Monday, December 23, 2013

Of horse and province

Coming up with my own rules for a hexcrawl campaign and trying to simplify movement across hexes.

Detailed map: 1 hex is roughly 10 kilometers, or 6 miles - roughly!

Walk: 1 hex per hour
Canter: 2 hexes per hour
Gallop: 5 hexes per hour

Walk: 1 hex per 2 hours
Run: 1 hex per hour

A human who walks, or a horse that canters, must make a check at the end of every day or else suffers from exhaustion.
A human who runs, or a horse that gallops, must make a check at the end of every hour or else suffers from exhaustion.

Travel time multiplier for
Roads x1
Desert x2
Forest x2
Hills x1.5
Plains x1.5
Jungle x4
Mountain x3 (x2 with proper climbing gear, for everyone)
Swamp x3
Tundra x2.5

Examples: A human walking on a map through
Roads = 1 hex per 2 hours
Hills, Plains = 1 hex per 3 hours
Desert, Forest, Mountain (equipped) = 1 hex per 4 hours
Tundra = 1 hex per 5 hours
Mountain (unequipped), Swamp = 1 hex per 6 hours
Jungle = 1 hex per 8 hours

Speed isn't affected by encumbrance, but exhaustion checks suffer a penalty for being encumbered.
I'm thinking encumbrance will be a static amount modified by strength, carrying more than that is "being encumbered" and carrying twice the limit its impossible to move.
Very simple, very easy. I like simple and easy.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

the Kosranon campaign setting links page

Something terrible happened.
We don't really know what it was, we called it the Turning. When I was a child we grew up hearing the stories, the nostalgia for a place that no longer exists lingers on as each generation repeats the legends. The seas boiled, people lost their breath under the light of the sun, and the earth shook nations to dust. The world is not meant to be like this. There were wonders once, magnificent and terrible. We built towers with only our desire, every animal beckoned and pleaded to serve us, the land ached to be sculpted, and cities flew across the sky. After the Turning the cities in the sky remained, for they were once piloted like ships on the sea. Not by men, but men that were certainly like us. The men that were not like us died, or left, and they left behind their wonders and magics, though we barely understand them now. In the old days the cities on both the land and in the sky flourished together, the roads were always crowded, and the old gods still lived. I am the last of those that were taught the old ways, and I know now, after decades of lost hope, that the world will never return to the way it was.

low magic, dark fantasy

Humans are fractured into survivalist tribes, brutally twisted by magical radiation, hunted by necromancer dwarves, and rebuilding from the scavenged ruins of an ancient world.

note: I tried to make a world that was wholly unlike any published fantasy setting, and whenever I find myself following a recognizable trope I instantly change it. The old Talislanta game had a tagline that said "No elves!" and I adopted that as a motto for designing this world, along with "No dragons!"


