Friday, August 28, 2015

And finally we are at Z for Zombies

A corpse that been animated through the use of necromantic energies.

Zombie, Init -1, AC 8[11]; HD 2; HP 7; ATK 1; HTB +1; DMG 1d8 (fists); MV 60’; Save 16; Special: Hard to Kill, Undead; Harvest: None; CL/XP 2/30;
Hard to Kill: If a zombie is brought down to zero hit points it can roll its saving throw at +2. If the saving throw is successful it will get up with 1 hit point.
Undead: As a mindless undead creature, Zombies are immune to Charm Person and Sleep.

They appear as a decayed corpse. How decayed depends on how they have been animated.

I really liked the ability of 5e Zombies to get up after they go down to zero hit points if they make a roll. So I incorporated that as a feature of the zombies found in the Majestic Wilderlands.

Despite reaching the Zs, I still have a large section to go where I detailed common NPCs. While dungeons, ruines, and monster bashing are a part of my Majestic Wilderlands, the majority of adventures in my campaigns stem from complications and conflicts caused by NPCs. So I developed a bunch of templates for common encountered NPCs that I can use on the fly

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Unicorns in the Majestic Wilderlands

Unicorn are a magical manifestation of the life of the Wilderlands. They are a reminder of the potential of life and that all are born as innocents. In general they appear in lands that are in harmony and are universally viewed as a good omen that the realm is blessed.

Only the truly innocent can approach and ride a Unicorn. Otherwise the Unicorn will use its speed and teleport ability to flee. The death of Unicorn produces a supernatural call to all paladins and other divine champions within a 100 miles that great evil is present.

Unicorn, Init +2, AC 2[17]; HD 4+5; HP 19; ATK 3; HTB +4; DMG 1d8 (hooves x2), 1d8 (horn); MV 240’; Save 13; Special: Charge, Magical Immunity, Teleport; Harvest: 5 viz (unicorn horn); CL/XP 5/240;
Charge: If a Unicorn moves 120’ or more towards a target and hits with its horn it does double damage.
Magical Immunity: Spell casters have to roll a 16 or better on a d20 in order for their spells to effect the unicorn.
Teleport: A Unicorn can teleport once a day without error within 360 ft. This ability includes any riders.

Unicorns appear as a white horse with a single ivory horn in the midst of its forehead.

In general, the idea of a lynchpin creature in a fantasy setting doesn't appeal to me. For me the classic example is the unicorn in the movie Legends. A creature so important that the realm is devastated if it is harm or dies. However unicorn are a fantasy staple what I came up with for the Majestic Wilderlands is the idea that they are basically a good omen that things are right. After evil is vanquished, justice is restored then the Unicorns return a visible sign that the good guys have done their job.

This is part of the larger idea in my campaign that magic is in part fueled by emotions and the Unicorns are a sign that the positive emotions are ascendant in a realm.

One idea for a campaign start with a party heavy with paladins and other divine champions is for them to feel the death of a unicorn. An immediate sign that something very bad has happened. Unfortunately the side effect of a Unicorn's death is not very specific as to the details or even the location. However it is enough of an alarm that most of the major bad guys don't go hunting them down unless they have firm control of a region.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Rolling your own RPG or House Rule document.

+Douglas Cole talks about tinkering with rules for his own game in this post on Gaming Ballistic. I understand where he going with this and have some experience with this with the Majestic Wilderlands.

The initial idea of the Majestic Wilderlands was to publish my setting. But I quickly realized that I needed some mechanics to support specific elements of the setting. Plus I felt the best setting books had both well written background material and useful rules and items. So the result was a book half rules and half setting information.

Since I was doing this as an independent publishers, I needed to use something that was legal to use which in our neck of the wood means something under the OGL. For various reason I settled on using Swords and Wizardry as my target rule set. Since then, 2009, I ran several campaign and kept tweaking and modifying until I got to the point where why not combine into not just a supplement but a more or less complete ruleset. So that what I am in the midst of doing now and why you see the occasionally post about spell, armor and equipment which I cherry pick out of my current draft.

Doing this gave me some insight into what would be useful, if you or anybody else wanted to do this.

For something straight forward mechanically, the best place to start is with Swords and Wizardry. Matt Finch not only placed his rule book under the OGL, he went the extra mile and made a word document that you can edit for the basis of your own.

If you want something that works with Classic DnD and has more options for characters and the game but not go all the way like D20/Pathfinder. Then I would look at something like Blood and Treasure by John Slater. He doesn't have a 100% OGL system reference document but there is a lot of material that can be used.

Of course if you want to go the whole hog there is the both the d20 SRD and the Pathfinder SRD. Even if you don't use the core concepts of either SRDs, they have the equivalent of appendices that have all kinds of extra stuff like Kingdoms rules in the Pathfinder game. Stuff that could be ported over to any of the OSR games I blog about.

Doug and I both have a lot of experience with GURPS. The game is still one of my favorite RPGs. A lot of the rules in the Majestic Wilderlands  are adaptations of templates and rules from my GURPS campaigns. However when designed them, where I could I opted to remain as DnDish as possible and only make the minimum change to incorporate the mechanic. Hence not a lot of opposed rolls or defenses but a lot of saving throws and to-hit versus AC.

But you know I still really like GURPS and RPGs that are skill based and has more mechanical detail than classic DnD normally does. So I tried to roll my own with Fudge but that didn't work out as well as I liked. So I just said to hell with it and started to write complete RPG based off of Sword and Wizardry and my stuff. So you know it floundered on the fact +1 using Fudge Dice is a huge bonus. It was proving too difficult to get the math right for the progression I wanted.

I did have an idea for a skill based system with mechanical detail that may help Doug or anybody else trying to do their own take. Especially they are a fan of GURPS. Understand I spend a lot of time on this so I don't how it would actually play.

Now this is just the starting point for a skill based RPG. To get the mechanical details, a designer need to look through the multitude of feats (the main mechanic of d20 to add extra abilities) and come up with a set that give you feel you want. Keep in mind how it will look at different points in the character's advancement.

Because all of the is under the OGL you can something back for your work beyond your home game whether it just sharing it or selling it.

Finally what funny is that I just finished reading Fantasy Age because my friend +Tim Shorts is into the Dragon Age RPG. What I didn't realize to that point was it used a variant of 3d6 roll high as it primary mechanic. So it was fun to see how they implemented it.

Hope this helps anybody wanted to roll their own system.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

The Gold Box series is back!

At Good Old Games.

Don't know what the Gold Box series is? It is the first computer game I played that faithfully replicated the first edition rules of ADnD. Playing out Pool of Radiance was the first time +Dwayne Gillingham+Tim Shorts and myself actually played ADnD together. Since it was turn base we could switch playing our individual characters during combat along with the deciding what the best course of action for the rest of the game.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Combat Stunts for Swords and Wizardry and 5th edition D&D

Thanks to my friend +Daniel McEntee and +Douglas Cole of Gaming Ballistic for asking tough questions that clarified my thoughts on this.

Combat Stunts
There are times where a player as his character will want to inflict on the target an adverse result other than dealing hit point damage.

The general rule is that a to-hit roll is made. Depending on the difficulty of the stunt there may at times a negative modifier of -2 or -5. If the attack succeeds the target rolls a saving throw. If the target fails his saving throw the adverse result takes effect.

If a natural 20 is rolled on the attack the adverse result takes effect with no saving throw. Furthermore the attacker can roll again to see if another critical occurs.

  • If the second roll fails then just the adverse result takes effect. 
  • If the second roll would normally hit the target then normal damage is rolled in addition to the adverse result taking effect.
  • If the second roll a critical then the maximum damage is inflicted. The attacker may continue roll for additional critical hits until he fails to roll a natural 20.
In general combats stunts not likely to affect high level characters or high hit dice creatures due to their good saving throws. This is by design and reflects the fact that Hit Dice and Level is a measure of experience and ability. Also the stunt represents not a single maneuver or swing but rather a series of moves, feints, and swings over a six second period where the attacker is deliberately trying to achieve the adverse result.

The following are rulings for the more common stunts.

Head Shot
The attacker may elect to try a head shot on helmless target. The attack is a -2. Due to the skill absorbing damage the target makes the saving at +2. If the target fails his saving throw, he falls unconscious. If the target is unaware or surprised the attack is normal.

If the target is significantly larger than the attacker then the target is +5 to his saving throw. If the target is significantly smaller than he is at -5 to his saving throw. Targets 10 times the size of the attacker are not effected by head shots.

Face Shot
The attacker may elect to try a head shot on target not wearing a Great Helm. The attack is at -5. If the target fails his saving throw, he falls unconscious. If the target is unaware or surprised the attack is normal.

If the target is significantly larger than the attacker then the target is +5 to his saving throw. If the target is significantly smaller than he is at -5 to his saving throw. Targets 10 times the size of the attacker are not effected by head shots.

