Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A bwessed awwangement

Congratulations to John and Randi on their recent wedding! I've never met either of them, but John is the close personal friend of Bully the Little Stuffed Bull, the finest comic-book blogger in any direction from the Pecos. Bully once commented on a blog post of mine, which was one of my happiest Internet moments.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Quick Champions thought

On the heels of the news that things are going south at Hero Games... Champions is a big sprawling complicated mess. That's part of its problem (and a leading suspect for why the company's in trouble). It's also a joy. All the stats, skills, and powers in Champions serve the same purpose as all the gear and equipment in a D&D dungeon crawl. They're tools. It's just a matter of whether you buy them at the pretend-store with gold pieces or buy them in character creation with arbitrary points.

How I hack it

Depends on the edition.

D&D pre-2e
Haven't touched it since the 1980s. Probably wouldn't run it, since all that would remain is my hacks.

D&D 2e
Eliminate racial level caps. Change THACO/AC to the 3e system. Encourage specialty clerics. Mandate weapon/nonweapon proficiencies.

D&D 3e
Ignore "favored class" as a concept. If humans complain, toss them an extra Feat every now and then. Revise list of cross-class skills for concepts that don't fit existing character classes. Otherwise undermine the idea of character classes whenever possible. Estimate, don't calculate, the various fiddly bonus types. Improvise Grapple, Jump, and Attacks Of Opportunity as needed.

D&D 4e
Don't play it. If forced to, use the class-free 4.18 ruleset I patched together. Eliminate all powers that require a grid/battlemat; replace them with freeform powers. Add powers that work outside of combat.

Marvel Super Heroes
Remove the Kill result from Energy attacks and replace it with Stun. Reduce the Karma cost for doing a Power Stunt the first time.

Star Wars
Scrap their systems for initiative and damage. Replace the former with a simple everyone-takes-a-turn rotation. Replace the latter with an impressionistic system where damage rolls are compared to Strength rolls and the result means the target is stunned/wounded (if a PC) or wounded/KO'd (if an NPC), based on how entertaining the fight has been so far. To improve one of your stats, raise at least 5 of its Skills by one level. Pretend that the d20 version never happened. Pretend that anything written by Bill Slavicsek never happened.

Hero System
Ignore the various hard-coded environmental modifiers. Ignore the rules for accelerating, decelerating, and gaining altitude with Flight (unless someone who took Gliding really wants to feel special). Allow someone to have a Base with a Vehicle with a Follower, provided that they're Having Fun With The Rules instead of Being A Stupid Munchkin.

Call of Cthulhu
Can't think of a thing.

Eliminate the Roles. Let players pick the skills they want. Allow players to take a second Role-based skill, provided it doesn't start at more than half the level of the first Role skill. Skip the dumb parts of the Lifepath, where you can end up a barenaked corporate mogul living on a pirate raft... wait, that's awesome. But let people who don't see the awesomeness skip those parts of the Lifepath.

7th Sea
Discard 95% of the setting's politics, geography, and ongoing plots. Replace with actual 17th century Eurasiafrica, with an option on the Americas. Discourage players from taking Backgrounds if they're the kind of people who don't like having their character's history become the party's plotline. The Advantage called Faith does nothing.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Random thought while waking up

I'm gonna put this down the way it came to mind.

Simple RPG combat/skill system. You try to punch someone? You roll 2d6, so do they. If you tie or win, you hit. And if you have some kind of person-punching skill, you get to roll 3d6 instead.

Then I wondered if you could expand this to other skills. Default is rolling 2d6 for doing stuff, against either a static target number or another 2d6 roll if there's active opposition. If you have some kind of relevant skill, you get +1d6. If you make clever use of your circumstances, you get +1d6. Possible 4d6 max, then. But if you have a handicap or some kind of incompetence, you get -1d6. And if  circumstances are against you, another -1d6. Minimum 1d6? 

