Experts

A few weeks ago, I blogged on commoners, where I said that Commoners were the class that provide the unskilled and, I suppose, semi-skilled labour in my game world. The other NPC classes provide the skilled labour, management and administrative skills that hold the tapestry of civilization together. Warriors, Adepts and Aristocrats cover Defence, Religion and Leadership respectively – the Expert covers everything else.

My ‘standard’ experts are all built with a standard build template of – 12,12,12,12,12,12 – which gives a skill modifier of +1 in all areas. It makes it nice and easy to wing an expert when I need to. If I have an Expert who will play a significant role in the game, s/he has their own character sheet and is designed as a ten point build.

Experts are specialists, they are significantly better at what they do than characters from other classes, even PCs, at equivalent levels, as their whole life is spent working in their ‘chosen’ field. Chosen is a bit of a misnomer, of course, it is the skill that their family passed down to them. That skill is their family heritage – and not to be treated lightly. At first level they use a feat to for Skill Focus and gain the Family Background Trait from my house rules – which gives them big skill bonuses right from the start.

Heads of the ‘Business’ tend to be level three, while lower level experts are considered to be Apprentices or Journeymen. Most Skill Masters are L3, but they can develop to L5 (or even higher) as they get older – however, use those sparingly, as they probably deserve their own character sheet.

If, for example, if a PC walks into a carpentry workshop, they might find :-

  • The Master Cabinetmaker (L3 expert – Skills Craft:Wood 14, Craft:Bows 12, Profession:Merchant 7, Appraise 7 etc) In this case, the main ‘Family Skill’ is work working,  however this cabinet maker has used his L3 Feat to take Craft (Bows) which brings his skills in the second field up to Master Craftsman status. Masterwork tools add another +2 to his skills.
  • Apprentice Cabinetmakers – perhaps 1xL2 & 1xL1 experts with lower skill in the same thing as the master Craftsman. The apprentices do the basic working and shaping under supervision of their master while they, in turn, oversee the labourers. Their skills don’t really matter, as everything is calculated on the Master Craftsman’s skill.
  • Labourers. 3 or 4 commoners all with Craft:Wood skills between 4 and 6 – to carry out the most basic work.

For me, a master craftsman has at least 10 ranks in the appropriate craft skill – that way the NPC can ‘take 10’ and successfully craft the masterwork elements every time. I.e. They can regularly, and reliably, create masterwork items.

As an aside – most of the work in the Craft Workshop is done by the apprentices and labourers.  In this example, the Master Carpenter will choose the wood, specify basic shapes and probably even grain patterns. He might even scribe outlines on the material. Rough blanks are cut out by the labourers, then handed to the apprentices before being turned over to the master craftsman for finishing touches.

The same model works in other areas, in this case – the Legal Profession. If it suits your purposes, you could decide to give them access to a Law library, and increase their Profession:Lawyer skills by an extra +2. These guys probably all have Profession:Scribe (or something similar) as a secondary skill

  • Lawyer (L3 Expert, Profession:Lawyer 12)
  • 2x Legal Assistants (Expert, Profession:Lawyer 8/9) This score only counts if the PC is cheap and decides to have one of the assistants advise him.
  • 4x Clerks (Commoner Profession:Lawyer 1-3) These guys might be available to represent the common people of the town or the city.

In this example I have made the Expert a bit older and a bit more experienced.  Imagine a wheezy old sage working in a small building somewhere in city – he has spent his whole life learning about things … people in particular. Old age = +2 (Wis, Int, Cha), -3 (Str, Dex, Con) – so wheezy and getting infirm. However, enough time has passed that he is a L5 expert and has collected a decent selection of books (which I rule gives a +2 – but takes longer to get an answer).

  • Sage – L5 expert (Knowledge:Geography 17, Knowledge:People 15, Knowledge:Nobility 12, Linguistics 12, Librarian 10, Scribe 10)
  • 1x Apprentice – L2 expert – skills don’t really matter as their job is mainly to keep the library in order, fetch books as needed and listen to their master – this is one of the reason most sages are skilled librarians :}
  • 2x Servants. L2 commoners used to running errands on the sage’s behalf – they have Knowledge:Nobility 1 and Librarian 1, picked up as they have served ‘The master’.

