Wednesday, September 9, 2015

d24 Names for Tough PCs and NPCs

Give them to a tough dood, dudette, or third genduder. Mix and match and mash the given and surnames.


Bonus name: Bloody Morose

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Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Interview! Aaron Kesher of THAC0: The Movie Fame

THAC0 might seem at first to be just some amateur project, but it is really, genuinely good, especially once the intro has passed. Based on a play, it has great dialogue and will make any RPG smile. Especially when they make fun of GURPS. And Neil Gaiman is in it for a second! It also scratches my suburban/cold-mid-west-hell gamer nostalgia itch.

I bugged Aaron (the guy who leaves everybody hanging all the time in the movie) on Google Plus for some info on this great work. The short interview is below the embedded video. It's short because though I asked follow up question Aaron stuck to character and left me hanging. Oh well, as long as you get a chance to enjoy a great movie, I've done my job!

"You've got to convert to 3rd edition!"
"Why?! What the hell kind of question is that? It's the new edition." 
"It's the new edition! It's one number higher!"


You've mentioned THACO started as a play. Who wrote it? How long was it? How many times was it performed? Were the cast members of the movie also in the play acting troop?

THAC0 did indeed start as a play, written for the 2005 Minnesota Fringe Festival by my multi-talented friend Bill Stiteler, who's active in the MPLS theater world. He's written a number of other plays for the Fringe as well, including an adaptation of Neil Gaiman's lesser known graphic novel "Signal to Noise", in which I also participated, and the slightly infamous "Watching Porn".

All FF shows are an hour long. It's a dynamic venue, so when you finish you have 10 minutes to strike your entire show and get off the stage so the group coming in after you can have 10 minutes to set up before their curtain. Needless to say, the sets are minimalist. In fact we managed to fit it all in my Honda Element, where we stored it until the next performance.

There were five performances, the last three of which, after word got out in the MPLS gaming community, were completely sold out. Some people even saw it twice, which was pretty awesome. You could hear people in the audience, as we were setting up, saying "Oh--I used to have that game!"

We did another run, about a year later, maybe, in a small local theater. Only  three performances I think. We also had the chance to perform selected scenes at CONvergence. I couldn't be there for some reason, but my shoes were awesomely filled by Dawn Krosnowski.

I dug this up after some searching: [the link was dead by the time I clicked on it, but you can always plug it into The Wayback Machine]

You see pictures from both instances in the Flash rotation... I'm the one with the earrings and SF MOMA t-shirt...

The play and the movie had the same cast, though with some of us in different roles. In the play, I believe our names were Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. I played Mark, the DM, and I Bill played Matthew, the guy we were waiting for. The play had an extra element where, between scenes in the basement, Matthew was spotlighted and delivered a monologue about different aspects of geek culture. This didn't make it into the movie.

In the movie, Bill and I switched parts, mostly due to time constraints on my end (my wife and I had just had twins). Since the monologues were gone, my part was small enough that I only had to commit to a couple of days of actual filming. And we also all just used our own names.

Oh, and there was also that cameo by Neil Gaiman... :)

Claytonian JP
 Yeah, that was a curious cameo. How did you land one of the best fiction authors of our time? Was his initial reaction when approached as leery as the line he delivered in the movie, or was he up for anything?

Aaron Kesher
Actually, if I'm remembering this correctly, a friend of Bill and his wife worked for Neil in some capacity, so they had gotten to know him. It may have started with Bill contacting him back in 2003 for permission to turn Signal to Noise into a Fringe play. So anyway, he was happy to do it--the reaction was entirely acted. :)

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Friday, August 28, 2015

Deck of Many DCCisms

Recently a coworker gave me his old 3e core books. I don't like 3e at all, but I have to admit, the DMG of any edition has fun things for me to think about. Someone requested a DCC Deck of Many Things. Turns out there aren't many results on the 3e version of it, so I glanced over it, got ideas, and condensed them to 14 results. And since we are talking DCC, you could just roll a d14...

