2017/06/22

OSR: Death, Taxes, and Death Taxes: Part 2 (Design and Methods)

This post requires some unpacking.

You should not tax PCs by this method if your game is:
  • Adventure Focused / Heroic (Lord of the Rings, Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition)
  • Character Focused (driven by the interactions between players rather between players and the world. Drama-based.)
  • Not Medieval (there's less incentive to use this in an Early Modern setting, Cyberpunk futures, etc. You could potentially adapt it for post-apocalyptic games though.)
  • Beer and Pretzels (light, fluffy fun with low commitment)
But if you'd like to run a more detailed semi-medieval game without adding dozens of subsystems and extra rules, read on to see why I'm suggesting the ludicrous things in the previous post.

2017/06/19

OSR: Death, Taxes, and Death Taxes

Are you taxing your PCs?

Most GMs don't. It would be unfair to take away their hard-earned gold for no benefit. But if you're running a semi-medieval game taxes are as important as swords and castles. They're possibly more important. If you want to build a living, breathing, and tone-consistent world, you need to include taxes, and you need to make them gamable content. Don't think of taxes as penalties. Think of them as story hook generators and the mortar binding your setting together.

People also keep asking "how do I introduce domain-level play to my games?" The answer is, "at level 1, via taxes." If you want to read more about the design goals behind this post, check this out when you're done.


Taxes

First, read this excellent book review of James C Scott's "Seeing Like A State". Patrick Stuart also wrote an excellent review so clearly it's got some applications in this hobby. Patrick's analysis focuses on applying the book's lessons to the OSR scene, while Scott Alexander's (much longer) review, particularly Section II, is more useful for running an OSR game. The entire book is, of course, invaluable.

Anyway, how hard can it be to tax peasants?

Very, very hard. See section II for the a hilarious overview of basic taxation in the medieval era. You can try other taxes: windows, salt, beards, every single sales transaction, movement, births, and deaths. It might not help.

Medieval rents and taxes are sticky. They are part of the ancient agreement between a lord and his vassal. As a lord, you can't just say "everyone owes me more grain now". That would break your agreement. The peasants would revolt or flee. It wasn't just a contract. Was, from a folklore point of view, holy law. The agreement also held between kings and lords - it's why parliament exist, in essence. To raise taxes you have to be subtle about it. Take a share of the flour milled at your mill. Institute special taxes for the ransom of kings. Adulterate the currency.
Besides paying the hearth tax and clerical tithe and aids for the lord’s ransom and knighting of his son and marriage of his daughter, the peasant owed fees for everything he used: for grinding his grain in the lord’s mill, baking his bread in the lord’s oven, pressing apples in the lord’s cider press, settlement of disputes in the lord’s court. At death he owed the heriot, or forfeit of his best possession to the lord. 
-A Distant Mirror, Tuchman, Chapter 10. 

Why do you need to raise taxes? First, inflation, which was misunderstood and often aggravated by poor fiscal policy (and plagues). Second, warfare is expensive, and only gets more expensive as armies become more organized and professional. When it was just you and your friends turning up, taxes went to buying swords, weapons, and horses. Now you need to hire mercenaries, pay for baggage trains, and pay the debts from previous wars. As a member of the Second Estate, you also want to live well. You need to organize banquets, build churches, buy silk, books, hats, garters, horses, and gems, maintain castles, maintain your court, and offer gifts to other nobles. You live in astonishing luxury and you fight wars whenever you can. In theory, your vassals pay you to protect them. In practice, you rarely succeed, or are a worse scourge than any enemy. Your object is conspicuous consumption, not the accumulation of wealth.

The First Estate
I'm going to skim this section because I'll cover it in my Estates post. The clergy doesn't pay taxes to anyone in the Second Estate, but they pass tithes up the hierarchy. Peasants are expected to donate 10% of their income, in kind or in coin, to the church. To raise money (for all the same reasons as the nobility), the sale of indulgences and other services became common. Baptism fees, funeral fees, death fees; all collected, all sent up the chain. The local priest was rarely better off than the peasants he served, save that he was spared some manual labour. Above him, the hierarchy increased in magnificence, step by step.

The Second Estate
While the nobility is tax exempt, they are still bound by feudal obligation to their lord to offer military service. At first, this meant turning up with a small army, but it increasingly became a cash obligation. What use are a few untrained farmer when gold buys you properly outfitted soldiers? The Second Estate also paid tithes, donatives, and other offerings to the First Estate.

The Third Estate
The peasants, merchants, and laborers pay for everything.

Castle Trakai, Vilius Petrauskas

Applying This To Your Games

Finally! Ignoring regular, low-level income, how are the PCs taxed on treasure and other substantial gains?


If a PC is from the First Estate:

E.g. Clerics, priests, monks, anyone who wears robes and participates in semi-organized religion. Determine who they answer to in the hierarchy. They owe that person 80% of their income. That's right. 80%. Plus fees. You can spend your share fixing the local church roof or buying bread for orphans or hiring mercenaries.

"That's unreasonable!", you cry. "My poor cleric has to pay all his hard-stolen gold to some NPC I've never heard of?"

