The Cursed Vagabonds (3.5e Quest)/For DMs
- 1 For DMs
- 1.1 Setting Up Challenges
- 1.2 NPCs
- 1.3 Locations
- 1.4 Advancing The Plot
- 1.5 Having Fun
- 1.6 Who They Kill
- 1.7 Taking Mercy
- 1.8 Starting The Game
- 1.9 Finishing The Game
- 1.10 Closing Words
Listed here is a bunch of information to help you get the game set up and how to go about setting up challenges for these cursed vagabonds. So, sit back and soak some of this up. It also won't really hurt the game if the players read this, since the DM is still plotting out everything. This really boils down to just a guideline. Break it at any time you want to deviate since you're the one running the game.
In order to keep the game going, make sure you know your group's pace. If you want a shorter game, be sure to push along in-game time to keep on schedule for how long you have to play for.
Setting Up Challenges
For a group of 1st level commoners with weak weapons and 4 hp, any opponent other than an unarmed commoner is a scary prospect to fight. Even against a commoner, a couple bad rolls in a row could mean brutal death.
The players might be extra bold at first, attempting to secure better gear and items as quickly as possible to ease the pressure of their horrible statistics. If if fails for them, offer other opportunities later. Player should be pro-active in their pursuits, but if not, feel free to toss a couple easy marks occasionally. Not everything has to be a great challenge.
You're encouraged to bait the players with tempting situations to see how they handle them. Allow the players to calculate and judge proper risk and reward, or at least the option to properly calculate, since they could fail a Spot check to notice something vital.
Expect to see some of them attempting coup-de-grace attacks or lobbing stones off a rooftop. They'll likely do all kinds of silly things that sound good at first, but after a failed roll, go downhill quickly. Then the panic sets in. Just remember, grisly deaths are likely to make a mess of one's clothes.
Also, if the vagabonds sneak into houses at night to wreck up the place, avoid mentioning any children. Ügar frowns upon killing children (docking tallies from vagabonds who do so, also reprimands). That's not really something we want to encourage. Though, it's still your game so do whatever.
You really don't need to look up stats for a basic commoner. Just look up whatever race and apply those modifiers. Commoners are ordinarily gonna have 4 hp and no other modifiers to their rolls. Don't even worry about their skills or feats if you don't want to. Specific kinds of commoners can get a few bonuses (the ol' DM's friend of +2 bonus as necessary works well here). Loggers, miners, longshoremen, coolies, thugs and goons are probably going to get some strength bonus, but might otherwise be normal commoners.
Warriors & Other NPC-Classed Opponents
These guys are a step up in difficulty, often with two or three HD. They usually have some gear on them, making them a target out of necessity to loot upon killing. A direct confrontation is unlikely, so expect those vagabonds to come up with tricks. If they keep using the same tricks over, spice up the situation a bit to add more drama. These are probably your city guards, who are going to be out on patrols at night and in the day. As the week goes on, if the killings are conspicuous, they'll be out in full force, perhaps even setting up traps, especially if they notice a pattern to the killings.
These guys are likely to be avoided by the vagabonds unless they're feeling particularly daring. Any kind of well-armored or magically-inclined character can easily one-shot a cursed vagabond. PC-classed characters occasionally hang out in groups in bars and inns. Nobles also tend to employ them as necessary.
These should be used sparingly, especially if the don't net the vagabonds any tallies. Guard dogs, ogre bodyguards, minotaur shock troops, watchmen on horseback and summoned monsters are all going to be intimidating for a cursed vagabond. If constantly beset by challenges beyond their capacity, the players may lose heart (and interest in the game).
As DM, you're going to go through a lot of NPCs very quickly, what with all the killing. You probably won't have to name that many of them, but they should still stand out in some way.
Here's a handy list of medieval occupations to browse through: Medieval Occupations
Coming up with names on the fly can be tricky and are likely to sound stupid or generic. Why break tradition with these names.
1: Roll a d10 to determine the column.
2: Roll a d20 to determine the name.
