Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Books and Libraries in Fellhold


Below are the current draft of the rules for libraries and books in Fellhold. If you want to skip straight to the best stuff, scroll down to the table for generating random pretentious book titles - I'm pretty happy with how it's turned out.

I want libraries and books to play an important role in Fellhold. Since urban games are largely about information, and dungeon games are largely about exploration, having lots of opportunities to explore spaces in search of information seemed like a perfect fit. Also, with all the demons running around, books with Demon names have got to be really valuable (I need to more directly incorporate that element into the rules, but first I have to figure out the demon rules). Also, the tags and book format sections could probably use some expansion.

The rules might still be a bit chunky, I'll need to playtest them some. Zak's library rules in Vornheim are an obvious and direct influence here, but I've also read some great stuff on books over the years, including Ben L's post on textual corruptions (some ideas from which I'm going to incorporate into the demon rules). Some conversations with Logan Knight have also been influencing my thinking recently, and the alternate resolution approach for quick reference is based on something he told me about. 


Libraries & Books
In addition to the two massive rival libraries of Fellhold and their incessant feuding, raids, and counter raids, characters may encounter smaller libraries in rich homes, forgotten delvings, or within specialist guilds. The following rules are for searching those libraries for useful books.

Library Characteristics
Rating
A library’s rating takes into account both its size and its quality - an enormous library of middling texts might have a similar rating to a tiny, focused library with the best books on the topic. 

Tags
Tags describe the kinds of books that the library holds. These tags will usually be related to subject matter, but may also have to do with origin or purpose. The referee is invited to create any tags necessary or desired, but for ease, here is a list of sample tags, numbered for use in random generation as needed.

1) History
2) Dwarves
3) Undead
4) Magic
5) Runes
6) Demons
7) Money & Business
8) Engineering
9) Botany
10) Zoology
11) Monsters
12) Factions
13) Sorcerers
14) Summoning
15) Legends
16) Physical Fitness
17) Warfare
18) Prophecy
19) Ethnography
20) Games
21) Philosophy
22) Nature
23) Art
25) Law
26) Architecture
27) Fellhold
28) Language
29) Biography
30) Fiction


Generating a Library
If you find yourself in need of generating a library, you may use the following procedure. As always, feel free to either randomly generate or to choose the options that suit you best.

Size
1) Tiny
2) Small
3) Medium
4) Large
5) Huge
6) Gargantuan

Quality
1) Wretched (-2)
2) Poor (-1)
3) Middling (+0)
4) Decent (+1)
5) Good (+2)
6) Excellent (+3)

Tags
Roll 1d6 to determine the number of tags. In the case of a 6, roll again and add the new roll to the previous (repeating as long as you get 6s). These may be chosen or randomly determined with the table above. 

Rating
Rating is calculated by looking at the size, quality, and tags of the library. A library can have a negative rating - this represents a disorganized mess full of misleading information that seems useful until it is actually read through and thought about. 
Size: +1 per size over Medium
Quality: Add or subtract the appropriate value below:
1) Wretched (-2)
2) Poor (-1)
3) Middling (+0)
4) Decent (+1)
5) Good (+2)
6) Excellent (+3)

Tags: Subtract 1 for every tag over 3 - this represents the fact that the more subjects a library covers, the more likely it is that the included books are unfocused or introductory in nature. You may ignore this modifier if creating an especially well-appointed library (like a faction’s private library or that of an ancient lich).

Book Format
Books may take different forms depending on the culture and people who made them. Smaller libraries are more likely to be made up entirely of one or two kind of book, while the largest may have examples of every kind. Assume 1 additional book type for every size over medium, or just decide. Roll or select from below:
1) Bound Books
2) Codices
3) Scrolls
4) Carved Stone Tablets
5) Carved Wooden Rods (read by reading from one end to the other, then rotating, like corn on the cob)
6) Ceramic cones with spiraling marks (Crabman)
7) Tapestries
8) Tattooed skin



Player Character Libraries
After raiding enough libraries and acquiring a pile of esoteric books, it’s possible that players will begin to wonder about building their own library.

