Sunday, February 14, 2021

Luck, it's useless

Every game I've ever played that had a Luck mechanic, a spendable resource used to modify rolls or situations, it's been useless. Primarily because players forget they have it, and even with constant reminders that it exists they grow scared of using a resource they think they may not recover. Even if the Luck mechanic replenishes quickly, I've seen players avoid using it for fear of "wasting" it on the wrong things. The players end up not receiving rewards because they don't use their Luck, it just sits there.

In Dungeon Crawl Classics, Luck is so difficult to recover that players are always reluctant to use it, even when they remember it's there. Playing a halfling can help recover Luck faster, but I've seen players refuse to spend Luck past certain levels, usually just enough that they know they'll recover it all before the next session.

art by Andrew Porter

The boldest use of Luck I've seen, and the most egregious, was in a 1st-level adventure. The PCs were sneaking through a cave where a giant was sleeping, there were several traps and enemies meant to increase the risk of waking the giant, and when one player missed a roll and woke the giant another player decided to spend all of their Luck to cast a spell, ensuring that it would be cast at maximum effect.

 

Similar to Luck, but basically just Luck...

In the many World of Darkness games, Willpower is often used as a boost for rolls. I would argue this is just the same mechanic with a different name and explanation for it's use and recovery. And again, I've played and run a lot of World of Darkness games and players just straight up forget that it's a resource they can use, unless you remind them. 

I once built a character in Mage who relied upon using Willpower for a lot of his spellcasting, and the first time I used it the GM informed me that he changed how it worked. It's already an unreliable mechanic and this guy changed it to work almost exactly like Mana. Had he even read the rulebook? Who knows, I left that game after one session because he also introduced Doctor Who as a helpful NPC.

I don't have a resolution for this, I'm just saying Luck is dumb and designers shouldn't include it in their games because it gets neglected, abused, and modified into unrecognizable house rules.


Thursday, February 11, 2021

AW Psionics

...with apologies to velexiraptor, this is my take on their elegant OSR psionics system as applied to Apocalypse World.


When you wield psionic powers, speak a brief sentence to a subject - the sentence must have a Verb as the principle action of the sentence, and roll+weird. 

On a 10+, your subject acts out the sentence, making your intentions manifest, for as long as you are within sight of them or you decide to end the effect

On a 7-9, the effect occurs but choose 1:

- the MC can change any 1 word of your sentence

- others hear you and know something odd originated from you, they might come after you now, or later

- something from the unfettered realms sees you and moves closer, maybe it arrives!

On a miss, the MC rewrites the sentence using the same Verb.


Possible Verbs are: accept, adopt, approach, become, bring, build, change, continue, describe, distribute, ensure, explain, fail, fight, forget, get, give, go, hide, hold, ignore, introduce, lead, leave, lose, mention, neglect, offer, open, prepare, prevent, pursue, recommend, reveal, say, stop, take, tend, wait

Saturday, January 9, 2021

no comments allowed

I have had to restrict commenting because I've been getting too many spam comments originating from this blog in my mailbox. Right now, you can only comment here if you have subscribed to the blog - I think that's how it works, though I don't know how you would subscribe on blogspot. However, I am sharing links to any blog posts I publish on my twitter and as public posts on my facebook. Comment in one of those two places please.

More of my game writing is happening in notebooks, longhand. Transcribing will take a little bit of work, and that's only if I decide to share it. And this will be the last time I write about the state of this blog (until I eventually migrate away). As google operates blogspot I just assume they will eventually shut it down. They have already changed blogspot enough over the last two years that I don't enjoy writing here anymore.

Monday, January 4, 2021

Original Dungeons & Dragons booklets reproductions

My first project for 2021 was a little more work intensive than I first expected it to be. 


I created facsimiles of the original D&D white box booklets, using the pdf files sold by WotC as a source for the pages. I had been curious about tracking down an original set of the white box rules, but even poor condition books run for $500 or more. This was a rather cheap way of reproducing the booklets.

