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The Cabal of Eight Pt.34: Expeditious Retreat

In one of the clubrooms on the second floor of the Red Helm Tavern Bumble regaled the Cabal of Eight with her news. Her father had conducted a dinner with the Black Knight/White Swan Sir Illin. She liked him; he was very nice and charming. The players all shrugged they actually liked him too.

Her father also had a closed door meeting with her master, the Wasp for some reason. She wasn’t able to listen in and her master has been tight lipped about it. She didn’t dare ask her father about it.

Her father, Baerox, also had a strange and tense meeting with another fellow just a day ago as well. The man was a half-naga in disguise. He appeared as a generic Ezmerian merchant or shopkeep. However, she was able to discern that he was cloaked in illusion. So, using a special hand lens she had lifted from her master’s desk when he wasn’t paying attention.

The stranger was a half-naga with black and red scales over his face. He had a pair of curved daggers with bejeweled pommels on his hips and a black cloak over his shoulders. Around his neck, he had a pet cobra! She was sure money exchanged hands from her father to the stranger’s purse.

Riahm, the bard, cut in and began to relay the information he was barely able to keep in as Bumble stumbled about. The seeker and curator that had led the expedition that he and Belrae had joined went missing about three days ago. The scout that had led the expedition was long gone and even then, he didn’t speak the Westlander tongue. This intriguing bit of information convinced the group that they have to move as quickly as possible.

The group began planning their trip and assigning roles to each. Gornix (played by Gil), the Salt Lotus Wizard, turned to Ilna.

Gornix: “You know you need to keep everything in these cabal meetings secret, right?”

Bumble: “Oh yeah. Of course everything in the Cabal is secret. Uhm. But I did tell my master about how you guys killed that devil summoner. He was very impressed.”

She smiled at Gornix, the players face-palmed.

Excor (played by Cris) extracted a diamond and a sapphire from the group stash hidden in the room to Bumble for her to procure a carriage, wagon, and supplies. She told him that she was sure her father would cut her a good deal.

Just before Belrae adjourned the meeting, the Cabal agreed to gather at the city gates on the 25th of High Summer, four days hence. The group rose from their seats. Riahm decided it was a good idea to accompany Bumble on her mission to get supplies and transpo. The mages filtered down in tote h tavern save Excor and Gornix. The pair had decided to plan which spells to exchange and study over the next four days before they left.

Szoosha (played by Isis), the black-scale naga fire elementalist, decided to just go back home. Fauna (played by Jenn) the druid decided to stay behind and sling a few down. It wasn’t long circulating amongst the rabble that Fauna spotted an interesting character loping into the taproom.

The man was wrapped in badly worn robes and shedding red dust as his leather boots, stained yellow form the road, plodded along the floorboards. A leather thong served as a belt with a simple dagger in a wooden scabbard tucked under it. His skin was burnt dark by the sun and his features cracked and chiseled by experience. She was able to make out a symbol on his robe that she didn’t recognize. Therefore, she decided to memorize it for later. He reminded her of some sort of shabby cleric or priest.

The stranger went up to the bar and Fauna immediately strolled up and paid for his drink. She found out that he was a “wanderer of the waste and deserts”. When he spoke, she could hear a slight Southland accent. Of course, she asked after the Red Waste and found to her delight that he indeed “knew it well”. It wasn’t long after getting his name, Arcan the Wanderer, that she had hired him for 8 gp a day to guide the Cabal to the Black Pillars in the Red Waste. She looked forward to seeing him at the city gates in four days.

The next day, while Gornix and Excor copied spells into their books, Fauna went back to the Black Barrel Tavern in the harbor district. There she found her “connect” and purchased 5 doses of Yellow Lotus for 2 sapphires and 500 gp.

Cris: “Sheesh! That’s expensive! You can just go to my contact, Babia.”

Jenn: “I thought she was out!”

Cris: “Oh yeah, I bought the last of her stuff this last time.”

As she left, one of the Bronzehead bodyguards seemed to recognize her but didn’t bother to say or do anything. Meanwhile Szoo went to the city bazaar and picked up some rope, a month’s rations, and at Gornix’s request, a cask of ale.

