Posts Tagged “House Rules”
The Weather Wizard, one of The Flash’s many foes.
In the past I’ve written that weather is an important element in tabletop gameplay, but I’ve reevaluated that position. Rather than calling it an “important game element,” I think it would be better termed as an “intermediate GM skill.” Yes, including weather in a game enhances the game’s atmosphere, and can potentially provide the players with an interesting handicap or boon. It’s a good addition to a game, but GMs already have a lot of things to keep track of. If something needs to be dropped, weather is the obvious choice. When I first started playing tabletop RPGs, I honestly didn’t notice that every adventure took place on a clear summer’s day. Weather was never mentioned, and nobody ever complained.
Given that weather is non-essential, I want it to require as little work as any mechanic can ever require. Random is good, but in this case, charts are bad. Charts require table space, or GM screen space. When they need to be rolled on, the GM will probably need to spend a few moments finding them. That’s too large a time investment. For weather, I want to roll a die, and immediately be able to interpret the die’s result.
I propose using a 1d12 roll. When play begins, a roll of 1 indicates bad weather, 2-3 indicate inconvenient weather, 4-9 indicate normal weather, 10-11 are nice weather, and 12 is great weather. Each new day out of doors, the GM rolls another 1d12. The same ranges mentioned above are used to determine how the weather changes, with the options being: much worse, slightly worse, unchanged, slightly better, or much better.
The GM determines the weather’s precise nature based on the current climate and season in the player’s location. Both of these elements should be predetermined using the game world’s map, and the campaign calendar. Within this context, the idea of “good” and “bad” weather is relative to how it helps the characters. While crossing plains or forests, rain would be at least inconvenient. In a desert, however, rain would be the best weather you could possibly ask for!
I like how this method utilizes a bell curve, without the annoyance of adding numbers together. Perhaps this weakness comes from my own poor education in math, but adding even small numbers together requires me to pause for a moment and consider. Not long, mind you, but longer than reading a single number off of a die. The system is also fairly easy to memorize: 1,2,3 are bad, anything with double digits (10, 11, 12) is good, and everything else is normal. And even though my decision to use a d12 was based on the probabilities which can be modeled with it, I take some small pleasure in coming up with a new use for the lil’ underutilized guy.
The number 12 has an amazing, underutilized synergy with dice games. But that’s a post for another day!
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Posted by LS on Wednesday, March 27th, 2013 at 5:45 am
Categories: System Independant
Tags: House Rules, Theorycrafting
Promotional art for “Beware the Batman,” from D.C. Comics and Cartoon Network
I’ve been pondering how stealthy action could be handled better at the table. When I assessed Pathfinder’s stealth skill earlier this year, I came to the conclusion that while the rules were dangerously unclear on specifics, they could still be interpreted as a pretty solid stealth mechanic. To refresh: Pathfinder’s stealth skill is rolled as an opposed check. The character wishing to be subtle makes their check, and any characters they wish to avoid the detection of rolls a perception check. Highest result wins. If the GM only calls for the check under the proper conditions, and the D&D 3.5 optional facing rules are used, then the skill as written works respectably well, all things considered.
Nevertheless I’ve recently found myself attracted to a ternary stealth system. I hesitate to call it simpler, because in some ways it is more complicated, but ultimately I believe it is more enjoyable and more streamlined than Pathfinder’s raw ruleset. In many ways, it is similar to the Streamlined Skills System I wrote about back in September. It would function thusly:
Characters are either “Subtle,” or “Unsubtle.” If the game is a retroclone, then characters like the thief or assassin will obviously be the subtle ones, whilst all other classes would be unsubtle. In Pathfinder, a subtle character is one who has a bonus in stealth not less than their HD + 1. (So a level 6 rogue must have a +7 or more in her stealth skill if she wishes to be a subtle character.) -OR- if you are concerned about stealth becoming a skill tax, a subtle character is any who has 10 ranks or more in the Stealth skill. (I would discourage my fellow GMs from having subtle characters be those of a class for whom stealth is a class skill. While it is reasonable, the entire benefit of the skill system is that any character can use it to excel at a given task).
Anytime any character wishes to go unseen, and that character has a reasonable chance of failure (more on this below), they must make a stealth check. In a retroclone, the check would likely be defined by the subtle character’s class abilities. In Pathfinder, the DC will be based on the environment. A field of grass would be the baseline of 10, a stone floor would be DC of 15, creaky wood a DC of 20, crunchy leaves or a floor filled with trash a DC of 25. Darkness would reduce the DC, while something like a large mirror would increase it. Obviously, armor check penalties would apply. GMs of both type of game are encouraged to grant circumstance bonuses to characters who take extra precautions like camouflage, and impose penalties on characters who fail to observe common sense precautions like moving at a slow pace.
Attempts at stealth should be rejected by the GM outright in any circumstance where moving undetected would be completely unreasonable. For example, moving in plain sight of the creature you wish to hide from.