Requirements and Starting Characteristics
Requires its own comfortable or better lifestyle in addition to whatever the player character pays for themself
- Begins at tiny size, wretched quality, and only with the tags of specific books the player owns

Upgrading Size
Upgrading size has the following costs (each step must be bought in order):
1) Tiny: -
2) Small: 100 GM x current number of tags
3) Medium: 200 GM x current number of tags
4) Large: 400 GM x current number of tags
5) Huge: 800 GM x current number of tags
6) Gargantuan: 1600 GM x current number of tags

Upgrading Quality
1) Wretched: -
2) Poor: 200 GM
3) Middling: 400 GM
4) Decent: 800 GM
5) Good: 1600 GM
6) Excellent: 3200 GM

Adding Tags
To add a tag, simply pay the combined value of the base rate for the library’s size and quality. For example, if your library is medium and of middling quality, you would pay 200 GM + 400 GM = 600 GM per tag added.

Calculating Rating
Rating is calculated as for randomly generated libraries, except that it is not reduced by tags over 3. Presumably the player is being judicious in their choices of works and understands their relevance, connections, and where to find them when needed. Therefore, the formula is thus:

+1 per size category, +/- quality modifier = Rating

Using a Personal Library
Rather than defining the individual book that is useful in a given situation, a player may use their own library effectively as “one big book” - this means that they may use the procedures for using a book found below, but act as if they have a book with the rating and tags of their entire current library. This ease of use and flexibility is the chief benefit of going to the expense and trouble constructing your own library.


Searching a Library
There are two types of searching: targeted and browsing. They are somewhat analogous to the distinction between crawling and targeted movement. In the case of targeted searching, the character is looking for a specific title. In the case of browsing, a character is simply looking for anything interesting that the library has. For the sake of simplicity, one character cannot perform both actions at the same time - sure, you would notice different titles than your target while searching for it, but you wouldn’t have the time to pull them out, flip through them, and verify that they’re something of interest. Since the sorting, labeling, and cataloging of books is highly non-standard and occasionally purposefully obfuscated, it is never as simple as going to the appropriate section and going in alphabetical order to the proper author.

Targeted
There are two relevant questions in targeted searching: does the library have the desired title? How long do you spend searching for it (whether it’s there or not)?

In the case of titles that are known to be held in a library, you can skip the first question, unless the source of information was bad or mistaken. To determine how long players spend looking for it, as usual, ask yourself if there is any urgency associated with the search - if not, they just find it if it’s there. If there is some kind of urgency, then the players can roll a d20 per 10 minutes searching (or whatever unit of time corresponds to a “turn” or encounter check in your exploration rules) - if the roll plus the library’s rating is equal to or greater than 20, and the book is present, then it has been found. If the book is not present and the roll is equal to or greater than 20, then the characters have figured out that it’s not here.

Browsing
In the case of browsing, a character finds one potentially useful book every 20 minutes. Determine the book’s tags and rating as detailed in the Books section below. 


Books
Books are potentially extremely valuable to characters - either as loot to sell or as sources of useful information. The rules below specify methods for generating a random book as needed, as well as for making use of books for on-the-fly reference and long term study.

Book Characteristics
Tags: Books have tags just like libraries, but usually no more than 2. 
Rating: Books have a rating equal to the quality level of their library +/- d3. For books found outside of a library, assume a quality level of d3 and add +/- d3 as usual.
Usefulness: A book with a rating below the character's level is considered not useful to them. Consider the absolute value of negatively rated books.

Using Books
Referencing a Book
If a character has a book on relevant subject, they may reference it to answer a question pertaining to that matter. A book can generally answer 1d10 + its rating of questions related to its tagged subject material. Once all of a book’s questions have been used, it is still useful for study or as part of a personal library.

Alternate Reference Rule: If your ruleset makes use of a skill system, allow the player to add the books rating to their skill check. This may take some scaling depending on the method of skill resolution, as the rating assumes a skill system based on x-in-6 chances.

