Mar 10, 2013

Roles and Tasks for PC Groups

I've been playing in Courtney Campbell's Numenhalla game as Mad Bill Danger, which has been good because it's been a long time since I've been a PC in an old school game. I drive old school gaming in my groups, which means I run the games. Offline, I've mainly been playing WFRP 2e for the past year and a half  as we run through / playtest modules designed by the Liber Fanatica crew.

I'm going to be running a one-shot at some point this year for a bunch of people who are starting up a semi-regular board game night. Some of them have played before, but we'll have a bunch of folks who never have, so I'm once again considering the challenges and concerns of structuring play to make it comprehensible for new players. This is a perennial concern for me, and I want to adapt some of the things I learnt running Emern to this game. In the Emern game, I was experimenting with all sorts of different ways of modifying play, basically throwing everything I could out and seeing what worked and what didn't. Emern was also an extended campaign that had time and space for structures to be introduced gradually, and with different sections with distinct feels that allowed for changes in play to be slotted in without feeling like the entire campaign had to continue on with those rules. A one-shot imposes very different limitations.

One way I'm planning to structure play is by giving players roles and tasks to do in managing sub-systems that would otherwise be time consuming. I've mentioned doing this before, though I think most of the writing on this blog has been fairly abstract about it, and I'm going to go into specifics here.

Role: Caller

The caller is responsible for announcing all activity to the referee that the party as a whole takes. Individual PCs who want to take actions can still call out their actions, but they are assumed to be doing so separately unless they caller says the rest of the party is doing so as well.

When group initiative is used, the caller is responsible for rolling it, and for determining the specific order the PCs act in each round.

The caller determines and records the party's marching order.

Role: Mapper

The mapper is responsible for creating, updating and labeling the party's map. The mapper is responsible for answering questions about the map they have created from other PCs.

Role: Quartermaster

The quartermaster keeps the master record of what each PC has or does not have, and what their current and maximum encumbrances are (as well of any pack animals or hirelings). PCs may keep their own copies, but they are responsible for ensuring that the quartermaster's records are accurate. If it is not on the quartermaster's sheet, they do not have it.

The quartermaster may appoint an assistant responsible for some subset of the party.

Role: Timekeeper

The timekeeper is responsible for keeping track of how much time has passed, and the rate of use of consumables such as torches, food & water, etc. They are responsible for notifying players when 50% of any resource has been expended, and when a resource has been exhausted or is nearing exhaustion. PCs are responsible for notifying the timekeeper when they replenish or expend resources, but the timekeeper's record is the authoritative one, and consumables not noted on it are disregarded.

At any point, timekeepers may ask how much time has passed in-game since the last time they asked, and receive an answer.

Role: Rules Coordinator

The rules coordinator is responsible for answering any rules queries from other PCs that require referencing the rule book to answer. The rules coordinator's answers are subordinate to the referee's.

The rules coordinator is responsible for recording any special, spot, house rules or rulings being used as they come up. If the rules coordinator does not write a previous rule or ruling down, they cannot be cited as precedent in similar occurrences except by the referee.


  1. This is an extremely practical set of ideas. I like it.

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  3. I really like those roles. Granted, Timekeeper and some of the Quartermaster tasks are entirely null in my games, but usable nonetheless.
    Awesome stuff.
    /me adds blog to RSS feed

    1. I've found that by assigning responsibility for it to specific players, it actually becomes much more viable and pleasant to run games with encumbrance and close tracking of resources expended. And playing in Courtney's game has reminded me how much fun doing those things can add to the game.

      Last session, we came across 1300 lbs. of gold in a location that was non-trivial to return to once we had left it, and you had the classic scene of us emptying our pockets, dumping out everything and anything we could to stuff it full of gold and gems, tying blankets together, throwing quarrels on the floor, etc. in a mad frenzy of greed. This became a fun mini-game for a bit - what could we cram gold into to get the maximum amount out? Without encumbrance, the scene wouldn't've had the same heft or meaning.

  4. i would love to play but my schedule is weird. i drive semi ( 4am to 11am EST so i can only play 1pm to about 5pm every day or Sunday's after 11am to when ever.
    i have discord, D&D beyond (all source material, but not modules), and also Arkenforge.
    originally started playing in late 80's with first hard cover AD&D.
    SO i is hard to find a group that follows those times.