Monday, July 11, 2011

Vornheim Contest Entry #1: Some Rival Adventuring Parties

Here's my first entry for Zak S.'s 'Vornheim: Hack This Book' Contest.

It's a table for quickly determining some rival adventuring parties (and what they're up to) to give your PCs some much-needed competition. GMs should feel free to change any names and details to reflect the setting and mood of their game. Roll a d10 for each category and a d6 within each entry whenever indicated. Category 2 (Notable Fact) can be rolled more than once, as desired. Stats for individual members are not included. These can be rolled up easily enough along with any retainers, etc. the GM thinks appropriate. Levels of party members can be determined by adding or subtracting 1-3 d4 from the average level of the PCs. This is my first real attempt at anything like this, so any comments or suggestions would be welcome.


1. The Forsaken: Remnants of a betrayed mercenary company. They alternate between dour humorlessness and insane bravado and carry a reputation for surviving against impossible odds. As survivors of a massacre, they trust each other more fully than most adventuring parties. Roll again on any result that indicates inter-party betrayal, but keep the second result. Everyone has their limits.

2. The Dragonslayers: Loud, boistrous, and garishly attired, with an ever- changing lineup of braggarts, seasoned professionals, and thrill-seekers. They adorn themselves in bits of what they claim is dragon skin (nothing containing any useful text, if genuine) Their clothes, hair, weapons, etc. are decorated with dragon teeth, talons, horns, etc., or a decent facscimile. They travel with a wagon-mounted ballista, which they ostentatiously turn over to the Watch whenever they enter a new town or city.

3. The Progeny of Lorbis Vul. Core members consist of 4-6 vat-grown male and female humanoids, with skin dyed in a range of colors from sky blue to Vermillion, and marked on their foreheads with a seemingly random number from III – XXV. They are physically perfect, athletic specimens except for one glaring, disturbing flaw (1) Eyes (2) Voice (3) Arm (4) Leg (5) Chest or torso (6) Not readily apparent.. They are seeking the wherabouts of Lorbis Vul, a notorious sorcerer. For now, they pay their way by adventuring.

4. Lord Farthingale's Men. Lord Farthingale is a fop, dressed in whatever outrageous finery the GM wishes, but he has the cunning and brutality of a Blackbeard. His party, by contrasts, is plainly comprised of the worst sort of scum and riff-raff from every corner of the earth. He has a list of (often arbitrary) proscribed behaviors for his men within city walls, and will have any offenders killed on the spot, tossing a bag of silver at the feet of any wronged party.

5. Gorelick, Kesselmann, Voboes, Inginok and Fritch: Adventurers. Sons and daughters of the merchant class., all with the finest university educations. While their clothes, weapons, and equipment are new, they are nevertheless well-maintained and profesionally wielded. Their occasional naivite is offset by an almost frightening amount of efficiency and good sense. They are very well-read in the lore of adventuring, and are determined to learn from the mistakes of the dead, maimed, and insane.

6. Halma-Khet. A party of horse-nomads, led by an exiled nephew of the current Khan. They are both curious and contemptuous of the ways of “soft city dwellers” and eager to prove their skill and valor. While they are expert horsemen (and seldom dismount if they can help it) they are less sure of themselves on foot. In public they (1-3) cannot or (4-6) pretend not to speak or understand the common language of the area, and rely on a slave who acts as interpreter (1-2) accurately and without bias (3-4) twisting words and meanings to please his masters (5-6) mistranslating everything in the worst possible light, either out of perversity or a desire to punish his masters.

7. Order of St. Halachris. A militant religious order (Group contains no fewer than 3 Clerics) dedicated to St. Halachris, Bringer of the Final Death. Party members are chiefly concerned with destroying the undead in all forms, though they are also called upon to deal with lycanthropes and witches. They are plentifully supplied with holy water, blessed weapons and amulets, etc., and each carries a silver dagger on their person at all times. They are (1-2) corrupt and venal – Matthew Hopkins would fit in perfectly, (3-4) Devout, intelligent, and reasonable, and suspicious of false accusations and exaggerated claims (5-6) Dangerous fanatics who see evil and corruption everywhere.

8. The Gallant Comrades: This consists of five adventuring companions and their retainers. They have been at this for longer than most of the PCs have been alive, and time and riotous living have left their mark. Their hair is greying or disappearing altogether, their faces have gotten fleshier, and their armor is bit more snug these days. For all that, they haven’t made it for this long by being careless. They’ve made and lost fortunes several times over, but now they’re planning something big—something that will set them up for the rest of their lives in comfortabe retirement.

9. Morgenstern and Sons: This is adventuring as a family tradition. A husband and wife team and their teenage children -- three boys and a girl. This is the only life they’ve known, though their situation is certainly odd- more commonly found among troupes of circus performers or the nomads of the Cold Wastes. They are all inured to the adventuring life, and will generally slit a throat or pick a pocket with practiced ease.

10. Sisters of Ynis Nagahl: An all-female group, bound together for mutual protection and opportunity. Several are former slaves, and the group will often make a point of harassing or attacking slavers on principle. Their current leader is a berserker from an obscure northern tribe, from whose warrior-goddess (her image takes the form of a she-bear holding aloft an axe and a human head) the group takes its name. In person, she is affable and somewhat flirtatious, though many find her necklace of dried human ears to be distracting and in poor taste.

Notable Fact

1. The Party, through one or more of its members, have a relationship with a noble in the city (roll on the Aristocrat and Relationship tables). This individual has a vested interest in the party, for better or worse, and will take any interference from the PCs as a personal affront.

2. One member of the party feels slighted after the last job and is looking for some petty revenge before skipping town. Will seek out PCs to aid in this purpose.

