Tuesday, November 17, 2015

A More Fun Death

D&D-like games should be deadly, because player choices should have a heightened sense of consequence. Going into a fight without preparation or coordination should mean you get your ass handed to you. But, like anything, I think this philosophy can be taken to an extreme where it has the opposite of the intended effect, especially for new players. If players die in every encounter, it teaches them that characters are expendable and unimportant, and that their choices always result in the same frustrating outcome. At its worst, it teaches them that this game isn't fun.

Ideally, you want the players to learn to approach a D&D fight in a more creative way than video game grinding and button-mashing. If they don't learn, though, that's as much your fault as theirs. You need to help keep them open to trying again, failing again, and putting their characters once more at risk.

One approach I've been thinking about recently is to make failure interesting. I've added this new system to my LotFP game:

INJURY AND DYING
At 0 HP, a player is unconscious. At -3 HP and every hit afterwards, roll on the following table. Cumulative -1 for every roll after the first during the same combat. At -10 HP you are for sure dead.


d20
Effect
1
You die.
2
Lose a leg.
3
Lose an arm.
4
Lose a hand.
5
Lose d4 fingers.
6-7
Lose an eye.
8-9
Internal bleeding. Unable to move until healed.
10-11
Broken leg.
12-13
Broken arm.
14-16
Broken ribs.
17-19
Hideous scar.
20
Flesh wound. Looks worse than it is.


HEALING
Players heal 1 HP after a full night’s rest and 1d3 HP after a full day’s rest. Players with 0 or less HP must be the subject of a successful First Aid skill check (which can be made once per hour) to return to 1 HP, and will heal 1 HP for each full day of rest afterwards.

At my Sunday session two players were incapacitated, and they were both bummed out until I said the magic words: "Ok, now you have to roll an injury." Suddenly, failure was interesting. They were positively grinning at their lost eye and hideous scar.

Will this make them more likely to improve? I have no idea, though I like to imagine them looking down at their character sheet and thinking, "Ok, that's how I lost that eye, so..." But I do know that it made losing a fight way more fun.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Horror Creature Generator

I'm running a LotFP campaign set in the Balkans a little while after the reign of Vlad Tepes. I want to invoke the feeling of black and white monster movies (Nosferatu, Frankenstein) but mostly with novel, unfamiliar monsters in the Flame Princess tradition (though Voivodja is out there for the players to find in all its vampiric glory). I put together an inspiration generator to quickly produce creatures that seem like movie monsters pulled from folklore but slightly askew.

Thinking about real animals that freak people out, I developed a pet theory that they can be categorized into four modes of creepy behavior: crawling, slithering, swarming, and stalking. So that's the first step:

d4:
1. crawl
2. slither
3. swarm
4. stalk

Then you roll an inspiration creature, taking the inspiration as literally or figuratively as you like:

Crawl - d8:
1. beetle-like
2. centipede-like
3. crab-like
4. lobster-like
5. roach-like
6. scorpion-like
7. slug-like
8. snail-like

Slither - d8:
1. eel-like
2. fog-like
3. leech-like
4. lamprey-like
5. octopus-like
6. snake-like
7. squid-like
8. worm-like

Swarm - d8:
1. ant-like
2. bat-like
3. bee-like
4. fly-like
5. locust-like
6. maggot-like
7. rat-like
8. microbe-like

Stalk - d8:
1. crocodile-like
2. mantis-like
3. plague-like
4. shark-like
5. spider-like
6. raptor-like
7. vulture-like
8. wolf-like

Then determine the creature's M.O:

d20 (roll 1-2 times):
1. feeds on body fluids
2. it follows, like It Follows
3. feeds on fear
4. infiltrates dreams
5. hypnotizes/charms
6. loves (and is immune to) poison
7. hates (and is immune to at least some) magic
8. radiates hallucinations
9. causes plants to wilt
10. is radioactive
11. exists outside space-time
12. is the result of an ancient curse
13. feeds on madness
14. is the result of man's folly
15. feeds on hedonism
16. has one form in the day and another at night
17. is from hell or the nether regions of the earth
18. desires power over men
19. is a summoned servant
20. wants to eradicate men

And weaknesses:

d20 (roll 1-2 times):
1. sunlight
2. holy blood
3. silver
4. lead
5. mercury
6. salt
7. elf urine
8. flowing water
9. virgin tears
10. vanity
11. stupidity
12. it cannot lie
13. its own reflection
14. a superiority complex
15. a sweet tooth
16. its spirit is tied to a small object
17. baby's laughter
18. being tossed down a well
19. decapitation (other attacks futile)
20. powdered bone of a magic creature

Then I cheat by rolling on the d100 Guest Attributes and Powers tables on pp. 49 and 50 of A Red & Pleasant Land. The tables are there and great so I'm gonna use them, dammit.

