Pixels & Platforms

Saturday, February 22, 2020

I was about to throw it all away...

Tl;dr This is a long post about nothing.

Am I still creative?

I was on the verge, like no joke a day or two away, from posting that I was going to quit blogging. Over the last several months my life has changed pretty significantly for the better. However, as I have somewhat tongue-in-cheek already discussed, I have as a result struggled creatively. Over these last several months, my home game has come to a screeching halt (we've only played I think twice in this time). Almost everything I've posted was a finished draft I had on hold for exactly this kind of circumstance, a mostly finished draft that I gave some kind of unsatisfying finish to, or stuff that I did think were cool ideas but didn't give them the effort they deserved. I haven't done any javascript stuff, which I miss, and I'm a significantly better coder now than I was a few months ago, but I just haven't had the time to do anything particularly cool with it for the blog. Would also like to do some more RPG-applied machine learning stuff since I really have no excuse not to do that now that that's literally my profession 0.o.

I had also even before that become really disengaged with the community, which didn't help. I'm almost never on discord anymore, G+ is long over, I lurk on reddit a bit still but rarely post, I still follow a bunch of blogs and try to comment but I rarely discover new blogs unless one of the other bloggers I follow blogs about them. It seems like a lot of people have moved to twitter, and I have a twitter, but I just really don't like twitter. There's been this whole zine thing which several months back I would have been all over but now I just don't want to. I still get a few awesome individuals who will occasionally comment on my blog posts which I deeply appreciate. I don't feel as bad when a post doesn't get many views or comments anymore because I feel less engaged in general, but it always helps to get some kind of engagement.

The blog was beginning to feel like a chore. I wasn't feeling motivated to create. I felt like I was getting diminishing returns for my efforts in every sense. My fellow blogger friend semiurge discussed once, somewhere, that he felt that creativity was something that happened to him passively, and I used to feel that way, but it has been feeling effortful for me for quite some time, and as a result I haven't been prioritizing it at all.


Then randomly, just over the last week, I've been starting to feel a bit creatively energized again. We'll see how much of that actually translates to the blog, but it's nice. I get random ideas that pop into my head again and I write notes. One or two ideas I've been sitting on for a while are starting to come together more organically. I'm still struggling to get my home game together but I'm going to be starting another group with some work friends which will hopefully energize me.

I had said that after I got my career together that I'd start prioritizing commissioning art and potentially publishing something, and it took me longer to get my career together but it happened, and now it's taking me longer to get the rest of my life together but it's coming along, and I'm hoping maybe I'll soon get back to that place where those things seem plausible for me.

I've found that whenever I do these kinds of posts about things I want to do, or my mental state, that putting it out there into the world makes me more likely to actualize it. I don't want to abuse this superstitious placebo effect, but I'll briefly preview a few ideas / priorities. Feedback may affect how likely or how quickly these things happen.

Setting and/or System Idea with three possible names

This idea is one of those "darlings" that I've spent way too much time thinking about and wanting it to be my magnum opus and pinning too much of myself on it to the point that it cannot ever be what I want it to be and trying to make it that is just making it worse, so I'm trying to just give up on that and let it be something much more ad hoc and small scale. Instead of telling you at all what it's supposed to be about, I'll just tell you the three titles I'm considering and hopefully the titles speak for themselves. I might also try to fold it in with It's Okay to be a Monster.

Title 1 (original)

Title 2 (originally a different idea very loosely inspired by my thoughts on Feast of Legends that I'll probably fold into this)
Free the System: An Absurdist World of Corporate Fantasy

Title 3 (just came up with it the other day)
Maximum Recursion Depth, or Sometimes the Only Way to Win is to Stop Playing

A few Weird species for an undetermined setting

Weird fantasy, and specifically Weird fantasy species, are hard to get right. I was going to try to hyperlink all my attempts but there are too many. Some have been successful (at least imo) and others not so much. But here we are again. Isaac Asimov's The Gods Themselves is one of my favorite novels of all time, and has a really interesting trinary-gendered, totally inhuman species. I recently read Adrian Tchaikovsky's Children of Time, and it was excellent. He does such a good job of creating a species that is very Weird and inhuman, yet presented in a sympathetic way. It is partially what has reinvigorated me to try to create some new species that are truly Weird, but that hopefully can be relatable and playable. Here is a very brief preview of these species. I haven't really decided on any other features of the setting yet, it can be anything I guess.

(Tentative Names)
The Goop: The primordial soup as a singular, viral-like superorganism that create water-goop-carcass vessels to traverse on land. Some are as large as cities and contain whole ecosystems inside themselves, others are chimera held together by carved whale bone and coral.
Hu: An evolutionary offshoot of humanity that has evolved to fill the ecological niche of ants and use pheromone-signalling and an ever-rotating maintenance crew of hu to remote-pilot Frankenstein abominations.
Freakazoids: Created by an advanced AI. They are biological but have mechanics and design principles not found in nature like wheels and treads and combustion engines, and look like freaky animal-cars, animal-bikes, etc. and do freaky science.
Unnamed Pterosaur Humanoids: The most human-like and imo, at least so far, least interesting. They're basically meant to be the closest thing to a human-surrogate since some people need that. I'll try to make them interesting without making them too "Weird". They lay eggs and have some peacocking stuff with their vestigial wings. I dunno I'm open to suggestion.

