This Blog 2019, Goals and Grommets

Inspired by the 2019 goals post over at Charles's Dragons Never Forget Blog, I figured I would do the same thing. 2018 right around ...

Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Role Playing Games and Car's annology.

this is a BMW M3 from 1985
This is a BMW M3 fro 2013

Both of these ars are pretty darn cool, fast, and drivable.
Some folks will say they like the  1985 M3 more, for whatever reasons.  It could be nostalgia, aesthetics, or they just like the ride whatever the reason Th dig the 1983.

Some folks love the newest BMW M3 and will shout from the mountain top that it's the best ever. The dig how fast it is, all of the bells and whistles, perhaps they just like the NEW of it.

Both views are perfectly fine and acceptable. 
I have noting against someone who digs classic BMW's and I also can see the 2013 BMW M3 is pretty bad ass in it's own right.

I would not judge anyone over their opinions about BMW's.
On the other hand BMW folks will argue endlessly about what model of their beloved bimmers are the finest and why. They will talk sway bars and disc breaks until their  faces turn blue. From the outside it looks silly but to them it's darn important.

We do the same thing in our tiny niche hobby with our games.
We argue over old school vs story games, nostalgia vs  bells and whistles, edition this vs edition that old school vs theory and from the outside it looks really silly. To us however it becomes important. Important enough that segments of our relatively small community, end up disconnected from other segments of our small community.

When in fact just like the car guys were looking for the experience that we love, the perfect decreasing radius corner, the speed, the rush of (what ever does it for you.) If one  person gets there with a vehicle from 1985 that's awesome. If another person gets there with a vehicle from 2013 that is equally awesome.

I think it gets kind of stupid sometimes.

Someone telling me they are old school, or on the other side of the coin telling me the are a diligent Forge detractor, does absolutely nothing for me. 

show me what you are doing that's fun, show me the awesome, give me that perfectly driven decreasing radius corner, kill some apexes with me, write a game, write a setting give me something old school, give me  a story game, just make it awesome and stop arguing over it. Fill the hobby with fun and good times because that's what it's about.

With the new D&D on the horizon the  blog-o-sphere is likely to get crazy take a second to look around and realize were all actually enjoying the same hobby, regardless of what "car" we want to drive.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

The industry of RPG's and why I'll opt out.

The Industry of R.P.G.s

Despite what I said at the game table a few months back, when Shards of Thimbral was just a bunch of ping pong balls bouncing around in my brain, and despite some thoughts I have had in the past I have an admission to make.

I'm never going to be part of the industry of Role Playing Games.

What that mean sis I don't think I'm ever going to ask anyone for money for what I do.

I don't think this is me going back on or giving anything up. In the past week or so I have reevaluated a few things about my self and about gaming. I would consider this a statement of self evaluation and an evaluation of what I really enjoy about this hobby.

I can not take the games seriously enough to maintain the focus it would take to put something out there.

Don't get me wrong, I write this blog, I play three times a week, I put a lot of thought and effort into the hobby. I don't plan on changing. What I'm changing is what I want to get out of it, I want to get joy out of the energy put out. I don't want to worry about page bleed, and cover color saturation, stock levels and printing sizes, and if every chart is exactly finished or not. Fuck that noise.
On top of that I have a wife, who deserves 100% of my attention, a home, and a job, a I'm not willing to put any of that second to the amount of work that publishing a quality product would involve.

What I want is to have a collection of stories from our games and an audience to share them with on this blog. A chance to talk about what we think about role playing games and how they work and what sucks and what doesn't.

I want to go to a convention or three, throw my game down and play it with a bunch of people. Not because I want to take their money sometime in the future, but because I want to add some fun to that groups convention experience. I would love it latter that weekend one of the players turned to another said, “That game with the random characters that was pretty fun.” For me the hobby is about fun.

There are people out there who I have read, who seem to be almost tortured by this hobby. Bitter, opinionated to a fault, and are not apparently having any fun. That's not me. My goal is fun with my friends period.

I was recently told "you win some you loose some" in regards to game playing a writing. Even though the person who typed it had no idea it would the point resonated with me. I don't want my hobby to become a win / loose proposition. I just want to keep dishing out and sharing the fun until I can't roll-em any more.

I have mentioned a game I am “working on” called Amazing Adventurers and Incredible Exploits (AAIE.) I don't want any one to get the wrong idea, it's never going to be $9.99 on drive through.

Eventually I'm going to give away PDFs and I hope somebody plays it, enjoys it, and tells me about their crazy RPG adventures. I have decided that's all I want out of this.

I'll package with the PDF links to my e-mail and this blog in hopes of collecting as many actual pays as possible. A mailing list of players would be an amazing success to me, a sharing of ideas and experiences, the perfect pay off.

Friday, May 23, 2014

A GM's panel "How to value The Life of a character."

(This will be a long one)

I am so glad this is a long post, I'm very exited about this one.

I love to know how other GM's think and play and why they game like how they do. For me how others approach the hobby is a source of  never ending curiosity. I tend to find allot more commonality that I would expect, even among seemingly diverse gamers.

I wanted to write a post about different GM's and their thoughts on player character life span. 
To that end I went looking for some guest writers.

On G+ I asked the question:

  • How do you as a GM feel about player character life span and PC Death? Please don't Hurt me? or Nightmare level?
  • The second question was how central in your setting are the characters are they the main heroes? or more like Cogs in a greater machine?
My overall goal was to find out how other GM's view characters and handle the player character position within the game world, so that I could use that information to inform my work on Amazing Adventurers and incredible Exploits. (AAIE)

Lets dig in!

I put the question out generally on G+, then I posed it to three people who are the writers of blogs / content that I read regularly and respect for their honestly, creativity, and general willingness to do / say  whatever they want within this hobby.

I was highly fortunate in that they each took time to contribute answers, something I appreciate greatly.

So our guest writers for this blog are four fold.

Charles Akins:

Writer of Dyvers Campaign Blog. This blog spans the breath of the gaming industry, with a post rate I envy, and well written content on the daily. Charles is also the keeper of the great blogs roll call, perhaps the most complete list of PRG blogs in the fishbowl.
He also wrote a series of blogs on his site called if you're going to be evil Which is one of the most amazing actual plays you will ever read and the only one I've ever read that made me think "Could I hang? I'm not sure..." and I have been doing this shit since Jr. high.

Mike Evans:
The writer of the forth coming Hubris campaign setting. 
Mike's G+ image is a big middle finger  with D.I.Y. for (do it your self,) a D20, and R.P.G. written on it.
So yeah, had me at hello, a kindred spirit.

