Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Trow Fortress 02: Equipment

 



Following with my rules, covering the subjects in the order that the BX book does. This time its turn for the equipment. I will get deep into encumbrance later, but the short explanation is that 1 point of STR = 1 slot.

Right now, I make players get whatever they want from the equipment list as long as they can carry it. This is because I normally want to skip the "roll for gold, buy equipment" parts, but in the future, I want to do it in a third way: randomize starting gear, as Into The Odd does, so level 1 can be spent searching for the weapon, gear or armor you wish you could get.

WEAPONS:

Club: weight 2, sp 5, critical 2.
Dagger: weight 1, sp 15, critical 2. Can be thrown; +1 attack die when grappling.
Short Sword: weight 2, sp 35, critical 2. Allows specialization.
Long Sword: weight 2, sp 50, critical 3. Allows specialization, and the wielder always wins tied initiative.
Hand Axe: weight 2, sp 35, critical 3. Shield rolls require a 6
Mace: weight 2, sp 40, critical 3. Treats plate mail as if it was leather armor.
Spear: weight 3, sp 15, critical 3. +1 attack die when charging on a horse or when braced against one. When used in both hands, or in a formation, attacks always before the attacker. If you're hit with a shorter weapon, you cannot attack with a spear the next turn.
Greatsword: weight 3, sp 75. Critical 4. Allows specialization.
Polearms: weight 3, sp 65. Critical 4, ignores critical reduction of enemies on horse.

Bow: weight 2, sp 30, critical 3
Crossbow: weight 2, sp 60, critical 4 but takes 1 turn to reload.
Arrows/bolts: weight 1, sp 5, infinite unless something happens.
Sling: weight 1, sp 5, critical 3. Rolls with disadvantage.
Bolas: weight 3. sp 5 (rudimentary) or weight 2, sp 30 (properly done). Critical 2 if used on melee, roll with disadvantage. On a hit, the target is ensnared and must save vs paralyzation to escape. Ignores worn armor.

SPECIALIZATIONS (sort of Weapon Feats) are earned through Dexterity bonuses, for every +1 you can choose one:

Fencing (one handed swords): If you are fighting with a sword but not a shield, you get an extra attack per turn against every enemy attacking you and getting a roll of 1.

Sharpshooter: Choose crossbow or bow. On a hit, your attack deals +d6 damage, which is a lot.

Gaucho: Remove the disadvantage from slings and bolas. This one is odd but I made it ad-hoc for a player.

Greatsword fighter: re-roll an attack once per battle.

ARMOR

Shield: weight 2, 30 sp. Deflects any hit on a d6 roll of 5+
Leather armor: weight 2, sp 50, AC+1
Chain mail: weight 4, sp 100, AC+1, but +2 against slashing attacks
Plate armor: weight 6, sp 300, AC+2, AC+1 against maces (if in doubt, its not a mace)
Full plate: weight 8, sp 600, AC as above but you have +1 in your shield roll (or 1/6 chance if you haven't got a shield). Full plate greatly impairs vision and hearing, and is not advised on adventures, only jousting and mass battles.

EQUIPMENT

Most is as BX, so will only cover specific cases.

Flask of Flaming Oil: weight 1 each three. 10 sp. Ignited monsters roll 1d6 every turn: 6-5: two damage. 4-2: one damage. 1: fire is extinguished. 2d6 take best if the amount of oil is greater; 2d6 take worst if the monster tries to put out  the fire.

Holy Water: weight 1 (three uses). 25 sp or free. If put on arrows or weapons, all undead attacked take one extra damage on a succesful attack. Intelligent undead who touch holy water must check morale or flee for the moment.

Torches: weight 1 each six. 1 sp.

Water pelt: 5sp (I mean the bag, not the water)

Rations: 10 sp, seven days of food.

Room at the inn: 5sp per person, includes meal.

Battle horn: 200 sp (moderately ornate). Makes a distinct, recognizable sound that can be heard in all the hex in ideal circumstances. Something fancy for players to spend money into when they are with the compulsive buying madness.

Horses: Galloping through a road or good terrain will allow you to move 1 extra hex everyday (but will exhaust the horse). For comparative checks, a horse's movement when running is equal to d6+5
Peoples fighting atop of a horse benefit from having all critical damage taken from enemies smaller than a horse in melee reduced by 1. Horses have morale equal to 3d6 take middle result, and it is hinted by its behavior when you are buying it. However, horses do not check morale unless facing dire situations such as charging , finding a snake (snakes are like the nemesis of horses) or a predator ambush.

Normal horse: 200 sp,
Fast horse: 300 sp (a normal horse, but the seller claims is specially fast). Roll movement with advantage.
War horse: 1000 sp, morale 5 or 6 only. War horses can wear armor (500 sp) which provides a situational +1HP to the rider


 

Holy Symbol: Required for the Protection From Evil spell, may force morale checks on vampires or similar.

Ravens (30 sp): will deliver a letter to the rookery of a specific city, normally the one they were bought in. Sold in a small cage, might learn random words.

Falcons (40 sp): Common falcons are used to help in the hunt (+1 advantage die).

Dogs (still working on this one, I want ideally to cover hounds, shepards and wardogs separatelly but I got some crazy ideas im unsure of: basically:making hounds be all blink dogs, war dogs be a breed of half-wargs and shepards having some other boon. I want to integrate the monster manual into the domestication history)

Animals can be trained to learn a specific trick by animal trainers (pcs can become animal trainers through background) spending enough downtime. A trick can be something such as putting a falcon to intercept enemy ravens or teaching a raven a new destination. 



LANGUAGES:

I ignore languages completelly. Everybody either talks the common language, is too monstruous to discuss with, or something in between. As a note, I find very interesting and players are very engaged when they must make up what the monster wants or thinks by studying its non.verbal signs, it's reactions or even its behavior in solitude.


Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Joshua K about bad things

This is an article I liked written by the aforementioned, at his instagram: Immersive Dungeon Delving. I wanted to share it here because I think it has some truths on it. All credit is his, enjoy.



 

What if instead of thinking "why do all these bad things keep happening TO me?," we instead think "These bad things are happening FOR me?" How would that change your life? 

Everybody faces challenges in life but some have a harder path than others. Is that fair? No, but what is hard for some is easy for others. It is relative and depends on your thinking and past experience. For some just driving in a big city is a challenge, for others it is "Tuesday." Some people suffer serious stress when a stranger yells at them, for others fighting two men at the same time is just another day at the Dojo. Maybe we actually need problems to gain perspective? 

Just like a 1st level PC may struggle fighting off a couple of kobolds where as an 8th level PC may just laugh at them. To be honest, we as people NEED problems, because without them we will create them for ourselves. How many times do we see rich people who have everything and every chance but are still unhappy, jaded, and plagued by self created problems? 

In old-school D&D we often see a sandbox type campaign where the adventures are PC driven and things are not always fair. The DM must be objective revealing the world as the PC's engage with it. The adventure "story" develops through PC perception as they create meaning to events and the DM enacts consequences for their actions both good and bad. Without the "problems" of kobolds, dungeons, traps, and dragons, it would be a boring game and no one would raise levels...or have a chance for self development. Kind of like real life where the kobolds are a flat tire and a dragon the tornado. 

Adventures are made of problems laid out FOR the PC's by an objective DM for "fun" to play a game. Just like jumping out of a plane can be either a problem or fun. What if life is full of problems set by an objective universe to help us...well...level up? Such proactive thinking allows a mindset to tackle challenges head on instead of falling into a "victim mentality" where everyone and everything else is to blame for ones problems. The question then becomes what kind of adventurer do you want to be in life and what is stopping you from becoming it?

