Sunday, February 1, 2015

Hooligan Troupes of the Hither-Fells

When I read this at Monsters and Manuals about the nature of the practice of writing I thought it made sense and so returned to my previous habit of tapping on a keyboard. Nothing came of it at first (there is definitely a rusty period) but eventually the same dense and crusty stuff that I enjoy started to re-emerge, which was gratifying. Additionally, Santicore reared his ugly and I availed myself of the opportunity to do the layout for my own entry which got me interested in the algorithmic approach to content-generation and allowed myself a little bit of sneaky re-writing.

I'm interested in nomenclature and the suggestibility of imaginations. I often approach things from a rather Tolkienesque angle, coming-up with names and then trying to find out what they mean. Rhythm and cadence and prosody as well as connotation and symbolism open up vistas for the imagination to explore.

So I long ago decided that NPC party was insufficiently evocative a springboard for my imagination, suggesting as it did some kind of bland political organisation, so I decided that they would be called Hooligan Troupes. This term was satisfactorily animated and raucous. In my mind they were, of a sudden, alive with agendas and troubles to offer players.

The following table is an attempt I have made to further animate the idea of Hooligan Troupes, as well as engage in a kind of mechanically terse proceduralism. Ideally, the generated troupe will be engaging, memorable and connected to the setting, and the fluff is entirely arbitrary, the tool generates a certain number of characters of a given level, carrying a certain macguffin for a certain patron, pursuing and pursued by other hooligan troupes, specific individuals and factions I have inserted are really just placeholders.


The Hither-Fells are the rolling wastes and moorlands beyond the village of Foote rolling northward all the way to the rumoured fastness of Gibberhelk, whose dread castellan names himself the Hail-King and gnaws upon his madness in the waylorn wilds. Beyond is unknown and unknowable, a black horizon and interminable twilight.

Gibberhelk, where the Hail-King reigns in procedurally-generated mouldering splendour.

Wandering this vast region are troupes of untamed and exiled wandering villains. To generate a troupe roll 2d6 of different colours: the first roll determines the number of hooligans encountered; a roll of one indicates the leader only is encountered,  roll of two indicates the leader and the lieutenant and so on, it should be noted that an equal number of underlings are encountered as members of the troupe. Additionally, this roll determines the patron for whom the particular troupe is working at that particular time.

The second roll determines the particular troupe encountered with their corresponding underlings as well as determining their grail, this is essentially the macguffin that they happen to be carrying at that time for the patron generated earlier, whether they are delivering it to that patron, taking it from that patron to a third party, destroying it, or doing something else entirely is up to the GM.

There is also an assumed relationship between the troupes: each troupe is assumed to be pursuing the numerically subsequent troupe and, in turn, being pursued by the preceding troupe, all pursuit being with hostile intent (troupe 6, the Strangelings are assumed to be pursuing troupe 1, the Feckless Knaves, creating a vicious circle). Notably, it is possible for multiple troupes to be in opposition and to be working for the same patron, this is merely indicative of the fey and contradictory nature of the powers at large in the Hither-Fells.

Additionally, the second roll determines the level of each individual hooligan within the troupe as per the formula on the table; Leaders are assumed to be 6th level and the lowest ranked member of the troupe is assumed to be 1st level, this can be easily scaled to oppose PC parties if necessary.

Finally, the first roll generates an inter-factional set of relationships that could potentially be exploited for dramatic purposes, while not providing any mechanical effect, the fluff is crunch rule applies.

All of the automatically-generated dials on this array can, of course, be individually generated or determined arbitrarily. It is only my own obsessive desire for elegance and simplicity that makes me do it this way.

The format as presented has a few idiosyncrasies that bear mentioning. It is my preference to, in accordance with the aforementioned desire for simplicity, assume an average number of hit points per level, rounded up and adjusted for constitution. The ability score bonuses and penakties are assumed to be plus or minus one but give the GM leeway,should individual hooligans transition to regulary encountered NPCs, to assign the highest and lowest scores to the appropriate abilities. Armour is given an AC bonus, assuming ascending AC. The curious level titles I have given can act as just another bit of disposable fluff if that is desired, but there is also a secondary, slightly crunchy effect which is that individuals gain a reaction bonus with alike and aligned factions once they've bought into a career, and certain equipment discounts, as well as access to special items can be assumed to be a part of the career's perks. None of this is detailed here so iy can all be safely ignored.