Monday, February 17, 2020

River Speciation Table

I'm a bit late to this, but I really enjoyed the concept of Le Chaudron Chromatique's Island and Random Encounters Speciation Table, so I finally got around to doing one myself. This is rather time consuming, it would be nice to come up with a faster way to do this (maybe one day I'll do a javascript version if I ever get back to doing that kind of stuff). I chose to use the Old-School Essentials (OSE) Wilderness Encounter Tables, specifically the Lake, River section. It was surprisingly robust for this purpose. I do think that bestiary is very basic, but for the purposes of something like this it works well. I might want to do another one some day though with a weirder bestiary, like Numenera or Gamma World. That being said, I think if it were too weird, the speciations might seem too arbitrary to be interesting. But I would like to find a way to inject a little bit more Weird into this. But for now, I'm happy with this.

I would also potentially like to flesh these species and this setting out further, but alas, just writing this up took a while, so I'm just going to roll with it as is. I think it's pretty cool, but with a little bit of Weird & Wonderful personal touch it could be even cooler.

Initial Environment:
  1. Lizard Person
  2. Water Termite
  3. Giant Shrew
  4. Nixie
  5. Killer Bee
  6. Sturgeon
  7. Large Crocodile
  8. Hobgoblin
  9. Driver Ant
  10. Fire Beetle
  11. Panther
  12. Giant Scorpion
  13. Crab Spider
  14. Gold Dragon
  15. Boar
  16. Thoul
  17. Giant Leech
  18. Black Widow Spider
  19. Human
  20. Basilisk

Adaptation and Speciation:

  1. Lizard Person (Hyper HD)
  2. Water Termite (Saves)
  3. Giant Shrew (Nixie)
  4. Nixie (Dwarf)
  5. Killer Bee (Hyper Morale)
  6. Sturgeon (Black Widow Spider)
  7. Large Crocodile (Hoarder)
  8. Hobgoblin (Giant)
  9. Driver Ant (Large Crocodile)
  10. Fire Beetle (Nixie)
  11. Panther (Basilisk)
  12. Giant Scorpion (Lizard Person)
  13. Crab Spider (Nixie)
  14. Gold Dragon (Dwarf)
  15. Boar (Stunted Hoarder)
  16. Thoul (Basilisk)
  17. Giant Leech (Hobgoblin)
  18. Black Widow Spider (Attack Type)
  19. Human (Large Crocodile)
  20. Basilisk (Giant)

Final Table:

It seems like Nixies and Crocodiles were perhaps the two biggest winners in this evolutionary history. The nixies in particular I'm happy about since they bring a bit of magic and weirdness to this setting, but the idea of crocodile ants is also intriguing. If I were to put my Weird & Wonderful touch to this I'd probably collapse the basilisks, dragons, crocodiles, and maybe even lizard people into a shared origin. Some of the species seem a bit redundant, like the Lizard People and the Basilisk People, and to a lesser extent the giant hobgoblins, although they arguably take on more of a troll-like niche. We'll see, hopefully I'll come back to this.

Warhammer Kroxigor. Not quite what I have in mind for the Sapient Crocodiles but they're cool.

  1. Dire Lizard Person (++HD)
  2. Fortitudinous Water Termite (+Poison Save)
  3. Giant Burrowing Nixie (Tanuki-like Nixies that shapeshift into a Giant Shrew form)
  4. Misty Nixie (microscopic Nixies that cluster into gas-like mist; more like fungus or bacteria than animal)
  5. Dire Killer Bee (++Morale, known for being hyper-aggressive)
  6. Black Widow Fish (Sturgeon-shaped, chitinous, swimming black widow spiders, look kind of like horseshoe crabs. Poisonous)
  7. Large Dracodile (Large Crocodile that has evolved pseudo-dragon characteristics as a form of intimidation, including hoarding behaviors)
  8. Giant Hobgoblin
  9. Crocodile Ant (Hive-minded micro-crocodiles)
  10. Burrowing Nixie (Like Giant Burrowing Nixies but regular-Nixie sized, and bio-luminescent)
  11. Climbing Basilisk (Smaller and softer-skinned than regular basilisks, but faster, more agile, capable of climbing, more willing to fight up close. Weaker / less reliable stare powers)
  12. Spitting Lizard Person (Feral lizard people with hardened skin and venemous close-range spit)
  13. Weaver Nixies (Climb, produce mucous-like "silk" from river water, decomposition, and magic)
  14. Dwarf Gold Dragons (They lost the position of Apex Predator from the Basilisks, as they were too big and caloric to be sustainable in this ecosystem. Why didn't they leave?)
  15. Ravished Boar (Creepy skinny bony boars with odd and counterproductive behaviors; barely eat or make any effort to sustain themselves. Some weird genetic mutation; probably on the way to extinction)
  16. Basilisk Person (Humanoid basilisks with sub-human cognition but powerful basilisk strength and abilities. May eventually become the army of a Dark Lord)
  17. Vampire Hobgoblins (Mer-Hobgoblins with leech-like mouths)
  18. Black Widow-Maker Spider (Black Widow Spiders with venom that is explosive rather than neurotoxic)
  19. Sapient Crocodile (Large crocodiles that have evolved human-level intelligence and have developed a civilization equivalent to late stone age or early bronze age humanity. They utilize tools and weapons with prehensile hands and their mouths. They trade with other intelligent species from beyond their local ecosystem.)
  20. Giant Basilisk (They won over the Apex Predator position from the Gold Dragons, who were too big and caloric to be sustainable in this ecosystem)

