20 June 2014

NPC of the Day: Grogondo

I've mentioned my predilection for a "viewpoint" NPC a couple times before.  While Kardo, at eleven years straight and counting, is by far my longest standing VNPC, this was really my earliest: before this fellow, my players tended to have one or two key hirelings apiece who were, to a large extent, one-dimensional cyphers played by them as silent, almost faceless adjuncts.  This character, who made his debut in 1980, was a key step in my evolution as a GM.

In many a campaign, Grogondo would have never gotten off the ground: as you can see, he's an orc.

(That's actually what he looked like, too; it's part of the cover of my first published gaming book, and the artist, Denis Loubet, not only did a great job on the cover, but depicted four characters from my main group and more or less got them right.  I'm afraid that Denis and Hannah Shapiro spoiled me for collaboration with artists.  In any event, I digress.)

Obviously, in that first few years of the hobby, orcs were already staked out as the Klingons of RPGdom -- the evil, dishonorable, baby-munching enemy, to be whacked on sight.  But ... there was a difference.  Most of the players in my two groups, at the time, were friends I brought into the hobby.  They hadn't yet absorbed some of the prejudices that gamers had generally, and they didn't know that they were supposed to reflexively mistrust and hate this guy.

ST: 12     IQ: 10     DX: 13     HT: 13/16    Per: 12    Will: 12    Speed: 6.5     Move: 6  

Advantages:  Combat Reflexes; Contacts / Low-level criminals, 9-; Night Vision+3; Outdoorsman+1; Reputation / +2, as hardcore killer, among local lowlifes; Very Fit

Perks:  Improvised Weapons; Neck Control; Weapon Adaptation

Disadvantages: Bloodlust; Bully; Code of Honor (Stays Bought); Colorblindness; Odious Personal Habits+1 / "Broken" speech; Reputation-1 as uncouth & barbaric; Short Life Span; Social Stigma: Minority Group; Struggling; Ugly

Skills: Brawling-14; Climbing-15; First Aid-10; Hiking-14; L: Altanian (B/-); L: Avanari (N/-); L: Talendi (B/-); Packing-10; Riding-12; Seamanship-11; Shortsword-12; Singing-13; Spear-14; Staff-13; Stealth-14; Streetwise-10; Survival-14; Swimming-14; Tactics-10; Thrown Weapon: Spear-13; Tracking-15

Maneuvers: Feint-15

Quirks:  CB: Vandalism; Deliberately inarticulate; NOT intolerant of elves; Recreational drug user; Skirmisher mentality

Grogondo pretty much projects the stereotype of the second-tier mercenary thug.  He's not an experienced regimental soldier, he'll pretty much do what he's paid to do, and he throws his weight around as far as he can manage.  Local lowlifes know him, and fear him more than a little bit, although he's never really worked for criminals except as an occasional bodyguard.  He's inarticulate, and speaks with broken syntax -- "Ya, Grogondo do this thing.  Grogondo kill for you now?"  Stereotypical thug orc, in a land where orcs are second-class citizens at best and no one expects better.

This is somewhat deceptive.

First off, he's smarter than the average orc.  (Stronger, tougher, faster too, come to that.)  If you're loyal to him -- and to Grogondo, "loyal" pretty much means "Don't screw me and pay a fair share and on time" -- he's loyal to you.  While in some ways he's a typical orc, he deals well enough with elves (who don't often return the favor), and his inarticulacy is a posture: he speaks the local language perfectly well, but chooses not to so as to encourage others to underestimate him.  It works.  He speaks smatterings of two other languages, and is illiterate.

He's an excellent and veteran outdoorsman, and is known to be one, which has led to a number of his jobs ... he might not know how to get you to the ruins of Castle Alvang in the mountains, but he'll keep you alive in the howling wilderness if you know to get there.  He's also an experienced caravan guard, and can do teamster work.  (None of this is impaired by his casual hemp smoking habit; he likes to get mellow, not stoned, and he really can stop any time he wants or needs to do so.)

But don't expect him to stand stalwartly between you and harm in battle: that's not his style.  He's a circle-around-and-flank-the-unsuspecting-foe guy, although he doesn't lack courage -- he just figures that frontal assaults are stupid, and will avoid them if at all possible.  He's also a take-no-prisoners chap -- to Grogondo, the only good enemy is a dead enemy, and dead enemies can't get revenge on him.  Employers who waver on these important values lose his respect, fast.  You might want to play close attention to his facial expressions: if he winces or sneers off to the side, it means he thinks your plan is dumb.  He doesn't work long for employers who make dumb plans.

* * * * * * * * *

The party leader of the group for which Grogondo was the VNPC was elven blood, sure, but the player was pretty ruthlessly pragmatic, and thought that Grogondo was the greatest thing since sliced bread; the characters became allies and fast friends.  Grogondo was around for a few years, and became quite experienced.  I present him here as a beginning NPC (at 125 pts, which is below a starting PC in my campaign).

(For those of you unfamiliar with GURPS:  the split health is Health/Hit Points, the +3 HP being an orcish trait in my campaign.  Very Fit confers high resistance to disease, poisoning, staying conscious, you lose fatigue at half normal, and recover it at twice normal -- pretty much, you're a triathlon type; Improvised Weapons means you can fight perfectly well with broken bottles, flagons and table legs; Neck Control gives large resistance to being choked or strangled; Weapon Adaptation in his case gives him the ability to use staff techniques with a spear and spear techniques with a staff -- usually he carries a spear.  Struggling means he doesn't own much: his spear, some substandard leather armor, camping gear, and that's about it.  The italicized items are orcish racial traits not otherwise reflected in the stats.)

For a further explanation of system numbers, check this link.

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