Friday, June 16, 2017

More Thoughts (and House Rules) on G.D.F. #5's "New Character Creation and Advancement Techniques"

This is a follow-up to this post.

To my surprise, several potential players in an upcoming LotFP campaign have expressed interest in character advancement via random table, à la the article from Green Devil Face #5. Searching online to see if anyone has actually tried this system out before, I found this cool post over at Wonders & Witchcraft, which further inspired me to take another look at the G.D.F. #5 system and tinker with it some more.

One of my major complaints about this system as written is that rolling one d12 instead of two d10s doesn't seem worth the risk. There's actually a simple way to address this: When a PC levels up, the player first rolls a d12. If they roll 11 or 12, they stop there; that's all they get that level. But if they roll a result from 1 to 10, they then roll a d10 to generate a second result, and they get the benefits of both results.

That house rule alone makes me much happier with this system, but naturally I still have the urge to change things. One possibility is to do something similar to what was presented in that aforementioned Wonders & Witchcraft post. This involves reducing the list of character classes to just two, the Fighter and Magic-User, which is actually something I've wanted to try for a while now anyway. Here's how I might do it:

Starting Stats: All characters begin with 1d6 HP, a +1 Base Attack Bonus, 15 in all Saving Throw categories, and 2 Skill Points. Fighters also begin with an additional 2 HP, the Combat Options listed for their class in Rules & Magic, and a free set of leather armor. Magic-Users also begin with one Spell Slot and a free spellbook containing 3 random spells, as well as the research/transcription/item creation capabilities outlined in Rules & Magic.

Fighter
  1. +d8 HP
  2. +d8 HP
  3. +d8 HP
  4. +1 Base Attack Bonus
  5. +1 Base Attack Bonus
  6. +1 Base Attack Bonus
  7. +1 Skill Point
  8. +1 Skill Point
  9. +3 in one Saving Throw category
  10. +1 in all Saving Throw categories
  11. +d8 HP, +1 Base Attack Bonus, +1 Skill Point, and +3 in one Saving Throw category
  12. +d8 HP, +1 Base Attack Bonus, +1 Skill Point, and +1 in all Saving Throw categories
Magic-User
  1. +d6 HP
  2. +d6 HP
  3. +1 Spell Slot
  4. +1 Spell Slot
  5. +1 Spell Slot
  6. +1 Spell Slot
  7. +1 Skill Point
  8. +1 Skill Point
  9. +3 in one Saving Throw category
  10. +1 in all Saving Throw categories
  11. +d6 HP, +1 Spell Slot, +1 Skill Point, and +3 in one Saving Throw category
  12. +d6 HP, +1 Spell Slot, +1 Skill Point, and +1 in all Saving Throw categories
EDIT: It would be pretty easy to add a Tunnels & Trolls-style Rogue class as well. You know, a Thief-like character that dabbles in both combat training and magic, but doesn't quite master either to the same extent as the pure Fighters and Magic-Users do.

Rogues begin with an additional 2 HP and a free set of Specialist's Tools. They do not start with any spell slots, a spellbook, or any spells. They can memorize spells and cast from scrolls and wands/staves like a Magic-User, and if they obtain a spellbook they can copy spells into it from scrolls and other spellbooks. However, they cannot research new spells or create magic items like a Magic-User.

Rogue
  1. +d8 HP
  2. +d6 HP
  3. +1 Base Attack Bonus or +1 Spell Slot (player's choice)
  4. +1 Base Attack Bonus
  5. +1 Spell Slot
  6. +1 Skill Point
  7. +1 Skill Point
  8. +1 Skill Point
  9. +3 in one Saving Throw category
  10. +1 in all Saving Throw categories
  11. +d6 HP, +1 Skill Point, +3 in one Saving Throw category, and either +1 Base Attack Bonus or +1 Spell Slot (50% random chance of either)
  12. +d8 HP, +1 Skill Point, +1 in all Saving Throw categories, and either +1 Base Attack Bonus or +1 Spell Slot (player's choice)
P.S. If a player has a non-zero Constitution modifier, it applies to their maximum HP once per level, not once per Hit Die. For example, if a Fighter with 18 Constitution rolls the "+d8 HP" result twice at character creation, their maximum HP would be 1d6 plus 2d8 plus 3. Each level afterward, the Fighter would gain an additional 3 HP on top of any other HP rolled, whether it be none, 1d8, or 2d8.

P.P.S. I would probably use the same experience table for both all three classes - I'm leaning toward the Specialist table, but the Fighter table might be good, too. Also, I would probably limit all Saving Throws to a minimum of 2.

Finally, I mentioned in my last post about this system that you could theoretically break some of the original limits of the game and get some truly strange and over-the-top results if you keep rolling the same thing again and again - or if your DM allows you to pick what you get when you level up, and you keep choosing the same thing. This isn't necessarily a problem, but if there are certain limits you want to preserve, or if your players get to the point that they keep rolling stuff that's no longer useful to them, the tables could prove troublesome. I have a couple of suggestions for dealing with this.

Are your Saving Throws all as low as they can go? Really? Wow. Next time you roll a Saving Throw improvement, add 1 point to the ability score of your choice instead. If you manage to max all of those out at 18, first go out and buy a lottery ticket, then just re-roll until you get something else you can use, instead. You can always use more HP, right?