Neal Tanner:

Neal gets a special spot here at the dust pan blog in that he DM's me on a regular basis. I have a vested interest in knowing why he would kill my Numenera character some Thursday night.
That aside Neal is a big time Con attendee, will play anything, is I think more of a story gamer than any one else on this list, and  most importantly  knows exactly what he likes and what he doesn't in an RPG play experience, and is not shy about it.

Venger Satanis:
Venger from what I can tell has allot of contexts in which he cuts and interesting figure. in this context he is a writer of old school adventures and if I may be so bold a champion of the old school RPG experience in some of it's purest forms.
His blog Venger's Old school Gaming Blog is very entertaining and full of FANTASTIC imagery.
From his blog you can navigate to the resources he has published modules like  "Liberation of the Demon Slayer" and "The islands of purple haunted putrescence,"
And old school class options like "Three swordsmen" and "The Baleful Sorcerer of Tsathagkha"
He does not shy away form adult themes in his gaming and when he writes a mod lets evil be evil.
(Use of purple intentional)

Introductions are over, here are the  replies I got for each  contributor.
If I write any thing in among the quotes I will write it in blue italics so that my statements don't get confused with  the guest author's

Charles Akins
How do you feel about Character life span?

I have killed a lot of player characters in my life, both as a DM and as a player, so I usually feel like if they make it past the first session that they should be able to go for another five or six. The problem for me as a player is that once someone starts putting my character's life at risk because of their own foolish actions I find no hesitation in ending their lives.

Now as a Dungeon Master I find that it's my responsibility to ensure that everyone at the table is enjoying themselves. Laughs, memorable moments, and all that noise; but an important part of that experience has to be the threat of danger. If my players know that they're going to come out alright no matter what happens then the game stops being fun for them and the start taking liberties and treating the game like it's some forgettable noise they downloaded for free online. I want my games to matter more than that, so when they do foolish things I ensure that they have realistic consequences to their actions.

I work very hard to ensure that I never cross the line between reasonableness and jackass. I've been on the receiving end of both.

Are the characters the center of your stories or cogs in the machine?

I always tell everyone that the way I play is called co-operative storytelling and not story time with Uncle Charlie. In my games the players create the story as we progress, choosing what they want to do and when, and I set things up and react to their choices. I rarely go into a session with a set plan and I've never run a campaign with an overarching storyline. They just wouldn't work with my style of play.

Mike Evans:
How do I feel about character life span?
 I am of two minds.  I understand the importance of having a character grow and the player becoming attached to them.  I understand players want to play "that type of game" where they are Buffy, Mal, etc.

As I have ran games though I grew tired of trying to make sure encounters were "just right" or being nice to player when they were idiotic and pushed the big red button that said, "TO TOUCH IS TO DIE!!"

On the other hand I understand the importance of death.  If there is no fear of death, then players do increasingly dumb actions because they no long fear reprisal.  They justify the actions as "that's what my character would do."

As I really started delving back into old school (and OSR) is that I was really drawn to that you touch something you shouldn't, you fucking die philosophy.

I NEVER punish players though.  I always attempt to give clues, descriptions, etc that doing something is a bad idea...  It then is up to them to jump off that bridge.

With regards to Hubris- I have intentionally made it brutal (which is a reason I love DCC so much).  Part of the fun is see just how horribly you die, get mutated, corrupted, etc.

Are the characters the center of your story or cogs in the machine
I kinda touched on that above, but I'll go deeper.

I really have grown weary of the "my character is a special unique snowflake with a large back story" shtick.  I like the story and character emerging from the adventures rather than a player expounding their fanfick version of Leon or Han or whatever.  So here they are more a cog or a spring.

However if I am playing a system like Savage Worlds- I'll be a bit more understanding and the characters will be more central (but can still be a cog).

Neal Tanner:

Unless I'm running Paranoia, I'm usually not a killer GM.  I try to challenge the players, without actually pushing things to the brink of disaster.

I'm also running mainly narrative games, so the characters are pretty central to the fiction.  It should be their story, anyway.  If it isn't... why are we all sitting around playing RPGs?  We should just play Monopoly instead.

The players only involvement in the game is THEIR characters. So their characters should be central to the fiction.  What they do should matter.

That's the inherent problem with most MMOs.  Your character isn't central to the fiction.  Your character is just a carbon copy of so many others you may see running around.  What you do has no real impact on the game, or even on your own personal story.

That's where tabletop RPGs really shine.  Letting your character tell their particular story, whatever that happens to be.  It doesn't even have to be huge.  Maybe you're the great hero, armed with the legendary sword.  Or maybe you're just the former village baker turned adventurer, armed with a brick.  Either way, you still have a story to tell.

I really like when you say  the story does not have to be huge. It makes me want to write a game called little heroes who just do simple things like find lost car keys, but turn that act into huge adventures, like we all did when we were children. I agree with you that letting the characters tell their stories is important and that working with the players to do that is even more important when you GM a consistent group over a long campaign. PS Thanks for the AAIE reference in there.

Venger Satanis:

Not to be too esoteric, but I feel that character life is about initiation.  A few won't make it, most will do alright, but only a select few will excel beyond what ordinary man is capable of.  The struggle to survive is part of the whole progression cycle.  I believe that's true of real life.

Characters should be given a fighting chance (even NPCs).  The caliber of decision making melds with the luck of the dice.  If every adventurer reached level 20 with a semi full of gold, gems, and magic items, then that kind of status would lose its meaning. 

As you mentioned, "seeing the players experience the mysteries in your modules for the first time." is one of my chief motivations.  Occasionally, those mysteries kill.  If you take away the possibility of character death, the GM robs a module of its deadly allure.  Yet, death for death's sake is GM weak-sauce.  Don't take PC lives wantonly.

Are they central to the story or cogs in the machine? 

Both.  Neither.  Well, it's hard to say.  Probably somewhere in the middle.  As a GM, I'm focused on the PCs and what they're doing, but the place they're exploring didn't come from them.  They didn't build the dungeon. 

And yet, if the PCs weren't really important to the story, then why wouldn't I bypass them altogether and spend my time describing the actions of NPCs or monsters?

My  Conclusion:

Were all  searching for the event horizon.

We have points of view from four people all of whom presumably run their games differently.
Is there commonality here, Yes I think there is.