Yes. Correct. You can of course lie. You can bury the money in a pit and spend it carefully. You can send less than 80% up the chain. But the moment your superior gets a whiff of cash they'll be onto you and you'll never escape. You could also try and use your new-found wealth to get a better position in the hierarchy.  If you don't answer to anyone in the First Estate, you're either at the top of the chain (unlikely) or you're an ex-priest, and a member of the Third Estate (at best). Even a wandering priest, of no fixed village and of no concern, still answers to a bishop in theory. Someone had to ordain your PC. Someone educated them. You can't break free of feudalism without becoming an outlaw, and if you're an outlaw, you're not in the First Estate.


If a PC is from the Second Estate:

E.g. Knights, nobles, courtiers, ennobled wizards
First, determine their lord, their current obligations, and their status. This should be done at character creation. You can't play a knight without having a lord.
Second, determine if any special obligations apply: ransoms, wars, plagues, expeditions, loans. A good starting point is 2gp a month in peacetime, 20gp a month during times of disaster.
Third, a noble pays their own upkeep.

"That's it?" you ask. "How come he gets to keep almost all of his money?"

First, feudalism. Second, upkeep. A knight's costs are fixed. Can't pay? Lose your status, possibly forever. Third, a member of the Second Estate is (effectively) the only person who can buy certain weapons, armor, services, and land. Fourth, from time to time, they will need to buy special gifts for their lord, pay instead of serving in the military (check your game's rates for mercenaries, then figure out how many troops the knight was supposed to supply), bribes, and donations.


If a PC is from the Third Estate:

Everyone else, including wizards (in my system)
Determine your lord. For wizards, it's the person who sponsored their education, or an ennobled senior wizard, or the King directly. For fighters and peasant-derived classes, it's the lord of their birthplace or the person they swore fealty to. They owe their lord 100%. The church takes another 10%.

"Wait a second," you say, incredulous. "That's not how percentages work. Also that's ridiculous!"

Is it though? Is tomb robbing a recognized and organized profession? Is adventuring? Not even slightly.

That tomb is on somebody's land. Never mind that it might be in trackless wilderness beyond the edge of civilization. Some noble has a claim to it. You are, in effect, stealing their stuff. Second, while you're off tomb-robbing, your regular profession isn't being done. This might not be an issue if you are a soldier, but if you were a farmer, a glassblower, a tanner, a baker, or a scribe, you abandoned your duty. You owe your lord. If you are lucky, he'll accept an apology and a bribe. Third, you have money and no rights. Your lord has rights and no money. He also has a local monopoly on ass-kicking. Guess which way the money is going to flow. (And no, you do actually have rights, we'll cover them in the Estates post. But effectively, for RPG purposes, you're screwed.)


If the PC is an Outlaw:

E.g. Elves, Animist Wizards, and assorted brigands, scum, mercenaries, and looters.
You pay no taxes but you have no rights.



How Do We Get Rich?

The short answer is "You don't." The system does not work in your favour unless you are high in the hierarchy.

The long answer is "You don't, unless you have a plan." PCs should always have a plan.

If you want to operate within the feudal structure, your group needs a noble patron. This could be your group's knight. It could be an ennobled wizard. It could be a local baron who is desperate for cash. You need to get on their good side. They will protect you. They are the lever that makes the entire system turn.

Somebody has claim to that dungeon.
If it's an allied lord, any treasure retrieved belongs to them. You are stealing from their larder. Luckily, money laundering is fairly easy. You can tell people you found the treasure on land you own. If you are a poor knight with a small farm, nobody will believe you. It has to be a plausible lie. You can tell them you won it in the war, but there needs to be a war, a reason for you to be involved, and your lord has to know about it. Nobody audits your receipts. Generous donations to churches and higher nobles silence most questions. Some people might be tempted to kill the golden goose, but you can probably baffle, deflect, or confuse them. This only works if you have a noble patron. If you don't, there's no plausible reason a member of the Third Estate could have treasure. You are stealing from somebody's larder. Wealthy merchants and money-lenders might be exempt fro direct suspicion.

If it's an enemy lord, you can freely loot the dungeon, provided the war is ongoing. It's no different from looting their towns or villages. Since looting is a noble weekend pastime, provide you have a noble patron's blessing, you are free to do what you like. The end result is the same.

Finders Fee
Your noble patron gets all your loot. He then redistributes the loot to you and your friends, as per your agreement (if you feel you can enforce one. It might be better to rely on his generosity). Maybe it's a nice equitable share (if he's a PC). Maybe it's hideously unfair. That's your "100%" tax rate for being in the Third Estate. You pay 100%, then you get some back. From what you get back, you pay 10% to the Church (or 80%, if you are in the First Estate and don't effectively outrank your noble patron).

Death Taxes
If you die, even if you die in the dungeon, you theoretically owe your lord a heriot or a death fee. You also need to pay the priest for your funeral (or to hold a service for the benefit of your soul, if you were devoured messily). If you died without having recently attended church, and you don't have a proper funeral, you have a 10% chance of rising as a vengeful spirit and a 90% chance of going to Hell. Better hope your friends are willing to part with some of your loot.


