Claws & Effect 16: 5-Star Minor Characters [Realms of Pugmire]

Realms of Pugmire

One thing I’ve noticed about Pugmire and Monarchies of Mau is that people love to make characters. Sometimes they don’t even play them (although there’s a lot of that as well!), but they’ll just think of ways to “Pugmire-ize” their pets or friends’ pets or random pets online. It can be a fun way to pass the time and get people excited about the world.

What’s better is that it makes it really easy to come up with characters on the spot. Those of us who have run tabletop RPGs before know the drill — the players go into a tavern or shop or something, and start asking about the characters in the background. But you have no idea about those characters, and need to come up with them on the spot. For some reason, I tend to use the name “Frank” in such situations — which is weird, because I don’t know many people named Frank — so I had to actually keep a list of random names I could check off during a game session. But in Realms of Pugmire games, I can draw on all the pets I’ve known in my life, giving me a ready list of characters when I’m stuck making one up on the fly.

So what happens when the players decide that the character you just made up is now their best friend, or someone they have to pick a fight with? How do you come up with mechanics on the fly.

Both Pugmire and Mau do have stat blocks in the back for bandits. This is a great catch-all for “I need a combat-capable non-player character right now.” Just flipping to the back and using those mechanics will get you out in a pinch. But sometimes they don’t quite work. You can swap things out and move them around, but that works better when you’re planning an adventure ahead of time, not when players are staring you down. And forget about making a full character sheet.

There is another trick, though. One thing a lot of people don’t pick up is the fact I put the modifier for abilities first, rather than the score. It’s a subtle way of reframing the important information — the fact that you have 10 Strength is rarely useful, but knowing you don’t add anything to your roll is. And the average spread for a character is really between -1 and +3. That’s five steps. Or five stars.

Wait, stars? Let’s take an example: The characters go into a tavern in Southgate, and are trying to convince the bartender cat to give them a discount. All you know about the bartender is that their name is Fluffy, because that’s the name of the cat you had when you were ten. Fluffy wants to make a saving throw against Charisma. Should you add anything?

Well, rate Fluffy on a 1 to 5 star scale. They’re probably used to people haggling in Southgate, or they wouldn’t be a very good bartender. But they’re not amazing at it. So, three stars sounds about right. If you assume 1 star is -1, and add two to that, that gives you +1. So, roll a d20, add one, and you can see how well Fluffy resists such an advance. If things get heated, you can give Fluffy a handful of stamina points (say, 2d6), and decide if their weapon is small (1d4), medium (1d6), or large (1d8).

The results are pretty low-powered — don’t expect these minor characters to stand up to well-equipped player characters — but they’ll do in a pinch, and it’s something you can easily sort out in the middle of a game session.

What are your tricks for making things up on the fly?

  1 comment for “Claws & Effect 16: 5-Star Minor Characters [Realms of Pugmire]

  1. June 12, 2019 at 2:41 pm

    This is a great tool! I tend to create a ‘stock’ list similar to this where I mark off 1-3 skills/abilities a character has. Fighting 1, Speaking 2, Perception 3, then I use those as bonuses when I roll for them.

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