Sunday, March 24, 2013

12th Birthday Dungeons and Dragons Party

Today, my grandson Matt turns 12.  Last night, he had a birthday sleepover with four of his friends and I was invited (by him) to run a Dungeons and Dragons Adventure as the main event at his party.

Needless to say, I was honored, excited and pleased.  :)

Matt has played Savage Worlds, Swords and Wizardry Whitebox and Warhammer 40k.  His friends had never played anything like D&D except on computers.  They all play a lot of Minecraft.

We started at 5:30.  Several of the boys explained to me that they didn't know if they were going to like it, but they all sat down at the table and listened intently as I explained the basics of the game.

I greatly simplified the game (you'll see that shortly) and in an effort to make all the characters unique and interesting, I used a simple "Encounter Power" mechanic that was random.  So, there was a lot about this game that was "Old School" -- player skill not character skill -- but there were some modern elements too.  It was a successful mix that I will detail further in the near future.

The bottom line is that the party ended in a TPK at 11:30pm! (after an amazing and glorious battle) and the boys exclaimed "how exciting!" "this is so cool!" "this was a lot of fun!" "I want to do this again!"

The adventure was a total success!!  I am so proud of these young men for embracing the adventure and really exploring the dungeon, figuring out the traps and NEVER shying away from the use of the 10' pole.  Seriously.  I think they enjoyed that part too!

Here are some pics of the map towards the end of the adventure --

The Scrabble chips were simple farmers who signed on for the adventure to help the heroes.  The group was tasked with rescuing the Mayor's daughter and another farmer who was captured by an evil wizard and his dragon.
Here's a link to the adventure, the blank character sheet (front/back) and the treasure cards.  More info later -- I'm off to the family birthday party!  Happy 12th Birthday Matt!  I love you!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Challenging RPG Puzzle for Players AND Characters

Here's a picture of the puzzle to pique your curiosity!  I've changed the central picture, but the example still works...

So, there's this board game called "Mansions of Madness."  I don't own it, but I know a little bit about it.  It sounds really cool and if I get the chance, I will probably try to play it sometime.

In the game, there are these puzzles that you must solve to move on.  Maybe from room to room or to get a weapon or to escape.  I don't know exactly, but I do know that the PLAYER must solve the puzzle and the INT of the character she is playing determines HOW MANY MOVES they get to solve it.

I didn't reverse-engineer the puzzles from the game.  I adopted a similar style, but the puzzle pieces and the design of each is mine alone.

So, I thought, what if we did that at the table?  Each round a PLAYER gets a number of moves based upon the stats of her character.  Here's a table that I might use to determine the number of moves --

  • ATTRIBUTE < 13 = 1 move
  • ATTRIBUTE 13, 14, 15 = 2 moves
  • ATTRIBUTE 16, 17 = 3 moves
  • ATTRIBUTE 18 = 4 moves
  • Specialized skill = +1 move
  • Character level = +1 move/5 levels
Right up front, I want to say that I have NOT used this in my game yet.  I have tested the puzzle on actual humans and it does what I want it to do.  YMMV.  :)

Each round the Player gets a number of moves (I'll define those below) based upon the stats of her character?  What stat?  Well, the puzzle is an abstraction.  Maybe its a complicated mechanical lock that requires nimble fingers to manipulate (DEX).  Maybe it's an arcane puzzle made of shifting runes and eldritch energies (INT).  Maybe its a series of tests of will and courage designed to challenge the faith of the believer (WIS).  You can decide based on the situation.  

What character class is important can vary as can the types of "specialized skills" that apply.

Some Basic Rules
  • To be solved, the symbols on the edges of the moveable square pieces must match the symbols that surround them in the frame.
  • Each piece has a number from 1 to 20.  This is to help GMs plan their puzzles.  It is of course totally fine to simply generate a random puzzle by drawing four pieces of the twenty.
  • This is NOT a team effort.  One Player and their Character must manipulate the puzzle each round.  If another player and a different character want to try they must take over and manipulate the puzzle during a different round.  No discussion.  (Of course if you want to break this rule, go ahead, but I don't recommend it.)
  • It is important to put something at risk.  Each round, what is the price of delay?  Does a new monster appear through a gate?  Does the party take damage?  Is a wandering monster rolled for?    Does the room close in a little bit more?
  • When the puzzle pieces are placed on the table, the arrows must point UP at the start.  The puzzle frame must be placed so that the lock is right side up.  
The Moves
  • Rotate piece 90° = 1 move.  
    • You can rotate the piece clockwise or counter-clockwise, but only 90° per move.  If the piece has a blue arrow, that piece may only be rotated clockwise.  
    • In the example puzzle above, you would need to rotate puzzle piece #4 three times to make it fit (3 moves).
  • Swap two pieces = 1 move.  
    • Choose two pieces and exchange their positions in the frame.  This DOES NOT change their orientation in any way.
    • In the example puzzle above, you would want to swap #1 and #5.  You'd have to rotate them both as well to make them fit.  2 rotates each.  (5 total moves).
  • Draw a new piece and trade it for an existing piece = 1 move.  
    • You may look at the new piece BEFORE you discard the existing piece.  Regardless of the orientation of the existing piece, you must place the new piece in the frame with the arrow pointing up.
    • If you've made the moves I've described above, #9 will never work.  Time to swap it out.
Puzzle Theory

