Non-covenant grogs

In my sagas I've seen a lot of minor characters that have "ties" to the covenant, even though they are not officially part of it. The wandering monk who occasionally comes by in his peregrinations, the young daughter of a nearby noble who has a crush for one of the magi, the merchant who supplies the covenant, the covenant's spy in a rival covenant, the Dependent of a character with the appropriate Story Flaw etc. Our rule is that these characters can be played as grogs as long as all the following conditions are met:
a) One of the players wants to do so
b) The character is not central to the saga (though he or she may be the focus of some stories, e.g. in the case of a Dependent)
c) The character can be designed as a grog (no Gift, no Major Virtues etc.)
I'm curious ... how do you treat these "external characters"? Companions or NPCs only?

Most characters are designed as grogs, except that we treat the social status as a "free" virtue, even if it is a count. Only exceptional people are designed as Companions, and only if they are thought to deserve it. Them being important in mundane terms is not necessarily the same as them being exceptional.

Most characters are NPC. But there is no major design differences between NPC and PC. We have run adventures of "NPC" that get some tangential relationship with the covenant. We have great fun running one off adventures with that kind of characters that are (for example) a group of barn operators that have to handle a shipment for the covenant while the ship from the covenant arrives. Only problem is that the ship,ent might be highly volatile, or a bunch of living hippogriffs. And we all know that if there is a session,. there will be an event there :mrgreen:


I admit, in my sagas the line between PC and NPC is often vague. I'm notorious for handing out NPCs to players without a character in the active adventure and saying "here, play him." In combat scenarios I will hand out most if not all the allied NPCs to the players so they can handle their actions and dice rolling and I can focus on the adversaries.

Certainly, in my saga, characters who are associated with a PC through a virtue or flaw (such as a Mercenary Captains soldiers or a Dependent) will likely be written up as a grog... albeit often by me and played primarily by me. That's as much because I really enjoy writing up characters more than many of my players seem to, as any other reason. Generally speaking, unless a character is a major ally or adversary, if I write them up at all, I write them essentially as a grog. Grogs are, after all, supporting characters.

Interesting, I'd never handed out non-covenant grogs to PCs in such a way. It sounds interesting. We have had alpha, beta, gamma, and delta storyguides each in charge of different parts of the world, but each has kept control over their NPCs.

As a side note, I've seen this comment about no Major Virtues before for grogs, but I don't know where it comes from. Is it just a really popular house rule?


The main rule book suggests, it: "They [...] should have no Major Virtues or Flaws [...]"

Generally, I find this to be a good guideline. I might be convinced on specific cases, but it needs to be compelling...

I keep checking pages 36-37 (as I have done many times before including before my previous post) and can't find it. My big problem with it as a general rule is that it implies generally those who are poor, dwarfs, mute, blind, etc. should be companion-level.

...Aha! It's on the bottom of page 17!!! But I really don't understand why it's there and yet does not seem to qualify as a guideline for Virtues and Flaws. There's also no mention of it when distinguishing between Minor and Major on page 36, even though there is a mention of central characters' limits. This makes me feel like it was a rule in the original draft and was removed after playtesting, but the note buried in the text was forgotten in the process. Hmmm...


I don't have a huge issue with the Major General Flaws, except for Low Self-Esteem, obviously.
It becomes a bit trickier...someone takes Outsider, and now they're character should be fighting with the other PCs due to their being different. Outlaw might also require some additional story considerations. Landed let me get this straight, a grog character can take this but can't take Temporal Influence? Magister in Artibus...a man of letters, incepted Master of Arts at a prestigious University...and you're a grog? Yeah, I know what the PCs want to do with you... :smiley:

I don't have a hard and fast rule against a grog taking major flaws, but I want to be convinced that it makes sense. This requires the player become a bit invested in the grog, may have ownership issues (not necessarily a bad thing) but it may make the character more of a transcendent character, a possibility of becoming a companion, though he's not there, yet...

Try the huge inset box labeled Virtues and Flaws Rules and Guidelines. :slight_smile:

... and yeah, in general, I think grogs shouldn't be Poor, Mute, Dwarf, Blind, etc. The challenges surrounding those flaws, IMO, are usually complex enough to involve companion level attention. That said, I've been flexible about this. The guidelines do say "should not" as opposed to "may not" ... As in, Grogs should not have major virtues or flaws. Grogs may not have the Gift. If you've got a great concept for a grog character who is a dwarf, and the storyguide/troupe is ok with it, go for it. It's just that's the only flaw you get.

In fact, there is a grog in my current saga who is mute dwarf. Mechanically, we just wrote the flaws in as minors, even though Hob's size -2 and can't talk. It's the character the player wanted to play and he was fine with taking them as minor flaws. As it happens, we'll probably be upgrading Hob to a companion because he is much more fun to play than the companion who goes with him... which I think goes to show that really cool character concepts for mute dwarfs turn out to be companion level characters anyway. :slight_smile:

Yes, that's what I'm talking about.

