Sunday, May 24, 2015

deeper into Dwimmermount

Our gaming group hasn't been able to meet up regularly for some time now. We're averaging about one session per month due to multiple schedule conflicts. Since I have a lot of time to think about the game and no time to really play it, here are some more things I changed about stuff from Dwimmermount:

Red Elves
Considering how "regular" elves are described (under the Adventuring in Dwimmermount chapter), I have made the Red Elves even more alien and strange. I took inspiration from Pearce Shea's post and made sure "Something about (Red) Elven biology is transmittable." The Red Elves are the Ancients' greatest experiment made flesh. A magical disease that has found god, or its own idea of god. The disease must be shared, but only with those who are considered worthy. The Thulians proved their worth when they managed to overthrow the Red Elven empire, but the Red Elves won't make any mistakes when they attempt to reclaim their old kingdom. They are coming back to Telluria to turn the Thulians into Red Elves just like themselves, to share their disease.
the Gift
If a Red Elf spits or bleeds into another person's open wound (they lick their weapons when forced to fight somebody they consider worthy of the Gift) they must save vs Constitution (DC 20) or begin turning into a Red Elf. On a failed save, the character now has a Gift score. Roll 1d4 and add this to the character's Gift score, successive failures will add to the Gift score. The Gift is considered a magical disease for purposes of reversing or preventing progression, however once the Gift Score reaches 15+ the disease has done it's job and can no longer be reversed short of a Wish spell.
the Score
1-5 = your skin turns a pale red hue, ears begin to grow pointed, body begins to grow lithe (the changes are quick to appear but are subtle, after 1 Long Rest this change takes full hold and is completely apparent and permanent)
6-9 = you acquire Darkvision (if you didn't already have it) and moonlight will refresh you during a Short Rest removing the need to eat (dehydration is still an issue)
10-14 = all magical forms of reincarnation, regeneration, and resurrection no longer work upon you however you no longer age, are immune to nonmagical disease, and barring injury are effectively immortal
15 = after 1 Long Rest you will fully transform into a Red Elf gaining all of the racial qualities of the new race and losing any racial qualities of your old race (this may include adjusting ability scores appropriately), you are also now considered a 1st-level Sorceror as well in addition to any class you already were (if you were already a Sorceror in some capacity then there is no change, otherwise it acts as an "extra" level)

goblinoids as animals
I've mentioned before that I'm using the old school pig-faced orcs, at least how they were depicted in 1st edition rulebooks. I also didn't like the wererat descriptions, because I didn't think it made much sense that a group of wererats had been locked away into Dwimmermount for 200 years, and so I changed them into ratkin. I changed hobgoblins into rhino-faced men. The other races in Dwimmermount are largely unchanged:
Gnolls will more closely resemble a variety of dogs, and not hyenas
Minotaurs are unchanged
Ranine are unchanged (they look like frogmen)
Thelidu are unchanged (they resemble mind flayers)
Throghrin are peppered throughout the adventure without any good descriptions, I've decided to make them the most alien and scariest looking monsters by making them half-spider, similar to driders though about the same size as halflings
Troglodytes are going to resemble bears that can walk upright
Everything in Dwimmermount suggests that the variance in races was created by experimentation by the Ancients and rather than hew to the familiar fantasy tropes of chaotic races I decided to just make the races more distinctly recognizable as "animal+human" hybrids. Elves and Red Elves represent the Ancients perfection of this technique by applying the hybrid to self-replicating (and immortal) diseases.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Inspiration alternative [5e]

I've noticed that my players tend to forget about Inspiration. As a player I often only used it as a last resort sort of rolling mechanic. As a GM I forget to dispense so I tend to just say "Everybody gets Inspiration" which kind of screws anybody who hasn't spent theirs, since you either have it or you don't. I've seen some other people tweak Inspiration in different ways and I've decided to take some... uh, inspiration from this and make my own tweaks.
Inspiration is carried by the player and can be transferred from character to character. If one character falls, another may be inspired to rise up. Characters start with no Inspiration whatsoever. Inspiration can only be earned by playing.

