Posts Tagged “Homebrew”
I’ve been thinking of ways to simplify the character creation process for new players, and I struck on an interesting problem with the way the game is presented. Typically, the first thing I ask my players to do is to roll their ability scores. Which means that their first glimpse of the game is “Roll these dice, record the resulting sum. Repeat this task five more times, then assign one score to each of these six abilities, the functions of which you probably don’t fully understand yet.”
This is a bad first impression of fantasy gaming. Sure the GM can help the player out by giving them an idea of how the ability scores will relate to class abilities, and the player will sticks it out regardless. Nobody is going to walk away from the table after 2 minutes. They will eventually start doing more interesting things, and they’ll probably have fun. None the less, this is a bad introduction which weakens a neophyte’s initial experience.
What if, instead, the initial question was “Which of these fantasy races would you like to be?” That’s a far more interesting introduction to fantasy gaming, I think. And in describing how each race functions mechanically, the GM is also describing interesting detail about the game world. Defining wisdom to a new player is difficult, describing a dwarf to a new player will connect with their experiences and engage their imagination.
Once a race is selected, the ability scores are rolled according to the strengths and weaknesses of that race. 3d6 is the average, but if a race is particularly strong in a certain area, then they would take the 3 highest from rolls of 4d6 or even 5d6. For every ability score where the race is strong, there must be others where they are weak, and take the lowest 3 from 4d6 or 5d6. So humans, as the baseline race, would roll 3d6 down the line; while a race which is strong, but clumsy and stupid, might roll 5d6(+) for their strength, and 4d6(-) for both their dexterity and their intelligence.
This would replace any bonuses or penalties the races get to their ability scores, which would eliminate scores over 18 at first level. And while it might seem extreme, 5d6 drop the lowest/highest doesn’t actually end up with too many extremely good or bad rolls. The averages would be 7 and 14 respectively. AnyDice represents the data really nicely.
So that the players have a little control over the scores they end up with, during character creation they may (after any roll) turn the face of one die to a 6. For (-) rolls, this is done after the high dice are dropped. So if a players rolling a 5d6(-) ability score rolls 6, 5, 4, 4, 1, then first the 6 and the 5 would be dropped. After that, the player can turn that 1 into a 6, resulting in a final ability score of 14. But this can only be done once for each character, and must be done before moving on to the next ability score.
Here’s how I think the races might work out:
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Posted by LS on Monday, March 11th, 2013 at 6:45 am
Categories: Rocksfall RPG, Systems of my Own Invention
Tags: Homebrew, Theorycrafting
Arabs Skirmishing in the Mountains, 1863 by Eugène Delacroix
Recently the tide turned in the ongoing war between the elves of the Western forest, and the orcs who had settled in the ruins there. A series of defeats has forced the orcs into retreat. Rather than flee North into dwarven lands, or South where they would likely be subjugated by the Lich, they began migrating East, and established three settlements in the north of the Plains of Nalew. No one holds a true claim on this land, though there is a small human settlement, named Overton, at the confluence of the River Nalew and the Drall River.
The humans of Overton have obviously been distressed by this development. They appealed to the elves for aide, but the elves say they have enough orcs to worry about in their own lands, and are not interested in risking lives in solving human problems. To make matters worse, the orcs have recently erected a fourth settlement. This one south of the River Nalew, a day’s ride from Overton itself, and very clearly an encroachment on human territory.
Fortunately, the local adventuring party returned to town about this time. The mayor begged them for help, and they agreed to do what they could to get rid of the orc problem. Unwilling to take such a large force head-on, the players devised a more cunning plan. First, they did some recruiting around town, and found 10 able-bodied adults willing to join them in battle. Second, they approached the elves again, and laid out a plan which would minimize the risk to elven lives. They also reminded the elves that orcs breed fast, and allowing them to settle so close to elven territory would given them the opportunity to re-invade within 10-20 years. The elves agreed to lend the players 30 archers; but only on the condition that the only real risk be to the players.
