... now with 35% more arrogance!

Friday, December 14, 2018

Last-Minute Spell Components

Jason Vey blogged about material components for spells, which got me thinking about some things. Previously, I’ve talked about ingredients for spell scroll ink and vague ideas about allowing material components to alter spells on the fly, but never really delved further into the topic. But for the unrelated leech and apothecary class, I talked about a simple ingredients system: leeches and apothecaries spend coin on generic ingredients when stocking up for an adventure, recording just the value in coins on the character sheet, and deduct random amounts from that as they use up their supplies.

This could be adapted to a simple material spell components system:
Higher-level spells require material components to cast. Basic spell components don’t cost much and can be scrounged up instead of purchased, if the magician is short on cash. However they are acquired, the player writes down the total value spent (can be as low as 1 coin) as well as where the components are stored and any precautions taken. 
When casting a spell of level 2 or higher, roll 1d6 per spell level. Every 1 rolled deducts 1 from the value of the spell components carried. When the components run out, the magician can only cast 1st level spells until more components are acquired.
But wait! We can get even more interesting results with some ideas from the random keys technique!
Magicians can buy specialty arcane components, where available. Each specialty component has one or more keywords for the type of spell it affects: “fire components” for spells like Fireball, for example. Record the keyword(s) and value. 
A spellcaster can announce they are using special components. The player rolls 1d6 per keyword that matches the spell’s effect. Deduct the total from the value of the spellcaster’s supplies. If the spellcaster has enough ingredients and any of the d6s rolled are 5+, the spellcaster does not forget the spell, but retains it to cast again later.
Perhaps even more can be done with this approach. I may return to this topic later.


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Thursday, December 13, 2018

Revised Last-Minute Keys and Locks

My random keys post from the other day has keys break off in locks when snake eyes (double 1s) are rolled when testing the key in the lock. This means that a key that doesn’t match at all (iron key in brass lock) has no chance of fitting and no chance of breaking.

For other keys, the chance of breaking goes up as the chance of fitting goes up.

# matches key fits key breaks
1 33.33 % 0.00 %
2 55.56 % 2.78 %
3 70.37 % 7.41 %
4 80.25 % 13.19 %

This is because I usually prefer increased risk being paired with increased chance of success. But if I wanted it to be more simulationist, making keys less likely to break if they match more precisely, there’s another way to do it:
When attempting to use a key to unlock a lock, roll 1d6 for every keyword on the lock that does not have a match. Example: the red crystal key used to unlock the blue crystal door has one mismatch, so roll 1d6. If there are no matching keywords at all, roll a minimum of 2d6. Roll 1d6 if the key matches perfectly. 
If all of the dice results are 5+, or all 6s if the key has no matching keywords, the key fits the lock and opens it. Otherwise, it doesn’t. If the key doesn’t fit and snake eyes (double 1s) are rolled, the key breaks in the lock.
This means that a key that matches precisely has no chance of jamming the lock. but the maximum chance of being the correct key is 33%, with the chance going down the less precise the match. Not sure I want the chance to be that low, but I’m considering it. It could be helpful for some of the other ways I’d like to use this mechanic.

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Monday, December 10, 2018

Last-Minute Keys and Locks

Ages ago, I took a Zak S. idea about random keys and adapted it into my own random keys. I think I did a couple rewrites of that, but also adapted to things like random cures for diseases. But I would like to revisit that at some point, and have come up with a simpler system.
Every key (literal or metaphoric) has one or more keywords describing it: brass key, iron dragon key, crystal goblin key. Doors, chests, and other locked items also have key words. 
When attempting to use a key to unlock a lock, roll 1d6 for every keyword that matches. Example: the red crystal key used to unlock the blue crystal door only has one matching keyword, “crystal”, so roll 1d6. 
If any of the dice results is 5+, the key fits the lock and opens it. Otherwise, it doesn’t. If the key doesn’t fit and snake eyes (double 1s) are rolled, the key breaks in the lock. 
Tougher doors, particularly those on lower dungeon levels, have more than one lock and thus need more than one key.

