Sunday, October 7, 2012

Missing In Action

I'd like to apologize for being absent for so long one of the things I wanted to continue with this blog was to maintain a healthy and regular posting schedule.  However, after moving, shifting hours at my job, maintaining a social life and rekindling friendships with old college buddies I haven't had a whole lot of time.  To add a finishing touch I just recently enrolled in Grad school, so in addition to work I've had little to no time with which to get anything done and many of my hobbies have fallen by the wayside.  Even just opening up blogger to write this post I saw a number of posts on my blog roll that looked very intriguing but I had to keep myself from reading because time has become an extreme commodity.  It's not necessarily a bad thing, having limited time keeps you focused and you're more efficient with what little idle time you do have but I have regrettably not had any time to post nor have I even had time to write up a few drafts.  I haven't had time to translate ideas to paper and more recently I haven't had much time to think about my hobbies, D&D and roleplaying in general so the creative font has not been flowing.

On occasion something does inspire me and if I'm lucky I'm within decent range of a computer or notebook to get it written down and once or twice I have been able to flesh that out into a few paragraphs and even a full post.  I do not however want to go ahead and post them because I feel as though it will be akin to a drop of rain in the desert.  So here's what I'd like to do instead.  I plan on stockpiling posts, writing when I get the chance and keeping them as drafts to save for later when I can and do have time to blog.  Come December when this semester is over and work winds down a bit I'll have some serious time to get to work on my favorite creative outlets.  At that point I hope to post as frequently as I could before and I will have built up a small stock of posts over the coming months.

Essentially I don't have the time to keep blogging at the moment but if I do manage to scrape together any posts I'm going to save them for when I do have the time and attention to devote to this blog.  Likely around December.  I'd like to thank you all for reading and your input since I've started.  This wasn't something I was sure I'd be any good at or even joy but I definitely learned otherwise.  Hopefully I'll see you soon when winter is in full swing.  In the meantime I highly recommend perusing through my blog list in the bottom right, each one of the bloggers on there are chock-full of very insightful and creative work.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Player Chosen Ability Scores: Talent

Continuing my series on High and Low ability scores and how I used them in my games.  In addition to the four primary ability scores players could choose two ability scores that best reflected their character's quirks and virtues.    The most noteworthy aspect was that a low score was not necessarily a punishing score, instead a low score functioned in a complementary fashion to the boons of a high score.  In this series I'm going to take a look at each of these optional stats, how I want them to operate and how they were originally represented mechanically.  This time we're going to look at Talent.  Previous entries can be found here.

Sometimes you just have a knack for something, you have the good fortune to have a natural prowess with the things you know and for everything else you can easily get the hang of.  A talented character picks up on most things very quickly and can perform them adequately and often spectacularly.  An untalented character has to work much harder to keep up with others.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Trine and Cooperative Play (Wizard)

In the briefest windows in which I find free time I managed to sink another hour into a little game called Trine.  Trine is a platforming puzzler with the twist that you play as three characters in one and can rotate through them at will.  If you've ever played the Lost Vikings on the SNES/SEGA you'll be very familiar with the premise. The three characters represents your classic fantasy archetypes, Knight, Wizard and Thief.  Through a twist of fate and a magical mishap involving anartifact known as the Trine they have all been sealed into a single body.  This of course can lead to some fun tension and dialog but for the most part it leaves for a very satisfying cooperative single player experience.  Of course you can play with a friend on the same PC, or over the internet in the sequel but the game and its puzzles are obviously intended for a single player.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Tandem Monsters: Daigol and Ozmone

Two freak storms weekend after weekend knocking out power for miles around sure is making it difficult to maintain an regular update schedule.

One thing I've always found intriguing is monsters that work well in tandem, whose abilities complement each other (often in tactical ways) or a pair that mitigate the weaknesses of each other.  These can lead to some interesting and memorable encounters.  This time we're going to look at two monsters that are distinctly opposite and are quite capable of covering each others vulnerabilities.  In fact, the key to defeating them is to divide and conquer.

Demon's Souls Penetrator Sculpture by futantshadow

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Disintegration with added Physics

Turns out that moving, changing work locations and hours took a lot more time than I expected to.  I haven't moved my laptop down yet either so I don't have my notes available so the posts I'll be tackling won't be especially substantive in game mechanics.  Instead here's a post I was considering in the A-Z Challenge for D and hopefully I'll be able to get a post out next Sunday as well.


Saturday, May 19, 2012

Shock and Awe

I completed my first 5k run today so what better time to take up blogging again.  I'll be keeping it short for right now as I get back into the swing of things.  Today I'm going to talk about Shock and Awe which I was originally planning on tackling in the A-Z challenge but unfortunately had to cut due to time constraints.

Shock and Awe
The Spy reduces the Morale of common monsters/men and forces a morale check after performing any action that will shock, inspire fear, or awe their opponent.

Friday, May 4, 2012

A to Z Catchup: Z is for Zelda (The Legend of)

It would appear that after the very long and cram packed, but still very well done Avengers movie I have very little time left to write up a post.  That's ok though, since today is my last A-Z post I'd like to spend a little bit talking about what it's been like doing this challenge and where to go from here.

First off it struck me today that I wasted a perfectly good opportunity to talk about running an eXiles themed campaign in the Marvel Super Heroes RPG for the letter X.  Which is a shame since it's been a long while since I've blogged about my stints in Superheroic roleplaying systems and eXile is a perfect setting for people who want to play established characters without mucking around without the overbearing continuity (it also fits the murderous transient mould so many games devolve into which may or may not be a good thing.)

Onto the A-Z Challenge.  I had a lot of fun doing this, although I must say it was quite a challenge.  Trying to put out quality posts full of meaningful or at least interesting content takes a lot more effort than I was expecting.  Those first few posts were easy because I had them already worked out, I just need to transcribe it to a blog post, after that things got pretty difficult and down to the wire at times (like right now for instance!)  This difficulty was compounded by my new hours at work, a sleep schedule that witnesses the crack of dawn and numerous social obligations that soared into prominence.  In short it was hectic, it was draining, but coming home everyday and trying to think of a relevant topic and quickly hammering out the details was quite a rush and it was all the more fulfilling with all the comments and remarks that accompanied it.  So thank you all for that.

Now what to do from here?  First off, I'm taking a much needed break!  At least a week, possibly more.  Writing and design take a lot of inspiration to get going and I don't have as much as that flowing now that most of my day is spent working rather than idling and daydreaming.  On the bright side I will be able to devote more time and focus to individual posts, possibly even fleshing out a few ideas I touched on in the A-Z challenge (if you have any suggestions let me hear them.)

Then of course there is also the final topic.  The Legend of Zelda.  A wonderful eries that has stayed the same in many ways but its gameplay and especially its design has changed drastically between iterations and especially console generations.  In the future I'd like to take a look at Dungeon design in the Legend of Zelda series.  In fact, I'd like to replay though my collection starting all the way in the NES, analyzing key features and framework presented by the designer and how they can be applied or at least understood in our own games.  This is a design blog after all.  Of course, there are always fun little puzzles to examine and steal for our own games.  I plan on doing a series on analyzing other games as well, Etrian Odyssey immediately comes to mind, especially a detailed analysis of class structures and and their thematic components within the setting.

In the meantime I'm going to try and catch up my backlog of A-Z posts written by other people.  You all did splendidly and I regret not having enough time to browse through them all.  Thank you all for reading and stopping by and have a good night.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

A to Z Catchup: Y is for Yggdrasil

Yggdrasil is the world tree in Nordic Mythology whose roots extend to different worlds and whose branches extend far into the heavens.  Yggdrasil and many bit and pieces of Norse Mythology have been co-opted by and recycled by numerous games, books and assorted fiction over the years.  An interesting take on this is the World Tree in the science fiction book Hyperion.  Where the world tree produces saplings which templars traveling on living tree ships take across the star system hoping to plant them on planets which will bloom their own world tree.  My personal favorite incarnation is in the Etrian Oddysey series.

