Friday, December 28, 2012

ACKS Half Value Spellcasting

The Strategic Review and 1E Ranger (I don't recall a Basic DND Ranger?) would gain spellcasting in later levels as both a Cleric and a Magic User (Druid and M-U in 1E), something that's not easy to model with the ACKS Player's Companion.

The SR Ranger ended up starting at 9th level as a 1st level cleric with 1 spell. It then alternated between gaining access to Magic-User and Cleric spells, and using a combined spell slot matrix to contain both - at 8th and 9th, 1 first level spell, 10th and 11th, 2/1, and at 12th and 13th, the matrix is 3/2/1 (3 1st, 2 2nd, 1 3rd). As comparison, a 5th level OD&D Magic User would cast at 4/2/1, and a 5th level Cleric at 2/2.

The 1E ranger gave the ranger a more regular pair of progressions starting at 8th in Druid and 9th as a Wizard, and ended up at Druid 2/2/2, and Wizard 2/2. A 3rd level Druid in 1E clocks in at 3/2/1, and a 3rd level Magic User is 2/1 (4th is 3/2).

We're going to be a touch more limited than that. ACKS provides us a framework of Arcane and Divine build points, starting at 1/3 level for Mages, and 1/2 level for Clerics. We'll do 1/4 level on each side (one could argue that we'd do 1/6 for Mage, since it's half of 1/3, but the Arcane point progression is 'broken' anyway, since it goes 1/3 to 1/2 to 2/3 to 1, so 1/4 is one-half of 1/2 which works better.)

Half Value Spellcasting

For the price of a single build point, a class may split its casting ability between Divine and Arcane. This single point grants the class the ability to cast as a Mage and Cleric of 1/4 its level, rounded up [ceiling()] for Divine and rounded down [floor()] for Arcane.

The class may Turn Undead as a Cleric of 1/4 its level.

A class may delay availability of its spellcasting. The class may alternate gaining spellcasting levels (first Divine, then Arcane) starting at Level 8 with Divine casting, as in the table below.

This is intended to even out and spread out the spells available to the Arcane and Divine sides, as in the Strategic Review Ranger. The fact that ACKS uses the B/X concept of Cleric not receiving spells until 2nd level causes us to grant one non-casting level of Cleric before we start the alternation.

Whether or not the class can cast Arcane spells in armor is a matter left to GM preference.

The class's Divine repertoire is based on 3 Divine spells per level.

Half Value Spellcasting costs 425 experience points. A class may not take more than 1 point in Half Value Spellcasting.

ALTERNATIVE 1: A class may choose only one of Arcane or Divine to advance as a 1/4 level caster. If so, allow the class 1.5 proficiency slots to be filled by the class designer as normal. The class may trade in Turn Undead (if the Divine half value is kept) for another half a proficiency point.

ALTERNATIVE 2: A class may delay spellcasting in the regular manner, by gaining a level of each class starting at 11th as in the table below.

The class gains another Arcane spell level here in trade for the long, long wait.

ALTERNATIVE 3: The GM may opt to match the Divine progression to the Arcane by bumping the effective Divine level by 1 at levels 4, 8 and 12, as in the table below.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Assassinating Adventurers, Conquerors, and Kings

This post has been updated! Tywyll of of Autarch boards and author of the excellent 'A Writer's Journey' blog linked over to the right noted I was a bit off as I'd multiplied the damage bonus by the backstab multiplier, which is incorrect, by the book. And I'm extremely pleased someone paid enough attention to my wall-of-spreadsheet to note that error ;)

I know, I know. Assassination charts aren't exceedingly popular. But, let's go through what ACKS already gives the assassin. In fact, there's an assassination table hidden in the system!

First, let's look at Blackmoor's Assassin. For clarity of purpose, I'm capping levels at 14, and separating out the columns into individual levels.

Let's see what 1E does for us:

Bit wider of a spread there.

ACKS's Assassin is a d6 fighter, essentially, that can sneak about. The important part about that is the Damage Bonus ACKS supplies to it's classes - the "Fighter" classes in particular. That ties into ACKS's succinct Cleave system that replaces the old system of multiple attacks vs low HD opponents.

The Assassin is getting that Damage Bonus, and Backstab (backstab being a prerequisite for assassination attempts anyway). How often are we likely to outright slay our target with just the Assassin as is?

A statistician would probably be able to toss out some sort of equation that would let us know. I'm not one, so, I'll brute force it instead. I'm a man of the times, and I let computers think for me. That, and Stats wasn't my best of classes in college.

I've taken a single Assassin, and, for each level from 1 to 14, I've pitted him against 10 million opponents, for each level from  1st to 14th (140 million opponents per level, 1,960 million NPCs attacked in total). He's backstabbed them all, and we've counted how many he's dropped in one hit. (we assume he always hits).

This was using a d6 weapon, with no bonus from Strength or magic. As I later found, only the d6 roll is multiplied, the damage bonus is static.

And that will tell us our "natural" assassination table for ACKS. Voila:

My color coding there is from an earlier model, in which I'd simply pitted average and maximum backstabs per level versus average and maximum HP per target level.

I rounded down always, unless I could round up to 1%, to make the table look better.

So there's that. It's nowhere near the original source material. On a lark, let's allow the Assassin to double his damage bonus during backstabs:

Not much change, as expected.

I've got a better idea though. What assassin wouldn't use poison during an assassination? The one that's bad at her job, that's who. You're already murdering someone, they're not going to hang you any harder for using poison if they catch you.

Here, then, is an ACKS Assassination Table, presuming the assassin is using poison. This is the chance the target will die based on (first) damage, from the natural ACKS table above, and if not, failing the poison save. I've turned the save around from something the target (DM) rolls to a percentage chance on the players part. I'm using Fighter saves in this table, as it's worst-case-scenario, in general. A 14th level Fighter saves vs Poison & Death on a 5+, so that's a fail on a 1->4 on a d20, or, 25%.

It looks a bit more like the Blackmoor table.

For comparison, here's a table of how the Assassination Hijink from a Hideout goes. Note there's a -1 penalty per level the assassin is lower than the victim, but not the other way around, by the book.

Note a roll of "1" for the 14th level assassin, while a success, also means they've been caught.

This last table  is what a "natural" assassination table looks like for a Thief, who doesn't enjoy a Damage Bonus. I don't recall what the backstab progession was in Blackmoor or 1E, but you can sort of see how much of advantage was given to the Assassin comparing this with the tables at the top.

Anything useful here? Not really. If a player was having an adventure which culminated in an assassination, I might let him roll against the "Base ACKS With Poison" table above, just since it might feel more dramatic than a low damage roll and then hoping for the DM to fail the save vs poison.

Which reminds me I should throw down a players-roll-all-the-dice conversion, just because I'd always wanted to do it.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Apprentice, Journeyman, Foreman, Part 2

In our previous installment, we built up a system that combines ACKS's craft/profession related proficiencies and Skills - The Middle Road, a 'training' system for D&D that allows for free-form skills.

We ended with two charts, essentially, that told us how long it takes our craftsmen to gain experience in their craft, and how long it takes those pesky adventurers to come in and pay-to-play with a Focused Apprenticeship.

Let's combine the two tables.

You'll note some numbers have changed, I've put this into a spreadsheet so the math's right this time ;)

From left to right, the monthly income level if you're self-taught or in an apprenticeship, the time it will take you to advance from "nothing" to each tier for the same, then, the cost for a focused apprenticeship if  you want just the identification proficiency throw, or the ability to actually work the trade. Lastly, the 'Profit' line is what the tutor makes off of your labors. (UPDATE: Whoops, I'm going to have to go back and fix this. That should be Time * Monthly Income)

Art, Craft, and Performance all use the same income level, so it makes sense to combine them - a well crafted sword is as much art as a statue, and performance is art, so we're all on the same page.

