Sunday, May 17, 2020

Getting The Gang together for a Heist

You know what adventure model works best for virtually any version of Dungeons & Dragons? 

The Heist.

The more old school your rules, the more the game supports heists too. 

If you are playing the original game, Basic/Expert, and AD&D prior to 2nd edition experience points meant getting gold pieces. Fighting monsters is a 2nd rate means to gain EXP (after the original greyhawk supplement) if playing by the rules the game is best played as a heist game. PC's don't have enough HP to really make combat a good option unless the players are darned careful in deciding when, where, and who to fight.

The very idea of character classes supports the heist as ideal play. Watch a heist movie and there's a team of assembled specialists ... those are characters with different classes.  Even with just 3 or 4 classes there's enough differentiation to support a heist setup. Everyone has a role and everyone gets a chance to shine and best of can split the party and focus on briefly on one or two characters working towards advancing the heist for the whole party.

When adventures are heists and not saving thr world from unending evil it actually adds the chance for depth in play. There's less reason for characters to be murder-hobos. They are encouraged to bribe and trick NPCs into helping out on the heist not just killing everything and everyone while the experience points pop out. This allows for a much wider cast of foils and foes which may be against a successful heist but aren't threatening the lives of everyone in the campaign world.

I'm jumping about here but check out the spells from the 2nd Basic set and how they add to heist play.

First Level MU spells
1.  Charm Person- compromise a guard or foil.
2.  Detect Magic- not just for identifying scrolls and magic items, also good for spottign magical traps and alarms (which should be part of some heists).
3. Floating Disc- got to move that loot afterall
4. Hold Portal- getting in and getting out are key features of a heist and those pesky doors are certainly an issue.
5. Light- when it's dark you have to see
6. Magic Missile-  this is a lousy heist spell unless there's some key guardian that must be taken out with magic and is easy to beat that the MU knows about.
7. Protection from Evil- not as big a deal in heist play.
8. Read Languages- research montage
9. Read Magic- to use a high level spell slipped to the PCs by a patron or contact at the wizards guild
10. Shield-  not so useful in heist play unless you want to have someone distract guards and draw a few arrows while the loot goes the other direction.
11. Sleep- Defeat a bunch of guards youhave no actual motivation to kill, they aren't likely to be going on a rampage and slaughtering a village after this and they are probably hired men-at-arms or draftees that have no strong need for revenge.
12. Ventriloquism- the opportunities this spell gives for a heist game give it much more utility than it has in default dungeoncrawling or world saving.

Senconf Level MU Spells
1. Continual Light-  a useful tool and a foil the PCs may have to defeat to sneak away with the loot.
2. Detect Evil- not a real biggie in heist play unless it can be used to detect people who are goign to con you.
3. Detect Invisible- pretty darned useful in a competitive heist or the mark uses invisibility.
4. ESP- very useful for planning, scouting, and look outs.
5. Invisibility- Much more useful to grab loot and scoot than it is to enable a sneak attack, also obviously useful for scouting ahead.
6. Knock- get that door open!
7. Levitate- get in that window or over that wall.
8. Locate Object- surely useful if the goal of a heist is a specific McGuffin.
9. Mirror Image- distraction is the a major part of the art of heist.
10. Phantasmal Forces- as above but even more so.
11. Web- another spell for neutralizing a number of foes without killing them.
12. Wizard Lock- a foil and a useful tool for covering up a theft.

Not a perfect summary but in those 24 spells there are 19 with direct and obvious utility in a heist.

The heist is a much more survivable adventure model for low level play than typical smash and grab dungeoncrawling. The game rules have always supported that style of play really. Just look at the reaction table, it's a little wonky in a dungeon bash but of great utility in a heist adventure. Played RAW a heist adventure works great with the reaction table. If the whole world isn't in the balance and not every NPC is an evil monster it makes sense fights will be rare and NPCs may help out the PCs on a whim.

Another cool thing from the DM point of view is the heist doesn't have to be a level-specific to allow PC to survive. You want a dragon in the heist go for it...defeating the dragon is not the goal. A troll guard on the front door..go for it, the party pulling a heist shouldn't be fighting their way through the front door. It's actually possible to have a campaign with a bit more verisimilitude by not having everything level specific.

The adventure can be quicker too. Want a quick adventure for a session or two? Have a heist where the Players have a map of the place, at least of the areas you want to feature. There's less bumbling around and fights with random monsters to deal with, motivations are clear and the whole campaign isn't over of the heist fails. A failed heist sets up a rescue from a dank cell or before execution.

The heist opens up a wider range of opponents and place for Dungeons and Dragons campaigns where the goal is loot and world-building instead of world saving or murder hobo hijinks.

Friday, April 3, 2020

Quality of Equipment.

I've posted about equipment quality before. I've always liked somehting more than a straight non-magical to magical progression (aside from silver weapons). A while back I had a couple posts on grotty gear and have filled notebooks with a variety of options and still not too sure of where to go.

I have a host of materials, probably keeping all of them (but not worrying too hard about all their real property differences) and I laboring on degrees of quality from total junk to the penultimate but struggling to find a set of descriptive that holds up form worst to best (or even truly how many steps will scratch the itch I have).

