Tuesday, January 15, 2019

More Fantasy Aids by M. A. Packer


Fantasy Campaign Aids
Written by
M. A. Packer



NPC Master List
            This comprehensive list of NPCs is intended to aid GMs, particularly newer ones, in creating more memorable encounters for the players.  Each NPC contributes, not only descriptions of their manner and mood, but the types of services the players may expect from them and potential quest hooks.  Listed in order of importance in society.

Dog/Horse/Mule/Sheep

Services: naturally animals cannot compensate the PCs for their aid, but aiding them may present an owner who may provide services.

Quests
The animal has suffered a wound that requires immediate treatment.
The animal is being harassed or mistreated by a cruel person or group of people.
The animal is lost and needs to be escorted home to its master.
The animal is starving or athirst and needs nourishment.

Animals lack currency or possessions, but their owners may reward the party, and at the very least.



Beggar/Street Urchin
Filthy and malnourished, this individual reeks or booze or refuse.  Beggars and street urchins either regard the party with hopefulness, wanting a handout or aid, or out of fear of being pushed aside or driven off.

Services: these folks provide very little by way of service, often lazing about or simply running away if hired on as a temporary laborer.  If bribed with food or alcoholic drinks, however, they might impart some gossip they came by as witnesses or simply through eavesdropping.

Quests
Orphaned or driven out of their home and either looking to find their family or find a new home.
While begging, this individual is beset by local ruffians or by an uppity townsperson.
Starving or athirst, or simply in need of a little coin to carry them through the rest of the day.
Victim of a mugging and needs help binding their wounds and being taken to their home land.
Witness to a murder or other robbery and is in hiding from hired thugs sent to kill them.
Wrongfully evicted from their home by a dastard and needs help reclaiming their lives.

Rewards
Though they have very little by way of worldly possessions, these individuals can provide helpful knowledge, such as the names of criminals or the location of hidden or stolen goods.  If restored to a position of prestige, they may provide payment.



Harlot/Strumpet/Escort
Dressed in the most provocative clothes of the day, these individuals always put on an air of seduction, in spite of personal prejudices or preferences.  They will make grand promises and some will ask for coin up front before their services are enjoyed.

Services: apart from sexual favors, these individuals may also provide gossip about previous customers or the customers of their associates, though this kind of information, depending on how sensitive, may cost significantly more than their primary service.

Quests
On the run from an abusive employer or master who demands more than their body can afford.
Trying to accumulate enough money to free a friend or family member from bondage.
In hiding after slaying a customer who proved too violent and dangerous in the throes of passion.
Trying to return home, but lacks the will to escape her master, or is under magical control.
Wishes to leave the trade to marry, but they require the permission of their master or employer.

Rewards
Will reward with money, jewelry, favors, or even rare and valuable items filched from previous customers.  May also provide useful information about important persons or upcoming events.



Pilgrim/Foreigner/Gypsy
Clad in garments from another land, this individual looks and acts differently from the locals and is usually in the company of his or her fellows.  They may regard the party either with wonder and interest or with suspicion, but they almost always take care to obey local customs and behave in ways that reduce the amount of attention drawn to themselves.

Services: these folks usually don’t offer any services short of news from whatever parts of the world they had previously crossed through.  Depending on their station, their knowledge of foreign affairs will range from domestic to political.

Quests
This fellow is being harassed by local thugs or bullies who mock their accents and clothes.
Was recently robbed by bandits who took their valuables and left them desolate.
Was recently swindled out of their valuables and needs help getting them back.
Is lost and needs someone to point them in the right direction.
Needs an escort to bring them safely to the next city or town.
Wish to immigrate and set up roots, but require aid in gaining the proper permissions.

Rewards
Most are humble and can only spare a few coins for services, but some are wealthy and will part with money or valuables.  Others will promise special favors should the party ever go to their homeland.



Adventurer/Mysterious Stranger
Armed and battle-worn, this person has a distant look about them as though still trying to see through the troubles they had just left behind.  They will regard fellow adventurers either with complete disinterest or respect, though some few may be wary and even a little disrespectful, especially to a party that is less seasoned than themselves.

Services: these folks generally only supply information, such as dungeons they have explored or monsters slain, but some have fallen on hard times and will part with excess loot in exchange for money.

