Wednesday, November 30, 2016

This Man is an Impersonator

Here is the more-polished half of my current notes for the assassin skill, Impersonation. I have had a good burst of assassin-related ideas recently.


Impersonation is pretending to be someone you are not, whether subtly (through your speech and your motions) or overtly (through your appearance and your skills).

Core Ideas

The further removed you are from the target, the harder it is to impersonate them.

The further removed an observer is from the target, the more likely they are to take your disguised self as genuine.

If you spend time in proximity to an observer who is suspicious of you, they will periodically make checks to see if they become more suspicious of you. If they fail these checks, their suspicion will lessen, and the periods between checks will grow greater, until eventually they are no longer suspicious.

On the other hand, if someone doesn’t see through you right away, they’re not going to get another chance if you don’t stick around. Move fast, assassin.

Physically disguising the body is only one portion of impersonation. Depending on the scenario, one must also take care to disguise one’s voice, odor, or, most importantly, mannerisms. Here, “mannerisms” is considered to encompass all factors of a person’s personality, even those which are not explicitly described during the course of the game.

The next section discusses those factors which influence the accurate acquisition of a person’s mannerisms.

The amount of time the character spends acquiring target mannerisms, as well as the character’s level of skill in impersonation and the exact talents of impersonation which they have acquired, will determine whether they are able to imitate specific persons or not (the difference between imitating “Jergen the alcoholic, down-on-his-luck timber merchant” and “a timber merchant.”)

Disguising as a specific person will require the assassin to spend more time observing said person.

Factors Related to Acquisition of Mannerisms

Time Spent Observing

One dimension is how long you have observed a person, or a type of person, in order to imitate their characteristics. [What counts as “observing” a person is yet to be detailed.]
  • have never observed them
  • have observed them for less than a month
  • have observed them for 1-6 months
  • have observed them for 7-12 months
  • have observed them 1-3 years
  • have observed them 5 or more years ## How Close You Are to the Person
  • have never been in contact with this person
  • are from the same area, but at best have met them briefly or just seen them around
  • as above, but you are in the same profession or have spent time casually with them
  • have spent time with them to conduct professional or official business
  • have studied, worked, or fought alongside them
  • have done them a non-trivial favor
  • are friends with this person
  • as above, and have been friends for at least 1/4 of your life
  • are in or have been in a romantic relationship with this person
  • grew up as part of this person’s family
Additional factors are social class and cultural background.
  • are/are not in the same social class as this person
  • are/are not from the same or similar cultures

How Close the Observer Is to Who You Are Impersonating

We could use exactly the same factors as detailed above in the section “How Close You Are…”, or we could use the following condensed list. (Heck, we could replace the list above with the below one. Whatever floats your game-boat.)

When compared to the target, the observer:
  • is from the same area but a radically different social class, or is from an area distant enough so as to not know them (the exact distance varies based on geography: two mountain villages might only be five miles apart, but their residents mostly wouldn’t know each other.)
  • is from the same area
  • is from the same area, and might be an acquaintance (moves in the same specific social circles or has the same profession)
  • is a coworker, compatriot, or neighbor
  • is a family member or lover

Players Paying Attention

Player observational skills are not obviated by the presence of the character’s impersonation talents which deal in counter-recognition of disguised or concealed enemies.

Disguising yourself as bandits coming back from a hunt in order to get into their main encampment will work only if it fits with the facts, i.e. if:

1) some of the bandits went out for a hunt already and haven’t come back, and

2) you are not trying to do anything other than get in

Thus the player will not be successful if they speak thoughtlessly. In general, the principle is that character skill cannot undo pure player error, except in special circumstances which are almost always known ahead of time. (For example, a character with high Wisdom may gain from the background generator a once-a-week ability which allows them to retroactively have bought one item the last time they were at market.)

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Metal Smelting Problems

I need some help with aspects of my economic system related to metals and the manufacture of metal goods.

For example, I want to figure out more accurate values for the amount of coal needed to produce enough heat to melt metals for smelting.

I can find values online for the BTU produced by a given unit of a given type of fuel. And I can find the melting points of various metals and metal alloys.

But how many BTU are needed to reach a given temperature in a forge's hearth, and how long does that temp need to be maintained? People who burn coal to heat their homes have created online calculators to estimate how much coal would be needed to keep a room of a given size heated to a given temperature, but their answers don't agree with each other in the slightest.

Here are the questions I'm struggling with, as many as I can think of:

- how big is the hearth in a forge?
- how many BTU are needed to heat an area of a given volume to a given temperature?
- what is the relationship between the melting point of an ore, pure metal, or alloy, and the temperature needed to smelt it, or forge it? Do you need to reach the melting point, or do you just need to get the metal to a certain level of workability? (Presumably this differs for smelting from ores vs. smithing from already-made ingots.)
- how long does the smelting temperature or temperatures need to be maintained in the hearth? Does this vary between metals?
- how much limestone or other flux is needed when smelting and forging, and with what other variables does that amount vary?

If you can offer help or resources to read, I'd be grateful. I'll be having a poke around the library and in my friend's blacksmithing books when I can, too.

EDIT: I found digital editions of contemporary (17th century) sources through the library's subscriptions. The work I'll be looking at first is A Discovery of Subterraneal Treasure, by one Gabriel Plattes, published in London in 1653. There are others; we'll see what I can dig up. Luckily, 17th-century English is still pretty readable!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Insult Party

A brief session recap.

In our most recent session this past Sunday, the party met and drank with a local merchant who they'd met on the road, and agreed to sign a contract with him the next day (a contract to do something dangerous to benefit his business -- I'll skip it for now.) The same evening, though, they got to scheming: suppose they were to go and find this guy at home tomorrow morning, while hungover, and just take him out? That way they could earn the money he was going to pay them without having to do anything more dangerous than killing one small-time merchant.

The next day they set out, but the unofficial couriers don't keep addresses (you have to tell them where to go). A bust. By way of a quick lie could they get the merchant's home address out of the town records office ... only to find, when they arrived at the Street of Coopers, that he was not at home. Another bust, they thought.

Turning to go, they noticed a certain man exiting a metalworker's shop across the way. They knew him to had a thief and they'd had a short scuffle with him a day or two before. I'd already made it clear that there were people going up and down the lane, and students hearing a lecture in a small park nearby ... and being in town, the party had their weapons stowed out of sight.

"The guy notices you as he's hefting his sack. He glares, and approaches the steps where you're standing. What do you do?"

What followed was a exchange in which, among other things, the thief claimed he had lots of friends and was going to seek revenge on the party, and the party generally derided his skills and spat at his claims of having the ear of more powerful persons. It went on for at least 10 real-time minutes, almost non-stop, punctuated only short lulls and one "what do we do" huddle as the thief started to walk away. (They followed him and kept at it.)

This exchange was heated and incredibly tense. There were insults on both sides. There were threats and escalated counter-threats. The two sides almost, almost drew weapons ... but not quite. And the players were never 100% sure how to proceed.

I am proud that I roused the players with my little scenario, and I am proud of my players for absolutely blowing away my expectations for how much emotion I was going to elicit. I have to count this as a win for me, because I don't think I could have gotten this kind of emotional response out of players when I was younger and less experienced at DMing. I have had the first indication that three years of rustiness has been shaken off.