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Sunday, December 9, 2018

Our BLANK Neighbors: Update

Thanks all for the suggestions on titles for Our BLANK Neighbors. I also had another conversation about it on Discord and then took the best ideas of both to come up with something I think works: Our Unearthly Benefactors.

I liked Lance Duncan's suggestion of "Unearthly" because of its shortness, its link to "Undying" (in the undead supplement,) and its descriptive value for the otherworldly aspect of the godlings. Discord, in contrast, went with the euphemisms typically used for the fae and suggested things like "Our Good Neighbors" or "Our Generous Neighbors".

Thinking along those lines, I first went with "Benevolent Neighbors", to add a hint of arrogance to the description. But then I thought, "Maybe I'm being hampered by sticking with 'Neighbors' when I could merge the two ideas."

Bonus feature: there are currently no Google hits for the phrase "Our Unearthly Benefactors". I always check for originality when coming up with titles, and I like my chances here.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Old and Lethal

I’ve briefly ranted about the supposed lethality of old school RPGs before:

I think people make way too big a deal about character death in old school games. I’ve only had one TPK in almost 40 years, and I haven’t had that many individual character deaths. It’s not really that old school RPGs are deadly. It’s just that old school RPGs usually don’t protect characters from death. Characters are just as fragile as monsters, and hit points are typically low to begin with.

That certainly covers the mechanical aspects of lethality, but there’s another side: the perception of what you are doing when you are roleplaying.

Almost all modern RPGs describe what you do as “pretending to be heroes from your favorite movies and novels.” Genre stories give script immunity to main characters, at least until the end of the story. And in Hollywood movies, main characters don’t even die at the end. They want feel-good endings and death is a downer. This is so common these days that when something breaks that expectation even a little (Game of Thrones,) people think of it as super dark and lethal.

So new school traditional RPGs use mechanical means to reduce the chances of characters dying, and indie RPGs (story games) explicitly switch the focus of the rules from character and action emulation to story emulation. Players are given tools to prevent their character’s death until they feel it’s dramatically relevant.

Old school RPGs, I would argue, don’t emulate heroes in movies and novels, even though they are inspired by them. In those games, you are basically pretending to be yourself, but in a fantasy world. Yes, you may have options to make your character stronger or smarter than you are in real life, or give your character fantastic powers, but things that would be crazy in real-life, like rushing headlong into a group of enemies and fighting against 5 to 1 odds, are crazy in the fantasy world, too.

Death is a failure condition. If a player didn’t want their character to die, their death means that either the player or the GM made a mistake.

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Friday, December 7, 2018

Our BLANK Neighbors

One thing on the priority to-do list is is to make a booklet/PDF like Our Infernal Neighbors and Our Undying Neighbors, but for godlings. “Godling” is my name for magical beings that grant wishes. Djinn and Efreet are thus godlings, as are Jotuns (magical frost giants,) Fae, and a few other beings. Godlings are naturally astral and live inside large, solid geographical features, where they use Hallucinatory Terrain to create fantastic otherworlds sustained by their communal belief.

One thing I haven’t decided on, though, is what to call that book. I’d like to keep the title similar to the other two in the series. I’m thinking Our Otherworldly Neighbors, but I’m not sure. Is it a good enough hint as to what the book contains?

Another option would be Our Wishful Neighbors, which perhaps is closer to the topic, but not clear enough on what the book’s really about, other than “something to do with wishes”. Is that enough? Is it better?

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Dice-Neutral, Less Clutter

Man, I’m doing a lot of posts on basically just one table.
Thought of another change to the dice-neutral combat table and its two-column variant. The problem with the previous two-column version is that I want the process to involve only moving up/down (or left/right) and counting, no math, because focusing on math = focusing on system over the game world.

So this is not the final table, but gives some indication of what the final table would look like:

Combat Level Armor
Normal Man None Lite Med Hvy Very
Hero Lite Med Hvy Very
Champion Med Hvy Very
Lord Heavy Very
Grand Champ Very

As before, you look up the attacker’s combat level first. Then, move across to the actual armor type, keeping in the same row. Finally, move up that column to the Normal Man row, if not in that row already. The attack is equivalent to one by a normal man vs. that adjusted armor class.

