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From the prow of your ship you see the island come into view. At first it is nothing but a glint on the horizon, then a shining sphere.. a ...

Sunday, December 20, 2015

The third annual Krampus Game!


(Third annul Krampus Game , Quick Run down, inaccuracies due to foul memory)

This years Krampus game was run under the cypher system, specifically “The Strange” subset of rules.

Our team who work for a investigative unit reminiscent of the TV show Warehouse 13 have been tasked to find out why a recursion known as “Halloween land,” (which comes in the form of a Jumanji like board game) was suddenly plunging into winter. Such things just don't happen and could be a threat to reality as we know it so off we went.

This was not our groups first encounter with Halloween Land as back in October we were sucked into the board game and had to find our way out. Naturally this lead to none of our character really wanting to have anything to do with that place again. in the end ALL OF reality is a big place and it was up to us to save it.

In we went, and indeed the seasons were changing in a recursion that was supposed to be all Halloween all the time. The trick or' treaters huddling for warmth in the local pub drinking their dank drinks and eating soft candy. 

We started asking questions. Well sort of, one of our number Dr. Phoenix came though the transition in the form of a half dressed goblin, a thing that does not even raise eyebrows in ole' Halloween town. And Douglas Trent set about getting himself a costume by druggie a patron and stripping them in the bathroom.

Jenny and Shamus both investigative types, Shemus because that's what he is good at, and Jenny because she looks for trouble, started 
digging around for info.

The characters found information concerning the big top near the center of town so we left the bar.
(Much to the parties delight we did discover that a witches broom if thrown returns the the thrower a bit like Thor's hammer.)

During our trip we were ambushed in an alleyway  by a troop of  Gingerbread Ninjas or  "Ninja-bread men".
No light weights these guys were stale and hard as stone.
Sheamus noted that there were softened by exposure to milk, but who the hell has that much milk?
We fought them and were beginning to wipe the royal icing of the  bastards when another problem reared it's ugly head.

It woudl seem that while we were fighting the Ninja-breadmen a large jack-o-lantern headed scarecrow golem had snuck up on us from the other side!

Surrounded we had no choice but fight on and in time the group dispatched the Ninja Crackers and turned our full attention to the golem. Luckily Douglass Trent was smart enough to set the thing flame, and Jenny extinguished the monsters own internal candles, all in all it took the whole team to take the beast down.


Also along the way we stopped by the tent of the “man with Five heads” this cryptic beast had a sign outside his door that read “do not enter alone” so naturally we went in as group. The creature was a man with one central head and four smaller sub-head around its mid rift, each of these sub heads was gagged and unable to speak.

We asked the creature if it knew what was going on , and it said, “Yes but it was a secret it could only tell one of us.”
remember that don't go in alone sign? Jenny was having none of this proposed alone time, but Shamus though it might be worth the risk. The party discussed the decision for a few moments and kind of decided Shamus is a grown ass man and can do what he wants so we left him alone with the five headed creepy guy.
A few seconds latter Shamus was ejected from the tent, beat up and dazed with no memory of what kind of abuse he had just endured. Naturally he was pissed so he went back in looking for his attacker and the five headed man was gone. We only hope Shamus can get over it.

After a few more minutes we arrived at the big top only to find a meeting of village elders in progress. It seems that the elders were all pointing fingers at each other and placing blame for the on set of winter, talking about rules and tenants of Halloween land. The party interrupted and explained we were here to help, then because our own round of blaming people, particularly the witch that made the jack-o-lantern golem that tried to kill us.

In the middle of all this craziness, the KRAMPUS appeared in a puff of smoke, and claimed gingerbread dragon which once summoned breathed sticky frosting all over us, which while delicious did some serious damage.

We were all prepared to meet our gum drop button doom, when Douglass Trent came up with a masterful idea, he challenged the dragon not to a fight but to a battle of riddles!
The riddels flew and Douglass came out on top banishing the Krampus's Champion, with this blow to his power and his plan in tatters the Krampus said a few threatening words and also retreated back to his own recursion. Halloween land was saved!
dominion of the land , or at least the desire to challenge for it. The Krampus picked as his champion a giant

There was much rejoicing in the big top but our party had had enough of this in sane land that was stuck in the world of costumes and candy. We shifted back to our own recusion of Earth and reported what we had found.

And so ended the third edition of Krampus .
While defeated the demon was not destroyed so he lives to harass us for another year!



-Mark





Friday, December 18, 2015

Krampus, Krampus, Krampus.


Tonight is our game group's third annual Krampus game.



The first year Jay ran the game using D&D, and Krampus died.
Last year I ran the game using a melange of systems .. Krampus.. Died.

This year Neal runs the game, using the cypher system!
Can we keep the streak alive?

Only time will tell.




Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Ships of the Sea.

In my past few posts I mentioned that I have been working on an RPG called "Shards of Thimbral." This has been kind of an endless project. (You can go back on this blog and look at the  tags if you like that sort of thing.) It's not that I have spent that much time on the project. I have read about people who work on a game for years and years before they are ready to present. What I can say is for all the time I have been kicking the idea of "Shards" around for a couple of years and have shockingly little to show for it.

What I do have to show for it is a notebook with ideas, and sketches of bigger ideas. Part of those ideas has always been a very exploration, discovery based game that give the characters ample room to make their own story.
It started as "Floating islands in the sky" however, it turns out someone already did that and my ideas were way too close to theirs for my comfort.
So I have moved on to actual islands in the sea, which has it's own charms and complications.

One of those complications is this, once I start talking about ships on the sea lobbing cannonballs at each other, I have touched history. Once a designer touches history, even if it's just a glancing blow, then some nod to history should be made. If real history is totally ignored then the  framework of the game becomes surrealist and our boats can be made to look like anything and behave in any way. That's not my intent.  I would like surreal exceptions in a game with a degree of structure.

So with that as a goal now I have to research warships from the age of sail but predating the full on "ship of the Line designs of the 17th to mid 19th century. Not that I don't love  giant ship as much as the next fella, I do! However, in game terms I don't want to keep track of all that fire power. besides French 74's are the gateway drug to every player wanting to pilot their own Mahmudiye or Valmy. I am thinking I will stick to technology dating from  pre-1588 or pre Spanish armada.

Here again  I don't want to hedge myself in. It's the internet's fault mostly. I know very well that whatever setting distinctions I make for the  ships in my fantasy game, there will be some  internet Phd who wrote their thesis on naval tactics circa 1500 who can and will pick the historic details, no matter how tenuous, apart.  What I am not looking to write is a complex tactical ship combat sim. Fist of all this is an RPG and  I'm not in the camp that thinks RPG's benefit from long drawn out simulations. Secondly I don't have enough knowledge on the subject to write a good ship combat sim. Or at least a combat sim that would not get picked over like a dead opossum on the side of the road as soon as I posted it.

So I am left with a design decision.
I very much want to boil the  ship to ship combat down to what is important to me. For me the ship itself is secondary to the  quality and disposition of it's crew. Plainly put you can have a great ship but if the crew is garbage, you're in trouble.

For the ship aspects of my game I'm going to be concentrating on the ships crew, and damage to that crew during battle. My goal is to write a system where the players will honestly lament the death of a key crew member. I want the crew to grow with the ship and with the characters.

