Thursday, October 16, 2014

Newsletter/zine?

I used to be a zine publisher many years ago and I'm considering getting back into it with an RPG zine of say 8-12 pages published about once a month (maybe more if I get in the groove).  It would include some of my older blog posts edited and expanded, some new stuff of course, with at least one full page or double spread map each issue.  Almost certainly release a pdf a week or two after the physical copies mail to support back issue orders that way.

Good idea, bad idea?

Monday, October 13, 2014

Sometimes Hit Points are dumb...

Years ago I played in a LARP called NERO it had pretty detailed rules for character development and weapons did specific amounts of damage based on weapon type but mostly it depended on the skill ranks a player had invested in the weapon type (i.e, damage output per blow was mostly character driven). A good chunk of my few year career playing NERO my rogue character dished out "2 normal" with a sword, that's 2 points of normal damage if I actually hit a foe in combat.  Armor was extra hit points and hit points could go fairly high. They might have been called body points and armor points but they were hit points.

I fought a lot better then the few points I put into sword skill would indicate. One event I end up trapped by a relatively new player fighting a moderately potent monster, I  realized what the monster was while I we started to fight because I was fairly familiar with the common monsters and could deduce from the costume and damage my foe was calling what she was. She's fighting with a hand an a half weapon (4 to 5 feet long) swinging something like 7 pts of damage and because I wasn't' using a magical weapon I'm only infliction 1 pt of damage at a time with my sword (about 3' long). She just can not hit me however as I fight a heck of a lot better then the few points in sword skill would reveal. At one point I just ask the poor girl fighting me to give up, she initially refuses until I hit her a few more times and I ask her "do you really want or need me to hit you 99 times? I'm not trying to cheat but I don't want to beat the hell out of you either, just stop." she relents and we each go our way.

Hit Points were silly in that game (in part) because they weren't tied to actual combat ability, what works for abstraction in a tabletop game produced absurdity in a physical game. It wasn't uncommon for two people to walk up to virtually chest to chest contact and tap each other on the back while yelling out damage ratings, it produced combat that didn't look like combat. At one point later in my career in that game it would have taken me 24-30 blows to defeat my mirror-self and that would have been a darned long fight. I know some of that was addressed in later iterations of the rules (the story I mention above was about 20 years ago) but at it's core it revealed how mechanics can't really be universally applied across game systems.





Sunday, October 12, 2014

Weapon Lists (Still not a bug)

I touched on this last post but had more to say after I posted, so here goes:

The only time you don't need any form of weapon list in an RPG is when combat with weapons is never going to be an issue in your game otherwise some differences between weapons should manifest themselves within the game and are easily expressed in the weapon list.

There is good reason armies of antiquity sent most to battle with spears and that is because a spear is far more effective in mass combat and skirmish than is a knife. A firearm one can discharge 6 times a minute presents one with many opportunities that one would lack if their firearm could be fired but 2 times a minute. A boxer would be at a decided disadvantage vs a medieval knight in full armor bearing a longsword regardless of skills in pugilism. Different weapons and skill with those weapons serve the combatant differently in different situations and one way to detail and expose these difference to the player of and RPG is the weapon list.

Let’s say you are playing a Soap Opera RPG in a standard soap opera t.v. universe, the differences between weapons are not going to matter as a weapon in such a game is a plot device and window dressing that is part of some other dramatic incident that is the important part such as a robbery, kidnapping, or even a murder.  A weapon list would be pointless in this setting as except for rare and dramatic situations the weapons are inconsequential and the drama could be driven as equally well with a shotgun, 9mm pistol, or a crossbow.  A weapon list only lacks merit in a setting where weapons are not used to resolve major elements of the game.

If you have a game with a wide range of potential targets for violence and violence is a fair possibility one is doing a diservice to players of the game by not having a weapon list.  If one class of targets is easier harmed by blunt weapons and another is less likely to be harmed with pointy weapons that simple difference itself is worth noting. If weapons with more than one characteristic are possible and present within the setting they will surely be of greater utility and higher desirability to players that are likely to engage in combat as well and those distinctions should be apparent in some manner.

