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A Ship too Far

The Situation

The voy­age has been go­ing on too long. What should have taken weeks has now taken months, and all be­cause the cap­tain of the ship has to catch a ves­sel just miles ahead of his.

Why?

No­body knows. All they know is that some­how, some­way, the cap­tain rec­og­nized some­thing or some­one aboard the other ship, and his now bound and de­ter­mined to catch and con­front what­ever has him so riled.

The Party?

Killing the cap­tain and tak­ing the ship is not an op­tion, for the crew is still lower to their com­man­der and would re­act badly to their killing him.

Then too, the cap­tain does have some de­gree of ex­pe­ri­ence and may not be that easy to kill. In ad­di­tion, some­thing watches over the ship they are on, and mis­for­tune tends to fol­low those who seek to harm the ship and crew.

What can the party do?

Find out why the cap­tain is so ob­sessed. Find out how they can help him and help get his mind off his fix­a­tion. Or, help him pre­pare for his con­fronta­tion, for the ship ahead of them has an evil seem­ing, and ap­pears to be taunt­ing them and lur­ing them on.

May­haps there be good rea­sons to be so en­grossed by that ship.

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I Was Reminded

I Forgot That Part

I’m go­ing through Mythus 2e by Gary Gy­gax and Greg Timm when I ran across a note re­gard­ing so­cial class out­side a Persona’s im­me­di­ate cul­tural area. That I need to in­clude, so I’m go­ing to present a first draft of my think­ing here.

Social Class Outside the Persona’s Cultural Area.

Introduction

It should be noted that your rank in so­ci­ety re­ally only holds for where you live, and the area im­me­di­ately around that. Fur­ther away you are viewed less fa­vor­ably un­less your Vo­ca­tion or oc­cu­pa­tion has a rep­u­ta­tion where you cur­rently are.

Where They Know You Not

A Bry­thon Cav­a­lier has the same so­cial sta­tus in France, Neues­tria, Italia, and Ger­ma­nia has he does at home. Not nec­es­sar­ily the same rep­u­ta­tion, but he’s cer­tainly ac­corded the same sta­tus.

Not so much in cen­tral Ærope, where he’s more likely to be seen as a puffed up horse sol­dier of some kind. Maybe Up­per Mid­dle Class at best.

In the Cen­tral Azirian states he’s more likely to be seen a Lower Mid­dle Class, for the West­ern Æropan Cav­a­lier is a rare en­coun­ter in­deed in that part of the world.

In the Hindic states, Ch’in, Sung, and Ni­hon he’s more likely to be treated as Mid­dle Lower Class — at least at first, if not a ban­dit of some sort.

Individual Reaction

There ae some peo­ple who are per­cep­tive and who will note how an Al­bish Cav­a­lier com­ports him­self, but will­ful blind­ness is all too com­mon, and there are those who take great plea­sure in treat­ing those of other lands as lesser be­ings.

But then you do have oc­ca­sions where the lo­cals have heard of Cav­a­liers and knights and samu­rai and have an ex­ag­ger­ated idea of their worth. As an ex­am­ple, ex­pe­di­tions from Ni­hon have reached the west­ern shores of Var­gaard where they have gained a rep­u­ta­tion among the lo­cal Skrael­ing as scrupu­lously po­lite, doughty fight­ers, and fierce en­e­mies of the Lemuri­ans who come to raid and en­slave. In the eyes of the Skrael­ing the Ni­hon samu­rai is of the Mid­dle-Up­per or Up­per-Up­per class.

In short, it’s not a good idea to just as­sume things about so­cial class on Ærth or in any part of it.

Thoughts

I likely could ex­press this bet­ter. Any thoughts?

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This is an experiment

Mr. Chitters

mouse-seashell-1200Mr. Chit­ters is a mouse. Mr. Chit­ters is an awak­ened mouse. Mr. Chit­ters is a bored, lonely mouse who’d just love com­pany.

Un­for­tu­nately, Mr. Chit­ters has trea­sures some peo­ple may be apt to steal. The mouse knows how to use his trea­sures, and he has a lot of in­for­ma­tion re­gard­ing his trea­sures and the lands he has vis­ited over the years.

That’s right, as part of be­ing awak­ened Mr. Chit­ters is ef­fec­tively im­mor­tal, and at the present 100 years old.

The ques­tion is, would the party be will­ing to lis­ten to a talk­ing mouse, or would they rather kill him and take his stuff? The mouse could be a lead to fur­ther ad­ven­tures, or just an­other death the play­ers can take credit for.

As an al­ter­na­tive, you could make him a priest, a wiz­ard, or maybe even a soft­ware en­gi­neer; it’s all up to you.

