Thursday, January 26, 2012

Another Game (2): DungeonTeller

I was really happy to discover a free, new RPG called DungeonTeller yesterday. It reminded me in some ways of KIWF, because your ability to fight is affected by your health. From the introduction:
This game is designed as family fun in the spirit of classic fantasy roleplaying games, where you and your friends take the role of a band of heroes venturing into dark caverns in search of mystery, riches, and danger. I’ve loved those games for thirty years, and I do have a soft spot for them, but I must be getting old, because I don’t have the patience for the complexity of traditional roleplaying games. This game is the result.
What’s different about this game? You can get a DungeonTeller game started in five minutes, without lots of dice-rolling and writing down numbers. Elect a game master, pick a role for your character, grab a free adventure from my blog (coming soon, I hope), and let the adventure begin.
When we play, “dad” is the game master, and the heroes are a group of our friends and their kids. Even folks who have never played an RPG will be able to pick up the basics right away. I’ve tried to replace gamer lingo with plain speech – no “hit points”, “saves”, or “critical hits” in here.

In DungeonTeller, each player has luck (taking the place of HP in traditonal games) and associated pools dice (rolling 5s and 6s nets you success). These dice act as both your hit points and your fancy-power enablers. If you run out of luck any hit could end you, but the rules are written with an attitude that failure is just a complication to be overcome, suggesting things like TPKs are actually everyone getting caught, etc.

Anyways, the beauty of the system's streamlining is very appealing to me, and there is lots of material for it already. It is really intuitive, making it good for bringing people into the fold of roleplayerdom.

Get the main rules here.
Get the monsters here.
Get class rules (also included in the main rules) here to facilitate a quick pick up and play session.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The First Kill It With Fire Art Not by Me

Introducing the work of Scott, who, in a miraculous series of events went from being a fellow internet -famous (within the J-vlogging community*) dude to a reader of the blog and a player in my DCC beta campaign on Google+. Scott says his pieces were inspired by the examples of play I gave in the original KIWF rules.

I'm going to add these to spice up said rules, and hopefully sometime soon we can put together a PDF with the system and illustrations. If you want to send in some fanart (dare I call it that?) shoot me a line.

*: In case you are wondering, I am here, but haven't put out a decent video in ages and you probably aren't interested in Japan. Of course the Carcosa review may interest you.

New Rules and an update: Rolls Contested and Harsh

This post was recently edited; please note the rules change if you are the non-extant persons playing this game.

KIWF rules stuff this post.

Contested Rolls: For contested rolls, where two people want to do something, have each person roll one die for each pip they have in the appropriate trait. Each person nets a success for rolling at their pips or under for that trait. Re-roll ties.

Initiative will be decided by contested rolls too. This is a change from the earlier rules that will be retroactively edited into them.

Example: Orr the Caller of Squamous Things is in a race with Filgreese, Long of Beard to get to the top of a chasm and claim some booty. They both roll a die for each pip they have in their Prowess trait, as this trait represents the athleticism they will need to make the climb. 
Orr has 3 pips and rolls 3 dice resulting in rolls of 1, 3, and 5, getting a total of 2 successful rolls. Filgreese has 2 pips and rolls 2 dice resulting in a 5 and 6, thus getting a total of 0 successes. Orr wins and reaches the top first.

Later a sore Filgreese challenges Orr to a drinking contest. They roll a die for each pip in their Body trait to see who is the last man standing.

Optional Rule: Difficult and Extraordinary Checks: Sometimes the referee may determine that a challenge is particularly devious or requires doing well over an extended period of time. In such situations, the player must make the check twice or more and succeed each time.

Example: Shreva of His Dark Purview is trying to create an artificial man using the knowledge she gleamed from an accursed tome. The referee has her player make one Brains check every day for three days (in game time). She gets an extra die for each roll because she has a special regent listed in the ritual's description.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Creature Mechanic: Lingering and Regenerating

Two new creature mechanics that can give a creature some staying power. Keep in mind the system has folk roll their hit dice for each encounter and typically you only lose one hit die per attack you take.

Lingering may be appropriate for ghosts, swarms, slimes, etc. Regeneration is for creatures with heavy duty supernatural healing. Use both for a nightmare creature that will make your players throttle you.

Lingering: When this creature would lose a hit die in combat, instead reroll it. If the result is a one, it loses it as usual.

Lingering Hardcore: And for a small, hydra-esque twist, if the rerolled die comes up as a certain number, like say a six, the creature also gets to roll a bonus hit die too!

