Saturday, October 13, 2018

OSR Guide for the Perplexed Questionnaire

1. One article or blog entry that exemplifies the best of the Old School Renaissance for me:
James Maliszewski's Old School Dungeon Design Guidelines encapsulates the best principles of the OSR.

2. My favorite piece of OSR wisdom/advice/snark:
"A dungeon you explore once is not a dungeon."

3. Best OSR module/supplement:
This is a toss-up between what I want and what I know.
I want to say Hubris is the best OSR module because it exemplifies everything I want from a setting book in the best way possible.
But from experience I have to say Hot Springs Island. It's a thick read and it lacks quick statistics, but it is the best playground I've run for my players in a long time.

4. My favorite house rule (by someone else):
My friend Nathan has an old d6 that's chipped, making it a d7. He calls it his paradox die. Once per session a player could roll this paradox die. If they did and it landed on its seventh face some weird shit would happen next session. This has resulted in Spock and company beaming down right in front of our characters and parlaying with actual Cthulhu monsters.

5. How I found out about the OSR:
It was 2014 or 2015 and I was running 5E at my friend's comic book shop. A codger walked in with his wife. They were looking for a gift for his birthday. They saw us playing D&D and I invited them to come back next week and roll up a character. They came back and they brought a treasure trove of old school books with them. I was entranced and asked if the codger (the above-mentioned Nathan) would run a game for us. He obliged and I've been trapped ever since.

6. My favorite OSR online resource/toy:
I'm not sure if these count. But Discord and GIMP are my go to tools for running games these days.

7. Best place to talk to other OSR gamers:
The heaving throes of G+.

8. Other places I might be found hanging out talking games:
I'm on Discord. Feel free to friend me (Mcgee#3580).

9. My awesome, pithy OSR take nobody appreciates enough:
If you think OSR is a ruleset you have no idea what you're talking about.

10. My favorite non-OSR RPG:
It has a shit online presence but I still like playing 5E. Also I would like to give 13th Age a run.

11. Why I like OSR stuff:
It has character. It has avoided the soul sucking proboscises of big business.

12. Two other cool OSR things you should know about that I haven't named yet:
Library of Attnam is underrated and if you think I'm wrong you should read his posts about druids.
Remixes and Revelations is also underrated and he is the only glogger that gets it.

13. If I could read but one other RPG blog but my own it would be:
The easy answer is Jeff's Gameblog. 
But I would lock myself in a room with Fists of Cinder and Stone.

14. A game thing I made that I like quite a lot is:
Everyone likes the Time Wizard but it's shit.
I'm fond of my quick and dirty car rules.

15. I'm currently running/playing:
Right now I'm running Hot Springs Island as a part of a larger wavecrawl.

16. I don't care whether you use ascending or descending AC because:
I just want to kill you.

17. The OSRest picture I could post on short notice:
This picture of a medusa from LotFP because it was the first thing I saw when I opened the book and it convinced me the OSR was rad.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Target GLOG

GLOG is the system I use to run my home games. But I don't like the fact that it's a roll-under system. I've got nothing against roll-under, but my mind is ingrained with roll-over from playing the d20 System and 5e. But I've also got my issues with roll-over.

My biggest issue with roll-over mechanics is the prevalence of Difficulty Class. In the end DCs are arbitrary because they rely on the whims of the DM instead of the mechanics of the game. So my goal was to make a roll-over system without DCs. But Delta of Delta's D&D Hotspot beat me to it with his Target 20 system.

Target 20 is intuitive and simple. The main mechanic is:

d20 + level + modifiers ≥ 20

That's it! Attack Rolls, Saving Throws, and Skill checks are based off this simple mechanic. But there's a caveat.

Delta did the math and came to the conclusion that Target 20 deviates by "1 or 2 pips.". In other words it deviates by 5% or 10% from the system it was based on. This deviation is positive for the most part. PCs take a hit to their early level saves, but they "closely match the book at middle levels; and are more generous at the highest levels." DMs might scour at this, but this deviation is also positive for monsters. So there's really nothing to cry about.

