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.