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[Thugs & Thieves] Social Contract Rule Suggestion

Started by ethan_greer, October 22, 2003, 08:06:59 PM

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1. Have you played a game where the party of adventurers is approached by a stranger who offers them gold in exchange for a service of some sort?

2. If your answer to question 1 was "yes," have you ever had the party of adventurers not take the job, thereby screwing up all the GM's prep work?

I'm guessing that a lot of people will answer "yes" to question 1 and "no" to question 2.

Because, out in the Social Contract of play, every player knows that if the party doesn't take the job, then the GM is screwed and the game hits a wall, and no-one wants that.

The question then, is this: Should I simply codify this behavior in Thugs & Thieves, making it a rule that the party takes the job, period?  Sure, you can dicker all you want over pricing and provisions (not that there's much point in a system that doesn't quantify them), but in the end, everyone knows that the party is going to take the job, unless they want to completely derail the game.  So, I think to myself, let's put the cards on the table and just make it a rule.  Thoughts?

I'm also considering making it a rule that the party isn't allowed to attack or harm the person making the job offer to the party.  In fact, that's in the current document, as follows:

QuoteWhen it comes to NPCs that hire parties, there is only one rule: The party may not attack, rob, or otherwise harm the NPC while the offer is being made and considered. For one thing, doing so would pretty much guarantee that the party in question would never get any more job offers once word got around. For another, potential employers tend to be the types of people that don't fear thugs and thieves. If they did fear the characters, chances are they wouldn't be approaching them with work. And anyone who doesn't fear the party at least on some level is most likely a force with which to be reckoned.
But I'm kinda lukewarm on that bit.  What do you think?  Change it?  How?  Axe it?  Why?

Tony Irwin

It kind of smells like a house rule for AD&D Ethan. Like "Here's how our group fixed this problem with the game".

From my point of view, the core problem is how do you get a GM and group of players to work co-operatively towards enjoying the GM's material? If you only address instances of this problem (I expect that killing the important NPC is just one of many possible instances) then you'll end up with a game that is a resolution engine padded with pages of AD&D fixes. I've written several of those - I keep them in my "heartbreaker" file... :-(

So really my question is - if you're going for a sim game then it's about the whole group getting together to enjoy The Dream of Thugs & Thieves that the GM presents. How can you help the GM hook the players into The Dream, and how can you help the GM keep the players faithful to The Dream?

I would say that if they're killing the NPC then they haven't been hooked by The Dream (or are trying their best to wriggle off that hook). Rather than just making up a rule that says "You can't do that", I'd want to see rules that will make for a Dream with better hooks.


How complicated is T and T's (heh) prep.  Would it be asking too much for a GM to simply have 3 or 4 different jobs already prepped out so if the players turn 1 down they find another offer.  I remember playing the old Sega Shadowrun RPG and there were always a number of different Mr Johnsons to get a run from.

I think instead of forbidding it, you need a system to address the consequences.  These NPCs as you say are powerful folks.  Why not flesh them out into agents of different factions.  Taking jobs for 1 faction and turning down jobs from another then can have a clear cut repurcussion on the PC's reputation with each.

You can also drop the hook in a number of different ways.  The PCs turn down the offer for big bucks.  Fine, somewhat later a damsel in distress (or whoever) begs for their aid...guess what, they wind up doing the same job only now they aren't getting paid and the NPC agent is laughing all the way to the bank cuz good actresses cost less than a good crew.

There's alot of ways to skin this cat.  Unless you are specifically trying to parody ye ole Tavern Scene, I'd stay away from text like the above.


Hmm.  You guys are absolutely right.  Such rules aren't necessary.  Instead I'll plan on putting in a little section for the GM on how to handle situations when the job pitch goes sour.

Mike Holmes

To cast a dissenting vote, Donjon does exactly what Ethan suggests. It states that at some point the GM will throw some adventure at the PCs who are then obliged to go on it. Seems to work just fine as a convention to me.

OTOH, there may be something about the tone of Donjon that's different from this game that would make it problematic. I dunno.

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Ron Edwards


The problem is that two entirely separate issues are being confounded in this topic.

1. When "in the adventure" play begins. This is a spectrum that ranges from:

a) the group of characters is (or are) not in an adventure, at all, in any way. To get into an adventure, the play-group have to role-play from initial inklings all the way into commitment.

to b) the group of characters is totally enmeshed in the adventure well past the point of no return; play may even begin in the middle of a complex conflict like a fight or dealing with some dangerous terrain.

Both extremes are problematic. The former basically starts with "nothing's happening" and hence could well remain there. The later starts with "ahh! something's happening!" but includes no particular play-group commitment to it. Both extremes can be functional, given a group's enjoyment of the processes involved; neither is especially reliable when you don't know that particular group's enjoyment-standards.

2. Text and explanations of what to do. Clearly this needs to be aimed at everyone enjoying play. The problem, Ethan, is that you identify a potential problem and offer an absolute solution slammed up against one end of the spectrum. The problem with the alternative ("but everyone should be committed already") is that it's the opposite and equal suggestion: slam it up against the other end.

I suggest instead presenting that spectrum, and listing out a few techniques or suggestions for intermediate solutions. Also, point out that the extreme techniques are not especially reliable when speaking in general (across groups), but are very good for specific groups, and the individual GM is responsible for figuring out whether his group is one of those.