Category Archives: Campaign Management

Rules for Gobbos

A GobboMy ladyfriend is not much of an RPG person. She enjoys a leisurely evening of D&D, but mostly as a social event. She’ll interject with a bit of goofy role playing now and again, but tends to just follow along with whatever the rest of the party wants to do. I’ve had a lot of people like that in my games over the years. Folks who are there because they enjoy hanging out. Maybe they’re more into the times we get together for board games, or maybe they went along with a significant other at some point, and enjoyed the atmosphere more than they enjoyed the game. Maybe you know someone similar, and maybe if you do, this’ll help you find something enjoyable for them to do.

It started a few years back when my ladyfriend accompanied me to play in a game where I was a 14th level character. She didn’t want to deal with the hassle of creating a high level character, so we got the referee to let her play all four of the Goblins from Paizo’s “We Be Goblins” module: Rita, Mogmurch, Chuffy, and Poog. It all worked out so well that we decided to use the same plan when she joined my ORWA game. But since this is an ongoing campaign, rather than a one-shot, I decided to put a little work into getting the goblins working.

First off, to remain setting consistent, the goblins aren’t goblins. They’re infant children who fell off a babycart (literally a cart where infant children are piled up for sale) and into a puddle of mutagen. This turned them green and gave them weirdly developed bodies, despite their size. They know how to talk, and call themselves Gobbos.

Gobbos can’t die the way normal characters die. They’re not invulnerable to harm, but they react to harm like a Loony Toon character. If a rock falls on them they get flattened, pop back into shape, and then scamper off to cry and lick their wounds until the next session, when they’ll have forgotten anything bad ever happened to them.

Gobbos also don’t get any share of the treasure, or any of the commensurate experience. In fact, Gobbos can’t level up at all. Players who are running the Gobbos will never need to worry about keeping their character sheet up to date, because it’s an (almost) entirely static thing. They also don’t need to worry about how to spend their money, and the other players never get annoyed at splitting their treasure haul with a quartet of characters who don’t contribute on the same level that they do.

(Though it should be noted that Gobbos are children. Sometimes they’ll see something shiny, and insist that it be purchased for them.)

Any time the other players are getting treasure, the Gobbos are free to scrounge around for something more in line with their own interests. The player they rolls on the “Gobbo Junk” table, which can be restocked by the referee as items are discovered.