Regenerating: On each of its turns, this creature rerolls a previously lost hit die unless it took damage from its vunerablities list within the last round.
Lastly, I know my art up there kinda sucks (those are supposed to be ghostly carp up there), but in my defense I am out of practice, photographed it straight out of a moleskin, and made it without any penciling first.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

5E - What works in D&D

In their article at Beyond the Black Gate, the author talks about something that was relevant to my own RPG.

With all the speculation floating around about what 5E could possibly look like, or what folks would like it to look like, its interesting to ponder what exactly makes D&D work in the first place. The simple fact that people are out there still playing the earliest iteration of D&D means that there are some definite "core" elements that keep this game alive.

One of the first things that springs to mind is the Hit Die. This is, I think, the most important baseline of the game, and what everything else is built off of. Starting with OD&D, the baseline is this: a creature has 1 HD, or 1d6 hit points. An attack against it with, say, a sword, does 1d6 points of damage.

This is deceptively simple, but its an important reason why D&D works. Starting with this baseline, a regular sword has a chance to kill a regular guy in 1 round. The randomness of tossing dice to determine the regular guys hit points, whether or not you hit the regular guy, and how much damage you do if you do hit the regular guy, means nothing is predetermined, nothing can be taken for granted, and there will always be an element of risk.

As a baseline, this means you have something to measure against when someone gets better than the average guy (or "levels up"). More hit points, a better chance of hitting, etc. Or maybe your magic sword gets better than the regular sword. It lets you quantify tough concepts in a simple way that doesn't take hours to figure out, or bog down your game resolving simple combats so you can get on to the rest of the session.

As the rules stand now, players in the Kill It With Fire RPG don't start as "regular guys" because they get 1 HD for each body point they have, as well as their level in hit dice, but DMs looking for a more risky starting game could certainly have players start at 1 HD.

As for monsters, the hit die allocating will mostly represent flavor; cannon fodder like goblins or normal people will usually have one measly hit die. NPCs don't follow the same rules as PCs. They are just there to be fun challenges.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Two sessions and a fifth itteration

Yesterday and today, I played two different kinds of roleplaying games. Then I saw the news that 5th edition D&D will be announced. An announcement of an announcement, if you will.

Yesterday was a forth edition D&D game. A rather tough series of battles through a Goodman Games module that saw us taking on an average of 3 encounters back to back with no rests in-between. When we ran to the top of our collapsing tower and saw the shadow dragon before us, I thought we were screwed. Heck, I had already died once... before I luckily remembered that I had taken a second wind and actually couldn't get killed after all.

But I locked that dragon down with one hand and held on for dear life. Luckily, the brawler sub-class that I play is quite powerful against creatures of even draconic strength, and between the grab and our bonuses to hit and the dragon's penalties, we were able to make surprisingly short work of it. But the whole time I was thinking what a pain it was to remember every little condition, every aura, every save that must be made, and every bonus or penalty. I cheered with the rest of the group when we killed that dragon (we even did a three-man eiffel tower*), but basically, I came away from the experience thinking, once again, about what a pain it is to play type IV D&D. Goodman Games make it as fun as possible though.

On the other side of the spectrum, tonight saw my first Google+ online game, and it was brilliant. I was DMing a session of DCC beta, which is also put out by Goodman Games. We had a map that I used for referencing room dimensions every once in a while, but otherwise it was all theater-of-the-mind style. Things were so much simpler, the combat was over quickly yet dramatically. It's definitely my preferred style of play.

So what I hope is, that since Wizards has extended its hand to say, "hey, you guys will like us if we let you playtest, right?" They will listen to voices like mine. With my own RPG, I've tried to actually distil a few of the parts of 4e I like. There are no saves in my game, nor AC, but the three defenses in Kill It With Fire are inspired by 4e's approach to hurting things. I also like the powers-as-a-balancing-slash-engaging element of 4e that give everyone cool things to do, and some of that flavor makes it into abilities, though I try to have them be less tactical, less board game or video game-like.

Last year was, from my perspective, a major watershed in D&D, with the edition wars and retro-clones' prominence. We will see if D&D survives. I think it would be a shame if it died because it became economically inviable, but as long as someone out there still plays, its spirit will live on.

*I thought I would provide a link to an IT Crowd episode with a reference, but now I think I may have imagined the practice. My version of eiffel towering is to go for a high five and then hold the pose/hands in the air for an awkwardly long amount of time. Is that how the original episode did it?

Creature Ability: Tough

Just had an idea for a mechanic that could be applied to really tough targets, such as iron animated statues.