Do you have a +10 Base Attack Bonus, and your DM doesn't want it to get any higher because it would "disrupt the way AC works in LotFP?" Or maybe you just don't see the point in raising it any more? Next time you roll a Base Attack Bonus increase, roll 1d12 on the following table instead:
  1. It takes 5 additional items to gain the first encumbrance point, as per the Dwarf class in Rules & Magic. Re-roll if you get this again.
  2. The character is only surprised on a 1 in 6, as per the Elf class in Rules & Magic. Re-roll if you get this again.
  3. "Gnashmaw's Favor" (Special ability from the article "Furious Gods" in Vacant Ritual Assembly #4, p. 18). Re-roll if you get this again.
  4. The character can use any weapon to hit creatures which can normally only be hit by magic weapons or other special weapons, as per the Knight of Science class in Green Devil Face #4, p. 2. Re-roll if you get this again.
  5. The damage die of all attacks increases by 1 "step." A minor weapon does 1d6 damage, a small weapon does 1d8, etc. Other than magic or otherwise unusual weapons, no weapon can have a damage die higher than 1d20. Re-roll if you get this again.
  6. "She noticed the Red Knight always feinted to his left - she was a very perceptive girl." (Alice class ability from A Red & Pleasant Land p. 32)
  7. "Oh, I do so apologize..." (Alice class ability from A Red & Pleasant Land p. 32)
  8. "It seemed nearly everything was dangerous if handled improperly." (Alice class ability from A Red & Pleasant Land p. 32)
  9. "It was very shiny and stuck out like a soup spoon..." (Alice class ability from A Red & Pleasant Land p. 32)
  10. "Alice then did something quite astonishing..." (Alice class ability from A Red & Pleasant Land p. 32)
  11. "She did seem to offend people (and animals) wherever she went." (Alice class ability from A Red & Pleasant Land p. 33)
  12. "She began to feel somewhat neglected." (Alice class ability from A Red & Pleasant Land p. 33)
Or substitute your own table of feats, perks, or special abilities.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

LotFP Spell Point Costs Using "A Spell Point Theory" (Green Devil Face #4)

In Green Devil Face #4, James Raggi published a short article suggesting a simple method of using spell points in D&D as a replacement for the traditional Jack Vance-style "fire and forget" rules. In short, spells that do not scale in effect with the caster's level (which I'm calling "Set Cost" spells) cost a number of spell points equal to the spell's level, while spells that do scale in effect with the caster's level ("Variable Cost" spells) cost a number of points equal to the level of the spell plus the caster level "strength" at which the spell operates. For example, if you want to cast Magic Missile as if you were a fifth-level magic-user (regardless of your actual level), the spell would cost you 6 spell points, because you are casting a first-level spell with a strength of 5.

How many spell points do you get? Well, a PDF of Green Devil Face #4 only costs $5 at the time of writing this post, and the article is only one page, so I'd feel bad giving away James Raggi's whole system for free here without his permission. (I mean, I already gave most of it away.) If you don't already own it, why don't you either buy it or ask a friend who owns a copy to let you read it? If you toss the poor bastard a few bucks, I'm sure your cash will go to a good cause, like buying obscure metal albums, or commissioning beautiful artwork that'll never actually end up in a book but will end up on Tumblr, or putting scratch and sniff stickers in Covered in Sick.

In case anyone wants to give this system a shot while playing Lamentations of the Flame Princess, I thought a list of spell point costs (including the "type" of cost - Set or Variable) for all of the spells in the Rules & Magic book might serve as a handy resource. So, here you go. I'm tempted to try this in combination with my Final Fantasy 1 classes.

Spells marked with "^" are ones with descriptions that I could see being interpreted as either Set or Variable Cost. I listed these spells in the categories which I personally thought were more appropriate, but I could see how some disagreements may arise. For example, if a spell behaves differently depending on the Saving Throw or HP of the caster, I could see how one might argue that the spell should be Variable Cost because the caster's Saving Throws and HP are level-dependent. However, I would personally count these spells as Set Cost (in most cases) because they are not directly based on the caster's level itself, but rather on other characteristics that happen to vary with one's level.

As usual, spells marked with "*" are reversible.

1 Point - Set Cost
Charm Person
Command
Detect Evil*
Detect Magic
Floating Disc
Hold Portal
Identify
Magic Aura*
Mending
Purify Food & Drink*
Read Magic
Shield

2 Points - Set Cost
Delay Poison
Enthrall
ESP
Heat Metal
Knock
Levitate
Light, Continual*
Magic Mouth
Wizard Lock

2 Points - Variable Cost
Bless
Bookspeak
Comprehend Languages*
Cure Light Wounds*
Enlarge*
Faerie Fire
Feather Fall
Invisibility to Undead*
Light*
Magic Missile
Message
Protection From Evil*
Remove Fear*
Sanctuary
Sleep
Spider Climb
Summon^
Turn Undead
Unseen Servant

3 Points - Set Cost
Dispel Magic (both versions)
Explosive Runes
Remove Curse*
Sacrifice*^
Secret Page
Speak With Dead
Strange Waters II^
Suggestion

3 Points - Variable Cost
Audible Glamour
Augury
Change Self
Detect Invisible
Force of Forbidment
Forget
Heroism
Invisibility
Locate Object*
Mirror Image
Phantasmal Force
Ray of Enfeeblement
Resist Cold
Resist Fire
Silence 15' Radius
Speak With Animals
Stinking Cloud
Wall of Fog
Web

4 Points - Set Cost
Charm Monster
Detect Lie
Dig
Dimension Door
Extension
Mnemonic Enhancer^
Neutralize Poison*
Plant Growth
Polymorph Others
Seven Gates^
Wall of Ice

4 Points - Variable Cost
Army of One
Clairvoyance
Cure Disease*^
Detect Illusion
False Alignment
Fly
Gaseous Form
Gust of Wind
Haste*
Hold Person
Howl of the Moon
Invisibility, 10' Radius
Magic Vestment
Phantasmal Psychedelia
Protection From Normal Missiles
Water Breathing*
Water Walk

5 Points - Set Cost
Commune^
Contact Outer Sphere
Dispel Evil
Feeblemind
Passwall
Quest
Transmute Rock to Mud*
Wall of Stone

5 Points - Variable Cost
Confusion
Creation, Minor
Cure Serious Wounds*
Divination
Globe of Invulnerability, Minor
Hallucinatory Terrain
Invisibility, Improved
Polymorph Self
Protection From Evil, 10' Radius*
Protection From Normal Weapons
Shadow Monsters
Speak With Plants
Spell Immunity
Wall of Fire
Wizard Eye

6 Points - Set Cost
Contingency
Disintegrate
Forbiddance
Geas
Heal*
Legend Lore
Lucubration^
Mind Switch
Move Earth
Stone to Flesh*
Tongues*

6 Points - Variable Cost
Airy Water
Animate Dead
Chaos
Cloudkill
Creation, Major
Cure Critical Wounds*
Faithful Hound
Hold Monster
Insect Plague
Interposing Hand
Magic Jar
Secret Chest
Stone Shape
Telekinesis
Teleport
True Seeing*
Wall of Force
Wall of Iron

