My Games

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Terrible & Awesome Sorcerers

I was discussing Robert E. Howard (Conan)-style Sorcery with Lungfungus of Melancholies & Mirth, who is doing some really cool stuff with Conan-style mechanics, and we came to a topic I've thought a lot about and been meaning to come back to in a blog post.

Magic in D&D and other tabletop RPGs is very mechanical, more so in D&D 3.+ than in OSR, but still, it is mechanical, and in being mechanical, loses some of the metaphysical, abstract, metaphoric "Terrible & Awesomeness" of Howard magic, or magic in other older fantasy literature (I would argue this all applies more or less to Tolkien as well).

So below is a Terrible & Awesome Sorcerer generator; the Fate of those who become entangled with them, their otherwordly Presence, and what makes them a Force of Nature (and how to overcome them). Figuring out how to work with, work against, or avoid them at all costs, becomes a challenge unto itself, like a fairytale.

I've played with this idea to some extent with how I use superpowers in my games; basically defining them loosely and letting players Just Do It if it's a minor thing, or roll to do it, or spend some kind of player point to do it if it's advanced enough. But in those cases it's more of a story-game effect like a FATE aspect, made loose just to keep the game running smoothly and emphasize narration and flavor. This is about leveraging that same kind of mechanic, a nominally "storygame" mechanic, in an OSR or TNT-style capital-G Game. A character in an OSR game that plays like a "storygame" character would be something Terrible & Awesome, something Weird and detached from the physics of the game in a very real sense. If your fate is foretold by sorcery, IT WILL HAPPEN AS A FACT OF THE UNIVERSE.

Take these as non-finite, as suggestions. Feel free to tweak them and make your own.

Note that I have been very busy lately, in a good way, but unfortunately it means I did not have time to code this up as I would have liked to and as I usually do.

This sorcerer compels Fate. To...
  1. do business with
  2. appease
  3. anger
  4. become acquaintances, friends, or fall in love with
  5. run from, ignore, or deny the wishes of
  6. seek out, give audience, or acquiesce to the wishes of
  7. loyally serve
  8. morally or principally oppose
  9. be known by
  10. personally meet
  11. be in the presence of
  12. have personally met and been forgotten by
  13. have personally met and forgotten about
  14. create, spread, or hear/read rumors about
  15. develop a relationship of any (or some specific) kind with a close friend, family, or lover of
  16. get drunk or high with
  17. survive a deadly battle or duel against
  18. impress
  19. fail to impress
  20. deeply know
this sorcerer is to...
  1. Suffer the curse of
    1. Mortality: You will die soon.
    2. Loss: You will lose a loved one soon.
    3. Mutilation: You will be transformed in a grotesque and debilitating way soon.
    4. Jinx: You will be unlucky forever after (always have Disadvantage e.g. roll two dice and take the lower value, or a similar negative game mechanic).
    5. Debilitation: One of your abilities (or some equivalent, depending on game) will be permanently impaired by 1d4 and cannot ever be raised above that value.
    6. Forgetfulness: You will forget some important aspect of your history, a piece that may very well change who you are as a person.
    7. Hatred: If you do not already feel all-consuming hatred towards another, you will develop a feeling of all-consuming hatred towards another soon, driven by some tragic circumstance. You will never overcome this hatred.
    8. Irony: Your strength will become your weakness; that which you most value will cause you enormous grief; you will come so close to succeeding at your greatest ambition, only to fail in some tragic and symbolic way.
  2. Gain the boon of
    1. Peaceful Death: You will not die violently, unexpectedly, or in pain.
    2. Love: You will always have love in your life.
    3. Beauty: You will become, and forever after be the most beautiful version of yourself, regardless of how your body changes over the course of your life. Others will recognize this beauty in you, and you will have self-acceptance of this beauty.
    4. Blessing: You will be lucky forever after (always have Advantage e.g. roll two dice and take the higher value, or a similar positive game mechanic).
    5. Empowerment: One of your abilities (or some equivalent, depending on the game) will be permanently increased by 1d4 and cannot ever go below that value.
    6. Remembrance: You will remember some important aspect of your history that will change you for the better. If nothing of such value has been forgotten, you will experience a dream of equal substance. 
    7. Acceptance: You will come to terms with a hated enemy. If you have no hated enemies, you will have the certainty that you will never make one.
    8. Irony: Your weakness will become your strength; that which you most detest will be your salvation; on the verge of failing at your greatest ambition, a comedic or symbolic deus ex machina will favor you.
This sorcerer has a Presence. Around this sorcerer...
  1. the beauty in all things is apparent.
  2. the ugliness in all things is apparent.
  3. animals and monsters, even those domesticated, revert to their basest natures.
  4. conversation and all noise-making gives way to silence and seriousness.
  5. activities, even those of importance, give way to raucous merriment and silliness.
  6. playful or socially acceptable violent urges are likely to be acted upon, and they will escalate if allowed.
  7. the dead or lost are remembered.
  8. the dead or lost are forgotten.
  9. an oppressive lethargy, an ennui, presses upon all.
  10. animals and monsters, even the wildest sorts, are abated, and carry a gravitas evocative of a heretofore unseen intellect.
  11. it is difficult to remember names, details, facts, or prepared spells.
  12. muscle memory and other skillful actions feel sloppy and unpracticed.
This sorcerer is a Force of Nature. They cannot...
  1. be harmed or killed
  2. be impeded
  3. be banished
  4. fail
  1. their true name is revealed.
  2. they fall in love.
  3. their phylactory or other sorcerous focus is destroyed.
  4. they experience empathy.
  5. they reach enlightenment.
  6. they will it to be so.
  7. they dream.
  8. reality is fundamentally altered.
  9. reality ceases to be.
  10. a hero succeeds in their journey.
  11. they produce an heir.
  12. they take a life.
  13. they refuse to kill.
  14. someone or something they love is killed.
  15. someone they love is turned against them.
  16. they are shamed.
  17. they are made to forget themselves.
  18. a species is brought to extinction.
  19. a civilization is destroyed, all traces of their existence are irrecoverable, and they are forgotten.
  20. they defy the gods.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

