Saturday, November 5, 2011

The Undead in the 17th Century - Zombies

A fitting topic for a dead blog, right?

The undead mostly blow in D&D. This comes from the fact that all the undead tropes are familiar to players, both in style and mechanics. So no one is afraid of the undead and everyone knows how to leverage their strengths and weaknesses. Let's change that up a bit.

The undead have to be shrouded in the unknown in order to invoke any fear in the players. This means much more than just shuffling their abilities around or contriving new strengths and vulnerabilities for them. On a fundamental level, we have to strip the Cleric's ability to trivialize the undead. Then, we have to strip in-game and meta-game knowledge about the undead. From there, we can build undead foes while sprinkling in some of the (ir)rational fears that we share as people.

Let's take up that second item here with a look at zombies in the 17th century. All undead need to have some sort of 'fear aura' that eliminates the 'undead hunter' trope. You know, the expert in killing undead, of which there is invariably one hanging out in each town. Nearly every encounter with the undead should result in death or fear in order to maintain the milieu.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Building A Model For Attrition

Round 3. Let's determine what factors we want to use to build a better model for attrition. This third approach will use actual climatic values for a given day to calculate attrition rather than arbitrary designations for season or region. Values will be randomly determined using bounds from the Köppen-Geiger climate classification and/or world climate data.

Attrition will be broken into two components, climate and route conditions. Within each component, smaller cumulative elements will sum to a total factor, then each factor will be multiplied by a baseline value (yesterday's attrition value). I'll get into the math in a following post.

Climatic Factors

Humidity - Low humidity (especially combined with cold air) will dry out the throat and lungs, causing respiratory stress and increasing susceptibility to disease. High humidity reduces the body's ability to cool, compounding heat stress.

Temperature - As a body heats up, it suffers from a multitude of debilitating and progressively fatal symptoms related to heat stress. Lower temperatures are dangerous to a lesser degree than higher temperatures, but will eventually lead to death all the same.

Storms and Frontal Changes as represented by Precipitation - This will be a catch all for storm activity in general, from a hailstorm to snow accumulation and sudden changes in weather conditions.

Major climatic factors sourced from Climate effects on human health, Kalkstein, L. S., and K. M. Valimont, EPA Science and Advisory Committee Monograph no. 25389, 122-52. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Pardon the horrible citation, I can get away without using MLA or APA style here :D

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Inspiration from Mr. Milton

So what if the pagan gods in the EMP are all fallen angels? It helps to answer some of the ontological questions raised before, but is it a satisfactory answer? Clerics can worship and draw power from beings other than God, but if we cast other divine beings as fallen angels then haven't we cast all PCs who take this road as 'evil'?

An interesting take that requires some more thought for sure...

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Attrition By The Numbers

Ok, let's see how these factors for attrition play out. You might want to keep that post open in another window to follow along with the modifiers. I am going to present this as a narrative, but I can post raw numbers for those so inclined.

Our first case will be your average peasant who wants to move some excess flour from the quaint plot of land he works on his lord's manor to market. Let's assume Forest, Cold, Fall, Trail, Sufficient provisions. He suffers no HP loss until day 5. This fits well with our implied world, a farmer would not live more than 2 days travel from a market to sell/barter his extra goods, so he can make a 4 day round trip with no harm done.

What if the same person struck out under the same conditions, but decided to not follow any trail? He would take his first hit point loss on day 4, and suffer death (to negative constitution) from accumulated damage on day 7. Does this sound reasonable? Assuming you had food and water, I believe I could survive 7 days wandering in the woods. Well, if it is a fantasy world, maybe HP loss can also abstract the fantastic dangers that lurk beyond civilization... Or maybe this is where sheltering down comes into play; parties stranded in the wilderness typically sit tight for most of their ordeal.

This time, a merchant sets out from market to move some goods a few towns away for a tidy sum. Same climate conditions, but now he is on an established dirt road. His wagon and oxen suffer no damage until day 6, or a journey of roughly 150 miles. This makes sense, 6 days of travel and 1 day of rest and no harm done. Maybe instead of traveling between markets, this is a pilgrim on a good portion of the Via Francigena (paved) heading to Rome. He can go 9 days without ill effect.

So this creates our lower boundary. For a party who treks out during the right time of year in mild conditions (total modifiers: three at 1.1, one at 1.2) can go off the beaten path for 3 days before harm occurs and if they stick to a road, this can be as long as 6 or 9.

What about sheltering down? So our party is traveling in the above climate, but they have been off any sort of trail and into deep wilderness for 6 days now. They've suffered 7 damage total (1 on day 4, 2 on day 5, 4 on day 6) over the last 3 days, but they have been able to keep up with healing. However, day 7 will inflict 6 damage to everyone, more than they can safely cope with. Instead, they hunker down in their tents to rest and heal. One day in camp will reduce attrition to 2, two days back down to 1, and four days to get it back to 0. Even just 1 day of sheltering down replenishes healing spells and gets their attrition back to a manageable level for a few more days. If they have the provisions to last and feel safe risking the potential encounters, it is a way to trek through the wilderness.

Of course, the best way to shelter down would be in a wayside inn or some other structure, which would reduce an attrition of 4 down to 1 in a day and 0 in two days.

Ok, what about a gonzo example? Parties are pretty safe while traveling during the right time of year and avoiding difficult terrain. But what happens when they need to cross an expanse of desert, or need to make a quick move during the dead of winter?

Let's take a perilous trek across Russia in the winter shall we? Forest, Cold, Winter, No Roads. First hit point loss on day 3, 4 hit points by day 5 (total of 7). Our land war in Asia is going well so far because this is a high level party that can drop tons of healing per day. Okay, 9 damage on day 6 (16 total) then 18 on day 7 (32 total) and even a high level party isn't going to be able to cope once day 8 drops a 34 hitpoint bomb.

Pretty brutal, huh? Well, sheltering down periodically can mitigate this damage, but how long will food last in this harsh winter? What if we take the same situation and throw in a PC Ranger or Druid to help? Instead of 66 damage after 8 days, the party only takes 18. So there is plenty of room for a party to conquer the elements as they reach high level and stay prepared.

Overall, the numbers fit well enough for my liking at the moment. Reasonable travel conditions permit safety up to a 75 mile round trip and judicious use of stops along the way in an inn or even a camp make long distance traveling feasible. Yet, the truly daunting terrains pack quite a punch even for high level parties. Just for fun, what happens when traveling across the Sahara in summer? Well, by day 3 they are doing ok and have only taken 2 damage. After 5 days of baking in the sun, they just took 15 damage (23 total) and a fool who wants to spend a week takes a hit of 94 damage. Realistic? Well, deadly for sure...

