Thursday, October 25, 2012

Mean Monsters (Halloween Edition)

Faceless Spectre (aka The-Girl-You-Only-See-From-Behind)

This encounter could be considered a trap and a mystery. Nobody knows were these dark spirits come from or why they show themselves. Maybe their souls are trapped in a painting, maybe something forced them to see the abyss. Maybe they need help. All this is of secondary importance, because most of all it should scare the players shitless.

This poor little thing needs help...
What happens:

In this case I'd go for a little girl as Faceless Spectre. Stats are not needed* and you can place this encounter whenever you have an empty room conundrum (in a dungeon, an abbandoned house, you know the drill).

Let the girl appear behind the players, just out of melee weapons range and right after they think the room is empty and/or safe. She's uncomfortably close. Obviously alone in the ruins of your choice. She looks like a normal (that is: solid) 10 year old girl with black hair and a white dress. She is turning her back to them and not moving.

They don't even see a glimpse of her face and she won't do anything but appearing out of nowhere and standing there (it is important to emphasize this).

Talking to her will produce no reaction at all. If they ignore her, nothing will happen. If they attack her, she will disappear (but will come back...). If they try to look at her face? Well, that way is madness. It won't happen easily (she moves to avoid this), but if forced or tricked any player trying gets a glimpse at true evil/hell/the abyss. But don't describe anything, just the reaction. If a save versus death works, the characters hair turns white and he will never tell what he saw. If the save fails, you get to roll 1D12 (see below).

If they try to turn her, she will face the group.

Unprepared this could be a very cruel encounter, so ideally the group should find either some results of the table below, a picture of the girl (same clothes , a nice portrait, but a sinister touch to it) or hear some rumors about her.

If an explanation is needed, I'd go for an evil wizard that trapped her soul in a picture for some sinister reason or another (present for a demon; a sequence of 13 pictures like this to achieve immortality; the daughter of a king, doomed forever to see unimaginable evil; you name it...).

Helping this poor soul should be rewarded accordingly.

D12 for looking at her face (and failing the save) you will:
  1. ...scratch your eyes out.
  2. ...attack your group as brutal as possible.
  3. ...go to the next wall and face it till you starved to death.
  4. possesed by a demon! go from there...
  5. ...die screaming, eyes wide open and with bloody tears.
  6. ...kill the next random innocent stranger in public, you won't remember the incident, anybody around you will.
  7. ...go to the next stony surface and scratch again and again "I'm sorry" on it, use your fingers, out of fingers, use the stumps, you can't stop.
  8. ...commit suicide as soon as convenient.
  9. away, when nobody sees you, you'll turn into a Faceless Spectre.
  10. ...wake up on a graveyard the next morning (and this will happen often...), all dirty, embracing a freshly unearthed corpse.
  11. ...never sleep again, literally, never.
  12. ...see and understand, your INT drops to 2, WIS is raised to 18, permanently.
All but number 12 forgot what they saw and number 12 won't be able to tell...

Happy Halloween!

*Treat it like any ghost version you see fit.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Die Hard 0e (or: Exhausted Characters and Skills)

I know, second post in October, something is wrong with me... Anyway, now more about Endurance.

Something about skills doesn't bode well!

I like the basic ideas of skills (here is my take on it) in a game. After all they give some depth to the world and the characters therein. BUT, and this is a known problem, they tend to either bloat the game or they produce unrealistic/unsatisfying results after the roll, basicly because one roll not only encapsulates complex processes but could also end them abrupt.

Wait! There is an easy fix for that!

True enough, handled with care skills might just work fine. Mostly, if you think about it, it's about the subtleties. You don't succed in your climb check? You just don't fall of the cliff, but you get a save to catch yourself midways and a little damage. Stuff like that, you make it part of the tension you try to establish in the game. And then you have stuff like automatic successes, alternating difficulty settings and nice houserules like the one Zak S. introduced in January.

So what's wrong with that?

Well, even if a failed skill check allows another skill check (or a partly success or whatever rule you apply), it basicly means the character should have succeeded in the first place. Plus: after the roll it's not the players decision what happens next, but the DMs. I think, the longer a player is able to influence what is happening to his character, the better. Especially with skills that a character is more likely to succeed if he is inclined to do so. This is where Endurance comes in handy.

Give the players the decision if they fail or not...

So this is how we do it: Using a skill costs one point Endurance (it being one point, it won't be regenerated before a full rest restores all Endurance). Whenever a players fails in a skill check (other than with a critical failure, that is), he is allowed to use Endurance to achieve  a success. If this puts his endurance to a negative, he gets to save with the negative value as a penalty and the RESULT is where the DM reacts (this gives me another idea*).
In a team effort he looses one point less Endurance per player involved (but at least one point). And again, 10 minutes after the skill challenge, all but one point Endurance are back (if a player used his option to fatigue himself, he effectively lost two points: one for the skill challenge and one to use Endurance to succeed). Should work with simple attribute checks and definitely works with the 3rd edition skill system.

But how to use this in The Game?

Endurance works for the body AND the mind. So even a research check (something that should bring a result other than "Sorry, you find nothing..." anyhow) might be exhausting for a character, because he pushes himself to get results. So after all this works with nearly any skill check a game could come up with. It goes without saying, that it also takes longer to get an result, if you exhaust yourself. And still, failure is an option, if a character is pushed into negative Endurance, but then, as stated above, exist enough rules to handle a situation like this.
Furthermore, if the players wind down after a fight/skill check, this is easy for a DM to keep track of and another easy tool for flavour texts. It's also an active and easy to handle ressource for the players and the benefits outweigh the detriments (would it be the other way around, they would rest even more than they already do...), while the disadvantages not only still have an impact on the game, but also give it a more gritty feel.

*Addendum: Desperate Blow - Use 1d10 Endurance as a to hit with your next attack

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Die Hard 0e (or: Exhausted Characters in Combat)

Another part of my houserules for the gentle reader to consider.

And another Hackmaster 4e relic

Arguably the best tools for a DM help him describing the situation the characters are in and happen to work by just looking at what's already there. I like my games as gritty and dirty as your next favourite Die Hard movie and I like giving my players the feeling they can shine in the most desparate situations without throwing encounter after encounter at them. So, I thought, an element of exhaution, like the rules for Fatigue in Hackmaster, would do just fine in my game.

How to implement Exhaustion in an D&D game (a proposal)

Take half your Con as Endurance. In a fight you loose one point per round, with a critical hit you loose as much Endurance as you've lost hp. If you play with skills, you may allow players with a related skill to have their full Con as Endurance (alternatively you could give only fighters full Con or whatever tickles your fancy). Ten minutes of resting and breathing hard after a fight regenerates all but one point of your Endurance. This is cumulative until you have a full rest.

What happens if you hit zero endurance?

With zero Endurance a character counts as Exhausted. He is last in initiative and (playing with Rules Cyclpedia) his Weapon Mastery is down to Basic. MUs have to make an Int-check when casting or the spell (mana, whatever) is lost. Every round after that gives a cumulative -1 to AC, to-hit and check until it reaches the characters negative Endurance value. After that the character goes down, breathing hard and only able to crawl.

Monsters and Endurance

As easy as: 4 + Monsters HD as written (example (Goblin): 4 + 1 HD-1 = 4 Endurance)

Next up: Die Hard 0e (or: Exhausted Characters and Skills)

There is a lot more to say about Endurance in a game, but this is another post entirely...