Sunday, February 9, 2020

It's Okay To Be A Monster: RPG Rough Concept

Sadly I have not had much time to do or think about RPG stuff lately, but I had kind of a rough week and so naturally I am now feeling creative. This is an idea I've been sitting on in various forms for a while, but it recently mutated (pun intended even though it's not obvious why it's a pun yet) and I like where the idea is heading so I'm just going to write this poorly conceived stream of consciousness version of it now and we'll see what happens.

In some ways on-face it seems maybe more like a PbtA or storygame in that it has a very central theme. That being said, I'm conceiving of it with OSR or that style in mind and I think for reasons I can't totally articulate that it's better that way but there's no reason why someone else couldn't do it a different way.

The core idea is that characters do not die per se; everything is fail forward, for better or worse. Everything is mutilation and mutation and metamorphosis and mind-shattering (maybe Mutations & Mutilations is a better name for the RPG? I'm open to suggestions). There would be lot's of random roll tables for all of these. If you would die, you are reincarnated, or become a ghost, or transcend to some other plane of existence that is perpendicular to the rest of the party. If you would go insane, you enter an alternate state of consciousness, or are consumed by an eldritch being and become the eldritch being, or something like that.

The idea is for the game to be recursive. If you would be critically mutilated, mutated, mind-altered, metamorphosed, etc., you can still be part of the party and progress, just differently. If one player dies or goes insane, they may gain awareness of or access to other realms and dimensions that they can share with the rest of the party that they wouldn't have been able to get to otherwise. It's not just that these things are fail-forward as a fail-safe, but they're the primary means of progression and digression (again, recursive; it is the gameplay loop, not just a way to keep the loop going).

The storygame "theme" of it is that rather than being about body horror or psychological horror or existential cosmic horror, it's about acknowledging these disturbing and sometimes awful changes and accepting them. You could go Adventure Time with it or Always Sunny (the latter being more so why I think it would work better for OSR-style play, if you're following me), or somewhere in the middle.

It's about making mistakes and doing things you regret and accepting them and growing from them and moving forward and then probably doing it again even after you thought you learned better, but in a goofy, ridiculous, tabletop RPG sort of way.

I don't really have the juice right now to write up or consolidate pre-existing tables, but I think the core aspects would be to have these tables, and to have the connective tissue, probably another set of tables, so that once a mutation, mutilation, massacre, etc. occurs, it generates some sort of plot event as well (access to / awareness of a new dimension, a new NPC, a new mcguffin, etc.).

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Monster Hunting Special Forces

I originally had planned this as an r/d100 Let's Build series, but other than the awesome semiurge I didn't get any takers, so here it is as a Weird & Wonderful Table. I've written 20 (so I think that's 8 new entries compared to the reddit post), and also included semiurge's entries as BONUS.

Also, I say this in the reddit post as well, but to clarify, this is not related to the Monster Hunter videogame series! These are ideas for "character classes" (or at least cool NPCs) built around a unique method to take down a common fantasy or tabletop monster. It was somewhat inspired by the Vamprie Hunter D novels, but also takes inspiration from other series with unique methods of monster fighting such as Attack on Titan, or to a lesser extent Goblin Slayer (more so for its focus on tactics than for its unique methods per se).

  1. Ibian Jiraiya (Vampire Hunters): The Ibians are frog or salamander-like humanoids from another dimension or universe who have held a single colony, the city of Ib in the land of Mnar, for at least ten thousand years. Their soldiers, the Jiraiya, are known for being completely silent, and for mastering water magics. Their water magics make them uniquely suited to vampire slaying, as vampires are vulnerable when submerged in water.

  2. Holy Maiden (Vampire Hunters): Ibian golems, designed as the ultimate Vampire Slayers. Made of an exotic marble-like material, they appear as ornate iron maidens with an uncanny smile on their face, which turns into a laughing scream, projecting beams of holy light (which may also be Mu / Null energy or the projection of a white hole). When they strain themselves, they shed tears of blood. They have the intelligence of a golem, or sometimes an angel or ghost from heaven. They are powered by a vampire, trapped in a hibernating state as if in a coffin, needles draining their blood to power the maiden. An operator must occasionally blood-let into the maiden to keep the vampire alive. A more powerful vampire yields a more powerful maiden, but requires more blood, a more sophisticated operating system, and is more likely to go berserk. If a maiden is on the verge of going berserk, it will try to pulp the vampire inside for one final, explosive burst of holy light.