Target 20 was based off OD&D. So it will need to be tweaked to fit GLOG. The +level approach wouldn't suit GLOG because Attacks and Saves are made with secondary scores. Also it would be easier to modify the target number 20 with Defense than adding/subtracting it from the roll itself. So to hit an opponent with a Defense of 11, you'd need to roll a 21 or higher (because 11 minus 10 is 1.) Also the micro-math natural to GLOG  needs reduction or elimination.
Target 20 Compatibility Mark

This is my first hot take:

Ability checks/saves
d20 + Ability Score ≥ 20

Attack Rolls
d20 + Attack Score + STR/DEX ≥ 20 + Target's Defense

Saves
d20 + Save + CHA ≥ 20

Movement
d20 + 12 + DEX ≥ 20

Stealth
d20 + 5 + DEX ≥ 20

I haven't figured out Opposed Checks or Combat Maneuvers yet. But I figured most situations are resolvable with a roll-off. A success wins. In the case of a tie, the highest roll wins.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Break me a 21

I'm in the middle of an existential crisis right now. So I look towards the warm bosoms of math to comfort me.

In my current campaign I use a roll under as a resolution mechanic. But roll under is the most over-used method in old school gaming, and for good reason. It works. roll under is square-one of resolution mechanics. It requires no math. It requires no arbitrary decisions. It's binary; you fail or you succeed. 

On the other end of the spectrum, roll over is the least-used method, and for good reason. Most roll over methods require math and arbitrary decisions. It is also the flagship mechanic of the mediocrity that is modern elf games.

If I had to pick between the two, I would choose roll under. But that's the easy choice. And this post isn't about doing things easy.

I want to explore the possibility of a roll over mechanic that is simple and intuitive.

-

The traditional roll under mechanic uses a variable that the player rolls equal to or under in order to succeed.  That variable is an Ability Score most of the time. Allow me to introduce Kenned.

Kenned is a first level fighter. He's got dreams and aspirations; and he's got a Strength score of 16. Right now all that matters is Kenned's Strength Score. (Fuck your dreams and aspirations Kenned.)

In the traditional roll under mechanic, Kenned has an 80% success rate for Strength tests. But if we flip to a roll over mechanic, Kenned looks a bit more scrawny. In the roll over mechanic, Kenned only has a 25% success rate. Now most people would abandon the roll over idea here because they think it means restructuring D&D. But this isn't the case.

Both mechanics have two things in common. They both have a dice roll. And they both have a target number. However in the case of the roll under mechanic, this target number is an ability score most of the time. This just doesn't work in a roll over mechanic because the maxim of "high score be good" is broken by the nature of the roll over mechanic. And since we can't change the dice roll, we have to change the target number.

But changing the target number comes with a stipulation. The success rates have to be the same. In other words a score of 16 has to have a success rate of 80% in a roll under mechanic and a roll over mechanic.

After a lot of mad scribbling I've come to a target number of 21.

In order to keep the maxim "high score be good" we have to invert the roll under mechanic. One would think this would result in a target number of 20, but this proves to not be the case. This is the result of adding the score to the roll. In a roll under mechanic there's no math. So by introducing a modifier the target number increases by one. But the success rates check out. A score of 16 has an 80% success rate in both systems.

So the basic mechanic in this roll over system would look like this:

d20 + modifier ≥ 21 = Success

The modifier varies depending on what is tested. Ability Scores modify ability checks; skills modify skill checks; etc; etc.

The key to this mechanic is to modify the target number instead of the roll. Instead of applying a -4 penalty to the roll, add 4 to the target number.

Let's go back to Kenned. He's got some leather armor. Leather armor has an AC of 2. So we add that to any attack rolls' target numbers. So Kenned would have an "AC" of 23 (or 25 if he's got good DEX.) 

This method means players don't have to do multi-step math. It's roll and add. That's it. Only the target number fluctuates, and it's easy for the DM to communicate the target number.

I'm no math-man, but I think this works out. Regardless it's a basic start and I'll explore it further later after I've accepted nihilism.

Friday, September 28, 2018

GLOG: Class: Beerbarian

From Arnold K.'s GLOG:
Each point of drunkenness expands your critical fail/miss range by 1. So a character with 3 points of drunkenness would critically miss on a roll of 17-20. This lasts until next morning.
With that said...

Beerbarian
You gain +3 HP for every two Beerbarian template you possess.

A Barfly, Angry Drunk
B Swig
C Drunk Strength
D Drunken Master

Barfly

Each point of drunkenness expands your critical success/hit range by 1.

