Neverwinter Nights

I have never been much of a computer gamer, but I have played a few. The first one was nearly 50 years ago – it was a co-op Star Trek simulator, that needed a few million pounds worth of mainframe to run – and provided overnight entertainment during the quiet parts of the graveyard shift. After that very little appealed to me until Age of Empires – another game that could be played cooperatively. There were a couple of others, but the next big one was Neverwinter Nights. Not so much the game itself, but the other stuff that came with it.

It was the first part of the game, that you could play cooperatively, that got me hooked. My wife and I played it together. Later, Co-op play was phased out of the official game in favour of ‘personalised immersive cut-scenes’ – and I don’t think I ever finished the official game. However, it came with a tool set that allowed you to start building your own worlds – and that fascinated me. Computing and D&D all together in one package – what more could a man want?

Within a few months I was taken on as a DM/Builder by a game called Champions of Vydor, owned by a guy called Prince Wally – OK that wasn’t his proper name, but it was the name he went by. Like all the Developers I wrote some adventure areas, and even roped in my wife and son to work with me. Together we built the graveyard/cemetery in Vydor as a cooperative project. I think my son was about 14 at the time – and I taught him the basics of scripting using the conversation editor and Aurora tool-set that comes with NWN.

We also built, and ran, a Dwarves Guild as a family. All Dwarves were welcome and once every couple of weeks we would go out on a guild run. Rather than a small party of around about the same level – every player on the server was invited to bring a Dwarf character (of any level) and we would go blatt things the Dwarven way. There were lots of Dwarven Defenders, Paladins and other combat classes, backed up by the occasional cleric – but there were no real casters, and we would just swarm everything that we came across. It was brilliant fun.

But my main role was to write social systems for the server. I don’t think Prince Wally was expecting that when he took me on – but he certainly saw it as a bonus. One set of scripts changed characters alignments – steal stuff or smuggle drugs you become more chaotic, Kill innocents you move to evil etc. There were other actions that moved you towards Lawful or Good and the whole thing became an RP rules subset, where you picked up alignment changes according to your behaviour. Another set of scripts dealt with titles. You could pick up a knighthood, or various other titles, by carrying out quests and spending money. Then all the NPCs started calling you by rank and title whenever you spoke to them. There were other, less public, effects as well.

Probably the death system was the most widely used. Rather than charging a fixed amount of gold and XP to respawn, I made death into a small adventure. So long as you had made an offering to the death god, you were allowed to run back to life along the Paths of the Dead. Disembodied spirits would try to steal some of your life (xp) and coins for the boatman (gp) from you as you ran. The only problem was that there were four different areas, and they all looked exactly the same – but each had a slightly different solutions. It became a bit of a fun, and added a bit of extra challenge to the game.

Then they got rid of NWN and replaced it with NWN II – which wasn’t anywhere near as good – and the whole scene died away fairly quickly. Until recently, when Beamdog released a ‘remastered’ version of the original NWN. It runs on Win 10, and other operating systems, it only cost me £15 on steam, and I get updates automatically. Win/Win.

However, I am not particularly impressed by the persistent game worlds that are out there – but then both my wife and I are very particular about where we play. Recently we have been playing on a world called Blackstone Keep, although I think we are coming towards the end of our time there. But, we are still there looking around, and we might yet find a few more areas to keep us amused. If not, I am sure we will find somewhere else to play for a while.

But, as you might have guessed, I have started build a new Persistent World of my own. At the moment I have the basic persistence scripted, a world plan and a few dozen areas. I have almost finished a new script-set, that automates basic boss encounters, and when I add that characters will be able to progress to level five or six! Yeah, I know that isn’t very high, but gives me the base to build the rest of the world on.

The next phase will bring in my ‘alignment changing’ script set, a simple point-to-point teleportation system, and a few more encounter areas! I’m looking forward to it.


Just as an aside – if any of you play NWN, let me know and maybe we can get together on a PW at some point. Or, just as importantly, if you want to help build the world, I would be happy to hear from you. Scripters, adventure developers, story editors are all welcome.

Before long I will be hosting the world publicly on a home server, but if it gets big enough (and good enough) I will probably pay for it to be hosted professionally. That woul be nice 🙂

The Birthday Game

This weekend was our annual Birthday Game, a weekend of gaming that serves as Ari’s (my wife0 birthday party and my birthday present to her. We start Friday evening and play five sessions of three to four hours, which means we normally finish around bout lunch-time on Sunday. When we started we experimented with players and numbers, but a few years ago settled on a group consisting of Ian (my son), Cristian and Swampy (A couple of friends I have known for years), Greg and Leighton (friends we met at a TT group local a few years ago). Ages range from 20s to 60s, but we all get on really well together – and they are all experienced players with an eye for some low level teasing and a bit of fun. The party consists of:-

  • Fern – a half-elven Ranger with connections (Ari)
  • Cal – a dwarf Rogue with aggressive tendencies (Ian)
  • Seamus – a mithral clad Paladin (Cris)
  • Marvello – an aristocratic Mystic Theurge (Swampy)
  • Mulog – an eccentric Druid with an unhealthy interest in frogs (Greg)
  • Stonewall – a half-orc Barbarian-Oracle (Leighton)

The weekend always starts in the same way – bowl of home-made stew, character updating and a fairly straightforward game session that lets everyone get into their characters. Then probably a bottle of port, or two as we reminisce before bed. Saturday starts with plates of bacon sandwiches, and three playing sessions separated by breaks for lunch and dinner – from the local take-away. Oh, and more port to round the evening out… Sunday is more bacon sandwiches, before the last session (the climax of the adventure) and finishes at about lunchtime so everyone can get home at a sensible time.

The campaign is based around a series of old AD&D 1e adventures that have been stitched together to make a short campaign. This year’s scenario was called The Ghost Tower of Inverness, which was originally used as a tournament dungeon back in 1979.  TSR added a few extra encounters when the released it as a module and I added a few more to help bring it up-to-date and make sure everyone was kept on their toes.  The concept is fairly straightforward, as you would expect from a tournament dungeon, with four dungeon tunnels for the party to explore.  In each they need to find part of a key.  Once they have all four parts, they can enter the Ghost Tower and fight their way to the artefact that they were sent to recover. All very straightforward – except that it was a powerful wizard’s tower and the whole place is defended by magical traps and summonses.

