Saturday, November 12, 2011

My City: A D&D thought experiment

I just sent the following in an email to my players, in preparation for whatever I will be running as a game in the new year. Once I have gotten the results and melded them into a city design, I will post it for you and for them.

I want you to think of a city - from the perspective of a D&D character. This doesn't necessarily have to be a character you end up playing, but this should be thought of in a worm's eye perspective, rather than that of a designer.

You may be from the city, you may have traveled here from a long way away, you may be just passing through. Make decisions about these things as you answer them. There is no minimum or maximum to the detail you provide, but remember that I am not asking you to create an entire city, just a city as your character sees it. Don't worry about the overall world setting, it can be anything you imagine as a fantasy world. You are not responsible for designing the entire world, just answer the questions as they are asked.

I will be using your responses to craft the city and world. With five of you providing possibly contradictory responses, please understand that not everything will be used in the full context you provide.

1) If you traveled to the city, how did you get here - what means of transportation? If you were born in the city, how do you get around?

2) What is your favorite part of the city? What is your connection to this place?

3) What is the most dangerous part of the city? Have you ever been there?

4) If you got into trouble in the city, who would you ask for help?

5) If you could remove one group of people or things from the city, it would be the...

Have you done anything similar for your game? Are there any other questions you think I should have asked?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Steal this Trap: The Flusher

I created this trap as a way to make a dungeon more variable- if the players were able to avoid it, their trip to the final boss would be somewhat less dangerous, or dangerous in different ways. It also represented the villain's first line of defense against intruders.

The flusher depends on three Decanters of Endless Water, and a large hinged trapdoor. On arrival at the dungeon's front door, the party was presented with a combination lock - tap the colored circles in the right order and the door opens. Fail to do so in three tries, and three Decanters set into the floor begin to inundate the room.

With successful swim checks, a hero might be able to get out, however the trap door will come into effect in another three rounds.

Assuming the players fail to guess the combination, the water fills the room and once a certain weight threshold is reached, the trap door opens downward, discharging the heroes (and a lot of water) into a water filled pit on the edge of a swampy dungeon level.

In my case I placed a large carnivorous plant to waiting to grab anyone flushed in, and a young adult black dragon which was brought here and left as a guardian by the villain. These challenges can be adjusted based on the party level, and the initial "flushing" effect need not be lethal as the pit could be changed to a flat dungeon floor, replacing the risk of drowning with a small amount of falling/crushing damage.

During my session the party managed to sidestep the trap once(one player used insane Batlogic to correctly guess the combination) but there is no reason this trap could not be re-used if it fails to be triggered.

So please, steal my trap for your home game, and let me know how it works for you.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Failed Experiment

As I am preparing to run a new D&D game soon, I thought it would be good to stretch the old design muscles a bit. Maybe get some feedback that doesn't involve players whining as their character is slowly digested. You know, like they do...

This adventure, titled Failed Experiment (not to be confused with expirement, which is failed spelling), is an adventure which touches on multiple arcs of my Doorways campaign, and as such I can't give a lot of details on the backstory. Descriptions will be based on what the players encountered.

If this adventure is used outside of the context of Doorways, one clue needs to be provided to the players ahead of time, or the encounter in 3 should become something less dangerous. During the orientation, the new explorers are told of a password "fealty" which was found to control the clay golems that were guarding the Doorways when they were discovered. Since that time the password has been changed to keep them under administrator control, but if a clay golem is encountered while exploring, that password should be tried.

1 The entryway - this room is tiled with five foot stone slabs (conveniently enough for mapmaking) with various geometric shapes. The slabs marked with a spiral symbol may be safely stepped upon. Magically levitating or flying over an unsafe square will still trigger a trap effect. Non-magical flight will not trigger a trap, or any weight under 30 lbs.

Description "This room, roughly 40' by 85' in size, is illuminated brightly by glowing patterns on the five-foot square slabs which make up the floor. The ceiling is 10' tall and dotted with neatly spaced circular holes, so that 2-3 holes are above every square. Similar holes are present on the walls all around this room, and each slab (except the first one immediately in front of the door, which is unmarked) has a circular hole in the center. A llitter of bones and fragments of grey-black eggshell is scattered about the floor in this room."

Any time a weight of 30' or more is set upon a square (or something of that mass is levitated over one) roll a d10 and consult this chart – if they step on a safe square, roll anyways and ignore the result. All traps are spell-based, assume a caster level of 8, and a relevant attribute of 18.

1 nothing happens

2 burning hands is cast from the floor – 5d4 damage to anyone in the triggering square, and to anything flying or levitating in an adjacent square. Reflex dc 15/half

3. Magic missile is cast from the west wall targeting the first person or object to trigger this square. 4d4+4 from the four magic missiles.

