Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Entourage Approach

Players in the OF&F campaign, in Solstice, will be portraying the role of a player character, but with a small wrinkle that will change the way we have normally played D&D in the past. Each and every player will be charged with developing an Entourage or stable of player characters. I will call this method the Entourage Approach.

Each Entourage will consist of a Primary Character, and a Loyal Follower, further members of said Entourage will be standard hirelings, also known as Henchmen. The Primary Character’s Loyal Follower will not count towards the hireling total permitted by his CHA score. Furthermore, the hireling total will rise with experience for each Primary Character, reflecting his fame and influence as he gains notoriety throughout Solstice.

Upon the untimely death of a Primary Character, the Loyal Follower, by law, is able to claim all of the slain former leader’s possessions which are upon his character, and is able to claim, after paying a 10% tax to the state, that deceased individual’s estate, such as it is. At this point, short of a potential Raise Dead, the Loyal Follower becomes the Primary Character, and must then choose a new Loyal Follower from amongst his own Entourage.

At the beginning of each session, the player decides who from amongst his Entourage is going on this particular adventure. Typically, either the Primary Character, or the Loyal Follower must be present during an adventure. Some of the members of the Entourage might stay behind to tend to matters at home while their brethren assume the dangerous duties of adventuring. Later in the campaign, the players might decide to attempt an adventure which is surely beneath their Primary Character’s or even Loyal Follower’s level of expertise. In such a case, the player can opt to play an adventure using the Henchmen members of their Entourage. Temporary Primary Characters will have to be established during those adventures.

Experience is effected by the number of characters, obviously, so it is not always the best idea to tackle an adventure with three dozen members, but it IS possible. Primary Characters receive one full share of divided experience, Loyal Followers and Henchmen receive but one quarter. This might make for some complicated numbers crunching, but the referee will make the entire process fair and equitable.

A Primary Character gains an additional Loyal Follower at experience levels three and six. Again, these members of the Entourage do not count toward the Primary Characters maximum allowable number of hirelings. The player must still designate a pecking order amongst his Loyal Followers, in order that inheritance is clearly defined. There will be further rules for the Entourage when a particular Primary Character builds a stronghold, at the Lord, Wizard or Patriarch levels.

If a Loyal Follower or any other member of an Entourage attains an experience level higher than the Primary Character’s, he or she will leave the Entourage (and possibly establish his own and continue adventuring, at the player’s option).

Morale is an important game feature when using the Entourage Approach. Henchmen are fairly transient in Solstice, but eventually, each Entourage will consist of some very loyal members, even at the Henchmen level. Nevertheless, the OD&D rules shall be followed each time a new hireling is added.

First, the Reaction Table on p. 12 of M&M is used during the hiring process. There is a possibility that said hireling will end up with +3 Loyalty at this stage. Then, the referee secretly rolls 3d6 to determine the hirelings Loyalty, adjusting for CHA, amount of gold offered, and possibly by that +3 from the Reaction Table. A number is generated from 1 to 25 after adjustments for CHA and gold are made. This Loyalty number determines one of seven Morale factors, from deserts at first opportunity, to need never check morale, with adjustments of -2, -1, 0, +1 or +2 in between.

To make a Morale Check, the referee rolls 2d6, makes the Loyalty adjustment, and refers to the below table:
2: Hostile, will attack or endanger Primary Character.
3-5: Deserts Immediately, will attack if prevented from flight.
6-8: Hesitates, if situation does not improve, roll again at -1 in one turn.
9-11: No effect. If situation does not improve, roll again in one turn.
12: No effect, no more rolls required for this situation.

The referee will make on the fly adjustments for particularly perilous situations. Morale should also be checked at the conclusion of each adventure to see if the Henchmen remains in the Entourage. Fair treatment and fair pay will normally mean that no check is required. Henchmen who have witnessed their mates perish, or come to within a breath of their own demise, will normally have to check with a penalty. Gold and Gems can normally help to convince even the most reluctant Henchmen, though.

