Thursday, August 30, 2012

Spacey Thinking

NGC1512 - Image by Hubble Space Telescope

I've been reading a kick ass space opera lately - Leviathan Wakes by Corey.  I love how he only uses newtonian style thrusters in his ships and humans have explored the solar system but have yet to move out.  It seems totally grounded in our reality, except for some kind of "Thing" or "Alien" type monster or mutation which I haven't read far enough yet to fully understand.  There is this cool hard boiled noir feel, a detective story, and it is also gets the feel of Das Boot.

I love the submarine type battles between ships.  This is the type of Space Opera book I was looking for as I scoured Amazon and Barnes and Noble looking for some kind of cool space related book to read.  I was totally burnt out on fantasy and needed a change up.  Something that isn't "hard science" fiction but at the same time it isn't star wars badged over either.

I picked up traveller a couple of years ago in PDF format.  I liked certain aspects of the game, but others fell short for me.  In principle I love the 2d6 dice mechanic, and I recently have been mulling over using a Fudge type character build system with a 2d6 resolution system.  But honestly as much as I'd like to play in a space opera, I'd really like to be a player.  I'm looking around for PBEM space opera games that are accepting new players.  Haven't found one yet.  Most of the games I could find were based around an IP of some sort (Firefly, StarTrek, etc...) and I'm looking for something different.

On the other hand, my PBEM greyhawk game is really moving along. This august had the highest number of posts in over 1.5 years on our boards!  The players infiltrated a goblin infested keep and made it out alive only to run into a red dragon which killed their horses and burnt all their food.  They fled into the Dim Forest and now they are trying to figure out what to do. 

Also, the CoC game I've been playing in as Allessandro Mancini has also picked up again - so I'm pretty busy posting and having a really good time with both games so I might wait to find a space game to play in.  I also had a really good idea of an alternate character concept for a 1800's-1920's CoC character based around a stage magician, so I have an alt character idea now if Al gets torn apart by tentacles :)

Anyway, a lot of good games and lots of other ideas - too bad I didn't have time/energy to get a table top group together or join one.  

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Mech Warrior

Yep, you can own your own mech warrior!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Hit Points

Ah yes, hit points.

Hit points in D&D have so many unintended negative consequences.  The grind of combat in newer editions, the complacency of combats against known "weak" foes like goblins, orcs, etc...  When you have a bunch of HP, most of the time, you know you've got X hits before you really need to worry.  Combat becomes totally boring.  ODD brings things back down to a lower baseline, but all the same flaws are still there.

I've been thinking more and more about creating my own fantasy heartbreaker.  I really do think it would be therapy for the gamer in me.  I've been looking around alot at how other games handle damage:

1. Gurps/Runequest/Openquest type d100/Warhammer 2nd ed - more or less fixed HP.  Most of the games have a way you can buy a few more HP, but they stay at a low flat level.  A few successful hits against you, maybe just one, can take you to the danger zone.  Optional rules usually included for "major wounds" or hit locations or criticals once you get less than 0 hp in the case of warhammer.

2. Fudge/FATE - death spiral.  Hits have different categories and you fill in boxes which state the effect on your character.  Accumulate enough damage and you become incapacitated or die.  I think Vampire/White wolf games used a system similar to this but I haven't played it in like a decade so I can't really remember.  I've also heard that Ars Magica used something like this.  Risus has a weird twist on this one where you lose dice each time you lose a conflict roll.

3. Rolemaster - you have hit points, but each hit may also create a wound on your character.  These wounds cause stun damage, bleeding, and maybe even instant death if you roll lucky on the crit tables.

I prefer the rolemaster type approach, but the rolemaster system has too much book keeping for me in my old age.  With my limited time for gaming, I prefer simpler sleek games that move quick with less crunch and crumble.

I've been mulling over an alternate combat system for fudge lately that pushes it into the realm of the rolemaster system, but still allows for the speed of fudge character creation.   If I can assemble something coherent enough, I'll post it up here.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

All Things Hulean

I was lurking around on the Vaults of Pandius, and found these excellent articles:  the hulean Gaz, this beautiful map, and this excellent article by James M. on the immortals of Great Hule.  I liked how James incorporated the great 8 deities and involved the chaos arrow (very Elirickian/Stormbringery!).  This is very different from what I had been thinking but seems to somehow fit better with the BECMI type immortals path that I've always found a little bit difficult to grasp.

It really got me thinking about clerics in D&D and BX (pre-Mentzer), vs. BECMI, vs. AD&D cosmology.  I found a quote (sorry I forgot the source) about how Frank really didn't like reducing religion and the gods into a shopping list for clerics.  This makes immortals in Frank's version of D&D into something like angels/devils instead of gods. So clerics don't exactly worship the exact immortal, but instead see the immortal as an example of how to live under a particular philosophy (law and order, neutrality, or chaos?)?

Something about immortals just doesn't sit right with me, I'm partial to the BX version where gods and churches are implied, just not fleshed out.  Hmm, there is a lot to think through, I'm going to have to mull this over some more...



Saturday, July 7, 2012


Assuming the characters defeat the challenges of the great pass, what is next for the party inside the 32 pages of X5 Temple of Death?

