lunedì 31 ottobre 2011

Burtonian's Halloween

Straight from Tim Burton's TNBC, one of his biggest masterpieces.

sabato 3 settembre 2011

Development #3: Class' Peek, Stray Man

Stray Man (Thief)

Prime Attribute:
Hit Die:
1d6 at 1st level, +1d6 every Milestone Level
Life Points:
3 + Muscle Modifier, +1 additional LP every 4 levels (starting from 4th level)
Good THER0:
Talent, Readiness
Standard THER0:
Curse TS, Combat
Poor THER0:
Everything Else
Starting Title:
Race Allowed:
Thievery (T), Stealth (R)

Streets have no name, but a Stray Man knows them very well: grown up in narrow and unhealthy alleys he learned very soon how to survive in the real world, becoming a master of many skills. Stray Men move like cats on the city roofs, sneak unseen in the dark and know how and where to find the things they need; and they’re ready to steal them if they really want to.
Although not a talented fighter as a Brave Man is, a Stray Man can be very deadly in close range; living long enough to enlarge his experience, he can also try to use magic items usually crafted for Erudite Men like staves, scrolls or wands.
All the following are class features of the Stray Man.

Weapons and Armors: because a Stray Man needs to be agile, he can use no shield and wear no armor heavier than leather; he has a pretty wide selection of melee and ranged weapons, as long as they can be wielded with a single hand.
Thievery (Talent): a Stray Man owns an extraordinary manual ability and is very streetwise, thus a player can call a Talent Test whenever he wants his character to perform particular actions (like gathering gossips, deciphering secret codes, handling locks and mechanisms, acting in disguise, picking someone’s pockets and so on).
Stealth (Readiness): thanks to years spent as an outcast a Stray Man displays an incredible agility and awareness, so he can perform exclusive actions (like climbing sheer surfaces, slinking in the crowd, hiding in shadows while followed, sliding behind an enemy) others cannot do with a successful Readiness Test.
Play Judas: a Stray Man has a deep knowledge of anatomy, so whenever he stands behind an enemy he adds his Talent Modifier on his Combat roll, dealing the standard weapon damage and decreasing directly enemy’s Life Points by a specific amount (equal to 1 plus Stray Man’s HD).
Rascal (1st level Title): as Rascal a Stray Man can target with a Play Judas only creatures having a humanoid anatomy (humans, goblins, orcs, elves, dwarves and so on).
Knave (2nd level Title): as Knave anytime a Stray Man reaches a new populated place he becomes automatically richer by 5 gold pieces (plus 5 times the place’s Entity Rating in gold pieces).
Snatcher (4th level Title): as Snatcher a Stray Man can choose another creature type to be affected by his Play Judas.
Outlaw (8th level Title): as Outlaw a Stray Man can choose another creature type to be affected by his Play Judas; he can also understand magical scripts and use magic devices or scrolls (fixing the Entity Rating) with a successful Talent Test.
Master Thief (12th level Title): as Master Thief a Stray Man can choose another creature type to be affected by his Play Judas, and Life Points damage increases by an additional 1; in addition, he can found a Rogue Guild and attract a group of thugs and thieves working for him from now on.

P.S.: the artwork is a courtesy of the dwarvish friend Daryoon X.

sabato 27 agosto 2011

Development #2: THAC0? No, THER0!

A word generating opposite reactions: someone loves it, someone hates it.
Well.. we're humans after all.

To the best of my knowledge - maybe I am wrong - Frank Mentzer was the first one using the word THAC0 inside a module of the R Series: starting from that moment, this word became suddenly one of the most distinguishing features of the D&D/AD&D game.

An abbreviation for To Hit Armor Class Zero, it expressed the target number to beat in order to hit an opponent with an Armor Class of 0: if the opponent's AC wasn't 0, you had to subtract that value from your THAC0 and roll over the new target number.

Although a pretty easy mechanic, its main turn off was IMHO the descending nature of the AC: the better your armour the smaller its value, so an AC of -2 was way better than an AC of 5.

Maybe that's the reason why THAC0 survived until [3.X] came out, promptly substituted by an ascending AC and by the generic d20 Resolution.

So.. why am I talking about THAC0?
Because I wanna introduce THER0, short form of To Hit Entity Rating 0: in few words, that's the core my personale Franken-Clone spins around.
First of all, THER0 has the same progression THAC0 (and Saving Throws) used to have, that is +2/+5/+7/+9 and so on: I wanna hold that in memory of THAC0.

