Saturday, March 30, 2013

How Barony was Dungeon World Before Dungeon World; a System Review

Durable is possibly the best choice if you want a shot at all the other abilities.
Here's a summary of the Barony system, which had a few names and adaptations as an RPG over the years. Rogue Swords is the version I ended up with.

The building blocks of your character are not numbers like ye olde "Strength 13" or "Social 3 dots" or whatever, they are called attributes (or traits) and they are key words that give you an talent or two and maybe a chance to get certain skills. So it's kind of like everybody has things that set them apart from the fold. The traits are: Artful, Bold, Clever, Durable, Eldritch, and Fast. You chose one to start your character, then roll a d8 and consult the table under each one of these abilities to see what other traits you get (they all have different tables). You can afterwards gain or lose abilities through play.

Skills based of the above come next. Well, kinda. You can only choose your skills after you decide what your Title (read: class) is. The starting titles are at the top of the following workflow chart of titles, which is one of the coolest character tree system things I've ever seen. Lookie/zoomie/clickie:

So, fer instance, if you choose to be a Footman, you will start with 3PCs. That is, 3 "Physical & Combat" category skills, but only if you have the prerequisite attribute(s) they demand (this is actually really simpler than I am making it out to be, I promise). One thing to keep in mind is that even if you don't have a skill for whatever reason, you can still attempt it at an increased difficulty. So to use a skill check the degree of difficulty in its description, adjust for things like if you don't actually have the skill etc, roll 2d8, and consult the following table.

And there you see how this is really like the Dungeon World of the late 80s/early90s. I like the Barony spread a bit more though, as a fail is usually not so bad and a fumble rare if you play smart. The Overkill result is cool too. The DM may say, "Intimidate him? Yeah, you do that, and he will remember your face for the rest of his life." Then draw up some craven revenge plans for the poor NPC.

Magic is not a skill, as anyone can attempt it, but classes will give you the Magic Points to help cast them (otherwise you may end up spending your soul to cast, but we'll get to that). Magic is freeform, with a couple of restrictions: (1)it gets harder the more physical laws you break, and (2) it gets harder to cast a spell that has ever been cast before. Forced creativity is why I love this system! Of course it is ripe for abuse too, being bounded only by imagination, but as the authors recommend, you could just take 5 minutes to roll up a new world if the PCs end it. Or just say, "Stop being a prick, Player X."

Attacking and defending is not a skill either, but these are rolled likes skills and maybe informed by them.

Okay, say you got your skills chosen (or rolled up randomly which would be faster). You are ready to do things! But if you fight something, you may get chunks of your being wiped out for a while. Look at this damage chart:
Everything will damage you in one of those 4 categories. Every character has the Base and Player rows or as I will call them, boxes (as the columns separate the rows) as well as maybe something from their attributes or title (see Durable up there?). Check the boxes off until you run out of them, then go down to the overflow section and follow that. So if you run out of Bruise/Cut boxes, you have to start crossing of Bleeder column boxes and so on. Spirit you may loose depending on how hard the magic you use is and how low your check ends up; most monsters leave it alone. The Bruise/cut boxes come back after a battle, the Bleeder and Vicious ones after an adventure, and Spirit only can be cured by magic, which may be a little too hard-core, I dunno.

Monsters have their own abilities and skills and damage charts with evocative keywords that help you give them metal names. Trust me, monsters are cool and easy to make in Barony. A wee bit like Dungeon World, once again.

So there are tons of skills, but I can't reproduce them all here, sorry. One interesting way skills and abilities get used is during events. Events are not man-to-man standard combat. Sample events given by the book include a bar brawl, fighting in a battlefield (mounted and unmounted and other things), and fighting a dragon. They use playing cards to randomise the montage that makes an event. For instance, in a bar brawl:
It's beautiful! Customize it towards the skills you know your players have if you want to give them a greater sense of awesome, or just revel in the fact that no rules lawyer can stop a Dark Lord from just getting knocked out or whatever. Fighting a dragon feels pretty epic when players have to survive until the event is over through scenes dependent on where they are in relation to the dragon, like this example if you draw a 2 while in the tail zone:
Combat can be pretty strategic, though simple. It has phases and some skills let you do cool things depending on the phase. As mentioned above, there is some mass combat if you want it. This game did have its roots in a wargaming magazine, after all.

