Freak Watch – Session Three

Welcome to the Freak Watch!  See the new campaign page for more.

Session Three Session Summary (5 page pdf)

This session begins with the ghost of Meriweather Lewis hectoring Teenage Vengeance Shadowblade in the haunted mansion that serves as our base.  He warns of a supernatural threat poking around.

smorgascorpse

La Catrina’s Artist’s Rendering Of What Smorgascorpse Must Look Like

La Catrina, Infamous Wasp, and Kid Kafka are driving back from Whitey Gated Community when she calls.  La Catrina, happy to get away from her continuing argument with Wasp, teleports there and they drink Boone’s Farm and commiserate till Zombie Marco probes the perimeter… Apparently TVS raised him (a former capoeira-oriented hero) to help in some fight. He demands she give the shadowblade back to “Smorgascorpse”, some enemy necromancer of TVS’es.

Then the rest of the group shows up, and TVS gets a text from the boys she met in Session One and we go to an underground club to meet them.

So it’s hard to get across in the session summary all the emotions and stuff involved in the session. It’s easy to write down the physical action, but in Masks the emotional action is as important (and it’s what a lot of the mechanics are about).  From La Catrina’s point of view, she went and got paired off with some boring guy who started talking smack about the killer “ripper roach” – obviously Kid Kafka – and got her mad. He missed the increasingly dangerous glint in her eyes as she led him on with “ooo tell me more,” and then she lures him over to an alley to “stand guard while she throws up” and then makes an illusion of the giant killer roach, panicking him.  Kid Kafka and Wasp “come to her rescue” and she’s laughing, she tries to get Kafka to feel good about her “sticking up for him” but he gets mad instead and they have an argument with various game moves involved. 

catpaladin

Paladin Cat!

Then there’s a fight with a bag lady or something, she didn’t pay as much attention to that, though when the zombie rat swarm went towards the club full of kids she did make an illusion of a phalanx of paladin cats that turned them away!Anyway, then we steal a safe, and then we go to a zombie hobo jungle.  Plot ensues. The most interesting part is when Kid Kafka gets overwhelmed with zombies and la Catrina tries to leap into the horde to teleport him out but fails, she suddenly becomes possessed by Santa Muerte, which works well in the short term but then TVS smacks her right out of Catrina. So that seems like it’ll be some long term conflict.

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Freak Watch – Session Two

Welcome to the Freak Watch!  See the new campaign page for more.

Session Two Session Summary (4 page pdf)

This session starts with a little vignette for each character.  Kid Kafka goes to see an entomologist friend, La Catrina goes home to see her mother, and The Infamous Wasp goes to the radio studio where the former Question hosts a fringe conservative talk radio show. Teenage Vengeance Shadowblade is not in attendance.

juniormusto

Junior Musto

But then a bunch of bikers – the Los Muertos gang that La Catrina’s brother Lalo is still a part of – roll into the college and start making trouble.  Kid Kafka’s on the scene; the rest of us get over there. Wasp fights all the bikers while Kid Kafka and La Catrina rescue some scientist from Junior Musto (Darkman on crystal meth). Turns out he is a SKULL scientist (you know, some naughty science organization like they have).

The rest of the session is us making him get us into his gated community – apparently all the people working for this plastics company aren’t just in a normal gated community but like an across-a-ferry, super-high-security, ethnics-certainly-not-welcome kind of community. We scope out his house and KK and Catrina drink some of his beers and get a selfie of the underage Catrina sitting in  his lap with a beer for later blackmail purposes.  The super proper Wasp doesn’t like this and sulks outside and he and Catrina engage in an epic text message argument that gets her all upset (actually inflicting the Guilty condition!). But, she got to call him “a square-ass Urkel wanna-be.”

The end of session moves squiggle our stats around!  Stats aren’t fixed in this game, they go up and down with moves, at least at the end of each session and sometimes more. It explains why some of those teen supers are hell on wheels in some episodes and pathetic losers in others!

