Monday, May 28, 2018

AD&D1e N2: The Forest Oracle

I have already forgotten what exactly led me to discovering N2: The Forest Oracle (C. Smith, 1984).  Perhaps it was a post on G+.  Perhaps in a moment of idle curiosity I googled "worst D&D module ever."  Whatever it was, I soon found my way to a 2015 review from the blog "Merric's Musings," which judging by its position on google has been read far more than the adventure itself.  Intrigued, I quickly acquired it at used-bin price (isn't life in the 21st Century nice) and read through the 32-adventure myself.

An unearthed gem!
Note that I refer to it as an adventure and not a module.  I have a very specific definition in mind when I talk about modules.  Modules are location-based, "modular" as the name implies: scenarios which can be dropped into the midst of a larger campaign setting or world with a minimum of modification.  They center around a specific, fixed place where adventure happens.  B1: In Search of the Unknown, Maze of the Blue Medusa; these are modules.  The Forest Oracle, second in the N-for-Novice series of "introductory" adventures published by TSR in the first half of the 80s, is most definitely not that. In fairness it does supply deliberately generic, somewhat colorless locations that could be slipped easily into just about any fairly recognizable world of Medievalesque Fantasy.  The content, however, more resembles one of Paizo's adventure paths, where player-characters are led through an unfurling novelesque plot, setpiece-by-prefab setpiece.

And boy, what a plot do we get here.

As said, I no longer in fact recall what led me to discover N2.  I downloaded it a while ago and spent my free time over the last few days savoring and digesting the contents.  As you probably surmised already, it doesn't enjoy the highest reputation.  The words "worst ever" have not infrequently been used and can be found on its product pages for Amazon, DrivethruRPG, and in any forum thread where it has ever been discussed.  Does "The Forest Oracle" deserve this opprobrium?

Honestly, people have probably been too nice to it.  What we have here is the kind of generic "FantasyQuest" adventure you'd see in a TV show about people playing Dungeons & Dragons, such as Community or Dexter's Lab.  A flavorless farming village is imperiled by a gypsy's curse: the PCs are asked to trek into the mysterious ancient woods immediately adjacent, and acquire the aid of a wise-but-shy Order of Druids.  Orcs and goblins will be fought.  Abandoned dwarf tunnels will be explored.  At various points a nymph and a dryad will be rescued.  For the adventure's climax, the PCs free a noble Pegasus from captivity.  A hack TV writer with a condescending attitude couldn't cook up a more boiler-plate D&D adventure on their best day.  No dragons actually show up (thankfully), but they are alluded to via rumor and local geography.

*Cue embarrassing falsetto* "Hold, Crunk! Thou shalt go.... no farther!"
 It should be emphasized in fairness that the adventure is intended to guide a group of tender first-timers into the world of Fantasy Roleplaying Games, hence both the heavy-handed Structured Funtime and the no doubt intended Boilerplate Fantasy feel of its environs.  Personally I feel newbies to our hobby deserve better---to see all the wild weirdness it can offer early and often---but nevermind.  The product exists, and in fact I'm not here merely to critique it.

Therefore one more thing before we move to the meat of this post.  Not only is N2 intent upon being a thoroughly colorless exercise, but it doesn't even execute its modest aims competently.  When I say the writing is incompetent, I mean basic things an editor should have caught: like inconsistently referring to the number of towers in a ruin, or the number of buildings in an encampment.  Information is staggered between mind-numbing amounts of padding.  Sentence structure is aggressively passive and frequently unclear.  Read excerpts from any forum post about this thing and you'll see what I mean.  The infamous bandits who are not singing and most definitely not joking as they march along the roadway are merely representative of the adventure's scatterbrained style.

by Adrian Smith - hope you really enjoy fighting these li'l guys!
 So, N2: an embarrassing footnote in the litany of products from TSR's Silver Age.  Deservedly forgotten.  Why bring it up again?

I'm gonna adapt this fucker to Pathfinder and make it into a runnable pointcrawl.

Yes, I am an idiot.  It's my blog, shut up.

 1. Setting Thanks to its utterly flavorless nature, N2 can be easily slotted into just about any Medievalesque fantasy setting that A) has orcs and goblins ; B) has some kind of vaguely nature-priesty class.  Seriously; at least the bar for entry on this fucker is about as low as you can go.