Later that afternoon Fauna met up with Szoo at Wensaer’s Alchemy Shop. They purchased 10 smoke bombs for 100 gp. Szoo bought 3 healing potions for 2 sapphires and 100 gp. Finally, Fauna bought 1 potion of Disguise. The druid went back to the bazaar to pick up some insect netting.

By evening, the pair were back at the house in the North Quarter. Szoo and the druid decided to smoke some Yellow Lotus in the courtyard, which Fauna referred to as “the garden”. Consequently Szoo was knocked out by the drug and suffered a strange vision. She dreamt of an old wizard with weird eyes that cast a spell trapping a golden bee in a piece of amber. Not long after Szoo went unconscious, Gornix and Excor took a “lotus break” as well.

The following day Excor purchased an arming doublet for himself and Gornix decided to hunt down his contact in the Pesters’ Guild, Doubab. Eventually he caught up with Doubab at the Rum Palace (see The Cabal of Eight Pt. 20: Rats, Rowdies, & Imps). After having a “talk” with the rat-catcher in “a very quiet place” that accomplished nothing, the Salt-Lotus Wizard left. He wanted to look for a fighters’ guild so he could hire more bodyguards.

While on his way along the main drag heading south to the South Market District, he spotted a group of checkered knights and leading them? The White Swan accompanied by a Hyvalian paladin. He immediately ducked behind a corner and went invisible. He waited where he was as they passed and overheard something about Creschan Fire. Just as they passed, he also heard Sir Illin, the Black Knight/White Swan, mentioned that the White Knight/Black Swan was hunting down some mage-assassins in the city.

The morning of the 24th of High Summer – Excor decided to hire a courier to deliver a message, written the night before, to Sir Illin. It read: The people you seek work for Virtra. – Signed a Friend.

Cris: “There. Now they’ll be looking for her. Hopefully it’ll buy us some time while we get out of here.”

On their way to the main gate, the mages stopped by the cabal room to retrieve the amber bee. They had hidden it there for safekeeping. Eventually they got close enough to catch a view of their expedition’s caravan. There were two supply wagons and a carriage. All marked with the Nezorik family arms.

There were a few footmen, a driver and a crossbowman on each wagon and among them a familiar warhorse. They ducked as soon as they saw the Black Knight mount it. The mages held up behind the corner of a building for many tense minutes. They had no idea what to do. Suddenly, a messenger jogged by, a sealed letter in his teeth.

Hence Excor peeked around the corner and watched the runner make a beeline right to Sir Illin. Suddenly the Knight tore off at full gallop as a result of reading the note. The young mages mashed themselves against the wall trying to stay as hidden as possible as he charged by.

Cris: “Damn. I guess he knows who she is.”

Isis: “So much for time!”

The group ran to the carriage. There they met up with the other members of the Cabal. Ilna told them how her father gave them a full load of provisions and plenty of water and ale as well as a few troops and drivers. The mages finally let out a breath of relief. Almost as a result of their ease the carriage door opened and out popped Xanto the Wasp in his yellow and black stripped glory.

Xanto (his arms stretched open above his head): “Ah! My friends, dear friends! Are you ready for adventure this will be such an adventure! But never fear I am here!”

Bumble: “My father said he had to come to keep watch over me. But you guys said it was okay already right?”

The players rolled their eyes and let out a collective groan.

To Be Continued…

 

The Cabal of Eight Pt.33: Night of the Moon Rat

The corpses of a sailor and hill-giant blocked the narrow alleyway that led to Fauna’s rental. A few Map of Fauna's rental with each character's respective roomof Gornix’s bodyguards were starting to drag the corpses to the street. In the brief but brutal fight two bodyguards had been injured. Fauna found a note on the sailor along with 1,000 gold pieces. Finally, the mages were upset with Excor. During the fight he had simply walked away.

Cris: “What!? I knew you guys could handle it. None of you are even hurt!”

Gornix: “Oh yeah what about my bodyguards? Those guys are not cheap!”

Excor (sarcastically): “PFFT! Body guards.”

The mages went into their separate rooms. Fauna settled in the main room at a small table. She studied Haxat’s notes by candlelight late into the night.

The following afternoon Szoosha accompanied by two of his guards walked to the tailor shop that had sold him his cloak. The black scale naga was clothes shopping. He spent almost an hour in the shop but couldn’t find anything to his liking even considering a pair of breeches or even silk slippers.