The lynchpin of the plan was Betsie, the minotauress PC. For the most part, this has been a humans-only campaign, but I allowed one of the players to take control of Betsie when her paladin died and Betsie was the only friendly NPC around. The players figured that the Orcs, as fellow monstrous humanoids, may be inclined to trust Betsie more than they would trust a human. The plan was that Betsie would tell the orcs that the forest west of Nalew had ruins similar to those the orcs had occupied in the Eastern forest, and that ever since the tribe of Gnolls she’d been in charge of had been killed by humans, there was no one there to occupy the territory. (All of this was pretty much true). Further, Betsie would claim, the ruins were filled with treasure, which she would prove with a massive 5000gp diamond the players had recovered from the area.
The player’s hope was that the Orcs would agree, and she could lead each of the four colonies (one by one) into a bottleneck between a large hill and a river, where they’d be ambushed by the humans, elves, and the rest of the party. It was a solid plan. Or, rather, it was an insane plan, but one which met the minimum standard for logical thinking which constitutes a good plan in D&D. Shortly after the plan was made, one of our players had to leave, and we decided to play board games for the rest of the evening.
That was a month ago. I had that long to figure out how to handle the player’s plan. It’s a good enough plan that I didn’t want to simply have it blow up in their faces; at least not by fiat. Assuming that the reaction dice didn’t cause the orcs to attack her on sight, and the player made her case well enough, I figured the plan would go off. (Though no way were the orcs going to be dumb enough to go in one at a time. They were gonna get together with the other three camps, and march in there 100 warriors strong).
So how do I run this scenario? 100 orcs, 30 elves, 10 humans, and 5 PCs. Obviously I don’t want to model a battle with 140 NPCs at the table, because that would take a week and be immensely boring. I do want it to be random though, because that will create a more interesting scenario than one I’ve scripted. Given the small number of forces on each side of the engagement, I do want to track how many die, but I don’t want a battle between NPCs to take up too much of my time. It has to be about the players, and their actions during the combat. Those actions of the players should also have some bearing on the fight’s outcome, though, even if it’s small.
What I eventually came up with was based on the dice chain mechanic of DCC RPG. The chain I used was 1d4, 1d6, 1d8, 1d10, 1d12, 1d14, 1d16, 1d20, 1d24, 1d30. Each round, each of the factions would roll one of these dice against the other factions, killing that many members.
Assuming nothing went wrong with the player’s plan, the first round of combat would be a surprise round from the elves. I assumed they’d have plenty of time to line up their shots, so the opening volley from the elves killed 3d6 + 12 orcs. So most of the elves would make kill shots, but it wouldn’t be able to exceed the actual number of elves participating.
The PC who was in charge of the 10 humans had chosen a position a little removed from the bottleneck, and I told him it would take 1 full round of charging before he could get into position to attack. Once they were able to engage, I figured the humans could kill 1d10 – 2 orcs each round (as these are not trained warriors), and the orcs could kill 1d10 humans each round.
Starting on the second round (after the surprise) the orcs could kill 1d4-2 elves each round, with a result of 0 or less meaning they still had not spotted any elves. While the elves, now dealing with the chaos of battle rather than a well timed ambush, would be able to kill 1d30 each round.
While all of this was going on, the players would be in the thick of the battle. Each round they faced off against several different orcs (I invented 6-8 variant orcs to keep things interesting). These death-rolls would be be made openly between each round of combat, so the players could see how the battle was progressing around them.
The majority of play time during the battle was focused on the players, with brief interludes between each round while I rolled to see which combatants on each side had died. As the battle progressed, the ‘kill dice’ I rolled were modified by several factors:
- No faction can ever roll a die with a potential to result in more kills than there are attackers. For example, the elves can continue to roll a d30 for as long as there are 30 elves, but once an elf dies, they move down 1 space on the die chain, to 1d24.
- Once the orcs score their first kill against the elves, they’ve figured out how to spot the elves and jump up to a full 1d4 on the die chain.
- Each round, as the elven positioning is further revealed, the orcs roll a die which is one higher up on the die chain.
- Each orc the players kill will be matched by the elves, who gain a +1 on their kill roll. The result cannot exceed the number of remaining attackers.
- Any PC knocked to 0HP or lower, or who flees from the fight, will give give the orcs a boost of 1 extra step up the die chain.