BONUS: J-Pop and Jazz

So I've talked before about my interest in jazz, and I've also talked about anime before. Nujabes and Shoji Meguro, the Sega Sound Team, and the anime and videogames they've worked on such as Samurai Champloo, Persona, and Jet Set Radio, have influenced me creatively, on an aesthetic level and also a deeper thematic level. I don't know when I'll actually post this, but I watched this video on youtube "recently" (as of drafting this post), of the J-Music Ensemble, and found Patrick Bartley to be a really interesting and insightful person, in addition to an excellent musician, although unfortunately I don't know a whole lot about music or music theory. I look forward to exploring his music and learning more about his music theories in the future.

Some of my ideas that I've posted about or intend to post about that have the strongest musical influences are below:

From my old micro-settings post:

  • Phantasmos has some jazzy elements that I'll discuss below
  • Cold War Under a Rising Sun is an alternate history setting largely about the development of Japanese culture in the 20th century, including the music
  • Kwik & Kantankerous is inspired by Mario Kart crossed with Fast & Furious, so like a hip-hop meets chiptune vibe
  • Quantumverse is heavily inspired by old Japanese videogames such as Super Mario (as well as early 20th century pulp such as Flash Gordon), so chiptune influences
  • Starcrossed Sentai is inspired by Power Rangers and its Japanese origins, and in a more roundabout way inspired by the videogame Earthbound, which has an excellent, funky soundtrack. The Japanese musical genre City Pop is also a big theme in this setting.
From Phantasmos (digging up several old and shoddy posts here...):
  • My SHIELDBREAKER campaign included an event inspired by a moment in Earthbound. While the music involved was more electronic than jazz, but is a demonstration of how music affects me creatively
  • Deep Time City, and the dada-DA more generally, have a strong art and music influence. In terms of music, some of the bigger influences are electroswing, trip-hop, lounge jazz, and the soundtrack from the videogame Transistor
  • The Zoomer and Necromancer classes in Phantasmos both have musical influences. The zoomer class is heavily inspired by the videogame Jet Set Radio, with its funky hip-hop vibe, and the Necromancers in phantasmos have a blend of 60's flower power and 70's disco and funk. The Necromancer Nina Soulchild also plays into this theme
Also, while I haven't posted much about them yet, the faction Le Fauves in Aquarian Dawn also has an art and music influence, currently I'm thinking more so EDM but that may change as I flesh them out more

I feel like I'm probably missing a bunch more music references (well... "Heavy Metal" comes up a lot but I'm usually referring more to the comic magazine and aesthetic than the music per se, although the two do generally go together).