Angry Drunk
If you're drunk you gain immunity to Fear and Pain. You can't do anything defensive, curative, or tactical.

Swig
You can consume alcohol to restore 1d6+1 HP. This gives you 1 point of drunkenness. This ability works even if someone pours the booze down your unconscious throat.

Drunk Strength
If you have at least two points of drunkenness, you can gain a Strength of 22 (+4) for 1 Round once per day.

Drunken Master
Now each point of drunkenness expands your critical success/hit range and your critical fail/miss range by 2.

Image result for beerbarian

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Meet Me After School. —Love Gandalf

So I've been in the death throes of wizard fever lately. I've gotten some excellent feedback by throwing my Sword Wizard and Forge Wizard out there. And I'd like to take this opportunity to share my notes on GLOG Wizard design.

1. Wizards are problem solvers
The wizard "presents a limited number of abilities (spells) with which to skip certain specific resource drains" (Lungfungus). Where Fighters have to roll to hit and Thieves have to roll to open locks, Wizards spend spell slots to make problems disappear. Pesky goblin no one can hit? Magic Missile. Pack of orcs? Sleep. Locked Door? Knock. With that said....

2. Magic is reliable
Wizards solve problems with magic. Or in other words, magic is their tool. A blacksmith wouldn't use a cracked hammer to pound steel. A woodworker wouldn't saw planks with a chipped saw. Therefore a magic user wouldn't solve problems with unreliable magic. Therefore magic must be reliable. With that said....

3. Magic has unpredictable costs
Mishaps and Dooms make the Wizard closer to Fighters and Thieves in that it adds a cost under a certain condition. For Fighters and Thieves is strictly roll-based. Rolled too low? Miss. But in the Wizard's case the magic still happens, then they take costs. With that said....

4. Wizards hedge reliable problem solving with unpredictable costs
This is the main "strategy" of the Wizard. If Mishaps and Dooms didn't exist the wizard would just get to spam 2+ MD spells willy-nilly. But since Mishaps and Dooms are present, the Wizard has to wage his risks. He could invest 1MD in Magic Missile on that owlbear, but it has two claws and a bite and a bear hug, but if you invest anymore you could pay a terrible cost. I theorize this is why most wizards go mad. With that said....

5. Spells require an "Upgrade Factor"
Wizards need a reason to upgrade their spells with more spell dice. Or in other words an upgrade factor. This is usually in the form of the dice variables [dice] or [sum] but it could be in the form of an upgraded version of the spell. If your spell doesn't have a dice variable or an upgraded version, then it needs to come with a clause or downside to prevent the wizard from spamming it. With that said....

6. Spells need a "Hijinks Factor"
Spells should be multitasking tools. A hammer can be used for more than just pounding steel. Same concept with spells. But spells shouldn't be super tools that can power through any situation. Basically you want the spell to have a definitive effect that is applicable in at least two dungeon-to-dungeon situations. The wizard player will take care of the rest. With that said....

That's it. That's all I could think of.


Wednesday, September 5, 2018

GLOG: Class: Forge Wizard

Smithing has always been the domain of devils. In fact it's one of the key differences between them and their crude demon cousins. It's a testament to the acuity of devilkind, and a stick to the Man upstairs.

When primitive humans wondered into Hell seeking to learn the devils' craft, they were given a deal. Their souls in exchange for smithing. Of course they accepted, and of course they got the raw deal. Sure the devils taught them, but they didn't teach them everything, and in the end they got fresh souls while the flesh-apes only got a few iron tools and weapons.

This charade continued for centuries until some humans realized they were getting stiffed and bargained for a renegotiation of terms. Most of them got their souls eaten, but there was a few who came out with the better half of the deal. Those people are known as Forge Wizards.


by William Blake

Perk: You gain +1 Attack or Defense when using weapons or armor that you've made yourself respectively. You start with a Devil Hammer.

Drawback: 10% of treasure that you discover gets donated to devilkind. Hey man a deal's a deal.

A devil hammer can be used as a weapon that deals d6+1 damage. It also cuts smithing times down from 1 month to 2 weeks.

Cantrips:
1. You can recall your devil hammer to your hand.
2. You can etch your symbol on a metal object.
3. You can make your eyes glow with cosmetic fire.

