Friday, 8 March 2013

Alternative Use of Charisma: Allies & Enemies

A small house rule which I've been using in a slightly modified form in my recent Victorian horror campaign (which reached an unexpectedly explosive conclusion this week).

This rule works especially well for campaigns which are somewhat story-oriented (in that the PCs are involved in a fair amount of town based activity, and interaction with various NPCs and factions plays an important role), and campaigns where little or no use of the standard D&D henchmen rules occurs. Personally I've found that the henchmen rules are virtually never used in campaigns I run, so I thought it'd be good to come up with some alternative use of the Charisma stat (in addition to its role as a modifier to reaction rolls, of course).

Here's what I thought:

Using the standard B/X ability modifiers (3 = -3, 4-5 = -2, 6-8 = -1, 13-15 = +1, 16-17 = +2, 18 = +3), pluses in the Charisma stat mean that the character has a useful contact or ally, while minuses mean the character has an enemy.

Of course, the exact role these allies/enemies play in the campaign, and how much impact they have is up to the DM.

In the Victorian campaign we were just using the allies rule, which worked out really well. It occurred to me yesterday that the rule could be mirrored to give enemies to PCs with low CHA.


  1. I have used this same house rule for years. I am not sure where I picked this up, but I began using it back in the early days of 2nd edition. Great minds think alike! :-)

    Just adding, I make it clear to the players that any allies or enemies gained are steadfast in their drive to help or harm the character. These aren't just random NPCs holding a grudge for the hell of it. Also, just to spice things up a bit, I give it a 50/50 chance that the character doesn't know the identity of an enemy. I may tell them that they know a certain NPC, but the player might not realize the NPC is a sworn enemy. This allows for a bit of intrigue and paranoia as the player tries to figure out which NPC has it out for them.

    1. Ha great minds and their thinking indeed! (Re: that phrase I always find it interesting that in English it's extremely self-congratulatory, whereas the German equivalent "Zwei Dumme, ein Gedanke" is equally self-deprecating.)

      Great idea about the 50% unknownness of enemies!

  2. I'm working out something very similar for my cyberpunk game. Hirelings & henchman aren't really a thing in that genre, but contacts or patrons certainly are and CHR will affect that.

    I love the Enemies spin on this, though, and would likely let the player come up with something during character/background creation that I could use later on in the game.

    1. Yes I think you're right that it comes down to a genre/tropes thing. It's the same in a Call of Cthulhu campaign, say (which was the closest thing to my Victorian campaign) -- contacts are super important, while henchmen play virtually no role.

      Yeah I had in mind that the enemies and allies would be worked up (at least roughly / in part) at character creation.