3. Party is wanted for some outrage committed outside the City – (1) Church or Monastic House, (2) Foreign Aristocrat, (3) merchant house (4) Peasant village (5) Criminal Organization (6) Large extended family. Representatives of this concern have tracked them to the city and are waiting for their chance to strike.

4. On their last adventure, one of the party members was (1-2) bitten or scratched by a were-creature (3-4) Possessed by a minor demon (5-6) infected with a parasite that is reproducing inside his/her body at an alarming rate, only to burst forth in a glistening, wriggling horde from the abdomen. S/he has managed to hide this fact from the rest of their party, but it is about to become profoundly apparent.

5. Are imposters. The real group is: (1-2) Incapacitated or Slain, probably by the imposters (3-4) Alive and Well, about a week’s journey from here (5-6) Never existed—the whole thing is an elaborate hoax.

6. The core members are part of a proscribed cult or sect. (1-2) A despised heresy of the most common local religion (3) A new messianic cult gaining in influence abroad (4-5) A known foreign deity –legal to worship in more exotic parts, but whose rites are illegal locally) (6) Servants of an actively malign horror from beyond the stars, unknown but to the most abandoned decadents, incautious scholars, and gibbering lunatics.

7. The party travels with an exotic, dangerous, and/or previously believed mythical beast. The creature is kept in a cage, large bottle, on a leash, etc. as appropriate.
(1-3) The creature has been tamed by means magical or mundane, and will obey the commands of a designated party member(s) to the limit of its intelligence and abilities.
(4-6) While the Party belives the above to be true, such is not, in fact, the case. Roll 2d6 every minute or so in which the Party is in the immediate vicinity of the PCs. On a roll of two odd numbers, it escapes its bonds.

8. Are in possession of (1) a (1-4) genuine (5-6) fake treasure map (2) A document incriminating (roll any number of times on Aristocrat and/or NPC tables) in a serious crime or scandal (3) A mundane treasure— unremarkable on the surface, but quite valuable to those in the know (4) An attractive but not obviously valuable objet d’art – worth a great deal to collectors. (5) An enchanted object or talisman, not readily apparent as such (6) A weapon (1-4) unenchanted but flashy (5-6) enchanted but ordinary-looking. The Party (1-2) is aware (3-4) suspects, but has not confirmed (5-6) is wholly ignorant of the item’s true qualities or import. PCs can pick up hints by overhearing tavern boasts/conversations, interrogation, pillow talk, talkative or easily bribed former members or retainers on the make, close observation, etc.

9. Have taken a Public Vow of (1-2) Chastity (3-4) Fasting- water and thin gruel, and only after nighfall (4-6) (Poverty) until the completion of their current mission. Their reputation will prosper or suffer according their (known) success in keeping the Vow.

10. Have heard of PCs and are actively trying to:
(1-3) Involve them in a lucrative joint venture. (1-4) They are sincere (5-6) They plan to betray the PCs as soon as it’s expedient.
(4-6) Hinder or sabotage the PC’s current plans. The GM should determine their seriousness/willingness to kill or maim in this regard.

What they're doing in the City right now

1. About to intercept PCs at the next crowded thoroughfare: The street is only wide enough for one group to pass at a time.

2. Desperately short of funds, the Party is attempting to sell off the meager loot from their last (disastrous) expedition, along with any surplus weapons, armor, or equipment. (1d4) members desperately seeking employment, with the remainder actively looking to split from the group and join another party.

3. Indulging in epic debauchery at the most expensive tavern/brothel in the city.

4. Recruiting for 1d4 new members in the town square, village green, etc. Will have hired 2d6 touts to announce this fact across the city.

5. In attendance at a funeral procession for a slain former comrade, accompanied by the appropriate clergy and 3d6 professional mourners. After a day or two, consult #4 of this column.

6. Engaged in a (1-3) heated argument (4-6) brawl with (1) Local Aristocrat and their retinue (roll on Aristocrat Table) (2) Another Adventuring Party (roll again on chart) (3) City Watch (4) Criminal Organization (5) Monster(s) (GM’s choice) (6) Other Tavern Patrons.

7. Pursuing individual interests (roll for each member/group of 1d#total in party-1) : (1) Doing research at a Library (2) Taking in a Show (Play, concert, bear-baiting, etc.) (3) Shopping at a Store or Market (4) Engaged in Secret Business with 1) Aristocrat 2) Random NPC 3) Criminal Organization 4) Outlawed Cult 5) The Regent/Mayor 6) Demonic/Extradimensional Entity (5) Attending public Church or Temple service (6) GM’s choice of results 3,6,8-10 on this column.

8. Breaking into (1-3) Private Residence (Roll on NPC or Aristocrat Table) or Public Building (4-6) Building (Roll on Building Table). If it’s daylight, they’re still casing the joint. If nighttime, they’re in the act.

9. At the center of a parade in their honor which winds its way through the streets, to end at the estate of an Aristocrat (roll) or the Regent, where they are wined and dined with great pomp and extravagance. In all the excitement and confusion, It will be relatively easy for PCs to gain admittance to the celebrations.

10. Fleeing the city, with (1-2) City Watch (3-4) Aristocrat’s retinue (5-6) Angry mob of citizens in hot pursuit. Their path of escape will intersect with the PCs, at which point a party member will drop a (up to the GM whether accidentally or not) (1-2) map (3-4) incriminating document (5-6) valuable or magical object where a PC can unobtrusively pick it up.

UPDATE: PDF version here

Later tonight or tomorrow...

A random table of Rival Adventuring Parties for your PCs to encounter, their quirks and secrets, and what they're up to right now.