Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

Adventure Fixins: Hooks and Patrons

A one-shot adventure will often consist of nothing more than a keyed dungeon map. But there’s a lot more stuff you’ll need to actually run the game in practice. A good adventure design will not leave something major for the novice game master to improvise while under pressure, so I’ll use worked examples here from the Goblin Adventure I’m currently working on.

The Hook

Box text is almost universally hated by seasoned game masters. These read-aloud sections are invariably overwrought and usually bring the game to a halt. The game master is looking at the module instead of paying attention to the situation at the table. The players zone out and maybe only catch 20% of what is said. It’s a mess.

If there’s one place where prepared text is a good idea, though, it’s the initial hook. There’s a whole lot of information about the basic constraints of the game that you need to get across in a very short time. On a really good day, you’ll have the players’ attention for about two minutes. The ideal is to give just enough information that the players respond with a couple of questions. That is instant engagement that allows for the players to step in and begin to take control of the game. The opening hook is sort of a necessary evil, but it’s still an evil. The game master can just put it out there and then step away as quick as possible!

Here’s an example:

You set sail from Major Port City in search of fabled treasure, but ended up shipwrecked in a strange new country. The Momerati– builders of many fantastic, towering spires– seem friendly enough and are both advanced and civilized. But now that they’ve helped you repair your vessel, they have a modest proposal for you…. You see, goblin raiders have been harassing their coastal cities for some time now. They’d like you to attend to them and in return, they offer you all the supplies you need for you trip back– and a full load of trade goods.

This is not a novel. This is a hand off. Note that I didn’t bother answering any of the “how come?” type questions. How come these advanced people need a ragtag group of adventurers to go after some wimpy goblins? How come goblins are such a problem here anyway? How come the offer is so generous…? Players will hopefully respond to this with additional questions about the campaign setting in general. They may ask what the town they’re in is like and so forth. Try to answer these in just a sentence or two– don’t give in to the temptation to launch into flowery monologues.

For the questions that are tied more closely to the details of the adventure, you may want to use the device of a patron to convey answers to the players….

The Patron

While it is true that the truly great adventures all begin with the little old man handing the player characters a treasure map at the local tavern, there is, of course, more than one way to do it. A good patron character gives the game master a way to justify the adventure and give the player characters whatever they need to get started. A patron also provides an avenue for the game master to shift from an omniscient voice to speaking more in the context of the game and in the perspective of its non-player characters.

Patrons will have their own motives and are liable to be incorrect about the finer points of the information they give. If you are starting a brand new campaign, you will want them to appear as reliable and as trustworthy as possible. If play continues, you’ll be able to introduce more than one patron representing conflicting interests from levels of power and influence above that of the players. The players will ultimately get to choose which faction they help or perhaps even become a power in their own right. For an introductory adventure, however, all you’ll need is a means of facilitating the adventure.

It’s conceivable that the players are so gung ho about diving in that they push to go directly to the action without consulting this character. This is fine, but they are liable to find out a few things the hard way. In any case, you don’t want the patron chasing after the players to give advice. If the players happen to fall on their faces and come back to town empty handed, you can always introduce the patron at that point in order to get the game back on track. Ideally you should never be afraid to let the players take control of the pacing and the depth with which they engage the setting.

Here’s an example:

Balthazar is a satrap of the northern province. He has  been chosen as a representative of his people because of natural ability to master languages. After a couple of weeks, he seems to speak fairly decent common… though his vocabulary is necessarily limited at this point. He indicates that the goblins have four ships and that they are armed with some kind of fire-rain.

That will hopefully get the players asking some clarifying questions!

Note one trick here… if they players ask something the game master hasn’t prepared for, he can always just say, “Balthazar doesn’t understand what you mean.” If play continues in further sessions, the game master will have time to flesh things out… and the patron’s fluency can grow right along with the player’s and the game master’s. For everything else, though, don’t be afraid to allow him to say or provide anything that helps get the game going!

