Archive for the 'Weird Tables' Category

05
Jun
13

the pulsating heart of AD&D

Skidoo, one of the regulars in our on-going Pendragon epic, wrote insanely awesome combat charts for how to play Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (1e) “by the book,” near as he can figure out.  Everything is explained in flowcharts.  Because Skidoo has done this, and has spent session after session watching his knight’s agenda go down in flames before the titanic incompetence of my own Sir Carabad, I must conclude that Skidoo is a masochist.  But a devilishly handsome one.

But the files are right here (36 meg PDF), and this is Skidoo’s explanation for what he’s done:

skidoo’s explanation for spending time away from his family

Hi.This is a combat flowchart for AD&D 1st Edition, by the book.  It attempts to include all the rules in the three core rule books (PHB, DMG, MM).Everybody playing AD&D 1E ignores some of these rules.  I wondered if it was possible to include all of them in a game, when I joined a campaign that attempted to play AD&D strictly by-the-book.  I created this flowchart to see how all the combat rules fit together, to see if it’s possible to play through combat with all the rules, and what that might look like.I admit it looks nuts.
This is not:
How to play AD&D.
How I play AD&D.
How you must play AD&D to play it right.
One other point:
Because a flowchart gives as much space to a rule that’s used 2% of the time as one that’s used 98% of the time, the format makes it look like there’s a lot of rules to deal with in every combat, when there aren’t.  Many of the rules would only come into play at higher levels.  Multiple attack routines are not an issue at low levels.  BtB psionics will hardly ever happen.
In a way, it reminds me of a heavily house-ruled Basic D&D game.  I imagine many DM’s combat resolution systems would actually look just as crazy if you laid them out like this.  It’s just that the decision points and sequences are so ingrained from years of play that they don’t have to think, “Okay now I’m noting all of the spells in order of # of segments” or whatever.
I don’t have a big philosophical purpose for doing this.  I did it just so I could get my head around how it (might) work.  Kind of like dissecting a frog.  Or drawing what I think the dissected frog looks like.  Use it as you will.  Please leave a message in the comments if you have a different reading of a rule, or know one that I missed.

Special thanks to DM Prata for his ADDICT document, to which this project owes a lot, especially the chart illustrating how multiple attack routines work.  And to the makers of the game.

when you meet the buddha, kill him and take his flower sermon

(These are my opinions, not Skidoo’s.)

What I fucking love about this chart is that, at least for me, it ends the OSR as a rabbinical quest for The True Game Text.  (I suppose the rabbinical quest to play the game “as Gary actually played it in the year ______” can go on indefinitely, until we get a bunch of people with Gygax Number 1 together to thrash out that beast.)  This is Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. Everything else is just monster descriptions, maps, and character classes, all of which are simply inputs to the engine which Skidoo has exploded out for study.  And, uh, frankly it looks kind of un-fun.

This chart also ends the Edition Wars, at least for me.  I never cared about that stuff as an adult, but as a kid, even though I was playing a game called “Advanced Dungeons & Dragons,” it was the Second Edition.  I had this sneaking suspicion key things from 1e, such as demon tits, had been left out.  But dugs of darkness aside, I think Skidoo has pretty much demonstrated why creating 2e was a good idea, even if you don’t like the specific game that emerged from that redesign process.  It probably explains why the OSR seems to love Labyrinth Lord / BX and games derived from it so much.

Also, for me, this document kind of ends the OSR as an outlook.  My earliest interest in the OSR came from the puzzling realization that, despite mucking around with it for years as a child and teenager, I had never actually played Dungeons & Dragons, to the extent that “playing Dungeons & Dragons” meant playing by the rules.  But what these charts show is that, very likely, nobody has ever played Advanced Dungeons & Dragons by the rules.  Back in 2008-2009, there was a lot of reminding ourselves about “rulings not rules” and “if the rules have gaps, fill them in yourself,” and that kind of thing, as a rebellion against the comparatively rigid styles of 3e and 4e play.  But damn, man: the same problem of rigidity existed in 1979!  And people solved it the way people always solve it: by making up their own stuff to route around the bullshit: the hell with level caps and encumbrance rules.

In other words, no one has played 1e, 2e, 3e, 4e, or (likely) 5e by the rules.  Gaming didn’t need to be saved.  It had been saved the whole time. (“Saved” here of course isn’t meant to be taken seriously.)

The other thing I wonder about, when looking at these charts, is about the design process in RPG’s.  I am, despite playing D&D almost exclusively for 5 years, a Forge guy at heart, and I do believe that game design is important: it’s why I love B/X so much, for example.  But these charts, man!  When I was 9 years old, we had the super-simple Mentzer Basic rules, and we couldn’t be bothered to actually understand the text, or even read it.  We made up our own rules as we needed them, and then broke them.  Years earlier, however, poor Gary or Dave or Larry Schick or Mike Carr or Zeb Cook or whoever else, was slaving away on Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1e, with a zillion times more rules.  What’s the ratio of design effort in Lake Geneva to fun at your table?  I think us kids had a far better labor-to-fun payoff.  No matter how old you are, nothing beats Super Awesome Let’s Pretend Time.  And maybe that’s what, in practice, the players of 1e figured out too.