Art by NerdyFrida 

Friday, May 17, 2024

Trow Fortress 01: Character Creation and Advancement

When you play at my table, you start like this:

1. CHARACTER CREATION

1.1 Attribute Scores

Roll 3d6 in order for Strength, Dexterity, Background, Magic and Alignment. You can swap two of them if you want. Attribute scores will probably raise a little during the game. The bonuses work like this:

18: +3
16 or more: +2
13 or more: +1
9 or more: +0
8 or less: -1

Strength adds (or substracts) one HD for each bonus (which in turn, at certain numbers, modify the attack bonuses. More on this on the COMBAT chapter). It also modifies your "Open stuck doors" roll, which is a catch-all for brute force tasks, by 1 step per bonus.
Strength is very important for non-fighters too, as it is the measure of your charging capacity: you can carry slots equal to this score without being encumbered (MV or Movement 1 instead of 3) and only 3 more objects after that.

Dexterity adds one expertise per bonus. Some are combat related, some are more about agility: The  current list is (bear this lack of context for now):
Fencing: When you are attacked in melee and your opponent rolls a 1, you get an extra attack against him when using a one-handed sword. Doesn't work while using a shield.
Marksmanship: You can spend a turn aiming with a type of ranged weapon. On the next attack, you can either do an extra 1d6 damage if it hits, or raise advantage on an attack that missed (basically adding a d6 or substracting the disadvantage if you had any).
Ninjutsu: You roll an extra d6 for all movement and stealth rolls.
I hope to come up with better names at some point. If your bonus is negative, your movement becomes 2 instead of 3 by default

Background: There is a list of backgrounds but you can make up your own with your GMs approval. This score evolved from the concept of Intelligence, though it specifically represents how well you perform your background skills: Ranger, Alchemist, Thief, Sage, etc. are some examples. You roll die equal to your bonus, and normally a 5 or a 6 are hits depending on the action.
If your bonus is 0, you roll with disadvantage (roll 2d6, keep worst), and if your bonus is -1, you get double disadvantage (3d6 keep worst).
If an action can be attempted by characters without the relevant background, they roll at double disadvantage too.
Your background doesn't have to be chosen at the start, it can be chosen during the game and its probably useful to do so.
Once per character, you can produce an item at any point that is related to your background, no matter the shitty bonus you got on it.

Magic: Each bonus you get here means that you have a new spell slot. This is the only way magic is available to non-wizards. More on this on the upcoming magic chapter.

Charisma: you can have ONE faithful retainer per each bonus, so zero for average people. Retainers can be people and animals at first. They don't have to travel with you, but they might be a king or a princess at a given city: you know they will always vouch for you. Spirits or "Gods" can be befriended this way: some can be summoned if the character has Magic Dice, and some can provide passive benefits. Charisma also affects loyalty

Constitution: We don't have this one. On a natural way, my players have end up calling "constitution" to their HD amount, so I ended up doing the same (I know that HD/HP are not just meat points and represent more things beyond mere sturdiness of body, but I don't want to argue with them)

1.2 CHOOSE CLASS

Once you have your stats rolled, you must choose your class from the only three that are available at the start (I haven't ever needed more yet): Trow Warrior, Wizard and Kobold. (Kobolds are just hobbits by other name, while Trow are basically humans)

 



TROW KNIGHT: Start at 3 HD. Can use all weapons and armor.

Level 01: save dice: 1,  3HD
Level 02: save dice: 1, +1 HD
Level 03: save dice: 1, +1 HD
Level 04: save dice: 2, +1 HD
Level 05: save dice: 2, +1 HD
Level 06: save dice: 2, +1 HD
Level 07: save dice: 3, +1 HD
Level 08: save dice: 3, +1 HD 
Level 09: save dice: 3, +1 HD
Level 10: save dice: 4, +1 HD
Level 11: save dice: 4, +1 HD
Level 12: save dice: 4, +1 HD
Level 13: save dice: 5, +1 HD
Level 14: save dice: 5, +1 HD (maximum natural HD: 16, with probable Str increments)
 
 

WIZARD: The spell system is based on the GLOG, though I had to tone it down its power a bit. I think its partly my fault as my spells tend to be more powerful or versatile. The 5 mana dice that Goblin Punch awards by level 4, I make it into four at level 9! Their maximum number of spells memorized is five (one at start, other at level 12 and three at differing grades of MAGIC score) which I love because it suits the lore of the Dying Earth books, in which the top mages could at most learn five spells at the same time. Wizards really benefit from a good magic score, so consider swapping your best score into it if you want to play one. Crippling any other score in the process is thematically appropiate.

Level 01: save dice: 1,  2HD and one spell slot.
Level 02: save dice: 1, +1 HD
Level 03: save dice: 1, Can wear a staff (+1 Mana die)
Level 04: save dice: 2, +1 HD
Level 05: save dice: 2, +1 HD
Level 06: save dice: 2, (+1 Mana die)
Level 07: save dice: 3, +1 HD
Level 08: save dice: 3, +1 HD 
Level 09: save dice: 3, (+1 Mana die)
Level 10: save dice: 4, +1 HD
Level 11: save dice: 4, +1 HD
Level 12: save dice: 4, (+1 spell slot)
Level 13: save dice: 5, +1 HD
Level 14: save dice: 5, +1 HD (maximum natural hd: 11)

Wizards can prepare 1 spell per slot, but can have as many in their spellbook as their level. Until you have more spellbook than slots, you don't need to worry about even having a spellbook.


KOBOLD: +1 AC versus enemies larger than a Trow, and +1 save die versus breath, spells and traps. Their strength is, however, capped at 12.

Level 01: save dice: 1,  2HD, Stealth (on a 5+, Hide in Shadows or Move silently)
Level 02: save dice: 1, +1 HD
Level 03: save dice: 1, +1 HD +1 Stealth dice,
Level 04: save dice: 2, +1 HD
Level 05: save dice: 2, +1 HD
Level 06: save dice: 2, +1 HD, +1 Stealth dice
Level 07: save dice: 3, +1 Background
Level 08: save dice: 3, +1 HD 
Level 09: save dice: 3, +1 HD, +1 Stealth dice,
Level 10: save dice: 4, +1 Background
Level 11: save dice: 4, +1 HD
Level 12: save dice: 4, +1 HD +1 Stealth dice,
Level 13: save dice: 5, +1 Background
Level 14: save dice: 5, +1 HD (maximum natural hd:12, str increments impossible)

1.3 RANDOM PROGRESSION:

Everybody uses the same progression charts, but advancement is deliberately a bit chaotic so all PCs advance at different times: The requirements are about 1/3 lower than bx fighter, but when you have the required XP, spend that amount (substract it from your sheet) and roll d6: On a 5+ you level up. On a 6 you also raise any attribute by 1.

level 1: 0
level 2: 600
level 3: 1200
level 4: 2500
level 5: 5000
level 6: 10000
level 7: 20000
level 8: 40000
level 9: 80000
level 10: 120000
level 11: 160000
level 12: 200000
level 13: 240000
level 14: 280000

The explanation for this rule is given here.

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Trow Fortress 00: Prelude; or "Why halflings are kobolds?"

This started as a way to remove damage rolls on BX but still having variable damage, using d6 only. Now, two years later, has shaped my current houserules into something I am very confortable running, and I don't plan on going back. At this point, I don't think I can call it "modified BX" anymore, even though I still keep the book by my side on every session; but mainly I take everything from a small, yellow notebook where I keep my notes.

At this point, the notebook is too big (and also written in spanish hahaha) to be transported to an entry in a single sitting, so I made up my mind to start doing it bit by bit; maybe mimicking BX index to follow some order. It may help to have it written someplace in a "clean" form, in case anybody wants to follow the "camino de la verdadera salud" of the all d6. I will shortly proceed to delete some old posts with obsolete versions of this rules, so there are no confusions for readers. Let this be the preparation of -who knows- a future serious publication. At the very least, this is required reading for anyone in order to understand my houserules from now on.

As my equivalent of an introduction, excuse me if I skip the classic "what is an rpg" section, or forfeit explaining dice nomenclature. I'd rather explain two key parts of the setting. And here it goes:


 

WHAT IS A TROW?

Trow are in all practical and biological ways humans by other name. Humans just do not exist in Trow Fortress. You have Trow; and this might seem non-sensical to you but I can only tell you about my setting as I "perceive" it.

