Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year's Resolutions

1.)  Actually get a working prototype done by Febtober.  Have a quickstart ready by the time the bulk of the book is ready.

2)  More and more playtesting.  Lots of it.  If  my new-found disposable income does not preclude free time then  have a playtest at a convention. 

3)  Post more or at the very least get into a regular posting frequency so it gets harder to blow off blogging.

4)  Game more often and with more people.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Class Kits on the Fly

The last time I ran a D&D game I ran a slightly modified Labyrinth Lord.  There were three available classes, Fighter, Rogue & Cleric/Cultist.  There were no Wizards on account of them all being wiped out in a cataclysmic event in the setting.  However, that same cataclysmic event also endowed every sentient creature with the ability to cast arcane spells.  Essentially, everyone was multi-classed Wizard at no penalty and the only spells you knew were from the scrolls you picked up.  Scrolls were not consumables but rather represented your own personal library of spells.  I'm going to list the three classes and my slight modifications below.

Originally I gave the Fighter a "Master of Battle" ability that allowed them to attack as many hit dice as the fighter had levels.  So a 5th level fighter could attack two 2HD creatures and one 1HD creature, or three 1HD and one 2HD, etc.
Getting the wording right was a bit awkward so I've been leaning towards the old chainmail rule where they can make an attack for each HD they had.  Meaning that 8HD superhero could make 8 attacks.  For simplicities sake if multiple attacks are made against the same target it is resolved with one die roll and you roll as many dice as required (3 attacks -> one to hit roll and 3 damage dice).

Fighter's also had a variant of AD&D's weapon specializations and the optional Naked Warrior Rule.

"Stunt - Anytime the Thief viscerally describes some crazed stunt they'd like to perform such as swinging across chandeliers, using a silver platter as an impromptu shield, riding an enraged stag by the horns, or jumping out windows in their best Bruce Cambell impression they receive a stunt bonus to the die roll equal to 1 + half their level. This bonus can be applied to just about any roll involving a d20 (attacks, saves, skill/ability checks) as well as for damage rolls and reaction rolls."

The only thing I would change now is that it gives a bonus to damage/reaction dice rather than a simple  modifier.

I had previous used a Judge's Guild optional rule that allowed character to regain d3 HP at the end of combat. Originally I was going to replace the d3 with the class HD but I decided to forgo all variable dice for that game (d6's for everybody!).  Instead at the end of combat a cleric would have the party roll 2d6 and take the higher value as HP regained.

This ability proved to be quite powerful and could lead to near infinite adventuring (not necessarily a bad thing).  There was a bit of a disconnect as well because after a battle a party could end up with more hit points than what they started with.  To rectify this I'm going to try out a system I'm rather proud of which should eliminate disconnect altogether.  If it works well I'll keep it in the beta version of my game system.

Cleric's could also spontaneously cast Cure spells.

These crazy fools worshiped the Shrike, also known as the pain lord, an inscrutable being made of free-flowing metal and spikes that travels backwards through time.  If you've read the Hyperion Novel's by Dan Simmons you should be familiar.

At first level I decided to give the Cultists an ability related to the Pain Lord's effect on time and entropy.  The best I could come up with would be to affect group initiative and I decided to go with their enemies.  It wasn't particularly powerful (although the Cleric's ability would end up being) but it was by far the player's favorite.

Entropic Adjustment: When rolling initiative enemy groups must roll twice and take the lower result.

Cultist's could also spontaneously cast Inflict spells.

The guiding principle behind these class touch-ups was that the ability granted would either improve with them as they level (Fighter and Rogue) or it would provide a set benefit that was useful at all levels of play and they would receive separate abilities later on that would build on the theme of the class (Cleric/Cultist).  As an example at level 10 the Cultist was going to be able to take two actions per round with the downside that his permanently hasted body would lead to a very early demise.

Now I've taken the time to repost these class tweaks and analyse them for a reason.  The next time I run a D&D/LL game I plan on using Class Kits.  For those unfamiliar, a kit was a way to customize or create a variant of a class.  The fighter could be a berserker or a kensei, a ranger could be a beast master or an archer, a bard could be a blade or skald, a cleric could have a kit based on his god which would later grow into the Domain abilities introduced in 3.x.  The kits were a nice way to personalize a class without mucking around too much.  Most of them gave a fairly significant combat modifier or granted some neat ability used a few times a day.  Now, when I say I'm going to introduce kits I'm not actually going to write out a bunch of kits and pass them around to players since it's very unlikely that a premade kit will fully envision what the player has in mind.  Instead we'll talk about what kind of character they would like to play and we'll work out the finer details by choosing one of the three class archetypes above and creating the kit on the fly.

Kitting on the Fly

So let's say you want to play a Barbarian or a Berserker.  You start you off as a Fighter and decide they will be limited to Hide armor based on iconic barbarians, berkserkers and vikings.  We also decide that you'll have a rage type ability that boosts your damage, strength checks and capacity to take damage.  Now we may go the route of having it be a set number of times a day or we can have you go berserk at will with the risk of you losing control.  Said risk increases as the battle wears on.  We could also combine the two, where the set number of day represents the number of times you can rage without fear of losing yourself.

How about a Ranger?  He gains a favored enemy, woodland skills and has an edge on surprising creatures.  In exchange he'll lose the specialization of the fighter and have a more restricted armor choice.

Seems simple enough right?    Grant an advantage or two and add a few defects.  In the above examples the Berserker's ability came with it's own disadvatage, losing control, while the ranger had to give up a powerful class feature, their starting weapon specialization.  Let's try a few more.

Want to make a Spellsword type Gish?  Sure, you're a fighter with an offensive wizard spell list that can cast through their blade, with shocking grasp represented by electrified steel or activating burning hands while your sword misses in a wild arc producing a fan of flames.  The spell list is restricted to offensive spells and they cannot wear armor heavier than leather or mithril/elven chain.

Want to play Gygax the level 27th level warrior mage?  {My apologies in advance for the annoying sound effects inserted.}  Sure, you're a Wizard in heavy armor with a mostly defensive spell set.

In the first case you are gaining an ability, discharging spells through your sword, with the disadvantage of a restricted spell list.  Being able to cast in armor is balanced by the limited armor selection.  The battlemage on the other hand retains his armor selection and spell casting but forfeits the bread and butter of spell repertoire. Since in this particular game anyone can pick up a scroll or wand so the addition of the Wizard's spell list is a relatively minor modification.

Now I haven't laid any actual groundwork here for a reason.  I'd rather provide examples in place of guidelines because even an easy heuristic like 1 advantage for every disadvantage can become clunky when you begin weighing the benefits, frequency of use, an significance of abilities against each other.  Plus, examples serve as kindling for the imagination and you may have thought of a few kits of your own by the time you read this.

If you'd like to try this yourself make sure you work with your players and create something that is not immediately unbalanced and everyone agrees would be fun to play.  Always remember, what may seem fine on paper may absolutely wreck things in actual play.  And of course the opposite can also hold true.

Temple of Elemental Evil

I completed Cugel's Saga last month and now I'm going to start Rhialto the Marvelous.  When I've finished I'm going to sit down and work on a spellcasting section and finalize the magic using class, or at least its first level.

In the meantime I've been playing the Temple of Elemental Evil through Good Old Games (GOG).  This would be my third experience with a 3.x edition computer game.  I absolutely love Icewind Dales 2 (and it's predecessor) while I loathed Ruins of Myth Drannor due to it's flagrant disregard of XP rules and from what I could tell inability to flee from combat.  As you can imagine this can be quite fatal when your 1st level party accidentally walks near an incorporeal spectre.  Since both Ruins and ToEE were both turn based I was cautiously optimistic of what to expect.

I'm playing with the Circle of 8 modpack because like all Troika games it was unbelievably buggy.  I fell prey to the secret door bug about an hour and a half in and had to start from scratch.  The modpack has a wealth of new content which is nice since the content in the main game is rather sparse to put it nicely.  Plus it allows you to accrue a fair amount of experience without dealing with the monotony and excessive backtracking in the Hommlet, lazy town people's quests.

Of course that's not really the issue here, the game is called the Temple of Elemental Evil so let's talk about the actual Temple!  My first observation was how well thought out the actual dungeon was.  Escape tunnels, plenty of secret passages, massive combats, various critters, and an easy way for PC's to impersonate temple factions.  As I was exploring the dungeon I was beginning to regret playing a super good party because it looked like there was a lot of fun in store for the more nefarious party with the all the political backstabbing going on in the clerical hierarchy of the temples depths.

I'm enjoying the game but man are low levels lethal.  I haven't gone digging through books to verify this claim but it felt like you had a much harder time not getting in hit in AD&D (a la Baldur's Gate) then you did in the 3.x world.  Of course my experience with level 1 in AD&D mostly involved heavily armored characters (and occasionally supplemented with a good dexterity) while in 3.x most games I ran had lightly armored rogues, swashbucklers, druids and Wizards.  Not exactly the most stalwart bunch so I'll chalk that up to bias.

As a final closing thought I'd really like to point out the radial menu in ToEE that basically covers almost any action your character can possibly do.  At first I found it rather frustrating but as I grew used to I find it to be very intuitive.  My one major usability gripe though is finding more information on items in your inventory.  In Baldur's Gate/Ice Wind Dale a simple right click will tell you what you need to know AND have the option to identify it on the same screen.  In ToEE you must use the radial menu to identify an object, and if you are identifying more than a few objects/scrolls/potions at a time this can get very tedious.  Furthermore, you must shift+click to get more information on an item and some items won't even allow you to do so without first identifying the item.  This is rather frustrating when all you want to do is see what type of proficiency an item requires to be wielded.

