New Subsetting Feedback - League of Prospectors and Moneylenders

Hey Everybody,

I’ve been working on this sub-setting for a while. It’s intended to create an adventurer’s guild sort of concept from traditional fantasy games, but with a twist. It sort of turns adventuring into a pyramid scheme. So basically here’s how it works. You start as an apprentice with a team of other apprentices that are lead by a journeyman. When you complete an adventure (called prospecting in the culture), you give 20% of what you make on the job to the journeyman. He in turn passes his 20% to the Master, and so on up the ladder. The basic idea is the Master is finding jobs for the Journeyman and his apprentices.

The second part of it is that it is supposed to feel like a very rough and tumble crowd. It isn’t something that someone leaves their village to do because it’s glorious, but they end up doing it because they’ve got no other option. These are characters who on some level are very independent and have abandoned what society expects of them. Leaguesmen are drunkards, murderers, thieves, ne’er do wells, tomb robbers, assassins, and bounty hunters. They’re also heroes who always seem to be there at the right time to save the day. The entire thing is falls some where between adventurers and organized crime.

I’ve made it a sub-setting on its own, but I also think it could easily be added into the Outcast sub-setting. The only reason I went with its own sub-setting was because it felt sort of like a unique sub-culture. Any feedback you can provide about the mechanics and the idea in general would be appreciated.

I’ve also added a bit of fiction to sort of give a feel for them. Thanks for any feedback. Where I would like people to look is at the time for the various lifepaths and so forth. They time for them is rather short, but life in the League is short and dangerous.

League and Prospectors and Moneylenders
Where to start with the League? Everyone knows that if you want shit done, you turn to the League. If you want your job done right, you don’t fuck around with two-bit independents; you turn to the best. The League.

But you want to know what the League is. Well let’s start at the bottom, because that’s where you’ll start. The League is best described as a loose association of prospectors who provide mutual support to one another. It’s a brotherhood of people with common interests.

What does that really mean? Well that’s a bit complex. The League provides the best ventures, and pay above what you will find for independent prospecting. They’ve got the resources and connections to fence those artifacts you’ll “recover” from the ruins. The League expects something in return. Whatever you bring back from the venture, you tithe ten percent to your Journeyman, and the journeyman does the same to his Master. What’s left after that is your take. That tithe guarantees a master has the resources to track down potential ventures, and maybe even a sponsor or two.

Now you’re all apprentices and what you have to do is listen to your Journeyman. That means me. If you want to be in the League, and get the best work, then you do what I say. There’s a lot to learn if you are going to call yourself the League’s man, and you don’t have much time to learn it. You don’t have the advantages I had. So pay attention.

You are probably thinking, “Why to have to pay attention to this roĵ, because I can find jobs on my own.”

You could, but the League doesn’t tell you what to do, then take your hard earned coin. They make sure that you come out of this alive. A master wants live men, not dead men. They pay more for one thing, and it means they can get more journeymen, which brings more apprentices, which brings more gold. Your Master makes sure you have what you need to succeed and not get killed.

We Journeyman do what our Masters tell us, but don’t go thinking that we can’t find our own ventures. The masters encourage it in fact. They want their Journeyman to be resourceful and creative. Anything that brings in more gold is good for the League. Some guilds are always creating their own ventures, but regardless those Guildsmen always pay their tithe. It’s our duty.

This all means the League protects you, mainly by allowing you to protect yourself. Like the Bishop’s men, you can carry a weapon in St. Bishop’s. It means have authority, because you make your own authority. You are League’s Men.

That doesn’t mean that you have the run of the Diocese. Just because you have a blade on your hip, you are still loyal to the Bishop. All League’s men swear an oath to never oppose the Diocesan Council, it’s the only way we can operate openly. In theory, the Bishop can call upon us, but it has only happened twice in 150 years.

Now I’ve told you all about how our relationship and the woman who I apprenticed to, but I haven’t told you who the masters answer report too. See there are those League’s men who are looking at the big picture. They’re called Doyen. They’ve been in the business for decades. They’ve built a network of masters and guilds that are constantly working on multiple ventures at the same time. Those Doyen pay their tithe to the Old Man. The Old Man? I’ve never met him. I don’t even know his real name. All I know is that when the Old Man calls upon you, you answer. If the Old Man needs something done, the League could very well depend on it.

Now you may be wondering if the we are all united in Brotherhood, that means we always get along. Well, that just isn’t the case. This is business after all. If you don’t take advantage of business opportunities, then them’s the breaks. This means that masters and journeyman may have rivals. Usually, they are friendly rivalries, but sometimes these rivalries turn to violence. I mean you’ve all seen, “The Guild of Sorrow”. That’s pretty much how it can be. But, just like that play, in the end we come together to stand against those who would attack the League. That’s because no one fucks with the League. We stick up for our own.

