Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Character Deaths in Current Campaign.

Saw a few posts recently with folks talking about lethality in campaigns.

Here's the deaths of PCs and their retainers in my current weekly campaign.

1st session: (no date, other dates are in-game)
Atlatum (Elf, M-U/T)- was disemboweled by a Buggane which bit his head off and stripped the flesh off in it's maw before spitting it at the rest of the party.

18 Sept:
Jimmy the Shimmy (young thief side-kick) - killed by a poison trap inspecting a door. Corpse used to check for traps for a while after death.

Evander the Hunter (Human Ftr)- stoned by a Basilisk

30 Sept.
Ralgluk (Elf Ftr/MU)- Taken captive by the snow Queen and her Ice Gnomes, left for dead by party, last played locked in a cell with a Yeti.

17 Nov. Drenvar (Human Ftr)- Eaten by a Wyver-Cobra, corpse was expelled as a coprolite-mummy.

21 Nov. Korian (Human MU)- killed by thieves before he could even leave for an adventure.

16 Dec. Twigberry (1/2Elf Druid)- Drowned by ghouls.

4 Jan. Norvak (Human Thf)- tumbles down mountain side on horse while fleeing an army of the dead.

12 Mar. Jeer (o-level minion) killed by vampire

14 Mar. Hughe (0-level minion) killed by vampire

Only 10 PC and retainer losses so far, I'm getting lax in my old age.
The party has also lost 2 war dogs and at least a half dozen horses.
It's been about 8 months, I've lost track of how many sessions it comes in at 35 pages in my campaign log.

6 out of 11 PC's rolled up have been lost.

No one expects, the Were-Rat Apocalypse

I caught the film Mulberry St a while back. It's an enjoyable but a little cheesie (forgive the pun) horror film that follows the model of the typical zombie outbreak flick but this time it's some sort of virus that changes people into rat-men.

This idea is just too good to pass up on in a fantasy campaign that has were-rats. It let's a DM use a classical D&D monster without having to rewrite the monster descriptions for the campaign. Were-rats are far more capable opponents than are zombies capable of using cunning and even moving about unnoticed now and again. If a DM plays up the eventual were-rat swarm attack the players may even think they are dealing with a zombie apocalypse, imagine the look on their face when the clawing gnawing horde turns out to be were-rats instead of zombies.

Lycanthropy kills demi-humans instead of infecting them with a curse. So a demi-human vicitm is a great way to introduce the situation to the PCs.

The party finds a wounded elf " I was walking past the graveyard when they came at me from the shadows. I thought they were people I was wrong...they bit me..."

Have the corpse stolen. if any player implies the corpse walked off run with that or even go so far as to have the were rats covering up their slayings as much as possible.

Does Lycanthropy work like rabies on inflicted demi-humans? If so the "rage" zombie scenario is easy to borrow to mask what is coming.

A number of people can disappear, be bitten and sickened and it keeps leading the party back to freshly dug up graves, a few recent victims can even be found being consumed by a swarm of rats and there are signs something walked away leaving bloody footprints and then wham...Were rat apocalypse.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

CDC on the side of the Zombies.

In a recent CDC posting entitled: Social Media: Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse.
The CDC presents a range of emergency preparation advice should there be a zombieapocalypse or any other emergency.

The CDC lists a set steps people can take to prepare for any emergency like having emergency water supplies, food, medication and such.

Then the CDC tips it's hand and reveals it allegiance to the undead with this picture:

A family gathering near the mailbox.

A FAMILY GATHERING NEAR THE MAILBOX....outside where the zombies can get at them and their sweet sweet brains.

One must wonder how long has the CDC been compromised by zombies?

They go on to state:
"If zombies did start roaming the streets, CDC would conduct an investigation much like any other disease outbreak. CDC would provide technical assistance to cities, states, or international partners dealing with a zombie infestation."

Surrreee, we've all seen how that plays out in the movies haven't we?

How will they do this? Why with isolation and quarantine to keep us separated and vulnerable to the gnawing maws of the unending tide of the dead of course !!!

Take heed the CDC has been infected, save yourself, make a plan, be prepared.

Wrestling, Grappling and Binding

Wrestling and grappling is often a confusing mess in RPG or introduces combat resolution which strays far afield of standard combat resolution. So I couldn't help but work this system up as a possible wrestling resolution method. It's inspired by some versions of subdual damage and is currently untested.

