Vornheiming Middenheim Part IV: Contacts and the City Gates

[UPDATE 1/6/21: I no longer support spending money on products that benefit Zak S, or giving him positive attention and connection. The short version is that I find credible claims that he has engaged in unacceptable behavior and not made up for it. For more detail, see here for the core of the accusations. To get Zak's side of things, he maintains this separate blog from his main one to post updates on the legal status of these complaints. 
Please consider these claims and make your own decision on their validity, and the implications thereof, before either supporting or shunning Zak.]

This is going to be a pretty short post because I'll be spending Christmas Eve hosting the family.  But I want to keep up with this blogging regularly thing, so let's press on with the Middenheim series!

I really like Zak S's Contacts rules from Vornheim, and unfortunately, urban play hasn't been a big enough factor in my own campaign to make much use of them yet.  This variation is meant to reinforce a little further the different feels of the different districts by tying NPCs to the district they live and/or work in.  I left the system for determining starting contacts blank to keep with the principle of "system agnostic", but the Vornheim method of 1 + Charisma points over 15 works, or I was thinking "1 + Charisma modifier (minimum 1)".  I really like the probability distribution of 2d6, and I wanted some results to be more likely than others so that players have some idea what talking to contacts is likely to net them, and I made it fairly likely overall that they hook you into further adventure material (either by rumors, new NPCs, or their own demands).  That being said, it's perhaps too unlikely that talking to a contact will get you the information you need.  That's why I ended up building in the "cumulative +1" clause when they direct you somewhere else, so that there can be an organic chain of discussions and clues, like the first 10 minutes of Law and Order.

For my first "district" I wrote up the city gates and lift chairs.  Since these are not real districts where people live, the full complement of district features is not there, but if anyone can think of an encounter or rumor, maybe I could make it work.  

With all that said, here's Contacts and the City Gates and Lift Chairs after the break:

Generally, rumors are something you pick up by chance.  When you seek out specific information, you use your contacts. The referee will decide the method for determining starting contacts, additional contacts can be gained through the natural course of play, and one additional contact can be added when leveling up inside the city. Rogues or other “streetwise” characters should gain an additional contact.  Each contact lives in a random district and knows more about what’s going on in his district than in others.

If a player character asks a contact something he would know about, and they're on good terms, then he just tells the player. Any time a player character asks a contact about something he doesn’t have any particular reason to know, roll on the contact table below

2: “Now why would you go and waste my time with something like this? Maybe you should be on your way.”
3-5: “Sorry, can’t help ya, but while I have you here, can you help me with something?”
6-8: “Don’t know anything about it, but I did hear. . .” Roll a random district rumor
9-11: “I don’t know, but you know who might. . .” - directs you to a new NPC in a random district.  Roll again on this table with a +1 (cumulative every time this is rolled for the same inquiry)
12: “You know, funny you should ask, I actually have heard something about that”

1. City Gates and Lift Chairs
  • Each of the four massive city gates is flanked by heavily fortified towers and barracks for the watch
  • The lift chairs rise up all 500 vertigo inducing feet from the forest floor to a terminus that houses guards and a toll collector
  • Farmers, merchants, and pilgrims jostle each other to pay their toll and get through
  • There is a 1 in 6 chance someone coming through the gate is stopped and questioned by the guards
  • As the afternoon wears on, the press thins, then reverses,
  • The gates are barred and the only activity is the coming and going of Watch patrol shifts
  • Watch Barracks
    • Each of the four barracks houses a contingent of the watch
    • All patrols leave from the gates
    • At any given time, a sizable number of watchmen will be at the barracks between patrols, along with a number of officers, and possibly a force of militia or Templars in times of heightened security
    • Each gate also houses cells under the fortifications for those arrested by the watch

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