Friday, February 24, 2012

20 questions

Joining in one of my Monday night games?  Here are the twenty questions.

Ability scores generation method? -  Schrodinger's character.  Or just lie to me.

How are death and dying handled? - When you are out of luck/hp, you take damage that stacks and causes penalties.  When it equals half your strength you are bleeding out and when it equals your strength you are dead.  Expect months of healing at this point.

What about raising the dead?
  You are usually S.O.L,  unless you have a cleric PC or are willing to bargain with a cult

How are replacement PCs handled? Schrodinger's Character, start play immediately.

Initiative: individual, group, or something else? Individual

Are there critical hits and fumbles? How do they work? 
1 is a fumble,  20 or a high success is a crit.  Crits are double damage. Fumbles you choose to go prone, be disarmed or give your opponent a free non-weapon attack.

Do I get any benefits for wearing a helmet? makes it much harder to crit you

Can I hurt my friends if I fire into melee or do something similarly silly? Fire into melee? probably not, do something silly?  of course.

Will we need to run from some encounters, or will we be able to kill everything? 
Run, or sneak or parlay.

Level-draining monsters: yes or no?
Are there going to be cases where a failed save results in PC death? not directly (ie no save or die) but you might take (save of 30 damage) which is often the same result.

How strictly are encumbrance & resources tracked? The dot system is used.

What's required when my PC gains a level? Training? Do I get new spells automatically? Can it happen in the middle of an adventure, or do I have to wait for down time?
End of session,  MU must find spells.  None are ever free (After char creation)

What do I get experience for?
In descending order: Exploration, Traps, Capturing Villains(Heroes), Travelling, Killing Monsters, Killing Villains(Heroes), Chasing off Minion, Killing Minions.

How are traps located? Description, dice rolling, or some combination?
Description.  "Detect Traps" works like a saving throw before you set off the trap, to find it you have to describe it.

Are retainers encouraged and how does morale work? - yes, morale I am still fiddling with.

How do I identify magic items? Try and find a potent wizard to identify it, or disassemble it and tell you what it was.

Can I buy magic items? Oh, come on: how about just potions? - Does a holy symbol count?

Can I create magic items? When and how? Yes,  sometimes it occurs naturally even!
What about splitting the party? - go for it

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

In the Navy Now!

So one thing that generated some interest from my last post was naval rules.  Neoclassical Geek Revival already has all the components one needs for a great naval system.

The components you need to know are
      Size Modifier
      Luck Points VS Body Points
      Travelling rules

"She's a fine vessel"
So the first conceptual thing to know, is to treat the ship like a living being.   This means it will need its physical attributes.  Its mental and metaphysical attributes (Intelligence, Awareness, Social, Luck, Spirit are the captains)


Strength represents the raw power and sturdiness of the ship.  A ship built to take a beating, haul massive cargo or ram other ships, will have a high strength score.  This is most important for figuring out how many body points of damage a ship can take.

Agility is the manoeuvrability of the ship.  This is used when figuring out the ships initiative (along with the captain's intelligence modifier).   The agility modifier will also be used for any attack or defence rolls made by the ship (not people on it).

Health represents the general level or repair on the ship.  A ship may be a powerful galleon with a high strength,  but it may not have been properly repaired in 10 years.  It takes on bits of water, the ropes are worn and there is a bad case of termites.    Just like with living beings, health will impact body point total (how much damage the ship can take) and be important for travelling.

"Thar be a storm rolling in captain!"

When people travel across harsh terrain they make health checks to see if they suffer body point loss and wind up dishevelled wretches.   Ships are no different (the health of a ship could also be considered its' sea worthiness).   But isn't all ocean terrain the same for a boat?  Flat water?   Not at all,  remember that terrain isn't described by its physical make up but by its danger, the physical make up is given as examples.   Weather is often the indicator of danger on the high seas.  Going through stormy waters in monsoon season is more dangerous than a gentle inland sea.

"Its a big vessel,  carries lots of cargo!"

Size modifiers are important,  obviously a big strength 16 galleon in good repair (health 12) should be able to take more than 17 points of damage before sinking.    Assume a default size modifier of 10 for boats compared to men.  I say default because even amongst each other boats will be vastly larger than others.

So "Boat Size 1" is "Human size 10".    A sailboat would be "size 1" (for a boat) while a galleon might be size 10 (for a boat).  This is important if the two damage each other through ramming.  Its also important for calculating cargo that can be carried (see encumbrance).  Don't forget that cargo is probably stored in containers, not floating loose.

An important note is that damage from weapons are based on the size of the weapons.   An easy assumption to make is that "large, medium, small" weapons are also size 1 (for boats).   Be their ballista's, catapults, or cannons.  Use weapon tags as appropriate.  

"Fire at will!"

Combat will almost certainly come up.   An important thing to note is the difference between the ship attacking something and people on the ship attacking something.    The general line of thumb is who is doing the aiming?   Things like broadsides or rams would be the ship attacking,  turrets would be the gunner attacking.  Defence rolls are almost always made by the ship.

Note that the ship probably doesn't have very good modifiers,  just a d20+agility mod.   For a broadside,  I would recommend roll once to hit, and then once per gun for damage (get a bingo roller ready).

Grapples and knock-downs are both possible (aka Boarding actions with ropes and grapnel and trying to bump a ship to pull away).

Note the most important point will be the captain, specifically how many luck points the captain has.  Remember that luck points are transferable downwards, and the captain can absolutely spend luck points to keep her ship from taking damage.

This is a major benefit of luck points, in some games you can have a bad-ass warrior and be no better than a level 0 commoner once you are in command of a vessel,  not so here.   Captain Jack will still be damn hard to kill in his ship.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

What I am working on now

Currently "done" and reviewing:

"Scenic Dunnsmouth" - a Horror Module
"Neoclassical Geek Revival: latest version" - made some additional tweaks, decided not to bloat the book with navel rules, when they would really be "showing how to use the existing rules for naval battles"

Still working on:
 -  Wilderness Encounter Table Book
 - "Mythic America" Setting

Considering adding to pile:
  Example "module" showcasing using Neoclassical Geek Revival for naval adventure.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Some of the changes in the next version

So for the next release/printing of Neoclassical Geek Revival (probably some time in the summer) the current changes are being penned:

1.) Minor improvements and scaling changes to some of the class powers.  Engineering, Shield Use, Leadership and Psychic Potential are getting the biggest tweaks, Dogma may as well.  Engineering and Leadership may function differently.

2.) A better more integrated morale system that seems to be working

3.) Minor improvements (and a few more options) to stealth conflict

4.) A little more emphasis on terrain and traveling.

5.) A few minor changes to some miracle and spells (due to feedback)

6.) A little tweak to possession attempts,  with exorcism in play more, repulsing a demons attempt to possess you doesn't harm it, but if you can win the social conflict it can no longer attempt to possess you.  Exorcism is a little more useful at that point.

7.) A bit of a change to the stats used in social conflict,  just to spread them out a bit and standardize.

8.) I am attempting to reword damage to be a bit easier mechanically.

9.) Boats are briefly mentioned,  with explanation on how to use existing mechanics for them,  do people need more?

10.) Trim some spells and replace them as example versions of other templates (ie,  sleep as a version of blast that does stun damage),  to try to trim the fat a bit and keep page count down.

Anything else people have come across?

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Table Atmosphere: Beer runs or Smart Phones?

I find most good games tend to fall into one of two table atmospheres. If your game doesn't fit one of these, you are having wrongbadfun and should learn the one true way.  Or you could just read the article and remind yourself to relax because I am not any sort of authority and I am not going to change how you play your game.  

These two atmospheres are forever classified as "Beer Run Emergencies" and "Smart phone Menace". These do not require the presence of actual beer or smart phones;  it is merely the short hand for what poses the most immediate danger to the atmosphere you have generated.

"Beer Run Emergencies"

This type of table atmosphere can involve "Beer and Pretzel" gaming, but it doesn't have to.  Really serious games can have this too, especially strategy board games or games like poker and chess.  The important point is that it doesn't slow down the game if someone needs to leave the game to go do something else.  This could be a beer run,  or to get the walk-in pizza special,  or even just to go outside and have a smoke.   This doesn't mean one has to be able to leave for a long period of time (though it may),  but people should be able to walk up and leave for 5 minutes, come back, sit back down and not have stopped other people from playing.  Some games are awesome for this, high level D&D with a few wizards would often allow other players a few minutes to have a smoke or talk to their spouse on the cell phone (in the other room) before they have to go again.  Most of the good examples I can think of this type of games are board games however, so I won't bore you with examples.   

"Smart Phone Menace"

This type of table atmosphere is not  "really deep plot driven story games" (though they can fall under it),  it also involves silly games, casual games, all sorts of games.  The main feature is that someone always has something to do, even if it isn't their turn.  People are never sitting around bored waiting for their next turn, they are always eagerly paying attention. If they aren't paying attention however, this slows the game down for everyone else.  This is great for groups where a few minutes of downtime leads them to boredom.  I reference smart phones, but it could also apply to looking at other game books, building dice towers, etc. In these groups downtime is bad because once people zone out,  when it gets back to their turn it takes an extra 10 minutes to fill them back in (after 2 minutes of "I just need to finish this email!"),  which just accumulates as the problem spreads around the table until no one is really having much fun. 

I make no secret that I designed Neoclassical Geek Revival to combat the smart phone menace. It fits how I like to both play and run games; I don't like sitting around doing nothing because I don't tend to multi-task.  When I book time for gaming, I usually don't have other things to do on the side.

Other people have a perfectly good time with gaming as a secondary task,  they are also listening to music,  cooking on a barbeque,  talking to other guests doing something else entirely in a different room, the game is just one part of their game night.  When you are selecting a game for your group, or building a game to work on,  be sure you know how you envision people playing it as they sit around the table.  More than just mechanics,  ask yourself what will the people be physically doing?  Will they be laughing over drinks?  Staring at their character sheet/battle grid/other players with furrowed brows looking for a solution?  Chatting with each other about a solution?  How do your mechanics make that easier or harder?

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Ron Paul: An example of the problem with action based alignment

So the other day on G+ I was treated to many, many, many viewings of Newt Gingrich running a D&D game,  with Texas Rick, Herman, Ron and Frothy Rick.  First of note is that the fez is real.

Secondly this brings a good example of why Alignment in D&D should never be based upon player actions,  and why in Neoclassical Geek Revival it is all about "the why" not "the what".

So a frequently I have seen him declared as "Lawful Neutral".  Someone who believes in the supremacy of law and order over concepts like good and evil.  This is due to his very strict adherence of the constitution and refusal, for any reason at all, to go against those laws and limits.  He is thus often viewed as having a cold dead heart, showing no compassion but no bias. People see his reputation as "Dr. No" as evidence of this.

Another very frequent charge, is that with so many racists and other ill folk who support him,  he is lawful evil.  He is using the law to its full extent to limit the powers of good and progress.  He wants to use legal red tape to remove government protections from vulnerable groups so that "the mob" can retaliate and discriminate against them.  He wants to make the world a work place,  but will use the framework of the law to enforce it.  He may want to increase suffering of those he opposes, but he demands order in doing so.  People see the support of racists and other assholes as proof of this.

Of course,  there is another option (at least if you look in the 2nd edition definition of alignment).  He is Chaotic Good.   He doesn't trust the government to not be Lawful Evil, and believes every limit on its power should be brought to bear.  He legitimately believes that most people are good, and without red tape they will deal with the evil in their midst quite effectively.  Violence should be avoided at all cost, and without laws to constrain the acts of the populace that is good (in his view the majority) society as a whole will progress without additional central oversight.  People see his work as a doctor (not taking government money, working for free if people were too poor) and his charity work as proof of this.

If you had three different people,  one of each alignment,  they could all act the same way.  They would be doing it for very different reasons,  but they would probably even get along as a party (depending on how much about their true motives they let on).  Thus someone who is "Chaotic Good" could be supported by many groups of "Lawful Neutral" or even "Lawful Evil" people, at least on their current course of action. It doesn't even mean that their actions alone are any of those alignments, the actions just are.  What is done with them once they are in place determines the alignment of people, not the act of wanting them put in place. All three alignments after all would support rules against murder,  simply for different reasons.

If the GM is trying to shift player alignment based on player action, this would fail horribly as someone seeing themselves as "Chaotic Good" having their alignment switched by the GM to "Lawful Evil" (a full 180) would be pissed. Especially if they hold similar views on why they were acting as they were (leading to an insult from one person to another, outside of the game).

If Alignment is how your character feels in their heart (rather than what they are doing), the problem goes away (again, such as in Neoclassical Geek Revival) An evil pirate captain may feel bad about going to rescue his friends when he could bail and take the treasure (and be cursing himself as being stupid as he is doing it),  but he could,  maybe he has long term reasons he needs them alive.  A good character may kill someone who has surrendered (and just have nightmares for the rest of their life), because they were convinced it needed to be done.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

GenCon 2012

So I am heading down to GenCon this year.  With any luck I'll have my "Scenic Dunnsmouth" module written,  and if there is interest I may have a third printing of Neoclassical Geek Revival as well.

Any events people would recommend I sign up for?

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Blight of the Khazars

So my Monday night ConstantCon game, the action has for now settled on a horrid little dungeon in Khazakstan.

A rumoured mythical dungeon full of riches and power beyond mans wildest dreams! various notable nobles, scoundrels, vikings and other adventurous sorts received notices of the location and trekked to the sleepy village of Adrabod, which is now overflowing not only adventurers but cheap Mongol warriors looking for loot and work. Rabbi Brooks has begun making a small fortune in donations as he offers aid and comfort to the injured, and that is before any delving had begun. The whole town has gotten in on the racket.

Adventuring parties trekked up river to the theoretical location of the fabled dungeon, to find an abandoned Mott and Bailey (apparently the last inhabitants there died of the plague decades ago) and a ruined hall or inn, and a small well. Parties began setting up camp and digging random holes, the vikings sealed themselves in the mott and bailey and taunted the outsiders.

Then on the eve of a full moon, a dwarf went down into the well and managed to pierce "something" metal with a spear, causing it to fire into the air and glow red. A beam of red light began flickering into the heavens through the well. That night the well spat out flames, and stairways into the underworld appeared under the shadow of disconcerting statues.

Needless to say everyone rushed inside the various stairways to get the best loot. When they crawled out, over a dozen religious pilgrims were dead, several Mamluk warriors, Mongol hirelings and every last viking raider. At day break the dungeon disappeared.

Also extracted were piles of gold, dancing girls, statues of marble and fabulous silks. The next night, more are waiting to see if the dungeon reappears..the sages say it should appear all year, then disappear for another thousand. They also said it would appear 4 days later than it did though, so what do they know.

Monday at 6pm EST, FLAILSNAILS welcome.