The attacker may elect to disarm his opponent of a chosen weapon at a -2 to hit. If the target fails his saving throw he loses the weapon as if he fumbled it. This has no effect on natural weapons like claws.

The attack may try to knock the target prone through a combination of maneuvers by making an attack roll at -2. If the target fails his saving throw his knocked prone.

If the target is significantly larger than the attacker then the target is +5 to his saving throw. If the target is significantly smaller than he is at -5 to his saving throw. Targets ten times the size of the attacker are not effected by trips

Changes for 5th edition Dungeons and Dragons.
This can be useful if you are using 5th edition DnD especially when you confine yourself to just the basic rules. Note if you have the PHB there is the battle master option which could be adapted into a stunt system.

The main difference is how modifiers saving throws and critical hits are handled.

For 5th edition
All positive modifiers are ignored. Grant advantage instead.

All negative modifiers are ignored. Grant disadvantage instead. Yeah this makes the no difference between a head and face shot. You may opt to decide a head shot is a normal attack and a face shot is at a disadvantage.

Ignore the critical rule. If a critical hit is scored then roll normal damage in addition to the adverse result. Instead of doubling the dice of damage, the attacks gets his adverse result and normal damage.

The target must make a dexterity saving with a DC of the attacker's to hit roll. For example Marcus the Paladin is trying to head shot the poor orc that forgot his helm in his cave. Marcus rolls at a disadvantage and manages to hit the orc with a 15. The orc now has to make a dexterity save versus at DC 15.

So why bother with this at all? I think it is reasonable for players to try to attempt things that are known to be possible in real life. Disarming an opponent is difficult but we know some skilled fighters can do it. Shoving and pushing happen all the time in fights. The question for me was how to allow be consistent in my rulings and yet not turn the game into a pseudo GURPS, Harnmaster, or Runequest.

DnD has several tools to use to make a ruling in combat, the to hit roll, hit points, armor class, and saving throws are some of them. For this I elected the retain the basic to-hit roll. However I want to make sure that beating an opponent down to zero hit points was the optimal path to victory as that is a core DnD mechanic. So I elected for stunts to give the target a defense.

We know that saving throws were developed to allow character to avoid something really bad happening to them. So as a defense roll I felt Saving Throws are the way to go and still keep the game recognizably DnD. It also has the virtue of scaling as the character levels unlike something based on attributes. Also it doesn't require the addition of a skill system.

Monday, August 10, 2015

A new attack option for Swords & Wizardry

For a number of years when playing Swords and Wizardry, I been giving Fighting-Men a bonus to their initiative equal to their to-hit bonus. I felt that added a more pizazz, as well as making sense, to melee combat if Fighting Men were the ones mostly going first in a combat round.

Swords and Wizardry Core Rules doesn't have multiple melee attacks as one of the main options. And that how I been handling it since I started using it in 2008. I am not keen on adding multiple melee attacks based on levels but I was thinking. What if I make it a function of initiative?

To add this to Swords and Wizardry requires these rules.

Use Ascending AC and the to-hit bonus chart.

Fighting Men get to add their to-hit bonus to their initiative plus any other bonus they may get from dexterity.

Multiple Attacks
If a character attacks in melee and his initiative (whether individual or group) is triple, or more compared to his opponent, the attacker gets two melee attack rolls. This does not apply to spell casting or missile attacks.

So if the Party rolls a 5 for initative and Able the fighter has a +1 to hit bonus. If their orc opponents roll a 2. Then Able is able to make two attack rolls if he does a melee attack against the Orc. Now this applies to any character to if the Orcs roll a 1 and the party rolls a 6 then everybody gets two melee attacks.

In conjunction with the Initiative rule for Fighting Men this means that Fighting Men will be the class that benefits the most from this. And it will spice up combat a bit by having the player looking not just to beat the monster's initiative but beat by high enough margin to get multiple melee attacks.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Low Magic with Swords and Wizardry

+Ken H  kicks off  the discussion with a post about simplified Swords and Wizardry and   +Chris C.   follows up with his own thoughts over on the Clash of Spear on Shield. Ken is musing over  a low magic campaign where the fantastic elements are confined to a megadungeon, Monteporte in his case. Monteporte would be set in a medieval world with societies and technologies similar to own Middle Ages. Character would be limited to classes like Fighters and Thieves where their abilities make sense in such a setting. And do all this with a ruleset that is light on the mechanics.