In any case, I'd probably have the deck only allow drawing of one card per PC (exceptions in the result).
  • Ace: I saw the sign!
    • Your star sign changes. Roll it. And yes, it can mean bad luck for you if you currently have a negative modifier. If anyone draws from the deck after you, their star sign changes too, but if they happen to draw an ace as well, they get to choose what it changes to.
  • Deuce: Two lumps are better than one. 
    • Grow a second head. Roll its Intelligence and Personality. It has a fifty percent chance of being a wizard or a cleric. If you have a mercurial magic effect that grows extra heads or faces, you instead lose that and roll a new effect.
  • Trey: Three alignments, or was it four?
    • Change alignment to opposite of party cleric (or most powerful party cleric). If they are neutral, you become militant-neutral, which is the opposite of neutral and requires you to create stratagems to take down Chaos and Law at the same time.
  • Four: Forlorn Forty
    • You are transported 40 miles beneath the earth, in a forlorn encystment, insensate and preserved against death. This is permanent, but who knows, maybe your party can save you.  If they do, you come back with one psionic power and some groovy stories.
  • Five: Glory or Guts
    • You now roll a d16 for saving rolls, but have +1d to crits
  • Six: Lucky to be alive (check your Luck mod)
    • If positive, Pass any Roll the Body check... once per positive luck mod you have right now. You must choose to do this instead of rolling before you would roll. 
    • If your Luck mod is currently negative, make a DC 15 Fort save vs death!
  • Seven:  The Hellish Hunt (check your privilege, er alignment)
    • If not Chaotic, The court of chaos has chosen you as a target of a great hunt
    • If you are Chaotic, they will send you a quest you daren't refuse. Or just summon you for their namesake adventure.
  • Eight:  Kick the puppy
    • Lose a level, change all your hit-dice to one size larger than they were, kick any nearby halflings, and draw again.
  • Nine: Tempting choices (choose one)
    •  gain a level by defeating the next monster(s) you see on your own
    • gain a signature deed with one weapon (and a deed die for that deed as a Warrior of your level)
    • Draw three more cards, know what they will do, and discard one of them
  • Ten: Materialism is magic (choose one)
    • a completely random melee weapon of magical nature is rolled up and pops into your hand
    • a completely random spell of random casting level appears in your mouth
    • an odd magical item the judge has always wanted to introduce pops into your pants
  • Knave:  I have a cunning plan (choose one)
    • Gain +2 to one ability score
    • Gain +4 to one thieving ability, which you may burn luck on like a thief to boot
  • Queen:  We are not amused (choose one)
    • All magic items on your person turn into wood
    • You lose your soul (you still function but have -1d to Will until you find it)
  • King: It's good to be the king (gain one)
    • Gain a fief and 2d30 loyal henchmen
    • Or inherit Tegel Manor if your judge has that
  • Joker:  Don't monkey around with fate
    • You gain 1d4 wishes, each of which has a 1d3rd chance monkey's paw type unintended effects
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Monday, August 17, 2015

1d12 things that could happen when a god dies

Arise Franken-god!

1: 1d14 new gods are born from its ichor.*
2: Killer apotheosizes!
3: The things that the god was in charge of stop working properly. Sure this seems great when you kill the god in charge of death, at first...
4: The god spits out an egg that falls through the planes. It will birth their revenge.
5:  The god splits into several relics or artifacts, spread about the cosmos, but one is right here.
6: Everyone in the heavenly infrastructure gets promoted to fill the divine vacuum (see what I did there, Catholic history buffs? Well here's a video so you can see what I did if you are patient and watch till near the end, keeping vacuums in mind.)
7: Angelic bureaucracy saddles killers with the dead deity's responsibilities. Killers now have servants/wardens that will never let them leave, except for business trips.
8: One of the PCs is revealed to be the secretly progeny of the god, and charged with rebuilding or tearing down its mighty works.
9: The god curses killer with its dying breath. The gods' death curses are the most inviolable ones, so the killer is screwed.
10: The god is reincarnated or rebuilt somewhere. They will be different, maybe even switching from good to evil or vice versa.
11: That was a load-bearing god! All of heaven falls right on you unless you can get out quick.
12: Explosion! Any survivors of the blast will find themselves transfigured into something... more.
*In Greek mythology, Ichor  is the ethereal golden  fluid that is the blood of the gods and/or immortals.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Assigning RPG traits to Hamlets, Towns, and Boroughs

