Posts tagged ‘characters’

October 17, 2013

Setup Material

Here’s a list of stuff to help GMs run character-driven adventures, arranged by class.
If you’re playing Dungeon World, you can use these bonds instead of the normal ones. If you aren’t, you can use these bonds to create links with other PCs or important NPCs.

BARBARIAN
Bonds

  • __________ does not understand me, or my culture. I will explain myself to them, no matter how long it takes.
  • __________ got me involved in a questionable adventure and I’m having second thoughts about it now.
  • __________ has seen the lands of my home, more recently than me.
  • __________ showed me how to get high.

Questions to Ask

  • Have you brought anyone from your home with you? Who?
  • In what way is your home more beautiful than any other land you have been to?
  • Of all the other people from your homeland, who would you most like to see again and why?
  • What is the most dangerous creature that has stalked the lands of your home? Have you ever defeated one?
  • What is the strangest thing about the lands you live in now?
  • What precious thing does your homeland lack, that these lands you now roam have in abundance?
  • What protects your homeland from invaders (if anything)?
  • When did you discover your appetites?
  • Why can’t ever return to your home?

Situations to Introduce
A portly and venal merchant has come before you to offer you that which you have an appetite for, or a sure-fire way to get it. But this merchant has brought hidden assassins who spring upon you, in full view of the public. Precious spirits are spilled, braziers are dislodged, tapestries catch fire. Who’s ire have you attracted this time?

You stand before the enemy army, ready to fight their champion. But then you see your own side begin to retreat—they plan to leave you hear to fight alone! Why does the commander bear a grudge against you? Who can you call upon from your side to support you? What are the enemy troops fighting for?

BARD
Bonds

  • I told __________ all about performing inside a rich noble’s home and saw the greed in their eyes.
  • __________ helped me make some important contacts. I owe them.
  • __________ is my lover, or was, or would have been, or… it’s complicated.
  • __________ knows I have a secret map.
  • __________ started a fight while I was performing, and payback’s a bitch.
  • __________ would be an excellent subject for a ballad, if only they got into more adventures. So I’ll just help them out with that.

Questions to Ask

  • What are you running from?
  • What’s the best thing about performing for others?
  • Who trained and taught you the arts you know?
  • Why do you travel so much? Would you like to settle down, or no?

Situations to Introduce
Charlatans have been travelling from town to town, selling cursed magical items. You’ve just stumbled across their accounting ledgers, but their guards have just stumbled across you. Have you met them already? What did they think of you before?

For weeks now, you’ve been tracking a band of thieves who have stolen a fantastic artifact that falls right inside your area of expertise. And they’ve just ambushed you. That must mean you’re getting close! Where are you when it happens? What other business did you have here, that’s not related to these thieves?

The Crimson Enchantress has ensorcelled a mob to become violent. Who or what is she trying to provide a distraction for? Who wants you to prevent her plans from coming to fruition?

You’re in the middle of a brawl between the town’s two most powerful gangs. Rumour has it they want to celebrate different festivals on the same day.

CLERIC
Bonds

  • I have intervened with other priests on __________’s behalf before.
  • My deity has marked out __________ as someone important. I must help them fulfill their destiny.
  • __________ has been through hardships that would break me. They can stand against the darkness I see looming over the world.
  • __________ has worked with servants of my deity before.

Questions to Ask

  • Have you ever failed your deity? What did you do to atone?
  • How does your family feel about your calling? Is it a prestigious position, or something that is looked down upon?
  • What did you do before dedicating your life to your deity, if anything?
  • What did you do the last time a rival temple tried to move in on your territory?
  • What social restrictions are placed on the faithful here? How do you feel about this—are they voluntary restrictions, or forced upon you?

Situations to Introduce
Another follower of your deity has been performing miracles. Whispers that she is the “Chosen One” abound, but you know some of those whisperers would like nothing more than to take advantage of her youth and inexperience. Still, you don’t fully trust her. Why?

Demonic influence manifests itself upon the material plane! What’s your relationship to the person acting as conduit? What does your deity have to say about this influence?

The city’s hierophant has asked you to assist in the performance of an important ritual, involving some of the local nobles. Which of your friends and family are in attendance? What’s your history with the hierophant’s temple? Your deity reveals a nefarious plot, unfolding all around you. Which of your deity’s precepts is being violated?

You’re pursuing the kidnappers when they enter the catacombs below the city and a horde of the undead appears to block your passage. Who have they captured and what do they mean to you? What do the rumours you’ve heard say about these catacombs? What else is buried underneath this city?

DRUID
Bonds

  • Me and __________ are tracking the passage of a terrible monster through this land.
  • __________ has fought in defence of my lands before and has my respect.
  • __________ is familiar with the sickness that infects the land, which must be purged.
  • __________ seems suitably impressed by my powers and I just can’t help showing off in front of them.