Feel free to let me know what you think in this post or the previous one.

Attrition - A Better Overland Travel System

Okay, Alexis blew my overland travel system out of the water with his improvement. Using this idea, let's rethink the damage caused by travel.

This system focuses on accumulation of damage, so that short trips are very safe for our precious 1HD characters but longer journeys will eventually tax even high level characters. Here's some pseudo code to represent what I am talking about.

Base damage = 0.1
Attrition(0) = Base damage
i = 1

Attrition(i) = Attrition(i-1) * Topography * Climate * Season * Road * Situation * Provisions + Base Damage

The Attrition value represents Hp damage taken. I would truncate the value and take its integer so anything <1 would be 0 damage. Then, all these modifiers act as a factor as follows:

Definitions remain the same as in the previous post. Here's a quick list of situational modifiers; there is plenty of room here to incorporate spells, non weapon proficiencies and skills, class abilities, hirelings/guides, etc etc. Feel free to tinker to your hearts content.

Sheltering down is a way to reduce the attrition rate currently being suffered. In order to shelter down, no travel may be undertaken for an entire day. Travelers are free to act without restriction so long as they refrain from strenuous activity outside of maintaining camp. Sheltering down works as follows:

Attrition(i) = Attrition(i-1) * Shelter

Shelter values are:

Structures would be buildings and permanent shelters that provide protection from the elements and a warm hearth (wayside inn, homestead, monastery). Natural shelter would be a cave or enclosed canyon that protects against all but the worst weather and temperature extremes. Camps consist of tents and other temporary shelters.

Next post, I'll tease out the numbers and demonstrate some examples. I'm sure these numbers will shift and change over time. Feel free to make them more forgiving or brutal as desired.

At Death's Door

Due to a common complaint that the overland travel system for HP loss is prohibitive to low hp (N)PCs, I will add my houserule on death and dying.

When a character falls to 0 hit points or below in combat, they are considered Hors de Combat and can take no further actions. They will continue to lose 1 hp per turn (10 minutes) until 1 turn of medical assistance can be administered. After aid is administered, the character can act normally again. Magical healing will instantly prevent further hit point loss and enable normal action.

When characters are able to act and are at negative hit points, they receive a penalty of 1 to all stats per negative hit point. If any stat goes below 3, they are considered comatose; characters die when their hps reach their negative Constitution value. In addition, spellcasters lose the ability to cast when their prime requisite no longer reaches the minimum for their class.

Hit point loss from overland travel that brings a character to 0 hps or lower does not cause a character to be considered Hors de Combat, cause further hit point loss, or require medical assistance before the character may act again. However, penalties to statistics do apply as above.

Monday, May 9, 2011

On The Road - Tolls and Traveling

While overland travel has its perils when you go off the beaten path, taking the established travel routes has its cost as well. Nearly any man made or natural feature that facilitated travel is an ideal place to extract a toll from travelers. This includes obvious examples such as roads, bridges, towns, ports, or river crossings but even natural mountain passes could feature toll collection.

Collecting tolls is typically the business of the ruling governance, whether it is the emerging national governments in centralized states like France, local lords extracting a toll from traveling through their demesnes, guilds, bandits, strongmen, and anyone who thought they could get away with it. The question of legitimacy could often be raised when away from areas with a well established and strong rule. Even so, the collection of taxes and tolls could also be sold by rulers to other parties or delegated to the emerging class of bureaucrats, leaving behind a tangled mess.

The exact amount of tolls could vary widely; the following table lists a standard toll rate.

In general, the toll rates above should be applied for travel; however, rates may change as the world situation changes. As a rule of thumb, any wild deviation from these numbers should probably be reserved for a situation that would require role playing or as a part of a plot or adventure storyline. Deviations from these amounts can occur as a result of an increase in taxation and tolling, as a consequence of petty corruption to skim an extra coin, an illegitimate toll, or any fathomable plot hook. Otherwise, you will be role playing a lot of pointless toll collection.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Roughing It - Wilderness Travel System

Ninja Edit: Download the Attrition Calculator spreadsheet from the side bar to the right and look at this post for the system in it's final/current form.

Zzarchov has a great house rule for handling the rigors of wilderness travel:
"I use more abstracted rules than this, basically boiling down to you take damage as you travel and heal slowly while going through the wilderness without creature comforts ... as well as different terrain types having different "Miles per day" ratings.  This leads to two things: 1) an increase in taking the longer route if it passed through civilization, roads and inns; 2) No more 'rushing through the wilderness', the bean counters came out and 'frontier living' was replaced with carefully planned expeditions."
Let's shamelessly steal the idea. It feels like the perfect abstraction that highlights the contrast between traveling through civilization and wilderness without bogging down into a level of detail that would detract from the evening's fun.

Essentially, every hex of wilderness (at the macro scale, roughly speaking 1 hex = 1 league = 1 day's travel on foot) will deal X hp of damage per day as it is traversed. Roads, settlements, proper provisions, the right clothing, and such will all reduce the damage taken. This damage is applied to everyone traveling, including animals. The damage abstracts all negative aspects of travel, such as animals foundering and an increased chance of disease.

Tally the following adjustments to find the total damage taken per hex traveled. Select one value from each column of the following table:

Terrain type is highly abstracted and can be expanded to fit more thorough hex maps. Climate uses the five main definitions of climate according to the Köppen-Geiger climate classification. Season is a temporal factor, so after every hex has been populated by terrain and climate type, the DM will have to throw in season as well. Likewise with roads; roads could also be defined as major roads (such as Imperial highways or Reichsstraße), maintained roads between towns, and trails that are only maintained by foot traffic. However, the road modifier would not apply to the entire hex, rather only if the party was traveling along it.

The following situational modifiers are applied on the fly and are not part of a hex's intrinsic HP penalty.

This provides a backbone for an abstraction to cover overland travel. An enterprising DM can calculate the HP loss value for each hex on their map and have a valuable resource for gameplay. More situational modifiers can make the calculations more robust if needed. Feel free to chime in with any suggestions on adding more entries to either table.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Magic In Design

So we have magic in D&D, and we have D&D's implied setting. We have a continuum of responses on how to reconcile magic and how it affects the daily existence of our fantasy constructs:

On one end, magic doesn't alter the fundamental fabric of an implied setting. This could be accomplished in a number of ways, but at its extreme, the affect of magic on the setting is completely ignored on the macro level. Society runs like our anachronistic notions of how medieval life might have been.

