Friday, August 28, 2009

gold pieces, horses and swords: A better RPG economy

The flaw I'll talk about today is pricing in role-playing games. Often pricing is a vast list of charts with a generic price listed in coins. This is by and large fiat to make and rote to remember. Its also often illogical , "so if I buy a ladder I can smash it into two ten foot poles, sell each for half price and make money?"

This fails to deal with issues such as exchange rates, local availability of materials and skilled labour, demand and previous stockpiles. Now a good GM can adjudicate these, and often why have the large and bulky charts at all?

I don't. Piecemeal uses the "dollar system". In this coins are assigned a theoretical modern "dollar value". Any time you go to buy an item you base its price upon the value of its modern day equivalent.

Buying a sword is thus akin to buying an assault rifle. If we go with a copper coin being $1 a sword thus can cost somewhere around 20 gold (depending on ALOT of factors, in same places as little as two). A riding horse is a car, a war horse a Humvee. A suit of carefully designed plate mail is much like a tank, a suit of mail an armoured car.

Now difficulties still arise, misjudgements and the like. But it allows for a lot more "fast and furious" bargaining and haggling with merchants too. After all, things don't have price tags on them. Every price is negotiable, some merchants might refuse to sell if you don't haggle (thinking something suspicious is up, like maybe the item is worth a lot more than previously thought)

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Potion Potion, Boil and Bubble

Today's post is going to deal with the seeming difficulty with brewing of potions in RPGs. Potions should be a fairly simple manner of spell, more so than actually hurling a ball of flame from your hands. Most witch doctors or local dabblers could probably brew up a handful of potions.

In piecemeal, potions are just two spells cast at once. The spell that is the effect, and the spell 'brew potion'

So you'll notice a few tweaks to how potions are commonly handled. One is that they expire. Potions have limits to how long they will last, and they lose potency as they go. You cannot simply stock up a backup of potions and leave them for ten years until you need them.

The extra difficulty in casting a spell, and the extra mana (a large amount) means that potions are prime candidates for material spell component use.

This is a good thing if you enjoy having even low level wizards being able to contribute in some manner, without destroying the medieval setting with a stockpile of magic items functioning as high technology. It allows wizards to plan for upcoming events without being able to just stockpile a potion for every need.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Mono and Piecemeal

This is a techical blog issue, dealing with the programming portion of my game design. In this case with the ability to run the Piecemeal rules viewer with mono. I've heard some responses that it doesn't work with mono on some peoples Linux machines (no word on Mac either way) but I just can't replicate the issue on any machine I have , I get the following when I try

Piecemeal in Mono

Which causes me some difficulty in troubleshooting the issue.

So anyone using linux and trying to run piecemeal, please, let me know exactly what is going wrong. I do want to fix this for you if I can.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Using non-standard materials for weapons and armour

In honour of Dark Sun being the new setting, I thought I would post the rules I use for non-standard materials being used for weapons and armour. Athas is a world where weapons are made of wood, bone and obsidian more commonly than steel, so this seemed fitting to post.

This is to deal with issues were different material weapons sometimes have confusing rules, ie a flint arrow versus a steel arrow. Sometimes these rules are ignored, and I state openly that rules for different materials should only be used in settings where it matters. If its a medieval Europe game then you don't need to crack out these rules for the one time a warrior picks a bronze dagger from a work bench and throws it. But if its an Ancient Greek setting and there is a mix of bronze, iron and steel it might, and if its a conquistador mesoamerican setting then the comparative power of steel makes it paramount to have these rules.

Materials are all given a few different criteria: Hardness, Sharpness, Weight and Breaking Point.

Hardness is the main factor for different materials. When comparing a piercing or edged weapon versus hard armour (mail or plate for instance) you note the difference in the hardness ratings. For example with steel weapon versus bronze armour its a rating of 1. The effectiveness of the armour is thus worsened by 1 for Damage Reduction for slashing weapons, for piercing weapons the number is different. If it had have been bronze weapons versus steel armour the armour would have its DR Increased by 1.

Sharpness is a number that is used for slashing and piercing weapons versus unarmoured opponents. It is a direct modifier to damage. A wooden sword would have a sharpness of -2, but an obsidian knife would have a sharpness of +1. Steel is used as a baseline (+0)

Weight is used as both a reduction (or increase) in weapon speed (based upon size). For blunt weapons it can also be an increase to damage.

