered fifth leg twitches against the straps that hold it up against its belly, away from the other four. Some people walk clear across the city and push a well-wheel themselves to avoid drinking water drawn by it.

screeching voice, and the one spot of blue that is not in the sky: a vase with a turquoise glaze. The woman who holds it insults the potter's craftsmanship, his heritage, and his virility. He casts aspersions on her eyesight and predicts the onset of senility. She gives him a dozen brass coins on a string, he returns two, and both are satisfied.

Roasted meat turns slowly on the spit in a crowded striped tent. Behind it hangs the carcass of a two- headed goat, rubbed with basil to keep away the flies. A man with an eyepatch shaves slivers of the meat to wrap in thin pancake-like flatbread and dip into a dark-red sauce.

A small knot of beastmen squats behind a rust-red woven blanket on which they have spread obsidian blades. Even though they're the sharpest blades you can find, none of the locals buy them. Fresh-faced young relic hunters do, as good luck charms. Some of those knives have been sold seven times.

A man wanders weeping through the bazaar, tiny round stones falling to the dust from the corners of his eyes. The crowd draws back from him. Some mutter, some make signs to ward away evil, but none dare to confront him, because he is a sorcerer.

A metal soldier leans against an adobe building while two men remove his leg at the knee. He doesn't seem to notice. His eyes are locked on a small enamelled sphere held by the relic hunter that leans on a crutch in front of him. Beside them, a beastman shivers, wrapped in a filthy blanket, his eyes blood-red and wide with jimson.

The building they lean on, only shoulder high, has its entrance at the bottom of steps dug into the earth. There are no windows, and light from the door is blocked by thick leather curtains. The man inside – thick and bloated, pale from the lack of sun - will pay you handsomely for what you have found in the desert. A glass of water, cold and clear, glistens beside his pallid hand, and he does not offer to share.

This, then, is the bazaar at Narreth. Keep one hand on your blade, and the other on your purse.


  1. Do you mind if I steal some of the ideas you have in these Relic Hunters post.

    Your settings and location ideas are good, but I'm more interested in your class and class concept ideas and changes. Those I find the most interesting because those will be more important in the long run and such.

    A setting is nice and all but once the players leave that area it no longer matters.

    A class defines your character and will stay with it always.

  2. Do I mind? Allow me to quote myself:

    "What I know about creativity I learned from the best-known author in the English language and that is this: steal everything."

    As for classes - I'm afraid this series won't do much for you. Part of the reason for the original RH game was to ban classes from the D&D Player's Handbook in order to see how other ones played. We pretty much used the ones I did straight out of wherever they came from, although I believe we hacked the Iron Kingdom's Gun Mage to work with the Arcana Evolved magic system.