Gaining Inspiration
Whenever you play out one of your character's personality traits, follow your character's ideal, or give in to one of your characters drawbacks or bonds, you gain +1 Inspiration. If you do this to your character's detriment, you gain +2 Inspiration. If you do this and it gets your character killed, you gain +3 Inspiration. Your character can never have more Inspiration than their current level. Excess Inspiration is automatically lost.
For example, Bob is playing Robin, a 7th-level Fighter with the Noble background. Robin has the Bond "My loyalty to my sovereign is unwavering." Robin overhears mercenaries who work for Robin's sovereign plotting to desert from their posts before a battle. If Bob intervenes or confronts the mercenaries he could gain 1 Inspiration, if it causes him to lose an ally or suffer greatly he could gain 2 Inspiration, and if Robin gets killed confronting them Bob gains 3 Inspiration. If Bob waits to report the mercenaries to a commanding officer then he gains no Inspiration, he didn't handle them himself.

Using Inspiration
One point of Inspiration can give you advantage or take away disadvantage on a single d20 roll.
Three points of Inspiration can turn one of your unsuccessful d20 rolls into a successful rolls.

Losing Inspiration
When your character dies you roll up a new character at 1st-level and lose all of your Inspiration. Each point of Inspiration you have raises the starting level of your new character by +1. If you were holding onto a maximum amount of Inspiration then your new character would start at the same level as your old character.
For example, Charlie has 5 Inspiration and is playing Tytus, an 8th-level Cleric. When Tytus dies, Charlie rolls up a Rogue, Marigold, and she starts at 6th-level.

Saturday, May 9, 2015


Houston, Texas. The national government and separatists in the country's south may have agreed to a cease-fire and peace talks six weeks ago, but you wouldn't know that here in the stronghold of the rebellion.
Streets in this once-bustling metropolis are mostly empty because so many businesses are closed. Tanks and mobile rocket launchers operated by pro-United States separatists regularly rumble down city streets. And sounds of artillery fire around the airport are so frequent that people ignore it.
"We're used to it," said factory worker Michael Davis, 37.
The continued fighting raises doubts about whether negotiations can settle the bitter dispute over the future of Texas between nationalists who want to preserve a segregated nation and domestic Americans just as determined to return to the United States.
Rebels wearing military fatigues without insignia and carrying rifles can be seen throughout the city, where they have a headquarters building downtown and a command center near the airport. The Texan government estimates there are 1,000 rebels in Houston, though residents say they believe the number is higher.
The city is of great strategic importance to the rebels because of its proximity to Louisiana, with Houston's industrial infrastructure, and a rail network leading to Louisiana's oil pipelines and refineries, the insurgency would be a key factor for moving troops and weapons into Houston for support.
The United Nations estimates more than 300 people have been killed in the larger conflict zone since the cease-fire was announced, raising the death toll since fighting broke out last spring to at least 3,660.
On Monday, a powerful explosion at the Dallas factory used to make ammunition components caused shock waves felt more than a mile away. It was followed by a barrage of rocket fire.
Last week, music teacher John Allen, 26, went to the funeral of fellow music teacher, Andrew Everett Groll, who was killed by a shell on Aug. 24, the first day of school.
Allen stood in the park near his home, listening to the whoosh and bang of artillery fire nearby and joked that they could be soundtracks for a video game.
A visit to the industrial city, which had a population of 1.4 million before the fighting, shows how much it is struggling to return to normalcy even as it remains caught in a war. Schools have restarted, some businesses have reopened, factory workers line up for work to the sound of nearby shelling.
Still, the museum of nature and science downtown, the Mercedes-Benz dealership by the contested airport and many other businesses around town remain shuttered and in shambles. And while rebuilding has begun in areas retaken by American government forces, such as Austin, three hours away, Dallas is in limbo.
"It's difficult to think about what should happen next," said gas station attendant Annabelle Patterson, 27, near evidence of the war: the burned shell of a cell phone booth still being used by other vendors outside of a Dallas Area Rapid Transit station. "We don't know what happens tomorrow, so we live like today's day is the last one."
Patterson is sticking it out here in the hopes that the rebels ultimately prevail. "It should be an independent state without America," she said, noting that her son, a kindergartner, shelters in the basement of her home near the airport while she works. Her family is the only one still living in the neighborhood, where the utility company gave up on making repairs because of repeated shelling-related outages, she said.
"We want to be part of Texas because we are Texans" said her relative and co-worker, Iris Kobe, 42.
While many residents like Patterson side with the rebels and blame America's government for shelling that has damaged homes and businesses all over the city, Paul Koster, 21, says a lot of his friends and the city's business class see the conflict as fomented by Texas, and many are thinking about leaving.
Music teacher Allen has similar thoughts. He supplemented his income by working as a sound engineer at concerts, but the local venue has been closed since the fighting began in May. Over the weekend, Allen met with a friend, singer Vic Spero, to talk about a possible project that could take him out of town.
Allen, who says he's a pacifist, blames both the Texas President Rick Perry and American President Barack Obama for resorting to warfare rather than a peaceful resolution.
In a fair referendum, he thinks Texans would vote to stay in America. But he worries the situation will remain as it is and wind up a frozen conflict like areas of nearby Louisiana and Mississippi - other former American states that sought to align with Texas, and now have rebels occupying part of their countries.
If that happens, would he stay?
"No," Allen said. "I would leave."