7 Points - Set Cost
Bestow Spell Ability^
Control Weather
Earthquake
Holy Word*
Instant Summons
Prismatic Spray
Simulacrum
Vision

7 Points - Variable Cost
Animate Dead Monsters
Anti-Magic Shell
Barrier
Death Spell
Find the Path*
Glass Eye
Globe of Invulnerability, Major
Phantasmal Supergoria
Projected Image
Shades
Speak With Monsters
Suggestion, Mass
Veil
Weird Vortex^
Word of Recall

8 Points - Set Cost
Antipathy/Sympathy
Clone
Demand
Permanency^
Symbol
Trap the Soul

8 Points - Variable Cost
Animate Artwork
Duo-Dimension
Grasping Hand
Invisibility, Mass
Magic Sword
Part Water
Phase Door
Power Word Stun
Prismatic Sphere
Prismatic Wall
Remote Surveillance
Reverse Gravity
Spell Turning
Statue
Vanish
Witchlamp Aura

9 Points - Set Cost
Imprisonment*
Temporal Stasis
Time Stop

9 Points - Variable Cost
Charm Person, Mass
Maze
Mind Blank
Polymorph Any Object

10 Points - Variable Cost
Power Word Kill
Shape Change

Some Thoughts:
I would be tempted to change the cost of some spells - Continual Light, Disintegrate, Earthquake, and Heal strike me as perhaps being too easy/cheap to cast - but honestly, I should probably try this system out before I start tinkering with it that heavily. I'm reluctant to ruin the simplicity of the method of determining spell costs. If I do end up changing anything, I think it would be a lot easier to just remove or rewrite the spells I don't like, instead of trying to adjust their costs to my satisfaction.

Some spells would probably become either a lot more or a lot less useful under this system. This could be good or bad, depending on your preferences. I think Lucubration and Mnemonic Enhancer would have to be thrown out entirely, since spells are no longer "memorized." The DM could just replace it with a new spell, of course.

Now that I'm paying attention, it's strange to see which of the default LotFP spells are designed to scale with the caster's level and which are not. I would have expected Dig or Hold Portal to have some level-based effects, for example. I suppose that PCs could spend the time and money researching Variable Cost versions of Set Cost spells, should the DM allow it.

Unless I missed it, the article doesn't say how long one must rest, study, and/or pray in order to regain lost spell points. Since individual spells are no longer memorized, I would imagine that the rules for regaining spells in the Rules & Magic book no longer strictly apply. This can easily be taken care of with a house rule. For example, the DM could rule that every hour of study (for magic-users) or prayer (for clerics) restores 10 spell points, or that every hour of sleep restores 10 spell points (up to the character's maximum).

The only major problem I have with this system at the moment is that the random selection of spells at character creation could result in magic-users starting out without any spells they can actually cast besides Read Magic, which strikes me as unfair (and not in a good way). Maybe the DM could allow magic-users the option of re-rolling whenever they start out with a Variable Cost spell. Of course, the magic-user could choose to just keep one or more Variable Cost spells at character creation so they don't have to learn them later, or so they can just scribe them onto scrolls once they get a bit of money.

Has anyone out there given this a shot? Is anyone considering it? Are there any interesting implications to this system that I might have missed?

Friday, May 26, 2017

No Humans Allowed: LotFP House Rules for a Demi-Human-Only Game

I've seen people cut the demi-human classes (Dwarf, Elf, and Halfling) out of Lamentations of the Flame Princess, I've seen people separate the concepts of race and class in the style of AD&D (I've written about that, myself), and I've seen people reskin the demi-human classes as human ones. What I haven't seen, outside of the always-inspiring blog Goblin Punch, is the elimination of the human classes.

Let's say you want to run a campaign in a world where the human race went extinct, or never existed in the first place, or has yet to properly develop, or whatever. Something with the Tolkien Dial and the Fairy Tale Meter cranked up to 11 (but probably still super weird and horrifying, because this is LotFP we're talking about). If you stick with the concept of race-as-class, I would take that to mean dropping the Fighter, Specialist, Cleric, and Magic-User. Here's how I might change the three basic demi-human classes so that the big smelly oafs aren't missed.

Everything is the same as in Rules & Magic unless stated otherwise.

Dwarf
  • Starts with a Base Attack Bonus of +2, which increases by 1 per level to a maximum of +10, like the Fighter.
  • No longer applies CON Bonus to maximum HP gained beyond Level 9.
  • Begins with 2 points in Climb and 2 points in Tinker at Level 1. These increase to 3 points at Level 4, 4 points at Level 7, 5 points at Level 10, and 6 points at Level 13.
Elf
  • Now uses the Magic-User chart for Spells per Day.
  • Begins with 3 random First-Level Spells and Read Magic, like the Magic-User.
  • Begins with 3 points in Languages at Level 1. This increases to 4 points at Level 4, 5 points at Level 7, and 6 points at Level 10.
  • Begins with 2 points in Sleight of Hand at Level 1. This increases to 3 points at Level 4, 4 points at Level 7, 5 points at Level 10, and 6 points at Level 13.
Halfling
  • Now has the same Combat Options (Press, Defensive Fighting, Parry) as the Fighter, Dwarf, and Elf.
  • Stealth skill can now be used indoors as well as outdoors. Begins with 5 points in Stealth at Level 1. This increases to 6 at Level 10.
  • Begins with 2 points in Climb, 2 points in Sleight of Hand, and 2 points in Sneak Attack at Level 1. These increase to 3 points at Level 4, 4 points at Level 7, 5 points at Level 10, and 6 points at Level 13.
Skill Summary: The Dwarf gets Architecture, Climb, and Tinker. The Elf gets Languages, Search, and Sleight of Hand. The Halfling gets Bushcraft, Climb, Sleight of Hand, Sneak Attack, and Stealth.

But What About Cleric Spells and Healing?
You can handle the removal of Clerics in a few different ways:
  1. HP is regained through rest only. Demi-humans have long lifespans, so maybe lying around healing isn't as big of a deal to them. You could perhaps loosen the restrictions on what the PCs can do while resting, so that the players have more to do (shopping, research, playing politics, etc.) while healing up.
  2. Add Cleric spells to the Elf's spell list.
  3. Allow potions of certain Cleric spells (mainly healing ones) to be bought in town as part of the standard equipment list (and/or scatter them somewhat liberally throughout adventuring locations). You could reskin the potions as special herbs or magic berries or whatever if you so desire. Maybe these are sold by a specific race/class of NPCs who hold the secrets of making or harvesting them?
  4. Create a new PC race/class which can cast Cleric spells. Fairies? Gnomes? Bee People?

