Monday 28 January 2019

making of the new shit #2: Abstract and non-abstract. Wall of text incoming, without any practical application as of yet.

This is me using this blog as a notepad, writing wild just to see what happens and maybe power up this trip to the game I talked about in the previous entry.

This post doesn't intend to be anywhere close to the game itself. But taking in account the rules exposed before, let's check what kind of things must be taken into account in a rulebook. Any others will kindly be discarded into the primal void. When in doubt, for purely maniac reasons, i'll try to tend to the minimalism.

STATS: binary: you're either strong or you are not. There is no need for further gradation. If anybody could take down a door because is very weak, just roll to see if you do it in time. If the door is sturdy as fuck, only STRONG characters can apply. Equally with dexterity: every character is equal until there is a substantial difference where you can walk over tree branches like if they were a dance floor. Then we can say you're Dexterous. As i've seen, its done like that in Pits & Perils: they act more like allowing certain actions than as bonus (though of course they can still give +1's or whatever). We could see them as "skills" or "items" (ie: Dexterity is an object that allows you to walk over branches)
So in this case, abstraction is a YES. No need to know which PC would win in arm-westle, they can settle that fighting in person.

SKILLS: They can work binary too. You either know medicine or you don't. You either know swordfight or you don't. Maybe they can be mixed with stats in the character generator engine.
The main issue will be figuring out how to handle things that should stack with each other:
(skill: polearms and skill: strenght should stack when fighting? maybe only with heavy weapons? would that make them too powerful? we'll figure it out later)

MISSIONS: there must be a pre-written list or some kind of generator. The game is about hunting bandits and maybe stolen treasures, with potential plot twists. Hell, we can do a d20 table for 20 bandits, 20 stolen items, 20 things you know about them and 20 things you don't (your gm rolls here)
As I intend combat to be symetrical and as exent from GM fiat as possible, I need the character sheets to be very small so I can create enemies very fast and, if possible, randomly (so back to the previous point). I love random tables that have multiple colums that interact with each other and are fucking well intertwined to the point they generate cool shit that even its author is amazed at their oracular power. I have to figure out one of those. (abstraction here is a NO! workin hard is a YES)

CASH: I honestly like abstract wealth. It spares me from the work of figuring out how much a jar of honey and a quiver of arrows should cost, and comparing it to how much a prize should be worth for capturing a bandit alive or dead depending on his/her crime. Probably i should adapt this shit i made ages ago (Abstract: YES)

INVENTORY: I don't know when it was the first time I started considering the concept of quantum gear (basically, you have slots of gear on your inventory and when you're in need of something, you either declare what it is or roll to see if you have it. Maybe is after I saw a G+ guy called Joe Banner do it in a Dungeon World Lite game. I just loved it at first sight. Well, it doesn't work here, at least a priori. As I stated in the other entry, I want to make gear and its use the primary resource available to players to approach obstacles. Of course, a level of abstraction is inevitable (I can't cover in how many ways can a bubblegum be used ever). But there has to be a list of equipment. In fact I want various lists:
a) the common equipment that everybody can buy at the start
b) rare equipment that can only be bought in special shops (ninja tricks can only be found in ninja shops!)
c) treasure! Special or magic items are things that cannot be bought, ever. They can be traded for money or be kept around for their unique abilities.

In any case, their workings in game must be detailed enough so both players and enemies can use them fairly with the same rules. Keep in mind that the setting is not medieval, but rather a clumsy mix of feudal samurai post-whatever land filled with isolated mad scientists and that if the players find a gun that shoots ensnaring fishnets, there must be rules for that somehow: not necessarily realistic, but fair.  

On Quantum Gear: I can see it on cases of micromanagement (whats inside a doctor bag? what's inside a roll of carpentry tools?) but no more. MAYBE make a case for "thief tools" but that sounds like the most overpowered object ever in a game like this.

(abstraction in here: next to none)

Also of course, encumbrance rules!
WEAPONS: Maybe something like (heavy/polearm/ranged/sword/close); or maybe taking the opposite approach and fully stat the most ubiquitous weapons in the inventory section (and, from there, all new weapons should compare with the stated ones). I don't want to get much into weapon distinction : If a spear has reach and does d6 damage, it works like that for everyone, and every spear-like weapon is functionally a spear.

Here comes the twist: the tone of the game is not deadly by necessity and bandits can be taken alive to the authorities. Making non-lethal damage must be a choice that PCs can take even with deadly weapons. Also non-lethal weapons like solid foam bombs have to be effective; and they might even double as unexpected tools

SCIENCE: Of course, players might not be able to accurately describe how they repair the robot, so a level of abstractness is required for that. I worked rules before for "quantum inventions" in which the players declared what they wanted to have worked on lately (a radar, a robot, etc) and it appeared on their inventories on a favorable roll. Now i'd like to make it different but still usable: maybe making them build it in causal order (state what you want, then spend time to build it) but reducing enough the building time so PCs can afford to stay overnight in an inn and spend piles of junk (a buyable item) to craft an infravision glasses (you could also buy them in a shop, if you find one, of course, and spending much more money!). A PC that can craft shit is much more useful if the game encourages inventory as the great equalizer, so I'm greatly interested on seeing if this can work. Also probably I should differentiate between types of Crafty Guys, even if they end up making the same shit and role (medicine man and clockwork man are different things, though they use different reagents. Maybe the doctor can also brew an Infravision potion. I don't know. Maybe there can be still lists and crafting a substitute for something that is in the other guy's list is harder to do and works slightly different. I don't know yet. But as this is tied to inventory, the rules should be very tight!)

So, for now the booklet consists in:

* Character sheet (SKILLS+INVENTORY. If there is HP or equivalent, it should be tied to "time since you have been adventuring" or other level sinonym, and could be use as a way to add granularity in a combat where two Swordmen fight one against the other)
* Skill list
* Inventory list
* Secret Inventory lists
* Rules for crafting more inventory
* Simple combat rules that add nothing to balance the fights to the PCs side
* Mission generator

Friday 25 January 2019

Design Objectives 4 the new shit

After one year thinking about it, I think I've finally found some core principles I want to design around, in my quest for making th3 be5t RPG oF 4ll t1Me. I've more or less already set the guidelines on many of the older posts, and I'm always somehow thinking about it, in the back of my mind. I've decided to lay the foundations here in a simple list just to check them when I'm going astray.

#1 The game is basically its cowboy bebop but on a weird-tech-but-fantasy land. And, as the author explains on this awesome article: "Bebop's structure is simple: 1. there's a new bounty, 2. the gang goes after the bounty, 3. the gang doesn't get rich". The latter can be solved by making the party spend money on new gear or by making keeping that money safe a quest on itself. The loop is the loop. Then, while they are distracted by it, me as a GM will push the background of the characters and whatever worldbuilding I have through the very current mission, up to the point in which a story is presented to them in the shape of a bounty.

#2 Though this loop is very akin to D&D "kill monsters, retrieve treasure, get XP", the tone is different from sword and sorcery, and much more anime-esque. Most of the time, the fights are man vs man. There are four tiers of contenders: Common civilians < Soldiers and Mooks < Skilled fighters < Insanely good fighters, probably tengu.
Fighting a guy in your tier is always uncertain and you better get some advantage. A guy over your tier can probably one-punch you.
(A mook can never touch Mugen or Spike, unless they are in numbers AND EVEN THEN)

#3 VERY VERY IMPORTANT: Combat rules must be symetrical. This means that there are no special rules for PCs, and that they work mechanically identical to NPCs. I hate when games do shit like "In case of doubt, PCs always attack first" or "For ambushing, PCS roll stealth, and, for preventing an ambush, PCs again roll to prevent surprise". PCs rolling for everything is the main thing I found upsetting in World of Dungeons (my previous game crush). Also, it completely needs PVP combat to have special rules and PVP is always present in my games.
To complete this, the GM should have little power on bending rules towards any side: Combat rules must be fair and square, and the victory or defeat of the PCs or NPCs should never be saved by a GM's whim. (Even though for the sake of tone, we can say that vanquished enemies are debilitated instead of dead, just like pokemon, if it fits the scene)