You could meld this with a Castle Falkenstein chargen system, awarding you a certain number of +/- d6es.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Iron Chef postmortem

I don't want to influence the judges, but I gotta say I'm not very happy with my entry. In hindsight, I should have sketched out some kind of encounter web. A map of the non-mist-based temple would be handy. Graphic reference for the mistgoblins and/or more critter ideas would add a lot. Maybe some weird movement rules? Ideas on neat mist effects?

If nothing else, at least I should have worked with the format to make it more readable. Typing it up on a one-page-dungeon template would have helped a lot.

Whatever happened to the mihstu, anyway?

Friday, November 11, 2011


A fantasy adventure for [however many there are] PCs of [whatever] power level. An entry in the Iron Chef Adventure Challenge Thingy. It's longer than I planned, but it doesn't have a map taking up space, so maybe it all works out.

SYNOPSIS: Inside the temple called The Pearl Of Sea And Sky, an elemental rift has loosed mistgoblins on the solid world. Unless they are driven back, the temple and the town and all around will dissolve into mist, mist, endless mist...

STORY: The Azure Order has long controlled the Pearl. At its heart lies a great treasure -- an honest, straightforward oracle. When the heretical Verdant Order gained strength, the Azure dug deep for power to crush them. Too deep. Now the Azure are being consumed by what they worship, the Verdant are blundering into danger, and the oracle is lost in a maze of living fog.

SETTING: The Pearl is a sphere of white stone atop a spire of rock that overlooks the sea. At the base of the spire is a small fishing town. Stone steps twist toward the temple's arched entrance as the wind blows mournful chords from horns carved from giant shells. Today, a heavy purple mist writhes out of every door, window, and chimney of the sphere. Voices call out, perhaps for help, perhaps for victims.

SO?: The vapors have transformed the building into an ever-shifting labyrinth. It has no fixed map. The only easy entrance is the arched doorway atop the winding stairs. When the PCs enter the fog here, roll a random location from the chart below -- that's where they end up. Whenever someone leaves the room, they go to a new random location. It all ends when the PCs find a way to close the portal (or just go home).

1-10% Main Worship Hall -- Large circular room with a ritual pool in the center and a ceiling that opens to the sky. Tall iron candleabras surround the pool. Every time this room is entered, 1d4 mistgoblins will be here.
11-15% Small Chapel -- Small circular room with silver and platinum holy symbols on the walls. 1 mistgoblin is here every time. This is not a specific room.
16-20% A Priest's Cell -- Bare rectangle with a stone bed, uncomfortable pillow, and 25% chance of interesting/valuable personal items. Also a 25% chance of a Random NPC. This is not a specific room.
21-25% Scriptorum -- The books and scrolls in this long rectangular room are a ruined purple mess. 25% chance of a Random NPC.
26-30% Divination Room -- This oval room near the top of the sphere has a water-filled stone bowl and several round windows. Priests gazed into them, hoping for revelations. 50% chance of a Random NPC here.
31-35% Ritual Pool -- This oval room is a pool that drops from 3 feet to 8 feet in depth. 1d6 mistgoblins are always here; one Possessed Azure is here the first time. He has a small amount of sapphire jewelry.
36-40% Ritual Eyrie -- A narrow room at the top of the sphere. Its ceiling has a locked grate leading to the outside of the Pearl.
41-50% The Oracle's Seat -- Deep in the base of the Pearl is the oracle, a holy knight of sea and sky. As long as she remains in her stone seat, her elemental masters grant her true farsight. But she's old and tired and ready for another champion to replace her. The oracle will answer ONE yes/no question with 90% accuracy for each person who finds her . Her armor and sword are gifts from the elements, and make her a formidable combatant, although she'll die of old age shortly after leaving the stone seat.
51-60% Chamber Of Icons -- A sculpture gallery full of stylized, geometric representations of air and water. 1d3 Possessed Azure are here the first time, playfully destroying the icons.
61-65% Miscellaneous Storage -- Whatever random stuff priests might need, you'll find it here. 25% chance of 1 mistgoblin. 50% chance of a Random NPC. This is not a specific room.
66-70% Feasthall -- A small band of Azure are making a stand here. They'll aid friendly PCs, but refuse to leave unless under extreme duress. When first encountered there are 6 of them, but each subsequent time 1d3-1  will have perished. If saved and dried, the tapestries on the wall would be valuable.
71-75% Kitchen -- The cookfire has gone out, the roast is rapidly spoiling, and the floor is covered in knives and broken glass. 1d2 mistgoblins are here every time, along with a 50% chance of a Possessed Azure.
76-85% Chasm Of Fog -- Everyone here is falling slowly through semi-liquid fog. 2d6 mistgoblins are always here. After falling for 2d4 rounds, the PCs will land in another random area.
868-95% River Of Mist -- Everyone here sinks into a mist that's nearly as thick as water. Break out those drowning rules. 1d4 mistgoblins are always here. After sinking for 2d8 rounds, the PCs will emerge in another random area.
96-100% The Forgotten Portal -- A gap in the wall of an otherwise-normal storage room. The horrible purple mist spews out. Seal it somehow and the problem will dissipate in 3d6 minutes, at which point everything goes back to normal. 1d4 mistgoblins are always here until then, and a new one emerges from the gap every 2d6 rounds.
***If someone has already gone from one specific room to another specific room, or if they have gotten directions from an NPC like Pysander or Lecitalma, they can attempt to cut through the mist to find that specific location. The fog that fills halls and doorways can be momentarily dispersed by a powerful blow -- a warrior doing maximum damage with a two-handed weapon, for example.

