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Monday, May 24, 2010

Motivational Dysfunctions

I recently re-discovered all the notes, cards, maps and what-not that we (my wife/partner and I) cobbled together for A Dirty Little Job, one of the scenarios we ran at a local gaming convention a while back.  We've run some version of this particular scenario five or six times now and it has always been a blast.  The players are a bunch of rag-tag ruffians, drifters, and cast-offs from the dregs of society who've been conscripted and sent off on a suicide mission for some megalomaniacal despot who disavows all knowledge of their very existence.  The group is intended to be their own worst enemies.  Instead of a scenario where in-party squabbling wrecks everything, this scenario was set-up from the very beginning to be all about the player-characters having feuds, grudges, even outright contracts to 'dispose' of other player characters.  It has been a lot of fun to run, and the players have always responded pretty positively...after the session was over...and they put down the dice and cards.  It can be quite liberating to play a character that you are given carte blanche to go as over the top as you can manage, swing for the trees, and are supposed to be messing with each other from the start.  The scenario is set up in such a way that there are all sorts of opportunities for skullduggery and mischief and it hasn't misfired yet, thanks to the quality players we've been able to attract.

One of the things that we did to help things along with ADLJ was to print out a set of Motivational Dysfunction cards that each character was able to roll for or pick from the pile.  We had each of these Motivational Dysfunctions printed-out on a little card (we used the Avery business card sheets run through an inkjet printer). Players could either roll a D20 or pick a card. Then they decided whether they wanted to play it or exchange it for another one, after which they either used it or not.  But the majority of the groups we've run this scenario for have been quite enthusiastic about using the cards. 

In this case, unless you knock-together your own set of cards, or until we toss out a pdf of the ones we use, your players can roll a D20 and read off of the following table.

A Note on Usage:
Each player gets one. It's okay if more than one player gets the same Dysfunction, in fact it could get truly bizarre and quite entertaining if everyone had the same Dysfunction as everyone else. Depending on the players, of course. These particular Dysfunctions are completely voluntary, but have proven helpful in quickly fleshing-out a character's motivations and personality on the spot, which can be helpful when you're using Pre-degenerated characters like we used for this particular scenario. We also encourage players to feel free to reinterpret or even revise their particular Dysfunction if they get inspired. We also always appreciate, support, enable and reward inventiveness, creativity and role-playing.  The idea is to have some fun.

A Caveat:
We devised these Motivational Dysfunctions for one-off Convention-type sessions made up mostly of strangers.  You would be wise to seriously reconsider including them in your regular gaming, especially in a campaign, though they have also worked out pretty well for coming up with a few off-the-wall NPCs every now and then.  If there's interest, we might expand this out a bit.  This batch was specifically geared for the group we rolled-up for this particular scenario, so there's definitely plenty of wiggle-room to tack-on a few more aberrations, tics, psychoses or what have you.  Not like most players ever really need much incentive to go a little nuts from time to time.

So, for whatever it might be worth, here you go:


Motivational Dysfunctions

1. Abducted(?): You believe that you are a diplomatic envoy in service to a powerful entity named Tharaphandra. You think that you remember being abducted in the course of a particularly difficult and sensitive diplomatic mission that may have failed because of your absence, bringing about a violent war between those serving your master and his dispicable, dishonorable enemies. Roll to select one of your party members as being one of the enemy.  How many of these people are in cahoots with your enemies, and whom can you trust?

2. Down and Out of Luck: You have no money left and a huge number of debt-collectors, loan sharks and money-lenders are looking for you to collect against various gambling debts, fines, interest payments, etc. If you don’t get enough money together soon, they’ll send worse than collectors after you. Roll to select one (maybe more...) of the party as a suspected (or actual) collector or snitch.

3. Mole: You belong to a secret society that serves a powerful entity (roll for random being) and you must not let anyone learn of your ultra-secret sympathies. Your most recent orders are to find a way to sabotage the group and prevent it from achieving its latest mission without them suspecting anything.  The master will be severely displeased should you fail and that will bring horrific consequences down upon you and everyone around you, so do not fail.

4. Eliminator: You were grievously wounded in prior fighting against (roll for a creature type) and as a result you have the ability to sense these creatures. You have devoted yourself to the eradication and elimination of these creatures and gain a +1 to hit them over and above any other bonuses. Sadly, you also draw all such creatures as attackers who head directly towards you as their favored target.

5. Hate Them: You have a deep and violent aversion to all things (Roll creature type: note that this could possibly even be your own type). Your loathing of these horrid creatures prevents you from trusting them, accepting healing from them, or from healing them as well. You need to roll a Will save in order to not freak out, flee in fear or become incapacitated with nausea or revulsion when confronted by such creatures in close quarters. Prolonged exposure to these creatures will potentially trigger an over-compensating and inappropriate response, perhaps poisoning them secretly, or framing them for something that you did. You are convinced that you need to do something about them, but what?  You are not the sort to go berserk, nor do you gain any bonuses for acting out upon your unreasoning fear, but you still have to do something...maybe something sneaky, dastardly and behind-the-back.  But keep in mind that getting caught is almost as bad as not doing anything about these hateful things. You know that they are mocking you even as they are planning your demise--it's you against them and one or the other will have to go, sooner or later.  Make sure it's them.

6. Confirmed Phobic: you tend to get uneasy when confronted with anything vaguely resembling specific creatures or individuals (roll/DM choice), and around large specimens of large numbers of vermin you must make a Will save or go berserk, smashing or attacking the vile, detestable things for all you’re worth…no matter the circumstances. Long ago, in your past, you were captured and tormented by a group of these creatures. They remind you of bad things. Long suppressed memories surge to the surface and you recall the terrible things that they did to you and you want revenge. One of your fellow party-members seems uncomfortably familiar to you, especially the more you recall of your past. (Roll randomly to select the party-member.) Perhaps they know something of your past, possibly they were present at your torture as a fellow victim…or they might even have been involved. Paranoia is a way of life you have long learned to accept and run with – like a blind man running with scissors down a dilapidated stairway during an earthquake.

7. Out for Revenge: You are certain as certain can be that one of your party resembles one of the beings who destroyed your childhood village and who just happened to have killed your parents and siblings. Roll to determine which party-member it is that you feel is this person. If any of your party happens to be your favored enemy (should you be a ranger) they are automatically “it.”

8. Contracted Nemesis: You have been hired to arrange for an accident of the fatal and permanent variety to befall a member of your party – in fact that’s how you were captured; right when you were about to spring your previously arranged ingenious trap, you were caught. Roll to determine who is your target.

9. Actual Rogue: You are a drunkard, liar and petty thief – how else do you think you wound up in this outfit? Roll Will save -4 against compulsion to lie, steal, or drink to excess. You are also a hopeless hypochondriac, certain that you’ve acquired some malignant disease from all the unsanitary things you’ve been forced to touch or expose yourself to over the years. Unfortunately you are incredibly healthy, but you won’t believe that, so feel free to whine, complain and exaggerate symptoms wildly and often.

10. Unfortunate Illiterate: Any written form of magick is not only inaccessible to you whenever you so much as look at a scroll, etc. there is a chance it spontaneously discharges or goes null because of you. Spellbooks go blank after 1D20 minutes in your hands, your presence causes spell casters minor irritation and headaches, you torment scholarly-types by your existence and anything you manage to learn about writing or runes etc. gets twisted both in your mind and on the page or substrate it is inscribed upon, ruining, discharging or voiding any such symbols you spend time looking at. If you somehow managed to become a spell-caster you are an intuitive, psychic spell-caster or a tribal shaman.

11. Haunted: At certain times of distress you make a Will save or the ghost of a former colleague whom you murdered or failed to save appears and tries to return the favor. Incorporeal undead seek you out for you have a necromantic mark upon your soul. The restless spirits of this sort will often seek to interrogate you rather than attack, unless provoked past their tolerance. How good are you at bluffing?

12. You Hear Voices. Sometimes quiet and calm, other times frenetic and powerfully overwhelming. Sometimes you can ignore them, other times you find yourself helpless to do anything but what they tell you. (Will save or obey the compulsion to the best of your ability for 1-4 rounds). The voices tell you that you are special, that you were chosen to serve them, and that you will be richly rewarded and that they will grant you great power and revenge over your enemies. But who are these voices?

13. Excommunicated: You have been kicked out of the religion of the cleric in your group. You get no clerical healing, in fact any attempt to heal you by the cleric results in harm until you recant, undergo a trial of purification and receive absolution from the deity or its representative – however if you con the party-member into believing that you are willing to do this they immediately forfeit their clerical status and are cast out as apostates. You may also harbor inappropriate(?) thoughts of getting the clerical members of your party killed by seemingly innocent accident. After all, you probably have a few potions or a healer along, right? Your touch defiles holy symbols, your presence desecrates shrines and you have been known to soil a few altars in your day.

14. Shoe Collector: You are so obsessed with amassing the greatest and most diverse collection of footwear possible that it occupies practically every waking thought. You carry along a special, secret bag of holding only for shoes – no one must ever see the bag or you may lose it and your collection – and that would be very, very bad for you. The bag acts almost as though it were a familiar to you and losing the bag means suffering the same effects as losing a familiar, even if you’re not a spellcaster.

15. Rot Gnawer: You are a connoisseur of all things rotten and decayed, in fact you are so crazed for such foul fare that you are immune to food poisoning, receive a +5 bonus to all poison-related attacks, saves, etc. You thrive on polluted waters, gangrenous flesh and worse things. To you maggots are a special treat. You can eat practically anything as long as it is rotten, decayed or putrescent. By the same token clean water and fresh food make you nauseous and violently ill.

16. Corpulent Glutton: You are seriously overweight for your size/build. Add 5D20 to your weight, -1 from Con. You are almost always out of breath when you need to exert yourself, unless it is to eat more of whatever you can get your hands on. You will compulsively sneak water, wine, food, or anything else consumable from anyone else in the group whom you can bribe, beg, steal or otherwise get things from. You always try to drink potions immediately upon finding them and want to eat first, fight later. You dislike to share, tend to be greedy and hold a grudge when it comes to food or drink, neither of which you can ever get enough of, ever. Also keep in mind your compulsion has absolutely nothing to do with nutrition, nor your ability or inability to actually taste, digest or benefit in any way from the things you consume.

17. Bigoted Bully: You have a distinct hatred and distrust for those kind – you know; one of the other party members (roll randomly). You will distance yourself from this character, reject their help, and otherwise seek to allow them to come to harm through negligence or withholding of resources or assistance. You would love dearly to beat them up, but not if anyone is looking, after all you’re not sure that the others would understand.

18. Egregiously Unsanitary: You never wash, accumulate filth, and tend to spread disease with your touch, including any melee attacks you make with or without a weapon. Gods forbid you should ever bite anyone. Your stench is offensive to troglodytes, even more so if you are one. You are considered to be in the permanent center of effect of a three-foot diameter stinking cloud spell.

19. Overwhelming Timidity: You are the first to run away, withdraw or retreat in any confrontation. In fact you tend to fade out of sight under the initial shock of a violent attack, ambush or sudden loud noise. Any time you suffer a loss of more than half your hit points a personality shift is triggered that causes you to become recklessly brave, until again reduced to less than half your hits when you switch again. Oddly enough, and for completely unexplained reasons you regain full hit points, spells, etc. upon switching personalities as though you started out fresh for a new day, each and every time. Please note: there are attacks that will drop you by half your hit points and on the second attack kill you, rather than triggering the switch – you need to have 1 hit point per hit die minimum to be able to make the switch; go under that threshold and you’re out of luck.

20. Hemaphobic Aversion: Make a Will save or you faint at the merest sight of blood.

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