Example of Play:


Albrecht is a Cleric (First Estate). He answers to the Bishop of Six Falls.
Louis is a Knight (Second Estate). His is the vassal of Baron Summerland. Louis holds the grant of a very small farm.
Honorius is a Wizard (Third Estate). He is also the vassal of Baron Summerland because his family grew up on the Baron's land.
Gwendolyn is a Thief (Outlaw). She answers to nobody.

Standard Method (core D&D): 
The group hears rumours of a dungeon in the wilderness. They march off, loot it, and return to town with 100gp each. They spend the loot on potatoes, coffee, books, and plate armor. Everything is fine.

Feudal Method (Bad End): 
The group hears rumours of a dungeon in the wilderness. Louis asks around and finds that the area is owned by Baron Greenfield, who is an ally of Baron Summerland, but whose seat of power is far from the dungeon. The players safely loot the dungeon and return to town with 100gp each. They spend the loot on meat, horses, and donations. Baron Summerland hears that his vassals have far too much money during peacetime. He shows up with a bunch of knights and interrogates them. While Louis and Albrecht are spared torture, Honorius is beaten nearly to death (below the waist, because he's a wizard), and Gwendolyn is hung from the nearest tree. The Baron finds out about the dungeon and the looting. Fearing war with Baron Greenfield, he revokes Louis' grant and title, and sends him with an armed escort to Baron Greenfield's seat of power to be tried and executed as a commoner. Honorius is kept as a battlefield mage and never trusted again. Albrecht is dispatched to the Bishop of Six Falls who severely chastises the poor priest and threatens to defrock him.

Feudal Method (Good End):
The group hears rumours of a dungeon in the wilderness. Louis asks around and finds that the area is owned by Baron Greenfield, who is an ally of Baron Summerland, but whose seat of power is far from the dungeon. Louis goes to his lord and, after a suitable gift and meal, says (in private). "I know of buried treasure, long forgotten, in these hills. If I retrieve if, I will present it to you as a gift, because you are a lovely man with lovely mustaches." Baron Summerland is flattered but not stupid. He knows the deal. "Go find this buried treasure," he says. He thinks to himself, "My accounts and holdings are vast. A few boxes of gold wouldn't raise anyone's suspicions. And Louis is a good vassal."

Louis asks slyly, "I have but two other requests, and they are quite minor. Can your wizard, the one who calms the waters at your mill, accompany me? It spring and the mill is idle. I also know of a priest of great learning who, through no fault of his own, lacks a church and a flock." He knows Baron Summerland has no love for this water-wizard, and he knows that many churches in the Baron's fief are vacant.

"I agree to both conditions," the Baron says, sensibly. It costs him nothing. He writes a letter to the Bishop of Six Falls telling him that Albrecht will be the village priest of Mud Hill, and sends a small gift. The bishop's secretary reads the letter, pockets most of the gift, and files the letter away.

The party loots the dungeon and retrieves 380gp (Gwendolyn hides 10gp in her boot, while Honorius, who has never seen so much money, hides 10gp in his hat). They return to Baron Summerland and present him with 380gp. He takes 300gp for himself, gives 75gp to Louis, and 5gp to Honorius. Both men are his vassals and both need to be rewarded. If he kept all the money for himself, they would resent him. If he is too liberal, they will grow haughty and ambitious. He made no promises to Albrecht and he doesn't know or care who Gwendolyn is. His part of the deal done, he thanks the party and asks them to leave.

Louis then distributes, as per a previous agreement, the 75gp among the party. He's a very fair and equitable friend - he could have easily kept it all for himself. Such generosity is uncommon. In the end, they all end up with 20gp.

Albrecht sends 16gp (80%) to his Bishop. He has 4gp at the end of the adventure, but he also has a position at a village church.

Louis keeps his 20gp, but spends 12gp (Noble 1) on his upkeep, plus 2gp to ransom the King from the terrible Arch-Potentate of Rahm, leaving him with 6gp. He was a good vassal, and the adventure greatly enriched his lord. Baron Summerland will look on him favourably.

Honorius keeps his 20gp, plus the 10gp he hid in his hat. He donates 2gp to the Church. Guilt torments him nightly, but he is able to improve his tiny cottage and buy a real bed and a good supply of candles. The Baron thinks well of him. He may be invited to the Baron's court to deal with magical matters, and could potentially work his way up to become the Court Magician, with a stable income and fewer cold nights.

Gwendolyn keeps her 20gp, plus the 10gp she hid in her boot. She donates nothing to the Church. She still lives as an outlaw, surviving as best she can on the road and in the wilderness. If she is caught with the money on her, she will probably be robbed or hung as a thief, and she will have no recourse to a noble protector unless Louis wants to get involved.

