Jeff o' the Gameblog's contributions to the OSR's cauldron of ideas are many, but perhaps his greatest feat of dungeon mastery is the creation of the (in)famous Carousing Rules, which create opportunities and consequences for player characters who like to rock with their cocks/tits out during their off-time. Essentially this adds some random spice and gameability to those sometimes painfully boring shopping/resting stints in town between dungeoncrawls.
But aside from acting like complete assholes, what other sort of trouble might unsuspecting player characters get into? What other activities could we randomize (judiciously, of course) to create new dilemmas for them?
Earlier today I was thinking about how awkward role-played romances can be to watch or (horror) preside over as dungeon master. Painfully awkward, I decided. Couldn't we make them more interesting by -- as in life -- portraying love as a mercurial, dangerous, often temporary situation with wide-ranging consequences?
Love is messy, and if we portray it as such within the game it will become an unwelcome situation that players will actively try to avoid. So be it.
But falling in love should not be entirely under the player's control. Let's say that for each day the character spends in town there is a cumulative percentage chance that he will become infatuated with an NPC. A small percentage chance, say, like 3% per day, resetting each week back to 3% so that it never reaches higher than 21% (or 5 or less on a d20, if you like). Maybe it's the maid who cleans his room at the inn, maybe it's the mayor's wife -- we can make a table for that.
Once the PC finds himself "snared" into a romantic situation, he will find it difficult to extricate himself.
It is implied that the object of the PC's desire is a consensual party, but it will not be clear to the player what the NPC's true intentions are (at least at first).
Consider that adventurers returning to town from a successful outing and flashing around their spoils at the local tavern will almost certainly attract the attention of gold-diggers. What are the odds that he'll become involved with a woman like that?
The DM should secretly determine a NPC's true intentions with a 2d6 roll:
- (2 - 7) She's in it for the money and has little to no regard for the PC (money-grubber)
- (8 - 10) She's only got a passing interest in the PC and will ultimately spurn him/her (future x)
- (11) She's somewhat obsessed with the PC and will be loyal to him/her for a long time (loyal)
- (12) She's got a fatal obsession with the PC and will quickly spiral into a jealous monster (murderous)
The money-grubbers will automatically extract a randomly determined amount of gold from the PCs every time they are in town. The proportions of this payout will increase with the PC's experience level.
The next two situations (results 8-11) do not extract any automatic payouts from the PC's coffers. However, an "11" could possibly become a "12" if certain situations arise. For example, a PC who finds himself in two simultaneous romantic situations is running a big risk. If one or both of these lovers is an "11" (loyal) then there is a 75% chance of them escalating to a "12" (murderous) the moment they become aware of one another.
The referee must determine the appropriate behavior for each NPC. A jilted barbarian swordswoman might seek immediate revenge against her rival and her lover. A more civilized lover might try to kill them both secretly with poison.
The player should be completely in the dark regarding the true mindset of his NPC hanger-on(s). If the DM is looking to torment the player (and what DM isn't?), he could leave little hints and clues here and there as to the trajectory the romance has taken. He can attempt to "read the situation" with periodic WIS checks, but if successful these should reveal only the vaguest details.