The Dungeon’s Not A Popularity Contest! Is it?

by mshrm

Who’s popular, in the Delving Band With No Name?

Alric only social skills are Carousing and Intimidation, which really speaks volumes about how he interacts with the world. His talents in the outdoors give him a +4 bonus* from those who would be impressed by that sort of thing. His barbaric high spirits and fondness for celebration gives a +1 from fellow partiers, but a -1 from the serious and sober. At this point, he’s demonstrated his devotion to his comrades enough to claim a +2 bonus in dangerous situations. Finally, his outlandish and uncouth ways, combined with his foreign origins, give him a total -3 from people who care about such stuff.

I’m not sure the party as a whole is much impressed with Alric’s woodsy skills. Someday, they’ll find themselves in the jungle, with the sun going down and supplies running low, being herded like animals towards a dire fate by a tribe of crafty horde pygmies… and upon that day, Alric will no doubt take to the treetops like one raised by apes and show his hidden worth. As it stands, he’s still a pillar of the party.  With Rho gone, I think the party tilts more towards drunken debauchery than sober reflection — possible exception for TKotBO, but I don’t see anything on the sheet that says he’s a teetotaler — and I think they’re all broad-minded enough to not hold his little ways against him. In town, he’s got a +1 for fellow party members, and in the field, a +2.**

Gabby is a haggler, getting a +1 when buying and selling from her Merchant skill. Her confidence gives her a +1 from the young and green, but a -2 from older, wiser folk. While she has some knowledge of how to handle herself on the street, her real social strength is as the life of the party. She can match Alric, drink for drink.

I would say most party members are neither impressionable kids nor grizzled veterans, meaning neither side of the Overconfidence modifiers would apply. The young shield-bearers will be a bit in awe of her. As time goes on, and her Overconfidence gets everybody in trouble, I could see the -2 penalty coming into play; after being talked in to a couple of disasters, Höss is going to stop listening to her crazy schemes.

Like most bards, Mississippi Jed is a walking Reaction bonus. He’s attractive enough for a +1, and gets another +2 from sheer Charisma. His voice gives a +2 when he can speak, and his musical talents gives him a further +2 for critiquing his music. His devotion to his comrades gives him a +2 in dangerous circumstances. His only penalty comes from his annoying tendency to burst into song, and his way of punctuating his every utterance with a blues harmonica riff. (“Sneaking into the dungeon BAH-wah-da-da gonna mug us some orcs BAH-wah-da-da…”) Besides that, he has a laundry list of social skills; chief among them are his Public Speaking, Fast-Talk, and Diplomacy.

By my count, if Jed takes the stage to perform, his fans roll their Reaction at a net +7. The worst possible result that he can get is Neutral. He’s like a medieval Elvis. I should make him roll between adventures to see if he’s injured by mail loincloths thrown by over-enthusiastic barbarian ladies.

That said, the dungeon isn’t a stage, and all the monsters aren’t merely players. Off-hand, I can’t say that I recall any really dramatic moments where Jed took one for the team, such that the team knew it. I know the Sense of Duty has kicked in, I just can’t say that the other party members necessarily know that. (When the face man decides not to cut your throat in your sleep, his poker face doesn’t change, after all.) That leaves him with only an impressive +3… or +5 if he can bring his voice into play. Being aware of that bump, Jed tends to angle for situations where he can engage his voice. As expected, the bard is the one to present the crazy suicidal plan to the hirelings.

Needles’ criminal record gives him a -1 penalty from honest folk, and a -2 penalty from law enforcement officials, but his smooth-talking ways give him a +1 bonus when engaging in trade. He is a carouser and gambler, at home with the criminal underworld, and a highly-skilled fast-talker.

There’s a fine line between “adventurer”, “tomb robber”, and “professional criminal”.  Well, actually, not so much a fine line, as one of those Venn diagrams with the overlapping circles. Some party members might care about Needles’ criminal past, others might not. On the whole, the average party member is going to be neutrally disposed towards Needles, with neither bonus nor penalty.

He’ll still be able to Fast-Talk most of them into just about anything.***

TKotBO has no Reaction modifiers beyond a +1 from professional fighters, due to his minimal investment in Born War Leader. His only social skills are Intimidation and Leadership. Like Alric, his skill selection gives great insight into his style.

I’d say Alric counts as a professional fighter, but that’s it for the PCs. The three recent hirelings were all fighting men, of one degree or another, so they would appreciate his military demeanor. Otherwise, members of the party tend to be neutrally disposed towards The Knight.

Folks in town tend to assume that TKotBO is the leader of the party, since he’s the one with Leadership skill and the Born War Leader talent. That, and he’s the one wearing the shining armor and the fancy shield. If the world admitted the existence of Status, he’d have it. The party themselves don’t necessarily acknowledge any leader, though. An interesting thing is that this has a mechanical effect! When rolling initiative, leaderless group are at a disadvantage. Furthermore, the same is true of Intimidation attempts.****

* A +4 bonus is absolutely huge. Note that the highest possible bonus from Reputation is +4. For the Supers 1200 game, I gave Captain America a +4 Reputation for being Captain America. A +4 for Outdoorsman makes Alric some sort of epic god of the wilderness, like Tarzan. Luckily, I’m chewing my way through the thick crunch of GURPS Dungeon Fantasy 16 – Wilderness Adventures, which discusses many things that might be of interest to such a paragon…

** Again, I note, when it comes to Reaction modifiers, PCs just don’t care. These days, though, they’re starting to gather henchmen and hire hirelings, so there are members of the party who aren’t PC’s.

*** Early on, reviewing character sheets, I noticed that Needles was a professional liar who entirely lacked the Fast-Talk skill, making him extraordinarily bad at it. Since then, he’s put a point into the skill, making him extraordinarily good at it. From my observations (and this is just me, I could be wrong) it seems like since then, the lies have only gotten bigger, giving greater penalties… meaning that still, nobody believes him, but now the stuff they don’t believe is in the territory of “Who you gonna believe, me, or your lyin’ eyes?”

**** The party has bluffed and intimidated their way out of several tight spots, so I’ve been reviewing GURPS Social Engineering for some guidance on how to put more structure into the rolls.