  3. Ibian Dhampir (Vampire Hunters): Half-vampire, half-ibian. Ibian dhampirs are unique in that they have absolutely no vulnerability to being submerged in water, in addition to being less vulnerable to the other weaknesses of vampires. Additionally, their vampiric powers operate on lunar phases, being virtually mortal on a new, crescent, or quarter moon, and nearly equal to a full vampire during a gibbous or full moon. Even during this time, they maintain their immunity to water submersion.

  4. Vaporist (Dragon Hunters): Witch doctors, plague doctors, and other learned specialists. They gather or cultivate herbs, fungi, bacteria, and viruses which agitate the unique properties of dragon lungs and guts associated with their element-breathing biology. They collect these ingredients into mounds which they set afire, vapors rising up to the dragons, or compress them into pellets that can be ignited from firearms or set alight and launched from bows, cannons, and ballista. They are also trained in butchery and knifework, and often carry cutlery carved from dragon bone or an equally hard and sharp material. As the effects of the vapors kick in and the dragon falls to the ground, they position themselves to slice open the plummeting dragon across their bellies, leveraging the dragon's own force and velocity against it, spilling their guts which smash into the ground at high velocity.

  5. Blink Master (Dragon Hunters): Beastmasters with a specialty in training blink dogs. The dogs are trained to draw the attention of the dragon, or lie in wait to ambush a charging dragon. They herd it towards the highest ground they can find with the best cover, in an attempt to force the dragon to charge towards the ground. As the dragon charges or exhales its elemental payload, the blink dogs teleport-pounce up to the dragon, dodging the breath attack, and collectively work to immobilize the wings and bite and claw at the dragon's vulnerable points such as eyes, belly, and throat, blinking around the body as needed or off to safety as the dragon crashes to the ground. Some blink masters breed their blink dogs to be immune or resistant to specific elements, or to be empowered by certain elements, making them better suited to hunting specific kinds of elemental dragons. Some extremely high-level blink masters use (barely-)tamed hounds of tindalos rather than blink dogs.

  6. Dazzler (Beholder / Basilisk / Gorgon Hunters): In every way trained to disorient and disable vision. They wear jewelry of reflective glass, shiny clothing and armor, and lights, learn blinding spells and spells of flashing lights, or carry magic items or wands that do likewise. They use the beholder's many eyes against them, disabling their eye magics and making it difficult if not impossible for them to aim their disintegration rays.

  7. Sundancer (Beholder / Basilisk / Gorgon Hunters): They wear the skin of a displacer beast, carefully butchered to maintain its light-bending magical abilities against monsters. They dance through the disintegration rays of beholders; their position is always a foot or two away from the stare of a basilisk or gorgon. As the monsters look in vain, the sundancer dances ever closer, until it reaches close enough to lash at the monsters eyes with its weapons or the tentacles of the displacer beast skin.

  8. Soulbinder (Lich Hunters): Priests, clerics, and exorcists, who collect heaven-bound souls. Often, they sell indulgences to the poor, offering them a chance at heaven so long as they allow the soulbinder to borrow their soul for a time. Liches draw their necromantic powers from the nether-portal where their soul would be, instead safely stored in its phylactory. As they use their powers, the portal widens, and eventually it grows wide enough for the soulbinder to lodge a borrowed soul into it like a plug, significantly impairing the lich, and temporarily turning them into a mortal. If the lich is not killed quickly enough, the soul will be thrashed by the necromantic energies and the lich will be undead again. However, if it is killed in time, the new soul will block out the original soul held in the phylactory, at which point the under-used soul will quickly wither away, and the soulbinder may safely retrieve the borrowed soul.

  9. Dungeon Custodian (Dungeon Hunters): Consume alchemical concoctions containing, or naturally produce in their bodies, an enzyme that makes them immune to the acid of a gelatinous cube. They enter a cube, usually naked or with rare articles of clothing immune to the cube, and operate it from the inside, manipulating its simple intelligence towards the custodian's aims. They sweep through the dungeon in their cube, cleansing the dungeon of monsters. Custodians will often carry capsules containing condensed gelatinous cubes within them, to use in emergencies if the dungeon does not have any gelatinous cubes in it or their current cube is destroyed.

  10. Spiral King (Mind Flayer / Psionic Hunters): Master mesmerists and tacticians, their name a reference to the King from Chess, and the fact that they are powerful psychics whose psionics are fully dedicated to the construction and maintenance of their psionic mind castles, making them the ultimate anti-psychics. Any psionic attack traps the psychic in the Spiral King's mind castle, where the castle itself assaults them from all angles. Even as they try to escape, they find themselves in infinite spiral staircases, recursively looped like an MC Escher painting.