Now let’s change gears and move to a game about grave robbing. Weapons are mostly useless here as well in a mundane universe but if the game milieu is one where treachery and violence rear their ugly heads now and again the differences between weapons become more important. But what is important in this setting in how a weapon impacts one’s sneakiness and how much loot-space it takes up (generally it’s weight). Effectiveness against armor deserves little if any attention as armor isn’t a feature of the game, different damage ratings don’t matter as the difference in vitality between target 1 and 2 don’t much matter as the weapon is use to force the actions of others as well as harm others. All we are really going to need on this chart is weapon size and attention one gets because of the weapon we don’t need many additional stats as it isn’t a game about tactical maneuvering. Games do not have to follow the same patterns as other games in expressing the traits of weapons within the game.

Next let us consider an RPG where combat is generally resolved in an abstract format that gives some vague handwaving attention to tactics by recognizing the use of ranks in combat, by ranks where i mean fighting lines. Weapons should differentiate themselves by hoes many ranks away they can reach and if they can be used past ranks of allies as either element would have impact on combats played between ranks. It isn’t unrealistic as combat between armies and even skirmish level battles did and can depend on formation and a simple rank ordering can simulate some more cumbersome and unnecessary details re positioning.

An important consideration in weapon lists is how long the differences will remain valid within the game/campaign. If a statistic eventually becomes meaningless as characters advance in weapon mastery was a specific score ever really necessary? If the details grow with the characters they most certainly should be expressed. The BECMI/rules cyclopedia versions of D&D had a style of weapon mastery where weapon statistics grew with characters and the role and effectiveness of weapons would shift to meet growing capabilities of the character. On the contrary however if weapon damage was tied mainly to character capability there may be no reason to express a difference between weapons re damage, if other aspects of the differences between weapons remain as a character advances some can readily be abandoned to reduce clutter.


What can be said about weapons any way? Length, Weight, Reach (tied to length but skill and tactics can alter the true reach of a weapon in combat), hands needed, attack speed, ammunition capacity, effective range, ability to inflict damage, armor penetration, ease of training,durability, defensive capability, recovery/recall, readiness, and cost  are all some that come to mind. That ’s a lot to say about each and every weapon and it’s unlikely a campaign would have to express all of those things (and I’m sure some folks can think of other things to express as well).  A weapon list should only include those features of combat that will be a constant (or near constant) in a campaign and those features should be made useable and meaningful within the game. Look at weapon speed in AD&D few people I know ever bothered with it as it was poorly understood and a barrier to quick play that was a detail cluttering up the weapon list because it’s application (as written) made little difference to the players.

I’ve noticed players are loathe to include details of weapons and equipment that do not offer them advantages or are seldom an issue in play. If a DM feels those details are unworthy of the campaign those details should be removed from the list. I had to lay down the law in a recent campaign and badger some of my players to keep track of Weapon Speed Factors in my campaign as the way the mechanics were applied and the offsets they brought along with them made weapon choices meaningful to how I wanted combat to run in the campaign (fortunately the majority of players agreed and the mechanic worked well as used within the game), if the mechanic wasn’t a constant issue and worked poorly it would have had no business being on there weapon list. Players should have clear access to all the meaningful details of the weapons in a campaign in one place without having to flip through multiple parts of the rules to keep track of multiple features and this should encourage accurate recording and use of those details.

So a bit of rambling but all in all weapon lists are not a bug in RPG if combat is a likely or meaningful portion of the game.  Yes if all you give someone to solve their problems with is a hammer a whole lot of problems are going to be treated as nails but if you give people the right tools to get the job done there will be stories that flow from that.

Weapon lists are not a bug.

