Thursday, March 31, 2011

2d10 To-Hit

OK, so using the dice probability link I have listed at left, I have converted the 2d6 hit probabilities from Chainmail to a 2d10 table. I eyeballed some of the numbers that didn't jive properly. The expanded range let me tweak the armor types a little, too.
The table (and at this point, that is all it is) is uploaded to my google docs. If anyone takes a look at this, please give me your feedback. Thanks.
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Probability Curves - or put another way - Ring My Bell

This will be brief. I was thinking this morning about probabilities. I am a big fan of bell curves. For some reason, that seems to be true of a lot of "seasoned" gamers. We know who we are. I like 2d6 systems. I'm implimenting them for my thief skills and magic casting rolls. I would like to use it for combat, but it seems to not have enough range to allow for a variety of modifiers. Especially if those modifiers start adding up. Adding +3 to a 2d6 roll is a big deal.
I had this crazy idea, though. Why not 2d10? The basic number of results are the same. Well, almost, there are 19 final results from 2d10. It's the curve vs linear distribution that matters. There's all kind of cool stuff that comes from it.
Anyway, I'm thinking about going with a to-hit roll table based on individual weapons vs specific armor types, a la Chainmail. Convert those numbers to a 2d10 roll, then use the BaB from the Ascending Armor Class option. Those numbers might need some massaging,not sure yet. Either way, it should be easy-peasy.
Now, if only I had some guinea pi-- er, uh, players to test this out on . . .
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Under a Red Sun Dying

The Gods, especially those of Law, return to the Maelstrom unlike anything else. They unravel slowly, agonizingly, many times taking eons to finally die.
Vayn was the Sun Goddess. She was the resplendent, living sun of Kalagris. With her radiant golden hair trailing out behind her, she crossed the daytime skies, bringing warmth and llfe. By night she stalked the Underworld, seeking out her enemies with flaming orange eyes.
Then, she began to unravel. Over many bitter generations of men was Vayn torn limb from limb by the pull of chaos. Her screams of pain rained down from on high and there was nowhere in the world to escape that awful sound. Generations of men were born, lived their entire lives, and died with the sounds of her agony ripping at their ears, and their sanity.
Eventually there wasn't enough of her left and her strength was almost spent. She was unable to maintain her course through the sky. She stopped at her highest point, and there awaited the end. Chaos continued to rip and tear at her, until finally it stopped.
There is no explaination for it stopping. It just did. All that is left of the once mighty Vayn is her heart. It hangs high in the sky over Kalagris, glowing a dull and ruddy blood-red. It yet beats, slowly, its dim light pulsing in time to the pitiful rhythm. Both the sound of the beating and the pulsing bloody glow are said to induce madness in the weak mind, and hopeless despair in the faint heart.
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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Magic in Kalagris

I've uploaded my magic hack for Kalagris to my google docs. Magic can be a grim business in Kalagris, definitely not for the faint of heart. If you happen to check it out, please bbe sure to leave a comment with what you think of it.

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Thoughts on Ascending Armor Class

      A lot of people like the Ascending AC thing. I'll admit that, on paper, I like it. It grates against my Old Fart sensibilities, but I'm open minded, so I had decided to use it (should I ever actually run a game of WhiteBox).
     Then one of the tenets of old school play came to mind. In order to facilitate player engagement, and a sense of control over one's own fate, players have more and more claimed the right to make all the rolls for their characters. It was not always thus. In fact, in the LBB (Pg 10 of Men and Magic) under Determination of Abilities, it is laid plain that the referee actually rolls player character stats:
     "Prior to the character selection by players it is necessary for the referee to roll three six-sided dice in order to rate each as to various abilities, and thus aid them in selecting a role."
Isn't that a fine kettle of fish?
     Of course, DMs were expected to roll anything the character could not immediately determine the success of, such as hiding and moving silently.
     What does all that have to do with Ascending AC? In a word: unpredicability. With AAC it is assumed that the player always knows what he needs to roll in order to hit. That's the whole point of it, to streamline combat by establishing a more intuitive method for determing what the player needs to roll. But that doesn't leave much room for the mysterious or unpredictable, now does it?
     Descending AC, or more to the point, an actual to-hit table, is a horse of another color. With that the DM tells the player that the bandits are wearing leather armor, except the chief who has chain. Great. So, they know what they normally need to roll to hit chain, and smack him one, or so they think. Let's say they needed a 15 to-hit, and rolled spot on. They gleefully reach for the damage die, and you say "Nope. No good. You missed."
     Wait a minute, they think. What the hell just happened? One of two things. Either this guy is slippery as hell, or that chain is magic. But who knows for sure?