All in all I've enjoyed my time in Greyhawk and the next time I run a D&D game I'll definitely be considering running it in Hommlet.  I can definitely see a lot of ways PC's can have fun with temple politics.  My first idea occurred after I had dispatched the Head Earth Priest while reading his journal and who he regarded as an ally and an enemy.  With that kind of information it would be trivial for the PC's to dress up in two sets of robes, stage a fight and have on member run in and declare the fire temple was attacking.  The group fighting would 'hold them off' while the actual temple forces would descend to attack their unguarded base.

Should be exciting.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Cast off thine tactical grids and embrace the mind's eye!

Going off of Jeff Rient's recent ditchin' the minis post I've been inspired to post an excerpt regarding my own revelations on dumping minis and moving back to narrational movement.  I originally planned on including this in a DM'ing section but I've since decided to adapt it for the combat section so that both players and DMs are on the same page.


"When I originally started writing these abilities many of them had features or effects involving squares and tactical movement. At the time my players and I had gotten used to and started to expect tactical grid based combat. However, I rather enjoyed hexes for their ability to ignore silly diagonal rules and because I had a few lying around so the name was changed to spaces.

Later on when the OSR kicked in to full swing I decided to pick up a copy of Labyrinth Lord. Suddenly I could remember with full clarity the kind of fun, quick and dirty combats we had when I was younger where all you had to do was relay to the DM where you wanted to go and what you wanted to do and he would  update his mental map and verbally describe the places and positions or he would quickly scribble up something on a sheet of paper (usually graph paper). I loved it and realized how much I missed it. So I went through the classes and the abilities with a fine tooth comb and edited them to remove all the nitty gritty elements of tactical map-based movement.

In it's place grew up nebulous effects like causing opponents to flee, knockback with the actual direction being entirely up to the DM and the characters attributes.  Then I took it a step further and decided that spaces could be a pretty useful, if not nebulous, tool for a DM. You see player character still have a speed, this is represented in spaces which if you desire to use a square/hex map works perfectly well. If like me you'd like to switch back to almost entirely narrational movement a space on the field of combat is whatever you decide it to be.

To some DMs, a space is any increment that places the fencing hero and villain no more than three spaces away from a precarious ledge. To others, it's an increment that causes a melee heavy party to come under projectile fire for a few rounds while they evaluate their lack of ranged weapons (or a big shield!)  To that end a space is entirely contextual, in a bar brawl moving through a throng of people is quite difficult and a space may be something as small as half-a-foot.  It may be even less if you're crawling through a dungeon scaled down for wererats. While a cavalier jousting will have much larger spaces, typically equal to the stride of a charging mount.

In this way you can simulate terrain and other conditions (moving through a crowd) to slow down characters that would otherwise be represented by some rigid static penalty meticulously laid out in some table in the combat section that you can never seem to find. The table will of course have many obvious situations but you may disagree on the severity of the penalty and there will of course be examples that are missing so you'll have to approximate them on your own anyways. In any event with these parting words let me leave you one important guideline.

"Always be consistent"

Your spaces should  be longer for clear outdoor movement than it is for moving through thick foliage, moss covered caverns, and worn down bridges overlooking choppy waves pounding the cliff-side revealing
jagged rocks with every retreating wave.  If you created an ad-hoc penalty for pushing through a crowd, remember it the next time it happens or write it down.  Consistency is the key to keep verisimilitude while a reliance on abstraction can quickly kill it.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Movie Review: The Man With No Name

As a creature paradoxically possessing too much and yet too little time I find myself multi-tasking (in a way) quite frequently.  Now I generally have a Hulu stream or a movie playing while I write to both lessen the impact of long term boredom/fatigue and also because I subscribe to the idea that inspiration can come from anywhere.  Especially the Wild West.

I was watching "The Man With No Name" for the first time.  I had thought that it payed homage to Kurosawa's Yojinbo in the same way that Eastwood's later "Pale Rider" payed homage to "Shane" before it.  I wasn't expecting scene by scene recreation.  Ah well, it was just as entertaining the second time around as it was the first.  Still the finale pitting Mifune's Sword and skill against the upstart's gun was important for the way it symbolized the last gasp of an era (When the Last Sword is Drawn also tries to capture this moment).  The impact just isn't the same with the "Ha-hah! My gun is bigger prepare to lose Yankee!" plot line.

Doomed to Repeat; Creative Urges

Been a while since I've posted an update.  Here's what I've been working on.

My players and I grew frustrated with Saint Sage Edition since we were coming from some fast and loose systems.  Moving back to the structured, "There's a DC for that.  There's always a DC for that" was a bit of a wake up call.  As much as I love Sage Edition I'm beginning to realize that I love it for being a great d20 system and thus a great D&D system.  Thematically I don't think Star Wars and 20 levels really coincides.  With that in mind we came up with a very agreeable solution.  All the players love SW Minis.  I personally love it for it's simplified approach of taking the "Keep It Sweet and Simple" design approach of Sage and further boiling it down.  Abilities are useful, rather than roadblocks on the way to power.  Many abilities are resolved with a simple saving throw.  A Saving throw is always 11!  Talk about ease of use, this is a terrific rule of thumb (later expansions would add in Save of 6 or 16 but all it's really doing is adding or subtracting +5).  That single rule  I love so much I decided to adapt Static Save DC's for my own games.

So I began the task of going through the glossary and rules of Star Wars Minis to create a playable RPG system.  I'll talk more about that in a follow up post.

I've also been working on transcribing my thoughts to my over-burgeoning text documents.  From there I've been taking barebones systems and trying to create a rough draft of my games.  I'm of the opinion that at some point you need to start writing things down in a coherent fashion or you'll never make progress.  Things have been slow going so far.  I'll never marginalize the work of a copy editor again.  There is nothing more agonizing than taking well worded paragraphs and putting them on the chopping block to make a coherant idea fit on a single column or page.

Currently, I'm working on getting the basic combat system down.  Here is where I ran into a bit of trouble and it pertains to anyone interested in design and modification of RPG systems.  I wrote many posts ago about Wounds, the lifeblood of your character.  As opposed to Hit Points these represent actually taking a serious hit, and if you're lucky you can keep on going.  I based the idea (well revised it really) from the Star Wars RCR d20 system where a critical hit could go directly to Wounds.  Thus recreating the Samurai-things can be settled in a sudden stroke- action present in Star Wars.

 The problems were many of course, they decided to keep critical multipliers in, and as you can imagine doubling 2d8 plus modifiers will nearly always trump your Constitution score.  In my original revision I merely had criticals go straight to Wounds with no doubling or tripling to speak of.  I reasoned that damage progressed at a rate equal to half your level while Wounds progressed at a rate equal to your level, therefore damage would not out pace Wounds.  Of course this idea has a few holes in it, namely that it is ignorant of damage modifications that come from feat choices or class features but the basic premise was a decent one.

The critical system has gone through some changes since then.  Mostly to rectify the idea that a certain ability score will affect the severity of critical hits.  Also having Armor apply only to damage to wounds as a way to minimize extra rolling.  As I was writing up an example in the Critical section I was blindsided by the conclusion.  A man wearing decent armor would still be flat out killed by a man with a longsword and a decent damage attribute.  I put it succinctly, "The defender would then receive a whopping 19 Wounds.  At which point he presumably dies."

Here's the lesson.  This goes out to everyone who likes to propose changed to their RPG system of choice.
"Rules do not exist in a vacuum.  Remember that even the smallest changes can have far reaching consequences on the overall balance of the system."

As someone who decided to design a core system from scratch after coming to the conclusion that tinkering with an existing system to make it work was more trouble than it was worth, I had hoped that lesson would have stuck with me.  Now then, it's time to look into solutions.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Inspirations from the Sea

I took an extended vacation with the family for the past week and I noticed it did wonders for my creative process.  Going cold turkey from the internet and assorted electronics certainly gave me time to focus and brainstorm.  In that period I was surprised by the amount of content and ideas that rolled out, filling an entire legal pad in less than a week no less.  I think putting pen to paper rather than trying to put another entry in an already crowded text document certainly helped, especially with one central theme per page.  I hammered out some class mechanics and changes, adventure ideas, setting locales, an entire quick start adventure, advice on tone and imagery and a number of odds and ends.  It ended up being my most productive week, with regards to fresh ideas, all week.

That being said I wanted to acknowledge how your present location can influence and often inspire you.  I first noticed this when walking back down the hill on the battlefield after the fireworks were over and thinking how the pitiful lighting, large amount of shapes moving about, indistiguishable shapes and unrecognizable noises would be like in a time period where the night really was the end all be all boogeyman (mostly because of all things that really did go bump in the night, lions and mummys and werebats oh my!)

Here are a few entries that warranted entries on my note pad inspired totally by the sea, the weather, and the location.

The rising sun does more to enliven you than the newfound warmth in your body.  It is the sense of security that only the day brings, that the horrors of the night have been put to rest and the remaining can keep on going.

Beach - Simple Pleasures
There's something magical about the walking the seemingly endless sands and eternal waves that brings perspective to what diminutive creatures we in the scope of these timeless forces of nature.

Cities by the Sea
Running with the idea that overtime waves shift the location of sand and the reason the current beach is still here is because the city actively trawls through the ocean replacing sand lost (like from the recent hurricane).  It gave me the idea that perhaps in olden times people would build beach side cities and as the sand would slowly traverse and buildup on new locations on the coast the people would simply pack up and build a new city leaving behind a string of abandoned buildings on barren cliffs all along the coastline giving an eerie post-apocalyptic vibe.

Reminding the PC's how they lack modern conveniences and staples
As you emerge from the woods you are delighted to see farmland ahead of you and what's more it appears to be harvest time.  You're looking forward to the fresh cream, cheeses, vegetable (which have been absent from your plain rations for the some time) and best of all the allure of fresh bacon!  Now hopefully they'll accept you as farmhands for such a rare and nourishing meal.

