Saturday, September 8, 2018

Fate and D&D: Interoperable?

Inspired by a small discussion on how to make combat more fun. I don't really run Fate anymore (the last few times I've tried ended in tragedy), but I still love to steal ideas from it occasionally.


A lot of time, fantasy d20 combat tends to turn into "I attack the guy and pass my turn.", at least in my experience. Fights take place in a 40' by 40' room with a few obstacles plopped down, the monsters on one and and the characters on another. Initiative is rolled and then characters start moving into place to start the dance of "17, does that hit? Alright, gonna roll damage.". Characters rarely move, except to get in range of another enemy. Once one side has been slaughtered, the game continues.

It's kind of boring.

In books, movies, and even a few videogames, fights rarely take place in a static environment. They move from place to place, characters duck and weave around different obstacles, and things get grabbed to use as impromptu weapons or improvised distractions. In a life or death situation, it's more than just moving until you're five feet from your enemy then rolling greatsword attacks.

With the chaff out of the way, let's get into the wheat of things. I like a lot of the ideas presented in Fate, but when I ran the game they never really came together for me. However, a lot of those ideas can be ported to other systems, sometimes seamlessly, due to the narrative nature of Fate. For example, let's take a look at a fight scene. How about a bar brawl? The rogue is cheating at cards, the barbarian is being obnoxious, and the bard may have told the wrong joke to the wrong person. Now weapons are being drawn and characters are going to come out swinging.

Before we roll initiative, let's take a look at the scene. Identify three things about it. For the purposes of this example, let's say there are empty tables where people were previously sitting, mugs of ale left unattended, and someone passed out drunk on the floor. Grab an index card or whatever you use to take notes and jot those down, let the players know about them. These are your primary scene aspects.

Let players use these scene aspects how they wish, and adjudicate them how you want. If the rogue wants to splash ale in someone's face before going in with their dagger, you could rule that (in 5e rulings at least) as an object interaction, allow the thug a saving throw against a DC (10 is generally a good guideline, or use some other way of adjudicating it), and confer advantage to the rogue if the thug fails. Tick that aspect off. If the rogue wants to keep using their drink-tossing trick some more, either give advantage to the thug's save or just tell the player they'll have to look for another way to trick the thug. That's where creating/discovering an aspect comes in.

To create or discover an aspect, just use the same toolset the game you're playing gives you to resolve ability checks. If the player wants to discover, create, or modify an aspect, just have them roll an appropriate ability. The bard's player, for instance, could ask if there was anything nearby he could grab to use on the thug cornering him. A perception check could have him discover a pie that was recently set to cool, just within arm's reach. An aspect has been created, and the player now has ideas to utilize it. One improvised attack roll and a scalding hot fate for the thug later, the bard is ready to join the fray.

Now that was a lot of words for what is basically just writing down short scene descriptors on an index card and letting players use them! Granted, they could already be doing this, or they could just ignore it all and keep moving and attacking. As always, you have to see what works for your table.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Dungeon Crawls in 13th Age

Another stream of consciousness post written at 5 in the morning, thinking about dungeon crawls and a more story-light campaign approach for 13th Age.

Dungeon crawls in 13th Age, could it work?
Dungeon crawling would work, but it would be very loose. No counting five foot squares or tapping every tile with a ten foot pole. Each dungeon 'room' serves to hold all the interesting interactables, so few or no completely empty rooms should be in the dungeon. Wandering monsters should be in effect, but they should also serve to exemplify the nature and story of the dungeon itself- A good example would be to use a dungeon escalation die that adds itself to the wandering monster & events table. With good or neutral npcs on the lower end of a wandering monster table and things like guard patrols, search parties, big monsters, and officers on the higher end, you can create a more dynamic experience rather than rolling on a static table.