The leg they chose to explore first included an Aurumvorax trapped in an advanced Sepia Snake Sigil, a manticore and an old-fashioned rolling-ball illusion. None of which really caused them any problems 🙂

The second leg had a room that summoned random monsters, a room with animating statues of Bugbears and a corridor protected by Swarm of Fangs spells. The random monsters were fairly easy, and they worked out the trigger for the bugbear statues quickly – however, the Fangs caught them unawares, and they only survived but running away and closing a door behind them *Evil DM Grin*

The third leg proved the most interesting with a variety of interesting encounters. There was bead curtain they needed to force their way through – that promptly summoned a group of monsters everytime they passed through and a series of rooms (going nowhere) whose doors all slammed and, locked as soon as the party were spread out, it became a race against time as the party tried to unlock or force all of the doord before their air ran out. It also contained a variant of the Chess Board trap, where they take damage if the step on the wrong square, but the squares were coloured differently and they never quite wored it out. The last one was an Invisible Stalker that attacked the party in a corridor and they lost their mage before they managed to defeat it. Fortunately they had a Raise Dead scroll, but they had a mage with reduced abilities for the rest of the module.

The fourth leg started with a crystal ball that summoned monsters – and they had to slay four of them before the door would open. There were a couple of Ice Toads and a Minotaur before they got the Siege Owlbear, which gave them a bit more of a problem. That was followed by an Umber Hulk that caused confusion amongst the party, and left them fighting each other, even after the monster had been defeated. The last encounter on this leg was a (somewhat tweaked) Cutlass Spider with many attacks per round but minimal defences. After along discussion they chose to fight it out, sword to sword – which was amusing for me *Evil DN Grin* as the Ranger , much to her surprise, got seriously hurt. Still, they finished up winning a couple of magical weapons from the combat.

Then it was on to the upper levels. The first four were based on the elements. An Air room, filled with mist, a Wyvern and a handful of flying dinosaurs! Only able to see10′ and under attack, the party soon split up but used signal whistles to bring themselves back together again. Then they fought their way up a spiral staircase (iron with open sides) to ….

The earth level full of trees and thick undergrowth where, apart from the Druid, they were forced to follow the paths. After dealing with some over-muscled monkeys, they found a medusa. While they killed her rather quickly, their rogue was petrified – and they didn’t have a Stone to Flesh spell between them. However, Stonewall (the Barbarian-Oracle) call on his ancestors (who normally plague him terribly) and they provided a recipe that might work. All of their Keoghtom’s Ointment, mixed up with medusa blood, medusa snake venom, and ash – to be smeared all over the petrified dwarf, as each party member cast a (carefully selected) spell. The mixture worked, although the Rogue had a -5 penalty to dex, from calcified joints. As a DM, it seemed a fair price – reduced spell casting ability for each character and all of their Keoghtom’s Ointment in exchange for an impaired rogue.

Next was a fire level, that had a path leading across a lake of flames – with a Fire Giant standing at the other end lobbing boulders. Most of the party were distracted by some Fire Flies (think Fire Bat type creatures – but I have some model flies of the right size) while the rogue and paladin went to deal with the Fire Giant. However, they discovered the Reverse Gravity trap that was actually the entrance to the next level instead. Buy this time the barbarian was trying to climb around the walls to get to the Fire Giant and no-one was quite sure what to do with the reverse gravity area. So the paladin went to face the Giant down, but was reduced to negative HP in a couple of rounds – something that we, in this house, call an ‘Oh shit’ moment. Cue the druid, wild shaped into an Air Elemental, going to rescue both the paladin and the barbarian – then shepherding everyone to the reverse gravity area – which was the route to the next level.

The Water level was under a Reverse Gravity spell, so the water was on the ‘ceiling’ and the door to the next level was somewhere under the water. The problem was the massive prehistoric fish, who swam in this small sea. Amusingly, the rogue managed to keep it at bay by throwing coconuts (there was a classic desert island in the middle of this sea). He even managed a confirmed crit by rolling two 20s in a row 🙂 However, the fish managed to get hold of the barbarian and swallowed him whole. This led to an encounter with the paladin riding the druid’s animal companion (a large frog) as it swam into battle – he was supported by air-elemental druid and the barbarian cutting himself out. TBH, the frog riding paladin probably didn’t conform to the rules – but it was fun, and they would have got the fish anyway 😛

The last level was nasty – the artefact in the centre of the room, protected by a force field – and randomly shining a Death Ray around the room. I did say it was originally a 1st Ed tournament dungeon, didn’t I? There was a Will save against the death ray, and the poor, hard done by, rogue managed to fail his. The party saw his ecotoplasmic spirit dragged into the gem and were left with a white-bleached corpse and its white-bleached equipment – the crystal had sucked the life and magic out of everything!

However, they grabbed the crystal, which signalled the end of the module, and they managed to get home safely. Their patron paid for the rogue’s spirit to be released from the crystal, as well as the Restoration spells needed to fetch everyone back to normal (ready for next year’s adventure). However, he didn’t replace the items lost by the dwarf, but the party all donated their share of the loot to replace it, although they kept the reward their patron gave them. Their feeling was that it would be a good thing to have an effective rogue for next year’s adventure – and I suspect they are right!

For now, they have all retired to their homes. Mulog is back in his swamp, trying to breed an Octo-Frog – so that all members of the family can have a leg at dinner. Marvello is developing the school in his town to teach Knowledge skills (particularly Magic and Religion) because the current generation of peasants are boring and can’t hold a decent conversation. Seamus is building a sword school in his village and a shrine to Iomedae in his keep. Cal is still working on his underground home, and has opened his palisaded keep up to hunters and trappers in an attempt to increase the size of his settlement. He is still looking for a way to turn it into a smuggling route, but he hasn’t yet found anything in the mountains that is worth smuggling. Stonewall is trying to develop his defences further, as he is worried about giants invading, while Fern is still thinking of ways she can develop her wilderness holdings.

