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.