05
Jun
13

you must be this lucky to play, part 2

“I’ll work up how to do the math for 4d6 drop lowest arranged, but not today.”  Well, that was more than a year ago, and I can’t say I’ve really devoted myself to the project.  Frankly, I have failed you, dear trio of readers: it was much easier to re-learn Java to solve this problem by brute programming force rather than to re-learn probability.  The University of Illinois Math Department will probably come ’round demanding that I return my diploma…

Anyhow, I worked up a crappy little program to handle 4d6 arranged to taste for one million characters.  Surprisingly, even with that many data points there’s a lot of random noise in the second decimal place and a moderate amount of wobble in the first decimal place.  But I ain’t running this beyond a million characters.

Here are PDF’s of the charts below, in case, like me, you have trouble reading the way WordPress formatted the diagrams below.

advanced dungeons & dragons, 1979

As was pointed out in comments to the earlier blog post, 1e apparently uses 4d6 Drop Lowest Arranged to Taste as its default method of creating a character.

Several of these stat requirements are not specifically identified in the class description, but rather called out in the ability score charts. For example, if you have a Strength of 3-5, you can only play a Magic-User. Thanks to Olivier Fanton for pointing this out.

 

Class Min Stats 3d6 Straight 4d6 Dr. Low, Arr.
Cleric Str 6, Int 6, Wis 9, Con 6, Cha 6 61.28% 99.80%
Druid Str 6, Int 6, Wis 12, Dex 6, Con 6, Cha 15 2.87% 73.51%
Fighter Str 9, Wis 6, Dex 6, Con 7, Cha 6 58.30% 99.80%
Paladin Str 12, Int 9, Wis 13, Dex 6, Con 9, Cha 17 0.10% 24.19%
Ranger Str 13, Int 13, Wis 14, Dex 6, Con 14, Cha 6 0.16% 29.46%
Magic-User Int 9, Wis 6, Dex 6, Con 6, Cha 6 61.28% 99.80%
Illusionist Str 6, Int 15, Wis 6, Dex 16, Cha 6 0.37% 35.82%
Thief Str 6, Int 6, Dex 9, Con 6, Cha 6 61.28% 99.80%
Assassin Str 12, Int 11, Wis 6, Dex 12, Con 6 6.39% 93.51%
Monk Str 15, Int 6, Wis 15, Dex 15, Con 11, Cha 6 0.04% 13.15%
Bard Str 15, Int 12, Wis 15, Dex 15, Con 10, Cha 15; Fighter 5, Thief 5* 0.00%** 1.59%

 

* = Before becoming a Bard, characters would have to survive through 5 levels of Fighter and then 5 levels of Thief, totalling around 28,000 XP, before beginning Bard training. From our five years of weekly play, that would require about three years, assuming the character didn’t get killed or super-killed in the meantime.

 

** = The odds of the 1e Appendix II: Bard is actually 0.0017%. That is, if you rolled 1 million AD&D 1e characters using 3d6, you could expect to see 17 Bards occurring in nature using 3d6 in order.  

unearthed arcana, 1985

Unearthed Arcana has a lot of alternate ways to generate character stats. I have ignored these alternate methods, as I have ignored everything else in this book. I leave rolling 9d6 or whatever as an exercise for severely bored readers.

 

Class Min Stats 3d6 Straight 4d6 Drop Low, Arr.
Barbarian Str 15, (Wis 16), Dex 14, Con 15 0.14% 28.23%
Cavalier Str 15, Int 10, Wis 10, Dex 15, Con 15 0.03% 12.52%
UA Paladin Str 15, Int 10, Wis 13, Dex 15, Con 15, Cha 17 0.00%* 0.89%
Thief-Acrobat Str 15, Dex 16; Thief 5** 0.43% 35.74%

 

* = The actual number is 0.0002%, which means out of 1 million characters rolled up using 3d6 in order, a full 2 of them might expect to qualify for Paladin status in Unearthed Arcana rules.

 

** = Thief-Acrobat has to accumulate 10,000 XP as a Thief first. I don’t know how to assess how hard that is, but several players in the Glantri campaign have hit similar numbers after three years of play (and leaving many corpses of less-fortunate PC’s in their wake). 

 

dragonlance adventures, 1985

 

Class Min Stats 3d6 Straight 4d6 Drop Low, Arr.
Knight of the Crown Str 10, Int 7, Wis 10, Dex 8, Con 10 18.56% 97.94%
Knight of the Sword Str 12, Int 9, Wis 13, Dex 9, Con 10; Crown Knight 2 3.33% 84.90%
Knight of the Rose Str 15, Int 10, Wis 13, Dex 12, Con 15; Sword Knight 4 0.05% 27.60%
Tinker Gnome Gnome only*; Int 10, Dex 12 23.12% 99.90%

 

Note that, like the 1e Bard and the Thief-Acrobat, the Knights of the Sword or the Rose require you to advance in level to qualify.

 

* = The Tinker Gnome must first qualify to play a Gnome: Strength 6, Constitution 8, and a Wisdom no higher than 12; they also get a +2 to their Dexterity. These stat requirements and adjustments have been factored into the “Odds to Qualify” columns.

oriental adventures, 1985

Oriental Adventures explicitly says to roll 4d6 Drop Lowest Arranged to Taste as the way to create characters.