Am I looking forward to next year? You bet I am. Are the players? Well they asked if I would run two a year, so I guess so 🙂 Either way, roll on ‘Dark Clouds Gather’ – the next module in the campaign

Warriors

So far, I have blogged on commoners and experts and now it is the turn of the Warrior!  While commoners are a fantasy world’s labourers, and experts provide specialist skills – warriors are security.  They may well turn into an army during mass combat, but most of the time you use them as city watch, scouts or mercenaries. 

While experts often get their training from family members, military training is the easy to come by.  Towns, cities, militias, armies and even mercenary units are always looking for new recruits and they will take just about anyone who can show some basic aptitude – so there are always a few around when you need them. 

Most of my warriors are built with a standard NPC template (12,12,12,12,12,12) which gives a skill modifier of +1 in all areas, they get one trait, although if I have a warrior who will play a significant role in the game, s/he has their own character sheet and is designed as a ten point build.  Like many of my other NPCs, trained warriors are generally L3 – which means a small patrol is tough enough to deal with most other NPCs and minor countryside threats.  Larger patrols get dispatched to deal with tougher threats, if they are needed.

I use three standard builds.

City Guards

City guards are a visual deterrent to bad behaviour, some walk the streets, others guard the gates and more patrol the walls.  However, they should be visible enough that PC (and the NPCs)  know they are around.  My guards are able to trip people up, if it helps to take offenders into custody however, they will use force if need be and aren’t averse to taking a PC into negative hit-points should it be required.

  • Warrior L3
  • Initiative: +1 Perception +6, Sense Motive +6
  • AC: 15 HP: 30 (3d+9)
  • Fort +4: Ref 1: Will +3
  • Melee: Halberd +4 (d10+1 x3) Brace; Trip| Dagger +4 (d4+1 19-20 x2)
  • Ranged: LXB +4 (d8 19-20 x2) Range 20 | Dagger +4 (d4+1 19-20 x2) Range 10
  •  
  • Str:12, Dex:12, Con:12, Wis:12, Int:12, Cha:12 (+1 bonus all abilities)
  • Feats: L1: Toughness (+3hp) , Race: Iron Will (Will save +2), L3 Additional Traits (Suspicious, Eyes & ears of the City)
  • Skills: Climb +3 (+5), Diplomacy +4, Intimidate +5, Perception +7, Profession(Soldier) +5, Sense Motive +7, Swim +3 (+5) | (in brackets – without AC Penalty),
  • Favoured Class: HPx3
  •  
  • Gear: Chain Shirt, Halberd, LXB, Dagger, Signal Whistle.

Scouts

Scouts patrol roads, villages, and  keep an eye any wilderness and are configured for that role.  While they aren’t rangers, they work well in the countryside and can survive, fairly easily, away from home. While they deal with small incursions, their main role is to keep their area safe and make sure that any incursion or risks are reported back. They are set up as missile troops, have survival and stealth skills, but aren’t particularly diplomatic.

  • Warrior L3
  • Initiative: +1 Perception: +6
  • AC: 14 HP: 30 (3d+9)
  • Fort +4: Ref 1: Will +3
  • Melee: Machete +4 (d6+1 19-20 x2) | Dagger +3 (d4+1 19-20 x2)
  • Ranged: Shortbow +4 (d8 20 x3) Range 60 | Dagger +3 (d4+1 19-20 x2) Range 10
  •  
  • Str:12, Dex:12, Con:12, Wis:12, Int:12, Cha:12 (+1 bonus all abilities)
  • Feats: L1: Toughness (+3hp) , Race: Iron Will (Will save +2), L3 Additional Traits (Militia veteran (Survival), Eyes & ears of the City)
  • Skills: Climb +5 (+6), Intimidate +5, Perception +7, Profession(Soldier) +5, Ride +5 (+6), Survival +7, Swim +5 (+6) | (in brackets – without AC Penalty),
  • Favoured Class: HPx3
  •  
  • Gear: Studded Leather, Short Bow, Machete, Dagger

Mercenaries

Mercenaries fit in just about everywhere else, rather than working for the state (city, kingdom etc) they work for individuals.  You might find then riding with a caravan, accompanying a noble, or even guarding a shop somewhere, some will be in regular employment, others take short contracts.  They are the generalists and can turn their hand to anything.

  • Warrior L3
  • Initiative: +1 Perception:
  • AC: 15 HP: 30 (3d10+9)
  • Fort +4: Ref 1: Will +3
  • Melee: Short Sword +5 (d6+1 19-20/x2) | Dagger +4 (d4+1 19-20 x2)
  • Ranged: LXB +4 (d8 19-20 x2) Range 80 | Dagger +4 (d4+1 19-20 x2) Range 10
  •  
  • Str:12, Dex:12, Con:12, Wis:12, Int:12, Cha:12 (+1 bonus all abilities)
  • Feats: L1: Toughness (+3hp) , Race: Iron Will (Will save +2), L3 Weapon Focus (Short Sword)
  • Skills: Profession(Soldier) +6, Intimidate +6, Climb+6, Swim +6, Ride +6, Diplomacy +2, Sense Motive +2
  • Favoured Class: HPx3
  • Gear: Studded leather, Light Shield (wooden) Short Sword, Dagger, Light Crossbow.

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.

Music & Dancing (2)

In Part 1 of this double post on Music and Dance, I looked at music in a fantasy setting, however I wasn’t very innovative, and played on stereotypes that have been established in FRPGs and literature.  That is because I like my game worlds to feel familiar to players, I like the game background to exist in the background, familiar and consistent, to give the players things to build on and work with as they concentrate on the game I set out before them.  If I do it properly, it should make it easy for players to add little bits of RP flavour to their game play, rather than RP being something that requires a lot of effort.  It should facilitate RP for all the players, rather than just those who like to build heavy RP into their game.

