Tuesday, May 17, 2016

bribery doesn't always work

Some rules allow you to attempt to bribe NPCs and one of the things I've always taken for granted with bribery is that it is not just a matter of how adroitly a character offers a bribe but also whether or not the NPC accepts the bribe. Trying to bribe a paladin to let your criminal character go loose when you're in the wilderness far from a civilized township might be difficult, but is still a lot easier there then bribing that same paladin when you're on a major street in the capital city of his Theological empire. Some people have principles, after all, and try to live by them even when they know they could break their own internal code.

In Andy Kaufman Revealed, Bob Zmuda tells a story of how a script doctor he worked for bribed the staff at a bakery to give him all of their clothes. Every employee, except for one, had stripped down to their underwear, and this script doctor kept offering more and more money for this older woman's clothes but she adamantly refused. He was offering her ten grand, and she kept shaking her head, tears streaming down her face, while her co-workers egged her on "Take the money Helen!" Some people have principle, and even if they want to take your bribe, they simply won't.

how much?
I dislike bribery in Apocalypse World because it's too easy. If you've got 1 Barter you simply offer to it an NPC for something and they do it, or they give you what you want. That's boring. Failure is always more interesting. Principles can take a back seat to greed, and with a system like Apocalypse World the barter involved is so loosely defined that it doesn't seem like it should always work. If the barter were clean water then maybe that would work all the time but if you've established in your game that barter is comprised of pristine dildos then offering one in exchange for everything makes little to no sense.

I've worked in a hotel as a night auditor for eight years now, and there's this thing that drunk people do where they're looking for food and I'm telling them what pizza places deliver to the hotel at 3 in the morning and they'll hand me the menu I've shown them and say "You order it for me." Imagine a drunk man, he's always white, pushing a menu at you and with an annoyed drawl bordering on belligerence commanding, not asking, you to "Order me a pizza." Fuck you drunky! Order it your goddamn self. I did this for a guest once, and it was such a convoluted game of getting information from the guest and the pizza employee, and relaying it to both of them back and forth that I will never do it ever again. Unless that drunky pays me first.

The size of the bribe is also important. Two gold might convince a guard to look the other way, but two copper is likely to make him clobber you upside the head before you have a chance to increase your offer. How much is a copper worth though? Because if it buys his food for the day, maybe its enough. Most people could probably be bought quite easily, these same people probably work jobs they don't really like in order to take money home to pay bills or buy things they want. Nobody ever really wants to be as a garbage collector, but garbage collectors can potentially make a lot of money and it unskilled labor. Garbage collectors in Long Island can make six figure salaries. I bet you're thinking about becoming a garbage collector now. Shit, I'd do it for less than that! But some people, you couldn't pay them a million dollars to pick up other peoples' trash.

the thin green line
There's a fine line between greed and principles. As a GM, you can ask yourself how much a particular NPC could be bought for, and ask yourself honestly: are they willing to accept the bribe offered? If you can't decide, that's what a roll is for. If the roll is purely one of character skill, apply it like a Charisma check. If the roll is a narrative choice, then success could give the PC a new NPC contact or open up a new story. But just throwing money at an NPC shouldn't get them to accept a bribe. Failure is a very real part of bribery that makes the whole exchange interesting.

I'm not a thief, but technically I have stolen from an employer by allowing a customer to steal. I worked at a shitty clothing store more than two decades ago and we kept tip jars next to our registers. Working for minimum wage was pretty bad and the tip jar usually paid for lunch, or sometimes a night out drinking. I had a couple come through my register and they were buying more than $100 worth of clothes and as the man pulled out his wallet, thumbing through his cash, I said "If you put a 20 in my tip jar I won't charge you for these two items" pointing at two things that were essentially half of what they were buying. They looked at one another, shrugged. There was a moment where he paused, like he was weighing his options. It occurred to me in that moment that he could just take the items and threaten to report me to my boss if I objected. Perhaps he was considering his own level of risk in simply taking the clothes without putting money into my tip jar. Then he put a 20 in my tip jar. A bribe. Or did I bribe them?


This is the part that I find most interesting. In Bob Zmuda's book, the woman can't be bribed into taking her clothes off, it doesn't matter how much money she's offered. When the drunk guys try to get me to order their pizza, I refuse citing my own personal liability for handling their credit card. If nobody were willing to be paid to pick up trash we would live in a very messy world. And if that man in the clothing store had simply taken the clothes what can of worms would have been opened? That last scenario could have played out in so many ways because we both essentially wanted something from the other person, free clothes versus 20 bucks. Have you noticed that the last scenario described is really the only one where the bribe worked?

Bribery is very close to begging, and begging doesn't always work, but we have systems for that too.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

I hate Rite Publishing

Every publisher on DriveThruRPG has an option where you can choose to follow them, which essentially just means you get blasted with advertisements from them about new products. I funded a few of dtRPG's charity driven bundles and I think doing that caused me to automatically follow any publisher who released product within the charity bundles, so I get a lot of email from publishers on dtRPG and I would estimate I delete about half of them without looking at them. But Rite Publishing always sends out these emails for inane products like 101 3rd-level spells and Monster Template: Headless Horseman... like, how the fuck is that a monster template? Isn't that just a ghost with no head? Why does somebody need to spend three dollars to read a 4-page pdf that probably is just summarized as "add a ghost template and then take away it's head"?
This publisher seems to be the acme of slapdash throwing shit together to make a quick buck. Some of the descriptions for these products seem as lazily written as the concepts themselves. I have a couple of their books, specifically 101 NPC Grudges and Wyrd of Questhaven, and if the names of those two books don't send a shiver down my collective readers' spines then you are reading the wrong gaming blog. 101 NPC Grudges does not even list potential grudges an NPC can have, and the number of NPC ideas it does give you is only 48, so right away with the title they're lying! The book is so sloppily put together that it's difficult to understand how anybody thought it would be a good idea to publish this trite piece of crap, and there were four people listed in the credits who all could have said "You know, I don't think this is that good of a product, maybe we should work on it a bit more" but instead it's a 17 page pdf, 5 pages of which are used for credits, ads, and the OGL so really its only 12 pages, listing 48 NPCs. The most detailed of whom seem to have very specific backgrounds and justifications for their existence within what is supposedly a generic RPG product (a city guard captain who is also a gargoyle, points for originality but this guy just screams I'M A GM WHO TROLLS MY PLAYERS WITH THINGS THEY DIDN'T EXPECT OR CAN'T ACCOUNT FOR).

This week I opened my email to see an ad from Rite Publishing for their new 10 Barbarian Magic Items pdf. A buck fifty for a list of items that you could probably write yourself since they list the items (without stats) in the product description, and I think I'm going to just show you the product description and write my own stats (spelling errors are not mine).

Adversity's Bulwark armor and shield special ability: Use your rage to overcome detrimental effects, so you can get on with the beat down you are giving.
Okay, a suit of armor that prevents an enemy's special attack or magic. When you successfully hit an opponent you can make another saving throw against any spell or magic affecting you that hasn't ended it's duration.

Felling Storm weapon special ability: If you hit an opponent while raging perform a bonus combat maneuver, because you want to do more than just exchange blows.
A warhammer that when you hit an opponent with it they must save vs spell or be knocked prone, if they're capable of being knocked prone.

Boots of the Wild Rust: Be the first to reach your opponents, charge through rough terrain, or even across vast chasms.
When you declare a charge as your first action in combat, your movement is increased by x4.

Bracers of Epic Deeds: Perform unique combat manevuers with great alacrity to astound friend and foe alike.
When you hit an opponent, all of your other opponents who see this must make a spell save of be dazed for 1 round.

Gauntlets of the Breaker: Hinder an opponents natural attacks, natural armor, and an opponents full plate, plus deal more damage to objects. Because sometimes its more fun to maim than to kill.
+3 AC vs attacks from natural weaponry, +3 to hit against enemies with natural armor or anyone wearing full plate mail, +3d6 damage when striking inanimate objects

Helm of the Nomad: Take a 10 or sometimes even a 20 on some of the barbarians most useful class skills, even in the most dire of circumstance it my just save your (or your allies) life.
You can always find 1 ration worth of food from hunting and can always build suitable shelter from the elements for 1 person with only 40 minutes of work, also you never get lost.