     1.       Joachim Crimeshanks: lazy and ­squat, talented dissembler, renegotiates relationships sentence by sentence. [Captain of Charlatans, as thief, INT+, CON-, cranequin arbalest (d8, 1/2), spadroon (d6), buckler (+1), jupon (+1), mail coif (+1)]

    2.       Slatterkin Fraile: seems a freckled ogress in gambeson and kettle hat, betimes dappled light pranks her eyes and she falls and drools and has visions of cool green realms where she is empress [Mosstrooper, as fighter, STR+, WIS-,  halberd (d10), gambeson (+1), Kettle hat (+1)]

3     3.  Hakenbüchse Imbrocato: cunning engineer and strategist, deviser of war-wagons and grenadoes and devices for spraying naphtha and quicklime, he is catastrophically combustible. [Apronman, as thief, DEX+, WIS-,  hand-gonne (d6, ignores armour, 1/3) gunner’s stiletto (d4) grenado (2d8 10’ radius), breastplate (+3) Special: explodes for 3d6 dmg if set alight]
     4.       Ginflute Sprig: her jackboots are full of stilettos, her heart is cunning and wary, none who have betrayed her yet live [Miscreant, as thief, WIS+, CHA-,  stiletto (d4) sword breaker (+1, d4), jackboots (+1) pourpoint (+1)]
     5.       Crimson Plethora: slatternly, lackadaisical, sinister and pantalooned, there is a reek of sorcery about her, a dusty, musty, fusty smell with redolences of fear and sex, she enthralls monks just to see them grovel and weep [Pythoness, as magic-user, INT+, STR- akinakes (d4), Spells: charm person x2]
    6.       Girt-by-Satchels: an utterly abandoned vagrant who compulsively gathers useless things in preparation for an imminent catastrophe, surprisingly dangerous with his clotting-beetle [Vagabond, as thief, clotting-beetle (d6), jack (+1)]


    1.       Ultrogotha: her hair is enormous, her voice is rich and deep, her destrier is masterful and vast, she wears mirror-bright armour and smells of grease and brimstone [Vindicatrix, as fighter, zweihander (d10), mace (d6), plate (+5), burgonet (+1)]

2.       Amaranth Incarnadine: perilously beautiful and young and lit as if by the last sunset of the world, fleeing the persecutions of her boyhood, the streaming banner of her hair acts as call to crusade [Fugelmaid, as fighter, CHA+, WIS-, arming sword (d8), heater (+2), hauberk (+3)]
       3.  Glisterfrigg the Loath: burned black by an encounter with an a laidly wurm, she walks in a shadow of doom with long black spear and black shield unadorned, her mouth is red and her voice is harsh and fell [Shieldmaiden, as fighter, CON+, CHA-, spear (d6) kite shield (+2), lamellar harness (+4)]

    4.       Sledgefork: hooded eyes and splayed toad-hands, pungent flagellant with cassock and flail who flirts with gangrene and arnaldia and sees a ferocious truth behind the world [Flagellant, as cleric, CON+, CHA-, flail (d8), Spells: cure light wounds x2, bless]

    5.       Lammermoor the Infidel: scarified and haunted by the war with the darkness, his hair is white and his eyes are red with weeping, his rusty harness creaks and squeals [Scutiferous Aspirant, as fighter, WIS+, CON-, military fork (d10), half-plate (+4)]

     6.       Hans-who-Itches: has ballestrinos, stirrup-, latchet-, goatsfoot-, cranequin- and windlass arbalests and quarrels for every occasion carried in a barrow-cart painted green and advertising wondrous feats of skill, he is wracked with intense and ceaseless itching so that he is a scabrous insomniac shadow and can no longer shoot. (Arblaster, as fighter, WIS+, DEX-, katzbalger (d6), buckler (+1), Jack-and-chains (+2)]


   1.    Lamgammachy Hallow: ancient crone of viciously sharp features and viciously sharp temper, borne on a palanquin by lurching odiums of mannish shape, claims to be, by hereditary right, Queen of Skinflint Hedge and several gullies thereabouts, demands paltry tribute and vague obeisance. [Gyre-Carlin, as magic-user, w/-  six zombie thralls, WIS+, CON- Spells: magic missile, sleep, invisibility, levitate, lightning bolt]

2.    Hadean Tear: has shorn his head and body and infibulated himself, walks naked in the world bereft of desire, practices daily ritualistic vivisections to retain his purity [Demonologist, as magic-user, WIS+, CHA-, Spells: darkness x2, invisibility, ESP]

