Monday, May 4, 2020

ACKS Blackmarsh (4) - Viz

Good day to you, my most loyal of subscribers who have yet to delete their ties to this humble blog in a huff due to a severe shortage of content! While I cannot call this a comeback, I can call it at least a rolling over in one's sleep. My archive of unfinished, unpublished content is a wide field of weeds I have yet to pluck, place in the first cup I can reach in the counter and present to you as a doe-eyed child presents the first dandelion of spring to his or her mother. 

Behold, the first, tallest weed:


In the Smoking Bay lives a wizard, on a mountain that once fell from the sky.

It's rich in 'viz' - the Blackmarsh setting's version of "magic in physical form". Viz is vaguely defined, to whit it "could be a flask of pure spring water, a newly bloomed flower, or an iridescent rock". It's a thing that is another thing - 'viz' is a substance that takes on the characteristics of another object.

Much like other things, you know it when you see it. From my reading of Blackmarsh, 'viz' is something that's constantly renewing in the environment - there's ash trees in the Greywoods whose seeds contain viz.

It's like if "abiotic oil" was a real thing - here's this source of power just leaching into the world that just needs to be collected.

The Value of Viz

The two things that viz gives you is the ability to cast spells without wiping it from memory, one "viz" used per spell level, and it's worth 100GP towards magical item creation.

I'd mentioned earlier that one could probably treat viz and Dwimmermount's azoth as the same thing.

Turns out that's pretty darn easy.

Dwimmermount (ACKS), pg 360 - refined azoth is valued at 100 GP per ounce. Note the descriptors of what viz could be above - poetic, yes, but, also very much possibly things that could weigh an ounce.

So it could be deduced that some process in Blackmarsh is exuding refined azoth into or as everyday objects, including plant life and vermin. That's...kinda worrisome, really.

The expanded capabilities of refined azoth from various sources:
  • The GP value of refined azoth (100GP/ounce) can substitute for equivalent value for:
    • Some or all of the base cost of magical research
    • Some or all the special components required to create a magic item or perform a ritual spell
    • Some or all of the precious materials used to create a magic item, perform a ritual spell, create a construct, or grant undeath
  • If consumed (literally) the  spellcaster regains the ability to cast a spell of a level previously expended - one spell level per ounce.
  • Substitute the full base cost of alchemical transformation ( crossbreeding, creation of brand new lifeforms, or gaining immortality as detailed in Dwimmermount pg 399)
From Dwimmermount, it has a number of side effects; it's combustible for one, acting as double-strength flaming oil.

Touching or consuming refined azoth causes a save; if failed, a set of tables determines effects that are a mix of helpful and baleful.

But, as things go, just because it's potentially harmful doesn't mean people won't seek it out - we don't need a fantasy world to prove that. There's a bit of a 'gold rush' theme tied to viz, but nothing terribly defined, as far as amounts or ease of finding. 


We can make a guess about the relative value of viz.

A load of semiprecious stones weighs a stone, and averages 1,000GP in value. Precious gems are the same weight, and 3000GP in value.

A stone is about 10 pounds. There's 16 ounces in a pound, so there's ~160 ounces in a stone, and therefore a "load" of viz weighs a stone and is worth ~16,000GP at face value.

Sources of Viz


Let's assay the landscape:

The Greywoods: Several hexes - "grey ash" trees drop seeds that are a "potent source" of viz.

Hex 0105: the ruins of Daur Anthar, there was a vein of metal rich in viz.

Hex 0217: Oldan Hold; established as a base for dwarves from Bolzak seeking viz; the lord of the keep, Mazardan, heads an adventuring company seeking viz. In fact, the dwarven Lord Mazardan will pay 200 GP per viz brought to him; that's "over value" for it's use.

If we take the face value of 100GP, that's a 200% markup. We can have a maximum demand modifier of +4, I believe, modifying a 4d4 roll for market price - that's a maximum roll of 20 on 4d4+4, to get to 200%.

Clearly, Oldan Hold wants viz, enough that they're willing to pay maximum adjusted market price for it.

Hex 0616: Mages of the Bright Empire once harvested viz from a half-mile long, 50' deep gorge.

Hex 0804: Stardell Falls, a 40 foot waterfall, is a "rich source" of viz.

Hex 0913: Castle Blackmarsh, survived for a time on the traffic of folks seeking viz. Has an elite association of adventurers called "the Viz Club".

Hex 1112: Bright Empire's last treasure ships from Blackmarsh; contains crates of viz.

Hex 1309: The Mountain That Fell; "incredibly rich" in viz; guarded by a high level mage.

Hex 2114: Mermaids collect shells for a pool in the center of the island; they turn into viz during the full moon (4d6 of them).

Hex 2401: A giant ant lair; 1 in 20 eggs are viz.

