Friday, 28 June 2019

Campaigns & Campaign Length

From here.

I tend to track my #sessions and run longer campaigns, a couple years is typical.

Some recent campaigns:Loudwater (4e) 2011-2016, 5.5 years, 103 sessions, levels 1-29 & reached 30 at end.Follow on Princes of the Apocalypse campaign runs monthly and plan to go 36 sessions over 3 years, 2019-2021.
Primeval Thule I have run 27 sessions so far since January 2019, plan to run around 60 sessions over 12 months or so.
Varisia - Runelords of the Shattered Star so far 83 sessions since November 2015, but took a break in 2018 and switched from tabletop to online.Followed on from Curse of the Crimson Throne PF, 34 sessions Jan 2014-Oct 2015.
Nentir Vale 4e campaign 26 sessions 2017-18.
Karameikos Campaign (Classic) 25 months to January 2017.
Southlands Campaign (4e) 20 sessions 2011-12.
Yggsburgh Campaign (1e AD&D) was 45 online sessions. Wilderlands (online5e ) has run a few hundred sessions since 2015.1e Rise of the Runelords was 16 sessions online before TPK.
I used to mostly run 20-35 session campaigns in 3e, but with 5e I find it fits longer campaigns going the full level range.

Friday, 10 May 2019

How to start an old school sandbox game

From https://www.therpgsite.com/showthread.php?40547-How-to-switch-to-OSR&p=1087083&viewfull=1#post1087083

The Quick Primer for Old School gaming is pretty good - http://www.lulu.com/items/volume_63/...nt/3019374.pdf

For more advanced stuff you could check out/google
Ben Robbins' West Marches (was a 3e campaign, but OSR principles
Rob Conley (Bat in the Attic) on sandboxing
Justin Alexander also has good articles on his website on megadungeons & sandbox play

I think the easiest way to start is
1. Get or make a sandbox such as Rob's Blackmarsh at the Swords & Wizardry SRD site - https://www.d20swsrd.com/
2. choose or make a 'home base' starter village such as Hommlet, set in the sandbox, with an Inn or similar start locale for the PCs
3. Place a bunch of adventures, such as the free ones from Basicfantasy.org, with most of the lower level ones closer to starter town & higher level further away
4. Provide rumours to several of the adventures at the Inn/start locale. 2 or 3 is good to start. Only giving 1 tends to train GM & players to expect linear campaign.
5. Be ready to GM whichever of the adventures the PCs seek out.
6. Go to #4. Eventually go to #2 as the PCs move away from starter town, and to #1 if they wander off the map.

Thursday, 9 May 2019

Starfinder Beginner Box - House Rules!

So my SFBB arrived this morning, and naturally I'm already set to tweaking it. These modifications are the fruit of a lot of play in other d20 based systems though, so I have a fair idea now what works.

Simon's Starfinder Beginner Box House Rules

Epic-4 Rules module

The Box has 4 levels. This module allows for long term play using just the box.
At Level 4, every additional 3,000 XP earns one Advance, chosen from the following:
i. Add one to your primary class attribute, to a maximum of 18.
ii. Add one Feat (pg 52-55) of the 27 listed.
iii. Add one Skill (pg 46-51) of the 10 listed.
iv. Add +1 to one Saving Throw (Fort, Ref, Will).

Character Generation rules module
This module is intended to create more interesting, and somewhat more heroic, PCs than the default rules, without greatly affecting the balance of play. Additional hit points make level 1 more viable.
1. Roll Attributes on best 3 of 5d6 in order - ST DE CON IN WI CH.
2. Optionally, replace any one Attribute number with a 16.
3. At first level, add your full CON attribute to your starting hit points. Additional hit points at levels 2-4 are gained normally.

Combat Module
Many SF weapons do d4 damage, while many monsters and NPCs have a lot of hit points. This is a tweak to make the game play faster and somewhat more deadly. It works well with the increased PC hit points in the Character Generation module.
1. Weapon do maximum damage. On a critical ('20') they do double damage, as normal.
Weapon Die > Damage
d4 > 4
d6 > 6
d8 > 8
d10 > 10
d12 > 12

Starship Combat

1. Ship Commanders roll initiative (d20+INT)
2. Ship Gunners fire on their turn (d20+DEX+to hit bonus vs AC)
3. Apply damage, ships at 0 hp are disabled, 1d6x10% of crew are casualties (taking 1d6x10 damage each, DEX save DC 15 for half). Ships at negative hp equal to half their maximum hp are destroyed.