I'm going to be adapting it more specifically to the broader world of my Eastwylde/Kingdom of Pellegrine setting, although such bits will be quite easy to sand off if you'd like to use my modified version for your own Pathfinder games (........who'm I kidding?)

1a - Name Game First we'll need to modify some of the uh, decidedly embarrassing names which the adventure graces us with.  I mean I appreciate anything that avoids awkward fantasy names that nobody will remember like Zin-Shalas or whatever, but seriously.... The Greate Olde Woode?  With three extra e's?  Come on, man.

"The Downes."  Farming village where the adventure begins.  Described as occupying a valley surrounded by a ring of hills which..... wouldn't be downes, to my understanding.  Downes are hills, specifically low and somewhat terraced chalk hills, if we're going to try and generalize from the actual specific downes that exist in real-world England.   So we'll rename the hamlet as Downesvale. 

"The Greate Olde Woode."  Yeah.... we'll just say it's a very large stand of old-growth oak and elm known as The Oldwood.  Only minimally logged over the centuries and still wild at its heart, thanks to the longstanding protection of a Druidic Order. 

"Quiet Lake."  Not terrible but not quite enough specificity to satisfy Y.T.  Let's rename it Lake Quietus.

"Wild River." (At least they didn't call it Wilde River?)  In keeping with the Merrie Olde Englande theme I'll call it The Floodwald. 

"Order of the Golden Bough" - The Druids allegedly at the center of this story who actually don't play much part in it.  The Frazier reference is a little cute for me---I'll just call them The Order of the Oaken Bough. 

WORRHHH, DRUIDS!  You knew this was coming.
Names fine as-is: Old/New Wilderness Road, Old North Road, The Wildwood Inn (I don't like it but it's acceptable), Dragonteeth Mountains (ditto), Castle Karn. 

That out of the way, Downesvale and the adjacent forest will fit nicely into the northern quadrant of Pellegrine's Red March---a long strip of mostly-flat, agricultural land that forms a web of backwater baronies and crumbling castles.  Downesvale is a relatively new settlement, only about 60 years old, holding some 30 households with a total population of around 150.  It is sheltered by a cradle of low hills called The Downes which fan across the west, while to the east sprawls the ancient forest known as Oldwood, out of the southern half of which erupts the high stony peaks known as The Dragonteeth Mountains (not true mountains, but such as the folk of relatively flat Pellegrine would know them).

Downesvale is technically in the bailiwick of one Sheriff Conrad, who answers to Sir Terrance (known universally as Sir Terry), Lord of Pillowe.   Sir Terry's smiling portrait hangs in Downesvale's solitary tavern, The Ploughman, but few locals could even name the gentleman in the frame and taxes have been infrequently levied to say the least.  Oldwood and Downesvale lie on the very edge of the territory of Pillowe and are easily forgotten.  
You get exactly no points for guessing which Bond plays Sir Terry.

Since time out of mind, the Order of the Oaken Bough have called The Oldwood their home.  They kept to themselves, and were generous in using their power to keep the surrounding lands fruitful, thus down to the end of Feudal Times local authorities let them alone.  In modern times, the Order has retreated deeper into the forest and are rarely seen.  It's said that in the heart of the Order's sacred grove is a well which can foretell the future, tended by a sisterhood of oracles.  Folk from every quarter of the forest environs make pilgrimage, particularly in Spring, to have their future foretold or seek the oracle's advice.

2. Pointcrawl Map
Feast your eyes on my definitely legible and very clear pointcrawl map.

Distance not marked because it doesn't matter.  The entire thing is like a three day walk across.

I...... think I forgot to mark the last point in this pointcrawl.  Erps. :-X

01. Hamlet of Downsvale, Farmhouses 
----Fight: Brigands----
02. Abandoned logging camp, brigands' lair
03. Lake Quietus
04. Wildwood Inn
05. Dragonteeth Caves, West Entrance
06. Dragonteeth Caves, East Entrance; Dryad's Tree
----Fight: Giant sawtooth frogs----
07. Floodwald ropeway
08. Castle Karn
09. Druids' Dun, House of the Oracle
----Fight: Bugbear raiders---
10.  Crowfolk Camp
----Fight: Lynx
11. Peryton Nest
12. Olot's Lair

It's late and I'm losing professionalism fast.  More of this project later, perhaps.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Pellegrine, A History?


