Thursday, June 30, 2011

I love You More Then Killing Zombies.

My baby boy is almost two and just told his mommy this earlier in the morning:
"I love you more then milk, Caillou, and killing zombies."
of course it sounds more like "I luv ooo maw den mulk, hi-ooo and kiln zombies" but the boy sure has his sentiments in the right places.

With RPGs, the Zombies! board-game and video games there have been a lot of zombies around the place lately.

"Caillou" is a children's program for those that aren't in the know.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Atomic Zombies And Other Horrors

This is part 2 of the Atomic Zombie Apocalypse campaign for Mutant Future. Mutant monsters need a different approach for such a campaign as mutants of all sorts are new and frightening threats in such a setting. The behavior and abilities of mutants would be generally unknown and as creatures are revealed in a campaign the setting may be well served by a monster movie creature feature approach with scenarios featuring newly discovered mutants as a featured element of a session.


Clearly the most surprising threat of the Atomic Zombie Apocalypse are the Atomic Zombies. There are more then one variety of the Atomic Zombies and they are not the only threats spawned by the atomic war.

Atomic Zombie
No.Enc: 1d8(1d100)
Alignment: Chaotic
Movement: 90'(30')
Armor Class: 8
Hit Dice: 7
Attacks: 2 (Rend/Bite)
Damage: 1d6/2d6 + special
Save: L4
Morale: 12
Hoard Class: none

One of the most surprising development of WW3 has been the rise of the Atomic Zombie. The exact process that brought the recently slain back t life is not understood but it is surely linked to Radiation. Atomic Zombies appear to be lightly scorched even terribly burnt walking dead with eyes that glow with atomic fire.

Atomic Zombies have a touch of rudimentary intelligence and can on occasion make alarming use of devices and tools, turn door handles, an rummage about, but this seeming lucidity isn't constant and their insatiable hunger drives them to feed on the living and leave tools and their mindless tasks behind. They will only engage in combat by tooth and claw.

Atomic Zombies are filthy with Atomic radiation anyone that survives being harmed by has certainly been contaminated by radiation. A radiation check save must be made one full turn after any encounter with Atomic Zombies. For every 10 points of damage (or fraction there of) suffered one has suffered an contact with an intensity level of Radiation. (ex. if one suffered 23 pts of damage from an Atomic Zombie they have suffered exposure to intensity Level 3 Radiation).

One slain but not devoured by Atomic Zombies will reanimate as an Atomic Zombie in 2-12 full turns. All Atomic Zombies (and variants) are unharmed by Atomic Radiation and are considered to have a WIL of 18 vs mental attacks.

Burning Atomic Zombie
No.Enc: 1d4(1d12)
Alignment: Chaotic
Movement: 90'(30')
Armor Class: 7
Hit Dice: 12
Attacks: 2 (Rend/Bite)
Damage: 1d6/2d6 + special
Save: L6
Morale: 12
Hoard Class: none

Burning Atomic Zombies are a rare variant form of more "normal" Atomic Zombies. These monstrosities appear as blackened corpses cloaked in radioactive hellfire.
Some survivors insist these horrors scream as if tormented when they first sight the living.

Every attack these horrors inflict on a victim immediately exposes them to intensity 4 radiation burns. Anyone who spends 3 or more rounds unprotected within 20' of a Burning Atomic Zombie suffers exposure to Intensity 2 Radiation.

One Slain by a Burning Atomic Zombie reanimates as a Burning atomic Zombie in 2-5 rounds.

Puss-Filled Atomic Zombie
No.Enc: 1d6(1d20)
Alignment: Chaotic
Movement: 60'(20')
Armor Class: 9
Hit Dice: 9
Attacks: 2 (Rend/Bite)
Damage: 1d6/2d6 + special
Save: L4
Morale: 12
Hoard Class: none

Puss-Filled Atomic Zombies are horribly bloated animated corpses. They may be found in groups of their own or intermingled with other Atomic Zombies.

Striking these creatures with an edged or piercing weapon is dangerous as each strike releases a brief gout of radioactive puss. The radioactive puss acts as Intensity 4 radiation but a save allows one to dodge the flow and suffer no damage.

If a Puss-Filled Zombie is killed by a blow that did 6 or more points of damage they will explode inflicting 2d8 damage to all within 20' and exposing those in the burst radius to Intensity 6 Radiation.

One Slain by a Puss-Filled Atomic Zombie reanimates as a Puss-Filled Atomic Zombie in 1-4 full turns.

Screaming Atomic Zombies
No.Enc: 1d8(2d10)
Alignment: Chaotic
Movement: 120'(40')
Armor Class: 9
Hit Dice: 8
Attacks: 2 (Rend/Bite)
Damage: 1d6/2d6 + special
Save: L4
Morale: 12
Hoard Class: none

This sub-variety of Atomic zombies appear gaunt and twisted. When they sight the living they will issue horrible screams that require all within 60' to be shaken suffering a -2 to saves and attack rolls until the end of the encounter. Treat as a mental attack with a will score of 9 to see if those nearby are effected.
NPCs may(at ML discretion) be forced to make a morale check to stay and fight these creatures after 3 rounds or flee in terror.

