Wednesday, 28 October 2015

1d40 famous goblins.

Roll in this table for a goblin name. 
Personality: They will always act like they've taken a whole lot of the drug of the same name, or otherwise like they would really benefit from it (whatever it feels more Goblin!)

1. Acetaminophen
2. Adderall
3. Alprazolam
4. Amitriptyline
5. Amlodipine
6. Amoxicillin
7. Ativan
8. Atorvastatin
9. Azithromycin
10. Ciprofloxacin
11. Citalopram
12. Clindamycin
13. Clonazepam
14. Codeine
15. Cyclobenzaprine
16. Cymbalta
17. Doxycycline
18. Gabapentin
19. Hydrochlorothiazide
20. Ibuprofen
21. Lexapro
22. Lisinopril
23. Loratadine
24. Lorazepam
25. Losartan
26. Lyrica
27. Meloxicam
28. Metformin
29. Metoprolol
30. Naproxen
31. Omeprazole
32. Oxycodone
33. Pantoprazole
34. Prednisone
35. Tramadol
36. Trazodone
37. Viagra
38. Wellbutrin
39. Xanax
40. Zoloft

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Gaming the Kingkiller's Chronicles (some mild spoilers)

I got a job with a very fucked up schedule (cook at a restaurant, morning and evening) so reading is the only hobby I can afford right now. I've re-readed the whole two Kingkiller Chronicles books (no release date for the third one yet!) and the more I readed, the more I realized how much gameable this setting was.

The world itself is not something too alien: All-human fantasy world with kingdoms and that, the most advanced weapons being ballistas; though the science levels at the University (the most civilized city on the land) reach XIX - XX century levels on the fields of medicine, chemistry, physics, philosophy, etc.

As a surprising twist in an otherwise sober setting, there is a parallel Fae World in which stray wanderers can step on moonless nights. This fae world (which is, in Kvothe's words, as different of ours like an empty room feels different from a room where someone else is sleeping) is summed in a strange stasis where there are day zones, dusk zones and night zones, and hints of stranger things.

The nice things come mainly from the magic system; which is, in fact, a compendium of many different arts, each one with their own set of rules (some of them are better fleshed out than others, but their rules are very clear and make perfect sense through the books). As far as I can remember, the list goes:

1. Sympathy: This is the main "magic" used by Kvothe and his pals through the books, and is constantly regarded by him as being "not magical" at all, but a complex way of manipulating energy. Sympathy consists in using one's power of belief (called Alar in the books) to "link" two similar things together, in a way that whatever you do to one thing happens to the other (you have also to speak a verbal gibberish for it to work, never explained why, but it sounds like magic to me). All kinds of energy can be transferred this way: heat, movement, illumination, even magnetical propierties. Expert arcanists can even transform movement into heat and viceversa. This magic obeys three basic rules:

The Doctrine of Correspondence: Similarity enhances sympathy. Linking similar things like two coins works better than linking a coin and a piece of chalk: the efficiency of the link is increased.
The Principle of Consanguinity: A piece of a thing can represent the whole of a thing: take a leaf of the tree and burn it, and you can burst the whole tree in flames. Thats why you should never let an arcanist get a drop of your blood.
The Law of Conservation: Energy cannot be destroyed nor created: If you link two coins and lift one of them, the other will float accordingly in the air, but the coin you have in your hand will weight like both of them because you're actually lifting both.On weaker links (like coins and chalk) the link is weak like a pipe with leakages, so the coin will weight ten times more. The extra energy consumed dissipates both in the air, the objects and the arcanist's body, so making bad links can have very dangerous consequences.

Taking this to game terms, what I love about sympathy is that the rules are simple enough to anyone to understand, but the effects rely on the player's wits: You want to burn that sentinel alive? well, you might take a fiber of wool and link it to his clothes, then set it alight on a candle... but that would not be very harmful. Maybe you'll need a bonfire. Maybe it would be safer to get some of his blood first and throw it to the fire. You want to light your cigarette and you're out of lighters? just take some heat from your body and concentrate it on the cigarrette tip, though this can leave you with a severe case of hypotermia (happens several times on the books).

The thing is: you can do almost everything providing you have a good idea, a good link and a reliable source of energy, or you're desperate enough to try desperate means. This is the kind of things I enjoy to do as a player, and puts all the thinking work into the hands of the magician (just like in the real life man!)

2. Sygaldry

Sygaldry is Sympathy made solid: Instead of the Alar, it uses a set of 197 runes that, through word chains, apply sympathic powers to objects. Examples are the ubiquitous sympathic lamps that transform the heat of the wielder's hand into light (until the metal is too hot and ceases working until refreshed) or Kvothe's arrowcatcher (a modified beartrap that sets off and repels an arrow flying on a 6 meter radius). Worn out runes have strange effects (like the cooler on the Anker's tavern). You can also make yourself a personal gram, an device to repel all sympathy done against you as long as you press it against your skin.

