Sunday, December 30, 2012

My top 7 games

Swords & Dorkery didn't start it, but it's the first time I'm seeing this (edit: not true, I also saw this at Over the Misty Mountains, still don't know who started it, though) and I'm happy to oblige: here are the 7 games I played the most.

Source: Midgard-Wiki
1. Midgard- Das Fantasy Rollenspiel

Was my first love. 5 years of ongoing campaign, nearly every friday for at least 5 hours. Those were the times!
As far as systems go, it's a very skill-heavy and low fantasy roleplaying game made in Germany. And one of the oldest at that. Other than the newer/better/faster approach in current game design, a new edition Midgard was always about growth without bloating and not about "the new different".
Maybe I will be playing/DMing it again some time in the future.

2.  Vampire: Die Maskerade

Cover (German version)
It was innovative at the time and we played it before the hype. Our way of playing this was more punk than goth (with a little bit of Rammstein and Tarantino in the mix) and we had a lot of fun for a year or two.
One campaign in Hamburg and one weird german road-trip thingie with human characters (later on one found out he was a werewolf, the other became a vampire, they were brothers, it got complicated...), a heritage, some mafia involvement and the end of the world.
If I ever were to DM an urban fantasy game again, I wouldn't go for the V:TM rules. Instead I would loot whatever I can carry and run it with Witchcraft (it's free, check it out!)

Rammstein - Asche zu Asche

3. Cyberpunk

Source: drosi
What a game! It introduced me to William Gibson and Akira, that alone is reason enough for tribute. I was young at the time and didn't bother thinking about the rules, so we played it RAW. And a lot of one-shots whenever there was an opportunity. But never a campaign (which is a shame, I know).
Two of my favourite scenarios to run were "The Delivery Guy" (get the package delivered, whatever the cost!) and "The Health Inspector" (red tape vs. urban brutality).
Most remembered scene. The characters (a health inspector with some backup) try to enter a diner. Some heavy shooting on the parking lot, one manages to get inside only to be confronted by a crazy gun-wielding clerk.
Clerk: What THE FUCK do you want!
She: A Currywurst? (made me laugh hard and gave her the advantage in the end)

4. D&D 3.0

Source: D&D Wiki
A bad time for gaming. I had some experience (not a lot, mind you) with AD&D as a player and thought the 3rd edition was rad. I loved it for all the wrong reasons and soon after hated it for all the right reasons (my opinion, really).
The good: Rappan Athuk. It was brutal, it was evil, I loved it. They came down to level three ("Beware the purple worms!") and fought some legendary battles (some players are still haunted by it...). All the players bought the handbook.
The bad: Mostly I didn't like the combat rules, the time consuming preparation and the flood of D20-material (I bought way to much of this stuff).
The ugly: Too much power gaming.

5. HackMaster

Source:  wikipedia
Some time during my D&D 3.0 experience I discovered Knights of the Dinner Table and loved it for all the truth in it. As soon as they started publishing HackMaster, I was all over it.  A complete and new set of rules, basically AD&D in a funny dress, quirks and flaws, exploding dice and they gave all that classic modules a rerun! What's not to love? It is a bit heavy on the rules, but it was coherent and it never felt as bloated as D&D 3.0 (and friends).
My weapon of choice at the time was The Temple of Existantial Evil (they were funny like that). We played it a little over 3 years. The final showdown in the moat house was a 12 hours game with 8 players. Very good memories...
I probably won't DM it again, but I stole all the rules I liked and use them in my houseruled D&D aberration.

6. D&D Rules Cyclopedia

One day (maybe 3 years ago) we met for a game without having a plan what to play. HackMaster was to much of an effort (as were most other games I could propose). Around that time I had discovered the OSR-blogosphere for me and the D&D Rules Cyclopedia I had owned for something like 10 years now (but never really used) was my new favourite book. The only other Basic-D&D-thing I owned was the adventure DDA 3: Eye of Traldar and we decided to play it RAW (going as far as reading the flavour text aloud, crazy, I know).
It's not a very good adventure, to be honest. But we had a blast playing the game fast and easy and kept meeting doing so. And soon I started tinkering with it.