  11. Nightmare Wendigo (Mind Flayer / Psionic Hunters): When humans or certain other creatures dying of starvation succumb to cannibalism, they transform into wendigo; skeletal, bestial, white-skinned or white-furred, supernatural monsters of rage and consumption. When a psychic on the verge of brain-death cannibalizes the mind of one of their own, they may become a Nightmare Wendigo. They are stark-raving mad, but often functional. Their affect is unsettling and most others are uncomfortable around them, but otherwise they are capable of reason. However, when in the presence of psychic beings, and especially when a psychic being such as a Mind Flayer attempts to feed on their mind, their physical body transforms into a wendigo, and the wendigo's shadow ravages the mind of the psionic attacker.

  12. Noble Dhampir (Vampire Hunters): A lineage of dhampirs descending from the most powerful vampires and most exceptional humans, usually selectively bred but occasionally inducted. They are often bred or chosen for the strongest resistance to vampire weaknesses, greatest vampire abilities, restraint towards bloodlust, or other supernatural or exceptional mundane abilities. Those inducted into the Noble family are some of the most dangerous and powerful beings in the world, usually indoctrinated to hate vampires and their vampire heritage.

  13. Lightning Golem (Giant Hunters): These metal golems are built by artificers with special training, and are not magical in nature. Given the intricacy of the work, the knowledge necessary to maintain them, and the cost, they are rare. It ends up being more sensible to make a smaller number of massive lightning golems scaled to fight giants and kaiju than to make many smaller, human-sized or large lightning golems. The artificers either make a deal with, or capture a lightning elemental, and force it into circuits of usually copper, silver, or gold within the Lightning Golem, and through means not well understood, the elemental animates the golem. Often the artificer will build an electric-proof cage within the golem from which a pilot can (partially) control the elemental.

  14. Meta-Alchemist (Elemental Hunters): Everyone is familiar with the elements; Earth, Water, Fire, Air, but these are actually the outward expression of two deeper philosophical principles of cohesion and combustion. The meta-alchemists have, through deep thought, transcended the planes, and have access to the sulfuric hellfires and the mercurial ichor of the gods. With these elements, they can snuff flames, steady torrents, crumble the earth, and thin the air.

  15. Slinger Grenadier (Giant Hunters): These hunters are masters of the shepherd sling. Their slings are magically enchanted with haste or similar spells, allowing them to spin far faster, and launch farther and more powerfully, than would otherwise be possible. Depending on the size of the sling and bullet, it can shred enemy lines, leave explosive craters, and puncture giants and armored monsters. Even the weakest enchanted slings require great muscle strength and training to use effectively, and the most devastating slings are positioned in-place like artillery and operated by a team.

  16. Necroborg (Undead Hunters): These necromancers hone their abilities towards the integration of life and un-death. They blend blood and blight, wearing skeletal armors and integrating undead appendages and organs into themselves. Zombies bite, and necroborgs bite back. By ingesting undead tissue, or siphoning blight through claw-syringes integrated directly into their bloodstream, the necroborgs steal the eldritch energies of their undead foes, or turn them to their will.

  17. Necro-Demolitionist (Undead Hunters): Divine channelers who invoke a so-called deadman's switch suite of spells. They use a potent combination of abjure undead and turn undead to create a simultaneously pulling and pressing, violent force; an implosion followed by an explosion proportional to the number of undead compressed within it. Another spell they cast triggers as a fresh corpse is being blighted, blocking the eldritch energies partway through the transformation, causing an explosive necromantic pulse. If any other fresh corpses are also being blighted, the necromantic pulse blocks their blight, creating a chain reaction of corpse explosions and necromantic pulses.

  18. Zombie Rancher (Undead Hunters): Cowboys of the blight. They use carefully controlled divine spells to compel the migrations of lesser undead, usually skeletons and zombies. Often they are utilized merely to divert the path of an undead scourge like digging a trench to change the course of a river. Some kingdoms have reached a level of capital and industrialization that they have employed zombie ranchers who use their spells to create logic-gates from the zombies, turning scourges into un-living computers. Less advanced but sufficiently wealthy kingdoms instead divert scourges towards their enemies, but that is a dangerous game, as the scourge grows larger, and the number of zombie ranchers rarely grows in kind.

  19. Werehound (Werewolf Hunters): A "breed" of werewolves, "domesticated" (enslaved) for generations and bred to be the ultimate hunters. They have exceptional speed and sense of smell and are capable of keeping werewolves in their sights, or tracking their scent into the day, when they are at their most vulnerable. Except for when they bloodlust, their feral instincts are attenuated compared to werewolves, but they are formidable fighters in their own right, and are trained in group hunting tactics and to hunt with humans.

  20. Cold Iron Jack (Fey / Werewolf / Forest Hunters): Lumberjacks and huntsman equipped with tools of royally-enchanted cold iron. The cold iron is devastating to magical beings, especially those of the forest, such as fey and werewolves, and can give a lumberjack the strength to chop through a tree in a single blow and the will to laugh in the face of Darkness. The cold iron is only as powerful as the royalty, or more generally the civilization, that empowers it.

Semiurge BONUS:

  1. The Knights of St. Gumbly (Giant Slayers): An order of mountain goat-riding halflings and children who specialize in the use of the javelin and grappling hook. As per the teachings of their founder they believe that giants are the embodiment of rapacious sin, and so slaying them while practicing strict temperance is their moral duty. Their preferred tactic is to climb up their targets’ bodies to strike their soft head bits.