It's hard to find much history online about this game. Heck, it's almost impossible to find the game, and rumor has it the creators are like Can't find it? Tough. A barely maintained (and riddled with 1970s-feeling English) website by the creators does give some clues as to how all started. Check out the history here, and you can click through some summaries of the unique qualities the game has here.
I've barely scratched the surface of this game. Between skills, magic, and events, things can get really deep. I can't recommend it enough!
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Edit: 1070s was my imagination I guess; can't find any evidence of when the system was truly first conceived.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

The Wandering Trees Resorces and Encounters (Awesome Forest Monsters for DCC)

The Wandering Trees is an old adventure from Dungeon Magazine (#67) that I re-purposed for a level 0 or 1 DCC Google+ group I run.

I like the adventure, but it is a bit overcomplicated and ambiguous as presented in the magazine, so I have made a hex grid for it. The original adventure has paths that have a probability of disappearing that was very complex and expressed on a chart with letters and whatnot that takes a bit of time to reference.

Instead, roll a d6 every time the players encounter a possible path or if they have traveled on a path for long in terms of hexes or time. On a 3 or better, any paths in the area will show up. If they are on a path when they cross a hex, roll to see if it disappears around them. Hex crossing is a good time to make an encounters check too.

You can click the map to zoom in and download it. Also, you can see how we use a shared Google doc to map out the paths the players have discovered here.

I made custom DCC encounters for this place too:

With a hex grid, it was easier to tell when I should make rolls for random encounters (1 in 6 chance each day and for each watch of the night, plus an additional chance for each hex crossed, doubling if there is no random path granted by those willy trees). Here is the  table I was using (has my attempts to make up interesting DCC stats for level one threats before the rules were finally published). In retrospect, I would roll 1d6 for number of monsters encountered each time it wasn't specifically listed; my players somehow just kept not properly dying. Otherwise, I am satisfied with myself for some of the odd crits and powers sprinkled throughout here.

1 Wood Elf Stalkers from the local wood elf community. Very Quiet. Will attempt to stab and grab. They hate kobolds, and know their scent.
Treasure: Natural material daggers, skins, elf bread.
  • Init +1; Atk dagger +2 (1d5); AC 12; HD 1d8; MV 10 Meters; Act 1d20; SP as elves; SV Fort +0 Ref +2 Will +2
2  Kobold traders from the hills. Kobolds are mischievous cave fey that will try to barter for gemstones, gold, or cobalt. Negotiations may break down unless the players could really use some cave creature regents such as umber-hulk juice. They attack dwarves and wood elves on site.
Treasure: Besides  1d10 worth of gems, A battery pack for a robot. They don't know its significance, but like the LED readouts.
  • Init -1; Atk little pike +4 (1d5); AC 11; HD 1d5; MV 12 Meters; Act 1d16; SP stoney skin absorbs 1 point of damage from weapons and dulls them; SV Fort +4 Ref -1 Will +0
3 A unicorn. It will attack any amoral characters that sport furs, but if the PCs are gooduns, it will lead the way to a grove that is safe for the night.
  •  Init +3; Atk horn +4 (1d8 [+3 if charging]) hooves +2 (roll on a lvl 1 warrior crit table for damage); AC 11; HD 1d9; MV 13 Meters; Act 1d20; SP immune to poison, disappears upon death save for its magical horn; SV Fort +2 Ref +2 Will +4
Note: A player encountered it, and happened to crit it with a demon's horn (as you do), rolling a sunder on the crits table and severing the unicorn's horn. The unicorn started to go darkside, and infected his assailant with an ebon-skin curse...
4 A pair of wolves. They are hungry, but run from pain or fire. One of them used to be a man and is slightly larger as he was cursed by a bog-witch. He will stalk the group from afar after they are first encountered if he has been driven off.
  • Init +3; Atk bite +2 (1d5 and grabbed crit:by the throat, and the target has one round to get loose before said throat is torn out); AC 11; HD 1d6; MV 12 Meters; Act 1d16; SP —; SV Fort +0 Ref +2 Will -3
A shambling moss monster desires arcane knowledge and likes a little dismemberment too.
Treasure: Kept in a nearby cave is a collection of sorcerer bones and some tomes (can learn 1d3 spells at the next leveling up with study).
  • Init +0; Atk soggy pseudopod +2 (1d4+4) Spell (see SP) +5 (as stolen spell) ; AC 11; HD 1d9; MV 13 Meters; Act 1d20; SP Any spell caster that fails a spell check in its presence “teaches” the moss their failed spell, and the monster takes on an aspect of the spell as well as gaining the ability to cast it; SV Fort +4 Ref -2 Will +4
A small barghest (lycanthropic goblinoid) and three hobgoblins on a pilgrimage to defile the Great Oak Tree in the name of urban squalor. The barghest is in his mundane form, but mutters something about “you wouldn’t like me when I’m angry” if PCs get cheeky.
Treasure: Barghest bile goes for a good price in the right alchemist's shop. Also, a ring worth 23 sp that has the image of a goblinoid god.
  •  Barghest (dog form): Init +2; Atk bite +3 (1d6 and grabbed crit: by the throat, and the target has one round to get loose before said throat is torn out); AC 11; HD 3d7; MV 12 Meters; Act 1d20; SP Regeneration 1d4 (recharges on a 5 or 6 as per 4e style recharge rules unless damaged by steel); SV Fort +3 Ref +2 Will +0
A lake/pond/river haunt that attempts to garrote with soggy vines.
Treasure: nearby are the remains of victims with 1d12 in riches.
  • Init goes last; Atk garrote +3 (1d5 and grabs. Must break free within 3 rounds or suffocate); AC 12; HD 1d7; MV 4 Meters; Act 1d16; SP can't be grabbed (slimy), very quiet (stealth +5); SV Fort +0 Ref +0 Will +0
A man-eating tree that tries to take a chomp against someone leaning on it. Make a reflex save+ nature check mod or lose a digit/hand/arm. The tree cannot move, but no reason to let the players in on that until their panic has died down.

