Sunday, 31 May 2015

My Classic D&D Monster XP System

I base my XP off the OD&D 100/hd, but then I bring in the 3e idea of +2 levels = x2 XP, ie:

hd XP
0.5 50
(1-1 80)
1 100
(1+1 125)
2 200
3 300
4 400
5 600
6 800
7 1200
8 1600
9 2400
10 3000
+1 +1000

Special abilities typical add +50% or +100% XP, eg an MU19 might garner 12000x2=24000 XP, where a Clr-19 Ftr-19 Thf-19 garners 12000, or 18000 if they have loads of magic items. Big dumb unintelligent critters may earn only 50% as much XP.

This seems to work very well IME, 1600 XP for a hill giant equals 16 orcs and that looks about right.

Preparing a Space Opera Game...

Something I've learned over the years is that no campaign succeeds without adequate preparation, in particular the kind of sandbox setting prep that gives the PCs freedom of action - because linear campaigns, in my experience, fundamentally suck. >:) So over the coming months I plan to expand this post with setting notes and ideas as the mood takes me, until I have something ready to use...

Backgrounds - I'm thinking a Background lets you add your Level to relevant attribute checks. Stars Without Number has the following:

Adventurer - but see below.
Comms Officer
Con Artist
Deck Crew
Security Crew
Transport Specialist

Other Backgrounds not listed would include Asteroid Miner, Bounty Hunter, Command Crew, Pirate, Scavenger Star Knight. It can be anything a player can imagine - IME there is no need to restrict PCs or limit skills. The only thing that matters is that when play starts, everyone is an 'adventurer'.

Gamma World or Mutant Future? Or 5e D&D?
Mutant Future has the charts and tables. It has some legacy issues - without mutations, some MF levels literally are 'dead levels'. 4e D&D Gamma World is great for tabletop & minis, but lacks MF's procedural structures. For online a tweaked version of MF seems a no-brainer, perhaps combined with 5e. For offline either MF+5e+bits of GW, or GW+MF... hmm...

If we use 5e as the base, the following classes are useable in that they are not inherently magical:

Fighter (with Eldritch Knight perhaps for the Jedi types)

Do we need any more? Maybe not. The 5e DMG has high-tech equipment on page 268.

5e DMG has ships on page 119. In any edition of D&D, the basic combat rules ought to work just fine, for the simple reason that D&D's combat system was adapted by Gary Gygax from a naval warfare combat system in the first place! Replace "hp" with "Hull Points"; in Classic D&D these had a 5:1 ratio. 100:1 looks right for a science-fiction game.

Ship initiative: Single-crew ships roll DEX for init as normal. With multi-crew ships the Captain rolls a CHA check to set init.

Ships have the following stats:

Armour Class - How hard the ship is to hit. A factor of maneuverability as well as chaff, screens, and deflective armour. If a ship is evading, typically the Pilot rolls a DEX or INT check and adds (AC-10) to roll to set the enemy's target DC.
Weapons - with range and damage. Military ships typically have fire-linked weapons under the control of the Gunnery Officer, who rolls a DEX or INT check to hit a single target. Against mutiple targets the junior gunnery officers may man individual fire systems. Combat starts at long range (disad on attacks), if both sides are closing it moves to short range in rnd 2.
Tech Level: All rolls (Oppposed Checks, Attacks etc) vs Lower-Tech ships have Advantage. All rolls vs Higher Tech ships have Disadvantage. Simples.
Damage Control: Normally 1 per 20 hull points. As Hit Dice in 5e, but one may be spent every hour. The Chief Engineer must roll a successful WIS check, the DC rolled is the number of Hull Points repaired.
'Damaged': A ship at half hp has lost 1d4x10% of its crew disabled or dead (typically half of each, or roll 2d4x10 for the % of fatalities), and 25% of its systems.
'Disabled': A ship at 0 hp is dead in space, has lost another 1d4x10% of crew disabled or dead, and systems are non-functioning other than emergency life support.
'Destroyed': A ship at negative max hp is completely destroyed, with the death of all crew.

Secondary stats:
Cost - in gold or 'credits'.
Speed - in sf this will be acceleration in Gs.
Crew - standard crew to man ship at full efficiency.
Passengers - standard passenger complement, including marines.
Cargo - in tons, non-living, or crysosleeped.

