And welcome again, faithful readers, to another thrilling installment of our 70 part in-depth look into fun with math! Or, as I call it, GURPS. Let’s go!
As far as socializing goes, thus far, our party has gotten by on luck and a prayer, but not without ruffling their share of feathers. “Town” as a concept may be safe, but the quick lie, and 1000 lbs of backup that do so well in the wild, don’t exactly get you invited to dinner with the local lords, who have both the interest, and coin, to fund a party for longer, bigger, and most importantly, more profitable delves! At some point, someone is going to have to do some talking for the group, and currently, this A-team has more “Howling Mad” Murdock, and not so much Templeton “Face man” Peck. It’s not that no none in the party can talk to people, day-to-day, they have obviously been able to buy gear and secure lodging. But if a crazed dwarf covered in facial tattoos, and a 7’10” tall Grizzly Adams follow Zen into tea with the duchess, it makes her job harder, if she’s trying to impress.
I was recently talking to another GM/Player I know, who was lamenting that his group is strong on “Gaming”, but reluctant to get into “Role-playing”, and the module he’s running requires both. If this confuses you, please, allow me elaborate. When The Red Lady met with the trio of wizards, way back in Episode 3, I knew that the wizards wanted her book and had information to trade to get it if they had to, but really, they wanted those girls.. And they wanted them bad. I was curious to see how she would deal with them, and was looking forward to the exchange. I wanted her to Role-play.. All she knew, was that the wine was free, and she wasn’t giving away her new book!
In other games, all that the GM cares about, and the players want to know, is “Do I roll Diplomacy Skill or Merchant for this?” They don’t care about haggling with lecherous wizards, they want to get the quest, click accept, and get to adventuring. This, is how we define “Gaming”, for this example at least.. Sometimes, this just has to happen. Maybe it’s someone who isn’t that great with words, and wants to play a bard. Maybe I want to play a genius and have an IQ of 11.. On a good day. Sure, your character can do things you can’t.. That happens all the time. But the effort makes it personal. I’d always prefer a player tell me the lie they give a guard to let them past the city gates, than just rolling fast-talk, even if they still have to roll, a good lie is more likely to work, and a great lie, is more likely to get a bonus.. I reward the role-play, its how I do. Not that I’m always good at it..
In the previous DF game, our party met with a manservant of a local lord, named Mamu. Mamu informed our group that his lord, Dekter Strang, a local wizard of some renown, would be interested in offering the party a variety of assistance, foremost being some work, for coin, and also, perhaps the loan of other monies, to be repaid with interest. The party, or perhaps just me and by extension my character, eyed this Mamu with suspicion. Our GM was known to be crafty, and I’m known to be straight up paranoid, so the theory was; this guy is up to no good, and looking to get us involved in some kind of pyramid scheme possibly with real pyramids, so no thank you, sir!
By the next session, it had been explained.. This Mamu should basically have a golden question-mark over his head. A quest-giver was a game mechanic, not intrigue and deception. I/We had been Role-playing maybe a little too much for this instance. Strang would go on to be a major influence on the party as we went, and while still basically being an NPC, was actually played remotely, by a friend of the GM. I’m actually considering using this model of remote-play myself, but we shall see.
Long tangent over, I debate how well expecting the interactions from the party will go, not for lack of skill or interest from the players, but ironically, because of the mechanics that GURPS has for such things, mainly, “Reaction Modifiers”. Actually, despite none of the characters being focused on the schmoozing, giving careful look to the party’s sheets, they actually aren’t on bad footing.. Most of the group stands between about a +5 and a -4 for reactions, with Frau Blucher being at the top with a possible +9, all things being in her favor, and Grognak at the bottom end, at a -5 if it’s a bad day. These are all conditional modifiers, however, not one person in the group has an all-the-time bonus. Standard bonuses are from appearance, charisma, voice or fashion sense etc. (And yes, I do see fashion sense being worthwhile in the Dungeon Fantasy game. My bard wore a spider-silk tuxedo.). None of the party’s detractions are enough to get them barred from town, which is nice, because having to make plans while one of you group lives in the sewers, is a pain.
The party gets their bonuses mostly from talents, Grognak getting a whopping +4 for those who see him use his Outdoorsman skills (Mind you, +4 is what Captain American gets as a reputation bonus for being Captain America) and several of the group get a +1 from anyone in the bar, when they party.. However, lords and those more sober-minded, see this as a drawback, so it’s all about picking your audience. The church looks favorably on Frau and Jianjun, and for somethings, their bonuses can translate into higher rewards and sale prices, if they were the ones doing business.
There are two other bits of game mechanics in play, or maybe just two sides of one. Zen, despite being sneaky and adorned in black leather, has the Perk, “Honest Face”. This isn’t powerful enough to give her a bonus to reactions, but it does mean that she’s never picked out of a crowd, or a lineup. Good thing to have, if you might be carrying, or covered in stolen goods. Brody, on the other hand, has the Quirk, “Dishonest Face”. Covered in tattoos and burns, he is always picked out of a crowd, even when he’s just out taking his caveman for a walk.. It’s a damn shame..
All said, I want to run the game people enjoy playing. I would prefer that they enjoy exploring the nuance and depth of a cast of dozens, developed over months of painstaking work. OK, maybe not that deep, but any time you put in the work, its nice to see it pay off. In the end however, its their game, I’m just reacting to it. I recall years ago, in a HERO System Supers game, our group threw the GM a curve-ball when we asked a former foe, Foxbat to join our party, hoping to bolster our ranks. The GM called a 15 minute break, went outside to smoke, and figure out how to pull out of this descent into madness. (Note: Foxbat did join us, only to make us later curse his sudden but inevitable betrayal.)
Sometimes, they have to get the quest, and my job is to get them there. Whether it’s a spirited debate, or they make their Savoir-Faire roll, it’s going to happen, and the quest awaits. However, it’s not my job to warn the party when the right person doing the talking is going to get them a better deal, or when they can haggle for a better price. It’s not a requirement for the story, or their survival, just a bonus. But the possibility is out there. Or, you know. Just buy up your merchant skill, and wealth. That works too.
Buy a fella a drink some times, Nerds, I can go on for days. Thanks for listening.