Saturday, April 6, 2019

The attitudes of NPCs towards the supernatural in a fantasy RPG

Hey folks, it's been a while. The Magician's House (new link) is nearly ready for publication on DriveThruRPG! I just received the third party license approval for Goodman Games, but I'm also putting out editions for Lamentations of the Flame Princess and 5e.  
Is this a baby disposal door or a baby retrieval door?
On top of all that, I'm putting out an edition for my own homebrew RPG called Lark. I'll release that game for free; it's a lightweight alternative to d20 with an old-school sensibility.
Anyway, while that's coming together, I had some random thoughts about GMing. There are so many situations in games like DCC and Lamentations, to name two, where PCs are liable to stroll into town with marks of the uncanny, like tentacles growing out of their flesh, miniature stormclouds that constantly follow them, tears of blood...that sort of thing.
Well, how do NPCs react to all that? The GM is mostly left to wing it, which is ostensibly fine, but it's one more thing to remember to account for every time players step into a new village. Hence, the article below. Note that this is system-neutral; it's suitable for pretty much any high-to-mid-magic FRPG.


In many games, settings and adventures, there’s the abstract notion that NPCs will react well or poorly to certain signs of the supernatural. For the purposes of this article, we propose two tables: one to determine a commoner’s attitude towards sorcery, and another to determine their relationship with the official religion of their culture.

These tables can be rolled for individuals, groups or entire settlements - whenever the GM wants to see how NPCs will react to PCs with tentacles sprouting from their shoulders or the halo of an anointed saint.

The GM should feel free to modify these tables by adjusting ranges and removing results. Certain reactions may not be appropriate to certain settings, or more common than these tables would indicate. Some settings may call for unique reactions, so the GM may want to add custom entries, as well.

Attitude towards sorcery

This includes anything uncanny and supernatural which isn’t immediately threatening but not necessarily wholesome, either. Roll 1d20 (or 4d6-4)on the following table to determine one or several NPCs’ baseline attitude towards wizards and their ways. Modify according to the setting and culture; positive modifiers for more positive attitudes towards magic, and negative for the converse.

  • 1 or less: Witch hunt! Will never cooperate with sorcerers, and see it as their mission to kill them if possible.
  • 2-3: Open contempt. Very unfriendly, and only cooperate if required to. Shopkeepers will refuse to serve those touched by darkness.
  • 4-7: Fear and dislike. Will cooperate out of fear, but don’t let your guard down! Lots of muttering behind your back.
  • 8-12: Immediate suspicion. Authorities are notified and everyone has their eyes on those touched by the Other. They may be required to account for themselves, but mages will be unmolested as long as they are upstanding.
  • 13-15: Fear and respect. Wizards and other magical beings are seen as unpredictable and powerful, but not innately evil.
  • 16-17: Indifference. This can only happen in a society where magic is either (a) common, (b) weak or (c) kept well in check.
  • 18: Open curiosity. Non-destructive displays of magic will generally receive positive attention.
  • 19: Help needed! The NPCs are actually in need of magical services, and will appeal to those who appear capable.
  • 20 or more: Honored and respected. Magicians must have played a positive role in the lives of these NPCs.

Relationship with religion

This refers to an NPC’s attitude towards their religion, and can be used to derive their attitudes towards both that of others. Roll 1d20 (or 4d6-4) to determine NPC attitudes; positive modifiers can apply for highly civilized areas, while negative modifiers should apply to the hinterlands.

  • 1 or less: Heretic! Believer, probably in secret, of a doctrine unacceptable to mainstream society. Possible demon worshipper or communist.
  • 2: Splinter sect. Member of a slightly blasphemous variant of the mainstream religion.
  • 3-4: Hardcore zealot. Utterly devoted to the mainstream religion, utterly opposed to its foes, and deeply suspicious of everyone else.
  • 5-7: Resolutely orthodox. Follows the doctrine as well as it is understood. Religion is the center of life.
  • 8-13: Traditional and conservative. Takes religion seriously as part of one’s valued culture and heritage. Religion is the glue that holds it all together.
  • 14-16: Liberal and tolerant. Believer in mainstream religion, but respectful of other religions and ideas that are not inimical.
  • 17-18: Deeply cynical. Believes in supernatural beings, but not that they care anything for humanity. Distrusts anyone who seems very religious.
  • 19: Agnostic and open-minded. Believes that the truth transcends common religion doctrine, and can be found scattered among many faiths and philosophies.
  • 20 or more: Intellectual skeptic. Believes that much of what is written in holy books are highly misleading at best, or outright lies.

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