Ideas from The Dark Knight Rises

I finished my rewatch of the Nolen trilogy this week and so I may as well finish off this series of “things you can take from Batman and put them in your game”.

AI generated image: “photograph of a dark alleyway”, the kind which Batman might find himself.

Premise: The adventuring hub is in constant danger

Batman largely sticks to Gotham because The League of Shadows have threatened it specifically. They’ve decided that it’s the heart of human evil and wiping it out will start a human healing process (until the next pit of evil appears). Buffy has to hang around Sunnydale because that’s where the hellmouth is. In Rime of the Frostmaiden, the heros are forced to stay in the Dales because that’s all there is for miles around, but still it’s a good reason for them to protect it.

In many other D&D games, I’ve ended up all over the place, chasing bad guys over a long arc. But there’s definitely a game in the idea of the characters having some attachment to a particular place, and that place being underthreat. Each arc could be two or three sessions long, and then next week comes another bad guy with a slightly different motive and way of acheiving it. (This might be the premise of Monster of the Week.)

  • The PC’s are guardians of the last temple of Ra, and if that falls so does all Order.
  • The PC’s work for the Merchant City of Vilenau, a walled city of business that it always has an enemy after it.
  • A galary of art collected from thousands of different realities and planes, some more valuable than the PC’s realise.

Hire from within

When, sadly, our PC is lost in battle, we tend to reach for a brand new character no one has ever heard of. That leaves a lot of buy in for the remaining members of the group. “Sure, person we literally just met, join us and share the items of our dead friend.”

How about, like Robin was inspired by Batman as a child, your next PC comes from one of the pool of characters that you already know about? I’m guessing that the DM will be more than excited to hand over the reigns of one of their NPCs. Or better yet, in your session zero when you’re creating contacts (you’re creating contacts, right?), create a character specifically in mind as your next character.

That way, the group gets to hang out with them and see scenes with PC 1 and PC 2 together. You’re not a total stranger joining and it’s not weird that Batman left his cave of things to Just Some Guy.

By the way, The One Ring has a whole ruleset for this stuff. Definitely check that out.

Spell: Bomb

Like turning a useful fusion energy source into a time-ticking doomsday device.

Level 3 Evocation spell. Ritual. Casting time: 1 minute.
Place the target item within the 1ft radius ritual circle. Part of the verbal components of the spell require announcing the duration, which can range from instant to 10 days. The duration begins once the casting is complete. When the spell expires, the target item explodes dealing 5d6 fire damage to all creatures within 20 ft.
Fire spreads and the blast goes around corners.
The damage can be increased by 1d6 for each additional level spent above 3.

FYI: DM’s should absolutely cast this on loot left behind as a trap by the bad guys. “I cast Detect Magic.” Well, that spoon sure looks magical.

Specifically items are specified, because targetted people with it is too gross for my table.

Three things from The Dark Knight

Continuing from last time, here’s some ideas I had for tabletop games based around The Dark Knight.

Plot Obstacle: Already on the run

One of the frustrating plot points for characters, especially in their early levels is often “why isn’t the army dealing with the goblins? why us?” and “why can’t I just go to the town guard to deal with this?”

This obstacle takes those options right off the table.

Maybe their goal is technically on the wrong side of the law. Maybe they’ve been framed for something they need to clear up. Or maybe the town guard are all corrupt and working for the bad guys.

Whatever the reason, the adventurers have to contend with the establishment coming after them whilst they try to get on with the story. Town guard are hostile on sight. Bakers will subtly try to alert them whilst the character’s are picking out their rations. Tavern keepers charge them double for the night for the risk they’re taking.

Downtime activity: Foil crimes

The vast majority of adventurers I’ve interacted with have lacked families or day jobs and so many of the potential downtime activities don’t apply to them. But they do tend to towards good and like to take matters into their own hands.

This may not even fall under “vigilantism”; many towns have a bounty board and often adventurers are asked to deal with various problems around town, like kicking out the Redbrands.

Resources required. It starts with a simple petty theif that you’re tracking down, but that quickly spins into a whole network of bad actors, pulling threads in all directions, and you stumble upon a much larger plot. It takes a full workweek to conclude your investigation, infiltration, and dissolution of the network. This work costs you 25gp in bribes and equipment.

Resolution. There are a number of checks to be made to determine the outcome of your week.

How did your initial investigation go? Your investigation certainly lead you to the crime you’re hoping to foil, but how much of an advantage did it give you? Make a DC 15 Charisma- or Intelligence-based check of your choice. On success, you have advantage on the next check.

How did you track down their hideout? You’ve found their hideout, but did you draw a lot of attention to yourself whilst you did it? Do you have any time to come up with a good plan, and set the stage to your advantage? Make a DC 15 Wisdom- or Dexterity-based check of your choice. On success, you have advantage on the next check.

How did apprehending them go? No guarentees here. They may still get away unhindered. They’re slippery like that. Make a DC 15 Strength-, Dexterity-, or Constitution-based check of your choice. On a success, you managed to stop the crime! The bad guys are thrown in irons and locked away. On failure, the crime networks lives on. Maybe there’s a puppetmaster who eluded you. Maybe they were able to flee the scene and vanish into the shadows. Either way, the thread is hanging, and you’ve made yourself known to this underground organisation.

If you succeeded in foiling the crime, a bounty or jesture of good will is paid to you to the value of 100gp.

If you succeeded in any Charisma based checks, you now have a new contact to call on in times of need who will (most likely) help out.

If you succeeded in any Intelligence based checks, you also learn something new about the world that your adventuring group did not already know. This may help your main adventure.