note: One player lost their hand in play, and bargained with his patron to replace it. He now has a wooden hand with a mind of its own.
A Mossy walking skeleton that moans, “Beware the caiiiiirrrrnnns” but otherwise has no intelligence that can be accessed by mundane means. A ritual to speak with the dead may reveal more.
1d10 Will o’ Wisps or Japanese-style ghost lights (as appropriate for terrain) swarm in (1d5).
  •  Init goes last; Atk enervating touch +0 (1d3); AC 10; HD 1d3; MV 4 Meters; Act 1d16; SP only takes damage from supernatural sources, can be turned; SV Fort -3 Ref -2 Will -2
Obendar, a minor god of trees and vines. He knows about everything that happens in the forest,  and call many things to his defense. He can only be compelled to speak by heroic PC deeds he has heard wind of or when threatened by certain species of tree-eating beetles which he has a phobia of.
Treasure: a wealth of spell regents (2d16 gp on the market).
  •  Obendar: Init +3; Atk slam (1d6 crit: knocked out of the fight and vines will kill you if you aren't saved by someone afterwards); AC 17; HD 3d6; MV 3 Meters; Act 2d10 (crits if either come up as a 10); SP can lay on hands as a cleric (+8), weapons must do 4 damage or more to hurt Obendar; SV Fort +3 Ref -2 Will +3
Ensnaring vines try to choke 1d3 PCs. Make a reflex save or be grabbed by the neck. Damage as a garrote. These vines hiss and scream when cut (3 hp).
A vine-ensnared, slightly rusty robot at the foot of a tree. If investigated, a panel in the front will drop open.Any magical object placed within the revealed compartment will power the robot. The robot's temperament will match the alignment of the object. If its not evil, it will serve the PCs until it breaks its programming by learning about this thing you humans call love, or something.
  • Init +0; Atk ram (1d6), laser (4, crit=head-shot and death)(recharges every other round); AC 20; HP20 ; MV 4 Meters (hover); Act 4d5 (crits on 3 6s); SP vulnerable to logic bombs ala Captain Kirk; SV Fort+7 Ref -2 Will +0
A swordopus itching for a fight with land-lubbers.
  • Init +2; Atk sword+2 four times (1d6); AC 20; HD 1d6 ; MV 10 Meters; Act 1d20; SP camouflage, telepathy ; SV Fort+0 Ref +2 Will +1
I am satisfied with this table to a degree that I won't do the adventure's suggested swamp random encounters... unless I run through the whole table somehow. Then I'll scramble to stat a catoblepas.
 I am satisfied with this table to a degree that I won't do the adventure's suggested swamp random encounters... unless I run through the whole table somehow. Then I'll scramble to stat a catoblepas.