A point I find common is that a good Gm is not going to kill for the sake of killing; it’s too easy, and as Venger put it “is GM weak-sauce.” The gm is going to meet out realistic consequences for players being careless, or just plain stupid. 
If a character should die it more likely happens because as Mike Put it they “they were idiotic and pushed the big red button that said, "TO TOUCH IS TO DIE!!"” 
(I am so adding this button to AAIE somewhere, someplace..It will be big and red and one of the players will push it. I'll bet money on it)

Like I said above, as Gm's it's easy to kill of a character, its so fucking easy in fact that it's not even fun. The fun happens when a player has something happen at that brink of disaster that no one not even the GM saw coming.

That is the character death event horizon:
In a recent game I ran, a player tried to climb the leg of a rhemoraz. I knew the player on the other end of roll 20 had the  monster manual in-front of him, we both knew trying to hide on the leg of this insectoid ass kicking machine was a really bad "big red button" decision.

I gave him a saving throw when the creature kicked him off. The save was the event horizon, I knew his character was going to get hurt and badly for the player being reckless, but I gave him a shot to salvage some part of the situation. 
He failed the save and died brilliantly. As Venger put it " The caliber of decision making melds with the luck of the dice."

Neal brought up an interesting perspective, in that with a game like Paranoia he will be a killer GM, that's the point, but in a more narrative game where the characters are more central to the fiction he likes to "I try to challenge the players, without actually pushing things to the brink of disaster." Neal's point dovetails nicely with Venger's "Characters should be given a fighting chance (even NPCs)."

Having played in Neal's game's I know that if I did something  really dumb, he would hammer me, there have been times in Numenera when I was convinced my character was a dead man. (pop up walls and spinning blade robots galore.) 
Those moments are the games event horizons, the players sit up straight, quiet down stop making jack hole comments and start trying to survive. If they survive they come to appreciate the character just a bit more, if they die, that character wasn't meant to be any more that what he or she was.

That moment when every one at the table knows the character is on the line and you pick up the dice, just before the player rolls.
It's the good stuff.

A  good GM will value a characters life enough that these events count and have the desired weight during the game. Just offing player characters right and left  will devalue each characters life and make those events mean less over time, reduce the tension in the game, disrupt the story and generally make the whole game a cluster-fuck.

Or as Charles Put it "Laughs, memorable moments, and all that noise; but an important part of that experience has to be the threat of danger. If my players know that they're going to come out alright no matter what happens then the game stops being fun for them and the start taking liberties and treating the game like it's some forgettable noise they downloaded for free online."

Characters are the big shots or "mongo just pawn in game of life."?

One thing I find interesting is all of the GM's that replied mentioned in one way or another, that even if the player characters are not the center of the fiction , they are still the center of the action, the story can flow from their actions.

I think Mike Evans came closest to my personal views with, "I like the story and character emerging from the adventures rather than a player expounding their fanfick version of Leon or Han or whatever."

"Letting your character tell their particular story, whatever that happens to be.  It doesn't even have to be huge.  Maybe you're the great hero, armed with the legendary sword.  Or maybe you're just the former village baker turned adventurer, armed with a brick.  Either way, you still have a story to tell."

"In my games the players create the story as we progress, choosing what they want to do and when, and I set things up and react to their choices."

and Venger,
" As a GM, I'm focused on the PCs and what they're doing, but the place they're exploring didn't come from them.  They didn't build the dungeon. 
And yet, if the PCs weren't really important to the story, then why wouldn't I bypass them altogether and spend my time describing the actions of NPCs or monsters?"

This is also a firm belief of mine. 
That yes the player characters may be cogs in a greater machine, but they are our cogs damn it, and while we are playing the story can come form their actions and the story is about our cogs little part of the machine. 

In my current 2nd ed game there is a dwarf warriors, gnome bard, and a human druid who have been in most of the sessions , each one of them have some part of the story that is uniquely theirs. The  Druid has to reawaken the ley lines in a land mostly robbed of natural magic, The  Dwarf has a thieves guild from ruined city to hunt down, after all they cut off his left hand. Unfortunately all he has to go on is a dagger and an amulet with  a strange symbol on it. And the gnome, well the gone is played by Neal so I'm keeping my mouth shut.

 My point being those story lines are enough to last a few sessions and were built exclusively out of play, seeing what the players wanted out of their characters and running with the ball.

So as a guy that writes games how can I use all this awesome input and info?
good question.
Briefly (this is long enough)

Gm's know that
  • Character attrition is good (D.C.C. funnel cake anyone? umm tastes like tears.) because the survivors will mean more to the players.
  • Realistic repercussions for stupidity is good, it keeps the players motivated and playing, it makes the reactions meaningful.
  • The tension brought on by the event horizon where that next die roll could be the end for a character is good, it should happen, often.When it does happen that's where the fun lives.
  • When those "event Horizons"occur they should be celebrated and remembered, close calls, big actions, critical failures are the things that endear characters to players.
  • Characters don't have to be the center of the game world, but they should be the center of the game.
  • The fiction can flow from the actions of the characters. Regardless if the fiction comes from characters purely or only mostly, it can and that can make for more invested player. 
I feel that if as I work more on Amazing Adventurers and Exciting Exploits I keep those six bullet points in my mind that game will be that much more enjoyably both for players and Game masters.

Before I go I woudl like to again thank 
Venger Satanis, Neal Tanner, Charles Akins , and Mike Evans for contributing.

Their work  in the blog-o-sphere and knowledge of gaming is  superior to mine, so having them on board as guests here a the humble dustpan has been a great experience.

Thank you again fellas.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

D&D release? Are you ready to ride the wave?

They announced the release dates for the next edition of Dungeons and dragons, which will be called appropriately enough "Dungeons and Dragons."

Other blogs have reported the dates prices and times, in much more detail than I have the brain for.
like this one:
Dyvers reports all the  D&D release poop we can handle.

As for the rest of us, that group of  abnormal-s who like to write our own games what does this mean to us.

It means hang on to your  Fucking hat.

Get ready because on July 15th when the  new basic box drops, the R.P.G. blog-o-sphere is going to go crazier than an ape on Carmen Miranda's hat.
Then in August it's going to do the same thing again, when the P.H.B. hits the general masses.
And so on.

Every one who does this is going to have an opinion about the new product. Some blogs will publish pointed and intelligent reviews. Others will just troll the new edition mercilessly, still others will regurgitate what they read on other blogs. It will be a  tidal wave of  content positive and negative, and sorting it will be no small task.