 

Class Min Stats 3d6 Straight 4d6 Drop Low, Arr.
Barbarian Str 15, (Wis 16), Dex 14, Con 15 0.14% 28.28%
Bushi Str 9, Dex 8, Con 8 52.02% 99.98%
Kensai Str 12, Wis 12, Dex 14 2.28% 80.91%
Monk Str 15, Wis 15, Dex 15, Con 11 0.04% 13.63%
Ninja-Bushi Str 9, Int 15, Dex 14, Con 8, Cha 14 0.15% 34.54%
Ninja-Sohei Str 13, Int 15, Wis 12, Dex 14, Con 10, Cha 14 0.01% 10.07%
Ninja-Wu Jen Int 15, Dex 14, Cha 14 0.24% 35.16%
Ninja-Yakuza Str 11, Int 15, Dex 15, Cha 16 0.02% 12.63%
Samurai Str 13, Int 14, Wis 13, Con 13 0.28% 31.98%
Shukenja Str 9, Wis 12, Con 9 20.57% 99.54%
Sohei Str 13, Wis 12, Con 10 6.08% 95.23%
Wu Jen Int 13 25.93% 35.16%
Yakuza Str 11, Int 15, Dex 15, Cha 16 0.02% 12.63%

 

 advanced dungeons & dragons, second edition, 1989

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Second Edition uses 3d6 in order as its default method to roll character attributes, but 4d6 Drop Lowest, Arranged to Taste, was listed as an alternate method that a lot of people seem to have used.

 

Class Min Stats 3d6 Straight 4d6 Drop Low, Arr.
Fighter Str 9 74.07% 100.00%
Paladin Str 12, Con 9, Wis 13, Cha 17 0.13% 27.05%
Ranger Str 13, Dex 13, Con 14, Wis 14 0.18% 30.55%
Mage Int 9 74.07% 100.00%
Hard Specialist Stat 16 *, Int 9 4.63% 56.76%
Easy Specialist Stat 15 **, Int 9 9.26% 79.43%
Cleric Wis 9 74.07% 100.00%
Druid Wis 12, Cha 15 3.47% 78.28%
Thief Dex 9 74.07% 100.00%
Bard Dex 12, Int 13, Cha 15 0.90% 68.90%

 

* = The “Hard Specialists” are the Diviner, Enchanter, Illusionist, Invoker, and Necromancer.

 

** = The “Easy Specialists” are the Abjurer, Summoner, and Transmuter.

 

what have we learned?

First: that knowledge of calculus does not survive fifteen years of total disuse.

Second: wow, no wonder people like 4d6 Drop Lowest, Arranged!  The odds of playing a 2e Paladin jump from barely one-in-a-thousand to about one-in-four.

Third: 4d6 Drop Lowest, Arranged works on a “generosity curve,” for lack of a better term.  Slightly less than 60% of characters using 3d6 in order qualify to play a Fighter in 1e, but using 4d6 Drop Lowest, Arranged this basically hits 100%.  That’s a 66% improvement in the odds to qualify.  But the 2e Bard, who occurs just under 1% of the time using 3d6 straight, is about 7000% more likely using 4d6 Drop Lowest, Arranged.  And the freakish Unearthed Arcana Paladin, who occurs in 2 out of a million characters using 3d6 straight, occurs roughly 8900 times in a million using 4d6 Drop Lowest, Arranged–becoming 445,000% more likely.  There’s a reason for this!  But I am now too dumb about math to understand why!

Fourth: the UA Paladin is still the hardest class to qualify for in terms of straight-up stats, but the 1e Bard is only twice as likely, and requires you to earn 28,000 XP before you can even show up for Bard College.  I think that’s got to be a huge filter, easily making the class 10 to 20 times harder to qualify for than stats alone would suggest.

Fifth: in the earlier blog post, it really looked like people back in the day had to cheat like crazy to qualify for some of those hard-to-reach classes.  That’s much less likely using 4d6 Drop Lowest, Arranged.  Whether people still cheated on stat rolls or not, who can say. I sure did as a  kid, but we were using 3d6 in order.

 

09
May
13

Weird Tables: Corpse Bits 4 Ca$h

Arch-wizards, alchemists and taxidermists crave various chunks of monster anatomy for their own peculiar purposes, and sometimes they’re willing to pay good money for such things! Players who recognize this may get into the habit of chopping up everything they encounter and hauling the bits back like deranged slaughterhouse workers. To keep the PCs from overdoing it, you may wish to limit such sales to specific requests (or “quests” for short) proffered by enchanters for whatever fresh ingredient they happen to need at the moment, as determined by the

REAGENT BOUNTY TABLE

Roll twice on a d20 to determine what weird thing the local magician desires. If this offers a nonsensical result, like a ghoul horn or hellhound wing, ignore it and roll on the “special reagent” table instead.

Roll Creature Reagent
1 Basilisk Blood
2 Cockatrice Bone/Skull
3 Doppelganger Brain
4 Dragon Ear
5 Ghoul Eye
6 Giant Flesh
7 Gryphon Genitals
8 Harpy Hair/Feathers/Scales
9 Hellhound Hand/Foot/Paw
10 Hydra Heart
11 Manticore Horn/Antler
12 Medusa Liver
13 Minotaur Nose
14 Mummy Saliva
15 Ogre Skin/Hide
16 Owlbear Stomach/Intestine
17 Troglodyte Tail
18 Troll Teeth/Beak
19 Wereolf Tongue
20 Wyvern Wing

SPECIAL REAGENT TABLE

Roll 1d12.