How do icons, treasure, and xp factor in?
While the importance of treasure and xp are vastly downplayed (or in the case of xp, nonexistent), icons should be a key supporting role. If you're going for a sandboxy dungeon crawl, you should have four or five icons with differing and oftentimes conflicting goals. Getting closer to the goals of the dungeon will result in incremental advances while completing the goal is worth a full level up.
As an example, a rampaging demon bear might be lurking in the tangled roots of the trillionage redwood. While the Crusader may reward you for killing it, the Archdruid would wish for you to cure it of demonic possession, or the Diabolist may want it for her ranks.


How do campaign losses factor in?
Campaign losses generally change the world for the worse. The impact may be lessened in a sandboxy dungeon crawl, but they should still occur- A party that has to retreat after barely any time in the dungeon may find traps and extra defenses waiting for them. You may also start the dungeon escalation die at 1 or 2 instead of 0, and have monsters with nastier specials patrolling around.

Resource Management, or, Got a Light?
Most groups find managing torches, water, and food tedious. Others love that kind of resource management. Depending on the overall mood you're going for in the dungeon, you may or may not want the added tracking of mundane items. A good option would be not to worry about it and assume the party has proper lighting and sustenance- Then when you want to be mean, include the possibility of an animal making off with the food packs, or lanterns and torches becoming useless when someone fails a check and slips, falling into an underground lake. This removes the detailed tracking of mundane resources, but still keeps that element of risk and creates interesting situations when something happens to them.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Escalating Encounter Rate

I've been reading through 13th Age recently, and I'm loving the escalation die. Let's put it in other situations!

In a dungeon with wandering monsters, the usual roll for that is a 1 on a d6. The roll generally gets called for once every three turns, or if player characters are especially loud in their actions. But what if the PCs really raise hell? A dungeon-wide escalation die would signify how alert the inhabitants are to the invaders sneaking around and looting their homes. Like in 13th Age, it would be a d6 that starts at 0 and creeps all the way up to 6, the maximum. Then when the DM rolls for a wandering monster, the d6 roll is compared to the current escalation die: if the result is equal to or less than the escalation die, a wandering monster appears.

Increase the Escalation Die if...
  • A combat encounter in a monster lair occurs.
  • The player characters destroy part of the dungeon (collapsing a room, etc.).
  • An alarm is raised (whether by a trap or by the inhabitants).
Decrease the Escalation Die if...
  • The player characters retreat from the dungeon.
  • They successfully manage to hide and wait it out for a few hours.
  • The player characters move up or down a level.

The consequences of the Escalation Die in regards to dungeon encounters will mean that wandering monsters will become more frequent. At Escalation Die 3 and above wandering monsters will appear to be hunting down the player characters, and at Escalation Die 6 the dungeon level will be on high alert. Something like this would probably put the player characters at an extreme disadvantage, but if you're like me and you make wandering monsters a little too easy to negotiate with, a mechanical representation of the 'alertness' of the dungeon denizens might help.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

5e Roll All the Dice Character Generator

Do you want to completely and randomly determine your next 5e character? I got you. I took the Approaches from Fate Accelerated as I felt they were broad enough categories to apply to most any personality type.

Grab it here.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Cantrip-Like Effects for Dragonborn Breath Weapons

There's one thing that bothers me and probably nobody else about dragonborn in 5e, and that's their almost direct porting of their racial statblock from 4e. Looking at the elf, dwarf, and halfling, they get ribbon abilities with a lot of out of combat utility. The dragonborn is pretty much entirely geared for combat, and it's considered one of the weaker races for it. You get resistance to a damage type (which is very nice) and you get to breathe fire and act like a dragon once every short rest (a little less nice).

So let's give 'em some small effects they can do with their breath weapons at-will. Of course, the DM can always adjudicate for this themselves and allow such effects without the need of me telling them what they can or cannot do, these are just a few ideas.

