Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Why Stabbing Random Townsfolk Has Less Repercussions Than You Think! On Justice In The Iron/Viking/Medieval Age

I don't know who made this

In modern society, you can commit a criminal action if you break a law set out by the state forbidding certain actions. This would be like tax fraud, possessing drugs, or murder. In the iron/viking/medieval age things were different as criminal law wasn't as well developed.

So we have mainly two types of law in our society. Tort and Criminal. Tort refers to actions which harm someone or deprive them of something. Criminal refers to actions which harm the state or deprive them of something. Many crimes one can commit are both. For example if you murder someone you both deprive them of life and also break the law of the state.

In the iron/viking/medieval age instead of a state or society you instead had a king or ruler and there was much less overlap between the two. So if you killed a random peasant you wouldn't necessarily harm the king but you would greatly harm their family. So the family would likely take revenge but the king would likely not take an action. Instead of the king's men investigating the murder, the family would take actions against you either in the form of more murder or payment.

So for people during the iron/viking/medieval age it’s essentially just paying damages to someone else or the king or you specifically do something banned by the king. It’s up to you and your clan to atone for actions or damages made by you.

Here is a collection of the actions which would carry repercussions in the iron/viking/medieval age and how they would be solved:

Crimes vs Man

Murder - Pay a weregild (man price) if their family doesn't try to kill you vengeance. Sometimes you'd also have to pay to the king as well.

Injury/Assault - So accidental injury wasn't a thing outside of Rome (I think), so you would have to pay a fine to the family or individual you harmed which would be proportional to the damage.

Larceny - You would have to either give the item back and may be assaulted from who you stole or pay a fine for what was stolen.

Crimes vs The King

Murder of a king's man - There is a much higher price here than a normal weregild. I'm sure he could also kill you for this but I don't know the specifics.

Crimes against the community - This is like arson, livestock mutilation, or disturbing the peace. Technically this is all the king's property and you're injuring him/stealing from him.

Forbidden action - If the king forbids something and you do it it won't end well.

On Crime Prevention

So a iron/viking/medieval age settlement wouldn't have police who would seek out crime and prevent it and solve it. You would have people who would patrol the town in order to keep order but it wouldn't be to prevent crime. If they came across a murdered body they wouldn't necessarily investigate but instead would maybe clean it out of the way. Further if someone had wronged you it was up to you to fix that wrong. You might petition your king for help but who knows what happen there? If someone stole from you you could possible get a thief-taker to track them down or you could possibly get someone to help your family gain vengeance. But most wealthy people would have guards walk the streets with them for protection instead of trusting the policing force to protect them.

Further if accused of a crime there wasn't much recourse for what you could do. In some soceities you simply needed witness to dispute it, in others you could try to have an ordeal to prove your innocence but the king would never have to prove your guilt. He's the king.

Other Stuff

So you have to pay taxes and may have to become part of an irregular militia in times of war. Certain things may be taxed more as well, but generally you pay with items not with wealth, like a baker may pay tax with bread instead of coin. Foreigners had less legal safety, but their hosts could grant them protection or an extension of their family. Also this could go for orphans or such as well.

Some places also have "outlawing" which is when legal protections don't apply to you anymore, but that does come later historically. However, a similar concept that someone could be killed like a dog with no repercussions wasn't unheard of.

Conclusion/In Practice

So in your games by altering such laws per kingdom you could add more verisimilitude or differentiate each area more. Further, the inclusion of the iron/viking/medieval age justice system could emphasize the nature of your setting.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

My Players Recap Their Last Session for Your Enjoyment #1

So recently in my games I instituted a policy if a player wrote up a session summary they would get a number of XP equal to half the number of words they had written up to a maximum of 100 XP, any further words wouldn't be counted. The following are the summaries written by two of the players, hopefully more follow.

My Mapper's Artwork

Smolhilda's Summary

Our intrepid heroes continued their perilous journey after crossing over a poisonous gas cloud the last session. Venturing deeper into the mines, the party encountered no winged rats but soon found a man chained to a pillar. The party's hesitance to immediately murder an unarmed prisoner nearly got everyone killed from falling rocks, but Oskar barely managed to save the party (albeit not one of the corridors) through the use of excessive force and ended the prisoner's suffering in short order.

A few floors deeper into the underground, the party encountered creatures appearing as "half-domes of chitin and a long thin almost spikelike tail". Having learned its lesson from the previous encounter, the party asked no questions and immediately executed one of the creatures while the others fled.

Without much more trouble, everyone finally reached the chamber of the Big Guy, finding chained children (who may or may not have consented to this), a cauldron of a mysterious yet alluring liquid, and Big Guy himself. Somo and Leszek tipped the cauldron over to prevent Big Guy from drinking from it, while Kai and the rest of the party kept him occupied with repeated spear-stabbings to the chest. Louis generously shared his combustible lantern oil with the creature, who in turn attacked the front line of the party in a most ungrateful manner. Smolhilda came to see the error of her ways and how the party had been the ancient evil all along, and attempted to donate her dagger to Louis' rib cage. Unfortunately the poor little girl was restrained and mercilessly molested by Somo and Leszek until Big Guy had finished his personal barbecue and departed for the next life. The little witch was thus released from the monster's charms and collected what remained of the liquid in the cauldron.

The party returned with the surviving children to Vald, where the thankless locals did not even offer a single one of their excess horses for ritual sacrifice, and vowed to return to the mines with proper equipment to dislodge potentially lucrative minerals.

