[5E] Urban Intrigue Campaign - Gating the Sandbox - Page 2
Page 2 of 4 FirstFirst 1234 LastLast
Results 11 to 20 of 38
  1. #11
    Member
    Time Agent (Lvl 24)



    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Location
    Indiana
    Posts
    8,631
    The difficulty I have always found with these sorts of gates is that PCs have a lot of ways to bypass them, and the typical gatekeeper is not remotely equipped to cope. Between illusions, teleportation magic, mind control, extreme stealth skills, and brute force, PCs can generally get where they want to be.

    The pat answer to this problem is "Enforce the logical consequences of defying the law"--but if you do that, you quickly end up with a game where the PCs are outlaws on the lam, waging all-out war against the legitimate authorities. Either they succeed in defying the law, in which case you end up in the same place as before, or they wipe out in a spectacular TPK, and the campaign ends.

    All of which is to say: Player buy-in is key. You need players who are willing to have their characters follow the rules (or at least be selective about breaking them).
    XP Riley37 gave XP for this post

  2. #12
    Member
    Grandmaster of Flowers (Lvl 18)



    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Posts
    3,593
    For my urban campaign, nonlethal combat is key.

    Defeating opponents without murder, reduces a serious crime to misdemeanor, or even simply a nuisance that the guards dont want to bother themselves with.



    For this reason, the ‘bloodied’ condition becomes highly useful. It is the moment when an altercation becomes a fight. Someone is going to have a black eye.

    I reserve all the ‘unfair’ ways of ending combat to only become possible during the bloodied condition: such as stun and intimidate to force surrender. Before bloodied, the target simply has the wherewithall to avoid these kinds of attacks from landing.

    In any case, zero hit points and the ‘dying’ condition, marks the moment when the opponent is open to a lethal attack for the first time, such as a stab into the gut or a mindwreck. At this point, rather than kill, the attacker can choose to ‘subdue’ the opponent, such as knocking the opponent out, disarming the opponent, or forcing manacles on the opponent.

    Keeping fights ‘civil’ goes a long way to cooperating with the security personnel. And even becoming deputies for the guards can be a way to work within the security concerns.



    In some urban cultures, a duel to the death for the sake of personal honor or family honor can be an acceptable form of violence. However, such duels are moreorless sacred events, with solemn codes of conduct. Intentionally provoking a duel against an obviously less skilled combatant, might have someone more skilled step in to represent the person as a champion.
    Last edited by Yaarel; Tuesday, 18th June, 2019 at 07:55 PM.
    XP 77IM, Fenris-77 gave XP for this post

  3. #13
    urchins. yes, its the background applied to npc children... stealth, slight of hand, and double movement speed between areas in the city. they have knive (for the cutpurse), and work together. so one will be a distraction (the help action!) to give another advantage on slight of hand to pick your pocket. a third one carries the goods, when possible (limiting risk of capture).

    so... a group of a half-dozen poor children, ages 8 to 12, are in the street. one is the lookout (perception+wis), one is the distraction (may even beg for coins), another sneaks up to steal. another is carrying the loot, and staying stealthy with a clear escape path. if confronted, they will run in different directions, past known obstacles to slow pursuit. if you manage to grab one, congratulations you have a screaming kicking child who is calling you a kidnapper. if you hurt any of them, thats worse you evil monster. its a fight you cannot win. but if you can win a few persuasion checks, these urchins are valuable friends to have (and at the low cost of food for starving children). they probably work indirectly for the theives guild in exchange for food and shelter.

    hidden alleyways exist, and contain empty houses full of squatters, and the occasional ruin. the street level may be boarded up, but the upper floors have planks between the open windows... and a maze of passages that can have traps, hidden ambushes, dangers (loose roof tiles, large rats, and worse), and so on. but there are also open spaces between houses where people use all the land they can to grow food. two or three crops of garden vegetables in the narrow space between the buildings, grown by the people who live there.

    have a park, full of trees. perhaps run down and overgrown, in a section of the town thats fallen into disrepair. allowed to fall into disrepair, because its on the river and has a hidden dock for smuggling perhaps.


    Teleport Circles! these are very important, and can allow a city on the ocean to ALSO be a city in the mountains with mines, AND a city at a desert oasis AND a forest town. if its a permanent connection, then have several portals between those cities that were added over decades as trade increased. so if its raining here, sunny there, snowing there...