Studying a Book
Studying a book is when the characters spends time reading it and internalizing it, and actually learning the contents. This takes a number of weeks equal to the book’s rating (minimum of one week). In the case of a negative rating, it takes the same time, but at the end of it, the player realizes what a crock of shit the book was. Assuming the book has a positive rating, at the end of the study period, the character gains knowledge of the book’s subject matter. If you use a skill system, they gain an entry-level skill, and if not, the player should simply note that their character is especially knowledgable on that topic and the referee should adjudicate accordingly.



Generating a Random Book 
Whenever you need to generate a book on the fly, such as when a character successfully browses a library, use the following method.

Rating
Equal to the Library’s Quality Modifier +/- d3 (treat 1-3 as negative and 4-6 as positive). As with libraries, books can have a negative value - it contains confusing nonsense.

Tags
The book will have 1d2 tags, chosen from among those the library has. Either determine randomly, or choose a likely/interesting combination. If players have specified a type of book, obviously apply those tags in the case of a successful search.

Title
Roll
Preposition/ Participle
Type
Tags (1d2)
Phrase
1
Toward
A Theory of
History (Random Race/Period)
: A Modern Deconstruction
2
On
An Outline of
Dwarves
: A Refutation
3
About
The Ethics Implied by
Undeath
: A Shocking Revelation
4
Regarding
A Definition of
Magic
: Threat or Menace?
5
Concerning
The Remarkable Truth About
Runes
: A Critical Examination
6
Within
The Shocking Findings On
Demons
: Memoirs of a Witness
7
Before
Conclusive Evidence For
Business
: The Authoritative Stance
8
After
The Unspeakable Secrets of
Engineering
: The Definitive Reference
9
Upon
An Explanation Of
Botany
: The Journal of (Author)
10
Without
The Underlying Models of
Biology
: A Rebuttal of Nonsense
11
In Defense of
The Essentials of
Monsters
: Path to the Truth
12
Against
The Prerequisites for
Factions
: What You've Been Missing
13
Describing
The Painful Consequences of
Witch Kingdom
: The Essential Primer
14
Around
The Classics in
Summoning
: Over 400 Copies Printed
15
From
Conservative Interpretations of
Legends
: Aligning Perspectives
16
To
The Life Changing Impact of
Physical Fitness
: A Paradigm Shift
17
An Attack on
The Disturbing Implications of
Warfare
: The Shocking Truth
18
Discovering
A Radical Examination of
Prophecy
: What You Must Know
19
Uncovering
The Traditional Wisdom of
Ethnography (Random Race)
: An Illustrated Guide for Children
20
Recovering
The Ancient Secrets of
Games
: Expanded, Revised, and Annotated
21
Covering
The Cutting Edge of 
Philosophy
: A Surprising Conclusion
22
Touching on
A Groundbreaking Study in
Nature
: What They Don't Want You to Know
23
Summarizing
The Best of
Art
: A Practical Guide
24
Collecting
An Inquiry Into the Causes of
Law
: How To
25
Revealing
The Collected Works of
Architecture
: The Unauthorized Tell-All
26
Setting Aside
The Ridiculous Follies of
Fellhold
: An Expert's Opinion
27
Embracing
The Dark Implications of
Language (Random)
: A Novel
28
Re-evaluating
The Accepted Truth about
Biography (Random name, important to random tag)
: The Surprisingly Sexy Truth
29
Recording
The Terrible Fate of
Fiction
: A Revelation
30
Capturing
A Practical Approach to
Cooking
: A Summary

Author
For authors, use the appropriate name list for the book’s origin (you may randomly determine origin using the standard NPC race roll).

Format
Use the format for the library if found in a library, otherwise randomly determine or choose from the list of book formats.

Value
- Rating x # of tags x 10 Gold Marks
- If a player is buying a negatively rated book from a seller, treat the negative rating as positive - the nonsense looks plausible until studied
- Booksellers have a more practiced eye for nonsense, and so will only give 1/4 the value calculated above (they’ll still buy it, since they can sell to a fool)

- Libraries that know the subject matter of a negatively rated book will refuse to buy it, unless it has historical or cultural significance of some kind, or is considered dangerous

Monday, June 27, 2016

Sages and Their Petty Rivalries in Fellhold


Noisms/David McGrogan has done some really fantastic stuff with generating player characters' social circles in more urban games - most notably in Yoon-Suin, and in development for his new setting/game "There is Therefore a Strange Land", as shown in this post. In that post, he provides a table for generating a fence (not a physical barrier around a yard, but a person who buys dubiously acquired merchandise), and I have found it tremendously inspirational for Fellhold.