Hex 2410: Large pillars with compartments "where viz can be inserted".


That's a lot of different things. I'm interested in what I can pull out of this and define. (and yes, I realize I'm missing the point of not defining it, much like the robot who knows the chemical composition of the rose but will never know love, but this is my fun-time, let me go)

The Mountain that Fell

...is a good place to start. 

Presume the Wizard of the Isle is a 14th level mage. (Dwimmermount includes a progression table for ACKS up to 18th, but we'll stick with 14 for now) His actual HD may be higher, he's probably transmogrified himself, since he's been around for centuries. It may be construed he's unlocked some form of immortality  as per Dwimmermount, pg 408.

He has no domain or realm.

The realm he presumably could be running, however, is an empire of millions. 

The minimum assumed income for an empire; ACKS pg 230, is somewhere in the neighborhood of 385,000GP per month. For completeness, that number jives with a 14th level character's Monthly Henchmen Wages (350K).

His expenses may technically be lower, as he's not providing for a population, but that could be easily subsumed into whatever measures he's taken and must maintain to guard the island itself. That golem probably doesn't come cheap.

Since the mountain is "incredibly rich" in viz, the Wizard is presumably actively doing wizardly things, one could posit that his "income" is gained via the procurement of viz. Since he's an immortal wizard on an island that exudes magic, I'm going to take a wild leap and say he probably doesn't spend money on mundane things like...food, maybe, or fancy clothes, or anything that isn't furthering his research or protecting his research from others. I honestly don't think this guy would have apprentices, he probably has a small company of artificial creatures doing the extraneous work.

I'll continue, then, computing this base 385K of income as if it's all coming to him in viz.

Base division means, then, he's pulling 3,850 ounces, or 240 pounds (24 stone) of viz out of the mountain each month.

He can't spend that much in a month, though - not on the things that viz can be spent on.

The most expensive things our Wizard can do, on a day-to-day basis, is creating constructs, crossbreeds, or doing necromancies. For per-month output, nothing beats max-value construct creation, at something like 27.5K per month in created value. We can take the Abstract Magical Research rules and figure that this wizard only fails on a roll of 2+ (some special HFH class ability, can't recall which), invert the 1.05x multipler for cost, and easily state that:

The Wizard of the Isle takes in 27.5Kgp of Azoth per month, and converts that to abstract magical research value totalling 26.2Kgp per month, in items, constructs, or just plain library value, as needed.

Mining for Viz

We know how much viz is worth -  - how much viz do we pull out of that space?

Let's take the Axioms mining rules as an example, and think of it like a gem mine.

We know 140 carats is about an ounce, and by density a diamond of that size is about three-quarters a cubic inch in volume. That's not a bad size for what we see above in the descriptions for viz sources - seeds, shells. Giant Ant eggs might be up to 8 lbs, but maybe it's just a portion of the egg.

Value-wise, it's way off though; a 140ct diamond is probably damn near invaluable - in the real world a 163 carat diamond went for about $34 million at auction. So, we'll table that for now, and we'll look instead at results.

Each bit of viz is 100gp, and we need 275 bits per month to fuel research. That's about 17 pounds of viz at an ounce (140 carats) per bit, and as such we need to dig out 38,080 carats per month.

That's a very big gem mine. Like, wizard-did-it big. Fortunately for us a wizard has indeed done it.

We need to net 16 times the yearly profit of an ornamental gem mine per month. If 200 work gangs produce 2,400 carats in a year, that's 12 carats per gang per year - or, 1 carat per gang per month.

That's 38,080 work gangs, or 190,400 people, digging out 11.4 million cubic feet of material per month - a cube of material 225 foot on a side, or a small mound about 80 ft tall and 160 ft in width.

Clearly inexplicable, cause as the Dungeon Master says,


OR DOES HE?

Well, so, the Wizard did it, and if we've got a wizard with a teleporting construct that guards the surface of the mountain, what the heck you think he's been up to underneath? That's right - horrible spiky bladed relentless digging machines.

From D@W:C we know that monstrous workers multiply their labor rate by their normal load divided by 5. 

Giant Crabs seem diggy, have a load of 210; divided by 5 that's 42, that's 4,533 giant crab constructs.  (190,400 lazy humans divided by 42)

That's ridiculous and terrible, but is it the best we can do? Of course not.

Purple Worms, the very essence of "dig", clock in at a load of 320; that's a divisor of 64 or 2,975 purple worm looking constructs roiling up to the lab to barf out little bits of viz every couple days.

That's pretty ridiculous and quite terrible, but I'mma stop you right there, and tell you who has the greatest normal load of ALL TIME.

SPERM WHALE.

(greatest load...sperm whale... just, you know. Enjoy that.)

