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Oct 5, 2010

Lipstick Apathy
To touch back on the Gamma World discussion, it's one of the few games* I've read where random rolling works, and hits all the notes that a randomly-rolled process should output (at least IMO):

1. The character works. They're competent. They may not be optimized, but they're within the upper percentiles of whatever you need to be competitive at the game
2. It will let you create a complete character when you lack inspiration for a concept
3. It will let you create a complete character when you're new to the game and don't know enough about the mechanics to make informed decisions

* the others being OD&D and Fantasy AGE/the Dragon Age RPG


Oct 5, 2010

Lipstick Apathy
Classifying your game as "the thinking man's game" is pretentious no doubt, but I largely agree that D&D is wholly unrealistic. It's a game. It's very boardgamey, and the imagination part is just so that you can sketch out a map with pencils instead of going full-out Descent and so you can sort of skirt the edges of the rules if you placed a barrel in a room and someone wants to use it.

The gap, so to speak, is when people expect Tucker's Kobolds because "that's more realistic", when they should really be playing something else if their suspension of belief can't handle encounters where monsters fight to the death all, or even just some, of the time.

[I acknowledge that this post comes off as very "wrong way to play". Just imagine I hung a large IMO across all of it.]

Oct 5, 2010

Lipstick Apathy
Swords and Six-Siders

Swords and Six-Siders is a game by Steve Robertson, published in 2013. It's main shtick, as you may have guessed from the name, is that it tries to deliver a fantasy dungeon-crawling experience like the Original Dungeons & Dragons from 1974, but using only six-sided dice.

Core Mechanic

The main method of resolution is a roll of a single d6, where a natural 1 is always a miss/failure and a natural 6 is always a hit/success.

Character Creation: Ability Scores

The standard rule is that there are no ability scores. Your character is whatever you envision it to be. I think this is cool and good - a sacred cow has been slain.

There is an optional rule where you roll 1d6 each for Strength, Intelligence, Wisdom, Dexterity, Constitution and Charisma. A 1 means you're below average, a 6 means you're above average, and anything else means you're average. Even then, the game still says that this has no mechanical effect, and serves only to inform the character. Still cool and good, as it lets you "roleplay" a muscle wizard or whatever the heck people do with oddball rolled stats without getting in the way of things like combat or skill checks.

There is yet another optional rule where the 1/below average and the 6/above average attributes will work as penalties or bonuses:
STR: melee damage rolls
INT: number of languages known
WIS: saving throws vs magic
DEX: ranged attack rolls
CON: hit dice rolls
CHA: reaction rolls

A +1/-1 modifier is okay. It has a larger impact that the same +1 STR modifier would have had with OD&D's d20 rolls, but the rule is optional.

Another-nother optional rule to use in conjunction with this one is that you only roll three times, and then you take the "opposite" die roll for each of the three. That is, if you roll a 6, you get to assign one attribute with a 6 and another attribute with a 1. At that point though I think you're better off just going with the standard rule.

Character Creation: Clerics

Clerics can wear all armor and shields and helmets, but can only use blunt weapons
They can cast Cleric spells and they can Turn Undead
They know Common, their alignment language, and one more of the player's choice (remember that if you were using the optional attribute score rules, 6 INT would grant you one more language of your choice, so 4 languages total)
They have 1d6 HP per level
They gain a +1 to attack rolls at levels 3 and 6

Turn Undead works by rolling a d6 and adding half the Cleric's level, rounded up. If the result is 6+, the Turn Undead succeeds, which causes a number of undead to flee equal to d6 + half the Cleric's level, rounded up. If there is an undead present in the encounter which is higher level than the Cleric, the Cleric cannot use Turn Undead. If the Turn Undead fails, the Cleric cannot attempt again in the same encounter. If the Cleric is 2 or more levels higher than a turned undead, the undead is destroyed instead of just being forced to flee.

For spell progression, it's notable that Clerics in this game have 1 spell slot at level 1. I always thought that was a nice rule to differentiate Clerics from Fighters. Progression goes up to level 4 spells for Clerics.

Character Creation: Fighters

Fighters can wear all armor and can wield all weapons
They know Common, their alignment language, and one more of the player's choice
They have 1d6+1 HP per level
They gain a +1 to attack rolls at levels 1, 3 and 5
They gain a +1 to damage rolls, even ranged damage, at levels 2, 4 and 6

No dead levels! Funny how that worked out.

Character Creation: Wizard

Wizards cannot wear armor, nor use shields, nor wear helmets. They can only use simple weapons - daggers, staves and darts are the cited examples.
They know Common, their alignment language, and three more of the player's choice
They have 1d6 HP per level
They never gain any attack or damage bonuses

For spell progression, they start with two level 1 spell slots, and can learn up to level 5 spells.

There's also a section on magic item creation: Wizards can create spell scrolls at the cost of 100 gp per spell level per scroll, so a Scroll of Fireball, which is a level 3 spell, would cost 300 gp. Magic item creation works by the Wizard rolling a d6 and succeeding on a 6, with a +1 to the roll for every character level higher than the spell level. A level 1 Wizard trying to create a scroll with a level 1 spell would need a natural 6 to succeed, but a level 3 Wizard would only need a 4 or higher for the same spell.

The game also describes letting players create permanent magical items, and/or spell effects that aren't covered in the published spells, but leaves it up to the GM to come up with costs and spell levels and requirements.

Character Creation: Dwarves

As with OD&D, this game uses the races-as-classes model.

Dwarves can wear all armor and can wield all weapons
They know Common, Dwarven, their alignment language, and also Gnome, Goblin and Kobold languages
They have 1d6+1 HP per level
They gain a +1 to attack rolls at levels 3 and 5 (1 less than the Fighter)
They gain a +1 to damage rolls, even ranged damage, at levels 2, 4 (1 less than the Fighter)
They gain a +1 bonus to AC if the attacker is larger than a human
They gain a +1 bonus to saving throws against poison or magic

Their description also includes "Dwarves have a keen eye towards underground and stone construction, detecting traps, sloping passages, and new construction with great skill", which is pretty much taken straight out of D&D as well, but there's no rule on how to implement this mechanically.

Character Creation: Elves

Elves can wear all armor and can wield all weapons.
However, they can only cast spells if they're unarmored or if they're wearing magical armor
They know Common, Elf, their alignment language, and also Gnoll, Hobgoblin and Orc
They have 1d6 HP per level
They gain a +1 to attack rolls at level 3
They gain a +1 to damage rolls, even ranged damage, at level 4

Elves have slightly worse spell-progression than Wizards, with only 1 spell slot at level 1 and topping out at spell level 4.

They're also described as having "the ability to move silently and are almost invisible when being still. They are skilled in spotting secret doors" but again, no rules on how this is applied in-game.

Character Creation: Halflings

Halflings can wear all armor and can wield all weapons, although there's a slight bit of implication that they're supposed to have different or special gear to allot for their diminutive size
They know Common, Halfling, and their alignment language
They have 1d6 HP per level
They gain a +1 to ranged attack rolls at level 1. They gain additional +1 bonuses at levels 3 and 5, and these later ones apply to both melee and ranged attacks
They gain a +1 to damage rolls, even ranged damage, at level 4
They gain a +1 bonus to AC (, period)
They gain a +1 bonus to saving throws against poison or magic

Character Creation Optional Rule: Dual-classing

If the GM allows it humans can dual-class. They start as either a Cleric, Fighter or Wizard, then can change to a different class sometime after hitting level 2. Characters are still limited to 6 levels total, and class-specific abilities are pretty well cordoned-off, such as dual-classed Wizards being unable to cast spells if the character is wearing any armor.

Alignment and Languages

A character needs to choose being either Lawful, Neutral or Chaotic. Clerics specifically must be Lawful or Chaotic. You share a language with everyone of the same alignment. Intelligent creatures have their own language within their race and may know languages of other races, but not all of them know Common.


All characters start with 1d6+6 x 10 gold pieces to buy equipment with, and there's your standard fantasy list of camping supplies, weapons, and armor.

Mercifully, 1 gold piece is 10 silver pieces is 100 copper pieces

Encounter Rules: Time

A turn is 10 minutes, and a round is 6 seconds. Combat alternates by round, but there's nothing that actually says what a turn is used for. I expected something like an "moving to a new room takes 1 turn, exploring a room thoroughly takes 1 turn, you roll 1d6 for random encounters every 3 turns, triggering an encounter on a 1", but no such mention of turns ever appears again.

Encounter Rules: Surprise

When the players encounter a monster, each side that "is susceptible to being surprised", which is a somewhat vague description, gets to roll a 1d6. If the result is a 1 or 2, then that side is surprised. If both sides are surprised or unsurprised, then nothing special happens, but if only one side is unsurprised, then they get to take "a free action to flee, cast a spell, or attack."

Encounter Rules: Reactions

When monsters are encountered, the GM may roll 1d6 to check for their reaction. If the reaction isn't instantly hostile, the monsters can be bribed, tricked, distracted, or otherwise negotiated with, but communication and understanding will require intelligent monsters and a shared language.

Encounter Rules: Initiative

At the beginning of every round, every character rolls a d6, with highest rolls going first.

As an optional rule, initiative can be done per side instead of character.
As another optional rule, initiative can be thrown out entirely and actions are resolved having occurred simultaneously. How this is actually done is not well explained.

Encounter Rules: Combat

To make an attack, a character rolls 1d6, adds all modifiers, and scores a hit if the final result is equal to or greater than the target's AC. As with a core mechanic, a natural 6 always hits, and a natural 1 always misses.

An unarmored character has 4 AC. A shield is worth +1 AC, a helmet is also worth +1 AC.
Leather Armor reduces damage taken by 1, Chain Mail reduces it by 2, and Plate Mail reduces it by 3, but any successful hit will always deal a minimum of 1 damage.

This is one of the few D&D-esque games that make a distinction between "chance to avoid getting hit" and "reducing the impact of a hit via armor". It also shows some savvy on the part of the designer since it lets him stretch out the small scale of the d6 further.

One-handed weapons and ranged weapons all deal 1d6 damage on a hit
Two-handed weapons deal 1d6+1 damage on a hit
Fighters, Dwarves, Elves and Halflings can choose to dual-wield one-handed weapons. They can choose to reroll their d6 damage roll, but they must use the second roll if they do so

Once a character is reduced to 0 HP, they are either killed or knocked out, at the choice of the attacker. This is a nice simplification of subdual damage rules.

Encounter Rules: Saving Throws

Saving throws are used to either halve or eliminate the effects of "non-standard attacks (such as poison or spells)". Roll 1d6 + half the character's level rounded up + any other modifiers, and you succeed on a 6 or better. As with the core mechanic, a natural 6 always succeeds and a natural 1 always fails.

I think this is a good simplification, as the five different TSR-era saving throws are a personal bugaboo of mine, since they're not nearly as intuitive as Fortitude / Reflex / Will, though I do know that some people consider the squashing of saves into a single number (Swords & Wizardry also does this) to be an excessive divergence from the original game.

Encounter Rules: Morale

Intelligent monsters can be made to weigh their chances of success, and the GM can roll 1d6 to see if they flee or if they keep fighting. What's missing though are guidelines on when morale checks are supposed to be made.


A character heals 1d6-but-capped-at-character-level HP per day when they're in town and resting.

Spellcasting: Basics

Clerics, Wizards and Elves all need and use spellbooks to store and memorize their spells with. "Replacing a lost or destroyed spellbook is possible, but it is very expensive."

It takes a full night's rest to memorize spells to fill your spell slots. The game specifically allows a spellcaster to memorize the same spell more than once.

Clerics always know all the spells for the spell levels that are available to them.

Wizards and Elves start with Read Magic and one level one spell of their choice. As they gain access to higher spell levels, they get to learn one spell of their choice from that level, but learning any other spells is completely in the hands of the GM as to how they gain access. Even learning it from scrolls or spellbooks is an optional assumption. The game also suggests giving the Wizard one additional spell known at the start of the game, since they have two level 1 spell slots at level 1.

In combat: if an enemy is engaged in melee with a caster, the caster cannot cast spells. If they're hit by a spell or ranged attack prior to their turn, they cannot cast in that round. If the simultaneous initiative option is used, spells will not disrupt spellcasting, but ranged attacks still will.

It's also worth noting that the game does not really elaborate on movement rules, so "if an enemy is engaged in melee with a caster" is a bit vague.

Spellcasting: Cleric Spells

I'm not going to go into detail on every spell. Just imagine all of these spells have a range that generally goes between 100 to 300 feet.

Level 1 Spells

Cure Light Wounds: Heals 1d6+1 hp.
Detect Evil
Detect Magic
Light: Causes an object to shine like a torch. It can be cast on the eyes of an opponent to blind them.
Protection from Evil: +1 to AC and saves, counters mind control, and hedges out elementals and outsiders
Purify Food and Drink

Spell durations are measured in minutes or hours, but again since turns aren't used anywhere else, establishing a time-passage relationship using just the RAW text is difficult.

Level 2 Spells

Bless: Allies gain +1 on attack and morale rolls
Find Traps
Hold Person: Paralyzes 1-4 humanoids. If it is cast on a single target, it saves at -1
Resistance: Subject gains +1 on saving throws
Silence: Negates sound in 20 ft r (preventing any spells)
Speak with Animals

Level 3 Spells

Daylight: 60 foot range of bright light. It can be cast on the eyes of an opponent to blind them if they fail a save vs. magic. Permanent duration.
Fear: Causes one creature of 5 HD or less to flee
Locate Object
Remove Curse
Remove Disease
Spiritual Weapon: Summons a magic weapon that attacks on its own (1d6 damage, same to-hit as the cleric). 10 minute duration

Level 4 Spells

Create Food and Water
Cure Serious Wounds Heals 3d6 hp
Neutralize Poison
Protection from Evil: +1 to AC and saves, counters mind control, and hedges out elementals and outsiders in a 10 foot radius
Speak with Plants
Resuscitate: Restores life to subject who died as long as one day ago. The recipient only has 1 hp, cannot fight or cast spells, and must spend a week in bed before being able to heal (whether by magic or rest).