If an unsubtle character fails their stealth check, then something has happened which alerts those around them. Perhaps they kicked a stone or scraped their foot on the floor. Perhaps something out of their control occurred, like the door they were opening being poorly maintained, and causing a loud squeaking sound when it opened. If an unsubtle character succeeds on their check, then they are moving pretty quietly. However, nearby creatures may be entitled to a perception check to detect the character anyway. In a retroclone, this perception check is a 1d6 roll, and could have a range of 1, 2, or 3, depending on how likely it is that the nearby creatures heard the player. In Pathfinder, this perception check is a skill check, directly opposed to the result of the player’s stealth roll.
If a subtle character fails their check, they receive the same result that an unsubtle character would on a successful check. If a subtle character succeeds on their check, then they are (within reason) moving with absolute stealth. Their victims are not entitled to any perception checks at all.
A single successful check is only good for so long, however. It would be ridiculous for a rogue to succeed on a stealth check, then move all the way down to bottommost level of the dungeon, retrieve the treasure, and walk back without requiring any further checks. A new check must be rolled any time the situation changes. Some examples of when a new check must be rolled include:
- Anytime the character enters a new area, such as moving into a new room.
- Anytime the character abandons something which aided them in their stealth, such as moving out of an area of darkness, or moving into an area where their camouflage would no longer be effective.
- Anytime they attempt a maneuver which might get them caught, such as making a quick dash from one hiding place to another, or when they open a door.
As mentioned above, checks should only be called for if there is a reasonable chance the character will be detected. Checks should not be called for if the player is crawling on their belly to glance over a hill at an enemy fortress in the valley below. Nor should checks be called for if the character is merely attempting to use some form of cover to hide themselves, without moving. Anybody can crawl inside of a barrel and be essentially undetectable. Exceptions may be made if the character needs to remain in their hiding place for an extremely long time (perhaps an hour or more), or if their hiding space is ill suited to them (such as hiding behind a pole barely large enough to conceal your body while standing sideways).
Ultimately, I hope this system will turn sneaking into a more active process, where players must discuss their actions in detail with the GM. I’m quite happy with this, and plan to implement it in all of my games so I can work out any bugs there may be. I’m eager to hear what others think as well.
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I’ve been trying to write a post about critical hits and fumbles for awhile now. A stupidly long while, actually. Like, a month and a half. I’ve had this general idea about wanting to discuss the various ways I’ve seen people handle attack rolls of 1 or 20, but I haven’t been able to pin down what I want to say about it.
I first got to thinking about this when I started playing in my friend Gustie’s Anomalous Subsurface Environment game, where I am a thief named Nire the Dead. Gustie has a really cool method of handling critical hits, where the attacker can either deal double damage, or do ‘something cool.’ It’s a mechanic which doesn’t simply allow players to be creative and try crazy things, but encourages it. A player can always say they want to try something cool, but often the odds of success make a simple attack the obviously better choice. By pre-confirming that something cool will work, the mechanic has an incredibly freeing effect on the player’s imagination.
All of that said, I don’t know if I would want to implement Gustie’s system in Pathfinder. Combat maneuvers already provide a working structure for ‘cool stuff,’ and it’s an extremely efficient one which rewards player ingenuity. I feel like the two systems might not mesh well with one another. Despite not wanting to use Gustie’s system, though, I do want to try something a little more colorful than the basic double damage / critical miss system that Pathfinder uses.
For the last few weeks, Brendan’s Vaults of Pahvelorn game has been using a pair of tables he got from a Lammantations of the Flame Princess supplement. I don’t own LotFP, so I can’t speak to the table’s full content. But anytime a 1 or a 20 is rolled, Brendan asks us to roll a 30 sided die, and something wonderful, or terrible, results. I’ve been fascinated to watch how this table has affected the group. We’re all on the edge of our seat, waiting to find out what the d30′s roll will produce–and there have been some doozies. Like the time one of us rolled a 20, which resulted in a miss, but they then ‘learned from it,’ and gained 1 point to their wisdom score. Or the time one of the party’s cleric’s was granted a new level on the spot.
We’ve had an immense amount of fun with the LotFP tables. But for my Pathfinder games, I wanted to find something a little more grounded. That’s when I discovered a post on Delta’s D&D Hotspot with some fantastic tables from an old dragon magazine. You should definitely take a moment to look over those tables. They’re very nearly perfect. All I’ve done below is parse them down from four charts, to two. And from a d%, to a d30.
Note that a little creativity, and judgement is required from the GM when using these tables. What does it mean in game terms when an orc loses an eye? (Perhaps they’re easier to backstab or flank)? What exactly happens to a shortbow when it’s damaged? (Perhaps the character cannot bend it as far without breaking it, and thus the bow’s range is reduced by half)? I’ve tried to predict circumstances which would make any of the results invalid, and provide contingencies for them. But if you choose to use these tables, I’m sure you’ll discover a few that I missed, and need to either re-roll, or make a judgement call.