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

High Level Games: Five Settings To Pilfer For Your Game

I wrote another article for HLG! This one is Five Settings to Pilfer For Your Game. It's about a handful of books, shows, and games I've experienced relatively recently that I think would make for good tabletop RPG settings, or at least settings to pilfer from. One of them should be obvious given the image below ;), but hopefully one or two of these will be new to you.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Make it as you go RPG (200 Word RPG Challenge)

I made a 200 word RPG for the 200 Word RPG Challenge! It's called Make it as you go RPG and it's not even worth me re-stating it here because doing so would be longer than you just clicking that link and reading it!

I posted about it on the 200 Word RPG Subreddit where I describe my intentions and motivations for the system in a bit more detail. It's as much a setting generator, game generator, and thought experiment as it is a game per se, and I hope people get some value out of it. If you try it out, let me know how it goes!

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Cantrippers: Novelty Superpowers

A list of Novelty "Superpowers". These mutants are no X-Men, but if you're clever, you might be able to put these powers to some use. This idea is loosely inspired by the Valiant Comic series Secret Weapons, about "Psiots" (basically Marvel Mutants) with unremarkable powers who have been brought together as a superhero team. So you could use the official Valiant Universe RPG / Cue System, or you could implement these powers into pretty much any other system or setting, since they're intentionally supposed to be minimally useful.

I thought "Cantripper" would be a fun name for them, since these are kind of like Vancian-magic Cantrip-level superpowers, and I'm always a fan of adding superpowers to an otherwise traditional fantasy setting.

These could just be a background element of the game, but I think it would be fun to build a whole adventure around them. You could go the narrative game route, which might be easier, but it might be fun to implement these powers in an already underpowered system like OSR, where the players will have to come up with really clever uses of their powers in order to survive.

  1. No reflection.

  2. Can see one second into the future.

  3. Can levitate while running off a cliff so long as they are unaware that they are not on the ground (cartoon-style).

  4. Invulnerable except for an Achille's head and heart.

  5. Can speak to the recently dead (within six minutes of their death). The dead are exactly as coherent as they were at the moment of their death, and generally panicking over the existential and metaphysical dread of their situation.

  6. Can turn invisible but only when no one is looking.

  7. No body odor (entirely scentless).

  8. Can eat anything (like a goat). Only derive sustenance if the ingested item has nutritional value.

  9. Can turn any static image on any surface into a gif-like animation loop for up to one minute.

  10. Can produce spider-sized spider webbing.

  11. Can speak to cats. They are exactly as communicative and cooperative as you would expect.

  12. Abnormally long tongue that is prehensile, retractable, detachable, re-attachable, regenerative, and operates independently with its own nerve cluster, like an octopus tentacle (and is maybe telepathically linked to its person).

  13. Swaps dreams with any random person each night.

  14. Has somehow acquired expert-level knowledge of a seemingly non-existent topic, like the biology of an unknown species or geography of an undiscovered land.

  15. Can produce a flame equivalent to a match from their own metabolism, or extract excess clean fresh or salt water from their body.

  16. Bone structure, height, weight, and other physical features are constantly shifting. Changes are noticeable day-over-day; clothes they wore at the beginning of the week no longer fit by the end of the week.

  17. Can create a room-sized devastating explosion, only once.

  18. Can alter their own brain chemistry to induce any kind of inebriated / psychoactive state.

  19. Can prepare a supernaturally delicious meal from any ingredients. The meal appears as the best version of itself but nothing more, and the nutritional value is unchanged.

  20. Receives an unintelligible signal (telepathic, electromagnetic, magical, etc.) from an advanced lifeform that may (or may not) be a deity, or the epicenter of all reality.

  21. Eyelids are one-way screens through which they can see even when closed.

  22. When they close their eyes they see through any random person's eyes.

  23. Can adjust their perception of different acoustic signals as if they had volume control over all sounds in their environment. This ability does not alter the loudness of the sounds, just their perception of it.

