Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Patron Roulette: Handling Wizards & Elves at 1st Level in the Game of Taps

I'm currently prepping for my first DCC game in a few days and as I was thinking things through earlier today I started thinking about PCs transitioning to 1st level from 0th (I absolutely love typing 0th). For most classes, this really shouldn't be difficult, but for both the elf and wizard, the question to me is "where does all this magic suddenly come from?" Unlike D&D, I don't have to worry about wizards suddenly having access to a spellbook or some other appropriately goofy appliance and that really, even after all of the flavor text from the pages of DCC, someone really could simply accrue 10 xp, decide to become a wizard and *bam* all that magic comes pouring in to make him special. However snarky that might have sounded, I actually think that that's a strength of the system. So, where does that magic come from? How does it get there? How do you know how to use it? It seems to me that the easiest answer is the supernatural patron. After all, elves get Patron Bond and Invoke Patron as their guaranteed 1st-level spells and I'd wager that many wizards would take those as well and, frankly, the patron mechanics are really one of the serious money-shots of DCC's magic system. This answer, of course, begs the question "how does your 0th-level commoner PC attract the attention of some high-and-mighty supernatural patron so he or she could become a 1st-level wizard PC?" Oh, and another question "which patron?" Here are some of the answers that I came up with:

  1. Player's Choice: Let the player choose which supernatural patron they want to be indebted to and meshes the best with their ideas of their character. This option would work best for a player who's familiar with DCC already (and maybe owns a copy) and has already started to plan. Or you could just flip to page 49 and let your future-wizard-player get the gist and make an impromptu choice, but pushing a premature decision has never really been my style, so I'd recommend against that.
  2. Let It Ride: Here's the skinny, choice of patron really only makes a difference when trying to cast the Invoke Patron spell to 1st-level wizards and elves. Other than that, at first level, patron taint or potential spellburn is really the only patron effect. The point here is to not make the "what's my supernatural patron" call until you actually need to. This strategy, I think, would work great for the player who wants to make the right call but needs to see just a little bit more about the game before making a decision. But what if the player refuses to make a decision and needs to be pushed off the patron cliff?
  3. Roll Your Own: There comes a time when hemming and hawing needs to stop and dice need to roll. If your player simply cannot make up his or her mind and you don't want to make the call for them, roll 1d12 and consult the following chart.
  1. The Unknowable Void, the dark heart of entropy toward which all of creation hastens
  2. Bugbogbubliz, demon lord of amphibians
  3. Azi Dahaka, demon prince of storms and waste
  4. The King of Elfland, fey ruler of the lands beyond twilight
  5. Sezrekan the Elder, the wickedest of sorcerers
  6. The Three Fates, who control the fate of all men and gods to see that the world reaches its destiny
  7. Yddgrrl, the World Root
  8. Obitu-Que, Lord of the Five, pit fiend and balor
  9. Ithha, prince of elemental wind
  10. The Metal Gods, once-mortal scions of violence and war (more info coming soon)
  11. Judge's choice (players beware!)
  12. Something else, impossible and likely unintelligible (read: gonzo; think: Raggi/LotFP)
As I said above, this guideline was written with my own campaign in mind (so, you'll see that I've added two patrons, the Unknowable Void and the Metal Gods; more on them later) and what I'm worried will be an inevitable "under the gun" moment. The Game of Taps crew has had the amazing experience of randomness giving us great results for things ("when in doubt, roll it out" is pretty much this group's motto) and so a random chart seemed a great idea. To be fair, I'm writing this (nearly immediately) before a session in which the guideline is to be used, so I'll see how it pans out; you'll probably get a playtest report in my next Game of Taps progress report.