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The Toolkit: Party Time! Part Two

Their guise as the Masked Musicians intact, the Dead Crew found it surprisingly easy to sneak their weapons through the gate inside the hidden compartments of their instrument cases, and into the dressing room that had been set aside for them. Now they had to find Reeve or Silas quickly, before they would be expected to perform, or their quarry tried something desperate…

Last week we started the celebration vibe at the Toolkit with a table for rolling up a party, and the early stages of a system for throwing encounters to partying PCs. This week I’m going to round off that system and throw another little goody in there.

The System

What all this talk of goals, encounters and choice ultimately boils down to is making sure that whilst a party adventure is still centered on the PCs attending a party, it has more drive than simply: “Okay, you’re at the party, there are nibbles over there, there’s a band playing over there, now go and do something.” I’m not the guy who’s going to tell people that they’re gaming wrong, but it does seem like a waste of a good setup.

So here is a system that propels the PCs forward from party encounter to party encounter toward their goal, with pitfalls and challenges based on the choices that they’ve made. That seems, at least to me, to be something more exciting than a static scene for the players to poke at.

Encounters and Choice

The Angry GM’s Every Adventure’s A Dungeon article provided a big inspiration for the mystery series I did on the Toolkit earlier this year. The insights on structure and adventure planning are a must-read for any budding adventure designer, but the main take-away in terms of parties is that any adventure is an interconnected series of encounters.

A party adventure might feature more social encounters — though there’s no reason why you can’t have traps, combats and puzzles within a party adventure — but they’re still encounters, providing structure rather than a sludge of ongoing narrative. What they also do is provide choice, or at least, the possibility of success or failure.

Last week I did a few demonstrative rolls to show how the karma system I was planning would work, here are those results as they might look if you were planning them out in an adventure format.

Party2-1

There’s only a handful of choices in there, but each can make a big change to the story of the adventure, and lead to very different outcomes.

 Repute

In case you hadn’t guessed it by now, I’m quite fond of mechanics that encourage players to be able to track their own progress and failings, or at least that the GM can manage with minimal fuss. My home group has six players, so anything else would bog me down and force me to spend less time throwing Tarrasques and Kraken at them and more time on paperwork. I hate paperwork.

Repute reflects the general opinion of a group towards someone, and can be individual to each PC or calculated as a group resource, depending on whether the players are operating as a tight-knit group, or as co-operative rivals. Party Repute works well for the former, since the PCs are working together and opinions on them will be of them as a single entity, whilst PCs who work separately might benefit better from having their own Repute, so as not to be held back by less, well, reputable teammates.

What does Repute do? Well like I said, it reflects the general opinion of a group (such as guests at a party), and determines their behaviour towards, someone; such as whether they are argumentative, generous or downright hostile. As the party’s Repute increases, so does their social standing, and if it decreases, it’s likely they’ll end up on the outs with the judging group.

Specifically for parties, Repute can be used to measure how the host and their staff react to the PCs, and how the PCs reputation with the other guests stands.

PartyRepute

(Here’s a Google Sheet for the table)

Not only does tracking Repute enable you to see how the PCs are likely to come out of the party, or whatever other event comes their way, but it also enables you to determine how difficult interacting with the other guests becomes over the course of the party. Behaving aggressively or unsociably might get the party what they want in the short term, but results in more hostility directed toward them in the future. Taking the high road and behaving in a more socially acceptable manner might be more difficult — particularly if you’re baiting them with the temptation to be hostile — but lead to more rewarding exchanges down the line.

Encounters

The crux of the system is in the encounters you can generate for your PCs. To begin, you generate an introductory encounter or scene to decide the party’s starting Repute level, and to set them up with a scenario. The example introductions from last week did the job fairly well, so I brushed them up and tidied up the wording. Simply roll a 1d6 or choose from the table, using the example as inspiration for the PCs introduction to the party adventure.

PartyIntroduction

(And here’s a Google Sheet for that table)

Depending on the actions the PCs choose, reduce or increase (or add nothing, in some cases) their reputation by the stated amount, and use that same amount to modify the results when rolling for an encounter.

To generate an interesting encounter for the PCs, roll on the following, using the modifier gained from the introductory encounter or the previous encounter, linking the encounters to each other wherever possible. Roll for as many encounter as you need, until the party is over, the PCs have accomplished their goal or have been removed from the party.

PartyEncounters

Click to enbiggen.

(And another Google Sheet)

For example, the PCs embarrassed themselves a little by making a scene when they were mistaken for servants, so when the GM rolls for the next encounter, they reduce the 2d8 roll by 2, giving a result of 4 (5+1-2), meaning their next encounter will be with The Foil. The guard captain in charge of admittance was personally humiliated by their scene-causing, and is on the lookout to humiliate the PCs in return, arranging for a series of pranks that will make them look incredibly foolish if the PCs can’t catch them out (trapped chairs, over-spicing their wine, and so on, he’s petty, not murderous).

Goals

When I was gathering ideas for this week’s article over Twitter – if you want me to tackle a certain topic, catch me on a Monday afternoon, that’s when I’m at my most suggestible – @MikeSwik pointed out that a lot of his party adventures seem to go the same way, tracking down a bad guy or solving a mystery. There’s nothing inherently wrong with either of these two scenarios, no more than dungeon crawling for loot, but there are more possibilities that you could explore.

This isn’t an exhaustive list, but it’s a start, just roll 1d8 to determine the goal of the adventurers at this particular party. If you want to increase the tension, roll 2d8 or 3d8, and give the adventurers multiple goals.

PartyGoals

(Annnd one last Google Sheet, am I barking up the wrong tree with these, does anyone use them?)

By setting a different goal, the entire adventure can change greatly in tone and style. Players planning an assassination will behave differently to those out to ruin a party and its host’s social standing, leading them to make different choices and create a different story.

Okay, that should cover it for parties for now, enjoy! Next week I’m going to tackle factions, cabals and guilds.

If you like The Toolkit and want to help the Mad Adventurers Society in being able to put out more quality content, consider visiting our Patreon page. If you have any thoughts, questions, or suggestions for new Toolkits, you can reach me through the comments or on Twitter @jay_jaydraper.

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