Spell List

1. Burning Hands
R: 20' cone
T: area
D: 0
You touch your thumbs together and sheets of flame explode from your fingertips, dealing [sum] damage, Save vs Dex halves, and setting flammable objects alight.

A classic. Pretty powerful at close range, hence the save. Otherwise totally useful for setting crowds or rooms on fire.

2. Bargain
R: 50'
T: one creature
D: 0
You can instantly swap one object your holding in your hand with an object the targeted creature is holding in its hand. If you invested 3 dice or more you can swap objects on your target's persons instead (backpack, pockets, boots, stomach, etc); you have to have seen the object or know where it's located.

Steal the doom sword from the evil lich or get the keys out of the guard's stomach.


3. Weld
R: Touch
T: [dice]+1 objects or creatures
D: permanent
You meld the targeted creatures or object together. If the targets are creatures they get a Save, but only one needs to fail their Save to be considered meld together. This spell can be reversed to undo its own effects.

A potentially powerful spell against creatures, but the touch range means the wizard has to put themselves in harms way. Otherwise gives them an opportunity to make some unique items.


4. Gauntlets of Mephistopheles 
R: 20'
T: one creature
D: [sum] attacks
Giant gauntlets of black metal envelop the targeted creature's fists. They gain +1 Defense and their unarmed attacks deal 1d6 fire damage and set flammable object alight.

Give the Fighter flaming fists of fury.

5. Whirling Hammer Toss
R: 60'
T: one hammer
D: 0
You spin the targeted hammer in your hand with supernatural speed before throwing it. The hammer carries you and up to [sum] creatures and objects with it Thor style.

Most of the Forge Wizard's spells are touch spells, so having a spell to close the gap is a big convenience.


6. Summon Lemures
R: 30'
T: one surface
D: 0
You summon [sum]+[dice] Lemures that obey your command.

Lemures are basically the trash of Hell. Devils don't mind sending them to you. In fact you're doing them a favor by giving them a place to dump all of their garbage.

7. Secret Forge
R: Touch
T: one surface
D: varies
An iron door materializes on the targeted surface. This takes 30 minutes. Behind the door is a 20' room furnished with furnace, forge, bellows, and all of the other tools necessary to run a smithy. The room lasts for 2 hours, doubling in duration for each die invested. At the end of the duration all creatures inside are ejected.

Taken from Arnold's Door Wizard. Gives the Forge Wizard a port-o-forge for smithing on the go. Also gives the party a safe place to crash when their deep down in the deep dark.

8. Statue
R: 0
T: Self
D: [dice]*10 minutes
You turn into a metal statue. You can switch in and out of statue-form in a single round.

Potentially useful for stealth missions, or as an impromptu battering ram.

9. Transmute Metal to Fire
R: 80' 
T: one metal object 
D: permanent
You change the targeted metal object into searing fire. The object maintains its mass and shape but scorches for 1d4 fire damage for each [dice] invested.


Taken from the Sword Wizard. It didn't really make sense for that school, but it's perfect for this one.

10. Bonefire
R: Touch
T: one corpse
D: 10 minutes
The targeted corpse burns with a gentle ethereal fire, and after 10 minutes all that's left is ash. This ash can be rubbed on an object to enchant it with [dice] properties that belonged to the corpse when it was alive. If the corpse was a wizard's, you can imbue their prepared spells into objects instead and they will function as scrolls. The ash's properties and its enchantments last until sunrise.

Apparently in olden times blacksmiths would put bones in their forge because it produced purer steel. This started a trend of putting in animal and human bones to infuse them with their power. 

Emblem Spells
11. Meteor
R: Space
T: one meteor
D: 0
You grab a meteor from the sky and bring it crashing towards earth. 
If it's night, the sky illuminates as if it were daylight for [dice]*2 hours.
Nocturnal creatures will return to their layers, and diurnal animals will stir as their sleep cycle is interrupted. 
All creatures with [dice]*2 HD or less that realize you were responsible Save vs Fear or take a morale check, or flee/bow down to you.
The meteor lands 1d100 miles away in a random direction. If you invested 3 dice or more the meteor utterly obliterates anything d10 miles away from the impact zone, and deals [sum] damage to everything else in a d100 miles radius.