7. Bastard RPG (this doesn't exist yet)
Yeah, I'm working on it

Yeah, this is some kind of trick, because I forgot to mention Runequest (I DMed it for a very short time and loved it, my players didn't). So as my 7th top game, I have to blame the OSR for the unlimited supply of houserules, design ideas, tips and tricks, gaming philosophy, setting inspiration and various clones. The game we play today does exist in one form or another in this small corner of the internet. Ever changing and evolving. And one day in the future I will present my very own collection of borrowed and/or altered rules to my players, printable and free for all. A bastard as complete as possible. Blogging is one way of achieving this and contributing to the community that made it possible. So thanks guys, this game was made by you :)

Well, this was a trip down memory lane and I think a good way to close for the year. I hope to continue posting that regular in the months to come. After all I have to create a world engine, some monster advancement tables (ghosts should be next), a few new classes (Dwarves need to be done, a Undead Hunter is almost finished and I have a somewhat new take on the barbarian somewhere to exploit, stuff like that) and some rules to tinker with (weapon mastery is long due, more about magic and maybe some CSI: D&D...). Anyway...

...I wish all of you a nice start into the next year!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Basic thoughts on sandboxing

There is a lot talk about sandboxes lately. Maybe it was always like this, but this time there is a huge amount of fantastic ideas around how to breathe life into a setting. With my game being paused for over half a year now (with a little luck we start playing again between christmas and new year...), I thought it's about time to start working on a sandbox myself.

The ultimate heist as a sandbox

I'm pretty sure I saw this idea somewhere over at From the Sorcerer's Skull, but I can't find it right now*. Basically the adventurers are a group of specialists needed to get inside a highly secured dungeon and steal something very important. The prep work for this heist is the campaign. Ocean's Eleven or Leverage in a fantasy setting, so to speak.

The ultimate sandbox has lost the war

The sandbox itself is a war territory, occupied by evil forces or in the aftermath of a great war. The legendary dungeon is either power source for the evil forces or has something they want but can't get yet to gain more power (I'll take it both). That and shitloads of treasure, of course.

Patron focused adventure vehicles (about sandbox navigation)

The next very important issue is to find a way to ensure total freedom for the players without destroying the main theme. The final heist is the main goal of the game and everything the characters do is more or less connected to that. How is this possible without railroading the players:

  • There is a number of events that have to happen before evil gets into the dungeon. It's like a time bomb that goes of at some point in the campaign. The characters can either slow it down or hasten this process with their actions. This is in no way only connected to the "main quest", ideally every action they take has either a negative or a positive effect on the theme. Pretty much like ckutalik over at Hill Cantons describes his world engine.
  • They need a Mister Smith, someone with a master plan. He is recruiting for the heist, has a general idea what's going on and the connections to point the way, if necessary. But instead of making this some sort of DM tool to controll the players, he needs to be controlled by random tables and the players. He should be part of the character creation, something all the players create together. In the beginning he is just a man with a valid clue and nearly no ressources. The players will be able to finance him and get what he needs to plan the heist. With time he will be able to outsource adventures (if the characters don't want to do it) and work by himself by getting more and more experienced (which might create new plots, etc.). A little bit like the regents game in Birthright, but as a character all the players have some sort of influence in. Some sort of PC/NPC hybrid.
  • Further it's important to let the characters get some clues and hints while they are doing whatever they want. The best idea I could find so far is the Random Clue Generator over at Billy Goes to Mordor. It might need two or three different ones for this, depending on the focus the character decide on. Ancient ruins should produce some ancient connections, hexcrawls others and theme related quests should be the most productive.

This is the engine. The setting is next.

Safe vanilla havens in a destroyed and weird world

Weird doesn't work for my players. There, i said it. Unlimited variations of monsters with huge amounts of strange and alien elements in it,  to give but one example, disconnect them from the setting. Giving them a twist or an explanation using the weird is like using a deus ex machina every time. Appendix N doesn't mean anything to them, they just don't care enough and I have to accept that.

In conclusion the weird needs to be labeled to work out. At least I believe that could work. So here is what I'll try to do: I'll take a painfully vanilla setting (mostly Lord of the Rings, because it's what they know) and destroy it (using tropes derived from anything Dark Ages or Wild West). The element of destruction is where the weird comes in. Demon threats wills be recognizable as such and should be in a clear contrast to what is perceived as normal. It's more like how the horror genre works than like D&D (in the horror genre reality is perverted by something alien and hostile, in D&D alien and hostile has gone domestic...).