There are 20 pieces in the puzzle.  Five groups of four.  Each group was designed to force a minimum and a maximum number of moves regardless of when its placed in the puzzle.  
  • Four pieces that require 0 to 1 moves to fit
  • Four pieces that require 1 to 2 moves to fit
  • Four pieces that require 2 to 3 moves to fit
  • Four pieces that require 3 to 4 moves to fit
  • Four pieces that will never fit
In Conclusion

Print this out on some cardstock.  Color is best, but I made the symbols very distinctive shapes so that it will work in black and white.  

I hope you can find a use for this puzzle in your game.  I welcome any suggestions you'd like to share and/or any modifications or suggestions you'd like to make.  Look forward to additional puzzles and other crazy ideas as this gets some use in my game.  I've already got some percolating around in my head.  :)

Thief Skills (Part 2)

In a previous post, I suggested a couple of ideas for thief skills.  I tried the second option Wednesday night.  I will describe how I ran it and then some (very) initial reactions to it.

I use a d6 based system now.  Each skill has a number of "pips".  I translated these pips into dice.  So, if you had 4 pips in Tinkering, you now have 4d6.  If you had exceptional INT or DEX and if that was relevant, I gave you extra dice for that.  A 5 or 6 is one success.  2-4 are meaningless.  1 is a failure and *may* necessitate a saving throw.

In one test, Oryx the dwarf had 7d6.  He needed 4 successes (arbitrarily decided by me)  He was trying to jam up a mechanical pit trap so the party could cross.  He opted to roll 3d6 initially in his first attempt.  He rolled 2 successes and 1 failure.  He rolled more dice, two at a time, gaining no more successes but 2 more failures.  He rolled a save at -4 (cumulative -2 for each failure beyond the first) and he failed his save.  He fell into the pit trap.  Luckily, he has Feather Fall, so he was able to avoid the falling damage and the poisoned spikes.

After much laughter by the party, they still needed to close the pit and lock it, so they hoisted Oryx back out of the pit and he went back to work.

In his second attempt, he rolled the two remaining successes he needed to jam and disable the pit, locking the cover in the closed position.

Time required - 3 "rounds".  4 successes,  3 failures.  1 failed save.

Verdict - this worked well.  There was something to risk (falling into the trap).  Time wasn't an issue.

In another test, Kalen was using the system to open a secret door.  He has 6 pips in his skill and +2 for high INT.  8d6.  He rolled several times and eventually opened the door.  Blah.

Time required - 2 "rounds".  4 successes.  1 failure.  1 passed save.

Verdict - not so good.  I kinda forced this to try the system and it didn't work.  Nothing really to risk.  No time constraint.  No trap.

The bottom line --

  • The system has promise.
  • To make it work and seem worthwhile, there must be a risk --
    • There's a trap
    • There's a time constraint.  One wandering monster check per attempt or some similar passage of time is probably a good rule of thumb.
    • There's some other bad thing that can happen if things to south
  • My current system of "pips" may be giving the characters too many dice.  Hard to playtest a new system when the PCs are 8th+ level.  Their level of competence is too high.
Will need to do more playtesting to see if I'm still happy with it.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Dark Crystal Caverns

In my CotMA game, some time ago, the characters discovered an ancient gnomish ruin that had been corrupted with an arcane sentient dark crystal being.

At that time, they fought a group of cultists that were worshipping the crystal and the cavern/ruin collapsed.

Later, they found out that the crystals had multiplied and had taken up residence in the sewers under Ravenport.

Since the crystals can be "attuned" and used to enhance magical spells, the crystal growth under the Wizards Guild was left intact, but the other infestations were destroyed.

Last night, the characters returned to the original ruin site to enter through some goblin excavations to seek out the dark crystal once again.

This time, they discovered that the crystal entity had been corrupted by demonic magic and that a trap had been laid for them.  The rewards of a magical scroll and a holy sword were enough to entice the characters to battle!

Here are some pics --
In this scene, the characters are peering down into the dimly lit darkness of the crystal cavern.  A magical sword can be seen in the foreground.  The dark crystal growths spread out to form extradimensional gates.  An altar rests on a crystalline hill near the underground lake.  Three caves in the cavern side contain vrock who chatter back and forth in the dark.