Ship Base Stats
As per MM NPCs, eg:

Assassin-class Stealth Destroyer AC 15 HP 78 advtg on 1st turn, crits vs surprised foes, sneak attack 1/turn +13 dmg, 2 photon cannon ATT +7 dmg 18/27.

Bandit-class fighter AC 12 HP 11, laser cannon ATT +3 dmg 5/7.

BC-class mothership AC 15 HP 65, 2 photon cannon ATT +5 dmg 6/9, 1 laser ATT +5 dmg 5/7.

Berserker-class assault ship AC 13 HP 67, Reckless Attack - can gain & grant advtg, Heavy Photon Cannon ATT +5 dmg 9/13

Commoner-class light freighter AC 10 HP 4, unarmed or 1 light laser ATT +2 dmg 2/3

Gladiator-class Cruiser AC 16 HP 112, 3 heavy photon cannon ATT +7 dmg 11/16

Guard-class System Defence fighter AC 16 HP 11, laser cannon ATT +3 dmg 4/6

Knight-class Command Frigate AC 18 HP 52, 2 photon cannon ATT +5 dmg 10/15
Command Comms: On a DC 20 CHA check by the Admiral, all allies within short range may add +2 to all attacks & evasion checks on their next turn.

Noble-class yacht AC 15 HP 9, unarmed or laser cannon ATT +3 dmg 5/7

Priest-class hospital ship AC 13 HP 27, normally unarmed

Scout-class scoutship AC 13 HP 16, 2 laser cannon ATT +4 dmg 6/9

Spy-class covert survey ship AC 12 HP 27, 2 light photon cannon ATT +4 dmg 5/7
Sneak attack 1/turn +7 dmg when has advtg or target engaged with ally

Thug-class heavy raider AC 11 HP 32, 2 laser cannon ATT +4 dmg 5/7
Pack Tactics: Advtg vs foes engaged by ally at short range.

Tribal-class fighter AC 12 HP 11, laser cannon ATT +3 dmg 4/6
Pack Tactics: Advtg vs foes engaged by ally at short range.

Veteran-class Frigate AC 17 HP 58, 2 photon cannon ATT +5 dmg 7/10, 1 laser cannon ATT+5 dmg 6/9

Saturday, 30 May 2015

My Classic D&D stat-gen method.

I find that 3d6 roll-in-order gives variable and often weak PCs. Best 3 of 4d6 assign-as-desired gives stronger PCs, but players will always tend to boost & dump the same stats - eg everyone with low CHA. I hit on a method that gives the best of in-order and assign: the player rolls down the line, default putting each stat in its assigned place, but with the option to put the roll into an empty slot.


The player rolls for each stat starting with STR, then INT WIS, CON DEX CHA. Say their first roll is an 8, but they want to be a Fighter. Instead of putting it in STR they can put it in INT. But once assigned each number is locked in and cannot be moved later.

The result is that the character still grows organically through the rolls, but with a lot more flexibility than roll-in-order. The last stat rolled is always purely random.

In practice most players do most rolls purely random, but players who want to play Fighter types wait to get a 13+ to assign to STR.

Here is the current PC group in my Mentzer Classic D&D game. I allowed the Claudia player a full reroll as her first set of stats were so abysmal. Bramble the Halfling is slightly underpowered due to no STR bonus, but I decided to let players add +1 to a stat every 4 levels as in 4e so in one level he can get STR 13 which will give him +1 to hit & damage.

Alexandra Vorloi, Armiger of House Vorloi, Lawful
Fighter-3 AC 18 (plate & shield) speed 4 (20')
Hit Points 18
+1 ashen-shaft Trident ATT +2 dam 1d6+2 (melee), 1d6+1 (thrown), 2d6+2 set.
Sword ATT +1 dam 1d8+1
Thrown Spear ATT +1 dam 1d6
Light Lance (spear) mounted charge or set ATT +1 dam 2d6+1
STR 15 (+1) INT 12 (+0) WIS 12 (+0) DEX 14 (+1) CON 16 (+2) CHA 13 (+1)
Light warhorse (courser)
XP: 6630/8000
1/11/19: Alexander Thadeus of the Church of Karameikos (Cleric-3), newly assigned to the diocese of Rugalov as Cleric of Rugalov Town, pledged allegiance to Alexandra in the battle against Chaos. He seems smitten with her.