THER0 is used for any kind of action: spellcasting, skill tests, combat and Saving Throws.
Entity Rating simply measures the scale of the task: it ranges from a minimum of 1 (Easy) to a maximum of 7 (Impossible), according to whom/what the action is aimed at.

This value, multiplied x2, must be added to THER0 to get the target number to beat.
YOU declare the action, YOU fix the Entity Rating, YOU roll and with a success YOU tell the scene: not the GM, but YOU as a Player.
In few words you have a pretty flexible system, similar to THAC0 and - most importantly - with a known target number to beat.

And that's all for now.

sabato 13 agosto 2011

OST: Old School Tragedy

It doesn't matter what's your level: never make fun of a 1st Level Character.

Development #1: Let's Talk Quickly about Attributes

Attributes in D&D have always been the same six: rolled the same way (3-18 range on 3d6 roll), focusing on the same concepts and changing - from edition to edition - only minor aspects (like modifiers or related skills like opening doors or bending bars); IMHO they describe pretty good the character.. well, pretty often but not always.

For example, you could have strange combinations like a character with Strength 16 and Constitution 5, or Intelligence 4 and Charisma 19.. WTF!??
I mean, how can an adventurer supposed to be charismatic when he talks or thinks like a caveman? Or being able to stand a fight when he's tough like a brat?
That happens because D&D's Abilities have always been unrelated.

For this reason - and also thanks to Vault Keeper and his article about Beasts, Men & Gods - I've decided to reconsider Attributes mixing them up in a new shape.

As usual you need to do is just rolling 3d6, sum them together and write them on your character sheet; write the modifier too, because you apply it whenever you have to roll the dice using that Attribute (for a test or a Saving Throw). Repeat this process for all the six Attributes.

Table 1: Attribute Score Modifiers
Below Average
Above Average

Having a low attribute score gives you a penalty in performing tasks, while a high attribute grants a positive modifier: write it close to the proper attribute. Upon creation your character could have at least one score below average, and if this happens don’t worry: heroes are not perfect beings, and low attribute scores just represent flaws. Scores don’t matter, the way you use them do: that’s what marks the difference, making your character worth of renown in future bard’s songs.

It measures character’s sheer power and his overall physical endurance (mixture of STR and CON), and it affects Endure Saving Throws. Muscle is the Prime Attribute for the Brave Man class.

It represents character’s intelligence and analytic power (mixture of INT and the cognitive WIS), and it affects Discernment Saving Throws. Brain is the Prime Attribute for the Erudite Man class.

It describes character's sensorial awareness and reflexes (mixture of sensorial WIS and DEX, excluding precision), affecting Evasion Saving Throws. Readiness is used as Prime Attribute for the Stray Man class.

It is a combination of charisma and determination (mixture of WIS and CHA), and it affects Willpower Saving Throws. Bearing it the Prime Attribute for the Zealous Man class.

That’s what makes your character really different from the others (fighting STR, precision DEX, and other kind of skills), what he learned before getting involved into perilous and fascinating adventures: if it’s something other characters can do, you do it better. It affects Counter Saving Throws, and its score must be at least equal to 13 in order to get the XP Bonus from class’ Prime Attribute.

It just tells how much fate blesses or curse your character in different scenarios, and it affects Curse Saving Throws.

Stay tuned for new informations.

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domenica 7 agosto 2011

Development #0: Foreword

Foreword is something a reader usually skips, so I won't whine if it happens; by the way, I'd like to start talking about me.
As far as I can remember (I think I was 5 years old), I've always been fascinated by 2 big genres: japanese robots and Sword&Sorcery (meaning the coexistence of fighters and wizards, not only the literary genre close to Robert E. Howard).

During the 80s, I spent my childhood watching Arthurian Myth adaptations like Boorman's Excalibur or King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table (by Toei Animation), or movies like Deodato's The Barbarians, Milius' Conan the Barbarian and Fleischer's Conan the Destroyer, Reiner's The Princess Bride, Coscarelli's The Beastmaster, the infamous D&D Animated Series and so on.

In few words, that was my childhood's Video Appendix N.

By the way, my first contact with fantasy gaming happened only in 1991, when my parents bought HeroQuest Board Game: that was a dream coming true, allowing me and my friends to play - although in a miniature game - fantasy characters in an imaginary world expanded by my teen mind.