An Amazing Sort of Ass

Alexis Smolensk posted the other day about two different personality types and why one would tend to make for a worse game master than the other. He comes down pretty hard on principled types and ends up painting them as being “selfish” game masters,¹ but there are multiple cans of worms being opened here. What’s worse, the worms are getting mixed together. Let me see what I can do here to sort this out.

The first thing is… that for a lot of these sorts of character traits, people just seem to be born with them. It’s like all the people that have seen my game collection when they come into my living room. Some people hardly notice it and don’t really want to hear about it. Some people stare at something on the shelf that’s caught their attention, but wait for somebody else to bring up the subject. Sometimes, I have to physically restrain a person that is in the process of dragging all the space games down and punching out counter sheets after I’ve come back from a trip to the bathroom. None of the people having these reactions to my games might ever have known that there sere such a thing as hobby games… but they either have the “gamer gene” or they don’t. No amount of coaxing or listening or coddling can change that in a lot of cases.

It’s the same thing with these politicians that Alexis is talking about. If you poll a bunch of them, you’ll see that about half of them would be scandalized by the idea that they might ever let their own personal beliefs affect how they represent their districts. The others are insulted by the implication that they might do anything other than follow their convictions. Each side would be deeply suspicious of the other. The second group would generally look like pushy hypocrites to the first. The first group would look to the second to be navigating life without any sort of moral compass.

Both sides would even be tempted to characterize the other as pure-tee evil. We tend to have all of our talking points down pat, so this is obscured when we’re rehashing the usual political debates. Translate these two personality types to parenting and it all becomes even clearer. The first will tend to say something like, “well… we want our Mary to find her own path in life.” The second will be incredulous. “Do you really have so little life experience that you think its a good idea to leave her to try to work towards the basic tenets of Western Civilization (or whatever) through trial and error…?” The two sides differ in their views on the inherent goodness or depravity of mankind, of course, and live accordingly.

Neither side will tend to think of themselves as being evil… despite the protestations of the other. The really good fictional characters steer clear of the usual stereotypes– particularly the stereotypes that one of these sides would make of the other in their less charitable moments. Take John Carter of Mars, for instance:

“The following of a sense of duty, wherever it may lead, has always been a kind of fetich with me throughout my life; which may account for the honors bestowed upon me by three republics and the decorations and friendships of an old and powerful emperor and several lesser kings, in whose service my sword has been red many a time.” – Princess of Mars, Chapter One

Not everyone is going to find this sort of thing admirable or respectable. If you could force a character like that into a contest with their nemesis while at the same time making each side believable, sympathetic, and with reasonable flaws, you’d really have something:

“What were you in the war, that big war you failed to win? You were a Sergeant, yeah? Sergeant Malcolm Reynolds, Balls and Bayonets Brigade. Big tough veteran. Now you got yourself a ship and you’re a captain. Only I think you’re still a Sergeant, see. Still a soldier, man of honor in a den of thieves. Well this is my gorram den, and I don’t like the way you look down on me. I’m above you.” — Firefly, Episode One

Man, that’s good drama, all the more so because to the multiple layers of contrast and irony. Propaganda never has quite that level of vibrancy…. Of course, you don’t need to understand people if all you need is a Two Minutes Hate.

There’s another key personality trait at play alongside of the Principled/Unprincipled axis and that is the Purist angle. I never really grasped this one until Peter Jackson did the Lord of the Rings. A whole bunch of Tolkien fans went to the first one and ended up debating the rightness of the changes. Some of the people that defended the choices underlying the adaption would end up changing sides once the next movie had come out. Some of the ones that had merely mixed feelings about the matter were pushed over the line into declaring that they wouldn’t even bother going to see the third installment. The thing that was going on here was that different people had different tolerance levels for how much dissonances they could handle between Tolkien’s themes and characters and how they ended up being portrayed in the film.

This seemed to be something that was completely decoupled from political, religious, and ideological views. People were either purists or not… and the trait seemed also to come in degrees. Or maybe they could be purists in regards to some things and not others. Another example: I once knew a director from New York. She was the very antithesis of the small town, religious/conservative type. But when it came to Shakespeare, she had an iron clad rule: you could cut parts out… but you could not change anything. That’s a combination of common sense, experience, and being a purist.