Roll Reagent
1 Carrion crawler tendril
2 Displacer beast hide
3 Fire beetle gland
4 Gelatinous cube gelatin
5 Giant scorpion stinger
6 Giant spider venom
7 Giant toad tongue
8 Killer bee honey
9 Ochre jelly protoplasm
10 Rust monster antennae
11 Shrieker spores
12 Stirge proboscis

Appropriate payment will vary based on how much gold you want to put into the PCs’ hands. In the past, I’ve generally offered 1d6 x 100 gold pieces for reagents. Now I’m considering monster HD x monster HD x 100 gold pieces. This may inspire PCs to go after monsters that outclass them in order to earn some sweet loot!

19
Jun
12

Dicing Up a B/X Dragon

Monochrome dice would actually be hard to use for this

Monochrome dice would actually be hard to use for this (h/t grognardia.blogspot.com)

This was a side project from a while back: Building on an earlier post, I wanted to lay out a small system for generating a dragon out of a handful of dice, with the idea of running some one shots that pitted whoever showed up against whatever dragon I generated (I think I was inspired by a short story in Dragon magazine in the early 90’s, I forget the name. Middle-aged dragon hunter.).

It’s actually not especially fast, but that was part of the point: I wanted to write the charts up by hand on a big, yellowed piece of paper, and play up the oracular reading of the dice.  I actually like how most of it turns out: Rolling six dice determines the hit dice, breath weapon, alignment, gender, lair type, whether the dragon can cast spells, and (this is the weakest part) name.  It’s also some fun with different ways to generate distributions with dice… In any case, maybe it inspires someone else to do something clever-er…

Dragon Dice Oracle

12
Jun
12

Generating Non-Standard Undead

As part of my slow-burning Saltbox project, I’m working up material on ghost ships.  I think of them in three categories: Ships with divine purpose (La Grande Chasse Foudre, or a more malign analog), ships of cursed undead taking their anger out on passers-by (Flying Dutchman, or the Black Pearl), and boats of monsters that want to eat your face.  Since I’m usually working with either B/X or ACKS (with occasional recourse to the SRD), this breakdown organizes undead monsters like so (this is ACKS, which gives Ghouls an extra HD):

Since I’d also like to present the population of ghost ships in terms familiar to descriptions of ship crews in these rulesets (“there is a Nth level fighter for every X pirates…”), I’m interested in being able to target the gaps in that chart: If I have a ship of ravenous undead captained by a 6HD creature, what is it?  I could just fiddle with the HD of existing creatures, but I’d like to be a little less predictable.

Instead, I’m taking the target HD, using a base attack damage of 1d6, and calculating the armor class of the creature as 8-HD (for B/X) or HD + 1 (for ACKS).  Then I’m rolling as indicated on these tables for special abilities and quirks of appearance (forgive the slight maritime bent):

 

I expect that the entries will get weirder with use, but I like the way the captains are shaping up so far. As is, they come fairly close to generating the traditional undead monsters as possible outcomes, which I regard as a virtue.

25
May
12

Not-so-Weird Tables: Starting Magic User Spells

Would you trust this guy to give your apprentice magic-user a proper education? (PS: I hear the movie is terrible)

This post on Planet Algol reminded me that my own game’s house rules for starting magic-user spells might be of interest to folks. (They’re derived from the Aquerra starting wizard spell tables, here.)

Note that one way of de-emphasizing the elf’s superiority to the magic-user at first level is to give the elf a single spell randomly rolled on a d12. (This also applies to homebrew hybrid casters like the thief-dabbler.) Watching the elf try to find a use for a spell such as floating disk or shield is an amusing exercise!

If these tables seem insufficiently dependent on the magic-user’s Intelligence score, feel free to allow additional rolls equal to the number of bonus languages the character receives for high Intelligence, or allow that many spells to be chosen by the player without resorting to a roll.

A starting magic-user begins play knowing three spells: an offensive spell, a defensive spell and a utility spell. Roll 1d6 on each of the following tables to determine which spells your magic-user has researched. (“Wizard’s Choice” indicates that you pick any one spell from the list you are currently rolling on.)

Offensive Spells
1: Charm Person
2: Light
3: Magic Missile
4: Sleep
5: Sleep
6: Wizard’s Choice

Defensive Spells
1: Hold Portal
2: Protection from Evil
3: Protection from Evil
4: Shield
5: Shield
6: Wizard’s Choice

Utility Spells
1: Detect Magic
2: Floating Disc
3: Read Languages
4: Read Magic
5: Ventriloquism
6: Wizard’s Choice

22
Mar
12

There and Back Again

Timothy Hutchings has a gallery show at I-20 opening tomorrow night, Thursday March 22. I’ve noted before that Timothy is

known to White Sandbox players as the dwarf Mallo Beer-bane and to others as (among other things) the curator of the Cursed Chateau exhibit, the editor responsible for the animation wizardry in the Kickstarter video for Adventurer Conqueror King , a panelist in the Dungeons & Dragons in Contemporary Art discussion, and one of the Doomslangers artists.