TBH, though, a guy like this probably deserves his own character sheet as an PC worth their salt is liable to be back a few times. He has clearly spent a lifetime researching people of one type or another – he is the person the PCs go to when they want to know about the Humanoid Tribes in a given region, or custom and practice in the local town. He can detail the local Nobility along with whom the PCs need to speak to and then, almost as a side line, translate all those weird runes they found – and all without using magic!

Businesses in RPGs.

This week, I have been thinking about businesses that I have run in FRP world, and how they have evolved.  I was looking for some old (RL) finance files and came across the Role Play stuff at the same time.

The first FRP business that I have on record is the Far Flung Trading Company (or FFTC as it became known) with a spreadsheet from 1998.  FFTC came from a table-top game where the characters captured a ship and wanted to keep it, rather than sell it.  We were playing in the Al Qadim setting, which contains some basic rules for businesses run by the Merchant-Rogue class, so we developed a trading organization based on those rules.  It stayed with us for a long time.  Characters died and shares were distributed according to wills and new characters spent good money to buy into the company.  It never really made any money for the characters, but it gave the group a focus.  Even when the playing group started to break up, when given a choice, players chose for their characters to retire into something FFTC related, and many of them went on to captain ships or become master of a merchant caravan.

FFTC has stayed with me ever since.  It provided the local shipping when I started my first on-line game, it has appeared in a Traveller universe that I ran and now it is the main trade outlet in a NWN world that I am building.  It always makes me smile.

Next was the Kassen Kompany, which runs from about 2009.  I was playing in a local Pathfinder game, where the DM had pulled a number of modules from different APs together, we had just taken down the evil guild running Falcon’s Hollow and I managed to blag the local barge shipping business as part of our rewards.  Again it finished up with trade ships, after all they are easy and give the party transport options.  However, we also finished up owning a hippogriff breeding (and training) programme and a library for all the books that we collected while we were out adventuring. It expanded to include a Sword School, quarrying business and rented accommodation – all in one village right on the edge of the civilized area. Again, it gave us a party focus, with characters dropping in and out or investing in personal projects – but all under the Kassen Kompany banner. 

FFTC was focussed on trade and was little more than a glorified Merchant House although one that worked well for the party – perhaps that was my fault because (as DM) I didn’t give the characters options to move into other areas.  Kassen Komany was different, trade and ships were there, of course, but we diversified into so many other areas.   This time around, I was a player looking for opportunities in another DM’s world – and I had a couple of willing accomplices.

Then there was Jahi’s Magic Store in about 2015.  I had joined a pathfinder game at RPoL (gone now) where the DM had allowed players to build NPC businesses (with secondary characters) using the Down Time rules.   So I set up a low level Magic Shop using an Adept as the main character.  That all went interestingly pear-shaped, quite quickly!   Adepts make clerical scrolls, and have a weird spell list – which means almost no PC classes can use their scrolls.  So quickly recruit a wizard as an assistant, and then a witch, because they can get Brew Potion at L1 ….  and the shop became a bit more useful.  However, as the shop grew, so did the book keeping.  Keeping track of the business became quite time-consuming and turned into a chore.  At the same time, my PC character (in partnership with his siblings) bought an Inn, that was easy to run and developed into a minor RP focus for a number of characters.  The moral of that story – keep it simple!


Which brings me to the rules I use in my game at the moment.  Paizo’s attempts at Kingdom Building and Down Time businesses were brave and exciting – but they didn’t really come off.  Both rule sets were complex, times consuming and intrusive, and they didn’t fit together very well – you try doing a cost analysis across the two sets of rules.  However, I wanted something that offered that sort of RP opportunity to my players – so I combined the two and simplified them.  However, rather than treating the m as two separate systems, I have rolled them into one – but all very much ‘Standing on the Shoulders’ of those who have gone before.

There is a fairly simple core mechanic that calculates income and allows businesses to grow, but which discourages characters from cashing their businesses in.  You can build Noble estates (which can be turned into Kingdoms), businesses or organizations.  A Cleric can build their own churches and religious orders, Merchant Houses can flourish and you can even set up charitable or community organizations.  The complexity varies, most things are easy to run –  but Merchant Houses and Noble Estates need planning, thought and some effort.

Most importantly, growth depends on RP between characters, if you want to build a new shop, you need to negotiate with the land owner.  All very simple and straightforward –  BUT it encourages conversations between characters, and that is the basis of Role Playing 🙂

The rules are still being developed – and they are growing all the time as player think of new ways to use the rules. You can find the current rules set here although a newer, streamlined, system is under development here.