The Protection from Evil Spell at level 4 is exactly the same as the level 1 spell. Probably some kind of editing / writing error

Spellcasting: Wizard Spells

There are 12 spells per spell level, and the game commits to its 1d6 only principles: "To choose a random wizard spell, roll a d6 twice. On 1-3, add 0 to the second roll; on 4-6, add 6 to the second roll, resulting in a 1-12 range."

Level 1 Spells

Charm Person: Makes one humanoid of up to 3 HD your friend. Duration : 1 day, week, or month depending on subject’s intelligence.
Comprehend Languages: You understand all spoken and written languages
Detect Magic
Feather Fall
Hold Portal
Light: Object shines like a torch. It can be cast on the eyes of an opponent to blind them if they fail a save vs. magic.
Magic Missile: Magic arrow automatically hits target for 1d6+1 damage, bypassing any DR
Protection from Evil
Read Magic
Shield: Invisible disc gives +2 to AC, blocks magic missiles
Sleep: Puts either one 3 HD creature or 2d6 HD of 2 or less HD creatures into a magical slumber
Spider Climb: Grants ability to walk on walls and ceilings

Level 2 Spells

Arcane Lock: Magically locks a portal or chest. Can automatically be opened by a wizard/elf of a higher level than the caster. Duration: indefinitely
Detect Evil
Detect Thoughts
Illusion: Creates an illusion that lasts as long as the caster concentrates on it or until it is touched/hit (the illusion has an AC of 4). If the illusion is used to “attack,” it has +0 to-hit and does 1d6 of illusionary damage. If the victim is reduced to 0 hp by the illusion, the victim passes out for 1d6x10 min and regains all of the hp “lost” due to being hit by the illusion.
Invisibility: Subject is invisible until it attacks. Duration: permanent until broken
Knock: Opens locked or magically sealed door
Levitate: Subject moves up and down at your direction
Locate Object
Mirror Image: Creates 1d6 decoy duplicates of you. Any attack on the caster will destroy one of the decoys (even if the attack misses).
See Invisibility
Web: Fills 10 foot radius spread with sticky spiderwebs. Humans need 1d6x10 min to break through. Fire burns the web quickly.

What I noticed is that while the Daylight spell is identical between the Cleric and Wizard versions, the Cleric's version of Light does not mention using a saving throw, while the Wizard's version of Light does, and then Daylight both needs saving throws.

Level 3 Spells

Clairaudience/Clairvoyance: Clairaudience allows the caster to listen in on an area, and clairvoyance allows the caster to see into an area. The caster memorizing this spell can cast either one by speaking the magic words in order or backwards.
Dispel Magic: Cancels spells and magical effects. If the caster is lower level than the one who cast the original spell, roll 1d6 ( a 1 means the dispel magic spell has failed)
Fireball: 1d6 damage per level, 20 foot radius
Fly: Subject is able to fly. Duration: 10 min per caster level + 1d6x10 min (rolled secretly by GM)
Haste/Slow: Up to two dozen creatures move at double/half speed, doubles/halves the rate of attack, and +1/-1 to attack rolls, AC, and saving throws. The caster memorizing this spell can cast either one by speaking the magic words in order or backwards.
Hold Person
Invisibility Sphere: Makes everyone within 10 foot radius invisible. Duration: permanent until broken
Lightning Bolt: Electricity deals 1d6 damage per level. The bolt is 60 ft long and will double back if needed to achieve its full length
Magic Circle against Evil: +1 to AC and saves, counters mind control, and hedges out elementals and outsiders in a 10 foot radius.
Protection from Arrows: Subject immune to most ranged attacks
Water Breathing: Subjects can breathe underwater

That "rolled secretly by the GM" note for Fly is a somewhat unpalatable and ugly gotcha.

Level 4 Spells

Animal Growth: 1d6 animals double in size
Arcane Eye: Invisible floating eye allows the wizard to see through it
Charm Monster: Makes monster believe it is your ally, affecting all intelligent monsters. Duration: 1 day, week, or month depending on subject’s intelligence
Confusion: Subjects behave oddly for 1 round per level. Roll 1d6: 1 = attacks caster’s party, 2-5 = stand confused, 6 = attack monster’s own party.
Dimension Door: Teleports you up to 360 ft in any direction.
Hallucinatory Terrain: Makes one type of terrain appear like another (field into forest, or the like). Duration: until touched
Plant Growth: Grows vegetation so as to make an area impassable, up to 300 sq ft. Duration: until dispelled
Polymorph Other: Target is transformed into a new form
Polymorph Self: Gives caster a new form
Remove Curse
Wall of Fire: Creates a wall of fire 60 ft wide and 20 ft tall that does 1d6 fire damage to any who cross it (2d6 vs. undead)
Wall of Ice: Creates a wall of ice 60 ft wide and 20 ft tall. Only monsters of 3rd level or higher may break through, taking 1d6 damage in the process

Level 5 Spells

Cloudkill: Kills monsters of 3 HD or less. The cloud moves 60 ft per 10 min, and sinks down since the cloud is heavier than air. Duration: 1 hour
Contact Other Plane: Lets you ask question of an extraplanar entity. Only questions that can be answered by a “yes” or “no” may be asked. The higher the plane that is contacted, the more questions that may be asked, the higher the likelihood of knowing the answer, the higher the likelihood of the answers being true, but also the higher the chance of the caster going insane (chances are on 1d6).
[There's a table that breaks down the number of questions, the chance that the contacted entity will the answer to the question being asked, the chance that the contacted entity will answer truthfully, and the chance of going insane, per planar level]
Feeblemind: This spell can only be used against wizards and elves, making the target too feeble-minded to cast any spells. Duration: until dispelled
Finger of Death: Death-ray kills one subject
Flesh to Stone/ Stone to Flesh: Turns subject creature into statue. If spoken in reverse, it reverses the effect
Geas: Commands subject of 6 HD or less to accomplish the task commanded by the caster. If the target tries to divert from carrying out the task, they are struck with weakness. Refusal to carry out the task results in instant death. Duration: until completed
Hold Monster: As hold person, but any creature.
Passwall: Creates passage through wood or stone wall, human-sized, up to 10 ft in length
Telekinesis: Moves object or creature, or hurls object at creature, 200 lbs per caster level
Teleport: Instantly transports you across any distance. If completely unfamiliar with the destination, the teleport is likely to end in death (1-4 on 1d6). If casually familiar, there is only a 1-in-6 (1 on 1d6) of teleporting either too high (falling) or too low (if into solid ground, death) (1-3 too low, 4-6 too high). The caster may teleport safely if he is very familiar with the destination.
Wall of Iron : Creates an iron wall 3 inches thick and a maximum 50 sq ft in height and length. Duration: 2 hr
Wall of Stone: Creates a stone wall 2 ft thick and up to 100 sq ft in height and length. Duration: until dispelled

The game has a number of good ideas as far as porting the basic D&D experience over to a d6 mechanic, but 1d6 HP at level 1 with 1d6 damage rolls? I don't buy it. The game also leave a whole lot unsaid, and seems to rely on peoples' prior experience with D&D to fill in the blanks.

I still have some GM-facing and fluff material to tackle, but this should be a 2-parter.

End of Part 1

Oct 5, 2010

Lipstick Apathy
I'd like to point out that DrivethruRPG does in fact sell Gamma World 7th Edition on PDF.

More importantly, they offer a print-on-demand option for the loot and mutation cards. The books themselves are still in PDF-only, but the cards at least can be printed.

And the booster cards:

And the Legion of Gold expansion pack:

And the Famine in Far-go expansion pack:

gradenko_2000 fucked around with this message at 16:30 on Jan 7, 2016

Oct 5, 2010

Lipstick Apathy
I'd just like to say that I'm super chuffed that "John Wick pulling a bait and switch" mockery has taken off and become a thing :allears:

Oct 5, 2010

Lipstick Apathy

Nessus posted:

Yeah that kind of makes Hitler a good guy in a way. Or at least, an avatar of human self-determination. I'm going to take the brave and heroic stance that Hitler should either not appear (outside of perhaps historical or time-travel scenarios - maybe) or should be a figure of fun.

Though this does remind me of my GURPS WWII collection - though after my failed reviews I'm hesitant to start something new up. :ohdear:

e: A quick check of the German book for WWII does reveal that :hitler: is apparently written up in GURPS Who's Who 2, and is a 147 point character, but largely on the strength of his high social rank as, you know, der Fuhrer. The only supernatural note is that if the GM permits the Luck advantage, Hitler has it, which seems historically legitimate.

I've long entertained the idea of a GURPS Action/Monster Hunters scenario set around Operation Foxley

Oct 5, 2010

Lipstick Apathy
Swords and Six-Siders - Part 2

Experience Points and Leveling


XP is accumulated primarily through the acquiring of treasure, and secondarily through defeating monsters (by wits or by force).

You need 2 000 xp to get to level 2, all the way to 60 000 xp to get to level 6 and the end of the normal level cap. 1 gp = 1 xp, and also 10 xp per level of monster that was "defeated or overcome"

xp is only awarded when a character returns to town to rest, and gp only counts for xp after it has been spent, even if "spending" it is just making it go poof under the guise of "you spent it on training"

There is an optional rule for leveling past 6: for every 10 000 xp earned after level 6, a character can either:
1. gain 1d3 HP, capped at the absolute maximum for their character class, or say 6d6 / 36 HP for a Cleric
2. increase an ability score by 1, capped at 6 (if this ability score is being used at all)
3. "The GM may also make other spells or combat abilities available, too."

This is very stock OD&D, but it cuts through a lot of the cruft and outright states that you don't need to kill the monsters, just find a way around them.

Adventuring Advice

There's a couple of paragraphs here on how to play.


Combat Should Be a Last Resort

Characters get the same XP whether they kill or outsmart a monster, and they get far more XP by getting its loot. Combat in Swords & Six-Siders™ is dangerous and deadly! It is usually best to avoid combat whenever possible. Don’t be afraid to negotiate with monsters over food or treasure to avoid a potentially dangerous encounter, to get information from them, or to team up with them against other monsters.

I feel like the GM also needs to be addressed directly that these are things that needs to allow to happen.


Use Caution

Whether walking down a hallway, or arranging your battle formation, care should be used in arranging the characters to maximize their safety and combat efficiency. This often means using the walls and obstacles in the dungeon to limit the number of monsters that can attack at a time. Another good tactic is to have the toughest and/or shortest members of the party in front, and those with spells, ranged weapons, and long weapons reinforcing the frontline. Avoid having all of the characters too close together in case of an area effect trap or attack.

The lack of detailed movement rules puts a lot on the gaming group to just invent how and why this would work, though.


Know When to Search and When to Move On

It is good to search for traps, hidden treasures, and secret doors, but also be aware that searching takes time, and the longer the party spends searching, the more likely monsters are to wander in upon the party!

Know When to Say When

Greed kills. Sometimes it is best to head back to town and recover before taking further risks. The deeper a party wanders into a dungeon, the longer and more dangerous it will be getting out.

This brings us back to the lack of detailed time management rules and the fact that the "turn" is never mentioned again beyond its definition as 10 minutes. There's literally no meaning to this without you bringing in some baggage from a different game.



It is often advantageous to take along hirelings when going to explore dungeons. There are many different kinds of hirelings ─ those that fight in the front lines, those who only carry torches and supplies, and those who merely tend the pack animals.

Prices for the services of hirelings vary widely depending on the risks taken and the reputation of the characters, and hirelings may need the characters to front the cost of basic armor, weapons, and other supplies.

Hirelings have their own interests apart from the characters, and are subject to morale checks. Things such as the rate of pay, danger, and how the characters treat them can either positively or negatively affect the hirelings’ loyalty and morale.

While there are morale rules, there are no rules for hirelings per se.

Monster Math

In the GM's section, we get a section on how to create monsters of any given level

HP: 1d6 per Level, plus Level, so a level 3 monster would have 3d6+3 HP

AC: 4 + Half-Level-rounded-up, so a level 3 monster would have 6 AC. The game helpfully reminds us that a natural 6 is always a hit regardless of AC.

Armor / Damage Reduction: Half-Level-rounded-up, so a level 3 monster would have 2 DR. The game helpfully reminds us that a hit will always deal a minimum of 1 damage regardless of DR

Attack Bonus: Half-Level-rounded-up, so a level 3 monster would roll 1d6+2 and needs to meet or beat AC in order to hit

Damage: 1d6+Level damage per hit, so a level 3 monster would deal 1d6+3 damage

Saving Throws: Half-Level-rounded-up, so a level 3 monster would roll 1d6+2 and needs to get a 6 or better (or a natural 6) to succeed

The game helpfully compiles this into a single handy-dandy chart for us:

Monster Level 0      1- 6 HP ( 4 avg)     AC 4     DR 0     Attack roll: 1d6       Damage: 1d6       Saving Throw: 1d6

Monster Level 1      2- 7 HP ( 5 avg)     AC 5     DR 1     Attack roll: 1d6+1     Damage: 1d6+1     Saving Throw: 1d6+1

Monster Level 2      4-14 HP ( 9 avg)     AC 5     DR 1     Attack roll: 1d6+1     Damage: 1d6+2     Saving Throw: 1d6+1

Monster Level 3      6-21 HP (14 avg)     AC 6     DR 2     Attack roll: 1d6+2     Damage: 1d6+3     Saving Throw: 1d6+2

Monster Level 4      8-28 HP (18 avg)     AC 6     DR 2     Attack roll: 1d6+2     Damage: 1d6+4     Saving Throw: 1d6+2

Monster Level 5     10-35 HP (23 avg)     AC 7     DR 3     Attack roll: 1d6+3     Damage: 1d6+5     Saving Throw: 1d6+3

Monster Level 6     12-42 HP (27 avg)     AC 7     DR 3     Attack roll: 1d6+3     Damage: 1d6+6     Saving Throw: 1d6+3
As a mechanics-focused nerd, I like this. While the game does have a Bestiary (which we'll also go into), this lays bare the core assumptions behind the monsters, and with it the progression of the characters relative to them.

