Friday, August 31, 2012

Visibility and Illumination

I've been trying to lock down some concrete rules on visibility for Dungeon Crawl Classics since the rulebook doesn't give specific details on illumination or vision, it's one of those things it leaves open for the GM to determine on his own. All of this speculating was prompted by my desire to convert some 1st edition AD&D modules into Dungeon Crawl Classics adventures, and I really wanted to clearly outline for my players what their visibility would be in these dungeons. I also recently started reading Untimately, and the thoroughly analytical approach Brendan has toward the original D&D books inspired me to look at every edition of D&D in a similar way, just like I did that one time when I made the same character in every edition of Dungeons & Dragons.

Let's start with 1st edition AD&D. The Dungeon Master's Guide gives no real limitations to vision and in fact says line of sight could potentially be "infinite" (p.62) but has paragraphs for arbitrating Infravision and Ultravision abilities. I'm mostly interested in regular old line of sight for the average human and how it relates to dungeon delving. The 1st edition Player's Handbook has a table (p.102) that lists light sources:
Torch, 40 feet
Lantern, 30 feet
Bullseye Lantern, 80 feet

Quick Footnote: It's interesting to note that the same table lists magic daggers and swords as light sources. Torches and lanterns also have "burning time" listed, as presumably the DM was meant to keep track of how long the PCs had been using the same light source. This effectively meant that a ring with a light spell was once considered an invaluable piece of magical equipment!

2nd edition AD&D does a little bit of clarifying line of sight. In the Player's Handbook (p.117) it gives definitive distances in yards for what can be seen depending on the weather. Each column is delineated by the distance at which a man-sized object can be seen moving, spotted (for stationary creatures and objects), general identification, clear identification, and detailed identification. This is an interesting, if exhaustive, breakdown because the table also includes worst possible conditions such as "Night, no moon" and "Fog, dense or blizzard."

The 2nd edition light source table lists a few immediately noticeable differences right away:
Torch, 15 feet
Hooded Lantern, 30 feet
Bullseye Lantern, 60 feet
Something I never really registered before, or maybe I just ignored back when I played as a teenager, is that these light sources also have burning times listed, and each one seems different than it's 1st edition predecessor. The burn times become more consumptive and restrictive in 2nd edition, and I would infer that because of this both players and DMs alike were less inclined to pay attention to such details. The 2nd edition trend of having adventures that didn't take place in dungeons probably helped the eventual disuse of these details. Also, Magical weapons still shed light, but it clearly states this is an optional rule that a DM may not allow.

The 3rd edition Player's Handbook has it's own table of light source visibility and burn times (p.165) and this table shows a reversal of the 2nd edition numbers. Instead of sharing these numbers, let's just do a quick comparison of all of the different editions, including their burn times:
1st edition 2nd edition 3rd edition
Torch 40 feet / 1 hour 15 feet / 30 minutes 40 feet / 1 hour
Hooded Lantern 30 feet / 4 hours 30 feet / 2 hours 60 feet / 6 hours
Bullseye Lantern 80 feet / 4 hours 60 feet / 2 hours 120 feet / 6 hours

Strangely, 3rd edition gives illumination figures for use in areas of bright light, which seems redundant to me and I'm at a loss for why that column is listed at all. Check it out for yourself, the explanation is on page 164.

It's worth noting that 4th edition lists illumination in squares, but doesn't ever list how many feet or yards a single square is.

I think the 1st edition AD&D numbers are solid, and I'm perplexed as to why they were ever changed in later editions.

Monday, August 20, 2012

"I love this game!"

Last night we got to bite into more of Dungeon Crawl Classics and some really cool things emerged from playing. The beginning of this game started as a one shot, throw away session. I wanted to just soak my players in DCC gore and see how they would wash themselves off, and I think overall it was a success. During the first session I ran them through the introductory adventure at the back of the rulebook.

One player lost three of his characters, and because he thought of them as stat blocks instead of characters he was really disappointed to be left with one of his unheroic characters (read as: no ability score higher than 13). I houseruled mid-game that once you were down to one character you could level them up as a warrior class. I justified this by saying that the character was emboldened by the death of their comrades to enact mighty deeds, and explained out of character that this allowed fewer chances of being forced to start over with new characters before the end of the very first session.

Another player managed to involve all four of his characters in multiple activities and none of them died, which was very lucky since it all came down to dice rolls. There were several instances where his characters had a 50% or worse chance of surviving something, and yet they all pulled through.

In the second session, rather than skipping ahead to the next adventure we role-played out journeying to a nearby city to sell their loot. A lot of this gameplay involved casting spells and getting familiar with the locations of different tables in the rulebook. It was a little tedious, and one player remarked that there was a little too much randomization. He argued that d20 games typically are very balanced and you're always using a d20 so your chances are always easy to calculate (he was an economics major in college). I argued that the randomness is part of the charm, and you shouldn't be able to calculate your chances very easily because that's meta. Later in the session another player incurred deity disapproval and rolling on the table he received a quest to heal a cripple which allowed me to give the offending cleric a vision of a nearby cripple. Everybody at the table thought the result was cool and it gave them a push to regroup, the emerging story behind their misfortune humbled the characters, and in that moment I burst out "This is why I love this game! The craziest things can happen, but they can still all make sense!"