- If the PCs successfully kill 5 orcs in a single round, the elves will rally and receive a +10 to their kill roll.
- Once any of the 3 factions is reduced below 20 members standing, roll a 1d20 morale check each round. If the result is equal to or lower than the number of fighters standing, the faction will press on. If the result is higher, then the faction will break and flee from the battlefield.
These rules only took me about 20 minutes to come up with, but it seemed like a solid method of running a skirmish like this. And it did work pretty well in play, though I did end up straying from the plan a few times when I lost track of what had happened. The players did succeed in slaying the orcs, though with only 10 elves left alive they may want to watch their back if they ever venture into the Western forest again.
Any of my readers have a better method of running a battle like this one?
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Posted by LS on Monday, February 18th, 2013 at 6:45 am
Categories: System Independant
Tags: Homebrew, My Games, Theorycrafting
Photo by Chris Rainier
The scheduling here on Papers & Pencils is important to me. If I’m being honest, it’s probably unhealthy how much importance I place on my posting schedule. Anytime I miss a day it feels like the end of the world. I’ll avoid detailing my emotional pitfalls, but it can get bad. I’m also human, though, so there are times now and again when I simply don’t care about tabletop games. I mean…Dishonored is so good, and I’ve been re-reading the X-Wing series, and do I really have to write about wizards at the moment? What has often happened in the past is that I’ve solved this problem by making really shitty posts. Which actually solves nothing. I know the post is shitty, so I still feel bad about it, and the immense amount of time I spend stressing about that only prolongs my momentary disinterest in tabletop games.
I’m not announcing a hiatus or anything. Just offering an explanation. I don’t know if any of my readers pay attention to my schedule, or feel disappointed when I’ve failed to update on time. But I do know that in the past 15 days, I’ve missed 4 posts. At this point, I thought an explanation was warranted.
Moving on, I’d like to share some stuff I’ve been doing in the OD&D-ish game I’ve been running for my younger brother and one of his friends.
I call it OD&D-ish because I’m not very familiar with the OD&D rules, or with the way OD&D GMs go about things. My entire experience in that regard comes from flipping through the three “little brown books” (which I’ve found to be disorganized and nigh-incomprehensible in some sections), and from playing in Vaults of Pahvelorn. Anything I don’t understand, I’ve filled in with whatever seems to mesh with the spirit of the game, as judged by me at the time that I need to come up with it. If you thumb through my campaign pages for this game, you’ll find numerous sections where all I’ve written is “I’ll detail this when its needed.” It’s a disorganized way to run a game, but in my defense I thought the game would be a one-shot. And the kids keep coming back, so it can’t be all that terrible.
The design-as-you-go nature of the game has forced me to come up with some ideas I don’t know if I would have come up with otherwise, two of which in particular I’m happy with: Alchemy, and Trade Caravans.
Upon reaching second level, a magic user has achieved sufficient learning to attempt creating alchemical concoctions. This requires that the magic user have access to an alchemical laboratory, and the creation of each potion will require large investments of time and gold. Like spells, potions (and other alchemical products), have levels.
Each alchemical product requires a number of material components which must be purchased from the town herbalist, such as leaves, seeds, and nectars from plants all over the world. The cost of the components are [50gp * Potion Level] So a first level potion would cost 50gp to make, a 2nd level potion would require 100gp to make, and so forth.
Alchemical products also take time. The materials must be painstakingly prepared so as not to contaminate them, and and even once all the work is done, it can take days for the mixture to slowly, drop-by-drop produce enough of the liquid to create the desired effect even once. Each alchemical product requires 1 week per recipe level to complete.
Regarding recipes, you will need them before you can create a working potion. Like magic, alchemical knowledge is rare and difficult to come by. However, recipes are freely traded, and are normally much less expensive than spell scrolls. It’s also likely that you’ll find some recipes among treasure hordes!
It is possible to create a recipe yourself through research, but alchemical research can be an expensive and time consuming proposition! In addition to costing [250gp * Potion Level] in material components used for experimentation and failure, the process will require [1d6 + Potion Level] weeks to complete. If you have a potion to reverse-engineer, then you may reduce either the cost, or the time required by 20%. Having a magic user apprentice who is willing to assist you can reduce either the cost or time by an additional 20%. (In each case, you must pick only one of the two. If you have both a potion to reverse engineer, and an apprentice, then the two you select need not be the same).
