OSR: Mob Rules

One of my favorite Dickens books is Barnaby Rudge. It's not my favorite - I don't think it's anyone's favorite - but it's got some very interesting features.

There's a standard-issue romance-murder-inheritance-mystery plot with the usual array of charming Dickensian characters (you don't have to look far on the internet to find an abundance of Simon Tappertits) but there's also, through the last chapters of the book, a colossal world-shattering riot. Society is upturned. The Mob is a living, breathing character in the novel. I've tried to give it OSR-style stats here. They're still undergoing testing. The final version will be published in Magical Industrial Revolution.

The Mob

HD: Varies. The Mob has HD (Hit Dice, d8s) based on its Cause. I've listed HP values to save  rolling if you're in a hurry.

20 HD (80 HP): Primal Needs (Food, Water, Money, Alcohol, The Good Life)
15 HD (60 HP): Infamous Crisis (as promoted by the Newspapers, see below)
10 HD (40 HP): Political Strife (Gumperts vs. Bogs)
5 HD (20 HP): Local Injustice (Police Brutality, Increasing Rent)
1 HD (4 HP): Obscure Cause (Vegetarianism, Outlawing Gin)

A mob's HP represents both its size and its willingness to keep rioting or protesting. Any attack that deals more than 3 lethal damage kills someone in the Mob and requires a Morale check (see below). Nonlethal damage still does HP damage to a Mob, but represents members being bloodied, knocked out, arrested, or driven off. When a Mob's HP reaches zero it disintegrates. 

Appearance: A shouting, sweating crowd of people, mostly drawn from the Middle and Lower classes. Men, women, children, excitable dogs, and chickens. They may have unifying emblems (blue cockades, red ribbons, leeks, etc.). A Mob takes up part of a street, an entire street, several streets, or a square, depending on its size and ferocity.

Wants: to satisfy its Cause. In the absence of a strong reason not to, to run riot, have a good time, set some things on fire, and generally Show Those Bastards.

Armour: none. Any attack directed against the Mob automatically hits it.

Move: 1/2 normal, but can move in 2 directions at once. Can't race you but can outflank you.

Morale: 8

The Mob must test Morale when:

-It is confronted with a number of armed authority figures (Coppers, soldiers, etc.) equal to its HD
-One of its members dies (it takes 3 or more lethal damage from a single source)
-It kills its first person.

Roll 2d6. If you roll over the Mob's Morale, the Mob disintegrates. Constituent members flee, drop weapons, give up, get arrested, or go into hiding. If you roll equal to or under the Mob's Morale, it becomes Bloodthirsty.

A Bloodthirsty Mob does not need to test Morale. The only way to stop it is to reduce its HP to zero.

A Drunken Mob can reroll Morale tests. It costs [HD]x10gp in cheap gin to get a Mob drunk for 1 hour.

Demagogues, righteous causes, unrighteous causes, military leaders, preparation, illegal drugs, mind-control spells, and other tricks can increase or decrease the Mob's morale at the GM's discretion.

The presence of the Monarch reduces the Mob's Morale to 2 and requires an immediate Morale check.

Damage: The Mob has a number of attacks equal to its HD (or current HP / 4 if damaged). With each attack, it can either

-inflict 20gp worth of property damage to a nearby structure
-set something on fire
-make an attack roll against an adjacent person, dealing 1d6 lethal damage on a hit

-chant, wave flags, and shout

Mobs are not utterly murderous. Even a Bloodthirsty Mob won't kill more than 1 or 2 people a round. Instead, the Mob prefers to loot, smash, burn, bruise, humiliate, and generally run riot. The Mob assumes you're with it unless you make a serious attempt to oppose it, you look rich and worth robbing, or if you're part of the group against its Cause.

Upgrading A Mob: 
 A Mob can grow larger (effectively healing itself fully and gaining extra HD) by changing its Cause and attracting new members. It can only do this if it's had 1 hour of completely unchallenged rioting. Under normal circumstances, a mob has a 1-in-10 chance of upgrading per hour. Proper demagoguery, a city on edge, or free gin may increase this chance. Causes with more HD have wider appeal than causes with fewer HD. What starts as a political rally could easily turn into a riot against foreigners of all kinds, then grow again to a general orgy of violence and looting when unemployed and angry agricultural labourers join.

GMs Notes:

Hopefully these rules adequately represent the Mob as both an asset and a liability. If you want to get something done you can raise a Mob and hopefully point it at your enemies, but there's always a chance it will run out of control and start destroying everything.

Newspapers in Endon

Papers are sold in the streets. Most are daily; some have morning, afternoon, and evening editions. Without subscriptions to support them, many papers mostly depend on lurid and inaccurate stories or ill-gotten scoops to drive daily sales. Everyone who can read does so; everyone who can has someone who can read them interesting or sensational stories. They're sold so cheaply that they're effectively free (unless a player wants to start a bonfire or something ridiculous).

Illustrations (via lithography) are expensive but increasingly common. Magical enhancements such as moving pictures and sound recordings start to appear at [  ][  ] and are ubiquitous by [  ][  ][  ].

1d10 Newspaper Names
6 Daily Connection
7 Universal Express
8 Metropolitan World
9 Inside Mail
10 Truthful Tribune

Every Innovation, Scandal, and Execution is reported with widely varying accuracy. Use the daily papers to drop hints and leads to your players. If they're stuck, if they're lost, if they've missed something vital, if you need to introduce an Innovation, put it in the paper. If they need a hint, say they've "read about it this morning" or "recall an article in the Spectator".

It costs 1d10gp to run an advertisement in a paper and 1d20gp to influence an editorial. To significantly influence discussion in the city Endon requires at least 200gp over 2 weeks period of 3 weeks. Threatening a few editors might also work.

It's possible to start a new paper. See Making Your Mark (not yet written).


  1. It’s very rare that generational talent such as you would grace our minute pastime. This is of course beyond brilliant.

    There are three levels of genius.

    The first kind is the kind that does something that you say “I could have thought of that!” But you didn’t.

    The second kind does something and you say “there’s no way I could have thought of that!”

    And the third kind is such a genius that people around him can not recognize him as such. They say he’s crazy or lucky or unstable or a creation of his time. Only after he’s gone is his genius recognized.

    You’re at least a class 2 genius I think.

  2. How much does it cost to START your own Newspaper? How much do they pay "reporters" -- or are they all freelance? How much do Newspapers cost? Are there guilds for Newspapermen, an Enlightened and Truthful Brotherhood of Scriveners and Correspondents? If so, what are the dues?

    1. Oh, interesting. A news guild.

      The way I will handle it in my Port campaign is that the newspapers are house organs of the major guilds in town. They are transparently partisan. There will also be noble-loyalist papers.

      The very concept of a fair and uncompromised press is kind of modern. In England today the papers are very clear about their allegiance and editorial bent. It would not be less clear in a fantasy-medieval world.