I'm going to introduce one new form of "damage" for this variant: Binding.
Binding is a damage score that accumulates against a target, when the total binding score of a target exceeds their STR score they are pinned.
Players and DM's keep track of binding as it accumulates.

The Grab
The initial attack in wrestling is grabbing your foe. This is a normal attack roll that inflicts no damage and if successful at the end of the round a wrestling roll is made.

Grabbing An Armed Foe
Trying to grab an armed foe is dangerous. A fighter or Monster is allowed a free counter attack per level/HD. If this counter attack is successful the grab attack fails.
A combatant must announce the counter attack against any foe trying to grab them prior to the grab attack roll.

At the end of a round when two or more combatants are grappling each may make a wrestling attack. This is a standard attack roll except each wrestler also applies their STR modifier as an AC bonus when wrestling.
(some DM's may wish to pre-calculate a WAC for combatants).

If a wrestler makes a hit on a foe they inflict binding on their foe. Binding damage varies by size
Size...Binding Damage
tiny..........1d6-3 (can be 0)
small.......1d4-1 (can be 0)

The first successful wrestling attack establishes a hold. Foes may not move if they are held by one of the same size or larger.

Normal damage bonuses are added to binding damage.

If binding exceeds ones STR score they are pinned.

If no binding damage is inflicted in a round the hold is broken and neither foe is wrestling. Both have any accumulated binding damage halved and it will vanish at the end of the next round if no further grabs are made.

The Pin
A pinned combatant may make no attacks during normal combat and is -5 in any further wrestling

An opposing wrestler inflicts 1d3 damage per following round if they wish to harm a foe with following wrestle attacks, Otherwise they may simply hold the pinned foe in place. One need not make a wrestling roll to hold a pinned foe but a foe may break free.

Breaking a Hold
If one foe hits during wrestling and the other misses the one that hits may choose to break the hold instead of continuing to wrestle. Both foes will have their binding damage halved and the binding damage will disappear if neither is grabbed during the following round.

Instead of applying Binding damage against a foe one can decrease binding damage against themselves on a successful wrestling roll. If binding damage is reduced to 0 or less opposing grapples are shaken off.

The Throw
A foe who has gotten a pin on a foe may chose to throw them down or away. This requires a successful wrestling attack. In either case the victim suffers 1d4 actual damage and may hurl the foe up to 10' away, the victim is prone and their binding score is halved and will vanish if no follow-up attack is made next round.

Attack a Pinned Foe
Attacks against a pinned foe are made at +4 to hit. This includes opposing wrestlers.

Attacks Against Wrestlers
Others outside a clinch may attempt a standard attack an un-pinned wrestler. Such an attack is made at -4 and if a miss is made there is an equal chance of any random target being struck instead (with total miss being counted as an additional target).

Joining in a Clinch
One may choose to wrestle a foe an ally is wrestling. The grab attack to wrestle someone an ally is wrestling is made at +2.

Using Weapons While Wrestling
Traditional weapons may be used while wrestling during the standard combat phase of a round. Natural weapons & Small weapons are -2 to hit but do normal damage. Weapons much larger than a dagger are -4 to hit and do but 1/2 damage.
Most characters may not make punching attacks while wrestling.

Quickie STR scores for wrestling.
tiny- 2d6 (gnomes and bats)
small- 2d8 (dogs and halflings)
medium-3d6+HD (orcs and men)
Large- 4d6+HD (horses and gnolls)
Huge or larger 4d6+ twice HD. (dragons and giants)
the quickie sTr roll is to determine how much bindign damage ti takes to overwhelm a foe it is not used for other damage calculations.

Wrestling Really Large Foes
If one scores a pin on a really large foe they have either tripped the foe automatically throwing them down or they have clung on in such a manner the larger creature may not make an attack on the foe clinging to them. When clinging to a large foe one may make weapon attacks during standard combat but suffers the usual penalties to attacks when doing so. Once one has made the decision to cling they may not decide to change it to a trip on the next round but others may join in and trip the large foe.