Jenn: “Um aren’t you a snake person? Half snake?”

Isis: “Oh yeah I forgot I don’t have legs!”

After he was finished looking around, he was hoping that by chance he might run into Virtra Wefa, he walked out the door. Both guards were gone. A little miffed and with paranoia stroking his scaly neck, Szoo turned to a vagrant in a dirty robe face covered in long yellowed white hair.

Vagrant (pointing at a nearby alley): “They went into that alley.”

Szoo dropped 10 silver pieces into his begging bowl.

Vagrant: “A little guy in black stole something from one and they both chased him into the alley.”

With that, Szoo rushed up to the entrance into the alleyway. However being of a slightly nervous disposition he flattened himself suddenly against an adjacent wall and peeked around the corner. Lying in the alley on the ground were the two guards, dead, with their throats cut.

Isis: “Oh BOY! Oh NO!”

Szoo jerked his head to the beggar but saw only a fake white beard lying on the ground right next to where he was. Because of that, the naga beat it back to the house. He was in such a panic that he did not take into account that the potential assassin was following.

Gil: “Aw man!”

Cris: “Now he knows where we live!”

The group secured the house the best they could. Gornix posted two guards inside at the entrance, two in the main room, and one at the inside back door. The back door led to a small-enclosed courtyard that Fauna used as her room. They had to drag her into the house. She remained in the main room lying on an old couch that had come with the place.

Gornix locked himself in his room to do some spell research. He had built a makeshift laboratory within. Excor had locked himself in his room. He had built a lab in his room as well. Szoo locked himself in his room and hid under his bed sheets.

The day passed into evening and then into late night. Fatigued the guards carried on with their duties. The mages continued their research, Fauna was growing bored, and Szoo was asleep, his window shutters firmly jammed shut with a dagger.

Fauna yawning turned to strike up a conversation with the guard at the back door. However, he wasn’t there. Instinctively she looked down. There was his body lying in a pool of blood, a shuriken lodged in his neck.

Fauna (frantically motioning to the guards): “HEY! HEY!”

The lead guard immediately knocked on Gornix’s door asking for him by name. The Lotus Wizard opened it and the guard apprised him of the situation. The guards had gathered in the main room and were searching the rafters and the darkness beyond with their eyes. Their agitated spears were ready to thrust at the slightest movement. After the Westlander style, the rafters were exposed with a walkway above the bedrooms.

Gornix joined his men. Excor remained in his room but was prepared to “blast the f@c#in’ door” if anyone should try to get in. He had also jammed his bedroom shutters with a dagger. Fauna was standing at the ready next to Gornix and his guards. Szoo readied himself should anyone or anything try to break his door in.

Fauna spotted a small black shadow darting about above them.

Fauna: “THERE! He’s THERE!”

The guards blindly jabbed with their spears but hit nothing. A blade whistled through the air and hit a guard in the throat. Arterial blood sprayed over the floorboards as he fell dead.

Gornix: “$#&t! He’s picking us off!”

Gornix cast Illuminate through his staff creating a makeshift arcane spotlight. For only a moment they all spotted a small black clad ratling caught in the light.

Gil: “Whhat!? A ninja ratling!?”

Jenn: “Aww! How CUTE!”

The GM (me): “HEY! He’s not cute he’s freakin’ DEADLY!”

Cris (beginning with a sound of disgust): “A moon rat! Great.” A Moon Rat is a ninja variant for ratlings in the Arvan setting.

The mage led the demoralized guards up a stepladder to the walkway above the rafters. The ratling assassin engaged one guard and wounded him badly with its razor sharp sword. It quickly retreated out onto the rafters as the guards tried to stick it with their spears. Gornix bided his time hoping to cast the fight-ending spell but he was also having a hard time keeping an eye on the quick and elusive creature.

The ratling soon realized that it had been a mistake to retreat to the rafters as the guards’ spears had the reach to make his position a disadvantage. As a guard began to shakily step onto a narrow rafter against Excor’s advice, he somersaulted over their heads towards the hayloft door at the front of the house at the end of the guard-populated walkway.