Monday, May 22, 2017

Metapost 2: Post Harder

A.K.A. Metapost 2.0: You Can (Not) Post
A.K.A. Metapost II: The Slowening
A.K.A. Metapost 2: Electric Postaloo

A series of bullshit events that occurred in late 2016 and early 2017, along with my own personal faults and struggles, have left me demotivated in the ol' blogging department, as you can see by my decreased output as of late. However, things have improved for Jess and I in the last two or three months, and I'm back from a fantastic belated honeymoon, so it's time to get back on the horse!

I still have plenty of things to check off my list from the original Metapost, but there are some other tasks that take precedence at the moment. Here's what's on my mind.

"Current" projects I need to get on with:
  1. I need to write out my interview questions for [REDACTED] and send 'em over, because he's graciously put up with my slow ass for a while now, and his work is really good (and if you ask me, tragically overlooked).
  2. I haven't forgotten about the A to Z VG RPG Inspiration series - I'm like a third of the way done with the C entry. I knew I was going to take my sweet time on this one, but geez, I'm sorry my time is THIS sickly sweet, folks.
  3. I also haven't forgotten that I was planning to do a read-through of Carcosa in the style of my Holmes Basic series of posts. I want to start that at some point.
  4. I've made no tangible progress this year on writing my first published adventure, as per my New Year's resolution. I'm not sure what I'd rather take a swing at first. I'll list some possibilities below.
  5. On Google+ I recently discussed the idea of using Prestige Classes as something to spice up the Fighter class in LotFP. I got some helpful feedback and cool ideas from +James Young and +Perttu Vedenoja, so I'd like to write a post on the topic.
  6. In The Magnificent Joop van Ooms, Raggi mentions the possibility of using Joop and his associates as PCs. I can think of some other NPCs in various adventures that might make for interesting PCs - so that's something to write about.
  7. More class tinkering: what if you wanted to run LotFP with demihumans only? I have some house rules for that. They could use some testing. EDIT: DONE
  8. In Green Devil Face #4, James Raggi wrote a system for using spell points, and it's caught my attention. I want to take a look at how this system might interact with the LotFP spell list. I wrote down how many points each spell in the Rules & Magic book would cost, and that could be a handy reference for anyone who wants to try these rules out. EDIT: DONE
Adventure Ideas:
  1. A sugar-and-candy-themed dungeon that some friends and I were sketching out a while back. I joking called this one "Death Frosting Doom," but I doubt I'd use that as the title of the finished product. Considering the ill effects of the over-consumption of sugar (both real and alleged), as well as the historical role of slavery in the European/West Indies sugar trade, there's plenty of room for horror in this topic, unfortunately. I probably have the most actual written notes on this one, but I haven't touched it in a while, plus I'm on the fence about how much historical tragedy I really want to incorporate in a fun fantasy adventure for use with elf games (albeit horror-tinged elf games). I think Lamentations of the Flame Princess adventures tend to pull of this kind of historically-grounded horror in a tasteful manner - they tend to be delightfully tasteless in other ways, but I think the historical stuff is generally done in a sufficiently respectful manner. I'm not sure everyone would agree, though, and I don't know if I'm up to the task of matching those standards yet. Anyway, even if I leave out the slavery and imperialism, there's still plenty to work with in terms of body horror when it comes to sugar.
  2. A haunted forest/haunted cabin adventure in which some cruel supernatural force turns nature against those who intrude on the wilderness, a force of ambiguous origin which could be interpreted as anything from cosmic to satanic. Inspired by stuff like "The Great God Pan" and "The White People" by Arthur Machen, "The Events at Poroth Farm" by T. E. D. Klein, "The Willows" and "The Wendigo" by Algernon Blackwood, "Sticks" by Karl Edward Wagner, the illustrations of Lee Brown Coye, the illustrations of John Kenn Mortensen (A.K.A. Don Kenn), the Evil Dead series, Antichrist, Resolution, Valhalla Rising, The Witch, Marble Hornets, the Slender Man Mythos, and a whole heaping helping of awesome and terrifying posts over at Goblin Punch. Chaos Reigns.
  3. A mash-up of The Keep on the Borderland and The House on the Borderland. I'm in love with this idea, but I don't quite know how to go about using it yet. Do I want to actually re-write B2 itself into a new thing, or just make a sort of homage to it, or what?
Games I want to run:
  1. The Hateful Place one-shot or mini-campaign based on The Shining.
  2. Stay Frosty campaign based on Aliens and/or Doom.
  3. A new LotFP campaign with my home group. We just played our 60th session of our Lamentations of the Fallen Lords campaign (well, depending on how you count them), and I think this campaign may be drawing to a close soon, at least for a while. The next campaign is probably going to either take place on Earth in the 1600s, on Carcosa, or in the world of The Driftwood Verses (once it's released).
  4. An online LotFP campaign with some friends who no longer live near me. It'll probably take place on Earth and focus on supernatural investigations and haunted houses. The PCs will probably be members of a club which exists at roughly the halfway point between occult detectives and traditional D&D adventurers. Think of it like a thieves' guild whose members are all amateur occultists and ghost hunters on the weekends - a heavily-armed Scooby Gang with sticky fingers and loose morals. I'm tentatively calling this one Mansions & Mindfucks.
  5. A campaign using BLUEHOLME and/or a mix of OD&D and Holmes Basic, starting with The Keep on the Borderlands and expanding into a wilderness hex map (from Avalon Hill's Outdoor Survival) chock-full of other classic D&D adventure modules.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Pocketmod Pre-Gens of the Eternal Sun

This is partly a follow-up to these posts.

I'm back from my belated honeymoon, so I should probably stop neglecting my blog now. I think I'll do another one of those "Metapost," er, posts soon to get the lay of the land, then hopefully pick a few projects at a time and actually stick with them.