Again, my assumption with how I'd use this is as a complete replacement of the 'profession' proficiencies in ACKS. A starting PC would perhaps choose a background, which may include being at a Journeyman level of skill in some profession - the young warrior-weaponsmith or rogue-dancer out to make his or her mark upon the world, and maybe survive long enough to make it to Big City and train with the masters of their chosen craft.

Somewhere in here there's a story of a largish lad who started out as an limner of illuminated manuscripts before his clerical betters found out he was good with a sword and sent him off to be a paladin, and as soon as this evil is vanquished he's going to trade his sword for his brush back.

Anyway - to the rest of the proficiencies, starting with Animal Husbandry, for which I made up monthly incomes.

Note the 'Value Multiplier' cell. The way I did this has an unintended side effect where the more you make, the quicker you advance, and that's not always the way it should go. That multiplier raises the cost of the "Identification Skill Only' training, which then (because of the spreadsheet setup) extends the length of time it takes to go through each level.

Here's where that starts showing up - takes a bit longer to be a master Chirurgeon.

That multiplier system falls apart with the next skill, Knowledge, since Sages make so darn much. It took less time to go from Professor to Sage than from Student to Professor.

So I fixed that thematically, by making Sages parsimonious with their knowledge after a certain point. They're not going to train you past Professorial level, as you're going to have to make your own discoveries and further the field on your own after a certain point. It's like getting tenure - they'll still tutor you, but it's still gonna be a long slog to the end. Read PHD Comics.

For myself, I'm also combining the three skills that map back to the old 3.5 concept of Knowledge(Arcana, Divine, Nature) into Knowledge, since I don't see why an old Wizard, Cleric, or Druid ought not be Sage-level in their various spheres if they choose to be. I also realize at this point I've gotten Naturalism and Beast Friendship all mixed up in my mind, so I'd probably just punt and combine them under Knowledge(Nature).

It's likely you could also roll Military Strategy into Knowledge, trading the income levels for the mass combat initiative bonus. You could then either hand wave the advancement, or, convert the necessary GP milestones into "units defeated" or "battles won", perhaps.

Alchemy had the same problem Knowledge did with the pay rates - I fixed it here by reversing the order of the training times.

I dropped both training and tutelage here after 'Sailor', as once you're experienced enough to be a Captain you're on your own. There's an undocumented step in here where our intrepid Sailor took Navigation and earned 25 gp/mo for a while, which probably got him to Captain earlier.

Of course, that also means someone has to give you command of a ship, or  you've commissioned your own, to be a Captain. I'd assume here the ~7 years spent on deck gets you to the point where you wouldn't be bad at it.

Alex, if you read this, I hope there's enough economics around running a fleet of ships (maintenance, ports, etc.) in Domains At War that I can take that above table and run a combination of D&D and Sid Meier's Pirates!.

A wet sandbox, as it were. 

Finally, Engineering:

what with the making-up of income levels and the fourth 'tier' to get to the level required to be a Specialist. It's interesting to note that since you have to take Engineering 4 times to be a working specialist, the "identify engineering" portion of the proficiency is on a roll of -1+, which is fun to look at.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Resolution of a Die Roll, Part 2

So, here's an eyechart.

d100 through d3 Conversion Chart Without Delta (PDF)

Pretty sure I succumbed to Chart Madness somewhere around d14, so, excuse any errors.

What this should serve as is a conversion table to get from some X in Y or percentage chance on one die to another.

For example, if I'm looking at a table where a Thief has a 35% chance to Hide in Shadows at 5th level,  I know that's:

  • 11:30 on a d30 (or 19+)
  • 8:24 on a d24 (or 16+)
  • 7:20 on a d20 (or 13+)
  • 6:16 on d16 (or 10+)
  • 5:14 on d14 (or 9+)
  • 4:12 on d12 (or 8+)
  • 4:10 on d10 (or 6+)
  • 3:8 on d8 (or 5+)
  • 2:7 on d7 (or 5+)
  • 2:6 on d6 (or 4+)
  • 2:5 on d5 (or 3+)
  • 1:4 on d4 (or 3+)
  • 1:3 on d3 (or 2+)
I attempted to minimize the delta for each die percentage chance from the "master" d100 chance - for example, from that 35% chance on the d100, 2:7 on d7 is 28.57%, a 6.43% difference. If I would have called that 3:7, it would have been a -7.86% difference. 

I made no attempt to "smooth" this conversion by minimizing the rate of change - for example, from the d7 break on 2:7 and 3:7  -

3 42.86% -6.86%  (from 36% on a d100)
2 28.57% 6.43%   (from 35% on a d100)

That's a ~12% jump. I may have been able to smooth that out a bit by moving the change from 2 to 3 around, but I would have deviated a lot more from the d100 chances.

I will say one thing - the odd dice from DCC make me sad, since there's no 25%/50%/75% markers.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Adventurer Conqueror King Proficiencies (Part 1)

Proficiencies! Not that there's not enough, but I've been puttering about with a lot of class-work with the ACKS Player's Companion, and there was one old fondness for the 1E Ranger I felt I needed:

  • Toughness: Classes with an HD Value of 1 gain an additional HD at level 1, and enjoy an additional 1d6 HP. Classes with an HD Value of 2 may gain a second die of d8 HP, but this costs two powers. Constitution modifier, if any, is applied to both die.

The next four are from Astonishing Swordsman and Sorcerers of Hyperborea. Look it up! I had a compatriot with the box set inform me of some of the unique class powers in the book, and I've ACKS-fied them. (hence my previous post on converting d20 to d12)

  • Draw Poison: The character has been well inured to the dangers of poison, and is skilled in drawing it out from a sting, bite, or other shallow puncture. A proficiency throw of 11+ will draw the poison within 2 rounds of the attack, 14+ within 4 rounds, and 18+ within 6 rounds. Ingested poisons or poison from envenomed blades are untreatable with these methods.

  • Sense Magic: The character may recognize the presence of magic at work, whether as a sense of foreboding, a taste in one's mouth, or other visceral reaction. A proficiency throw of 14+ reveals the presence of magic in the immediate area, but no details as to it's type or function. Minor magical items, dweomers, or effects are too slight to be detected, and this in no way replaces Detect Magic. <unsure whether this should count as only 1/2 a power>

  • Fighting Style: Mounted: The character is particularly adept at mounted charges; you gain an extra +1 to-hit when making a charge, and will triple your damage on a successful hit.

  • Wilderness Stride: The character may negotiate tricky natural undergrowth (briars, thorns, vines, etc.) at normal speed, without leaving a discernible trail if desired. The character may also conceal the tracks of a number of people equal to his/her level when moving at half speed.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Apprentice, Journeyman, Foreman (Part 1)

I know several folks that have played Apprentice, Journeyman, Foreman. One has hence dual-classed and gone back to school for IT-related training.

I like ACK's proficiency system, but I don't like having to take proficiencies multiple times to get better. I'd come across Skills - The Middle Road via -C at Hack And Slash Master back in the summer when I first started to gorge myself upon the OSR blag-o-sphere - it stuck in my brain.

So, let's take ACKS down the Middle Road.

The Middle Road proposes 4 levels of mastery of a skill, and training costs to get from one to the next. We'll map these back to ACKS like so:
  1. Unskilled. You don't have the ACKS proficiency.
  2. Skilled. Takes 1 month/1000GP of training, or, you have the ACKS proficiency once.
  3. Expert. Takes 3 months/3000GP of training, or, you have the ACKS proficiency twice.
  4. Master. Takes 6 months/10,000GP of training, or, you have the ACKS proficiency thrice.
There are several profession-related proficiencies in ACKS that fall along this general line:
  • Gain a proficiency throw for a task at 18+ or 11+, plus other related abilities
  • Take it up to two more times to reduce that throw to 14+/10+ or 7+/3+, gain more abilities.
These are:
  • Animal Husbandry - heal animals in various ways
  • Art - I.D. artwork, work as an artist, gain apprentices
  • Craft - I.D. craftwork, work as a crafter, gain apprentices
  • Healing - heal people in various ways
  • Knowledge - Recall expert knowledge, write books, be  a sage
  • Performance - I.D. performance-related, gain apprentices
  • Profession - Civil profession - Expert Commentary, gain apprentices
  • Seafaring - Crewmember to Captain to Master Captain

Advancing via Training

We'll start with the presumption that the first time you pick the proficiency, that gets you to an 'Apprentice' level of knowledge, or, the Middle Road's 'Skilled' level.

