Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Toolbox: Random Downtime Generator

I was looking through a copy of Chaosium's Cities, which was ostensibly written for all Fantasy RPGs, but is clearly built with Runequest in mind.  While it's got some okay tables for generating encounters on the fly, what really made me go "ooh!" was the "Character Catch-Up" section.  What it serves to do is determine what the characters were up to when the cameras were not rolling.  The original intent was for characters who missed the last session to have something to say for themselves.

I think he heard you say something about the 'stache.

What we're going to do here is see what Selina, the MRQ Lankhmar courtesan from a previous Rogue's Gallery, was up to for four weeks while her man, Tshimanga, is off chasing after a group of brigands who roughed up Brother Kent.

Week One:
Rolling on the Random Events table, we get a 63.  Selina has a chance to invest some cash.  She doesn't have a whole lot of cash, so she'll invest a mere 10 silver smerduks.  Okay, we go to the Investment table, check for fraud (apparently when you start an investment, there is a 10% chance it was a scam and you lose your investment).  She's good (with an 87), so she rolls on the actual table, getting a 94.  The investment is liquidated, and she rolls a 5 to get her investment back tripled.  A 20 smerduk profit on a one week investment.  Nice.

Since Selina has a job, she rolls on the Savings table to see how much of her weekly salary she saved.  With a roll of 75, she was able to save 30% of her weekly income.  I have no idea what that is.  Nothing in the Mongoose Lankhmar book, but my Deluxe RuneQuest book has it.  Oddly enough, there are no prostitution rules in the "Finding a Job" section.  I'm going to say that we'll consider her an Entertainer and her prime requisite will be Influence to see how much she gets paid.  With her Influence of 39, and Lankhmar being a large city, she brings in 7d10 smerduks a week.  I roll 44 smerduks, of which she brings home 13 smerduks and 2 algols.

We have the opportunity to roll once on the Gambling table, but we'll pass.  She doesn't strike me as the gambling type.  She can now buy any kind of items or goods.  She's got 62.7 smerduks, which we'll say she's saving up to eventually own her own brothel (unless Tshimanga stops being a jerk and starts taking her on adventures with him and she can do THAT for a living).  A quality home in a city like Lankhmar is about 6,000 smerduks.  She has a long way to go.

The article has a section on improving skills, but says if your system has its own system, that'll supercede the article.  MRQ has a system, so we'll use it here.  To help her make more money, she is going to practice both her Influence and her Dance skills.  Ever the individualist, she does this on her own without a mentor.  She rolls a 63 for Influence and a 43 for Dance.  Improvements in both!  Her Influence is now 42 and her Dance is now 26.  She decides to bank 30 of her smerduks, and the week ends.

Week Two:
Oh damn.  Rolling an 84 on the Random Events table, her living quarters burn down.  Fortunately, she rolled under 50% and was able to save her belongings.  At least she rented and didn't own.  She earned 35 smerduks, of which she was able to bring home 10.5.  Again, no gambling or investing.  She'll practice her Influence and Dance some more.  She only improved her Influence by 1, but her dance went up a whopping 2.  She banks the 10 smerduks.

Week Three: 
With a 44 on the Random Events table, she befriends someone.  A Tavern keeper gives her free drinks and lets her sleep off the effects by the tavern's fire at no cost.  She earned 35 smerduks, but was unable to save any of it.  I guess the new inn she is staying in is pricey.  She improves her Influence by a mere 1 again, but her Dance goes up a whopping 5!  Guess we know how she impressed the Tavern keeper!

Week Four:
Ooooooh, here is where the mini-game gets interesting and dangerous.  With a roll of 06, Selina is offered a dangerous mission with a 2000 smerduk payoff.  These missions give experience and gold, but could kill your character.  We've previously determined that Selina, deep down, wants to be an adventurer.  That makes it a no-brainer.  She takes the mission.  I roll a 10% death chance, and the roll is a 54, so Selina is now CONSIDERABLY richer, and gets to increase three skills (the recommended average for a MRQ story).  We're going to go with Dagger (39), Dodge (37), and Stealth (12), and she increases them by 4, 3, and 4, respectively.  We then roll to see if she gets to keep her job (due to her absence).  She fails.  I think it was worth it.  We roll to see if we can use the Employment table, as she looks to get a new job, and we can.  She gets hired in another working-class job.  We'll say she starts dancing at a different hall.  She earned 31 smerduks, but was unable to save any of it.  She JUST might be living it up a bit this week.  No worries.  She practices both her Influence and Dance and increase them both by 4.  She then banks her 2000 smerduk payoff.

What started off as a pretty dull and lonely time without Tshimanga turned into an incredibly profitable adventure for Selina.  When he gets back from his little journey, they will be living in a new place and she will be dancing in a new hall.  And she'll be able to tell him about her wonderful adventure.

What's Changed:

New Skill Levels:
Dagger 43
Dance 35
Dodge 40
Influence 48
Stealth 16

33 smerduls
2 algols
2040 smerduks in the bank

Tavern Keeper who will give you free beer and lodging

Wow!  That was actually an enjoyable little mini-game.  I like the concept a lot.  It keeps the characters competitive from a statistical and a role playing standpoint.  Let's say Selina's player missed a session and that's why we rolled up this month.  Now Selina doesn't miss out on the skills the other players earned and has stories to boot.  PLUS, there are a few things that could be used as a plot hook:

The Investment:  Let's say she fronted the money to get a minstrel to play a hall for a cut of the profit.  The minstrel could approach her down the road with other business/adventuring opportunities.
The Fire:  What caused it?  Was someone after her or Tshimanga?  Might they try again?
The Tavern Keeper:  While Selina has the favor already, maybe he can ask her for help with something?
The Adventure:  With the rolls she picked, it doesn't sound like she was up to much good.  Maybe she had to sneak into a cult's secret meeting place and retrieve a stolen object?  Well, now the secret is out and Selina is a liability.
The Job Change: Her old employer could be annoyed/threatened that she will now draw business away from where she was working to her new hall.  It's an ugly business she works in...

I must say, the "Character Catch-Up" is a wonderful tool.  I think I will use it for a lot of games.  It doesn't require much in the way of tweaking.  It's a shame that Cities is out of print.  If you can get your hands on a copy, certainly snatch it up, if only for this mini-game.