A few statements about overblown generalized notions in regards to RPGs:

Weapon lists are not a bug in RPGs. Weapon lists do not have to be purged from all RPGs. All RPGs are not about the same things. The focus of RPG play is not to tell stories, you can also tell stories about the RPG play. One game can be used to play multiple campaigns and multiple players within those campaigns can be following different goals and will have different stories to tell.

A weapon list is not a bug in all RPGs and they do not need to be purged from RPGS.  To imply a 3 inch pen knife is of equal utility to a 2lb pointed axe head on the end of an 8 foot pole implies one is stupefyingly ignorant as to combat and physics. An RPG need not have more detail than is meaningful and notable within the genre and confines of the game but if there is any consideration as to situations where weapon A would work better then weapon B you have a game that can make use of a weapon list.

I tell stories about my games, I don't use my games to tell stories. There are stories within my games but to me an RPG campaign is not one story, a session may be part of what will become multiple stories but I as DM/GM am not telling a single story I am organizing a game and presenting it in an entertaining fashion that will allow others to enjoy a play experience and hopefully have plenty of stories to tell afterward.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Into the Ruins III

A few more tables of relatively mundane features to help describe large ruins. I'm going to go from the top to the bottom starting at Roof Access necessary to get more use out of the first set of tables and it shall flow form there.

Roof Access (1d100)
1-20 No Interior Access or formal external access (get a ladder)
21-25 Trapdoor to roof, no ladder
26-40 Trapdoor to roof w/ladder
41-55 Trapdoor to roof with narrow and shallow stairs
56-60 Trapdoor to roof with stairs
61-62 Trapdoor to Cupola on roof, no ladder
63-70 Trapdoor to Cupola on roof w/ladder
71-75Trapdoor to Cupola on roof with narrow and shallow stairs
76-80Trapdoor to Cupola on roof with stairs
81-83 Exterior Stairs lead to roof from street
84-86 Exterior stairs lead to roof from lower floor balcony/porch.
87-90 Exterior Ladder leads to roof
91-95 Exterior Ladder leads to roof from lower floor balcony/porch
96-98 A bridge from building across street/alley.
99-100 Rope hangs from roof on outside

Sewer/Sewer Access
1-20 No sewage facilities beyond gutter in street
21-35 Hatch to private cesspit
36-40 Piping to private cesspit
41-55 Piping to neighborhood sewer (2-12 nearby structures share it in common)
56-60 Piping outflow to gutter
61-62 Trench outflow to gutter
63-75 Piping to sewer
76-80 Wide drain to Sewer in basement
81-95 Hatch to sewer in basement
96-98 Hatch to sewer against outside of home
99-100 Drain to sewer against home

Sanitary Facilities
1-10 None of note
11-30 Bedpan/chamber pots
31-33 Bedpan/chamber pots, recently used
34-50 Seating above chamberpot
51-60 Nook with seating above chamberpot
60-70 Full privy with chamberpots
71-75 Elaborate Pail Closet
76-85 Privy with outflow to street
86-100 Privy with outflow to sewage(if connection is present).

Friday, October 10, 2014

Into The Ruins, Part II

Two more tables for my ruin stocking. This time tables for household shrines and the accoutrements in those shrines. The ruins I'm stocking have few grand temples so a great deal of regular worship happens in the home so a household shrine is a common feature of a household.

