Saturday, 28 February 2015

Level 2!!!

  So earlier tonight someone recommended via the comments in the previous post that I award XP for magic items.

  I'd always shied away from doing that for the simple reason that I figured a magic item was reward enough in itself.
  But the truth is, character advancement in my game was being way too slow, an extra way of adding XP couldn't hurt. It also gives players a RP incentive to treat all magical items as something special to be treasured and not just better than average equipment. (As long as I've got a reason! Just like treasure, which is also a reward in itself but it makes for a more interesting game since players have to figure out how they will carry it with them and must avoid losing it.)
  Anyway, as I added up the XP the players would retroactively get, I realized that Rhovanor the Elf finally got to Level 2!!!
  Torad the Barbarian didn't get XP for his magic dead rat yet because he still has to have it identified and then carry and use it for a while.

New Way of Handling XP For My Campaign

  So, you can apparently learn more as an adventurer by picking up this...

  Than by doing this:

  When it comes to old-school D&D, I like the idea of treasure giving XP because it encourages the players to figure out ways to bring it back, which is always fun to watch and makes them think. The problem is that if one uses treasure as the main source of XP, it means monsters and combat in general aren't worth much. If your players don't meta-game (and mine don't) then they won't go for the nearest loot necessarily, but rather where the story and their own characterization naturally leads them. Sometimes that can mean sessions of dealing with NPCs and not going treasure hunting, especially if the adventure is happening in a city. They'll get into fights but won't get much of a chance to loot.
  I do give XP for good RP and accomplished goals per the Castles & Crusades guidelines, but that's as far as I allow my own bias to affect XP in my games and we're talking about fairly small amounts of XP anyway.
  So we've established that I like treasure as XP, but I don't want to punish my players because they're doing other stuff than looting old dangerous places all the time. Sure, I can give a gold value to an object to be retrieved or a mission to be done from a 'quest giver' if you will, but I want to encourage players to also do whatever they want beyond choosing from missions I thought of.
  While my players were stuck as gladiators, I switched the XP system to the one from Akratic Wizardry for the simple reason that they had all been captured by Drow and until they escaped all they could do would be fighting, so it seemed unfair to keep the normal XP rules during those games. That alternative XP system is mostly about XP for combat. It also seems like it would have been a better system for the campaign as it has been the last two sessions even after their escape from the gladiatorial arenas of the Underdark.
  I've decided that I'm gonna use both, but at half their value each to balance them out.
  A monster will be worth 50 XP per HD.
  2 GP will be worth 1 XP.
  From there I will also not have to worry about if I'm being fair or not in the amount of treasure or monsters they encounter along the way. Killing monsters is more dangerous but gives you the XP pretty much right away. Carrying treasure is easier if you have the resources to carry it, but if you lose it before you get to the next civilized area then you've lost all that XP. Now they'll both be worth equally as much.
  Mostly, I won't have to worry about feeling bad because the previous session didn't lead players into one huge treasure pile!
  The poor guys are STILL level 1...

Dungeon Rooms Are Still Available for 'Make My Dungeon'!

  Just letting you all know that the 'Make My Dungeon!' project is still going, where you can fill a room in the dungeon and once they're all occupied I will use it in my campaign at some point, then share the results with everyone!

  I'd also like to clarify that is is just for fun and non-profit, a way to let people from all over the world participate in my campaign and then get some feedback from it, I will not publish or make money out of it and whatever idea you come up with for a room remains yours. :)

Thursday, 26 February 2015

John Woo Style!!!

 Let's start by looking at the following pictures.

  Ooooh yeah. Firing two handguns at once, running around despite having a few bullets in your body, ignoring that huge explosion behind you as bad guys fall down like flies and Salma Hayek is waiting for you...
  Anyway, as I was watching John Wick the other day, I realized it would be lots of fun to do a John Woo style game. All about looking cool, acting cool and taking down armies of bad guys, logic be damned!
  I got this here game at home:

  Sure it's made for the Buffyverse spin-off 'Angel', but it has all the rules for action movie tropes! You have 'Drama Points' which allow you to do all sorts of action hero stuff! I don't just mean bonuses to rolls or things like that, you can actually influence the story with Drama Points. Actually, any of Eden Studios' Cinematic Universe books will serve you (They also made rulebooks for Buffy and Army of Darkness!), but 'Angel' is the one with rules for vehicular combat and chases, and you'll need those rules for when you're shooting at the bad guy's car while riding a motorcycle!

