Friday, December 29, 2017

Lore of Ahneria: 20 Questions about the City of Auraglow
This is part of a series on the lore of my homebrew world, Ahneria. As I outlined here, much of this information will be pulled from existing D&D lore and tropes. At the end, I'll be including a section on how to use this sort of thing in your own games.
I was going to post an article about Garton today, but recently I've been looking into the city of Auraglow. And tonight, I'll be running a game in said city, so I wanted to give my players some more information on it.

This list is inspired by the lists I used to describe Garton, but comes from the wonderfully-named Dungeons and Donuts tumblr. These questions are specifically for a city setting.

Let's get to it!

1. What religion is most prevalent in the city? Who benefits from this/who suffers?
The Boccob School of Theurgy acts as both an academy and a temple. The city was long ago founded on a holy site of Boccob, and worship of the God of Magic has continued to this day. For the most part, people are free to practice the religion of their choice within the city, but worshippers of less-magic oriented Gods (such as Heironeous, Kord, or St. Cuthbert) will be stuck with the poorly-maintained shrines at the Battlemage Institute. For the consecration and burial of the dead, most people look to the Temple of Wee Jas.

2. Who in the city will reliably buy art pieces and recovered relics from the PC’s? What’s their deal?
Relics of a magical nature can be sold to the various academies around the city. The Royal Academy offers the best prices, but only buys the rarest items. As for mundane artwork and gems, you'll have to find a buyer among the upper class, which includes the nobility and well-to-do collectors.

3. What is illegal in the city? What’s punishable with jail time, and what’s punishable by death?
Aside from the standard punishments for thievery, murder, and the like, the most illegal thing is the Antimagic Field spell. Because many of the buildings in Auraglow are partially or fully supported by magic, an Antimagic Field can be used to highly destructive effect. Because of this, it's one of the few crimes that is punishable by death.

4. If you get caught doing crimes, how are you tried? What’s the court system like?
The justice system is one of the few areas of the government that isn't controlled by any one academy. The courts, the city guard, and the prisons are all independent from the academies. They feature trial by judge, not jury, since the academies are incredibly popular and divisive and would certainly bribe jurors against each other. However, there are a couple academies that have the clout and resources to bribe the judges themselves... though they won't admit to it.

5. What’s the opinion of magic in the city, and is there a place to study it?

Magic is great! Here's the largest academies in Auraglow:
  • The Royal Academy of Wizards (Headmistress: Ophelia Landon)
  • The Boccob School of Theurgy (High Priest: Mother Constance)
  • Academy Realis (Headmaster: Enoch Ebenezer Elmstone, or Triple-E)
  • Claringbold Sorcerer's School (Headmistress: Millicent Minerva Mannerings, or Triple-M)
  • The Temple of Wee Jas (High Priest: Father Demetrius)
  • The Battlemage Institute (Head Instructor: Edgar Gold)
  • The Hilde School of Bardic Magic and Home for Wayward Orphans (Headmistress: Leigh)
The Royal Academy and the Boccob School are the most prestigious in the city. Academy Realis and Claringbold Sorcerer's School have a rivalry, and will generally accept any students. The others are more specialized, and the Battlemage Institute is the only place for those who wish to combine magic and mundane combat. Paladins, Fighters, Rangers, Rogues, and Monks tend to go there.

6. Who is the richest person in the city? Who are their enemies?
Ophelia Landon, Headmistress of the Royal Academy of Wizards, controls the most wealth in the city. Being in such a position naturally draws the ire of the headmasters of the other academies, as well as the disdain of the nobility who believe she has more of a hand in the government than she should. However, she often grants a position on the Academy's School Board to those who speak out too loudly, and they are usually appeased. The School Board doesn't have much influence on her behavior, but does decide a lot about the Royal Academy.

7. What kind of government does the city have? Whose interests do they represent?
The government, like most in Garlancia, is a parliamentary system consisting of a publicly-approved council. However, the council mostly concerns itself with judicial matters and leaves the actual governance to the academies. This makes Ophelia Landon the de facto queen of the city, a situation that is highly controversial. However, she is generally just in her rule, so it continues unabated.

8. What’s under the city? Sewers, dungeons, tunnels, aqueducts? What lives in them?
Long before humans populated the Garlancian valley, this area was overrun by Yuan-Ti who had escaped the civil war among the reptile empires of the north. Though they preferred their demon snake lords to Boccob, they could not deny such a powerful holy site of the God of Magic. They built a small city here, which was razed and rebuilt by early human conquerors. The deeper parts of the city might still have access to the basements and tombs which were once beneath the Yuan-Ti's homes. Though the Yuan-Ti in this area are long dead, the deep tunnels might still contain monsters that guarded their land, undead snake people, or creatures that have crawled up from the Underdark to live in those areas. Oh, and demons. Probably demons, too.

9. What neighbourhoods of the city might the PC’s be barred entry to, based on race/class/status/etc?
There are 5 neighborhoods in Auraglow, each surrounded by protective walls.
  • Caldweld Vale, where the rich and noble live and do business
  • Upper South Molrak, where many temples and religious services are kept
  • East Sobric, general housing for artisans, merchants, and the middle class
  • South Screed, the slums
  • Fort Chogan, the guard's barracks and Battlemage Institute
There's no neighborhoods that are off limits, but going into a neighborhood where you don't fit in is definitely going to draw suspicious, leading to potential arrest (in Caldweld Vale) or your pockets being emptied (in South Screed).

It's a common joke to tell new visitors to a city that the place they are looking for is in "North Screed", "Lower South Molrak", "West Sobric", etc. These locations might have existed in the past, but they are no longer anywhere to be found.

Finally, there are farms to the south of the city, and a small cemetery just outside the northeastern wall.

10. What’s the terrain like in the city? Is it flat, hilly, are the streets wide or narrow? Does it differ from neighbourhood to neighbourhood?
The city is somewhat hilly, though the long slopes don't impede carriage traffic at all. The farmland to the south is flatter, but about a mile outside the city it begins to get quite hilly and densely forested.

Most neighborhoods have wide streets, often lined with vendors selling their wares. It's a common sight to see magical plants growing from pots and planters in windows. However, in South Screed, the streets are much narrower, and houses are packed next to and on top of each other. Everything is coated in a fine layer of dirt, and the city looks grey-er for some reason. There aren't nearly as many plants to go around.

11. What’s the climate and weather like? Is it temperate, cold, hot, rainy? This should influence both clothing and food available.
The climate, like all of Garlancia, is temperate. Though it would normally be quite warm, the wind coming through the valley keeps things cool. Though it sometimes rains for weeks on end, the normal state of the weather is dry, or slightly misty.

12. What’s the architecture of ordinary buildings like? Multi-story, towers, brick, wood, organic materials, basements, attics? Are they easily climbed or broken into?
In a word, buildings here are precarious. They are often in odd shapes or stacked on top of each other in unusual ways, being held up by magic of some kind. Its a carpenter's nightmare. There are plenty of towers and attics but not too many basements.