One justification here could be that magic has no net affect on the history and development of a setting. For example, Alexander the Great gets a Raise Dead on 323 BC, but a weak later an assassin hits him with a Disintegrate spell, so the whole affair is a wash. Or use any other justification one desires.

The other end of the spectrum, easily enough, is a setting that is devised, designed, and developed with the affect of magic in mind. For example, continual light spells function as medieval gas or electric lights, so work can be performed at night, leading to a more advanced industrial capability, etc etc etc.

Your mileage may vary, feel free to pick any point on that continuum. I hope this is all very obvious.

This campaign leans heavily towards the "no net affect" aspect of magic. I want to play in a pseudo-historical 17th century, so why would I want to drastically alter the social and technological fabric of the world? But I also want to play D&D, so magic is definitely in. So there's your justification for why I hate science. Or magic. I can't even tell at this point.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Magic Users Don't Make For Better Scientists

A comment by Alexis got me thinking. Here's what he said:
But how is it that in a world of magic it isn't obviously possible for a few bright-thinking mages to invent the equivalence of kerosene or sterno?
Magic and magic users don't make for better scientists. Sure, by the rules, magic-users are highly intelligent, so this isn't a knock on character. The main problem with magic is that it doesn't help advance science, so I don't see how it could have a significant, sustained push on science.

Magic doesn't help with discovery. There are no spells that would allow sight deep into the cosmos compared to or better than a telescope to advance astronomy or its application for ocean bound navigation. Conversely, there are no spells for microscopic vision to advance the fields of biology or medicine. There are no spells to isolate, refine, or process elements and compounds to advance materials science. And so on and so forth.

Magic doesn't help with measurement; scientific inquiry is built on measurement.

Magic doesn't help much with generating, controlling, and applying energy. I'm thinking in the form of engines here. Well, maybe the use of a Permanency and some sort of fire spell could create a fuel-less flame. But magic wouldn't help with the invention of gears, cams, and other power transmission systems to deliver work from the heat generated.

You could look at it the other way too. How would magic have helped classical man devise a method for creating concrete? How would it have helped to create new steel and metal alloys (beyond creating higher temperature forges)?

Magic in D&D is geared towards combat, exploration, and all the fun things that go with the game. It could have just as easily been geared towards science (but what kind of game would that be?). It is not like what I am saying here is any big revelation, but it is both a common sense and convoluted answer to how we can have magic and Medieval/Renaissance technology side by side.

Note that I am making a slight distinction between technology and science. An enterprising magic user can use magic to create some wondrous things, but their magic is not advancing (or creating) science or the scientific method.

Again, I'm not saying that an inventive use of magic couldn't create effects that resemble technological advances, but said effects are not advancing science qua science.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Greek Fire

Pursuant to the comment section of the lamp oil post, I looked into Greek fire. Admittedly, I only did some cursory Google and Wikipedia research, so this is not definitive. However, it helps to illustrate a point.

Here's a diagram of a theoretical Greek Fire launcher fitted onto a Byzantize Dromon:

Notice two important aspects of this diagram, pressure and temperature. Even Greek fire had to be heated before it was combustible. Again, like oil, it is not a weapon at room temperature and it would not ignite from a spark or existing flame. In order to employ this weapon, it had to be heated and in order to fire it had to be pressurized.

This is the key point I want to make for flame weapons: they require processing and work (in a thermodynamic/mechanical sense) before they can be employed. So anyone who wants to use incendiary weapons in this world (or any world in which you want to pay attention to such things), is going to have to set up a system more elaborate than a wick and bottle. And even heated oil/Greek fire/etc is not going to be easy to handle and use safely, thus the pressurized launcher. If the history of the boiler and steam engine is any indication, I am sure many a Dromon exploded of its own accord.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Lamp Oil Doesn't Burn

Pure fantasy: blazing walls of lit oil, bombs fashioned from bottles of oil with a lit wick, tossing oil on an enemy and setting them on fire.

None of this is even close to realistic. Lamp oil is made from vegetable oil or maybe fish oil. These oils have a flash point in the range of a two to three hundred degrees. What does this mean to the non-engineer? OIL DOESN'T BURN.

Flash point is a property of liquids; it is the temperature at which the vapors from a liquid will burn when in contact with an ignition source. When oil is underneath this temperature, it cannot be ignited. So all of these oil bombs and puddles of oil suddenly turning into a raging conflagration are all wrong.

Quick science experiment for people who do not believe me: Grab some vegetable oil from your pantry and pour it into a dish. Light a match and hold it above the oil. Does the oil burn?

No, seriously, go and do this then come back if you don't believe me. I'll wait.

Oil does burn, that is why lamps were fueled by oil. However, the oil has to be heated first before it will ignite. How do we accomplish this? With a lit wick. The wick heats the nearby oil above the flash point causing the oil to give off enough vapors to sustain a flame. That's why you start an oil lamp (or candle, same principle) by lighting the wick for a few seconds with an external fire source before the flame will catch.

[On the other hand, modern petroleum products ignite easily. The flash point of gasoline is around -44 degrees. Kids: don't play with gasoline.]

If you just had a bottle of oil and poured it on the ground, you are never going to get it to ignite with a torch. If you stick a wick into a bottle of oil and light it, the wick will burn. But if you throw that bottle and it shatters, the oil will not ignite and the flame will be snuffed out. Remember, only a tiny portion of the oil very close to the wick is hot enough to burn.

Ok, so that is a mild pet peeve off my chest. If you are bothered by basic physics, don't let your players and monsters toss around molotov cocktails made from vegetable oil. I don't.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Languages in the EMP - Germany/Holy Roman Empire

In my previous preliminary write ups on race, I decided to cut down languages to common and racial languages. However, I feel that there is room to have languages play a role within a sandbox without becoming prohibitive or creating a market of magic users who only memorize comprehend languages and sell their services in every major city.

So we will break languages down into two arenas, national and regional. National languages will be a fantasy construct that prevents languages from getting in the way (What, no one in our party speaks the same language?!?). Regional languages will provide some granularity to make language an aspect of the sandbox that can have some impact on play.

For example, there will be a national language for all Germans, but there will be plenty of regional languages such as Czech, Upper German, Low Saxon, Rhenish, and Low Franconian.

Player characters will begin play with a national and regional language dictated by where their character was born. So anyone born in a Holy Roman Empire state will speak German and the corresponding regional language. NPCs will follow the same pattern for the most part. Rural, backwards, or otherwise isolated NPCs might only speak their regional language and not their corresponding national language.

This setup should make 90%+ of play go on without worrying about languages. However, it still leaves the door open for interesting linguistic play should the PCs start globetrotting and dealing with foreigners at home or abroad. Plus, regional languages can play a role in role-playing.

