A Slow Path to Dungeon Crawl Classics

While out visiting my brother and sister-in-law, I bought Dungeon Crawl Classics in Lawrence, Kansas in October 2012. The art was captivating (and I should’ve bought the Easley cover). But the rules were not yet for me; I was deep into Dungeon World and felt the DCC book to be rather intimidating.

The game lingered on my shelf for years. I’d pull it out to look at the art, but it never took hold. Then in August of 2015, something changed.

Fate-based games were tiresome and predictable (see Fate Point Economy: All the Glories of Accounting and Fiduciary Obligations). Dungeon World’s shimmer and shine as a new GMing approach had worn thin (It took 18 more months to outline in a blog post a primary issue I have with Dungeon World.)

I was looking at running a new campaign, and DCC made the short list (but was still a dark horse, I think because of the funky dice). But 5th Edition hit and I wanted to give that a spin. I even set up rules for a 5th Edition Character funnel (and should revise those rules based on my observations.)

That campaign fizzled due to scheduling conflicts amongst the players; Also, Out of the Abyss is a hot mess and requires a lot of organizational effort.

A few months passed, and I started playing in a 5E game at Better World Books in Goshen. The group was rather large, combats moved at a glacial pace, and the campaign style was not for me. But it didn’t matter who showed up, the DM ran regardless.

During this time, I was listening to the Save or Die podcast, and I couldn’t help but not GM Jim’s exuberant praise of DCC.

I stopped going to those 5E sessions, as a perfect scheduling storm occurred. I had a chance to start a Burning Wheel campaign based on an idea I had been noodling on for years. We set the group, cleared schedules, and then life shifted and the campaign stopped.

During that short-lived campaign, I saw the Road Crew kits that Goodman Games provided. I decided to run a game to get some swag. On one of the Thursdays when the D&D group wasn’t playing, scheduled and ran a DCC Funnel. At this point, I had never played nor judged DCC.

I left that session energized and excited. My 5th Edition funnel was a pale comparison to the DCC funnel experience. The session felt part Looney Toons and part B-Horror film (abbreviated session write-up for Portal Under the Stars).

As winter passed, I was delving further into OSR options, working a modified Whitehack and writing my own FLGS Quickstart Rules. By this time, I had listened to all of the Save or Die episodes, and moved on to Spellburn. I love Jim Wampler’s podcast energy and enthusiasm.

And that’s when DCC clicked. I re-opened the books, and saw the game for what it was – an intriguing and energizing paradox.

A rules light system in a book that could maim a person. A game that eschews balance in favor of judgement calls and wild randomness. Where death is memorable and an inevitable stepping stone in the campaign story arc. And how a simple mechanic, the Might Deed, can obviate all of the feat chains of other game systems. Where players can get anything they want if they are willing to quest for it!

Now, I am running a regular DCC drop in campaign. I write up session reports, session preparation, and other procedures for the game. I am enjoying it. If the revolving and returning players are any indicator, so are the other players.

It’s a bit chaotic digging through my binder full of characters, never quite knowing what the session will look like, but I enjoy those challenges and improvisations. I’m running from a mix of modules, my own procedures, and improvisation.

Campaign, Rulings, Descriptions, and Questing

Favor Campaign over Characters

In most games, characters start fragile. A dead character should not end the campaign. Players are busy. An absent player should not scuttle the session.

Ensure that the game can handle drop-outs. Also, ensure it can handle drop-ins. Someone has intermittent availability. Work so the game would be fun for them as well as the regular players.

Let’s call this Martin’s Law. George R. R. Martin “Song of Fire and Ice” is a testimony to ensemble stories.

Favor Rulings over Rules

I don’t want to remember a wide variety of rules. I want a light framework to help me adjudicate in a consistent manner. I want to avoid time spent looking up rules, but instead want to keep moving in a consistent manner. I want the players to get back to the adventure/story.

