Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Running O5R - OSR in 5e

"Hello, my friend! If you seek knowledge about mighty Talos er running OSR in 5e, you have most certainly come to the right person."

Those BFRPG adventures are all great yup and very useable in 5e.

Things to be aware of:

5e is a loose enough system that you don't really need to worry about balance any more than you would when running an OSR system. Players should know that running away is an option, and the GM should normally make this possible, possibly with some Athletics and/or Stealth checks to evade pursuit.

1. Generally you should just use the 5e monster stats. Some 5e monsters are a bit tougher than in OSR, eg orcs, some are weaker, eg manticores. But overall it works fine.
2. For monsters that don't exist in 5e, you can either use the closest 5e equivalent (tweaking a bit, especially any special powers) or convert the stats. For converting BFRPG to 5e I recommend:

AC: deduct 1 from the BFRPG AC since it starts at 11.
Hit Points: Usually doubling the BFRPG/OD&D hp works
Damage: Usually should be about double BFRPG number. You can often get this by keeping the BFRPG damage dice and adding an attribute bonus
CR: I pretty much eyeball CR, but halving the hit dice probably gives a reasonable number.
Attributes: One pretty much has to eyeball these with reference to 5e norms, eg low level monsters typically have a +1 to +3 attribute bonus for their attack attribute, mid level +4 to +6 (NPCs usually cap at +5/attribute 20), high level +7 to +9, rarely +10 (needs a 30 Attribute).
Attack Score & Magic Save DC can be calculated off CR & Attribute bonus, the totals should typically be around +4/DC 12 at low level, +7/DC 15 at medium level, +10/DC 18 at high level.

Monster numbers: 5e monsters can be more dangerous in large groups, though I've not found it a big enough issue to worry about generally. Most BFRPG adventures don't need numbers adjusting IMO, but Chris Gonnerman (Morgansfort) has a tendency to put 28 kobolds in a room, in a 1st level adventure. You may want to simply halve his monster numbers where they look excessive - but I'm running it in Swords & Wizardry and doing that, it's not a 5e thing so much as a designer thing.

I always use the Basic D&D 2d6 Reaction & Morale rules, I'd recommend using those or similar.

Treasure: I don't normally alter the BX/BFRPG listed treasure values unless I also reduced monster numbers (eg halve monsters, halve treasure). The main thing is don't assume the PCs will find the treasure, it should be an uncertain reward. It won't break the game if they are successful and find lots of treasure. Just don't let them buy unlimited magic items from the DMG, 5e isn't designed to support that. A limited list of Common & Uncommon items at twice creation cost is fine, eg I have a list of Uncommon items the PCs can purchase at 1000gp each. Likewise if you allow magic item creation at list price, enforce crafting time, level limits, formulae etc so they are encouraged to focus on the cheaper, easier stuff.

Aside from magic items, it's great IMO if the PCs find lots of treasure and are motivated to do interesting things with it. It definitely won't break the game (or any edition of D&D except 3e/PF, really).

Monday, 16 July 2018

Starting an RPG Meetup

From https://www.therpgsite.com/showthread.php?39280-Starting-a-D-amp-D-Meetup

CRKrueger asked:
"Hey, how about starting a thread detailing everything you did? Kind of a "Here's how you set up a successful Meetup" kinda thing."

Well, I didn't start cold. I had joined the local D&D Meetup in 2008 and become an assistant organiser there ca 2010, keeping that role with just one break of a year or so, until I started my own Meetup in early 2018. For a long time I was the one doing the scheduling and I had an eye on what worked and was worth emulating.

I was running a group at the big Meetup and we had a spinoff group playing beside us in the same Wilderlands campaign setting. The initial decision to fork was mostly due to lack of space at the venue (plus some issues with how the big Meetup asst org was running that day); we moved our two groups to another nearby pub venue I knew - this required some negotiation with pub management to get us a reserved space (which we may be losing, the new manager doesn't seem so keen) and added a third Wilderlands group. By this time we were basically a mini Meetup within the Meetup. When the asst org wanted to assert more control over us I decided to take it independent and start a new Meetup. I had already established a Facebook group for us which made communications easier - I was coming in with around 20-22 players.

For the new Meetup:
1. I secured a pub venue with good transport links in an area gamers could easily get to, that I knew was safe and reasonably pleasant.
2. I wrote a description for the new Meetup that made it clear we were open to new players.
3. I designed the Open Wilderlands multi-table campaign to be the core of the Meetup and to be very accommodating to new players coming in and out, no pressure. And no disruption/blame. I was influenced by Ben Robbins, Justin Alexander, and what I knew of how Gygax and Arneson had run their Greyhawk & Blackmoor campaigns.
4. I used the Meetup advertiser tools which announce new Meetups. Maybe because we immediately had over 20 members on the first day, their algorithms spread it further. Currently after 6 months we have 131 members, something which took the original D&D Meetup a few years (it's now the world's largest with over 4000).

