Friday, November 30, 2012

Adventure World: the Warrior

I started working on an Apocalypse World hack this week that I'm calling Adventure World. It's essentially going to be my take on a fantasy setting for AW since I'm not too fond of the Dungeon World hack.

Introducing THE WARRIOR

Ash, Björn, Elmgen, Grendel, Koraxil, Maddox, Roland, Thorgrim, Wagner, Zukala
Amina, Bellona, Cordelia, Enyo, Freyja, Lillian, Qin Liangyu, Sonya, Valeria, Yennenga

Choose one set:
• Valor+1 Power+2 Moxie-1 Alert+1 Magic=0
• Valor+1 Power+2 Moxie=0 Alert+1 Magic-1
• Valor+1 Power+2 Moxie+1 Alert=0 Magic-1
• Valor+1 Power+2 Moxie=0 Alert=0 Magic=0

Choose 3:

Battle Stance:

Blood and Thunder: in battle, you count as a gang

Bloodthirsty: +1damage.

Lightning Reflexes: always have 2-armor

To Live and Die By the Sword: roll+magic
On a 10+, name one NPC who’ll die and one NPC who’ll live.
On a 7–9, name one NPC who’ll die OR one NPC who’ll live.
On a miss, you foresee your own death.

Tough as Nails: all damage rolls made at +0

Veteran of War: when you’ve examined the environment and you’re acting on the MC’s answers, take +2 instead of +1.

Violent Attraction: in battle, when another character suffers damage, roll+valor.
On a 10+, you protect them from all of the damage and suffer none yourself.
On a 7–9, choose 1:
• you protect them from most of the damage but you both still suffer at least +1damage,
• you protect them from damage by taking it yourself,
• you protect them from damage but your armor is destroyed somehow.
On a miss, the MC will cause you both to suffer the damage or declare something equally bad.

Warband: you have 5 followers who wish to fight with you and on your behalf (2-damage gang small 1-armor). Then choose 2:
• your warband will not betray you. +loyal.
• your warband is well-armed. +1damage.
• your warband is well-armored. +1armor.
• your warband is well-educated. +insight.
• your warband will fight to the death. +brave.
And choose 1:
• your warband is filthy and unkempt. Vulnerable: disease.
• your warband is indebted to somebody important. Vulnerable: obligation.
• your warband is unruly and undisciplined. Vulnerable: savage.
• your warband depends entirely upon you for their needs. Vulnerable: poor.
Followers who die will not be gradually replaced, but new followers can be acquired by visiting towns and impressing the locals. If mistreated they might leave, but in time a warrior will be able to recruit replacements. Consult your MC for details.
You also get the Leadership move.

You get:

• 1 custom weapon
• 1 serious weapon
• 1 backup weapon
• custom armor
• oddments worth 2-barter

Custom weapon (choose 1):
• bastard sword (4-damage melee messy)
• battleaxe (3-damage melee area messy)
• double-bladed staff (3-damage melee)
• glaive (4-damage reach slow)
• lance (3-damage reach slow)
• longbow (3-damage ranged)
• spear (3-damage reach)
Options (choose 2):
• ancient (+rare)
• big (+area)
• magical (+2damage)*
• masterwork (+valuable)
• ornate (+fancy)
• spiked (+1damage)
*counts as 2 options

Serious weapon (choose 1):
• flail (3-damage reach area)
• scimitar (2-damage melee fancy messy)
• short sword (2-damage melee)
• spiked chain (2-damage reach)
• throwing knives (2-damage thrown infinite)

Backup weapons (choose 1):
• darts (1-damage thrown infinite)
• dagger (1-damage ap melee/thrown)
• hand crossbow (1-damage ap ranged)
• pick (1-damage ap melee)
• whip (1-damage reach grapple)

Custom armor (2-armor and choose 2):
• ancient (+rare)
• magical (+1armor)
• masterwork (+valuable)
• military (+military)
• ornate (+fancy)
• spiked (+1damage)

Everyone introduces their characters by name, look and outlook.
Take your turn.
List the other characters’ names.
Go around again for Hx. On your turn, choose 1 or both:
• One of them has fought shoulder to shoulder with you. Tell that player Hx+2.
• One of them once left you bleeding and did nothing for you. Tell that player Hx-2.
Tell everyone else Hx=0.
On the others’ turns:
• Choose which character you think is smartest. Whatever number that player tells you, add 1 to it and write it next to the character’s name.
• Everyone else, whatever number they tell you, write it next to their character’s name.
At the end, find the character with the highest Hx on your sheet. Ask that player which of your stats is most interesting, and highlight it. The MC will have you highlight a second stat too.