Taken from Vaginas are Magic. Apparently Tutankhamen was buried with a dagger forged from iron that belonged to a meteor. 

12. Bone Armor
R: 20'
T: one creature
D: Concentration
The targeted creature gets covered in bone armor. The bone armor has a 12+[dice] Defense and absorbs [dice]*2 damage from non-bludgeoning attacks. The wearer also gains telepathy with the Forge Wizard.

Taken from Arnold's Bone Devil. Pretty much turns the target to a lean mean boning machine.


Mishaps
1. MD only return to your pool on a 1-2 for 24 hours.
2. Take 1d6 damage.
3. Random Mutation for 1d6 Rounds, then Save with a -4 penalty. Permanent if you fail.
4. Blinding smoke billows from your lungs, filling a 10' cubic area.
5. Your cerebrospinal fluid boils. Unconscious for 1d6+2 Rounds. 
6. Save vs Fear against fire for 24 hours.


Dooms
1. Devils shatter your leg bones. Your movement rate per round is reduced to a 10' crawl.
2. Chains clinch your heart, the black smoke of Hell fills your lungs, fire burns your hair to cinders, and devil kisses grow lumps of flesh all over your body. Your CON and CHA is halved.
3. Your head falls off and sprouts a maggot-like appendage. A devil possesses your body in the form of a flaming skull, Ghost Rider style, and becomes an NPC hellbent on spreading as much sin and destruction as possible. You're a soulworm that has lost all of your wizarding capabilities until you get your body back.

You can circumvent your Dooms by traveling to Hell and stealing the horseshoe of a Nightmare that belongs to an archdevil and wearing it around your neck.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Fuck CMDs

The prior iteration of the sword wizard was met with universally harsh criticism such as:

  • Too much of a focus on combat tricks. Even a wizard based off swords shouldn't be this combat focused.
  • Spells are too utilitarian and lack a "hijinks factor."
  • Cantrips, Mishaps, and Dooms are underwhelming.

For the most part I agree, but I would like to take this opportunity to address these critiques and what they mean for GLOG wizard design going forward.

Swords to Sticks is a good example of a bad spell. Its design is very narrow. The intent is to turn a bunch of scavenged sticks into useful weapons for the party, but that's it. Outside of that situation this spell is pretty much useless because swords aren't that hard to come by.

Transmute Metal to Fire is a good example of a good spell. Its design is very open. The intent is simply turn metal into fire. You can turn a regular sword into a flaming sword. You can turn an iron golem into a giant fire elemental. You can turn a cannon into fire, causing the powder charge to explode, which in turn causes shrapnel-shaped fire to pepper the deck of the ship, setting even more things on fire. Or you can just put out an iron door to get to the other side. It has a long range of uses—perhaps maybe too long.

The difference between these two spells is emergent gameplay, or in less pretentious terms, the hijinks factor. This means the spell is sitting in the Goldilocks zone of intended use. It's narrow enough to not solve every problem, but it's open enough to apply to a range of situations. This lets the wizard player get up to a whole bunch of hijinks.

Pure utilitarianism is too be avoided if possible. Buff spells have their place (just look at Mage Armor) but spells like this are more interesting if it has a weird clause. Argyrosis kind of gets this but clings too close to its utilitarian purpose to really be an interesting spell.

Now we get to the hard part.

I don't like Cantrips, Dooms, or Mishaps, or CMDs for short because the latter is too fucking long.

There I said it.

I get why cantrips exist. They're there for the wizard to do something magical when they run out of spells. But honestly there's a bunch of stuff a wizard can do already without them. Grab a bow and shoot something. Grab a spear and hide behind the meat shield. Cantrips just feel like a distraction from the main attraction themselves, the spells.

Dooms and Mishaps I actually like, but I don't like their execution. I feel like they would be better handled on a spell to spell basis, like how DCC does with its spells.

Something like:

Spell
RTD
What spell do
What spell do if roll Mishap
What spell do if roll Doom

I don't think I piss anybody off by saying I don't like CMDs. I don't think Arnold or Skerples are looking for disciples, and a unified GLOG ruleset just isn't going to happen anytime soon. So I might as well go full pariah.

Anyway this post started good but quickly devolved into a rant. I'm going to finish my earl grey, take a nap, and go to work.