Household Shrine (roll 1d1000)
1-200     Shrine of major faith, simple, looted
201-300 Shrine of major faith, simple, poorly supplied
301-350 Shrine of major faith, simple, well supplied
351-410 Shrine of minor faith, simple, looted
411-450 Shrine of minor faith, simple, poorly supplied
451-470 Shrine of minor faith, simple, well supplied
471-530 Shrine of major faith, fair, looted
531-560 Shrine of major faith, fair, poorly supplied
561-575 Shrine of major faith, fair, well supplied
576-615 Shrine of minor faith, fair, looted
616-635 Shrine of minor faith, fair, poorly supplied
636-645 Shrine of minor faith, fair, well supplied
646-677 Shrine of major faith, elaborate, looted
678-693 Shrine of major faith, elaborate, poorly supplied
694-701 Shrine of major faith, elaborate, well supplied
702-713 Shrine of minor faith, elaborate, looted
714-721 Shrine of minor faith, elaborate, poorly supplied
722-725 Shrine of minor faith, elaborate, well supplied
726-735 Shrine of heretical faith, simple, looted
736-745 Shrine of heretical faith, simple, poorly supplied
746-755 Shrine of heretical  faith, simple, well supplied
756-765 Shrine of heretical faith, fair, looted
766-773 of heretical  faith, fair, poorly supplied
774-780 Shrine of heretical  faith, fair, well supplied
781-786 Shrine of heretical  faith, elaborate, looted
787-791Shrine of heretical  faith, elaborate, poorly supplied
792-795 Shrine of heretical faith, elaborate, well supplied
796-802 Shrine of Nemesis faith, simple, looted
803-808 Shrine of Nemesis  faith, simple, poorly supplied
809-813 Shrine of Nemesis   faith, simple, well supplied
814-818 Shrine of Nemesis faith, fair, looted
819-822 Shrine of Nemesis   faith, fair, poorly supplied
823-825 Shrine of Nemesis  faith, fair, well supplied
826-828 Shrine of Nemesis  faith, elaborate, looted
829-830 Shrine of Nemesis  faith, elaborate, poorly supplied
831    Shrine of Nemesis  faith, elaborate, well supplied
832-839 Shrine/Memorial for ancestor, simple, looted
840-846 Shrine/Memorial for ancestor, simple, poorly supplied
847-852 Shrine/Memorial for ancestor, simple, well supplied
851-858 Shrine/Memorial for ancestor, fair looted
859-863 Shrine/Memorial for ancestor, fair, poorly supplied
864-867 Shrine/Memorial for ancestor, fair, well supplied
868-71 Shrine/Memorial for ancestor, elaborate, looted
872-874    Shrine/Memorial for ancestor, elaborate,  poorly supplied
875-876     Shrine/Memorial for ancestor, elaborate, well supplied
877-1000 No evidence of household shrine

Determining accouterments/loot of a household shrine unless looted :
A simple shrine will have 1d3 items present (double if well supplied).
A Fair shrine will have 1d4+2 items present (double if well supplied).
An Elaborate shrine will have 3d6 times present (double if well supplied).

Accoutrements/Loot (1d1000)
1-75 Wooden Holy Symbol
76- 80 Silver Holy Symbol
81-90 Elaborate Holy Symbol
91-100 Low Quality Incense
101-200 Common Incense
201-230 Fine Incense
231-250 Scented Oil
251-270 Clay/Wood Brayer Beads
271-280 Lapis/Amber Prayer Beads
291-300Silver Prayer Beads
301-320 Pottery Incense burner
321-555 Brass Incense Burner
356-360 Elaborate/Fancy Incense Burner
361-400 Simple Prayer Shawl
401-420 Elaborate Prayer Shawl
421-447 Simple Prayer Robes
448-450 Elaborate Prayer Robes
451-470 Brass Bell
471-490 Silver Bell
496-500 Gold Bell
501-550 Scroll of Holy Tract
551-697 Scroll of Hymns
598-599 Scroll with single Cleric Spell of level 1 to 3
601 - 620 Small Book of Collected Holy tracts
621-635 Elaborate Book of Collected Holy tracts
636-650 Small Book of Hymns
651-660 Elaborate Book of Hymns
661-695 Small Prayerbook
696-700 Elaborate Prayerbook
701-780 Simple prayer candle
781-795 Large prayer candle
696-700 Elaborate prayer candle
701-730 Holy Water in simple clay flask
731-740 Holy Water in glass flask
741-749 Holy Water in brass flask
750 Holy Water in golden flask
751-795 Brass Aspergillum
796-799 Silver Aspergillum
800 Gold Aspergillum
801-860 Painted Icon
861-880 Carved wooden Icon
881-898 Ivory Icon
899-900 Engraved Silver Icon
901-920 Small Wooden Idol
921-930 Small Clay Idol
931-940 Small Brass Idol
951-960 Small Panchalcum Idol
861-967 Small Silver Idol
968-970 Small Gold Idol
971-974 Large Wooden Idol
975-977 Large Stone Idol
978-979 Large wooden Idol with silver inlays
980 Large Wooden Idol with gold and precious stone inlays
981-990 Faux Relic in plain box
991-994 Faux Relic in Reliquary
995-997 An empty Reliquary
998 A true (but not potent) relic
999 A true (but not potent) relic in a Reliquary
1000 A Potent Relic, essentially a minor artifact of the faith.
* there is a 2% chance a large idol is a Magical Statue.


