Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Silhouettes XXXVI

More public domain silhouettes for your maps, charts, and counters.  We can cross another OD&D monster off the list with:

And then jump ahead to first edition with this little leprechaun:

Here's a mounted knight:

Some big cats, tiger and cheetah:

and an alternate pegasus I had lying around:

These have all been to the zip file linked in the sidebar.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Lesser Golems

I like the idea of players getting to make stuff in D&D.  What if we allow players to make golems earlier by limiting what each golem can do?  Here are some ideas for the tasks of these lesser golems:
  • Offense - They can't carry anything, won't move if you are being hurt but will attack the entity you aim them at until it or they are destroyed.
  • Defense - Won't attack anything, but will put themselves between you and a foe until they are destroyed.
  • Bearing - Only carry stuff.  Basically like this.
  • Tracking - Self-explanatory, you just need a personal item.
  • Retrieving - Like tracking except they'll try to capture and bring the target back.
  • Mining - Aim it at a wall and it will start making a smooth, straight 10' passage until you tell it to stop.
  • Watching - Sits and waits until something you tell it to watch for happens.  Then it signals somehow.

Okay, basically fantasy robots.  I like the idea that each golem would have different shapes suited to their function.  Maybe we should call these constructs and golems would be more free acting entities?  But I'm not actually going for steam-punk here, just thinking of an additional tool parties could have to give them choices.  In fact, I'd probably try to "fantasize" them to avoid steam-punkiness in my own game.  In other words, the Watcher is a floating orbit of chimes that falls to the floor when triggered, the Retriever is a Ribbon Man.  Hmm, maybe this isn't so new after all, I'm just systematizing Dancing Swords and Invisible Stalkers.

Maybe the difference between these and magic items/summoned creatures is that the knowledge of how to make them is a clear recipe and the players can cobble one together when they need one with little notice? 

We might have a problem in that a specific recipe may not work well with a more abstracted game world.  Is there copper about?  Mud?  Umm, probably?  What we could do, though, is base the recipes off of items we know exist and that players will have anyway:
  • 50' rope
  • swords
  • shields
  • grapnels
  • lamp oil
  • plate mail
  • waterskins
  • spikes

So maybe the watcher is made from 1 grapnel, 8 spikes, 9 silver coins and  . . . something else.  What's the secret sauce?  Maybe 9 Hit points worth of blood (not permanent)?  Gems could be cool here, with different types tying into their functions.  Or body parts, a pretty sure bet they'll be laying about.  Maybe a single eye for our Watcher.

