So, I had tentative plans for a (to steal words from Muro) 'Sergio Leone' style opening for my campaign. These plans were laid before Character Creation.
Anyways, I have two players that I trust fairly implicitly to do two things. One, show up pretty much every session. Two, to actually play a character well. One of these players accepted the offer to actually play the heir in the story. Now, as a GM, I see a lot of issues with doing this. In a lot of ways, it's making one character's role much more important to the story than others- usually a big no-no as far as parties go. It's also restrictive for the player who does this.
Going forward, a major point that I will have to reinforce is that the heir cannot and will not succeed without the other party members. Without them, she's likely to end up dead in a ditch somewhere while scheming men take the throne for themselves.
So, Jaspar Zane is now Sylvie (no last name cause my player hasn't bothered to choose one yet). This has also got me rethinking killing Morano immediately. I guess I should list what I've got for PCs:
The Heir, Sylvie: The words of her player 'She doesn't start fights but she'll end them' describes Sylvie very well. Raised by the Historian Morano, she is a fairly well-rounded young woman- if a bit fiery and naive. Morano is both proud and frustrated with her headstrong independence, although he's really only frustrated when she's being snide with him.
The Spy, Valen Aventura: A compulsively-lying kleptomaniac who hopes to someday gain political power in the land- if he can stop pissing off important people and organizations long enough to actually get any work done.
The Drunk Blacksmith, Ruz: A superb worker and craftsman, Ruz has an appreciation for alcohol that is tempered only by his resolve to stay out of other people's business.
The Huntress, Bretia: Preferring the company of most animals, especially raptors, to people, Bretia makes a living hunting and training falcons for local nobles in the area. She's very skilled with animals and taught Sylvie how to use a bow. (GM Note: She has a backstory that connects her to Sylvie to ensure the player will have motivation for Bretia to interact with the world and plot.)
The Ranger, Althalos Yerel: Convinced that trees speak to him, and that trees never lie, Althalos is a very talented warrior. However, the trees do not actually talk to him, he just believes they do.
The Witch, Rowena: The local witch doctor, Rowena recently took over the position from her now-deceased mentor. Rowena is an adept healer and spellcaster, and a huge flirt to boot.
The Disgraced Captain of the Guard, Yet to be named: Removed from his post due to the actions of his prior second-in-command, this character wants revenge for the disgrace he has suffered. Is a very capable fighter and administrator, and did a good job of leading the guard while he maintained his rank.
Out of those characters, two are directly motivated by the succession crisis (Sylvie and Bretia), one has political machinations to eventually realize (Valen), one is looking for revenge (Mr. Yet to be Named), two have really weak reasons to get involved (Ruz and Rowena), and one is going to be told by the trees to get involved (Athalos).
So, allowing Morano to live for the first session or two can help grease the wheels a little- he can be looking to hire people to protect himself and Sylvie, and THEN the assassination attempt can occur. Since only Morano is aware that Sylvie is in fact a daughter of the king, it should remain a decent mystery why assassins are attempting to kill the pair- although with the death of Morano, it should become apparent that the assassins are not just after him.
Regardless, the letters I had planned can still work- and indeed Morano's personal items still provide a useful avenue for plot threads to give to my players. Putting someone on the throne takes money, you know, and Valen probably won't be able to cutpurse enough to bankroll that kind of undertaking.
Doing a campaign not set in Boston has proven to be more involved. With Boston, I can google a lot of details- for a fictional barony west of the capital, there's a great amount of detail I could potentially be responsible for- and there has to be structure to this. Just determining the succession structure used by the (still unnamed) kingdom in question proved to require some research to have an idea what I'm talking about past the usual 'oldest son gets the throne' stuff you hear from most people. Now I can throw out the word patrilineality if I want.
Obviously, political figures are going to have to be created and thought about. This will require work on a per-location basis, although rural areas are likely to have mostly inconsequential players in the grander political game, which should simplify some areas- I slightly dread trying to conceptualize the capital. I'm likely going to have some military hostilities making that city dangerous to travel to until I feel I'm ready.
Overall, I'm fairly excited to start this campaign. I think my players have created much more active and participatory characters this time around, and that should make things more fun.
Until they break things.