Sunday, July 5, 2015

What does the monster know?

In encouraging players to expand their methods of tackling an adventure a DM has to invest more in the details of the campaign, players aren't going to root about for more if there isn't "more" to be discovered. One means players can expand the power and have richer play is finding out what monsters know about the dungeon/adventure area. What do the monsters know?

The structure of an adventure is certainly going to dictate what monsters know but not all adventure and dungeon write-ups are very explicit in this. Do the kobolds on level 1 know there is a dragon on level 6, do they know it's a black dragon, do they even know there is a level 6 ?

 If a dungeon overview has factions and a rough hierarchy spelled out keeping track of faction knowledge and what members of different rank may know will serve the trick in some manner. If the kobolds on level 1 are part of the Crimson Tide (faction) they may indeed know The Ebon Watch employs the services of a dragon, the leader of the kobolds may be aware it's a black dragon, members of the Crimson Tide may or may not know how deep the dungeon is an perhaps none really know if their faction hasn't delved beneath level 3 or so itself. Noting the general knowledge of a faction will serve the purpose a lot of the time.

Another way to record and keep track of monster/NPC knowledge of a dungeon is with tiered knowledge pools. A Tiered Knowledge Pool (or just Knowledge Pool) isn't as pretty as a prose based explanation of faction knowledge but it can provide the opportunity for a DM to quickly note what a monster knows.

The Knowledge Pools can be categorized by faction, or areas of knowledge and then broken down by rank, intelligence, or some other relative factor. 

Orc Mercenaries:  Crimson Tide Faction Plans-2, Level Layout (level 1-3)-2, Crimson Tide Membership-2.

sample knowledge pools:

Crimson Tide Membership
1-  Crimson tide members wear red sashes most of the time.
2- Berand the Baleful is the Leader of The Crimson Tide
3- Can identify all leaders of subcomander hand higher 95% of the time.
4- Can identify all figures of authority 90% of the time
5- Can idnetify a memebr of The Crimson Tide even without a red sash 80% of the time.
6- Can name the last 3 Leader of The Crimosn Tide (Leper Lou, followed by The Termagant, follwed by Fejj and now Berand th eBaleful).
7- Knows The Termagant is still alive and rumored to be secretly plotting to reclaim leadership of The Crimson Tide.

Level Layout (1-3):
1- Can quickly locate the main entrance and exit of level 1
2- knows the secret knock to get past the red gate on level 2
3-  knows where each faction is roughly located on levels 1-3
4- knows where all the sources of water are on levels 1-3
5- knows to avoid the green slimes in an about room 32 on level 2.
6- aware of rumors of ghouls on level 3
7- knows of all entrances from surface to level 1 to 3.
8- knows where the 3 most valuable treasures on the level are located.

I'll admit it I like the Knowledge pool layout (you can tell by how much I wrote about it) as it allows for a quick listing of information and in brief notation in monster writeup with a modest amount of specifics if the monster/npc knowledge pools are extensive enough.

A knowledge pool doesn't need to have all the detail of dungeon written up and simply adding a tiny bit of relative information about what a monster knows about it's neighbors will build up reasons for players to question before slaying.

12 Orc Mercanaries: HD 1; HP (6 each) AC 6 [13]; Atk spear (1d6) or scimitar (1d8); Move 9; Save 17; AL C; CL/XP 1/15. Knowledge: Crimson Tide Faction Plans-2, Level Layout (level 1-3)-2, Crimson Tide Membership-2. The Orcs are on good terms with the Ogre Twins in room 15. One Orc wants to trick his captain into getting bitten by Giant Spider that hunts the NW sector of level 2.

The previous has ta standard monster stat-block, goes into knowledge of dungeon at large with knowldge pools and gives some extra tidbits to offer a wider range of actions and reactions that can be built off of.  If the Players bribed The Ogre Twins last session the Orcs might know this and react accordingly. The write-up doesn't say which orc wants to trick the captain just mentions there is one of them that want to do so allowing the DM to spring this on the players based on how they interact with the orcs, if one is taken captive it just might be this orc and the knowledge of the Giant Spider might be used to escape or trick the PCs or the info can be used when restocking the dungeon later. Just a few extra notes can add an awful lot to what the players will be able to learn from the monsters.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Apple pulling Civil War Apps?