Since then Timothy has also been been part of the role-playing-themed art show Big Reality, where he exhibited his own work as well as selections from the Play-Generated Maps and Documents Archive, which he created and curates. Folks who are following the Dwimmermount kickstarter have also recently heard from Mr. Hutchings, on the subject of why the donation of materials from James Maliszewski’s home campaign to PlaGMaDA matters:

Tabletop role playing games completely revolutionized game play. Our multi-billion dollar computer game entertainment industry is built on the shoulders of pen and paper RPGs. With the popularity and overwhelming cultural presence of computer games comes the need for their academic study, and academic study demands original sources for research. The materials preserved by the Play Generated Map and Document Archive and other collecting institutions are being held in trust for those researchers and the important work they have just begun, and just as importantly these materials are disseminated back into popular culture so that the gamer of today can see the traditions and innovations that developed into the contemporary landscape.

Like many of my posts do, this one makes a blah blah sound. Here, then, are some charts Tim and Ezra Claverie who I am proud to call our mutual friend came up with for a game of Burning Wheel that I didn’t get to play in, but sounded delightfully old-school and Dwarf Fortress-inspired:

Inspired by:
http://joeskythedungeonbrawler.wordpress.com/

a giant’s poop contents chart

  1. Giant poop worms.  Like rot grubs but they don’t kill you so easy. The worms burrow into the PC’s flesh, reproduce, then send thousands of progeny out each end of the character’s digestive tract.  If this happens in front of NPCs then get an Infamous trait with that group.
  2. Gold coins.  Why would the giant eat gold coins?  1D of cache.
  3. A knife.  And bloody poop!  Ha ha, dumb giant pooped out a knife.  Is the knife magic?  On a 1-3 roll on the “what’s with this sword” chart, on a 4 it’s proof against acid, on a 5-8 then no – it’s not magic.
  4. A humanoid skull.  Bury it for a reputation 1D Friend of spirits
  5. A living troll arm, it makes half-hearted attacks. (I love this.)  Only fire can destroy it.
  6. A perfectly intact head sized egg.  (it was planted here by something else)
  7. Poop eating giant centipede.  Agility test or your probing arm gets bitten.  Yes you get an armor roll.  Learn that you don’t push your arm into the poop, you dork.  If you said “Oh yeah I was wearing my armor!” then you have poop all over your armor too.
  8. A bunch of springy worms.  Each worm’s belly contains a pearl-like gem (value, properties to be determined by GM).
  9. Seeds.  Are they magic?  Are they giant?  Are they just giant tomato seeds?
  10. A giant’s tooth.  This giant got beat up in a fight and swallowed his own tooth.  1 in 6 that it has a silver filling or is gold or whatever.
  11. An idol!  Geerwyn the Unfortunate.  This poor idol has the worst things happen to it and it’s possessors, but it also gives them help in getting out of these situations.  While carrying Geerwyn, any random thing that can happen to the possessor does, the more bizarre the better.  But, Geerwyn will Help the possessor out of these same situations with +1 or +2 Advantage dice, depending.  Geerwyn will also halve random damage from the bad stuff he causes, trading off injury for shame – rather than a B10 burn from the irate fire toad, the character will receive b5 but will have his beard burned off.  Bearing Geerwyn automatically gives the holder a 1D “pathetic bumbler” trait.

What does that worm pearl do?  (Gem Appraisal or whatever)

  1. Crap, it’s a worm egg and will hatch in your gem pouch.  And it eats gems!  Which become worms!  Will only hatch when there are other gems around.
  2. It’s a pill.  +2D to your next health test.  Good luck figuring out that this thing actually does that.  Maybe you noticed that it was an exceptionally healthy worm.  If taken the pill stays inside of you until you die, you don’t actually digest it.
  3. It’s actually a gem worth a little bit of money.
  4. Invisible things are reflected in the gems surface, but the surface is so small and round it doesn’t help much.  +1D to seeing invisible things, but you must be working Carefully as well.
  5. It’s a unique gem the likes of which adorn the crown of the dwarven prince.  If it gets around that the prince’s crown is adorned with worm poop pearls, it would cause quite a ruckus.

What’s in that egg?  (did you let it hatch?  If not then you might just get goo)

  1. It’s hardboiled, magically, and is delicious.
  2. A baby harpy, full of spite and can fly as soon it’s hatched.  It will flutter after the PCs cursing and drawing attention to them until killed or frightened off.
  3. The yolk is solid gold!  (worth 2 cache)(everyone make a Greed test)
  4.  It’s full of molar teeth?  What the hell?  (if you plant these they’ll grow into chickens)
  5. Rotten, cracking it open gives you and your stuff the Stinky trait for awhile.
  6. A tiny, perfectly formed homonculi.  Who does it resemble?
  7. It’s not an egg but a solid piece of ivory.  (worth 2 cache)  If you crack it open there’s a miniature, living elephant inside.
  8. Nog!  How bizarre.  (works like regular nog)
  9. The liquid inside the egg shines with the brilliance of a wizard’s spell for 1d4 days.  If you drink it your eyes and orifices all glow.
  10. A tiny dead looking guy in robes run through with a tiny sword and stuck with tiny arrows.  He has miniature everything a wizard adventurer would have.  (worth 2d of cache to middle aged lady collectors)  He will rot away once removed from the egg.
  11. The egg is full of pearl bearing poop worms.