 The rest, however, is experience and training.

Now, since the ACKS authors were kind enough to give us a workable economic system, we can correlate the Middle Road training costs with GP earned/Month and find out how to get from one step to the next.

Let's start with Art, Craft, Healing, Performance, and Profession, the 5 proficiencies that give us handy tables in the ACKS rulebook, and all more-or-less work the same (though Healing eschews apprentices, which is easily put back in).

You've got a Fighter who chose Craft: Weaponsmith back at 1st level - he forged his own sword and was ready for adventure. There's going to be some downtime, now that he and his party is 7th level, and the Wizard needs to do his book-learnin', etc. etc.

They're in a middle sized city, and the Fighter talks the local Journeyman (ACKS) or Expert (Middle Road) Smith into a focused apprenticeship - he plonks down 3000 GP, and in 3 months, and gains the abilities of having Craft twice.

The apprentices underneath that smith are a mite ticked, however. They each earn 15GP/month (10GP base, plus 50% bonus from being under a Journeyman/Expert). It's going to take them 16 years to have "banked" the 3000 GP necessary to be a Journeyman themselves.

If that Journeyman/Expert is under a Master himself, he'll earn 30GP/month - that's 27 years to get to Master.

That's 43 years, under tutelage, to go from an apprentice to a master - if a child starts their apprenticeship around 13, they'll be 56 when they master their craft.

Let's say our Fighter had less gumption, and stayed home in his hamlet, mastering Weaponsmithing on his own. At 10/gp month, he reaches Journeyman/Expert in 25 years, Master in 41, and will be lucky to see his (13+25+41) 79th birthday in order to master his craft.

That is why you apprentice, apprentice. It's also why you adventure.

As an aside, if we were to eliminate the proficiency altogether, going from Unskilled to Apprentice/Skilled takes either 1 month & 1000 GP, or, if we assume a beginner makes as much as a full Apprentice, adds either 5 years under tutelage or 8 years self-taught. It's unlikely any human will reach Mastery level on their own. (needing to be 87 to do so). Under training, they'll get there at 64 years of age starting at 13. Much better to assume you gain the proficiency at 1st level, which, if we say you started at 13 and then 18 is the generally accepted adventurer starting age, subsumes the 5 years under tutelage.

Apprentice8 years5 years
Journeyman25 years16 years
Master41 years27 years
TOTAL66 / 7443 / 48

Advancing Via Experience

Now, there was a post on Autarch's boards a while back about how 'regular folk' become master smiths and such, but I can't seem to find it, so I'll make stuff up. 

If money is experience, the apprentice is earning XP working his craft - either 10 or 15 GP per month. Let's assume 'normal men' advance in saves as Fighters, at the Thief XP level, and since we're mean, Craft isn't on the class proficiency list.

If that's the case, a normal man with average Int will get a General proficiency slot to choose craft at 1st, 5th, and 9th level (congruous with name level, which pleases my sense of order).

It'll take 10,000 XP to get to 5th, and 170,000 more to get to 9th.

Our normal man hits 5th, and therefore Journeyman/Expert, after 83 years if self-trained, or 55 years under an tutor, and another 708 or 472 years until Master.

It's good to be a demihuman, I suppose.

If our normal man has smart enough to have another proficiency slot to spend at character creation, he's be a prodigy starting out at a Journeyman/Expert level - he'll get to Master in 41 years, self-taught, or 27 years under tutelage.

Apprentice8 years5 years--
Journeyman25 years16 years83 years55 years
Master41 years27 years708 years472 years
TOTAL66 / 7443 / 48791527
Google, it is 2012, I should not have to type HTML tables...

So, there's that. The italicized numbers are the theoretical bit where we eliminate the proficiency entirely, and go purely by training. It would be important to note that most adventuring would start after that period anyway, so it's really a formality.

Unranked Apprenticeship

The above timeframes seem long. What I'd probably do is bump up each level, like:

Journeyman8 years5 years--
Master25 years16 years83 years55 years
Grand Master41 years27 years708 years472 years
TOTAL66 / 7443 / 48791527

Which makes more sense. Here, your apprenticeship is more truly that,  you're not earning anything for 5 years, and your first income is as  your own journeyman. We're renaming the ACKS proficiency levels - you don't get the proficiency until  you're a Journeyman. (which in the case of taking it at 1st level, means you've left for adventure after your apprenticeship was done.)

It's purely cosmetic, which is the best kind of change.

Focused Apprenticeships

Now, back to our original thing with The Middle Road, where one saves time with money to advance their skill level. With either of the systems above, the 3 month/6 month timeframe seems a bit too short for an involved profession.

I'd rather base the time for the focused apprenticeship off of the actual labor time. That does seem penalizing, since previously our Fighter who hadn't seen the inside of a smithy since he was 0th level could pick up Craft x2 at 5th. It does make more sense in the ACKS view of occasional extended downtime due to wounds, or, our Fighter at 12th level deciding to finish his mastery of weaponsmithing inbetween domain functions.

So - for Identification only, let's do 10% of the time. To include Craftsmanship, 33% of the time, and, as a bone, we'll allow an adventurer  to take a 'sabbatical' of no more than 3 months, once every 9 months of training.  If misfortune happens, and the character can't get back to his trainer before that time, I'd suggest some sort of INT check once a week to see how much has been forgotten - say, 1 month of training per week.

We'll increase the cost of learning the craft by the same amounts compared to I.D only, under the assumption that the instructor profits off of the apprentice's work, as shown on the Profit column. (That's profit to the instructor.)

IdentificationI.D. And Craftsmanship
6 months
1000 GP
1 year, 8 months
1333 GP
300 GP
1 year, 4 months
3000 GP
5 years, 4 months
4000 GP
1920 GP
Grand Master
2 years, 3 months
10000 GP
9 years
13333 GP
6480 GP
4 years, 1 month
14000 GP
16 years
18666 GP
8700 GP

Interestingly enough, a self-taught Journeyman can't save the cash to go out and quick-train himself to Master (we're assuming the money made is all profit, living expenses only exasperate the situation) - by the time he earns the gold, he's already hit Master. In fact, by the time he's saved enough for a Grand Master focused apprenticeship, he's only a couple years away from Grand Mastery himself.

So, strangely, these prices for focused apprenticeships seem to work out.

And it's a hell of a deal for the tutor - taking some cocky new lord from Zero to Grand Master nets him 27,366 gold in 16 years - normally that's 26 years of work for him, 2 Journeymen, and 3 Apprentices (as per the ACKS table). You've essentially retired 10 years early. Or retired period - presumably one would have worked until death or disability.

What it does make possible is the young, self-taught journeyman weaponsmith (took Craft at Fighter level 1), new sword in hand, striking out earn enough treasure to visit BigCity and train with the masters. Eyeballing it, somewhere between level 3 and 4, if our Fighter is careful and spendthrift, he can retire and go off to fulfill his dreams - or a bit after level 5 if he's shooting high.

And that is why all the smiths and innkeeps are grizzled level 5 fighters with a +1 Sword on the wall.

In future parts I'll detail the remainder of the tabled professions, and start looking at what can be done with the rest.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Resolution of a Die Roll, Part 1

So, the previous post on converting ACKS' d20 X+ to a X:12 system as ASSH does got me thinking about pixelization and resolution of an image.