4 nothing happens

5 stinking cloud is emitted from the floor. Effects as per 20’ radius, fortitude dc 17 negates, 8 round duration

6 web spell is cast from the ceiling above the triggered plate, 20’ radius, reflex dc 16

7 darkness is cast from the east wall, caster level 8, targeted on the triggered plate -

8 nothing happens

9 flaming sphere is cast from the west wall, every round for its 8 round duration it will simply bounce in this square. – 2d6 damage per round for anyone in that square, reflex 16 negates.

10 lightning bolt is cast from the east wall, targeting in a straight horizontal line through the triggering square. The west wall absorbs the bolt rather than reflecting it. 8d6 electricity damage, reflex dc 17

The secret door on the west wall will not cast any trap spells, so ignore any results indicating a trap coming from that section of wall. It appears the same as the rest of the wall otherwise.(search dc 18)

2. Hallway

Description 'This hallway is neatly carved and smooth, apparently cut from the native stone and seamless. There is no dust, and the stone appears polished. Immediately beyond the door are two statues set into the left and right wall, each in the form of a grinning gargoyle, holding a stone shield and club, apparently carved from the same stone. The gargoyle on the left bears the spiral symbol on its shield, and the one on the right has a simple skull etched into the shield. '

The spiral and skull represent a warning, as between this point and the laboratory(5), any right turn leads to traps and other dangers.

The large X-in-rectangle represents a 30’ pit trap hidden by a hinged trapdoor(spot dc 23, search dc 18) which will drop with as little as 40 lbs of weight - the walls are as smooth as the rest of the dungeon, and are difficult to climb (climb dc 19) – in the bottom the adventurers will find a metal belt buckle, several dozen rivets from a suit of studded leather armor, and a +1 short sword of spell-storing (contains web, cl 10) – none of these show any sign of corrosion.

The stick figure icon in the top-right corner of the map is a clay golem – if not pacified with the command word “fealty” it will attempt to grapple a party member and take them for holding in room 3. If it suffers 25% of its hit points in damage, it will begin fighting more violently. Remember that while in the 5’ passageways it will take penalties to movement and combat for being squeezed,_Position,_and_Distance#Squeezing

2a The false door

Description 'As the hallway turns it becomes a more stately 10' corridor, with a double-door at the end, cunningly crafted from the same native stone.'

Starting at the door and for 15 feet, the corridor has an acid pit concealed by a trap door which opens downward. The weight of one medium creature (and his gear) will not trigger the trap, but two or more party members on the trap door will cause it to open, letting them fall in.

The trap may be escaped with a dc 18 reflex save for those on the north and south edge (moving to safety or clinging to the false door), and a dc 22 reflex save for anyone caught in the middle. A swim check (dc 15) is necessary to move in the acidic slime, and climbing out at the north edge is a climb difficulty of 15. Climbing up in the middle or door side is a dc of 19, with another climb check dc 15 required to slide along the wall to safety in the next round.

Anyone immersed in the acid will suffer 2d6 damage per round, and those who have been immersed will suffer an additional d6 damage for 3 rounds thereafter as the acid neutralize it. Attempting to wash the slime off with water or otherwise neutralizing it will reduce the damage by 3 points and the duration by 1 round.

The double-door at the end of the hall is a cunningly crafted fake, (search dc 23 will reveal the trickery - the dwarven ability to detect stonework will also work). On any lesser search result, the door appears to be unlocked, but stuck shut.

3 The guard room

This room is bare and empty except for four clay golems – they are under orders to hold any intruders (they will attack if they suffer 25% or more of their hitpoints in damage) – They may be commanded with the same word “fealty”

Needless to say, the golems don’t have any way to meet the needs of a prisoner for food and water, so time will be limited if the party plans to return to rescue them.

4 The quarters

This room is bare but shows signs that there was once habitation here. Depressions are in set in the floor where the feet of two beds would have been, and several iron nails are scattered in the room, along with several gold teeth and a silver dagger. 43 gold and 25 silver coins are scattered about the floor, and the broken remains of a water basin. An everflowing flask of water is sitting in the corner, deactivated.

5 The pit

This rounded chamber, and the narrow passageways leading to it, are used the black puddings that inhabit this dungeon – the passages are appropriately sized for a small-sized or smaller creature, but the puddings can pass through slowly. While the puddings are drawn for reasons unknown to the laboratory in 6, they use the steep downward shaft leading down from this chamber when driven to feed – where it leads the team was not able to learn, but it is at least 50’ straight down.

6 The laboratory

This room, once used for research, has three entrances, two concealed entrances on the east wall (search dc 18) , and one of the pudding-tunnels behind a workbench.