I did this because I wanted to feel the actual booklets in my hands and read through the rules. The tactile nature of being able to flip through the pages of a book lends a different weight to the words than a pdf can supply. This will now give me some sense of what it might have been like to own the original booklets in the 1970s. 

I started collecting Classic Traveller books for the same reason, the pdfs just felt like raw information and didn't carry the same gravitas that holding a book does. The rules finally had weight, pardon the pun.

I only ran into one hiccup with the OD&D booklets. There was one picture that was completely black, and I was already running out of ink, as you can see in my first image the red is muted and a magenta color is more prominent on booklets 1 and 2 (printed in reverse order). For this picture I had to make some adjustments, so I tried muting the black and I didn't like how it looked. I experimented with a simple white ink fill tool expecting to get a horrid a white blob inside of a rough black outline of what the picture was, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that the tool worked as designed and left only an outline of the original image. I used this for the final printed page.


I believe it only took me about 4 hours of total time to put everything together and get it printed off, but with the ink on some pages faded and reddish instead of black I now want to buy some fresh ink and reprint second copies. Still, I shall be spending the next few days poring over these booklets as if they were brand new, to feel some echo of the excitement and curiosity that gamers felt when they were first published.

Thursday, December 31, 2020

a retrospective of my entire blog

I'm looking at my history of posts this last year and I am not surprised at my great lack of output. There was a great silence between April and December. A gulf of nothingness that might as well signal the death knell of this blog's longevity. Yet I also have 58 draft posts that just linger, unfinished and unedited, that I never look at. I am still writing, I just having nothing I feel like sharing.

I'm not sure if this is the best place to share my ideas. I long to post all of my ideas, whenever I have them, but I dither and waver and either don't write my idea down or when I do have inspiration to form my thoughts into words I simply hold onto the writing like a note, never glancing at it again.

This year has been shit!

I haven't been locked inside like 1/3rd of my countrymen, I've still been working every week, hoping for an errant day off where I can just lie in bed, rest, or play video games. 

My energy is at an all-time low. Despite this, I ran a few games this year. Freebooters on the Frontier, Mork Borg, and an Apocalypse World one-shot.

Nothing stuck.

I haven't played anything since October. Correction: I haven't GMed anything since October. I want to play something! I'm sick of being a GM, and I think I need to play a game, even if I don't think the GM is doing a good job, just to stoke the fire of my tabletop creativity. 

Being stuck with voice channels on Discord might also be a factor for my malaise, but with any luck, and an expeditious vaccination regimen, that might all change. Soon. In a few months.

 Happy new year! I hope it is.

Sunday, December 6, 2020

the Fungal Creeps

 

Spore by Stuntkid

Humanoids with radiant fungus growing out of their skin. The fungus doesn't take a single appearance, it can form as a mossy fur, tiny mushroom caps protruding through hair and from ears, slime molds dripping from mouths and fingernails, polypores lining the chest and legs. Those infected eventually turn violent and insane, if they haven't already been subsumed by the fungus.

They will eat anything, and when they encounter living creatures attack fearlessly until their prey is dead. While fungal creeps usually don't attack with weapons, their limbs have become terribly strong and capable of tearing living beings apart. In fact, letting a fungal creep tear off an arm to snack on it might be an effective strategy to distracting one.

Fungal creeps don't attack one another, and if a fungal creep infects someone (see below) while fighting them it will stop to find a new target.

Fungal creeps act alone, but occasionally can be found resting in groups (1d6).