If you do not have a potion which you are reverse engineering, Alchemical research will result in discovery of a random potion, determined by the GM.
Some alchemical products may be associated either with clerics, or magic users. For example, a healing potion will be associated with clerics. In that case, a Magic User may still create a healing potion, but the potion will be treated as though it is 1 level higher. So if a healing potion is a level 1 alchemical product, then a magic user who wishes to create one will treat it as a level 2 alchemical product, which costs 100 gp and takes 2 weeks to produce.
An example Alchemical recipe is Strength of the Bull. It’s a level 1 alchemical recipe for clerics and magic users. When consumed, it grants the person who drinks it immense strength for 1 minute. With it, the player can ignore most strength checks, lift heavy boulders, and even smash through walls. A punch from someone who has consumed a Bull’s Strength potion would be equivalent to 2d6 damage.
Bull’s Strength doesn’t make a person Superman. They couldn’t knock over a building or lift a sailing galley over their head, but their strength is superhuman none the less.
Like Vaults of Pahvelorn, all of the XP in my game comes from the players spending gold. It’s been amazing to watch just how instantaneously players internalize this fact, and become ravenous treasure hunters. It wasn’t long, though, before they’d spent all the money they wanted to spend on basic amenities, and started asking me what else they could spend their treasure on. I needed to come up with some items they could purchase which wouldn’t break my low-magic setting, but would also be interesting enough to the players that they’d feel compelled to spend piles of gold on it.
I immediately thought of Thracle’s Emporium, a shop in the town of Zorfath, which regularly sells oddities such as a miniature wyvern, Dragonbane arrows, or gems with the souls of ghosts trapped inside. The Emporium has often been the subject of discussion in the Vaults of Pahvalorn campaign, as we all scramble to find gold for whatever odd or end the shop has.
Since my game’s town, Haetrope, is a trading town on the edge of Elven territory, I decided that merchants traveling to and from the elven lands would serve the same role as Thracle’s Emporium, for my players. Every few days I come up with a bunch of random items, assign them to a caravan, and let my players know that new goods are available in town. Some of them have obvious uses, while others are simply highly valuable, and still others have uses which aren’t obvious at all. A few days after each caravan arrives in town, it leaves again. The system is pretty simple to pull off, since we manage the campaign online anyway, and everybody seems to be enjoying throwing their money at the various oddities which crop up.
As an example, here are the caravans currently stopped in town:
- 8 finely crafted oaken chairs, engraved with symbols of nature = 100 gp / ea
- 1 finely crafted oaken table. Seats 8, engraved with symbols of nature = 1000 gp
- 3 masterwork elven padlocks = 65 gp / ea
- A chest with a magical lock upon it, which no one has yet been able to open = 500 gp
- A miniature bear, about the size of a cat. It is fully grown. = 750 gp
The Corvani Family Trading Caravan
- The Longsword of an Ancient King. It does not appear to be magical, but was once wielded by an unknown hero. It is extremely ornate. = 1700 gp
- Exhausted Wand, crafted by an elven wizard, this wand retains no magical powers. = 100 gp
- A ballista = 600 gp
- 14 Ballista Bolts = 40gp/ea
- 8 potions of healing from the elven lands = 100 gp/ea
- 1 potion of Sight Through Walls = 200 gp
- A block of the finest elven marble, large enough for a life sized statue = 1500 gp
- 12 pairs of silk, elven shoes = 60 gp / ea
- A grand piano. Well crafted, though not ornate = 700 gp
- 12 Perisnia blosoms, potted in elvish soil = 30 gp / ea
- A lightweight steel staff, topped with an owl holding a glass orb between its wings. Does not appear to be magical. = 1000 gp
- 3 books detailing the language of Ancient Common = 25 gp / ea
- 8 very fine elven dresses. Proportioned for an elvish frame = 100 gp / ea
- 20 yards of elvish silk = 50 gp / ea
In closing, you should totally play Dishonored. So good.
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