Monthly Archives: November 2011

Frankengame Breakdown, Part 3- Misc Rules

At the beginning of November anarkeith did a post about Frankengaming, which is something I’m a big proponent of.  I love hacking games and taking what I like from them.  Last week The Sky Full of Dust posted his thoughts on the same thing and asked people how they go about it.

I really couldn’t give a quick answer so I decided I’d do a post about it instead, also because I wanted to give credit where it was due.

Today I will cover Misc rules that deviate from the standard mechanics.  Part 1 here, Part 2 here.

Note: I do have rules for general use (all races and classes) but they are not as polished as what I am using for my new Swords and Sorcery game, which is what I’ll be presenting in these posts.

Here is the full pdf of my hack rules without the breakdowns: WrathofZombie Frankengame Rules.

Special Rules

As I’ve stated in part 2, I use the houserules by Akratic Wizardy for my spell casting.

Originally I came up with my own houserule for Shields, but I decided against it because I wanted less bookkeeping.  I am using Trollsmyth’s Shield Splintering rule.

Hit Points, Sanity, and Back Attack options all come from Akratic Wizardry as well.

I took an awesome variant for sneak attacking and Save VS Death mechanics from The Alexandrian.

Combat Maneuvers are just examples of what could be done in combat (stemming from the Pathfinder lists).  I changed this up with my own Sundering system, because I wanted to get away from Hardness and item HP.  Just roll an attack as standard, then roll a d6 to see success.

The quick and dirty for creating magic items is from Role-playing tips issue 532 (not on the archive yet).

Spell Casting: Exhaustion, Corruption, and Sanity

 When Sorcerers cast ‘white magic’ spells they suffer exhaustion damage equal to one hit point plus one hit point per level of the spell cast (so a Sorcerer who casts a third level white magic spell would suffer four points of damage).

When Sorcerers cast ‘grey magic’ spells they suffer exhaustion damage equal to twice the level of the spell cast (so a Sorcerers who casts a third level grey magic spell would suffer six points of damage).

When Sorcerers cast ‘black magic’ spells they suffer exhaustion damage identical to that caused by ‘grey magic’ spells (twice the spell level).  In addition, Sorcerers casting ‘black magic’ spells must make a saving throw (versus ‘spells’ if using a system other than S&W) in order to avoid corruption.  If this saving roll is failed, the magician is corrupted slightly and suffers a loss of temporary Wisdom points equal to the spell level (e.g., 3 points of temporary Wisdom for a third-level spell). Temporarily lost points of Wisdom can be recovered at a rate of one point per complete day of rest and meditation (no other action possible).  The spell ‘Restoration’ will restore instantly all temporarily lost Wisdom points.

Furthermore, if a Sorcerer casting a ‘black magic’ spell fails his/her saving throw by rolling a ‘1,’ then that Sorcerer loses one point of Wisdom permanently (so if a Sorcerer fails his/her saving throw casting a third-level black magic spell by rolling a ‘1,’ he/she would lose one permanent point of Wisdom and two temporary points of Wisdom).  The spell ‘Restoration’ will not restore any permanently lost Wisdom points.

A Sorcerer whose permanent wisdom score is lowered to 2 becomes insane, and possibly the thrall of an extra-planar demonic force.  He/she henceforth is a non-player character!

Spell Listing

White

Level 1– Bless, Bless Water, Cure Light Wounds, Detect Evil, Endure Elements, Light, Obscuring Mist, Protection from Evil, Remove Fear, Resist Elements, Sanctuary, Shield, Turn Undead (LotFP)

Level 2– Aid, Consecrate, Remove Paralysis

Level 3– Continual Flame, Glyph of Warding, Magic Circle, Remove Curse, Remove Disease, Water Breathing

Level 4– Air/Water Walk, Control Water, Create Water, Delay Poison, Cure Serious Wounds, Fire Shield, Remove Curse, Resilient Sphere, Freedom of Movement, Hallow, Minor Globe of Invulnerability, Neutralize Poison

Level 5– Create Food, Guards and Wards, Transmute Mud to Rock, Wall of Stone

Level 6– Blade Barrier, Faithful Hound, Globe of Invulnerability, Healing Circle, Restoration, Control Weather, True Strike

Grey

Level 1– Arcane Mark, Change Self, Charm Person, Comprehend Language, Command, Detect Magic, Detect Secret Doors, Erase, Feather Fall, Floating Disk, Hold Portal, Hypnotism, Identify, Ghost Sound, Jump, Mage Hand, Mending, Message, Open/Close, Prestidigitation, Read Magic, Sleep, Sound Burst, Spider Climb, Unseen Servant, Ventriloquist

Level 2– Alter Self, Detect Thoughts, Detect Traps, Fog Cloud, Knock, Levitate, Locate Object, Magic Mouth, Mirror Image, Misdirection, Pyrotechnics, See Invisibility, Shatter, Silence

Level 3– Clairvoyance, Dispel Magic, Fly, Gust of Wind, Haste, Hold Person, Nondetection, Suggestion, Tiny Hut, Tongues

Level 4– Arcane Eye, Charm Monster, Confusion, Detect Scrying, Discern Lies, Dismissal, Emotion, Hallucinatory Terrain, Locate Creature, Scrying, Seeming, Sending, Shout, Solid Fog

Level 5– Dream, False Vision, Feeblemind, Hold Monster, Nightmare, Telekinesis, True Seeing

Level 6– Anti-Magic Shell, Banishment, Find the Path, Mass Suggestion, Mislead, Project Image

Black

Level 1– Burning Hands, Detect Undead, Invisibility to Undead, Magic Missile, Shocking Grasp

Level 2– Acid Arrow, Augury, Darkness, Invisibility, Ray of Enfeeblement, Scare, Speak With Undead, Web

Level 3– Animate Dead, Blink, Fireball, Gaseous Form, Invisibility Sphere, Lightning Bolt, Stinking Cloud, Summon Lesser Monster,

Level 4– Dimension Door, Fear, Fire Trap, Ice Storm, Improved Invisibility, Phantasmal Killer, Polymorph, Wall of Fire, Wall of Ice

Level 5– Cloud Kill, Commune, Cone of Cold, Contact Other Plane, Ethereal Jaunt, Flame Strike, Insect Plague, Magic Jar, Passwall, Shadow Conjuration, Summon Monster, Teleport

Level 6– Bind Elemental, Chain Lightning, Create Undead, Disintegrate, Transmute Flesh to Stone, Shades, Word of Recall

 

Shields-

 

Shields provide protection to the wearer, mechanically making them harder to hit.  However if a character takes quite a bit of damage they can “sacrifice” the shield, effectively absorbing all of the damage, but completely rending the shield useless.

 

Hit Points

Player characters’ hit points represent only ‘superficial’ damage (i.e., exhaustion, light bruises, minor scrapes, and so forth.).  Because of this, all lost hit points may be recovered by sleeping without interruption for eight full hours.  Resting (not sleeping), or sleeping for less than eight hours, will enable a player character to recover one hit point per full hour of rest or sleep.

Cure Wounds spells and potions of Healing do not heal hit points, but only lost points of Constitution (as explained below).  However, a draught of ‘strong drink’ (ale, wine, liquor) can ‘invigorate’ a character, enabling him/her to recover immediately 1d4 hit points.  Game Masters may also want to allow alchemists to sell ‘Elixirs of Invigoration’ for 200 to 300 gold pieces.  Drinking such an elixir might enable a player character to recover instantly 1d6 + 2 hit points.  Only onesuch draught, whether of strong drink or an elixir, will have this effect per day.

