9 Ways To Bring Town Guards To Life

From Pahl

Roleplaying Tips Newsletter #0164

A Brief Word From Johnn

Last Week Of Contest

March 15th is the last day for the Interesting Scenes contest. Unlimited entries are allowed with each scene representing one entry.

To enter, send in a 1-2 sentence cool combat or roleplaying scene like these ones:

“The PCs are fighting the bad guys inside a giant clockwork golem where it’s dark, hot, and dangerous. They must dodge gears, levers, and chains, as well as deal with the heaving motion of the moving creature.”

“The PCs must coerce information out of the Princess as her parents look on disapprovingly, daring the characters to misstep so they have an excuse to summon the royal guards.”

Up For Grabs:

Send your entry(s) to: [email protected]

Good luck! And feel free to email me if you have any questions.


Johnn Four
[email protected]

9 Ways To Bring Town Guards To Life

Halt! Who Goes There?

This is a question guards might ask hundreds of times during their career without ever being asked themselves. Who are your guards, anyway?Guards come from all walks of life. The son of a wealthy merchant might feel the need to prove himself, or a muscular farmhand might decide that he’s pounded his last fence post and wants to take up arms in defense of his home town.

Whatever the case, there’s one rule of thumb you can count on: the smaller the town, the more likely that any given guard is going to be emotionally tied to that town, and the more personally they’re going to take any threat to their home town.In the bigger cities, however, you find a little more emotional distance and/or corruption. Guards range from former mercenaries needing an income to average citizens looking for a decent job to thugs who enjoy beating people up.

Bear in mind that guard duty seldom pays well. Criminals almost always pay better. So, the poorer a city’s economy, the poorer the guards and the higher the rate of corruption. The more a guard cares about his home, the more thorough a job he’s going to do. The less a guard is paid for his dangerous work, the more likely he will be to accept a bribe.

State Your Business

So why are city guards there, anyway? A big reason is to help maintain social order. Without guards there would be rioting, looting, and an eventual breakdown of peace, commerce, and personal safety. That’s their primary job. But players and GMs alike tend to forget that guards can also be public servants. Chances are few that you can find someone who knows their district better than a local guard.

They can give PCs directions, break up fights, settle disputes, and keep their city beautiful by cracking down on litterbugs.Sometimes guards are specialized for a certain task. Inspectors, detectives, spies, and bounty hunters are all specialty jobs a guard could have in order to break up a smuggling ring or find out who’s been selling that dangerous new drug at the bazaar.

You’re Coming With Me

How strong are your guards? In general, a big city should have a group of people available to deal with any threat that might arise–even a rampaging party of player characters. The guards should be prepared to deal with large-scale threats and have certain people assigned to do these jobs specifically.For example, some experienced PCs decide to steal a jewel from a local store, and their attempt botches, drawing the attention of some nearby guards.

It becomes apparent that the passing patrol is no match for the PCs, so an alarm is raised. A few minutes later, rather than sending a throng of inexperienced guards to their doom, the magistrate looses two tough wizards with a pack of blink dogs to track down the thieves.Your run-of-the-mill town guards are only physically effective against the PCs for a short while, but in later power levels they are still the long arm of the law, and failure to cooperate with them will almost invariably draw the attention of their more powerful superiors.

Throw Down Your Weapon!

How do guards do their job? Few guards simply love to fight (although there are certainly a few that do!). Like anyone else, they want their job to be as easy as possible, and so usually request a simple disarm so that they can arrest the individual and be done with them. For the most part, only an evil guard would kill someone simply for the sake of doing it.

So, You’re Offering Me A Bribe

The D&D 3E Dungeon Master’s Guide suggests that guards make about 2 silver pieces per week. That isn’t a lot of money, especially not enough to get killed for. In fact, it’s hard to make ends meet on that sort of pay. Enter the bribe.Sometimes, offering a bribe could pay off, though it might result in an even harsher sentence. Most of this has to do with the amount of the bribe in proportion to the risk the guard takes in receiving the bribe.

It would be easier, say, for a pickpocket to get off the hook by offering his captor all of his pilfered gold than it would be for someone whom a guard just witnessed commit murder in an alleyway. Minor crime + big pay out = likely acceptable bribe.

He Fell On My Sword, Captain.” “Eight Times?

How far will a guard go? As mentioned earlier, 2 silver pieces a week for a guard’s wage is a pittance and not worth being run through. Therefore, your average town guard is going to be reluctant to carry out his duties when there is an immediate bodily threat. This is why guards travel in groups. Even if outmatched one to one, they can overpower a tougher opponent as a group.

Big city guards are just doing their job, whereas smaller town guards are often sticking up for the very place in which they live. It is these guards who will throw themselves at danger sometimes, just for the sake of protecting their town. How far a guard will go depends heavily on his emotional investment in the town and the town’s financial investment in him.

Lock Him Up

Crime and Punishment. Guards don’t have much to do with PCs after their arrest, but the more mean spirited ones tend to have some fun taunting and provoking individuals who are locked in stockades or some other form of public display. A healthy kick or spit for good measure does wonders for their morale. Sometimes the arresting officer is charged with overseeing the imprisonment of their quarry and occasionally is commanded to guard the prisoner directly (especially in the case of more powerful criminals).

The Unnaturally Long Arm of the Law

Magic completely revolutionizes crime and punishment. It is little wonder that clerics and wizards often serve as judges. A simple “Detect Lie” can do wonders, and a crystal ball can track any enemy of the state with ease. In a good, magic-filled society, justice is almost always fair and evidence easy to come by.

In some particularly potent cities, one might find guard captains are issued medallions of thought detection, or boots of speed to aid in the interrogation and capture of criminals. Conversely, magic can also be used in the imprisoning of particularly nasty criminals. There are certainly several spells that could be used to contain a prisoner effectively.

Nothing To See here!

Finally, all of the above having been said, guards are an ever-present part of the background, slow and sleepy in small towns, perpetually moving in big cities, interrogating this or that suspected smuggler, or pulling apart two drunks in front of a tavern somewhere. They can be almost anyone, with their own personalities, likes, dislikes and quirks, and they can work for love of their town, little pay, kindness, or some combination thereof.

They range from saints to thugs, but the bottom line is that they are there to uphold the law, which is their first priority. Usually. Whether using magic to drag in the bad guys, or dragging in the bad guys for using magic, guards are the lifeblood of law and order, and deserve respect, because somewhere up the line is someone that won’t hesitate to haul you in.


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Tips From Roleplaying Tips Game Masters

Have a roleplaying tip you’d like to share? E-mail it to [email protected] – thanks!

Running Games For New Players

From Andrew

Tips for new player story lines:

New players tend not to know much about anything (funny that). I tend to teach them the rules, etc., as we play, because if you bore them with too many complications they decide the game isn’t worth the trouble. So, you need a story line that will be able to teach them the intricacies of the game.

I find that a solo game is usually the best to teach. If you introduce them too early into the game with other players, they quickly become overwhelmed by the evil wizard counterspelling the PC’s best efforts, and the baffling extra damage a seemingly wimpy, unathletic character with a crossbow has just inflicted, due to a weird phenomenon called “flanking”.

Always remember that the DM is the best judge. You know your players the best. Having said that however, I tend to find that the best story lines for new players tend to fall into two categories:


You and the player decide that you really want to get on with it and play the damn game. This sort of player is often interested in accumulating experience and getting up a level. They also tend to play combat-orientated classes, as these fit the straight forward attitude typical of this sort of player. A good one for these players is an arena type game. Make up a story line that puts the PC into a gladiatorial arena where they can fight to their heart’s content.Provide their character with a background too:

They were captured, are slaves, and must fight for their lives. They have wanted this since birth, and want nothing more than to hear the roar of the crowd and see the blood on the sands. They see gladiatorial combat as the epitome of the duel and believe there is no more honorable way for their character to exist, or die. They are honing themselves to become a commander of an army and believe it would be unfair to demand something of the troops that they themselves would not do or have not experienced.

These sorts of things help to give their character motivation and help this sort of player become a better roleplayer.

I used this on one of my players, who previously had not much imagination in that department to speak of, but now has taken to hunting down foul legions of unnatural creatures (he’s a paladin)…and mooning them. Yes, perhaps not ideal, but he’s having fun, and that’s the most important thing.


This type of player is very much interested in the fantasy aspect of the game. They expect an in-depth plot and world, and dragons and magic are their meat and drink. However, do not go overboard. Most likely, in a starter session of this sort, you want it to be short so that you are able to put the PC through it and get feedback on what they think of the game. An excellent scenario is that of the typical dungeon crawl with a bit of flavor, such as:

  • The evil necromancer who is raising zombies to carve his own little empire.
  • A Drow faction rising from the Underdark to take on the Surface Elves.

Also, this sort of player appreciates roleplaying opportunities:

  • The dwarves have had a political dispute with the nation the PC resides in and are now cutting off their trade of valuable metals, gems, ores, etc.
  • The elven warband sentinels have been attacked of late, and now the new recruits require training. This can also lead to a “hunter => hunted” scenario.

If you find that the player doesn’t want these sorts of story lines, then you are able to tailor stories to their needs–the advantage you have over any author or screenwriter is that your story is interactive. Also, don’t be afraid to ask your new player what appeals to them.

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Tips For Playing A Gangster

From Justin Gibbs

Street People Are Your Friends (For A Price)

These people can be very loyal for a price. You must understand that these are people with no friends and no family and they will do anything for a couple silver and an ear to talk in. They have little dignity left and will do almost anything as long as it doesn’t cost them their life or imprisonment.Street people are often a tight knit group. They might lay claim to old abandoned warehouses, sewer tunnels, or alleyways.

