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Against the Shadow  |  Other Rules  |  Of Bribery, Intimidation and Gambling
Of Bribery, Intimidation and Gambling

Of Bribery, Intimidation and Gambling

    In occupied lands, especially in the cities controlled by traitor princes or false sussars, most guards are actually human, because orcs are seen as unreliable at best.

    When they can afford, the Shadow rulers recruit trained mercenaries, but often they pay them at their whim: fees can be brutally reduced if the local mines don’t produce enough for said month, or a “contract” can be suddenly revoked (with ugly consequences) if the guard somehow does not bring satisfaction to his employer.

    The most depraved rulers (Sameal the Eel, for instance) even take able men to train them in the guard duties, forcing them to perform their “military duty”.     Since most of these people feel no love for the Shadow or their prince, their families are taken and kept as hostages. In case of treason or even failure (a guard who falls asleep while on duty, for example), then the whole family is executed, as well as the guard. Simple and effective. So many mouths less to feed, anyway.

    With these conditions, it is not impossible to have guards in occupied cities “look the other way” as long as doing so does not threaten them or their loved ones. Resistance members as well as members of criminal organizations use three methods.


    Bribery is a dangerous trade, for even though a given guard is “accessible” to bribery, if the price offered is not sufficient, he may as well decide that calling other guards might give him a slight promotion.

First, the PC has to make sure that the guard is accessible to bribery, with a Sense Motive check. The basic DC is 20, with modifiers:

  • if the guard has no family to protect: -10
  • if the guard was not paid for the last month: -5
  • if the guard was not paid for 3 months: -8
  • if the guard just got a promotion: +5
  • if the guard was already caught failing his duties: +10
  • if the PCs have taken the guard’s family into safety: -10
  • if the guard hates the Shadow (loved one killed, for example): -5
  • if the PCs give the guard a good story to explain his failure to his superiors: -10

    Feel free to add your own modifiers for specific NPCs’ motivations.

    If this check succeeds, the PC knows whether the specific guard can be bribed or not. If the check fails, the PC always thinks the guard can be bribed… (evil DM grin).

    In order to practice bribery, a PC will have to give an item or perform a service that is worth a given number of vp. The vp cost depends on what the guard is asked to “ignore” (a weapon, a book, a fey, a known fugitive, etc.). The more risks the guard takes, the more expensive the bribery will be. For example, it might cost a little fortune to convince a guard to allow a prisoner to escape or to allow passage into a restricted area).

    Here follow some basic examples of “prices” for different “services” a guard could provide to the party:

  • Ignore a weapon (simple): 10 vp
  • Ignore a weapon (martial): 20 vp
  • Ignore a weapon (exotic): 25 vp
  • Ignore a fey (except gnome or orc): 150 vp
  • Ignore a known criminal: 150 vp
  • Ignore a book (or scroll): 25 vp/ book
  • Ignore an obviously magic item: 500 vp/item
  • Disobeying an order (“run after him”): 800 vp
  • Giving the password to a restricted area: 800 vp
  • Giving an uniform (which will later be used as disguise): 500 vp
  • Giving the night shift timetables: 50 vp
  • Drawing map of a fortress: 750 vp
  • Lending keys to a restricted area: 750 vp
  • Indicating the weaknesses of a Shadow minion (legate, orc commander, traitor prince, etc.): 200 vp
  • Providing a means of escape for the party: 450 vp

    Of course, guessing the vp value of a service is not enough. A specific guard might not accept to be paid with a sword or weapon, another might want food, etc. The price can increase or decrease dramatically with specific circumstances:

  • if the PC can pay with the proper goods that the guard desires: -30% discount
  • if the PC can only pay with goods that will be difficult to fence: +10%
  • if the PC can only pay with illegal goods: +20%
  • if the guard has no family to protect: -25%
  • if the guard was not paid for the last month: -20%
  • if the guard was not paid for 3 months: -50%
  • if the guard just got a promotion: +10%
  • if the guard was already caught failing his duties: +20%
  • if the PCs have taken the guard’s family into safety: -30%
  • if the guard hates the Shadow (loved one killed, for example): -10%
  • if the PCs give the guard a good story to explain his failure to his superiors: -20%

    Once the “total” modifier is obtained, you can compute the price that will be enough for the guard to be bribed. Of course this is only for the DM. If the PC wants to guess the price, it will require him to succeed an Appraisal check, with the same DC as the one used to determine whether a specific guard can be bribed.

