I must create a system, or be enslaved by another man's. I will not reason and compare: my business is to create.

- William Blake

Monday, February 11, 2019

The TAGMAR universal table

Look at this beautiful thing (source):


It is an "universal" table (used for skills, combat, etc.) from the Brazilian RPG Tagmar (supposedly based on Star Frontiers, not FASERIP).

Looks nice, huh?

The skill part is really simple: you must roll red or higher for difficult tasks, yellow or higher for easy ones, etc.

But in combat, it really shines. You basically compare your opponents defense (and armor, I think) to your attack and check the corresponding column. Weapon damage s fixed, and each color corresponds to a fraction of total damage: 25%, 50%, 75%, 100% and 125%.

Here is another rendition (from another edition, I think):


So, even tough you have to look at a table, you save one roll (you do not roll for damage) and you don't even need math (damage is written in your sheet, something like "Sword +15 damage 3/6/9/12").

A natural 20 (grey) is always a crit and makes you roll again in the same table. Although the average damage is not necessarily that great, rolling 20 again means gruesome death (beheading, impaling, etc., depending on the weapon).

Talk about gritty!

And FUN!

This looks very cool IMO. It would be nice to make a D&D version at some point.

I guess I would fix a few things: some columns are identical, critical from inexperienced fighters shouldn't be so extreme (although the game make "minions" scary on purpose), experienced fighters shouldn't fumble on a natural 1 (although that is optional, I think), maybe three kinds of damage would be enough (33%, 66%, 100%, for example)  etc.

But I like the idea of having attack and damage in a single roll, and even having a big, fixed number for combat (say, you deal 32 damage with your axe), but seldom using your weapon's full potential.

It would be a great way of differentiating weapons and making them more unique without being too fiddly.

Of course, this means you'll ALWAYS be consulting a table... It'd better be printed in your character sheet!

Saturday, February 02, 2019

Weapons/armor limitation (minimalist D&D)

Half-baked ideas, continued from here:

* You are proficient in all weapons and armor.

* Maximum weapon damage is equal to Strength (two-handed), 2/3 Strength (right hand) and 1/3 Strength (left and). 

* Off-hand weapon applies the WORST of Str/Dex.

* Special weapons allow you to add BOTH your Strength and Dex modifiers, or double your Str modifier, but the same limits may still apply.

* The maximum amount of AC bonus you can get from armor is equal to half your Strength. Strength 16 means you can get a +8 bonus (AC 18).

* Shield does not affect AC.

* If you get hit, you can dodge or block. To dodge, roll 1d20+Dex. To block, 1d20+AC bonus+shield bonus. Dodging avoids damage, blocking merely reduces it (maybe to one quarter damage?).

* HP = Constitution times level divided by three.



What´s the point?

A "Dark Souls" style system where you find new weapons and discover new fighting styles as you progress and make choices. Also, I hate the idea of "you are a wizards therefore you cannot use a sword".

Monday, January 28, 2019

Too many races (+My Carcosa)

Races available in my next Carcosa (Dark Sun/Tékumel) campaign:

- Choose any race available in any 5e book. Try to avoid the most boring ones (no ordinary humans). If you find something cool in another system, we will find a way to include it too.
- Tell the GM the main distinction of your race: habits, culture, etc. Be brief. You do not have to stick to WotC text.
- Races chosen by players substitute one of the thirteen types of men described in the book.
- Races not chosen are whatever the GM feels like. Some suggestions:

Black – Danuvian (Talislanta)
Blue – Vedalken (Ravnica)
Bone – These look cool the way they are, actually.
Brown – Goliath
Dolm – Thri-Kreen (Dark Sun)
Green – Genasi
Jale – Gnolls
Orange – Ahazu (Talislanta)
Purple – Kenku
Red – Red Martians
Ulfire – Shén (Tekumel)
White – Melniboneans
Yellow – Githyanki

Voilá! Now Carcosa is full of bizarre races, each with a distinct appearance and culture, if you need one (just google it!).


----
Explanation:

My current 5e campaign has four player characters: a gnoll, an aasimar, a goliath, and a tiefling. I play most old school modules and I'm currently running Curse of Strahd; so you can imagine that there is no place reserved for such races in most adventures. My players do not care much about their races beyond chargen, and as a result their races NEVER got mentioned again (except for the goliaths' size).