Trow are a warrior race. They organize themselves on feudalistic hierarchies where every city is run by a Lord, which may or may not be supedited to a higher ranked one such as a japanese Shogun; or in opposition to it or other Lords. (Following the feudal japan analogy, the existance of some divine emperor/empress is still something I am figuring out)

Aesthetically, they dress and behave like a mix of Joseon dynasty Korea, the mongol steppe nomads and the cuman warriors. Expect lots of hawks, composite bows, scimitars and lance charges. Even secular trow such as sages or stonemasons have probably been warriors once.

On the other hand, and with the proverbial exceptions, trow women become either housewives and/or take non-warrior professions: healers, artists, artisans, animal trainers... It is common for parents to arrange marriages to secure a good future for their daughters (or, sometimes, use them as a currency for some benefit). The opposite distribution is true for trow magic users, if we take into account that temples and shrines are almost always mantained by priestesses, and that their society will inevitably push young males towards the martial branch.

Trow live in the titular fortresses. Every city is walled, preferably in stone; and holds a castle inside. When possible, the cities are built against a mountain, which allows part of the city to be excavated. Though they are not "paladins" of any sort, they do have unwritten codes of chivalry that speak of their honor, honesty, valor and loyalty (mantaining them is up to each one, or to their "alignment", we could say)

In every feudal arrangement, the most numerous group at the bottom of the caste pyramid is the serfs. Trow do not plow the lands. They use Kobolds for that. The symbiotic relationship of Trow and Kobolds, where the first give protection to the second in exchange of tithes is a constant in the world

 

 
artist unknown

WHAT IS A KOBOLD?

Kobolds are your classical hobbit by other name. I started calling them like that at a given point because it seemed appropiate: thats how germanic peoples called the domestic helpers who lived amongst them; those that could perform trickery, but also house labor and many tasks if treated properly. Well, that's a little bit like how the trow see their kobolds.

This little folk are about 3 feet long (91 cm for euro peoples) who do not actually need trow to survive: They are a rough race which has conquered many wildlands, and you will sometimes find kobolds where no trow has dared to go. I picture them a little bit like the settlers who went to conquer the american west with an axe in one hand and a mule on the other. But you will indefectibly find one of their settlements around any Trow Fortress. 

It is not that they are crazy for breaking their backs, but normally they enjoy the working life; and, when they feel they are being justly compensated, they put love into it. Kobolds know how to grow orchards and how to preserve their fruits; how to grow crops, and how to turn them into bread and brewages. They are good at hunting (preferring the bow) and fishing, and love to build small canoes to do so in big rivers and lakes, installing steady campaments along a river course. Others travel great lands practicing transhumance of buffalos and big goats that are normally mounted by their shepherd. 

Their clothes are usually plain and humble, classically wearing combination of cloaks, viking ponchos and chullo hats. They do not build in stone, but on wood. The central point of their cities is often a wind or a watermill instead of a temple, around which they gather for their seasonal celebrations (that are completelly independent of the trow calendar). Normally a kobold family shares an occupation together. And sometimes, kobolds are sought by trow as personal assistants such as valets, porters or squires. When they do adventure alongside a trow, chances are that is his faithful retainer, though it doesn't have to be the case. Sometimes kobolds form adventuring gangs on their own accord, and is not rare that, given their natural skills to hide in shadows and move silently, some of them turn to crime and theft. 

Note he genesis of Trow and Halflings as a team dates back to this 2012 entry on class-as-race, which now is "semi-canon" lol.

ig: varguy


Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Underground Doctors (a monster)

 


"The ones in the left and the right are doctors. They are healing the one in the middle, who was sick and had blood. The doctors have put an eye on the wound and have healed it" said my three year old daughter explaining her work.

I can't help but wonder. How many fights has the doctor on the right been on to be so toppled with eyes? What is the mysterious ball that the left doctor is holding in his/her arms?

MAGENTA SLIMES A.K.A. UNDERGROUND DOCTORS (Slime, Neutral), stats as B/X

Armor class: 9
Hit Dice: 2* (for each 1 rolled when finding HP, the doctor gets an extra HD and an extra eye)
Move: 120' (40')
Attacks: 1 strike, 1d6
No Appearing: 1-6 (2-12). On a group of 6 or more, there will be a leader with 1+d6 eyes.
Save as Fighter 1
Morale: 8

These slimes are around 1 to 2 feet tall, but their constitution is sturdy: dense as solid mud. They do not have a mouth and are for the most part quite silent, but at the same time they are highly intelligent, able to roughly understand the PCs if they use gestures. They form small "clans" on caves, where they settle around a "cave of eyes": a location where their shaman has some kind of plantation where 1d6 (artificial?) eyes are sprout from the moist rock, and many more are in the process.

They are not violent but are territorial and may attack to keep invaders away from their lair, or just as part of their martial training. They will do hit and run attacks, covered by surprise, and then run away hoping their victims get the message and turn back. If things go bad, they trust their shaman to bring them back to health with their Eye Healing.

When the shaman puts one eye from his?/her? harvest into a fatal wound, it closes and the treated slime regains 1d6 hp instantly. One or two shamans, who carry a blue ball as if it was a symbol of their position, are always present on a lair (2 in 6 chance to be on a wandering monster group). The shaman will not attack at first, but wait and run away towards the cave and fetch some eyes if he sees that a fellow member has fallen. A PC that has been dropped to 0 hp or less can be treated with eye healing, but will only regain HP on a roll of 6; and the eye won't catch functionally into the body. Eyes will also lose their propierties if carried for more than one day.

The defining act of a shaman is developing the ability to plant eyes in stone. This is done through a (very slow) variation of the Stone to flesh / Stone to mud spells, applied to small portions of rock. This means that in case of need, they can de-petrify any being that has been turned to stone, though it will take a full day's work for a shaman, or half of it if aided ritually by the whole tribe. If attempted on a statue, it will just turn into mud.

This ability makes them relativelly unafraid of stone-turning monsters, to the point that they will try to capture cockatrices and use them as guards at strategic points, or even as a mount for the smaller slimes. Feeding the cockatrices will be a task itself, as the slimes do not need to hunt for themselves (they absorb minerals or something through osmotic exchange). But having to feed their pets might send the young slimes into bushcraft missions, to get mushrooms, carrion or loot the PCs rations.

I knew I had this cockatrice drawing somewhere! In my game, cockatrices are as large as a coyote. Is it hard to believe that a smaller bird can have 5 HD.
 

The blue ball also stores an alchemical compound able to cast an equivalent of "Resist fire" on an area once per day (Unharmed by non-magical heat or fire, gain a +2 bonus to saving throws versus fire-based magic or breath attacks: damage is reduced by 1 point per damage die rolled to a minimum of 1). This allows the tribe to colonize underground places otherwise blocked by magma, and gives them an edge when confronting nearby fire-based monsters.

Design notes: I wasn't sure if allowing PCs to be healed by eye therapy was a good idea, but in case doubt I just made it a difficult chance. What I love about this fuckers is that they are level 2 monsters as an encounter, but together as a tribe can overcome many troubles present in their ecosystem: Magma, fire breath, petrifying attacks, gangs of goblinoids or other thugs, accessing high passages on the wings of a cockatrice, etc. Their defense is built around their intelligence, their drive to tame nature and teamwork as a society. They have reasons to be violent or friendly depending on the situation; and can be very useful some day if befriended.





Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Trow Fortress 03: Spells & Magic (and blessings)

Based greatly on GLOG magic. No need to go read it however, my rules are self explanatory.

You have a number of spell slots based on your Magic score and your Class. 

1 spell slot per magic bonus (up to 3)
1 spell slot if you are a Magic User
1 spell slot if you are a Magic User of 12th level.

You automatically learn a spell for each spell slot if you haven't any.

Magic users can additionally write spellbooks: they can store as many as their level on them; and every time they rest, they can change the spells on their slots. Until the point in which they know more spells than their slots, they don't have to worry about that.