  24. Long or thick tail that may or may not be prehensile.

  25. Do not appear to age, but still experience the effects of aging / mortality.

  26. Can adjust their height between 5'1'' and 6'6'' within the span of half a minute.

  27. Can vocalize a loud, air horn-like sound.

  28. Can levitate six inches off the ground for six seconds at a time.

  29. Is immune to the psychoactive effects of any substances, but is still vulnerable to other physiological effects (e.g. won't get drunk, but can die of alcohol poisoning).

  30. Can summon an ineffectual, cartoon-ish, teddy bear-like pet / companion. It can't talk, but makes cute noises. It is lovable, but mostly useless. It will try to follow simple commands to the best of its ability, but often fumbles even the simplest tasks in astonishing and humorous ways. If destroyed, it can be re-summoned within a day (or you can remove this regenerative ability if you want to get really sad with it...).

  31. Has the proportional speed and metabolism of a sloth.

  32. For any possible occurrence, they can increase or decrease the probability by 1% in their favor (e.g. the probability of winning the lottery goes from ~0.0000000715% chance to ~0.0000000722% chance).

  33. Sour foods taste sweet to them, as if they are always under the effects of miracle fruit.

  34. Immune to boredom.

  35. Experiences one or more unique or inexplicable emotions, such as an emotion vaguely like "manic annoyance" triggered by dogs that are slightly less cute than they should be, or "meditative aggro" triggered by a good workout towards the end of the day. Brain scans would suggest these emotions have unique neural activation patterns or even unique neurobiological circuits, not unlike fear and arousal.

  36. Can change their eye and hair color at will, including exotic coloration.

  37. Can turn gold to lead.

  38. Has a supernatural "presence". Not a literal aura of light, but they always stand out in a crowd.

  39. Lays eggs, independent of gender. The appearance and taste of the eggs is best compared to that of a platypus or echidna. The eggs cost as many calories to produce as they provide. They feel a pressure to lay an egg usually once or twice a day, and can suppress the feeling for a while, but as with bowel movements, will eventually need to go.

  40. Muscle flexion produces flashes or sparkles around them. Sometimes it also produces a BAM noise.

  41. Eidetic-like memory, except the memories are always incorrect in some critical way.

  42. Quantum-entangled with a self-aware machine or golem on a distant, empty celestial body. They perceive its contemplations about life and the vastness of spacetime and the meaning or meaninglessness of the universe, like a running monologue.

  43. No shadow.

  44. Can change the color of non-living things by touch.

  45. Supernaturally broad vocal range.

  46. They are extremely fragrant, but can control the scent of their body odor, such as to smell like chocolate or roses.

  47. Can draw a mathematically perfect circle, down to the sub-atomic level, that maintains its perfect state across time, regardless of the movement of particles. Has absolutely no conscious awareness of how they can do this.

  48. Has a mostly cosmetic supernatural phenotype, like a beak, scales, unnatural skin or hair color, tentacles for arms that are effectively only as functional as regular arms and hands, cyclops eye (may or may not affect depth perception), etc.

  49. Tough soles on their feet that provide equivalent protection as hiking boots.

  50. Their brain is a literal black box. They seem to have normal consciousness for their species, the black box is as vulnerable as a regular human brain, and seems to respond to stimuli and chemicals in the same way as a regular brain, and yet its exact mechanics are completely inexplicable.

  51. Colorful shadows.

  52. Their reflection is of a different person.

  53. Can alter the way things taste (no nutritional / health changes).

  54. Their shadows act independently, and can stretch or compress to roughly twice or half size, change shape, and rotate around them.

  55. Once a day a random piece of factual trivia that they did not already know springs to mind. This may be something they have insufficient context to understand, or something they could not have otherwise ever learned.

  56. Supernaturally boring.

  57. Always warm to the touch. This has no effect on their biology and does not protect them or others from freezing.

  58. Always cold to the touch. This has no effect on their biology and does not protect them or others from overheating.

  59. Is a were-carp. Can transform at will, but is compelled into transformation in the presence of waterfalls. They will ignore everything in the presence of waterfalls and attempt to swim up the waterfall until they bring themselves to exhaustion. They have the proportional strength, intelligence, and other abilities of a carp.