Kai's Summary 

 Kai has to resist the urge to groan as Smolhilda tries to goad Oskar in causing a cave-in with his sledgehammer. The only thing that stops him from panicking is the fact that he doubts that Oskar could even reach the ceiling with his sledgehammer, bulge or no. Not that he expects Oskar to even rise to Smolhilda's bait in the first place—the little guy has been surprisingly capable so far—but it never hurts to be careful. Especially when the other members of their retinue are currently too busy rapping, beatboxing, or playing with their tentacle trophy.

As they walk it's a sudden cry of pain from Louis that finally brings an end to the rapping and beatboxing. Kai smiles as he sees what caused it; a rock hitting the priest right on his head. It seems he’s not the only one who didn’t appreciate their awful performance.

The smile instantly vanishes once he sees Somo starts prodding the boulder above their head. Kai takes a few steps backwards just to be safe. They call him paranoid. That’s fine with him. He likes his life and he has no intention of losing it to a cave-in inside this creepy mine. He’s also not planning on ruining his good looks by adding any lasting scars to his body. Bartering for more money would be way more difficult with an ugly face. He’s certainly seen the trouble Somo has with it.

Luckily his fears are misplaced this time and they can continue their journey without any problems. Beyond Smolhilda’s usual antics, and her new fascination with her tentacle, it’s a mostly uneventful journey. At one point Kai suggests splitting up in the hopes of reducing the risk-factors in their party. They don’t go for it, and if he’s honest with himself he can’t blame them. Who knows what kind of creatures are lurking down here.

When they stumble upon another chained up man it is Louis who once again causes the situation to escalate. Not for the first time Kai wonders how he’s wronged Louis’ God that caused him to punish him with the one disciple without any common sense. He has no time to ponder the question though, as the chained up man that Louis has agitated with his sermon seems hellbent on murdering them. It’s only Oskar’s quick action that kills the man and saves them from a cave-in. He complains a bit about visions of death, but as long as he remains useful like this Kai isn’t too worried.

In an attempt to distract two of the biggest troublemakers from causing any more trouble he gives Smolhilda the idea to ask Louis about necromancy. It works better than expected and soon the two are engaged in a heated discussion about the risks and benefits of the magical art. It’s great timing too as the discussion makes for a good distraction when Kai finds a hidden stash of gems without anyone noticing. He gives two to Oskar, as encouragement to continue being useful, and pockets two of them himself.

With that they continue on, eventually descending deeper into the mine and passing numerous fossils and gems on the way. Sadly they don’t have the tools to take them with them but Kai vows to himself to return later with the proper equipment. No reason to let those riches go to waste down here.

As they walk a familiar voice mocks them with his rhymes. Kai has to admit that it’s a bit eerie how the voice seems to know exactly where they are, but is forced to admit that they haven’t been hiding their presence all that well thanks to their loud party-members.

It’s a sudden noise of skittering that puts Kai immediately on edge. It sounds like spiders, and if there's one thing he hates it's those cursed beasts. However when Louis brings his lantern closer to the noise Kai lets out a soft sigh of relief when it becomes clear that the sounds merely come from three ivory pale trilobites. Creepy still, but at least they’re no spiders and an arrow, dagger, and a bit of magic makes short work of one of the three creatures, causing the other two to scurry away.

As the group descends even further they finally find the monster’s chamber. Three children are bound in shackles inside the room next to a large bubbling cauldron. The monster smiles and mocks the party once again, saying the children are beyond help at this point. Kai isn’t quick to believe the beast considering his history of lies but he has to admit that the children certainly look well out of it.

Before much banter can be exchanged the creature lunges at Oskar but manages to do little damage. It’s an intense fight, especially when the creature sets its eyes on Smolhilda and causes the small girl to attack Louis. However as the attack misses Somo and Leszek manage to restrain the girl with little problem, and after that little trick the monster goes down easily thanks to a couple of spears and a surprisingly well-aimed burning lantern.

Kai can’t help being annoyed with the girl though and makes sure to remember to cut her reward in half if anything like this happens again. It’s one thing to be an all around annoyance, it’s something completely different to be an active liability. Her lack of remorse doesn’t help matters either, being more worried about getting the contents of the beast’s cauldron than the health of her companions. She's cute and useful at times though, thanks to her being the only magic user, and Kai can’t help but appreciate her ruthlessness with an eye for results. He just wishes she wasn't as focused on butchering horses and having a complete disregard for teamwork.

When they’re finally finished looting the place and freeing the children—only after Louis has ensured them that they’re no longer possessed—the party finally makes their way back to Vald, taking the prisoner that they found at the mine entrance with them. Kai makes sure to keep an extra eye on their newly released entourage, still not confident that they can be trusted, but despite Louis’ drunkenness they arrive in Vald without much trouble. There Kyrill explains how grateful and in debt they are to their new heroes and offers them free lodgings and equipment. An offer Kai gladly accepts, his mind already on the riches they can excavate from that mine now that they’ve got the right tools. Something they do the very next day without much trouble, leaving the exploration of the rest of the mine for some other day.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Abandoned Mines above the Caverns: Procedural Tiny Dungeon Generator 2

Below is a generator for some small dungeons which can be used to construct abandoned mines as well as cavern complexes. These will result in less treasure than most dungeons but can be the source of troglodytes which may spread out from their awful homes to menace the country side. These dungeons are created procedurally and can be rolled for as the party enters them. For the Caverns, you fill the cavern table with monsters, and then roll for room contents.