Long Term Effects
What if the dungeon has much more than 100gp? The first haul is 1,000gp, with plenty more to come, the PCs expect. Baron Summerland is delighted. Since the dungeon is on his ally's land, he can't send a huge delegation to plunder it. The PCs are plausibly deniable and much more profitable. Their income isn't enormous, but it does allow the Baron to provide rich gifts to Count Obereiner, his lord. The Count is also the lord of Baron Greenfield, and Baron Greenfield is very old and has no sons. If he dies, his barony reverts to the Count. Baron Summerland wants the Count to give it to him, but the Count isn't foolish. The Baron's gifts were nice, but not that nice. To pacify him and ensure there is no rebellion he plans to grant a few fiefs to Baron Summerland but keep the majority for himself.

To keep Louis loyal but too busy to rebel, Baron Summerland grants (in perpetuity) a manor farm on the border between his lands and Baron Greenfield's. Louis spends most of his looted money maintaining the manor, fortifying it, dealing with peasant squabbles, etc. He is now a Noble (4) and pays 48gp a month to maintain his status. His income now comes from his vassals and not from adventuring. It is unlikely the Baron will promote him further, but it's possible that Count Obereiner, seeking to weaken Baron Summerland's power, might grant Louis land directly.

Albrecht's generous donations to both Baron Summerland and the Bishop of Six Falls have made him popular and respected, but he is also kind to the peasants in his care. He holds several benefices, including one that keeps him close to Louis. He might be promoted to Bishop one day.

Honorius, as a wizard, has fewer prospects for promotion, but correspondingly fewer expenses. The Baron gifts (for Honorius' lifetime only) him a small tower, which the wizard turns into a proper lair. This brings great prestige to the Baron's court, but it's treated like owning an orchard or a beautiful stream. The wizard is ornamental but happy.

Gwendolyn is given a position in Louis' household. This makes her Louis' vassal and restricts her freedom, but it allows her to retire in safety and spend her money on permanent fixtures and luxuries.


Expulsion of the Money-Changers from the Temple, Giotto Scrovegni

Side Note: Debasing the Currency

The crown grasped for money by every means and favored the least scrupulous, which was debasing the coinage. Less directly obvious than aids and subsidies, it required no summoning of the Estates for consent. Coins called in were re-minted with a lower proportion of gold or silver and re-circulated at the old face value, with the difference being retained by the Treasury. Since the petty coins of daily use were those affected, the system reduced the real wages and purchasing power of the common people while bankers, merchants, and nobles, whose movable wealth was in large gold coins or gold and silver vessels and plate, were less affected. [...] In 1351, the first year of Jean’s reign, the currency suffered eighteen alterations, and seventy in the course of the next decade.
-A Distant Mirror, Tuchman, Chapter 9. I'm going to cite this book so often you might as well read the whole thing.

Those "gold pieces" your players hauled out of a dungeon might be worth up to 10x as much as their face value. They could also be worth 10x less, if the precious metal content of older coins was lower, and the currency has since been reformed.

2017/06/17

OSR: Table of Camp Followers

Most OSR, D&D-type games have rules for hirelings and mercenaries. This table is for all the people one step lower on the adventuring ladder. Camp followers won't go into the dungeon for  you. They won't fight for you. In fact, they barely work for you at all. They tend to follow soldiers to and from wars. Most armies were outnumbered by their followers. You can recruit them at the edge of wars or in disorderly cities and villages. Sometimes they turn up unannounced.

Each camp follower costs 5sp per day (35 sp per week, 150 sp per month). If you can't or won't pay them, some might leave, some might starve, and some might steal your purse and run into the forest. Camp followers will scavenge constantly and pick over the remains of any nearby battle, siege, or burned village. They will perform menial tasks for you: washing clothes, airing fabrics, clearing campsites, setting fires, washing pots and pans, preparing basic meals, removing lice, cutting hair, watering horses, fetching water, and all the other day-to-day tasks too dull to include in an RPG.


Soldiers and Camp Followers Resting from a March, Jean-Baptiste Pater

If you roll a result that's not appropriate to your character's background or gender you have 3 options:
1. Reroll
2. Transfer association. Maybe the "Mistress" you rolled isn't your mistress, but another character's mistress. Maybe she's your sister. Maybe she's just someone's mistress and she's following you around now.
3. Discover something about your character's preferences.

Example: you already have a spouse but you've rolled another one. You can reroll, or decide that it's your cousin's spouse, or decide that it's just someone's spouse, we don't know whose, they're probably dead, or decide that you married them both (and hope the Church doesn't find out).

You may also want to roll for your follower's race. A table of names might also be handy.
 

