Monday, October 19, 2020

Building a machine from unused parts

was reading something about the "forgotten rules of rpgs today", the ones that are usually handwaved or something. It listed three: item weight, crafting rules and XP. I'm not going to tell if this is true or not, but it made me wonder "could a ruleset be made using ONLY those, as the mechanical parts?

Here is an attempt for the skeleton. There is no setting or context, only rules; but maybe the latter might suggest the former.

You can carry (4+level) weight, or +2 weight and be encumbered; with items having set weights in a list. Characters fill one weight slot from their inventory when they suffer a wound. Leveling makes your character either stronger (and thus being able to carry and withstand more) or experienced with packing stuff so they are easier to transport. For now it remains abstract.

Armor (if exists) has no weight and absorbs 1 - 3 wounds (greater armors encumber you)

Certain actions cannot be taken while encumbered, as climbing a rope. Certain monsters are fast enough to catch you encumbered, but not when you're not. 

Certain items can be crafted from mixing 2-3 other items during downtime (as always, the full list of items and permutations is the heavy part of the game, but yeah it can be done). Certain mixtures are trickier than others and might require a roll with a probability fixed on the formula (X in 6 is sufficient). Mixtures can also have level requirements as part of their recipe.

You also have a chance to get mixtures "done" during an adventure, by rolling 1/2 your level on a d6. If you achieve it, it represents that your character had the intuition to prepare the item during the last downtime (so, every level represents your character getting more and more wise and foreseer)

Your party gets 1 XP whenever you recover 1 treasure, but you can only split it between party members if you have enough XP for everyone to receive equal share. (If you have 5 XP in the pool, and you're three party members, during downtime you can give 1 XP to every member and leave 2 XP in the pool)

level 1: 0 XP - level 2: 1 XP- level 3: 2 XP - level 4: 4 XP - level 5: 8 XP, etc

Combat having no rules at all means that fights have predetermined outcomes: they are either automatically won if the players fight (though it might have unwanted effects, like atracting more enemies, etc) or automatically lost if engaged, unless certain items are used (like flaming oil vs a troll, silver vs a vampire or using a smoke bomb for the party to flee). Now I think about it, it sort of feels like a LucasArts graphic adventure resolution: find the right combination and maybe it works; but with added level advancement. 

Even as I feel that this could work (It even makes the game diceless if we push it) I also think that it requires much work from the GM to decide ad-hoc (or for me, the author to decide preventivelly) if a single item is either worthless in a determined situation or, for the contrary, if its as powerful to obliterate the encounter. In the end, it can be interesting if you have a "dungeon" in which you can control many of the possibilities the players might try (like, for example, in a LucasArts game), but harder to implement in a larger environment with lots of different types of encounters and items.

So there is another approach, starting from the simplest combat system I could devise: When two people get into a fight, they both roll 1d6 and the highest roller deals 1 wound to the opponent. Based on that, there are some sub-rules:

- Certain items can deal more damage, add a bonus to the roll or bypass combat entirelly. That's the only way to get some kind of combat bonuses, and that's what they're for; all the focus on inventory has to pay somehow.

- Certain items can be used when there is a tie: they can from offset the tie, to win the combat straight (like, maybe, a tie in combat can represent the perfect moment to show a mirror to the medusa)

- Certain monsters can also have abilities that trigger on a tie. Unless the ability says so, the if the PC has a relevant item, the item's ability is the one that triggers instead.

- Even if there are many monsters, they count as one. Monsters only roll once per turn, but get a bonus on their roll (+0 to +5) depending on their strenght, size or numbers. This also influences the wounds that the enemy can take. Certain monsters deal more than one wound.

- If many PCs confront the same enemy, only one of their rolls is taken into account, they choose which one (the highest one normally, or maybe a roll that ties to use an effect). When a monster deals damage, the party can divide it amongst them as they decide. A character that is downed is still alive, but must be tended to walk by their partners, and counts as 3 weight.

What kind of setting and adventures does this inspire? no attributes, no classes, no characters being stronger than others... Sort of a situation where all the PCs are mostly equal in capacities but with a crafting ("skill"?). If I think of items as magical compounds, I picture the titular Alchemists of this blog name. If I think of items as common items, I can see it being a game of gang kids getting in any kind of trouble armed with whatever they find available. Treasure can be anything that is relevant to the genre: from different pieces of Jewelry to the control of a neighbourhood block. And you, when you read them, what kind of game did you see in this rules? 