It's fast because you can roll all the dice at once or click here (only 10 entries from the R&PL tables are given in the online generator because I got tired of typing) and produces a fairly complete piece of inspiration that works for me. So it meets the Cardinal Rule of generators by being faster than making it up from scratch.

I would then recommend drawing the generated creature and statting it right on the drawing, like so. Ideally, there should be something both human and inhuman about the creature.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Scrapbook DMG

You could probably put together the best DMG ever using only blog posts and other free internet things. Here's an index of freely available DM advice and resources that have been invaluable to me as I wade back into the game after years away. It's by no means exhaustive, and I'll keep it updated as I find more stuff.

Introduction

Advice for the Newly Afflicted - Renfield's Cat
On a Guide for New Dungeon Masters - Hack & Slash

Prep Advice

Don't Prep Plots - The Alexandrian
LotFP Referee Book - James Raggi
RPG ABCs - Basic Red
What Is Tested? - Goblin Punch

Running Advice

5 Tips for Horror in D&D - Strange Magic
Gaming Advice #1 - Don't Be A Dick Head - Monsters and Manuals
On DMing - Monsters and Manuals
Quantum Ogre series - Hack & Slash
Quick Primer for Old School Gaming - Matthew Finch
Why I Love Simple Initiative - Playing D&D With Porn Stars

Prep Resources

100 Problem & Puzzle Set-ups - Playing D&D With Porn Stars
1d122 OSR-Style Challenges - Goblin Punch
Choose Your Own Generator - Last Gasp
Die-Drop Instadungeon - Playing D&D With Porn Stars (online version here by Jensan)
Ecosystem Generator - I Don't Remember That Move
Forty Fallen Empire Magic Items - Dungeon of Signs
Instaregion - Playing D&D With Porn Stars
Some Rival Adventuring Parties - Dandy in the UnderworldStock The Dungeon With Rooms That Don't Suck, Fast - Playing D&D With Porn Stars
Treasure - Courtney Campbell (Hack & Slash)
Tricks, Empty Rooms, & Basic Trap Design - Courtney Campbell (Hack & Slash)

In-Game Resources

Cowardice, Treachery, Ineptitude, Insanity (hireling freakouts) - Rotten Pulp
D100 Nested Treasure Table - Playing D&D With Porn Stars (Abulafia here)
Hidden Traits Of NPC You Didn't Realize Was Going To Be Important Until You Actually Started Playing - Playing D&D With Porn StarsHow Do I Break This Curse? - Playing D&D With Porn Stars
Party like it's 999 - Jeff's Gameblog
So You've Decided To Rest In Town Before Going Back Into The Dungeon! - Playing D&D With Porn Stars
Urbancrawl Rules for Slacker DMs - Playing D&D With Porn Stars
What's a Dazzling Urbanite Like You Doing in a Rustic Setting Like This? - Dandy in the UnderworldWhere The Hell Have You Been, Flake? - Playing D&D With Porn Stars

Hexcrawls

(All hosted on Save vs. Total Party Kill)

Adventures and Dungeons

Better Than Any Man - James Raggi
Five Churches of Tiamat - Playing D&D With Porn Stars
Palace of the Silver Princess - lots of people
Sky-Stone-River-Place - False Machine
Sleeping Place of the Feathered Swine - Logan Knight
The Submerged Spire of Sarpedon the Shaper - Mazirian's Garden
ThroneCrypt of the Afflicted Lord - Playing D&D With Porn Stars (partially keyed)
Unfinished Location File - Playing D&D With Porn Stars (unkeyed)
SaveSave

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

LotFP Variable Attack Weapons

I redid the LotFP weapons list with variable modifiers to ATTACK based on opponent armor for this new combat system. Seems fairly balanced - marginal bonuses for all weapons are 0 or +1. Median bonus for an unarmored opponent is +2, 0 for both leather and chain, and -1 for plate.