What I don't like is that in the actual book, the layout of this actual table is quite bad:

And yes, the entire book is written in Times New Roman

While I do like the monster construction rules, and tied into how it works with the d6 scale of the game, the previous section to that somewhat soured me. I get that OD&D is a thing and the OSR is a thing, but I don't think that's an excuse to leave holes in your game rules big enough to drive truck through, and moreso if you give the players gameplay advice that doesn't actually exist within the framework of those rules. It relies too much, I think, on players already being familiar with the game that it's imitating.

We still have the Bestiary, ~Random Monster Generation~ and Treasures to talk about, so another part to come.

End of Part 2

Oct 5, 2010

Lipstick Apathy
I thought this was the thread best equipped to answer my question: what does "akashic" mean in the context of fantasy fiction? I've seen it come up in some RPGs but I don't really know what that is.

Oct 5, 2010

Lipstick Apathy
Swords and Six-Siders - Part 3


In the previous section, we talked about sets of generic monster stats per level. This time I'll talk to look into some specific/iconic monsters.

Androids are here because OD&D had them from back when sci-fi and fantasy were more mish-mashed together. The description here makes them sound like Schwarzenegger's T-800 from Terminator 2: a metal machine wrapped in synthetic flesh and blood. Their mechanical gimmick is that they're immune to damage from non-magical weapons, except blunt weapons like hammers and maces.

Basilisks are listed as having a petrifying gaze, as are cockatrices and ghouls having a petrifying touch, but no mechanical elaboration on these abilities is offered.

There are many different colors of Dragons listed, and Green, Blue, Red and Gold Dragons can cast spells at various levels of spellcaster, while all Dragons in general hav a 50% chance of using their breath weapons.

There's a monster called the Green Gloopity that does not have an AC nor HP stat, and instead just eats through / deals 1d6 damage to anything flesh, leather or wood, until destoyed with fire.

Hydras have 1d6+4 heads.

Lycanthropes are noted as turning into either bears, boars, tigers or wolves, and the lycanthropy can be cured with a Cleric's Cure Disease spell.

Robots are androids, except aesthetically they don't have an android's flesh-covering of their metal frames

There are a couple of monsters, such as Titans and Purple Worms with a level of 6+, which means you can add extra hit dice for more HP, but all other stats remain the same.

Creating New Monsters

One of the genuine innovations of this game beyond the scaling to a d6 core mechanic is that the modularity of the monsters allows the creation of random monsters. I'll demonstrate with a series of die rolls:

Roll 1: General Monster Type
1d6 = 4 = Animal-ish

Roll 2: Animal-ish sub-type
1d6 = 4 = Reptilian

Roll 3: Monster Alignment
1d6 = 5 = Chaotic

Roll 4: Monster Level
1d6 = 5 = Mid-level

Roll 5: Mid-level sub-roll
1d6 = 1 = Level 2

Roll 6: Number of Special Abilities
1d6 = 5 = Two special abilities

Roll 7: Type of Special Ability #1
1d6 = 1 = Immunity

Roll 8: Immunity sub-type of Special Ability #1
1d6 = 4 = Fire or cold

Roll 9: Type of Special Ability #2
1d6 = 5 = Utility

Roll 10: Utility sub-type of Special Ability #2
1d6 = 4 = Shapechange

So we were able to produce a level 2 reptilian monster with 4-14 HP, AC 5, DR 1, 1d6+1 attack rolls, 1d6+2 damage rolls, and 1d6+1 saving throws. The monster is immune to either fire or cold, and has the ability to shapechange.

This is nice, because the mechanics are laid bare enough that you can quickly generate a bunch of monsters to have your own bestiary without really going out-of-bounds as far as stats are concerned. That said, like a lot of mechanics in this game, things like breath weapons or energy drain or elemental vulnerabilities are up to the GM/table to adjudicate.


This section starts off with a discussion on how to place treasures. The game doesn't have specific "treasure classes" for dungeon levels or monsters, and instead just says wandering monsters shouldn't really carry much in the way of treasure, that treasures should probably be in hoards that adventures can aim for, and that the size of the treasure should be commensurate to the risk/danger in getting to it. Otherwise, the actual amounts are left up to the GM to adjust to taste based on how quickly they want the adventurers to advance.

The treasure tables are very standard D&D-esque:

* Random amounts of gems and jewelry
* Weapons, armor, potions, scrolls, rings, wands, staves as treasure equipment
* Cursed items are a thing, but somewhat rare: you have to roll a 6, then do a second roll, and the second roll has to be a 4 to 6. The actual effect of the curse is described as being aesthetic, to mechanical, to downright punishing:


Cursed magic items appear to be a regular magic item until it is used, and then the curse becomes apparent. The effects of cursed item can be annoying (causes a huge wart to grow on the character’s nose) to severe (cursed items cause major penalties until magically removed, turns the character into a toad, and so forth).

* Weapons are weighed more heavily towards magic swords, which Clerics cannot wield, giving Fighters an indirect upper hand. Further, magic swords themselves are weighed towards having better bonuses more often
* Like OD&D, it's possible to roll up an "intelligent sword", which can be Vorpal or can invoke any number of Wizard spells/effects, but has its own alignment and feelings and agenda
* Magic armors are also a thing, with magical helms and magical shields offering another +1 AC each, while magical armors can grant things like improved reaction rolls, underwater breathing, and acting as one armor type lighter (even if the game does not have weight/encumbrance rules)
* Potions, scrolls, rings, wands and staves can hold a variety of spells and effects, including the most eyeroll-inducing passage of the game yet:


Wishes: Reasonable wishes are usually granted. The greedier the wish, however, the more it should come back to… haunt the character, heh.

* Finally, there's a set of miscellaneous magic items, such as a Not-Bag of Holding, a Not-Cloak of Elvenkind, a Not-Bracers of Protection AC+1, and so on.

As a final note, I wanted to compare the stats of a level 6 monster with that of a level 6 Fighter:

Monster Level 6     12-42 HP (27 avg)     AC 7     DR 3     Attack roll: 1d6+3     Damage: 1d6+6     Saving Throw: 1d6+3
Fighter Level 6     12-42 HP (27 avg)     AC 6     DR 3     Attack roll: 1d6+3     Damage: 1d6+3     Saving Throw: 1d6+3
So with the acquisition of a magic helm or shield, and then the acquisition of a magic sword, a Fighter can draw even with monsters of their level, with of course the caveat that the player-character needs to survive that long.

So that covers Swords and Six-Siders. It accomplishes its basic goal of reformatting OD&D into a d6-based mechanic, and rarely even goes beyond rolling more than one d6 at a time, but while there's enough stuff to start playing a game with, I feel like there's too much either left unsaid or assumed will be concocted from a player's previous D&D experience.

Oct 5, 2010

Lipstick Apathy
Traveller, Book 1 - Characters and Combat

Traveller is a game by Game Designers' Workshop, released in 1977. Its tagline is "Science-Fiction Adventure in the Far Future". I picked this up from a Bundle of Holding, since it seemed interesting and I've not really read many sci-fi RPGs.


The game talks about a common theme of sci-fi: that at some point humanity will have enough technology to travel across the stars and populate them, but at the same time that this expansion will cause communications to revert to the way they were during the 18th century. That is, news and messages would only go as fast as the ships carrying them.

The game has a boilerplate sidebar on required materials. Significantly, Traveller only requires d6 dice, and specifically only two per player. A calculator is mentioned as being an optional playing aid, alongside miniatures and other Traveller supplements.

The game talks about how you can play this solitaire: if you are "isolated by situation or geography", you control the characters yourself, implement the rules yourself, and react to the situations by yourself. Alternatively, you can "play" by simply using the books to randomly generate characters, starships, worlds and sectors. Maybe one day day you'll even get to use them in a group scenario! However, it also says that the game plays best if you have a "referee" to generate uncertainty and flexibility.

A basic "scenario" is described as resembling a sci-fi novel: characters are introduced, a goal is stated, and the adventurers strive to achieve that goal by the end of the session or evening. An example is using this Book 1 to generate characters, Book 3 to look for a "patron", the patron suggesting an expedition to the world of Sirius to recover fist-sized diamonds, then overcoming whatever obstacles lie between the characters and the diamonds. Campaigns then are simply scenarios stringed together if and when players become attached to their characters.

The referee is the person that creates the universe. The patron, Sirius, the diamonds, and the obstacles to acquiring the diamonds are all things that the referee needs to generate before the scenario begins.

Character Generation

All characters begin at age 18 with no training and no experience. A series of 2d6 rolls are made to generate the various characteristics of a character, and the game mentions that while it's possible to end up with an unsatisfactory character, that the player should stick by them regardless.

Characteristics and the Universal Personality Profile

The game has six characteristics:
Social Standing

These are generally self-explanatory, but the unique thing is how the game uses a number called the Universal Personality Profile to describe characters at a glance. A 2d6 roll will generate values between 2 to 12, and then supposedly various modifications to that roll can make it as low as 1 or as high as 15, so you can summarize a character's characteristics as a string of six hexadecimal characters. That is, someone with a 10 in their characteristics can be described with AAAAAA.

There's also a sidebar on how any Social Standing characteristic higher than 10 gives the character a Noble title, starting with Knight/Knightess/Dame and ending with Duke/Duchess at Social Standing 15.


Characters can choose to serve in either the Navy, Marines, Army, Scouts, Merchants, or Other in order to pick up skills and experience.

Each service has an Enlistment Throw, or a certain number that the player must meet or beat on a 2d6 roll in order to gain entry into that service. This enlistment throw can get some bonuses if certain characteristics are high. For example, joining the Navy requires an 8+ on a 2d6, and you get a +1 bonus if your Intelligence is 8+ and you get a +2 bonus if your Education is 9+. Those two bonuses are cumulative if both are applicable.

If the character fails at trying to enlist, they get drafted instead. The player rolls 1d6, and they go to one of the six services randomly.

Once you've enlisted in or been drafted to a service, you get to serve out a 4-year term of service, so the character ages by 4 years.

During a term of service, the player can try to be commissioned as an officer: roll 2d6 and pass a Commission number in order to become a level 1 officer and receive additional benefits. They can attempt this once per term of service, with the exception of draftees during their first ever term of service.

If a character gets commissioned as an officer, they can also try to rise through the ranks by rolling 2d6 and passing a Promotion number. They can do this once per term of service, including the same term where they became a level 1 officer.

Skill Acquisition During Terms of Service

Each service has four 1d6 tables. To acquire skills, the player picks one of these tables, then rolls a 1d6, then gains the cross-referenced skill or characteristic increase. One of the four tables is always gated behind needing an Education of 8+.

The player gets to do this twice during their first term of service, then once per subsequent term of service. They get to do it again when they become an commissioned officer, and whenever they receive a promotion. One exception is the Scouts, which allow two skill rolls per term of service, since you cannot become an Scout officer.

There are also certain skills that are automatically gained simply for achieving certain ranks in a service, such gaining Rifle-1 just for joining the Army, and then SMG-1 for becoming a Level 1 Army officer.

Ending a term of service

At the end of every term of service, the player rolls 2d6 and must meet or beat the service's Survival number or else die. Some services are more dangerous than others: the Scouts need a 7+ on 2d6 to survive, while other services need only 5+. I guess this is the part I've vaguely heard about where Traveller can kill characters even during character creation. That said, there's an immediate follow-up optional rule where the failed Survival roll will only result in an injury and an early departure from the service rather than outright death.

At the end of every term of service, the player rolls 2d6 to try and meet or beat a Re-enlist number on a 2d6 roll. This is not the same as the Enlistment Throw, but tends to be easier than the initial enlistment. They need to do this even if they do not plan on re-enlisting, since a natural 12 results in them automatically re-enlisting based on the demands of the service.

Aging and Retirement

Since a term of service is 4 years, a character's age increases by 4 per term. After the fourth term of service, they're then 34 years old and aging effects start coming into play. This basically comes down to rolling 2d6 against a target number ranging from 7+ to 9+, or else suffering a reduction to Strength, Dexterity and/or Intelligence. As the character ages further, the target number becomes harder to beat.

If a characteristic is reduced to zero in this way, then another 2d6 roll is required, with a target number of 8+, or else the character dies due to age-related illness (yet another way to die before you ever get to play the game!)

Retirement and Mustering Out Benefits

A character can serve up to seven terms of service voluntarily, although they might end up serving even more if forced re-enlistment happens with natural 12's on the re-enlist roll.

Otherwise, a character is forcibly retired after their seventh term of service, and they can also voluntarily retire after a fifth term of service.

When a character leaves the service for whatever reason, they get to roll on Mustering Out tables. Similar to acquiring skills, you earn a certain number of rolls depending on your rank and number of terms served, then you either pick between a Benefits Table and a Cash Table to roll 1d6 on, and then you gain whatever the result is. Characters that retire also get an infusion of cash as retirement benefits.

Rather than try to go through each of the skills, I'm going to try my hand at generating a character and see what comes out.

2d6 roll for each of the characteristics

Strength: 4
Dexterity: 5
Endurance: 6
Intelligence: 5
Education: 7
Social Standing: 6

My endurance is good enough to give me a +2 bonus to Enlisting for the Army, so I try that

Enlistment roll: 2d6+2 from having high Endurance, need a 5+ to enlist = 7, success! Gain the Rifle-1 skill just for joining the army
Survival roll: 2d6+2 from having high Education, need a 5+ to survive = 13, success!
Commission roll: 2d6, need a 5+ to be commissioned = 6, success! Now a level 1 Army officer (Lieutenant), gain the SMG-1 skill for being a level 1 officer
Promotion roll: 2d6+2 from having high Education, need a 6+ to be promoted = 4, failure

Since this is my first term of service, I earn 2 skill rolls. Since I received a commission, I earn another skill roll, for a total of three. I don't have access to the fourth Advanced Education table, since I don't have an Education of 8+

I elect to roll once each on the Personal Development, Service Skills and third Advanced Education tables:

Personal Development: 1d6 = 4, Gambling
Service Skills: 1d6 = 1, Vehicle
Advanced Education: 1d6 = 2, Mechanical

End of term 1, age increases to 22.