Things like The Gift being ruled out are stated elsewhere and are on this list. But this rule didn't make the list.


It's in the errata

Wow, you're right! I would have sworn to you it was there. I literally have an image in my mind of of the words being there on the page, even now as a type this, but when I actually look at the list isn't there. How weird is that? :laughing:

OK, which one of you guys cast the Muto Mentem spell!

It is there... In my PDF copy. I'd have to review my hard copy, but it's new, too, so I'm sure it's there.

Where? I already checked there around page 17 and page 37 and didn't find anything. Oh!!! Heh!!! It's not in the errata for my edition.


Yay, I'm not crazy after all. I must have been remembering my pdf copy (yes, I have a hardcopy and a pdf copy of the core rules).

Also, it's in the errata for the second printing: "Virtues and Flaws Rules and Guidelines (p. 37): Add the following point to the list for grogs, before "You may not take Hermetic Virtues and Flaws": "You may not take Major Virtues or Flaws" "

Nope not crazy...

And I have the PDF and paper copies of the main rule book and several other books. Search capability, FTW.

In my saga "external" characters can be player character Companions and grogs without a problem. Basically, it just depends on how "friendly" the character is to the covenant. If the character is not too hostile to the covenant, then they are valid as a PC. Although having said that, some "external" PC characters are occasionally hostile to specific magi. Heck, in our saga some of the PC magi living at the covenant are rather ambivalent about the idea of the covenant!

It's generally a good rule, I think. The intent is just to stop a grog becoming more interesting than the companion/magi characters. Grogs are meant to be "extras". It shouldn't matter too much if grog A or grog B is on the Adventure. If a character has a Major Virtue/Flaw then her presence (or not) starts to become significant.

I'll definitely have to consider this.

I think you have a very valid and important point with grogs in the covenant.

My problem (besides not seeing it in the rules) was with this as an extension to folk outside of the covenant. I don't have a problem considering a baron, for example, to be a companion. Whether by birth or by acts of his own, the baron has achieved a position well beyond that of the typical person. So this person seems to fit the companion-level idea. Then I look at the grog-level non-covenant folk. Those would be all the typical farmers, soldiers, laborers, etc. When I look at these folk and ask myself how many are poor, foreign, slaves, lepers, dwarves, blind, deaf, etc. I realize this is far from an insignificant portion of the whole population, especially since Poor is part of it. This means these Major Flaws should not be a rare exception for a grog-level NPC.

I suppose, however, that putting this together with your comment still makes a good guideline for letting a player run the NPC. If the NPC has such a Flaw the NPC risks becoming too significant if run by a player and thus should not be run by a player.


Well, when you're making an NPC you aren't bound by the character creation rules at all. You don't have to balance virtues with flaws. A starving cotter may well be Poor, but he doesn't have 3 points in virtues to balance it. In fact, he might not have any virtues at all, beyond his free Peasant social status virtue. Likewise, the powerful baron probably has Weathy, Landed Noble, Greater Noble and Knight and probably doesn't have flaws balance them beyond Oath of Fealty and maybe an interesting personality flaw to give him some character.

I think that's really the difference between an NPC who is just an NPC and one who could be played as a character. The playable character is balanced and designed under the rules. The pure NPC has only those traits that are necessary to play their role in the story.

Remember that Poor is not so much a mesure of actual wealth than of the available free time you've got each year.

You could very well be a weatlhy beggar (meaning your begging earns you enough income, to have a lot of free time for your wealth level) and a poor baron (if you've spending most of your time struggling to maintain your barony's finances), despite the later having much more actual wealth that the former

The fixer, who really, really, shouldn't be posting right now instead of working T-T

Remember also that V&F are only relevant if they are relevant for the character. otherwise you can have the virtue or flaw, but it might not count as such. A smith that is lame but never has to move fast would not have the Lame flaw but "lame" in his description since it is relevant descriptively, but not from an operational POV. Same for the count. he is likely to be a knight, wealthy and more things, but that is not very relevant to the story most of the time. However, his Enemies flaw might be important since they generate stories and his social contacts help the characters in a story and also come to be important.

IMS characters that are NPCs can be played, but most of the time they have a short description and a pair or 3 V&F/abilities to define them. Like "count, large and stern, enemies (count of liege), social contacts (in duke's court and among city merchants). Loves hunting, infidel lecherous wife (unknown to him)." Tends to be enough for us. The fact that he is Large is important from a descriptive point of view, but it is unlikely to be counted as a virtue for him. If he is going to battle the important bit is his menagerie, not his personal fighting prowess.

And obviously, if he is not very important he will be a grog level character.