Friday, May 31, 2013

Separating Characters from their Ill-Gotten Gains

  Experienced DMs know that there are two easy ways for the DM to ruin interest in the campaign; the first is too little loot; the second is too much loot.
  That's a lot of pressure.
  I have clear memories of a Palladium RPG campaign I ran for 2 years in the early '80's. It had a detailed world with rich history; well-rounded NPCs; a compelling arc with a logical progression that made sense. I know these things because the players praised me for them and thanked me for the hard work I put into the campaign. It was a 'fixed duration' campaign (meaning it had an overall arc with an end that also ended the campaign) so everything built to the final adventure and the Big Reveal. When the Big Reveal happened I was greeted with actual gasps of surprise from the players before an epic battle where they (barely) prevailed, literally saving the world.
  After the destruction of an Evil from Beyond the Walls of Reality the players ensured they were truly victorious and sailed off for home. Post-game there was a lot of talk about the epic game, the story, the villains, the plot twists - and all the players seemed unhappy. Finally I asked what was wrong and, reluctantly, Frank said,
  "Well, for such an amazing adventure and powerful villain we really expected better loot."
  Huh. They players didn't enjoy the conclusion of the campaign because in the last battle of characters they would never play again in a campaign world I would never use again (well, not with them, at least) because the final loot, which they would never use or spend, was inadequate.
  Saving the world from enslavement to cosmic horror just wasn't as fulfilling without also getting a +4 sword.
  Here's the thing - the previous sentence isn't sarcasm, it is part of game planning. In a FRPG saving the world from enslavement to cosmic horror just isn't as fulfilling without also getting a +4 sword!
  Of course, this varies a lot. If you are running a low fantasy Conan-style campaign with no orcs or dwarves, wizards are largely mumbo-jumbo and priests have healing skills instead of spells, then some rubies, a nice warhorse and a jeweled sword are great loot. But in a high fantasy game where the city guard rides hippogriffs, the bazaar has 3rd level magic-users selling trinkets and there are competing magic-item shops in villages along the route to the dungeon the loot needs to be a bit more high fantasy, too.
  Of course, too much loot is just as bad! I will admit, in my youth I once ran a campaign where each of the 6 PCs had an artifact or relic by the time they were 9th level and went on to get real items by the time they were 12th level.
  In my defense, I was 15.
  Thing is, my players didn't enjoy that campaign. In fact, they enjoyed it less than the players with too little loot.
  Now, I am certainly not the first RPG blogger to notice this or point this out, but it bears repeating - while there are no "winners" in games with no winners or losers, players like to feel that they have succeeded and this is often measured, emotionally, by the loot. But if the loot is too excessive it both loses its emotional appeal and can make the players feel as if they success was because of items, not characters or playing. Or, the shorter version - there are reasons the first paragraph in this post is true.
  So what does a DM do about this? I am not totally sure, but I will tell you what I do. First, I tend to give very little, if any, loot in random encounters. In the typical encounters in a scenario I limit the loot to a relatively small amount of valuables (coins, etc.) and minor objects like potions. For the bigger encounters I lean heavily toward scrolls, potions, charged items, and such because they go away.
  You know why Gary didn't put rules for recharging most things in the DMG? They aren't meant to be recharged, they are meant to go away. Wands are the disposable razors of dungeon crawlers.
  I also include non-standard stuff in the loot: the journal of a famous mage that drops clues to the arc and gives a bonus on researching a particular spell or two; a prisoner of the orcs who turns out to be the daughter or a barbarian chief who now owes the party a favor if they treated her well; a box of rare/expensive spell components; etc.
  I will write another post about what I call 'long-term magic items' which I use to build tension over time, too.
  But in all of this how do you deal with money? After all, characters like a piles of gold under the dragon, right?
  Well, I limit big hauls of money to big encounters and then give the players so many ways to spend money they get the rush of a big haul and then still feel poor.
  And how do I suck the money out of the PCs coin purses?
1) Make magic-users research spells they want. Let them find the occasional Scroll of Protection or of Unseen Servant etc., but if they really want Fireball they may just have to research it. Do they have a research library? No? Well, the local NPC wizards are going to charge a lot for access to theirs - and that is in addition to any standard costs, of course. And make sure they are paying for every single spell component they need in advance. They only spent 200 g.p. on components for a spell which costs 50 g.p. to cast? The fifth time they try to cast it, point out they are out of components and can't.
2) You can just make clerics give it away. Alms for the poor, orphanages, widows, a local church with  a leaky roof, you name it. What's that you say? Your player made a Dwarven cleric of commerce that thinks the poor deserve their lot in life? First,interesting pantheon. Second, all you need are a few bad investments, an additional tithe from him to cover caravan guards, and the requirement that he provide an ostentation display of wealth and success (i.e., new, expensive, fashionable clothes all the time) and you're in.
3) Thieves have overhead; informers, personal guards, middle-men, lookouts, bribes for the watch, bribes for the magistrate, bribes for the soldiers, a cut to the guild, another cut to the guild, how much does the guildmaster spend, anyway?, whadda' ya' mean I gotta' buy the guildmaster's son a birthday present, I just gave 33% of my take? Of course details on the security of the temple of the dwarven god of commerce is worth a little consideration, etc. In one campaign I had an evil guard captain that shook down thieves for money to such an extent it was a plot driver.
