Saturday, September 29, 2012

Illustrations on Equipment Cards?

Still pondering equipment cards. I feel their use will add an element of originality to my soon to be renewed tabletop campaign (The old one is in it's death-throws). I'm wondering if the limited space on such cards makes it worth including illustrations. I really liked the simple ones on the old Dungeon! game but those cards included little in the way of stats. I'm not shy on artistic talent but wonder if my time in game development is better spent on words than it would be spent on pictures.

What do you folks think? Pretty pictures, simple pictures, icons, or skip the art?

Silly Trek Test

Your results:
You are Worf

James T. Kirk (Captain)
Will Riker
An Expendable Character (Redshirt)
Mr. Sulu
Jean-Luc Picard
Geordi LaForge
Beverly Crusher
Mr. Scott
Deanna Troi
Leonard McCoy (Bones)
You are trained in the art of combat
  and are usually intimidating.

Click here to take the Star Trek Personality Test

As I was clicking along, I thought I was going to end up a red shirt and wasn't far off.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Variable Ability Bonuses

Consider the impact on D&D-a-like games if ability scores weren't a fixed bonus but were instead a range? Always getting a +3 is predicatble and certainly fun but what if it was a d6 bonus instead?

No fixed bonus in situation would add uncertainty and possibly downplay higher ability scores being a certain bonus.

Dragonfist did something like this years back and it worked to add a little uncertainty and randomness to things.

What if Ability Bonuses were not "Always On"?

What impact would it have on D&D and similar games if ability scores were not "always on"?
DEX bonus to Ac only being counted when a the character was focusing on defense, STR bonus to damage only coming into play when using a two handed weapon... and so on.

Would player choice in active play be more meaningful if otherwise common modifiers were tied to direct play choices and were not always on? Situational modifiers can get picky and forgotten when cluttered among a host of other modifiers but if ability modifiers are only applied on a situational basis they become the scores to modify a situation and there are only a few of those on each character sheet.

Radical crazy, maybe. But without high ability scores being "always on" a player has to make choices beyond character creation and maybe not lean on high ability scores over tactics.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Run Away!

my weekly group of players has shown a decided pattern of late wherein they choose to run way at the earliest signs of adversity. its becoming a real chore to have something interesting happen that they will not drop at some point and wander away from. the pcs are all rich not crazy world shaking rich but ive got a cart full of gold rich nonetheless. i suppose it is time to be hamfisted and have adventure smack them upside the head.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Building an Ultimate Encounter Table

I've been fiddling with encounter tables again (as always) as i find them very useful in an open (sandbox) campaign. A good set of table is descriptive and can really drive a lot of adventure. A proper set of tables allows the DM to present a seemingly complete campaign. wondering about what such a set of tables may include got me thinking on ways to classify and organize tables. So far I've worked out a number of elements worthy of consideration: Activity Mode, Party Size, Composition, Climate, Civilization, Terrain, Season, Weather, and Time of Day.

Activity Mode- just what are the players doing, this should have a major impact on what encounters they have to deal with and makes player choice a major element in what happens to them. Are they Traveling, Sneaking about, Camping, Hiding Out, Exploring, Hunting, In Residence, Engaged in some Industry, or Raiding? Each of activities can bring about a different set of encounters. A party hunting in a dukes forest is going to drum up a different set of reactions and encounter than they would bristiling with weapons to pillage the same dukes holdings beyond the woods.

Party Size- a definite impact, some encounters will be missed or avoided simply by party size. An Individual or Pair is going to have a different experience from a small or large party, as would a caravan, or army.

Composition- is the party On Foot, Mounted, Mixed (with some walking and some riding), A wagon Train, Water-Born, or Flying?

Climate- pretty obvious stuff here is the region generally Cold, Cool, Mild, Warm, or Hot?

Civilization- how dense is the local population and how is it organized? Urban, Rural, Borderland, Frontier, Wild?

Terrain- Lot's of room here in fantasy lands beyond the obvious: Mountains, Hills, Swamp, Plains, Forest, and Desert. What about Faerie Forests, Dragon Wrack, Mushroom Forests, and Shadowlands? don't gorget the impact of civilization on the terrain which can be reshaped to include Pasture, Fields, Worked Wood, Road, Village, Town, Metropolis, Castle, Ruins and Monuments.

Season- often ignored but the world is a different place when it's Winter, Spring, Summer or Autumn.

Weather- maybe a variable condition, or a predictable one that will certainly impact what those out and about have to deal with, Is it Cloudy, Windy, Rainy, A cold spell or a heat wave; all those conditions will impact what is roaming about and who is doing what.

Time of Day- time of day if broken down by the hour or broader periods of Dawn, morning, Afternoon, Dusk and Night will impact sights to be seen and encounters, not just likelihood and frequency.

