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Players fall quite often, because heroes are constantly leaping off things. TLDR Version: Here is how I do it. I give heroes the fir...

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Thoughtless dungeons in two parts.

A couple of posts ago, I wrote about  playing Basic D&D again for the first time in several a couple of decades. We are two short sessions in now playing exclusively on roll20 in the  evenings. Things are going well, the  players are exploring room by room, the game is going basicly as planned.

For this post I'm going to  go back to my  other post and comment in RED on how my original observations have stood up to actual play.
Here it goes.

Original Post starts here:

_________________________________________________________________________

  • I have players who have never seen Elf, Dwarf, and Halfling presented as classes. It took them a few minutes to accept that as how it is. I always like Race as class. In my mind it lets an elf be an elf, and a dwarf be a dwarf  (halflings are a bit underwhelming but .. should be given their literary source.) A demihuman class is something a player will choose because they want to play that race on it's own merits. Rather than picking a race for its optimal stack of bonuses to layer on a class. There is no halfling thief. Though you could play a sneaky halfling. The Basic D&D halfling presented in the RC could sneak into smaug's lair. Though the dwarves might have been better served hireling a REAL thief. An elf is a magical creature wielding spells and a sword.  The dwarf is incredibly hardy and  punchy, but will never be exactly as skilled as a leveled warrior. It all just works for me. The player who took Elf as a class in our game rolled very badly for stats, but has been effective staying in the back using his bow. It should be said that "spell abilities" is a bit over stated as I think he only gets two level 1 spells and one level 2 spell. Jen's wrote about this topic in depth back in may.
  • I touched on it above, Tolkien's influence on D&D is felt strongly in this edition. The basic classes seem to be emulating the fellowship to a tee. (Ok, so the thief not so much.) I might be reading a bit too much into it. The druid and the mystic being add-ons, break the tolkien pattern and stand out all the  more because of it. Others before me have dismantled the Tolkien, D&D relationship a hundred times, but it's interesting to see just where it was when this  book was compiled. I have basicly dropped them into a world that is so NOT tolkien that it hurts.. I'm currious to see if this  grates with teh ssystem as the charaters amass levels.
  • THAC0 is confusing to players who have never dealt with it. So is rolling over on d20 for  saves, but roll under attributes for skill checks. I can see why  some of the decisions that made 3rd edition happened. Unifying all the die rolls to  D20 + Bonus vs a difficulty was new to D&D back in 2000, but now it's the defacto way many players think of the game. I wrote "Thac0 - roll  = ac hit in big bold letters at the top of our roll 20 screen. We have had no issue with Thac0. I also wrote " Saves are roll over" , and "attribute checks are roll under" in the same space.
  • Depending on how the reader looks at it , this might be the only version of D&D that was ever considered "complete" rather than "replaced." The turnaround time for D&D editions went from 10 years between AD&D first edition and AD&D second edition, to 11 years between second edition and third (3.5 came out three years later I'm sticking with whole number edditions.) Then dropped to 8 years between third edition and fourth, then six years between fourth edition and fifth edition. 
    I'm not going to go all the way back to 1977 for the  J.E.Holmes basic rules because it was quite a different animal. Even still the 1981 revision means the basic rules were in development for well over a decade before the Cyclopedia was even published. The basic rules were never replaced. So we could say the "complete" D&D basic rules (as compiled in the RC) have been in the wild for 26 years and are still serviceable and being played today. That's a great track record, shared by  some but not many games. ** Iguess the point is in a way moot. One cool concept is that in our community A person can find people playing and dedicated to every edition and every sub-version of D&D that's ever come down the pipe. No reason to comment much further, except that one of our players got the old Black "starter Set" of Ebay and I have no idea what version that is.
  • Using the mastery rules, the dagger is pretty great. Just sayin. Has proven correct.
  • The grappling rules in Basic are too complicated and drawn out. I'm going to give them another read through to see if I can find anything I want to use. As of right now if it comes up I'll usurp the strength check system of 5th edition. I purchased Dungeon Grappling in pdf form. I like it very much but I have not implemented it yet. I  probably will once we get more in the swing of the game. Playing a long session at the table would help in this regard. I find it hard to explain things like a new grappling system over roll 20.
  • I HAVE TO get back in the habit of tracking time precisely. It's important in this system and it's important to this style of game. A dungeon is dangerous (like the ocean, or a high mountain) because it doesn't give a shit about the characters. It will wear out a parties food, torches, hit points, potions, over time. It will always be there. A party does not just get up and leave a dungeon. If it takes them 12 hours to walk in, all that dungeon is still behind them, waiting. Safety is not just around the corner. To enforce that concept I need to know precisely how long the party has been walking around down there. I can't just hand wave time, or the  threat of being hurt cold, isolated and hungry can be solved simply by saying "we go back the way we came." I have to force my self to be vigilant about time, and for someone with my kind of freewheeling style and lack of  true focus, that kind of discipline is going to be tough.  I'm doing alright in this regard..Tracking during combat is simple. Rounds are rounds, tracking during free form exploration is a bit trickier. ASking everyone "what do you do this round ?" while they walk down an empty corridor is no my GM-ing style.
  • I touched on this above and it is worth saying again. I'm not greatly impressed with the RC in PDF form. I should  get a nice set of cheat sheets ready so I don't have to go rooting around in the book for rules clarifications. Still true I hate using PDF during games.
  • I need to remind the  players to write down what their spells do..I hate looking up spells. Done and done... no issues here.
  • Playing online is simply no where near as easy as playing at the table, but it's what we have to do. I'm not going to use roll20 to do maps. I'm horrid at that. I'm going to run the game the same way I would at the table. The players will have to keep track of their locations. Though I'm not going demand some poor soul draw every inch of the dungeon I describe. I have never seen that as a valuable or fun part of the game. (WRONG) I am thinking of asking for a cartography skill roll every hour of game time from the character doing the mapping. The quality of the  roll will affect the quality of the map and hence it's usefulness when the  group backs out of the dungeon. Kind of riffing off how Torchbearer works dungeon mapping, I'll see how it goes. I have not had to change mapping or make it any more "abstract" Two of the three current  online players are mapping as we go. Here is another place that playing at the table would be a big improvement. Just the nature of  voice over IP and the internet  leaves me having to repeat are descriptions so that everyone hears them and can  map them correctly. At the table I might say "I'm not going to repeat the description what you  map is what you map." That approach is wildly unfair on line  when  who knows what is interfering with the GM getting a message across. Another lay to that is I have not done Dungeon area descriptions in a LONG time so honestly the  players and I have not developed a shorthand or any kind of standard way of communicating room and hallway dimensions, that takes some time and practice to develop in a natural way.
  • Though I might have tokens for each character to do positioning  for fights if we have to. That's super easy to do on roll20. Has not happened yet.
  • Ok. I just revisited the wrestling rules, they are simpler than I remember. I can ask the players to write their character's Wrestler rating on some dark corner of their character sheets and most likely never use it. Has not happened yet
  • I love that this book gives the reader the rules in the  most unpretentious way possible.. Just here it is, go use it. Insert a repetitious whine about the PDF here
  • For me I think they could have cut out the "D&D Game world" section and added the rules from the immortal level boxed set. I know it's been like 26 years, too late to complain about that now right? *** Shrug... Still holds true, but honestly no one's going to level 36 anyway.
  • I'm not going to use or introduce any players options form any of the  gazettes, or Dragon magazines I have access to. Not right away. I want to keep the game to only the stuff in the RC. I hold the opinion that most games suffer from the weight of additional additions, splat books, and expansions. Basic D&D was an exception that that they expanded the game into new levels with the basic expert, companion, master, and immortal rules. In that way the new boxes didn't effect characters at lower levels all that much. With the RC most of that info is in one place as one system, so I feel it has enough to get us by for a quite while. In fact chances are we will move on for this game before we even truly scratch the surface. This still holds true I have no interest in bloating the game beyond what's in the  rules cyclopedia.
  • I will be giving experience for gold piece value of treasure found. **** I have been, so far both the thief,and the cleric have leveled. The elf is leveling slower because ..elf.. which is how the game is designed. So far everything has been going basicly as intended on the exp front. ONe thing I have done is made it plain to the group that I give small bonuses for  good ideas, creative play dn role playing . At the end of the game I sum  each players bonuses and give everyone the  highest value among the players. That might seem odd, but I don't want to punish one player who may  be more conservative vs another player who is constantly trying over the top actions. It may
  • One of the players realized his starting thief has 10 HP at third level. It is going to be an adjustment to say the least. That character is level 4 now and has survived swimmingly... so far
--------------------------------------------------------------------------End Older Post----------------------------------------------------------
Part Two,
A dungeon with purpose:
My dungeon  is suck.. Well OK, it's not that bad. I had to toss it together quickly due to real life things happening, working a day I normally don't, and snowstorms here in  New York messing with my schedule. Just normal day to day distractions.

