Armor Values

I changed up the values for generic armor. They were a bit too high:

Light Armor: +1 AC
Medium Armor: +3 AC
Heavy Armor: +5 AC
Shield: +1 AC

With a base AC of 10, a dextrous S&W Fighter has an AC of 17 with heavy armor and a shield. Much better. If I wanted, I could include a DEX penalty of -1 for heavy armor (or something like that), which would bring the value down to 16.

New Combat System (I Think)

 Here’s a new system I used for combat today.

Rather than having one character roll to hit a static AC, I had both sides roll off—one to attack, one to defend.

The Base Attack Bonus is now called the Combat Bonus.

To attack, you roll d20 + Combat Bonus + Strength/Dexterity modifier + Weapon Bonus (if any).

To defend, you roll d20 + Combat Bonus + Armor Bonus + Dexterity modifier.

The player with the higher roll wins.

It will probably go smoother if you combine the numbers and create an Attack Bonus and a Defense Bonus.

For instance, Shawn the Neurobarbarian has a Combat Bonus of +2, a Strength modifier of +3, and a +1 sword. That gives him an Attack Bonus of +6.

(In my game, Strength could be used for Melee weapons and Dexterity could be used for Ranged or Light Weapons—see previous post to understand weapons and armor.)

He wears Heavy Armor (+7), a Dexterity modifier of +2, and adding his Combat Bonus gives him a Defense Bonus of +11.

This system benefits the defender, but I like that. The randomness prevents several things that I don’t like: first, there is no static AC that players can eventually guess. Also, it means that every missed attack is not just a brief statistical ‘whiff’, but an engaging moment at the table, with a lot of uncertainty.

If an enemy is flanked or otherwise distracted, they lose their Combat Bonus to defense—the Armor Bonus still applies, as does Dexterity.

From the playtest, it was a little clunky at first (we had a totally new player and the system was unfamiliar) but once they got the hang of it things seemed to run pretty smoothly (or smooth enough, given that it was a hyper-buggy Google+ connection).

Anyways, hope people find this useful. I thought it added a lot!

New Item: Wailing Flask

This small bottle does not appear to contain any sort of substance, but when unstoppered it produces a frightful, keening wail. This sound does not harm any listener, but will draw wandering monsters to it if left unstopped. The source of the wail is a weak ghost trapped within the bottle itself. If smashed, the enraged spirit will attack whoever is nearest due to its anguished confusion.

Fairy Tale Worldbuilding

Zak Sabbath says cool things. Here is a cool thing he said a while back about fairy tales.

I re-read that a little while back and it got me wondering—‘What sort of fairy tales do they tell on Varth? Or what sort of Fairy Tales should I tell about Varth?’

Try this. Sit down with a book of fairy tales and read an obscure one (or a book of sagas, or epic poetry, or whatever fits your style).

Then write down a few brief (very brief, fable-short) fairy tales about events in your world (or dungeon, or city…).

Begin with ‘Once upon a time…’ (or ‘Sing Muse!’ or ‘Hwaet!’) and don’t waste too much time on descriptions.

Then go online and pick out a few illustrations for your story (doesn’t have to be exact, just some artists who have the right idea).

(I’ll post one of mine later)

Anyways, see if things look a bit different afterwards.

Monster Rehabilitated: The Digester

Many feel this is one of the dumbest monsters ever, with good reason. All I think one really has to do to make them effective is shrink their size and increase their numbers.

Use the stats for a wild dog unless otherwise noted.
AC: 12
HD: 1d4
Number encountered: 5d4
Acid: Digesters can spit acid up to 15’ away (+3 to hit). They have no other attacks. The acid does 1d4 damage upon impact and 1d3 per round thereafter (for 1d6 rounds) unless doused with water (or some other solvent). They never appear to run out.