Humanity is the dominant species, and culturally it comes in many flavors.
  • the Athomians - scattered barbaric clans of cultish humans, they value artistic merit and strength. Athomians have an unhealthy fixation with secret knowledge, driven by their nameless goddess, they will cut ties with outsiders if it suits their cravings for power and strength.
  • the Eldragoths - one of the human cultures, a collection of brutal nomadic hunters. They resolve their own inter-clan conflicts with fistfights to the death, and their ruthless violence can be terrifying to behold, but their silent impassive natures can be even more unsettling.
  • the Junian - the most populous, fortunate and advanced of the human cultures, the Junian continue to worship their oldest god, they congregate in cities and excel as scholars and soldiers. Since the last Turning they have spread out along the coasts, even though they have also divided into contentious nations bickering over local resources.
  • the Nymenians - the first humans to set up farming communities after the last Turning, the Nymenians have become dependable merchants and seek to rebuild the world into a new image but have suffered at the hands of Beastmen raids, as well as conflicts with Eldragoth and Athomain neighbors. Nymenians worship a goddess named Etzial, they say she led them to safety through the wilderness after the last Turning but then she disappeared after they settled into farmsteads.
  • the Chiryō - the oldest and most advanced human culture, sailors and scientists who live most of their lives in the oceans and value honesty and compassion over gold or property. They fared the best out of the last Turning, though they didn't capitalize upon the power vacuums on the continents and instead turned their interests towards perfecting alchemy and medicine.
  • Beastmen have been encountered everywhere in the world (jackel-headed, wolf-headed, bear-headed, tiger-headed, etc.). They work in packs, have no discernible language or culture, and are vicious killers that use primitive weaponry. They congregate around the ruins of another civilization, the destroyed and ruinous metal cities of the extinct Wuunrlan people.
  • the Masadhi - a race of grotesque nomadic mystics, revered by most others for their prophetic insights.
  • the Aurymites - an all-female race of tall, brutal and powerful warriors who live by a strict code of honor, those that fall out of favor with their Queen become thieves or sellswords.
  • the Dwarves are natural farmers and have a unique telepathic connection with the Wearg, tall and intelligent wolves that guard the Dwarven homeland; there are also strange Dwarves with no connection to the Wearg, the Svarth, hailing from the deep southern end of Kosranon. The Svarth worship a being they call the Sleeping Lord and practice a brutal kind of magic that draws power from pain, anguish, and spilled blood.
  • the Oukek are a short, reptilian race with an impenetrable and aloof society, however their outcasts are friendly and deferential
  • rune magic, practiced by the Dwarves, semi-permanent, requires time and prep
  • healing, practiced by the Chiryō, requires water
  • prophecy, endured and sometimes shared by the Masadhi
  • blood magic, used by the Svarth, requires pain (usually somebody else's)
Magic items of Kosranon come in one of three varieties
  • made by the Svarth who do not share with others, nor do they sell them, if they see a non-Svarth person or creature using an item of Svarth construction they become murderous
  • powerful items were left behind by the Wuunrlan, looting their ruined cities is a dangerous prospect since many of them are populated with Beastmen or worse
  • there are powerful crystals, Kruo stones, in deep caverns that can be infused with life energy.
Places of Note
  • Marakāven, port city of the north, a vast metropolis spanning over an archipelago stretching north from a small mountain range, the Crowkut River pours into the continent from here and is the lifeblood of Marakāven
  • the Crown, a mountain range along the northern edge of the world
  • Idelfyn's Folly, somewhere within the Crown
  • the Grethar Peninsula, where the Svarth live, volcanic and barren, riddled with labyrinthine caves

  • the Wuunrlan Expanse, miles of plains and hills where most of the ruined Wuunrlan cities lie abandoned and fallow

NPCs, setting details, and other things that don't fit elsewhere
  • the Turning is an apocalyptic event that occurred several hundred years ago, the world was wracked by earthquakes and tidal waves and meteor storms. It is debated that either one Turning happened only a hundred years before the last one or the two Turnings were actually one long event. Kosranon once had a moon, but in the last Turning it was also destroyed, now it appears in the sky as a glittering stream of rocks that gets a little longer and thinner every few years.
  • Idelfyn was a prestigious and widely-traveled wizard who disappeared mysteriously fifty years ago. He was convinced the Turning was an artificial phenomenon that was likely to happen again.

Monday, December 16, 2013

my first Abulafia page

I wrote this page on Abulafia for the Die Drop Tavern Generator of Mike Evan's Hubris setting using the DCC RPG.
That's a mouthful!

Click the first link for an awesomely weird tavern set in this dark fantasy, horror setting. I will probably tinker with it a bit to make the results a little more random, and also to include clear references to the dice rolls. But for now it's complete!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

What's your Anti-D&D?

I've been going through Zak Smith's old posts about rules and it's slow going because blogspot is not exactly designed to be easy to navigate older entries, but it's worth it to delve into his blog-dungeon because it tells me a lot more about how Zak thinks and why he sometimes says some of the stuff he says. In other words, context!

He's got a post where he defines D&D as a list of some core things that are basically expected when you ask somebody with some tabletop gaming experience to play D&D with you. It's an insightful post about the D&D system that delves into what I like to think of as the philosophy of D&D, but will usually just refer to as "rules wankery" at the table.

