Sunday, December 18, 2011

Puppet-Master Machination Tables [Complete]

Somehow just buying the Carcosa PDF got me ready and rearing to play D&D again. I've been on a gaming hiatus for almost as long as my blog has been only half-active.

Weirdly, while thinking about my players killing sorcerers with wild abandon and no moral compunctions, my thoughts turned back to dragons, specifically the puppet-master dragons from Lurking Rhythmically I mentioned the last time I posted. I really liked the idea, but I didn't really see a good way to run them without plotting things out in advance… until I came up with this table. I realized after scrawling most of it down on scratch paper that the tables don't have to just be for puppet-master dragons; any puppet-masters you want in your campaign will work. I do really like the idea of them being dragons, however.

I should also note that this table isn't purporting to be part of Pellatarrum, Erin's setting in which the dragons she describes exist. The table is meant to be helpful in running puppet-masters of any race in any setting, but I use "dragons" because her dragons are what inspired these tables, "dragons" is easier to type and nicer to look at than "puppet-masters" and also because I plan on my puppet-masters being dragons.

First off, whenever the party kills something with 4HD (or whatever you think is appropriate), the party has a 10%, cumulative, chance to be noticed by a dragon. If noticed, the party has a 25% chance to be noticed by 1d4 more dragons as well. Note that the party continues to have a chance to be noticed by new dragons even after having been noticed in the past. Quit rolling for a chance to be noticed whenever all the dragons you feel like including in your setting have noticed the party.

Roll on the following chart whenever a new dragon notices the party. Note that the dragon directs all actions but is never, ever directly involved, and usually has 3d4 intermediaries between itself and whoever the party actually encounters.

Notice Table [d20]
1-4: Ignored… for now. Add 20% to the party's chance to be noticed.
5-7: The dragon attempts to get rid of the party by sending them someplace more dangerous than they should be able to handle. 25% chance that this is disguised as patronage and 1d4 cursed items (that manifest, at your discretion, when it will likely result in the party being killed instead of at first opportunity- these are really bad cursed items) are gifted to the party.
8-10: The dragon attempts to get rid of the party and give its minions practice at killing things by sending its minions to kill the party. Minions are the party's average level in HD, +/-3, with half/double the party's number per +/-, respectively. (Roll 1d6; 1=-3 average level and 8 times the party's number, 2=-2 & 4 times the party's number, 3=-1 & double the party's number, 4=+1 and half the party's number, 5=+2 and a quarter the party's number, 6=+3 and an eighth the party's number)
11-14: The party is employed on a short-term (not meant to be a suicide) mission while the dragon decides what to do with them. Add 20% to the party's chance to be noticed in the future.
15-18: The party is co-opted into the dragon's network through patronage by one of the dragon's minions, who becomes a source of gifts, missions and security through the minion's political and social connections and power. Roll on the co-option tables.
19-20: The party is co-opted into the dragon's schemes by framing some of the dragons enemies as having it out for or actually attacking the party. There is a 25% chance that, once the party is good and mad at the dragon's enemies, the party will be co-opted through patronage as well (see previous entry).

Co-option Strategy Table [d4]
1-3: The whole party is patronized
4: Roll for one party member, who is the one that is patronized. The whole party gets to go on missions, but the one party member selected gets all the gifts; occasionally the rest of the party gets gifts as rewards "for aiding" the patronized party member.

Co-option Goal Table [d12]
1-6: As long-term assets
7-10: As short-term, expendable assets (sent on missions that aren't quite suicidal and only given minor or expendable magic items as gifts)
11: As a way to make the party vulnerable and trusting so it is easier to get rid of them
12: As a way to make other minions jealous

Co-opting Minion Table [20]
1-2: Cleric
3-6: Magic-User
7-8: Fighter
9-11: Thief
12-14: Non-classed Noble or other powerful figure
15-18: Leader in dragon-aligned guild
19-20: Member of dragon-serving secret society

If the party refuses one of these attempts, roll again on the table and follow what it indicates. If the same result comes up, this represents a different minion assigned to try the same tactic. When co-opting, minions get 1+1d4 chances to successfully co-opt the party before re-rolling on the table.

If kobolds (or whatever creatures/minions you decide are somehow special to your puppet-master) are killed, the chance to be noticed is 100% and the only options are getting rid of by sending on a suicide mission (75% chance) and getting rid of by sending minions to kill (25% chance).