The more expensive the home, the more normal it appears. This makes breaking into buildings paradoxically easier if the place is fancier. Very nice homes will have more guards and Alarm spells to compensate.

13. What’s currently in fashion among the rich and middle class? Are there sumptuary laws?
As is often the case in Auraglow, buying magic items is in fashion, as is paying for the development of new kinds of magic. This is a slower process, and delving into certain kinds of magic without the appropriate credentials could get you into trouble. Also, certain magic items (mostly weapons) require permits to buy and sell, and the cost of a permit can be quite exorbitant.

14. Is dueling permitted/encouraged? What laws exist around it? How likely are PC’s to be challenged to a duel on the street?
Dueling is common, but only with magic. Turning a weapon on someone is grounds for an arrest, as is attacking someone who can't use magic. Additionally, in a duel, only spells with a range of touch/self, or spells with attack rolls are legal. Area-of-Effect spells are considered a threat to the public and face punishment. Because of this, Sorcerers and Druids tend to be at a bit of a disadvantage in duels. The PCs aren't likely to be challenged to a duel, unless they are clearly dressed as a magic-user and are insulting/hurting people.

15. What’s one unique building/landmark/feature the city is most famous for? There should be more than one, but you should have at least one.
Until a few months ago, there was a massive ball of light floating in the sky above the city, remnant of the final battle between Lefeld McConnell and Sandhu-Kam. However, when the demon Kam was finally destroyed, the Aura flickered to nothing. Since then, the city has been more famous for its magic schools than anything else.

16. What are some typical random encounters the PC’s might come across in the streets during the day? At night? You should be able to come up with about 6-10 for each.
  1. A wizard's owl familiar, carrying something that looks fragile and expensive. It flies down the street, just out of reach of the crowds.
  2. A group of students in school robes. They heckle those who are wearing the colors of other schools.
  3. An acolyte of Wee Jas is berating someone for not properly disposing of a corpse. The person being berated is quite upset by the whole conversation.
  4. A wizard walks down the street wearing fine robes and accompanied by a Shield Guardian. The crowds eye the Guardian with great jealousy.
  5. A small patrol of Elite Guards from the Battlemage Institute walk the streets, looking for lawbreakers.
  6. A doomsayer stands on the street corner, pronouncing the end of the city is nigh, since the Aura above has abandoned them. People seem to be taken in by these words.
  7. A group of thugs eyes a vendor's stall. If not stopped, they beat up the vendor and demand money to be paid. They either work for a noble (25%) or a crime lord (75%).
  8. A potted plant falls off a window ledge and right into a PC's head. 10% chance it was magical, and might cause poison, disease, or attack the party.
  9. An urchin runs up to the party and offers to lead them around the city. 25% chance that another urchin tries to pick their pockets while this exchange happens.
  10. A carriage rolls down the street. Inside, a headmaster from one of the academies is hotly discussing something with a local judge. Guards surround the whole affair.
  1. A dog chases a wizard's Quasit familiar into an alleyway. Moments later, the dog runs out of the alley, terrified.
  2. A shambling humanoid figure lurches down the road. It doesn't stop, but you can't get too close without smelling death...
  3. A group of robed figures file out of a building, nod to each other, then disperse.
  4. A human with patchy, grey hair waddles down the street. If it's a full moon, they are in full were-rat form, hunting for food in the shadows.
  5. A patrol of City Guards stop everyone they meet, asking them what they are doing out so late.
  6. A pair of lithe humans lurk in an alleyway. Their amber eyes glare out at you as you pass, but they mind their own business. Unless provoked, of course.
  7. A stone figure shifts on a rooftop. Its eyes follow you - probably a gargoyle enchanted to guard this dwelling.
  8. The sound of a distant bell clangs into the night. Likely, someone tried to break into a house and tripped an Alarm spell.
  9. The street goes deathly quiet. Footprints appear on the road, footprints with no owner. They walk thirty paces, then stop. Nothing is there.
  10. A hobbled old wizard roams the streets. When you draw near, they beckon you with a gnarled finger, and offer you an item that you're sure is illegal.

17. Who can the PC’s turn to if they break the law or need to escape from town guards? What payment/favours will this person ask for in return?
There is one person... though you probably won't speak to him. He uses a lot of intermediaries, for his own protection, of course. His name is Elliot Weston, and his title is Lord of the Slums. He has influence everywhere in South Screed, and will gladly take in those who are on the run from the law. However, his price is high. He is a Warlock whose goal is to make more Warlocks, and he has numerous extraplanar connections who are chomping at the bit for servants. He will more than likely demand for the most Charismatic party member to take a Warlock Pact (meaning their next level is a warlock level).

18. Can you openly wear weapons in the city? If not, who is exempt from this rule?
You certainly can, but turning them on others is illegal. Also, those who wear weapons are generally thought to be non-magic users, so wearing one gives you plausible deniability to avoid duels. However, this rule doesn't apply in Fort Chogan, where wearing a weapon can easily get you challenged to show your credentials with the Battlemage Institute or the City Guard. Lacking such papers, you might be charged with threatening the safety of the city and subsequently arrested.

19. What are some common animals you might see in the streets? Where are animals or beasts not allowed to enter?
City animals such as stray dogs, cats, and rats are common, though they are less often found in Caldweld Vale and more often encountered in South Screed. Also, Wizards often send their familiars on errands around the city, so running into a Fiendish or Fey version of an animal is fairly normal as well. Most pack animals are allowed in the city, but livestock are generally kept outside the city walls.

20. What can’t be bought in the city, and would need to be smuggled into the city illegally? Who in the city could reliably do this?
Certain trade goods, such as Mermaid skins and Dwarf teeth, are outlawed in major cities due to the obvious conflict of interest with Garlancia's allies. That doesn't stop unscrupulous wizards from obtaining them, though. Elliot Weston's smuggling rings can reliably get anything into or out of the city, though as usual his prices can be quite steep.

Using This Material in Your Setting

  • Just answer the questions, okay? They're very good. It gets you thinking about the depth of the city!

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Random Generators in Excel

AKA my day job
Today I'm taking a little detour away from in-game mechanics and lore to talk about a way to make your games easier to run. I've been using these tools for my recent games, and it's really saved me a lot of headache.

Most of the DMs I know write their games either in a text document or on paper. It usually consists of some worldbuilding notes, some shorthand monster stats, and some loot for the players. However, more and more people are using online services like r/BehindTheTables, donjon, or D&D Beyond to create reference materials and augment their games with a level of in-session randomness that adds excitement for the DM as well as the PCs.

Well, for those of us who play in our own worlds, use house rules, or even use our own RPGs, tools like that don't quite work. So, I started making my games in Microsoft Excel.

The benefits here are awesome: I can pull my shorthand statblocks, add any number of random tables, and even transition between scenes without tedious scrolling. In fact, my recent Campaign of Chaos game was completely within excel - no books, no paper, no text files!

Let's start with the basic excel functions we'll be using in this article. For the truly uninitiated, an excel function starts with an equals sign which is followed by a word (usually shortened for ease of use). So a good function to add up some values would be =SUM. But what values? Well, we need to add arguments, or parameters, for our function. So let's say we want to add up the values in column A, from A1 down to A50. The SUM formula can understand excel's table notation (A1:A50), so we just put that in parenthesis after the formula. If a formula has more than one argument, they can be separated by a comma. Entering =SUM(A1:A50) will give us the answer we want! And it's a lot easier than putting in =A1+A2+A3+....etc.

So here's the four most powerful formulas you can use to make random tables in Excel!
    • This function generates a random number between any two limits you want
    • The arguments for RANDBETWEEN are
      • the lower limit of the random number set
      • the upper limit of the random number set
    • So, =RANDBETWEEN(1,20) will create a d20 roll
    • Note that every time you change a cell, this value will recalculate, so it's best not to store vital information on a random generator
    • The V stands for vertical
    • This function looks at a table somewhere in excel, checks the first column (the vertical dimension of the table) for a specific value, and then outputs the value on that row which is in a specified column
    • The arguments for VLOOKUP are
      • what value you want to look up in the first column of the table
      • the table itself
      • which column's value you want to output from the row that contains the first value
      • a TRUE/FALSE argument that specifies if the match in the first column needs to be exact. This usually isn't important unless you have a lot of similar items in your first column. FALSE means an exact match, so I usually put it there for good measure.
    • So if you had the trinket table (PHB pg. 160) loaded into an excel spreadsheet in columns A and B, the formula =VLOOKUP(13,A1:B100,2,FALSE) would return "A tooth from an unknown beast"
  • MATCH(
    • This function looks at a list of values and finds a particular value. Then it outputs how many rows down that item is.
    • The arguments for MATCH are
      • what item we want to look up
      • the list itself
      • an optional argument that specifies if you want an exact match (0), the closest match equal to or less than your item (1), or the closest match equal to or greater than your item (-1)
    • So let's use the Trinket list again (PHB pg. 160), loaded into columns A and B in a spreadsheet. The formula =MATCH("A tooth from an unknown beast",B1:B100,0) would return "13"
    • This function takes two or more cell values and outputs them in the same cell.
    • The argument for CONCATENATE is
      • the text or cell we want to combine. You can have as many of these as you want, separated by a comma, of course.
    • So if Cell A1 has "Dungeons" in it, and cell A2 has "Dragons" in it, the formula =CONCATENATE(A1," & ",A2) would return "Dungeons & Dragons". Notice that I had to include spaces around the & symbol. Concatenate doesn't understand you are inputting different words!

So let's try a basic table. Your players just found a Potion of Resistance. Good for them! But, the Barbarian asks, what kind of Potion of Resistance? What sort of damage does it resist?

Well, first off, we need to make a table with the different kinds of resistances.
Perfect! Now, we'll need three of our four formulas, depending on how fancy we want this to get.

At the most basic level, we can add the formula =RANDBETWEEN(1,10). That will give us a random number between 1 and 10, then we can just look up the value. It's Cold damage, you say. Your players are appeased.

But what if you want the sheet to spit out the answer for you? This could be the case if you don't want your sheet crowded up with tables. You don't have time to look it up yourself! And with bigger tables, that can definitely be the case.

So, we can use VLOOKUP(. There are a couple ways we can go about this.

The easy way is that you can look up the value from your random number generator. Let's say you put the RANDBETWEEN formula in cell C1. Then, your lookup formula would be =VLOOKUP(C1,A1:B10,2,FALSE). Now, the VLOOKUP cell will say "Cold", because it's taking the 2 from RANDBETWEEN and using it to look up the proper word!

The trickier way is using nestled formulas. Since VLOOKUP is just looking at RANDBETWEEN for its value, you can simply insert the RANDBETWEEN formula right into VLOOKUP! Your formula would then be =VLOOKUP(RANDBETWEEN(1,10),A1:B10,2,FALSE). Though it's more complex, it'd get you the exact same answer!

But let's take it one step further. Suppose you want the players to be able to look at this sheet. So it can't just say "Cold". Well, that's where our CONCATENATE formula comes into play.

If you have your VLOOKUP formula in cell C1, you can create a formula that reads: =CONCATENATE("Potion of ",C1," Resistance"). Then, that cell will read "Potion of Cold Resistance", or whatever value your random number generator has produced. Of course, if you want, you could nestle the VLOOKUP into the CONCATENATE formula as well, but I'll leave that up to you.

If you're not following, I'd highly suggest opening up excel and trying to replicate this sheet as you see above. Doing is the best way to learn!

Now, let's try something a little more complex. I'm going to use the MATCH formula to make a sheet that will tell a new player which damage die to roll based on which weapon they want their rogue to attack with.

We start with our input format. I like to highlight the boxes that require input. Note that right now this is nothing but text - no formulas at all.
Next we'll need a list of the weapons the rogue has.
Assign each one a number, and add the damage die it uses.
Now we have a VLOOKUP table! But we aren't quite ready for that yet. First, we need to use a MATCH formula to get the row number of the player's input. Notice I'm using the optional argument to make sure we get an exact match. It isn't necessary, but it's good practice for when you move to more complex tables.
As you can see, it returns the value 1, because "Dagger" is in the first row. Now, we can use that 1 value to create a VLOOKUP.

This can go even deeper, of course. Once you learn the basic building blocks of the system, you can make pretty much anything.

Here's the sheet I used for that Campaign of Chaos game I mentioned above. The players were exploring a city, so I had the city map and a description of the area they were in that popped up when I put in a reference number (thanks, VLOOKUP!). I also had four randomly generated NPCs (based on the tables found in the DMG pg. 89) for them to interact with/kill.

But the coolest part was the Quests. I had three mini-quests laid out for each area, and the number in the "Quests Completed" column modified a VLOOKUP table so that I always got the next quest in the series. I even had the endgame written up once the total number of quests completed was 15 or more. This required another formula, the IF( formula, but if you're curious about that one I'd suggest you look it up yourself!

Here's a sheet that rolls on the random encounter table for Maze of the Blue Medusa, then gives me the 5th edition statblock for the monster I rolled! Again, this is all using RANDBETWEEN( and VLOOKUP(. I even used a MATCH( formula so I could type in the zone the PCs were exploring in cell B3. Easy as pie!

Finally, in case you don't have an up-to-date version of excel, everything I've shown here can be replicated in Google Sheets, which is free!
Here's a downtime generator that I've made based on the tables from Xanathar's Guide to Everything (XGE pg. 125). The box at the bottom uses a match formula to find what downtime activity you want to do.
Then, once you type in an activity, this dialogue shows up. I highlighted the cells that I wrote my information in, and the output of that information. I actually had to recreate the random magic item generators in the DMG to make this work - it took quite a while! Here's a link to the spreadsheet itself. You won't be able to modify it in-browser, but feel free to download it and try it out! If you happen to find a bug, feel free to comment here or in the sheet and I can update it.

I hope this was exciting or at least enlightening for you. With advancements in technology, in-game randomness doesn't have to involve the DM sitting behind the screen rolling dice for 5 minutes. You can have your procedurally-generated cake and eat it, too!

Thanks for reading!

Monday, December 25, 2017

Monday Recap: 2017

Carol of the Rings
Merry Christmas! And happy new year.

It's been over a year since I started writing this blog, and in that time I've gone from posting random garbage to posting random (but useful) garbage! To my readers, I'd like to say: thanks for reading! I never expected this to really go anywhere, it was more of a way for me to gather information on my D&D games and force myself to write every day.

So, in honor of my Monday Recaps (and also because all my players are on vacation...), I want to use the last Monday of the year to go over what I've written so far and look ahead at what I will be writing next year.

Looking Back at 2017

I started this blog to chronicle my games, put my homebrew content out there, and support the people in my life. At the time, I was running 3 campaigns of varying sizes, and I had plenty of backlog to put into blog form. Now, I'm running five campaigns, and have to write pretty much everything from scratch. It's been a wild ride.

My first "hit" article was the Alternative Uses for Trinkets list. Technically, I made this one a while back, and posted it to Reddit. When the article went up, I linked it from there and got a few extra pageviews. However, that ship had kind of already sailed, meaning it didn't really take off.

However, my next big article had a few more factors in its favor. The Monster Factory article was something I made to imitate one of my favorite D&D shows, The Adventure Zone. I posted the article to Facebook and Reddit, and those communities gave me a lot of amazing feedback. Not just on the list, either - I learned a few tips about writing a blog and being a good internet citizen from those groups.

My most recent success story was over three years in the making - the Creature Loot articles. It was such a massive undertaking, I had to post only a little bit at a time. Fortunately, that kept my momentum going while I wrote some other cool articles. When it was finally finished, I posted it on Reddit, and /u/writerchild85 turned it into an amazing PDF. I was so grateful, I offered to write music or a game for him, but he simply asked me to pay it forward. I intend to!

The rest of the articles have had their fair share of views, but not nearly as much discussion or feedback. I'm hoping that I might be able to increase the amount of discourse on this blog in the future, because my most valuable experiences have come from learning about my writing from other people's perspectives.

Into 2018

Speaking of moving forward, I plan to continue this blog for the time being. Since it's hosted through the free Blogger service, I don't think it will be archived anytime soon, but I'd like to keep contributing to it for the foreseeable future.

I already have a few ideas for what I can write about moving forward, including more Lore of Ahneria, more Monday Recaps, and maybe even a Creature Loot table for other D&D products such as Volo's Guide to Monsters.

However, now that I'm fortunate enough to have readers who check into the blog, I'd like to offer my services to any topic you'd like me to write about. Is there something you'd like me to dig into? More DM tools for your games? Another breakdown of a D&D module? Please let me know in the comments!

I don't want this to drag on too long, so please know that I'm very thankful that so many people have enjoyed my work. At this point, I'm not planning on monetizing this project, since it's more of a hobby than anything, but if things keep growing the way they have been, I might start a Patreon or something. We'll see!

Again, from the bottom of my heart, thanks for reading. May your dice always roll criticals!

Friday, December 22, 2017

Lore of Ahneria: 20 Questions about the City of Garton (and 20 more questions that make me second guess the sanity of my campaign setting)
This is part of a series on the lore of my homebrew world, Ahneria. As I outlined here, much of this information will be pulled from existing D&D lore and tropes. At the end, I'll be including a section on how to use this sort of thing in your own games.

The City of Garton, seat of power in Garlancia. Recently, thanks to a certain chaos wizard, it became known as the City of Glass Statues, but before then it was known as the City of Free Trade, the Guildmaster's Paradise, and The Bazaar. It was long ago built on top of an abandoned dwarven mine, and became the seat of power for Garlancia.

More importantly, it's a size that I can finally summarize easily with actionable, adventurable content. You'd be forgiven for thinking we'd never get to this point.

To assist in this matter, I'm using two lists of 20 questions, one by long-time DM Jeff Rients, and the other made as a parody of that list by Scrap Princess, who is a wonderfully weird DM who did the art for a few of the modules I play.

This is part of my goal to make this city extremely playable for my characters. If you're looking for a map of the city, I made one in my city-generator article.

Here we go...

1. What's the deal with my cleric's religion?
The Gods are a big influence here in Ahneria. If you're a good servant to them, they'll grant you power. But not too much...

2. Where can we go to buy standard equipment?
Garton is famous for being a hub of trade throughout Garlancia. You can find anything here if you have the right connections and the proper amount of gold. For standard gear at Handbook prices, I'd recommend visiting a Merchant's Guild post in the Middle District, where most commerce happens.

3. Where can we go to get platemail custom fitted for this monster I just befriended?
A specialty order requires a specialty craftsman. The higher-ups in the Merchant's Guild can point you in the right direction, but you'll probably have to go into the High District and rub shoulders with master craftsmen to get what you're looking for. Dress nicely - the rich make a lot of money in Garton.

4. Who is the mightiest wizard in the land?
For this answer, we'll limit it to this particular city. It's generally accepted that the leader of the Mage's Guild is the arcane authority within the confines of the city. However, he recently was removed from the head of the organization, so that spot is up for grabs. If you seek arcane advice, though, there are several small bardic colleges and magic tutors for other types of magic.

5. Who is the greatest warrior in the land?
For this answer, we'll limit it to this particular city. Though there is a fighter's guild in town, the greatest warrior is currently Lieutenant Floris, the leader of the city watch. He is benevolent and doggedly protective of "his city", and has taken an oath to defend it against all harm. He was temporarily a member of the adventuring group C.H.A.O.S. when they prevented the Cult of Kam's takeover of Garton. Now, he resides in a repurposed clocktower at the center of the Middle District, known colloquially as the "Dethklok".

6. Who is the richest person in the land?
That'd be King Faustus, of course. He is a young ruler, backed by an elderly and wise advisor. He has a strong interest in building up the "mercenary presence" within the city, which is to say he opens the city to adventurers of many stripes. His policies help keep the city diverse and wealthy, as trade flows from southern Garlancia and Norstone.

7. Where can we go to get some magical healing?
Garton is rife with temples and shrines, usually manned by those whose words can heal and comfort. If you want high-quality healing, the Church of Pelor is supported by the government and paid for by generous noble donations. Otherwise, nearly every God has a small following here, whether it be a temple of a Good Deity or an underground sect of an Evil God.

8. Where can we go to get cures for the following conditions: poison, disease, curse, level drain, lycanthropy, polymorph, alignment change, death, undeath?
Poisons and diseases can be cured at any temple. Lycanthropy is a big problem in Ahneria, so of course many temples will also sell cures of varying effectiveness. Things like curses, level drain, death, and undeath would likely require the assistance of a high-level priest of Pelor, and if you've been polymorphed you'd better see a wizard from the Mage's Guild about it. Alignment Change is a tricky one: If it's your garden variety curse, a church can get you feeling better. But if you've been branded by a God, there's no helping you. You're stuck.