Because of certain limitations to HTML tables, at least when using Markdown, this table is not as fancy or comprehensive as what the final table would be. I’d design the final table in LaTeX or Inkscape. The header row would span the 2nd column to the final column and would provide more information. The “Normal Man” row would act like a second header row. And I’d probably add headless columns between the first and second column for attacks that are better than the base attack (10+ on 1d20.)

There might be a simple subtable like this:

Dice Mechanic Roll High Roll Low
1d6 roll high 3 or more up to 4
2d6 roll high 6 or more up to 8
1d20 roll high 10 or more up to 11

… But another option would be subrows below the Normal Man row, with targets for multiple dice types. I can’t say I like the way that would look (too cluttered and confusing,) but it does eliminate using a second table and avoids any modifiers.

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Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Combat Table in Two Columns

I really wanted the dice-neutral combat table in the previous post to be even simpler, just two columns. Because, you see, shifting right one column is equivalent to shifting up one row. It seems like a waste to have so many columns. But I couldn’t quite get a format that was easy to read and use that way. What I was thinking was something more like this:

Combat Level Treats This Armor As If No Armor
Normal Man No Armor
Hero Light Armor (Leather)
Champion Medium Armor (Chain/Metal)
Lord Heavy Armor (Plate)
Grand Champion Very Heavy Armor

The way you’d use this would be to look up the attacker’s combat level first, then move across to the armor column, then move up or down to the actual armor type, counting the number of rows shifted up or down. That’s the modifier to the base target number. Again, the base number and modifier size depends on the dice rolled:

Dice Mechanic Target # Modifier per Shift Up/Down
1d6 roll high 3 or more +/- 1 point
2d6 roll high 6 or more +/- 1 point
1d20 roll high 10+ +/- 2 points

For roll under, the target numbers are different and modifiers need to be added to the target number rather than the roll:

Dice Mechanic Target # Modifier per Shift Up/Down
1d6 roll low up to 4 +/- 1 point to target
2d6 roll low up to 8 +/- 1 point to target
1d20 roll low up to 11 +/- 2 points to target

Does this seem less confusing, or more confusing? Can it be fixed just with better wording, or is it not worth it?
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Saturday, December 1, 2018

Dice-Neutral Combat Table

I’ve tinkered with simplifying the combat tables as much as possible. Here’s something I’ve considered before: a dice-neutral table.

Defense Normal Hero Champion
No Armor N N+ N++
Light L N N+
Medium M L N
Heavy H M L
V Heavy V H M

Rather than carry on the debate about descending vs. ascending AC, this table focuses on armor descriptions. Similarly, rather than using numeric levels, it uses level titles. You only need to know two numbers to use this table: the value of N (target number to hit No Armor) and the shift modifier appropriate for the dice used. Shifting down a row applies a penalty. Shifting up a row adds a bonus. The same applies to shifting left or right one column.

The letters in the body of the table are abbreviations for the armor types in the leftmost column: a Hero attacking a Medium armor opponent has the same chance of hitting as a normal man attacking a Light armor opponent.

For standard 1d20 OD&D combat, N is 10+. The penalty or bonus for one row or column shift is +/-2 points.

For 1d6 roll high combat, N is 3+. The shift modifier is +/-1 point. This can be used for a crude mass combat system, for example.

For 2d6 roll high, N is 6+, with a shift modifier of +/-1 point.

The main armor types are Light (Leather or Padded armor, or other “soft” armors,) Medium (Chain and other metal/“hard” armors,) and Heavy (Plate and better quality “hard” armors.) Very Heavy is an extra category, useful for higher-tech plate armors, for example. It’s also useful for aimed blows at small targets (stabbing someone in the eye.) Most other aimed blows are treated as an attack against Medium armor, unless the target is wearing a better armor type.

I’m considering adding one other column, for Untrained. This would mainly be for attacks with improvised or out-of-class weapons, or when the attacker is crippled or otherwise seriously penalized.

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