Boasting a 2400st normal load, that's a divisor of 480, and so 397 sperm whale constructs constantly churning the nethers of the mountain, surfacing in some infinite dance loop of choreographed terror to spit collected viz out of their blowholes and into some sort of collection apparatus.

That gold construct's not there for defense. He's there to warn you that you're hilariously out of your league.

Wizards cheat though...

The best way to run a high level wizard is to assume that the wizard has a copy of the rulebooks of the game she lives in.

The best CCF in the L&E monster creation rules is 0.430, for the Coleopteran/Beetle body form, with a set BME of 1.62. Weight is (HD*10)^BME, and so CCF*(HD*10)^BME)/5 is the formula for figuring out the divisor - or, 0.430*((HD*10)^1.62)/5.

That simplifies to 16*HD, assuming I remember how to math. If we want 397 beetles with a 480 divisor, that's a 30 HD beetle. At 30HD the beetle form is 10,300 lbs, merely gigantic instead of colossal, costing with at least one "*" ability 65,000 gp.


Technically it's a bigger construct in HD than a 14th level mage can make, but, only by 2HD, I feel like there was maybe a proficiency in a later book to give a bit of a level bump, and if not, there should be. Or, again, the referenced Wizard already exceeded mortal limitations.

400ish gigantic beetle-looking constructs. roiling around in that mountain. My guess is that they don't even remove the material, they just fill it in behind themselves, and there's just something that makes little tiny bits of 'viz' spontaneously generate that they store in their giant midguts until they emerge engorged and ready to vomit it out.

Alternatively, assume there's some time period between the digging and the filling, and at any given point there's 11.4 million cubic feet of tunnel - let's say these guys make 20x20 tunnels, so that's...28,560 linear feet of random tunnels PCs could blunder into and explore for a little bit before they are summarily chewed up or crushed by the next gigantic beetle construct to cross their path.

Anyway, it took the Wizard about 78 years to make all those beetles, assuming he did it by himself, using the abstract rules. It's left as an exercise for the reader to figure out how to shorten that. I'd suggest a construct-making construct. Or, actually, a construct-making construct-making construct?







Sunday, July 21, 2019

Know, O Prince, about the d20 Conan RPG


As it turns out, I've got many, many unpublished posts lying around inside the blog. As might be surmised, things around the house and work have changed a bit (none for the worse) and I just don't have the time to dedicate to this - the ideas, I have plenty, to format them in a even vaguely shareable format, not so much. And I'm not one for random rants.

In the real world I've joined a 5E campaign for a time, which is literally my first time playing the edition, so it's a little weird coming into it after essentially being 'ruined' by ACKS, as far as just pick-up-and-play - I already have several spreadsheets dedicated to picking things in 5E apart....

Anyway, I found this, written in 2016, it looks like a mostly complete thought, and I'd been reminded of this particular product again while studying 5th Edition. I think there *might* be a good solid game in 5E, but I'm not sure anybody would recognize it once I thought I was done mutiliating its corpse.

And, there's some tertiary nostalgia in here given the release a while back of the Modiphus Conan, whose entire business seems hyperfocused on getting licenses to really interesting fictional worlds and then half-assing in some weird quasi-storygame-fatelike system...


I've been thumbing through the Del Rey 3-volume Conan collection again, and that always gets me
thinking about a game that 'got away' - Mongoose's d20 Conan RPG.

Somewhat panned upon release, mainly due to Mongoose's spotty editing, it is nevertheless one of the more unique twists on the base d20 created, and, to me at least, seems like a product that had a lot of love put into it - love of the source material, and the game that could be created out of it.

The game is, sadly, both out of print and not for sale - Mongoose's license with the Howard estate (or whomever) expired and was not renewed.

While a full review of something that's out of print isn't necessarily in the cards here, I've long loved the idea of putting some of this in play.

And I just feel like evangelizing and/or eulogizing something that I never really got to use.


The authors clearly had a great respect and love for the source material - they did dip into the various pastiches, but had a rule of "Howard First", where anything from a secondary source would be trumped by Howard's writing.

In fact, Chapter 10 of the core book is from Howard, his 'Hyborian Age' manuscript, in which he laid out the history of his world, from before the cataclysm to the dusk of the Hyborian Age, when the sea and mantle swelled up and split Europe, Africa, and Asia into the land forms we know today.



I haven't seen every d20 product by a long shot. But of the ones I've glanced through, the Conan RPG exults in the system, rolling around in it luxuriously, like Demi Moore in Robert Redford's money.  It takes no prisoners in the arena of combat complexity; gives no care to the strictures of Vancian magic. If there's an awesome thing done in the library of Conan's adventures, you're damn well certain it will be in these books.


It's unapologetic. It's turned things up to 11, reading it makes you want to be that class.