Anyway, go there, read that, then come back and read my diametrically opposed list of what makes a game not D&D:

1. Characters are of one race (human?) and there are no classes.
2. How do you define who is specialized with fighting or sneaky shit? Skills. Everybody has the same pool of skills. Nothing special or restricted.
3. No levels, and no experience points. Skills and abilities go up through random chance.
4. Only 4 ability scores and you match them with the suits from a deck of cards. No numbers.
5. There are no spell lists, because there's no magic.
6. The game is set in an approximation of New Zealand in the future, they are now a global superpower that took over the world. There are lots of floating cities surrounding the island as well. The players are high-ranking members of the new world order nobility.
7. What's armor class? You won't be hitting anything because you can't fight. Everybody in the world has been implanted with brainchips by the NSA, who now work for New Zealand, and everybody is forced to be cheerful. Being nonchalant is as rude as it gets. The only way to really hurt someone is to steal from them, thievery hasn't been chipped, only violence.
8. Physical damage is recorded as a word. You're either Alive, Sick, Injured, or have Hurt Feelings. You can be Dead too, but then you'd have to make a new character.
9. There is no attacking, but if you want to steal from somebody you draw a card from a standard deck of 54 cards (with 2 Jokers). There is a simple matrix for determining if you succeed at any particular action, and a slightly more complex matrix for opposed actions.
10. There are no levels and no hit points. Increasing skills simply widens your effect on the action matrix.

This almost sounds like a Cyberpunkish hack for In A Wicked Age.
And no I wouldn't enjoy that. I once described In A Wicked Age as a game set in the world of Conan where players are controlling the characters that Conan kills.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Saving Throw = Defy Danger

OSR = trusting the GM to improvise gameplay resolution on the fly
PbtA games = trusting the players to introduce plot on the fly

This is the only difference I really see between these two kinds of games.

In Dungeon Crawl Classics (an Old School Renaissance game) each character starts with a random profession. The rules for skills barely fills up two pages, but the idea of this received profession is that your character can make impromptu skill checks related to the profession. There is no real rule for this and arbitration is left up to the GM's fancy. The idea behind this is that if one of Greg's characters was a wainwright, then he could conceivably know everything there is about carts and wagons and the construction thereof, and if confronted with a trap or contraption in a dungeon that uses a cart then he could potentially roll his Intelligence with a suitable bonus to figure out how it works. Or something similar, dependent upon profession and situations arising that might relate. For example, in the last game of DCC I ran one of the characters was a miller, and the player wanted to use the character's knowledge of how a grindwheel works in a millhouse in order to bypass some scenario.
Improvising gameplay resolution.

In Dungeon World (a Powered by the Apocalypse game) each character has access to a "move" that acts as an all-purpose skill check for your character that plays off of Intelligence called Spout Lore. Make the roll and your character knows something interesting and useful, make a partial success on the role and they only know something interesting, it's up to them to make it useful. So let's say Greg is playing a druid and uses Spout Lore to know what kinds of animals live in the region, it doesn't matter how well they did just that they didn't miss the roll, and the GM can't think of anything, and asks Greg "What are you hoping to find in these woods?" and the player says "Something that seems out of place, like venomous snakes." The GM says "Okay, sure, there are poisonous snakes infesting these woods, nobody knows where they came from." and just like that an interesting plot point has been created. Not very useful, but maybe the GM tells Greg the best way of catching one of the snakes without getting bit. What started as a player looking in the wrong direction for a clue to their current quest ends up being the seed for a potentially all-new quest, then it's up to the players whether they investigate these snakes.
Introducing plot.

These are, of course, really generic examples, and they have to be in order to express how these systems work. But there's another rule dynamic where this difference-which-is-actually-a-similarity can be highlighted, OSR gamers call it the saving throw. There are some OSR modules have so many saving throws that sometimes I think that those are the only stats worth leveling up. Dungeon World, and Apocalypse World, have their own rule for the saving throw called Defy Danger, and Acting Under Fire.

A saving throw is best described as a roll one makes for their character in order to avoid some kind of effect or hazard. Compare the saving throw with Defy Danger which is literally described as "When you act despite an imminent threat or suffer a calamity, say how you deal with it and roll." Compare this also with Acting Under Fire which is described as "Call for this move whenever someone does something requiring unusual discipline, resolve, endurance or care." In the environment of a game, one of these rules is just a mechanic that allows the GM to call for a roll to avoid some type of hazard and the other is the exact same thing!