Armor: as Chain, fungal creeps that were wearing armor don't use it effectively but are still difficult to hurt

Attack: two 1d8 clubbing attacks, if both attacks hit the same opponent they will grab (no save, STR check to escape) their victim and start biting (1d6 automatic hit every round until freed) and the victim must save against the infection (at disadvantage, rolling twice and taking the worst result)

Special: fungal creeps regenerate 8 hit points every round, fire damage won't regenerate back

Defense: every attack that is scored against a fungal creep causes the attacker to roll a saving throw against the fungal infection (vs Breath or CON)

Infection: infected characters don't feel different right away but within one day start growing fungus of some kind on their skin or from their orifices, after one day of infection the character can regenerate 1 hit point / round, after two days the character starts regenerating 2 hp/round, and so on. Once the character is regenerating a number of hit points equal to their hit dice, their brain has "died" to the fungus and they become a Fungal Creep. The infection is neither a disease or a curse and nothing short of a Restoration of the body will remove the fungus. However, a simple Blessing will prevent the fungus from growing stronger for one day.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Scribus vs InDesign

I had the idea that since I'm looked up in my house now is probably the best time to sign up for InDesign and see if I can convert some of my Apocalypse World playbooks into InDesign. I gotta say, InDesign feels like a very slick and user-friendly interface for somebody who wants to work quickly and easily, but the obscurity of their terminology is absolutely frustrating. Every time I want to do something I have to google it, literally. The interface is so unintuitive that I spend several minutes scrolling through every option and still can't ever find what I'm looking for.


I just started building the second page of this pdf, and only just discovered (on accident) how to create wider margins for the columns. When I try to go back to the first page and adjust, it changes nothing. Which means I can do one of two things:
1) google several tutorials on how to adjust text, images, and preserving the layout since adjusting the margins doesn't automatically do all of that
2) just rebuild the first page with wider margins

2 sounds easier, but both are ridiculous options. Scribus, at least, just moves things around when you change the spacing of objects.

Everything about Adobe's monopoly on these sorts of tools is stupid, and I hate it. And now I'm part of the problem too. Cheers!

Monday, April 6, 2020

Completely re-writing D&D combat; or, Blocking, Dodging, Hit Points, and You

Eva M Brown wrote "Instead of hit points use your hit die. When you're hit you can roll any number of hit die. If you roll higher than the damage, you keep your hit die. If you roll lower, you lose all that you bet.
Alternatively, you can just sacrifice hit die acting that they are maxed value. So, if you're a 4th level barbarian, and take 24 points of damage you could just take 2 HD worth of damage and call it good or roll any number of your HD hoping to roll higher than 24.
" and thinking about how this would change combat to being much more active is how I started on this idea.

Let's say Hit Points are supposed to reflect stamina instead of health, and Hit Dice are the real deal for determining whether a character is healthy. Low-level characters? Still easy to kill. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Ignore the magic system of D&D for a moment and let's just focus on combat. Hit points are a measure of stamina, and when they run out you're exhausted, can barely move, are incapable of taking action, and can only barely defend yourself from being attacked.

Blocking
Hit points are still there, but when you attempt to block an attack your armor (and shield and weapon altogether) provide a defense dice pool against the damage you take. You roll the dice of your armor and if the damage exceeds it, you take the difference against your Hit Points. You can add Hit Dice to this defense, but if the damage exceeds what you roll you lose the Hit Dice instead of the Hit Points.

Shields add 1d4, 1d6, or 1d8 depending.
Armor ranges from 1d4 to 1d12.
Weapons add small bonuses, anywhere from +1 to +5.

Meaning, a low-level enemy like an orc is at a disadvantage against a well-armored opponent, but the breath weapon of a dragon is going to damage its victim regardless of how well-armored they are.

If your Hit Points are reduced to zero, you can only wager Hit Dice and one piece of armor/weapon to avoid damage.
If your Hit Dice are reduced to zero, you are unconscious or soon to be dead.

Dodging
Every character has a dodge modifier that starts at +10 and is only decreased by what sort of armor they are using and the weapon they are carrying.
Most weapons are -1, but a few are -2 or -3. All polearms are -4.
Armor ranges from -1 to -5.
Shields are -1 or -2.
Meaning, yeah, you could have a -1 Dodge if you're wearing full plate and carrying a heavy shield with a halberd.
You roll a d10 and add the modifier to your roll, if it exceeds the attack roll then you successfully dodge. You can't dodge forever though because it costs Hit Points every time you use it.

She failed a dodge roll.