Questions to Ask

  • Were you always like this, or did something change to make you one with the land?
  • What kinds of people live on or next to your lands, and what problems do they bring?
  • What problem has brought you to leave your lands and venture into unknown territory?
  • Which animal is your favourite? Why?
  • Why does the wealthiest merchant around here welcome you with open arms, every time you show up?

Situations to Introduce
All the animals of the land pass by you, fleeing en mass from the terror that lumbers forward. What do you suspect this mighty monster’s ultimate goal is? What source of magic hereabouts could be powerful enough to draw something so dangerous? Of the people you care about, which ones are closer to it than you are, and why aren’t they fleeing, like the animals are?

The city guards have let you inside the walls, but now they’re demanding the “gate tax,” which you’ve never heard of before and also seems rather exorbitant. At the same time, they just let someone in strange black robes walk right on by them, and you smell something very, very wrong underneath that cloth.

FIGHTER
Bonds

  • Me and __________ were both hired by a boss who turned on us.
  • __________ proved a worthy ally in the last war, even considering that one mistake they made.
  • __________ saw me kill someone important.
  • __________ stood up to me and got away with it. That’s how it is, I guess.

Questions to Ask

  • Do people ask to become your apprentice or squire ever? What do you say to them?
  • Did you join the war willingly, or were you drafted against your will?
  • What did you do the last time someone challenged you to a duel?
  • What happened to all those coins you used to have?
  • What kind of oaths did you swear on the day your old mentor was murdered?
  • Which enemy (or enemies) do you spend the most time fighting against? What do they threaten that you want to preserve?
  • Who wielded your signature weapon before you? Anyone?

Situations to Introduce
Assassins attack you in a crowded marketplace. Why do they want you dead? How did you defeat their leader when last you met them? Do you owe someone, or did you take something that some villain wants for their own?

The festival was in full swing, and then the iron golem appeared, intent on kidnapping shrine maidens and delivering them to the evil warlock who hides inside a local mountain. What did the warlock hire you to do, and why did you have so many misgivings? What will happen if the shrine maidens cannot finish appeasing the local spirits? Which of them do you suspect is actually in league with the warlock?

You stand between the caravan and the bandits. They have some kind of monster with them, intent on seizing some “special” cargo. Why didn’t you kill the bandit leader when you had the chance? Did you know about the risks before you joined the caravan?

PALADIN
Bonds

  • For what they have done, I have sworn to guide and protect __________.
  • I have heard of _________’s exploits and am suitably impressed.
  • __________ gave me food and shelter when I had nothing.
  • __________ obviously doesn’t trust me, and this needs to change.

Questions to Ask

  • Are you dedicated to a particular lord, deity, or social institution? Are you on a personal quest, for yourself? Why or why not?
  • Is there something particular in your past that drives you to fight the good fight? What are you looking to atone for, personally?
  • What do you think about other local authority figures? Are they using their power responsibly, or are they corrupt and venal?
  • What was your first job, and why do they want you back?
  • Why did your family send you away?

Situations to Introduce
The innkeeper’s daughter stumbles back to the inn, clutching her neck, covered in blood. She collapses, dying from a vampire’s bite. Everyone staying at the inn begins to fight. Why did you keep an eye on those fur traders? What is that monk hiding beneath his robes? Why does the nobleman bear a grudge against you? What will you do about the innkeeper’s dying daughter? What will you do about the vampire, still on the loose?

The séance just turned ugly. Which of your dead relatives do you see, standing in the darkness before you? What don’t you want them to say to you? How did the ghost-talker convince you to attend, and what kind of bargain did the two of you agree on? Why is it so important that the baroness doesn’t die during this ritual?

You’re caught in a mob of beggars and vagrants, rioting against the king’s new laws. The mob is surging towards the palace. Where were you trying to get to, originally? You see a team of thieves in the midst of the mob, using strange magic to disguise their activities.

RANGER
Bonds

  • __________ and I took down a great beast once, and paid for it dearly.
  • __________ left me in a pinch when they were supposed to come through for me.
  • __________ once talked me into guiding some halflings on the run through dangerous territory, and never thanked me properly for it.
  • __________ was once my enemy, but we’ve since reconciled.

Questions to Ask

  • What did you lose that now you seek to regain, out here in the wilderness? Who took it from you (if anyone)?
  • What monster lives around here and why do you try to avoid it?
  • What’s the most important thing about this forest, that needs to be protected, at all cost?
  • When the dwarves petition to get their lands back from the king, which side of the argument do you support? What’s your relationship with the dwarves like?
  • Where did you first meet your animal companion?

Situations to Introduce
You can see the orcs, just across the river. They have the ferryman and his family captive, and they’re chopping up his boat. The sheriff is itching to get at them. Did he tell you why? What kind of dealings have you had with these orcs before? If they enact their plan, you would benefit in some way—how?

