Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Initiative and being the firstest with the mostest.

 Taking turns and seeing who goes first has almost always been a big deal in games and it's been no exception in RPGS but the range of ways we can do that and the rules tied to that can vary immensely.  Turn order, going first, going twice it's all serious business when we are having fun. I'm going to discuss a range of options and ways to tailor those options to an RPG campaign.

There's been reams of posts written by people analyzing the right way to do initiative in specific versions of a game and how most of us generally ignored the specific rules.  The original D&D rules didn't have an initiative system of it's own.  The first basic set of D&D did but it was a unique on all to it's own and later iterations had yet another version which also differed from what was in AD&D from edition to edition and simulacrum to heartbreaker. 


Who goes first at what? Is initiative just reflexes and reaction times? Shouldn't a 11th level sorceror be able to zap you with spells quicker than a 2nd level sorcerer, if not why not? Why is one's ability to weave magic factored in at the same rate as a Warrior with a sword? Is that warrior with a sword quicker or slower than a warrior with spear? What if the warrior with a spear is closing in on a warrior without a spear? Is the 9th level warrior faster than a 2nd level warrior? Does a PC or monsters movement rate impact when they act during a round? The questions can really pile up and this big mass of questions is something  D&D and future RPGs passed onto the DM.

Initiative systems can be broken down into components and concepts being managed and resolved. The Form of the over all initiative system, the time frame being resolved, the order of resolution,  and the cost of action are all things to consider when looking into an initiative system.


All the different forms of Initiative I could think up before breaking them down into further subsystems and  procedures:

Quickness: Initiative based on speed. (This is the most common, or the one we think we are using).

Alacrity: Initiative based on readiness and related competence.

Threat: Initiative based on the ability to project and deliver force (or the possibility of force).

Awareness: Initiative based on perception and clarity of positions and options in a conflict.

 Favor: Initiative based on the assistance one gets from luck and fate.

Opportunity: Initiative based on the ability to exploit opportunities during a conflict. What good is being fast when you are blind or clumsy?

Domination: Initiative based on the ability to control the encounter.

Command: Initiative based on the ability to direct and coordinate with others.

Power: Initiative as the ability to project superior offense (not necessarily physical).

Vigor: Initiative based on the ability to motivate and endure.

Reach: Initiative based on the ability to project harm over distance.

Stance: Initiative based on the ability to position to respond and deliver as needed in an encounter.

Focus: Initiative based on the ability to set and fulfill goals in an encounter. 

Advantage: Initiative as the ability to exploit advantage over a foe.

Delay: Initiative as the ability to work around the delay imposed by actions.

Exposure: initiative expressed as a factor of advantage based on one's exposing themselves to more and more danger.

 Time Frame

With each of those in mind now ponder the timescale of the fight resolved by the initiative sequence.  Is the determination of the initiative score set in stone or does it vary from turn to turn and side to side?

Suggested Time Frames-

Turn by Turn (or round by round): The initiative score determines the delivery and range of actions possible within each turn.

Battle by Battle: The initiative score determines the delivery and range of actions over a multi-turn sequence.

Segment by Segment: A full round is broken down into smaller segments of action resolution and any one of these turns may or may not allow combatants to act at different points in a segment of a round.

Standard Score: A specific and set core determines initiative throughout an entire campaign based on individual capabilities. 


The order of resolution can have a huge impact on the game (to some people) other's find it to be an artificial hindrance to action.

Declare and Act: In such a system all engaged players declare actions prior to attempting resolution and than actions are resolved based on the types of actions chosen.

Phased Action: In such a system (which may or may not have declaration) all movement actions are resolved, than all missile fire, than or melee or some other set of pased actions as appropriate to the genere and type of initiative system being used.

Just in Time: In such a system all that matters is the timing of the action whether one is  swinging or sword or throwing a spell actions happen as the combatants  position within initiative permits.

Continuous:  similar to just in time but there is a specific count being tallied (or tracked) that determines when or when next a player may act in an encounter.

Simultaneous: The whole turn happens all at once everyone acts and than the situations presented are resolved.


The cost of action could be considered in an initiative system. 