What about attacking?
It changes a lot. Though I think this sort of modification would work better with Lamentations ruleset, to fit it in other systems you'd need to get rid of class-based attack bonuses. Weapons would have to add modifiers to attack rolls, or you could have weapons give a variable bonus similar to the way Dungeon Crawl Classics gives warriors an attack bonus with a dice roll.

I'm not sure what the best way to modify it would be, but having an active defense is certainly more appealing to me.

Parrying
I have never seen a ttrpg create an elegant way of using parrying effectively. I'm all ears if you have an idea how to apply it in this system. For now, I expect making an attack roll against the attacker's roll is the only way to do it. Leaves a lot down to luck instead of skill, which I don't like.

Sunday, April 5, 2020

re-introducing the Haunted

Everything we have is robbed from graves, from corpses entombed in their own homes, from the dead cities buried under dirt and water, from the past and its memories. Do you think they see you, with their crowpicked eye-holes? Can you hear them speak, with their black and bloated mouths? Yeah, go ahead, son. Brush it off. But there’s more things under these shattered heavens than you think. The dead far outnumber the living now. And I have to wonder: is there still room enough in hell?



I realize that it's been a whole fucking year since I worked on these playbooks, and I'm sorry. All of the work was done, all of the artwork was finished, but one day I was just lazy about sitting down and formatting the pdf, and then I kinda forgot that I had this project to finish. One day turned into a week which turned into a month, and all of a sudden people online are asking if more of these playbooks have been converted to second edition and I think "Oh shit! I never finished those playbooks!"

Long story short, once upon a time Johnstone Metzger granted me permission to convert his Heralds of Hell playbooks into a legal-size format, and I asked him again for permission to revise those same playbooks to the second edition rules for Apocalypse World, which he granted.

Here is the Haunted, with new artwork provided by Marie Ann Mallah.

LINKS
letter size
legal size


(only one Herald left!)

Thursday, April 2, 2020

River Banshee

When newborn daughters are thrown into rivers, the grim necessity of a desperate family to rid of itself of another mouth to feed, they sometimes rise again as the whispering undead. These creatures become one with the waters of the river, seeing and hearing everything along the ripples of water. They will whisper sweetly along the riverbanks, hoping to draw the curious out to them. Legend says that any who draw near a river banshee are stricken with deep sadness, and their voices will become paler and softer until they can only whisper out their words. In truth, a river banshee collects secrets and often places slivers of these secrets into a victim's head, literally. Someone who has succumbed to a river banshee's whispering will have a razor thin line of flesh that is scored or scarred. Anyone living with a river banshee's secrets in their head will slowly start to die, their sadness will slowly overtake everything they do until they collapse and refuse to move, or simply never rise out of bed in the morning. Only magical intercession can remove the secrets in one's head, for the secrets must be drawn out of the victim's head through placation and inducement.


A river banshee literally opens its victim's skull and whispers the secrets into their brain. Being interrupted in this task can mean the victim will be instantly killed. The safest time to approach a river banshee is while it is trying to lure a victim to the river it resides in.

A river banshee is frail with malleable bones that protrude from skin mottled and thin like lace. If one is near, the whispering sounds like a young girl's voice, eager to share her knowledge with a wily accomplice. If it is tricked into revealing itself it rarely fights and always flees when outnumbered. Lights and loud noises can also prevent a river banshee from appearing.

HD 1
Defense as hide
Attack +4 or DR 13
Ribcage grapple 1d6
Save vs Petrification or Wisdom, to avoid the lull of their whispers
Morale 5

Sunday, March 22, 2020

d20 cryptic things for NPCs to say and then laugh

1. With enough reason we will make slaves of ourselves.
2. I wish I could see those fields of green once more.
3. All your life will be for naught when you find what you seek.
4. Small, simple things are all that is required to change one's soul.
5. Prison is a blessing for those who need it.
6. There are stranger ways to seek one's fortune.
7. Our fates always have surprises waiting for us when we least expect them.
8. The swamp can be a cold place, but I find it very warm.
9. This light suits me, if I need more darkness I can always make more.
10. Who holds the strings of our marionettes?
11. The things we tell ourselves to afford succor.
12. Where will you be when you are relieved of your fears?
13. I knew at once you were not to be trifled with.
14. When men lose their salvation, where will devils hide?
15. Share your spirit with the light, you still have a chance.
16. Falling down a deep dark hole wouldn't be the worst thing to happen to you.
17. My allies have abandoned me. Or did I abandon them?
18. I have always suspected that the gods don't approve of mortals such as you and I.
19. Do not eat. Do not drink. Nourishment is its own reward.
20. Light. Life. Violence. Forsaken.