Etrian Odyssey if you're not familiar is a game published (and created) by Atlus on the DS.  It's a first person dungeon crawler, like Eye of the Beholder, but is turn based and has incorporated a number of modern design influences from typical CRPGs (skill trees, non-linear advancement, streamlined yet incredibly dangerous/useful status effects, party diversity and interdependence).  The plot revolves around a world destroyed and the survivors aiming to reclaim what was lost.  To do so they venture into the one thing that survived it all.  The world tree.  An entire dungeon of 25 or more floors lies in its depths, starting with the roots you move down each strata entering gorgeous new vistas each and every time.  A waterfall grotto, a forest in autumn, a volcanic sea floor and if you are brave and lucky enough you may reach the ancient ruins at its depths that give clues to the civilization that existed before then.  Etrian Odyssey takes the sword and sorcery staple of lost and forgotten civilizations and works it into something as fantastical as a Tree teeming with life stretching across the heavens and reaching deep into the abyss.  You could set an entire campaign here, and if you're looking for inspiration pick up any of the Etrian Odssey games and prepare for a tough trip into the labyrinth.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

A to Z Catchup: X is for Xylophone (Cursed)

I've been trying to think of a good X topic since the start but I've come up with nothing.  So let's have a little fun instead, and as Dungeon Masters what could be more fun than a peculiar cursed item.  This time we have the accursed Xylophone, stashed in any decent horde it stands out from the rest of the mundane treasure.  This Xylophone has absolutely zero effect unless someone decides to play it using the mallets attached to its frame of petrified wood.  Once they do they'll be in for a surprise.

Frequency: Rare
No. Appearing:  1
Alignment: Lawful
Movement: Inanimate
Armor Class: 9
HD: 1
Special Attack: Curse of Perfect Pitch, Curse of Perfect Melody
Magic Resistance:  Immune to all magical effects excluding dispel magic, disjunction and flame or wood properties.
Size: Small

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

A to Z Catchup: W is for Weakness (Damage Types)

The last thing I explored in my Damage Types series were the three generalized and conventional ways of dishing out damage with melee weapons.  This time I'd like to look at elemental effects for a bit.  Weaknesses and vulnerability have cropped up from time to time but for the most part in games systems this translates into nothing more than a flat damage bonus or damage multiplier and that's boring.

Monday, April 30, 2012

A to Z Catch Up: V is for Vanquish

So I have returned!  Albeit a few days too late.  I can't believe it's Z already and I was out of commission for so long!  I have some free time tonight and if my stomach continues cooperating I plan on cranking out a few posts.   In the meantime it is time to talk about Vanquish.

Aside from being an absolutely stellar game that riffs on the current chest-high-wall burly action hero cover shooter  Vanquish is a very fun word to use.  It's also one of the most common words you can encounter in any sort of heroic fiction where our brave young hero rallies his resolve and vanquishes the villain.  So let's make Vanquish into a game mechanic.  And since I've been having fun playing around with Intrepid Dice, let's base it around that.

Here's a quick primer on Intrepid Dice.  You have a seventh stat named your Intrepid score.  It is determined randomly (d6 + level) at the start of every adventure.  You can use your intrepid score to add dice to any roll you're making (recall that we're talking 3d6 in place of a d20, and regardless of the number of dice you end up rolling you can only keep 3) as well as a host of other fun tricks you'll find in the link above.  Kevin of KORPG has swayed me from using levels as a carrot for players so the Intrepid Score is how I've been trying to resolve my conflict in a level-less D&D

Now then, on to Vanquish.  We can treat it as a class feature, perhaps for our Underdog class or we can treat like other Intrepid abilities, useable by anyone.  I can see it going well either way.  Here's how it works:

Whenever you would deal any Wounds you deal additional Wounds equal to the number of Intrepid Dice you spent during any step resolving your attack.

So what does this mean?  It means the more you invest into an attack, the more spunk, boldness and trust in luck you place in that attack, for each die you personally invest from your intrepid hero's pool of dice you are more likely to strike down your villain and smite him where he stands.  It's the perfect move for any last ditch move and hero very nearly beaten, one last chance before its lights out.  Due to the nature of Intrepid Dice (they don't refresh until the start of another adventure) it is very difficult to abuse.  It can be used as an Alpha strike but is quite the costly gambit.

So there you have it.  Let me know if you have any ideas or suggestions for what I should do for X.  I'm completely blanking on what to do for that. As always, thanks for reading!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A to Z Challenge: Intermission

It would appear I am more ill than I had realized.  It's only 8pm and I'm ready to turn in so I'm afraid I'm going to have to suspend my A-Z challenge until I can get back on my feet.  Hopefully in a matter of days.

Thanks you all for reading, this has been a pleasure to do and your comments have spurred me on.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A to Z Challenge: U is for Underdog

One of the things I always loved about AD&D were the titles associated with your level, so that eventually your fighter was referred to as a Lord (and along came the assumption he would be building keeps by level 9).  When I design classes I like to keep that tradition alive so for the designated 'hero' class I propose its level 1 title be Underdog.

If I'm lucky I'll be home before 9 tomorrow and I can whip up a much more substantial post.

Monday, April 23, 2012

A to Z Challenge: T is for Thrusting (Damage Types)

Although work is conspiring to soak up all my available time I still have a few waking minutes left to get out a post.  I never would have expected the A-Z Challenge would have run me this ragged.

So without further adieu and much brevity attended I'll be fnishing up the damage types series.  Starting with Impact Weapon and Saturday's Slashing Damage.  I'll be skipping the introduction this time as it is much better laid out in Impact Weapons so here's the meat of the rules.

If any Wounds are dealt with a Thrusting weapon, the target takes additional Wounds each round equal to the weapons Thrusting Rating until they bleed out or the wound is stymied.

This is the current version.  It matches the form of the previous two, in that the effect is dependant on the weapons rating in Impact, Thrusting or Slashing.  However, one thing that bugs me is that through playtesting it was found that the easiest way to do Wound loss is to simply cap it at 1 Wound lost each round.  It's easy to remember, doesn't require you to look up or anything, least of all the thrusting rating of various weapons.  So here's the proposed redesign.

If any Wounds are dealt with a Thrusting weapon the target takes an additional Wound each round on their turn until they either bleed out or the wound is stymied.  Additionally, each time the weapon deals Wounds to a target (including bleeding damage in later turns) they lose HP equal to the weapon's Thrusting rating.

This removes some of the bite and makes the weapon less lethal, which is a good things since bad guys wield spears too.  It also means that a Thrusting weapon is the best weapon for attrition, while the impact weapon is the best for facing off vs armor and the slashing weapon is the best weapon for quickly cutting down foes, but mostly limited to lightly or unarmored folks.

There you have it!  Now if you'll excuse me I have a date with the crack of dawn.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

A to Z Challenge: S is for Slashing (Damage Types)

First post on Damage Types (Impact) is over here.

Continuing with damage types today I'm going to talk about slashing weapons.  A slashing weapon inflicts damage by moving the length of the blade in a cutting motion down the side of, well, whatever it is you're cutting. This can range from long gashes if you get the majority of the blade to cut to something as small as a little nick.  The actual cutting motion depends on the type of sword (curvature & weight distribution).  If you've spent enough time cutting onions you know there are plenty of ways to dice it and with different motions.  The same applies to heavier knives and swords.  The Khukuri for example is meant for a downward chopping motion followed by a cutting motion, a brute force weapon.  Compare this to the Scimitar, Shamshir or Talwar and you have a slender curved blade well made for slicing motions while on horseback as well as for quick slashes and flicks of the wrist while on foot.  While the methods of slashing may be different they all have one general outcome, to cause a lot of damage over a large surface area.  They also share the same weakness, they need to be able to cut through the surface.