Players will maintain an index card for each member of their Entourage, and the referee will keep track of the Henchman’s Loyalty base. Loyalty scores for members of the Entourage are never seen by the players, but might become evident over the course of the campaign.

Under certain circumstances, a player with available space within his entourage can actually add intelligent Monsters to his Entourage on a temporary or even permanent basis, given that said Monster can be accepted by his Henchmen mates, and further by those members of society whom might have to accept said Monster!

The process of actually attracting and maintaining a successful Entourage will be a large part of campaign play in Of Fortunes and Fools. Most of all, this Entourage Approach will open up game play opportunities for all involved. A player with a cohesive Entourage could even elect to play solo, or have successful adventures with only one other player, should the need arise. A player is never required to bring members of his Entourage on adventures, but the benefits of maintaining a Loyal Follower, at the least, are clear.

In Solstice, the standard Henchmen fee is as follows: 5 GP retaining fee per level of Henchmen, and one quarter a share of all gold plundered on adventures. Thus, four members of an Entourage would be able to claim, rightfully, one share of the treasure. Magic Items are not included in such hand shake contracts, though. When an Entourage consists of more than four members, it is assumed that the Primary Character will simply award that same full share, and it will be equally divided amongst the Henchmen.

Bonuses to Loyalty base are normally afforded by exceeding this standard amount, while penalties are incurred when awarding less than this standard amount.

The Entourage Approach has been inspired from some notes by Mike Mornard, in regard to how Gary Gygax handled his campaign back in the early days, to quote:

“Gary ran a weekly game. His total player pool was about 12 to 15.

Usually, only about 2 to 5 of us could make it any given game day.

So, everybody acquired henchmen to "fill out the group" if somebody wasn't going to be there.

And it didn't take long for players to start arranging other times and playing alone or with henchmen.

Heck, it even reached the point where from time to time we'd just play our henchmen to level them up.

And yes, the original D&D assumed an endgame where you would build your stronghold, acquire vassals and tenants, and become A Major Player In The World's Politics.

That endgame seems to have virtually disappeared.”
With Solstice, I hope to bring back that end game that has virtually disappeared. We’ll see how it goes!

~Sham, Quixotic Referee


noisms said...

More power to you! I'm going to be starting a PBP Rules Cyclopedia campaign soon, and plan to do something similar - each player will have one PC to start, plus a number of henchmen and hirelings. If the PC is killed, one of the henchmen will step up to the plate.

I'm thinking of writing up an Adventurers Guild who all these PCs, henchmen and hirelings are members of. The guild will be an arcane bureaucracy full of strange rules, fees and ranks - with a big library full of weird tomes on the subject of adventuring. Rather than through fines, the librarians will be able to summon Retrievers to get their late books back...

Sham aka Dave said...

"I'm thinking of writing up an Adventurers Guild who all these PCs, henchmen and hirelings are members of."

That's a good idea on how to handle this idea, as well. I'm hoping that part of the fun for the players will be going through the process of hiring and maintaining their Entourage. I'll report back on this in the months to come after my campaign is under way.

James Maliszewski said...

This is excellent. You should expand on this for Fight On! It'd make a superb basis for an article.

Sham aka Dave said...

Thanks James, and that's a good idea for a future sub. I'll be able to test it soon, and fine tune it, but really it's as basic or complex as the referee wants it to be, and ideal for a sandbox approach.

Jeff Rients said...

I agree with James.

Sham aka Dave said...

One concern is that I do not want this method to devalue the ultimate teamwork aspect of D&D. The Primary Characters will still be the central focus of each adventure. Might certain players really get involved with the care and feeding of their Entourage? Probably. Still, I don't want to lose that teamwork feel, that each PC is only as good as the PC next to him.

I'll have to take the advice offered here and expand upon this idea.

Frank said...

Something to take a peak at for ideas on an adventurer's guild is Monte Cook's Ptolus. It has an interesting adventurer's guild which would work well in an old school campaign (they offer services such as body recovery).