Abandoned Mineshaft Complex Generator

Mines Layout

Tunnels extending out from central hub room from which the mine complex is entered.
1-32 Tunnels of 1d6 Rooms
4-53 Tunnels of 1d6+1 Rooms +
 1 side path between two shortest tunnels
64 Tunnels of 1d6+2 Rooms +
1 side path between two longest tunnels +
1 side path between two shortest tunnels

Outermost room of the two longest tunnels will allow descent into random rooms of the caverns below

Mineshaft Room Contents 1d8 + 1d8 (Roll twice per room)

1The shaft here is supported by numerous wooden pillars.
2The ceiling buldges down from above, as if about to collapse inward.
3A wheelbarrow has been abandoned here, its wheel broken.
4A lantern lies broken here, now a cracked shell of glass.
5Three wodden pillars have fallen from the wall here, and now lie as rubble.
6From this wall ore was once taken, all that is left is a gaping orifice.
7 A deep hole has been dug here and a ladder leads down into it.
8The walls here is broken, its stoney flesh littering the floor.
1-3Unstable tunnel, rocks fall from ceiling for 1d8 damage
4-5Tunnel Collapses and exit into room covered by stone only passage further inwards, can be removed with 2d4 manhours of labor (assuming a roll of 4 three characters and a hireling could remove the stones in 1 hour and one character in 4 hours)
6-7Collapsing floor into random room of caverns below, fall deals 2d6 damage
8Blackdamp - Open flames snuff out while encased lanterns dim further there is a 1 in 6 chance of a damp requiring a save vs poison or unconciousness and death if they remain in that area
1-4Crazed Miner who has been trapped here some time ago 
(Stats as bandit with 2 HD and undead morale)
5-7Swarm of Bats 
(flees after taking 1 hp but is able to attack entire party at once for 1 hp)
8Monster from Caverns Below
1-31d10 nodules exposed of precious ore 
each worth 1d6*10 silver and requires 1d6 turns to remove all
4-61d6 nodules of exposed gems 
each worth 1d4*20 silver  and requires 1d6 turns to remove all
71d8 nodules of mined precious ore 
each worth 1d6*10 silver
81d4 mined gems 
each worth 1d4*20 silver

Wandering Monsters 1d8

1-4Crazed Miner
5-7Swarm of Bats
8Monster from Caverns Below

Caverns Below Generator

Rooms: 2d6+Number of Tunnels Above

Cavern Layout*

1-3Two linear rows of equal rooms connected to each other by
 sidepaths equal to number of tunnels above
4-5Two floors and two staircases that connect between them. 
Top has number equal to tunnels+1d6. 
Bottom has the other 1d6
6Many floors each has number of rooms 
equal to number of tunnels above
*To construct a Larger Cavern, simply fill the mineshaft columns above with cavern room contents

Cavern Room Contents 1d6 + 1d6 (Roll twice per room)

1A massive pool of water covers the majority of this cave.
2Numerous stalactites hang from the ceiling above.
3The roof of the cave hangs low limiting your ability to stand tall.
4The cave here is barely wide enough to walk through.
5Water falls from a ledge above.
6The cave winds about instead of being easily visible and understandable.
1 Lesser Inhabitants 1st roll
2 Lesser Inhabitants 2nd roll
3Lesser Inhabitants 3rd roll
4Greater Inhabitants 1st roll
5Greater Inhabitants 2nd roll
6Terrible Inhabitants
1-3Fossils embedded in the wall 
worth 1d8 * 50, each 100 silver corresponds to 1 encumbering item requires 1d8 turns to remove from wall
4-5 Exit out of the cavern
6Strange Protohuman Relic carved from pale stone 
worth 2d6*30 silver

Wandering Monsters* (1d4)

1Lesser Inhabitants 1st roll
2 Lesser Inhabitants 2nd roll
3Lesser Inhabitants 3rd roll
4Greater Inhabitants 1st roll

*Determination of Cavern Inhabitants

Lesser 1d8 

(Stastics unless specified as different are 1 HD, Armor as shield, 1d6 damage, movement as unencumberd man, average morale)
1 2d4 Armored Trilobytes crawling out of a stagant pool of water
(armor as chain and shield)
21d4 Giant Bats unfurling their wings from the cavern's roof 
(2 HD, low morale)
3 1d2 Cave-Fishers reeling themselves towards their filaments
(attack from range and if successful embeds filament strand within target)
41d6 Claw Shrimp floating up form the water below
(Two Claw Attacks for 1d6)
51d3 Giant Centipede spiraling downward from stalagtites
(Attacks with poison, high morale)
6Stone Mimic silently ambushing as it opens its eye 
(surprises on 5 in 6, and morale as undead)
71d2 Snapping Slamanders swimming out of some submerged hole
(On hit pulls target into water, dealing 1d6 every round)
81d4 Opilions converging along the walls
(Crawls on wall, if fails morale plays as dead)

Greater 1d6 

(Stastics unless specified as different are 3 HD, Armor as shield+leather, 1d8 damage, movement as unencumberd man, high morale)
1-3Double number of appearing Lesser inhabitants
4 1d2 Serpent Bats screeching and flapping their awful wings from above (Attacks ignore shields, Movement as double that of unencumbered man)
5 1d3 White Apes howling and  as they feast on the corpse of a 
(Roll again for monster) (No reaction roll are always hostile)
6 Scythe Trilobyte lunging a blade out of a pool of water 
(Armor as Plate + shield, 2d6/2d6 damage)

Terrible 1d4

1Double number of appearing Greater inhabitants
2Terror Mole bursting forth from the walls of the cavern
 (as Troll with burrowing speed equal to man in plate) 
3Banished Jotun thrashing and screaming out of chains and shackles
 (as Hill Giant but half movement)


The following can be applied separately or in tandem to make the caverns inhabitants more fantastic

Sentient Creepy Crawlies:
Each Lesser and Greater Inhabitant has a 1 in 6 chance of being sentient and being able to speak.

Cave-dwelling men dressed in creepy crawly skin:
Each Lesser Inhabitant has a 1 in 6 chance of a man dressed in leather/chitin (Stats as bandit + modifications of inhabitant) One Cavern room has secret entrance to small hamlet at bottom of cave.