#4 Inventory is the god of this game. Your character sheet might give you one or two special things (are you very strong? do you know any kendo?) But what you have on yourself must be the real thing to worry here. What do you choose to carry and buy? What can you forage or steal around? Can you find the sellers of the specific items you want in this city? Is even legal in this town to deal with smoke bombs or poison? Making a normal civilian (or a non fighter) in this game means that you have to think ways around combat if you ever find one (refer to #2). You might not even be able to roll when fighting a samurai (how could you even touch him?) But you always should be able to speak with him (roleplay!) throw sand to his eyes (roll!) or offer him a carved wooden board to see if he can decipher a message that leads to a treasure. It might take a while for him to discern that both sides of it we're covered in glue, and that now he is virtually handcuffed.

#5 Playing a non combat character in a world filled with terrible fighters must be interesting enough for players to choose those classes. This might seem like an oxymoron, but they are a staple in the genre. Ed in Cowboy Bebop, Fuu in Samurai Champloo, Bulma in early Dragon Ball. Bubblegum Princess in AT; etc. I have something for scientists as a class. Some inventory objects might even require a specialized guy to work them to their full potential.

So, in short:

- Bountyhunters in a self-aware loop.
- Very definite power levels and status quo.
- Clever use of gear is a way to bypass it.
- Impartial rules that admit little bending.
- And also, as rules light as it gets!

Wednesday 17 January 2018

a fair summon spell

In the recent times, I've been trying to come up for rules for summoning.

So you give a wizard a summoning spell and what happens?

If the scope of it is too narrow (you can summon this specific demon that does X) it becomes just a hireling or even a piece of equipment.

If the scope is too wide, you have to bargain with the GM what you can do and what you cannot. How many HP can the demon have? how much light can produce, and which color? can he pick a lock? can he summon other demons?

Usually, I don't have much problem with the last option, but for the sake of grognard's folly designer's challenge I want to come up with some rules that define it's boundaries.

I wish my dogs could be summoned so easy

The first idea that I had (as seen on previous games on this blog) was to have every wizard to have a number of bonds they could call; probably a number equal or tied to the CHA mod.

This bonds could be to things to be found in game (an animal, a talking flame, a magic item, a lake, etc) and when you summon it, is that thing's force which exerts the action, or impersonates in some form. It stills leaves open things as "how much damage/hp" but can be done in the World of Dungeons style (1d6 damage, +1d6 if is specially suited to the occasion). Which for HP would be like (roll 2d6, on doubles you get armor or something).

A bond can be broken at anytime in order to bond another thing, but you need to be in the presence of the thing to get a bond, and get a friendly reaction (use reaction rules and roleplay as needed)

I like this way because the interaction with the environment reminds me of one of my fantasy staples: The Loom videogame (where you had to walk around finding spells in things)

Loom (1989) remember lucasfilm???

But it still has too many moving pieces. ¿ How many turns last? which kind of skills does a lake have? what shit you need to befriend to pick a lock for you? :S

The second idea is much more codified:

When you summon something, take your game's equipment sheet and get the item that matches your choosing. Yes, even hirelings. Yes, even the Mansion. It takes as much HP to summon as the item's cost/10, and whatever you summon has an otherworldy flair on it. Weapons do their equivalent damage in spell (a bow is a magic missile), OR you can summon the real deal for a while, if you're proficent on it.
Very expensive things might take decades to summon, little by little. Or you might call some Expert Kobold Hirelings to build that galley for you.

Opinions, Ideas, Suggestions, etc are all welcome!

from World of Dungeons. Into the Odd's one also feels very appropiate for this approach.

Tuesday 28 November 2017

1d6 tactical combat

on how to make combat have lots of choices with the simplest mechanics I can come up with. This is all so "in the air" yet, so these are just guidelines. I'm not claiming to have invented anything here or anything, I'm just taking a coffee and improvising to see how complex can one make combat from simple rules.

1. Both combatants roll 1d6 against each other, the highest one deals difference in damage to the other. Armor (+2 being rare and +3 monster-only) substracts damage after that. Probably hp for everyone should not ever be higher than 4 or 5 in order to make this not too endless. By the nature of this mechanics, commonly attacks among equal combatants will deal 0 to 2 damage; more being very weird chances. This makes up for tactics #1: Lots of times to look how the battle is going and ponder: when to run and when to keep on fighting?