If you have sex with another character, you take +1 forward. They take +1Hx.
Whenever another character does something for you without expectation of payment (ex: healing, crafting, gifts, etc.), you take +1Hx with them.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

alternate armor

I have been considering the idea of using an alternate system for armor in D&D-like games. Instead of increasing the character's Armor Class, the armor would reduce the die type of an incoming attack. Depending on the dice chain that a GM uses this could be marginally deadly or make damage virtually nonexistant. This means combat would also be bloodier as everybody would be getting hit more often, but warriors and clerics would take less damage respectively since they are typically more armored than rogues and wizards.

Leather -1d
Chain -2d
Plate -3d
Shield -1

The way those are read is Leather reduces incoming damage by one die type, Chain armor reduces damage by two die types, and Plate armor reduces damage by three die types. A Shield would reduce damage only by -1 point. Reducing a d4 would simply add a -2 to the total damage inflicted and damage could never be reduced lower than 1 point, so a successful strike will always deal at least 1 damage.

This is something I've toyed with because I've always wanted to create a system where every PC starts with the same amount of Hit Points (20) and very little variation exists between classes. Monsters would also have a similar amount of Hit Points, but could get increases due to size or supernatural traits.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

1d20 vs 2d6

My group has been playing Apocalypse World for the last few weeks and the players' reactions to the mechanics has revealed a stark discrimination towards the dice. When we were playing Dungeon Crawl Classics I would hear complaints that having a 50% chance of success was "too random" and sometimes players wouldn't even take action if they knew they needed to roll a 14 or higher, saying the chance of success was too slim (35%). Yet here we are playing Apocalypse World where a 7 or better is a marginal success (41% chance) with negative repercussions, and a 10 or better is a success (17% chance) that still comes with a negative cost (regardless of the action rolled), and there have been no complaints about the slim chances, "randomness" of the dice results, or even the uniform unfairness of the rolls.

I roll my eyes every time they excitedly pick up the dice.

As for Apocalypse World itself, there are a few minor things I don't like about the rules but there are many things I love about it. The concept and use of the History stat, character progression, simplified combat resolution, and even the consistent 7+/10+ success results needed for every dice roll, are all pretty sweet.

I just received my print copy of Carcosa this week, and it is a fucking gorgeous book!

Now that I'm able to flip through it and leisurely take it in, I think it's negative and "controversial" reputation is undeserved. It's a pretty sick and twisted supplement, it also has a few minor things I don't like, but overall I love the artwork, the descriptions of monsters, the weird psionics system, and the randomized damage system. It's all very weird and strange but exotically beautiful.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

wizards of the third age

Idelfyn was a wizard, an architect, and a student of the dark lord Saprodei. He is perhaps best known for having built a series of towers across the world which were all destroyed simultaneously at the time of his death.

Idelfyn's parents were members of the Cult of the Dweller, though the exact time and place of his birth is not known. Either he was sold as a slave to Saprodei or left the cult of his own free will, but for a hundred years Idelfyn trained and served the dark lord Saprodei. He is said to have had a hand in the dark lord's destruction, though his actual role is unknown.

He constructed a series of seven towers which were almost certainly used as safe places to teleport, he was often seen entering one tower on the same day he would exit from another. He is credited with helping to stabilize the nation of Zenev after the dark lord's destruction. It is well known that he employed otherworldly servants made of living rock and constructed metal golems, both of which could prevent unwanted intruders from entering any of his towers.

After two centuries, all of Idelfyn's towers were simultaneously destroyed by a magical rift that gouged each tower out from the landscape. It is assumed a teleportation accident of some kind destroyed the towers and that Idelfyn died in the incident. His sudden absence from the politics of Zenev left a power vacuum and it is considered the primary reason for Zenev's decline into barbarism.

Saturday, November 10, 2012


Characters have four ability scores, with 7 points to distribute amongst them
Power +0 : strength, stamina
Quick +0 : reflexes, agility, speed
Moxie +0 : willpower, personality, grit
Valor +0 : bravery, fortitude, luck

Originally I was thinking that these abilities would simply play off the standard ideas of having an attack roll, an armor class, and hit points.
Power would add to a base Attack of +0
Valor would add to a starting pool of 10 Hit Points
Armor Class would be on an ascending scale, starting at 10 and going up with Quick

I tried to break the classic four classes down into two traits and if every player would be allowed to select two traits, they could mix and match class characteristics. I had a hard time coming up with something simplistic, so I just created a list of categories for modifications to Attack and HP.

