KIWF! is a log of my thoughts on RPGs, D&Ds and the DCCRPG, inspired by the OSR.
Also, a place where I will post my own RPGs for all to use. The official KIWF is in forever beta.

Friday, July 24, 2015

The Secret History of the Wizardarium

Last month was the one year anniversary of the publication of Wizardarium of Calabraxis. I'm happy that a non-zero number of people have run it. I guess I'm kinda depressed that a lot of people said they would just rip things out of it (if it doesn't make you want to run it, I've failed somehow). But I thought I would commemorate my own vanity project by telling you some details about its birth.

The seeds for Wizardarium were sewn in a dungeon I had to come up with because my players found a map in Tegel Manor (a classic Judges Guild module). I drew up a map and peopled it with some odd things. At one point a player-- I think it was +John Da Silva Pola that gets the blame--  said, "Did you make this? It's kinda cool." +Jez Gordon was actually there too, but I'd be surprised if either of them remembers it.
Mmm. Precious attention. I must get more. 
From that dungeon, a monster which was basically just a re-skinned Spectator (beholder) guarding a vault, would hold onto my imagination. I played it as polite (it was lawful) and at some point decided to bring that archetype back.  There was also a talking skull that kinda got reincarnated into Wizardarium as well.
Anyhoo, things really got underway when Goodman Games ran its mystery dungeon contest. I redrew portions of +Doug Kovacs's map. See the original mystery map here. I ended up drawing the below map:
Forgive the jaggedness, this was drawn too large and compiled from 3 scans

You might notice that I re-incarnated the spectator as a similar monster. It further mutated later. All the basic areas that ended up in the final product are here, but in really different positions. I also didn't change their contents that much. The shape-change panel, the talking skulls room, the vault and the time-travel device are all in there. Doug's eye monster is what inspired me to bring the spectator back, and the pendant at the feet of his monster became the time fobber. The thing he drew in 2 became the monolith and then I had to people it with apemen because monolith.

I wrote up the whole thing and broke the contest rules (willfully, so great was my bravaddo) by writing too much and sent it in. I of course didn't win, but I was well into letting my players at it at that point and someone said it was fun.
Yesssss! Attention. It makes me thrive!

Well, the logical next step for someone that bases their fragile ego on the opinions of others is to publish it themself. Which I eventually did. Here is the next map mutation on the way to that goal:
Sorry for the little dots, this would take hours to clean up in photoshop.
It's a lot better than the first map, and I prefer its statue and skull rooms to this day, but it was a little confusing, so I ultimately ended up redrawing it again. But I think you could actually use this one if you wanted.

So after a while I sent it off to get the old Goodman approval (while sweating because I had no idea how similar my eye monster was to the eye monsters in the module that actually won the contest) to publish it as a 3rd party and the rest is history.

I decided to price it at $1.95 because that is the price I used to pay for Spawn comics as a kid. Thanks to the price (and sales prices), I've managed to stay in the top ten of the DCC category (on the RPGnow version of the site) for a whole year. I hope people feel like even that small price was worth it.

Why charge at all? Because of some advice the Joker gave in The Dark Knight. Meh, you gotta have a rule from somewhere I guess.

The Future- ur- ur...

My next product will also be one that started when I had to draw a map (that's the 3rd one for those of you counting). In the case of the upcoming Shmelerak's Tomb, I was trying to draw a map to match an old Jennell Jaquays dungeon. The one in the magazine I found it in was horrible, and the text was also a mess, but I was determined to figure it out. Even as I drew it, I started to change details to suit my tastes and then I was just like, I might as well remake this whole thing. So it's quite the homage dungeon this time around. Hardcore Jaquays fans will see her influence on it, but it's definitely to my sensibilities and design. Still, I guess the point of this whole post is if you try to adapt something or start from a point shown by someone else, you can surprise yourself with how creative you get.
Want to give feedback? Share this on g+ and give me a tag (+claytonian JP) (if you want to keep it private, share with only me).
If you spot a typo or don't have g+, you can just email me. Claytonian at the gmails.

Monday, June 22, 2015

You are a herd of...

This article from White Dwarf 17 inspired something in me. Hive-mind PC races!

You are...

...a scatter of psi-rats. Your brains glow in the dark. You can gnaw through walls given time. You can suspend foes in mid air and throw them. You cloud minds.

...a parliament of Death-owls. You gain 1 Wiz per member. You can roll at/under Wis to know a bit about any one subject or person mentioned to the PCs. You can see the unrestful dead,and ask them one question per day.

... a slurry of slimes. You can merge to make a formidable mass for combat. You can slip through any crack. Hits whittle you down. Cold just slows you. You don't die unless fire or magic were used to destroy you.

... a troop of winged monkeys. You get fun hats. You have opposable thumbs. 3 or more of you can enter a barrel and make it roll imposingly about.

... a  writer's block of bouncing Salmon Rushdie heads. You can bounce and knock out foes with your bottom-parts. You have little arms below your ears that are good for little more than writing. You know a language for each head.