My current way too long list of degrees of quality from worst to best:
  1. Duff
  2. Shonky/Shoddy
  3. Bodge
  4. Common
  5. Fit
  6. Brilliant
  7. Ace
  8. Magnificent
  9. Splendorous/Slendiferous/Splendid
  10. Wondrous
  11. Iconic
  12. Legendary
  13. Ultimate 
Three degrees of poor quality is probably too many; 8 degrees of excellent gear may also be a tad too much. I am constantly changing Wondrous and Iconic in status. An Item can be Wondrous without being Iconic and Iconic Items don't even have to be as hmm roll them together?

Could abreviate it to this:
  1. Duff
  2. Common
  3. Brilliant
  4. Ace
  5. Splendorous/Slendiferous/Splendid
  6. Legendary
  7. Ultimate 
Somehow that seem a bit too brief if I'm going to  have degrees of quality.

I have considered also applying degree of ornamentation. But that has issues too.
  1. Ugly
  2. Crude
  3. Simple
  4. Elegant
  5. Decorated
  6. Fancy
  7. Amazing
  8. Oppulent
Part of me would love playing in a campaign where my character could find a Fancy Ace Orachalcum Sword. Another part of me isn't sure if the descriptives work well enough to be backed up with mechanics.

Throwing this out there for any reader's consideration and my own use as a digital notebook. I'd love to see anyone's take on  this.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Coronacation !

Gee lucky me, jut started my coronacation. Hopefully you and yours are well.  I (as has everyone else) have found my gaming aspirations curtailed by the plague of the day but with some free time (at least 10 days currently) I'll be able to get some more fun stuff done and share with folks.  Definitely need a new job-path for real life too, I really haven't enjoyed being one of the essential expendables the past couple of weeks. Again stay well everyone, growing roses from a dung heap (I hope).

Saturday, February 29, 2020

Material components with explicit cash values are bad

So working on my next campaign (as always) and I realized I wanted a fair number of spell casting classes and there's a lot of spells out there and a lot of different versions of spells so I went about marrying spell lists.

Here's what I really don't like about spells all across various versions of the game: material components with an explicit cost in GP.   "This spell requires a 5,000 gp diamond"... is excremental in my opinion. One it ignores economics, two it ignores economics. You want to know what sort of diamond would cost 5,000 gp if diamonds were needed in raise dead spells? All Diamonds would cost at least 5,000 gp.  The explicit cost is an attempt to set a limit on the spell which doesn't really explain the limit or take really take campaign economics into consideration. Explicit costs are also typically are  meaningless limits.

I enjoy material components for spells, I like the flavor and the limit they place on spell casting. Planning is good for a campaign as planning build investment in the campaign for the players.  I also just like the imagery of wizards and witches digging about in their magical kitbags for eyes of newts and a gold tooth from a dead liar.

But you must have 5, 500, or 5000 gp to cast this spell is weak because it typically isn't a limit. The economic burden of coming up with the required amount of cash is usually meaningless. The universality of the price is also annoying. The shorthand of cost also ignores what is special about the component.

If a given spell required "a diamond half the size of a dove's egg or larger" it might be a 5000 gp gem, or 12,000 imperial ringlets, or 3 demon would work in every campaign right out of the box for every DM, it would also be far more evocative. We want our games to be far more evocative. There's a lot more imagery in that diamond half the size of a dove's egg or larger than in most pile of generic gold pieces. The diamond size doesn't say it all , it doesn't explain just what the gem is doing helping out in that spell but it's heading in the right direction.

Sunday, February 2, 2020

More with Classes

What I want in my next fantasy RPG campaign.  Characters that do more character related stuff or more accurately have a greater focus on a class feature. Fighters that have give the player more decisions than get as much armor as possible and the weapon with the best damage rating. Magic-Users that have to fuss with magical things other folks don't seem to deal with. Clerics that deal with their faith and the supernatural more often then simply turning undead and bashing demons. Thieves that empower players that want to make decisions other than when to roll dice.

I suspect each of these is going to require a campaign specific subset of rules or mini-game.

Fighters can be expanded by the fighter having to learn different fighting stance and the tactics and special moves that go along with each so the subset of rules here is a bit more fiddly creation and advancement choices that on first blush don't seem to0 different from feats and skills. The clever player of a fighter should be able to learn to ask what stance his opponents are using and deploy their skills to counter and take advantage of their foes skills not just roll as high as they can with the dice.

Magic-Users have a number of subsystems that have been present in D&D and related games since it's inception that are seldom explored with any depth.   Magic item creation offers a lot of ground for the player of the Magic-User to discover and employ a body of lure so as to discover the formulas for magical inks and potions along with patterns for glyphs/runes. Magic-Users may also have to track and balance magical energies to empower their spells and provide an edge in magical contests by delving into what energies foes have invested in.

Clerics have a relationship with a faith or deity that could really be expanded on to better refine and define their access to spells and special abilities. This relationship shouldn't just be front loaded it should be active and require maintenance on the part of the cleric to maintain their powers. All but the smallest of mythological pantheons has a host of supernatural entities clerics can learn to interact with to gain favor(s) and lore.