Pellegrine is the northernmost civilized kingdom in Western Allegonde.  Within the last 50 years it underwent a rapid process of defeudalization, with political and monetary power concentrating almost totally into the hands of the Crown and its allies.  The kingdom was reorganized into four administrative divisions: the Red March, the White March, the Green March (each named for one of the colors on Pellegrine's tripartite banner) and the Crownlands.

Pellegrine borders The White Mountains to its east and, south of The White Mountains, a grand stretch of forested or barren country called The Lost East.  I guess The White Mountains are sort of akin to the Alps though on a much grander scale.  The Lost East is a massive stretch of land which formerly belonged to the Mage Republics (also known as The Magearchies and the Mage Cities).  Shortly after The Return of the Giants, when everyone else was trying to put their smashed civilizations back together, the Mage Republics had a war amongst themselves and blew up their entire territorium, showering the area in cancerous and mutative Magic Radiation.

The Lost East has only been safe for habitation for about 100 years.  For the first half of that time no government was particularly interested and resettlement proceeded at a very tepid pace.  However on securing its power-base at home, the Crown of Pellegrine authorized the creation of new peerages from the reclaimed wilderness, resulting in the Shield Baronies.   The Shield Baronies are something of an oddity in that rough frontier law rules the day, and in many ways they are throwbacks to high fuedal times; however they exist entirely under the auspices of the King of Pellegrine, and as yet have no economic independence.

For a long time, Pellegrine didn't have a capital.  The king traveled in a regular annual circuit, hosted by each of the Kingdom's great noble houses in turn.  As international commerce and royal law grew in importance, a few major market-towns sprang up and these were declared Royal Cities, cities under royal protection with royal license to house or dispense this or that commodity and so-on.  Mercantile guilds were an important royal ally in this transitional era, against recalcitrant nobles whose wealth and power was inveigled in land, military force and traditional market crops.

Royal ascendancy wasn't all that dramatic.  The King and his friends became a debtor to the nobles and largely took away their entrenched military force by buying it from them as a troublesome expense.  Pellegrine today is a very demilitarized realm with wealthier towns taking the protection of roads and waterways upon themselves, and a small royal-funded coast guard watching the northern shore.  The Nobles in their turn largely left ancestral desmenes behind and became courtiers, vying for favor, purchasing titles and currying influence in the King's now-fixed court.

Odd as the term may be, it isn't inappropriate to call Pellegrine's capital an "artificial city."  It lies more-or-less in the middle of the Crown Lands, a gigantic demesne ostensibly all within the king's portfolio but in reality parceled out to hundreds of benefactors, allies and corporations which exist by royal grant or charter.

Within this geographical and political nerve-cluster was the confluence of two mighty rivers flowing out of the Northwest and the East, creating a large ring of floodland about a many-islanded swamp.  This centerland had never been good for much but semi-annual grazing and a waterway to take goods elsewhere.   Under the advisement of the easterner Quan-Xiu (Kwanshoo, "The God of Finance,") the king guided four noble houses and more than a dozen merchant guilds or societies (some no more than humble caravaners) to form The Chartered Corporation and Friends of the Royal Bank of Pellegrine (CC&FotRBP), roughly a century before such a thing would be plausible in Analogous Real-Life England.

As directed by Kwanshoo, the parties became the sole custodians of the king's great reserves of bullion, and issued guarantees of resale to investors who deposited their gold and silver commodities into the common store.  These promissory notes could be exchanged at will and were as good as the bullion they represented in the borders of Pellegrine.  Speculation led to increased value which increased the notes' purchasing power (as long as the Bank carefully controlled the supply and fakes were quickly outed).

IRL, the notes would become so overvalued so quickly they would soon be functionally useless.  This was prevented thanks to the speedy creation of a totally artificial coinage to replace the notes, using techniques of the Arcane Alchemists of The Great East.  The creation of the "copper," "silver," and "gold," coins was given in charge to a special society of Alchemists whose foundries would lie soleley in the new royal city.   These lightweight coins, actually mainly composed of zinc, were issued in enormous stringed bunches.  While cumbersome, the sheer number of worthless coins that could be quickly made managed to eat the inflation somewhat.