2. Unless having an obvious ambush/surprise, there are no initiative rolls. So this makes up for the next point: ambush always. Attacking an unaware opponent let's you deal your damage straight. Having 5 HP as the total maximum means that you can potentially kill anyone with a lucky strike (not a cigarette)

3. Strenght modifier or equivalent adds to melee rolls. A little difference of strenght can make a great difference in combat, so if you're engaging an opponent who is visibly stronger than you, you better have a different advantage in mind.

4. Fighter class/feat/whatever can re-roll after they've seen their opponent's result; but only a determined number of times per day or combat; probably taken from their level or wisdom mod. This leaves in the hands of the player when to do it. The lowest the opponent's result, the higher chance of dealing a fatal blow. You can also potentially drive away a fatal blow directed at yourself. To even this, of course, monsters with trained fighting skills should have this ability on occassions. If this ability looks too small, we can alternativelly change to "add their roll" instead of just re-rolling.

5. Two persons engaging in combat with a third roll separately and keep the better result. Should the third person win, s/he deals the damage to any combatant s/he chooses.

6. Thieves (or anybody who has a nice dex and wants to take this chance, IDK) can just try to dodge a hit after the results have been shown. This is a binary check: either dodge or not, against their dex or whatever. If they pass, they can flee or attempt an action, no harm received. If they fail, they receive full damage. Having a shield or similar gives you the bonus here; but armor penalizes it. If you have to fight a swordsman and you're bare-handed, you HAVE to dodge first or think a way around this (maybe taking a tavern stool and hurling it at the guy, in which case we get into the next point:)

7. Ranged combat is modelled after all this premise, so let's see how well we can adapt it and still make sense: Roll 1d6 when you fire an arrow: that's the damage you deal; but on a 5 or a 6, you miss the shot. Dexterity adds to damage if dealt, or str if we're talking about the tavern stool from the previous point. Having expertise/being a fighter/ranger/or whatever still let's you re-roll as in melee attacks. On the improbable case of a duel, only the highest damage is dealt; as is considered to be also the one who shot first.

8. Magic works just like melee combat, but adding CHA instead of str, opponent rolls + CHA to resist it. On 0 hp, the opponent starts feeling drowsy, is charmed, whatever. Bypasses armor. Offensive spells work like ranged combat.

I don't know if I'll make something out of all this or not; but I'll leave it here in case I do. All thoughts on this are welcome!

Thursday 9 November 2017

1d6 osr ultra lite + small dungeon

All rolls are made with 1d6; max level on any class is 4.
All weapons do d6 damage, you don't roll to hit, armor reduces damage.
Start with d6 hp, every rest re-roll and take the highest amount.

* fighter: you get +lvl damage and hp, chance of hitting first (if your enemy has the initiative) or number of targets you can hit on a single strike
* thief: +level chance to nimble stunts; +level uses/day of ninja tricks (log decoy, hidden weapons, perfect camouflage, a shadow double and smoke bombs)
* mage: 1+level chance in 6 of perceiving auras/scrying/casting, and lvl spells:

1. bless (mend things, bar a place, +d6 hp, +1 armor or damage, hide somone),
2. summon (Can be physical or an ethereal force; will perform an minor act or deal d6 damage and go on it's own way. Choose one: can perform greater magic; has a useful ability or you retain control after the summon (so you can banish it without effort or ask for another favor)
3. tame (roll a d6 and match target's HP: on a success, its confused, charmed or asleep. Else, deal that amount of weariness damage),
4. morph. (you get an alternate shape: it can be animal, plant-like, gaseous, monstruous or other. In this shape you get a weird related ability or +d6 temporal hp; OR you can choose to be a monster, who can morph as a human *o*)

Spells drain 1 hp; 3 on a failure. Reaching 0 HP might give the magical forces control over you.

