Adding Immersion by Using Supply Chains

by Gary Whitten

Ever go into a shop and see the selection of goods and wonder how they all got there? It’s likely that we’ll never know all the people behind the loaf of bread in the plastic wrap or the box of frozen peas. In a medieval-era fantasy setting, however, it’s much more likely (but not a given) that at least some of the other people involved will either be known or at least accessible.

Supply chains can be used for a number of things in a campaign. They can simply be used to add depth to the game by dropping a name or to, as an adventure hook, or as a lead to introduce an NPC you’ve been wanting the party to meet.

Picture an encounter where the PC’s party is in a general store stocking up before their next adventure. Instead of the normal rummaging around, writing in the new purchases and adjusting a number in the ‘coin’ area of the character sheet, you throw in:

“While you are seeking out the next item on your list, you notice a tall, strapping young man with intense brown eyes walk in with a large sack over his shoulder. He quickly scans the shop and approaches Fesli, the shopkeeper, and proffers the bag to him. Fesli looks in it briefly, then counts out some coin and hands it to the young man who departs immediately.”

One of your players may approach Fesli, asking “Who was that?” Fesli replies, “That was Oteri, son of Ehlen the ropemaker delivering my latest ropes to me. Say, was it you who was looking for that 100′ length?”

In this brief encounter, you’ve added two new names to the list of people that the players know about in the area. To some, this won’t matter, but to others, they’ll file it away in case someday it does matter.

If you wanted to add in a hook to this encounter, you could change the last sentence to this:

“You know, this rope isn’t as good as he normally makes, and I heard a rumor a couple times in the last week that nobody has actually seen Ehlen in quite a bit. I didn’t even think to ask when Oteri was just here. I wonder if something is wrong.”

This might peak the interest of those who wish to help (or meddle as the evil-doers often say) and take a wander out to visit Ehlen’s shop where they might find Ehlen sick, missing, replaced by a shape-shifter or maybe just simply hitting the bottle, forcing Oteri or others to try and pick up the slack.

Lastly, if the PCs have been managing to avoid meeting that NPC that you really want them to meet and you don’t want to overdo it by clubbing them with a +3 Clue Stick, you could add something like this into the encounter:

“I hate to impose, but I’ll give you 10% off all those rations you’re buying if you could maybe do a small errand for me? I need to get this small bag to this person named Disol. He lives a bit off the beaten path north of here but it wouldn’t take you long at all and I’d really appreciate it.”

Obviously, there are many other possibilities available with things like this. I hope the few I’ve put out here will be of use to you and that they spark additional ideas.

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