Seemingly apple is (or has) removed all Civil War games from app stores for displaying the confederate flag. Say what?

It's a boggling move, the losing flag of the CSA has a proper place in a game set in the Civil War, it isn't out of place by it sheer existence, it isn't promoting hate and racism, it is the symbol originally selected by the losing side of that war.

It's a sad, cowardly, move from Apple to not offend and show support and it is ridiculous. I don't do issues here on a gaming blog much but the issue has stepped into gaming. I've been all over the internet for days telling chowder-heads that "yes the civil war was about slavery", "yes it is a symbol of division and racism" and "it has no place on a public building having been the flag of the losing side of a war in which traitors marched against the federal government under". But the issue at hand is the place of the flag on public buildings and in public parks not private ownership or in art or literature that involves the actual history instead of sometimes bogus affectations of history and heritage.  Companies such as Apple and Amazon are taking this a step too far, private ownership of the symbol is not the issue on hand and denying the existence of symbols entirely will not remove the underlying issues they are tied to.

Confederate flags have a place in games about the Civil War just as the Nazi Flag has a place in games about World War 2. Banning the use of those symbols from the games or books doesn't wash stains of racism and hate away.  I hope Apple gets it's head back on straight and retailers come to grips with their place in history  which is not in reshaping it but in education through the products they sell.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Dungeon Encounter

Just having some fun with the silhouettes from Telecatner's receding rules.   A gnomish dungeon expedition has bumped into a demonic dandy with two half-breed ocean spawned minions.

Time for a reaction check.

The silhouettes are public domain and I've used them a couple times in the past. There's a fair amount to pick from and a little editing and there's a whole bunch more to illustrate house rule docs and blog postings.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

How Far Can a Giant Punt a Dwarf

How far can a giant punt (kick) a dwarf?   It's got to come up sometime. Based on a host of calculations, distances a football and soccer ball can be kicked, brutal physics, and a whole lot of assumptions re mass along with an old Dragon magazine article on giant sizes I've calculated the following table:

How Far Can A Giant Punt …

1d10’ (5)
1d8’ (4)
1d6’ (3)
1d4’ (2)
1d3’ (2)
Hill Giant
3d12’ (18)
3d10’ (15)
3d8’ (12)
3d6’ (9)
2d6’ (6)
Stone Giant
9d12’ (54)
9d10’ (45)
9d8’ (36)
9d6’ (27)
6d6’  (18)
Fire Giant
11d12’ (66)
11d10’ (55)
11d8’ (44)
11d6’ (33)
7d6’ (21)
Frost Giant
18d12’  (108)
18d10’ (90)
18d8’ (72)
18d6’ (54)
12d6’ (36)
Cloud Giant
30d12’ (180)
30d10’ (150)
30d8’ (120)
30d6’ (90)
20d6’ (60)
Storm Giant
44d12’  (264)
44d10’ (220)
44d8’ (132)
44d6’ (132)
30d6’ (90)
50d12’ (300)
50d10’ (250)
50d8’ (200)
50d6 (150)
33d6’ (99)
*I prefer Gnomes to be tinier than Halflings, reverse if you disagree. The average distance listed in the parenthesis above is weighted low to punish DMs and players that don't want to roll all those dice.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Hit Points, It's just a flesh wound

Oh Hit Points you lovely aged and timeless mechanic for measuring a character's capacity to endure harm. They're luck, divine favor, toughness,vitality, pounds of flesh, and pints of blood all rolled into one that an awful lot of people really have a tough time coming to grips with.