Each Lesser Inhabitant has a 1 in 6 chance of being a demi-human race (Stats as lesser inhabitant with Double HD) One Cavern room has secret entrance to small village at bottom of cave.

Goal of Procedures

Procedural generation of mines and caverns beneath. Alot of inspiration was taken from the film The Descent and a mechanical incentive of "we have to go lower to escape" was emphasized. For this reason a treasure listed within the caverns is an exit from the dungeon which has a slightly greater than 12% chance of appearing within a room. With an average of 7 rooms within a cavern (not counting the additional rooms from the tunnel) this means that there is a 64% chance of the average caverns below having at least one exit out of the mines. There is a 9% chance of a mine shaft being collapsable which has a 2 in 6 chance (trap chance) of triggering per party member who travels through it. Assuming a party of 4 PC's and 2 hirelings there's a 91% chance of that party triggering a collapse of stone behind them which means they would have to either go deeper into the mine to search for a way out. Further each room has a 9% chance of being trapped to collapse downwards into the caverns. Assuming the previous party there is a 91% chance that one of them collapses downwards into the caverns and as there is a 64% chance of the caverns having a secondary exit there is only a 34% chance a party would have to travel upwards to exit the mines. The mines contents were weight towards being filled with traps rather than monsters and the caverns below infact are the opposite and have no traps. This was to create two states of the complex with the abandoned mines being desolate and the caverns teeming with life but both would still pose a threat to those who would explore.

The mines and caverns are further filled with treasure which is weighted to be produced as within the walls of the mine instead of on the floor. The intent here is to create reasons to return to the dungeon at a later date with hirelings and pickaxes to excavate it. The different value of gems and ores within a dungeon are randomized so that multiple dungeons could be created differently. Thus a referee could create a mine for iron or gold and have their contents feel different for the players. The creatures within the caverns (without modifications to make them more fantastic) are constructed to have a variety of different inhabitants which would change per cavern complex. This would allow multiple cavern complex to feel different from one another lest each cavern complex encountered would have the same trogodyte denizens. Lastly the stats of the denizens are arranged in such a way that the fantastic elements could be easily consturcted. For instance the cave folk who wear the chitin of trilobytes would be better armored and the demihuman centipede folk would be easily made rather than intricately written out.

Playtesting and Adjustments

I have run three sessions of exploring such abandoned mine sites. The only significant change from the initial draft was to reduce the amount of lethal blackdamp found in dungeons to facilitate movement downwards into the caves below. The players reactions to the valuable nodes of gem and ores as well as the fossils embedded in the walls of the dungeon was to fomulate plans to return and excavate them later instead of recovering them during the first dungeon expedition. The abandoned mines greatly reward cautious exploration and preperation beforehand as the danger of avoidable traps is much greater than that of monsters.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Do you have too many playable classes in your OSR game? The answer may shock you!

This is a response to +Angus Warman and +Michael Bacon in regards to including additional playable classes to an OSR game and an excuse for me to write a click-bait article title.

It is a response to the following:

1. "Why have more than one class at all? Why not just fighters? Answer : The classes feel different and work differently. "


2.  "I would say "why have Wizard Schools other than Orthodox", but I think there's more here. 'Why I like that as a referee' has one obvious answer: It makes my players happy/come to my games, and that makes me happy. I'd say it does add a small amount of extra complexity, but not needlessly. It's needful complexity. Why would you have only one casting class? Would that makes it more enjoyable for you to DM? Some other metric I'm not thinking of?"

Each class serves a distinct mechanical purpose within the OSR gameplay loop and adding, removing, or altering the playable classes may disrupt this. On of the strengths of OSR is the robustness of this loop in games and how it serves to produce the OSR playstyle. It is important to know how each class interacts with the OSR gameplay loop as it informs how other classes may be added.

OSR Gameplay Loop

The resources in the loop refer to both literal resources like light and rations as well as meta-resources like those outline on a character sheet like HP or Attributes. Resource drain is anything which may remove these resources such as traps, monsters, and time.

So aside from race as class, there are 4 default classes in the vast majority of OSR. They are Fighter, Magic-User, Cleric, and Thief. For this analysis we will ignore the thematic elements of each class and focus on their mechanical components.*

The Fighter class present consistent and predictable abilities (dealing more damage and taking damage from monsters at a reduced rate than other classes) to wager HP against the most common active HP drains, monsters.
The Magic-User class present a limited number of abilities (spells) with which to skip certain specific resource drains.
The Cleric class present limited resource renewal (healing hp, curing curses and disease, raising the dead) which serves to extend the amount wagering possible and serve against a specific type of HP drain the Undead, as such monsters lack morale and reaction rolls instead always being hostile and fighting to the death.
The Thief class presents consistent and predictable abilities versus the most common passive HP drains (finding or removing traps) which also serve to increase the rate of treasure gained (picking pockets and opening locks). Lastly thieves also have passive avoidance to active HP drain (hiding in shadows and listening at doors).*

*The goal of a thief is to combat traps and locks the same way the goal of a fighter is to combat monsters.

The other three common OSR classes: Elf, Dwarf, and Halfling can also be analyzed mechanically.

The Elf Class functions as a mixture of the Fighter and Magic-User classes, they possess nearly the same combat abilities as a Fighter with the exception of smaller HD and they cast spells as Magic-User could.
The Dwarf Class functions as a mixture of the Fighter and Thief classes, they possess nearly the same combat abilities as a Fighter with the exception of not being able to use bows or two-handed swords and possess the Thief's avoidance of traps.
The Halfling Class functions as a another mixture of the Fighter and Thief classes, instead having a thief's passive avoidance to active HP drain and nearly the same combat abilities as a Fighter with the exception of smaller HD and not being able to use bows or two-handed swords. However, they gain an extra bonus to their AC. Further Halflings have the best saves of any class, which means their chance of surviving random misfortune is greatly increased.