  2. The Ash-Eater Lodge (Treant, Dryad, Druid, Etc. Slayers): Civilization’s hunger for fuel is always ravenous, yet the forests hold their bounty jealously. The rangers of the Ash-Eater Lodge wield their advanced knowledge of ecology as a weapon, collapsing predator populations, poisoning the earth, putting pockets of resistance to the torch, and otherwise softening the defenders of the woods for their harvest.

  3. Ironcrackers (Demon Slayers): Veterans of the campaign against iron-walled Dis, specializing in the use of occult siege weapons. Holy water cloudburst bombs, cannonballs of sacred salt, and horns of Jericho all number among their arsenal.

  4. Poor Unfortunate Souls (Witch Hunters): Pitiable and practically indispensable members of witch hunts. People who by accident of malefic influence of birth are lightning rods for curses, shielding their comrades from the same.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Minigame: Critical Roll Casino Dice Game

This is a casino-style dice game inspired by Blackjack. It could be a fun game in its own right totally independent of an in-universe tabletop RPG mini-game, but by using dice and playing into the idea of a critical roll, it has a fun tabletop feel to it.

The Rules

  • The goal is to roll the closest value to 20. 
    • Unlike blackjack, there is no busting, but on a tie in different direction (e.g. 18 vs 22), the lower value takes priority.
  • Players can play against each other or against the dealer.
  • Place bets and after all bets are placed, everyone rolls a d20.
  • Critical Success: On a roll of 20, the player automatically wins and receives 1.5x their bet.
    • If the dealer also rolls a critical success, it's considered a push and the player neither wins nor loses.
  • Critical Failure: On a roll of 1, the player automatically loses.
  • After the d20 roll, place the d20 facing the rolled value below the bet. Each player takes their turn from left to right (house goes last). Each player takes all of their actions before moving on to the next player.
  • Hit: If the player did not roll a critical success, they can choose to roll a d12 and add the value to their total, placing the d12 facing the rolled value under their d20 in a dice chain. Players can continue to hit, decreasing the dice size until >= 20, or the player has rolled a d4. 
    • d12 -> d10 -> d8 -> d6 -> d4
  • Critical Hits: Rolling the maximum value on a die is a critical success. Roll a d20. If the player rolls a 20, replace the current total with the 20. This is not the same as a critical success. A roll of 1 on this die does not count as a critical fail.
  • Miss: After rolling a 1 on a die, add the 1 to the total, but the player cannot make another hit even if they have smaller dice (e.g. if the player rolls a 1 on a d8, they cannot hit to roll a d6). This is not the same as a critical failure.
  • Split: If the value of a rolled die is the same as the directly preceding die in the chain (e.g. 5 on a d20 followed by 5 on a d12), the dice chain can be split.
    • Separate the dice and place a bet equal to the original next to the second die.
    • Start from the first die and decide whether or not to roll another hit (e.g. go back to the 5 on a d20 and decide whether to hit with another d12). Follow this chain, then move to the next (e.g. after finishing the d20 chain, go to the 5 on the d12 and choose whether to hit with a d10).
    • A dice chain can be split as many times as there are valid opportunities and the player can afford the bet.
  • Double Down: Rather than taking a hit after the d20 roll, the player can choose to double their bet, and roll one single die of any size besides d20, but they cannot take any other actions after the double down.
  • Dealer Rules
    • If the dealer and player roll the same value, dealer always wins (except critical successes, which push).
    • A roll of 1 on a d20 does not count as a critical failure.
    • Cannot split or double down.
    • Must hit until they have a value >= 20. 
    • No critical hits or misses.

Monday, January 6, 2020

Ghostbusting, Fire Fighting, Kart Racing, and Cooking Combat!

A followup to my meandering post about combat. Despite what I said, these so far haven't involved hacking FATE into OSR or TNT, and are just modifications of regular combat. I tried to design these with OSR and TNT in mind. Many of these involve a blend of Saving Throws (STs) for OSR or Saving Rolls (SRs) for TNT with regular combat actions. In many cases where I refer to Saving Throws for OSR, it might make more sense to just do a roll under attribute, depending on your preferred system.

Fire Fighting / Ghost Hunting: Inspired by the anime Fire Force (loosely), Mario Sunshine, Ghostbusters, and Luigi's Mansion. It seems strange to put these together but they work similarly. You have to be able to get within a certain range, and maintain your hold, either dousing the fire, or sucking up the ghost.

  • A successful SR / ST gets you in range. 
  • You may occasionally need to re-roll to stay in range. Other environmental obstacles or enemies may get in the way. The fire / ghost regenerates HP if you're throw out of range.
  • An "attack" is dousing the fire / sucking up the ghost. A successful hit against you is fire/heat damage or an attack from the ghost (in TNT, just an opposed roll).
  • Depleting enemy HP means dousing the fire or sucking up the ghost.
This should be more like a "boss-fight" game, where there are fewer enemies; one stronger one, and maybe a few weaker ones, or only obstacles. The key is to not only get in range, but be able to stay in range, so there's tactics in understanding your environment, or positioning yourself for the unexpected. The fire / ghosts should be less mobile and more reactive than active, at least until it's too late to turn back...

