The Children’s Crusade – Part IV

Circe Offering the Cup to Odysseus. Oldham Art...

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There’s a certain difference about many of the opponents you use when you run a game with young noble protagonists.

Quite a lot of their opponents won’t want them dead.

  • The manipulative and treacherous Uncle (of any one of them) wants to capture them and corrupt them to his side, not kill them.
  • The bandits want to hold them for ransom, not throw away a fortune and bring a massive hunt down on their heads by killing a bunch of noble kids.
  • The rebels want to persuade them of the rightness of their cause, and hopefully – even if they fail now – score a clean win when the kids come into power and can institute reforms.
  • The enemy state wants to use them as bargaining chips, and possibly score a propaganda coup if they can persuade them that they have a valid point.
  • Their opponents in the tournament are, of course, fighting to subdue with blunted weapons.
  • The rival kids just want to show them up, and perhaps inflict a few bloody noses.
  • The guards want to keep them from sneaking in and out, or into areas where they’re not supposed to be – but they generally don’t want them worse than concussed.
  • The dark cult wants to recruit them – and, if that fails, to save them for later sacrifices
  • The secretive mind-benders want them under control, and sent back the heart of the realm as their agents and spies.
  • The wealthy, but low-social-class merchant may want to blackmail one of them into a marriage to one of his social-climbing offspring.
  • The blackmailers want profitable information – whether that means getting something on the kids for direct profit or something on someone else for later use.
  • The dark wizard wants to force them to retrieve a banned tome from the castle library, since they can easily walk the corridors where he may not.

Now the kids can’t always count on that sort of thing applying; there might be an assassin, or idiot, or someone who wants to avenge some old slight on the child of an enemy they can’t reach otherwise, or something along those lines – but it all comes down to the fact that many of the kids adventures will be playing on more social turf; they can lose fairly often without dying.

That’s a very big change in the dynamic of the game – and if you want to spend much time in the lower levels where the game isn’t too grossly complicated, a very welcome one. If Gohen the Super-Ape Barbarian, and Davros the Sorcerous Slayer, and Badly-Named Optimized Character of your choice are slicing their way into the heart of The Demon Empire Of General Evilness (TM), and they lose more than once or twice in their entire little war, they’re probably doomed.  The players will act as if any contest is to the death, simply because most of them really are. Defeat – and often even retreat – will never be considered, since, if your enemies can drive you off, they’ll shortly be in pursuit with reinforcements. Even taking a little time out can become a synonym for “make a new character” – and so there’s a focus on combat power and character optimization.

Whereas if the Kids trace the bandits back to the Dread Masters of the Mind, and lose, they’re likely to get mind-controlled and sent back on a mission against the realm – and if they blow that, or even if they succeed, they’re likely to be captured, freed of control, and get another chance at things. Their defeat may be really embarrassing, and may throw doubt on their fitness to inherit – but you can recover from embarrassment a lot more easily than you can from being dead.

In a “youthful nobles” game the players might even be willing to surrender at times without throwing dice across the room and groaning about the other characters being useless and all that “railroading”. Sure, that volley of arrows might get nowhere – but now it’s not a question of “fight now and maybe die versus certain death later”. It’s “fight now and maybe die versus almost certain severe embarrassment – or perhaps escape if we’re very lucky”.

Admittedly, not all players act like that, but you’ve probably met a few who do. Wouldn’t it be a pleasant change for them to have a reason to give in gracefully rather than assuming that defeat equates to death?

And here we have our sixth sample young noble character:

Nikolai Verburger

The Verberger family has long been noted for it’s elven ties, and many of its members show at least slight evidence of elven blood – slightly fey features, aging extraordinarily well, or having a knack for the wilds and for natural magic. Young Nikolai already shows some of those features – and an affinity for archery magic.