    3.    Goatloon, the Carnifex of Untimely Brisket: somewhat bestial giant idiot with a cleft palate and an enormous gleaming axe, prefers to wrastle and bind his victims, gets slobbery with excitement at the prospect of decapitation [Carnifex, as fighter, STR+, INT- , grappling (d2), executioner’s axe (d10, -4 to hit)]

4.    Canterangle Broguentwine: gaunt and studious figure-flinger preoccupied with theoretical deconstructions of reality, is consequently brittle and close to suicide (Figure-flinger, as magic-user, INT+ WIS-, Crutch (d4), Spells: read magic, detect magic, detect evil, phantasmal force]

5.      Chlodovech Harpe: far-wandering warrior of austere and peculiar heathen tribe, cuts his hair in uncouth manner, speaks with clipped and formal directness but incorporating convoluted perversions of syntax and tense, carefully prepares his sica and pelte and individually specialised javelins prior to each battle, kills with workmanlike efficiency [Paynim Reiver, as fighter, STR+, CHA-, sica (d6), javelins (d6), scale corselet (+3), spangenhelm (+1)]

6.    Ariadne Firkinmolde: Fierce huntress with yellow teeth, red coat and blue arrows, rides a jackass all shuddery with malice, has a wild voice for shouting over the wind [Heathen Huntress, as fighter, DEX+, CHA-, hunting bow (d6), sabre (d6),teghily (padded armour), +1]


1.   The Almondine: denounced heretic false messiah, small and rotund and beaming, she bears the stigmata of unsuccessful crucifixion and of scourgings and rackings but maintains her unshakable certainty. (False Messiah, as cleric, CHA+, STR-,  threshal (d6), gambeson (+1) basinet (+1) Spells: remove fear, resist cold, purify food and water, resist fire, speak with animal, cure disease]

2.      Malthus Pizzlewisp: eunuch-sorcerer, shrill and pasty, elegantly tapered hands and ridiculously superfluous parasol, carries a little cage with a black canary who is intransigent and vile [Castrato Incantare, as magic-user, poniard (d4), Spells: charm person, ventriloquism, mirror image, invisibility, haste ]

3.     Epicanthus Brunt: Braying oaf in knapskull and haberschon who peers from a face that has been ruined by violence. [Brute, as fighter, STR+ CHA-,  morgenstern (d10), haberschon (+3), knapskull (+1)]

 4.  Graylung the Frigantine: sallow youth of vaguely elfin cast and vicious misogyny, speaks in the barely-intelligible affected dialect of the Agnatic Squirarchy, full of circumlocutions and synechdoche and with which even he has difficulty enunciating anything meaningful, wears a crimson coat-of-plates [Gentleprig, as fighter, INT+, CON-, cinquedea (d6) coat-of-plates (+3) heater shield (+2)]

5. Flandleman Rut: apparently moribund toothless gaffer of fiendish vitality, bears a black oar with him in lieu of cudgel to remind all he meets that we paddle through life on a river of misery (Brigand, as fighter,CON+, INT- oar (d6), siege cap (+1) aketon (+1)]

6.   Erasmus Borborygmo: corpulent iatrochemist tattooed with anatomical diagrams relating to the circulation and balance of the humours, prone to radical realignments of personality due to abuse of medicinal elixirs, currently melancholic. (Iatrochemist, as magic-user INT+, CON-, cane (d2), Spell: charm person]


1.       Tanaquil Slake: Disinherited baroness of a realm that has been burned and depopulated, attired as a cuirassier with three-quarter-plate, cabasset and caliver, insists upon the observation of legal procedure prior to execution and torture, snide [Ignoble Heir, as fighter, WIS+, DEX-, prong-maul (d10), 3/4 plate, (+5)]

2.       Gallivantus Kirklouse: craven Reiter of the Salient Coot who deserted his order on campaign and lives in banishment and disgrace, scraggly ginger beard and unconvincing pale eyes, lance and hammer and munitions harness [Runagate Lancer, as fighter, lance (d10), skullhammer (d6), harness (+5), armet (+1)]

3.       Hackamuggie Lammiger: spade-bearded ark ruffian with wooden leg and boarding pike, outrageously nimble and fearless, chuckles as if at a secret joke (Ark Ruffian, as fighter, DEX+, WIS-, boarding pike (d6), ­­­­­jack (+1)]

4.       Oengus the Cow Leech: Enormously muscular sunburnt cottar of broad-brimmed hat and ugly good-humour, bristling with knives (Bounder-Lout, as fighter, STR+, DEX-, tendle-knife and broacher (d4,d6), buff-coat (+1)]