Table: 100 Female NPC Names
|01||Kala Tien||21||Drusilla Clovish||41||Mallisa Ante||61||Agnea Addams||81||Milda Linseed|
|02||Genna Heine||22||Hellen Norma||42||Micah Ruststoke||62||Mabel Oakbar||82||Magali Irmgard|
|03||Ila Harriet||23||Naomi Blackbrick||43||Cathryn Katharina||63||Deborah Seikkinen||83||Celina Applebuck|
|04||Adrienne Shim||24||Shayla Kum||44||Geneva Oberhelm||64||Ria Gallipeau||84||Yuriko Chen|
|05||Laree Kris||25||Priscilla Dawnfowl||45||Erinn Temple||65||Misty Zenobia||85||Fonda Imelda|
|06||Emeline Venita||26||Klara Jordan||46||Jolene Potash||66||Jettie Kortney||86||Danille Bigham|
|07||Selma Batwig||27||Barby Dayle||47||Ursula Anisha||67||Barbra Glassweight||87||Diana Painter|
|08||Shu Kary||28||Ja Drema||48||Eleanor Elida||68||Temeka Samira||88||Nicola Aiko|
|09||Mattie Massey||29||Garnett Kaycee||49||Myriam Stodge||69||Elwanda Fletcher||89||Sherrill Precious|
|10||Ramona Islander||30||Caryn Clarissa||50||Margette Conchita||70||Lorraine Aldmin||90||Jewell Rushing|
|11||Hortensia Avery||31||Lexie Lorretta||51||Alva Prieto||71||Lesia Zuzu||91||Arletha Grayrock|
|12||Viktorya Jade||32||Nelle Oxborn||52||Sherry Shoreman||72||Marcie Lady||92||Kirstin Tania|
|13||Jaimie Graciela||33||Corita Ulla||53||Sherlene Lizardwright||73||Swanda Mozelle||93||Ayaka Wando|
|14||Davinia Claycock||34||Babala Marisa||54||Lola Sharktooth||74||Rita Quinn||94||Senaida Dandria|
|15||Irma Hawk||35||Ceola Dalila||55||Elicia Sadie||75||Arminda Candice||95||Gael Brower|
|16||Xenia Marcela||36||Ella Merton||56||Reiko Lakesha||76||Gwynzel Shepherd||96||Eloise Parasol|
|17||Jaleesa Lavern||37||Kenna Meldar||57||Kaye Angelmen||77||Jasmin Christina||97||Coleen Taneka|
|18||Pippie Singleton||38||Ione Briner||58||Lenora Golda||78||Maki Faye||98||Bera Allram|
|19||Layla Emelda||39||Tristie Greenguard||59||Teevetti Vanin||79||Gabriella Galinna||99||Shannon Kilkoyne|
|20||Aimee Hahn||40||Crystal Pines||60||Gertrude Lissbeth||80||Emelia Stoutfish||00||Aurelien Devigne|
Table: 100 Male NPC Names
|01||Wynell Gussie||21||Bruno Fruchart||41||Anton Weaver||61||Ian Phelps||81||Aldo Rendon|
|02||Pavlo Gresser||22||Clement Gantier||42||Geraldo Landu||62||Luke Belltower||82||Buzz Dayswell|
|03||Chapman Valentine||23||Greogg Lennepec||43||Deon Floy||63||Byram Milton||83||Davis Carbone|
|04||Garris Edds||24||Charles Rosamond||44||Bram Helton||64||Smitty Mercer||84||Ronald Dalton|
|05||Bronson Keppler||25||Jorg Jompurs||45||Toraho Yahairo||65||Cuevas Gomez||85||Andrew Kincade|
|06||Dell Gudrun||26||Brogan Hahn||46||Cameron Belanger||66||Scott Shackers||86||Morth Bramford|
|07||Kron Greenbolt||27||Hugh Embers||47||Gregor Montoya||67||Kenneth Korter||87||Seamus Barrer|
|08||Jeremy Carlysle||28||Kabiru Nasiru||48||Haengwoo Lee||68||Taylor Deezee||88||Finn Fronk|
|09||Ray Rhoad||29||Dale Melvin||49||Ron Macklem||69||Jameson Erstwhiles||89||Kenneth Cromdor|
|10||Gary Barnyard||30||Muso Alli||50||Avokate Okocha||70||Bertram Whistler||90||Jannek Ovia|
|11||Gabriel Barragan||31||Alfredo Cortez||51||Josefa Toolyard||71||Wallace Easdon||91||Brick Poorstag|
|12||Gudrun Loida||32||Bryan Ferraro||52||Renfield Peckgray||72||Brant Wansley||92||Jory Gooi|
|13||Joaquim Branco||33||Demetrius Cockcroft||53||Colt Mander||73||Arthur Burgess||93||Sal Avalos|
|14||Clement Chabot||34||Guttersworth Bridger||54||Allen Tracy||74||Saul Barrister||94||Anthony Morrison|
|15||William Anderton||35||Todd Siegler||55||Jurado Shackler||75||David Harbin||95||Jacyard Colletto|
|16||Kilgore Donaldson||36||Rick Slugsmith||56||Pierre Hemond||76||Paul Beery||96||Armando Daza|
|17||Karl Nettie||37||Marc Ottor||57||Ouzdavu Cummuta||77||Myles Brasshand||97||Yolimar Maestre|
|18||Fabien Brasselet||38||Geoff Vickars||58||Damien Klaver||78||Barr Gordon||98||Wade Spiceman|
|19||Bours Palmer||39||Prince Igwe||59||Denndor Pritchens||79||Emil Wecker||99||Torry Schlein|
|20||Roman Marino||40||Guy Harrison||60||Edwin Crestport||80||Grant Burroway||00||Raul Soursop|
NPCs should stand out from one another if they do any talking at all. Here's are some lists of character traits you can apply. Just roll a d% once or twice.