All non-covered checks:

1 in 6 chance for difficult things
4 in 6 chance for common stunts or anything covered by your background 

1. noble/knight
2. woodsman
3. bard
4. investigator
5. doctor
6. crafter/artificer

Duplicate results: 7. MONSTER

(You can roll to see if a specific background - related object is in your person)

Awesome art by Bob Pepper

* roll 1d6 for each dungeon encounter and start counting from the Gold Square. Then, you count from the last result that came up. 
* If something seems too easy, roll again and add the result to the situation. If something feels played out, cross it and do not count it in further exploration.

* The first time victory comes up, it's a magical artifact. The second, it means that there is no more dungeon to explore.

*What exactly the rest of the squares mean is up to you.

*Alternativelly, print this image and cut through the black lines. Shuffle the 12 resulting cards and use them as random encounters. After the game, you'll also have lots of pretty cards lying around, and can even gift them to your players. You'll never be sorry to print something so badass.

EDIT: You can also check the french version of this game! courtesy of Bruno Bord.

Saturday 28 October 2017

Dungeon Crawler as an urban tribe

Something I had on my mind for a while; I'll try to put it into words in case I can make something with it later.

The game/story centers around school kids on a modern town; and how they come in contact with the guild of dungeon crawlers: a mysterious gang of kids that speak about spooky, awesome underworld. Their stories are actually true. They've heard about a dungeon hiding somewhere. Just take any One Page Dungeon and put it on one of this:

(1. right under your school - 2. On a nearby forest, where the whole school is going next week on a trip - 3. Beyond your weird grandma's cellar - 4. On one of your uncles car junk lot. - 5. On the town's supposedly abandoned mansion - 6. Under a lost bridge, behind the industrial part of town)

Not all dungeons have to be under earth; every spooky or abandoned place is likely to have dungeon-like propierties: that's why they're abandoned or unconsciously avoided by normals. Also, some portals to dungeons might open in common places if one finds out how

You get your class at the start; just like that: fighter (though you depend on a specific kind of weapon depending on your background, because kids aren't usually trained on swordmanship), specialist (that kid that knows a lot about a certain thing, you can produce things from your bag that are related to your specialty) or mage (if you're a wizard, you'll probably discover it the first time you get in a dungeon). Use the rules of any dungeon game you normally use, but for the sake of tone, getting to 0 hp means that kids are unconscious and might need to be rescued.

Magic exists, but it only works in dungeons. When attempted on the surface, it acts dulled at best; and is easily dismissed by non-dungeoneers as tricks or sleight of hand. This happens to magic objects and, to a lesser degree, to any kind of treasure you recover from there. When a monster manages to escape from a dungeon, it's powers get subtler and must rely more on invisibility/stealth/cunning.

Normal people treats dungeon crawlers like they did with Goth Kids, Bronies, Emos, etc IRL: they mock them and despise their stories; attributing them to imagination. They're outcasts among kids, while the fashion trends awkwardly tries to appeal to them making artists and clothes about dungeons that miss entirely the point of what dungeons are about.

PC party getting back to the underworld after recovering HP

The underworld raw power of dungeons prevents cellphones and cameras from working, and jams most electronical devices. This prevents you from taking a selfie with a wight to prove your adventures to your friends. The most complex devices might even get hostile towards their wielders (your spotify list is suddently filled with hate messages from your loved ones; a GPS will lead you to the nearest chasm. Lanterns are usually OK, but you can never be sure if they're going to treacherously shut down right as you get into the troll's lair)

Dungeon subculture spreads mainly through drawings (mistaken by kid's edgy art), logs (mistaken as fanfic), grimoires (mistaken as new age books) and chansons de geste about their expeditions (mistaken for incredibly deep metaphors for teenage angst). Due to the inevitable impossibility of talking about dungeon experiences with normal people, there is a strong sense of comraderie between dungeoneers; though of course there are dicks who try to prevent new people from getting into it ("this kids only delve because they want to be cool, we old school delvers have been delving all the summer break and we know what dungeoning it's about"), tricksters ("treasure inspector, may I see your treasure?") and phonies ("Have you been to dungeon X?" yeah. "Dungeon Y?" yeah. "Dungeon Z?" yeah. "I've actually made up the last two" y- y- yeahhhhh of course I knew that)

* Beware: Deep speech ahead! *

Dungeons may appear anywhere; and they do not have any kind of supernatural cover up or anything (In fact, most of them might want to be noticed in order to grow). The only thing that prevents common people from knowing the magical reality is their very own drive to deny everything that clashes with their confort zone. The very zealotry of modern science (understood as denying weird options rather than acknowledging the unknown in order to investigate it) and the importance given to what society thinks we must instead of embracing the mystery of life is what keeps normal surfacers from the twisted horrors and treasures of the underworld. The importance of seeing the truth for oneself is a good theme to be enforced here.