I also want to make sure players have tools that they can use to counter the sting of some of my rulings; Either giving them a bonus, re-roll, advantage, or way of buying it off:

  • Fate Core has Fate points
  • Burning Wheel and Torchbearer have Artha
  • Dungeon Crawl Classics has Luck
  • D&D has Inspiration.
  • Eberron has Hero Points

Favor Description over Prescription

This is an extension of Rulings over Rules, but merits further discussion.

When presented with a problem, are do players limit their response to they have on their character sheet? Or do they start narrating how they respond and look to you for adjudication? Are the players engaging with the adventure or their character sheet?

For clever or amusing ideas, don’t require a role. They described how they were looking for traps and how they would disarm it. Give it to them. Broadcast that you will be rewarding player skill. This is a core tenant of avoiding the grind in Torchbearer, and what the OSR builds on.

Also, throw them some Inspiration, Luck points, Hero points, or Fate tokens. Given them currency to further engage in the story.

In a DCC funnel I ran, one of the characters had a pound of clay and fashioned a terra cotta helmet in hopes of blending in with a bunch of terra cotta warrior automatons. Instead of requiring a Personality roll, I said it worked. If I had to do it over again, I’d also have awarded +1 Luck to the character.

Mighty Deed Die vs. Feat Trees

The Warrior in Dungeon Crawl Classics has a Mighty Deed Die. The Might Deed Die replaces your static bonus to hit. At 1st level, you get a 1d3 Mighty Deed Die. (2nd level it becomes d4, 3rd a d5, etc).

When you attack, you declare your Mighty Deed – trip the monster, blind it, dive between it’s legs slash its underside etc. You then roll your attack add your Mighty Deed roll and your strength (or dexterity) bonus. If you hit the armor class and get a 3 or higher on your Mighty Deed die, your deed happens. The rules suggest the Referee to scale the degree of success based on the Mighty Deed result.

The Mighty Deed Die subsumes 3E and Pathfinder combat maneuvers: trip, disarm, sunder, improved grapple, etc. It guides play from the character sheet back to the table and story.

Favor Questing over Railroading

Put decisions on where to go adventuring into the players’ hands. Let them know if they want it, they can quest for it. Lost a limb? Give them clues about the promises of the Regenerating Muds of Lazul. Ask the players what their characters want. Let them pursue those desires by engaging in the world. But make sure the world is not remaining static.

Set larger events in motion. Create rumor tables. Think off screen. In other words, favor a sandbox world over adventure paths. The campaign is more than the actions of the characters.

Postscript

I recommend three resources:

Burning Sanctuary – Session 1

We met for our second session of Burning Sanctuary. Some of the players had not completed their beliefs. So we spent some time finalizing both characters and a bit of the world. This took about an hour of our 3.5 hour session.

Preparation

Without knowing the players starting beliefs and instincts I wasn’t able to plan as much as I had hoped.

There was Shrewsbury Abbey (and clergy). One of the players provided beliefs related to smuggling something out of the Abbey.

I focused on writing various impressions and bits of scenery for Shrewsbury Abbey:

  • Stooped monks harvesting squash and onions
  • Moans of the injured
  • Dripping water as bloodied clothes are wrung out over a bowl
  • Chanting prayers as tallow candles crackle and flicker
  • Hushed conversations in stone halls
  • Wretched poor seeking alms
  • Unarmed soldiers walking idling about
  • Cool stones in open air passages
  • A small girl asleep under an ancient oak
  • A bell tolling

I used the above to add color to the environs. It provided a means for tredding water as we felt out the scope of the game.

Character Burning

What follows are a list of beliefs; not precise as they were workshopped during the session, but instead the notes and recollections that I’m working from.