4) Fighters can be tricky. Sure, paladins and rangers are really easy, but fighters can be tough. First, consider the entourage effect that I describe below and then have a campaign expectation that successful fighters are generous. Saxons expected good fighters, war-chiefs, and kings to be generous. If you weren't generous, you must not be that good! This should range from rounds of drinks to new armor and weapons for 'friends' or even celebrating a great victory with horses for all his 'friends'!
5) Upkeep. I am putting detailed rules on upkeep into my next supplement, so-far titled Far Realms, but consider just a flat 100 g.p. per level per month, as Gygax suggested. This is everything from ink and holy incense to trainers and weapon oil and is in addition to everything else.
6) An entourage. Do your characters still cook and clean for themselves? How successful can they be? I mean, if they were really good, why are they tending to their own horse and cooking their own gruel? You can work on this is a number of ways ranging from an increased chance of getting parasites from poorly cooked food until their hire a cook to having a fat fee slip away when the NPC hires a different, lower-level, party - a party with a standard bearer, and henchmen, and cooks, and such. To really drive it home, have the lower level party try to 'sub-contract' the PCs for 1/3rd the fee the NPCs are receiving!
6) Henchmen. See 'entourage'. I also do little things like, oh, make spell research faster and more likely to succeed with the help of henchmen, or point out that a cleric henchman can 'stack' Chant spells, etc. And if that isn't enough, do what I call the 'Horatio Hornblower trick' (from a scene in that series of books). here's a sample
  The Kingdom of Anglia is at war! The hobgoblins and their allies overwhelmed the smaller border kingdoms two years ago and the forces of Anglia and its allies are only now preparing for a true counter-attack. In the preparations the party's fighter, Beorn, is summoned to meet the king.
  Beorn is a high level fighter and is really looking forward to this meeting. Will he be asked to lead the vulnerable left flank? Command a mission to destroy the hobgoblin baggage train? Lead the main charge?!
  Finally Beorn is presented to the king. The king looks Beorn over and says,
  "Your reputation is strong and word of your prowess has reached our court. Are you willing to take on a job of great personal importance to me?"
  "Of course, Your Majesty, I am ready for any task you need me to accomplish."
  "Well said. Lord Uffingdale shall introduce you to your charge, Sir Beorn."
  Beorn... no, SIR Beorn, follows Lord Uffingdale into a nearby chamber where a young man, no more than 18, stand in silver-chased chain mail wearing a sword whose hilt glitters with emeralds. Behind the boy stands a man is the black robes of a priest of the Stern Lord, a Master of Discipline. Lord Uffington bows deeply to the boy, who dips his head in return.  Lord Uffington then turns to you,
  "May I present His Highness Jory, surviving prince of the Kingdom of Alsatia. His kingdom was overrun by the hobgoblins in the early days of the war while he was here under the care of his uncle, the King. The King hopes that a warrior of such strength, skill, and courage as you would be perfect as mentor to his nephew in anticipation of the day he will reclaim his own throne. Since the Prince currently only speaks Alsatian his religious tutor, Brother Kane, will accompany him to translate for you until he is more fluent in Anglian."
  In other words - BAM! instant henchman. And a henchman you can't leave to die or ditch because he slows you down. A henchman with expensive tastes, too. And the best thing is, he's also a walking plot hook and incentive. Further, if Beorn's player roleplays it properly he could end up being the beloved mentor of a king!
7) The players' own laziness. Start making the players roleplay out going through treasure in the dungeon. Talk about how long it takes to sort and count all the coins, to catalog everything. Unless you have a particularly focused party they will almost certainly soon take to just shoveling everything into a bag to be counted 'later'. Then have an NPC, like a money changer, offer to do that for them for a small fee! Before you know it '6,237 g.p., 12,102 s.p., and 40,002 c.p.' becomes '4 mules worth of coins' becomes '6,000 g.p. after exchange and sorting costs'.
8) Uncertainty. Don't tell they players they found a 50 g.p. ring, tell them they found a silver ring with a pearl. When they try to sell it, have the fence, uh, merchant offer them 30 g.p. and see what they do. Then start charging them above book price for new goods ('inflation'). What is the party to do? Why, hire an NPC merchant to negotiate for them! All he needs is a small monthly fee and a percentage of the savings he makes for you. heck, he'll even count and catalog the treasures for less than the money changer! [Again, I have detailed rules on this coming in Far Realms].
9) Knowledge. Information should cost. Don't tell them where the Lost Tomb of the Golem Master is (its lost, remember?), have them find a plate covered in runes that turn out to be magically garbled. They have to find or research a spell to un-garble them. Then they have to find someone who can translate and obscure ancient language (travel to where he is and pay him) or find/research a different translation spell. Then it turns out the writing is a poem full of odd imagery. With more research (travel, fees, buying books, etc.) they find out it might be part of a poem from a lost empire that was originally in a totally different language, so they have to travel again to see the only sage that is familiar with the poetry of this long-gone empire in the hops he can explain the imagery, but he needs a book found only in a library in another distant country to be sure.
  You get the idea - turn it into 3-5 adventures and an excuse to vacuum out the PC's money pouches.
  If done properly, this process has two very important effects - it ceases being 'just loot' and becomes an integral plot element of the campaign. And while every copper is now precious (do these for a while and see if anyone but the paladin leaves a single coin behind!) no amount of treasure is too much.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Dungeon Master's Log - 1e campaign, part 2

In the intro to my 1e campaign post I introduced the characters and told how they went In Search of the Unknown. Our intrepid adventurers ended the first session bedded down in the hidden supply room making tea over a makeshift fire and jury-rigging light sources together. The next day they started out by leaving an iron spike pointing to the secret door to the supply room and supplementing their 'always take the left' rule with - a trail of nails to mark where they had been.
  That's right, they still had no mapping materials and, jerk that I am, if your character doesn't have mapping materials, you can't make a map.
  The wandered around quite well, although the sloping floors, fake stairs, and maze-like layout surprisingly enough confused the heck out of them. Realizing they had no idea how to get back to the entrance they started hoping for loot consisting of beef jerky (yes, they have had characters starve before. No, I don't think that is mean). Before the end of the session the chuckles after asking 'is giant spider good to eat?' were a bit forced.
  Then they hit the door maze. They went round and round, popping out into the labyrinth of twisting tunnels. Finally they found a door and - were back in the door maze. After another hour of game time they simply sat down, ate a meal, set up a guard rotation and slept in a 10' x 10' room with a door in the middle of each wall.
  During the session they killed a giant spider, 2 kobolds, and 4 skeletons. The loot included a spear that the One Man Army is already fond of, about 15 g.p. worth of various coins, a silver necklace with amulet, and a plain gold ring.
  All 4 boys really enjoyed themselves, too.

If I Had a Permanent Robe of Deeppockets

    Ah, Dragon Magazine #67; quite a famous issue, really.  I had had my subscription renewed for my 15th birthday just a few months before and I wore that issue out with re-reading. Its has so much! The write ups for St. Cuthbert and Iuz; how to adventure on the Astral; the Grugach and the cooshie; and, of course, Fedifensor!
  All of those are worthy of articles. And if you don't know what Fedifensor is, I am so sorry.
  But today I am going to write about what was one page 2 - new spells! Particularly the spell Deeppockets, which I saw as too fun not to use. The very next session the party got a permanent Robe of Deeppockets, an item that is still on my treasure tables.
  Magic Item: Robe of Deeppockets-The robe is of fine make and cut and will magically resize itself over the course of a week to provide a good fit (they come in two sizes - small for gnomes, halflings, and dwarves, and tall for humans, etc.). There are 10 hand-sized pockets within the robe. Each pocket is a separate extra-dimensional space that can hold up to 1/2 a cubit foot of volume and up to 10 lbs of weight. Rules on sharp objects, overloading, etc., are as for a bag of holding.
  Yesterday my 10 year old son, N., emailed me a list entitled "If I had a permanent robe of deeppockets". This prompted me to come up with an even longer list of things it is handy to have along when you have extra-dimensional storage on hand. N.'s items are the first dozen on the list; his notes (are in parentheses) mine are [in brackets]:
1. A Murlynd's spoon and a wooden bowl
2. An Everfull Flask [another unique magic item I will detail later; you can replace it with a Decanter of Endless Water]
3. A nice spot for my familiar
4. tongs
5. empty vials with lids
6. some torches
7. empty wooden box 18 "x 8" x 6" [note: that's .495 cu. ft., making me very proud]
8. Quills, ink, and parchment
9. Scrolls
10. an object with Continual Light
11. a Reduced mummy in a glass jar [I pointed out it would be too bug, so he's looking for a better monster]
12. a ruby ring (for bribes)
[now my stuff]
13. 100 g.p.
14. leather gloves
15. travelling spell books
16. a ceramic vial of Green Slime
17. marbles
18. a jar of pepper and spices [to throw off scent tracking]
19. a towel
20. hacksaw with extra blades
21. chalk [in various colors]
22. a jar of grease [everything from coating squeaky hinges to smearing at the top of a long flight of stairs]
23. tool hammer and chisel
24. a jar of iron filings [good for ghasts and rust monsters]
  So, what small items do you think are useful, imperative, fun, or funny to have along?

Jazz Band Adventuring

    I was lucky enough to be part of Lew Pulsipher's AD&D gaming group back in the mid-'80's to early '90's while I was stationed at Ft. Bragg. Being the quintessential game theorist, Lew really helped me broaden my play and my DMing.
  Because of the number of people participating in Lew's campaign and because several were soldiers, like me, Lew had an approach I think of as 'jazz band adventuring'; instead of a set party (Joe plays the fighter, Lisa the mage, Frank the thief, etc.) Lew would announce the level of play and what our characters generally knew about the adventure and we would make an adventuring party based on that. While the party would stick together for that adventure or arc, the next adventure arc could have a completely different 'band'. Also, since some players might not be available we needed a number of characters per player ready to go.
  The result, which I replicated in my own campaign of the time, was that each player tended to have 3-5 characters that 'lived in' the same campaign city and interacted all the time. This led to a very dynamic campaign (you could easily have an adventure for 9th level characters for 1-3 sessions then follow it up with a 2nd level dungeon crawl with the very same players one session later) with a lot of player-driven background action  - the stuff in the campaign world not directly part of a particular session, like castle building.
  For example, I had a large number of characters in the game (no, this will not descend into 'let me tell you about my 12th level paladin', I promise): a 2nd/3rd illusionist thief, a 5th level magic-user, a 5th level cleric, a 6th/6th elven cleric/magic-user, a 7th level paladin, then a 14th level paladin and a 14th level magic-user (the highest level characters in the campaign at the time). Considering that within the 1e campaigns we were both running 9th was considered 'high level', this means I was ready for most adventures.
  Here's an example of how it would work; The DM for the next session would announce the level and general outline of the adventure coming up ('you are going up against the plague priests of the Briars, about 5th level'); We talk among ourselves and show up with Jen's 5th level fighter, John's 6th level thief, Amy's 3rd/3rd fighter/cleric, my 5th level magic-user, and Keith's 4th level ranger. At the end of the session, we are still deep in the Briars, so the party stays the same for the second session. At the end of the 2nd session the party makes it back to the city with the ranger's body in a bag of holding and the thief suffering from the Crimson Plague (courtesy of a Cause Disease). At this point we 'put out the word' and for the 3rd session it is Keith's 6th level thief, John's 5th level magic-user, my 5th level cleric, Jen's 5th level fighter, and Amy's 3rd/3rd fighter/cleric. Not because the ranger was still dead (the character was raised) or because the thief was still sick (she paid for a cure), but because the original party wasn't working the way we liked - like a jazz ensemble, we mixed things up a bit.
  I certainly understand how having the same party as a coherent group works - I have been running the same players with the same characters in a campaign for the last 3 years - but if you have players interested in it jazz band adventuring can add a lot of flexibility to the campaign. Want to introduce an important NPC or plot point, but it makes no sense for a group of 9th level characters with strongholds to meet them directly? Have them encounter a group of 3rd level adventurers, instead. Feel as if your players are treating their henchmen like emotionless drones with no back story? Have them play their henchmen. Better yet, have them play someone else's henchman - they won't treat their NPCs like meat shields any more.
 There is another benefit in jazz adventuring for some DMs. Do you avoid situations where a character might die because it will derail the entire arc? Well, in jazz adventuring each character is just as important, but not are too critical - even a TPK doesn't derail arcs,
  "Father Blaise! Father Blaise!"
  "Yes, my child?"
  "Baron Eric, the Archbishop, and their companions have yet to return from Mount Doom. What are we to do?"
  "Tell Sir John and his men to meet me at the church. I may not be the Archbishop, but I am sure we can rescue them!"
  When there are other characters that can immediately step in for everything from rescues to continuing the mission it allows you to keep the possibility of capture, death, or worse on the table (pardon the pun). Knowing this, it makes the tension much more real to the players, too.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Details of my 2e campaign. Part 1 - Spell Points