A slashing weapon increases wounds dealt equal to its slashing rating on a critical hit or against lightly or unarmored targets.

Most light armor only cover the vitals (torso, possibly arm guards or shoulder guards) so for the most part a lot of skin is exposed, perfect for a razor sharp edge.  The critical hit clause is meant to represent when you have the perfectly aligned strike poised to hit their vitals and any seams or vulnerabilities in their armor.  So as we saw before, Impact weapons are very good at beating on armored foes, slashing weapons are quite adept at taking on lightly and unarmored foes.  Turning your average sword into a deadly weapon against the poorly equipped.

A to Z Challenge: R is for Rocket Propelled Lances

Valkyria Chronicles may be the first place I ever encountered the idea of a projectile lance.  I think it is an excellent idea.  Valkyria Chronicles (VC) came out early on in the PS3 lifecycle, it took a new look at conventional strategy games and tried merging a few of the better parts of turn based and real time strategy to a decent success.  Aside from the gorgeous art style (simulated watercolor motion picture) what really stood out to me were the knights armed with lances facing off against tanks, little did I know these lances could be fired like rockets.

It isn't known exactly what powers these absurd weapons but judging from the emissions it is either a chemical trail like a rocket or even a huge burst of steam.  I'm not willing to count out Ragnite either, the all-purpose energy-resource macguffin of the VC universe.  Still I think rocketing lances as a siege weapon, either for destruction or for sending up chains, would be an excellent addition to any game dancing with steampunk elements.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

A to Z Challenge: Q is for Quirks

Quirks are a fun way to spice up your character's personality.  I'm not talking nervous tick or speaks in rhymes, I'm talking about the everyday idiosyncrasies we all possess and those little hidden talents that you may never know what might show up.  Here's a quick list of 50 quirks, feel free to brainstorm some and add your own.

To determine randomly, roll a d6, this determines the tens spot (a roll of 6 is treated as 0).  Then roll a d10 to determine the ones value.  For example a roll of 3 and 7, gives a result of 37.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A to Z Challenge: P is for Peryton

Peryton by Una Woodruff in the book Inventorum Natura

I'm pressed for time so today will be a short post.

The Peryton is one of my favorite D&D monsters yet it is so often underused.  To me the Peryton makes for an excellent random encounter in the wilderness for two main reasons.  First off, many animals in fantasy are portrayed as benevolent majestic creatures, the Peryton of course is not but your players likely don't know that.  Secondly, Perytons are a great alternative to the Griffin and a perfect lead-in to "Mad scientist is splicing together animals in woods" if you're avoiding Perytons as strange elder beasts mythology.

For the first reason let's explore why these guys are great for a random encounter.  Your players likely don't know about these obscure creature as they aren't very prominent in D&D or common cultural mythology.  It has the body of a deer and the wings of a bird, not too frightening.  If anything it might appear inviting for any would be naive druids.  Contrast that with the Griffin who has the body of a lion and the head of an eagle, quite a vicious beast.  So your players will more than likely approach this creature out of curiosity or friendship.  Unfortunately for them, Perytons crave human hearts.  Rather than play them conventionally, using trickery regarding there human shadows, I think it'd be best to have the Peryton appear docile until it is ready to strike and carry off it's prey (a straggler.)  Now your players will have a newfound wariness of woodland creatures and you just got another excuse to throw a weird magical beast into your game of sword and sorcery.  Hurrah!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A to Z Challenge, O is for Origin

Nausicaä and the Valley of the Wind

Today I'm going to talk about Origins.  An Origin fulfill three major rolls, first it tells everyone where you're from.  Second, it tells everyone what you used to do before you assumed the adventuring mantle and it gives an idea of what hidden talents you bring to the table.  Lastly, your Origin determines which element you have forged the strongest connection.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

A to Z Challenge: N is for NPC Classes

A Noble's Land by Emily Fiegenschuh

NPC classes are a mixed bag.  Some people prefer that anyone of importance be statted up with actual class levels, meaning that noble lord is actually a Fighter 4.  Others enjoy NPC classes as it makes player characters a cut above the average soldier and spell slinger.  The 3rd edition DMG for me, and possibly many, was when I first began to consider the rammifications of NPC classes.  By assigning weaker levels you ensure that some people have more than a d6 (well d4 for a commoner) of HP, meaning your scheming noble might actually survive the arrow from the impatient player.  Their bad attack bonuses meant they were pretty lousy in a fight and if used consistently it meant the Fighter classes with their full BAB could see just how much more skilled they were (although they would still have their ego crushed by spell casters in double digit levels).  A few people advocated giving each character a 0-Level NPC class to represent who they were before they took up the adventuring mantle.  Not a bad idea but the NPC classes weren't particularly balanced (or meant to be) so your options boiled down to extra attack bonus, piles of gold, or even more skills, or the woeful commoner.  Although I once had a DM that would only allow Spellfire if you played as a commoner.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

A to Z Challenge: Magical Mishaps (Haste)

Samurai Jack by Genndy Tartakovsky

One of my favorite things about Vancian magic is the way a spell can irrevocably backfire on its caster, in the case of Cugel this was more poetic justice than anything.  The way I've been modeling Vancian Spells Redux is to have a backfire built into individual spells.  Some will do the opposite of what you want, others will will do something similar to what you intended but may loop you into another adventure (such as the Sleepwalker / Dreamwalker divide).  Others are simply silly and based around the double entendre in the spells name.  The "Unexpected Sorcerous Slug" for example, allows the caster to suckerpunch an attacker with an invisible and extendible phantom limb.  If the spell backfires the caster is transformed into a giant slug for the rest of the day.  Talk about results!

Today though I want to talk about how GM's and Judge's can get creative with magical mishaps.  Going beyond what's hardcoded in the rules text.  Today we're going to talk about Haste.  A spell that has varied much over the years but whose basic premise is the caster moves faster and acts faster.  In this case we are going to assume that a Haste spells allows the user to move more quickly through time, a temporal spell.  You'll see why this is important in a little bit.

Friday, April 13, 2012

A to Z Challenge, L is for Lesser Spells (Vancian Redux)

A good ways back I put together a compilation of suggestions for a reworking of Vancian magic and how I would attempt to accomplish those suggestions.  A bit later I posted a trio of vancian inspired spells and

These three will also be lesser spells, in my Vancian redux spells are categorized as either Lesser or Formidable.  Lesser spells generally have incredibly specific purposes to suit the enterprising young magician willing to solve all their mundane problems with a rhyme and a gesture.  Last time I focused on Spells named after famous magicians with varied usage.  This time I'll be posting spells with very, very specific usages.  I've been up since well before the sun rose so I'll be keeping the descriptions very brief.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

A to Z Challenge: K is for Kinesis

Adept by JasonEngle

As I may have alluded to in my hastily drawn up posts on Catalysts I treat magic and elementalism a bit differently in my games.   Traditionally in the D&D / Vance spellcasting ethos elemental effects and spells were completely intertwined.  One did not throw fire at someone, they hastily recounted some arcane syllables and sent a tiny mote of fire to explode in a luminous sphere off in the distance.  Elements precipitated from magic.  What I would like to try is elementalism for its own sake without need of a spellcasting prerequisite.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

A to Z Challenge, J is for Justicar

In the early 2000s Wizards of the Coast launched a series of Greyhawk novels each centered around the classic modules including but not limited to: Against the Giants, The Temple of Elemental Evil, Keep on the Borderlands, & The Tomb of Horrors.  This was right around the time the Drizzt books were taking their adventures onto a grander scale with soaring popularity.  If I had to guess these novels were about bringing Greyhawk lovers into the fold of third edition.  There were also the "Return to" series of revisited Greyhawk modules during Greyhawk's 25th anniversary in 1999 so this was a pretty broad net to capture players who started with older products and it certainly worked for me.