The point I want to make on game mastering here is that it doesn’t matter how principled or unprincipled you are or how much of a purist you are… you will sink or swim on the basis of your game mastering skills. And your ability to listen to what your players think they want has very little to do with your success. Consider:

  • Most people have no concept of what the implications are of putting money on Free Parking does.
  • If you sit down to play a popular board game with a mixed group of gamers, not only is it a safe bet that they are playing a crucial rule incorrectly, but they are liable to take umbrage at that fact being pointed out to them.
  • Otherwise serious hobbyists stand a very good chance of wanting to house rule a new game before they’ve even played it. (Case in point: people wanting to add some kind of flanking rule to Commands & Colors: Ancients.)
  • With role playing games, if you ask the players what they want, they generally only care about the most general aspects of settings, characters, and power levels. Unless they game master as well, they are very unlikely to have any preferences with regard to the rules. For most people, most of the time, they are content with their intent being honored and adjudicated fairly in the context of whatever the game happens to be. (If they are a hard core partisan for a system you’re not running, they probably were never much of a candidate for your game in the first place.)
  • Most people are neither connoisseurs nor gaming coaches.²

If you want actionable information on how to improve your game, the players are just not always going to be the best source. They might be too nice to tell you something that would help. They might be too indiscriminate with their negative criticism to be constructive. They might not actually want what they think they want. They might want something that the rest of the group wouldn’t want. They might not be compatible with the sort of game you’re capable of running. And most people care more about the quality of the people sitting at the table than anything else.³

You really have to be an amazing sort of ass to be running a game in the first place. You are liable to have some kind of personality conflict at the table, circumstances are sure to take you out of your comfort zone at some point, and being prepared is nearly an impossibility because you can’t anticipate the one thing that will go the most wrong! No matter how many times I run role playing games, I am almost always in a tizzy about them the night before. Factors that can ruin everything are often out of my control. The truly great sessions are due to several different threads harmonizing at once– and with every player being on board with it and satisfied with how it’s being handled.

Ultimately, the most critical element to good game mastering is time.⁴ You need time for the players to become an effective group– they actually need to “click” like a group of people figuring out how to climb a ten foot wall together. You need time to try many different things so that you can expand your repertoire in directions that are proven to be worth the investment. You need a chance to make a bunch of mistakes so that you can actually learn from them.

You don’t so much listen as you watch the players engagement levels. Is something working? Get out of the way and let it work! Are things dragging…? Try to pick up the pace. It’s generally going to be obvious whether or not you’re killing it as a game master– you don’t need to hand out questionnaires to find that out. If everyone’s paying attention and no one is looking at their phones or repeating Monty Python jokes… then that’s probably about as good as it’s going to get. Though it doesn’t hurt if the whole table is screaming at a critical dice result….

There’s just so much you can’t ask the players anyway. Sometimes the players just have to communicate within the context of actual play. They may not even think in terms of what you want to ask them and they may not even be able to form a consensus if they could. Just watch how they decide to order pizza together. If it takes them thirty minutes to sort that out, do you really think they’re going to be able to help you make the most significant decisions about how to run your campaign…?

No, it’s on you to figure this out and bring the game. Sure, you pay attention to how people respond. You take into account your players’ tastes, preferences, and limitations. But your vision, your enthusiasm, and your passion is part of what brings them to your table in the first place.⁵ And game masters routinely pull off good games regardless of their inclinations and personality types. No matter what your quirks and foibles and attitudes are, you can do it, too. Just stay at it until everything falls in place and don’t be alarmed when repeating your successes turns out not to be trivial. There are an uncountably infinite number of ways to run and play in a game. Don’t be afraid to contend for the one way that works well with your style and the sort of people that are willing to hang out with you long enough to get a game off the ground!

¹ I actually looked this up to be sure, but Kevin Siembieda has the unprincipled alignment down as being selfish. Just sayin’.

² There’s only one Bill Cavalier.

³ Notice the amount of time some game masters spend interviewing players before a new campaign to determine compatibility. Or how some people recoil in horror at the thought of having to play with a completely random group of gamers at a convention. Where are the cool kids playing…?

