Town Guards



Mar 12, 2004 21:58:54
I'm curious how others handle situations where the PCs encounter resistance by town guards. It happens relatively frequently IMC as the PCs have discovered the joys of bar-fights (which can by *very* fun and brings out awesome creativity in the players)! A player project I gave my players was to create family trees for their characters and one of them (who has two Vestland characters) gave several birthdays to them to "celebrate". As a group we really enjoy these occasions but they can be difficult to handle.

After the fun comes the consequences. Usually they flee and a couple of times they surprised me with their quick thinking. But what happens if these fail.

How tough do you make the guards?
Mine usually have saps and/or small clubs but is there anything else?
How about attitudes and reactions to people walking around in heavy armour and/or visibly armed?
How do you instill a healthy respect for law and order to characters that could take out the guards blindfolded?

Does anybody even deal with any of this?


Mar 13, 2004 3:11:36
Originally posted by Hugin
[b]After the fun comes the consequences. Usually they flee and a couple of times they surprised me with their quick thinking. But what happens if these fail.

Death or imprisonment. Depends on what they have done. If they killed anyone, death is a certainty.

How tough do you make the guards?

I play OD&D (or Classic or whatever you want to call it), so what follows refers to that system.

I don't make them very tough, usually, around 1st level and maybe a bit stronger than average in strength/constitution. They might be 2nd or 3rd level, at least one of them usually is. There are usually a good number of them, though, and they are typically better equipped for nonlethal combat than the players will be. But, if the players do manage to incapacitate them, it won't be long before the rest of the Town Guard hears about it ... and then they will send out the 'old hands' to deal with the players, who are going to be a match for most parties up to about a mid-level range. Very high level characters will draw the attention of the entire town guard, as well as possibly the local military and any adventurers living in the area.

Mine usually have saps and/or small clubs but is there anything else?

If you're playing OD&D the blackjack is a good weapon for town guards, and you might have one in any group with a net. Also, they should have swords on the chance they meet with deadly force.

How about attitudes and reactions to people walking around in heavy armour and/or visibly armed?

They don't get in the gates. Heck, walking up to the gate fully armed and armoured unless they are nobility might create a serious problem.

How do you instill a healthy respect for law and order to characters that could take out the guards blindfolded?

There are always the 'old hands' among the guards, who should be capable of dealing with players up to a certain point. If you're using a combination of miniatures (because disrupting spells becomes easier) and the Grappling rules I use, numbers can end up counting for alot ... a party of four 7th or 8th level characters would be fairly lucky, if unarmed, to manage to overcome a Watch of say, 6 first level, 4 second level, 1 third level and 1 fourth level fighters, all armed with blackjacks (and two of them Skilled if using Weapon Mastery) with better than average strength and the Wrestling skill. They're simply better suited for nonlethal combat than the PCs, particularly with their advantage in numbers.

If the PCs are really powerful and manage to defeat not only these but the 'old hands' as well, they can count on a bad reputation ... and that means some other local adventurers are going to come looking to defend their town. The worse they behave, the more of a spectacle of themselves they make, the more attention they are going to attract until they become the target of high-powered adventurers in all the lands around. This is not good from a PC point of view.

Alternatively (again if using OD&D) you could use the Squad rules from the module M5 (Talons of Night). In those rules, a group of warriors specifically trained to fight together in formation under the command of an officer can attack at the combined total of their levels, each. So a squad of 10 second level fighters makes 10 attacks as a 20th level fighter. Combine this with Grappling rules, and the players have a problem ... its pretty hard to avoid getting pinned when grappled by ten 20th level fighters.


Mar 13, 2004 9:31:03
Good stuff Edge! I have been making my guards 1st to 4th level but I like the idea of the "old hands" for extra back up if needed. I never though of having the town guards come "en mass" and the adventurers assisting sounds great; I could easily see a lawful character with an interest in the settlement he lives to offer his assistance to keep the peace if needed.

I don't have M5 unfortunately but is what you said basically all that is involved in the Squad Rules? That could help out alot.

As for the actual punishments, I use the info from the particular Gaz where we are. I should keep notes on the reputation of the PCs from region to region.

I just realized that there is only one lawful character in the party, and he's considered evil when not dealing with his people, so I guess I shouldn't be surprized that I need to use town guards! :D

P.S. I use 3rd Ed. but I am very familiar with OD&D.


