Legal Woes

Copyright D. Andrew Ferguson © 2005

Edited by Nicholas HM Caldwell for The Guild Companion

"Even seasoned Game Masters can have problems when the PCs start causing trouble in town"


The town guard is charged with maintaining the peace, keeping order and fighting crime. However they occasionally also have to deal with cocky adventurers who decide to prove how tough they really are by beating up a few of the guardsmen. Even seasoned Game Masters can have problems when the PCs start causing trouble in town. This article helps by organizing the town guard into a usable force and helping to determine what kind of response would be appropriate for various levels of PCs.


The following are some of the general tactics used by most town guards; they will help turn a wimpy constabulary into a Player-Character busting force to be reckoned with.

1) Numbers: Town Guards always travel in large groups - usually between 5 and 20 guardsmen per group.

2) Flank: Because of the large number of guards, it should be easy to flank the PCs. These bonuses can make all the difference. Most guards will have feats or class abilities that enhance their flanking capabilities.

3) Focus: Guards are not stupid. They will team up to try to bring down a single foe first and then move on to the next while a comrade is putting the downed opponent into chains. Also experienced guards will always go after spellcasters first, as they are easier to take down and attacking them first helps to counteract their spellcasting abilities.

4) Cycle: A patrol who has a Chaplain will cycle which guards are at the front line. Wounded guards will drop back for healing, while fresh troops step up to take their place.

5) Officers: A patrol that has a senior guardsman will use the less experienced troops to engage opponents so that the officers can make unfettered attacks against a single opponent.

6) Heavies: These are used to engage the toughest opponents while the other guards take down the lesser foes. Heavies are occasionally used to take down weaker foes quickly.

7) Sting: Wary guards are likely to set up situations where they have the advantage. If possible, they will attempt to catch criminals off guard, as they don't really want a tough fight if they can help it.

8) Reinforcements: Town guards always know that they have a large number of friends to help them and will often wait for back up before engaging powerful adversaries. They also often carry horns or other signaling devices to call for assistance when needed quickly.

9) Unbalance: A favorite tactic of the town guard is to use unbalancing attacks to incapacitate opponents. After a foe is down, a few guards will often grapple the opponent, while other guards chain them up or continue to subdue them.

Special Equipment

The following is a list of some of the equipment used by town guards with tips and tactics on how and when they should be used.

1) Reach Weapons: Reach weapons are the best choice against tough opponents. A line of guardsmen can form up and use their reach to threaten a large area. Also being able to strike at an opponent who can't strike back increases the survivability of the troops.

2) Nets: Items such as nets are great for slowing down quick opponents, or restricting the movement of spellcasters and archers. These items should be used to trap and disable opponents who rely on their ability to move.

3) Ranged Weapons: Ranged weapons are great for taking down opponents at a distance. However they should be used sparingly by town guards for many reasons. The first reason is that the guard's adversaries are likely to be superior archers than the guards, so the enemy can sit back and pick off the guard. Another reason is that this would effectively nullify many of the guards' group tactics. Arrows are really meant to kill opponents and unless the guard intend to kill their foes they are unlikely to use archery. Finally there is a good chance that a guard would miss the shot and end up hitting a bystander. Ranged weapons can be used but generally only to weaken up tough opponents before closing in for melee.

4) Magical items: Another option against particularly tough opponents is to supply the patrol with one or two magical items. These items however should be carefully chosen and most likely shouldn't be weapons. Items such as scrolls, potions and other one-use items often have a greater effect than weapons or armor as they can aid more than the owner of the item.

5) Heavy armor: Basically heavy armor shouldn't be used, as it will slow down the guards, who should rely on maneuverability and group tactics. However if Heavies are unavailable, a few men dressed in heavy armor can be used to engage the best fighters while the other guards take down the lesser opponents.

