Saturday, June 27, 2009

Forums and So Forth

I've been reading the Brilliant Gameologists forums for inspiration. Not just the min/max stuff, though that has been helpful in reminding myself what it is players like out of their game mechanics. Their house rules section is pretty good, too. It's the best venue for 3(.5)e that I've found, since the Wizards forums are total abortions and entirely 4e anyway.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Negative Conditions

I'm a big fan of some of the changes made in 4e regarding conditions. Being paralyzed and stunned means waiting until it's your turn again, and maybe you can take an action if it wears off, or maybe not. Not being able to take an action isn't fun, nor is having to roll on a confusion table to see what action you'll take. Nor is ability damage fun: who wants to recalculate attack and damage every time a ghost hits you?

Far better to limit certain action choices, i.e. instead of having an effect cause -6 to strength, better to simply have the character deal half damage. Instead of stunning a character, have him fall prone --it doesn't prevent the player from making choices, but it does limit them.

Below are the common negative conditions (I omit Deafness and other tedious conditions) as I have been using them in my present game. I am particularly proud of how Diseased and Delirious work.

Common Conditions

Afraid: You suffer a -2 penalty to your attack rolls and spell DC for the remainder of the encounter. Additionally, you cannot benefit from leadership bonuses or morale bonuses (such as those granted by clerical spells). Characters that are immune to fear cannot be made afraid.

Blind: -5 penalty to attack rolls and spell DC. Cannot target ranged attacks or spells to farther away than ten feet.

Damaged: Some monster attacks disable magic items semi-permanently, but do not destroy them. These items may be repaired via arcane rituals, but until then they offer no benefit beyond a non-magical item, and cannot be used as normal.

Delirious: You cannot cast spells of the highest level that you are capable of casting, nor activate magic items other than potions. Nor may you cast spells that are affected by metamagic feats. Nor may you use per encounter maneuvers such as those gained by the warrior and rogue classes.

Diseased: Effects that restore lost hit points and grant temporary hit points have their effectiveness reduced by half (round down).

Prone: You suffer a -4 to your AC. Prone creatures have their speed reduced to 1. You may stand up as a move action.

Slow: Your speed is reduced to 2.

Surprised: You suffer -3 to your AC and saving throws. You are normally only surprised during the first round of combat before you have taken an action.

Weak: Your attacks and spells inflict half damage (round down).

Other Ideas

I want to have more negative conditions, but I'm struggling to come up with equally elegant mechanics. Some sort of "Rotting" condition might work, as might "Exhausted" or "Dehydrated". The drawbacks need to be significant, but not a pain in the ass to remember or deal with. I use poison as a damage type, so that's not really a venue for ideas.

All of the conditions listed above are non-trivial, and aside from prone require magic or time to end their effect. Some negative conditions that have non-trivial effects but are easily dismissed might be good, such as a Dehydrated condition that could be ended by drinking any magical potion.

I dunno, I'm still working on it.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Third Edition Grognards

Definition: In D&D, a person who prefers an older edition to the newer one.
Gamer A: "After playing 4th edition for six months, our group decided to give it up and go back to 3.5."
Gamer B: "You are officially grognards."

On the Virtues of Third Edition

It was very, very easy for me to adapt third edition to non-fantasy settings, and to do so in such a way as to not scare away my players, who would otherwise shy away from learning a new rules system. It served varied fantasy campaigns equally well.

Unfortunately, this easy flexibility that I felt to be the primary strength of the system did not seem to be accessible to the Wizards staff, whose non-fantasy books were without exception uncreative rehashes of previously released material. I suppose they know that it's already successful and so it's sensible to be conservative and build one's intellectual property up through re-use.

I wish I could say that the OGL publishers picked up the slack. They did not. The OGL is an amazing way to trick older nerds into publishing vanity press, and younger nerds into buying it. Oh well, it's better than being sent cease and desist orders by TSR's lawyers for putting your home brew module on the web --which used to be standard operating practice.

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Island: Dreki Corpse-Eater

Dreki Corpse-Eater is an immense dragon that lives atop a mountain of frozen corpses. The corpses are those that have died outside of battles. He is Nidhoggur and Beowulf's dragon at once, the spawner dragons. The players couldn't really hope fight him, and he wasn't interested in fighting. After Dreki gave his speech, the players fought some of Dreki's children.

I did my best polish accent, inflected all the words wrong, and went with it. The words are partially derived from John Gardener's nihilist dragon, and partially from TS Eliot's The Wasteland. The main thrust of it is that Dreki is aware of the future and what The Tree wants to do with island: kill the dragons, end magic, and supplant the nature of reality in the campaign setting.

I don't expect it looks like much on paper, but despite its nonsensical nature and what I'll charitably call "poetic logic" it made an impression on my players.

"We've been expecting you. I am Dreki Corpse-Eater, world-wrecker, fatal my fang, hungry my horde, father of Goin Dreki and mother of Murrain Dreki."

Because you will one day not exist you do not exist now. You are neither living nor dead. And you know nothing. You see nothing. You remember nothing. You don't see Island, the nymphs departing, thunder screaming out of bells in the distant sunrise.

I heard what The Thunder said. I heard it, but have not heeded it. Dry sterile thunder. Wrongful thunder, bad bad bad thunder. A world of rock but no water, a world of sound but no word. That is what I was to make. What I have given to man to do instead.

You come to me here in this dead land, death's other kingdom. You think you can crush the multifoliate rose of death's true kingdom. That is the only hope for empty men. For thine is the kingdom.

It was my job, but I have given it to man. This capacity to destroy. no part of it want I. Mankind's time on Island is no more than a swirl in the stream of time, but I have prolonged it.

I am killed not by you, but by one like you. Shantih shantih shantih."