Like this.
 The second factor that made the project a success was that the CC&FotRBP was created essentially to create a city from scratch in the Crown Lands' geographic center.  This was a project requiring a great influx of men, tools and commodities, and essentially it gave the involved parties something to do with their money so that it didn't just pile up and become worthless.  The swamp was drained the rivers diverted via enormous stone canals which incorporated four additional streams into the network.  The new city was built on a wonderwork of hidden canals and sluices such that the air of its avenues and heights stayed dry and healthful.  No water from the rivers, network of locks, or underground springs was anywhere allowed to stagnate but all contributed to the South-to-Eastwards flow of water from which the city was now font.  The new town would be universally known as The Crown City and was fixed abode for the Kings of Pellegrine ever after.

Like Venice and London had a baby.

Eerath - The Known World

My setting needed an actual name aside from "Eastwylde" which is really just one swathe of a certain region in the larger world.  It has already also seen a short-lived Maze of the Blue Medusa campaign which for one session spilled into some kind of demiplane closely resembling the War-Gardens of  A Red and Pleasant Land in a moment of uninspired desperation from Y.T.  The Blue Medusa campaign explicitly placed the Isle of Eliator in my world's southern hemisphere along with a Neo-Saurian Empire and mercantile nation of Catfolk.  There have been a few references in the Eastwylde campaign to Yoon-Suin as a distant land of tea, drugs, and magic items that don't fit very well into Pathfinder's rubric of price-by-bonus. 

[Other stuff I've used: I adapted several critters from Veins of the Earth namely the Alkalion and Trilobyte Knight to dwell in the great hollow tunnels and chasms that yawn beneath the lime and sandstone buttresses of the Eastwylde's bluffs, but my players rarely and furtively probe underground.  Arnold K's Wizlocks were also carefully placed on the map but were bypassed unencountered]

Meanwhile I've been sort of half-assedly flirting with detailing further parts of the setting, always with an eye to keeping it dungeon-centric.  The focus should be on dungeons (where 'dungeon' can be any kind of labrynthine large complex filled with peril and reward) and rumors of dungeons. The most ambitious of these putative campaigns would center on The Seclusium of Cyrelle the Chaotic, which was generated using Vince Baker's Wizard-Dungeon Generator Thing.  From a mismash of randomly generated qualities Cyrelle became one of the most powerful wizards and putative supervillains of my setting writ large. 

So like, the world itself needs a name.  I'm going with Eerath, totally ripped off from an old 90s Excalibur comic. 

Eerath is a setting written for Pathfinder and takes most of its rules for granted.  There are some differences, however: Clerics don't serve deities but rather an innumerable assortment of Saints, some widely worshiped and others intensely local.  This lets them select any combination of Domains as long as the player can come up with a saint to justify it (Charm + War, for example, or Liberation + Law, etc etc).   Firearms are so profuse that they are treated as Simple Weapons and downgraded in price to less than one-tenth the rulebooks' listings.   Hypothetically (it hasn't come up yet) the setting uses the listed assortments of Demon Princes and Archdevils from D&D3.5 as subdivine powers.  A few racial options from  D&D 3.5 might find a place in the setting including Eberron's Warforged (referred to simply as The Forged, one example has already appeared in the Eastwylde campaign as a minor NPC); also from 3.5's Races of Destiny: the Shara-Kim or 'civilized orcs' (you may have noticed by now I'm kind of a fan of musclemen with tusks: I want there to be as many varieties as possible), and a human subrace called Illumians (with apologies to Joseph Manola who specifically called these guys out as emblematic of annoying race bloat--I always liked them in particular, albeit both Illumians and Shara-Kim have had their origins simplified in my settings to emphasize what makes them interesting in the first place).  And 3.5's more humanlike catfolk as a contrast to the beast-headed version from Pathfinder.

+2 charisma, because everybody likes catgirls.  No you don't get a choice you like catgirls.
Celestial or angelic hierarchy I'm not so sure on.  Angels certainly exist and probably ought to have some kind of opposite hierarchy opposed to the infernal; IRL whether or not a saint is of angelic or human origin isn't super-important but perhaps in my setting there would be 'Angel Cults,' rather more esoteric than the everyday saints of this and that, whose devotees would perhaps be better represented by the Summoner or Oracle classes.  I say not so sure because normally I'd just use the hierarchy proposed in Book of Exalted Deeds and not think about it further.... [Sidebar: A lot of DMs make the mistake of overthinking/overdeveloping the high-level Exalted/Infernal hierarchies of their settings, coming up with political machinations in hell which never figure into the actual campaign in any way.  I'm the opposite: I have so little concern over the 'cosmic level' of my setting I'm happy to just pull stuff from a book whole hog or let my players say it's whatever they want since it never in practice makes any difference.] ...but I found this website called which has beautiful fully realized illustrations of a bunch of esoteric angels I had never heard of ("Chazaquiel, Angel of Fog?"  okay). I won't post 'em, just go see the pretty pictures yourself.  If Angel Cults make an impact on this game at all, this amazing artwork and the imaginative forms of its angels needs to be used. 