At their core a character with more HP than another character is more important than a character with less HP (on the battle field and in meat-grinder dungeons). More of the tale is going to be about the guy with more HP, becasue they will be there longer...most of the time. HP only get weird when folks start thinking of abstract values in terms of absolutes. Some folks see a blow that causrd 8 HP of damage as the same 8 HP of damage regardless of the target being struck. This is a limited view of HP and how damage is dished out in the game that serves to confuse.

In the simplest form HP are how much of a beating one can stand until they can stand no more. Some folks really hate this, they feel every blow (or almost every blow) should reflect some sort of wear and tear; other folks believe HP represent a threshold from "doing fine" to  "done fighting".

The value to HP is they can offer a relative balance of estimated staying power, harm, and recovery  within game-able context. Sure it seems odd one can heal luck and divine favor but really folks, how many different score do yuo want to track in your RPG? Stick with one score for dead and not dead.

 Hit points are abstract, arrows in a quiver aren't; an arrow represents an arrow not an abstract ability to inflict harm over distance. What is abstracted is the degree of harm the arrow causes following the discrete use of the arrow by an archer, not the number of arrows used. How many arrows does it take to kill a warrior with 90 HP....the last arrow. The rest of the arrows skimmed him, didn superficial damage, slapped armor hard enough to cause a minor degree of trauma but htey dsisn't stick leaving the target looking like a pin cushion. Unless of course HP aren't abstract in the game you are playing and then things get more complicated.

I really don't care for the now you are fine, now you are done nature of HP and I don't care for yo-yo fights caused by easy healing magics. I favor HP as a buffer between "doing okay" and "now you are in trouble" but it isn't an exclusive notion it's one that varies with the needs of the campaign  and the rules of the game begin used. No one gets arms lopped off fighting at 80 HP (unless special powers and techniques are being applied) until HP are 0 or less becasue HP are a measure of multiple factors and characters don't run out of luck until they run out of that luck, divine favor, toughness, vitality, pounds of flesh, and pints of blood.

Friday, June 19, 2015


Describing and accounting for differences in the woods and forest that characters may encounter in outdoor adventuring can be limited by the GMs familiarity with the nature of woodlands. The following is meant to describe the various woodland one would find near to settlements and habitation. The woods described here could be found on hex maps described as Open, Cultivated, Light Forest, or Moderate Forest.

Coppice- an area of woodland in which the trees or shrubs are normally cut back to ground to stimulate growth as well as to provide firewood and timber. Carts may be able to navigate if recently maintained and equestrians should have little trouble.
Young trees will be frequently cut back in sections (coups) and allowed to regrow for a few years until harvested (and cut back again).  Quick growing trees will be harvested fro firewood as frequently as every three years where as slower growing hardwoods will be allow dot grow for half a century for their timber. Quicker growing shrubs will be kept away from the more valuable wood.
A maintained coppice is a sure sign one is nearing an active habitation.
Paths will be clear and obvious in an active coppice (some spots far from harvest may still be rather wild looking in comparison).
Crown Cover: 1-2 .Very Sparse 3. Sparse 4-5. Low 6. Moderate

Thicket- a very dense stand of trees or tall shrubs. A thicket will prohibit equestrians, may inhibit visibility over distance, and can be dense enough to prohibit swift travel by foot.
Paths will generally skirt thickets but some game trails may lead into and wind about.
Crown Cover: 1. Moderate 2. Dense 3-6. Very Dense

Covert- a small dense thicket in which game may easily hide. No one is riding a mount through a covert and likely would not be able to lead one through such a patch of wood either. Movement by foot may be difficult and visibility is certainly impared.
A path may bound a section of covert but is unlikely to pierce it, game trails will be narrow and difficult to follow.
Crown Cover: 1-3 .Dense 4-6. Very Dense

Stand- an area of trees where the tree growth is relatively  homogenous.  A dense stand may be as troublesome to navigate as a thicket but sparse stands are easily navigated afoot or by those on mounts.
Paths and Game trails in all but the denser stand will usually be easy to spot and follow unless the terrain is otherwise difficult.
Crown Cover: roll d6 on chart at end of article.