So, I have been creating tables for "specialist NPCs" that fulfill various key roles for PCs, including fences to buy their stuff. Additionally, though, I am detailing out Patrons (people with influence in certain social circles), Merchants (people who will sell you stuff), and my current favorite, Sages (people who can provide information). Every kind of NPC gets their own table that provides what they focus on, some relevant info to their specialty (like how much they charge/pay for merchants and fences), and some "spice" meant to create game hooks. Each kind of NPC also has a circle of contacts that can be generated as needed, and a table of jobs that they can hire the PCs for. The goal is for a handful of these specialist NPCs to serve as nodes for fractal adventure and intrigue generation that meshes smoothly with the other urbancrawl adventure generation stuff like Lairs and rumors and factions and such.

Below is the current draft of my sage rules. The part I'm most proud of is the "petty rivalry" column, as it both seems fitting for academics/artists, but also because I think it creates a lot of room for motivating adventure in a very sage-y way. I'm less keen on the jobs - they don't feel as flavorful, I may have to revisit.



Sages
Sages are specialist academics or artists who can be invaluable consultants in their area of specialty and are largely useless outside of it. They are primarily useful for the information they provide, and are surprisingly connected to other NPCs. There is about a half and half chance that any given sage has any practical skills or experience in their area of interest - but all are extremely knowledgeable. Sages are especially useful for shedding light on potential clues and giving a less biased opinion on the value of found objects than a fence. Many sages are also collectors of items related to their area of interest and may be customers of fences. Roll on the table below to generate - gender may be decided by looking at the die rolled for race (or any other) - odd indicates male, even female.



Roll
Area of Interest
Race
Look
Demeanor
Petty Rivalry
Spice
1
Paintings
Human
Crookedly Elderly
Nervous
Not taken seriously by others in area of interest - resents it mightily
Avid collector of items relevant to area of interest, will pay well for examples
2
Sculpture
Human
Vigorously Young
Agitated
Considered an expert in field - subject of intense jealousy
Massive alcoholic - can only provide useful information while carousing
3
Language
Human
Nerdishly Hot
Smug
Locked in ongoing rhetorical war with prominent member of another field
Well read - knows d3 extra areas of interest equally well as first
4
History
Human
Powerfully Disheveled
Condescending
Accuses anyone writing on any related topic of plagiarism
Massively in debt to a random patron
5
Dwarven Culture
Crabman
Pretentiously Fancy
Manic
Kicked out of library with best resources for arguing loudly in the stacks
Espouses theories or creates art considered dangerous by one or more factions
6
Witch Kingdom Culture
Crabman
Intensely Staring
Passionate
Convinced that all other approaches to topic are amateurish and wrong
Currently juggling three lovers from three different, antagonistic factions
7
Faction Politics
Crabman
Bluntly Strong
Creepy
Believes that other methods of analysis/criticism are degenerating society
Wants  to use area of interest to become fabulously wealthy, hasn't figured out how yet
8
Crime
Crabman
Distractingly Ugly
Cheerful
Fancies self a "hands on" practitioner, scoffed at by others in field
Actually a little bit famous - treat them as a minor patron, as well as a sage
9
Rune Magic
Crabman
Shabbily dirty
Crazed
Still bitter over award going to rival years ago
Works for a merchant to pay the bills, merchant doesn't like their area of interest
10
Soul Economics
Crabman
Hilariously out of fashion
Crackpot
Feels that valuable patron was stolen due to rival's shoddy crowd-pleasing work
Outrageously racist, uses area of interest to justify/explain it
11
Demons
Crabman
Surprisingly sexy
Depressed
Cares only for subject matter related to own factional interests
Mostly just uses area of interest to meet and hit on young men or women
12
Undead
Crabman
Pleasantly plump
Monotonous
Affections for another prominent sage in field spurned
Theories/art/criticism is wildly outside the accepted norms of the field, but it’s not obviously hokum
13
Weapons
Ratman
Wildly Coiffed
Tedious
Formerly popular with laymen - surpassed by new rival
Came out of nowhere recently, people wonder how they became so knowledgeable/talented outside the usual circles
14
Technology
Ratman
Palely Thin
Cavalier
Intimately involved in political squabbles within one of the great libraries
Affects the look, mannerisms, and outlooks of a race or culture besides their own
15
Business
Ratman
Awkwardly Bepimpled
Careful
Looked down on by field for making money off of knowledge
Loves the sound of their own voice, and never uses one word when three will do - but almost always says something actually useful if you let them ramble
16
Animals/Beasts
Ratman
Delightfully Eccentric
Reckless
Rumored to have unhealthy obsession with subject matter of field
An insufferable gossip - always knows d3 random rumors from random sources
17
Plants/Herbs
Ratman
Boringly Drab
Laconic
Disdained for always teaching and never producing
Extremely well connected - knows an additional D6 random NPCs
18
Healing & Disease
Ratman
Overpoweringly Tweedy
Soft Spoken
Disdained for always producing and never teaching
Bookworm - the library they are connected to is one size larger than rolled
19
Architecture
Tiefling
Aggressively Chalk-Covered
Timid
Unpopular in wealthy circles
Never without a pipe, always smoking, seeks out exotic tobaccos
20
Food
Troll
Colorfully Pierced and Tattooed
Menacing
Passed over for tenure at one of the great libraries, has sworn revenge
Concealing a terrible secret - wherever they live is also a lair