Ace Plz (Ruyven Kishida) of the Calarii Elves, Lawful
Elf-2 AC 14 (leather) Speed 6 (30')
Hit Points 12
2-handed Sword ATT +1 dam 1d10+1, Longbow ATT +2 dam 1d6
STR 13 (+1) INT 11 (+0) WIS 15 (+1) DEX 16 (+2) CON 13 (+1) CHA 16 (+2)
Spell Book: Read Magic Charm Person Magic Missile Sleep Light
Spells/Day: 2 1st
Light warhorse (courser)
XP: 6480/8000
26/10/1019: Princess Hope Karameikos seems to like Ace - they share an interest in dragons...

Yakov Dmitrov, Donkey-Headed Black Sheep of House Dmitrov, Neutral
Magic-User 3 AC 11 (unarmoured - Claudia has the +2 ruby ring) Speed 8 (40')
Hit Points 8
STR 8 (-1) INT 11 (+0) WIS 16 (+2) DEX 13 (+1) CON 10 (+0) CHA 15 (+1)
Spell Book: Read Magic Charm Person Magic Missile Sleep Light
Spells/day: 2 1st, 1 2nd
wand of illusion c.7, 3 unknown potions.
Golden Staff ATT -1 dam 1d4-1. Hunting Bow ATT +1 dam 1d4
Light warhorse (courser)
XP: 6480/10000
28/10/19: The old Cleric Aleeva Vloitescu really went off Yakov when he tried to cast 'charm' on her.

Rian, Cleric of the Church of Traldar
Cleric-3, Neutral
AC 14 (leather & shield)
Hit Points 13
ST 14 (+1) IN 9 (+0) WI 11 (+0) DE 14 (+1) CO 13 (+1) CH 15 (+1)
Leather (speed 30'), Shield
Sling ATT +1 dam 1d4
Spear ATT +1 dam 1d6+1
XP 5825/6000
Junior Cleric, in service to Lord Vlad Lutescu of Rugalov Town, sent by him to Rugalov Keep.

PCs Absent - at Rugalov Keep?

Claudia Morrigan, Neutral
Thief-4 AC 17 (leather, +2 ruby ring of protection) Speed 6 (30')
Hit points 10+d4 - NOT ROLLED YET
ST 13 (+1) IN 10 (+0) WI 7 (-1) DE 18 (+3) CO 11 (+0) CH 14 (+1)
+1 attribute bonus
E: Thieves' Tools, Leather armour, +2 ring of protection
2-handed sword ATT +1 dam 1d10+1
Short bow ATT +3 dam 1d6
Light warhorse (courser)
XP 5505/10000

Bramble Hairy-Heals of the Five Shires, Lawful
Halfling-3 AC 15 (chainmail & shield) speed 4 (20')
Hit Points 9+d6+1 - NOT ROLLED YET
+1 Shortsword +2 vs Elves & Fairies, 'the sword of Samwise' ATT +1 dam 1d6+1
Sling +1 dam 1d4
STR 12 (+0) INT 14 (+1) WIS 13 (+1) DEX 11 (+0/+1 init & missile) CON 13 (+1) CHA 12 (+0)
XP: 5655/8000

Read more:

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Mentzer D&D - the first Romantic Fantasy RPG?

I've been running my Mentzer Basic/Expert D&D 'Grand Duchy of Karameikos' game for 6 weeks now, aiming to hit all the classic fantasy tropes - knights, dragons, princesses, noble rulers & dastardly villains. I have a mixed-sex group and a 'child friendly' policy since my son (7 3/4) is a player.

I've noticed that in this environment a lot of what are considered modern 'romantic fantasy' tropes seem to naturally arise among the dungeon-bashing, eg there are lots of PC & NPC relationship issues, romance, the two female PCs both have a lot of backstory and motivation re overcoming their family issues and proving themselves in a man's world - and they're cousins, one, the Fighter, being a noble Vorloi in good standing but seeking to avoid a dynastic marriage and become a Knight, the other, The Thief, the illegitimate child of the Baron Vorloi's disowned youngest daughter looking for the man who fathered her and ruined her mother's life.
One of the male PCs, the M-U, likewise has issues with proving himself good enough to his aristocratic Dmitrov family - possibly difficult now that last session a curse in an evil wizard's library has given him the head & tail of an ass.

The setting (GAZ1 Grand Duchy of Karameikos), the simple Classic D&D rules, and the clean Elmore art all seem perfectly suited to this style. There's also modern stuff like same-sex relationship issues, the PC Baron who threatened to 'ban being gay' to stop his daughter running off to sea with a female Elf ship captain - with the twist that far from being True Love, the Elf Captain Anastasia was happy to take a massive bribe to make herself scarce.