In short, we finished up with Elves liking long complex pieces of music, Gnomes with complex and avant-garde instruments and musical styles, while dwarves are into brass bands, marches and Oompah bands.  Halflings and half-humans fit in the local culture they grow up in – but Half-Orcs have a penchant for drums and chants, while Halflings tend to use small and discreet instruments.  However, it is important to remember that is just the ‘average’ position and that most NPCs from those races will follow those trends.  Certainly not all of them, and players should not feel that that their characters should be constrained by them.  It is just what they are most likely to have encountered in a traditional setting.

Most importantly, I am always happy to work with players to tweak bits of my game background to suit their needs.  Those tweaks might just relate to a specific area that the PC can use for their personal background, although it might develop into something game affecting.  While it doesn’t deal with music or dance (yet),  the Duchy of Stonewall, started out as a single player tweak and has been developed as four or five players designed their characters.  The way it has developed could affect the outcome of a war,  later in the game.

Anyway back to the matter in hand – and this is where it starts to get more specific to my current game world.  The world is very human centric with a fair few half-humans and Halflings scattered about, Dwarves are fairly common but Gnomes and full Elves are infrequent.  Certainly among the NPCs.  I am using the AD&DII Complete Bard’s Handbook as guide to instrument costs – there was some excellent supplemental information in that series of books. Books from that series are available on DriveThruRPG in a PDF format.

Folk Music and Dance

This is the music of the ‘common people’, hobbyists rather than professional musicians.  In game terms, the people playing (or dancing to) this sort of music have probably only put one or two skill points into perform and don’t make a living from it.  The majority of them (Commoner is the most common NPC class, by a long way) don’t have much money and can only afford cheap instruments.  You are likely to hear it casually, in bars that don’t specialize in entertainment, or when every-day people throw home parties.

Tunes are simple to reflect low skill levels and basic instruments and musical groups are quite small with two, three or four musicians.  Songs tend to be straightforward, without backing or harmony parts, and are often sung by a single person – or the group all singing the same vocal part together.  Crowd accessible choruses are a feature of many of the songs.  I tend to imagine this music played on penny whistles or recorders, accompanied by a simple drum or tambourine and, perhaps, a single stringed instrument.  I know this is difficult to accept in the modern age, but stringed instruments are difficult to make and were one of the more expensive types of instrument, so they are less accessible to the NPC classes.  Any NPC with a stringed instrument is likely to treasure it and may have aspirations to become a professional musician.  You can add in colour with a Halfling playing an ocarina, a Half-Orc with a rhythm block or a gnome playing the spoons.  Wash-tub bass, Pan Pipes, Maracas (Rattles) are other ways to add a bit of variety.

Listening music is liable to be ballad-y, with story songs about soldiers going to war, country life and young women either pining or getting into trouble.  Very traditional Folk or Country & Western style to keep it cheesy, stereo-typical and familiar.  Dancing follows the same pattern with jigs, reels and other lively foot stomping songs.  There might even be clog dancers …

Semi-Formal Music and Dance.

This is the type of music you find played in dance-halls or bars that think of themselves as ‘Music Venues’ – in my game world that is places like The Golden Flute or the Palace of Dance in Restov and The Dragons Den in Tusk.  This is played by professional, or semi-professional, NPC musicians – although they are liable to be experts, rather than bards.  They have higher skill levels that ‘folk’ musicians, can afford more expensive instrument and tend to play in larger ensembles.  However, much of the music they play is similar in style to the every-day music of the region –  just a bit more complex and better executed.

The performers might have flutes, violins, lutes, mandolins, brass instruments and more sophisticated (and louder) drums.  Songs and tunes are more complex than the stripped down versions played by folk musicians, and are intended to entertain larger groups of people.

When it comes to dance venues think of Ceilidhs and Barn Dances, with set dances and a caller to help people get through the steps – most people will have only put one or two skill points into dance.   Modern ballroom dancing didn’t really become a real thing until the 19th century, and styles such as Jive and Rock & Roll are later still.  That doesn’t mean there is no scope for ‘personal’ dances around the side of the set dance – just that the majority of NPCs are all dancing one formal dance together.

In my game world, The Mountain Toast in Restov is a Dwarf themed bar, and is more likely to have a specialist Dwarf Brass Band playing Oompah style music.  However, the concept for both the music, and any late night dancing, is the same as above.

Formal Music and Dance

This is the music of the nobility, and is likely only performed in noble estates and palaces, by professional musicians.  The majority of the NPC performers will be experienced Expert Musicians, possibly led by an NPC bard or two, only the very wealthiest of nobles can afford an orchestra containing all bards.  Most noble estates won’t have a full sized ball room, but they may well have a dedicated music room, which will probably be used for recitals and small dances.  These nobles probably keep a small orchestra of half a dozen musicians, who are versed in the most sophisticated tunes and music, possibly based around a piano or other keyboard instrument – think chamber music with a bit of extra spice. 

Those nobles lucky enough to have a multi-use hall, might well have a larger orchestra, perhaps a couple of dozen musicians, with a larger range of instruments that are capable of playing music loud enough to fill the whole hall.  Remember that the modern day electric amp hasn’t yet been invented, and that any form of magical amplification is liable to be expensive.   The wealthiest of nobles might keep a larger orchestra, perhaps up to sixty or seventy musicians, capable of regularly willing the ballroom with good quality dancing music.  

In larger orchestras instruments are duplicated, one of the reasons a modern orchestra has a whole section of violins playing the same part of the tune, so they are loud enough to be heard across a crowded ball room.  As there are often two violin parts in modern symphony music, so modern orchestras have two sets of violinists, playing separate parts – not to mention all the other string sections that go to make up a full orchestra!

For smaller ensembles pianos (they are expensive but loud) are often the central instrument, supported by a few strings, wood wind and maybe a brass instrument or two – they may not have a percussion  instrument as a double base or a large brass horn (perhaps a Tuba) can act as a rhythm section, if required.

