Gangs & Bullshit: setting up the first scenario

I have a bad cold, but i’m also in Tokyo, so i’m kind of stuck in my room, waiting for the fever and the torrential rain to peter out. Therefore I’ll bore you with some more Gangs & Bullshit setup and details on how to run the game. G&BS is system neutral, so i’ll use concepts as “level”, “sneak roll” and “1 coin” and you’ll be reponsible to adapt them to your system. I think you understand “level”, “1 coin” means 1 gp or sp depending on your game and “sneak roll” means a move silently, hide in shadows or some similar check depending on the circumstance. If your system does not have any such thing, you can plug in 5MORE, Whitebox20, or use the appropriate saving throw (so possibly rod/staff/wand in this case). If you are playing a game where only thieves can do such things, decide to either allow only thieves in such activity and have the rest of the classes as “non-thieving members of the gang” or give them some basic skill or just play an all thief campaign.

Upstarts: the introductory scenario
Generate level 1 characters. They all know each other because of reasons (they are from the same neighbourhood, for example) and just decided that they took enough shit from other gangs, so they might as well team up together and do something about it. They all start with:
A very sorry looking set of clothes
A small weapon (they all deal 1d4 damage, 1d6 if you feel that a thug should be as lethal as a dude with a spear):
1: razor
2: knife
3: bludgeon
4: hatchet
5: sling and stones
6: brass knuckles

A second weapon (chosen from the same list, or a short bow/crossbow/sword/axe/handgun) or a tool (1d12 from this list, or at random).
1: lockpicks
2: a small boat
3: a big dog
4: a trained talking crow
5: a sturdy crowbar
6: a surgeon’s bag
7: a dose of deadly poison
8: a surgeon bag
9: an upper class set of clothes and fake jewels (usable as a disguise)
10: a big wheelbarrow
11: a small pet monkey
12: climbing gear

A big towel or blanket or throw.

1d6 coins.

And 1d6 small items from this list (selected or at random):
1: grappling hook
2: 30′ of rope
3: dice and cards
4: a bucket on 10′ of rope
5: a bag
6: earhorn
7: bundle of torches
8: a pocketfull of marbles
9: a bag of 1d6 frogs or rats
10: a shovel
11: a waterskin
12: an amulet against bad luck (a rabbit foot or the icon of a saint, gives once per month +1 to a roll that missed by 1, converting failure to success)
13: a heap of rags
14: a jug of lamp oil (needs a wick to burn)
15 or more: a random weapon from the weapon table

Also, if you’re playing D&D, all characters of at least level 1 have at least the AC of leather armour. There’s no leather armour in this game, as everybody would wear it, so I just bumped everybody’s armour by two. Level 0 characters like street urchins, commoners, and the normal watchman do not have this benefit (but might wear armour).

The characters start with a hideout/den:
1: in the backroom of a store (use a reaction roll to determine the shopkeeper’s initial stance, using the best reaction modifier of all PCs, if negative will ask for favours)
2: a derelict abandoned building
3: a leaky loft
4: an undercroft
5: a bargehouse moored at the riverfront
6: a tiny cottage
7: a random PC’s family home
8: under a bridge
9: under a portico
10: squatting in an empty warehouse

At this point the Referee will mention some details about your town or the neighbourhood and the areas close by if the game is in a city. And, most importantly, what’s the crime situation in town, which other gangs are present, and possibly where they hang out. If the Referee feels like they will ask you to come up with details about the town: don’t worry if you don’t feel up for it, it’s gonna be ok.

Now the referee will come up with one or two rumours or events (from the G&BS deck of cards or a random table) and will ask what each character is doing in the first turn, which lasts about a week.

You might go around looking for information on a topic.
Or pick pockets at the market.
Or take advantage of drunken people going home at night and steal their stuff.
Or case a joint.
Or patrol the streets of your neighbourhood, ensuring that no other gangs strays in.
Or raid another gang’s neighbourhood.
Or find their den and torch it.
Or burglar a house, for which there are specific mechanics I’ll write about next time.
Or actually, since you can shave people clean and pull teeth allright, just do your bloody day job as a barber.

What happens in this “gang” turn is usually resolved in a highly abstracted way, with a single roll for each action. So if you pick pockets and pass, you get money. Else, you don’t get money, or very very little. If you fail really badly you might have to make extra rolls to avoid being caught… and if you fail, well…

The game is called Gangs & Bullshit because bullshit happens. If you fail hard and fail to disengage, the failure becomes an encounter-worthy bullshit, which plays out like it would play in a normal RPG. So you might have to play a chase, a fight, climb on roofs, hiding et cetera, and other PCs might get involved depending on the circumstances. The usual stuff RPGs are made of.

And of course some of these actions might become events almost immediately: while patrolling your hood, if you find someone from another gang you might want to threaten them (roll for threathen). but maybe you fail. Or instead decide to sneak up on them and jump them. This is the kind of bullshit that deserves a played-out encounter. And the referee might decide that no, whatever your PC is doing will be fully played out, with no high level abstraction.

And for each turn, the referee might generate one or more events and hearsays, and one of these events might be an encounter to be played out by one, more or all the PCs. And each week you might get more or less beef with other gangs and the Watch, and people will get stabbed and die, and property will be destroyed and stolen. You might rise up in power, and wane, and die, and in that case just roll a new PC and join the gang.

So, this is the game, from the players’ perspective. What happens behind the screen is a bit more involved.