Certainly a lot of ground there and not every combination need be considered but if many are a richer experience may be developed that describes the campaign setting and drives play.  Combining most of the factors above would result in over a quarter million tables alone...

What goes on the cards?

So what goes on those equipment cards?

Ideally every darn thing you can squeeze on them but depending on the rules the utility may be variable. for weapons we have damage rating, encumbrance and range if applicable; if your game has weapon vs AC mods should this go on the card? Should notes that vary the weapons effectiveness in situations and tactics be included? Item value? Item AC and HP if your system uses them? Should all items have saving throws listed?

In an ideal world I'd want a lot of that on a weapons equipment card but in an ideal world no one would expect me to scribble it all down for Lord Dark, his 3 Leutenatns of Looming doom and their faceless squad of dungeon guardians on a useable set of cards... oh whait, they should if we are using equipment cards.

hmmm... still more to ponder.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Pondering "Equipment" Cards

Keeping track of character equipment, weapons, armor, and loot is initially as simple as a list. Problem is a list only includes what it's author details. We end up with weapons and armor described on sheets apart from mundane gear, food and water (arrows too) reduced to hash marks on another area of character sheet and a vast accounting of every coin ever discovered by the character and all held together by an ever expanding backpack (if the player remembered to purchase one for the character). Throw in encumbrance to that book-keeping and a few things get missed.

I've long pondered using cards to solve this matter. A card can include every bit of info a game system requires (hopefully). A card is tangible, it's hard to argue one can haul about the 40 or so cards in a stack all in one little belt pouch and move about unencumbered. There are a few issues with cards however: they can get lost and you need a lot of them.

Cards can get lost. A player loses his character's stack of cards between sessions and they lose a lot of their precocious gear. Loss of equipment is a fate worse than death of a PC for many a player. One could argue a stack of cards does however encourage one to actually keep track of the precious goods. A little back up accounting can help but in the end cards can be lost.

The number of cards needed can be quite cumbersome if one really keeps track of what is needed.
A simple equipment list for a lowly fightign man could easily read:
Helmet, sword, shield, leather armor, boots, trousers, tunic, boots, water-skin, knife, tinder box, 50' of rope,30 g.p,15 s.p.,45cp and a weeks rations. That's 14 cards... or is it? Where's the character's loot carried, should those rations actually be 7 cards (collect yourself a days food and tell me it's not a noticeable amount of stuff), how many coins to a card?. With a card based system you have to wonder what's really worth keeping track of on a card.

With cards however we do get the visceral thrill of picking up your loot and digging through the pile of loot. Having cards to split up and argue over makes the treasure "more" and it also get's rid of the nebulous "party treasure' accounting I've often seen where a cloud of coins seems to magically follow a party around.There's no cheating involved when a player suspects the party member with twice as many cards as they have is pocketing an unfair portion of the loot.

Cards also allow for easy accounting of incomplete information. A card can describe an item without revealing it's true function with more detail than what a player actually writes on a sheet. Adm can even scribble in little codes for keeping track of magical treasures without requiring the player to scribble down an items serial no on an equipment list.

Just a little bit of pondering on the use of cards I felt like sharing. Cards have to be stored, legible, and durable too.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Mundane, Monster, or Magical?

When building an adventure or an entire setting I'm always wondering how much of things that are magical or mundane I should include. Describing a setting has a lot more to it than simply rolling out lines of descriptive dialog. Encounters describe the setting as much as they provide opportunity for challenge.

When including encounters that are meant to be descriptive over tactically challenging the DM has an opportunity to offset other encounters. An endless stream of mostly hostile oddities serves to enforce simple game playing and serves to diminish anything unique in a host of magical monsters.

If your game takes place in the dung age (for example) encounters presented to display the setting over a tactical purpose lifts the background into the foreground and accents the more intense tactically challenging situations. Filthy harlots, processions of lepers, and roadside prophets (typically with no more power than their ravings)are a strong offset to wandering sorcerers,misplaced drakes, and misanthropic humanoids that do more than an enldess stream of encounters that pop out exp and gp when they are bashed by the PCs.

Encounter tables as usually presented focus on the  intense and immediately dangerous and this really reduces opportunity for exploration and discovery. Random encounters with hostiles present little more then speed bumps that consume resources and delay progress if that's all they ever are.

There of course has to be a balance between the mundane (setting specific) encounter and the more magical and monstrous ones. Too much mundane and we lose the magic that draw us to the games; it's really a balancing act to keep the players anticipating what may come next.