Near the end of the session the characters had a new quest for themselves, and all of them nearly got killed simply from approaching their destination. Yet again, the player with four characters had every single one of them almost die. Three of them were brought to 1 hit point and mercifully survived the rest of the encounter by the fate of the dice. The real problem now is that every character at the table is now level 1, which has the potential of making bookkeeping tiresome.

There were some great moments where players acted out responses from different characters, and one player had one of his characters stealing from the other. For these moments of role-playing I couldn't help myself and I gave a single point of experience which I declared could be given to one of the characters involved. The gameplay that arose from last night's session was unexpected and fun, and I only wish I could share this experience with more of my gamer friends.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Passion of the Gamer

This year I was growing tired of gaming. I was beginning to feel worn out. I can't really put a finger on what I was thinking, except that I felt jaded with game systems and adventures and I was floundering. I was really only gaming because it's a weekly social gathering, and I'd rather spend time with friends regularly than abandon it because I'm not feeling excited by anything I'm playing or could be playing. Just going through the motions.

When I bought the Dungeon Crawl Classics rulebook this year I thought I was purchasing a quaint little d20 compatible book with the resources to simulate the feeling of a 1st edition game. That is a simplified way of looking at the game because it does simulate the feel of 1st edition play and it does use the basic mechanics of the d20 system, but DCC is it's own game. And I love it. Literally LOVE it!

It's one of the most interesting games I've read in a while, it excites me because it manages to convey a deadly feel into a game using modern mechanics and terminology. It does everything right that my recent role-playing experiments failed to live up to. I feel like I have been serving stale bread and moldy cheese to my gaming group for the last year when I could have been serving this delicious cake with frothy ale. Now I want to play in it, I want to GM it, and having read it from cover to cover I just want more of it! It has made me want to attend conventions again, has inspired me to read more of Appendix N, and has given my love for gaming new life. A single book has brought me back from the dead.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

the Random Esoteric Creature Generator

I wrote a review for the Random Esoteric Creature Generator by James Edward Raggi IV, you can read it by following this link.

The highlights: Amazing and invaluable! A real treasure for any GM who likes to keep their players guessing.

The Random Esoteric Creature Generator published by Goodman Games, $12.99

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Gaz and the Drake, a patron for DCC RPG

     These two entities travel the planes together, they seek neither treasure nor magic but find interest in daredevils and risk-takers. While they are naturally a jovial and curious pair, they can be angered easily and do not take kindly to being called upon for affairs they consider mundane. Gaz favors mortals who risk their lives in battles of wits and cunning, but the Drake often seems aloof and neglectful to those who have summoned aid.
     In truth, Gaz and the Drake were once mortals. A dwarf and a giant who struck a bargain together to acquire divine power. They managed to find what they sought millenia ago but were never fully sated by the immortality and magic they had won. Now they spend their time watching others and gambling power between each other on the fates of mortal adventurers. Woe to the wizard who invokes this patron when he is being bet against.

Invoke Patron check results:
     12-13 = Gaz answers the wizard's plea with a small physical boon. The caster receives +2 to his next attack roll or saving throw. If the wizard neither makes an attack or rolls a saving throw within the next six rounds then this bonus goes away and the Drake curses the wizard with a -2 penalty to his next spell check. If it activated, the Drake's penalty lasts indefinitely.
     14-17 = The Drake places a sword in the wizard's hand. This magical blade (1d8 damage) exists for a number of rounds equal to the wizard's level. Any living creature (i.e. un-dead, animated statues, and constructs are immune) must succeed on a DC 10 + wizard's level Fort save or be poisoned (2d8 damage). If the wizard drops the sword before the duration expires the sword disappears and casting Invoke Patron again in the same day suffers a -4 penalty.
     18-19 = For a number of rounds equal to the wizard's level plus one, the caster is imbued with the ability to leap mighty bounds. His AC and saving throws improve by +4, and with a successful Ref save (DC 10) the caster can leap up to double his normal running speed. If the caster critically fails the Ref save by rolling a natural 1, he lands poorly and breaks a leg taking 2d4 damage. Further jumping on a broken leg causes another 1d6 damage per jump, and if the caster critically fails a second time he breaks his other leg and can no longer jump or walk. If the wizard uses this ability to escape a fight completely, as opposed to using it strategically, then the Drake is offended and breaks both of the wizard's legs at the end of the duration.
     20-23 = For 1d4 + wizard's level in rounds, the wizard is bestowed with the Drake's sword (as the above 14-17 result) and Gaz'es leaping ability (as the above 18-19 result). The wizard also receives a +2 bonus to attack rolls during this time.
     24-27 = For 3d6 rounds, the wizard casts other spells as if he were three levels higher than he actually is. All spells (except Invoke Patron) last longer and are easier to cast. This bonus can potentially exceed the normal maximum of 10. If the caster rolls a natural 1 with one of these enhanced spells, the bonus immediately ends and for the rest of the day the wizard can only cast spells by using a point of spellburn in addition to any other requirements the spell has.
     28-29 = Gaz bestows the wizard with a powerful weapon from the distant future. For the next 10 rounds the wizard has an energy hurling metal hand crossbow that is easy to attack with and inflicts a large amount of damage. The wizard receives a +8 bonus to attack with the weapon and it inflicts 3d6+2 damage when it strikes. The weapon has a range of 400' before range penalties apply. The Drake, meanwhile, bestows the wizard with a powerful armor from the future for the same duration of time. The wizard's AC is raised by +10 and appears as a shimmering, yellowish energy field around the caster. At the end of the spell, the wizard disappears for 5 rounds. When he returns he looks weary and tired, but has no memory of where he went.
     30-31 = Gaz appears in a puff of smoke to fight alongside the wizard. Gaz has a +15 to hit, his action dice are 1d20 + 1d20, his saves are all +7, and he has 120 hit points. He attacks with a broad battleaxe and inflicts 2d6+3 damage, and his crit die is 2d20/V. Gaz will disappear into a cloud of smoke if he is reduced to 0 hit points or after a number of rounds equal to twice the wizard's level pass.
     32+ = The Drake appears out of a crashing thunderbolt to fight alongside the wizard. Use the stats for a Cloud Giant on page 414. The Drake will disappear in another loud thunderbolt if he is reduced to 0 hit points or after a number of rounds equal to twice the wizard's level pass.

