Friday, February 14, 2014

NPCs for Fun and Adventuring - Starbinder

  This week's NPC is one that I have used in a number of times, most memorably in my Seaward campaign in about 1988-1989. This NPC is an antagonist; someone to oppose the party. His purpose in the game is to really get under the skin of the players and encourage them to realize they aren't unstoppable death machines without using great force. he is from 1e, so adjust accordingly for your favorite OSR/version/whatever

Half-Elven Cleric/Magic-user/Thief 3rd/3rd/3rd
No outstanding stats, but an Intelligence of 14 or 15
Align: Lawful Evil
H.P.: 10
A.C.: 5
Contents of his spellbook:
1st level - Read Magic, Detect Magic, Find Familiar, Shield, Charm Person,
2nd level - Forget, Stinking Cloud

Magic Items: Bracers, A.C. 6, +1 Ring of Protection, Ring of Invisibility and Inaudibility, Boots of No Tracks*

Familiar: An Imp of average hit points. [The bonuses from the imp are not included in Starbinder's stats].

*Boots of No Tracks eliminate all footprints of the wearer reducing the ability of rangers to track the wearer by 60%. The boots also reduce the odds of being tracked by smell by 60%.

  What do you mean 'that's it'? Properly used Starbinder should reduce the toughest player to an impotent, frothing rage!
  Starbinder does not want to fight. Far from it; he wants to steal, con, swindle, and rob. He always has 2-3 escape plans and he likes to lead others.
  How to use Starbinder in your campaign:
  Here is a sequence from a campaign I ran-
  1) Pirates have been raiding small villages in remote areas. A noble hires the party to look for the pirates. Eventually they find the pirate ship in a sheltered cove on a small island. The pirates, in a cavern complex near the sea, put up the appropriate level of resistance but their leader (Starbinder) is nowhere to be found. They eventually make it to his quarters to learn that he and his top men have slipped away in a longboat. The party loots the caverns and returns to the cove - to discover Starbinder and his men have stolen the party's ship and fled! Forced to press-gang the pirates into returning them to the mainland in the pirate ship the party does not get the reward and are humiliated.
  2) Upset himself, Starbinder waits and ambushes one of the party's henchmen when he is alone, casting Hold Person from hiding. He then approaches and casts Charm Person. He then steps out of sight and casts Forget. After a moment Starbinder 'comes along and rescues' the henchman,  becoming an immediate 'friend'. Starbinder maintains a friendship with the henchman, periodically casting Charm Person and Forget. Soon Starbinder knows all of the secrets that the henchman knows.
  3) Starbinder learns that the party is looking for some hirelings, simple guards, for an upcoming adventure. He talks his 'friend' into recommending him and is signed on as the leaders of a small group of mercenaries (men he recruited himself). The mercenaries guard the camp and horses as the party makes a series of forays into a dungeon. After the first loot is returned Starbinder and his men stage a fake 'attack on the camp' and loot everything, leaving behind blood (from hunted critters) and orc arrows and weapons. Starbinder leaves the party high and dry in the wilderness.
  4) The party makes it back to town and while looking to buy horses - find their horses! They soon learn from the merchant and one of the hirelings that it was all done by 'Starbinder' and that he used to be a pirate. The party is catching on! Starbinder tells his 'friend' that it is a terrible misunderstanding and that another one of the hirelings made him do it. He convinces the charmed henchman to give him access to the party's room to he can apologize.
  5) Starbinder steals the most valuable item he can get from their quarters (in this case a crown worth 30,000 g.p. from a dungeon) and flees. The party searches but do not find him.
  Game years go by; the party reaches name level and build a fortress. They have captured hippogriffs, tamed them, learned to ride them, etc. The first clutch of eggs is almost ready to hatch when the party leaves on an adventure.
  6) When they return they learn that the man they sold the hippogriff eggs to has come and gone. He had a receipt with the proper seals, was known to one of the henchmen, etc. The party learns all the eggs are gone and the receipt has Starbinder's name on it front and center.

  As you can see, Starbinder is an annoyance. He might never, ever attack or cast a spell on a single PC. His purpose is to add depth to the campaign. Yes, depth! Use him to demonstrate, very clearly, that guile, deceit, and cunning are at least as dangerous and strength and bloodlust.

  As an aside, Starbinder was so annoying to a different party than the one described that they stopped all else until they tracked him down, killed him, burned his body, and scattered the ashes. I was very proud.

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