    Once the DM knows the price the guard will want, the “negociation” can begin. Of course, any such thing must be conducted in “coded language” (Bluff checks). If the bargaining takes more than 10 minutes, the negociation fails. I think it is better to role-play it rather than make a Diplomacy or Bluff check to determine how much the PC finally pays.

    Remember that the party will gain a significant edge in the negociation if they can provide the guard and his family a safe way to escape the city and join some distant haven. Guards should be specific characters with their own motivations, and this option provides the DM with story hooks for later adventures (escorting the family to a safe place). And the guard himself could become a valued NPC in time, or even be used a as backup character should a PC die, if he accompanies them.

    Always keep in mind that if the risk is too big to take, then no matter what price the PCs offer, the guard will always refuse!

Gambling debts

    In the Last Age, gambling is a widespread activity, especially in occupied lands.It serves both to escape the sadness of life, and to provide some much-needed resources (at least that is what the people think before they try their luck).

    Guards also play to increase their pay so that they can feed their family, or just simply to escape boredom of guard duty. A clever PC might beforehand “win” against the guard at a game of chance. That way, the guard might be indebted to the PC for a specific value (see the table above for the “cost” of services a guard could provide). The PC might also “buy” the debt from someone who owns a debt to the guard (legally it is called a subrogation).

    It is an unwritten but fundamental rule in the life of the Last Age: a gambling debt always has to be paid, no matter the risk one takes. If the guard did not want to take risks, then he should not have played in the first place. There is a specific underworld organization, dedicated to widespread gambling, that can’t afford to let people go on without paying their gambling debts. It just would ruin the business, after all. Everyone knows that, everywhere there is a gambling ring, there are also “enforcers” (usually thugs or even corrupt orcs for that matter) who will not hesitate to give crippling blows to a person who does not pay his debts, even going a sfar as taking their family captive to be sold as slaves later.

    There is a simple system to make sure one owns a gambling debt: the owner of the gambling ring simply provides the “winner” with a token (usually a feather) the color of which depends on the price. The owner of the gambling den keeps tabs (most can’t write or read, but they do have a very good memory). Only them can allow a person to “buy” a gambling debt from another, to make sure it will be “enforced” by the underworld.

    It is widely known in the underworld that the gnome family of the Crossbow “owns” every gambling parlor across Eredane. Their secret organization, known as “the Wild Cards”, attracts many people to their gambling dens. The love of gambling is growing strong in the Last Age, so one could meete even orc commanders, traitor princes and even low-ranking legates in “Vip rooms” of some gambling halls. All were “hooked” to gambling and, worse, owe the Crossbows a few “favours” (the Crossbows are also masters in cheating to chance games, all of them having almost supernatural scores in Sleight of Hand…). Very few people know that such gambling debts are sometimes used for the resistance (blackmailing officials into giving vital information, giving safeconducts to specific individuals, or the liberation of a specific slave or prisoner). What remains to be known is whether the Resistance “buys” such things from the Crossbows or the family itself is part of the resistance…


    With a successful Bluff check, the PC might pass for a member of a specific criminal organization, or for a powerful servant of the Shadow, in order to impress the guard. Of course this maneuver can only succeed in places where criminal organizations are strong and feared, or where there is deep intra-Shadow conflict…

    The next step is to threaten the guard or his loved ones if he does not give the service he is asked for (“I know your children play in such street, that your wife works as a barmaid in such tavern. Are you sure you will ever see them again alive?”). This maneuver gives the PC a bonus varying from +2 to +5.

Then an opposed Intimidation check between the PC and the guard occurs. If the PC wins, then the guard will obey. If the PC fails, then the guard calls his mates to “grab the bastard”…

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