These two-legged beasties are shy and skittish at first, approaching adventurers warily. Once they have determined that a creature is edible, they surround it and begin spitting acid to pre-digest it. Once 1/3 to ½ their number is slain, they will retreat… but will follow at a distance, waiting for an opportune moment to strike again or feast on the remains of their former enemies. This is a good example of an 'attrition monster', one that is easy enough to dispatch at first but remains a thorn in your side (and forces you to use up resources like water, which may be a problem). 

If you want a sense of the effect these little critters ought to have, check out that scene at the beginning of Jurassic Park 2 (couldn’t find a clip) where the little girl is surrounded by the tiny dinosaurs, and then imagine all of them spitting little gobs of acid everywhere.

The Easiest Thief Class

Perhaps the defining feature of the Thief (Rogue/Ranger/Whip-Wielding Archaeologist) is not a particular skill set, but the sheer amount of luck these characters seem to have on tap. I present the Luck-Based Thief:

HD: d6
Armor: Light Armor (+3 AC) only
Weapons: Any Light One-Handed Melee, any Light Ranged
Starting Saving Throw: 13
XP per Level: Same as Cleric
Prime Attribute: Dexterity

Luck: A Thief gains a number of luck rerolls per day equal to ½ his level plus his DEX modifier. Any die roll may be rolled twice, taking the best result. The use of this ability may be declared shortly after the initial die roll. 

I originally envisioned this class as a Divine Thief, who would pray to the gods for an hour every day to receive his luck. It is easy to see how it could be modified to fit any number of archetypes.

I like this approach because it encourages the character to take risks, to rely on his luck and his wits, which is for me a much more satisfying play style for the Thief. Also, it means there is a possibility that his luck could run out in a tight spot, and one can see the sweat beading on a player’s forehead after the first four re-rolls have failed him in a life-or-death situation… 

4e Gamma World Weapons and Armor

Philotomy gives the best explanation for d6 weapon damage. Brendan at Untimately has his damage-by-HD system. I think most of us tend toward variable weapon damage. Here is a system I pulled from the latest edition of Gamma World (which is really Gamma World 7 or something):

Armor falls into three categories—Light, Heavy and Shield. Weapons fall into six: Heavy/Light, One-Handed/Two-Handed, Melee/Ranged. Each of the six categories has a standard damage value, but otherwise both weapons and armor can be ‘skinned’ however you like. Thus, a Heavy One-Handed Melee Weapon could be an axe, a piece of rebar or a board with a nail in it, and it would still do the same damage. This approach is a compromise to the age-old quandary about d6 vs. variable weapon damage, and even satisfies (pretty well) the Magic Number Seven test. And it came from a 4e game. I like it because it makes the issue of weapon proficiencies pretty simple without resorting to the (rather ambiguous to me) martial vs. simple weapons separation. Rogue-y characters use Light One-Handed Melee/Ranged Weapons, for instance. Give this system a look and see what it could do for you.

Here are the values:

Light Armor: +3 AC
(I would add) Medium Armor: +5 AC
Heavy Armor: +7 AC
Shield: +1 AC

Light One-Handed Melee: 1d8
Light Two-Handed Melee: 1d12

Heavy One-Handed Melee: 1d10
Heavy Two-Handed Melee: 2d8

Light One-Handed Ranged: 1d8
Light Two-Handed Ranged: 1d12

Heavy One-Handed Ranged: 1d10
Heavy Two-Handed Ranged: 2d8

Here are the weapon values one could use for Swords & Wizardry:

Light One-Handed Melee: 1d4 (Dagger, Club)
Light Two-Handed Melee: 1d8 (Spear, Staff)

Heavy One-Handed Melee: 1d10 (Hammer, Long Sword)
Heavy Two-Handed Melee: 2d8 (Claymore, Halberd)

Light One-Handed Ranged: 1d4 (Hand Crossbow, Darts)
Light Two-Handed Ranged: 1d6 (Short Bow, Long Bow)

Heavy One-Handed Ranged: 1d8 (Spear, Throwing Axe)
Heavy Two-Handed Ranged: 2d6 (Arbalest, Musket)

Weapon prices would be a bit tricky perhaps, but many people have pointed out that making people pay more money for less weapon damage (as some variable systems have you do) is a bit of a pain, despite the role-play applications. The only problem that I have with the system above is when a weapon like a short sword would need to get downgraded to a d4 or upgraded to a d10. I could create a separate category, but that’s too finicky. Also, spears and staves that can be wielded either way could be problematic. But I still like the system a lot, and will continue to mess with it. 