  60. While they are alone, a pocket dimension opens 10'x10' around them. There is a 5 in 10 chance it is indistinguishable from the space it is replacing, 4 in 10 chance to be weird but harmless (or maybe even pleasant), and a 1 in 10 chance to be their personal hell. When the pocket dimension closes, any positive or negative effects of the space are reversed as if they never happened.

  61. Can transform into an animal for 1d6 minutes. During their transformation, they have the intelligence and behaviors of that animal. They may or may not have the ability to control what kind of animal they turn into.

  62. Every day, a random single moment (no more than 1 minute in duration) is eidetically encoded into their memory.

  63. Once per day at a random time they experience divine bliss and cosmic awareness for 1d6 minutes. They have little ability to interact with the material world during that time, and their memories of the experience are hazy and dreamlike, and difficult to derive meaning from.

  64. Super-speed, but susceptible to the shearing force of that speed on their body, the force of colliding with another object at that speed, and the force of inertia if they attempt to stop abruptly. Even with practice, utilizing the super-speed is extremely dangerous.

  65. A healing factor that makes them susceptible to ugly scars, broken bones healing incorrectly, rapid cancer metastasization, rapid over-development of muscle tissue, and similar negative consequences, in addition to the obvious positive benefits.

  66. Emits perpetual low-grade EMPs within a 6" radius around them; all electronics shut down, and magnets lose their attractiveness.

  67. Can transmit energy equivalent to a potato lightbulb.

  68. Automatically knows the curse words of any language they encounter. This does not transmit any magical properties of those words if they are literal curse words!

  69. Non-magical, non-intelligent cats will respond to their commands equivalently to a moderately well-trained dog.

  70. Supernaturally talented at something highly specific and mostly useless, like playing a single videogame that nobody cared about even when it came out 15 years ago let alone today, or making savory jello salad, or something else like that.

  71. Slugs, snails, and related creatures of a non-magical and non-intelligent nature are attracted to them. It is not uncommon for them to find a cluster of slimy things waiting for them when they exit a building.

  72. Can perform simple prestidigitation. If they are a magic user in a setting where magic users already can use prestidigitation at no cost, they can do prestidigitation of twice the magnitude than would normally be possible, or two separate instances simultaneously.

  73. If they carry no currency, they gain the equivalent of $1 once per day.

  74. Can make non-living things shiny by touching them.

  75. Can make non-living things sticky by touching them. They are not especially adhesive, just kind of gross and uncomfortable to the touch. Clammy.

  76. When they go to sleep, they pop out of existence. When they wake up, they return exactly where they were, as they were. Anything that would trigger wakefulness, such as a knock on the door or an alarm, also returns them.

  77. Once per day at a random time, they pop out of existence for 1d6 minutes, after which they return exactly where they were, as they were.

  78. Can instantly kill any mundane creature with a single finger strike, but the finger falls off shortly thereafter. They have a sixth finger on each hand, so they can use this ability 12 times in their life. If they have extra fingers, extra hands, or no hands, it still works 12 times by some other identifiable means.

  79. Despite appearances, they are actually of a different kingdom than their origin species, e.g. if they were birthed from animals, they are actually a fungus, or if they grew from a fungal spore, they are actually a bacteria. This affects what kinds of diseases they may contract, genetic disorders they may have, and certain other biological functions, but they are mostly functional and passable as their origin species. Magic operates on them as if they were their origin species (it's like how tomatoes are considered vegetables in a culinary sense even though they're fruits in a biological sense).

  80. When they must wait in a line the line moves supernaturally fast and smooth and/or they somehow get to cut through some or all of the line. This also applies, to a lesser extent, to traffic and other bureaucratic "lines" like customer service or dealing with paperwork.

  81. Maintains moderate physical fitness even with poor diet and exercise. If they want to actually be or appear athletic or muscular, they'll still have to do some exercise and have some consideration for their diet, but less so than other people.

  82. Zeitgeist; without consciously understanding what, how, or why, they can design logos, catch-phrases, and jingles that capture the zeitgeist. The things they create are not magical or supernatural, they're just really on-point.