Ring of Spritual Spite: use your rage to protect you from magical damage, so you can show spellcasters the power of hate.
Every time you successfully hit, the amount of damage you deal out can be removed from the next magical attack that hits you - this resets with every successful hit.

Baldric of Restraint: Sacrifice your rage to heal your wounds, and live to hate another day.
A belt that heals you of 1d8 hit points whenever you take a completely defensive action during a fight, in other words declare that you are defending yourself and get 1d8 healing.

Mantle of Thorns: Do you like to grapple or are you tired of being grappled, swallowed or raked, then this garment is for you.
A cloak that makes you immune to being grappled. Simple.

“The Fell Hammer” Legacy Item: Let your magic item level up with you, and provide you with the ultimate tool of savagery!
Add your current level as a damage bonus to this weapon.

There. Save yourself a buck fifty and use those.
And if you're running 5th edition D&D just use "spend 1 use of Rage" instead of "hit an opponent" for any item that is described as "Use your rage"

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

the Criminal


STATS: choose one set
• Grace+2 Might+1 Moxie+1 Insight=0 Magic-2
• Grace+2 Might-1 Moxie+1 Insight+1 Magic-1
• Grace+2 Might=0 Moxie+1 Insight-2 Magic=0
• Grace+2 Might=0 Moxie=0 Insight+1 Magic-2

You start with 3 extra dialects, plus Thieves Cant.
You are illiterate.

By default, your guild is composed of disparate entrepreneurs that can be found in half a dozen locations scattered around a city or the countryside, and they're not fucking friendly at all.
Then, choose 2:
• your guild is widespread. ...you can call upon them in any town or city you travel to.
• your guild is well-armed. ...when using Rumble, on a hit you can trade your current weapon for a new one.
• your guild is well-armored. ...when using Rumble, on a hit you can get your armor repaired or replaced for free.
• your guild is greedy. ...when using Guildwork, mark 1 xp when choosing to pay money for their help.
• your guild acts like fucking nobility. ...when using Guildwork, mark 1 xp when choosing to perform a favor.
• your guild recruits regularly. ...when using Guildwork, mark 1 xp when choosing to deal with an upstart.

And choose 1:
• your guild is shiftless and lazy. +poor
• your guild's loose-knit, with members coming and going as they choose. +desertion
• your guild works in the service of somebody more powerful. +obligation
• your guild thrives in the gutters. +disease

MOVES you start with Guildwork, Rumble, and Sticky Fingers
Guildwork: when you turn to your guild for help or assistance, roll+Grace.
On 10+, you get what you want without a fuss.
On 7-9, choose 1:
• you have to pay for their help (the Oracle will set the price)
• you can't call upon the guild again until you perform a favor for them
• somebody challenges your membership, you won't get help until you deal with this upstart
On a miss, your guild demands your obedience and if you don't give it, you're out of the guild.

Sticky Fingers: when you are close to somebody and brush against or past them, roll+Grace. On a hit, choose 1:
• you lift something from off their person
• you place an object into one of their pockets
• you swap an item off of them and replace it with another similar item (take +1forward)
On 10+, nobody notices you doing this. On a 7-9, the Oracle chooses 1, but doesn't need to tell you what they choose:
• somebody (not your target) notices your odd movement
• your target will feel something is off and search their pockets
• the object you took is not what you thought it was
On a miss, you're caught red-handed.

Rumble: when you can recruit members of your guild to fight for you, roll+Moxie. On a hit you can recruit 15 guild members to back you up in a single fight (Damage:2 Armor:0 gang small), you don't control them but you can lead them in the fight and they will back you up and protect you within reason. If more than half of them die, they flee. On a 10+, choose 2. On a 7-9, choose 1:
• they show up in greater numbers (Medium instead of Small)
• they show up with decent weapons (+1 Damage)
• they show up in armor (+1 Armor)
• they fight to the death, instead of fleeing
On a miss, you can still recruit them to fight with no options, but your guild also demands obedience as if you failed a Guildwork roll. You might not be calling the shots when the fight happens.

Be Prepared: when you plan a robbery or burglary with a crew, roll+Insight. On a hit, you get Marks which can be used during the heist. These Marks allow you to roll extra dice and add the results to your roll for a move during the heist. The Marks can be used after seeing the result of a roll. On a 10+, mark 2. On 7-9, mark 1.
On a miss, you gain no benefit and the Oracle makes a move after your next 10+ roll, during the heist, or immediately after the heist, their choice.

Doubleback: when you are being chased or need to hide, roll+Grace. On a 10+, you get away clean, quickly, and quietly. On a 7-9, you get away but choose 1:
• you left a trail that can be followed
• you need to spend time to get away
• you hurt somebody in order to conceal which way you went
On a miss, they know exactly where you are and they're closing in.

Education in Earnest: you can attempt to read script, even translate ancient or dead languages, by spending time, roll+Grace. On a hit, you understand the basic message of the script. On a 10+, you translate it quickly and the Oracle will give you good detail. On a miss, you have wasted time with these scribbles and the Oracle may bring consequences with it.

Lost & Found: when you call out to the shadows for help, roll+Magic. On a hit, the shadows come to life according to your desire. On a 10+, pick 2. On a 7–9, pick 1:
• the shadows hide you from sight until you move into bright light or attack another creature
• the shadows quiet your footfalls and movement until you leave the area or attack another creature
• the shadows hold you up so you will not fall, even from the tiniest ledge, and will slow your descent so that you will take no Damage even if you do fall
On a miss, the Oracle can choose one option for an NPC in the area.

Mysterious Figure: you can attempt to Convince or Manipulate an NPC without them even knowing who you are.

The Fagin: when you use Rumble you get +1 option, even on a missed roll.

When another player helps you get away (or similarly protects you) from the authorities, you get +1 Bond with them.
When you steal something worth 1 Gold or more and give it to your Guild without taking a cut, mark 1 xp.

EQUIPMENT: you get
• 1 Gold
• Armor:1
• 1 serviceable weapon
• 1 dagger (Damage:1 AP melee/thrown)

• scimitar (Damage:2 hand valuable messy)
• short sword (Damage:2 hand)
• crossbow (Damage:2 AP ranged reload)
• dagger (Damage:1 AP melee/thrown)
• hand crossbow (Damage:1 AP ranged)
• whip (Damage:1 reach grapple)

Tell everyone to mark you at -1 Bond.
Whatever numbers they tell you, add 2
Additionally, you may ask "Which one of you cheated me out of money?" subtract 2 from whoever says they did.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

the Merchant


STATS: choose one set
• Grace=0 Might+1 Moxie+2 Insight+1 Magic-2
• Grace-1 Might+1 Moxie+2 Insight+1 Magic-1
• Grace+1 Might=0 Moxie+2 Insight+1 Magic-2
• Grace+1 Might-1 Moxie+2 Insight=0 Magic=0

You start with 4 dialects.
You are literate.

A Vardo is a kind of wagon, a mobile home that also functions as a shop. At start, your Vardo is pulled by two mules.
What kinds of things are in your Vardo? (pick 2 or 3)
• weapons, armor & shields
• jewelry
• artwork & mementos
• intoxicants, delicacies & poisons
• books & maps
• plant & animal specimens
• castoffs & knick knacks
• something else?
Your Vardo begins play with Size+2 (min. -2, max. +4)
If your Vardo is Size=0 or smaller, take -1ongoing.

As long as your Vardo is Size 1 or higher, you can spend time on the side of a road, in a bustling market, or between sessions (if there is appropriate downtime) to sell wares from your Vardo, spend time and roll+Size. On a hit, you earn 1 Gold by reducing the Size of your Vardo by -1, you may do this down to Size=0. On a 10+, you earn 1 extra Gold, even if you don't reduce your Vardo's Size at all. On a miss, you only earn 1 Gold and your Vardo is reduced to Size=0 or gets -2 Size, whichever is worse.