The problem with that is the dungeon theme, the purpose of the thing gets muddled. I started with an idea then mutated it a few times before settling on what I'm actually doing. However due to time I never had the time to tuck the dirty corners in.

The players are hunting a research assistant who stole his bosses survey information concerning a recently unearthed mine. The mine is ancient, but may also contain shards of a very valuable material. The  professor assumes that the research assistant is going to try and find a vein of this stuff and get rich. Fair enough.

That's the pretext for adventure, but the devils in the details. How is the ancient mine laid out? If the professor and his  workers have been surveying this mine and getting ready to reopen its operations how come they don't know exactly what's down there? There were no back up maps? Why didn't you mention the  goblins? The biggest one being, If it's dangerous on the planet's surface, how the hell is the professor hiding this whole mining operation and the small village which supports it from those dangers? 
 These are examples of the logic holes left over from not prepping the  whole thing as well as I should have

None of it will matter by the time the players are deep into the meat of the adventure (you're not.... really you're not) as planned. It will all hang together well enough that the  players shouldn't give a crap about the small stuff. On The other side of that coin, I give a crap. Strong adventure foundations are what it takes to build lofty  towers. I'm sure one of these logic holes will get wider and wider over time until it comes back to haunt me.

Thoughtless can kill a game as fast as rail-road-ish over planning. In this case it's a bit less of a problem. This game was built on the pitch "Hey guys want to do a true dungeon crawl?" Every one said "sure" so delivering on that will be what gets the job done. Overall I like the big picture. I like to know the where why and what of things when I'm running a game. To start out with a fresh setting and honestly with less thought than I would normally put into such an undertaking, leaves me feeling a bit uncomfortable. Sort of like being in a hall of mirrors. One where my ideas are quickly distorted before being reflected back for rapid consideration. Rest assured if the players decide to explore the world further after they  delve deeply into this dungeon crawl, I'll be ready for them. In the meantime they have to survive a few games of hastily  put together dungeons. And some slightly thoughtless content that I'll have to  work into a better narrative somewhere down the road.

Thanks for reading.
-Mark






Saturday, February 11, 2017

A quick Review of "Dungeon Grappling"

As per the title this is going to be a quick Review of "Dungeon Grappling" by  Douglas Cole.

The Preamble:
  • This is an unsolicited review.
  • I did not receive a review copy, nor did I request one.
  • I don't know Mr. Cole beyond our exchanges on G+ and few e-mails regarding role playing games.
  • Douglas Cole's Blog, Gaming Ballistic is here. His Website, is Here.
    The  Document started as a successful Kickstarter campaign the  description of which is still available here.
  • Here is the  link where you can buy "Dungeon Grappling." Available in soft cover print version and PDF (or a bundle of both). 
    • I bought the PDF so I can't speak to the physical quality of the soft cover print.
  • I invite Douglass Cole, or anyone else to jump into the comments section  to correct any mistakes I make in the following review.
OK. That covers all the prelim stuff right? 

TLDR Version:
I'm not a reviewer. I don't usually do reviews, and when I have they have been pretty brief. There are quite a few other reviews out there for this product, so as usual I'm a bit behind the  curve.

My quick impression after reading through the rules quickly is this. Dungeon Grappling is very  well thought out and very well produced supplement for fantasy games. As a supplement "Dungeon Grappling" will be best used by  players and game masters who believe grappling is under-served by the rules normally provided in traditional fantasy games. While there is a bit of extra set up and book keeping involved, the result is more detailed and eloquent grappling for your game.
Conclusion: It's legit. If you think your game will have or should have more grappling, it's easily worth the purchase.


More detailed Observations:

This is a well put together PDF.

The lay out is clean, it's easy to read with nice font choices and clearly defined sections covering Core Concepts, Grappling effects, and Monstrous Grappling respectively.



The PDF is fully indexed and bookmarked making it easy to navigate.


The art is all good quality and  all on topic. My favorite plate is the Jennifer Bone piece on page 15, because it reminds me of how my own 5th ed monk  fights. I also like that many of the art pieces show a variety of  situations where an attack can be  handled with grappling. Spiders webs, entangle spells, dragons scooping up victims, are all featured in the art.


The writing is overall clear and concise, though It did some times thing it got a bit bogged down trying to cover, OSR, Pathfinder and 5th ED options all at once. Thankfully the Rear of the  document features reference sheets that cleanly  summarize the mechanical  bits form the  text. If I was using this at the table I would print out or copy those references.

This is a 53 page pdf focusing on a subject that usually gets a couple paragraphs in a players hand book. It is a one stop shop for your groups  fantasy graps needs. With all the content here the  piece that ties it all together and in my view is the clever part of the whole thing is the  concept of "control Points" Based on your rolls vs a grapple DC your character earns control points against a target. Control points build up putting your opponent in progressively worse positions and can be spent to  shove, throw, hurt and incapacitate a foe. More attention than normal is paid to the position grappling puts an attacker in by way of making it easier for others in the combat to hit even the more dominant participant of a grapple. Its a good detail that is usually overlooked by less detailed systems. It's a bit "Gurpsy" in it's execution, but it's not so complex as to be off putting, or intimidating. It is definitely not for the "rules light" crowd.  I'm not sure any one looking for rules light games would be out looking for more detailed grappling rules so that's a non sequitur anyway.



The monster section  gives good examples of how to stat out monsters for  grappling and why large monsters can be very dangerous up close. Universal application of this system in a game will add a layer of complexity, but it will also add a new level of threat for many monsters.


Conclusion:


A more complex but very deep grapple system for your  fantasy games. I already focus on grappling  with my monk using the  5th ed rules, but it's a bit bland and repetitive. I will certainly ask if I can bring this system to the table. Not for any boost in effectiveness, but more for the interesting options it provides during combat. Opportunities like throws and grapple damage open up the  floor for a hand to hand combat focus character. 
I recommend this  supplement to any one who is a fain of grappling style combat, and would like to see more of it in their fantasy games.


Thanks for reading 
- Mark

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Back to the dungeon. (Some Basic D&D talk)

My D&D 5th ed campaign has lost it's steam for the moment. The holidays brought with them a gaming drought which stole any momentum or desire I had where running my game is concerned. It happens every year. We will get back to it, we always do. *

I  have proposed that we try something I have actually never done. A full on dungeon crawl.

My games have traditionally been about  characters traipsing around the land, dealing with things they find and moving on. Rarely have they gone below ground.