Tim gave me permission to post these charts a while back. He perhaps didn’t mean “at the same time as mentioning an occassion in which he is doing a serious artist thing”, but as I am the kind of person who would pay a Joesky tax with stolen Joesky-inspired coin, clearly nothing is beneath me. Tim and Ezra made many more tables like this which I will post the next time I get behind on the taxman!

I will not be able to make the show’s opening tomorrow night, as I am taking my son to his first GaryCon, but I hope to make it after we get back.

06
Mar
12

Rumors of Dwimmermount

Here is the rumor chart I made to bring events from the inaugural G+ session of the Dwimmermount Kickstarter campaign into the continuity of the game I subsequently ran at the Brooklyn Strategist. The idea is that Locfir having gotten busy with other projects, Locfir’s Man (formerly known as the candlemaker Ungril Ungfarm) escaped from being charmed. Scuttlebutt is now echoing from the tales he brought back from the dungeon expedition he participated in with Pigfoot the Hog (human fighter), Burgoth the Mage (human you-guessed-it), and Locfir the Astrologer (elf). These are a little Locfir-centric because Locfir’s Man is making out like a bandit on his association with the elf and in fact refuses to answer to the name Ungril any more.

Photos by David Ewalt, aka Old Axehandle, from the last Brooklyn Strategist session

  1. Pigfoot discovered material components that make the ventriloquism spell lethal AND merchants are buying up all the fortress-town’s supplies of chain, caltrops, oil, and torches.
  2. Locfir made Burgoth lick a Thulian pillar of submission AND Burgoth is now hemiplegic and enslaved in Locfir’s sanctum.
  3. The party all cast charm person on one another to protect themselves from outside influences AND when they returned from the dungeon one of them had been turned into a gnome nonetheless.
  4. The bearded face of a Man spoke to Locfir AND taught him how to initiate himself and others into Thulian wisdom.
  5. Locfir filled a wineskin with a fluid he found very interesting AND pouring it on Burgoth brought him back to life.
  6. The party was attacked by metal skeletons AND Burgoth controlled them using a lever.
  7. The party found the petrified body of Turms Turmax’s courtesan AND she revealed to them the secrets of the Thulian doors.
  8. The party found a renegade Dwarf AND the others of his kind are searching for a cemetary of their kind that is being desecrated.

All of these are potentially knowable to characters in the Fortress of Muntsburg. I had the players roll a d8 apiece to see which rumor they had heard just because I didn’t want to read them all out at the start of the session, but I don’t think any of these are spoilers at least for my own approach to embracing meta-knowledge. If you read this post and then play in my game that’s awesome you saved some reading rumors aloud time. We’ll work together to imagine the reason that your character is particularly well versed on what’s being talked about in Muntsburg’s taphouses.

Step one of my approach involves acknowledging meta-information the players might have – some of the stuff above you can guess at if you’ve read Zak’s post. The reason the the map of the first level can be seen in the picture to the right is that I placed it in the dungeon as treasure, knowing at least one of those present had seen it in the Dwimmermount teaser in the Adventurer Conqueror King rules we were using.

Step two is then using this to screw with the players. James beautifully set the stage for this by changing the dungeon since the ’09 PbP game, so that the first time Locfir entered after three years away he freaked out that none of his maps were quite right. Part of the reason these aren’t spoilers is that each has two parts, separated by AND. Either part could be true or false. The idea is to give players some ideas about things that might be interesting about the dungeon – in this case, things that our group of players actually was interested in (well OK maybe just me, Locfir was always either running away or having to be dragged away from things only he cared about). Then if and when they do encounter something that might relate to the rumor, their dread and paranoia is entertainingly multiplied by the bad things they’ve heard or the likelihood that I made a false good rumor to trick them into doing something foolish.

The way I figure this works for the Judge is that if the players want to try to investigate the rumors further, they can spend some time (I recommend a week) in town rolling against an ability score or however you like to do this kind of thing. The results are, using an assumption that you’ll wind up with a range like the Apocalypse World-type system where a total failure is a modified 6- on 2d6, total success is 10+, partial success anything in between:

  • Total success: you learn whether both parts of the rumor are true. (If you like to be more stingy with information, decide which part you want to pursue and you confirm or deny that half.)
  • Partial success: you learn one false part of the rumor, Judge’s choice, or that no part is false. (Or maybe you learn it all at a cost or complication.)
  • Total failure: the Judge gets to invent and spread a rumor about the investigating PC. (Or trigger a town adventure, rival party attack, etc. if your group is in the mood, or impose a penalty on the PC’s die rolls due to too much buying of drinks in town means bad hangover but no info.)

Judges, if you haven’t read the adventure yet just decide “true or false” depending on what sounds good to you. Discreetly make a note on the rumor table to help you figure out what you said later when the party finds that thing in the dungeon (if it even exists at all). Likewise if you are about to prep the dungeon, thinking about these rumors as you read should help you keep your eye out for cool stuff (even though James has hit on what is for me just the right level of evocative detail vs. easy to read). And if you think your players know too much about the dungeon, these rumors are meant to be a good guide to which switches to flip to change things up.

Finally, you don’t have to pay any attention to this continuity in your version of Dwimmermount. Pigfoot and Burgoth and Locfir don’t have to be in the setting at all, they are non-canon for sure and I am pretty sure it will make James frown thoughtfully if you start tossing canon around so don’t do it. If the party goes to investigate what’s going on with Burgoth and he exists he can be whatever you want, I recommend secretly a polymorphed dragon living in some kind of polyhedral melting pocket-plane.