To that end:

  • I will start the party off with a ship and  a small crew. 
  • Players will be able to level up crew members as their character level up.
  • Ship maneuvers and firing in combat will be crew based. 
  • Orders will be given by players and the crew will carry the orders out based on the crews experience and skills.
  • The crew will be broken into groups of 5 individuals.
  • The groups will take damage when a ships hull is breached.
  • Crew will get injured and killed in a pretty unforgiving random fashion. Cannonballs shower a deck with  splintered wood, some live, some die there's no reason to it.
  • Bigger ships will require bigger crews.
  • Bigger guns will require whole groups to fire and reset.
  • Bigger crews will require more supplies to support.
My final goal is to write the ship to ship combat portion of the game so that players take the decision to engage another vessel very seriously. They might hesitate because the  cost is not just hull points or rigging, it's NPC's that the  players have grown since they first created their characters. In other words a fight puts at risk a resource the players would find harder to replace than simple timbers.




Tuesday, December 1, 2015

A list of ways to discover something awful.

A list of ways to discover something awful.
(Dear blogger. Thanks for goof'n up the  original formatting, big help that.)



The dog was always digging in the same spot, so we decided to dig there too. It wasn’t long before we found a capstone and the stench reached our noses.

The town has been here a long time. Before the town this  was Gnoll territory, before that  who knows. What we do know is that the canals that were covered over to make way for the town's expansion were here long before we were.

No matter where you are in this town, if you spin a knife it will always point to the  town's center.

My grandfather told us a story once about a farmer he knew uncovering a great stone door while plowing his fields. Supposedly the old man was so frightened by what he found that he covered the  door over and let that field go fallow.

When the moon is full there is one statue in the local graveyard that does not throw a shadow.

Just outside of town a small brook tumbles down from the  mountains. Follow that brook to its source there you will find a small cave.

Every year a drifter wearing heavy homespun leather clothing travels through these parts. It is said he knows every cave, nook,  and, crannie in the area. He rarely speaks and is distrusting of most people. (Appropriated from the local legend of the Leatherman's loop*.)

Near here there is an old logging road that leads to a camp. That logging camp has been deserted for years. The old timers say they used to mine semi precious stones in that valley, but the exact location of the mine has been lost to time.

Goblin footprints in the furrows of the fields.

You’re new here so you need to know. After planting day every household leaves an offering of game on their porch. You HAVE TO do it, understand?

There has been a large fish kill in the nearby creek. Many of the the local trout have washed up in the past few days, and the  water looks cloudy. Something must have happened up stream.

While working on the  foundation of a new grain silo the  local mason uncovered what appears to be a piece of ancient monumental statuary.

All of the horses are gone.

A cold draft has started blowing from the barn foundation. If you stand just so you can feel it.

During some renovations on the manor house these strange papers were found in the  wall. The old, faint appear to mention a cave located just about where the fountain is placed in the back yard.

There is an old story in town that three young people once went into the  woods near Sommer’s Mill and no sign of them was ever seen again. Ever since that stretch of woods has been off limits.

The Duke’s land managers often burn down squatters cabins when they find them. Recently on one such occasion it was discovered the squatter in question had dug a shaft under the cabin into an old forgotten mine.

There is a fairy ring in  Miltner’s field.
(1d10 sub chart)
1.     Nothing grows there, the earth stays damp and brown.
2.     On the  first rainy night of spring strange toads emerge from the ring.
3.     If lightning strikes near the ring the  silhouette of a large manor house can be seen                               for a few moments afterward.
4.     The mushrooms that grow in the ring  will move on their own and rearrange themselves to form         strange symbols.
5.     If it rains the the water puddles in the ring, and woman drinking the water from her own hands             will find it easier to conceive a child.
6.     It is the first place in the  area sunlight hits on the spring solstice.
7.     Sprits can be seen moving about the  ring on moonlight nights, but only from the  corner of your         eye.
8.     It is the  location the  great worm retreated underground.
9.     A very evil man is buried there, no plant will take root in his presence.
10.   The wee folk maintain the ring as a sporting pitch.

Ohlson’s house was swallowed by a sinkhole!

In this very in at this very  hearth a devil once played cards with mortal men. When a simple stable boy saw the devils hoof under the table the beast was exposed and fled. Before fleeing the devil cursed the inn so that no ale or bread would remain fresh under its roof. The devil's mark can still be seen on the  chimney through which it flead.

Clive can call Fairy’s and  they sometimes get up to mischief of their own.

A recent storm unearthed the  hull of a long forgotten shipwreck in a nearby cove.

When the empire took over they insisted we all follow their religion. The old cathedral on the edge of town has stood empty ever since. Run down now it is nearly a ruin. The  empire has decreed it off limits, but when has that ever stopped us?

The footbridge over Layfees river was created when the the rock melted under the blazing hooves of a fleeing devil. The devil jumped the  river and the drops of cooling stone formed a perfect arc over the  swift waters. I was told that on  moonlit nights you can still see the smoke rising from the bridge and the  same devil appears on the far bank to accept bargains.

Rolfeson’s barn was destroyed by a torch from the sky!

-Mark


*most games could have a place for the leatherman.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

A new Method.

A new method, for me any way.

My method for  working on Shards of Timbral has been altogether different from how I have approached past projects. Usually I have a strong goal concerning how the game should play. I think to myself "What kind of experience at the table will best support the concept I'm currently working with". For example when I'm working on Loot Box, I know the game has to move quickly, but have enough tactical weight that it would be critical to know what each player did and when. Once I had that in mind I designed towards that set of criteria. And by design I mean a very deliberate process.

This time what I am trying is to be less deliberate.
I have a big spiral notebook and every day if I have an idea that relates to the game, no matter how far fetched, I write it down.
So the notebook has scrawlings all over it now that say things like  "Hit points in three section... level up gets 1d6 each section..." Interspersed with  descriptive notes like "sail snails" and "Saber-dancing ritualists."
Not to mention little doodles of things that come to my mind. (Me, always with the  doodles)
I'm not going to put anything down on my computer until I fill that notebook and  go back and forth over it a few times.

The things I am trying to avoid are brian fatigue and  tunnel vision.
With AAIE it happened to me when I started working on the setting bits for the game which I tentatively called "The Town." I had (have) plenty of good ideas for it, but executing them has become fatiguing. I just got tired of thinking about that part of the game, and had trouble bringing myself to organize it all.
Loot box is a good example of  Tunnel vision. Each part of that game took up a lot of my time from the skills to the burn chains. As an effect I'm not satisfied with how they all work together, and never even got to the loot system proper.

What I hope is that having a big old messy idea book will when I start to write the game give me the raw inspirational material I need to stay interested while moving focus from on design task to another.

Let's see how it goes.




Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Simplicity:

Continued from here:
When I start working on Shards of Timbral again  this will be the  mechanic:


  • Roll 1d20 + an attribute Vs  a difficulty number set by the  GM or by  the rules of the game depending on situation. 
  • If the roll is equal to or higher then the  difficulty number the action succedes.
  • If a skill can be applied to the action roll a skill die along with the  d20.
  • If the skill die result is a 1 the roll automatically succeeds.
That's it.
Nothing  else mechanically to determine success or failure of an action. there is nothing  inherently new as far as the mechanic goes. What is new for me is the idea that I will not hang anything else off of that mechanic. It is simply pass fail. There are no critical failures for rolling badly, no critical success rules.

My Hope:
I hope (and again it's not new in game design for sure.) is that players will be liberated by this kind of fire and forget die system. Liberated in that the system will not direct how they interact with the fiction from round to round. When a success is rolled the next question will be, how do you succeed?With no pressure coming from the mechanics the players are completely free to answer however they please.

The trick here (not really a trick ) is that this is basically GM'ing listening, learning via question, and playing via imposition.

To use a combat example:
A Player character strikes at a giant snake and rolls successfully to hit.
GM: "You hit. How do you strike the Snake?"
Player: "I wait for it to rear up and  quickly strike with my dagger at its underbelly then dart away!"
GM: "Raising up to it's full height the serpent prepares to strike, you dart in  and slice it deeply crossed it's underbelly trickles of blood stream from the wound."
"When you dart away do you try to get out of striking range."
Player: "I sure do !"
GM: " The massive snake never looses eye contact with you as you move away, it stands swaying ready to lunge and you remain just out of its reach.  This looks like a stand off. What do you do?"