Action Points: All actions have point costs and those points are paid out of a the initiative score.

Delay: Each action offsets when the next action can be attempted. 

One by One: Each round limts the total number of actions. There may be exceptions but it isn't a fluid environment like in an action point or delay system.

Exhaustion: Action causes an impact on future initiative itself (working very much like Action Points but not as particular). Exhaustion implies some resource can be lost and has to be regained before the full range of actions is as available).

Threshold: Initiative score must meet or beat some threshold before an action or class of actions may be attempted.


Team or Solo? Is the action being resolved based on sides or on individuals?

Side Based: the actions of all members of a side or team are based on a group initiative determination. Specific individual action smay still be limited but all ot the "winning side" go before the "losing side".

Individual: all characters, PCS and NPCs alike act according to their own specific initiative conditions.

Players go first: the players go first vs the NPCs all the time. It's a simple way to resolve heroic action ut the initiative determination can still limit what can be done.

Players React: the players are always reacting to the actions of NPCS they don't go first but they do have the ability to counter.

 Squad Initiative: Initiative is resolved base on which squad has superior initiative. A PC and dedicated minions could be a squad. Vanguard, Main Body, and Rearguard in each force could be a squad. 

Mixed Squad: Individual players act on their own determined orders but entire groups of NPC contolled by the DM act together.


There's a lot to ponder in resolving how to determine "Who goes first ?"

Next installment: Looking into how some games do initiative.




Thursday, February 18, 2021

Slinger Character Class [Rust & Runes, draft Feb2021]

One of the simpler classes for Rust and Runes campaigns with a few exceptional abilities and a fairly easy to identify archetype.


 Fighters that focus on ranged weapons and mobility. They would like the “Gunslingers” in another place and time but in the savage wastelands of a Rust and Runes campaign guns are not the only ranged weapon. Slingers are meant to be larger than life bravos of westerns and action fiction.

Base Melee, base Throw, Base Ranged are all modifiers to the attack roll before ability score modifiers and weapon qualities are added into the roll.

 Slinger Progression Table



Base Melee

Base Throw











Extreme Range













Volley Fire (1 extra)







Rapid Reload







Quick Draw







Volley Fire (2 extra)







Sniper (+1d6)







Impossible Shot (Medium)







Volley Fire (3 extra)







Sniper (+2d6)







Impossible Shot (Long)







Volley Fire (4 extra)







Impossible Shot (Extreme, Sniper(Sniper (+3d6)

Saving Throws: Add 1/2 level (rounded up) to all saves. (Saves are generally successful on a score of 13+ but some are made against a different target number)

Extreme Range- A slinger is able to make an attack up to twice long distance normally possible with a ranged or thrown weapon. (Still haven't decided if extreme range will have an additional penalty applied ot the chance to hit over that of long range).

Volley Fire- If a slinger  of 3rd level or higher remains still during a round there are able to fire extra attacks with a ranged weapon so long as they have won initiative during a round and the initiative score exceeds the Weapon Speed Factor of the weapon in hand.

Rapid Reload- if a slinger of 4th level or higher has a weapon in hand they may reload a fire arm or energy weapon as a free action in a round.

Quick Draw- If a slinger of 5th level or higher that starts a round with no weapon in hand they can draw and attack with a  ranged weapon with no penalty to the attack. This may not be combined with Volley Fire.

Impossible Shot- once per day a slinger of 8th level or higher may make an impossible shot. So long as they are aware of a targets location they can make a single attack roll against that foe. The total distance of the path is limited by the range category of the weapon used.

Sniper- in a round where the slinger hasn’t moved they may choose to make a sniper attack which halves all range penalties to hit and allows additional damage as listed to be added onto a successful hit.

Friday, February 12, 2021

Making Encumbrance Count

... and making the players keep count. Just an outline but enough of one some folks wouldn't need more.

A big part of RPGs is looting and scooting and a major limiting factor on that is encumbrance or more specifically how stuff folks are carrying tires them out and slows them down.

The oldest school solutions were to assign a speed relevant to armor worn and to reduce that speed even further based on load carried (counted out to the coin).  Big problem here is all the fiddly accounting and lack if payoff outside movement speeds which folks only ever really pay a lot if attention to inside resolving combat.

