Monday, November 22, 2021

More Thoughts on Patron Play

After I posted the Essential Guide to Patron Play for your D&D Campaign I've had folks ask me various questions to elaborate on particular concerns or ideas. One person in particular, a member of the ACKS Discord, had some very pointed and interesting questions for me.

So here are my thoughts on those various questions about Patron play in no particular order:

1. "What HD/Level Patrons do you find most effective? Now that your PCs have leveled will you be making Patrons higher level?"

Hit Dice and Level aren't all that important. Just like you don't try to balance the game world around session play or the PCs by fudging random encounter rolls or whatever, you shouldn't concern yourself with whether or not the Patrons are too powerful or not powerful enough. The concept is the thing. 

Patrons aren't really competition for the PCs they are competition for other Patrons. So their power with respect to rival Patrons is more important than where they stand in relation to the PCs. And even that isn't too important. This is a living world, right? One city might have more troops or resources than another. It's not about balance it's about the world in question; the idea, the milieu.

2. "How do Patrons handle the time jump spend a month in the session? Can they retroactively catch up...?"

You can only run Patrons using Jeffrogaxian Timekeeping; real time time keeping. So if PCs adventure a month into the future they will be trapped in the future for a month before they can take actions. With that in mind the DM can always have a general idea about where the PCs were and at what time(s) if the Patrons happen to go to where PCs ended the session a month later.

This sort of stuff is a bit mind bending and DMs are going to have to work on possible issues as they crop up. For my part I've yet to have any sort of timekeeping or time compression issues which I found challenging to adjudicate. Jeffrograxian Timekeeping abides.

3. "How many Patrons are practical to maintain at any time?" 

This will be up to the DM and the Players in question. You'll have to gauge for yourself. If this is a concern then I advise using the "Limited Approach" to introduce 1 or 2 Patrons at a time and see how it feels.

Some Patrons will want to ask a million questions about every action they take. Some will take an idea and run with it and rarely even bother the DM with questions before they interact with PCs or other Patrons. DMs deciding to go full BROSR in their approach to D&D will need to embrace the paradigm shift that comes with Jeffrogaxian Timekeeping and Patrons. The latter of which will mean you will have less control and hands-on with all elements of your campaign. The Patrons and your PCs will begin to worldbuild without you. As such, the normal bottle neck of worldbuilding is smashed. And this is a good thing.

4. "What ratio of Good vs Evil (or Lawful vs Chaotic) Patrons do you recommend?" 

This will have to come down to DM taste as well. 

I think 50/50 is fine but if you prefer a more challenging campaign world I'd allow as high as 75% Hostile Patrons vs 25% Friendly.

I actually prefer about 25% of Friendly and 25% Hostile with the other 50% of Patrons that *should* be somewhat Neutral or wary of PCs. These would be the mob boss who doesn't have any predisposed reason to dislike the PCs, the head of the Mage's Guild who simply sees PCs as a tool, or the King of Elfland who simply doesn't like humans at all but isn't evil going out looking to kill them all.

Again this is all going to come down to milieu, what Patron ideas are interesting, and how comfortable the DM is with campaign difficulty or lack thereof. I warn all DMs reading that if you allow too many Patrons friendly to the PCs the PCs will end up begging for said Patrons to essentially play the campaign for them. "Hey there's this orc lair... how about you go with your army and clear it?"

But if you find that PCs have turned tons of Patrons to their side and they're becoming a team, so what? OSR minded DMs in particular, I find, need to let go of always having the most difficult or lethal campaign and let their PCs have Wins. If PCs start winning all the time and are as much as pointing Friendly Patrons at their (PCs) problems then that is the new nature of the campaign.

Don't we all play D&D to see what happens? If what happens is the PCs are the minds behind the Patrons' thrones then so be it.


  1. For question 2, go to the source: TIME, pp. 37 and 39 in the AD&D 1eDMG.

  2. Apologies for the double post. Forgot to enable scripts on the site... and it's pp 37-38 in the Tome of Gygax.


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