Anyway, the other day I read this interesting post at Methods & Madness, and I rediscovered this awesome Pocketmod character sheet for LotFP over at MRAAKTAGON. And on top of that, I remembered a suggestion that I read a while ago about just letting players choose whatever ability scores they want instead of rolling randomly and winding up with scores that don't match what they want to do, character-creation-wise - which is probably not something I'd allow all the time, since rolling random stuff and working with the hand that fate deals you is often a fun feature of old-school play, but it's still an intriguing enough idea that I'd certainly consider it for some campaigns.* I absolutely do not remember where I read this idea, unfortunately, so if anyone has a source for that I'd really appreciate it.

So, I decided to mash these ideas together. I printed up some of the MRAAKTAGON Pocketmod character sheets, took some of my pre-gen characters (based loosely on the LotFP mascots) from here and here, changed some ability scores so that they all had a minimum of +10 in total bonuses and better matched how I imagined the characters would be as seasoned and successful adventurers/Early Modern supervillains, and boosted them all to level 3, with max HP and starting money. Why? Because I was curious what that would look like, and I was inspired by the posts above, and I think these might be fun to use in a one-shot or something, and also Because Fuck You, That's Why.

Some pictures:



And the actual stats and equipment, in case you're morbidly curious:

Flame Princess, Level 3 Lawful Fighter
Female, Needs 8,000 XP for Level 4
CHA 16 (+2) CON 18 (+3) DEX 14 (+1)
INT 13 (+1) STR 17 (+2) WIS 13 (+1)
Saving Throws: Paralyze 14, Poison 12, Breath 15, Device 13, Magic 16
(+1 Bonus for Magic Saves and +1 Bonus for Non-Magic Saves)
HP 33, BAB +4, Melee AB +6, Ranged AB +5
Melee AC 18, Ranged AC 19, Without Shield AC 17, Surprised AC 14
Open Doors 3
Has Fighter Combat Options.
Heavily Encumbered (3 points)
Equipment: Rapier, Dagger (Minor Weapon), Flintlock Pistol, Shot Bag (100 shots), Powder Horn x2 (both full, 100 shots of powder), Tinderbox, Lantern, Flask of Lantern Oil x2, 50' Rope, Waterskin, Shield, Chain Armor, Backpack, Sack x5, Steel Mirror, Candle, Ink, Paper, Chalk, Whistle, Soap, Iron Spike, 258 silver pieces

Alice, Level 3 Lawful Cleric
Female, Needs 7,000 XP for Level 4
CHA 11 (+0) CON 18 (+3) DEX 17 (+2)
INT 11 (+0) STR 16 (+2) WIS 18 (+3)
Saving Throws: Paralyze 14, Poison 11, Breath 16, Device 12, Magic 15
(+3 Bonus for Non-Magic Saves)
HP 27, BAB +1, Melee AB +3, Ranged AB +3
Melee AC 16, Ranged AC 16, Without Shield AC 16, Surprised AC 12
Open Doors 3
Knows all standard first-level Cleric spells.
Unencumbered (1 point)
Equipment: Rapier, Mace (Medium Weapon), Flintlock Arquebus, Shot Bag (100 shots), Powder Horn x2 (both full, 100 shots of powder), Tinderbox, Torch x10, Waterskin, Leather Armor, Backpack, Sack x5, Steel Mirror, Candle, Ink, Paper, Chalk, Whistle, Soap, Wooden Spike x3, Wooden Holy Symbol, 328 silver pieces and 9 copper pieces

Étaín, Level 3 Chaotic Magic-User
Female, Needs 9,000 XP for Level 4
CHA 14 (+1) CON 18 (+3) DEX 18 (+3)
INT 18 (+3) STR 12 (+0) WIS 12 (+0)
Saving Throws: Paralyze 13, Poison 13, Breath 16, Device 13, Magic 14
(+3 Bonus for Magic Saves)
HP 23, BAB +1, Melee AB +1, Ranged AB +4
Melee AC 17, Ranged AC 17, Without Shield AC 17, Surprised AC 12
Languages 4
Spells Known: Read Magic, Charm Person, Magic Missile, Sleep, Summon, Locate Object
Unencumbered (1 point)
Equipment: Spellbook, Dagger (Minor Weapon), Flintlock Pistol, Shot Bag (100 shots), Powder Horn x2 (both full, 100 shots of powder), Tinderbox, Torch x10, Waterskin, Leather Armor, Backpack, Sack x5, Steel Mirror, Candle, Ink, Paper, Chalk, Whistle, Soap, Wooden Spike x3, Bottle x2, 405 silver pieces and 5 copper pieces

Kendra, Level 3 Neutral Specialist
Female, Needs 6,000 XP for Level 4
CHA 16 (+2) CON 16 (+2) DEX 18 (+3)
INT 17 (+2) STR 15 (+1) WIS 11 (+0)
Saving Throws: Paralyze 14, Poison 16, Breath 15, Device 14, Magic 14
(+2 Bonus for Magic Saves)
HP 24, BAB +1, Melee AB +2, Ranged AB +4
Melee AC 17, Ranged AC 17, Without Shield AC 17, Surprised AC 12
Languages 3, Open Doors 2, Search 3, Sneak Attack 3, Stealth 3, Tinker 3
Unencumbered (1 point)
Equipment: Specialist's Tools, Rapier, Dagger (Minor Weapon), Tinderbox, Lantern, Flask of Lantern Oil x2, Waterskin, 50' Rope, Crowbar, Shovel, Leather Armor, Backpack, Sack x5, Steel Mirror, Candle, Ink, Paper, Chalk, Whistle, Soap, Wooden Spike x3, Iron Spike x3, Bottle x2, Nails, Air Bladder, 411 silver pieces and 5 copper pieces.