Among the series of Greyhawk books there were three in particular that were my favorites:  White Plume Mountain, Descent into the Depths of the Earth, and Queen of the Demonweb Pits.  Each of these starring the principal character Justicar the grim anti-hero and Escalla the capricious and vain pixie.  Its been a number of years since I've read them but I plan on doing a reread soon.  I recommend them on their merit alone although I can't say how closely they stick to the modules that is their namesake.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

A to Z Challenge, I is for Impact (Damage Types)

Today I'm going to talk a bit about damage types, a tragically underutilized section of 3.X D&D and beyond.  If you're not familiar with damage types or with 3rd edition, there are typically three types that have remained constant over the years (and popped up occasionally in earlier editions like with the piercing immunities of your average menacing skeleton) which were Piercing, Slashing, and Bludgeoning.  All of which were pretty self-explanatory.  There was a lot of potential here, different weapons exist for a reason, primarily to impart their damage (force) in different methods.  Those methods adapted with the times, culture (fighting styles) and with the changes in armor.  There were a few occasions where damage type popped up, one of the Complete books allowed you to purchase Armor enhancements that gave you damage reduction vs a specific damage type and occasionally a monster might be resistant to all damages types but one.  The aforementioned skeleton would be resistant to all non-bludgeoning damage.  This was all mostly an afterthought though.  While D&D is well known for its abstract combat I can't help but feel damage types were an after thought.  So I've decided to do a little something with them without getting too gritty.

Monday, April 9, 2012

A to Z Challenge, H is for Homard

Today will be another monster post.  Homard is french for Lobster and I'm of the opinion that Lobsters are an extremely underutilized in D&D's monster ecology.  Lobsters have giant claws, can escape quickly and most interestingly:

(. . .) It has been argued that lobsters may exhibit negligible senescence and some scientists have claimed that they could effectively live indefinitely, barring injury, disease, capture, etc.[12] Their longevity allows them to reach impressive sizes. According to the Guinness World Records, the largest lobster was caught in Nova Scotia, Canada, and weighed 20.15 kilograms (44.4 lb).  --Wikipedia

Saturday, April 7, 2012

A to Z Challenge, G is for Ghouls!

by DavidRapozaArt

After Delta created a poll on which aspects (history lesson ahoy!) of Ghouls he should keep in his Book of War I realized how much fun Ghouls were as a monster.  Or at least, I realized how much fun it would be to sick these undead maulers on my players.  Here's how Ghouls are run in my game of 3d6 D&D, feel free to try them out in your game.  Fortunately for me they are going to kick off the upcoming session of my LL game.

Ghastly Ghouls
  • 3 HD creature & 3 attacks a round (claw, claw bite), each dealing a d6 of damage
  • Rend  
    • If both claws hit the target the Ghouls goes in for the kill and immediately deals 1d6 Wounds
    • If the Ghouls is grappling with the target they automatically rend when they lose  that round of grappling
  • Paralysis
    • If the Ghoul bites the target and deals a Wound they must Save vs Paralysis or be paralyzed for 1d6 minutes
    • If grappling the Ghouls bite attack deals damage to Wounds whenever they win that round of grappling
  • Feast
    • If the Ghouls has fed recently they move faster than normal
    • If the Ghouls has fed recently it can only be killed by a called shot to the head
      • Otherwise it will claw and bite regardless of limbs or damage
  • Morale & Turning
    • Ghouls merely wait at the edge of a Turn attempt rather than flee
    • Ghouls are immune to morale effects if they have the hunger
      • The hunger also decreases intelligence and thus tactics (flanking is the best they can achieve)
  • Sunlight Blindness
    • They are blinded anytime they are experienced to bright light for the round
    • If the light persists they have a -1/die to hit (-3 typically)

Friday, April 6, 2012

A to Z Challenge, F is for Folly

"Then he set the sword on the mounting board. Its grey-white metal shone against the dark roah behind it. While the handle could be seen, it was dark enough to be almost indistinguishable from the wood. The word beneath it, black against blackness, seemed to reproach: Folly."  

As I wrote yesterday's post I was reminded of this passage in the stellar book "The Name of the Wind."  Today I want to talk about folly, not the folly of ourselves but the folly of our characters.  Folly is a staple in the overconfident or perhaps overly successful character and it is often an integral part of the Three Act Structure (and pacing / tension but that's another beast for another day).  In order to grow and to learn we must experience failure and in many roleplaying games this is very difficult to attempt.  As in many cases failure can mean imminent doom.  As DM's it is our job not to try and artificially inject folly into our game, to deliberately set our players for failure or to grease the wheels.  Instead we need to let them leap from the nest from time to time and we need to be prepared to keep the story going when they fall rather than fly.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

A to Z Challenge, E is for the Economy, Silly

Economics is a big deal in Roleplaying games, no seriously!  Particularly in original D&D where treasure was the primary source of Experience.  Characters typically need thousands of experience to level which means they will be hauling in vast sums of gold, and that's a problem.  Why?  Well because cash is a resource, and too much cash trivializes some great adventures.

I read a wonderful book titled "The Name of the Wind" by Patrick Rothfuss earlier this year.  The primary tension in the story was how much money the main character needed to survive and subsist and how difficult it was to come by.  When he finally achieved some financial stability a lot of the tension dissipated, the very same tension that was driving the book forward and keeping you the reader enraptured.  The clutch of poverty is a driving force in a good deal of fantasy and cinema ranging from Cugel to Conan or Sanjuro (Yōjinbō) to Zatoichi.

Let's take a look at a plotline in Zatoichi's Vengeance.  A wandering Ronin returns to town seeking to buy the freedom of a selfless girl he fell in love with who is currently indebted to a scummy Brothel Owner.  The Ronin is unable to pay for her freedom but he is willing to use his skills for the new boss in order to earn it.  Naturally, the boss sends him to kill Zatoichi.  If the wandering Ronin was as freakishly wealthy as your average above level-1 adventurer this never would have happened.  The price of his love's freedom would be nothing more than a mere trifle, and that's a shame.  So, the economy of exaggerated wealth hurts adventures.

It also hurts treasure.  You see when your players routinely come across large sums of money, keep in mind that a gold piece could be a fortune to your average peasant, it devalues the money you are giving them.  This leads to escalation where player's expect more from their chests and DM's are quick to oblige.  Its why you see so many cheap and common magic items in newer editions, to pad out an otherwise boring treasure containing enough money to ruin a hamlet's economy.  If instead gold pieces are few and far between then they become the primary source of excitement.  If your players are fighting tooth and nail for every last scrap and coin they come across they will actually be overjoyed when they come across eye-widening riches.  This takes the burden off the DM who is often pressured into putting something 'unique' in a treasure pile which more often than not is another light on the Magic Item christmas tree.  This in turns allows your magic items to be unique and memorable and that's always a good thing.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

A to Z Challenge: D is for Dragons!

Dragons!  The titular beast of our beloved roleplaying game.  Dragons though have never quite lived up to my expectations as the most fearsome creatures in a manual, bestiary or compendium.  Sure they were huge and powerful but they lacked oomph, longevity and something to set them apart, something other than tacked on spell casting.  If you would like a quick history lesson on Dragon's through the ages, Delta's D&D Hotspot is always happy to provide.  In the very same post he elicited a number of responses on whether or not Dragon's should be granted immunity to missile fire and potentially non-magical weapons.  I am of the opinion that they could use both but others did not see the need to.  So in sprucing up Dragon's we'll add both to the list.  Taichara's Hamsterish Horde has d10 ways of taking your dragon to the next level and many of them are particularly evocative.  Great ideas but I'm looking for something more fundamental to the Dragon, although I must say these variants will certainly be memorable for your players so try them out!