⁴  Check out Joanna Gaskell’s video about her campaign for an example of this. I wouldn’t be surprised if I had almost nothing in common with her in “real life.” Her system choice and house rules would probably trigger multiple nerd rages from me… but she managed a campaign just fine without the help of self styled experts like me. Time was on her side.

⁵ At the end of the day, it’s the game master’s job to be the biggest ass at the table. That’s just how it is… by definition! If you can’t out-ass your players, then what are you doing behind the screen, anyway?

Blog Watch: Holmes, Strike Force, Greyhawk, Forgotten Realms, Red Box, and Advanced Melee

Dungeon Mastering (Havard’s Blackmoor Blog) Quotes by Arneson, Gygax and Barker – “The worthy GM never purposely kills players’ PCs. He presents opportunities for the rash and unthinking players to do that all on their own.”

Dungeon Design (Semper Initiativus Unam) World Building: The Look and Feel – “It’s a Holmes thing I guess – sticking that city under the dungeon is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, an explorable high-level ruined metropolis.”

Rest In Peace (Jeff’s Gameblog) Aaron Allston’s Strike Force — “In short, at the time Strike Force came out Aaron Allston was the most forward thinking mind in the hobby.  I can count on one hand the number of RPG authors I consider as on-the-ball as him.”

Campaign Settings (Tenkar’s Tavern) Why Greyhawk is “Better” than the Forgotten Realms — “The more canon one has built into a setting, the more restricted the paths of the players and the greater the chance they will be overshadowed by the setting’s named NPCs. Also, the more canon there is built into a setting, the greater the chance the players will know more than the DM about the setting, and that can never lead to a good ending. Going off the ‘canon tracks’ can lead to push back.”

Game Mastering (Dungeon Fantastic) Greyhawk vs. the Forgotten Realms – my play experience – “I’d hear with amusement about Drzzt and Blackstaff and Elminster in the books, but they mattered to me as much as stories about Gord and Mordenkainen and Tenser did in Greyhawk – not at all. They were just other people’s war stories, nothing more, and they were superseded by things that had already happened in my own gaming there. No new canon made what I did wrong, but not the other way around.”

Copyrights Matter (Game On) Why did David A. Trampier disappear from the gaming industry?  – “Part of the falling out Trampier had (and this is fairly common info so I’m not trying to lord anything over) came from the fact that he wanted to self-publish Wormy compilations. TSR said no, that they belonged to them; he essentially sold each strip to TSR/Dragon Magazine. So his last effort regarding Wormy involved selling ‘shares’ of profits of a future Wormy compilation to fans and then using that money to hire a lawyer and take TSR to court. He lost, case closed. IIRC he repaid most if not all ‘investors’ over a short period of time, tho.”

COIN Series (Board Game Geek) Fire in the Lake Forums – “In the world of wargames, the bees don’t get much busier or louder than this.”

Total Party Kill (Blog of Holding) WTF, Mentzer Red Box fighter? – “OK, so you might beat the dragon. If you have 18 Str, Con, and Dex; a +3 magic sword; you make your saving throw vs breath weapon; and you never miss an attack over five rounds. AND IF YOU’RE LEVEL 11. In which case… what are you doing on the D&D box for characters level 1-3?”

The Fantasy Trip (A Paladin in Citadel) Old School Illustrations: Advanced Melee —  “The Advanced Melee rulebook included only a handful of illustrations, all in black and white, drawn exclusively by Robert Phillips.  His Advanced Melee illustrations had a strong sword & sorcery flavour, in contrast to the later, second generation, colorized heroic fantasy artwork that would be introduced to role-playing games by such artists as Elmore, Parkinson, Easley and Caldwell.”

Game Design (Board Game Geek) BGG Wargame Designer of the Month: Jim Krohn – “Adding rules, in my opinion, is lazy designing. It is obviously unavoidable at times, but I would rather try to come up with a simple system than to keep adding rules.”

Game Design (Lewis Pulsipher) How to Create Video and Tabletop Games, Start to Finish – “Reality is too complicated to comprehend in a game. Game Design requires idealism, the ability to pick out what’s important and depict that rather than try to depict all of a situation.”