Selena, Level 3 Chaotic Elf
Female, Needs 12,000 XP for Level 4
CHA 13 (+1) CON 18 (+3) DEX 14 (+1)
INT 18 (+3) STR 16 (+2) WIS 12 (+0)
Saving Throws: Paralyze 13, Poison 12, Breath 15, Device 13, Magic 15
(+3 Bonus for Magic Saves)
HP 27, BAB +1, Melee AB +3, Ranged AB +2
Melee AC 18, Ranged AC 19, Without Shield AC 17, Surprised AC 14
Languages 4, Open Doors 3, Search 2
Has Fighter Combat Options. Only surprised on a roll of 1.
Spells Known: Read Magic, Identify, Speak with Animals
Heavily Encumbered (3 points)
Equipment: Spellbook, Sword (Medium Weapon), Dagger (Minor Weapon), Sling Bullet x20, Tinderbox, Torch x10, Waterskin, 50' Rope, Grappling Hook, Shield, Chain Armor, Backpack, Sack x5, Steel Mirror, Candle, Ink, Paper, Chalk, Whistle, Soap, Iron Spike x4, Bottle x2, Nails, Sling, 328 silver pieces and 5 copper pieces.

Rhona, Level 3 Neutral Dwarf
Female, Needs 8,800 XP for Level 4
CHA 12 (+0) CON 18 (+4) DEX 18 (+3)
INT 12 (+0) STR 18 (+3) WIS 13 (+1)
Saving Throws: Paralyze 10, Poison 8, Breath 13, Device 9, Magic 12
(+1 Bonus for Non-Magic Saves)
HP 42, BAB +1, Melee AB +4, Ranged AB +4
Melee AC 17, Ranged AC 17, Without Shield AC 17, Surprised AC 12
Architecture 3, Open Doors 4
Has Fighter Combat Options. It takes 5 additional items to gain the first point of encumbrance.
Lightly Encumbered (2 points)
Equipment: Sword (Medium Weapon), Hatchet (Minor Weapon), Quiver with 20 Bolts, Sling Bullet x20, Tinderbox, Lantern, Flask of Lantern Oil x2, Waterskin, 10' Chain, Mallet, Heavy Crossbow, 10' Pole, Leather Armor, Backpack, Sack x5, Steel Mirror, Candle, Ink, Paper, Chalk, Whistle, Soap, Iron Spike, Wooden Spike x6, Nails, Bottle x2, Wolvesbane x5, Sling, 405 silver pieces.

And here's a Pre-Gen package (or wagon-load) of extra stuff they should be able to afford if they pool their sweet, sweet level 3 money together:
  • One Coach (Would that have 2 axles? See Encumbrance rules for Mounts, Rules & Magic p.39)
  • 2 Mules to pull the Coach
  • Riding Gear x2
  • Iron Ration x126 (3 weeks of food for 6 people)
  • Animal Feed x44 (22 days of food for 2 Mules)
  • Garlic x10 (to occasionally flavor the rations and keep vampires away)
  • Fishing Gear
  • Bedroll x6
  • Regular Tent x3
  • Silver Holy Symbol (for Alice)
  • Sword (Medium Weapon) x3 (for the Flame Princess and Selena)
  • Spear x2
  • Halberd (Polearm)
  • Garrote
  • Whip
  • Blowgun (currently out of darts)
  • Great Club (Great Weapon) (for Rhona)
  • Mancatcher
  • Cestus
  • Flintlock Pistol x3 (2 for Alice, 1 for Selena)
  • Shot Bag x3 (300 shots)
  • Powder Horn x6, containing 300 shots of Gunpowder
  • 12 Apostles x4 (for the Flame Princess, Alice, Étaín, and Selena)
  • Quiver containing 20 Bolts
  • Sling Bullet x40
  • Lantern
  • Flask of Lantern Oil x50
  • Torch x100
  • Wooden Spike x100
  • 10' Pole x2
  • 50' Rope x3
  • Grappling Hook
  • Manacles
  • Fancy Clothes x2 (one set for Étaín and one for Kendra)
Total cost=1,365 silver pieces. If you pool the remaining money from all six characters, you get 2,137 silver pieces and 4 copper pieces, which more than covers it. That should leave 128 silver pieces for each character, plus 4 silver pieces and 4 copper pieces left over. (This is all assuming my math is right, as usual.)

I highly recommend checking out this Pocketmod character sheet at MRAAKTAGON. It's handy, well-organized, and fun to flip through, and I bet your players would be impressed if you whipped out some of these bad boys at a convention game.

*As a digression, here's a post in which I rant about nerds being judgmental to each other about what games they like and/or how they prefer to play the same games. I stuck it in a separate post because it got too long. You've been warned.

A Digression on the "Stop Having Fun" Guys and Similar Phenomena

This isn't directed at anyone in particular. I suspect I'm preaching to the choir, here, but I wanted to make my position clear on this subject. (The post title is from TV Tropes.)

Just because I love old-school and OSR-type games doesn't mean I don't also like a lot of new-school stuff, too. There are all kinds of awesome games and gaming styles out there. To quote myself from a few posts in the LotFP fan group on Facebook:

"OLD TSR FAN: How about we admit that older versions of D&D had a lot of good ideas that worked just fine, but that don't get enough credit for it and don't get used anymore even though they work just fine?
NEW SCHOOL D&D FAN: How about we admit that the older versions weren't perfect and the newer editions have introduced some stuff that is easier to use or that makes more sense?

Also, I've seen a lot of OSR folks admit that so-called "storygames" are just fine, and if you want to play those, good for you. I personally don't see why someone who plays Chess can't also play Mancala. Lately, I've been in the mood to either run or play LotFP, a mix of Holmes Basic and OD&D, Stay Frosty, The Hateful Place, Call of Cthulhu, Paranoia, and Kult. And I'm a video game fanatic. So I don't like hearing this one-true-way crap that some people spout.

[...] I've been glancing through old TSR modules a bit lately and finding a lot to like. (The layout could be more convenient, but there are lots of cool ideas, and I think I'd enjoy running a lot of the ones I've seen.) But when someone is then like 'And that's why nothing released after 1995 (or whatever) is ever worth playing, period,' I'm all like 'Actually, I used to have a blast with 3.5, and in hindsight we actually did play in a pretty old-school fashion in many ways without even realizing it, so how about you shut your mouth before you say something else stupid?' The elitism is what really gets to me, I suppose."

And that's my rant about that. The OSR is my favorite thing going on in RPGs, and I've come to love old-school gaming, but it's okay to like other stuff, too, and even to pull ideas from other sources and try them out in games that are otherwise old-school. The constant experimentation is, after all, one of the best things about the OSR, if you ask me. It's one of the best things about RPGs in general, really.