Patron Taint: Gaz and the Drake
     Gaz and the Drake are kinder to wizards than a lot of other patrons, provided the wizards are thrillseekers and daredevils. Those who Invoke Patron at times when Gaz believes they don't require aid find themselves suffering from the Drake's powerful magics. When patron taint is indicated, roll 1d6 on the table below. When a caster has excised all six taints at all levels of effect, there is no need to continue rolling any more. Additionally, the caster is freed from all future corruption rolls.

1 = The caster gains 25 lbs. of excess fat. This counts against encumbrance and slows the character by 5'. Movement will not be slowed if this result is rolled a second or third time, but after the third roll the caster's Stamina can no longer be used for Spellburn.

2 = One arm becomes bigger than the other. The wizard's Strength is increased by 1, but his spell checks suffer a -1 penalty due to the uneven sizes of his hands. If the result is rolled a second time, the arm becomes bigger and any use of the arm inflicts a -1 penalty due to it's unwieldy size and girth, this includes melee attack rolls as well as spell checks. If the result is rolled a third time, the arm becomes gigantic further complicating the wizard's life. He walks with a hunch, bent over in the direction of the arm, and he can no longer use his Strength to fuel Spellburn.

3 = Disfigurement! The first time this is rolled the wizard's body becomes covered in thick, ragged scars. Personality is permanently reduced by 1 and natural AC is increased by 1. Magical healing does nothing to remove the scar tissue. The second time this is rolled the wizard's grows coarse, long hair from every part of his body. It never grows longer than an inch or two, and shaving it off causes it to grow back within an hour. Personality is permanently reduced by 1, but natural AC is increased by 1. The third and final time this is rolled the wizard's teeth turn black and all of his fingernails and toenails permanently fall out, and Personality can no longer be used to fuel Spellburn.

4 = The wizard will begin to perceive challenges everywhere. He will attempt to make things more difficult for himself, and pride himself in defeating his opponents and outdoing his companions in similar feats. Gambling also becomes a primary passtime. This arrogant confidence can be resisted with a DC 15 Will save, but the save must be attempted every time he tries to resist his new emotional urges. If the result is rolled a second time, the caster's emotions become stronger and the DC increases to 20. If the result is rolled a third time, a DC 25 Will save permits the caster to ignore his emotional urges.

5 = The first time this is rolled, the caster is overwhelmed with a restlessness. He can't stay in one town or city for very long, and will need to travel to a new location to rest at least once every week. If he doesn't submit to this restlessness, the wizard does not heal ability points lost to spellburn, nor does he recover hit points through natural healing. The second time this result is rolled the restlessness becomes more severe and the wizard cannot sleep in the same bed two nights in a row. The third time this result is rolled, the wizard becomes obsessed with traveling economically and efficiently. He sells virtually everything he owns and will only keep what he can carry in a single bag.

6 = The wizard begins to show signs of arrogance and begins to believe that he's invulnerable. He will start fights, or never back down from a challenge, and generally puts himself into the way of physical harm daily. The caster should make a DC 15 Willpower save to avoid engaging in any reckless activity. The second time this result is rolled the caster stops wearing armor or using magical armor of any kind. During fights he will stop trying to dodge attacks, which translates into a -2 penalty to Reflex saving throws. The Willpower DC for avoiding reckless behavior increases to 20. The third time this result is rolled, the caster truly believes he is invulnerable and nothing can stop him. The Willpower DC for avoiding reckless behavior increases to 25, and during combat the wizard stops moving at all except to get a better view, he can no longer receive any AC benefit from Agility and another -2 penalty is applied to Reflex saving throws. Finally, Agility can no longer be used to fuel Spellburn.

Next Up: Patron Spells