... a dash of raptors. You are small and can glide on proto-feathers. You can distract a foe while the rest of you comes in from the side.  You can open doors!

Want to give feedback? Share this on g+ and give me a tag (+claytonian JP) (if you want to keep it private, share with only me).
If you spot a typo or don't have g+, you can just email me. Claytonian at the gmails.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Dice Minis: Keeping TotM Clear and Monster HP Simple

Tracking HP can be a bit of a chore. You have to minus from a total, unless you are one of those clever people that have discovered you can just add up damage and see if it equals the HP of the monster.

Another thing is many RPGs imply you should roll those hit dice. Sure, they all provide average HP, but it feels somewhat mendacious to use that number.

So for a while I used the cross-off system. For each hit die the creature has, you can assign it a wound box or space or something. When a PC hits your monster, note the damage of the attack. 4 or less means you do a slash through a box. 5 or more mean you do an X. If you already have a slash and you would have to apply another slash, do it in the opposite orientation and you've got an X. All boxes being xed means the monster is dead. Simple. I still recommend it.

But what I've been doing for a couple years is using dice as psuedo-minis to keep a theater of the mind laid out. It's great for running online games. It's also a way to track HP. With 1HD creatures you can literally roll the HP and see how healthy your monsters are. With higher toughness creatures I usually give them a series of hits, like the hit boxes mention above. For instance, a three d8 monster would probably have about six hits on it, so I can just turn it to the six side. Or I could turn it to the 3 side and take it down a pip whenever the monster has suffered two weak blow or one strong blow. I kinda fluctuate in my methods.  I've pulled out d10s and d12s to take care of even tougher monsters too.

Here's a pic of an actual fight:

The green sticky notes represent players. I can write conditions such as "on fire" right on them. Placing dice by them lets me know which monsters are attacking which PC, which gets important in games with withdrawl moves, etc.  In this pic, one player has 3 baddies on him, but the others are all relatively monster-free for the time being. Only d6s are monsters in this particular battle.

Here's another detail:

This player (one Derrek played by one John) has ensorcelled a baddie since the last picture. It is now at the top of the picture, to the north of another monster, to show that it is attacking its former comrade. Note also Derrek has a couple hash-marks on his sheet to keep track of how long that charm spell is going to last.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Silent Nightfall Fan Map

Purple Duck is one of the longest standing 3rdP companies for DCCRPG. This map is for their adventure Silent Nightfall. The stats on the map are for ease of use when running on a virtual tabletop with fog of war, but will be kinda useless without the adventure itself explaining what the special abilities of the monsters are. I added a little color to emphasize some things, like the whispering stone.

Though there are some differences to the room descriptions as written (because I went all isomorphic and moved things around to keep my sanity), if the management wants to use this map in any way, they can! Turns out the last fan map I made for them made it into the latest update of the module.

Want to give feedback? Share this on g+ and give me a tag (+claytonian JP) (if you want to keep it private, share with only me).
If you spot a typo or don't have g+, you can just email me. Claytonian at the gmails.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Perception rules for DCC or DnDs

Simple rules to know if PCs spot the things. 

There is always a DC to see something that is not plainly obvious in the environment. It should probably be no lower than 10, and if it is, maybe it's plainly obvious and not worth a check, but exceptions could occur (running through an area, you could overlook that DC5 thing).

If the PCs are just kinda passively going through an area, they have a check score equal to the party's cognizant members (don't roll anything unless they have elves). Roll a d3 for each elf in the party and add that result on top. If the party meets the DC, they notice the thing without having to try too hard. Easy.

The next part doesn't use the DC thing. You could find a way to pretty easily though.

If the PCs are actively searching a room, roll 1d30 (secretly). If the D30 rolls at or under the amount of PCs helping out, the group spots the thing. Add in 1d5 to the roll-under score if any PC elves etc. are present. The party can spend Luck if they want. Searching an area this way takes half a turn (5 minutes), which might matter if you have random encounters or wandering encounters.

Be prepared to consider some things:
Do henchmen count for the active roll? Maybe if they have the right job or species for it. Dogs could help spot stanky things. Dwarves could help sniff gold. I'd probably let most dwarves just know if something is fishy with architecture. After all, no roll is the best roll.

This post inspired by this one.
Want to give feedback? Share this on g+ and give me a tag (+claytonian JP) (if you want to keep it private, share with only me).
If you spot a typo or don't have g+, you can just email me. Claytonian at the gmails.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

A roll-low saves system for DCC

I started a couple roll-low initiatives in DCC a few months back. One was to have players do ability checks instead of "skill checks". They just have to roll at or under their ability score on a d20 to do the thing they want. Have a more difficult challenge, or an untrained (0-level job-wise) PC? roll a d24 or d30 instead. I've abandoned this one recently because, quite frankly, I want some things to be near impossible. For instance, breaking through a porticulis in the module Silent Nightfall. I saw the DC 35, but the players went through it like paper. Rubbed me the wrong way, but I think it's still a valid resolution mechanic. However, I've abandoned it for now.

