Friday, April 1, 2016

Death & Dysentery On the Minkai Trail

There were actually two new mechanical rulesets in the Jade Regent Player's Guide (or JRPG for short). Relationship rules were one of them, and those rules eventually made it into the Ultimate Campaign book along with alternate rules from other APs (such as the Kingdom-building rules from Kingmaker). The other set of rules is the ones for caravans. In Jade Regent the caravan is the backbone of your heroic journey of thousands of miles from Aemiko's home in Varisia to her family's ancestral home in Minkai, especially since she's towing an ancient family legacy McGuffin that that can't be teleported. The idea is thus a simple one where the players can influence and shape the caravan's ability by directing its growth and investing in its capabilities until it's the finest caravan on the continent.

Each caravan has four core statistics, which start at 1 and can be up to 10:

Offense: Your basic fighting power
Defense: Your sturdiness
Mobility: Your ability to maneuver around obstacles and dangers
Morale: The general spirits of your caravan crew as a whole

Which are then combined with your miscellaneous bonuses to create your derived statistics

Attack: What you roll when the caravan is fighting things, 1d20 + your Offense + other bonuses
AC: What people roll against when attacking you, 10 + Defense + other bonuses
Security: Rolled for dealing with hazards, 1d20 + Mobility + other bonuses
Resolve: What you roll when you've got people problems, 1d20 + Morale + other bonuses

Caravans are made up of a series of wagons with different functions that make up the core of the caravan. All wagons have several basic stats:

HP: The toughness of your caravan, derived from a sum of the HP of every wagon in the caravan. Lose all of them and you're stuck until you fix it
Travelers: How much space you have for yourselves, your NPC friends, your minions and any passengers you feel like picking up. Some wagons have more room for passengers than others, and most passengers can help make your caravan's abilities better
Cargo Capacity: Your space for supplies, loot and upgrades. Some wagons have more room for supplies than others
Consumption: How much food supplies you go through each day, feeding your crew and the horses that pull your caravan

Your caravan also has a level equal to that of the highest level PC in the party. Every time the caravan levels it gets a feat which you can spend to improve its capabilities ranging from traveling speed to capacity to consumption to abilities scores.

With further simple rules for things like repairs, trading and hirelings, the idea is that you'd take your wagon train on an epic journey of thousands of miles, braving hazards, fending off foes, making friends and maybe some money along the way. Oregon Trail but with elves.

Only one little problem... the caravan rules don't really do what they're supposed to do.

Your caravan starts with a single point in all four of the basic statistics (offense/defense/morale/mobility). You then have three random floating points to assign after that. The only way to boost your statistics after that is with the Enhanced Caravan feat, which boosts two stats by +1 each to a maximum of 10, but the feat can be taken as many times as you wish provided your caravan is level 2 or higher. This is a bit of a problem because 11 out of the 16 caravan feats require a 3 or higher in a particular statistic before you can use them.

You do get circumstance bonuses from having people working in your caravan. Guards provide a +1 bonus to your offense score, Guides and Scouts provide a +1 bonus to Security, and Entertainers provide a +1 to Resolve, stacking up to a +5 bonus from five workers. You also get a +1 morale bonus to Attack, Security and Resolve for each PC hanging around, to a maximum of +4. Similarly, you can buy a ballista to provide a +1 to attack, or buy up to two armored wagons for +3 to AC each, two prisoner wagons for +2 Security each, and 1 Royal Carriage for +4 Resolve. But then you start running into bottlenecks.

Each wagon can only hold up to a certain number of traveler spots (between 2 and 6) and a certain number of spaces for cargo supplies (between 1 and 10), but you only get up to five wagons in your caravan and one of them is supposed to be the Fortune Teller wagon (2 passengers, 4 cargo) unless you like taking a -2 penalty to Attack, Security and Resolve checks. If you want more wagons you need to take the Extra Wagons feat for 2 extra wagons per feat instance (up to three times for six extra wagons), and that requires you to sink at least two points into your Mobility stat to get to Mobility 3.

But all of this also costs money. Wagon costs range from 300 gp for the most basic supply wagons for cargo to 500 gp for a covered wagon for passengers to 2,500 for a Royal Carriage, 4,000 for a Prisoner Wagon and 5,000 apiece for an Armored Wagon. Every wagon in your train requires a driver in order to move, and that driver can't do any other job while driving. If you want to stock up on minions, you're going to have to pay them monthly wages, and guards, guides, scouts and entertainers command a premium rate at 100 gp for a scout and 50 gp for the others, compared to 10 gp for a driver or cook or someone to repair your wagon (though given that you need drivers to move the wagon and can only repair when you spend a day not moving, how much would it cost per month to get a driver who can fix wheels?).

Fortunately you don't have to pay a monthly wage to any PCs or significant NPCs such as Ameiko and the other bachelor(ette)s, making them ideal for the high-end jobs. Even better is that anyone capable of casting a spell can sub in for any of the high-end jobs even if they wouldn't normally qualify (because magic can do anything), and the only casters in the party will be PCs or significant NPCs. There aren't a whole lot of named NPCs to recruit though; aside from Kelda in the 1st module and Ulf in the 2nd, about the only other named NPC who is reasonably likely to join you is Spivey, a tiny fairy-like outsider who you encounter in the 1st module.

Spivey is probably the best of the caravan companions, because not only is she a spellcasting wild card but her size means she doesn't take up any additional space on the caravan and you don't need to track her food usage since she barely eats. She's basically a free ball of benefits.

Every horse pulling a wagon and every human riding on it boosts your caravan's consumption and means you'll go through 1 unit of provisions per point of consumption per day. 10 units of provisions costs 5 gp, so every point of consumption is 1/2 a gp per day. You can have people serve as cook to reduce consumption by 2 per chef down to the minimum of the number of wagons you have, but if you're hiring cook to save supplies you're also going to be spending 10 gp a month per cook to save 1 gp per day, except the cook also needs to eat so you're only saving 1/2 a gp per day and you're still capped at 5 cooks. Past that there's the efficient consumption feat which basically functions as a free cook per feat slot, but that's almost certainly an even higher opportunity cost than just hiring a cook, especially when expert travelers boosts the bonus you can get from jobs (including cooks) by 1 per feat (though it also requires a very high 5 Morale before you qualify for it). You can otherwise gain supplies by having your scouts hunt for 2 provisions per day, but they won't provide the Security bonus for scouting. Far easier is just to have your casters like Koya magically spit out food once they hit level 5 or so since it costs nothing but spell slots that you're not otherwise using while traveling from day to day. Fixing your wagon is a bit more complicated, since it requires you to use up one unit of repair materials to restore a Security check's worth of HP to your caravan, and repair materials go for 25 gp per unit. You can use the scavengers caravan feat to find a unit or more per week if your Security check is decent, which lets you stock up, but saving 25 gp per unit may not really be all that worthwhile in the long run.

Trading is done by buying trade goods for 10 gp apiece from a settlement and then dragging them somewhere else. Upon arrival at a different settlement, up to five traders can sell a unit of trade goods apiece, each rolling a Resolve check to determine how much you get from it. Since it's based on the check result, you want at least a +10 in Resolve in order to guarantee a profit, and thus one of the better options is to roll up with a royal carriage (+4 to Resolve) and have 5 people on the team switch over to entertainer (especially spellcasters) for +1 Resolve apiece. Even with nothing else invested in Morale aside from your starting number and your +4 to Resolve from team PC, you're still earning 15 to 34 gp per cargo unit, or maybe more with more investment. There are no modifiers for things like distance or exotic goods, so the best trade routes are the shortest local ones possible rather than any high-risk long-distance trading. Even if you invest in this and can reliably turn up 20 or more GP in pure profit per unit of goods, the five trader limit means that you're still only earning a 100 gp or so in profit per settlement, which means it's going to take a ridiculous amount of time before you can afford several thousand gp specialized wagons, making trading more of a novelty than a form of legitimate enterprise for a serious adventurer (which is par for the course, I guess).

The dangers of the road are much less of a novelty. Your caravan has an HP count that's determined simply by a sum of the HP totals of every wagon in the caravan, from your basic wagon having 20 HP up to an armored wagon having 60 HP (and a horse train having 10 HP). Your caravan might lose HP from events and hazards, but most of the time damage comes from combat. Caravan combat represents the people aboard your caravan getting into a fight with a blob of some other enemies (bandits, goblins, wolves, zombies, etc) or an enemy big enough to threaten a caravan on its own such as a giant or dragon. The two sides make attack rolls against AC and do damage on a hit, with your caravan dealing 1d6+your level in damage on a successful hit, though you can boost that damage by 1d6 per instance of the increased damage feat (three max for a total of 4d6 + level). There's still not all that much for the actual PCs to do during a caravan fight aside from watch one player roll for the caravan and maybe cast a spell to add +1 to attack, but that's a different problem.

So, what's the opposition like? Well, funny story that. See, while the rules for caravans use their own subsystem, the rules for the caravan encounters determine the the encounter's Attack, AC, HP and damage based on the average stats for a monster of that CR. But while a monster of a given CR is assumed to be a standard challenge for a party of four equal-level PCs, a caravan barely qualifies as one PC, and a PC with almost no class features and a troubling gear dependency at that. Thanks to HP being a function of the number of wagons you bolt together you can kind of muddle your way through the first module's encounters by virtue of having a large blob of HP to tank your way through enemy damage as you plink your way through their comparatively smaller amount of HP. But things don't really stay that way.

Book 3 is about the journey the characters take to Tian Xia by crossing over three thousand miles of ice and passing by the north pole. It's the time when the characters' survival skills are pushed to the limit, and is the big shining moment when the caravan rules run front and center alongside the PCs.

Feel the spirit of adventure as you challenge the unknown!

So, how does it stack up?

Our caravan is level 7 because we're level 7 at the start of this module, which means it does 1d6+7 damage.

As to the rest of our stats, that's a little harder to figure out.

Because we have no real plan we just put one of each of our three starting points into Offense, Defense and Mobility to bring them to 2 each, then splashed around on feats, taking Enhanced Caravan when we needed it. So let's say our Offense is 4 and the rest of our stats are 3. We haven't really bothered upgrading the caravan all that much, so it's just the starting three wagons of Fortune Teller, Covered and Supply, so no major stat changes. We've got our four PCs, the core four NPCs, plus Ulf because his hiring was plot-mandated and we also hired some dudes to drive the caravan and cook and stuff like that. Shalelu and Ulf are scouting, Koya is fortune telling, Ameiko and our rogue are entertainers, Sandru and our fighter are guarding, our cleric is healing the guards and our wizard is using spells to guide. We've got basic supplies, some trade goods, repair gear and we even remembered to buy some cold-weather gear because we're not totally ignorant.

So taking into account our +2 to +3 bonuses from jobs and the +4 team hero bonuses, we've got a caravan that looks like this:

Attack: +11; damage 1d6 +7; AC: 13; HP 70; Security +10; Resolve + 9

Here comes a run-of-the-mill random encounter from the start of the of the module, a bog standard pack of starving predators (wolves, bears, whatever):

AC: 20; hp 85; Attack +13; damage 6d8+3

Well... we do about 10.5 damage per hit, assuming we hit every single round it will take us about eight or nine rounds to defeat them. Our accuracy means we only hit 60% of the time, so we should be able to win in 14 rounds or so. Actually, since the animals will flee at 30 HP, we only need to fight for about 9 rounds. Unfortunately, they do 30 damage a hit on average and hit us on anything but a natural 1. We're wolf chow in 3 rounds.

Ok, backing up a bit. At the start of the module there's a broken-down armored wagon that we can repair and add to our caravan (assuming didn't miss the check to find it, had a spare wagon slot, didn't already have two armored wagons and had a spare driver/pair of animals to put on it). We do that, and we get a free +3 to AC and an extra 60 HP. Come on wolves, it's time for a rematch!

Well, with our extra AC they only hit us 90% of the time, and with the extra HP we're wolf chow in 5 rounds.


Ok, fuck you wolves, you mess with the bull, you're getting the horns!

We switch all of our ability points into Defense, then take Enhanced Caravan every chance we get to pump our Defense even higher, putting the rest of those stat points into Offense and then we're buying two armored wagons and so many guards and ballistas (also entertainers, guides, and scouts). We are now better, faster, stronger!

Attack: +19; damage 1d6+7; HP: 190; AC 26; Security +10; Resolve +10

We only miss on a natural 1, so we'll take these guys down in 5 rounds. With 10 Defense (the maximum) and 2 armored wagons at +3 AC apiece we have just about the highest defense possible!

The wolves still hit us on a 13 or higher, and in the course of 5 rounds take off almost a third of our HP. That's going to take five or six repair attempts to patch up and at 25 gp per unit of repair supplies it's not exactly nothing.

But hey, we can avoid this encounter by making a DC 22 Security check, so we only have about a 55% chance of having to fight these guys, 45% if we throw food at them. If we devoted ourselves to Security checks we could probably make this pretty easily by having a good Maneuverability score, getting +4 from our PCs, +5 from scouts and guides, and +4 from a pair of Prisoner wagons (+2 security each). Discretion is the better part of valor after all, no sense wasting our resources on dangerous fights!

Of course, you're rolling random encounters at a 10% rate every day you spend out there, and that rate climbs by 10% every day without an encounter until you finally get one and reset the meter. Some of those encounters are nice like finding wrecked caravans with supplies for you to scavenge, but others involve needing to maneuver your caravan away from chasms or fighting off wildlife before it eats your horses and forces you to abandon your wagon. Even if you take a day or two to repair damage from the previous encounters you're still going to be rolling for more random encounters including monsters attacking your encampment. The best way to avoid rolling too many random encounters is simply to haul ass across the pole as fast as humanly possible, but that involves spending feats (and more feats on getting the prerequisite ability scores), and/or money and wagon and cargo slots for horses and enhanced undercarriages. If you're diverting resources into trying to run into as few random encounters as possible you're probably going to be ill-equipped for the ones you do run into.

The predators are probably the easiest fight in the module and it's an avoidable random encounter; here's one of the harder ones, and it's a mandated plot fight:

Band of Yeti: AC 23; HP 115; Attack +17; damage 8d8+4

Additionally at the start of the fight the caravan needs to make a DC 24 Resolve check or be rendered paralyzed with fear for a round, unable to attack or move and taking a -4 penalty to AC. The yeti receive one wave of reinforcements each round for five rounds, adding 20 HP per round and prompting a DC 18 Resolve check against the fear effect. We can solve the reinforcement problem by having the PCs scout and destroy them before the caravan gets there, which is doable provided we're ok with the fact that these are neutral creatures, we're in their territory and the only reason they're attacking us to begin with is because their chieftain is being mind-controlled by the boss of the module (who is personally out to get us). So let's get killing!

At this point we're level 9, so we have two more feats for our caravan. We can boost our stats, but our defense is as high as it will go, so let's just boost our damage then with those two feats.

Attack: +19; damage 3d6+9; HP: 190; AC 26; Security +10; Resolve +10

Assuming we've already exterminated the population of their village to deny them reinforcements it'll take about 7 rounds to beat them and it will take them about 8 rounds to bust through our HP and AC. If we fail that first Resolve check (which we only have a 35% chance of making), then we lose a round of attacks and they will likely be able to dismantle us. We could swap out our 1st level feat for Circle the Wagons to boost our AC by 4 and lower the expected damage per round by another 8 points or so, but it will drag the fight out another round and won't help us if we get paralyzed with fear. If we failed or chose not to exterminate the local population then we will be treading water in the damage race for up to five rounds because they're replenishing HP as fast as we can dish it out, assuming we don't miss or blow any one of our five 65% shots at save-or-suck. We could swap out one of our non-armored wagons for the royal carriage and its +4 to Resolve checks, but that's 2,500 gp and means less room for supplies (such as the quite frankly unrealistic amount of ballistas that go into giving us that +19 attack). Fortunately, there are two plot-related morale boosts earlier in the module, so our resolve check can actually be boosted by another 3, which is enough to survive the secondary morale checks even if the added HP means we're going to lose the damage race.

This is one of the strongest offense and defense builds you can have at this point of the game incorporating an unfeasible amount of financial investment in staff and equipment and this is still a dicey fight that will likely dismantle most of our HP and leave us with some expensive repairs over the next few days assuming we have any spare parts in the remaining cargo space not occupied by food, cold weather supplies, trade goods or ballistas. And unlike with food supplies the rules aren't really clear about if you can repair the caravan using magic spells. If you didn't go all-in on being a barely-competent murder machine then things get significantly worse.

Didn't fully upgrade your AC to the maximum? You lose
Didn't heavily invest in attack upgrades? You lose
Didn't up your damage? You lose
Decided that your trade caravan should have more resources dedicated to trading? You lose
Didn't realize that your heroes are also going to be fighting a separate fight during this fight and thus their caravan jobs might be empty? You lose
Didn't take on a dozen or so extra hands and their ensuing several-hundred gp per month salary? You lose
Tried to build your caravan around avoiding and evading fights? You lose

But hey, only entitled WoW babies wander around thinking they're going to win every fight (especially the climatic ones at the end of the modules). You win some, you lose some, your caravan hits 0 HP... what's the worst that can happen?

JRPG posted:

All non-significant NPCs are slain if your caravan is destroyed, as are all horses used to draw the wagons (with the exception of special PC mounts or animal companions). All equipment purchased for the caravan is either destroyed or looted by the victors. If any surviving characters can serve as wainwrights, you might be able to repair your wagons enough to be serviceable, but you’ll still need to find additional animals to draw your caravan’s wagons—in such a disaster, it’s generally a better option to press on without your caravan or, more likely, retreat to the nearest settlement to buy new wagons and hire new help to try again.

You lose everything. Every copper you put into equipment, hirelings and supplies is now wasted, as is every cent you've wasted on wagons if you somehow can't conjure up draft animals in the middle of Arctic tundra (even taming the local wildlife will take two weeks of rolling for encounters). When it comes to your caravan your offense is a whisper, your AC is paper and your HP count is made of money, making every random encounter a risky proposition because even taking a non-fatal amount of damage can leave you burning through supplies and random encounter opportunities. Lose a single fight and you're exactly where you'd be had you simply ignored the caravan and used the money to buy horses for everyone.

The smoke symbolizes your investments turning to ash

Blatant Lies, JRPG posted:

If all of this sounds kind of scary, remember that your caravan will, on average, be tougher than most of the enemies it encounters. If you take care of your caravan, keep it in good repair, and know when to retreat or avoid combat, you should be able to avoid meeting such a devastating fate as total caravan destruction.

By pegging the opposition to the monster math Paizo created a system where the enemy numbers go up much faster than the players' ability to boost their own combat capabilities, even when absurdly optimized. Since combat and noncombat abilities draw from the same pool of stats, feats, equipment slots and money, investing in one means you're not investing in the other, so combat caravans are wrecked by random hazards and trade or maneuverability caravans get absolutely cratered in unavoidable fights (be they plot or random-encounter). It's a giant pile-up of design errors and bad decision, with the end result of a horrible malfunctioning mess that was complained about up and down the forums and the most commonly suggested fix being "don't use the caravan rules." It was supposed to be the system's crowning moment but it went over like a lead balloon and later modules kept the caravan encounters to a page or two in the back. Book 6 introduced the Masterwork Wagon (1,500 gp, 40 HP, 1 consumption, 6 cargo, 6 travelers, +1 AC, no limit) but they were still money sinks and by that point it was too little, too late.

With Jade Regent caravan system James Jacobs created a set of rules so bad that even Paizo couldn't repackage them later on. He stated that the caravan's weak points came from a lack of playtesting, and while that statement is technically true the problems with the caravan system are so huge that should have been noticed while they were being written. Simply taking a minute to notice that the numbers on the monsters go up without effort while the numbers on the players don't would have spotted the problem, as would have spending 10 minutes to create a sample mid-level caravan and comparing it to a monster to notice that one set of numbers was much bigger than the other.

Even if you devoted resources towards fixing yourself in a fight, the other half of the Oregon Trail Simulation meant that there were plenty of ways to fail in the wilderness.  While the caravan rules are different than the dysentery disease itself that players could face, there are a few disease-esque events that crop up in Book 3. One of them is a random encounter with a bunch of headless mummies and if the caravan gets hit it needs to take make a DC 18 Security check or be cursed and take a cumulative -1 penalty to AC, Security and Resolve checks, which means it becomes easier and easier for the mummies to dogpile you into a death spiral (and since these guys are about as tough as the yetis they don't need all that much help doing it). Removing the penalty requires a casting of remove disease and either remove curse or break enchantment per instance of the penalty (a -4 penalty will require 4 castings), so you'd better have one or more clerics on hand to help you or you're in for a short trip (though by this point at least you made it to the last third of the module somehow).

Another random encounter is the Creeping Rot encounter, which means your provisions have been contaminated with some sort of sickness (could it be dysentery? Only the DM knows). Each day it persists it destroys 1 box of provisions (food for 10 people), and you take a cumulative -1 penalty to AC, Attack and Resolve checks plus a 25% penalty to speed. So after four days of this you're immobilized. You need to make a DC 25 Security check to contain the spread for a day, but you can only stop entirely and remove the penalties it by succeeding on two consecutive successful checks. This is one of the highest Caravan DCs in the module, but you do get a bonus to the check for every healer on the caravan and every character able to purify food or remove diseases.

Needless to say, running out of food is very bad because you start taking 1d6 points of damage every 12 hours and can't heal until you have enough food to feed your entire caravan. Lack of food also fatigues your caravan, halving its movement speed and causing a -2 penalty to all checks, which means it takes twice as much time to get to some place with food and you're probably going to do a lot worse in any random encounter you come across. When combined with Creeping Rot it's possible that you can run out of food and not be able to move at all to find more, and thus will be forced to use casters, scouts and cooks just to try to stay food solvent. While you can run across cannibals in the module, there isn't a direct conversion rate between crew members and stores of food and stocking up on people meat from the cannibals means that you take a permanent -2 penalty to resolve because the rest of the caravan can't believe you just did that.

There are also rules for Fording Rivers, though sadly they aren't very exciting: You make a Security check to find a place to ford, then a security check to ford it (no rules for caulking the wagons and floating them across though). Each check takes one or more hours with a failure meaning you have to either increase the DC by 4 or turn back and start over, plus every hour you roll to see if someone shows up and tries to steal your shit and/or eat you. If you detour through the hill country (where the cannibals live) then you have to make four DC 22 checks at 1d4 hours apiece to ford that particular river at the end of the route, compared to only two DC 17 checks if you follow the traditional trade route (and thus are easier to spot/ambush, also there is somewhat less treasure in those encounters).

While I mentioned how painful combat can be, failing Security checks checks isn't a picnic either. There aren't very many fixed encounters that rely on Security aside from an avalanche if you travel through the hill country, where you need to make two DC 20 Security checks with a -4 penalty from terrain to avoid being taking damage, being buried and then having to spend 1d12 hours per wagon digging them out (assuming the check succeeds). Another one is the giant murder storm that the ghost of the module boss sends after you if the caravan attempts to deviate from the plot railroad, where you have to make 3 DC 25 Resolve and Security checks per day, with failure on the Resolve checks giving a cumulative -2 penalty to Security and Resolve checks until you get out of the murder storm and failure on the Security checks cutting your speed by a third for the day and dealing 5d6 damage. In other words, you're going to die quickly unless you do what the NPCs want you to do (shades of the Mines of Moria here). While you aren't guaranteed to face any particular random encounter, there still are enough hazards such as broken wheels or poisonous swamps that you're going to want to have a decent Security score.

You might be thinking "well, guess that means I'm going to have to go light on Resolve if I want to afford everything else" and you'd be right except for one other piece of mechanics I forgot to mention: Unrest. Basically, whenever you lose a wagon, a minion, or a day of travel, or get knocked down to 25% HP or lower you need to roll a Resolve check of DC 20+your current Unrest to avoid gaining another point of Unrest. If your Unrest exceeds your Morale score (not your Resolve, your basic Morale, which starts at 1 and can only go up to 10 if you heavily invest in it) then you take a -1 cumulative penalty to AC, Attack, Security and Resolve for each point of Unrest above your morale and you then need to make a Resolve check each day at DC 20 + your current Unrest. Failing this check means you only travel half as far, while failing by 5 or more means either you don't move at all or the caravan goes half your move speed in a completely random direction other than the one you wanted which is really bad when you're in the middle of hostile terrain. The only way to reduce Unrest is either through leveling, boosting Morale or through doing things the people like (such as adding wagons or improvements to your wagons, taking a day off or having a feast), but the latter option requires you to succeed at the same DC 20 + current Unrest Resolve check in order for it to actually have any effect.

So if your Morale wasn't particular good to start with because you were boosting other stats just to survive in combat, one or two bad events and failed Resolve checks mean you develop a penalty to all checks which leads to more bad events and failed Resolve checks and could snowball your way past your ability to keep order or make progress since spending time camped in the tundra trying to make them like you means you're just going to be burning through supplies. Sadly you can't commissar your way out of this, so about the only option that doesn't involve making rolls with increasing penalties is to give them 1 unit of trade goods for 1 point of Unrest reduction, or 1 unit of party treasure (about 500 gp) for 3 points of Unrest reduction, but each time you try to bribe them the cost goes up by another unit for the same reduction. You can't be clever and swipe it back because the treasure mysteriously vanishes from the caravan even if there's nowhere within hundreds of miles that they could have spent it. Unrest occurs even if the caravan is pretty much all PCs and named NPC friends by volume- you may be a party of eight dragon slayers but one wagon driver didn't like how you stalled out fighting slimes and now he's going to turn this caravan around.

The caravan rules have so many possible fail states and fail spirals that you can't really cover all the potential holes; only luck (or ditching it) will save you.

Game designers take note: the caravan rules aren't a pile of garbage because of failure to do playtesting, they're a pile of garbage because of failure to do basic math.

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