As I have gotten older I have started obsessing a bit over odd details... Why is the  mega dungeon there? How was it built? where did all the dirt go? Who paid for this huge public works project. How do those orcs get food? Air? Gravity, hows that work? and so on. Without question if I have a big ass multi-level magical dungeon in the middle of my game world I want it to have some logic behind it. with that in mind, the whole mega dungeon concept doesn't fit very well into my own game. In order to facilitate an actual dungeon crawl style game, I have to make a stand alone "world" just for this game. World being a strong word. Creating an area or a town should be enough. Creating a base of  operations for the  players to sally forth from and  return to if they are able (lucky). . I exhibit less and less fantasy flexibility in my thinking as I get older. I guess it's just a sign of living  more and more in a world where i have to  think  logically 90% of the time, rather than having a ton of time to daydream about sex, games, and  whatever. I yearn for those days when I could allow myself to create parts of a game world that make zero logical sense. (Ok, I'm legit digressing .. gotta get back on task here.)

To facilitate this foray into a dungeon I have called on an old reliable buddy. The basic D&D Rules Cyclopedia (RC from here on). Now I know it's not everyone's favorite version of  Basic, but it's hard to argue the convenience of having everything in one book. I own a dead tree version of the compendium which I bought new back in the early 90's. As of a few days ago I bought the PDF from Drive through.
Ok so I don't love the layout of the book once it becomes a PDF. Still, I don't want to be tossing my table used and now pretty fragile hard copy around if I don't have to.

Some interesting things going on already. 
  • I have players who have never seen Elf, Dwarf, and Halfling presented as classes. It took them a few minutes to accept that as how it is. I always like Race as class. In my mind it lets an elf be an elf, and a dwarf be a dwarf  (halflings are a bit underwhelming but .. should be given their literary source.) A demihuman class is something a player will choose because they want to play that race on it's own merits. Rather than picking a race for its optimal stack of bonuses to layer on a class. There is no halfling thief. Though you could play a sneaky halfling. The Basic D&D halfling presented in the RC could sneak into smaug's lair. Though the dwarves might have been better served hireling a REAL thief. An elf is a magical creature wielding spells and a sword. The dwarf is incredibly hardy and  punchy, but will never be exactly as skilled as a leveled warrior. It all just works for me.
  • I touched on it above, Tolkien's influence on D&D is felt strongly in this edition. The basic classes seem to be emulating the fellowship to a tee. (Ok, so the thief not so much.) I might be reading a bit too much into it. The druid and the mystic being add-ons, break the tolkien pattern and stand out all the  more because of it. Others before me have dismantled the Tolkien, D&D relationship a hundred times, but it's interesting to see just where it was when this  book was compiled.
  • THAC0 is confusing to players who have never dealt with it. So is rolling over on d20 for  saves, but roll under attributes for skill checks. I can see why  some of the decisions that made 3rd edition happened. Unifying all the die rolls to  D20 + Bonus vs a difficulty was new to D&D back in 2000, but now it's the defacto way many players think of the game.
  • Depending on how the reader looks at it , this might be the only version of D&D that was ever considered "complete" rather than "replaced." The turnaround time for D&D editions went from 10 years between AD&D first edition and AD&D second edition, to 11 years between second edition and third (3.5 came out three years later I'm sticking with whole number edditions.) Then dropped to 8 years between third edition and fourth, then six years between fourth edition and fifth edition. 
    I'm not going to go all the way back to 1977 for the  J.E.Holmes basic rules because it was quite a different animal. Even still the 1981 revision means the basic rules were in development for well over a decade before the Cyclopedia was even published. The basic rules were never replaced. So we could say the "complete" D&D basic rules (as compiled in the RC) have been in the wild for 26 years and are still serviceable and being played today. That's a great track record, shared by  some but not many games. ** Iguess the point is in a way moot. One cool concept is that in our community A person can find people  playing and dedicated to every  edition and every sub-version of D&D that's ever come down the pipe. 
  • Using the mastery rules, the dagger is pretty great. Just sayin.
  • The grappling rules in Basic are too complicated and drawn out. I'm going to give them another read through to see if I can find anything I want to use. As of right now if it comes up I'll usurp the strength check system of 5th edition.
  • I HAVE TO get back in the habit of tracking time precisely. It's important in this system and it's important to this style of game. A dungeon is dangerous (like the ocean, or a high mountain) because it doesn't give a shit about the characters. It will wear out a parties food, torches, hit points, potions, over time. It will always be there. A party does not just get up and leave a dungeon. If it takes them 12 hours to walk in, all that dungeon is still behind them, waiting. Safety is not just around the corner. To enforce that concept I need to know precisely how long the party has been walking around down there. I can't just hand wave time, or the  threat of being hurt cold, isolated and hungry can be solved simply by saying "we go back the way we came." I have to force my self to be vigilant about time, and for someone with my kind of freewheeling style and lack of  true focus, that kind of discipline is going to be tough.
  • I touched on this above and it is worth saying again. I'm not greatly impressed with the RC in PDF form. I should  get a nice set of cheat sheets ready so I don't have to go rooting around in the book for rules clarifications.
  • I need to remind the  players to write down what their spells do..I hate looking up spells.
  • Playing online is simply no where near as easy as playing at the table, but it's what we have to do. I'm not going to use roll 20 to do maps. I'm horrid at that. I'm going to run the game the same way I would at the table. The players will have to keep track of their locations. Though I'm not going demand some poor soul draw every inch of the dungeon I describe. I have never seen that as a valuable or fun part of the game. I am thinking of asking for a cartography skill roll every hour of game time from the character doing the mapping. The quality of the  roll will effect the quality of the map and hence it's usefulness when the  group backs out of the dungeon. Kind of riffing off how Torchbearer works dungeon mapping, I'll see how it goes.
  • Though I might have tokens for each character to do positioning  for fights if we have to. That's super easy to do on roll 20.
  • Ok. I just revisited the wrestling rules, they are simpler than I remember. I can ask the players to write their character's Wrestler rating on some dark corner of their character sheets and most likely never use it.
  • I love that this book gives the reader the rules in the  most unpretentious way possible.. Just here it is, go use it.
  • For me I think they could have cut out the "D&D Game world" section and added the rules from the immortal level boxed set. I know it's been like 26 years, too late to complain about that now right? ***
  • I'm not going to use or introduce any players options form any of the  gazettes, or Dragon magazines I have access to. Not right away. I want to keep the game to only the stuff in the RC. I hold the opinion that most games suffer from the weight of additional additions, splat books, and expansions. Basic D&D was an exception that that they expanded the game into new levels with the basic expert companion, maser and immortal rules. In that way the new boxes didn't effect characters at lower levels all that much. With the RC most of that info is in one place as one system, so I feel it has enough to get us by for a quite while. IN fact chances are we will move on for this game before we even truly scratch the surface.
  • I will be giving experience for gold piece value of treasure found. ****
  • One of the players realized his starting thief has 10 HP at third level. It is going to be an adjustment to say the least.
I think that's enough for now. We are supposed to start this Friday night. I will keep the blog and you fine folks posted on how everything goes for the first few games.

Thank you for reading
-Mark.


* This will not always be true. Someday we won't get back to  this stuff, that's just a fact. Never really thought about it until recently.

** Car wars deluxe dropped in 1988 and I think that's the game people still mean when they say "car wars." The  other 4 editions of car wars seemed lesser in my experience, but I could be very wrong. I'm hard pressed to to think of other games left generally unchanged. Blood bowl? that didn't change much between editions.... still makes me want to flip tables.