  83. Both conscious and unconscious ability to control their circadian rhythm. Will always get the best possible night of sleep. Can make themselves practically unwakeable, or quickly readied at the slightest interruption. Seamlessly switch between different sleep modes such as micro-sleep. Will always dream or lucid dream, if they want to.

  84. Is cold blooded (or if their species is already cold blooded, then is warm blooded).

  85. Color vision is as acute in low-light as it is in normal light.

  86. True multitasking; can effortlessly maintain two separate trains of thought, or more with penalty (as normal multitasking).

  87. Once per day, can reverse time by up to 6 seconds.

  88. Has a fully functional extra appendage.

  89. If they are hungry, carrying no food, and have no currency or no other access to food, they can summon a food item with the equivalent nutritional value of a deli sandwich once per day.

  90. Produces excessive amounts of earwax which can be used as wax (e.g. for candle making).

  91. Produces excessive saliva of varying viscosity.

  92. Has relatively brittle, nubby little horns (if their species already has horns, they now have more horns, but of a relatively brittle and nubby kind). Getting poked by them would kind of hurt. They grow like nails but only up to a short length.

  93. Can alter probabilities, but only when using randomization devices such as cards or dice, and only when the results have not been made deterministic (such as somebody effectively counting cards, or using loaded dice). The magnitude of their ability is more like a "nudge" than it is like loading the dice or fixing the deck.

  94. Can produce beams of colorful lights and sparkles from their hands. They have no effects besides being bright.

  95. Can convert non-living things made of mundane stone (e.g. non-magical, non-psionic, etc.) into other kinds of mundane stone of a comparable mass, hardness, economic value, and other quantitative and qualitative differences.

  96. They can integrate clothing, armor, weapons, and tools into their own biology, like their skin, muscles, and nerves intertwining with a suit of armor. It takes roughly a day to fully integrate the item or to separate from it (somewhat varying by the size and complexity of the item). This provides little to no additional advantage, besides it becoming a natural and comfortable part of their body, and is not removable except by intentional or violent means.

  97. Have the very niche psionic ability to press buttons or dials, turn knobs, or make other simple mechanical gestures, by blinking.

  98. Their body is completely hollow. In every way their body operates as normal (normal weight, nutritional demands, ability to consume foods, be poisoned, choke on food, etc.), but they can also open themselves up from a number of latches on their body only visible and operable by themselves, and store up to their body size of stuff. Those things do not affect their weight and are effectively in stasis until they reopen themselves.

  99. Has a potato-like body and the ability to swap out their body features with spare parts. This technically makes them more resilient to mutilation and injury than a normal person, but they can still feel pain and be killed.

  100. Can expel a substance like vanilla pudding from their hands in short spurts, with just about enough force to knock over an average-sized human child. The pudding is bland and not especially tasty, nor does it have any nutritional value or provide a sensation of satiety. It evaporates into nothing in less than a minute. They can build up more pudding for slightly greater effect by not using their power for a while. The process of expulsion is weirdly pleasurable to them, and not using their power for some time can be uncomfortable.

Friday, October 4, 2019

Contrarian Hot Take: I am Down for Feast of Legends: The Wendy's RPG

If you're expecting deep, critical analysis, look elsewhere. This is strictly a hot-take.

If you are not familiar, Wendy's just made a tabletop RPG, Feast of Legends, based fairly closely on D&D 5e, set in their original setting Freshtopia. This is not a review of the game; I've coarsely skimmed through it, and anyway I'm not a huge fan of D&D 5e in the first place. This also isn't a detailed breakdown of what's in the book. It's about 100 pages, it's free, and it's fairly well organized, you can skim through it yourself. This is me saying, I am a-ok with this.

Is it just a cynical, corporate advertisement for a massive fast-food chain. Of course. Is it going to be an ENNIE award winning system / campaign that we should all check out. I dunno, I just skimmed it, but probably not. Is it cool. Fuck ya it is!

Are you god damn kidding me!? Am I the only one who used to build worlds out of my happy meal toys!? I dunno, there's something just kinda nostalgic and pleasant about the idea of a fast-food chain themed fantasy setting. I want to see a barbarian in a Wendy's wig fighting a horde of monstrous Grimaces. Do you remember that creepy fucker!? I want a magic french fry sword! I want a wizard to cast Deep Fry you Fucks! Fuck! yes! 