Re-enlistment roll: 2d6, need a 7+ to re-enlist = 5, failed, forced to Muster Out

Since I completed 1 term of service and ended as a level 1 officer, I earn 2 rolls on the Mustering Out tables.

I elect to roll once each on the Benefits Table and Cash Table.

Benefits Table: 1d6 = 6, Middle Passage travel allowance
Cash Table: 1d6+1 from having the Gambling skill = 6, Cr 20 000

And so, on to the skills:

Weapon Skills

I'll get to combat at a later time, but essentially the basic idea is that you need to roll an 8+ on 2d6 to score a hit during combat, and one level of weapon skill acts as a +1 on that 2d6 roll.


If it's a casino game, you can bet up to Cr 5 000 and need to roll a 9+ on 2d6 to win
If it's a private game, you can bet between Cr 50 to Cr 5 000 and need to roll an 8+ on 2d6 to win
Characters that have the Gambling skill can add +1 to the 2d6 roll, but the house always wins on a natural 2

Games can also be crooked, requiring a roll of 10+ to win, but if the character has Gambling-3 and rolls a 7+ on 2d6, they can detect it.
If the character has Gambling-4 or higher and they start rolling 9+'es, they may be suspected of cheating and be thrown out, so players can choose to "use" a lower skill level.

The game advises the referee to keep these rolls secret.


This means that the character is skilled in the use, operation and repair of mechanical devices. There are no specific guidelines for target numbers to be used, only suggesting to the referee that "fabricating a new main drive bearing as a starship plunges into a sun" would be harder roll than repairing a broken air lock hatch while in port.


This skill has multiple subdivisions representing different kinds of craft: ground cars, water craft, winged craft, hover craft and grav belts. This means that the character can use drive and operate such vehicles, and can also repair them.

I also earned a Middle Passage travel, which is basically a second-class interplanetary ticket worth Cr 8 000 and allows for 100 kilos of baggage.

Using a random name generator, we can then come up with our final character sheet:

Lieutenant Gerry Ackson     456576     Age 22     1 terms     Cr 20 000
Rifle-1, SMG-1, Gambling-1, Mechanical-1, Vehicle-Ground Car-1
I went into this book almost completely blind - all I knew about Traveller was that it was a sci-fi game, it was old, and sometimes you could die during character creation. What I found was that this book is remarkable well-written and organized. While I did rephrase and re-order some of the statements for my own convenience, I had no trouble at all grasping the rules and the core mechanic, and the only rule that was really out of place was the retirement benefits showing up several pages after it being mentioned.

The near-total lack of control over what your character ends up being is what it is, a product of its time and an acquired taste, but at least it isn't particularly difficult to do, and a whole character itself can be summarized in a few lines. I can definitely see people just rolling up characters over and over and seeing what comes out.

The core resolution mechanic is charming. 2d6 is dead simple, and it seems like the designer understood averages and bell curves and set the target numbers accordingly. By my count, there are less than 30 skills, and as can be seen from Mechanical, they seem broad enough.

That ends Part 1. The latter half of Book 1 talks about Combat.

Oct 5, 2010

Lipstick Apathy
Traveller, Book 1 - Characters and Combat

I'd like to begin this part with A Note on Gender and Race

page 25 posted:

Nowhere in these rules is a specific requirement established that any character (player or non-player) be of a specific gender or race. Any character is potentially of any race and of either sex.

which is surprisingly respectful for a game written in 1977.

Combat Step 1: Surprise

Each side rolls 1d6. If one side rolls three higher than the other, the high-roller has achieved surprise. This 1d6 roll can be modified by things like having the Leadership skill, or having the Tactics skill, or having military training as bonuses, or being in a vehicle or being in a large party as penalties.

Surprise means the surprising party can decide to try and avoid combat altogether, or it can mean giving them free attacks. What's interesting here is that the game does not assume that surprise is lost after a single "surprise round", but rather that surprise is only lost if the surprising party makes lots of noise, like say an unsilenced gunshot, or if the surprised party manages to "raise the alarm" for whatever appropriate context.

Combat Step 2: Determine initial range

Combat is done at either Close, Short, Medium, Long or Very Long range. Close is within arm's reach, Short is between 1 to 5 meters, Medium is between 6 to 50 meters, Long is at 51 to 250 meters, and Very Long is as far out as 500 meters.

It's also refreshing to play a game where the measurements are in metric.

As the combat begins, the GM rolls 2d6, applies a terrain modifier and looks up a chart to see at what range the combat begins at. Since long ranges are at the high end of 2d6 and short ranges at the low, being in open terrain applies a +3 modifier to the roll, and being inside a building applies a -5 modifier.

Combat Step 3: Escape and avoidance

If a party has surprise, they can just escape by saying so. The referee has a guideline by which NPC parties that have surprise and are outnumbered will avoid contact on a roll of 7+ on 2d6.

If there's no surprise at play, then escape can be had at this stage on a roll of 9+ on 2d6, modified by being at longer ranges. After this step, the only way to escape is through movement.

Combat Step 4: Starting distance

The game suggests drawing up a foosball field, divided into horizontal "range bands", and using those to judge the relative distances of characters. A single band should represent 25 meters, so two characters with 1 to 2 bands between them would be at Close range to each other, while characters with 3 to 10 bands between them would be at Long range to each other.

Combat Step 5: Declaration of movement

Each character declares what they want to do for this round with regards to movement, which breaks down into the following actions:

Evade - no attack, no movement and no parrying/blocking with weapons, but any attacks made against this character take a penalty
Close Range - move one range band closer to a target, or run to close two range bands closer at the cost of some Endurance Points, which I've not yet discussed.
Open Range - move one range band farther from a target, or also run.
Stand - no movement at all

All movement is performed simultaneously, and a party/character needs to put more than 20 range bands of distance between their enemies to escape.

Combat Step 6: Combat Rounds

A combat round is the execution of movement, followed by an attack, then cycling again until one side has died, routed or surrendered. Each round lasts 15 seconds.

Basic Attack Roll

Roll 2d6, add modifiers, and get an 8+ to land a hit.

There are a lot of modifiers, though:

Melee attacks like swords take a penalty if your STR isn't above a certain level, but then gain a bonus if it's above a certain level

Ranged attacks like guns take a penalty if your DEX isn't above a certain level, but then gain a bonus if it's above a certain level

Endurance is another factor that I'll talk about separately below

Having a weapon skill counts as a bonus for every level, so our sample character would have a +1 to Rifles

If the enemy is engaged with a character in melee combat, and the defender has weapon skill, they can apply the weapon skill as a penalty to the attacker, to represent parrying. The game even mentions that you can do this with guns.

A holstered weapon takes a penalty when it's shot on the same round it's drawn, unless the player stated that the gun was already drawn prior to combat

Going full-auto on a gun lets you roll twice to attack, gives a higher attack bonus for high DEX characters, and lets you shoot at up to two other targets with a penalty

A shotgun lets you hit three targets at a time "provided they are in a group (herd, pack, band, etc) and are each human-sized or smaller.", and it even has a bonus to shooting flying creatures.

Finally, there's a matrix of different modifiers of weapon-versus-armor, and a matrix of different modifiers of weapon-versus-range-band. Combat armor is super-expensive at Cr 20 000, but it provides an attack roll penalty of at least -5, and even -7 to pistols

Damage, "Hit Points", Wounding and Death

For damage, each weapon has a stated number of dice rolled when it scores a hit. A punch rolls 1d6, a pistol rolls 3d6, all the way up to a laser rifle with 5d6. The result is totaled and called Wound Points, and they're applied to either Strength, Dexterity or Endurance. The game says that the characteristic to receive the first wound is determined randomly, but I don't know if that means any subsequent wounds are applied to characteristics by choice, and who makes that choice.

If one characteristic has been reduced to zero, the character is knocked unconscious.
If two characteristics have been reduced to zero, the character is seriously wounded.
If three characteristics have been reduced to zero, the character is dead.

An unconscious character regains consciousness after 10 minutes and suffers a penalty to their characteristics until they receive medical attention or take 3 days of rest.

A seriously wounded character regains consciousness after three hours and needs medical attention (such as a Medical-3) skill to get their characteristics above a 1.

This would seem to make combat an incredibly deadly affair! Getting hit by a broadsword for 4d6 when any of your three characteristics only rolls at 2d6 is going to reduce you to zero 93.92% of the time!


A character using melee weapons can only make as many attacks as their Endurance characteristic before they start taking heavy penalties. That broadsword's attack roll is going to take a -4 to the 2d6 attack roll after you swing it one too many times. And then running during movement also counts consuming one of your Endurance points, which you regain after 30 minutes of rest.

This is yet another advantage going to guns, since guns don't cost Endurance.

Morale Rules

When 20% or more of a party is unconscious or dead, they need to start making morale rolls. Roll a 7+ on 2d6 to not rout. Military training and the tactics and leadership skills can act as bonuses, but the death of the party's leader and casualties in excess of 50% are penalties.

Weight Rules

A character can carry a number of kilos equal to their Strength. This is considered a Normal Load.
A character that carries more than a Normal Load, but up to twice their Strength in kilos is under a Double Load and suffers a -1 penalty to their Strength, Dexterity and Endurance characteristics
A character that carries more than a Double Load, but up to thrice their Strength in kilos is under a Triple Load and suffers a -2 penalty to those characteristics. The game also specifically mentions that only characters with military training can do triple loads.


Load is calculated by totalling the weight of all relevant items. Clothing, personal armor, and minor items such as holsters, scabbards, and belts are not counted

This is super-sensible and I love it. Also, more metric system!


The weapon selection is a little eclectic. They have a selection of very standard fantasy melee weapons: daggers, blades, foils, cutlasses, swords, broadswords, and even three different polearms.

The guns though are mercifully simple: a body pistol, an automatic pistol, a revolver, a carbine, a rifle, a second set of stats for rifles under automatic fire, a shotgun, an SMG, a laser rifle, and a laser carbine.

There are telescopic sights to give rifles additional attack roll bonuses at long ranges, silencers to let you squeeze out more surprise rounds since your shots will be muffled, holsters so that guns don't count towards the weight load

The game tracks ammo weight, rounds-per-clip and the price of ammo for guns.

And that brings us to the end of Book 1. This part of the book was a bit more disorganized as far as the plain rules go, but the last 4 pages made up for it by summarizing all the tables and little modifiers.

While the modifier matrices feel like it'd be a bear to peruse in the middle of a combat until you got used to it, I can't help but like the system. The target number is constant, the "range band football field" system is a clever way to abstract combat without making it completely free-form, and barring the lack of terrestrial ranged weapons like bows, there's even a universalist feel to it, like you could run a whole gamut of combat scenarios outside of far-future sci-fi.

If I had to level one criticism against it, it'd be that I feel like armor could have been used to mitigate against the wound/damage rolls instead of acting as penalties on the attack roll. Combat armor is going make you really hard to hit, but you're still going to get knocked out when that one shot gets through. It's just the simulationist in me talking though, and the lethality of the combat isn't necessarily a knock against it.

I find the system fascinating, and I haven't even dug into the space rules yet!

Oct 5, 2010

Lipstick Apathy

What I really like about the GUMSHOE system in general is how everything is decided by single d6 rolls, and the difficulty is also standardized around 4.

What I like about Night's Black Agents specifically is the depth they managed to give the combat rules, such that playing it and playing Trail of Cthulhu can feel very different ... and then there are even more optional rules to turn NBA's combat even more "Hollywood action"-ish than it already is.

Oct 5, 2010

Lipstick Apathy

theironjef posted:

Afterthought 23 - Randomized is live and ready to roll. We discuss random elements in games and then dive into the standard litany of weird questions and letters.

Do those d100 things in your preview picture even work? Aren't those just balls?

Oct 5, 2010

Lipstick Apathy
Is there a document or part of a book somewhere that summarizes all of the differences between the various game modes? That's always been one of the more disorienting parts of NBA.

EDIT: Trail does it too between the Pulp and Realism game modes.

gradenko_2000 fucked around with this message at 16:38 on Jan 13, 2016

Oct 5, 2010

Lipstick Apathy

Rand Brittain posted:

On another note, people said some things earlier about editing and how RPGs tend to not get it. I'm wondering what the right thread would be for a discussion on editing in RPGs and how to do it right and why most games don't.

Maybe the TG Industry thread?

Personally I end up rewriting a lot of rules either in my head or literally. Sometimes it's purely for the retention factor, but a lot of times it's because the rules aren't organized well, or they're mixed in with fluff, or they're not stated very clearly, or they're not written in an order cognizant of which ones are going to be used the most.

Oct 5, 2010

Lipstick Apathy
Spheres of Power

I should get back to this! So far we had already covered:


And by completely random roll, our next Sphere is going to be:


The basic ability of this Sphere is the Word, which is a standard action to affect a single creature with an effect depending on which ... Word you use with it.

You start with the Hallow word, which costs 1 spell point to use and lasts for 1 minute per caster level. You pick an end of the alignment spectrum: Good/Evil or Lawful/Chaotic, that you belong to. The target creature gets a +1 bonus (of either Sacred or Profane type) to attack rolls, AC, and saving throws against an opponent of the opposite alignment. The target also gains immunity to any mind-affecting spell or sphere effect, if the effect was cast by an opponent of the opposite alignment. If it's already affected by such a thing, the Word-ed creature can make an immediate saving throw against it; on a success, the effect gets suppressed for the duration of the Word.

The other ability of this Sphere is Consecration, which creates an effect in a 20-foot radius aura that moves with you.

You start with the Serendipity effect for your Consecration, which grants a +1 Luck bonus to attack rolls, skill checks, ability checks and saving throws for as long as you concentrate, and then you can spend a spell point to make it last for 1 round per caster level without concentration.

Talents for this sphere can modify the Word and Consecration, or add different words for more effects:

Bless is a Word that lets you spend a spell point as an immediate action to let an ally roll twice and take the better result on an attack roll, skill check, ability check or saving throw.