  • Aneúpin [Nye for short] (Welsh Scout):
    • B1: Wants solitude and to get back to the wilderness
    • B2: Needs to get possessions back so I can be self-sufficient
    • I1: Always looking for new cooking ingredients
    • I2: Always fall to the back of the group.
    • I3: Always watch the nobility out of the corner of my eye.
  • Raimund (Anglo-Norman Smuggler):
    • B1: William was supposed to supply an artifact to me as part of the deal, but it’s sealed away at Shrewsbury Abbey. I’m to meet his contact there, obtain the artifact, and deliver it to Ranulf.
    • B2: I need help to escort me back to Chester.
    • B3: I will advance my status and wealth to return my family to the peerage
    • I1: While at ports, large markets, or trade fairs, always chitchat with fellow merchants and look over their wares. Prioritize the exotic and foreign.
    • I2: Never pass by a rare or exotic good without inspecting it.
    • I3: Always carry a packet of herbs to ward off the disease-ridden miasma.
  • Old Travis (Anglo-Norman Elder):
    • B1: Find the family of Clovis FitzTravis, my son.
    • B2: I want to be known for my writings, but I must learn to compose. So I will study the manuscripts of the abbey.
    • I1: When prattling on about travels always be assessing my surroundings.
    • I2: Always take an afternoon nap.
    • I3: Always work patiently when mending
  • Edmund Thatcher (Anglo-Saxon Doctor):
    • B1: I will get my sister (Adwyn) out from the control of Robert of Gloucester. I will take her to Chester and seek an audience with Earl Ranulf. (wants to improve her station)
    • B2: I have an academic interest in these relics, I know someone wants them I’m going to find out who.
    • I1: Always provide medical attention to the injured

Procedures

I’m adopting the procedure of having the players go around the table reading their Beliefs, Instincts, and Traits. It is a helpful reminder for everyone since each players BITs drives the Artha awards.

In this session we went around once to flesh out the beliefs. We then went around again to restate the more “formalized” beliefs. It was a collaboration.

World Burning

Mixing throughout character burning was some world burning. We fleshed out the primary deity and the details of the relics.

Shirat, the Illuminating Eye

Instead of using a “vanilla” Christian God, we came up Shira, the Illuminating Eye. The “Catholic” church venerates her.

  • Sun
  • Water
  • Time
  • Knowledge
  • Labor
  • Forethought
  • Augury
  • Law
  • Written Word

Relic Smuggling

We discussed that Raimund is smuggling relics to Ranulf. The players know that these relics are Fey related. They are also being positioned along ley lines. The characters know none of this.

The Session Proper

We spent much of the session getting the characters into a common orbit.

  • Edmund Thatcher became a local celebrity through his miraculous healing of one of Robert Gloucester’s men (Roger FitzWallace).
  • Travis spent time fixing up the Abbey, always conspiring to gain access to the scriptorium and its books. He learned that Brother George had a key to the storeroom.
  • Nye focused on gaining his equipment; Things went awry when he sought the help of several fellow Welsh men.
  • Raimund was busy tracking down his contact and laying out an initial plan to smuggle out some “holy” bones.

The session drew to a close when they all noticed the Welsh men carrying out a corpse of one of the priests (Brother George). The church bell rang, raising the alarm; The abbey awoke; In the general chaos Raimund and Nye begun forming an alliance.

NPCs

The NPCs introduced throughout the session:

  • Gwyir – a Welsh traveler and spokes person for 3 other Welsh men. They have sought an evening respite at Shrewsbury Abbey; They are not wealthy. They came with a wagon of wool.
  • Abbot Gerald (Vicious and Precise) – Abbot of Shrewsbury
  • Brother Michael – contact for Raimund
  • Brother George – oversees the storeroom.
  • Brother Ferand – tends the kitchen
  • Brother Albert – an elderly monk with one eye blind from cataracts