When your party rolls into a new area of civilization, you can roll some dice to see what the locals and their locale are like. There are key letters for each result, and you can seed them into a place's name, or make the street be the shapes of those letters so that it is easy to remember/record what the area is like.

If you add Luck (DCC style) to the rolls, you'll be looking at the PC in the party that has the most to gain from a roll. So thieves want a good economy, and Clerics want a good religious environment. Luck is the most easily ignored part of these tables though.

For our purposes, borough will refer to a district of a city. It may be walled off from other districts. You can give a city 1d7 boroughs if you want, or decide. You might decide the whole city acts like a borough for any given trait.

Economy (1d3 PLUS someone's Luck mod for anything below a borough, 1d10 for anything above that):
  1. ER: Everyone starving. They might let you sleep in your shack to repay kindnesses.
  2. BA: Strictly bartering. No metal-smiths. Only 50% likely to have adventure gear items for barter.
  3. CO: Can handle a copper-based economy. Might have enough change for your gold or silver-purchased goods.
  4. RE: Regular coin usage in effect. Baffled by anyone with platinum though.
  5. PL: Platinum and then some. There might be some hard bargaining for other treasure.
  6. GM: Gems, rubies,amethysts, etc. can all be sold at a fair price.
  7. (or higher) AR: Artwork and fine goods can be appraised and auctioned off or fenced.

Law enforcement (1d4 for anything below a borough, 1d10+ opposite of Luck mod for anything above that, also add +2 for fantastic locales, but keep the economy in mind and adjust accordingly):
  1. AN: Anarchy of the kind where bandits come into the saloon daily to pick fights with the PCs.
  2. SO: Sole figure, like a sheriff or poor lord, has to take care of the entire area by their self. They are probably helpless against local bandit groups.
  3. GA: A gang, such as a yakuza organization, deals with troublemakers while enjoying corrupt power.
  4. CN: A constabulary with 2d14 soldiers takes care of the town and mans a perfunctory town wall.
  5. BR: A barracks housing 2d30 militia is in place. They have fortified the area with a tall wall and man gates that everyone must go through. Occasional patrols.
  6. AR: Many barracks and soldiers. Regular patrols. Can respond to any alarm in diminishing 1d10 minutes (roll a d10 and check for a 1 to see if they've arrived, if not wait rolled minutes and then roll a d8 and so on down the die chain).
  7. GE: Gestapo has agents everywhere. Urchins and beat-cops regularly demand bribes, especially from outsiders. They'll turn their own mothers in if given the chance. Fences 20% likely to inform the gestapo of PC activities.
  8. RE: Weapons must be surrendered upon entering this area. Items such as small knives and kindling axes are allowed unless the guards have a poor reaction roll to the PCs. They'll be happy to take the weapons into their storage for a fee that may be reasonable.  
  9. SE: Siege resistance weapons and fortifications abound. This place mostly focuses on defending against rival armies or some kind of dragon-level threat.
  10. IR: The iron-grip of law is supported by alarms on everyone's house eves, and legions of city guard patrol regularly, itching to fight because there are not enough wars. WHY CAN'T THERE BE MORE WAR?!
  11. SU: Supernatural justice will show up within moments of someone committing a crime. The langoliers or what have you see all. More will probably show up if you kill the first wave. Or they might send a big guy.
  12. OH: Oh shit, some kind of entity like The Lady of Pain stalks the area, daring players to test her. 
  13. CM: The computer controls all and sees all. Do you have code blue status, citizen?

