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