There is also a green knight guarding the Southernmost bridge. He takes all challenges to single-combat and curses groups that try to overpower him with numbers or sorcery (curse: 50% chance of getting lost even if on a trail. Incidentally, the knight cannot die, but he is rather honorable and will yield if bested in single-combat. He does not pursue trespassers past the bridge. Uses hobgoblin stats cause I'm tired.

In the north swamp is a bog-witch that cursed her former lover to wander as a wolf until the treasure of the druids is found. Rolls a d30 for Charm and Polymorph effects.

Creatures of the forest not listed above :

Wereboar (pig form): Init +0; Atk charge +3 (1d4, critted targets are gored (1d5) and slowed); AC 13; HD 1d6; MV 11 Meters; Act 1d20; SP Regeneration 1d4 (recharges each turn w/a d6 roll; on a 5 or 6 as per 4e style recharge rules unless damaged by horns, teeth, or tusks); SV Fort +1 Ref +1 Will -1

Entling: Init -1; Atk slam +3 (1d5, crit: target gets an eye poked out unless they have goggles or a helm); AC 12; HD 1d8; MV 6 Meters; Act 1d18; SP animate entangling roots; SV Fort +1 Ref -1 Will +2

Phooka (humanoid form stats are as DCC beta kobold with a club)  tree form: Init -1; Atk slam +3 (1d5, critted targets get an eye poked out unless they have goggles or a helm); AC 12; HD 1d6; MV 6 Meters; Act 1d18; SP only damaged by cold iron or magical attacks; SV Fort+1 Ref -1 Will +2

Pseudodragon: Init +0; Atk sting +2 (1d3 +save or 1d3 poison, lose a finger if you roll a 1); AC 12; HD 1d4; MV 7 Meters; Act 1d20; SP camouflage (+3 stealth); SV Fort -1 Ref +2 Will +0

Dryads:  Init +1; Atk slam +2 (1d5); AC 13; HD 1d8; MV 10 Meters; Act 1d20; SP charm (will save or do what the dryad wants); SV Fort +2 Ref +0 Will +2

Giant Crayfish: Init +1; Atk claw +4 (1d5, grabs on a crit); AC 14; HD 2d8; MV 9 Meters; Act 1d20; SP— ; SV Fort +0 Ref +1 Will -3

Owlbear: Init +0; Atk claw +4 (1d8, blinds or KOs on a crit); AC 12; HD 3d8; MV 12 Meters; Act 1d20; SP —; SV Fort +2 Ref +1 Will -4

Upside-down-human-faced giant centipede (Chitter): Init +0; Atk bite +1 (1d3, save versus poison or become paralyzed) AC 12; HD 1d3; MV 6 Meters; Act 1d20; SP— ; SV Fort +0 Ref +0 Will -2

Slightly humanoid face-bearing giant spider (Mank):  Init +2; Atk bite +3 (1d3, save versus poison or become paralyzed) AC 14; HD 1d6; MV 10 Meters; Act 1d20; SP Cast web (reflex save or immobilized) ; SV Fort +2 Ref +2 Will -2

Wraith (more interested in talking about silver keys than fighting):  Init +0; Atk touch +3 (1d3 and player makes an attack at a companion ) AC 12; HD 1d6; MV 10 Meters; Act 1d20; SP can only be harmed by magical attacks or sunlight, torches do 1d2 dmg ; SV Fort +0 Ref +2 Will +2

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Monday, March 11, 2013

Connections Will Make You a Better DM

Let's face it, DM's gotta make calls about what is happening or will happen that preserve the verisimilitude of a fantastic reality. One of the best ways to help with that is to have a vast wealth of knowledge of how things work. Reading is of course a good way, but for my money the best knowledge to time ratio may be found in the frames of Connections. The playlist below starts with the 8th episode of the 1st series, because it has some good information on polearms that will hit you square in the garygygaxes of your heart.

Obligitory links to series 2 and 3

Fun DCCish type jobs and suffering can be found in the frames of another series, The Worst Jobs in History. I don't like the production values or the host nearly as much as Connections, but it was still pretty fun and taught me all sorts of uses for urine.
This playlist starts in the Dark Ages episode.

