Friday, July 13, 2018

Ballyjack

I've started a D&D campaign for kids and parents. We're running 5e (the kids have the books, and want to use them), but we used tools from Beyond the Wall to generate characters and their home village.


Ballyjack is a village that grew up around the stump of the giant beanstalk that was chopped down centuries ago in a dispute with a local cloud giant. It is now mostly known for pig-farming.

Significant NPCs
Honeywell Ballyjack, Mayor, owner of a large pig farm at the edge of town
Dirk the Reeve, oversees the town for the mayor and enforces the mayor’s decrees
Butthog, Dirk’s lackey, recently kidnapped and beaten by goblins
Filfory Hogsbottom, brewmaster, owner of Hogsbottom Inn and Brew-works
Tatter Helga, a hedge witch who lives in town and makes petty charms and potions
Jerrod the Bard, lives at the Inn, one of the better-traveled and more knowledgeable citizens of the town
Sylvarus Nuthing, a hermit who lives near edge of the Thousand Acre Wood
Timmory Mill, the Miller
Rose Smith, the Blacksmith
Brother Ignatius Salubrious Albion-Jones, the Priest at the Temple of Urizen
Azaela Winton, master cartographer and grandmother of two of the PCs

Collaborative world-building is a good idea with kids in a game, because it gives you a sense of what level they're approaching things from. For instance, it would never have occurred to me to have one character named Hogsbottom and another named Butthog in the same village.

We started playing The Goblin Infestation scenario pack from Beyond the Wall, transitioning it to the goblin caves from Lost Mines of Phandelver, and I expect we're about to take a detour into some homebrew woodlands encounters, or maybe The Witch of Underwillow.

LINKS
Beyond the Wall (such a great system that deserves more attention)
The Witch of Underwillow by Merric Blackman

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

B/X Grappling Rules

I'm adding some house-rules and what-nots to an edition of B/X Purple Core, and decided I wanted some Grappling Rules:

Grappling (Optional Rule)
If a character wishes to pin or overpower an opponent, they may attempt to grapple them.

Generally speaking, as many as six grapplers can engage a single defender. Each grappler must succeed at an attack roll against the defender. The referee may choose to wholly or partially ignore armor for purposes of this attack.

Roll the HD of each combatant on both sides.
 • If the grappler’s side has the highest result, the defender is immobilized. They can be disarmed, tied up, pinned to the ground, or pushed in any direction at one quarter their movement.
• If the results are a tie, the struggle continues and everyone must roll again unless both sides agree to discontinue.
 • If the defender has the highest result, they have broken free. The grapplers are thrown back 5’ and unable to act for one round.

Once engaged in grappling, neither side can take any additional actions, including movement, drawing or readying weapons, or casting spells, until the grapple is resolved.

Grappling with Small Weapons
If either side is armed with small weapons which the referee allows can be brought to bear close combat, like knives, or natural weapons, like teeth and claws, the results are as follows:
• If the grappler’s side is armed and has the highest result, the defender is immobilized and may be killed. The defender should roll Save vs. Death/Poison. If successful, they take normal weapon damage. If failed, they are dead.
• If the results are a tie, a member of the side facing the weapon takes normal weapon damage.
• If the defender is armed and has the highest result, they have broken free. The grapplers are thrown back 5’, unable to act for one round, and take normal weapon damage.


NOTES
This is basically OD&D grappling, as presented by Gygax in Strategic Review #2, but with a few changes:

B/X’s different Hit Dice. I think it makes sense for fighters to be better at wrestling than wizards.

Use of weapons. It’s clear that there are times when a small weapon is better than a big one. Being locked cheek-to-jowl with an enemy seems chief among them. I think this does a better job of modelling the advantages of a small weapon than, say, the Holmesian double-strike.

The chance of auto-death may seem extreme, but it’s really not that much different than having an immobilized opponent, if death is your intent. And I like it when Conan still has to worry about a knife between the ribs. And this could make a swarm of kobolds with pointed sticks a proper threat.

However, it overlaps with some established B/X rules (as quoted from B/X Essentials):
Helpless Opponents
Helpless opponents, such as those sleeping, bound, magically frozen, etc., are automatically hit by any melee attacks in combat. Only a roll for damage is required.

and
Non-Lethal Combat
Any characters that wish to subdue an opponent must announce that they are attacking without intent to kill. All hand weapons with a blade may be employed to deal blunt blows with the flat of the blade.

Combat and damage are calculated normally, noting how much damage is non-lethal, “subdual” damage. A character or monster that reaches 0 hit points due to subdual damage is knocked unconscious.

Monsters may only be subdued in this way at the referee’s discretion.

I've never liked the idea of tracking subdual damage. And modelling damage to a helpless opponent strikes me as something that calls for a ruling more than a rule. But this is a shift that could have some longer ranging repercussions. It needs play-testing.

Feedback and critique is solicited and welcomed!

Previously: Grappling Rules, Compared

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

B/X Purple Core

I used Gavin Norman's B/X Essentials Core Rules as an exercise in learning InDesign. The aesthetic is aggravatingly tasteful, but it should be easy to scroll through, with lots of hyperlinks and a few helpful annotations.

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1kng3kdZYCl9VgYVPr-gX0F_F6Av7dQiT
Click for the PDF

Feedback, as always, is accepted and solicited.

Now to make a houserules edition!


https://drive.google.com/open?id=1kng3kdZYCl9VgYVPr-gX0F_F6Av7dQiT

The B/X Monogram on the cover is based the font Rye, which is also used as the header text inside the document.

If you'd like to use it for something B/X related, and want a high-rez or vectorized file, let me know!

Creative Commons License
B/X Monogram by Joel Priddy is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Time Rats, in COLOR!

I've been teaching myself layout, and specifically baseline grids, so I decided to fancy-up Time Rats.

click for the TIME RATS pdf

NOTES
I've fluffed it up a bit, adding enough information to make it an independent game that doesn't require having Maze Rats on hand—although it's still very terse, and will probably only make sense if you're to sort of person who reads gaming blogs.

The most significant mechanical shift from Maze Rats is the introduction of a Turn Sequence, inspired by the Doctor Who RPG, which is intended to make it viable to encounter rampaging death-machines with nothing more than a kettle and some bits of string.

This is not the final version. I want to finish up a 3-page adventure. The idea is to have a short document that will let you set up a single evenings-worth of adventure with brand new players in just a few minutes.

And I made the bestiary of enemies without much reflection. I need to consider their relative power levels a bit more.

Feedback and advice is appreciated and solicited!

Friday, November 3, 2017

Portcullis d6 Polyhedral Chart

I've been making little layout projects for myself, to brush up on InDesign. And I saw this Portcullis post for rolling polyhedral results with d6's. Thus:

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1iZe_0M84YKX6X0TBdu-yFqb_cVXwNbraHQ
Click for a pdf!
I'm not sure that this has much practical value in the smartphone age, but it would have saved my 12-year-old self a lot of headaches (I remember spending a lot of time flipping through books to use page numbers as random generators. Weird how I only ever rolled odd numbers).

Anyway, this turns out to be a pretty good way to learn about making tables with InDesign.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Stats in Maze Rats and Into the Odd

Roll High or Die.
One of the things that sets Maze Rats apart from other rules-light systems, even other rules-light 2d6 systems, is the Danger Roll. You only roll the dice when you've done something risky or ill-conceived enough that there could be some serious repercussions. The odds are stacked against you: you need to roll a 10 or over on 2d6. Attributes might give you a +1 or +2 modifier, and skills let you roll 3d6-keep-2.

This builds into the game an onus on the players to think problems through and create plausible solutions in the hopes that they can avoid the roll altogether.

Into the Odd is built around the same philosophy, but Saves are flat roll-under d20 versus 3d6 stats. Players with high stats don't need to be so motivated to think things through—they can just muscle through.

So: point to Maze Rats.

But Into the Odd has a combat system that I enjoy much more. Hit Points are an abstract defensive reserve to avoid serious injury. Once you're out of hp, you lose STR, and every time you lose STR you need to roll against it to see if you're out of action/ seriously wounded/dying.

This creates a world where anyone needs to fear a knife between the ribs.

I've been wanting to combine these two mechanics, so I thought I'd try emulating the odds of the Danger Roll with the ItO Saves. Here's what that looks like:

2d6 ≥ 10: 16.7%    
1d20 equivalent: 3 (15%) or 4 (20%)

2d6+1: 27.8   
1d20 equivalent: 5 (25%) or 6 (30%)

2d6+2: 41.7   
1d20 equivalent: 8 (40%) or 9 (45%)

Imagine starting chargen by telling the players to distribute a 3, 6, and 9 to their stats. That would be so dispiriting!

Advantaged 2d6: 35.7          1d20 equivalent: 7 (35%)
Advantaged 2d6+1: 52.3     1d20 equivalent: 10 (50%)
Advantaged 2d6+2: 68        1d20 equivalent: 14 (70%)

Skills make it better. 7, 10, and 14 don't sound so hopeless.

While I'm at it, here's the numbers for attacking someone without armor in Maze Rats
≥6
2d6: 58.3%    1d20 equivalent: 12 (60%)
2d6+1: 72.2   1d20 equivalent: 14 (70%)

2d6+2: 83.3   1d20 equivalent: 17 (85%)

In most games, it makes sense for attacks to fail more often than ability or skill checks, because you get to try many times to attack, but only once at a given task. In Maze Rats, the opposite holds true, since rolling a Save means you've already failed at the primary mechanic of narrative description.

Anyway, looking at the numbers, my plan to marry the two systems won't work. 

Firstly, because of bad optics: the bell-curve of 2d6 looks more forgiving, and +1 or +2 bonus feels positive. A character with stats of 3, 6, and 9 feels hopeless, no matter how many times the GM assures you that these numbers are used differently than D&D stats.

Secondly, because a STR of 3 gives you such a small ability to sustain damage that you lose the benefits of ItO's critical damage system.

But interesting observation to come out of this: the straight up Danger Roll is more or less in the neighborhood of the Old School D&D Saving Throw. It's also in the neighborhood of the Thief Skills. If nothing else, this exercise has convinced me that D&D Thief abilities should be handled descriptively first, and then rolled when that fails.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

The Doctor in the Maze

If you see this in time, there's a great deal of a Humble Bundle: The Doctor Who RPG, Sourcebooks for 11 Doctors, several adventures, and a few other Sourcebooks and miscellanea to boot. You can get the whole pile for $15. That's a lot.
I have committed fan art.

The Doctor Who rpg is a fine enough system, but not really to my taste. But the Doctor-specific Sourcebooks are a real find. They include adventure breakdowns of each Doctor's TV episodes. So, decades of game-able material.

In order to make use of this treasure trove, I quickly knocked together a supplement to Maze Rats:


I should say that I did this entirely off the top of my head, without reviewing either the Doctor Who rpg, or Maze Rats, so it might be ripe for correction or expansion. But it's enough to get me started.
Twice, in fact.

Also, you can find even more material at the Cubicle 7 forum, where folks are compiling sourcebooks of each Doctor's extra-canonical adventures, including comics and so on.
Three time, if you count this one.
"Come along, Pond."

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

An Exaltation of Rockets

I've been toying off-and-on with a rockets-and rayguns campaign/ruleset based heavily on the original Buck Rogers strips. I started working it up as a Black Hack, but I've since switched over to Maze Rats, which has become my ruleset of choice for Play-by-Post.

I don't have a good name for it. I want something that conveys the baroque majesty of science fiction in the 20s and 30s. "Planetary Romance" is an accurate description of the genre, but needs about 20% more pulp. Pseudo-pulp magazine names seem like a good way to go, but that's such an easy well to dip into that the results can sound pretty generic.

Request for feedback #1: On this particular morning, I'm enamored of "An Exaltation of Rockets," but it may not carry the right resonances. I'd be eager to hear from you what your first impression was when you saw that as the post's title. What sort of imagery did it conjure up? What sort of world does it belong to?

The premise of the world is that War of the Worlds-style tripods invaded Earth in 1930, and have pretty well mastered it for 500 years. Most humans who have escaped mind-controlled slavery live neolithic existences in the wilderness, but there are a few hidden communities where human culture and science have progressed. If they can shake off the yoke of Tripod domination, there is a whole solar system out there teeming with life and adventure.

Characters can start as:
Wild Humans
Clave Humans (the folks with science—that is to say, ray guns)
Time-lost Human (like Buck Rogers)
Inventor
Atlantean
Selenite (moon-frogs)
Martian (tiger folk)
Robot

SCIENCE!
Inventors (and, to a lesser extent, Robots) have access to Technological Wonders.

Technological Wonders are determined by rolling up a name and figuring out what it does, just like spells in Maze Rats. But, unlike spells, they are persistent, and can be used more than once.

At the moment, I'm playing with the idea of using a Reliability Die (read: Ammo Die or Usage Die). Technological Wonders begin at d4. The dR degrades on a result of 1 or 2. When you run out of dice, the item breaks or runs out of a necessary resource, and won't work again until sufficient downtime is devoted to fixing it. An Inventor can, upon Leveling up, either gain a new Technological Wonder or upgrade the dR of an existing Wonder.

To figure out your Technological Wonder, roll a d6 twice for A, B, C, and D. Describe what you think it does. The GM gets final say on what it actually does.


Technological Wonder Table


A
B
C
D
1
1
Aethero-
Active
Abjuration
Baton
1
2
Arcano-
Biological
Adaptation
Blade
1
3
Astro-
Charged
Amplification
Bubble
1
4
Atomo-
Chemical
Animation
Capsule
1
5
Aural-
Elemental
Articulation
Cloak
1
6
Chrono-
Energetic
Communication
Coil
2
1
Cosmo-
Graphic
Compression
Cube
2
2
Destructo-
Gravitational
Compulsion
Disk
2
3
Dyno-
Harmonic
Conjuration
Engine
2
4
Electro-
Illusory
Detection
Field
2
5
Excello-
Incorporeal
Disruption
Gas
2
6
Geo-
Ionic
Distortion
Harness
3
1
Gyro-
Laser
Division
Pen
3
2
Holo-
Lightning
Duplication
Injector
3
3
Hyper-
Magma
Elevation
Key
3
4
Ideo-
Magnetic
Evocation
Leaf
3
5
Kineto-
Matter
Examination
Lens
3
6
Macro-
Mental
Expansion
Medallion
4
1
Micro-
Mineral
Extraction
Orb
4
2
Multi-
Mnemonic
Fusion
Pack
4
3
Nega-
Molecular
Incineration
Particle
4
4
Neuro-
Morphological
Incision
Paste
4
5
Nucleo-
Penumbral
Inversion
Platform
4
6
Null
Phase
Manipulation
Prism
5
1
Omni-
Phenomenal
Multiplication
Projector
5
2
Para-
Physical
Negation
Ray
5
3
Proto-
Plasma
Petrification
Receiver
5
4
Psycho-
Polarized
Prediction
Ring
5
5
Radio-
Probabilistic
Preservation
Rover
5
6
Spatio-
Psionic
Protection
Scope
6
1
Tele-
Sonic
Reflection
Serum
6
2
Thermo-
Stasis
Regeneration
Spray
6
3
Turbo-
-ocular
Repulsion
Visor
6
4
Veloci-
Void
Revelation
Wand
6
5
Vibro-
Vortex
Synthesis
Web
6
6
Vita-
Warp
Transmission
Wheel

Some examples:
Telebiological Amplification Web. Lets you link a number of willing subjects so that they can pool their health. So, everyone gets to shunt a hit point or two over to buff a fellow in need.

Protowarp Preservation Prism. An object or person placed inside the prism is put in a form of suspended animation by being warped out of phase with the passage of time.

Neuromineral Evocation Visor. Rock-based psychometry. Lets you tap into mineral "memories."

Request for feedback #2: Would you try rolling up a few devices and see if they coalesce into usable ideas? I know this table can return interesting results, but, with over a million possible results, I don't know how likely it is to come up with clunkers. Or if this is just attuned to stuff that inspires ideas for me, and looks like garbage to anyone else.

Thanks!