District  & Faction Relationships
As with other NPCs, a sage should be a member of a faction and should have a district to live in, which can be determined randomly or chosen based on relevant factors (area of interest, faction, and so forth). When generating a sage's contacts, be sure to keep these factors in mind to suggest relationships and locations for these contacts.


Sage’s Contacts
A Library tagged to their area of interest
D6 Other Sages of diverse interests (consider rolling additional petty rivalries as desired)
A Fence related to their area of interest
A Patron that enjoys their area of interest
A merchant that sells something essential to their area of interest


Jobs from Sages

RollJob
1 A rival is gaining in popularity - figure out a way to discredit them.
2 That belongs in a museum! Or in their private collection, anyway. Retrieve an item related to their area of interest
3 They have a theory that requires some in-person research somewhere dangerous. Protect them while they conduct it.
4 If only they would listen! Bring the sage’s work to the attention of a patron they think can help them
5 The King's Library is refusing them access to a particular work - figure out how they can read it
6 Their supplies are so expensive. Find them a lot of money, and you can keep half, plus they’ll owe you a favor
7 They are hopelessly lost in courting the object of their affection - help them figure out how to approach them
8 They want to set up a new studio or salon and need help finding and securing the right place
9 Word has come in that there’s a terribly rare and valuable find across/deep under town - get them to it before a rival gets there!
10 There’s a certain beast that they need for their work - bring it back alive
11 Their landlord is getting tetchy about late rent payments - can you help them out?
12 A rival has shameless copied their work and is receiving all kinds of praise for it - help them take their rightful place in the spotlight
13 They need some subjects for their work - it shouldn’t be that dangerous
14 That Fence sold them a bunch of shoddy fakes at a high price - they want their money back
15 They’ve developed something that they think will sell like hotcakes - find a merchant willing to sell it
16 They’re bored - go carousing with them for a week or two
17 They owe a gambling debt to some shady characters - they’re good for the money, they swear, but buy them some time
18 There are a lot of cryptic references to a potentially significant book - scour libraries for it and bring it to them
19 Their research has somehow uncovered clues to a hidden organization of some kind - investigate this conspiracy and see if it’s real
20 Their faction has grown suspicious of them, and they are thinking of jumping ship to another - help them make contact and smooth over initial tensions 

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

What Do you Do in the City? Default Urbancrawl Actions


Ever since I decided that the rebooted Fellhold is a massive dungeon-city/city-dungeon, I have been giving a lot of thought to Urbancrawling rules. This series of posts at the Alexandrian covered the topic in a lot of detail, and helped me to organize my thinking, including the core idea of having a "default action". And Paolo's discussion of his game Gangs & Bullshit introduced the idea of structuring how you "zoom in" versus "zoom out", and when I smashed the two ideas together, I felt a tremendous "A-ha!" moment, but I was probably just slow in putting together something obvious.