Level One Player Summary: Nikolai Verburger

  • Str 14, Int 12, Dex 16 (18), Wis 12, Con 14, and Cha 10
  • Longsword: +10, 1d8+3, Crit 19-20/x2
  • Longbow: +10, 1d8+3, Crit 20/x3, 100′ range increment.
  • Hit Points 12, Armor Class 19 (+4 Armor, +4 Dex, +1 Martial Art), Initiative +4, Move 30′.
  • Saves: Fortitude +4, Reflex +4, and Will +2.
  • Skills: Climb +2, Knowledge/Nature +5, Elven Warblade Martial Art (Dex) +8, Heal +3, Move Silently +8, Ride +6, Spot +5, and Survival +5.
    • Elven Warblade is a longsword-based martial art that provides +2 to Attacks and +1 to AC when using a Longsword or – thanks to his Weapon Kata – a longbow.
  • Magical Abilities: May enchant an arrow he fires to:
    • 4x/Day: Cause the creature hit to go blind or become deaf.
    • 4x/Day: Cause 2d6 fire damage along the arrows path and to the creature hit.
    • 4x/Day: Slow the creature hit for 2d4 rounds.
    • 4x/Day: Engulf whatever it hits in darkness.

Full Build:

  • Basic Attributes: Str 14, Int 12, Dex 16 (18), Wis 12, Con 14, and Cha 10
  • Personal Disadvantage: Unarmored. Armor disrupts the magical energies that Nikolai taps, and shuts down most of his special abilities.
  • Warcraft (BAB): +1 (6 CP)
  • Cultural Weapon Focus/ +1 BAB with Elven Cultural Weapons (Longsword, Rapier, Longbow, Composite Longbow, and Short Bow) (+1 BAB, Corrupted/Elven Cultural Weapons only, 4 CP).
  • Proficient with All Simple and Martial Weapons (9 CP).
  • Level One Hit Die: d10 (6 CP). That gives him 12 HP.
  • Save Bonuses: +1 Will, +2 Fortitude (9 CP).
  • Adept: Halves the cost of buying four skills; In his case Knowledge/Nature, a Martial Art, Move Silently, and Survival (6 CP).
  • Skill Points: 2 (Purchased, 2 CP) + 4 (Int Mod x 4) + 12 (Enhanced Human Bonus) = 18
  • Innate Enchantment, Corrupted/the user cannot wear armor (4 CP, for an effective value of up to 5000 GP). His innate enchantments include Mage Armor (1400), Aura of Favor (+1luck bonus to attacks and damage, 1400), and Dex +2 (1400).
  • Immunity to XP cost for Innate Enchantments (Uncommon, Minor, Trivial, only covers L0 and L1 effects, 2 CP).
  • Finesse, May use (Dex Mod) instead of (Str Mod) when making attacking rolls with melee weapons, Specialized and Corrupted/only with Longswords (2 CP).
    • Longsword: (+2 BAB +1 Masterwork +4 Dex +2 Martial Art +1 Luck), 1d8 +(1 Luck +2 Str)
    • Longbow: (+2 BAB +1 Masterwork +4 Dex +2 Martial Art +1 Luck), 1d8 +(1 Luck +2 Str)
  • Focused Imbuement/His arrows function as “Spell Carrying Arrows” (a variant on the Spell Storing ability); when such an arrow is drawn, the user may opt to imbue it with any spell he or she has available of up to level three as a free action. The spell will be released upon whatever the arrow hits. Special-purpose spells may produce magical effects along the path of such an arrow as well. Specialized and Corrupted/the effective total bonus is fixed at +1 (converted to Spell Carrying) and does not improve with level, the carrying function only works for inherent spells, and only one such arrow may be fired per round. (4 CP).
  • 4x level two Inherent Spells  with +2 Bonus Uses (total of four uses per day each), Specialized/spells can only be used with a spell carrying arrows (18 CP).
    • Blindness/Deafness: Renders target blind or deaf. Save DC 14.
    • Cometary Arrow: A specialty effect for use with Spell Carrying Arrows, it causes the arrow to radiate flame, causing 2d6 flame damage in a 5′ line and similar damage to whoever it hits. A reflex save negates damage for victims along the line, but the creature struck is not so lucky.
    • Darkness: Surrounds a target with darkness, inflicting a 20% miss chance, for 10 minutes/level.
    • Slow: Single-target version that lasts for 2d4 rounds, save DC 14.

Nikolai, of course, is heading down the comic-book trick-arrow-archer path – but there’s really nothing at all wrong with that.

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One Response

  1. […] Burning Blade (warrior-firemaster), Part III with Roland Huntley (skill monkey / trickster mage), Part IV with Nikoli Verburger (mystic archer), Melinissa (a ghostly dybbuk), and Tamlin Cooper (youthful […]

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