Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Indifference Number

The crowbars are deployed.

A scraping.

Centipedes crawl out through the new black breach in the veined stone.

The cleric with the 16 Int backs around the corner.

Oh, who knew? The ArchLich has been released. If only someone had been able to read ancient Omnithroxian.

No matter what you, as GM, decide at this point it will smack of GM fiat. You are either nice or cruel. The Archlich can toast them, there's pretty much no doubt.

What's up to you is whether it cares. Does it TPk them all or just howl shrilly, unfurl its gothic wings and find an innocent village or ancient foe to unleash itself on?

There's a fly in the room I'm typing this in right now, but I can't be fucked. Even less so after I just woke up.
Shire? Baggins? No? I'll just be moving along then...

So rather than just deciding and being a big softie or a cruel hardass, give the situation some tension using the Indifference Number.

It works like this:

Assuming no specific reason to kill a lesser being or keep it alive, subtract the lesser being's level or HD from the Fearful Entity's level or HD. (Or, if the lesser being is being somehow clever, the lesser being's apparent level or HD.)

The resulting number is the Indifference Number--representing the chance that the powerful being sees the lesser as not worth the effort--then roll d20.

Or, hell, have the player roll d20.

Rolling under the indifference number means the greater being can't be fucked to deal with you, and goes about its wicked business.

The GM should only invoke the Indifference Number when it makes sense and will be interesting. The player cannot reliably evoke the indifference number to save his or her ass.

Modifiers should be made in the case of PCs making a pest of themselves, wearing the panoply of antithetical gods, kneeling politely, or whatever.


  1. Yes, I think this will come in quite handy at some point.

  2. Also useful for "oh ... random wilderness encounter is with an ancient red dragon."

  3. Or you could add the category "13+: Doesn't give a fuck" to the Reaction Table and use the Indifference Number as a modifier.

  4. I like the rule. A super-being's utter contempt for the PCs threat potential is pretty bad ass.

    However, in your specific example I would have had the lich capture the PCs. If you are running old-school sleep or power-word stun etc, it would be pretty easy. It wouldn't break suspension to have the lich either want info about the time-period he just woke up in or perhaps some cruel appetite the PCs might satisfy. Then while he's out the PCs can attempt a daring escape - and voila! you have a cool loose-end/long-term-villain in the mix.

    BUT, like I said, I like the rule. Another way it could work is by using the monster reaction rules but modified by level difference instead of charisma. Big evil monsters aren't going to make immediate friends with PCs but a favorable result would indicate the monster either contemptuously ignores them or just gloats and mocks their weakness (maybe toys with them a bit) before swaggering off - kind of like a DBZ villain.

  5. Question: Did this happen in your campaign, Zak? If so, what was the Indifference Number ... and what was rolled?

    1. It was 10, and it was rolled under. Then it was 12, and rolled under again.

  6. I like the idea of confronting them with something like this and letting them "roll their fate."

    It always bugs my players a lot more if I let them roll their own doom.

  7. So I presume that this gives the players a free shot at the big bad if it decides to (foolishly) ignore them?