Anybody who knows at least one spell, has one Mana Dice (MD). Non-MUs will probably never have more than one if any.

MUs at third level get the right to bear staff (this is taken from A Wizard of Earthsea and I liked the implications it had on the books, making the staff act as a badge of office for the casters). So, whenever they are holding their staves, MUs have an extra MD (in the original PDF, Goblin Punch makes this bonus come from the wizardly robes, but I preferred to put the focus on the staff instead)

Independently from this staff bonus, they get an extra MD at levels 6 and 9. Some magical items may increase this number under some conditions.




S P E L L B O O K :

notes: 

references to turns are equally valid in combat, in dungeon or in overland travel. This means that spells will sometimes last during 4 hours and sometimes during 10 seconds with the same mana. This is intentional and I think it can work, I think it can represent how the caster behaves differently under stress than having time to make proper preparations, meditations and rituals.

I also dont use HP, with Hit Dice being the unit, and everybody getting a death save at 0 HD. Generally, MUs get two per level, while fighters get one. This has made me write carefully all the spells that do or heal damage.


BIRD: You become a bird of your choice (but always the same). You suffer double damage in this shape. This transformation lasts for [sum] turns. Every turn beyond that you must save vs paralyzation or become trapped in this shape.
Inventory slots decrease by 4, but the rest is transformed with you. The rest is lost. Use this table as a guide:

Robin: AC as plate, 24 miles per day
Crow: AC as scale armor, 100 miles per day
Owl: AC as scale armor, 50 miles per day. Good nightvision, bad dayvision.
Hawk: AC as scale armor, 200 miles per day. Consumes 2x turns.

HEAL:  Whoever is being healed rolls as many d6 as the [sum]: For each 4+, he recovers 1 HD. If you invest 2 or more dice, you can divide two [sums] between healed allies and healed amount. A dead comrade can attempt a new death save after this, using the caster's save, but no more than once (no matter how many casters attempt it after that). This healing is often not true healing, but more a mix of luck, exhorting and praying so the wounds are not as bad as they look.

SHIELD: Duration: [sum] turns. Caster and whoever is near him gets AC = chain, + a chance to block all projectiles during this turn with a 5+ in 1d6. You can spend a MD to re-roll this dice once per turn.

LIGHT:  Duration: [sum+level] turns. The staff of the caster emits light enough to read. Investing 2 dice or more raises this intensity up to a car's lights, but consumes 3x turns. Without a staff, this spell doesnt light much beyond the caster's silhouette dimly. 

DISGUISE: Put an illusion over something to make it look like another thing. Both the real and the illusory objects or beings must have a trait in common: a characteristic color, a shape, a similar sound, etc. This lasts for [sum] rounds, though a result of 12 or more will make it "permanent". Still, all illusions will degrade over time by acting or being used in a way that doesn't suit the disguise.

FIRE: Invest 1 MD to lit something small and flammable, such as a pinecorn or a torch. The result is the turns it will take to uninterruptedly concentrate to do it (every 4+ counts as zero)
2 to lit something flammable, but bigger.
3 to create a wall of fire on a narrow stone corridor: it will remain as long as you concentrate, +1 turn for each caster level.
4 to create a ring of fire around you in the same way.

To make a fire attack, roll 2 MD or more. Results are divided in two [sums]: one is the mandatory number of targets (if there are enough targets in the area, you must harm them all, including yourself if you have fired at point blank. Ignore if there are not enough targets). The other number is the damage dealt to each of them in HD, with a save vs dragon breath meaning half damage, rounding down.

DIVINATION: This spell requires an oracle that you must carry with you (1 slot) and some time of rest. Every question you ask requires to invest one MD. The answers are always going to be single or composed NOUNS, never verbs or adjectives, nor yes or no; and the GM should be as specific as he can without breaking this restriction.
Every answer you reveive using this spell is then recorded on a vocabulary list that you forge little by little and that can contain a maximum of 6 words. Once you got all six, every question you make must be answered with one of that words or not being answered at all (whatever the GM thinks is more appropiate)
You could say its a spell that becomes less powerful as the mage does the opposite, and that is interesting. This is the reason for which some MUs need to find other MUs to contrast their readings, even if its less leveled up partners.

WINTER BLAST: Projects a cone of cold. You need to invest an initial MD to bring winter cold, but omit this step if you happen to be in a snowy or icy scenario. 
For an additional MD, everyone on the area must save VS paralyzation every turn or get MV disadvantage by cold. Every further failed save will also deal 2 HD damage to the target. Failing three times in a row will freeze the target straight away. They get bonuses to this save if they are prepared against the cold (by using heavy pelts, for example) or being far enough from the cryomancer.

Mantaining concentration on this spell requires the caster to invest a new MD each turn, or suffer 1 damage from congelation him/herself. As soon as you stop doing it, the cold reverts to "just cold".

PROTECTION FROM EVIL:  Duration: [sum] turns. Is actually some version of turn undead. Undead, demons, evil and enchanted beings must save vs paralyze every turn to approach you, and even if they pass, you  +1 save against their special attacks. Monsters save alltogether, using the save of the highest one present. 

Once this spell is ongoing, you can attempt to DISPEL EVIL: Invest 1 MD per turn to deal that damage to a group of similar enemies, or that damage +1 to a single enemy (save vs spells for half damage). Intelligent enemies will always check morale after this.

Being blessed by a kirin or similar will have undead save against you as if they were a save level lower.

ASTRAL PROJECTION:: You must invest a full rest on this. If somebody interrupts you, the spell will fail.
In the astral plane, physical distances are meaningless but everything looks like a semi-abstract painting (rothko + picasso + van gogh), so its a little tricky to decipher and navigate. Things as specific as something written on a note might be impossible to read, showing instead a symbolic image of the intention of the writer. For each MD you invest you can attempt one of these things:

*Search your way to some place, no matter the distance (1d6 to find: 4 to somewhere known, 5 unknown and 6 if partially hidden). Mind that some places have random encounters even in astral form.

*Find a detail in that place (as above). On a fail, something else might call your attention.

*Send a message to somebody, who will have an impression of you (the reaction and importance given to the message depends on the person)

*Cast a spell telematically.

Your armor and weapons get transported with you into the astral, but the kind of encounters there is mostly magical so that won't make much difference.

 

As you have seen, there are no difference between magic users and clerics in my rules, and MAGIC subsumes both Wisdom and Intelligence. There are, however, certain things that can create nuance through CHARISMA

Charisma bonuses (+1, +2 and +3) are slots that can be filled with what I call "blessings" while I find a better name. These are sometimes given to players by encounters (like that time when a reaction roll is a 12 ) or after fulfilling a quest to friendly monsters or wizards.

Blessings for now are:

* Befriending an animal so much that can be played by you as an animal companion.

* Befriending a spirit or magical being so it can be summoned in battle or other situations (normally needing MD to do it, but some can be spontaneous, will see later) 

* Receiving a mantle that grants passive bonuses (such as the Kirin example mentioned above)



Tuesday, April 23, 2024

An in-game bestiary (some play report inside)

My new game is going so great. All of them are long time friends, with the exception of a kid, nephew to one of them. I'm getting a lot of advantage of them never having actually played D&D so I am selling all my quirky houserules such as GLOG magic and all d6 pool resolution as "this is the real game guys". And they are really liking it, but not as much as me. They keep me asking for information about new spells (so I have actual pressure writing my long procastinated spellbook). It feels awesome when you just met for a coffee or a walk and they just ask you things about what they found in that dungeon the other day. I know I am doing something right.


One of them happened to be devoured by a ghoul recently; precisely right after he had spent the previous night drawing a portrait of his character (Krim, see above). He died like a hero, tanking a doorway, and two hobbits managed to finish the ghoul shortly after. When the player rolled his new character for the next session, he told me previously that he wanted something:

As I wrote recently, I give characters a "once in your life" object at any time, that must be related to your life background. This is mostly a trick to make characters have at least some tenuous background without the need of writing it prior to play, but has no further impact unless your intelligence is higher than 13 (see full entry if you want). He (an intelligence 9 fighting man) said he wanted to be a former sage, and have a bestiary book as an object.