3. Alchemy:

Not fully explained, but we are constantly reminded that alchemy is TOTALLY NOT like chemistry, but they are instead two different things. Alchemical compounds are totally radical and their effects are strangely harrypotteresque (like turning piss to candy, or dissolving one's bones without hurting the skin and the clothes)

4. Naming

Regarded by the characters as "true magic from the myths", this discipline is about finding the true name of something (the wind, the fire, the stone, a person) and compelling it to do your bidding. In fact, the names are everchanging, so the thing is not knowing the name but achieving the ability to find it when you're in need of it. This seems easier to do on "edge" moments, when you're between life and death or something like that. Is very exceptional for an arcanist to know a single name, let alone more than one, and to do so one must feel a natural affinity for that thing; to be able to appreciate every possible aspect of it's nature. Elodin, the master namer, states that one can not explain it all much better than one can explain the colors to the blind, or music for the deaf.

5. Knacks

Some people are born with them. Like that man at the beggining who always rolls seven in every dice, even if he stumbles with a table with dice on them, they mark always seven. Or the odd ability for a woman to always grow giant fruits on her yard. You just roll for them at character creation, yo!

6. Grammarie and Glammourie

These seem to be both fae arts (and this means that they're considered arts more than magic), though is hinted by Bast that humans can do them too, most of the time unwillingly.
Glammourie is the art of making things seem. Like when a fae makes his hooves look like a nice pair of boots (book 1). Subtle changes are easier than drastic ones. Is easier to make an orange look like a lemon than like a car, for example. As Bast (a fae) explains, "when one plays a role must be careful not to believe it too much, or will become the role. If one tells an ugly woman that she's pretty, and convinces her not only with words, but with your acts, she'll become pretty and everyone will see it"

Grammarie is the art of making things be. Like when a fae weaves a shadow into a cloak form, and gives you a cloak made of pure shadow (book 2). As in Glammourie, certain traits must be assumed from the raw material for the final product to be made: a Cloak must conceal you, so you make if from shadows (because they conceal you). You have a knife that is very dear for you because sentimental reasons; well, grammarie makes that knife actually better for everyone because it was better for you (+1 to hit!). That's what happens when you make a gift to someone in good will, with a good intention: you charge it with a little grammarie. If a fae gives you a crown of flowers filled with grammarie, they will stay fresh and alive longer than if you find them on the road, because they put their heart in it.

So this is all as far as I remember. I'm thinking on taking this magic system (and the fae dimension thing: I have a strange love for the idea taking the wrong road at the turn and getting inside another world) and shoehorning it into a new, blank world. Or maybe mix it with my Twin Peaks-western idea. But that will be on next post.

Until then, I'd like to recommend this saga to any fantasy lovers, go read it RIGHT NOW, because there is a TV series in the making, and you should enjoy the reading before it's contaminated with hollywood actor's faces and tons of merchandising for hipsters! The book is about a guy who is good at everything, but strangely you get to love him. Seriously, is amazing.

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

HP bad romance part II

In the last post I sketched an HP-less version. Now, I'll try to come up with a system using Hit Points but in which the PCs are not HP tanks and can charge into battle knowing that they can take a determinated amount of shots before considering getting behind cover.

Assume World of Dungeons resolution system (2d6+ attribute ranging from -1 to 3. 6- is a fail, 7-9 a success at a cost, 10-11 is a success, 12+ is a critical hit where damage is doubled)

All PCs get 1d6 HP+half their level (round up) bringing the natural HP range of the PCs from 2 to 11. This die is re-rolled everytime they rest.
Whenever they have a confortable rest at a safe place or prepare a magical kettle pot of coffee (see previous entry), they can automatically set the result to 6.

Fists, slings and such do 1d6 non lethal damage (if an enemy is left at 0 hp is considered knocked out)
Proper weapons such as revolvers, bows and knives do 2d6 damage
Big weapons such as rifles or dynamite do 3d6 damage

Shooting behind cover grants you +1 armor

Once your HP are 0 or less, you can always make a CON roll to see if you're still breathing. If you pass it, you are left at 1 HP instead. On a 7-9, you are unconscious or something.

At creation, players can pick traits to make them deadlier:
Trollskin: +1 armor.
Berserkr: you can engage on a trance that gives you +2 armor, but you risk acting driven by this rage
Warrior: when using your favored kind of weapon (fists/blunt/guns/daggers/magical) you add half your level to the damage
Tough: you get 1d6+your level instead of half your level
Survivor: You can always roll to resists all kinds of poison or sicknesses
Hobo: no matter where you rest, it always counts as a confortable rest to you
Lots of other non-combat skills also available.

Monsters get HP and damage based on their assumed toughness:
Common person: 1d6 hp
Mook: 2d6 hp
Tough bastard: 3d6 hp,
Legendary shooter: +1d6 damage.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Hit points bad romance

I'm sketching a thing this days; a game set on a permanent Twin Peakesque mystery; which will also draw a lot of themes and technology from the Western genre. I'll probably use the AW approach, I just like it too much to try anything new (2d6+mods, 6- is trouble, 7-9 a partial success and 10+ is a hit). But, on the combat matters, I've been drawn to an old dilemma I get whenever I make anything: HP or not HP?