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Reputation

Rep­u­ta­tion

Observation

I’ve been go­ing over the var­i­ous po­si­tions most of­ten as­so­ci­ated with the dif­fer­ent so­cial classes in Mythus and it has oc­cured to me that a Persona’s wealth is not the only de­ter­mi­nant of so­cial class. In some cases it is a mat­ter of rep­u­ta­tion. That is, what peo­ple think of the per­son.

Example

One ex­am­ple would be the Moun­te­bank, a rover who wan­ders about — usu­ally with com­pan­ions — seek­ing for fools to gull and com­mon folk to en­ter­tain.

The Moun­te­bank is not the sort of per­son who re­ally be­longs in his as­signed so­cial class — the lower mid­dle class I think — since he re­ally has no place he can call his own, but peo­ple do tend to think more highly of him that his eco­nom­ics would make you think. This is largely be­cause of his rep­u­ta­tion, what peo­ple think of him.

An­other ex­am­ple would be the jewel thief, who is most of­ten liv­ing the liv­ing of some­one of mid­dle lower class sta­tus, but is ac­corded a higher rank — mid­dle mid­dle class I be­lieve — be­cause of how peo­ple see him; as a some­what ro­man­tic fig­ure.

Mechanics

But how do you ac­count for this? How do you keep track of a Persona’s rep­u­ta­tion, and how would this af­fect his so­cial class. Any ideas out there?

Final Thought

That’s my think­ing for to­day.

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Playing with a Plugin


I’m screw­ing around with the Sim­ply Sym­phony plugin to see what I get. I’m do­ing this be­cause I’m feel­ing play­ful. It may change the look of the site. You have been warned. 🙂

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Things I get in the Mail

Yes­ter­day — as I write — I made a com­ment re­gard­ing Jonathan Tweet and his con­nec­tion to the pe­ri­od­i­cal Alarums and Ex­cur­sions on G+. Later that day I got an email from Pel­grane Press for the pro­duct Alarums and In­cur­sions: Down­time for Six Icons.

Alarums and In­cur­sions asks the ques­tion; what do the char­ac­ters do when they are at home and not on an ad­ven­ture? There are ta­bles you can roll on, but for the most part I see them as a list of sug­ges­tions. And note that they need not be the only things you could try.

Now note that in so far as you are play­ing a role in an imag­i­nary life, you can as­sume that who­ever you play is in­volved in more than just go­ing out on an ad­ven­ture. That in fact there will be times when ad­ven­ture comes to him. Such as, say, a jermlaine band tak­ing up res­i­dence in the at­tic of his house. Think racoons are bad? And to make mat­ters worse, the jermlaines have al­lies in the lo­cal com­mu­nity who would take their deaths rather amiss. Is Gre­gory the Bat­tered and Rest­ing Up for the Next Cou­ple of Months ready for near con­stant raids and van­dal­ism? Or could he and the jermlaine come to some sort of agree­ment?

My point is, your ad­ven­tures in most any RPG need not in­volve ex­cur­sions, in­cur­sions are an­other pos­si­bil­ity.

Then you have those times when due to ill­ness, in­jury, age, mag­ick, or curse your Per­sona may have to stay at home and let the ad­ven­ture come to him. As an ex­am­ple, in Mythus age will af­fect a Persona’s sta­tis­tics — neg­a­tively in the case of Men­tal and Phys­i­cal Traits, pos­i­tively in the case of the Spir­i­tual Trait. In ad­di­tion, his skill in a skill — his STEEP — can be no greater than the gov­ern­ing Trait. So if his Men­tal Trait of 90 drops to a value of 88 thanks to ag­ing, his ef­fec­tive STEEP in a Men­tal skill can be no greater than 88. And yes, ag­ing is ac­cu­mu­la­tive. So if you’re play­ing a 2e D&D wiz­ard and his In­tel­li­gence drops to 17 thanks to ag­ing, he loses the abil­ity to use level 9 magic spells.

Now where Mythus is con­cerned where a sta­tis­tic falls be­low a value of 6 for any rea­son, then he re­ally can’t go out ad­ven­tur­ing at all. But he can still have ad­ven­tures come visit him. Which all leads to this ques­tion, how would you run an RPG ses­sion for play­ers with im­paired char­ac­ters? And no cheat­ing. No giv­ing them some sort of magic, de­vice, or med­i­cine that would re­store them to their old vigor. No, you have to tell with the Per­sonas as they are, as do their play­ers. If Co­hen the Bar­bar­ian — Terry Pra­chett — can have ad­ven­tures, then so can your ag­ing grand­fa­ther of a Scholar.

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Disagreement

Kyrinn S. Eis tried post­ing a com­ment to my post, Vari­a­tions. That didn’t work for some rea­son, so she posted it to my share of Vari­a­tions on Google+. Since not all of you go to G+ here is her com­ment in full.