Once a player character’s hit points have been depleted, any further damage is done to the character’s constitution score.  Damage to a character’s constitution score represents “serious” damage.  Every time a character takes damage to his/her constitution, he/she must make a saving throw (versus ‘death’ if using a system other than S&W) or fall unconscious.  In addition, a character that has taken damage to his/her constitution suffers a -2 penalty to all actions (including attack rolls and saving throws).  If a character’s constitution score is reduced to 0 or lower that character is dead.

Characters who have suffered damage to their constitution and have fallen unconscious regain consciousness after eight hours of rest.  If that character’s constitution is still reduced, he/she continues to have 0 hit points and suffers the -2 penalty to all actions until he/she can rest and recover.  Characters subsequently can recover one constitution point for every two days of complete rest (i.e., no travelling or adventuring).  The care of a doctor or other non-magical healer can improve the rate of healing to one constitution point per day of rest.  A character cannot recover any hit points until all constitution points have been recovered.

Sanity

A character’s Wisdom score as a measurement of his/her sanity.  A character with a Wisdom score of 18 has a firm grasp of the nature of reality, considerable self-discipline, and remarkable strength of will.  In contrast, a character with a Wisdom score of 3 is barely lucid, easily confuses reality with fantasy, and is on the border of lapsing into madness. Characters with Wisdom scores of 2 or lower are utterly insane, and must be treated as non-player characters.  (If this Wisdom loss is temporary, as explained below, the character is under the control of the Game Master until he/she regains his/her sanity.)

If a character witnesses an unspeakable horror, the Game Master may require the player to make a saving throw (versus ‘spells,’ if using a system other than S&W). The saving throw should be modified by the severity of the horror in question. If the character fails his or her saving throw, he or she loses points of temporary Wisdom.  The exact amount should be determined by rolling 1d6.  If a ‘6’ is rolled, the character also permanently loses one point of Wisdom (i.e., one permanent point of Wisdom and five temporary points of Wisdom). Temporarily lost points of Wisdom may be regained at a rate of one point per day of complete rest.  The spell ‘Restoration’ (which I treat as a 6th level spell of ‘white magic’ in my game) will restore instantly temporarily lost

Wisdom points, but will not restore any permanently lost Wisdom points.

Characters may also lose Wisdom by casting spells that are characterized as ‘black magic’ in nature.  This will be explained in a future post.

Combat Maneuvers (examples)

Bullrush- Same as Pathfinder.

Disarm– Success means that the target drops whatever weapon is in their hand.

Grapple- You wrestle an opponent to the ground.

Shield Bash– Target makes a Fort Save DC 10 + char Str Mod + ½ char level or is staggered for 1 round.

Stand Still– If you hold your action and an enemy moves past you, you make an attack against the target.  Success stops them in their tracks.  They can finish out their turn if they have any options left.

SunderWeapons/Shield/Armor– Roll characters attack VS defense- on successful hit roll 1d6.  On a 5 or 6 you succeed in breaking the weapon.  Magical Weapons/Shield/Armor can only be destroyed on a roll of 6.

Objects– Roll of 4-6 will destroy most items.  Magical Objects– Magical Objects can only be destroyed on a roll of 6.

Glass– Roll of 2-6 glass is destroyed.

Trip– Roll attack VS targets Defense, if successful you knock an enemy prone.

Dodge– A character can dodge one attack per round, this must be stated before it is revealed that the attacker hit or not.  Dodging adds +2 to characters AC but -4 from any attribute check made until the beginning of next turn.

Combat Actions

Standard Action

Movement Action

Full Round Action

Free Action

Immediate Action

Movement- 1 square or 1 inch= 5 ft.

Aiming

As a Movement Action a Character can Aim and receive +2 to their ranged attack roll.

Firing into Melee

If a character uses a ranged weapon against an enemy that is engaged in melee they suffer -2 to their roll.

Surprise Attacks-

When a character makes an attack against a target that is surprised there is a chance that the target can be knocked unconscious in one hit.  The damage must exceed the targets Constitution Score + HD.  Several characters can attack one surprised enemy at the same time to achieve this.

Back Attacks

All characters can perform back attacks.  They receive +2 to attacks and damage is doubled.  Rogues get Improved Back Attack (see class).

 

Save VS Death Mechanics-

Rather than having spells do instant death, sleep, petrify, etc they do ability damage that is linked to the situation.  IE- Disintegrate would deal immediate CON damage per round until it reaches zero and turns the target to dust.  Fear would affect WIS.  The target must make a save each round.  When Wisdom reaches zero the target flees randomly, completely terrified.  Petrify would affect DEX.  When the target reaches zero DEX they are turned to stone.

 

Spells like Remove Fear and Remove Paralysis will automatically heal a target to their full ability score.  Restoration will heal

 

Cover Mechanics

25 % Cover +2 AC

50% Cover +4 AC

75% Cover +6 AC

90% Cover +10 AC

If in cover receive +2 to Reflex Saves.

Creating Magic Items- Easy and Quick

Awesome Name – 30 seconds
Appearance – 30 seconds
Benefit – 30 seconds
Drawback – 30 seconds
Lore – 60 seconds
Twist  – 0 seconds (yup 0 – not a typo!)


Frankengame Breakdown, Part 2- Classes

At the beginning of November anarkeith did a post about Frankengaming, which is something I’m a big proponent of.  I love hacking games and taking what I like from them.  Last week The Sky Full of Dust posted his thoughts on the same thing and asked people how they go about it.

I really couldn’t give a quick answer so I decided I’d do a post about it instead, also because I wanted to give credit where it was due.

Today I will cover Classes.  Part 1 here.

Note: I do have rules for general use (all races and classes) but they are not as polished as what I am using for my new Swords and Sorcery game, which is what I’ll be presenting in these posts.

Here is the full pdf of my hack rules without the breakdowns: WrathofZombie Frankengame Rules.

The classes available in my current Swords and Sorcery game are: Fighter, Ranger, Rogue, Barbarian, Sorcerer, Druid, and Witch.

I will break down my class decision.  I used Castles & Crusades as my system of choice since I love how simple it is and it’s unifying mechanic.

I took the philosophy from Lamentations of the Flame Princess on how the Fighter is the only class that has a to hit progression and extended it slightly to each of the classes.

I feel that each of the classes deserve to become slightly better at combat, but should stay behind the fighter, who deserves to excel at combat.

I like how C&C gives classes abilities at certain levels rather than the 3.x/Pathfinder route of abilities, plus class feats, plus level feats until at the end you get a big hot mess that is hard to keep track of.  I want my players to feel useful, unique, and cool..  But not bogged down.

I took a few class abilities or feats from Pathfinder, class features from C&C, and abilities I created myself and merged them together into my own hack of each class.

Most are pretty self-explanatory, but I wanted to draw attention to Sorcerer, Druid, and Witch.

Sorcerer uses the houserules of Akratic Wizardy.  Health points are used to manipulate energy for spells to be cast.  I think this fits in really well with the S&W mythos, especially when combined with his Wisdom as Sanity rules.

The Witch and Druid are both original classes by me.  In my S&W I wanted the Sorcerer to be the only casting class, but I knew people would want to play a druid like character.   My inspiration for the class came from the enemies in 13th Warrior, the Wendol.  They aren’t the flesh eaters of the movie, but they are savage, identifying more with animals (hence the ability to call on animal spirits and eventually turn into one) than people.  They are ferocious and not to be underestimated.