Close is a Word that lets you magically close and/or lock doors, gates, chest, windows, or any other shuttering object. The DC to unlock and force open the portal is increased by 10. Interestingly, this doesn't cost any spell points to use, although at the same time the portal is still "normally" open-able, just at a higher DC.

Curse is the opposite of Bless: you spend a spell point to make an enemy roll twice and use the lower result

Divine Force is a Consecration that lets your aura inflict one of six random effects against creatures of an opposite alignment to one of yours:
Blind 1 round
Deaf 2d4 rounds
Staggered 1d4 rounds
Sickened 1d4 rounds
Dazed 1 round
Shaken 1d4 rounds
With a Fort save to negate. The game notes that this will still affect Undead, even if they're normally supposed to be immune. You can use this even if you're True Neutral, at which point it'll affect anyone that's at both of the alignment extremes, such as Lawful Good.

Echoing Word lets you spend an additional spell point so that your Word will affect an additional 1 creature per 2 caster levels.

Freedom is a Word to set a target creature free from physical bondage and lets them move and attack normally. You can also maintain this Word with concentration, which renders the creature immune to the effects of paralysis, slow, entanglement, etc. All combat maneuver checks to grapple the target automatically fail, and the creature automatically succeeds on any combat maneuver checks or Escape Artist checks to escape a pre-existing grapple or pin. An interesting physics interaction is that this will even allow a creature to move normally through water, although the game helpfully notes that waterbreathing is not included with the effect. Personally, this triggered fond memories of my Paladin's Blessing of Freedom allowing a Warrior to gently caress up lots of people in Battlegrounds.

Greater Consecration lets you spend a spell point when casting a Consecration to increase its radius to 40 feet.

Greater Serendipity also causes your Serendipity Consecration to grant a -1 Luck penalty to enemy rolls.

Harm is a Word that causes a target to suffer an additional half-your-level amount of damage (minimum 1) whenever they take damage.

Judgment is a Consecration with a specific enough effect that I'll just quote the book directly:


When you create this consecration, you must declare a course of action that is at most one sentence long and whether this action is to be avoided or emulated. Example judgments include “No one can attack”, “everyone must trade fairly”, etc. If your judgment would cause a creature to attack itself or perform another obviously suicidal action, they are immune to that judgment. For as long as you maintain this consecration, all creatures within this area must obey this judgement. Each individual creature is allowed a Will save to negate this requirement and allow itself to act normally. If a creature succeeds at their saving throw, they become immune to that judgment for the rest of its duration. You must always follow your own judgment.

Mercy is a Word that causes a target to make a Will save and on a failure cause non-lethal damage with all of its weapon attacks for 1 round per caster level.

Open is the opposite of Close, except instead of automatically opening a portal, you're still making a normal Disable Device or Strength check with a +10 bonus.

Pain is a Word that causes [1d4 + half-your-level] in non-lethal damage, no save. You can spend a spell point to cause the target to suffer this damage each round for a number of rounds equal to your caster level. Further, the target suffers a -4 penalty to all mental skill checks and must pass a magic skill check in order to use a sphere effect or spell.

Truth is a Word that prevents your target from speaking deliberate or intentional lies, with a Will save to negate. A target always knows if this Word is being cast on them and the caster always knows if the target made the saving throw. An affected target may still be evasive, refuse to answer or word their responses carefully. That last clause sticks out to me as a recipe for arguments over whether or not what the target was saying was just "wording their responses carefully".

Tug Fate is a Consecration that with a very specific effect: if any creature within the Consecration aura makes an attack roll, initiative roll, skill check, ability check or saving throw, and the roll is exactly 10 on a d20 (and Take 10 does not apply), then the creature will receive either a +4 bonus or a -4 penalty, caster's choice. The +4 modifier increases by 1 for every 2 caster levels.

This effect has a lot of flavor, but the math doesn't hold up: if you took a d20 and replaced the 10 with a 14, the average roll increases from 10.50 to 10.70. A level 20 caster is going to replace the 10 with a 24, and that increases the average roll from 10.50 to 11.20. Except a +1 bonus to a d20 increases the average roll to 11.50 anyway! And you already have a flat +1 bonus available from the basic Serendipity Consecration! (assuming you still have room to stack a Luck bonus) Unless I'm misreading the text, it seems like this effect wasn't well thought out.

Besides that Tug Fate and the Truth effects, this reads like a very versatile Sphere. The name Fate implies some sort of probability-bending or Oracle-esque kind of magic, but you just as easily refluff this into your bog-standard Divine Cleric power, or a chrono-manipulation, or any number of buffer/debuffer types.


Oct 5, 2010

Lipstick Apathy

Doresh posted:

True. Percentiles are neat in that regard, as are d20-based systems that are just percentile systems where everything has been divided by 5. I'd say that's even better since the math is easier and you just need one die. Though most d20 games heavily borrow from D&D, except for maybe Talislanta, which even includes varying degrees of success.

One of the dice systems I thought was pretty neat was the one used in Twilight 2000, where it's d20-roll-under for skills with a 3d6 range, and then difficulties are "roll under half your skill", "roll under your skill" and "roll under twice your skill".

In contrast, while 3.5e uses d20 in the sense that +1 means a +5% chance of success, it's not really "100 / 5" in the sense that the DC could be just about anything.

For all the parallels people drew to RoleMaster, RM still in some respects has a better difficulty scaling system because it actually respects the 1 to 100 scale.

Oct 5, 2010

Lipstick Apathy
Spheres of Power

Our next Sphere is


The basic ability of this Sphere is Enhance, which is a Standard Action to cast an enhancing effect on a target creature or object. If the target is unwilling, it's allowed a Will save to negate the effect. Enhance needs concentration to maintain, but you can spend a spell point to make the effect persist without concentration for 1 minute per caster level (you may be noticing a pattern here)

When you first learn this Sphere, you start with the Enhance Equipment Enhancement, which lets you grant a +1 enhancement bonus to a weapon, suit of armor or shield. The bonus increases by +1 for every 5 caster levels, capping out at +5 at level 20. This enhancement bonus does not stack with any existing enhancement bonus, of course.

Other Talents in this Sphere are:

Animate Object is an Enhancement that lets you instill movement and a semblance of life into an inanimate object. The object will only follow simple one-word commands. If you use this against an enemy's weapon, they have to make a Reflex save or lose their Standard Action as they fight the object for control. If you use this against an enemy's armor, they become Entangled and they have to make a Reflex save or also be Staggered.

Bestow Intelligence is an Enhancement that lets you grant temporary intelligence to an animal, plant or object. The target gains 3d6 INT, CHA and WIS, and can speak and understand any languages you do. The target will be friendly to you, although it is under any compulsion to obey any of your commands. As well, the target's "consciousness" does not cover anything that had happened prior to this effect, so you can't use this on a tree and ask it about who climbed it a few hours ago.

Kind of an odd start for a theme. Disney's Fantasia: The RPG.

Cripple is an Enhancement that causes the target to take a -1 penalty to all of its d20 rolls, increasing by one every 5 caster levels.

Deadly Weapon is an Enhancement that lets you grant the Keen property to a weapon, and also a +1 bonus to crit confirmation rolls for every 3 caster levels, topping out at +6 at caster level 18

That's more like it. Getting some more in-combat-useful effects now.

Deep Enhancement lets you spend a spell point to make an Enhancement persist for 10 minutes per caster level without concentration, rather than 1 minute per.

Energy Weapon is an Enhancement that lets you grant the Corrosive, Flaming, Frost, or Shock properties, and also lets the weapon cause +1 damage per 2 caster levels.

Greater Enhancement increases the effect of Enhance Equipment by +1. This means that effect can go as high as +6 at max level. While I know that enhancement bonuses normally only go up to +5, so that this breaks that, I don't know that it's all that valuable/useful especially if you're only going to get it at the very last level.

Harden is an Enhancement that either makes a target object as hard as adamantine, or gives a creature DR/adamantine, with a DR amount equal to half your caster level (minimum 1)

Lighten is an Enhancement that will let you make targets weigh less, or even float. There's a table of how powerful this spell gets per caster level, but basically at caster level 5 you can make Medium-sized targets weightless, you can make Large-sized targets weigh half as much, and then Tiny and Small targets can be made to float at 20 feet per round. The effects escalate all the way up to making everything up to Gargantuan size able to float at caster level 20. Unwilling targets can make Will saves for every round that they're made to float, but they may suffer falling damage from a drop.

Lingering Enhancement lets your Enhancements persist for 2 rounds after you stop concentrating, even if you don't spend a spell point.

Mass Enhancement lets you spend a spell point to Enhance one additional target per 2 caster levels (minimum 1 additional). I like the possibilities of this plus the weapon enhancement talents to let you outfit an entire group with Keen and an elemental damage property in one go.

Mental Enhancement is an Enhancement that lets you grant a +2 bonus to INT, WIS or CHA, increasing to +4 at caster level 7 and +6 at caster level 14.

Physical Enhancement is like the above, except for STR, DEX or CON.

Ranged Enhancement increases the range category of your Enhancement from Close to Medium, or an additional category per further time you take this talent.

Steal Senses is an Enhancement that lets you make a target either deaf, or blind, or lose one of their special sense abilities like Tremorsense or Blindsense. Despite the name, you don't gain the ability for yourself.

Versatile Weapon is an Enhancement that lets a target weapon's attacks ignore an amount of DR equal to your caster level, though it only works against DR with some kind of bypass category.

The various weapon and bonus enhancements are rather cool, and I can see this being taken by partial-casters to buff their physical attacks, but the animated object effects seem a little out of place unless you were roleplaying Pygmalion and Galatea.


Oct 5, 2010

Lipstick Apathy

ProfessorProf posted:

Advice to Players
Reality has the Moscow Rules, a set of rules of thumb for agents working in Moscow during the Cold War. In this vein, NBA gives the Bucharest Rules - rules for how to keep the game moving and maximally fun for everyone, and how to succeed in the face of great adversity.
  • You can win. If you do something, you might win or might lose. If you do nothing, you'll definitely lose. So, take the initiative and do something. A good Director won't shut down a sufficiently awesome plan completely.
  • Put it in Drive. When you're not sure how to justify something risky, look at your Drive. It may spur your agent into action.
  • With great ability scores comes great responsibility. Look at your best ability scores and your MOS. What are you good at? How can you use it to your advantage? Do what you do best, and do it at the right time.
  • When stuck, get more intel. If you really have no idea what to do, don't putter in circles. Go out, get more information. If you don't have enough info to make a plan, fix that.
  • Follow the money. Nobody works for vampires for free. They don't cast shadows, but their cash does.
  • Humint is key. Don't shy away from using interpersonal abilities. If you're in a pinch, create a new contact with Networking to get you out. People are your strongest assets.
  • Build your own network. Who could help you out here? Build, buy, or break that person. Strength in numbers.
  • Keep moving forward. Expect to find one major clue per scene. Once you do, don't dwell too long scraping more info out of the scene or the witness. The clues will lead you to new places. Go to those places, find more clues.
  • Leave room to maneuver. Don't plan out every aspect of your op in advance. The Preparedness ability is there to let you retcon the off-screen parts of the plan, take advantage of it. It'll make you look better, and irritate your Director less.
  • Remember, you're the badass here. Keep your characters proactive, don't shrink away from danger. Value interesting decisions over realistic reactions.
  • Always know where the exit is. You don't get extra EXP for finishing the dungeon. When things heat up, be ready to cut your losses, grab what you can, and get out.

This is good advice for running games in general, to the extent that it's in keeping with the game's tone. Nobody has stealth, everybody has explosives? Blow it up. And the GM? Let the players blow it up.

Oct 5, 2010

Lipstick Apathy

Crasical posted:

This could be very interesting as the basis for an 'ultimate blacksmith' type character. Aside from the obvious 'Blacksmith pounds his hammer, your weapons are now all enchanted, fiery, and Keen for as long as he maintains his spell', you can also have utility in that you can produce on-demand Adamantine weapons for smashing down walls, and Animate Objects has a lot of potential, from having an animate suit of armor that acts as your personal manservant, to just Animating a door and commanding it to unlock itself.

Conceptually, I like it. It's got enough good gimmicks that I'd base a character around the sphere, while still being more limited than a generic 'Do Anything' wizard. To some degree, being limited is a feature, not a bug.

Do you think we can look at the Weather sphere next, Gradenko?

I realized that I completely omitted a section on the animated objects being Eidolon-esque constructions, which would seem to give Enhancement its non-martial punch, but yes, sure, I can do Weather next.

Oct 5, 2010

Lipstick Apathy

Count Chocula posted:

I kinda want to strip all the explosives and vampires out of NBA and use the rules to run/play a John Le Carre game. Depending on the GM it could either be incredibly exciting or incredibly boring. Has anyone done that? There's so many great spy RPGs suggested by just the equipment and skill lists.

This is absolutely a thing you can do, and the book even describes it as an alternate game mode. Just use terrestrial NPC enemies. My own dream is an Alpha Protocol type game, though I fear I may not be able to do Obsidian's writing justice.

Oct 5, 2010

Lipstick Apathy
Spheres of Power

Enhancement addendum - animated objects

I neglected to mention in my previous post that the Animate Object Enhancement actually grants stats to such objects.

At caster level 1, you can only animate Tiny-sized objects. They have 1d10 HP and can have a maximum of 1 Construction Point. The example of a Tiny object is a candelabra.

At caster level 5, you can animate Medium-sized objects. They have 3d10+20 HP and can have a maximum of 2 Construction Points. The example of a Medium object is a cage, bigger than a Small-sized chair, smaller than a Large-sized statue.

At caster level 20 you can animate Colossal-sized objects, such as ships, and they'll have 13d10+80 HP with 6 Construction Points.

