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" 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

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.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

A State of Play

Been a bit, again.

There are ...150+ blogs in my reading list, places I've found insightful or useful posts (the two things are vastly different) at and marked down, in case they keep coming. I can't say that more than 20 or so are updated with any regularity. Some of them I wish would do more; others seem to struggle for things to say, and still others seem to have careened into a place that's just not about gaming or the imaginary worlds we create anymore.

This one's at that middle category - not that I provide much more than the odd table or rambling, half-coherent introspection.

I've been quiet mostly because I have been playing - running one, at that - so rather than my brain wandering around constructing little windmills of half-baked ideas to joust at, the time I allocate to thinking about DND is now assigned to more direct purposes. I don't prep anything with an eye towards making it look publishable, and won't spend the time to do so.

Even then, we meet about once every 4 to 6 weeks, for a measure of the time available. Hell, it's 4AM right now while writing this; I'm up early for whatever reason and decided to throw down another vague screed. If it was a normal hour I'd be interfacing with family and deciding what productive task to start on.

In game, it's just turned January in 1409; the party still bases themselves in Kielce, Poland. The basic backdrop of the campaign - the valley of the Vistula north of the Carpathians reeling from twin catastrophes of plague and horde - still looms, the ruins of Krakow continue being ruined.

They've made a good showing of attempting to be the saviors of Kielce, tossing money and blood into it. They've hit 4th, and have started to poke around in the "wilderness game". The generation of possible lairs in the hexes around them was not kind. It'll be an uphill battle.

The brash, charismatic fighter; the nominal leader of the imaginary and physical side of the party (the most experienced player) overplayed himself finally. They made a good approach on a possible bugbear lair, made peaceable parley with the leader, and had a tacit agreement to reconvene in the spring for a campaign against what is/will be a truculent neighbor.

Part of that agreement was the fact that this particular subchief didn't like his chief all that much, and believed the fighter's outlandish boasts of his actual force size - so figured he'd get that chief sorted out sic'ing the party on him, do a little raiding in the spring, and depending on profitability...who knows.

It was an unexpected gambit from the fighter, and the reaction rolls helped him get away with it.

This success led the party to overplay it's hand. They immediately tramped over to the lair of the chieftain a couple hexes away...and goofed it up. Two henchmen took mortal wounds; and the fighter escaped by dint of a natural 20 on a save, which still took him down to single-digit hit points.

At least the retreat was well done.


Two of the blogs I am never disappointed in are The Wandering Gamist, and the Tao of D&D, both generally for the same reasons, and they happened to collide on Alexis' space here. Alexis has been talking quite a bit about the underlying ...everything of gaming; and while there's focus on DND there, I think it's applicable in large swaths to gaming as a whole, with regards to the investment of time and thought one could, or should, put into it. Or, for that matter, humanity.

It is, today, Super Bowl Sunday in America. This'll be an all-day event for a lot of folks, getting together with friends and strangers to eat, drink, bitch about rules and rulings...while watching other people play a game. The investment of time is available, obviously, some double-digit percentage of those folks have spent the previous season worrying over their fantasy teams.

I single out football mostly because it's timely; and secondly the prominent place it has in expenditures of personal, corporate, and public monies. The game itself I like from a gaming perspective. One of the best DND players I know, and a good friend of mine, has a "football mind" and coaches youth league, and it's always an interesting conversation with him when we get into either the actual playing of the game, or, more often, teaching children and the oft unreasonable expectations of their parents.

There's still chess tourneys; there's card tournaments, etc; there's the inexplicable continuing fascination with Magic and Pokeman or whatever. And, there's this weird fucking corner of the world that video games have carved out for themselves, I guess, but I'll ignore that so I don't sound like an old man yelling at clouds. But, still. I don't believe I've heard much about chess since we started beating ourselves with computers, as a comparison.

Iain M. Banks, or Iain Banks, depending on the scope of the novel in question, wrote a series of sci-fi novels unofficially called the "Culture series", one of the main societies in the fiction.

The second or third novel in the series (they're not really anything more than loosely connected to each other, so don't feel you have to start anywhere in particular, but I do recommend starting) is "The Player of Games". The basic gist is that there's this other stellar empire who chooses their leadership based upon the outcome of this expansive gaming tournament. The game in question sounds very much like some overwrought Diplomacy+Civilization (Sid Meier's or otherwise) played on some sort of insane football-field sized board. The Culture sends in a man, their best game player - games of the mind, not sport - to upset the field in the hopes of influencing that empire.

I'd love to see a world more focused on RPG sorts of games; a world with more Alexises, at that. (some portion of the online RPG community just fainted probably) It might be the ennui of the working man in his early 40s, or the state of the world, but, man, it sure looks like something you'd only visit briefly as the world-of-the-week on a Star Trek rerun.