Eerath: Fast Facts--> Major area of concern is the western half of Allegonde, a subcontinent fairly analogous to Europe c. 1485 - 1550. 
--> "Fixed Starting Point Area," the locus by which the rest of the world is measured, is the Kingdom of Pellegrine, loosely analogous to England in early Tudor times, except with some profound differences that ought to make its society totally unrecognizable like fiat currency and an artificially-constructed capital city. 
--> Other key places: Ibexia, which long ago was the heartland of the setting's Roman Empire analogue.  Dasan: enormous crumbling empire to the south which has fought eight "Dynastic Wars," and is the origin area of the Warforged and other "magitech" (or "magepunk" w/e) type stuff.  Think Medieval Sicily with a strong Byzantine/Arabian influence but with crazy crystal technology ~100yrs in advance of the rest of the setting and you got it.  Ibexia might be part of Dasan.  The North: the generic Skyrimmy Fantasy Vikingland place I had to include because my players love that shit.  Ugh.  Don't expect these guys to matter ever.  Arroede (pronounced "arrow-WEED.")  Spain analogue.  The major military empire of the period, controls some kind of Vicereality of Mexico-equivalent. 
--> Halfling Republic.  Exists to the west of Pellegrine.  Buccolic Shirelands surrounding a massive industrial-nightmare city that produces most of the world's clothing(?).
--> I like Van names ("Van Natta," "Van Wormer," etc.) so there's probably a Netherlands (United Republics era?) analogue somewhere lateral to Pellegrine.  Possible name: The Coastlands, the Coastal Principalities, the Coast Princes;
-->Fantasy Germany roughly split into three territories: The Empire of Night which is a Holy Roman Analogue ruled by a dynasty of vampires (this was a player's idea, I would never willingly use vampires other than as parody), The Order State who are constantly fighting the Vampires (so they're probably a lot more altruistic than the real Teutonic Knights), and lands of free humans which includes The River Princedoms (yes thanks Warhammer), the Hill Baronies.
-->Fantasy France analogue enormous and ideally much more diverse than Fantasy France Analogues tend to be.  Celtic/Breton area built on legendary locations such as The Lost City of Ys and The Enchanted Forest of Brocéliande and so-on is of outsize importance and headquarters of the World's International Ruling Body over Wizardry.  IRL Bretony was a beleaguered region constantly hammered by a state of low-grade warfare between its chieftains and the French but here it is probably the most civilized part of the setting with a few areas of High Magical Danger. 

Breton costumes like this only go back to 18c but easily adaptable & stylish if like me you love buttons

-->Area of Provencal influence; possibly an area of heavy religious dissent?  since my Cult of the Saints is modeled on the Early Church moreso than Medieval, possibly take some inspiration from Arianism, give them a more 'mystical' bent which emphasizes Divine Immanence, ignores/dismisses the army of saints and angels popular elsewhere.....?   Anycase a broad land of spicy food, wandering minstrels and backwards-looking barons. 

--->Further Abroad: East Asia Analogue made first contact with Allegonde about 100yrs ago, have tepidly been sending merchants and missionaries by sea hence wide-ranging existence of Monk class and monasteries, plus other classes such as Samurai and Wu Jen.  Fiat currency of 'fake' coins adopted by Pellegrine while entrusting bullion to the Royal Bank (Chartered Companies must be a thing in the setting even though ~50yrs too early) was first suggested by an immigrant named Quan-Xiu, reproduced in western languages as Kwanshoo.  He is now venerated by bankers and proto-capitalists as St. Kwanshoo the God of Finance.  You can find busts of him in every counting-house and chancery court. 