Screaming Atomic Zombies are frightfully faster then other Atomic Zombies. Even though they are in truth no faster then normal men it's frightening to see them move much faster than other Atomic Zombies. Screaming Atomic Zombies contaminate victims as standard Atomic Zombies.

One Slain by a Screaming atomic Zombie re-animates as a Screaming Atomic Zombie in 2-7 rounds.

Other Monsters in the atomic wasteland of the Atomic Zombie Apocalypse:

Normal Animals: normal animals may be encountered as makes sense within a campaign. Elephants or Lions may be found near abandoned zoos as can like animals but such encounters will become rare as a campaign drags on.

Ant Horror, Bee-Giant Killer, Cockroachoid, Giant Crabs, Giant Leeches, Gaint Spiders, Lobstrosities, Stink Beetles and Vomit Flies: all these insectoid atomic horrors will become a threat to man a few weeks to a year after they emerge onto the devastated landscape. A scenario that introduces and/or features such a creature would be the best way to go over a simple random encounter.

The Irradiated: these irradiated humans will appear very soon after Atomic Zombies do. they are not atomic zombies but are not targeted by them as the horrible contamination the irradiated have been exposed to throws off the Atomic Zombies senses. Most people will fail to recognize the irradiated as anything but a menace and may consider them to be Atomic Zombies when first encountered. The irradiated are often driven mad by their condition and will exhibit unusual behavior. Some can be aware of their condition and simply long company of fellow man and will lurk in proximity but generally avoid people until forced into a confrontation where they may react with rage or force to make an escape.

Other monstrosities: should be used later in a campaign as Radiation slowly wracks havoc on the natural world. Intelligent species should be avoided until well into a campaign (possibly after many years have passed if a campaign has such a scope).

In the Atomic Zombie Apocalypse Radiation is an ever present threat. Radiation works as per the standard rules with the following exceptions.

Fallout: radiation still falls and is tainting the landscape each week spent outside a safe area a character is exposed to a random intensity radiation attack of 1d10. A ML is free to designate safe areas and have areas where more immediate exposure can be suffered.

Mutation: the human race has no special immunity to radiation in the Atomic Zombie Apocalypse. If a character fails 5 saves vs radiation in the same day they will sicken (becoming helplessly bedridden for 2-7 days) and develop a mutation: 50% mental or physical rolled on standard mutation charts. Mutations will be frightening and mutants will be avoided by their fellow man.

Re-Animation: If one dies from exposure to radiation their corpse will re-animate as an Atomic Zombie in 2-12 hours. Burning a corpse of one killed by radiation is dangerous as the smoke will contain radiation. Dismembering bodies is also risky as serious protection from irradiated remains must be taken.

Next installment... Survival,Loot and Adventure

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Atomic Zombie Apocalypse, Part I

This post and a couple others will be a notes for setting up an alternate Mutant Future campaign as mentioned last post in Different Mutant Futures. The collapse of civilization just happened (or really is still happening) sometime in the late 1950's or early 1960's. Technology will be limited to the era and the ruins are fresh and smoldering.

Civilization didn't really end in atomic fireballs and the clouds of radioactive dust that choked the world. The end of civilization came shambling and gnawing out of the charnel pits and burning ruins. Something strange in the first wave of bombs caused the dead to return to life as horrible burnt shambling zombies. Any attempts of the faltering civil defense network to maintain some semblance of order were overwhelmed by hundreds, thousands and even millions of atomic zombies.

Character Creation
PCs in this setting have survived the initial rain of atomic bombs sometime in the late 50's to early 60's just weeks ago and are struggling to find a safe place where radiation and the seemingly endless hordes of Atomic Zombies can be held off.

PC's will start out aware there was an atomic war and if they haven't seen Atomic Zombies themselves they are aware other people claim they exist. It is common knowledge civil defense has failed, fallout is dangerous and some places might be safer.

Player Characters should start off as Normal Humans following the rules of Pure Humans except they are not resistant to mutation as spelled out in the Mutant Future rules. Such characters will also have a +20% bonus to their Technology Rolls and will not need to roll to figure out mundane items.

Determining starting equipment for PCs in the Atomic Zombie Apocalypse should be haphazard as PCs are harried and bedraggled survivors of a world in ruin. Players will be allowed 1d6+4 equipment rolls from among the tables as they wish. All PCs will start barefoot in pajamas unless they roll-up other clothing; WW3 was a surprise.

1.....Cheap Sneakers
2.....Souvenir moccasins
3.....Army Boots
4.....Ordinary Leather Shoes
5.....Cowboy Boots
6.....Rubber Galoshes

1....Knit Cap
3.....Service Cap
4.... Army Helmet
5....Panama Hat
6....Pill-box cap
7....Ball Cap
8....Cowboy Hat
9...Garden Hat
10...Rain Hat

Men's Clothes
1...Double breasted suit
3...Sport shirt
4...Tee shirt
5...Wool Gabardine Pleated Pants
6....Western Yoke shirt
7....Ordinary Plaid Shirt
8...Wool Town Coat
9... Dungarees
10...Racer jacket
11...Leather Jacket
12...Hawaiian Print Shirt
13...Bowling Shirt
14...Blue Flannel Shirt
15...Mechanics Overalls
16...Denim Overalls
17...Cotton Button-up shirt
18...Letterman's Sweater
20...Bermuda Shorts

