Thursday 15 September 2011

Six random jerks you annoy in town.

The PCs roll into town and somehow annoy someone with minutes. Roll to see who.
Written with Into the Odd in mind.
1d6 Roll
1: Yurg the Large (STR 16, DEX 7, WIL 9, 8hp, Armour 1, 15s, Fights unarmed for 1d6+1 damage): This guy just wants to punch you in front of everyone. Even the guards won't step in to stop him once he's pounding.

2: Furnum the Flash (STR 8, DEX 13, WIL 8, 10hp, Armour 1, heavy mace, light armour, 30s): This guy would rather embarrass you with some sharp put downs. He's needy enough that he'll make it his business to be wherever you go, ready to put you down.
3: Hurlett the Vague (STR 7, DEX 10, WIL 7, 3hp, dagger, 1s): Seems to be a completely mad woman. Takes issue with one of the party and shouts at them, throws rocks and generally causes a scene.
4: Rela the Cat (STR 10, DEX 14, WIL 10, 7hp, club, 18gp): Her and her two fellow footpads have targeted one of the group. As soon as the target is alone they'll strike.
5: Old Marl (STR 11, DEX 9, WIL 14, crossbow, 13hp, 5gp): He doesn't like wandering adventurers, even though he used to be one! He'll try to turn everyone against the party rather than directly confronting them.
6: Nyal the White (STR 14, DEX 13, WIL 13, 11hp, Armour 2, light armour, heavy axe, shield, 40gp): Far too eager to jump to the defence of someone you've mildly inconvenienced. Will immediately try to fight you out of town. Everyone else tries to ignore him.

Character Rise and Fall

I've never really liked experience points.

I get that they can encourage a certain type of play and I understand the difference in play that results when you switch between treasure as XP, kills as XP and completed objectives as XP. I just don't really like using them. No real logic to it.

So how do I want character advancement to work in Into the Odd? As I've described before, the zero to hero to superhero progression isn't really something I like in my fantasy. Wouldn't it be more appropriate for characters to rise to a peak, where they've rounded out their flaws and maybe even improved their strongest abilities, before slowly declining in their elder years, perhaps deciding to retire and hand the torch to a new generation of adventurers.

How about this?



Characters may take time to reflect upon their experience between adventures. Doing this takes at least a month of game time. The player describes what their character has been doing in this time and may spend their wealth in ways humble or grand. Any gold they do not spend in this time is halved. Hazards may arise over this time that the players decide how to deal with, though nothing as long as a full adventure.

When this time is complete roll 1d20 for each of the character’s Ability Scores. If the roll is equal or higher than the score it is increased by 1, unless it has already reached the human maximum of 18. However, if the roll is a 1 the character suffers a setback and subtracts 1 from this Ability Score.

If none of their Ability Scores change the GM will provide the character with some sort of fruit of their labours. This could be an Arcanum found in this time or one or more followers rallied to their cause.

The first time the characters go through this process they also assign themselves a job title. This could be thief, mercenary, adventurer, wizard, or any other term that can be agreed on. This may change over time. Upon gaining this title they add the descriptor of “Aspiring” before it. Each time they reflect on their experience they move to the next level, rising to the peak of their abilities at “Paragon”.

Rise Levels
Aspiring - Developing - Journeyman - Hardened - Paragon

Whenever the characters reflect on their experience after Paragon level they move to the Decline scale. Although they will likely have more fame, possessions and war-stories than an inexperienced character they will inevitably start to fade in terms of raw physical ability, perhaps handing off more adventurous tasks to their followers or allies.

Whenever a character moves to a Decline Level they do not roll to improve their Ability Scores as they did on their rise to Paragon level. Instead they roll 1d20 for each Ability Score. If the roll is equal or lower than the score it is decreased by 1, unless it has already reached the human minimum of 3. However, if the roll is a 20 the character has new life breathed into them and increases the Ability Score by 1.

Decline Levels
Veteran - Seasoned - Senior - Venerable - Elder


Let's take our sample character Kinru the Swift through the process. No fudging of rolls here, this is a live test!

