Tuesday, June 29, 2010

One-Roll Attack Table (part 3)

B/X Blackrazor had a great idea to eliminate attack rolls altogether from his game.  In short, his thesis is that HPs are often defined as luck or dodging or deftly avoiding blows -- why roll to hit at all?

From p. 34 of the AD&D 1st Ed. PHB
Each character has a varying number of hit points just as monsters do.  These hit points represent how much damage (actual or potential) the character can withstand before being killed. A certain amount of these hit points represent the actual physical punishment which can be sustained.  The remainder, a significant portion of hit points at higher levels, stands for skill, luck, and/or magical factors.
B/X Blackrazor set up his table by "level".  Thus, characters and monsters of a given level would roll a certain die to cause damage.  Magical "plusses" have the effect of "shifting" the column so that the player will roll a better die for damage.  There are a lot of shifts in his system (and its a good one BTW), but I thought I could make it simpler.

In my system you calculate your "total to hit bonus".  Add whatever bonus your level gives you to whatever bonus your strength or magical weapon gives you and find a number.

I'm talking Whitebox S&W now --
Angmar is a 3rd level fighter.  He has a STR of 17 and a +1 magical sword.  His total "to hit" bonus is +4 (+2 for his level, +1 for his STR and +1 for his magic sword).
You take this number and you cross-reference it with the AAC of your target.
Angmar is attacking a bugbear AAC 14.  He'll roll a d6.
That's all there is to it.

In my system, there's always a chance that you might take damage, even if you have a tremendous armor class.  I can see a peasant throwing a rock at a terrifying death knight bristling with magical armor and getting lucky.  It could happen.

Here's the chart:

I have not playtested this chart yet (but I plan to soon).  I think I *will* adopt B/X Blackrazors system of subtracting 1 pt. of damage per range increment for missile weapons, so that a miss is a possibility sometimes.  My grandson is just starting to play RPGs and I think this system will be easier for him to learn.

My chart does treat the "Normal Man" as a special case.  Weak creatures or adventurers with a zero "to hit bonus" are better, but not much. 

I hope you enjoy the chart.  My humble thanks to B/X Blackrazor and his idea.  Let me know if you try it and how it goes.

Dungeons of Castle Greyhawk

Late in 2007, WOTC produced an adventure (for 3e or 3.5e I think) called "Expedition to the Ruins of Greyhawk".

Inside there's a cutaway map of the dungeon (or at least part of the dungeon).  I'm posting it here because I think it's pretty cool and I thought you all might like it. 

There seems to be a soft spot for cutaway pics of dungeons among the Old Schoolers.  There's a great one in the Moldvay Basic Book and there's another excellent one in his B4 "The Lost City".


Saturday, June 26, 2010

Polyhedral Dice Adventure Cards (Overview)

I like random. 

I like dice and I like random tables.

A few years ago, I created a deck of 80 cards that I could use to help generate plotlines, dice rolls, narrative ideas, NPC names -- a lot of stuff.  

I created the cards (and some other card sets too) and I marketed them on a personal site, selling the file for a few dollars using PayPal and then emailing the file to the purchaser.

I think I made around $100.  Enough to take my wife out to a nice dinner as a way of paying her back for all the time I "wasted" making the cards.  :)  One of my few purchasers several years ago was Norman Harman over at Troll and Flame (Thanks Norman!)

Anyway, I commend to you, dear reader, my Polyhedral Dice Adventure Cards (see file section on the right of my blog).

To use the cards, you'll need to print them out on the stiffest cardstock you can find.  I don't have any card backs, so you might want to use colored cardstock.  I'm fond of blue.

I will now proceed to describe each part of the cards in minimal detail so you will have some sense of how they operate.  I've taken some pictures.

In this area of the card you will find random dice rolls.  I make no promise that these rolls are truly random or that all possible outcomes are represented.  I used Excel to generate some random numbers and I put them onto my cards.  They work for me.

This line represents a "combat tactic".  I often draw a card just to see how the monsters, enemies, villains, etc. might behave in combat.  If I don't like the results -- I ignore it.  

In fact, that's my primary rule for using these cards.  

The next line is an "archetype" of some kind.  Who's causing all the trouble?  Draw a card.  What kind of NPC is she?  Draw a card.  

"Random first names"  They are goofy, I know.  I wrote a script to assemble them from random letters and letter combinations.  I rarely use them as printed - but they do give you ideas.  If I saw these names, I might actually use Zosoth or Zoe, Zoth, Soth, Treeth, Zeth, Duwy, Wysh, etc.  You see how useful these can be?