When you reduce an image, the math is done to convey as much of the previous information as possible in a smaller space. Converting those rolls from X+ on a d20 to X:12 on a d12 is somewhat similar - you're looking to convey the same general chance of success in a smaller space.

So let's take this all the way down.

Starting from 20, I go down the steps of the default dice, down to 2.

The last column, after the d2, is extra. It's the difference in percentage chance from the original d20 roll to d2. I had one of those for each number as I worked my way down. I wanted to get as close as possible to the d20's percentage for each choice, whether that be higher or lower - there's more than a few spots on this table where I could have used one or the other number, and the only difference was one was -1.666% and one was 1.666%, for example. I ought to have paid more attention to the delta, and will probably do that in the next iteration of this table.

If I'm looking for a 14+ proficiency throw in ACKS, then, I'll want that to be a 4:12 for a d12, 3 in 8 on a d8, 2 in 6 on a d6, 1 in 4 on a d4, and 1 in 2 on a d2.

Obviously, some things will convert better than others, but that's the nature of pixelization. An 18+ throw in ACKS at 15% goes up to 50% on a d2 - you've got to have *some* chance, and you've only got 2 numbers to convey it in.

I think next I'll start at d100 and work my way down through the DCC dice to d2.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Judged by 12

I was browsing through talk about Astonishing Swordsman and Sorcerors of Hyberborea (here ever after named ASSH) and I was tickled that the thief skills use d12s.

I've never really gotten much chance to use d12s. It's a shame, really. They're like low-resolution d20s, nice and round and chunky to roll.

d10s are dumb. Too pointy. Anyway.

So, what if I wanted to redo all the ACKS skills and proficiencies in d12?

Spreadsheet. (Google! Y U No let me cut+paste from your apps?)

So, there's that to work from. Chance to roll X+ on a d20, or X:12 on a d12. Note I'm looking for best fit, not mathematically best. That statement will make more sense in my next post.

To read this, say you need an 18+ in ACKS. That goes closest with 2:12 - you've got a 1.67% better chance at 2:12 than 18+. Our biggest flux is +/- 3.33% - that's less than a +/- 1 on a d20, in theory.

I expect this to all fall apart on the next table. Let's see what the thief skills look like. We'll start with Open Locks.

OK. So, 'Diff' is the percentage change from X+ to X:12. Some levels fare better than others. 'Delta', however, is the change in change from one level to the next - a level 1 thief in X+ gains 5% more ability when she hits level 2, in X:12, none - she loses 5%, essentially, from her guildmate using the X+ system.

Lucky level 7 is the best it gets.

Worth doing? Probably not. ASSH actually uses the venerable d12, whereas I'd be hard pressed to place the die in anything ACKS does.

It's much better systemically to follow along with ACKS using a d20 than to introduce Yet Another Wrinkle in what to roll for what.

True20/MM Static Toughness, Roll Damage

Dark Earth Games got me thinking here about a very short run I did of an Mutants And Masterminds 3E game, and, before I fell into the OSR, a short fling I had with planning to run True20.

There's an alternative system from 2007 (oh, how time has moved, oh, how old you are now True20!) - Baduin's Alternative Damage System and then some modification to that here that inspired me to putz around with what ended up being a Damage Track on a character sheet I was planning to use.

My main draw to the system was simply missing the change to roll damage! It's ingrained, I guess. Your Toughness becomes a static number, which then has 5 degrees added to it for how badly you're hit, depending on the damage your attacker rolls.

So, here's the whole character sheet, note the damage track:

 Works out simply as such: An attacker just hit our Adept with a sword, Damage 2, plus STR 1, rolls a 20 and adds 3. Let's say he gets a 13.

Our squishy Adept with (static) Toughness 4 compares that on the table. He's already filled in the large upper boxes on the Damage Track with values 9, 14, 19, 24, 29.

The 13 damage rolled is between 9 and 14. Our Adept is Hurt, and fills in a box - we're looking at the Damage Track values as needing to be Equal To Or Greater Than. (essentially, everyone's base Toughness is 5 before CON modifiers or armor)

  • The Adept is hit for Damage 4. Less than 9, he is unscathed.
  • Damage 12 - second box under Hurt is filled in.
  • Damage 15 - first box under Wounded.
  • Archers take aim, and he's hit for 7 and 9. He fills in the last box under Hurt from the Damage 9 arrow. The first one winged him, a minor scrape.
  • A sword-strike for 11 - his Hurt boxes are full, so he fills in the second Wounded box, the lowest box he can take. He's in trouble.
  • Another arrow volley - 15 and 16. The last Wounded box is filled in, and, since he's out of those, he has to fill in the Disabled box. He's in trouble, and limps off to cover.
Note squishy folks are squishy - an Ogre, perhaps, swinging a club, could be rolling d20+7 for damage - if that Ogre pops out a roll of 18 or better, our Adept is dead.

This system doesn't really address the 'spiral of death' that happens with the Toughness save as written - it helps a little in that you're not penalizing a poor Toughness save with further penalties as you get damaged, but there can be a sudden drop-off if you're in a long, low damage fight, and you're just simply running out of boxes. 
In fact, I wrote a little Perl to give me some math on this back when I was working on it.

The Attacker's to-hit is +4, and so is his damage. The defender's Defense is 4, as well as his Toughness. A battle of average men. This was 100,000 simulated battles, I think?

4 Attacker vs 4 Defender, 1d20+4:
Total Hits: 809410
Hurts: 175943 
Wounds: 191688 
Disabled: 97762 

Average Hits: 8.0941
Dying Hits: 40338 4.98363005151901%
Instadeath: 0 0%

It takes about 8 hits, if that defender just stands there and takes it, to get killed. The attacker drops the defender to Dying on 1 hit 5% of the time (he rolled a 20!) That program didn't take into account any further penalties from the damage conditions.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Creeping Death (the Purple Worm)

9 and 30 Kingdoms recently posited on the wonder that is the Purple Worm.

Here's another possible wonderful thing:

Many sages posit that sometimes, ever so rarely, when the stars are right, the sun unflared, the tectonic plates shifted *just so*, an ancient purple worm finds itself a enormous underground geode, curls up, and metamorphoses into a Tarrasque - breaking out from the newly mineral-depleted geode to wreak havoc and lay eggs for it's limited, 6 month lifespan.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

First Party, Session One, Results

And here's what was sent to the (adult) players as the epilogue/XP&T report:

OUTCOME, Adventure 1 

Dire rats: elf 1, drow 2, dwarf 4 (35)
Ghoul: elf (125)
Animated Books: drow 1, dwarf 2 (20)
Animated Broom: elf (10)
viper: druid (friendship) (6)
Shrieker: elf (50)
Suto Lore: elf and drow (350)
Ogre: drow (140)
Bear: druid (friendship) (200)
XP From Mobs: 936 xp

1155 sp from Ogre (115.5)
Ghoul Sarcophagus:
1 onyx (50 gp)
2 tiger eye (50 gp)
1 Bloodstone (50 gp)
1 moonstone (50 gp)
1 quartz (10 gp)
2 obsidian (20 gp)
1 onyx (50 gp)
1 Agate (25 gp)
4 amethysts (400)
Silver Circle 1200sp (600)
4 Silver Ingots (200)
Frog Statue Eyes, Yellow Topaz, 500 each (1000)
Coin/Gems: 2620 gp, 5 sp

4 crates of glassware (200)  (5 stone each)
1 crates of monster parts (300) (5 stone each)
Thick leather snake-handling gloves (1)
Large studded leather (poor condition) (10, scrap)
Ring of 10 Keys (no intrinsic value)
Supplies/Mundane: 1111 gp

Holy Symbol, Myrra, Goddess of Good Luck, 60gp
Holy Symbol, Hounm, Patron of Restful Dead, 130gp
Holy Symbol, Ioto, Welcomer of Souls, 75gp
Holy Symbol, Parsol, Light of the Path of Death, 80gp
These were the holy symbols around Tulwar’s tomb;
chosen and laid in a manner as if the buriers of Tulwar
were afraid he’d wake up and come after them.
Objets d’Art: 345 gp