 They will also serve to drown out the Indy and OSR game scene for a few months, perhaps longer. Every  blog and  G+ feed is going to be full of  real play accounts, hacks, complaints, monsters, reviews, and  more complaints.

Not that any one was going to stop working on games, but I get the feeling it's going to seem like no one is listening for a while.
Getting a word in edgewise about our little projects is going to be like farting in a hurricane.

In my  narrow world view the reason the Indy game, OSR communities, and the non-mainstream release gaming community have become so strong in recent years is two fold.

First  the  act of self publishing with the rise of  digital books, and  print on demand got that much easier. We are not living in 2002 when Adept press put out Sorcerer, now days any one can write just about anything and get it out there to any one who wants it. This has created a sort of land rush of  people writing games, writing settings, and getting in on the fun. The fun spread to people still playing older editions of games and they started pooping out games and  modules and other  kick ass stuff, making for a very active hobby.

Secondly in my opinion fourth edition was not good, (I'm being gentle, I 'm not interested in slapping what is truly a dead horse.)
Having a weak game as the flag ship product of Hasbro * Industries flag ship RPG produced by Hasbro (better known as that 600 lb gorilla that's about to reenter the room.)  made many gamers particularly those who have been gaming for a long time start seeking out new things.
Pathfinder jumped into that void and took off, but even the 3.5x system of Pathfinder is starting to show it's age bloat now, a good number gamers wandered even farther a-field, or started doing their own thing.

Fate, Apocalypse World, Dungeon World, Numenera, Dungeon Crawl Classics, Gumshoe, and so many others have gained real, creative, and interesting followings. (If I left a game out  it was for brevity not lack of respect.)

A new edition of 'the Worlds greatest Role Playing Game" lumbering a crossed the landscape will for a while change the dynamic of the hobby. Almost every one will give it a try and have an opinion, Hasbro will make money and release more things, it's what they do. there will be allot of  talk , both positive and negative.

My advise for what it's worth is ride the wave keep working on your games.

The initial noise will subside and in a year or so some people will start looking for alternatives again and  we'll all be here. Ready to throw down more new ideas, more heart breakers, more of the good stuff.

This is an edit:
I  fucked up the way I worded that point and it was pointed out to me in the comment section by am eagle eyed reader. I appreciate it, the commentator was 100% correct. I'm a pretty shitty writer and need the  help sometimes. I  certainly did not mean that Hasbro is hanging it's jacket on the hanger of D&D. I do however think the resources Hasbro can bring to a project make them the overweight gorilla in the room, and That D&D is the industry's flagship RPG, whether any of us like it or not.

Monday, May 19, 2014

D100 Random things that can happen in a bar.

In the spirit of our game Amazing Adventurers and Incredible Exploits I give you:

D100 Random and sometimes silly things that can happen to or be witnessed by your PC's while they are just sitting around getting piss drunk at the local bar.

  1. A nasty bar fight breaks out, none of the player characters are involved but, someone drops a rather fancy looking dagger during the fray

  2.        Church bells ring, the inn keep jumps to work and starts fastening down all the windows and doors, the locals being to file into the basement without saying a word.

  3.        A child runs into the room shouting that he found a human skeleton down by the creek.

  4.        A caravan arrives from a distant land to the south; they bring rare trade goods, news and rumors.

  5.    Someone tosses a lit torch and a large jar of lamp oil through the window, mayhem ensues.

  6.        One at a time each employee of the inn gets sweaty then very pale, they start dropping like flies, in the throes of some mysterious illness.

  7.        An inn patron stands up and begins spewing a dark prophesy at the top of his lungs.  Just has his speech reaches its climax he explodes sending gore and chunks of gore in all directions.

  8.        While the party is enjoying a drink and some mutton, five armed and armored men bust down the door and demand all the (1d6, 1-3: Women or 4-6 Men) come with them immediately.

  9.        Suddenly the roof is ripped clean off the building a massive Cyclops peers in, muttering only the word “honey-bunny?”
  10.    Earth Quake!

  11.    A scream is heard, the lady of the inn runs into the room crying and pointing to the back of The building. She had gone to draw water from the well, but instead of water she drew up a bucket containing, (1d6: 1.maggots 2.blood 3.dirt 4.a severed head 5. Snakes 6.a giant ant)

  12.    The innkeeper inexplicably and violently stabs a man at the bar.

  13.    The building shutters as something huge lands on the roof.

  14.    Vines and thick roots begin to grow up though the floor boards, entangling patrons.

  15.    A Currier stops at the inn, saying “I have a package for a Mr. Tyree” no one in the bar has heard of him so the Currier says “Well this thing give me the creeps,” The carrier drops a small box with several holes drilled in it and runs away.

  16.    An old man is seated in the corner pouring over some maps, after a few hours one of the party notices, he’s dead.

  17.    A burly man enters the bar; he drops a fat pouch of gold on a table and announces “this and the opportunity for more to anyone who can best me in a fair fight!”

  18.    A Halfling enters the inn, jumps up on a table and announces, ‘My name is Pantster and I am recruiting for the first phase ball team in this area a-do I have any takers?” The inn patrons all look at each other with no idea what the little man is on about.

  19.    Two full blooded orcs one male and one female enter and take seats at the end of the bar. This does not happen often.

  20.    The lady of the establishment comes running from the kitchen screaming “PUUUDINNNNGGG!” Hot on her heals a strange slime of some form slithers along the floor.

  21.    A loud cracking noise can be heard from the back of the inn, if any one investigates they will see a fence has been knocked down and one of the innkeepers goats stolen.

  22.    The room suddenly fills with thick black smoke, obscuring the PC’s vision and making it hard to breath.

  23.    An arrow flies through window catching one of the patrons square in the face.

  24.    A priest walks into the bar and sits down for a drink; the bartender looks up and says, "Is this some kind of joke?" The priest shakes his head and begins to weep.

  25.    A raging bar fight breaks out amongst two gangs of toughs; it spills out onto the street, and then gets serious.

  26.    One of the PC’s accidently discovers a trap door in the floor of the inn.

  27.    The inn keeper yells “Infernal Gremlin bastard!” and begins wildly  firing  a short  bow into the  rafters 

  28.    One of the patrons begins violently choking, he heaves up a very large leach like worm which being s to speak demonic prophecies before trying to escape with surprising speed.

  29.    The innkeeper sits down ant the PC’s table and asks them if they would be interested in buying the place.

  30.    The innkeepers wife pulls one of the PC’s aside (the least attractive one) and proposes she could pay the PC to kill her husband.