  4. #14
    Member
    Orcus on an Off-Day (Lvl 22)

    RangerWickett's Avatar

    Join Date
    Jan 2002
    Location
    Decatur, GA
    Posts
    14,798
    When writing ZEITGEIST: The Gears of Revolution, there are many urban adventures, but the 'gating' was more information based. You didn't know you had a reason to go certain places until you accomplished preliminary investigations.

    You can look up and see the spooky mountain in the middle of the city from the get-go, but you don't know what you need to do up there until you follow a few leads and learn that a seer wants to go up there to get a clear look at the stars, over the haze of smog from the city's new industry, which in turn gives you information you can use to track down the main villain. Likewise, you could walk into the main villain's house at any point, but you don't know he's the villain, and even if you're suspicious he has secret allies, so just killing him doesn't count as a win, because you won't have rooted out his whole network. You need evidence to put him away and stop the whole scheme.
    XP Dausuul, 77IM gave XP for this post

  5. #15
    Member
    Myrmidon (Lvl 10)



    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    Location
    Ontario, Canada
    Posts
    502
    Quote Originally Posted by Yaarel View Post
    Status because of wealth, celebrity, and power ... is modern.
    Depends on your version of celebrity and power. Celebrity is still about famous people being famous, and wealth buy you a lot. Maybe not a noble title, but if can sure buy your kids a ticket to a bunch of none noble titles and positions.

    The Knights Templar had plenty of status, no small part of it was because of money, and the fact that were a darned effective fighting force. I'm fairly certain that if the Grand Master of the Knights Templar rolled on up to your castle and asked for an audience with the local lord, he probably go it.

    In much the same way if Geoffrey Chaucer was about, you probably invited the guy to your parties. Keeping in mind that Chaucer wasn't a nobleman by birth or grant, however he was from a wealth family that allowed him to enter into a number of positions within in the English royal courts at the time. So a famous poet has a status that some nobles would envy, its not everybody that is granted a gallon of wine per day for life.
    Last edited by Beleriphon; Wednesday, 19th June, 2019 at 12:40 AM.

  6. #16
    Member
    Grandmaster of Flowers (Lvl 18)



    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Posts
    3,593
    Quote Originally Posted by Beleriphon View Post
    Depends on your version of celebrity and power. Celebrity

    In premodern cultures, it is more important to be *related* to a noble and have a title, than to actually have money. The Knights Templar had plenty of status, no small part of it was because of money, and the fact that were a darned effective fighting force. I'm fairly certain that if the Grand Master of the Knights Templar rolled on up to your castle and asked for an audience with the local lord, he probably go it.

    In much the same way if Geoffrey Chaucer was about, you probably invited the guy to your parties. Keeping in mind that Chaucer wasn't a nobleman by birth or grant, however he was from a wealth family that allowed him to enter into a number of positions within in the English royal courts at the time. So a famous poet has a status that some nobles would envy, its not everybody that is granted a gallon of wine per day for life.
    The Knights Templar are an imperial religious order − and very much about certain ruling families. These aristocratic families were also bankers.



    There are commoners who have access to the aristocrats: servants, entertainers, and merchants. But the aristocrats are highly conscious of their ‘low birth’ and ‘low status’. They try to prevent the boundaries from getting blurry.

    Sometimes, a commoner can be formally adopted into a noble family. Or the commoner might marry into a noble family by an arranged marriage. A commoner might be ‘knighted’, but this might not be hereditary. In all of these cases, what matters is who belongs to which family.

  7. #17
    Member
    Orcus on an Off-Day (Lvl 22)

    Ovinomancer's Avatar

    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    Location
    Charleston, SC
    Posts
    4,570
    Okay bear with me here, because this is going somewhere.

    D&D is NOT a good system for this kind of game. Some of the reasons for this are listed above, but to reiterate, almost all of the abilities in D&D are provided to bypass, overwhelm, or convert challenges to the players' benefit. This means that the system, as a whole, is focused on the PCs defeating a challenge. The result of this is that the resolution system generates binary results and, outside of combat, non-granular results. It's not well suited to social intrigue, politics, negotiations, etc., that all will feature prominently in the style of game you're proposing. D&D does direct challenges well to okay-ish, and is very bad at the kind of murky, maybe games that go with a gritty crime game.

    So, the short answer to this is try a different system. Blades in the Dark pretty much nails everything you list in the OP -- it was built around those concepts to do only those concepts, and it excels at them. Or FATE, which can do a good job of that kind of game as well. But, I'm going to guess that this isn't an option, so let's steal a few things from Blades that might work okay in D&D.