Since the EMP campaign will start in Germany, let's go ahead and (broadly and in a condensed form) define those languages.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Simplified Shock Tactics

So I like the concept of having charges act as an attack on morale. However, I am not happy with my convoluted matrix for adjudicating the results of a charge. Let's simplify that beastly chart and make something that is easy to remember and put into play at the table. We will keep all of the mechanics already in place, but change the results of the 2d6 morale check.

On a successful moral check, the combatant makes a normal melee attack. On a failed morale check, the combatant must withdraw from combat for a number of rounds equal to the roll's margin of failure. Withdrawing combatants may only take a normal movement action away from combat, but can defend themselves as normal (no penalties to AC). After the prescribed amount of rounds has passed, combatants may act normally.

If both parties fail, then neither may take any further action for that round as they reorganize.

So that pretty much sums up that whole chart without all that mess. One wrinkle for the attacker though. A failed charge wouldn't require a literal withdrawal, but I would put them out of combat for those rounds as they attempt to regain control of their mount. Maybe the attacker could abandon their mount to skip the rounds of lost activity, but the mount would flee the battlefield.

All in all, if you charge an enemy and win, you dislodge them from their position and get a few attacks. If you charge and fail, you take yourself out of combat for a bit and are vulnerable for a time as well. Overall, this tweak is easy to remember and implement during play, so I call it mission complete.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Brief Programming Note

I've gone from posting once a day to about once a week here lately. I'm not dead yet, just up to my neck in contract writing which invariably eats up my free time. I will be back in full swing eventually. Hey, we all have to wait out this lame A to Zzzzz blog contest somehow...

Friday, April 1, 2011

Goblin Settlements

I had a comment on the previous post about goblins asking about lairs. I've been a little vague on that, referring to them a few times as an underground race but also mentioning that they do some farming and keep some livestock.

A small portion of goblins living in Lesser Poland on marginal land near the Vistula have settled into agrarian lifestyles. They are not the focus of this post. Instead, we focus on the goblins who live along the Carpathians who are semi-nomadic and utilize raiding for a portion of their subsistence. I mean come on, why would the PCs be mucking around with farming goblins? Sheesh...

Goblins settle in out of the way places, in rough terrain where they can hide themselves but still range out and raid when necessary. They will settle below ground in natural caves, abandoned mines, and any other subterranean locale. Goblins rarely work the ground where they settle since they often move their tribes. In addition, they will settle above ground in crevices, escarpments, canyons, and other sheltered areas and erect tenting. Either way, they choose areas that are easy to hide their tribes in, command a view of the surrounding area, and have multiple avenues to escape.

Their economy revolves around periodic raids. Goblins are decent metalworkers, able to break down tools to fashion arrow heads, darts, spears, and other weapons. Otherwise, most goblin tools are made from animal products such as sinew, bone, and hides. Goblins also prize other manufactured and refined products to fit specific needs, especially salt and sugar to preserve food.

Goblins raid along a seasonal pattern. Throughout good weather months, they collect a menagerie of livestock. They focus on animals that are easy to keep, such as pigs, goats, and chickens. Goats and chickens also provide a steady and easy source of food. Larger livestock, such as cattle or horses, are typically worked for a bit, then slaughtered for food and materials. Goblins do not feed and keep animals through the winter, instead, they conduct large slaughters in the late fall and then dry and preserve as much food as they can to last the winter. Once the next spring bring favorable weather, they raid again to replenish their livestock.

Goblin tribes pick up and move as a response to raids, both to search for fresh targets and as a response to retaliatory raids.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Armor Types

I've made mention of light, medium, and heavy armor before in particular to weapons' characteristics and even way back when I discussed skills. Let's put a formal definition in place.

You can quickly see the break down between light, medium, and heavy armors. The gaps in the table are there for simplicity and clear delineation between armor class types (such as for armor penetration). Dexterity modifies for AC as well, up to a maximum of -3 while wearing light armor, -2 while wearing scale or lighter, and -1 while wearing any armor heavier than that. The dexterity bonus to AC represents both a deft hand and an agile body; a portion of the dexterity bonus should be applicable even in heavy armor as a representation of superior weapon and/or shield parrying skills rather than simply being fleet of foot.

Quick descriptions: leather represents any armor made from hides, cloth, or other types of padding. Scale is metal components sewn or backed onto padding material. A chain hauberk is the typical representation of mail. Plate mail utilizes a series of plates with mail used to cover the joints between them. Full plate characterizes a high quality steel (not iron) coat of plates with mail backing.

EDIT: The way the chart above looks, it appears that a shield imparts a total AC of -1. In actuality, it just reduces AC by 1 point. Everyone familiar with D&D should understand that, but I wanted to make it clear.

Generating a Goblin Tribe

Let's have our stat blocks go a little further, combining them with a method for generating war parties and whole tribes as a sort of monster gazette.

No. Encountered:  5d6 (40d10)
Movement:  60'
Size:  Small (four and a half feet)
Armor Class:  7 (6 w/ shield, 4 w/ armor + shield)
Hit Dice:  1 (d6)
Attacks:  1
Damage:  by weapon (1d6 average)
Special Attacks:  None
Special Defenses:  None
Save:  Fighter
Morale: 6
Treasure: TBD

Goblins are semi-nomadic tribal creatures who stand taller than dwarves and are more solidly built than elves. They are green skinned due to their forest dwelling ancestry, but now make their home underground in rough terrain outside of settled areas. They have excellent night vision, twice that of humans. They subsist on a mix of limited farming and animal husbandry, scavenging, and raiding. They have no central leadership; any goblin may lead a war raiding party and the most successful raiders form a council for peace time decisions.

Goblins fight unarmored and with basic weapons. Spearmen arm themselves with short spear and wooden shield (AC 6). Javelin throwers are armed with Atlatl and 10 darts. Archers carry short bow and 12 arrows. Pikemen teams consist of two goblins wielding one pike. Braves carry two hand axes.

Raiding party. Goblins encountered outside the lair are led by a raiding leader and consist of equal parts spearmen (defensive action) or braves (raiding), javelin throwers, and archers. Ideally, they fight in successive skirmish lines, discharging ranged weapons and then falling back. Raiding parties prefer to avoid fights and rather plunder livestock, metal tools and weapons, and foodstuffs. Goblins raid by moonlight, leaving on foot and often returning on horseback driving livestock. They rarely fight on horseback instead using the animals for labor and food; goblins have a penchant for horseflesh.

