The Children’s Crusade – Part II

.. OK, so it’s possible, and even reasonably plausible, to give young characters to a group of young players – but is there any point to doing so otherwise?

Well, yes; there are several rather nice benefits from the game masters point of view.

First of all, we have a simple observation: Adventurers often act like spoiled kids. They ignore all kinds of laws and social restrictions, run roughshod over the townsfolk, defy the local authorities, and otherwise cause a ruckus. They commonly behave in ways that, in the real world, would get them classified as outlaws, run out of town, smacked down by the local rulers, jailed, or executed outright – and yet that doesn’t usually happen.

The usual excuse is that “the characters are too powerful for the authorities to handle them” – but the obvious answer for that is for the authorities to keep a few more dependable groups of powerful adventurers on call. There are always plenty of more powerful characters out there; someone must be restraining the monsters until the PC’s level up enough to handle them – and if there are no more greater challenges waiting for their turn on stage, the game is pretty much over.

The real reason it doesn’t happen is because the players usually equate “giving in” with “losing”. If the local authorities call in a group that’s capable of handling their characters, the players tend to react as if this is another “Balanced Encounter” where they can jump in and win if they fight to the bitter end. That leaves the game master with a bad choice; he or she can either let the players walk all over the world (and throw out any pretext that his or her world makes sense) or go ahead and let the characters get ground into the dirt – which tends to be equally bad for the game.

The real secret to avoiding that lies in fixing the unrealistic expectations of “Balanced Encounters” – but a lot of games are built around them, so most game masters grit their teeth, try to make up excuses for the character’s more outrageous offenses, and ignore the situation.

With a “young nobles” game, at least you have an excuse ready made; the children of the local ruling class can get away with quite a lot, and the locals will just have to either grin and bear it or start a revolution. Other situations can be smoothed over by their parents money, just as various situations were (and are) in the real world. At the worst, most player characters will pay some attention to the notion that such misbehavior is endangering their potential inheritance, whether by it being likely to go to a more sensible sibling or because “you’re provoking a rebellion!”.

On the party side, this setup means that the characters have known each other since they were five or six years old. They grew up together, they’ve trained with each other, they may already have a Party Template – and they trust and rely on each other. Any kid that wouldn’t work with the group will simply have been quietly excluded from it – and kids will do that, regardless of adult interference.

That means that no one can use “but I’m playing in character!” or some event in their character’s past as an excuse for being disruptive. Anti-social loners who refuse to cooperate, cheats who try to pocket all the treasure, backstabbers who try to advance over the dead bodies of their friends, and characters who want to leave other characters in the lurch will never be in the party in the first place.

  • If a character can’t trust and get along with the rest of the characters, he or she will not be in the party.
  • If a character is a secret lycanthrope, or suffers from bouts of demonic possession that cannot be readily anticipated and dealt with, or otherwise is a disaster waiting to happen, he or she will not be in the party.
  • If the character has goals that are incompatible with those of the rest of the group, or is unwilling to help other characters reach their goals in exchange for them helping him or her, he or she will not be in the party.
  • If the character is a plant, or has a mysterious past, or is a double agent, or whatever disruptive notion someone has this time, he or she WILL NOT BE IN THE PARTY.

The realm has been doing things this way for generations. They’ve seen some pretty elaborate and creative attempts to slip in a ringer or sabotage the system, and they’ve made damn sure that none of them worked then or will work in the future.

Finally, this is a good way to establish a pool of backup characters. After all, a half-a-dozen PC’s aren’t going to be the only characters in the system. There will be upcoming youngsters who are still in training but who haven’t yet gone adventuring, hangers-on who aren’t really a part of the main group but could have been, and older and more experienced youngsters who have already done some adventuring.

Name a few of them. Ask the players to describe a few friends or rivals who aren’t a part of the main group now, but who might become replacement characters if their character dies. You want a hook with a twist? Kidnap a players backup character. Put the parents of good friends on the opposing side of some political dispute. You’ve got characters with established personal ties, political loyalties, entanglements in court intrigue, and a considerable interest in how it comes out – and they’re too young to readily opt out of it all and leave. Put those motivations and connections to use.

And on to a couple more of those sample characters.