As long as your Vardo is Size 1 or higher, you can go into your Vardo and look for something useful (according to the things in your Vardo). Describe what you are looking for and roll+Size. On a 10+, you find it and your Vardo’s Size holds where it is. On a 7-9, you find it and your Vardo gets -1 to Size. On a miss, you spend time looking for the item but it isn't there, and the Oracle can make a move if she chooses to.

When you stockpile wares for your Vardo from a maker or distributor of goods, spend 1 Gold and roll+Moxie.
On a 10+, it's a good deal and increase your Vardo's Size by +3.
On a 7-9, it'll keep you going, increase your Vardo's Size by +2.
On a miss, increase your Vardo's size by +1, but the Oracle also makes a move.

MOVES you start with all of the moves associated with your Vardo, then choose two more

Acquisitive Eye: when you see, hear about, or otherwise come to know of a thing you want, roll+Insight. On a hit, ask the Oracle questions. On a 10+, ask 3. On a 7-9, ask 2:
• How can I make this mine?
• Who will stand in my way?
• Who will try to take it from me?
• What is this truly worth?
On a miss, ask 1 but your face and body language betray your interest in the thing to anyone who's paying attention.

Bammed Booze: name somebody who might have just finished or just be about to eat, drink, or handle something that has had your attention and roll+Might. On 10+, you've poisoned them, and they suffer 4 Damage AP (soon or within the next day, your call). On a 7-9, it's 2 Damage instead. On a miss, you've poisoned somebody else by accident, maybe several somebodies, the Oracle says who, and they suffer 3 Damage AP right now.

Confidence Game: when you attempt to impersonate somebody of importance (whom you are not!) through sheer guile or bluster, roll+Moxie. On a 10+, your deception works, for now, but the Oracle may test you again later or if your assumed persona begins to slip. On a 7-9, they suspect you're a phony, choose 1:
• They maintain the upper hand if your disguise collapses.
• They are wary and alert for any misstep.
On a miss, they see through you and the Oracle makes as hard a move as appropriate.

Friends In Low Places: whenever you enter a bustling marketplace, you may choose to roll+Moxie.
On a hit, people here have heard of and recognize you, and you say what they've heard; the Oracle will have them respond accordingly.
On a 10+, choose 1.
• somebody here owes you money
• the marketplace is ripe, you can restock your Vardo here
• someone brings you rumors of trade and plunder
On a miss, they've heard of you, but the Oracle will decide what they've heard.

Greed: when you're defending your Vardo from thievery or destruction, you have Armor:2. If you're already wearing armor, use that instead.

Honor Among Thieves: when you're surrounded by bandits or worse, if they can understand what you say then you can Manipulate them using your friendship as leverage.

The Best Investment: when you make a Vardo move, you can choose to skip the roll and take a miss result. Each time you do this make a Mark. These Marks can be spent to add +1forward to later Vardo move rolls. There is no limit to the number of Marks you can accrue.

Words Are Weapons: when you Intimidate, you may roll+Moxie instead of roll+Might.

When another player wants something and you get it into their hands for free, you get +1 Bond with them.
When you swindle an NPC out of money or property, mark 1 xp.

EQUIPMENT: you get
• 1 Gold
• a Vardo
• 2 weapons

• flail (Damage:3 reach area)
• short sword (Damage:2 melee)
• longbow (Damage:3 ranged)
• crossbow (Damage:2 AP ranged reload)
• spear (Damage:3 reach)
• darts (Damage:1 thrown endless)
• dagger (Damage:1 AP melee/thrown)
• hand crossbow (Damage:1 AP ranged)
• whip (Damage:1 reach grapple)

Tell everyone to mark you at +1 Bond
Whatever numbers they tell, add 1 to it
Additionally, you may ask "Which of you has worked for me?" add +1 to whoever says they did.

Friday, April 15, 2016

the Mercenary

STATS: choose one set
• Grace+1 Might+2 Moxie-1 Insight+1 Magic-1
• Grace+1 Might+2 Moxie+1 Insight=0 Magic-2
• Grace+1 Might+2 Moxie=0 Insight+1 Magic-2
• Grace+2 Might+2 Moxie-1 Insight=0 Magic-2

You start with 3 dialects.
You are illiterate.

MOVES you start with Favorite Weapon and then choose two more
Favorite Weapon: When you have your Named Weapon in your possession you cannot be disarmed or have your weapon taken away, unless you are knocked unconscious or you give it away freely. No magic or illusions will separate you from your Favorite Weapon.

Bloodthirsty: when you inflict violence and roll 12+, you can declare your opponent defeated and at your mercy, maimed, or dead.

Defend to the End: in battle, when another character suffers damage, roll+Might.
On a 10+, you protect them from damage by taking it yourself and reduce it by -1.
On a 7–9, choose 1:
• you reduce the Damage they take by -1.
• you protect them from damage by taking it all yourself.
• you protect both yourself and them from the damage, but your armor is destroyed by it.
On a miss, the Oracle will declare that you both suffer the Damage or something equally bad.

Desperate Cry: when you pray in the heat of battle, roll+Magic. If you've suffered 1 to 3 Damage then take +1 to the roll, if you've suffered 4 or more Damage then take +2. On a hit, the Oracle must answer questions about what or whom you're fighting. On a 7-9, one question. On a 10+, all three:
• how can I survive this encounter?
• what do they want?
• what is their weakness?
On a miss, nothing gained, and the Oracle doesn't make a move either.

Fearful Presence: when you try to Convince or Manipulate an NPC, you may roll+Might instead of roll+Moxie.

Field Medicine: when you treat the wounded, roll+Insight. On a hit, you stabilize them. On a 7-9, they choose 1:
• they fight you from the pain, take 1 Damage and adjust Bonds accordingly.
• their course of recovery will be slow. All natural healing takes 1 extra day of recovery.
• they owe you for your time, attention, and spent trappings. Tell them to add a +debt to you.
On a miss, they're not stabilized and they take 1 Damage AP right now.

For Hire: when you put the word out that you're looking for work, the Oracle might tell you to spend time, but either way roll+Insight.
On a 10+, you get as many job offers that the Oracle can think of, but she can choose one for each job offered. On a 7-9, you get one job offer and you choose two, the Oracle will tailor the job description based on your choices:
• it's dangerous
• it doesn't pay a lot
• it'll take a long time
On a miss, you get one job offer and all three.

I Wasn't Always Like This: take a move from another playbook. (During initial character creation, choose it from a playbook that isn’t otherwise in play.)

Merciless: when you deal damage, inflict +1 Damage.

When another player fights to preserve your life without promises of payment, you get +1 Bond with them.
When you satiate your lust for carnal knowledge, mark 1 xp.

EQUIPMENT: you get
• 1 named weapon
• a piece of armor worth Armor:2
• 2 Gold

NAMED WEAPON: give a name to your weapon, then choose options
Base (choose 1):
• staff (Damage:1 hand +reach)
• haft (Damage:1 hand)
• handle (Damage:1 hand)
Options (choose 2):
• blade (+1damage)
• chain (+area)
• heavy blade* (+2damage +messy)
• large (+messy +reach)
• long blade* (+2damage)
• ornate (+valuable)
• spiked (+1armor +messy)
* counts as 2 choices

Tell everyone to mark you at +1 Bond
Whatever numbers they tell, add 1 and write it next to the character’s name.
Additionally, ask yourself which of the other players' characters you trust the most, set your Bond to them at +3.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

the Black Hack

It was a fast read, and I like a lot of the streamlining. You can tell the author loves D&D but doesn't like getting bogged down with minutia and fiddly rules. It's still basically a D&D game, but it's a lean, fast beast. Even leveling up is simple and quick. When I finished reading the spell lists it made me want to run Dwimmermount again.

For less than $5 you can get the Black Hack and two supplements with a "procedurally generated" village and extra classes.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

the Alchemist

this is just a preview

STATS: choose one set
Grace+1 Might=0 Moxie+1 Insight+2 Magic-2
Grace+1 Might+1 Moxie=0 Insight+2 Magic-2
Grace-1 Might+1 Moxie=0 Insight+2 Magic=0
Grace+2 Might=0 Moxie-1 Insight+2 Magic-2

You start with 2 extra dialects.
You are literate.

