I like this plot. It is not the typical hack-n-slash. Plus it is the perfect route to start "empire building" for a group of players. The best way for the PCs to ensure that the peasants are never used again so harshly would be to carve out a piece of wilderness for the peasants and then lightly govern it for the peasants benefits. The PCs will then have a strong base of support of wealthy & loyal peasants from which to start building a nation. Just defending their small holdings could keep PCs busy for a long time. Go to Comment
"If you helped the Grazuul Tribe, others require similar help. The reward is bigger, as the risks." "So much gold could only worsen the situation. Someone will come and take it, and all get even more taxed. Unless... unless there come some heroes to help!"
If the PC's did help the Grazuul, maby the scorn they get for helping lowly orcs is just what the townsfolk here are looking for . . . proof of heroes with some true measure of character. The townsfolk had the money all along but were afraid of hiring mecenaries because the mercenaries might well just make off with the loot instead of helping them move away from an abusive ruler. They want to hire the PCs when their reputation finds its way to their town, but the messenger sent to hire the PC's (Jonas) is attacked and dies at he PC's feet before he gets his message across.
Its up to the PC's to uncover the mystery of the man that died at their feet and make their way to his village. His personal effect can give clues. Perhaps they can have the chance to track and capture the man that killed Johnas, interogating him for information.
Since the gold in the well is to purchase lands for their own independence, and the villagers feel they can trust the heroes, they have the motivation for a non-standard reward. The non-standard reward could be:
1) Town Craftsmen offer to make them special weapons or armor, give them horses and cattle, anything but the actual gold they need for themselves.
2) They offer the PC's marriage to some of the towns-maidens. In feudal cultures arrianged marriages were not uncommon. What a nice coincidence that their are some particlarly well suited virgins come of age just now. Beside a marriage to a capable, heroic, healthy PC is a greater honor than any of them could normaly hope for. This is especially true if some PC's have titles from their background or other adventures. If you like this option but the PCs don't, subterfuge can go along way-- towns folk who get the PC's druged or intocicated and married in a quick ceremony. For those honorable character they now have a dilema, especially if they can't remember what happened on their "wedding night". If a PC's is looking for a follower this is a way to give them more than they bargained for when their new bride shows interest and aptitide in adverture. As a follower she could have skills as a savy thief, studied magician, or trained in the sword by a father concerned for her virtue (irony is wonderful). All kinds of possible twists here.
3)The townsfolk might trust the PC's enough to aks them to be their new rulers and defenders. The PC's as a group would be a council based multi-person government. The townsfolk offer this reward when the heroes prove themselves in the Exodus instead other rewarde previously offered. great for PC desireing a kindom as mentioned before.
Actually, peasants were a general catagorization that included freeman and villeins. The villeins were basically the serfs.
Serfs owed servitude to the Lord for the use of the land and were also under the sole jurisdiction of the Lord. When you look at freemen, pretty much the same could be said of them. They still owed the Lord labor or rent but it was much less and they were exempt of many other taxes.
Point of it all is that anybody could leave the Lord, freeman or villein (serf). It is a matter of money. A "chevage" was paid to the Lord by the serf for the ability to live 'off' the estate. It was suppose to be yearly and then they could do as they wished. Freemen could just leave.
When it comes down to it, the idea of a tax collector is the most out of place. Payments were almost always made in labor and only the wealthy peasants were able to pay their way out of the physical labor with money. You owe so much for the land you use: work to pay it off -or- pay cash the equal of the work owed for it. The Lords counted on a lot of work and if most of the peasants paid instead of worked, they would have to hire them to do the work anyway. If there was a tax collector it was often times a respected person of the village that was given the responsibility by the Lord and only had limited power.
But then again this is a fantasy so anything is possible :-) Go to Comment
Taxes can come in various guises. Part of the reason the collector is so greedy, is he only collects food or wool or whatever they produce, never gets actual cash. If a lords lands are particularly large, not all peasants have to work, but all pay taxes in some way.
An uncaring lord may well give that responsibility to someone the village not trusts.