The core idea is that players have a default "turn" where they do highly abstracted, easily resolved stuff, but that when things go wrong, you zoom into traditional RPG resolution. Making this work, especially with lots of players pursuing different things and getting different complications, might take some skilled refereeing - I haven't tested this yet.

The goal for players is to have a clear set of options of "what can I do?" when that isn't clear. For referees, I want something flexible enough to handle whatever is happening in their game, but with enough structure to help figure out how to make things interesting if it's not obvious. The part I'm most pleased with is the ease with which you can slot this into different time length "turns" - I assume a default of a week as long enough to help time pass and encourage longer-term thinking, but short enough to be easy to go "well, while you're in the  middle of fixing up your hideout, that broker you stiffed walks in with 5 goons".

My chief concern with the rules as presented is that there might be too many options for urbancrawl actions and that the Apocalypse World inspired mechanic (6 under equals bad fail, 7- 9 = success with complications, and 10+ = Great Success) might produce too many complications for the urbancrawl actions to be meaningful, or for enough time to pass to accomplish longer term goals. I'm also not sure how hard it will get having 4+ people running around doing different actions each.



Time Scales
The referee may make use of any or all of these timescales for urbancrawl actions as needed. One week is the suggested default amount of time, but different campaigns may have different needs. Even with a default length "turn", referees may occasionally find it useful to make use of other scales - such as moving from a default of one week turns to watch-long turns while the party prepares a heist.

Since several other urbancrawl rules use “the urbancrawl action” as their timescale, they may need to be adjusted occasionally due to the nature of the activity, or due to the actions of other player characters. If one player character is trying to make friends and another is staking out a house, you may need to adjust how you resolve one or the other depending on what timescale you choose.

Weeks
The default timescale for urbancrawl actions, it's enough time to get some stuff done, but granular enough that it's easy to zoom in on and coordinate between different players' activities.

Days
Some actions would just be a bit ridiculous to take an entire week to pursue (talking to one person, for example), in which case, the referee can "zoom in" to a scale of days. 

For example, while for some groups it may be appropriate for carousing to be resolved as week-long benders, for others it will make much more sense to resolve as one evening and its aftereffects

Watches
Watches fill a role somewhere between a standard exploration turn and a day - they are eight hour chunks, or one third of the day. 

This scale is useful for detailed (but mostly uncontested) exploration, movement over large amounts of space, or for stake outs and other situations with long bouts of nothing happening but the potential for something important to happen at any time

RPG Time
This scale is the standard way time is handled in most RPGSs - long stretches of fairly unstructured time, sometimes moment by moment, other times skipping hours or days, punctuated by intensely tracked round by round time for situations involving danger and high stakes. This scale is recommended for traditional "adventures", and for resolving many of the complications arising out of the urbancrawl actions (otherwise known as "where the game is"). The urbancrawl action is not invoked here, and instead the referee should use the rules and procedures appropriate to their game.


Resolving the Urbancrawl Action
Rolling
To resolve an urbancrawl action, the player taking it rolls 2d6 and adds any relevant modifiers determined by the referee. By default, a roll of 6 or less means a failure with complications, 7 - 9 means a success with complications, and a 10 or higher means a smooth success with no complications.

Please note that just because an action is listed below does not mean that it must be resolved as an Urbancrawl Action - sometimes shopping can just be shopping. Using the urbancrawl action is meant to generate hooks for interesting play, so only use the action when you want something to be a potential trigger for play.

Alternate Resolution
If your rules set makes use of a skill system, you can certainly replace the 2d6 roll with a skill check on some relevant skill. If you do so, consider a method to still allow for "complicated success", so that the players have a chance to get what they're after while still creating interesting gameable situations.