That's the basics, more is to come

All of this might seem a little trivial. I get that. A lot of text with general assumptions. But sometimes it's useful to take a step back and re-evaluate the situation. Other than that I have a lot of D&D prep-work ahead of me if I want this to happen, which is very nice and I'll tackle it as soon as possible.

Playtesting for christmas

Last month, when I was writing about Endurance, I took a shot on a very small sandbox setting to kill a horse (just scroll down to the dotted line). When running the game next time, I will use Count Shrops domain as a test run and see if my basic assumptions about players and setting work out. First time I will use my own blog as a resource and escalate some goblins :)

Until then I wish all of you a merry, merry christmas! And thanks for stopping by. May the dice be with you...

*Edit: Beedo's comment below helped me find the right post and the right blog about the ultimate heist: it's The Acererak Caper over at Michael Curtis' The Society of Torch, Pole and Rope. Thanks, Beedo! (I think the very nice Goon-meets-D&D setting over at the Sorcerer's Skull lead me to believe I saw it there. Still, good stuff.)

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

How to pimp a zombie

I wrote about this yesterday and wanted to start showing what I was talking about as soon as possible. So here is my second take (after the goblins) on monster advancement tables: Zombies. Have fun!

Brainless dead tinkering table (1d8+1d12):
2  Pimped: Somebody tinkered with the zombies. Stitches, strange fluids, you name it. Roll again and see what was done to them. This is now part of a zombie masters* m. o. and my be encountered again (if he isn't caught). 
3  BRAINS!!: They go for the brain. Every successful attack starts (in addition to damage dealt) with holding the victim (STR resolves), 2 successful and unresolved attacks mean the victim is grappled and the next attack is going for the head. A successful attack now also needs a successful save vs. death (-1, -2, etc.) or the victim looses consciousness for 1d4 (1d4+1, 1d6, etc.) rounds. 
4  Infectious: Once bitten by a zombie, a character gets a save vs death +4 (+3, +2, +1, etc.). Failure means he'll turn into a zombie in 1d6 (1d4, 2, etc.) days. CON declines in that time to zero. Alter one aspect every time this comes up. 
5  Groping: One attack more per round, up to three attacks. After that a DEX (additional -1 every time this comes up) check is needed to keep balance because of the wild attacks. Two attacks do each 1d4 damage, three attacks each 1d3. Upgrade either DEX penalty, number of attacks or damage of one attack. 
6  Turn off: One category harder to turn every time this comes up. 
7  Faster: They don't lose initiative automatically when this comes up the first time. After that they get faster every time. 
8  Wailing: They wail a lot and summon 1 (2, 3, 4, etc.) Zombie(s) more every 3 rounds. (Wandering Monster checks, too). 
9  Goo spitting: When hit, spits body fluids at facing enemy. 1 load (+ one more load for every time this is rolled) for 1d4 (1d4+1, 1d6,, etc.) damage. 
10 Meaty: More flesh to hit! +3 to hit points for every roll. Getting this for a second time is upgrading the zombie by one more hd, Four times equals two extra hd and so forth. 
11 Better saves: Save as Fighter 2 (3, 4, etc.). 
12 Armored: They have random pieces of armor on them. +2 to AC every time this comes up 
13 Paralyzing touch: Save vs. paralyzation or paralyzed for 1d4 (1d4+2, 2d4, etc.) turns. Elves and anything bigger than an ogre are immune (might change too, if it is rolled again). 
14 Hit the head: They can only be killed if you destroy the brain! Using the rules I proposed for aimed hits I'd go for 12 hp damage needed to annihilate a standard zombie ((3 x 2hd) + 6 (AC, because brain is protected by skull)). This comes up again, it needs one more point of damage every time. Damage to the rest of the body may immobilize it, but doesn't kill it. 
15 Fear effect: They look much more disgusting than other zombies! Save vs. spells (-1, -2, etc.) or don't fight them for 1d4 (1d4+1, 1d6, 1d6+1, 1d8, etc.) rounds. 
16 Regeneration: Whatever forced them back to unholy live wants them to stay that way. They regenerate 1 (2, 3, etc.) hp per round. Damage from holy or magic sources or from fire can't be regenerated. Finding and destroying the unholy source responsible for the undead, destroys the undead raised by it too. 
17 Diseased: Taking more than 6 (5, 4, 3, etc.) points of damage from those zombies could result in a disease. Save versus poison (-1, -2, etc.) or random illness (DM's choice). 
18 Exploding: Death blow makes them explode because of the gases inside (or because the evil spirit bursts out of them, etc.). Gory damage is 1d4 (1d4+1, 1d6,, etc.) in a 5 (+2 every time it comes up) feet radius. DEX negates. 
19 Remembering: Basic motoric memory (INT +2 up to INT 7). A zombie might remember or possess something dangerous/useful (1d6: (1) level 1 spell (defensive), (2) level 1 spell (offensive), (3) level 2 spell (defensive), (4) level 2 spell (offensive), (5) magic weapon, (6) magic item) and is able to use it. 1 in 20 (1 in 10, etc.) zombies can do that. Those make expensive trophies for collectors or pets for zombie masters... 
20 Strange origin: Roll 1d6 to determine: (1) parasite in humans, (2) plant infection in humans, (3) fungi in human, (4) animal, (5) humanoid, (6) monster. Roll one more time for special enhancement (and keep rolling if it comes up again...).
Rolling 5 times on this table should result in a zombie variant that is not too strong, but a challenge for low to mid level characters. With about 10 times it gets messy. Ghouls are a possible result by design and many effects complement each other (10 would alter 14, for example, either by adding 3 to the damage needed to destroy the head or by adding a hd with the same result).

