In Centurion: Legionary of Rome RPG, there are NPCs, but when you are going up against an NPC in something other than combat, the Challenge – as it is called – is built with a few other factors.
Challenges have Concepts, just like characters do, but in a Challenge, the Concept is what you are trying to achieve.
Challenges with NPCs in them have Traits, and those Traits are derived from the Traits of the NPC.
Challenges often have Elements, which may originate with the NPC or may come from the surroundings, complicating factors, or a narrative device affecting the situation.
Each Challenge might also have an Aspect. If the PCs are successful, they gain an Aspect die based on the Aspect of the Challenge. Aspects are a mix of bonus dice and experience pool, and they are from three important characteristics respected in Rome: Duty, Honour and Valour.
How does that all come together?
Taking some challenges from the last game, I can offer some examples.
There were a series of Challenges that occurred as the PCs attempted to gain a package from an NPC. This NPC wasn’t a villain, he was a legionary tasked with a job by a superior officer. Attacking him would have likely led him to fight, and we’re not talking fisticuffs here. So the PCs had to find a way to get the package from him.
The first thing they tried to do was figure out where he was going. To do so, one of the characters asked him to drop off a note to an old mistress on the way to Rome – the PCs assumed the package was being delivered to Rome. If the Challenge proved successful, the legionary agreed to do it, or he otherwise tipped off the PCs to the direction in which he was travelling.
This was a step toward getting the package, not actually getting the package itself, so the PCs would get no Aspect dice for success. However, if they wanted to use Aspect dice as bonus dice, this Challenge was a Duty Challenge, as intercepting the package was part of orders to the PCs delivered by their commanding officer.
We decided the Concept was “Involve Other in Mission,” as that’s what the PC was doing, involving himself and his task in the mission. The request wasn’t too difficult and it didn’t really put the NPCs task at risk, so I decided it was an Average difficulty, giving it a d6.
The attempt was a Social one, as the PC was attempting to persuade. The NPC’s Social was d6.
Finally, I added the Element “Under Orders.” The orders had been delivered to this NPC, a legionary and not an officer of any note, by a tribune, a very high-ranking character. That’s a pretty damn big deal. I gave that a Good difficulty, as getting him to bend those orders would certainly be difficult, but it wasn’t against his best interests or likely to lead to severe punishment. That left “Under Orders” with d8.
Finally, the Complexity of this Challenge was Demanding, meaning the PC needed three successes.
So, when the PC made the Test, he rolled against 2d6 and 1d8. The PC would likely have also rolled three dice, based on his own Concept, his Social Trait and an Element that could be linked to the Task. I believe the Element was something like “Silver Tongue.” By spending Luck, the PC could have used a second Element. The PC could also have gained more dice by spending Duty Aspect dice.
For each success, the PC could place a Condition on the NPC. For each success the NPC gained, he could do the same to the PC. The PC was successful, and left the NPC with the Conditions Gullible d8 and Underestimate d6. These Conditions provide dice to an opponent in a Test. The PC was left with the Condition Suspicious d8, which could cause him some trouble down the road.
Conditions can be removed at a cost of one Luck for 1d6 of Condition. A d8 is equal to 2d6, so the PC would need to spend two Luck to remove the Conditions.
But we weren’t done. Another PC then needed to find the package. The Challenge ended up looking like this:
Where is it? d8
Moderate (this refers to the Complexity, so this Challenge required two successes).
You’ll notice this Challenge doesn’t have an Element. Not every Challenge will. I’m sure I could have cooked up an Element to use, but if it is not glaringly obvious that an Element should be used, why fight to get one? The Challenge works just as well without one.
The PC was successful, everyone got another Luck token, and the poor legionary ended up with the Condition “On the Horse” d8. The PC’s task had been made much easier because along with the dice from the PC’s Concept, Trait, and Element, the PC gained the d8 and d6 for the NPC’s existing Conditions (Gullible and Underestimate). The PC, though, got the Condition “Thief?” d6, as the NPC had gained a success and noticed the PC’s scrutiny.
Finally came the moment we had all been waiting for. Another PC tried to switch the package for another package – basically a quickly located rock or chunk of wood hastily wrapped and hoped to be the same basic weight as the package. Finding an item for which to switch the package was not a Test. It was a great idea and really helped build the scene, so why would I punish that by insinuating the possibility of failure? I mean, think of Raiders of the Lost Ark if Indy didn’t fill the bag with sand. The scene would have been good but not as good. I want the best, most fun scenes possibly in my games.
The player didn’t ask me if he could find such an item, he told me he had found the item and wrapped it. Cool. Let’s go with that. That’s awesome.
That’s how it’s played.
So, the final Challenge actually had an Aspect die as a reward, and it was a Duty Challenge (as mentioned above, this was in answer to direct orders). This is what the Challenge looked like:
Attached to the Horse d8
The PC’s attempt was certainly assisted by the now 2d8 and 1d6 in Conditions on the poor legionary. By the end of the scene, the package had been switched, and the legionary had a further d8 in Conditions (Easily Distracted).
That poor guy likely lost his job as a scout if he ever did make it to Rome. I – as the GM – didn’t have enough Luck at the end of the game to remove all his Conditions.
So that’s a sneak peek at Challenges in Centurion. A better explanation, including how one would prepare Challenges for a game and further, how to build them on the fly, will be part of the rules should those rules get crowd-funded in March.