9. Is there a magic guild my spellcaster belongs to or that I can join in order to get more spells?
Absolutely. The Mage's Guild is the big one, but here in the City of Free Trade, you can learn anything if you've got gold to pay the membership fees. I tell PCs to assume their spells they learn by leveling up are a result of being a part of a guild or working under a tutor. And of course, if you've got the money, you could learn some quite unscrupulous spells as well...

10. Where can I find an alchemist, sage, or other expert NPC?
The question is not where, since you could walk down a Garton street and meet a dozen of them. The real question is, "Can I actually trust this person?" Finding a legitimate fortune teller in the city is rare, and you'll probably go through a score of "herbologists" before you find someone who can brew an authentic healing potion.

11. Where can I hire mercenaries?
Same as last question. If you've got payment, anybody will work for you. Their actual combat effectiveness is much more difficult to gauge. Those who actually have skill are usually so in-demand that they can get jobs guarding noble estates, working for the city watch, or getting a well-paid position in the Fighter's Guild.

12. Is there any place on the map where swords are illegal, magic is outlawed, or any other notable hassles from Johnny Law?
Oh yes. Having a visible weapon in the High District is an arrestable offense, unless you're in the livery of the city watch or you have a permit from them. Permits cost money, which means if you get into an altercation with a noble, his guards can draw swords without consequence while you'll be arrested if you do so. If you ever want to bring the city down on your head, try mugging a rich person. Also, it's illegal to truck with devils and demons in the city, after the close call they had with the Cult of Kam. Unfortunately, this has lead to a ban on
all Warlocks, forcing them to go into hiding.

13. Which way to the nearest tavern?
Stand at any place in Garton. You're already within stumbling distance of a tavern. Of course, quality may vary, but the merchant's guild cracks down on those who try to outright extort their customers. If you want to go somewhere famous, try the Coldiron Inn, ran by dwarven barkeep Griffin Coldiron. It's where the famous adventuring group C.H.A.O.S. used to hang out and drink!

14. What monsters are terrorizing the countryside sufficiently that if I kill them I will become famous?
The city is always collecting bounties on Gnoll ears, Wererats and Thieves. Despite rumors that Romero Calabra (Master of the Thieves' Guild) has a connection to the adventuring group C.H.A.O.S., the bounty on his head is sufficiently high that you'd be the talk of the city for killing him. However, the Thieves' Guild is hidden deep in the city's labyrinthine sewer system, so you might die on the way there.

15. Are there any wars brewing I could go fight?
One just ended, actually. The War of Fools (so named because both sides were being manipulated by fiendish forces) ended with a hell portal opening up in the middle of Norstone. Survivors from the war can be found everywhere in the city, and at the moment nobody is particularly interested in starting another inter-country conflict. However, if you're willing to travel to the Isle of the Dragonborn, there's a civil war brewing there at the moment.

16. How about gladiatorial arenas complete with hard-won glory and fabulous cash prizes?
Just stop by your local Fighter's Guild outpost. They usually have a rudimentary fighting ring set up for duels, training, and competition. If you want to go big, though, the Guild's Arena in the High District is where you can go to see the best fighters in the guild crush one another in glorified combat. And if you're good enough, the nobility might take an interest in sponsoring you.

17. Are there any secret societies with sinister agendas I could join and/or fight?
Absolutely! Though three major ones (The Cult of Kam, the Purple-Hooded Gang, and Havok) were quelled recently, there's still the Thieves' Guild, The Black Hand, the river pirate crews that frequent Garton's ports, dozens of small Evil God worshipping cults, and a small but growing following dedicated to simply causing chaos.

18. What is there to eat around here?
Just about whatever you're interested in. They import seafood and exotic meats by the river that runs through the city, and if you've got the coin then a master chef can put together quite the feast. For most folks, however, the bread, cheese, and ale of the local tavern will suffice.

19. Any legendary lost treasures I could be looking for?
Absolutely, just ask around! Being a city of trade and mercenaries, treasure maps are a common product for sale. The validity is usually questionable, and you never know if you've been sold the key to a lost Vorpal Sword or a map leading you to the merchant's friends, who will beat you up and take your money.

20. Where is the nearest dragon or other monster with Type H treasure?
It's said that in the depths of the sewers, tunnels and pipes give way to the caverns of the underdark, where you can find Purple Worms, Demons, and Beholders guarding ancient treasure. Of course, that's if you make it all the way down in the first place: the sewers teem with rats, oozes, lycanthropes, diseases, vampires, undead, ghosts, thieves, and a twice-reanimated janitor named Stinky Jake. Good luck.

Now on to the second set of questions. Wish me luck.

1. Is there weaponized squid? Can I start with one? How much are they? Can I have one as a pet/best friend? Can I play one? Can I dual wield them?
Yes, here is its stats:

Weaponized Squid. The squid has 5 charges. You may expend one charge to cast Color Spray at 1st level. At the end of every hour it is kept unsubmerged in water, it loses one charge. This time is tracked in increments of a minute. The charges replenish at each dawn. If the squid is out of water when the last charge is used or lost, it shrivels into dust.
You can start with one if you are an aquatic race such as a Triton, a Sea Elf, an Aquatic Halfling, or a Water Genasi. You can buy them in Garton for 8,000 GP, they are probably cheaper elsewhere though. They are hostile unless you can speak to them, then they can be convinced to be your pet or friend. You can play one if I run a pet game, but I've had some bad experiences with that. They can absolutely be dual wielded.

2. Is there undead robots? What is the nature of consciousness and the existence of the soul in your campaign and can I play one? Or have one as a pet or a gun that shoots them?
I think the closest you'll come is the warforged, which in Ahneria are the remnants of an ancient race of dwarves that could impart free will into their creations. Technically, they can be raised from the dead, so yes, there are undead robots. "Souls" are technically the absence of divinity, but include handy things like free will, so they're good enough for mortals. If you want, you could play one. They might take offense to being called a pet or being shot out of a gun, though.

3. Do Icebergs walk across the land? Can I be from one? Is Godzilla frozen in one? Can I play a Godzilla?
Yes, but not around here: Garlancia is a tropical climate, but if you're from the icy plains of Craitane, most certainly. Currently, Craitane is under a terrible curse, but if your curse was broken, you'd probably be able to be from there, and you'd get to be a minotaur. There are absolutely ancient evil monsters frozen in the ice of Craitane, and maybe someday I'll run a campaign where people can play as them. For now, no, not a character option.

4. What do birds know? No further questions.
Birds are emissaries of the Gods of Nature, so here in the city they don't know much. They vaguely understand that the farmlands outside the city walls are a good place to get seeds, and there are plenty of garbage piles with good scraps throughout the city. Forest birds are much wiser.

