The Barbarian Guild offers a Claim To Coarse Brutality

by mshrm

Way, way back, during the original character creation, one of the players asked me about Claim to Hospitality. The character in question was Rho, the cleric, and so the player had seen mention of CtH in GURPS Dungeon Fantasy 7: Clerics.  His thinking was that young Rho would live the life of a monk during the week, sleeping in a cell for free, eating free brown bread and drinking free Trappist-style ale, maybe putting in some time on the chants.

The Advantage isn’t on the list of acceptable traits for Dungeon Fantasy characters from GURPS Dungeon Fantasy 1: Adventurers. On that basis alone, I shot it down. At the time, I declared that the $150-a-week cost of living was the major prod forcing characters into the dungeon, and I didn’t want to tamper with that, right out of the gate. Later on, I found that the rules-as-written seem to support that decision. CtH is listed as a power-up suitable for any sort of character.  Not a starting trait, but a power-up.

Not too long ago, the same player came around again, with the same question… but this time, the subject was Mississippi Jed, a character with some miles on ‘im. He’s gone from being a magical bard to a full-fledged song-based mage, and then worked his way up in a mystic order, the Order of the Sun. Furthermore, he’s rapidly working his way through the Order’s curriculum of spells. It won’t be long, I reckon, before he’s knocking on the doors of the oldest, longest-bearded members of the organization, the ones so skilled that they can actually keep a beard (and eyebrows) while throwing around cosmic fire spells, trying to find someone to teach him the super-secrets spells. The ones that don’t really exist. The big boom.

This time, I was more open to the idea.  The last I heard, the party slush fund has grown to the point that they could outright buy any three starting characters’ loadouts. I don’t think it’s quite large enough to buy a starting character (maybe a thief, their points don’t show), or to bring someone back from the dead — maybe I’m behind the times on those points, I haven’t kept super-close tabs — but it’s surely enough that, even on a bad week, nobody’s going to sleep on the streets. Except maybe Alric, by choice, and FuBar, by ugly, of course.

So, I told the player, sure, you can buy CtH.  At the moment, Jed is learning the Major Directed Effects. Once he’s learning from the Transformations, he can petition to get the gold star on his membership card for the local Solar Center, which gives him access to the guest rooms, the kitchen, and the private bowling alley in the back. Naturally, that petition will require some sort of quest…

This got me to thinking. I don’t want to favor the wizards over others, and CtH is meant to be a power-up for all.  Thus, I should toss out some other options, for other sorts of characters.

So. Options.

* * *

There aren’t many Barbarians around Tembladera, what with them all having that Social Stigma (Minority Group). Of those few, some have formed hidden camps outside of town. Those from The North, for example, have a log house in the mountains, Barbarians from more jungle-style environments have a little village in the trees, and so forth. These micro-tribes are organized in a haphazard fashion, without clear leadership, and with a constantly-changing membership. If one gains a place in the tribe, one can camp with them, for little more than some occasional chores. The trick is gaining a place. To do so, one must locate the tribe — a feat of tracking, in itself — and accept the challenge that they put forth. The challenge varies according to the whim and sobriety of the judging members. If the applicant enjoys a good reputation among the members of the tribe, the challenge is often much easier than one given to some young scrub fresh off the boat. Either way, the challenge tends to be something along the lines of climbing a tall mountain, walking across the treacherous glacier, finding the nest of some rare and vicious raptor, and coming back with no less than three perfect tail feathers. Stuff to make that Outdoorsman talent earn its keep, in other words.

Clerics might earn a place at the Church, but there’s a long waiting list. To even be considered, a cleric needs to have picked up an extra level or two of Power Investiture. Once you’re high enough “level”, the Church starts paying your expenses. Druids have a similar system, but the accommodations have better views and poorer insulation.

Holy Warriors and Knights can both earn their keep by swearing allegiance to some person or organization. There are quite a few nobles around Tembladera, beyond just the well-known Strang and d’Hast. There are also various orders of knighthood, some more popular and powerful than others, that might offer a CtH. (In theory, there’s an “Order of the Blood Oath” or the like out there, somewhere, minting new Things of the Blood Oath.) It helps to have a good Reputation, when applying for membership. The world being what it is, most orders will demand the fulfillment of a quest before considering any new applicant.

There are a couple of schools of the martial arts that maintain compounds in Tembladera, including a quiet one where all the members wear head-to-toe black costumes all the time. Those who are accepted as members often enjoy benefits, including a CtH. Getting accepted requires passing a test, which generally involves snatching pebbles from old men, toting around heavy cauldrons full of burning coals, or walking alone into dark spooky caves while a little old dude assures you that your weapons, you will not need them.

For the rogues, there are a variety of so-called thieves’ guilds, including at least three styling themselves as “the” thieves guild of Tembladera, as well as an uncountable variety of gangs, crews, adventuring companies, and so forth. Join a gang, and the members will put you up. You’ll have to impress them before they’ll let you join, though, and what they find impressive varies from group to group. For example, Gabby might be able to patch things up with her old captain, and sleep on board ship when it’s docked. If all she has to offer is wealth from her delving, she’ll just be renting a hammock, and she’ll pay full cost of living. On the other hand, if she (say) organizes a band of merry cutthroats to take a ship, and delivers that ship to her old commander, she would be able to claim a place as an honorary crew member for life, and buy a Claim to Hospitality.

Some of the non-human races have enough of a presence in Tembladera to support a CtH. There are non-trivial populations of dwarves and goblinoids in and around town. There’s a nearby tribe of elves that are technically still at war with the city, but have decided that attacking the place isn’t profitable. During the day, they’ll even tolerate polite human visitors, admittedly with a certain air of hostility. At night, they keep up a low level of banditry around the edges of civilization. The graveyards probably have thriving groups of corpse-eaters, even if nobody in town would ever admit it out loud. If one were to perform a service for some race’s population, one might gain a good enough reputation with them to be taken in. Obviously, being of the same race would lower the bar, but it’s still possible for elf to befriend dwarf.

The Bards in Tembladera might talk a good game, as far as supporting each other and their art and so forth, but it’s mostly just talk. Off ’em a contract, and most will stab their buddy in the back and “go solo”. Bards don’t offer each other a CtH. When a Bard is being fed for free, you can bet it’s because that bard has been retained by some noble who finds their artistic output amusing. Mostly, that’s because it reflects well on the patron, but sometimes it really is all about the music. As with every other way of earning a CtH, it’s a question of reputation and finding the proper target, followed by a quest to give that target what it wants:  find a bored noble with money, figure out what would cure the boredom, and deliver it. Lots of nobles are fond of songs and stories about daring adventurers, incidentally.  If they weren’t, they would rapidly get fed up with Tembladera.