Empty Kingdom if you are a home for media artists make it easy for me to credit this painting to Ryan Browning with name and year and stuff the way galleries do.

The one thing you should be sure to respect in your campaign is that if it has a Locfir he is fantastically wealthy but no PC will ever find where it is hidden, and he has like a million hit dice and just started that one HP rumor to tempt fools to disrespect him so he can do weird elf things with your still-beating heart.

I liked the way this worked and will be doing it for the Keep on the Borderlands events we’re doing with ACKS at Gary Con IV.

30
Jan
12

Dungeon Notoriety and the 15-minute Workday

Recently over at the Greyhawk Grognard, there was a discussion of how to deal with “the 15-minute workday.” This is a situation in which PCs become so risk averse that they immediately retreat to a safe haven after expending any resources at all in the dungeon, nickel-and-diming their way through the even the shallowest dungeon levels.

In the comments, Talysman responded:

*Discourage* the players from returning to town every time they run a little low on resources? I’m trying to *encourage* them to do that! It doesn’t have to be easy, and things can certainly change between visits, but I think there should be a series of short expeditions instead of “hanging on until the last hp”.

I agree with Talysman that this behavior is precisely the kind of careful management the lethality of an old-school dungeon requires, but I’m sympathetic to Joseph’s concerns that the necessary risk of a dungeon expedition can be eroded if the PCs are risk-averse in the extreme. The solution I would suggest is to make the dungeon itself a resource to be managed: If the PCs appear to be hauling loot up risk-free, others will be emboldened to try their luck in the dungeon’s depths.

Flora's mallewagen, by Hendrik Pot

Download Dungeon Notoriety and Interloper Tables (PDF)

The linked document details what it is essentially a random encounter roll when treasure is brought up from the dungeon; the likelihood of encounter is modified by the secrecy of the dungeon’s location, the party’s health on returning, and the amount of treasure retrieved.  The latter is variable by market class (ACKS’s I-VI reckoning of market size, with I being global metropolises and VI being tiny hamlets), and based on the monthly wage of three heavy infantry and the number of said infantry on the market.  The translation of other ACKS-isms to B/X-like games should be fairly transparent.

Since returning to town from the dungeon is typically a call for a short break in the games I’m in, it should also afford me the opportunity to roll some dice and replace a defeated group of orcs with a NPC party eager to get in while the getting is good.

22
Nov
11

deck of many tortures

A silly thing first, then a serious question, then Joesky tax.

I attended my second session of I6: Ravenloft last week.  (The rest of the guys have played several more sessions since my first bout of Shukenja-envy).  Naroia, playing a Kryptonian Assassin, decapitated vampire lord Strahd with a single strike.  Which apparently didn’t do the trick, but whatever, the guy’s going down.

Surprisingly, assassinating Strahd von Zarathustra was not the highlight of the evening, because our DM (“Naked Sam”) busted out a deck of many things.  I knew to stay away from it–I had seen Tavis mercilessly pummel the after school class with it last year–but I got peer pressured into drawing.  I wound up with +60,000 experience and was now Chaotic Evil, which just goes to show you should always give in to peer pressure.

But don’t give in the way these guys did!  It is not best practice.

  • Kryptonian F/M/T drew The Void, so his soul got stolen by a demon, and dragged off to hell.  But we remembered that souls can’t leave Ravenloft so must be in the castle somewhere.  I looted his soulless shell of all its magic items . . . just for safekeeping.
  • Kryptonian F/M/T’s player then grabbed a replacement character who drew The Void again.  That demon really likes collecting souls.  I am not sure who got this guy’s magic items, but I feel that I earned them.
  • Sensible Half-Orc lost all his magic items, got +50,000 XP which is total bullshit, gained the service of a henchman, and then his henchman immediately betrayed him.
  • Kryptonian Assassin couldn’t kill Sensible Half-Orc’s new henchman in single combat, even though it would mean gaining a new level.  But our assassin is now Chaotic Good.
  • Normal Magician lost all magic items and also lost 10,000 XP.

Painstaking game theory analysis confirms that the other players made the crucial mistake of drawing terrible cards.  Like playing a Cleric with less than 30,000 XP, this is simply sub-optimal play and they should try harder next time.  You’re welcome.

As a suitable reward for my skill, I also got a ring of wish.  That is how the game is played.  Who’s the Shukenja now?

the torture debate

Also that session, we had the age-old “What do you mean, you kill the helpless prisoners?!” intra-party feud.  There were these Witches who had been rendered harmless, but Sensible Half-Orc decided to kill them anyway despite my character having loudly sworn to protect them from mistreatment.  (This was before I became Chaotic Evil.)  It was, at least for a second or two, potentially a bad scene.

We avoided it because I respect Sensible Half-Orc’s player (co-blogger Charlatan), and also as a relative interloper in the game I didn’t want to make a gargantuan stink, as a colossal stink was quite sufficient.