If you haven't read the Kill It With Fire rules, let me paraphrase the armor rules here: For each armor die you have, it reduces incoming damage by its pip rating (being removed if matched) and if any damage goes over that, the armor die is removed from play and the extra damage is applied to hit dice (armor dice come back after combat when you repair your armor).

But creatures with the Tough ability will have an extra, armor-like advantage: Each hit die also acts as an armor die, so it first reduces incoming damage by its pip rating then absorbs damage as usual. Meaning some creatures will never lose HP if something can't deal enough damage to beat its highest hit die's pip rating.

There is nothing to stop a Tough creature from wearing separate armor on its body, but this trait is mainly intended for creatures of naturally high fortitude, such as dragons.

Since hit die in KIWF are rolled at the beginning of each combat, you may get lucky and catch a monster with a measly 3 pips on its highest die, or you may run into a particularly strong monster with the dreaded 6 pips. Monsters could be even more dangerous if you are using alternate dice rules as well (KIWF uses d6s in the base rules).

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Class Rough Draft: Battle Mage

Latest edit: some keywords are gone.

Here's our first supernatural class. It is a "mage" but supernatural classes will usually be open to interpretation at character generation as to where their power comes from (magic, psionics, nature). At first I thought it would be an "exploding die" class, but I'll save that for a later class! Also, here we get so see a few ability attacks with critical effects.

Battle Mage

Battle Mages can be useful to have around... just don't get in their line of fire. Battle Mages draw upon supernatural energies and direct them at foes, often with explosive results that result in friendly fire. But the bigger the hoard, the more crispy the spoils of war as they say.

Goals: Battle Mages often adventure to please their own twisted psyches and enjoy power trips. But as long as they are on the side of good (our side, that is), other adventurers tolerate them. Sometimes battle mages adventure to find the secrets to epic rituals or awesome artifacts.

Bonus Skill die to checks involving: arcana, intimidation, judging distances, throwing, pyrotechnics

Starting abilities:
  • Arcane Potency: When you roll an attack with supernatural and ranged properties, chose a primary target and a number of secondary targets within arm's length of the primary target equal to you current hit dice. You choose the targets, but your allies will be chosen if they are close enough to the primary target and you have nothing else left to choose. Roll your attacks as normal for the primary target, but drop the lowest die of your dice pool when you compare the attack to secondary target(s)'s defenses.
  • Whoops:  Your attacks with supernatural and ranged properties can't be used to subdue; they kill anything, including allies, that they drop to 0 hit points.
  • Flashy Cantrips: You can perform simple magical, psionic, etc. (you choose the flavor at generation) tricks that involve elements of non-damaging pyrotechnics, fire (can start unattended flammable objects aflame), or loud sounds
  • Conveniently Self-proof: Your supernatural attacks do not damage yourself, unless noted otherwise in their description. The same immunity extends to your gear and creatures you hold really close. Other affects of your powers will still affect you too.
  • Energy ball: Attack:Brains versus Dodge. Hit: Choose an energy type from the following list: fire, electric, sonic, radiant. Your attack does your Brains +2 of that energy type of damage to the primary target and your Brains to secondary targets.

2nd level and up abilities:

  • Energy wall: You erect a non-solid energy barrier that is five feet long for every current hit die you have and endures as long as you spend a minor action each round and are in eyesight of it. It is the shape of your choosing (even enclosed), but each side is at least five feet and a straight plane. Things that touch the wall take your Brains in damage. A creature with current hit dice less than your brains finds the pain too intense and will stop trying to progress through the barrier until they spend a minor action to make a Brains check and will their way through the pain.
  • Flaming Missile: Charge a weapon and throw it at a target with 10 feet. Attack: Coordination vs Dodge. Hit: 1d,  Hit or miss: the weapon comes back to you. Crit: The primary target drops a weapon it is wielding.
  • Grenade: You charge a small object, such as a pebble with conspicuous arcane energies and hurl it into battle next to a target you name within 20 feet. The next round on your initiative, it explodes and anyone still near it will take an attack to their Dodge equal to 3d+ your Brains in dice. Creatures it hits take 2d fire/sonic damage and everyone in the area is deafened for one round.
  • Don't. Touch. Me. : Attack: No check. A creature must have you grabbed. You do your Body in damage to offending grabber and anyone else standing next to you. The grabber lets go of you if the damage causes them to loose a hit die.
  • Giant Fist: Attack: Prowess vs Dodge. Hit: 1d kinetic damage and push the target 5 feet for each point of Body you have. Secondary targets are pushed to the side. Critical: The target is knocked prone as well, anatomy willing.
  • Focused blast (encounter): Attack: Coordination vs Dodge (no secondary targets). Hit: 2d.
  • Reckless Strength: Prerequisite: 10th level. Creatures with less hit dice than you are automatically hit by your supernatural ranged. Creatures with less hit dice than you currently have drop to 0 hit points.
  • Satisfying Sizzle: You  may get back an extra hit die each time you reduce a secondary target to 0 hit points with a supernatural attack.
  • Redirect Energy: The first time you would take fire, electricity, or radiant damage in an encounter, instead reduce the damage to 0 and gain a hit die. You may go over your usual limit until the day ends.
  • Chained Energy: Prerequisite: 8th level. Your supernatural attacks with secondary targets may target creatures that are not next to the primary target, but within the same area (room, hall, field).  They still are directed at targets adjacent to the primary target first though.
  • Dimension Tear (encounter): Prerequisite: 6th level.  You choose a target within 20 feet. and place a dimensional tear next to it if you make a successful Brains check. On your turns, you can keep the tear open with a minor action. Unsecured targets that start their turn within 20 feet of the tear must make a Prowess check or lose vitality (that is, take 1d temporary damage). Creatures reduced to 0 HP this way are not dying, but are sucked into the tear, to be lost to time and space. However, they may make a Coordination check to grab another target to stop their movement, and contested Prowess checks to hold on. Grabbed targets not secured down will take the tear's damage and effects as above.
  • I need more cowbell: Focus necessary: a percussion instrument. You do sonic damage equal to your Brains to all creatures within arm's reach. Everyone in the fight is deaf until it ends unless they were burrowing or something.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Alternative ways to deal with 0 hp

Found a fun system for what could happen to you if your hit points drop to 0 at Trollsmyth. Basically, one is not out of the fight at 0hp, but they are pushing their luck. Any time they are hit, 2d6 are rolled and the results compared to a table that has everything from dismemberment to adrenaline surges.

I may come up with a version of my own to put into the alternate rules appendix of Kill It With Fire.

Enjoy the Trollsmyth rules here.

Also, you can easily turn the Trollsmyth post into a pdf. I realized that was a feature sorely lacking from my blog, so I am adding it retroactively to select posts as soon as I figure out how.

EDIT: Figured it out. Turns out I missed the blogger customization options the first time I visited the site that does this. PDFs of all posts for all!

I get high rolls with a little help from my friends

Faustusnotes, who also runs a Japan-based RPG blog, has been kind enough to do some calculations for the Kill It With Fire system. If you are interested in how to reduce the swinginess of d20s in your home games, maybe his food for thought will fill the belly of your brain.

Check his post out here!

In case you missed it, I currently have both attack and defense to-hit and to-not-be-hit bonuses set at the stat+current hit die. Spiral of death it is, until I do more play-testing...

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Creature Draft: Slimes

Below is the first, stats-and-all creature of the KIWF RPG. I modeled it on the blob from the 1980s movie of the same name.

I think one of my combat rules for being grabbed will be: If you deal enough damage to make the creature lose a hit die, it lets go of you if the attack would have also hit their wits defense. If the creature is mindless, this may automatically happen, if the referee feels it makes sense.
Cunning Slime
Cunning slimes hunt with patience and at times appear to be sentient, but surely that is just a false impression, right?
Keywords: amorphous, acidic, blind, deaf, mindless
Size: 1 category per HD
Hit Dice: 2-12
Dodge: 9+HD Wits:— Toughness: 8+HD
Vulnerabilities: Fire, radiant, electric, cold damage robs it of a turn but does no damage otherwise
Resistances: Acid, doesn't provoke opportunity actions with attacks, half damage from melee weapons (round down), alien (absent?) mind is invulnerable to mental damage, illusions, etc.
  • Pseudopod-3d+HD vs Dodge. Hit: 1d and  if the slime still has 2HD or more, the target is grabbed until it wins a prowess check on its turn.  People that fail their check take a die of damage.
  • Envelop-Against two melee targets per every 4 HD, 2d+HD vs Dodge and Toughness, grabbed targets' dodge defense is zero. Hit on both: one die of damage and target has to roll 2d on their turn  to escape, drop lowest. If they can't escape on their turn, they take 2d damage that bypasses armor resistance.
  • If a slime reduces an enveloped or grabbed creature to 0 hit points, that creature is absorbed (dies and remains reduced to bones) and the slime re-rolls a lost hit die.