In the lair. Goblins prefer to fight outside of their settlements. When their lairs are threatened, they attempt to screen their women who will hastily gather what they can and abandon the settlement. Being semi-nomadic, they are adept at moving entire villages and supply trains with surprising speed. Screening forces resemble raiding parties. Braves will arm themselves as pikemen and line behind spearmen supported by javelin throwers within the lair itself if the fight goes badly as a last ditch effort to buy time.

Tribe generation. For every 100 goblins there are:

5 leaders
20 braves
25 spearmen
25 javelin throwers
25 archers

All leaders can be a war party leader, fighting with an additional HD. 1 out of every 5 is an exceptional leader; a tribe's fiercest leader fights as a 2HD goblin plus an additional HD for every 100 members. A tribe of 200 goblins has a first level shaman, a tribe of 300+ has a 3rd level shaman and a 1st level shaman. The death of any leader will cause all goblins present to make a morale check at a penalty of +1.

Leaders are equipped with short sword and shield and a 50% chance of having metal armor (AC 4). These are both signs of wealth for the most successful of the tribe. For a settlement larger than 250 souls, one leader will fight from horseback wielding two matchlock pistols, metal armor, and a short sword and shield if dismounted.

Settlements consist of an additional, equal number of females who perform most of the village's labor. They do not go out on raids and are tasked with moving the settlement in the case of an attack. They can defend themselves as braves wielding knives instead of hand axes.

Treasure. System TBD.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Kobolds in Pagan Communities

Kobolds are helpful, somewhat mischievous house spirits that protect the homes of pagan believers. For Christian people who still cling to old pagan rituals and beliefs, kobolds tend to be mostly unseen, helping with household tasks or cleaning after the home is asleep. However, for those people who resisted Christianity, especially at the price of blood, and retained their pagan beliefs, kobolds play a much more direct role. In this case, kobolds manifest directly to their believers and help them not only maintain their livelihood but to also ward off foes.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Goblin Skirmish Tactics

I just finished reading SC Gwynne's Empire of the Summer Moon. It is an excellent historical narrative of the Comanches that I would recommend to those people whom enjoy such things. While the time period and subject matter are far away from the EMP, it still gives me plenty of ideas to work with.

Goblins in the EMP are a former forest dwelling people who now live on the fringes of the Empire and in the Polish-Lithuania Commonwealth, scraping out a living as best as they can. Goblins subsist on a combination of limited agriculture, basic animal husbandry, and raiding. Some goblin settlements have had success settling into an agrarian lifestyle in out of the way areas of the Commonwealth and have been able to avoid the ire of humans for the most part. However, many tribes look to raiding as a means of life as they strike into the Empire and the Commonwealth alike.

Goblins value indirect warfare to preserve their strength. They avoid decisive battles and seek to engage enemies far from goblin settlements. Their typical enemies come in the form of punitive raids. If their settlements are threatened, their warriors fight a screening engagement to allow their villages time to escape. Therefore, their preferred method of fighting looks something like the following.

Please excuse my horrendous graphic design skills.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Topographia Germaniae

The Topographia Germaniae is a 17th century survey of German lands including engravings of a number of towns and other settlements along with descriptive texts. This is like the holy grail for me, a great period piece to build the world around.


Now I wonder if there are any English translations floating around. I am running the sources I have found so far through Google's half useless gibberish translator, but at least the engravings provide fertile grounds upon which to build this setting.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Dynamic Morale - Casualties

With AD&D, morale became a percentile and was now a moving number rather than a fixed value. As far as implementation in the EMP campaign, I'm still torn between an easy to use single value for any given monster or using a calculation to determine morale. At the moment, due to my rules on cavalry charges and shock attacks, morale stands at a value between 2-12 and resolves with a 2d6. However, the need for dynamic morale is present in at least one aspect, and that is casualties.

Popular cavalry tactics of the time might incorporate a volley or two of fire from pistols followed by a charge with sword or lance. Obviously, the discharge of pistol shot just before the moment of the charge was to break the cohesion of the defenders to enable a more devastating charge. This application was particularly important for firearm units to break through pike units, especially pikemen that were not properly supported. So morale should be affected by casualties, so let's see how we can model this with 2d6 morale values.

Alexis has an elegant solution he lifted from a Napoleonic war game. Simply put, every time a force suffers 50% casualties, its morale gets 1 point worse and must make a new check to remain in the fight. And there are plenty of morale rules spread throughout different wargames. I feel it is difficult to assign a proper morale scheme and would rather try through trial and error and what feels right in game play. So for the time being, we'll start here in the design phase and modify through play:

Enemy morale drops by 1 point for every 25% casualties (based on the original number of men) that it suffers and must check morale to continue the fight. For example, a group of 12 orcs may have 7 morale. After 3 have been killed, their morale drops to 6 and they must check again. Morale drops to 5 at six dead and then to 4 at nine dead.

So to use an old example, a group of regular soldiers armed with pikes would have a base morale of 7 but a morale of 9 during a charge. If a cavalry attack were to begin with a pistol barrage that inflicted 25% casualties, morale would drop to 6 and force a check. If the pikemen pass, their new morale for the upcoming charge would be 8. The cavalry charge has a good chance at succeeding in breaking unit morale with a barrage of fire and then a fair chance during the followup, more risky, charge engagement.

For now, this will sit on the shelf until it can be play tested.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Ranged Weapons

I'm not entirely happy with what I have here:

Requires Mastery. This weapon cannot be used untrained and requires 2 proficiency slots (4 total for specialization).

My issue is with the ranges. Now, the first range segment, after which weapons are at -5 to hit, represents a loss of accuracy when targeting a single person in combat. Most of these ranges are essentially the same. On one hand, this makes sense. Sure, weapons differ in accuracy, but the loss of accuracy over distance isn't entirely unique to most weapons. On the other hand, this means that there is little differentiation between weapons.

A similar issue happens at the 2nd range interval. Sure, a longbow could fire a flight arrow to 1000 feet or more. However, the arrow at the end of the flight is bereft of most of its kinetic energy and is primarily delivering a blow through gravity after descending from its arc. It's like dropping an arrow on someone. So really, the maximum range represents a combination of extreme loss of accuracy as well as final penetrating power. Again, the same issue creeps up, most of these weapons tend to max out at around the same range.

So differentiation comes in through damage and reload time. That's ok. It just bothers me that after all of this research into these weapons' ranges, I came to a rather unsatisfying conclusion. Of course the longbow could outdistance a short bow, but at the end of that distance, a flight arrow isn't going to do much damage to even lightly armored foes.