The assassin immediately ducked through the door and into the hayloft above the stable. The guards immediately followed as did Gornix. As soon as he got a clear-shot Gornix cast Inferior Fireball at the moon rat but it easily avoided any damage. The guards leapt down to the stables floor from the hayloft and pursued the ratling into the alley, out into the street, and out of view.

Gornix just shrugged and went back to his room to continue his research. Fauna went to check on Szoo who eventually let her into his room.

After almost half an hour there was a knocking on Gornix’s door. He immediately stopped what he was doing. Whoever it was hadn’t called for him by name as the guards had. Gornix then asked “who’s there” but was met with silence. Therefore, he readied a spell and opened the lock.

The door burst open and the ratling charged over the threshold. Gornix cast his spell just in time. Black ribbons of shadow energy snagged and entangled the little killer. Its sword on the floor, the curved blade oiled with a strange substance, poison.

Gil: “I’m going to lose another guard.”

Cris: “Another guard! They’re all dead.”

It chittered angrily at the Lotus Wizard. Gornix tried to interrogate the creature but got nowhere fast. So he cast Spook to try to loosen the ratling’s lips a little. In response, it had turned its ring that concealed a poisoned needle into its palm and squeezed. It was dead in seconds.

The mages gathered in the main room and tried to “strategize”. After several minutes of bickering Gornix got fed up and asked Fauna for the note she took off the sailor’s body the night before. She handed him the scrap of paper. On it was descriptions and names, their names and their descriptions. He cast Clairvoyance on the note and knew immediately who wrote it.

Gornix: “Virtra Wefa sent the two thugs. She probably sent the rat.”

Isis: “So what’re we gonna do?”

Excor just shrugged and started walking back to his room. Just before he shut and locked his door to continue his arcane research he said, “We’ll get our throats cut when we sleep”.

Isis: “What!? I’m not coming out of my room until morning!”

Undaunted Fauna went out to the stables, cast Communicate with Animals, and told the horse and then her chickens in the courtyard, to let her know when “anyone’s around”. The rest of the night passed quietly enough however.

Over the next five days the group brewed potions, researched, and Excor tended the fighting rats. Eventually the time for the next cabal meeting arrived.

To Be Continued…

 

The Cabal of Eight Pt.32: The Gold Lotus

The 14th of High Summer – The cabal of eight once again found itself convened in the close Gold Lotus Illustrationquarters of the dingy clubroom on the second floor of the Red Helm Tavern. At the head of the table the dusky Belrae Crokosa his purple robes emblazoned with a green frog. To his left sat Riahm Iziani in patterned blue silk and his half-brown half-green cloak thrown from one shoulder, his yellow silk neck sash exchanged for a white lace one.

Continuing to the right around the table sat Ilna of Nezorik aka Bumble in her yellow and black stripes, next to her was Jirek the Scribe of Arebas in his plain brown robes diligently scrawling down the minutes. Next to him sat Gornix in white robes and grey cloak with the salt-water lotus and starfish emblem on the back. Further right sat Excor dressed in fine patterned burgundy robes with a purple waist sash and a blue cloak around his shoulders with a silver clasp at his throat. Fauna sat quiet wrapped in a dirty but stylish green cloak with gold trim. Szoosha sat coiled next to the south window his copper bracers gleaming in the white beams of sunlight, his red cloak and cowl with gold trim draped over his black scaled shoulders.

A round robin began at the table with Jirek whom recounted his rescue from Haxat the Greater menace of Skullhead [see The Cabal of Eight Pt. 21: Blood Red] mostly for Belrae’s and Riahm’s benefit. Bumble didn’t have much to report other than her mage training and attending a few functions with her father. When it came to Belrae and Riahm they revealed that their nearly four week adventure had led nowhere.

The Bardic College had hoped to find the remains of an ancient library in the Red Waste in some newly discovered ruins. However, all they found was a hard to access overgrown mess where a few black pillars on a hill were the most interesting thing about it. The others asked about who led their little expedition but the names were not familiar. Jirek had gasped at the part with the black pillars but nobody noticed.

It came to Gornix; his companions were eyeballing him hoping that he’d keep some of their secrets. He spilled his guts about almost everything though he still had sense enough to keep the political assassination thing close to the breast.

Gil: “I can’t really lie. I feel like I have to tell them.”

Gornix went on about the rescuing of Jirek and the trouble with the Sapphire Guild [see The Cabal of Eight Pt.23: The Trial of the Cabal]. He spilled the skinny on the rat-fight scheme, Jirek kicked him under the table. Then he started to talk about his bodyguards.

Belrae (acknowledging the men in the hallway outside the clubroom door): “I was about to ask you about that.”

Gornix then began waffling as Belrae then asked about how were they able to afford guards from the Yellow Spears Company. Szoo cut the stammering Lotus Wizard off and told Belrae that they managed to slay a dragon on an “herb hunt” outside of the city. It was apparent on the faces of Belrae and Riahm that they knew their compatriots were leaving something out but had already decided to drop it.

Gil (with genuine concern on his face): “Ya know I feel we’re distancing ourselves from the cabal, keeping secrets and stuff from them.”

Szoosha and Fauna proved to be tight-lipped and nobody expected Excor to be forthcoming about much anyway. Therefore, the conversation inevitably turned towards politics. It happened that the Oaks nominated a favored candidate, not Virtra Wefa [see The Cabal of Eight Pt.24: Plate of Scorpions], and the Gold Sashes nominated one Anat the Gold-Lipped. The Gold Sashes man had promised to “bring the South-West District to order and to cancel the franchise of the Bronzeheads so all of Ezmer’s citizens can share in its good fortunes.” All present agreed that that was generally a bad idea.

Then as the conversation wound down Belrae mentioned the gossip of the day: The hit on the swans. The guilty four plucked at their collars.

Belrae: “Can you believe it!? Somebody actually thought to get away with almost killing the White Swan?” He chuckled, as did the rest.

The players all laughed along with the rest though as more of a nervous reflex than anything else. Jirek had something to say and by appearances was barely able to contain himself though he politely waited until Belrae finished.

Meanwhile Belrae cleared his throat and announced that the medallions they had all chipped in for at the very beginning (I forgot to blog it) were finished. To each cabal member he passed out a Copper Medallion of Whisper. Engraved on the smooth faces of the medallions were the eight representations of its members, they had no guild symbol. Belrae’s frog, a flute for Riahm, a bumble-bee for Ilna, for Jirek a compound Hyvalian glyph for “Scribe of Arebas”, a lotus and starfish for Gornix, a druidic symbol for Fauna, and Excor’s Sigil. Each medallion could send a whispered message to one or all medallions once a day.

Jirek put his medallion on and impatiently snatched a partial scroll from a leather scroll case. He turned to Gornix and presented him the scroll. He found it while doing research. The group had him doing research for them concerning golden bees and lotus in the college library since he had access. On the partial parchment was the picture of a black columned gazebo surrounded by golden honeycombs. A single golden lotus grew from the black floor. The scene was set in a barren red landscape though flowering greenery surrounded the gazebo and honeycombs.

Jirek gave the White Lotus Wizard the scroll in exchange for his life debt. It was a very old parchment. It also seemed that the picture had long ago been cut from whatever text it had been a part of. The scroll probably had been sold as an art piece somehow finding its way into the college library.

Voices raised and began to speed into excited chatter and the entire cabal gathered around the scroll as Gornix kept it flattened on the table. As Belrae and the others surmised that, the black pillars from his and Riahm’s expedition were the same as those pictured on the scroll Gornix cast Clairvoyance. The White Lotus Wizard realized through his psychic vision that the black gazebo indeed lay somewhere in the farthest region of the Red Lowlands, in the Red Waste.

Gil (shrugging): “I needed confirmation.”

Suddenly, our heroes became paranoid barraging Riahm and Belrae with questions. They did find out that the pair were never told exactly what they were looking for. That is aside from the ancient library line which they had suspected was a put on.

Our four heroes decided to embark on a new adventure, a quest to find the golden lotus and golden bees, with the help of the full cabal. Jirek accompanied by Belrae and Riahm would do more research in the college library and present their findings next meeting. Fauna would continue to dig through Haxat’s notes (she had been perusing them here and there even during the meeting).

It turned out that Haxat had been after the royal jelly of the gold bees. In his quest that had spanned years, he had trekked the vastness of the Skullhead Forest. There he had discovered the artifact, Bumble’s “paperweight”. He had also murdered his adventuring companions in the process.