Monday, February 27, 2012

More Answers

Okay the last batch of questions I answered were about me as a game master, these are about the game I run.  I found these interesting because I think my answers were pretty similar to most folks I've seen responding to them.   But also, because it shows a few areas I need more experience as DM or haven't figured out how to handle in my game yet.  Anyway, here we go:
  1. Ability scores generation method?  3d6 in order.
  2. How are death and dying handled? 0 is unconscious, -1 is dead.  I realized a while back that you need an unconscious option to allow for toting comrades' bodies in the underworld.  It's a part of the resource management aspect of the game.  With a dead at 0 system no one is unconscious unless put to sleep by magic.  Even when "dead" in my game you're really mortally wounded allowing for last words or epic saves.
  3. What about raising the dead? No, until just recently. Now three options: 4000sp from the church, 500sp and a permanent side effect, or 50sp and a vow to a forgotten god.  Failing the last leads to instant death.  Notice the last one can't stack and the second option will get bad very quickly if you keep dying and coming back.   Oh, also, if you find the black pylon, players have used time travel to bring back dead friends.
  4. How are replacement PCs handled?  See #1.  My game hasn't gotten high enough level for this to be much of an issue.  Ask me again in a few years.
  5. Initiative: individual, group, or something else? Group.
  6. Are there critical hits and fumbles? How do they work? Yes, natural 1 or 20.  I improv what they mean but you'll never get less than rolling two damage dice and taking the highest for a crit or better than dropping your weapon for a fumble.
  7. Do I get any benefits for wearing a helmet?  Helmets are assumed.  Do you get them for wearing greaves?  Gauntlets?  Why yes you do, it's your armor class.  I don't get the focus on helmets.  It seems gauntlets are more important in the scheme of things by far.  Can rot grub go through gauntlets?  Green slime? Acid? 
  8. Can I hurt my friends if I fire into melee or do something similarly silly?  Big ol' yes.
  9. Will we need to run from some encounters, or will we be able to kill everything?  Run.  You would be better off in my low treasure campaign running every time you saw something threatening.  Which is pretty much everything moving.  And sometimes stationary things.
  10. Level-draining monsters: yes or no?  Not sure yet.  If levels can be restored than that seems a pretty straightforward yes.  It would be just a little death and another money sink.  If not, that's some pretty dire magic.  I would use cautiously and sparingly.
  11. Are there going to be cases where a failed save results in PC death?  Yes.  Saves are already the break, without them you'd die instantly.
  12. How strictly are encumbrance & resources tracked?  Strictish.  I have a simplified encumbrance of 7 lines adapted from Raggi.  I track ammo with poker chips.  I track oil and torches using Roger's method.  Resource management goes with exploration like biscuits go with gravy.  Nobody likes a dry biscuit.
  13. What's required when my PC gains a level? Training? Do I get new spells automatically? Can it happen in the middle of an adventure, or do I have to wait for down time?  Level up happens in town only because I don't dole out XP in the dungeon, but it's automatic and freeYou only have the spells you find.
  14. What do I get experience for?  1 XP for 1sp.  A tiny bit for monsters.  I'm not opposed to XP for exploration but it seems like finding treasure rewards that already and I'm not sure how you'd even implement it.  Per room?  Per dungeon, per level?  What constitutes a dungeon, a level? etc.
  15. How are traps located? Description, dice rolling, or some combination?  By setting them off, generally.  But seriously, in my world finding the traps usually isn't the problem, I try to make them pretty apparent, it's deciding how to get past them while the DM rolls wandering monster checks that gets people killed.
  16. Are retainers encouraged and how does morale work?  Yes and not sure.  Hirelings are a fun and important part of our games.  I need to think about morale, though.  I get loyalty and morale confused in my mind.  Maybe I should have one number that functions as both.  I need to think about how to determine that number for each hireling and what would raise or lower it though.
  17. How do I identify magic items?  Trial and error, mostly.  You can try asking sages too.
  18. Can I buy magic items? Oh, come on: how about just potions?  No.   Magic items are free in the dungeon.
  19. Can I create magic items? When and how?  Yes for M-Us, but not yet.  I haven't figured out the details of my system.  I'm pretty sure it will require a library and/or laboratory.  Not sure if I want to have a level requirement yet.  Gathering the materials for the library may in fact function as one already.
  20. What about splitting the party?  If you want.  But see #9.  Do you really want to split your forces?
Other things you might be interested in about my game.  Human only.  Only three classes (fighter, m-u, divine petitioner).  I tried XP for money spent but it really switched the feel of the game-- people buying things they didn't want, lavishly spending money on each other that they'd risked their lives to get, and shopping, shopping, shopping.  No more.  I switched to a silver economy to make gold seem more special.  I probably don't give out enough treasure (what is the opposite of a Monty Haul campaign?) though in my defense, I often place treasure randomly on maps and players just don't find them.  I use shields shall be splintered and Jeff's Big d30 rule.

Some things I need to think more about are level draining and morale.  Also, how stat bonuses affect M-Us and DPs.  Also, spell and ranged weapon use in combat.  I think I would like a little more grit here if I can avoid the overhead of having to keep track of more stuff in combat.