BTW, the latest edition of Gamma World is, I believe, the best product WotC has put out in the 4e era (despite the monstrous cost). An excellent review is here.

Ability Checks… Again

I use ability checks, more frequently (sometimes) than I think I should. The growing old-schooler in me wants to move towards abstraction; but the old World of Darkness and 3.5 player wants to hammer things out using dice aggregates. Right now, I’m using the tried-and-true system of d6-roll-under checks, but I’ve decided that I don’t like them for the following (mostly aesthetic) reasons:

1)  they use too many dice at once, and
2)  they involve too much addition.

Now, I hate it when players roll more than three or four dice at a time, and I prefer the larger numbers of dice to be rolled at the start rather than in the middle of gameplay. That's mostly a 'material simplicity' issue.

But there is another, more fundamental problem: we play on a very small table, and the little d6’s are always falling off and mixing with the other dice and causing a general ruckus due to their refusal to roll nice and polite. Also, my players take at least the better part of ten seconds to add up all the d6’s and compare to their scores, and while that isn’t an enormous problem in itself, I notice those little breaks in the action when people are just waiting for other people to finish counting so they can go ahead and do something. And all that time spent waiting adds up and puts a drain on the excitement. So I’m going to try something else.

There are about a dozen different styles of ability check out there, The one I originally used involved rolling under your ability score with a d20. Not bad, but it never quite jived with me. The 1-18 range is just a little awkward for percentile chances, and the success rate is just too high for people with, say, an 18 INT.

For a while I considered using a system where you subtract the d20 roll from the ability score: success would be measured by the size of the difference. A base difficulty would be something like 5. So you roll d20 and get 13, subtract from your relevant score (let’s say 18) and get 5… a success! Difficulties range from 5 to 15, so that a 15 difficulty on the same roll would require a roll of 3 or less. I liked the system because it went down instead of up (gives it a bit of old-school feel, to me) but I rejected it because of the same reason I don’t use Descending AC: subtraction always feels more complicated than addition. Even though my formula was simple, it was still a bit too much brainwork in the heat of the moment for me or my players.

So I’m going to try d10 ability checks. The system is simple—roll a d10 and add your relevant modifier. Difficulties are set from 1-10, or there is a roll off if a contest between two characters is involved. Contested rolls become the basis of combat maneuvers like wrestling, for instance. I kind of like that this system has such a wide range of possibilities with OD&D modifiers, since that makes it more abstract. What I don’t like is that now there is even less mechanical reliance on the scores themselves, which seems unfortunate for some reason. But we’ll give it a shot and see how it goes.

Since the post made a blah blah sound (all of my posts do), here’s a monster:

Disenchanter Wombat

Use the stats for a Giant Rat (and look up the Disenchanter while you’re at it).

The Disenchanter Wombat is cultivated especially in areas that fear the power of spellcasters. It is a large rodent covered with fine, multicolored fur and possessing a long, elephantish snout. It can be skittish, but quite friendly to magic users in general. When its snout touches a spellcaster, the spellcaster must roll a saving throw or lose one of its highest level spells that it had prepared that day. This process continues until the spellcaster has no other spells left. The creature can also devour magic items in the manner of the (supposed) related creature, the Disenchanter proper. Disenchanter Wombats are quite adept at sniffing out magic items, and are occasionally domesticated for this purpose. Too often have magical items been devoured when left alone in an environment with these little pests.