Wednesday 12 March 2014

Not-Quite-Infinite Possibilities

Tactical Infinity is the beauty of RPGs. You can go anywhere, attempt any action, imagine your character however you like.

You might think the GM has the same sort of luxury. Creating crazy monsters, describing terrifying dungeon environments, and acting out memorable characters.

In reality, I've moved towards a few limitations.

There are certain things that exist in reality that I just won't put into a game. Above any ideas of tactical infinity, I want to play a fun game, and some things innately suck this fun away.

These are the first few entries on the list.

- Well-hidden traps that would likely kill the victim instantly. Think of a 100ft spiked pit, covered to look exactly like every other floor tile. At the moment, I'm only interested in traps you can interact with.

- Attempts at one-shot kills. I use HP as a sort of countdown-to-death, so going for a kill shot against anything with a good chunk of HP is an impossibility. In return, your character won't get sniped by a grassy gnoll.

- Characters with highly specialised skills. I use Ability Scores and no skills. I assume that adventurers are generally jack-of-all-trades, and I'm generous with their knowledge and capabilities. If you want to build the perfect diplomat or pickpocket then put your high Ability Score in the right place and play your character well to achieve the goals you have in mind. You're not going to get a +20 modifier to pickpocketing rolls off me.

- Sudden death out of nowhere. Some people die by losing their grip climbing a rope. You'll only do this if you're climbing a rope while flame-throwing drones harass you. If you're just climbing a rope, you can do it safely, even without a helmet.

Thursday 6 March 2014

Odd Changes - Damage

Death is inevitable.

No, really. If you stand and fight with an enemy for more than a few rounds, one of you is going to die.

I ditched separate to-hit rolls some time ago, but previously allowed a Save to avoid lasting damage when your HP ran out. Because of this, taking down that STR 19 monster could be a case of waiting for it to fudge its Save.

Now, the Save at 0hp is to avoid Critical Damage, which will at the very least incapacitate you. For some monsters, it gives them the go-ahead to swallow you whole or stab you with a deathly poison.

If you pass the Save, you keep on fighting, but the damage still comes off your STR Score. This would be a good time to reconsider how badly you want to win the fight.

This means that superior numbers count for a lot. Into the Odd isn't a martial arts film, where heroes take on wave after wave of enemies. If you're faced with a gunline of soldiers, you probably shouldn't let them get a round of shots off at you. If you're surrounded by a dozen angry cultists, it may be time to negotiate.

Let's imagine that situation. We have a lone, veteran adventurer, Ralf (STR 12, DEX 14, WIL 10, 14hp, Armour 1, Halberd 1d6+1) facing off against four pretty weedy cultists (STR 10, 3hp, Club 1d6).

Adventurer Turn 1: Ralf makes a swing for the lead cultist (5 damage). He's out of HP, reduced to STR 8 and fails his STR Save taking Critical Damage. He's out of the fight.

Cultist Turn 1: All three remaining cultists rush at Ralf with their clubs (4, 2, and 5 damage, totalling 11). Ralf has 3hp remaining, so manages to avoid their attacks for now.

Adventurer Turn 2: Ralf attacks another Cultist for 7 damage. He's out of HP now, reduced to STR 6, but makes his Save to avoid Critical Damage.

Cultist Turn 2: The cultists attack (2, 5 and 0 damage, totalling 7). Ralf is out of HP, so loses STR down to 8. He barely makes his save, so keeps on fighting, despite a nasty wound.

Adventurer Turn 3: Things are't looking good. One Cultist is nearly down, but Ralf is hurt now. The remaining two would stand a chance of killing him next turn, or at least incapacitating him. He could hope they fail their Morale Save after losing half of their members, but it's far too risky. Ralf starts to consider whether he should surrender or flee.

Of course, this would all be different if Ralf had some allies with him. There's a reason that this is a team game, after all.

Wednesday 5 March 2014

Odd Changes - Disposables

I love disposable items.

Not healing potions and wands, but flasks of acid, flaming oil, and caltrops.

Deciding when it's time to use your flaming oil is an innately interesting choice. Even aside from the risks that come with fire; do you use it now or save it for later? This is especially important with brand new characters, who have very limited weapons and resources. Knowing when to light your bomb is a matter of life-or-death.

So I went ahead and added a load more disposables to Into the Odd, especially in the starting packages.

Alongside the familiar favourites we have smoke-bombs, flares, poison, ether, acid, and even fireworks.

Just consider the possibilities. If I have a rocket and you have some fire oil, can we make a rocket propelled molotov? If I have some ether and you have a smoke bomb, can we make a sleeping gas bomb?

Tuesday 4 March 2014

Odd Changes - Starting Packages

For the next few posts I'm going to be talking about the most recent changes made to Into the Odd. The most recent version is now up, so check it out on the sidebar to the right.

I've used starting packages in some form for a while now. The goal was to remove that shopping phase of character generation, where you pour over equipment lists looking for the best gear to spend your starting gold on.

Shopping for gear can be fun, but I didn't want it to be the preface to everyone's first delve into the game.

Here, every expedition gets basic climbing and camping gear, rations, and lanterns. On top of this, there have been limited personal equipment choices (take one weapon and one tool), and multiple versions of tables to roll on, but none as elaborate as the current instance.

There's no additional rolling. You just take your highest score, your HP, and look at the chart to see what equipment you got. So if you have a high score of 15 and 3hp, you get a club, some ether, a crowbar, and a flute.

Which leads onto the most recent change to starting packages.

I looked over the starting packages and saw that the general theme was a melee weapon, a ranged weapon, a tool or disposable item, and maybe a quirky extra thing like having no nose.

What luxury! Having a sword and a gun suggests a lot about how to deal with the problems you'll face. You play a lot differently if all you have the starting equipment given in our example.

So now you generally get a single weapon, perhaps two if you've got terrible ability scores and I feel bad for you. Replacing these excess muskets and maces is an assortment of baggage from ferrets and fireworks to animal repellent and accordions.

You previously started the game with an Arcanum if WIL was your highest score, but things have changed since then. Arcana are less reliant on your WIL score, and I wanted to pull back a little on giving them out at the very start. These are rare things, after all, and you're supposed to be searching hungrily for them. Now they're included in the starting packages, mostly at the lower end, another consolation prize for rolling low Ability Scores.

To put it into context, I'll roll up a group of four characters right now, under a stopwatch.

Dot Hudson
STR 12, DEX 13, WIL 11, 6hp
Longaxe (d8), Rum, Bomb

Reggie Clack
STR 9, DEX 8, WIL 6, 1hp, Armour 1.
Sword (d6), Pistol (d6), Fire Oil, Modern Armour
Sense nearby unearthly beings

Flora Beacham
STR 9, DEX 15, WIL 10, 1hp
Pistol Brace (d8), Canary, Ether

Humpy Quinn
STR 12, DEX 8, WIL 9, 4hp
Pistol (d6), Brandy, Rocket

Clock stopped at 2 minutes, 12 seconds. Not too bad for a full party. 

They have a good selection of gear, but most of them will be hungry for money to get a backup weapon, or maybe some armour. Reggie is the exception here, looking pretty well equipped, but then with those scores and 1hp, I think he deserves a treat. I like to give characters like this an innate ability, to prevent the character from feeling expendable. If you let Reggie die, his sixth-sense dies with him.