I think the key to changing the rules of, and pulling outside content into, one's RPG campaign successfully is to do so with intent, and then to test the results of the alterations against what you intended to accomplish. If you don't get the desired effect (or get undesirable side-effects), you could tweak things, or try something else entirely, or even decide that what you accidentally created is interesting enough on its own merits to just go with it, even though it didn't match your intent.

But the reason for a change should be kept in mind. Even a silly reason is a reason. I just think that a little thoughtfulness goes a long way if there's any particular kind of mood or spirit or tone or je ne sais quoi or whatever that you and your players are reaching for.

Anyway, I'd generally be up for some D&D 3E or 4E if someone else wanted to be DM. I just don't think I'd personally want to run the former anytime soon, or the latter at all. D&D 5E also sounds pretty cool, but I haven't read the rules yet. And there are so many RPGs out there besides D&D and the games it has inspired, and I want to play more of them.

Or at least read some of the books.

Monday, April 24, 2017

My Appendix SF (Stay Frosty)

In the back of the rulebook for the cool new space marine-themed RPG Stay Frosty, author Casey Garske lists some excellent inspirational material for the game, like a particularly, uh, trooperiffic take on Gary Gygax's classic Appendix N. I thought I might suggests a few more series that I think might serve as decent inspiration.

EDITED ON 6/14/2017 TO ADD TELEGLITCH.

Contra
Aliens have invaded the Earth. Hey gun-toting body-builders, what should we do?
BILL: It's time for revenge.
LANCE: Let's attack aggressively!
ME: Up, up, down, down...

Earth Defense Force
Let's take Starship Troopers and set it on Earth. Oh, and let's make the bugs bigger. Maybe give the bugs some giant robots as allies.

Fade to Black
Shape-shifting, biotech-wielding lizard aliens controlled by psychic brains took over the solar system. You and a handful of others operate the Resistance out of a secret space station. The soundtrack is really creepy. "This is our struggle."

F.E.A.R.
High-tech urban warfare against an army of psychic clones. Also, spooky ghosts.

The Forever War, by Joe Haldeman
I haven't read this one in a long time, but I loved this novel as a kid. I actually met Joe Haldeman at the only SF/Fantasy convention I've ever been to, and he was super cool. As far as gameable material for Stay Frosty goes, this book has cool power armor (complete with finger lasers), weird aliens (who are just as confused about why they're at war as the humans are), horrific violence, and most notably, an in-depth look at the perils of relativistic space travel and time dilation, and the difficulty of maintaining any kind of social or love life when you're constantly jumping forward in time at a different rate than almost everyone else.

Gantz, by Hiroya Oku
You're dead, except you're not. A big black ball has drafted you in a war/reality TV show against bizarre aliens. Kill aliens to earn enough points to leave (or bring someone back to life, or get bigger guns). That's the theory, anyway.

The Guardian Legend
I'll just quote the back of the box: "Long ago, in a distant galaxy, an alien race sent a huge world - called Naju - hurtling toward Earth, loaded with a cargo of mysterious lifeforms. During the long journey, these creatures have multiplied and become increasingly evil - and now Naju teems with evil. However, deep within this complex globe are self-destruct mechanisms that can be activated to destroy it before it reaches Earth. Now, you must battle your way deep within Naju's labyrinths to destroy it. You are the guardian of Earth and your saga will become The Guardian Legend."

Now is that a great premise or what? This premise raises some interesting questions, too, like "Why was Naju sent to Earth?" and "Why did the lifeforms on Naju turn evil, and what exactly does that mean?" and "How about we make up rules for playing a squad of 'highly sophisticated aerobot transformers?'" and "How many Enemy Erasers does it take to get to the center of an Optomon?"

Half-Life
The first game has all those soldiers trying to cover up the Black Mesa incident as loudly as possible, and the second game has that whole Combine vs. Resistance thing going on, so there's probably plenty of material to work with here. Wake up and smell the ashes. Half-Life 3 confirmed.

Marathon
The spiritual (and perhaps literal) sequel series to Pathways Into Darkness, and the spiritual (but not literal) predecessor to Halo, the Marathon trilogy is a series of first-person shooters which were ahead of their time gameplay-wise, and which had a surprisingly intricate and mysterious story told primarily through text displayed on computer terminals spread throughout the levels. The games are freeware and have been ported to various modern systems, but if you don't want to play them yourself you can read the terminal text and some fascinating fan-made notes on the story HERE.

As for the premise of the first game:
<Message to All Marathon Terminals>

Marathon Emergency Systems BroadcastToday at 0820 hours, the Marathon came under surprise attack
from unknown hostile forces.  The Marathon has sustained
serious damage.
At 0830 hours, alien forces boarded the Marathon.  The currentsituation is dire.  All personnel are required to arm
themselves and fight for their lives.
<Posted 2794.7.3.14.08.39>
***INCOMING MESSAGE FROM LEELA***Welcome to the Marathon.  I am Leela, one of the two surviving
Artificial Intelligences aboard the Marathon.  I have been
severely damaged, and am working to understand the current
situation.
Find the teleport terminal located in the Hangar's controlroom.  By that time, I should have a better idea of what is
going on.
***END MESSAGE***

***INCOMING MESSAGE FROM DURANDAL***

<durandal.33.6792.23.91>

Sorry to give you the bad news, but you've been kidnapped.
You aren't where Leela wanted you to go, and you surely won't
get there any time soon.

I was watching what Leela was having you do: 'save the ship,
save humanity!' And just what or who are you saving them
from? And to what end?

How clich�.  You'll find this little visit much more exciting.

I have dev@``~~C#mon#`~ Tyc~~B``ou to play: If you win, you
go free, and we continue our relationship on friendlier terms.
If you lose, you die.

Good luck in our little game.  Unlike Leela, I give no hints.
Do it on your own, or die trying...

Insanely yours,
Durandal

***END MESSAGE***

P.S. If things around here aren't working, it's because I'm laughing so hard.

Pathways Into Darkness
On behalf of President Bill Clinton, your squad has been ordered to descend to the bottom of a mysterious pyramid in the Yucatán Peninsula and plant a nuclear bomb so that we can blast the dreaming Great Old One down there into a deeper sleep. The labyrinth is filled with the hostile living nightmares of the alien god, so stay frosty and use short, controlled bursts. Also, keep your eyes peeled for a magic crystal that basically lets you cast "Speak with Dead." Sure, the Nazi corpses left over from a failed investigation during WWII don't make for great conversation, but you might learn some valuable intel by interrogating them. (This game has a story page, too, although it unfortunately hasn't been ported to modern computers as far as I know.)