Larger orchestras are liable to be supported by timpani, or other large drums and may well have sophisticated rhythm sections with large glockenspiels, or metallophones, as well.  Think symphony or philharmonic orchestra, with a tendency to ‘jazz it up’ occasionally.  When you describe the orchestra throw in a mixture of instruments – Violins, Double Bass, Trumpets, Trombones etc playing in groups to get the volume.  It is, however, probably better to stay away from Lutes, Guitars and other plucked instruments – as you start to lose the ‘feel’ of an orchestra.

Dancing is very formal, with set dances such as formalized minuets, quatrains, quadrilles and marches.  You don’t need to describe the dances, just that they are formally regimented, performed as a group and have set steps.  Think very stately and courtly with a bit of formal Scottish dancing thrown in for good measure. 

However, the nobility has always had multicultural tendencies – after all they socialize more with nobles from neighbouring countries than they do with the common folk labouring in their own estates.  So throw in a formal Dwarven March (featuring the brass section of the orchestra) followed by the Elvish Quadrille (featuring the string section).  But once the senior nobles have retired, and leave the Young Bucks (and their female equivalent) in charge – the party is likely to hot up a bit.


Note 1:  All nobles, and anyone with Knowledge(Nobility) or Perform(Dance), knows the steps to a few of the formal dances – clearly the higher the skill score, the more dances they know.  This doesn’t mean that they dance them well or gracefully – just that they can follow them through without making a fool of themselves.  As always, the quality of an individual’s dancing performance relies on their Dex or Perform Dance skills.

Note 2:  I know I have mixed up a number of styles and periods in this piece –  but (IMO) it gives a historical feeling to the game world setting – but still keeps large chunks of it familiar to the majority of players.

Music & Dancing (1)

Ach.  I have been doing all of these serious posts, and I have a more planned in the sequence.  And I should really be writing up the Down Time rules, but ….. SQUIRREL!  Here in the UK it is Proms season, for those of you who don’t know, The Proms are an annual series of classical music concerts, many of which are performed at The Royal Albert Hall and shown live on national television.  I am not a great fan of classical music, but every so often I see a concert that appeals to me.  This year it was Warner Brothers film scores and scores from Sci Fi films – all played by full symphony orchestras.  And that got me started thinking about music in fantasy worlds, and that lead to dance in fantasy worlds, and ….  SQUIRREL!

However, it turned out to be a bigger project than I thought. So expect Part 2 later – as I think about dance 🙂

Suddenly, I was wondering what sort of music I would hear at a grand ball or in a dwarf bar – and at all points between.  What sort of music would people be dancing to?  How would they be dancing?  I wrote a piece on this some time ago, but things have moved on and it was time for a rethink.

To start with, the world I run my games in has changed.  Back then, I was running D&DII in a bespoke world, now I am running Pathfinder in Golarion (slightly modified) and that is a big change.  Paizo have re-imagined the history of the races and changed their backgrounds.  Elves left the world to avoid a cataclysm and didn’t return for many years.  Gnomes become exiled members of the First World who have a reputation for obsessiveness and flamboyance.  Dwarves lived underground but fought their way to the surface, while Halflings have become mini humans with little to distinguish them culturally. Humans rule the civilised world and the various races have few (if any) cultural centres.

Half-Elves and Half-Orcs are just as popular as ever 🙂

All of that said, this will only be an overview with broad cultural guidelines – it isn’t meant to be prescriptive or tie PCs down.  I also like my world to be recognisable –  so I tend to use a lot of stereotypes and traditional interpretations.   This just documents and formalises them so I remember them all next time around.

Elves

Tolkein, and Bilbo in particular, spoiled me for elves – so  elves live for a long time and can spend years creating complex and sophisticated art.  Formal performance music probably entails a small orchestra playing masterwork instruments with complex interplay between them.  Music for the people, in my mind, probably consists of a single musician playing an instrument and singing a complex ballad.  The Forlorn, Elves brought up in non-elven cultures, have been cut off from their mainstream culture, and have a limited understanding of the nuances in a full eleven piece – and probably recognise that short coming. Unfortunately, Humans (and other races) can only appreciate an even smaller fraction of the subtle complexity. 

Dances, both formal and informal, are liable to include a series of intricate forms, performed precisely and accurately – with minor changes of posture having great symbolic and emotional meaning. 

In game terms:  If you meet a travelling elven bard –  they will probably be singing sophisticated ballads and accompany themselves on (perhaps) a lute or mandolin.  While they appreciate the attention, they probably smile sadly at how much of their performance went unnoticed.

Gnomes

Golarion gnomes are both flamboyant, obsessive, have a penchant for inventing things that are over complicated.  Formal gnome music, if there is such a thing, is liable to be experimental music played on weird and wonderful instruments making weird and wonderful sounds.  There are no (known) formal dances, but there are performance artists specialised in different dance styles.  Informal dancing is very individualistic and does not follow any set pattern.  It probably includes the worst elements of 60’s hippy dancing crossed with a good helping of dad dancing.

In game terms: If you should enter a tavern in a Gnome run town – you may well find a bard of a different race (probably Halfling) providing the entertainment.  If you should ever come across a travelling Gnome musician – they will probably have some sort of weird home-brewed musical instrument.  Examples might include an accordion fitted with the drones from a set of bagpipes or some sort of small, mouth blown keyboard instrument (such as a Melodica) with bird calls built in.  And who knows what they might be playing!

Dwarves

I got Dwarves right first time around. J  Their mining and metal working skills mean metal instruments, Pratchett’s Glod means horns and the traditional dwarf with a Germanic accent means Oompah bands.  So horns of all types (Trumpets, Euphonium, Tuba, Sousaphone, etc) and drums – ranging from the largest Timpani down to smaller metal-bowled bass and snare-like drums – other instruments might include the glockenspiel and metallophones.

