A Use for Excess Experience Points

Rembrandt has too much XPIn games which grant experience as a reward for recovering treasure, there is usually a rule that a character can’t level up more than once in a single session. So if you’re level 1, and you find a diamond worth 10,000 money, (which would normally translate to 10,000 experience), you don’t get to jump straight to level 3. You’ll reach level 2, and then stop. Usually the rules allow for a character to gain enough experience to be 1xp short of gaining 2 levels, but that’s it. After a big treasure haul you might see large amounts of your experience evaporate because of this rule. Possibly even the majority of it.

This is good and proper for any one of a dozen reasons. It maintains the pacing of the game. It cuts down on complications. It prevents players who may have missed a session from being left in the dust. It allows the referee to place large hoards of treasure without worrying that it will wreck the game’s progression. There are tons of reasons to recommend it. It’s a good rule.

But, from a player perspective, it’s always kind of a bummer losing out on those excess experience points. Sure gaining one level was nice, and you’re nearly guaranteed to level next session. That’s nice too. But gosh dang it, you could have leaped all the way to level 6 if not for that dumb rule! It’s enough to leave you weeping into your massive pile of money. #SuccessfulAdventurerProblems.

What if those spare experience points could be used for something? Not leveling, but something. Preferably something simple, since this issue only arises rarely. It would be too complex even to make the benefits proportional to the amount of excess experience the player earned. I think it should be treated as a binary thing: did you earn more experience points than your character could absorb? If yes, you get a cookie.

So what’s a good cookie?

  • Free training. This is kind of the obvious one, right? Experience points are usually used to train a character in their class, so if it can’t do that, it may as well be used to teach the character something else. Excess experience could allow a character to select any training they qualify for, and instantaneously and freely gain it. Alternatively, if that’s a little too much, you might consider waiving only one of the two requirements: either the training is free, or it’s instantaneous.
  • A skill point. If you’re not using any kind of in-game training, then most characters will never improve any of their skills. Giving a skill point to characters who earn excess experience flows from the same logic that training does. To the Fighter, having a 2-in-6 Tinker chance would be a pretty significant ability, since it’s not something they’re ever supposed to be able to get. But overall, it does little to impact the fabric of the game.
  • A character’s total XP doesn’t only model their wealth of experience as an adventurer, it also models their social cachet. An excess of experience points could be taken to indicate a sudden surge in renown for the character. Perhaps word of their great deeds is only now starting to reach the upper echelons of society, or maybe their recent success was so explosively impressive that nobody can really ignore them anymore. For whatever the reason, the players should see some benefit from this. People of higher status should take notice! Land grants or titles should be offered. Or, on a smaller scale, better jobs should come the players way. Perhaps they’re able to recruit hirelings more effectively. And on that note…
  • Hireling loyalty improves. There aren’t a lot of explicit ways to improve hireling loyalty. Knowing that you’re working for a winner can be a real ego boost. All hirelings get a +1 bump in their loyalty. Or maybe just one hireling, if the referee is stingy.
  • The player may Auto-Best a single roll, after it is rolled. It’s a small reward. Simple. But turning an attack roll of 1 into a 20 feels pretty durn good.
  • Temporary hit points. This is the one time I think the reward should be proportional to the excess XP. The character gains 10 temporary hit points for each level which they could have gained, but didn’t. So if they started at level 1, and could have made it all the way to level 6, then they get 40 temporary hit points. (Because they level up to 2, then get 10 each for levels 3-6). The temporary hit points cannot be healed, they last until the character takes enough damage to exhaust them.

This post was in no way inspired by the diamond worth 100,000gp that my 1st level character found in Courtney Campbell‘s Perdition campaign.



d100 Pieces of Technological Junk

TNG Dr Pulaski with a medical tricorder
Dr. Pulaski is infinitely superior to Dr. Crusher. Suck it nerds.

As you are now probably well aware, ORWA, is set in a post-apocalypse. Most people in this world are lucky to own anything as technologically advanced as a sword, much less something electronic. They are surrounded by the remnants of a an advanced civilization’s technology, but all of it is useless.