There are three stone workbenches in this room, covered with the remains of broken beakers and glass tubing. If handled delicately, 3d4x10 gp worth of alchemical equipment can be recovered, and the optics for three pairs of goggles of minute seeing. A silver dagger has fallen behind one of the workbenches.

In any of the areas aside from 1, there is a 10% chance of encountering a black pudding – no more than 2 will be encountered in total unless the party spends 10 hours or more in this dungeon(a third will return from the depths). The clay golems will ignore the puddings and vice-versa, unless they are keeping a prisoner in which case they will defend him or her.

And that is the adventure – it has a bit of a killer DM feel to it, and I don’t intend to run it for my current party (especially after posting it here), without doing some fine-tuning.

If you’re asking “where is the treasure?” then you have not been paying attention – the clay golems are worth 40,000 gold each, if controlled – it is probably far more wealth than this dungeon should have generated for them. This is more of an exercise, stretching my design muscles. I will say that I don’t feel any of the challenges are unfair for a 3rd-7th level party – a black pudding is tough to beat, but can’t keep up with the party and can be dealt with at range. The golems can be used, if controlled, to defeat them as well.

If the party turns off their brains and play this like Diablo, things will go very badly. I think this represents the design philosophy I am planning on – fair but very tough.

Am I hitting that mark?

No meaningful post today

I have something cooking which should be ready tomorrow.

For now, have you been watching Dragon Age: Redemption?

Seriously, go watch that. Caveat, it is not family-friendly.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Applying the List Method

So in my earlier post on design, I mentioned how I would give a list of possible adventures with limited data on which to decide what to do next.

What about in town? When staying at a motel or hotel, in almost any town or city, a list is provided:


The Owlbear's Nest - Come sit by our hearth and listen to the finest in local bards, and choose from our unmatched selection of dwarven ales.

Beholder's Eye - Our master chef will levitate your meal directly to your plate, a dining experience you will never forget.

The Extended Rest Inn and Tavern - Proudly re-opened after extensive re-modeling. Please leave your pet dragons at home.

Little capsule descriptions of local businesses written to attract customers. This list does not have to be complete, but will include most that are on the beaten path.

Unlike the list of doors, these locations will have to be fleshed out a bit more in advance, but won't require the same list of details. Maybe a floor plan, a menu, and a list of four NPCs (shouldn't need combat stats of their own) to provide local flavor.

When the players are traveling to these locations, I don't plan to skip "ok you walk to xyz bar", at least the first time. Mentioning businesses, open and active or closed and boarded up can provide hooks for future adventures, establish these places in everyone's minds.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

My own personal edition wars

In preparing for a new game, I have to decide which system to run. It isn't an easy decision.

Pathfinder? In the next week I am expecting to receive a copy of the Pathfinder starter box, and I plan on picking up the core book if it is not under the tree this year. Am I going to run Pathfinder? Maybe. I have heard good things about it and it seems to address some of my concerns with three dot five.

Four-eee? I recently was confined to a small home in Ballard, given stimulants and piloted a Kenku Rogue for about 21 hours. Our DM, Mr. wh40d6 ran a fine game and I had a good time. I didn't feel as much frustration with the abstractions of fourth edition as I have in the past (I played once for about an hour and became extremely ill, but I can't prove that 4e was to blame).

This system has a lot of safety rails - the dungeon master has guidelines on how much xp an encounter should have, character classes have well-defined roles, players manage resources in the form of power cards which add a great dell of homogeneity to the game. A player only needs to learn one or two mechanics, like marking a foe, to play a new class or role. A wizard has a sharply limited list of combat powers and rituals, which is easier but feels limiting.

There are also some excellent simplifications. A monster has a level, and a set xp value, which makes dungeon stocking and xp allocation much quicker for the DM. Single-hitpoint minions provide a great source of dungeon fodder that is quicker and easier to run. Movement, much as it pains me to admit it, is a lot quicker and easier when you just say that diagonal moves are also 5 feet.

Aggregated skills - "perception" is spot, listen, and search rolled into one. This is great unless one is playing a rogue, as it is wisdom-based. More on this later... "Stealth" is hide and move silently together. "Thievery" covers removing or setting traps, and pickpocketing. Similar reductions are made in social skills as well, I am told.

4e also turns saving throws into resistances, so the attacker rolls against fort rather than the defender making a saving throw. Interesting, but I could take or leave it. It is, I suppose, more consistent.

In short, many little changes that make the game easier (but more limiting) to play, and remove DMing headaches. I can't bring myself to embrace 4e. I will happily play it in the future, but just not ready to call it my game. Maybe I'll like what Monte is Cook-ing better.

