Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Adventuring Parties in the Twilight Empire


Designer's Notes

What follows is a revised version of my previous post on adventuring parties. Instead of posting about Into the Dark as a generic set of old-school rules, I have decided to develop the rules with my Gothic fantasy sandbox campaign in mind--Twilight Empire. Among other things, this makes it easy for me to provide specific examples in posts, such as (in this case) particular groups and factions that player character parties can be affiliated with.

Adventuring Parties

Before each player creates his own particular character, the players must agree on what type of adventuring party they will form. Adventuring party type determines the players’ main motivation for adventuring. The referee also uses adventuring party type to develop provide hooks or leads for adventures.

At least one third of the members of an adventuring party must belong to the main class and training package for their party type.

Adventuring Party Type Table

Roll
Type
Main Class and Training Package
1
Criminals
Thief: any
2
Crusaders
Cleric: Templar
3
Explorers
Fighter: any
4
Friars
Cleric: Canon
5
Grave robbers
Fighter: Soldier or Thief: Burglar
6
Guildsmen
Fighter: Soldier
7
Knights
Fighter: Cavalier
8
Mercenaries
Fighter: Soldier
9
Nobles
Fighter: Cavalier
10
Wardens
Fighter: Scout
11
Witch hunters
Cleric: Templar
12
Wizards
Mage: any

Criminals

A party of criminals are members of a street gang or underworld guild. Underworld guilds vary in size from dozens to hundreds of members. They often specialize in a particular form of crime, such as assassination, forgery, gambling, narcotics, procuring, protection rackets, smuggling, or theft.

In addition to evading, fighting, or paying off the local enforcers of the law, a party of criminals must navigate the ever-shifting alliances and rivalries among the underworld guilds themselves.

City of Greymouth Underworld Guilds Table

#
Underworld Guild
Alternate Name
Allies
Enemies
1
Assassins Guild
Blood Brothers
Grey Wizards
Twilight Emperor
City Guard
Council of Burgesses
2
Beggars Guild
Alley Jacks
Racketeers Guild
Cult of the Rat Lord
Thieves Guild
3
Racketeers Guild
Crimson Blades
Beggars Guild
City Guard
Red Wizards
Cult of Moloch
Black Wizards
Smugglers Guild
Thieves Guild
4
Smugglers Guild
Night Merchants
Thieves Guild
City Guard
5
Thieves Guild
Black Hearts
Smugglers
Black Wizards
Cult of the Cat Lord
Beggars Guild
City Guard
Racketeers

Crusaders

Crusaders are members of a militant order of canons regular, dedicated to using force of arms to defend their religion, or to spread it through the conquest and forcible conversion of border regions. Members of crusading orders are commonly referred to as Templars.

The stronghold of a crusading order is referred to as a commandery. A party of crusaders are usually attached to a commandery, but may instead be attached to a church or abbey in a remote or border region.

Crusading Orders (Militant Canons Regular) Table

#
Order
Mission
1
Knights of the Blood
Protect the relics of martyrs
2
Knights of the Book
Protect the Library of Constance in Greymouth
3
Knights of the Hostel
Protect travelers and guard the countryside
4
Knights of the Temple
Protect the Temple of El in Greymouth and the pontifex maximus

Explorers

A party of explorers is generally in the service of a noble, bishop, free city, or company of investors, employed to survey and pacify a border region, to establish colonies for settlers, or to discover and open up new trade routes.

Friars

A party of friars are members of an order of canons regular associated with the Church of Law. The party can also include various people associated with the order, either because they are devotees of the order’s divine patron, or because they were hired by the order to provide security or some other service.

Principal Orders of Canons Regular Table

#
Order
Description
1
Black Friars
Learned theologians and apologists of the church
2
Grey Friars
Mendicants and renunciates who shun bodily comforts
3
Red Friars
Zealous supporters of the pontifex maximus; infamous for intrigue
4
Sisters of Sorrow
Nuns who assist the ill and infirm
5
White Friars
Dedicated to helping the poor

Grave Robbers

While they may refer to themselves as “artifact hunters” or “antiquarian explorers”, these adventurers are commonly known as “grave robbers,” plain and simple. Grave robbers specialize in locating, exploring, and looting the many ancient ruins which dot the countryside of the Twilight Empire, or which lie buried beneath its towns and villages. Most ruins were built by the Pantarchs, but there are also sites of more recent origin, such as the long barrows and abandoned hill forts of the Old Valish, or the subterranean delves of dwarves, goblins, and other faeries. Ruins are commonly guarded by bandits, witches, faeries, or evil spirits, but they also contain ancient treasures which can be sold for considerable sums to the right buyer.

Guildsmen

Guildsmen are members of a trade guild. A trade guild is an organization dedicated to defending the interests of the practitioners of a craft, profession, or trade in a particular town or city. Each type of craftsman, merchant, or profession has its own guild. People in small towns, or practitioners of trades with few members, sometimes combine into a single “Odd Fellows” guild, so named because the guild’s members come from a variety of trades.

A trade guild has an alignment and a divine patron. The vast majority of trade guilds are lawful, and venerate one of the saints or archangels. Trade guilds typically sponsor annual festivals which honor their divine patron.

An adventuring party associated with a trade guild may be a band of mercenaries hired to defend the guild from attack, theft, or witchcraft, or to spy on, infiltrate, and attack rival guilds or factions.

Knights

A party of knights includes warriors of noble birth who belong to the same order of chivalry. An order of chivalry is a group of knights dedicated to pursuing a political or other cause. All actual members of an order of chivalry must be fighters of noble birth, but a party of knights may also include non-members who are in the service of the order, such as a chaplain (cleric) or scout.

While members of orders of chivalry are generally not clergymen (unlike members of crusading orders), an order of chivalry always has an alignment and religious affiliation. Most orders of chivalry are lawful. Neutral orders of chivalry include elite warrior societies of pagan cultures; chaotic orders of chivalry are secret societies dedicated to fighting in the name of demons or elder gods.

Principal Orders of Chivalry Table

#
Order of Chivalry
Mission
Alignment
1
Knights of the Empress
Defend the honor and person of the empress
lawful
2
Knights of the Shield
Defend the borders of the Twilight Empire
lawful
3
Knights of the Veil
Defend the supremacy of the twilight emperor
lawful
4
Knights of the Vow
Defend the privilege of the aristocracy
lawful

Mercenaries

Mercenary companies often serve as armed guards for caravans, ships, guild halls, shops, and warehouses, or else bolster the armed forces of nobles, churchmen, free cities, or the twilight emperor. Their members are generally of common birth, but sometimes scions of the lesser gentry or dispossessed noblemen serve as their captains or marshals.

Mercenary companies can number in the hundreds, but there are also smaller bands of mercenaries numbering in the dozens or fewer, which fit the case of a typical adventuring party.

Many people dislike mercenaries, because unemployed mercenaries often resort to banditry.

Nobles

A party of nobles is made up of members of a single noble family—unlike members of an order of chivalry, who are usually from different (and even rival) noble families. A party of nobles also includes characters of common birth who are in the service of the noble family.

The goals of a noble family include defending and expanding their lands, securing good marriages for their sons and daughters, and avenging insults to the family honor.

A party of nobles is from a lesser branch of one of the great noble houses, or a lesser noble family allied with one of the noble houses. Such a party will nonetheless be affected by the grand politics of the empire, as shifting alliances and hostilities among the noble houses are felt at all levels of the feudal hierarchy, and they too may play a role in thwarting or furthering the machinations of the great counts or indeed of the twilight emperor himself.

Noble Houses Table

#
Noble House
Reputation
Coat of Arms
1
House Beryl
Majesty
Gold gemstone on a black field
2
House Boarshead
Valor
Blue boar’s head on a gold field
3
House Falconcrest
Chivalry
White falcon on a blue field
4
House Ravenwing
Treachery
Black raven on a white field
5
House Tawny
Pride
Red rooster on a gold field
6
House Winterwolf
Endurance
White wolf on a black field

Wardens

A party of wardens is in the service of a noble or ecclesiastical lord, and is charged with such tasks as patrolling game preserves, defending borderlands, scouting enemy forces, raiding enemy bases, escorting VIPs on long journeys, hunting down criminals or fugitives, and retrieving stolen treasures. Wardens may also be referred to as borderers, gamekeepers, or rangers.

Witch Hunters

A band of witch hunters is an operating unit of the Office of the Inquisition, charged by the Church of Law with discovering and rooting out heresy, idolatry, sorcery, witchcraft, and incursions of demons or spirits of the dead. On the one hand, inquisitors are often given considerable latitude in the execution of their duties; on the other hand, they are part of a judicial institution, and are thus required (at least in principle) to conduct formal investigations and to gather evidence according to the rules laid down by the Church of Law.

Inquisitors are often sincerely motivated by a desire to protect human civilization from the forces of darkness, but they are not above resorting to spying, torture, and assassination in the service of this lofty aim.

Wizards

A party of wizards consists of members of an order of wizardry together with their associated servants and allies. Orders of wizardry are also called wizard guilds or occult lodges; they are often forced to operate in secret, because of the common belief that all magic involves invoking demons or elder gods.

Wizard orders vary in size from local groups which may have a dozen or fewer members, to international associations which can have hundreds of members spread out over many lands.

An order of wizardry’s alignment represents the type of spirits its members commonly invoke in order to attain their magical power. Lawful wizards customarily associate with celestial spirits, neutral wizards with elemental spirits, and chaotic wizards with infernal spirits. In addition, lawful wizards generally aspire to use their magic to benefit society, through spreading knowledge and enlightenment, while chaotic wizards generally use magic to enhance their personal power and to attain mastery over others.

Members of sufficiently large orders of wizardry receive a 20% discount on magical goods or services purchased through the order, in exchange for paying annual dues equal to 100 groats times their experience level.

Orders of Wizardry Table

#
Order
Alternate Name
Training Package
Magical Specialization
Alignment
1
Order of the Eye
White Wizards
Theurge
celestial magic
lawful
2
Order of Hermes
Green Wizards
Alchemist
alchemy
neutral
3
Order of Mysteries
Grey Wizards
Thaumaturge
elemental magic
neutral
4
Order of Shadows
Black Wizards
Sorcerer
infernal magic
chaotic
5
Order of the Torch
Red Wizards
Sorcerer
fire magic
chaotic