Brake- a planted or naturally occurring row of trees and or tall shrubs with accompanying undergrowth that serve as a barrier either visually or physically. Organized cavalry simply can not pass through a brake in formation, bodies of troops on foot may have difficulty, riders should typically wish to pass around than through a brake, it is even possible for a brake to be dense enough to prohibit travel by foot for individuals.
Paths and trails may skirt or follow a brake but will seldom if ever penetrate such a feature.
Crown Cover: 1-2. Moderate 3-4. Dense 5-6 Very Dense

Ancient Woodland- an old-growth forest centuries old in age that has been managed periodically over the years. Ancient woodlands will be rich in a diverse range of plants and perhaps wildlife due consistent periods of clearing and introduction of desired species.
As ancient woods have been and likely still are managed their boundaries are often well defined by banking, a ditch, and possibly runs of low rock wall (in areas with enough stone), some will be clearly bounded by hedges and it isn’t uncommon for streams to standing stones to serve as boundary makers for the current (or former) owners.
Well defined paths and trails are not an unusual feature of an Ancient Woodland.
Crown Cover: 1-2. Sparse. 3. Low 4-5. Moderate. 6. Dense

Estover- a section of wood that tenants are allowed to take wood and timber from by their landlord for the repair of their home, industry, fences, and for firewood. an ester may have a more tightly defined and restrictive boundary than may be found with other wooded spots.
Estovers will often have a obvious entry path and perhaps a work area but will seldom have much in the way of game trails due to the nature of the wood use.
Crown Cover: roll d6 on chart at end.

Woodland- a low density forest with plenty of open patches and sunlight. A woodland may be naturally occurring or a result of lapsed or meager land management. Except for the occasional thicket, brake or bracken mounted travel through such an area would not be difficult but organized cavalry may still have some trouble.
A woodland may have winding paths in various states of use and repair and surly has game trail aplenty if there is sufficient wildlife.
Crown Cover: 1. Very Sparse 2-3. Sparse 4-5. Low 6. Moderate

Grove- an area of trees with minimal or no undergrowth.  A grove will typically but is not exclusively in place for the cultivation of nuts or fruit. A grove may be bounded by denser thicket growth or clearer boundaries such as hedges, banking, ditches, and rocks.
Paths in groves are often broad and obvious but some may be difficult to distinguish from the general ground cover of the grove.
Crown Cover: 1. Very spare 2-3. Sparse 4. Low 5. Moderate 6. Dense

Orchard- a large area of trees (or shrubs) maintained crop production. The planted and maintained nature of an orchard is often rather obvious but some may take to more natural growth patterns if allowed. The lack of other invasive species of plant life and undergrowth should be obvious to most folk, indeed the presence of undergrowth and other plants may indicate an orchard with owners in financial distress or recently absent.
Orchard paths will be clear and generally well maintained to facilitate the industry of the orchard.
Crown Cover: 1-2. Very Sparse 3-4. Sparse. 5. Low 6. Moderate

Crown Cover for a woodland or forest-   the amount of upper canopy that provides cover for the ground beneath.
1. Very Sparse (1-10%)
2. Sparse (11-30%)
3. Low (41-50%)
4. Moderate (51-670%)
5. Dense (71-85%)
6 Very Dense (86-100%)

Crown Cover will impact on how readily one can find cover against arial observation and distant sighting.


A few past posts on Terrain:
Shore Approach:

Thursday, June 18, 2015

The Grotconomy, a first look at building one

Determining the prices and availability of goods in a Grotty age will set the tone for what the players will have their characters strive for. The average character will is assumed to start with roughly 100 groats worth of goods and gear on hand and as such they will tend to be limited to items of low quality and dubious functionality.

 In a grotty age much of what there is has been around for a while, that which hasn’t is recycled or quickly despoiled by the general environment of verdant decay. Gear and grub are always going to be dear and one can’t be sure the coins in their rotting purse will be of much worth in a few days or mayhaps be a fortune to someone in need of selling off ill-gotten gain.