Retro-gaming/OSR I should have a card printed up saying "I believe that newer does not necessarily mean better, and embrace the themes of classical gaming." just so i can claim to be a card-carrying grognard.

That being said, I don't like old-school saving throws and descending Armor Class. They are more work than they are worth to keep track of. I do like simple character sheets and large, forbidding dungeons.

The "old school" scene is alive and kicking, but my players just aren't excited about it. Sites like jrients, bxblackrazor and grognardia are good jumping off points if you are curious.

Three-dot-five Third edition, so they told us, was the most researched and playtested system ever. Until they came out with 3.5 to fix all the broken stuff.

I like 3.5, I really do. I have run or played more of this edition than any other version of D&D. It is a comfortable, well-worn suit, but it also has some annoying holes that I keep meaning to patch.

I. Lots of source material, which different abilities and options for players who want to really give the DM a headache. Even the official material is pretty questionable at times. However plugging this hole is tough. Despite the headaches of the material that is unbalanced, there are plenty of fun, well-balanced classes, feats, and spells.

II. Complicated experience. In order to figure out how much a combat is worth to the party, one must take the number of enemies defeated, and their CRs, and consult a table in the DMG, to determine what the overall CR of the encounter was. If two monsters are in a fight and they have different CRs, the rules are a little murky, but it is touched upon. Then, after finding the CR of the encounter, the DM must find the CR on a table (cross-referenced by party average level) and divide the experience points by number of players. I got pretty fast with this, but it really makes the static XP in Pathfinder/4e look appealing.

I had actually made this part tougher on myself by figuring experience separately for each character based on their level (the theory being a 2nd level character would learn more from an encounter than a 5th level one). This is probably a bit wrong-headed as the points needed to level up grow at each level, and I never had player characters more than a level different from one another. It suited my desires for granularity and fairness.

III. Movement - In 3.5, most characters move 30' per round, which is 6 squares. Feels limiting, but it works pretty well. But what about diagonal movement? Let's see.. 5^2 +5^2 is.. 50, and the square root of 50 is 7.0710678118655 or so.. Yeah lets go with 7.5, which means every other square moved diagonally is 15, which doesn't leave you with a decimal after moving 28.28 feet.

This approach appeals to my math geekery, but even a simple count-off like 7.5, 15, 22.5, 30 will trip me up in the heat of battle. 4e makes it 5 foot movement, which is more than a little broken (whee, by moving this way I can move fifty feet per round!) but it really makes things go quicker. For the sake of an easier quicker resolution of movement I sacrifice logic and physics, and after running a long 3.5 campaign .. 30, uhh.. 37.5, 45, 50... 2 point 5.... Yeah I think it is a price I can pay.

IV. Boring critical hits.. Well perhaps I won't fix this, but I keep wanting criticals to do more than double damage. Not triple damage, but stuff. Limbs shattered, heads removed, weapons and armor destroyed, the carnage of a fantasy battle.

The problem is that players will inevitably, and rightly feel screwed by this. Player characters are almost always outnumbered by enemies, so the DM has many more chances to roll those devastating criticals. And a player character has to live with the consequences. That owlbear you removed two limbs from probably won't be coming back for revenge, but the DM can just pull two more from the nether for the next battle. Monsters and npcs generally don't survive battles, so never walking again simply doesn't matter.

V. Battle management - Stealing minions from 4e sounds like a good idea, but 3.5 doesn't work the same. There are Area of Effect spells that deal so much damage that even a successful save should kill them. If I use them, I plan on having a "threshold" hp level -do this much damage and the minion simply doesn't get a saving throw. Also I can't easily use minions with "damage sponge" monsters like gargoyles, so I may likely limit their use to battle fodder, orcs who keep the party busy while the bigger bads ready the nukes.

VI. Too many skills – see what I said about 4e above aggregating skills. If I do this I will be strongly tempted to let characters (like rogues) with Trapfinding use intelligence for perception rolls instead of wisdom. It isn’t a huge bonus at higher levels, but it remove the fear of straying from the party that I felt as a 4e rogue.

What will I run? Not sure yet. The nice folks at paizo have released an SRD that allows me to read through most of their rules-set, so I will be spending time poking through that. I plan to go through the various 3.5 sourcebooks and see what, if anything, I feel strongly enough to ban from my game. The “spell compendium”, as it contains a large amount of suspect fan-created material from Dragon magazine, is unlikely to make the cut. I may go into that book in more detail in a future post.

What do you run?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Getting my design on...

It has not been decided what system I will run, who will play, or what the campaign will specifically be, but in the new year, there will be Game.

And I am even planning to run it.