Kinru the Swift
STR 8 (-2), DEX 13 (+3), INT 11 (+1)

Kinru the Aspiring Thief
STR 8 (-2), DEX 12 (+2), INT 11 (+1)
(Rolled 6, 1 and 2, actually getting worse! This is a risk of the system and one I'm unsure of so far...)

Kinru the Developing Thief
STR 8 (-2), DEX 12 (+2), INT 11 (+1)
(Rolled 5, 5 and 6. Some awful rolling here and Kinru still doesn't improve her stats)

Kinru the Journeyman Thief
STR 9 (-1), DEX 12 (+2), INT 11 (+1)
(Rolled 9, 11, 10. What's with these rolls? At least she gets a little stronger here.)

Kinru the Hardened Assassin
STR 9 (-1), DEX 12 (+2), INT 12 (+2)
(Rolled 8, 5, 14. INT improved. Still not good rolling! Figure she's due a change of career title by this point)

Kinru the Paragon Assassin
STR 10 (+0), DEX 13 (+3), INT 12 (+2)
(Rolled 19, 15, 8, much better! This is most likely the peak of her Ability Scores and she'll move into the decline levels next)

Kinru the Veteran Assassin
STR 9 (-1), DEX 12 (+2), INT 11 (+1)
(Rolled 6, 9, 12. Ouch! Almost back to her starting condition already. Early retirement time before it gets any worse?)

Kinru the Seasoned Wanderer
STR 8 (-2), DEX 11 (+1), INT 10 (+0)
(Rolled 3, 10, 9, another triple whammy. I'm starting to regret a live-fire example... Kinru has really let herself go. I figure a title change is in order, time for her to find a place to settle)

Kinru the Senior Wanderer
STR 7 (-3), DEX 11 (+1), INT 9 (-1)
(Rolled 6, 8, 13. Low rolls are killer here.)

Kinru the Venerable Wanderer
STR 7 (-3), DEX 11 (+1), INT 8 (-2)
(11, 18, 9. More INT loss, I figure due to blindness and/or deafness)

Kinru the Elder Wanderer
STR 7 (-3), DEX 12 (+2), INT 8 (-2)
(Rolled 17, 20, 9. A resurgence of life in her elder years! I figure she'll head down into a dungeon for one last adventure, probably failing to notice a horrible creature descending from the ceiling to eat her)

How do I feel about this example? Mixed... I still think the system has potential but I wonder how much it'll hurt players that get a streak of bad rolls.

Tuesday 13 September 2011

What beats twenty scorpions?

I see your twenty scorpions and raise you TWENTY ONE CENTIPEDES. Written with Into the Odd in mind.