* For every level a zombie master has, he can choose one alchemist/magical alteration for his zombies (just choose or roll).

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Encounter hooks and chaotic advancement tables

A week ago I wrote this post about goblins. The basic idea was to let them advance fast to a certain degree and give a DM some ideas for goblins in general plus a random on-the-fly generator for any specific encounter with those misfits.

Stuff for a Monster Manual?

I have to admit, it did something to my brain. Now I think it would be a very good idea to use this method on several monsters in a loose series of posts. The way I see it, it's a streamlining process that, in combination with the basic monster stats available, allows a DM to add setting- or location-relevant encounter behaviour, gives monsters a (fast) way to advance without being to clonky and all that with only a little prep-work but high reusability.

This is nothing new per se, but I'd like to get away from using monsters as generic one-offs. Any group of monsters the players could encounter, should not only be recognizable individually, but also be able to evolve and be different if encountered again. This is one point. The limits of this advancement is another important point. Those limits define how individual groups of the same type of monster are within the same "rules". Variety is a good thing, but at a certain point it makes everything that is encountered unpredictable. And a setting full of unreliable variants paralyzes play.

Ideal Monsters for doing this

Those are the first ones I can think of. Suggestions are appreciated.


  • Zombies & skelletons - Are they fast or are they out for brain? Are they infectious? Invisible? A plant or animals? There are so many different variants for zombies, why not try and put them all in one nifty random table?
  • Ghosts - Poltergeists, level-drain, ectoplasma as weapon, gotta love the variety. But in this case I think it would be nice to have a table of origins connected with it.
  • Intelligent corporal undead - Again, a big one. Vampires, ghouls, undead out for revenge or possessed by a demons, you name it. To get all of them into one table will be a challenge, but I'll try.


  • Goblins - I did those already :)
  • Orcs & Co. - Tribal rituals (out for human flesh, strength in unity, etc.), likes and dislikes (trading, beneficial social behaviour, combat, crafts, domestication), territories (where and how they like to fight and live, settlers or nomads, architecture, stuff like that).
  • Giants, troglodytes, kobolds, etc. - Uh, this is a lot. Might keep me posting for months to come...


  • Golems - Okay, this might be a no-brainer. Materials, protections, abilities, it's all there. Just needs to be summarized and utilized for advancement (maybe like a construction manual for magic users, with upgrades and all that).
  • Aberrations - Again, more like a construction manual for the little nasties, not beholders and some such.
  • Demons - More likely usefull for the minions, have to think about this one.

The focus here should be on advancement for groups of monsters that are used more or less often and should have an impact on the setting. If forced to DM without preparation, I want to be able to wing it with a few rolls. I hope this idea has some merit for some of you out there, too.

Monday, December 17, 2012

A halfling in peril...

It just happened the other day that I needed to show the guys what a gelatinous cube looks like and this was one of the first pictures showing up:

You gotta love that halfling! Picture by Shockbolt on deviantart.
I thought it's awesome and wanted to share...

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Aimed hits, fast and easy

This is a short one about aimed hits and it spooks around in my head for some time now. I can't guarantee this small rule doesn't already exist somewhere in the blog'o'sphere. So if you read this already somewhere and know where, please let me know and I will quote it here.

Anyway, I was thinking about aimed hits and how unapproachable the rules I know are. At least it's something I have to look up all the time if it comes up in play. The real problem I see, is in the fact that damage is constant, but hit points are not (most of the time, there is the idea of damage by size). Ideally I'd need a rule that's easy to remember but allows for higher damage on higher levels and dismemberment even with big monsters.

How to kill a king with a sniper.

My initial approach was along those lines. Some random king is on a parade and a professional sniper wants to take him out. I don't like the rules for assassins, but they point out the problem pretty good by establishing another subsystem of rules to make it possible. If a king is level 9+, he has enough hitpoints to shrug off almost any "natural" damage going his direction other than a critical hit. But a critical hit is luck, it can't happen by design.

First part of the solution is to allow backstabbing for ranged attacks. I let thieves choose with character creation if they either specialize in dealing extra damage with ranged or with melee attacks, when possible. But it's still static and even with double damage and a lucky roll it's unlikely to snipe a high level enemy out of existance.

The second part is to find a key to estimate how much damage is needed to render a limb useless or even dismember it and it needs to be related to any number of hit points imaginable. Can't be too low, can't be too high.

The idea...

Most of the time aimed hits are connected to fixed negative modifiers. Again, this is static and doesn't help other than making it more difficult to hit a location. Anyway, it's a start. The idea is to allow the players to choose how high the negative modifier is, before any positive bonuses apply and, if they hit the target, allow this negative modifier as extra damage. So if a player chooses to aim for a leg with a -10 on the attack roll, he gets +10 damage if he hits the target (in addition to hitting the leg).

This way the dealt damage is strongly connected to the ability of a given character to hit stuff (that is for the biggest part: level).

Now for the dismemberment.

Just working with what a basic monster description is giving a DM, this needs to factor in level/hd and AC. Let's assume a limb can take around 40% of the hitpoints a creature has, before it's rendered useless (one may try and give different limbs different values, like Hackmaster or Runequest do, but I'd like to keep it simple and chose a more conservative estimation to cover all...). Just add the AC to that and it's good to go.

Result: 3 x hd (or level) + ac-value (take it all, magic, dex, protection, whatever)
= damage needed to dismember or cripple

The king is dead, long live the sniper!

To kill a level 9 king, it needs 27 points of damage to the head (I'd allow a save vs. death with attacks aimed at the head) plus protection (plate armour would be +7 = 34). A high level thief taking at least -12 for the hit and backstabbing should be able to pull it off:

(1d6+12) x 2 for damage (again, with basic assumptions,
take extra damage from magic or whatever into account  and it's more...)

On lower levels it won't have that much impact (other than flavour), because of the low hit points (but armour gives low level characters an edge). For higher levels, though, it stays flexible and easy to remember and calculate. You just need hd or level, the negative modifier the player chooses for the hit and the targets AC.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Ill deeds and utter escalation (a spin on goblin mischief)

It's pretty early here and I started reading something about goblins and how underdeveloped they are in D&D. Yes, I thought, they are. Poor guys. But what to do about it? Making them stronger or giving them levels won't make it better, just more of a challenge. But that's not what they should be about. The end of a train of thought like this is most of the time: yeah, well, it's all about fluff, setting and Tuckers Kobolds. Even weak creatures can be a challenge, yadda yadda yadda. This time? Not so much. Maybe, I imagined, they could get stronger every time they manage to do some kind of mischief. Some random advantage, more connected to the location than to the creature (but not only). And the longer they get through with it, the more it escalates, the stronger they get.