Should a mountaineer discover the tomb of an atlantean king; the headlights on the news would be "Mountaineer goes crazy, pics from the madhouse on page 49" and handwave the whole tomb location automatically, is not like anyone is going to double check it; except dungeon delving kids who know where to read between the lines. No matter how many half-assed proofs you'll present or how good you are convincing people: No one will ever ever believe that dungeons exist unless they either see something strange with their own eyes (and cannot succesfully deny it using a weak pseudoscientific explanation) or really, really want to see a dungeon for some reason.

(If you're using a system that tracks sanity, maybe you need to be under a certain threshold to be operative on a dungeon)

there are those who have trouble adapting to a normal world after they've found the hobby

unexpected twists:

1 - you find out your mother never left you; she was in fact a fairy unable to escape the dungeon, but left you on the surface world to be raised as a human by your father.
2 - you're arranged in matrimony with a merfolk king of the underground sea. He'll whisper love letters to you through any kind of sink you visit.
3 - That mysterious fire that burnt the sawmill that year? a giant fire salamander. That earthquake? a troll
4 - proofs that one or many from this shirt are false.
5 - Goblins kidnap you or somebody you love in order to force you to become their king.
6 - An evil force wants to destroy the whole town in order to expand the dungeon into the surface.

example adventure hook

Thursday 5 October 2017

Troll trifle at the Goatherd Inn

A storm is about to rage, and the PCs are on their way to a nearby Inn.

They find a man riding on the opposite way. If asked, he had a room booked back there, but he isn't spending the night under that roof; not after what they've just brought in. The baron and his men, who had went hunting deers, have hunted a troll instead and they've hung its head on the wall; like a trophy. But that thing still looks alive.

"I don't care if you laugh at me" Says the hurried man. "They all did already. I'm fine with getting soaked"

Night is upon you as you reach the tavern's light. Around the fire, some drink and make jokes under the sight of the hairy, growling head. The young Baron and his hunting party are celebrating, and being cliché dicks in general.

The inn's keeper isn't very pleased with this, but hey, It's money. His wife actually wants to burn the head on the fireplace as soon as the baron is drunk enough.

How will the baron's men react when this happens? Could the baron be persuaded the morning after that actually he did it, last night, in a brave intent for defending everybody when the head started moving and attacking them all?

Merchants and their families, pilgrims and shepards take turns to watch it from afar; some of the bravest kids touching it even, trying to impress their audience.

A lone hunter (a local, not one of the baron's thralls) doesn't drink. He's tense and crossed. Should you befriend him he'll tell you about that one time that he found a troll's hand in the woods. It crawled and stumbled around just like a big, wounded bear would; until it jumped and tried to reach him. He shot his arrows in awe until the thing stopped, just like it had to catch some breath. Then he actually saw something bigger approaching: the very troll had followed the trail of his hand, and he grabbed it with the other and put it back on the stump; and the wound magically sealed in a whim. Later he found out that the troll had got his hand cut off by a bear trap he had set.

Will you believe him? Would you spend the night in there? Which measures would you take if you did?

The troll is actually watching the scene, and concentrating all his might into trying to drive his massive body towards the inn (he'll succeed at some point!); tear the roof apart and get his head back. Then eat everybody out of spite and anger.

Did the baron really cut the troll's head, or did he just found it at the base of a canyon? How will he react when this happens? What about his hunting party?

What do you know about trolls? Do you know what injures them, what repels them, how they track you? How tall do you think the troll was, based on the head size?
Will it be able to smell you in the forest, in the darkness and under a raging storm?
Will you stand to protect the innocent when the troll comes?

credits: the troll severed hand story is taken straight from arnold K's bestiary! the picture from the Trollhunter movie.