1 blank spellbook, 20gp
1 diary of Suto Lore, conjuror, may be of value to a historian
A quick scan of this book while the drow and dwarf figure out how to get the bulkier loot up the ladder hole tells the story first of Erasmus Lore; conjuror, who for some years worked with a demon named Frogroth, to summon Frogroth’s master to the Material Plane, and then utilizing an ancient tome called the Codex Ilyirum. Personal details on Erasmus are few, but it does mention an estranged son who he’d wished to train. The diary penned by Erasmus ends suddenly some 18 years ago.
It picks up 2 years ago, in another handwriting. Suto Lore tells a story of being contacted by an entity he calls the ‘Voice’, and being led to his father’s workshop here under the earth, where work once again begins on summoning Frogroth. Suto does not have the arcane power to do so, but states with the help of the ‘Voice’, a recently purchased scroll, the Codex, and a collection of townsfolk for sacrifice, feels he will be successful. The Voice speaks to him now from the small pit in front of the giant rough-carved frog statue.
The Codex Ilyirum is on Suto’s desk. There is no sign of a magical scroll in any of the rooms.

1 Codex Ilyirum
You feel uncomfortable even glancing at this book. The druid feels queasy in it’s presence. Salizard, the viper familiar, desires merely to touch it, muttering of secrets of the lower planes. You have no guesses as to it’s worth.

84 other books; subjects range from:
• conjuration/summoning magic
• encyclopedias of lesser daemons, demons, devils, rakshashas, demodands, and other fiends
• potion creation manuals and research
• effective summoning circles by type, mostly lower planes denizens
• histories of the local area
• various magical theory books
The magic-related books would have a value of 2,500gp to a buyer wanting to further stock a library for the purposes of magical research (or valid for that amount for a PC funding a library). This includes the loose sheets recovered from his desk detailing work-in-progress.

2 Potions, Cloudy Grey
Potion, Speckled Purple
Potion, Swirly Red
2 Potions, Bright Blue
Dagger, Magical, Silver, inscribed ‘Feysight’ in Elvish
Longsword, Magical, Dragonbone, blade is carved with tiny, detailed battle scenes
Two Handed Sword, Magical, Electrum, inscribed ‘Glutton’ in Old Common
Axe, Magical, Adamant. This axe has hammer faces perpendicularly across the end of the haft to the axe blades; the faces bear the Dwarvish runes for ‘Flee’ or ‘Back’, depending on context.
Dwarven Chain, Adamant (pc3 is wearing this); unmagical, +1 AC over regular chain.

Unused magical devices or potions can be sold for XP.

XP From Mobs: 936 gp
Coin/Gems: 2620.5 gp == 2620 XP
Supplies/Mundane: 1111 gp == 1111 XP WHEN SOLD*
Objets d’Art: 345 gp == 345 XP WHEN SOLD*
Books, Tomes, Other Literature: 2520 gp == 2520 XP WHEN SOLD*
*Sale prices determined at time of sale by local market. Larger cities have better options.
IMMEDIATE XP: 3556 (547 per PC, 274 per Henchmen)
MARKETABLE XP: 3976* (610 per PC, 305 per Henchmen)

There's slightly more XP in here than necessary. I'm not gonna be a stickler with kids, we may not be doing this in a year (or a month), so there's no need to pace ourselves.

Return to Lankhmar

I purchased the Lankhmar series in Ebook ($35 from Baen's website) and have been reading through - I'm nearing the end of Book 4, Swords Against Wizardry, in which the duo find themselves in Quarmall.

I'd read these piecemeal before, when younger, but coming at it now, I much more appreciate the 'Appendix N-ness' of the stories, and see what bits were lifted almost wholesale for DND.

I'll say this - it really makes me want to play the DCC RPG.

The metal band Cirith Ungol have a couple of songs entitled after Lieber's works; so I'm still following my unofficial rule of song lyrics (or titles, in this case) as post titles for non-play posts.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

But tonight we dance.

So. Inspired by Erik Tenkar here I've made an initial stab at an abstract battlemap.

What I'll want to do with this eventually is blow it up to a 2ft by 4ft or some such measurement so that the central 'hex' area is big enough to be useful for detailed positioning if need be - perhaps printed out at that Cheap Banners place.

Behold (at a legal-sized sheet, warts and all):

There's that. Short, Medium and Long ranging on both sides, a Flanking spots for those that Sneak to get to, a hex-gridded melee area, and two paths for those that wish to live another day.

I guess I need a 'scrimmage' line. I certainly don't have enough room on an 8.5x14 legal sheet to do this with minis.

Friday, September 28, 2012

First Party, Session One, Part 3

I've started playing back my audio recording of the game at 1.33x speed, so welcome to our first installment of "Alvin and the Chipmunks Play Dungeons And Dragons".

The dwarf volunteers to go down first. On the way down, he notes the runes "VIII" carved into the wall (He's about 4 rungs down when he sees this). He knows this is an ancient way to write the number eight. He thinks for a minute, decides this must be a number of rooms or opponents or traps at the bottom, and continues.

This is the youngest player. I let him go with what he decides. I slooowly count down the rungs he's on - I put up my hand, 4 fingers. "Four". Five fingers. "Five rungs." Second hand - 6 fingers. "Rung Number Six". I'm hamming it up, he's raptly paying attention, as if expecting something cool. "Rung Seven". Eight fingers - "You're about to  place your foot on Rung Number Eight."

No reaction. I announce the rung has broken under his weight, and he's fallen 20 ft, taking 9 points of damage. He looks hurt. I feel bad.

The party troops down the corridor - the drow marching up front, misses the tripwire across the hallway, and gets hit upside the head with a club swinging from the ceiling.

I'm playing a little loose with the thief/spot skill rolls. Unless it's a *horrible* roll, I'll let them figure something out so they can infer enough to not get trapped.

The enter a study - there's bookshelves, an alchemist's lab, a coatrack with some coats and a broom, and three other exits. The druid casts Detect Magic. There's 4 magical potions on the alchemy table, 2 magical books in the bookshelf, and the broom is magic.

Knibbs moves to grab one of the magical books (Golems for Dummies) and it, and it's companion volume, fly out of the bookshelf and begin to bounce around the room. They're quickly dispatched by the drow and the dwarf ranger. The druid moves (in that same round) to grab the broom, which immediately animates and attempts to attack her. The elf noble quickly splits it in twain with a superb arrow shot.

Off to the left, there's a wooden portcullis blocking a lit chamber that seems to be full of wooden cages - a hammering sound can be heard. The drow and dwarf break through the portcullis, and the party enters the room.

Success! The townsfolk are found - a bit beat up, but alive. In the far corner of the room a dwarf works on another cage.

 "That's not me." says the youngest, playing the dwarf. "No, it's not. It's another dwarf". "I bet it's the dead one we put in the coffin.". 'No,' I say, "this one looks alive. He's got skin on him and stuff." 'Is it the one-armed one?' 'No, totally a different dwarf.'

The druid, noting the dwarf lightly glows with enchantment, figures he's charmed - he hasn't noticed the (loud) party yet. The thief sneaks down to club him unconscious, manages to accidently knock his heel with her toes, and the dwarf looks back at her. "Hello! How are things?" he says, a bit glassy eyed, as he overlooks her hastily hiding her sap and goes back to work.

Dale shrugs, and starts inspecting the locks. That gets the dwarf's hackles up, and he turns, still holding his hammer. "What's that all about? You can't be doing that. What are you doing?"

"The, uh, Commissioner said it was OK?" Knibbs throws out. 'There's no commissioner. There's the wizard.' "The wizard is called the Commissioner." 'No,' says the dwarf, 'it's Suto'. "Yes, I know. He said it was OK." The dwarf thinks a bit. 'No, no. Let's go talk to him right now'.  "I'm right behind you." says Knibbs, who attempts to hit the dwarf with the flat of his blade as he storms past.