Witches, in many systems, just tend to be a variant of one of the casting classes and I wanted to avoid that.  Yes they can cast rituals (so can anyone else), but they have abilities that come from their dabbling into forbidden knowledge or making deals with devils that make them formidable opponents.  Here I pulled inspiration from Sleepy Hollow, 13th Warrior, and Pumpkinhead.

The classes are listed below.

Tomorrow- Misc rules that deviate from the standard mechanics.

Fighter (Strength)-

Level 1- Martial Training– Fighters receive a +2 to any test when attempting to disarming an opponent, Bull Rushing, Shield Bash, Stand Still, and Sunder.

Weapon Focus– A Fighter chooses a weapon at level 1 to become their signature weapon.  With this style of weapon they receive +1 to attack and +1 to damage.  At level 7 this bonus increases to +2/+2.

Level 4- Cleave– A fighter can make an additional attack on an adjacent target if the original attack lands.

Level 5- Bravery– A Fighter has tested their mettle against uneven odds and survived.  Fighters get +2 to any saves VS fear.

Level 6- Multi-Attack– A Fighter can now make a second attack with a -5 to their Base Attack Bonus.  They can make this attack even if they move.

Blind Fighting– A Fighter no longer suffers -8 to attacks when made against targets they cannot see (whether invisible or from being in complete darkness).

Level 8- Vital Strike– A Fighter can choose, as a full action, to put everything into one attack, adding 1d6 damage +2.

Level 10- Improved Critical– A Fighter can get a critical on an attack roll of 19-20.

Prime Attribute– Strength

Armor Proficiency– All Armor and Shields (including Tower Shields).

Level Hit Dice Base Attack Bonus
1 d10 +1
2 d10 +2
3 d10 +3
4 d10 +4
5 d10 +5
6 d10 +6
7 d10 +7
8 d10 +8
9 d10 +8
10 d10 +10
11+ +4 +10*

Ranger (Strength)-

Level 1- Track (Wisdom)– A Ranger is able to pick up the trail of someone or something, or hide tracks so others can’t follow him.  When a Ranger does this they receive a +2 to their Wisdom check.  At Level 3 a Ranger is able to distinguish characteristics of those being tracked.  This can be intimate info should the GM decide to reveal it.

Survival– A Ranger knows how to survive and fight in nature.  Any type of task that is nature related falls into the realm of the Ranger.  This can be from climbing impossible looking cliffs, building, finding, or disabling simple natural traps, camouflaging and hiding in the brush, being able to survive and find food and shelter, and knowledge of herbs and fauna to use to treat poisons and toxins.  Depending on what activity the Ranger is attempting will determine which Attribute is being rolled.  Rangers are also able to hide and move silently in nature.  This functions as the Rogue Stealth Ability.

Favored Enemy– The Ranger has studied one enemy that has hounded them in the past.  The Ranger receives +2 to hit the enemy, +2 AC when fighting the enemy, +2 to tracking the enemy, and able to neutralize poisons of the enemy, whether manufactured or natural.

Level 5- Hunters Bond– The Ranger is able to form a strong bond with an animal of the wild.  This animal is extremely loyal to the Ranger (unless obviously abused and mistreated) and will defend the Ranger at all costs.  The type of animal should fit the area and feel of the campaign.  This could be a fox, wolf, mountain lion, black bear, or even a Dire Wolf.  The GM has final approval.

At Level 10 the Animal, from training with the Ranger, gets a +2 to attack and AC.

Level 6- Combat Marauder– A Ranger has trained hard to be most effective against their Favored Enemy.  They receive a bonus to damage that is equal to ½ their Ranger level.  If a Ranger is wearing any armor other than those allowed they lose this ability.

Level 10- Second Favored Enemy– This functions the same as described above.

Prime Attribute– Strength

Armor Proficiency– Light and Medium Armor and Shields (Except Tower Shields).

Level Hit Dice Base Attack Bonus
1 d10 +0
2 d10 +1
3 d10 +2
4 d10 +3
5 d10 +4
6 d10 +5
7 d10 +6
8 d10 +7
9 d10 +8
10 d10 +8
11+ +4 +8*

 

Rogue (Dexterity)-

Armor– A Rogue suffers no penalty to their abilities while wearing leather armors.  Anything after that suffers a -1 to their abilities per +1 past the +3 of Studded Leather.

Level 1- Improved Back Attack– A Rogue that is successful in sneaking up on a target unawares is able to make an attack at a +4.  If the attack is successful it does double damage.  At 5th level the damage is tripled and at 9th level it is quadrupled.

Climb (Strength)- Rogues are skilled at climbing walls, even ones that are almost sheer.  If a Rogue fails their check, they make no progress.  If the Rogue fails their check by 5 or more they lose their grip and fall and may take falling damage, if applicable.

Decipher Script (Intelligence)- A Rogue can study scripts written in code, archaic, or foreign languages and attempt to get the general idea of what is contained within.  If the check is successful it takes the Rogue 2d8 rounds to fully decipher what is on the parchment.

This can be used to understand arcane writings at a -10.

This can only be attempted once per writing.

Stealth (Dexterity)– Rogues live by the shadow.  When they hide it’s almost as if they are invisible.  A Rogue who moves while hiding can do so at up to ½ their normal pace with no penalty.   At up to full speed it is -5 to the check.

Listen (Wisdom)– Rogues have trained themselves to be able to listen and pick up things other might not.  Listening through a stone wall or door is -10 to the check.  Other materials may have other modifiers.

Open Lock (Dexterity)– The Rogue is able to open locks that others cannot without the use of a key.  The Rouge must have Thieves Tools to do so.

Pick Pocket (Dexterity)– A Rogue may slip something in or out of someone’s pocket or purse.  They can also use this as a sleight of hand maneuver.  A penalty of the person’s level or HD is applied to the roll.

Traps (Intelligence)– A Rogue can use this to find, disable, or set up traps.  Each one requires a separate roll.  A Rogue can use this for magical traps as well, however they are much harder to detect and deal with than mechanical ones.

The GM will determine the modifiers based on the complexity of the trap.

Level 4- Sneak Attack– This functions like Back Attack except that the Rogue needn’t be hiding or moving silently, the victim just needs to be unaware of the attack.  This attack gives +2 to hit and +4 damage.

Level 6- Two Weapon Fighting– Rogues can fight using two small or one small and one medium sized weapon at a -3/-3 instead of the standard -6/-6.

Level 10- Crippling Strikes– A Rogue has learned the art of fighting and exploiting the weaknesses.  On a successful Back Attack or Sneak Attack the Rogue can decide to strike the target and cause bleeding.  The target must make a Constitution roll or take 3 damage each round until successful.

Primary Attribute– Dexterity

Armor Proficiency– Light Armor and no Shields, except Buckler.

Level Hit Dice Base Attack Bonus
1 d8 +0
2 d8 +1
3 d8 +1
4 d8 +1
5 d8 +2
6 d8 +2
7 d8 +2
8 d8 +3
9 d8 +3
10 d8 +4
11+ +3 +4*

Barbarian (Constitution)-

Level 1- Fast Movement– A Barbarian adds +10 to their movement.