CHAMPION = add Valor to Attack
PUGILIST = add Power to HP
HOOLIGAN = add Quick to HP
RAKE = add Quick to Attack
APOSTLE = add Moxie to Attack
HEALER = healing ability (roll using Moxie)
MAGUS = add Moxie to HP
ENCHANTER = magic (magic uses HP to cast)

As I examined the math of these traits I realized that maxing out Quick and picking the Hooligan and Rake traits would make an uber-character. There was no reason to create any other combination unless you wanted to heal or cast magic. I started to revise how these secondary abilities would work.

Instead of having a base starting score for Armor Class and Hit Points, I devised a calculation that would force players to truly examine where they would be putting their points. I wanted to force a "pure" Wizard concept character to put points into other abilities, instead of just maxing out Moxie, and I wanted a "pure" Fighter concept character to be forced to examine Moxie's role in their secondary stats.

base Attack score would be a total of Power and Valor together
Armor Class would be the total of Quick and Moxie added together and doubled
Hit Points would be the total of Valor and Moxie added together and doubled

With these numbers I would have to change how points were distributed, and I couldn't allow for an ability score of +0 otherwise somebody might accidentally start with a 0 HP character. All characters would start with +1 in each ability score and then get 7 points to distribute on top of that.

The real kicker to all of this is that I wanted my math to work out with rolls being made using 2d10 added together instead of the traditional 1d20. Partially this was because I wanted a simplification of the target numbers for rolls, and partially it was because I wanted the target number to be rolled to never exceed 20.
Target Numbers would have to: 10, easy; 15, difficult; 20, impossible

The last thing I came up with were the spells for Wizards, which I always intended would cost Hit Points to cast and some spells would require Moxie rolls to succeed.
Destroy Chaos: 1 HP, roll Moxie vs TN 10, destroys any Chaos creature with less HP than the Wizard
Disarm Trap: 1 HP, no roll
Light: 1 HP, no roll, +1 HP permanent
Magic Missile: 1 HP, no roll, hits one target, 3 damage
Fireball: 2 HP, no roll, hits one target, 1d10 damage
Necrosis: 3 HP, roll Moxie vs target's AC, reduces Attack and Quick to +0 (re-calculate AC = cut in half)
Teleport: 4 HP, roll Moxie vs TN 10, +1 HP no roll
Death Bolt: 5 HP, roll Moxie vs target's AC, kills target

I wanted to simplify the Cleric's ability to heal as well. I didn't want any roll to be involved but I wanted a cumulative cost for the use of a multi-purpose power. This is what I settled on...
Healing: heal 4 HP, cure poison, or prevent death (if body not destroyed)
Cleric must touch target of the healing, each use lowers all of the Healer's ability scores by -1 (including Armor Class and Attack), all lost points recovered after rest

Here are examples of characters that I wrote up in the way I would want to play each class...
Power +1 , "zero level"
Quick +1 , Attack +2
Moxie +1 , AC 4
Valor +1 , HP 4

Power +2 , planning on being a WARRIOR
Quick +2 , Attack +7
Moxie +2 , AC 14
Valor +5 , HP 14

Power +1 , planning on being a ROGUE
Quick +6 , Attack +2
Moxie +3 , AC 14
Valor +1 , HP 8

Power +2 , planning on being a CLERIC
Quick +2 , Attack +5
Moxie +4 , AC 10
Valor +3 , HP 14

Power +1 , planning on being a WIZARD
Quick +2 , Attack +2
Moxie +7 , AC 6
Valor +1 , HP 16

Looking at how the numbers break down, the only thing left would be to design the classes (instead of picking two traits which could be min-maxed)
WARRIOR = add Power to HP, add Valor to HP
ROGUE = add Quick to HP, add Moxie to AC
CLERIC = add Valor to Attack, healing (uses Moxie and Valor)
WIZARD = add Quick to HP, magic (uses Moxie and HP)

With these additions the characters change into
Power +2 , WARRIOR
Quick +2 , Attack +7
Moxie +2 , AC 14
Valor +5 , HP 21

Power +1 , ROGUE
Quick +6 , Attack +2
Moxie +3 , AC 17
Valor +1 , HP 14

Power +2 , CLERIC
Quick +2 , Attack +8
Moxie +4 , AC 10
Valor +3 , HP 14

Power +1 , WIZARD
Quick +2 , Attack +2
Moxie +7 , AC 6
Valor +1 , HP 18

The really glaring things to me are with the Warrior, he does not have much of an advantage outside of the boost to Hit Points and I intended Power to be an important ability but the math forces Valor to become prominent. Others might notice that Wizards have lots of Hit Points, but that's because their spells require HP to use.