I condensed the values for reload times into a single value even though I previously had it broken down by skill level for firearms. I could have given every weapon similar treatment and allow for more proficient users to cut down on reload time and increase their accuracy range. Instead, I'll keep it simple and maybe throw this aspect back into play when it comes time to work on weapon proficiency and specialization and derive a general rule to apply to all weapons.

I will let this stand as is and maybe I can revisit it over time. I might add a third range category to represent a range that the weapon is only effective in a massed and/or indirect fire role.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Some Excellent Military History Resources

Sorry for another fluff post, but here's a great resource for military history concerning this time period.

There is a great article on the evolution of cavalry towards adopting pistols over lances. Which reminds me that I need to work lances into my weapon system even though they had fallen out of favor. A long multimedia presentation of siege tactics and their evolution through the 16th and 17th centuries is an excellent feature. Tactics and formations nuts can go hog wild over schematics and animations of 17th century troop formations. Finally, an in-depth presentation of the Battle of Breitenfeld showcases a pivotal battle of the 30 Years War and the evolution of field artillery tactics.

More weapons posts coming up soon.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Shields, More Than -1 AC

Through most versions of AD&D, fighting classes are better off grabbing heavy armor and a two handed weapon than trying to go the sword and board route. Since I'm spicing up combat, I'd like to give the shield a little love and help justify why someone would sacrifice greater damage for just a measly -1 AC bonus. Note, neither of these ideas are mine, but they are both great.

Shields Shall Be Splintered. Upon a successful attack, a defender may sacrifice their shield to avoid the damage from a blow.

Shield Wall. A shield wall may be formed by 2 or more combatants wielding shields and single handed 3' weapons. Any combatant with a shield wall ally immediately to his right gains an additional 1 point bonus to their AC.

I like this implementation of a shield wall. A shield is carried in the left hand, so you need your ally to the right to protect you and continue the cohesion of the shield wall.

Note that any weapon that has the Ignores Shields traits is unaffected by both of these shield traits. A shield may not be sacrificed to absorb a blow nor does the shield provide any AC bonus whether in a wall or otherwise.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Thrown Weapons

Similar to the previous post on melee weapons, here's a chart of thrown weapons' statistics.

Note that there is no listing for Traits here, thrown weapons do not benefit from them. The Rate of Fire is the best case limit on how fast these weapons may be thrown. It assumes that the ammunition is on hand and readily accessible, such as a number of javelins stuck in the ground at the side of the thrower. Otherwise, the rate of fire would be dictated by how fast the thrower could grab more ammunition.

Range has two values. The first entry is the distance at which a weapon may be thrown with no penalty to hit; anything beyond that has a -5 to hit. The second value is the maximum range a weapon may be thrown. Another way to think of these ranges is that the first number is the optimal distance for man-to-man combat where accuracy is needed and the second would be for mass combat or indirect fire where accuracy is not as important.

The ranges are a simplification of real world values and are a combination of actual range and effective range for dealing significant injury. Sure, you can throw a dagger more than 30 feet, but that range reflects a combination of difficulty hitting the target square AND with the right blade orientation.

Next up, ranged weapons.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Melee Weapons

Here's a chart of melee weapons along with their stats and characteristics.

And the definitions of each trait:
Armor Penetration. Whether through precision, penetrating power, or blunt force trauma, this weapon grants a +1 to hit foes in medium armor and +2 against heavy armor.
Catches Riders. When used to dismount a rider, automatically succeeds on a successful to-hit (defender may not choose to take damage instead).
Defensive. Grants user a 1 point improvement on Armor Class.
Ignores Shields. This weapon strikes over or around shields, negating their defensive benefits.
Light. Balanced for throwing and may be dual wielded in the off hand.
Long. Ill-suited for melee combat; this weapon may only strike in the first round of a melee. Does not apply when wielding from back ranks.
Pike. Grants +2 on morale checks when resolving charges.
Reach. Reach, followed by a number, is the rank that a weapon may hit from.
Two Handed. Despite being 3' in size, this weapon requires 2 hands to be wielded effectively.
So these weapons cover a lot of ground with many different combinations of size, damage, and traits. One aspect that isn't apparent here is cost and quality. The weapons that are derived from agricultural tools (scythe, pitchfork, pick, and machete) are clearly inferior weapon choices when it comes to comparable weapons' damage, size, and traits. However, being weapons adapted from tools, they are significantly cheaper and only come in lower quality. They represent peasant weapons and are a cheap way to arm fodder and hirelings.

Every weapon should fill a niche. No one weapon is ideal in all situations and they each have strengths and weaknesses. Whereas a great sword has the best damage output, a poleaxe or halberd would be better suited for a mounted, armored opponent.

If anyone spots a weapon that is clearly superior in multiple/all situations, let me know so I can tweak the numbers. If anyone wants to discuss how some weapons are unique, please feel free to chime in. This weapon list is still living and I might decide to add some more exotic weapons from outside mainstream European use. Plus, I also want to tackle thrown weapons and ranged weapons and give them a similar treatment. And I have a few ideas for shield use as well, none of which are original.

EDIT: Pursuant to the comments below and further thought, battle axes inflict 1d10 damage and short spears are not considered Light weapons. Short spears may be thrown but can not be dual wielded.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Making Weapons Matter

Design Goal: Devise a system to differentiate weapons and create additional tactical decisions for combat and characters that rely on melee combat.

Most D&D weapons suck. There are a few clear winners when it comes to choosing weapons and a lot of chaff. Going for a two handed weapon? Greatsword, check. One handed and shield? Bastard sword, check. Cleric restrictions on weapons? Morningstar, check. Take a look at the AD&D weapon list and then count how many weapons there that see almost no use at the game table.

For the EMP game, every weapon will have some functional difference from every other weapon and any weapon which cannot be differentiated from another will be removed. First up, weapon size.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Kobolds in the Early Modern Period

Kobolds are house spirits, small sprites that protect the homes and dwellings of pagan believers. They can take on many forms with some of their favorite being child-like figures or small animals and may also take the form of mundane objects. Most kobolds are relatively harmless and help to protect those who treat them well while playing tricks on those who do not.

Only believers will have the chance to interact with kobolds, otherwise the sprites do not directly reveal themselves but may make their presence known in other ways. Belief in kobolds has survived Christianity in some circles and is most strong in communities that still hold onto pagan practices. In particular, dwarfs and goblins have a strong connection with kobolds.