Bumble mentioned that her master could help. After all, the “paperweight” was his. The players let out an audible groan. Then Cris had second thoughts and the arguments began. Eventually they agreed that Bumble’s master might be helpful. So they allowed her to go tell her master, Xanto the Wasp. With that, Belrae adjourned the 6th meeting of the Cabal of Eight. Belrae, Riahm, and Jirek broke for the college.

Bumble stood up as if she was on some sort of official mission and turned to go fetch her master. As she hit the door Fauna suddenly jumped up and ran after. The druid grabbed the pudgy girl by the elbow. Fauna turned to her companions and said, “Getting the Wasp involved is a BAD move guys!”

Fauna: “Let’s keep this in the cabal. If I can find out more info about the bees and the red lands that would be better.”

The others grudgingly agreed and Bumble seemed defeated as she agreed to keep the cabal’s adventure from her master. After that, they retreated to the bar. Draega immediately fluttered up to Fauna just as she stepped into the taproom.

Draega Skullshine: “So where were fearless leader and his groupies off to in such a rush?”

Fauna: “They had to take a s#*t!”

Laughing he put his hands to her dirty cheeks “Oh my charming lovely girl, Come let’s get you a free drink!”

Gornix slapped down 10 gold pieces for a bottle of Hill-lander whiskey and left with Szoo following. Behind them Fauna and Excor followed shortly thereafter.

Gornix and Szoo approached the alley entrance as they returned home. They kept an eye on a suspicious character leaning against the wall. He was a bare-chested human in a brown leather vest, probably a scurvy ridden seaman. On his bare chest was the black tattoo of a coiled serpent. He was cleaning his dirty fingernails with his dirk. The mages watched him as they moved past him into the dark alley. Suddenly as if from nowhere, there stood a hill giant with a two-handed mace and a similar tat on his bare chest. When they looked back the suspicious sailor and stepped into the alley behind them.

Isis: “We’re TRAPPED!”

Suspicious Sailor (drawing a cutlass with his free hand): “Well, well, a pair of soft young mages eh? This’ll be easy money.”

To Be Continued…

 

Off-Brand Adventurers

Here’s a little ramble about the traditional character class breakdown of the typified RPG Hands of Designadventuring group. This includes how this tried and true combination of classes helped to shape the core of the Dice & Glory game system. It’s not a history lesson or based in anything more than experience and opinion; just my two-cents.

The Standard Party

The bedrock of most fantasy RPG sessions is the Standard Party. This Standard Party consists of the Fighter, Mage, Thief, Healer class combo. That is four members of the group are playing characters of one of the aforementioned character classes. This combination of classes was born along with roleplaying games, consisting of primarily the Fighter and Mage classes. These shortly followed by the latter two.

This formula for group formation evolved out of necessity. It was shaped by the type of game that was dominant at the time of their creation. The Mage and Fighter evolved from the transition from war-game to the first tabletop roleplaying games. They serve as the group’s main firepower with the mage in the rear ranks and the fighter in the front.

The Thief came to be when games moved further from pure strategy and warfare into adventuring and dungeoneering. The thief’s place is either firing a crossbow bolt from the shadows or trying to sneak around for some good ole backstabbin’. They also often have the skills to try to carry out another task while the others hold off threats.

The Healer on the other hand is a support type character. They may have a certain level of combat ability but nowhere close to the Fighter. They may also have some interesting skills akin to the thief or even a few spells up their sleeves like the mage. However their primary purpose is healing the fighter and the others when necessary. The Healer commonly takes the shape of a priest/priestess or other holy type person, traditionally a Cleric.

Four Corners of the Square

These four (Fighter, Mage, Thief, Healer) are the core of the traditional RPG Player Character adventuring group. This type of group is equipped to deal with most challenges that have been formulated within the roleplaying hobby. They can meet most monsters or guardians or a challenge on par with their character levels blow for blow. These adventurers can tackle most barriers to their progress like traps and locked doors because of the thief. They have an extended endurance granted by the healer, and a few surprises in the form of the mage’s magic.

The Advantages of the Well-Balanced Group

This type of party is the easiest for Game Masters from the most experienced to the least to handle. There is an overabundance of material for GM’s (of all skill levels) where these types of groups are concerned. Often the Standard Party is referred to in the materials as “a well-balanced group”.