     The new games and systems have their own design goals. The designers set out to deliver a certain experience at the gaming table, and their designs reflect that. It is always important to remember that. They are trying to deliver to you their vision of the best system, and therefore, experience, that they possibly can. If your vision jives with theirs, then great. If not, then I ask, is newer really better? In this case, I think I'll be coming up with something that allows me to inject some mystery into opponents. Maybe not exactly the Descending AC system, but something similar, to be sure.
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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Google Docs Update

OK, I'm learning. I've created a folder for all my S&W stuff. I've added pdf's of my cleric, fighter, and Damage Threshold articles, so if anyone wants them, they are in a more immediately usable form. I also learned that I can post a link to the folder (Google Docs calls it a "Collection"), rather than posting links to individual articles. The link is at the bottom of the page, after the posts.

Google Docs

I am somehat frustrated. Blogger doesn't handle attachments, and I don't want all my house rules and crap to be in-line in my blog. So, I am going to try linking to Google docs for "finished" things. That will also have the advantage of downloadability, if anyone sees something they like. I'll post inro blurbs for the docs I upload there. I'll also post "developer" type notes here. I hope this works.

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The Thief

What follows is my version of the thief class for WhiteBox, tweaked for Kalagris (my world). I drew inspiration from a number of sources, espcially Dyson Logos ( Thanks for the ideas, I had almost given up on allowing the thief at all.

Music for the Mood

The three main philosophical underpinnings of my world are:

Nihilism, being defined as an extreme form of scepticism that systematically rejects all values, belief in existence, the possibility of communication, etc.

Defeatism, acceptance of or resignation to the prospect of defeat.

Hedonism, the doctrine that pleasure or happiness is the sole or chief good in life.

We'll explore these further when I discuss Alignment. For now, let's just say that there is a grim, ugly slant on a party-like-it's-1999 vibe in the world. Here is some music that really sets the tone for me when I'm working on it:

Tool - most of it, but Undertow especially
Type O Negative - again, most of it
Johnny Cash - Hurt
Avenged Sevenfold - Nightmare
Disturned - The Animal, Indestructible, Inside the Fire
Drowning Pool - 37 Stitches, Let the Bodies Hit the Floor
Linkin Park - a lot
Five Finger Death Punch - Far from Home, Bad Company
Nine Inch Nails
Rob Zombie/White Zombie
Ronnie James Dio - Last in Line
Stone Sour
Skillet - Hero
Rage Against the Machine

So, that's a start. I'm sure it has you moving in the right direction. Now, grab a sword and go carve off your piece while there's still something left.
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A Note Concerning My World

I'm not a professional author or game designer. I'm sure if you've made it this far with me, you know these things by now. However, I am very excited by the ideas I am having for this world. I am also really stoked by the old school mojo that WhiteBox has rekindled in my dark little soul.
Anyway, my point is that most of what you see here will be stream-of-conscious style writing. One world entry won't flow to the next. A new entry may build on one that was 6 weeks ago. Entries may be long or short; an entire region,complete with NPC names, or just enough to express some relevant twist to something that went before.
Perhaps someday, if there is enough interest, I may compile and edit all of it into something remotely usable. Until then, think of it as I do: a notebook where I can scribble ideas, bits of maps, new magic items, spells, and monsters.
Oh, yes, and speaking of interest: I want to welcome my very first follower, ever, ze bulette. I've enjoyed your site greatly and only hope I can return at least some small portion of the favor.
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Monday, March 28, 2011

