... now with 35% more arrogance!

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Last-Minute GM: Random Entertainers and Performers

The local market, whether it’s weekly or daily, will have more than just goods for sale. There’s also entertainment! Traveling performers come to markets to scrape up a few coins from the locals and can be a lead-in to other events: rumors, thievery, false accusations of thievery, or other drama.

You’ll need two kind of dice, d10 and d8, to use the following table. Roll one of each for a village, two for a small town, three for a larger town, and four of each for a city. Really large cities will probably have more than one market area, so you would roll again each time a new market is visited.

d10 Act Type d8 Modifier
1 acrobat 1 aerial
2 actor 2 balance
3 beast 3 aquatic
4 dancer 4 escape
5 freak 5 fire
6 jester 6 blade
7 juggler 7 strong
8 mime 8 trick
9 musician
10 other

There are a couple ways to handle this roll:
  • The Straight Roll: Just roll one d10 and one d8 at a time, one to four times, and read the results. For this method, it might be better to use a d12 instead of a d8 and treat results of 9+ as “no modifier”.
  • All in a Line: Roll all the dice at once and read across, left to right. Apply the modifier roll to any act that follows it. Any d10 that does not follow a d8 is an unmodified basic performer.
  • Drop Dice: Roll all the dice on a sheet of paper somehow divided into four quarters. Each quarter represents one possible entertainer. If a quarter doesn’t have a d10 in it, there’s one fewer entertainer at the market this time. If two d10s land in the same quarter, it’s a hybrid act: the singing acrobat, the woman who dances on beasts, and so on. If there’s no d8 in a quarter, it’s a standard version of the act, otherwise all modifiers apply to that act.
For the All in a Line and Drop Dice methods, if two d8s both apply to the same act and you roll doubles (dice values match,) the act is a magic version of that modifier. If you roll triples for the same act, it’s an extreme magic version.

Most of the act types should be self-explanatory, but “Beast” refers to any animal act. “Freak” refers to any human or humanoid exhibited for the way they look or behave, including geek and blockhead acts, and “Other” refers to any display of skill that doesn’t fit one of the other types, such as a sharpshooter. The modifiers are also pretty easy to figure out, but here are some notes:
  • Aerial involves swinging, jumping, or diving from high places. The magic version is actual flight.
  • Balance is a performance on a tightrope or unstable object like a unicycle or rolling barrel. The magic version is balancing on something impossible, like the point of a random sword or the top of a rope that rises in the air by itself.
  • Aquatic is a performance while swimming in or submerged under water. Magic versions involve obvious water-breathing, although not necessarily via a spell (an aquatic freak would be a fishman, for example.)
  • Escape is for escape artists, of course, although if the act type is not “Other”, the artist does something else before or after or perhaps even while escaping.
  • Fire means performing while on fire, or with flaming objects.
  • Blade involves swords or knives. “Blade” + “Other” could be a knife thrower or a sword swallower. “Blade” + “Freak” is someone who cuts or stabs themselves for the amusement of the audience.
  • Strong means the performer is strong. “Strong” + “Other” is your basic circus strongman, bending and lifting things. Combine “Strong” with other acts to get some very unusual acts, like someone lifting three other people on their shoulders and then dancing.
  • Trick is magic tricks, pretending to make things vanish and appear, and so on. The magic version is… well, actual magic or illusion.
Edit to Add: Obviously, there's no longer a way to delay publication if you post to Blogger using StackEdit. Guess I have to start manually copying and pasting if I want to do that again...

Creative Commons license
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons
Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0

(CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) license.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Temporary Place Names

Alex Schroeder has a quick blog post about place names and how to handle them, and has this to say:

If the village is run by a guy called Marcel, should it be Marcelsby, Marcelden, or perhaps based on the forest or river name? [ … ] Perhaps simply waiting for the players to name things works just as well.

That’s an approach I hadn’t even considered, even though I’m always going on about letting the world be created during play. Not everything can be left for players to name, though. Kingdoms, major cities, and large regions should get names. Basically, anything NPCs are going to use to give directions or mention in rumors.

One solution to the naming problem: temporary pseudonames. Take two or three features of a place, compress each down to a single word, and add the generic type (village, forest, river, etc.) This becomes a prompt to help describe a place: “paranoid mining village” means the mines and mining paraphenalia will get mentioned a lot, and NPCs will be secretive and hostile to outsiders.

This doesn’t mean that any of the features of the pseudoname will definitely be part of the actual name, especially if players are doing the naming. They might latch onto other features, perhaps those you don’t consider important.

Creative Commons license

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons
Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0

(CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) license.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Mineshaft Geomorphs: MINE-6 and 7

For this week’s Map Monday… Another two geomorphs in the mineshaft geomorph series. As before, I’m playing around with mine rails in my geomorph concepts.