Cold Winds
Nothing puts you in a sour mood quite like dismal cold weather and strong winds that curiously always seem to be blowing in whatever direction you are facing.

Lost City Dogs
Watching a bunch of dogs frolicking on the beach while their owners met and chatted I started thinking about dogs in your typical D&D world.  Then I thought, what if a town had been brazen enough to try building near a living wood (one that expanded near continuously and was hostile to foreign objects, read: people).  Let's say this town had a number of dogs, and let's say the inevitable happens and the town is swallowed up.  The dogs of course would survive.  The PC's could encounter them on their travels, remarking at how unusual it is for a wild dog pack to be so genetically diverse (and non-hostile).  They could befriend them at the cost of their food supplies and have a dog pack escort them through a dangerous area.

Prickly Salesman
I'm beginning to understand why my player's characters so frequently respond with overwhelming violence for everyday trivialities.  Should we rewind the clock a few hundred years with a much less severe justice system I could easily see myself decking a few condescending salesman & beach buffoons.

Misc. Imagery
Saltwater and strong breezes leaves your hair stiff and breezy.  Remember that when describing coastal natives.
The combination of sand and water shred your callouses when running on the beach.  If you do it for a while expect some super callouses!
The water can be surprisingly warm, even in October but quickly chills the further you get from the shallows.
Seagulls - Everywhere.  Sandpipers are adorable.
Don't forget to play up the smells of fresh seafood to the aficionado and revolted alike.
The hustle and bustle of port cities quickly disappears in the face of cold weather.
In some regions (Cape Cod for instance) the tide can recede for miles.
Not all beaches are foot friendly!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

SWSE Kotor Session Summary #1

The introductory session ended with the Transporter, his ship and passengers ionized and and sinking below the surface of manaan following the escape pod our Dark Jedi friend barely escaped to after losing a battle with an unnamed Sith wearing red robes on his ship full of force 'zombies.'  Our Selkath Hero rounded up survivors and staged a rescue operation on the sinking ship such that it didn't impact the underwater laboratory.  They finished the session defending the researchers and other members of the order gathering supplies and research equipment from the rapidly flooding lab from a pack of enraged firaxan sharks.

Here's where they started:

"As the members of your order and the lab scientists hurry to get the research data, equipment and kolto reserves to the ship you are alerted by one of your underlings that Shasa is not with you. She was last seen swimming toward an underwater geyser calling out that she had seen the Progenitor. You grew up with Shasa, together you two were swayed by the Sith and captured until you were eventually freed by the one who you would eventually find out was Revan. Shasa, the strongest in the force of the Selkath, decided to mirror some of the Jedi teachings but adapted them culturally in order to protect Manaan's sovereign neutrality. Being force sensitive yourself you were the first member and her second and command. You are recalling this because you are faced with a difficult decision. The air lock was not intended to be used underwater and ferrying people and supplies on and off is starting to take it's toll, cracks are beginning to form and it won't be long before the entire hull of the ship becomes critical. That's not even counting the amount of water the ship took on when primary systems were knocked off line from the ion cannon. Will you abandon your friend or will you chase after her and the shadow of the progenitor."

The Selkath went off to find Shasa while the Dark Jedi accompanied feeling something tugging him at the force.  Our Zabrak pilot remained behind to keep the ship ready to go should a hull breach occur.  The Selkath found Shasa trying desperately to keep rubble from crushing the Progenitor (a massive firaxan shark who makes it's abode at the highest concentration of Kolto in the Hrakert rift) who in turn was shielding it's eggs below from the impending debris.  This led to unique situation because our Selkath hero wanted desperately to help but did not possess Move Object or suitable telekinetic power while our Khil Dark Jedi did.  Rather than help out the Dark Jedi bee-lined straight for the mysterious alien doorway at the sea floor.  Inside he discovered the a piece of the Star Map, a postcognition of both times Revan walked here and found some left over lightsaber parts, presumably ones Revan no longer needed.  Rather than cut and run the Dark Jedi did eventually come to the aid of Shasa and with an astounding roll saved both the Progenitor and it's eggs.  The underwater door was however covered in rubble.

Meanwhile, our Zabrak hero manages to get the engines started just in time as a giant underwater bottom feeder planned on making him his next meal.  With some daring piloting he lured the fish close before maxing out the afterburners frying it out and eventually ramming the creature putting, neutralizing it as a threat.  As the PC's were collected they prepared to leave.  They reached the surface and did not detect the StarForge Capitol ship in orbit.  They searched the wreckage of Ahto City for survivors which the order led down to the underwater colonies while the Zabrak found a crippled astromech droid that he failed to repair (Mechanics checks all have stupidly high DCs)  Shasa asked of our Selkath Force Adept to take revenge for the destruction of Manaan.

As the PC's departed they had a moment to reflect on Manaan, once the jewel of the Galaxy.  It was considered untouchable by both sides in the Jedi Civil War as anyone who would attack Manaan would in turn eliminate the flow of medical supplies to both sides of the conflict.  It would seem that this mysterious enemy is far less pragmatic and far more nihilistic.  They had to cut the melancholy short as the Sith Ship was hiding behind a nearby moon and they quickly jumped to hyperspace carrying the last major of shipment of kolto in the galaxy.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Weapon Types Another Look

I had taken a few cracks at making weapon lists before, each with varying degrees of success.  My most current model as them organized categorically with the idea that weapons created in a similar way, with similar heft and balance, as well as mode of damage should be grouped together.  This way someone using a longsword should have no problem picking up a short sword and someone used to using a mace should be able to freely swap it out with a morning star.  It's simplistic and sensible (on the surface at least) and that's what I'm all about.

As it stands there's about a half dozen categories for melee weapons only.  Of course one thing that I carried over from the 3.x days were damage types, specifically Slashing, Piercing and Bludgeoning.  I liked the idea behind it, that weapons had differing ways of dealing damage and that enemies and certain armors (given the right splat-tastic book) would treat some damage types as ineffective and others as effective.  This was predicated on the somewhat bizarre system of 'I have damage reduction against everything but this'.  So for example a skeleton may have DR 5/Bludgeoning.  Now we can all agree that an arrow or the thrust of a dagger should have little effect on a walking, talking (well maybe not talking) skeleton.  A sword slash would also be inefficient since a slash is geared towards soft targets  but not to the same degree as a stab would be.  In this respect you would think that the piercing type weapon would be ineffectual, the slashing weapon would have reduced effectiveness and the bludgeoning weapon would reign supreme.  However, in this odd DR/"My One Weakness!" system all damage types save the magic bullet are penalized.  So to remedy this you could adapt the system to be more flexible or build something from the ground up.

Then I read this interesting post over at Delta's D&D Hotspot and the subsequent discussion in the comment section and I was very impressed.  So much so that I spent some time skimming over the exhaustive work of Matthew James Stanham of Silver Blade Adventures fame in this post on Dragon's Foot.  Matthew's post takes a look at how the interactions between specific weapons and armor class evolved organically between the edition's of D&D and it's precursor Chainmail.  If you're interested in mechanics changes over the ages it's some very interesting stuff so take a look.

In the meantime I'd like to take a look at the categories of damage types outlined in the comments section of Delta's post.  To summarize the contents of the posts and citations; the basic principle is that the more concentrated the force of impact the more likely the user was to damage the target.  Conversely, the more surface area (and I'd wager thickness although it's not clearly stated) of the armor that catches the impact the more the force of the blow can be spread out and absorbed by the armor rather than it's occupant.  A fairly straightforward principle grounded in basic physics.  It reminds of me of a weapons and armor lecture I had in school where one of the topics we discussed was laminated armor and how a single uniform sheet of material could better absorb an impact rather than multiple plates riveted together.  Of course, like all armor there is no one size fits all approach and there are very likely times when piecemeal construction would be more suitable, ablative and reactionary armor immediately come to mind but I digress.

Now that we have the guiding principle down let's look at the construction and intended use of different categories of weapons.  I will be quoting Matthew who is quoting Catherine Hanley author of War and Combat who appears to be quoting Gamble.   My aren't citations an tangled web of confusion?

The axe was a powerful weapon, as Gamble explains: 'By combining a relatively smaller curved edge with a heavy head, all of the striking force was combined to hit in a small area, which is opposed to a sword in which the force is distributed evenly along the entire length of the blade.'
"The axe, with its greater weight concentrated behind a smaller cutting edge, had the potential to inflict terrible wounds if used to its maximum effect, as did the mace, whose heavy head was capable of smashing bones even through layers of armour."

Now if we look at this we see that the Axe is almost guaranteed at inflicting damage against an armored opponent due to the force being confined to not only a small area (the axe head) but an even smaller area on the edge.  Compare this with a hammer which has a similar principle of confining the force to the head but the flat blunt edge causes the force to be spread out.  I think the sword comparison is especially apt since the Axe and Mace are making full use of the wielder's moment, err sorry torque, much like how it is easier to use a wrench or open a door the further your arm (and the force you exert) is from the pivot point.  Contrast this with a sword whose impact can be anywhere from the tip (maximum torque) to the cross guard.  While this makes for a versatile weapon allowing two forms of damage, cutting and impact as Matthew later explains, it does however limit it's effectiveness at penetrating armor.

Now then, since we've looked at the basic physics on how the weapon deals damage let's think on how to translate this to game mechanics.  If we define damage, or perhaps more specifically damage dice, as a reflection of how much harm the weapon deals to the users body there are two ways to look at the Axe.  First off, it's construction makes it very likely to penetrate armor and thus chop into the target's body.  However, it's small area of impact also means that only a small portion of the users body will be hit.  Of course if the axe embeds itself deep enough this could lead to a very severe injury.  Looking at it this way we see that the axe has a good chance of causing moderate wounds, however due to the nature of it's construction if it hits the right place and makes a deep enough wound it could be very fatal.