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Wands That Would Be Useful in a Dungeon

  Just a quick thought, but it seems to me that people are always making combat wands. Or maybe it's just me and there's actually plenty of examples of the contrary out there.
In any case, an adventurer able to use wands worth his salt would have them charged with Detect Magic and Dispel Magic when going into dungeons for those magical traps.
  Heck, if your system has spells for detecting traps, unlocking doors and other stuff like that, it would be very useful too!
  Plus you get to feel like the Doctor while using them, which is always a bonus!

Monday, 23 February 2015

Unfinished Business

  Looking back on previous posts it dawns upon me that there are some things that were started but then left unfinished in this blog. Instead of sweeping them under the rug, I'm going to address them directly.

  • Bruno's RPG Talk: While I haven't done an episode in a while, I do intend to continue it at some point.
  • Chronicles of Adamus: As previous.
  • Writing up Stats for Star Wars Characters Using Machinations of the Space Princess: I might do that at some point but probably not. The truth is, I'm working on a few actual RPG products of my own, so taking the time to stat stuff is probably better spent by doing it on some things I should have finished by now.
  • OSR Online Campaign: I tried to get it started a while back with the idea that I'd upload it on YouTube but it didn't work out. I might try again in the future but lately I have an ongoing campaign with some friends, work and as I said I'm working on a few projects for actual publication along with some things I'll eventually do by myself and put up on or something.
  • The Tale of Rhovanor: That solo game was paused for many months due to work and now the player and that character are in my ongoing campaign with other players. You'll still hear from that character here and there but I'm no longer interested in writing up what happened after every single game session because, again, I've got other stuff to write and it felt like extra prep work, only done after the game! :p (Besides, Henchman Abuse is a great blog if you need that kind of fix.)
  • Pathfinding Low Life: I love, LOVE the Low Life setting, but see 'Writing up Stats for Star Wars Characters Using Machinations of the Space Princess'.
  • Chronicles of Death & Dungeoneering: Continued HERE.

Your Horrible Abomination is Weaker than a Human

Look at that wuss.

  A few years ago I prepared this villain for an adventure in the desert. It was a huge centaur-like scorpion creature, kind of like the Scorpion King. I also decided to make it Undead, just to make it even more horrible.

But not as horrible as crappy CGI, of course.
  All that meant was that I had made it easier for the Paladin PC to kill the Big Bad in record time. It was depressing. If the creature hadn't been undead it would have lasted longer because it wouldn't have received extra damage from Positive Energy. And yes, as an undead it had plenty of scary powers, it just never had time to properly use them before he was downed.
  Heck, I've seen adventures that suggest modifying the amount of undead if no Cleric is in the party. Like to make them scary again there need to be tons of them when a Cleric is around.
  I love using undead monsters and I'm certainly not going to nerf any class, but there ARE times when a human Fighter of the same level as an undead monster's HD will be the bigger threat!

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Party Balance: The One Balance I Don't Care About

  Players: "We wanna play four Halfling Rogues."
  Some DMs: "Oh, no, no, there should be only one Rogue, the others should be a Magic-User, a Fighter and a Cleric."

  Players: "We wanna play four Halfling Rogues."
  Me as a DM: "O.k, as long as no one minds that other players have the same overall abilities."
  Players: "Nah, we're good."
  Me as a DM: "O.k, let's begin."

   I started thinking about this a while back when in a message board someone was discussing module compatibility with Lamentations of the Flame Princess and pointed out how because in that game Turn Undead was a spell instead of a class ability with unlimited use, any modules with too many undead should have some undead removed from it. (It also has to do with the very next post that I'll be writing after this one, but I digress.)
  In other words, many go into D&D and other similar games thinking that this balance of chosen classes should be automatic in a gaming group.
  It certainly doesn't bother me if players do decide to go for that balance of classes between themselves but I have never felt the need to explain it to new players, always preferring that they choose the class that they want to play the most. The one they'll have the most fun with.
  This also brings me to the following: What if you have an adventure that NEEDS a Cleric, and the Cleric dies on that acid trap in Room #3? What then?
  Honestly I see adventures that require one specific class to work as being the same as an adventure that will stop dead in its tracks should the players miss one single die roll, like a Ranger's Tracking for example.

  Some DMs: Oh man, you weren't supposed to miss that die roll. *Proceeds to give the information to the players some other way so that the die roll actually never mattered in the first place.*

  In other words, if I am browsing for an adventure I will certainly not get one that says "Requires a party with a Cleric."
  O.k, maybe one exception where I have been interested in such products before is the series of 1 on 1 adventures from Expeditious Retreat Press, for obvious reasons.