5. Does medicine work like it does here but no-one knows CPR or does it work like a cartoon so I cure amnesia with more head injurys or does it work like medieval euro people thought it did with demons in your teeth? Do I start with demons in my teeth? Do I know CPR? Can I invent CPR? Can I give myself powers with additionally organs? What planet is in ascension in my spleen midmorning?
Here in Ahneria, magic is common enough that medicine hasn't advanced far. Sure, a Lesser Restoration spell removes disease by killing germs or undoing damaged organs, but people understand that it works and make up bogus theories as to why. If a doctor tells you he's banishing the demons from your teeth, and then your teeth feel better, you'd probably believe him. If you want to start with teeth demons, that's not a problem. Though if it's bad enough I might make you start with a lingering injury. You don't know CPR, and you wouldn't bother inventing it, just Mage Hand the object out of the choking person's throat. Adding organs to your body won't give you powers, but some monster organs can have an effect when eaten. Depends on the theory of the doctor you ask, but some would say Viribus rises in the spleen at midmorning.

6. I want to play a hobbit but really I'm the fleas controlling the hobbit. Where is that in the book? Could I take over a new guy with my fleas? Or another players guy?
Just make a halfling and give them personality traits that reflect your true, flea-ish nature. Honestly, it's basically already been done. As for taking over other guys, that sounds like an awesome way to interpret a Charm Person, Dominate Person, or Geas spell, so I'll allow it once you get to the appropriate levels and only if you can cast those spells. As for another player's character, only with their permission and cooperation.

7. How much could I rent my body out to spirits before I lost control of my character? What are the names of the spirits? Are they cool?
You could get away with having one spirit in your body and maintaining control, but only if you were their friend and you didn't make them angry. So you'd have to find and befriend a specific ghost, likely a cool one, before you could rent out your body to it. If you have more than one, suddenly it's a roommate situation and you're more likely to run into conflicts.

8. What level do I have to get my character to before I am the g.m? Can I half be the g.m at an early level? What about when they leave the room?
To be the DM, you have to forsake your character sheet. Let go your earthly tether! Do not be bound by levels - instead, let your mind encompass the world! However, I'd highly recommend you've played for a few sessions as a PC before you become the DM. And if you try to wrest control of the world from me mid-game, I reserve the right to alter the timeline so your character ate bad chicken the night before and has to run into the bushes every 5 minutes.

9. What is the dumbest thing I can spend my money on? No dumber than that but cool. Like a pet with a weapon? Can pets dual wield?
Someone bought roller skates in one of my games. Oh dumber than that? How about a massive, wyvern-mounted crossbow that shoots bear traps attached to chains? How about a rubber-band gun style slingshot that shoots exploding beans? How about bread that compels you to eat more if you fail a save? Also, pets can definitely have weapons and can dual wield if they have enough hands.

10. How ugly can my guy be? Like can I basically be a walking fish? No wait I wanna be a walking fish. What is the reverse scuba technology like in this world?
Really ugly. Go wild. You can be an aquatic race. The fish people mostly stay underwater, but fish wizards do have a handy spell called Air Breathing that they can cast using a 3rd level spell slot. So yeah, walking fish is go.

11. The lamp oil? Is that like cooking oil, kerosene, white spirits or napalm? How much can I buy of it?
It's like kerosene. Cooking oil, alcohol, and napalm all technically exist, but they aren't very efficient at lighting lanterns. You can get a flask of oil for a silver piece. So, in my games - yeah, a lot.

12. How does physics work in this world? What makes the planets stay up? Are there planets? Is it elves? Can I play an elf from another planet? Does everything work like how we thought it did in the past? Can I discover stuff and pass it off as magic? Is it possible to use the scientific process to organize the concepts of magic?
Physics is just a building block of reality, which means those can access divinity (Gods and spellcasters) can affect it. The planets use Gravity to stay aloft, but again that's just because Pelor thought it was convenient. It isn't elves. Right now there's no spacefaring in Ahneria, and other races haven't made it here yet. Unless you count Gibbering Mouthers. Similar to medicine, everything works based on solid rules, but those rules are interpreted incorrectly by nearly everyone. Not only can you discovery stuff and pass it off as magic, everyone will just assume it's magic anyway. One of the reasons Ahneria doesn't have gunpowder is because the magic in sulfur basically does that anyway. Also, magic has a rational system behind it, so yes, you could organize magic via the scientific method and that's exactly what wizards do.

13. Can I start with weapon hands? What about crab claws? Can I play a crab with human hands? Can I have one as a pet? Do they live on a different planet? Can we go there?
Yep! Anything from hooks for a hand to being a Shifter and making your own animal-hand weapons. You could certainly be a crab shifter. And somewhere in the vast depths of the ocean, you could find a crab with human hands. They are much nicer than normal crabs and would certainly be your pet. They live right here on Ahneria, and you can certainly go see them.

14. What cultures approve of cannibalism? What about if we are super rich? Aren't rich cannibals be default, I mean if you think about it? How is the class struggle here anyway? Is there a Karl Marx? How receptive are people to the ideas of anarcho-syndicalism here?
There are plenty, from societies of necromancers and odd humans to gnolls and undead and other monster groups. If you're super rich, you can eat whomever you like, assuming you can get away with it. I guess? Class struggle is pretty real here. People are constantly trying to work their way up, which discourages those who think it'd be better if there wasn't a system in the first place. Of course, everyone in Garton benefits massively from the system, and so it remains. There's no Karl Marx yet, but you could play him if you want. You'd probably get a good size crowd if you spoke out about anarcho-syndicalism, but they probably wouldn't be the best of people.

15. Can my character not be real, but a hallucination of another character? But I still wanna be able to do stuff. What are the stats for that?
Hm. I don't think your could a hallucination specifically, but if you wanted to be a spirit or ghost with class levels that inhabited the body of a weak-willed but otherwise normal character, I'd allow it. Just use the host's stats for Str/Dex/Con and your stats for Int/Wis/Cha.

16. Which is the rome but with lava fire country in this world? What about the ice circus country? Can I have a pet from there?
Ashlen, on the other side of the continent of Eiselon. However, I feel we're getting away from Garton at this point... So there's The Great Garlancian Circus, which tours around the country and comes to Garton once a year. It's a big event, they set up in a farm field and the place is packed. They do give away small animals as prizes, so yeah, you can get a pet there.

17. Can I invent an insect? As a player right now I tell you an insect and you put it in the game? Or as a character? Can my spells be insects that then exist in this world after I cast them? Can I play an insect who is actually a spell cast in this world? What about as a pet?
As a player, yeah, absolutely, hit me with every insect you got! As a character, you couldn't invent an insect, but you could absolutely play a druid that uses the magic found in rare insects to cast their spells. That sounds awesome. They could even be your pets. However, you wouldn't be able to play as them unless I did another pet game, and we don't talk about why I don't run pet games anymore.

18. Is there reverse fire? What about reverse water or earth? What do they wear there?
Reverse fire, or blackfire, exists in the shadowfell and the negative energy plane. It doesn't give off heat or light, in fact it absorbs them. Wizards who believe in entropy have trouble explaining it. Reverse water is what the fish people call air. Reverse earth is a nice place, but they wear their pants on their heads and it's difficult to take them seriously. It's actually a large demiplane made by a wizard who wore his pants on his head. Sadly, even in that demiplane, he is still treated poorly.