There are lots of locations within the primary location a DM chooses. First off, this game is intended to be played within the setting of a fairly large, cosmopolitan city. That doesn't mean it's dominated by humans, or culturally advanced, but it does mean there's likely a smattering of several races that get along without too much racism. It might be ruled by a monarchy or perhaps a college of wizards. The guard force might all be young draftees or it might be an elite force of golems or minotaurs or something scary that encourages the players to employ stealth tactics/distractions/lies to avoid getting caught.
Here are some general locations in and around the city to think about:
Bar Name Generator Chart
Drinking establishments have always been a popular location in D&D as a social location where folk gather in close proximity publicly. Your city should have a few bars of varying clientele. Places on main streets are likely to be rowdier and more light-hearted while back-alley locations can be seedier, rougher or more subdued.
Quick and Easy:
1: Roll a d20 for each column.
2: Put it together: The + Prefix Adjective + Suffix Noun + Location Type
Examples: The Brooding Unicorn Saloon, The Sad Knight's Keep
Optionally: Pick out the parts you like and go with that.
|#||Prefix Adjective||Suffix Noun||Location Type|
Advancing The Plot
Just because the point of the game is to rack up a swath of murder-death-kills, doesn't mean that something particularly interesting can't be happening in the background. This is D&D and the players will likely still want to roleplay their vagabonds and look into intrigue (or at the least, pay attention) when something strange starts to happen. Now, it's up to the DM how much, if any, extra plot he wants to throw in, but here are some suggestions.
- Ügar is some portentous omen of disaster. There are rumors going around that <Insert Horrible Catalyst Here> is gonna wipe out <Insert Name of City Here>. Perhaps a meteor, earthquake, volcano, tarrasque or other mega-horrible-bad-thing is going to hit, and oddly, this coincides with the deadline given by Ügar for the vagabonds.
- A weird cult moved into town and began kidnapping people. Perhaps the vagabonds see this while skulking around at night. Perhaps even one of them is captured. Try not to feel bad for the sacrifices any vagabond is thrown into a cage with.
- A street gang has recently been in a turf war with another street gang. Perhaps the vagabonds want to "help".
- A beast was discovered to be lurking in the sewers and comes out at night. The guards have been unable to catch it.
- Ügar ups the ante by making the vagabonds stronger, faster, better and tougher each day.
- A seemingly unkillable warlord has parked his army outside of town, beckoning those within to send forth their worthy champions.
- A blackmarket alchemist's fire deal goes south and crates of the stuff are found loaded up.
- A sphere of annihilation slowly floats through town, wrecking up stuff it comes into contact with, like buildings. I wonder what would happen if a cursed vagabond touched it.
- Every time the vagabonds come back after being killed, they appear more fiendish, even those who've been killing bad guys.
- Ügar wants the vagabonds to kill so that all the slaughter brings him back to the material plane in physical form, and he uses the winner as his avatar.
- Instead of raising them as who they were, Ügar instead reincarnates them (just without any Constitution- or level-loss stuff). At least there's no chance of coming back as a badger this time. Use the table below instead though, since it has only ECL 1 races on it.
|100||Other (DM's Choice)|
With this sort of game, you diverge into "stuff you should generally avoid in a D&D game" territory. Since the players won't all be in one location and are competing against each other, that can be a mess to run, because at some point, players are just going to be sitting there not particularly invested in the goings on of someone else. DMs are encouraged to let other non-participating players make some rolls on his behalf. Obviously, this makes hiding certain rolls difficult (you know, because DMs like to fudge rolls at their own discretion behind screens), so they don't need to be made for every roll (or particularly important rolls). Players rolling for the DM also adds a sense of competition.