I’ve got some plans for what I’d like to do with this geomorph series, but it may be a while before I reach the end. Especially since I have two other dungeon maps I’d like to do this month… they just aren’t ready for this week’s Map Monday.

Edit to Add: Well, obviously, either Blogger or StackEdit has changed the way they work together and the post came out early instead of being scheduled for Monday. Maybe I'll whip up some more geomorphs for "official" Map Monday.

Creative Commons license
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons
Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0

(CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) license.

Map Mondays Bonus Geomorph: Mine-8

As promised, here's an extra geomorph in the Mineshaft series to officially mark Map Mondays.

Creative Commons license
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons
Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0

(CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) license.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Paces and Squares

I've long wanted a way to describe distances on dungeon maps that is not tied to a standard measurement system.

This may sound crazy, but think about it: the overwhelming majority of dungeon modules use feet as a standard measurement, because D&D was made in the US and the US uses the Imperial or Customary system of measurement. You can't just switch to the metric system, because:

  • Everyone else is using a different system and it makes your product non-standard,
  • Game systems refer to the Imperial system units, not metric,
  • Metric just doesn't feel right in the context of a pseudomedieval setting, although it works great for sci-fi.
But on the other hand, the system we use makes no sense to those who aren't used to it. It's not relatable to their experience.

One solution is to use yards and meters interchangeably. You wouldn't want to do that in the real world, of course, but for a game, they are close enough that it's perfectly fine for people to pick the most comfortable and just use that.

That works for heights, but not so well for either long distances (travel) or short distances (dungeon maps.) For the former, I've already switched to giving distances in leagues, which are not exact, but translate into one hour of travel, so it's relatable. For the latter, though, typical dungeon maps use 10-foot squares (or 5-foot squares, for new school people.) That doesn't translate well into either yards or meters.

What I'm thinking of doing is using paces as my unit of dungeon distance. Like leagues, paces are not exact, but are based on human scale measurements: the length of one step. The "standard" pace is 2.5 feet, which makes the traditional old school dungeon square 4 paces.

It makes sense, because anyone doing mapping in a dark dungeon is going to be pacing out the distances, anyways, rather than using rulers or surveying equipment.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Last-Minute GM: List Picks II

On the random list picks post, ruprecht asked:
For a list of 40 items wouldn’t it be easier to roll 1d4 and 1d10 and derive the line from two?
However, the larger the count, the greater the chance you will loose count, especially when you are counting a large group of small-size items. I was also concerned about items far down the list somehow not getting selected as often because of hidden dice bias. So, I split the count by starting from both ends of the list instead of just from the top.

However, there’s a non-dice-based method that people have used in non-RPG contexts: closing your eyes and pointing with your finger. I felt that raw method had the potential for bias as well, but there’s a way to combine dice rolls and random pointing to lessen the chance of bias: blindly pick a line at random, then roll a d4 + d10 (or another die) to determine direction to count and amount to count:

1-2: count up from that point
3-4: count down from that point

This process allows you to use any list, without knowing the exact number of items on the list or finding the right die to use. It’s perhaps a little better, though, if you still allow counting from the top or bottom of the list:
  1. count down from top
  2. count up from random point
  3. count down from random point
  4. count up from bottom
We can call this the “roll and point” method.

Creative Commons license
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons
Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0

(CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) license.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Sad News

I don't keep up to date on much that happens in the OSR community, but I have just heard that James Smith of the Dreams of Mythic Fantasy blog has passed away. There's a post from his son on the blog. My condolences to his family and friends.

People in the community probably know him better for publishing The OSR News feature regularly on his blog. He performed an important service for the community, calling attention to products and blog posts from all around the OSR. He will be missed.

Last-Minute GM: Random List Picks

I’ve been messing around for some time trying to come up with a good basic procedure for picking something at random from an arbitrary unordered list. Prepared tables with numbers indicating dice results are easy, but it would be nice to be able to grab just about any list and pick something randomly. But I hadn’t found a method that was satisfying until now.

You need two dice, usually a d4 and a d10 numbered 0 to 9. The d10 is how many lines to skip, while the d4 tells you where to start and what to do with the d10.
  1. Start at top of list and skip down 0 to 9 lines.
  2. Start at the top and skip down 10 to 19 lines (d10 + 10.)
  3. Start at the bottom and skip up 10 to 19 lines (d10 + 10.)
  4. Start at the bottom and skip up 0 to 9 lines.
This lets you pick from a list of 40 items. If you only have 20 items, don’t add 10 to the d10 for results 2 and 3. Some other dice can be used instead of the d10, if you have a different number of items:
  • d4 + d6 (reading 6 as zero): 24 items
  • d4 + d8 (reading 8 as zero): 32 items
  • d4 + d12 (reading 12 as zero): 48 items
  • d4 + d20 (reading 20 as zero): 80 items
Always read the highest number on the second die as a zero, so that one of the results will be “use first/last item on list”. For the middle results of the d4 (2 and 3,) add the number of sides the die has to the result.