19. How much money can I make inventing siege engines? Can I play a siege engine? In what ways are animals used in siege engines?
You could make a living, even becoming wealthy or famous as an inventor in Garton. However, that won't help you gain levels as an adventurer. I don't think you'd have much fun playing as a siege engine, but if you want to, it'd be like playing a sword without controlling the person wielding you. Animals are used in the transportation of siege engines. Clever generals will launch diseased animals into a city in order to force a stalemate, but nobody throws cows with siege engines. That's what wizards are for.

20. What is the most significant tree to the economy of the starting place? Is it really a tree or maidens stitched together? If I play a maiden do I get spells or do people that worship me get spells but only if I'm mad at them?
Oak. There's a large forest near the city. Oh, or did you mean a specific tree? There's a lovely one in the City Square near the former clock tower that isn't maidens stitched together. The maiden trees can be found in the forests of southern Garlancia, and if you play one you can get the stats and spells of a dryad. If someone happens to worship you, you could give them some knowledge about how to get magic from the nature Gods. After that, though, you don't have much control over it.

Whew! Hopefully that gives you a lot of information about Garton. And Ahneria. And squids.

Using This Material in Your Setting

  • Answer these questions for your own setting! Seriously. The first 20 are questions that players will definitely ask, and the second 20 are the types of things you need to be prepared to either answer or come up with answers to on the fly. Because somebody's going to want to know.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Social Encounters from an Angry Man
Kiss the ring, don't diss the King
Once again, I find myself reading the Angry GM and using his ideas. Because they are excellent. However, his rambling writing style makes it difficult for me to reference the ideas in his articles. So, I've taken his articles on Systemic InterACTION! and adapted it to an easy-to-reference form. I also went through and added effects for the various social spells in 5e.

Systemic InterACTION!

An InterACTION! scene happens when three things converge:
  1. The PCs need to obtain information, assistance, or permission via social interaction with an NPC.
  2. The NPC that would give them what they want has at least one Objection to helping them.
  3. There is a discreet means by which the PCs could fail to get what they want.

The first point simply means there is a dramatic question: Will the PCs get what they are after? This is the basis of conflict in the scene. No conflict? No scene.

The second point presents the opposition. If the dramatic question defines the conflict, the Objection provides an obstacle on the path to answering that question.

The third point provides narrative resolution. We already know the success state: the PCs get what they want. In order to create the scene, we need a failure state. This could be anything from the NPC excusing themselves to the PCs getting arrested. If there is no failure state, your players will keep pushing the scene until they get what they want. Figure out when they've lost, and make sure you tell them.

Building NPCs
Incentive: "I like swords"
Every NPC has the following traits. These correlate directly to the dramatic question.
  1. Objections (must have at least 1)
    • Why does the NPC want to withhold what the PCs are looking for?
  2. Incentives
    • Why does the NPC want to help the PCs get what they want?
Note that to run a scene, you technically only need one Objection. For more fleshed out NPCs, add more traits. Each category can have multiple items, but for the most part, stick to 1-3 Objections and Incentives each.

Each Objection and Incentive is assigned a score. Incentives have positive scores and Objections have negative scores. The scores should be between (1) and (5). (1) is a minor preference that the NPC could easily be convinced to change. (5) is a strong personality trait or external pressure that will require a lot of negotiation to overlook.

The total of the Incentive and Objection scores should be a negative number - that is, the Objections should outweigh the Incentives. The encounter is successful when the total is zero, which is achieved by the methods listed in the Player Actions section.

Horace the Palace Guard is under the orders of His Majesty to keep watch at the city gates. He is proud of his work and is always vigilant for those breaking the law, but sees himself beneath the nobility and won't say no to those who are members of the upper crust. The PCs are attempting to enter the city, and it's up to Horace to decide if they are allowed in.
  • Incentive: "I won't say no to Lords and Ladies" (1) 
  • Objection: "I'm under the orders of His Majesty" (-2)

Finally, if a PC brings the NPC information they weren't previously aware of, they might be able to create a new Incentive or Objection. New Incentives always start at (1). New objections can start anywhere between (1) and (5), depending on how badly the NPC takes the news.

A PC tells Horace his home in the nearby village was attacked. Horace gains a new Incentive: "I need to go check on my family!" (1).

The scene is successful when the total Incentive and Objection score equals zero, but you should also define how the PCs could fail the scene. The basic way is if they offend the NPC (see Optional Traits below), which ends the encounter immediately. You can also put a time limit on the encounter - the PCs only have so many arguments to convince the NPC. Finally, you can set a negative limit to the Incentive/Objection score. If the PCs add objections or lower an incentive, they could reach the lower limit and fail.

No matter which way you set, make sure the NPC has some means of denying the PCs what they want. If the PCs can just keep pursuing the conversation, you shouldn't have had a social encounter in the first place.

Optional Traits
Rule # 2 of D&D: make every dragon encounter feel epic
Of course, some social encounters are more difficult than others. Add some of these optional traits to adjust the difficulty of the encounter.
  • Courtesies: If a PC follows a courtesy while making their argument, they can gain advantage on the check.
  • Slights: If a PC slights an NPC while making their argument, they suffer disadvantage on the check.
  • Insults: If a PC insults an NPC, they suffer disadvantage on all checks until they make a Hard (DC 20) Persuasion check to apologize.
  • Offenses: If a PC truly offends an NPC, the total score immediately drops into the failure state.
  • Deflections: This is like an Incentive/Objection, but its score can't be changed. It can be used in a timed encounter to make the PCs waste time - just make sure the PCs realize the NPC is using it as an excuse, not a legitimate argument.

Additionally, you can add other NPCs to the encounter. Make sure there's only one main NPC deciding the outcome, but you can add an NPC who opposes the PCs and is trying to convince the main NPC in the other direction. They make arguments the same way the PCs do, though they simply roll to see if they can lower an incentive/objection. You can decide how often they make their argument, though if it's too easy for them to succeed or they get to argue too often, the encounter will be particularly difficult for the PCs.

For a real challenge, give the NPC access to the spells listed below.

Player Actions
Finally, a mechanical way to resolve when PCs cross from "interrogation" to "torture"
The social encounter should begin as a dialogue between the PCs and the NPC. As the players learn about the NPC, they should discover hints at the NPC's traits. When the players have made a substantial argument which addresses an Incentive or Objection, you must adjudicate if the argument is effective. This is where the player's skills, spells, and dice come into play.

If the argument is effective (i.e. if the roll is successful), increase the score of the objection or incentive by 1. Objections move closer to 0, Incentives move away from 0. The PC's goal is to make the total score equal 0. If a PC makes an especially powerful argument, you can elect to adjust an Incentive/Objection by more than 1.

If the PCs fail their argument, the NPC should shut down that Incentive/Objection. They take a strong stance, and the PCs must find a new way to convince the NPC. They could reference a deflection, or simply block that line of conversation. Note that this isn't permanent - it just applies to the next argument the PCs make. If the PCs mess up badly enough, they might even lower that Incentive/Objection score.