Rage– A Barbarian embraces the ferocity of nature and taps into it.  When a Barbarian rages they gain a damage reduction of one half their level rounded down (minimum of 1), +2 to Damage, and +2 to Wisdom saving throws.  They also incur -2 to AC and -2 to Intelligence checks.  Rage lasts a number of rounds equal to one half the Barbarians level rounded down +1.  This is true except at level one; a Barbarian can rage for 2 rounds.

The damage reduction of Rage stacks with the benefits of Thick Skinned.

A Barbarian is unable to perform tasks that require concentration.

If all enemies are felled and the Barbarian is still raging he will then turn on his allies.  A Barbarian must make a Wisdom save to avoid doing this.  They do not receive their +2 to Wisdom saves here.

A Barbarian can use this ability once per day.  At level 5 this is increased to 2 times and at level 10 three times.

Primal Force– Barbarians are able to fight through pain and torment.  They receive +1 to saves VS paralysis, petrifaction, polymorph, and death effects.

This increases to +2 at 3rd level, +4 at 6th level, and +5 at 10th level.

Level 3- Brute Force- A Barbarian with a 2-handed weapon is a terrible foe to face.  They add Strength and a half to their damage instead of just the normal strength modifier.

At level 10 this increases to double strength.

Level 5- Primal Vitality– A Barbarian is able to push themselves past the normal physical boundaries and keep fighting.  Once per day a Barbarian can reinvigorate herself regaining 2d8+con HP.

A Barbarian can use this twice per day at level 10.

Thick Skinned– A Barbarian is able to shrug off damage as if it were an annoying gnat.  They are able to ignore one point of damage per attack, magical or mundane.

This is increased to 3 at Level 10.

Level 10- Primal Howl (Charisma)– A Barbarian is able to unleash a scream that rattles those on the battlefield.  On a successful Charisma check -2 those in a 30ft radius suffer -2 to attack and damage for 1d4+1 round.  A Barbarian can use this 1+Charisma modifier per day.

Primal Attribute– Constitution

Armor Proficiency– Light and Medium Armor and Shields (except Tower Shields).

Level Hit Dice Base Attack Bonus
1 d12 +0
2 d12 +1
3 d12 +2
4 d12 +3
5 d12 +4
6 d12 +5
7 d12 +6
8 d12 +7
9 d12 +8
10 d12 +8
11+ +5 +8*

Sorcerer (Intelligence)-

Level 1- Spells– Through intense study and training a Sorcerer is able to tap into the mystic energies and cast arcane spells.  A Sorcerer can cast any spell of any level that they know.  This requires studying from a scroll, another spell book, or from the instruction of another Sorcerer.  The amount of study is 8 hours per spell level.

Learning a spell requires no roll to be successful but takes 8 hours per spell level to be properly learned.  Have the player roll 1d3.  If they roll a 1-2 that is how 1st level spells that they start out with that the DM will determine randomly.  If they roll a 3 they begin with 2 1st level spells and 1 2nd level spell.  The spells they gain after are from searching forgotten ruins, sifting through ancient tomes of knowledge, etc.

Casting spells drains the Sorcerer of vitality.

Summon Familiar– As the spell in Castles and Crusades.

Level 5- Magical Aptitude– A Sorcerer has gained a particularly deep understanding of one spell either level 1 or 2.  They can cast this spell one time per day without the cost of HP (if it is a black spell there is still the risk of losing Sanity).

At level 10 they are able to cast this spell twice per day and gain the ability to cast another 1st or 2nd level spell once per day.  This functions the same as stated above.

Primary Attribute– Intelligence

Armor Proficiency– Cloth and Leather and no Shields, except Buckler.

Level Hit Dice BAB
1 d6 +0
2 d6 +1
3 d6 +1
4 d6 +1
5 d6 +1
6 d6 +2
7 d6 +2
8 d6 +2
9 d6 +2
10 d6 +3
11+ +2 +3*

 

Spell Casting: Exhaustion, Corruption, and Sanity

 

When Sorcerers cast ‘white magic’ spells they suffer exhaustion damage equal to one hit point plus one hit point per level of the spell cast (so a Sorcerer who casts a third level white magic spell would suffer four points of damage).

When Sorcerers cast ‘grey magic’ spells they suffer exhaustion damage equal to twice the level of the spell cast (so a Sorcerers who casts a third level grey magic spell would suffer six points of damage).

When Sorcerers cast ‘black magic’ spells they suffer exhaustion damage identical to that caused by ‘grey magic’ spells (twice the spell level).  In addition, Sorcerers casting ‘black magic’ spells must make a saving throw (versus ‘spells’ if using a system other than S&W) in order to avoid corruption.  If this saving roll is failed, the magician is corrupted slightly and suffers a loss of temporary Wisdom points equal to the spell level (e.g., 3 points of temporary Wisdom for a third-level spell). Temporarily lost points of Wisdom can be recovered at a rate of one point per complete day of rest and meditation (no other action possible).  The spell ‘Restoration’ will restore instantly all temporarily lost Wisdom points.

Furthermore, if a Sorcerer casting a ‘black magic’ spell fails his/her saving throw by rolling a ‘1,’ then that Sorcerer loses one point of Wisdom permanently (so if a Sorcerer fails his/her saving throw casting a third-level black magic spell by rolling a ‘1,’ he/she would lose one permanent point of Wisdom and two temporary points of Wisdom).  The spell ‘Restoration’ will not restore any permanently lost Wisdom points.

A Sorcerer whose permanent wisdom score is lowered to 2 becomes insane, and possibly the thrall of an extra-planar demonic force.  He/she henceforth is a non-player character!

Spell Listing

White

Level 1– Bless, Bless Water, Cure Light Wounds, Detect Evil, Endure Elements, Light, Obscuring Mist, Protection from Evil, Remove Fear, Resist Elements, Sanctuary, Shield, Turn Undead (LotFP)

Level 2– Aid, Consecrate, Remove Paralysis

Level 3– Continual Flame, Glyph of Warding, Magic Circle, Remove Curse, Remove Disease, Water Breathing

Level 4– Air/Water Walk, Control Water, Create Water, Delay Poison, Cure Serious Wounds, Fire Shield, Remove Curse, Resilient Sphere, Freedom of Movement, Hallow, Minor Globe of Invulnerability, Neutralize Poison

Level 5– Create Food, Guards and Wards, Transmute Mud to Rock, Wall of Stone

Level 6– Blade Barrier, Faithful Hound, Globe of Invulnerability, Healing Circle, Restoration, Control Weather, True Strike

Grey

Level 1– Arcane Mark, Change Self, Charm Person, Comprehend Language, Command, Detect Magic, Detect Secret Doors, Erase, Feather Fall, Floating Disk, Hold Portal, Hypnotism, Identify, Ghost Sound, Jump, Mage Hand, Mending, Message, Open/Close, Prestidigitation, Read Magic, Sleep, Sound Burst, Spider Climb, Unseen Servant, Ventriloquist

Level 2– Alter Self, Detect Thoughts, Detect Traps, Fog Cloud, Knock, Levitate, Locate Object, Magic Mouth, Mirror Image, Misdirection, Pyrotechnics, See Invisibility, Shatter, Silence

Level 3– Clairvoyance, Dispel Magic, Fly, Gust of Wind, Haste, Hold Person, Nondetection, Suggestion, Tiny Hut, Tongues

Level 4– Arcane Eye, Charm Monster, Confusion, Detect Scrying, Discern Lies, Dismissal, Emotion, Hallucinatory Terrain, Locate Creature, Scrying, Seeming, Sending, Shout, Solid Fog

Level 5– Dream, False Vision, Feeblemind, Hold Monster, Nightmare, Telekinesis, True Seeing

Level 6– Anti-Magic Shell, Banishment, Find the Path, Mass Suggestion, Mislead, Project Image

Black

Level 1– Burning Hands, Detect Undead, Invisibility to Undead, Magic Missile, Shocking Grasp

Level 2– Acid Arrow, Augury, Darkness, Invisibility, Ray of Enfeeblement, Scare, Speak With Undead, Web

Level 3– Animate Dead, Blink, Fireball, Gaseous Form, Invisibility Sphere, Lightning Bolt, Stinking Cloud, Summon Lesser Monster,

Level 4– Dimension Door, Fear, Fire Trap, Ice Storm, Improved Invisibility, Phantasmal Killer, Polymorph, Wall of Fire, Wall of Ice

Level 5– Cloud Kill, Commune, Cone of Cold, Contact Other Plane, Ethereal Jaunt, Flame Strike, Insect Plague, Magic Jar, Passwall, Shadow Conjuration, Summon Monster, Teleport

Level 6– Bind Elemental, Chain Lightning, Create Undead, Disintegrate, Transmute Flesh to Stone, Shades, Word of Recall

Druid (Wisdom)

Animal Empathy (Charisma)- Druids respect all living creatures.  When attempting to read, calm, or commune with animals they receive +2 to their attribute roll.

Animal Companion– A Druids’s band with nature can be seen in the love and care they treat their animal companion.  A Druid may pick one animal native to their area to serve as a faithful companion.  The animal gains +1d8 HP and has the ability to “read” the Druid’s emotions.  The Animal Companion will obey almost anything the Druid asks of it, so long as it doesn’t go against the creatures nature.

Call of the Animal (Wisdom)- A Druid has the ability to call upon the savagery of nature and channel it into his being.  He must make a successful Wisdom test to call the Animal Spirit into his body.  If he fails the spirits do not heed his call and this consumes his attempt for the day.  If successful the effect lasts a number of rounds equal to the Druid’s Wisdom.  Each Animal Spirit grants a different bonus (see below).

A Druid can use this ability once per day.  This increases to two times per day at level 5 and three times at level 10.

Animal Spirit

Granted Bonus

Mountain Lion +2 to Dexterity Attribute checks and movement is now ’40.
Grizzly Bear Fists harden and nails grow slightly longer.  1d6 + str dmg.
Fox Foxes are fast and hard to hit.  Increase defense by +2.
Wolf Pack Leader- Add +2 to intimidation rolls and +2 to charisma.
Coyote Gain the ability to track by scent.
Hawk Increases sight by double.  +2 to hit with any ranged weapon.
Owl Ability to see clearly in the dark.
Snake Gains Back Attack Ability as Rogue.
Mouse Gain Move Silently Ability as Rogue.
Elk Inspires those around him.  Adds +2 to all Attribute rolls.

Druidic Restriction- A druid prefers natural weapons and armor.  If they use any armor or shields of metal they loose the following abilities for 24 hours; Call of the Animal, Woodland Stride, and Totem Shape.

Nature Lore (Wisdom)– A Druid has an intimate knowledge of nature.  She is able to identify flora and fauna from her area with ease.  If she is in a foreign type of climate she must make a Wisdom check to identify the subject.

Druids are able to tell if water is clean and safe to drink.  A Druid can make a Wisdom check to successfully tell how the weather will turn out for the next 12 hours.  Druids are able to scavenge for food and shelter for themselves easily.  If they wish to find such for 2-8 people they must make a Wisdom check and spend 6 hours hunting and foraging.

Level 2- Endure Elements (Constitution)-A Druid receives +2 to any save against any form of elemental damage or hardship.

Level 3- Woodland Stride- A Druid has become one with nature and is able to move through obstructions like thorns, brambles, roots, thick branches, and the like as if they were water.  A Druid will suffer no damage from troubles like Thorns.  A Druid also leaves no tracts when walking in nature.

Level 6- Totem Shape– A Druid is able to tap further into their animalistic nature and turn into a small or medium sized animal.  This operates like the Polymorph Self spell.  The druid chooses the totem shape upon gaining this ability.  Once the selection is made it cannot be undone.

At 7th and 8th levels, the Druid gains a new Totem Shape that can be assumed once per day.  At level 10 the druid is able to take the shape of a large version of one of his totems.  This can be used in lieu of one of the standard Totem Shapes.

Prime Attribute- Wisdom

Armor Proficiency– Cloth and Leather and light Wooden Shield.

 

Level Hit Dice Base Attack Bonus
1 d8 +0
2 d8 +1
3 d8 +1
4 d8 +1
5 d8 +2
6 d8 +2
7 d8 +2
8 d8 +3
9 d8 +3
10 d8 +4
11+ +3 +4*

 

 

Witch (Charisma)-

Bewitch– A witch is able to beguile a person into believing that she is his best friend.  The target must succeed a Willpower check VS the Witches Charisma roll or he will do pretty much anything that the Witch asks.  If the Witch asks the target to attack friends and allies he is allowed a second Willpower save with a +2. This lasts 1 hour per level.  She can use this ability the same amount of times per day as equal to her Charisma modifier.

Blood Boil– Once per day a Witch can draw dark power from within herself and make the blood of a target boil.  They must succeed at a Constitution Save -2 or be wracked with feverish pain as the innards are cooked.  Targets take 4d6 damage.  Successful save means target takes half damage.

Ravage– A Witch is able to channel her negative energies cause physical pain and wounds on a target but at risk to herself.  The Witch must declare how much damage she wishes to inflict on the opponent, 1-2d6 and then make a Willpower check minus the targets Wisdom modifier.  If she succeeds the target takes that amount of damage.  If she fails then she takes that amount of damage.

Summon Familiar- As the spell in Castles and Crusades.

 

Summon Familiar– As the spell in Castles and Crusades.

Level 3- Nightmare– The Witch is a thing of nightmares.  A Witch can turn her gaze upon a target and cause them to see horrible visions.  The Target must succeed a Willpower save VS the Witches Charisma roll or become frightened of the witch, shying away from here.  The target takes 1d6 Wisdom damage per round until a successful save.  If the target reaches zero Wisdom they begin running full bore away from her.  This lasts a number of rounds equal to the Witches Charisma Modifier after which the target goes back to half their Wisdom Score.

A Witch can use this once per day till level 5 where it increases to two times per day.

Level 3- Spirit Talker (Wisdom)– The Witch can commune with the spirits from beyond the living and receive guidance.  The Witch will pose a question that can be yes/no or require explanation.  The Spirits reply may be cryptic, repetitive, and an assault of visions that hit all five of the senses.  If the Witch communes with the spirits during the Witching Hour she receives +4 to her roll, otherwise she suffers a -2 to the roll.

A Witch can do this one per day until level 10 when she can perform this two times.

Level 5- Hex– A Witch is able to tap into dark powers and direct them at a foe, hindering them.   The target of this check must make a Willpower check -2 or suffer terrible misfortune.  If successful the next roll the target makes must be rerolled and they must take the lowest of the two.

A Witch can cast this once per day until level 8 when it increases to twice a day.

Succubus/Incubus– You are somehow you have been imbued with the ability of being able to heal yourself by absorbing another person’s life essence through sex.