For the purposes of this discussion, I'll lay out the statblock of an animated Medium-sized object:

Init +0; Senses darkvision 60 ft., low-light vision;
Perception –5
AC 14, touch 10, flat-footed 14 (+4 natural)
hp 36 (3d10+20)
Fort +1, Ref +1, Will -4
Defensive Abilities hardness 5; Immune construct
Speed 30 ft.
Melee slam +5 (1d6+3)
Str 14, Dex 10, Con —, Int —, Wis 1, Cha 1
Base Atk +3; CMB +5; CMD 15
Construction Points are then things that grant the animated object additional abilities. The game implies that the GM can decide to grant some of these abilities "for free" based on things like what the object is made from or what the object actually is, and then the caster can spend their allotted Construction Points to add even more features.

Going through the list, they're mostly very similar to the Alteration talents, which I'm told also closely resembles the Eidolon rules, so mostly imagine those:
Additional Attack
Additional Natural Attack
Additional Movement
Augmented Critical
Piercing Attack
Ranged Attack
Slashing Attack

Finally, there are Flaws:
Brittle means the object is vulnerable to cold.
Cloth means the object's hardness is 0.
Clunky means the object is always Staggered.
Flammable means the object is vulnerable to fire.
Slower means the object loses 10 feet off of one of its movement modes.

Again, the GM can say that an animated object has one of these Flaws as a function of the object itself, and in exchange the object gains an additional Construction Point.

The hit rates of these slam attacks against same-level, Warrior-type monsters will range between 30% to 45%, but I think it might be a problem that even if a Huge animated item is capable of hitting a CR 11 threat a little less than half the time, it might be challenging to come up with more and more objects and justifications for it fitting into your current surroundings regularly.

Oct 5, 2010

Lipstick Apathy

Alien Rope Burn posted:

I would really like to see a robust presentation of GUMSHOE without a defined setting, someday.

What do you mean by this, ARB? Gumshoe's been used in a lot of settings.

Oct 5, 2010

Lipstick Apathy

DigitalRaven posted:

Don't think so. Does Trail of Cthulhu have some options for turning up the pulp, maybe?

ToC does have a separate set of Pulp rules, much like how NBAgents has its four different modes. They let you do things like only run out of ammo at cinematic moments, dual-wield pistols, lose less Stability from encountering Mythos monsters, regain Sanity from successfully beating back the Mythos, and level-up the Investigators over time.

Oct 5, 2010

Lipstick Apathy
Spheres of Power

By request, our next Sphere is:


The basic ability is Control Weather, which is a standard action to control all weather within Medium range of you, or to the limits of an enclosed space, whichever is smaller.

Weather in this case means the wind, temperature or precipitation level.

As always, this effect requires concentration to maintain, but a spell point can be spent to let it persist without concentration for 1 minute per caster level. If you're maintaining the effect via concentration, the area affected moves with you like an aura, but remains in place if you make it persist via spell point.

There are 7 grades of Wind:

1 - Light
2 - Moderate
3 - Strong
4 - Severe
5 - Windstorm
6 - Hurricane
7 - Tornado
And then 7 grades of Precipitation:

1 - None
2 - Mist
3 - Light/Fog
4 - Moderate
5 - Heavy
6 - Flash Flood
7 - Great Flood
And then 13 grades of Temperature:

7 - Killing (cold)
6 - Arctic
5 - Extreme (cold)
4 - Severe (cold)
3 - Cold
2 - Chilled
1 - Cool
2 - Warm
3 - Hot
4 - Severe (heat)
5 - Extreme (heat)
6 - Burning (heat)
7 - Boiling (heat)
Your normal day of no wind, no rain and temperate climate is assumed to be Light Wind, No Precipitation and Cool Temperature.

At caster level 1, you can adjust the weather conditions by 2 grades away from normal conditions, so you can turn a normal day into Strong Winds, Light/Fog Precipitation and either Cold or Hot Temperature. The exception is if the current conditions are beyond your reach. That is, a level 1 caster cannot change the Temperature if it's Severe.

Any changes you make will occur at the rate of 1 grade per round. If you stop maintaining the effect, the weather normalizes at the rate of 1 grade round as well.

At caster level 7, you can adjust conditions up to 3 grades away.
At caster level 14, you can adjust conditions up to 4 grades away.

If two casters are both trying to manipulate the weather at the same time, they have to make skill checks against each other on each of their rounds to try and wrest control away from the weather - success means you turn it one grade towards your final preferred grade.


See the Pathfinder Core rulebook for more details on weather and environmental effects. Depending on the terrain, a GM could rule additional effects happen; rain can cause rivers or enclosed spaces to flood, cold can create ice sheets on flat terrain, etc. Generally, weather conditions from different categories stack. (Thus, if Wind, Cold, and Precipitation were all increased to Severity level 5, the area would be under the effects of the appropriate Wind, Cold, and Snow effects, all at the same time.)


The game notes that you cannot change the direction of the wind, only overpower it. If the wind is blowing north, you need to create a stronger wind that's blowing south to have a southerly wind.

Light Wind, 0-10 mph winds - does effectively nothing mechanically

Moderate Wind, 11-20 mph winds - 50% chance of extinguishing small, unprotected flames like candles

Strong Wind, 21-30 mph winds - unprotected flames are automatically extinguished, and ranged attack rolls and Perception checks take a -2 penalty. Tiny-sized creatures need to make a DC 10 Strength check or a DC 20 Fly check to move against the direction of the wind.

Severe Wind, 31-50 mph winds - even protected flames flutter erratically and have a 50% chance of being extinguished. The ranged attack and Perception penalty increases to -4. Small-sized creatures need to make the movement check, and Tiny-sized creatures on the ground need to make a DC 15 Strength check or else be knocked prone, get pushed back 1d4 x 10 feet and take 1d4 non-lethal damage per 10 feet pushed back. Tiny-sized flying creatures need to make a DC 25 Fly check or be blown back 2d6 x 10 feet and take 2d6 non-lethal damage.

Windstorm, 51-74 mph winds - 75% chance of extinguishing protected flames, can start blowing off branches and bringing down smaller trees. Ranged attacks are impossible, and siege engines have a -4 penalty to attack rolls. Perception checks have a -8 penalty. Medium-sized creatures need to take the movement check. Small and smaller creatures need to make the knockdown check.

Hurricane, 75-174 mph winds - all flames are extinguished. Siege engines have a -8 penalty to attack rolls. Perception checks are impossible. Large creatures need to take the movement check. Medium and smaller creatures need to make the knockdown check.

Tornado, 175-300 mph winds - Even siege engine attacks are impossible. The game notes though that this is a wind-state that's impossible to create magically. Huge creatures need to take the movement check. Large and smaller creatures need to make the knockdown check. Any creature that comes into contact with the actual tornado funnel is whirled around for 1d10 rounds, taking 6d6 damage per round before being expelled and possibly taking falling damage as well. The funnel itself can move at the rate 250 feet per round.

Duststorm - if Severe Winds are blowing in a desert, it can create a duststorm, which obscures vision and deals 1d3 points of non-lethal damage to anyone exposed to it, in addition to all the normal effects of the wind effect. The game also says that a duststorm is a choking/drowning hazard, per the core rules' definition of it.

We're only a third into the section and haven't even started on the talents yet. This smacks of being a powerful Sphere even from just these wind effects, but it's also a very dry write-up because it's basically rewriting and defining physics.

Cold Temperatures

Cool and Chilled don't have any mechanical effects, but anything colder than that is going to require Fort saves lest they take non-lethal damage. Taking any non-lethal damage from the cold means becoming Fatigued from frostbite, and one cannot recover from the Fatigue nor the damage until they've warmed up. If a character takes as much non-lethal damage as their total HP, any further damage is lethal damage.

Having cold-weather gear will let you treat the cold as one grade less severe, and the Survival skill can be used gain bonuses to the Fort saves (no exact elaboration provided).


A large fire can be used to create an area of warmth in a cold environment.
No kidding

Cold, below 40 F - Fort saves every hour, DC 15+1 per previous check made. Take 1d6 points of non-lethal damage on failure.

Severe (cold), below 0 F - as with Cold, but Fort saves every 10 minutes

Extreme (cold), below -20 F - as with Severe, but also take 1d6 (lethal) cold damage every minute, no save.

Arctic, below -60 F - as with Extreme, but Fort save and cold damage every round

Killing (cold), below 120 F - as with Arctic, but cold damage is increased to 3d6 per round. Being encased in ice further increases this to 10d6 damage per round.

Hot Temperatures

Cool and Warm don't have any mechanical effects, but anything warmer is going to require Fort saves lest they take non-lethal damage. Same as cold, except this time it's heatstroke that caused Fatigue instead of frostbite, and again the damage and Fatigue won't go away unless the character gets into shade, or gets doused in water, etc. If a character takes as much non-lethal damage as their total HP, any further damage is lethal damage.

Wearing heavy clothes and/or armor will cause a -4 penalty to the saves against heat. The Survival skill can be used gain bonuses to the Fort saves.


A large fire can be used to create an area of warmth in a cold environment.
No kidding

Hot, above 90 F - Fort saves every hour, DC 15+1 per previous check made. Take 1d4 points of non-lethal damage on failure. This is actually less damaging than the cold equivalent, since that one was 1d6 on failure, unless one or either was a typo.

Severe (heat), above 110 F - as with Hot, but Fort saves every 10 minutes

Extreme (heat), above 140 F - as with Severe, but Fort saves every 5 minutes, and also take 1d6 (lethal) fire damage every minute, no save. Again a change from the cold equivalent, which didn't make the Fort save oftener at this stage.

Burning, above 180 F - as with Extreme, but Fort save and fire damage every round. There's actually a typo here, as the temperature was listed as "above minus 180 F"

Boiling, above 212 F - as with Burning, but fire damage is increased to 3d6 per round. Being immersed in boiling liquids increases this to 10d6 damage per round.

Because the first grade away from Cool does nothing, it's harder to escalate the effect than with wind, but at the same time you can hit the extreme ends of the scale magically, and hoo-boy it looks like the effects are pretty bad.

The ugly part is how the small differences between hot and cold are easy to trip over.


This combines with the Temperature and Wind effects, and is convoluted enough that I'm just going to show you the table:

Mist grants concealment between creatures that are 100 feet away or farther from each other.

Fog obscures all sight beyond 5 feet, including Darkvision

Moderate rain and stronger imposes the same effects to fires, ranged attacks and Perception checks as Severe Wind or its equivalent strength. In addition, visibility is cut in half and Perception checks take a further -4 penalty.

Snow causes ground to count as difficult terrain. It requires 24 hours of Light Frost for this to happen, or 8 hours of Snow, or 1 hour of Heavy Snow, or immediately under Blizzard.

If there's twice as much snowfall as in the previous durations, the ground becomes heavy snow and requires 4 squares of movement to enter, basically double-difficult terrain.

Great Blizzard conditions will obscure sight like Fog does

For Storm conditions, you'll start to get lightning strikes every minute in random squares, causing 4d8 electricity damage (Reflex save for half). Every further severity level, the damage increases by another 2d8.

Blah. I didn't really like this part. A table cross-referencing another table is going to be an rear end to look-up in game.

Weather Talents

Boiling Lord - when creating weather that's Precipitation 4 and Hot 4, or more, you can choose to make the rain boiling, dealing 1d6 damage per severity level (so minimum 4d6) per round to all creatures within the area. Holy drat this sounds friggin' cool.

Cold Lord - increase the maximum Cold severity you can create by 1. Also, you can create an area, of up to 80 feet in diameter, in the center of your weather system where the temperature is normal.

Focused Weather - when controlling weather, you can reduce the area to a minimum radius of 25 feet and can locate it anywhere within Medium range of you. I'd say this is a critical talent, since friendly fire is the biggest problem of all the stuff we've been discussing so far.

Greater Size - your range for controlling weather is increased to Long, including for Focused Weather if you also have it.

Greater Weather - when controlling weather, you can spend a spell point to manipulate two categories at the same time, or two spell points to manipulate three at the same time.

Heat Lord - same as Cold Lord, except for heat.

Lengthened Weather - when you spend a spell point to make your weather effect persist without concentration, it lasts for 1 hour per caster level instead of 1 minute per.

Rain Lord - same as Cold/Heat Lord, except for Precipitation.

Severe Weather - when you control weather, you can spend an extra spell point to increase the maximum severity you can achieve, up to a maximum of 7.

Snow Lord - when controlling weather that would result in snow, you can choose to turn the snow in hail, which causes 1 bludgeoning damage per severity level per round to all creatures in the area.

Storm Lord - when controlling weather that would result in storms, you can control where the lightning bolts strike. If you take this talent twice, you can increase the frequency of the lightning strikes to once per round. Holy poo poo, this officially makes this Sphere the metal-est :black101:

Wind Lord - same as Cold/Heat Lord, except for Wind. You can also make the wind turn direction up to 90 degrees away. The game implies that you can use this to exert some control over a tornado, but you cannot precisely control its movements. The area of normal weather that you can create inside your area of effect can be made into an "eye of the storm", as in it's a windwall that requires the movement/knockdown check to pass through. You can also make the winds swirl in a clockwise or counter-clockwise direction around you.

This is the longest Sphere so far that I've had to write-up, but it's also thematically strong and potentially mechanically strong as well. There's also just a lot of rules involved, and it sort of puts the GM on the spot as far as having to come up with weather conditions for wherever the party is adventuring through since some of the things that a Weather-mancer can pull off at low levels involves manipulating weather conditions that aren't starting from severity 1.

That said, this reads well - it's evocative of a powerful mage, but without being universalist.


Oct 5, 2010

Lipstick Apathy

Crasical posted:

Storm lord is a hell of a talent, and I can't see any weather-caster not beelining for that, even if they have to deal with the rounds of set-up before they can start making GBS threads lightning bolts all over the enemy.

Walking around with a bubble of Extreme Cold and passing out parkas to your teammates is interesting, since they only have to deal with the fort saves (and if you're a winter ranger type person, you can make Survival rolls to help them auto-pass the save DC). Unfortunately it doesn't work very well since enemies only have to make their first save vs. Fatigue after ten minutes in your storm and take their first freezing damage after one minute, when battles don't last that long. If it was possible to front-load those saves it would be more worth-while, but I don't see being a frost mage being very viable in this sphere.

