Memories of Connor's Adventures

Orlando the Adventurer pulled a Scimitar from beneath his Robes and smiled...

Saturday, 21 October 2017

Dungeon Mastery: In the employ of a Patron

Lady Marilinev, The Early Years
Dungeons & Dragons is a lie. The fact is your dung covered peasant or blood soaked mercenary couldnt hob-nob with Princes. You just didnt get invited to those parties. Butcher some bandit on the side of the road and you might hang simply because one of them was heir to Castle Blood over on yonder hill. Your Dungeons & Dragons character is a criminal simply for running around with weapons without the consent of the people in charge.

Lawful Employment?
Employment by a Patron means consent of your conduct. If you discover the cultists beneath the old castle on the hill, its because you act on behalf of your Patron.
Apart from a good income, you can enjoy some degree of political immunity from prosecution while you get to stick a sword in Hamlet because he is 'in the way' and all for a purse filled with gold for your services.

But of course employment with a Patron has its own risks. You are choosing to sacrifice Neutrality and support a faction. A faction with enemies. You might be waylaid by agents of a rival Patron. Where your Patron might have afforded you some respect, some upstart rival looking to whisper in the Prince's ear and seize your Patron's wealth might send thugs to assault you in the streets. Or perhaps your own Patron has grown weary of you and decided they can no longer afford your incompetence. You might be given bribes to change sides and find yourself faced with a terrible choice that challenges your Alignment. Perhaps your actions result in your banishment from the city by its ultimate Authority.

This is a world of schemes, poisons, assassins, seduction, manipulation, wealth, and politics. Your tax coin hard at work...

The Dungeon Master is the Shadowy Hand
A significant problem is you dont know what is going on behind the scenes.

Having a Patron direct the Players into the sewers to find out how a rival is smuggling Dwarven made pizza bases into the city is easy enough, but going multi-task Macheavellian in their machinations is beyond most Young and/or inexperienced Dungeon Masters. Your best bet is to build a network map of interconnecting conspiracies and individual relationships.

PCs sent into the sewers? Who are the NPCs following them? The 'B' Team? Some other Patron's agents? There are a million conspiracies and the PCs just found a single thread. While you as Dungeon Master might roll a handful of dice on a piece of paper and establish a network of conspirators, conspiracies, and how the Player Characters fit into the picture.

The Patron
How capable is the Patron of the Player characters in being involved in a conspiracy? I suggest a point based system. add the Wisdom, Intelligence, and Charisma bonuses and call it their Machiavelli Score. the higher their capacity to interact with the conspiracy ball of thread, the greater the significance of the Conspiracy they may be involved with. That network of dice rolled on a piece of paper suddenly has meaning beyond abstract art.

Deus Ex Machina
Its bad enough in the real world where people can do secret things in dark rooms without anyone's knowledge. In Dungeons and Dragons where every wizard with a crystal ball is an unstoppable spy, unless the victim of their espionage is somehow aware that an Amulet of Protection from Scrying will prevent the secret police from showing up at their door ten seconds after they think about murdering the Prince let alone has such an amulet, there is a point where the setting is undone by the deus ex machina of the Surveillance state.

An Empire of Mages with a million apprentices and crystal balls lying around most certainly has an NSA where those assets are merged to discern what Your conspiratorial Patron had for breakfast and are keeping it in a personal file in their massive bureacracy. Even an amulet of protection would not protect you from a wizard with a crystal ball and spells allowing them to listen to conversations in a room without targeting the wearer of the amulet directly. What are the odds that file gets handed to the Prince of some city revealing the conspiracies of its Patrons, and the involvement of the Player Characters?

Perhaps there are six crystal balls in your entire Dungeons and Dragons setting and Dragons use them to while away the centuries watching the Human Soap Opera into which your Player Characters have Stumbled.

You as Dungeon Master will decide what is going on in your Dungeons and Dragons game. If you want Patrons employing PCs in elaborate conspiracies then its up to you.

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  1. I feel like I under-utilize patrons when GMing. I am inspired by Indie Hack and My Life Wirh Master. I think there is a lot of power in having a patron to guide and anchor the party, and also to be a target for the long term desire to revolt.

    1. Its the artwork, isnt it? Okay...I added more to the Article.