Rarely, though, a piece of technology is mostly intact. It still doesn’t actually work, but with some luck and elbow grease, a technologically savvy PC could make it work. So what technology might be of interest to an adventurer? Here’s a d100 table for tech that I thought might be interesting to see the players make use of in play.

My rule for repairing any of this junk is based on a new skill called Technology. The skill becomes available at a 1-in-6 chance once players join a secretive cabal of technologists. A successful Technology check (requiring one week of game time) grants 1d4 uses of the repaired device before it breaks and needs to be repaired again. Additional Technology checks can be stacked, and each successful check adds 1d4 uses to the device. If a Technology check is failed, the device is completely broken and becomes useless.

  1. Autograpple Harness. A belt with back support, and straps around the legs. A pair of cables are launched from each hip to gracefully pull the wearer to the top of any structure as a single move action.
  2. A micro drone qudcopter equipped with a camera. Moves relatively quietly, and transmits footage back to a monitor in real time. Too small to carry anything heavier than a pencil.
  3. A blender. One of those nice ones that can blend fuckin’ anything.
  4. Exoskeletal carrying legs and back support. Allows a character to triple their carrying capacity. Prevents stealth, but otherwise does not hinder movement.
  5. A consumer grade 3D printer. Accepts verbal description of objects to be created. The items produced are of a sort of brittle plastic. You’d have a hard time snapping an object in your hands, but it’s still not well suited to heavy duty work.
  6. A 4 legged pack robot, the size of a large dog. Capable of carrying a load equivalent to what 4 hirelings could carry.
  7. A pair of large goggles, tinted green. When worn they give the wearer a Heads Up Display. A variety of information is shown, including the AC of anyone the character looks at.
  8. A handheld scanner which can identify any medical issues and suggest a proper course of treatment after 1 turn of activity. Increases the efficacy of any non-magical healing by 50%.
  9. A classic 1980s vintage camero. Neon yellow, covered in dings and dents and missing the passenger side door, but otherwise mostly intact.
  10. A deep blue motorcycle in the style of the one from Akira. You’re probably nowhere near as skilled in riding it, but it’s actually in pretty good condition aside from some chipped paint.
  11. A nail gun, which someone else has modified with a small compressed air tank. The gun is not a functional weapon, but does allow for deploying nails quickly and quietly.
  12. A harness with large, glowing-red plates at several key support points around the body. When activated, these plates generate a personal anti-gravity field, making the wearer act as though they are in a zero G environment.
  13. A really fancy Nikon digital camera, complete with monopod and a lens that probably cost more than a car when it was new.
  14. A nice, 88-key electric keyboard. Has a number of instrument sounds pre-loaded, including acoustic guitar, grand piano, and harpsichord.
  15. A solid body, V-2 style electric guitar. The amp is built into the body, thanks to microamp technologies that will be invented in 2214.
  16. An honest-to goodness, Back to the Future-style hoverboard.
  17. One of those real-life “hoverboards.” The kind that has wheels, and rotates on an axis between your feet.
  18. A laptop PC. Repairing it involves completely reformatting the drive due to data corruption. It’s a reasonably powerful machine, probably meant for gaming. If only you had any of those…
  19. A tower PC. It is a low grade machine, but its software and operating system are intact. It may contain valuable information from the pre-apocalypse.
  20. A flashlight. A nice heavy one. The handle can be unfolded into a tiny tripod, and the head is hinged so the light can be angled perpendicular to the handle.
  21. A standing vacuum cleaner with attached bag. Part of repairing it is strapping a car battery to it for power.
  22. A laserjet printer with a built in scanner. Can duplicate any document you feed into it, or print from an attached computer.
  23. A Creative Zen brand MP3 player. Filled with terabytes worth of music: (1. Country, 2. Rap, 3. Novelty, 4. Pop, 5. Classic Rock, 6. Nu Metal, 7. Folk, 8. Jazz, 9. Inane Podcasts, 10. Whatever the technologist’s player enjoys.)
  24. A Segway.
  25. A nice, heavy-duty quadcopter. Can carry a single encumbering item.
  26. An Kindle with an advanced X-Ray scanner. When left on top of a book for 1 turn, the Kindle can actually scan each individual page automatically, and digitize the book without ever opening the cover.
  27. A magnetic deflector shield which resembles nothing so much as a complete set of sports padding. Helmet, elbows, knees, and palms. When active, it deflects high-velocity metal objects such as swords, arrows, or bullets, granting a +1 to AC. Can be worn in conjunction with other armors, but provides no protection against non-metal attacks.
  28. A jetpack.
  29. A water purifying filter. Effectively removes any non-magical contaminants, including poison.
  30. A full space suit.
  31. A military grade gas mask.
  32. A handheld synthrope dispenser. The dispenser contains a compressed material which is sprayed out of a tiny nozzle, and solidifies into a rope-like substance on contact with air. Heated sections of the rope become powerfully adhesive, and will remain stuck once they cool. Synthrope dissolves within 6 hours.
  33. A telescoping 15′ pole. Can be retracted down to about 2′ in length.
  34. A megaphone.
  35. A Roomba.
  36. A large shoulder-mounted net-cannon, which attaches to the body via a series of padded straps. Cannon works like a T-Shirt cannon, but fires weighted netting up to 30′ away, requiring a save versus Breath to avoid becoming entangled.
  37. A clothes washing machine.
  38. A clothes drying machine.
  39. Augmented Reality goggles, allowing the wearer to experience the world around them in a completely different way. Everyone looks like they’re smiling, the grass is always green, and rampaging monsters look like giant kittens who just want your love and attention.
  40. An electron microscope, allowing any object to be examined for even the most minute details.
  41. A video game console, with 4-6 games found nearby.
  42. Image editing software. When installed onto a computer, can be used to manipulate photographs.
  43. The Fing LongerAudio editing software. When installed onto a computer, can be used to manipulate recorded audio.
  44. A pair of helmets connected by a thick bundle of wires. When activated, two living brains can effectively switch places.
  45. A Fing-Longer.
  46. A modern police taser. Twin prongs on cables which fires up to 10′. On a successful hit, target is immobilized for 1 turn. Weapon can only be fired once without resetting, and is ineffective against characters with an armor bonus greater than 2.
  47. A small device fitted into the ear, which produces sounds by vibrating the muscles around your ear, and sends sound by interpreting your brainwaves. Allows for completely silent audio communication.
  48. An RC car.
  49. An RC plane.
  50. A model rocket.
  51. Stealth camouflage. Turns the wearer effectively invisible, with only a slight warping of the space around them possibly revealing their presence. Camo may be damaged by heavy impacts, or by extended exposure to water.
  52. A weapon scope which digitally tags any target it passes over. Tagged targets may continue to be tracked even if they pass out of sight. May tag up to 8 individuals at a time.
  53. Night vision goggles.
  54. Heat vision goggles.
  55. X-Ray specs. Functions exactly like real ones don’t. Allows you to see through as much as you want to see through.
  56. A hair dryer.
  57. A large pod. If a person spends one night sleeping in it, the pod will take samples of their blood, their brainwaves, their appearance, etc. When they leave, the pod will seal up and begin to hum. 1 month later, a clone will emerge. Roll 1d6: 1-2: Horribly disfiguringly mutated, 3-4: Roll 1d4 Metamorphica mutations, 5-6: Identical clone.
  58. Electric shears, like those used by a barber.
  59. A teleportation pad. Can be made to function perfectly, but only one is ever found at a time. In order to retrieve the other pad, you must use the teleported blindly, being transported to an unknown location. The second pad, having not been repaired, will break the moment your group comes through. It must then be hauled back to base manually for its own repairs.
  60. A heating dish, like the one you might have had in your first apartment.
  61. A device which emits a high frequency tone when activated. Each instance of this device is set to produce a different kind of tone, each of which has a different effect. 1, Attracts dogs, 2. Attracts bats, 3. Makes anyone who hears it poop, 4.  Makes anyone who hears it irritable and prone to angry outbursts.
  62. Rocket Boots. The design of these is poor compared to a proper jetpack. They allow the wearer to move at extremely high velocities, which can make for effective charge attacks or escape attempts. But, there is a 2-in-6 chance with each use that the wearer will go completely off course.
  63. A high quality video camera.
  64. A high speed video camera, suitable for recording thousands of frames per second.
  65.  A phenomenal, DJ-quality sound system. Can be used in conjunction with any sound-producing electronics, or with the included microphone.
  66. A 4-wheeled ATV.
  67. A freestanding lamp.
  68. A small translator robot, little more than a disk with a face on it. The robot has a simplistic, but friendly personality. Has an effective 6-in-6 language skill and will happily translate anything you need. Hesitates any time it is asked to translate rudeness.
  69. A hotplate.
  70. A leaf blower.
  71. An electric fan. (1. Free standing, 2. Desk Size, 3. Box Fan, 4. Heavy duty.)
  72. An electric wheelchair.
  73. A bug zapper
  74. An exoskeletal structure which fits around the hand like a glove. Confers immense crush and grip strength on the hand, allowing it to hold on on to a ledge indefinitely, or bend swords or gun barrels.
  75. A toaster
  76. A microwave.
  77. A lawn sprinkler of whatever style you prefer. (Highly effective when used with gasoline!)
  78. A forklift.
  79. A programmable robotic arm. Has no sensors, but can be instructed to perform a set of potions when prompts are given. Roll 1d4 to determine size: (1. Half human size. 2. Human size. 3. Three-times human sized. 4. Construction sized.)
  80. 30′ of liquid sensing wire wrapped in absorbent rope. If any fluid touches the rope, an alarm will go off immediately.
  81. A backpack sized water-compression tank. Capable of compressing water down to 25% of its normal size.
  82. A handheld laser-cutting tool. Able to slice a 4′ line through just about any material within the space of a turn. Does so with almost complete silence.
  83. A 6″ tall robot which moves on treads, and manipulates objects with two tiny pincer arms. Is intelligent enough to accept simple verbal commands.
  84. A sewing machine.
  85. A gambling machine. (1. Video Poker, 2. Slots, 3. A claw machine 4. A coin push machine.)
  86. A moderately heavy-duty water pump, capable of pushing about 20 gallons per minute.
  87. An air compressor.
  88. A V-chip which can be programmed with certain information, then installed into a person. Any time that person would reveal or express the indicated information by any means, they fail to do so. Instead, they use some replacement information. So instead of saying “Virgil is planning to kill you,” they say “I enjoy sexually molesting stuffed toys.” Or something like that.
  89. A personal holographic projection device. Always a pre-rendered recording to be emitted in life-size above it, appearing for all intents and purposes identical to reality.
  90. A chainsaw.
  91. An electric drill.
  92. A functioning AI, trapped in a device that is not connected to anything. Treat this as an NPC, who who will probably be grateful for being released, but will also doubtless be someone maladjusted from their long isolation.
  93. A hangglider, constructed of the highly advanced lightweight materials that make such a device feasible.
  94. A helmet which can be connected to a computer via a bundle of wires. When a person is wearing the helmet, their skull will be destroyed and their brain dissected. The entirety of their consciousness will then be uploaded to the computer they are connected to.
  95. A personal sized submarine, capable of holding only a single person.
  96. A heavy backpack with a hose-like extension. When activated, the extension emits a kind of “tractor beam,” capable of pulling objects towards it. The weight limit of the beam is equal to the weight of whomever is wearing the device.
  97. An auto-follow spotlight equipped with repulsortech. Once a target is identified the light can fly through the air to follow them wherever they go.
  98. A cryogenic freezing tube. Can be set for any length of time.
  99. An earthquake machine. When mounted to a hardpoint (such as a support beam), a weighted rod will begin to shift back and forth. Microcomputers will calculate the reaction reaction to this movement, and adjust the movement of the rod to match a structure’s frequency. 1 watch after the device is in put in place, it will be able to produce violent shaking within the building after 1 turn of buildup. This is unlikely to destroy the building, but is almost certain to disrupt any loose objects, and frighten any people.
  100. An ultralight helicopter.

Colorful Characters 27: Bric Shilic

This is honestly EXACTLY what I pictured Bric Shilic's cart looking like. Right down to the umbrella and the bicycle wheels.
This product photo is EXACTLY what I was picturing in my head when I first described Bric Shelic to my players. The only difference would be a whole lot more dents, dings, grime, and grease.

I never expected to write another Colorful Characters post, but here we are. There’s no way I could keep this fuckin’ guy to myself.

Bric Shilic is a parts vendor. Human parts. He meanders through the back alleys of large cities. The ones that the locals have learned to avoid. When he sees someone with a serious injury or disfigurement, he calls out to them with a practiced friendliness that seems at odds with his gravelly voice. He likes to say “An arm or a leg won’t cost you an arm and a leg!” It’s a witticism he’s proud of coming up with.

He speaks speaks with all the bluster, fast-talk, and suspicious confidence of a successful street vendor. All of it comes through a foreign accent so thick it’s sometimes too dense to penetrate, but you get what he’s saying by context. I went with a stereotypical middle eastern accent myself.

Also present is Bric Shilic’s cart, covered in dried blood and grease, buzzing with gnats and flies. Inside of it, Bric Shilic has one of everything, but only one. If you’re missing an eye, he has one eye, if you’re missing a thumb, he’s got one thumb, and if you’re missing 12′ of intestine, well he’s got 14′, but he’s willing to cut it down for you. Special deal.

His prices are:

1,000 money for any small, mostly cosmetic graft. Noses, fingers, ears, etc.
2,000 money for major grafts. Arms, hands, legs, eyes, genitals, etc.
3,000 money for anything that has to go inside of you. Livers, lungs, bones, etc.

There are usually little stories to go along with each piece. “Nose came from little boy. Die in terrible accident. Was hit by…stick. Stick wielded by bad man. Not Bric Shilic. You buy. You buy.”

For any parts that are not internal, the player should be given some idea of what they look like. After all, the character is lucky just to have found someone willing to sell them a right hand. Who are they to complain that the hand comes from someone of a different age, sex, or ethnicity? It will function just fine, of course. Bric Shilic does not sell shoddy merchandise. But if the character is gonna look like a frankenstein, they oughta know it.

Flip a coin to determine the sex of the person the donated part is from. Roll 1d8 – 1 to determine the decade of life the donor was in when the part was harvested. Parts have a 1-in-6 chance to match the recipient’s ethnicity, otherwise the skin is of a noticeably different color.

Parts are attached by using Bric Shilic’s body fluids as an adhesive. He’s sensitive about explaining why this works, but the results are undeniable. If you need a new nose, Bric Shilic just licks the back of it, then presses it against your face for a few seconds. The process burns a little, but when he removes his hand you’ll be able to sniff,sneeze, and smell with the best of them! Of course, installing internal parts is a little more of an involved process that will require Bric Shelic to shove his entire arm down your throat. He’ll ask some of your friends to hold you down if a procedure like that is necessary.

Bric Shilic is a 6th level Magic User. If attacked, he primarily uses spells like Hold Person and Sleep.

d100 Magic Words: Opposites, and Evocation

A wizard using magic words to summon a monsterThe best way to implement words with opposite meanings had me stumped for a little bit. On the one hand, there are some opposites which players should absolutely have to earn separately. Stuff like Fire and Ice, or Love and Hate. Yet there are other words which seem as though players ought to be able to automatically know one if they already know the other. Words like Fortune and Misfortune, or Appear and Disappear.

I was seriously toying with the idea of some kind of “discover opposite word” ability before I realized that the solution to the problem was already built into the system: if you know a word, then you also know any words derived from it. If an opposite is created merely by adding or removing a prefix or suffix, then it’s functionally the same word for the purposes of creating spells.

In retrospect, this seems so obvious that I feel a little silly spelling it out. But I’m the guy who came up with the system in the first place, and I was confused by this, so it seems reasonable to assume others might have a similar mental hangup. Anyway, the first of the two lists below are opposites which don’t share the same root, and thus would need to be learned separately.

The second list, Evocations and Shapes, is of course a spellcasting necessity. While spells like Fire Ball or Lightning Bolt aren’t exactly the most creative or interesting spells, I would be remiss if elements and shapes were not represented on these tables. And the great thing about forcing myself to write 100 point tables is that I need to really stretch myself to find interesting elements and shapes to include. So while Fire Ball may be droll, I’m curious to see players create spells like Plasmatic Circle, Magnetic Ray, or Earth Ball.

d100 Opposites

  1. Expand
  2. Contract
  3. Open
  4. Close
  5. On
  6. Off
  7. Abundance
  8. Scarcity
  9. Accept
  10. Refuse
  11. Admit
  12. Deny
  13. Friend
  14. Foe
  15. Bitter
  16. Sweet
  17. Odd
  18. Even
  19. Old
  20. Young
  21. Past
  22. Present
  23. Peace
  24. War
  25. Plentiful
  26. Scarce
  27. Power
  28. Weak
  29. Beautiful
  30. Ugly
  31. Private
  32. Public
  33. Ancient
  34. Modern
  35. Answer
  36. Question
  37. Arrive
  38. Depart
  39. Begin
  40. End
  41. Grow
  42. Shrink
  43. Large
  44. Small
  45. Construct
  46. Demolish
  47. Love
  48. Hate
  49. Scatter
  50. Collect
  51. Sink
  52. Float
  53. Slow
  54. Fast
  55. Truth
  56. Falsehood
  57. Under
  58. Over
  59. Victory
  60. Defeat
  61. Virtue
  62. Vice
  63. Vanish
  64. Appear
  65. Win
  66. Lose
  67. Zenith
  68. Nadir
  69. Rare
  70. Common
  71. Rich
  72. Poor
  73. Permanent
  74. Temporary
  75. Night
  76. Day
  77. Happy
  78. Sad
  79. Major
  80. Minor
  81. More
  82. Less
  83. Loose
  84. Tight
  85. Lazy
  86. Industrious
  87. Lead
  88. Follow
  89. Left
  90. Right
  91. Less
  92. More
  93. Intelligent
  94. Stupid
  95. Shame
  96. Pride
  97. Help
  98. Hinder
  99. Life
  100. Death

d100 Evocations & Shapes

  1. Acid
  2. Air
  3. Arc
  4. Arcane
  5. Ball
  6. Blade
  7. Blanket
  8. Blast
  9. Boil
  10. Bolt
  11. Burning
  12. Channel
  13. Circle
  14. Cloud
  15. Coax
  16. Cold
  17. Cone
  18. Crystal
  19. Cube
  20. Dark
  21. Disc
  22. Disease
  23. Disintegration
  24. Dome
  25. Earth
  26. Electricity
  27. Explosion
  28. Exude
  29. Fall
  30. Filth
  31. Fire
  32. Flame
  33. Flow
  34. Gas
  35. Gaze
  36. Geyser
  37. Goo
  38. Gravity
  39. Grow
  40. Growth
  41. Hail
  42. Heat
  43. Ice
  44. Imbue
  45. Inebriate
  46. Lance
  47. Laser
  48. Lava
  49. Light
  50. Lightning
  51. Line
  52. Magic
  53. Magnetic
  54. Metal
  55. Missile
  56. Mud
  57. Music
  58. Narcotic
  59. Nature
  60. Nothing
  61. Nuclear
  62. Ooze
  63. Orb
  64. Pandemic
  65. Pentagram
  66. Plant
  67. Plasma
  68. Poison
  69. Pressure
  70. Prismatic
  71. Protoplasmic
  72. Pyramid
  73. Radiate
  74. Rain
  75. Ray
  76. Rock
  77. Sand
  78. Shadow
  79. Shock
  80. Slime
  81. Snow
  82. Sonic
  83. Spectral
  84. Speed
  85. Sphere
  86. Spiral
  87. Spray
  88. Spread
  89. Square
  90. Steam
  91. Steel
  92. Storm
  93. Telekinetic
  94. Time
  95. Triangle
  96. Tumble
  97. Vacuum
  98. Wall
  99. Water
  100. Wind
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