Quests
Out for revenge against a monster or villain who slew companions.
Trying to gather help to rescue captured companions from enemy strongholds.
Laying low after being cursed or targeted by an enemy they accidentally roused.
Hiding from local authority after failing to fulfill their end of a bargain with a lord or king.
Still looking for a clue to lead them in the direction of fabled treasures or artifacts.

Rewards
Usually carrying treasure from their own exploits, these people can part with any number of goods in exchange for aid from a fellow wanderer.



Peasant/Farmer
Rough and worn from a hard day’s labor, when these fellows aren’t busy laboring in the fields or fulfilling other lower-skilled duties, they are relaxing in their homes and at the PUBs.  Depending on their circumstance or other goings on, they will regard the party with a mixture of attitudes ranging from mild curiosity to stoic indifference.  If trouble from strangers has unsettled the region, they may even hurry away from the party and shut themselves up in their homes or in churches until the party’s intentions are figured out.

Services: most folks of this variety have little to offer except the occasional place to sleep and a slice of bread, provided they are compensated.  Rarely will one have anything of value to provide, and most of their valuable possessions will consist of an animal, such as a sheep, cow or mule.

Quests
Drought and famine cause difficulty and they need food or an escort to take them elsewhere.
Missing family member or animal, either wandered off and became lost or was stolen.
Home is attacked by vermin or vicious animals, usually attacking at night.
Being threatened by extorting brigands and robbers who demand regular tribute.
Oppressed by a brutal lord or monarch who taxes or places heavy burdens on their shoulders.
Monsters that recently moved in threaten to destroy them through various means.
Recently bamboozled by a scoundrel, either gypsies or merchant peddling fraudulent goods.
Threatened by a natural disaster, such as a flood or a coming storm.

Rewards
Cannot afford to pay much by way of money or treasure, but they may resupply the party with needful provisions, likely related to their trade or profession.  May have even heard gossip or rumors about the location of lost treasure or places of interest.



Gardener/Servant/Cook
Garbed in more comely apparel than their station could otherwise afford, these folks work directly in the household of their lord or sovereign.  The strictness of their stations prevents them from idle chit chat, so that when the party draws near, they will only bow or nod in simple acknowledgement and then return to their duties.  If approached they will converse a bit more openly, but only to redirect the party elsewhere.  If help is needed, they will almost always opt to meet with the party at the end of their day’s work.

Services: very little can be gained from these folks apart from hiring them to work in your own home.  Their wages are tightly controlled by their employers and in most households, they are forbidden from carrying any kind of treasure with them least they be accused of robbing their masters.

Quests
Accosted by enemies of their master almost every day, on their way to or from work.
Wrongly accused of stealing from another servant or from the masters themselves.
Possibly very young and enslaved by their master or by a family member of their master.
Being abused by a higher-ranking member of the household, but not necessarily by their lord.
Threatened into silence after witnessing a theft or murder by higher ranked persons of the manor.
Suspects fellow servants of being an enemy transplant sent to threaten the masters of the house.
Is having wages sharply cut to pay for a mistake they made and now they are starving.
Has been charged with locating someone or something to fix a problem in the household.

Rewards
Little more than gossip can be offered as a reward, but some have squirreled away money, which they keep at their homes.  Others may offer to work for the party at a discounted wage.



Laborer/Dockhand
Gruff and tough, these men do backbreaking work for relatively little money, making them a bit mean or surly.  When not working, they enjoy relaxing at the PUB or at home.  Because they are used to hard labor and are not short on muscle, they may openly mock members of the party who appear strange or frail, such as a wizard, or leer at female members.

Services: may be hired temporarily to work on a ship or simply to dig trenches and help with other basic forms of construction.  They are easily swayed, however, so unpleasant work conditions or negative gossip may turn them away from the party, but rewards of extra money or alcoholic beverages will bring them back.

Quests
Accused by fellow laborers of stealing valuable property or cheating in a game.
Afraid to go back to work due to poor environment, such as exploitation or threats from brigands.
Possibly enslaved by master or otherwise forced to work against their free will.
Overheard fellow workers plotting to murder or rob someone.

Rewards
Small sum of money or an offer to work for the party at a reduced wage.  Possibly may know information about the area or important people they’ve heard their masters speak of.