  31.    Two clerics in the room get into an argument over theology which quickly comes to blows, then summoning!

  32.    An old miner gets stinking drunk then starts showing off a thumb sized nugget of gold, saying he knows where to get more.

  33.    There is a young man in the bar that looks like he has been beaten badly.

  34.    The innkeeper’s large wolf hound stands up and beings growling for no apparent reason.

  35.    Something impacts the side of the building violently, buckling the wall and tipping over a table.

  36.    A man at the end of the bar is staring vacantly into his beer and mumbling about fairies and fae folk.

  37.    Two patrons playing dice get an argument about theories concerning what a game actually is and the right way to play dice. They stab each other to death.

  38.     A traveling jester is performing in the back of the bar; a pc may notice a tattoo on his ring finger. A lore check would indicate he is (1d6: 1.a ranger 2. An escaped prisoner 3. Demon marked 4.From a distant city 5.cursed 6.much much older than he appears)

  39.    A thief gets caught trying to rob the till, then tries to make his escape.

  40.    A PC spots a man skillfully pick pocketing other patrons.

  41.    Bats begin to swarm within the rafters of the inn; one of the bats is much larger than normal.

  42.    Five mounted knights ride up to the bar, they take table by themselves they seem road weary and hungry.

  43. The bar begins to slowly fill with water form below.

  44.   A troop of dancers from a far off city arrives to entertain the town.

  45.   The owner of the bar comes running from the back of the building shouting “A BEAR IS LOOSE IN THE BAR, everybody run!”

  46.    Town guards kick down the door of the inn and announce “This is a raid; everyone here is under arrest by order of the sovereign!”

  47.    There is a flash of light, a cloaked figure appears, grabs one of the patrons at the bar and they both disappear in another flash!

  48.    Someone has laced the food with  (1d6: 1. paralyzing poison 2.A hallucinogenic drug 3.a deadly poison 4. recognizable Human parts 5.Parasite eggs 6.a narcotic.)

  49.    All of the glasses and bottles behind the bar simultaneously explode sending shrapnel everywhere.

  50.    A group of rare high elves enter the inn, look around turn up their noses and walk out.

  51.    A rowdy group of young men begin harassing the female wait staff.

  52.    A rowdy group of young women begin harassing the male wait staff.

  53.    A man in an executioner’s hood enters and posts a wanted poster on the inside of the door. The poster describes (1d4:  1. One of the PC’s  2. A local hermit 3.the local captain of the guard 4.all of the PC’s)

  54.    The dull thud of arrows hitting the exterior of the building can be heard, lots of arrows.

  55.    A giant snake with broken chains hanging around it’s fat body and the face of an old hag slithers up from the basement, it immediately attacks the innkeeper, even while calling him “dearest.”

  56. The in keep er comes up from the cellar with an incredibly rare and expensive wine, he un-corks the bottle and tells every one to come over, he has reason to celebrate.

  57. While you are sitting in the  bar an incredibly violent and  sudden snow storm blown in, problem is's summer.

  58. A horse and wagon rashes into the building!

  59. A man walks into the  bar and says " I just killed a (1d6: 1.yeti 2.hydra 3.giant 4.dragon 5.Outouth 6. devil) You wanna see it?" 

  60. The inn keepers wife runs into the room and screams MURDERER and pints directly at one of the PC's

  61. A strange noise and be heard out side the bar, after a few minutes a booming voice says "Thispen  Grenwalkd come out or we'll burn you out !" Turns out that noise was the posse piling wood and hey against the  building.

  62. A sudden and powerful thunder storm blows in.

  63. The  bar room fills with  thick fog.

  64. A burly guy is walking around the bar betting gold for arm wrestling.

  65. Three guards burst in , the innkeeper runs out the back door, a young guy at the end of the bar starts a fight with the guards for no obvious reason.

  66. A man begins shaking a bag of coins at the bar tender to get her attention, she walks over to the man and punches him square in the face.

  67. One of the kegs behind the bar starts leaking, but it's not leaking alcohol. Its leaking (1d6:  1.Gold dust 2.a green slime 3.noxious gas 4.a cloud of stinging gnats 5.blood and hair 6.flaming oil.)

  68. A man walks up the party in the bar he puts a key on their table, looks at them and says, "keep it safe" then walks off.

  69. A gelatinous cube being kept in a stone pit below then kitchen as a disposal grows to large and gets free.

  70. Three knights enter the bar and  loudly announce that every one has to leave the  prince will be arriving shortly for a drink.

  71. When the party arrives the tavern is completely empty no one is around not even the bar tender.

  72. A man enters the bar holding a shovel, he looks at another man sitting in the corner and says "it's done." then leaves.

  73. As the PC sit enjoying their drinks and mutton, a band of raiding (1d6: 1.Orcs 2.Goblins 3.Kobolds 4.ghouls 5. Shaguin 6.Humans) attack the village.

  74.       The innkeeper shows invites the PC's to the basement where he has a (1d6: 1.illegal casino 2.ritual summoning circle 3.mine 4.a shaft into a long lost mega dungeon 5.A really pronounced rat problem 6. a captured, and extra pissed off demon in a binding circle)

  75.       The mead made at this in apparently has magical healing properties, the bar keeper bursts into the room screaming about his "recipe." being gone.

  76.      When the party arrives the bar is full of (1d6: 1.Dwarfs 2.Elves 3.Hobbits 4.Gnomes 5.Orcs 6.Goblins) and they seem none to pleased to see any character of any other race walk in.

  77.      A group of knights burst in and announce "By order of the king alcohol is no illegal in his realms" with that they begin smashing the  barkeeps kegs much to his chagrin.

  78.      A nest of stirges has taken up residence in the peek of the  inn's roof.

  79.      A local celebrity  phase ball player walks into the bar.

  80.      One of the PC's notices one of the patrons is the child of a local noble, apparently traveling in disguise.

  81.      The bar tender asks the PC's if they can go to the next larger town and retrieve a special bottle of spirits from the old apothecary VanWinkle.

  82.      lightning strikes the inn.

  83.      A loud explosion erupts from the back of the inn then the shout, "Eureka!"

  84.      A man at the end of the bar begins to shake violently, before any one can react the mans skeleton rips out of his body and a ghastly voice hisses "FREE!"

  85.      A circus is in town and they are all in here right now getting  shit faced.

  86.      The innkeeper pulls a PC aside and tells them that his wife is involved in (1d6: 1.Adultery 2.demonology 3.slave trafficking 5.Drug trafficking 6.espionage) and needs to be quietly eliminated.