Now that you got those series taking care of some of your trivial knowledge, you can devote your reading time to fantastic magic rules and monsters, like those presented in Tales of the Dying Earth or Planet of Adventure.
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Saturday, March 2, 2013

Shmodrons: The Secret Polyhedroid Wars

First, let's cover the usual Shmodrons, which happen to be shaped like the dice most commonly used in this hobby, and who represent one faction of an insane holy war between mechanical monsters.

The Tetradron (represented by a d4), the Hexadron (d6), the Octadron (d8), the Decadron (d10), the Dodecadron (d12), and the Icosadron (d20) are the most plentiful and well known of the Shmodron race. They all have an obsession with perfection, and seek to make the multiverse function like clockwork. Sometimes biologicals get caught up in their jihad, and the result usually isn't pretty.

Any time a Shmodron attacks, the Judge rolls a pseudo-deed die that shares the same sides with it (a d4 for a tetradron and so on). The bonus die gets added to the to-hit and damage rolls for the Shmodron. If the maximum value is rolled on the bonus die, a roll on the Shmodron criticals table (below) is done (use 1dx, where x is the modron's size). A Shmodron can also roll a crit with it's normal to-attack die (which uses the same table), but it doesn't ever double-crit or something. A Shmodron rolls a die the same size as itself on Shmodron Crits table as well.

Shmodrons  may roll a die that has the same number of sides as themselves for normal attack damage (add in their deed damage) if the DM wants them too; they can have a lot of arms...

1. No extra damage but a number (roll again) is burned into the target's flesh.
2. Target gets smashed into 2 dimensions for a round. They can't move or be smashed further, but Tetradrons and other pointy Shmodrons are really good at poking such characters for double damage.
3. Target is forced into the shape of a tetradron for one round. They can hop (5' movement), but are pretty useless.
4. Target steps on a tiny helper Tetradon they didn't know was there. 1d4 extra damage.
5. Hellfire erupts from an allied lawful evil dimension. 1d5 extra damage and on fire.
6. Target is cursed! Until they roll a six, they cannot hit anything. To comical ends this goes.
7. Seven-faced worms pop out of the target's flesh for 1d7 Personality damage.
8. Character must save or be time-stopped indefinitely.
9. A door to the nine hells opens. A lusty devil will grab any one properly lawful evil target and drag them down the underworld, or toss a pitchfork at any goody two shoes.
10. 1d10 years are added or taken from the target's age.
11. Target is stretched across 11 dimensions. Save or die.
12. A dozen rocks fall. 1d12 damage to everyone that doesn't save.
13. 13 becomes an unlucky number for the target. It is cursed to always fumble on a 13.
14. A Tetradecadron (shape of a d14)is summoned. It attacks the target immediately.
15. 15 bones break in the target. Start at the bottom of the target.
16. Target is knocked 16 weeks into the future.
17. Target must save or morph into a random Shmodron. Determine which by taking one of each die kind you have and seeing which one rolls the highest.
18. Target's head turns into a random shape (see 17) and falls off. Body is dead but the head can communicate like a glowing Star Trek sphere.
19. Target must save or have 19 rounds to live.
20. Target reduced to a chalky white cuboctahedron. Like that other Star Trek episode.
I'll leave 21 to 30 and beyond to your imagination.

So the Shmodrons that are not made out of faces that are all identical shapes are the other faction of Shmodrons, and they cultivate chaos to make complex, fractical-order in inscrutable systems and scales. Basically, they are orderly and insane. They crit in much the same manner as all Shmodrons.

They are led by Hebesphenomegacorona, The Crowned One. Hebes, as he is known to imaginary friends, does a custom crit if it rolls a 21 on its crit die: its crown transfers to the target, who's eyes burn out from insane energies and then the target is an undying thrall of Hebes for the rest of the fight, after which it's gibbering husk collapses, quite insane. Hebes is always interested in finding minions to do his work, and can be used as a Patron in DCC.
The crown of Hebespenomegacorona
In case you are worried about our round pals, d1 Shmodrons are baby Shmodrons. Shmodrons mature as their mechanical hormones get the message that there is a need for them to. All Shmodrons pop off of the surface of the All-sphere, which is actually a hundred-sided being who's faces are covered with prime numbers. The All-sphere does not seem to take sides in the cosmic conflict.

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