Tradesman
Better dressed of the common folk who earn their way into the middle class through offering special skills.  These folks tend to be outwardly friendlier and more approachable to the party, having a desire to perpetuate their businesses by extending themselves to new faces.  In general, should the party see an unhappy and unapproachable tradesman, they can easily ascertain that something is troubling them.

Services: tradesmen can have the following types of careers: apothecarist, architect, armorer, fletcher, weaponsmith, blacksmith, bowyer, brewer, butcher, carpenter, cartwright, chapman, clerk, cobbler, cook, embroiderer, farrier, fisherman, furrier, glassblower, glazer, haberdasher, hatter, herbalist, limner, locksmith, mason, mercer, miller, minstrel, minter, painter, poulterer, saddler, scribe, shepherd, shipwright, swineherd, tailor, tanner, tinker, trapper, weaver, wheelwright, or waller.

Quests
Had goods stolen by a competitor or group of burglars and thugs.
Business being threatened by a blackmailer, competitor or a lord who simply wants their land.
Deeply in debt and threatened with foreclosure unless fully paid off.
Workers are quitting out of fear of vermin, monsters or a possible haunting.
Shortage of supplies due to the theft of an important shipment.
Threatened by a natural or magical disaster that prevents completion of workloads.
Sabotaged tools or equipment, which possibly makes work conditions deadly.
Being shaken down by criminal organizations or corrupt community leaders.
Owner has been wrongly arrested and accused when his goods harmed a VIP.
Prejudice from the community over race or deity threatens survivability of business.

Rewards
More substantial payment in coins, jewels or a sharp discount in services provided by the NPC.



Herald/Town Crier/Guide
These persons are always dressed smartly and speak in loud, resonant voices.  Though unapproachable during their chief hours of operation, they may be easily contacted during leisure time, such as when they are enjoying a rest at the local PUB.

Services: knows all of the comings and goings of the region, and knows where to find whatever or whoever you’re looking for within the city or town in which they are working.

Quests
Is being threatened by hired thugs, or criminal organization, to not share information.
Their master or employer has gone missing or is locked up in their estate.
Has suffered amnesia, or is otherwise recovering after being knocked out or affected by a spell.
Needs to send a message to another town, but cannot leave their post.
Had voice magically stolen, either as an act of mischief or as a means of silencing the news.

Rewards
Able to pay the party a small amount of money, or grant them access to sensitive information.



Bard/Poet/Actor/Dancer
Dressed in brightly colored, sensationalistic clothing, and speaking or acting with a demonstrative bearing.  These charming persons usually conceal inner pain and turmoil, the like of which would shock their audiences and admirers.  When asking for help they will likely overemphasize the need for aid.

Services: primarily entertainers and distractors, but sometimes these folks have been hired for less than savory work, such as assassination and other illicit acts.

Quests
Has a determined admirer whose interest has crossed over into dangerous obsession.
Hiding from an evil monarch or noble who was offended or dissatisfied with their performance.
Unable to perform due to the destruction or theft of a needed instrument or outfit.
Stands accused of murdering an employer after receiving unwanted advancements.
Was hired by someone to commit a theft or murder during their performance.
Needs help claiming vengeance, or retaining wrongfully confiscated goods, while they distract.
Lies on the brink of death after being poisoned or cursed during their performance.
Requires an escort through dangerous territory that is infested by bandits or monsters.
Lacks true talent and needs help finding a teacher to help improve their art.
Needs a script or musical notes that once belonged to an ancestor that will help them perform.

Rewards
Depending on their level of skill and affluence, they may be able to reward the party with a tidy sum of money.  They may also reward the party with magical items that were originally gifted to them after a particularly good performance.



Ranger/Woodsman/Hermit/Shepherd
Dressed in rough trappings, and being quite filthy from their life of isolation in the wilderness.  These hardy folk usually don’t talk easily to strangers, preferring their own close circle of friends, but if caught out in the wilderness, they might openly ask for aid.

Services: usually provide directions through the rough country and point out notable landmarks, but they may also offer their services as escorts and guides.

Quests
Needs help rescuing an injured or lost animal companions or flocks in dangerous terrain.
Sustained an injury from bandits or a monster that recently moved into the region.
Discovered a hostile force moving carefully into the area and needs help pushing them out.
Needs help clearing out an infestation of magically conjured creatures and eliminating the source.
Found an area in the wilderness that has been cursed and needs it purified.
Found a lost child or youth and needs help locating their family.