"NPC traits"  The top one is more of a PHYSICAL trait and the bottom two are more PSYCHOLOGICAL or PERSONALITY traits.

"Random last names"  I've always been fond of using compound words for last names.  These follow that model.  If you don't like them as written, draw two cards and reassemble to taste.  The possibilities are nearly endless.  Heck, you can just reassemble on this card and get at least six more names: Azureshooter, Azuremountain, Ghostlyblood, Ghostlymountain, Scarblood, and Scarshooter.  I know some of those are crap, but a few are pretty good.

This area contains a "Place", a "Sound" and a "Flavor or Smell".  Very useful for jazzing up descriptions or making players nervous.

This section of the cards presents "Plot Twists" or "Dramatic Elements".  I've made some of these up from common tropes and I've borrowed a few from some of my favorite movies.  You may recognize a few.  Not sure what should happen next?  Draw a card.

The final bit at the end is a sensory description.  Often when I'm DMing, I forget sounds, smells and tastes.  I draw a card to inject a little detail into the adventure.  YMMV.

There you have it.  If you enjoy the cards, please consider doing a couple of things.

1) Please consider donating to this good cause.

2) Please consider following my blog.  I plan to continue to share cool stuff (at least I think it's cool) with my readers on a regular basis.

Free Dungeon Maps

James over at Underdark Gazette pointed me in the direction of a free "Herculoids" resource.  (I'm a sucker for Saturday Morning Cartoon stuff!)

I did a little digging into their URL and found these cool dungeon maps.  There are some cavern maps too!

I downloaded them all (of course) and then I opened one of them up.  Each file has a legend of symbols and then two versions of the map.   One that looks more like "stone" and one that is more plain.  Both versions of the maps come with or without number keys.  See pics below.



PS: if you click on the "Cartography" link at the bottom, you'll find additional map goodness!

PPS: for an "all in one" file, I've put the dungeon and cavern maps together in one pdf file.  See the right hand side of my blog.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Old School Gaming - DIY Battlemat(thew)

Just like a Jedi needs to build his own lightsaber -- any old school player needs to make his or her own battlemat.  There was a time when you couldn't buy these things pre-made.  I experimented with a lot of materials, but when Chessex came out with their Battlemat (and Megamat) I adopted the use of marine vinyl.

I have a white one and a grey one.  My grandson wanted one of his own, so we made a tan one today.

Here are some pics --


It was great fun working on this together.  He has plans to play a modified version of Heroscape on this with his friends.  He wants to play our regular Savage Worlds game on his new mat as well.  

I also printed him a couple of copies of Swords and Wizardry Whitebox.  He is planning on giving that a try too.

Fight on Matt!  Fight on!

10 Useful Pieces of Gaming Technology

Rob Donoghue (co-creator of Fate, Spirit of the Century and the new Dresden Files game) has his own blog called, "Some Space to Think" and he recently re-posted this article.

10 Useful Pieces of Gaming Technology

It has a lot more meat in the comments section below.

Anyway, I enjoyed reading through it and thinking about how these elements affect my gaming and my GM'ing.


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Burning Oil - how do you handle it?

Without biasing the question (and yes, I know however I handle it is fine), how do you as a DM handle players using burning oil?

Is it just regular old lamp oil or something special?  Does it have an area?  How long does it burn?  How much damage?  Roll to hit?  Saving throw?

I'm just really curious to hear how others do or have done it.  It's such a staple of the genre, I'd love to get everyone's different perspective.

At the end, I'll tell you how I do it.


Friday, June 18, 2010

Castle Book

I was searching archive.org when I stumbled upon this book:


It has some colorful images that might be useful when explaining the structure of castles to your players (or to younger players.

Friday, June 11, 2010

My GM Secret

I just read my first RPG Now Newsletter.  Didn't know they had one.  Glad I found it.

In the newsletter, Sean Patrick Fannon discusses a DMing technique that Ray Greer (of Champions fame) taught him.  I've been using a similar improv technique for years and I'll share my version below.  A couple of my players read my blog, but I don't think I'm giving anything away.  Sean is very specific about his techniques in the article.  I'm not that rigid.

Anyway, the technique is this -- present clues or plot hooks to the players and listen to them as they talk amongst themselves.  Sure, you'll have ideas about your clues and hooks, but sometimes, just sometimes, the players will come up with better ideas.