While most kobolds are flighty sprites, many are aware that fewer mortals display belief in these spirits. These kobolds are much more active within pagan communities and will show a rare focus in utilizing their powers to fiercely protect the way of life for those who believe.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Goblins in the Early Modern Period

Goblins are a dying race. Having coalesced into a people in the deep forests of Europe, they were neighbors of the burgeoning elven society. Yet, it was not the elves who diminished their numbers and forced the forest dwellers underground. Elves considered goblins more as a younger cousin, a mischievous neighbor who, from time to time, needed a sound beating to remember his place. The goblin race didn't start its steady decline until it met humans.

Even from the times when humans inhabited Germania and Gaul in sets of tribes, men made war with goblins. While men and elves would eventually integrate, men and goblins were at constant odds. The dominance of Roman legions and culture did little to change this dynamic. While many 'barbarian' tribes were integrated into Roman society and its military, goblins remained on the fringe and always at odds. The eventual degradation of the Roman Empire was not enough to stem the slow tide of the goblin's decline. It was instead replaced by the zeal of conversion to Christianity which fell hard upon the pagan goblins. Conversions by the sword were typical; goblins would not give up their superstitious religious ways. Crusades through the Baltic regions finally succeeded in routing goblins out of their ancestral forests for good and forcing them to dwell underground to scratch out a living.

Today, goblins have long since lost their place among the great wilderness and are consigned to fringe areas outside of the Empire. Clinging to existence underground, various goblin tribes subsist on a combination of scavenging, limited agriculture, husbandry, and raiding. What few small congregations of goblins remain are typically found in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth hiding among the decentralized country side regions and enjoying a small measure of tolerance. Small pockets are also found under the mountain ranges ringing Europe proper.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Orcs in the Early Modern Period

Hundreds of years ago, Orcs swept into the eastern fringes of Europe. The great Orc Khans invaded the lands of the Rus' and pushed deeper into the kingdoms of Poland and Hungary, eventually painting a path of destruction all the way to Dalmatia and the coast of the Adriatic. This was a dark time for the enlightened people of Europe who fought the Orcish Khans and their Golden Horde.

Eventually, the righteous prevailed in pushing the Golden Horde back and ending the Orcish influence on the eastern reaches of Europe. However, the legacy of the Golden Horde did not perish so easily. The remnants of the Golden Horde broke into a number of Khantes who still hold sway to this day. While the host of Orcs have been pushed back towards their ancestral home and into Mongolia, their taint remains in the form of the Crimean Khanate and in the bloodlines of Half-Orcs today.

Orcs are mostly absent from present day Europe as the Golden Horde collapsed. Their legacy lives on in the Crimean Khanate. As a protectorate of the Ottoman Empire, Half-Orcs continue to raid Russian and Polish lands. Outside of Crimea, Half-Orcs do not hold any major dominions and are instead interspersed within the populations of the old Golden Horde conquests.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Further Firearm Considerations

A few revisions and expansions to firearms in this setting.

First, the damage. Namely, it is just too high. Practically every weapon in D&D does damage in the 1-12 range, from 1D4 to 2D6. My firearms just blow this out of the water. There is really no good reason NOT to have at least one gun on anyone trained in their use. Being able to pre-load a rifle and get off one shot that has the potential to kill 2 or 3 HD worth of monster in 1 hit is just too good to pass up. No matter the concerns around effectively using firearms, everyone would probably end up carrying one.

So let's put firearms back into perspective with the rest of weapon damage.

.55 pistols: 2d4. Appropriate damage for a one handed weapon, on par with a longsword but with better average damage. This damage is appropriate for a pistol (1 shot of 2d4) and sword (1d8) fighting style, rather than just toting around a piss load of pistols (old damage at 2d6+1).

Caliver and Rifle: 2d6. Appropriate for a 2 handed weapon. Anyone who takes the time to fight with a caliver or rifle and work through reloading and cleaning it should be able to dish out good damage on par with any other well armed combatant. Also only somewhat stronger than other ranged weapons that rely on physical/mechanical strength.

Musket: 2d6+2. For the gunner who wants to handle these lumbering weapons, they can do excellent ranged damage that would rival a high strength fighter swinging a two handed sword.

How do weapons interact with other D&D mechanics?

For spells, a cantrip would be effective at disabling a firearm. A water cantrip would ruin powder and put out matches. Other cantrips could easily disable firing mechanisms as well. Warp wood and heat metal would destroy any firearm that was affected. A gust of wind spell or high winds from control weather could blow powder out of a matchlock without save and do the same to a snaphaunce on a failed save. Fog generating spells would affect firearms as if it were humid (+1 misfire chance).

On the positive side, a cantrip could clean a weapon and return the misfire chance to 1-in-20 instantly upon casting.

Fire effects that engulf a firearm would detonate a shot on a matchlock without save and on a snaphaunce on a failed save. Fire effects that hit a person but not their weapon would detonate a shot on a matchlock on a failed save but a snaphaunce would be safe. For example, a fireball would engulf a weapon but a burning hands spell would only hit the gunner.

An electric shock, such as being affected by a shocking grasp or lighting bolt, would detonate either firearm without a save.

Powder that is contained in a hard leather pouch should be safe from most affects. Even if a fireball hit a gunner, the powder shouldn't ignite since there wouldn't be sufficient air in a pouch to ignite its contents. A soft cloth pouch, however, could very well flash away and turn the powder inside into a nice explosive. A constant flame could do the same to even a hard leather pouch given enough time.

This just gives a general idea on how to adjudicate how firearms relate to the game world.

Fantasy Races in the Early Modern Period

-C over at Hack & Slash has a good post of his take on race as class. Essentially, he goes a more mythic or fairy tale route in that non-humans are not just "humans in a funny hat," but are rather something completely not human. He uses the example of Dwarves being carved from earth, Elves are fey beings, etc. For this reason, non-human races should be a class:

... [E]lves are spirits and sprites, playing in eternal youth, living in the moment, powerful in magic and unconcerned about the future.... They are not HUMAN+... One elf lost in the world of the men, where actions have consequences and existence is weighty, does what the elf does - fights well with light weapons, and uses magic and stealth in the natural realm.

I think he has a perfectly valid take on the subject. I'd like to take that thread and run in a different direction.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Discussing Cavalry Charges

With the rules for cavalry charges in place, let's discuss its impact.

Charges are definitely a climactic action with this mechanic. The attackers are risking losing their mounts and suffering 1 or 2 unopposed attacks against themselves. However, they can totally break an opponent's position, and if able to pursue, rain down a number of unopposed attacks themselves.