And if you don't like it, replace him with anyone else. Greed is not limited to tax collectors... ;-) Go to Comment
A freeman is not a noble and not a serf. A freeman was usually a tradesman or craftsman such as a fisherman, bargeman, fishmonger, leather worker, miller, or the like. A serf could become a freeman by serving as an apprentice to a freeman; by buying his freedom, or by being the son of a freeman.
There can be easily other conditions, such as serving in the army for some time, being the tenth child of a serf, being granted freeman status after some exceptional deed, and so on. Google for more data on history pages. Go to Comment
The characters are starting to become well known as champions of the weak. Well, as long as there is something in it for them.
The amount of money would have to be a delicate balance. Enough to buy land, but not enough to make the lord jealous. It's very diffcult to have a sum like that unless the degrees of wealth between the poor and the rich are vastly different. Like the cost of the lord's breakfast could buy one of the peasant's homes.
Depending on how greedy and/or evil the tax collector is, he might serve as a well timed complication to the exodus by having a small troop of guards show up with him at the village, bent on finding the other 3 or 4 golds he expects. Claim the villagers were trafficking with spys or traitors or such. Were would a serf get such wealth after all? Go to Comment
I like this one also because it untypical and unepic. It is also grounds to start "empire building". After all the orcs will need protector and the PCs could use the rest of the unclaimed land as a new nation for themselves Go to Comment
Changes minor and major, and how it turned out in the end:
Owing a little favour to someone, it turned out the tribe they should help is a goblin tribe, and the character itself a half-goblin. The tribe was not exactly decided to follow them, and it took some talks and a test to make them believe.
Mission accepted, they traveled long to meet many not friendly to their cause. That fifteen year old wannabee hero, but also militia (very logically) ready for battle. Persuading most of them to be harmless, they were allowed to go into another barony, with a little armed escort.
There was a nice comical borderline encounter. The sleepy guard between two baronies in peace left them through without problems, the first time. The second time, with a complete goblin tribe, the guard rapidly was alarmed and in panic, another guard (with a chefs apron) ran out of the small outpost to save the day with a frying pan. After yet another discussion on goblins that are not evil (and several substantial "gifts"), they were allowed to pass. Not quite what their armed escort expected, and several of them voiced their anger, while one shouted merrily "Thank you, thank you!", while dancing with hands full of money won in the bets they did all the journey.
After that, people were friendlier, or at least the characters learned to evade public attention. Or not quite, because rumours already circulated everywhere. The only problem were the increasing undead attacks. Which was odd, considering that everyone spoke of the Undead showing up here and there, but seeming to attack no one.
(By the way, thanks to MoonHunter for the ending!)
Ending up between two undead armies, they wanted to flee at first. But as those armies seemed to be reluctant to let them go easily, and as the orcish one "included" them in its ranks, panic grew. There was an empty moment, with repeated calls for the commander, when the players didn't know what to do. (Personal note: drop more and better hints next time!) But at last they figured out the shaman was in fact the the commander, or at least a fitting replacement. Sadly, the battle could not be prevented. And thus both armies have met, with their leaders in the middle, and the history repeated itself. The tribe has luckily withdrawn into safe distance, their shaman was mortally wounded on the battlefield. And has passed away, after his last few words...
Cliche, but I hope it fitted the occassion. Mourning, the tribe has decided to move on, and thanked the characters for their services. Their ways have parted, they may meet yet again...
(Personal note: be better prepared in future climactic scenes! Have more descriptions of everything. ;) )
The only "real" combat happened when lightning struck into the tall tree they were all hiding under, on otherwise open grasslands during a storm. Most of them panicked and run away (including one character), the rest of the party had to deal with zombies that showed up at this wrong moment. Otherwise, combat was basically out of question.
I cannot play a goblin tribe. Fine, there are just three or four relevant NPCs, but still, it gets awkward to make a whole tribe to seem alive, being not only a burden, and not a mere 'background' for my heroes. Retrospectively, in most cases the reasoning "They are humans too - you do the talk." worked for most encounters. The tribe was better in hunting and food-gathering, and occassionaly got a bit rebelious. But most of the time, the PCs were accepted as leaders, for the moment at least.
I am not sure if I have mixed Pride and Weakness (or Dependence on others) in the right way, but hey: the characters did something unusual, helped someone, and changed the world in a way. (And had some fun in-between.)