Friday 24 August 2018

A Player's Handbook

A brief player's strategy guide for Into the Odd, specifically Electric Bastionland.

Welcome to Electric Bastionland.

Your Character
Ability scores are secondary to your choices. A good player with an awful character will succeed more often than a poor player with a great character.

Your character will have certain things to work with. They might not even appear as obvious strengths, but they're your tools to make the most of. If you rolled a character with a knack for impersonations and a bucket of glue, start thinking of how you can put them to use.

While exploring a dangerous environment, the most important tool you have is Asking Questions. Using this tool well is the key to survival and finding Treasure.

When the Referee describes something to you, it's safe to assume that there is more useful information waiting to be found. Ask specific questions to try and get to information you need.

Sooner or later you'll hit an obstacle that stands between you and the Treasure you crave.

If it's an option, talking your way through an obstacle is usually the safest option. Use the conversation as a means to mine the non-player character for information, find out how you can help each other, and potentially identify weaknesses for if things turn sour.

If you can't talk your way past, sneaking or other ways of bypassing the obstacle are a good second choice. You might need to distract watching eyes, steal a key, or come back later, but you might not have to even draw your sword if you plan things correctly.

Combat is always a choice, and if you want to survive it will usually be your last-choice.

If you have the choice whether or not to initiate combat, consider whether the reward outweighs the the risk. Even if the combat was thrust upon you, there is rarely a necessity to fight to the death.

If you're determined to go through with a combat, you can make sure it's on your terms by:

  • Gathering as much information on your opponent as possible, ensuring you aren't underestimating them.
  • Gain the numerical advantage by isolating a target, or dividing large groups, while ensuring you have as many allies as possible.
  • Seize the initiative by striking first or from a position where the opponent cannot easily fight back.
  • Focus on the actual objective of the combat. Are you just trying to drive a target away, steal something from them, or do they absolutely have to die? Once that objective is complete, you might be best off withdrawing.

Understanding the different weapons at your disposal will help you weigh up your chances of victory.

Don't underestimate the difference between d6 and d8 damage. Stepping up the die by one size is roughly equivalent to getting +1 to your roll. If you add in multiple allies attacking the same target over multiple rounds then the difference is even more significant.

Ranged Weapons are ideal if you can keep your target at a distance, but you can find yourself in trouble if your opponent engages you in melee and all you have is a rifle.

Blast weapons are incredibly potent, able to take out multiple opponents in a way that normal weapons simply cannot. It's expensive to get a Blast weapon you can use regularly, but Bombs are useful to keep for the times you really need them. Use them as often as you can and watch out for opponents using them.

The best weapon you can use is one that bypasses the combat entirely. Poison their water, set fires, or trap them in cave-ins.

Wearing Armour 1 is roughly equivalent to reducing your attacker's damage by one die type (ie d8 to d6). There's very little argument against wearing Armour if you can afford it!

Risk vs Reward
The Treasure you're currently looking for isn't the only Treasure in the world. Is it really worth this level of risk? Remember, heading in a different direction is always an option. Or maybe you can just try an entirely different approach. Get a loan and hire some help? Come at the Treasure from another direction? Create a forgery?

The Core of the Game
Remember that there is a three-part sequence at the heart of the game.

INFORMATION: Gather as much of it as you can. Always be asking questions.

CHOICE: Remember there are always more options than are immediately apparrent.

CONSEQUENCES: After you've made your choice, make the most of the consequences.

Good luck!

Friday 17 August 2018

34 Good Traps

My measure of a good trap:

  • At least one part of it is immediately visible. 
  • It allows interaction and investigation.
  • it has impactful consequences for the victim. 

  • I've gone on before about the three pillars of running a good game (Information, Choice, Consequences) and you'll notice they match up with these three points.

    In short, your trap should have room for interesting interaction between "oh, a trap!" and "I'm dead". The trap doesn't have to announce itself immediately, it can even "trap" the players before announcing itself as long as there's still room for interaction beyond that.

    You can break the rules if it's connected to the theme of your specific scenario. Like your Tomb of Horrors style deathtrap dungeon might be full of hidden traps that don't announce themselves, but you're breaking that rule as a specific exception for this particular dungeon. If you're going to do this, make sure the payoff is worth breaking the rule for.

    Context is also important. You don't just stick a trap in a corridor and call it a day. Connect the trap to its location, most typically a passageway to somewhere desirable, a piece of treasure, or link it in with a monster. You wouldn't just drop a monster into an empty room, so give trap placement the same level of consideration.

