Sunday, May 26, 2019

Round up the Usual Suspects! - And how to become one

When faced with the political need to show action, police forces, Night Watches, City Guards, and Constabulary, etc around the multiverse are given the command "Round up the usual suspects!"  Who are these suspects?

They are the habitual criminals and their known associates that the local gendarmes keep tabs on.  While individually they are unlikely to have committed offense in question, they're all guilty of something in the eyes of the watch - if not the judge.  Even if they didn't do it, maybe they know who did it and hate them enough to rat them out.  Plus, they're used to it, so the police can spend some quality time with them, without disturbing the sensibilities of more upstanding citizens.

How does this relate to characters?  Along with being murder-hobos themselves; they, like Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, tend to associate"with a riff-raff of dubious demons, unfrocked sorcerers and discredited deities." - Fritz Leiber, The Adept's Gambit.  In other words, they are some of the known associates and over time may become Usual Suspects themselves, as the Notoriety increases.

Simple Notoriety System

A character starts with zero Notoriety.  Simply a peasant or town kid that the cops and everyone else ignores.  Characters gain Notoriety in the following ways

Be seen with a Usual Suspect +1 per occasion.  No more than 2 per week.
Be seen receiving something from or giving something to a Usual Suspect +5
Be a witness to a crime +5 (Doesn't matter if a Usual Suspect was involved, you talked to the poice and they have you on file somewhere.)
Be a known associate (henchmen, follower, parishioner, party member) of a Usual Suspect +10
Get arrested for a misdemeanor +10
Get arrested for a felony +25

When the character reaches a Notoriety of 100, they become a Usual Suspect themselves.

Using the Notoriety score

Similar to the Law Level in Traveller, the Notoriety score is used to check if the local authorities hassle the character.  Roll d100, if equal to or lower than the character's Notoriety score they get picked up for questioning concerning some incident within the community.  Make these checks whenever background events indicate a suspicious event has occurred or once a month and when trying to leave a walled town.   Questioning will take 1d4-1 days before they are released.

Modifying the Notoriety score.  

Reduce the score by 1% for each continuous month the character spends outside of a walled community.  Also reduce the score for characters with high social status - it takes a special guardsman to try to bring a duke in for questioning after all.

Advanced Social Adjustments for Judges Guild

I'm using the City State of the Invincible Overlord currently and Bob Bledsaw's social system provides an extra layer of crunchiness.  In the JG universe Social Level (SL) ranges from 1-20 within six distinct social hierarchies( 1- Noble, 2 - Gentleman, 3- Military, 4- Guildsmen, 5 - Merchant and 6 - General).  The lowest is SL 1 in the General hierarchy (Slave) and the highest is SL 20 in the Noble hierarchy (any god).

Calculate the Notoriety Level as above, however when checking if the character is hassled by the cops, the roll must be below Notoriety - ((6-Hierarchy) * SL.  The General hierarchy therefore gets no reduction, while a Count in the Noble hierarchy (SL 10) has 50% knocked off the target number.

Example: In my current soloplay, the party was seen receiving a box from an Evil Priest who is a Usual Suspect in the City State.  That raised all of their Notoriety scores to 6.  Since then, the bard has been arrested for Striking a Fool, this raises her Notoriety score to 16.

Modifying Notoriety by Hierarchy and Social Level
The bard is a performer (freeman SL 4) under the General hierarchy.
     Notoriety = 16 - ((6-6)*4=16.
The fighter was a gladiator, SL 1 on the Military (3) hierarchy.
     Notoriety = 6- ((6-3)*1) = 3
The magic user is an apprentice, SL 3 in the Guildsmen (4) hierarchy.
     Notoriety = 6-((6-4)*3) = 0
The cleric starts at SL 4 in the Gentlemen (2) hierarchy.
     Notoriety = 6 -((6-2*4) = -10.

So the bard will be hassled occasionally, the fighter rarely and the others never.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Drunken Oracle or the Oracle of Alesmiter

Decided to expand my earlier post to a full blown Oracle. I’ve been using Mythic, so why not keep using their Fate Chart? Can’t read it - the critical success and failure numbers are too small and hard to read. The PDF seems to pixelate when I blow it up and 6, 8 and 0 are hard to tell apart. Besides too many choices.