On one side, I love the simplicity of Health Points: There is a fight: you roll high, you roll damage; you roll too bad, you're the damaged. They're fair and clear and admit no discussion: everyone knows the stakes.
Also, being that I love taking characters camping in dark woods, is very easy to reward good roleplaying by using HP and World of Dungeons rules: You didn't bother to buy a tent, or trying to make a refuge from the storm? no re-rolling HP for you.You want to risk making a fire, just to warm a kettle pot? Ok, roll to see if you attract unwanted attention. But you all get +1d6 HP because of the magical taste of coffee so far from home.

Also, the most important thing about rolling for HP damage is that, when you roll your weapon's damage, you can actually feel the joy of swinging a sword at something hoping to do as much harm as you can. You don't feel that when rolling to hit: that's like a bureaucracy step. But rolling for damage is when magic happens; and thats one of the things that I liked when I read Into the Odd (check it out if you haven't. In that game, you're assumed to hit always, and you roll directly for damage. Where is the trick? well, maybe is that monsters do that too)

On the other side, on a more down-to-earth setting, the whole HP concept loses meaning. On a common wild west setting, there are two main combat forms: by the gun and by raw fists. The first one will almost always end with one man dead in the blink of an eye. Translated to numbers, if a gun does 1d6+1 damage, it takes all the thrill of the showdown if a PC walks into the duel with 8 HP. Yes, it has sense on the sword and sorcery genre, where you can explain that as exhaustion and fighting mojo and the heroes can stand fighting after taking arrows to the chest. Also, there are lots of big monsters and it makes sense for them to be able to take lots of hits before they fall dead. But here, on my setting, you'll fight mainly people, maybe an occassional trollkin. And spirits, there are many of them too, but you can't really shoot them anyways. You won't go hunting things and take their XP.

Maybe I'll go with something like this:

When you shoot or kick someone, roll +DEX or +STR, and substract your enemy's armor (if there is any). On a 12+, that thing is defeated, killed or knocked out, you say how.
On a 10+ your GM will either give you the kill or be a dick and just give you an advantage over the guy.
On a 7-9 do it just like on a 10+, but there is a compromise or cost that makes sense about the situation (too much ammo, suffer an attack too, exposing to other dangers, etc).
On a 6 or less, you suffer an attack // the monster makes a move.

When you must stand up despite damage, poison and other shit, roll +STR.
On a 10+, you feel fine, at least for now. On a 7-9 you stand on the fight but suffer a debility (-1 to a stat) or must face a disadvantage. On a 6 or less, your enemy's attack has full effect on you (you're dead or out of combat if shot, Knocked out or ridiculized if beaten, maybe a debility if you're rolling against exhaustion or mild poison).
Here it is the main downside of not using HP: the GM is meant to decide the lethality of an attack instead of the rules. For most cases we can consider that guns, drinking acid and dynamite are lethal. The songs of the swamp nixes, drinking whiskey or getting beaten are not lethal, but will get you out of scene if you can't pass that save. Common sense is presumed, but there are those kind of players that will argue about anything.
PD: note that even on a 10+, all wounds or effects are still there, even if they aren't hindering you at the moment they may reappear and make you roll again when making big efforts or not setting a campfire properly.

Whenever you rest you get nothing, but if you don't do it you might roll for standing up despite damage even if you're not wounded (and get a debility).
Whenever you have a specially confortable rest at a safe place, or make a fire under the storm just to boil a coffee pot brought from your home far away, you can scratch away a debility.

Mechanically, enemies would be a name, a weapon, a drawing and a list of moves. Very tough enemies may have a numeric armor that is substracted from the roll. That armor has also a descriptive tag that justifies how and when that armor works.

Example (no drawing, I'm at the library right now):

Sheriff Payne, revolver, +2 armor (keen reflexes)
-give a last warning
-put a price on your head
-do what duty demands

Chun-li, kicks, +2 armor (when streetfighting)
-get very angry
-jump a lot
-tell you a chinese proverb strangely relevant to the situation.

Monday, 5 October 2015

Something awesome happened to me today

I'm living in a new city since last thursday, and I happened to go to the local library, just because I'm that kind of guy who likes to go reading in public places and to get some Internet when I stumbled with the Encyclopedia of Early Earth, by Isabel Greenberg. I've just read it whole in a single shot, and it totally changed my day.
The book is about so many things that I cannot properly describe it in a hurry, but I'm just gonna say that is the most inspiring thing I've seen in ages; and that is totally rpg campaign fuel. The plot is an absurdly well written mash up of micro-stories. The book it's like a hundred pages long or so and the whole thing is filled to the brim with that mythical, mystical feeling that you don't see very often and that I'd like to capture someday in a setting; maybe in Wanderlust II.

Is just me or is that art awesome? Hell, go to your local library and pick it up right now!