Complete miss, as does the drow. The dwarf is focused enough on getting to Suto he doesn't even notice the breeze from the two-handed swords barely missing the back of his head. The dwarf uplander finally knocks him down with the pommel of one of his axes, however.

The party frees the townsfolk, sets the dwarf in a cage for now, and then convinces the townsfolk that the party's wolves will safely escort them into view of the town.

They ransack the next room, which was a bedroom. There's some magical research on the desk, mostly on summoning extraplanar creatures. There's a pair of thick leather gloves under the bed.There was a chest in the room - the rogue pokes around with a stick and hears the hiss of a snake - the druid steps over, talks the snake out of the chest, and the party retrieves a blank spellbook, a diary, a set of ten keys, and a handful of amethysts.

The party heads out to the last tunnel, drow in the lead. An alcove to the right catches his attention, and he turns the corner to find an enormous mushroom, with odd vent-looking structures on its crown. It immediately begins to swell up, as if breathing in. The party attacks, downs it quickly, and it deflates with a sad little squeak.

At the end of the tunnel there is a set of stone doors. The dwarf walks in, and sees an older man filling an arcane summoning circle pattern with molten silver. The man looks up - "You're not my dwarf." 'Yes I am. You're just going crazy.' replies the dwarf. "I may be, but you're supposed to be building me my cages. Get back to it." 'OK, I will.' says the dwarf, and steps back and closes the door.

There is quite a bit of discussion about what to do next, as the dwarf relates this all to the party. There's an enormous, roughly (and poorly) carved stone frog, with giant gems for eyes, and a brazier next to the summoning circle. There's a small hole in the ground in front of the frog, which goes straight down.

The youngest: "There's a silver circle, with a hole in the ground in front of a giant stone frog. There's an angry old man in there. He thought I was the dwarf."

While that goes on, there's muffled conversation going on in the room - an odd, small, evil voice speaks to the wizard:

(muffled evil voice)
"Well you should have told me that while he was here."
(muffled evil voice)
"Fine. I will. Calm down. I'll take care of it."
(muffled evil voice, dismissively ending the conversation)

Knibb's familiar notes, as it peeks it's head slowly into the room through the crack of the door, he now has a pair of spent scrolls at his feet.

The party charges in. Knibbs throws a Charm Person, which the wizard shrugs off. The old man summons a quartet of Lemures, which the party's warriors attack. The wizard backs off, and tosses a Wall of Smoke across the room, disappearing behind the barrier.

The lemures are dispatched, and the party moves behind the wall. The wizard has Levitated, and seems to be immune to normal missiles, as well as shielded. It's a slog of a battle - the Druid summons 4 giant bees, which are lightly effective with their stingers. Most of the party is engaged with a summoned hero the wizard has called, which is evidently a hero from the Lower Planes, being a beast of multiple arms and a gaping maw with two rows of teeth. That melee is occuring on top of the giant, rough-carved frog statue.

The dragon attempts to blow away a portion of the smoke with his wings, to no effect.

The wizard webs the bees, and starts to pull himself along the wall to get out of the corner he's backed into. The druid summons a very small earth elemental to harrass the wizard at his level, and the elf noble gives the dwarf a Spider Climb to climb up to his level. Further missile attacks are ignored, and the wizard takes an action to Dispel the Spider Climb.

The drow misses attempt to leap from the frog to grab the wizard.

The summoned demon is getting beat up pretty handily, and the wizard starts to panic - he makes a mistake pulling himself along the wall (trusting chance) and is felled by the wood elf princess and the drow. The demon is taken down the very next turn.

We ended right there - we'd ran pretty long on this. Audacity says this was about a 4 1/2 hour long gaming session, with a break for lunch, we went from around 11AM to about 6PM. We'll do treasure and experience and an 'epilogue' of sorts in email.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

First Party, Session One, Part 2

Fresh-ish from the defeat of the ghoul Tulwar, the part tramps down the corridor.

Some table talk while there's treasure taking going on - the older boy asks when they can slay dragons; the younger pipes up - 'Well, we can just fight the elf's dragon'. I totally expected that, and was surprised it took so long. Emphasizing a dim view of such proceedings from the remainder of Elven nobility quashed that thought.

Working their way down another few tens of feet, the party comes across the room the dwarf's wolf reported about - a small pool of fresh water in the corner, fire beetles nosing about a trash heap in the other, two exits. The fire beetles don't seem to take much mind of the party milling about, so, the thief scouts down one cooridor, and the fortune hunter the second.

Knibbs comes across a humid room, a infestation of ochre mushrooms crowding the floor. Off to the left, a tall ledge, 8-10 ft high, leads off into the darkness. Knibbs goes back.

Shortly thereafter, Dale, the thief, comes back running at top speed. 'Giant rats!' she yells, skidding to a stop amongst the rest of the party. Sure enough, sets of beady eyes start bouncing towards the party from the dark corridor.

The drow charges the rats, killing the first, and missing his cleave into the second.

ACKS's fighter damage bonus, the drow's STR, his bonus to damage for his Fighting Style (2-handed) proficiency adds up to +5, which takes out average HP 1HD creatures on a single hit. He'l get to cleave a lot. By seventh level, barring magic weapons, he'll be able to cover average 2HD creatures with a minimum roll.

The druid casts Entangle, raising up old roots up out of the cave floor to snap and grab at the rats, slowing them down in their rush down the hall. The drow, dwarf, and noble elf cut them down without too much trouble.

The beetles never really look up. It's a tasty trash heap.

If  you're wondering why I'm only showing the PCs ripping and tearing through the opponents without any apparent harm, it's because they are. I dunno what's wrong with my dice.

The party continues down the passageway the rats chased Dale from, traveling for a while, probably up under the middle of the whole hill to the other side where the main entrance was. They find a secret door, and come out into a storeroom, with what looks like a lot of crates and barrels the ogre had taken from the town.

A bit of crosstalk goes on here - the elder boy is anxious to get the ogre. He suggests splitting the party (secondary objective of finding the ogrenapped townsfolk), which I immediately proclaim a great idea. Older, wiser heads prevail.

After some poking around, the party moves up - wider corridors here split to the left and the right, and the wolves inform the party there's an ogre and animal smell to the left. The thief creeps up, begins to hear snoring. Her shoe scuffs a rock; the snoring stops - the drow charges in.

The ogre is laying his head against what looks like a large rock covered in a ratty old bear pelt, slowly waking up at the noise of the dark elf in plate mail clanging towards him.  The drow promptly misses his swing.

The wood elf steps over and casts Sleep, the ogre looks distracted for a moment, but it subsides. The thief slips in and stabs the giant with her swords. The ogre swings, misses: his pillow turns out to be a real grizzly bear, which stands up, and completely misses all attacks against the dexterous rogue.

I start switching dice at this point. It's getting a little ridiculous.

The druid summons two giant shrews. Knibbs comes up and slashes at the ogre with his two-handed swords; the elf ranger misses with bowshot.  The drow hits this time. The wood elf casts Spider Climb on the drow, who then gets lightly bitten by the bear.

The druid attacks with her sling, the shrews bite at the bear's feet. The battle progresses for a while, the ogre being slowly whittled down, until the drow utilizes his Spider Climb to climb up the cave wall, and leap onto the ogre's back, slaying it.

The bear begins to panic at this point; and the druid and wood elf princess quickly step in to calm it, parley a bit, and the bear agrees that this is no longer the best of dens, now that his 'keeper' is gone. The druid makes sure the bear gets a bite to eat from the ogre's table, and it goes on it's way.

The bear was quickly named the ogre's 'Pillow Pet'.

The ogre's massive, self-spiked club holds a handful of magical weapons, which Knibbs laboriously cuts out of the hunk of wood with a hand axe while the rest of the party searches around.