*** Just did ...postmortem complaints ...
**** I hear Otto Clapping.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Looking at skills in a sci fi setting



Skills:
Most Paper and pencil RPG's have a system for skills. It makes the game easier for every one when you know what your character can and cannot do. Different games treat skills in different ways . D&D 5th edition used broadly defined skills while say Palladium Fantasy Role play uses skills that are more tightly defined. That all makes sense to me. Every game is different , there si no "right way" to handle skills

Where I have trouble with skill systems is when I get into science fiction games. Tightly defined skills makes less sense to me in a future setting. In my view (and it could be wrong )  the knowledge base of the average human is become more and more broad as time moves forward. It is easier now to  get our hands on general information than it ever has been. Most of us walk around with a cell phone in our pockets that can find us any fact we need in a matter of seconds. That ability is unprecedented in history, it's basically a super power.

This brings me to actual skills.
Take plumbing for an example. I can sweat a pipe. I'm not great at it, but I have done it. A plumber who does it every day can do it twice as fast as I can with better results. He or she will have more repetition of the  skill and the tools ready at hand At this point in life I would have to go  buy a torch, flux, solder and so on and I have not sweat a pipe in several years.

This easily translates to something like. I have plumbing level 1 compared to an expert with plumbing level 5, or whatever equivalent you choose. I'm not sure that's the best approach.

In my head it works like this, I'm a handyman (anyone who knows me is laughing right now) While the Plumber is an actual plumber. General handyman tasks are things I can attempt without a penalty. Complicated Plumbing tasks are beyond my scope. I could try it but chances are good I would mess something up. Even if you gave me the professional's tools to work with, I' still not a plumber.

I'm looking at it like we both have skills however, one is more specific than the other.

 In D&D 5th ed terms I could have a regular D20 roll for actions that are simple enough to fall under "handyman." If the Gm determines the action requires the skills of a full fledged plumber then I would roll at a disadvantage. (though this doesn't work fantastically for D&D 5th ed)

Why am I only applying this to Sci-Fi ?

 There is so much possible STUFF in science fiction that writing specific skills for every possible thing would for one thing be very setting specific, and for another be  exhausting. In Science fiction as compared to fantasy there are just so many things that a character could possibly specialize in, it screams for  broader base skills. Imagine a system where you have a skill called "Samsung television operator" and another skill called "Zenith television operator." That's a bit of a silly example, but it holds true. Any normal person can operate pretty much any normal television, drive most makes of car, and operate most computers. Only Specialists might know how to repair a Samsung, Drive a race car at speed, or hack a mainframe.

So how do  we get to be specialists without that long list of predefined skills?

The players do it.
We come up with a list of broad skills each with their own  broadly  defined scope. Things like Handy man, and pilot. Characters start out having a few of these broad areas of knowledge. When a character advances (however we decide to handle that) The player could decide to  write in a specialization for one of their broad areas of knowledge.

Keeping with the Handyman theme:

A character starts out with just the handyman skill. During their first level they make several handyman rolls trying to build barricades with which they fortify subway station against an impending attack by mutant Salamanders.
When the character advances, the  player might say to the DM, "Hey I built a bunch of wooden barricades recently, can I  specialize in carpentry?"
If the Gm says yes then the next time the character builds something out of wood then that character will have a better chance to succeed. Meanwhile, if the  character needs to do some plumbing , the character would still use the broader "Handyman" skill.
this is not to say that in real life just building some barricades is enough to call yourself a "carpenter." It's obviously not. To the contrary, I'm talking about a game system that has to offer some meaningful advancement to characters within the number of sessions any group can be responsibly expected to spend with one system.

In this way a character with  "Tv operator" could specialize to being better at operating Samsung television, though who knows why they would. Or a "solider" which is an area of knowledge covering a myriad of useful things, could latter specialize in "AR15", "Military Logistics", "Communications equipment", Or "Light vehicle driver."  The possibilities are endless.

Once the system is in place, the gate is opened for a player to specialize again under a skill that had already been specialized.

For example: (Solider → Communications equipment specialization → Satellite radio operator.)

Granting the character even more bonuses when using satellite communications equipment. while retaining the  broader knowledge of communications equipment, and the even broader knowledge gained from being a solider.

Hopefully this system would lead to decisions during advancement.
"Do I  try to get another normal specialization or do I narrow my focus on a skill I have already specialized in for extra situational bonuses?"
Om one hand getting another broad area of knowledge or a specialization  makes a character more versatile. While focusing a specialization further will make a character more effective in certain situations. The player needs to think about how often those situations are going to crop up, and  is focusing a specialization further worth  using an advancement on?

As with anything I post here this is just something I'm rolling around in my head and your millage with it may vary.

If you enjoy American Football, enjoy the Superbowl today! (I'm not into it myself, but I wont hate on it.)

Thank you for reading
 -Mark.



Friday, February 3, 2017

Letting a game into the wild.

Let me get this straight.
I wrote a silly fantasy game called AAIE which will be available to anyone reading this (and anyone else) at some point in the next few months.
While it is true I wrote it, I would say that My Friends Neal, and Jens D. from the Disoriented Ranger Blog deserve far more credit for it's actual realization than I do.

Neal has done 90% of the play testing, running the game at several cons, giving me feedback and  just saying things like, "This is broken, figure it out."  Or, 'This chart needs X and Y please make that happen." He has also created some quick reference sheets (Very needed) based on his in game experience, and a quick character generator (helpfull when someone's character dies, as is often the case).  He has been great.
For his part Jens has been willing to play the game a couple times with our normal group which avails me to another person's perspective. Beyond that however he has been unwaveringly enthusiastic about the game, has always offered his opinions on sticky system issues, helped figure out procedural hiccups, and fixed issues of layout.

I have to give them credit  for letting a game I wrote out into the wild. They have facilitated the work that I'm not skilled or not motivated enough to do myself.

So that leaves me with a game. A digital conglomeration of pictures and pages.
A game that has seen far more attention and tweaking from people beyond our group than anything else I have written. Which is flattering, but also a bit concerning.

Now I want to do something with it, I want to finish it. I feel a degree of gratitude towards the people who have enjoyed the game and that gratitude should be repaid with a finished game. There's the rub. As it turns out I have no idea what that means.
I understand that this thing will never be as professionally edited* as well laid out ** or as full of great art *** as a professional  production. I still want it to be the best I (we) can do.
Contrary to popular belief, and possibly empirical evidence, I'm not a shit person.I hate the idea of putting out shit.

So as the time for me to let this  into the  wild comes closer, as it creeps into my consciousness that I might actually HAVE to follow through for once, it makes me nervous. I know AAIE will fall into the O.S.R. bracket of games whether it should or not. That's a pool of  incredibly talented, authors, artists,, and  developers. Some of those folks are working with higher than industry average production values. I just can't compete for attention at that level. I don't expect to.

What is the  point of this  post beyond self deprecation?

At what point do ideas overcome presentation? At what point does presentation overcome ideas?
I have read some game products, of which the  presentation, the art, and the quality of the physical product has been by far my favorite aspect. On the  other side of the same coin I have read some games that were simply text documents on a free RPG site and found the ideas inside very intriguing. I always tell myself this hobby is and has always been a do it yourself hobby at heart. The originators of the hobby were doing it themselves and on a shoestring to boot. Though I find less and less solace in that thought the more I see how far beyond those DIY roots we have progressed as a creative community.

I'm just not sure a person (me) can get away with the former style anymore. The bar has been raised by some high quality products independently published in the past five years. Regardless of the intent of a project there will be someone reviewing it on the web as if it should have production values on par with latest release from Fantasy Flight Studio. What's worse I think it's totally fair to have those high standards in the  modern age of  P.O.D, desktop publishing, and nearly limitless talent networking. Creators have set the bar for other creators and that's how things work, that's how thing progress. I'm not sure what that means for actual homespun productions.

As Usual more questions than answers from my corner of the web.
I guess we'll see how things go when the time comes.
Thanks for reading
-Mark.



*Editing: I priced it out a while ago by asking around for going rates to a bit over $3000 for the  whole thing. That's a price which isn't that bad considering how shit my writing is. Honestly though, on a project that I wouldn't see a return on I also have to consider using that money replacing the fence in my back yard and doing my driveway.
** Lay Out: I never priced this,  but I'm sure it would be a bear to do properly.
*** I do sketches. My art isn't professional level. My art is 
however, free to me  so .... I'll use it. If I were to hire artists it would be far and away the most expensive production cost, if for no other reason than I would want it to be.


Thursday, February 2, 2017

Thoughts on writing adventures for others.

"Somewhere under a lost and lonely hill of grim and foreboding aspect lies a labyrinthine crypt. It is filled with terrible traps and not a few strange and ferocious monsters to slay the unwary." -E.G.Gygax *

This post is completely unrelated to a few other posts on the  subject lately. If you wish to take a deep dive on the subject of preparing an adventure, check out The Disoriented Ranger's series.

I have come to a conclusion that has probably been  incredibly obvious to everyone else for quite some time. There are two basic styles people like  in their prepackaged adventures. Neither style is lesser, both styles are valid, but they are distinctly different. Furthermore, I understand there are modules and adventures that cover the range between Styles A and Style B mentioned below.

Style A: One type of gamer wants pre-packaged adventures as interpretive as possible. Areas can be loosely defined, descriptive fluff text is nice if interesting but not necessary. These players look at pre generated adventures as idea mines, and are happy if a book has a ton of great ideas even if the ideas aren't hung together all that well. Give the reader the content and let the reader build adventure concepts from the materials presented. Frog god games "Tome of Adventure design" is an extreme example of this approach. My own game AAIE functions this way as well.

Style B: Another type of reader likes a lot of detail. Room descriptions even if brief are to be adhered to. Monsters need to be stated out, preferably for their game of choice. Maps with  numbers and descriptions are a must. Boxed text with  background info, and  other details are also appreciated. Most importantly the adventure concepts all have to be performed, and available. Most of the modules I have read follow this style.

I  think it is a strength of our hobby that a person buying an adventure can take the material given to them and move that material towards the style they prefer. A person can take "Castle Greyhawk" and use only the initial castle area with it's little shopping area some of the NPC's provided, and build a whole different dungeon underneath. A book that is very  Style B can be torn apart then made into a Style A game. Conversely a DM  given enough prep time can take a bunch of  concepts presented in something like Zak Smith's recent post "Pit Of The Demonweb Queen" and work those concepts enough that they read like a Style B module. One style doesn't exclude the other, it just takes a bit of brainwork to get from one to the other.

This all got me thinking that I enjoy reading modules / adventures far more than I enjoy running them. I guess that would make me a style A person. What I really enjoy are adventures and settings that feel like tool kits. A good example of this is "Hubris: A world of Visceral Adventure" DIY RPG productions. I use this example because the product is a whole setting with very vivid descriptions, and plenty of background. On the other side of that coin the author never tells the reader how he thinks all of the information presented should be used. He provides tools (many tools) for the GM to run their own vision of Hubris.

How Does all this  babbling relate to writing adventures?
I feel that an author looking to write adventures for others to use, needs to recognize that it will be very difficult to make both style A and Style B  readers happy.
A writer could describe and stat out every minute facet of an adventure  in excruciating detail.  And someone will write a review saying "Too wordy , cut it back to the  essentials!"
On the other hand another writer could provide tools with which to build an area and someone else will review, "Not enough detail areas mentioned with out descriptions and  some monsters weren't stated out!"
I know there is middle ground.  Some adventures look to cover both styles, but it's hard to cover all those bases and do it well.
In my  view it's valid to  write an adventure that works for the way the  author runs his or her games. Creating with out trying to be every thing to everyone. If the  ideas are good and presented well, people will find the work and an audience will grow. Even if the work in question isn't everyone's cup of tea.

Thanks for reading
-Mark

*The quote is from S1 "Tomb or Horrors" Which is just about my least favorite module of all time. Unpopular opinion I know, but that's how it is.
** Also for the  record, I'm not planning on writing an adventure for public consumption any time soon. I do however know some one who is, and have read several blog posts on the subject recently. Odd how subjects get around... Pollination.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

RPG's and Twitter. (A question)

Preface: I don't know how to Twitter very well. I'm a "twitiot."

Recently (last friday) I took a few minutes to follow every RPG related twitter feed I could find. I figure if I followed someone that posts things that aren't sitting well with me I can just unfollow them and no harm no foul.
 I follow a mixed bag of scientists, freinds, pro wrestlers, local news reporters, some comedy feeds, but now my list of twitter follows is predominantly RPG's. Something I find strange and I guess this is due to  twitter's algorithms controlling what they show and when, I don't see all that many RPG related posts in my  feed.

(though I do chat with  Charles from the Dyver's Blog quite often, and had a nice exchange with the person behind the Goblin Stomper Blog)

Here's my question:
How do you utilized twitter to expand you RPG circles?  All I really do is  post once a month or so that I have this blog.
Or don't you? is  twitter useless for this  kind of thing.

Thanks for reading:
-Mark.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Utilizing Insects.

Giant insects are a D&D  stand by. It's hard to find a dungeon that doesn't at least have a few giant beetles spewing toxic fluids around. Admittedly they are one of my own favorite go to monsters.

One thing I think has been slightly overlooked of the the years are the myriad of  real hunting and defensive mechanisms insects employ. If by  making any old insect "giant" it becomes that much more dangerous why not  extrapolate some of their more exotic abilities into the realm of fantasy as well. Now I'm not crazy enough to think I can write about even a small percentage of insects  in this format. Instead I'm going to try and  hit on some of my favorites.

Wasps and Hornets:
I love wasps. Few things interest me more than all the different ways they have found to survive. Aerial hunters extraordinaire it seems that these gals have evolved hundreds of ways to attack and  kill prey.

One thing to think about is wasps are in many cases ambush predators, waiting around in areas where they know prey will be  and striking with surprise. Generally an ambushing wasp will find a perch or a hidden place to hover and wait for prey. For example the  Vespa Bicolor Hornet will sit on pile of  dung waiting for flies it to attract flies. Once the fly get close sounge the  honest strikes snatching them up.

Using that as a template and moving it into the  fantasy realm I could imagine  a breed of  giant paper wasps that use man made mines as shelter. The wasps are golden grey color with a splash of red on their foreheads. Their wings are silky black in color. Their bodies long, with powerful pincers, and  thick legs. The wasps abdomens are almost round, striped black and dull grey-gold. Overall they are about the size of a large dog.

Their  nests are made of digested wood pulp  held together with wasp secretions and mud from the cave floors. The  nests are large, housing 1d12 adult wasps, gray, usually built in dark places, and can easily go unnoticed.
The wasps are attracted to gold. When gold is unearthed or stored in an area, a single wasp will fly to the location and land in the darkest corner of the  room. When  living creatures are around the wasp will wait until one is quite close (Moderate difficulty to detect the wasp) then fly out attacking the target from behind usually aiming at the neck.  If the wasp kill a target they will immediately begin excising hunks of flesh and flying them back to the nest. The wasp will bite twice a round  until A: The target dies. B: The  wasp is reduced to 1/2 hit points at which point it will try to escape.
This type of wasp only stings if cornered or if defending the nest. IN these situations wasps will buzz a target and attempt to jab with it's barb like stinger. The sting does light damage but causes searing pain. The target must make a constitution save. or lose 1d6+4 strength for 5 rounds from the debilitating pain.

Spider hunting Wasps are another interesting take:
     They are a classification of wasps that contains over 200 species which  hunt, and paralyze spiders. Known broadly as spider wasps, they drag the spiders back to their nests and  lay eggs on their paralyzed victims. The larvae once hatched eat spider alive. Horror movie level  insect on arachnid violence.
Ohh god, why did I ever look this up?