Random NPCs
1-10% Rumeltocey -- Azure priest. Freaking out. She wants to fight the mist, the Verdant, and anything else handy.
11-20% Posaydal -- Azure priest. Trying to use magic to control the mist. Failing.
21-30% Hariostem -- Azure librarian. Believes the order has fallen, and all that remains is to record its passing.
31-50% Locke -- Former Azure priest. Now a Possessed Azure, and he retains his command of magic. Trying to escape the Pearl.
51-60% Thalessa -- Azure servant. She ran errands in town. Now she's ready to find a new job.
61-70% Pysander -- Verdant follower. Mediocre swordswoman. She's found the Forgotten Portal once already.
71-80% Kekond -- Verdant follower. Lover of Lecitalma. Gullible; she believes the whispers of the mist and is likely to be possessed soon.
81-90% Lightbringer -- Verdant leader. Seems to be a muscular elf wizard. Actually a fast-talking illusionist with a poor sense of self-preservation.
91-100%  Lecitalma -- Local fisherman. Lover of Kekond. Trying to save her. Their pledge-amulets can track each other.

OTHER NOTES: Everything within the temple is permeated by a thick, writhing purple mist. Any unprotected flame has a 2 in 6 chance of being extinguished every minute; protected flames like lanterns have a 1 in 6 chance. The mist does glow faintly. Characters can see approximately 15 feet in this dim light.

Mistgoblins are squat humanoids made of living fog. They attack solid beings on sight. Their boneless arms combine the dangers of axes and whips. Any successful attack has a 10% chance of hitting the opponent's face, causing the target's lungs to fill with the purple mist (unless the target is holding their breath, with all the complications that entails). After 4 rounds of breathing the mist, the target becomes Possessed. Mistgoblins are relatively easy to hit, but shrug off most damage from solid attacks.

If you tire of mistgoblins, mephits or air/water elementals would be appropriate critters too.

Possessed beings are solid bodies being animated by mistgoblin vapors. They can use weapons and tools, but under normal circumstances they have no access to their memories or spells. If the vapors can be drawn out of the victim's lungs, they will return to normal.

In addition to any treasure that PCs steal from the temple or its inhabitants, the purple mist itself has some value. If bottled in an airtight or watertight container, it can be carried away from the Pearl. The mist provides faint illumination and could serve as an exotic spell component. If enough of it is heated with magical fire, it will boil away to leave behind a random assortment of blue and green gems.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Be careful what you wish for...

This is what I get for going on and on about how I love characters and characters are the best thing and you should make characters the center of your roleplaying and blah blah blah. Now I'm stuck with these characters...

...and those are actually the best options. Because what's left over after this motley collection is these characters...