Women's Clothes
1...Ruffled Dress
2...Little Black Dress
3...Polka-dot Halter-Dress
4...Chiffon Cocktail Dress
5...Belted Pleat Dress
6...House Dress
7...Fine Gown
8...Bow Dress
9...Cardigan Sweater
10...Capri Pants
11...Nice Gloves
12...Swim wear

1-3...Pistol, Automatic
4-5...Pistol, Revolver
6...Flare gun
7...sub-machine gun
8-9...sporting rifle
11...Automatic rifle
16...fireman's axe bat
18...tire iron
19...Butchers knife

All firearms come with one complete load, re-rolls of a firearm are 50% an extra empty weapon or an extra load of ammo.

Other Gear
6.........Batteries (2)
9-10....Blanket, winter
11-15...Matches (1-100)
16-20...Butane Lighter
26-36....Canned Goods (1-6 meals)
37-39...Can Opener
40.........Cigars (1-3)
41-46....Cigarettes (1 pack)
57-60....Fountain Pen
65........Handcuffs (80% with key)
66-67...Hip-flask (80% of 1/2 pint booze)
68-70....Mirror (in compact)
71-76....MRE-1 day food
77-78....Nails (20)
81-85.....Rope (50')
88-90....Sack, large burlap
91-95.....Sleeping Bag
97-98......Sun Glasses
99-100...Tobacco Pouch (2-12 pipe-fulls left)

Next installment: Atomic Zombies and Other Horrors.

Different Mutant Futures

In working on No Man's Land: The Mutant Front I've come to grips with the notion that just a few changes in the background of a Mutant Future setting and the nature of the campaign can make for a decidedly different experience.

The baseline scenario for Mutant Future campaigns is based on three general assumptions. In brief review they are:

1. An advanced technological civilization suffered a collapse which reduced mankind to a primitive society for centuries. The game takes place after civilization has struggled back to a mean technological level of the middle ages.

2. Ruins and advanced technology are present and those in the know can deploy and even repair these treasures.

3. The ruin of civilization also gave rise to strange mutated creatures turning the world into a strange and dangerous place.

The pinnacle that civilization achieved and the technological wonders it made use of will have an impact on a Mutant Future campaign. If the campaign is set in a world where the Cuban missile crisis ended in WW3 or a chemically created zombie plague was caused by foolish teenagers and a corrupt government research program in the 80's the remains of civilization are going to stray from that of a "normal" mutant future campaign.

Varying the state of technology at the time of the ruin will change what artifacts may be scavenged in the ruins and have a direct impact on play. In a setting lacking powerful high-tech devices non-mutants may be severely disadvantaged.

What civilization (or what passes for it) retains or continues to develop will of course impact a campaign. If PCs are neo-cavemen sporting lead-pipe clubs and traffic-sign shields struggling against robotic predators or are Hippie telepaths employing 28th century biotech to defend themselves from musket carrying armies of the 11th Reich the campaign is going to unfold differently from the baseline.

How long it has been since the fall of civilization will certainly impact a campaign. Closer to the age of technology the more equipment there will seemingly be available for characters in a campaign and the more PCs will be able to easily make use of. If the PCs are fleeing clouds of fallout just days old or are archeologists some 3,000 years after the fall of the old civilization the knowledge and use of technological artifacts will vary greatly.

There is some treatment on the size and occurrence of communities in the Mutant Future, most of them geared to an early medieval society in scale. The presence or lack of such communities has an impact on the future and nature of a campaign. If the only communities of note are based on underground shelters or remote isolated communities that were spared the worst of the destruction it's going to impact a campaign; will outsiders be greeted as invaders or saviors?

Law and Order gets a brief treatment and would surely exist near the medieval-like communities of the baseline Mutant Future campaign. How people react to law enforcement will change in different campaign models. In some futures lawmen will be heroes in others they are the brutal enforcers of petty tyrants if they are present at all. A campaign where PCs are the descendants of the Highway patrol would make for a curious spin.

A brief section on religion in the wastelands makes it clear humanity and newer life wouldn't necessarily abandon old religions or resist creating new religions. How the occupants of the mutant future treat and relate to religion can have a profound impact on campaigns. If the last bastions of the old world were maintained by a monastic order what changes would that bring on a campaign, would technology be a religious wonder or be tools of evil?

There are many hazards in the wastelands of the Mutant Future the most common is that of Radiation which is given a simple yet effective treatment under the rules. In the past I have discussed grittier rules for Radiation and weirder wahoo comic book styles of radiation that can linger in a mutant future. The frequency and nature of radiation will present an ever-lurking threat that can impact a campaign greatly.

I'll be discussing how changing up some of the assumptions and applying variants can make for a different Mutant Future campaign along with some campaign outlines, artifact tables and rules variants in future posts.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

3 Magic Shields

Three good reasons to arm your Fighter with a shield (if they are lucky):

Blade-Biting Shield- This +2 shield has an edge with a variety of flanges and odd protuberances. Any attacker with an edged weapon that misses the wielder of this shield must make a save (as against wands) or their weapon is destroyed. Any attacker with a blunt weapon specifically targeting the shield itself will destroy it on a hit die roll of 19 or 20 (no save).