The fighters, Oryx, Collen and Kesk drop to the cavern floor and join battle with frog demons and vrock.  Kalen the wizard flys about, protected by multiple enchantments, striking at enemies with forked lightning bolts.  A crab demon rises from the lake and summons an terrible water elemental.  The paladin, Sir Owyn de Lapins, claims the holy sword.  The dwarf cleric, Morgrim, battles alone against a vrock in the upper cave.

 In danger from the vrock, Kalen polymorphs Morgrim into a gold dragon.  The dragon's attacks prove to be too much for the vrock and it eventually falls.

Sir Owyn finds himself surrounded, but not overpowered.  The strength of his arm and blade prove formidable to the frog demons and others.

It was a great battle and the adventurers were triumphant, but the battle was never a certainty.  Good teamwork and focus on the gates and the vrock (who were attempting to gate in more vrock) kept the number of enemies to a manageable level.  No one died, but Kesk and Morgrim did roll on the Death and Dismemberment Chart.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Thief Skills

I have always been disappointed in the way that thief skills work in a game.

  • Player "I search for traps."
  • DM "OK."  Secretly rolls percentile dice.  There is a trap but the roll fails. 
  • DM "You don't find any traps."
  • Player "Is it locked?"
  • DM "No."
  • Player "I open the chest."
  • DM "Make a saving throw..."

I know, I know, you can just roleplay it out.  The player can "be" the thief and they can describe how they will search, but sometimes I have a clever idea for a trap and I don't fully know how it works in practice.

How do I know if they are looking in the right place?  How many springs/gears/triggers are necessary for those crossbow bolts to fire?  What tool is useful to jam up the works?

The character's skill is a shorthand for all the technical knowledge they have and I don't.

Currently in my CotMA game, I don't have thieves.  EVERYONE can try to find/remove/unlock if they have the right skill.  I use a d6-based skill system.

Even that doesn't solve the problem above.  I just roll a d6 in secret, rather than d%.

So, I have *two* ideas that I'd like to throw out there and see if anyone has feedback to share.

IDEA 1:  Traps are like monsters.

Traps have an AC and HPs and they can bite you back.  If you hit them, they don't hit you, but if you miss, they have a chance to hit you back.  If you fumble, they hit you automatically.

What it means "to hit back" might vary based upon the trap.  A poison needle need only hit you once.  Save or face the effects.

A poison gas cloud might need 2 hits.  One to prime and another to release the gas.

A flamestrike might gout fire EVERY time you mess up.

Once all the HPs are gone, the trap is defeated.

IDEA 2:  Trade speed for safety

This is a little bit of a twist on my d6 skill system and it takes inspiration from something I think I read over at 9and30 Kingdoms.

You have a certain number of d6 for your skills.  Each trap needs a certain number of successes to defeat.  Each round, you can roll 0 to N dice, where N is the total number of dice you have.

When you roll the dice, a 5 or 6 counts as a success.  A 1 is a failure.  2-4 don't matter.

You must make a save for every failure you roll, with a cumulative -2 for each addition failure rolled beyond the first one.

So, you can go slow, rolling 1d6 each round, hoping for a success and to avoid failure, or if you are more proficient, you can roll more dice and get the job done faster, but you also might have a bigger failure.

It is possible that higher levels of skill might avoid certain failure levels, or perhaps you could reserve dice to "reroll".  They wouldn't count toward successes, but they could be used to mitigate failures.

Anyway, those are my two initial ideas.  Trying to put a little more suspense into the skill process and trying to give the player decisions to make.

I look forward to any suggestions you have or any ideas you'd like to share.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Gibbering Mouthers

Months ago, I purchased some unpainted Gibbering Mouthers from Augies Minis.  I guess they come in one of those Wizards D&D Board Games.

To the best of my knowledge, it is the same mini that is in the pre-painted line, but it isn't painted.

I think those sell for about $11 each.  These were in the $2 range.

Tonight I was listening to a school board meeting via LiveStream and I got some painting done.

Here they are.  I took two pics because I wasn't sure if the flash made the picture better or worse.  You be the judge.  :)

I primered them with grey and then did some touchups in grey.  Tried not to be too perfect; wanted them a little mottled.  I painted the mouths, the whites of their eyes and teeth, then dotted their eyes.  Finished it all off with a black wash and some matte varnish.

Serviceable paint jobs and certainly better than unpainted.  Not too shabby in my opinion.  :)

Friday, March 1, 2013

3 Years of Blogging

Looking back, I guess I started blogging in February of 2010, but March 1 is really the official start.

I originally started this blog in the hopes of playing "a game a day" for a year.  Yeah, that didn't work out.

What did happen was the discovery of the OSR and all the great people and ideas that surround it.

It's been a great three years and I have no intention of stopping now.  Sure.  My posts have slowed down, but I still get the itch and I have creative bursts -- so LOOKOUT!

Thank you to everyone who shared their ideas here!  Here's to another three years!