5.       Forthwith Tobermory the Lesser: Chinless wonder of a hedgepriest-scholar, seethes with discontent, brittle of temper and a secret sadist, hates his greater namesake more than life itself. [Hedgepriest, as cleric, INT+, CON-, quarterstaff (d6), Spell: cure light wounds]

6.       Myriad Burncake: scullion-wench turned cutthroat murderess, exceedingly forgettably plain and mousy, equally deft with razor, garrotte, beaming knife and earshank [Murderess, as Thief, DEX+, CHA-, razor, garrotte, beaming knife or earshank (d4), ringlet-doublet, (+2)]


 1.    Grisly Huberht: Little gluttonous hobthrust with a malevolent profusion of sideburns and a penchant for practical jokes involving terrible mutilation. [Hob o’ the Hurst, as Halfling, CON+, CHA-, War-flail (d8), byrnie, (+3) Shapka – reinforced papier mache cap (+1)]

2.     Nox Nay Nabbity: of apparently indeterminate gender, shrouded in many mantles of fur and silk and velvet finery adorned with broidered sigils and glyphs of ill-omened stars, secretly a Capriped, her bestial features are well hid but her musk is apparent to the discerning nose (Capriped Sorceress, as elf, INT+, CHA-, baselard(d4) kazaghand(+3), Spells: sleep x2, web, phantasmal force]

3.      Frecken Klöster: stunted mummer in grotesque deofol-mask and tintinnabulous coat of bells, dances awkwardly to drive away evil with terrible clangour, is mostly deaf and crawling with vermin. [Hunky-Punk, as halfling, DEX+, INT-, battle-thurible (1d6), coat of bells (+3), special: noise gives +30% to Move silently within 30’]

4.       Gryndercrust: A lubber-fiend, long-armed, cow-tailed, uncouth and hairy. Obsessed with the ritualised transactions of agrarian society, eschews gold in favour of milk and barley, flies into a scything frenzy at the harvest moon. [Lubber-fiend, as halfling, STR+, CHA-, reaping scythe (d8)]

5.      Erstwhile Shale: sharger scout, jogs from hiding place to hiding-place, seeks to outwit, outflank, ambush and murder any possible threat, has barbed arrows tipped with curare and is good with knots. [Sharger, as dwarf, shortbow (d6 + poison), jack (+1)]

6.     Snell the Claker: demon-haunted petty-conjuror of tattered weaselish appearance, has a patchwork cloak of scarlet and green and a hell-fiend’s face upon his arse that whispers appalling things [Claker, as magic-user, INT+, WIS-, poniard (d4) Spell: sleep]


Underlings are completely interchangeable hapless fodder appropriately themed to accord with the corresponding troupe, one of which appears for each Hooligan present:

AC: 10 MV: 40’ HD: ½ hp: 3 #Att: 1 dmg: 1d4 ML: 8 (10)

1. Wayward Clavigers: servile underlings in faded green doublets and shakos, bearing cluncheons, kirn-crewks, half-pikes and rushlights

2. Lowlander Gaberlunzies: filthy peasantry in sheepskins, bearing sluff spades and dunnuks

3. Children of the Almondine: idiot younglings enthralled by the false revelations of the Almondine, white tunics and righteous wrath

4. Starveling Lampadarii: holy lamp-bearers, gaunt and undernourished, bearing lanterns, candles, torches to light the way and staves to correct transgressors

5. Kithans of Flambergast: scurrilous scoundrels fled from a dead city, sick with grippe, bearing plumbata and caetrata

6. Manikin-folk: poxy midgets half the height of a conventional dwarf, wheedling and sly and bearing nail-swords


  1. Wow, Tom, these characters are just the best. THE BEST.

  2. Stolen...along with many older posts! So far I used fey dwarves, fallen elves, crap weapons, and at least a half dozen other flavorful Tom Fitzgerald concepts quickly placed in my home campaign. I feel sorry for the game masters out there missing these gems (and your other blogger peers out there)...most of the concepts are so easy to just drop in the game and run with. Thanks again!

  3. Gentleprigs, Hobthrusts and Ignoble Heirs shall henceforth be NPC classes featuring heavily in all my campaigns. I will have to make notes so I get the squirarchic dialect right.

    Shargers, Lubber-fiends, False Messiahs and Castrati Incantati will have their hour to.

    Thank you so much! There is nothing quite like Middenmurk out there.