You and the target (if unwilling) must make opposing Attribute rolls; Your Charisma VS the targets Constitution.  The victim receives a +2 modifier.  If you succeed you heal yourself for 1d6 Con damage and 1d8 HP while the target takes that amount (regardless if they have HP left).

If you continue to feed on the same victim for more than a 3 of days (if you don’t purposefully or accidentally kill the target first) the target will start looking pale, fatigued, and sickly.  The wounds taken do not show up physically except that they will have low energy and perhaps look starved.

If they succeed against you, you are unable to feed off of them for 24 hours.

Level 10- Death Hex– The Witch has become shrouded by Dark Powers.  She is able to reach in and snuff out the life energies of an individual.  The target must make a Constitution Save +2.  Failure means the target’s life force starts fading and the target will die in 1d6 rounds.  Success means the target takes 3d6 damage.

A Witch can use this ability once per day.

Prime Attribute– Charisma

Armor Proficiency– Cloth and Leather and no Shields, except Buckler.

Level Hit Dice BAB
1 d6 +0
2 d6 +1
3 d6 +1
4 d6 +1
5 d6 +1
6 d6 +2
7 d6 +2
8 d6 +2
9 d6 +2
10 d6 +3
11+ +2 +3*

Frankengame Breakdown, Part 1- Chargen and Races

At the beginning of November anarkeith did a post about Frankengaming, which is something I’m a big proponent of.  I love hacking games and taking what I like from them.  Last week The Sky Full of Dust posted his thoughts on the same thing and asked people how they go about it.

I really couldn’t give a quick answer so I decided I’d do a post about it instead, also because I wanted to give credit where it was due.

Today I will cover System, Character Creation, and Races.

Note: I do have rules for general use (all races and classes) but they are not as polished as what I am using for my new Swords and Sorcery game, which is what I’ll be presenting in these posts.

Here is the full pdf of my hack rules without the breakdowns: WrathofZombie Frankengame Rules

System: I use Castles & Crusades as my base with a little bit of Lamentations of the Flame Princess thrown in for good measure.

Character Creation: Players roll 3d6 eight times, rerolling any rolls of ‘1’ (so the lowest score that a starting character can have in any ability score is ‘6’).  Players drop the lowest score, and assign the other seven to their characters’ abilities (strength, intelligence, wisdom, dexterity, constitution, charisma, and luck) as they choose.  If a player’s character does not have at least two ability scores that are 13 or greater, he or she may reroll the entire set.

This is something I did in the past, however I liked Akratic Wizardry’s statement of allowing a person to scratch the whole set if they do not have two abilities of at least 13. 

New Attribute: Luck– The luck stat comes into play by burning luck points in order to do several things:

  • Automatically succeed on an ability check.
  • Cause a Target to reroll the attack or damage against you, taking the lower of the two.
  • By burning two luck points the player can add something to the story that is helpful (ie- running down an alley while being chased by goons the player burns the luck and says that there is a door in the ally, allowing them to get away).
  • Catch a Second Wind, giving you back ¼ of your total HP.
  • By burning 3 you automatically score a critical hit.

Luck regenerates at an amount of 4 per level.

This one was created by me and was inspired by Action Points from 3.5 Eberron and Fate Points from FATE.

 

Races:

Drow

Creatures of the underdark.  Many see them as untrustworthy, but they make fine assassins and night guards.

Racial Attributes– +2 Dex, +2 Chr, -2 Con.

Darkvision– A Drow can see 160 ft in the dark.

Drow Immunities- Drow are immune to sleep effects and receive a +2 against Enchantment Spells and effects.

Sneaky– Drow are sneaky and use this to their advantage.  When attempting to Hide or Move Silently they receive +2 to their rolls.

Spell Like Abilities– Change Self, Darkness, and Spider Climb each 1x/day.

Light Blindness– Stunned for 1 round and is receive -2 to all rolls while in affected area.

Half Orc

Most are bastard children of women raped and left alive by savage Orc raiding parties.  Half Orcs tend to be shunned by both societies but are valued for their muscle in human communities and their mental capacity in Orc communities.

Racial Attributes– +2 to any one Attribute Score.

Dark Vision– Orcs can see up to 60ft in the dark.

Orc Rage– Once Per day a Half Orc can tap into the anger that flows through his veins and become ferocious and dangerous.  The character gains +2 to damage and a Damage Reduction of 2 for 1 + his Constitution Modifier rounds.

While this ability is active a Half Orc cannot cast spells or perform tasks that require concentration.  This ability can stack with a Barbarians Rage.

Ferocious Presence– +2 to Charisma checks when intimidating.

Uncanny Sense of Smell– Half-Orcs live and hunt by their sense of smell.  They receive +2 on any perception roll having to do with smell.

 

Humans– Savage, bent on conquest, and fulfilling their own desires.

Racial Attributes– +2 to any one Attribute Score.

Human Ingenuity– A human receives one additional Primary Attribute.

Human Constitution– Humans start with +4 HP at level 1.

 

Tiefling

The world is dangerous and demons roam the world.  Many take to the beds of beautiful women in the hopes of propagating so that their children walk the earth.  Often demon females will disguise themselves as whores and get pregnant for this very reason.

Racial Attributes– +2 Dex, +2 Int, -2 Chr

Darkvision– A Tiefling can see 100 ft in the dark.

Spell-like Ability– A Tiefling can tap into their infernal blood and cast Darkness 1x/day.

Infernal Parentage– Choose One: Charm Person or Cause Fear as a Spell-like Ability (this reflects the type of Infernal that sired the Tiefling).  They can use this 1x/day.

Fiendish Resistances– Due to their heritage a Tiefling receives a +2 to any save when dealing with the following types of damage; Cold, Electric, and Fire.

I’ll have a longer post on my current setting, but from my race selection you can kind of see where I was going.  I wanted to keep the Pathfinder version of Racial Attribute Modifiers, but also wanted to give each race a few things that made them feel special.

This also extends into the way I structured my classes.  I like my players to have a few abilities that they can use and feel unique and special, but I am no longer a fan of the 3.x/4e (never was) huge amount of options players have to slog through.  Half the feats and abilities and powers of the later editions end up being forgotten or discarded.

Tomorrow- Onto Classes


Santicore and His Sleigh of Terror!

Weep and Despair!

 

Jez over Giblet Blizzard is hosting a Secret Santicore event!  Go to his blog and check it out and get involved!


Pacing is Important and Hard to Master

I’ve been a fan of the Walking Dead Comic by Robert Kirkman for many years, so I was delighted when they announced TV show version.  I enjoyed the first season quite a bit even with the changes/alterations to the original plot.  The second season started in mid-October and I have to say that much of this season has been less than stellar to me.

I could talk myself blue in the face about all the completely unnecessary changes from the comic book, etc etc etc, but in the end, what I see as the major problem in parts of the show, is the pacing.  I can pretty much sum it on with on example (SPOILERS AHEAD):

Sophia missing-  That little girl went missing in the first episode of the second season and has been missing since.  We are now on episode 6, which means that Sophia has been missing for 315 minutes of watching time.  She should have been found, at the latest, in episode 3.  Why?  Her missing is still fresh in the viewers head, you feel for her mother who is crying and desperate and lost.  You feel for Rick, who left her to hide while fighting off zombies and she disappeared and is now determined to find her alive.  You feel for the group  because on top of everything else that they have to deal with, they now have to deal with this girl missing.  By episode six..  Not so much.