So in order to beef up our particular version of Dragon's let look at what they are most well known for.  Their breath weapon, their size, their flight, their scales, their long lives and equally long slumber.  Here is what I'm proposing:

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

A to Z Challenge: C is for Catalysts

After voting and preparing dinner I have a limited amount of time left so today will be a short post.  Hopefully tomorrows will be a bit longer.  Today though I want to talk about Catalysts, the items a magic-user wields to either activate or strengthen their magic.  Wands and staves are rather prolific but I'd like to take a moment to examine more rustic and improvisational items for your elementalist mage.

Now catalysts are so named because they speed up a reaction producing more results in the same time frame.  In this game a Catalyst is something a magic-user wields to better control the element they are interacting with.  In short, a catalyst gives a degree of sympathetic magic.  This means that the more similar the item (catalyst) is to the element the greater you are able to control it.

Say you're hedge wizard is trying to animate a trees branch, twisting into the way of a fleeing rider.  If his catalyst is a staff, or even a branch in a pinch, he is more likely to succeed.  Furthermore, if the wood is made from the same type of tree as the one he is trying to manipulate, it is all but guaranteed to succeed.  The same could be said for a pyromancer using charcoal to control a roasting pit or a water wizard whose wand has a globe tip filled with pure spring water rippling waves in a pristine lake.  The more similar the item to one you are using the quicker you are to assert control over it.

Sorry for the brief and vague post, I promise tomorrow will be a monster of a post.  Now if you'll excuse me I have to stifle some maniacal laughter.

Monday, April 2, 2012

A to Z Challenge: B is for Belief (Player Chosen Stats)

Today I am fortunate enough to have the A-Z challenge line up with the next post I planned on doing in my Player Chosen Stats series.  In this series I discuss a set of ability scores player's may choose to make their characters more distinct without overcomplicated the quick and easy character creation rules so adored in Original D&D.  The basic premise is addition to the four primary ability scores players could choose two ability scores that best reflected their character's quirks and virtues.    The most noteworthy aspect was that a low score was not necessarily a punishing score opening a lot of room for flawed characters.  Instead a low score functioned in a complementary fashion to advantage granted by a higher score, the detailed version can be found here.  This time we're going to look at Belief.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

A to Z Challenge: Armor & Armor Class

A is for Armor and in D&D it is most well known as Armor Class or AC for short.  In typical D&D Armor does not absorb damage but it instead deflects it.  This all or nothing principles has its origin in Iron Clad, a Civil-War battleship rules Dave Arneson worked on then adapted for D&D.  Now I've never been a big fan of this all or nothing approach, it works just fine for a battleship where a shell either pierces the hull or it doesn't but that's not how conventional worn armor works.  A while back during my crunch time posts I talked about one of the failures I had in Armor Class and trying to reverse Weapon vs AC.  A fool's bargain but it was an enlightening experience, now I would like to share the successor to that system which retains what I like most about OD&D's Armor, namely that the type of armor you wore was a class loose enough to be quick and abstracted and specific enough to account for different armor types.

Blogging from A to Z Challenge

I'm going to throw my hat into the ring and take the Blogging from A to Z challenge this year.  I noted back when I did my crunchtime posts that I really enjoyed posting everyday.  Well, now would be the perfect time to do so.  I'm working new hours so this will be quite the endeavor but I plan on seeing it through to the finish.  My time to post will be limited and none of this is planned out but I'm excited to see what topic I'm going to produce each day.

Wish me luck.

If you would like to participate as well today is the last day to sign up.  Simply click the A-Z Challenge picture on the sidebar on the right and it will take you to the sign-up site.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Player Chosen Stats: Courage

Last time I spoke about High and Low ability scores and how I used them in my games.  In addition to the four primary ability scores players could choose two ability scores that best reflected their character's quirks and virtues.    The most noteworthy aspect was that a low score was not necessarily a punishing score, instead a low score functioned in a complementary fashion to the boons of a high score.  In this series I'm going to take a look at each of these optional stats, how I want them to operate and how they were originally represented mechanically.  This time we're going to look at Courage.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

High and Low Ability Scores

N. Wright over at Lawful Indifferent has an interesting post on Inverse Ratios specifically the relation between ability scores and magical ability.  In the system he proposes the worse off your standard ability scores are the greater your magical potential is.  It's a neat idea and I've been toying with the idea myself but I'll get to that later.  The really great part of the post is the explanation for why.  You see Magic is an intoxicating and corrupting agent, drawing heavily on the magical forces both weakens the mind and the body. It is not uncommon for a magic-user to have shaking hands, poor focus and a gaunt figure.  Now Wizards as drug addicts doesn't appeal to everyone but I think we can all appreciate it when a game mechanic subtly does a bit of world building for you.  I know I do.  I plan on doing a series on World Building through mechanics and attention to detail but that is time for another day.  In the meantime I'd like to share what I've been doing with giving low scores a purpose which Lawful Indifferent inspired me to take another look at.

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Intrepid Score and Ability Modifiers

From last I spoke I was extolling the virtues of the Intrepid Score.  A seventh stat that allowed hero's to save their bacon from time to time without being an infallible safety net, my take on the oft reviled hero points of many a system.  This time I want to come back to Ability Modifiers and how the Intrepid Score may have solved my problem with Ability Score Inflation.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Intrepid Score

As I was starting to write my post on the convergence between ability checks and saving throws I realized that I was referencing something that I hadn't discussed before.  That would be the Intrepid Score.  The Intrepid Score is a lot like Hero Points in that it allows our intrepid young adventurers brief periods of stardom although the exact method of doing so is a little different.  Let me first start with how the Intrepid score is determined and what it does in mechanical terms before I begin waxing on about its impact on the metagame.

Determining Your Seventh Stat
The Intrepid Score is a measure of your stalwart heroics, it is your seventh stat and is determined randomly.    Fear not though as your Intrepid Score is a resource meant to be depleted in your adventuring day and at the end of each adventure arc your score resets anew.  At the beginning of each arc of an adventure your score resets to zero, you then roll a d6 and add your level to it to determine your new Intrepid Score.
Optional:  If you find the Intrepid Score of a PC does not last as long as you like you may also have the score reset and refresh whenever they level.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Activating Magical Items

Brendan over at Untimately is having an interesting discussion on the experimentation and identification of magic items.  My comment grew so long I decided to turn it into a blogpost of its own so here we are.

When I first started as a player any weapon that was given a description, even as something as common as an ornate hilt, was deemed potentially magical and it was held onto until such a thing could be determined.  This mindset has transferred to my players when I took up the DM mantle.  It helps that they behave as hoarders for even the most trifling of items.

As for how to determine the actual magic properties of an item this is a bit of a tough call.  Josh D. is right that if you don't tell them what it is then keeping track of +1 to hit and damage can be a bit of a pain.  The way I've been doing it has been to rethink how magic items, weapons specifically, work.

Friday, March 9, 2012

A Trio of Vancian Inspired Spells

As promised from yesterday here is a trio of spells I've made that try to emulate Vance's style as best I can.  From my notes and yesterday's painfully long post I determined that this mean spells named after famous magicians, spells with weird effects, spell names using archaic or underutilized words in a language, and spell names that give a good idea towards what the spell does although ambiguity is a plus.

These three will be lesser spells, as I wrote yesterday Vance made a distinction between Lesser and Formidable spells for his Wizards.  I thought it would be a keen idea to allow Lesser spells to occupy all the whimsical fancies of a precocious magic-user whereas formidable spells are reserved for the terrifying tales of stalwart sorcerers.  As you'll see from this post and others, Lesser spells are either too specific to be useful in many occasions or provide a much needed fix but only under certain circumstances.  This time I'll be posting three lesser spells with a fair degree of usability named after famous magicians.  Next time I'll be posting three lesser spells that are entirely situational and likely whimsical. 