I had been putting serious thought into a campaign based on the consequences of adding guns to d&d. Inspired by images like this:

I saw adventurers cutting a path to adventure with both powder and magic of the black variety. Maybe it would be a sandbox game, maybe it would be a game of intrigue and warfare.

In the wilderness one might encounter groups of elite blue-cloaked riflemen, pursuing the elven rebels of the silver skein, a band fighting for freedom or revenge against the brutal and systematic oppression of their kind. I saw adventurers coming into contact with these factions, taking a side, or trying to broker a peace.

It would be powerful, and dramatic, and grim, and bloody, and.. Started to sound like it wouldn't be any fun. I think the story has potential, but as the backdrop of a campaign had the risk of being a series of downers, including a plan I was working up of having a wilderness community that the players would use as a base of operations, forming bonds with the NPCs, becoming involved in their lives, only to find they had been pointlessly slaughtered by one faction for trading with the other. I just didn't want to run it. Maybe in the future I might use it as source material, but I just don't want it now.

So instead I am thinking of something like Stargate meets D&D, but with the players as prospectors rather than soldiers (so more like Fred Pohl's Gateway novels). A hallway of many doors, leading to many adventures. If a player is missing one week then he doesn't step through the door. It could work.

The heart of how I will run this (if I don't decide to do something else) will be similar to Westmarches. The players will have a list of doors, and the initial scouting mission resuts, and they tell me in advance of the game where they will be exploring. I don't know that this will be a 1-20 campaign, but I can run it for as long as it maintains the fun.

The initial scouting mission is a clay golem carrying a cageful of rats. It is instructed to enter the door, stand still and observe for five minutes, then return through the door. If attacked, it should return immediately. Adventurers wishing to explore these various doors are given the information gleaned from this to decide on which doors to try, and prepare as much as possible. The adventurers are considered expendable, no rescue attempt is sent if they do not return.

B@ R@ Golem returned unharmed, saw worked-stone underground passageway - the rats were all asphyxiated. The scouting mission that followed did not return (they carried a bottle of air)

G@ R@ Apparently dwarven construction, golem returned without incident. No exploration yet.

B@ R@ Golem did not return, one enormous mutated rat came back through door an hour later. No exploration yet

B@ R@ Golem saw nothing (apparently magical darkness) rats returned drained of life by negative energy. No exploration yet.

[blogger is stripping the colors out that I am setting. G next to the @ is green, R is red, B is black]

The first @ indicates the result of the golem's exploration, the second @ any human exploration.

When nothing returns, the door is coded double-black and exploration is forbidden.

Not all the doors will be considered level-appropriate for the players - no idea yet how they will react to this concept.

I may post a sample-dungeon based on one of my hooks, to show how it relates to the exploration mission. Things should be hard, but not unfair.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

How about another stab at mobile blogging?

Posting on blogspot on my phone seems to work, if I use the right browser, and for a few hundred words. After that the scripting on the page uses up too much memory and my phone closes the browser to resolve the issue, taking my work with it.

So now I am writing this out using Word Mobile, in the hopes that it won't cause me to lose a large draft along with 1d6 san. I can hope, right?

There has not been another Fishy the Ranger session since my last post on the subject. After losing all his money and equipment, another assault on the Caves of Chaos would be suicidal, so I have another plan for the next session. We'll see how it turns out.

My friend and 21-hour dm mr was kind enough to loan me his copy of the D&D boardgame Castle Ravenloft, and I have played a couple games of this with my son - on the second mission we re-picked characters and powers. He went with the Dragonborn fighter (from the Ashardalon game) and I went with the Eladrin wuss, I mean wizard.

It turns out that his plan of taking a character with the highest available AC and HP was sound, I barely got through the final fight alive, and he was ready to bash several more monsters if they had shown up.

I won't try to give a review of these boardgames, firstly because there are a glut of such reviews already online, and secondly because I haven't played very much yet. I will say that I like it, and the 4e system of power cards works well in the context of a boardgame. The suggested age for the game is 12+, but there is nothing excessively graphic or scary in the descriptions, and the complication of the rules means that someone should be old enough to grok the rules, but not everyone has to.

Not sure what the word-count is now, but I am going to wrap this up here. If I can tap out a post or two while I'm on the bus, it becomes far more likely that there will actually be new posts in this space.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Vacation: The RPG

Awhile ago, there was a challenge for a "one-page RPG" leveled, with the assumption being about 1000 words or less. I went over the limit and had intended to go back and trim some, as well as write an adventure for this system. I plan on doing the latter, but I really think this needs more detail, not less, and I don't want to get rid of the flavor text. What do you think?