You’ve been poking around some ruins next to the city of Tyr for a few days now, and right in front of you there’s some traders making a deal with a band of monsters. Where do you know these traders from? Do they know you’re there? How far away is the city they’re headed for (and is it Tyr)?

THIEF
Bonds

  • Me and __________ are the only survivors of a dubious adventure.
  • __________ helped me steal something really valuable from someone who is really dangerous.
  • __________ knows where I stashed some loot.
  • __________ still owes me for some stuff they were supposed to fence for me.

Questions to Ask

  • Are you part of a thieves’ guild? Why or why not?
  • How were you involved with the notorious criminal who just turned up this morning, dead in a ditch?
  • What’s the biggest score you’ve ever taken down?
  • Who’s your competition?
  • Why did you return the last thing you stole?

Situations to Introduce
A friend of yours gives you something to stash for safekeeping—something you’ve been trying to get a hold of for months. What sort of danger is your friend in? What job did you already take on in an effort to raise the money to buy this thing, and how soon do you need to complete the contract?

The room begins to fill with water and the manticore emerges from a secret doorway in the ceiling. What other traps did you find here, that haven’t been triggered yet? What were you hoping to find in this dungeon? What do you regret most about bringing the blacksmith’s only son down here with you?

You find your poison dealer dead at home, apparently by suicide. But there is something suspicious—where have you seen that faint bluish tinge before? Which two books are missing from the house’s library, and why would no one else but you notice their absence?

You’re stuck in the city jail. What did they catch you doing? The guards throw a shopkeeper in with you. From the way they talk, a wealthy merchant has bribed them because he doesn’t want to pay the shopkeep for goods delivered to his manse. A very wealthy merchant…

WIZARD
Bonds

  • __________ and I shared a mystical vision, after drinking the blood of the demon world together.
  • __________ has supplied me with forbidden tomes.
  • __________ once brought me safely through the Haunted Forest.

Questions to Ask

  • A wealthy stranger offered you a fat purse of coins to perform some kind of ritual. Who do you think they were and why did you refuse?
  • How do people treat you usually, when they know you are a wizard?
  • What did you miss out on by studying magic?
  • What magical mystery have you been yearning to solve for years now?
  • What strange vision haunts your dreams, night after night?
  • Who taught you magic, and what kind of terms are you on these days?
  • Why does your mentor want you to collect parts of rare monsters?

Situations to Introduce
An arcane tower has suddenly appeared on a nearby hilltop. The local militia broke through it’s gate only hours before your arrival and have not emerged since. Now the overseer of the Stevedore’s Guild is collecting “taxes” and the children of the town implore you to rescue their fathers from the evil-looking, magical tower. Why did you come to this town in the first place? Who do you know amongst the missing? How much do you owe the stevedores?

Finally, you arrive at the magical centre of the Great Forest, a place of power if ever there was one. But the elves have arrived here, too—hot on the heels of a monster. What can this monster offer you for your aid? Why does the leader of these elves dislike you so much? Why is the Elf Queen so interested in your arcane research?

You’re in someone else’s arcane laboratory. Why aren’t you supposed to be here? What would be most useful to you? Were there any defences you had to overcome to get in here? Who’s with you and why did you bring them?

cc-by unported 3.0

Next post is questions about fantasy races.

August 24, 2011

Awesome Characters are Not as Awesome as They Appear

In a post on his blog, Blair made a comment about his character:
“You rolled a crap set of ability scores? So did I for my Red Box Vancouver character, and that PC is one of my favorite characters; deal with it.”
The aforementioned former Colonel Kaffshyth (now the Warlock-Axer General), has the following “crap” stats: Str 9, Int 9, Wis 14, Dex 7, Con 14, Cha 7. That’s a full 18 points lower than your average “4d6 drop the lowest” AD&D or 4e character!

However, in an earlier post, Blair also crowed that while DMing he managed to “Totally beat the living shit out of badass dwarf Gamgar,” who is my character. During that adventure, Gamgar had the following stats: Str 9, Int 6, Wis 10, Dex 10, Con 14, Cha 8. Since then, he has lost an arm and a leg, and now has Dex 6 and Con 12. He is but a third-level dwarf with worse stats than Kaffshyth, and his only magical weapons are a shield that weighs nothing and a sword +1, +3 vs. undead (which proves mostly useless whenever he has to fight ghouls).

People have a tendency to think of characters who do exceptional things as having exceptional abilities. Witness Gygax’s ridiculous interpretation of Conan’s stats. Or the urge to interpret Charisma as physical attractiveness and thus the pervasive presence of females with a score of 18, from the ancient Bone Hill module to the first four issues of the more recent Fight On! magazine. And certainly the urge to play heroic fantasy heroes has created numerous techniques for generating characters with higher stats, and little or nothing in the way of flaws. Stats are a way to communicate information, so naturally, the easiest way to show how exceptional and special a character is, is to give him or her exceptionally high stats. Which neither Gamgar nor Colonel Kaffshyth have.