Openness: (1d5+Luck for anything below a borough, 1d10 for above, locals might start fights with those who try to come in anyway, and law enforcement has their back)
  1. FU: Fuck off, retches, no outsiders allowed. Oh wait... do you have lots of money?
  2. DE: Demi-humans are not to be trusted. Keep them chained in cold iron at all times.
  3. NO: No way we are letting anyone freaky in here. That includes dog-headed men, lizard-men, and especially wizards.
  4. MR: Merchants and their entourages are welcome. Merchants are responsible for any infractions their underlings take.
  5. OK: Okay with all races and monster hirelings as long as they behave.
  6. HA: A haven where weirdos are encouraged. 
  7. (or higher) SH: Shrugs all around. You ain't nothing we haven't seen before.
Religion (1d10 plus Luck):
  1. DE: Demons hold sway here. Horrors walk the streets. The people probably made some kind of compact with them. 
  2. CU: Hi! Would you like to talk about Cthulhu? We have a great cult hidden under our veneer of civilization. Join us or be eaten by our dark eidolon. Make this a druid-dominated area if cults are played out in your campaign.
  3. WE: We have one rule for our one dark god that must be followed. For instance, all dead bodies are given over to the kindly ones, no exceptions. 
  4. Local monarch has apotheosized. All praise to them. Might be ignored if far enough from the capital.
  5. WA: War gods, blood gods, kill your baby gods. We have all the gods that desperate people love in these hard times.
  6. NR: Normal pantheons of good and evil deities have shrines here. Gotta appease them all!
  7. HR: Hearth deities and house deities are the flavor here. Do you have your lucky charms? Did you offer wine to the statuette your kitchen-shrine this night?
  8. IN: Inscrutable religious practices mean the PCs will offend someone with a sin of omission ere long.
  9. AL: It takes all kinds. We don't care what you worship. Plenty of shrines, some of them generic.
  10. GO: Good deities and temples. Everyone one step more open than previously generated.
  11. PI: Piety is the order of the day. Godly PCs are treated reverentially as long as they are overtly lawful-stupid about their dress, deeds, and actions.
Customs and attitudes: (roll a d14 and get creative):
  1. FE: Are having a festival right now. What is it for?
  2. GE: Have a peculiar greeting style. What do they say or do?
  3. TA: Have a taboo that they will get excited about. What are they gonna pop monocles over?
  4. DI: Speak a weird dialect. Of what language?
  5. SP: Are superstitious. Name 1d3 things they must (not) do.
  6. EV: Must evoke a diety's name when talking about anyone in the third person. Which dieity?
  7. GV: Have a funky government model. Choose one.
  8. AR: Have 1d3 sacred or weird structures or features. What are they?
  9. ID: Have an allegiance to an ideal. What's that? Are they neutrals?
  10. TR: Pay tribute to some entity on the regular. What is it? A dragon? A pit?
  11. DP: Have a death penalty for that one crime. Which crime?
  12. GR:Have an ancient grudge against one group. Which group or race?
  13. WE: Wear peculiar garments
  14. OD: Have odd pets, livestock or mounts. It's rideable blonde humans, right?

Let's see it in action

Okay, so let me roll up a city division. AR, BR, HA, NR, GR. Artwork selling, barracked soldiers, haven for weirdos, normal pantheon, and a grudge against, uh... elves! Screw elves.

I then write those letters on the page and decide what areas of interest are around them (I kinda had them tie in with the letters that they are near). In retrospect, I'd probably want to write the letter pairs I generated on the map too, though it's not too hard to make them out. Basically the letters are for the main streets (in red). There may be lots of alleys not really visible, because alleys should be a thing that might be there if the PC needs one and is lucky.  You might note that since elves are shunned (and oddly any other race is just fine) in this place, I made them a ghetto near the city sewers, just outside the walls. The history museum in the result that generated this is all about how elves are the worst. I threw in a few gates and a river to keep people alive.  Finally, I based the name off of the generated letters. I have a feeling everything might have an arabic ring to it using this method.