From around 1987 to 2008, GURPS was THE system I used to run campaigns with. One of the main appeals was the ability to fine tune the character don't only to the genre (Fantasy in my case) but to the specific situations and tone of the campaign. GURPS made it easy to run a campaign where everybody with a magic-user. And each of them was different despite sharing common abilities. The same with the city-guard campaign, and the thief campaign.

GURPS made this easy for me by having tons and tons of lists for skills, advantages, powers, etc. Yeah it took a little work but I thought at the time a lot less work than if I had to roll my own stuff.

That proved not to be true.

It came together for me after I read Matt Finch's A Quick Primer on Old School Gaming. His assertion of rulings not rules made me realize an essential truth about tabletop roleplaying; that rules are tools and that they are not point of the game.  Unlike my situation in 1987, in 2008, I was married, had kids, had over 15 years of LARP experience, and written a few published RPG books. I had a lot more life experience, all of which I can bring to bear to adjudicate the crazy shit the players do like throwing milk in a barbarian's face.

 As part of the process of writing my first independent project, the Majestic Wilderlands, I had to decide what made the Majestic Wilderland, the Majestic Wilderlands. Then came the tricky part of modifying Swords & Wizardry into reflecting reality of my setting. Go too far and become a completely different game. Don't do it enough then is it really of any use as a rule supplement?

The result was a series of tweaks to the Swords & Wizardry, mostly in the form of customized classes. One major addition I made was to add an ability system that allowed characters to be better at non-combat actions over other characters. Normally they are called skills but because this is Swords & Wizardry where any character can attempt any action, I elected call them abilities as any character of any class can attempt to use them. The abilities proved to be what I needed to successfully adapt how I ran the Majestic Wilderland under GURPS to Swords and Wizardry.

So what it would take to adapt Sword and Wizardry a very low magic campaign?

The first major consideration is healing. The minimum would be that the referee needs to consider how to manage the flow of time in the campaign. Most DnD edition allow the character to be fully healed with two to four weeks of rest. If there is nothing else happening a referee could say "OK you rest for four weeks it cost the party 100 gp for upkeep and now you are fully healed". That is a little bland and it might be better to spice it up with some downtime activities. While the 5e DMG addresses this issue, it was recognized long ago, In 1980, Midkemia press had a whole section on downtime events in their Cities Book. They have a PDF available.

I strongly feel that non-combat abilities need to be quantified and distinguished. It doesn't need to elaborate like GURPS or Runequest but there needs to be something. My solutions was abilities in the MW Supplement, there are others out there that work as well. I don't feel that relying on attribute checks is enough.

Finally I found that players like variety, and choices. One easy way to do this is to have mechanically detailed characters and a straightforward setting. A lot DnD 4e adventures and setting were presented like this. DnD 4e characters had a lot of choices in how they could fight in combat but the adventures, not all but most, were just a linked series of combat encounters.

The other way is what games like Fate and Savage World do. They mechanically simplistic but try to present rich settings to adventure in. Then of course what Runequest/Glorantha, Harnmaster/Harn, and Ars Magica/Mythic Europe try to do is have a rich setting with a mechanically detailed ruleset.

If the rules are going to be detailed, then the setting needs to have the detail. At some point I am going to tire of exploring a endless monster filled maze and want to interact with something. So variety is important.

Also we are can handle dungeon exploration different if we have to take four weeks to recover from injury. A lot of focus will be on making sure we have refuges where we can hole up for weeks at a time. Another thing to consider with more realistic healing rates is that the optimal organization would be a siege expedition. Starting with a large party at the entrance, the goal would be to establish a series of base camps into the depths of the dungeon. Stocking them with supplies and securing them. From these base camps, exploring parties would be sent out, with the best or most skilled at the deepest camp.

Another observation is one from my Majestic Wilderlands, In MW the magic-users are the most advanced wielders of magic in the setting. There are other and the main limitation is how they can or can't memorize spell. For battle magic, these other magic users have to rely on scroll and magical devices.  In a campaign with low magic, the referee doesn't have to have any magic-users at all. Instead magic can only be cast from a scroll, used via potion or device. A referee that want players create magic items then you can make it as difficult or easy as he wants. Perhaps it is limited to a Scholar class with the Natural Philosophy skill.

Finally given time in a Fantasy Campaign, the character will have magic-items and there will be a point where magic is literally coming out of their ears. At that point the campaign will shift and the referee needs to be prepared for that. The only question is when does the referee wants this to occur.

To wrap this up, I think a low magic Monteport will be a neat idea. I think it will need a few new rules added to Swords & Wizardry to make it interesting over a long campaign but not to the point that you are writing a complete supplement.