Here, let's go through the classes in the 2nd edition core book, you can see what I mean. I'm skipping over a lot just to point out the over-the-top stuff.

Warning: d20-like language ahead, if you don't recall AOOs and move actions and all that jazz, you may be a little lost.

Barbarian: Versatility: Take a -2 with any unfamiliar weapon, be it exotic, improvised, or even a weapon which can't be thrown. By 14th level, not only do you not have a penalty, you've increased your critical threat range with any object you can conceivably hit another creature with.

Barbarian: Bite Sword: Carry any light weapon or one handed slashing weapon in your mouth for 3+STR rounds (3+STR minutes if a light weapon).

Bite Sword, right? How many times does that happen in the fiction? So there's a rule for it. That's  what I'm talking about.

Borderer: Heroic Sacrifice: When you reach -10 HP, you do not die - as long as you end the round adjacent to an opponent, you may continue to either move or attack each round. You could be killed by poison or sorcery, but not damage.

Noble: Do You Know Who I Am?: Declare yourself and your heritage as a full round action. Opponents must make a Will save versus your CHA and Reputation and level or not be able to physically or verbally attack you.

Come on now! First off, we've just implied verbal attacks; there is a way by which you can harm folk's social standing and reputation. Secondly, raise your hands if you've ever tried that.

Pirate: To Sail a Road of Blood and Slaughter: Coup-de-grace as a free action, take no AOO, gain a +4 to Intimidate for the next round.

Even the names are evocative.

Scholar: This is the magic using class; there's nothing awesome by itself in here, but we'll talk about magic later.

Temptress: Outrageous Flattery: From 9th level and above, the temptress has faked sincerity countless times. When she says that a person has a lovely physique or an impressive stance, her statements sound completely plausible, regardless of how hackneyed her words may be.

Look! They've made a power out of the southern phrase/concept 'Bless your heart'. 

Thief: I judged d20 product by whether or not they dropped the 'rogue' moniker in preference to 'thief'. It's the rogue on crack - bigger sneak attacks, more powers earlier, etc.


Everybody gets something every level. You get 5 bonuses to a single ability, and a bonus to every ability 4 times - if you survive to level 3 or 4, you're quickly ramped up into badass levels in pretty much every class.

I think that a lot of this boosting of all the classes - especially the combat classes - is due to the freedom imparted by the change in the magic system. The acknowledgment and acceptance that using magic in Howard's world is not utilitarian, not safe - it's dangerous and it will break you - lets all those old arguments about linear fighters and quadratic wizards and the 1-hour adventuring day fall by the wayside, and they can go full-on cinematic nuts with the FX on the men and women with the swords.

You're not relying on your magical swords and rings and such to get you through the day, so, here's some shenanigans you can pull off.

In return, though, the Massive Damage Threshold (save or die after taking some number of damage all at once) is only 20 points - which is easy to do. Add to that you stop getting hit die after 10th level (in ACKS, this would be 7th level, rather than 9th, since Conan is a 20-level system)

Reputation

Players gain reputation via deeds - there's guidance on how much rep you'd get for an adventure, based on how public it is. Your reputation is modified by your social status, your level, and where your deeds were peformed - do great deeds in Zingara and they'll barely recognize you in Vendhya.

It wears off over time, as well, as great deeds fade in memory. Reputations are tagged; so there may be situations in which your "+5 reputation from betraying a prince" may go against you.

In addition, you can generate yourself an Alias; and thus have two differing reputations.

This is really asking to be tied into ACKS' Demographics of Heroism.

Some Feats

There's some real red meat in this section.

Carouser: No penalties for drunkenness, gain bonuses to social skills while carousing, wake up the next morning as if you had a full night's rest.

Opportunistic Sacrifice: A coup-de-grace counts as a ritual sacrifice for the purposes of gaining power points (for casting)

Priest: You are an ordained priest, with the social benefits that brings. Which is exactly how all clerics should be handled.

The High Living Rule

EVERY WEEK , ALL CHARACTERS WILL SPEND A MINIMUM OF  50% OF THEIR CURRENT WEALTH ON HIGH LIVING, IF THAT WEALTH IS CURRENTLY OVER 50 SILVER PIECES.

It's in caps like that in the book. It's the ultimate carousing rule.

Combat

The most notable thing is that defenses are broken out into Dodge Defense (DEX) and Parry Defense (STR) - armor is damage reduction - all in an attempt to get that feel of cinematic combat, where barely clothed barbarians duck and weave around befanged monsters.

I have no idea how that worked out in play.

There were also a number of combat moves with cool names - Pantherish Twist, Shield Slam, Decapitating Slash - most of which keyed off the overly complex AOO rules and the Dodge/Parry change mentioned above. 

Sorcery

Hyborian sorcery is a long, slow, dangerous process. You won't be popping off fireballs after a good night's sleep.

