Saturday, December 16, 2023

"Making Ogres Tougher" or "How to implement Old Rules to make tough combatants tougher."

 "I thought Ogres would be Tougher"- Following two rounds of combat initiated by a party of 1st and 2nd level pcs vs a pair of Ogres. Something I have experienced for decades outside of playing Basic D&D.How to make "tough" combatants tougher?  By looking back to the early days of the hobby of course.

Once upon time Ogres were fearsome opponents that made parties quake in the their boots; 4 HD and 1 attack doing 1-10 points of damage was pretty fearsome vs a party of characters averaging 4 hp a piece. Over the years expanding combat options and incorporating critical hits would seem to make them more fearsome but it didn't it made them more vulnerable.

How do we get Ogres, Trolls, Giants and even Grizzly Bears to be a fearsome as they were once upon a time? By looking back to the origins of the game.

Once upon a time RPGs were a subset of wargames, they were even sold as such. The rules were written to that reality and would carry a lot of that baggage into the modern days but this influence reduced and this had an impact on games that followed. Once upon a time only 4th level fighters were heroes and 8th level fighters were superheroes and there were wizards,monsters, and normal men mixed into the fray.

One of the most signifigant rules passed by over the years is allowing combatants with multiple Hit Dice to engage against multiple "normal" foes alllowing one attack per HD. AD&D softened this to Fighters being able to make multiple attacks against "0-level" opponents equal to their level as a fighter... wow exciting, if people remembred this.

I favor the notion of PCs and multiple HD monsters layign to groups of normal combatants and sweepign them aside enmasse and dont' think standard improvements in hit and damage capacity serve to provide this facet to the game. There is a lot to consider however.

While 0-level NPCs are certainly normal men, what about goblins or even orcs, how about thieves and clerics? 

Are 1st level characters "Normal Men" or are they "Heroes"? If you have 1HD you are "Normal". If you have more than 1HD you are no longer "Normal" but you are not yet "Heroic".

"Heroic" combat kicks in at 4th level for Fighters and 4 HD for monsters. Before you are "Heroic" you are essentially "normal". 

An ogre mentioned above (having 4HD) is allowed to make 4 attacks against normal opponents under such a consideration. This 4 attacks against 1 hopeless normal man or 4 attacks against a mob of peasants. As a minor methiod of balance it is advised these blows cause 1d6 damage and are not otherwise modified for strength or allowed to deliver critical hits. Player Charcaters may still use thier melee weapons dmage ratign but lose any strength adjustments to damage and still deliver no criticals. I call this capability in my campaigns "Combat Dominance".

If you are a Heroic Combatant you keep adjacent allies from falling victim to sweeping blows or flurries of attacks delivered by more capable opponents. The ogres mentioned above can still deliver a single blow for 1d10 damage but they are forced to contend with the Heroic Combatants in reach and as such lose the abiltiy to sweep aside normal foes in the manner they normally would. 

Now I already see an issue. Are all PCs able to deliver multiple blows?  I say no. I want fighting-types to be special and distinct from other charcter types. Are all non-fighters "normal" defenders? No. Let's give PCS a fighting chance (for defense) even if they aren't fighters. It is necassary (in y consideration) to introduce the "Stalwart Defense" capability. This is any character able to offer a reasonable defense agaisnt monsters and other fearsome combatants. When a charcter is capabel of "Stalwart Defense" they may only have 1 attack directed against them by a multi-HD foe with "Combat Dominance". Now if singled out by a monster capable of making multiple attacks in a round you may still fall victim to those attacks.

How these guideleines are clarified in my campaing:

Monsters with 2 or more HD that have won initiative for the round can choose to attack a group of normal combatants with a flurry of blows. These attacks are made at normal chance to hit and will deliver 1d6 damage. A heroic combatant among your foes blocks this option. Monsters to do portect allies in heroic combat. Special attacks that poison or parlayze foes do not do so durign a flurry of blows.

Fighters of 2nd level and higher have "Combat Dominance" and are "Stalwart Defenders". On rounds when their side has initiative they are allowed to engage in single combat as normal or choose to make a flurry of blows(or sweeping attack if you wish to imagine it as such). This flurry of blows allow 1 attack per fighter level to be made vs non-heroic opponents. If the defender is a "Stalwart Defender" yuo are allowed no more than one attack per round agaisnt them in this manner.

When a fighter has reached 4th level they are a "Heroic Combatant" and may block monsters and others from attacking adjacent allies with a flurry of blows, Monster and NPCs can still attack allies as per standard single combat.

At 8th level Fighters are "Super-Heroic Defense" and may block others from attacking adjacent allies even in normal combat by taking the attacks upon themselves on any round they have won intitiavie over their opponent. This must be declared before the attack is resolved. Only one super-heroic foe per round may be so foiled (being any PC-type capabel fo super-heroic defense or monster with 8 or more HD.)

Clerics are "Stalwart Defenders" at 2nd level but do not have combat dominance. They may defend others as a hero beign "heroic combatants" at 5th level and are capabel of "Super-heroic defense" at 9th level. Clerics may exercise Combat Dominancce vs groups of undead and demons starting at 2nd level.

Thieves are "Stalwart Defensers" at 3rd level and "Heroic Combatants" at 6th level, they never become "Super-Heroic Defenders". They do not gain Combat Dominance.