In an OSR game a saving throw is pretty straightforward, the player rolls the dice and if they hit their save they either avoid or lessen the effect of whatever danger they're exposed to. Sometimes the number they need to roll is known, sometimes it's secret; they almost always need to roll high. Resolution of Acting Under Fire or Defy Danger works similarly, but here's that partial success area of the roll, the 7 to 9 range, if the roll comes up in that range the GM will give the player a choice, usually both involve succeeding with some kind of cost attached, and then the player decides what cost their character pays. Depending on the situation, this can change the story.
And that's the only difference.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

kickstarter + indiegogo update 3

You can see all of the projects I've contributed to on Kickstarter, but these are the projects that are undelivered and past due. I'm not going to do another kickstarter-related update until I see at least two of the prime suspects get fulfilled.


These projects are all over one year late.

Double Fine Adventure:
Estimated Delivery: October 2012
The first hugely successful kickstarter video game project, and the first example of feature creep in a project. The video game has gotten so big that now the game has been split into two parts and the first part still isn't even out yet.

Estimated Delivery: August 2012
Infamous amongst the OSR gaming crowd for the project creator's breakdown during development. Development and production has moved into the publisher's hands, with still no clear sign that it will be finished anytime soon.

The Banner Saga:
Estimated Delivery: November 2012
The best example of a video game project suffering from feature creep. Not to mention the weird multiplayer debacle that delayed everything! It's another project that is over a year late.

Drifter: A Space Trading Game:
Estimated Delivery: November 2012
Another video game project, and another project that is over a year late. Version 0.4.0 is out, but I'm going to call this project late because he hasn't gotten to version 1.0.0, and it's a project that is clearly not finished since the last update was all about what will be in Version 0.5.0

Champions of ZED:
Estimated Delivery: August 2012
An OSR rpg, and another in a long line of OSR rpgs that got kickstarted and then indefinitely delayed. Backers received the pdf copy of the game, but the print version is still ... in limbo. I don't even know. There seems to be a trend that any delayed rpg has either family "issues" or repeated bouts of illness as an excuse for the delays, but this game is over a year late.

Axes and Anvils:
Estimated Delivery: November 2012
This failed project (I don't believe it will ever be finished and delivered upon) has gotten a lot of attention and notoriety for one big reason. Namely, the project creator was an established "name" in the gaming industry before he launched several kickstarters that all spiraled out of control and died. I count myself fortunate that I only got ripped off for $20, some poor individuals gave him hundreds of dollars!

+5 Food of Eating Cookbook:
Estimated Delivery: September 2012
A gamer-themed cookbook, that I now regret backing at the print level. The creator has at least offered refunds to those who don't want to wait for a print copy.

Horror on the Orient Express:
Estimated Delivery: August 2013
Another victim of feature creep. They say it will be going to print "very soon."

Angels, Daemons, and Beings Between: A Patron Sourcebook for DCC RPG:
Estimated Delivery: December 2012
"The books have been printed but we're still waiting for delivery." I wrote that two months ago and still have nothing! Supposedly everything has been shipped and it will be here by Christmas.


These projects are late, but haven't reached that 'one year' mark. Yet.

This is Not a Conspiracy Theory:
Estimated Delivery: December 2013
A multi-part documentary explaining modern politics from the same guy who did Everything is a Remix. One of the first projects I backed and it's only hitting it's delivery date now. Backers have been able to see a little bit of the work he's done to finish it up, but the first (of six) episodes still hasn't been released and I went in for the full DVD, which means it's late.

Wasteland 2:
Estimated Delivery: October 2013
Another video game project that suffered a little from feature creep. It looked like they had planned production very well and it was going to be on time, but distractions aside, video game development is unpredictable but predictably always suffers delays. They're in Beta right now and it sounds like they're almost done.

Estimated Delivery: June 2013
I keep forgetting that I backed this project. Another video game. The lateness was expected given their ambitions, but they're bad at updating backers with new developments.

Tavern Cards:
Estimated Delivery: April 2013
In all fairness, I never imagined this project would come in on time.

Alas Vegas:
Estimated Delivery: June 2013
Late but almost done, maybe, and I'm beginning to wonder why I've funded so many RPGs.

Achtung! Cthulhu:
Estimated Delivery: August 2013
Should be going to print soon. The digital rewards have all been released.

TARDIS Eruditorum:
Estimated Delivery: November 2013
Delayed to January.

The Agents:
Estimated Delivery: November 2013
They're a little late. According to them, all of the backers should receive their copies before Christmas.