  87.      There is brothel upstairs and apparently one of the girls knows too much , the innkeeper asks the PC"s to get her out of town , FAST.

  88.      The innkeeper tells the PC's about a strange tenant they have upstairs , he can here him moving around but he has not been out of his room for months.

  89.        While sitting at the bar the  PC's hear trumpets calling from just out side of town.

  90.      A tornado rips though town, missing most of the buildings, then stopping stationary just out side the rear of the inn.

  91.      A Very fancy carriage  pulls up to the  bar, the  bar tender says "Well time to go!" He then tosses the  keys to the building on the bar and leaves.

  92.      A huge worm rips up though the floor.

  93.      A strange hammering can be heard form the basement. If the PC's investigate they find a fresh hole in the floor and several dust dwarf miners standing around scratching their beards in confusion.

  94.      A crow flies int the  bar with a note roughly tied to it's leg.

  95.   A Cloaked figure enters the bar points at one of the patrons and declares, "tonight we duel..MIDNIGHT." then leaves.

  96.      In one of the corner booths there is a knot in the inns old wooden walls that loos like an old sage, rumor has it that some nights it will whisper secrets, turns out the PC's just found out that the  myth is true.

  97.      The innkeeper and a patron begin heatedly arguing over the tab.

  98.      At a side table there is a loud thud, and a cloaked  man falls dead on the floor, with an arrow in his gut. A second man a the table pockets his crossbow and proclaims, "The on the floor shot first!" before fleeing out a window.

  99.      When the party leaves the Tavern they presented with a different location than the one they originally entered the bar from.

  100.      A battle breaks out in the town square between some  protesters and the town guards, it quickly spills into the bar sweeping every one up in the chaos.

Adventure kickers? Sure
Fast ideas? Yep
Talking points? Why not.
Giant maggots? Gott'em!
Some of it a bit stupid, Definitely.

If you use it let me know,
any thoughts comments or shenanigans, please drop me a comment.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

What if that Fighter doesn't die?

What if that fighter doesn't die?

Recently in our AD&D2ed Game a wizard got kicked off the side of a cliff by a Rhemoraz. He landed in the bottom of a 100 foot gully, face first, on a broken spear being held by another unfortunate dead soul tossed there during the battle.
He was as they say well and truly dead. Before I had finished describing his fall I could hear the player tying up his new character over Skype. 
That was a cut and dry death , the illusionist was in over his head and paid the ultimate price for party and kingdom. Pour some out for our fallen comrade, whats his name.

Not every character death is as cut and dry.

There are times when characters get the living crap beat out of them, but the situation is simply more mundane. Dice are fickle and even a careful player can get in over their heads pretty quickly.

Here is a proposal:
Use this If you are playing with characters anything over 5th level which I know is not high level by any means but it’s more about the player connection to the character than actual level. Once a character hits around 5th level, I have to assume the player has developed some affinity for it or else they would have done something suicidal and written up a new character. 

If a player character falls below 0 hit points in a way that does not seem fitting to the status of the character (this would be a GM / Player discretion affair) And the party recovers the character.

Give the player an option:

Option One the character is dead:
 Fair enough the player was not as connected to that character as you might have thought, cool your 12th level fighter got back stabbed by a thief, failed his poison save, and died alone in some shit filled city gutter .. heroic.

Option two Serious injury:
Perhaps the characters leg is broken, perhaps it's an arm, or some ribs. What ever the reason the character is going to be in bed for a while. The player is given a number of game sessions that the character must sit out. Give the player the option to play one of the characters followers or a party retainer. Give the player an excuse to take a break from the character that just went down in battle and try out a new character for a few games. At the end of the recovery period, the original character can com back with a good story and a cool new scar. The GM might want to subtract some attribute points or something of the sort, but that’s up the individual GM.

Option three the NPC rack:
The player might decide that the character has had a goo run and it's time for some new blood, but that the character is just to useful to let go of completely.
So the character can “retire” back to the parties home city. Open a bar, become a blacksmith, what ever. This is a good idea in that if your players are like mine they keep notes, notes that might contain information the party could use latter. If the old character is now a merchant in town, the party could go back to their old friend and ask about the information. The old party member might even become a source of new quests or adventure hooks. Either way I gives the part a solid connection to the home town.

This Idea becomes especially interesting as the original party members start to thin out through attrition, there might be one old timer left and a few new wet behind the ears characters traveling around with him.
How cool would it be to take the new guys to the a local farmer and introduce him as “Your old friend Muhdin who you used to adventure with.
 ”Muhadin was with me that night and he might remember where that abandon mine was located..”

It comes down to Hit points are not a direct measurement of how close to death the character is. It's not like every time a character looses a hit point one of his or her fingers gets lobbed off. (though that's awesome.) 

HP are a measure of the ability to avoid damage, soak damage and ignore damage. So logically having  0 hit points does not have to mean your character's head falls off. (Or negative Hp if you swing that way, I use dead at 0 because I'm a prick)

Zero hit points could simply represent the inability to continue, the inability to adventure further, exhaustion, injury, a broken spirit, a failing of bravery. So why not let that character that has been built up has a history, has knowledge, has built in connections, become a resource for the campaign and continue on in some other capacity?

Thank you for reading , let me know what you think.
Give it a try.

Drop some knowledge in the comments section below.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Note - to - self.

This is one of those “I’m not going to go sharing this all over G+” blog posts, so if you read this good on you and thank you for  perusing the dust pan games blog.
I promise to you the readers that for as long as I do this as a hobby I will never take myself too seriously.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

TITS ( why I love our RPG Group)

I asked the  people in our regular RPG group if any of them had any ideas about casting a wider net with this blog. (because yeah I want you fin folks to read this pablum.)

Best answer!
(From guy who plays a Dwarf fighter no less.)

"Posts about Tits"

Fucking genius.

I Love those guys.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Sword of Stone and Blood (A rare cursed sword from my AD&D game.)

      I was flipping  though and old game notebook from an old AD&D game I had found up in my attic the other night and I came a crossed the description of a cursed sword and a paragraph of where it had come form and where it had gone.

That was my habit at the time, if I made an item I wrote a quick blurb about who made it where it came from and how it  ended up where ever it was when the players might find it, I'm glad I had all that creative  energy back then because I don't think I have it in me to be so thorough anymore.

