In Witchburner I use three tools to help create the intimate, paranoid atmosphere of a small mountain town beset by witchcraft: alcohol, love, and fear … and their end result: the mob.
Alcohol is the glue that binds the folk together, it is drunk to welcome guests, to celebrate good fortune, and to bury misfortune. And often, just for fun.
Every time the heroes pay a social call on a townsperson, they will be offered alcohol. Every watch the heroes drink, they get more drunk. If they refuse, they must make a Charisma save, or their host is offended (and fears them).
Every watch they do not drink, the heroes sober up one step.
Option: the referee can require Constitution saves for getting drunk and/or sobering up, but it really does not make much difference and with so much drinking it might get annoying.
Jolly (Drunk) Track
- 0 drinks: no effect
- 1 watch of drinking: advantage on social checks, disadvantage on physical checks
- 2 watches of drinking: disadvantage on all checks
- 3 watches of drinking: disadvantage on all checks, disadvantage on saves, movement halved
- 4 watches of drinking: incapacitated
Love and Fear
In Witchburner the heroes are there to investigate the evil happenings afflicting Bridge and to find the witch. The responses of the townsfolk will either love what they are doing or fear them.
Initially most townspeople will be coldly curious towards the heroes, uncertain what to think of these interlopers. They will sneak glances when they think the heroes aren’t looking, but generally stay polite and formal.
Being polite to townspeople, drinking their wine, sharing their meals, complimenting their morals, giving bribes, and promising to protect them, will make the NPCs love the heroes. Note this down in the 30 Citizens section.
Townspeople who love the heroes will generally support them, offer tips and advice, and more readily believe them when they, for example, offer evidence that they have found the witch.
Threatening townspeople, refusing to drink their schnapps, ransacking their homes, belittling them, torturing their friends, or demanding bribes, will make the NPCs fear the heroes. Note this down too.
Townspeople who fear the heroes will sullenly comply, but spread rumours about them behind their backs, distrust them, and readily hide or obscure evidence when they can.
Fear of a Cold Winter Night Drives the Mob
Once more than half the townspeople fear the heroes, roll 1d100 each evening. If the result is lower than the number of townspeople who fear the heroes (e.g. if 16 citizens fear the heroes and the result is 1–15) they will organize into a mob clamoring for the mayor to burn the foreign witches (aka. The heroes).
The Mayor Talks To The Mob (d6)
- 1: the mob grumbles and disperses for 3 days.
- 2–4: the mob grumbles and disperses for a night.
- 5: the mob’s clamor moves the Mayor who orders the heroes imprisoned.
- 6: the Mayor claims to be indisposed and the angry mob goes on a rampage, moving to seize the heroes immediately and burn them that night.
The frightened townspeople stand there, torches, pitchforks, rifles, sabres, and pikes raised, shouting and yelling. Their total number is double or triple the number of people who openly fear the heroes—opportunists and thrill seekers have swelled their numbers.
- HD: equal to number of citizens who fear the heroes (example: 20)
- Attack: HD+2 (+22) divided into up to five attacks
- Saves: half HD rounded down
- Damage: HD+2 (22) divided into up to five attacks
- Hit Points: HDx3 (60)
If the mob loses more than half of its hit points it disperses, leaving a third of its number on the ground, bleeding or dead. All the remaining townspeople who loved the heroes are now indifferent to them. All the indifferent townspeople now fear them.
If the mob reforms after having been dispersed (that 1d100 roll, remember), it moves directly to seize and attack the heroes by surprise. It is also equipped with old grenades and stunners, so things are certain to get messy.
Assumptions and Outcomes
I’m assuming you’re tracking days and ‘watches’ (6-hour chunks of the day), and that your goal as Referee is to create a sense of the palpable and mounting tension in a small town or village that is at first deeply uncertain of the Heroes’ intention.
The alcohol mechanic is both there to generate ambience, but also to put a soft limit on the number of investigations heroes can perform per day. Love and fear replaces the more common reaction roll: after all, in a civilized setting non-hostility is assumed and an outbreak of violence only occurs once tension and stress have mounted beyond all reasonable doubt.
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