    I blur the line between Puzzles and Traps a lot, but here I'm sticking to things that are placed deliberately to impair intruders, with nasty consequences.

    So here are 34 good, simple traps. Some classics that meet the benchmark, some new stuff I just made up, some lodged in my brain but originally stolen. 

    1. Open pit onto deadly spikes. Both sides of the pit are sloped into it and greased up.
    2. Concealed pit into piranha-filled water.
    3. Metal sword audibly humming, hooked up to electric charge.
    4. Green Devil Face with gaping mouth. Anything going into the mouth is annihilated. 
    5. A fishing rod propped up and cast into a lake. The rod is covered in fast-acting glue and tension on the line triggers a springboard beneath the victim, casting them into the lake.
    6. A column of light. When a being enters they are frozen, and an evil duplicate of them is conjured. The victim is only freed when the duplicate is killed.
    7. Walls dotted with arrow-slots. Any movement in front of them fires the arrow, but each hole only has one arrow.
    8. Upside-down spiked pit on the ceiling. Gravity is reversed under the pit. 
    9. Clusters of bright orange fungus growing on one or more corpses. Any disturbance triggers a deadly spore explosion. 
    10. Glass vials of green slime hung from a ceiling, a guard with a crossbow watching from behind a barricade.
    11. Two panes of glass blocking passage, filled with deadly bugs. 
    12. Shimmering, thick air that slows all movement down to a quarter of normal. Guards with missile weapons waiting around the corner.
    13. Glossy, friction-less floor and spiked walls.
    14. A metal room filled with crushed remains, visible moving parts to floor, and a sealed door leading forward. Two buttons. One opens the door, the other seals all doors and commences the crushing process.
    15. A peephole blocked up with glass fragments. Breaking the fragments releases a toxic gas.
    16. Giant chomping blade that must be passed through to progress. Visible pressure plate on either side. Blades are triggered when a pressure plate is released, unless the other plate is also depressed. Going slow poses no risk. 
    17. Stuck door with a gold snake-head handle. The handle will bite and poison anybody putting their hand near, unless they slip a coin into its mouth, allowing safe passage through the door.
    18. Disguised springboard, launching the victim straight up into the air. There is a hanging bar they can grab to avoid the fall, but weight on the bar triggers the release of giant spiders onto it, and rained down onto anyone below.
    19. Room dusted with a deadly white powder. Any rapid movement disturbs the powder, sending it into the air and then the lungs of anybody breathing nearby. Hidden pressure plate in the center of the room triggers a loud siren, alerting any nearby threats.
    20. Locked door, key visible in a stinky fountain. The liquid is fast-acting acid, the key made from a special resistant ceramic.
    21. Rope bridge primed to split in the middle when the majority of the crossing weight has passed the mid-point. The characters can grab their half of the bridge and climb back up easily enough.
    22. Damp, underwater tunnel with glowing treasure at a visible dead end. A pressure plate halfway through triggers flooding of the tunnel. A normal human could get back to the tunnel exit with breath to spare, but not if they try to grab the treasure first. 
    23. Two doors in sequence. First sprays anybody passing through with highly flammable liquid. Second spits out a flash of flame, harmless on its own but enough to ignite the liquid.
    24. Sloped walkway in a freezing cold room. Pressure plate halfway up releases a flood of water down the slope, freezing near instantly. 
    25. Haunted pots, audible screaming within, placed on wobbly plinths on an uneven floor. Any sort of weight on the floor is sure to release at least one angry wraith.
    26. Pool of lava, a metal idol partially submerged in the center. It's glowing hot, but valuable.
    27. Big metal skull with a gem in its open, toothy mouth. Obviously it bites anything put inside.
    28. Quicksand, just like in cartoons. 
    29. Giant spider lair, huge boulders suspended in the highest webs. Too much disturbance might release a boulder, fire will definitely release them all.
    30. Bear trap.
    31. Sealed door with two identical handles on the adjacent wall. One releases snakes from above, the other opens the door. 
    32. Hidden jet spraying you with disgusting smelling liquid. Not harmful in itself, but might attract scent-based creatures or warn inhabitants that you've been poking around where you shouldn't have.
    33. Pressure plate triggers part of the floor to move down, slowly transporting the victim into the now-visible lair of a horrible monster. 
    34. Giant cauldron filled with treasure. Any weight added to the cauldron causes the lid to slam shut and a fire to spark to life underneath it.