Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Variant: Ability Scores Part II

I've done some Diet Dr. Pepper insomnia fueled thinking and I've decided to ditch the Knave-style resolution system I described earlier.

Instead I've opted for a Target 20-style system. The basic formula is d20 + Score ≥ 20. 

The reason I like this system instead is because it gives an average level 1 PC about a 50% chance of success. Plus it's easy for a player to grasp. If they have an average score (10) all they need to roll is double digits to succeed.

Another reason I chose this over Knave's is because I really prefer the Arnold method of rolling 4d4 for ability scores and using the divide-3-minus-3 formula for modifiers.

Also a Target 20-style system establishes that the score is for the d20 and the modifier is for everything else. 

Monday, July 22, 2019

Cars Are Still People

I wrote about vehicle stats awhile ago. While I think it was one of my better posts from that era, I take some issue with it today. So now I'm going to redo them.

Vehicles have a size category ranging from 1 to 4. A vehicle's size determines its seating capacity, storage capacity, its hull points, and its fuel die.

Size CategorySeating CapacityStorage CapacityMax Fuel DieHull PointsExample

Ability Scores
Vehicles have the three physical ability scores: Strength, Dexterity, and Constitution. (Vehicles with some kind of artificial intelligence, like KITT from Knight Rider, can have the three mental ability scores.) Generate vehicle ability scores like you would a characters.

Seating and Storage Capacity
The former is the number of normal sized creatures the vehicle can transport; the latter is the amount of stuff a vehicle can transport—represented by slots. It's possible to break both of these capacities; however, breaking one calls for a CON check during travel. On a failure, the axle breaks from the strain and the vehicle is left inoperable. Breaking both capacities gives this CON check disadvantage. 

Fuel Die
After 25 miles of driving, roll the vehicle's fuel die. If the result is an odd number, the vehicle uses up a portion of its fuel and the fuel die decreases by a step. A fuel canister can be emptied into a vehicle to increase its fuel die by one step up to its max. A fuel canister takes up two inventory slots.

Hull Points
Vehicles have hull points and 1 hull point is equivalent to 10 hit points of damage. This means that a damage roll has to be 10+ to damage a vehicle. Unlike hit points, hull points do not recover naturally and require repairs. It takes a day of work to repair 1 hull point if materials are available.

Vehicle Armor Class
Small vehicles have less coverage but are fast, while larger vehicles are slow but have more coverage. Therefore a vehicle's size category also determines its AC.

Size CategoryArmor Class
111 + DEX/4
214 + DEX/10

Generating Vehicles
To generate a vehicle on the fly:

1) Roll a d4 to determine its size category.

2) Generate its ability scores.

3) ... and that's it really!

Monday, July 15, 2019

Variant: Ability Scores

Variant is my GLOG hack. I figured I'd start with ability scores.

Arnold started the tradition of generating ability scores using d4s instead of d6s and I'd like to preserve that tradition in Variant. Instead of using GLOG's roll under system, however, I've opted for Knave's roll over system. 

Each character rolls 3d4. The lowest result is their modifier and they add 10 to that to get their score .

The math works out to PCs having a +1 or +2 most of the time with a +3 or +4 being rare. Compared to modern 4d6k3, a bonus of +1 is twice as common, a bonus of +2 is 30% more common, and a bonus of +3 and +4 is as common.

The main kind of roll related to abilities is the check. PCs make checks by rolling a d20 and adding their modifier to the roll. If they meet or beat 15, they succeed. If not, they fail. This number changes depending on what the PC is rolling. For example Attacks.

If you're not sure what that number should be, if the PC isn't opposing someone, go with 15. If it's easy, it's a 10. If it's hard, it's a 20. If the PC is opposing someone, go with their number of HD + 10. If that someone is particularly good at whatever the PC is opposed against, add 5 to that number. If they're bad at it, subtract 5.

Negative modifiers will be a thing. Just subtract 10 from the PC's score: an 8 is a -2, for example. A -10 modifier equals death. 