Mar 13, 2004 11:41:13
Bar brawls and encounters with town guards seem to be a common element in many D&D campaigns. Often these episodes lead to scenes of unexpected results, often tragic.

Bar braws are often expected to be rather innocent things. Pure fun with chairs being thrown, but noone really getting hurt. Still, with the D&D systems combat tends to get deadly real quick.

First of all the GM should decide whether this is your classic cinematic campaign where bar brawls arent seen as very serious. If so, use the subdual damage rules from 3e, even if you are using an older version of the game. People reduced to 0 HP arent really dead, just knocked out.

Try to avoid too intense conflicts with the guards in such situations. The Guards will know that this was just another party getting out of hand and usually let people go after being locked up for the night. Let your players know that if they cooperate with the guards they usually wont get into too much trouble, whereas fighting or killing guards will force them to flee town permanently or worse.

In my D&D 3x campaign, city guards are usually lvl 2-3 with captains being 5th level warriors. If the PCs are strong enough to overcome such enemies, the city guards will flee and report this to the ruler who will employ high level bounty hunters/adventures to take the PCs down.

Wearing armor (other than leather) and weapons bigger than knives openly in town will not be accepted. Make sure that the players know this so that their characters will not break these rules out of ignorance.

If the PCs are Knights or of a similar status they will be allowed to wear armor and weapons within the city. If they serve the local ruler; _they_ will be expected to uphold the law. If they serve a different ruler, they will reflect badly on him if they do not behave themselves. (although they will be able to get away with some things, such as killing local scum).

Just a few thoughts.



Mar 13, 2004 12:48:07
Originally posted by Hugin

I don't have M5 unfortunately but is what you said basically all that is involved in the Squad Rules? That could help out alot.

IIRC, yes, pretty much that is all there is to it. Just note that they don't gain extra hp or any special abilities that a high-level fighter might have, the only real benefit is that they make attacks as if they were that level. It doesn't specifically state that this applies to unarmed combat and I would think that it really only applies to whatever weapon(s) these troops normally use - so unarmed combat is quite appropriate for the Town Watch, imho. It would be absolutely devastating under the Grappling rules from OD&D, but I'm not quite sure how it would work in 3e.

Please note, that you must be *very* careful employing this rule ... I would not extend it to just anyone who happened to fight together for a time, or to any groups that had recently formed or to disorganized bands of humanoids etc. I wouldn't even allow it, really, in any fighting organization of any kind that didn't have a few generations of history. Only to well-trained groups that work together in a martial institution of some kind (military, town watch, navy) that has been around long enough to adopt a good training system and a legacy of combat doctrine. Town Watch in a small village should probably not be allowed to do this, but in a city or town it could be used easily.

Note that because of their still-low hp this doesn't make a squad of watchmen an invincible force, either. Each time one of them is killed or incapacitated, the fighting prowess of the rest begins to drop signifigantly.

Also if the players are tough enough and the town is isolated and small enough, and they're a fairly immoral bunch, there's no reason you can't play out their takeover of a small town and the consequences thereof.


Mar 13, 2004 14:25:33
I just wanted to say that this has been an educating thread for me. Although I had Watch Captains around level 7 or 8, I had a player that loved to start trouble in the inns and taverns. Usually from arm wrestling matches. He actually did kill several gaurds once and escaped leaving the other players behind. I had a serious talk with him and told him I was his conscience and told him to either help the other players or he might be thrown out of the group. The Merchant who owned the town (it was in Darokin) decided he didn't want to catch the Player alive and sent out his personal head hunter. As the game was played out and the player tried to free his partners who had just told the merchant that they wanted nothing to do with a murderer and he believed them since they usually did odd jobs for him in the past and had developed trust. They also told him that this particular player had been a problem for a while and they won't mind if he went away. Of course, the players were in different rooms when I did this so that nobody knew what the other was doing.

It worked and when he decided he wasn't going to help them afterall and was going to wait in a nearby inn away from town for the other characters to be released, the Head Hunter found him. The player decided to make a nicer character after that. I made it a lesson to not let things get out of hand just because your much more powerful than the local gaurd. There's always someone more dangerous around than yourselves. They took the hint and never had a killing in a brawl except in self defense. After that I always allowed them to know that the local uler had a special assassin type he could call on. Even little towns had resources where they could send word to a larger town ruler for help. Nobody likes criminals.


