Notes on Skills in the Musicians of Bremen Genre

This page last updated August 13, 2011

The Bremen Town Musicians (or Traveling Musicians of Bremen, etc.) is an old, well-known and beloved folktale about four farm animals who decide to brave the unknown dangers of the world rather than face certain death at the hands of the farmers they've faithfully served their whole lives. The characters are an old donkey, an old dog, an old cat and a young rooster.

I've always loved this tale, and as I age I find I can empathize with the older animals. It occurred to me last year that it would make a good RPG setting for those of us who love playing animal PCs. The setting isn't constrained to the original story: the animals-as-PCs may never meet the robbers, or may have other adventures before meeting them.

In 2010, RPG Geek had a "24-Hour RPG Contest", in which contestants must design and write an entire RPG in 24 hours. I did so, using the Musicians of Bremen as my setting, and you can read my entry if you wish. (Scroll down to "Files" to download the whole game for free.) I wasn't allowed to use an existing system, so that entry is not in Fudge, but it's not too bad except that combat is a bit wonky. There's a session report under "Forums" which discusses the issue, and has my suggested improvement, if you're interested.

At any rate, I've now translated the characters into VG Fudge, and they are posted to my website. The 24-RPG entry has some background information and adventure suggestions if you need them. If you don't need all that, here are the meanings of the few skills I took from it (plus a couple of new ones):

  • Bamboozle: the ability to lie to, mislead, confuse, fast-talk, or otherwise deceive other animals without attempting to intimidate them. Resisted by an NPC's Wits. Not useable with other PCs or on humans.

  • Bluff: This skill is used to make NPCs believe that you:
    • know more about something than you really know, or
    • can do something (other than combat) better than you really can, or
    • possess something that you don't.
    You can attempt to Intimidate (see below) with Bluff-2.

  • Grovel: This is the skill of making a human believe you'll do whatever they want. Cats call this "Dupe", but it's the same skill.

  • Intimidate: the ability to make another creature (animal or human) back off. Similar to Bluff, but limited to convincing an NPC that you're a lean, mean, fighting machine about to attack. Two points:
    • Predators are harder to intimidate than herbivores.
    • Humans who have spent a lot of time around animals are harder to intimidate than those who don't know animals well.

  • Make Friends: doesn't work with humans (use Grovel, instead) and is at a penalty against predators: at least -2, probably more. Likewise, it's harder for a carnivore (cat or dog) to befriend what is normally their prey species: at least -1.

  • Mimicry: you can imitate other animal sounds and possibly some other sounds such as the various clicks and tocks of tools used in everyday farm work.

  • Wild Lore: the extent of your knowledge of animal life and woodland ways off the farm you were raised on. This would have been acquired chatting with wild animals, such as birds, squirrels, rabbits, deer, etc. Your knowledge of the ways of wolves, for example, is based on this skill, and may be inaccurate, filtered as it is through a different species.

In addition, characters will know Skills basic to their species and life on the farm. A donkey will know about hauling carts, for example, though it won't be able to get into harness on its own. Likewise, a dog will know about hunting and guarding, while a cat knows the ways of mice very well. Roosters know all about pecking order.

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