Templars are known for being corrupt, happy to use blackmail and extortion to line their pockets and get what they want from the citizens of their liege’s city-state. So how do you represent that sort of behaviour in game?
Our 2e Dark Sun game on Lawful Stupid RPG’s Twitch channel features a templar PC, so I came up with this system to allow her to extort money from the citizens of Tyr, her home. Let's face it - templars are pretty horrible people and extortion is an unsavoury activity at best. But they're an integral part of the Dark Sun setting and can be used to highlight its difficult themes. And, in the case of this system, explore the consequences templars face for their behaviour.
We’re still play-testing the system, but I figured I’d share it. See what you think…
A templar can extort money from citizens of their city-state with a successful bureaucracy or intimidation non-weapon proficiency check. The amount of money gained depends on the wealth level of the templar’s victims (according to the wealth levels suggested in Chapter 6 of the 2nd edition Dungeon Master’s Guide).
Multiply the following amounts by the result of a successful proficiency check:
Victim Wealth Multiplier Check Penalty
Squalid 1 lead bead 0
Poor 1 ceramic bit -1
Middle-Class 1 ceramic piece -2
Wealthy 10 ceramic pieces -3
The check penalty is a penalty to the templar’s non-weapon proficiency roll. It represents the fact that more wealthy targets are harder to squeeze for cash – they’re less likely to be intimidated by the templar’s bluster or are more skilled at evading taxes and other impositions.
As a templar rises in power, their demands become harder to resist. For every five levels the templar has, the check penalty is reduced by 1 point. By the time the templar reaches 15th level, no penalties remain – at this level, a templar can pass judgement on a noble, so few hindrances exist to their extortion.
Each templar can extort money from a number of victims per month equal to the templar's Charisma Reaction Adjustment. More charismatic templars can put the squeeze on a greater number of targets before they are forced to ease off for a while.
DM and player can detail who these victims are, or simply abstract the activity through dice rolls, as suits the needs of the campaign.
People don’t like having money taken from them by bullying bureaucrats. Each time the templar extorts money from a victim, the penalty for all subsequent checks increases by one point. This is the resistance modifier - as the templar exerts influence, the people of their city-state grow more resistant to extortion.
As soon as the templar fails an extortion non-weapon proficiency check (either intimidation or bureaucracy), the resistance modifier is reset to zero (but see below for exceptions to this). Seeing a templar fail in an extortion attempt reassures citizens that the templars are not above the law – but it also takes the edge off their anger.
Consequences of Failure
When the templar fails a bureaucracy or intimidation check to extort money, roll on the following table to determine the consequence:
2d10 Roll Consequence
Assault: The templar is attacked by unknown assailants and suffers 1d6 points of ability damage to one randomly determined ability score. This is not a simple attack that causes a few hit points of damage. It’s a serious beating that causes lasting physical trauma – broken limbs, fractured skull, scarring and the like. Lost ability points return at the rate of one per day.
Fine: The victim calls in a favour with another templar, a noble, or other powerful figure. The templar is found guilty of corruption and fined an amount equal to 1d20 x the multiplier for the victim's wealth level.
Rebuke: The victim calls the templar's bluff and the extortion attempt fails. There are no other immediate consequences.
Stymied: The templar’s attempts at extortion draw the unwanted attention of a superior. The templar is censured by their bureau and is unable to carry out any more extortions for the remainder of that month.
Imprisoned: The templar is imprisoned for their malfeasance. They remain in custody for the remainder of the month.
Using Secular Authority
When an extortion attempt fails, a templar may avoid the consequences by using their secular authority, if they are of sufficiently high level. They pull rank and simply walk away from the situation unharmed and unhindered.
A 1st-level templar can negate the effects of a failed extortion attempt against squalid victims, a 4th-level templar can negate the effects of a failed extortion attempt against poor victims, a 7th-level templar can negate the effects of a failed extortion attempt against middle-class victims, and a 15th-level templar can negate the effects of a failed extortion attempt against wealthy victims.
Avoiding punishment in this way has consequences, however. Each time the templar does so, their resistance modifier is permanently increased by one - it can no longer be reset to zero. This represents the long-lasting resentment that this sort of privileged behaviour engenders. Citizens of the city-states will accept a certain amount of bribery and corruption – but even they have their limits. A templar would do well to remember this…
Using the Extortion Table for Other Activities
You can use this table for other activities that can earn a character income. A character who makes a successful craft or expression non-weapon proficiency check, for example, could multiply the result of their roll by the wealth level of their clients or audience in order to generate a daily wage. You could similarly develop a system for characters with the beggar kit to determine how much money they make per day.
You wouldn't need to impose a check penalty on these rolls unless you felt the situation demanded it. Wealthy clients will simply pay more for a decent minstrel - although you could decide that difficult clients are harder to please. Similarly, you could apply the check penalty for characters who were trying to beg for coins in the noble district - and develop a table of consequences for failed rolls to represent unwelcome attention from the authorities or uncharitable citizens.
If you use this system in play, let me know how it works out - I'm always keen for feedback!