While it seems like charges could make combat trivial to the point of first charge wins, take a look at monster Morale values. It seems like many rolls would come down to both sides succeeding, so it would only be applied in cases where the chances for success can be tilted towards one's favor. Typical values for humanoids range from 7-9, meaning that a failed rolled is not going to be common. Even so, on most bad rolls, the defenders won't be failing by a wide margin. There are a large number of monsters who have 12 morale since they are undead or otherwise non-living. Plus, a defensive line equipped with Pikes will have a morale in the range of 9-11, making them rather safe from cavalry charges.

On the other hand, this option can offer some variety in fights and turn typical encounters on their head. Mass amounts of low HD monsters (or hirelings!) are particularly susceptible to a well timed charge. Morale affects have a much more profound affect; a bless or curse spell could really change the tide of an encounter. Controlling the field of battle also plays an important role; if one side can't defend against a charge then they need to pick broken terrain that won't allow a charge to occur.

I'd love to actually see this put into play during a game session to really push the system. Ultimately, it is only a roll of a few D6s so the true test of the mechanic would be its application during normal adventuring. How often would players use this type of tactic? How often should a DM throw in some goblins on worgs who are willing to charge their enemies? Orcs on horseback? Would horses and mounts actually be worth their corresponding real world value in D&D beyond a convenient method of travel and hauling loot? Could you work in a gigantic mount, like an elephant or something even bigger, and really go on a tear?

One day, I'll get to put this rule into a game and see how often it comes up...

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Cavalry Charge and Shock Tactics

I talked about charges and shock tactics before, so let's try to incorporate them into our rules. The main goal here is to provide another combat mechanic focusing on shock tactics, or attacks to morale. Normal combat focuses on fire tactics, that is, killing an opponent. This would also be more widely referred to as attrition warfare or the wearing down of an opponent's men and materials.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Adjudicating Combat Maneuvers

Design Goal: Create a unified foundation and common basis on which to adjudicate special combat maneuvers.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Roll to Fail, Again


Well, I'm back to hating this Roll to Advance setup. I didn't even get 3 posts out tweaking the system and I still don't like it. Let me summarize the tweaks then talk about why I still don't like them.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Swords and Wizardry Post Mortem

Well, the S&W campaign has officially ended. While it had been on hiatus for quite some time, it is officially 6 feet under now. Essentially, scheduling conflicts and differing levels of commitment broke the group apart. The tipping point was once the DM rejoined the workforce, there were more players with spotty attendance than regulars. A few recent drama emails flew around so now it's safe to call it a done deal.

Just in case anyone was still interested in my few and far between gaming exploits. I'll add a little more after the jump.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Roll To Advance, Predictability

Let's cover the first issue with Roll to Advance, predictability.

The only way I see to address this issue while retaining the rolling aspect is to use a bell curve distribution rather than a linear progression. Something along the line of roll 3D6 to advance and start the target at 18, give or take. That way, every roll has a chance to advance and the increase in chance to hit it next session is no longer linear. Sure, it is kind of a band aid, but it helps.

Eventually, the same problem creeps up at higher levels when the target goes significantly above 18, again requiring X sessions with no chance of advancement. It is acceptable because the chance to hit a level in one session pretty much disappears by mid level range. A low level party can luck out and hit the jackpot with a few thousand GPs and hit a level in one fell swoop, but doing that when you need 50,000 XP to level just won't happen.

By rolling 3D6, we can keep the advancement target at or near 18 for the first few levels to make them more dynamic.

My ideas for the next two issues (risk v reward and mixed parties) should also provide some more excitement to the whole process.

A revised chart of advancement targets is forthcoming.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Roll to Advance,Take 2

Spurred on by some discussion on Roll to Advance with Lord Kilgore, I've decided to revisit this rule variant for experience and advancement. I've already laid down why I like and dislike the proposed system, so let me go ahead and clarify my issues. Then let's see if we can't tweak the design to eliminate those problems.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Laying The Founation For Combat, or, Math Is Hard

Through most of my time as a DM during my teenage years, I typically did most of the math at the table. That includes most of the players as well. I am just good at mental math and adding and subtracting the small numbers that D&D uses are really not an issue for me. And this was 2nd edition, so there was plenty of fun math to go around. So after a bunch of dice were thrown, I could tell you if you hit, how much damage was dealt, and what the remaining hit points were before most people added up all the pips on the dice showing on the table. I'm not trying to brag here, but it just points out an area of playing D&D that could be improved. Delta goes into the how's and why's of easier mental math and how to apply it to D&D and combat.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Thanks For Doing My Work For Me

In my long term planning for developing this campaign, I was going to take the Labyrinth Lord .pdfs and mark them up with all the changes and house rules integrated into an electronic file. Then I could print out a couple copies of the player sections, a couple copies of the spell sections, etc. I was playing around with the .pdf in Acrobat and quickly found out that I lack any real editing skills and would have to live with a shitty end result. Thankfully, Goblinoid Games put out a word document version of the text of its books. Being able to directly edit the text in a word document should save me about a metric shit tonne of work when I get to that point.

Sure, it will be just a plain text document, but better than a .pdf that looks like a ransom note made from magazine clippings.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Obligatory Still Alive Post

Yea, still alive. It's the usual song and dance, too much going on personally and professionally to keep the blog going at a good pace since the New Year. Hopefully it gets better soon.

A few things in the (mental) pipeline:

  • Flesh out a mechanic describing charges as an attack on morale.
  • Tweak the firearms a little, addressing a few concerns and expanding how they interact with other D&D staples like magic.
  • Start developing some expansions to the combat system, namely a uinified mechanic to resolve special attacks (like disarms or trips) and adding some characteristics to weapons (like the Armor Penetration mentioned for firearms).
  • Expand the non-weapon proficiencies from standard AD&D/LL, adding concrete effects and expanding the selections available.
  • Go back and clean up the race posts and start going through the rule book section by section again.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Pike and Cavalry in D&D Combat

Delta has a good post on a "Close Combat Trinity," explaining the relationship between swordsman, cavalry, and pikemen as "Historically: Swords best Pikes best Cavalry best Swords." In applying this to D&D, he notes that swordsman are well represented by typical D&D combat, but pikemen and cavalry are not. In particular, he notes "cavalry attack is intrinsic to the unit's own movement" and "pike attack is intrinsic to the unit's enemy's movement." This is not modeled in D&D combat where movement and attacks are modeled as distinct actions or fall into abstraction if you go by the 60 second combat round. Yet, this is a great disservice to the actual mechanics behind these two weapons and how they influenced warfare.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

You Can't Go Home Again, or, Designing For Players

I spent the last two weeks visiting family and friends up north and it got me thinking about designing explicitly for an expected or actual player(s). Should a DM design world and rule settings that cater to a specific play style or type of player?