    Foremost -- Factions. Build up a number of factions in the city, but leave them as thumbnail sketches only -- a distinguishing trait, a goal (maybe), a stomping ground. Treat everything in the city as a faction -- the noble houses, the guard, the military, the watch, the thieves' guilds, the merchant guilds, the urchins, the beggars, the creepy old ladies in that one house. Treat all of these them same. Assign them a tier (I'd go with the I, II, III, IV tiers already in 5e) to represent their relative power. Then, when you start the game, go ahead and have your players tell you why one of those factions likes them and why one of those factions doesn't like them. This immediately creates tension in the system and lets you start pushing and pulling the PCs to interact with the various factions. Whenever the PCs interact with a faction, have that interaction change the opinion of the faction. You can track the favor of a faction using the factions rules (clunky) or as if they're a NPC and the PCs are trying to influence their opinions (so, friendly, neutral, unfriendly, hostile, that stuff). If you keep a sheet listing the faction names and a quick mark for favor, you can prep quickly and dynamically as play goes.

    Remember those tiers you assigned? Use those to set the DCs and CRs for that faction. A Tier I faction is low tier CRs and low DCs as a base -- DC 10 should be what you use for anything in Tier I. Tier II is DCs 10-15. III 15-20. IV is 20+. Same with the CRs of any combatants -- the higher the Tier, the tougher the mooks, leaders, and personalities. This way the city will "gate" itself in play as access to or competition with a faction will be heavily influenced by the tier of the faction.

    I would avoid trying to map out a plot for a city game. Too many variables. Let the plot develop naturally, picking up ques from the play as the party angers some factions and pleases others. Remember to 'hold on lightly' to your plans, in case the players throw you a loop.

    You will still find that the system will not do a good job of supporting the kind of play you may want, but you can maybe bash it into shape. I'd strongly suggest reading up on using skill challenges in 5e (especially the dynamic fiction nature of skill challenges) as this can be a good tool to reduce how the system treats complex social interaction or complex infiltration/theft challenges.

  8. #18
    Member
    Spellbinder (Lvl 16)



    Join Date
    Dec 2014
    Location
    San Mateo, California, USA
    Posts
    1,263
    Quote Originally Posted by Fenris-77 View Post
    You don't just walk into the Baron's Winter Ball, you either have the reputation to get invited on your own, or you manufacture circumstances to finagle an invitation from someone else who has the requisite reputation.
    Or you forge an invitation; though that probably requires borrowing a valid invitation, to copy its layout and style, and to copy the signature on the valid original.

  9. #19
    Member
    Myrmidon (Lvl 10)



    Join Date
    Apr 2019
    Posts
    446
    Quote Originally Posted by Riley37 View Post
    Or you forge an invitation; though that probably requires borrowing a valid invitation, to copy its layout and style, and to copy the signature on the valid original.
    This is exactly how I want the players to think, yes. Forging the invitation carries a significant set of possible consequences, and would also require, potentially, disguises and other skulduggery. That sounds like a strong role playing opportunity to me. When you're talking about society events it's more complicated than just forging an invitation. People in 'society' tend to know each other, and the hosts know who they invited and didn't, so odd people out will need to find a way to not get asked awkward questions.
    @Ovinomancer - I realize that D&D isn't optimized for this style of play. However, I do think it will support it just fine with some tweaking.

    Results doesn't have to be binary. Pretty much anything can be run based on X number of successes, like 5E chase mechanics. That can work as straight roles or opposed roles. Also, there are situations where several smaller goals might need to be accomplished before a major one, and there are a bunch of ways to avoid those being save or lose propositions. For example, PCs might need to make X number of successful PER checks over the course of a party to sway opinion, that doesn't mean they only get X chances.

    Your comments about factions is pretty much what I was thinking, although I was planning to start based a little more on background than you as far as PC affiliation. As for the gating, we're also thinking along similar lines, as are we about plotting. Linear plots are a fools errand in most campaigns, and doubly so in this kind. I'll have important info and events that I can slot in as necessary depending on how the PCs decide to approach things. I wasn't planning on using the faction rules from the DMG either, although I am using some of the concepts from those rules. Since I plan on using a reputation stat anyway, I'll use that where in some cases a positive reputation in one place will lead to a negative reputation with competing interests.

