Archive for August, 2012
Octorok art from the 1987 Legend of Zelda manual.
Lately it seems as though all I post about is the Legend of Zelda Adventure System that I’ve been working on. Which isn’t really surprising, I’m inspired to work on it and I don’t have anything else related to tabletop games drawing my attention right now. I enjoy the OD&D game I participate in on Monday but don’t have a lot to say about it beyond that, and it’s been awhile since my Pathfinder group has found time to get together. So when I work on tabletop stuff, it’s focused on the Legend of Zelda.
But I thought that instead of posting another monster constructed with a half-finished monster system, I’d adapt one of the most classic Zelda enemies to Pathfinder: The octorock. It’s a land-based octopus that shoots rocks out of its mouth. Literally, that’s how it was originally conceived. See?
Octorok concept art.
As with all of my recent Zelda work, however, I’m using the Link to the Past as my source. That game’s conception of the creature was a little less silly looking I think. Unfortunately, there is no art for the creature that I am aware of, but I did find this nice image of the game’s sprite:
ALttP Octorok Sprite
I’d also like to note that starting with this post, and from now on, I will not be using the ‘proper’ methods for creating monsters in Pathfinder. It takes far too long, and the results are not worth the effort it involves. My monsters will have no skills, nor will they have any feats, nor will they be constructed with painstaking care to ensure that the CR is “accurate.” Personally, I don’t even use the CR anymore, preferring that my players learn the fine art of running away if they encounter something beyond their ability. I’ll still include the most accurate CR I can, but it will be estimated, not calculated.
The Octorok is an aberration which makes its home in plains. It is often incorrectly assumed that the octorok prefers plains of dirt, but this is only an illusion. Octoroks often migrate to grassy plains rich in plant and insect life, but they quickly overgraze the land, reducing it to an expanse of dirt where the creatures must forage for worms, beetles, and nutrient-rich soil.
Part of this confusion rises from the assumption that the nozzle on an Octorok’s face is a ‘mouth.’ For lack of a better word, it is in fact a kind of sphincter which the octorok uses to expel waste products. The octorok’s actual ‘mouth’ is an unusual scooping apparatus located on the bottom of its body. Octoroks feed by moving across the ground at high speeds, picking up soil, insects, and plant life as they do so. The octorok’s digestive tract quickly siphons part of this collection into the octorok’s stomach, where it is digested and used to produce energy. Meanwhile, any unneeded food, or inedible substances such as stones, are shunted to the octorok’s colon, where they are coated in an unusual kind of adhesive juice which is actually quite valuable if it can be harvested. This organ shapes the ‘leftovers’ into a solid ball, which the octorok can hurl with some force from its forward nozzle. The ball formed by this process is quite hard, making this hurling ability an effective defense mechanism for the octorok.
While similar in appearance to the aquatic Octopus, Octoroks differ in a number of important ways to help them survive and thrive on land. On close inspection, their eight ‘legs’ more closely resemble the bodies of snakes than they do the suckered tentacles of a cephalopod. While these legs might not seem practical, they actually allow this aberration to move much faster than many larger creatures. Most of the Octorok’s body is also covered by a soft ‘shell’ which protects the creature from most attacks. While this shell is not calcified as a turtle’s shell is, meaning it can be pierced or cut, it is actually much more resistant to cracking, and distributes the force of an impact more effectively. This is a useful ability when traveling in a herd of creatures which are constantly hurling heavy objects around.
A dull red creature darts past you on a mass of wriggling legs. A strange nozzle protrudes from its face.
Octorok; CR 2; [Aberration] [Plains] [Temperate/Warm Climate] [Diurnal Cycle]
N Tiny Aberration
Init +9; Senses Darkvision 60ft, Perception +0
AC 17, touch 17, flat-footed 12 [10 + Dex(5) +Size(2)]
DR 3/Slashing, Piercing
Fort +9 Ref +4 Will +5;
Speed 45 ft.