A review of the Carcosa book and PDF

First, I'm going to show you the physical product, available for purchase here,  via a video:

Second, other reviewers make a point of saying they don't want to have any controversy in their comments section when they talk about Carcosa. Screw that. It's controversial, it makes people uncomfortable. As long as you can be civil, I don't mind you expressing all sorts of misgivings about this product. Go ahead and comment! Now on with the review!

Okay, so some history.

That guy that wrote An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge also wrote about a place called Carcosa in a short story called An Inhabitant of Carcosa that can be read for free here. Over the years, it got incorporated into the Cthulhu Mythos. Later, I had to read his less interesting stories in middle-school English Class, but I just mostly say that to evoke the pubescent atmosphere of the next part of our history tour.

Long ago there was a game called D&D. It had a few supplements that were given roman numerals and contained alternated rules. Carcosa was presented as such a supplement when it first came out a couple years back, though its creator admittedly has nothing to do with the original people or company that made D&D. I just want you to know the writer's approach of evoking nostalgia from books they obviously love.

In other parts of the 1970s role-playing universe, another game called Empire of the Petal Throne was also enjoyed by a few old school nerds. At one point they put out a supplement called The Book of Ebon Bindings. You can check it out on Scrbd, and if you do you will start to see a lot of similarities to the Carcosa product. It seems that both the modern day dead-tree edition and the text are intentionally imitating Ebon Bindings, and I think that's fine. A non-obvious homage.

Ebon Binding presented rituals for getting demons and the like to work for you. They described foul rituals where the caster would do unspeakable and torturous things to humans that were sacrificed to gain the attention of these infernal entities. That was in 1978.  I've not check out the entirety of Ebon Bindings to see how it compares to Carcosa on the nature of victims, but the point must be made that Carcosa is not treading new ground in terms of describing sacrifices in a role-playing supplement. I dare say that if parents back in the day had gotten ahold of the Ebon Bindings, which was much more obscure a game book than any D&D product, the moral panic of the 80s may have visited the gaming world much sooner.

But the big difference between Ebon Bindings and Carcosa is that the former reads more like an anthropology book (basically, it's a little boring) and Carcosa reads like a tourism guide to Barsoomian world (which makes it quite interesting).

No pussy-footing around it though: Carcosa mentions underage victims being sacrificed, and in one now infamous instance goes into an amount of detail that will make anyone suck in their breath for a second and cringe. Furthermore—and I don't know if this was part of the original PDF from a couple years back—in the sample adventure included in the book, the players can run across the body of such an unfortunate victim and learn that the sorcerer that did this has also found a way to keep her necrotically preserved for further ritualistic violations.

Why publish such a thing? Because it makes the stakes very high. Any self-respecting group of players will want to enact painful justice on the man that did such a thing. You want horrid villains? This book will give them to you. The most loathsome and sad beings in the universe.

On the other hand, many will point out that because such rituals are described, albeit in short entries usually no more than a paragraph or two, some players will exercise their right to carry them out in-game. Well, in my personal case, if I was playing a sorcerer (the class presented in this book that has access to rituals), I would never carry out certain of the rituals, even if it was for the greater good. I never can bring myself to be too bad of a guy when I role-play. I always have a soft spot for begging villains that promise contrition. That's how I roll. If the player to my left wanted to perform an evil ritual, my character would soon plot their character's demise. Even if they were doing something that might save the world from one of the Lovecraftian entities presented in the book.

There are more than a couple ways sorcerer characters are limited anyways. First, they have to find rituals to even have knowledge of them. Something easier said than done. I am not finished reading the 800 entries of the hex-crawl section, but I suspect the most infamous ritual in the book is not listed anywhere as being learnable in a way that PC can stumble across. So it would be up to a—dare I say it?—perverse DM to put foul rituals into PC hands. Second, banishment rituals, which would be the ideal method to stave off nightmarish beings, do not require the sacrifice of humans.

So what does the book offer outside of controversy?

Lots of new flavorful rules and goodies to play with. The latest version of Carcosa uses rules from the publisher's game: Lamentations of the Flame Princess. So there is ascending armor class and a few other quirks that are a matter of taste, but the hit-die and damage-die re-roll at the beginning of each battle system was so interesting it actually inspired me to finally make this blog and the Kill It With Fire RPG rules (don't worry, publishers, I didn't rip off your rules by any means!). I doubt most people would play the re-roll-every-time rules in their D&D/LotFP/Carcosa campaigns, but I would like to try them at least once. They add an element of caution that I would expect Old Schoolers to embrace.

Besides the new rules there are presentations for simple (and very random) psionics, alien weapons, spawn of Shub-Niggurath, plants, and so on. You will get a bit of a Gamma World feel with some things, and a lot of Call of Cthulhu with others.

