Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Devil is in the Details: Slaves of Shkeen

Mr. Maliszewski has thrown down the gauntlet:

John Laviolette, over at The Nine and Thirty Kingdoms, has even suggested that the old school renaissance would be wise to offer up more examples of tables and systems in this style in order to better demonstrate the old school approach to character generation and background. I think he's absolutely right about that and I'd like to suggest that, in the coming days, my fellow bloggers and forum-ites share their own "The Devil's in the Details" tables.

And he shares with us his table for the elves of Dwimmermount.

In the port city of Pitsh, there are two sources for henchmen and hirelings considered the most sure: the pubs and taverns of the freebooting treasure-hunters on the southern end of the town and the slave market at the Temple of Shkeen.

Justice at the hands of the priests of Aratshi is rather Aristotelian; gaols are only used to hold prisoners until the time of their trial, and sentences are nearly always in the form of fines and weregild. Those who cannot pay are handed over to the Shkeenites. By use of magic, mind-bending drugs, and disturbing sciences, the will of the convict is bent to the service of society. The slave is marked with a magical tattoo which records the slave’s remaining debt to be paid (which includes the costs of feeding and “training” the slave before sale). Slaves are supposed to be given opportunities to earn the coin they need to purchase their freedom, though how many actually manage this is a matter of much conjecture.

While slaves are nearly always more expensive to purchase than henchmen are to hire, their owners enjoy bonuses to the slave’s moral and loyalty.

Many slaves for sale in the temple market (roll 1d20 three times):

  1. Are trained in local etiquette.
  2. Are trained in the culinary arts.
  3. Are trained in the erotic arts.
  4. Are conditioned to never cause harm to a priest of Shkeen.
  5. Have a pathological fear of all clerics.
  6. Still have contacts in the local underworld.
  7. Still have friends in the local community.
  8. Suffer from recurring nightmares.
  9. Have friends or family who were also sentenced to enslavement.
  10. Can recognize certain poisons by taste.
  11. Prefer to wear as little as weather and local custom will permit.
  12. Prefer to go barefoot so their toes can grip the earth.
  13. Have a budding artistic talent.
  14. Are preoccupied by how much they might be currently worth on the market, to the point of vanity.
  15. Are deeply concerned with their appearance and health.
  16. Are fastidious about their owner’s appearance and health.
  17. Are hesitant to use speak their owner’s name aloud.
  18. Pray every night before going to sleep.
  19. Are adept at catching catnaps whenever possible.
  20. Are exceptionally graceful and poised.

Some slaves for sale in the temple market (roll 1d16 once):
  1. Are conditioned to never lie to a priest of Shkeen.
  2. Still have contacts in the local Thieves’ Guild.
  3. Are recovering gambling addicts.
  4. Are recovering alcoholics.
  5. Are addicted to a psychedelic substance.
  6. Are addicted to sex.
  7. Know where the loot is buried.
  8. Know where the bodies are buried.
  9. Suffer from amnesia.
  10. Are literate.
  11. Have family or friends eager to see them freed.
  12. Have victims still eager for revenge.
  13. Is a dwarf (1-2 on 1d6) or half-orc (3-6 on 1d6).
  14. Is an elf (1-4 on a 1d6) or goblin (5-6 on 1d6).
  15. Have holes in their memories.
  16. Was taken as a spoil of war and thus their owner is not obligated to allow them to purchase their freedom.

While most slaves are sold stark-naked, they may possess the following (1d16, 1d3 times):
  1. An unusual tattoo.
  2. A significant birthmark.
  3. Nothing.
  4. More nothing.
  5. Even more nothing, and do not roll again, even if the d3 roll indicates otherwise.
  6. A set of orichalcum acupuncture needles.
  7. A jar of peppermint-scented massage oil.
  8. A small pouch of rock salt from home.
  9. A collar and leash of braided leather.
  10. Manacles for wrists and ankles.
  11. A hollow tooth.
  12. A tiny wooden statuette of a loved one.
  13. A prophetic vision.
  14. 1d3 gemstones worth 2-200 gps total value, still working their way through the slave’s guts.
  15. The answer to a riddle.
  16. A secret name.

Art by John William Waterhouse.


David The Archmage said...

Slavery has never been a big part of my games, but this type of indentured slavery could work... I may have to steal it! Thanks for the idea! And good chart, even if there is a whole lot of nothing on it. ;-)

Nope said...

Great idea to use the tables for random npcs. I've made a background generator for pcs for my games that is open ended that my players have been digging so far.

The more I think about it the more I'm feeling inspired to use this format to generate random npcs. Awesome post!

trollsmyth said...

David: Yeah, it provides a source for hirelings, creates local color, and really drives home that the PCs ain't in Kansas anymore. (Plus, teaches the Swiftian lesson that customs of your tribe are not those of the entire world.)

When I include oddities like that, I try to make sure they do more than one thing, to justify the confusion they may cause players.

Mike: Thanks! Yeah, my players pretty much rock at coming up with decent backgrounds on their own. I'm much more interested in tools to help me create unique NPCs. Random tables like these and the personality tables in the back of the 1e DMG, as well as lists of common names, are things I can use at the table when the players surprise me by suddenly wanting to add another henchman or visit the Black Cockatrice to chat up the locals for more information.

Pulp Herb said...

I'll give you credit. I've never had the stones to make slaves something PCs could buy.

Pulp Herb said...

Oh, and I'm thinking of stealing it for Plunderers of Troy.

trollsmyth said...

Herb: I do it because I'm blessed with players who are mature enough (most of the time) to handle it. I wanted to give my game an early Iron Age feel, and slavery is one of the trappings we associate with the ancient world.

Purchasing torch-bearer slaves is a necessary step in preparing to visit the subterranean places of T├ękumel, so including it has Old School precedent. However, like romance, sex, and graphic depictions of what exactly happens when your cleric's mace impacts the orc's cranium, it's certainly not for every game.

Unknown said...

What I like about tables like this is that they give a feel for the game world, even if the results never come up during play - or even if nobody chooses to roll on the table. :)