Monday, January 23, 2012

Underground Races: The Grue

It is pitch black. You are likely to eat something.

The Grue are a nearly-savage race of the Underground. The Exiled Empire conquered the more civilized factions and incorporated them into their society, but pockets of barbarian Grue still raid small hamlets and mushroom farms from time to time.

Physically, Grue are newtish, slimy lizard men with elongated limbs, a short, thick torso, and bulbous eyes. Their mottled skin comes in many colors, oranges and greens and blues, but dark browns and grays are the most common. Grue are omnivorous but prefer red meat, which they rip apart with their short but sharp teeth.

Grue society is dualistic, split along gender lines - each family is ruled by its egg-mother, but tribes are governed by a male chieftan. Grue shamans are male, but Grue gods are female. Grue craftsmen are male, while Grue artists are female. Player character Grue tend to be those who reject these customs.

Strong: A Grue's wiry limbs belie great strength. They begin with a d6 in Strength, which they can raise to d12+1 through advances.
Infravision: Darkness is their ally. Grue halve penalties (rounding down) caused by normal non-magical lighting.
Light Sensitive: Grue are susceptible to bright light. Anything brighter than a couple of torches or moonlight inflicts a -1 penalty on all Trait rolls.
Amphibious: Grue are semi-aquatic. They can spend a number of minutes underwater equal to ten times their Vigor die before checking against suffocation; check every 30 minutes after the initial dive. Grue prefer damp spaces but unlike many amphibians do not have to spend a certain amount of time in the water each day.
Outsider: Their appearance and savage cousins don't help Grue at all. They have the Outsider Hindrance.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Fighting optimization

I've come to realize 4th edition DnD just isn't quite as much fun without fully optimized characters. This means, of course, at least an 18 in starting attribute scores, a +3 to-hit proficiency weapon, and Weapon Expertise (if you truck with splatbooks, which I try not to).

Naturally, this limits a lot of character options.

Conclusion: Start each character on equal ground. Everyone chooses 2 ability scores; these are guaranteed a +5 to-hit, minimum, plus whatever weapon bonuses there are. Weapon Expertise is now banned.

This puts everyone on the level of an 18 stat plus WE, which means you can actually explore some of the more interesting options in character builds (battleragor vigor from the Martial Power book, for instance) without sacrificing full optimization.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Inspired by Nethack:

Inspired by Nethack and other roguelikes, I've created a new 4E status effect:


You have been been turned into an @ sign!
While in this state:
-You never grant Combat Advantage
-All actions except free actions are considered Standard actions.
-You may not be the recipient of actions granted by allies through powers, class features, etc.
-Your move speed is 2

I imagine a dungeon where this is a permanent effect on one level: all the monsters are marked with a corresponding colored letter; all potions, magical items, and scrolls are unidentified until used; death is permanent...the possibilities are endless.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Hounds of Tindalos

Updating on Tuesdays got away from me somewhat.

Without further ado, here's a couple of the notes I jotted down for what was supposed to be a holiday game except I got too tired to run it. The full adventure may be available soon.

Hounds of Tindalos
"All the evil in the universe was concentrated in their lean, hungry bodies. Or had they bodies? I saw them only for a moment, I cannot be certain."
Attributes: Ag d8, Str d8, Sm d6, Sp d6, Vg d6
Skills: Fighting d8; Notice d8; Stealth d8
Pace 8; Parry 6; Toughness 7 (2)
Edges: Berserk, Combat Reflexes, Dodge
Special Abilities:
Armor: Incorporeal, +2 Armor
Bite, Claws: d8+d6, AP 2
Fleet Footed: +2 Pace, d10 Running die
Go For The Throat: Hounds of Tindalos seek out their opponent’s weak spots. On a Raise on the attack roll, they hit their opponent’s least-armored location.
Teleport: Hounds do not provoke free attacks when withdrawing. They ignore height modifiers and simply appear up to 8 game inches away from their prior location. Hounds may take a full action and “run” just like anyone else.

Attributes: Ag d6, Sm d6, Sp d8, St d6, Vg d6
Skills: Fighting d6, Notice d6, Shooting d6, Stealth d6
Pace 6; Parry 6; Toughness 5
Edges: Block, Level Headed, Musketeer, Quick Draw
Musket (2d8, AP 1, 10/20/40, Reload 2)
Bayonet (Str+d4, Reach 1)
1 in 6 will have the Tracking skill at d6; if Redcoats need any other skill, there is a 10% chance that one of their number has it at d6.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Tech Trees and Research

I have been playing a lot of Civilization, Alpha Centauri, UFO: AI, and other assorted turn based strategy games lately. I've also been thinking of the old game Syndicate.

I was wondering if anyone has ideas on how to incorporate weapons research into their games. And I know the obvious answer is "just give them the stuff you want them to have!" but that's not going to cut it this time.

Here's a system off the top of my head:

Use the Showdown! point values to determine the cost of weapons/ammunition. Say the PCs want to research some fancy powered armor. A Battle Suit is 12 points, +2 for the Pace, +2 for the Strength bonus, +3 for the +1 Shooting bonus, +3 for the jumping stuff, so 22 points. That's the amount of research points they need to accrue in order to start building Battle Suits. We can assume that at least one prototype is built when research is finished, and to simplify things, the prototypes are reasonably functional (no crippling design flaws).

