Grand Theft Donkey

The place: Ptolus. The heroes (if you can call them that): The scum and dregs of the world, down on their luck and looking for a fresh start in a big new city. With just a handful of contacts and a handful of coins – fake, of course – their future is as bright as they can make it. If they can survive the night, that is.

Welcome to the dark side of D&D where the heroes are anything but, and you’re always a five-foot step away from a knife in the back. Can you work your way up the career ladder from street thug to crime lord without breaking too many bones (yours, that is) or will you just end up being one more corpse in the gutter? Go from stealing horses for Vinnie’s Chop Shop (which turns them into real chops) to carrying out Guild hits and looking after a Mind Flayer mobster’s girls, all the opportunities are yours for the taking. And you don’t even need to say please.

This is my new sandbox setting and premise for our fantasy 4e D&D sessions – as opposed to the Endday campaign where we’ve twisted it into a kickass Modern Day game. This is 4e, grittified. I’ve used Ptolus for 4e before back when we were learning the rules and I ran a mini-campaign based around the arena. This taught us a lot about How Combat Works, this time I’m aiming for pure sandbox play where I can dump a load of contacts and jobs on the table and run a session with minimal effort.

Heck, give me a handful of bosses & a list o’f crimes and I’ve a load of plothooks ready to go on the roll of a couple of dice. Make ‘em d4s so they can only get the big bosses and big crimes later on, and we’re ready to go. In fact, something like this…

  1. Big Vinnie
  2. Darius Grey
  3. Mistress Moon (Pale Dogs)
  4. Alacaznathi
  5. Little Jimmy Horsehair (Longfingers Guild)
  6. The Wandmaker
  7. Kevris Killraven
  8. Menon Balacazar
  1. Bodyguard
  2. Debt Collection
  3. Theft
  4. Punishment
  5. Murder
  6. Kidnapping

Give a cumulative +1 on the first table at levels 4,8,12 and 16, and a +1 on the second per successful job carried out for that crime boss, and a –1 for each failure. Roll a zero and you’re off his Christmas Card list for a while, and might even find he’s hired someone to take you out!

Characters can be of any race or class, though Humans are far more common that any other race and “nonmen” will likely find prejudice on every street corner unless they keep to themselves and their own kind. Magic items are extremely rare and highly prized – as much a mark of status as anything else. Instead, I’m going to use Rewards and Favours; these will fit in neatly with the “You scratch my back, I won’t stab yours” mood.

This is tough D&D, folks. Live with it, or die trying.

Coming up: That pesky first scenario, the completion of my Seven Champions, and more.

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