It is the chaotic nation of Hule.  While David Cook does an awesome job of setting the stage for an entire country in about 1.5 pages, he definitely (intentionally) left room for expansion.  The next three parts of the adventure detail:

1.  An example town Magden, with several programmed encounters that can give the PC's clues toward the ToD or several that can end them up in chains.

2.  Dark Wood - good detail on the vast woods that surround the temple.

3.  The temple of death itself.

There were a couple of things that seemed lacking.  Cook doesn't flesh out the dark diety, dieties, or philosophy that the Master worships/embodies.  Maybe this was to allow the DM room for customization?  Also, the country of Hule seemed too benign for a land ruled by demon worshipers.  I'm not sure why this is.

So here are the first things I would try to spice up:

1.  Setting a slightly darker atmosphere for Hule:  Monstrous demihumans mix with the people, sometimes they raid the villages killing and capturing people to torture or use as slaves.  Other people just disappear in the night, maybe it is the work of the Diviners, some of whom can see into your mind and find out if you are "holy".  This holiness should be a religion of subservience and total sacrifice to the dark forces.  I like the idea of the hermits and prophets of chaos giving guidance and passing judgments.  Instead of an impartial judge, you have an impartial madman, who will make a completely random judgment which seems perfect for the concept of a chaotic society.  Processions are held once per week while the locals run through the village, in a chaotic state of celebration, drunken debauchery, looking for miracles, which pretty much never happen. 

2.  More about these demons and "The Master".  I'm guessing Cook was hesitant to delve too deeply into demon worship, so he remained very tight-lipped on exactly what the master was involved in.  Obviously, one goal is world domination.  Oppression of the common folk under the chaos religion.  Enslave monsters, using curses, and use them to further the goals of the church.  I think it would be fun to keep The Master's religion completely obscure.  Perhaps he is a half-outer-planar, half-human harbinger of a greater chaos deity.  Maybe it is something like the King in Yellow or Nylarthohotep - not something like a typical evil D&D deity - instead, something less personal and human.  I like the idea that The Master has maybe summoned many extra-planar creatures to Hule, they live in secret throughout the land furthering the goals of chaos, tricking humans into worshiping them, and trying to enact the rituals that will bring forth the greater chaos into the Known World.  Also, just because the PC's kill the master, doesn't mean everything immediately will collapse.  I think the remaining holymen will band together to further their common goals of keeping the true power in Hule.  The war will be ended, since the Master was coordinating much of it, but the dark forces will regroup and may spring forth again in the future.  The PC's could probably route it out of Hule, and claim the land as their kingdom, but it would be a terribly long and boring endeavor, so they are more likely to run off to their next adventure.

Next up - I'm going to work on more of the villages and cities in Hule and what they are like.  I'll see what is in first and see if I can leverage some of that.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Men on the Moon

Happy 4th of July!  For all my fellow America readers, go be patriotic and read this!  I'm off to a BBQ at my sisters today so I intend to be brief.

I've decided to set my next FR game around activities in Hillsfar and I've got ideas to morph it into a X3 Curse of Xanathon type thing - with the detective work and the humanocentric thing.  I'm not sure if this will become my next PBEM or if I will end up playing it person.

In the meantime, I'm going to concentrate on X5 temple of death.  My players were really hating on X4 Master of the Desert Nomads when we played it back in the winter.  One of them is a soldier in real life and he is sick of the desert.  So, I think I'm going to push them through that adventure and give them all a bunch of experience that might level some of them up.  Then I'm going to start them off at the beginning of the X5 adventure.  I'm thinking of detailing out certain parts of the adventure. 

The first of these in my head is the moon bridge.  The idea of a bridge to the moon is wickedly awesome, and I've got ideas to treat it a bit like a D&D / Stargate crossover.  I'm planning to flesh out the Kingdom of the Moon, with anitgravity technology, and biotechnology, and magic all mushed together but that the civilization now treats this technology like religion and don't understand all the psuedophysics that makes it all work.  Also, there have to be Barsoomian white apes on the moon that have multiplied to the point of nearly destroying all civilization.

More on the Kingdom of the Moon to come...

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Lovecraft rolls with a d14?

The four-inch seeming sphere turned out to be a nearly black, red-striated polyhedron with many irregular flat surfaces; either a very remarkable crystal of some sort or an artificial object of carved and highly polished mineral matter. It did not touch the bottom of the box, but was held suspended by means of a metal band around its centre, with seven queerly-designed supports extending horizontally to angles of the box's inner wall near the top. This stone, once exposed, exerted upon Blake an almost alarming fascination. He could scarcely tear his eyes from it, and as he looked at its glistening surfaces he almost fancied it was transparent, with half-formed worlds of wonder within. Into his mind floated pictures of alien orbs with great stone towers, and other orbs with titan mountains and no mark of life, and still remoter spaces where only a stirring in vague blacknesses told of the presence of consciousness and will.
HP Lovecraft, The Haunter of the Dark 

I've been reading HPL recently, gearing up for the next installment of our most excellent CoC PBEM games with Daddy Grognard at the helm this time, and when I read this passage it hit me that he could be describing something like a d14!  It had "seven queerly designed supports extending horizontally" to sides in the box.  They could be coming off the sides of a sweet glistening surface of a highly polished mineral d14.