Dungeon Mastering (Google+) Greg Christopher originally shared – “The encounter roll that randomly gives you a reaction from NPCs/Monsters encountered in the dungeon is not just some ‘well, we don’t feel like writing content so just randomly decide how they feel’, but a way to let the Dungeon Master kind of read the tea leaves and build implied story. These orcs are friendly…. why? Make up something on the spot for that….. maybe they are here looking for something and trying to avoid combat, maybe they are running away from something, etc. It becomes a fresh, unexpected thing. It’s not an accident. It’s not bad design.”

Dungeon Design (Hack & Slash) On a Megadungeon Checklist –”Each zone of the megadungeon is themed. Make sure you have all of these levels!”

Encounters in Third Edition Gamma World

This is probably the most important chapter in the book as far as game mastering is concerned. In practice, you can get away with allowing the players to declare victory and go home at any point and simply call that an adventure. You can fake the campaign‘s setting until you actually end up running several sessions. But you’re not having any sort of game at all if there are no encounters. And given that Gamma World® does not begin with a simplistic town and dungeon scenario, there’s a bit more of a challenge here for the novice.

There are four pages in the encounters chapter, each one detailing a significant aspect of what makes for a quintessential Gamma World® encounter:

  1. Encounters are primarily about weird creatures, cryptic alliances, and (more rarely) computers and robots. The game master is encouraged to make up new creatures and factions as much as possible– this is the only way to surprise players that are familiar with the game. Additionally, the game master is encouraged allow these creatures and factions to take on a life of their own and to have them respond and adapt to the players actions. An offhand remark indicates the default campaign of the designers: “The major driving force in the heroes’ life is to work with the Restorationists to recover artifacts of the Ancients and rebuild that lost society.” Note that this seems to contradict the information in the chapter on campaigns where it is implied that the characters will begin without any direct ties to the Cryptic Alliances but will then later (perhaps secretly from the other players) attempt to join one once they’ve gained a sufficient amount of status.
  2. The heart of the game is in the incredible amount of diversity in terrain. Each terrain type is coupled with a different ground cover to create a huge number of combinations. Together they yield an intensity level, a base damage amount, and one or two special effects. From these you can derive the base movement rate for that terrain, the chance of hazards and encounters there, and the chance of getting lost. This is the most critical part of the rules, but the chances of the average teenager ignoring this are high because it’s extremely complex while at the same time being spread across several different sections.
  3. From the players’ perspectives, rewards are the entire point of having encounters. The game master is encouraged to come up with appropriate rewards for each encounter– there are no “treasure tables” to provide a baseline, just a lot of advice. Information is actually highlighted as being the more important reward type. It is suggested that valuables taken from creatures defeated in combat be 10 gold per rank or hit die on average. Finally, equipment and artifacts that are found that aren’t being used by NPC’s that are trying to kill the players are liable to be broken or dangerous!
  4. Unlike magic items in D&D, Gamma World® artifacts are something the players have to figure out. There is an insanely complicated flow chart for this with countless modifiers. It’s awesomeness varies indirectly to its chance of actually being used in play. Similar to high level magic research in D&D, this same system can be used to create new equipment, functions, traps, and information. This is unlikely to happen unless the players understand what can be done here. To incorporate this into the game, I’d suggest coming up with mentors and patrons that can point the players in this direction.

By default, then, the game is primarily a bunch of wilderness encounters with weird made up creatures. If you kill them to take their stuff, you won’t necessarily know how to use what you get. Let’s look some some at the context in which all of this stuff takes place: the wilderness travel rules.

Compared to B/X D&D, the “hexcrawling” rules are incredibly refined. The day is broken down into six periods of four hours each. An encounter is checked for in each period, so a lot can happen in a single day. In the Isle of Dread, you checked for encounters once a day. That meant that the players could blow their spells in every single combat without much worry. You can’t pull similar tactics here.