Critical Hits (Roll 1d30)
Any attack roll of 20 is a critical hit. Any other other attack roll within critical range must be confirmed as per Pathfinder’s rules.
1-10) Standard critical damage as indicated by the weapon type.
11-15) Critical multiplier increased by 1. (If a weapon deals double damage on a critical hit, then it would deal triple damage. If the weapon deals triple damage, then it would deal quadruple damage, and so on.)
16) Normal damage, and weapon is knocked from the opponent’s hands. (If enemy uses natural weapons, such as a bite attack, those weapons are damaged and rendered unusable.)
17) Normal damage, and opponent’s shield is knocked out of their hands. (If no shield is present, weapon is knocked away instead, as described for 16)
18) Normal damage, plus opponent’s armor (or natural armor) is damaged, reducing its AC bonus by 1. Armor can be repaired for 1/2 base cost. (If armor is magical, re-roll.)
19) Normal damage, plus the opponent’s ear is struck, and destroyed. (If the target is wearing a helm, attack deals normal damage, and helm is knocked off.)
20) Normal damage, plus the opponent’s eye is struck, and destroyed. (If the target is wearing a helm, attack deals normal damage and helm is knocked off.)
21) Normal damage, plus the opponent’s knee is struck. They are reduced to 1/2 movement speed.
22) Critical damage, plus the opponent’s right arm is destroyed (Either cut off, or damaged beyond usability).
23) Critical damage, plus the opponent’s left arm is destroyed (Either cut off, or damaged beyond usability).
24) Critical damage, plus the opponent’s right leg is destroyed (Either cut off, or damaged beyond usability).
25) Critical damage, plus the opponent’s left leg is destroyed (Either cut off, or damaged beyond usability).
26) Critical damage, plus severe damage to the abdomen. (Heavy bleeding, either from a wound, or internally). Target will continue to lose 10 hp every turn (10 minutes) until bbleeding is stopped.
27) Critical damage, plus severe damage to one of the target’s lungs. Target is left gasping on the ground until tended to. Suffers a permanent loss of 4 Constitution (which also causes a loss of 2hp/level). This ability loss is from the destruction of a lung, and cannot be recovered by anything less than a Regenerate spell.
28) The attack strikes the chest, and severely damages the heart. The target is immediately reduced to -1 hp.
29) The attack strikes the head. The target immediately drops to -1 hp and suffers the permanent loss of 4 Wisdom. This ability loss is from brain damage, and cannot be recovered by anything less than a Regenerate spell. (If the target is wearing a helmet, this attack instead deals critical damage, and knocks the helmet from the target’s head).
30) Roll twice.
Critical Fumble (Roll 1d30)
Any attack roll of 1 is a critical fumble.
1-10) Complete miss.
11-12) Fumbler’s movements put them off balance. They take a -1 penalty to their armor class for the next round.
13) Fumbler’s movements put them severely off balance. They lose Dexterity, Shield, and Dodge bonuses to AC for the next round. If losing these bonuses does not reduce the fumbler’s AC, then they still must take a -1 penalty.
14-15) Fumbler trips, and falls prone.
16) Fumbler trips, falls prone, and strikes their head. Stunned for 1d4 rounds. (If fumbler is wearing a helmet, then they are not stunned, but their helmet is knocked off).
17-18) Weapon is damaged and loses some of its effectiveness, but is still usable. Specifics are up to the GM. Weapon can be repaired for 1/2 of the weapon’s base cost. (Magical weapons are unaffected, and merely miss).
19) Weapon is damaged and loses some of its effectiveness, but is still usable. Specifics are up to the GM. Weapon can be repaired for 1/2 base cost. This includes magical weapons.
20-21) Weapon is destroyed. Can be reassembled for 3/4 of the weapon’s base cost. (Magical weapons are unaffected, and merely miss).
22) Weapon is destroyed. Can be reassembled for 3/4 of the weapon’s base cost. This includes magical weapons.
23) Weapon is dropped.
24) Weapon is sent flying.
25) Shield is dropped. (If no shield is held, weapon is dropped).
26) Fumbler twists their ankle, and is reduced to 1/2 speed until they have a day to rest.
27) If fumbler wears a helm, it becomes twisted, leaving them unable to see. (If no helm is worn, this is simply a miss).
28) A nearby ally is struck for 1/2 damage. (If no ally is nearby, this is merely a miss).
29) A nearby ally is struck for normal damage. (If no ally is nearby, this is merely a miss).
30) Roll Twice.
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Posted by LS on Monday, November 26th, 2012 at 6:45 am
Categories: Dungeons & Dragons 3.5, Pathfinder
Tags: House Rules, My Games