[edit: By removing formatting and putting the weapon and skill lists in one paragraph, I was able to fit this in one page in word. Also the page count is 1,042, so I wasn't that far off the mark.]

Introduction: You live in the distant future, blissfully freed from the constraints of hunger, want, employment, and education. You do not know cold, or fear. There is a certain degree of boredom. Dinosaur polo came and went, no-one is interested in five-dimensional racquetball anymore, and hyperchess takes too long to play. Clearly the answer to this is a vacation. You really need a vacation.

With the help of a Tour Guide (TG) you will inhabit a puppet, a biomechanical body which can travel into the distant past for the purposes of entertainment. The Tour Guide will choose a time and place that will be fun, exciting, and lethal. Nobody wants to end a vacation without dying.

Character creation:

Skills: As a citizen of the future, you naturally do not possess any skills. Therefore your puppet can be programmed with a selection of skills, including but not limited to
  • Ranged weapon
  • Melee weapon
  • Unarmed
  • Vehicle operation
  • Crafting
  • Healing magic (ask your Tour Guide if he is allowing magic)
  • Force manipulation magic (levitate, fly, throw things with your mind)
  • Energy projection magic
Consult your Tour Guide before taking a different skill, it may be included in one listed above

Your puppet can be loaded with twelve skill points, to a maximum of four in any given skill.

Equipment: Your puppet can be equipped with items, which will be made of the same biomechanical substance as the puppet. The exact form of these items will be determined by the venue your Tour Guide selects - a laser rifle would be inappropriate in ancient Chicago during the Capone age, and post-apocalyptic, Xag'hos-mutant infested Montana would be an odd place to carry a stone ax. Here are a few examples:
  • Ranged weapon, slow (combat bonus is points spent + 4, Initiative 4)
  • Ranged weapon, fast (combat bonus is points spent, Initiative 2)
  • Melee weapon, slow (combat bonus is points spent +2, initiative 3)
  • Melee weapon, fast(combat bonus is points spent -1, Initiative 1)
  • Combat armor (armor rating = points spent * 4. Initiative penalty of points spent /2, round down. This is in addition to the native armor rating of 4 for a puppet.
  • Hand-held explosive charge (combat bonus of points spent +4, initiative 2)
  • Security bypass devices
  • Climbing gear
  • Implement of healing (points spent *2 in charges, magical or ultra-tech)
You may select up to 10 points of equipment, with a maximum of 4 for each.

As a vacationer, you should be aware of your native talents, such as they are. Here are some possibilities:
  • Quick-witted (-1 to initiative)
  • Cheater (bring additional 3 points of equipment, may boost equipment to max of 6)
  • Skillful (select additional 4 points of skills, may boost skills to a max of 6)
  • Dumb luck (may retry any roll where failure would result in failure or death)
Please choose only one.

Basic mechanic: Vacationers will only need two six-sided dice, which they will roll concurrently and add together. To this number will be added relevant skill and equipment bonuses. The result of the roll is a simple pass-fail - if you rolled above the difficulty level of a task, you will succeed. If you do not, you will fail.

Vacationers can always try anything, but if they do not have a relevant skill, they will take a -2 penalty to the roll.

Example difficulties:
  • 6 Trivial (why are you rolling?) - hit a large target ten feet away
  • 10 Routine - hit the inner ring of a target fifteen feet away
  • 16 Challenging - hit the bullseye at at 30 feet
  • 20 Improbable - put a bullet through a metal ring to hit a target behind it at fourty feet
The Tour Guide should always ask how a vacationer is approaching a challenge. If they are attempting to leap over a small divide, and they are simply doing a standing jump, it will be higher difficulty than taking a running start and using a pole to vault the distance.

Combat: Vacationers will sometimes have to fight things, whether it is taking on a Sherman tank with a machete or firing a rocket launcher at a small dinosaur.

Combat is divided into rounds. In a given round, vacationers will determine their initiative by what weapon (if any) they are using. Unarmed puppets have an initiative of 1. In each initiative stage, characters move in order of lowest to highest, from 0 to 5. If a vacationer is tied with the Tour Guide, the Tour Guide goes first. If a vacationer is tied with a local, the local goes after.

During their turn, a vacationer may take two actions, which may include movement, attacking, or using an item. A slow melee or ranged weapon takes one action to move, but may only be used once per every two actions taken. A fast weapon may be used for every action, if desired.

The tour guide can choose to handle combat with miniatures (prefer 25mm scale), and if so should assume that five feet of movement is roughly one inch, whether horizontally or diagonally. A vacationer can move thirty feet during one action.