Tests

  • Faith (Ob 4) for Edmund Thatcher:
    • Task: Seek guidance for the surgery to come
    • Intent: Gain guidance
    • Consequence: Brother Albert, the chatty old, will mark you a blasphemer.
    • Result: Success. A glowing nimbus and a bead of sweat forms on Edmund Thatcher’s brow.
  • Surgery (Ob 4) for Edmund Thatcher:
    • Task: Stitch up this severe wound
    • Intent: Get him healthy and on the road to recovery and even ingratiate himself to Earl of Gloucester.
    • Consequence: He’s a bannerman of Gloucester and Gloucester will find out about it.
    • Side note: The player rolled 3 successes. But one of them was a 6 and was the dice from astrology. With the open-ended dice, they got the 4 successes.
    • Result: The bannerman is on the road to recovery. And Brother Albert is extolling the virtues of a miracle.
  • Persuasion (Ob 5) for Travis:
    • Task: Persuade the abbot that this place is falling apart and you can help clean it up.
    • Intention: Ingratiate himself with the abbot so he can gain access to the books
    • Consequence: You draw the ire of the Abbot and he assigns someone to watch over you.
    • Result: Failure
  • Stealth (Ob 2) for Raimund linked into Inconspicuous:
    • Task: Moving through the abbey without being seen
    • Intention: To observe each monk.
    • Consequence: You draw unwanted attention as it is clear you are singling someone out.
    • Result: Success, one over OB, so the linked test gets +1D.
  • Inconspicuous (Ob 2 linked from Stealth) for Raimund:
    • Task: Mingling without drawing attention
    • Intention: To find Brother Michael without drawing attention.
    • Consequence: You are unable to find the brother as he is out-of-town. This one was weak. I was thinking perhaps a Circles test.
    • Result: Success. Raimund finds Brother Michael.
    • Side note: I really should’ve called for an Inconspicuous test then an Observation test.
  • Scavenging (Ob 3) for Nye:
    • Task: Find something that could be used to pick a lock.
    • Intention: With a tool in hand, he’d pick the lock to get into the store-room.
    • Consequence: you draw unwanted attention. Opted not to test.
    • Result: The player stepped away from the test.
    • Side note: With the Ob set, the player backed down. Instead going towards Rumor-wise
  • Rumor-wise (Ob 2) for Nye:
    • Task: Poke around a bit regarding these Welsh men’s mode of operation storeroom
    • Intention: I want them to help me bust into the store-room
    • Consequence: These Welshmen are very bad news; burn down the Abbey, mass murder.
    • Result: Success. These Welshmen are ready to help.
  • Mending (Ob 3) for Travis: I’m drawing a blank on this one, but I believe it was along the lines of you aggravate Brother Michael and he assumes you are stalling.
    • Result: Success. Travis has begun ingratiating himself with Brother Michael.
  • Inconspicuous (Ob 2) for Raimund:
    • Task: Pull Brother Michael aside to talk
    • Intention: Determine what and where the relics are that Raimund needs to smuggle out
    • Consequence: You are deep in conspiring and someone stumbles upon you.
    • Result: Success. The players.
  • Persuasion (Ob 3 untrained, so Ob 6) for Nye:
    • Task: Convince the Welsh men that there are valuables in the
    • Intention: Get them to help me bust into the store-room
    • Consequence: They’ll help but its going to escalate into the abduction/murder of a priest. abduct/kill a priest.
    • Result: Failure (untrained got 5 successes).
  • Observation (Ob 3) for all:
    • Task: Looking into the evening.
    • Intent: See if they spot the people leaving through the sally port.
    • Consequence: You don’t see the events transpiring in the courtyard.
    • Result: The players see four men carrying the body of another.
    • Side Note: I wasn’t sure how to proceed. The party was not coordinated in their effort. So I called for individual tests.

Closing Scenes

Abbot Gerald (Vicious and Precise) insinuates the Edmund Thatcher’s miracles could draw pilgrims to Shrewsbury and bolster their coffers. The Abbot wants to talk with Edmund in his chambers.

Nye and Arnolt have their first conversation. Arnolt offers cash to Nye if he will help get some relics to Chester. The beginnings of a plan take shape. We end the session.

Precedence

I am keeping a running log of what we establish via Wises and Duel of Wits. Both resolutions are manifestations of the Let it Ride principle.

  • The Four Clovers are a band of Welsh rebels; They despise the English. They are destabilizing England. (via Rumor-wise)
  • The relics are three leg bones from the Abbey crypt. These bones are in a prominent spot.
  • At temples of Shirat, at least one brother or sister maintains a nighttime vigil for Shirat’s return.