The Gobbos Find a…

  1. Really really shiny, smooth rock.
  2. Plastic frisbee.
  3. Well used catcher’s mitt.
  4. Curly blonde wig.
  5. Hula hoop.
  6. Pair of boxing gloves.
  7. Basketball.
  8. Bowling ball.
  9. Potted cactus.
  10. Steel folding chair. The kind you find in a church basement, not the kind you find in your dad’s garage.
  11. Stepladder.
  12. Jar with holes poked in the lid, and 12 beetles inside of it.
  13. Metal wastebasket with a mesh pattern.
  14. Porno magazine.
  15. Bag of disposable surgical gloves.
  16. Big bag of candy necklaces.
  17. Rubber mask of Richard Nixon.
  18. Nice-ish briefcase.
  19. Fistful of indistinct sludge.
  20. Ball of twine.
  21. Doorknob.
  22. DD bra.
  23. Box of mousetraps.
  24. Roll of duct tape.
  25. Chair leg.
  26. Banjo with only 1 string on it.
  27. Conical dunce cap.
  28. Box of letters for a marquee style signboard.
  29. Bundle of plastic 6-pack rings.
  30. Paper bag of paper bags.
  31. Plastic bag of plastic bags.
  32. Rubber boot.
  33. Flip phone with plenty of charge, but no service.
  34. Box of paper clips.
  35. RC car.
  36. Barbie doll.
  37. Roll of wrapping paper.
  38. Ceramic cookie jar shaped like a pig wearing a chef’s hat.
  39. Stretch Armstrong doll.
  40. Tiger Electronics “Home Alone 2” tape recorder.
  41. Pair of Handcuffs.
  42. Ball gag.
  43. Flourescent light tube.
  44. Dozen eggs.
  45. Chicken.
  46. Housecat.
  47. Can of spraypaint. Blue.
  48. Disposable polaroid camera.
  49. Propeller beanie.
  50. Plastic toy sword.
  51. Bag of marbles.
  52. Tube of pogs.
  53. Huge bag of rice.
  54. Sleeve of printer paper.
  55. Dead bird.
  56. Dead Dog.
  57. Huge number “8” made of wood.
  58. Tacklebox full of fishing lures and hooks.
  59. Corkscrew.
  60. Pencil sharpener.
  61. Human skull
  62. Stack of newspapers.
  63. Wall clock.
  64. Padlock and key.
  65. Geode with a little pewter wizard inside of it.
  66. Binder with documentation for some kind of software.
  67. Pair of socks.
  68. Pair of nice slacks.
  69. Needle nose pliers.
  70. Standing, oscillating fan.
  71. Elementary school desk/chair combo.
  72. Bouquet of fake flowers.
  73. Bottle of hand sanitizer.
  74. Really neat spider with lots of cool colors on it.
  75. Metal shopping cart.
  76. Labelmaker.
  77. Sheets of scratch & sniff stickers. Of the “Grape Job” variety.
  78. Encyclopedia Britannica volume for the letter “O.”
  79. Catheter bag full of urine.
  80. Police file on someone named “Dave Bestfighter.”
  81. Empty jar labelled “Dreams.”
  82. Glow in the dark ceiling stars.
  83. Bag of party balloons.
  84. Bag of Frozen Peas. Still frozen, somehow.
  85. The poles to a tent.
  86. Baby rattle.
  87. Box of Mike & Ikes candy.
  88. Hand painted portrait of a randomly determined party member.
  89. The discarded highschool poetry of a randomly determined party member.
  90. Big red “Marks-A-Lot” marker.
  91. Yo-yo.
  92. Blender.
  93. Foam Jack-O-Lantern.
  94. Traffic cone.
  95. Box of matches.
  96. Car tire.
  97. Keyring full of keys.
  98. Bottle of really nice wine.
  99. Child’s devil costume for Halloween.
  100. Treasure map, drawn in crayon, to a toystore.

On a Red World Alone; Handling Factions

On a Red World...ALONE!The other day I was getting ready for an upcoming session of ORWA. Much of the adventure was going to involve the players interacting with various factions. As I wrote up the notes I thought I would need, it dawned on me that over the past year of running this game I’ve come up with a fairly robust set of tools for faction management. It happened without me even noticing, so I never really put it all together in writing. It doesn’t have all the features that I want a faction system to have, but perhaps there’s something here that others will benefit from.

First you should know how ORWA is laid out, since it’s not your typical campaign world. The physical size is very small–a single biodome on mars. I’ve been intentionally vague about precisely how big the dome is, but the point is that there’s not a lot of room for folks to get away from one another. It’s not unusual for my players to spend time in three, or even four different sovereign territories in a single game session

Given all that, the factions have ended up as cross between city states and street gangs. They have traditions and governmental structures, and wars. But their armies are measured in the hundreds at the most, and moving the boarder a few city blocks is considered a significant shift in territory. Within their territories they provide law and order, but unless you’re at the very heart of their turf, then you’re never more than two steps from anarchy.

I keep a simple map with faction boarders on it, which serves as my primary campaign map. There are narrow strips of no-man’s land between each faction, but pretty much all the space is the territory of one group or another. Each territory is keyed to a short description of the faction that holds it. These started out as 1-2 sentence affairs, but have slowly grown larger as the factions were developed through play. As with a lot of things in tabletop games, I’ve found it works a lot better to start simple, and let the details take shape on their own.

ORWA Map

The Outsiders (group “E”), for example, began as giant dudes who’ve learned how to survive outside of the Dome for days at a time. Through play they’ve earned a sort of celtic flavor, and we’ve established that theirs is the best territory to try and start a new life in, so long as you’re okay with always being a second class citizen for lacking the biological advantages they’ve discovered. (Advantages your children will have a chance to achieve).

