Dust Pan Game Resource Pages

Featured Post

The island: (adventure seed)

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 ...

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Remember Blood Bowl? (Blood Bowl Rule Variant)

Blood Bowl... That games work shop classic.
That:
Rage inducing,
Dice throwing,
Mini smashing,
Curse word inviting,
mind numbing,
table flipping,
Classic.

I've Played it.....

Here's a variant rule:

When a coach suffers a turnover on their turn rather than end their turn completely, the defending coach gets to take one of the following actions with any one figure on their team. (move, pick up a ball, foul, or block)  This is called an "off turn action." Each opposing figure my only have one such "off turn Action" during their opponents turn. A coach may not spend Re-rolls on off turn actions. 
Once the "Off turn action" is resolved the the original coach may resume activating and taking actions with their team.
A coach's turn ends only when that player has taken action with or skipped every figure on their team.
Also here's  A skill for leveled up players:

Opportunist: Great at seizing opportunities as they present them selves. This player make make up to two "Off turn actions" per opponents turn rather than the normal one.

Using this rule changes the nature of the game:

  • Puts some bite into missing a die roll with out totally deflating the  will to live of the player who just rolled double 1 on a go for it then  1 again on the re-roll.
  • Removes some of the  .."Ohh I failed to pick up the ball, now I'm 100% screwed" moments.
  • Keeps both players involved during a turn.
  • Might open the game up a bit more.
  • Would unfortunately slow down an already long game.



Thanks for reading
-Mark


Wednesday, February 22, 2017

What does your dwarf see?

I love Dwarf characters:

This  PDF About Historic Masonry deterioration and  preventative maintenance, is decidedly not "gamish" though I found it  pretty interesting to read.

Using that PDF as a source when a Dwarf player is traipsing around a dungeon and asks, "do I notice anything about the condition of my surroundings?" If the GM determines there should be something Roll on the chart below.

(Roll 1d12 for  feature, 1d10 for severity)

Severity 1-4. minor 5-7.moderate 8-9.pronounced  10.concerning*

TYPE:

  1. Blistering: Swelling and rupturing of a thin uniform skin acrossed the masonarys bedding plane. A the concerning level could represent something being hidden behind a masonry false front, or a hollow area behind a wall.
  2. Chipping: Large pieces are missing , usually on corners, At the concerning level , this could show signs of  alterations done to the  masonry, or  direct attempts to  damage the masonry in the past.
  3. Coving: Erosion undercutting the  base of the masonry. At the concerning level, could affect the stability of walls.
  4. Cracks: Are cracks in the masonry. at the concerning level they could represent an unstable are  of construction , or an area that has shifted in elevation / grade.
  5. Crazing: A small spider web of cracks usually in glaze or in concrete. an the concerning level this could show an area that has flooded in the past.
  6. Crumbling: Brittle masonry that falls away. This shows that a masonry  might be quite old.   At the concerning level, could affect the stability of walls.
  7. Delamination: Large laminate sheets fall away from the surface of the masonry. At the concerning level these sheets could be an environmental to those passing by, depending on size and weight.
  8. Erosion / Weathering: Wearing away for corners and edges by natural forces. A clever dwarven mason could use this  sign to guess at the age of a structure. At the concerning level it could show an area that experiences  seasonal floods, or that the  masonry is unstable.
  9. Pitting: Small pock marked areas due to the removal of individual components of the masonry. At the concerning level this could point to the presence of chlorine gas or acids.
  10. Subflorescence: Build up of salts within the masonry. Hard to detect directly some  white powdery buildup on the  outside of the masonry could be taken as a sign. At the  concerning level this could  point to old unstable masonry, a void behind a wall, or an area that experiences dramatic temperature extremes.
  11. Surface crust: The movement of moisture out of masonary  caries minerals which form a crust. At the concerning level this rust may hide, or impede the functioning of ancient stone doors. A concerning crust might also warn a dwarf of weak stones or stones which have effectively disintegrated leaving only the crust behind. (Don't walk on those!)
  12. Rising Damp:  The suction of  moisture into masonry from the  ground via capillary action is called rising damp. At the concerning level this could  show a dwarf that a building is badly drained, and in older structures may not be completely stable. It could also be a clue that there is water below a structure.
Thanks for reading:
-Mark.

Monday, February 20, 2017

D12 Combat details for attacks with an ax

You have successfully hit your target with an ax.
Or you have been hit by an ax.
This is not a critical hit. This is just a hit, normal damage.
Combat is a crazy thing, and odd things happen. The Gm may call for a combat detail rm the  chart below.
I tried to be as  system agnostic as possible, but it assumes attack rolls, Armour, damage and such.

 Roll 1d12

  1. The ax cuts the targets straps either on armor or on any packs winch are present. Things fall to the floor.
  2. the ax gets caught in the targets cloth  clothing ripping it to pieces as the weapon is drawn back.
  3. It is a flat side hit, normal damage but the type is bludgeoning not slashing.
  4. A buckle or haft is stuck, the edge of your ax is notched. Causing no modifiers, but this should be repaired as soon as possible.
  5. You have hooked a limb with your ax. You and your target both roll 1d6 if the target rolls higher, it yanks your ax from your grip, if You roll higher you  pull back your weapon doing a normal damage roll to your foe. If the roll is a tie, re roll your intuitive.
  6. You strike with force but are pulled off balance by the weight of the ax. Gm can determine the  mechanical result based on your system.
  7. You have hooked your targets shield,  on the next round they will get no benefit from it, If they have no shield you have hooked their clothing giving them a slight  armor  penalties to your next strike.
  8. If your attack missed it still hits hard enough on your opponents armor to  shake their resolve. The target should make a morale-check. If the attack hit the  heavy blow of an ax has demoralized the target, and their morale (if applicable in your system) goes down by d4 for the rest of the combat.
  9. If the opponent has a shield it is sundered split by your ax. Roll 1d6 if the roll is a 1 the  ax head is stuck in the  sundered shield if the  roll is a 6 the  the  shield splits in two and  is useless. If this result is scored again vs the same target the shield is automatically destroyed. If the target has no shield you instead Sunder them. Knocking the target backwards and down to one knee.
  10. Your  Ax and their weapon lock. Both characters make strength checks the winner of which (whoever rolls the greatest degree of success) moves ahead in the initiative order next round. 
  11. You swing your ax, hit or miss you change grip to your other hand quickly to come crossed with a second attack. You move to the top of the initiative order next round , as long as you attack but your attack is made with your off hand. Otherwise you may choose another action and remain in the same initiative order.
  12. You  strike your targets knee with the  haft of your weapon hobbling them.
Thanks for reading
-Mark.

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: (Soldier → 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?"
On 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.