Personally, I don’t give a shit about her any more..  Especially since she hasn’t been an integral part of the story AT ALL.  The only reason that there is an emotional response is because she is a child and lost in the woods, which is more akin to emotional manipulation than actually good script writing.  I want Carol (the mother) to shut the fuck up because I’m tired of listening to her whine.  I’m tired of Rick and Shane bickering about it.  It’s not fresh any more..  Now it’s just dragging.

Due to the pacing of this particular issue in the show, the possible intensity and emotions and responses it could have created for the viewer are now gone.

Pacing is why I find Return of the King to be so fucking boring (I’m sure some people are getting the pitchforks and torches ready).  I understand that it is the conclusion and it is this big epic battle, but holy fuck!  Does the battle need to go on for so fucking long?  A short concise battle is epic and gets the blood pumping and the viewer excited.  Look at the fight scenes in Braveheart and Gladiator.  They achieve, in their quick and vicious fights, what Return of the King could not, because it dragged on.  Also the scene where Frodo and Sam are climbing Mt. Doom…  I understand that they are struggling and exhausted after an arduous and deadly journey, but pacing wise do I really need to watch them climb up a pebbly hill with several slow motion exhaustion filled moments of slipping down the mountain grasping one another for support for fifteen to twenty minutes?  No..  by the end I just wanted the mountain to blow up and melt everything in a view of fiery screaming death because it was boring.  The suspense and excitement of that scene was lost due to poor pacing.

What Does this have to do with role-playing?

Everything.  Pacing and the ability to know how and went to spring an attack or reveal a important plot point is integral and essential.  Too many times in games I’ve played in and ran games where the pacing has been shot due to poor execution.  A GM describes their horrendous creature in loving detail, a bit too much actually.  Now your bored of the creature.  The springing of a trap is literally, “roll your perception check” which does not set the stage for excitement at all.

James Raggi offers advice for how to handle situations in weird fantasy.  Give total disregard for the rules in lieu for the ability to surprise, astonish, scare, and totally fuck your players up.  Now while I have some disagreements with doing that ALL the time (there are saves for a reason, giving the ability for your character to overcome seemingly impossible obstacles, etc) having a surprise round where the characters didn’t get to roll will set the pace of a combat encounter.  Boulders tumbling down the hillside towards the characters as evil nasty creatures come charging in really sets for an interesting and complicated situation rather than just deflated by constant rolling.   Obviously you can’t do this all the time, but every so often for the sake of pacing and an engaging encounter and story, it would work.

The other day Beebo posted his recap for his latest session of Ravenloft.  I may be interjecting my own interpretation of the scene but this sounds like one where the pacing worked extremely well and created a truly awesome session and a truly climactic ending.  This is from his post:

While they groused about this turn of events, the ranger, Gregor, noticed the sound of bats, skittering and moving along the ceiling, just to the edge of the party’s globe of continual light.  “This can’t be good”.  The druid cast Speak with Animals and learned the evil ones were forcing the bats to move in on the characters – there were hundreds of them just beyond the light, waiting for the signal.

The Paladin felt the evil presences closing in.  “That’s right outside the door!  Man, this is a big fracking signal.  They’re in the room with us”.  Copious Aliens quotes as the Paladin detected multiple evil presences moving into attack position just outside the light sphere.

The decisive moment went like this:  the characters knew that once the bats attacked, they wouldn’t be able to cast spells because of the fluttering swarm.  Mordecai made a fateful decision to burn the Dispel Evil scroll (Dispel Evil creates a radius around the Cleric and lasts an entire turn).  The party made a crucial initiative roll, and won it over the incoming bats.  Mordecai cast the spell.

From multiple directions, vampires screamed out of the darkness baring fangs, but then they would hit the invisible globe of Dispel Evil and burst into flames.  Gertrude’s skull rolled to rest near the character’s feet, a pair of vampire fangs sticking out of the top jaw.  Top Hat Man’s hat fluttered to the ground, the rest of his body reduced to ash.  Cheers from around the table as the vampires missed their Saves.  The last standing vampire was Helga, who got a shot in on Gregor (killing him), but who ended up fleeing the carnage in mist form.  The druid cast Faerie Fire on the fleeing cloud and the group followed it through the dark crypts back to the starting point – Helga’s crypt was the first one they had found!  She was cornered and destroyed.  All the vampires left in Castle Ravenloft were part of the ambush, and they were all destroyed.  Total party win.

I can only imagine how awesome that scene would have been and how well it worked because Beebo had been able to provide excellent pacing.  He didn’t drag out the bats fluttering around.  He didn’t overuse theatricality or anything.  The scene could have totally ended up a bogged down mess had the pacing turned out differently.

There are ways to really get the hang of Pacing and narrative control and it takes time, often requiring a GM to slip out of their comfort zone.

I haven’t had a chance to read this yet, but I’ve heard that Hamlet’s Hit Points, by Robin Laws has some awesome advice for learning how to handle and perfect your pacing.

All rambling aside I’m not an expert on pacing and I still fumble with it from time to time.  Pacing is hard enough to handle when writing a book, short story, etc, but add in that role-playing is a living breathing situation that can change at a moments notice, the ability to keep that pacing going is a challenge.  Through trial and error and the ability to read  players, the story, and the situation good pacing can be achieved.


The Monster Conundrum- The Known or Unknown?

There have been a good many posts by people about monsters in RPGs. After reading these posts (and there are some amazing ideas in here)  I am now considering that my next RPG project will be to redesign my MM the way I want (I do this already, but I tend to do it on an individual basis and then not keep notes on it..  like an idiot..).

Here are links to the posts I’ve been reading-

Monsters and Manuals

Roles, Rules, and Rolls (Ghosts and Poltergeists)

Roles, Rules, and Rolls (Mummies and Wights)

Roles, Rules, and Rolls (Shadows)

Roles, Rules, and Rolls (Ghouls)

Playing D&D w/ Pornstars- Alphabetical Monster Thing

Playing D&D w/ Pornstars- Neofiend Folio

Read through these when you get a chance, if you haven’t already, because there are some truly awesome ideas here.

While reading these posts a battle waged in my head about the varied approaches taken and suggested by Noisms, Zak, Roger the GS, and even though I haven’t seen a post about this subject I’m even throwing James Raggi here because of his approach to monsters in LotFP (see his Referee guide).

I completely understand where Noisms and Raggi are coming from; wanting unpredictable and new monsters.  I know the annoyance and slight disappointment when you describe your monster (maybe accidentally let the name slip) and a person shouts, “Troll!  I get out my acid!”  And another says, “I start preparing X fire spell of impending and sizzling doom!”  It’s annoying..  And it can frost the butthole a bit.

How can this situation be handled?

I tend to ask the player why they would be reaching for X, Y, and Z if there is no reason why their players would have encountered or heard of a Troll before.  One way I would allow it is if the play can convince me that they would know (IE- as a guard who patrolled the forest, I encountered one in my travels or father told me, etc) I may grant it to them, however I would be wary if players pulled this all the time, and obviously the exotic the creature less likely that this would happen.  I know that some players may get pissy with that, and you can tell them to take a flying leap.

Let’s look at The Thing as an example (I’ll probably be referencing this movie a couple times).  The Thing is an unknown (ignore the, “It was frozen in ice for 10,000 years” bit).  I’m talking about it being unknown after the Norwegians and McReady’s team.  The Thing, in a way, won.  No one knows about it.

So here’s where, for me, the dichotomy comes to play.  There is a power in presenting players with a truly unique and unknown enemy, but I think at the same time there is a power that is lost by going to something foreign from the players.