Do what I say, and pay attention. Be smart and stay alive, and you might be a journeyman in charge of your own guild some day. The window on this venture is closing quickly, and we won’t get the salvage if we don’t act.

So, are you in? Are you canal diving independent, swimming in shit and muck? Or, are you League’s Men? Will you call me Brother?

Heh… I thought you would. The oath? We’ll get to that later. For now, let’s get to the job at hand.

We’re after some Pigsteel Chests. Old fucking things. Built like vaults. Near impossible to get into, or at least that’s what they say. But forget the traps and puzzles on those things. That’s the least of our worries. These things are located in Avalonian Slaver Camp on Lookout Island. We’ve got a map, as if that’s much help. It’s old, and half the scribbles on it are in Old Tongue. Hell, the chest’s are right in the middle of the Commandant’s Fortress. All we have to do get by magical alarms, Nythian Eunuchs, and a pack of trained Tellasian wargs. It’s going to as tough as taking a noblewoman’s maidenhead.

The only advantage we have is the slavers… well they don’t even know the chests are there. They will though, and soon. So we gotta move. We have three days at best before they find them.

Name Time Res Stat Leads
League Apprentice 3 yrs 5 +1 M/P Any but Noble and Noble Court
Skills: 7 pts: Survival, Drinking, Gambling, Loot-wise, Ruins-wise, Tavern-wise, Appropriate Weapons.
Traits: 2 pts: Stormcrow, Daring, Reckless, Alert, Unctuous, Skinflint, Missing Limb, Missing Eye, Maimed.
Requires: Any Slavery and Servitude, Arcane Devotee, Archer, Bandit, Bastard, City Wife, Coin Clipper, Conscript, Cloistered Nun, Crossbowman, Desperate Killer, Failed Acolyte, Foot Soldier, Hostage, Hunter, Itinerate Monk, Itinerate Performer, Itinerate Priest, Kid, Landsman, Lazy Stayabout, Marine, Neophyte Sorcerer, Outlaw, Religious Acolyte, Runner, Scout, Sailor, Strider, Temple Acolyte, Thug, Urchin, Vagrant, Village Wife, Village Priest, Weather Witch, and Young Lady.

League Journeymen 5 yrs 20 +1 M,P Any
Skills: 7 pts: Appraisal, Oath-wise, Foreign Languages, Haggling, Intimidation, Command, Tactics, Instruction
Traits: 2 pts: Oathbound, Cool-Headed, Brave, Brash, Fortitude, Hardhearted.
Requires: League Apprentice

League Master 8 yrs 25 +1 M Any but Noble
Skills: 8 pts: Inconspicuous, Rumor-wise, Observation, Falsehood, Persuasion, Read, Write, Extortion.
Traits: 2 pts: Glib, Aches and Pains, No-Nonsense, Charismatic, Arrogant.
Requires: League Journeyman

Doyen 10 yrs 40 +1 M Any
Skills: 6 pts: Accounting, Administration, Soothing Platitudes, Hidden Cache-wise, Rule of Law
Traits: 1 pts: Connected,
Requires: League Master

The Old Man 2-10 yrs 60 +1 M Any but Noble
Skills: 2 pts: General
Traits: 2 pts: The Old Man
Requires: Doyen and permission from the gamemaster.

League Apostate 2 yrs 3 - Outcast, City, Village, Peasant, Seafaring, Soldier
Skills: 4 pts: Inconspicuous, Authority-wise, Road-wise, Ugly Truth.
Traits: 1 pts: Oathbreaker, Desperate, Outlaw, Cold-Blooded.
Requires: League Journeyman

Retired 2 yrs 30 - City, Religious, Noble, Noble Court, Peasant, Village
Skills: 1 pts: Tall Tale-wise, 2 pts: general
Traits: 2 pts: Reluctant, Grizzled, Potbelly, Thousand Yard Stare, Night Terrors, Flashbacks, Maimed,
Requirements: League Journeymen, Must be fifth or later Lifepath and can only be taken once.

Oathbound Dt
Upon achieving Journeyman status, the apprentice is brought into the League and swears the Oath of the Brotherhood. The oath is considered a sacred bond, handed down from the masters. The oath states the rules and expectations of a how Leaguesmen interact and compete against one another. Leaguesmen are expected to defend the league, and one another. This also includes the customs such as hospitality, dueling rights, and other aspects of the oath. All Oathbound receive a 1D affiliation with the League and its members.

