Wednesday, 22 June 2022

Soulless

This week is the tipping point where I really do feel like AI is going to steal work from human creators. Of course this has been obvious for a while, but now I can see it in action in my own hands, as I've been testing out Midjourney for image creation. Naturally I prompt it to spawn inane creations that make me chuckle, but I've also been using it for actual RPG stuff. 

I tried it out on Primeval Bastionland hoping to slot in some placeholder art to help me and my playtesters visualise the world. 

Similar to the Failed Career spreads from Electric, I'm working on separate Knight and Myth pages for Primeval Bastionland. The former are your PCs, and bank of character ideas, the latter your world broadly painted through stories, all real. Underneath their name each gets a a two line shot of flavour text, just like the Failed Careers, but here I've leaned into some flowery poetry. For each of the entries I started the AI off with just the flavour text and a few general guidelines ("Greyscale Medieval Art" and canvas size)


Prompt: The Order. They were six in the circle, no first among them Each a knight and sage, master and student. Greyscale medieval art.

The first and most obvious thing about this art is it's actually good. There are tricks you can learn to get better outputs, but the real trick is to keep trying until you get something that looks good. Even then, the AI struggles with details, especially when you want actual humans.

God help you if you want somebody riding a horse.


Prompt: Female Knight. Within a blink they were on their steed Knight and horse at one, a red streak in the green. Greyscale medieval art.

That one took a LOT of attempts. You can't be too strict about composition either, but if you want dreamy mythic visions then this is good stuff. Making creepy scenes is easymode.


The Mournful spirit. They wandered ahere and athere, drawn by sorrow. Old as the sun, timid as a child. Greyscale medieval concept art.

So this tool can't do everything (yet?) but aside from helping out artless writers, there's something I actually really like about it for this project.

It throws out things that I don't think a human artist would draw.

WAIT I know how that sounds. Of course human artists can surprise you, even if you give them a relatively specific brief. 

The difference is that the AI doesn't seem to give a shit about making you happy. You aren't paying it. So sometimes you'll really want a Wyvern and it keeps giving you stuff like this.

(Prompt: The Wyvern. All jaw and neck like knotted string. All wing and tail a baleful sting. Greyscale, medieval, concept art.)

Yeah it's my fault really. When I wrote that flavour text I wasn't imagining it would be interpreted by a robot, so we get a monster that is literally "all wing and neck". No human would interpret the brief that way.

But I want this world to be a bit weird and dreamy, right? Maybe I can get on board with this Wyvern.

Well, no. I'm pretty sure I want this thing to have some sort of discernible anatomy.

Or... do I?

And that exemplifies why I'm enjoying this process so much. 


 (Prompt: When night met day, where water flame. They saw the child, rejoiced in name. Greyscale medieval art.)

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This post was originally sent as a reward to all Patreon supporters, and is released freely on this site a week after its original publication.

If you want to support my blog, podcasts, and video content then head over to my Patreon.


Tuesday, 14 June 2022

Bonuses

When should you give the characters a bonus to their attack? This would be Enhanced in ITO or a Bonus Die in EB. 

Sometimes this can feel arbitrary, and it's just a game of "can I convince the GM". There's an element of that, but when I GM I try to look for one of three ways that the character is earning the bonus. In short, I look for something in return. 

A Note on Freebies: Sometimes a bonus just happens from a situational advantage if it makes sense. You're fighting cog robots that are winding down, and their description says attackers get a bonus against them once they start to flag. Orcs are vulnerable fighting under sunlight. The examples for this post are more for situations where a player might say "do I get a bonus because..."


What's Earning Your Bonus?

INFO: You've learned something that would help here. This how I might handle weak spots. Not glowing bullseyes, but a reward for going out and talking to hunters and those who have fought the creature before.  That stone mammoth has STR 19, Armour 3, so getting a +d10 to every attack because you learn of its hatred of fire is practically necessary. 

PREP: A good action now to reward good action later. The classic is "setting up" an ally for their attack. You could formalise this as a standard move, but I like keeping these things a little more open. In essence, if a player can point back to a previous action that specifically set up the current attack I'm happy to give them a bonus for it. 

RISK: Really there are a few ways this can go. The classic is "roll a save, if you pass then you attack with bonus if you fail then your attack whiffs and maybe you take damage" but there's a lot of fine tuning that can be done in there. I don't really like whiffs, so I'd probably just have the attack go through as normal, with either immediate damage to the character or, better yet, a bonus being granted to their target on their counter-attack. There are even cases where you might not call for a Save, and just allow a bonus in return for taking a hit yourself. Fight recklessly and both of you will get +d8 to attacking each other. If they join in the recklessness maybe it goes up to +d10! Here the Risk element is still present, even without a Save. 

How Much of a Bonus?