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

More Musings on Leveling and a House Rule for XP

  This is really just for the heck of pondering it because I'd be really surprised if it ever came to happen in my campaign at the slow rate my players gain XP... And yet, one never knows what could happen in a sandbox!
  What if the player characters gain enough XP for TWO levels? I couldn't find any mention of it in Castles & Crusades (which might just mean I suck at finding stuff!) but Lamentations of the Flame Princess and D&D v3.5 both have their own ideas on the subject.
  D&D 3.5 says that characters should only level up once and get enough XP to be 1 point shy of the other level they would have gotten. In other words, they'll get that second extra level soon enough but they have to survive one more adventure to get it.
  LotFP, unsurprisingly, is harsher with XP. It recommends that the characters should level up and then get half the XP needed for the next level.
  Before I even decided which one I would go with, I realized one thing; This way of doing things actually sucks for classes that require less XP to level up! Let me explain, but of course keep in mind that this obviously applies to OSR games, not the newer editions where the same amounts of XP to level up are needed and thus require that they be all as equally good as possible to balance them.
  Let's say you play a Thief/Rogue/Specialist. Your class is not as bad-ass as the Magic-User or the Fighter generally speaking. You get to sneak around and disarm traps, which in many ways just means you're the first in harm's way in a dungeon because of it, actually. But at least you level up faster, you don't require as much XP as the other guys. That's your balancing factor in old-school games. (No, I don't want to hear about how old-school is about not caring about balance. That will always be nonsense to me.)
  Now let's say you all got a crapload of XP, enough to go up two levels. The game of course limits just how far you go and all extra XP is lost. You know what that means? That the character who has a 'cooler' class than you and/or multi-classed (and would thus require more XP to level up normally) lost less XP than you did in the process! That Ranger/Wizard got way more value out of that adventure than you did with your Rogue character!
  Sure, overall we can agree that this will happen rarely and that the Rogue will normally have the advantage of leveling faster in the long run anyway. But let's say you over-think things like me and still find it unfair and want to fix that.
  Ladies and gentlegamers, I introduce you to the concept of the XP Bank!: Any left-over XP that couldn't go into leveling up your character goes into the XP bank! Your Magic-User must spend XP on a spell or item creation? He can take it from his XP Bank first! Your character got level drained? You can add XP from your Bank back into your character and maybe even keep that level if you had enough XP for it! (In games where Level Drains can be fixed, this is a 'loan' from your XP Bank, where once the Drain has been fixed the loaned XP goes back to your Bank.) Optionally, a level or two later the DM could allow players to take some or all of that XP back from the Bank and into their character sheets proper, as long as it wouldn't level them up right away by doing so.
  As for my personal choice for my campaign, I'm actually gonna go with the D&D 3.5 ruling for XP gains. I normally agree with the harsher views on XP from LotFP (For example, avoiding a fight with a monster or NPC doesn't give you XP for it, the reward was avoiding the danger.) but while I think there should be a limit to just how many levels characters can gain in a single go, I still want to respect what they earned fair and square.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Making the Character Sheet your Campaign Really Needs

  So if you're like me when it comes to OSR you'll be very hands-on with the rules used for your campaign. (My campaign mixes rules from Castles & Crusades and Lamentations of the Flame Princess along with some house rules!)
  As soon as you start using house rules, odds are your players will start having to scratch some stuff on their character sheets and/or write by hand additional things that the sheet has no room for except on the side. That's perfectly fine, some people don't even use proper character sheets and just write stuff down on a normal sheet of paper.
  But let's say you're like me; You'd like to have everything fit with your rules in an actual character sheet, because reasons. And if you're like me, you have no clue when it comes to graphic design with computers.
  Here's what you can do: Grab copies of already existing character sheets that have the stuff you want from all the editions, retro-clones and variants you need, cut said stuff off its original sheet, place it all over an empty sheet, then glue it and copy that unholy patchwork abomination. Ta-daaa!
  Let's face it, it won't be exactly pretty if you do it by hand instead of editing with a computer ( Even I could have used the computer's snipping tool if I'd had more time and patience I'm sure!) but it's one way to get it done!

