Thursday, September 29, 2011

"Finding Stuff" in my games

There's been some talk around the blogs, some by Mike Mearls and Monte Cook especially, about how to handle player vs. character when things are hidden and need to be found.

The system that both of these gentlemen propose is workable, I suppose, but I believe it has a fatal flaw.

The DM.

You see, if characters have a perception of "Good" or "Awesome" or 10 or or whatever, the DM knows what that number IS.

She can set the value of the hidden object to be Above, At or Below the value of the character skill.
Do I want the characters to find the item easily?  Set the value low.
Do I want the characters to roll some dice?  Set the value equal to their ability.
Do I want them to miss the item unless they search?  Set the value high.
In the end, the game is controlled by the DM and she can decide, up front, how the search is going to go...
They find it, they roll some dice to find it or they don't find it.
Here are the ways I work the system and how you might want to work it too.

If I want them to find the item, I just put it out there.  If they say "we search the room," they find the item. Easy peasy.  This is the same as setting the value low.  This seems too easy, I know, but anyone who has been running a game for awhile will attest to the frequency that players forget to search rooms.  Maybe they are running from a monster.  Maybe their characters are hurt.  Maybe they just forget.  This isn't necessarily a gimme, in other words.  :)

If I don't care one way or another, I roll the dice.  A large group of people searching for secret doors (or hidden stuff) can be simulated by one percentile roll.  See this post.  It takes one turn and I roll for wandering monsters.  They can try again if they'd like.  Takes more time and another wandering monster check.

If I want them to work to find the secret, I don't leave it to a random roll.  I rely on player skill in a couple of ways: keywords and puzzles.

Say the secret word and you find the vorpal sword...
Let's say that the key that unlocks the chest is hidden in the teeth of the idol in the corner of the room.  I mention the idol.  They need to ask about the idol.  I'll then describe it in more detail, including the detail about its big teeth.  They need to say that they "touch the teeth" or "search the teeth" or "pull on the teeth" or whatever... if they do, they find the key.


If I want things to be especially challenging, I create puzzle for them to solve.  You might want to use the method I've created for Knockspell #6 (go get a copy!  I don't get any kickbacks!)

I've also used the Soma cube puzzle (got it from my Grandpa years ago...)

Lastly, you can actually create a procedure that the players must describe their characters performing.
For example, in a recent game, there was an engraved displacer beast carved into the wall around a secret door.  The secret door was apparent to the elves in the party (I rolled dice) but it wouldn't open.  The players said they would search the other walls in the room.  Lo and behold, kitty-corner (!) from the displacer beast was another displacer beast carving.  Pressing upon the tentacles of the second carving opened the secret door behind the first.
Well, that's how I do things. YMMV.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Slimes, Jellies and Puddings -- PAINTED!

Here they are.  I vlogged about making these here.

I painted them up as 4 large black puddings, 4 medium/small sized green slimes and five small ochre jellies.

Here are some pics:
You dumb, dead bastard... 

I painted them with their primary color and then layered on other colors using drybrushing techniques.  After they were dry, I put on a layer of matte finish to protect the paint.  I'm not a great painter, but these turned out pretty well.  

They don't really have any odor at all now.  The paint sealed the "plastic".

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Daffy Duck on the Borderlands

If you haven't already seen this, watch it now:  (hat tip to Dr. Rotwang!)

Near the end of the video, Daffy is flying on a dragon over a keep.  Here's a pic of the keep:
click to embiggen
Does that castle/keep layout look familiar to anyone else?

How about now?

Monday, September 19, 2011

Now THAT'S Quality Control

So, I get a post in my blog reader from WotC...

New 4e info about Sahuagin and Kuo-Toa.  I'm not a big 4e fan.  I don't even know why I still have my WotC membership, but I click over.

"Maybe there's a little hunk of inspiration I can (ahem) borrow for MMMM," I'm thinking.

When I get there, I see this:


Neither of these articles are about Kuo-Toa or Sahuagin...  If you click on them, they are about Foulspawn and Grimlock...

Oh well.  Where's the button to cancel?

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Ant, Giant Glue

Num. Enc: 2-8
Align: N
Move: 180' (60')
AC: 3
HD: 2
Attacks: 1
D/Att: 1d8
Save: F2
Morale: 8
Hoard Class: VI
XP: 80

When near death (1 or 2 HPs left) the giant glue ant wrenches its body in in half, rupturing a sac filled with an orange glue.

The glue sprays out in a cone onto all targets within 5'.  They must save TWICE.  If the first save is failed, the target is blinded until alcohol or some other solvent can be used to remove the glue.  If the second save is failed, roll d6 on the following chart:
1 - random arm is glued to torso; 
2 - random leg is glued to floor; 
3 - legs are glued together (hopping is possible); 
4 - clothing/armor is glued to body; 
5 - objects in hands are glued to hands; 
6 - ant has glued itself to target (200 gpw of encumbrance, -1 on all DEX related actions/AC, effects are cumulative) 
Inspired by this actually real creature at i09

Friday, September 16, 2011

Knockspell #6

Matt Finch has just released Knockspell #6!

It is AWESOME!  so go and get yourself a copy!  

I wrote a little article about using dice as a mini-game for thieves/rogues/etc.  It's really old school, because it challenges the player (primarily) with a little help from the character.

If you decide to try out my little system -- you might want to grab this larger PNG image and print one out for the player.  Enjoy!
click to embiggen and download!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Card Sleeve Geomorph Dungeons

As you all know, I'm a fan of DIY gamer bling like normal items, magic items, weapons, etc.  I really like and I encourage you to head on over there.

Well, I've got some of those 9 card sheet protectors (I used them back in the days when I was playing M:tG) and my players have been using them to organize their magic items.

"If you don't have the card, you don't have the item..."

It occurred to me today that I could use these same sheets to organize a dungeon made of geomorphs!

My first attempt involved using Goodman Games DCC #9 Dungeon Geomorphs -- here they are in their sheet.
You can buy the PDF file over at Paizo and when you print it, scale it to 78% (that's approximately 2.5" x 3.5")  These geomorphs are already rectangular, so they fit nicely in the pockets at this size.  I recommend using cardstock; the thin paper is sometimes hard to slip into the pockets.

If you are using geomorphs from Risus Monkey or Dyson Logos, you can always take their images and drag them into a Word (or similar) doc.  From there you can resize them to the appropriate size.
I think that building a dungeon in this manner might make it easier to make changes.  If your dungeon is a mythic underworld, just swap out a geomorph or two each time the party enters.  You can also rotate them 108° easily to confuse parties of adventurers.