When a vacationer, Tour Guide, or local attacks, they roll the standard two six-sided dice, and add their weapon's combat bonus. If this meets or exceeds the armor rating of their target, they deal one wound. If this exceeds the total by four or more, an additional wound is dealt, and another wound if it is exceeded by 8.

If a vacationer's puppet suffers a total of five unhealed wounds, the puppet "dies", forcing the vacationer to return to his own time, his vacation is over. Other characters may have a higher or lower wound capacity.

Puppets are not subject to poisoning, bleeding to death, disease, or radiation. They are only wounded by physical trauma.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Dungeons & Allies (Fishy the Ranger, Session 3)

Been a bit of a lazy sunday. Got up early with the baby but aside from time with her I didn't really do a lot of home-making today.

In the early afternoon my wife and daughter took a nap, leaving my son and I free to do some gaming.

First we tried out Axis and Allies Miniatures, which I picked up cheap in the "pick our bones clean" sale at Borders. Pretty fun, a bit of complication in learning the combat and movement rules. Beat my son with a point-inferior army (two units of which were pretty useless against his tanks) of a machine-gunner, a mauser, and a panzerfaust, and a panzer 3 (a 13 point tank, undergunned against his russian t34 and his sherman tank, 28 and 24 points)

So with such a deficient force how did I win? Cover and line-of-sight. Made a lot of "cover" rolls to avoid damage, and the panzerfaust's mysteriously unending supply of rockets won the day.

After a couple games, he asked whether Fishy could win versus a panzerfaust. I offered to make the german soldier as a D&D character and equip him out of the modern book, but he preferred to look at the meager attack numbers from A&A, pointing out that the panzerfaust could not hope to defeat his armor class with attack rolls that didn't go above four or five most times, especially as much as the d6s seemed to be hating my attack rolls in the last game. I mean really, if you throw ten six-siders, should not more than two of them give a result of more than three??

We only ran about an hour of D&D after this. Fishy effected an escape which is amazing, in that I am amazed I didn't have to fudge any rolls for him to escape with skin intact.

Fishy awoke on top of a table in the "banquet hall" (room 9 in your classic KoTB if you're curious and have that available) bound hand and feet, with two lazy guards in the room.

The winning strategy for escaping orcs, if you are curious, goes something like this.

1) Address the orcish guards in a random language, such as draconic or halfling.
2) Receive several beatings as you repeat step one, until you are reduced to a fraction of your original hitpoints.
3) Note that the guard, while he was smashing your face in with the non-business end of his sword, has accidentally dropped a small knife on the table next to you.
4) Having freed yourself, address the orc again, requesting he return your equipment. Fortunately the second guard has left temporarily to relieve himself (Legitimately he waited and watched for a moment after cutting his bonds with the knife)
5) Dispatch the orc with the knife, charge into an adjacent room carrying his sword.
6) After a couple rounds of combat with some orcish tribesmen and the other guard, flee through the banquet hall to exit B.

After it became clear the orcish guards were not going to go looking for them in the daylight, Fishy made his way back to the Keep, and tried to hire a patrol he encountered using the money that he didn't have.

Fortunately, his companion Jerin had been released after the first encounter, on his word he would return with ransom money for Fishy. Even more fortunately, Fishy did not go with his original plan after escaping of marching into the orcish cave with his two remaining HP and a small knife, demanding they return his equipment.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

How Players View ....

Just a couple meme images I made.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

This isn't minecraft.. (Fishy the Ranger, sessions 1 and 2)

Never you mind how the game design project is going. It is my pipe-dream and I will neglect it if I want to..

My sevenling has had a long-standing desire to play D&D, which I finally gave into last month, helping him create a 3.5 ranger(Fishy) and attempting to run the original Keep on the Borderlands. For reasons of (I believe) wanting to encounter some sort of giant sea creature, he insisted on arriving by boat, accompanied by Horsey(a horse).

Knowing that a good DM should always try to accomodate the wants and desires of a player, I had a pair of immature wyverns attack the boat, scaled down to about three hit dice each. One was downed and the other driven off, and Fishy bravely leapt into the sea to rescue a man from drowning (he actually had skill points in swim).

Fishy traveled with the wagon carrying supplies from the small dock to the Keep, at least for a little while before riding off, spoiling a kobold encounter I had planned. He later caught up with the same kobolds and dispatched them, finding a scarf one of the wagoneers had been wearing in the loot.

"He must have been one of the kobolds! Oh wait.. they probably just took it from him."

I am not proud of how I reacted to what happened next. My little seven year-old son started wanting to chop down trees and find metal to bring a forge. I talked him out of it, a little frustrated. "This isn't minecraft, it is D&D. You are supposed to be adventuring, not building..."