Spike-Throwing Shield- This +1 shield is decorated with up to a score of wicked looking spikes. The bearer of the shield may fire up to 2 of these spikes (by command word) per round as if they were +2 daggers. The spikes disappear after use. A Spike-Throwing shield is seldom found with all it's spikes unused.

Blade-Bouncing Shield- This +1 shield causes any attacker armed with a chopping or cutting weapon that misses an attack agaisnt the wielder of a Blade-Bouncing Shield to make a save (as if vs paralysis) or be struck by their own weapon.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Shields Part XXI

In a long post blackrazor demonstrated how darned effective a shield is for a platemail wearing fighter but didn't go on to evaluate how the shield holds up when people aren't wearing platemail. It's also screwed up a little by his house rules in an earlier post for dopplehanders as they are +1 to hit with 1d8 damage (making the shield a bit worse then it is). The shield and it's place in D&D combat has sure gotten a lot of attention lately, here's more on the topic.

Many folks agree heavy armor allowed the medieval warrior to ditch the shield as it's defensive value was mitigated by the effectiveness of the armor and the requirement of heavy arms to breach the heavy armor others wore, why are shields better for heavily armored fighters than they are for lightly armored fighters in D&D and related systems?

Against a foe with a thaco of 19 using a d6 weapon A fighter in plate with a shield is only likely to suffer 80% of the damage of a fighter who wears plate alone. The warrior with but a shield is likely to suffer 90.9% of the damage they would likely sustain if unarmored entirely. So shields in D&D are more effective for the heavily armored.

For my math I'm using the B/X D&D AC 6 Thaco 19 Orc with a 1d6 weapon as a foe.
Such an orc will do an average of 3.5 pts of damage a round when not accounting for the hit chance.
Orc Attack with normal AC rules
ac.....avg likely damage
2 .....0.7 - 80% the damage of plate alone
4.....1.05- 85.7% the damage of chain alone
6.....1.4- 88.9% the damage of leather alone
8.....1.75- 90.9% the damage with no armor

A fighter with a shield alone is suffering 90.9% the damage an unarmored fighter will. So why does the fighter with plate and shield get more protection out of the shield?

So is that +1 shield bonus to AC still making sense?

Number crunching on that limited set of data alone says no.

How would we fix this? Is a fix really worth it?
The straight forward fix is a shield blocks 20% of damage and doesn't otherwise effect the AC score.

Orc attack with 20% damage reduction.
AC .....avg likely damage
3* .....0.7 - 80% the damage of plate alone
3 .....0.875
5* .....0.98- 80% the damage of chain alone
5 .....1.225
7* .....1.26- 80% the damage of leather alone
7 .....1.575
9* .....1.54- 80% the damage with no armor
9 .....1.925

But a lot of people aren't quick at figuring out such math and outside sources do not use this notation. I also creates an area where shields don't block anything they just diminish hits a bit.

One could speed up the math by having a shield block a fixed amount of damage. It makes the math easier at the table top. But it also makes the shield more effective vs the typical opponent.

Lets say a shield blocks 1 pt of damage. Vs a d6 damage weapon that looks like this when hit chances are factored in

Orc attack with shield blocking 1 pt of damage
AC .....avg likely damage
3+ .....0.625 - 71% the damage of plate alone
3 .....0.875
5+ .....0.875- 71% the damage of chain alone
5 .....1.225
7+ .....1.125- 71% the damage of leather alone
7 ..... 1.575
9+ .....1.375- 71% the damage with no armor
9 .....1.925

Against orcs, goblins and 1st level fighters that 1 pt off of damage is pretty darned sweet. Certainly better than a 1 point AC adjustment as an average 3.5 hit is turned into an average 2.5 hit. Against heavier hitting creatures it's far less effective to the point of making shields pointless, but of course how much benefit would there really be with a shield against a Frost Giant? Under such a scheme it makes a heck of a lot more sense to ditch the shield and swing a two hander vs the big critters.

But such a solution changes the shield and the nature of armor in D&D and moves into into a more variant game. As the game exists now the Frost Giant (B/X version)
is thaco 11 dishing out 14 points of average damage. using the normal AC rules the damge it's likely to dish out is as follows.

Frost Giant Attack standard AC
ac .....avg likely damage
2 .....8.4
3 .....9.1
4 .....9.8
5 .....10.5
6 .....11.2
7 .....11.9
8 .....12.6
9 .....13.3

Pretty darned sweet really and without any math in play.

Frost Giant Attack with shield blocking 1 pt damage
ac avg likely damage
3+ .....8.45
3 .....9.1
5+ .....9.75
5 .....10.5
7+ .....11.05
7 .....11.9
9+ .....12.35
9 .....13.3

Not much different at all from the standard AC bonus. but it does have a tiny extra bit of math and requires a change in notation.

Frost Giant Attack with shiled blocking 20% damage
ac avg likely damage
3* .....7.28
3 .....9.1
5* .....8.4
5 .....10.5
7* .....9.5
7 .....11.9
9* .....10.64
9 .....13.3

wow the 20% reduction in damage is hella-good. but does that make sense? Why is the shield protecting the fighter better against a much more massive blow then a typical blow. Some might love it, I think it's unsatisfying certainly when one factors in the math slow down and the notation change. The only way to settle up the impact is to complicate the game more by having more rules for shields with say a damage cap on hits they could block but this slows down the game even more.