...who are just a sorry lot. Except maybe Doree and Boy Howdee up there. You could maybe strike a couple sparks with that. One or two of the others have potential. But these folks include easily a dozen of the sorriest sad sacks I've seen in more than 20 years of roleplaying. What am I gonna do with them?

The deal is that I signed on to do the Iron Chef Adventure Challenge Contest Thingy over at Swords & Dorkery. He sends each competitor an unopened pack of TSR collector cards from 1992, we each write a short adventure/encounter/whatever that uses at least 8 cards from the pack. It's a great idea. But I kinda expected to get some monsters or some items or SOMETHING OTHER THAN VERY ODD-LOOKING CHARACTERS WITH RANDOMLY GENERATED NAMES. That would be the "challenge" part, I guess. My entry is due tomorrow. Better write it up.

Monday, November 7, 2011

My passion for the d12 once again leads me into perilous domains

Here's a simple initiative system. Simple enough that someone else probably uses it -- but I haven't seen it yet, so I call dibs on the naming rights.

1) The GM rolls a die and the PCs collectively roll a die.
2) High number picks one individual from their side to act first. The action then alternates until everyone has gone. Ties go to the PCs, just because that's more fun for them.
3) But you know how pretty much all roleplayers have a complete set of polyhedrals?
4) Right. The GM and the PCs each have one set of polyhedrals to roll initiative with. Pick your die in secret, roll 'em simultaneously, they don't respawn until all 6 dice have been used once.

So initiative becomes a tactical metagamey thing. But a small enough one that it's entertaining instead of ponderous.

Letters! We get letters!

So some folks have questions. Answers...
  • Book binding. (I can't be the only person who bemoans the way new rulebooks tend to fall apart like a sheaf of dry leaves after about 5 seconds of use).
Welcome to low-profit-margin hobby publishing. A print/copy shop will rebind it for you. A three-hole punch and a cheap binder will hold it together. Ignoring the problem also works.
  • "Doing a voice". How many people "do voices"? Should they? How do you get better at "doing a voice" if that's your thing?
Do the voice if you're good at it. Don't if you're not. Regular NPCs should have distinctive voices and/or speech patterns. Most PCs should talk with their player's voice, because it turns out most people aren't good at voices.
  • Breaks. How often do you have breaks within sessions?
How much fun are we having? How hungry are we? How much fun are we having? Does anyone need to call their kids/parents? How much fun are we having? When I'm running a game, I call a break every couple of hours, more often if people are glazing over,  less if people are leaning forward with eyes all a-glitter. When I'm playing, GMs don't call breaks often enough.
  • Description. Exactly how florid are your descriptions?
Not very. The fewer words I give you, the more your head makes it up. And since I don't do the Dungeons Must Kill You style of game where tiny environmental details can wreck your PC, the subtle nuances of meaning in my descriptions aren't essential.
  • Where do you strike the balance between "doing what your character would do" and "acting like a dickhead"? 
If what you're doing causes other players to have less fun, knock the hell off. You need to either grow up or go find a different group, depending on whether you're a jackass or just clueless about human dynamics.
  • PC-on-PC violence. Do your players tend to avoid it, or do you ban it? Or does anything go?
We're here to have fun together. Will the PC-on-PC violence be fun for all parties involved? Then go for it. If not, see answer above.
  • How do you explain what a role playing game is to a stranger who is also a non-player?
Why would I?
  • Alcohol at the table? 
It's been known to happen. I don't encourage it.
  • What's acceptable to do to a PC whose player is absent from the session? Is whatever happens their fault for not being there, or are there some limits?
I don't have a regularly scheduled game, so it doesn't come up much. I assume that the missing person likes playing their PC, so I don't do anything that would fundamentally change either the character or their goals. A GM who'd punish absent players by screwing with their PCs is, as noted elsewhere, either jackass or ignoramus. The whole question presumes both a regular play session and that attendance at said session is a Big Important Priority; neither of those sounds like much fun, does it?

That said, the carousing tables and lost-in-fairyland tables I've seen floating around are pretty interesting. I'd use those, if my players agreed beforehand.