Mar 13, 2004 18:15:51
Thanks alot guys. A fair bit of what's here I do already, which makes me feel better, but there's stuff here I never thought of before. In most bar fights the players anounce that the damage is subdual (including the Atruaghin Wild-Warrior which is based on the monk class), and is mostly in good fun.

There was an incident however, where one of the characters had been influenced by a demon that was inhabiting his body for a period of time (talk about internal conflict), and had slain a guard in cold blood because he wanted to leave through the front door (some others actually jumped through windows!).

The character has overcome his unwelcome guest, for now. It created some very interesting role-playing though!


Mar 14, 2004 20:46:12
If you have the gazateers handy most of them have punishable offences and the punishments associated with them. Some such as petty theft involve fines to death for extreme cases such as murders etc.

If your pcs are getting a kick out of brawling etc maybe a length trial could spice things up and change their perceptions a bit. Don't underestimate the powers of the law. Sure guards can be dealt with but when the true powerbrokers such as mages and clerics get involved it's a different case altogether.


Mar 14, 2004 21:14:23
I use the Gaz series *alot*, including for punishment and crime (I have them all, they are the best supplements ever published for a campaign setting IMHO).

That trial idea is triggering some ideas, thanks!
Hope none of my players read that.

I don't think that bar-brawls are a problem IMC, I just wanted to make sure I handled them well. Curiousity I guess. I had to be careful with a demon influenced CE character in a party of Nuetral and Good.

Just had another thought. Well known NPC guards that have a reputation in their respective towns. Never done that before. Could add more distintivness to each town. This great guys thanks again.


Mar 15, 2004 4:51:45
Well known NPC gaurds. That is a great idea. A really high level charcter that could seriously challenge the players. I think I'll use that in my current campaign. :fight!:


Mar 16, 2004 7:25:24
Well known NPC gaurds. That is a great idea. A really high level charcter that could seriously challenge the players. I think I'll use that in my current campaign.

One of my early GMs had this tendency to drop in unknown high level NPCs out of the blue. "Oh, you mess with the random city guardsman? Well, what do you know, he happens to be a 20th level fighter!"

Your suggestion makes more sense. Anyone above 5th level are bound to have some reputation. Anyone above 10th level should be well known and the PCs should have some idea of whom they are dealing with.



Mar 16, 2004 9:44:10
Originally posted by Hugin

I don't have M5 unfortunately but is what you said basically all that is involved in the Squad Rules? That could help out alot.[/b]

I finally dug this up and it isn't quite the way I described, so I will post it here.

Squad Combat Rules

Squads are small military groups (10 or fewer individuals) trained to fight with deadly efficiency as a group. When directing their attacks against a single foe, the effective level of hit dice of the squad for hit rolls is equal to the number of soldiers in the squad plus half the level of their leader (rounded up, but never more than half the "hit dice" of the squad). A squad of 10 soldiers led by a 6th level fighter would attack as a 13th level fighter. The number of attacks against a foe is determined by rolling a single die whose number of sides is equal to or less than the number of soldiers (including the leader) in the squad. Thus, the previously described squad would roll a d10 to determine the number of attack rolls. If reduced to nine soldiers, the squad would use a d8 to determine the number of attacks to be rolled.
Attacking as a squad increases the armour class of the individual soldiers by one. Morale checks are made for the entire squad.
Non-humanoid creatures and unintelligent creatures mentally directed by a creature of superior intelligence (such as giant spiders and spider folk [aranea, i think they refer to, in the context of this module - edgewaters]) can fight in squad combat.
When a squad attacks another squad, it is as if they are attacking an individual. Roll all attacks simultaneously for both sides but do not roll damage. Total the number of attacks for each side that actually hit a foe. Remove that number of foes from the opposing squad.
Thus, if 10 orcs led by an ogre were to fight 10 elves led by a 5th level elf, the orcs would attack as a 12 HD fighter and the elves would attack as a 13 HD fighter. [makes more sense to me if the orcs attacks as a 12 HD monster and the elves as a 13th level fighter, but whatever - edgewaters]. In this round of combat, the elves score five hits and the orcs score three hits. The orc force would be reduced to five orcs and the elf force to seven elves. Both sides make morale checks after the first round in which casualties are lost.


Mar 17, 2004 20:29:36
Interesting stuff, Edge! Thanks for the rules. I think I am going to incorporate them into my game. I'll have to modify them a wee bit but...

Has anyone used these rules in a game before? if so, did it work out alright or did you encounter any problems? Thanks again.