Introduction to My World

My world is dying. Slowly. Painfully. One piece at a time. Chunks tearing away, returning to the Maelstrom from which it came. I don't know how the world was born, I wasn't there, but I do know it floats in a sea of chaotic energy. I know that however it happened, my world was shaped and formed from that energy. And I believe to that energy, it is returning.
Over 7,000 years ago, 7149 to be precise, the first hole appeared. The great dwarven citadel of Marzakal was swallowed in a pit of fire. It is still there, deep in the Homeforge Mountains. A hole, jagged around the edges, cliffs forever calving off the mountains, as if feeding the molten maw of some hellish beast. It is 27 miles across now. Some sages and scholars predict it will consume the entire Homeforge range within another 100 years.
These days there are thousands of holes. Too many to count. Not all of them are fiery and molten, like the Doom-Hole, as the one at Marzakal is now known. Some are inky nothingness. Some ooze some sort of tainted muck that corrupts all it touches. It was one of those that got Carrasett, the great college of wizardry. That hole opened some miles from the towers of the college, but the creeping ooze consumed everything in what is now called the Chaos Bog. The towers and structures of the university still stand, but their foundations and lower levels are coated in the ooze, giving rise to all manner of hideous swamp-things.
The Edge-Holes, also called the Steam Pits by some, form the boundaries of our world. There were those who once believed our world was round. Now, all that's left is a flat piece of earth, hemmed in by blazing chasms. Our oceans and seas pour into them, wreathing the precipice in shrouding mists.
Not all the holes are old, huge, or famous. In fact, most are no larger than a modest castle. New ones are forming almost monthly. Yet, for all their differences, they share one thing in common: they mark a point where our world has returned to the raw Stuff from whence it came. They are an encroachment of chaotic energies into our world. They corrupt all they touch, and their influence spreads, once the hole is made. They are killing my world.
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Saturday, March 26, 2011

Off the Fence

I don't have a group, or a game, steady or otherwise. But, since gaming is my hobby, I doggedly pursue it. My "focus" shifts about, here and there, as new ideas (mine and others') demand exploration.
Currently, I am quite enamored of the retro-clones. Being a 35 year plus veteran, they speak directly to me. The one with the loudest voice is the WhiteBox Edition of Swords & Wizardry. It is part of the S&W family, sibling to Core, and most recently, Complete.
I had been on the fence between WB and Core. They are extremely close relatives, almost indistinguishable from one another. But WB is the purer of the two, and thus, pulled harder. My first thought was to use the simpler WB mechanics and graft the expanded spell lists and monsters from Core onto it. But I may as well "play" (since I have no group) Core if I did that. So, I have a new solution.
I'll work with WB (and my houserules) pretty much as-is. I'll hold the monster book and spelllists for Core as DM-only resources. Curve-ball monsters and fabled spells. I think this is a solutions I can work with. If only I had a regular game . . .
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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Hit Points and Physical Damage