Magical Altar?
There is a small chance a household shrine is a magical altar.
For each type of shrine roll a number of dice as indicated and if all come up the highest value possible on each die the altar is a magical altar.
for simple altars roll 6 dice
for fair shrines roll 5 dice
for elaborate shrine roll 4 dice

If major diety, roll d6's
if minor or nemesis diety roll d8's
for others (or looted shrines) roll d10's

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Into the ruins, part I

I'm working on a ruined city for a fantasy adventure and developing charts to help me fill in details for the approximately 400 buildings on the map I drew up. Here's the charts for cisterns and the state of the roof. Most of the roofs in these ruins are flat topped so the rooftops offer more opportunity for action and encounters.

Cistern?
1-25    No rooftop cistern
26-35    Slow leak,in cistern compromising integrity of roof.
36-40    Empty and broken cistern.
41-45    Empty and broken, integrity of roof is compromised.
46-50    Intact but Empty cistern.
51-60    Cistern contains potable water.
61-65    Cistern appears to contain potable water, it isn’t.
66-80    Cistern contains clearly foul water.
81-85    Cistern contains a scummy water, safe if boiled.
86-88    Cistern is old and lined with bronze that includes arsenic, good luck with that.
89-90    Vermin swim in the stew-like broth in this cistern.
91-94    Vermin swim in the stew-like broth in this fragile cistern fit to burst at any moment.
95-97    Empty cistern is a nest for birds/vermin.
98    Empty cistern holds a body.
99    Full cistern of seemingly potable water contains a body.
100    Cistern full of foul water contains a body.

State of roof
1-5    Intact unremarkable roof.
6-10    Leaky roof.
11-14    Water pooling on roof, leaky but nor dangerous (yet).
15-18    Water pooling on roof, roof is dangerous to walk on.
19-22    Roof appears stable but is unsafe.
21-25    Roof appears hazardous but is safe, for now.
26-30    Roof appears hazardous and is dangerous.
31-34    Small hole in roof.
35-38    Small hole in roof with signs of fire damage.
39-42    Small poorly patch hole in roof.
43-46    Small poorly patch hole in roof with signs of fire damage.
47-50    Large hole in roof.
51-55    Large hole in roof with signs of fire damage.
56-59    Large poorly patched hole in roof.
60-64    Large poorly patched hole in roof with signs of fire damage.
65    Well maintained rooftop garden. (hmm someone must be taking care of it)
66-68    Overgrown rooftop garden.
69-71    Overgrown rooftop garden, vermin lurk in cover.
72-75    Overgrown rooftop garden, conceals weak points in danger of collapse.
76-79    Abandoned and barren rooftop garden.
80-82    Abandoned and barren rooftop garden, water pooling here and there.
83-85    Abandoned and barren rooftop garden, water pooling here, roof is dangerous to walk on.
86-90    Half collapsed roof.
91-95    Mostly collapsed roof.
96-100 Completely collapsed roof.