The "Entourage Approach" also inspired a thought. Another way to make charisma factor into henchmen is to use the PC's charisma like a prime requisite for a henchmen's experience bonus. My thought is that henchmen gain 1/2 share of xp, and could benefit from both their own prime requisite and their master's charisma for xp bonuses, thus potentially gaining a 20% bonus. I might even make this 20% of full share (so they would range from 10%-70% xp share while PCs would range from 80%-110%).

In any case, I love reading all the suggestions on henchmen and thoughts on how to promote them to full fledged PC if their master dies (or for that matter, if they exceed the master's level).


Sham aka Dave said...

The bonus derived from the leader's (Primary Character) CHA is an interesting idea. I'm still torn with how to balance the idea of bringing extra bodies, versus the disadvantage of dividing earned EXP by so much. If each PC brings four henchmen, and there are five PC's, they're looking at dividing the EXP by 15 under the standard (1/2 for hirelings) rules, and by 10 under my proposed rules. But, getting one quarter EXP is really low for the hirelings.

I doubt players will bring large Entourages when they have 4 or 5 players present, but the more I think about it, the more I like the original 1/2 EXP for hirelings rules.

I've considered giving 1/2 earned EXP as per the rules if there are one or two hirelings (per PC), and then just dividing the full share that constitutes by the number of hirelings, should there be more than two.

I think a 5 or 10 percent bonus due to ecellent leadership might be in order for the hirelings. Thanks for the suggestion!

Jonathan Jacobs said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jonathan Jacobs said...

this is a great! I wonder how many other campaigns are run using this sort of set up? thanks for the idea! I think my next campaign will no doubt follow this sort of line up.

Sham aka Dave said...

Thanks, Jonathan. I'm not aware of any campaigns that used this type of system with even just the basic framework I hammered out. It's simple enough to allow for fine-tuning or tailoring to an individual game...I hope it works out for you and your players!


Jonathan Jacobs said...

dunno if you follow my blog - but I cant get this idea out of my head.

(shakes fist)

Anyway - I've posted about this system on my blog as well - and over there you'll find a link to an ongoing discussion I've started at Gleemax about it. Interestingly, one poster at Gleemax pointed out that a similar system is used in the Ars Magica game system. Looking it up on wikipedia turned up the term "troupe system" for RPGs, not 'entourage'. Its semantics, i know... hopefully I'll be able to really flesh out what has been done before and write up a summary over at The Core Mechanic.

Well... thanks again for this post. It's given me a surprisingly large amount of angles to think about.

Sham aka Dave said...

I'm happy to see that the idea has generated some interest, Jonathon. By all means take the core and tweak it into a fleshed out, full blown version! I'm not familiar with the Ars Magica system at all, but as you mentioned on your blog there are few ideas that haven't been done before in some form.

Nice blog, by the way! I look forward to catching up on your posting, since mine has seemed to taper off unfortunately.

PS: There is a print version of my article in Fight On! Issue 2.


Jonathan Jacobs said...

Sham -- hello.. .again!

No idea if you follow my blog or if you are interested in the recently announced Anthology of Roleplaying Game Blog, but this blog post is spot on for the kind of insightful writing we are looking for. Please submit this post as an entry! It really deserves the attention.

You can head over to the most recent post about it so see wtf I'm talking about, and to the Open Game Table google group if you are interested in helping out.

Tony Reyes said...

This is one of those ideas that can change the way we roleplay fantasy... and pretty damn awesome!

I would love to use the "Entourage Approach" in a Black Company Campaign Setting 3rd Edition game. Instead of using "hirelings" I think the players should create a stable of player characters and to send off on missions and roleplay different parts of the story. If one dies, and they often do, another member can come to the forefront.

Sham aka Dave said...

Thanks Tony! I'm glad you like the concept. I've been told by quite a few readers that they love the idea, but I haven't heard any actual game feedback. If you do use this, let me know how it works out for you.