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, December 30, 2019

Some RPG plans por 2020

I know, the best-laid plans of mice and men and yadda yadda. I didn't succeed in everything I wanted in 2019, but I wrote some RPG stuff that made me happy.

And 2020 is the year of the double critical, so I'll stay optimistic!

RPG-wise, what I want to do in 2020 is publish a few books. Some are already written, some are just vague ideas at this point, and some are in the middle.

ALL are related to the stuff I write in this blog, mostly because this is the stuff that is on my mind.

Here is what I've got so far.

Dark Fantasy series

I have two more books for my Dark Fantasy series: settings and magic items

I also wrote a book with 100 magic weapons for Dark Fantasy. I like the result. If people like it, I might make a few more (have a few ideas for armor and other magic items).

I am planning to have these three books out before the end of the third trimester.

I'm very, very tempted to write a Dark Fantasy Cyclopedia of sorts. That would include ALL the stuff I have plus a few things from the Teratogenicon (see below). And I want to revise and update a few things from Dark Fantasy Basic. If I do this, I think I'd like to have a print version to use at my table.

This might be lots of work, so maybe I'll leave it for last.

UPDATE [2020]100 magic weapons was made available in January. Dark Fantasy Magic Items and Dark Fantasy Settings are available since February.


The Teratogenicon is written. Now I've got some revising to do. The art (by Rick Troula) is not finished yet, but it is looking GREAT so far.

I think we might get this finished before July.

I really like this project, and I want it to be huge. However, I'm not sure if everyone feels like me about monsters. In short: that they should be more varied and interesting, and that this is more important than stat blocks.

Anyway, this is happening regardless. I really hope you like it. If lots of people want it, there might be a print version.

UPDATE [2020]: Teratogenicon is here! And it's beautiful!

Fifth Edition stuff

I have been thinking a lot about 5e lately. I feel I could create an easier, faster version of 5e without losing anything significant. I think I could reduce the relevant parts of 5e to about 100-200 pages. It looks like hard work, but I have the SRD to work with. I dunno. There are a few good books on the market that do that already.

My manual of arms book didn't get much traction, reviews, comments, etc. I'm unsure about making one for armor (and stunts, options, etc.).

There is no date for that so far.

UPDATE [2020]: nope. See here.

Setting stuff

I have a few settings in mind, but nothing is written. Well, some ideas were added to the Teratogenicon and Dark Fantasy Settings, but a have no "setting book" yet. 

I feel a bit silly about inventing names for places, races, people... I don't even USE published settings as written, I added stuff from multiple places, and my books are like that, more suggestions than hard rules, so not sure how useful it would be for other people.

Anyway, I am curious about creating a gonzo, post-apocalyptic setting from this and this. And maybe this and this. In short, my own version of Dark Sun.

There are other ideas too, maybe I'll test the waters a little before I dive in.

There is no date for that so far.

UPDATE [2020]: nope. See here.

Stay tuned!

Here is my idea if you want to keep track of this stuff. I'll update THIS post during the entire year, giving you links as these things come out. See how I wrote "UPDATE [2020]" under each topic? Yeah, I plan to use these blank spaces as soon as I can.

If I fail, well, feel free to call me out in the comments!

Also, I'm writing a second post about my "2020 RPG resolutions" in a couple of days, specifically to ask what would YOU like me to do

Do you want more blogging or more publishing? Do you want OSR, 5e, or both? Lots of arts, lots os writing, or both? Print or PDF? Let me know in the next post... Or, if you can't wait, let me know right here!

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

D&D sells you fish, but won't teach you to fish [Part I]

"Give a Man a Fish, and You Feed Him for a Day. Teach a Man To Fish, and You Feed Him for a Lifetime"... Or so the saying goes.

So, here is the thing. D&D (and pathfinder, etc.) is selling you fish. Classes, races, spells, etc.

Take the 5e PHB, for example. Tons of great stuff. You buy the game, make some choices, and you get a character, and you're ready to play. Not much effort needed. I really like this book.

Same for the Monster Manual. You get a big list of monsters. Find the monster you need, and you're ready to go.