I thought this sword was particularly nasty sounding, so I wrote it up a bit more completely.
Perhaps some one could find a use for it in their games.

I was thinking,
Having a string of murders that can be traced to some poor soul holding this sword could make a for an interesting Jack the Ripper style murder mystery plot.

The Story of Mailik and Hyrum:
     Seven skeletons of seven priests each with a silver dagger sprouting from the back of its neck hunched over the stone box. The inches of dust laid crossed everything in the room like a shroud; it was obvious we were the first to see this scene in a very long time. I told Hyrum not to touch anything, I had seen him eyeing the dagger, but it gave me a bad feeling. Looking into the stone box I saw a pile of dark brown and red dust covering a short sword. I brushed away to ancient dust and carefully removed the blade mindful of any movement or lines that might be attached. The swords blade was pale white as if made from ivory, the hilt a cold blue-black metal the pommel was carved into a human hand holding a rough hew grey stone, the balance was perfect as fine as I had ever held.

The next thing I remember I woke covered in blood, Hyrum laid dead next to me, horribly mauled, disfigured. I knew I had done it, I have no idea why, I had known him for years, but the blade was still in my hand, bathed in blood and it seemed heavy so very heavy, I could barely shift it.
Then nothing but a blur, the blade let me see my first victim because I had known him, he was a friend and I think it had to be that way. That was a year ago, but from then on I stalked the night killing for the blade feeding it, more animal than man.

Now here I lay, spent, exhausted, nothing left. I wish I had never seen that tomb, never touched that sword, but it’s too late. I have no idea how many people I have killed, no idea how many lives I have ruined. I deserve this fate.

Three weeks ago the clouds lifted as if from nightmare I woke, huddled near a river bank dressed in rags, stained with dirt and blood, the taste of  the gods know not what in my mouth, the sword in my hand. It had released me, I don’t know why, I don’t care. I walked to the falls near Avreth and cast the blade into the spring torrent, it was the last of my strength and I hope that accursed thing is washed to the sea. No one should have to live as I have.

Then I wondered, and you found me here, I can wander no more, I can take no food, while my mind is finally clear my body has given up. I will die here today, resting against this tree looking out over this glade. I do not deserve burial; I offer only a warning, if you find the sword I spoke of leave it where it lay. Take your leave and go pray to whatever god you make your peace with, and never return.

Sword of Stone and Blood
(or Lephrith's devil fang blade)

Cursed Short sword:

Brief: A pale blade made of an unknown material similar to ceramic, a dark forges steal hilt, a pommel carved into the figure of a man’s hand holding a lump of granite shot through with red quartz.
Damage 1d6 / 1d8

Attack bonus Variable, see below (damage and hit)
Cursed: The sword has an insatiable thirst for human blood.

When a person first holds the sword they must save Vs spells at -3. Every time the sword is drawn thereafter the character will have to repeat the save versus spell without a penalty.

If the save passes the person will simply get a strong feeling of foreboding. 

If the save fails the character will fall under the spell of the sword and viciously attack the person nearest to them.

The victim of the curse will go on to attack and attempt to kill another victim each night.
During this time the sword is completely in control of the wielder, allowing them just enough autonomy to hunt for food, and scavenge together enough resources to barely stay alive. 
The sword will often drive them to other violent and evil acts, such mutilating their victims and acts of cannibalism.

These unfortunate victims usually take to the forests and stay concealed during the day, emerging at nigh to kill for the sword, regardless of class a victim will take to a savage life of banditry using stealth and surprise to coldly murder unsuspecting victims.

  • Each consecutive night the sword is granted a kill, it’s to hit and damage bonus goes up by one, until it reaches a maximum of +6/+6.
  • At +6/+6 any one wielding the sword may make 2 attacks per round, and will grant the wielder a +3 to their strength and dexterity attribute. (In effect they become a murder machine driven by the swords blood lust.)
  • Each night the sword does not taste blood the bonus drops by 1.
  • Each month a victim is under the swords curse, the victim permanently looses 1 Constitution.
  • When a victim has run out of constitution, its body is too broken down from living under the curse to be of any further use; the sword rejects its host and breaks the spell. A victim in this condition will die 1d4 weeks after the spell is broken.
  • If the sword is forced from a victim the victim must save vs. death or die, if the save is a success the spell is broken.
  • If the victim is killed so be it, the sword will wait to be handled again.
  • A person that can trace his or her heritage directly back to Lephrith may wiled the blade and while still being driven to kill as often as possible, will maintain their faculties while gaining the  bonuses the sword provides.

Last know location:
The Sterrwalk River.

(None of this will mean anything to readers not playing in my ad&d2nd game, sorry
Taken from an old notebook in the attic, probably around 1996-2001? not sure. Some minor edits were made, just because.)

During the first wars of Ordouth there was a leader of a division of scouts in the Ourdouth army known as Lephrith of shadows.

Lephrith lead his men into the caverns below the Iron Spine Mountains in an attempt to find a new passage into Aleria, and a means to surprise their enemy. Under the mountains the troop of scouts found no passage. They found the dark creatures from the depths. Haggard by the underdark denizens, the survivors managed to escape after fellingl a great beast of war that had been driven before them.  Lephrith Had a blade forged from the tusk of the mighty beast.  The resulting blade instilled in Leprith such a blood lust that he lead his men on a swath of mindless pillaging, murder and destruction, so horrific that the whole of Aleria’s force was turned against them. Leprith was renamed "The Leprith Crimson," as he pushed deep into Alerian territory spreading fear and death before him.

Leprith and his men were crushed by the Alerian force after pillaging and raising the city of Careth.
His body and his blade returned to Orduth by some straggling survivors The priests of Orduth took Leprith and his sword high into the Ion Spine mountains where they dug a tomb an and sealed them away after committing to it a blood ritual binding the sword to the tomb, and unknowingly starving the sword of blood for centuries, effectively damming any future mortals who touch the blade.

An explorer named Mailik latter found the blade while looking to loot the ancient mountain tombs. The curse led Mailik on a killing spree that lasted a year, which only ended when Mailik was near death. The sword was cast into the Sterrwalk River, and has not been seen since, but these kind of things have a way of resurfacing.

Ceramic sword by Gustaf Nordenskiรถld Fits the description.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Ad&D second edition // active attributes.

AD&D second edition with active attributes.

Just spit-ballin here.

Let’s say we are playing AD&D second edition. (Because I do once a week so it’s fresh in my mind)

Allow each player to choose an attribute to use as their character’s focus. No two party members may have the same focus attribute. (Unless you have more than six players in which case you would have to.)