Steal them and use them.

Here's a real example from my Queston campaign circa 1989.

I presented the heroes with a situation where a caravan had been attacked on the road.  There were many dead merchants and guardsmen to be found at the scene.  I was planning on it being a pretty simple "the orcs attacked the merchants" scenario.

I must have overdone it with the descriptions of the gore and violence.  Some of the players started talking about how "it couldn't be orcs" and "orcs can't do this kind of damage".  Kinda reminded me of the scene when Ben Kenobi tells Luke that Sandpeople aren't this precise... (PS, if Stormtroopers are so precise, why can't they hit Han and Luke with a single blaster shot on the Death Star?)

Anyway, I started listening and I started rolling with their ideas.

By the time it was over, the caravan had been attacked by a magic using bandit leader with an eye that shot magic missiles.  He had a pet wyrm that wore a magical control collar.  His bandits were comprised of orcs, evil men, a few ogres and a handful of vicious lizardmen.  They had a cave-fortress riddled with traps nearby.  The merchants were carrying valuable materials for the wizards guild that could be sold on the black market to disreputable wizards and necromancers for a lot of gold.

A much better story than a bunch of orcs.

Another Halfling Pic

This past Sunday, I posted my favorite halfling pic.  Jayson, made a comment about a similar pic in the Moldvay basic book -- so I went a-looking.

Here it is for your consideration:

A nice pic with solid archetypes.  There's something kind of "Otus-ian" about the Fighter's helmet that I like.  The halfling certainly isn't at all rotund.  The thief is a little too shady -- almost looks like a cultist -- for me, but that's personal preference.  

Monday, June 7, 2010

Wilderness Alphabet Book: Status Update

Progress is being made...

Many sections are done.  Only four need to be started.  All the rest are in progress.

I'm laying out parts of the book as I go in a format for a 6x9 book.  I'm thinking I'll put it out as hardback, trade paperback and pdf when its done.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

My Favorite Halfling Pic

I was playing my first game of 4e yesterday with friends (it's a pretty good tactical game) and we were discussing 4e halflings.  Apparently, they are not the rotund halflings of yore, but instead miniature, proportional, heroic little people.  Kinda like my favorite pic below (from page X6 of the Cook Expert Rules).

Yesterday, I thought the pic was drawn by Willingham, but it's obvious it's Jeff Dee.  Sorry Ryan and Dave.  My bad.

One-Roll Combat Table - Part 2

Please know that this table is untested.  It's just a wild idea that I had -- and that I had to get out of my head.  :)

Here's version 2.0

It occurred to me that as characters and monsters become more powerful, they might have additional "plusses" that may take them off the top of the table (results over 20).  

I figure that should give them the possibility to generate additional damage.

My thought is for every full five points above 20, the attack should generate two more points of damage.  That is reflected in the new chart above.

Of course a "natural 1" or any modified result lower than one is a miss and generates no damage.


Wednesday, June 2, 2010

One-Roll Combat Table

I post this table simply because I was inspired and I had to create it to get it out of my mind.

Anybody else ever have that happen?

Anyway, over at B/X Blackrazor, JB has a cool post about an alternate combat system where you cross reference your character's level with the target's AC and then just roll damage.  No to-hit rolls required.

I like his idea a lot and I plan to use it next time I run a game.

It occurred to me that many gamers likey their d20's.  So why not try to make up a table where you ONLY roll a d20 and you generate a hit and damage from that roll?  

Below you see the rough beginnings of that idea.  You would roll a d20, add any applicable "+" from weapon or high strength and subtract your target's armor bonus.  Thus, you would get an amount of damage between 0 and 6.

I figure that there's a chance that a normal human won't cause any damage when attacking an armored target (or even if their target is unarmored -- they are not good in combat).  Same for monsters less than 1 HD.

I also figure that there comes a time when a character of sufficient level will be able to generate a minimum damage higher than 1.  JB has a different rationale and it makes a lot of sense too.

So, here's the chart for your consideration.  

(Edits 6/3/10)

Additional thoughts -- I would probably have a "natural 1" be a fumble.  The 1 on the chart would be a modified score due to AC or other penalties.  A "natural 20" would probably do 6 points of damage regardless.  Magic weapons might even do more.

I haven't figured out what to do with 2-handed weapons (perhaps a flat damage bonus?)

Weapons in two hands seem like they'd shift the roll according to the penalty but maybe generate a damage bonus as well (smaller than 2h, I'd say)

Just thinking...