Talios Asrian

The Asrian family claims descent from one of the major war gods – which, considering the nature of such entities, is an honor without actually being much of a distinction. Nevertheless, young Talios shows an aptitude for pushing the boundaries of what is possible with a blade that does hint at supernatural bloodlines. Almost all of his abilities do require that he be free to move, or using a longsword, or both however, if he’s caught offguard or entangled he’s at a considerable disadvantage – hence he avoids such situations whenever he possibly while out adventuring.

Level One Player Summary: Talios Asrian

  • Str 14, Int 12, Dex 16, Wis 10, Con 12, Cha 14
  • Longsword: +8, 1d8+2, Crit 19-20/x2. May do lethal, nonlethal, slashing, bashing, or piercing damage as desired.
  • Hit Points 21, Armor Class 17 (+5 [Dex+Str] +2 Martial Art), Initiative +11, Move 30′.
  • Saves: Fortitude +1, Reflex +5, and Will +0.
  • May spend an Action Point to +1d6 bonus to any one roll after making it. He only has three action points at the moment though, and won’t get more too soon.
  • Skills: Bluff +6, Blademastery +7, Spot +4, Tumble +7, Knowledge (Nobility and Courtesy +2, Politics +2, Theology and Philosophy +2), Perform/Acting +3, Diplomacy +3, Move Silently +4, Hide +4, Sleight of Hand +4. Swim +3, Jump +3, Climb +4.
    • His Blademastery Martial Art is providing him with +1 to hit, +2 to AC, and the ability to swap damage types with his Longsword.
  • Blade Tricks:
    • 9x/Day: Block (3d8+Level) points of damage or any one special effect (poison, etc) from an incoming attack as an immediate action – provided that he has his sword out to block with.
    • 1x/Day: Draw his sword instantly, even off action.
    • 1x/Day: Call his blade to his hand from up to thirty feet away as a free action.
    • 1x/Day: Use any item that comes to hand – say a piece of rope – as if it was a longsword for one minute.
    • 1x/Day: Make a single attack at his full BAB as a swift action.

Full Build:

  • Basic Attributes: Str 14, Int 12, Dex 16, Wis 10, Con 12, Cha 14
  • Personal Disadvantage: Unarmored. Asrian’s personal combat style makes it quite impractical for him to wear armor.
  • Warcraft (BAB): +1 (6 CP)
  • Weapon Focus/Longsword +3 (+1 BAB, Specialized and Corrupted for triple effect/Longsword Only, 6 CP)
    • Longsword: +8 (+4 BAB +1 Masterwork +2 Strength +1 Martial art), 1d8 +2 (+2 Str), Crit 20/x2.
  • Proficient with All Simple and Martial Weapons (9 CP)
  • Level One Hit Dice: 1d20, Corrupted/when struck by a critical hit, or when damage passes the 50% and 75% threshold, the character will suffer a graphic wound and take either (d12; 1-6) two points of attribute damage, (7) a -2 to attack, (8) a -2 to AC, (9) three rounds of being dazed, (10) -10 movement, (11) three rounds of temporary blindness, or (12) a similar penalty described by the game master (11 CP). This provides him with 21 HP.
  • Save Bonuses: +2 Reflex (6 CP).
  • Adept: Halves the cost of buying four skills; In his case Tumble, Bluff, a Martial Art, and Spot (6 CP).
  • Skill Points: 2 (Purchased, 2 CP) + 4 (Int Mod x 4) + 12 (Enhanced Human Bonus) = 18
  • Action Hero/Heroism Option (4* CP).
  • Augmented Bonus (“Smashing Parry”), adds (Str Mod) to (Dex Mod) when calculating his AC (2*# CP)
  • Improved Initiative x4 (8* CP): Adds +8 to his initiative.
  • Reflex Training/Combat Reflexes Variant (2*# CP)
  • Inherent Spell/Earthward with +8 Bonus Uses (6*# CP).
  • Occult Talent/”Blademaster’s Tricks”. 1/Day Each: Fast Draw (a sword on your person appears in your hand just when you want it; this is not even an action), Blade Call (your blade leaps into your hand from up to thirty feet away as a free action), The Wind Blade (spend a move action to make any item serve as a normal sword for one minute), and Sudden Strike (make a single attack at your full BAB as a swift action) (4* CP).
    • Suggested Upgrades include adding Mend Blade (L0), Adamant Strike (L1), and Personal Haste (L1).

*Corrupted/not while while wearing medium or heavy armor or while heavily encumbered.

#Specialized/only while using a sword.