Freak Watch – Session One

Welcome to the Freak Watch!  See the new campaign page for more.

tidwell-deaths-head-moth-red-web

Death’s Head Moth

Session One Session Summary (9 page pdf)

The first session of Masks is interactive character creation. Paul handed out the playbooks, and I picked the Delinquent; Chris, the Protege; Patrick, The Transformed; and Tim, the Doomed.  He told us we were in Hub City, which is the Detroit-like home of The Question from DC Comics. We came up with…

La Catrina, ex-gang Hispanic girl who got Santa Muerte type powers of illusion and teleportation following a gang shootout. She is a graffiti artist; the graphic above is a representative sample of her work, usually left somewhere inaccessible for someone without her powers.

The Infamous Wasp, a young black man who is the protege of The Question, the retired Rorshach-like former hero of Hub City. He detects and fights and bosses us around.

Kid Kafka, who was transformed into a roach-man on some archaeological dig gone wrong. We’re pretty sure he was a honky before becoming a bug. He has big bug powers (being strong, being indestructible).

Teenage Vengeance Shadowblade, whose name is obviously inspired by the Deadpool movie, is a gender-ambiguous Asian emo. She’s a necromancer and telekinetic and has some magic witchblade thing.

We came up with a backstory driven by the system’s questions about how we came together and had battled The Banshee And The Wailers and generally crashed at TVS’ haunted mansion. (Haunted by the ghost of Meriweather Lewis, I’ll note.)

The first session was mostly a softball; we went to a traveling Egyptian exhibit and were interrupted by “Seismic Prime” and “Centipede” busting up the road and causing trouble. It helped get us used to the mechanics – there’s no ‘roll to bust heads’ maneuver – here, look at the moves for yourself. There’s adult moves to act more directly but even “Directly Engage a Threat” doesn’t do, like, damage to them. A lot of the action – between PCs and NPCs, but also between PCs, are the softer moves.  I finally “defeated” Centipede with Pierce The Mask after rattling her some; she gave me info and scuttled off with me now having Influence over her. Fights generally aren’t to the death or even to the unconsciousness.

An interesting attribute of the rules is that in Dungeon World, our previous Powered by the Apocalypse campaign, the moves are pretty standalone. In Masks there seem to often be logical followup moves and a lot of the collateral effects are e.g. gaining Influence or even causing someone’s stats to shift.

After the fight, both Kid Kafka and TVS had gotten flak from the locals (roach and vampire are attacking, run!), and Wasp and I went back to the mansion and used various moves like “Comfort or Support” on them. In the end it all went well! Paul declared he’d have to put a stop to that.

Our session summaries are less in depth than some campaigns because we’re moving fast and Chris wants to participate in the fun and not just write it down!  I’m also taking notes and adding bits and pieces in post. Enjoy!

New Masks Campaign – Freak Watch

Welcome to the Freak Watch!  On the new campaign page we’ve got three summaries up already.

Freak Watch is a campaign using Magpie Games’ Masks, a game Powered by the Apocalypse and emulating teen superheroes in the vein of Young Justice or Teen Titans. Paul is our ever-suffering GM.

The campaign is set in Hub City, IL, the DC Universe city home of The Question (now retired to a job as a conservative radio talk-show host). It’s the most corrupt city in the US.

Our heroes, the self-styled Freak Watch, consist of:

  • La Catrina, Maria Lorena Ramirez (The Delinquent), played by Ernest
  • The Infamous Wasp, Purcell Stone (The Protégé), played by Chris
  • Kid Kafka, Frank LaLone (The Transformed), played by Patrick
  • Teenage Vengeance Shadowblade, Grace Lennox (The Doomed), played by Tim

Chris is our faithful session summarian, and Ernest the editor and blogger that posts these for your amusement.

We finished out Mummy Rustlers and we like us the Powered By The Apocalypse.  So we noodled around next steps and Paul backed the Masks kickstarter so we are doing it.  Our campaigns often turn kinda dark so this should help us keep it PG-13.

I haven’t had a chance to play a Mexican character yet, and we love our calaveras down here in Austin, so I am playing La Catrina, a Santa Muerte-type delinquent chick. She’s got illusion and teleportation powers.

la-catrina

La Catrina

Up next, session posts!

Reavers on the Seas of Fate, Season Five, Eleventh Session

Waterspout

Eleventh Session (10 page pdf) – “The Key To War Machine, Part I” – The pirates brave the Sodden Lands to find the control key to the superweapon. A shore party descends into a boggy crypt…

First, the ship has to deal with the issue of Serpent’s wife Samaritha being lost overboard in the Eye of Abendego. With clever use of spells and some sharp sailing they find her and are effecting a rescue, when my next random Eye of Abendego weather conditions roll comes up double zero.

The entire crew is lining the port rail, intent on watching the rescue. From the other railing, Wekk the Cloven screams, “Great Gozreh’s cock!” As everyone whirls, they see him pointing at a waterspout forming to the north. (A waterspout is a tornado over water, for you landlubbers.)

The next bit is the PCs desperately trying to keep their ship together as the waterspout hits – my ship rules turn this into a pretty epic and interesting “combat.” Serpent keeps leaping overboard to save people, which in hurricane-racked seas would be suicide if he wasn’t all optimized with a Swim speed and everything.

Finally they get to the Sodden Lands and go ashore. They’re searching a ruined Chelaxian plantation for the control doohickey for the war machine Mase Venjum promised them. This bit is taken from Tomb of the Necrophage from Tombs of Golarion. In the first part they mainly just fight angry juju zombies; apparently someone’s gotten here before them.

Reavers on the Seas of Fate, Season Five, Tenth Session

The Kraken’s Spite

Tenth Session (11 page pdf) – “The Eye of the Storm” – The pirates take on a skald and set off through the Eye of Abendego, which tests their mettle as sailors harshly – and Samaritha is lost overboard when a waterspout hits!

So first they come across a weird sight – an Ulfen longship!  This far south? They decide to parley instead of fight (probably a good idea, as the ship is the Kraken’s Spite from Ships of the Inner Sea, and the crew is pretty stout). They just want to get rid of a skald that needs to go further south.  Why?  Well apparently Ulfen Linnorm King White Estrid sacked Nisroch and sent skalds in all four compass directions to spread the word of her feat!  And those of you who’ve been with us a while remember that the PCs were there when her fleet attacked…

Maar Eiderson

I hadn’t yet determined what happened in the Estrid vs Nisroch battle, and decided to leave it up to the dice, and dependent on the fight between White Estrid’s ice linnorm thrall Boiltongue and the ancient umbral dragon the Nidalese had put in place after her first raid for such an eventuality.  So between sessions I rolled out a fight between the two and – OK I’m such a nerd – composed a skald poem to relate it to the PCs.  The fight took a long time. Here it is, The Battle of the Two Dragons in its entirety, related by the skald Maar Eiderson.