I'm happy. It gave me ideas. I declare it a useful tool for DMs. But you may also just want to use my picture method for a less fiddly creation. Who needs a map, really? Well me, if it gives me good ideas. But you could totally skip the map for this post's methods too.
But what about Law/Chaos? Don't roll that. Instead, think about the area you've made and what kind of personages it might generate. Individuals are aligned, not areas. Powerful individuals might hold great sway, mind you.
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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.
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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!

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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.

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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.
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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.

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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.
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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

12 DCC rings to bind them

Hey, a ring engraved "DCC".
These rings all exploit something about the DCC system. They have some temperamentality to them though...
  1. Ring of Hale Ruddiness
    Your cheeks are positively shiny and red with vigor.
    Whenever you would roll an HP die (at leveling, lay-on-of-hands etc.), roll two dice, drop one.

    Whenever you would roll a hit die (when being healed), roll +1d step higher.

    You must greet all humanoids with a loud "HALE FRIEND, WELL MET!" Criticisms and remonstrations that hale and hail are different words does not dissuade your genial salutations.

  2. Ring of High Wizardry
    Your ring finger grows 1d3 joints longer. It occasionally twitches of its own accord.

    Whenever you spellburn, you may add +1 to your spellcheck provided you snip off the end of this finger. This makes any spell a full round spell if it wasn't one already. The rest of the spellburn is as normal, but this one action counts for it all unless you have a patron that requires some specific action. The finger grows back after 1 hour.

    The finger removal satisfies some mercurial magic needs too, mind.

  3. Ring of High Adventure
    Your ring and your weapons sometimes glow in tandem at random intervals.

    Whenever you roll a deed die, roll 2, drop 1. If they both roll a 1, a new foe appears!

    When in single combat, you always win initiative, barring injuries caused by crits, etc.

  4. Ring of Reason
    Wearers of this ring develop an unconscious tick where they constantly stroke their beard thoughtfully. Everyone who wears this ring instantly grows a beard if they didn't have one.

    When you attempt to parley with an outsider, alien intelligence, etc, they instinctively see you as an entity that deserves some consideration, and will listen to your argument's opening statements.

    When you attempt a patron bond or invoke patron spell, you may burn Int or Per points in addition to the usual kinds. If you do, add 1 more point to your spell check.

  5. Ring of Squamous Susurrations
    Whispers constantly accompany you. This can be annoying in enemy territory...

    When a monster would score a critical hit on you, they actually end up knocking off your skin. You have shiny new skin underneath. Your molting scampers away to do deeds only your game Judge may know, but it has something to do whispering. Your new skin is slightly more vulnerable to damage, and enemies roll +1d damage dice against you for the next turn. This ring's power is unavailable for that turn.

  6. Ring of Antipathy
    This ring's wearer seems to have a slight double image. It is subtle, but unsettling.

    When you roll on the turning table, you may take the results of the row below what you actually rolled.

    Whenever you or someone else tries to use Lay on Hands on yourself, take the worst result possible from the table (but adjusted for your spell check).

  7. Ring of Undisputed Regard
    Your manner is somehow dignified while bearing this band.
    If you have a bond with a patron, it is regarded as one step higher than the original spell result. All quests the patron might ask for when invoked will apply at this new level.

    When you employ hirelings, they have +1d to morale saves.

    Beggars and thieves constantly target you, thinking you to be a rich mark.

  8. Band of Light Fingers
    The wearer's hands seem to dart about with alacrity.

    You have +1d to pick pockets or do other actions surreptitiously to objects or clothing attached to another's person.

    Your Pers modifier is effectively -3 when an issue of trust (parlay, sweet-talking, feigning innocence, trying to get a hireling to stick around) is on the line.

    If you don't try to steal something from a stranger every day in town, or within a hour of visiting one, the ring absconds itself with your purse or, barring that, whatever you have that's valuable.

  9. Ring of Martial Escalation.
    Everyone feels on edge in your presence.

    You roll +1d on your critical hits table. However, enemies always make their morale saves against your party and get +1d to hit for each crit that has happened this battle (up to using percentile dice if a d30 would be exceeded).