I really need work on wilderness travel/hex-crawling and npcs/in-town DMing.  I'm hoping the Hill Canton's method of using abstracted locations in the wilderness will help me with the former.  I'm actually pretty good with the latter come to think of it, but preparing personalities, voices, relationships and consequences takes waaaay more time than preparing a location to explore.  Maybe if I was independently wealthy my players would get to talk to more interesting folks about town.

Update: I should have linked Brendan's post with the questions.  Thanks, sir.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Silhouettes XXXV

More public domain silhouettes for your maps and charts.  Let's start off with a definite OD&D monster:
Giant Beetle

And some that are less distinct.  I don't have a clear image in my head for wraith or wight, maybe this can be one of those:
And here is another possible humanoid, if this is your goblin, maybe the goblin we have already can be a kobold:
Also, a turbaned fighter:
a vulture:

and a girl worshipping something that I feel is going to show up in an amalgam sometime:
These have all been added to the collection linked to the right.  Cheers.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Vulture-Headed Pygmies

These small creatures are barely a threat singly but always appear in hordes.  Each carries a jagged steel shard used as a dagger.  Sliced open they drop coins.


These fellows showed up here, but they're kind of buried in the post play narrative.  In making my index I realized they would benefit from a post of their own.  They're basically re-skinned kobolds.  But the secret sauce is that cutting them open drops coins.  Get enough of these swarming around a party to make them nervous, wait until they realize the little devils are dropping treasure, then watch in amusement as the party teeter totters between greed and fear trying to decide when to retreat.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Index II

I added a section to the monster index I'm calling "concepts."  I figured the names of monsters don't often tell you much, what you as a DM probably want is the spark of the idea.  So I tried to reduce each of my creatures to a sentence.  Is this useful for you?  My plan for now is to try the same thing for the magic items.

The distillation works better for some monsters than others.  It also looks a little busy.  If you have any suggestions on making it easier to read or more useful I'd appreciate them.

Also I found two other creatures I completely missed.

Index Page Added

I'm kinda burnt but want to keep posting momentum, so I thought I'd finally do something long overdue, an index of my blog content.  I've had a lot of ideas but they're scattered through years of blogging, at the end of unrelated posts, and often have odd names that make they hard to find and identify.  So, an index.  Some of the ideas are better than others, some I've gotten more experience through play, but revision is for later in a compilation pdf.  This is just a way to find all the original ideas in their flawed forms.

I plan to add at least two other sections, one for DM aids and one for Design ruminations.

I don't like the way adding one static page makes a whole tab bar across the blog, but I figure a link in the sidebar would be easily missed.  And maybe I could add other static pages.  Ideas?

I turned off comments to try and keep the index more indexy.  I'm hoping if people find something new they want to talk about they'll comment on the original post.  I have old comments requiring moderation so I'll see all of them.

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Avatar of My Avatar

Have just one player for the night?  Are they a weaky, low level M-U or thief?  Have them find a crystal ball, viewing pool, or affixed goggles of some sort.  Looking through it they realize they are looking through the eyes of some sort of construct.  Where is it this construct located?  Some distant land of the same world?  A different plane?  Who knows, but they can move this construct around and operate it.  Give them a time limit (rising water, growing heat in their actual location) and see what they do.  Here are some ideas for locations:
  • A library or lab, the player can't bring anything through their link, but they can certainly learn things-- consult books and maps, try experiments with rare and dangerous equipment.
  • Have them interact with people, hulking construct stalking through a bustling city looking for certain sages to consult or crime bosses to interrogate.
  • Give the construct hit points and damage capabilities for more action oriented stuff to allow the character to live beyond their means for a bit-- take out the crime boss' bouncers.
  • A completely alien civilization.  Does the player investigate or go Godzilla smashing everything in sight?
  • You could make the construct of epic proportions!  Anyone remember that Basic module called Earthshaker?  I never played that but loved reading it over.
  • Or tiny like Fantastic voyage.
  • Make the construct an earthmover of some sort, the player can terraform this distant location to their liking and if they can find it later it's all set up for a tower/guild/fortress.
  • Warmachine-- the battle's already raging, lay waste to the enemies!  Wait which  side are you on?
  • exploratory probe, it is a cave system, planetary/asteroid belt, weird plane.  Explore it now while safe and find the juicy bits for exploitation later.
  • A city of ancient magic users so corrupted that mages only visit it through constructs and familiars.  Constructs battles constructs for glowing relics.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Wages of Death