As we said before, these checks are rolled against the terrain’s intensity score. When something occurs, you even pin down the exact hour within the period when it happens. Here are the possible results from the chart on page 11:

  • Red — Catastrophe
  • Orange — Bad Weather
  • Yellow — Suffer from Exposure
  • Green — Natural Obstacle/Hazard
  • Blue — Event/Encounter/Omen
  • Black — Trail is found

As you can see in high intensity terrain the random events are not only more frequent but they are also more interesting. (That’s “interesting” like in that Chinese proverb.) When you flesh out your wilderness areas on your campaign map… your prep should be geared towards aiding improvisations triggered by this chart. It is the most important, and most-used chart in the default game and yet it does not appear anywhere else.

Example weather and hazards are listed on the back of the Reference Book. The rules for these are on page 21 and are easy to miss because they’re called “dangers” there. The intensity determines which column the event is rolling against. Damage is usually half the intensity score, but “exposure” damage is only a quarter. The saving throws against the special effects get a lot of elaboration elsewhere, but here it simply says that “the GM may permit an appropriate ability score to modify the chance of the danger harming the characters.” This seems to imply some sort of column shift on the act chart… and it also seems to indicate that one player is rolling for the entire group. Still, it’s pretty crazy that something so crucial to the default adventuring model is not only spread around on a half dozen pages, but is also slapdash and unclear.

At first glance, the Random Events chart from the reference screen appears to be used for the Event/Encounter/Omen results, but the more I look at it the more I think it is an entirely different encounter system that predates the rainbow chart material. It is built on generic terrain rather than the combinations from the main rule book. Hazards are incorporated into the d20 roll here instead of resulting from the rainbow results chart described above. There are a lot of examples, but you are nearly on your own if you’re going use them. The weather and terrain hazards described on the chart are stat-free and so are either ad libbed or cribbed from the terrain’s intensity rather than coupled to the “dangers” rule. On the other hand, the creature motivations and omens charts are really great and are worth stealing for other games.

What’s needed is a comprehensive example that synthesizes the sort of material on the Random Events tables with the actual rules for hazards and dangers in the context of some playable campaign setting material. That doesn’t exist, but the use of all this stuff is actually illustrated in the example of play section. This confirms the implications from the rules that this is the default mode of play. The GM in the narrative dutifully rolls percentile dice on the rainbow chart for the basic encounter type… and seems to be rolling a D20 on the event-type chart from the reference screen when pinning down whether it’s a creature or an omen. The key thing about the GM’s actions here is that he makes a lot of judgement calls. Instead of rolling a random creature for an encounter, he chooses one from the map key because the players are near something he’d placed previously. When the creatures are encountered, he doesn’t use dice to determine their number, but just picks an amount that would make a good challenge for the player characters that happen to be in the game.

So… to run this system, you will refer to at least four pages in the rule book, the back page of the reference book, and the chart in the gm screen. Except… the chart in the gm screen does not quite match up to the main rule book. You will have to improvise what all of these random results means as you narrate the encounter to the players, you will have to make judgement calls about how exactly the unclear rules are applied, and you will adjust everything on the fly in order to make a satisfying experience for the players. You take a lot on yourself if you want to run this game. The more I try to read it, the less I understand. It’s as if the last 20% of the game design process has been left to the GM as an exercise.

This is really cool stuff and one of my favorite games… but nobody played this.

Giant Characters in Heroes & Other Worlds

I originally began working on this because my son wanted to play a giant character and he was overwhelmed by the huge number of options in GURPS and Heroes & Other Worlds. My plan was to use a Traveller style approach to turn it into more of a mini-game that had a fewer number of options at each step in order to counter his tendency towards analysis paralysis. In any event, my son began drawing maps for an imaginary world and working up characters on his own before I could complete this system. (It turned out that a  few sample characters was all he needed to get over that initial hump.) While I don’t actually need this system here to inspire him to play, it bugged me that I had unfinished work in a notebook. I’ve chosen to finish it merely as an exercise in design.

Step One: To determine your giant’s attributes, roll 2d6 four times on the table below.