Sample Starships - adapted from White Star RPG.

ASSAULT SHIP (Assault Frigate)
ARMOR CLASS 15
HIT POINTS 75
MOVEMENT FACTOR 12 (36G)
ATTACK Ion Charge Hit: 25 non-lethal, 3 x Laser Canon Hit: 15
MODIFICATIONS Faster-Than-Light Drive
Commonly used by galactic pirates, Assault Ships are designed to disable
and board a target vessel without destroying it, leaving both crew and
cargo in tact. Through use of its ion charge it
renders an enemy ship inoperable before a heavily armed boarding crew
makes their often brutal entry onto the target vessel.

Blockade Runner (Escort Corvette)
ARMOR CLASS 17
HIT POINTS 100
MOVEMENT FACTOR 9 (27G)
ATTACK Laser Cannon x3 Hit: 15
MODIFICATIONS Faster-Than-Light Drive
These heavily armed and armored ships are favored by pirates and other
galactic criminals. Heavily armored and well-armed, they are used to break
planetary blockades, defeat military escorts, and support stellar combat.
They typically require only a crew of two dozen men.

Aerospace Fighter 
ARMOR CLASS 15 + pilot DEX mod
HIT POINTS 15
MOVEMENT FACTOR 13 (39G)
ATTACK Hit: 15 (Laser Cannons) [pilot-linked]
These small one-man ships are designed to operate effectively within planetary atmospheres. 

Dreadnought (Battlestar, Battleship)
ARMOR CLASS 18
HIT POINTS 400
MOVEMENT FACTOR 3 (9G)
ATTACK Heavy Laser Cannon x3 Hit: 35 Ion Charge x2 Hit: 25 non-lethal 
Heavy Missile Launcher x4 Hit: 30 (10 MT light missile) or 100 (100 MT heavy missile)
MODIFICATIONS Automated Weapons, Faster-Than-Light Drive, 
Proton Missiles (4), Tractor Beam (2), 
Crewed by over four hundred men and with enough firepower to lay siege to an entire planet, it is the symbol of military might in the galaxy. The mere sight of
one is often enough to cause adversaries to surrender.

Gunship (aka Interdictor Frigate, Planetary Defence Ship)
ARMOR CLASS 16
HIT POINTS 100
MOVEMENT FACTOR 6 (18G)
ATTACK Laser Cannons x2 Hit: 15, Ion Charger Hit: 25,
Light Proton Missiles x2 Hit: 30, may have others.
MODIFICATIONS Automated Weapons,  Faster-Than-Light Drive, Proton Missiles (2)
Little more than mobile artillery platforms, gunships are slow, heavily
armored, heavily shielded, and armed to the teeth. Used to blockade planets
and assist in military endeavors, they require a crew of only two dozen
men. Some even deploy space mines.

Heavy Transport
ARMOR CLASS 10
HIT POINTS 80
SHIELD STRENGTH 0
MOVEMENT FACTOR 3 (9G)
TARGETING +0
ATTACK 0 or Light Laser Hit: 10
MODIFICATIONS Faster-Than-Light Drive, Tractor Beam
Little more than a flying warehouse with a Faster-Than-Light drive, heavy
transports are used to haul small ships, vast supplies, and other large-scale
commodities across the galaxy. They are not well armed or armored, but
require only three crew members. Because they are slow and bulky, they
are common targets for criminals.

Light Transport
ARMOR CLASS 13
HIT POINTS 60
SHIELD STRENGTH 0 
MOVEMENT FACTOR 9 (27G)
TARGETING +0
ATTACK 0 or Light Laser Hit: 10 [pilot-linked]
MODIFICATIONS Faster-Than-Light Drive
Transports are the workhorse of the galaxy. Light transports are small
freighters ferrying cargo between star systems. Typically they do not have
shields and only Light Armor and weapons. They usually require a crew of
only one or two operators, though they are easily modified and often used
by smugglers and pirates.

Medium Transport
ARMOR CLASS 12
HIT POINTS 75
SHIELD STRENGTH 3
MOVEMENT FACTOR 6 (18G)
TARGETING +0
ATTACK 0 or Light Laser Hit: 10 [pilot-linked]
MODIFICATIONS Faster-Than-Light Drive
A larger version of the light transport typically used to haul livestock, ground
vehicles, or other bulk resources, the medium transport is a bigger, slower
version of its smaller counterpart. Unlike light transports, medium transports
usually have some level of shielding to protect themselves.