This allows the Game-Master to be able to make minor predictions of the outcomes of certain encounters with a reasonable amount of accuracy. The only factor in this foresight would be the randomness of the dice (to me the fun part). Certain game systems make attempts to regulate the randomness of dice in various ways. But I’m not concerned with those at the moment.

This basic type of foresight allows the GM to construct a story-like session, work from lists and such specifically crafted for their players, and to improvise when necessary. All of this with a fair amount of certainty. In a basic sense, the game is easier to run. You can even add in extra less specialized or more specialized characters to the core group.

Of course, this grants the Johnny-come-lately’s a more diverse choice concerning character class. Therefore, it has a disadvantage for the players if they desire a more variegated choice. Moreover, sometimes players that are the core group don’t want to play the traditional types of adventurers. Or they may be unwilling to serve their stereotypical group role leaving one or others wide open (often the mage). This may necessitate the selection of an unconventional mage type character to compensate.

Shaping the D&G System

The Core Group helped to shape the range of base character classes (or class types) in the Dice & Glory game system. First, I tackled the range of choice of course keeping the core classes: Fighter, Mage, and Thief, which I generalized into the Rogue but the Healer was split by more generalization into a number of possible different class types.

These other class types were add-ons but could also be a part of the “core” in certain types of campaigns. The new class types I added being: Adventurer, Brick, Clergy, and the Psychic (a classic add-on class in other fantasy games and an alternative to a mage in sci-fi settings). Potentially any of these could be included as a core member or substitution. For example the Brick was designed to be tougher than the fighter but with a focus on enduring damage rather than dealing it. A Brick was intended to be the defense for such rear guard character classes as the trad Mage.

The range of variations on each of these basic classes for Dice & Glory is potentially endless and can be used to assemble an Off-Brand adventuring group more often than not. This allows maximum player choice but may put more stress on the GM. The GM gains a steeper learning curve and needs time to acquaint themselves with the individual characters and their abilities. This typically by testing them with minor situations and simple mooks, glass-canons, and what-have-you.

The XP Patch

This difficulty for the GM and expansion of choice to near infinity necessitated that the experience point system (I chose to go with a point and spend system) give difficulty ranks to creatures, situations, and barriers as well as give specific challenge values to certain Player actions. It gives the players options to increase their Experience Points (XP) gains to adjust for any challenges that may slightly exceed their character capabilities in the potential future.

In summation, an Off-Brand Group is more difficult for a GM to handle than a Standard Party. However, players have more class options and the potential for off-kilter and non-standard adventures are greater. This necessitates an adjustment period, which can have its own advantages.

The Adjustment Sessions

A Game-Master when dealing with a non-standard party needs to delve into exploration sessions during an extended adjustment period. During this time, the PCs find and settle into their roles and the GM tests, prods, and poke the characters and group. This so as to find their strengths as well as their weaknesses. Personally I have found this adds a certain richness to the game. An ability that a core group ready to launch from session-one lacks.

These sessions can also have a trial-by-fire effect on the group. Uniting the players and hardening their resolve to play their characters through hardship. This odd group can be pretty far from the standard model altering the paths of adventure onto new avenues. The GM will find their alteration of standard adventures to fit the group as they get to know the characters and the overall group dynamic can take them far from the beaten track.

The Final Blathering

The Standard Core Group found throughout the history and the present of fantasy RPGs is a tried and true model for assembling adventuring groups. Nevertheless, it can be a little restricting and maybe a little boring as well. However, the class choice of a PC group influences the shape of the adventure that they can handle and concerning GM prognostication. The character composition of the group alters everything about the game and in certain instances can unbalance a ruleset not designed or capable of handling them. Although an Off-Brand group that is wholly off model is a challenge to the GM it can also take the game to strange and interesting new places. So GM’s select your medium (ruleset) carefully and don’t shy away from unconventional groups.

Afterword

Note that Race in RPGs is very similar in effect to Character Class and though it can have an effect on the game similar to class, it is often not as severe. The same issues can arise: game balance, player choice, and GM difficulty but if they are well designed these are mitigated by the setting and the GM themselves.

The Cabal of Eight will return next week.