A quick breakdown of the mathematics
Attack = Power + Valor
AC = Quick x2 + Valor x2
HP = Moxie x2 + Valor x2

These are just ideas at the moment, but this is where my ideas have been trailing off to.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Keeping Time

"The 1 minute melee round assumes much activity - rushes, retreats, feints, parries, checks, and so on. Once during this period each combatant has the opportunity to get a real blow in. Usually this is indicated by initiative, but sometimes other circumstances will prevail." - Player's Handbook, page 105

In the 1st edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons rules, a round lasted for 1 minute. The explanation above encapsulates many of the rule-making decisions within that show how abstractly the concepts were being used. In actual play, I've never known a gamemaster to use this literal explanation for what is occurring in the round. The 1 minute round was meant to be broken down into 10 six-second segments. Spell-casting during combat was meant to endanger wizards as much as it was to spoil their magic. Consider the following statement:

"Spell-casters will always insist that they are able to use their powers during combat melee. The DM must adjudicate the success of such use. Consider this: The somatic (movement) portions of a spell must be begun and completed without interruption in a clean, smooth motion. The spell as a whole must be continuous and uninterrupted from beginning to end. Once interrupted, for any reason whatsoever, the spell is spoiled and lost (as if used). Spells cannot be cast while violently moving - such as running, dodging a blow, or even walking normally. They are interrupted by a successful hit - be it blow, missile, or appropriate spell (not saved against or saveable against)." - Dungeon Master's Guide, page 65

Such a rule today would be considered harsh and inviolate of the inherent "fun" of playing a wizard. I suspect this rule being contested by players is what led to the Concentration skill in later editions.

Speed factors look to be an important part of 1st edition, where strange advantages present themselves:

"When weapon speed factor is the determinant of which opponent strikes first in a melee round, there is a chance that one opponent will be entitled to multiple attacks. Compare the score of the lower-factored weapon with that of the higher. If the difference is at least twice the factor of the lower, or 5 or more factors in any case, the opponent with the lower factored weapon is entitled to 2 attacks before the opponent with the higher weapon factor is entitled to any attack whatsoever. If the difference is 10 or greater, the opponent with the lower-factored weapon is entitled to 2 attacks before the opponent is allowed to attack, and 1 further attack at the same time the opponent with the higher-speed-factored weapon finally is allowed to attack." - Dungeon Master's Guide, page 66

This implies that a thief using a dagger (speed factor 2) will always get to attack twice against a fighter with any kind of sword (speed factor 5 or more). Is it any surprise that most groups of players never paid attention to speed factors? I remember using speed factors with only one GM (as a negative modifier to initiative), but then he also didn't use the official explanation of 1 round equaling 1 minute of time.

Time keeping isn't essential for determining combat. You don't really need to know how long it takes to wield a battleaxe against a dagger-wielding thief or a pseudopod-swinging otyugh. Time keeping becomes a huge factor once you add magic though, many spells require a full round to cast or are pared down to segments. Just flipping open to a random page in the Player's Handbook one third of the spells require 1 round, another third of the spells take 5 or 6 segments, and the final third require a full turn to cast. And there's the rub!
1 segment = 6 seconds
10 segments = 1 round = 1 minute
10 rounds = 10 minutes = 1 turn

Just as many of the Old School Renaissance rules systems use a 10 second combat round as the ones that use the classic 1 minute round, and almost all of the OSR games keep the use of 10 minute turns. Though most simply instruct the players to track time outside of combat with regular minutes and hours.

Third edition D&D did away with this complexity entirely! A round represented 6 seconds of time, and the 10 minute turn was abolished. Initiative was now much more abstract and rolled with a d20 instead of rigidly timed with the round segments by rolling a d10. Speed factors for weapons disappeared. Casting times for spells were no longer broken up into a strange calculation of time and were simply described as "1 action" or in the cases of complex and powerful magics an actual time of "1 minute" "30 minutes" or "1 hour" was listed.

I appreciate the simplicity.