I Tie the Dead Rat to my Loincloth

  "I tie the dead rat to my loincloth." said Torad, the Barbarian played by Cindy during what was her solo session because the other player couldn't make it. (The person playing the Druid is no longer in the game and the one playing the Ranger will be back when her work schedule allows her to, which means that right now the game has two player characters.)
  It was supposed to be an easy, done-in-one adventure so that for the next session Torad would be back with Rhovanor, the elven Fighter/Wizard. I knew where the traitor would be hiding but for the rest I'd be winging it depending on what the player did and with the help of the Vornheim: The Complete City Kit.
  Torad was poisoned by the Drow priestess he used to serve (his character background is that he used to be a bodyguard slave until he messed up and was thrown in the gladiator pits) and he has two days to find a traitorous male Drow and bring back his head to the priestess if he wants the anti-poison. All they know is that the traitor is hiding somewhere in the traders' neighborhood, a black market mostly run by goblins and orcs who pay protection money to the Drow to be there. The place is dirty and consists mostly of rundown shacks and crooked houses. (Now that I'm writing this I wonder where they get the wood in the Underdark. The answers might become an adventure hook later on!)
  It was supposed to be simple and quick, but a lousy Charisma score and bad rolls caused Torad to get lost constantly and getting into futile fights.
  By the end of the session, Torad now has to:

- Bring the head of the traitor to the Drow priestess the day after tomorrow if he wants to have the anti-poison.
- Bring the traitor to a goblin gang boss with a blue hat and a crocodile for a pet BEFORE bringing his head to the priestess. (The goblin wants to have a chat with the traitor first for unknown reasons and it's the only reason why he released Torad after he and his gang shanked, beat up and captured the human Barbarian. Torad got lucky regarding the NPC motivation that I rolled randomly or he could have simply been stabbed to death right there.) The goblin is willing to pay Torad 750 gp in return. (Which I'll consider adventuring treasure for XP purposes, basically the worth of capturing the traitor.)
- Return to one specific shop the next morning for an anti-poison made by an orc poison seller who used leeches to analyze Torad's poisoned blood. Torad had to trade his armor for that service since he had no coin on him.
- Bring whatever the traitor had on him to a mute and crazed goblin contact who trades all sorts of random things, some worthless and others magical, in exchange for some information the Barbarian received from him. The contact also gave him a dead rat with a silver nail stuck in its head to help him out, somehow. He learned afterwards from a NPC that the dead rat is magical.
- Escape the bordello he got captured in while looking for the traitor in there after following some clues. The player missed the hints that the place was controlled by one of the Drow Houses...

  So what was supposed to be a quick done-in-one is now what will decide what will happen the next game session. I gotta say that I'm loving how things turned out, it felt like some Film Noir almost, with the hero struggling to get to the truth while dealing with dangers that are way over his head and plenty of gray areas.
  I also got to use the fortune teller table from one of the Tales of the Grotesque and Dungeonesque books, that was fun. (It was from an old orc woman with one eye who sits on the floor near the poison shop.)
  Anyway, that brings us back to that dead rat. It has been taken away from him already but he could manage to recover it so I still have to take it into account. I figured it would be one of those magic items where Identify wouldn't be needed to use it, so it has to be a passive ability of some sort. As long as the silver nail remains in the dead rat, the magic works, but if removed the magic will stop and the rat corpse will decompose as normal over time. As for what it does... At the time I came up with that gift I imagined it would replicate the effects of Mage Armor, but since the player didn't get to use it yet (leaving it with security at the entrance of the bordello) and I have some time to reconsider... Does anyone have any ideas on what the dead rat could do? ;)

Thursday, 12 February 2015

It's Sandbox Time!

  Well, recently I finally bought myself a printer after years of not having one. I scanned and printed some pages from the d30 Sandbox Companion and d30 GM Companion, found hex maps online, NPC sheets, time trackers for combat, light sources, turns & rounds, reference sheets for my players to keep track of their adventures and contacts... (Which also made me decide I'd use Vornheim's rules for players gaining contacts over time.)
  It was a bit of work to go through all of my previous notes and put it all together on the maps and in a binder but I think it was worth it. It actually made me realize that by having it all organized, mapped and ready to be played Sandbox-style, a lot of my previous work could be re-used more easily.
  It also reminded me that I might make travel for my players a bit too easy at times without a map staring me in the face to remind me that there's actually some distance to be traveled from Point A to Point B.
  It also helps to put me in the mindset of world-building and keep some things in mind regarding what could be happening in places the player characters are not at right now. It reminded me of many things still unexplored.
  Speaking of which, it's also fun to start filling the map both with things others made and my own ideas and creations, just to keep it varied. There's a few one-page dungeons, adventures and more that I could simply drop on the map and leave there, waiting to see if the players will ever stumble upon it or not.
  And not to be forgotten, random tables can quickly put life into an otherwise uneventful trip. Raggi's Random Tavern & Inn Generator from Fight On! and Green Devil Face, random encounters from different sources that are more than just a random monster... It all ends up forming a living, breathing world.
  I'm really getting into this.