If the DM wants to increase the likelihood of the vagabonds running into each other while they're out, make the location of opportunity smaller. At the very least, they're more likely to run into the aftermath of their competitors. This sort of scattered PC game lends itself well to a play-by-post forum setup where players aren't actively sitting around a table waiting for their turn to come up and participate. This will additionally give DMs time to plot out more detail if his PCs are highly tactical in their approach, allowing them to make better decisions.
Additionally, it's up to the DM to be as entertaining as possible in this game. He should never waste an opportunity to add a little extra flair or description. NPCs can be talkative and say dumb things. Surroundings can be comical with little details out of place. Catching your gamers off guard will get them to stay tuned in and invested in the game. Be sure to include lots of sensory detail in your descriptions. Smells and sounds are just as important as sights when describing a location. Introducing a goat farmer who totes his goat-wife around on a leash that he argues with (in one-sided conversations) is much more entertaining than an old, bearded farmer fellow.
Who They Kill
Perhaps some cursed vagabond still feels a sense of justice he must abide by and decides to use his curse as a means of taking down a ruthless cult or street gang. On the other side, one of his compatriots decides just to kill indiscriminately in order to rack up kills. Maybe another decides to let a local church of war in on his secret and asks for their assistance. A good DM, like Ügar, rewards roleplaying too. Players shouldn't be punished for well-thought character choices. Let them play the character they want to play.
Redemption could be a strong motivating force for some characters who may feel that they squandered (or simply failed) when opportunity knocked for them in the past. This curse finally gives them a chance to make a difference in the world, but now they've only got a week.
He never announced himself as "Ügar The Fair and Just!" (unless you did announce him as that, in which case that's on you now). He just wants to be entertained (unless you give him other motivations). If someone falls behind in score (or dies perhaps a bit too frequently), Ügar isn't above handing out boons of his own, such as weapons, one-shot items or other advantages. Everyone should have fun, and feeling like you're still in the game can alleviate a lot of frustration, especially after a bout of bad dice luck.
Starting The Game
The game starts with the vagabonds gathered around the fire. Give the players a few minutes to acclimate themselves to the other vagabonds around the fire and their surroundings. At the first stroke of midnight, Ügar arrives and delivers his curse and speech (as you read earlier in: The Setup).
From here, the DM has to pace the days, track the players and their kills (as well as how much "time" they've used). Organization and a little preparation work will help here. Mostly, you'll just need some space to write and track things.
If your game starts running long (or looks like it's going to), Ügar can always push up the deadline as "cosmic forces have realigned" or whatever.
Finishing The Game
At midnight on the 7th day, the game ends. The vagabonds all drop dead where they stand and meet up with Ügar in some sort of afterlife plane of your description. Depending on how menacing you want Ügar to be, the location could range from a hovering obsidian chunk over a lake of endless churning lava where colossal worms breach and scream in the distance or a grassy valley dotted by boulders and golden trees all surrounded by monumentally-high cliff sides. It is here that Ügar passes his judgement (and you give denouement for the game).
Since the ultimate goal of this "quest" is to win, the DM can handle this in several ways… through the use of Ügar, Master of Plot. The gist is that the players should be rewarded for playing well, rather than how they ultimately place. "Winning" is just bragging rights rather than why everyone was playing. Do the players work together to take out their victims? Ügar honors cooperative spirit! Do they refuse to kill each other during a tie that came down to sudden death? Ügar awards noble vagabonds! Do the players work together the whole time only to be backstabbed by one player at the very end? Ügar awards this treachery… but also everyone else. There's some comedy to be had from the situation, so play with that when it comes to the end game. Feel free to have Ügar mock or jest with the vagabonds, as they are his entertainment. The more entertaining you make everything, the more likely everyone at the table is going to have fun.
The purpose of this game is to "take a break and stretch your legs" as it were, for D&D in general. Often times, during a long campaign, pressure or stagnancy can arise. This short game is designed to alleviate that feeling and make D&D feel fresh again in general. This goes for DMs too, who might just need a bit of a short break from heavily structured plot.
Also, as DM, feel free to use whatever silly tactics the PCs develop with their vagabonds for taking down tougher targets against their other characters later in another game.
If you have any questions, comments or concerns, please post them on the talk page of the main article to be addressed.