Spell Casting and Psionics while wrestling
Spells may not be cast while wrestling. Magical devices may not be readied while wrestling. Psionics have a 50% chance of failing during a round of wrestling. At will powers of creatures may still but any requiring a hit roll suffer a penalty to hit, attacks that allow the defender a save allow the defender a +4 save bonus.

Wrestling creatures with touch attacks
Grappling a foe able to make touch attacks is foolhardy as the opponent will be able to inflict the touch attack in normal combat and during wrestling.

Grappling non-corporeal foes
One may not grapple a phantom or other immaterial foe.
Some non-corporeal creatures can hold or animate items. Items may be wrestled from their grasp as if they were small creatures.

More fun with Binding Damage
A DM could introduce spells or monsters that are able to inflict Binding damage. Some trapping/hindering spells could be rewritten to inflict binding damage over other more complicated descriptions.

Binding attacks with weapon such as bolas, lassos, nets and catch-poles could also be added to a campaign.

Monday, May 16, 2011

How does one get ready for judegment day?

So some folks are claiming our would will face judgment May 21, 6AM (your local time) and they are telling people to so they can know and be ready. This recent prediciton, advertised all over the place, laims there will be earthquakes starting at 6AM on MAY 21st that will sweep the world in each locality at 6AM.

So, how does one get ready for judgment day?

Doesn't seem like there's much prep work required for Ragnorak, you are either ready or you are not.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Alt Hexcrawl: So why didn't we get there yet?

The Alternative Hexcrawl mechanics I've been knocking about seems to provide a very gamist absolute of make your roll and move or fail your roll and stay put. Going strictly by mechanics that's what seems to be what is happening , it isn't.

Beyond the desire to have wilderness travel be more involved I also wanted to incorporate some of the rules that have been in D&D related RPG for decades (getting lost) while giving room to add to the experience with a mechanic that provides a notable action that gives a time break to ask questions and for player and referee to offer input.

The travel roll is to make meaningful progress through and out of a hex, a failed roll doesn't really indicate no travel on the part of the PCs, it implies no meaningful travel. When a roll is failed there are obstacles, distractions or missteps taken on the part of the PC's. Player choices and actions could mitigate the "failed" rolls.

So why did the travel roll fail and are there consequences that follow the failed roll? How can the players cancel a failed roll (or get a re-roll)?

Each terrain and composition of an adventuring party will vary as to why the party didn't make progress while traveling so there's room for the referee to be creative. There's a host of replies to simple question of "Why?": "You are lost","You've been following the wrong trail","The trail ended and there is no clear alternative","A watercourse/body of water blocks your route","There is a steep slope too risky for travel","A chasm blocks your way","Some of the followers have wandered off course","The mules aren't proving to be cooperative", "A horse has thrown a shoe"," A wagon is stuck", "Bill lost his boots in the mire seriously slowing everyone down","Brother Misk insists on completing a ritual at the way-shrine", "The scouts really screwed up."

Responsive action on the part of the players could earn them an immediate re-roll or a notable bonus (above one for persistence) in their next travel roll. The impact of player reactions should be measured by the scale being played. Building a bridge or rafts to cross a troublesome body of water isn't a quick action if we are dealign with hexes that can be crossed in but a few hours. Wilderness travel and what is significant should vary with scale.

Player action can also offer bonuses to the travel roll in the first place. If you have a party traveling with a number of wagons and loaded down pack animals there isn't going to be a lot of wiggle room for maneuver unless of course the party has quicker moving scouts and makes use of them and then small local difficulties can be spotted and avoided before the party if hampered. Taking note of local landmarks is certainly important and beneficial and may earn the party a bonus to travel in some environments.

If progress is hampered by NPC cut-ups the players can simply disregard or cast-off the NPCs leaving them to flounder while the party moves on earning the party a re-reoll to travel. This would of course have consequences as NPCs may be lost, refuse to follow or fall victim to other hazards.

Sometimes a failed travel roll can be based directly on the actions of the PC's. Actions such as avoiding a suspected dragon den, trying to keep out of sight of a watchtower, avoiding patrols, taking caution to avoid being sky-lined can all severely hamper travel by effectively closing off routes travel. The ever popular actions of "grazing the horses as we go" and" hunting along the way" are easy marks for slowing travel and those actions as many others should likely earn the party a penalty to the roll in the first place.