Magic-Users in my Campaign: Magic Item Creation

  Well, I've been looking up Magic Item Creation in Castles & Crusades: Monsters & Treasure and it offers two ways to create magic items; One is with XP and the other is with Gold.
  So far I've decided to use the system from Lamentations of the Flame Princess for when it comes to writing scrolls and spellbooks, creating potions and wands, etc. But LotFP doesn't have Magic Item creation rules because it wouldn't fit with the Weird vibe it wants. Still, I love that it allows a Magic-User who's motivated and rich enough to prepare a scroll for a spell he'd normally be too low-level to cast. I quickly compared the two different systems that use coin as cost for the creation of wands and came to a brutal realization; I can't just use the two together as they are.
  Creating a wand with a 4th level spell will take you 4 weeks in C&C and will cost you 9000 gp... for 50 charges! Not bad. In LotFP, it will cost you on average 6000 gp, take on average 17 weeks and will have as many charges as one was able to cast continuously, but you can use scrolls and/or help from other Magic-Users and the charges can go up to 99.
  Both have their ups and downs, actually. C&C makes it faster and overall less expensive and easier, but LotFP allows you to potentially create devastating wands in comparison to your level with enough help, prep time and gold.
  I could come up with a new cost or system that uses gold... Honestly I don't think the effort is worth it though. I'll use the XP cost system as the sole way to create magic items in my campaign. (The fact that it uses a set amount of time instead of a random one as per LotFP rules seems okay in this case since it's XP they'll be spending, not gold!) They can still use them if they REALLY want to, but they'll probably be more motivated to hunt down a legendary magic weapon down in that dungeon over there if making magic items doesn't come easy for them.
  I can't remember where I read it, but there was an article, book or blog post related to D&D where the writer mentioned he preferred replying "Yes, but..." instead of "No." when his players would ask him if they can do certain things.* I agree with that philosophy to DMing. Therefore:
- "Can I create a magic sword?"
- "Yes, but it would cost you a lot of XP."

* EDIT: I found the post!

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Rogues & Scrolls!

  I knew I'd have to go back to Rogues ever since I decided that in my campaign all classes could try to find and disarm traps.  Sure, I ruled that class skills were rolled at +3 and non-class skills were rolled at -3, but as rolls get better as characters level up (Unlike the fixed 1 chance in 6 that a Fighter would have in Lamentations of the Flame Princess no matter what his level, for example.) that would mean little if a player ever picked the Rogue class. Well, they're the class that requires the least XP to level up, so there's at least that to begin with. Let's see what else I can do for them though.
  Dungeons &Dragons 3.5 made me used to the idea of Rogues being able to read and cast from scrolls. Looking for an OSR equivalent, I noticed that Crypts & Things has their Thief class able to read them at 6th level. I can't use the rules as written because of the differences in how scrolls work in my campaign compared to how they work in that book. Thankfully, Castles & Crusades: Castle Keeper's Guide has an optional rule for Non-Caster Scroll Use in page 50. That one works well, so I'll give that option just to the Rogue. The difficulty is a bit high but Rogues would use it as a class skill so they'd get a +3 for that roll and you don't want it to be so easy that it becomes the same thing as for spellcasters. Plus at 6th level it's just about the time when maybe the non-Rogue players are starting to feel more comfortable rolling to find for traps despite that -3 so it's perfect timing, it gives the Rogue something else.

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Magic-Users in my Campaign: Material Components

  I have a love/hate relationship with material components for spells when it comes to my campaign. On the one hand, I think they are a balancing factor in the game. On the other hand, I like to grab spells from all over the OSR and some OSR games don't use material components. And on the third hand (Don't question it!), I hate the idea of a player having to write down every single little thing required for a spell. Don't get me wrong, if it's something really important like the scale of a dragon or a gem of a certain worth, then yeah the Magic-User will need to get it. But for the small stuff?
  Thankfully, Castles & Crusades: Castle Keeper's Guide has a solution for me; Buying material components costs 20 gp per level every few adventures. So a level 3 Magic-User will need to spend 60 gp on material components. To that, I'll add that if a 3rd level MU only has 20 gp on him, he can always cast spells like a 1st level MU. (In other words, if you have enough to cast like you used to with 20 gp, why wouldn't you be able now that you've become even more awesome?) That would require just a bit of note-keeping, but not that much.
  That brings the obvious question though; How many adventures is 'A few adventures'? Well, the adventure Sleeping Place of the Feathered Swine has optional rules for handling differently how long torches and lanterns will last you. I won't repeat the rule here because the adventure is Pay-What-You-Want so you can grab a copy if you want to check it out, but basically you roll every turn to see if the light stays on. A MU could use that rule per gaming session (if magic was used) instead of turns to see if he needs more material components.
   Yeah, let's go with that. :)
  The next one about Magic-Users will deal with magic item creation in my campaign!