Kart Racing: Inspired by Mario Kart and other "Kart" Racers, Road Rage, Fast & Furious, and other action racing games, movies, etc. The players can still work as a team, where victory depends on one or more players ranking in the top three.
  • Fixed number of turns (laps).
  • Initiative determines starting position (if applicable). Otherwise SR / ST. There are as many positions as racers+2, and racers can hold the same position.
  • First is the attack round, where all racers make their attacks. Most attacks can only target enemies at the same position or one position ahead or behind ("neck and neck"), and generally cause the target to decelerate and take damage. Running out of HP means the kart is destroyed or blown off the track. Deceleration means moving one position behind.
  • Then comes the move round, where all racers make their move actions. SR / ST at full success (accelerate), partial success (hold position), or failure (decelerate). A racer may choose to hold position or decelerate without the need for a roll. Accelerating means moving up one position, decelerating means moving down one position. Cannot go past max/min position.
  • Environmental obstacles or certain items may also trigger SR / STs.
  • At the end of the last lap, the person in the first position wins. Rewards at first, second, and third place.
While enemies can still be KOed, this is more about positioning in a race. I do think some additional work needs to be done for this for it to feel fully fleshed out, like a list of items with varying effects, including AoE attack options or attacks outside of normal range. Tentatively, my thought would be that you get an item when you decelerate on the move turn, giving struggling racers a potential advantage, or allowing racers that are far ahead to tactically hold or decelerate. The racers+2 positions is to pad out room for the leader to be far ahead or loser to be far behind. There could also be rules for collateral from spinning out.

Food Wars: Inspired by Iron Chef and other food competition shows, and the anime Food Wars and Yakitate Japan. Here I'm assuming the party is cooking as a team but you can adjust accordingly.
  • The theme ingredient(s) or chosen main ingredient(s) of the dish are the "enemies". There should probably be 1-3 main ingredients with the highest stats and 1-5 other notable ingredients with lower stats. Alternatively, you can have fewer ingredients, but refresh their HP at each stage of preparation.
  • "Attacks" reflect progress towards preparing the ingredient using a given technique, such as slicing, cubing, garnishing, etc. Tally successful "damage" in addition to subtracting from the ingredient. If an ingredient runs out of HP, it is done being prepared or done with that stage of preparation.
  • Hits against a cook reflect making a critical mistake, or injuring oneself (e.g. cut or burn). Subtract damage taken from the total tally in addition to subtracting from HP. If the cook runs out of HP, they've been injured so badly that they can no longer proceed, or have ruined the dish beyond recovery.
  • The ingredients or techniques may elicit additional SR / STs or have other special conditions. Kitchen "mishaps" or sabotage may also come into play.
  • The total tally reflects the score of the dish, meaning the maximum score would be the total HP of all ingredients / stages of ingredients. This should be compared against some fixed acceptable score or an opposed team's pre-determined score. In addition, you may want to throw in some variability at the end for dramatic effect, like an SR / ST, or two flat die rolls like 2d10 or 2d6, where the first die adds a percent of the maximum possible score to the party or opposition's score and the second subtracts a percent of the maximum to the respective scores. These could also be flat values rather than percentages of the total if that's easier, but should be enough to sway the outcome, without being so large as to make the entire cooking challenge totally random.
I think this one might need some work. It may be a bit tricky to crunch the numbers since the scoring system is tied to the maximum HP of the ingredients. Maybe it should just be standardized in some other way. Also, I do think adding some randomness at the end is a good way to keep the outcome from being totally pre-determined, but I could see it being really dissatisfying for the party to lose because of it. Also, the fact that the outcome is so dependent on the total score, while true to a cooking competition, may not be satisfying in tabletop.

Monday, December 30, 2019

Meandering Thoughts About Combat

I mentioned recently how I was feeling creatively empty, which gave me a bit of a creative burst, but I appear to have run out of steam and can't seem to finish my Martians setting even though I have a bestiary post already 75% drafted and would like to make some Martian Mechs for TNT by way of Mechs & Monstrosities and Gamma Knights. But that probably won't happen unless I will it to happen by mentioning it here.

On a theory level, I've been thinking about combat in tabletop RPGs, and how to handle it. While I actually do find character builds and tactical combat in games like D&D 3.+ compelling when I've done a sufficient amount of research into them, I prefer that style of play in videogames, not tabletop. I've come to respect that style of game design a bit more again. By integrating all of the mechanics together, a relatively crunchy game can be made much more streamlined (as opposed to many of the overly complex bolt-on mechanics of D&D 2e and other games from that era, see Star Frontiers Advanced which I should but probably won't write a review of bc tbh I was a little disappointed that my Gamma Knights review didn't make it on the thought eater humpday blogarama). However, it also becomes much less modular, so unless you want to redesign the whole game any time you want to hack something, you're pretty much stuck with what you've got. Which is great if you lack the time, creativity, or general inclination to make stuff yourself. But at that point, I'd rather just play a videogame.