I would posit that the Elf and Dwarf class are redundant and don't add novel ways of interacting with the OSR gameplay loop. The Halfling class can be better described as having a reduced chance to have their resources drained and functions to allow greater wagering similar to a cleric. However, while a cleric returns lost resources a halfling instead has a lessened chance of losing resources wagered.

Thus we are left with a core 5 OSR classes:
Class One: Deals with Monsters
Class Two: Sidesteps wagers of resources for treasure* a limited amount of times
Class Three: Increases number of wagers of resources for treasure possible by resource return
Class Four: Deals with passive resource drains/increase rate of treasure acquisition
Class Five: Increase number of wagers possible by altering chance of it losing wagers of resources for treasure

*This refers to the standard mechanics of dungeoneering or hex-crawling. A spell like Sleep can sidestep combat and in doing so, ignores combat's standard wager of character hp vs enemy hp.

If one was to add further classes to an OSR game, one would have to have them interact with the OSR gameplay loop in another way or they would otherwise be redundant to the gameplay loop and thus to the game.

A quick aside for Racial Classes

Race as Class often subverts the gameplay loop in ways I didn't mention and has implications for the game-world as well as they merge the narrative and mechanics together. Further Racial Classes often function on different mechanics than the core 5 classes, such as not having HP, being able to see in the dark, or being able to breathe flame. Further, racial classes should have a distinct feel that's different from the human classes to emphasize their inhumanness.

Class Redundancy

So, in regards as to "Why would you have only one casting class" I would rephrase it first as "Why would you have only one class which sidesteps wagers of resources for treasure a limited amount of times". I would say that if there were two classes which "cast spells" it would only matter if they both interacted with the OSR gameplay loop in the same way. In fact B/X has two casting classes the Cleric and the Magic-User but they interact with the OSR gameplay loop differently.

In the time I have been writing this +Arnold K. has brought up the examples of two different casters

"(a caster that loses Con when they cast spells will feel different from a wizard who spends gold coins to cast spells)."

I think these are both distinct enough to be offered in play as they interact with the OSR gameplay loop in a novel way. The class which loses a non-renewable resource to sidestep wagers of resources for treasures is different from a class which loses treasure in order to sidestep wagers of resources for treasures is different from the standard class which uses vancian preparation to sidestep further wagers of resources for treasures.

However, if you had two class which both interact with the OSR gameplay loop in the same way or in excess similarity why not consolidate them into a single class? Why have a warrior, knight, and barbarian class instead of having a single fighting-man class. If each just deal consistent damage, have lots of hp, and may wear armor why give them minor differently mechanics to interact with the OSR gameplay loop.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

B/X Spells in Glog Format Part 1: Spells from Basic

So a few months ago I went through the spells in basic and expert and turned them into 20 GLOG spells. I have lost the notes of which of those 20 was which, but here are all the spells in Moldvay Basic presented as level agnostic GLOG spells for proper compatibility with OSR rule-sets.

Format of this post:
Name and Spell Summary
Author Commentary
GLOG Mechanics

Art by Harry Clarke

Cure Light Wounds: Heal 1d6+1 damage or Paralysis
I don't think this should be a spell. I prefer weird or dangerous healing
Heals [dice]+[sum] hp to target

Detect Evil: 6 turns 120' range of finding evil intentions or evil items
I actually really like this spell. 
[sum] turns of finding malicious or antisocial intent within 100'

Detect Magic: 2 Turns 60' range of finding enchantments on person/place/thing by making them glow
I would prefer magic being inherently known and rare enough this spell would be useless
[dice] turns of things magical within 60' are known to you

Light: 12 turns 120' range light with range of 30' maybe cast on object or target to blind them for 12 turns
I would prefer if this wast cast on a target to blind them it would make their eyes shine as a torch
[sum] turns of object providing light as torch or target must save or be blind for [sum turns] if sum is 12 or greater sum is permanent (represents continual light)

Protection from Evil: 12 turns on caster, +1 to defense and save also summoned or created monsters can't damage you
I'm not of the fan of the added bonus of defense from summoned monsters as it implies they are common
[Sum] turns of +1 to defense and save vs specific source of harm

Purify Food and Water: 1 ration, 6 drinks of water, or food for a dozen people
Why are rations and beverages different? Also when does water use matter outside desserts
Removes Poison from [dice] rations or [sum] drinks

Remove Fear: Removes fear or gives save to someone fleeing in fear with bonus
I never use fear effects for characters and this strikes me as more of morale for hirelings
[dice] targets need not roll morale for [sum] hours

Resist Cold: 6 turns of ignoring cold, +2 save vs cold attacks, -1 from each die rolled for cold damage
I'm a pretty big fan of situational spells like this
[sum] turns of ignoring cold, +2 vs saves concerning the cold, -1 from each damage dice of icy origin

Charm Person: Makes someone the best friend, they get a new save every day/week/month depending on intelligence to become free
I fucking hate this spell because it means that any person encountered needs an intelligence score and that enemy level 1 wizards can cast this on a PC and effectively take them out of play
Target must save or believes themselves best friend of target and only gets a save every 2*[dice] days

Floating Disc: 6 turns of 500 lbs being moved for you at your own speed
This is just a porter helping you move stuff
[sum] turns of an additional 10 inventory slots moved for you

Hold Portal: Holds door/gate/portal closed for 2d6 turns if creature has 3+ HD more than the caster it can go through
This should be a reversible version of Knock
Door barred for [sum] turns vs creatures with less hp than 8 * [dice] if [sum ]12 or greater duration is permanent