(The gm uses the players answer to complicate the situation.) If the Gm keeps asking questions players will naturally keeping answers and every player answer is a chance for the Gm to add another layer of complexity to a situation.

Again before some Internet wonk shouts about how, "This has all been done since  D&D was chain mail." and that, "I(me) am in fact an internet wonk."(truth). I have to restate that none of this is new. I will be trying to take it to a bit of an extreme in this game. While there will be other die rolls for between game activities and resource management, I am aiming to make what is written above the whole of the resolutions system. Hanging a game and setting on what is in effect a rules light mechanical frame.

-Mark.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

His voice rings of hate and pain. (D&D 5thed bardic school)

From the pages of Rolderic The Bard.

"Once in every five years the  bards hold a moot, a gathering if you will. It is here that we swap information, stories, and do the business inherent of our trade. Last summers moot was no different than any other, a few fine fall days on a hillside encamped with a number of like minded and talented souls. Let me assure you there is  much merriment mixed with the business as bardic schools compete in the  ways of instrument, verse and voice.

I say all was normal last moot, and I do not lie up until the  moment Roderic arrived. A bard in title yes. Infact he was once a talented voice crafter, but he has disappeared on a journey far to the north. Few recognized fair Rolderic as he entered the moot.  A sight that was such, one of our less hardy members (Jalarad Birdboned) fainted straight away.

Shirtless, Painted and tattooed, a shaved head, a vast dark beard woven with strange bits of cloth, he rode. And ride he did! Roleric rode atop a great snarling bear. A finely crafted leather saddle allowed him a free hand with which to drink a strong smelling amber drought from a large bottle he slung from his arm. It seemed all of his worldly possessions were tied in rusacks and fastened to the mighty bear, a tent, a bed roll, cooking pots and several tattered heavy leather books bound with brass. The racket of  gasps, snarling, and fainting he made coming through the crowd was enough to bring the bardic moot a sudden halt.

Roleric dismounted and immediately set into a chant. A deep poly tonal thrumming chant. Our camp fire dimmed and all about us seemed to vibrate. A bird fell out of a nearby tree. None could look away from Roleric, and when he had our undivided attention he spoke.

His voice deep but flowing. Like the unknown depths of a wide river flush with springs melt. Gravel and silt came to mind, but so did fog, ash, and swarms of stinging bees. Such was the  voice of Roleric. His eyes shown brightly under his tattooed brow, his mouth hidden by the  shaking beard.

" I have come to the moot seeking adepts to join me in the founding of a new bardic school."

Then silence.
None challenged Roleric. Though the council had held sway at the moots for years and were  exclusive in their authority to sanction bardic schools. It was in the voice of Roleric, none dared stand to dispute him.
That night Roleric left with three disciples, and the Bardic school known as The Krotomish was officially born.

(The Krotomish bardic school)
All normal level 1 bard abilities as per the 5th edition player's handbook.
Level 3:
Distracting visage:
You may use your bardic inspiration die to inflict a to-hit penalty on any one target. This effect persists as long as you maintain concentration on that target.
Level 3:
Home of the  homeless:
You college is a loose collection of wandering bards who live off the land and sometimes the kindness of others.
You are proficient with two two kits from the following list:
Wood Carvers tools, Cooks utensils, Carpenters tools
You are proficient with two of the following skills:
Athletics, Martial Weapon Proficiency, Survival, Handle Animal.

Level 6:
The Voice
You can create a poly tonal effect while speaking that can duplicate the effect any one of the  following spells as chosen by the  speaker.
Animal Friendship.
Charm person
Suggestion
Fear
Tongues
This use is above and beyond the normal bard spell use, does not requite physical or somatic components and may only be used once per long rest.

Level 11:
Bonded Mount:

You have gained the trust of a wilderness creature that acts as your mount. The mount is loyal and obedient to the bard, obeying simple commands such as stay, follow or attack, without hesitation.
Once per long rest you may form a telepathic bond with you mount, which allows the bard to give the  mount instructions of any complexity. . An example of a complicated command might be "hold steady enough for me to cast a spell.", "move quietly and stay to the shadows", "Do not attack that target directly instead attack their back pack so it's contents will spill.", and so on This effect lasts for 1 minute and does nto require concentration.
The mount is a fine example of the chosen breed with  maximum hit points, down to a minimum number of hit points equal to 1/2 the bards. The mount will receive 1d8 additional hit points each time the bard increases in level.
If the mount is killed another mount of the same type may be sought but not until the  Bard has progresses to their next experience level.
The mount is usually a wilderness creature, Bear, Elk, Boar, Giant badger, or massive toad. If the player desires a horse, bull,  or large war goat could also be chosen.

Level 14:
The blackened instrument of discord .
At this level the  bard of Krotomish may partake in the  ritual of blackening, during which their bardic instrument of choice is blackened in a ritual fire. After the ritual anything played on the instrument will take on a polytonal sound with all notes doubled several times in random intervals and octaves lower than what is being played.
  • The bard may choose two spells up to level 5 from any spell list other than the priest / cleric lists. Once per long rest the bard may choose to use the scorched instrument to cast either one of these two spells.
  • While playing the instrument Bardic inspiration dice can be used to directly inflict magical damage to one target.
  • Any of the spells using "the voice" from level 6 may be cast as if they are one spell slot higher than normal.
  • The instrument looks blackened and scorched, and will exude a small cloud of dark colored smoke in any hue on command. This could is visible but not enough to conceel the Bard for  combat purposes.
  • The instrument now saves at +10 vs any attempt to crush, break or otherwise harm it.
-Mark.









Wednesday, November 4, 2015

When the dice hit the table:

When the dice hit the table how much interpretation is too much?

In many RPG games a player will roll D( fill in a number here ) add some bonuses and if the result is over a target number the action is a success. It is common because it works.

        Where even similar systems start to differentiate is in how much information is interpreted from the  die roll. Infact different players of the same game might interpret dice differently as it implies to what going on in the  game fiction. One player might say, "I hit! Here's my damage roll." and be done with it. Another player might say, "I rolled very high and hit by a mile, got him right in the face! Here's my damage roll." It's' a subtle difference, and while mechanicaly it still ends with a damage roll, the dialogue at the table is different.

I believe that RPG's are at their best when the  GM and the players use the  following structure.

  1. The Player says I want my character to achieve X.
  2. The Gm sets a difficulty (Difficulty is set by whatever means the game dictates)
  3. If the roll is a success the player gets to say how the character achieved X
  4. If the roll fails the Game master gets to say at what point the characters efforts to achieve X went south.
If rules for die interpretation come into play those rules should only be implemented at stage 3.
Having guideline about how successful a successful action is can help fuel the player's imaginations and lead to interesting descriptions. Every player loves a "critical Success" and critical successes are one of the ways in which degree of success has been implemented in the game since the beginning of the hobby. (or darn near to it.)
The Gm should be free of restrictions when  describing failures as part of the fiction. Having rules for "fumbles" is also traditional. The tension at a table can spike when a character rolls a dreaded critical fail and everyone around the table knows the GM will narrate some awful blunder. While I Like fumbles and critical failures I don't see them as necessary to a game. I don't even see fumbles as a  necessary foil to a mechanic that allows for critical success.