Roll (1d100) Camp Follower
1 Infant - noisy. If this is your only camp follower, you may roll again.
2 Urchin - follows you around and assists with minor tasks. 
3 Brawler Urchin - will fight and bite anyone and anything, including horses, dogs, and other party members.
4 Wild Urchin - doesn't speak, runs around, finds animals and sticks and puts them in your tent.
5 Cunning Urchin - watches and waits. Has a hoard of 1d10sp, a dagger, and a plan.
6 Militant Urchin - plays at being a solider. Marches around, guards things, challenges passersby.
7 Your Child - resembles you. 1d10 years old. Might vary by race. Unless you have a Spouse, the child is illegitimate.
8 Orphan - you knew at least one of the parents. 1d10  years old, thinks of you as an important figure.
9 Blind Man - navigates with a reed, can see ghosts and spells clearly, refuses to admit this. Twitchy.
10 Blind Man - navigates with a stick, swears like a sailor, can hear changes in the weather.
11 Spouse - beautiful, courteous, and kind. Loyal, but constantly (accidentally) gives you reasons to doubt.
12 Spouse - terrified, hides most of the time, but can both read and write.
13 Spouse - moderately attractive, extremely hard-headed. Can throw a dagger as well as anyone.
14 Spouse - quite ugly, complains, but cooks well and will defend your interests.
15 Spouse - drunk most of the time, surly while sober. Not particularly attached to you.
16 Parent - disapproves of your life choices,  your clothes, your hair, and your companions. Slightly tipsy.
17 Parent - conspires with you and provides wise council. Crippled in the War.
18 Blood-taker - also barber and dentist. No bonuses to healing, but can set broken bones. 
19 Blood-taker - can't shave you or pull teeth but can chop off gangrenous limbs with great success.
20 Deathbed Comfort - has seen a lot of people die and knows the right words. Solemn and quiet.
21 Natural Fool - helpful, cheerful, but truly and profoundly stupid. Really tries though.
22 Natural Fool - helpful, cheerful, and prone to fits of sudden and shocking violence against random targets.
23 Fisherman - depending on location, can bring in 1d10 fish per day. Mostly an excuse to avoid work. Weather-worn.
24 Murderer - killed once, needlessly. Has terrible nightmares. Fears anyone resembling the law or their victim.
25 Cup-Bearer - terrified of any work other than table service. Weeps from time to time for no reason.
26 Old Man - older than your grandfather. Skin like paper. Full of history and details, 50% true.
27 Old Man - bitter and wise. Will offer good but conservative advice. Hates children, singing, fun, priests, and cats.
28 Wounded - hideously scarred but otherwise unharmed. Face is shocking but heart is kind. 
29 Wounded - soldier missing a leg and a hand. Can tutor people in basic combat. Drinks heavily.
30 Wounded - seriously mangled by the War. Tries to help, isn't very helpful. No real talents.
31 Priest - performs daily services. Baptisms, weddings, funerals 5sp to 2gp each.
32 Fallen Priest - performs brief daily services. Baptisms, weddings, funerals 5sp or 1 bottle of wine each.
33 Mad Priest - raving sermons at all hours. Undead creatures, demons, etc. will approach with caution.
34 Old Woman - rarely speaks, stares at things. Vanishes just before danger appears. Can run very, very fast.
35 Old Woman - knows which herbs cure common ailments. Demands liquor and better living conditions.
36 Nurse - will take care of infants or children. If none are around, will perform basic tasks or flirt.
37 Nurse - will take care of infants or children. If none are around, will pray endlessly and scowl at people.
38 Mistress - pregnant and annoyed at you. 
39 Mistress - moderately attractive. Not particularly attached to you.
40 Mistress - moderately attractive and extremely attached to you. Will grow jealous.
41 Druge - couldn't develop a personality at knifepoint. Performs tasks well but is otherwise silent and dull.
42 Guard - idle, narcoleptic, credulous. Will sit in front of something for days though. Feels bad about failures.
43 Farmer - displaced and lost in the wide world. Full of folk wisdom but critical of anything new or strange.
44 Deserter - unsuited for war or real work and under sentence of death if caught. Unshaven. Shivers at night. 
45 Assayer - can accurately determine the value (by weight) of gold, silver, and some gems. Exorbitant rates.
46 Laundress - expert in cleaning, but always distracted by affairs, gossip, spying, or flirting. Causes trouble.
47 Laundress - expert in cleaning. Your clothes and bed will always be clean. Filthy mind, tragically hideous body.
48 Rat-Catcher - scarred fingers. 1 enormous but surly cat or 1 small but vicious dog. Insists rats taste lovely.
49 Merchant - lost all he had, too broken to continue. Knows many things about Foreign Parts, currency, trade.
50 Guy who goes "heh" - probably touched in the head. Squints at things, mumbles, carries heavy objects.