I don't care either - I want players to be free to create any characters they enjoy. However, it paints an irritating picture in my mind. They seems out of place - unlike my Dark Sun or Ravnica adventures, these "unusual races" just do not seem to fit (they would be a bad fit for "tolkienesque" settings too, but I hardly run those).

To be honest, Curse of Strahd should probably be human-only. Not onyl the PCs, but the NPCs add nothing by being half-elves etc (well, I can only remember a single case anyway).

My next campaign after CoD is probably a Carcosa hexcrawl, which gave me this idea.

As you know, Carcosa is inhabited by many types o men: orange men, blue men, bone men, etc. They are nearly identical expect for the colors of their skins, which many people find boring (although I think 13 different races with distinct appearances and cultures might be too much).

So I thought I'd inverted the usual "these races are available". Instead, let the players choose which races are available, and cut everything else. This will give the setting a distinct flavor and avoid race proliferation.

(And if you're asking yourself how many races should a setting have, the answer is probably seven).

Makes me wonder if it wouldn't be better to use the same reasoning for ALL settings...

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Damage types (D&D 5e)

5e has thirteen damage types: acid, bludgeoning, cold, fire, force, lightning, necrotic, piercing, poison, psychic, radiant, slashing, and thunder.

One could argue we don't need damage types at all - a monster that is susceptible to fire will obviously take more damage form a 5d6 fireball, so "5d6 fire damage" fireball is redundant.

The distinction is useful if you have a magic mace that deals, say, additional 1d6 fire damage, or a spell like meteor swarm, which deals bludgeoning AND fire damage. In this cases, a susceptible creature would take double damage form the fire, but NOT from the bludgeoning damage.

But even in these cases, I think I would ok with a less "realistic" and more "cinematic" version: the (fire-susceptible) scarecrow would be easily destroyed by a flaming sword, etc., despite the fact that a flaming sword would do a terrible job at destroying a scarecrow in real life.



In any case, I would like to keep damage types if only to make things clear and avoid questions such as "does the meteor swarm causes double damage to this monster?".

However, there are three damage types that bother me:

Bludgeoning. Blunt force attacks—hammers, falling, constriction, and the like—deal bludgeoning damage.

Force. Force is pure magical energy focused into a damaging form. Most effects that deal force damage are spells, including magic missile and spiritual weapon.

Thunder. A concussive burst of sound, such as the effect of the Thunderwave spell, deals thunder damage.

These three are so similar in my mind that they could all be described as "bludgeoning". I assume most people picture the impact of a magic missile to be akin to an invisible rock. Likewise, the impact of a "spiritual mace" would be the similar to a regular mace (even if stronger).

And "thunder" damage is specially weird. It deals "concussive" damage - like a mace, but more diffuse I'd guess - but this damage is caused by a burst of sound. Maybe the distinction would make  sense in real life, but in 5e thunder damage doesn't hurt your eardrums, and even a grenade does not cause thunder damage. In addition, people might find the thunder/lighting separation confusing (here is one example). "Sonic" damage might be a better choice.

As for monsters... there are not many monsters that are susceptible or resistant to bludgeoning or force. Some creatures are resistant to thunder damage, but most of these are ALSO resistant to bludgeoning for non-magical weapons. There are some flavorful choices - storm giants being immune to thunder and lighting, for example - but also weird distinctions, like skeletons being especially susceptible to maces but not thunderwave, "spiritual maces" or grenades.

Other than that, damage types don't really DO anything. There is no difference in criticals, types of armor (unless magical), and so on. You are not on fire after receiving too much fire damage, and you're not even poisoned if you take poison damage.

In short, if you NEED to use damage types, you could probably fold thunder and force into bludgeoning, making the game simpler and losing very little in the process.

Alternatively, you could USE damage types to do things (for example, making bludgeoning better against heavy armor), but that would make the game more complex.

The "middle ground" of "we have m,any damage types, but they rarely DO anything" seems like a bad choice for me.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Speed, initiative, bonus actions and the action economy...

Happy new year!