Magic Missile: 150' range of 1d6+1 damage auto hits and more missiles per level of caster
I don't like straight damage spells, there should be an additional use for this
Target within 150' takes [sum] + [dice] damage no save

Read Languages: 2 turns of reading any language/code/secret symbols/treasure maps
This seems very underused to decode secret messages
[dice] turns of being able to understand the content of any writing

Read Magic: Read scroll or spellbook
This seems like a spell tax
[dice] spells revealed to you from a scroll or spellbook

Shield: 2 turns of increased armor, greater for missiles
I don't see why you don't allow wizards to wear armor, but then give them this spell
[dice] turns of +4 vs melee attacks and +6 vs ranged attacks

Sleep: 4d4 turns of sleep for 2d8 HD of creatures with less than 4 HD
This has an uncomfortable amount of randomization for a vancian spell
Sand flows from the caster's hand putting [sum] HD of living creatures to sleep for 4*[dice] turns

Ventriloquisim:2 turns and 60' range of voice comming from somewhere else
I feel this is a very underrated spell
[dice] turns of having your voice come from another source

Continual Light: 60' of light or permanent blindness
This is just a stronger version of Light

ESP: 12 turns 60' range of hearing thoughts of known creature, ignores language barriers, Can go through 2' of rock
How often does the 2' of stone rule come up?
[sum] turns of being able to read thoughts of target within 60', must take 1 round to first focus on them

Invisibility: Person or object becomes invisible, if cast on person includes their items, doesn't conceal light sources, Invisibility continues until character either attacks or cast a spell
This is awkward to turn into a GLOG spell as it has a permanent duration
Target gains [dice] turns of invisibility if motionless + [sum] rounds of invisibility in motion

Knock: Opens any door or chests
This should just be reversible Hold Portal
Next [dice] doors or chests are opened by your touch

Levitate: 6 + level turns of floating at speed of 20' per round
This just a one dimensional fly spell
[sum] turns of being able to float up or down at a speed of [dice]*10' a round if [sum ]12 or greater one may fly in non-vertical direction

Loctate Object: 2 turns of Locating object within 60' + 10' per level
This seems like a great way of leaving the dungeon
[dice] turns of knowing nearest desired object within 60'

Mirror Image: 6 turns, next 1d4 attacks against caster automatically miss and there are clones of the caster
This is not a cloning spell, this is defensive armor spell
for [sum] turns next [dice] attacks automatically miss

Phantasmal Force: This is a complicated illusion spell where if you believe in it it harms you but cannot kill you
I refuse to turn this into a GLOG spell, its just to vague

Web: 48 turns of covering sticky web of 100' cubic which takes 2d4 rounds to break through for men and fire will destroy it in 2 turns
This lasts for almost 5 hours, how did this duration come about
Fills single room or segment of hallway with a web which takes [sum]/2 rounds to get through and lasts for [dice] hours, flammable

Wizard Lock: Something with a lock is help shut forever or until opened by caster or a knock spell.
This is just a stronger version of Hold Portal

Bless: 6 turns of all friendly creatures within 60' getting +1 to morale, +1 to hit, and +1 to damage
I'm not a fan of such as minor mechanical bonus, this should be something a cleric should be able to do without magic
[sum] turns of all those within 60' get a +1 to morale, +1 to hit, and +1 to damage

Hold Person: 9 turns 180' range cast on single creature or on 1d4 creatures who must save or be paralyzed
Pretty self-explanitory
Up to [dice] human-like targets must save or become paralyzed for [sum] turns

Silence 15' radius: 12 turns, No sound can be heard within 15' radius of target, may be cast on a target who must save or move with them.
This seems like a great curse to cast on someone
Target must save or be covered with 15' aura of silence for [sum] turns, may also be cast on area

Dispel Magic: in 20' cube Removes magical enchantments with a 5% failure rate per level of enchanter being higher level than caster
This shouldn't be a spell, instead one should just cast the same spell but backwards

Fire Ball: 240' range, 20' radius, deals 1d6 fire damage per caster level save for half
I would prefer if instead this made all within a 20' radius catch on fire and take 1d6 fire damage for a number of turns equal to caster level, but I understand the origin of this spell as a replica for artillery
Deals [sum] damage from fire to targets within [dice]*5' radius, save for half

Fly: 1d6 + level turns of flying for target at 120' per round speed
This just seems like an improvement to Levitate

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Questions for Player Feedback/Establishment of Shared Setting + Three Player's Responces

Something that worries me as a referee is that how I perceive my games is different from how my players perceive my games. If I am unable to communicate my "vision" of the setting then there is a chance that the players will be confused and unable to play "correctly". I've written about difference in perceived settings before, and these are the questions I have been asking my players about my games. I usually ask these after like 4-5 sessions and try to adjust my descriptions afterwards to try and better match my vision of the setting.

If you want to use these questions simply replace "Valiant" with the name of your setting.

1. How would you describe the Valiant Setting?
2. How do you visualize Valiant in general?
3. How do you see the NPC's
4. How do you see the villages/towns/cities?
5. How do you see the wilderness?
6. How do you see the dungeons?
7. How do you see the monsters?
8. Any media come to mind that is similar to Valiant for you?
9. If you were gonna describe Valiant to a person who was interested and wanted to know more what would you say about the setting/theme/aesthetics?
10. What genre would you say Valiant is?
11. What is the most memorable image or encounter in Valiant?
12. Do any locations visually stand out to you?

Art for an old Dungeon of mine


Player 1

1) the Valiant setting is more-and-more like some kind of proto-HP Lovecraft setting, with a hint of Slavic. In 400 years Lovecraft-ski would be digging up ruins and writing about this place and it's creepy cults and monsters.