Putting this into game terms I would give the axe a small damage die (d4 or d6) and a large critical, whether it be critical modifier and/or critical range depends on your interpretation. If it's a system where armor is used as a target number to hit then the axe would receive a bonus to hit for armor.  Comparatively the simple sword whose damage, if using a cutting motion, depends on the amount of area the blade is able to slice leads to a highly variable damage.  Let's say damage dice of d10 or d12 with a bonus to hit against lightly or unarmored targets.  Lastly, we have the mace which relies on similar principles of operating as the axe.  It does not however have the Axes simultaneous strong and weak point of minimal area/focused impact making the mace the least variable in terms of damage, let's say 2d4 for the good average.  This is just a shot in the dark here but I'd wager that mace can more easily transfer it's force through the rigid metal of plate than it could the soft and flexible material of leather or hide.  Similarly, if the plates in platemail are non-overlapping the mace would have an even easier time of transmitting force than it would moving through the non-uniform interconnected layers of chain or scale mail.  For this reason I would give the mace a bonus to hit versus banded and plate mail, a penalty to hit vs chain/ring or scale mail and no modifier versus light armor of leather or hide (although I'd have to reconsider for brigadine).

To quickly summarize we have
Weapon    Damage     Critical          vs Armor
Axe            d6             18-20/x3       +1 hit any armor
Sword        d10           19-20/x2       +1 vs light, -1 vs heavy
Mace         2d4            20/x2            +2 vs plate/banded, -2 vs mail

Note: These values are for the most part created in a system vacuum.

This was whipped up on a bout of inspiration so I'm sure there are a few flaws in the logic and reasoning here and there.  I'd like to take a look at the methods of damage dealing Matthew describes, cutting, thrusting, and impact, but my creative urges have already expired so I'll leave them for a later post.  That being said if you have any thoughts you'd like to share on the matter I'd very much welcome them.

Star Wars Saga Edition Kotor Creation

After an explosive failure of a Shadowrun game (no seriously one bad roll and a PC exploded against a poorly equipped biker gang following the absolute humiliation of being pulverized and robbed by the same gang in a published introductory adventure) we decided to run a different game.  A few games were proposed with Legend of the 5 Rings and Star Wars being the top contenders.  Choosing to have something a little more familiar to lick their wounds with the players chose Star Wars.  The Saga edition is one of my absolute favorite rule sets, it combines the Keep It Sweet and Simple design approach with an incredibly flexible character and multiclass system.  Well as flexible as d20 will ever be without throwing the baby out with the bathwater for point buy silliness.

I'm currently playing through Kotor II with the restored content modification and really enjoying the depth of story Obsidian (formerly Black Isle) created.  I liked it so much that I decided to take a few cues from it.  Here's the primer I had for character creation:

This is StarWars, you are an important person or someone with a great destiny.  You do not play second fiddle to some named character nor do you preoccupy yourself with the banal life of a nerf herder.  Your character will either have taken part in some great act in history, such as the strike team that took down Darth Revan, a general or legend of the Mandalorian wars, an assasination of a major political player, etc. etc.  Otherwise you will have some great destiny ahead of you, such as restoring balance to the force, reinvigorating the republic (or perhaps Sith empire), or the restoration of a world destroyed in the many wars this galaxy has recently had to face.

That being said it's assumed that you are all good to some degree, you may have had a nasty past in either of the wars but at the moment you are repentant or at the very least stuck at a crossroads in your moral outlook.  If you are dead set on playing a Sith that is fine and you could easily start out as a Revanist Dark Jedi.  However, there will be no baby eating or outright socio/psychopathy from the get go, if you do your character instantly becomes a villain and you can roll up another one.  If you want to be a Sith your going to have to work for it, your going to have to fall and it's going to have to have meaning.

Each character starts with a trait relevant to their backstory.  A scoundrel may have a danger sense while a veteran would have increased starting hit points.  A demolitions expert can stop her allies from setting off mines and a grey jedi can use limited dark side powers without accruing mass amounts of dark side points.
Additionally depending on the first talent tree you select you will be receiving a bonus feat or ability.

After character creation we ended up with

A Khill Dark Jedi - Former apprentice of Revan and Malek who fought in the Mandalorian Wars.  After the end of the Jedi Civil War he returned to Korriban with many of his comrades.  After the predictable infighting a trio of Sith Lords emerged however, none of them espoused the same principles nor commanded the loyalty that Revan once had.  He and a few others planned a mutiny but when the vocal dissidents starting mysteriously disappearing he and the remaining Revanists took the remaining Capital ship and fled.  The story picks up with him sensing a void in the force as the rest of his crew is annihilated and transformed into force 'zombies' by a certain masked Sith Lord.

A Selkath Noble (Force Sensitive) - Creator of the Order of Shasa he is the Selkath most gifted in the force.  He spends his time in the underwater research lab searching for any more signs of the Progenitor that Revan supposedly encountered on his trip to Manaan.  When the story starts he rescues the downed sinking space craft and escape pod as the Manaan capital is orbitally bombarded, destroying a portion of the underwater lab and cutting off escape.

A Zabrak Pilot - A veteran of the Mandalorian wars he has had his share of war and took to hiding during the Jedi Civil War to avoid another enlistment.  That didn't stop him from taking part in it, rather than fighting he would transport civilians out of combat zones and bring medical supplies to the needy.  The story begins with him exiting hyperspace at Manaan to pick up a Kolto shipment only fight a Sith Capital ship opening fire and downing his spacecraft.

Playtesting Mark 1

With some excruciating work I've managed to finalize the level 1 abilities for 4 of the starting classes.  I've also managed to narrow down what stats I wanted to include and how I would use them and set values for them.  On top of that I had a rudimentary combat system and I was itching to test the new Stamina mechanic, Class features as well as the smoothness of combat.  So a playtesting we go.

In previous posts I've talked about Hit Points, Wounds, Armor and Defense.  Since then I've reevaluated and revised these to make them more elegant.  Since many people's gripe with armor as damage reduction is that it slows down the game and adds unnecessary rolling.  So my solution was to originally have armor affect only your Wounds ignoring HP altogether as hit points represent your ability to not be hit.  This meant that there would be an extra die roll but it would only come up at certain and important times.  Since armor had become slightly marginalized I decided to swap from differing dice sizes to different amounts of dice, adopting a 1d6/2d6/3d6 spread for light, medium and heavy armor respectively.

Of course things didn't stop there, I started thinking about people who had little in the ways of Defense (the first of three lines of defense before imminent death) who would prefer to wear heavy armor.  In this case their HP would quickly be chewed through before reaching Wounds at which point their armor would kick in.  To this I proposed two solutions.  The first was that you could voluntarily have faith in your armor and allow an attack to go straight to wounds bypassing HP entirely.  This set up a sort of gamble in that the character could probably guess which attack his armor could absorb entirely but of course some attacks may be more than meets the eye.  It's risky and I like it, and it's why I've decided to keep it.  The other solution..not so much.

The second proposal was that armor would provide a flat damage reduction for HP, a 1/2/3 spread for the light/med/heavy armor categories.  This eliminated the need for extra rolling and provided a benefit to people wearing heavy armor even if their defenses were extremely poor.  It sounds nice but in actual playtesting it's far from it.  For a player (and DM's armored NPCs) it's one more thing to remember for every time he takes damage.  Mathematically there is a snafu when damage exceeds HP and goes straight to wounds.  As an example if the player is wearing medium armor and has 4 hit points left and the DMs monster deals 7 damage to him there are a few mental gymnastics you need to do before you can resolve this.  First the 7 damage is reduced by 2, down to 5, this 5 is deducted from hit points leaving 1 damage remaining which carries over to wounds.  The wounds then have an armor rating of 2d6 nullifying the damage.  You can see how that can be confusing and the opposite of rapid combat.  You could create rules and caveats that could manuever around this problem but that would make much less elegant and one more aspect of combat the DM keep stored in his working memory.  So out the door it went.

Aside from that the rest of things went fairly smoothly.  The basic premise of the spell/shaping and mana system turned out fine but as for the actual execution it still needs some work and an eye for balancing it out at higher levels.  The importance of speed was not recognized until actual play and it gave me an elegant idea of what bonus to give people that are unarmored (+1 speed).  Stamina was interesting but partially forgettable due to it's overlap with speed and because the player was getting used to other abilities.  Class features and weapon qualities were all distinct and gave each character their own combat flair.  All in all it was a pretty good playtest and I'm psyched for the future.  Now if only editing and publishing tools weren't so irritatingly inefficient.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

MSHRPG Collective World Building

After wrapping up the introductory adventure I was left with a bit of a problem.  See the campaign I was outlining and the style of adventures I was thinking of were for heroes with a certain level power.  I was thinking of having gangs and spontaneous mutant growth drugs take a center display for the campaign focus with a bit of organized crime as well.  These types of adventures are suitable for both the virtual capability and theme-wise of characters like Spiderman, Daredevil, Powerman & Luke Cage, Batman, Static Shock.  Unfortunately due to quite a few freak rolls my players had rolled up characters on par with the Fantastic Four or the Avengers, and petty criminals should be below their radar (and rightly so!).  I suppose the problem was the premise of the campaign expected heroes but what I got were superheroes.

Rather than knee-jerk nerf them to oblivion I brought up the problem with the players in the next session.  Sure while there were a few hiccups and even there superpowered characters were on the ropes a few times, I did not think that would be indicative of the rest of the game.  Instead those minor quibble were the players still getting the hang of their characters (and the new system).  So since I was a little stumped on how to adapt what I was thinking of to match their superpowered abilities I had them try out collective world building for the first time.  For those unfamiliar this is where the campaign setting is decided by consensus rather than whatever the Judge/DM/Storyteller can hastily throw together on the spot.