You’ll notice that the 2d6 roll makes “complicated success” the default, which you may or may not wish to emulate. More successes means more time will pass and more will be accomplished at the urbancrawl level of abstraction. Getting more done at the scale of urbancrawl actions lends itself well to games that are more concerned with organizations and large territory - the city equivalent of the “domain game”. Creating more complications lends itself to more standard adventures and zooming in to a greater level.

Tweak the resolution to suit your table’s tastes.

Modifiers
The Urbancrawl Action can be modified based on the referee's discretion and the player's ingenuity, due to ability score modifiers, relevant expertise, or level of familiarity with the person or locale being engaged with. Players should always be made aware of the total modifiers before they commit to taking a particular course of action. If using the 2d6 method, modifiers should be capped at plus or minus three, 

Complications
Any time an urbancrawl action fails or succeeds with complications, the referee will determine what they are. Common complications include only getting some of what you were after, extra costs, or other parties becoming interested in the character. Typically, complications should be more severe when accompanying a failure than a complicated success, or when associated with an activity that has been subject to previous complications, but this is not a hard and fast rule. 

Some small complications can be resolved with a brief interaction or quick roll - such as a merchant demanding extra money for something.

The main point of complications, however, is to produce hooks for the game - this is where the interesting stuff is, and what usually causes a zoom in to "RPG Time".

As a rough guide, zoom in on complications that can bring in the whole party, and more quickly resolve complications that can only involve one person, unless it's just that good. If your group wants to act at a bigger scale, resolve more complications abstractly, but if it wants to use the urbancrawl action more as a random adventure seed generator, zoom in on more complications.

The referee is encouraged to come up with their own complications, and especially to find ways to tie complications to existing contacts, factions, rumors, and conspiracies, but each urbancrawl action option below includes six sample complications if the referee is feeling stuck.


Example Types of Urbancrawl Actions
The choices below are by no means the only options, but they are meant to provide a useful starting point and a "menu" of options if players aren't sure what to pursue.

- Investigate a . . .
  • Conspiracy
  • Person
  • District   
  • Faction
  • Ruined District
 - Look for a Job
- Train/Research/Get Buff 
- Petty Crime
- Do Your Damn Day Job
- Shopping
- Carouse
- Make Friends
- Other

Monday, June 20, 2016

Lifestyles of the Poor and Adventurous


One of the major "themes" of my Fellhold reboot (if that's not too grand a word) is the idea of place being important. Factions have turf, demons have loci they are tied to, and some powers only work in certain places. A frequent hole in the sense of place in D&D games is a place for the characters to live - hence all the murderhoboery. I contend that one contributing reason for this is that most cost of living or lifestyle rules suck and are boring. You inject some fun when you start playing the domain game, but before that, it tends to either be total handwaving or else tedious bean counting.

So here's my stab at making some relatively portable, modular lifestyle rules that can be bolted on to the D&D-alike of your choice. The currencies given assume a silver standard, and the amounts are totally untested, so feel free to adjust. Anywhere you see a reference to "an Urbancrawl action", you can substitute in "a week" or "one period of downtime." More on what I'm up to with Urbancrawl actions soon (hopefully)

The actual hard and fast rules are kept pretty brief, because I want this to work well regardless of system intricacies, and so I've avoided creating too much interconnectedness or dependency with the other urbancrawl rules. I've used rate of healing as the main factor affected, but I've also thrown in guidelines on what stuff that can just be assumed to be "taken care of" for a given lifestyle. I'm considering easing up on the "stick" of homeless and poor, and adding more "carrot" for comfortable and above, since I see "poor" as pretty normal for characters for a while.