They are all very close to one another so a slight to one is a slight to all. And a helping hand offered to one is a helping hand offered to all. They look out for one another and word of a helpful stranger will quickly pass to all street people. They are suspicious of strangers and it will take some good role playing, a few silver and maybe even a mini quest to help them before they consider you a friend.Some quests could be:

  • Find a missing street urchin and return him to his friends.
  • Clear out the sewer tunnels of some fiendish creatures.
  • Chase a rival begging guild out of town before they suck up all the street people’s funds.
  • And of course, never forget that gold works great. Street people’s eyes always light up at the sight of gold. They may not trust you but they will help you.

Don’t Trust Anyone

Every one is out to get you and that’s a thought you should get used to. In this world it’s all about the coin and as long as your friends are paid they’re loyal. That is, unless someone offers them more money or bargains with their life. So, even your closest friends should be kept under close watch.

Every Thing Comes With A Price Tag

Closely related to Tip 1. Everyone has their price whether it be money, pain, or family threats. You can always get the info you need–just be creative. If you need anything don’t be afraid to ask just make sure you have some silver in your hand.

Information Is Everywhere

Information is what makes this world go around and it is everywhere. But once again (I hate to sound like a broken record) make sure you have some money.

Below are a few sources of info:

  • Bartenders
  • Barmaids
  • Ladies in waiting
  • Servants (most hate their masters so they are easily bribed)
  • Prostitutes
  • Urchins
  • Men at arms
  • Priests (some may be corrupt and easily bought)

Competition Is Everywhere

You are not the only ones out there committing these crimes. So watch your back and try to dig up as much info as possible on competing guilds. Most don’t take too kindly to newbie’s pushing in on their turf.When designing rival guilds, be sure to include info such as guild leaders, membership numbers, activities, guild houses, and political power.Guild leadership is very important. Is the leader strong or weak? Cruel or just? A business man or a power hungry mob boss? Remember, a leader reflects the guild and a poor leader can result in a guild tearing itself apart in a power struggle.

The amount of members also greatly affects the guild’s power (although this is not always true) the members are the guild’s soldiers, spies, and underworld contacts. This all has an effect on how much the PCs must go though before they bring down the guild.Activities are probably the most important parts to guild creation. Is the guild into drug trafficking, prostitution, gambling, forgery, pick pocketing, burglary, protection rackets, etc. This will help the PCs know what kind of things the guild is into.Guild house.

This will show where the guild house is, the layout, traps, and where all the members stay. The creation of the guild is very intricate and will take a lot of imagination to create. Use your imagination, maybe it’s an invisible fortress in the center of town, or a secret underground palace. Do whatever suits your fancy.Political power can be one of the most influential parts to any mob campaign. IS the guild leader in cahoots with the city councilor, or is the mayor a general looking to purge the city of its guilds?

This part can go any number of ways but whatever you choose make sure it suits your playing style.

You Are Nothing Without Your Contacts

Without contacts you can do nothing. You can’t buy illegal weapons, can’t get jobs, and can’t sell your stolen swag. So treat them good and keep them safe. If anyone has a problem with you then they have a problem with you and vice versa.

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Creating Adventure Maps

From John C. Feltz

Follow the architect’s credo: Form Follows Function. Don’t start by drawing anything at all. Instead:

  1. Make a list of all the rooms you want to have.
  2. For each room, decide how big it is, what shape it will have, and what things will be found in it.
  3. Then decide where rooms should be placed relative to each other.
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When Players Attack Tip

From Todd H.

ReRPT#163 – When Players Attack: Tips For Encouraging PC Co-Operation

In Issue #163 “When Players Attack: Tips For Encouraging PC Co-Operation” I noticed that no one mentioned hitting the players where it hurts the most… experience points.

In my campaigns (well, the ones where the players are expected to get along as a team) I have let the players backstab and kill each other. However, when the fight is unfair or unjustified, I have attached an experience point minus when the combat ends in the death of the other character(s).

Usually, if the attacking PC just beats up the others, but lets them live, then it’s no problem (until the real enemy shows and the group is under strength, which reflects badly on the attacking player). When a player is killed for no reason by another player or for lame reasons (“He was looking at me funny”) out comes the penalty. Usually, the basic penalty is what the character is worth will be subtracted from future experience till paid off.

For example, Bob kills Jim “just because”. Jim was worth 2000 experience. Rather then award these points to Bob, Bob will have to lose the next 2000 points before gaining any new experience. Say, for finishing the current adventure, Bob is supposed to get 500 experience. This doesn’t get recorded on his sheet, and he still has 1500 to go before he can advance levels again.

Eventually, the player will get the hint when they do not go up any levels while the rest of the party is advancing. Just my two cents.

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SF Ship Plans

From Don F.

Ship Schematics