So I need something like a chaotic advancement table for goblins and some light rules with it to make it stick. I only have to come up with 19 (because, reading this over at Monster and Manuals, it's all about the math) fun ways to make this work...

Goblin escalation (1d8+1d12):
2 Delicate deformation: Maybe it was the waste? Anyway, now they mutate. Roll again on this table and whatever comes up is somehow related to the mutation. 
3 Spontaneous animal control: You want a pig-stampede in your town? Didn't think so. But somehow the goblins not only managed to cut the animals loose for mayhem, they also seem to have a strange kind of control over them (animals worth 10 hd). Every time this comes up, it escalates even more (+5 hd every time).
4 Uncanny alchemy: They don't know what they do, but it explodes and they know how to handle that. Whatever strange ingredience they use, area of effect is 5 feet, damage is 1d4 and a save versus poison because of the wicked smoke this produces (failing means -1 to attacks for 1d6 rounds). For escalation either add 5 feet, upgrade to 1d6 (then 1d8, etc.) damage or -2 to attacks for 1d6+1 rounds. Repeat. 
5 Gibbering goblins: Those guys talk gibberish and have a lot of fun doing it. You think, the words make sense or are at least in a language you know, but if you start listening, it gets irritating fast. Save vs. spell or be irritated for 1d4 rounds (-1 to all actions). If this comes up again, it's either irritating for 1d6 (1d8, 1d10, etc.) rounds or it's -2 -3, -4, etc.) to all actions. Mix according to taste. 
6 Food enhancement: They found some food storage and are now with a full stomach! 2 more hit points per goblin every time this is rolled.  
7  Unusual protection: Pots, pans, barrels, whatever they find, they use for protection. Every time this escalates, add +1 to the AC. 
8  Leg fixation: This is like playing rugby. They run between the legs or duck behind you as soon as you step back. If fighting more than one goblin, DEX-check every round or you trip over one of them. If this came up more than once, it's -1 (-2, etc.) for the DEX-checks. 
9  Joyful clubbing: They have fun hiting things and it shows. They get +1 to melee attacks. With a critical hit they hit a sensible area (grotch, eye, etc.). Roll this again and it's either +2 (+3, etc.)to hit or a sensible area with a attack roll of 19-20 (18-20. etc.). 
10  Random hiding: Are they playing hide and seek now? For every goblin you're able to see, there is one hidden somewhere behind your back for a surprise attack. You can't shake the feeling that the one showing himself does so on purpose. If this comes up again, there are two hidden behind you. 
11  Verbal humiliation: Are they making fun of you? They sure are laughing! Morale goes up +1 every time this comes up. 
12  Speedy gobos: Sugar rush or coffee, they seem agitated. Whatever ini-system is used, they get a bit faster every time.  
13  Painfull aim: Whatever they throw at you, be it book, vegetables or stones, it hurts. They get +1 to ranged attacks up to 10 feet away. With a critical hit they hit a sensible area (grotch, eye, etc.). Roll this again and it's either +2 to hit, up to 15 feet away or a sensible area with a attack roll of 19-20. 
14  Sneaky buggers: Ah, they've just been here! But where are they now? You hear some noise or find a trail, but the goblins are gone already and it takes one round to catch up. Roll this again and it takes two (three, etc.) rounds to find them. 
15  Manic manure: What? They are growing?! Yeah, one in six goblins is bigger than the others. As big as a (small) dwarf and with a lot of muscles. +1 to melee attack damage. Roll this again and it's one in five goblins (then one in 4, etc.) or +2 (+3, etc.) to damage. 
16  Unfortunate ducking: Something seems always between you and the goblin you wanna hit. They always get a cover related AC +2. If a melee attack indicates a miss by one or two, a save vs paralysation is needed or the weapon is stuck for 1d4 rounds (STR-check possible every round). Roll this again and it's either AC +4 (+6, etc.) or stuck for 1d6 (1d8, etc.) rounds. 
17  Coordinated backstabbing: One goes for the attention another, one for the liver. If fighting more than one goblin their dirty fighting tricks give one of them double damage. Roll this again and two of three do double damage and so on. If two of three goblins may make double damage, three goblins will attack one target, if four are needed, four will attack, etc..
18  Trippy traps: Buckets on door frames, pepper explosions, needles on unusal places, they booby trapped everything! Whenever characters search an area and goblins are around, there is a trap. Save vs. magic wands or (1d6): 1. 1d4 damage 2. blind for 1d4 rounds 3. nausea for 1d4 rounds (-1 to all checks) 4. cough attack for 1d4 rounds (-1 to all checks) 5. slippery ground and shards (no running, DEX-check or tripping into something nasty for 1d4 damage) 6. Glue! (fixed to surface for 1d4 rounds or STR). Roll this again and the traps just got a little bit more nasty (1d6 damage, longer duration, etc.). 
19  Gluey fingers: How did they manage to steal this wand out of your pocket?! After every fight with a group of goblins, one of them and one random item of the characters possessions is missing. Roll this again and two (three, etc.) are missing. 
20  Magical affinity: they saw a wizard do his stuff, now they gesticulate wildly and mumble strange words. There is a 5% chance per encounter they copy some spell they saw to half of the effect. Add 5% every time this comes up. The goblin managing to copy the spell, will be able to do so again with a 1 in 6 chance. After that, add +1 to the roll for every time he manages to do so (up to 5 in 6).
Basically goblins adapt pretty quick in any situation, but only up to a certain point. I'd say no more than 10 escalations per location, then they got what they want (mayhem and destruction) and are on the run. But they keep two of the 10 rolled advantages they got (plus the mutations extra). If a number did came up more than once, they keep only the advantage of the first roll. But if a tribe had the advantage to begin with, the next possible increase stays (and so forth). This way they could evolve with time.