Why am I writing about this:

I have been thinking lately that the glaring weaknesses in the games I write have to do with die interpretation and die manipulation. 
Let's look at some examples of my own stuttering steps.
In Phase Abandon there are a lot of ways to manipulate dice.
  • Use a chip to reroll a die.
  • Re-roll 6's for more success
  • Helper dice form other players
  • At higher levels of skill re roll dice to get the  best hand of 5 results. 
On top of that phase has die interpretation. The number of successes rolled equals how many facts the  player can add to the narrative. Ones rolled signify the character getting hurt or somehow diminished, which has to be worked into the narrative. It's a good deal to process on each die roll. It goes fast when our group plays, but hell... we wrote the game.

AAIE, is an anomaly because it is built starting at the  fumbles and critical successes. It is all about mechanically derived levels of success or failure. I think it's more accessible than Phase, but only because it's written to be  silly and does not demand the attention Phase does.

Loot Box, has a 2d10 percentage system with the player option to reroll a die to attempt a better result. It's a kind of press your luck mechanic that I'm still kicking around and am not very happy with. In this case there are no rules dictating the interpretation of the die results, other than the ability to critically hit a target. The dice work well enough I just think as a whole the  game moves to slowly and I am trying to be too cute with the die mechanics.

For my next project:
Winter is coming which means more time indoors to type and think about things. I have been kicking around some ideas concerning the Shard of Thimbral game I quit on about a year ago. I am in love with the setting but it just never got the traction I was hoping for. I think Shards was too reliant on die interpretation when I first worked on it.  The idea of rolling dice then  dialing back the results to gain the ability to narrate while making success at the current task actually "less likely" was strange. The idea of dialing dice forward or upward in value to ensure a quick success at the cost of narrative detail was down right strange (even off putting) to  the people I talked to about it. I still like the idea, just re-visiting it as I write this makes me think how interesting it "could have been." It was all die interpretation fueling dialog and narrative and all a bit to  "un-gamery" to coin a word.
On my next visit to Shards I'm going to go  very much in the opposite direction. A roll vs difficulty  pass or fail, and  allow some of the  subsystems to add the uniqueness that marries a system and a setting.
My main point being once the  roll is out there on the table it is immutable, which is not at all what I have done with my games in the past. Any shading of the fiction will not be born in the die roll but rather the players description of a success.
Again this is nothing new for games, in fact this is the most basic and oldest way to do this sort of thing. It' new for me to look at a game mechanic this way for my own purpose.



Monday, September 28, 2015

If I were to do a setting book.....

If I were to have proper resources for buying original art.
I would implore Park Sunga to do my interiors.
Because I think her work is  amazing.
Her architectural series strikes in particular.


-Mark.




Sunday, September 27, 2015

Kick Starter "Hubris"

Hubris:

I have been following Mike Evan's work on this setting for a long while now.  Today, I finally got to back his efforts!

Over the past couple of years he has constantly impressed me with his creativity, dedication, and drive. I have no doubt that once funded his project will be fulfilled* and will kick ass with bladed boots.

I wish him the very best of luck on with his Kick Starter, and am looking forward to getting my grubby hands on the results.


Here is the Kick-starter link.



Check it out. If it's your kind of jam back it.


Here are some links to Mike Evans's blog so you can get a taste of what you might be getting into.
First posts specific to Hubris

Next general blog madness.



Thank you for reading.
Go check out Mike's stuff.....
-Mark.

* ( As kick-starters go it's low risk it's already written, arts in place and so on ..)

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Off Label Uses.

Found Object Gaming?

The temple sits on a bluff overlooking the city.
  • The Daias, overlooks a walled court yard.
  • The far wall of the courtyard is adorned with a platform from which the high priest can observe ritual 
Deeper in the Temple a complex series of hallways and passages lead to:

  • The mausoleum.
  • The statuarium.
  • The high priest's chamber.
  • The Sanctification fountain.
  • The sub crypt with it's:
    •  secret door.
    • passages leading under the main chambers.
  • Acolyte housing.
  • Storage areas.
  • Sacrificial pit.
  • Sacred walkway.
  • Main entrance.



Source 


Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Mr. Lavant is covered in custard.

"Mr. Lavant is covered in custard.
Or perhaps it's some form of slime mold. Custard as rule doesn't move on its' own. Light your torches boys. Don't worry about Lavant it's too late for him. He would have wanted it this way, poor, brave, old chap."

Slime molds are about the most interesting and naturally creepy things in nature. As such they have earned a bit of place in Old D&D and fantasy games in general. Large magically mobile and aggressive molds, puddings and slimes are splattered all over the monster manuals.

I want to step back from the fantasy for a second and look at these nasty buggers as they are in nature. Then let's take that information and use it build some slimes for our games.

Source

First off Slimes in many fantasy games are considered dungeon or cave monsters, and that makes sense. Damp and devoid of light a typical dungeon setting would be a great place for a huge slime to thrive. As long as there's food around. A constructed and maintained underground structure might have the right climate but the wrong amount of ground litter to support a huge Slime. Slimes need to stay damp and eat. In the natural world eating means engulfing and digesting bacteria on decomposing plants. In our fantasy dungeons, our bigger meaner slimes are looking for more exotic prey, like player characters. IN these cases the creature will attempt  to attack restrain and engulf characters so that they can be digested like any other bacterium.

For me the key to fantasy game slimes should be overall size and pseudopodia or false feet. These are the veiny amoeba like appendages the slime will extend into it's environment looking for food. Why are tehy key ... They are exceptionally creepy.



"Your lantern throws a powerful spotlight into the vaulted chamber. The old mine has seen better days, puddles glisten among fallen timbers, running water can be heard somewhere to your left. The smell of rotting flesh is nearly overwhelming, your lantern finds the source, the skeletal remains of an unfortunate burrow outlined in the gloom near the room's center."
Standard setup, add that the dead burrow has been digested by one of our giant slime molds and the floor is a network of  pseudopodia just waiting to detect the next warm blooded creature through the door. The players could detect them by checking the floor carefully, or by creating a more wide spread light source than their hooded lantern. Just seeing the long tube like appendages wouldn't give the players any indication of what they are or what their purpose could be. Slime mold amoebae only aggregate when food is getting scarce, if a mold is encountered in this form it will be actively seeking something to eat.

  • Allow the  pseudopodia to attack for low damage.
  • Give them each  about  1/10th of the  hit points you are allowing for the main slime.
  • If a player gets hit twice, have them make a strength check (or a save) or be  grappled.
  • The main slime attacks grappled characters.
  • The main slime may attack multiple targets on the same round
  • When the main slime attacks use all of the monster manual slime effects.
  • Killing  pseudopodia does not affect the main slime.
  • Severed  pseudopodia can form their own slime colonies over time. In our example they will hit the floor with a splat and  appear to be "dead." As single cells that have aggregated together slicing them apart with a sword won't get it done. With that said the severed  pseudopodia aren't large or organized enough to pose a threat.
  • Fire is the  only way to truly a slime as it kills the cells.
  • A giant slime mold will retreat from natural sunlight or spell effects that specifically claim to mimic natural sunlight.  pseudopodia will retreat first back into the  main body of the creature then the main creature will attempt to retreat.
  • Slimes caught in sunlight light will dry out. It will take time this thing is big I woudl suggest 1d10 damage per round for most games, use your discretion..
  • Once dry the slime will stop moving and go "reproductive" (see below*)
  • It is possible for a party to stumble on a slime mold that has already  gone into a reproductive state due to no finding enough food.
*When a slime mold goes into its reproductive cycle some of the cells that make up the mass of the "creature" form into stalks that lift up the other spells that morph into clusters of spores. These spores if disturbed drift in the wind and on the fur of clothing of animals until they find enough moisture to hatch into amoeba and start the life cycle over again. This is where small is dangerous. Player characters who disturb the  dried out form of a giant slime mold, will either carry the  mold on their  persons or worse yet breath the spores in and become a host.