2)At first Valiant was standard Adventure stuff, with open, sweeping vistas. After those fungus monsters though, it's suddenly a lot more overcast and gloomy!

3) The Npcs... Same kinda difference with the towns, actually. At the wedding they were great chums, the Jarl was sagely, and the cultists where creepy. It varies too much from place to place for me to pin it down, but I will say the NPCs strike me as being way more unpredictable for some odd reason. As in, it's like one of those horror films where the town is udner a cult, and they act all weird and distant, but you're waiting for the other shoe to drop and for them to go psycho

4) I don't think I've spent enough time in the towns to properly visualize them. Sometimes I see them as muddy Hovels, a la "Monty Python's Holy Grail," Other times it's like a happy Rennaissance fair with the wedding, then it's like Skyrim. Hard to pin it all down just yet, but I'll keep on thinking about it!

5) Wilderness is consistently forlorn at least. It's always dangerous, misty, and creepy. That was well established and reinforced. Terrific job there!

6) Dungeons are always just fun to go through. There’s been a lot to them and we’ve gotten some good chances to stop, catch our breath, retreat and return and explore them all. I think it’s a great sign that I’m always down to see where each dungeon goes to

7) the monsters are Lovecraft Monsters if given Russian names basically (which I take it comes from your Ukrainian background! So I guess that’s “Ukrainian names” not “Russian Names,” but.. well, you get what I’m saying!). Like the Kuvuklaks or whatever they were called? I’m not huge on Lovecraft himself, actually, but the flying fungus horse is straight out of my conception of him!
8) I can’t say yet, I haven’t played this game enough. I guess ”Lovecraft mixed with Skyrim mixed with... Hellboy? This issues where Hellboy fights Yaga Baba or whatever her name was?”
9) if honestly emphasize the mechanics over the setting. I only played one other /tg/ game, which was pathfinder, and this game is so much more graceful and intuitive and faster than that games ever was, which I attribute to the mechanics. IF I was to talk about the setting, I’d mention the creepy proto-Lovecraft factor again

10. What genre would you say valiant is? Hate to go back to the Lovecraft Well, but that comes to mind. throw in a bit of an adventure... Maybe a little more of a dark comedy. I can see how, with a really serious group of players, this could be downright depressing. With our group, at least for the moment, I think it's kinda profound -- it's, like, it could be viewed as an interesting portrait of characters using humor to cope with the circumstances! This is a dark, DARK world, and the fact that the characters we're playing are having a hoot in it... it's, well, interesting is a safe word to use! Needless to say, now that our shit's getting kicked in, that may change, but for now, I think it's kinda heartwarming 11. What is the most memorable image or encounter in valiant? I'm gonna go with the first dungeon, where BV gagged the cultist with a stick and tried to creep on him. That's when I knew what sort of a game we were getting into. The other Pathfinder game I played was dead boring, and there were only two moment from that game where the characters really came alive and the situations got fun. The fact that this happened right from the GO was a great sign to me. 12. Any locations visually stand out to you? Kek. Not really, sorry! I see either the white website we use with cute stick-figures OR a pastiche of screencaps from the Skyrim trailer. I guess the wedding stands out as a fun location, but that had way more to do with the characters than the setting's visuals, by far! I will say that, after giving it a though, I think the cult room with the charnel pit and the weird Peridot Obelisk stand out, but I still want to say that the Visuals are about the last thing I'm focusing on. I'm way more into the fun interactions between the characters!

*The mechanics he is talking about are here

Player 2

1) Practical fantasy, which leans more towards low. Tech where it exists is scarce and mysterious, and the fact that players have no real idea about its purpose or origin is great.

2) Feels like I'm wandering around in wild parts of Scotland or Ireland with some of that good old Viking charm. There's a good balance between religion, magic and steel on steel. Very comfy, but not without intrigue such as what the purpose and origin of the zeppelin was that we encountered not so long ago.

3) Bless those poor men and women for dealing with our party, but I love that there's a few NPCs out there who seem to be just as dumb as we are. A little bit Byzantine inspired, a little bit Norse. Not really looking for saviours to come and rescue them from every little trouble and not willing to bow at the feet of those who bring it with them.

4) To make a comparison to obvious fantasy sources, larger towns kind of remind me of a slightly Gothic influenced Esgaroth (albeit with obvious signs of an overarching religion in ye olde Eastern-Orthodox Christianity style). Smaller settlements are a little more of a cross between Edoras and Nashkel.

5) The roads are safer than traversing actual wilds, though they're not without their difficulties as the floating spore cloud proved. The wilderness itself seems like it's eager to encroach on human life, or to make you regret entering their own turf. It absolutely pays to be prepared.

6) Places with actual uses to certain groups of people, rather than just some nonsensical Ayleid ruin which you'd find in Oblivion. Trapping an ancient evil? Cool. Out of the way complex where people won't be persecuted for cult worship? Also cool.

7) If you're unprepared or otherwise unlucky, tactical retreat is absolutely a viable and sometimes necessary option. There's no feeling that the player characters are overpowered in this, or that you can walk into a situation with confidence you'll make it through with all your fleshy bits in the right place. The tension you feel in those encounters makes them far more memorable than your run of the mill battle against kobolds.

8) I wouldn't say any one thing is wildly similar, I get a few magical and tech elements from Thief, supernatural leanings from some of the fun bits of Grimm's Fairy Tales, good old fighting like you want in fun games like Dark Messiah or Mount & Blade, etc. It's all shaken up enough that I actually had to put thought into comparisons though.