If you succeeded in any Wisdom based checks, you manage to turn the crime to your advantage somehow. This may come in the form of an additional 2d20 gold pieces (or items to that value).

If you succeeded in any Dexterity based checks, you come across the gang’s gold stash whilst sticking to the shadows. Gain 2d20 gold pieces (or items to that value).

If you succeeded in any Strength based checks, news of your heroism has spread. Choose a feature (or one similar to): Faceless Persona (BG), Rustic Hospitality, Bad Reputation. This feature is limited to your current town.

If you succeeded in any Constitution based checks, what didn’t kill you, made your stronger. The blows you took only increased your stamina and confidence. For the next seven days, a long rest also grants you 1d4 temporary hitpoints per your level.

Complications. These are almost unavoidable in this line of work. Likely, someone knows it was you that meddled with their dastardly plans. Your name is almost definitely on someone’s hit list now.

Skill: Grit

One of the reasons there aren’t any Constitution based checks on the default list is because almost always it’s Con is needed when something is being done to you which makes it a Con save, rather than a skill. I’d argue that there are some times when a Constitution based skill would be useful though.

Con and hit points are linked very closely. We also know that hit points aren’t just how healthy you are. You can be psychically beaten down, without taking a lick of pain, or have your Con dropped when you’re exhausted. Someone on 0 HP makes Con saves not only to see if their body can take it, but to see if they have the sheer will to bring themselves back to 1 HP.

Enter, Grit (Con). This can be used in situations where you want to steel yourself for an upcoming blow of some kind. Briefly overcoming your exhaustion and the pain in your battered body to do something heroic. On a successful grit check, you may temporarily overcome a disadvantage or snap out of your fearful stupor. Or just use it for cool roleplay things, and make decisions on how brave your character is.

Three things from Batman Begins

Yesterday after a long and frustrating week, I decided to watch Batman Begins. After it was finished, I wanted to hang out in that world a bit longer, so here’s some stuff for your D&D game inspired by things from that movie that you won’t find on a utility belt.

NightCafe, “Batman brooding.”

Plot point: Approaching, unstoppable danger

In the movie, Ras has a machine that vaporises the water supply, turning the haluconagen filled water into a gas. The machine is travelling along the train system, vaporising the water below it as it goes. Massive amounts of chaos is happening. Once it gets to Wayne Tower – the centre of Gotham, and coincidentally the central water reserve below Wayne Tower – it’ll knock the pressure so high the entire city will be engulfed in the gas.

A version of this plot point is actually already in Rime of the Frostmaiden. It was very good and very tense there! Other versions you can do:

  • A series of dams are set to explode on a timer. (Why not all at once? Maybe fear is the villains motive, rather than simply killing everyone. Maybe it’s a ransom thing.)
  • A curse is spreading through the city. The good news is that there are bridges and guards keeping the blighted in quarentine in certains parts of the city, but every once in a while someone scared townsfolk manage to break through and continue to spread the curse.
  • A slander – an outright lie – about the group (or the group’s patron) is slowly making its way around the country. If enough people hear it, it won’t matter what the truth is. Getting their reputation back will always be mared. Proving the slander as a falsehood is a key way to resolve the whole thing, but doing so takes time. Maybe shutting people up is the first step?

The key bits of this plot point are: 1) the threat must have already started. The damage its causing is obvious. It can’t be allowed to go on. 2) There is a way to stem to the flow, and doing so will mean fewer impacted lives. Focusing here migth mean the actual villain has a chance to escape. 3) There’s a way to stop the villain, and end the whole thing, but in the meanwhile lots of people will be affected before that happens.

Contacts: Making connections

After writing about contacts before, I’m pleased to see that they’re such a big deal in Demon City too, which I just received.

The Tech Guy. Lucius Fox. Has access to tonnes of gadgets and is more than happy to share them with their Character Contact. Knows what tools are needed for a particular job. Keeps his ear to the ground for other interesting tech that is cropping up. Unfortuntaely: their not exactly his gadgets to be giving out, so he has to have some measure of care and getting their returned is crucial. Others know about The Tech Guy’s ability and inventory and will try to make moves for it. Keeping Lucius as a Contact will require side missions to keep him safe.

The Bent Officer. Arnold Flass (Gordon’s partner.) He’s got a dark side, but he’s not bad. He takes bribes because everyone takes bribes. Why lose out on the money? Because of that, he often knows where he’s been told not to be which may be of use to his Character Contact. He’ll do his job and arrest the little guys, and turn the other way when it’s just common sense to do so. Unfortunately: he only ever knows enough to get the Character started on their investigation. The actual Bad Guys don’t share anything with him. He’s also prone being blackmailed by the mobsters, and he may need help getting out of those situations.

The Sherpa. Alfred. As close as family to their Character Contact and loves them enough to buy into whatever their current passions are. They’ll do their best to mind matters whilst the Player is away, collect them when they’re left for dead, and make a nice smoothy. Unfortunately: they’re not a fighter, nor are they particularly strong. Their loyalty to the Character often puts them in situations they can’t handle and need to be rescued from. Their dedication to the Character’s safety might also at some point be prioritised above the player’s objectives.

Feat: Why Do We Fall?

Why Do We Fall?

Gain the Restless Endurance (Half-Orc) trait.

In addition, when you use this trait make a DC 15 Constitution saving throw. On a success, you’re hard as fuck and gain (10 + Con modifier) temporary hit points which vanish in 1 minute.

In addition, when you use this trait make a DC 15 Intimidation (Con) check. On a success, you’re cool as fuck and the creature that triggered the trait is Frightened of you until the end of your next round.