For music think Marching bands and Oompah bands!  Formal dancing involves participants parading in lines or sets, and are carried out at a walking/marching pace, they are known, appropriately enough, as Marches.  Dancing to the Oompah style often happens later in the evening (after a fair number of drinks have been consumed)  and involves a lot of thigh slapping as well as dancing.  These dances are known collectively as Polkas.  NOTE – check YouTube for Traditional Polkas.

In game terms:  If you are in a Dwarf Bar the entertainment is liable to be something like a brass three piece in the corner playing rowdy drinking music, that might well lead into some raucous Polka music later. Quieter ‘folk’ type music is liable to feature a singer accompanied by someone picking out a simple tune on a small glockenspiel. If you should come across a Dwarf bard they are probably skilled in both horn and percussion.

Halflings

In Golarion halflings are low profile member of human communities, often slaves or in service roles, who get ‘wander lust’ as they are growing up.  However, they have a rich heritage of racial stories and heroes that few ‘big folk’ have ever been aware of.  Which all points to small, portable and quiet – but from all over the place.  So instruments such as the harmonica, penny whistle/recorder, mouth harp, pan pipes, rattles, bones, and tambourines are popular.

Halflings have an eclectic mix of dance and music styles, as experienced through their ‘wander lust’ years, but normally settle down to the style associated with the area they finally settle in.  However, it is said that there are a few simple songs and rhymes, that tell of halfling racial heroes, that are passed down from parent to child, as the child grows up.

In game terms:  Most Halfling musicians and story tellers go along with the local style and tunes, although they often have a large repertoire of different types of music they can call on if they need to.  Even if you come across a wandering Halfling Musician, they are liable to try and take a less significant role in a musical ensemble – even if they are the harmonica or recorder player in town.

Half-Humans

Half-Humans, haven’t really changed much and tend to follow the culture that they were brought up in although, traditionally, they feel as if they are outsiders.  They don’t have racial cultural centres of their own.

Nothing new or out of the ordinary is noted for half-elves.  However, they are seen as extremely versatile and half-elf musicians and dancers soak up whatever the local culture is.

Half-Orcs, in Golarion, are noted for being impetuous and impatient as well as having an innately savage nature.  I tend to interpret this as a preference for (typically orcish) drums, chants and shuffling/stompy war dances.  (Yeah, I know it is stereotypical).

In game terms: Most half-orc musicians you meet will be percussionists, and they  aren’t natural dancers. Half-Elf musicians could be playing any sort of musical instrument and just about any style of music.

Humans

Humans are incredibly populous, they are very versatile and come from a number of different cultures and backgrounds.  They play many different types of musical instrument, and different types of music. In the next post, I’ll look at the styles most associated with my Midmarch game setting.

Alignment

Recently I have been discussing alignment with one of my players – so I thought it would be a good time to look at it in a bit more depth.  I know alignment has gone out of fashion as a role-playing tool, but I tend think that it just means players aren’t using properly.

As I go through life and meet real people – I can see that nearly all of them have a recognizable alignment.  There are people who like to have rules and structures to follow, while others have moments of absolute genius that appear to come out of nowhere and work much better without strict regulation.  Some people book their holidays a long way in advance, know exactly where they are going, and often go to exactly the same place. But there are others who are more spontaneous and leave it to the last minute, take whatever is available, and make it all work out really well.  I have worked with some mean people, there have been selfish or inconsiderate people and bullies.  But there have been others who are always kind, considerate and go out of their way to help everyone they interact with.  There are other people, of course, who behave differently in different circumstances.

It is easy to interpret: Structured > Lawful; Spontaneous > Chaotic; Considerate > Good; Mean > Evil – with those who I can’t categorize as True Neutral.  Of course these are watered down version of alignment, but then very few characters are strongly aligned in D&D style games either.  Take Pathfinder – unless a character is a cleric (or an equivalent class) they have no alignment aura until level five and even at L-20 they only have a Moderate alignment aura.  By contrast, a cleric has an Overwhelming alignment aura at level eleven.

In a long-running campaign game, the last thing I want is strongly aligned characters.  In a one off, or short game, it doesn’t matter if characters fall out or screw up each other’s plans – and sometimes it can be fun.  In a campaign game, however, I want characters that work together in ways that don’t irritate their players.  There is nothing worse than a chaotic who screws up every single plan the party makes –  or the extreme lawful character who can’t ever countenance any other character ‘bending’ a law.  Every player has the right to play their character with being constantly thwarted by someone else – if you can’t play the character you envisioned, the game stops being fun and you leave.

However, I tend to still see alignment much as we did back in the old AD&D days, with lots of overlap between the main alignments.  On the diagram below you can stray quite a lot, for example a character with a Lawful Neutral alignment could be in LN, LN(G) or LN(E) but a Lawful Evil character could be in LE, LN(E) or NE(L).  Even then, there aren’t big rules penalties for changing alignment – but there might be social consequences.

I should point out that I don’t allow evil alignments in my games.  I like running games for good aligned parties of heroes – so those are the characters I invite to join my games 🙂

Commoners

It feels like a long time since I have posted on here, although it is really only a couple of weeks. Since that last post I have re-enacted an English Civil War Battle, been on a Bee Keeping Experience and spent a few days at a music festival! But life is getting back to normal – so another post about NPCs, and this time it is Commoners.

Commoners are the bedrock of a D20 society and make up over half of the NPCs in my games worlds. They provide all the unskilled labour that makes the economy work, and they are everywhere. Typically, you will find commoners working on farms, cutting trees, unloading ships, carrying goods around, cleaning out the stables, acting as servants, working behind a bar, working in the penny store – basically any job that requires minimal training or education is work for a commoner. They are the background – they shouldn’t stand out, and they shouldn’t be memorable. They should just be there, doing what ever needs doing. Because of that, most commoners remain part of the Copper Economy.

My standard commoners have all abilities set to 11. That works out, roughly, to a 5 point build or the equivalent of average abilities (10.5), plus racial bonuses. It is easy, straight forward and means commoners don’t get ability based bonuses on Skill Rolls. If I want a commoner to be different or significant, then I build personalized character sheets for them.