Quake (the first one)
Instead of fighting monsters in space, maybe we could fight monsters in another dimension? Like Quantum Leap Marines. What kind of monsters? Cthulhu-style eldritch abominations, demons, ogres sporting chainsaws and grenade launchers...the whole kit and caboodle. Don't worry about how coherent the universe is, we've got Trent Reznor on the soundtrack and Sandy Petersen on the level design team. Just make sure everything is gothic/industrial/eldritch as hell, and you're fine. Let's hope that rocket-jumping is covered in basic training.

To quote myself from a conversation on G+ with Beloch Shrike: "I've actually been thinking about repurposing a fiction series I was working on (sort of half parody of Quake and some other old FPS games and half bizarre slice-of-life abandoned-on-an-alien-world SF/Fantasy comedy-horror thing) as a setting for Stay Frosty. But I need to actually PLAY Stay Frosty first to get familiar with it, and that's probably on the backburner because [of] some stuff I want to do with The Hateful Place, plus I have my regular game to run and another I've been trying to start with some friends online...There aren't enough hours in the day, you know?"

Anyway, Beloch Shrike writes awesome OSR gun rules.

Quake II (and IV)
These games are basically Space Marines vs. (a particularly gruesome take on) the Borg.

The SCP Foundation
My clearance level only allows me to share the following words with you: Mobile Task Force.

The Shadow Over Innsmouth, by H. P. Lovecraft (and Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth, perhaps even more so)
You know that whole "F.B.I. raid on Innsmouth" thing? That might be interesting to play out. A mashup of Stay Frosty and Delta Green could be cool, too.

Siren series, especially Siren 2 (a.k.a. Forbidden Siren 2)
Okay, so your squad is trapped in a Silent Hill-style Otherworld based on a mash-up of Japanese folklore and the Cthulhu Mythos, and it's filled with zombies, and the zombies are smart enough to use tools and follow patrol routs and try to flank you, and they absolutely will not stay dead so the best you can do is to either avoid them or temporarily put them out of action, and they are SUPER HAPPY about being zombies and just want to share their happiness with you by making you a zombie, too. Oh, and if you concentrate really hard, you can see through the zombies' eyes, which is as useful as it is troubling.

Starcraft
I don't think I need to elaborate on this one.

Stargate
I haven't seen the movie or the TV show in a long time, but from what I remember the movie is basically the U.S. Military vs. Space Egypt, and SG-1 is kind of like that plus Star Trek-style "exploring the universe" shenanigans plus X-Files-style government cover-ups but with the secret government organization being the good guys. Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong. Anyway, any of that sounds like a good backdrop for some Space Marines vs. Aliens Disguised as Egyptian Gods action.


Star Wars
"Wars" is right there in the title. It can't be all jedi, all the time, you know? Sometimes the best way to overcome the Dark Side of the Force is to show up with overwhelming firepower and Star War the hell out of it.

SWAT 4
Because what your Stay Frosty game really needs is strict adherence to proper civilian rules of engagement and careful evidence collection. SWAT teams occupy a weird place somewhere between police and soldiers (at least in fiction - I can't really speak for real SWAT teams), and you could probably get some interesting gaming out of exploring that. Plus, hostage situations and no-knock warrants and organized crime and the blurry line between protecting yourself and protecting/serving the public could all make for tense and interesting situations.

EDIT: Of course, this kind of subject matter might hit a little too close to home for some people, so please make sure your whole group is comfortable with this kind of game before running it, and if anyone isn't comfortable with it, please do something else instead.

Syndicate
When you're a super-soldier employed by a megacorp to conquer the world, cyberpunk means never having to say you're sorry.

Teleglitch
On a shitty, barren planet, there's a single outpost where The Most Unethical Megacorp (TM) conducts every type of mad science in the book - and thanks to a teleporter malfunction, all the crimes against nature are loose in the building while reality itself is out to lunch. In terms of its influences, this is basically a bunch of cool/creepy bits from Aliens, Dead Space, Doom, Marathon, Quake, Quake II, and System Shock rolled into a big ball of lo-fi rogue-like techno-terror. A sci-fi/horror/action kitchen sink done totally right. On top of that, Teleglitch has what feels like a fairly original take on the horrors of teleportation technology gone awry - the vast, deadly walls of electric nothing seem suitably Lovecraftian to me while remaining pretty unique in their own right, and they really take advantage of the game's retro art style - there's a less is more thing going on here that's effective and unnerving. Oh, and this game has a genuine in-universe justification for the weird, unrealistic, maze-like layouts you tend to find in games: it's in the title. If nothing else, that should serve as a useful idea for tabletop gaming. What's that? The dungeon doesn't make sense? Of course it does! A wizard teleporter did it!

Warhammer 40,000; especially the Space Hulk sub-series
As with Starcraft, this one probably needs no explanation.

X-COM (a.k.a. UFO: Enemy Unknown)
Save the world from aliens, but on a budget. Learn to stop worrying and love friendly fire. You have a 95% percent chance to hit these memes, so you're definitely going to miss.

Full disclosure: When it comes to the video games on this list, some of these I haven't played myself, but only watched other people play or otherwise experienced second-hand through "let's plays," online analyses, etc. I've only played one Earth Defense Force game - I think it was Insect Armageddon. I haven't played Pathways Into Darkness or SWAT 4 myself. I think I played the first computer version of Space Hulk once and the first X-COM game once or twice, but otherwise I haven't personally played these series. I haven't played every single game in the Contra, F.E.A.R., Starcraft, and Syndicate series, and that goes at least double when it comes to Star Wars games just because there are so darn many of them. Still, I'm pretty confident that the games I've listed have decent potential as fuel for at least a session of Stay Frosty.

Here are a few more series I was on the fence about including:
Bulletstorm
Dead Space
Dune, by Frank Herbert (and maybe some of the related video games)
Metroid
Resident Evil
Soldier
System Shock and its sequel
The Thing
Universal Soldier