Rather than start off with choice of setting we worked on a few other issues until we could all agree on a common ground.  First up was the issue of how the game would progress, the players unanimously agreed that they would like to start off small and work their ways up to fame and glory.  Next up we talked about what kind of enemies and villains they'd like to square off against since I felt gangsters weren't up to par.  We went through a few ideas, starting with villain teams ala legion of doom or brotherhood of evil mutants, steampunk nazi zombies (Sucker Punch is a favorite in our group), and mutant hunters.  Surprisingly they also related that they really wanted to have gangsters as a main antagonist as they really liked the mutant drug plot point.  So from there we had to decide how we wanted these gangsters to be a culpable threat.  To do that we had to talk about setting and we all agreed that a fair bit of sci-fi and cyberpunk would up the ante and make dangerous foes for their superpowered shenanigans.

While we were brainstorming I had taken down a lot of notes on what they wanted such as dystopian futuristic cities but also apocalyptic wastelands (and of course zombies) then jotted down a few ideas on how to link it there and retain the few plot points we already had.  Here are my notes verbatim:

Campaign Settings
The zombie apocalypse was averted by nuking most of the living world.  The fallout left behind an irradiated waste and a staggering amount of mutations.  The wasteland is still incredibly radioactive but it a minor issue for those already transformed (all mutants have a slight degree of rad resistance).  Though the cleansing fire reached many corners of the world there are still a few pockets of zombie and ghouls roaming the wastes so many people rarely leave shelter.

This is contrasted with city-state metropolises, bubble cities.  The cities are largely unscathed due to their protective domes and remain high tech wonders.  Technology has advanced far enough to allow for cybernetics, robotics and genetic manipulation to come about.  Although due to fuel constraints, aerial travel between bubble cities is all but non-existent. 

The mass genetic mutations has resulted in two classes of citizens.  Those that are normal or the pure and those that are abnormals, mutants.  The normals control the city and the science and sequester the mutants to barely sheltered slums.  Mutant fights were a popular sport for a time but were outlawed after enough mutants gained enough money and fame to move out of their social stratum.  They have since been replaced with robot fights.  Mutants are not normally allowed to walk the high cities streets after daylight which has created a shadow running life for many a mutant.  The perils of night include anti-mutant watches, robotic sentinels, and of course well equipped law enforcement that are allowed to shoot on sight.  It is a harsh life but it is still better than living in the wasteland. 
Since the cities are very low on space the population density is very high.  No longer are there individual apartments and houses.  Instead people live in communal floors with few walls in large many storied buildings with rooftop hydroponic agriculture. 

Mutants in the wasteland are legends and have not been confirmed yet.  Morlocks live in the sewers under the highcity scavenging the few valuable commodities and resources that are not recycled.  Resistance groups exist since mutants have the ability and power to fight back against the technologically superior forces.

The bubble cities are technocracies where the scientifically inclined dictate living conditions both the banal and the eye opening, something akin to Logan's Run.  Even though this scientific mecca sounds somewhat nice on paper they are still as fallible as your regular congresscritter and organized crime has it's hands in many a cookie jar.  Though horrifically illegal and counter to societal views these mobsters have been experimenting with genetic manipulation to create a drug which will temporarily give the user superpowers but without the nastier side effects. 

The players really enjoyed the idea of mutant apartheid but wondered why mutants were so disliked and furthermore why they didn't outnumber and overwhelm the regular folk.  Here is my hastily thought explanation to keep this ramshackle setting of glue and popsickle sticks held together.

"Why are mutants so disliked?
In general abnormals are about 95% likely to be infertile thus rendering them useless for the rebuilding of the human races.  Also, their wide variety of uncontrollable powers automatically makes them more than eligible for causing political unrest undermining the order that will supposedly pull these bubble societies up by their bootstraps and back into a golden era."

 Overall it was a pretty good attempt trying to tie all the ideas and themes together into one coherent setting.   Of course players being players, two sessions later they left the infinitely intriguing bubble cities (their most requested feature) to wander the wastes and never turned back.  C'est la vie.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

MSHRPG Session # 1.5

As it had gotten into the wee hours of the morning I thought it best to split the introductory session in two.  Where we last left off Dolphin Ladd found himself waist deep in a fishy conspiracy while Rocco the Rockem Sockem robot found himself battling a juggernaut of twice his weight class.  Now we continue with Chameleoraptor.

Nightfalls and the morlocks emerge from a nearby manhole and track Eelman under cover of night to a large warehouse connected to a nightclub.  Wasting no time Chameleoraptor let loose a wash of acid on the bay doors eating through the steel alloy in mere moments.  The morlocks rush in to a completely flabbergasted room of henchman loading aquatic tanks onto large freighter trucks.  Not worried about impending karma loss the Morlocks immediately set into a melee and the thugs are soon reduced to melted puddles.

Meanwhile, Dolphin Ladd takes the unconscious fishy men and looks for an escape route.  Heading towards the back he hears gun fire and the screams of many below so he quickly heads back to the front where he came in.  Before heading out he has the brilliant idea to use his water manipulation to send water hurtling out of the sprinkler system.  Much to his dismay, the club owner had fake ones installed.  After all, who would want water raining down onto their electrified fighting ring.  Speaking of fighting rings..

Rocco was on the receiving end of three tons of hydraulic force battering him into the corner.  Fortunately his electricial absorption provided him a brief respite rather than shocking him into submission as his foe wanted.  Spring back into action he used his lighter frame and remarkable agility to leap onto the Crushinators shoulders, toppling him and proceeding to wail into him but due to the thick armor his blows had little effect.  The crushinator took the opportunity to throw Rocco into the spiked ceiling above but after botching the roll sending Rocco only most of the way up, Rocco decided to increase his density and crush the crushinator underfoot.  The crowd is stunned and he and his owner are compensated heavily.  Hoping to use this as the perfect time to burst the pipes Dolphin is dismayed to notice the pipes being hollow.  Before heading back in the secret laboratory to regroup and re-plan he sees a pair of thugs with Dragon Tatoos from earlier follow Rocco and his trainer out.

Dismayed Dolphin Ladd heads back to see if the fighting quieted down but doesn't hear the henchman behind him until just as their stun batons turn on.  He wakes up strapped down to an operating table with the Club Boss hovering over him tapping his diamond crusted cane onto the floor.  Looking around he sees the dissected results of failed experiments and hears the plan of the Club Boss to create a temporary superpower drug.  Before revealing who his benefactor is the door gets kicked in and the lights go out.  The vengeful morlocks storm in and wreak havoc in the place.  They grab the their fishy friends strapped to the table and that strange guy in tights too.  They quickly escape into the sewers.

Meanwhile, Rocco and his trainer Stewart on their way home talking about the fight and how Rocco had to activate his density manipulation so early in his career.  Stewart is disappointed he's having this much trouble already before they're interrupted by the Dragon tattooed thugs.  Stewart tells him to split up and run and meet back at the rendezvous point, a train station.  Hours later as dawn broke, Rocco quietly left the train station knowing that a robot cannot be unaccompanied in daylight.  He returns to the scene of the crime to see a charred corpse.  Taking the body of his presumed trainer he drops into the nearest sewer vent only to fall into the middle of a morlock raiding party.  After some tense moments they agree to discuss the particulars in the safety of their watery abode.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

MSRPG Session Summary #1

Now that I've reached the tail end of my internship I've found some time to catch-up and work through my ever increasing backlog of session summaries.  I've resolved to try and put up a new post every day (M-F) to try and get back into the swing of things.  That being said the posts will hopefully be shorter and less verbose.  That's a good thing right!

Let's get started.

I did a quick intro adventure directly after character creation since everyone was itching to play.  The adventure was meant to be setting neutral and broad enough to lure everyones diverse character concepts into one story path.  Here is what I went with.

Dolphin Ladd is looking to make a quick buck to fund a new save the estuaries fund.  He decides to compete in the Superhero brawl with his newfound powers.  Alas, when he goes to the ring/club he finds out from the owner that Superhero brawl has been deemed illegal, now the new rage is robot fights which sadly he isn’t qualified for.  He spots a surprisingly small robot training with a human amidst the sea of over-sized crushinator 9000’s bots.  The owner of this seedy bar/fighting club lets him know that he is on the lookout for some ‘exotic’ aquatic species and will pay handsomely for it.  Sensing some fishy business Dolphin Ladd dons his tights and waits for nightfall for some super-sleuthing. 

Chameloraptor is exploring the remote areas of the sewers with a fellow morlock.  He comes to an abandoned station with the power mysteriously restored.  He comes to a locked utility closet and hears a pair of men arguing over a bad deal inside.  Using his innate blending ability and corrosive spit he makes it past the locked door and begins eavesdropping.  Unfortunately he botches his agility check and everyone inside is alerted to his presence.  A pair of dragon tattooed thugs emerge with flame guns and chase him out.  Choosing flight over fight Chameloraptor ran down the nearest side tunnel and loses his pursuers although slightly singed as a result.  Back at the rendevouz point he is saddened to learn that his fellow morlock Eelman has gone missing.  Following the trail he finds that Eelman has been taken to the surface and to a nearby warehouse.  Bringing the news back to the morlock colony their warmongering leader demands a night raid to spill the brazen surface dwellers blood.

Night falls and fight night begins.  Stuart offers some last minute advice to Rocco about his opponent's top heaviness.  Rocco the Robot steps into the electrified ring to face his his opponent Iron Kong fully twice his size.  The owner pulls a cord and spikes descend from the ceiling merely 10 ft from the ring.  With the odds stacked against him this was going to be an interesting fight.  The initial blows are traded and Rocco feels he may have bitten off more than he could chew.