Again extrapolating things to the D&D  fantasy level... Giant spiders are a D&D stand by. If there are giant spiders why not giant angry ass wasps that eat them?
A giant-spider wasps nest would be a massively disturbing thing to  run into. Scores of  paralyzed spiders being slowly eaten by giant grubs. Beyond the horrid visual however it's not particularly threatening to your players.


So lets switch it up. How  about the grub uses the giant spider to ACTIVELY feed? The grub latches onto the spider and through chemicals or hunger the arachnid  goes into a hunting frenzy. Feeling no pain and knowing no fear the berserk grub infested spider falls on prey and  attacks until the  target is dead and the spider can feed, giving more  nutrients to the parasitic grub.  Furthermore these grub controlled spiders can  hibernate within the thin mud walls of a nest, waiting to burst fourth when warm blooded prey wonders close enough. Nothing says , "RUN!" like a desiccated  mindlessly attacking giant spider which moves like a stiff marionette.

Another hook for a mid level adventure might involve solitaire "spider " wasps that have adapted to attack other prey. Sheep disappearing with out a trace, or  town guards going missing  with just their helmets left behind could  be a nice set up for a short adventure.

Some Beetle Defenses:


source
     Blister beetles are cool little buggers when disturbed they secrete a yellow oily substance that not oily burns flesh but is also highly poisonous. So a giant version of this  critter might leave puddles of the juice in it's wake once disturbed. So if there are a bunch of them in a room and a party lumbers in  they could all scurry away  leaving  wide trails of  corrosive poison in their wake effectively making the area where the party is walking much harder to navigate.  A monster that can be used to  complicate the  environment rather than attacking the party directly. Larger beetles mean stronger secretion so any objects that come into contact with the juice should also require a saving throw. Much like a rust monster the parties equipment could be at risk as well as the party members themselves.

The  Bombardier beetle is well known for the nasty, hot, chemical spray  that gives the  beetle it's name. I even found a "giant" version stated out for D20 games.
Out there on the interwebs there is a heated (pun ) argument about whether or not the humble Bombardier beetle should be the poster bug for intelligent design. Some folks say that this bug could never have evolved such a finely tuned chemical defense because precursor beetles would have blown themselves up before the mechanism could have fully evolved. Or else those precursor bugs would have been overly burdened with useless chemical crap in their abdomens, and again never would have survived evolution.
Fine. I'll let more educated people argue about design vs evolution, for my uses they had me at "If it exploded inside, it would blow any Bombardier Beetle to smithereens."

Source
What I would like to see is a queen beetle whose male drones explode if threatened. The party stumbles on  the egg chamber of the beetles burrow and the drones charge exploding one after another in plumes of  superheated hydroquinones and hydrogen peroxide. Leaving the  Unlucky party caught in what is effectively a cloudkill spell that has the  duration of 1 minute per beetle. These beetles lay their eggs in damp places, the  eggs if collected by hardy adventurers could be used to start camp  fires , or blow up kobolds.

Botflys:
I will not be sharing any of these pictures  because I regret seeing them in the first place.
I don't suggest it, but you want search "Human Botfly" And see for yourself. Don't blame me for it though.

The  interesting part of this  for  me is that the  fly captures mosquito, attaches their egg to the  mosquito, the egg hatches on the mosquito and  use the mosquito bite as an entry point on some poor person. The  larva then feeds on the  person and develops under their skin, causing a large bump and  all kinds of hideousness.
The fly uses the mosquito as a vector to infect another animal.... (Crazy)
Now I think  giant grub being  inserted into an adventurer by a giant mosquito is cool, but it has been done I'm sure. What about using  other things as unsuspecting vectors?

For example A breed of  spider that lays small web sacks on the ends of mettle objects. If the  spider gets lucky it has found a sword or spear. If it's VERY lucky it's eggs will get stabbed into some unfortunate host where they will grow into  spiderlings and  cause all kinds of  organ failure in a month or so. This kind of thing would have tells. Like a festering wound, swelling, or actual visible spider-lings under the victims skin. A priest could cure disease, a ranger could  identify the  problem, a druid may  be able to use magic or herbalism to cure the poor soul. That character will likely never sleep again.

Source
Another thought for this secondary vector idea is an insect that uses this process to control other
 animals. A Huge water bug that uses expelled Co2 to attract mosquitoes (always the mosquitoes right?) and coats them with chemicals, which make the next mammal they bite become incredibly thirsty.  The thirsty animal seeks water, where the  water bug lies in wait where it will  ambush the victim. Characters could get a save vs the thirst,  where if they pass it they would know something is not right that the thirst is  terrible and far too sudden.

These are just some  quick ideas from some cursory searches about insects and how they hunt, reproduce, and defend themselves.

I'm sure there's an untold number of cool things waiting out there for us when we start digging.
I thing the real take away here is that if you hear something interesting about the natural world, let nature do some of the  work for you. Stretch the concept in your head until it is something that belongs in a fantasy setting. Ideas based even loosely in the real world will ring a bit more true, a bit less strange , so that the real fantastic or strange stuff will stand out that much more.


Thanks for reading ,
-Mark.

(Is that a giant carpenter bee in the side of your ship?)


Sources:
http://www.vespa-bicolor.net/main/observations/hunting-strategy.htm
Spider wasp:
http://www.stuff.co.nz/southland-times/76985720/dining-in--mason-wasp-eats-fresh

Insect size:
http://www.aps.anl.gov/Science/Highlights/2007/20070808.htm

Painful wasp stings...Why you don't ant to get stung by a tarantula hawk? Like you had to ask?
http://www.sciencefriday.com/articles/why-you-dont-want-to-get-stung-by-a-tarantula-hawk/

Fucking NOPE..Just No...Some people ...man...
Bombardier beetle
Wikipedia has a list of D&D monsters .... Who knew? Is The giant tick really the grand daddy o fall D&D insects?
http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/bombardier.html
https://www.dnd-spells.com/spell/cloudkill
Fuck botflys seriously , I'm never going near the equator.
https://phys.org/news/2013-07-ambush-giant-bug-lethocerus-patruelis.html

Thursday, January 19, 2017

1d12 Things the Goblins are launching from their slings.

The goblin slingers have quietly emerged from the briers on the far side of the  field. The party, distracted by the writhing wall of spear wielding goblins in front, have not seen the new group, Positioned off to their left flank and slightly to their rear, the  goblins start loading their slings. Each slinger takes aim and hurls their payload at an unsuspecting adventurer before quickly retreating back into the thorny undergrowth.

Roll for sling payload...
  1. Bag of stinging ants: Characters in a three foot area must make a constitution save or succumb to the  pain of ant stings. Resulting in a penalty (disadvantage for 5th ed) on all rolls until the  character takes a round to clear the ants.
  2. Imp: The imp lands among the party screams "For the  resistance" then back stabs a random party member with a poison dagger. 
    1. Poison paralyses
    2. poison sleeps
    3. poison causes  victim to lash out at all nearby targets friend or foe.
    4. poison does extra necrotic damage
    5. Poison causes vomiting and the character must pass a con save each round to act.
  3. Smoke bombs: Causes vision reduction, smells like sulfur. Other goblins will retreat from the smoke. The smoke is used to attract a larger ally who will see the  smoke from a distance.
    1. Ogre hiding nearby
    2. A local minor demon who hires goblins and sometimes eats adventures.
    3. A young dragon circling overhead
    4. A smoke elemental
    5. A Nearby, much larger goblin  force, complete with goblin bag pipers.
    6. A treant who thinks the smoke s from irresponsibly managed camp fires.
  4. Blobs of molten lead. FUN.
  5. Large mud wasp nests. The slingers wear net outfits, because these nasty wasps will plant eggs in any thing they sting the  resulting larva will slowly  do damage over time before erupting from the  host as a fresh new wasp in about a weak.
  6. Small thin clay pots filled with very pure grain alcohol, Followed next round by hot coals.
  7. Mushrooms that explode into clouds of spores. Breathing the  spores cause choking exactly as a "Stinking Cloud" spell effect.
  8. Small glass jars containing Rot Grubs.
  9. Pixies in  wicker cages. They are good creatures, however once released they will be the  most annoying companions ever. Chattering, giggling, playing pranks, casting fairy fire on every thing, Little winged balls of chaos.
  10. Digger Grubs: These short, fat, stubby grubs hit the  ground and instinctively dig into the earth. The goblins throw them in great numbers and while they don't directly do any harm The overall effect is to make the  ground under the  targets feet soft and unstable. The  Targets will have to make Dexterity checks or stumble about. 
  11. Pheromones: This will attract the aggressive or amorus attention of wild beasts from a great distance.
    1. Bears
    2. Wolves
    3. Weasels
    4. Rats
    5. Orcs
    6. Giant Beatles
  12. Sling stones coated in a indelible ink that marks characters wounds with a bright blue tattoo like dye. The dye marks the characters as goblin foes and  until magically removed will incite the ire of any green skin or  green skin ally encountered.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Some Great RPG links that are not really RPG links.

I would like to share some links and  a few other things that have been giving me inspiration lately.
Just some of the things I have read on the web to riff ideas off of.
I read a lot of strange things out on the Internet while working on game  ideas... why not share the madness.

Here is a an excellent  decaying architecture Flickr account.

here are some links to geological maps from around the country.
USGS map view map data base for you geological types.

Why New York?  cause I live here.
New York sate Geological survey site.

Sort of an RPG link nice looking dice.
Artisan Dice

Trade:
I find this subject super interesting.
http://www.livescience.com/44703-turquoise-trade-network-revealed.html
Prehistoric mining , which is a good read in it's own right , has a great reference section.
Trade routes between Asia and Europe in antiquity,  from the met

Maps of mines:
real mine maps form Pennsylvanian, it's honestly kind of mind blowing
A ton more of that kind of thing, mine maps from all over The United States.
Ancient mines in grease
Ancient mines and trenches ...Great pictures here,

Erowids documenting the  relationship between plants humans and psychoactive... great resource if you have a druid in the party,

Great surveys of Egyptian tombs. It's like free 3D RPG maps.
Theban Mapping Project.

Masks of the  world, you can find an idea for  a shaman, a monster, a magic item, it's all so visually amazing a GM can't help but find something usable.
Masks of the World

Human population distribution through time. Just how sparse should your 100 AD campaign be?
The interactive map is the  best part of this.
This one is also good
Spatial History Project

some ruins:
Maps of Mayan ruins

Historic England / uk:
Historic England books and images.
A great PDF about medieval English settlements.
How can anyone resist a website named "Old Maps UK"
Keys to the past town info...and more.

arms and Armour
A vast Pintrest on the subject
Art institute of Chicago's collection.
Armor and arms  club Gets right to the point. Offers brief reviews of many books on the subject.
Nicely illustrated PDF on the subject 

Aliens and stuff.
A deep dive into I'm not even sure what.
Because conspiracy theories make great fodder for RPG's


Monday, January 16, 2017

Thoughts and questions on starting setting development.

I have to be honest, and if not here where?
I'm not sure if it's the winter weather, or the holidays. It might be age or it might be frustration over work. I don't know what it is but I have honestly had no interest in running  RPG's in the past two months. I suppose the players in the game I run deserve a better explanation than that one, but I don't have a better reason to offer.

In an effort to get my mojo back I started scribbling in one of my notebooks about a setting. The only rule I gave myself  starting out was "no D&D Fantasy."

A bit on process:
I play video games with my  friends on weeknights. I watch TV with my wife.. I stream videos to my  computer.. It's a lot of empty time. All the while I keep a composition note book, one of those old style black and white jobs on my desk. While nothing else is going on I scribble in any and every game related idea I have. That's my process, as simple as that. when I need something for a game I  open up the  note book and  look for  an idea that fits the bill.

Recently my note-book scribbles have been about settings. starting at first with  D&D flavored with paranormal mystery . Kind of  Ghost adventure-ers.
Then when I decided the mid evil style fantasy isn't the  space I wanted to be in right now I started chopping away at modern myths.

My first question, why  would  "other beings" want to be around us (humanity)?
As a species we do  create a great deal of chaos, a great deal of  psychological static as it were. Rile humans up and we throw off all kinds of frantic energy. Suppose that some  "others" come here because of all that chaotic emotional back ground noise humans generate. What if those "others" come here just to stir up  bad things to create more of that back ground energy, suppose they feed on it.

My second question, why would characters interact with these creatures?
The quick answer is because they can. The characters possess some kind of energy intrinsic to them that allows them to detect and combat these, others.
Perhaps that energy  is what makes the characters exceptional in their normal lives as well. Just a bit more athletic than their peers, or a bit smarter. Talented people, who are in truth channeling dimensional energy with out knowing it. In my head I'm thinking of  characters found in fighting games suddenly dropped into the supermarket. These people stand out, and  are sought by various organisations looking to  stop, combat, exploit, or study  this inter-dimensional phenomenon.

Why  doesn't the military  just gun these "others" back into where ever the fuck they come from?
So I'm thinking the  intrinsic energy  of the characters is the only  way to banish these otherworldly beings. Further more the energy is not transferable , in other words the characters need to make contact with their mysterious foe with either their hands or something held  directly in their hands. In effect we get back to  beating things up with fists, sticks and swords, which is where I want to be.

I made this bullet point list  earlier, shared it with some folks and just kind of left it out there.

Setting idea (Brief)
  • Modern Fantasy, a day from now setting.
  • Some people are exceptional.
  • These people have and are sensitive to a dimensional energy.
  • The energy manifests as the character being talented in their field, but once it is harnessed can be used for more “magical” type effects.
  • This sensitivity causes these people to know when they’re around a pocket dimension, a dimensional being or in an area where the boundaries between dimensions are thin.
    • In resent years our reality has brushed up against a reality whose beings feed off the psychic energy created by humans in stressful of chaotic situations.
    • The dimensional sometimes slip into our world to sow chaos and gain strength form the ensuing emotional energy created.
  • Characters are exceptional humans with the energy that can not only detect dimensional but also banish them.
  • There is an organization dedicated to studying these dimensional events and finding people with the innate talent to help.
  • The characters will be burdened with finding banishing and correcting the work of dimensional beings looking to seed chaos throughout our world.
  • The innate energy in these characters can only be transferred through touch or via objects held by the character, so the only way to defeat a dimensional into get up close and personal.
  • Guns can hurt them physically, but only energy can banish then. Unless a character can somehow imbibe a bullet with their own energy they will never be abler to defeat a dimensional with modern fire arms…….. (finger nail clippings in a shotgun shell perhaps?)
  • The locations are lost lonely abandon places. Closed hospitals, forgotten subway stations, abandon factories. Places a dimensional can roam without being seen until they find a host.
  • Adventures are urban dungeon crawls on the edge of a dark dimension, finding dimensionals, beating them up. mastering the characters innate energy and gathering up alien artifacts.. saving the world from multidimensional chaos and entropy. (RPG stuff, you know)
So now for the question part.
Does this suck 100% or only 75% ?
What system would you use to run something like this in? (my first impulse is to write one, but I 'm not sure I want to get that deep)
What would you add ? (So I can blatantly  steal ideas from people brighter than I am.)