The monster entries and hex-crawl sections are pretty fun. In fact, for someone like me stuck in Japan and rarely encountering other gamers, these sections are wonderful literature with which to pass the time. The adventure included in the book is excellent and flavorful as well. I don't think one can find such a rich gaming supplement very often.

I am happy with my purchase. I don't know when I will get to use its contents, but in the meantime they entertain me and that's all I really ask for.
Edit: Also, the publisher's thoughts on the RPG and its controversy are very interesting. Link!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Class Rough Draft: Sword for Hire

Latest edit: Dropped all keywords save for "(encounter)".

Here's the first class for Kill It With Fire. I think I will only worry about 10 levels in the basic rules (I've also changing the rules so you only get one ability every other level after 2nd to try to avoid some of the problems that I see in fourth edition).  If you are familiar with RPGs, this will be pretty easy to understand. The "encounter" keyword means the ability generally only happens once per fight, and there will be a box to check off on the character sheet for such powers. Otherwise abilities can be used once per round, on your turn, unless indicated otherwise.

Anyways, I'd like to avoid powers that seem like they could be performed by anyone at anytime under GM fiat, so constructive criticism is welcome. Just keep in mind that battle is Theater of the Mind in KIWF.

Sword For Hire
A SFH is always willing to consider a job if the gold is right. Many of them have proven themselves in battle, and are looking for a lifestyle that can satisfy their adiction to adrenaline and riches.

Goals: For most SFHs, there is no other way of life to live; fighting is all they can do anymore. For others, putting together enough money to secure a safe place to retire and start a new life is an ideal to live for.

Bonus Skill die to checks involving: arms, strength, intimidation, street smarts, battle tactics, first aid, mounts, endurance, survival.

Starting abilities:
  • Fierce in combat: As long as you have at least two hit dice left, you get an extra die to your attack rolls and add your prowess to your damage rolls.
  • Not to be ignored: If you get an opportunity to attack outside of your turn, you get an extra attack die.
  • Thrill of Battle: Once per fight you may attack with Prowess vs Dodge. Hit: 1 die. If you manage to take away an enemy hit die with this attack, you may reroll a hit die you have lost today.

Lvl 2 and up abilities (choose one from the list below when leveling, or consult with the referee to make your own):
  • Inner reserves: The first time you would lose a hit die each encounter, roll it again instead. 
  • Sacrificing Strike: You roll attack dice equaling your current hit points and add your prowess bonus vs Dodge. Hit: 2 dice damage and the creatures next you may make an attack on you with one die more than normal. 
  • Unbalancing Strike: Prowess vs Dodge and Toughness. Hit on Dodge: one die damage. Hit on Toughness too: Target is unbalanced, meaning an ally next to it that hasn't acted yet can give up their next action to make a +1d opportunity attack against it now.
  • Demoralizing Strike (encounter) : Prowess vs Dodge. Hit: One die of damage, and if the creature is rendered to 0 hit points, all you sentient opponents must roll under their own Brains score or be shaken and try at the first opportunity to flee the scene. Cornered opponents that cannot flee roll one less die to attack you.
  • Adrenal Potency: If you have all your hit dice, your encounter powers come back each round instead of getting checked off when used. 
  • Defensive Shield: As long as you are wielding one and your armor pips don't exceed 3, your enemies have one less die to roll when making melee attacks against you.
  • Combat Nightmare: Prerequisite- Level 10.  You lose the Fierce in combat ability. Instead, when attacking, you roll an amount of dice equal to your current number of hit dice.
  • Deflective Shield (encounter):  When a ranged attack misses you, you may make a coordination check to redirect that attack towards another target, and the attack is checked for a hit against their defenses.
  • Tempered by Battle: You gain an extra hit die. You may gain this ability one more time in the future when you level up if you so choose.
  • Superior Defensive Stance: If you wield two medium weapons or a medium weapon and a light shield, enemies that surround you don't get an extra die to attack you as usual unless there are more than three of them.
  • Flow of battle:  Prowess vs Dodge: Hit: One die damage. If your target is taken out, you may follow up with an attack using the same roll to an adjacent target (that target doesn't get the option to attack you as usual). 
  • Heartening Defense: When an ally next to you would be struck down by an attack that targets dodge, you may have that attack target you instead. Said ally gets to re-roll a hit die they lost today. 
  • Fierce Barrage: As long as you have more than one hit die you can use this ability. Prowess vs Dodge. Hit: one die damage. Hit or Miss: Followup attack of Prowess vs Toughness. Hit: one die damage.
I've decided to update the rules a bit. The goals are to keep this a quick, simple, yet logical in terms of keeping a shared illusion about how the fantasy world works.