These rules assume that a single argument takes about 1 minute of in-game time.

In D&D 5th Edition, the player has many skills and spells at their disposal to affect such situations. For each roll, you should set the DC of the check based on the "Typical Difficulty Classes" table (PHB pg. 178). Certain Incentives/Objections might be easier or harder to address for a particular NPC. If you're unsure, use the NPC's passive Insight score (10 + Wisdom modifier + proficiency bonus, if applicable).

Depending on the argument the players make, call for the following check:
  • Persuasion (for when the PC is honestly appealing to an Incentive/Objection)
  • Deception (for when the PC is lying about an Incentive/Objection)
  • Intimidation (for when a PC threatens something related to an Incentive/Objection)
  • Performance (rarely used, when an NPC's Incentive Objection can be affected by a performance)

The players can also use the following skills to gain the upper hand in the encounter:
  • Insight: A PC can use insight to learn one of the NPC's Incentives/Objections during the encounter
  • Insight: If a PC would offend an NPC, you can allow them to roll an insight check to realize what they are about to do and take it back - kind of like a saving throw.
  • Investigation: A PC can investigate an NPC to learn one of their Incentives/Objections before the encounter begins.

Finally, one note about a unique set of social encounter: the interrogation. For the most part, you can run it normally, simply with more difficult objections. If the players reach a failure state, simply state that the NPC has shut down. They keep trying as long as they want, but the NPC refuses to budge.

However, we need a different mechanic when the PCs cross the line from interrogation to torture.

If a PC attacks an NPC, the NPC takes critical damage from the attack, and gains the Objection "I won't give in to my enemies" (-X) and the Incentive "I don't want to feel more pain!" (1), where X is the pain tolerance of the NPC on a scale from 1 to 5. Generally, the higher the NPC's HP, the higher their pain tolerance. Every time the NPC is attacked, the Incentive increases by 1. However, they also take critical damage each time, and if they die/become unconcious before their Incentive/Objection score equals 0, that is a failure state for the PCs. The PCs might have to spend more time to let the NPC recover and try again.

Additionally, these spells can provide assistance or dramatic tension in a scene:
  • Calm Emotions (2nd level, PHB pg. 221) Can be used to suppress a charming effect. If an NPC has been offended, this spell allows the PCs to make one more argument to the NPC. Unless this argument brings the NPC's total score to 0, the NPC is hostile again when the spell ends.
  • Charm Person (1st level, PHB pg. 221) Note the NPC's score when this spell is cast. The PCs have advantage on all Charisma checks they use to make their arguments for the next hour (likely, the rest of the encounter). When the spell ends, the NPC's score reverts to its value before the spell was cast. If the NPC remembers providing assistance against its wishes, it becomes hostile.
  • Confusion (4th level, PHB pg. 224) This spell ends the social encounter. The NPC becomes hostile and might be a combat threat if it isn't restrained.
  • Detect Thoughts (2nd level, PHB pg. 231) While casting this spell, the PC knows the exact wording of whichever Incentive/Objection they are making their next argument against. If the NPC is forced to make a Wisdom saving throw, they gain the Objection "I don't trust those who would read my mind" (-X), where X is how much they don't want their mind read on a scale from 1 to 5. This could easily end the encounter. However, if they failed the saving throw, the PC gets to know all of the NPC's traits explicitly.
  • Dominate Person (5th level, PHB pg. 235) If the NPC fails their saving throw, the encounter ends in success automatically. If the NPC succeeds, they gain the Objection "I don't trust those who would use magic to control me" (-X), where X is how much they oppose being dominated on a scale from 1 to 5.
  • Dream (5th level, PHB pg. 236) This allows the PC to make a single argument to the NPC while they sleep, before the social encounter even begins. The check is Persuasion, or Intimidation if the dream is monstrous. If the PC doesn't address an Incentive/Objection in their message, the spell has no effect on the social encounter when it happens. Otherwise, a successful check means that Incentive/Objection is increased by 1 when the social encounter actually happens.
  • Fear (3rd level, PHB pg. 239) The PCs have advantage on Intimidation checks against the NPC for their next argument.
  • Feeblemind (8th level, PHB pg. 239) This spell ends the social encounter. If the NPC was hostile towards the PCs, it will likely attack them.
  • Friends (cantrip, PHB pg. 244) Note the NPC's score when this spell is cast. The PCs have advantage on all Charisma checks they use to make their next argument. When the spell ends, the NPC's score reverts to its value before the spell was cast. If the NPC remembers providing assistance against its wishes, it becomes hostile.
  • Geas (5th level, PHB pg. 244) Due to the casting time of this spell, it's unlikely the PCs will be able to use it unless the NPC is restrained. If used, the social encounter ends if the NPC's current HP is less than 50, as the NPC recognizes the spell would likely kill it, and the PCs succeed. If the NPC currently has more than 50 HP, it gains the Incentive "I don't like it when my head hurts" (2).
  • Glibness (8th level, PHB pg. 245) If used on an NPC, the DC for persuading them increases by 5 (one difficulty class), and they become immune to Zone of Truth.
  • Legend Lore (5th level, PHB pg. 254) If the NPC is very important or legendary, a PC can use this spell to learn all of their Incentives/Objections before the social encounter begins. Note that this doesn't grant them insight into the rest of the NPC's traits.
  • Mind Blank (8th level, PHB pg. 259) If used on an NPC, any spells that would charm them or read their thoughts fail.
  • Modify Memory (5th level, PHB pg. 261) This spell allows a PC to undo the outcome of the entire social encounter and begin again. Note that if the NPC is not alone, all other NPCs will notice this change and likely inform the NPC of what happened.
  • Scrying (5th level, PHB pg. 272) Through careful observation, a PC can learn all of an NPC's Incentives and Objections before the social encounter begins. Note that this doesn't grant them insight into the rest of the NPC's traits.
  • Suggestion (2nd level, PHB pg. 279) If worded well, the suggestion can automatically end the social encounter. However, if the NPC passes their saving throw, they become hostile and the social encounter ends. Additionally, if they fail their saving throw and perform the suggestion, they are hostile once the spell ends.
  • Synaptic Static (5th level, XGE pg. 167) If the NPC survives the psychic explosion, the next argument made against them has its DC lowered by 5 (one difficulty class) while they recover. Unless this argument brings the NPC's total score to 0, the NPC is hostile afterwards.
  • Zone of Truth (2nd level, PHB pg. 289) The NPC gains the Objection "I don't trust those who don't trust me" (-X), where X is how much the NPC objects to truth-enforcing magic on a scale of 1 to 5. For the next 10 arguments, the PCs know when an NPC is using a Deflection instead of a legitimate Incentive/Objection. Also, they know when the NPC is lying.

Well, that's about it. I'm eventually going to run a game that's ALL social encounters, maybe with the possibility of combat encounters on failure. Could make for a very cool political game.

Thanks for reading!