In recent years a popular alternative is slot-based encumbrance and a host of associated penalties with or without the movement penalty for armor worn. The slot system is pretty ideal as it it just requires an entry and there yuo go accounting all done for the object, but of course some folks can't stop fiddling away and before yuo know it there's big items that take up more than one slot... don't do that.

Use slot based load tallying. Armor is 1 entry (unless you use multiple pieces of armor in your campaign and this itself is a useful way to incentives players in seeking ideal and custom equipment) and works fine like that. I've worn armor for days and it gets hot and while its heavy it doesn't actually slow you down at all (at first). Make helmets and sheilds separate items from the rest of the armor even if yuo don't use pieces to calculate armor class, they are more of a pain in the butt and more significant than many game systems account for. A container of small items is a tallied item (nobody should worry about the load difference of 20 sling stones vs 24 sling stones) if a container is so light itself it can be folded up and shoved in another container it collapses down to a 0 load item. So with 12 items you have a load of 12.

 Making that load matter.

 1. If the load tally exceeds a characters Strength score the character is encumbered. They can still run but they can't sprint and their move is 3/4 regular.  Over a distance a person who is encumbered is winded, being winded hampers all physical activity. (-4 to physcial actions including attack rolls in my campaign, disadvantaged in other rules). When a character is winded their movement rate is halved (that's half of 3/4ths).

How and when to check if a character is winded... make a strength check vs the load carried. Tally up that load an that's the number a player has to meet or beat on a d20 roll to avoid being winded. Check after 5 rounds of running or combat or any climb that take more than 1 round. You don't normally have to check if the character isn't encumbered.

2. Load total is the target number to start to sneak or quickly hide even when not actually encumbered yet. The more stuff you are lugging the harder it is to be stealthy. I recommend a d20 roll with relevant modifiers in old school campaigns. If encumbered penalties apply to this roll. Everyone wants to sneak and hide now and again and having the load tally also be the number to meet or beat everyone's going to be paying careful attention the load carried. This will have more impact on play than virtually any other form of encumbrance I've ever seen and enforces real world concerns of keeping to a light load while sneaking about.

3. A character can carry any amount over their encumbrance as they wish. But if the total is twice what would encumber them they are now burdened. A burdened character can't run and suffers all the penalties for being encumbered and they now have a based speed 1/2 normal. A burdened character has to check and see of they are winded any time they increase their load or following each round of combat.

Burdened characters can't climb or swim either. They also can't sneak. 

Burdened character can hurt themselves. Any check for physical action that botches (a roll of 1 on a d20 when rolling high) harms the character (I recommend 1 to 3 points of dmage), this is how people kill beast of burden.

Special conditions for extra heavy things should apply: carrying another whole person is automatically encumbering, tryign to drag away a barrel full of wine all by yourself is a burden.

 So in conclusion: Keep encumbrance and load tracking easy. Have that load carried and related encumbrance matter at multiple points in play.

Friday, February 5, 2021

Post Apocalyptic Character Class Concepts [Rust and Runes]

 I recently picked up work on a campaign project I originally started over 15 years ago with the ever-changing working title of “Rust and Ruins” of “Rust and Runes”.  I decided I want to be a bit more "magical" than just grubby reality even if iI wanted to be a tad less wahoo than some otherwise excellent games out there so (for now) it's "Rust and Runes".  It’s a post-apocalyptic OSR/D&D compatible concept that I have been batting about for some time now, I put off doing much with it for a host of career and gaming reasons. Play-testing and later campaign play with Mutant Future threw me off much development on this project for a bit (over a decade). I’ve been posting snippets now and again on the blog and I’ll be using it as a model campaign for many ideas I’ll be developing and sharing here. It’ll be compatible with Mutant Future and other post-apocalyptic games in the OSR family out there. The following are some introductory class development notes and if anyone has any opinions I’d be happy to see them.

Rust and Runes Charter Class Concepts (in no particular order)

- Tinkers, rummages and would possibly would be cyborgs. These are the gadgeteers of the setting a combination Techno-Mage and Fixit pro. The name implies a more intimate connection to technology than other classes in the campaign.