Anyway, that was an unintended tangent, this is a bit stream of consciousness. I've been thinking about this stuff because of games like TNT and Gamma Knights. I don't necessarily prefer opposed rolls to hit vs. armor type combat systems, but I do find them interesting, and I wish more OSR people would look to TNT for inspiration even if they aren't interested in switching systems. I like how in TNT ranged weapons have fewer damage dice but can bypass the opposed roll, or how rolling a six on any damage die gives 1 spite damage that also bypasses opposed rolls, such that a sufficient number of weak monsters can still make a mark on player characters, without necessarily being an hyper-deadly game. Likewise, while I generally don't like character builds and tactical crunch in tabletop, I do like the idea of that being a differentiation between regular PCs and mechs or power armored PCs. If I were playing a whole mech game I wouldn't bother, I'd just reskin any other game, but there is something kind of appealing to me that I can't fully articulate about the different sensors and power management and force fields and computerized systems in Gamma Knights (or maybe it's more generally related to the point I will be making below, which is supposed to be the main point of this meandering post).

That being said, in practice, I almost always prefer to minimize combat, or add saving rolls or other non-combat mechanics into combat scenarios. I don't find GMing combat fun, I only kind of find being a PC in combat fun, if the GM did a good job setting up the encounter, and anecdotally, I find that a lot of the fun leaves the table when things get too solely combat-driven. It could just be that I'm not a good combat GM. Or it could be that good combat encounters should include non-combat actions, and I'm doing it correctly after all.

While I haven't played it, I find the Pyrrhic Weaselry, Or At What Cost? system so intriguing because it's willing to defy the norm of combat systems in an otherwise D&D-style game space, and is really conscientious of fictional positioning and how to leverage that to create interesting encounters. I think the term fictional positioning gets thrown around a lot by storygame people, but frankly I've found that many of the people who sling that term around don't really understand what it means, or haven't thought it through all the way, just making common sense needlessly pretentious (this statement is not intended as an attack on all storygamers or all storygames! I'm not one of those obnoxious anti-storygame people! In fact there are many things I like about FATE and PbtA!). Anyway, If you really want to understand what fictional positioning means, read Pyrrhic Weaselry (we've had some good conversations about it on the underutilized SWORDDREAM_unofficial subreddit). I do genuinely think FATE and PbtA do good fictional positioning as well, and also deserve credit for abstracting away combat as not fundamentally different from other mechanics; it's more that I think other people sometimes reduce it to something less meaningful.

Despite all of what I just said, the idea of a combat-less system just seems... wrong. I want a combat system! I don't care that I generally don't like it, or that my players generally don't like it, or that I usually try to minimize its use as much as possible, I still want it there! In small doses it's nice. Just knowing it's there adds to the experience. Maybe that's crazy, but such is life.

That got me thinking though, while there are certain things I don't like about FATE, one thing I really do like about FATE is how it re-constructs tactical combat in a way that doesn't remove combat mechanics altogether, but abstracts them into different kinds of actions that play into the fictional positioning system (aspects). Skills can be designed flexibly for any setting, and can be used as either an attack, defense, to overcome an obstacle, or one other thing that I'm forgetting off-hand because I haven't played it in a while and also I may be getting some of this terminology wrong. That in tandem with the two kinds of stress tracks (one more physical, one more mental, I think called Will) and the ease with which one could hack in more stress tracks, allows you to have your cake and eat it to when it comes to tactical combat vs. fictional positioning. I actually think it's a shame how FATE has to some extent become a victim of its own success, because personally I think FATE is much more interesting, flexible, and DIY than PbtA, which I think has become (or by its nature is) really just the D&D of storygames (for better and worse), but that's also post for another day (I should really be keeping track of these tangents...).

So I don't have a concrete idea at the moment, but I'd like to think about how to, rather than remove combat altogether in games like TNT and OSR, abstract it across other mechanics or situations in ways that are both tactically and fictionally interesting. How could one bend combat to social conflict, or fire fighting, or ghost hunting with a proton pack, or to cooking a dish / line cooking as a team during the dinner rush? I suspect creating a FATE bolt-on to TNT or OSR, or a TNT or OSR-inspired hack of FATE, will play a part in this, but I don't want to commit to anything yet.

I've created TNT character types such as the War Dogs or Warlord that add more fictional-positioning Saving Rolls to combat, but I'd like to maybe try coming up with some character types or general mechanics that go the other way, adding combat-like mechanics to scenarios that are not combat per se. The idea isn't so much to increase the overall amount of combat, but to smooth out the delineation between combat encounters and everything else.

Fitting for this post, I'm going to end on yet another tangent that is dubiously related to the intended point of this post. I've also been thinking about a Poker combat-type mechanic for TNT, inspired partially by the poker mechanics in Deadlands. Because of how TNT uses D6s, I think TNT lends itself better to this kind of mechanic than OSR, but there's no reason why it couldn't also be bolted on to OSR. But again, that's a post for another day...