Melee +2 Slam (1d4)(Bludgeoning)
Ranged +7 Rok Hurl (1d6)(15ft)(Bludgeoning)
Str 10 Dex 20 Con 10 Int 2 Wis 14 Cha 10
BAB +2; CMB -2; CMD 13
SQ Quick Initiative
Environment Plains. They prefer grassy plains, but quickly reduce these to large expanses of dirt.
Organization A ‘Tangle’ of Octoroks is usually between 6 and 20. They are rarely seen in smaller groups.
Activity Cycle Octoroks are diurnal, so they function during the day and sleep at night.
Diet Plants, Insects, Earthworms, Nutrient-Rich Soil; Natural Enemies Hawks, Leevers, Most Medium-Large Aberrations
Treasure Typically None
4 Comments »
Posted by LS on Friday, August 31st, 2012 at 5:45 am
Categories: Dungeons & Dragons 3.5, Pathfinder
Tags: Merciless Monsters, Monsters
DVD cover for the Captain N: The Game Master collection.
I work hard to be the best game master that I can, and if I do say so myself, I’m not too bad at it. My groups always seem to have a lot of fun, or at least enough fun that they’re willing to return to my table. Plus there’s the few hundred people who seem to think I’m interesting enough to warrant reading this site, so I figure I can’t be failing completely. Unless a lot of you are just google bots and image wranglers.
…damnit, that’s exactly what you are, isn’t it?
Regardless, I believe that a person should always look for ways to improve, and I need to improve as a GM in more ways than I’m comfortable admitting. I rarely come away from a game session without feeling as though there’s something I could have done much better. I am honestly embarrassed to admit to some of these flaws, and I questioned whether or not I even wanted to share this post. But I also believe that the best kind of writer is one who is brutally honest. Especially regarding themselves. So here we go;
I wet the bed into my teen years.
There. Everything after that should be easy, right?
Consistency is a big personal battle for me, and my failure to be consistent has often affected my GMing in numerous ways. The extent of my preparations, for example, varies wildly. Occasionally I’ll come to a game with ten or twenty pages worth of notes, but more often I’ve got maybe a page of sloppily assembled chicken-scratches. I have a terrible habit of letting other concerns get in the way of my game mastering responsibilities.
Fortunately, or not, my greatest strength as a GM is improvisation. I can pull a varied and interesting game out of thin air without too much effort. But I think this ability can become more of a crutch than a boon. Even the best improvisations are rarely consistent with games I’ve run in the past. Players start to notice little oddities: “If half of the villagers have disappeared, shouldn’t there be empty houses we can stay in? Why do we need to stay in the mayor’s spare room?”
Perhaps my worst inconsistency is in my scheduling of games. I often put off arranging the next game session, because I find social situations so draining. It’s strange that someone like myself, who always feels exhausted after spending an extended amount of time with people, would be so attracted to a game that is inherently social. I’m a walking contradiction, apparently.
Overland Travel has been a weakness of mine for years. The way I handle it did vastly improve when I began mapping my overworlds with hexes. But drastically improved does not mean good enough. I still truggle with basic elements of presentation. I currently have my players indicate how they’d like to travel on a hex grid, and I fill in the blanks as they do so. Not only is it a waste of time to have me filling in hexes, but I hate that my current method has players interacting with a grid, rather than using their imaginations to create the environment for themselves.
I’ve been reading a series of posts written by The Alexandrian on this subject, which address many of the issues I’ve had with running hex crawls. Hopefully after tinkering with it, and trying to run a hex map according to his guidelines, I’ll have a firmer grasp of how a game like that should function. I would like overland travel to be one of the highlights of my games, where adventure hooks lurk behind every hex, and players can spend an entire session being entertained by a lengthy journey. I’ve been able to capture some element of that in my games so far, but I want more.
Economies in my games never make much sense. Going back to the problem with consistency, there’s rarely a set buying power for a gold piece, or any real gauge on how common it is. When my players approach their wizard friend and ask for a completely reasonable magic device that they should be able to acquire (but for which there is no precedent), I come up with a price that ‘seems right.’ Only later do I realize that I’ve significantly over or underestimated the item’s value. I also have a bad habit of being a great deal more generous with treasure than I ought to be, because I’m worried about keeping my players engaged in the adventure if they don’t feel suitably rewarded.
Yes, I know that’s ridiculous.
Focus isn’t something I even realized I was failing at until recently. I started making audio recordings of my games, and realized that my group and I spend a lot of time chit-chatting during game sessions. Worse: more often than not those tangents originate with me. Time for a big surprise: I like the sound of my own voice. You could make the argument that so long as everyone is having fun, it’s not really a problem. But, having played in Brendan’s OD&D game, I’ve seen how much better the game is when everyone keeps their attention on the game. Brendan does a great job of gently guiding everyone’s focus back to the game when it strays. In that way he’s provided a model for me to learn from.
Traps are my weakness when it comes to dungeon crawls. Otherwise, I think I do a pretty decent job of making dungeons work in my games. But when it comes to traps, I’ve never been able to pull them off satisfactorily. Either they’re so non-threatening as to be boring, or they’re so deadly as to be cheap. In part, I blame the game systems I’ve GMed for this one: D&D 3.X and Pathfinder. Skill checks are not a very fun way for a player to search for traps, nor are disable device checks a fun way to get rid of them. I covered this a bit in my skills analyses of both perception and disable device. However, having now played in Brendan’s OD&D game where traps are handled properly, I feel as though I have a better understanding of what makes them fun, and why I’ve only had limited success with them in the past. I guess here, again, Brendan has provided a model to help me improve my own GMing. Thanks!
Low Magic eludes me. I dislike fantasy settings where magic serves as technology. It can be fun now and again, but the world is much more interesting when magic is rare. Yet I always seem to end up in high-magic games. I’m not quite sure how it happens. One minute there’s only one wizard in the area, and he’s a crusty old curmudgeon. The next moment I’ve offhandedly mentioned to my players that there’s a wizard’s college in the capitol city. Fuck! Butter luck next campaign.
There you have it. My biggest failings as a GM. Hopefully I can get them sorted out soon and move on to more minor issues with my style.
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Posted by LS on Wednesday, August 29th, 2012 at 5:45 am
Categories: System Independant
Tags: My Games
Concept art for the original Legend of Zelda, by Katsuya Terada.
I would like for the LOZAS system to be a paradigm example of simplicity in motion. Combat in gameplay should move quickly, because combat in the source material moves quickly. Hacking and slashing your way through a room full of enemies is part of a Zelda-style adventure, but it rarely takes center stage. When it does take center stage, it can be an intense experience, but rarely a long one. My goal, then, is to build a simple and easy to run combat system which can still model complex tactics. Combat should be fast, but that doesn’t mean it should be easy.
In approaching this aspect of the game’s design, my thinking is to start simple. First, figure out how the bare bones of combat will be handled, then add in the core mechanics I want to use for the game. Once those two elements are in place, I’ll call it done until playtesting shows me that something more is needed. And if that happens, my first question for myself will be “Was the GM able to handle it?” If so, are additional rules really needed?
A basic attack roll will be handled by rolling 1d20 against a target number. Since I’m trying to create a numerically simple game without too many bonuses or penalties for players to keep track of, the maximum armor class will be pretty low. Likely somewhere between 18 and 24. If the player rolls a 20 on their attack roll, it is an automatic hit. If a 20 would have hit anyway, then it is a critical hit as well. Upon a critical hit, the player doubles the number of dice they roll for damage. GMs are also encouraged to make critical hits–both for and against the players–memorable. Not through painful attempts at florid prose, but by having the hit affect the battle in a more significant way than simply causing extra damage. A broken weapon or bone, a scar, losing a finger; any of these would be appropriate.
Called shots will be a central mechanic in the game. I discussed this in detail not too long ago so I won’t re-tread that ground here. Essentially speaking, the players are encouraged to declare that they are attacking a specific part of the creature, such as an arm, or an eye. The GM makes a ruling on the spot regarding the difficutly of this maneuver, and tells the player that it will be Easy, Moderate, Difficult, or Nearly Impossible. Only after hearing how difficult the attack will be does the player decide whether or not they’d like to attempt the attack. If they do, standard critical hit rules apply. Some creatures may be particularly strong or weak on different parts of their bodies.
Concept art for the original Legend of Zelda, by Katsuya Terada.
Battle Maneuvers cover a large range of different things. If a player would like to trip their foe, or attempt to break their opponent’s weapon, or try to blind their opponent by throwing dust in their eyes, then both the attacker and the target make opposed battle maneuver checks. This is a 1d20 roll, with the individual’s battle maneuver score added to it.
The battle maneuver score is calculated by taking both a character’s body and agility score. For each score, 11 counts as 0, while any number higher than 11 adds +1, and any number lower than 11 adds -1. So a body score of 14 would grant a +3, while a body score of 9 would confer a -2. Once both body and agility have been calculated in this manner, add the two numbers together, and this is the character’s battle maneuver score.
Anything a player wants to do within combat is either an action, or a non-action. Things such as talking, dropping an item or drawing weapons are non-actions. They do not require a significant amount of time or attention, and so they do not use up a player’s turn. Whereas things such as moving, swinging a weapon, throwing an item, using a special ability, attempting a battle maneuver or casting a spell, all count as actions. Each player is allowed to make 2 actions during their turn. So on a single turn, a soldier could move their full speed twice, or they could move their speed once and attack, or they could attack twice.
Regarding movement, I see no reason to handle it differently than the way Pathfinder did. Hylians (the game’s only playable race) move at a default speed of 30ft per action, and each square on a battle grid will represent 5ft. I like the system and it works well enough. However, it’s important that the game can be run without a battle mat as well. Grids are useful for tactical battles, but for games played over the internet (which are increasingly popular) they can be more of an inconvenience than they are worth. Running a game without the mat is usually just as simple as choosing not to use a mat, but I would like to create a subset of rules which allow players to benefit from their character’s speed even when a mat is unavailable.
On that note, I’ve always felt as though Pathfinder was missing an opportunity by keeping movement speed largely static. The ability to move an extra 5 ft represents an interesting tactical advantage in combat, and the reverse is an interesting disadvantage. Different movement speeds will play a more pronounced role in this game than I’ve personally seen in other games.
Concept art for the original Legend of Zelda, by Katsuya Terada.
Initiative will be handled in an OD&D style, because as I’ve mentioned, I quite like it. A ‘designated initiative roller’ will roll 1d6 for the party, while the GM will roll 1d6 for the monsters involved in the combat. Whoever wins the roll will go first as a group, followed by the group who failed the roll, after which initiative will be re-determined. GMs are encouraged to offer minor initiative bonuses or penalties to groups who put themselves in a particularly good bad position at the end of the round.
GM rulings and on-the-fly modifiers are very important to the LOZAS combat system. Game masters are encouraged to allow characters to make extra actions, give penalties or bonuses to any type of roll, or otherwise modify the rules during play. This is not a subversion of the game’s rules, or a type of haphazard house-ruling, it is an essential part of making the system work correctly. The mechanics above provide combat with structure. The die rolls inject the simulated battle with chaos. The rulings of the GM provide the final piece, by rewarding or punishing the player’s tactics.
For example, there are no attacks of opportunity written into these rules. None the less, there may be times when a player or an NPC will leave themselves vulnerable to an attack. If a player is engaged in a duel and chooses to turn tail and run in the opposite direction, their foe should be given an opportunity to attack them as they flee. No rule covers this eventuality, but GMs are encouraged to take advantage if they feel it is appropriate.
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Posted by LS on Monday, August 27th, 2012 at 5:45 am
Categories: Systems of my Own Invention
Tags: LOZAS, Theorycrafting