9) Do you enjoy coming up with plans to defraud a land of mostly honest people via compulsive lying? Or trying to convince someone that doing so is probably immoral and would cause issues for you later down the line? This is 10/10 for doing so. Or more generally, If you enjoy tense encounters in dark holes where things are likely to take a turn for the worse, where your light is low and your comrades are wounded but there's no ridiculous cloudkill spell to save you... good luck. You may just need it.

10) Low fantasy with an underlying sense of horror lurking in wait.

11) The Avatar of Kull Varld still feels fresh, however the dumb Jarl of New Rind and his longsuffering aide really made me laugh. What a guy.

12) New Rind is great so far - I love areas with huge towers, massive pennants and arenas. It's one of those places where you can tell at a glance what that place is all about. The three massive toads were also a good source of comedy.

Player 3

1) A fantasy setting mostly inspired by medieval Eastern Europe with some Scandinavian influences and some horror elements.

2-4) I visualise Valiant a lot like the world in The Witcher 3. A lot of open fields, moors and woodlands. Here and there a few villages that look more like hovels and towns that have a bit more going on in terms of activity and size. All of them are relatively small and somewhat dirty towns with poor infrastructure that still does its job.
Same with the NPC’s; relatively poor commoners who live a simple life, while characters like the jarl live a more luxurious life in more extravagant houses. With extravagant in this context meaning that they’ve got a few paintings or weapons hanging from the walls, not that everything is full of gold. Again, a lot like it’s portrayed in The Witcher.

5) The forests I see as untamed with at best small muddy roads as the best way of travel. They’re eerie, dark, and quiet but it being winter currently they’re not all that dense. I see it a bit like the forest in the very first scene of Game of Thrones.
Outside of forests I’m thinking of more open fields of woodlands, with more low shrubbery instead of trees.

6) Somewhat stereotypical in its fantasy design. Ruins of long deserted dark hallways full of spiderwebs, dirt and rubble. With the most recent dungeon that we entered having damp walls and ceilings and being full of fungus.
7) For the most part very much like real life animals, just with some kind of “horror” twist to them. Like a normal bear, but with a human head with snakes for eyes on top of it. Or normal spiders just way bigger and more dangerous. So while I clearly see them as fantasy monsters, I mostly see them as a mutated version of big real life animals.
The exception here being the flying tentacle monster, which leaned much more heavily on the horror aspect without having any familiar real life animal attached to it. It set it apart as somewhat otherworldly, or maybe as something Lovecraftian.

8) The Witcher

9) I’d tell them to think of The Witcher with more horror elements. And also with a bigger focus on religions and cults than you’d find in The Witcher. A religion that, just like a lot of the setting, seems to be inspired by medieval Eastern Europe.

10) A mix of things really. It’s mostly low-fantasy but it certainly has moments that would also make it fit in the horror genre. We’ve even seen a glimpse of what seems like steampunk with the airship.
11) Probably the encounter with the giant spiders. Mostly because of how tense it was and how close to dying we got. It also made for some good character interactions that continued to play a role later on. Like being afraid of spiders, horses dying, and horses (and other things) potentially serving as ritual sacrifices.

12) The hot springs with the frog statues and the room in the first dungeon with the balcony where we fought the leader of the cultists.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

A Plea for Rigor and Accountability in Content Design

Current Issue:

The majority of "crunch" content (procedures, rules, modules, classes, dungeons, etc) posted on osr/diy rpg blogs is not playtested, is bad, or is both. 

So there is a lot of content which I read online which infuriates me with how bad it is. I could spend hours in anti-social behavior commenting on each post about how terrible it is, but there is a strong chance that I simply don't get the goal of the content. My LEAST favorite post in recent memory is THIS because when I asked about how it worked in practice and was told,  "I've only tested... ...very slightly." There are many other posts which upset me but those have to do more with procedures and mechanics being broken.

If you have an OSR/DIY RPG blog then you likely create content for others to use in their own games. This means that what you offer is a sincere attempt instead of garbage. However there are very few ways to know the authors intent in creating content (outside of them stating it) and it is easy to get confused and call content trash when you simply misunderstand what the author seeks to do. Further there is no accountability to content creators outside of the belief that content has been tested in play and is not just an arm-chair theory written to get blog views.  This "unplaytestedness" also extends to modules and contents published for money.

So is it time for everyone to delete blog because no one cant trust them to make good content? No, fortunately there are comment sections which allow for readers to give feedback or ask clarification, which allows for a dialogue where people can discuss the merits of a post. However, in the past few months I've noticed that the OSR G+ community is full of petty arguments and figures with molecule thin skin. So suggesting that people should call out content creators for bad content, while a great time, is even more anti-social precisely because people will use "play-test accountability" as existing feuds.

Proposed Fix:

Rather than placing the onus on the readers to demand better content, the onus should be on authors to create proof of merit of their content. This would require three things

1. Describe the goal of your content/procedures/rules
Here you would describe the intent of your content. This is valuable because it provides an expliantion of what your goal was. This does two important things:

One: It summarizes your content to the reader in a system and setting agonstic manner.
Two: It creates a shorthand that can be used for rulings.

From Veins of the Earth

2. Playtest it with your players across at least 3 sessions
Players are participants rather than creators and their comments should be looked at only in terms of meeting your design intent rather than valuable input. You're not play-testing for their opinions, instead you are play-testing to evaluate your content.

3. Describe how it worked in play and any revisions you made
Doing so allows others to see the merit of your content. Further it is a valuable tool that most referees use without realizing it.

Example of the Death and Dismemberment procedures.
(I'm going to go through the rest of my content and add this to my procedures and rules)

If you are unable to do those three components, or you lack the ability to do so then simply mention that your post is not play-tested.

Examples of other authors explaining their intent and play-testing