Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Fragility and uncertainty: pillars of invention

I feel like the grim and gritty healing rule from the DMG that moves a short rest to 8 hours, a long rest to a week is the right way to make players feel the consequences of the action. Why? The purpose of taking 7-8 hours rest in the dungeon is so that the DM can roll random encounter checks that serve to underline the point that it is risky to overnight in a dungeon!

Some grains of salt might be called for, since I also think that if you heed the implicit warning of dungeon and wilderness encounter rolls by going back to town to safety, then you should find that affects only the table on which said random encounters are rolled! Once you're a player you're in the shit and safe is a waste of table time.

Talk and sneak are more appealing than blast and slice if and only if blast and slice seem like a bad bet. I know all the mechanics of the game seem to point toward fighting and magicking your way out of trouble, but the thing people really latch on to about the Old School, is that even though there was really minimal rule support for anything other than those two spell-slinging murderhobo activities, the best way to play was to avoid as much as possible of the adventure-as-written between the opening scene and the final boss room that held the goal of the adventure.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

The Peg-legged Paladin, and Other Stories

In our last session we had our first taste of the new application of the lingering wounds rule.  The adventure log says, mildly, "Rokdig gets two fingers gored off."  But I think the precedent we set just moved the end game way up.  In the process, we also get a possibly interesting answer to the question that plagues ACKS, B/X, and 1E:  In a world where there's dungeon enough to take a party up to demigod-challenging epic levels, why would the party want to switch to domain play when they hit name level?  Why not keep taking the fast road to wealth and power?

The new rule says that every time we hit 0 points or take a critical hit, we roll on a gussied-up save-versus-maiming table.  I figure that means that every few fights has a reasonable chance of a hero losing an eye, some fingers, even an arm or a leg.  By the time a character hits middle levels, they will likely have rolled on the table a couple of times.  Since the experience chart means progress in the game slows down once you hit middle levels, every few levels likely come with another roll or two.  Absent cheesy gimme's like easy access to regeneration magic, at some point, our hero's special abilities may be very impressive indeed, but the accumulated weight of disability make adventuring impractical.

At that point, one had better have some capable henchmen and a place in the local economy, or risk not being able to keep up lifestyle expenses, which has it's own consequences.

Some fun NPCs suggest themselves: the one-eyed, one-handed veteran fighter who's willing to hire a party of novice adventurers to accompany him in retrieving some object or other from a local dungeon; a blind druid who makes a living making and selling healing potions; and wretched former adventurers with gruesome disfigurements begging for coins at the street corner, actual murder- hobos ready to waylay the unwary drunk,

Friday, January 9, 2015

Rules | Tying HP to Lifestyle

Players get pretty disappointed when they roll poorly for HP. And then they get annoying when they start asking for refills. So how about if we tie HP roles into the Lifestyle rules and turn what is otherwise a mildly annoying tax that is frequently ignored into a reward and something the player really cares about?

HP Re-Rolls Based on Lifestyle
Wretched: reroll Max, Max -1 and Max -2
Squalid: reroll Max and Max-1
Poor: reroll Max hp
Moderate: no reroll
Comfortable: reroll 1s
Wealthy: reroll 1s & 2s
Aristocratic: reroll 1, 2 and 3s

In the fiction this simulates the long term effect of Lifestyle: if you sleep comfortably and eat better you are more likely to have higher hp. Go cheap and live in a dockside flophouse, then you are more likely to be less robust. In the fiction there will be outliers like the frail noble or the hearty street thug, but that's a result of the CON modifier.

Example: a Wizard gains a new level and he's been cheap and living in Poor conditions. He rolls his new d6 HD and gets a 6. Too bad, due to the poor conditions he's been living in he can't take the roll.

So, what's the impact of living on the road? Personally I would tie that into rules for creting Camps, but that's another topic.

Also, I would be inclined to have characters re-roll hit points if their Lifestyle changed for a significant length of time (maybe 1 week, maybe 1 month). This is an aspect of the rule that players will most likely hate but I think it helps provide mechanical consequences for in-game behavior. Get locked in prison? You're health may take a hit until you get out and can spend some time living better. Get wined and dined by a Prince? You'd be surprised how good that feather bed makes you feel. 

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

On Advancement Speed

Thought I'd share this since it came up late in our session last night. Dreams in the Lich House has an interesting post on leveling speed in 5E:

One of the issues I have our version of Dwimmermount is that the challenge level just wasn't right. The first few levels are too large and the party level quickly outpaced the difficulty of the encounters.The levelling speed curve of 5E is partly to blame for this: my instincts are much more about slow levelling, and a fairly even levelling curve, but the 5E xp chart is designed around market research (ex. Players want to move through the first levels quickly, the math holds together best in the middle levels, most campaigns flame out at certain level/session number thresholds).

Should my response be to design to the xp chart or change the xp chart to better suit my/our sensibilities?