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Make My Dungeon!

  Here's a little something we can do for fun. I'm dropping a dungeon map here:

  I'm going to let you guys fill the dungeon. At some point during my campaign when all my players have reached level 2, I will run it for them and post the result of the game in this blog afterwards.
  The way this works is: In the comments, write the room number and what is inside. (Monsters, treasure, etc.) Anything you leave out means it isn't there. (For example, if you don't write any loot on a goblin, the goblin had nothing loot-worthy.)
  Boring Example: Room #X: 1 goblin armed with a shortsword and a buckler, wearing leather armor. (Coin purse with 2 GP and a back-scratcher under his belt.)
  You have to write the rooms IN NUMERICAL ORDER and it's ONE ROOM PER PERSON. There's no time limit, it's done when Room #25 has been filled.
  Please make sure that you take into account what others have established for the dungeon so far when you add your own room idea. If two people happen to post the same room number at once, I will bump one of them into the next number via the comments section unless moving it would make no sense, if that happens we'll think of something.
  I do reserve the right to modify or remove a room idea via comments. (For example, if someone writes that anyone who walks into the room dies without a Saving Throw just like that, obviously I won't keep it.) If that happens, it's the one time someone else can 'go back' and fill a previous room.
  What players will find in the rooms can be good, bad, or a little of both.The main goal is to make a dungeon that will be different, interesting and varied via collaboration of different ideas and playing styles.
  Ready? Set? Go!!!!

About Training On Your New Level

  I'm not going to start listing all of them, but many OSR games go with the philosophy that once a character has gained a new level, they need to take some time off and train in order to gain the benefits of said new level.
  Yep. You've been adventuring for weeks, picking locks under pressure while your comrades fight off the enemy, flinging spells and/or fighting horrible monsters and trained soldiers... But nah, you won't learn anything until you've gone back home and whacked a dummy a few times with a wooden sword!
  I know, I know, I might just be picturing it wrong. I could look at movies for inspiration on how to imagine a training downtime the right way. Every Rocky montage? Every kung-fu movie where the hero seeks a new master to learn a technique? They leveled up!
  But honestly, I just can't make peace with that rule. I can just imagine this character back home, doing typical sword drills and suddenly going "Oh yeah, I now remember what I did in that fight against the lizard-folk! That was a very good move, I should do it again!"
  To me it makes more sense that the same character gets better at reading his opponent over time, at blocking, at countering and aiming...
  It says a lot to me that even a harsh game like Lamentations of the Flame Princess, where you can get killed just from casting one of your own spells, will grant you all the benefits of your new level as soon as you get it, as if to say "Yeah, if you got this far you've definitely earned it!"

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

What Am I Gonna Do With This Pig?

  See this stupid miniature of a pig right here?

  What the hell is someone supposed to do with it? What kind of DM looks at a pig mini and goes "Oh yeah, I TOTALLY need this for my campaign!"???
  So anyway, the other day I went to visit some friends and for a change of pace I got to be a player again. (It's the ongoing game where I play Kelleck Mage-Hunter, my 'main' D&D character. More on that in an upcoming post!) Only problem was, I couldn't find the miniature I had for my character, so I walked to the nearby hobby store and got a new one. I looked around and I saw that stupid pig staring at me from behind the glass. Smiling. Waiting.
  "Bruno!" said the accursed pig, "We both know you'll never have any use for me in any sane D&D campaign, but doesn't the very fact that I actually exist as a mini, that I was created as a legit RPG product, just make you want to buy me?"
  I am not proud of it, but that stupid little piece of plastic cost me 2,50$. How do I justify this to myself? I've no choice. If I want to regain some self-respect, I must find some use for that stupid pig mini to convince myself there was a point in buying it!
  So here are some ideas of what I could do with this pig!

- The pig is not only an Awakened, talking pig, it also has mind-controlling powers and is a genius! He lays low, pretending to be a normal farm pig to most of the world while actually controlling a whole criminal empire from his barn! Those bandits who go collect protection money from the farmer? A cover story! They're actually going to see the boss to deliver their own shares and receive their orders for the coming week!

- The pig is actually a polymorphed princess! The farmer might be unaware, or he might be in on it! (Or even responsible!)

- The pig is actually a vampire halfling! He turns into a pig instead of a wolf...

- One of the player characters is cursed and turned into a pig!

