‘Better Angels’: Guards, Goons and Gawkers

Better-Angels-cover-v4-front-612pxWritten by Greg Stolze, © 2013

In Better Angels, you can stat up major opponents just like player characters and track their sliding Tactics and Strategies until they flee or succumb. That’s how the NPCs featured in the rulebook work. And you can deal with most ordinary people using the rules for mobs in Chapter Five of the rulebook.

But what about less important individuals who still might do some serious damage—especially likely if a Screwtape’s being sulky, or the dice are cold, or if it’ll be hilarious—and who are more resilent than the hoi polloi?

Here’s an easy variant to handle a character who’s somewhere between “anonymous member of a mob” and “supervillain.”

Give the character one overall dice pool that covers all his or her actions. Roll that overall dice pool for everything the NPC tries to do.

If an action is a little outside the character’s overall field of expertise, give it a –1d penalty. If it’s definitely outside the character’s purview, make it a –2d penalty or just don’t let the character roll for it at all. For this kind of character you don’t need to get very detailed.

The more competent the NPC is, the more dice he or she has and the more punishment he or she can withstand.

  • Semi-Competent Bystander: 4d
  • Professional: 6d
  • Expert: 8d

A semi-competent bystander, one step up from Joe or Josephine Normal, has a pool of 4 dice. This kind of bystander runs or collapses as soon as he or she gets hurt. (I bet you consider yourself semi-competent at least; wouldn’t you run away as soon a fire-spitting demon or laser-shooting supervillain injured you?)

If it’s someone who is professionally trained to deal with crazy disasters—typically a dedicated cop, firefighter or paramedic—the pool has 6 dice. An attack on this kind of character removes Width in dice from that pool. An NPC who is down to 1d or less is dead or badly hurt (GM’s call), having nobly sacrificed himself or herself on the altar of heroism.

Really expert folks who, nonetheless, aren’t quite essential enough that you stat them fully—SWAT team members, trauma surgeons who just happen to be in the bank when it’s getting robbed, kidnappable nuclear physicists?  Treat them just like the professionals above but give them 8 dice. If somebody like this survives the encounter, he or she has probably earned a name, a history and a full set of stats.

Illustration by Brett Barkley, © 2013

Illustration by Brett Barkley, © 2013