Shields blocking 1 pt of damage looks pretty good and it certainly boost the effectiveness of the shield at the lower man vs man scale without throwing heavy hitters out of balance later. Is it worth it? There's micro math and notation that must be kept. I myself have folks keep track of AC with and without shield so it's not a huge deal there. But what about magic shields?

If a normal shield blocks 1pt of damage should a magical shield block more damage or simply improve AC? If it improves AC while normal shield blocks 1 pt of damage there is a logic break in what a shield does in the game. If it improves how many points of damage are blocked the results are pretty large at the shallow end of the pool.

Orc attack with +1 shield blocking 2 pt of damage
AC avg likely damage
3++ .....0.375
3 .....0.875
5++ .....0.525
5 .....1.225
7++ .....0.675
7 ..... 1.575
9++ ..... 0.825
9 ..... 1.925
much much better then the bonus granted to AC in the standard system.

Frost Giant Attack with +1shield blocking 2 pts damage
ac avg likely damage
3++ ..... 7.8
3 .....9.1
5++ ..... 9
5 .....10.5
7++ .....10.2
7 .....11.9
9++ .....11.4
9 .....13.3
not too far off from the AC bonus in the standard system.

The points blocked scales very well with tough monsters compared to normal AC system but it's very much superior against common foes and there's the rub, PCs dish out damage like common foes. But, how often do PCs fight NPCs with magic shields? Are we gaining much by deviating from the standard system?

How much is changing the game worth for a change in shields? It really depends on where yuo want your game to go and how different you feel like being.

Here's one of those pesky hobgoblins the reality check. Shields block a heck of a lot of blows. Maybe more so in fake combat than on real combat but it's hard to say that definitively as people attacking you when you are armed with a shield in fake combat aren't really afraid of getting maimed or killed (I've seen people injured but very seldom compared to the number of blows struck). In my experience a shield easily blocks half or more of the blows struck against a combatant.

How to model that experience? Why with a saving throw of course. Use the save vs paralysis or turn to stone for classes trained to use a shield according to a character's level. If untrained count as 0-level for the save. This of course changes things up a lot.

Orc Attack with shield save agaisnt 1st level fighter
ac avg likely damage
5 .....1.225
7@ .....1.024
7 .....1.575
9@ .....1.25
9 .....1.925
Certainly effective vs orcs.

Frost Giant Attack with shield save against 1st level fighter
ac .....avg likely damage
3 .....9.1
5@ .....6.825
5 .....10.5
7@ .....7.73
7 .....11.9
9@ .....8.645
9 .....13.3
Shield saves rock vs Frost giants.

When one goes up in level the shiled save will be even more telling. But what about all those abstract HP characters have aren't they supposed to reflect combat training (never mind the far less abstract healing spells)? Isn't the Shield save increasing the significance of levels even more? It sure is.

Frost Giant Attack with shield save against 15th level fighter
ac .....avg likely damage
3 .....9.1
5@..... 2.625
5 .....10.5
7@ .....2.975
7 .....11.9
9@ .....3.325
9 .....13.3
Man oh man the high level fighter would get a huuuge advantage with shield saves. That's going to change the nature of the game a lot.

Do we want to mitigate this a little? How about shields breaking on a save roll of 1. That'll do it a bit. But man oh man that's a lot of mileage for a normal shield.

A shield save might reflect man vs man combat fairly well but it really throws things out of whack when dealing with foes that aren't men.

How about simply readjusting the armor and AC tables?
Just change what they mean a bit.

Example reformed AC/armor table
2.....Plate & Shield
4.....Mail & Shield
5.....Leather & Shield

Platemail & shield is still the bomb. Leather and mail are often really overrated and as such downgraded, historically men gave up on full suits of mail and much in the way of non-plate armor when good plate became available. The high end of the chart is kept the same. The shield is now significant but not overwhelming., it's statistically important and makes tactics much more of an issue for non-plate wearers. Some hardcases might want to adjust Ac score in adventures, other could just not worry about it.

But is that the final solution? No. how could it be. What changes are acceptable will vary with mileage from game table to game table.

Some folks favor shields being given a 2 point AC bonus and otherwise keeping things the same...but that makes plate and shield AC 1...even better then it already is.

Changing the rules changes the game. Even something like a 1 point shift in AC makes a difference. There is no one true way.

My Shield

All this talk about shields on the blogosphere has inspired me to post about my dear old shield. It's plywood, padding, leather straps, nuts, bolts, a bunch of duct tape and bit of cloth. The cloth is to conceal the massively outdated heraldry that was only significant for a year or two back in the mid 90's. The cloth cover has changed often as I've only repainted the shield three times in it's life and have dragged the shield to lot's of LARPing events. The padding gets changed depending on use and age and standards of the game I'm using it in, it hasn't always been there. A strap broke loose once in combat, the leather gave, typically a bolt comes loose and I don't discover it until I dig the shield out for practice or maintenance. Currently the shield weighs about 4 lbs.