So why is Gamgar considered a badass? Because of what I tell people, mostly. Gamgar managed to survive his first few adventures by scamming gullible goblins, through a lucky series of reaction rolls, in spite of his low Charisma. As a Dwarf, his saving throw vs. death is a little better than 50%, which came in handy when he fell in a river wearing plate mail, and again when he released a poison cloud of gas from a jewelled skull he attempted to loot. For someone who usually only takes a single retainer into the dungeon with him, if that, he’s been pretty lucky in that department too, even if most of them have died fairly quickly—they at least kept Gamgar from dying! And yet, for all his bad-assery, he hasn’t seen much profit. In a game that says “If no one has reached the 2nd level of experience in three or four adventures, the DM should consider giving more treasure,” Gamgar has managed to survive twenty adventures, but is still only 3rd level. Partly, that’s because, although he doesn’t like to leave his companions behind, he’s not afraid to run away when he has to.

Nor is Gamgar the only bad-ass 3rd level Dwarf in the Black Peaks. Graham’s character Connor had the head of a polar bear and wielded a flaming sword, until his body was stolen by the wizard Zamzomarr. What were his stats? Str 5, Int 13, Wis 4, Dex 4, Con 13, Cha 10. The only bad-ass stat Connor had was his prodigious 22 hit points. Meanwhile, Graham managed to roll two 18s in a row for his latest character (in Dex and Con no less!), whose lowest stat is a 10. Having moved on from the worst stats in RBV history to the best, Graham’s new guy still managed to lose an eye in his first adventure, and almost died of blood loss in his second.

Meanwhile, Dalamyr the Cleric of Wisdom is the most famous character in our campaign. He’s a 5th level Cleric with the following stats: Str 12, Int 9, Wis 14, Dex 9, Con 9, Cha 8. He’s completely average (for 3d6-in-order), only 1 point better than Kaffshyth in total, and yet he’s been on hand for some of the most earth-shattering quests and witnessed some of the strangest events in the Black Peaks. Everybody talks about him and his Doomriders, despite his low Charisma.

As for Blair’s crap-statted Kaffshyth, he’s called the “Warlock-Axer” because he managed to kill a high-level wizard one-on-one. How did he do that? This warlock, suffering from a Light spell cast on his eyes and some hit point damage already, had Charmed Kaffshyth and the two were escaping from the other PCs. After seeing the warlock use Fireball on his companions, Kaffshyth managed to make a (difficult) saving throw, and shook off the Charm. The warlock had the bad luck to run away in the wrong direction, making it easy for Kaffshyth to dispatch him.

The point is, these characters are bad-ass because of the things they have done, a good deal of which have come down to sheer luck. They are not bad-ass because of their stats, and their stats do not reflect their experiences, their successes, or even necessarily the way their players have role-played them. For the most part, stats in Red Box Vancouver have been an obstacle to overcome, not a source of strength. We’ve all had characters with crap stats, and we’ve all dealt with it.

August 28, 2010

Giving Players What They Want

When we started playing B1: In Search of the Unknown, I told the players some rumours their characters had heard about the dungeon: goblin slaves, magic mortal man was not meant to mess with, a magic stone that gives you power if you eat it, stuff like that. One of the rumours was that the two guys who built the dungeon had left a giant diamond there. It was worth 100,000gp!

Nobody believed that one, of course.

When we ended one session, Dalamyr the cleric was 25xp away from leveling up. Plus, I was reading some rules in the Moldvay rulebook. And I had a thought. I decided to not be boring.

The next session, I told the players that there really was a diamond worth 100,000xp in the dungeon, for this session only. If they found it tonight, they got it. If they couldn’t, it wouldn’t be there next session.

So, they found a few big black iron doors. Instead of picking the lock, they removed one from it’s frame, and were immediately attacked by the zombie king! Amusingly, the trapped chest killed more characters than the king did, but they found the diamond he was guarding.

Pretty thrilling, right? They can all go home and retire now right?

Well, you can only go up one level per adventure. It’s still kind of like two levels, because you’re 1xp away from leveling up twice, but still. Even with I think six PCs and about the same number of retainers, there was excess experience points lost for everybody. And I didn’t have to do any accounting! Yay!

And then they couldn’t sell it either, so they didn’t get any money out of it. The town of Threshold probably doesn’t see a hundred thousand gold pieces pass through it in a week, nevermind anybody having that much and wanting to buy a diamond with it. So Marrieth the Elf ended up carrying it around and who knows what happened to her.

I mean, I thought it was pretty funny.

-Johnstone.

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