But torturing and killing helpless prisoners seems to be an inescapable intra-party fault line within Dungeons & Dragons, even serving as a practical example of Alignment in the Moldvay Basic rule book.  But it’s actually kind of a serious problem, partially because it’s so revolting that there are bound to be strong feelings at the player level, which naturally creates a social temptation to break the taboo.  Plus some people might think that it’s the most sensible course of action given the fictional circumstances.  And all of this gets masked as “playing the alignment” of a fictional person, giving everyone some plausible deniability to stake out stronger positions.  It’s pretty much a recipe for coercion if not literal backstabbing.

I’m wondering how other groups / OSR bloggers / whoever have addressed this topic in play.  Our group avoids some stuff by explicit consensus: intra-party violence is on that list come to think of it, as is torture.  Other stuff seems to be handled by implicit consensus: I’m not sure a Thief has ever properly picked the pocket of a party peer.  But murdering captives, as distinct from torturing them, apparently is a live issue for us.

Given that Dungeons & Dragons will inevitably and repeatedly lead to these types of situations, and given that the rules of the game will almost inevitably lead to enormous tension at the table-level, I’m astonished that this topic is so rarely discussed.  To my knowledge, nothing in TSR-era D&D, Dragon, etc. ever seriously looks at this.  You see the “what do you do with Orc babies?” thing on places like RPG.Net sometimes, but even there it usually becomes a big messy thread (endemic to the venue, I guess).

Anyway, it ended up being no big deal, but I personally would have had more fun if it hadn’t occurred.  That’s probably as much my fault for taking an unexpectedly principled stand as anyone’s.

joesky tax: why are we fighting, anyway?

Perhaps the most common occurrence in Silver Age super hero comics is when two super heroes meet for the first time, they always get into a fight.  This is pretty much the super hero equivalent of the obligatory “assessment joust” in Arthurian legends.  This chart uses the Marvel Super Heroes system but hopefully is simple enough to work with others.

When a costumed player encounters a costumed super hero NPC for the first time, the player makes a Popularity roll.  If the player is part of a team, the player with the lowest Popularity should roll.

  • WHITE – NPC has no idea who you are, so you’re obviously a menace.  Fight!  Roll on table below at -3.
  • GREEN – NPC has heard rumors of you, but is intensely suspicious.  Fight!  Roll on table below at +0
  • YELLOW – NPC has heard of you, but doubts your ability and commitment.  Fight!  Roll on table below at +3.
  • RED – NPC respects you, but has a lot of work to do.  No fight, unless you start one by bothering or delaying the NPC.

On a yellow or red result, the NPC might become genuinely friendly if the player impresses him or her in some way.

Why are we fighting?

1d10 Roll Motive
0 or less NPC mistakes you for a new villain. NPC is probably snide and dismissive about it, too. Media may begin covering fight, which could harm your Popularity. NPC will be breezily apologetic if proven wrong.
1 NPC was alerted to weird phenomena… violently paranoid crowds, mountains appearing in street, cops & robbers mind-swapped, wildly levitating cars, money turns to liquid, etc. NPC blames you. Will fight until convinced this isn’t your fault, probably by a Reason feat. Villain… Loki, Mole Man, Silver Surfer, Diablo, Miracle Man, Enchantress, Tiboro, Leader
2 NPC is an impostor out to sully the original’s good name. All primary stats at -1 column, and powers crudely simulated by technology. Impostor may think the player is a fellow villain or potential dupe, respectively, and will try to team up instead of fight. NPC is really… Chameleon, Mysterio, Skrulls, Commie, alien, random bozo
3 NPC believes you’re an impostor (Commie, alien, android) or have been mind-controlled somehow. You’ll have to do something only the real you would do. NPC is primed to think this way b/c tracking down… Chameleon, Mysterio, Skrulls, Puppet Master, Purple Man, Demon Duplicators
4 NPC is mind-controlled by villain… Enchantress, Puppet Master, Hate Monger, Purple Man, alien, Commie. Villain is using NPC for a specific purpose, you just got in the way.
5 NPC is just an illusion created by villain… Loki, Baron Mordo, Mysterio, Mastermind, alien, Commie. Goal is to set you against the NPC later on, or to evaluate your abilities.
6 NPC is helping… army, scientists, SHIELD test new equipment, but your presence is screwing up the test. Dummy, do I have to knock you out of here?
7 NPC coping with super-angst and will lash out in grief, rage, or despair. Keep making Psyche feats at the start of each round until a green result, at which point NPC will calm down. No apologies, will just zoom away. NPC’s loved one stricken with rare blood disease; only cure is in… Latveria, Wakanda, Zemo’s South American fortress, Limbo, Asgard, Mandarin’s Chinese redoubt.
8 NPC has to attack you to prevent catastrophe (your girlfriend’s house is actually an alien egg, your car is a four-dimensional bomb, unless your HQ is destroyed villain will demolish city), no time time to explain! Villain… Mad Thinker, MODOK, Mandarin
9 NPC is acting under orders (Nick Fury, Thunderbolt Ross, Senator Byrd), media hoopla (J. Jonah Jameson, Red Chinese propaganda), or the suggestion of some other contact to arrest/capture you: the way you handled last case has serious implications
10 NPC thinks he’s the better man to handle this case or otherwise has precedence, so butt out junior, this is too dangerous for you. I said butt out!
11 or higher NPC wants to test player’s abilities for special mission together.

I’m not sure those modifiers all line up, but it’s a start.




Past Adventures of the Mule

October 2020
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