As the fleets of the Northmen reaved into Nisroch harbor
Estrid’s Pet wreaked destruction on the darkling city
When an ebon tower rove asunder and a great shadow wyrm arose
The two huge beasts circled each other and darkened the ground
Boiltongue spoke first and his maw sprayed ice across the blackness
The other replied in a cacophony of shadow that drained the icy one’s might
But then the ice hardened and it fell like a mountain to earth
The crash was felt throughout the bay
As darkling buildings were crushed to gravel
But Boiltongue raged aloft, blinded by the shades
As the dark one tried to free itself from the frost
The linnorm’s vision cleared, and he followed the shade to ground
And snapped at its flitting flanks, as it shook free of the encircling ice
The dark dragon’s eyes blazed as it uttered a dark word of destruction
That caused the bravest men’s hearts to quake
But Boiltongue the linnorm is beyond such magics
And continued to press his attack unslaked
The shadow wyrm pulled together the shadows to encircle him
But Boiltongue struck unerringly through the darkness
The shade spoke again and shadows spilled out, covering the wyrm of ice
Whose claws and fangs lashed out but could not find purchase
The shade took to the air with frightening speed
Its wings blew building walls down, like a storm from the north
As men and darklings fought and died around
But Boiltongue followed it into the twilight sky
The shadow wyrm called upon its dark magic and became faster still
Like a shadow flits across a wall, it darted by Boiltongue and each
time opened a rent
In the great linnorm’s side. But the linnorm’s wounds knit
Almost as speedily as they opened; and he bode his time
And iced its wings again as it approached
The shade fell into the bay, and the wave it made as it smote the water
Raised up boats a dozen feet; the ice wyrm followed right after
But the shade broke free of the ice and turned his full fury onto Boiltongue
Ripping into the linnorm with fangs and claws and pinions again and again
Till Boiltongue’s blood stained the dark waters oil-black
The linnorm coiled around the dragon and dragged it down into the icy waters
It burst free and shot out of the waters into the darkened sky
And circled enraged looking for its opponent
But Boiltongue lurked below, the icy waters knitting his wounds
The shadow wyrm descended on a longship, and shadows vomited from its maw
Draining the life from a dozen Ulfen warriors
Boiltongue surfaced by Estrid’s flagship and the king saw he was weakened
By the shadow wyrm’s foul darkness
She ordered her war-priest to restore his strength and enchant his fangs
That they might find purchase on his ghostly foe
And the Lord in Iron’s blessing was given unto the linnorm
The umbral dragon’s fiery eyes espied this and he spoke his word of
destruction against the priest
Whose ears bled, and quaked in agony
Boiltongue surged from the waters to answer this offense
And the dark one eagerly met him
Determined to rip him asunder once and for all
Boiltongue’s fangs sank into the shade in turn
And their serpentine bodies coiled about each other in a death-knot
The shadowy one broke free of Boiltongue’s embrace and shot away
Boiltongue coiled up into the sky proudly awaiting its charge
It paused, muttering draconic magic, and then advanced
But turned aside, hurtling down towards Estrid’s ship
The linnorm ignored this, and charged and struck at air
Whence the real dragon commanded its shadowy double
Taken aback, it again breathed out its shadows on the linnorm
But prepared for its tricks, Boiltongue was barely affected
And his mighty jaws crunched down on the shade’s neck
It roared as the linnorm’s feared venom, the black blood of the earth
Flowed into its veins. In a frenzy it tore into Boiltongue
As Boiltongue replied fang for fang
But the shadow dragon’s pinion struck to the heart of the great linnorm
And this time it was Boiltongue that fell from the heavens
Into the icy heart of the bay; the dragon roared in triumph and followed
Him down to finish off his victim; but in the chaos of the spray
He missed the linnorm’s throat with his claws
And Boiltongue, his wounds healing, lashed from the waves
And raked his foe with poisoned fang; the umbral one raged
And slashed and battered his wounded foe into icy hunks of flesh
Then tried to rise, but the venom in its blood found
Its dark heart, and it fell again into the waters
And sank into the depths alongside the linnorm.
Men on both sides shrank from the fray
To see such destruction wrought by the massive titans
Upon each others’ colossal frames
Ice and shadow unleashing their might
To finally take each other in their death-spasms
But the linnorm is no mere beast
He is a part of the arctic primeval
Even as the battle between Ulfen and darklings swelled
His corpse began to come together
And knit itself back into its ancient shape
Ice gripped the hearts of the Nidalese scum
As Boiltongue rose again from the waves
The umbral scourge defeated
He devoured its dark heart And his roar was like the north wind
And the howl of the wendigo in winter
The defenders quailed and fled from the fight
And thus did the men of Halgrim, led by White Estrid the Linnorm King
Sack Nisroch again.

White Estrid and Boiltongue

Both of them had DR and SR and high saves so the fight went many rounds. The umbral dragon had the linnorm generally outclassed, but its regeneration (and a little help from the Ulfen) kept it in the fight long enough to finally get its poison to proc, and once that happens it’s a short trip.

Well roused by the recitation, the Teeth of Araska sails into the permanent hurricane the Eye of Abendego… The storms batter the ship, and they manage to keep control but Samaritha is washed overboard!  Fly doesn’t do the trick when the ship’s flying before a gale wind…

All Those Lovely NPCs

In a recent comment on a Reavers session summary, flyboy1986 asked:

I’ve marvelled at how each of the crew seem to have a distinct personality (besides being murder-hobos). How do you keep track of everything??