51 Squire - extremely young. Holds your horse and run errands. Runs towards danger, danger is always fatal.
52 Provision-Seller - has a small cart full of items. Journeys into town once a week, if feasible.
53 Carpenter - can make decent camp structures, but needs tools and assistance. Incomprehensible accent.
54 Foreigner - sits to the side and listens. Suspicious until you realize he doesn't speak the language.
55 Enforcer - fight in camp and he breaks your fingers. Face like a slab of meat, hands like iron. Kind otherwise.
56 Wizard Apprentice - dead-brained. Any spells cast on the apprentice bounce in a random direction.
57 Wizard Apprentice - cursed. Pick a Curse, apply a Mutation, or otherwise ruin their life.
58 Wizard Apprentice - disgraced. Cannot cast spells but can detect magic occasionally. Can read and write.
59 Prostitute - will sleep with anyone for 5sp. Offers discounts for novelty.
60 Prostitute - will sleep with anyone not too offensive for 5sp
61 Prostitute - laughably bad at it. Starts off cute, becomes annoying. 3sp (brief)
62 Prostitute - highly experienced. Also can keep accounts, lie convincingly, and handle a knife.
63 Prostitute - visibly diseased. Not fatal, but unattractive to most. 5cp.
64 Scribe - writes things down for you, can do sums. Power goes to their head immediately.
65 Scribe - writes things down for you, can do sums, but very bad at them. Terrified of being exposed.
66 Falconer - birds died, was exiled. Hates birds but knows their secrets. Can whistle really loudly.
67 Astrologer - can cast a horoscope for 5cp, 5sp, or 5gp. They all do nothing. Chest full of papers and tools.
68 Embarrassing Lover - forbidden by culture/status. All they do is hide, fawn over you, and pose suggestively.
69 Rag Picker - a heap of cloth with feet. Can patch anything. Can convert rags into clothing or clothing into rags.
70 Fletcher - makes 20 arrows per day, 5cp each. Requires feathers, wood, iron tips. Good singing voice.
71 Torch-Maker - makes 10 good torches per day, 1cp each. Requires wood, resin, and fiber. Very slow.
72 Holy Man - extremely eccentric, sings to himself, might become a saint one day if he's not careful.
73 Court Attendant - briefly served a great noble. Tells the same stories over and over. Knows some court rituals.
74 Sharpener -carries small pedal grindstone in a cart. 5cp to sharpen a dagger, 15cp for a sword.
75 Minstrel - moderately talented. Will attempt to seduce nearby women in order of attractiveness.
76 Minstrel - no talent but lots of bawdy songs. Has inappropriate preferences in partners.
77 Crier - extremely loud voice, can read, delights in gossip.
78 Night Owl - stays up all night, sleeps all day. No explanation given. Will keep a decent watch.
79 Chicken Keeper - astonishingly lazy. 1d20+2 chickens, loose and troublesome. Sells eggs, 2cp each. 
80 Goatherd - cunning, wizened, and crafty from outwitting goats. 1d6 goats, exploding on a 6. 
81 Shepherd - frantic and depressed from dealing with sheep. 1d6 sheep, exploding on a 6. Sheep die regularly.
82 Swineherd - jolly but crude. 1d4 hogs. If 4, one truly enormous hog the size of a horse instead.
83 Blacksmith - unless provided with a forge and equipment, is just a strong guy with burn scars. Mean and bitter.
84 Whittler - whittles things out of wood. Some are amusing. Will carve icons of saints and beasts by request.
85 Escaped Nun - hard worker, terrified of her family and being captured again. 
86 Gambler - always cheerful, tells amusing tales. Usually broke, sometimes affluent.
87 Dog Trainer - horrible smell, always exhausted.1d6 dogs, 1 of which is usefully trained. The rest are mostly wild. 
88 Rake - in it for the thrill. Utterly debauched and amoral. Will do something fatal eventually.
89 Cidermaker - has a small cart full of barrels. Smells like apples. Always drunk. 2cp for a cup of cider.
90 Cook - reliably produces the same tasteless grey slop, even during famine or sieges. 2cp per bowl. Scowling.
91 Cook - has maintained the same pot of stew since the last War. Flavour varies. 2cp per bowl. Rotund and florid.
92 Cook - can roast any animal. Will gleefully regale you with tales of cannibalism, mutilation, and madness.
93 Cook - tries new ingredients. 2cp for a bowl of latest creation, 1-in-10 chance of being awful/delicious. Haggard.
94 Cook - legendary. Meals cost 5sp but heal +1 HP. Requires flattery and donations.
95 Butcher - 5cp for a rabbit, 5sp for a deer, 1gp for anything larger. Competent, efficient, and corpulent.
96 Shirtless Man - spends most of the time in the sun. Does menial tasks badly but looks good doing them.
97 Freak - deformed in some amusing way. Quite intelligent and a loyal friend, given time. 
98 Scrounger - 50% chance of leaving camp for the day and returning with something useful. 
99 Horse Trainer - calms frightened horses, fixes horrible horse ailments. Thin and twitchy.
100 Scholar - knows more than most people about one specific but useless topic. Literate and educated.