These year I'll write about monsters, weapons, yadda yadda, let us skip this stuff for now.

So, here is a brief idea after a long hiatus. Hopefully, I'll get back to blogging soon enough.

---
TL;DR: I'm considering allowing PCs to trade half their move (or their main action) for an additional bonus action.
---

I like the whole "action economy" of 5e. I think they've got it (mostly) nailed with actions, bonus actions and reactions, with a few exceptions - two weapon fighting, Beastmaster Rangers, etc.

However, Mike Mearls himself has suggested that it might be a good idea to get rid of bonus actions.

I often wonder about the same topic.

The most obvious solution would be trading some MOVEMENT for special actions - dodge, disengage, hide, etc. Use "half your movement" as a baseline. Not too different from getting up if you're prone, for example, or how disengage worked in B/X.

Other simple actions could be "part of your attack". Drawing a knife or arrow, for example. Drawing a zweihander might cost you some movement, so an unprepared warrior with a heavy weapon would be less mobile. Nice!

Other things - like rage, for example - might be better portrayed as reactions. I like the barbarians' rage triggering in response to some event, at least in the first few levels.

What about bonus action spells? Well, I'm not the greatest fan TBH. Most of them seem to be created to allow you to create a special weapon and attack with it. So, just add hat to the spell's description.

In short... bonus action serves as an abbreviation, a shortcut to the idea that you can do this "thing" and still get your main action, but you cannot do two of these "things" in the same round. Which is not always a good thing - rangers, for example, have too much stuff competing for their actions.

In short, the whole "bonus action" concept isn't necessary... but a good enough shortcut. Because of that, I am not sure if getting rid of them would make the game any simpler.

If I were to make a "realistic" system from that, I'd probably give each character a few TOKENS representing their movement. Say, one blue token for each 5 feet of movement (these can be used for various kinds of movement). Then one red token for each attack or spell (a fighter with four attacks gains four tokens). Whoever surprises the other side, rolls high enough for initiative, has some rogue-like reflexes, etc., gains a few green tokens that cannot be used, only held until the end of the round.

The creature with the most tokens acts first, spending some of their tokens - maybe from one to three, at most.

So, the fighter with four attacks can probably pull a knife and stab a CR 1 monster three times before it reacts... But if he has a battleaxe, he might have to spend a couple of blue tokens to draw it before attacking, which might be enough to let you attack back, unless you're surprised, etc.

This would lead to more "organic" battles, as I intended here.



These lead to endless permutations, of course. Tokens for reactions - why not? Additional tokens for critical hits of misses, maybe depending on weapon speed, etc.

Probably too much work for little effect. But something I would definitely use for a more "tactical" version of D&D in line with 4e, etc.

For now, I might just allow PCs to trade half their move (or their main action) for an additional bonus action. Maybe fighters get one additional bonus action for extra attack, provided they use it for TWF, etc.

Next: maybe a(nother) simple yet detailed "fix" for two-weapon fighting or weapon speed, based on this post.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Super-critical hits!

Random idea I can't get off my mind lately:

Super criticals

Roll 1d4.
1: Maximum damage.
2: Double damage.
3: Triple damage;
4: Special (depends on weapon, armor, etc).

Example: if your usual damage is 1d6+3, maximum damage is 9, double damage is 2d6+6* (Average 13), triple damage is 3d6+9* (average 19.5).

*OR just roll 1d6+3 and multiply by two or three.

How?

A super-critical is achieved when you crit and beat the target AC by 10 or more, or when you have advantage an roll 20 on both dice. In some circumstances, all your crits will be super-crits, while in others none will (however, you can reach crits through combos - see my next post).

I thought of this as a rule for my Dark Fantasy Basic but you can obviously use for D&D 5e, etc. Notice that "maximum damage" result is slightly worse than the usual 5e crit... but it kinda FEELS better IMO, and is one less roll.


Why?

I just like crits! They are exciting, fun and a great way of differentiating weapons and characters, since only a few hits will be crits. It also gives you that "urgency" - the fight may suddenly take a sharp turn for the better or worse...

However, I get bored by long tables and dislike stopping combats to check complex rules/charts.