Divide each character’s focus attribute attribute by 3 and round down if you have to round a number. Give each attribute a pool of pips (represented by poker chips, pennies, beer caps, broken florescent light bulbs whatever.)

During the game on the players turn they can spend one pip from any attribute to modify the scene in some fashion as it relates to that attribute, without rolling.

Player to NPC interactions should still be role played as they normally would but if the player really wants to get the job done, they could spend a pip.

Pip’s refuel whenever the GM says they do, usually after extended rest, or between games.

Some examples:
  • The fighter is beating on a troll; he uses one pip of his strength to physically push the toll into the fire place.
  • The priest uses one wisdom pip to remember a fable about the patron god of a local cult.
  • The thief uses a pip of dexterity to vault a high fence.
  • A wizard uses a pip of intelligence to figure out the runes on the back of a wand.
  • A Halfling uses a pip of dexterity to dodge an incoming arrow (that would have hit.)
  • A warrior uses a pip of charisma to intimidate a guard.
  • This Orc has to die NOW, the  thief uses a dexterity pip to steady his aim and guarantee a hit with his cross bow.
  • A wizard uses a pip of charisma to haggle a better price out of the local alchemist.
  • The Priest uses a pip of wisdom to fend off the effects of an illusion, and letting his faith guide him to the truth.
  • The warrior uses a pip of constitution to shake off the effects of blow, negating some if not all of the damage she would have taken.
  • A thief uses one pip of dexterity to amaze a crowd with his juggling skills.
  • We NEED a torch! The  Thief uses his wisdom pip to find / fashion one.
  • A wizard uses a pip of intelligence to find the right book in a vast library.
  • A Cleric wants to be a young adventurous swashbuckling traveling evangelist   and, why not make his focus attribute Dexterity even if it is not his highest stat? At least then the cleric can at least do  a couple of feats of  swashbuckling awesomeness each game.

Why do this when attribute checks already do this for the players? Frankly because attribute checks suck. 
Have you ever seen this happen?
“I search the room for the potion.”  Says the Thief who has fifteen wisdom. The player rolls a 19 and fails. The fighter with 9 wisdom steps up and says, “Ok I’ll help him search “then rolls a 3 and finds the potion.

The Gm can make it work in the narrative, the fighter simply looked  every where the thief did not, but it makes the thief less thief- like. It takes the thief out of his niche and allows the fighter to fill that niche without expending any resources, kind of sucks for the thief player.

Let’s stick with the example.  What if the thief could spend a pip and say, “I search all over the room, and finally find a small wooden box wedged under a book case containing the potion!” Or even say, “I search all over the room, and finally find a small wooden box wedged under a book case that should contain the potion but it’s gone!” This kind of thing would make the gm have think quickly on his or her feet, but hey that’s what we gm’s do.  Gm says,” You found the box but it’s locked would you like to pick the lock?”

Also if the fighter is going to try and help the thief  find the potion why not let him but tell the player "The room was already well searched by Sir Tummblebottom the thief you'll have to spend a pip if you want to find the potion." Then the fighter can search in a fighter way by spending a pip of strength, “I see the thief getting nowhere fast so I start smashing the crap out of all the furniture with my war hammer, the potion finally falls out of a broken drawer and rolls a crossed the floor.” 

Yes, it is the same effect the fighter just one upped the thief and took his niche, I get that. The difference is the fighter had to give up something in return (a pip) and  the thief clearly was the first choice to look for the  potion, quietly, and with less collateral damage. The two characters did not simply do the something  back to back with one player happening to roll lower than other.  The fighter is only ever going to have a maximum of 6 pips (if he has an unmodified 18 strength) so at least the thief player knows he gave something up to find that potion.

Give it a try, let me know what you think.

I’m going to try it out; I’ll let you know if my campaign goes spiraling into the abyss.

As always question comments and sauce welcome.

EDIT: (In case you don't read the comments)

+Nick Clinite,  (from google plus wrote)
"Cool idea.  My feedback:  don't generate the number of pips by dividing the attribute; just give them 3 (or some other static number)"

And you know what? He's probably right.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Throwback brain dump, A sliding scale between detail and wide strokes

Throwback brain dump post.
I used to do this quite a bit but have gotten away from it..I think I should do it more often.

Why not a broad stroke versus fine stroke mechanic, how about letting the amount of importance an encounter carries be the regulating factor in how detailed or lengthy the combat is.

This is like mook rules with a graded scale from Mook to powerful opponent.

Say for example your character is facing a group of mooks and you get one action per round. That action could be “kill mooks” or “run away” or “intimidate” regardless of the action the intent of the action is to END the encounter. If the player is successful then the character kills the mooks or gets away from them or scares them with his deep man voice until they shit. If the player fails the character suffers some set back, such as a stern mook beating, but regardless the encounter ends, it just ends with a character failure.

However if the Character faces a more powerful opponent the gm might say this encounter has 10 rounds in it, what are you doing. The player might choose to try and get to higher ground to earn an advantage, probe the targets defenses looking for weaknesses, or round kick the opponent in the knee trying to slow it down, regardless of the result the encounter continues with  character building up advantages and disadvantages until like most games someone  surrenders or  takes a dirt nap. Unless that magical 10th round comes along in which case the narrative resolves either in the favor to get player or not, but it resolves. The bad guy runs away, the good guy captures the bad guy, the lights go out and the Undertaker appears. Whatever happens something resolves the current conflict within narrative at 10 rounds.

To further this idea, if playing a game with a wide range of complexity say GURPS or something like it, a GM could prior to the game starting let the players know that he will be running three levels of combat, quick fight using only bare bones combat options for the least important encounters, medium combat with more of the standard options in play, and high detail or focused combat with more of that GURPSy  crunch that we either love or loath in play. Perhaps the GM could write available options on  index cards and  flip over what ever one is being applied during a combat so the players can see at a glance how much detail is being used.
I use GURPS as my example because I know it is modular and can be played at any depth from basic to      "OH MY GOD KILL ME NOW" levels of complexity. I  think in theory the idea would work with any game that includes an array of combat options.

This is not new it’s an old idea, but why not put fresh sauce on it.

Add something like this idea to a game, and see where it takes you.
As a GM say   "this encounter is only so-so important it can't go over four rounds." The hold yourself to it, and see if it changes how the game runs and how you start to view encounters and combats in general.

As always thank you for reading .. feel free to comment .. and have a great day.