There have been many knowledgable dissertations on the subject of hit points in D&D. I will not rehash them here, they are easy enough to turn up with a simple Google search. For purposes of this article, I will say that I view them as a combination of the character's actual physical being, along with the typical mix of luck, stamina, favor of the gods, defensive savvy, etc.
However, I have always wanted a system whereby we could simulate physical damage, without becoming mired in needless complexity. I have one overriding reason for desiring this: dramatic story development. I'm not going to slip into some sort of Narrativistic poppy field here, so don't panic. I just want to add the concepts of scars, lingering wounds, true physical damage and the like. Those are things that will become part of the character's history and add new dimensions to the epic tales of their adventures.
There are several solutions to this problem, many of them very good. For one posssible alternative, I direct you to Akrasia's blog: He has a lot of great stuff there, so be sure to go check it all out. It was while ruminating on his ideas for hit points that I came up with the ideas I am presenting here, so thanks are in order. Thank you, Akrasia, for the inspiration. It is a rare and marvelous gift.
Enough preamble. I propose that actual, physical damage be handled using a “damage threshold” model. The character's CON score represents the amount of “superficial” damage that can be tolerated before something bad happens. Anytime a character takes damage from a single attack that exceeds his CON score, he takes one point of physical damage. This is applied to either STR, DEX, or CON, reducing the stat by one, temporarily. This reduced stat is the character's stat until all physical damage is healed. It is used for all relevant rolls, calculations, and any other purposes. The only exceptions are bonus hit points and the Damage Threshold itself. Additionally, any time a critical hit is scored, it always inflicts one point of physical damage, in addition to the normal damage a critical hit causes. The damage from the critical may exceed the threshold, thus inflicting another point of physical damage. The stat affected by any physical damage resulting from a critical hit is decided by the attacker.
The superficial damage represented by hit points is relatively easy to heal. At the end of combat, all characters roll a d6-2(+CON bonus). This represents catching one's breath, and the “It's not as bad as it looks” rule. Thereafter, characters recover 1/10th of their hit point total per hour (round down). They are fully recovered if they can manage an 8-hour rest.
Binding, bandaging, and other forms of first aid allow the character to recover 1-3 points, plus any bonus related to the applying character's ability with such things. Finally, a character may also recover 1-3 (or more, depending on the drink) points if he can quaff a strong drink of some sort. All of these effects are cumulative, but may each only be performed once per battle. Healing potions or spells are of no use to superficial wounds.
Physical damage is another matter entirely. It may only be healed by rest, being under the care of a physician/healer, or by magical means. Regardless of the healing method, the following applies. The stat with the most damage is healed first. If more than one stat is damage and the damage is equal, then the character decides which heals first. Healing is considered point by point, So if a character is suffering from 4 points of DEX damage and 2 points of STR, the first and second points of healing would be automatically applied to DEX. Then, the player could choose to apply the next point to DEX. The next, then would automatically be applied to STR, since its damage is higher at that point. The only exception to this is magical healing, discussed below.
Resting (complete bed rest) restores one point per three days. If under the care of a physician or healer, and in an appropriate environment, this improves to one point every two days.
Magical Healing
Magical healing, no matter the source, only works on damage to one stat at a time. Any healing “left over” is lost. It is not applied to another stat. Magical healing cures a finite number of points, based on the source of the healing. The following table lists the amount of healing done by each source:
Cure Light Wounds 1 point
Cure Serious WounOptionsds 2 points
Cure Critical Wounds 1 point from each stat
Heal 2 points from each stat
Healing 1 point
Extra Healing 2 points (may be split)
Staff of Healing 1 point
Ring of Regeneration 1 point/round
“Death Spiral”
If you want to simulate the effect of a so-called “death spiral”, it adds a level of complexity, and deadliness, to combat. This may not be your cup of tea (I'm not even sure it's mine) but here it is, all the same.
In the rules as given the Damage Threshold remains fixed, equal to the character's CON stat. With this option the Damage Threshold is variable, based on the following condition:
The Damage Threshold is equal to the current CON, meaning that if CON damage has been sustained, it makes further stat damage more likely.
Grievous Damage
This option allows for one point of physical damage for each full multiple of the Damage Threshold. For example, a character with a CON of 13 is hit with 42 points of damage from a Fireball. With this option he would suffer 3 points of physical damage (42/13= 3.23).
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Monday, March 21, 2011

Fighting-Men and Old School Elegance

Ask anybody that has ever gamed with me what my favorite class is and they will tell you. Fighter. No head scratching required. Over 30+ years in the hobby I've played pretty much all of them at least once. Even if it was just a pick-up game on a rainy afternoon. But Fighters are my bread-and-butter.
Naturally, as a DM, then, I want to see Fighters compete well into the upper classes of the campaign. To that end I have devised the following house rules for fighters.

These changes are designed to insure that the Fighting-Man remains a productive member of the adventuring party well into the upper levels.

* Fighters add 1/2 their level to damage caused in combat, either melee or ranged.
* A Fighter's AC improves by -1 at 4th level,and again at 8th level. This bonus only applies when the fighter is armed and capable of defending himself.
* Upon attaining 4th level a Fighter's number of attacks per round improves to 3 attacks per 2 rounds. At 8th level the attacks per round improves to 2 attacks every round.
* At 4th level Fighters gain immunity to spell-based Fear effects. They gain a +2 bonus to saves vs all other Fear effects.
* At 8th level Fighters gain complete immunity to Fear. All allies within 10' of the Fighter are likewise receive a +2 bonus to saving throws versus Fear.
* At 8th level Fighters score a critical hit on a natural roll of 19 or 20, provided the attack hits.
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Cleric Redux


Like many old-schoolers, I've never been completely comfortable with the cleric. My discomfort isn't severe enough to prompt me to remove it completely. It does, however, cause me to want to redesign it.