There shouldn't be a hard and fast reply to "Why didn't we get there yet?" tied strictly to mechanics as each referee is the best authority on what the campaign and adventure setting is like and what' s important in that specific game. Sometimes the answer can be a simple as "you didn't get there yet" and other times progress can be checked by a wide range of hazards the player may or may not be able to deal with. Travel itself can be an adventure and exploring "why" adds detail and interaction to an RPG campaign.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Alt Hexcrawl- Description Keeping the Players Involved

One reason for the Alternative Hexcrawl concept I brought up in a recent post is to keep the players involved with travel.

"We move 3 hexes north, anything happen, do we see anything worth investigating" over and over again isn't the most exciting player input nor is sitting at the game table and watching the DM roll a dozen random encounter checks .

By applying travel scores to leave a hex the DM has more to tell players about the travel they are facing and is giving them some choices. And dice rolling keeps the players hands and minds enaged even if a bit. Players could take turns rolling the travel dice or have the parties leader (if any) or scout/point man roll the travel dice.

How to give the player choices:

Let's look at two parties on the sample map.

Party A is situated in hills. With Open land to the south, mountains to North and North East and Hills to all other points.

Party B is in Forested Swamp terrain with Swamp to the South and South East, open terrain to the North East and Forest in the other directions.

By applying the Travel scores the descriptions that can be offered to the players varies.

Party A is situated in hills. Travelling to the open land downhill looks easy. To the south east alogn the hills the route doesn't look particularly challenging. To the north east the terrain rises to the mountains presenting the most challenging route from the party location. Northward trave into the moutains is certainly more difficult then continuing in along the hills but not as difficult as traveling northeast. North west and South West there is hilly terrain more challenging than traveling south east would be but not as difficult as moving towards the mountains would be.

PC questions: why does the route North look better then going northeast?
DM answer: the slope seems gentler and there are a number of minor trails you can spy hear and there.

Party B is situated in a Forested Swamp and has poor visibility as such. The party can't see what is in adjacent hexes unless they climb a tree or have other means to get a good view but some information can be shared. The ground to the South is wetter with more drowned and fallen trees. To the southeast the trees seem to thin out without as much hazard presented as to the South . The ground looks seems drier to the North, NE and NW with the trees thinning out more towards the north east. a dense barrier of sunken trees makes travel to the South West look difficult.

PC actions: Smillo looks for a good tall tree to climb so he can get a good look of the surrounding terrain.
DM reply: to the S & SE more swamp with less trees, open ground to the northeast and forest in all other directions.

Some of those descriptions could certainly be generated from the terrain types dominating each hex but the travel numbers do offer a way to quickly gauge relative difficulty of specific directions.

Don't tell the players everything or let them know the travel scores out of each hexside unless you are shooting or more boardgame style of play (which isn't a bad thing at all if you have attractive maps you want to share with the players, it does reduce mystery and the thrill of discovery). The trick of it is leaving little bits of information out that the players can fill in with questions and actions.

If they players have more to do then crossing off rations as they are consumed and reacting to random encounters the game is more dynamic and there is more to do.

Haggling Table

Some folks just love to wheel and deal when a PC is buying or selling goods. Here's a few table to aid haggling.

Step 1. Find Opening Price

If the Merchant is selling roll here:
Merchant Selling
roll......Initial asking price
2-3...... 200% of list
4-7....... 150% of list
8-10..... List Price
11-12.... 90% of list price

The player sets the counter offer and if they don't match on to the Haggling Table

If a PC is selling have the player state price and roll here:
Merchant Offer
2-3..... 10% of List
4-5..... 20% of List
6-8..... 30% of list
9-10... 75% of list
11....... 90% List
12....... Player's asking reason to haggle

If the player doesn't agree move on to the haggling table

Step Two Haggling:

Haggling Table
2........ Refuses to do business with PC
3........ The deal is off.
4-6..... Doesn't budge on price
7-8..... Offer's 10% discount on bulk purchase
9-11.... Moves price towards PC offer
12 ...... Agrees to PC offer

Haggling ends when a PC accepts a price.

Apply modifiers for clever roleplaying if one wishes.

Refuses to do business with PC - merchant will not do business with PC now. May throw PC and friends out of shop if applicable. The PC will be -2 to haggle with this merchant in the future. the penalty will be dropped after 3 sales.