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Mini DM Screen

I made this mini DM screen. It's cheap and easy to make. (Check out Dungeon Craft when you have a chance. Their channel is a treasure trove for OSR and DIY DMs.)

The above screen is for my Elsai setting, which is like a really bad Conan X Mad Max fanfic written by Terry Pratchett. Each image invokes an aspect of the setting. On the left we have Conan, who represents the "Sword" in Sword and Sorcery. Next to him we have an image of the planet itself, desolate and ringed by the dilapidated space station constructed by lizardfolk in ages past. Then we have a war rig, something you'd see in Mad Max. Lastly we have one of the eight tyrannical liches who represent the "Sorcery" in Sword and Sorcery.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

123 Past Present Future

I run a lot of gonzo games. It's not uncommon for a PC in my campaigns to have a longsword in one hand and a machine pistol in the other. This brings the question to mind: How much damage does a longsword do compared to a machine pistol?

The most common answer to this question that I see is none. The level of tech shouldn't matter; just roll a d8 and move on. This answer doesn't really cut it for me. If a swordsman sees his foe whip out a Tommy gun, I want him to start sweating. But this opens a can of worms all on its own.

How much damage should a Tommy gun do? Should we account for sights? Automatic fire? Etc, etc. These questions are the first to come to mind but they lead down a slippery slope. In the long run, it doesn't matter if you perfectly simulate the finer points of firearms.

All that matters is that lasers deal more damage than guns than swords. And to simulate that I've implemented a rule I like to call 123 Past Present Future.

Basically, the weapon in question does 1 die of damage if it's from the past (relative to human history... or not!), 2 dice of damage if it's from the present, and 3 dice of damage if it's from the future.

For example, a longsword would deal a d8. Something like a chainsword would deal 2d8 since it requires levels of tech (machinery, fuel) that is more common in the current era. And a lightsaber would deal 3d8 damage.

The only trick here is finding what's equivalent to what. I would argue that a pistol is the equivalent of a modern day shortbow so it would deal 2d6 damage, but you might think otherwise...and that's OK!

Sunday, July 7, 2019

The 5e Hack No One Asked for

Player Stuff

Ability Scores
Derivative ability scores are a sacred cow; it's time to take it to the slaughterhouse. 
Instead of rolling out ability scores, each character gets the standard array: +3, +2, +2, +1, 0, -1. 

I'm tired of my players picking outlandish races for a stat boost and/or power. I want a more grounded grimdark feel. Every character is assumed to be human. If you want to play a member of a certain race, it'll be for roleplay or lore purposes only.

Class features remain unchanged for the most part. When a character receives an Ability Score Improvement, they pick an ability score and improve it by +1, up to a maximum of +5. Spellcasting and Hit Points are also changed (see below).

I don't need a Survival skill to tell me that the Barbarian might know a thing or two about wild plants. Skill proficiencies are axed. Classes are, instead, proficient with checks related to two ability scores. These are the same as the classes' Saving Throw proficiencies, as written in the book. Weapons, armor, and tool proficiencies remain unchanged.

Proficiency Die
Instead of a static bonus, PCs roll a proficiency die. Just multiply the static bonus by two and slap a "d" behind that number and you'll know which die to roll. If your class has Expertise, roll the die twice and take the better result.

Hit Points
Roll 4d6k3.
You can reroll any results less than your Constitution modifier once.
Add your hit die maximum to the result.
That's your HP for your entire career.
For example. Hrega the Terrible, a barbarian, has a con mod of +3. Her player rolls 1, 2, 4, 6. She rerolls the 1 and 2 and gets 3 and 1. Her result is 13. She adds 12 to that, because Barbarians have a hit die that's a d12, for a total of 25.