Modules are basically the same thing. You buy more races, monsters, adventures, spells, etc. There is not much material on creating your classes, races, monsters, etc. These should be on the DMG.

And this is great - I love monster manuals, I love cool adventures, and I really like the 5e PHB. The DMG... is a bit disappointing, but we'll get there.

First, the problem with the PHB. While races, classes and feats are cool, there is an obvious point buy mechanic behind them. I ranted about it here. It goes more or less like this:

A feat will give you SIX POINTS.
An ability score increase costs 3.
A skill costs 2.
Expertise costs 4.
Languages, tools or fighting styles cost 1 [NOT the same as a skill!].
A couple of cantrips cost 1.
Saving throw proficiency costs 3 .

I mentioned feats, but there is also a "hidden" point buy for races and class features. And that is the entire problem: they never tell you the numbers, making your job of creating races, classes and feats harder.

Of course you can "reverse engineer" this stuff, but it discourages you from creating your own stuff.

Worse, it sometimes seems to mislead the reader on these issues. For example, while skills are obviously better than tools - which is reflected on races, backgrounds, etc., - the "skilled" feat treats them as if they had equal value. Same with saving throws - some are obviously better than others, but the book never mentions it explicitly.

The DMG should fix it - but it doesn't.

While the first chapters of the book are pretty good (with some caveats) to great (see below), the parts about the rules do not explain how this "point buy" rules actually work, even though it hints at it. For example, it says "fire" resistance is more or less equivalent to "necrotic" and "radiant" resistance combined, without measuring it... and failing to mention it while discussing new spells!

The new spells part, BTW, is not that bad... just short and full of useless advice such as:

"If a spell is so good that a caster would want to use it all the time, it might be too powerful for its level."

Or guidelines that are so vague that they have no utility at all:

"A long duration or large area can make up for a lesser effect, depending on the spell."

How long? How large? How lesser? Which spells?

This vagueness is not necessary - you can extrapolate good guidelines from the sorcerer, for example. But, again, they seem to discourage you from creating your own stuff.

The DMG is also bad when messing with other rules. The rules on "damage severity by level" (page 249) treats 1st level PCs as if they had the same HP as 4th level PCs without discussing the issues, for example.  The automatic success rules (page 239) can create baffling effects - for example, a PC with Strength 19 might have 50% chance of battering down a door, while Strength 20 will give you an automatic success (shouldn't be there some middle ground there?). And so on.

Now look at this insightful advice on how to find if a task is easy, moderate or hard:

Then ask yourself, "Is this task's difficulty easy, moderate, or hard?"

It sounds like some kind of joke, but this is what the DMG actually say (without addressing that in most adventures there are a lot of DC 12 and DC 13 tasks).

The part about creating monsters is, well... good enough, I guess. Probably deserves a post of its own. Here is something to get you started.

The interesting thing is that the DMG is great when discussing other issues.

The NPC tables are awesome, and the magic items generation is just FANTASTIC. Even the tables on creating adventures is great. Same for settings (although occasionally a bit boring).

These do not only teach how to fish, but provide with hook and line to create your own stuff!

In fact, there is so much awesome stuff in the DMG that I almost feel bad for criticizing it.

But anyway - I feel there is this strange tendency towards avoiding teaching people how to fish, for fer of not being able to sell fish anymore. Which is silly, IMO. In reality, there will ALWAYS be more people willing to buy fish than to do the fishing themselves.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Sacrifice (D&D 5e) - are you WILLING to DIE?

Here is an idea I mentioned a few times, in improved form, and in one single post.

In short, it is this: if you want to fight to death, you can fight past 0 HP, but it is dangerous.

The table below is inspired by a similar one in Dark Fantasy Basic.

Here is how it goes: 

When you drop to 0 Hit Points (and are not killed outright, as per the usual rules), you do not necessarily fall unconscious.

Instead, you can choose to fight on if you're willing to fight to the death.

In theory, the player should consider his characters motivations, bonds, etc., but in practice its his choice (with some justification required).

If he choose to fall unconscious, that's all that happens for now.

If he choose to fight on, he immediately makes a death saving throw.