Poor old thing has a loose strap currently. The bolt and nut holding it in place have slipped free. I tightened the others by hand as I fetched it.

I've used it in LARPs and other fake fighting that had lightest touch combat rules, no head strikes, one strike to head to torso and you are dead rules (but still juts a touch), silly hp based damage rules, only significant hits count, you can hit hard but not to harm and anything goes. I've actually knocked a man out of the air with it who leaped towards me with both feet to knock me down. It's been part of battering ram called me which all told was about 240 lbs of self, armor and shield knocking people on their asses. I've seen plenty of swords snap on it's edge and plenty of shields carried by others splintered or broken in half. Granted the weapons were typically pvc piping and pads, but also rattan and fiber-glass cores typically weighing in about 3 lbs, so they were soft clubs.

I've had this shield in one form or another since 1985. I don't know if the three other shields made at the same time as it still survive. When I was young and ill practiced it was often a disadvantage and did really not serve me too well, if i'm a bit out of practice or using a new weapon it feels like it's in the way for an hour or so, I've also stood armed with a sword and shield and haven't suffered a single hit for more then an hour of combat. It has blocked a hell of a lot more than the occasional blow.

Some day it will break for good and I'll lose an old friend.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Combat House Rule and Shields

Over at the B/X Blackrazor blog an interesting post on shields in D&D reminded me of a little house rule of mine that pops up from time to time: my weapon breakage and fumble rules.

I do use a "fumble rule" on a d20 hit roll of 1 a combatant is done attacking no matter how many attacks a round they get and I judge if the situation could warrant an additional effect. Usually rolling a d6 as so
1 Fall Prone
2-3 Lose Weapon
4-6 Damage weapon

A weapon gets a save vs damage equal to the characters chance to save vs death. Magical weapons save at least as well as 9th level fighters if one is of lower level, the bonus of the magical weapon is included.

If a weapon is damaged it is downgraded by -1 in chances to hit, damage (and save). Magical weapons can still strike foes requiring magic to harm until they are damaged past their original plus as a negative (for example: +1 weapons stop being magical when reduced to -2)

A weapon is destroyed if it's negative exceeds 1/2 the normal damage roll. (daggers are ruined at -3, swords at -5)

Some weapons crafted of inferior or fragile materials can be damaged when the hit roll is a 20, all that stress on the weapon is bad indeed. Save as above.

Oh yeah shields, if you haven't read blackrazor's post go do so it raises some good points, I don't totally agree across the board but it's well thought out and reasonable.

Combat Rules From The Game I Never Finished

Since Timeshadows asked here are the combat rules from the game I never finished.

Damage is reduced from VIG. VIG reduced to 3 or less requires a 1d VIG check to stay conscious.
(Talent: Mind Over Body: character stays conscious on a 3d EGO check)

Damage Bonus and Vigor
VIG score Damage bonus
10 or less...0
and so on.

(Talent: Precise Strike(2)- gain a bonus calculated using CNG to all attack damage)
(Talent: Crimson Aura(2)- gain a bonus calculated using MAG to all melee damage)
(Talent: Overwhelming Ego(2)- gain a bonus calculated using EGO to all melee damage)

melee attacks: 4d6 vs VIG with a non-proficient weapon. Roll VIG or less to hit.
shields require attacker to roll +1d vs attacks from front or shielded flank(not both unless proficient or better in shield)

melee attack with two weapons: 5d6 primary hand, 6d6 secondary hand.

ranged attacks: 5d6 vs CNG with a non-proficient weapon
(Talent: Power Toss(2): roll vs VIG for thrown weapons)
+1d if target moved over 5
+2d if target moved over 10
+1d if target at medium range
+2d if target at long range
+1d if snapshot
+1d for partial light cover
+2d for 3/4 light cover
+4d for full light cover
+2d for partial heavy cover
+4d for 3/4 heavy cover
+6d for full heavy cover (some weapons may not penetrate)

moving and attacking: move less then 1/2Mv then +1d. 1/2 mv or greater +2d.

dodging attacks: 2d or more rolled against CNG.
(Talent: Agility :may roll vs VIG to dodge at +1d instead)
(Talent: Guardian Spirit: May roll vs MAG at +1d instead)
(Talent: Fated Doom: may roll vs EGO at +1d instead)

Weapon skills
start out at proficient and go up from there. A separate talent is required for each hand with 1H weapons. Benefits for each degree of weapon skill replace previous benefits.
Proficient with a weapon may roll 1d less when attacking. depending on weapon a CNG of 6-11 is required.
Expert(2) with a weapon may roll 2d less when attacking and is +1 to dmg
depending on weapon a CNG of 8-14 is required (p.r. Proficient)
Master(2) with a weapon may roll 3d less when attacking and is +3 to dmg., nonmasters must roll 2d extra when attacking you with same weapon.
depending on weapon a CNG of 12-18 is required. (p.r. Master)

Shield Skills
Proficient with a shield may make attacks with it as if armed with two weapons and force foes to attack at +1d vs attack to front and shielded flank
Expert with a shield force foes to attack at +2d
Master with a shield force a foe to attack at +3d. may attack with shield at no penalty to main attack.