Observations

I also like to reflect on the sessions that I’ve run. I have personal notes for where to go with the next session; But I’m not going to publish those at the moment.

Task and Intent

I was insistent on players providing both Task and Intent. In doing so, we were able to map tests to beliefs. This made the end of session Artha awards smooth and meaningful. The wrap up discussion concerning Artha award categories was helpful for me; We were generous in interpretation. It also felt like we ended on the same page.

An interesting note, no one earned Artha for character traits. There are a lot of parts, and I believe those traits are something that is hard to pay attention to in the first session.

Once we completed the session wrap-up, the players saw some of the reward cycle. They now have greater clarity on how to write their beliefs. They can also focus their beliefs to the immediate situation.

An interesting observation is that I think User Stories (from Agile software development) are an excellent template for writing beliefs. They have the following form:

As a ____, I will ____, so that ____.

Odd Getting Started

The players are not well aligned; I believe this is a failing on my part. The initial situation (everyone has declared sanctuary) doesn’t have enough teeth to join them. I also didn’t lead them through group creation.

I’m not worried about keeping the characters together, but hope to nurse the aligning of goals.

Then again, it’s a first session. Everyone is feeling out their characters and intentions. I imagine the next session will move better.

Further Work on Beliefs for Burning Sanctuary

Building on a previous post for our Burning Sanctuary campaign, we are continuing our belief workshop. Here is the second round. The player also provided extensive details and reasoning.

Beliefs

  • Belief 1: I successfully assisted William FitzAlan’s escape. He’s pledged loyalty to Ranulf and making his way to the Welsh Marches. William was supposed to supply an artifact to me as part of the deal, but it’s sealed away at Shrewsbury Abbey. I’m to meet his contact there, obtain the artifact, and deliver it to Ranulf.

The preamble of this belief is helpful; The heart of the belief starts “William was supposed…”. We can discard the leading two sentences and have the same resulting belief. Those two sentences are very helpful as a GM for our first session.

Belief 2: It’s too risky to transport this artifact alone back to Chester. Too many patrols. Too many desperate deserters turned bandit. There are a lot of refugees at this abbey. Maybe some might help escort me back to Chester for food, a little pay, and the promise of steady employment.

There is a lot of background, which is again helpful. At present, this is an opinionated placeholder for when other character beliefs materialize.

Belief 3: I will advance my status and wealth to return my family to the peerage.

An excellent Artha mine; It informs all other beliefs. When acting, the player can frame task and intent with this in mind.

Instincts

Instinct 1: While at ports, large markets, or trade fairs, always chitchat with fellow merchants and look over their wares. Prioritize the exotic and foreign.

  • Did I cram too damn much in this instinct?

I love the intention; I’m uncertain how this will play out. There are implications in training a skill – Merchant-wise – but also in pulling the character into an unwanted action; Especially if there is something that targets their other instinct.

Instinct 2: If in the presence of a rare or exotic craft good, appraise and/or experience wonderment (as per Dwarf Wonderment minus “I must have it”)

  • “I must have it” doesn’t square with my characters ethos belief (trade must flow > personal gain). It might be interesting to replace it with “I must know more about it! / I must find out where you got this!”.
  • Concerned that the GM might think this is soliciting for steel tests. This is such a good and fitting flavor instinct for this character that I’d be willing to forgo some or all steel tests for it. Wait, do instincts automatically bypass tests?
  • I’m making this much harder than it should be, aren’t I?

There is a glorious intention here. Some refinements:

  • I must always know more about rare or exotic craft goods.
  • Never pass by a rare or exotic good without inspecting it.

I’m disinclined to allow for something that mirrors Dwarven Wonderment and the associated Steel tests. The instinct can aim towards that emotion, but I feel that for dwarves this is an important separation.

As the game progresses, I think trait votes can begin to subsume the instinct into something that is very much an analogue to Dwarven Wonderment.