Sorcery is fueled by Power Points, regained via rest, or sacrifice of living beings, or rituals where a group bands together to funnel their power centrally.

There are rules.

The Rule of Success: When a spell is successful, it can be immediately cast again at half price. If you slay someone with your spell or by weapon, you get a morale bonus to physical and magical attacks on the next round.

The Rule of Impermanence: If you die, all of your magical items crumble to dust, or spells stop functioning. If you're KO'd, your things get a saving throw to avoid.

The Rule of Defense: Blow all  your Power Points for a last-stand defensive blast against an attack.

The Rule of Obsession: If your character becomes Obsessed with something besides sorcery - an allegiance,  another person, multiclassing - lose total Power Points. If you overcome it (break the allegiance to your benefit, kill the person, etc.) gain those points back plus more. 

The Rule of the Master: If you learn sorcery from another source, you have a master. The master can remove/grant Power Points, perform rituals for the master.

The Rule of the Sorcerer's Soul: Other sorcerers and extraplanar entities can see you are a sorcerer, and how corrupted you may be and how many power points you hold (in general terms on both), just by making eye contact. 

In addition, there are consequences. You become corrupted over time, gaining mental and physical deformities.

Some spells are "mighty", and casting them too often may break local reality, harming or killing you.

It's ridiculously flavorful, and could possibly be used as guidance on bringing any fictional style of magic into a game, from Tolkien to Abercrombie.

The World of Conan

Over the course of the few years it was in print, Mongoose put out a lot of product about the world - I'm relatively sure they touched on all of Howard's nations.


 A Judge could put on a pretty good show of running Hyboria with all of it.

One of the reasons I thought of this was this post at Black Gate talking about The Known World - also put together in this format, as a homage to Howard's idea to simplify (for better or worse, honestly, views expressed in the Conan fiction were a product of it's time) various cultures into touchstones that any reader somewhat knowledgeable of our own world would be able to hold on to.



Anyway. If you see it around for a price that falls under your 'impulse buy' threshold, don't hesitate to pick it up - especially if you're a fan of the Conan world. It's a good read, it's an interesting take on d20, and it's just chock full of flavor.







Monday, April 29, 2019

A Number of Irelands


In looking at various ways to abstract the game down to its fundamentals, one starts looking at things outside the rules a bit - or, things that start to intrude on the fiction of a game world.

In a system where building strongholds and ruling lands is a thing, one might step back and ask how best to enable it - what ought one do to provide the opportunity?

The guidelines say something like this, when talking about the status of a hex as being civilized, borderlands, or wilderness:


  • Within 50 miles of a large town, it is civilized.
  • Within 25 miles of the civilized border, it is borderlands.
  • Else, it's wilderness.
Now - some of the above relies a bit on the assumptions that settlement patterns and the general traffic of "civilization" tend to tamp down on the occurrence of wandering monsters - the bellwether of hex status, and makes no nods towards the realities of terrain, etc. We will assume for the moment this works as stated.


Assume a spherical cow domain.

and there's the map. Blue is our little center large town. The green bits then are the 50 mile radius around that town that is civilized by default; then the yellow is our borderlands, and the red our wilderness, as we have to end it somewhere, and another 25 miles out is fine.

Our landmass is the platonic ideal of such things for campaign purposes - a disc 200 miles wide. If we look at that through a lens of high occupancy, if not maximum:


Area (sq mi)6m HexesFam/HexPossible Families
Civilized Green7854252500126000
Borderland Yellow981831520063000
Wild Red1374444110044100
TOTAL314161008233100


You can see that the consecutive areas of C/B/W embiggen, because geometry, and there's about twice as much wilderness as there is civilized area. 

233K families is a principality. We're looking at a Class II city there in the middle, 4 or 5 Class IV large towns (which would kinda bulge out the civilized area, but we'll deal with that later), then maybe 12-15 Class V's scattered at the edge of the borderlands.

More realistically, the totals may be more like one half or three quarters those levels; perhaps a Class III city as the centermark, with the outlying cities barely reaching IV status.

The demographics of either of those aren't horrific - you're looking at a 10th to 12th level NPC at the top. A party that's focused on their goals can knock that over and take control - or at least gain enough for a credible shot at independence. Or, if we're setup already with a set of independent smaller domains, perhaps conquering one and uniting the island from there is on the menu.


Out in the interwebs there's the idea of measuring things in the number of Libraries of Congress, as far as data goes, or the number of Rhode Islands, in terms of area.

For this, however, we might state that for a campaign maybe all you need is the minimum of one Ireland...

...in order to  have a compelling space for a set of would-be conquerors to operate in.

As I recall, Jack Vance's Lyonesse was near the size of Ireland - so - I find myself in proper company.





Friday, March 29, 2019

In the interests of failure


Been a bit. No promises of a regular return, mind you.