Ex­cep­tions aside, I think that one can think of the D&D style games as be­ing very char­ac­ter-cen­tric, and so, the game’s pri­mary rules fo­cus is on the one thing that can make the char­ac­ter dead, namely, com­bat. Every­thing else has vary­ing de­grees of fo­cus and page weight given to it, but the char­ac­ter-end­ing com­bat sec­tion is there to in­form the player what it means to en­gage the char­ac­ter in com­bat, or even what it means for the rogue or mage to be caught with­out de­fences. One can, and in fact, the New School does, write a game fo­cused on any­thing else that is im­por­tant to the tone and style the de­signer has in mind, but when it comes to the uni­ver­sal lan­guage of peril and es­cape or even tri­umph, com­bat rules mat­ter most. The GM and Play­ers can be trusted to work every­thing else out to their sat­is­fac­tion.

I can’t en­tirely agree with her. How an RPG is han­dled de­pends greatly on the de­signer and writer. Some do play at pre­sent­ing their work as in­volv­ing role play­ing, but as you read through their prose it be­comes ev­i­dent their minds are ac­tu­ally on some­thing quite else, most of­ten on fic­tional blood­shed and imag­i­nary trea­sure. For the most part peo­ple tend to leave cer­tain mat­ters aside, with the ex­cep­tion of those such as Bill Stod­dard, au­thor of GURPS Fan­tasy and other works. Bill has other GURPS sup­ple­ments avail­able, among them guide­li­nes on han­dling so­cial en­coun­ters, which can be eas­ily adapted to other RPGs.

To sum up, there are al­ter­na­tives. Nor can I agree that fight­ing is the most ex­cit­ing thing you could do in an RPG. Com­bat in an RPG is more of­ten like a car chase in an ac­tion movie, in­serted to waste time and to give the GM an op­por­tu­nity to avoid think­ing. In the hands of a lack­lus­ter GM it can get bor­ing.

It re­ally comes down to a mat­ter of how the mat­ter is pre­sented, and all too many GMs are hes­i­tant to put any ef­fort into their per­for­mance. They get em­bar­rassed and as a re­sult act dull and life­less. Adults are re­served and dig­ni­fied.

And no­body ever goes nuts at a foot­ball game, ei­ther fla­vor.

My point it, there’s more to do in an RPG than just kill peo­ple and take their stuff. Some­times there’s bam­boo­zle peo­ple and take their stuff, but that can ac­tu­ally in­volve work.

Now Ms. Eis is right in that com­bat can be a chal­lenge, but not all the time, and it’s not the only chal­lenge the play­ers can face as they play their roles. As an ex­am­ple, you have the Bre­men Town Mu­si­cians en­coun­ter for AD&D2 — one of a deck of en­coun­ter cards for 2e. In the AD&D ver­sion four gob­lins take the place of the farm an­i­mals in the orig­i­nal story. To keep this short, the gob­lins have be­come mu­si­cians — good ones in fact, and they are now look­ing for peo­ple to act as their body­guards as they roam from town look­ing for places to play. There is the po­ten­tial for com­bat here, but not nec­es­sar­ily when the play­ers meet the gob­lins, and not of the po­ten­tial com­bats need end in com­bat.

It all de­pends on how you want to han­dle the sit­u­a­tion, or any of the fol­low­ing sit­u­a­tions. This type of sit­u­a­tion ap­plies to other en­coun­ters, and it’s very much up to you how you deal with it. But fight­ing needn’t be the only way to han­dle it, or the most ex­cit­ing.

As to Kyrinn’s first point, it is my ob­ser­va­tion is that it is how we make a ses­sion of any RPG char­ac­ter cen­tered. For it is the duty of the GM to fo­cus on his play­ers and the parts they play.

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Discouragement

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But heed my warn­ing

Ag­nes is young. Ag­nes is de­spon­dent. Ag­nes is con­vinced that every­one and every­thing is against her, and that all she can do is to warn peo­ple and talk them out of what­ever they in­tend to do.

Ag­nes is psy­chic.

What­ever Ag­nes ad­vises peo­ple tend to do. No mat­ter how good or bad the ad­vice, no mat­ter if it is even rel­e­vant to them. For some rea­son what she says is golden and to be heeded.

Killing her will do no good. In fact, the play­ers will end up in even worse trou­ble. Even ex­pos­ing her re­ally won’t work, for with the tal­ent Ag­nes has peo­ple are more apt to be­lieve her than them. The best the party can do is to find a way to get peo­ple to take Ag­nes with a grain of salt. That is, to have the courage to doubt her.

Then, they need to learn just why Ag­nes is so de­spon­dent and dis­cour­aged, and how to get her to see things dif­fer­ently. But why is Ag­nes so dis­cour­aged? And how do you teach her how to han­dle dis­ap­point­ment? Not an ad­ven­ture for those who can’t think be­yond their own greed.

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