Attacks are now without the +10 bonus. They are 3 dice, plus current amount of hit dice remaining, plus prowess.

On the other hand, Defense got nerfed too! Your defense is now the base defense, plus coordination, plus the current amount of hit dice remaining.

Monsters probably won't have the same rules for PCs as far as base traits are concerned. I'm not going to stat a giant for instance, because the referee can decide with common sense how strong or stupid a giant is in their game. But monster attacks and defenses will also be dependent on current hit dice. Hit the monster first and you have a distinct advantage! Just like when you fight monsters in real life.

Abilities. I don't want abilities to get too numerous, lest we run into type IV edition problems of too many choices. So I'm thinking they will be limited to a new one at 2nd level, and then a new one every other level after that.

I also added some more combat stuff. Ah, combat...

You get an extra die to your attack against a creature if it is currently engaged in melee with someone else. However, if you miss with a ranged attack this way, the attack check is compared to a random target in combat with your intended target. If it hits and it is logically something that could do damage, the hit effects go to the new target(s).

Also, damn, I'm sorry so many misspellings made it in the first time around...

Another game: 6d6 RPG

6d6 looks like an interesting cross between board or card game and role playing game. I'd like to try it some time. I discovered it via google+. If you would like to add me on google+ to get gaming related posts, please have gaming mentioned somewhere in your profile when you circle me.

Also, add me to a gaming circle, because I don't want to see your Ron Paul videos. I got Facebook for boring stuff like that.

Anyways, there are lots of 6d6 pdfs on this site, and it looks like a fun system to use!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

My small die collection and how it reflects my low rank as a gamer

One of the things I'm going to admit before I post further: I am not the caliber of nerd that usually makes their own RPG system and documents the process and thoughts on role-playing in a blog. In fact, I think I have logged in shy of 100 hours of actual gaming in my short life, and the majority of that was with the the much derided d20 systems of the aughts. But I still look back back on those gaming experiences with nostalgia, crappy as hindsight also reveals them to be.

And so this brings us to my embarrassingly-small collection of dice that many a player would scoff at. In the picture, you can see a standard set of all the usual polygons that have been with us from 0D&D up through d20 and Type IV D&D. Also pictured are a D30, D24, and a binary die that I bought in preparation to run a DCC campaign (that sadly turned into a one-off when my local tactics-loving group didn't express further interest). You may have noticed a lot of d6s too. I purchesed those the other day at a store called Donkihote (I assume after the crazed would-be knight that inspires gamers somehow). 15 of them cost me 300 yen. They live in a tin with counters that I was using when I played a character that uses psionic power points in a Darksun game. As I mentioned somewhere on the internet (can't recall exactly where), I have no short-term memory, so counters are very useful to me.

So with all those little dice I am now ready to play-test some Kill It With Fire. In my tiny cold apartment. By myself. And there is a good chance that no one will ever use my system but me. Nothing pathetic about that!

Monday, January 2, 2012

The Base Setting

A setting can help an RPG sink or swim. If it is too complicated, like Tekumel, it can be intimidating and doomed to obscurity (sorry Petal Throne lovers, but I'll give some nods to you in another post).  Also, there has to be a place for humans. In a world without humans, the exotic becomes banal and paradoxically alien at the same time.

Enough preamble. Here is the basic setting for Kill It With Fire.

KIWF takes place in a post-civilization, largely agrarian society. Hunter-gatherers still eek out a living, but without sufficient defenses, puny humanoids inevitably fall prey to the dangers of the world, and so primitive social groups are vanishingly rare.  Many humanoids huddle together in small bergs and city states built from the ruins of the last great empires, of which little is known. Knowledge and the arts are also, understandably, rare pursuits. In a world where the majority of people eek out a living, such things as studying the magic or technologies of the old world are more in the purview of the aristocracy, which is a small group more concerned with maintaining its power rather than esoteric pursuits.

Of course there are exceptions. Adventurers, they are called. Individuals who have goals that put them on a different life path. The rich fancy the artifacts that adventurers bring, as well as the stimulation to the economy their treasure brings. The rich also appreciate that adventurers, who would all too often be trouble makers otherwise, often meet their dooms in some dungeon and so trouble society no more. The poor depend on adventurers to save them from the threats that the city guards and village elders are ill-equipped to handle. While some adventurers are altruistic, the majority of them are in it to fulfill their own goals: getting loot, getting status, getting atonement, killing things. For their own safety, most adventures are drawn to the protective association of each other. If there is one thing this dark age has taught us, it is that by cooperation we survive.