The deal is off.- The merchant can't alter his price and if the PC will not pay the right amount of coin there will be no sale. The PC will be -1 to haggle with this merchant in the future. The penalty will be dropped after 2 sales.

Doesn't budge on price- the merchant holds firm to the price as it is.

Offer's 10% discount on bulk purchase- if PC buys three or more of an item (or multiple similar items) the merhcant can let them go for 10% off of his current asking price.

Moves price towards PC offer- the merchant moves the price 1/4 the difference towards his asking price and the PCs offer. This in effect reset the asking price. (ex: A merchant is trying to sell a PC a finely Crafted sword for 50 g.p. the PC has counter offered with 15 g.p., when the merhcant moves the price towards the PC's offer the price will be lowered by (50-15)/4 to find a price of 41 g.p.)

Agrees to PC offer- the sale is made. future haggling at +1 . The bonus is lost if a roll of 2 comes up on haggling roll.

Limits on haggling: Some players will Haggle all day long on even minor purchases. If a DM allows Haggling limiting haggling rolls to 3 per deal could work fairly.
One could also limit the number of haggling rolls a player is allowed per game session to the PC Charisma score.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Race Version 1

My last post I offered up an idea for playing out the classic hexcrawl with a variant set of mechanics. This post there is going to be an example using a race to a treasure by two different parties of adventurers.

Neither party is overly encumbered and both will have 4 move rolls a day. I'm using 5 mile hexes here.

Party A is confident and determined to make progress with the most direct line of travel possible.

Party B has a guide who knows the local terrain well enough for a +1 bonus, he recommends the party stays well and clear of the mountains and amazingly enough they take his advice.

For this example I'm going to use a planned route assuming the players behind each party have access to a map which shows the hex terrain but not the travel scores (and can oddly enough follow a plan no matter what happens).

Route Map:

Day One Roll One:
Day one starts off easy enough for both parties, neither finds road travel particularly difficult or hazardous at the start of the day. Party A rolled 7 and Party B rolled a 10, both meeting or beatign the travel score of 3 required to move from their hex of origin into the next hex.

Day One Roll Two:
The second roll of the day and both parties are moving along the road. Party B almost didn't make it but were able to carry on without incident thanks to the guide they have employed.

Day One Roll Three:
Continuing on Party A travels into the hills making for the mountains and their quarry and party B continues on into easy terrain following their guides advice.

Day One Roll Four:
Party A has entered the mountains and party B has entered the hills following their guide.

Day Two Roll One:
Party A finds itself unable to press on with significant progress. Party B has entered the forest.

Day Two Roll Two:
Party A is still having difficuly making progress even with a bonus of 2 to their roll for carrying on along in the same direction. Party B is covering lots of ground within the forest.

Day Two Roll Three:
Party A has pushed on along it's route and made it further into the mountains in the north, they would have gotten a +4 bonus for their continuing travel along the same direction but rolled well enough it did matter. Party B has left the forest.

Day Two Roll Four:
Party A just isn't feeling very lucky and is unable to make it's way out of the mountains. Party B is doing well.

Day Three Roll One:
Party A has made through the mountains and down into the hills where they may find their goal. Party B has made progress but their overall route proved to be too long to beat party A.

Party A took a direct route and found it to be difficult but not difficult enough to thwart victory. Party B made some small benefit from their guide but took too wide route to beat their competitors (maybe they can waylay the other party and take the loot?).

This race may have indeed played differently if there were random encounters along the way and there were potential consequences to failed travel rolls beyond a lack of meaningful progress.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Alternative Hexcrawl Concept

Here's a map for an alternative hexcrawl technique I'm knocking about:

Each hex side has a score for getting out of the hex in each direction (along a hex side). A party will have a given number of rolls each day/outdoor turn based on their movement rate and can only leave a hex if they get or beat the required roll (for now I'm considering 2d6 to be the roll). Multiple attempts to go in the same direction could get a bonus. Any number of modifiers could be applied to the roll such as travel mode, weather, guides, racial abilities and class abilities along with clever planning.

Just a notion for now but one that I felt like sharing as it looks like it could expand on the nature of hexcrawl play by having routes and specific terrain having an impact on play.