Roll Percentile

Difficulty/ FrequencyAbject FailurePartial SuccessComplete SuccessAstounding Success
Ridiculous/  Very Rare226595100
Very Hard/ Rare
Hard/ Uncommon
Easy/ Common2154590

Add 10% to the roll for every +1 of the character has in the appropriate characteristic.

Abject Failure - Hurt yourself - or others. What you think you know is completely wrong, but you are sure of it.

Partial Success - Maybe the door didn’t open all the way, but it broke enough you can reach in and lift the bar. Or you don’t know what it is, but you know it should be avoided. Maybe you just figured out another approach to the problem that allows you to try again with a +10%.

Critical Success - Whatever the best thing that could happen, happens in spades. That old crone really is the missing princess AND she’s looking to reward the first commoner who treats her kindly.

Of course, roll the dice behind the screen and make up a believable tale when they fail.

Solo Play - Grave Dancer

Keen of sight and keen of blades
Our daring Dancer is so brave
Strike and strike and miss a parry
Fatal against a fowl so scary

Now Dancer is stone on her grave

Diary of Sydney Harcurt
Previous Entries

Yellow Moon-Dog, 5th Rising

Following the Rorystone Road through the hills after leaving Haldon’s. We couldn’t make it all the way to Byrny today. Perpetua spotted an overgrown ravine up the hillside. We stopped when we saw a cocktrice hunting amoung the bushes a few yards away. Readying our weapons, we attacked the foul creature, with Watseka pelting it first with molten stones, while I shot my crossbow and Tlichnolli lobbed a dart at it. Then Perpetua closed with it, striking it mightily several times, before it pecked her. Her look of horror as the stone crept up her leg to her face and she helplessly toppled over will haunt me forever. Tlichnolli slew it then, but too late.
We found another traveller’s stoney body sleeping in the ravine. Staff, dagger and pouch by his side. The pouch holds silver and gems. It is the sergeant who stopped us by Hellbridge. Where was he going? Had he already warned someone about us? Why would he? What is in the box we are delivering?
We decided we would go to Byrny tomorrow, as there is a supposed to be a priestess of Sister Perpetua’s order there.

Yellow Moon-Dog, 6th Rising 

Staying at the Golden Chimera in Byrny. We can buy mounts here, and Tlichnolli says he’s not leaving without a bow. If you’re looking for the Temple to the Lady in this town - it’s the small one. Dedicated to the Lady in her aspects of Wisdom and War, the priestess, Tallulah, took the news of Perpetua’s fate quietly and asked that we return tomorrow after morning prayers.

Yellow Moon-Dog, 7th Rising Byrny. 

Tlichnolli and I went over to The Armory for his crossbow and some more bolts. The proprietor, Nebellor, has a huge selection for such an out of the way place. T. says it’s all very good to excellent workmanship. He bought the biggest crossbow I’ve ever seen. I told him he was compensating - he didn’t get the joke. As usual. Watseka wasn’t in when we returned, so we went to see Tallulah and found that W had joined her in praying for Perpetua. I didn’t think they were that close.
W. and Tallulah told us they wanted to check out the box for Fladhal. Watseka started making passes and chanted something like “Aesmati Felagio” and the box was outlined in St Ungulant’s Fire. Then Tallulah said a prayer to Athena, reached into a bowl and pulled out a ripe olive. She told us it was safe to open the box. Inside is a statue, maybe a foot tall, of a demon - solid ebony at the feet and just an outline in silver wire at the head. I didn’t recognize it and neither did they.
Then in the best dramatic fashion (well, no thunder and lightning involved, but great timing) the door opened, framing a simply dressed woman with black hair fading to gray and hazel eyes. She introduced herself as Betucia Egastania, and asked if we had were the travellers from the CIty State. When Watseka said yes, she began questioning us about her son, Hersarypes. Apparently he was a sailor, whose ship had returned from a profitable voyage and he was returning home to her. I was telling her we hadn’t when Watseka interrupted asking if she had another son, who was a constable in the city state perhaps. When she said that her son Icles was a sergeant, my heart sank - the stone traveller sharing Perpetua’s fate! We returned the remaining silver and the gems to her, promising to hire a wagon and recover his body. We’ll bring Perpetua in to adorn the Temple where she would have danced in life.