A setting full of weird isn't weird in the slightest. A hundred different crawling things with no reason to be all slip and slide into each other and each unique creature becomes another hostile creature to be beaten or fled, little more. The weird.magical, and monstrous all need to be balanced by the mundane.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

A Proposed and Incomplete Farming Mechanic

A proposed and incomplete farming mechanic cobbled together after a bit more research in medieval farming. I've gone down this road a bit before and realized a little need as the PC's in my weekly game have decided to claim a village as their own.

Yield in bushels= ((1d6 per seed bushel sown)+Land Quality + Seasonal Modifiers)/2
Roll a control die (1d6) and if this number is greater then the no of bushels sown the yield is halved.

Seasonal Modifiers haven't been fiugyure out yet but it's safe to keep them in the -4 to +4 range.

Land Quality is rated as per a D&D stat.

After each growing season a plot of land must make a saving throw with a negative modifier equal to the bushels of seed planted. A failed save downgrades the quality of that plot by the no. of seed bushels sown.

Land save is 10+

How much hood do people need to eat ? 12-24 bushels a year in corn (grain) and legumes (beans and peas) seems to be the answer. STR x 1.5 seems to do the trick, characters that don't each this much have an increased chance of illness.

Land can yield 1-3 harvests a year depending on land,climate, and farming techniques used.

Land recovery, each season a plot is fallow a save can be made for that plot to upgrade the land quality by 1 for a plot downgraded due to a failed save from an earlier plot season.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Xarcosatron Tables 0.2

I've been tinkering with an app on my smartphone on and off for the past couple months during the occasional spare moment to generate settlements for Carcosa-ish settings.
The following tables are pulled out of the data sets for the program.

Feature/Mood of Place

1  Secluded
2  Hidden
3  Isolated
4  Sheltered
5  Dirty
6  Cramped
7  Partly-ruined
8  Old
9  Dingy
10 Fortified
11 Decrepit
12 Shabby
13  Half-Collapsed
14  Overgrown
15  Decorated
16  Colorful
17 Drab
18 Ramshackle
19  Muddy
20 Crowded
21 Small
22 Large
23 Crumbling
24 Alien

Type of Place
1-2 Camp
8-9 Village
10-13 Citadel
14-15 Tower(s)
16 Monastery
17 Caves
18 Catacombs
19-21 Castle
22 Dome
23 Pits
24 Mines

Population Quirk
1  Devout
2  Honorable
3 Crazed
4 Deranged
5 Desperate
6 Diseased
7-8 Starving
8-9 Hostile
10 Generous
11-13  Demented
14-15  Greedy
16 Morbid
17-19 Poor
20 Gregarious
21 Nervous
22 Bawdy
23 Brave
24 Cowardly

Population Alignment
1-3 Lawful
4-6 Neutral
7-9 Chaotic
10 Mixed

1-2 Black
3 Bone
4-5 Red
6-7 Orange
8-9 Yellow
10-11 Green
12-13 Blue
14-15 Purple
16-17 Jale
18-19 Ulfire
20-21 Dolm
22-23 White
24 Brown
(roll d100 for leader's color 25-100 same as population)

Population Type
1-9 Men
10 Bandits
11 Berserkers
12-13 Cultists
14-15 Nomads
16-17 Primitives
18 Monks
19 Amazons
20 Pygmies
21 Cannibals
23 Raiders
24 Slavers
25 Brigands
26-27 Hunters
28 Scavengers
29 Pilgrims
30 Mutants

Domination Descriptor
1  lead by
2  ruled by
3  controlled by
4  enthtalled by
5  dominated by
6  enslaved by
7  protected by
8  worship

Leader Alignment
1-5 Same as population
6 Opposite of Population
7-8  Lawful
9-10 Neutral
11-12 Chaotic

Leader Traits
1  Hateful
2  Paranoid
3  Greedy
4  Slothful
5  Lusty
6  Debauched
7  Ambitious
8  Brave
9  Corpulent
10  Elderly
11  Cowardly
12  Vain
13 Flamboyant
14 Youthful
15 Joyful
16 Extravagant
17 Sad
18 Haughty
19 Pious
20 Mad

1-5 Chieftan
6-10 Noble
11-12 Prophet
13-22Fighter, level 2d6+1
23-28 Sorcerer; level 2d4+5
29 Mutant
30 Monster


Chatting the past Wednesday during our weekly RPG session we strayed into the subject of the zombie apocalypse. We quickly came to the realization that a rational discussion of Zombies quickly makes the zombie apocalypse not so much material for enduring fun. Yeah it would really rot to be next door ot the toxic waste dump/funeral-home/morgue/secret military base right when the zombies come stumbling forth but eventually things would get under control and calm down enough for us to see the rise of a greater horror... PETZ: People for the Ethical Treatment of Zombies.

In the real world the zombie apocalypse would definitely spawn the likes of PETZ and ruin the fun of shooting your neighbor's dead cousin in the head.