With the patrons engrossed in the fight, Dolphin Ladd slips in unnoticed through a ceiling light onto the catwalk below where the owner's office is located.  Spotting a number of armed thugs out front he decides to take the subtler approach and makes his way towards the end of the catwalk where he sees a door labeled "Authorized personnel only".  Using his superb reasoning he quickly bypasses the electronic lock and makes his way inside.  Startled he is surprised to see numerous fish tanks holding incredibly rare aquatic life, many on the endangered species list.  Even more startling are the two humanoid fish like creatures in the last two tanks.  One a slug like man moving in a circuit from the floor to the wall to the ceiling and then back to the floor, apparently oblivious to the outside world.  The other resembles a bipedal eel that is bizarrely being electrified by his own body in the pool of water he was placed in.

Wasting no time Dolphin Ladd uses his mastery of water to remove the water from the tank at sufficient electrified risk to himself.  The eel man is free but unconscious from the ordeal.  Dolphin Ladd uses the respite to hack into the computer system and see what kind of bizarre experiments were done here.  It seems that the owner here is taking extracts from exotic aquatic specimens and more recently mutants in an attempt to create a drug granting temporary superpowers.  No stranger to this game of fishy fusion Dolphin Ladd resolves to put an end to this! 

Monday, July 18, 2011

D&D Cinema the 80's

After the recent Netflix price hike announcement I've been much more motivated to work my way through my Netflix queue, both instant and otherwise.  Today I watched both Conan the Destroyer and LadyHawke two D&D-esque films from the 80's.  They fall into a similar piecemeal genre so I felt apt to compare them.  Don't expect anything detailed this is merely a personal opinion of mine.

I was rather disappointed with Conan, it was much more lame than I remember as a youth.  Aside from the Conan-laying-waste-to-minions scenes I found it very difficult to pay attention. Much of the plot and plot reveals were largely forgettable.  LadyHawke on the other hand was actually quite impressive.  Well, when you move past the cheesy special effects, low production values and 80's synth heavy tracks.  Then again Conan's special effects weren't much better, but hey, it was the 80's.

While Conan fits the bill of the Swords and Sorcery genre that D&D draws heavily from, Lady Hawke felt more D&D to me.  Witty thieves, stoic knights on a quest of vengeance in medieval europe with a touch of supernatural provided a much more attractive milieu than mirror wizards and unicorn fish gods.

Also, that double crossbow was kickass.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Marvel Super Heroes RPG

While I had wanted to write up a few more posts on my Labyrinth Lord game and potentially a session summary or two I haven't had the time and in the meantime my players and I have switched gears to another game.  After watching X-men First Class and (surprisingly) enjoying it, I felt some inspiration to run a super powered game.  TSR's Marvel Super Heroes RPG had always been a favorite of mine, I recall seeing it on my father's bookshelf for the first time while I was still a wee lad and wondering what that tiny box contained.  Of course my father strictly followed the ages 10 and up (or was it 12?) warning and I wasn't able to look at it until I was older.  When I was finally able to I was charmed by the simplicity of the system.  Abilities that were numerical but most importantly were on a power scale.  Random generation of your number and sort of powers.  I had a heck of a time rolling percentiles all day to see what kind of weird creatures the dice gods would bestow upon me.

My players found the system interesting and were even good sports about random generation.  One wanted to do entirely random and the rest decided "Hey, why not?".  All attributes, powers and talents were determined randomly.  I gave them one free reroll if they got something that they seriously disliked or didn't fit with what they had rolled so far, and each of them got to pick their origin.  With some interesting rolls and some player ingenuity here's what they came up with.

Dolphin Lad
Altered Human
Fighting: Incredible
Agility: Incredible
Strength: Excellent
Endurance: Incredible
Reason: Amazing
Intuition: Excellent
Psyche: Typical

Popularity: Good
Resources: Poor

Water Manipulation:  Amazing (Limitation: Close proximity (Touch))
Sound Generation: Amazing
Resistance: Cold

Biology (Marine)
Martial Arts D

None =(

Weakness: Fire

Dolphin Lad is a graduate student who was studying the effects of radioactive contamination on marine fish life.  His professor became obsessed with rapid mutations after reading the papers of renowned geneticists.  His obsession led him down dark roads as Dolphin Lad would soon discover.  Students in the research program began 'dropping out' suddenly and rapidly.  His suspicions were put to the test when his college sweetheart 'dropped out' without a word.  He confronted his professor only to find her in an experiment involving splicing the DNA of a dolphin with a human.  He leapt in the way of the beam knocking her out of the way and having his body spliced with that of a dolphin.


I'm not too big on Mutant's getting an extra power since when I think Mutants I think of anything relating to the X-men which typically means a single super powerful superpower.  i.e. Optic Blasts, Telepathy, Weather Control, Titanium/Osmiun skin, Teleportation.  While many mutants do have a few auxiliery 'powers' such as prehensile tails, they typically have one power that trumps all others.  To that end I swapped out the +1 power with +1 CS of any power, and it gains free experience each issue.

(I should note that the next two characters rolled absurdly well, consistently)

Mutant (Morlock)
Fighting: Incredible
Agility: Amazing
Strength: Excellent
Endurance: Incredible
Reason: Poor
Intuition: Incredible
Psyche: Poor

Resources: Poor
Popularity: Zero

Animal Transformation Others (With a bite he turns others into jurassic creatures)
Corrosive Spit: Monstrous
Blending: Amazing
Body Alteration: Prehensile Tail

Urban Survival
Other Morlocks

Chamelon was abandoned as a child when it's scales and reptilian tail and eyes first appeared.  Chamelon was rescued by the morlocks and lived in the sewers ever since, embracing a peaceful existance and making do with what was available.  This wouldn't last forever as Chameleon would be pulled to the surface when it's friends started mysteriously disappearing near the abandoned subway station.


Rocco the Rockem Sockem Robot
Fighting: Amazing
Agility: Remarkable
Strength: Remarkable
Endurance: Monstrous
Reason: Good
Intuition: Excellent
Psyche: Typical

Resources: Poor
Popularity: Zero

Extra Arms (And Attacks)
Absorption (Electricity) Excellent
Light Manipulation: Remarkable, (Laser Blast - Remarkable, inorganic only)
Density Manipulation: Incredible

Weakness: Water

Martial Arts B (Boxing)

Sparky the Mechanic
Stuart Radcliffe - Scientist/Trainer/Creator

(The player greatly dislikes the upcoming Real Steel movie so we jokingly came up with a backstory that mirrors it as closely as possible)
Rocco was rescued from the garbage pile by Stuart and his son Jack.  Together, they started training for the Robot fighting league.  A popular sport after the super hero arena was shutdown.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Serpent Sovereigns

I've been kicking around an idea for a Labyrinth Lord game since March and I was finally able to run a test-run last month.  My players like it enough that we're continuing to play it to this day.  Here's the gist of it.

In ages long past a war of magic finally culminated in a catastrophe that tore the continent apart, wiped clean every mage on it and sunk the southern kingdom into the murky abyss.  The remaining kingdoms agreed to an armistice after witnessing the devastation they had caused.   The people seeing the folly of man took it a step further.  They overthrew their leaders and installed another, one that was no man.  Legends depicted Dragons as the early protectors of mankind, the watchful elder that took pains to protect them but allow them room to grow.  The people put a Serpent on the throne.  Unfortunately, like in all things, absolute power corrupts absolutely.  The benevolent dragons of the past eventually became the hated all-powerful despots of today.

The player characters are members of a rebel organization known as Dragon Slayers.  Their ultimate goal is to depose the Tyrant Lizards and bring the power back to the people.  They are currently lacking any and all resources to do so and like any group of ne'er-do-wells they have many conflicting viewpoints on how to go about their business and what to do once the deed has been done.

Gameplay will be a mix of old school dungeon crawling as the PC's descend into the depths of ancient undisturbed ruins to retrieve magical scrolls that will give them the firepower they need as well as a healthy dash of shadowrunning as they make their way into bigger cities.  Their goal is to avoid drawing attention until they are finally ready to make their move. 

Along the way the PC's will try and recruit talented blacksmiths, sages and alchemist as well as courting wealthy merchants for funds to advance their operations.  They shall seek material resources to improve the paltry weapons and armor they being with.  They seek allies to increase their ranks and their skill sets.  Most importantly they must carry the will of the people with them .  There's no point in a coup if everyone is satisfied with the status quo. 

Following the events of the war of magic all magic-users were vaporized so there is no magic-user class. Instead the widespread mage fallout over the land has granted anybody with the knack to cast spells.  There is however, the unfortunate fact that magic has been banned in every kingdom.  So while anyone can cast magic they can also get themselves into heaps of trouble for doing so.

Starting classes are Fighter, Thief, and Cleric with other classes becoming available as the PC's strike bargains and form alliances with neighboring barbarian tribes, monastic orders, rebellious elves, enlightened dwarves and recluse rangers and druids.  Clerics come in two varieties:  priests that worship the forgotten old gods that most of the population forsook after the war of magic devastated the country and shrike cultists that believe in a prophecy that the Pain Lord will one day return traveling through time to destroy everyone and everything (How nice!).

I've given all the classes an ability at level 1 that either grows with them in level or greatly bolsters their effectiveness in a team setting.  They are as follows:

Starting HD: 2d6.
Gain a specialization at level one (expect a weapon specialization post later).
Also gain the Master of Battle ability.  The fighter can attack a number of hit dice equal to his level.
 So a 5th level fighter can attack a 3HD and 2HD creature with one attack, or two 2HD creatures and 1HD creature, or five 1HD creatures, etc.  Basically a simpler and more broader take on the <1HD ability Fighters gained in AD&D.
Optional:  Naked Warrior Challenge:  An idea I loved then adapted from Aeons & Augauries.
Any Fighter going into battle unarmored with not more than a helmet and loin cloth (and shield if they like) receives double combat experience.  They may also attempt to woo the opposite sex as an immediate reaction.

