Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Mechanics: Leading Monsters

Maybe like this,
but not like this.
Really good Discworld
installment though.
So, there is a little bit of an interesting aside in Dungeon Fantasy 2 for Knights on p. 30 that talks about how one creative use of the Leadership skill might be to organize hordes of weak but friendly monsters. I really like this idea, and enjoy lateral solutions to problems that are difficult to solve if approached head on. Additionally, Leadership is a skill that kinda sounds real useful in name, but it's objective functionality is hard to quantify often times. This idea of leading monsters to help with other problems is, in my opinion a very compelling reason to try to come up with a way to apply some objective functionality to the Leadership skill.

Questions To Address

First off, to apply "quantified" Leadership we need to be able to quantify the problem. The dimensions of this problem are:
  • How many monsters are there?
  • How friendly are these monsters?
    • Do they want to cooperate?
    • Similarly, how willing are the monsters to do the action you are leading them to do?
  • How strong is each monster?
Most of my inspiration comes
from here today.
That's three factors, and for this idea to be any use whatsoever, these three factors need to be able to calculated pretty quickly, so no complex formulas. My goal is, despite whatever interesting role playing might go on to rouse this camp of downtrodden slave kobolds to rise up against their fiendish masters, the long and short of the mechanics is reduced to quick contest of Leadership +/- some modifiers versus the Will of the collective +/- some modifiers.

Approaching The Problem

So first off, where can we look for information on influencing a group? Chapter 5 of Social Engineering entitled Moving the Masses deals with this problem explicitly. 
Page 59 has a section on Direct Influence which is the kind of petition that is most likely in the rapid pace we probably want from Dungeon Fantasy. Inside this chapter, the following is probably important to consider:
  • Making Speeches (p. 59) has a lot of the relevant information on putting the plea together.
  • Cultivating a Persona (p.61) lets a leader inspire people to more readily accept a request.
These rules generally speak to using Public Speaking, but let's call that a mandatory complementary skill for Leadership (or if you prefer, do it the other way around!)

The Quantity Problem

To figure out a penalty for the size of the crowd, consider how many monsters there are, and look up the number of yards on the Size and Speed/Range table on Basic Set - Campaigns p.550, the penalty is the range column, cut in half (round down towards the bigger penalty.) For example, a crowd of 30 monsters (30 yards) has a penalty of -7/2 = -4.

The Willingness Problem

For Dungeon Fantasy, take a look at Dungeon Fantasy 11, page 21, and the Ridiculous Reactions aside. I think the penalties here are pretty good guidance to why a monster wouldn't be willing to negotiate. Consider additional reasons they may not want to help (Help requested is scary; we'll be punished, etc.) as additional -1 to -5 penalties, while favors rendered (Medical aid, food given, protection, promise of liberation, etc.) as +1 to +5 bonuses. These bonuses can at most neutralize penalties for quantity and willingness, but not for requesting the help of inordinately strong hordes.

The Strength Problem

Normally, I'd consider that nominally, only fodder (Dungeon Fantasy 2, page 27) or weaker monsters might be inspired to help, but perhaps stronger monsters could be asked if all the stars are perfectly aligned. I'd say a -10 penalty for each additional tier beyond fodder asked for help. (Asking a horde of Worthy foes to help might be -10, a horde of bosses, -20) These penalties may not be canceled out by any bonuses under the willingness problem.

Tying It Altogether

Simplifying this as much as possible, the mechanical process for influencing a group of enemies:
  • Find penalty on the Size and Speed/Range table by looking up crowd size as number of yards.
  • Assess a -5 penalty for each good reason the monsters have to resist.
  • Assess a +5 bonus for each good reason they have to help, but only enough bonuses to cancel out the first two bullet points
  • Assess a large penalty for commanding very strong monsters
  • At this point, you may optionally apply any other modifiers that would nominally be appropriate in most social situations (Charisma, Appearance, Voice, etc.) as well as some of the thoughts from Moving the Masses in Social Engineering.
Roll one quick contest of Leadership with modifiers versus Will. A success guarantees help. A tie is considerate mulling of the idea, and may be broken by helping with a difficult favor to really show that you have the best interest of the group at heart, and a failure is grounds for a mob action (see The Mind of the Mob, p. 71 in Social Engineering.)

Other Thoughts

Good inspiration for next
steps for friends made
in strange places?
Developing a relationship any further is probably best captured in Dungeon Fantasy 15, which has simplified rules for hiring and building loyalty, though the rules in Social Engineering are fine, if not a bit more detailed than necessary. A horde of friendly monsters as an ally might raise some weird complications for the GM, so I'd say that a more natural evolution would be towards acquiring a Contact Group or maybe a Patron in the right situation. A beneficent tribe in a place normally inhospitable to the party could be a great reward by itself, allowing a safe place to board up, opening up avenues to service equipment and buy exotic goods, and more. Thinking about it, I kinda like the idea more and more. A lot of Japanese RPGs have that one "Monster Village" where friendly monsters cohabitate with humans in a mutually respectful peace, and this could harken to that kinda feeling.
These thoughts might be extrapolated and applied to a Mentalist for things men were not meant to know, a Druid for animals, or a Demonologist for... something they deal with a lot.


  1. I like this as an approach for giving the Knight something useful to do with Leadership, though I do wonder whether it's stepping on the toes of the Bard's use of Enthrallment skills.
    A Bard needs Public Speaking at 12+ (given), the Enthrallment skill (1 point), and Persuade at 12+ just to be able to learn Suggestion and use it to influence a crowd, where it takes 20 minutes and 6 FP to influence a horde as big as their Charisma squared.

    On the bright side, that's pretty cheap for the bard given what they're already invested in, and there's enough penalties to the roll that a Knight can enjoy a large point investment in Leadership.

    1. Good interesting thoughts, and an angle I didn't consider at all originally. You are right that it might cause some toe stepping in a campaign with both templates in one party. There are some very fine nuances that separate the two thematically, but boiled down to it's mechanical constituents, the two do have some overlap.
      I think the best would be to allow the two to help each other out, with a Bard priming a really difficult audience so that they will be more receptive to a knight's rally cry. Or vice versa, the knight tempering an ornery crowd through leadership so that a bard can deliver a more delicate plea.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...