Clerics and the World Around them
According to my vision of things, clerics are not priests. They may or may not be vested with eccliastical authority, but they are not clergy. Clerics in my worlds fight for a belief and/or cause. They possess some of the power of a paladin, while losing some of their former ability. The player is free to determine the path his cleric follows. No matter what path it is, higher powers imbue the cleric with a portion of their power, to better enable the cleric to “take the fight to the enemy”. Clerics may be implacable witch hunters, vampire hunters, demonologists, holy crusaders rooting out heresy, or someone for whom the belief in Law and Justice is central to his life. Not all clerics are Lawful, however. There are Chaotic clerics who devote themselves to spreading discord, thwarting justice, and underming Law.
Clerics do not begin casting spells until they reach second level. It is also at second level that they must select an alignmennt, thus cementing their commitment to their cause. Clerics receive no class benefits, including the ability to cast spells, until they commit to an alignment. The player should also have the character's beliefs drafted by this time.

Class Abilities

Clerics no longer have the ability to Turn Undead. They gain the following benefits:

  • Clerics may use any one-handed weapons. They may wear any armor and use any shield.
  • They may use magical versions of the above, as well as items designated for clerics and any class.
  • Detect Evil/Good within 60', as the spell, when concentrating*
  • Radiate Protection from Evil/Good (as the spell) in a 10' radius at all times*
  • Receive a +2 bonus to saving throws vs Law/Chaos*
  • Repel Evil: Beginning at 4th level the cleric may repel a number of creatures whose total HD do not exceed his own. Repelled creatures are forced to flee the cleric's presence as quickly as possible and will continue in this fashion for a number of turns equal to the cleric's level.

    *These are not freely selectable, but only apply to the polarity opposite the cleric, i.e. a Lawful cleric radiates Protection from Evil only.

Cleric Level Progression (AEC pg 13) remains unchanged.

Clerics and Spellcasting

The biggest change is that cleriics no longer have unlimited access to every spell level they are able to cast. Now, clerics carry with them a form of spellbook, called a Litany. It typically takes the form of a scroll or other parchment. When unrolled it acts as a holy symbol. A cleric's litanies contain all the prayers he has access to. Clerics are no longer required to memorize spells ahead of time. They may cast any spell they have access to at any time. The cleric may do this a number of times equal to the number of spells per day given on the Cleric Spell Progression Table (AEC pg 14).

Cleric Access to Prayers
Clerics have access to a limited number of prayers. This is determined by adding the total number of spells the cleric may cast from the Cleric Spell Progression Table (AEC pg 14) to the Cleric's Wisdom bonus (if any). Thus, a 5th level cleric (WIS 16, +2 bonus) would have access to five 1st level (3+2) and three 2nd level (1+2) spells. When that character reaches 6th level, he will gain access to three 3rd level spells (1+2).
The exact spells a cleric has access to are determined by the player. They are chosen from the cleric spell lists, and once chosen they are pemanent. When a character advances to a level that grants the ability to cast the next-higher spell level, the player records the desired spells on the character sheet. These spells comprise what is known as his Access List. However, if the character gains an additional slot for a spell level he can already cast, he does not add an additional spell to his access list. These additional slots must be filled through play. They may possibly be given by some organization the cleric is afilliated with, they may be found adventuring, or perhaps granted as a reward.
When selecting spells the player is strongly encouraged to do so with the theme of the character in mind.
The Litanies
As stated above, cleric characters record the prayers they know on scrolls known as Litanies. Each spell-level must have its own litany scroll. Once a cleric has exhausted his allotment of spells for a particular level, he may not use anymore of that level until he has rested at least six hours and spent time meditating and praying over the appropriate litany. Approximately 15 minutes per spell level (the number of spells is irrelevant) will suffice.