Oathbreaker Dt
All Leaguesmen are expected to follow the Oath. Those who betray the brotherhood are tried by a jury of their peers, and if found guilty, the punishment is exile or death by drowning. The apostate must have one Belief that revolves around why they betrayed the League. He also gains 1D infamous reputation as an untrustworthy oathbreaker among his peers.

Reluctant Dt
The life of a Leaguesmen is a hard and brutal one. Few Leaguesmen live to see the big score that allows them to retire. Those that do have seen many of their best friends brutally killed. The retired Leaguesman looks on their time rather bitterly, and he knows the life is dangerous and doesn’t want to be involved anymore. The character receives a forth Belief that focuses on how he doesn’t want to get involved in League business.

Skinflint Char 1 pt

Stormcrow Dt
Tragedy and heartache seem to follow Leaguesmen. After all, they wander the land stirring up trouble, it shouldn’t be a surprise that it follows them into picturesque, peasant villages. If it isn’t their drinking and whoring; it’s the bandits looking to pay them back. This unfortunate fact gives people pause when a Leaguesmen comes into town. They are rarely welcome and find many doors shut to them. That is until the town needs their unique skills, and the Leaguesman becomes the hero. This trait provides a 1D Reputation as a troublemaker and bringer of bad fortune. On the flipside, the character is also seen as exceptionally skilled and not to be trifled with.

I like this a lot. I once designed a steampunk campaign with a similar premise, and it went really well. You can really play up the rough-and-tumble atmosphere a lot, which breathes life into the campaign all on its own.

A couple questions:

  1. How will you handle the 20% guild fee? I mean, how will that break down in cash dice, resource tests, etc.? Or will it just be hand-waved (maybe not such a bad idea)?

  2. I can see this working well as a Burning THACO campaign. (ie. The GM gives a mission, and the players write Beliefs about the mission objectives, etc.) But assuming you mean to run a standard BW campaign, how will you go about ensuring the story revolves around Beliefs, if said Beliefs are not necessarily about the guild missions?

One idea is to have the campaign and all of the guild missions be based in and around a single city or other locale. Play it as a standard BW game, with the story revolving around the Beliefs. The guild missions would primarily happen in the background – the real story would be how the PCs Beliefs get challenged in their day-to-day lives. In this vein, the guild work would be more like working any job, really, not necessarily the spotlight of the whole show. Which is as it should be – the PCs should have the spotlight, not their jobs.

Almost sounds like a kind of Thug group. Have you looked at the wikipedia entry for Thuggee cults?

While initially little more than groups of bandits, they evolved into sophisticated criminal organisations that infiltrated and then destroyed caravans en-masse. They are often portrayed to have a religious and spiritual element in their late forms.

Your league sounds like perhaps the Thuggee went in a different direction, I mean, why attack caravans and disrupt trade, why not rob the vaults of the rich, the temples and the tombs of the old kings, not like they’d miss the stuff, they’d only use it to fund wars anyway, and war is the kind of mess that can get you conscripted and killed. Better just the do the honest thieving and bring the wealthy closer to the common man.

I figured I’d just go with the hand wave, but I could see a resources test with an Ob based on how much their resources advanced. I can’t recall, is there any way to translate cash on hand dice to permanent resources, or do they just help achieve obstacles and that in turn raises your resources?

Yeah… that’s part of it really. I wanted something that had a bit of an adventurer feel to it, but I wanted it to have a unique twist. Sort of a justification for why there are “adventurer’s guilds”. I also wanted them to feel a bit dangerous. Also, while the sub-setting does have story mechanisms in place for the Master to show up and offer jobs, the crew is also supposed to seek out it’s own jobs. They are sort of wandering problem-solvers, troublemakers, and tomb robbers. I thought about putting Rumor-wise earlier in the sub-setting (i.e. Journeyman level) to reflect that concept. Effectively, these guys show up in town when rumors of wealth and trouble surface.

Factoring the beliefs would be tough. I thought about having Oathbound require a belief, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go that route. I certainly made a point to do it with Reluctant. That trait was developed to reflect how people try to get out, but they always get sucked back into the life of a Leaguesman. So they are supposed to be the retired adventurers who have had kids and maybe opened a blacksmith shop or become the town mayor. That’s also why I am considering pulling the “fifth lifepath” requirement. Just make Journeyman and can only be taken once.