Great question.  Thanks for noticing and I’m glad it comes through!  One of the things that I believe is the most important in an immersive RPG campaign is putting effort into well realized NPCs and bringing them to life.  I would venture to say it’s near impossible to put too much work into that aspect of a campaign.  In our Reavers game, besides the usual crop of villains and lovers and whatnot, they have a crew of over 60 people on their pirate ship.

Some people would have you “abstract that out.” Those people suck. Think about well done movies/TV shows.  They have even minor characters be memorable – even people you don’t hear their names.  To take a naval example, movies like Pirates of the Caribbean or Master and Commander, you feel like you recognize and know a little bit about random ship crew – there’s the ones that get more play than others (the two guys who were soldiers and became pirates in Pirates, the old Hold Fast guy in Master) but the more you see some random swab and remember them and think “oh yeah that’s the flute playing guy” the more realistic a world you get.  And realism of your game world is the table stakes for player investment in the world and NPCs.

Now, I don’t rely on tooling for much of it – here’s the actual documented list of crew on the Teeth of Araska:

Crew

PCs and Command Crew

  1. Captain Sindawe H’kilata Narr, the fist-punchin’ Mwangi monk (Chris).
  2. Quartermaster Ref “Serpent” Jorensen, the staff-bashin’ Ulfen druid/ranger and his snake Saluthra (Paul).
  3. Master Gunner Wogan, the pistol-packin’ celibate cleric of Gozreh (Patrick).
  4. Bosun Tommy Blacktoes, the staff-slingin’ sneaky halfling rogue (was Kevin, now an NPC).
  5. Ship’s Wizard Samaritha, the wand-blastin’ serpentfolk wizard in the guise of a pretty half-elf; Serpent’s wife.
  6. Ship’s Surgeon Hatshepsut, monk and high priestess of a lost civilization and her cobra Naja.
  7. Lavender Lil, a buxom tiefling ex-prostitute, and Tommy’s girlfriend.

Araska Pirates (all have gunnery, a silver plated weapon, and a clw potion)

  1. Gunner’s Mate Stoke, Ftr3, gunner’s mate, married to Tegan, breastplate +1, potion alter self, heavy mace +1
  2. Carpenter Tanned Hank – Ftr3, really, really tanned. Swim skill. Ship’s masterwork spear, breastplate +1
  3. Second Mate Tasty Mike, Ftr3, former Chelish navy, studded leather +1, +1 heavy mace
  4. First Mate Big Mike, Ftr3, from Sargava, part owner of the Vile Fish, studded leather +1, +1 shortsword.
  5. Third Mate Klangin – Ex-Chelish prisoner, half-orc rog4/barb4, some magic
  6. Coxswain Gareb – Ftr3, Andoren, swim skill, ship’s long bow, ring of swimming, cloak of resistance +1, horn of fog
  7. Orgon – Ftr3, short, bald , battleaxe +1
  8. Slasher Jim – Ftr3, knife expert. Azlanti amulet of natural armor +1, trident +1
  9. Dum-dum – Ftr3, simpleton + masterwork wooden shield, shock net

Freedmen (Ex-Chelish slaves) – leather and long spear if not otherwise noted, one silver plated weapon

  1. Bel, ex-eunuch slave – War3, masterwork chain, silver heavy mace
  2. Pirro, porter – Com3, charged spear, mwk heavy shield, potion darkvision
  3. Ori, cook – Com3, ring of protection +1
  4. Sevgi, ex-harem slave – War3, studded leather, cloak resistance +1, +1 longsword, belt incredible dex +2
  5. Kahina, ex-household slave – Rog2, amulet natural armor +1
  6. Karomander, fine craftsman – Exp3

Bunyip Crew (gunners have 1 less rank in Stealth; all have 1d6 SA, 2d6 if flanking with each other)

  1. Billy Breadbasket – Rog1/War2, cook, gay
  2. Feissian Hareskinner – Rog1/War2
  3. Dario – Rog1/War2
  4. Samuel – Rog1/War2, hand axe +1
  5. Taunya – Rog1/War2, master gunner
  6. Clubbreaker Cordell – Rog1/War2
  7. “Sexy Beast” Sapier – Rog1/War2, master gunner, belt giant strength +2
  8. Tiberiu – Rog1/War2, belt giant strength +2
  9. Hovax Littlehands – Rog1/War2
  10. Prand – Rog1/War2

Wandering Dagger Crew (War2 Str +1 Dex +1 Con +1 Prof (sail) +5, Toughness, Power Attack/various AC 14 HP 20 BAB +3  Melee +4 Dmg 1d8+1) mwk flail + mwk wood shield

  1. Thalios Dondrel, son of Mordekai (was first mate)
  2. Blacktop Bill (was quartermaster)
  3. Crazy Jake (was master gunner)
  4. Courtland Breeden
  5. Eamon
  6. Stormy Sherman (allegedly her real name)
  7. Wekk the Cloven – Shoanti

Recruits

  1. Mitabu, the keel-breakin’ Mwangi rogue
  2. Zoamai, the elf-hatin’ half-Mwangi, half-elf sorceress, headband of mental prowess
  3. Olgvik – Bar2/Rog1, Ulfen low-level barbarian with a greataxe, captured at sea, potion expeditious retreat
  4. JJ – seamunculus of a wizard refugee from the Sun Temple Colony
  5. Claxton, Exp3 from the Sun Temple Colony
  6. Nemo – Shipmate
  7. Melella – half-elf druid 1 from Magnimar, druid’s vestment, treant seeds
  8. Rucia – fledgling Desnan ex-waitress from Nidal, cleric 1
  9. Arsonee – a heavily scarred Nidalese fisherwoman
  10. Luca Caletti – Ex-Chelish marine with a black powder sniping rifle
  11. Brancis – Ex-Chelish prisoner
  12. Phamas Harcey – Ex-Chelish prisoner, high profession(sailor)
  13. Aelia – aasimar bedwarmer for Big Mike
  14. Flavia – aasimar bedwarmer for Gareb
  15. Volcatia – aasimar bedwarmer for Little Mike
  16. Said – Rahadoumi cabin boy
  17. Narbus “Lefty” Smeet – Exp2/War1, lad from the Sun Temple Colony
  18. Kutaamo – tengu Rog3
  19. Mandohu – lizardfolk warrior, hat of disguise, ring of feather falling
  20. Chidike – Mwangi ex-slave off the Boastful Shaman
  21. Kunto – Mwangi ex-slave off the Boastful Shaman

Passengers

  1. Marr Eiderson – Ulfen skald (bard).

That’s it. 61 people (including the PCs).  A hefty challenge – but heck, I need to push my own abilities while GMing to get better!

Thalios Dondrel

Thalios Dondrel, Son of Mordekai

Of course all 61 of them didn’t just airdrop in one day. This campaign’s 6 years in. So what I do is, when they’re introduced, try to make sure and include something interesting about each one.  The first crewman they ever met was Thalios Dondrel, son of Mordekai, and besides his name he was butt naked on a ghost ship when they met him, and he speaks in a super-piratey accent all the time. When they met him again much later, they remembered him.

The ex-Chelaxian slaves they rescued, settled on an island, and later went back to recruit as pirates – there was an illustration in the module of Bel, Pirro, and Sevgi. Bel was bald and heavy so I decided he was a eunuch, and he and Sevgi had this weird relationship that then made him really want to go to Druid Witch Regeneration Island to get his gear regrown.  Having actual goals other than “serve the PCs” adds realism and thus

Kahina, Bel, and Pirro

Sevgi, Bel, and Pirro

remembrance. Pirro was human but the PCs kept thinking he was half elf from his picture. Some people say “always go with what the PCs say!” but you have to mix it up – often it’s great to grab onto something the PCs say and add it to the NPC, but in this case I contravened that by saying “nope, human!” so they decided he was pretty metrosexual.