Death Saving Throws
Whenever you start Your Turn with 0 Hit Points, you must make a Special saving throw, called a death saving throw, to determine whether you creep closer to death or hang onto life. Unlike other Saving Throws, this one isn’t tied to any ability score. You are in the hands of fate now, aided only by Spells and features that improve your chances of succeeding on a saving throw.

Roll a d20: If the roll is 10 or higher, you succeed. Otherwise, you fail. A success or failure has no effect by itself. On your third success, you become stable (see below). On your third failure, you die. The successes and failures don’t need to be consecutive; keep track of both until you collect three of a kind. The number of both is reset to zero when you regain any Hit Points or become stable.

Rolling 1 or 20: When you make a death saving throw and roll a 1 on The D20, roll on the table below. If you roll a 20 on The D20, you regain 1 hit point.

Death's door table:
1 - This counts as two failed death saving throws, instead of one.
2 - Gain one level of exhaustion.
3 - Permanent scar.
4 - Temporary disability.
5 - Permanent disability.
6 - Falls unconscious.
7, 8, 9... - etc... Immediate death should probably be on the table.

You get the idea.

Optional additions:

While you have 0 HP, once per turn you can ignore one source of damage (up to 10% of your maximum HP), unless it is a critical hit (see this post). [another alternative would be getting temporary HP due to Adrenalin...]

You do not recover from death saving throw failures until you take a short or long rest. This is meant to avoid abuse such as allowing the paladin to recover a single HP every turn to avoid death.

What's the point?

Letting PCs choose if they remain fighting after mortally wounded is dramatically appropriated... and just plain cool. Sacrifice suits dark fantasy even better than random death, IMO, and it is obviously more suited to epic fantasy too.

Notice they can still die if they choose unconsciousness, but it is a bit less likely. Unless the adversaries go out of their way to kill a fallen character, he might survive anything but a few bad die rolls or a total party kill. An unconscious characters can also be ransomed, etc.

It is cool for the players, too. They get to choose when to put their characters lives on the line. In practice, I've seem players get a bit more mindful of their battles, taking responsibility in their own hands.

Friday, December 06, 2019

The 10% HP rule (just a flesh wound)

It goes like this:

If an attack causes less than 10% of your HP in damage, it has no further detrimental effect on you (besides damage). No concentration checks, no death saving throws, etc. If damage stops spells in your game, damage that is lesser than 10% doesn't, and so on.

Something like massive damage in reverse, I guess (I dislike this rule in 3e, but 5e has an interesting variant in the DMG... that I find a bit unecessary).

The inspiration for my (probably unnecessary too) rule comes from an old game of Marvel Superheroes RPG (FASERIP).

If I remember correctly, I was playing as the Hulk... and, after taking massive damage from some super-villain, my PC got stabbed by a mook... and died!

I really hated that.

To be fair, I have no idea if this was because of the rules, of the game master, or just faulty memory (it was more than 25 years ago).

And, now that I think of it, it reminds me of Achilles... So, it might make sense in some contexts.

In 5e, it works as an anti-mook rule. This means your 15th-level fighter will not be executed by a kobold with a knife in a few seconds, just after being knocked out by a dragon. Also, the same kobold will not break your 15th-level wizard's concentration.

Again, this kind of grittiness has its uses, but doesn't quite fit the heroic fantasy tone of most official D&D stuff. Remember that the 15th-level fighter will probably survive a fall from any height!

In fact, if you want to make 5e less "bounded" and more "epic", i.e., the 15th-level fighter simply cannot be hurt by a single kobold, you might just ignore damage smaller than 10% altogether.

I have also considered a 50% HP rule as a complement... Say, if you WOULD take more than 100% of your HP in damage, the excess damage applies regardless of immunity.

So, in theory, the Tarrasque CAN hurt a werewolf with a bite, although it isn't easy.

AD&D had something like that IIRC. If you had enough HD, your attacks bypassed the usual "magic weapons" defense.

OTOH, some small creatures could be immune to fire, and swim in magma... So maybe this rule would only work for attacks?

I dunno. Maybe it is a case of rulings, not rules ("of course the Tarrasque killed the werewolf!"), or a matter of taste.