Level 1 Commoners

In my world every character starts out as an L1 Commoner – or at least with the same stats as an L1 commoner. Commoner-1 represents a young person who has just attained adulthood and is ready to make their way in the world (about 15 for a human). They haven’t learned anything useful, but are keen and ready to face the world. These are the guys who work for 1sp per day, doing jobs simple jobs such as cleaning, running errands, delivering messages or holding a PC’s horse OR go on to train in other classes. See my Training and Development post if you want a detailed explanation.

  • Commoner-1,   CR 1/3 ; Init +0
  • STR 11, DEX 11, CON 11, INT 11, WIS 11, CHA 11
  • Saves: Fort +2, Ref +0, Will +0
  • Defence: AC 10; HD (1d6); hp 6;
  • Offence: Club+0 (1d6); Punch +1 (1d3 non-lethal)
  • Skills:  Diplomacy +1, Perception +4, Sense Motive +1;
    (2 for level & 1 for chosen class)
  • Feats:  Endurance, Great Fortitude

They don’t have any traits, feats reflect the simplicity of their life so far, and they don’t have any saleable skills. As such they can be employed for 1sp per day to do unskilled work. They have full HP at level one (I do that with all of my NPCs) and then advance with average HP/level.

I use this basic profile for nearly all commoners regardless of race, gender, creed, background. It is close enough all the characters are all interchangeable background material, as far as the main game is concerned.


Level 2 Commoners

After a year or two, some L1 commoners retrain into a different NPC class, and follow different development paths, but the rest stay as commoners. Eventually, when they are18 or so, they gain enough experience to advance a level.

As a Commoner-2, they have learned some basic skills and can earn more than 1sp a day, if they are lucky. Some might be fortunate enough to have a regular job, such as builder’s labourer, cleaner, bar maid, stevedore or workshop assistant – it might be a part-time job, but it still provides a regular wage. However, many Commoner-2s still work on a casual basis. Sometimes they can pick up a few days semi-skilled work at other times, they might have to take unskilled work, just to keep some money coming in. In the countryside it is a bit different and many commoners are subsistence farmers or small holders – but they still need to take paid work such as farm labourer, road builder or groundsman, so they can pay taxes, rent and fees.

  • Commoner-2,   CR 1/2 ; Init +0
  • STR 11, DEX 11, CON 11, INT 11, WIS 11, CHA 11
  • Saves: Fort +2, Ref +0, Will +0
  • Defence: AC 10; HD (2d6); hp 9;
  • Offence: Club+1 (1d6); Punch +1 (1d3 non-lethal)
  • Skills:  Craft (X) +4, Diplomacy +2, Perception +4, Profession (X) +4, Sense Motive +1
  • Feats:  Endurance, Great Fortitude
  • Trait: See Below

A fairly standard progression with three extra skills added, in this case Diplomacy with generic craft and professional skills. They are all class skills, so they work they give a Skills Modifier of +4. In play, I give them what ever skill I want them to have 🙂 It might be Profession(Farmer) for a smallholder (or farm labourer) or Craft(Cloth) for someone who spins yarn or weaves cloth.

This helps me to keep skill levels consistent across a game. If a village doesn’t have a blacksmith (for example) there is might be someone who has farrier as a ‘second skill’. While they don’t do it full time, they shoe horses and do basic metal work when villagers need it. In this case, a PC might be able to get their chain mail ‘stitched’ back together, get metal spikes made, or a chain repaired. They won’t be able to find someone to make a sword – although the farrier might be able to make a club with nails in. Basically quick and simple fixes / replacements that will work OK until the PC get back to a town and get a proper fix. In reality, this is what I have been doing for years – this just formalizes it 🙂

The one big difference is that they might have a trait – but only if it fits with what I want the NPC to do. Again, this helps me to maintain consistency across the game without doing too much record keeping. Rather than recording everything separately, I just use the ‘standard’ profile with the following ‘add on’ traits.

  • Existing Traits
  • River Rat: +1 Dagger Damage and Swim+1
  • Bully: Intimidate is a class skill and Intimidate+1
  • Convincing Liar: Bluff is a class skill and Bluff+1
  • Criminal 1 : Disable Device is a class skill and Disable Device +1 (Disable Device +4)
  • Criminal 2 : Sleight of Hand is a class skill and +1 on Sleight of Hand (Sleight of Hand +4)  
  • Life of Toil: You gain a +1 trait bonus on Fortitude saves.
  • Poverty Stricken: Survival is a class skill and Survival +1 (Survival +4)
  • Suspicious: Sense Motive is a class skill and Sense Motive +1 (Sense Motive +4)    
  • Miner: Appraise is a class skill and Appraise +1  (Appraise +4)   
  • River Folk: Profession (sailor) +2 and +2 on any skill checks involving ropes
  • Smuggler: Bluff +1 and Sleight of Hand +1 :
  • New Traits
  • Military Auxiliary: Proficient with Light Crossbow & Dagger; Prof(Soldier) +1 (Military Servant / Missile Support)
  • Militia: Proficient with Spear & Darts; Prof(Soldier) +1 (P/T Reserve Soldier / Posse)
  • Watchman: Proficient with Club & Sling; Perception +1
  • Bandit: Proficient with Club & Light Crossbow; Intimidate +1
  • Poacher: Proficient with Dagger & Sling; Survival +1  (Small Game Hunting)
  • Street Guide: Knowledge Local is a class skill and Knowledge(Local)  +1  (Know(Local)  +4)    
  • House Keeper: Craft(Cooking)+1, Craft(Clothing) +1 (This could be a servant or a ‘stay at home’ husband/wife)

Level 3 Commoners

Commoner-3 represents NPCs who have grown into positions of responsibility. They are normally in their thirties and oversee other commoners, perhaps as head smallholder, senior teamster, or some other similar role. They are more perceptive, do their main job a bit better and have basic management and diplomacy skills. These are the guys who make decisions on behalf of their group and keep the commoner world working properly.