1d21 roll:
1: Black Arrow Centipede (STR 2, DEX 8, WIL 2, 1HP)
About the length of an arrow. Launches itself from cave walls, burying its head into anything it hits for 1d6+1 damage. Must be removed slowly and carefully to avoid another 1d6 damage.
2: Endel's Dasher (STR 2, DEX 10,  WIL 4, 1HP)
A foot long, deep green in colour. Bites for 1d6-1 point of damage. Critical Hit causes the victim loss of 1d6 STR and DEX every round until incapacitated.
3: White Lady Centipede (STR 4, DEX 8,  WIL 4, 2HP)
Chunky, a foot long with a soft white shell. Extremely tasty when cooked.
4: Bristly Boar-Eating Centipede (STR 10, DEX 8, WIL 3, 5HP)
Deep brown, three feet long, able to rear back to reveal a second pair of biting mandibles. Bites for 1d6 Damage and grips on tightly. Picks off young boar in its jungle home.
5: Silver Ghost Finger (STR 4, DEX 8, WIL 5, 2HP)
Able to float slowly through the air by moving its silver hairs in a wavelike motion, which no one can explain.
6: Gnomeshield (STR 6, DEX 5, WIL 2, 3HP, Armour 1)
A flat, two feet long, beetle-like centipede with a dull copper, chitinous back resembling a shield.
7: Manxtail Centipede (STR 4, DEX 6, WIL  2, 2HP)
A foot long, gold and bristly. Anyone fighting it in melee must pass a DEX Save vs 10 or subtract 1 from all attacks as they suffer unbearable itchiness. Water will wash these bristles off.
8: Red Cryer (STR 2, DEX 6, WIL 2, 1HP)
This centipede's bite would do no harm to anything bigger than the insects it feeds on, but when scared it cries out with an ear-splitting noise. Those hearing it nearby must pass a STR Save vs 10 or subtract 2 from any rolls that are not aiming to silence the racket.
9: Drolonid (STR 4, DEX 10, WIL 8, 2HP)
Three feet long, faintly orange and has an unusual fly-like proboscis in place of mandibles, so cannot bite. Will drip corrosive onto anyone passing below for 2d6 damage. Anyone killed will this will be slurped up by the Drolonid when the coast is clear.
10: Juanan Pitpede (STR 13, DEX 8, WIL 3, 13HP)
Bred for competitive fighting, can grow up to five feet in length and extremely bulky.
11: Ulmer's Stinkbug (STR 5, DEX 4, WIL 2, 2HP)
Six inches long. Releases stench when in danger. WIL Save vs 20 to avoid choking loudly and vomiting. Bite is harmless.
12: Gulleater (STR 6, DEX 8, WIL 4, 3HP)
Bite causes 1d6-1 damage. On a Critical Hit poison causes 1d6 DEX loss.
13: Farfan's Cleaner Centipede (STR 2, DEX 4, WIL 2, 1HP)
Six inches long, silver and red in colour. Harmless but will head for metal items and eat any rusted parts, somehow repairing the metal as it moves by.
14: Houndbane Centipede (STR 7, DEX 10, WIL 6, 3HP)
Smooth, black shell and two feet long. On a Critical Hit lose 1d6 WIL.
15: Greater Frilled Longbug (STR 4, DEX 8, WIL 6, 2HP)
An unusually brightly coloured two-foot centipede. On a Critical Hit lose 1d6 STR. Very cowardly when not fighting its own kind.
16: Nostril Centipede (STR 2, DEX 8, WIL 2, 1HP)
A few inches long. Seeks the nostrils of sleeping passers-by and enters without waking (unless the sleeper passes an INT Save vs 25) to lay its eggs. A month later the babies fall out of the nose, causing 1d6 WIL loss.
17: Sandtrap Biter (STR 8, DEX 6, WIL 4, 4HP)
Three feet long. Lies in wait under the sand of beaches to snatch prey. On a Critical Hit the target is pulled down into the centipede's pit, where others may wait.
18: Iplenx (STR 20, DEX 6, WIL 12, 20HP)
Purely mythological. Some ten feet long and taller than a man. Can open its eyes to release a beam of light on a target for 2d6 damage.
19: Carverbug (STR 2, DEX 4, WIL 8, 1HP)
A few inches long, thought to be transformed victims of a sorcerer. They are able to leave a trail of an ink-like substance and have known to communicate intelligently this way, particularly in giving directions underground.
20: Spinerester Centipede (STR 5, DEX 8, WIL 8, 2HP)
One foot long and sickly yellow. Will crawl onto a sleeping victim's back and bite the back of their neck (unless the sleeper passes a DEX Save vs 20). From here they cannot be removed without injecting a long needle-like protrusion into the victim for 3d6 damage, also doing this if they are damaged. While attached they feed off the victim's blood, reducing all Ability Scores by 1 as long as they are attached.
21: Scorpion-eating Centipede (STR 7, DEX 8, WIL 4, 3HP)
Two feet long, red and slightly velvety to the touch. Bites for 1d6 damage or 1d6+2 against Scorpions.

Thursday 1 September 2011

Into the Odd: Changes? What changes?

Well, it was inevitable.

Barely hours after I post the changes I'd made to Into the Odd after the first playtest I notice a whole bunch of issues with said changes. Pulling at this thread has the whole knitted jumper unravel and I'm left with a question.

What's a character's Will score for again?

Turns out... not a whole lot. It was a very passive Ability that provided saves quite frequently but having a high Will didn't really let you do anything.