You can also use a d6 instead of a d4, with this chart:
  1. Start at top of list and skip down 0 to 9 lines.
  2. Start at the top and skip down 10 to 19 lines (d10 + 10.)
  3. Start at the top and skip down 20 to 29 lines (d10 + 20.)
  4. Start at the bottom and skip up 20 to 29 lines (d10 + 20.)
  5. Start at the bottom and skip up 10 to 19 lines (d10 + 10.)
  6. Start at the bottom and skip up 0 to 9 lines.
This gives you a range of 1 to 60 items.

There are other tricks you could do for two-column lists.

Creative Commons license
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons
Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0

(CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) license.

Monday, April 8, 2019

9 and 30 Kingdoms Campaign: Player Handout

You may remember the world-building handouts posts (Part I, Part II, Part III) that I did a while back to illustrate some things I was saying about keeping campaign background information to a minimum, so that players don't have to memorize massive amounts of information just to play. I promised to do a sample handout showing which bits of world-building background would be available to players.

It's done, and you can down load it here: 9and30handout1.pdf.

It's two pages, but only one page is written information. The first page is a local map, just a quick reference for what is nearby and the names of a select few distant places. There's actually another tiny map showing the entire Great Fettered Sea on the actual handout page. It took a little bit of time to do the main map, but not as long as I was expecting. The hard part, really, was including it in the PDF with the proper resolution and placement.

For reference, here is a phone pic of the original map I used about ... five years ago, I think? It's pretty crude and beat up. And really, that was the only handout I used at the time. I did give a quick run-down at the time of a couple bits of information that are in the new handout, but I really didn't take that long to explain the setting. It's a pretty simple setting.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Excerpt: General RPG Usability Notes

Just a quick check... this is an excerpt from the introduction to a book I'm working on:


It's a summary of terms and conventions I will be using that, with any luck, will be broadly applicable to many old school RPGs, with only minor tweaking needed for any particular system. I'm aiming to be clear and concise, but: Is this clear enough? Is it concise enough, or too concise? Can people actually use it to adapt OD&D-compatible game material to games on the outer fringes of the OSR?

Edit to Add: I'm trying out condensed versions of some paragraphs, including the description of the basic stats, which now read like this:

Dice -- How hard a monster is to kill, and how dangerous it is in combat, written as dice + points, for example 1 + 1. 
Armor -- Protection against damage, labelled as Light Armor (equivalent to leather or padding,) Medium Armor, Heavy Armor, and No Armor
Move -- How far a monster can travel on its turn and how fast it is in combat. Ordinary humans have Move 12 normally, Move 6 when loaded, and Move 3 when overloaded. 
Damage -- How deadly each attack is. Like Dice, this is written as dice+points, for example 1 + 1, possibly with a type, such as “fire” or “ice”.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Improved Hunting and Foraging

I noticed a couple hits on a couple old blog posts about hunting and foraging. Since I’ve been thinking about the Last-Minute Wilderness as one of the four projects to work on this spring, I thought: “Oh, yeah, I could include an update to those rules in LMW.”

They’d need a rewrite, of course. They wouldn’t be “Simple Hunting and Foraging” anymore, although they’d still be simple enough. I’m thinking of tying it to the Territory Table, which you may remember looks sort of like this:

d10 Scale Climate Elevation Biome
7-9 Arctic Treeline V. Arid
6 Subarctic 5k feet Arid
5 Cool 2.5k ft Scrub
4 Temperate 1.2k ft Prairie
3 Warm 600 feet Lt. Woods
2 Subtropic Low Forest
0-1 Tropic Sealevel Jungle

The important columns for hunting and foraging for food are Elevation and Biome. Each locale is going to have a 0-9 rating in each. Higher ratings are bad for finding food, lower ratings are better. Use one of the two scores to determine the base time needed to find food or game.

Score Time Period
0 1 Turn
1-2 1 Hour
3-4 4 Hours
5-6 1 Day
7+ 1 Week

An experienced hunter with knowledge of the area, or a barbarian, druid, or ranger, shifts the time up one row. So does searching for small game, or having an Int or Wis score of 16+. Searching for large game, not having a minimum score of 6+ in either Int or Wis, or being cursed all shift the time down one row. This indicates the minimum time needed to find food or game.

The modified procedure is to roll 1d6 once, secretly. On a 5+, the PCs find food or game. Otherwise, the roll indicates how many extra time periods it will take to find food or game. The GM asks the players how long they want to keep hunting or foraging, and if they continue long enough, they succeed.

So, someone searching for food in the jungle will find it in 1 to 5 turns, while someone searching for food in the subarctic will take 1 to 5 days. Having someone with the right training in your party, or changing tactics, may help a lot.

Creative Commons license
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons
Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0

(CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) license.