Liam's Soporific Problem Solver
 The roguish Liam had a bad habit of putting his foot in his mouth and this spell was born out of his consistent social and often criminal debacles.  The enchantment puts the mortal into a momentary state of fugue, their memories of immediate events are hazy and dream-like giving the caster a second chance.
The mortal is not actually rendered asleep and the longer the caster or another creature stays near the bewitched mortal the faster their recovery, so in a botched bit of thievery it is best to exit the scene immediately and hope your dozing friend cannot put together the pieces of your last encounter. 
Egon's Disastrous Enervation. 
Many believe this spell was closer to a curse than traditional arcana, nevertheless it was a well used tool in Egon's Arsenal.  Egon always had a talent for exploiting the strengths of his aggressors and this spell is no different.  It saps their vim, vigor and vitality when they need it the most.
Many a tale are told when Egon cast this hex upon the giant with boulder above his head ready to crush the spindly wizard, or the time he revealed the dreaded black knight's identity when she could no longer bear the burden of her armor.

Miere's Assuaging Effulgence
A simple cantrip from one o the first magicians, although many will say she did naught but dabble.  This spell grants a soothing glow when those around are most anxious.  A fail-safe for when sudden winds blow out your torch or when the sun fearing beasts of the Wyld are upon your trail.
In recent years many an unscrupulous Wizard have adapted what was once a pristine spell into a trifling set of mood lighting.  The old farmer's adage still holds true today, never leave your daughter round any that don a robe and wizard hat.

A special thank you to Chris Pound for his automated Dying Earth Spell Generator and Max of Malevolent & Benign for putting together a wonderful resource for people looking to use archaic verbose terminology in their quest for spell creation.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Vancian Magic

After yesterday's dreadfully long post I'd like to keep this one short and to the point.  It will also give me time to work on the series of posts I plan on writing about merging Saving Throws and Ability Checks.  In the meantime I'd like to talk a little bit about Vancian Magic.

Jeff Rients asked the community what they would like to see in a magic system that Vancian magic does not promote.  Here are some of the responses that I think particularly stood out:

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Abiliy Mod Inflation

Brendan over at Untimately referred me to this post when I was talking about ability checks and saving throws (and possibly mixing the two) over at Roger the GS' post about Vancian Magic (I've a post on that matter as well but all in due time).  While I still plan on doing an extensive writeup on ability checks and saving throws and merging the two, it will have to wait until I've collected my thoughts and sifted through the labyrinth that has become my notes.  This time I'm going to talk about ability mod inflation, my experience with them and possible solutions I've tried.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Adding a bit of Vance to the World

I'm glad I read Vance's Dying Earth last year as it has done wonders for making my world for fantastic and more interactive.  Last week I ran a game in an unspecified world and I decided to inject a bit of Vance into the setting.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Crunch Time Results

Crunch time was a worthy endeavor.  Although I did not manage to fulfill all the goals I set out to these last few hectic days I still have the motivation to keep going and that's what is important.  As I mentioned previously I hadn't updated my formal draft in a while and instead stuck to my increasingly disorganized notes.  Part of the reason is layout, the other part was that I had to take care of a major rewrite of a core section of the system.  Until I did I didn't feel comfortable adding anything else while something so important was left broken and scattered.  I fixed that section, I rewrote it from scratch at least half a dozen times and I wasn't sure I'd ever make progress on it but I persevered.   I'm sure there's more necessary revisions to be done but I'm glad, because now I have something working, something that resembles what I originally set out to do.  Now, I can continue adding reworking now that I've slain this latest beast.  No longer does that insurmountable feeling hold me able fingers back, I can start writing anew and that made this an important hurdle to cross.

Also, I really enjoyed posting everyday, although I certainly didn't have the time for it.  I think it's something to strive for in the future.  Well, provided I have anything to write about!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Armor Class VS Weapon

Despite hitting the hay a bit early last night (and tossing up a reserve post to maintain my crunch time post quota) I've made a substantial bit of progress.  I've added all the revisions, rewrites and new material since my original draft many moons ago.  All I have left for now is the equipment section and a few clarifying sections for the basic prototype.  Now that I've spoken of my success let me share one of my more recent failures.

A while back I was reading a post over on Delta's D&D Hotspot that was referencing a posting over at myArmory forums about a gentleman who decided to test some authentic or equivalent medieval weapons against cheaply made chainmail as well as a handcrafted set of the highest quality.  It's an excellent posting and experiment be sure to check it out when you have the time.  The test showed how different European weapons, as well as a katana thrown in to highlight a few differences, would perform against the most common of medieval armors, chainmail and jack (layered textile most closely related to brigadine.)  The tests provided some excellent insights and I thought I might veer more towards simulation side of game taxonomy [1] for my weapons system.  Mind you, this was before people declared with great fortitude their staunch distaste for weapons vs armor class in Jeff Rient's poll. Furthermore, I had already taken a stab at this before and the results were more trouble than they were worth.  Still I was sure this time would be different.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Now and Then, Here and There

Talking about the nihilism present in Dying Earth a while back got me thinking about other post-apocalyptic settings.  Actually, looking through my notes to find a quote from Dying Earth I found a poem that's presented at the start of each episode of a series called "Now and Then, Here and There"

Because ten billion
years' time is
so fragile,
so ephemeral...
it arouses such a
almost heartbreaking

I like to wax poetically when I first describe a setting to my players.  I think the above captures that feeling perfectly.  Of how insignificant civilization is, how in the grand scope of things what we build will never persist, what we exploit will not grow back, what we will have is a world spanning desert.

Now and Then, Here and There takes the standard boy travels into a fantasy world and turns it on its head.  Shu the protagonist is every bit the loveable idealist you're used to, the world however, is quite different.  Shu does not train with an old wise man, he does not exhibit any special powers, he's merely a boy who's been dropped into a hellscape of endless wastes in the middle of a wermacht of heartless soldiers in lockstep, many of them children.  All taking place in a giant doomsday nautilus aptly named Hellywood.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Crunch Time

Back on New Years I had made a resolution to get a working prototype done by Febtober, jokingly indicating that I wanted something done by February that could easily be dragged out till October using an old SNL Celebrity Jeopardy Reference.  Well, February has come and almost gone and I think I'd like to push myself these last three days.  Get all the new additions and revisions from playtesting down onto a hard copy rather than pushing it off even further.  To keep me in the mood and keep inspiration flowing I'm pledging at least one post per day.

To start I'd like to extoll the virtues of Notepad++.  When I first started working on my system, well before I even decided to do an independent system, I was writing down some thoughts here and there in a simple text document.  When I wrote up my original draft I put it in a full blown word processor, and later on I put that into Scribus, an open source desktop publishing application I was experimenting with.  Well if I may say, the worst part of writing an rpg system is the layouts.  Seriously.  Having something fit perfectly on one page is wonderful, having something be too long is painful as you try to cut content you felt was perfect or already tightly woven.  It's even worse when you have a new idea or a revision and you need to add something but it regrettably pushes you over your limit.  So word to the wise, save the fancy programs until you're ready to print and until then write to your heart's content and don't care about page counts or fitting in dense pockets of information.  You can cut and curtail that later in the revision process but that brings me to notepad++.

Since word-processors and desktop-publishers were a pain in the ass for adding in revisions and new content, both technically and psychologically, I had gone back to the good old notepad which was ballooning in size by this point.  I even split some off into separate text documents for various classes and core systems but that got a little unwieldy, especially when you're working off an archaic laptop with a small screen and an inability to multitask.  Notepad++ lets you view your text documents like you would in a modern code compiler, it's clean and streamlined and best of all you can open up all those tributary text documents at once and quickly switch between them through tabs (like a modern web browser).  It's lightweight and easy to use and I cannot recommend it enough even for the smallest of things.