That’s sort of the idea. I originally came up with this organization for a friends D&D campaign set in a specific city that had tons of ruins from an old civilization. It was secretly post-apocalyptic Santa Barbara, but so far in the future that people thought tech was magic. In fact, the GM never told us that until after the campaign ended. The main idea is the guilds are constantly fighting to get one over on the other, and that’s why they have this weird complex code. Oath-wise allows the players to create rules for how guilds interact with one another. I designed it to create stories where it would all be about adventuring groups screwing each other over, and the adventures were literally just hand waved. Players would make a few large scope tests to determine how things turned out. So you could come back with a nasty wound because of failed test. What caused it? A troll, strange beast from the depths, etc.

Thank you for the feedback. Something I could really use is how the lifepaths are structured. I worry they have too much in them, the time frame isn’t long enough, or I’m not giving enough trait points. The mechanics don’t feel right to me, and I want to be sure I am getting it right.

I am not familiar with the Thuggee cults outside of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. I’ll do a bit of research on them.

That’s a bit of it. On one level they are sort of a mercenaries guild which makes the tough for any one king to deal with. Effectively, the nobles found that when they attacked these small bands of warriors, suddenly a whole bunch of them would come out of the woodwork and take down the nobles. They sort of became these people who fought for justice for the right price over time. As they started to band together for common defense, they developed codes and a culture. I sort of imagine some sort of major event in the organizations history where a king tried to take them down, and they responded in force and sort of showed what they were made of. This created the rules surrounding them in society too.

Part of the idea is they are rejects or the people who ran from their duties right before they were supposed to step forward. So that’s why you have things like Young Lady and Squire as requirements. I should probably put a restriction that it has to lead directly from. Though that might be a bit restrictive. Suggestions?

If it was me one thing I’d think I’d be interested in pursuing to do is to introduce internal intrigue [depending on beliefs] to the League, maybe certain Masters have long standing enmities, maybe a certain King was a Leagues-man in his youth, and remains untouchable because of this. Build the players loyalties and ties to the organisation, then start messing with their beliefs in a big way, tear down the thing they love and believe in and show it’s rotten core.

I wouldn’t make them powerful enough to threaten Kings, but if they were getting close, you might end up with a situation like the Knights Templar, where secular and religious authorities considered them too big a threat to allow to continue. Something like that would make a good campaign arc as well.

That’s also a bit of what I was thinking. The League always walks this fine line between valuable asset to dangerous unknown element. And, they aren’t always fighting for one another either. So basically, you might have guilds within the league against one another, afterall they are on jobs for the nobles. Also, they are very mercenary, so they don’t really care that some noble is oppressing the peasants. But, when the peasants appear with a bag full of gold, the League gets involved. But, that doesn’t mean another group might not come to the aid of the needy out of a sense of justice or territory. The masters and Doyen are supposed to be kind of spy-like.

The key thing to keep in mind is the League isn’t cohesive, except in the case of direct attack on the League.

Just to chime in and say that I think this has a great deal of potential. I also think it would work best in a steampunk setting as Dean suggested. Why? Because then you get an airship (on loan from the League, of course) and have a whole “the crew” thing going on. Then again, I’m a Firefly fan, so feel free to ignore me.

My only suggestion would be to maybe tack one lifepath before Apprentice, since that’s where a lot of the fun seems to be. Maybe “Recruit” or – haha – “Fresh Meat.”

I thought about that, but they are supposed to be structured after tradesman guilds. It’s sort of designed to be dropped into any setting with a trade guild structure in it.

I hadn’t considered steampunk, because I really hate steampunk for some reason. It really would work fine in it too. :slight_smile:

Anyone have any suggestions or feedback about the time for the lifepaths, skill points, skills, resources, and such? I’m concerned that it is too powerful of a setting, or that maybe it should be dropped into the outcast subsetting.

I think the public face of the guild should be it’s own setting, but the hidden face of the guild should be dark and loathsome.

Perhaps reduce it’s unity as a setting somewhat, it could break down to several sub-settings, and things might be spread around other settings, like Soldier for mercenaries, Outcast or Treasure-Seeker for tomb robbers types & Mystics, Death-Cult for assassins, &tc.

As for skills, there are a lot of skill points in there, but at best a Journeyman is going to be a 3rd lifepath [from born slave], and more likely a 4th, and even then the skill spread isn’t supposed to build an obscene specialists thief or warrior type, but a interesting spread of wises and skills to choose from, so it seems OK at first glance. Of course, you could stack up all those skill points with your second lifepath and build a lopsided monster.

Here’s an alternate take that may be of inspiration:

Have you read the Union Dues stories? There’s a lot of similarities here, in that the Union Dues supers are basically involved in a huge unpleasant pyramid scheme, are part of a terrible and cynical organization, and yet are still (ostensibly, and largely) heroes. Also, they are all really well-written.

You can thank me later.

I like the concept and the LPs. I like the practical nature of the skill selection.