But the other roll-low thing is one I'm going to keep for a while yet. I think it's working. Saves. In normal DCC, saves are pretty much your standard 3.x DnD saves. Roll to beat a DC. Only, the highest you can roll with this system under normal circumstances is 29 (max stats at level ten with a good save), and that can be a problem when you are trying to resist a wizard spell that rolls higher. Some would say wizards that roll high deserve to auto-win against their targets. Valid point, but not one I'm happy with at this time in my development as a judge.


 So here is how roll-low works:

The judge says roll an x save, where x is one of the three (REF, FORT, WILL). The player looks at their number for that save (which may-well be negative if you are low level with low stats). They add that number to 10 and roll a d20. Rolling at or under that sum on the d20 means you made the save.

If the danger is particularly pernicious (say the wizard rolled a 42 to hex you or a dragon is being a scary dragon flaming you), the judge can ask you to roll a bigger die instead. Maybe even percentile dice.

I find this system has a certain charm as being like a reverse of old school DnD rules as I understand them. In some older editions, you have save numbers that you have to roll over to save (flavored depending on the threat). As you level up, the saves get easier, until you only have to roll a 4 or better to save against most things. The save names are different and simplified these days, but they mirror the old ones quite well when using the new saves system detailed above.

Want to give feedback? Share this on g+ and give me a tag (+claytonian JP) (if you want to keep it private, share with only me).
If you spot a typo or don't have g+, you can just email me. Claytonian at the gmails.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

You Feelin' Lucky, Punk? A DCC gambit houserule

I'll give a little update of my DCC luck-regain rubric at the bottom of this post. I think it works swell, but sometimes players got more Luck than they know what do with.

So here is the gambit rule. You are out of ideas. You might die. You ask the judge, "Can I get some kind of miracle here?"
"Wanna ask your gods?" She suggests with a DCC judge smile.
"Not really. The cleric has disapproval 4 right now... And Crom doesn't listen to me anyways. To hell with him!"
The judge, ever the Faustian entity, is ready with a followup: "Hmm. Sounds like you need a little deus ex machina. What's your wager?"
"Hmm... Six Luck?" You figure you can spend that much and still be okay.
"Alright. Roll a d20!" She declares.
Rattle. "I rolled... a 14?!" Your hands go to your face in shock at the lost gambit.
"Too bad. Well, hope you saved some luck for when they roll over your poor carcass."

However, in the good universe (see the law of Abed-thermo-dynamics) you rolled a 3. Which is at or under your wager.
The judge frowns, robbed of the description of your grizzly demise, but concedes your victory, "Your Luck has proved a fair loss this time, Hogarth MacMorn of the clan of feral men, for the grue advancing upon you suddenly falls to the ground. He's having a bit of indigestion. Shouldn't have eaten the party halfling. He'll be distracted for a little while, if you'd like to slink out of here now."

So yeah, spend some Luck. Roll at or under that number on a d20. If you do, the judge helps you out. You lose the luck points permanently either way. 


Anyhoo, here's how regaining Luck has been going in my online DCC games. I allow players to roll a d20 once for each of the following conditions. If their roll goes over their character's current Luck score, it goes up by one and then we can see if they have any more chances to roll. If a 1 is rolled, you are done getting Luck chances today. Sorry. If you roll a 20, you get a bonus chance!

You get a Luck chance if you:
  • Completed a "quest."
  • Saved an important thing.
  • Have done a character report in the forum since last time.
  • Have done something cool or funny (you can't petition the judge, they'll let you know)
  • Had a victory that is particularly good for your alignment's gods.
  • Showed up on time (actually I give 2 to people on time and 1 to people who had to come late just as thanks for showing up).
  • Appeared on camera (hangouts are better with humans).
  • Were voted MVP by the other players.

The catch is if you are a thief or hobbit, your Luck can never exceed its original amount with this method. Because you have too many Luck advantages already. But it at least lets you regenerate Luck quicker than normal.

In addition to the above, I stole these other things that engender chances from Dungeon World:
  • Lawful
    • Used magic to solve a puzzle.
  • Neutral
    • Discovered something about a magical mystery.
  • Chaotic
    • Used supernatural power to cause terror and fear.

Thief or hobbit
  • Lawful:
    • Pleased your client or da boss
  • Neutral:
    • Avoided detection or infiltrate a location.
  • Chaotic:
    • Shifted danger or blame from yourself to someone else.

  • Lawful:
    • Defended a teammate or love interest.
  • Neutral:
    • Defeated a worthy opponent.
  • Chaotic:
    • Killed a defenseless or surrendered enemy.

  • Helped the cause of your alignment.
Want to give feedback? Share this on g+ and give me a tag (+claytonian JP) (if you want to keep it private, share with only me).
If you spot a typo or don't have g+, you can just email me. Claytonian at the gmails.