Also, my understanding of instincts is that they do not bypass tests.

Instinct 3: Always carry a packet of herbs to ward off the disease-ridden miasma.

  • There, an easy one. It’s based in character history, requires a piece of gear, and will probably mess up a sneak test or twelve.

Pure awesome!

Traits

  • T1: Paranoid (Smuggler req, char)
  • T2: Distracted (Merchant req, char)
  • T3: Ambitious (General, 1pt, char)
  • T4: Tolerant (General, 1pt, char)

In the previous go round, the player gave notes about being an ambitious smuggler. But didn’t have the Ambitious character trait. Now the character is Ambitious.

Working Through Beliefs for Burning Sanctuary

I’m working with a first time Burning Wheel player. He sent me a rather lengthy email about his character for our upcoming Burning Sanctuary.

I think some of this might be helpful for those considering Burning Wheel. With the player’s permission, I am reposting these questions.

Beliefs

As expected, he provided a rather lengthy section on beliefs as well as some reasons behind those beliefs.

Proposed Belief

  • I need to retrieve this <artifact, promissory note, message, military intelligence, etc?>that was confiscated by the Abbey and deliver it Ranulf de Gernon
    • Leaving this vague for now…
  • Serve Ranulf until it becomes clear that he can’t advance my status or finances any further or you catch the eye of a superior lord.
    • Does only one of the first two beliefs need to exist or is this okay as is? The first belief exists nested in the second.

Response

I love the specifics of the 1st belief. To strengthen it, it needs to incoprorate a reason. Why is he delivering the McGuffin to the Earl of Chester? What does he hope to gain?

With that in place, the player can remove the next belief “Serve Ranulf until it becomes clear that he can’t advance my status” and focus on something else; perhaps an ethos belief.

There is more discussion about other beliefs as well as guiding-light discussion. All told an excellent bit of work from the player.

Character Problems

I loved the “Character Problems” section. At this point, he is the first player to share the nature of his beliefs, instincts, and traits. In doing so, he begins to give shape to the campaign.

Question

Is it inappropriate or gamey to start with a relationship with a major player when you’re just a reputable village tradesman? Should the relationship be with some courtier or middle rank instead?

Response

I love the relationship with Ranulf de Gernon, 4th Earl of Chester. You spent your resource points (as per the rules). For 15 resource points, you could have a relationship with King Stephen or Empress Matilda.

In spending the resources you are telling me and the table that you want Ranulf de Gernon to play a role in the upcoming campaign; And you want to have guaranteed access to him (and starting with an amicable disposition).

Question

Why not just go from merchant to magnate for the fourth lifepath instead of smuggler?

  • It would make more sense for Ranulf to work with a respected merchant magnate, likely with court experience, then to work with a lowly merchant smuggler.
  • However, it seems more interesting to me to start small-time with B2 resources and work up instead of just having a huge B6 resources immediately. The smuggler can do more things outside of social and financial situations. Seems more flavorful as well.

Response

I agree that it will be more interesting to start with a small-time B2 resources and claw your way up. It also adds complications to Ranulf de Gernon, Earl of Chester. He has a relationship with someone ill-reputable.

It creates an asymmetric and unstable relationship – a relationship in motion.

Burning Sanctuary – Session 0

We gathered with an initial situation in mind. A civil war is ramping up and the characters have each declared sanctuary at an abbey.

We had a new composition of players, some that have never played together. There was a bit of back and forth on characters to play. Lots of noodling on the mechanics.

The session was very low-key, toddlers romping around, eager to play and see what the grownups were doing.

We ran out of time to dive into beliefs and instincts; But things were drawing close. The character lifepaths ended as:

  • Scout < Conscript < Hunter < Village born
  • Doctor < Student < Temple Acolyte < Noble born
  • Smuggler < Merchant < Shopkeeper < Village born (at least from memory)
  • Elder < Thinker < Student Tinkerer < City born

Two of the players leveraged the online Character Burner to assist in the character process.