- A prophecy claims that a pig with eyes of different color will have an important part to play in the next great war of your campaign! Have the PCs hear of that prophecy at some point, either from a credible source or from someone they will consider a charlatan or a lunatic. The only important part is that they remember it! One to three character levels later, the PCs come across such a pig!

You are now ready, stupid pig mini! Onwards to adventure!

Extra Effort

  In real life when adrenaline and life-or-death situations arise, some people can push themselves beyond their limit. Like maybe they will manage to lift something that would normally be too heavy for them but pull their back in the process.
  How about this: Players can give themselves a +2 bonus for a single Str or Con roll but afterwards they take enough Ability Damage to bring them 2 modifier points lower than their normal.

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Thoughts on Level Limits

Tauriel is sad because she has reached her 10th level of Fighter and she can't go higher.

  It seems to me that Level Limits are an awful way to balance races. Yeah, yeah, some will cynically say that there's no such thing as real game balance. It's an argument I will never give credit to since old-school classes need different amounts of XP to level up depending on how awesome they are, so moving on.
  With all due respect for the people who made D&D into what it is today, I just HATE Level Limits and know for a fact that countless people ignored them even when they were a thing. At no point will it ever manage to actually balance out characters or make the game fun for anyone. Let's say you're an Elf in a game with Level Limits. You are more awesome than your Human friend. During your first levels together, you are always at an advantage. And then one day, suddenly you stop leveling. For a few levels it's all good, but then you realize you have nowhere else to go while your Human friend just keeps on going up those levels. You started off being a bit better and now you're obsolete.
  I imagine someone could bring the argument that in old-school games it takes a long time for things to get there. Well in that case, if you're not gonna get there before months or years of real-time play, how is playing a Human worth it during all that time? And what's the point of having played an Elf for all that time only to watch your character at some point become useless?
  I prefer the way taken by Castles & Crusades and Basic Fantasy Role-Playing where there are no level limits. Humans get an advantage too and that advantage is either a bonus to your rolls or a XP bonus respectively, not the ability to limit every other player race just by existing and not being as cool while feeling a desperate need to remain relevant to your campaign setting.

Monday, 2 February 2015

The 'Wish' Spell in my Campaign

  I've been looking at the Wish spell the other day. In Castles & Crusades, Wish will cost the spellcaster 1 to 3 years of life. Yeah, I'm sure that's a huuuuuge setback to the ELF spellcaster in the group! (In the C&C Player's Handbook, it says an Elf becomes Middle-Aged at 500 years-old!)
  Even if I did some math to find the equivalent for an elf in years, it still leaves the player with a character who would live for a ridiculously long time and still keep going. An elf in Castles & Crusades could just cast it daily and become the strongest, wisest, most dexterous and charming character of all time. Unless compared to other magic-using elves, I guess.
  Oh sure, if you bring it up in some message boards people will start telling you how you could potentially screw over the players when they use the spell. Unless a player really does word his Wish poorly, I'm not really interested in going there.
  Now, as far as spellcasting goes I mostly use the rules from Lamentations of the Flame Princess. One thing I don't use from LotFP and go with the C&C ruling instead is daily spell preparation time. I'm really not interested in a Magic-User needing one hour per spell level to prepare all his spells. There's such a thing as prep time and downtime for characters, but I think that's taking it a bit too far. 15 minutes per spell is just fine.
  One interesting aspect of LotFP Magic-Users that I don't think other OSR games have done is that spellcasters can cast and even write spells that they wouldn't normally be able to cast at their current level. They cannot prepare them as one of their normal daily spells, but they can read them from scrolls. So in theory, a Level 1 character could actually write down a Level 9 spell in his spellbook and then write it on a scroll to use it later on!
  I can imagine many who are unfamiliar with the system just gasping in horror at the thought. The potential for abuse! Actually, not so! Sure, in theory they can do it... But it's very prohibitive! (Unless you give away too much treasure, and those who've read my blog recently know I have the opposite problem!)
  Imagine a Magic-User finds a Level 9 spell on a scroll. If they cast Read Magic they'll be able to use it, but the powerful spell will be gone from the scroll! Therefore it's much more likely that the Magic-User will write it down in his spellbook first. That will take <Spell Level x 1d6> days, at a cost of 20 GP per day. Except the Magic-User has to say how much time he'll spend doing so BEFORE the roll. If it fails, all the money was spent for nothing and he has a 10% chance to be cursed! Oh and that's actually if the character has a laboratory worth at least 1000 GP x the Spell Level, otherwise the time it takes is DOUBLED. Many characters, unless they are in a desperate rush, will probably choose to just take the maximum amount of days to write down the spell, which will cost a fortune.
  Of course, it's not over. Since our Magic-User is too low-level to cast a Level 9 spell, he has to write it down on a scroll next if he wants to use it! 50 GP per day and it takes <Spell Level x 2d6> days. Once again that time is doubled if you don't have a lab!
  So right there, Wish has already become prohibitive enough. Unless of course you get to the point where a character can actually cast it as one of his daily spells. Watch that Elf laugh his ass off as he loses a mere 3 years of his life! (Or whatever that will be in Elf years from the point of view of the very human player.) So as mentioned earlier, that won't do as a balancing factor.
  Let's look at some books adored by OSR fans; Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 and Pathfinder.