Here we again step away from the real world and into fantasy. A huge slime mold would take quite a bit of time form, however if the  party is exposed to a giant slime mold's spores, having one erupt off the fur of a warriors cape when they bed down in a damp area would be great fun.

Breathing in the spores is bad news. I know some slimes and puddings were fatal in Old D&D, which makes sense to me.
Rather than directly fatal I would have the character get ungodly sick. Like the worst sinus infection ever. Perhaps after a while have some of the sickly yellowish pseudopodia try to exit the poor character at night. It would take a powerful cleric or Druid to help the  character.

Give the player a constitution check or equivalent daily (depending on what game you are running.)
Each time the character fails a save move to the next stage.
  • Stage 1: Fever headache  (- 2 constitution temporary.)
  • Stage 2: No energy, headache increases, Must make a concentration check to cast spells. (- 4 constitution -2 wisdom both temporary.)
  • Stage 3: The pseudopodia might be visible at night 20% chance, dizziness, lethargy can't cast spells. - 6 constitution.
  •  Stage 4: Can't walk, mutter incoherently, 40% chance of a visible pseudopodia at night. (- 2 constitution permanently per day.)
  • Stage 5: Coma state (- 4 Constitution permanently per day.) When Constitution hits zero death occurs. The day after death a new giant slime mold will erupt from the hollowed out victim looking for more food.
Cures:
  1. A druid will identify this malady with a normal check, if not automatically.
  2. A druid can stop the  disease's progression at it's current stage and  cure it in 1d6 days wiht a healing check. 
  3. If  the Druid happens to be treating a character in stage 4 or 5 of the disease, the patient will still lose 1 constitution permanently each day of the treatment if in stage 4, and 2 points of constitution per day if in stage 5.
  4. A cleric's Cure disease spell or other magical equivalent will stop the progression of the disease and cure the ailing character, though the characters involved never know what the root cause of the  disease was.
  5. A Ranger has a 5% chance per level of identifying the disease, and may use the heal skill to stop it's progression. A ranger will not have the ability to cure the disease however, and will have to seek a greater healing power.
Hydnellum peckii (Its a fungus not a slime but kind of great on it's own)


Rumors, myths, and wives tales about slimes.
The following items are things characters might hear about Simes if they happen to ask around about such things. Some of these rumors are true some are not, which ones are which is completely up the the GM.


  1. An old woman in town says "Once dried then Slime mold is edible and  gives a man back the vigor that he may have lost with age."
  2. Parents tell their children, "An active slime mold caught out during a full moon will form a ring. Within the gelatinous circle is an area strongly connected to the fey."
  3. Some travelers have said, "Any part of a slime no matter how small will eventually grow into a new full flged slime."
  4. It is widely believed, "Giant slimes are created when lightning strikes a ferry circle."
  5. The old fisherman once said, "Giant slimes can exist perfectly well underwater, in fact a water born slime can grow to incredible sizes."
  6. It is said, "If a giant slime grows in a container it will hold the shape of that container."
  7. One caravan guard once told me "A slime can get into wood and sometimes even animate it, in fact mimics are just slime colonized chests."
  8. An old man told me "Slimes can lay dormant for years, decades even  just waiting for blood."
  9. Some rangers believe, "If a giant slime ingests local fungus the slime takes on any beneficial or toxic properties of that fungus."
  10. "Sometimes a slime will pick up metal objects that they can not digest and incorporate them into their  bodies." At least that's what Noran the traveler says.
  11. In one of  the wizard Grilacks papers it was written, "Some slimes hibernate in a hard shell formed by drying of it's outer layers. If disturbed eruptive pseudopodia will violently explode from any crack in the shell in a crude attempt at ambushing prey."
  12. Nathers wife says "Slime dust is repelled by boiled urine."
  13. In the  library at Torin a scroll records the largest slime ever seen. It describes it as, "After a week of rain it rose for the depths of the lake.Yellow and green in colour and  no more than a foot thick it covered the whole of the lake near Aslrihn. It's tentacles extended hundreds of years into the  town  and  killed several fishermen, live stock, and others before it was finally put to the torch. At that size it must have been ancient, however exactly how long it had been lurking there in the deep no one can tell"
  14. The old wizard once told his students, "There are over seventy different species of  slimes, or sometimes called puddings, each different in aggression, appearance, and predilection to do harm. So no, one grey ooze is not the same as any other."
  15. It is widely held that extreme cold stops a slime in it's tracks but  can not kill it.
  16. It is widely known, Spores of slime the mold can fetch a good price per ounce from the  right alchemist, wizard, or other patron.
  17. An old wives tale says, "A mixture of dried giant slime, cats urine boiled three times, and ground bone dust, left in a covered jug  in a dark place will over time create a vivid blue dye for  fabrics. The same recipe with the addition of ground brimstone and left in the sunlight will create a soft red dye."
  18. Legend has it, "If a giant slime mold engulfs a sleeping child it will give rise to a goblin prince."
  19. Giants: Hill giants consider giant slimes a delicacy. They will boil them to eat as a thick soup. The resulting sludge like broth is incredibly poisonous to most humanoids. Stone giants will often nurture and feed large slime mold specimens which they will then drape over their shoulders before they go into battle. Stone giants have even been known to hurl slimes at intruders rather than the more typical boulder. Fire giants abhore giant slime molds and will kill them on site.
  20. Some say "Not all slime molds are mindless eukaryotic organisms. Some are single creatures ancinet and wise. No One knows if this is simply a magic fueled evolution of the slime mold or simply a case of two unrelated creatures sharing a similar appearance.



Thank you for reading.
-Mark.
















Some sources:
http://www.slideshare.net/carmody60311/protista-example-organisms
http://viroola.com/2014/05/18/bleeding-tooth/
http://www.biologyreference.com/Se-T/Slime-Molds.html
http://fungus.org.uk/nwfg/funmay98.htm

Friday, September 11, 2015

Go Play





GO PLAY:
On the internet, we talk, argue, and, insult each other about games. We rarely express how blessed we are to have the time to waste thinking about such inane things.

There are people just as smart and imaginative as anyone reading this blog who don't have the chance to argue. People that will never get the chance to enjoy a life such that they have time to waste arguing over role playing games.

So Go play.

GO play OSR Games.

GO play story games.

Go play board games.

GO Larp.

Go make up your own RPGs and play them with your friends.

Go to Cons, make new friends.

Go do whatever you want.

If you want, take a second to realize how lucky we are. Think about the privilege we waste every time we're unkind to each other on the internet over something as inane as games.


OK, now that I'm off my soap box, here's the tax.

Have this:
A 13 point game.
It's shit.
  1. Each player Describes their character.
  2. Each player picks a number from six to fifteen.
  3. A lower represents the importance of the character in the current story.
  4. No two players may have the same number.
  5. Any time a character declares and action that might fail a Game master will ask the player to roll 1d20.
  6. If the roll is higher than character's number, they succeed.
  7. When a character succeeds the player says how the action resolves.
  8. When a character fails the GM says how the action resolves.
  9. Every time character succeeded that character's number drops by 1
  10. Every time a character fails that character's number increases by 1. 
  11. If a character's number ever reaches 20 that character is eliminated from the story.
  12. A successful character may choose to reduce another character's number rather than their own.
  13. If two characters end up with the same number the group must decide based on their current situation which character gets the higher number and which character gets the lower. If no one can agree on who will get the lower number the Gm will make the decision, again based on the character's current situation.

-Mark.