A rough curtain cuts off a quarter of the room, behind which are more old crates and barrels, and, a secret door! A short tunnel behind the secret door leads to a hole in the floor, with a ladder attached to a side of the vertical shaft going down into the darkness., what lies underneath!...

Monday, September 3, 2012

First Party, Session One, Part 1

So, session one happened.

The first party, at level 2:

Lia, Druid, my wife, followed by her faithful wolf totem animal.
Victoria (for now), noble wood elf, my daughter, her wyrmling dragon henchman, and an elven ranger (Loura), sent out of the woods with her.
Knibbs, fortune hunter, friend of mine, and his compatriot Dale, a thief, and familar Salizard, a venomous small horned viper.
Jalisco, drow undead hunter, his son.
Oldcrab, dwarf uplander, his other son, followed by his wolf totem animal.

Surprisingly, I don't have one non-custom class besides the thief. Thanks, ACKS Player's Companion! Druid is essentially a wizard with HD value 1, Divine (Druid) value 3. The elf is a modified Courtier from the ACKSPC. Knibbs is some thief, some arcane, and some divine, based on his 3.5E Knibbs which was fighter/rogue/wizard/cleric/humanparagon/mystic-theurge (it worked!). Jalisco is a modified paladin, and Oldcrab came out as half-barbarian, half-ranger.

I'll post all those later. There's a chance the drow is already going to change his PC, may be a moot point.

The followers of whatever type have either 1 level or 1 HD, and their stats are too high. I am going easy on the children, yes. Shush.

And here we go:

There's a bit of jealousy at the amount of dice I toss on the table from the boys; it's noted that I have to run everyone else in the world.

The party, escorting a small wagon train to Fair Haven, push through sunset to make it to the fait village of Dundraville.

I've made an audio recording from a set of USB headphones clipped to the grid of my basement's ceiling. I hate my voice.

Once there, on that dark and rainy night, they first encounter the guard shack, knocked over. After a bit of poking about, and finding extremely large boot prints, they continue into the town proper, seeing evidence of a scuffle with a very large humanoid - buildings dented, street-torches knocked over.

Speculation on the large boot tracks ranged from trolls to ogres to giants to dinosaurs.

There's a bit of discussion between the party on whether to just drop off the wagons and follow the tracks, or to stop and gain information. Knibbs notes light coming from shuttered windows and under the door of the only inn in town, and knocks on the door.

It opens a crack, and the villager inside gives Knibbs a short lookover, and says "Giant gone?" 'Yeap,' says Knibbs. "Come on in then before he comes back". Most of the town seems to be in the inn, huddling around tables, some crying, most scared. What looks to be the village elders quietly argue in the far corner.

The dwarf accosts the first person he comes across. It's explained to him that the ogre comes by every few weeks, demanding ale, wine, and a sheep. The villagers have acquiesced so far, not having the wherewithal to deal with the problem. However, just tonight, he demanded people, and there was a scuffle. The ogre made away with a guard, the stonemason, and one of the barmaids.

The dwarf, the PC of the youngest player, barely ever stops talking :) That's why he's up here, out of the vaults.

The vintner reveals he poisoned the last barrel of wine the ogre took.

There's some discussion amongst the party again, as to if they should run out right now or sleep the night. Patiences wins, and the town puts them up in beds for free for the night - the party will wake up super early and hope for the ogre to still be sleeping off the alcohol.

In the morning, a one-armed dwarf approaches the party at breakfast. He explains that the ogre is pretty dangerous (he lost his arm) and has a vicious club he's hammered other weapons into, for some sort of crazy bladed-spike-club thing. He wishes the party well as they head out.

The party takes some of the caravan horses out to what the one-armed dwarf described as Skulltop Hill, a rocky protuberance with what looks like two eyes and a mouth. Some distance away, the dwarf and druid send out their wolves, and the elven princess her dragon, for a scouting mission.

The dragon is only 1 HD, and is weaker than a wyrmling. I'm not sure how I'm going to handle growth, I'll probably make a difference between 'henchmen' dragons and actual dragons, and while it may gain 'levels', it'll advance in actual ability at half or even one-third speed. I'll play it by ear and post how advancement went if she switches characters. I treat it as INT 10 or so, and it's paid in gems and gold still, which it will eat (good for it's scales!) until it's old enough to hoard, at which point it'll leave and be a remote ally. Yes, I am spoiling my daughter.

The wolves report a ogrish smell and trail into the main mouth entrance. The dragon notes one 'eye' holds a nest, the other one has a wisp of smoke coming out of it. She also notes a back entrance - a crack in the wall about 3ft by 5ft, through which the party members will fit. The wolves note a skunkish smell coming from there.

The party enters the crack, goes a few tens of feet down a rought stone corridor, and comes into an largish room, floor covered in bat guano. The druid urges caution, and they sneak through without waking what is probably a large bat colony on the ceiling.

The tunnel splits off to the left and right. The druid sends her wolf to the left tunnel - he comes back reporting he met a skunk - the skunk presented aggressively and the wolf, knowing better, backed off and let him have his territory. The dwarf sends his right, and he reports a door, then some glowing bugs, and fresh water.

One day, this animal companion scouting will end poorly.

The party treks down right to a stone door, about 20 ft further up before the corridor ends into the next open area. It's well carved, of dwarven manufacture, with a large keyhole in the center. There's a double set of engravings - one, roughly crossed out by other, later hands, proclaims this the tomb of Jodun, Dwarf of the Thorncrist, fallen in the year 4311, some 300 years ago. Newer runes at the side of this door declare this the grave of Lord General Tulwar, Foe Eater, downed 4566, roughly 50 years ago as the last Empire was ending it's fall.

The lock ends up being a bit too gummed up to pick, so the drow and dwarf bash in the door. Inside, a dwarven tomb is laid out. The walls are carved in a dwarvish style - done quickly, but skillfully, depicting frescoes of various historical events, presumably in the life of the deceased. At the end of the 30ft long room, a raised dias hold a sarcophagus and a pair of heavy metal sconces on poles, each with a magical golden light emanating from them.

In front of the sacrophagus lies a dwarf skeleton, seemingly evicted from it's home. There are silver holy symbols laid on the floor at each side, and the sarcophagus looks newly sealed, as opposed to the rest of the room. The skeleton still wears it's armor, dragonbone chain. The dwarf falls in want, and exchanges the skeleton's chain for his own, with a hastily added promise to his distant cousin to restore him to his rest.

His dad, ever the mercenary, suggested that. :) Gotta train them right from the start.

The dwarf and drow take crowbars from their pack and begin to crack open the sarcophagus. The lid pushes off far enough to admit an arm, and another lashes out from inside, a grisly, withered claw slashing the dwarf across the face - he experiences a momentary numbness, which subsides. The two fall back, and the ghoul Tulwar throws off the lid and stands in his stolen tomb.

The elven princess reacts first, throwing her dagger at the undead, striking it in the chest. The thief acts, a glancing blow with an arrow. The ranger fires a bow as well, and lands a good hit.

A bit of conversation went on here - the drow's player read Turn Undead literally, thinking he, himself, could turn into an undead. New eyes, old words.

The drow skewers him with his two-handed sword, and the dwarf lands a solid hit with his two axes. The fortune hunter shoots wildly with his bow, narrowly avoiding the engaged party members.

I'm slowly introducing more tactical rules. I'm doing singular initiative, and I'm not requiring the Precise Shooting proficiency to fire into melee - they can take their -4 and risk me ruling a party member hit. We're not declaring spellcasting yet either.

The ghoul, evidently off-balance, maybe a bit stiff from being in his box for 50+ years, misses all attacks on the drow.

I roll for crap until later on when I switch dice. It'd been years since we playied in any form, and I think storing my PC and DM dice separately mussed up the balance. I've hence put them all back in the same bag, leaving out my daughter's and my wife's dice.

The elf princess momentarily considers a Sleep spell, before remembering undead don't rest. She instead fires her bow, and the ghoul falls, again.