High STR? Grab a Great Weapon and get to power attacking and grappling your opponents to the ground. Throw some rocks around and smash up some doors. Good times.

High DEX? Grab your bow, gun, sword, axe, whatever you like, and get stuck into combat. Disarm that bandit, do a called shot to the mindslug's air-sac. If it all goes wrong then run away or find a good place to hide.

High INT? Be the first to know what's happening and blast away with your Arcanum.

High WIL? Erm... be good at passing some saves? Influence people you talk to? Eh.

So it's gone. Passive fortitude against arcane effects like petrification and psychic shock goes to STR and more active shaking-off of charm effects and illusions goes to INT as well as some of the social stuff.

Is this the last big change to ITO? I'm not even sure if I like the name yet, so no. Maybe something's changed since this post. Looks like the only thing for it is for me to put the info that I want public out there.

Go and see for yourself, journey Into the Odd and enjoy the game before it changes again.

Project Odd: First Playtest and Changes

Last night I ran a group of playtesters through the first game of what I'm tentatively calling Into the Odd. I used the dungeon I hope to include with the final game and use again beforehand, so I'll avoid too any spoilers. Needless to say the result was a total party kill after a good amount of time exploring. Reactions were mixed, but I think it was mostly successful.

I might write a more thorough play report another time, but for now I'd like to talk about the changes I've made in the wake of the playtest.

Arcana - No longer fire-or-die.
Previously, tanking your INT Save when you casted a spell from your Arcanum meant the spell would backfire on you or cause damage, which could be quite lethal. While I liked the idea of this deadliness it seemed a little too binary. Either the spell would be too risky and wasn't worth attempting or it was safe enough to try, holding the lingering risk of an anticlimactic death.

I've moved back to something with more in common with D&D's traditional Vancian casting. When you fail your INT Save the spell isn't cast and cannot be used again until the Arcanum has "rested" for a number of hours equal to its highest currenty disabled spell. This means if you blow it on a Power 14 (D&DLevel 7) Spell you're going to have to shoulder your Arcanum for some time if you want to get it back. Nothing stopping you from continuing to use the other spells, but even if you fizzle on a lower powered spell you've got that big wait from the high powered spell before any of them are restored.

Starting Arcanum - Now a Win/Win Situation
Previously you rolled 3d6 to see if you got an Arcanum at chargen. If it was equal or under your INT score then you got one with that Power Total, otherwise you got nothing. Really this was just punishing players that had already had a bad roll on their INT score, giving lucky rollers yet another bonus. In addition, as much as I enjoy fully random chargen, players seem to at least want to choose between being a caster or non-caster. Now this is a choice you can make at chargen regardless of your Ability Scores.

After rolling their Abilities the player rolls another 3d6. They either take an Arcanum with this Power Total or they replace one of their Ability Scores with this number. Keeps the random element with a simple choice that isn't too daunting for new players. If in doubt just stick it in your lowest Ability Score.

Expertise - Gone!
Gone entirely. While I liked the idea I didn't think it was implemented well and was a little daunting in chargen. I might add in a new system for this but for now it's out. I'm happy to look at a character's fluff to consider what clues they might be able to get particular insight from.

Transfering Spells - Upgrading your Arcanum
Upgrading is an ugly word, but I like the idea of being able to move spells from an Arcanum you've found onto your own. It particularly suits a character using a Spellbook for their Arcanum. For now I'm using the mechanic below.

Transferring Spells: Most Arcana can have spells moved to and from it. Do to this the character must be bonded to the Arcanum a spell is being transferred to. They cast a spell with another Arcanum, targetting their bonded Arcanum, and if cast successfully the Spell will move over to the bonded Arcanum, leaving the other one. However, if the character cannot pass an INT Save vs the bonded Arcanum’s new Power Total (including the spell being transfered) then the spell is lost in transfer and they take 1d6 damage.

May change this in future but I particularly like that as an Arcanum becomes "full" it's more risky to try to add new spells to it. I envisage most high powered spells being bound to large, immobile Arcana like altars and statues, with noone daring to try and move them elsewhere.