The magic system is Alexandrian (Kempian? It's GLOG's!) in design.
5E has three different spell progression trees for some reason. 
Full spellcasters, like wizards, start with 1MD and gain 1MD every level up to a max of 10.
Half-spellcasters, like Rangers and Paladins, get their first MD at level 2 and gain 1MD every second level thereafter up to a max of 5. 
One-third spellcasters, like arcane tricksters and eldritch knights, get their first MD at level 3 and gain 1MD every third level thereafter up to a max of 3.
MD stands for Magic Dice. They're d6s.
When the spellcaster casts something, he chooses how many of his MD he wants to invest, then rolls. Dice with results 1—3 go back into the pool and ones with 5—6 are expended till the next rest.
If the spellcaster roll doubles, that's a mishap. If they roll triples, that's a calamity! (I ain't going to write specific mishaps and calamities for each class. That's what an imagination is for. All I need to know is that a mishap is inconvenient and a calamity is, well, cataclysmic.)
the number of [dice] involved as well as the [sum] of those dice determine the outcome of the spell.
Full spellcasters start with 3 spells, half start with 2, and thirds start with 1. They gain a spell every level, every second level, and every third level respectively. Other spells have to be discovered, researched, learned, and/or prayed for.
Clerical magic is more (?) reliable.
(whew! I think that about does it. Why is magic always a complicated affair?)

I just remembered that spellcasters have spellcasting ability modifiers so a Kempian magic system won't cut it. I'll probably use a DCC style casting system instead. The idea was to have one roll determine the success and outcome of the spell, but whatever. This game is about rolling to hit and rolling damage anyway.

Ask of your character these questions three: What do they love the most? What do they fear the most? What do they hate the most? These answers three, their background be.

Monster Stuff

Monsters have hits, instead of hit points. A monster's number of hits is equal to its HD. When a PC hits a monster, the damage roll determines the number of hits lost.
natural 1: 0
2—5: 1
6—9: 2
10+: 4

Other Stuff

To offset the need for magical healing, each class can do a surge once per combat. A surge is an instant heal that restores Class HD + Level hit points. A first level barbarian would surge for 1d12+1 hit points. A sixth level rogue would surge for d8+6. (A fighter can do this twice with their Second Wind.)
PCs can roll surge for free while resting to restore that many hit points.

When a PC goes down, they roll their hit die. The result is how many rounds they have left until they bleed out and die, unless they're killed instantly by a hit that deals double their max hit points in damage. Each round the PC has a 5% chance to regain hit die hit points and re-enter the fray.


I also wanted to try this thing from Index Card RPG where each area has a set Target Number. If that Goblin Warren has a TN of 14, you'd need to roll that to hit the goblins, disarm their traps, decipher their poo-scribbles, etc. Also allowed for modifers for hard and easy tasks, usually in the for of +/- 3—5.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Revisiting the GLOG

It has come to my attention that I am still considered a fixture in the GLOGosphere; which I find somewhat strange since my criticism of GLOG and GLOGers was harsh in the public light, but that's neither here nor there. Anyway I would like to take this opportunity review and revisit the GLOG, and maybe lay some groundwork with what I plan to do with it going forward.

If you don't know GLOG is Arnold K's fantasy heartbreaker homebrew. He designed it on six principles: compatibility with osr modules, a low power level, accessibility for new players, simplicity, quickness of play, and hackablity. It is these principles that have contributed to GLOG becoming so popular in OSR spheres.

Before I continue, let me say that I probably have less than average play time with GLOG. I have yet to run it for a home campaign and the online campaigns where I did were short-lived due to an ever changing work schedule or other interests taking precedent. But I can say with confidence I have at least a weekend's worth of experience running GLOG. Also my version of GLOG was heavily modified from the base, but I don't think that's a surprise to any GLOGers out there.

Roll Under
Let's kick things off with my biggest pet peeve with GLOG. Almost ever roll in GLOG is roll under. You roll under your Strength stat to bust open that door, you roll under your Save to avoid falling rocks, you roll under your Attack (with your opponent's Defense as penalty) to swordify that orc. In general there's nothing wrong with a roll under system, other than all of my players hated it.

I'm not particularly sure why but most of my players could never come to like the roll under system of GLOG. I believe the culprit is human nature. While the OSR prides itself on a return to form, since that form came into being gamers have experienced decades of an ever changing and revised gaming scene. By now "high number good. Low number bad" is ingrained in our gaming brains, and roll under goes against that.