Thanks for reading
-Mark.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

The Adventurers between times. (the beginning)

Not for nothing but I haven't run a game since 11/12/16  or so. Being an adult gamer, with work and holidays and all that have meant that our group has just not been available for  around a month. Chances are I'm not going to get another game in for quite a while still. I know what the real life players are doing, I wonder what I should be letting the characters do.

This post is going to touch on things that deserve posts of tier own... Like  talking about  supplementing the hp system with  wounds and recruiting  ship crews. Fact is many  of these subsystems can be found on other blogs. At some point I may revisit this post and flesh out some of the concepts touched on. IN other words this post should be part of a greater series of posts but I'm not sure it will be. At the very least I hope to inspire some ideas for anyone reading, so that they might fill in the blanks in what ever why they see fit.

In our D&D game the characters just solved a literal murder mystery, for cash. The need for cash was brought about by having a 25 person ship's crew to pay every month and a deck  cannon to buy. A couple quick money making side quests were in order, and were arranged. Now that's over and the group has not chosen a path to follow just yet, what are they doing in town?

I would like to have a system for this lost "between" time.

My thought is to give each player 1 action per week of down time, per character.

The amount of down time is to be set each time a game ends with the  logical expectation of the the characters just chilling out for a few days before setting off again. If the expectation is that the next game will pick up chronologically right where the last left off, then none of this is relevant.

Actions:
Recovery: Each action spent recovering will heal a minor wound.  Moderate wounds take  3 actions. Major wounds are up to the DM/GM. In my game I have no issue at all breaking a character's rib (Or whatever) and making them take penalties that last beyond D&D's panacea, "Long rest." Spending time recovering  mitigates that issue.  Recovering characters are doing just that, nothing else.

Shopping: A character looking for a particular item or quality of item my roll vs that items rarity  once per action spent. The Gm can set item rarity as they see fit for the area the characters are in , but generally common items are 5 or better on a d20. and the difficulty scales up from there. Use this only for items that are not  automatically available, for example  any one can find a blanket in most normal towns. If the  player says they want to find a mink lined blanket  while  holding over in a desert town , then the chances are far lower.  Furthermore some towns just won't have some things. A small town might not have an armorer so finding a suit of mail that can be fitted to a character is just impossible. If there is no one to make an item or import an item feel free to disallow the item.


  • Common item roll 5 or better
  • Hard to find  roll 10 or better
  • Rare item roll 14 or better
  • Common magical item for your setting  15 or better
  • Rare magical item 18 or better.
  • DM might allow modification to this roll based on connections in the city, bartering skill? Intimidation perhaps? Thief characters should be allowed to use skill or proficiency bonuses where other classes might not. Thieves should be better at finding rare things in a urban environment.
  • Keep in mind that some things will just not be available in some places.


Recruitment: Each point spent recruiting henchmen and henchwomen will improve the chance of finding hire quality hirelings. Anyone who has ever been in the position where they do hiring will know that the longer a person looks, the  more applications a person pours over, the better the candidates will be. What the term "quality" means will vary depending on how common the required skill type is in an area, what the players are looking for, and what the players need done.
Finding  people to carry stuff is generally pretty easy. Finding a skilled porter who can not only carry a load, but know what to pack for a trip and help manage the other porters is a lot more difficult. For example the players in my game were recruiting sailors. They left the  job to an experienced sailor they had already hired.. smart move. He recruited almost a full crew but time was short so he got a few bad apples. The next stop was at a very large port city. He began recruiting to fill the final spots on the ship's crew. So far the quality of available sailors has been higher. The only thing which had changed was the presence of a larger pool of sailors to draw from. In other words recruitment quality is based on depth of expertise in an area and time spent. Rolling this over to hiring men at arms to go delving into dangerous places with. A large city perhaps one with a standing garrison of troops will yield better results than a farming village.
In my game the very best hireling fighter a player can hope to find is around 5th level. Those folks don't fall off trees, it will take time (Multiple actions) to get the word out. It will take time for a hireling of greater level to drop whatever it is they are doing and seek out the party. If the party just walks into an inn as yells "Who is up for an expedition!" they might find a few strong arms, but those arms will be attached to 0 level brains. Worse yet the lower level a hireling is the  less tested they are in a fight the more likely they would be to loose morale, break, and flee.
I could and should write a whole  post about NPC recruitment. I have written a few posts about the various problems characters can have with hirelings (Found Under henchman rules, here.)
For this post it is suffice to say  players can spend an action in their down time to  go looking for hired hands, the  more time they spend the  better hired hands they will find.

Roll a die based on the amount of action spent recruiting and the rareity of the  skill set or hireling type sought. All results are subject to what ever game you happen to be running.

Actions spent Low rarity semi rare Med rarity rare very rare
1 1d4 0 0 0 0
2 1d6 1d4 0 0 0
3 1d8 1d6 1d4 0 0
4 1d10 1d8 1d6 1d4 0
5 1d12 1d10 1d8 1d6 1d4
Results:
0. This type of hirelings unavailable in this area.
1. low quality almost un-employable many flaws, unreliable, drunkard, liar ect. -1d4 on some attribute or important skill.
2 to 3. Low quality due to a utter lack of experience, cowardice, poor morale -2 on some relevant skill or attribute.
4 to 5. Low quality due to overconfidence, mixed with inexperience. -1 on some  relevant skill or ability.
6 to 7. Average quality hireling following all standard follower rules. Reliability and personality may still be in question.
8 to 9. Average quality  follower with a +1 to some skill or attribute. 
9 to 10. Above average follower with an extra level of experience and a good attitude. Grant a +2 on some ability, attribute or skill. Low level clerics or wizards may only be hired on rolls of 9 or better.
11. A exceptional hire. Skilled, or very experienced. Good morale, and  loyalty to an employer. Either these things are true or you have hired a person with rare skills, such as a competent (d&D level 3) cleric or wizard. + 1d4 to a relevant ability or skill.
12. You have found the perfect fit for what you need. Split a bonus of +5 among skills and abilities relevant to the  parties needs. hirelings up to level 5 may be hired with a recruiting roll this high.

Information:
Characters who have investigation , research, arcana or other academic skills can spend time (actions)researching the  parties surroundings and upcoming missions.
A gm can play this as they see fit. I use it as an opportunity to  provide details and adventure hooks for the surrounding areas. Players who roll well for these research actions gain more detail characters who  roll badly. 
For example if the party wizard says he wants to research the surrounding area, and rolls badly I might say "There have been magicians who operated in the area over the years, though as of late there is no great mystical presence."
where as if she roll  well I might say, "Your research tells you there was once a foundry in the nearby  valley that was used to produce weapons. It is said a mage ran the  foundry and  experimented creating  magical  armaments there. The foundry has been abandoned for  many year but the remains of its foundations can still be seen."
one roll yields some general information, the other yields a possible place to explore.

I would allow different classes to research different types of information:

Cleric Religious history , legends
Druid Nearby locations of natural wonder
Monk Word on the street, concerns of common folk
Paladin Tactical lay of the land
Ranger Rumors and news of the country side local monsters
Thief Trade info, underworld rumors
Warrior Ancient military lore battle locations
Wizard Magical history of the area

As you can see giving players the opportunity to  do things between games has a lot of possibilities.
Beyond what I sketched out here I was thinking, Construction tasks for building strong holds. Trade tasks for off loading all of that crap characters find in dungeons. And Social tasks which are location based for each town the characters land in. In my mind when a  group of level 7 characters roll into town and stay for a week, the local nobles are all going to clamor to be the  first to invite them to dine. Players could spend between game actions fulfilling these social obligations (and hopefully gaining info and connections from them) with out having to role play every diner party.

And so on and so forth.

I am sure other DM's out there have done similar things, and used similar systems to get there. Naturally I would love to  read about  those other systems.

As always thank you for reading.
-Mark.