I am bringing together two threads here. The first is Gabe’s Lazy DMing and the second is a conversation I had with Marc about how he has house ruled the Patronage/Renown rules from One Ring in to RMu.
When Marc first mentioned Patronage he described it as a single figure, 0-6, that is used to represent the characters current standing with a particular NPC. 0 means the NPC barely knows you exist. If you do work for the Patron or help them out then your Renown goes up. By the time you get to a Renown of 2 you can start to ask for favours in return.
My immediate response was to ask if these rules accounted for Renown ‘flowing’ from one NPC to another, such as if you worked for a particular lord and had a good standing would that lords brother in a neighbouring town also look upon you favourably. Would the Renown flow along trade routes, so if you are doing good stuff in this town would the next town get to know about you and look favourably upon you when the party rocks up.
It turns out that some of these questions are covered in the rules.
So I started to think about this in the context of lazy GMing.
So imagine you create a little cross reference grid with NPCs listed down the side and across the top. It would be really easy to fill the grid with bonuses and penalties that apply to the characters social skills when acting for or against particular NPCs.
So in this example, obviously you would have rows and columns for every NPC you create on the spur of the moment:
Lord A likes and probably trusts his Vizier but and Baron C.
Vizier B dislikes Lord A but likes Baron C
Baron C really dislikes Lord A but likes Vizier B
You could easily generate these numbers using 1d10-5 x 10. Whenever a new NPC is introduced we just add a new row and column and add in a new rolls see how much they (dis)like the other NPCs in their location.
Using the table would be a case of looking at how the NPCs feel about each other and how they would feel about emissaries from one to the other. If the characters had been working for the Vizier recently and then they turn up bearing a message for Baron C then he is very likely to welcome them. If the message was from Lord A then there is more chance that he would keep them waiting around on some pretext.
Of course a GM could easily come up with these relationships themselves. The point is that even if you have no idea where the player characters are going to go, who they are going to talk or what they are going to latch on to, this technique will allow you to spontaneously create a level of social tensions and relationships.
If you ignore lords and barons for the time being you could have a table of the ‘normal’ people in the town. The players ask the barkeep about the best place to stay. If you had rolled a positive bonus on reactions for one innkeeper and a negative or near zero reaction to the other inn owner then the barman is likely to recommend the first inn. What if the serving wench is really popular with the few town guards you can had to create so far? The guard are likely to drink in that tavern and when the fighter in the party tries to hit on the serving girl he could end up being given the evil eye by the guard(s).
The template above has a blank grid with room for about 18 NPCs which is probably as many NPCs are you are likely to create in your typical village or town.
This is not intended to turn your game into roll playing rather than role playing. Where this works really well is when two or three random rolls create a little story of their own. Maybe a married couple end up with -50 in all reactions towards each other or you get a triangle where two men appear to hate each other but are both very keen on the same woman. Then her reactions to one or both of them could be the stuff of local gossip, tensions. And then in amongst all of these walk the PCs.
Obviously your mileage may vary.
This really is my last post before I move. Tomorrow at 8am I am giving up Cornish giants and celtic legends and heading for lands of Norse myths.