I was thinking you could combine the Alteration Sphere to turn into a big gently caress-off bear, learn Boiling Lord, Cold Lord and Wind Lord, and just duplicate this guy.

Oct 5, 2010

Lipstick Apathy
Taking my post to this thread to avoid derailing the Next thread:

Okay, so 13th Age gets bandied around a lot as a potential alternative to 4th Edition that isn't as heavy as 4th Edition, so I'm not going to go into that any further. There's also BECMI/Rules Cyclopedia D&D, or mechanics-innovating retroclones like Dungeon Crawl Classics and Scarlet Heroes.

One game that I'd like to talk about is Fantasy AGE, which is a game by Chris Pramas and Green Ronin Publishing, notable for their previous work on Mutants and Masterminds, Blue Rose and True20. Fantasy AGE began its life as the Dragon Age RPG, and this is the setting-agnostic book for that system.

In lieu of a full F&F review that I'm never going to finish, I wanted to effortpost about its character creation and core mechanics to highlight what attracted me to it as a more player-friendly, beginner-friendly game.


Roll 3d6 to get a number from 3-18, then assign it, in order, to Accuracy, Communication, Constitution, Dexterity, Fighting, Intelligence, Perception, Strength, and Willpower

Accuracy:         11
Communication:    13
Constitution:     14
Dexterity:         9
Fighting:          8
Intelligence:     11
Perception:        8
Strength:          5
Willpower:         6
From there, derive the ability modifier. The reason they didn't slay this particular D&D-ism is that the ability modifiers are bell-curved. Allow me to demonstrate:

Accuracy:         11, +1
Communication:    13, +2
Constitution:     14, +2
Dexterity:         9, +1
Fighting:          8,  0
Intelligence:     11, +1
Perception:        8,  0
Strength:          5, -1
Willpower:         6,  0
If you tried to do this with any of the WOTC-era D&D's, you'd be screwed over so bad, because a 5 would be something like a -2 modifier, and a 14 is only half as high as it should be for your primary ability.

And then, per the book, you can swap any two abilities. Since I have a character concept of a Fighter, lets swap Communication and Fighting, to give us the following results:

Accuracy:         11, +1
Communication:     8,  0
Constitution:     14, +2
Dexterity:         9, +1
Fighting:         13, +2
Intelligence:     11, +1
Perception:        8,  0
Strength:          5, -1
Willpower:         6,  0
And then there are optional rules to either assign the 3d6 rolls to specific attributes as desired, or even a point-buy system where all your ability modifiers start at 0 then you have ten +1's to spread out over them, capping out at +3.

This right away grabbed my attention because it's random generation of abilities, but the results are tuned to guarantee basic competency.


The game has your standard fantasy races: Dwarf, Elf, Gnome, Halfling, Human, and Orc.

Let's take a Dwarf character, so that our Fighter is stout and stocky. This grants the character:
* +1 to Constitution (bringing it up to 15)
* An "Ability Focus" in Constitution-Drinking (alternatively, in Intelligence-Evaluation)
* Dark Sight, to see up to 20 yards in the dark
* a speed rating of 8 + Dexterity
* can speak Dwarven and Common

and then, there is a 2d6 table of Dwarf benefits that you roll on twice, to give you a random bonus:

* I rolled a 6, which gives me "Weapon Group: Axes"
* I rolled a 9, which gives me "Ability Focus: Strength-Smithing"

This is another cool design feature: Not all dwarves are the same.


First, you roll 1d6 to determine your social class, and then another 1d6 to get a specific background within that class.

* I rolled a 4, which puts me in the Middle Class
* I rolled another 4, which makes me a Merchant, and gives me an Ability Focus in Communication-Bargaining (alternatively, in Communication-Deception)


The game has Mages, Rogues, and Warriors. Choosing a Warrior, we get:

* HP equal to [30 + Constitution + 1d6]. Having rolled a 2 on a 1d6, my starting HP is 47
* I gain the Brawling weapon group, and three more of my choice. Since I already have the Axes weapon group from being a dwarf, I can take that again to turn it into an Ability Focus in Fighting-Axes
* I become a Novice in two weapon-related talents of my choice. Since I'm wielding a big axe, let's take the Two-Hander Style, which at a Novice level means "whenever I hit with a melee attack with a two-handed weapon, I can push the target 2 yards in any direction"
* I become a Novice in Armor Training, which means I don't take a Dexterity penalty while wearing leather and mail armor

Starting Money and Equipment

As a middle-class character, I start with 50 + 3d6 silver pieces, and also:

* A backpack, traveler’s garb, and a waterskin
* Heavy leather armor and three weapons


I have a Defense of 11, since my Dexterity modifier is a +1 and I don't use a shield

Goals and Ties

The game asks that I come up with three goals for my character, and also mentions that these should be a mix of long-term and short-term goals.

The game also asks that I come up with a tie, however tenuous, with at least one other character in the playing group, in order to facilitate group cohesion.

At this point, our character sheet looks like:

Bodag Stonebones, level 1 Dwarf Warrior

Accuracy:         11, +1
Communication:     8,  0
Constitution:     15, +2 (+1 from being a Dwarf)
Dexterity:         9, +1
Fighting:         13, +2
Intelligence:     11, +1
Perception:        8,  0
Strength:          5, -1
Willpower:         6,  0

HP: 47/47
Defense: 11
Speed: 9 (8 + 1 Dexterity)
Two-Handed Axe: 3d6 damage
Heavy Leather Armor: 4 Armor Rating

Ability Focus: Constitution-Drinking
Ability Focus: Strength-Smithing
Ability Focus: Communication-Bargaining

Weapon Group: Brawling
Weapon Group: Axes
<two other floating weapon groups>

Novice Talent: Two Handed Style - push a target 2 yards in any direction after hitting them with a melee attack with a two-handed weapon
Novice Talent: Armor Training - no Dexterity penalty while wearing leather and mail armor
<one other floating weapon-related Novice talent>

Dark Sight
Languages: Dwarven, Common
Middle-class Merchant
So let's go over that character creation process again

1. Randomly rolled attributes, the modifiers of which are tuned to provide basic competency
2. Player-selected swap of two attributes, which allows for customization ("what do I want my highest stat to be?") without saddling the player with having to choose between an 11 or an 8 in Intelligence when they want to play a Warrior
3. Player-selected choice of race, with a set number of racial bonuses.
4. Player-selected choice between two possible Ability Focuses
5. Randomly rolled additional racial bonuses, to differentiate members of the same race between each other
6. Randomly rolled social status and background
7. Played-selected choice between two possible Ability Focuses
8. Player-selected choice between three classes
9. Randomly rolled HP, but with a significant guaranteed buffer of minimum HP
10. Player-selected choice of three out of eight weapon groups
11. Player-selected choice of two out of eight weapon Talents
12. Randomly rolled starting money, but also with a static set of gear that could mean you don't really need to buy anything immediately

So in every instance that the player has to roll randomly, the game is structured so that it always provides something useful.

And in every instance that the player has to make a choice, the choices are either tightly limited, intuitive against a character concept, or both.

Basic Mechanics and Combat

To do A Thing, roll 3d6, add the attribute modifier appropriate to the task, and then add a +2 if you have an Ability Focus. You succeed if you meet or beat the target number. The average target number is 11.

If Bodag wants to try and balance atop a wall, he'd roll 3d6 + 1 Dexterity
If Bodag wants to try and beat an Orc in a drinking contest, he'd roll 3d6 + 2 Constitution + 2 Drinking Focus.

With an average difficulty of 11, that means that Bodag is going to succeed at least 50% of the time on everything except a Strength check.

To make an attack, roll 3d6, add either your Accuracy or your Fighting modifier depending on the weapon being used, and then add a +2 if you have an Ability Focus. You hit the target if you meet or beat the target's Defense. To deal damage, you roll the damage dice for your weapon, add your Strength modifier, then subtract the target's Armor Rating.

To get an idea of how this math shakes out, let's look at a couple of "beginner" enemies:

Bandit: 15 HP, AR 3, Defense 11, +4 attack, 2d6+1 damage
Goblin: 15 HP, AR 3, Defense 14, +5 attack, 1d6+3 damage
Zombie: 25 HP, AR 4, Defense 8, +1 attack, 1d6+2 damage

Bodag would be rolling at 3d6 + 2 Fighting + 2 Ability Focus. That gives him a 90.74% chance of hitting the Bandit, a 62.50% chance of hitting the Goblin, and a 99% chance of hitting the Zombie.

He'd also be rolling 3d6 - 1 Strength - Enemy AR for damage, which means he'd be hitting the Bandit for an average 6.5 damage per hit, or just under 2 hits to being killed. Same with the Goblin. The Zombie has more HP and 1 more AR, so it'd take something like 4 and a half hits to kill

On the defense, the Goblin would be hitting him 95% of the time, but 1d6+3 damage against Bodag's 47 HP and 4 AR means Bodag could sustain as many as 18 blows before going down. The Bandit's average 4 damage per hit might kill Bodag in 11 hits, but the Bandit would be hitting slightly less often at 90%.

The Zombie would only be hitting 62.5% of the time, and would barely be hitting Bodag for more than 1 HP per hit.

Trying to do a similar comparison of level 1 D&D characters against level 1 monsters would tend to yield hit rates in the 60% range, and only if you packing 16-18 primary attributes, and a damage-to-HP ratio that could well be within two hits to death.

Even if Bodag was a Mage, he'd have [20 + Constitution + 1d6] HP (and 0 Armor Rating), which would mean the Bandit's 8 average damage per hit would need 4 and a half hits to take Bodag out of the fight.

I haven't even discussed the Stunt Die system yet, that allows for a measure of interactivity to both combat and non-combat rolls above and beyond simple checks against target numbers, but I hope the above illustrates the forethought and design that's apparent even from a straight reading of the text.

Oct 5, 2010

Lipstick Apathy
Option D. Knowing nothing about it, the name Banestorm sounds rad as hell.

Oct 5, 2010

Lipstick Apathy
I'm reading through Ken[neth Hite] Writes About Stuff's issue about the mythological figure of Lilith, and the "Queen of the Vampires" version of Lilith as a Night's Black Agents villain has her statted out at 50 Aberrance

The mechanics seem to reinforce the theme of the player-agents being in over their heads because unless you have a super-solid plan, any "real" Vampire that recognizes the players as a threat can just dump a dozen Aberrance into an attack and kill someone dead pretty much instantly. You can't really face any of the "bosses" without having waged a war to deny them of their lackeys, their equipment, their resources and their lifeblood first.

Oct 5, 2010

Lipstick Apathy

theironjef posted:

This week System Mastery is covering Dinosaur Planet, a book that took us by surprise. With a name that cool, we figured we'd just be generally researching how yet another small print house mucked up the OGL, but what we got instead was some good old down-home whitewashing of the big fence of the Confederate States of America. If you ever wanted to read a book where the Union are rapacious space-conquerors and President Robert E. Lee magnanimously freed the slaves in 1881 because it was the right thing to do, here it is.

It's frankly amazing that they shoehorned all that historical revisionism into a game whose title is as straightforward as "Dinosaur Planet". It's John Wick-esque, even.

Oct 5, 2010

Lipstick Apathy

ProfessorProf posted:


In the thriller, the reward for danger is information; having information points you into danger. When the hero rests, add more danger.

Operations on the Fly
It's entirely possible to run NBA games with no operational planning at all. Keep in mind who the vampires are, what they're up to, and why. Whenever the agents go sniffing around somewhere, let them stumble upon part of the backstory. Instead of anticipating player action, just wait for them to act, and build your scenes about whatever they do.

This is interesting to me because I'm a low-prep kind of GM and I always figured I wouldn't be able to run games GUMSHOE-type games because building a mystery requires pre-planning and whatnot.

Thanks for pointing it out.

Oct 5, 2010

Lipstick Apathy
It's also very transparently a gameplay mechanic to have such services be gold sinks.

Oct 5, 2010

Lipstick Apathy
I think a game set during the ACW could be interesting. Have some domain management rules so you can play the part of Newton Knight, or perhaps survival/wilderness rules so you can play out the role of foraging bluecoats during Sherman's March to the Sea.

Cthulhu Dreams posted:

Given they all end up with this bizarre white washing (the south survives then liberates the slaves for reasons!) it ends up looking like apologia.

That's because it really is apologia, but I'm sure you already knew that.

Oct 5, 2010

Lipstick Apathy
Spheres of Power

By random roll, our next Sphere is:


The basic ability for this Sphere is Geomancing, which is a standard action to various terrain and nature-related effects. Geomancing can be either Instantaneous or Concentration, depending on the specific type of effect being created.

When this Sphere is first learned, the caster must choose between different Nature packages: Plantlife, Water, Earth and Fire, which is a broad category of the effects that can be produced.


Entangle is an Instantaneous ability that causes grass, weeds, vines and other underbrush to grow rapidly and wrap themselves around all targets in an area with a radius equal to 5 feet + 5 feet/caster level, centered within a Close range of the caster. I recognize the entire paragraph as being a restatement of the Entangle spell's effect, which makes sense since this is supposed to be a complete replacement for a spell system so they can't just say "it's the Entangle spell", but I can, so ... it's the Entangle spell

Growth is an Instantaneous ability that costs 1 spell point to use, and basically replicates the Cleric's Create Food spell: one fruit tree per caster level (or plant, or food crop) instantly produces enough edible food to feed 3 medium-sized creatures or 1 horse for a day.

Pummel is a Concentration ability that lets you cause a tree branch to come alive and start making Slam attacks against an enemy you designate, that it can reach. Making it switch targets costs a Move action. Tree branches cannot flank. The tree branch has a STR score equal to 10 + caster level, and a BAB equal to caster level.
At level 1, you can animate Medium-sized branches with 1d6 damage dice and a 5 foot reach
At level 5, Large-sized branches with 1d8 damage dice and a 10 foot reach
At level 10, Huge-sized branches with 2d6 damage dice and a 15 foot reach
At level 15, Gargantuan-sized branches with 3d6 damage dice and a 20 foot reach
At level 20, Colossal-sized branches with 4d6 damage dice and a 30 foot reach
The game helpfully notes that entire trees can be turned into pummeling branches for the purposes of reaching your desired branch size.
This is a very cool ability, as it lets you make The Whomping Willow, but there's that weaselly potential for you to be denied its use if there are no trees around.