Scrivener- The power of Runes and symbols writ large is this classes specialty. They are a combination  runesmith, warder, and scribe that’s etches runes on devices and wards places against intrusion and harm well serving as archivists due to their never ending quest for written and symbolic lore.

Sarker- Mystic Warriors/Huntsman that derive their potency and powers form the skins of the mutant beasts they slay, the fetishes they craft with their bones, from the blood which they drink or paint themselves with. These characters will function as wild warrior-mages would in more traditional fantasy setting. I have an early version of this class I developed for more traditional campaigns i posted here years ago.

Whisper- necromancer-mediums. In a post apocalyptic setting one thing there is no shortage of is the dead and that is where these ghost-talker or corpse-whisperers come in. They will serve a role not unlike clerics in a more traditional campaign but far more concerned about dealign with wayward souls of the dead than the souls of the living. In a world with billions of the dead there is much to haunt the world of mortals that they may involve themselves with.

Cantor- Bardic healers that serve as support for scavengers and society at large.

Slinger- Fighters that focus on ranged weapons and mobility. They would like the “Gun Slingers” in another place and time but in the savage wastelands of a Rust and Runes campaign guns are not the only ranged weapon.

Brute- Fighter who like to get in close and melee with their opponents. Formidable warriors when decked in armor and waving a fearsome blade but also capable of devastating untrained foes with their bare hands (or paws).

Shrike- Psychic warriors that combine training and talent in arms with the powers of the mind. They can project kinetic force beyond their touch or even crush an opponent deep within their own mind. Another Figher/Mage option with a more direct “magical” path that doesn’t involve fiddling with mutant body parts.

Trickster- Scoundrels, harlequins, con-men that deploy deception of all kind.

Shroud- Shadow walking assassins or curious inquisitors that can mask their presence or reach into the minds of others.

Changeling (or Shifter)- Shape changing mutants able to reform their bodies in part or in total to meet the challenges on hand.

Dowser- Seers that use their telepathic powers to divine the location of water, metal, and a host of curiosities.

Verdant - Herbalist and Eco-mages able to reshape what remains of the natural world around them.

Hawker- Traveling traders and couriers bring news and wares throughout the wasteland. A socially capable class geared towards profit.

Ruster- Robot Hunters that can manipulate and reach out to the Rust with their inner knowledge. These are hackers and robot fighters a sort of technological paladin fighting against technology gone mad.

Drover- Beast-masters who develop their animal empathy to a remarkable degree to pacify and support the wild world.

Voyager- They are all about the voyage as wanders of the wind, highway heroes, stunt riders, and daring corsairs.

Lifter- Pilfering thieves, smugglers, and all-around scavengers. If it not nailed down they may just walk of with it, and if it is nailed down behind a three levels of security they can round of the means to deal with that as well.

Illuminator- manipulators of energy able to throw flames or power ancient devices, and even bend and direct Blight.

Urchin- lowest of the low, wandering scrounges that have a knack for uncanny survival. This class is meant for players that want to get in on the game but perhaps aren't eager to do much more than explore and survive in the post apocalyptic wastes.

So there we are, 20 character class concepts to fit in a fantastical post-apocalyptic setting to take the place of barbarian swordsmen and uncanny cyber wizards or possibly be joined by them. The Rust and Rune classes touch on the roles of more traditional old-school campaigns without completely replacing any one key concept. The Lifter certainly crosses into the territory of thieves but they aren’t meant to be daring rakes stabbing unwitting foes in the back but more-so robbers that loot and scoot.

I went atmospheric with the names and tried to avoid some more typical roles or offer a distinct spin so a GM can decide how they want Shaman, Engineers, Psychics, and  the like to be dealt with.More detailed write ups of these classes are to come. I also like the idea that Wizard of the Skytower can be any one of a number of characters. Classes are not necessarily the entire profession; there can be un-clased NPCS, Illuminators, and Technophages all serving as priests of The Undying Flame in such a setup.

Rust, Haunting, and Blight will be forms of contamination and manipulatable forces that I’ll post more on here.