Saturday, September 29, 2012

Can't Somebody Else Do It? A Random Table for Involving the Authorities

Players sometimes have the clever idea of seeking aid from the local authorities- the local lord, sheriff, etc.- in solving their problems. Someday, perhaps someone will invent a game where 'Call 911 and lock yourself in the bathroom' is a fully explored option- perhaps the core feature of a Bystander class. Until then, I offer the following table.

Can't Somebody Else Do It? Reasons why involving the authorities won't work.

1 - You kids and your drugsAuthorities assume that you are drunk or otherwise impaired. Charisma check to avoid spending the night in the stocks, drunk tank, or other comparable discomfort.
2 - We'll put our best man on itAuthorities assign an unpopular minor flunkie to accompany the players on the mission. This NPC brings no useful skills or insights to the table, aside from an ability to stop arrows with his face. Oh, and if he dies the local officials will be very upset and suspicious.
3 - Not my department.Players spend 1d4 hours being shuffled back and forth between different ministries, offices, and homes of important government officials. At the end of the day, they’ve received several firm handshakes, a promise to 'look into it', and no useful assistance of any kind.
4 - Take a numberPlayers spend 1d4 hours in a waiting room, great hall, or parlor awaiting an audience. At the end of this period, a minor functionary appears and politely but firmly tells them that the person they are waiting for is finished receiving visitors for the day.
5 - Clerical ErrorAn earnest and well-meaning official listens to the player's story with interest, and vows to provide assistance. He sends them on their way with promises that the cavalry will be along shortly. Unfortunately, due to a misheard instruction further down the line, the cavalry will arrive either 1d4 hours later than promised or in the wrong place entirely.
6 - Rabble Rabble Rabble!While visiting the official in question, an angry mob of local citizens appears agitating over some trivial local controversy- sod cutting rights on the Great Moor, the rabbit hide tax, etc. A scuffle breaks out, and the players will need to take action to avoid being drug off to jail or caught in a full-blown riot.
7 - Don’t tell me how to do my job!Officials are offended that the players were attempting to intervene in such important matters. They claim they will handle everything, but will take no action. If it later comes out that the players took care of the situation themselves, they will have made an enemy of the local officialdom.
8 - Fifth ColumnistThe local officialdom is in cahoots with the players' enemies, directly or indirectly. While pretending to offer help and advice, the official will seek to undermine their efforts and possibly get them arrested.
9 - Send word to the capitol!The official is eager to help but, unfortunately, can take no action without advice from his superiors. A messenger is dispatched to seek aid from the next tier up on the totem pole. Of course, it will take 1d4 days for him to reach his destination, get a response, and return...
10 - Call out the guards!The official is so frightened by the threat that has triggered the players’ visit that he insists on dispatching all available local resources to protect himself and the immediate vicinity- the town hall, the village, his castle, whatever. In any case, there are obviously no troops to spare in carrying out the mission- the players will have to do that themselves!

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