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Dagger (a review)

I like to skim through obscure manuals a lot, and I though on making some reviews in order to remember what I like of each thing, and because it might help this people to visibilize their work. This is a review for Dagger, allegedly an OSR game for kids, and I was curious on how it was adapted from common retroclones. And I found a game with the nice simplicity I love in gaming rulesets (Curiously, I feel that kids are conversely capable of learning any kind of complex rules when they want to, if its by their own initiative. It is us, grown ups, who love simple things because we lack the patience and the sense of endless time we had as kids, but what the hell, this is not an entry for deep thoughts!) 

The game is free at drivethru, and the link gives you the revised and the original version. 

The game has no attributes, but uses just classes. Fighters get 2 attacks: that's their combat advantage (all characters start with the 15 hp, which seems like A LOT even for a kid-aimed game. I would stick to class based hp myself) and it makes them get double advantage for +1 swords (which add to damage instead of to hit)

All rolls are done with 2d6, magic and combat, and something I love is that all spells are resumed into four: 
Blast (choose the way it deals damage), 
Heal (all forms of healing, curses, etc) 
Protection (armor, but probably could work to protect against evil, etc) 
and Charm (charm, sleep and somehow manages to include Web).

I find very curious that 1 of the 6 pages is dedicated to combat fumbles, magic fumbles and fumbles in general (It tells a lot about the author's objective with the game XD) 

The most stealable thing I found was the nice way it handles monster Treasure Type: d6+monster HD VS this table:

1-3 no treasure
4-5 coin purse
6-7 sack of treasure
8-9 treasure chest
10+ treasure horde

With each treasure having a specific GP, Gems, Magic Items, etc. honestly I find this system much more attractive at first sight than the classic B/X one.

The monster list is very concise (one line description) and one thing that is inspiring is that surprise is never rolled: it happens if the GM sees it fit. And by this rules, bugbears ALWAYS surprise unless you do something about it.

Advancement increases HP only, all the rest happens diegetically (through items found, etc)

Saving Throws are fixed at 8 but dwarves, elves, etc have bonuses for certain situations. Interestingly enough every monster has their own saving throw rate listed, not based on anything. It is very simple but I like its adjusted with love by the author, not just calculated by their HD size.

This is all about the revised version, but, as the download also gives you the original version, I also read it, and found something cool too: the spell list.

The book states that it is a sample list and that you can use the TSR original, but I like to imagine that this was the "official, complete list" (which ties nicely into the game being that the top level is five). Four spells for level, and having Charm and Hold Monster and no Charm of Hold Person, which means that you have to be really high level to use that game-breaking charm spell. I would try to tie protection from evil into Cure Light Wounds and bless into an optional variation for Light.

This early game version uses d20, evolutionary Saving Throws and Monster to hit matrixes (which I think that were wisely removed in the final cut)

Finally, as a catch all, attempting uncovered risky situations as sneaking, jumping, etc is covered by 1d6 vs a TN fixed in the moment (hell yeah!) fast and fair, and very appropiate seeing that there are no attributes to use for that. That puts the weight on using inventory or alternate approaches to avoid doing that risky roll, or to increase the chances somehow.

It is a little odd, but what I find most lacking in this game is a reaction table (which is trivial to add, anyways), and double being a game for kids wich would benefit a lot in my opinion from monsters being talkative or neutral.

Monday, October 5, 2020

average damage comparison, on the way to single roll combat

 I leave this here for me to consult thereafter

They are tables that compare the average damage of a strike VS ascending ACs, assuming d6 damage, d6+1 or d8 damage and d6+2 or d10 damage. 

Below is the same table if we assume a 2d6 to hit roll, with the roll excess over AC being the damage done. This rends that the most accurate ACs to convert would be base 5 to plate 8; or using instead 2 types of armor (light and heavy) and make it base 6, light armor 7, heavy armor 8. Shields would either be straight up better than in d20 or can be used as "shields shall be splintered" only (though I really dislike that approach)

Same table, but using ACs from 0 to 6, with attack rolls being made with d6, d8, d10 and d4. Again, excess over AC is the damage dealt. 

I'm uncertain on this one. The most obvious port would be to use d6 as common weapon damage, then 1 as base ac, light armor as 2 and heavy as 3, with 4 being the additional shield. Then using increments in damage die size as the equivalent of character bonuses-to-hit on level ups. According to this sophisticated charts, just using a d8 would increment as much average damage as a +6 to hit in d20 (which is a level 10 fighter in S&W). D10 and d12 would be reserved for monsters.

There is also option 2, to use d8 as the common martial weapon damage, and then make it so Base AC is 2, +1 leather. +2 plate, +1 shield. 

This method, however, only deals with averages, but the theory says that this will make combats have less "miss" results, but hits will normally deal less damage than with separate rolls for hit and damage (even if in the end the monster takes the same amount of turns to drop).