It is likely that HPL was thinking of something more chaotically fashioned, the fact that he called it a sphere at first had me thinking of a d20 or a d30 something like that.  But today, I'm going to think about HPL rolling d14's while rocking out to Metallica, drinking Mountain Dew, and criticalling on a Shoggoth!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Realms Starting Locations

I've been reading through my FR core rules books, and I'm thinking it would be fun to try a different starting location for my next FR game.  In all my years of running FR as a DM, I've really only used about 4 different starting locations:

1. Waterdeep or the surrounding areas.
2. Cormyr
3. The Dalelands
4.  Raven's Bluff/Vast

I even had one game centered around a PC who became the captain of a sailing vessel and had a bunch of adventures centered around the Sea of Fallen Stars.

For this next game, I've got a couple locations I think are pretty neat -

The Moonsea region - a rugged frontier land ripe with the struggles of humanity to keep hold of land they've purchased with the lives of those who came before them.   Only the strong survive here, and many of the cities are held by the champions of chaos.  I think Hillsfar and Elventree or even Phlan would be good starting locations for a campaign.  I think Hillsfar with the demihuman oppression could be run in a similar fashion to the X3 Curse of Xanthanon adventure with the PC's fighting against oppressive city government bolstered by the powers of Chaotic gods.

Tethyr - In all my years of using Waterdeep as a base for adventures my PC's rarely traveled south of Baldur's gate.  I think Tethyr with its rich feudal government and warring nobility could set the stage for some interesting dueling faction type play.  I could start the PC's off as mercenaries or spies, or even give them a connection to the land by making one or more of them one of the nobility and get them caught up in all the political battles.  It could be a higher magic version of a game of thrones type cutthroat power struggle with shifting alliances and goals.

Maybe I can flesh these ideas out a bit more with some additional posts.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Rumors about Elves

Common folk in the realms don't know much about elves, but they like to think they do.  Here are 1d5 rumors about elves, any of which just might be true:

1: "Bugs and flies don't like to sting elves, they just don't taste right"
2: "The songs of elves can have strange powers over men.  They can lull you to sleep, or even pull you into the faerie realm.  Let that be a warning to you about messing around near those old stones!  Now get back to work..."
3:  "Elves aren't born like you or me, they just crawl right out of the roots of trees."
4:  "You canna ever tell how tall an elf really is.  A 'times they appear really short like a dwarf, and other times they are taller'en old John.  They just charm you inta thinking whatever they want!"
5: "Elf magic can shape the trees however they want.  The elves of old used to grow swords and armor from the old ironwood trees of the greatwoods!"

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

New Wizard Spell - Ethereal Snatch

Ethereal Snatch
Spell Level: M1
Range: 100 feet
Duration: Instant

By casting this spell a wizard can open a tiny rift in space allowing him to grab something at a distance within the spells range.  The object grabbed must be small enough to be grabbed by 1 hand.  This spell good for snatching items off tables, or from hard to reach areas in dungeons.  However, the casters hand is exposed for a moment while snatching the item and can be struck by traps at the GM's discretion.  If a wizard tries snatching an item in control of another, that person/creature gets a saving throw to retain the item.  Any items grabbed must also be fully visible to the caster, not hidden in pockets, etc...

While this spell was developed with swords and wizardry whitebox in mind, it could be adapted to other editions.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Clerical Orders: S&W FR

If I do run a Forgotten Realms swords and wizardry Whitebox game, I want clerics of different gods to be mechanically different.  Also, I plan to adjust the descriptions of different gods to match a L, N, C alignment system and my own vision for the realms.

Here are a few selected gods:

Auril - Chaotic - Goddess of Cold, known as the Frostmaiden
Weapons - as cleric
Armor - leather and hide armors of the north, shields
Clerics of Auril cannot use the Turn Undead spell,
+3 to saves vs cold attacks, +1 slot survival (tundra)
Auril is worshiped in the north, where the tribes offer up sacrifices to the frostmaiden to sooth her fickle rages that bring cold winds.  Clerics of Auril are known to consort with frost giants, go to battle with spiked maces magically shaped from ice, and at higher levels can control the weather, call up ice elementals, maybe even ice demons...

Mystra - Neutral - Goddess of Magic
Weapons - as cleric, they favor the staff
Armor - none (as wizard)
Clerics of Mystra cannot use the Turn Undead spell.
Clerics of Mystra get +2 to saves vs magic, and can use magic items normally used only by wizards, they also get 1 extra slot in a lore of their choice (typically something related to magic), and +2 slots in read magic, they also have the ability to detect magic (as magical ability) once per day by concentration.
There are very few true clerics of mystra, most of her followers are magic users.  Those clerics that follow her are usually found in libraries or as adventurers, seeking lost magical texts and artifacts.

Selune - Neutral - Goddess of the moon and stars
Weapons - as cleric
Armor - any, leather preferred
Clerics of Selune cannot turn undead, +1 slot Lore (navigation by the stars), they gain night vision (30ft).  The priesthood of Selune is as scattered as the stars in the sky.  They tend to meet in small groups out in the open or in buildings with open ceilings to allow view of the moon.  Full moons are special holy days for the priesthood.  Clerics act as seers, guides, mentors, using astrology to predict events.  They are free spirited people fighting back both chaos and order when they oppose free will - trying to bring back the balance that allows.  Folks outside of the faith are always distrustful of the order due to rumors of widespread lycanthropy in the priesthood (that are only partially true).

Lathander - Lawful - God of dawn, renewal, and birth, known as the Morninglord.
Weapons and Armor - as cleric
Clerics of Lathander can turn undead any number of times per day (once per round) as a special ability.  Clerics of the Morninglord tend to dress in bright colors of orange, red, and yellow and many adventuring clerics favor tinted crimson or gold platemail.  Their congregations meet for services in the morning and they tend to be short happy affairs with much singing and rejoicing.  Clerics of the faith can call forth dawnglow (a rosy type of faerie fire), and have even been able to call forth focused bursts of pure light.  Rumors have it that Lathander is only one facet of a more powerful sun god who may have other facets shown in some of the other faiths.

I have plans for even more gods, but the trend will be the same.  Each faith will have customized spells and special abilities.  Most clerics will either not be able to turn undead at all, or will have to memorize a spell to do so.  A few selected dieties will offer the turning undead ability (like Lathander).

Monday, June 4, 2012

Open Quest Magic Point Store - House Rule

Being that the first Chapter of our Open Quest PBEM game just finished and my players were eagerly ready to spend some improvement points I thought it was a good time to drop in this house rule, intended to fill in a big hole I spotted in the rules system:

A spell caster must bind themselves to a magic point store in order to use it.  

The process takes 1d20 hours to complete (and a successful skill check). Once this is complete the caster has access to the magic points in the item. PC's and NPC's can have no more than 3 bound magic point stores at any 1 time.

This rule will stop PC's (and enemy NPC's) from having endless magic point stores (granting them pretty much unlimited magic points).

This rule only applies to magic point stores that a caster can use to fuel his  own spells. If an item has the ability to cast a certain spell (wand of flame arrows) then the caster can use it until it runs out of points and it doesn't count against his 3 bound magic point stores.

Next up I'm coming back to my work on S&W house rules.  I'm working on Clerics and Wizards next.  I don't think I'm actually going to make many changes here, just new spells and different flavors that would be realms specific. 

*Pricelessly awesome bonus quote from the website where I found the picture:

 "crystals are on the "dew line of consciousness," meaning that they are going to assist us in bringing in the New World which everybody in the New Age community knows is destined to be. That's why so many crystals that went to sleep after Atlantis was destroyed, are now waking up and reemerging, and finding their way back to their keepers. In Atlantis, crystals had a much different role than they do now. There, they functioned as these huge monoliths that powered cities. Nowadays, crystals also power our world, not as these huge monoliths, but rather as small silicon chips in our computers and our time pieces."

This quote was not from an RPG gaming website, real live people actually seem to believe in the power of these crystals and that the crystals are alive and are somehow communicating with them...  

I really can't say any more about magic point stores in Open Quest or about crystals.  This quote is so awesome, I will let it stand on it's own. 

All your stupid crystals R belong to us!!!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Fighting Men

I don't really like the combat machine rule for S&W Whitebox.  It only works against 1 HD monsters. This means the DM has to say, "these are 1 HD monsters, you can use your combat machine ability".  I think it has certain roots going back to chainmail, but for my gaming purposes it doesn't fit.  It completely pulls you out of the RP experience, and forces the GM to tell the players they are fighting 1 HD creatures.  That is ok when it is goblins, but not when the creatures are some made up thing of mine.

I think I'm going to replace it with the following two house rules for fighters:

1. Weapon Specialization - fighters can pick a certain weapon type and specialize in it.  This gives them +1 to hit and damage with this weapon type.  The fighter can switch his specialization but it takes 1 year of training to do so.  The fighter can adventure during this year of training but must use the new weapon type during his adventures (at least along with other weapons) and during that time gets no advantages for weapons specialization for any type until the year of training is over.

2. Multiple Attacks - Experienced fighters can get two melee attack attempts, the second attack is with a variable die type - never a d20 :) - you can't critical with the second die type.

1-2nd level - only 1 attack
3rd level - second attack  [d12]
5th level - second attack  [d14]
7th level - second attack  [d16]
9th level - second attack  [d24]

I recommend rolling both the d20 and the funky attack die at the same time although the fighter may choose to split the attacks between two opponents.  I've also been dreaming up fighting styles that may be purchased by fighters as skills to allow for more offense and defense options in combat.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

My White Box Thief

My thief class:

Experience, to hit bonuses, hit dice, and saving throw table are as cleric.

The thief practices agility and speed in combat, +1 to saving throws against anything the DM rules can be dodged.

Thieves typically favor light one handed weapons especially those that can be concealed (knives, daggers, one handed swords, light bows and crossbows, garrotes, spiked knuckes, etc...).  They also favor light armor - anything beyond soft quiet leather armor will hinder their skills.

The thief nets 7 skill points and gains 1 extra skill at levels 2,4,6,8,10.

Most thieves are chaotic or neutral, however, this class with it's strong focus on skills can be used to create a lawful scout/ranger/bard/skald type character under the DM's approval.  Bards and skalds (even a few thieves) study languages and sometimes even magical writing and have been known to carry a few scrolls to get them out of a tight spot.

*Now for a bit of explanation about my thought process.  My house rules thief is a slightly weaker fighter who has specialized in training his skills.  He gets no special backstab bonuses - anyone can stab anyone in the back, the thief trains in stealth and therefore has a better chance to do it using his skills.  While all the other classes can sneak, climb, etc.. the thief excels at these tasks from years of training.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Using the Simple Skill System

So I've got the rules for the skill system in place and description of what the skills do.  So before I move to other subjects I wanted to show a little bit about how I'm thinking to use the skill system in my game.

I'm planning to give players slots during character creation and then more during play.  I may change this as I go but this is what I'm thinking:

Fighter/Cleric(Druid)/Wizard - 5 slots at lvl 1 - 1 extra slot at level 3, 6, and 9

Dwarf - 3 slots at level 1 - 1 extra slot at levels 3 and 6 (Dwarves also get two craft slots for free)

Elf - 4 slots at level 1 - 1 extra slot at 4 and 8

Halfling - 2 slots at level 1 - 1 extra slot at level 4 (halflings also get stealth at +3 mastery at level 1)

I'm also working on a Thief Class based around this system.  I think thieves will have:

Thief - 7 slots at level 1 - 1 extra at levels 2, 4, 6, etc..

I may allow halfling to make a thief variant and elves to make fighter focused or wizard focused character.  I'll probably limit characters to no more than +2 training at 1st level.  

Example skill selections:

Fighter (ranger type) - tracking, Natural Lore - survival mountains, Natural Lore - Herbalism, Natural Lore - Animal, riding or natural lore - weather

Fighter (soldier type) - Athletics, Riding, Tactics, Body Development, heraldry

Fighter (bandit) - Athletics, Stealth, Streetwise, Survival, Deception

Fighter (horse warrior) - Riding (2), survival (sea of grass), athletics, tracking or possibly natural lore - weather

It takes me about 2-5 minutes to pick out skills for each type of character, however, I think it gives enough options to build really customized PC's with varied abilities.

***This is a rules system being developed as house rules for my own Swords and Wizardry White Box Game, the rules set developed by Matt Finch.  You can download a free copy of the rules here, but if you like them you really should buy a copy to support Matt, he is a really cool dude.***

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Skill Descriptions

Here is a quick list of how I'm planning to use the skills in my game:

Athletics - fairly straight forward, checks for swimming/climbing only in difficult situations

Riding - skilled riders can use bows from horseback, skill checks will be used for stunts while riding or riding in heavy combat etc...

Body Development - each slot in this skill gives bonuses to acts of strength or constitution, each slot in this skill nets the character 2 HP.

Stealth - used for sneaking, hiding, etc... obviously the target number will reflect armor worn, lighting conditions, ambient noise, etc...

Disguise/Deception - skilled thieves use this skill to lighten pockets, impersonate others, infiltrate garrisons, etc...

Mechanisms - this is the typical skill used to disarm mechanical traps, and pick locks.

Sailing - knowledge of sea craft and the ability to navigate them in open water

Engineering - the player should elaborate on what the character knows (building would net the ability to build siegecraft,  bridges, walls, castles and stuff like that, or a character might be able to have engineering skill to build fantastical inventions of the sort that Leonardo Da Vinci would make if he was in a fantastical world - limited by resources and time).

Healing - skill in first aid and treating wounds, illness, etc.. with setting appropriate methods.  Typically the use of this skill will accelerate healing and might allow for curing diseases.

Lores - these are too varied to go into detail.  In general modify the skill check by the difficulty of the subject and also the information available.  Access to a good or great library will make things easier than recalling something from ones past reading...  Some of these like alchemy might allow the user to craft special potions, healing draughts, poisons.  Tactics might be able to be used on the battlefield to counter flanking maneuvers etc...  Gambling might allow a character to cheat, or detect cheating, and to outplay an opponent in a game of skill/chance.

Natural Lores - see above.  In addition, the natural lores of survival will allow for the character to find important resources (water, food, shelter, etc...) in a specific setting (i.e. a desert warrior skilled in desert survival will be out of his element on a glacier or in the mountains).  Herbalism will allow for a character to identify toxic plants, find healing plants, and maybe have other effects in a fantasy setting.  Characters with weather lore might have the ability to detect and predict weather changes before others would.

Tracking, Influence, Trade - pretty self explanatory

Read Magic - this character has studied magical writings.  This skill is necessary for wizards and non-wizard characters should have a good reason why they know this (some cultures may train all their people to read magical writing or maybe nobles will train their children to read magic).  This skill can allow even non-wizard characters to read scrolls (with a chance of failure, modified by the character's skill level and the level of the spell - sometimes misreading a scroll will result in spectacular failures :).  Wizards can read scrolls with no chance of misfire.

Analyze Item - this type of character with time and proper resources to analyze a magical item and determine its properties.

Languages - characters can take skill ranks in languages (beyond what they normally get for their INT).  This may allow a character to learn a weird or ancient language (draconic, or demon languages, or maybe some lost culture).

Craft - this skill has many variants (smiths will be able to craft horseshoes, weapons, repair armor, make nails, etc..) BoyerFletchers can repair and make bows and arrows, brewers can brew up beer and spirits, there are lots of other good crafts (carpentry, shipbuilding, etc...).  GM's must rule what resources are needed to repair or create goods.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Simple Skill System

To start with I'm expanding on the idea I had back in 2010.  Back then, I wasn't planning to have specific skills - instead I imagined having players describe their background and then roll against that description using a simple d6 system modified by stat bonuses.

My new concept allows for way more customization of a character.  I'm designing this system with Swords and Wizardry White Box in mind; however, I think you could drop this into any game that is lacking a skill system.

Each character class gets a certain number of skill points during character creation.  Most classes will get 3-5 points (the thief class I'm thinking of will get way more points than the rest). I haven't decided the exact number of skill points to give out per class just yet.  I'll be covering this in another post.

Big Old Skill List:

Str - Athletics (covers climbing, jumping, etc..), riding, body development

Dex - Stealth, Disguise/Deception (Dex/Chr, covers pickpocketing), * Mechanisms(Dex/Int), *Sailing(Dex/Wis)

Int - *Engineering, *Healing, *Lores (pick one - Alchemy, Art, Astronomy, gambling, heraldry, tactics, poisons, etc..),  *Craft (pick one - Smith, armorer, boyer/Fletcher, brewer, butcher, mining, etc...)

Wis - Tracking, Natural Lore (Animal, Herbalism/Plant, Mineral, Survival, Weather)

Chr - Influence, Trade, Streetwise

Int - *Read Magic, *Analyze Item - both of these require a good explanation of why you would know them if you aren't a wizard!

Any skills with * mean that you can't attempt using this skill (defaulting to the stat bonus only) unless you have trained 1 slot in it.  Feel free to add additional skills or let players make up their own.

Competency and Modifiers:

All skill attempts use a single d6 die roll, modified by the stat bonus and the training bonus.  If the skill has two stats listed, take the average bonus and round to the next largest absolute value integer (round 0.5 to 1 and -0.5 to -1)

Each slot = +1 bonus

No slots = Untrained
1 slot = "skilled"
2 slots = "expert"
3 slots = "mastery"

For Swords and Wizardry, I'd cap skills to 3 slots until 10th level.  Beyond that I'd let my players go to legendary skill prowess.  For other game systems, the GM should judge how many slots are used.   You could also vary the die used, want more variation, substitute a d8 (or d7) instead of a d6!

With this skill system, never give players bonuses due to environmental circumstances.  Deal with bonuses and penalties in the target value, covered below.

Difficulty/Target Number:

The DM sets the difficultly of a task, including all environmental factors.  Most DM's are familiar with this type of roll against target number system and include any applicable factors.

2-3  = easy (I wouldn't normally ask a player to roll)
4-5  = moderate
6-7  = hard
8-9  = very difficult task
10   = near impossible
11+ = more or less impossible

Sometimes you may set the difficulty of fully completing the task so high a player can't ever succeed, but if they roll well (maybe a 5-6 on the d6) you could give them a partial success?

Also, if the difficulty is moderate ( 4-5) and a player with a +4 bonus, rolls a 1 or 2 on the d6, you may want to rule that they succeed but with a complication?

Keep in mind this skill system is supposed to be quick and dirty, let them roll, use your judgement and let them know what happens.  When letting players roll some skills, don't tell them what them what they are aiming for (just tell them "it looks pretty easy, you should be able to do this (difficulty 4)"  or "wow, this might be the hardest challenge you've ever faced (difficulty 10)".

Or don't tell them anything, give them the evil GM smile and say, "just roll the die"...

***This is a rules system being developed as house rules for my own Swords and Wizardry White Box Game, the rules set developed by Matt Finch.  You can download a free copy of the rules here, but if you like them you really should buy a copy to support Matt, he is a really cool dude.***

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Customizing Swords and Wizardry White Box

My favorite part about swords and wizardry is that it is so stripped back to the basics of DnD it allows you to mutate and change without worrying too much about interactions between pieces of the game.  Right now I'm DM'ing BX DnD for the tabletop (about 2 games per year) and running a full time PBEM Greyhawk Open Quest game with about 60 posts per month.  This game is now over 3 years old (it started with Castles and Crusades rules and now has mutated into Open Quest).

My buddies really want me to run another Forgotten Realms game.  I DM'd that game for about 10+ years using 2nd ed. AD&D rules and had a blast.  However, each time I pull out the game I get a little down about running due to the setting bloat.  There is so much information that my players know, it might be hard for me to say "I'm only using the 1st edition core rules box set as Canon".  Once you have to specify what is canon and what isn't your game really has too much bloat.  So anyway, I may go with that as a setting or try a home-brew world focusing on the things that I'm excited about in fantasy right now.

Anyway, while playing BX there were a few things that really made me think about changing systems before running the next game.  My players really prefer the ability to customize their characters.  I also thought that the 18=+3 stat bonus still puts a huge emphasis on having high ability scores.

So, for my next game I even thought about playing something other than DnD, maybe even sticking with Open Quest.  However, I really like to have something to tinker with at all times so in the back of my mind I've been thinking about house ruling the $H!# out of S&W white box.  I keep pulling out the paperback copy I have and reading it so often that the binding is already starting to tear (also partly because Lulu books aren't the best).

Here are the main things I'm thinking about:

1.  A skill system.  I know this flies in the face of Matt's Old School Primer, however, as I said above, my players really like to have crunchy bits to fiddle with.

2.  Maybe something like "Aspects" or "Risus Cliches" or perhaps a short 50 word description which can be used to justify the use of bennies or fate type points to give small bonuses to different tasks...  I want to tie character description mechanically to the game somehow...

3. I want to use all the dice.  White box really focuses on the d20 and d6 and mostly forgets about the other dice.  My other systems I tack onto the game are going to use all these dice somehow...

4. Maybe a critical hit or major wound table?

Those are the main things.  I've got little bits and pieces of these and I've also come up with lots of smaller little ideas (wizard cantrips, new spells, monster enhancements, etc...).  I think my next bunch of posts are going to start looking into these ideas and fleshing them out.


Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Folly of the Universal Die Mechanic

I've been reading through my various gaming books and I think I've figured something out.  I'm not a huge fan of "universal die mechanic" systems that have become the rage for almost all the new RPG's coming out.  I just bought and read through a used copy of Legends of Anglerre and I realized while the idea of relating nearly everything to an Aspect or Skill or Stunt is an incredibly flavorful idea at first.  I can dream up nearly anything (just like in the old FUDGE system that FATE is based from) put it to words, put it on the Terrible to Legendary ladder and roll on.

However, I think while this is really neat for short term games, the fun can wear off quickly...  suddenly you realize there is pretty much no mechanical difference between a fighter and a wizard or a noble.  One skill is treated almost exactly the same as all the others and all the powers a balanced under an elegant system.  Blah.

Maybe one of the reasons that original AD&D was so popular is that it was a massive tackle-box of all sorts of little rules systems.  It pretty much had all these "little games" inside of the big game.  All these different rules mechanics in the game gave all of us gamers things to love, but also things to disagree about.

In fact some of the early adventure modules took it so far as to have elaborate spot rules for handling chase scenes, maybe a little game mechanic to handle a siege combat or a ship on ship naval battle that would occur during the adventure.

Related to this I'd also like to chat a bit about my favorite game I've seen come out in a long time.  The DCC RPG by Goodman Games.  It is awesome.  I don't think I will ever actually play the game because the "inherent" game world and ethos implied by the rules isn't really the flavor I'm looking for in my fantasy games.  However, reading through the free BETA rules the thing I liked the most is the complete lack of any "universal die mechanic".  The game is a beautiful mess of jumbled rules systems and random effects tables.  In reading through it I was able to recognize the things that got me into this hobby in the first place.  No vanilla jazz music here people, just finger blistering heavy metal rock.

As wizards of the coast gears up to make 5th edition, maybe they should go back and review the obtuse and contradictory, jumbled rules systems that Gary and Dave came up with.  Maybe they should eschew elegance and embrace chaos.  Fourth edition made all the characters the same, and made nobody special.  Maybe this time around they should think like a 13 year old, figure out what makes each class or character unique.  Scream out the names of the nine lords of Hell!  Roll your d20's!  Make each class or profession special!  But then again, maybe I'm just crazy.      

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Landing on OpenQuest

So why did I pick OpenQuest for my go to d100 gaming system over all the other competition?

1.  I ruled out the Mongoose Runequest and Legend systems due to their use of hit locations.  I really didn't like that option.  I thought it was unnecessary complexity.  They do have some really nice templates in their SRD that I think would be nice to show players of any of these fantasy d100 systems since the ideas are mostly transferrable.

2.  I actually pitched the use of the Stormbringer games to my players but none of them were familiar with the Moorcock's work and so I decided it wasn't really worth pushing the issue.  I'm also not really a fan of the Elric type magic system.  It is really great in the novels, but I'm not sure it would play out the same in a tabletop RPG.

3. I thought about starting from Chaoisium's BRP system and customizing it to what I wanted, but then I really read through the Open Quest rules and realized almost all the options they went with would be what I would probably try.

So that was how I navigated through about 9 very similar d100 systems and landed on Open Quest.

There are a few things I would add to Open Quest if I was to play it at the table (instead of over PBEM which is how I'm running my Greyhawk game).  I would definitely bring in the armor dice ruling from Stormbringer. The idea that your armor could fail you if your opponent finds the right spot is really neat to me.  Of course I would institute the same system for monsters.

In addition, the magic system in Open Quest seems to have a few small holes that if I played this game at the table I think would come up.  First of all, I would heavily restrict the use of Magic Point stores (maybe a wizard could only be "attuned" to perhaps 3 magic point stores at any one time?  And it would take ~ 1 week to attune yourself to a new one?  That would stop the obvious hole whereby a wizard with substantial $ resources could easily create tons of magic point stores that would give them 100+ magic points at their disposal...  I'm already planning to institute this rule for my PBEM game if anybody decides to try and "game" the system.

But that would be about it.  Otherwise, the Open Quest is a fully stripped down, fast and furious version of the game that allows for excellent PC customization, but also good "balance" in which most characters can do a bit of everything which is really good for small gaming groups where you don't have enough people to cover all the bases for a game requiring high levels of specialization.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

My Fantasy RPG Wishlist

I've really been thinking about what attributes I'm looking for in my next RPG I'm going to bring to the table to play with my buddies.  They are all hovering around 7-9th's level in my BX game, and I'm guessing that the "Temple of Death" will be our final adventure with that group. 

So here is my list so far:

1.  No levels, and probably no classes - this means d20 is probably out.  For my next game that I run with the guys, I'd like to have a game that doesn't expect characters to change much throughout the gaming experience.  DnD rewards constant play with substantial character growth in ability.  I'd like a game where the characters start out competent and don't increase much in power over time.  This is not me bashing DnD, I love DnD, this wish is a result of the practical reality that due to my life and situation I only game at the table for about 12-15 hours/year.  

2.  Character health/damage will be tracked by "wounds" which will have mechanical effects on gameplay.  I'd like wound tables something like Rolemaster's Arm's Law or Stormbringer's Major Wounds table.  Maybe no hit points?

3.  Improvement system that allows for customization of the character in packets but doesn't have steep level bumps (see point #1).

4.  Magic system will have room for unexpected (good & bad) effects - this should make it more "magical".

5.  Character creation should be quick,  character driven, and customizable. 

6.  I'm contemplating the idea of having no cleric type class.  Maybe only herbs and medieval surgery?  This might be out though since I'd really like to use my 1st edition Forgotten Realms box set as the setting.  I purchased "City System" and "FR1 Waterdeep and the North" off ebay and I'm contemplating running an FR game with just those three canonical resources.

I'm doing a lot of research right now trying to find something that fits this bill, or gets me close enough  that I can houserule it to get it the rest of the way. 

Saturday, April 28, 2012

My Quest for the ultimate d100 Fantasy

Last year I was all about d100 gaming.  I was playing in a Call of Cthulhu game PBEM and having a great time of it.  In addition, I switched my PbP Greyhawk game over to Open Quest.  How did I decide on Open Quest...

First I purchased the following d100 books over the last two years:

1.  Chaosium Basic Roleplaying
2.  Stormbringer 4th ed
3.  Stormbringer 5th ed
4.  Elric Dark fantasy RPG
5.  Rolemaster Classic RM2.
6.  Open Quest.
7.  Legend System (Mongoose)
8.  Runequest SRD (Mongoose)

First of all, why did I need so many.  Each of these has points I like and points I don't like.  Open Quest was the one I finally settled on.  Unfortunately it was the last one i picked up...

In the next couple of posts on this site I'd like to discuss some of the differences between each edition and describe how I ended up picking Open Quest.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

A Fantasy Novel to Write Home about...

Coming off reading "A Clash of Kings" by GRRM I've been looking for another fantasy novel to read.  I haven't read many fantasy full length novels since the mid 90's, but the Song of Ice and Fire series (2 down so far) has wetted my appetite and I don't want to ravenously read through them so fast that I'll be 3 or 4 books in front of the fantastic HBO series.

I tried starting "Gardens of The Moon" by Erikson but hit a snag.  I'm roughly 12% into the novel according to my kindle and it hasn't really grabbed me yet.  From all the reviews online this series is supposed to rock, so why isn't it yanking me down the rabbit hole?  If anybody reads this, what do you suggest... should I carry on?

So in the meantime, I'm also in the market for a new Fantasy (or sci fi) novel to read.  Any suggestions?  I'm reading the free Amazon excerpts from "Winterbirth" and "The Name of the Wind" right now so maybe one of those will grab my fancy.

I looked at "the Way of Kings" and "Mistborn" series from Brandon Sanderson, however, I became suspicious by the page counts.  I turned away from Robert Jordan due to his wordy ways - I really do appreciate an economy of words in a novel.  Although I'm really happy with A Song of Ice and Fire even though they are mammoth texts so maybe I should give them another chance.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

What have I been up to.

I know it has been a long, long time since I posted here. I've been overwhelmed at work as usual :)

Here is what has been going on in gaming over the last 6-9 months....

1. We tentatively finished up our Decade of Darkness, call of cthulhu campaign with Dungeon Mum, Daddy G, and O4E. We had three GM's in all and I had a rollicking blast!

2. My PBEM Greyhawk campaign has somehow been resurrected. I still have four of my players, but we have completely switched systems. I really wasn't happy with the Castles and Crusades system for PBEM. We have switched to the Open Quest d100 system from d101 games and I couldn't be happier. This PBEM site has been open now for 3 years (although the game in this setting has only been going for about 5-6 months now.

3. I haven't played a tabletop game in about 4 months now (since christmas time)... I'm planning on continuing my BX DnD game whenever I get that gaming group together again, although my plan is to skip the Master of the Desert Nomads adventure and move directly to Temple of Death.

Also, I've been thinking a lot about what attributes I look for in a game. More on that to follow sometime... hopefully in less than 6 months from now. Maybe if I can get some time again I could start regularly blogging again!