Saturday, February 8, 2020

goblins are a nematodal disease

Goblins don't fear death because they have a very peculiar form of immortality: As long as a dead goblin is eaten by another goblin, all its memories will be passed on to that goblin - including any memories from previous consumed goblins! And since goblins are voracious cannibals, most goblins remember dozens or even hundreds of lives (and deaths), and see it as little more than an inconvenience. Goblins are not cowardly, they are gleefully suicidal with absolutely no concept of self-preservation or survival instinct.

Goblins throw themselves at opponents in giggling hordes no matter how many get slaughtered, knowing that only a single brethren needs to survive to 'resurrect' their accompanying horde. Goblins have little sense of individuality, believing themselves to be fragments of one mind, cursed to grow and splinter into many selves for all eternity.

Goblins don't reproduce like any other animal. As they age, they grow bulbous sores on their body and eventually their skin molts off and this 'skin' grows like a fungus, clinging to tree trunks or along cavern walls. It thrives in darkness, but this 'skin' will flourish in virtually any environment with moisture. It grows larger and eventually bursts open, shedding one to two dozen baby goblins that are virtually identical to the one who molted them in the first place. Goblins never eat this shed skin.

Goblin bites can get infected very easily. Anyone suffering from a goblin bite is likely to have skin that slowly turns gray or sickly green. After a few weeks, they may begin to forget who they were and start behaving like a goblin. After three months they will have completely transformed into a goblin, with no memories of their previous self, and no memories from the goblin who bit them either. Nothing short of magic can reverse this infection once it has taken hold.

Goblins frequently try to force their own blood and flesh into the mouths of victims because ingesting goblin flesh will turn a humanoid creature into a hobgoblin. This transformation is similar to when a person transforms into a goblin, but it's much quicker taking only a month for a complete transition. A goblin who eats a hobgoblin not only gains the memories of that hobgoblin, but will begin to grow into a hobgoblin with the personality and memories of the hobgoblin; this process also takes about a month. Hobgoblins will always keep some goblins around, despite their obvious contempt for their inferior cousins - when a hobgoblin dies, assuming it's a hobgoblin the others still want around, they'll go grab the nearest goblin and feed the corpse to it.

However, one hobgoblin eating another is a severe taboo, because of the result - a bugbear, a monstrously huge goblin that hunts and eats other goblins and hobgoblins. A humanoid creature that consumes the flesh of a hobgoblin will also turn into a bugbear, this process takes about three months. Bugbears tend to be solitary and avoid each other, even goblins and hobgoblins don't want them around.

A bugbear who eats another bugbear will turn into a troll. Trolls will consume anything and everything, but no further mutations are possible.

- - -
The concept of goblins as nematodes was originally created by Sam Anderson. I just expanded it a little.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Monday, November 4, 2019

Fate RPG

If I'm playing a game and my character is a super badass who is really good at one thing then I shouldn’t be left rolling the dice and feeling like I have a completely average result.