Now this is where it gets tricky. If it's something that can't be easily repeated I lean towards generosity, giving a +d12 bonus, otherwise I tend to go to +d8 if it's something that can be brought out again and again. Naturally that gives us +d10 to use as a middle ground if you're uncertain.

+d6 does work if you just want to throw them a bone, but I feel like I'd rather just grant the full +d8 or advise them to find a better approach. +d6 is better suited to passive ongoing bonuses instead. 

Sometimes removing a level of granularity like this lets the spotlight shine more brightly on player choice and agency. 

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This Bastionland Editorial was originally sent as a reward to all Patreon supporters, and is released freely on this site a week after its original publication.

If you want to support my blog, podcasts, and video content then head over to my Patreon.


Tuesday, 7 June 2022

Slow

Relax everyone, I've solved Soulslike Combat in RPGs™

Like all the great rules of our time this was written for my games but works with anything. 

SLOW ACTIONS: Some actions or items are noted as Slow. To use them the character must have declared the action at the end of their previous turn, declaring targets if needed. Declaring a Slow action is not an action in itself. 

Not complicated. Inspired by Into the Breach more than the actual souls games. Works on the idea that you can give some truly horrible abilities to your monsters as long as the players get a chance to respond. 

Put to use below. 

THE WURM
Callous, cruel, awful, and long Feasting far beyond its hunger, only happy in bloated rest 



The unending devourer STR 18, DEX 8, CHA 5, 10hp

Crush (d8 blast) or gorge (2d12, slow, swallow whole on 7+ for d8 ongoing damage until the victim is freed)
Craggy hide (A2)

  • A force of gluttony, greed, and sloth. It exists to ruin the balance of nature
  • Speaks to all living things but loses patience with anything that isn’t worshipping or bringing gifts
  • Cannot rest until its colossal hunger is sated, then sleeps for a year

In the wake of the feasting

  • Towns are left crushed and bare
  • Forests are torn from their roots, all creatures swallowed or scattered 
  • It rests in places dark, wet, and repellent to intruders

WURM BEHAVIOUR

Conversation
1:
Spout hatred
2:
Spread fear
3:
Aggrandise self
4:
Insult enemies
5:
Seek submission
6:
Entice fealty

Combat
1:
Cut off escape
2:
Trap them and leave
3:
Target the weak
4:
Break their arms
5:
Flee to advantageous ground
6:
Blunt assault

EDIT:

EXAMPLE OF PLAY BY POPULAR DEMAND

GM: The dragon rakes its claws at you for d10 damage (Rolls a 2) that's 2 damage.

Player: Phew, I still have HP, so I manage to dodge the worst of it. 

GM: At the end of its turn the dragon rears back and prepares to blast you with its acid breath. (Looks down at notes) Just to warn you, this one is nasty! It's a Slow action so it has to perform it next turn, targeting you. 

Player: Hmm.. how badly injured is the dragon?

GM: You've tired it out a little but it's in pretty good shape.

Let's look at 3 ways it could go from here

REALITY BRANCH 1

Player: Okay I'll run up and stab the thing with the spike of my billhook (rolls a 7).

GM: (subtracts the Dragon's armour of 2 for 5 damage, enough to lose some HP but not wound the creature) The Dragon is forced back, but your spike fails to pierce its glistening scales. Its jaws flash open and you're drenched in a spew of acidic spray (Rolls 2d10 damage, rolling 3 and 9) for 9 damage, and you're covered in corrosive bile that'll keep hurting you till it's washed off. Not looking good. 

REALITY BRANCH 2

Player: Is there anything I can hide behind?

GM: The ruined chapel is probably too far away, the rest is pretty open terrain. I'll give you a DEX Save if you want to try to dive into the ruins in time, otherwise you'll get hit with the acid. 

Player: I'll take it (Rolls a DEX Save, passing).

GM: You sprint and leap behind a fallen column just before the dragon unleashes its acidic breath in your direction. You hear the sizzling of corroding rock around you as you hide. Right, now it's your turn again, what do you do?

REALITY BRANCH 3

Player: How intelligent is this Dragon? It spoke before, right?

GM: Yeah it speaks a little, but it's definitely got an animalistic nature. 

Player: I throw myself down in front of the dragon. "Oh mighty creature, spare me and I'll show you where you might feast until you are truly sated"

GM: What's the idea here?

Player: The locals said this thing was just like raiding for food, right? Seems mostly driven by hunger.

GM: Yeah, good idea, but this thing isn't certain to be open to negotiation at this point. You'll need a CHA Save or it'll just ignore your pleas. 

Player: Okay, I go for it (Rolls a CHA Save, failing)

GM: The dragon doesn't seem impressed. It eyes you hungrily before blasting you with a shower of acid (rolls 2d10 for 4 and 6) 6 damage for now, how does that leave you?