Stunt - Anytime the Thief viscerally describes some crazed stunt they'd like to perform such as swinging across chandeliers, using a silver platter as an impromptu shield, riding an enraged stag by the horns, or jumping out windows in their best Bruce Cambell impression they receive a stunt bonus to the die roll equal to 1 + half their level.  This bonus can be applied to just about any roll involving a d20 (attacks, saves, skill/ability checks) as well as for damage rolls and reaction rolls.
(Since my players are complete neophytes to old school roleplaying I created this ability with the intention of teaching them to describe their actions rather than "I attack, 14, hit?" or "The priestess asks you to chase the fleeing fiend into the portal he ripped open in the town square.  Do you accept?   Player: Diplomacy, 17, give us money."  The incentive seems to be working decently so far.)

Priest of the Old Gods 
Blessings - At the end of combat allies can roll 2d6 and take the higher roll when regaining hit points.
The priest can also spontaneously turn any memorized spell in a cure spell of the appropriate level.
(Normally I use the old Judge's Guild optional rule of regaining a d3 of HP at the end of an encounter but I had planned on it being the classes Hit Die rather than a simple d3.  Since I've decided to avoid variable damage and hit dice for a change they instead regain a d6.)

Shrike Cultist
The Cultist forgoes the use of weapons and instead uses the spines they crafted into their armor to better resemble their imaginary Deity.  It is treated as an unarmed strike that gets progressively better as their armor improves.  Additionally anyone attacking a Shrike Cultist in full Painlord gear takes retributive damage from their spiky armor equal to (10-AC).  The Shrike Cultist must reverse any and all reversible spells but can spontaneously turn any memorized spell into a harm or slow spell of the appropriate level.

Entropic Adjustment: - When rolling initiative enemy groups must roll twice and take the lower result.  Note: I use group initiative and have it rolled at the start of each round.  So far this has been the player's most cherished ability.

That's all for now.  Expect later posts dealing with weapons and armor, specializations, spells, new classes, heroic bloodlines, and session summaries.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Zombie Run

Feeling some fatigue after finishing up a story arc in a giant fighting robot game I'm running I proposed something different for us to play.  A basic Zombie survival game I had cooked up in a moment of inspiration some weeks past.  Lacking imagination at 2 in the morning the game started off in the house we were playing 2 days after the zombie outbreak.  The players grabbed what supplies they could and bolted once zombies started crawling into the garage.  They escaped into the next house where two of the players spent a few moments bickering over whether or not to use the measly ammo they had while the third survivor walked up and started braining zombies whose faces were planted firmly in yesterdays mashed potatoes.

Unfortunately one of them got a lucky shot in and bit the offending survivor killing him.  At which point the remaining two players opened fire and fled into the garage finding the newly rolled character ineffectually huffing carbon monoxide in his still running car.  They slapped him to his senses and sped off into the night.  First stopping by a nearby gas station to siphon gas and then down the road to find shelter in the motel with the least amount of shambling walkers.  They ascended the stairs and wiped out any zeds on the top floor and summarily passed out ending the session.

The system itself is pretty basic. If you've played Shadowrun then this should certainly feel familiar.  It's designed for character creation to take about 5 minutes since the life of a survivor is generally a short one.  The nature of setting allows players to drop in and out almost at will since there's always a zombie somewhere just ready to eat your character or a dark hallway for your panicking character to flee down presumably dieing off camera. When a new player enters the game it shouldn't be too hard to incorporate finding a survivor.  When in doubt use a hero closet!

Without further adieu here is the basic bare bones system we played with.

Zombie Run

Dice: d6's. 
A roll of 5 or 6 is considered a success.  A roll of 6 allows you to keep the success and reroll the die to try and gain another.  If you roll more 1's than successes the result is considered a critical failure where the GM cooks up something terrible to happen either immediately or in the near future.

When the player proposes an action the Game Master (GM) calls for the player to roll their die pool equal to the sum of a  relevant attribute and skill as determined by the GM.  Some are fairly obvious, Physique modifies Fighting and Coordination modifies Shooting.  At other times the attribute used depends on the situation.  As an example driving down the freeway the GM may initially call for Awareness + Driving to see the runaway car veering towards them to allow them to safely get out of the way.  Failing that the GM may then call for a Reaction + Driving to swerve out of the way before being hit.  If that check fails as well then the GM may then ask for Coordination + Driving to maintain control of the car as the cars collide.

Physique: Represents your physical well being and your ability to dole out punishment in a melee.
Coordination: Represents your hand eye coordination and manual dexterity.  Useful for shooting zeds.
Knowledge: The catch all attribute where one's mental capacities are needed.
Awareness: Useful for finding hidden stashes of canned goods and noticing the dead shambling towards you.
Reaction: Used for when you need to get out of dodge and determining who goes first in a round.

Breaking & Entering: Unlocking doors, breaking glass without hurting yourself and knowing where valuables are stored.
Driving: Used primarily when the living dead are crawling all over your escaping vehicle.
Fighting:  Covers everything from throwing a punch to swinging a bat to throwing rocks.
Mechanics: Ranges from repairing mechanical objects to jury rigging vehicles and assembling effective barricades.
Medicine: Ranges from first aid to field surgery; digging out lead from less than friendly survivors.
Science: If what you're proposing involves volatile chemicals, trajectories or electrified golf clubs this is the skill you're looking for.
Scrounging: Finding hidden caches of ammunition and canned goods.  Hopefully a can opener too.
Shooting: Slightly more advanced than a point and click interface.
Sneaking:  Anywhere from moving silently to not drawing attention to yourself.  Invaluable if you're not looking for a fight.
Survival:  Ability to live off the land and find food, water and shelter.

Panic is added to a d6 you roll the first time your character encounters a zombie in a scene.  A roll of 1 or lower indicates you stand frozen with fear.  A roll of 2-4 indicates you flee in any direction that doesn't visibly have zombies.  A roll of 5-6 lets you stand your ground.  A roll greater than 6 lets you rally your comrades letting anyone that would normally flee stand their ground as well.  You can rally a number of comrades equal to your roll minus 6.  Anyone frozen or fleeing gets to roll panic again at the start of their turn to see if matters change.  This trait ranges from -5 to 5 and starts at 0.
Luck is added to the players to the 2d6 the player rolls to determine starting equipment.  Additonally:
Positive luck gives a survivor points they can spend each scene that can either counts all 5's as 6's for one roll or have fortune smile on them letting the keys to the car be in the sun visor or finding a resting place with a backup generator.
Negative luck gives the GM points they can spend each scene that allows them to force the survivor to reroll all dice greater than 1 or to have something in the scenery fail nearby the survivor such as a catwalk collapsing, a car refusing to start or a gun jamming.
This trait ranges from -5 to 5 and starts at 0.

Character Creation
Any starting character begins with 25 points. 
Attributes start at rank 1 and cost 3 points to increase in rank.
Skills start at 0 and cost 1 point to increase in rank.
The max rank for either an attribute or skill is 5.
At character creation both abilities and skills are capped at 3.  Choose one attribute to have a max rank of 5 and  two skills to have a max rank of 4.

Trait's start at zero and can be improved to a maximum of five at a one to one ratio.  Alternatively, you can assign negative values to these traits to gain bonus points at a one to one ratio.
A character can withstand a number of wounds equal to 10 plus their Physique before being incapacitated.

Starting Equipment Table
Roll 2d6 and add your Luck Trait.  Don't add your Luck if you are rerolling (Result 13+).  Consult the following list to see what you got! 
X<2 = A thermos filled with salt water
2 = Can of beans
3 = More Canned Goods
4 = Soap Bars
5 = Cowboy Hat - +1 Bad Assery
6 = Cool Shirt -  Rating: Awesome
7 = Crossbow, two bolts
8 = Double Barrel Shotgun, but only one shell!
9 = Hunting Rifle, comes with a scope but sadly no ammo
10 = Sweet Ride (Just above E)
11 = Horde of batteries, gasoline or ammo: roll a d6 for each type (AA, 9V/Bullets, Shells)/ # of gallons
12 = Utility Belt complete with Bat-Anti-Shark Spray
13 = Roll Twice: Choose one.
14 = Roll Thrice: Choose one.
15 = Roll Twice: Take both
16 = Roll Thrice: Take two.
17 = Roll Thrice: Take all three.

Mowing down Zombies:
Since zombies don't dodge all that matters is whether or not the survivor can hit. Physique + Fighting is used for melee weapons, Coordination + Shooting is used for ranged weapons, Coordination + Fighting is used for thrown weapons and in the event the players secure a machine gun turret or rocket launcher Physique + Shooting is the die pool they use.

There's only one way to kill a zombie: destroy the brain.  A roll of 6 on a weapon's damage roll is counted as a head shot killing the zombie instantly.  If no 6's are rolled then the number of successes are counted and added to the zombies wounds.  The number of wounds a zombie can have depends on the condition they are in but an average walker has 7 wounds, a more decrepit zombie has a d6 of wounds.  Once a zombie sustains too many wounds it falls feebly to the ground where it will continue to crawl towards a survivor and bite their ankles.  Some zombies may fall over instantly the moment they take a wound and will stand up the next round.  If the GM is feeling devious they can spends a player's negative luck point and the zombie(s) will get back up whenever the survivor's have forgotten about them.

Melee weapon's do not have damage pools, instead any 6 rolled on the attack roll is considered a blow to the head killing the zombie instantly.  If no 6's are rolled the zombie is instead pushed down for the round.

