Saturday, May 20, 2017

Mearls Initiative

Initiative has always been my bugaboo in systems - they were all dumb, boring, or too complex/slow. Then a lightning bolt descended from the heavens, well Twitter-heaven, and struck me stunned.

This gave me the simulations stages of AD&D, the element of planning of side-based initiative, and the delusionally interesting bits of 2nd Edition AD&D.

The first things I'd adjust would adding something beneficial for charges vs normal "action + move",  tie spell casting time in (AD&D casting time + d6 or something, or better yet use the Mythus classifications:, and give some benefit for defensive reach.  But the core idea above is so strong, I don't want to mess with it too much.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Sanities Shall Be Splintered

I've been playing a lot (meaning more than one hour a week) of Darkest Dungeon to get my gaming fix while accommodating family responsibilities.  While I can't quite call it relaxing, it is certainly spurring ideas for mechanics and campaign structure.

It dawned on my as a pondered how to recreate the stress mechanics.  Typical caveats for the poor and unrealistic treatment of mental illness apply.

Sanities Shall Be Splintered  
(yet another incomplete, proposed mechanic, with root concept from Trollsmyth's Shields Shall be Splintered)

Upon taking a hit, a player may choose to sacrifice the character's mental well being instead of losing hit points.  The character must make a save vs death (or wisdom, psionics, etc depending on your ruleset and preference):

  • If successful, the character sustains no damage but will have a temporary (but cumulative) -1 to further saves for Sanities Shall Be Splintered until 8 hours of restful sleep had been had.
  • If failed, the character gains a temporary insanity (from the AD&D Dungeon Master's Guide, p83, or your preferred edition of Call/Trail of Cthulhu).  The insanity can be "cured" by a week spent in medition, prayer, flagellation, or preferred debauchery at a cost of 100 gp / character level.  The character also suffers the side affect of success listed above.
This is my first draft, conceived as a type.  The next revision will probably have results for a save of 1 (and positive revelations for a roll of 20).  Maybe spell loss, wisdom penalty, or something similar would be more appropriate.  

Friday, August 7, 2015

AD&D Bard, Revised

To promote the widest compatibility, and eliminate confusion, please substitute the class "Rogue" for "Thief" where your particularly deficient ruleset makes the same misstep.  This revision attempts to promote the keys elements of the bard class prior to its position as a second-rate Wizard while simplify the character development with moving through fighter and druid levels.

Bard Class Summary
Hit Dice:  d6
Weapons:  dagger, dart, club, short sword
Armor:  leather, padder.  Bucklers may be used at the Dungeon Master's discretion
Saving Throws:  as per thief
Experience Points: Bards advance in levels by the same experience point table as Thieves 

Class Description
The profession of bard is not dishonorable, albeit is neither honorable nor highly respected in some quarters. The major ability for a bard is dexterity, and a character must have not less than a 9 to become a bard. High charisma and intelligence is also desirable. Any bard character with a dexterity greater than 15 gains the benefit of being able to add a bonus of 10% to experience points awarded to him or her by the referee.

A glance at the Class Ability section succeding this will reveal that high dexterity also benefits bards in the performance of their class functions. These functions are detailed a bit later. Many bards are neutral or evil, although they can be good, and of lawful or chaotic nature. Most bards tend towards evil.

All bards, regardless of alignment, known the language of their devious fellows, the "Thieves' Cant". This language is known in addition to others which may be learned because of race and/or intelligence.

Bards are principally meant to take by cunning and stealth. Bards have six-sided hit dice (d6). They are, however, able to wear light (leather) armor and use a fair number of weapons. Although they fight only slightly more effectively than do magic-users, they are able to use stealth in combat most effectively.  

Class Abilities

The primary functions of a bard are: 1) entertainment, 2) opening locks, 3) finding/removing traps, 4) moving silently, and 5) hiding in shadows. These functions are basically self-explanatory. The chance for success of any performance is based on the ability level of the bard performing it. This is modified by the powers of the observer with respect to hiding in shadows. 

These functions are detailed as follows, performing as a thief of the same level:

1. Entertainment:  bards are proficient in an instrument, song, and storytelling.  Subsequent levels improve both their repertoire of instruments and proficiency in such skills already known.

2. Opening locks includes figuring out how to open sliding puzzle locks and foiling magical closures. It is done by picking with tools and by cleverness, plus knowledge and study of such items.

3. Finding/removing traps pertains to relatively small mechanical devices such as poisoned needles, spring blades, and the like. Finding is accomplished by inspection, and they are nullified by mechanical removal or by being rendered harmless.

4. Moving silently is the ability to move with little sound and disturbance, even across a squeaky wooden floor, for instance. It is an ability which improves with experience.

5. Hiding in shadows is the ability to blend into dark areas, to flatten oneself, and by remaining motionless when in sight, to remain unobserved. It is a function of dress and practice.

Secondary functions of a bard are:
1. Listening at doors to detect sounds behind them,
2. Ascending and descending vertical surfaces such as walls
3. Reading languages

These functions are described as follows:

1. Listening at doors includes like activity at other portals such as windows. It is accomplished by moving silently to the door and pressing an ear against it to detect sound.

2. Ascending and descending vertical surfaces is the ability of the bard to climb up and down walls. It assumes that the surface is coarse and offers ledges and cracks for toe and hand holds.

3. At 4th level, bards are able to read 20% of languages, and this ability increases by 5% with each additional level of experience until an 80% probability is attained. This enables the possible reading of instructions and treasure maps without having to resort to a magic item or spell. At 10th Level, bards are able to decipher magical writings and utilize scrolls of all sorts, excluding those of clerical, but not druidic, nature. However, the fact that bards do not fully comprehend magic means that there is a 25% chance that writings will be misunderstood. Furthermore, magic spells from scrolls can be mispronounced when uttered, so that there is an increasing chance per level of the spell that it will be the reverse of its intent,

Bards cannot build strongholds as some other classes of characters do. They can, however, build a tower or fortified building of the small castle type (q.v.) for their own safety; but this construction must be within, or not more than a mile distant from, a town or city. Any bard character of 10th or greater level may use his small castle type building to set up a headquarters for a company of bards, and he or she will accordingly attract from 4-24 other thieves. However, this will bring the enmity of the local Theater Guild, and they will struggle to do away with the rival organization. Once begun, warfare will end only when and if the Master Bards on either or both sides are dead, or if the bard character removes to another locale.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Niche protection ever has an article about linear fighter, quadratic wizard.  "Reality Ensues" really summarizes the quandry.  I'll save my arguments and ideas for improvement for a subsequent post.


Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Poisons, Wolvesbane, and War Pigs

Lately I've been reading "Greek Fire, Poison Arrows & Scorpion Bombs: Biological and Chemical Warfare in the Ancient World" which leads me to the conclusion that there is not enough poison in my D&D games.

Poison traps and poisonous bites of monsters sure, but they tend to be immediate "Save or Die" situations more than anything.  Spells of Neutralize and Slow Poison exist, and should be resources to expend, and I should structure poisonous threats to generate more building debilitation or death after hours.  Provide anti-venom or potions as resources to be purchased and expended, and accentuate the decision to press on or return to town rather than rolling up a new character.

Poisons in 5E are on the right track, though the PHB item is a little too expensive for the minimal effect, but I like to see it tied in to the proficiency of the character and some resource management.  The AD&D PHB mentions belladonna and wolfsbane with little mention of their use.  I'll have to dig out the Dragon Magazine articles expanding on the AD&D DMG to provide the variety and background of knowledge.  I've never found the exact fit for effective spell component use vs recording keeping headaches, and maybe poison creation (especially with recipe elements like Skyrim or Dragon Age video games) can be a test run of a better method.  I'd like to see thieves, assassins, and alchemists concocting their poisons and others buying them, and actively using in combat (or sneak attacks).

I love a good backstab and don't want that to disappear, but thugs with envenomed daggers fit better than gymnastics amid a melee. Thieves get a resource to be managed, to improve combat damage or eliminate foes.  Certainly one that fits my vision more than some of the "combat effectiveness" abilities presented in various rulesets.

War Pigs, or at least war dogs (guard dogs in AD&D, mastiffs in 5E, I presume), always seemed to be a crutch for low-level characters in my younger days.  They were set aside after a couple leveles, and took the place of some hirelings.  Still, I like the idea of the baggage train expedition.  If war animals or military elements don't work for you in the dungeon,  they work at camp to guard the horses, or assist with the party's night watch.  They require a hireling the manage more than one, and best yet - require no share of treasure beyond some iron dog chow.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Welcome to the New Gods

I'm still working out of the specifics of the New Gods.  There were will be some obvious influences, but these should not be directly derivative ("Flesh for the Flesh God").

Thus far, the contenders worth posting:

  • The Unknowable Womb of Dreams - Creator of the World Made Flesh and Vine, and fundamental elements of the yet uncreated.
  • Master of Writhing Memories - Doomed to wander the paths of the world and steal the thoughts of man to subsist.
The other three are in flux, their elements clear, but waiting a final form (in my brain) to be reborn upon this world.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

The Old Gods are the New Gods

You believe and hold five gods to be true and powerful, one clearly superior to the others.  All other spirits, divinities, and supernatural beings are either clearly subservient, or inferior and opposed to your gods and followers.  Your comrades believe in the same gods, but some hold others of the same five to be ascendant.

Your mission is to convert or corrupt enemies of the faith and failing that - destroy them.  This includes your comrades.  

I swear I will make henchmen and hirelings work.  Observe the Auctoritas Ritae.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Gygax + Conan + LotFP

Across this site, posting elsewhere, and various drunken ramblings I have suggested a half-dozen variations of D&D - covering my ideal version of AD&D, AD&D with the best elements of newer editions, or even a fix for 4th edition.  Here is my latest crazed concept:

Reduce the available classes to two:  Fighter and Magic-User.  How is the Cleric functions replaced?

  • Convert some existing spells become Rituals
  • Convert some existing spells to the Magic-User spell list
  • Convert some functions or spells into equipment -- more healing potions, scrolls and holy symbols to allow for some degree of Undead Turning, etc

Why drop the cleric?  There are many justifications in this thread.

Thief roles are handled like skills for the Specialist from Lamentations of the Flame Princess.  We can a few additonal "skills" to the list fill any gaps as well as structure the Magic-User.  Magic-Users allocate a single pip to "unlock" equivalents of Sorcery Styles from the Conan RPG:

  • Counter-spells
  • Curses
  • Divination
  • Hypnotism
  • Nature Magic
  • Necromancy
  • Oriental Magic
  • Prestidigitation
  • Summoning
One or two styles are added to accomodate key spells from the Cleric spells list that we wish to maintain.  We allow Fighters to access limited spells (to replicate the role of Paladins, AD&D style Rangers, and cultists).  These are granted by a single skill pip for each level of casting (2 pips to be able to cast 2nd level spells from a single Sorcery Style).  

Alternately we can allow expanded access (or provide additional limits) based on the use of Insanity/Corruption or Faith points.  A fighter of the cultist ilk can gain an Insanity Point in exchange for a single pip in Summoning, for example.  

Friday, November 21, 2014

Sorcerer's Helm and Magician's Blade

My peak D&D years in middle and high school coincided with my exposure to Warhammer Fantasy and Citadel miniatures.  My location in the Harrisburg, PA area made day trips down to Maryland Games Workshops stores easy day trips.  I wasn't into wargaming, but would spend an hour or two a time pouring through racks of blisters for the ideal PC/NPC/villain models.  Chaos Sorcerers were more varied (and easier to come by) than the Gandalf-sort.  I never recovered, and as a consequence all well-appointed spell casters wear helmets.

Sorcerer's Helm
XP Value: 2,000
GP Value: 5,000

The Sorcerer's helm is usually a large or ostentatious helmet, covering most or all of the face. Unlike other forms of armor, it's metal presence does not detract from spell casting or magic use (though no such guarantee exists for peripheral vision!).   It does not interfere or limit the protection of other magic items (bracers, rings, cloaks) which normally would provide protection to the sorcerer.

The standard form of the helm provides an overall +1 bonus to armor class, and an AC of 3 to attacks directed towards to the head.  It will reveal itself as magic to spells and items of detection.  Greater Helms are rumored to exist, but are strongly aligned to Law, Chaos, or Neutrality.

Magician's Blade
XP Value:  1,000
GP Value:  2,500

Any wizard or magician proficient in the use of the dagger can use one of these magical blades, which come in forms of short or broad swords, as well as rapiers.  Regardless of form they do 1d6 hit points of damage.  The weapon will detect as magic, but grants no additional bonus to hit or damage from its enchantment.  In the hands of fighters, thieves, and others proficient in the weapon it responds as if a normal sword of it's make.

It does not glow nor shed light, but can harm creatures normally immune to non-magical weapons.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Pissing on Ability Scores

Normally I'm a Gygax man when it comes to D&D attributes: Strength, Intelligence, Wisdom, Dexterity, Constitution, Charisma as Xagyg intended (even he thought Comeliness was a bad idea).

Then in my moments of fancy I think about additional or secondary attributes, perhaps as a result of that time I read Top Secret on cold medicine.  Since I'm apparently unable to maintain any semblance of a posting schedule I'd put down what I recall as they come to mind.

  • Perception:  I mixed thoughts on this from the usual old school player agency angle, but there are plenty of areas (sleeping characters, tracking, this passive perception junk from 5E).  But it's certainly better than a skill point tax, using Wisdom as a pseudo perception score, and more reasons from that Dragon Magazine in issue #133. It will certainly make surprise easier to deal with.
  • Agility: Targeting skill and dodging ability combined is a little two convenient and the first change I'd make.  Break this off from Dexterity, and suddenly not every fat sniper has ninja style.
  • Memory vs Reasoning vs Intelligence:  A few games have broken these out.  I don't know if it's worthwhile, as Intelligence isn't terribly worthwhile outside of AD&D style spell learning. It feels right, but I don't have the purpose for Reasoning yet. Unless...
  • We ditch wisdom.  In D&D terms, it's willpower plus cleric power.  Being "wise" itself isn't significant.  Other games use Spirit, Power, Psyche, etc.  The Mythus breakdown of Metaphysical and Psychic is vague, but useful.  A wizard could have potent talent, but not be a genius, or some font of knowledge with an eidetic memory.  Somehow getting willpower out of the mix does explain weak-willed cultists and the like. 
  • Physical attributes: I'm content to leave Strength and Constitution as-is. Stamina, health, etc are mostly thesaurus workarounds for the traditional D&D stat.  Size and Speed do little for me, as they're tied more to race than anything with a large enough variance to matter.  Maybe in a Super Advanced version, I could tie race, size, and constitution together to reflect starting hit points, the fit of armor, tallfellow halflings that are close to the height of elves.