Friday, February 24, 2012

20 Quick Questions

Courtesy of Brendan, courtesy of Jeff Rients (ah the infamous citation within a citation) here are my 20 answers to questions that may come up when running a game.

  1. Ability scores generation method?
    1. All stats start at 6.  The group collectively rolls 6d6 and assigns the dice any way they please (no stat above 18 of course.)  It's a compromise between die rolls and point buy equality, although it has resulted in a few players that chase 18s.
  2. How are death and dying handled?
    1.  You are dying if your HP reaches 0 or below.  Roll 3d6 (I use 3d6 D&D), if your 6's outnumber your 1's you stabilize.  If your 1's outnumber your 6's you die.  If you roll three of a kind you get back on your feet with a second wind.  If none of the above happens repeat the process next turn until it does. 
  3. What about raising the dead?
    1. A non-religious PC tried to use a raise dead scroll from a religion he blasphemed, he was killed in the process.  The other surviving PC had an on the spot conversion to the peace loving goddess (he is a repentant berserker) and luckily (as a result of a dice roll) resurrected them both.
    2. The second time they did not go to the church they had blasphemed in to request raise dead and instead opted for a reincarnation from the Druid of the old faith.
  4. How are replacement PCs handled?
    1. Hasn't come up yet but Hommlet is full of people passing through.
  5. Initiative: individual, group, or something else?
    1. System of my own devising.
  6. Are there critical hits and fumbles? How do they work?
    1. Yes, on a critical hit you deal 1d6 damage to Wounds.  I should mention that I also use Wounds.  Fumbles are decided on the spot based on the situation, no table I'm afraid.
  7. Do I get any benefits for wearing a helmet?
    1. You may participate in the Naked Warrior Challenge.
  8. Can I hurt my friends if I fire into melee or do something similarly silly?
    1. If you are not proficient with the ranged weapon you are using or if you critically miss.
  9. Will we need to run from some encounters, or will we be able to kill everything?
    1. I've been running the temple of elemental evil as close to the book as I can.  My PC's are fairly resilient so they generally figure out if they can handle a combat or not within the first few rounds.  But yes, there was a near TPK last session.
  10. Level-draining monsters: yes or no?
    1. They haven't come up yet but it is a possibility.  I use linear XP growth so they may simply sap experience (memories) rather than levels (for the weaker ones at least.)
  11. Are there going to be cases where a failed save results in PC death?
    1. Yes, and it has already happened.  I tend to stick to the rule of three where someone needs to fail 3 progressively harder saves to die.  The idea is that poison takes its time to work through your system and petrification starts from your feet and works its way up.
  12. How strictly are encumbrance & resources tracked?
    1. Well, my PC's are currently naked on account of a recent event involving a burning building.  They had been traveling light previously.  I do require the archer to keep track of their arrows.
  13. What's required when my PC gains a level? Training? Do I get new spells automatically? Can it happen in the middle of an adventure, or do I have to wait for down time?
    1. Depends on your definition of an adventure.  A level up does not require training but it does require a respite.  Most of the time I've given it to them when they are safely in town, but I have given one while they were holed up in a safe room in a dungeon before.
  14. What do I get experience for?
    1. Plenty of things.  Combat (defeating or overcoming does not necessitate killing), Treasure, Exploration, Being Clever, Being Funny, Building character traits and playing to them.
  15. How are traps located? Description, dice rolling, or some combination?
    1. Either.  I let them know if they specifically examine a certain area of the room or piece of the object they can immediately find what they are looking for.  If however, they are feeling lazy or not in the mood for pixel hunting they can always rely on dice.
  16. Are retainers encouraged and how does morale work?
    1. I let them know they can hire retainers, that the benefits of a high charisma include more minions and that you can sacrifice a red shirt.  I've had no takers thus far.  
  17. How do I identify magic items?
    1. The town blacksmith is well versed in history and may know the origin of a particular magic weapon.  Otherwise test it out and find out for yourself.
  18. Can I buy magic items? Oh, come on: how about just potions?
    1. Salves, poultices and ointments can be purchased commercially (expedited healing but not immediate).  The druid can make potions for you if you bring him the right materials, he might even show you how.  The town blacksmith will buy magic items off you.  If not he will offer to seal them for you free of charge.  (Most intelligent items have an evil streak)
  19. Can I create magic items? When and how?
    1. A priestly character can bless items and impart some holiness into items.  Someone with an enchanter styled class kit would be able to enchant weapons temporarily, and permanently as they increased in level.
  20. What about splitting the party?
    1. I'll allow it but I don't encourage it.  I've drilled it into them that old school means +1/+4 lethality vs stupidity.  I should note that their opening vignettes were solo affairs and they learned first hand their own limitations and mortality.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Run Zombie Run v0.2

So I've been looking over the zombie run rules I posted way back when and something immediately stuck out.  Of the attributes and skills, there were 5 attributes and 10 skills which could easily be organized into 2 categories:  conflict and patience.  Their names denoting when they are most often used.

So with that I thought what a perfect foundation for randomizing character creation.  And with a zombie apocalypse who knows who you are going to run into!  With that said here are the quick and dirty randomization rules.

Randomized Character Creation
Attributes. (All start at 1)
  • Roll a d6 per attribute which corresponds to it's value (up to 5).
  • For each 1 subtract 1 from either Panic or Luck. For each 6 add 1 to either Panic or Luck.
    • Panic & Luck have a possible value of -5 to 5.
Skills.  (Start at 0)  
  • Roll a d6 to see how many possible skills you have.
  • Determine how many skills you have in each category. Conflict or Patience.
  • Roll a d6 for each skill assigned per category, each skill in a category is labeled from 1-5.
    • Roll a 6 and you choose the skill.
    • If you roll the same skill twice, roll again or choose a different skill.
  • Once your skills have been determined roll a d6 with a 1-5 indicating value, and a roll of 6 allows you to assign one extra point to any other skill on the list.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine's Day Adventure Hook

If it hadn't been for the box of chocolates on the table this morning I would have missed this holiday entirely.  As for my penance I'll be sharing with you an adventure born out of an intriguing premise I had read a while back, either in a forum or magazine.  Afterwards I'll have to quickly run to the store to pick up ingredients to make ravioli in a brown butter sage sauce.  Bon Appétit

Classified Ads:  Dragon Slayers Wanted
The Premise
It's Valentin'e Day (or if your playing Star Wars it's another excuse to bring up Life Day!) and a blustery pair of lovers have gotten to squabbling as one of them may have forgotten the holiday.  The furious spouse leaves and contacts the PC's to have them oust their forgetful ex-partner.  For the writer's sake, on account of tiresome pronouns, the furious spouse will be a voluptuous woman, clad in a form fitting evening gown of varying shades of dark red.  The forgetful partner will be described as a wealthy, eccentric, balding old geezer in the suitable attire of a hermit.

The Hook
When the scorned lady approaches the PC's she tells them a story they cannot refuse.  Her and her husband were having a fight and she stormed off.  Within moments of her departure a large red dragon swooped down and decided to make their reclusive home their own.  At this point she has to stop and explain that her and her husband have chosen the hermetic lifestyle, free of societal agonies and on a quest for enlightenment concurrent with their religious views.  This would be a good point for any inquisitive PC's to glean more information on her or perhaps to notice any contradictions in her story (hope those improv lessons have been paying off DMs!)  She speaks quickly and often in run on sentences in a constant stream of consciousness (nice try writer!)

"Our home lies past the dense uncivilized jungles of the mongrel men, around the ashen lake and then deep in the mountains.  In fact, we are living in a cave, not the most luxurious of places but we reside in a simple ascetic hut located within this cave, nay a cavernous complex.  Why else would this magnificent--I mean maleficent dragon come to roost?