2  11  8  8  8
3  12  8  8  8
4  13  8  8  8
5  14  8  8  9
6  15  9  8  9
7  15  9  9  9
8  16  9  9  10
9  16  10  9  10
10  17  10  10  10
11  17  11  10  11
12  18  12  11  11

Step Two: Check for literacy. Gain Literacy on 4D/IQ.

Step Three: Check for social savvy. Gain Charm on 9+ on 2d6.

Step Four: Generate career. If a character fails a survival roll, he may choose to dishonor himself by changing careers to Outcast. If he makes the roll to enlist, he completes his term as an Outcast. If he fails, then he dies a particularly shameful death.

Enlistment 6+ 8+ 10+ 8+
DM+1 if EN 10+ IN 9+ IQ 10+ Charm
DM+2 if ST 15+ ST 16+ Literate EN 10+
Draft 1-4  –  – 5-6
Survival 5+ 7+ 6+ 7+
DM +2 if EN 10+ ST 15+ DX 9+ DX 10+
Commission 9+ 7+ 8+
DM +1 if DEX 8+ Charm EN 10+
Promotion 10+ 8+ 9+
DM +1 if Charm Literate IQ 9+
Reenlist 5+ 6+ 7+ 4+

Default skill table. Roll once per term. Outcasts roll twice per term.

1  +1 ST Diplomacy  +1 IQ  Climbing
2  Ax/Mace/Club  Tactics Sorcerer’s Tongue  Detect Hidden/Hide
3  Pole Arms  +1 ST  Giant Lore Survival
4  Athletics  +1 EN  Astronomer  Thief
5  Animal Handler  Sword Staff  Throw
6  Craftsman  Shield  Dagger  Unarmed Combat

Alternate skill table. Minion, Boss, and Magi characters roll a on this table when they are commissioned and each time they are promoted. Outcasts with an IQ of 10+ may roll on this table instead of taking a roll on the default skill table.

1  +1 ST  Reveal Magic  Summon Wolf  Athletics
2  Pole Arms  Far Seeing  Lock/Knock  Detect/Tell Lies
3  Bows  Crossbow  Alchemy  Hunting/Trapping
4  +1 DX  Detect/Tell Lies  Naturalist  Sling
5  +1 EN  Recognize Value  Physicker  Stealth
6  Professional Skill  Two Weapon Combat  Any Spell  Track

Step Five: Muster out. Roll one time on the chart below for each two terms of service completed. Roll again for each level of rank (ie, once for being commissioned and again each time the character was promoted.) The character may add his rank to each die roll if he wishes. “Weapon” indicates a good quality weapon of a type the character is skilled in is received. Boss characters make take additional weapon results as magical bonuses for previously rolled weapons.

Each result of “special” confers an increasing level of special abilities: stone giant powers, ice giant powers, fire giant powers, and cloud giant powers. (To get fire giant powers, for example, you’d have to roll “special” three times.) The specifics of these abilities are left to the game master to work out. Additionally, the giant character is commissioned to establish a fortress in an exotic location that is consistent with the theme of their new powers.

1  +1 ST  +1 ST  +1 IQ  +1 DX
2  Weapon  Weapon  Weapon  Weapon
3  Jewelry worth 2d6 x 100 gold  Jewelry worth 3d6 x 100 gold  Jewelry worth 3d6 x 100 gold  2×6 x 10 gold pieces
4  +1 EN  +1 EN  +1 EN  Naturalist
5  Pole Arms  2 Henchmen  Any IQ-11 Spell  Alertness
6  Throw  + 1 ST  Any IQ-12 Spell  A cave in the wilderness
7  2 Henchmen  5 Henchmen  1 Disciple  –
8  Alertness  Any Spell rated up to the character’s IQ  Any Spell  –
9  Streetwise  +2 ST  Any Spell  –
10+  Merchant  Special  Any Spell  –

Step Six: Starting with the third term, the character must roll each of 3/ST, 3/DX, and 3/EN or else lose a point in the corresponding attribute. Starting with the fifth term, he must roll 4/ST, 4/DX, 4/IQ, and 4/EN.

Note: This is a first draft and will probably need to be tweaked in order to get the different outcomes in line with each other. I will keep this post updated as I come across things that need to be tuned up.


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