Super-crits are intuitive and significant. "Special" results - you can put whatever you want there, but should be very significant, and maybe IN ADDITION to triple damage - will happen less than 2% of the time. THEN you can use a table or complex rules. Almost 99% of the time, things will be straightforward.

Notice that this crits will make the difference between creatures of different HD/CR more significant. A level 10 fighter will be very likely to destroy one orc per critical hit in 5e - or even an ogre (4+1 HD) in B/X or DFB.

Likewise, heroes must think twice before attacking something that is out of their league. In 5e, this means the need for "minions" for high-CR foes is made a bit less relevant.

Well, that's it for now.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Concocting constructs


Constructs are made, not born. Some are programmed by their creators to follow a simple set of instructions, while others are imbued with sentience and capable of independent thought. Golems are the iconic constructs.

Construct varieties

Golems – artificial humanoids created by magic - are iconic and simple. Their main distinction is the material from which they are crafted – clay, coal, iron, flesh, gemstones, marble, ceramic, stained glass, etc. Animated objects such as a flying sword or self-moving suits of armor (or furniture!) are even simpler. However, there are other types of constructs: steam-powered spiders, plastic spheres with flamethrowers, killer vehicles, and so on. You can skip some or most of the tables if you want to keep your construct simple.

Habits, diet and habitat

Constructs can be found anywhere their creators want them: guarding riches, working in factories, transporting goods, and so on. Their habits, likewise, are usually programmed in creation.
Since constructs are similar to machines, most of them can live regardless of food, drink, sleep and even air, but rely on a different power source (see below).
Clever artificers often put golems and other constructs near power sources so they can constantly refuel and regenerate, or even build traps that will help constructs while hindering invaders.

Traits

A typical construct has the following traits:
Size: any.
Alignment: Unaligned.
Abilities: good Strength, Constitution; bad Charisma, Intelligence.
Resistances/Immunities: constructs are usually resistant to poison, psychic, and many other types of damage (including nonmagical weapons that aren’t adamantine), depending on what they’re made of (and their power source), and immune to being charmed, exhaustion, frightened, paralyzed, petrified, poisoned. Magic resistance is also common.
Senses: Darkvision.
Languages: Constructs understand the languages of its creator (if any) but most cannot speak.

Artificial faces

No matter the form they take, most constructs cannot speak and thus have no mouths. Many lack noses and ears too, using magic or other means to perceive reality. Golems and other constructs made to resemble people may have lips that do not move and ears that do not work. However, many constructs with faces have eyes – usually two or a single big one, often glowing – made of glass, jewels or other materials that are really used for sight.

Appearance & Attacks

Constructs, like any other apparatuses, may take any form their creator can fathom. Therefore, there is no reason why a construct cannot have three legs, five eyes and multiple antennae. However, since they are usually built by anthropocentric minds, the common construct is shaped like a person or something resembling a person (a cube with arms and legs, for example).
Shapes. Many constructs have humanoid appearance. Other look like strange, mechanical animals, or armored vehicles. Some constructs are just animated objects, while other are piles of bones, weapons, chains, etc. You can roll again in this table multiple times if you wish, generating lower limbs, upper limbs and head (for example, a construct might have tracks, four arms, and spherical head).
Power source. Many constructs are moved by magic and might be damaged or stop functioning if subjected to antimagic fields or other magic-destroying effects. Other, however, function like machines, and must consume petrol, electricity, etc., periodically. A few have internal generators that are hard to disrupt, and some are biomechanical, using normal food for sustenance.
Materials. A construct may have various resistances and vulnerabilities determined by the materials from which it is made, although some are specially reinforced to avoid the most obvious weaknesses.

1d12
Shapes
Power source
Materials
1
Humanoid
Magic
Clay
2
Quadruped
Steam
Stone
3
Insect or arachnid
Clockwork
Wood
4
Random object
Electricity
Plastic
5
Pile of objects
Atomic
Metal
6
Wheels or tracks
Biotech
Flesh
7
1d8+2 legs
Puppeteering
Synthetic flesh
8
1d4+2 arms
Petrol
Bone
9
Cube
Alchemy
Rubber
10
Other polyhedron
Sunlight
Glass
11
Sphere
Internal generator
Cyborg (bionic / organic hybrid)
12
Roll twice
Roll twice
Roll twice

Attacks. Constructs fight with many different types of weapons, some of them attached to their own bodies. Melee weapons have 50% chance of being built-in, while ranged weapons are usually built-in except for the first four entries (although few constructs will have ranged attacks in the first place).