MOVES you start with Make Do and then choose one more
Make do: when you don't have access to your Alchemy Bag or its all out of stock you can still make a Healing potion, you need to spend 2 Gold for supplies in a town or spend time foraging in the wilderness. Roll+Insight on the Alchemy Bag move.

Arcane Alchemy: when you spend time with a magical object and your Alchemy Bag, the Oracle will tell you what the magical object does.

Barber surgeon: when you attempt to save the life of a critically wounded person (4+ Damage), roll+Insight. You can spend Stock from your Alchemy Bag to assist the roll 1-for-1, as much Stock as you want. On a hit, you prevent their current injuries from worsening by stabilizing them, and choose 2 (on a 10+) or 1 (on a 7-9):
• the pain, incense, and salves make them babble the truth. Ask them what secret they spill and increase your Bond with them by +1 (for NPCs, you simply learn a secret).
• their body is eager to be healed. Heal them of 1 Damage.
• their damage is not as bad as you first believed. Heal them of 1 Damage.
• their course of recovery teaches you something about your own skills. You get 1 xp.
• they owe you for your time, attention, and spent trappings, and you’re going to hold them to it. Tell them to add a +debt to you.
On a miss, they're not stabilized and they take 1 Damage AP right now.

Developed Immunity: you cannot be poisoned, and can detect the presence of a poison by smelling or tasting it.

Expert opinion: when you try to detect magic, you can roll+Insight instead of roll+Magic.

In the Nick of Time: whenever someone you have a Bond with is in trouble (your call), you may decrease your Bond with them by -1 (to a minimum of 0) to have you already be there, with the proper tools and knowledge, with or without any clear explanation why.

Of All Trades: you never have to make Unskilled rolls if you don't want to

Opening Doors: whenever someone you have a Bond with dies, you get +1 Magic (max +3).

Your Alchemy Bag has all kinds of crap in it: scissors, rags, tape, needles, clamps, gloves, oils, wipes, alcohol, herbs, salves, leeches, maggots, phials, tonics, potions, splints, bandages, razors, pliers, charms, crystals, poultices, narcotics, incense, salts, powders, ointments, hooks, horsehair, screws, brazier, mortar & pestle, flint & steel, several dozen alembics, flasks, dishes, retorts, measuring devices, a scale, and braces. It is big enough to fill your saddlebags and satchel. When you use it, spend its stock; you can spend 0–3 of its stock per use. You can resupply it for 1 Gold per 2-stock if your circumstances let you trade for medical supplies. It begins play holding 6-stock.
Only characters with an Insight of +2 or higher can use an Alchemy Bag, otherwise they are rolling Unskilled.
To use it you need to spend time near an open flame (either from a fireplace or campfire): roll+stock spent and choose an elixir to brew.

On a hit, you will brew the elixir, but the Oracle will choose 1 (on a 10+) or 2 (on a 7–9):
• while mixing chemicals the fumes threaten to overwhelm you; you’re acting perilously
• during the later stages your mixture compresses; spend 1-stock more.
• the potion needs to settle for 24 hours before it can be of any use
• the potion needs constant attention (stirring or cooking) for 36 hours or else it spoils
• the potion is not as potent as it could be; add weak
• the potion requires one more special ingredient before it's complete; almost always an organ from an animal, but could also be something more prosaic
On a miss, the potion does not cohere and both your time and stock are wasted.

You can brew simple concoctions to speed the recovery of someone whose Damage has stabilized: don’t roll but spend 1-stock. They spend their Damage in days miserable and immobile, but heal completely by the end.

Alchemy Bags can cost anywhere between 2 to 10 Gold to build from scratch.

acid: used to burn through an object, if thrown onto an enemy can cause 3 Damage
antitoxin: counters effects of poison
clairaudience: drinker can hear sound from another distant location (ingested, duration)
clairvoyance: drinker can see into another distant place (ingested, duration)
ESP: drinker can hear the thoughts of those they look at (ingested, duration)
fire resistance: drinker does not take Damage from heat or flame (touch, duration)
glue: when applied to two objects will hold them fast until a solvent is applied
healing: will stabilize Damage and heal 1 Damage or heals 2 Damage (ingested, instant)
invisibility: makes user invisible to sight (ingested/touch, duration)
love: falls in love with the next person they see or hear, your choice (ingested, permanent)
luck: next roll+Grace hits at 10+ (ingested, duration)
persuasiveness: next roll+Moxie hits at 10+ (ingested, duration)
poison, paralytic: target becomes insensate and immobile (one dose, applied, instant)
poison, sleep: causes target to fall asleep (one dose, applied, instant)
poison, toxic: causes 3 Damage to target (one dose, applied/ingested, instant)
smoke oil: produces a large cloud of smoke that lingers if there is now wind, attempts to Sneak in the area of the smoke become Adept
sweet water: when added to another liquid, purifies it and turns it into water, adding this to potions ruins them (touch, instant)
water breathing: drinker can breathe water as if it were air (ingested, duration)

+instant: takes effect immediately
+permanent: makes a permenent change to the drinker
+duration: Oracle moves trigger expiration, player gets a warning before the effect is about to expire
+weak: potion could expire at any time, or has a lesser effect (e.g. healing potion only heals 1 Damage, love potion gets duration, luck potion hits at 7-9, etc.)
+applied: as in, applied to a weapon
+ingested: must be consumed to be of use
+touch: effect is triggered upon contact

When another PC asks for a potion and you give it to them for free, you get +1 Bond with them.
When you successfully make a potion and then sell it to an NPC, you get 1 Experience.

EQUIPMENT: you get
• Alchemy Bag
• a horse
• 1 practical weapon
• 1 Gold
• fashion suitable to your role, including at your option a piece worth 1 Armor (you detail)


• hammer (Damage:2 hand)
• handaxe (Damage:2 hand messy)
• mace (Damage:3 hand)
• quarterstaff (Damage:2 hand reach)
• sap (Damage:2 hand ko )

Tell everyone to mark you at a Bond of 0.
Whatever numbers they tell, give it -1 because you try not to get too attached.
Additionally, you may ask "Which of you is a close friend and has seen everything that I've seen?" add +2 to whoever says they are (instead of -1).

Sunday, March 27, 2016

some religions of Kosranon

the Holy Order of the Three Kings
The Three Kings were gods who passed a living birthright along to their followers. Their scripture requires that all follow the lords and ladies of this Divine Heritage and they have only three holy commandments. Obedience, followers of the Divine Heritage must obey the commands of their lord or lady; Loyalty, once service is pledged to the Divine Heritage it must be kept until death; and Protection, all must educate themselves in the Divine Heritage so that they be diligent in safeguarding the lives of their charges and attend to all of their charges' commands.

The church of the Templars, the Holy Order of Three Kings, consider all other gods to be false, and refer to any who do not follow the Three Kings as cultists (if the Templar is nice) or heathens. The Holy Order have declared all cults as heresy and actively pursue cultists with the intention of wiping out their beliefs, or destroying the cultists if they have to. Some Templars go straight to destroying the cultists without attempting to convert or torture them into accepting the Three Kings. In the Holy Order's eyes, when their work is done only the Divine Heritage shall remain.

the Hidden Goddess
The most prolific cult hiding from the Templars is also the hardest to find. Those who worship the Hidden Goddess, a deity of secrets, are called to her service by hearing her name. In fact, when her name is spoken aloud to a non-follower the only thing they hear is "the Hidden Goddess" because even her name is held secret against the uninitiated.

Simply speaking her name is enough to initiate one into the cult, as she only allows her name to be heard by those who are both willing to follow her and those she wishes to serve her desires. Those who worship the Hidden Goddess know instantly who can hear her name when they speak it, and who cannot. In this way, each worshipper of the Hidden Goddess shares a common secret: they know who worships and serves her.

Cultists of the Hidden Goddess have powers of insight and observation, but she also allows them to remain mysterious and obscured from others' prying eyes (including fellow members of the cult). All followers of the Hidden Goddess are given one secret to carry with them which they are commanded never to reveal, else the Hidden Goddess will disown them.