The real turning point was in 1994, when I bought - with my savings - 1991's D&D Classic Black Boxed Set and I started roleplaying the world's most famous Tabletop RPG with my friends: we spent our summer adventuring in an imaginary dimension, with its own city and nations, having great fun.

Despite the rules covered character advancement up to level 5, we kept on playing using a customized advancement and our first set of House Rules: that was the first time I showed some intention to create my own set of rules.

My first attempt was Legend of Arkanya (1998, during high-school and with no Internet connection), an openly D&D-inspired game using the typical d100 resolution (roll under value) but applied on a d20 scale and with a limited amount of Hit Points (scaled by Size).

After LoA, I've tried for years to create a new set of rules, drawing inspiration from the different free game systems gathered around the Net or other mainstream games (GURPS, Rolemaster, Chaosium's d100, etc..) but every single project remained unfinished or covering only part of the entire game (either magic system or combat system).

Recently - also thanks to OGL and the so called Old School Renaissance Movement - I've decided to bring some old ideas back blending them with some new gaming concepts, in order to realize my own RPG Game and to make the DM's creative burden a lil lighter, sharing that burden with all the players.

That's the story so far.

P.S.: the artwork is a courtesy of the dwarvish friend Daryoon X.

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mercoledì 3 agosto 2011

Show Me Your Dice Marathon

As suggested here, I am going to show my personal gemstones (all beloved at the same way, despite they can be pretty mischievous sometimes).

First view, with 1991 Troy Denning's D&D Black Box in background.

 From another angle, the marvellous Jeff Easley's Red Dragon seems watching us.

sabato 30 luglio 2011

House Rule: Alternate XP Progression for Demi-humans

Yes, I know that D&D - from a gygaxian perspective - was originally a humanocentric game as clearly shown through level cap in class advancement.. but that's not so appealing to me.

Level caps usually exist to balance the game, because demi-humans usually have particular features - like infravision, spotting or underground lore - and a longer lifespan that humans don't have (in game terms): but that's only a short-term balance.

I mean to say that's pretty absurb thinking about a 7th level Fighter as the strongest elvish champion or a 11th level Wizard as the strongest elvish magician (whereas elves usually are renowned as skilled spellcasters) in AD&D.

Yeah, demi-humans can multiclass (whereas humans can't) but IMHO that's not enough.

That's why, in my regular games, I've replaced level caps with a XP Progression Slowdown (besides Minimum Ability Scores): this way you can have higher level demi-human heroes, paying that with more likely XP penalties (or lack of bonuses).

XP Progression Slowdown for Demi-human Characters

Requirements: Minimum Abilities Scores (if any; otherwise Con 10 for Dwarves/Gnomes, Dex 10 for Elves/Halflings, Str 10 for Half-orcs)
Prime Requisite: as per Class
Hit Dice: as per Class
Maximum Level: None
Features: as per Class
XP Progression: as per Class
XP Bonus/Penalties: consider your Prime Requisite 4 points lower than its real score (only in terms of earned XP variations)

In an OD&D game that means if you have in your party a human Fighter and a dwarf Fighter - both having Strength 16 as Prime Requisite - the first one will get a 10% to earned XP (thanks to a score greater than 15) while the second will have no bonuses to earned XP (because his Prime Requisite drops to 12).

That's a pretty nice option to me.

Artwork by Larry Elmore.

domenica 19 giugno 2011

Conan the Barbarian 2011: Fucking Awesome Trailer

Few words to say: fucking awesome.
I've really appreciated the snake-fight scene, reminding me a lot Frazetta's artworks.

venerdì 10 giugno 2011

Dungeon Crawl Classics: Homemade Playtest

I've run too my first DCC game with my group (5 people, shifting DM between game sessions), starting with a L0 character funnel.

I've talked them about DCC RPG since early February, and at first I've received some skeptical comments (luckily they changed their minds in the last months because I've kept on giving them more details about the game, so that they started reading about this game on their own).

BTW, we gathered around the table with the usual survival kit (cigs, booze, chips) and they started creating their own cannon fodder.. ehm, characters.
Just a few minutes to remember them the general rules, and each player created 3 PCs. Here's the group:

Player A: Halfling Gipsy, Farmer and Dwarven Blacksmith
Player B: Indentured Servant and 2 Elvish Artisans
Player C: Guild Beggar, Herder and Healer
Player D: Grave Digger, Dwarven Blacksmith and Caravan Guard

They all started in Spoonstone, an isolated rural village located in a valley far about 20 miles from the closest city, surrounded for 1/4 by a small river and for 3/4 by woods.
Only 3 roads connect Spoonstone with the rest of known world: the river itself (navigable with small ships), a path running parallel to the river and a path in the woods ending in a narrow mountain pass (try to guess where they're going to walk).

After character creation, they decided briefly the various relationships: Elvish Artisans (M/F twins) came to Spoonstone on the same caravan protected by the Caravan Guard along with the Halfling Gypsy, Farmer and Herder (Khain and Abel.. whoopie!) are young brothers, Blacksmiths are father and son, the Servant (group's traitor) was the Healer's assistant, Grave Digger and Beggar had no particular relationships.

The village had no particular defenses, just a couple of outposts at the sides of the village occupied by about a dozen people (city guards and foresters).

That's what happened:
- the Servant has met a group of goblin scouts the day before, and his life has been spared in exchange of his betrayal
- the Servant has put too sleep the guards on the woodside outpost (mixing herbs in their beers) and then he ran to the port
- after the sunset, he slipped away from Healer's house heading to the city port, only to see ships sinking thanks to a 4-5 goblins who crossed the river
- about 50 goblins arrived from the woodside, killing people in their houses and burning buildings
- the Beggar gives the alarm (killing an unlucky goblin with a lucky slingshot!!), and people starts running around
- all PCs (plus hen and dog) avoided a volley of arrows (damned d20!!) and headed to the mountain side, Servant was already there on a cart full of hay
- PCs followed the path to the Mountain Pass, chased by a small group of goblins (Farmer killed by an arrow)
- PCs reached the entrance to the Mountain Pass, Dwarven Daddy set the hay on fire with his flintstone and pushed it down the slope
- the flaming cart killed 4 goblins, group's shooters (Gypsy and Beggar) hit a couple of lucky shots
- PCs ran in formation, people with higher HPs at the extreme, weaklings in the middle
- hearing goblin voices coming from distance, PCs decided to set a trap for them
- PCs put some clothes around a couple of small rocks, Elves used their clay to made faces, Beggar's crutches used to simulate weapons
- Luck Check succeded by Player B (the plan's master) to cheat the incoming goblins
- Strength Check (to push rocks over the goblins) succeeded by Dwarven Son and failed by Dwarven Daddy
- Caravan Guard and Dwarven Daddy got killed, Herder pushed the rocks Dwarven Daddy couldn't and blocked the path, killing the other goblings
- no more voices, Grave Digger buried their deceased fellows
- group kept on walking, camped and got attacked by a pack of wandering wolves, Healer killed, Herder's dog rocks
- second day, group reaches a fork: 5 choose right, 3 choose left
- 3 out of 5 PCs fail a Luck Check about their choice: they're gonna regret it soon
- right path heads into a cave, they go in and easily beat a group of bats
- underground lake, they wake up a light green glowing giant toad with slimy tentacles
- gorgeous fight: Herder hits a Crit with Caravan Guard's short sword (cutting a monster's tentacle with a 7 on the table), Gyspy hits a funny 0 on Crit, Graved Digger after a fumble, Beggar dies a round after he used his oil flask against the monster, Dwarf hits the deadly strike
- adventure ends with only 6+2 survivors: Halfling Gypsy, Dwarf, Elf, Elf, Herder, Servant, dog, hen

1 - Generally speaking, morale was pretty high during the entire game.
2 - We agreed about having too many Crit Tables (better having just 2, one for creatures with limbs and the other for limbless creatures)
3 - We all loved the "You can do only what you can do" philosophy behind Skills
4 - No character was too weak or too strong
5 - At the hand of the game hen, dog, halfling and dwarf paid a tribute to Town Musicians of Bremen :mrgreen:
6 - We tried Luck Burn a couple of times (going heavy, at least 4 points burned), and it was fun too
7 - very eager to turn PCs into L1 characters

mercoledì 27 aprile 2011

Development #4: Action Resolution.. a Die-lemma

When you talk about D&D, your mind goes immediately to the european 20-sided polyhedron (that replaced Arnesonian's d6).
The typical D&D's action resolution has always been something like rolling a d20 (plus modifiers), meeting a target number or beating it, then rolling another kind of die (plus modifiers) to estabilish the damage.
Pretty easy mechanic but - especially in more recent versions - too many flying numbers IMHO.

In my Rule Set, I've decided to choose a 2d10 resolution instead of the classic d20. Why?
First of all, you have a bell distribution and not an uniform distribution.. so that results gather usually in the middle.
Second, I wanted to use a single dice roll to display both the chance and the quality - damage, in combat - of the action resolution itself.

When you roll the dice, you need to beat 2 target numbers: the first one depends on your parameters, the second one depends on your target.
To make it clear, the sequence is:
- look at the Resolution Matrix to see you target number to beat
- roll 2d10, and try to beat it
- if you beat it, take the lowest die
- if the lowest die beats your opponent's number, your action takes effect

What's the opponent's number? Well, it can be 2 things: a static Saving Throw (ST) against spells/missiles, or the Armour Rating (AR) against physical blows.

Let's say Harbrik the Dwarf is fighting against a goblin: Harbrik is the first to attack, so his player rolls 2d10 to beat a To Hit number of 12.
He gets 9 and 6, for a total of 15: that means he strikes the goblin, but first Harbrik needs to beat goblin's leather armour.
A leather armour has an AR of 3, so the lowest die - a 6 - easily beat it and the goblin takes the damage.

Now, that 6 represents the potential damage of the weapon wielded by Harbrik.. but it can't exceed the damage range of the weapon itself.
Each weapon - or monster attack - has its own damage range: to make a long story short, if a long sword deals a d8 of damage in D&D, in my game that same long sword has a damage range of 1-8.
So, if the lowest die is a 6 a long sword deals 6 points of damage, if it's a 7 you hit for 7 points of damage.
With a 9, you deal just 8 points of damage: you can't exceed the maximum (unless a particular rule says something different).

In all this process, no modifier - positive or negative - will be added.
FYI, the Action Resolution Table - used for Combat, Spells and other Actions - is just a revised version of Chainmail's Spell Complexity Table, expanded from a 12 to a 20 basys.

Artwork by Jared Hindman.

martedì 26 aprile 2011

Development #3: Journey to a Supposed Glory

According to my personal experience, one of the oldest and most common questions a player usually wonders is: how far will my character go?
Creating a new character is IMHO always funny, because in the process your original concept meets with the dice roll, shaping around and getting shaped by those curious tiny polyhedra.
Just a little more details, and your character literally becomes alive.. ready to venture in a marvellous and exciting world, along with his fellas.
As a player, you foretaste what your character could potentially do in the next future: beheading the orc's general, saving a princess, burning to ashes an evil warlord with an impressive fireball.. and so on.

But often experience teaches that pushing so far could be not so easy.

Building a campaign - whereas with building I mean a cooperative effort between the DM and the players - is something satisfying, but the journey is long and full of obstacles: you'll never know if the campaign you've always dreamed to play will reach its natural ending or not.

Sometimes players drop the group, sometimes things get too hasty or too slow and vibe seems not so good anymore.
Dreaming does not cost a thing, but keeping your feet on the ground could be easier and safer.

That's why IMHO it's better planning something modular than a long term campaign since the very beginning, because it could be really frustrating if your campaign starts breaking up when you're next to its climax.
The best damn thing? Divide et impera: in other words, Tiers.

Yes, Tiers: something you're going to associate with the most controversial game of these times: 4th Edition D&D.
So far from its origin, but yet so damn close. Thinking in Tiers can help you planning things in a modular way, playing up to a check point and only after deciding if going further or not.

Holmes did that, in his Basic D&D. People usually thinks Holmes' Edition is just an introductory set, good to start with but seen only as an amuse-bouche.. an appetizer: you start with it, play a couple of times.. and then move to AD&D 1st Edition.

Gygaxian AD&D is a really awesome game, but Holmes' D&D does not shine less: IMHO it's a complete game, although characters reach only the 3rd level of experience.
Too bad? Not at all, if you plan to play something on a human scale: you're not a normal man, not yet a hero.

That's what I wanna start from, in my game: building your characters in different Tiers, according to whom your character is able to manage.

In few words, my purpose it's to split your character's career in 3 differente Tiers.
Can you fight just orcs, goblins and big animals? You're still an Adventurer, with no renown.
Are you brave enough to challenge a giant? You're a Hero, and people knows you also far from your hometown.
Do you crave for a dragon? Shaken spears or splintered shields? You're a Legend, everybody knows who you are.

Adventurer: from 1st to 3rd level.
Hero: from 4th to 9th level.
Legend: from 10th level and beyond.

My 2 cents, for tonight.

Artwork by Jared Hindman.