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Morcs (More Orcs)

1. Orcs, Grey or Green.  Grey Orcs live in colder climates up north, or mountainous highlands.  Green in forests and verdant hills.  Grey warriors wear mail and wield steel weapons, while green are primitive but skilled in poisons and witchery.   These are middle-road fantasy orcs: tusks, muscles and bristly manes; can be hot in a beastman kinda way or butt-ugly pig people. Greys are nobly savage while greens are savagely noble.  They can get along with humans alright but old enemies to dwarves and elves.   More an alt. PC race than an enemy. 

2. Orcs, White.   Driven deep underground long ago.  Have abandoned their old gods for Demon Princes, partic. Baphomet, Demogorgon, Kotschie, or Obox-Ob.  Followers of rival princes fight each other as often as anyone else.  Champions and chiefs always sport at least one demonic "gift" (significant mutation---six arms, ceratinous armor, acid tongue, etc).  Metalworkers, masters of crafting Arcane Tattoos. 

3. Orcs, Pink.  Creations of the Arch-Wizardess Cyrell the Chaotic.  Their genetic matrix is highly unstable: virtually all have at least a minor mutation (us. extra eyes or teeth ridges over limbs etc.), 50% have major mutation.  Flesh rubbery and soft.  Explode when slain, which gives them unwarranted confidence.   Cyrelle grants her followers stylish black leather armor and fine weapons; feral examples will fight with what they can scavenge. 

4. Orcs, Ochre.   These Orcs' liverspotted yellow flesh is overgrown with pustules, many as big as a fist.  When popped these spheres release acid (if damaged, d3 splash 5 ft).  Some also vomit acid (d6, 5ft).  Many orcs become so swollen with pustules they cannot wear armor and live in constant pain. Primitive, us. fight with greatclubs or stone axes.  Those who become champions often wear Otyugh or Troll-hide amor, which resists acid spills better.   They grow in gigantic, dangling batches of birthing cysts like grape bushels.  Probably a wizard created them but none willing to take credit.

5. Orcs, Violet.  Symbiotic relationship with large gilled shelf-fungus called Dream Polypore, brackets of which grow mainly off shoulders and back, staining skin purple.  Fungus constantly emits trickles of smoke-like purple sporeclouds, which Violet Orcs can manipulate to show minor illusions or exhale hallucinogenic exhaust once per day.  Have their own language based on thought-forms half-glimpsed in the haze.  Makes hiding tough for them.  Dreamy, peaceful, they see a heightened version of reality.  If encountered may trade potions or other herbal magic items.  Maybe a good PC option, but wearing armor problematic---only decent as Druid or Sorcerer. 

6.  Orcs, Red.  Base 2HD.  Vomit a shower of their own blood, which is as flammable as gasoline.  Their skins are resistant to flame.  Usually well-equipped, they favor scale mail, the voulge-glaive and two-handed falchions.  All Red Orcs descend from a batch created by a wizard centuries ago and consider themselves to be a single nation: they will fight for anyone's pay, but not each other.  Beneath their disciplined facade each is capable of entering a truly terrifying but always fatal rage, gaining +4 Str/+10' Spd and taking 1d4 dmg/rnd from their own boiling blood until, steaming, it squirts from eyes and nostrils and they collapse dead.

7. Ogrillons.  Also known as "Orcres" thanks to my players.  The product of an Orc and Ogre mating.  Most are Med. size (< 8 ft) but a few (10%) reach Lg. size.  A degree of ogrish natural armor, and powerful natural weapons including thick bonespurs protecting/reinforcing fists and tusks able to gore.  Suffer from the ogres' Hunger Curse only slightly less.  Most orc tribes regard them as abominations but a few use as shock troops.  Sometimes hags breed them as they eat slightly less than Ogres so you can keep a few more around. 

Friday, April 20, 2018

1d12 Hirelings

1. Esquival the Freshmaker - Obese baker with dreams of being a knight.  Surprisingly tough, but gets winded easy, -4 Svs vs Exhaustion from travel.  Treat as always carrying a Medium Load.  Excellent income means he comes with a coat of scales (let out to acccomodate his bulk, only +3 armor bonus), longsword, sturdy wood shield and enough supplies for a week in the wilds.  Pay as soldier. 

2. Zelga the Begger - Former Guild-Thief.  Maimed (foot sawed off) as punishment for prior thefts.  Reduced to begging in the town square.  Speed reduced to 20ft and -2 AC but Skill Focus in Perception/Disable Device. Starts out with no gear but cloak, crutch and beggar's bowl.  She will accept the lowest level of pay despite her skills. 

