It's a standard trope of gaming that adventurers are hired by a wide variety of people in need to solve problems for them, but sometimes it's nice to have a standing relationship with a particular patron.
This might be an individual, a corporation, a church, or some other entity that is the standard go-to when the party needs cash, information, training, social connection, perhaps even a purpose for adventuring. If you want your PC's to develop a long-lasting relationship with a patron, here are three factors to consider:
1. The Cash:
When it comes to money, the rate at which it comes in is usually more important than the amount in reserve. For example, repentant miser Ezekiel Barckarl has a huge pile of coins he is eager to invest in a good cause, but the money may not flow back in fast enough for him to keep up with PC’s ongoing expenses. It may be a little better for old-fashioned aristocrats like Jules Weathermay and James Martigan*, but most landed nobility have investments tied up in entitlements and entailments, such that money flows in consistently, but not in large sums, and they are not eager to touch their reserves. For higher levels, consider more active rulers like the Reniers, or merchants like Hadron Marquit, the Carlyle Trading Company** or the Boritsi Trading Company, for whom the amount of money coming in every day exceeds the living expenses of any PC by several orders of magnitude. Churches and some secret societies fall into this category as well--the Syndicate of Enlightened Citizens is a group of old-money nobles with mercantile interests, playing such a long game they might theoretically finance anything.
2. The Cause:
Obviously the quickest way to a PC's heart is through their coin purse, but the heart of the patron must be in the right place too. The critical element is whether they share enemies with the PC’s--a witchfinder society like the Brotherhood of Broken Blades might lose interest if the PC’s branch out into fighting werewolves. In your prospective patrons, include evil forces whose immediate goals appear benevolent: PC’s may become pawns of the Living Brain vs. Dominic, Malken vs. Bolshnik, even Inquisition vs. Fey. Eventually they will discover that their patron is as bad or worse than their enemy, but conflicts of interest make for good role-playing. Nor are such dangers exclusive to evil patrons--almost any good patron has skeletons in their closet, whether it’s Orinda Nahle’s vendetta against Gundar or Sasha Hiregaard’s family madness.
3. The Clout:
Political legitimacy, introductions to important people, expert training, obscure secrets--clout is the stuff that can’t be bought easily, or at all. Magic is perhaps the most common kind of clout; the churches of Ezra, Hala and the Lawgiver make for good sponsors because of their healing magic. The best sponsors tend to have something unique that keeps PC’s coming back, such as Randall Marks’ arcane trivia or Philippe Delapont’s*** secrets of the dead. Although it’s one of the best features of a good sponsor, clout has limits; Falkfuhrer Calons Weir might be inclined to trade secrets with PC’s, but they risk dinner with Drakov if they say the wrong thing. Despite not being money, political or social clout may help meet financial needs: Lady Lara Vistin might provide a letter that entitles the bearer to room, board, and reasonable supplies (anything under 1gp) from any Nova Vaasans along the Volgis River. Finally, there are even a few patrons who might offer PC’s clout without cash, such as Cecil the Master Cat.
So consider these three C’s when looking over your prospects for party patrons. Obviously not all patrons will excel in all three, but a little consideration for what they have and what they lack will prepare you for when the party looks for someone to pay the bills.
*James Martigan and Orinda Nahle can be found in Andrew Cermak’s article “Lights in the Fog,” in the Book of Secrets, a netbook hosted by the Kargatane.
**The Carlyle Trading Company can be found in the Van Richten Society Notes on Dopplegangers, a netbook hosted by the Fraternity of Shadows.
***Philippe Delapont can be found in the Undead Sea Scrolls 2003, a netbook hosted by the Fraternity of Shadows.
Matthew Barrett has been playing and writing for Ravenloft for over twenty years, starting with the Kargatane's Book of S series (as Leyshon Campbell). He married his wife on Friday the 13th after proposing to her on Halloween. By tradition, the first story read at birth to each of their three children was The Barker’s Tour, from Ravenloft’s “Carnival” supplement.
I am become death, destroyer of worlds.