Sunday, September 6, 2015

Learning RPG lessons from the world of Pro Wrestling

 First off this post is not about a wrestling RPG.
Nathan D. Paoletta already covered that ground with  World Wide Wrestling the  apocalypse fueled wrestling RPG. In my mind he is the  only  designer who has taken a substantive stab at the  world of wrestling  as far as RPG's go.

A bit of background.
I don't watch wrestling anymore, at least not with any regularity. Every now and again one of my friends will get a PPV and have people over to watch it. We eat wings, watch the  show, it's a good time. That's my extent of current wrestling  knowledge. When I was younger however I devoured it, I watched it all. Not only that I watched from a strange perspective in that when I was very young my father explained to me that the wrestlers are not really trying to hurt each other, they are trying to put on a show, and "If they really did that stuff to hurt each other somebody would get killed."
Even as a youngster I was always trying to watch what made a good story, a good performer, or a good match, over thinking one wrestler is actually trying to beat the other wrestler.
I think because of that it's natural for me to look at matches in terms of pacing, and direction.

(If you like the WWE and have not seen 2015 summer slam there are spoilers ahead)

That brings me to SummerSlam 2015 put on by the Galactus eater of federations the  WWE.
One of my buddies rented the Pay-per-view, and we all got together to have a couple of beers some popcorn and watch the show.

One match in particular has a D&D bent to it. I don't do the internet wrestling dirt sheet thing any more, but i'm sure this was widely talked about. The match was Seth Rollins (who I had never seen wrestle before) and John Cena, the  titular star of the WWE and in my mind grossly underrated in ring performer. Not one but two belts were on the line and the match, wedged into the middle of the set was a big deal.

It was the best match of the night, hands down. Both performers were on their game, the called spots were well executed, I could tell that Rollins and Cena put in the time working together preparing the match.
At the crescendo of a great match, there was a run in, and a dirty finish. The match ended due to outside interference.

This is SCIENCE!
My role playing game master brain exploded...
No. Some one in the back, the person directing the show, the curtain guy, the one in the "Gorilla Position *" should have pulled the plug on the run in, communicated it to the ref, the ref could have passed it along to the performers. (I know that the shows floor manager at a WWE production probably doesn't have the authority to do that...shame.)

Why?
It was going SO good.
The match was great, the crowd was crazy into it.
The run in killed all of that, after such a good match it felt forced, it felt contrived, and worst of all it killed the crowd.

How does this relate to GM-ing?
When we run a game we need to keep our finger on the pulse. If something is not going well, move past it, if the players are not interested in a story line don't force it. Don't railroad your DM's agenda without regard to what the audience (your players) wants to see /do.
At the same time recognize when it is going well, when the players are really into it and enjoying the events unfolding in front of them.

If the  Demon is going to attack the castle, but the players are really into role playing negotiations with the  duke of said castle. Don't interrupt the players until they are done with those negotiations. Don't become a slave to your internal script.
As GM's we have to try not to railroad the players, that's something we have said for years now. We also have to try and avoid railroading ourselves. If you are playing and that "grim portent" you wrote a month ago is due to come to pass, and its passing would squash what the players are enjoying right now. Put it off. I don't care what the rules say. Put it off until the players are done enjoying their current situation. Be flexible.

Dungeon Master or Game-master are a bit misleading. Conductor might be a better term. It's up to us to maintain the volume and pace of our game. Crank up the pace and excitement when things flag, turn up the tension through what ever means we can when the moment calls for it, and most of all let the musicians (in this weak metaphor the players,)  shine.  We have to be in the  gorilla position making calls at the curtain, controlling the  flow of the  show so that everyone has a good experience.

So when we GM's look to other mediums (like wrestling or what ever sucks your bushel) we can look at how they pace things, when it works and when it doesn't.

As always thank you reading
I hope you have a great Labor day
If you don't live in a place that celebrates Labor day Just take a day off, why not?.


*"Gorilla Position:
the staging area just behind the entrance curtain, where wrestlers wait before they come into view of the crowd. Named after Gorilla Monsoon, who established the position's importance and could often be found there."





Tuesday, August 25, 2015

[Part 1] On Being The Druid, Guest Post by Russ C.



This is a guest post by my good friend and long time player Russ C.
Russ is our resident Druid player and I know he has some strong feelings about what a fantasy druid is and how they can be played.

For me the D&D druid is a bit of an enigma. In game terms they are a spell casting class with  decent melee abilities and abilities useful in the wilds. The fact that they have been included in every flavor of D&D since the original advanced D&D  astounds me. I would think they would be a niche that could have been closed by giving the  Ranger a more spell focused option, or beefing up the spell list of the priestly earth sphere.

However the  Druid as character class persisted over time and across editions. Perhaps they have remained because players realize instinctively that there is something truly unique about the idea of a heroic Druid. 
As a spell casting class with real touchstones in a historical culture rather than the mythology of a culture. I feel the druid some how carries more weight for me than the magic user and the sorcerer.  In my mind it matters that at one point in history there were flesh and blood "druids" and that the old way was the religion in part of the world. I often times have a desire to get it "right" when dealing with the druid more so than say a typical magic user. More than just a ranger with shapechange and more than cleric dedicated to the woods. A druid in effect can be the  woods. When acting as nature's defender they are protecting themselves, and that opens up a milieu of adventures other classes might not be suited for.  In a word druids are different.


So, as the player in the group, who has played a Druid class character the longest and in both 3rd and 5th editions of D&D as well as in our home brew  PHASE ABANDON I have been asked to start off a conversation (or debate if you will) on playing a Druid.  I will not profess to being  a "rules lawyer" nor have the DMing experience of Mark who I have had the pleasure of playing in both of their many campaigns but what I do know is Druids, at least real world Druidism.  How does this make me a good judge on rules affecting Druids? Well I guess one could argue it doesn't "so stop typing now and go back to the forest you tree hugging hippie". My justification would be that I interpret the abilities  not simply as written in the rule book but with the intent the Druid would use and had been granted his power.


   Where does this go? Well after going through the PHBs of 2nd, 3rd 4th and 5th editions as well as a pdf of the original and articles forwarded to me I conclude that, while I love 5 edition it really lacks in clarifying many rules and especially does not do the Druid class any justice in the way of development.  What I mean by this is the early editions give a good outline of who the Druid is, what their ethos is.  

Clearly the Druid is defined as a true neutral character seeing all things as a necessity to balance the forces of the world.  The Druid is not the person you want in your group to wantonly go off and take out that band of Orcs simply because hey they do bad things nor is he a "card holding" member of PETA  hunting you down for eating a bunny or killing bears for coats.  While they would rather be in the wilds; they  accept that many humanoids prefer towns or cities and a visit to such places will not necessarily make their eyes explode.  (LOL)




  So a few rules that come up in our sessions:
 Entangle:  As written this spell creates sprawling vines and gnarly roots to grow out of the ground clinging and rasping all creatures in an area.  Pretty straightforward It seems. The question became does it also incapacitate the Druids comrades?  Well, as written (in any edition) it does. For most of my years of playing my particular DM never made this the case, he house ruled it; or simply never gave it a thought. The argument for this would be: if the Druid is controlling these plants to spring forth he should be able to dictate which creatures are effected.  I like that. Recently we have played it as written and quite honestly it practically takes the spell right out of the Druids' arsenal.  Unless working solo or with a group of ranged fighters, casting Entangle is too prohibitive for melee combatants to be utilized.  In defense of this would be the entire range of area effect spells cast by magic users; imagine the  wizard able to cast Fireball into a crowd and dictate that it only incinerates the bad guys. Yeah kind of crazy.