All dragonborn can take an action to do the following effect associated with their draconic ancestry.
Acid. Black and Copper dragonborn have acid that mixes in with their saliva. While they can't burn someone with this acid, it can burn through soft materials like rope fibers and paper.
Cold. Silver and White dragonborn are able to use their innate coldness to chill objects and make certain kinds of objects quite brittle (if going by the object hardness rules, you could make those objects vulnerable to bludgeoning damage). You can also freeze liquids inside a 1 foot cube.
Fire. Red, Gold, and Brass dragonborn can use their internal flame as a firestarter, able to light torches and other small flammable objects. Not only that, you can use it to boil liquids inside a 1 foot cube.
Lightning. Blue and Bronze dragonborn can raise their voice to booming levels, up to three times louder. Also in campaigns with objects that run on electricity, they make a pretty handy emergency battery!
Poison. Green dragonborn are able to exhale some pretty putrid stuff, stuff that can irritate eyes and nostrils.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

My Take on Sorcerers

Note: This is mostly referencing BFRPG as it's the OSR ruleset I am most familiar with.

Magic Users study spellcasting for most of their lives, toiling away apprenticing under a wizard for the chance to warp reality with a few simple motions and words, walking away with a single spell and a desire to add to their knowledge.

Sorcerers... Don't. Their souls are warped at birth, eventually developing into innate magical prowess that causes them to be ostracized and shunned by their communities. Thankfully, most low-level adventuring parties are desperate enough to take a Sorcerer into their ranks.

Mechanically, Sorcerers function exactly like Magic Users. They only differ in a few ways...
  • Sorcerers do not have spell books, each day they must roll on the spell list for each spell slot. As an example, a fifth-level sorcerer would roll for two 1st-level spells, two 2nd-level spells, and one 3rd-level spell. They may still prepare Read Magic by forgoing a roll on one of their first level spell slots.
  • When a sorcerer casts a spell, they roll a d20. The number rolled is the level that the sorcerer casts the spell at, where applicable. If the d20 roll is equal to the level of spell being cast or lower, a wild magic surge happens. Keep a wild magic surge table handy, I personally like this one.
  • (Optional) If you really want to make the Cleric question their faith, have the wild surge die decrease a step every time you cast a spell, from d20 to d12 to d10 and so on, resetting once a wild magic surge happens.
  • Sorcerers cannot research spells, learn new spells, teach others spells, or create magic items. As their magic is innate and not learned, all forms of magical research (aside from learning about magic) is lost on them. They're less practitioners of magic and moreso fonts of arcane energy leaking into the world.
  • Sorcerers can use magic items meant for magic-users. This is probably the only safe way they can cast spells.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

5e Solo Thoughts

Sometimes I wanna run a game.

Sometimes I have a gaming group with schedules that conflict heavily.

I guess the easiest way would be to make do with what I have. So here's some tweaks that I may put into action sooner or later.

These are just random considerations.

Healing Surges. The Healing Surge option from the DMG looks like it'd be a good fit. In-combat self-healing would definitely help in increasing the lifespan of a solo character. Personally I'd go for the superheroic option and allow it to be used as a bonus action. Additionally I'd allow it to be used to automatically succeed on a saving throw a character failed.

Cleave. Definitely something worth grabbing from the DMG, as it will help classes like the Rogue keep up with multitudes of enemies.

Conscious Death Saving Throws. Normally a character reduced to 0 HP falls unconscious. As a solo character would not be able to receive any help or healing when fallen (unless they had NPC allies tagging along), they instead retain consciousness and are allowed to take actions, even when stabilized. Death saves, instant death, and all associated mechanics still function normally. Potentially, stabilization whether through natural means or magical will incur a level of exhaustion.

Echoes. Considering there's a whole group of players, that's up to four times the GMing for one game world. Taking a cue from the Souls series, why not allow a bit of interaction between them? Any area where one PC left off would leave them as an Echo, essentially a friendly NPC of that character that can be summoned. They're functionally identical to the player character in question, only they vanish if they reach 0 HP. Events caused by one player could potentially ripple outwards into other players' game states as well- If one player caused two monster tribes to band together, they could potentially band together in other players' games. A global 'World Tendency' a la Demon's Souls might also work for this kind of thing.