Rewards
May reward the party with animal pelts, raw, valuable materials, or magical equipment they had found.



Merchant/Innkeeper
Well dressed and well to do, these folks usually stand as pillars of whatever community they establish themselves in.  Most are amiable, if only on the surface, and usually labor alongside their help to ensure smooth operations.  This makes them somewhat unapproachable during the day, preferring to converse over serious matters during the late or early hours of operation, and even in the middle of the night, should need deprive them of sleep.

Services: providing goods and services, both innkeepers and merchants wish to please their patrons, whatever the party wishes to barter for.  The scope of these deals will increase, depending on the community they operate out of.

Quests
Needs help frightening off some potentially dangerous, unsavory customers.
Would like someone to spy on a potentially dangerous patron sleeping in the nicest room.
Needs someone to collect from a debtor who took the money and left town.
Goods have been taken by bandits and brought to a secret hideout in the wilderness.
Family member or friend has been captured and is held for ransom by a villain.
Goods or services are being sabotaged by an enemy or competitor.
Recently a customer became cursed and the source must be found.
The grounds the business is built on are cursed or infested with creatures.
Two patrons are engaged in a destructive duel, threatening the business.
The business is sealed off due to a dangerous creature or patron skulking within.

Rewards
Because of the greater affluence of these individuals, rewards are more substantial, usually consisting of money or gems, or possibly even a magical item had by the owner.



Guard/Knight
Either dressed for battle or in courtly attire, these individuals are usually grim and on the alert.  They may even come off as gruff or overbearing due to the stress of their position, making conversations tense and uncomfortable.

Services: knights and guards do not offer much assistance, save for occasionally giving directions or issuing warnings for misconduct, but occasionally they might have information about specific people or locations in their realm.

Quests
Part or all of their equipment was stolen and they need it back quickly.
A friend or family member recently died and they need help avenging them.
They fear someone is threatening their lord and require assistance flushing out the culprit.
A band of criminals or monsters run amok and the party is needed to help eliminate them.
A member of their order now threatens the safety of the realm with a cult following.
Is deeply in debt and needs help claiming an inheritance that will help free them from collectors.

Rewards
Will pay either with some coin, with a weapon, armor, or other valuable item acquired during their service.



Barrister/Magistrate/Diplomat
Impeccable in speech and appearance, these folk stand on the shoulders of the people, for better or worse, and conduct themselves in ways suited to their station.  They will not speak to merely anyone unless pressed to great need, and should they wish for the party’s aid, they will arrange to meet in private, so that their reputation is not tarnished.

Services: persons of these professions usually only help with legal matters and will only provide services that fall within the realm of the local courts; services which are costly and dear.

Quests
They believe a magistrate is secretly colluding with wicked organizations that threaten society.
An organization they prosecuted now threatens their household with hired villains.
They want the party to help deal with a wicked organization that has many debtors.
A family member was wrongfully accused and the party is needed to look for evidence.
Evil associates passed a law that is harmful to society and the party needs to expose them.
Important documents are missing, likely stolen by enemies of the court.
House has been seized by a large group of bandits who hold their family hostage.
Believes one of the members of the courts is, or was replaced by, an evil entity.

Rewards
Because of their great wealth, money is the preferred method of payment, and plenty of it, though it isn’t unheard of for them to part with a cherished magical item, or even special permissions within the realm’s legal system.



Priest/Sage/Magister/Magician/Sorcerer/Alchemist/Astronomer

These people are rather a mixed bag of finely dressed and mannered, and disheveled eccentrics.  Their personalities are varied, and their manner of contacting the party is just as unpredictable.

Services: primarily these individuals are sources of knowledge, but, more often than not, they are also avid collectors of oddities, both magical and mundane.  Though they would almost never part with their collectables, they often carry duplicate items they will sell at competitive rates.