Now I could just tell my players to get over it, but I have found we all had more fun when I switched to a roll over system. In this regard there are several options. Delta's Target 20 is a favorite of mine, but I got more mileage out of adopting the system from Ben Milton's Knave. However the latter felt less OSR than the former.

Class Templates
I both love and hate Templates. While I think it is a neat idea, I have noticed that the abilities they give rarely come up; and they ultimately feel like wasted effort and distraction. 

Towards the end I gave up on them entirety and adopted Lungfungus's system in which a class had a passive bonus on up to two stats and two abilities in their kit that they could use from the start. Most of my players like this but sometimes it felt like a class could use one or two more abilities in its kit to properly define its capabilities.

It also goes without saying that the nature of class templates motivates everyone to make their own GLOG classes, which is fine, but I would rather put my focus elsewhere.

Secondary Stats
Stealth and Move are what I call secondary stats. They're secondary to the six ability scores. I believe their purpose is to accommodate common activities. PCs sneak and run a lot and therefore would be better at it (hence the higher base chance) and having a stat as resolution makes things simpler. However a part of me wondered if these could be ditched entirely for simple ability score rolls.

Skills seem to be the first things to go when someone makes their own GLOG hack and I don't blame them. The system in Arnold's base is kind of clunky. In my GLOG-like I threw out a skill system entirely in exchange for skill tags like Skerples' base. If you're skilled in tailoring you can probably do things a tailor can do.

It goes without saying that Arnold's magic system is the greatest contribution from GLOG and, like classes, everyone seems to like to make different wizard schools. Skerples' wizards are a little to mechanically bloated for my tastes and I feel like mishaps and dooms being on a school to school bases is also a little too involved. I'd much prefer a giant mishap/doom table or to get rid of them entirely; I'm fine with wizard's being a walking spell list with 1—3 perks and restrictions.


As you can see my negative critique's of GLOG center around its core mechanics, which begs the question, "Why use GLOG at all?" I've heard people ask similar questions of old school hacks of 5th edition: why call it 5th edition when you have had to homebrew it to something else entirely? I'm afraid the only answer I have to that is "I don't know."

At this point GLOG is more than just a system. It's a design philosophy identical to Arnold's original six philosophies when he set out making his fantasy heart breaker. Also it's grown into a community of gamers, aka the GLOGosphere. I think reifying GLOG helps no one and DMs should pursue their and their player's ideal GLOG because at the end of the day all that matters is peeps are having fun rolling weird dice. 


Moving forward I believe I want to focus my efforts towards putting out my own GLOG-hack. The name for it came to me awhile ago and it's stuck: my GLOG-hack will be called Variant. I would like to put out a full pdf sometime in the future, but at this point "future" is pretty vague because as of right now I'm pursuing other, more personally worthwhile, interests outside of elf games.

I find it helps to lay out some limiting ground rules when first starting a project because it will help direct efforts. When it comes to variant there's only one rule that comes to mind: simple sinister strategy. Now what the heck does that mean? I'll break it down for you.

Simple is simple enough. Everything aspect should be simple: character creation, combat, resolution, etc. If I can't explain it to my players in five minutes or less, if I can't explain it without making them read, then it fails simplicity.

Sinister is more conceptual. The word itself is defined as "giving the impression that something harmful will happen" and I believe that defines a majority of OSR play. Your character is alive, but they will eventually die horribly. The dragon roosts on the mountain, but adventurers will eventually murder it for its hoard. In other words Sinister is a roller coaster ride spiraling towards entropy.  

Strategy is the thinking man's sport. I've heard of these DMs that work without rules and just improv every resolution, and that's fine I guess, but I believe it does a huge disservice to players. For players, knowing how a particular event or situation will be handled by a rule is ammunition. If a player doesn't know what ammunition is at his disposal, he won't know what plan best suits his situation; and in my experience I have never met a player who hates it when a plan comes to fruition.