Table: Quick roll patrols

Average party Level Novice Veteran Patrol Leader Sergeant Captain Chaplain Heavy
1-4 4 +1d6 50% 0 0 0 0 0
5-8 4+1d6 1d4 50% 20% 0 20% 0
9-10 4+2d6 1d6 1 50% 0 50% 20%
11-14 4+1d6 1+1d6 1 1 0 50% 20%
15-17 4+1d6 2d6 1d4 1d2 50% 1 1
18-19 4+1d6 2d6 1d4 1d4 1 1d2 1d4
20+ 4+2d6 2+2d6 1d6 1d6 1 2 4

Notes on the above table:

-Each entry either contains the number of guards of that type that are appropriate for a party of that level, or a percentage chance that a guard of that type will be present.

-For a random patrol, just roll a d20 and use the patrol indicated.

-In locations where heavies are not available, replace them with two veteran guards who have better weapons and armor than normal.

Escalation of Force

The following are a few guidelines to help determine what kind of a response is appropriate from the town guard.

If the PCs are required to pay a small fine, or are being brought in for questioning compare the average PC level with the chart above.

If the PCs are suspected of committing minor crimes use the PC level plus one.

If the PCs are suspected of committing violent crimes use the PC level plus two.

If the PCs have struck a member of the Town Guard use the PC level plus three.

If the PCs are believed to have committed murder use the PCs level plus four.

If the PCs have killed a member of the town guard use the PCs level plus five.


Novice: These guardsmen are either new recruits or have not seen much action. Either way, they are inexperienced. Novice guardsmen are usually equipped with clubs, padded or leather armor, a small wooden shield, a tabard with the guard's insignia and a set of manacles. One guard per patrol often carries a horn to call for re-enforcements. Most are level 1.

Veteran: These are the seasoned guardians who have been on the force long enough to have been through more than a few scuffles. They usually have the same equipment as a Novice but often carry a weapon or item that they have found useful over the years. Veterans will be at least 4th level.

Patrol Leader: These are the guards who are experienced enough to be given command of a small group of guardsmen. They are usually equipped with chain shirts, clubs, short swords, small wooden shields, tabards with the guard's insignia and sets of manacles. Patrol Leader will be at least 6th level

Sergeant: The backbone of the town guard, Sergeants train new recruits, organize troops, acquire equipment and generally maintain the force. A Sergeant is usually equipped with chain mail armor, a sword, a small steel shield, a tabard with the guard's insignia and a set of manacles. Sergeants will be at least 10th level.

Captain: The overseer of the town guard, who sets policies, and determines plans of action. Captains of the guard often have military experience and some have even had adventuring careers. This experience has prepared them to face many adversaries. Captains usually do not go on patrol unless they know something may soon happen, they are showing a force of arms, or they are keeping the troops in line. A Captain is usually equipped with chain mail armor or a breastplate, a sword or mace, a large steel shield, a set of manacles and a unique tabard that identifies them as the Captain of the Guard. Captains are at least 15th level.

Chaplain: Lawful churches will often aid local law enforcement by loaning a cleric to the town guard. These Chaplains help to maintain the morale of the guardsmen as much as they oversee the spiritual well-being of those in their charge. These clergymen are also charged with healing the wounded and occasionally aid in interrogating dangerous prisoners. Chaplains are usually equipped with chain shirts, maces (or the preferred weapon of their deity), a holy symbol, and any necessary equipment for healing. Chaplains are at least 5th level clerics, but most are significantly more experienced.

Heavies: These are non-humans that work with the town guard. They are usually only used against significant threats as they can be difficult to control. Most guard organizations will not allow more than one heavy to be present in an individual patrol. Heavies usually have equipment suitable for their race. Good examples of heavies include: Dwarfs, Half-Orcs, Ogres, and Hill Giants.

Appendix: Open Gaming License and Legal Matters

This article: "Legal Woes: Tips on Beefing Up the Town Guard", Copyright &copy: 2005 by D. Andrew Ferguson, is an Open Gaming article.

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"Legal Woes: Tips on Beefing Up the Town Guard", Copyright &copy: 2005 by D. Andrew Ferguson, first published by The Guild Companion (