I guess my advice would be:
1. Come in with some other people at the start. Money makes money and players make players. The main obstacle to others joining your Meetup is that you're a lone weirdo with no social skills. I'd say you want at least an established play group (say 5 people) and at least one other person willing to GM as the Meetup grows. You should be normal, pleasant people - you will get the odd weirdo joining later, that can't be helped, but you need a good quality starting cadre.
2. Secure a safe, pleasant public venue with good transport links, at a good time of day when things are otherwise quiet (I chose Sunday lunchtime). Not all venues require booking, and indeed I think at the pub our first games did not have the space reserved, but I convinced the pub we were worth having.
3. It should be oriented around allowing drop-in & irregular play by players (I've resisted one GM's efforts to make it more restrictive), combined with very reliable GMing, which for me means low-effort GMing. The WotC hardbacks are not great for this, Phandelver is ok. Megadungeons are ideal; short wilderness delves in a sandbox are good too. But the main thing is that the GMs are reliable, flaky GMs will destroy a nascent Meetup.
4. Likewise the initial game systems used should be popular and accessible - making it explicitly a "5e D&D Meetup" helped a lot I think; you can always allow other systems later. 5e D&D attracts lots of new (often younger) players very keen to play, and without many preconceived notions or demands. And newbies attract newbies in a virtuous circle.
5. Know what you're doing - the more experience you have of how a public Meetup works before starting your own, the better. Eg I use the RSVP limits to set how many players can come each week, fitting the number of players to the available GMs. I allow people to bring 2 Guests, but not to bring in an entire established group just looking for a venue. The groups need to stay open to new players.

Friday, 6 July 2018

5e D&D XP Awards

After playing 5e D&D awhile, I settled on a nice simple metric for XP awards that works for quests & missions, social encounters, and exploration: my guideline XP award per PC is 100 XP per level. That's threat or accomplishment level, which may be the same as PC level but may also be higher or lower. For instance, the awards on the second level of a dungeon will typically be 200 XP/PC, while on the 9th level they'll be 900 per PC. An act worthy of 1st level PCs such as a minor village quest gets 100 XP/PC, while an act worthy of 10th level characters such as victory in a baronial war gets 1000 XP/PC. Saving the world type stuff worthy of 20th level characters gets 2000 XP/PC.

I normally cap any purely social activity awards at 1000 XP per PC per hour of tabletop play, or per 2-3 hours of Internet text-chat play, no matter the PC level, but really major social achievements such as forging an alliance or becoming monarch may get their own awards in addition, again at 100 XP/level per award.

For a 2-3 hour Internet session where things go a bit slowly, a useful guide is to award the standard amount of at least 100 XP per level of each PC, assuming they are actually doing stuff, up to 1000 XP/PC at level 10+.

For a tabletop session I'd recommend three times that a guide to a typical session's total award, ie:

PC Level / Individual Award / Typical Session Award / XP & Sessions to Level

  1.        100 / 300  / 300 - 1
  2.        200 / 600 / 600 - 1
  3.       300  / 900  / 1800 - 2
  4.       400 / 1200 / 3800 - 3 or 4 (total 7-8 to 5th)
  5.       500 / 1500 / 7500 - 5 
  6.       600 / 1800 / 9000 - 5 (total 17-18 to 7th)
  7.       700 / 2100 / 11000 - 5 or 6
  8.       800 / 2400 / 14000 - 5 or 6
  9.      900 / 2700 / 16000 - 5 or 6 (total 32-36 to 9th)
  10.     1000 / 3000 / 21000 - 7
Using this metric, a PC can expect to climb from 1st to 11th in around 39-43 sessions of play, somewhat slower than Gygax's '1st to 9th in 50 sessions', but not wildly different, and the main change being the fast levelling up to 4th or 5th level. 

It's ok for awards at low level (1-4) to be somewhat lower, about half the above, but 5e seems to work best with low level PCs advancing at least every 2-3 4 hour (tabletop) sessions, compared to higher level PCs advancing around every 4-6 4 hour sessions, perhaps slower at very high level.

For very high level PCs. 11th+, I don't recommend sticking to a metric by level, the 10th level award of 3000 XP per session serves as a reasonable minimum guide. That gives 5 sessions 11-12 (15000 XP), but at that rate would be 16-17 sessions to go from 19th to 20th.