On your turn you may elect to split up your die pool allocating a set amount of dice for each attack made.  You cannot have more sub die pools than your relevant attribute score.  For example a character with coordination of 2  and shooting 3 could only take 2 shots.  Multiple attacks with a projectile weapon will use up that much ammo accordingly.

Survivors have a speed of 5 plus their physique which lets them move that many feet each round.  A wounded survivor has their movement reduce by 1 for each wound they have, although their minimum speed is 1.
When not in danger survivors can use either Knowledge + Medicine (what to use to treat a wound) or Coordination + Medicine (wrapping bandages and stitching up wounds) to heal any wounds they have received at a 1:1 ratio for successes to wounds.  Pain killers can be used to temporarily ignore wounds.

 Each weapon has a damage pool which is used if the survivor manages to hit and a clip size indicating how many attacks the weapon can make before needing to reload.  Lastly each weapon indicates what ranges they function at.  In case you're wondering close means the zombie is primed and ready to eat your face.  All other ranges are determined by hand waving.

Ammo type: Bullets.  Count 5's as 6's for head shotting purposes up to short range.
Pistol - d6 ; Clip 10 + d6. Up to Long
Magnum - 2d6 ; Clip 6. Close, Short, Medium

Ammo type: Arrows/bolts.
Crossbow - 2d6 ; Clip 1. Up to Medium. No noise, reusable ammo.
Compound Bow - 3d6 ; Clip 1. Up to Medium. No noise, reusable ammo.

Ammo type: Magazine.  Cannot headshot when splitting die pools.  Bonus d6 when firing at close range.
Submachine Gun - 2d6 ; Clip 10. Close, Short, Medium.  Can split your die pool an additional time.
Machine Gun - 4d6 ; Clip 5. Close, Short, Medium. Can split your die pool two additional times.

 Ammo type: Cartridge/Shell.  Count 5s as 6s for the purpose of headshots in close range.
Carbine - 3d6, Clip 6. Close. One hand, Shotgun.
Pump action Shotgun - 4d6, Clip 8. Close, Sohrt. Halve your coordination when using multiple die pools
Double Barrel Shotgun - 4d6, Close, One barrel for Short, another for Medium Range.  Clip 2
Sawed off Shotgun - 6d6, Clip 2 Close.
Automatic Shotgun - 4d6, Clip 10. Close, Short

Ammo type: High caliber bullet.  Count 4's as successes to hit when not in immediate and impending danger.
Rifle - 3d6 ; Clip 1. Medium, Long
Sniper Rifle - 5d6 ; Clip 1. Medium, Long, Far.
Assault Rifle - Burst 3d6 ; Clip 8. Up to Long.
Spray 4d6 ; Uses 3 shots. Up to Medium. Can split your die pool an additional time.

Eating Survivors:
Survivors are slow, tired and most importantly frightened. Eating them isn't the problem, getting to them is. On their turn zombies either shamble 3 feet towards the living and/or loud noises or take a bite out of a nearby survivor. Simply being within biting range of a survivor is enough to deal one wound to that survivor at the start of a zombies turn.

Biting survivors is somewhat more difficult since the player gets to roll Reaction to see if they get out of the way of the Z's gnashing teeth.  Zombies attack as a ground and the GM has an attack die pool equal to the number of zombies clustered around the survivor.  If he has more successes than the players reaction successes then the survivor is bitten and takes a d6 of wounds.

Depending on the game the survivor is either immediately infected and will soon turn into another of the living dead.  Otherwise the survivor has a 50% chance of survival and the GM rolls a d6 in secret.  An even roll indicates that the virus did not take hold and a roll of 6 indicates immunity.  An odd roll indicates the virus has taken hold and in a number of hours the transformation will be complete.  A roll of 1 indicates system shock and the survivor falls limply to the ground, another meal in the zombie apocalypse.

GM Tips:  Close quarters is your friend, zombie's are swiss cheese out in the open.  Hordes of zombies are a good way to lower the survivor's ammo supplies.  When in doubt throw more zombies at them, roll a d6 each turn they make loud noises or otherwise attract attention.  That number is how many zombies have shambled into view.

Living survivors at the end of an episode gain a d6 of experience points per scene to improve their skills.  Learning a new skill costs 5 experience and improving a skill costs experience equal to it's current rank.
Raising an attribute costs experience equal to three times it's current rank.


Thoughts, ideas, and criticisms are welcome!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Hit Dice & Hit Points

In my previous post I talked about redefining the nature of hit points arriving at a concise definition that hit points represent your ability to avoid a hit.  Any attack making it past your defenses would be considered life threatening unless you have hit points remaining to neutralize the hit.  Defining hit points got me thinking about how each class defines their hit points, the hit die (HD).  For those unfamiliar a HD is the type of die you roll to determine how many hit points you gain at each level ranging from the curious d4 pyramid to the mighty and oft neglected d12.

Looking at the way HD are assigned the smallest HD goes to the character least likely to be squaring off in melee, the magic-user, while the largest HD goes to the character you only expect to see in the melee going on and on about the lamentations of women, the barbarian.  A casual observation would seem to indicate that the ones doing the most fighting should have the highest hit dice while the classes that have a wider selection in solving problems have smaller HD.  Well alright, that makes sense to a degree but think about this.  If hit points represent your ability to not be hit, shouldn't the people who want above all to not be hit have the highest hit points.  Meaning that the wizard in his silk pajamas will be doing his best to keep out of the way of stray arrows while the berserker could care less how often he is hit.  Did I just blow your mind?  It's ok, take a moment to collect yourself before we ride this rollercoaster of insanity to the finish.

Wizards with larger hit dice than fighting mans, you can't be serious?!  Oh, but I am.  You see the Wizard isn't going to sit around while bjork the orc swings his radical axe.  He's going to grab his silly hat and hightail it before that axe has a chance to split him in twain.  Frank the tank isn't too worried about this bobbing and weaving nonsense, he's got the armor of his ancestors to look out for him while his vorpal blade goes snicker snack.  As we all know wizards don't wear armor, it gets in the way of their pernicious dance moves.  So it stands to reason in this topsy turvy bizarro world that the wizard should have more hit points than the fighting man because the wizard has a glass jaw!

Now you may be stroking your beard safe under the protection of your cthulu proof cap of tin foil (+1) preparing a counter argument.  Something about not being near an orc or in a melee to begin with.  Also, that men of a fighting nature are used to avoiding retirement ruining blows due to their combat focus.  To which I would agree.  So this is what I came up with.  Each class has a different attribute for hit points.

That's right, no longer is constitution (or whatever variant suits your fancy) the end all be all to hit points.  I initially thought of this when I redefined hit points to be only avoiding hits.  In that case your healthiness didn't completely correlate with that definition.  Sure it makes you more resistant to fatigue but it would make a lot more sense if your agility were boosting your values representing dodging thrusts and blocking slashes.  That got me thinking, wouldn't each class have their own method of avoiding death.  A spy would likely use their quick wits and charm to seize an opportunity and get away.  A magic-user would be shaping the winds to impact the arrows trajectory or shifting a puddle to turn the cobble stone slick prompting their attacker to slip and overexert themselves.  A berserker trusts only in his courage and battle rage to pull him through.  To that end I decided that each class should be using a different attribute to calculate their hit points.

Since I like simple solutions here is what I decided on.  You add your classes primary and secondary attribute modifiers to each hit die rolled.  I designed each class to have at least two attributes that really fit the theme of the class.  The skirmisher type relies on their superior agility to get out of the way and their marathon endurance to keep it up for as long as possible. The magic user relies on their ability to shape the elements to influence incoming attacks and their knowledge of the unknown to threaten curses on those that would attack them sometimes staying their hand.  The leader type relies on their brawn to lock swords with their opponents and either their knowledge of tactics or their courage to lead from the front to carry them through.  If you can't envision how certain attributes could be apply to hit points I've prepared a few examples of non-physical stats below that I think will help.

The Fearless Knight: “You see my lady, most knights will look away at the last minute as the lance hits them to protect their eyes. Not this one, he keeps his eyes on the prize the entire time and that is what makes him dangerous.”

The Inquisitrix: “Seeing the muscles in his neck tense up I knew he was about to do something foolish. His right foot swung out well before his fist did but by then I was already well prepared to intercept.”

The Tactician: “With a weapon that large I imagine most are so stunned that they don't have the chance to get out of it's way.  I bet it would do a lot of damage when it finally hits something but a weapon that size has its own disadvantages. For instance you can only reliably swing that either horizontally or vertically meaning that I've got a 50/50 shot of predicting and evading your attack.  Compound that with such a slow windup time and I'm practically untouchable.  Your move champ."

 The Alchemist Firebug: "I'd reconsider that if I were you.  On a day like today with the sun high in the sky on the thirtieth day of this damnable drought I can only imagine how hot it is in that armor of yours.  Now you see I've taken the liberty of super heating the air around me so that if you even think of drawing steel on me you'll be flinching in pain as the metal starts searing into you producing the same sound as bacon hitting a hot pan.  Those of you foolish enough to cut through the pain can look forward to your armor enjoying the same heat treatment and pretty soon you'll be cooking faster than you can tear that armor off.  So go ahead, draw steel on me and let's see how well that ends.

I briefly considered having different attributes apply to defense and reading the above examples you could certainly make a case for it.  However, I think it would be far simpler to keep a simple unified formula for defense as it would make it easy for players to remember and far easier to design monsters along that way.  Since each class already had two attributes recommended to players it didn't take much to have those two attributes apply to their hit points as well.  Fighting types will more than likely retain their larger HD but all in all I'm rather satisfied with this solution.  If you like feel free to use and adapt it for yourself.