The Blackstone campaign is currently the 'main game' I am running. I has been ongoing for 3 years and is still strong. I use 2nd Edition AD&D with all the Player's Option books but not all of the options allowed.
  The main differences for casters are I allow customized magic-users and clerics and that I use the spell point system as detailed in Spells and Magic for all casters and conditional modifiers for Clerics.
  I originally added this to the campaign for three reasons - I like the flexibility the spell point system gives casters; the conditional modifiers add some depth to religion; and I have a major campaign artifact based on the system that s a huge plot driver.
  Unfortunately, I now wish I hadn't used the spell point system! The party consists of a Human Thief, a Human Magic-user (Generalist), a Human Magic-User (Fire Elementalist), a Human Fighter, and a Half-Elven Cleric/Magic-user. That's right, 3 of the 5 are spell casters. This means that the group sits down about 40 minutes before play is scheduled and spends all of that time selecting spells. Even with lists of default spells the desire to customize your spell list is too great and the point system really encourages min/maxing to squeeze out very possible spell. Toss in high stats (bonus points), specialization (points that can only be used for particular types of spells), and the cleric of a God of Magic (casting his clerical spells sometimes costs more points, other times it costs less, resulting in 'left over' points that can be used for all sorts of mischief) and it is a major headache before and during each session.
  For more goodness, this means I have to do the same for all spell casting NPCs!
  Now, I have no issue with point systems per se; Rolemaster is probably my favorite magic system and it is all about points, discounts, and arcane rules. No, my problem is that it drastically changes D&D - character creation, development, and play are all very different. A spell casting character with a good knowledge of the point system 'punches above his weight' and should be counted 1 to 5 levels higher (depending on overall level) for purposes of adventure planning. And, in the end, it isn't vancian enough to match the rest of AD&D. Magic items end up not working properly (Rings of Wizardry are the obvious issue, but what about a Pearl of Power? Incense of Meditation?).
  I will not use the spell point system in AD&D again, but I will keep it in the Blackstone campaign. Why? It is part of the woof and weave of that world, now, and besides - I still have that plot-driving artifact lurking about.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Patented Rick Stump Continual Light Rod

  The name I used for a piece of equipment that was, effectively, standard for all my PCs.
  Work with the description, there was never a picture.
  a wooden rod 6" long and 1" in diameter, has Continual Light cast upon it then a wooden strip is glued to one side with a tab sticking up 1". This is slid into a 6 1/2" long leather case with a slot along one side and a cap attached by cords. The slot has has 6 thongs and eye hooks along its length and there is a loop from the base of the case.
  How it works: The attached wooden strip goes under the slot in the case so, with the cap on, the rod is completely covered, shedding no light. Remove the cap and the light rod is almost like a flash light, shining light out of the end to a very short distance. By sliding the rod further out and securing it by using the thongs and eye hooks plus the tab you can control the amount of light emitted like opening the shutter of a hooded lantern. The loop at the end can be put around a wrist or belt of even through a purpose-made hole in a shield or staff.

Spells I Wish I Could Cast in Real Life

This week's Spell I Wish I Could Cast in Real Life is from my son, N:
Protection from Stupidity, 10' r.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Intro to my new 1e Campaign

OF COURSE I am running a 1st edition AD&D campaign! I've been running one since 1978, why stop now?
  The rules? My house rules (currently being written up as Far Realms, an OSRIC supplement) but the specifics are
  Character Creation: 3d6 in order; roll three sets and pick the set you like. Any set with more than two stats under 5 or with nothing over a 7 may be discarded. I prefer you create characters with me so we can work on basic backstory together.
  This campaign is special, though, since it consists of my 4 older sons! J is playing a Druid, A is playing a One Man Army (half-elf fighter/cleric/magic-user), S is playing an Assassin (using my house rules he is Chaotic Neutral) who is so far passing himself off as a thief, and N is playing a monk. He rolled monk stats on 3d6 in order on his first attempt, making him a very happy young man.
  To really give them the entire experience I am running them through In Search of the Unknown, although I have thrown in a few hooks for my own campaign, such as notes about cities, villains, etc. here and there. They went through character creation with me one at a time, we worked up simple backstories, then they bought armor, weapons, and equipment. They met through mutual friends, a mentor, and a job posting, and headed out.
  The pros; they made sure they had enough food and water for several days without me prompting them. They had a good mix of weapons, essentials like 10' poles and iron spikes, and even extra clothes in case they got wet!
  The cons; they brought a grand total of 1 torch and nothing to write on or with.
  They had a single random encounter in the wilderness, a stag, so they did not use rations on their way to the dungeon.
  They spent a lot of time checking out the bodies at the first junction, not realizing they were running out of torch.
  Their first random encounter check was positive and they fought 2 orcs, killing them handily and taking their lantern.
  I did not allow them to map, since they didn't have anything to map with. Within 1 hour of game time, they were lost - this was BEFORE they hit the door maze! Almost out of oil for their looted lantern they got very lucky and the half-elf found the secret door to the hidden supply room. After a fight with the evil gnome raiders inside, they settled down to rest and made torches from the materials in the room.
  They are having a great time and spent an hour recounting the adventure and planning ahead.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Mage Guild is up at RPGNow

  Back when I was playing in Lew Pulsipher's Tonilda campaign I had a magic-user named Jonas. Jonas had good stats and generally good luck with one exception - he kept blowing the Learn Spell rolls for the 'best' spells. He failed to learn Charm Person, Burning Hands, Stinking Cloud, Web, Lightning Bolt, and (cruelest of all) Fireball.
  He knew Magic Missile, though.
  On one adventure I found a Wand of Magic Missiles and I later traded some items with a cleric for his Ring of Spell Storing that could hold 4 Magic Missile spells. Then I finally got average and learned Minute Meteors! While I might not have any area of effect spells, I could throw a lot of magical damage down range. While it was fun playing the 'gatling mage' I had glaring holes in my spell combat abilities. I tended to be in parties with two magic-users so we could 'cover for' each other's weaknesses.
  While roleplaying with the crew one evening I got to thinking about how darn difficult it must be 'in-universe' to be a mid-level magic-user like Jonas (then 5th level); effectively no melee abilities; some arcane power, but rather limited; and you have a lot of things that much more powerful mages might want. Tonilda was rife with vile clerics and evil mages of one stripe or another lurking about (especially the dreaded pyromancers from Traprain Law) so this was a credible threat. Since the campaign had multiple parties in it, we had a fair number of mid-level magic-users, illusionists, and multi-class types, as well. On the spur of the moment I proposed we band together into a mage's guild.
  To the surprise of Lew and especially of me, everyone liked the idea. Before I knew it virtually every spell caster in multiple parties was either in or asking to join. We pooled our resources and built a stronghold with a library and lab; hired 2 alchemists; made copies of all of our spell books and stashed them away; set up bylaws and rules; the whole nine yards. Not only was it great role playing and great fun, it clearly illustrated why guild work in the Real World - strength in numbers. Before too long the guildsmen were adventuring as a group with their henchmen and hirelings along as the muscle.
  Never one to miss the extremely obvious when prompted, I soon added an NPC Mage Guild to my own Seaward campaign. I had it run by NPCs, of course, and made it an older institution expanding into the core campaign area. I also gave it a few dark secrets and plot hooks and let it go, hoping my players would take the bait. They did, with enthusiasm. The Guild has been an element of my campaign ever since - 22 years, now, acting as everything from a place where you can get a reliable Identify or sell a wand to advice on how to find a lost command word.
  Mage Guild is a book that captures the essence of these guilds. It describes ways to introduce the guild, either as a brand new idea or as an older institution moving into the area. It includes the bylaws, hierarchy and structure, benefits and fees, and rules of the guild. It also has write ups of the guildmaster, the members of the guild council, miscellaneous members of the guild, and a few others who may be friends or foes of the guildsmen..
  There are also new familiars, new magic items, and a ton of new spells.
  We've done our best to make Mage Guild the way I like the supplements I buy - you can use it as-is, change a few things, or just take what you lie.