Parry(2)- each 2 dice added to own attack is applied as 1d penalty to foes attack. Must have weapon in hand. max penalty 3d.
Uncanny Reflexes(3)- each 1 die added to own attack is applied as 1d penalty to foes attack. no weapon needed in hand. Shield may be applied vs any attack if expert shield skill. max penalty 6d. (p.r. parry)
Riposte(2)- if armed with a proficient weapon you are allowed a free counter attack against a single foe that misses you in melee with +2d penalty. For every 6 they rolled in the missed attack you are -1d to your counter attack roll. (p.r. parry)

Dual Weapon(2): may attack with a weapon in either hand at 5d. (p.r. CNG 12+)
Two Weapons Master(2): may attack with a weapon in each hand with no penalty to either hand. (p.r. Dual Weapon, CNG 13+)

Combat Mobility (1): may move less then 1/2 speed in combat at no penalty to hit
(p.r. CNG 12+)
Dance of Death(2): may move in combat at no to hit penalty.
(p.r. combat mobility and CNG 14+)

Mounted Combat(2): may melee while mounted at no penalty (otherwise +1d penalty)
Mounted Marksman(2): may make missile weapons while mounted at no penalty while moving under half and only +1 when moving half or more. (otherwise +2d penalty).

Advantage to mounted combat: calculate Damage Bonus by adding 1/2 mounts VIG to attackers STR when armed with lance. 1/4 bonus for other weapons if moving 1/2 or more.

No weapon stats have surfaced as I recall they did from 1d to 3d of damage with modifiers here and there.

Four Sample Characters For a Game That Never Was

I've been notebook diving again and found some notes on a game I was working on. Here are four sample characters created for that game I never finished. (darned gamer- A.D.D.)

VIG: 15 CNG: 11 MAG: 5 EGO: 5
DB: +2
Talents (13 t.p.)
Weapon Proficiencies: BroadSword(r), Axe(r), Dagger(rl), Club(r), Horse Bow, Lance(r)
Shield Proficiency
Precise Strike
Mounted Combat

VIG: 8 CNG: 10 MAG: 13 EGO: 5
DB: 0
Talents(11 t.p.)
Weapon Proficiencies: Dagger (r), Staff
Blood Magic I
Magical Aptitude
spells- Knock, Stonefist, Dragonbreath, Obscure Presence, Alarm, Illusionary Warrior

VIG: 8 CNG: 8 MAG: 8 EGO: 8
DB: 0
Talents (8 t.p.)
Weapon Proficiencies: Sword(r), Dagger(r), crossbow
spells- Reveal Wards

VIG: 5 CNG:9 MAG: 11 EGO: 11
DB: 0 Bonus MP: 11
Talents (11 t.p.)
Mind Over Body
Mind Over Matter
Blood Magic I
Psychic Reserves
Supernatural Resistance
Magical Aptitude
Cosmic Sorcerer
Spells Known- Reflect Spell

Artax is a knightly type all geared up for the fight. Benimark is an inexperienced wizard. Claudio a rogue-like everyman. Delco was an example of gimmick character creation of decidedly limited capability despite all the cool powers.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Zombies want dad brains...

Had the parents over for barbecued Beef Ribs (and I didn't set the ribs on fire this time) and after we were sitting there bloated from our epicurean delight mt beautiful wife suggested we play Zombies!!! I've had the game for a while but never played it with either of my parents. It was a long but fun cutthroat game that both my mom and dad enjoyed very much, the baby sat at the end of the table playing with a number of zombies alternatign between drinks of milk and juice durign the two and a half hour game. If for some odd reason yuo haven't played or seen the game give it a peek. It was one of the best Father's Day's of my life even with the teens away on a trip.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Controversy (and New Releases) is good.

Hmm... him the recent relaese of the DCC RPG Beta and the Grindhouse Edition of the LOTFP WFRPG sure boosted the number of pageviews this blog got for a few days. I typically get 40-160 page views a day and then all of a sudden blam 400-650 page-views a day for a week. A lot of the traffic was hitting old posts too with new posts getting fairly typical hit counts.

So I've got to assume controversy and new releases are good for blog traffic at large. I got a few new followers of this blog and I know I added on a couple of blogs I've failed to note in the past to those I follow myself. More voices and more eyes is a pretty good result from recent events if you ask me.

Thank you everyone for reading and commenting. Any of my older posts you've peeked at lately that you thought were cool or annoying? Drop a comment with the original post. I love feedback even from those who fail to note my sparkling brilliance.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Funky Dice Spinner Background

Here's a simple color Funky Dice Spinner to use in creating your Funky Dice Spinner to randomly generate scores for d3, d5, d7, d14, d16, d24 and d30.
The original is set up for a 5" by 5" spinner base but rescaling shouldn't be much of an issue.

(click for the full size file)

Permission Granted to reproduce for non-commercial use. Just in case you are hassled by a copy shop employee and can show them this.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Make Your Own Funky Dice.

So have a game that needs weird dice? That new RPG calling for d7's? You think you really need a d18 even when no game you'd ever seen has one? You can make your won.

I'm fibbing here a little of course, I not going to tell you how to make a d7 or d24 but I know how you can make a "randomizer" for any die type imaginable.

Make a custom game spinner. You can make the whole thing yourself from scratch, find components online, adapt one you "borrow" from a family game or even have one special made from an online service.