2017/06/16

OSR: Class: Fighters

Rolling up a Wizard in the GLOG system is fun and exciting, and I've tried to make Knights interesting too. Now it's time for Fighters. 

I think you can judge a system by its fighters. Every OSR blogger under the sun has a new and interesting system for spells, shamans, zombie-tamers, trained dogs, and half-goat-half-werewolf-half-angels, but you can tell if someone really cares by how they build their "chump with a sword" class. The GLOG one is pretty good.

Class: Fighter


Starting Equipment: leather armor, sword, bow, 20 arrows
Starting Skill: see below.

A: Parry, +1 attack per round
B: Notches
C: Tricky, +2 Attack stat
D: Impress, Cleave

You gain +1 HP for each Fighter template you possess.

Parry
Once per day you can reduce incoming damage by 1d12 points. If you also choose to sunder your shield, you can reduce the damage by 12 points instead of 1d12.

Notches
Each time you attain a total of 10, 20, 30, and 50 kills with a weapon type (such as 10 kills with a dagger), you unlock a new ability for that weapon, chosen from the list below. Keep track of your kills and special abilities on the back of your character sheet.

1. +1 Damage
2. Expanded Critical Range (+1)
3. Special ability (negotiated with GM, one per weapon)

For example, a Fighter with 50 flail kills (4 notches) could have +1 damage, a critical range of (1-3), and the ability to stun an opponent for one round on a critical hit. The GM decides what counts as a kill.

Tricky
You get +2 to Combat Maneuver rolls. Additionally, whenever you attack and get exactly the number you needed, you may make an opposed Dex vs Strength or Dex (whichever is higher). If you win, you successfully execute a free Combat Maneuver.

Impress 
Whenever you win a fight against challenging foes, people who don't like you make a new reaction roll with a +4 bonus. This even works on people you just defeated in combat, unless you caused them undeserved or disproportionate harm. Hirelings get a +2  to Morale, or a new Save vs Fear.

Cleave
Whenever you reduce a creature to 0 HP with an attack, you can make another attack with the same weapon against a target within 5’. You can only cleave an number of targets equal to your Level in a single round.

Mechanical Notes on the Fighter

Right from the start, Fighters are one of the most stable and survivable classes. At Level 1, you have 2 attacks, Defense 12 (from your armour), +1 HP, and the ability to reduce incoming damage. That's pretty ridiculous. The abilities only get more impressive.

This is a trap. All the Fighter abilities are designed to trick you into fighting. People who fight, die. Eventually your fighter is going to pick their last fight.


The Tard-Venus pillage Grammont in 1362


Who Are You?

When I retire, I'm going to put my sword on my shoulder and start walking away from the war, and I'm going to keep on walking until I meet a man who says, "Hey, what's that thing on your shoulder?" Then I'm going to stop, stab him, and take his house. 
-Anonymous player
You are a member of the Third Estate. If you are good at fighting, it's seen as an affront and possibly a threat to the Second Estate. If you are literate, educated, or troublesome it's seen as a threat to the First Estate. In most places it's illegal for you to carry a sword. Your bow is used for hunting and practice. A strong body of archers is invaluable. Everything you do is taxed. You can expect no protection from the courts, no recognition under the law, and no chance of escaping your lot in life. You have a few rights, but they mostly relate to firewood and turnips.

Your lord typically has the right of "pit and gallows, sake and soke, toll, team, and infangthief.". In modern English, "drowning, hanging, finding you, hunting you, charging you for movement or activity, requesting unpaid labour, and executing summary justice". All the linked articles are worth reading. In some circumstances it's illegal to move away from your land.

Permanent national armies don't exist. Armies are raised, fight, and retire when the season ends or the war is over. The only permanent military forces are disorderly ones, as feared as the plague and nearly as devastating. While knights and lords obsess over warfare and honour, the involvement of the Third Estate is treated as a necessary but disreputable part of a war. Nevertheless, skilled fighting men can be found in any major city, willing to work for pay. They form a new career whose only profession is soldiering. Paying these soldiers requires more taxes.

Most fighters Around Here are male. There are a surprising number of exceptions. If those don't appeal, the excellent Julie d'Aubigny is worth reading about, (even if she's from the wrong era, wrong estate, and wrong genre). It's much easier to get away with this kind of stuff in the Third Estate. Once again, in Foreign Parts, anything goes.




Male Fighter

Starting Skill: 1. Farmer 2. Soldier. 3. Sailor

Farmer
1. You were forcibly conscripted, in violation of your few rights, by an unscrupulous lord. Your farm was seized in your absence. You might idly dream of revenge. Roll on this table to accumulate other wrongs and grievances.
2. You are the [d10+2]th son of a poor farmer. You needed to leave or risk starvation. Expect terrible letters from home. If all your older siblings die you can inherit the farm.
3. Your farm and village were burned during a war. Rather than rebuild, you moved to a new area, but the only profession you can find, other than begging, is warfare. You start with 1d6 rumours about the local area.
4. Your lord was good to you, and on his deathbed, elevated you to his son's household troops. Unfortunately, the son swiftly died and the new heir has no place for you. Start with 1 gp. You may roll on this table to accumulate other wrongs and grievances.
5. Years of practice with your bow have made you a deadly shot. Start with 10 extra arrows, 2 spare bowstrings, and one entertaining trick shot (shooting a coin out of the air, an apple off a tree, etc.)
6. You abandoned your family and land to seek wealth, glory, or a better position. Start with 2 extra rations and a lingering sense of guilt.

Soldier
1. You served in Foreign Parts. Make up 1d6 ludicrous lies. You gain the "Foreign Parts" skill, but people from Around Here distrust you.
2. You served well and fought bravely but your service was not rewarded. You have gone to seek your fortune elsewhere. You start with no money, but your amazing tales will earn you friends.
3. You are a professional outlaw, a brigand who raids villages and cuts down merchants on the road. You care nothing for laws, wars, or causes, and roam where your will takes you. You start with 10 extra arrows, 2 rations, and many enemies.
4. You served in a mercenary company that was disbanded and scattered. The world has no place for you save the War. Start with an extra language and 1 camp follower.
5. You were free with your money and accumulated 1d4+1 camp followers.
6. Your skill with your weapon of choice brought you to the notice of your lord. Gain 1gp and an insufferable swagger.