I haven't had raise dead as an option for characters that die in my campaign.  But seeing players really attached to a particular character because of his goals, equipment and hard won XP, I 'm thinking "why not?"  I've thought through the implications of death in this post.  And I realize making it too easy for players to sidestep will have a negative effect on some important things in the game.  So I want to make resurrection possible but costly. Here are some ideas about costs:
  • Money, is the simplest.  Unfortunately my world is pretty low wealth and money is hard to scrape up.  What should the price be?  More than a single player might have at low level would mean the party would have to pitch in and there would be pressure for everyone to be more careful  in the future. 2000sp, 4000sp? (I'm on a silver economy)
  • Favors.  This is least interesting to me because of the logistics of our games, the person raised might be gone for several sessions and am I supposed to keep retribution for ignored loans until they come back, and when that trouble starts unrolling and they miss the next session?
  • Physical Change.  The most extreme example is the reincarnation spell from 1e.  Sure you are alive again but now you're a badger.  The problem here is that if the player is forced to be too different how is that different than just rolling up a new character?  It would only matter if you were roleplaying heavily and the character had kids or a domain or something else that mattered than their class abilities etc.
  • XP. You could just start them fresh but strip them of all XP, but again the MU in my game wants to come back mainly because it took so long to gain 400 XP.
  • Affliction.  I think this is the key to give them want they want while extracting something that will result in more gamefun.  I had a player that was struck with seizures from being bitten by rats.  Anytime she rolled a 7 she would have one.  It was funny and dramatic every time she rolled to hit.  I could just have them roll on my symptoms chart.  A quest could be done for a cure.
  • Moral Price.  The price isn't money but something squicky the players have to do.  This is problematic for like Favors above, because players likely won't care, or I'll have to make it so foul it will be awkward in real life "I have to do what!?"
  • Vows.  I think this might be another possibility.  They come back hale and hearty with all their XP, but they have an vow that if the break it means instant turning to dust death.   The tricky part is crafting a vow that won't ruin the game for the player but won't let them off the hook.  I wrote a post about this here.  Here are some ideas: Never draw first blood, never eat flesh (this could matter because I let them heal more if they make meals when they camp), never accept a favor, never lay hands on a woman/man.
Okay, got to go.  I like the idea of giving the players a choice.  So maybe I'll offer three possiblities from the above:
  1. A wealthy church that is very expensive but offers to raise with no complications.
  2. A shady organization that raises through alchemy and incomplete anatomical knowledge leading to a symptom.
  3. And a bunch of lesser gods that offer it in favor of a permanent vow in their name.  The vow would be unknown to players but dependent on which god they pledge themselves to (giving them clues).
Now I realize this choice is most important to the player who is dead, but they are dead.  How can they have input?  Should I let it be a meta-decision because it would be more satisfying and fun?  Or say "quiet you!" and have their party mates decide for them?

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Stocked Sandbox

Not an earth-shattering idea, but if I were to try and make a new B2, a sand box product aimed at newer DMs, players, and groups, I would try to add features in the sandbox that allow for other kinds of adventure.