Quests
Needs the party to locate a lost ruin in a dangerous patch of wilderness.
Wishes to be escorted on a dangerous portion of their pilgrimage or journey.
Is in need of adventurers to locate an artifact or piece of writing that will aid their research.
Has concern over the existence of a potentially dangerous item that must be contained.
Wants the party to seek out an elusive individual and ask them important questions.
Is desirous to hire the party to confront a dangerous colleague who threatens the peace.
Seeking out help in delivering a much sought-after item to another land.
Needs help dealing with a dangerous artifact or creature kept in their home.
Wants the party’s help closing off a dangerous portal or dungeon filled with peril.

Rewards
Will reimburse the party for their troubles with money, gems, magical items or a portion of their vast knowledge, including spells.



Lord/Lady/King/Queen
Dressed in the absolute best finery and encountered only upon their approval and in locations of their choosing, nobility will not regard an inferior as they do each other.  Only those on approved appointment may meet, and only if the person seeking audience has acquired no small amount of prestige.  Respect must also be paid while in audience with a noble since their power and time is precious to them, and they will not bandy words with an inferior.  For this reason, they are always protected by a body of armed guards who are ready to dispatch or imprison impudent persons.
Services: after obtaining enough money and prestige, one may purchase horses or land from a noble.  The party may also offer top pledge themselves to the service of the lord, which grants them special permissions within the land and access to basic arms or armor, however this requires the party to remain within the nobleman’s lands unless directed elsewhere on an assignment.  Such service may last anywhere from a year to life.

Quests
Assist in the apprehension of a spy who made off with sensitive information.
Find and turn in a thief who stole a prized trophy or family heirloom.
Help repel an invading force of monsters, sea raiders or other brigands.
Help in an effort to siege and storm an enemy stronghold that threatens the area.
Rescue a captured family member being held for ransom.
Escort a diplomat to a neighboring kingdom and keep them safe from assassins and thieves.
Resolve a curse or bad omen that threatens the kingdom.
Find and consult a specialist to help eliminate an affliction to the region (plague, drought, etc.)
Learn what happened to a delayed shipment of supplies and resolve the matter.
Deal with an uprising that threatens to divide the region.
Aid in procuring a rare animal or artifact, which is intended as a gift for an important occasion.
Seek out and destroy a powerful monster that lairs in the outskirts of the region.
Travel to another land as an emissary and engage in diplomacy for marriage or trade.
Unearth a secret plot against the leader of the realm.

Rewards
Rewards are almost always monetary and substantial, but in special cases permissions can be granted, either for ownership of land, access to off-limits areas or permits that grant extra rights.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

The Dungeons & Dragons Movie


AD&D 1e The Movie

I’ve heard friends, gamers and many people online prattle on and on about a Dungeons and Dragons movie: they argue about what campaign setting it should be, what novel it should be (half the fanboys out there seem to want a Drizzt movie, which would be fine and dandy, but it would be more of a Drizzt movie and less of a Dungeons and Dragons movie).  The biggest fear that I have and that many others have expressed is that whatever studio does a D&D movie will probably hand craft a bland, unoriginal backdrop and overload it with Michael Bay special effects, which would distract from the fact they didn’t think up a plot that it would ultimately fail to capture the spirit of the game, making it unlikable for fans and non-fans alike.  But I digress.
            I spent the last two years off and on, wracking my brain about what would make a good D&D movie, even going as far as writing down notes for a D&D-themed novel.  I came up with a pretty decent idea, but it simply wasn’t enough.  Something important was missing.  Recently three events have guided me to figure it out once and for all.  A film that will not only appeal to fans of Dungeons and Dragons, but a film that would appeal to a broad audience outside of the hobby as well.  The three things that lead me to this awesome discovery are as follows:

1- I was watching The Greatest Showman, a modern musical after over a decade of no decent musicals.  This movie was uplifting and had an excellent plot.  I didn’t care for the style of music at first, but after watching it three more times it sunk in and I have even caught myself humming it in the car on my way to work in the morning.  This in and of itself didn’t lead me to the big idea for a D&D movie, but it has hung in the background of my dusty old brains.

2- I was watching The Office, in particular the episode in which the character Andy is released from his position by Robert California and begins writing a 70s-style rock opera.  Again, this stuck in the back of my mind as I love rock opera (the One-winged Angel them for Final Fantasy 7 was inspired by 70s rock operas), but it wasn’t enough to fully inspire me to come up with the ultimate film treatment.