    Our biggest debate at the moment is the shape-

change ability. It is my firm belief that the Druid should only be allowed to choose from natural animals;  IE wolf, bear, raven; things they would see in their environment and I believe in the first two editions at least this was the intent of the ability.  Original wording states: Ability to change form up to three times per day, actually becoming, in all respects save the mind, a reptile, bird or mammal.  To me that doesn't include creatures of fantasy but the argument can be made that "uh helloo this is a fantasy game so magical creatures ARE included, after all you do encounter them."   Later editions have change the wording to "creatures" and as of 5th simply to beasts. hmm helpful; real helpful.



   So what do our rule enforcers decide? can our 5 level Druid turn into  a basilisk and does that mean that all those who look it in the eye make a saving throw vs paralysis (or whatnot) or does the Druid just turn into a big lizard?

I  Also asked Russ what he thought makes a truly heroic druid character in a game.
rees.  Fair and neutral to all. Healing abilities would be of a more holistic nature than magic ability.  Spells would be of elemental fury; windstorms, lightning, hailstorms.  Animal empathy of course.


His shape shifting would be at will and restricted to natural  creatures with no magical abilities. 
Main focus to protect the balance of good and evil and protect nature from unnecessary destruction. He would be as likely to walk freely into an orc war band camp as a human village and be generally accepted by both as if to parlay 

Thank you for reading, 

  hope you enjoyed the post.
Please leave questions or comments on the  sacrificial altar below.

-Mark



Friday, August 21, 2015

Rules Lawyers - Fight! (D&D 5th ed Feats edition)

This is a post cross written with my long time friend and gamer ally Otto over at Quarzis Games.
Here is his post on the same subject .. GO READ IT!
We have picked a subject that has come up in our games and decided that we woudl both write posts about it. Neither one of us really knew what tact the other woudl take when writing our posts so the  "FIGHT" part of this title might be a bit misleading. (it's not.) Z

For the  record Otto is  how shall we say ... ummm.... Smart, like wicked smart, eloquent, perceptive and humble about it. So I am in the  position of bringing a knife to a gunfight here, I best be on my game.  Hey though at least I'm not surprised!
Scanned from the D&D 5th ed PHB

That is my clever segway to bring us all the  way to this ugly son of a bitch.









I need to say a couple things before I continue.

In one of my blog posts I said:
"The best thing about  5th edition D&D feats is that they are optional."
I stand by that. The ability to  just never use the feats or for a gm to say, "Nah we're not using them." is a good thing. Being that feats aren't central to the game's core system (As they were in 3.0  / 3.5 ) they are completely optional. For my money this solves any problems a GM has with any of the feats, either nix them completely or pull out the feats that are troublesome.

Given that feats only come around every few levels and the player would  have to give up a sizable +2 to, their attributes to pick a feat. Played for maximum benefit that +2  on attributes  will always give the character at least an additional +1 bonus to something. Considering the trade off feats should have some punch. Even still I have issue with some of the 5th ed Feats, and "Alert" is pretty much top of my list.

The scanned text above is the complete entry for the Alert feat.


  • (Part 1) Always on the look out for danger.
  • (Part 2) You gain a +5 to initiative.
  • (Part 3) You can't be surprised while you are conscious.
  • (part 4) Other creatures do not gain an advantage on attack rolls against you as a result of being hidden from you.
(Part 1) I like the description of  "Always on the lookout for danger."  This invokes images of twitchy street wise rouge who knows that danger lurks around every corner, and of the  hardened professional fighter who knows what to look for in every situation. I think there should be a feat for this sort of personality, mechanical representation for the kind of character who is never calm, ever vigilant, and always ready. I can appreciate these types of characters because I see them in movies. A kung fu expert awakes from meditation just in the  split second he needs to block a sword strike, a cowboy who hears the  jingle of spur, turns and shoots before his assailant even has a chance. This kind of super reaction is an attribute that characters in fiction do have.

(Part 2) +5 to initiative:
If a player poo-poo's a +5 to anything in the fifth edition game then I don't know what might make that player happy. Mathematically this is basically "advantage" on every initiative. Factor in a decent Dex score and chances are this character is going first most rounds.
In my opinion this is enough. It covers the Feats description and is more than you can get for the +2 attribute bonus you gave up.
A solid bonus to a roll that is made at the beginning of every combat, which affects the  flow of encounter as a whole. Good Deal that.
Give a wizard "Alert" and  watch how often he or she stuffs groups of enemies before they get to do anything constructive. 

(Part 3) You can't be Surprised while conscious.
I get it the character is so alert that they react to things more quickly than others. Like when I play basketball, some of the  folks playing with me are faster to the ball than I am, they are more "ALERT." I can appreciate that interpretation.
Here's where I call foul. 
  • The +5 initiative already covers being quicker the the ball or your sword or whatever. This Feat is constructed so a player never has to worry about foolishly walking into a room without checking the corners.
  • The reaction mechanic (PHB 190) already covers things like the monk's ability to  snag arrows out  of the air or other situations that trigger an action by a character. 
  • The "Ready" action  (pg 193) extends this concept to pretty much anything the GM will allow, up to things like "If he takes one more step I hit him in the face!" kind of things.
  • The use of the word "never" should be outlawed from role-playing games. To say "Never surprised" takes the surprised condition out of  the GM's toolkit. There are a few mechanical things the GM  has available to build tension. (darkness, the  threat of surprise, being lost, resource management..) The Game has a bad habit of giving characters easy ways to circumvent most of them. This feat removes surprise from the list, completely. Any time the   word "Never" grabs one of my tools and  throws it away, I'm not happy. ( Read this from Goblin Punch for another  look at keeping threats, threatening.)
  • Being surprised is considerably worse than rolling a poor initiative. Surprised creatures can't move or act until the end of the turn, and may not take reactions until the end of the turn. In 5th edition "Surprised" is treated more like a short term condition. Ambushing your target is almost useless without the surprised condition. The two examples given under surprise on PG 189 PHB are A band of characters jumping from the  trees on some unsuspecting bandits and a Gelatinous cube gliding silently down a hallway. These are both ambushes by definition, If the DM was to say  "Ok you guys all get a free attack because they never saw it coming!" The DM has in effect just given you the benefits surprise and just skipped the protocol of the  checks. This feat kills the threat of ambush at least for the targets that have Alert.
  • For the  record, A gm can inflict "surprised"  As Defined on Page 189 of the 5th edition PHB, using the  following process. If one side of a fight might logically surprise another then the  Gm asks for or makes Dexterity checks (Stealth) for "anyone hiding" and compares them to the Passive Wisdom (perception) of "Each Creature on the opposing side. The text makes a point of mentioning that not all members of a group need to be surprised some may, some may not be. *
  • The Alert feat Diminishes anyone with a good wisdom but not the feat, why have that high passive perception? You're not going to need it all that much you have alert. 
  • It diminishes ambush predators and to an extent high Dex opponents, why bother with the Dex bonus or stealth or that back stabbing thief when the feat says "never surprised"?  Just take the feat, It is THE BEST CHOICE.
(Part 4) 
"Other Players do not gain advantage on attack rolls against you as a result of being hidden from you"
This part is my big hang up.
On Pg 177 there is a pop out that describes hiding using a stealth check. It states "In combat most creatures stay alert for signs of danger all around, so if you come out of hiding and approach a creature, it usually sees you."
It then continues, " the Dungeon Master might allow you to stay hidden as you approach a creature that is distracted, allowing you to gain advantage on an attack."
Neat!
But not against Aler.
So if you are a DM using an NPC rogue as an enemy:
  • Don't hide then try to get advantage on an attack in an effort to get your extra sneak-attack damage. 
  • Don't bother with the assassins arch type skill of assassinate. You can never get that critical for surprising a target with Alert.
Alert effectively kills camouflage, invisibility, hiding in shadows, and back-stabs as threats to the character and  gain as tools to raise the tension in a fight. It makes no sense when looked at as a package with the  other two benefits. The character can already never be surprised, with this hiding really only has a defensive benefit.

