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    Canonfire :: View topic - City of Greyhawk Plot Hook
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    City of Greyhawk Plot Hook
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    Master Greytalker

    Joined: Jun 29, 2001
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    Tue Dec 12, 2023 8:01 am  
    City of Greyhawk Plot Hook

    On the Sages of Greyhawk Facebook group, someone asked for a one shot in the City of Greyhawk for 4-5 PCs around 11th level for 3.5 rules. As it goes, this should work for characters of any level in any edition, though it will have a bit more impact for higher level PCs.

    As the PCs stand in line to enter the city, a slickly dressed individual approaches them and offers to sell them Law Insurance. What is "Law Insurance"? A policy to protect them from legal entanglements within the city. The price is egregious - 10-15 gp/level for each PC. It is well worth the price.

    Should the PCs decline, they will be subjected to EVERY law of the city, starting with having all two-handed weapons, particularly bows and pole arms, impounded at the gate. They will receive receipts, very fancy ones that should look horrifically suspect but are completely legitimate. Should the PCs object, their one-handed weapons will be impounded as well, and their spellcasters will be required to demonstrate they do not have any area damaging, charm, or compulsion spells memorized, and required to discharge them outside the gates before being allowed to enter. Likewise, any "wild" animal companions will be denied entry, particularly those of size large or bigger, and a special license will be required for ordinary ones and familiars. Further objection will result in impounding of "suspicious" magic items, particularly those capable of area damage effects, as well as extra-dimensional storage, and combat enhancers. This will be enforced by spellcasters waiting to cast detect magic.

    Once inside the city it just gets worse. The "constables" who enforce Zagyg's crazy laws (from the City of Greyhawk Boxed Set) will swarm the PCs, fining them every other block at the least. The PCs will be required to use only coins of the Free City, being directed to moneychangers who will charge a 10% conversion fee. And do not forget the Free Swords' Tax. If the PCs did not pay it, they will not be able to sell loot in the city. If they do not go back to a city gate to pay it, they will be reported to the authorities who will happily charge a fine of 10% of the value of what the PCs wanted to sell.

    The harassment will be the focus of the adventure. The PCs can leave whenever they like, but they will be copper and silvered every step of the way until they escape the den of iniquity that is Greyhawk. The only thing that will not happen to them, no matter how vulnerable they appear with their items impounded and spell slots expended, is they will not be attacked or robbed. The Thieves' Guild, who of course is behind the insurance shakedown, will take the PCs out legally.
    Journeyman Greytalker

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    Tue Dec 12, 2023 6:54 pm  

    This works best if they've annoyed someone with influence in Greyhawk. Despite the plethora of ridiculous laws (for example, 'fondling' - i.e. carrying - a waterfowl on the Processional) the City is not known for harassing adventurers come to visit. If EVERY adventurer who came to the City was treated this way, pretty soon NO adventures would ever come, and then where would they be?
    Adept Greytalker

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    Tue Dec 12, 2023 7:50 pm  

    I have a lot of questions about this idea, besides what Vulcan originally posted:

    How exactly did the Thieves' Guild even pull this off, especially by getting the Watch to confiscate their weapons, and spellcasters from the Wizards' Guild? You'd think the rest of the Directing Oligarchy would have something to say about setting up a legal shakedown operation.

    How does the Guild identify adventurers, much less how much to charge them? A character's power level and wealth aren't always immediately apparent.

    How on Oerth does the Guild know what kinds of spells the party casters have memorized? All they have to do is lie convincingly unless the Guild somehow has enough spellcasters ready to cast ESP spells to determine that they're lying...and are there even enough spellcasters willing to take the time to memorize multiple ESP spells every day?

    And how does the Guild know who *not* to shake down? If they pull this stunt on the wrong noble, especially a foreign one, or on the wrong merchant, that victim will complain to their noble family, embassy or the Merchants' Guild. Soon Nerof Gasgal is going to have angry noblemen, ambassadors or even some of his fellow Oligarchs yelling at him and his prestige on the Oligarchy will be damaged. Someone's going to have to pay for all the grief he's going through...and it won't be him!

    Finally, as Vulcan alluded to this risks damaging the Free City's business reputation. Adventurers bring a lot of wealth into Greyhawk, and if that wealth dries up, other factions will be all too happy to take their pound of flesh out of the Thieves' Guild's hide.

    All that aside, I agree with Vulcan that this is a great idea if the party pisses off someone like Sir Anton Palmirian, Nerof Gasgal or Glodreddi Bakkanin. Glodreddi might be willing to let up on bleeding the players dry if they pay him what he thinks they owe, plus a good sum of interest on top. Sir Anton would likely do this as a means of driving the party out of Greyhawk if they're getting too close to some of his illegal dealings. I see him as being willing to take drastic actions like assassinations, but he prefers to use more subtle methods first.
    Master Greytalker

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    Tue Dec 12, 2023 9:45 pm  

    CruelSummerLord wrote:
    How exactly did the Thieves' Guild even pull this off, especially by getting the Watch to confiscate their weapons, and spellcasters from the Wizards' Guild? You'd think the rest of the Directing Oligarchy would have something to say about setting up a legal shakedown operation.


    Check the City of Greyhawk Boxed Set for the laws of the City. The baseline is that it is against the law to carry two-handed weapons around the city, which includes bows and crossbows. There is nothing to do to get the Watch to restrict carrying those. For extending that to one-handed weapons, all it takes is bribing one Watch Commander to be a bit excessive. As for the spellcasters, they are part of patrols and will be on call to check suspicious people entering the city.

    Quote:
    How does the Guild identify adventurers, much less how much to charge them? A character's power level and wealth aren't always immediately apparent.


    How does the guild identify anyone to target with crime? How do they know whose pocket to pick or whose house to burgle? They watch the party approaching and make a reasonable guess based on professional experience.

    Quote:
    How on Oerth does the Guild know what kinds of spells the party casters have memorized? All they have to do is lie convincingly unless the Guild somehow has enough spellcasters ready to cast ESP spells to determine that they're lying...and are there even enough spellcasters willing to take the time to memorize multiple ESP spells every day?


    The Watch are the ones who question and detain people trying to enter the city, not the Guild/ They do not know, but they can ask, and characters, especially those unfamiliar with the laws of the city or who think they are above the law, are likely to give themselves away. As for lying convincingly, that is what thieves do, not clerics and wizards. Trained guards are likely to see past such deceptions. And if not, they can always lie, convincingly or otherwise, and require the PCs "prove" their spells are legal and harmless by expending them.

    Quote:
    And how does the Guild know who *not* to shake down? If they pull this stunt on the wrong noble, especially a foreign one, or on the wrong merchant, that victim will complain to their noble family, embassy or the Merchants' Guild. Soon Nerof Gasgal is going to have angry noblemen, ambassadors or even some of his fellow Oligarchs yelling at him and his prestige on the Oligarchy will be damaged. Someone's going to have to pay for all the grief he's going through...and it won't be him!


    Why would they pull this stunt on a noble, especially a foreign one? As for a merchant, if said merchant is paid up with the guild he will almost certainly have some sign he can give to let the insurance man know to back off. If not, he can complain and get a refund. Either way, those are not going to be the targets. Random sellswords are the target. Adventurer types, not merchants, who get a different shakedown, or nobles, who already get left alone unless specific orders are given.

    Quote:
    Finally, as Vulcan alluded to this risks damaging the Free City's business reputation. Adventurers bring a lot of wealth into Greyhawk, and if that wealth dries up, other factions will be all too happy to take their pound of flesh out of the Thieves' Guild's hide.


    That ignores that there is a Thieves' Guild that already picks pockets, runs scams, and otherwise rips people off, as well as those "People's Constables" running their shakedown, openly sanctioned by the city authorities. Things like this already happen in the city and contribute to its reputation. All the hook does it highlight a particular aspect to provide role-play fodder for a session.

    It should be obvious that the Guild cannot target every adventuring party that comes to the city. They do not have the resources to man the gates, bribe every watch unit, focus People's Constables on everyone, and so on. For that matter, like most scams, they expect it to work either by getting saps who do not realize the laws are not [i[that[/i] bad despite the rumors they have heard, or experienced adventurers who not only know the laws are that bad, but also recognize a Guild shakedown when they hear it and know that paying protection is better than dealing with placing a bull's eye on their back.

    It is an adventure hook, not a default new gate tax.

    Quote:
    All that aside, I agree with Vulcan that this is a great idea if the party pisses off someone like Sir Anton Palmirian, Nerof Gasgal or Glodreddi Bakkanin. Glodreddi might be willing to let up on bleeding the players dry if they pay him what he thinks they owe, plus a good sum of interest on top. Sir Anton would likely do this as a means of driving the party out of Greyhawk if they're getting too close to some of his illegal dealings. I see him as being willing to take drastic actions like assassinations, but he prefers to use more subtle methods first.


    While those could serve as extensions of the basic idea, they are way beyond the scope of a simple one-shot adventure outline.

    10-15 gp/level is 1/10th-1/8th of the normal monthly upkeep in AD&D (100 gp/level by the DMG), and 1 to 1-1/2 times the cost of a Good lifestyle in 3E. Jabbing 10th level PCs for an extra 100-150 gp is not going to impoverish them, and neither will tripling that if they refuse to buy the insurance. Nor will making them spend a couple of days walking around without their equipment or spell slots while they buy stuff and get plot hooks do any lasting damage.

    This is not a grand plan of the Guild to steal everything from everyone entering the city, nor is it a major campaign arc. It is a set up to showcase the laws of the city and make it clear that even name level PCs are not immune to mundane problems.[/i]
    Journeyman Greytalker

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    Wed Dec 13, 2023 11:27 am  

    I would argue chasing a party of powerful adventurers out of Greyhawk, the single most detailed city (and arguably most important city) in the setting, is a terrible basis for a one-shot adventure. There should be an in-game REASON they're being singled out this way, and not just them being targeted at random.
    Apprentice Greytalker

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    Sun Dec 17, 2023 7:20 pm  

    Is this a one-shot in an existing campaign or a one-shot for something like a convention game?

    Either way, I wouldn't recommend it because in the former case it is basically picking on the players and does nothing but foster an adversarial relationship between the players and GM. If you roll that way, fine, but I don't and wouldn't want to play at a table like that. In the latter case, I still think it's unnecessarily adversarial and what do you do if the PCs pay the law insurance? The whole scenario collapses.

    Now, if you want to run it as an absurdist comedy and the players know that it's going to be that, then I think it could work. But that's something that needs to be determined up front.
    Master Greytalker

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    Fri Dec 22, 2023 7:47 pm  

    I think it works best if, as Vulcan says, there is someone behind it. I would add, also some overarching plot reason. The PCs should be able to look around, see that they are getting specially unfavorable attention, and wonder why. The 'adventure' is following that lead while being inconvenienced all the time by fees and taxes rather than monsters. If successful, they will eventually find either an old foe (which then confirms and supports the plot work you have already done) or a new one (which means the whole scenario is the introduction to a new arc). This can work really well in an existing campaign.

    As a one-shot, not so much. Some one-shots are 'fun' (let's try this interesting or daring concept but without consequences to our main characters) and this doesn't seem much fun. Other one-shots are just 'interesting' because they are different, and this could be that, but I would want player buy-in up front. If your group likes, 'One-shot - but it's about wilderness survival' and 'One-shot, but it's a murder mystery' and 'One-shot, you will all die but who can hold out the longest?' then they might like this, if they are told up front the vague premise: 'One-shot, but its about dealing with urban social interactions and economics'.
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    Grandmaster Greytalker

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    Tue Dec 26, 2023 11:21 am  
    Re: City of Greyhawk Plot Hook

    Samwise wrote:
    ...As the PCs stand in line to enter the city, a slickly dressed individual approaches them and offers to sell them Law Insurance. What is "Law Insurance"? A policy to protect them from legal entanglements within the city. The price is egregious - 10-15 gp/level for each PC. It is well worth the price...


    -How does the salesman know what level they are? One of the D&D 3.5 splat books (I forget which one, and I can't use my thumb drive to find out) allows the use of Sense Motive to calculate someone's level by observing them, but it's not exactly flawless. FWIW, what's MY level? IIRC, EGGygax pointed out that the character themselves wouldn't know what their level is.
    Master Greytalker

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    Tue Dec 26, 2023 1:06 pm  
    Re: City of Greyhawk Plot Hook

    jamesdglick wrote:
    How does the salesman know what level they are


    He does not. The DM does, and he uses that guideline to decide how much the NPC asks for.

    Or did EGG say that the DM does not know the levels of the characters?
    Grandmaster Greytalker

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    Wed Dec 27, 2023 10:17 am  
    Re: City of Greyhawk Plot Hook

    Samwise wrote:
    He does not. The DM does...


    -But a the NPC should limit himself to what the NPC would know, just as the PC should be limited by what the player would know. On one hand, the PC might get off easy, if the salesman under-estimates the PC's level. OTOH, he might get ripped, particularly if the PC has been putting on airs...
    Master Greytalker

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    Wed Dec 27, 2023 5:20 pm  

    The NPC is limiting himself to what he knows.
    As noted previously in regards to how the NPC picks a target, he is a professional grifter. His job is picking marks and deciding how much he can con them out of. That is what he does to earn money to eat. In this case, he looks for people he thinks can afford around 50-150 gp each, then approaches them with the offer. There are other thieves who will look for people to con for less, and others who will look for people to con for more.

    Tell me, if you use the training rules, how do the trainers know how much to charge for the training if nobody knows what level they are?
    How do assassins know how much to charge?
    What about monthly costs for mercenaries and henchmen?
    Some costs for NPC spell casting?
    Grandmaster Greytalker

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    Thu Dec 28, 2023 12:42 pm  

    Samwise wrote:
    ...Tell me, if you use the training rules, how do the trainers know how much to charge for the training if nobody knows what level they are?


    -IRL, we don't charge people based on their level, we charge based on who's doing the teaching and the skill being taught. If you're offering a college course, we don't charge an experienced, 3rd level, person three times more than an 18-year old freshman schmuck, but a graduate course costs more than an undergrad' course. A 40-hour advanced security driver's course costs a lot more than a 40-hour learner's course, but you don't charge an experienced person more than an inexperienced one (if anything, it would be the reverse Wink ). Martial arts, shooting, physical fitness trainers, same thing.

    Same thing in the Flaneass.

    Samwise wrote:
    ...How do assassins know how much to charge?


    -What the market will bear. Wink

    More interesting, is how does the client know how much to pay? It's a great way to get ripped off (just as in the real world). If you use the Greyhawk Assassin's Guild, they obviously have the assassin's career and training certs on file.

    Samwise wrote:
    ...How do assassins know how much to charge? What about monthly costs for mercenaries and henchmen?


    -"Level" is sometimes a convenient short hand for a list of things like training and experience. To some extent, these things can be documented and assessed. IMC, Fighter PCs usually get (at least) their discharge papers that will have some sort of info' on what they did. Same thing goes for NPCs. Where has he served? What was his rank? Decorations for valor? Of course, such things can be forged, and records rarely tell the full story... Evil Grin

    Same things goes for a lot of other fields. If you're hiring a carpenter, you may have know idea how many pluses he has in Craft (Carpenter), (as a matter of fact, HE doesn't know how many pluses he has) but he should have documentation that shows that he's been an apprentice for a while (at least +1, skilled), or a journeyman (usually at least +5 total), or a master (at least +10 total). How are these calculated? Because if you have +5, you can easily do things that a +1 can't, and a +10 easily does things that a +5 can't (e.g., while taking "10"), and can consistently do things that a +1 can't do at all (while taking "20"). The same thing goes for marksmanship and the like.

    Samwise wrote:
    ...Some costs for NPC spell casting?


    -I generally just go with the lowest value that could cast the spell, but it is open for negotiation if the caster claims greater competency. Maybe they're right, maybe not. Evil Grin
    Master Greytalker

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    Thu Dec 28, 2023 12:59 pm  

    Quote:
    -IRL, we don't charge people based on their level, we charge based on who's doing the teaching and the skill being taught. If you're offering a college course, we don't charge an experienced, 3rd level, person three times more than an 18-year old freshman schmuck, but a graduate course costs more than an undergrad' course. A 40-hour advanced security driver's course costs a lot more than a 40-hour learner's course, but you don't charge an experienced person more than an inexperienced one (if anything, it would be the reverse Wink ). Martial arts, shooting, physical fitness trainers, same thing.

    Same thing in the Flaneass.


    If a graduate course costs more than an undergraduate course, then schools are indeed charging the experienced person more than an inexperienced person.
    And while you may not be aware of that, the same holds true for many martial arts schools.
    Indeed, the same thing in the Flanaess.

    Quote:
    other stuff


    So you do use level, which you declare that no character can know, for determining several costs.
    I guess you need to correct the way you play the game.
    Grandmaster Greytalker

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    Fri Dec 29, 2023 10:59 am  

    Samwise wrote:
    ...If a graduate course costs more than an undergraduate course, then schools are indeed charging the experienced person more than an inexperienced person...


    1) That's not "level";

    2) FWIW, it's not even necessarily skill. It's based on previously awarded credentials, which may or may not correspond to class levels or actual skills, or INT.


    And while you may not be aware of that, the same holds true for many martial arts schools.
    Indeed, the same thing in the Flanaess.

    Quote:
    other stuff


    Samwise wrote:
    ...So you do use level, which you declare that no character can know, for determining several costs...


    ...INDIRECTLY, sometimes.

    Let's say you're looking for a candidate to serve as an archer. A Ftr1 (+1 BAB) with 14 DEX (+2) and Weapon Focus (+1) would have a total of +4. Meanwhile, a Ftr3 (+3 BAB) with 11 DEX (+0) and no associated feats is obviously a higher level character, but would only be +3 when he's evaluated. Things could go a little bit one way or the other when you start rolling d20s.
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