There is no excuse at not being able to have any "die" type possible. You can get as funky as you want.

I sooo married the right woman for me.

My wife is home feeling a bit ill today and she's currently sitting on the couch watching a show about Ancient Fortresses on the History Channel. Oh yeah baby, tell me about the roman encampments...

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

D&D club in the yearbook

My oldest child is in the last few days of being a high school freshman and just recently brought home the current video yearbook on DVD. It's a bunch of quick segments of different student groups and clubs and a few skits.

My son is immortalized (at least until formats change) as a member of the D&D club which got a commercial length segment in the Video Yearbook. They're pushing arround some figures on a battle-mat and look like they are having fun, no exciting audio as there is music over the segment.
There's also a segment of student comments where my son and his friend (not in the D&D club) are making a few Dr. Who jokes...yup the boy's a nerd just like his dear old dad.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Nihilistic RPGs, really?

Nihilism, I don't think most of the critics know what the hell the word means.
Being an evil bastard isn't nihilism. Neither is being a selfish dick. The charge of nihilism has of course been raised as a condemnation against some RPGs lately and that charge being leveled against the DCC-RPg and LOTFP-WF RPG are what got me to write this post. I feel the charge of nihilism leveled against both titles is inaccurate to say the least. The very fact the DCC RPG and LOtFP-WF RPG's have alignment systems makes both by definition non-nihilistic.

Nihilism claims life is without objective meaning or is a philosophy that suggest the negation of the meaningful aspects of life. There is no point to existence, no necessary norms in a nihilistic view. Some describe Nihilism as a lack of faith in faith. Nihilism is seated in the rejection of all moral principles and that all endeavors are devoid of meaning. Neither RPG presents itself as nihilistic.

Sure in LOTFP-RPG alignments have nothing to do with morality, except of course for how PC's may relate to their alignments. Lawfuls are looking for guidance and justification to their actions. Chaotic may be haunted by their alignment. Neutrals exist between those extremes and many willfully find the extremes undesirable. The PC isn't a central element in the plans of the universe, as far as they know. Nihilism doesn't support a universe of the victimized and ill-fated, destiny has no hand in the actions of man to the nihilist and the universe is moving in no direction and is without meaningful motive or destructive forces.

In the DCC-RPG alignments matter. Sure the game proclaims "you're no hero, you're a seek gold and glory ...and you shall have them.." and then it provides rules where moral choices have an impact on the game and the character. There most certainly is right and wrong in the universe and it has a direct influence on how the universe treats it's occupants. The PC isn't a central element or gifted with any reason to expect they will achieve much at all but their choices will matter and may indeed have an impact.

Neither game system mires itself in nihilism. Sure in the Lamentations of the flame Princess Weird Fantasy RPG Grind-house Edition the imagery is horrifying and grim but few tales are told abut those who restrict themselves to polite conversation at tea, planting flowers and petting puppies and even less challenging adventure is forthcoming from the later situations.

To me how a lowly common man rips and tears his way to the middle and then makes the decision to rise as a hero or fall into villainy is far more interesting then starting out a hero from day one. Nihilism follows neither path and there is nothing to strive for.

Want to pretend to be a hero in an RPG: pretend to be a hero. Want to pretend to be a villain in an RPG: pretend to be a villain. Want to pretend to be a selfish jerk in an RPG: pretend to be a selfish jerk (don't actually be one).

This post over at the Aldeboran blog got me typing all of the above. I almost typed it as a comment but figured it would be an awful waste of a timely blog post.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Hmmm, 1 point of AC bonus...

There's a number of posts going about on the blogosphere about the piddly little 1 point bonus AC award in most D&D and D&D-like games give to the shield. I've done it myself in the past in these posts : shields again, splintering by material and shield combat variants .
All those options were pretty much geared to action in man vs man combat where armor class modifiers vs armor type were unaccounted for (which were present in some earlier forms of the game).

One consideration in the estimated value of the shield that is often ignored is combat outside of the theater of man-to-man combat. A heck of a lot of RPG combat is man-vs-monster and the monster is often little if anything like a man. The strength, size and fighting methods of many a monster would limit the effectiveness of a shield greatly.

Inhuman Strength and Size would easily defeat the shield as defense. A nice big target for a war-mammoth to crush isn't much of defense is it? An opponent who strikes you hard enough to splinter the arm bearing the shield is little inconvenienced by the shield. A big giant would surely be able to punt a shield warded warrior rather easily.

Shields aren't really much of a barrier for attacks they weren't designed to block. Explosive spells detonating on the surface of your shield might be a little better then having hit you at all but it'd sure be nice if they missed you entirely. The touch of a wraith or spectre is little interfered with by a bit of wood and metal interposed by a doomed victim. Is there really an advantage to holding a shield when green slime drops on you?

Tiny opponents don't' much care about your shield. A swarm will climb over your shield or dodge under it with little difficulty. diminutive warriors can take advantage of your limited reach and visibility inflicted by your own shield.

Maybe when we really look at the wide range of attacks a D&D combatant actually has to deal with a 1 point bonus isn't all that unreasonable even if many of us can agree the shield is much more effective in actual man-to-man combat.