The first time I played in a Fate game it was a science-fiction setting and I made my character to be this ace pilot. I had the maximum skill that I can possibly have in flying my space fighter, and I remember rolling the dice (A LOT OF DICE) and the result that I got was completely average. I didn’t even successfully complete a basic maneuver. It wasn't so much that it was a very bad roll, it was just that it was not a good roll. I looked at it at the dice and asked "doesn’t this mean this is always going to average out?" and the GM said "yeah it pretty much always averages out" and I said "then I'm not an ace pilot, it doesn’t matter how good my skill is, I’m always going to be average and everything I do is going to be average"

There was a lot of hemming and hawing from the players around the table who loved the concept of this system, and somebody said "that’s not exactly the way that it works because you have other things to draw upon" and I said "I don’t think I should have other things to drop upon, I should have the skill, and then I should roll the dice and do something cool, or do something skillful, or at the very least competent"

I wasn’t even competent

The other thing I don't like about Fate is that there's no character progression.

I asked about experience points at the end of the session and was basically told there’s no leveling up, there’s no buying more skill points, you basically just spend experience to move points around or shuffle your skill levels around. That doesn't appeal to me, either as a player or as someone who enjoys fiction. If I’m playing an ace pilot in the first session then I should still be an ace pilot in the 14th session, regardless of anything else. Just like Walter White is a chemist in the first episode of Breaking Bad, he's still a chemist in the last episode of Breaking Bad, but he's definitely picked up some other skills along the way.

I asked "I'm a pilot, I’ve maxed out my skill, what is stopping me from just moving all those points from being a pilot into becoming a neurosurgeon?" and I was told "you have to justify the changes, so it would very unlikely that you would be this great pilot and then all of a sudden become a great neurosurgeon, because you have to explain why" and I said "you mean, an average pilot becoming an average neurosurgeon" but I went a bit further with this inquiry too and said "well it’s in the rules that I can just move these things around, so if I can find a way to become a neurosurgeon you’re telling me that’s all I need to do, contrive a way to connect it?" and the GM said "yeah, it's highly unlikely you'd have a character that is a great pilot who becomes a great neurosurgeon, but if you really want to find a way to do it then you just need to explain it"

Well, that's my only goal with this character now: to become a great neurosurgeon who dies while flying because he's forgotten how to pilot his ship.

I remember somebody saying that character growth is not tied to skills, and my response to that is "But it is!" I'm a completely different person today than I was when I played Fate. I'm not only a different person but I've picked up new skills along the way. That's what's key about character progression, you not only have to progress but you have to feel like you're progressing. I feel stale and stagnant if I stop doing new things but the great thing about progressing through life is that I can still do the old things that I haven't done in a long time. Accounting, bartending, making a latte, I still remember how to do all of those things alongside being able to write a joke and drive a semi. I'm not an ace pilot or a top notch neurosurgeon, but I definitely still think Fate is a dumb system.

2 out of 5 stars, for this years-late review of the Fate RPG

Friday, October 25, 2019

Dark Souls the Role-Playing Game

tl;dr You don't want to play Dark Souls the RPG.

What would a Dark Souls tabletop role-playing game actually look like? I think it would be a d20 rip-off. One of those 3rd edition open game license d20 fantasy heartbreakers that just has some new cover art but is a game you've already seen, already played, and probably already own. The rules were written on the back of a napkin. Somewhere buried back behind the "new" feats and prestige classes is an appendix with the original concept for an alternative way of treating D&D modules, and that's the true heart of the Dark Souls RPG.

It’s basically a way of modifying existing D&D modules and the entirety fits onto one page, but this company paid for the Dark Souls license and that's why you had to wade through a 300-page cookie cutter d20 rulebook with recycled artwork from the Dark Souls Design Works hardcovers to read this one page.

You would start at 1st level and the first time your character fights anything, whether it’s a skeleton and or an orc, they need to roll a 20 to hit. There’s no attack modifier, there’s no armor class, each PC tracks what their numbers to hit different creatures are, and they all start at 20 as the default. Your character sheet starts just as your Level and what weapon you're carrying.

The first time you fight something you don't roll initiative, you get to go first, but you need to roll a 20 to hit. If you miss your roll then your number to hit that creature decreases by one permanently. Example: If you fight a skeleton you need to roll a 20, and if you don't roll a 20 then that number decreases to 19, and then the next time you attack if you miss that number decreases again, perpetually, every time you miss, until you just always hit the skeleton.