Thieves can be expanded by putting bit more focus into breaking and entering and other tasks of the trade. I've touched on alternate lock-picking resolution in the past and feel expansion in this area will add more to the role of thieves as burglars by expanding the vocabulary and range of tasks that can be involved in cracking those locks. A thieves relationships with contacts and fences can also serve to give the class more depth within a campaign.

Just an overview of areas I've been exploring in my notes that I wish to embody in my campaigns. Some of the ideas I have touched on before on this blog and all of them will be getting more attention here.

Sunday, January 5, 2020

New Year New Posting

Hello anyone reading this, it has been a while.  I have not been blogging or gaming much over the past year and a half. My father grew very Ill and passed away shortly before Christmas 2018. There was a lot to deal with emotionally and else-wise.  My father has been a regular at the gaming table my entire life and was with me from the 1st basic set to ad&d, 3d editions. the d20 craze, and the OSR awakening so his passing had a real impact on my drive to game. I realized at one point with the passing of my father and my friends Matt and Tom before that there were gaming moments that are now remembered only by me. My 10 year old son is chomping at the bit for some D&D so it's time to get back to it. I post more when I game more so this blog will wake-up with posts. During my time away from the blog I didn't stopped creating for games so there's notebooks of stuff to edit and share. Let's all build some memories.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Megadungeon Slum Encouter Table I

An encounter table with 10 options to flesh out encounters in a megadungeon slum.

Megadungeon Slum Encouter Table I
Further Details
Melchsops (1d6)
Gatherers, cooks and sellers of Melch.

Roll 3 times to see what each Melchsop is carrying.
1- Gallon Cask of Raw Melch
2- Half a dozen Melch Loaves
3- Two small jars of Melch Paste
4- The means to setup up and quickly cook up to a dozen servings of Natters.
5- 3’ feet of freshest Jollies
6- a bag with 3d20 pieces of Traggy
Corpse Whisperer
Lowly necromancers that will pose questions for the dead.
roll d12: 1-3: a Cleric or Necromancer actually able to speak with the dead. 4-6 an illusionist or mountebank with some magical skills to fool marks 7-10 simple frauds 11-12 ventriloquist.
Bit Faker
Passes counterfeit money. May be posing as money changer but also likely will offer to buy some goods for a bit of coin.
Has 1d100 fake coppers, 5d10 fake silver, and 2d20 fake gold. Thieves and dwarves will note the  counterfeit coins 65% of the time, others 33% of the time. There is a 25% chance the Bit faker has 1 real coin of each type to fool a mark. The bit Faker will usually stash a few real coins within 100’ the current location.
Nobblers (1d3)
Enforcers that punish fellow dungeon miscreants by the breaking of limbs.
Has a big mallet or sledge hammer to break the kneecaps of those who haven’t paid their bills to loansharks, bartenders, and bookies. 
25% chance that any successful strike is good enough to break a limb if the victim fails a save vs wounds/paralysis.
Bludgers (1d12)
Hired beaters of unruly miscreants. Can be paid off to leave victim alone. Will Bludge for pay.
These lowly thugs are employed to quickly beat uncooperative miscreants for an established boss or paying customers.If the bludgers outnumber a target by more than 2 to 1 the victim must make a save or be knocked unconscious if struck during a round. On a successful hit they normally deal 1d3+1 temporary damage. There is a 67% chance they will not steal from their victims as their role is 
Pealers (2d4)
Dungeon muggers that specialize in clothing and armor
They will sneak attack inflicting 3d6 temporary damage and stay to peal the clothing and armor off their incapacitated victims. They aren’t above pilfering coin purses but seldom bother with the time it takes to go through or carry off backpacks.
Wailer (1)
A very capable noisy beggar.
These poor miserable sods will make all but the most wicked feel miserable if they don’t toss the wailer a coin or two. those who don’t toss the wailer coins must make a Wisdom save or all saving throws for remainder of day are made at -1. There is a 33% chance anyone that tries to rob or slap the wailer will be cursed.
Corby (1d2)
A corby can usually hide as well as a thief of 4th level. They will spot anyone within 100’ (or twice normal dark sight for species) unless the intruders are both silenced and invisible 75% of the time.
Dookin Seer (1d4)
A palm reader, probably not legit.
The Dookin Seer themselves have a 33% chance of having 2 or 3 levels in a spellcasting class. If more than one is encountered there will be an apprentice otherwise they are guards acting as helper or fake customers for the Dookin Seer.
Prater (1d6)
Itinerant priest, usually bogus. 
roll d12:. 1- Cleric, 2- Druid, 3- Fallen Paladin, 4- Illusionist, 5-9 thief, 10-12 simple fraud. If more than 1 is encountered the remainder have a 50/50 chance of being beggars or thieves posing as  traveling friars.

Note/Caution: Many players are really going to hate getting mugged by Pealers the most. Some players will likely act very poorly and irrationally after having a character lose equipment to a Pealer as losing equipment is almost as bad (or worse) than character death to some.