If your DM gets smart and gives some of those NPC bad guys tier own ALERT Feats .. things could get bizarre.

Lets look at it all for a second:

Player: I know they are close so while I'm hidden up here, I want to us my ready action, anything that steps into that clearing I shoot it with my  bow."

DM looks at his NPC ranger, she has the Alert feat.

DM: A brown cloaked figure enters the clearing.....

Player: I SHOOT!

Ok now what? 
The player has already spent their action as a hold so they fire? Wait no they should check for surprise first to see if the  ranger looses this turn completely including their reactions. Hold on, the target can  NEVER be surprised so her alertness is going to say LOOK OUT no surprise check. Well at least the attacker gets advantage for being hidden? Nope alert kills that to. So roll initiative right? Well no ...We're back to the player has already spent their action as a hold, so your going to take that action away?

Surprise happens before initiative so how can a DM or a Player execute a plan to get the drop on someone with the Alert Feat if it steps in front initiative. It's a nightmare.

It's not that the  Feat is innately unbalanced, if only one character or very special NPC takes it to represent some supernatural level of training, I could get behind that.

However I think I have shown a few salient points:


  • It steps on so many other core mechanics all at once that it borderlines on  bad design. 
  • It takes tools out of teh GM's tool box by using the term NEVER when describing an effect.
  • It can lead to a web of logical semi correct situation interpretations that is a time wasting table discussion waiting to happen ***
  • As written the feat is so strong that a player would be foolish to pass it up.

  • My final verdict:  The Alert Feat is  Bad design that has possibly unintended mechanical interactions through withing the  scope of the game and should be used with caution.
    AKA ... Broken.
Thank you for reading .. Now go read Otto's post!

-Mark.






*  I am not going into how horrid it would be if these rules were interpreted by the  letter and five attackers all with  different dexterity scores tried to surprise 5 opponents all with different wisdom scores. It's a hack job.
** As a DM in that situation I would let the hidden player fire because they already spent the action, and move the +5 initiative bonus to the  targets AC. Then start the next round with a normal initiative no mods for anyone. And explain "You weren't surprised he just fired as soon as he saw you, your alertness allowed you the  +5 AC." To be honest though, I am not  at all sure that is the  right answer.
*** This is called "The Flying Snake Effect"


Monday, August 17, 2015

The Crying.

"The creature of smoke and shadow unseated sir percival from his steed, and  in that moment Percival knew he was weak, knew he was not worthy of his title, and he wept."
                                                                                                                        *Wrote nobody  

Background:
In my  D&D campaign there is a Druid. Capital D because he is the only, the last druid.
One of the threads the group is currently tugging on  involves the Druid seeking out magical energy and using it to re establish the  system of ley lines that was destroyed many years ago. (Many years in game and in  real life.)  
One of his tool is a seed or  large walnut that was gifted to the  druid by the senior druid before him. This  nut when placed amongst enough magical energy  will basically  cause a verdant forest to erupt on the spot. Purifying the land  and restoring the  flow of ley energy.

[If you pay in my game there is stuff here that might  explain some of the weirdness from our last game.]

Current events:
This weekend The Druid used that seed for the  first time in the  ruins of an ancient city that had been destroyed during time of war and was now pretty well over run by dueling populations of Skaven  and Naga.    
 The vegetation exploded around the party  nearly trapping them in the underground vault where all this started. The  walls were soon  gnarled with  roots and vines, grasses soon  overwhelmed the Gnome, and the dwarf was up to his beard in green. The ruins were cleansed of corruption. That node of ley lines restored.

Side efects.
 Corruption is like water, it flows amongst us all the time, rusting our cars, making the souls of our shoes fall apart, making that woman we are interesting in  have eyes for some other asshole at the bar.
Corruption is an energy  of it's own and like energy it can change form but it can't be destroyed. Corruption lays like an oily  film on the  surface of the  things it has touched, slowly working into every nook.

When the  Druid used his power to  cleanse the ruined city of Careth, he did not destroy the corruption  he simply pushed it out. Some of that corruption formed pools of swirling  hate and dissonance, shadows of corrupt matter. Some of it started looking for those who disturbed it. effects that also corrupt only serve to feed it's rage, necrosis, poisons, hexes and curses will bolster these nightmares.

The Corruption golems:
Golem as a term assumes it was created by someone for some purpose. A corruption golem is created  though not  intentionally, and it does have purpose though not one desired by the creator.
A corruption golem is dark, amorphous, smoky, hulking mass. It is all smoke and grease and scum. It's outline so distorted that landing a solid blow to the creature is difficult even for skilled warriors.

When a Corruption golem strikes it does so with no small force, but the real effect is psychological, The victim feels doubt, and depression. All of the things the  person has done wrong in their life will flood back to them.
On the first strike the victim will lose their ability to strike with conviction.
On the second the golem will have seeped so deeply into their psyche that  the victim will be less likely to fight at all.
The third strike can reduce the  finest warrior to a depressed whimper.
Death in this manner is  horrible and final.


Technical stuff.
I had any one getting hit by a corruption golem save (in this case wisdom)
1 failed save they lost all of their non magical attack bonuses.
2 failed saves the monster may roll d10 each round and reduce any of the victims rolls by that amount.
3 failed save the  victim is struck prone, can still act but not stand for 1d6 rounds while still suffering the effects above.
As a gm if the characters were struck and failed their saving throws. I made sure to  recount horrid things the characters had done and failures they had experienced. The golem made the characters feel insufficient, unworthy, corrupt, unclean.

lasting effects:
If a character is ever brought to the  third level of effect by a corruption golem they will pick up a score called "Loathing" This score starts at 1.

  • Once a day they must check vs this score, if they roll equal or lower (on 1d20) they suffer the effects of the being hit once by a corruption golem for the rest of the day, as they will be plagued by self doubt, melancholy, dark thoughts, and depression for the rest of that day. 
  • Also if this  check is failed the  loathing score increases by 1.
  • Only a remove curse spell can reverse this effect.

The bard's counter charm was effective against the level 1 corruption, granting an advantage to saves.
Counter charm would not  be effective against the level 2 or 3 effect as the character must already be suffering from the horrible self doubt brought on by the first failed save.

Those killed by a Corruption golem , don't actually die they  waste away, going in moments from health individuals to desiccated corpse.


Corruption Ghoul:
If not burned the corpse of one killed by a corruption golem will rise in a day as a corruption ghoul.

These types of ghouls are not driven by  hunger but by desire to feed on happiness and  joy , they will seek it out , lurk in the  shadows and  slowly feed off any joy they can.
Corution ghouls have all the hiding abilities of a 3rd level rogue and  choose to stick to dark and forgotten corners. They may  enter the light  if need be and  retain enough wisdom to sometime don heavy cloaks to hide their corrupt forms.
the wise may notice a fitted set of a heavy feeling in the air when they are near.
true blooded elves can not abide their presence and can detect them far more readily.
They do not speak and  do not act in groups, they  hate even each other and  will avoid the living except to feed.
It is sometimes the doing of a corruption ghoul that a cow will stop giving milk, a happy couple will fail at marriage, a child will turn sad on a summer day, and a sober man will turn to drink.

They are vicious if cornered and drawn to combat using horrible claw like hand to attack with  bony fetid claws. Corruption ghouls have an instinctive hatred of elves and will attack them first if forced to fight.
Luckily they are frail and  can be put down by the sword.

Thank you for reading .
have a great one, questions and comments are welcome!
-Mark.