WeaponUnarmoredLeatherChainPlate
Cestus+2+1-1-2
Garrote*----
Lance-3-1+1+3
Mancatcher**----
Polearm†-30+1+2
Rapier+2+2-1-2
Spear†-2-1+1+2
Staff†+1+10-1
Weapon, great†-2-1+1+3
Weapon, med+2+1-1-1
Weapon, min+30-1-2
Weapon, small+200-2
Whip+200-2

*Requires a successful grapple to do damage.
**Hit opponent must succeed in a TRAPS save or be caught.
†Two-handed.

New Deck Chairs


At a certain level of minutiae, changing rules doesn't matter all that much. As long as they cover playing with swords, casting spells, and exploring a deep, dark place in a semi-simulationist way, it's going to feel like D&D. With rules, familiarity trumps all else, followed by straightforward use. Realistic simulation doesn't rank all that high with me as long as some common sense is evident. Changing rules for "realism" is like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic, if the Titanic were a fun game you played with friends. Actually, the Titanic would be a fun game to play with friends.

That being said, I watched a few videos on European martial arts and historical dueling, and this combat system came to me fully formed in about a half hour of distracted thinking this morning. So I might as well write it down.

The main things I took away from the videos were that strength isn't actually that important for swinging weapons and dexterity isn't that important for shooting weapons. If anything, strength is much more important for shooting a bow or crossbow than it is for swinging a sword. What IS important: knowing what you're doing, having the right tool for the job, and not getting tired.

Base rules are LotFP, with the following changes:

The four abilities are BODY, FINESSE, MIND, and SPIRIT. 3d6, modifiers from -3 to +3.

BODY is added to STAMINA and Fighters'/Dwarves' AC.
FINESSE is added to TRAPS saves and Thieves'/Halflings' AC.
MIND is added to TRICKS saves and Magic Users' AC.
SPIRIT is added to MAGIC saves and Clerics'/Elves' AC.

STAMINA is the number of rounds you can fight normally. 7 + BODY + class modifier. Every five rounds after that, you take a cumulative -2 penalty to both ATTACK and AC. Class modifiers: goes up by 1 every 3 levels for Fighters and Dwarves, every 4 levels for Thieves and Elves, and every 5 levels for Clerics, Magic Users, and Halflings.

AC: 10 + class-specific modifier + armor. Leather +2, Chain +4, Plate +6.

HP: Straight d6 rolls, no modifiers.

ATTACK: +1, goes up by 1 per level for Fighters only. All weapons do d6 damage per hit, but provide additional ATTACK modifiers dependent on the opponents' armor:


Weapon
Unarmored
Leather
Chain
Plate
Axe, hand
+1
+1
-1
-2
Club
+1
0
-2
-4
Dagger
+3
+1
-2
-3
Fist
+4
0
-1
-5
Flail
-1
+1
+2
+2
Hammer
0
0
+1
+1
Mace
-1
0
0
+1
Morning star
+2
+1
+1
0
Pick
-2
-1
+1
+2
Scimitar
+3
+1
-1
-2
Sword, broad
+2
+1
0
-2
Sword, long
+2
0
0
-1
Sword, short
+2
+1
0
-2

Combat options are Parry, Press, and Defensive, as per LotFP. Shields are offensive weapons, not defensive. They reduce the AC penalty for Press to -2, but take up two slots of equipment or reduce stamina by 1. You choose.

Movement is based on equipment carried, slightly simplified from LotFP. You have 25 slots of inventory. Bulky items take up 2 slots and small items take up slots in units of 25. After 10 slots, you're Lightly Encumbered. After 15, you're Moderately Encumbered. After 20, Heavily Encumbered. After 25, you can't move.

Worries: 

Keeping track of STAMINA and four different numbers for each weapon might be too cumbersome at the table. There's no BODY-based save, because I didn't want to give one stat too many benefits, so it's not clear where poison or disease saves would go. I'm inclined to go with TRICKS, but I couldn't give you a good reason why. FINESSE is an awkward word next to BODY, MIND, and SPIRIT. I wanted to go with "speed", but that would imply that it affects how fast you move, which it doesn't.

I might playtest this, I might not. Coming up with cool shit to throw at players is always more exciting than fiddling with rules.

Here's a rough character sheet, without skills or magic: