Spending Money 2: Armor

Rustning,_Gustav_Vasa_-_Livrustkammaren_-_32921_smallI want players to have the option of spending money to increase their adventuring effectiveness. The most obvious way to do that is letting them purchase more and better equipment. Something tangible. A tool with an obvious benefit. It’s the road oft-travelled, and it’s no doubt what players would like to spend their money on, so it seems like a good place to start. And in the basic rules, the only piece of equipment a character might need to buy after burning through their starting cash is plate armor. Granted, they’ll likely make that purchase before they even hit level 2, but it’s the only purchasable equipment progression that exists in the game RAW, so yeah. Lets talk about armor.

One great possibility is to expand the system backwards. Why should the best AC in the game be achievable before level 2? There’s tons of room for interesting progress before that point. A lot of people have written piecemeal armor systems that could serve to engage players for 2-3 levels before they finally get to that glorious 18 AC. The equipment players buy at the start of play could be deficient, with penalties, and a chance to break. There’s an opportunity here to make players feel just how low down and dirty they are as first level adventurers. To make them scratch and claw their way to being competently equipped before we even start talking about how the baseline equipment could be better than it is.

I say we drop the starting money altogether. Players can roll on a murderhobo equipment table and embark on their first adventure wearing an empty barrel around their body as armor, and fighting with a broken bottle tied to the end of a stick.

But for now I want to focus on how armor can continue to be something players spend money on after they’ve already reached the baseline of AC18 plate armor. The goal should be to provide players with a limited set of interesting choices. These choices should be individually achievable, but unlikely to be fully attainable by any but high level characters. A level 2 fighters should be able to look forward to upgrading her armor every 1 or 2 sessions, but it’ll be a long hard road to getting her dream armor. She shouldn’t feel as though she’s not making any progress, but she should have something to strive for.

Armor Modifications

Improvements made to an existing suit of armor. With enough money, every modification could exist on a single suit of armor. However, the more mods there are, the more complicated it is to add a new mod without futzing up the previous mods. As such, mods have a cumulative cost. The first costs 50% of the base armor’s total cost, the second costs 100%, the third costs 150%, etcetera.*

Perfectly Fitted: All plate armor needs to be fitted to its owner. But the slapdash job done by most village blacksmiths is nothing compared to what a skilled artisan can accomplish. Perfectly fitted plate armor requires 1 less encumbrance than normal.

Carrying Frame: A structure of additional supports is built into the armor, distributing weight more evenly across the body and allowing the wearer to carry 6 encumbering items for every encumbrance point, rather than the standard 5.

Ornamented: The surface of the armor is decorated with fanciful patterns that communicate something about the wearer to those who encounter them before a single word is spoken. Ornamented armor affects reaction rolls. Only one type of ornamentation can be present on a given suit of armor.

Fearsome: Your ornamentation is filled with scenes of battle. It proclaims that you are a foe to be reckoned with. Characters with a level lower than yours are impressed and your reaction improves by 1. Those who are higher level than you see your display as petulant, and your reaction decreases by 1.

Ostentatious: Your ornamentation focuses on your wealth. Gold and gems may be included in the ornamentation. Reaction improves by 1 with any characters who are part of a culture where wealth is a sign of status and power. (ie. human society, generally). Reaction is decreased by 1 with bandits, revolutionaries, or anyone from a society where strength dictates status.

Religious: You openly display your devotion to your particular religion on your armor. Reaction with adherents of said religion is improved by 2. Reaction with foes of your religion is decreased by 2. Many creatures will be unaffected.

Barbed: A series of sharp spikes across the armor, strategically placed so as not to interfere with the character’s movement or peaceful activities, but which make it very difficult for an attacker to grab hold of the character. Characters wearing barbed armor are treated as 1 hit dice higher than normal when attempting to resist an enemy grapple.

Silvered: A latticework of silver is inlaid across the armor’s surface. While worn, the armor offers a +2 to any saves made against the powers of undead creatures, such as level drain. If no save is normally allowed, then the character is instead allowed a Save v. Magic at a -2 penalty to resist the effect.

Superbly Padded: Extremely comfortable, without being oppressive. The wearer can sleep while wearing their armor for up to 3 nights in a row without taking any penalties.

Buoyant: Through mind-boggling engineering that I lack the ability to come up with, it is possible to swim while wearing this armor as though the character were wearing no armor at all.

*Does anyone better at math than I am want to take a crack at a better price structure?

Armor Materials

Here we come perhaps uncomfortably close to outright selling magic items. Whether you include this will depend entirely on the highness or lowness of the fantasy in your games.

Steel is an excellent metal. It’s light, it’s tough, and most importantly it’s plentiful. But if your coffers are deep enough to afford a metal that isn’t plentiful, then there are better options. These fictional metals have special properties when shaped into armor. These are completely natural physical effects, which may seem magical only due to the extreme rarity of the substance.

Only a single rare metal may be used in the construction of a set of armor. Alloys are theoretically possible, but not financially feasible.

Feathersteel: An incredibly lightweight metal. Armor made from it is treated as 1 encumbrance lower than normal. (So, perfectly fitted, feathersteel armor would be completely unencumbering.) Suit of full plate: 3,000sp.

Nightstone: Within 4″ of the surface of this metal, light is dimmed and sound is muffled. Stealth rolls are improved by 2. (Not ignoring any penalties from armor or encumbrance). Speaking requires either that the wearer shout to be heard, or remove their helmet. Suit of full plate: 4,000sp.

Cold Iron: Something about this metal, it’s completely unknown precisely what, drives creatures of the lower planes into a mad frenzy. Any polite social interaction becomes impossible. But, oddly, they also seem resistant to attack a target wearing this armor. If they must, they will do so, but the wearer’s armor class is raised by 2, due to the demon’s reticence to actually come in contact with the hated metal. Suit of full plate: 6,000sp.

Viridescent Cobalt: Something about the way light refracts off of viridescent cobalt isn’t received well by the human eye. With time and focus, the eye can adjust to get a good look at it so long as it doesn’t move. But otherwise, it’s just a green blur. Armor made from viridescent cobalt provides a +1 to armor class against humanoid foes. Suit of full plate: 12,000sp.

Azurika:  A pale blue metal which is uniquely unaffected by magic. Why magic works and exists in the first place is a concept that is little understood, so why Azurika seems stubbornly resistant to it remains a mystery. But those who wear armor made of it receive a +2 bonus to saves against magical effects.  Suit of full plate: 18,000sp.

Related Posts

The goal of the spending money posts.

A really neat post about armor.

Spending Money 1: I’ve got thirty thousand gold pieces and nothing to spend them on.

8b179ff4ae0da82ec9de423c03d1-grandeI want to have a conversation about how players can spend their money.

There never seems to be an interesting thing to spend money on. This is a pretty consistent problem in the OSR style games I’ve played. The 1gp = 1xp model is awesome, it puts the game’s focus right where it needs to be. But once that money has done its job of incrementally moving the players closer to their next level, little thought is given to what happens next. Players just amass hoards of useless wealth.

The baseline assumption of oldschool D&D is that players who have a lot of gold will spend it on a stronghold and an army of hirelings. But that’s poorly suited to a lot of games, which focus entirely on party-based adventure and eschew domain-level play. And even when domain play works within the game, that doesn’t mean it’s interesting to every player.

Most OSR games I’ve played have also implemented some variant of the carousing rules at this point, which is good. Carousing is a great option to have. But it can’t be the only option. I mean, it’s basically just a fancy way of setting all your money on fire.

When one of my characters is flush with cash, I want to spend that money on something that will make me more effective. I want a better chance of getting out of the next dungeon with my hit points above 0 because of the money I spent. Of course, the easy way to accomplish this is to have a big list of magic items with humongous price tags, à la Pathfinder. But that’s boring and dumb and I hate it.

For a long time now I’ve wanted to write a broad examination of every interesting money sink I can think of. I had kind of a false start on this idea about 18 months ago.  The scope of the project was a little overwhelming, and every time I spoke with someone about it they had all these neat ideas I’d never considered before, which made the scope even larger and more overwhelming. What’s clear is that a lot of people have come up with a lot of solutions to this problem that I’ve never heard of. I want to absorb it all. I want to share my own ideas, and examine other people’s ideas.

So if you have an idea, I’d love it if you told me about it. If you wrote a blog post or you know of a blog post, I’d love to be linked to it. I myself have already written a lot on this subject. (The “curio shop” idea is a 14 page google doc all by itself.) So expect a lot of posts from me on this topic for the next week or so at least.

Related Posts:

The original impetus that spawned this idea.

A first attempt at coming up with things to spend money on.

The Google+ conversation for this post, which raised some good resources.

Eric Treasure’s idea.

James Young’s Idea.

A direct response to this post from d4 Caltrops

A Better Use for Bookshelves

Big-BookshelvesTwo years ago I wrote “A Use for Bookshelves.” It’s one of my favorite game ideas that I’ve ever come up with.

But it’s a clunky system. I’ve been using it in pretty much every dungeon I’ve designed in the last two years, and it’s always a hassle. Preparing a table of interesting information is a lot of work. It’s tiring, and I end up resorting to options that feel cheap. Like hollow books with a few gold coins in them, or completely random information that has nothing to do with the ‘theme’ of the bookshelf.

When I wrote the bookshelf system, I believed in front-loading game content. I wanted to create a huge game environment with mountains of detail. A fleshed out sandbox where the players could pick any direction to move, and there would be something for them to find there. But attempting to put that philosophy in practice has meant a lot more work for very little apparent benefit. Now, I think player interest should drive the referee’s worldbuilding. The sandbox still needs to be structured in advance, but the details don’t need to be at the referee’s fingertips before play begins. Take, for example, bookshelves.

Each bookshelf has a subject, and a number. That’s the only thing  prepared in advance.

All the books on the bookshelf fall within its subject. So a bookshelf about fishing might have books about types of fish, methods of fishing, history of fishing, ways of cooking fish, etc. The actual books don’t need to be enumerated or titled. The shelf’s theme just gives you a range of possibilities.

The number has two functions. First, it is the number of encumbrance points (not encumbering items) required to haul the books off. So “Bookcase: Fishing 12” will require the party to use 12 encumbrance points to get the books out of the dungeon. If they like, they can break the library up, taking as few as 1 encumbrance point worth of books with them. But if you only take 1 encumbrance point worth of books, then you only have Fishing 1 at your disposal, rather than Fishing 12.

The number is also the amount of questions that can be answered by the books before they’ve absorbed all of the knowledge the shelf has to give them. The question must be reasonably within the bookshelves’ subject, but other than that any question is fair game. Answering a single question requires 12 hours of game time book studying. If the referee doesn’t already know the answer, they’ll figure it out by the start of the next game session.

So, for example, the players find bookshelf: Religion 8. Between everyone, the party only has 6 available encumbrance points, so they haul Religion 6 back to the surface.  The cleric wants to know if there are any holy relics of his deity within 100 miles that he could recover for the glory of his god. The referee happens to have included such an item in a nearby dungeon, so after the character takes 12 hours to study the books, the referee tells the players about the dungeon, and that there should be a relic there. The fighter, meanwhile, wants to know if there’s any god badass enough for her to want to worship. The referee doesn’t really have a good answer, so after the session ends he comes up with a heavenly dog who has swords for legs and eagles instead of eyes. He presents the fighter with that info at the start of the next session.

Not only does this dramatically reduce the amount of work that the referee has to do, but it also gives the players a unique tool that they’ll be interested to use. The old system was a means of dispensing clues and quest hooks that would spark the player’s interest. This system is a tool to satiate an interest the players already have.

I’m eager to test this out.

LotFP/FFX Class: Wakka

FFX_Wakka_ArtWakka is a Blitzballer. Blitzball is a kind of soccer-like sport that is played entirely underwater. The physical demands of the sport are intense, and it thus produces amazing athletes. Retired or washed-out players often find a life of adventure to be a profitable post-career pursuit.

The class has a 1d8 hit die. They advance in level and saving throws as a fighter, and attack as a specialist. They are able to make unarmed attacks dealing 1d6 damage, rising to 1d8 at level 4, and then 1d10 at level 8.

Blitzballers are notable for their skill at moving in water. Much of their intense athletic training focused on the ability to remain underwater for long periods and still play an effective game. Blitzballers are thus able to hold their breath for up to 1 hour per level, and can move and attack underwater just as effectively as they do on land.

The blitzball itself is a unique item. Few have the skills and knowledge required to craft them, and the materials are expensive to acquire. A regulation blitzball for use in the sport costs 300sp. Some adventuring blitzballers have discovered modifications to the regulation ball to make it a more effective combat weapon. A level 1 blitzballer begins play with a regulation blitzball. If lost, they must pay to replace it.

To the true blitzballer, the blitzball is an extension of the self. Which, of course, is why they’re able to make unarmed attacks with their blitzball. The attack range increment is 30′ + 10′ every 2 levels. They deal damage by targeting nerve clusters. And on a natural 20, the target of a blitzballer’s attack must save v. Paralyzation or their body will go completely limp until their next turn. Of course, this only works with creatures who have nerve clusters. On a successful attack, the Blitzball will then ricochet back into the blitzballer’s hands. On a failed attack, the blitzballer has miscalculated their throw. They must spend a round retrieving their ball before they can attack with it again.

Flying creatures are particularly prone to the blitzballer’s attacks. If a flying creature is hit by a blitzball attack, it must immediately save versus Paralyation or fall to the ground. Creatures which fly without wings (such as someone under the effects of a Fly spell) receive a +4 to this save.

LotFP/FFX Class: Yuna

YunaYuna is a summoner. Summoners tend to be waifish and pale; a result of long hours of monastic study, meditation, and prayer. They share their hit dice, experience progression, and attack bonuses with magic Users, and have the same save progression as a cleric. Summoners can also cast clerical spells as though they were a cleric 2 levels lower than their Summoner level. (So a level 3 summoner has the casting abilities of a 1st level cleric).

Summoners spend their lives learning to communicate with realms beyond the physical plane. When encountering Outsiders or Elementals, those creatures react to the summoner with the same courtesy they would show a member of their own race. This is not an illusion or misdirection, the summoner simply knows how to present themselves correctly to these creatures.

When a group of humans, or one particularly powerful human, undergo a ritual which puts them into an ageless sleep. The intense dreams of each group merge and twist together, eventually coalescing into a creature called an Aeon. Summoners have a particular connection with Aeons, and indeed the monastic road of the Summoner and the sacrificial road of the dreamer are two paths within the same secretive faith.

Aeons are unique and independent creatures. They are not mere expressions of the groups who formed them. They have their own wills and desires, and while they do generally like summoners, they do not necessarily want to serve every summoner they encounter. The summoner receives a +2 to their reaction roll when meeting an Aeon for the first time, and must convince the Aeon that they are a summoner worthy of the Aeon’s services. I highly recommend Courtney Campbell’s “On the Non Player Character” for adjudicating this process. The rules in Appendix A: Arguing would be particularly apt here.

Once an Aeon has been bound to the Summoner, they will obey the Summoner unquestioningly. They will appear when called, and obey any command they are given. Despite being summoned creatures, the particular nature of Aeons means that if they die, they are dead and cannot be returned to life even by the most powerful magics. The summoner must make a save v. Magic or take a negative level from the death of their Aeon.

A summoner may contract with as many Aeons as they wish. However, they may only ever summon 1 Aeon a day, which will remain in the physical world for 8 hours. (12 after level 5). The process of being summoned is a turbulent one, which partially drains the Aeon’s of their energy. More practiced summoners will be able to make the process easier, and so the Hit Dice of a summoned Aeon usually depend somewhat on the hit dice of the summoner.

Aeons created by dreamers who willingly underwent the ritual of eternal sleep are unusually powerful; but these willing dreamers are rare.

Example Aeon

Valefor is a reptilian flying creature, with the body mass of a bull and a wingspan of 44′. She is covered in colorful feathers in hues of purple and red. A crest of stringy white hair cascades from the top of her head, down to the base of her neck. She is refined in her manner. She speaks very properly and acts with (and expects) courtesy. She’s also self pitying to a somewhat annoying degree, though she does make an effort not to complain too loud or too often.

AC 15, 2+[ 1/2 Summoner’s Level] HD, Move 60′(20′)/270′(70′), 2 Claws 1d4, 1 Beak 1d8, Morale 12

Desired Outcome: Valefor joins the summoner. (*)(*)

(I’m of no use to anyone.)[Remind Valefor of past glories.]

(There are many better Aeons than me.)[Demonstrate that Valefor will offer the summoner something that no other Aeon will.]

(If I were to join you, I would be likely to die.)[Make some meaningful gesture of dedication to keeping Valefor alive.]

(I cannot bind myself to anyone who is unrefined.)[Demonstrate refinement.]

LotFP/FFX Class: Auron

Auron_artworkThe other day, my brother and I were talking about a campaign he wants to run based on Final Fantasy X. He’s sketching out a system for it, and wanted to workshop some classes. Mechanically, I actually think FFX is probably the best game in the whole series. The game’s story is mediocre, and the presentation is bad, but the actual play of the game feels really good to me. So I thought it would be fun to sketch out some OSR compatible classes based on the characters in the game. I don’t know if I’ll do everyone. But I’d like to explore at least a few of the characters, starting with one of my all time favorites: Auron. Auron is a warrior monk.

Warrior Monks have devoted themselves to playing a support role. Most often they obey the will of a large organization such as a religion or a state. Occasionally, they swear themselves to an individual and devote themselves to keeping that individual safe and advancing that individual’s goals. Though they may attempt to influence the direction of those to whom they have sworn themselves, a warrior monk’s strength comes from their devotion to the needs of another. If their service comes to an end (either through dismissal, or the death of their master,) then the warrior monk must make a save versus Poison. This save is made at a penalty equal to the warrior monk’s level. The higher their level, the deeper their fealty, and the more difficult it is to lose their master. On failure, they spiral into vice. Alcohol, drugs, gambling, etc. Their slovenly state persists until they devote themselves to someone new.

Warrior monks have a d12 hit die, and advance as a fighter for saves and level-ups. Their to-hit bonus advances as a cleric’s does. Their particular combat style favors heavy, precise blows. So long as they are wielding a weapon with both hands, their damage die with that weapons is 1 better than normal. (a weapon that normally deals 1d6 damage instead deals 1d8. A 1d8 weapon deals 1d10. Etcetera.)

Warrior monks ignore armor rating from armor when they attack with a two handed weapon. So, in Lamentation of the Flame Princess, this means that all humanoids are treated as AC 12. 13 if they use a shield, and otherwise adjusted by dexterity.

On a successful hit, the warrior monk rolls damage. That damage is reduced by 1 if the target is wearing leather armor, 2 if they are wearing chain, and 4 if they are wearing plate.

If a Warrior Monk is within 10′ of the individual they are sworn to (or a representative of the organization they are sworn to), then they may opt to protect that character from taking damage by instead taking the damage themselves. When they do this, the protected character must make a save v. Paralyzation (with a +1 bonus per level of the Warrior Monk) or be knocked prone to the ground, interrupting spellcasting and limiting actions on the character’s next turn.

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Thoughts and theories on tabletop games.