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Zombie Muse

Oh Walking Dead, how I've missed you.

I finally got a chance to catch the mid-season finale as well as subsequent premiere.  I always find that at the end of an episode I'm struggling to understand how quickly the time has gone.  It's very well done, and if you're familiar with the comics, well there's always something new to see.  I'm actually quite glad at how much screentime Shane is getting, he's the perfect foil to Rick's untarnished hero.

Well I'm feeling inspired so it's time I update the Zombie Run rules I posted last year.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Dying Earth Shattered Verisimilitude

A while back I mentioned that I would start work on my Magic Using class after I finished Jack Vance's Dying Earth series.  I have since done so and begun work and even initial playtesting but I've been silent on one thing.  I love Dying Earth, I love the setting, the tumultuous tales of Turjon and T'sais, the times I caught my breath reading the dastardly deeds and devious ploys of Cugel the Clever or his perpetual misfortune. Then there is Rhialto the Marvelous.

Rhialto's story ruined Dying Earth for me.

Now for something a little less dramatic, Rhialto the Marvellous did away with the very thing that made Dying Earth so appealing.  Its very namesake, the pervasive tone of it's inhabitants moods and actions.  The feeling that at any time the sun may go out, stirring an abject fatalism in the waning earth's inhabitants.  This message is conveyed quite beautifully, by observation of the principal characters and exposition by men of ancient knowledge.[1-2]

"...these people of waning Earth, feverishly merry, for infinite night was close at hand, when the red sun should finally flicker and go black."  [1] 

Wednesday, February 1, 2012


I didn't care for the blogger template I patched together when I first started blogging.  So I've decided I'm going to try some blogger themes.  I like the one up right now, although it may be a bit wispy for my tastes.  I guess I'll see by the end of the week whether I can tolerate it or not.

If you have any comments or suggestions on the theme and whether or not it makes your eyes bleed please weigh in.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Thief Skills

At the tail end of my last posted I remembered that even though I use d6 for everything I'm still using d100 for Thieve's in particular.  That got me thinking, if I'm going to be using d100 anyways why not make Thief skills a little more fun and a little less rigid.

I've already talked about swapping out classic Thief skills for ones that would more suit your concept.  That's all fine an dandy but what I'm referring to is letting player's parcel out their percentile points at character creation and at level up.  If you're familiar with Fallout in either it's original isometric or more mordern 3d incarnation you may have an idea of what I'm getting at.

First let's take a look at the standard D&D thief after the break.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

3d6 D&D

A while back I decided to try using d6 for everything in classic D&D.  I already used abstract damage (everything was a d6 although I gave twohanders 2d6) and I used d6 for hit points as well, with Fighters, like the ye olde Ranger, getting 2d6 Hit dice.

Now I have heard people mention using 3d6 in place of d20 in the past and I was eager to try it.  I've had many a game night mellow out very quickly because one player could not roll greater than 10 on a d20.  If you're familiar with the math behind the latest two incarnations of D&D, less than 10 is usually a death sentence unless you've walked into the realm of absurd min-maxing synergistic munchkinism.  Well, perhaps that's a bit extreme but it's something I wanted to avoid.  Which is why I was drawn to 3d6 with it's wonderful, truly wonderful bell curve.

I've been using 3d6 for quite some time in my Labyrinth Lord game and I have had zero complaints.  The only time it would come into conflict would be at low levels, where an 18 saving throw is likened unto instant death, to counter that I allowed certain Stat mods to be added to certain saving throws (Dex vs Breath Weapon, Con vs Save or die, and Wisdom already applied to Spells) and fortunately since I had a Dwarf and Treasure Hunter their saves were a bit beefier.  I imagine this would be a problem at much higher levels as well when a Fighter's saving throws are in the realm of 4-6.  This won't be a problem for me in particular since in my games there is a soft-cap at level 10.

I like it enough that I've been testing out using 3d6 in the game system I'm working.  Things have been going well so far but in our most recent playtest I've come to the conclusion that I will need to get rid of ability modifiers.  I've managed to solve most of the problems that would occur in doing so but that's time better spent in a later post.

I should note that I still use d100 for Thief skills.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Who needs excess bookeeping when you have players?

While I was running a game last night I had an interesting idea pop up, but first a little background.  I've spoken about Wounds before.  I've always liked the idea of having a specific pool that directly represents taking a serious injury.  I enjoy death spirals in certain games but not in D&D, so I adapted Wounds from the old StarWars RCR d20.  Wounds are a measure of how much lethal punishment you can take before dying.
I talked about problems with it in the past but I've managed to solve most of them (I should really do a follow-up post), and I use them in my current Labyrinth Lord game.

Here's how it works in my current game.  In addition to Hit Points all characters have a maximum number of wounds they can receive equal to their Constitution score plus their Level.  So at first level, and the way I do stat generation, any given character has 7 -19 Wounds at first level.  I stumbled upon a very elegant critical system during the course of gameplay so any given critical hit can do at best 1-6 Wounds.  I also have a simple bleed-out system where if you take a Wound from a slashing or piercing weapon you begin taking 1 Wound each round.  This brings me to a novel idea.

  • Since Wounds are a clear representation of how badly someone has been hurt there is no point in hiding that from the players.
  • When you have lots of different creatures in a fight it be a bit of a hassle ticking off 1 Wound each round.
  • Why not have the player that wounded the target in charge of the ticking time bomb.  
    • They will be more invested in their opponent, creating a fight to the death scenario
    • At any given time they have a good idea of how close to death their opponent is and how close they are to finishing the fight
    • Putting players in charge of this will prime them to be DM's should they ever give the try
  • If you get the player's to do the work for you you can sustain your lazy DM lifestyle.
With that in mind I'm going to give this a try in the next session.  I'll keep you appraised of how well it works out.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Rewarding Roleplaying

My players have never been big on roleplaying and that's fine.  But I think there is a bare minimum required to separate the game from "Kill monsters, Get money."  That's a bit of an inflammatory statement, there's nothing wrong with kicking down doors, killing orcs and taking their pies.  For me it's one of the most fun parts of the game.  However, the game is more than that, and aside from 1, maybe 2 players most of them don't try to branch out past that giving a chilling effect towards newer players.  That's beginning to change and I'm very happy as a DM to design something more than an exciting combat.

Here's what I've been doing.  In this particular campaign I had each player play through an opening vignette that established their motivations and the reasons for how they ended up in Hommlet.  This was the first session for the player's present.  During these vignettes I took notes on the players actions and the mindset behind them.  I wrote down different character traits and jotted down a quick bit of reference for what it was referring to.  At the end of the session I had them write down these character traits and explained to them that these were based on how their character acted and were useful in developing a personality.

(I should clarify, about half my players have never developed a character personality separate from their own, I'm lucky that they even choose a name sometimes hah!)

I let them know that when they continued to exemplify these traits during play they would be rewarded with experience for each major occurrence.  Furthermore that they could earn new traits through roleplaying.  This creates a positive feedback loop, that by playing to a character personality that their actions created they would be rewarded with experience.  The more they do it the more experience they earn.  Since then, my one player who frequently falls into the trap of chaotic=sociopathic, has been my best roleplayer.  He pays close attention to his actions and does his best to make sure his actions coincide with his earlier displayed traits and has earned a few more as well.  As an example he recently added 'benevolent' to his traits as he took it upon himself to become foodclaus after being rewarded with a surplus of crop rather than traditional coin.

Here are a few traits (after the break) and the situation where they displayed them:

Monday, January 9, 2012

Class Kitting on the Fly Test Run

Last time I talked about drafting up AD&D-esque class kits on the fly to personalize your player's character.  Here is what my players came up with.  These kits are applied to the the revised three base classes I talked about here.

After the break I'll detail the kits used for Treasure Hunter, Berserker, and Double Agent.