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

Why 'Lost Mine of Phandelver' sucks

Inspired by common recommendations to use it as a GM's first 5e adventure, I have to say I disagree.

The problems start with the very first encounter, and what it says about the world.

Why are 4 goblins ambushing a well armed party of 4-6 larger and likely tougher looking travellers - the PCs?  Answer: To give PCs a starting encounter. From goblin perspective it makes no sense. They would let such go past & wait for easier prey.

Why do the goblins use such sub-optimal tactics, with 2 charging into melee to get slaughtered? Answer: So the PCs can win. Because if the goblins were to use sniping tactics from cover, combined with their racial ability to hide, disengage etc, they might well actually win.

This is a terrible first encounter which sends the message that the world exist for the benefit of the PCs. It would work much better to (for instance) have four drunken goblins lounging around the wagon Paizo-style, a wine butt spilling the last dregs onto the ground - ie the PCs got lucky. Then the goblins can even react in confused & suboptimal manner without straining plausibility.

But don't set up an ambush that is suicidal from the POV of the ambushers.

Edit: Discussion here

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Improving Initiative

Sunday was my first chance to use my modified initiative approach in a live 5e D&D tabletop game - every player rolled init as usual vs a target number of enemy DEX mod +11, then winners could act in any reasonable order or as determined by GM (eg those at front going before those at back). After enemy's turn the losers went, along with the winners getting their 2nd turn, and so on.

On Monday I did the same in my White Star game, an sf system based on old school D&D. Here the target number is 4, initiative is rolled on a d6 plus PC DEX mod of typically -1, 0 or +1.

This worked really well in both cases and made combats fly past MUCH faster, so I'll definitely be sticking with it. I think the only game where I wouldn't use it is 4e D&D.

Monday, 19 March 2018

Mass Battle Stats - scaling things up

In most RPGs, the combat stats for an individual might just as well be the stats for a unit. Here are some thoughts on effective scaling:

The main thing is to choose an appropriate scale. Generally speaking, you want a 2-digit number of figures/chits on the board for it to feel like a battle, and something like 20-50 figures is ideal.

Times Ten Scale - "Battlesystem"
A unit is 10 men - a squad. A group of units is a company of ca 100 men.
Distances on the board/battlemat are x3, feet become yards, so 5' > 15' or 5 yards.
Time is also x3, so each unit round is 3 rounds of individual combat. Resolve 3 individual rounds for your PCs, then roll a unit round to see how the army is doing.

Times One Hundred Scale - "Hastings"
A unit is 100 men - a company or century. A group of units is a brigade of ca 1,000 men.
Distances on the board/battlemat are x10, so 5' > 50'.
Time is also x10, so each unit round is 10 rounds of individual combat. Resolve 10 individual rounds for your PCs, then roll a unit round to see how the army is doing.

Few battles will need a larger scale, but...

Times One Thousand Scale - "Cannae"
A unit is 1000 men - a brigade. A group of units is an army of ca 10,000 men.
Distances on the board/battlemat are x30, so 5' > 50 yards, 150'.
Time is also x30, so each unit round is 30 rounds of individual combat. Resolve up to 30 individual rounds for your PCs, then roll a unit round to see how the army is doing.

A force of 200 men becomes 20 units, in 10-man squads.
A force of 2,000 men becomes 20 units, in 100 man companies.
A force of 20,000 men becomes 20 units, in 1000 man brigades.

Treat each figure as a unit of the appropriate scale. Roll initiative etc as normal. One roll per side is fine, but individual rolls by organised group of units (company/brigade/army) or their leaders works well too, and may better reflect the disorganised state of battle.
Have groups of figures/units organised into cohorts/brigades of ca 10 act on their turns.
For a unit group, roll to hit for all units/figures. Use average weapon damage. Add up the number of hits and multiply by damage. Remove figures whose hp equal up to that damage total. Fractions can be ignored, since some damage is bound to be wasted, except for lone units.
Use morale rules as normal for your game.

Sunday, 11 March 2018

Made it!

Today the pub where I host my Wilderlands D&D Meetup said there was Rugby on TV, so they wanted a £260 credit guarantee (bargained down from £300) to let us play there. I had been going to say no, but my players convinced me otherwise, that they could eat and drink that amount - and they did, £290! Made it! :D

This may have been our last week with only three GMs running, all Wilderlands, all same campaign world and map, just a few miles apart. Next week we're adding a 4th GM in a linked campaign setting, which will let us increase size to 28 (24 players & 4 GMs) - and one of my players is pretty keen to make it 5 GMs if I let him go... :) ...That'd let us have over 32 people playing 5e D&D in the Wilderlands of High Fantasy!