The party hauls the ghoul's body out of the tomb, picks up a random assortment of small gems from the bottom of the sarcophagus, and replaces the dwarf in his rightful place, closing up the coffin and the tomb. time, ogre!...

Monday, July 30, 2012

If there's a place you got to get...

I can get you there, I bet.

Next up: let's drill down. I took my previous map, made a copy of the ACKS hex and coastline layers, and combined them. I then paint-filled each hex with their terrain type. I'm not bothering with icons at this point.

Here's what I end up with:

I ought to add a color key.

Having the coastline layer available helped a lot coloring the hexes. Looking at it, I forgot to add rivers viewable at this level, but, I'll be picking an area without them anyway.

I make a selection in Gimp around D4-E5, then crop the image and immediately save it to another filename. Those four rectangular areas will fill Page 3 of the ACKS blank hex map. Next, I import Page 3, and do the same I did for Page 4 - add an alpha channel, select the white, delete it, invert the selection, paint it all black, resize to 2199x?.

Now, if you're following what I did earlier, you're looking at a cropped map of around 476x367. We need to resize that to the scale of the ACKS Page 3. I copy Page 3, paste it as a new layer in my D4-E5 map, then I resize the canvas to the layers - so that the D4E5 image has the correct 2199x1699 size.

Next, the annoying steps - we've got to resize the D4E5 map layer, coastline layer, and whatever other layer you want to keep to the same sizes. I resized my to 1950x?, and that seemed close enough. The only important bit is the coastline, and we're going to be altering it anyway. I turned down the opacity on the resized layers so I could better see the Page 3 hexes.

So, that coastline. It's a pretty thick line, so let's shrink it. Select by color. Shrink the selection by a couple pixels. Now, I'm sure a GIMP expert knows a better way, but what I did was:

  • I deleted the selection, leaving me with a "outline" of a too-thick coastline. I unselected, then erased one side of the outline - I would occasionally switch back and forth between the 'inner' and 'outer' line, depending on which way I wanted the more detailed coastline to go.
  • Select by color, then paint-fill the line black. You may need to do it in sections if you broke up your coast switching between the inner and outer lines.
  • Select by color, do one last fill. Then, shrink your selection until the line thickness is where you want it. I only had to do it once. This also gets rid of any floaters you've got around the sides of your line.
  • Invert the selection, delete, select none. Check the line to make sure it's contiguous, it's also likely you'll have some thick spots to manually thin out.
Here's where I ended up:

Now, as we did last time, make a copy of the coastline and Page 3 hex layers, and combine those copies. There's your fillable hexes for this layer. Have at it. Don't forget to break up the larger hex boundaries a bit.

And that leaves me with:

Let's finish this off with Page 2 of ACK's hex map PDF. The one thing you'll want to note here is you will need to separate the grid from the hex numbers - take a copy of the layer, erase all the numbers. Use that layer to do your hex coloring, then overlay the original layer with the numbers on top - ought to take less time to do that than to fill in every 6,9,0,etc. on the map. I did it a bit differently - after I erased the numbers, I took another copy of the hexgrid layer, and merged a copy of the numberless hex grid painted white on top of it to "erase" the grid, leaving the numbers. That allowed me to come back with a seperate number grid I could easily recolor, since the white numbers look a bit better against the colored hexes and black grid.

And here we are, the region I'm starting the players, taken from unmanageable continental bitmap to workable 6 mile hexes. I'd much rather this be in a vector format, but, hey. I may come back and do everything at the original 400 DPI depending on how it prints, but, as long as I keep everything I put on the map from here on out in layers by category, switching around should be easy.

Plus, I can now whip out Page 1's like nobody's business, if I need a more exact view on a city location or a hex a PC will want to claim as her own - the smallest hexes on that map will be 1,320 ft.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

If there's a place you gotta go...

I'm the one you need to know.

Of the list of annoying intelligent artifacts from children's shows, The Map from Dora ranks high.

UPDATE: Read the bit at the bottom before you do anything like this.

At any rate, I'm going to have to do some mapping if I want to get a sandbox game going.

At the current point, I'm planning on running the excellent Adventurer Conqueror King system, from Autarch. PDF's $10, go get it - they've taken B/X and fleshed out the domain rulership/economic systems to something you don't have to think about too much. There's also a fleshed out domain warfare system coming, plus there's a complete class and spell creation system in beta.
 In this post, I'm using their freely downloadable mapping PDF with a continental map I made some time ago.
Here's what I'm starting with, skipping some of the details of how I got here:
The continent has been rotated quite a bit, after drawing the climate I had to revisit locations of some of my ecological decisions..

What you see there is a half-attempted icon map, which was about the third or fourth style of map I puttered around with following the many excellent tutorials at the Cartographer's Guild. It's an amalgam of two maps, one the icon map, the other a previous map I'd doodled some plant life assumptions on. I've overlaid a hex grid generated with the help of mkhexgrid, and drawn in the very basics of climate following Bat In The Attic's concise PDF here. The upper red line is my equator, the southern red line is the southern 30 degree latitude, the Tropic of Capricorn on Earth. Dark blue is ocean currents, light blue is air. I have no doubt I'm making incorrect assumptions about what the climate will actually be doing, but that's OK. It's magic.

NOTE: I messed up at this point - I'd merged too many layers, and lost a good clean copy of my coastline. Don't do that!
Scale wise, I've defined these hexes as 24 mile hexes, as is ACK's default, since I'm using their PDFs.

Consequences Break!
The Googles tell me that each latitude line is about 69 miles apart - so between 0 and 30 degrees latitude is about 2,070 miles, or 86 24-mile hexes. I dislike the number 86 today, so I rounded that down to 80 (drawing my equator and tropic 80 hexes from each other), which means the distance from my equator to my southern tropic is 1,920 miles, making my latitude line distance 64 miles. If I take this to it's conclusion, 64*180 is 11,520, or 92% of the 12,400 value the Internet tells me is the Earth's distance from pole to pole. All else being equal, we're about 8% smaller than the Earth, which will never matter, but it's fun to know.

End Break!

I'm working in Gimp. What I do next is thus:

  • Open the ACKs map PDF in Gimp, and import page 4, the long-range hex map.
  • Add a transparency layer, and delete all the white, leaving me just the black hex lines and other page details. Copy that, and -
  • Paste it into a new layer on my map document. I resize the layer until those hexes more-or-less match my original hexes. Always resize with locked ratios! 
  • I label that layer "Map 1" - this Gimp file is going to be our master reference from now on, since as we expand, we'll continue to paste multiple copies of it into our master map to generate new pages of the world.
  • I hide my original hex layer. I'll not be needing it except for reference of original intent.
  • I center the layer about where I'm starting the PCs.
  • I select the area of the layer, crop the image to the layer. I immediately save it as a different filename. Now I've got all my information (layers) the same relative size as the PDF page. I resize the whole image to 1099x849 (the original size of the PDF I imported)
  • I repaste my original, unresized PDF layer into this image. It should perfectly overlay the resized ACKS hex grid.
Here's what I end up with:

Bit of a mess - I have two coastlines since I lost my original layer, then found the version of the coastline I preferred.

Viola! Here's Page 4 of the ACKS pdf with my map (in coastline, vegetation, and topographical layers) ready to work with. From here, I'd pick my artistic style and start drawing the area for real.

UPDATE: Whoops. After I started painting in my hexes, I realized my mistake - the hexes from the PDF were aliased, so I got a lot of little white/light grey spaces around the hex borders that looked like junk. I went back a few steps:

  • In preparing the ACKS PDF page, I imported at 400dpi, giving me a 4399xsomething image. I added a transparency layer, selected all the white by color, deleted it, inverted the selection, painted it all black. I then converted the mode to indexed, with only 1 color (black).
  • I wanted some extra resolution - I resized the ACKS PDF and my overlaid map to 2199xsomething, rather than the original 1099.