1d20
Melee
Ranged
1
Slam
Crossbow
2
Fist
Javelin
3
Claw
Rock
4
Bite
Poisoned darts
5
Warhammer
Net-thrower
6
Flail
Paralyzing gas
7
Sword
Lightning bolt
8
Maul
Poison gas
9
Axe
Flamethrower
10
Pincer
Hand canon
11
Tentacle arms
Eye laser
12
Electric gauntlets
Bolt-thrower
13
Kick
Acid spray
14
Blowtorch
Taser
15
Saw blade
Serrated discs
16
Electric whip
Detachable fist
17
Energy sword
Magnetic pulse
18
Stinger
Rocket launcher
19
Drill
None
20
Roll twice
Roll twice


1d20
Distinction
1
False Appearance. While motionless, the construct is indistinguishable from an sculpture, ordinary object, pile of debris, etc.
2
Deceiving Appearance. The construct appears to be of another monster type: a steel monstrosity, a celestial surrounded by lighting, an undead pile of moving bones, or an ordinary humanoid.
3
Nanorobot. The construct appears turns into a swarm of spider-like creatures (or other swarm) when destroyed, with one fifth of the original HP. It will reassemble with 1 HP in 2d6 turns if not destroyed as swarm, and recover all its HP in 10 turns.
4
Exploding. The construct explodes into a burst of energy when destroyed, causing damage to everyone nearby.
5
Detaching parts. The construct can remove parts of its body for repairs, or change parts to suit the present task.
6
Positronic. The construct is unable to hurt a living creature directly. It might be able to set traps.
7
Remotely operated. The construct is remotely controlled by someone else, through strings, magic, levers, etc.
8
Man in the machine. The construct is controlled by someone (which usually much smaller) inside it, which might be hard to notice.
9
Living brain. The construct is home to a biological living brain (or heart, soul, etc.) that will rise again in time if not destroyed.
10
Reprogrammable. If capture, the construct can be reprogrammed to serve different purposes.
11
Transformer. The construct can repurposed itself as something else: a vehicle, object, harmless piece of decoration, etc.
12
Mathematician. The construct has the intelligence of a genius. Although not creative, it can perform complex measurements and calculations in seconds.
13
Replicator. The construct is has built other, smaller, constructs to keep it company.
14
Precious. The construct is made of valuable parts, but disassembling it would rob the world of valuable knowledge, and even destroying it through ordinary means will probably make it worthless.
15
Duplicate. The construct is built to replace a specific person. Its true appearance is hidden behind a realistic layer of wax, silicone, or other material, and can be revealed with enough damage, especially from fire.
16
Magnetic. The construct is able to attract (or, alternatively, repel) iron weapons, armor, etc.
17
Absorption. Whenever the construct is subjected to acid damage (or fire, lighting, radiant, etc., depending on the material and power source), it takes no damage and instead regains a number of Hit Points equal to the acid damage dealt.
18
Gigantic. The construct has the size of a giant (huge).
19
Magic Immunity. The construct automatically succeeds in all saving throws against spells.
20
Elemental spirit. The construct contains an elemental spirit, which is released upon its death, with half the original HP. Earth is the most common element for this purpose, but iron constructs may be fueled by fire, clay golems by water, and flesh golems by air.


Origins and ideals

Constructs are created by other beings for specific purposes, although they can (very rarely) gain some degree of consciousness.

Roll
Origin
Ideals
1
A wizard did it
Protection: I will protect this person (or place, object, etc.) with my life.
2
Built by an artificer
Obedience: I exist only to serve my master’s orders. 
3
Spontaneous awakening
Extermination: I will kill anything in sight.
4
Gradually replaced itself by engines
Replication: I must find energy and materials to build others like myself.
5
Animated by a fairy, deity or fiend
Labor: I must perform the menial tasks I was programmed for, repetitively.
6
Born in a plane of machines
Self-awareness: I must become a real person.

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