3- Finally, I was watching That 70s Show, and it all came together on the episode in which Hot Donna’s boss is revealed to be a player of Dungeons and Dragons.  Suddenly it came crashing together and formed into a sustainable orb of brilliance.

So what’s the big idea for the movie?  I’ll tell you: The movie will be set during the early 1980s, right at the start of the Satanic Panic.  The film will center on a group of five players who come together after school in a small southern town, each one representing a different social dilemma.

The first character, the Dungeon Master, opens the movie with a 70s-themed musical number in which he is pouring over his notebooks and game manuals, producing tables and maps for his campaign.  Here is where we can have a truly dazzling intro with special effects creating a kaleidoscope of fantasy imagery, including several iconic characters and themes from the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons 1st edition books.  He then goes to school and we find that he is extremely shy and awkward around his peers (essentially running D&D games is how he is able to break out of his shell and socialize with other people).

The second character is a young black male who is ostracized by his black peers for being scholarly, and at the same time he is not taken seriously by his teachers or white classmates for being a minority.  He joins the D&D game when he talks to the DM about his flyer he puts up in the library advertising his game.  He explains that D&D has a mix of different races that work together in spite of their different cultural and racial backgrounds.  The black teen falls in love with the wizard class, comparing it to the sciences he loves so much and has an epiphany that the universe is filled with mysteries and he can use his accumulated knowledge to unravel their secrets to improve life for people.

The third character is a teenage girl who allows herself to be bossed around by other people and is expected to be a proper lady in her austere southern family’s household.  She has a boyfriend who tells her he is going to the library after school to play in a game with some friends and drags her along with.  The boyfriend is an obnoxious douchebag who annoys the other players and the DM, causing an argument that results in him being kicked from the group (and I should also add that when the DM asks if the girl would like to join, the boyfriend says that she wouldn’t get any of it because she’s just a chick).  He drags the teenage girl with him, but as they leave she looks at the game they were playing with curiosity.  She later encounters the DM in a class where he explains the game to her.  When she joins she plays as a ranger and falls in love with the idea that she can be independent and make her own choices, seeking out new roads and new horizons.

The fourth character is a lackadaisical youth who plays as a rogue in the game.  He has no aspirations and suffers from a low self-esteem, which compels him to believe that no amount of effort on his part will help him succeed: there will always be people bigger, stronger and more skilled than him.  As his thief levels up and he improves his skills he learns that if he actually practices what he is passionate about (musical instruments) he can master his talents.  Eventually he performs in front of the school, faltering somewhat, but showing his music teacher that he has made great strides and shows true potential.

The fifth character is a stern boy who doesn’t care about other people, but as he plays his cleric he comes to see how kind acts and helping other people are a source of strength, and he begins to appreciate the talents that other people bring to any group.

The adventures the players have and the musical numbers reflect social clashes in the real world, including rejection from peers and parents.  Everything builds up to the Satanic Panic when the principal bans the D&D group from the school and parents mount a protest to find and eliminate all of the books in the community.  After the group disbands, the DM falls into a downward spiral of depression as his parents and other members of the community view his hobby as a detriment to his well-being.  His friends help pull him through this and eventually he is sent to talk to his church leader about his gaming hobby.  The church leader expresses concern with the depictions of devils and sorcery in the book and worries that he is involved in the occult.  The DM explains that it’s all make-believe and that the demons and other monsters in the book are akin to the trials people face on a day to day basis, and the best chance people have of overcoming their various obstacles is by standing together in a spirit of cooperation and friendship, and working their hardest to master new skills and bolster each other’s weaknesses until they can cooperatively do very hard things that no individual can do.

Though the group is unable to continue playing their games, they eventually meet up after college, each having mastered a profession.  The characters who have married and raised children are then introduced to a later edition of D&D and start up their own adventures.

The movie should focus heavily on the culture of the late 70s/early 80s and mirror the events of the time, and possibly parallel current issues in which we see too many divisions in society.  The music should be uplifting (like with The Greatest Showman) and convey a strong message of interracial/political/religious/whatever harmony, demonstrating that, like D&D, life is meant to be enjoyed by everyone and not solely one group.  Along these lines there should be indicators in the dialogue that the characters all have different religious and political leanings, but their differences and little arguments should never spill over into serious contention as their journey together shows that everyone has enough similarities that such things as political ideologies are superfluous in the greater scheme of things.