Breaking point is the amount of damage the weapon can give or receive in a single blow (before multipliers) before the weapon risks damage. So a bone spear might shatter easily, a bronze sword occasionally bend and a lead mace may do great damage once, but its mace head will quickly be deformed into uselessness.

These rules both increase flavour in appropriate settings and offer new types of rewards beyond "magic" items. A mithral sword may be mundane, but its stronger material, lighter weight and razor edge make it a great reward on its own.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Well St. Jerome, Paladin of the Sun God, in THESE parts the Sun God demands human hearts.

I was reading this excellent post from the Tao of D&D. It brought me to a thought, in it he mentions that Deities traditionally blur to many pantheons and cultures from the same root. This is contrast to how D&D deities are(apparently) static individuals. I have never run deities in any game as being static. One of the things I have enjoyed is the mystery where players travel to a new land and find 'new' deities being worshipped. Their goal at that point to see if any of them are ones they know. I also usually ensure there are two deities to any given subject, one good and one bad. This further adds to the mystery. Is this harvest deities going to have the villagers share their bounty and be generous? or tie you up in the middle of the night and burn you in a giant wicker-man come the first rays of morning light. So as a bit of setting info, I jotted down a Piecemeal deity, along with some of the (obvious) names he's been found under.

Morality: Selfish Free
Am, the sun deity, known by many different names. One of the earliest deities in human civilizations. Am is vain and petty god, requiring that Am be held highest. Most of Am’s followers view Am as good and honourable, a view encouraged by Am. Wherever Am is worshiped his priest hoods share several traits in common, they are pious, highly organized and attempt to form theocracies to direct all they can in blind adoration of Am, building massive temples. Am has a vast hatred with the Undead, as well as the followers of any religion who will not submit to higher authority (ie, Am's). Followers of Am consider all of those to be Faith enemies. The Symbol of Am is a sun, the favoured weapon of holy warriors is the spiked bludgeon. Am is believed to reside in the Celestial Heavens, if that is true, Am would be in a state of conflict with many neighbours.

common names:
"The Light"

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The plane of the dead

I received some interest on my previous post about the planes, as a setting point. So I thought I'd throw in another dose, though I should point out in Piecemeal there is a fully fleshed out cosmology.

The Inner Planes
The inner planes represent planes that are very close to reality. There are more than likely several spots throughout the normal world where the paths and portals to the inner planes exist.
The inner planes are the 4 (or maybe 5?) elemental planes
- Earth, Air, Water, Fire

The 3 planes of life and death and in-between
- Gaia (plane of life)
- Shadowrealm
- Sheol

And the plane that may be an elemental plane
- The astral plane

Today's plane:

The plane of the dead is a dimly lit, colourless place, cold with howling winds. Anyone on the plane will notice they see everything, even themselves, in black and white. It is a vast, flat, gray plane. Several rivers flow through the plane, but their waters cause truly terrible effects on those who touch them, let alone drink from them. Every now and then a traveler will see a dead tree in the ground, the results of mishaps in the past from plane shifting wizards. There are sinkholes across the plane that lead into a vast underground maze of catacombs. While the sky seems to diffuse a pale light above ground, underground is dark and is the source of the howling winds. The cavern walls are sharp and jagged rocks that wind through a maze. The plane is populated by the souls of the dead as they await (or hide from) their judgment. Forts from infernal beings who previously rounded up the unclaimed or unwanted souls, chasing the helpless across the gray plains or through the winding tunnels dot the plane. But at some point the spirits of the dead managed to unite and, with mysterious outside help, built great stone cities of the dead. Each city is ruled by a powerful spirit, usually a wizard and almost always as a brutal tyranny, though still a far better eternity than being rounded up by a demonic press gang. Active infernal outposts also dot the plane, waging war with both each other and the cities of the dead. Living beings heal neither body nor luck damage on the plane of the dead and nothing on the plane is edible. Powerful undead occasionally seek refuge here, as they regenerate mana at twice the normal rate.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Screaming from the beyond and fading into the void

One of the things I base Piecemeal around is being player driven. That means the mechanics and the world its set in should emphasize adventure, I have talked about this before on a general level. I also have mentioned how anything the NPC's can do, so should the PC's.

I generally try and keep from discussing any kind of "default setting" but I do throw setting information into Piecemeal, in the forms of tidbits of information that just scream "adventure setting".

One such example are the planes. In the system I use when running games, the planes are divided between reality, the inner planes (elemental planes, the plane of the dead, the astral plane, etc) , the outer planes (heavens and hells) and the far planes.

Today as a filler, I'll post some info from Piecemeal on the Far Planes, the wierd zones.

The Far Planes
The far planes consist of two polar opposite regions. The void and the beyond. Either realm will instantly destroy the mind and body of any living being who ventures to them, and even most mystical creatures will become insane and deformed. The beyond is said to be the infinite parts of our universe, not just in scope but that everything that can happen does, immediately. The void is the opposite, it is nothingness. Not emptiness, nothingness. The distance between any two points in the void is zero. It is zero personified.
The very narrowest edges of both "planes" can be explored however. The edge of the beyond (also known as the dreamscape) and the edge of the void (also known as the abyss)

The Dreamscape
The dreamscape is a very disturbing place to visit, and time has a very different meaning here. One could spend years in the dreamscape and return to find mere seconds had passed in reality. Everything in the realm is chaotic and unpredictable, chaotic monstrosities spawned in the beyond wander through the dreamscape and using the damage caused from various wizards throughout time, now find their way into reality, causing random destruction as they go. The ground and air itself is potentially fluidic, dangerous and constantly changing colour, everything a traveler sees will be like a weird acid trip mixed with a lava lamp and a collection of Salvador Dali artwork. Every hour a traveler spends exposed to the dreamscape they must make a resistance check or grow a mutation. Should they become unconscious in the dreamscape they must make an intelligence check or go insane. There is nothing permanent in the dreamscape, but powerful and insane wizards may hide here in temporary fortresses to heal and study. The difficulty of all spells is doubled, but mana is restored instantly. At many points through the dreamscape, it is possible to accidentally pass into the beyond itself.

The Abyss
The abyss is without any heat or light. If characters do not have their own, they will die. Chunks of matter float throughout the abyss, slowly crumbling and fading into nothing over the course of decades for smaller items and millennia for giant rocks and the debris of destroyed cities. There is no mana in the abyss, and any used will never recharge nor can it be channeled. Time does not pass the same in the abyss as in reality, a minute in the abyss is often day or more in reality. Gravity is also very light in the abyss, perhaps a tenth of what one would expect on another plane. There is air, sound can travel, it is even possible to scavenge water and edible matter if one is extremely lucky. Nothing is proven to live in the abyss, but it is strongly held that dark and ancient beings who seek to undo reality slumber in the abyss, waiting for agents who crawl through reality to awaken them. Somewhere deep in the abyss is a path to the void itself.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The build-a-weapon workshop

The flaw I'll discuss today is one of recurring humour. The endless amount of weapon options randomly thrown about with no rhyme or reason, every variation of sword is different with its own arbitrarily defined distinction. Don't even get me started on pole-arms.

Piecemeal gives weapons a set of 'tags' that define their attributes.

These are the primary tags of size, damage type, and range.

Example: Small, Piercing, Melee or Medium, Blunt and Missile.

Then a few additional tags are chosen (based on type) like pole weapon, devastating weapon (axes, hammers and picks), Firearm or Sling (among others).

So a woodcutters axe might be a large, slashing, devastating melee weapon while a Small, piercing, Firearm would represent a dueling pistol.

Each tag has certain predictable results. Weapon size increases damage and decreases speed for each step. Devastating weapons increase the damage die by one while giving a negative to attack rolls. Piercing weapons are quicker and may bypass armour on a critical hit, slashing weapons increase the damage die by one size and blunt weapons have their own special effects on critical hits.

Not all tags are beneficial, improvised weapons may get a tag like ineffective (reduces damage die by one) among others.

This allows the generation of weapon qualities quickly, without being arbitrary. If a player picks up a chair, or a battleth or a katana you can quickly ascertain its effectiveness and move on. If you are running piecemeal at the time it can even quickly generate the stats by just selecting the tags (removing any paperwork)

What are you thoughts?