Vortex is a Concentration ability that lets you create a spinning vortex in any body of liquid that sucks creatures and objects to its center. It's 5 feet wide at the base, 10 feet + 5 feet-per-5-caster-levels high, and is half as wide at the top as it is high. Any creature entering the vortex's area must pass a Reflex save or suffer 1d8 + half-caster-level bludgeoning damage. If they're smaller than the vortex, then they need to pass a second Reflex save or be pulled into the middle of the vortex. If you're in the middle of the vortex, you take the bludgeoning damage every round with no save, and you need to pass a Reflex save or be unable to move. Even if you succeed, you can only move at half your swim speed. The vortex can be commanded to move at 30 feet per round. The caster can spend a spell point to let the vortex persist without concentration, but the caster will need to spend Move Actions to change the vortex's direction of movement.
Another iconic and flavorful ability, but even more limited than tree-bashing unless you're playing in an aquatic adventure.

Fog is a Concentration ability that lets you create a field of fog with a 10 foot + 5-feet-per-5-caster-levels radius, centered within Close range. It's the standard fog environmental rules. You can spend a spell point to maintain this effect without Concentration, but it will be dispersed by Moderate Winds in 4 rounds. You can't use this ability at all under Strong Winds.

Freeze is an instantaneous ability that lets you spend a spell point to flash-freeze a body of water. The size of the water you can freeze is 1 inch thick, 5 by 5 feet square per caster level. Alternatively, you can coat a wet Medium-sized creature with 1 inch of ice per caster level. Increasing the frozen area further or increasing the size of the creature frozen will further reduce the ice's thickness (a Colossal creature is "worth" 16 Medium creatures). Creatures are allowed a Reflex save to avoid being frozen. Once frozen, they suffer all the effects of "being encased in ice" under the environmental rules, plus 1 point of cold damage per round per inch of ice. They can try to escape the ice with a Strength check or Escape Artist check, DC 15 + 1 per inch of ice. Alternatively, a creature on the outside can attack the ice to break it, with 3 HP per inch of ice. On a successful escape, the target is still entangled for 1 round.

Yet another powerful effect, but you'd have to combo this with the Weather Sphere to get the targets wet in the first place.


Bury is a Concentration ability that lets you create shifting sands that swallow targets. The area-of-effect is 5 feet + 5 feet-per-5-caster-levels. It functions the same as Entangle, but on a failed check to escape/break free they cannot move at all, and the DC of every succeeding check increases by 1. If a target is prone while they're in this area and they fail the check, they start suffocating until make a check (or die first).

Tremor is an instantaneous ability that lets you spend a spell point to send a tremor through the ground. The area-of-effect is 5 feet + 5 feet-per-5-caster-levels. Every target within the area will take a Trip check, using your caster level and casting ability modifier for the Combat Maneuver Bonus.

This is a natural combo with Bury, though the spell point cost means you can't do it all the time, and if I'm not mistaken the whole CMB/CMD system makes Tripping much harder to do than in 3.5e

Dust Storm is a Concentration ability that lets you kick up an area of sand or loose dirt. The area-of-effect is 10 feet + 5 feet-per-5-caster-levels. Everyone within this area has Concealment (20% miss chance), and if a creature inside the area attacks a creature outside the area, the defender is considered to have Concealment.


Manipulate Lava is either an instantaneous or Concentration ability. As an instantaneous ability, it works similar to the Freeze ability of Water, except you cause the lava to harden into obsidian. The obsidian is harder and has more HP than ice, but does not deal damage to creatures trapped in it.

As a Concentration ability, it works identically to the Vortex ability of Water, except it can only target lava.

This is getting ridiculous. How often are you going to get to use this ability if it can only target lava?!

Create Fire is a Concentration ability that lets you create a Diminutive-sized magical fire that burns without fuel. The size increases by one category per give caster levels, and can be used to ignite flammable objects to create normal, fuel-sustained fires. If a target is within the area of this fire, they take damage according to normal on-fire rules.

Affect Fire is a Concentration ability that lets you increase or decrease the size of normal non-magical fires.

There are also rules for when two casters are trying to use this on the same fire, and that you can manipulate the fires on creatures that are on fire.

Nature Talents

I'm just going to heavily abbreviate this section otherwise I'm never going to finish it.

Animal Friend lets you spend a spell point to get an animal treat you as a friend. It won't work on animals already overtly hostile to you.

Create Water lets you spend a spell point to create water. You can even combo this with a Water geomancing ability and have it execute within the same action.

Expanded Geomancing lets you take a second Geomancing category

Feed on Fire lets you spend a spell point to gain Fire Resistance equal to your caster level, and lets you heal HP equal to half of the pre-DR fire damage you take.

Forge Earth lets you spend a spell point to raise or lower terrain.

Fire Wielder lets you turn your Create Fire ability into fists of fire that deals extra fire damage on hit and lets you be counted as armed while making unarmed strikes. You can also turn the fire into a mantle around yourself, dealing damage to any creature adjacent to you.

Greater Range increases your Geomancing range.

Grow Plants lets you spend a spell point to spontaneously grow plants in an area, either for its own sake or to allow you to use your plant-based Geomancing abilities. Like Create Water, you can even combo this with the plant Geomancing ability that needs it within the same action.

Move Fire lets you spend move actions to move around fires that you've used Affect Fire on.

Speak with Animals lets you spend a spell point to be able to talk to animals. Their attitude towards you does not change though, so the game says that sometimes animals might be too aloof to want to answer you, or too dumb to be useful.

Speak with Plants is the same, except for plants, and plants will have more limited information to provide because they're plants.

Speak with Stone lets you spend a spell point to be able to tell who else has touched a rock, or passed by a rock, or has used a rock, by touching it.

Thorns allows you to convert your Entangle ability to a thorns ability that deals damage to anyone that enters or stays in the plant-infested area, instead of being slowed.

Towering Growth lets your entangle and thorns spells to grow vertically up, such that they will work against flying creatures.

Waterwalk lets you spend a spell point to be able to walk on water.

Wave lets you spend a spell point to cause large waves of water to attempt to Bull Rush targets.

Whirlwind lets you create a Vortex, as in the water spell, but this time made out of sand.

I found this particular spell school really frustrating to write through and about. So much of it is super-specific and limited for the sake of theme, and while I understand the need for it, the rules are so staid and perfunctory that by the end I could barely muster enthusiasm for the ability to summon a big gently caress-off whirlpool.

Especially when it would require you to have a fight in water anyway. The talents do seem to be able to allow you a measure of flexibility as far as generating plants and water spontaneously, but then it costs you talents and spell points just to be able to do your thing if the terrain isn't cooperative.

Maybe the next spell school will be easier to write about.


Oct 5, 2010

Lipstick Apathy

oriongates posted:

I loved Shattered Lands and Wake of the Ravager. I also played them before I started playing tabletop D&D, which makes it surprising that I could actually manage...those older games did not try and and "hide" the D&D mechanics well and I had no idea what "1d8" was compared to "2d4" or what a THACO was.

I remember having to write to Computer Gaming World to make sense of what the heck "1d8 damage" meant for a weapon because that's what Magic and Magic 7 was still using in 1999 and I didn't have the faintest clue.

Oct 5, 2010

Lipstick Apathy

ProfessorProf posted:


I'm not going to go over all 400+ pages of Dracula Unredacted, but as I talk about specific points of interest, I'll also drop in some of the annotations in the book that refer to them.

I'm sure you'll get into this, but the three new Campaign Frames are my favorite part of the book, especially "They Saved Hitler's Blood!", and I look forward to that.

Oct 5, 2010

Lipstick Apathy

PantsOptional posted:

Dracula Dossier is loving great. To me, the absolute best part is that Edom/British intelligence keeps failing to learn any lessons whatsoever and just keeps touching the red-hot stove that is Dracula.

Well, Vlad the Impaler was pretty good at fighting the Ottomans, right? We have this little dust-up in the Middle East and boy howdy maybe he could help us with Daesh. Certainly nothing could go wrong!

I mean given what we know of the fuckups of the NSA/CIA and various government agencies (Operation Fast & Furious, etc.) you could totally see this line of reasoning going down and being totally accepted.

Oct 5, 2010

Lipstick Apathy

MonsieurChoc posted:

Recommended Feats: Alertness, Endurance, Great Fortitude, Jaded, Lunatic, Run, Skill Focus (Intimidate, Wilderness Lore), Voice of Wrath.

Wait, I thought Ravenloft was an AD&D thing? Why are there feats already?

Oct 5, 2010

Lipstick Apathy

Count Chocula posted:

Like Night's Black Agents in Carrie.

Well shoot that's a perfect campaign seed


Oct 5, 2010

Lipstick Apathy
Bill Webb's Book of Dirty Tricks

I'm always on the look-out for GM-ing advice-type books, so when this showed up on my radar, I had to try it. I did not like it.

I'd like to preface my read-through with that. I'm going to be uncharitable, and some of this is going to come down to my own personal style clashing with this person's and probably me calling it badwrongfun, but I can't help it, that's just the way I feel.

To start us off, the cover art itself shows us someone, ostensibly the GM, rolling a d20 and gleefully crushing a pair of what I can only assume are player-characters. That, plus the opening to the introduction, sets the tone:


Welcome to Bill Webb’s Book of Dirty Tricks. This fun little tome is a GM utility for use during regular play when either too many good things happen to the players due to luck or just whenever the GM feels they need a little push to remind them that success is fleeting.

He says that these "tricks" are usually lifted from all sorts of media, but he doesn't do it verbatim, because otherwise his "victims" might already be familiar with them.

As further background, Bill Webb himself is the CEO of Frog God Games, the publisher of Original D&D retroclone Swords & Wizardry (and also Pathfinder-compatible equivalents), and especially the Rappan Athuk megadungeon, which is purportedly inspired by Gygaxian classics like the Tomb of Horrors.

That should give you an idea of what we're in for: cutting the legs out from under your players, and referring to them as victims. Great.

The book is divided into multiple parts:

Part 1: Bill Webb's House Rules


This is a series of house rules that have been used in the Lost Lands for more than 35 years. If applied, these rules significantly decrease the power level of play and make the game much more difficult.

The real key here is that advancement in my campaign is slow. Characters and monsters, even high level ones, are vulnerable and can be killed. Players in my game who have reached 6th- or 7th-level are proud of their accomplishment.

This just sets off all sorts of red flags in my head. Make the characters weaker and make them earn their fun.

Part 2: The Players Got Too Much Treasure


This series of tricks is designed to “take away” some of the players’ ill-gotten gains based on circumstances outside of the main game. These can be used for several reasons. First, if the players simply got a little too lucky and gathered a few too many gold pieces last adventure, the GM may need to take back some of that loot without appearing capricious. Second, the dirty tricks can be used to provide impetus for the players to “get going already.” Nothing spurs a group of greedy players out the door more than financial hardship. Last, it offers a sense of realism. I mean, really, who among us has not gotten a bonus at work, just to have the car break down or that tuition payment be due all in the same week? The GM giveth, and the GM taketh away … that is just the reality of the game.

So, you're the GM, right? You're the ultimate arbiter of what gets dropped in the dungeon. How is it possible that you're going to give the players "too much" treasure? If you hand-selected your treasure, it couldn't possibly be too much, because you made it that way! If you randomly rolled it, how about biting your tongue and deleting one line of the roll results before awarding to the players rather than dicking around with them?

The last bit about the car breaking down after getting a bonus is also very God complex-y. Unless I'm maybe playing a game of Red Markets where economic horror is the self-advertised name of the game, I really don't need to experience capitalistic "poverty trap" mechanics in my game of reality-escapism.

Part 3: Situational Advantage (Environment)

This one is not so bad. It talks about how you can make tunnels slippery, or dungeon rooms have stinky air, or battlefields have mud and rubble, to add an extra layer of difficulty so that you can keep monsters simple while driving up the challenge.

Part 4: Time Wasters


Specific situations where this GM has used some of these include the “all-elf party” where secret door detection became laughable (also known as “the reason Bill hates elves”), as well as one instance where I found that my players started casting defensive spells every time my favor text got heavy.

Whenever the players are set-up to succeed at something, dick with them a bit to show them what for.

Part 5: Wolf in Sheep's Clothing


These tricks are used to remove the predictability of what seems a safe or easy situation. Just because it’s a goblin does not mean it has fewer than 8 hp and that your fghters get multiple attacks against it.

More of what I'd consider bad GMing advice: deliberately withhold information from the players, then use it against them.

Part 6: Sheep in Wolf's Clothing


More fun for the GM and less dangerous for the players are the sheep that appear to be wolves. It always brings back memories of The Wizard of Oz for me. It’s a blast to have the players waste spells and magic items to completely obliterate that 1 hp bad guy. Sometimes it’s dangerous to do so (remember your frst gas spore?), but most of the time it’s just paranoia followed by massive overkill. These tricks are particularly effective when used deep in a
dungeon, right after a Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing encounter, or in another way where the players are expecting the worst. It’s quite entertaining to see if you can get the 10th-level party to negotiate a truce with the 1 HD goblin because he “scares the hell out of them.”

Again, if you drop a lede on the players to elicit a specific reaction, then you point at them and laugh for taking that reaction, you're an rear end in a top hat.

Part 7: Trickery

This is more of the same - things to "keep players on their toes" or "teach them how play more carefully"

Part 8: Greed is Bad!


Often, players get greedy. They simply are not satisfed with some random boon or thing that they have found, and seek to exploit it. I am often reminded of the Once-ler from Dr. Suess’ [sic] “The Lorax” when I am motivated to use tricks like these. Having found a “good thing,” the players may try to get “too much of a good thing.” This, of course, must be punished.

And I think we've hit antagonistic GM bingo here, with the author referring to punishing the players.

Next: The Battle of Agincourt

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