Sure you have caves and dungeons nearest, you have a bit of dark wilderness to explore.  But you also have, in a ring a little farther out from the starting location:
  • a village that needs defending à la Seven Samurai
  • a heavily protected but legally accessible site, like a temple or shrine, that players might want to heist something from
  • a town just large enough to allow for hunter/hunted type scenarios
  • an infamous prison/enemy camp players might need to make a prison break from if captured

So the things each of these kinds of adventure need would be subtly cooked into the setting.  If players want to engage those sandbox toys, they can and the DM will be helped by them existing already.  The DM would also be given what would help with each kind of adventure.  So, the temple would be mapped with guard patterns and schedules and a friction point type escalation plan.  The village would have a tactical scale map and a bit about the attackers' goals, strategies and time table.  The hunter/hunted would have a layout of leads and escalating reprisals by the hunted.  And maybe it wouldn't need to be in a town, it could be a secret society or evil type that spans the whole map.  The prison could also function as a place to perform heist-like rescues, having it perform double duties.

What other types of adventure would you want to provide for in a basic, all-purpose, but classic campaign?

  • Maybe a hopping tower that would be good for solo adventures.  It travels around so it can be wherever the player happens to be, it's smaller and contained so one player won't be overwhelmed, it's rare so it's something cool the one player that came get's to brag about experiencing it to the other players.
  • The tiniest bit of sea to allow for sea adventures, maybe a fishing village right on the edge of the map.
  • an un-activated, magical portal of some type as a wild card.
ps. Blogger's not letting me even get to the comments page for some reason, maybe my work browser.

Monday, February 6, 2012

More Death in the Maw

You and your party are standing on a stone outcropping jutting out over a hole deep like the Grand Canyon.  You notice three grey, legless things climbing silently but deftly towards you.  They are fifty feet below.  There is a rickety wooden elevator you rode down in, another rickety elevator going down farther, and a door into the cliff face.  The door's inset handle has two inscriptions.  One on the left, one on the right.

What do you do?

My players dithered around talking about the door.  One mage threw a vial of bees at the creatures.  He scored a critical hit, but they were just normal honey bees.  I had the creature save to see if the bees made it fall but, no.  Finally after the magic-user freshly rolled up this session was eviscerated, one of the fighters decided going through the door might be a good idea.  His hand was amputated when he turned the sunken knob the wrong way.  Things went down hill from there.  A newly bought gazehound critically missed and fell to its death, a fighter critically missed, failed a dex check and fell to her death. The beloved hireling Pita, twice saved from death, was brought down again, and Weegie the magic-user with fresh scrolls scribed, spells freshly inscribed in his spell book, and a new custom crafted rope ladder died in a split second.

The one player and two hirelings left limped back up out of the maw.  Everyone was bummed.  To say it cast a pall on the evening would be accurate.  Part of the problem is our infrequent playing makes the events of play disjointed and it is hard for them to learn as players.  I mean, I think most of them had missile weapons.  Why would you not use them in this situation that seems the reason you'd carry them around for?  One of the magic-users even had magic missile memorized and didn't cast it!

Part of the problem is that one of my players has a strong personality and wants to make the decisions.  I think he's driven at least one player to playing Tiny Tower on her phone.  The magic user with magic missile was also on her phone but that's a first, maybe it was just some really exciting texts.

If I sound kind of defensive its because the usual happened "I killed them" they said in half-joking terms.  "Were these boss monsters?" they asked stunned.  The ghouls were randomly encountered.  I rolled their targets randomly.  I don't think ghouls would be considered impossible for 5 fighting types in plate and shield, 2 war dogs, and 2 magic-users.  Especially when you encounter them 50 feet away and have time to prepare.  Some of the party got into a shield wall,  but on an outcropping, with backs to a wall that these creatures were climbing, it didn't do much good.  The creatures flanked them and hit the mages behind the wall.

I'm not sure that I would have done as a player.  An earlier party had a similar bad battle at this same spot with a cleric losing his hand too.  I think only one party ever thought to rope themselves together (and that after losing someone over the side) even though traveling around the rim of this sheer, rail-less cliff face.  There is no real set plan for if they are attacked by stirge which they know live in abundance in the Maw.  Oh well, I hope they can come back from defeat feeling more hungry rather than giving up.  I'll try to give them some tips now that I've reflected on Friday's session.