I quickly saw the potential in this: They are all new players, unfamiliar with the deep lore of D&D beyond what has permeated Final Fantasy, Warhammer and others. This could be a fair way to introduce information that other players take for granted; and the player was actually paying a cost for it: his special object.

So I made it like this: As the character appeared the next day and brought up his book, I made him roll 3d6 and take the middle one: It was a four.
So, his bestiary would give him information four times, after that it would be considered exhausted (actually a great quality I guess). The information would be only about monsters, and it would only have information 50% of the time; you must make a concrete question (are ghouls vulnerable to something?). Failed searches would not tick down uses.

For now they have been only used it twice: One for learning that ghouls are vulnerable to holy water, and another for knowing that ghoul touch produces paralysis. It seems that whoever wrote that book knew a lot about ghouls! Maybe the book is no other than Comte d'Erlette's Cultes des Goules itself!(the fictional book from the Chtulhu mythos)

Before that, the magic user had been picking ghoul drool from its grotesque corpse with his bare hands. They left the room by a new path; the magic user leading the march. I resolved to not have him be paralyzed until two turns had passed for some reason (it felt right). Just at that time, they found a silent, armored knight giving them the back, and then turning his head slowly towards the newcomers.

The magic user got paralyzed right away starting from his hands. The rest of the party (three hobbits, fighting man was dead by then) took him out of the room quickly, all paranoid because they thought it was the gaze of the knight which had caused such effect. They spent the rest of the session recovering a broken mirror from another room (which currently still has a very angry doppelganger inside) and then trying to attack the knight using a mirror to see him, or just shooting at him with the eyes closed. Luckily, they soon understood they had to flee. I had a really bad time trying to not tell everyone of them how cool it was that they were acting so well in a way, but on completelly erroneous assumptions!

I think I am going to put some more books around the setting. Not all of them bestiaries, but can work the same way as that one with other topics; maybe they can even be bought at shops for some ton of money, or even found as treasure. Maybe small town wise men can work like that too: weird people that funnily has an answer to a current problem, and then proceeds to not say anything interesting at all in a lot of time or ever.

Thursday, April 11, 2024

(Idea sketch) defensive/offensive combat maneuvers

Some idea I had for combat rules for a given game.

Armor numbers being something like: 

Light armor: 3
Better armor. 4
Best armor: 5

Then you have a panoplia of weapons with one assigned dice each, for example:

Greatsword: d10
Sword:d8
Dagger:d6

etc.

If you get your weapon and hit greater than the armor, you deal a hit (scratch a heart away, roll for damage or whatever you like to do afterwards)
But after you have rolled "to hit", you can choose to convert that result in your armor score this turn, then roll for attack again.
This can be used for both defensive and offensive maneuvers, and represent the parrying potential of certain weapons, while also adding some "choice" into combat.

Example:

Your PC, armed with Light Armor and a Sword, fights an enemy who has Best armor and a Greatsword.
You know that the greatsword will easily hit an armor of 3 with a d10
You attack first, and roll the sword's d8, and get a 6 (which is over the enemy's armor score)
You can choose between dealing a hit OR adopt a parrying style, converting the 6 into your armor score for the round and trying your luck rolling "to hit" again.

The same idea can be used aggresivelly: Lets say that you rolled a 1 instead. You can choose to keep that first roll as your armor (lowering your armor to a score of 1) but you would get to roll again and maybe take your enemy's last hit.

Certain weapons can be worked out so they have different damage dice on the first roll than in the second, to illustrate they are more defensive or offensive in nature. For example, a spear can have a d10 on the first attack, capable of defending up to 10 ac, but have a secondary attack of d6.
Great axes can be done in reverse: a first attack of 1d6 and a second of 1d12. The first one will probably get you exposed in order to deal the big, bad second attack.

As always, unarmed combat is difficult to model, as anything worse than a d6 will never go through best armor unless the enemy chooses to adopt a worse ac for some reason. One possible way to do it is to have unarmed combat go like (First attack d4/Second attack d6)

Shields can be done by adding an extra d6 to the first attack roll, choosing the best of the two. In this way, it provides help both in the defensive mode and the offensive mode. The shield die cannot be used to deal damage, only to be put as armor... unless the master decides otherwise. I must make the numbers so the combination of sword and shield doesnt deal both better defense and attack than a greatsword, which would render it useless.




Thursday, April 4, 2024

how I do character backgrounds

 Image: Ilya Shichkin

Right now, I have my players choose between four classes: Hobbit, Elf, Fighter and Magic User. Normal people doesn't have levels on any class. They are "level 0" to say. 

Thieves come from a "Thief" background, while Rangers come from a "Ranger" background. Those are in addition to the class they might have. The trick is that no matter which one they choose, it doesn't actually take mechanical effect unless the PC's intelligence has any bonus. 

I am also a fan of backloading complexity, so I tell them to choose background during play, never at character creation.

Now, the long explanation:

As I explained on previous entries, Wisdom is the magical ability score, while...

Intelligence is strictly non-magical. You have a list of backgrounds that are mostly dressing, but when you have an intelligence bonus you get an extra die when performing related tasks (lockpicking, bushcraft, navigation, etc. That kind of marginal stuff). Not only that, but once per character you can retroactivelly produce an item on your inventory that is related to your background or is on the basic items list of the closest rulebook at hand. This is often the main bonus of it.

This means that, unless your intelligence goes beyond 12, your background might give you RP opportunities, or let me, as the GM, give you specific information through a different lens or influence the way that NPCs react to you; but normally it won't give you mechanical benefits. Your ability scores might grow a little bit over time (2 in 6 chance to increase one by 1 every level) but if your intelligence is low, you have little pressure to choose your background. You can even not to choose any at all.

However, if your intelligence is high, is probable that you want to get the most advantage of it. So you will probably want to see the list of OFFICIALLY APPROVED BACKGROUNDS. Notice that by design, they will never give you combat bonuses:

Thief: pick locks, sleight of hand. You get to roll 1d6 per INT bonus, with 5+ being a success.
Ranger: +1d6 per INT bonus while foraging/surprising on the forest (other terrains, like desert, mountain, urban... can be chosen instead)
Sailor: +1d6 per INT bonus on any roll related to piloting a boat.
Engineer: Allows for the Dwarven "structure knowledge" roll, and if a PC has this, you dont need to hire an engineer when you build a castle.
Sage: You can investigate yourself instead of hiring a sage for 2000gp: roll after spending significant downtime into investigation, each 5+ is a success. You can only choose a broad field of knowledge to be a sage of, but you can choose it anytime. You get an extra die if you have access to a library or similar.
Animal Trainer: As BX specialist, requires a success to advance in training every downtime
Armorer: As BX specialist. Low Int armorers can be assistants or smiths.
Alchemist: As BX specialist, a success is needed for each attempt at a potion.

You can make your own, of course, but as always, my advice is that they shouldn't be strictly better than an existent one. To narrow down the exact abilities of a background, a good measurement is to pick an existing skill and enhance it, or allow a PC to do him/herself the work of an specialist. 

Note: Only the thief and ranger backgrounds have been actually tested XD. It sounded clean in my head but now I see it written looks like a mess.

Thursday, March 21, 2024

The Official OSR D&D Skill List

 

Clickbait /OFF

I only want to transcribe here something from another blog, for it is too useful to be lost to the flow of the internets: "The skills you didn't know you had", where the author distills all the different "x in 6" rolls scattered through the OSE book into a "skill list". I am actually using this list as inspiration for MY OWN LIST (to be posted next time), but the source material is so interesting itself that I felt it deserved recognition.  