At some point I put all of the factions on a D% table. The amount of space each faction takes up on that table is weighted by how often they’re likely to have an impact on events beyond their own boarders. Five of the factions equally share about 70% of the table. These are the big, established powers. They provide the closest thing to stability the dome has.

Then next 20% of the table is for the two up-and-coming factions. Small territories with ambitions of expansion. The final 10% of the table is shared between three groups. There’s the Lords of Light, who are the vestigial remainder of a defeated power. There’s The Fighting Mongooses, a territory of mercenaries who are understood to be a neutral party by all the other territories. And, finally, there’s the territory of The Friends of Needletooth Jack, which is a completely insular territory. No one goes in, no one comes out.

Anytime I need to determine where something happens, or who did a thing, I roll on this table. Pretty much anytime anything happens I randomly determine who or where, because why not? It adds an interesting texture to the world. If I come up with everything myself it’ll make a bland sort of sense. But if you give me two dots and I have to figure out how to connect them, that’s where things start to get creative.

For example, a couple adventures back, my players needed to raid a building and recover a machine. Randomly determining where the building was determined which encounter table they’d be rolling on during their travels, and what sort of purpose the building might have been put to since the apocalypse. This particular territory happens to factor into one of the conspiracies that drive the campaign, so sending the party there on completely unrelated business gave me an opportunity to drop hints about what was coming.

In their last adventure, the party needed to rescue someone who had been captured, because I thought a rescue mission would be interesting. I rolled to determine which faction had this person, and that helped me determine why this person was being held, and whether it was an official act of the faction as a whole, or whether it was an individual acting without official sanction. The whole character of the adventure was determined by that roll.

In the party’s current adventure they need to protect a third party during a war between two factions. The location of the third party didn’t really matter, so long as it was fixed once determined. I randomly rolled an aggressor, then flipped a coin to decide which of their neighbors they were attacking. When that was done I rolled opposed d6s as a rough measure of discerning how successful each side of that conflict would be. The player’s goals really had no bearing on that, but the result of the war would have a huge effect on the territorial balance in the dome.

The different territories also correspond to different encounter tables, which allows me to show my players, rather than tell them, the difference between each faction. In the territory of the Redstone Lords (Faction “A” on the map), for example, the government is unusually organized. There are fewer encounters with monsters, and more encounters with thieves, aggressive agents of the state, or non-combat stuff, like slave markets. Meanwhile, in the territory of the Dukes of the Dome (“B”), where mutants are hated, there are no encounters with mutants. Or, if you do encounter a mutant, it’s being harassed / arrested / killed.

For interfactional relationships, I’m so far keeping things simple. Every faction hates the factions which boarder it, and are neutral with the factions that don’t. The simple fact of the matter is that everybody wants to grow, and there’s no territory to take that doesn’t already belong to someone. That means your neighbors want your territory, and you want theirs.

There are a few exceptions to this which are easy for me to just keep in my head. For example, the priests of Technotopia (“I”), have a particular grudge against the Lords Beneath the Black (“C”), because they are the two largest religions within the dome, and both would prefer to get rid of the other. Likewise, nobody likes the Friends of Needletooth Jack (“G”), but nobody is ever going to fuck with them either, because their territory is small and they’re scary as shit.

I don’t really have any means for tracking the player’s reputation with each faction, but I’ve found that I don’t really need it so much. Even with factions as small as these, the PCs are beneath the notice of the faction as a whole. I do track the player’s relationship with pretty much every NPC they ever meet, which serves as an adequate substitute. So while The Outsiders as a whole have no feelings about the PCs, the leader of the Outsiders (known as The Highlander) did once have a meeting with them. They brought him reliable information, but he repeatedly caught them lying about the details. So the party is useful, but he doesn’t trust them.

What I’ve put together for ORWA does lack a lot of the features I have always wanted from a faction system. Things like a reward/penalty track for building a reputation of working for or against each faction. But what I do have has been working surprisingly well, so hopefully others can get a little use out of it.

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