  • Commoner-3,   CR 1; Init +0
  • STR 11, DEX 11, CON 11, INT 11, WIS 11, CHA 11
  • Saves: Fort +3, Ref +1, Will +1
  • Defence: AC 10; HD (2d6); hp 13;
  • Offence: Club+1 (1d6); Punch +1 (1d3 non-lethal)
  • Skills:  Craft (X) +4, Diplomacy +3, Perception +6, Profession (X) +5, Profession (Team leader) +4, Sense Motive +3
  • Feats:  Alertness, Endurance, Great Fortitude
  • Trait: See Below

These are my get-out-of-jail-free NPCs. They are rolled out when I need an NPC with a slightly wiser head, or able to calm down situations. Most Commoner-3 NPCs are in regular work and earn enough to be right at the top of the Copper Economy or bottom of the Silver Economy. In the countryside, you will most likely find a Commoner-3 as the head of a household, and the highest level NPC in a smallholding.


Beyond Level 3

I can’t think of any commoner in my current games that are higher than L3. The last one, that I recall, was a half-orc called Helga. She was initially taken on as a crew member for the party’s boat and quickly took charge of the rest of the crew. Racial advantages, such as Intimidation and the ability to use a Great Axe, saw to that. She soon became a party favourite, took charge of shore parties and finished up with all sorts of cast-off magic items. I just checked my old files, and she progressed to Commoner-6, and possibly higher.

Guidelines, not rules 🙂 Be prepared to break them when you want to, just make sure you keep notes when you do.

Food and Cooking

Perhaps not the most important question out there, but one that I find interesting and allows me to add a bit more ‘world-flavour’ on the few occasions it comes up in-game.  Again, I am going to combine various bits of historical information in with some basic information extracted from D&D style games.

So first a quick analysis of costs of basic food types, from the various rule sets.

  • The cheapest type of food, at 1cp per pound, is wheat. I am going to assume that is for barely processed grain – and class it as covering all types of cereals. In my game world that is oats, wheat and barley as cash crops, with maize as a small-holders crop. In other words, maize is only found in the countryside.
  • Most vegetable come in at 2cp per pound, and I found turnips, beans and potatoes listed, there were others, but these three were fairly consistent. In my game world I add cabbage, onions and peas as basic vegetable crops in the same price range.
  • Flour also costs 2cp per pound, and I extend that to all simply processed grains, such as rice, oat-meal or couscous – although only oat-meal is common in my game.
  • I make common fruits just a bit more expensive at 3cp per pound. In my world that generally mean apples, as they are the only local fruit that travels well, or a few plums in season.
  • Interestingly, bread works out something like 5cp per pound/loaf, which is much higher than I remember it. However, that is probably a reasonable price, when you consider that flour costs 2cp per pound and it still needs processing to make the bread, I would use the same price for pasta and any other cereal based products.
  • That about wraps it up for food stuff that falls easily into my definition of the Copper Economy.
  • Eggs are the cheapest form of protein at about 1cp each, and will probably be the most common addition to the Copper Economy diet. However, they are likely to be mode common in the countryside or hinterlands, than in the city itself.
  • The cheapest fish works out at about 5cp per pound, although the prices in the books are all for preserved fish. Fresh fish will be a bit cheaper if you live in a smallish port that exports fish. However, it is getting closer to the Silver Economy than the Copper.
  • Cheese is much more expensive and comes in at over 2sp per pound – and is well into the Silver Economy. However, that (in part) represents the labour and processing required before it can travel.
  • Meat is also about 2sp per pound, unless you want some very dodgy street meat, and may not even be eaten every day by less well off members of the Silver Economy.
  • Fancier cuts of meat, imported vegetables or anything that requires complex preparation or cooking just slots straight into the Gold Economy.

With a list of ingredients, we only need to have a basic understanding of the cooking facilities to work out a likely menu. For this I am going to take a historically informed view that fits my setting – although I really wouldn’t want to argue it in any depth. In broad terms the kitchen stove was invented in the 18th century and became a fixture in large houses fairly soon afterwards. The stove didn’t move to smaller houses until the 19th century. Chimneys didn’t become common until the 16th century in Europe.

I interpret this as most people cook over an open fire, much as if they were cooking over a camp fire – however they have the advantage of a solid chimney and fireplace to work with. This means most people are ‘down hearth’ cooking using kettles and cauldrons suspended over the fire, or pans set on a trivet. I also decided that small fireplaces (in cheap accommodation) don’t have ovens built into the chimney breast. Larger houses, with designated kitchen staff, might well have a stove – but certainly have a selection of fires and ovens they can cook with.

Taking all that into consideration – most commoners and other members of the Copper Economy eat a lot of porridge and vegetable stew – partly because they can only really have one pot on the fire at a time. The stew is occasionally spiced up with some cheap fish, which for my game world means a portion of Mud Eel. Lunch might be a flatbread, that can be cooked in a flat pan over the fire, with an apple, or perhaps an egg to liven it up.

Most NPC class families, and other members of the Silver Economy have a fuller diet, but they are still restricted to how many things they can cook at once. They probably still eat flat breads (because they are quick) but now they can bake their own loaves, and even make simple baked desserts, such as apple pudding. Stews are still an important part of the diet, but fish stew (perhaps with a more appetizing type of fish) is fairly common and there is even meat (probably game, chicken or bacon) on the menu occasionally. Lunch might run to bread, cheese and an apple, and there might be an egg for breakfast – after you have had your porridge, of course.

At the top end of the economy, things really open up. Pot-roasts or spit roast meat, perhaps even grilled fish becomes a possibility. There is enough room on the fire to cook more than one thing at once, so vegetables and other dishes can be prepared seperately. In part, it comes down to how good the cook is and how my the Aristocrat (or PC) is prepared to spend.

When the PCs eat out, that guides what dishes are on the menu. Most places will have a vegetable stew, a fish stew and a meat stew on offer – all served up with a hunk of bread. Lower status eateries might just have a veggie stew and flat breads to offer, and if you want something different you have to go to a restaurant serving ‘good’ food.