Space Mine (Suicide Drone)
ARMOR CLASS 17
HIT POINTS 5
MOVEMENT FACTOR 18 (54G)
TARGETING: SPECIAL
ATTACK +7 Hit: 30 (Self-Destruct)
MODIFICATIONS Automated Weapons (Self-Destruct)
Not so much a starship, but an automated hazard resembling a giant torpedo or small starfighter, used to bolster planetary blockades and waylay honest travelers, a space mine is an automated
starship that activates whenever it detects another starship.
It then begins moving towards that starship at pursuit
speed, making an Attack Roll as it continually attempts to collide with its
target. When it does so it explodes on impact, destroying itself.

Space Yacht
ARMOR CLASS 15
HIT POINTS 40
MOVEMENT FACTOR 12 (36G)
TARGETING: +0
ATTACK Light Laser Hit: 10 [pilot-linked]
MODIFICATIONS Faster-Than-Light Drive
Sleek and elegant, space yachts are used by rich diplomats and nobles to
cruise the stars in style. They are not heavily armed, but they are fast. With
only a meager laser and the lightest shields to defend itself, the space yacht
is built with the mantra of style over substance. Because of their association
with the idle rich, they are often the targets of space pirates and other
criminals - if they can catch them.

Star Cruiser (eg Customs Frigate)
ARMOR CLASS 15
HIT POINTS 85
MOVEMENT FACTOR 7 (21G)
TARGETING +0
ATTACK Laser Cannons x2 Hit: 15, may have others
MODIFICATIONS Faster-Than-Light Drive, others determined by Referee
A star cruiser is a universal term for any medium-sized starship found
commonly across the galaxy. It is easily modified to serve as a personnel
carrier, combat vessel, cargo hauler, or any other number of jobs. It usually
requires a crew of anywhere between ten and fifty (10-50) individuals and
can carry as many as three times (x3) that number of passengers. There
is no such thing as a “stock” star cruiser, they are almost always modified.

Star Fighter
ARMOR CLASS 16 + pilot DEX mod
HIT POINTS 25
MOVEMENT FACTOR 15 (45G)
ATTACK Hit: 15 (Laser Cannons) [pilot-linked]
MODIFICATIONS Faster-Than-Light Drive (Optional),
These small, agile ships are typically crewed by only one or two pilots.
Light, fast and typically armed with lasers, proton missiles, and sometimes
even ion charges, they typically fly in squads of between three to five (3-5)
ships supporting larger gunships or dreadnoughts in large battles.

SCOUT SHIP (eg Constellation Class)
ARMOR CLASS 14
HIT POINTS 65
MOVEMENT FACTOR 9 (27G)
ATTACK Medium Laser Hit: 15 [pilot-linked]
MODIFICATIONS Faster-Than-Light Drive
The tenacious little scout ship is designed for long term space exploration.
Able to operate with a small two or three man crew, its not built for
combat, though by virtue of often being alone in the depths of space it
can take a beating. It’s not built for cargo transport, though its hold is
capable of carrying enough supplies to last a crew of three up to six months.
Scout starships dive into the darkest corners of the galaxy to discover new
planets, new civilizations and find out what lays beyond the star charts of
the universe.

STAR BOMBER
ARMOR CLASS 16
HIT POINTS 30
MOVEMENT FACTOR 12 (36G)
ATTACK Light Laser Hit: 10 [pilot-linked], Proton Missiles Hit: 40
MODIFICATIONS Faster-Than-Light Drive
A little tougher and a little slower than the more traditional Fighter,
Bombers are designed to support their more agile counterpart by
engaging in bombing runs on dreadnoughts and other large warships.
While not as fragile as Stunt Fighters, pilots still must be careful or they
find their bombing runs quickly turning into a one way trip.

ORBITAL SHUTTLE
ARMOR CLASS 12
HIT POINTS 50
MOVEMENT FACTOR 9 (27G)
ATTACK Light Laser Hit: 10 [pilot-linked]
MODIFICATIONS Faster-Than-Light Drive
These simple starships are most often found in the service of nobles and
aristocrats, ferrying them from their planetary palaces to larger starships
waiting in orbit. Built for luxury and show, they are all but defenseless
in the heat of battle, equipped with minimal shielding and a light laser.
Many of them do not even have a Faster-than-Light Drive.

Sunday, 10 March 2019

Need for a Home Base

Just musing to myself that all my successful long term campaigns have had the following format:

1. PCs start out in a safe and relatively familiar location, eg "You all meet at the Inn"; though it can be a castle or Pathfinder lodge, etc.
2. PCs hear the "call to adventure" - whether the greybeard in the corner with Quest to Save World, or just rumours of treasure
3. PCs go to adventure site, do stuff, then come back.