That skeleton you're fighting though? It ALWAYS hits you. And you have as many hit points as your level.

You don't roll damage, instead it is a reflection of your level versus your opponent's Hit Dice. You need to hit them a certain number of times based entirely upon their Hit Dice divided by your Level, plus one. Example: If a skeleton is 1 Hit Dice, then at 1st level you need to hit that skeleton twice in order to kill it [(1÷1)+1=2]. Dividing always rounds to the nearest, so at 2nd level you still need to hit a skeleton twice (1÷2=0.5) but at 3rd level you only need to hit the skeleton once (1÷3=0.3). All of this means that combat in the Dark Souls RPG is very tedious and boring.

You can probably have a simplified version of this where PCs only track their To Hit numbers versus the number of Hit Dice a monster has. Thus, instead of tracking what you need to roll against a skeleton, you track what you need to roll against any creature with 1 Hit Dice, but your character sheet would just be a list of what it takes to hit creatures of different hit dice levels.

And death, every time you die the module resets and you return to where you last rested. The GM would have to either include bonfires in modules or just have designated resting areas. An entire party of PCs could work, if they are able to avoid a Total Party Kill (which repopulates the whole map) and at least one PC survives the battle then the other characters could be "summoned" back, but only survivors receive XP.

If you have a spell instead of attacking then you can avoid rolling dice to hit, but you’re still going get hit, especially by ranged attacks.

How do you level up? I don't know, probably the usual D&D way. I didn't think that far ahead. The point being: Dark Souls makes more sense as a video game, it doesn't make any sense as a tabletop RPG.

That’s pretty much the whole idea, but this sprung out of the idea that if you’re playing a role-playing game and you’re taking on a particular role you should be really good at that, right? You don’t want to play Dark Souls the RPG because it is as boring as it sounds.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Dark Souls magic

The series starts with three kinds of magic: sorceries, miracles, and pyromancies.

Sorcery is a form of magic that is implied to have been created by Seath, the "grandfather of sorcery," the scaleless dragon who betrayed all other dragons for a chance at immortality. Anyone with a high Intelligence and a catalyst (usually a staff of some kind) can cast a sorcery. There are less than 28 sorceries in the first Dark Souls and that number only grew to 39 by the third installment.

Miracles are stories retold so many times that they have become a form of magic, the story evokes an effect. Though miracles do require both a Talisman to cast and a high Faith score. The first Dark Souls has 23 miracles and that number exploded to 38 by the third game.

Pyromancies originated as flame sorceries that only the Witch of Izalith and her Daughters of Chaos knew. When they failed to recreate the First Flame, pyromancy was one of the resulting side effects of their failure. Within the lore of Dark Souls, learning to wield a pyromancy flame requires that you produce the flame from your own body. There is no stat requirement for casting a pyromancy spell. There are only 20 pyromancies in the first Dark Souls, but by the third game there are 30 of them.

(In the second Dark Souls game they introduce hexes, which originate as a subset of sorcery from the Abyss that deals Dark damage, but it is implied that this same Dark magic has tainted some miracles as some hexes are cast the same way that a miracle would be.)

Suppose you apply these forms of magic to D&D. Sorceries are the domain of wizards, miracles would apply to clerics, and pyromancies would most easily fit with druids. Bards would, predictably, dabble with all of them. But a magic system that only requires the proper stat requirement and the tool to use it appeals to me more than a class-based system. The lore behind each spell usually explains where it originates within the game's backstory. Consider the in-game description for Fall Control, the Dark Souls equivalent of feather Fall:

"Sorcery developed by a certain surreptitious sorcerer at Vinheim Dragon School. Reduce damage and noise from fall.
This sorcery, along with Hush, explains the extravagant cost of hiring Vinheim spooks."


What if Mirror Image was just a spell you could find out in the world? And you knew it was developed in a city called Riverport? So if you want it, you'd venture toward Riverport to look for it, right?

These are all things I want for D&D: Lore for spells. An origin of magic. Smaller spell lists.

