Saturday, January 2, 2016

New Year's Grudges

Belated Happy New Year to all. Gaming-wise 2015 was good, though personally it pretty much sucked for me, my wife, and family. I hope 2016 is a good year for gaming and all things for everyone. We all deserve it.

One of the staples of swashbuckling fiction is revenge. Whether the motivation is personal (as in the unjust imprisonment of the Count of Monte Christo) or factional (as is the conflict between the King's Musketeers and the Cardinal's Guards in Dumas' fiction), the quest for vengeance is a frequent motivator of action for either the heroes or their adversaries. I leave the creation and management of grudges by the PCs to their respective players. But for grudges against the players I'm planning on trying out a technique for a Grudge Table as suggested by Bedrock Brendan on his blog.

Brendan was kind enough to give me some additional information on how he runs his Grudges. (Thanks Brendan!) He uses a 2d10 mechanic for his tables. While I could have used that method, I decided to adapt the tables to 2d6 since that is the base die mechanic in H+I. I also needed to change some of the results on the Random Grudge Table to reflect 17th century French swashbuckling rather than Wuxia inspired fantasy.

The Grudge Table is built up as the party incurs grudges, and its use is mainly just a way to see if and when they come up in play. The first Grudge created is entered in the table at Slot 1. When a new Grudge is created it is entered in Slot 1 and any existing Grudges are moved down one slot.

Once there are six or more Grudges a second table will be created in form like the first table. Enter the earliest remaining Grudge in Slot 1 on the new Grudge Table. One consequence of moving Grudges down one slot is that old Grudges will gradually come up less often as time passes.

Notice that the table rewards parties who make a point of not developing new grudges. To some extant grudges may be unavoidable but parties who just wade through enemies and kill them mercilessly will find their actions come back to haunt them on a more regular basis than those who do not. That said, as you will see below, avoiding grudges is not such an easy thing, nor is it always the best decision.

Dishonoring a gentleman or noble and killing or maiming an opponent may lead to the creation of a Grudge. Of course this presumes knowledge of the event and its circumstances is known or leaks out. Players should consider that henchmen, servants, and NPC comrades may talk and towns, villages, roads, and countryside are inhabited so third party witnesses may be present. Here are some situations where the GM should consider creating or roll for the creation of a new Grudge.
  • Dishonoring a gentleman or noble (tying up one who has given his parole, commoners laying hands on a noble, etc).
  • Killing or maiming an opponent who has surrendered or been reduced to Advantage 0.
  • Killing or maiming an opponent in a dishonorable fashion, e.g. using a gun in a swordfight.
  • Killing or maiming an opponent after refusing their surrender.
  • Killing or accidently maiming an opponent in a duel or melee.
  • Refusing to accept the word or parole of a gentleman or noble.
  • Not offering an outmatched opponent the opportunity to surrender.
One dilemma characters face in a campaign like mine is that when they confront opponents whether they decide to kill or merely subdue and release is important. Killing a foe eliminates them as a direct threat. And that matters because enemies sometimes do come back and try to harm or kill you later. On the other hand, showing mercy avoids having to deal with relatives or friends seeking revenge down the road. So while parties don't want to go around making grudges left and right, being merciful also can have its consequences.

One thing some of my players struggle with is the difference between our culture which is, in theory, egalitarian and ideally merit based and a society that is hierarchical with a long tradition of privilege based on birth. So I added bullets for dishonoring nobles and for not accepting their word or parole. Parole is an interesting concept (often seen in Napoleonic fiction) that may be worth a post all its own. Suffice it to say that there is some cultural support and expectation that a noble or gentleman who surrenders should be given what we would consider very privileged treatment by giving his parole or word that he will pay his ransom and not try to escape.

In play, a roll on the Grudge Encounter table might be done once a week or once an adventure and it can also be included as a result on any customized normal encounter tables.
  (2d6)   Result
     2       Existing Grudge Slot 5
     3       Existing Grudge Slot 4
     4       Existing Grudge Slot 3
     5       Existing Grudge Slot 2
     6       Existing Grudge Slot 1
     7       No encounter
     8       No encounter
     9       No encounter
    10      Roll on Grudge Table II* (if any)
    11      Roll on Grudge Table II* (if any)
    12      Roll on Unknown or Mistaken Grudge Table
     *       Grudge Table II is a new Grudge table you build when you have > 5 Grudges. Until then it counts as No Encounter.
  (2d6)   Result
     2       Villain+Dueling Master (Very Eccentric Gripe)
     3       Villain Dueling Master (Personal Vendetta)
     4       Retainer Duelist (Generations old Family Vendetta or Eccentric Gripe)
     5       Retainer (Vengeance for Master)
     6       Retainer (Personal Vendetta)
     7       Mundane Character (Family Vengeance, Personal loss of fortune, love, or honor)
     8       Pawn (Vengeance for Faction, Family, or Friend)
     9       Minor Noble (Vengeance for Faction or Personal Reputation Sullied)
    10      Mid-Level Noble (Eccentric Request or Personal Reputation Sullied)
    11      Major Noble (Eccentric Gripe or Request)
    12      Grand or Royal (Reputation Sullied)

In the next post I will create Grudge Tables for my H+I campaign.

No comments:

Post a Comment