  10. Ring of Hobbiting
    You always want a second or third breakfast.

    Whoever wears this may spend a Luck point to succeed at any hiding, sneaking, escaping-bonds, or a riddle-solving check (a check to spot a clue or keyword to a riddle).

    A halfling who wears this may not be a Luck battery for the party.

  11. Band of Dwarven Dourishness
    Your stature seems to be half of what it once was, and your features take on a gruff nature.

    Illusions do not work on you, and you are immune to fear-based effects. But metaphors go over your head.

    You may spend a Luck point to keep fighting when your hit points drop to 0 or less. After such a battle is over, you start to die. Roll the Body rules are not an option, but someone might be able to heal you as per Bleeding Out rules.

  12. Ring of Rings
    There is something protean about you today.

    This ring is a different ring from this list (if you roll a 12, it's just a ring for now). It changes to a different one each day, unless you spend a Luck point or make a DC15 spell check, in which case you may keep it in its current state. 

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Saturday, January 10, 2015

How a pic and a couple ideas can make for a superior RPG city

Superior to what? To a city where you have to look at a map to see where the market district is and other junk that should just be abstract whenever possible. If you really need to zoom in somewhere, look at the pic you are going to use, or use a Vornheim trick (I've never had to use street maps, but now you have a safety net).

Okay, link-bait title justified. Now what is the how?

  1. Choose an interesting picture. They are all over Deviantart and Tumblr. The picture is worth a 1000 words and does most of the work for you.
  2. Think of something weird to inhabit the city.
  3. Think of some local laws or customs for the players to discover.

Here's an example. The best city I ever made: Cliffkeep
Pic by some Chinese dude. Sino-artists are the bomb recently.

The weird stuff I started to think of:

  • The city is policed by waxen automatons, deputies, that can change their features to go undercover. As their goal is to prevent crime, they are often walking around faceless, just to remind people that they're there.
  • Everyone is entitled to an allowance of a jar's worth of honey each day. There are no bees to be seen, but the unseen magistrate, called the mayor, provides it via waxen deputies.
  • The town defense is lead by a human who is a gunslinger of the Stephen King variety. He is the first NPC that the PCs encounter, and helps to introduce the rules of the town. He is nice as long as he can be.
  • The town has laser turrets to shoot incoming threats.
  • There is a dragon. By day it takes human form as a beautiful woman, and by night its visage is enchanted in a way that you forget you saw it. The part where you saw it is just blank and you wonder why you are hiding under your bed.
    The dragon is responsible for the curfew in Cliffkeep. Only one or two people know this.
  • A Chael sits on roofs and records everything the party does and says.

The rules:

  • No weapons are allowed in the city proper. Visitors can put their weapons in custody.
  • There is a curfew. Windows are to be closed and people have to be in their lodgings. Violators of the rule can't remember what happened, but they felt very scared and have chunks of missing memory.

Once you have a city like this, it acts as a hub from which to launch explorations and adventures (both in and outside the place). Cliffkeep grew in detail as the adventures gave me ideas. Fun we had:

  • Church of the God that Crawls nearby. Turrets came in handy when the PCs gave it sentience and it came calling. Well it wasn't the actual god. But we can't get into that now.
  • Death Frost Doom mountain nearby.
  • Tower of the Stargazer floats by  town on an earthmote every few months.
  • A PC made the save to see the dragon, and confronted her in her human form. The dragon pushed the PC right off a cliff. Not many railings in Cliffkeep.
  • A PC killed their own grandma in a satellite town. There was a witness and then the waxen deputies fused into a truth-telling device that could summon reinforcements from the silver city on the moon.
  • A PC was deputized and got to man a turret. He shot the god that crawls.
  • Flying on kites like ninjas to get to the earthmote.
  • That snake thing became useful for city defense too; turns out it's a spell beam thingy that the Chael could instruct magic users in the use of. 

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