Finding a Base Price by converting prices from other sources:
Duff goods costs1/2  the number of standard D&D price in g.p. ibut exposed as Groats
Shonky goods cost the same number of groats as g.p.  normally listed.
Bodge goods cost x2
Fit goods cost x5
Brill goods cost x20
Ace goods costs x50
(if your source material uses a silver based economy a groat should be considered to equivalent to a s.p. instead of a g.p. for common goods).
Example: if the core riles beign used show a Sword to be 10 g.p. in a grotty age campaign a Duff Sword could be had for as little as 5 Groats or an Ace Sword could be had for 500 Groats (well outside the range for most characters starting funds).

It should be apparent from the conversion guidelines above a well made steel sword would likely classify as a Fir of Brill purchase and cost a good bit of coin.

If your prices are under 1/10th of a Groat it is recommend to express the price in Gubbins.
Between that and a whole Groat prices will likely be stated in Spangles and Baub. Much over a dozen groats and it is likely prices will be given in Lucre or Marks. While Gilders and Zlotz are valuable it’s unlikely anyone would express prices in units of such coins.

When coming up with pricing to fit a particular campaign the GM is encouraged to consider the following:

Keep in mind it is vaguely possible for a person to get by on 3 groats a week if they don’t mind sleeping packed in a leaky shed, eating cabbage soup of dubious character and drinking hootch that has a chance of blinding them.

Food is precious but cheap. Because of the general conditions of things food doesn’t last long typically and is priced to move unless well preserved or a rare luxury. When converting the prices of common food items (in often inflated prices of gamebooks) it may be necessary to reduce the rice to 10% or less of normal prices before adjusting for quality.

Drinks and smoke will prove to be more valuable more often as they tend to preserve a tad better. Unless beer has soured really badly it will still get you drunk, and a dry powdery smoke will still provide a few puffs.

Above drinks and smoke at least at the base end of the scale one will find colognes, perfumes, and nose-snuff to be of moderate value as folks seek to distance themselves from the decay around themselves.

Tools will run a wide spectrum in pricing with precision tools begin far more expensive than common ones.

Weapons and Armor will run from affordable to dear in pricing.  Materials, age, method and origin of construction should all be considered when deterring true quality and price of such important goods.

Above more common weapons and armor will be magical items and technological artifacts the pricing for which will be steep but lower than one may expect in more traditional campaigns because of the general dysfunction of the economy and the cruel fact that someone with enough coin in their pocket may have enough muscle to take an item and keep their coins.

Medicines, balms, slaves, unguents, tonics and poultices of all sorts are available with a wide range of effectiveness in treatment for a wide range of conditions, diseases, and disorders. Prices will vary wildly from one place to the next but times from more reputable sources will fetch more coin than those foisted by unknown snake-oil peddlers.

Gems and precious metals do have value align with works of art and curios but the intrinsic value of such items will vary wildly base don the needs and tastes of the purchaser. A gold bar is certainly useful and will fetch a fair bit of coin but a golden goblet that can be seen to be mostly pure will likely fetch a better price from the right person. While such items are of value that value can not be certain from place to place.

Don't forget clothing, certainly not footwear folks walking about in a grotty age would likely want to keep their feet of of the general effluvium and detritus of ages. This author has found starting player characters off with lowly footwear provides a strange motivation to improve their lot on life by purchasing or thieving a pair of good boots.

Applying Variability to Prices.
In a grotty age prices in the market are nor set in stone from week to week or even day to day the challenges placed peddler will cause fluctuations in pricing.

When prices are expressed in single units the price can vary in either direction by 1d4 coin.

When prices are express in units of 10 the price can vary 1d20  in either direction.

When prices are expressed in 100;s the actual price may vary 1d100 in either direction.

In the rare case prices are expressed in thousands, leave them as they are but keep in mind items priced in 1000's and above will be very rare and seldom for sale.