    Open doors: 2 in 6, modified by strength
    Listening at Doors: 1 in 6 chance of detecting subtle sounds beyond a door, increased for demihumans.
    Searching: If a character is searching in the right location, there is a base 1-in-6 chance of finding a secret door or room trap, increased for some demihumans.
    Avoiding Traps: Every time a character makes an action that could trigger a trap, there is a 2-in-6 chance of the trap being sprung. Lets rephrase this as a 4-in-6 chance to avoid a trap.
    Foraging for herbs, fruits, nuts, etc: can be performed alongside normal movement. The party has a 1-in-6 chance per day of finding enough food for 1d6 human-sized beings.
    Hunting: must be engaged in as the sole activity for a day—no travelling or resting is possible. When hunting, there is a 1-in-6 chance of encountering animals which may be suitable for eating (if they can be caught!). This is in addition to the normal chance of random encounters. A party with a ranger succeeds at foraging with a 2-in-6 chance and finds prey when hunting with a 5-in-6 chance.
    Boarding: If the occupants of one vehicle wish to forcefully board the other vehicle, there is a 2-in-6 chance of being able to successfully manoeuvre the vehicle into a boarding position. The two vehicles may then be clamped together with grappling hooks.
    Surprise Checks: That's a 2-in-6 stealth check right there.
    Tinder box: Used to light fires, including torches. Using a tinder box takes one round. There is a 2-in-6 chance of success per round.
    Dwarven Detect Construction Tricks: As expert miners, dwarves have a 2-in-6 chance of being able to detect new construction, sliding walls, or sloping passages when searching.
    Detect Room Traps: Due to their expertise with construction, dwarves have a 2-in-6 chance of detecting non-magical room traps when searching.
    Halfling's Hiding: In dungeons, a halfling can hide in shadows or behind other forms of cover. The chance of success is 2-in-6. Hiding requires the halfling to be motionless. This enables an additional layer of stealth on top of the base one. If they are still, and behind cover or in shadow, they have an extra chance to be unnoticed to the rest of the party.
    Lore: From 2nd level, a bard has a 2-in-6 chance of knowing lore pertaining to monsters, magic items, or heroes of folk-tale or legend. This ability may be used to identify the nature and powers of magic items.
    Path-Finding: At the start of each day of travel, the referee should roll to determine if the group loses direction. The probability depends on the terrain being traversed:

        Clear, grasslands: 1-in-6.
        Barren lands, hills, mountains, woods: 2-in-6.
        Desert, jungle, swamp: 3-in-6.

Lets restate this one as a navigate skill with a chance depending on the type of terrain. 5-in-6, 4-in-6, or 3-in-6 depending on the difficulty of the terrain. Listed later is the fact it's 4-in-6 to navigate while waterborne. Paths and rivers eliminate this chance. While waterborne however, it requires a specific navigator to help sail, so this is clearly not a skill that all adventurers have. A party with a druid has only a 1-in-6 chance of getting lost in woodlands, so druids score themselves a 5-in-6 in the skill we now have a name for, pathfinding.
    Duergar's Stealth: Underground, duergars have a 3-in-6 chance of moving silently.
    Svirfneblin's Blend into Stone: Svirfneblins have the uncanny ability to go unnoticed when in an environment of natural or carved stone so long as they remain silent and motionless. The chance of success is 4-in-6 in gloomy conditions or 2-in-6 in well-lit conditions.
    Stone Murmurs: Svirfneblins can understand the imper-ceptible grumblings of stone. If a svirf-neblin stands quietly for one turn with their ear pressed against a stone surface, they have a 2-in-6 chance of divining one of the following pieces of information (player’s choice):

        The presence of secret doors in the stone, within 10'.
        The presence of gems or precious met-als, up to 30' beyond the surface.
        The presence of living creatures, up to 30' beyond the surface.
        The presence of bodies of water or open spaces, up to 60' beyond the surface.

* * *

At the end, the author classifies them broadly:

Individual skills are rolled for every person attempting an activity.

    Force isused for forcing open doors through strength.
    Listen is used to hear monsters through doors (breaking their stealth).
    Search isused to find hidden passages and traps.
    Luck is used to not trigger traps by through chance by stepping over a pressure plate instead of on it.
    Enhanced Stealth is used when the party fails its stealth check, but you are a class that has better odds of hiding.
    Use a tinderbox is used to use a tinderbox.

Group skills are performed by the entire group, usually with a single person leading the activity who can provide their experience as a bonus to everyone.

    Forage is used to find food while travelling overland.
    Hunt is used to find food dedicating time to the task.
    Pathfind is used to navigate without a road or river.
    Board is used to position vehicles for boarding.
    Stealth is used to be unnoticed by foes.

* * *

In order for it to be a comprehensive list, we should add the Thief Skills to it; and, why not? convert them approximately to X in 6 format for cohesion. 

   Find/Remove Traps: starting at 1 in 6, increases by 1 every 3 thief levels
   Hide in Shadows: as above
   Move Silently: as above
   Pick Locks: as above
   Pick Pockets: as above
   Climb Sheer Surfaces: 5 in 6 chance
   Read Languages: 5 in 6 chance, available at level 4
   Scroll use: 1 in 6 chance, available at level 10


From Asterix & Cleopatra. Searching for an image to illustrate the post, I realized that this is the mental image I have for D&D thieves



Tuesday, March 12, 2024

Reimagining Charisma

Tuvstarr on the field, by John Bauer

 

In my current iteration of rules, I am using only four attributes. 3d6 in order, but you have a (2 in 6) chance to increment one of them by one every level up.

Strength is roughly mixed with constitution. The score is equal to your inventory slots until you are encumbered, and each modifier adds +1 HD (which at some amount add to your attack prowess). Probably the most useful attribute score at level 1 if we get practical.

Dexterity modifiers give you either a weapon proficiency (each has its own trick) or a sneak proficency (re-roll a thief-related roll once per rest)

Wisdom score is required by certain magic items to be used, instead of a class-based cap. Positive modifiers add one spell slot each

Intelligence is strictly non-magical. You have a list of backgrounds that are mostly dressing, but when you have an intelligence bonus you get an extra die when performing related tasks (lockpicking, bushcraft, navigation, etc. That kind of marginal stuff). Not only that, but once per bonus and per expedition you can retroactivelly produce an item on your inventory that is related to your background or is on the basic items list of the closest rulebook at hand. This is often the main bonus of it.

I like this approach a lot. I like that the impact of the scores is small enough to make bonuses a nice gift, but not mandatory in order to have a competent PC; and that they help everyone to paint the concept of the character in our heads: thats what I missed out the most when I have played "attributeless" versions of the game. To the point that I have come to think that the main mission of the 3d6 in order roll was originally such: to generate a random avatar with distinct features.

Thats why I miss charisma being in the game. I don't need it at all by its traditional gaming uses: reaction rolls work IMHO much better unmodified, or modified by the character's approach. To put it roughly: violence might give you +1 versus submissive monsters and -1 versus dominant ones, the reverse may be true for kindness. Scheming-type monsters may get -1 if you show yourself in need of something, etc. And as for number of retainers, I have never had use for that. No PC ever I've played with has ever had more than one, so I couldn't care less about it. 

If I put charisma back to add a new layer of character depth to the pcs, it has to have some mechanical effect that at least represents symbolically what charisma is. And I actually have some idea; not defined enough but I am on my way:

Charisma is an abstract combination of (in unknown quantities) purity of heart, heroism, determination, uprightness, kindness, virtue and being chosen by fate. In a way, this makes a charismatic character more "lawful" for all alignment related effects, so it will probably replace alignment if you use it (I wasn't, actually). It is what a true knight has, that makes him different from a common men at arms; or what turns a peasant girl into a saint, as opposed to her local priest.

Your charisma score will be quite obvious for good or bad to both princesses and witches and other magical beings in the world. Doing unlawful things may decrease it. Devils and other malefic imps will surely tempt you or offer temporary power so you end up "Saving Throw versus decreasing your score by 1d6"; while completing a dangerous quest for an unjustly dethroned lady, or swearing to protect her with your life will surely increase it by 1. Monsters and men alike might give a fuck about your wisdom or your intelligence, but sure they will many times treat you differently depending on your charisma.