  D&D 3.5 has 5000 XP as the cost of the spell. I could calculate approximately what the C&C/OSR equivalent in XP that is, but let's look at Pathfinder first. The spell has a cost of 25 000 GP. Yeah, let's go with that.
  Ever since I realized I'd been too stingy with treasure for my players in my OSR campaign where treasure is the main way to level up, I've also read a lot about how rich characters can become down the line and what a problem that can become. Bill Webb's Book of Dirty Tricks even has many of those dirty tricks there just to deal with that problem. It seems to me that it wouldn't hurt to have as many things as possible cost lots of gold then, it keeps the characters hungry for more and adventuring into dungeons!


Sunday, 1 February 2015

The Current Party In My Campaign

  It just occurred to me that I've been posting about my recent campaign (if not about its story then at least about my real life preparations for the next sessions!) and I haven't mentioned yet what my players chose to play (Except for Rhovanor). So here's the cast of characters...

- Amber, Halfling Ranger level 1 (Temporarily out of the game because of the player's work schedule.)
- Nessa, Elf Druid level 1
- Rhovanor, Elf Fighter/Wizard level 1
- Torad, Human Barbarian level 1

  The lack of a Thief/Rogue is not that bad since like in 'Lamentations of the Flame Princess' and 'Crypts & Things', anyone can try Thief skills in my game, they just won't be anywhere as good at it as a Thief would.

Treasure Musings, Now With Monsters!

Fun Fact: These Beholders are under the control of a Hive Mother. Otherwise, they'd be attacking each other for not being the same sort of Beholder!

  It turns out that after all my musings about placing treasure in my dungeons, I didn't read the 'Lamentations of the Flame Princess' guidelines for setting up treasure correctly! Once you have calculated how much XP you want to place in the dungeon, you don't convert it all directly into treasure... Monsters are part of the equation! The DM should also count the total XP value of all the monsters in there. In fact I THINK I remember that the guy who writes the Henchman Abuse blog does that. (I could be wrong!)
  This will require even more prep time but I do see the merit in it.

Preparing the Next Dungeon...

Is this D&D's equivalent to people taking pictures of the stuff they are about to eat at the restaurant?

I Made that Magic-User NPC Too Strong!

  It can happen so quickly... You have a Magic-User NPC, something comes up that complicates the story and you think to yourself "Oh bollocks, this NPC is a spellcaster, let's just have him cast a spell that fixes the problem." (Like in my case when a certain Wizard NPC was able to teleport a player's new character into an isolated place where the other players were!)
  And you move on with your story and everything is dandy. The problem has been fixed, hasn't it? But you have just overlooked the one you just created, if you care about story consistency at all! And the more you use the Wizard NPC as a 'Get Out of Jail for Free' card, the worse it becomes!
  See, after a while you'll need to give actual stats to that Wizard NPC. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but at some point in your campaign, if it runs long enough, it will be relevant to do so. And it's at that moment when you realize that for that Magic-User to have done all that you had him do, he'd have to be some sort of Gandalf, Merlin or Elminster! 
  It might not be a problem in some games, but I know that in mine it has become a bit of a problem as I prepare future events. (Especially since in this case we're talking about a married COUPLE of Magic-Users, so there are TWO of them!)
  Sure, I could go the way of 'Lamentations of the Flame Princess' and just say that the magic of NPCs doesn't need to be explained the same way as that of PCs, but in this case it doesn't feel like the appropriate solution to me.
  So anyway, for a proper solution let's not look any further than Rudolph Van Richten, Ravenloft's most popular hero!

  So what level is this veteran monster hunter, the paragon that all heroes of Ravenloft aspire to emulate? Well, according to 2nd Edition... He's a level 3 Thief. Huh??? Oh, they say it's because he gets Level Drained often by fighting the undead. O.k then! Just have the NPC who is way too high level mention next time that he came across this guy:

  There you go, problem fixed! Now your Magic-User NPC goes from this...

  To this!: