This page lists the most recent journal entries related to role-playing games (RPG). There are some more pages on the related German page (Rollenspiele).
Free web apps I wrote:
An excellen introduction to the Sandbox at Raven Crowking’s Nest. I has a number of links, starting with what is great about the Sandbox and discussing the rules that enable it, and the rules that thwart it.
Dave Baymiller presents his house rules for common situations on Google+ and asks for how we do this. Here’s what I said:
Climbing: anybody can climb without armor if there are good handholds. Otherwise, only thieves using their thieving ability (I use 1d6 with numbers similar to Hear Noise).
Disguises: anybody can disguise themselves. The particular situations he listed have never come up in my game, so no rulings. I’d probably simply use a Reaction Check. Neutral = Suspicious. Positive = They fall for it.
Interrogation: we just talk at the table for a bit, no dice rolling. If trust is required, I let them make a Reaction Check. Positive = they trust you to help them out and are ready to make deals.
Languages: the common tongue for anybody, a few basic words for elves and dwarves as per the book, an extra language per Int bonus, to be picked whenever it’s convenient. A kind of Schrödinger language slots: you don’t know which languages the character knows until you look.
Swimming: anybody can swim without armor. With armor, save vs. death every round or drown.
Torture: I ask the players what they want to hear. Then I say that this is exactly what their victim is saying after the maltreatment. And if they want to go into the details, I tell them I don’t want to hear about it. Ugh!
Scars: I use a Death & Dismemberment table with limb loss and one particular entry that has the loss of eyes, ears, nose, teeth… We don’t have simple scars.
Sometimes I wonder about writing and illustrating my own monster manual. Basically for Halberds and Helmets – I don’t really need it for anything. When I run my game, I usually refer to the Labyrinth Lord monster list and if that doesn’t help, I’ll get up and get the Advanced Edition Companion (which only ever helps for a handful of creatures) from the shelf, or rarer still, the Rules Cyclopedia. By then I usually notice that I lost focus and the game is dragging, so I try to stop doing that.
What I need, I think, is my own monster list, my own illustrations, my own treasure tables, and so on. Something specific to my campaigns.
One place to start looking would be M20 Hard Core where I tried to simplify monsters and their damage is always d6 based (sometimes multiple dice).
So, looking at the Labyrinth Lord monster list…
OK, so with that I have a list of monsters to illustrate and practice my iPad pen, haha. I’ll be adding these to Google+ while I work on them and then, when I’m ready, I’ll do my monster manual.
I think I also have to add some demons and devils to this monster manual but we’ll see about that.
I just saw an impressive LaTeX class for B/X adventures in a private share on Google+.
Sadly, I didn’t get far with Raising a God.
I’m not even sure I want “a tool for authors to typeset RPG modules in a style reminiscent of the old-school adventures of the 1980s” – I like the Tufte class I’ve used elsewhere, eg. Halberds-and-Helmets.pdf.
But there are probably many ideas worth stealing in there. For example, all the stats of all the B/X monsters. Then again, I might as well go back to writing some more instead of tinkering with the tools.
But now that I’m trying to install a new class, I’m running into problems with my LaTeX installation.
alex@Megabombus:~$ tlmgr update --list Unknown directive ...containerchecksum c59200574a316416a23695c258edf3a32531fbda43ccdc09360ee105c3f07f9fb77df17c4ba4c2ea4f3a5ea6667e064b51e3d8c2fe6c984ba3e71b4e32716955... , please fix it! at /usr/local/texlive/2014/tlpkg/TeXLive/TLPOBJ.pm line 210, <$retfh> line 5579.
I need to get the latest TeX installed. And since I’m really into Homebrew:
alex@Megabombus:~$ brew search texlive Installing TeX from source is weird and gross, requires a lot of patches, and only builds 32-bit (and thus can't use Homebrew dependencies) We recommend using a MacTeX distribution: https://www.tug.org/mactex/ You can install it with Homebrew Cask: brew cask install mactex alex@Megabombus:~$ brew cask install mactex ==> Downloading http://mirror.ctan.org/systems/mac/mactex/mactex-20160603.pkg ######################################################################## 100,0% ==> Verifying checksum for Cask mactex ==> Running installer for mactex; your password may be necessary. ==> Package installers may write to any location; options such as --appdir are ignored. Password:
Later, run TeX Live Utility and select Update All Packages. All of this will take a long time.
And finally, you probably want to trash the older installations?
alex@Megabombus:~$ du -sh /usr/local/texlive/* 4,2G /usr/local/texlive/2013 4,5G /usr/local/texlive/2014 4,7G /usr/local/texlive/2016 584K /usr/local/texlive/texmf-local
The key to installing extra packages on a Mac is finding the right directory:
alex@Megabombus:~$ cd Library/texmf/tex/latex/ alex@Megabombus:~/Library/texmf/tex/latex$ unzip /Users/alex/Downloads/rpg-module.zip ...
I’ve blogged quite a bit about running a Sandbox, and I’ve added my Swiss Referee Style Manual to my house rule document, Halberds and Helmets, which also has some points on how I run my sandbox. And yet, perhaps the author of the Sandboxes and Quagmires blogpost is right: we should also talk about failure modes and how to prevent them. +Ed Ortiz mentions the following problems:
What works at my table:
Clearly establish which plot elements belong to which character. This is how we make sure that plot time is distributed fairly even though many players have a thing going. It sounds weird, but saying it at the table makes it easier for people to make fair decisions. Resurrecting Arden is Johannes’ plot element. Building the ivory tower is Claudia’s plot element. Going after bandits is Flavio’s plot element. Sometimes it isn’t easy to say. Samuel is easy going and he seems mostly interested in spreading poisonous giant frogs wherever he goes, for Tsathoggua. Michael is mostly interested in getting treasure and better armor and avoid all dangers. (Chicken!) Lilly is new and hasn’t found her thing, yet. Stefan is interested in things, but I haven’t felt a particular push in any direction. But, knowing that we’ve done a number of sessions pursuing Johannes’ plot, it makes it easier to say that the next few sessions will be about Claudia’s plot, out of the game. This is not an in-game decision.
Explicitly list open plots and ask for preferences concerning the next session. Even if players cannot decide, or no majority can be found, at least you can prepare for one of them and tell people that you’ve decided that they were going to go after X. Narrate the transition and off you go. It’s not “pure” sandbox—the players can see the man behind the curtain when they read their emails, but I don’t think that’s a problem. They couldn’t make up their mind and the referee picked Limbo and Slaads for the next adventure. If you didn’t like it, why didn’t you say so when you got the email? Sometimes this will fail and the referee will have to improvise. It happens. It’s OK. But this is important to me: This, too, is not an in-game decision.
Provide enough information. When I recently listed the open plots, I provided more information than the characters actually had available at the time. It went something like this: You could a) go look for the Formian city mentioned by the slaad spies and try and prevent the spread of the iron shadow, or b) visit Limbo, the home turf of the slaad, looking for a grey elf wizard who supposedly researched the iron shadow, or c) learn more about said grey elf wizard by visiting his home town in the astral sea, or d) continue exploring the mirror labyrinth (and stumbling into the Red and Pleasant Land, which I didn’t tell them). Provide more information than is strictly available in-game.
Make sure there are consequences and announce them. You don’t have to be super explicit, but if you take the golem armor made of old brass magic off the dead dwarven hero and envoys ask you to give it back, and you don’t, and instead you write a letter to the dwarf clan saying that you’ll wear it and use it wisely—then there will be consequences. The enjoys will fume. The scribe will shake his head. And the campaign news page will describe the dwarfs raising an expeditionary force of about two hundred dwarves and there will be interesting sessions ahead. Make sure that interesting actions have interesting consequences and make sure your players know.
Recently, Brendan wrote about character roles in Roles for common adventurer jobs. Basically, players write on their character sheet, if their character always does this or that. It’s like an Instinct in Burning Wheel. The example Brendan picks is positioning. Characters can “always” be part of the Vanguard, Rearguard, a Scout, or a Torchbearer.
I like the general idea and I recently had a similar discussion at the table where a player said their character would always do this or that, and I thought of Burning Wheel’s instincts and said, that’s cool—write it down on your character sheet so that next time we won’t have to talk about it.
I’m not sure positioning requires this sort of mechanical support though. Does it lead to discussions at your table? I usually just start with assumptions: “So, it seemed like you were in the front, riding your raptor, right?” That’s when others can speak up and say that no, actually they were scouting. Or if nobody speaks up, then that’s that. Or something is going on at the front and I’ll ask, “So, was anybody guarding the back? I’m guessing the dwarf and thief and their retinue are in front by the door, right? So who’s in the back? Not the wizard? So it’s going to be your guys, Michael?” If find that this helps establish the situation, and since it is framed as a discussion, players will accept the resulting positioning more readily. They practically volunteer for this or that role, as we talk about the situation.
Thing I can’t do is “Roll for surprise, Michael, your guys are being attacked!” This will lead to players arguing that they weren’t there and all that. So I’ll ask who’s in the back, Michael agrees that it would have been his guys, and then I say, “OK, time to roll for surprise, then! One and two is bad!”
Brendan’s reply is that yes, these discussions take up a little table time because he wants to know before stuff happens – a bit like buying equipment before you know what you’ll need.
I guess I see it as a different thing because players know that they are volunteering for something bad to happen.
And I make similar decisions elsewhere: I don’t want to know about who takes which watch. I’ll roll for a random encounter, and for a random person on watch right then and there. They get to pick a friend who is up with them. So, “lazy” determination. Another example is sneaking: they only need to roll when there is somebody that can hear them. Again, “lazy” determination.
Since this doesn’t seem to hurt my immersion or suspension of disbelief, I am free to consider: is predetermination leading to an interesting trade-off? Buying and carrying equipment? Yes. Vanguard or Rearguard given that you don’t know from where the enemy will strike? Not so much.
I was wondering about non-player character treasure, on Google+. I like rolling on a table and I might say stuff like “this magic user is so powerful, I’ll just use the Vampire treasure type”. What else might I look into?
I knew about the treasure table in the Dungeon Masters Guide but I remember them resulting in a very different mix of magic items than has been common in my campaign.
So here’s my table.
This is stuff for a fighter that’s part of a non-player party, the leader of a few men. Armor appropriate to stature. This is what fighter levels usually mean in my campaign, and the bonus for the treasure table below.
|3||+2||veterans, village heroes, sergeants, squad commanders, leading ten men-at-arms|
|5||+4||town leaders, captains, company commanders, leading a unit of a hundred men-at-arms|
|9||+8||rulers of a castle, of a hex, of a tribe, barons|
In the treasure table below, horses and chariots are all found only outside a dungeon, obviously.
|1||Poor: chain, spear||1d4×10 gold|
|2||Solid: plate, shield, helmet, sword||1d6×10 gold|
|3||Rich: as above plus lance, horse||1d10×10 gold|
|4||Noble: as above plus barding||3d6×10 gold|
|5||Loot: as above plus bow||3d6×10 gold, 1d4 gems|
|6||Benefactor: as above but with elven sword +1||3d6×10 gold, 1d6 gems|
|7||Aide: as above but with elven lance +1||3d6×10 gold, 2d6 gems|
|8||Elf Friend: as above but with elven bow +1||3d6×10 gold, 2d6 gems, 1d4 jewelry|
|9||Ruler: as above plus special item (see below)||5d6×10 gold, 2d6 gems, 1d6 jewelry|
|10||Lord: as above but with a set of elven arms and armor: plate +1, shield +1, matching helmet||5d6×10 gold, 3d6 gems, 1d6 jewelry|
|11||Delver: as above but with a set of dwarven arms and armor: plate +2, shield +2, matching helmet, sword +2, and a chariot||5d6×10 gold, 3d6 gems, 2d6 jewelry|
|12||Powerful: as above but with a flaming (+1d6 damage) sword +2 or a dwarven throwing hammer +3 if a dwarf, gauntlets of ogre power (strength 18)||5d6×10 gold, 4d6 gems, 2d6 jewelry|
|13||Higher Calling: as above but with angelic or hellish and armor: plate +3, shield +3, matching helmet, special sword of light or darkness +3 (see below)||5d6×10 gold, 4d6 gems, 3d6 jewelry|
|14||Special: as above but with a very special sword (see below)||5d6×10 gold, 5d6 gems, 3d6 jewelry|
Jewelry: 3d6×100 gold (average is about 1000 gold each) – rings, hair bands, crowns, bracelets, necklaces, amulets, hair needles, etc.
Gems: use the table below (average is about 200 gold each)
|1||A random potion, roll 1d8: 1. diminuition (6”, 2h), 2. ferocity (double damage, 2h), 3. fly (2h), 4. healing (1d6+1, 3×), 5. invisibility, 6. love, 7. shape-changing, 8. speed (two action per round)|
|2||A random ring, roll 1d4: 1. djinni calling (1/day, for a day), 2. fire resistance (immune to normal fire, +2 to saves, all fire damage dice -1), 3. minor creation (non-magical, portable things, 2h), 4. protection (AC +1)|
|3||A random miscellaneous item, roll 1d4: 1. bag of holding (opens a small portal to another sphere), 2. boots of speed (double movement speed), 3. elemental summoning device (it takes 10min to perform the ritual, the element is determined by the device: bowl means water, brazier means fire, censer means air, stone means earth), 4. elven cloak (hiding 5-in-6 when not moving)|
|4||Their weapon is special: it can glow as bright as daylight produce a dark mist like the continual light spell and its reverse, at will|
|5||Their weapon is special: it grants them a permanent aura of authority (charisma 18)|
|6||A horn of battle that will summon 2d4 barbarians from the next world to fight for you until killed, HD 1+1 AC 7 1d6 MV 12|
Swords with a higher calling:
|1||+1/+3 vs. lycanthropes, forged by the high inquisitors|
|2||+1/+3 vs. spell casters, forged in the philosopher’s war|
|3||+1/+3 vs. undead, an angelic sword forged in heaven|
|4||+1/+3 vs. dragons, an old elven sword forged in the dragon wars|
Very special weapons:
Add more special weapons as needed…
Use the special item table above.
Use the special item table above.
Recently, Ken Baumann asked about huge battles on Google+. Was it fun, how did it work?
How big is a huge battle? I regularly have fights with dozens of participants on each side. The party alone is usually a dozen characters and a dozen dogs, raptors, war bears and more.
How often? I use big battles every now and then, maybe once a year in each campaign. That is, there will be one or two sessions for “the big battle”. Often there will be many sessions before the actual battle where people try to find allies, make peace, sabotage the enemy and all that. It’s a whole campaign arc.
As for the Rules: For up to maybe 100 individuals per side, I just use lots of d20s, with groups of 10 or 20 doing this or that and resolving the rounds as we go.
Example: Yesterday was the first session of a siege and I just wrote up a session report.
Mass Combat: For more than that, I split them into units of “about 100 each” and resolve combat as if each unit was a single monster. I’ve tried various methods, and I’ve tried each of them exactly once.
My first mass combat session used Mass Combat Made Easy by Robin Stacey which he wrote for M20. I used them when we still played D&D 3.5 and they work well. As combat scale is proportional to the number of individuals in a unit, those need to be recalculated after every hit, which needs a calculator person at the table.
Next I tried the mass combat rules in the B/X Companion by Running Beagle Games and they were OK. Basically you add up all the hit points and deal automatic damage based on your to-hit roll. This means that each unit has hundreds of hit points and you still need a calculator person at the table.
Next I tried the mass combat rules An Echo Resounding by Sine Nomine Publishing and they worked well. The only issue I had was that I didn’t like the domain level management required to pay for upkeep and related stuff. It worked very well as at the table, but if and only if all the units are “about 100 each” or if you can translate a monster into an equivalent “unit” – it’s easy if you’re fighting orcs and goblins but what about ogres and dragons if you don’t have units of 100 each? You need to translate them into “warbeasts” and similar units, which is where you need to improvise.
Other Options: Other options which I haven’t tried but I’d be interested in hearing how it went at the table:
Domains at War by Autarch, but since their Adventure Conqueror King System seemed to offer more detail than An Echo Resounding, I didn’t look at it.
By this Poleaxe by the Hydra Cooperative for “small-scale battles or skirmishes involving 15-120 combatants on each side”… I’d be interested to hear comparisons!
Book of War by Daniel R. ‘Delta’ Collins is based on OD&D numbers, so I didn’t look at it.
Rules Cyclopedia has The War Machine section with rules that tell you how to compute a battle rating for each side and resolving it using a single d100 roll per side. It’s short, but it seems more appropriate for multiple engagements in a longer warfare campaign. I don’t think a single engagement would be a satisfying conclusion for a campaign arc.
I feel this is very similar in Science Fiction. There, if you don’t want “D&D in space” (what I might call Space Opera) then I find that Science Fiction is about extrapolating a trend we can all relate to in the present. Essentially, it turns into social commentary of the present and it would seem to me that the players at the table would have to pick such issues and develop them. Actual political issues to develop and personal stories that intersect incidentally, it’s tricky to pull of. I heard Shock might do it; I never played it.
But reading Brian’s blog post game me an explanation for why pulling off Pern or Darkover stories using D&D and its descendants might be harder than it looks. Perhaps it’s not even a problem in the rules themselves but in D&D game culture. We expect settings, classes, levels, treasure and so on to have certain effects. If anybody pulled it off, I’d like to hear more about your campaign!
Thinking about it some more as I was sitting in the train, I wondered about the rules such a system would have. Combat would be deadly. The number of friends you had would be important. Love would be important. My first scribbles are now in a PDF called Best Friends (also on GitHub).
If you want to discuss this, see this post of mine on Google+.
If you’re more traditionally minded, you might want to take a look at @unchartedatlas by @mewo2. The processes is explained in his blog post Generating fantasy maps and his internally consistent placename scheme is explained in his blog post Generating naming languages, both of them highly recommended reads.
I was reminded of my old efforts which were also based on Amit Patel’s 2010 blog post Polygonal Map Generation for Games using Voronoi diagrams, the Monones Island Generator. It didn’t go very far because I was stumped by the “draining lakes” problem – which I have now solved for Text Mapper! Should I revisit it? Are Voronoi diagrams something we even want for our role-playing games?
I think it should be possible to automatically label Voronoi diagrams. I started to manually label them, trying to see how far I’d get. Then again, assuming I wanted to manually edit the maps once the game gets going, I’d need a text representation of the polygon centers. I guess that means I could also just stick to some sort of latitude and longitude. Coarse enough to enable editing and still work to recreate the map might just mean three digits instead of two, ie. 001.0001 instead of 01.01 might be enough.