Or just roll a number of times on the table to see what a random tribe of goblins might be made of. Works both ways.

Please let me know if you came to use this. Feedback would be much appreciated.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Armour class and basic looting, Part 2

As announced, here is a short one about prices and quality. There are 6 areas that can be covered for armour: head, torso, two arms and two legs (see also part 1). Basic assumptions are all about items of good quality (3 items of good quality light armor is AC 6, etc.). I'd go for 3 kinds of quality in this:

  • poor quality (pq)
  • good quality (gq, being standard)
  • excellent quality (eq, might be tailored, for example)

Poor quality:

This is off the shelf material or shoddy craftmanship (or both). It's generally cheaper, but you nead 2 areas covered, instead of one, to achieve the effects of good quality. It doesn't protect that well and most of the time it's not that comfortable. So, for example, some off the shelf leather trousers do the job (two legs, two areas vovered, counts as one item of good quality). Basically, when using poor quality, you need to cover the whole body with one category of armour to get the full effect of an AC (6 items).

Good Quality:

The standard. Military armour is often like that. They may be stacked. A chainmail coif (medium armour) and a medium armour helmet count as one piece heavy armour. A nice effect of this is, that armour will not only be used more consciously, but also be a little bit more realistic (without being to complex, I hope).

Excellent quality:

Often very expensive, mostly tailored. Any negative effect on encumbrance or movement is halved. Magic armour is always excellent quality.


This is going to be a little bit more expensive and starting equipment will most of the time only consist of the most basic protection available. But this being part of the game, it's no disadvantage. On the contrary, this is about looting stuff and enhancing the meaning of "normal" equipment on lower levels.

Some classic looting (Paul Jamin, Le Brenn
et sa part de butin
, 1893, public domain)
The following prices are more guidelines than anything else. Local shops might be cheaper or more expensive (as the DM sees fit). And there is always the possibility for characters to go for the basic materials themselves (a nice opportunity to let them hunt for pelts or something like that) and drive down the costs. But this is how I'd do it:

Light Armour

  • poor quality: 10 gp per protected area
  • good quality: 30 gp per protected area
  • excellent quality: 60 gp per protected area

Medium Armour

  • poor quality: 90 gp per protected area
  • good quality: 130 gp per protected area
  • excellent quality: 200 gp per protected area

Heavy Armour

  • poor quality: 300 gp per protected area
  • good quality: 400 gp per protected area
  • excellent quality: 600 gp per protected area
For armour with magic properties the prices are multiplied with:
10 x (Ac bonus + number of special abilities)
Have fun looting stuff!

Again, I hope it isn't too complex. Next up are some ideas about abilities and magic items. After that I should return to weapon mastery, I guess (totally chickened out to do that, but it needs to be done...).

