Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Mutant Class for Castles & Crusades

  This is a little conversion I made. I grabbed the Mutant (Human) Racial Class for 'Labyrinth Lord' found at the end of the book 'Mutant Future' and tweaked it to use it in my 'Castles & Crusades' campaign. (That was a mouthful!) I might use them to create evil Chaos warriors 'blessed' by evil gods, in the vein of Warhammer. Or maybe they're just poor schmuks who found themselves near a fallen meteorite and the radiation changed them. Or it could be a magical curse! Anyway, doesn't matter, here's how I converted the thing!

  • Players choose a Race as per normal C&C rules, then grab the 'Mutant' class. 
  • There's no Level Limit in C&C. Every level after the 12th requires +350 000 xp. Otherwise use the same XP progression as the one already given in 'Mutant Future'. (It pretty much amounts, give or take, to twice the amount required for C&C's Bard to level up except when it reaches levels 11 and 12! It's how I decided the amount of XP required after level 12 for the conversion.)
  • Prime is STR, according to the 'Mutant Future' book itself. (Even if Primes are different things in the two games, they still mean 'The essential stat for this class' so yeah.)
  • Attack progression as a Fighter.
  • Class HD becomes d8.
  • For all the rest, like how to use mutations and all that, use as written. (The GM might choose to replace some non-combat rolls with something more fitting to how rolls are made in C&C but the conversion for that is so easy that I'll leave it in the hands of GMs.)
  And that's it!

Updated OSR XP Budget

  The following is how I'm going to handle the XP Budget for my players in my OSR campaign for now, keep in mind I'll be using a dungeon as a template but it could be any other kind of adventure with the same basic guidelines. Also keep in mind I might repeat some things I have stated before in my previous entries regarding awarding XP to players and/or preparing games, but there IS new stuff.

 Taking a page from 'Lamentations of the Flame Princess', that book recommends adding up all the XP required for the players to level up, then dividing the result by three or four, depending on how much XP you want the players to have access to during the dungeon. I intend to divide it only by three, if only because it's possible for players not to find all the treasure, kill all the monsters or even finish the planned dungeon in a single game session, so it's very unlikely even then that they'd level up once every three or four sessions. LotFP also recommends that one stops increasing the XP Budget available once the player with the highest level reaches level 4 or 5. I'll see if I do that once one of my players reaches level 5, so that bit is still in the air for me.

  Some other OSR books recommend that one calculates the average player level of the group and then prepare the XP Budget as if all players were Fighters instead of whatever classes they are, probably under the pretext that it balances out the budget more between choosing weaker or stronger classes. Even I thought so when I first read this take, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized it didn't change things that much in the end. I guess it could be argued that it might be true if ALL players multi-class (for example) knowing that the XP will be inflated for all of them anyway, but that's not something I mind that much. I think the important aspect of different XP amounts to level up between OSR classes is more there to balance players, and not players with the environment itself. Or at least that's how I choose to see it, because honestly I'd rather go with the easiest route here.

  'LotFP' suggests spreading XP across the dungeon, 'Crypts & Things' suggests putting all the hoard together at the end. I'm with 'LotFP' on this one, although I might do the hoard at the end form time to time just to keep players on their toes. It just seems more interesting to put more choices into the hands of players. Should they leave with what they have and come back later, playing it safe, or do they really want to push forward despite their wounds and maybe level up tonight?

  As for how to spread the XP over monsters, loot and traps... I'd like to thank Henchman Abuse for doing the research for all of us. It's an excellent post and I encourage you all to go read it if you haven't already, but here's the important part for us here:

  In other words, 16 to 17% of the rooms in a dungeon should contain Monster with Treasure, and so forth. Simply replace 'rooms' with '%'. Putting it into percentages makes it easy to calculate how many rooms it would equate to for dungeons that have more or less than 100 rooms. You then add up all the rooms that are relevant to the XP Budget (For example, Empty Rooms wouldn't be included) and divide the XP Budget by that amount of rooms. This gives one a good guideline of the average of XP that could be found in a room that has XP to be won in it.

  As a conclusion, I can't emphasize enough when I say 'guideline' and 'average'. The rooms should not all contain the exact same amount of XP through the whole dungeon! It's simply an easy way (The math to prep this is really basic.) to have an overview of what each room should contain overall. From there you can add and remove from other rooms as you see fit. It's entirely viable, for example, to make a room contain a lot of XP but also be much more deadly than the other rooms. Part of the OSR is that not everything should be balanced, and that doesn't need to become false just because you're balancing an XP Budget. :P

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Update On How I Award XP In My OSR Campaign

  How I award XP in my OSR games has been a changing process over the existence of the campaign. I'll explain when appropriate why I think each thing has a balance to it (or not) as a reward and add some of my reasoning.
  To simplify this post, I will assume we're rewarding the XP in a dungeon, but it could be another type of adventure.

Monsters: Assume that when I refer to 'monsters' I also include other forms of enemies. I award XP for monsters as in the default manner of 'Crypts & Things'. I like that it has a handy chart for how a monster's special abilities would specifically increase its worth. 'Castles & Crusades', the system I use (although house-ruled) has something similar but it also requires me to keep track of the HP of a monster to calculate its XP worth. While I initially appreciated that, it ends up giving me more book-keeping to do and an average XP evens out over the course of a campaign, since sometimes the monsters will get less than average and sometimes they'll get more. (Plus I often roll a monster's HP during the game on the spot.) I don't award XP for avoiding conflict with a monster, when doing so the players are already rewarded by avoiding the risk of death. (Even lesser monsters can weaken you by a few HP, which might make all the difference later on against a more powerful creature or trap.) Monsters don't give that much XP and they are dangerous, but once they are killed their XP worth is ensured to you if you survive the dungeon.

Traps: They are a challenge and they can hurt or even kill you, so yes I think they should give XP when disarmed or survived. I use the rules given in 'Machinations of the Space Princess' for those. The philosophy behind their XP worth is basically the same as with monsters. Unlike with the monsters though, if you knowingly avoid a trap (and don't just avoid it by accident without even knowing it's there.) then you DO get its XP worth.

Treasure: 1 xp per 1 gp. Back to being the main source of XP in my campaign, it's not dangerous in itself as a way to win XP but you need to prepare accordingly and you have to bring it back to civilization, so in many ways it's the easiest XP to lose on the way, therefore I think it balances out.

Magic Items: When I include them, I do award XP for them. A lot of people argue that they are a reward already, but oddly enough many of those who say it still give XP for gold pieces, which are also a reward in itself. Anyway, I use the XP worth from 'Castles & Crusades' but do it a bit differently when it's time to award said XP; I actually split it among the party, I don't give it all to the person keeping the magic object. The magic item needs to be Identified (or otherwise somehow triggered, or even drank in the case of potions) to receive its XP worth. If the characters don't realize what it is, they don't get any XP even if they still have it with them. (But they might later on.) If they sell it, then they'll sell it according to its price if it wasn't magic but without an XP worth. If it takes some time to Identify it and the people doing so are not the exact same as the characters who initially looted it, I reward XP to those who were there to initially loot it only, and with the same split as if the other original looters were also there to receive it. I think XP for magic items are balanced in that there's always the risk that a magic item will not be recognized as such and be entirely overlooked. I'm not particularly afraid of giving something too powerful for the party because it still has to fit within my XP Budget. If a single magic item takes most of my XP budget, or so much that there's little left for monsters, traps and regular treasure, then I know it's too powerful.

Story/Goals: I used to give XP for those things, but don't anymore. In the end, D&D is about fighting monsters and looting treasure. Those ARE the story and goals. Sure, it might be nice to do a session at the royal court making contacts or solving mysteries, but those are very low-risk and are rewarded by a growing character knowledge of the setting and the possible gain of new contacts and allies, or at least knowing who's the enemy. Or maybe they aren't low-risk if assassins and other dangers do show up during those moments, but then that's what the XP rewards from my list are for! (Avoiding a poisoned drink because you smelled it in time would be discovering and avoiding a Trap in game terms, for example.)

  Let's use the Death Star as an example.

  Surely blowing up the Death Star was a huge moment in the story of the characters and their entire setting! It SHOULD be worth lots of XP, right??? Well, I would say that in itself, blowing up the Death Star was maybe worth the same as a very, very low-level trap, and only because it did require a skill roll from Luke to shoot and not miss at a crucial moment.

  Blasphemy? Not so. I would say that the Death Star RUN, the assault itself, was worth LOTS of XP! Along the way, there were plenty of Traps (all those cannons shooting at them) and Monsters (The enemy Tie Fighters, one of them being particularly dangerous, the one piloted by Darth Vader!) The dangerous environment that was the trench is also a trap in itself, it could even be argued that it was worth XP for every round inside it! One wrong skill roll while dodging an attack while in there and you hit the side of the trench or a nearby ally! So in the end, attacking the Death Star and blowing it up was worth lots of XP, but it was all of its elements that made it worth so much, not the single act of blowing it up. Succeeding in the mission and surviving it doesn't mean you get extra XP for the goal, it means you get to receive your XP for all that happened while in that 'dungeon'.

As a side-note, I use the treasure listings of monsters from the books mostly as a guideline. Sometimes I use them, sometimes I ignore them. In any case, in the end it has to fit with my XP budget.

Next, an update on how I handle XP Budget when preparing a game!

If You Can Stake, You Can Headshot!

  While I'm posting this with 'Vampire the Masquerade' in mind, it applies to any rules system that uses vampire staking rules.
  First of all, I want to clarify that I don't mean staking a vampire while he's sleeping or otherwise vulnerable.

  No, I mean staking a vampire mid-fight, or when the vampire is otherwise ready for conflict. 

  To me, having rules that can stake and paralyze a vampire mid-fight is the same as having rules for, say, a headshot during a gunfight, or simply stabbing a normal dude in the heart with a knife. What I mean is that very often, games that include vampires will also include rules for staking them. Sometimes the rules require that the wound inflicted by the stake is the final wound required for the character to be defeated anyway, and it basically just means it has to be by stake specifically. Other times, like in V:tM, you can do it as a single attack, and if you succeed you won the fight. It's difficult in V:tM, I'm not saying the opposite. The attack has to be at a difficulty of 9 and you need to cause three health levels of damage for the vampire to be staked and paralyzed.
  I think it's fine to have such rules. The problem is when all the other beings in the game, including plain humans, don't have to deal with the same rules. It actually makes the vampire characters more vulnerable in an odd way. You CAN skip the normal combat conditions and just stake a vampire through the heart, but you can't  just shoot a normal guy in the head? Again, not really a flaw in the game, just a problem if the Storyteller/GM doesn't acknowledge this.

  You want to knock a guy unconscious in one attack? Difficulty 9, three levels of health. You want to shoot him in the head? Same. Because at the end of the day, undead vampires shouldn't be the ONLY guys you can take out in one shot.