One of the things I have to do this week is put together the July issue for the fanzine.
One of the things I want to include is an adventure for beginning level characters, which I consider 1st to 3rd level, set in a town.
Being in a town poses some challenges.
- From a hack and slash point of view, the town guard is more likely to a better bet than the characters at dealing with threats.
- There is a more limited selection of beasties to use for hack and slash encounters.
- Using intelligent creatures means they will more likely want a fair trial then be summarily executed by the characters.
From a non-hack and slash perspective we have other problems.
- Characters may not be diversified enough to have the social skills for a social conflict adventure.
- ‘Prime movers’ in social circles are highly likely to be a vastly higher level than the characters.
One of the things I struggle most with for urban adventures is how to create a challenge for the characters that makes sense for the characters to actively take part in. If the challenge is clearly illegal, what is to stop the characters simply calling the guard in to take care of it?
If it isn’t illegal, what is to stop the antagonists just calling in the guard to arrest the characters for the medieval version of harrassment?
In my face to face game, which we played before lockdown and we are due to play again in October or November, so has a chance of happening but no promises, the players are both hunting and hunted by at least one assassin. The actual number of assassins is not known. They could be the same person or different.
The identity of the assassin is also not known.
This is almost on a par with a superhero/villain with a public and secret identity. That is where some of the tension is coming from. The characters don’t know who they can trust. As they are also the hunted as well as the hunters they cannot afford to do nothing.
So over the course of today I will be wandering around the farm thinking of horrible things to do the the characters that are not to difficult for them to resolve, but not to easy either!
7 thoughts on “Urban Adventures”
I’m working on an urban/detective adventure for the 50n50–and having the same struggles and questions that you are raising. In the “old days”, the group just killed anyone they wanted without any sense of consequences. The city watch/guard were seen as a joke.
Powerful Characters are less of a problem, they can command respect and ride rough shod over local law and custom to some extent. Low-level characters are tough to challenge inside the town environment.
Remember too that medieval towns were not like modern ones, with civil Police forces and 911 telephone lines.
The characters might call for help, only to find that the town garrison doesn’t give a fig about nameless foreigners passing through the city, and certainly won’t stick their neck out for them when they get into a run in with respectable locals.
They might also have been paid off.
Then there is the complication of magic. If you have someone in town that can cast Past Visions or even simple Suggestion that the suspect should tell the truth. It creates all kinds of complications.
Yea, some of the spell lists are tough on any kind of investigation (most RMU Magent lists, RMC’s Illusionist Guises list, or Seer list ‘Mind Visions’ etc…). It’s a pain at times, but rules on conflicting spells helps a fair bit especially with Informational type spells. Others that involve illusion or actual shape-shifting are much tougher to deal with. If bystander A sees “Jo NPC” walk away from a victim with a bloody knife, that’s what they see; no amount of True Sight will reveal differently.
Yes, it means I needed to rely on deception in many different ways. If people do not know the truth, the best magic in the worlds won’t get it out of them.
The lack of a police force is one angle I’ve used for the urban settings. Private individuals will hire the party to protect or investigate things, when there’s no interest in the city guard to do it, and a seer would be too expensive.
I also had the party get entangled in a gang rivalry. Both gangs had paid off the guard to leave them alone, so the whole dynamic was “guard free.”
Most recently, the party was the group that discovered shadow-creatures were somehow getting to town and attaching to people, draining their energy and hope. The officials didn’t believe them at first, and the party kept being involved in bizarre, one-sided brawls that got them dragged in. For example, they realized a fruit-seller they knew was behaving oddly and were able to see the shadow on her. They tried to attack it, destroyed her fruit cart, almost set a building on fire, and cast Darkness over a city block. (Don’t ask me to understand why they thought Darkness was a good way to attack a shadow-being, especially when only half the party can see in the dark.) Eventually the officials caught on, and worked with the party to figure things out.