Lifestyle
How a player character lives impacts their ability conduct business in the city. Filthy hobos tend not to heal so fast, while those living in the lap of luxury might be more tempting targets for burglars. In addition to the specific rules below, here are some general guidelines for PC lifestyle:
  • Everyone should live somewhere on the map - when a player selects or changes lifestyle, figure out where on the map the place they stay is - even if they’re homeless, they should have a locale they tend to stay in
  • Lifestyle might provide a small modifier (+/- 1) to the urbancrawl action, if it seems relevant - for example, a smelly homeless person trying to investigate a conspiracy playing out in a bog mummy’s court is going to have a harder time than a sophisticated socialite.
  • Likewise, when complications arise from the Urbancrawl action, consider the player’s lifestyle in applying them - it’s a very different matter if a rival faction pushes past a watchman and trashes your luxury apartment than if a petty street gang stomps your shanty apart with their boots
  • Try to make lifestyle something besides a transaction to pay more for better healing - see what details players focus on and find interesting, and incorporate those into play
  • Lifestyle should influence the nature of the contacts a player makes - richer characters will tend to have higher class contacts. This isn’t a hard and fast rule, as sometimes the upper crust need some shady types to get stuff done for them, but if players want more access to higher social class, they should make efforts to join it

Lifestyle Options
Players may choose any of the options below that they can afford. By default, the cost is paid per urbancrawl action (one week is the standard), but the amount or frequency can be adjusted as desired.


Homeless
You are a street person. You eat garbage and your clothes are filthy, probably tattered. You have to constantly watch any belongings you have, or other bums will steal them to sell for food or drugs. Those little items that it sure would be nice if you had? You have to buy those specifically, or you don’t have them. Some cigarettes are a big deal. You are constantly cold, wet, and uncomfortable, so healing doesn’t work out so great. You heal at 1/4 the normal rate. Check constitution once an urbancrawl action - if you fail, you have some kind of minor, persistent, but rather unpleasant disease, like the flu or itchy boils all over. Either use your preferred disease rules, or else take -1 on rolls until you heal.

Example accommodations: crates, tarps, abandoned tunnels, doorways, under bridges. 

Cost: Free


Poor
You have somewhere tiny and uncomfortable to stay, but it’s dry and reasonably safe. You eat a lot of bread, vegetables when you can get them, and meat is a rare treat. You can put a lock between your stuff and the ravenous outside world, and most folks in your neighborhood don’t have anything worth stealing, so you and your stuff sleep pretty securely, but if you have a lot of it, you might have to figure out where to put all of it. Your clothes are likely second hand or just extremely well worn. You can assume you have a few small, everyday items if it becomes relevant, and you can probably barely afford to smoke and buy coffee, but nothing fancy. Due to poor nutrition, you heal at 1/2 the normal rate. 

Example accommodations: tenement apartment, guild dormitory, alms house, attic apartment, shady boarding house.

Cost: 5 Silver Skillings


Comfortable
Whether it’s a private apartment or a room at a comfortable inn, you have somewhere neat, pleasant, and warm to stay. The food is filling and good for you, if not especially fine. You can occasionally indulge in treats like a good cup of coffee or a pastry. Your clothes are well made and sturdy, and they don’t look terrible. You have enough space for a reasonable amount of stuff, a good solid door with a lock, and people would probably notice if someone was trying to break in. You can go out for drinks or buy your friends coffee pretty regularly, and if you smoke (or indulge in other drugs) you can afford your habit no problem. Any small, everyday item that you could reasonably assume you would have, you have. Since you eat well and rest comfortably, you heal at the normal rate.

Example accommodations: Reputable boarding house, an inn, private apartment, faction quarters

Cost: 1 Gold Mark


Luxurious
You live extremely well - comfortable bed, nice furniture, delicious food. You have plenty of stuff, and room for plenty more. You have servants to take care of the cooking and cleaning, and maybe the occasional small errand. There might even be dedicated watchmen to keep an eye on the door and keep the riffraff out. Your clothes are tailored and high quality, likely of the latest fashions, and you can indulge in ridiculous habits like only buying witch-grown coffee. Not only can you assume you have any small, everyday items you might need, once per session, you can declare that you have any one non-magical item that you happen to need right now, since you bought it on a whim at some point. If you could reasonably be carrying it, you are. If it’s large, you’ll have to head back to your place to get it. Due to good food, comfortable rest, and attentive care, you heal at 1.5 times the normal rate. You are somewhat more likely to be the target of burglary, since you have stuff worth stealing. 

Example accommodations: Luxury apartment, high quality inn, townhouse, faction leadership quarters

Cost: 10 Gold Marks