Sailor
1. You can swim, even in leather armor. Unless you're a fishling this is a rare skill indeed.
2. You served in Foreign Parts. Make up 1d6 ludicrous lies. You gain the "Foreign Parts" skill, but people from Around Here distrust you.
3. Your ship was wrecked in a storm. Gain a +2 bonus to Charisma when interacting with water or lightning elementals. You have no idea this bonus exists.
4. You saw a sea monster once. You gain a +1 Save vs Fear when saving against creatures larger than a cottage.
5. You can eat anything. When in town, you eat twice as many portions as normal, but on the road or in the dungeon, you can Save to reroll negative effects from spoiled food, dungeon meat, etc.
6. You served well and fought in a major sea battle. Start with 1gp and a trinket from Foreign Parts.




Female Fighter

Starting Skill: 1. Frontier 2. Soldier. 3. Unusual

Frontier
1. You lived on the edge of civilization. Six miles north was uncharted territory. You carried a sword to go feed the chickens. Gain a +1 Save vs Fear and 1 extra ration.
2. Your parents were new arrivals to a conquered area. They wanted you to be able to defend yourself against the uprising they feared daily. You start with 1d6 rumours about the local area.
3. You were a street rat or a wilderness child. Your life has been hard and brutal. Instead of a bow, you start with a sling and 20 rocks (half range, fits in a pocket, but otherwise functionally identical).
4. Your village was so small, isolated, and threatened that, despite the cultural shock, you and 1d6 of your sisters and cousins, were trained in archery and basic swordfighting. Expect terrible letters from home. If you ever visit, you and your friends will always be welcome.
5. Your grandparents were barbarian mercenaries, granted land in exchange for service. Although you and your family are civilized now, the old traditions are still conducted in secret. You [1d4] 1. Can fire arrows from horseback accurately, 2. Gain the "Religion" skill, 3. Wield an unusual (but functionally identical) sword, 4. Start with 1 camp follower.
6. You served in court of your lord and observed daily martial training. In exchange for gold or other favours, a sergeant-at-arms amused himself by training you as well, in secret, as a joke. Or so he believed - your ambitions and desire for freedom lead you into the wider world. Gain the "Laundry" skill.

Soldier
1. You followed your husband or lover to war but returned alone. With few useful skills, you took up his equipment and rove Creation, surviving as best you can. You start with a hand cart for hauling your possessions (and hidden weapons).
2. The war became desperate. Surrounded and in great danger, you took up arms and fought for your life. You escaped, but gained a scar (see the Death and Dismemberment table). Start with +1 HP.
3. You were a minor follower of a great and warlike lady. You were trained in hunting and, to better inspire her troops, swordfighting and other combative arts. You start with a mythological costume (stored safely in a bag) and a good singing voice.
4. You are the de facto leader of a group of irreverent brigands, layabouts, and scum. Start with 1d4+1 camp followers.
5. You were besieged for years inside a city and took up arms to defend your home. When in town, you eat twice as many portions as normal, but on the road or in the dungeon, you can go for up to a week without food before suffering penalties.
6. You took up arms to revenge some monstrous wrong. Roll at least once on this table. You care nothing for life or those who would judge you. Gain +1 Save vs Fear and start with 1gp.

Unusual
You gain the skill listed, not the "Unusual" skill (which isn't a real skill anyway).

1. Your parents, maddened by grief at the death of their only son, insisted you replace him. You were raised as a boy and were poised to inherit the family farm before you were unmasked and denounced. You can disguise yourself as male with minimal effort. Gain the "Disguise" skill.
2. A wizard trained you as a bet. He tutored you in combat while his noble patroness tutored a man in sewing, dancing, and poetry. He unsurprisingly lost the bet, but you remain on good terms. He gave you a random minor magical trinket. Gain the "Courtesy" skill.
3. You claim to be a soldier polymorphed into a woman by a spell or curse. You have a certified letter from famous, distant wizard to prove it. 10% chance this is actually true. Gain the "Law" skill and 1 camp follower (who will solemnly attest to your transformation, even if bribed).
4. You were taken as a squire by a [d4] 1. lecherous 2. extremely poor 3. extremely nearsighted, 4. eccentric low-status knight. He was recently killed in battle, and you feared that the persistent rumours would become questions and possibly a trial. Gain the "Horsemanship" skill.
5. You were raised in an outlaw family and know nothing of polite society. Your manners are shocking. You start with a dagger, the "Highwayman" skill, and the ability to shock any member of the First or Second estates with just a few words.
6. You were raised in Foreign Parts, brought to Around Here as a captive or curiosity, earned your freedom, and now seek your fortune. You never liked Foreign Parts much anyway. You start with an appearance and native language so unusual that, to most people, your profession is the second most shocking thing about you. This could be extremely minor (hair colour, accent, pointed shoes). (Yes, this still applies in a game with toadlings and wizards. At least they're our toadlings and wizards, not like those nasty foreign ones). You gain the "Foreign Parts" skill. Make up 1d6 ludicrous lies.