Magic-Users are "Stalwart Defenders" at 4th level. They become "Heroic Combatants at 7th level and "Super-Heroic Defenders" at 10th level (but ony if they have not expended all their spells*). Magic-Users gain Combat dominance vs Demons and Elementals starting at 2nd level.

*no spell needs to be cast but the ability is lost if the MU has cast all their spells this day.

Heroic Defense rules apply on rounds one has and has not won initiative.Superheroic Defense only applies on a round the defender has won intiative.

What is Single Combat? This is when a combatant focuses all their normal range of attacks on a single foe. Monsters with mutliple attacks are only allowed to attack multiple foes with succesive attacks (if they normally have 2 or more listed) if they have hit another foe with an earlier attack. 

NOTE: Flurries of Blows( or Sweeiping attacks) due to combat dominance only apply to melee attacks not ranged attacks.


Now back to that pair of Ogres I mentioned at the top. Had that pair of ogres won intitiave over a band of PCs of 1st and 2nd level they would be able to lay into them with flurries of blows. Capabel of attacking 4 pcs for 1d6 damage or splitting multiple attacks as desired upon multiple foes. If a character in that party were a "stalwart defender" they could only suffer on hit (from eahc ogre) in a single round.

Those Ogres go from poetentially dealing 2d10 damage vs the party to dealing 8d6 the party.... Ogres are fearsome again, not to mention Grizzly Bears, Giant Boars, or tigers.

Note: All Humanoid monster Types with 2HD or more become much more fearsome under these rules but not orwhelming as the initiative must still be won to gain the option of multiple bloews.

Which intiative rules to use: whichever you normally implement. If using a side vs side intitive method where the highest roll has won it is recomended a side that outnumbers another gain +1 to the roll. A side attacking with heroic or super-heroic combatants against a force with neither should gain an additional +1 to the group inittivie roll.

Wednesday, December 13, 2023

"Secret Alignment System"

My most preferred current version of fantasy dungeon games is BFRPG, there are no alignments in that game. This frees players that want their characters to be heroes to act as heroes and those that want to be anti-heroes to fill that role without worrying about cosmic retribution...right? Wrong.  Nope the universe is still watching but a character's relationship to the cosmos emerges in play.

Where does that leave NPCs?  Well they get an alignment in my notes. That alignment is however a bit more about generic outlook, faction involvement and interaction with others as opposed to cosmic ethos. The underlying model builds off of fairytales. Is that critter likely to eat you? Is that goblin wicked or just greedy?

I assign NPCs and monsters one or more attitudes and motivations:

Benevolent - Hey it's happy and friendly most of the time!

Honorable - Driven by expectations of honor, tradition, and society. Bargains are respected. 

Pious- motivated by their faith and have it govern their daily behavior. The broad dictates of their faith can create a wide range of reactions in this broad category as Cultist of The Purple Spider have a very different code from the Sword Saints.

Timid- It's not dangerous and will seek to disengage from conflict most of the time. 

Selfish- motivated by self-interest but has no outward desire to harm others. Selfish individuals typically put themselves above other concerns. This can create internal conflict that they are forced to confront.

Greedy- The acquisition of wealth motivates everything. They are loyal to their purse strings and only honor bargains to maintain the promised cash-flow.

Aloof- It really just doesn't care about the world of men and wants nothing to do with it. Some Aloof creatures will go out of their way to avoid others, and some will react with shocking cruelty to those that interfere with their plans.

Hungry- all it cares about is eating. Doesn't try to make others suffer but if it's a carnivore you are on the menu if you aren't close friends.

Hostile- aggressive and seemingly always looking for a fight. Does not tolerate the presence and behavior of mannish folk. Hostile creatures are dangerous to interact with.

Wicked- nasty and evil. Rules are made to manipulate others and aid in the destruction of the weak and innocent. Wicked creatures will be scheming and unwholesome but are not always overtly dangerous. 

<faction name>  - this indicates membership in a faction and this involvement provides motivation to the NPC.

In an NPC write-up the first attitude is the most important with up to two others governing that.


Gufflebore Dwarves, A: Greedy, Honorable - these fellows are motivated by greed and lust for gold but are likely to honor tradition and negotiate if proper procedures are followed but their palms are always welcoming of a few extra coins.

Muck Ogre, A: Hungry, Hostile- always looking to fill their maws and you my friend are on the menu. They can be diverted or distracted by a ready supply of food as the favor eating over fighting.

Willow Elves, A: Seelie, Aloof, Benevolent- they are apart from the world of men and involved with the rulings and politics of the Seelie court above other matters. They are oddly helpful and will be kind and helpful to individuals as the situation mat dictate.

The Weeping Sisters, A: Hungry, Unseelie, Hostile - these phantom elfin maidens seek to feed off the essence of mannish folk.

 The "secret" here is not every NPC wears their alignment like a badge but interaction during encounters will expose and govern behavior of NPC in relation and reaction to PCS. A PC that frequently battles members of the Seelie court would be dealt with a hostile manner by those aligned with that court. Aloof creatures will not seek to engage with PCs unless PCs push the matter. 

There is no cosmic balance written into this but there is a system that governs interaction and expectations to those that learn about the attitudes and alignment of others.