At this point, my understanding of the character backstories are:

  • The elder is from a village neighboring Shrewsbury, and was outspoken against King Stephen and the siege.
  • The scout just learned that sanctuary was an option and deserted.
  • The doctor worked in the city of Shrewsbury.
  • The smuggler, likely Welsh, is a trade magnate.

Only one of the characters is “combat” savvy. It is the Scout; The one with the character trait “Flee from Battle” and an instinct to always be in the back rank.

Observation

People were quick to dive into the book and think about building their character. It was a much more personal affair. I did not feel like I was facilitating the collaboration for character creation. In the future, I think having further constraints will help bring focus to the character creation.

I’ll also consider seeding a few constrained beliefs – but not lifepaths. I wrote a few quick sketches for kick starting a Burning Wheel campaign:

The scope of these 4 situations is perhaps more urgent than Burning Sanctuary’s initial situation; The framework of belief prompts helps point characters in directions without removing their ability to interpret them.

In hindsight, a bit more collaborative world and situation building may have been appropriate. Character creation felt somewhat isolated. I wasn’t facilitating the back and forth conversation.

Once we wrapped up I sent out some guidance to work on character’s beliefs:

  • A belief paired with actionable things
  • Tied directly to the situation of play
  • Designed to drive characters towards action and conflict

I also pointed them to the Burning Wheel Belief Workshop.

I’m looking forward to this Burning Wheel; My favorite RPG sessions have always been those that strive to avoid physical combat. This group is ill-prepared for any physical combat.

They are, however, quite ready for Duel of Wits.

Life During a Wartime Random Table Redux

Every great man built himself a castle and held it against the king; and they filled the whole land with these castles. They sorely burdened the unhappy people of the country with forced labour on the castles; and when the castles were built, they filled them with devils and wicked men. [1]

By Henry of Huntingdon (Historia Anglorum) [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By Henry of Huntingdon (Historia Anglorum) [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

I’m preparing for an upcoming Burning Wheel campaign. I am using the Anarchy of England as the backdrop.

If the characters crawl the English countryside, I want some more random generators. Five years ago, I was gearing up to run a campaign set during a war. I wrote up a random wartime village generator; I may reuse some of that.

Fortifications

In response to a weak crown, the barons are consolidating their personal power.

What is the State of the Fortifications?

2d6 Roll
2 Wooden palisade
3-5 Major enhancements beginning
6-8 Major enhancements wrapping up
9-11 Earthen motte and bailey
12 Stone castle

Were these Fortifications Sanctioned by the King?

An unsanctioned castle may draw the ire of the king; Though he has numerous irons in the fire.

1d6 Roll
1-5 Unsanctioned
6 Sanctioned

Loyalties

Taking a page from Zzarchov Kowolski‘s Scenic Dunnsmouth (review), I’m establishing a campaign attribute “King’s Popularity”.

When a person’s loyalty to the king is unknown, the GM rolls 2d6 to get their “Loyal to the King” score. Then compare that score to the current “King’s Popularity”:

Loyal to the King is… Resulting Allegiance
Less than King’s Popularity Loyal to the King Stephen
Equal to King’s Popularity Hedging bets
Greater than King’s Popularity Loyal to Empress Matilda

Throughout the course of play as the “King’s Popularity” rises and falls, this will adjust a person’s allegiance.

Example: The current “King’s Popularity” score is 7. The players encounter Herald FitzJohn, an unknown. The GM secretly rolls 2d6 and gets a 6. Herald FitzJohn’s allegiance is to King Stephen. If the “King’s Popularity” drops to 5, the Herald FitzJohn’s allegiance will shift to Empress Matilda.

More Randomizations

  • Village/city events – lift from Torchbearer
  • Countryside events – drawing a blank right now

Citations

1: The Angle-Saxon Chronicle, placed as the entry for the year 1137, but written in the 1150s. This section comes from The Peterborough Chronicle 1070-1154, ed. C Clark, 2nd edn. (Oxford, 1970); translations include The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, ed. D. Whitelock et al. (London, 1962)