Yellow Moon-Dog, 8th Rising 

Byrny. Lucky I’m alive today. We rented a cart and mule from the mining guild to recover Perpetua and Betucia’s son’s bodies. We had almost reached them when I spotted a landshark eating a corpse. I thought it was a man and horse, but the militia who went out said it looked like a centaur had been killed. Anyway, as soon, as I saw it I turned and ran with Tlichnolli, Watseka and the mule in close pursuit. We’ll try again tomorrow.

Friday, May 17, 2019



% In Lair : nil  
Dungeon Enc: 1-2 (10% Chance mated pair)
Wilderness Enc: 1-2 (10% Chance mated pair)
Alignment: Neutral
Movement: 150’ (50’) Burrow 30’
Armor Class:  11/9/7
Hit Dice:  9***
Attacks:  3 (bite/claw/claw)
Damage:  4-48/3-18/3-18
Save:  F5
Morale: +4
Treasure Type: nil  
XP:  2500
The Landshark is a magical crossbreed, combining a snapping turtle with an
armadillo, with the temper of a grizzly with a sore tooth.  Fearless and always
ravenous, they will attack large parties just to eat a mount or draft animal. At
an average of 9 ½ feet tall and 12 feet long; these consume massive amounts
of food every day.

When fighting they use their front claws and gaping maw to kill, then will stop
and eat the pieces if not currently being attacked.  It takes a landshark one
round to eat a small creature, two for a medium and four for a large creature.
Surviving combatants wisely use this time to run away.  When surrounded,
the landshark can jump up to eight feet in the air, allowing them to make two
additional claw attacks with their rear feet.

The landshark is covered with massive armored scales; a prized component
in making magical shields.  It has two vulnerable spots, a small area behind
the crest (AC 7) and the small eyes from the front and sides (AC9).  There is
no penalty for calling a shot against these smaller targets, of the character is
in the right location.

The landshark is known for its ability to burrow underground, often with the
crest breaking through the surface.

Adapted from Advanced Dungeon and Dragon’s (1e) Monster Manual: Bulette

Conversion Notes:  One of the iconic monsters and copyrighted; this
conversion is for personal use only.   By straight conversion factor
the AD&D AC values of -2/4/6 convert to 11/3/5. (I convert based
off armor types, using a calculation only when the armor class is off
the charts like the AC-2.  In this instance the Monster Manual describes
the vulnerable spots as being small; so rather than giving characters a
-4 to hit them with a called shot, I increased the AC for the vulnerable
spots by 4.

Special Abilities: High Armor Class, Gaping Maw inflicts massive damage; Jump

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Does my character know?

One of the common questions to the DM (and even more pointed when you are solo playing) is what does the character know about the monster, knight at the bridge or political situation in the kingdom.

I’ve been musing on this question a bit  and have devised this simple system based on the Frequency statistic in the AD&D 1e Monster Manual.

Frequency      % Know the Answer      % Know Something Useful About It
Very Rare                  4%                            34%
Rare                11%                            41%
Uncommon                20%                            60%
Common                65%                            95%

Add 10% to the chance to Know the Answer for each point of Intelligence Bonus.

Add 5% to the chance to Know Something Useful for each point of Wisdom Bonus.

What knowledge is considered Common/ Uncommon/ Rare/ Very Rare will vary by campaign, social class, etc and needs to be adjudicated on the fly.

Useful information comes up when the character doesn't know the answer to the question. As in “You don't know what the creature is, but it looks dangerous” or “You don't know how the Burgomiester is getting rich; but you heard a woman in the tavern complain about wagon traffic in the middle of the night.”

Of course, roll the dice behind the screen and make up a believable tale when they fail.

The image is from the Dungeon Masters Guide (Advanced D&D) -copyright TSR Games 1979, and is used to illustrate one of the issues that occurs when playing with those and similar rules.