Again, it was not a proud moment, and I regretted it very much after the session was over, and planned to find ways to let him do what he wanted to do.. I would give him opportunities to hire craftsmen if he wanted to build a house or a little fort. He had money enough after buying starting equipment to hire some npcs for a few weeks. 50 gold goes a surprising distance in hireling.

The first session ended with him wandering the wilderness with a mercenary named Jerrin.

So we played again yesterday, and I was expecting more desire to dig in, punch trees, build things. I wanted to give him all the agency he wanted.

And apparently what the boy wanted was a fight.

"I move two spaces north to see if I get a fight."

This didn't prompt much but bemusement from his hireling, nor when he started literally beating the bushes for monsters.

He did end up wandering through the large "spider encounter, and failing a fortitude save vs what the module simply called poison. He was excited as this let him use his ranger bonus vs. vermin. He picked vermin as favored enemy. I love that boy sometimes.

Ah, poison. In the version this module was written for, that means "instantly fatal if you fail a save." I guess as I was running three-dot-five, I could have pulled out the monster manual, looked up the entry for Monstrous Spider, Large, and used whatever that was, but the lazy solution was to have it render him unconscious. He got one standard action, and used it trying to change weapons..

I could have left it fatal, and I don't like fudging dice rolls, but I don't want to have to staple this to his character sheet -

Don't know what he thought I meant by "you have only one action, use it well", but I firmly believe that second-guessing everything he does will not help him learn. I really don't like people telling me what to do in a game, and I don't want to do this to my son. Yes, I'm aware that I admitted to doing just that earlier in this post. Like I said, not a proud moment.

This encounter didn't end the session.. A fight with three orcs and a human mercenary did. I will talk about that when I write up the next adventure, whenever that happens.

Friday, May 6, 2011

another month of limited progress

I should really look into.. something.. dunno. make myself post more often.

The game design project rolls on, in my head if nowhere else. I think it's going to stall completely if I don't do some playtesting soon.

The last couple weeks have seen my busrides consumed by Game of Thrones. Don't want to do a review or spoiler. It is good, consider reading it. It is a hard world. At times it is painful to read about. It does not stop being fascinating for a second.

Anyhoo.. finished it last night, and this morning started thinking about the game project. Not going to really take anything from the book, or don't intend to. I do think I'll stick to the standard tolkien fantasy troperriffic races for now. Of course my elves are different. So are my goblins. Was giving them some thought this morning. Nothing on paper, but some definite thoughts going on.

Friday, April 8, 2011

design questions can be challenging

So my lack of activity on this here webzone should not be taken to mean I haven't worked on my game design project. Not working particularly hard on it, but I have been working. I can't prioritize it above family or my job, but I can (reluctantly) give it time in preference to playing other games. And I should if I really want to complete it. I have been noodling over some questions. I made some early arbitrary decisions "I would rather throw a handful of d6s than use d% or something else" and "Levels should be determined by total number of skill points, and be used for hitpoints and untrained skills", but other decisions have not been easy. What should be the basic scale for skills? what is weak, and what is strong? How many skills should there be? should attack/defense be separated, or one aggregate skill with conditional modifiers? I know to "keep it simple, stupid" but the simulationist in me wants granularity.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

when all you have is a nail..

everything looks like a hammer.

Seriously the last time I posted was october 25th?

Wow.. I thought to post today (I always think of posting, but doing so takes a bit more effort it seems) because I'm working on a new project. I decided to create a set of rules and run a play-by-post or play-by-email strategy game.

Without going into details at this point, my rough idea of what I want looks very much like Masters of Orion II, but probably will be more of a fantasy game. Nothing is set in stone.

Yesterday I tapped out a bunch of ideas on the busride home on my phone. Just composed it as an email to myself.

Last night I thought it would be good to organize my thoughts, commit it to a paper medium and use that for my game design document going forward. I knew it would be a growing, living document so I rejected using a tablet, considered using a hardbound notebook, then looked for a three-ring binder. After spending some time doing this, and ripping unrelated pages out of the hardbound notebook, and removing old campaign notes from the binder, I had used much of the time and energy that I could have spent actually working on my project. Also wasted time I could have spent with family.

It was really a big waste, and once I sat down in the living room to start writing it became moot as my son wanted to start writing notes on his idea for the game (and I certainly don't want to discourage him from writing of any kind). So with a nail waiting, I spent far too much time picking out a hammer.

Most of the work I've gotten done hitting it with whatever rock was close to hand. At this point in the project I have lots of ideas and little organization, and I think I should take advantage of this. Spill as many ideas into text as I can, so I'll have them waiting when my ideas are dry and it istimeto organize.

Someone who knows game design better might disagree with me, but I think I'm better off driving that nail however I can for now.