OK BUT WHAT DO THE MODIFIERS DO? well, some or all of those:

*You get one "revive token" per charisma modifier, and they never refill. Once you fail a death save, you can spend one to roll again. Good results will bring you back no matter which kind of doom you faced, with +1 extra charisma point as a souvenir.

* If charisma can permanently add to a type of save, it would surely be versus fear, or whatever type encompasses it in the rulebook. Extensible to demoralization and maybe mind control to an extent.

* Modify if you can or can't use a certain "alignment charged" item. Lawful items will have a minimum requirement to be wielded, while chaotic ones will result in charisma loss.

* In the same way, Lawful beings may have a minimum requirement of charisma to grant you a quest (trades for XP) or other boons. Chaotic beings will be eager to help you, but they will decrease your charisma and/or other evil tradeoffs. 

* Charisma as an HP bar for "corruption" type damage. A character that falls under the dominance of a vampire may get 1d6 charisma damage: then become his thrall (and thus, an NPC) if charisma falls to zero. Working in behalf of a dark lord by decision will also bring your charisma down eventually.

* Modify the scope and power of "cleric type" spells, particularly protective or healing ones.

* Modify the reaction rolls versus Lawful-type monsters and NPCs, as well as morale rolls of everybody under your command.

* to be expanded. Not really sure on where I want to go with this but I like the color of it.

Answered prayers, by Seb McKinnon


 

 

Thursday, February 15, 2024

Slot Machine Level Up

The new level up method I am testing right now in this new campaign (We had only one session for now, so there is no feedback yet). Found in my old notes, probably inspired by this post. I call it the slot machine level up.


 

Instead of having your classic charts (for example the fighter's one above) I cut the requirements approximately into a third, rounding down to compensate the fact that I don't use prime requirement reductions.

level 1: 0
level 2: 600
level 3: 1200
level 4: 2500
level 5: 5000
level 6: 10000
level 7: 20000
level 8: 40000
level 9: 80000
level 10: 120000
level 11: 160000
level 12: 200000
level 13: 240000
level 14: 280000

Once a PC goes back to town with XP enough to get a new level, they do a training roll: a 2 in 6 chance to level up. No matter if you fail or pass, your XP amount is set to 0 after the roll.
This, in my humble mathematical knowledge, gives PCs stastically the same advantage rate as in the original (1 in 3 chance, with one third of the XP), but has a handful of things I like:

- Making uneven advancement for different PCs, because I like when there are PCs of different levels on a party as it makes for interesting hierarchy dynamics.

- Random payoffs have an addictive component. The feeling of "maybe I could level up at the end of this session" is something I think is cool.

- The amount of XP you have to track is small as it restarts from zero every time you level up. This has not any advantage beyond the psychological sensation of not tracking a big amount of numbers, but psychological shit is important. We live on the mind after all.


Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Stocking Dungeons fast with 2d6


Breaking news! I had my first game in ages yesterday, and when I grabbed my old notebook, I found a lot of useful shit I had written six months ago. The practical kind of stuff; which I intend to post in here in bits.

This is a table for stocking dungeons based on a 2d6 roll, instead of making two separate d6 rolls in two tables like BX says. The bell curve distribution is calculated to give similar enough probabilities (the actual calculations are lost but I trust my past self). Maybe you think that rolling 2d6 is about the same as rolling 1d6 in two different tables, but I drew 20 bubbles per page, connected them with random lines and stocked 2 dungeon floors faster than a cheetah. Roll once per room/area.

12 - Hidden treasure + special OR trap
11 - Hidden treasure
10 - Trapped treasure
9 - Treasure in plain sight
8 - Treasure guarded by a monster
7 - Monster
6 - Empty, showing tracks or clues about another room.
5 - Empty
4 - Special as by the book*
3 - Special + monster OR trap
2 - Trapped room

* I always struggle a little when coming up with special rooms. My first choice is put some useful items that are not considered properly "treasure". Other options are secret doors or windows to other rooms, stairs up or down to other levels, unsual features such as  an unnatural echo, a spring of fresh water, etc.  Maybe I should come up with a pre-planned list of random special features.

When a room contains treasure, you roll 2d6 in this table: sum both quantities and its the value of the treasure in silver pieces (using silver standard). Then multiply the amount per the dungeon level. A level 1 treasure is 290 sp on average.

6 - 500 sp
5 - 250 sp
4 - 100 sp
3 - 10 sp
2 - 5 sp
1 - 0 sp

If you roll doubles and the result is equal or lower than the dungeon's level +1, you also find a magic item. So if you get 0 sp you still get a magic item even at the first level of a dungeon (where the chance of magic item is 1 in 18 per treasure). If I recall correctly, I tried to replicate AD&Ds magic item chances with this, while also making treasure "level dependant" instead of "monster dependant".

 At the end is also written a table about what shape the treasure has:

6 - Gold pieces
5 - Silver pieces
4 - Silver pieces
3 - Jewels or gems
2 - Big or fragile items
1 - Small valuable items

Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Planets 2: Time and weather in the Disk


Not every planet has a night: very small planets have not enough mass to block much sunlight. However, as they grow big in scale, the dusk zone also grows. This is truer in orbits closer to the sun, where desertic climates are common. At the temperate middle orbits it's easy to have bright nights due to the clouds acting as lush reflecting screens. But even if the confortable darkness of night is a luxury for some, it becomes the norm far from the sun: behind all the cloud layers piled up, the planets are gradually subsumed in penumbra.

The very concept of a day is certainly diffuse in the Disk as whole. Every planet has its own rotation cycles, and there is not an unified unit of time. A traveler in planet A can build a house from the foundations to the roof during a single night. Then go to planet B and have seven dusks and dawns pass over him during a nap. But most people don't travel too much, and adapt their lives to their local idiosincrasy as part of their planet culture; just as all civilizations adapt to summer and winter. But how much exactly does a winter last?

Translation cycles are equally diverse across the known world. And while using years as an unit can work when talking with a fellow planeteer or organizing local stuff, the proper way to deal with strangers or speaking of the past is in terms of generations: "In times of my father, my grandfather, or my grand-grandfather". However, seasons do exist, and every planet gets their summer, fall, winter and spring. They just have a different impact and time on each. I cannot imagine how hard (an long) can winter be on one of the outernmost planets, and how does their people endure, if there is actually somebody there.

Sometimes, a sage tries with more effort than success to research notes, contrast planetary records and make sense of the world history, and eventually surrenders; cursing the disinterested nature of men; because it's very hard to find records of the past of any kind in the planets beyond personal or familiar diaries. "Maybe people would act different if we all lived in a planet with the same years and days for everyone" he says. "We could measure our ages in years; or know which planet holds the oldest city" But only sages care about that kind of impossible things: nobody else cares about when something happened or what is their exact age. A kid becomes a youth at some point, and then an adult, then an old man. Those ages are most times obvious to oneself and to others, and they don't need more. While for the sages the world is old and carries the weight of the past, for those with fire in their bellies the world is as fresh as the everchanging sand in a beach, waiting for them to build their castles on; and its easy to hear the breath of the gods behind you, just as if they had created the world not long ago, and are still taking a rest.

Weather, on the other hand, is much more important. 

The Disk itself looks like a disk, because the known orbits all spin in the same plane. Just like planets, clouds and winds have their own cycles around the father sun. And just as birds migrate from planet to planet, alongside floating flower seeds, stray projectiles or the harmless paper hearts that young girls like to send into the sky so they find their future lovers, also winds and storms are put to dance by thermal and centrifugal forces and attracted eventually by a planet's pull. However, weather's dance is as vital to farmers and navigators as planet's dance is to the sages. A weather yearly almanac, be it copied from another guildsmen or inherited through many generations is an invaluable treasure to have for men and woman of many trades. When there is no other choice, settlers and pioneers write them by their own hand, many times in the improvised symbols and crude drawings proper of illiterate men.





Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Planets 1: Floating around

 

"Why doesn't everybody fly around from planet to planet all the time? It's so easy, right?" 

Thats what most kids ask when they learn about the open space of the Disk. 

 "Yes, it is, kids." Parents say. "But have something in mind: once you set your feet off the land, our gravity will pull you less and less, and at a certain point, you'll be drafted by further gravities of distant planets, so you'll probably get to go somewhere. But the orbits are capricious, our whole universe an unfathomable clock of a myriad spheres. If you lose track of your home planet, you might never be able to find it again. I wish you would stay with us forever, and there is no shame on it. Many others do. But someday you'll be a man and might like to prove your worth far beyond those clouds..."

Nobody knows for certain how many planets there are on the solar system. It is known that the biggest one (and the most populated for sure) is probably Hytral: its enormous circumference spanning almost 250 km along its equator. The planet codices at the observatory in Emben register the names of five hundred spheres of different sizes, though the actual number is for sure much larger: its impossible to count all the smaller nameless rocks which can barely hold a handful of baobabs. The added problem of them all having different rotation cycles makes travel and observation very difficult during long spans, making most of that information incomplete and outdated,

Travelling from planet to planet is not difficult for a healthy and fit person. Although at surface level all the planets have similar gravity pull, its easy to break free of it by propelling yourself high enough: this distance is usually proportional to the size of the planet. In a very small one, an energic jump can do the trick, or you may help yourself by using a jumping pole or climbing up a tree (As a kid growing up in a small planet, I did it all the time with my friends instead of going into school). Bigger planets normally have towers dedicated to the purpose of helping departers reach the heights for low gravity. Of course, the landing is also rougher on those, and having a parachuting device is advised to those travelling into one. 

Its always wise to check your local sage for the upcoming planetary conjuntions, as you can lift off and wade through clean sky and clouds for more time than you intended, or find another place instead. In case of doubt, following a flock of birds will always lead you somewhere. On the other hand, following a flock of cloud whales will surely lead you to deep cloud formations with little or no land, in which is terribly easy to become disorientated and lost.

Most people has no real reason to travel to other planets. Some do it in their youths, as an adventure, or maybe searching for a different place in which to settle. Constant travel is much rarer, and people who does it is often treated with as much curiosity than suspicion. Though interplanar invasion and wars are very strange in the disk, probably for logistical reasons, criminals and scoundrels are not. But who doesn't like the visit of a journeyman of any strange foreign trade, looking for knowledge and sharing his own? Who isn't enthralled by the visit of a singer, bringing information that is part her own lies and part the ones that were told to her? Who hasn't followed a foreign monk into the local dojo, searching for an honorable duel in which to test his skills?

 







Tuesday, January 9, 2024

We open in Winter


Because its been half a year without posting. Didn't play rpgs at all in this time. On the other hand, I have been playing a LOT of Magic: The Gathering, specifically PREMODERN. That game is like a hard drug. But despite of it, and maybe inspired by it, I have a couple of gaming related ideas I want to put into text ASAP.

1. Shifting aim of descriptions. During a walk, I noticed that everytime I narrate places and situations to the players, I speak to their senses: I tell you what you see, hear or smell, so you have information and put the whole scene in your mind, so you react accordingly. I think that is the most natural for a prosaic GM to do, but I have fed this "vice" by sticking to what I read that other GMS do. Fantasy books, or any books, however, rarely do this: they speak to the readers or the characters mind, straight away.

An example from the top of my head could be like: 

GM A: "you notice a rush of air moving towards you"
PLAYER: "which corridor does it seem to come from?"
GM A: "north one. It also carries smell of manure and hay"
PLAYER: "is the current strong?"
GM A: "enough to make your hair move a little"

This is how I do it normally, and while its good to make players take informed decisions ("does wind interfere with my prepared spells?") and actually takes very little time, i'm a bit tired of having this kind of conversations. They come up a lot into a game and they feel like describing an elephant to a blind man everytime: that small time they take its enormous when compared to the split second it takes for the character to absorb that information.. And bigger yet when compared to the relevance of such information: probably none and is there only to give the place a sense of identity. Knowing this, I could just go like:

GM B: "You arrive at a bifurcation of two corridors, and while the two are very similar, the gust of wind coming from the left one carries a smell of labored fields that reminds you of the spring nights at your village before it was destroyed, fighter. It fills you with a strong feeling of nostalgia"
PLAYER: "NOOOOOO you cant tell me what I feel likeeeeeee"
GM B: "I dont care, this is a much natural and evocative way to narrate and will do it whenever I want"

However it is probably the best of it all to use both narrative approaches at once depending on what you want the players to feel and prepare for. This is why GMing is an art and not a science.

2. Emulating nature VS emulating plot. Following the same trail of thoughts, I realized that OSR procedures, generators and random tables normally emulate a nature: You can picture and ecosystem and nature of a place by observing the results of those tables: How likely is a goblin to appear in this forest in contrast with a boar? how much treasure does the average bandit have in his stash, and how much does he steal in this road every year? Those, of course, can be improvised or generated with absurd numbers sometimes, but yet, once they appear at the table, they tell you something about the place. The other thing procedures do is to create the passing of time: if you spend time at a certain place, monsters appear. Weather changes. HP restores. As I don't like to keep strict time records nor a calendar of any sort, an idea I want to try is to have certain time related events, both of a natural nature (the passing of the seasons) or of a plot nature (a war striking, an NPC dying, an alliance forged between factions, some relevant person or thing from the current adventure being captured, etc) be ingrained on some kind of random event table; possibly one that activates during downtime.

3. Worldbuilding is better robust than wide.  I am very confortable with my latest houserules. Achieving a ruleset that scratched all my autisms and that played nicely for other people was like an obsession for me for years. Now I want to focus on some next shit I already talked about: A magic system that, instead of different classes (druid, wizard, cleric, etc) has spells of five natures, or "colors" that a magic user can choose from: one at first, then two and maybe three. The main thing that draws me to it is that it is a simple way to picture magic in-game, that can be learn and exploited by players while giving me things to work to paint the world as a GM.

If one plants the core foundations of how a world works (in difference or addition to our real work) is very easy for players to act around it, think around it and feel more like home on it. Campaigns are sometimes based in media: everybody knows more or less what their character can be in the Middle Earth, or what kind of background, common information or customs they might have. But sometimes campaigns are based on the GMs imagination and the idea of a mythic age we more or less agree upon. But some hard guidelines are always needed, specially when I run a "sandbox" style game. I have realized over time that is very important to tell the players a handful of "constants" that will be true in the game world, no matter where they go, and that are related to things they will see and do in game. One can be, for example: "the world is full of dungeons which have gold inside" or "The wilderness is filled with monsters". Other can be "The world is full of bandits of different dangerousness, and all cities in the world have agreed to pay a reward for any criminal that is important enough".

I think that I can do well by doing "The world has five "pure" types of magicians, and they tend to live and behave in five different ways. Their wizard schools have helped to shape this earth: you will find all of them across the globe, and If you are a wizard, might learn from them or be duelled by them"

4. Descriptions of combat at high levels: Something I read about in this blog. The author inquires on the best way to narrate combat descriptions at higher levels, when the nature of the monsters makes attacks physically obtuse (hitting a giant or a dragon on a vital spot, for example). Normally I would rule that monsters expose themselves during combat, while making their "attack routines". But I liked this comment on the entry and want to pin it here to give it a thought.

Dwiz wrote: This is a good example of where it becomes important to revisit the core mechanic's logic: the players can do anything that seems reasonably feasible in the fiction. Therefore, the burden is on the players to describe to you a plausible means of performing those attacks. If they can't, then they don't get to make the attack roll to begin with. You're right: trying to get a meaningful stab at the giant from the ground seems silly. So the players are going to have to come up with a more appropriately OSR "combat as war" tactic like luring the giant into a trap.

Have a nice year everyone. Take a little moment today to enjoy the winter mood!