So, basically the "Hero's Journey".

Now, sometimes - often - the PCs eventually relocate their Home Base, eg they might move to a new Inn, or gain their own Castle. But the safe & familiar starting point seems to be very important for long term play. If I start the game as GM/am started as player with PCs on the run, looking for safety, or crashed on an unfamiliar & dangerous planet/island, it never works out. All player energy goes into establishing safety - creating that safe home base, or reaching a safe place - at which point the game feels 'done'. The energy dissipates.

Anyone else had this experience? Is it just me?

Monday, 11 February 2019

Going All The Way (updated 13/4/19)

Update: Quillax levelled up to 20 today, 13/4/2019!

As GM I've had 2 5e PCs reach level 20 (I mostly do individual XP); only one (now two) from 1st - in my Wilderlands 5e game Hakeem the Barbarian got from level 1 (March 20th 2015) to level 20 (September 15th 2017) in 132 online sessions, about the same as 66 offline sessions, over two and a half years. Played on a bit after that with Epic Boons.

In my tabletop 5e Runelords game Quillax the Druid got from level 1 (November 2015) to 18 (end October 2017) in 2 years and 64 tabletop sessions each of around 4-5 hours; we recently restarted as an online game now Quillax's player is a globetrotter - http://smonscurseofthecrimsonthrone.blogspot.com/ - so could make 20 yet! 
Update: After resuming play & 12 online sessions, reached 20th on 13/4/19.

But I've also had 60-80 session campaigns with no PCs getting over level 10. In my 4e Loudwater game http://frloudwater.blogspot.com/ Lirael the Ranger went 1st (ca April 2011) to 30th (August 2016) in 103 tabletop sessions and something over 5 years of play; she reached level 20 in session 71 - http://frloudwater.blogspot.com/2014/07/session-71-17-1811483-remorhaz-tower.html - July 2014, so a bit over 3 years. That was a 'party XP' game.


Lirael, Queen of the Shining Vale, Ranger-30 (4e D&D)
Hakeem the Destroyer, Barbarian-20
   
Quillax, Warden of Jorgenfist  (Druid-20) may look a bit like this.

Shieldbiter, Barbarian-20 (from 10th).



Friday, 18 January 2019

My new XP system

I'm about to start two new 5e campaigns, and I decided to use a completely different XP system, almost identical. Basically the idea is 1 XP per significant encounter or achievement, such as a quest completion or big treasure haul, 2-3 XP in exceptional cases.

1. For Princes of the Apocalypse running for ca 5 hours 1/4 weeks, initially 5 XP 1st to 2nd and 2nd to 3rd, then 10 XP/level.
2. For Primeval Thule running for ca 3.5 hours 1/2 weeks , a flat 10 XP per level, but I am giving PCs a hit point kicker at 1st level (hp = full CON + max hd, rather than max hd plus CON bonus) so they can stay at 1st level for longer.

This will resemble the fiat 'milestone levelling' suggested method, but I wanted a bit more structure than that, and one better suited to sandboxy play. I'm looking for about 2-3 sessions of play per level (10 XP), which is the 5e DMG suggested rate, but much faster than in my current 5e games, which use the standard XP rules.

Discussion here

Friday, 14 September 2018

Uncertainty in RPG Worlds

Uncertainty - where even the GM does not know, has not defined, the truth of the matter.
I find this dramatically very powerful.
For instance, in my Wilderlands, two young lovers, Cassandra the Druidess & Polyachus the Apollo priest, both fairly major NPCs. and Cassandra a very long term NPC from a previous campaign, had taken shelter on a remote island to escape the evil Archmage Oriax. Unfortunately that island was later occupied by evil Skandik pirates, and it was assumed the lovers had met a terrible fate. But when the Skandiks had left, and others arrived on the island, they found only beautiful songbirds, never seen before. The legend grew up that the gods had taken pity on the lovers and transformed them into birds, and the birds now seen on the isle are their offspring.
I have no intention of ever proclaiming - or deciding - a definitive truth of the matter.
I do this with other Big Mysteries of the campaign, such as whether or not the gods really exist. I have my suspicions, but have no intention of forming a definitive answer.
I find this approach makes the campaign world feel much more real to me. I've noticed that some other designers use this sort of ambiguity, eg in the Elder Scrolls CRPGs, as a way to create depth and mystery.
Anyone else do this? Is it a common practice?