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Armour class and basic looting, Part 1

When players buy armour, they most of the time just buy the best AC they can get. They don't care that much what it looks like or who made it. The only thing important is what you're allowed to wear and what is the easiest way to get it. As far as roleplaying goes, this is a missed opportunity.

Questions like "how could a cloak influence AC" just aren't asked. Or what about trousers, arm protection and helmets? Nobody cares that much (other than as part of a whole package or it comes with magical properties, that is). I'd like to change that (in my game, at least), so here are a few ideas how to get this a little bit more flexible and relevant.

AC is only a category, not a set.

Just by looking at the unmodified numbers, it could be splitted like this:
9 - without armour.
8 to 6 - light armour*
5 to 3 - medium armour
2 to 0 - heavy armour
Those are the 4 categories characters can have anyway. And if shields are not treated as something seperate, it changes nothing.

Categories are about material.

Six areas need to be protected: head, torso, two arms, two legs (most of the time). Any three items of light armor give a character an unmodified AC of 6 (light/small shield could be one of those items). Any one piece of medium armor (as a substitute or an addition) improves your armour by one (up to AC 3). You need at least 3 items of medium armour and one item of heavy armour to get AC 2 another piece of heavy armour and you have AC 1. In conclusion, with 3 items of medium armour and 3 of heavy armour, the whole body is covered = AC 0 (taking of a helmet, for example, would be AC 1 again).This is still about unmodified AC. And it looks something like this:

  • AC 8: (heavy) leather, heavy fabrics, fur and skins (one main piece)
  • AC 7: (heavy) leather, heavy fabrics, fur and skins (2 pieces)
  • AC 6: (heavy) leather, heavy fabrics, fur and skins (3 pieces)

  • AC 5: heavy leather, furs or hide (reinforced with metal, wood or bone), also chain, banded or scale mail (at least two pieces light armour and one piece medium armour)
  • AC 4: heavy leather, furs or hide (reinforced with metal, wood or bone), also chain, banded or scale mail (one piece light armour and two pieces medium armour)
  • AC 3: heavy leather, furs or hide (reinforced with metal, wood or bone), also chain, banded or scale mail (three pieces medium armour)

  • AC 2: mostly metal and/or bone (three pieces medium armour and one piece heavy armour)
  • AC 1: mostly metal and/or bone (three pieces medium armour and two pieces heavy armour)
  • AC 0: mostly metal and/or bone (three pieces medium armour and three pieces heavy armour)

So any combination of armour can get you to the AC your class is entitled to. Let's say a fighter has a fur cloak, some good leather trousers and a horned helmet (a little metal and hardened leather for the helmet). Further assume the trousers and the cloak are light armour, the helmet is medium. Even without a shirt (going for the look and all) he'd be at an AC of 5 (unmodified). Add two metal arm protectors and he is at 3 (still all style over substance...). Give this guy a breastplate, a metal helmet and some chainmail trousers and he's in full plate (AC 0).

It's the basic idea, anyway. But there is more. Two layers of light armour could count as medium armour, for instance. Or: if a character wears more items than needed to get an AC, he can loose or discard them without penalty (a helmet or a shield, etc.). Wearing not enough items would degrade items you wear up to the point the requirements are fulfilled (wearing only 4 items of heavy armour and nothing else, would mean 3 of them count as medium armour, AC would be 2, see below). Stuff like that, but:

Now loot those bodies!

The beauty of it is that armour becomes an interesting part of the game. Starting equipment should just allow for the basic needs. It's not that easy to get descent armour around any corner, to be honest. Why should the smith at your village have all this stuff in stock anyway? But if you see a nifty helmet on that orc chief, it adds to your armour and you have a story to tell about it. Make the need for protection part of the game, but let the players fight for it. It's easy enough to keep track of and adjust armour on the fly. Take for instance this random pic:

Great art and it's from molybdenumgp03

Helmet? Check. Both arms protected? Check and check. Torso? Check! Now, I'd say the arms and the head are protected by medium armour, torso protected by heavy armour (but I could go either way here...). So this dame is down to AC 2 (unmodified)...

Part 2 will be about prices and quality, Part 3 should be about attributes and magic.

*Symmetry being the only reason here.