In what little time I've had for such pursuits I've been on a tour, so to speak, of various nooks and crannies withing the gaming blagosphere, taking note of little knick knacks that might look good on a shelf of rules.

One of which is the climbing system that eventually ended up in Veins of the Earth; the precursor to which is found here: http://falsemachine.blogspot.com/2014/03/climbing-full-system-first-draft.html

What's interesting there, aside from clarifying what it means to climb beyond some thief skill that's usually not worth checking, is the failure modes.

They key off stat checks, and this the only mechanic I've seen that uses stat checks that I actually like. Each statistic is themed in itself, and I'd posit that the order you check in is important.

 I'd deduce that (and yes this next bit is obvious):


  • Constitution - acts here as the "primary attribute" for climbing, and a failure here sets you up for a cascade of failures.
  • Strength - an obvious failure mode for climbing.
  • Dexterity - a failure of movement
  • Intelligence - a failure of planning
  • Wisdom - a failure of judgement
  • Charisma - a failure of personality, or morale.

I think the general concept is applicable to failures in general; perhaps making failures interesting without relying on the Judge to make stuff up on the fly.

So, maybe something like:


Open Locks
WisdomAll failures cumulative
DexterityYour tools break.
IntelligenceA tool slips; there's a loud *clink*. Anything on the other side of the door is alerted.
CharismaFrustration overcomes you. Take a -1 penalty to further checks today.

One might argue that Dexterity would be the "primary attribute" for opening locks; I'd retort that judgement and patience are just as important. We then move DEX to the "obvious failure", and assume that thieves will usually make that check, as DEX is their prime stat.

As Open Locks isn't a terribly physically demanding task, we drop both CON and STR, leaving INT and CHA - we slot INT in as a "general fuckup", and then CHA as a sort of "ragequit" on the task.

We all know the coworker who's overreacting to every slight failure; and we don't like them. That's applied CHA, to me at least.

It's likely, however, that there's too much failure here - you're almost guaranteed something "interesting", and maybe that's boring. Climb, sure, yea - you fail a climb check you fall, and Patrick's system above at least has gradients based on the difficulty of the climb.

It'd be easy enough to gatekeep the interesting failures like so:


Open Locks
SurpriseContinue on table if surprised.
WisdomAll failures cumulative
DexterityYour tools break.
IntelligenceA tool slips; there's a loud *clink*. Anything on the other side of the door is alerted.
CharismaFrustration overcomes you. Take a -1 penalty to further checks today.

and there you go. If the PC is surprised they failed, then shit goes south. Easy-peasy.


Sunday, October 28, 2018

Where the Shadow lies

Hey! I know, long time. Life, right?

Anyway - a quick hit:

Mordor and Mirkwood got the way they were because of the presence of Sauron.

Presume for the moment that an Sauron-like entity - or whatever, honestly - produces a 'sinkhole of evil' effect that extends for miles, probably based on its HD or whatever apparent power level you assign.

That effect is a negative modifier to the d12 encounter table roll.

You then extend your d12 encounter table for the region into the negatives - however far you need to go - so that you can resolve rolls like "-3" to, say, orcs. Or evil spiders. And that's what the party encounters more often until such time as the Shadow is resolved/eliminated/depowered.

This has two excellent consequences:

- Modifying the encounter tables also modifies the monster settlement patterns, as that also gives you lairs when generating an area, or Wandering Into War results.

- The Abstract Dungeon adventuring rules use a "d8+d12" roll for resolution - the same roll as a wandering encounter - and therefore using that same negative modifier makes dungeons within reach of the Shadow more dangerous.

So, if I were to flesh this out in the future, I'd do something like:

- Evil presence "pushes" a negative modifier out to a distance based on its HD and a distance comparable to what a PC of equivalent HD might rule - so Sauron can cover the land of Mordor based on the fact that a ??HD PC could rule an empire.

- That presence pushes out over a time period based off the mercenary recruitment charts, maybe.

- The negatives increase closer to the source, again based on something derived from domain control.

- Abstract dungeons/lairs in the area inherit the negative modifier.

- When defeated, the modifiers reverse themselves on the same schedule, though any existing lairs remain. I expect I'd want to figure out how to reduce the negative modifiers on dungeons/lairs at a slower rate.

I'd have to cogitate more on how to manage the encounter rolls while lairs/dungeons that remain shadowed still exist in the area.


Spiders of Mirkwood

John Howe LOTR is best LOTR.


Friday, July 27, 2018

Campaign End


Freshly back from the wilds of Minnesota, I realized I even missed my useless summer post this year!

In other news, my campaign ended.

It ended ...probably as well as it could have. The overboisterous fighter finally talked himself into a showdown with local, more established powers and earned a siege.

The fighter had an ill-advised scheme to pretend to surrender, buying time for the undercautious voudon witch to execute on a summoning he ought not have. He didn't have enough troops to oppose the siege. The opposing ceremonialist and the leadership of the brigand crew besieging the joint whipped their troops into a charge around the daemon (the witch having a bit of a tactical breakdown trying to stop all this, as he was the only force on the battlefield at this point) to hit the witch and his pile of assistants to break concentration and retreat.

That succeeded. Due to positioning, the witch and three of his assistants were able to flee with the remaining forces in the fortress (the fort-temple from N1: Reptile God) and hide out in the sub-sub-basement while the daemon rampaged around for a bit and finally disappeared.

Those villagers and militia were...unimpressed with the effort the witch put into their defense, and he and his assistants were forced to take a little boat into the underground river and head into the unknown darkness. His fourth assistant had previously fled the battle while everyone was above-ground - probably off to the underground complex once owned by the necromancer Nuromen to do who-knows-what.

The druidic witch, her wolves, and giant hawk quit the field once the summoning was done and the extent of the desperation revealed itself. The assassin and his two followers also escaped.

The fighter died on the battlefield, overplaying his hand.



So what happened?

One thing, mainly: my desire to introduce a bit of domain play early - with the party inheriting nominal control of the little town at about 2nd level via the resolution of the N1: Reptile God hook - took a few of them off-task.

By off-task, I mean doing what parties of 1st-5th should be doing - putzing around their local area, completing achievable dungeon plunders, getting gold.

Rather, the little fledgling domain took focus - and that's not sitting around administering it - they spent a good deal of time traveling the region and recruiting peasants to live in their little corner of the world, with only a few random encounters to provide character advancement.

Worse, the fighter, in a fit of espirit de corps, let them all be their own landowners, which basically eliminated any domain income.

The final part was looking for threats to the domain specifically, finding those threats, and in this particular case, pissing off those threats.

Without the income from adventuring, they couldn't counter a lot of this.

I didn't really provide anything more than cursory advice; so, I was no help - nor should I have been, really. Gotta have bite for your bark, and there were enough things to do that weren't what they did.



Anyway. Gaming continues, this time as a player - one of my players was one of our group's usual DMs, and he's taking over for a spell.

Here, eventually, I'll get back to blogging with largely pointless expositions and poorly pasted tables of mechanics what-don't-need-fixin', which will be nice, for me at least.

You, maybe not so much. :P


Monday, March 12, 2018

Experience vs Experienced

Here's one of those conjectural things I joust at.


Gaining experience - it's done via several methods. Let's review?

  1. Experience from Treasure: Self explanatory. There's treasure out there - you get it, and make it back with the treasure, you get 1 XP for every 1 GP value.
  2. Experience from Creatures: If you defeat a creature by will or weapon,  you gain XP based of the difficulty of dealing with that creature.
  3. Experience from Construction: Constructing a stronghold meant to secure a domain nets you 1 XP per 2 GP spent.
  4. Experience from Domain Income: Up to a threshold based on your level, you gain 1XP/1GP over that threshold from earnings from the domain.
  5. Experience from Mercantile Income: You gain 1XP/1GP based off of profits above the threshold for your level from personally leading a trade expedition.
  6. Experience from Magical Research: If your per-month cost of research (new spell, new magic item, whatever) exceeds your threshold, you gain XP from the difference.
  7. Experience from Hijinks: This is equivalent to domain income for hijink-running classes - again, thresholds bound it.
  8. Experience from Spoils of War: Each participant in a battle earns 1 XP per 1 GP they receive in spoils (D@W:C pg 74-75).
  9. Experience from Command: Each commander in a battle gains XP equal to the difference between the XP value of defeated enemy units and lost friendly units.

All of these methods have something in common - they all include actions that directly interface into a particular subsystem in the game - be that plain old adventuring, domain-related activities, wilderness travel (mercantile ventures) or magical research.

Warfare is directly treated as adventuring; with the added hook of commanders receiving creature-based XP. Note that #8 - experience from spoils - is not bounded by a threshold - it's experience from treasure.

In fact, these boil down into basically five categories:


Experience from...DoingThreshold?Notes
Gaining Treasure
AdventuringNTreasure must be brought back to civilization
Spoils of WarNHalf of total spoils generally goes to commanders, total shared pro-rata
Defeating Foes
CombatNPersonal combat only
CommandingNGained from difference of units defeated vs. units lost
Gaining Profit
Ruling a DomainY
Mercantile VenturesY
Managing HijinksY
Magical Research...researchYFailed efforts do not gain XP
ConstructionBuilding a StrongholdN1XP/2GP; XP lost if stronghold is lost

Gaining Treasure is pretty straightforward - there's stuff someone has, and you defeat them and take it. So, also, is Defeating Foes - commanding mass battles takes on a "profit" motive in acting to balance a victory against what it takes to achieve it. One could, perhaps should, apply that to PCs leading mercenaries in quasi-mass combat as well. 