So, I guess my thinking is, who needs 'Blue Rose' when you have Mentzer & Elmore?  And the mildly patriarchal, 1980s-family-values type morality of the Grand Duchy of Karameikos setting actually seems to fit far better to most of the genre than does Blue Rose's feminist utopia.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Do your fantasy games have 'Game of Thrones' type content?


Grimdark - it varies hugely by campaign, but I generally can't maintain the level of seriousness necessary for GRRM Grimdark - my default tone tends to levity even when horrible things are happening, as in Fritz Leiber's Swords saga.
Also while Martin is great at depicting realistic consequences for stupid behaviour, I don't generally have my good-guy NPCs behave as stupidly as he does. In particular, even Lawful noble houses have had a lot of experience at not dying, and a lot of selective pressure for not dying, too. So the kind of level of grotesque incompetence displayed by the Starks in the TV show would be vanishingly rare IMCs. I tend to have the Lawful Good guys be just as capable as the Littlefingers & Lannisters - they may not engage in the same kind of behaviours, but they are aware that other people may do so and can thus usually take account of it as a possibility in their own plans.

Sex - a few of my campaigns have about as much sex as the HBO show, most have much less. Usually the sword & sorcery type campaigns have relatively more sex (and certainly more nudity), but my Forgotten Realms game has some sex, in a nod to Ed Greenwood.

Romance is fairly frequent in most of my campaigns. I tend to avoid 'doomed romance' tropes, I definitely avoid the 'girlfriend in the fridge' trope of killing a romantic interest NPC to motivate the PC. That sort of thing is best left to a PC's backstory.

Rape - in my more adult games NPC characters may be implied or (rarely) stated to have been raped. I've never depicted forcible rape 'on screen' in any D&D campaign, which is pretty much the same as the HBO show. I have a hard 'no raping the PCs' (male or female) rule. I will look for ways to make this plausible in-universe. If a player were to insist on putting their PC into a situation where this was a likely outcome I would work with the player out of game to discuss what they wanted and what should happen - basically unless the player has consented, the PC cannot be raped. In lighter-themed settings NPC antagonists generally either have a code against rape (eg chivalry, for human types) or no interest in it (eg for non-humans).

Food -I try to describe the food & drink to help get a feel for the setting, especially if it's significant - eg in one campaign nobles compete to lay on feasts for guests as a sign of prestige.

Gore - generally the swords & sorcery campaigns have more gore, the Palaces & Princesses campaigns don't have viscerally described gore. My described gore levels may be similar to the HBO show in the most adult-oriented games, but usually less.

Sexism - gender role differentiation IMCs tends to be less than IRL, but I don't make a Paizo-style fetish of avoiding it. If there are female players I try to keep an ear out for what they want - eg it's very common for players to want an 'overcoming entrenched gender norms' theme for their PCs, usually in the lighter more Palaces & Princesses themed games like my current Karameikos game. If players don't want their PC to face any gender-based obstacle I'll work with that, too. I'm generally more considerate of the feelings of female players here because they tend to bring in more baggage from real life, and for D&D I think players should be able to play a PC of their own sex if they want without being disadvantaged thereby.

Homosexuality - I tend not to use historical medieval attitudes to male homosexuality (and there's no ancient Greek style pederasty - not a trope in GRRM either afaik). My default setting is something like Western Europe ca 1995, or the very early Paizo stuff - no 'gay marriage', but no persecution either. There's a male homosexual NPC couple in my Loudwater Forgotten Realms game, who 'came out' at Lady Moonfire's summer ball, at the same time Lady Moonfire 'came out' by being escorted by her Tiefling girlfriend Tawny Kytra.
In my Karameikos game my son Bill (age 7 3/4) playing his Baron William PC was annoyed that the Baron's daughter Hope, instead of submitting to the usual arranged dynastic marriage, was smitten with the roguish Elf Sea Captain Anastasia and threatening to sail off with her. At one point he threatened to 'ban being gay' in his Barony - which I think would have gone down badly with some of the other (adult) players! - but he was talked out of it, in-game by the Baron's wife. Instead he bribed Anastasia with his Medallion of ESP to go take a hike. Some 'mature themes' but the overall tone was much lighter than GRRM.