(a majority of this writing was lifted from an article about Ukraine from USA Today)

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

player responsibilities

"People behave very differently under gold as xp than under monsters as xp." I never played under that style of play, neither have I ever run a game that way. I always played in games where role-playing was the dominant force for xp rewards and during my 2nd edition days that's when I started to see players who would follow a plot that was spoonfed to them from a GM or follow a protocol of behavior that the same GM had established. Bowing to lords, currying favor with locals, haggling with shopkeepers, and asking for opponents to surrender mid-battle. However, some of the worst games I ever played in happened to be because the GM expected their players to role-play their way out of a situation rather than looking for alternative solutions or resorting to violence.

I think it's that expectation of player behavior that makes a bad GM. However, there can be bad players too. Playing badly means following vague descriptors (of class, of alignment, etc.) and never looking for anything outside of the box that has been drawn for them, essentially a bad player is dull and predictable. A good player creates the game as they go and asks the GM to accommodate them, a good player throws creative punches. Rolling with those punches is what makes a good GM.

I once played a cleric-wizard in a game set in Waterdeep, the metropolis of the Forgotten Realms setting, where my character worshipped Gond, god of artifice. I started asking about who owned the land around certain areas and the GM never had easy answers. He finally asked me why I was so interested in who owned what and I told him of my plans to introduce a mass transit system to Waterdeep, utilizing both magic and machinery. I will never forget how he guffawed and said "Yeah, that'll never happen."

The younger version of myself soldiered on, but today if I heard a GM be that dismissive I would confront them with their buffoonery. I had just handed him a whole campaign worth of adventures on a silver platter - corrupt government officials, mobilizing labor, maintaining facilities, funding the construction, monetizing the finished project, attempts at espionage, disputes over property values - and he was more concerned with maintaining his status quo of experience points per session. The same horrible GM who would create impossible to solve problems to force us into role-playing our way out of them didn't want to bite into a veritable feast of role-playing potential that I was just handing over to him.

On the other hand, I've described the ingenious problems that could have arisen from this venture to many other players over the years and they all say the same thing: "Why don't you run that campaign?" and therein lies the problem. Most players don't even create their own goals, I can't expect them to follow one of mine.

I remember another game with another GM that had just as final a moment when it came to shutting down a player's goals. In a game where virtually any character was allowed, I asked to play an ogre and was allowed to do so. The ogres and dwarves of this world were locked in a centuries-long animosity. I don't remember what the two races fought over, but I remember that the GM often used it as a stick to beat my character with. Everywhere our party went we always ran into dwarves who took extra pains to be dicks to my character, and thus also the party. Since my ogre character traveled and adventured alongside another dwarf - a PC playing the only dwarf in the world who seemed to be polite and friendly - I mentioned that there must be friendlier dwarves and as soon as I found them I could forge an ogre-dwarf alliance that would shame the other dwarves. The GM just said "Good luck with that! The only friendly dwarves you're ever going to meet will be player characters."

I was still pretty young and I stopped playing with that group at that time because I took that oafishness personally.

As a player, I always create a lofty goal for my character. Maybe something that could be attainable, but often it is something that a GM could build adventures off of. I hate playing with GMs who expect you to share their goals, or follow their breadcrumbs.

As a GM I always try to foster a player creating goals for their character, and though I don't expect it, I am disappointed when a player would rather just level up then interact with the world. That disappointment probably makes me a weaker GM overall. When I run the Dwimmermount game I feel like the campaign skirts a fine line between role-playing and XP-gathering. The characters have goals and there are some inter-party conflicts brewing, but in relation to the dungeon itself it is just there as a thing for them to conquer rather than to interact with.