Monday, October 7, 2019

October 2019 - summer ennui

We haven't played D&D in almost 2 months. This seems to happen to me every year, around July or August we take a break and then we just never return to gaming or it's such a huge break from the table that I wonder if we should continue with the game we had going in the first place. Christmastime seems to have a similar break, but players are always eager to return. Probably has something to do with the weather.

Monday, September 23, 2019

my Appendix N

In 1979 when Gary Gygax first compiled his list of literature for Appendix N, he was drawing upon literature that he had grown up with and read for decades. The earliest stories were written by Lord Dunsany and he was published as early as 1905, but from what I can gather the most recent story on that list was published in 1978 (The Pirate of World's End by Lin Carter), though some of the series mentioned were still having stories written after 1979. My experiences with fantasy and science fiction are far removed from much of this literature. If I were to compile my own list of inspirational literature it would be ironic that I would end up listing several D&D books as my inspiration for playing D&D. Additionally, so much of pop culture and nerd culture is wrapped up in movies and video games, it would be impossible for me to write an Appendix N without including these cinematic and interactive media, despite the fact that much of it is likely also influenced by the existence of D&D.

Caveats in place, I give you my Appendix N:

literature
Alexander, Lloyd: Chronicles of Prydain
Barker, Clive
Findley, Nigel: Into the Void; GURPS Illuminati
Howard, Robert E: Conan series
Jackson, Steve and/or Livingstone, Ian: the Fighting Fantasy gamebook series
King, Stephen
Lewis, C.S.: Chronicles of Narnia
Lindsay, David: A Voyage to Arcturus
Lovecraft, H.P.: At the Mountains of Madness
Maitland, Karen: Company of Liars
Martin, George R.R.: Saga of Ice and Fire
Matheson, Richard
Pratchett, Terry: Discworld series; SMALL GODS
Tolkien: The Hobbit; The Lord of the Rings
Weis, Margaret & Hickman, Tracy: Dragonlance Chronicles trilogy; Death Gate Cycle

comic books
Coda
Conan (anything published by Marvel or Dark Horse)
Heavy Metal magazine
Lone Wolf and Cub
Swamp Thing (volume 2)
Usagi Yojimbo

film & television
The Dark Crystal
Doctor Who (both series)
Dragonslayer
Excalibur
John Carpenter's The Thing
Labyrinth
Mad Max; Road Warrior; Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome; Mad Max: Fury Road
Time Bandits
The Twilight Zone

video games
Dark Souls and it's sequels
Dwarf Fortress
Elder Scrolls series
Fallout series
The Legend of Zelda series
Ultima series
Vermintide

Saturday, September 21, 2019

what I think I want in D&D

  • the gods are physical beings, existing within the world and can be talked to and/or killed
  • there is no turning undead
  • spellcasting doesn't even use levels or slots, spells just work or require an expenditure of HP or ability score loss (draining STR or CON) or something that replenishes with rest
  • spellcasting is something anyone can do if they have the right stats
  • there are no classes
  • only humans
  • static DCs for d20 rolls
  • equipment and gear more important than stats
  • exploration is more important than fighting
  • combat as war
  • leveling up is an explicitly magical THING that you have done to yourself, it doesn't happen often but could be something characters work towards
  • lore is baked into the world, if the Magic Missile spell exists then people know who created it, where it's been used, and how they might find it

    I have no idea if any of this is doable, but I'm going to try
  • Monday, July 1, 2019

    July 2019 - clerical error

    I've changed my mind about clerics: they shouldn't have the ability to turn undead.

    This decision has upended everything I've been working on!

    I have more options with undead creatures now, but also don't know how to revise clerics to compensate for the loss of class ability.

    There's a concept in Dungeon World that a PC cleric is THE cleric for the world, so you wouldn't be seeing them in large groups unless they were "very important" NPCs or, more likely, villains and opponents. I'm thinking about taking this concept into OSRenstein and saying there are very few clerics overall, but they end up being leaders or chamopions of their faith.

    Where does that leave PCs?

    I don't know yet, but I'm working on it.