Thursday, September 11, 2008

Grimy Dungeons and the PCs That Are Covered In Them

This article is much less high-handed than my norm. It's just a thought that amused me.

A post over at Trollsmyth, as well as couple of preceeding posts by the same, got me thinking about the effects that the kind of insane pyrotechnics, cryotechnics, and... electrotechnics(?) would have from the way wizards tend to spam spells all over the place in D&D. Now, in a place like a dungeon, where there is frankly little to burn, it's not a big deal. Scorch marks on the stone wall only mean so much to the future orcish occupants. That's not what this silly article is about, but it's still fun to think about. However, thinking about spell effects got me thinking about the lingering effects of combat and adventuring in general.

Let's set a short scene here. The party, having delved into the ancient system of tubes and pits used as a sewer, comes back up with the Eye of Gruumsh or whatever other thing they went down to get. They've flung spells back and forth with the death cult down there, slaughtered dozens of orcs, and are also lightly carrying the forty thousand gold they found. Fine. So they come up from the hidden entrance to said sewers, behind a building, and promptly walk to the royal castle to turn in their quest item.

Imagine, for a moment, how patently ludicrous these people look. For one thing, they are wearing adventuring gear, and associated dangerous weapons, to an audience with a noble. To be certain, they wouldn't even be allowed in the castle. You'll show proper respect by wearing nice things, not that patchwork of random magical items and armor you've found as you tromp through the underworld. Also, you'll be leaving that axe behind, thank you, and that 'parting an old man from his walking stick' bit isn't going to fly either.

Secondly, and this is something that gets glazed over pretty often, the party would be covered in goop, blood, scorched clothing, sewer matter, and numerous other horrible coverings that no one wants to see. One does not go wandering through a sewer for hours on end and not pick up at least a smell. The fighters of the party have been hacking apart animals, monsters, and sapient beings with their swords. They are drenched in blood and viscera. They have open wounds on their bodies that have not only other people's bodily fluids on them, but also the general rot and filth that a sewer accumulates. The wizards have been flinging spells, and their hands are covered in bat guano and diamond dust from their spell component pouch. The party was hit by a Flame Strike spell by an opposing cleric of Nerull, and though the magic armor they are wearing is still fine, their clothing underneath is little but scorched rags. Even ranged combatants and/or noncombatants like bards still have the general grime, sweat, and sick all over them that comes from such an expedition.

These are the people that are strolling through town, carrying the fifty axes they looted from the orcs. Saying that people would recoil from them is putting it beyond lightly. They would likely be arrested, explainations would have to be made back at the station, and they'd likely be required to clean their idiot selves up before they step out again. They certainly can't just drag a cart full of weapons to the blacksmith without generating a few questions. For God's sake, they look like mass-murderers.

Now granted, cleaning up is a relatively trivial matter, and probably should be treated as such. As long as the party goes and finds some water source to wash in, and gets some decent clothes for their audience with the Count, things should be ok. There's no real reason (excepting story or silly points) to make them roll a "Knowledge: Court Fashion" roll or anything. (Profession: Noble?) Still though, describing the effects of their ridiculous profession might add a bit of color to your typical dungeon crawl. It's at least valid to make the castle guards refuse to admit mercenaries wearing non-pretty armor. A full suit of plate mail with matching shield and tabard? Sure, that's reasonable, you look the part of a mighty knight. The +3 studded leather you picked up off a dead bandit the other day, a buckler that you've been carrying but ignoring since level one, and your Helm of Fireballs? You look like a fool and would be treated as such; go home and change.

Anyway, just a few thoughts that occurred to me.


Donny_the_Dm said...

So the druid is in a tavern right. He picks a fight, and when he is getting his ass handed to him, he says, "My dire lion that was up in my room comes down and shreds these b*tches."

Never mind that it was a bare knuckled brawl, or he was NG, or that he wasn't question was, HOW DID THE 2000 LB LION GET INTO YOUR ROOM?

It's like using an intimidate check on the king...some things just aren't done :)

Badelaire said...

Great comments. Many Players never stop to think for a minute how ridiculous they probably look overburdened with weapons, armor, loot, and other sundry items, covered in gore and grim and reeking of the same. Comical and horrifying at the same time. Your typical party post-dungeon crawl would probably clear all but the seediest of dives simply by walking in the door.