Mix it up.  There’s a handful of crew I use voices for (I don’t use voices for everyone, but JJ the perverted seamunculus gets a Gilbert Gottfried voice), a handful I use body language for (Lavender Lil most notably), others with specific habits (like Slasher Jim the serial killer or Stoke who is kinda deaf and talks loud). Some I’ve got a good picture for that I use, too – just Google it up, or rip pics from gaming PDFs (or even take cell phone pics from print ones). There’s Big Mike and Little Mike, whose names and dynamic I stole from two old gaming buddies I had in Memphis.  A NPC from Nidal has different flavor from a NPC from the Sun Temple Colony in sunken Azlant, or an ex-Chelish military recruit, or an escaped slave. Remember that different players remember things differently – they may be a more visual person or may like Cheliax a lot or whatever, so they’ll glom onto some things another player doesn’t.

And then there’s just incidents of luck.  I roll randomly when they’re in port to see what good and bad things happen, and once one guy gets robbed by a bunch of hookers that becomes part of his character. There’ll be a fight at sea on the ship and I’ll roll some dice and determine that Tanned Hank rushes a monster while others are hanging back, and suddenly the PCs are like “that guy’s crazy, which normally would be good but he’s our only carpenter so we really need to manage protecting him better…”

Then once there’s anything memorable about a character – you double down on it.  Whenever that NPC is involved in something – maybe it has to do with that.  Oh that pirate’s a junkie, so if some random encounter happens to her it is while she’s trying to buy drugs.  A little reinforcement goes a long way. Wogan accidentally said something to Klangin the orc when they found her, so now she’s continually pursuing him romantically (as is the meek Desnan, Rucia), so the chaste cleric is in a weird love triangle.  It makes the NPCs vivid to him and the rest of the PCs (since egging them on has a lot of entertainment value).  I try to never say “a crewman says X.”  It’s always someone specific. I roll 1d61 (computers, it’s easy) and when it tells me Dum-Dum is the crewman on watch, and then I roll a Perception check to notice another ship and he botches it, the PCs are like “Well… He isn’t the brightest, I mean, it’s right there in his name, you can’t really blame him that much.” In the real world, people start interpreting input to reinforce preexisting assumptions they have about people.  This is problematic in the real world but it’s your friend as a GM.

You’ll notice I don’t have much of that written down in the crew list.  It’s in session summaries, but in general when done right people just remember. If it has to be written down, it’s already unsuccessful.

Sometimes I wish I had a more rich relationship mapping tool, and have considered a bit more of a morale/mutiny kind of system – but more tracking or mechanics isn’t strictly needed.  I’ll have one of the PCs make a Diplomacy check if I think the crew’s opinion is at stake over something to see how they take it.

And besides that – just give NPCs some initiative.  I mean, I’ve played in so many games where all the NPCs just sit there like it’s World of fucking Warcraft waiting for PCs to ‘activate’ them.  My PCs know if they leave their pirates around for too long unsupervised they’re going to definitely try to steal, snort, screw, or deface something.  They’re pirates!!!  And they get ideas of their own. Like when they were on Firewatch Island and went on shore considering looting the local monastery.  The PCs found out about zombie attacks and called a boat over from the ship, with a monk in attendance.  They told the crewmen “tonight, there may be a zombie attack…” in kind of a weird leading way.  So the pirates decided that was their captain trying to subtly communicate to them, and rowed back that evening dressed and made up like zombies to “attack the monastery.”  The PCs weren’t sure whether to crack up, be upset, or be impressed with their plan.  NPCs run off, they get married, they drown in a ditch when drunk. They’ve got their own agendas and ideas, they’re racist against elves or are kinda OCD about stuff or are always talking about the inn they’ll buy when they retire rich.  Just take some random thing that comes to mind from a real person or a book/TV/movie character or whatnot from the last week and stick it onto an NPC and watch it grow.

And it pays off.  A number of times they’ve had some random crew member – and not one of the main ones – get into a fix to where I kinda assume they’ll just sail on and let them rot in jail or be kidnapped by a rich pervert or whatever.  But they absolutely don’t, and go out of their way and to great expense and/or danger to rescue them, even if it’s objectively deserved and/or their fault. They’ve invested thousands of gold in magic items into their crew. They trust some, distrust others, enjoy the company of some, not so much of others…  All of the ingredients required to be realistic and memorable.