Gaining Profit is varied in application, but in each case the character is assumed to be the leader of a larger group performing a task on his or her behalf, more or less - either simply living their lives to pay taxes (domain rulership), coming along on a trading expedition, or working as part of a hideout.

Magical research is something that gains XP in the act of creation of magical items or new spells; a very specific mechanic for a specific subsystem.

Construction, of a stronghold specifically, is an interesting one. It's a quasi-permanent piece of the character - the most direct result of the conceit that experience=level=power.




Autarch's Axioms presented a 'non combatant' XP progression just recently, for a lesser amount of XP (what coincides with 40% less XP for a fighter to gain level 2, and advancing by the usual methods from there) any given class or monster, evidently, can gain their class or monstrous HD and features while avoiding combat.

The tradeoff for that is that one's attack throws, saves, HP are decreased every few levels, and the outcome for a fighter, at least, is that they come out in all but HP looking more like a mage (HP looks closer to a d6 class).

Regaining one's combatant form is simple enough - regain the difference in XP (and only allocate XP to that) until you catch up with where you should be; then continue on from there gaining XP as a "normal" class.

It's an interesting idea, but makes me wonder about going one step further - allocating progression in various things by source of XP.

The first thing we do is redefine Character Level and HD as separate concepts.

HD, which we could rename but won't, is then actual combative skill - attacks, saves, hit points. That's easy.


Let's talk about Character Level though...starting with a simpler example.

Take a 9th level Venturer, one that hasn't built his or her hideout/stronghold yet. They have amassed, or amassed and lost, several fortunes, likely. They've been out adventuring, they've recovered valuable artifacts and piles of gems and coin, they've executed on trading opportunities.

On the theoretical average, they've gained 80% of their XP from treasure, and 20% from combat - that's 144,000 GP in treasure vs. 36,000 in combat XP. (HFH Venturer)

The venturer has several static abilities; bribery, diplomacy, navigation, etc; that do not increase by level. They do have one, however : Hear Noise, which increases in utility 5% per level.

What does it really mean to get better at Hearing Noise? What sort of experience leads one to be able to more sharply delineate one thread of sound over another? Once you've done whatever is required, what value is that success?

What about the thief that never picks pockets?

There's a certain level of bullshit here, really, it's a game and who cares - there's a point at which we have to give up. But once we've defined fighting capability as something that can be ignored, everything else lines up as a possibility for the same treatment.

Let's define a preliminary set of buckets for our Venturer that XP can go in - and for purposes of this experiment, I'm using the non-casting HFH Venturer, as magic skill isn't something I want to get into at the moment:

  1. Combat; self-explanatory.
  2. Trading; the mercantile networkbargaining and diplomacy
  3. Information gathering; hear noise (available as a proficiency termed eavesdropping in ACKS, and the name change fits this bucket), bonus languages, and read languages
  4. Traveling; either seafaring I or riding, plus navigation

As an aside, Hear Noise as eavesdropping paints a certain picture - while dropping those eaves, the venturer must also strive to not be obvious about it! It presupposes a certain level of guile must be employed - some of the same sorts of skills that move silently, hide in shadows, and disguise would require. It'd be easy enough to move that into a 5th bucket of "guile"...so let's do that.

Moving forward, let's assume the 5 buckets. At 9th level, all things being equal, our Venturer would have placed 36,000 XP evenly across the 4 skill buckets, plus 36,000 in the combat bucket. Let's entable that:


LevelCombat/HDTradingInfo GatherTravelingGuileTOTAL
12020202020100
22502502502502501,250
35005005005005002,500
41,0001,0001,0001,0001,0005,000
52,0002,0002,0002,0002,00010,000
64,0004,0004,0004,0004,00020,000
78,0008,0008,0008,0008,00040,000
816,00016,00016,00016,00016,00080,000
936,00036,00036,00036,00036,000180,000
1056,00056,00056,00056,00056,000280,000
1176,00076,00076,00076,00076,000380,000
1296,00096,00096,00096,00096,000480,000
13116,000116,000116,000116,000116,000580,000
14136,000136,000136,000136,000136,000680,000

Now, a resounding "so what?" - or, given this, the Venturer that puts everything into Guile or splits it between Trading and Traveling; or, never fights - what happens to them?

I don't know yet, but I suspect this table is going to see quite a bit of change to rationalize wherever it is I end up on this - the Combat/HD bucket is much more likely to look similar between different classes of the same Fighting Value (barring tradeoffs, I expect), at a minimum, and I'll end up burning down the proficiency system in the process...

One more windmill.