Sunday, May 25, 2014

I Got a Fever... and It Totally Sucks

Lesion Caused by
Viridian Wasting Fever
Simple, untested way to model disease in OSR type games

After initial save vs poison or CON check is failed (or spell/curse begins) the disease is aquired.
  • Diseases typically last for 3d6 days for Serious Diseases and 3d4 for Minor Diseases. 
  • Diseases attack the character's Constitution, draining 1 point of CON each day. 
  • A character under complete bed rest may make a sv vs poison (or CON check depending on how you roll) to avoid this Constitution damage. Performing any action beyond moving <10 meters daily negates this save/check.
  • For every 2 points of CON damage a character suffers he/she will be cumulatively -1 on all actions. (For X in 6 rolls each -1 means you roll another d6, take the worst result).
  • CON damage recovers at a rate of 1/day after the disease runs it's course or is cured.
  • Characters reduced below 3 CON are rendered unconscious.
  • Characters reduced to 0 CON are dead.
  • After the disease has run it's course, characters recover CON a rate of 1 per day.
  • I wouldn't let the players know how this works, just describe the mechanical effects and the terrible feels.
  • Always remember to cackle with delight as the PCs slowly succumb to the Viridian Wasting Fever.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Things You Learn from Running 3 Versions of D&D at Once

So, I've had this odd notion for a while: All version of D&D from 2nd Edition backwards (including retro-clones) are completely compatible. All you have to do is make sure the AC on all fronts is either ascending or descending.

Well, I put the idea to the test.

For my own and the players' convenience, we noted everything in THAC0; we're from a mostly 2nd Ed. background so it made sense for us. (With O&D and B/X style stuff, take the 0 line in the combat table, call that THAC0, and game on. For Lamentations of the Flame Princess [LotFP], Assume a starting point of 20 and subtract the BAB, this number is your THAC0 [Not a fighter? THAC0 of 19].)

But aren't 2nd Ed. characters more powerful? Not really. They can certainly be optimized in a number of ways (weapon specialization, custom thief skills w/ race & stat bonuses), but it comes at a price: THAC0 starts at 20 for 2e characters (as opposed to 19 for OD&D+B/X), 2e AC starts at 10 (9 for OD&D+B/X), and that optimization actually limits the characters. For example, loose the weapons you're proficient, and you're looking at some pretty significant penalties. 2e characters can be thought of as focused adventurers, while OD&D+B/X characters are more generalized.

(I don't know 1e well enough to say much about it, honestly.)

I actually ran a game of this monstrosity (Swords and Wizardry, 2nd ed., and LotFP). It worked just fine. (Technically the LotFP character was an unused back-up PC, but I did do a lot of x-in-6 skill rolls.) It taught me a few things, too.

Lessons Learned:

  • I really need to stop making things harder on myself. While far from an impossible task, keeping three rule-sets in mind while DMing was an unnecessary strain on the ol' brain box. It only served to keep me less in the moment. I know my assumption was correct now, but it wasn't really worth enjoying the game a little less.
  • At this point in my very adult life, I just plainly like LotFP and S&W better than 2e. They're simple, easy to modify, and fun. (I'm still going to defend thac0 on /r/DnD because I think it's neither stupid, complex, nor a bad design. [ And apparently I'm a masochist.] However, when I DM it's probably gonna be for LotFP and/or S&W. I will likely include most 2e spells and some 2e concepts (stat checks for instance), though.)
  • One of my favorite parts of the game and my strengths as a DM/GM is NPC - PC interaction. Even when I'm playtesting something, I need to include a more of that.
  • If there is an random shortcut that makes an adventure end sooner, the PCs gun for it, with oddly unerring aim. Even when nothing suggests that they should take said path.
  • Children at/near the gaming table are a distracting, but not an unplayable, circumstance.
  • Logistical challenges are less fun at the end of the night.
  • Always do pregens for one shots. It just works better.
The point is, I like pretending to be goblins and random hillbillies*. Woo Dungeons and Dragons! Hail Satan! Also, always be learning or whatever.

*Don't even get me started on goblin hillbillies. Best. NPCs. Ever.

Friday, May 9, 2014

What Happens at Fort Kick Ass While You're Away?

The PC's have finally managed to establish a wilderness stronghold or solid base of operations, but what happens when they leave it to seek out adventure in foreign climes? Roll 1d8, 1d6, and 1d4 to find out...

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Check the d8 first to determine the type of Event and which chart to use for the d4 and d6 Results.

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Assume that the event happens towards the midpoint of the PC's time away, unless otherwise noted (or some other time makes for a more interesting result). You can use encounter tables from nearby areas to randomly determine monster types if you'd like.

These charts (like most generators of this nature) require a bit of interpretation on the behalf of the GM. Besieged by Friendly Monsters could mean that former monstrous allies turn against the Stronghold and it's environs with an actual siege. Alternatively it could be a metaphorical siege, allies in need are currently draining stronghold resources because of problems in their territory.

If you find them too plain (or unuseful for your campaign), these should be easy expand and customize.


Saturday, May 3, 2014

How Weird is Too Weird?

I finally got around to reading A Princess of Mars a few months ago - excellent read by the way- but I had a great deal of trouble envisioning the Martian peoples and fauna. I had to read and reread and rereread the descriptions. I know I could have just googled it and gone on, but I hate to do that.

No offense to Mr. Elmore, but my mental image of Kitiara is way better than his paintings. Kit Harrington is quite a handsome fellow and an excellent actor, but I still prefer the Jon Snow of my imagination. Mental constructs simply have more life and personal investment in them. (The later may be the most pertinent difference.)

Usually, I don't show pictures to players when I'm GMing something. I want them each  to build the scene in their minds' eyes. This fuels character immersion, and besides, what they imagine will always be more individually engaging that anything an artist can create. (And waaaayyy better than my doodles.)

CosmiCat has no Concern
for Your Petty Human Ways
However, there's a certain break-over point where things are so alien that illustrations are pretty much necessary. (For instance, I  google image searched to help me make sense of the Elder Things while reading At the Mountains of Madness.

It's the mark of an amazing author to perfectly describe the truly strange succinctly. (Honestly, I think Lovecraft put enough in there to visualize the Elder Things, I just didn't have enough in the way of metal energy to puzzle them out at the time.)

When designing your own abominations or aliens or whatever, you can use something more real world or every day as the basis and then pile on the strange. This may help your eventual audience (whether your players or somebody else's) to visualize what you're getting at. Of course that's inherently limiting... so yah.

I suppose it all comes down to this creative balance prevalent in genre fiction* - the opposite pull between innovation and comprehensibility. It's also a matter of supremely personal taste.

In lieu of a conclusion (because I don't really have one), here are some discussion questions:

How weird is too weird, for you and your games?
Do you want lots of illustrations for your gaming stuff or more words?
Have illustrations ever "ruined" something for you?

*RPGs are almost universally emulative of genre fiction