Research points are acquired via a research team. Each researcher has a d6 in Knowledge (R&D). At a basic level, you're rolling a single d6 for a single researcher; the second researcher adds a Wild Die. A third researcher adds a +1 bonus, and so on up to +4 for 6 researchers. Two more researchers up the R&D die by one type, while another two up the die type by another step. A research team may not exceed 10 members. If two teams of 10 members work on the same project, their Wild Die is upped to a d10.

A project gains consistent research points every session equal to the average number of XP handed out to the group. This is merely an attempt on the designer's part to speed up this process. At the beginning of every session, the research team(s) roll their R&D die; the amount of raises and successes are allocated towards the project each team is assigned to. A failure indicates no progress; a Critical failure subtracts d6 points from the project. A single researcher is assumed to have rolled a Critical Failure if he rolls a 1 on his Skill Die.

Every time a team successfully completes a project, roll a die; on a 5 or 6, the team has advanced their die type by one step, up to a d12. For clarity, this means a team that has advanced to a d12 in R&D with a full complement of 10 members has an effective die type of d12+2, with a +4 bonus and Wild Die.

I know there's a lot of flaws in here but I'm eager to hear what all y'all got. I'd also like the players to have some kind of input on the success of the project, whether that means field tests of prototype equipment, bringing in items to reverse engineer, or rolling the bones in between sessions.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Some houserules

Here are some Savage Worlds houserules I commonly employ:

Guns in Melee: I always rule that someone with a gun counts as an Unarmed Defender.
Using Guns as Weapons: Guns deal Str+d4 damage when used as clubs. If the attacker rolls a 1 on his Skill die (regardless of Wild Die), while using a gun as a melee weapon it breaks.
Bennies: Players may spend a Benny to suddenly produce a piece of common, mundane gear.
And They Fight: If a player character inflicts 4 or more Wounds on an Extra, his nearby companions have to make a Guts roll against Fear as he is utterly obliterated by a wound that would kill a god, let alone some mook.
P-p-p-p-p-poker Chips: I like the Deadlands Reloaded poker chip system so much that I use it in all of my games.
Guts: I don't use Guts unless horror is a significant factor in the game.
The Burden of Proof: After about three sessions, I no longer remind people of their Edges and Skills and such; the burden is on the players after that. By that same token, if I mess up and someone calls me out, they get a Benny and I try harder.

I consider this an obsolete houserule, but y'all may find use for it:

Fate is a Harsh Mistress: A Critical Failure cannot be rerolled with a Benny. However, spending a Benny does change it into a regular Failure.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

My Inspirations

So I'm moving 400 miles on Sunday, which means I'm packing all my things up. As I've been putting my books and DVDs into boxes, I'm constantly reminded of the things that inspired me. But why does this matter?

They say "write what you know," and I couldn't disagree more. I know some scenic carpentry tricks, I can use MS Excel okay, I know about roleplaying games, I like dissecting comedy and story structure. I don't actually know very much. I think we should write based on what inspires us.

Below is a list of some of the highlights. I'll do about five (+/- 1) from a few different mediums. In no particular order:

  1. Ghostbusters
  2. Kill Bill Volume 1
  3. Night of the Living Dead
  4. The Third Man
  5. Pontypool
  1. Marble Hornets
  2. Doctor Horrible's Singalong Blog
  3. 30 Rock
  4. Slings and Arrows
  5. The Venture Brothers
  1. Fahrenheit 451
  2. The Grand Admiral Thrawn Trilogy
  3. Tomorrow When The War Began
  4. Watchmen
  5. World War Z
  6. The Zombie Survival Guide
Video Games:
  1. Planescape: Torment
  2. Deus Ex
  3. Majesty: The Fantasy Kingdom Sim
  4. The Fallout series
  5. X-Com and the derivative UFO: Alien Invasion
  6. Doom
  1. They Might Be Giants
  2. Neutral Milk Hotel
  3. Ratatat
  4. Beirut
  5. Godspeed You! Black Emperor
  1. Orson Welles
  2. Bruce Campbell
  3. John August
  4. Gabe and Tycho of Penny-Arcade
  5. My friends and siblings
  1. Macbeth
  2. Book of Days
  3. The Mound Builders
  4. Lysistrata
  5. Three and five act story structure
Roleplaying Games:
  1. Advanced Dungeons and Dragons
  2. Deadlands: Hell on Earth
  3. 50 Fathoms
  4. Necropolis 2350
  5. All Flesh Must Be Eaten
  6. Alternity
  1. Seeing The Caucasian Chalk Circle in 2006
  2. Red Theater
  3. Doing improv
  4. All those times I stayed up until six in the morning
  5. Summer camp
Food and Drink:
  1. Harp lager
  2. Sushi (Philadelphia rolls especially)
  3. Burritos
  4. Barbeque
  5. Egg in a Basket
  6. Potatoes
Why is any of this important? I think it's good to know things, as a writer, that elicit an emotional response in oneself. How are you supposed to make an audience care about something if you don't, whether that audience is the four buddies you game with every week or 200 people in a dark theater or four million people in cinemas nationwide?

Take a moment, sometime this week, and think about what drives you to create. I'm not saying use all these things in your games, I'm saying take a minute and think about the reasons you do what you do. My games tend to feature some kind of mystery element, overwhelming odds, and an awful lot of violence; it's easy to see why once you look at what attracts me.

The wonderful thing about examining your influences is, you can get back in touch with them. And you can find things similar to those, and so learn more about the aesthetic that inspires you.

Let me know your results.