The Windcallers worship the spirits of air and wind, that much they know, but the spirits of air and wind worship the sleeping god Raselom. They only answer to the Windcaller because they see something in them that resembles Raselom. This could mean that the spirits are confused, since they think they are serving an aspect of Raselom. Windcallers are oblivious to this, and regard the spirits as fickle but powerful benefactors. They offer up sacrifices to the spirits in exchange for magical blessings, and are often rewarded for their sacrifice, even when the spirits know they are not serving Raselom directly.

Windcallers do not advertise their worship, and they do not maintain temples or fraternities. They are often hunted by Templars and learn to keep their powers discrete or die young. Very old Windcallers have learned to hear the sleeping god's whispers as he exhales dreamily, deep beneath the earth.

the Sages of the Peerless Sea
There was once a god who looked into the future and saw how his people would live, and he wrote of their fortunes on the waves of the ocean. He hid these messages there to hide them from the spirits of wind and air, for he knew they would not be able to read them nor would they be able to destroy them. As he departed the world, he told his people how to read the messages and the very skilled and tranquil among them were able to see the messages as clear as sunlight.

Across the Peerless Sea there is an island, a fertile plateau that stands tall above the ocean and never crumbles against the ceaseless waves and tides. The people who live on this island, the Chiryō, are isolated, but blessed with the knowledge that they can read and hear from the waves of the ocean that surrounds them, they thrive. Sometimes they sail west to the continent to trade for crafts and goods they are unable to come across at their home. When these sailors arrive, a few among them may seek knowledge or fortune from "the continent." These Chiryō are called Sages, and they offer their wisdom to those who ask for it. The Sages never travel very far from the ocean, as many of their devotions rely upon meditating on the messages in the waves.

Friday, March 25, 2016

faeries, elementals, and golems

Golems are animated pieces of matter, propelled by a spirit that is controlled by a wizard who created the golem.
Elementals are spirits attuned to a particular element who take the form of that element when they are summoned.
Faeries are corporeal spirits who are attuned to the land, the air, or the forest.
But what if they were all the same type of creature?

So, elemental planes don't exist, and neither do faeries or the fey court, but somebody could certainly create a golem and they would need to enslave a spirit in order for that golem to animate.

spirits of wind and air

The spirits are everywhere. They are literally made of air, and formed from each exhaled breath of the sleeping god, whose name has been forgotten and whose tomb has never been located. Each spirit is born of a god's dream, and so each spirit is different, but all share the same qualities. They are naturally invisible, formless, virtually immortal, and can travel great distances very quickly.

These spirits hover around people who show great magical prowess. They are still connected with the sleeping god, and they believe they are spies for him, so they send him messages about what is happening in the world and who is doing what, and his dreams catch these messages which causes him to exhale more spirits.

The spirits of wind and air are small, but usually travel together in large packs. They can work together to draw air out of the lungs of anyone they see as an obstacle. They are fearless, for the most part, but if someone does manage to inflict harm upon them they immediately turn tail and flee, while remembering to inform their sleeping god of the one who was able to hurt them.

spirits of form
These spirits are just like the ones made of air, but they choose to possess the living or take form out of inanimate matter. The most common spirits of this nature are the Dirt Pugs, small dogs that appear to be made of rock and mud. Some of the more complex and knowledgeable spirits can take on elaborate forms, and lay intricate plans. If the form they take is destroyed then the spirit still exists, though possibly weaker and will take some time assembling a new body. If a possessing spirit loses its host to death, then it can simply move to a new host.

spirit, enslaved
A skilled magical practitioner can summon one of these spirits and forcibly house it within an object. When a magician creates a golem or similar construct using one of these spirits as its animus, these spirits become slaves to the will of the magician. They serve their magicians fearlessly, but fight relentlessly to free themselves of their prisons.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

How to Not Die

This is, word for word, an email I sent to one of my players after several sessions ended in Total Party Kills. A couple of their characters were very close to dying during this particular adventure and all of it could have been prevented with the advice below.

You're searching an ancient wizard's tower on the fringes of the desert, far from civilization and unable to recruit additional help. This tower has harpies and lizardmen and a manticore and possibly other even more dangerous encounters waiting to be discovered, enemies so dangerous that a group of inexperienced adventurers like yourself will likely all die attempting to explore the place. What can you possibly do to avoid dying horribly?

Be knowledgeable.
Always talk with the locals. Sometimes the local bartender knows a tale or two about previous explorers of that dangerous tower. If the bartender doesn't know then maybe the farmers on the edge of town know somebody who got close to the place. Maybe there's a hermit camping at the oasis just half a day away from the tower. Always find the people living nearby and ask them what they know. If they don't know anything then maybe it's written down. Check with a sage and see if they have a scroll or a book that describes the tower. Visit a cartographer and ask to see a map of the region, maybe there's a clue written onto the map he shows you, or maybe he knows a thing or two himself. Even if what you learn isn't entirely accurate, knowing an obviously false rumor can still improve your chances of survival.

Be quiet.
Walk to the edge of town, find a nice secluded spot, sit down on the grass and close your eyes. Yes, I'm telling YOU to do this, not your character. Depending on how you interpreted "edge of town" you can either hear cars whizzing past or you can hear the faint echo of motors traveling along asphalt. Even if you're sitting at home, simply close your eyes and listen, you might be astonished at what you can hear within the ambient noise of your neighborhood. Sound travels, and the faster you move the farther the sound reaches. Now back to your character. Whenever you think there might be wild animals, dangerous locals, or monsters nearby then you should focus on being silent. Rampaging through that wizard's tower, smashing cupboards and flipping over tables with no regard for who or what might hear you can lead to you getting yourself killed, and anybody else who decided to follow you too. All creatures are attracted to sound and very often they will search out noises made by careless adventurers like yourself. On the flip side, you should be trying to listen for the sounds of nearby monsters whenever you can. This allows you to take careless enemies by surprise or even allows you to avoid a monster you'd rather not face altogether.

Be cautious.
Exploring that wizard's tower slowly will allow you to explore it cautiously. Search everything, there might be secret doors along the walls, those chests may have false bottoms, and there might be a monster lurking on the ceiling of that room you're about to enter. Utilizing these secrets can also help you secure the treasures of this wizard's tower, if you find a closet that can only be opened by pressing two different tiles on the opposing wall then securing your valuables in that closet allows you to safeguard them for a later return. If you must make camp while you're exploring, do so from a distance. A secure vantage point that allows you to scout the tower from a distance before you even enter is best. Spend a day there and then you can learn if there's regular traffic, perhaps those lizardmen only come out at night, maybe they never venture farther than the first floor of the tower, and maybe they use a signal to let their brethren know they're coming back from a hunt. Spying on the enemy falls back onto the first rule and helps you to be better prepared. If you can hide a secure camp near your target that means you also have a good place to retreat to if the need arises.

Be safe.
Follow these rules, in the order presented, and you will greatly enhance your chances of survival. And if you don't think you can defeat a particular creature, then run away. Come back with friends, return with an army if you have to, but make sure you survive first. The treasure can wait if you can't carry it all in one trip.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

playing Destiny

I've been playing a lot of Destiny the last three weeks. If you're not interested in first-person shooters or MMO-like video games, you can stop reading this now.

My wife had a 40th level Warlock up to 290 Light, and my Titan was still lagging behind at 18th level. She was always complaining that she couldn't do any of the high-level raid content because rando players would always bail or flake out in the middle of a game. I decided to sit down and start playing through the story missions, trying really hard to max out my Titan's level. I hit 40th within a few days but my Light level was still below 200, hovering around 150, so I started investigating what I needed to do to raise it and the most obvious solution was to start playing the multiplayer content. That's where all of the best gear was!

But I hate multiplayer games, mainly because I am really bad at them. I don't have the time or energy to devote myself into playing matches against other obviously more skilled players. I always lose multiplayer matches. So I looked for alternatives.

Destiny has factions that you can improve your standing with by fulfilling daily bounties and completing inexhaustible patrol missions for. I joined a faction - the Future War Cult - and started raising my reputation. In only one week I had a high enough reputation rank with FWC to buy the best gear they offered, but I was still missing Legendary Marks to buy them with.

How do you get Legendary Marks? You guessed it: multiplayer.

Every day there's a different multiplayer event that grants varying amounts of Marks, and I would join a team and do the best I could and if we won I would get some Marks. It was going to be slow, but this is an MMO-like game so I accepted that. An hour or two a day dedicated to playing multiplayer matches seemed okay with me. I would skip any free-for-all deathmatches because I suck, so that slowed me down a little.

Until last weekend.

Last weekend the game had a Valentine's Day themed event called Crimson Doubles. 2-man teams fighting against one another. My wife and I played these together and we lost a lot. We would start the matches psyched and with a lot of energy then suddenly burn out and lose the long game. Crimson Doubles required that your team win 5 rounds, a match could last as many as 9 rounds. We would tend to win 2 or 3 and then the other team would come back and shut us down. Occasionally we would win, but it was always drawn out, and when we would lose 4-5 it was so damn frustrating. I almost broke my controller once throwing it to the floor.

I decided to stop caring about winning and just tried to complete my bounties related to the event. But then something happened, we started winning. By the third day of the event we were dominating the Doubles matches. We had learned the layout of the arenas, we were communicating effectively, and we were shutting down the other teams consistently. We won our last four matches solidly and our last two matches were complete shutouts, we won 5-0.

Then at the beginning of this week one of the multiplayer events that gave out Legendary Marks as a reward was a free-for-all deathmatch, and I decided to play it. In the final ranking I came in 2nd place, and only because of a floppy melee assault that didn't connect against the 1st place winner. I was literally one punch away from 1st place. If I had been a little closer, or if I had turned left instead of right, I would have come in 1st.

For the rest of this week I've been tracking my scoring and I'm always one of the top three players, regardless of whether the match contains 6 or 12 people. I've only ranked 1st once (see below), but I'm always consistently 2nd or 3rd. And now my Light is up to 282.

I'm better at this game than I thought I was.

Friday, January 15, 2016

introducing the Unstitched

a playbook stuck outside of time for Apocalypse World

To create your Unstitched, choose name, look, stats, moves, gear and Hx.

Christopher, Doc, Everett, Feckle, Jane, Lily, Miss Smith, Monsignor, Nickia, Rose, Valeria, Xavier

Male, Female, Ambiguous, or Hidden

Choose one set:
• +1 Cool, -1 Hard, 0=Hot, +2 Sharp, +1 Weird
• -1 Cool, +1 Hard, +1 Hot, +2 Sharp, 0=Weird
• 0=Cool, 0=Hard, +1 Hot, +2 Sharp, 0=Weird
• 0=Cool, -1 Hard, +2 Hot, +2 Sharp, -1 Weird

You get all the basic moves. You get I'm from the future! and Time's Running Out then choose another Unstitched move.

You get:
• one weapon or one piece of clothing worth 1-armor
• oddments worth 1-barter
• fashion suitable to your look (you detail)
• a time machine (detail)

• 9mm (2-harm close loud)
• crowbar (2-harm hand)
• machete (3-harm hand messy)
• many knives (2-harm hand infinite)

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 one or both:
• One of them helped you while you were weak from the journey. Tell that player Hx+2.
• One of them is suspicious of you. Tell that player Hx=0.
Tell everybody else Hx-1, you came out of nowhere.

On the other player's turns, whatever number everyone tells you, give it -1 and write it next to their character’s name. You've not heard of any of them.

I'm from the future!: whenever you ask the MC what you know about a particular place, person, or thing, roll+Sharp. On a hit, you get to know stuff. On a 10+, choose 3. On a 7-9, choose 1:
• you know why this is happening
• you know how things are about to go down
• you know who is nearby that might help you
• you know when a thing is going to happen
• you know where to find some gear easily
On a miss, you can still choose 1 but advance your Mission Failed countdown clock by 1 segment and tell the MC to make a threat move or advance one of their own countdown clocks.

Time's Running Out: At the start of the session, mark a segment of your Mission Failed countdown clock. You may avoid this by erasing the highlight on one of your stats.

Quicker than most: When violence occurs near you, roll+Cool. On a 10+, hold 3. On a 7-9, hold 1. Spend your hold 1-for-1 to choose options:
• Name a person who is witness to the violence, you cross the distance to stand beside them.
• Take +1harm from an incoming attack against you and reflect an equal amount of harm back upon your attacker(s).
• Name an NPC who is engaged in violence, as either assailant or victim, and you escape their notice.
• Reduce a Harm move roll by -1.
• Name a character engaged in violence whom you could assist, increase the amount of harm they can inflict by +1.

Gemini incident: At the start of the session, you can choose to roll+weird. On a hit, there are two of you. On a 10+, you can coordinate freely with your other self, you control both of you. On a 7-9, the MC controls your other self and you choose 1:
• they have a different mission than you, but will try to preserve your life no matter what
• they're actively trying to help your mission, but they don't care about your safety
• they are your consummate ally for both the mission and your safety, but anybody you share HX with is on their kill list
On a miss, the MC chooses 1:
• your other self is present and actively working against your mission
• you found your other self's dead body, or one of them, take -1ongoing for the rest of the session
• you're all be yourself, for better or worse

Voice of authority: when you reveal what you know to a mob, gang, or group of three or more people, roll+sharp. On a hit, they listen to you with fascination. On a 10+, choose 2. On a 7-9, choose 1:
• None of them leave while you speak
• None of them will inflict pain or violence in front of you
• None of them will betray you later on
On a miss, they don't care who you are, what you know, or if you get in their way.

I know what will become of you: when you manipulate someone, roll+sharp instead of roll+hot.

Telepathic feedback: when you read a person, your questions can act as a weapon. You can spend one of your hold to +stun them.

If you and another character have sex, subtract 1 from your HX with each other but you both take +1forward to roll+weird.

Using your time machine is not reliable. It was only meant to bring you here and then return you home, and if you use it too soon your superiors may not allow you to return or will insist that you return to the point where you left from.

For each mission below, the MC is not obligated to provide any details about the mission beyond the instructions for the mission itself. Choose a mission:
Assassination: you must find and kill your target, the MC will choose your target
Assistance: you must preserve a community, the MC will tell you where help is needed most
Historical survey *: you must document and record an important event, you and the MC will determine the event together
Interview *: you must find several people and ask them questions about their lives, the MC will provide you with a list of names
Paradox: you must destroy a community, the MC will tell you the most effective way to destroy a nearby hold
Temporal Fix: there is an already existing time paradox that you must fix, the MC will tell you what part of the timeline was damaged
* for these missions you also start with recording equipment, it counts as +hitech and +valuable gear

Mission failure is not the end of your character, but you have to suffer the consequences for not completing your mission. If your mission fails, the MC chooses one:
• your time machine returns home on a preset journey, you are now stranded in the past forever
• your time machine has been disabled by agents from an alternate future timeline you've created by accident
• your time machine stops working due to your alterations of the timeline, you might be able to repair it...
The MC should also create a new threat and add a countdown clock as further and deliberate disruption of the timeline, or established history as the Unstitched knows it, will create more severe consequences.

Once a mission is successfully completed according to the details designed by the MC, your Mission Failure countdown is reset to zero, you receive a new (different) mission from the list, and you gain one Improvement

+1 cool (+2 max)
+1 hot (+2 max)
+1 sharp (+3 max)
+1 weird (+2 max)
+1 weird (+2 max)
get a Unstitched move
get a Unstitched move
get a move from another playbook
get a move from another playbook
get a workspace (detail)

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Lamentations of the Flame Princess bibliography

I couldn't find a definitive bibliography for the Lamentations of the Flame Princess publishing house and decided I would put one together myself. Here it is, sorted by title, date, or author. I plan on updating it as new releases come out.

* = pdf only

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

killing time

I'm already experimenting a little, but I don't like the way this map turned out. For one thing, I accidentally put the crosshatching around the entry door to this dungeon. I thought it would be a good idea if I just created a crosshatching pattern that I could insert digitally as a background. As you can see, it's taking some time.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

I blame Fallout 4

I've been slacking in many of my creative efforts lately. I still haven't finished drawing the maps for Hexvouna and I've started to beat myself up over it, but I also just can't get into the habit of sitting down and working on the dungeon. Too many other distractions. Fallout 4 is one of them, but it's really the only thing I'm doing that's leisurely and everything else occupying my time is either stressful or time consuming or both.

Yesterday I picked up a graph paper notebook at the art store and resolved to draw one map every night while I'm at work. Primarily for the practice, but also just to get into the habit of drawing and working. This is what I'm currently drawing...

...the Dysonized lines around the edges take 2 to 3 times longer to draw than the actual map. I'm already trying to think of shortcuts to this process as I experiment with different ways of drawing them. Every time I have a map finished, I'll scan it properly then release it to the blog here. I'm not going to promise that I can keep up the pace and post four maps every week, but I will certainly try.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

that's the third TPK

"Yeah, this game is seriously deadly."
"I just don't want this character to die too."
"Oh well, can I have a magic-user character sheet this time?"

These are all things my players said Sunday afternoon as their characters fell, one by one, to the blades of the Jade Fang cultists that they strolled up to and picked a fight with. They were only fighting four cultists, but it only took three bad rolls put them all down and out. One PC managed to survive the fight and was taken prisoner, but that's the same player who asked to make a magic-user next so I guess their character died too.

I've finished copying all of my notes for GMing Hoard of the Dragon Queen onto this blog.

Their next group of characters, two magic-users and a fighter, are on the same world* but are investigating a different location on the other side of the Vythurian Mud Flats. They spent the rest of the session climbing a mountain, trying to reach a tower abandoned 400 years ago, only to walk straight into the feeding grounds of a manticore. They spent the rest of the game running away.

It was glorious!

* - NOT the Forgotten Realms!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Powered by the Dungeons & Dragons

I apologize for this post. I'm mostly just ranting because I'm trying to formulate some coherent thoughts of my own about my game, and since I have few people to discuss it with I'm just going to vent here and maybe come up with something.

I've been running Freebooters on the Frontier for the last few weeks, which could be described in one of three ways:
1) it's a narrative based roll system that seeks to emulate D&D
2) it's a Dungeon World hack
3) it's the closest feeling to classic D&D that any game Powered by the Apocalypse has achieved

Somewhere between D&D and Apocalypse World is my sweet spot for gaming.

The 1-minute round
The 1st edition AD&D Player's Handbook states (on page 105) that each combat round is supposed to last 1 full minute. Often there is much confusion as to why only one attack can be attempted during sixty seconds. Apocalypse World has the answer when it instructs you, as the GM, to zoom out of the action. Every time I play Apocalypse World I imagine that each individual roll during a fight is accounting for a series of maneuvers and feints and parries, much the same way AD&D accounts for a minute passing during each round of a fight. Somewhere between 1st edition and 3rd edition, a Turn went from being 10 minutes to 1 minute as the combat round was shortened to 6 seconds. The 1st edition rules had some other issues which are related to timekeeping.

gang warfare VS. NPC army
When a large group of people fights another large group of people in Apocalypse World, it uses the same combat system that is present in the normal rules except that damage is applied to the group as a whole. A confusing aspect since many players don't know how to determine who in that group should suffer harm specifically. The gang fighting rules in Apocalypse World allow a GM to fall back from the specifics of who attacks where and how and sum up the fighting with a single roll, but it also requires that the GM be coherent and creative enough to narrate exactly what is happening with those gang members. In AD&D, when a PC has several followers that they want to coordinate attacks with, often it is the GM left rolling dice over and over again for each individual hireling/follower.

seeking solutions
Rolling a lot of dice is boring. Especially if the GM is doing all of the dice rolling. I played in a game once where the GM spent literally eight minutes (I timed it) just rolling dice for things that were happening before our PCs showed up, when he could have just rolled once and extrapolated the events that occurred from a single result. I really like the economy of the Apocalypse World system because it allows the players to focus on what they want, and it allows a GM to interrupt that focus with problems easily, but every time the dice are rolled I feel this intense pressure to make something interesting happen regardless of the result and I think I get burned out pretty quickly from it.
Funnily enough, I think Freebooters could be a superior D&D-like game if it used combat moves that more closely emulate Apocalypse World.
Unlike most PbtA games Freebooters asks the GM to roll for followers and hirelings, and I think keeping the straightforward combat move of Freebooters works for NPCs. Yes, it may involve rolling for a lot of 2d6 results, but only if there are a lot of NPCs and since NPCs tend to go down with 1 hit it doesn't make it terribly time-consuming. One round of combat and pretty soon the PCs will see that they need to protect their fragile helpers.

naming conventions
Apocalypse World calls everything a PC can do a Move. There are Basic Moves which everybody has access to and then there are Playbook Moves which essentially function as Class Abilities. These last few sessions I've had non-Thief characters trying to sneak around like Thief characters and it doesn't feel right because the Thief has their own Move for sneaking around and not being seen, and the way I've been having players roll for sneaking around is technically better then how the Thief does it, but it also somehow takes away from the Thief anyway if everybody is sneaking from place to place with the same frequency. This got me to thinking that sneaking around is not an inherently Thiefly thing to do, it's an inherent thing that anybody will do when confronted with overwhelming opposition. I decided that Thieves shouldn't have a Sneak ability, they should just be better at sneaking then anybody else.
Thieves therefore get the Stealth specialty from Tricks of the Trade for free.

2d6 or 1d20
Apocalypse World uses a very balanced 2d6 system, and in contrast D&D uses a wild 1d20 that always has to be vaguely high. What if D&D used the 1d20 roll in a balanced way? If you look at the percentages in AW and compare them to D&D then you have partial successes happening on rolls of 9 or higher and you have complete successes happening on rolls of 18 or higher. This would mean that every roll of 9 or higher is always some kind of success, and the natural 20 roll would no longer give some extra special effect. Without looking at probabilities, I would be inclined to make rolls of 15 or higher successes, and rolls of 10 to 14 partial successes, everything else below that is a miss but the GM could always choose to offer a partial success with a cost.
This would take a little more work, and might as well be it's own hack by the time I'm done.

gang warfare again
One of the glaring issues I've had when using Apocalypse World is that gangs tend to trump combat. This means that PCs often can't be heroes, even though the AW rules make it pretty clear that the PCs are central and important characters who are difficult to kill. Surround a fighter with five goblins in D&D and there's a lot of dice to be rolled, surround a fighter with five thugs in AW and there's a small gang fighting that character. It simplifies things, but it also makes it deadlier and a little one-sided.
Freebooters gangs roll 1d6 damage and have 0 armor for small gangs, 1d8 damage and 1 armor for medium gangs, and 1d10 damage and 2 armor for large gangs. Instead of +1harm for size differences, the damage die types adjust along with armor (up to a maximum of 4 armor).

what next?
I'll have to playtest some of this to see how it works.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

introducing the Red Shirt

To create your Red Shirt, choose name, look, stats, moves, gear and Hx.

Branson, Carlisle, Chilton, Dern, Haskell, Hawk, Hendorff, Kaplan, Kenny, Leslie, Mallory, Marple, Monroe, Nell, Number Two, Number Nine, Rizzo, Tasha, Thompson

Male, Female, Ambiguous, Hidden, or Transgressing
Display wear, scrounge biker wear, showy wear, casual wear, or vintage wear
Rugged face, sweet face, severe face, weathered face, or strong face
Dazed eyes, cold eyes, calm eyes, narrow eyes, or wide eyes
Compact body, wiry body, sturdy body, stout body, or fit body

Choose one set:
● 0=Cool, +1 Hard, +1 Hot, +1 Sharp, -1 Weird
● +1 Cool, +1 Hard, 0=Hot, +1 Sharp, -1 Weird
● 0=Cool, +1 Hard, 0=Hot, +1 Sharp, 0=Weird
● 0=Cool, +1 Hard, -1 Hot, +1 Sharp, +1 Weird

You get all the basic moves. You get Follower and Respawn, then choose another Red Shirt move.

You get:
• oddments worth 1-barter
• one firearm
• fashion suitable to your look, including at your option a piece worth 1-armor (you detail)

• 9mm (2-harm close loud)
• sawed-off (3-harm close reload messy)
• smg (2-harm close autofire loud)

Everyone introduces their characters by name, look, and outlook. On your turn, describe yourself and your gang/crew. Choose another character as your leader. List the other character's names, except for your leader. You and your leader never share Hx with one another.
Go around again for Hx. On your turn, choose one or both:
• You've been trying to recruit one of them. Tell that player Hx+2.
• One of them betrayed your trust. Tell that player Hx-1.
Tell everybody else Hx+1, everybody knows who you work for.

On the other player's turns:
• Write whatever number they tell you next to their character’s name.

Follower: you start as a follower of another player's character, you're either part of their gang or crew, subject to their approval, or you simply follow them. Your role within the gang or crew should be defined between you and the other player. Regardless they are your Leader. If you are in a position to help (or interfere) with your Leader, then you always help (or interfere) as if you rolled 10+. Your Leader can never highlight one of your stats at the start of a session.

Respawn: when you die, create a new recruit to join a gang/crew. This may or may not change your Leader. You may keep your moves and stats, but change your Name, Look, and Outlook as appropriate. Your Hx stays the same but everyone else's Hx with you resets to +0. You respawn with zero barter and a crowbar (2-harm hand messy) or a machete (3-harm hand messy), your choice. Lastly, hand your playbook to the MC and they can choose to erase then highlight new stats for you.

Nameless numberhead man: your presence alone can act as leverage for your Leader's manipulate rolls, and likewise your Leader's presence can act as leverage for your go aggro rolls.

Hold the fort: when you fight in your Leader's absence, you fight at +1harm or +1armor, your choice.

Miracle worker: you count as a crew all by yourself, for purposes of using a workspace or a garage. At the beginning of the session, roll+sharp. On a hit, you made +1barter from a recent job. On a 10+, the job benefits your Leader as well, the MC will describe how or give them +1barter too. On a miss, you're behind in your work and you owe somebody results, the MC will decide who.

I am the cavalry: when your leader marks 10 o'clock harm or higher you can arrive on the scene immediately, without any clear explanation why, by their side or in an advantageous position, your choice.

A friend in need: you get moonlighting with +1juggling. If your Leader has moonlighting, or picks it up later, then you can choose not to use it to give them +1juggling instead.

The burdens we carry: at the beginning of the session, you may ask the MC "Who is moving against my Leader and what will they do next?" and they will tell you, openly and honestly.

Death's head counsel: when you die you can prophecy the doom of the one who killed you at the hands of your Leader, roll+weird. On a hit, your Leader gets +1ongoing against your target. On a 10+, your Leader can choose to show up right now, with no clear explanation why, and you may choose to have your Respawn following them.

Dead drop: when you leave a coded message for your leader or their gang/crew, roll+sharp. On a hit, they will find it easily. On a 10+, they will understand it the moment they see it without the need to investigate further.

If you and another character have sex, mark 1xp. NPCs will begin following your Leader, just like you, and if they're a PC your Leader gets +1Hx with them.

Harm clock only has 4 segments
Debilities are not available to Red Shirts

+1 cool
+1 hard
+1 hot
+1 sharp
+1 weird
get a Red Shirt move
get a Red Shirt move
get a Red Shirt move
get a move from another playbook
get a vehicle (detail) and no shit driver

Friday, November 27, 2015

introducing the Commander

To create your Commander, choose name, look, stats, moves, gear and Hx.

Adam, Alistair, Amazon, Artemis, Bonny, Capone, Card, Cowboy, Duke, George, Gordon, Greta, Gunderson, Hannibal, Hartman, Hiller, Jack, Lee, Lydia, MacReady, Miles, Mother, O'Neil, Rico, Shepard, Skull, Snowball, William

Male, Female, or Transgressing
Combat armor wear, formal military wear, scrounge camo wear, or vintage luxe wear.
Strong face, scarred face, grave face, brooding face, or pained face.
Calculating eyes, cold eyes, forgiving eyes, sharp eyes, or weary eyes.
Stout body, massive body, sturdy body, or wiry body.

Choose one set:
● 0=Cool, +2Hard, 0=Hot, +1Sharp, 0=Weird
● +1Cool, +2Hard, +1Hot, 0=Sharp, -1Weird
● -1Cool, +2Hard, -1Hot, +2Sharp, 0=Weird
● 0=Cool, +2Hard, +1Hot, +1Sharp, -1Weird

You get all the basic moves. You get Sir, Yes Sir and 2 more Commander moves.

You get:
● a squad (a small gang, detail)
● one military weapon
● fashion suitable to your look, including a piece worth 2-armor (you detail)

● sidearm pistol (2-harm close loud reload)
● assault rifle (3-harm close loud autofire)
● antique rifle (2-harm far loud) with bayonet (2-harm close)

Everyone introduces their characters by name, look, and outlook.
Go around again for Hx. On your turn, choose both:
● You work with one of them frequently and have become good friends. Tell them Hx+2.
● You don't trust one of them. Tell them Hx-2.
Tell everybody else Hx-1, you're mercurial and difficult to understand.

On the other player's turns:
● Write whatever number they tell you next to their character’s name then subtract 1.

Sir, Yes Sir: your squad is your gang, same difference. When you command your gang directly, you can make basic moves with them or through them. At the MC's discretion any move that misses with your squad may result in them faltering, failing, or questioning your orders.

COMMANDER MOVES choose 2 more
Blue Falcon: when you roll+hard and get a miss, if the MC agrees that the context is appropriate, you may sacrifice one of your squad to change the result into a 10+.

Cleared hot: when you take harm, you may choose to have your squad respond to your attacker immediately and violently, roll+hard. On a hit, choose two. On a 10+, all three.
● members of your squad get between you and your attacker
● your squad inflicts harm on your attacker
● your squad doesn't suffer harm
On a miss, your squad is caught flat-footed and vulnerable.

F.U.B.A.R.: when you suffer harm, you can have members of your squad take the harm instead and roll+hard. On a hit, you can reduce the harm by 1. On a 10+, nobody will die from it, regardless of how much harm it was.

Oscar Mike: when you or your squad move across hostile ground, roll+hot. On a 10+, you make it to your destination without incident. On a 7-9, you leave something (or someone) behind along the way.

Sitrep: when you or your squad are caught by surprise or ambushed, roll+sharp. On a 10+, hold 2. On 7-9, hold 1. Spend hold 1-for-1 to do the following during this exchange:
● your squad finds good cover, they take +1armor
● you press forward and advance, give yourself +1harm
● regroup and recover, take +1ongoing to acting under fire

Voluntold: when someone in your squad questions you, mutinies, or attempts to abandon the squad roll+sharp. On a hit, they fall back in line. On a 10+, hold 1. Spend your hold to take +1forward on any roll involving your squad. If you still have your hold at the end of the session, mark 1 experience.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot: when you are in the thick of combat, roll+weird. On a hit, you may ask any one question of the MC as if you just read the sitch (advanced). On a 10+, you can reposition yourself or your squad to a new vantage point, with or without any real explanation of how it was accomplished.

If you and another character have sex, reset your Hx with each other to 0.

By default, your squad is about 12 soldiers with simple weapons who obey your commands to the best of their ability (2-harm gang small 1-armor). Then, choose 2:
• your squad consists of 25 or so soldiers. Medium instead of small.
• your squad’s well-armored. +1armor.
• your squad is well-disciplined and rarely questions your authority. Add +loyal.
• your squad’s self-sufficient, able to provide for itself by scavenging. It gets +rich.
• your squad is knowledgeable and well-traveled. Add +insight.
• your squad has decent weaponry. It gets +1harm.
And choose 1:
• your squad’s weapons are in bad shape and need constant maintenance. The gang is -1harm.
• your squad is young, wild, and reckless. Want: +unruly.
• you and your squad are in significant debt to someone more powerful. Vulnerable: obligation.
• your squad can't keep their genitals in check. Vulnerable: disease.
• your squad are not real soldiers, you've conscripted them to your mutual cause. The gang is -1armor.

• +1cool (max+2)
• +1hard (max+3)
• +1sharp (max+2)
• get a new Commander move
• get a new Commander move
• pick a new option for your squad
• get a holding (detail) and wealth
• get 2 gigs (detail) and moonlighting
• get a move from another playbook
• get a move from another playbook