    There was a reason I didn't lead with factions and reputation in the OP. I have a whole system I'm banging out to manage (well, measure) influence and favours set next to reputation. I'm not finished ironing the kinks out, which is why I led with a more general question. The goal is provide players with a concrete way to measure success and progress when it comes to influence and reputation. Measurable success allows for concrete planning and goals, and that takes some of the fuzz out of third pillar play. That's the idea anyway.

  10. #20
    Member
    Orcus on an Off-Day (Lvl 22)

    Ovinomancer's Avatar

    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    Location
    Charleston, SC
    Posts
    4,570
    Quote Originally Posted by Fenris-77 View Post
    This is exactly how I want the players to think, yes. Forging the invitation carries a significant set of possible consequences, and would also require, potentially, disguises and other skulduggery. That sounds like a strong role playing opportunity to me. When you're talking about society events it's more complicated than just forging an invitation. People in 'society' tend to know each other, and the hosts know who they invited and didn't, so odd people out will need to find a way to not get asked awkward questions.
    @Ovinomancer - I realize that D&D isn't optimized for this style of play. However, I do think it will support it just fine with some tweaking.
    Yes, and good luck. 5e has no rules for what you're asking for (and rules tgat actively fight it) but you can always houserules around it. Or try to. My initial suggestion is to look for a ruleset that already does what you want, but I understand the appeal of sticking with the familiar.
    Results doesn't have to be binary. Pretty much anything can be run based on X number of successes, like 5E chase mechanics. That can work as straight roles or opposed roles. Also, there are situations where several smaller goals might need to be accomplished before a major one, and there are a bunch of ways to avoid those being save or lose propositions. For example, PCs might need to make X number of successful PER checks over the course of a party to sway opinion, that doesn't mean they only get X chances.
    I was talking about 5e as core, where binary results are the norm, even with the above about success at cost or failing forward. This is why I mentioned skill challenges, which is not tech inside 5e but can be added with little fuss. The trick to this is to be flexible about narrative positioning as the challenge continues, which also cuts against normal heavy DM control of narrative the 5e bakes in.

    Your comments about factions is pretty much what I was thinking, although I was planning to start based a little more on background than you as far as PC affiliation. As for the gating, we're also thinking along similar lines, as are we about plotting. Linear plots are a fools errand in most campaigns, and doubly so in this kind. I'll have important info and events that I can slot in as necessary depending on how the PCs decide to approach things. I wasn't planning on using the faction rules from the DMG either, although I am using some of the concepts from those rules. Since I plan on using a reputation stat anyway, I'll use that where in some cases a positive reputation in one place will lead to a negative reputation with competing interests.

    There was a reason I didn't lead with factions and reputation in the OP. I have a whole system I'm banging out to manage (well, measure) influence and favours set next to reputation. I'm not finished ironing the kinks out, which is why I led with a more general question. The goal is provide players with a concrete way to measure success and progress when it comes to influence and reputation. Measurable success allows for concrete planning and goals, and that takes some of the fuzz out of third pillar play. That's the idea anyway.
    I think we often get wrapped up in our mechanical solution schemes and lose sight of what the point is. As a design principle, the tighter the mechanics the less room to play results -- things become more rigid and locked within the framework. Also, there's the problem that too much detail means that you as DM wil stay having to play Spreadsheets: The City. I recommend you step back and decide what you want to be the focus of play absent mechanics and then look to see what you can steal that does that with the minimum fuss. If you're still working on your facton mechanics, odds are they're already too complex. Blades has an excellent and simple (single sheet) method of tracking faction relations. And, it's a focus of play, so it not hard to track as the players want to uodate it.

    As for information flow, this is easy. Tell them. The source of this confusion is the legacy of thinking that DMs should hidde information from players by default, which means that DMs will all how they can let players know things. This shows over the obvious -- just tell them. Long experience shows that players having information doesn't mean you can't surprise them, or that they won't screw it up by the numbers. Be open about faction relations, but maybe not the reasons. I mean, you often will hear rumors someone doesn't like you, so just assume the PCs, who aren't always on-screen, have sources that give them the lay of the land.

Similar Threads

  1. Modern Urban Sandbox
    By Lord Zack in forum *General Roleplaying Games Discussion
    Replies: 1
    Last Post: Thursday, 6th May, 2010, 05:43 AM
  2. L.A. Group Looking 4 DM for Urban/Political/Intrigue Campaign
    By Canaan in forum Gamers Seeking Gamers
    Replies: 5
    Last Post: Wednesday, 14th March, 2007, 08:20 AM

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •