Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Building a Gang in Grimfest

As I mentioned a while ago, my campaign's background changed pretty radically recently from being a sort of gothic fantasy to a grim, fantasy noir involving various factions battling each other across a devastated city.  At last Friday's session, the group told me that wanted to go from being hired swords of the various factions to creating their own faction with the goal of ultimately controlling the city.

Possible gang illustration
This is a big change from the original concept, a sort of "murderhobo" set-up where they were just running around exploring ruins. This is realm-building, and there is not a pre-existing set of rules in the Dungeon Master's Guide for this.  That means that for the first time in a long time, I need to go from encounter building to actually making rules.

First, though, we need an endgame.  At what point does the group effectively become the dominant gang in the city?  I'm presuming that means a certain point of manpower, a number of gang members under their control.  But how many?  And how does the gaming group get them?

From there, I think there should be some kind of both recruiting and maintenance cost for each person: a certain amount to hire and equip, and a certain amount to retain.  The hiring cost should be a little higher, and make attrition an issue (it's cheaper to keep hirelings than replace them).

Then, there should be some rules for what the gang accomplishes each time period (week, month, whatever).  The gang is theoretically doing gang stuff: providing protection to the territory, making forays into other gangs' territory, generating income, etc.  In that there is the potential for losses, both financial and membership attrition from injury, death, and desertion.  There should also be the chance for recruiting new members.

Compounding those rules should be ways in which the gang's management, the PC's, can positively or negatively affect the outcome.  Wizards should be able to provide magical support, clerics heal wounded members, fighters train people, and rogues set up deals, etc.  This should both be an opportunity for for providing assistance, but also have risks as well.  Maybe the wizard's magical help backfires, or the rogue's information is actually a trap planted by another gang.

So I'm thinking I've got some actual rules creation to start crunching on.  But one question: am I reinventing the wheel?  Are there rules in Adventurer Conqueror King or something similar already?


  1. Necromunda!

    ...or, if you want some closer-to-home rules, Ultimate Campaign for Pathfinder has kingdom building, city building, and mass combat rules. The PDF from Paizo is $9.99 so it's not too pricey to take a look if you're interested.

  2. Gene Roddenberry was once asked how fast a Warp Speed was, and I always thought his answer was illuminating. He said, "It goes at the speed of plot." meaning that the Enterprise arrived like a wizard, exactly when it needed to, neither late nor early. Increasing or decreasing warp speed was a way of raising or lowering tension according to the needs of the story. Hmmm.

    In like manner, the summer after college I lived in penner and kate's apartment in Harlem on 104th street. There was a gang war going on, over on 106th street just two blocks north. Our street was completely peaceful because it wasn't disputed territory; but just a bit north of us apartments were getting robbed and people were getting mugged. A few months later, the conflict shifted one block south, and then an apartment on their street (I'd moved out by then) had been robbed. Hmmm.

    My friend Philemon was in Egypt, in Cairo, in a Coptic neighborhood during the Arab Spring. He said that a 'gang' arose on his street, which was really just the husbands and sons running a neighborhood block watch; if you wanted to come into their street, you had to live there or you had to be a known friend or ally of someone who lived there. They maintained roadblocks at either end of the street, and gradually expanded their protection and coordination with the Coptic families on the neighboring streets. Hmm.

    Why don't you simply start out by laying a transparency sheet over your map, and start marking streets with whiteboard marker — C for 'chaos', N for 'neighborhood watch', G for 'criminal gang', P for 'city police or watch', M for 'military' meaning state-level forces. Put an X on streets that are subject to petty crime (pickpockets, 3-card monte and so on), and a L on streets on lockdown (you can't drive down them without invitation), and a $ sign on streets that are collecting and paying protection money to another organization. F can mark important families, with FM noting the "Montague Family" and FC noting the "Capulets" and so on. Some districts can be green lined — mercantile quarters defended by the ruling merchant caste. While others can be red-lined — total no-go areas ruled by dog-eat-dog logic.

    I imagine that what will happen is that you'll find an emerging story — these five or six noble families are maintaining control around their own estates. These minority groups have established neighborhood watches. These parts of town are still under the control of the official government in one form or another — under the overall control of the captain of the watch, and her lieutenants... You then have a list of factions that you can build into a set of competition-cooperation-allliance systems. And it means that people can interact with one another behind the PCs backs.

    Oh... the other thing you'll need is a calendar. If the Players are putting into operation a plan that takes several days, you had better believe that the noble families and the merchants are also calling on police and military resources to put their own plans into effect. And so the city is going to go through a series of dynamic changes each time the players meet. Some of those are going to be public, so you'll open your game session with a "here's the new situation at dawn on the 18th of August." Some they'll discover in the course of play. "Looks like the 12th precinct and the Capulets are working together now... maybe you can use your contacts at Police HQ to put the kibosh on that."