Horace of the Burning Blade

Horace possesses a rare gift – a spark of raw magical flame burning within his spirit which he can channel into his blade. Whether or not that there is a link, his spirit is as noble as it is fiery, and hence he has dedicated himself to the ideals of knighthood, and intends to become a mighty champion of the realm.

Level One Player Summary: Horace of the Burning Blade

  • Str 16, Int 12, Dex 14, Wis 10, Con 14, and Cha 12
    • Greatsword: +8, 2d6+4 damage, Crit 19-20/x2. When burning add +1d6 damage and +1d10 on a critical hit. Once per encounter he may strike a Hammerblow, gaining an additional +5 bonus to hit and inflicting the maximum possible damage.
  • Hit Points 21, Armor Class 18 (+2 Dex +4 Mithril Shirt +2 Martial Art), Initiative +2, Move 30′.
  • Saves: Fortitude +4, Reflex +3, and Will +0.
  • Skills: Diplomacy +4, Jump +7, Greatsword Martial Art +7, Ride +6, Spot +4, Sense Motive +4, and Knowledge/History +3.
  • His Martial Art gives him +2 to his AC and +2 to hit while using his greatsword.
  • Magical Abilities:
    • Call Inner Fire: As a standard action up to six times per day (plus up to six more uses if any are left over from the previous day) Horace may either channel a firebolt through his sword (a Ranged Touch Attack at +3 doing 4d6 fire damage) or make his sword burn for the next minute (+1d6 damage / +1d10 on a critical hit and lights the area).
    • Handfire: Horace may fill his hands with fire at any time. This is equal to a normal torch.
    • Stored Spells: Horace may store up to five levels of spells, releasing them as move-equivalent actions.

Full Build:

  • Basic Attributes: Str 16, Int 12, Dex 14, Wis 10, Con 14, and Cha 12
  • Personal Disadvantage: Vows. Horace has sworn to uphold the chivalrous ideals of a knight.
  • Warcraft (BAB): +1 (6 CP)
  • Weapon Focus/Greatsword +1 (+1 BAB, Specialized and Corrupted/Greatsword Only, 2 CP)
    • Greatsword: (+2 BAB +3 Str +1 Masterwork +2 Martial art), 2d6+4 (Str x 1.5), Crit 19-20/x2. When burning add +1d6 damage and +1d10 on a critical hit.
  • Proficient with All Simple and Martial Weapons (9 CP) and Light Armor (3 CP).
  • Level One Hit Dice: 1d20, Corrupted/when struck by a critical hit, or when damage passes the 50% and 75% threshold, the character will suffer a graphic wound and take either (d12; 1-6) two points of attribute damage, (7) a -2 to attack, (8) a -2 to AC, (9) three rounds of being dazed, (10) -10 movement, (11) three rounds of temporary blindness, or (12) a similar penalty described by the game master (11 CP). This provides him with 21 HP.
  • Save Bonuses: +2 Fortitude, +1 Reflex (9 CP).
  • Adept: Halves the cost of buying four skills; In his case Jump, a Martial Art, Ride, and Spot (6 CP).
  • Skill Points: 2 (Purchased, 2 CP) + 4 (Int Mod x 4) + 12 (Enhanced Human Bonus) = 18
  • Path of the Dragon:
    • Shaping, Specialized and Corrupted/only to produce “Handfire” – palms full of fire equivalent to a torch (2 CP).
    • Pulse of the Dragon, Specialized and Corrupted; the power summoned is only suitable for fire magic and must be absorbed before it can be used (2 CP).
    • Eye of the Dragon, Specialized and Corrupted/only usable to absorb fire magic that he generates himself (2 CP).
    • Ride the Dragon, Specialized and Corrupted/requires a sword to channel the power through, only usable for a pair of second-level effects (Burning Blade and Scorching Ray) (2 CP).
  • Enhanced Strike (Hammer), Corrupted/only usable with Greatsword (4 CP).
  • Power Words: May store up to (Con/3, currently 5) levels of spells like a Spell Storing item and may release one a round as a move-equivalent action (6 CP).
  • Awareness (6 CP): Horace suffers no defensive penalties when surprised, retains his dexterity bonus even when caught flat-footed or attacks by an invisible opponent, and saves without penalty against surprises.
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One Response

  1. […] Winters (a mystic warrior) and Georgina De’Flower (a positive-energy channeler and healer), Part II with Talios Asrian (swordmaster) and Horace of the Burning Blade (warrior-firemaster), Part III […]

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