Zak states that he has the same issue with his girls that I have had, and I’m sure many of us have.  Again I’ll point to The Thing.  Let’s look at the two scenes when, I think, the creature is at its most exposed and grotesque.  If you haven’t seen The Thing- do yourself a favor and see it.  This movie is a life changing horror movie.  The first scene is when Norris is on the examining table and the doctor uses a defibrillator on him.  The creature attacks, bites off his arms, and then transform into this grotesque amalgamation of all sorts of weird shit.  It’s fucking horrifying.  But why..  because I’m seeing it.  If you were try to explain that to players, they may get some semblance of it, and get a cringe, but it is SO foreign to the player’s minds that it wouldn’t work to the full effect that you, as the GM, are attempting to facilitate.  A picture would be needed.  They’d see it and then you’d get an ample reaction.

Yep..  Pretty terrifying.

The second scene is at the end when Palmer walks away from McReady to set the dynamite charges.  The Thing comes up to him and puts his hand to his face and you see his fingers digging and melding into Palmers flesh.  You hear Palmer choke, gasp, and sputter.  Completely alone and vulnerable.  Describing this aspect of The Thing WORKS because the player’s can see it happening to them.  The thought of some creature burrowing into your face and melding with you and taking over your faucets is terrifying.

Personally, and I may be wrong on this, I think more fear and unease is created when the player has at least a familiarity with the beastie (on some level).  Describing a glistening giant spider with long legs descending from the ceiling towards the players with its pincers dripping a mucus-like substance is going to invoke much more unease or fear than the first description of The Thing.

The second thing about slightly known enemies, and this may only be for novice/casual players (I know this works well on mine and from what I’ve read of Zak’s blog it seems to his- but I just stating what I’ve read and that may not be the case at all), is if I were to describe a beautiful woman walking gracefully into view, exposing her profile, and on her head was a wriggling mop of snakes the players would have a reaction.  “Oh shit!  A Medusa!”  There would be a scramble to shut their eyes and figure out how to survive.  There would be unease, fear, and engagement, because the players know what is at stake.  They know what it will cost them should they lose.

For the battle-hardened players of yore, yes this does cause a problem.  The whole “been there, seen that, killed it, AND took its treasure” attitude.  How do you combat that?  How do you instill fear in those who have been killing Trolls for 30 years?  I think here is where Noisms and Raggi are aiming at.

I think throwing constantly unknown and unrecognizable monsters will eventually become stale though as well.  In the end the unknown terrible Thing is a classification of monster in its own right and all that is unfamiliar will fall into that category.

I think another way that this can be combated is the approach taken by Roger the GS over at Roles, Rules, and Rolls (look at the links above).  He has charts that randomize the abilities of the undead.  This could be used on any number of enemies.  Put the players up against a Troll and watch them start to panic because the beastie is NOT weak against acid and fire and it has infect pustules that burst and burn the players when attacked (because that was what was rolled on the chart).  That will keep them on their toes.

Obviously in the Monster Manuals or Monster Companions or Monster Petting Shops or whatever it is that you’re using for inspiration there are rare and unique monsters.  As Raggi says you don’t want your monsters to turn into a petting zoo, so you want to keep them understated.  I think most GM’s do an approach where they select a few of the animal intelligence beasties (aside from the natural animals- wolves, lions, etc) and a few of the humanoid monsters (Orcs, Trolls, Bugbears, etc) and have them, for lack of a better term, be staples.  They are still uncommon, but people know of them through folklore, tales, etc.  They are still terrifying but it creates enemies that go bump in the night that the village talks about in fear and worry and then the lesser known and more terrifying creatures cause absolute panic and dread when they make their presence known.

Knowledge is power because it can diminish the Boogeyman.  Yet even when explained children still fear him.  Adults still fear the dark.  I know what a spider is.  I know what they can or cannot do to a person.  That doesn’t stop me from throwing up my hands and screaming like a little girl when I find one crawling at me in my fucking car.  I’ll stand toe to toe with someone bullying me, but you put a spider on me and I whimper.  Man I am is what I am.

Yeah... About all I have to say about that..


TRPBTNTWAs

Noisms over at Monsters and Manuals did a cool post last week asking bloggers to discuss things that normally are not broached in the RPG blogging world.

Here we go-

TRPBTNTWAs

  • Book Binding– I like quality binding for my books.  They cost a pretty penny (generally) and I want them to hold up.  I was really disappointed when I purchased Savage Worlds Explorer’s Edition and opened it up and heard the terrible crack (freshly open I shit you not) of the glue breaking and all the pages began to fall out like tears of a small broken child..  I contacted Pinnacle and they sent me a new copy and it held up for a few days and then fell apart again..  I know I know SWEX is $9.99, but damn..  still…  That’s one reason I like the Pathfinder book..  That thing holds up.. You could beat a man to death with that book and it will still be perfect.
  • Doing a Voice- I do voices constantly for every one of my characters.  For women I either just do my own voice or make it slightly higher without being comical.  I may just change where I speak from.  For women I speak with my head and not the chest.  I do inflections.  The hardest part is remembering all of it.
  • Breaks– We generally play for 6-8 hours so we have one break where we either go get dinner or I cook something for everyone..  I am such a domesticated DM, but I love cooking.
  • Description- I tend to try to find a balance with my descriptions.  I like to give just enough to help formulate something in my players minds, but I don’t go overboard and rob them of their own interpretations.  I take the Laurell K. Hamilton approach VS the Anne Rice approach.
  • Where do you strike the balance between “doing what your character would do” and “acting like a dickhead”?- I tend to look at this on a situation by situation basis.  I examine what is going on, the goals of the player and the possible effects it will have on everyone else and make a call.  I’m not afraid to say no for the good of the game and the group.
  • PC-on-PC violence. Do your players tend to avoid it, or do you ban it? Or does anything go?- I don’t like PvP in tabletop..  It’s one thing if a Vampire is controlling a character VS one player is being an idiot and everyone has to take them down.  Our gaming time is precious and while you may think your character is a beautiful and unique snowflake, he’s not.  We are all part of the same compost pile (thanks Chuck Palahniuk).  We work together for group enjoyment.  If you’re not there for that, then you need to go home and play a video game.
  • How do you explain what a role playing game is to a stranger who is also a non-player?-  I am an open role-player and proud of it.  It is my passion and my hobby.  I just say I role-play.  If they get a confused look on their face I say, “You know- Dungeons and Dragons.”  I usually get the, “oooh.. You’re one of THOSE people.”  I then point to the Star Wars tattoos all over my body and say, “Yep… One of THOSE people.”  Many times though people ask about it afterwards, because they are generally curious.  I try to do it in the generalist of terms and sometimes they are interested in trying it.
  • Alchohol at the table– I drink….  Alcohol is welcome.  As long as people don’t get stupid.
  • What’s acceptable to do to a PC whose player is absent from the session? Is whatever happens their fault for not being there, or are there some limits?- Depending on where we were when the session last ended.  If we are in a city I usually just have the character of the absent player go off on their own and come back with an amusing story of debauchery and shenanigans.   If the we stopped in a dungeon, or the like, I tend to just push the player to the background.  Untouchable.  If there is a TPK, then that player does die too.  None of my players in any of my games in 17 years have ever complained about this.  I’m up front that is how I do it.  People are busy, life and shit happen.  RPGing is a game..  A hobby.  Life takes precedence.