3. Pol - A draper's son, claims to be 17 but clearly younger.  Ran away or disowned.  Literate and excellent with figures.  Useless at physical labor.  Offers himself as a clerk (skilled pay) but will take job as linkboy.  Has a dagger, pot of tar and a few torches. 

4. The Dragon - Fire-swallower.  This former circus performer is well-muscled but recalcitrant.  Has an oroborous tattoo over chest and stomach.  Lost his taste buds long ago.   Does not start with gear, shirt or shoes.  Can be hired as unskilled labor (in which case he won't fight) or as soldier (skilled brawler but will eventually demand equipment). 

5. Jon the Bargeman - Tall and hiresut with knotty, powerful muscles.  His broken bargepole makes for a quarterstaff.  No one his age should be as strong as he is.  Sharp-eyed, rarely speaks.  Hire as labor or combatant--will do either without complaint. Mourning his wife.  15% chance every day he departs without a word. 

6. Brian the Chicken-Infested Peasant - A former crofter, Brian suffers from a curse that causes chickens to spontaneously appear inside his clothing.  This is definitely uncomfortable for him (the chickens claw, bite and often immediately shit) but a boon to any party that will adopt him.  Brian produces 1d4 chickens every day unless he is naked or constantly observed (the chickens only appear when no one's looking).  The fowl are violent-tempered and immediately try to escape.   Brian dearly wants the money to pay for a Remove Curse and might do anything to get it.   He has no equipment.

7. Llewyn of Blauders - Llewyn is a skilled rogue who was born into a minor religious sect.  A total pacifist, he refuses to carry weapons or participate in combat even to save himself.  Nonetheless Llewyn is an excellent acrobat, trap-disabler and has a talent for making himself scarce.   Pay as an expert hireling with hazard pay.  He has leather armor, thieves' tools, a bag of marbles and a collapsible 10-foot pole. 

8. Arecilia Dantwidge - This pale, death-obsessed young woman is a noble scion and terrible poet looking for "experience."  She wants to witness combat, poke dead bodies, and examine monsters up close.  She will make a game effort at being a hireling but has no idea how to do basic things like start a fire, dig a pit, etc., tires easily.  Can be a clerk, linkgirl or unskilled labor.  Has a wardrobe worth 35 gp, purse of 100 gp and set of masterwork daggers.  A gang of bounty hunters hired by her parents will arrive to collect her in 2d4 weeks. 

9. Vaughn Meachum - An ex-miner and mason with many useful skills.  Stonecunning as a dwarf, able to recognize metal veins, coal seams etc.  Starts with a shovel, which he wields with deadly skill, and a manual of architecture and engineering.  He is in fact a budding revolutionary and will attempt to secretly organize the party's hirelings against them. 

10. Chauncey St. Claire and His Amazing Pigs - This swineherd (Com3, Skill Focus Handle Animal) has a staff, wallet and three puckish pigs he has drilled to near-perfection.  The pigs are watchier than watchdogs, excellent at foraging and can fight viciously as a coordinated team.  Give them 8 tricks, teamwork feats, alertness and trapsense +3.   Chauncey will expect to be treated as a full party member and also a stream of constant flattery to his handsome and clever animals.  He will not brook sending his pigs alone into danger.  The animals actually know no loyalty and will will eat anyone left alone and vulnerable, including Chauncey. 

11. Ebard the Touched - Once a teller of false fortunes and seller of fake relics, Ebard has since become known as a wild-eyed mountebank.  A wallet of food, some torches and a ratty old robe are all he brings.  He claims that dreams and visions have summoned him to the deep chambers of the earth, there to sublime his mortal existence before an immensity he calls The Caller in Dreams.  He will perform any task so long as a party takes him into the deeps beneath the earth.  Once below he manifests supernatural abilities--either give him the Oracle class or Sanctuary and Know Direction as (Sp)s.   Ebard will continue to serve the party faithfully until an encounter with a Gelatinous Cube, Ochre Jelly or other ooze---whereon he will charge forth to be devoured by the thing, crying "as I dreamed!  I go to join the world-mind!  This mortality is over!" 

12. Jack Ville - The son of poor but proud farriers, this well-muscled youth desires experience and to collect some interesting stories before settling down.  No equipment and knows none but his father's trade, but will shoulder his burden however tasked.  The joke with this guy is he is exactly what he appears to be.  See how long it takes for your players destroy his innocence, for science.