The world has many threats. Many of these take the form of monsters. In some cases they are mutants, created by the strange energies of The Last War or machines of the ancients. In other cases, they are supernatural beings, born from the darkness of the underworld or the psychic energies and spirits of our banal races. Some threats come from other worlds. Rarest of all are the monsters of technology, which despite its mighty power in its heyday, has barely endured to the current age.

There exist even more supreme threats to the world. The old gods, who are capricious and demanding. The demons, who seek only chaos. The devils, who want revenge via humanity's willingness to betray. The outer gods, who bide their time and wait to bring insanity. The primordials and giants, who were struck down but will inevitably return. The war machines, who wait to unleash genocide again.

This is a world where the technology available to the average human is medieval in nature, but whether that is expressed in Aurthirian cliches or kung-fu trappings is really up to the referee. The adventures I write will assume humans are the ancestors of an enlightened, cosmopolitan society. Though it is forgotten, the culture of previous generations has become distilled. As survival is the main goal, issues of race and gender discrimination rarely come to play; everyone is valued as long as they have something to contribute to society, and humanity's tendency to care for the downtrodden takes care of the rest.

Magic, be it arcane, psychic, divine, etc. is a rare skill, but recognized. It is tolerated as long as it seems useful, but common people are a superstitious lot likely to turn on the local wizard or temple if they blame these things for their bad luck. Therefore, practitioners of supernatural arts are very cautious about who they share their increasingly rare and valuable knowledge with.

Demihumans (humanoids that are capable of higher thoughts and aspirations) are common enough, but their numbers when taken as a species are small. The origins of demihumans and their place in this human-dominated world is a subject on contention and wild conjecture for all involved. Elves and dwarves will be mentioned in the core rules, because someone will want to play one and I think that is cool, but I don't know how important they will be in supplements and adventures. Gnomes may be out of luck altogether though because when I hear gnome I think camp. Humor should come from player banter, not the setting.

There is nothing really radical mentioned in the above description. On the one hand, I want a world where the gonzo sci-fi fantasy mash-up that happened in the sixties and seventies will feel at home, but I don't want the trappings of such eras or to take it to the silly conclusions that I saw in the 80s. On the other, I like a world where knights can exist in some areas, while samurai can exist in others. I dislike taking such things unchanged, however, because it ruins the verisimilitude of what the brain is trying to accept. These things have to be able to meet without clashing, and so neither said knight nor samurai will be exactly like their real world counterparts; pastiches will be the ideal. I also don't like the eurocentric, white-race dominated look of 99% of games for the same reason. KIWF takes place on a fantasy world, not some analogue for Europe. There will be no Arabian setting or East Asia sub-setting in this game.

Of course, the vast majority of role playing settings are post-apocalyptic, and it works well for this sort of game. Even the first role-playing campaign, Blackmoor seems to be such a setting, with its last functioning musical organ and so on. You will also see a bit of Arduin in the game, but hopefully with a bit more veracity that it.

D&D's cosmology throughout the ages has a lot of influence on how I am viewing the planes of existence being domains you can travel to, but 4th editions got me to really examine things from a more mythological view. The titanomachy, gotterdammerhung, and gigantomachy ideas have been talked of in many cultures, so I feel need for that in my setting too. While you will see things reminiscent of the outsiders of D&D, they won't follow the artificial nature of the alignment system from said game. There are heroes and scoundrels on both sides of the cosmic struggle for puny mortal souls and lands.

Then there are the outer gods, who are inspired chiefly by Clark Ashton Smith and H.P. Lovecraft's collaborations (I know Howard should be in there, but I'm not too familiar with his work, shockingly enough--don't worry, I will throw in some Pigeons from Hell influence to appease nerds). The outer gods are those that are more inimical to humanity, and they may have come from the pools of gods, titans, or something far more ancient and alien. They may enjoy the worship of the odd cult, but the gods of the status quo try to quash their ever-insidious influence for a reason. What are the gods themselves? What role did they have to play in the empires of the last age? I'd like to find the answer to that organically as I discover it.

Other influences will include the usual rouges gallery of weird fiction: Ambrose Bierce, Suffi tales, Arabian Nights, A. E. Merrit, Machen, Dunsay, etc. You know the drill. I will make something familiar and at times even cliched to the average RPG veteran, but hopefully it will also have the clarity of vision to avoid cheese.