The setting of Freshtopia is more original than anything D&D-proper has put out in like 20 years. This is just a dial over from Adventure Time! You even have what is essentially an Ice Kingdom! And come on, we all love evil clowns, and fantasy-Mcdonalds is the perfect evil faction! Ronald McDonald the science-fantasy Cryo-tech Jester Lich King. FUUUUCK YEEES!!!!

I'm not saying I'm likely to play this setting as-is, but then again, I don't play any settings as-is because I build worlds. But this makes me want to run with this. I'd totally be town to game in an Adventure Time-esque post-post-apocalyptic science fantasy setting with anti-corporate cyberpunk themes centered around fast food chains!! Wasn't there a Judge Dredd comic like this!? 

Anyway ya, so I'm probably not going to Wendy's any time soon (although Frosty's are delicious), but even if I did, fuck it. They put out a ~100 page RPG book, and it seems like they put some genuine effort into it. It has, if nothing else, made me chuckle, and inspired me a bit. I'm not trying to shill for a major corporation here, they can rot in hell like the rest of them, but someone there is having fun, and good on those people.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Warlord: TNT Type

I've only played D&D 4e a few times, probably a decade ago, way before I formally got into tabletop RPGs. I didn't have an especially great experience, the people I was playing with were nice enough but they were people I met online so I had no pre-existing relationship with them, and their sensibilities were everything I don't want out of tabletop. Also, combat was waaaay too long. In any case, I don't think 4e is my kind of game, but to my limited understanding of it, I can respect it for what it is. It seems if you want a game that is tactical, without being overly crunchy for the sake of simulationism, then 4e is the way to go. I was always interested in the 4e-based Gamma World, which seemed to strip it down to its essentials, but never got around to playing it. I guess that's neither here nor there.

Anyway, back on point, one consistent positive thing I've heard about 4e from various independent sources is that the Warlord was a really cool class and it was a shame that they didn't follow through with it in 5e. Having skimmed through the wiki, making me basically an expert on the subject, I can see why it was popular. I've always liked the idea of an intelligence-based fighter, but also it's a cool class in that it plays into the tactical-ness of 4e, and it's a martial support class that in addition to using intelligence, also uses charisma, which is often an underutilized attribute. On the whole, it's a cool idea.

I've talked about this in my prior TNT posts, but I really like the combat system in TNT. I like the tactical-ness of missile damage and spite damage within an otherwise opposed roll-based combat. However, like any combat system, it can easily devolve into a slog of number crunching and dull roll after roll. The last session of my campaign I felt like this happened in the single, fairly brief combat encounter. I've been trying to add more special abilities to my Character Types, ideally without getting too crunchy, because I want combat in TNT to be more than just the opposed roll. There should be various other tactical options with corresponding SRs that can sway the battle even when the dice probabilities suggest you'll more often than not win or lose the group combat opposed roll. My hope is for it to be more OSR-like than D&D 4e-like, but 4e can still an interesting point of reference to work from.

So in other words, I think TNT would be will suited to a Character Type very loosely inspired by the D&D 4e Warlord. I'm not using any of the specific 4e Warlord abilities or terminology, it is strictly at the conceptual level.

D&D 4e Warlord

This character type is almost exclusively designed for combat or pre-combat tactics. In a game like TNT, obviously that's not too much of a problem since most things are just attribute-based SR rolls anyway, but it's worth keeping in mind that they don't have any spells or other benefits for SRs outside of combat besides whatever basic talents they have and their attribute scores.

What makes this type cool (or so I think), but also tricky, is that it requires cleverness on at least the part of the Warlord to come up with unique tactical options, willingness of other players to go along with the Warlord, and flexibility and improvisation on the part of the GM to create situations the Warlord can leverage, or respond to the Warlord's plans in interesting ways. I could go more the D&D 4e route and give them explicitly-defined abilities, but that's just not in the spirit of what I want from TNT. That all being said, if everyone is gelling, I think this character type could make combat much more interesting, while still being true to TNT and OSR-like principles. 

Warlord Abilities

Tactical Actions

  • The Warlord can make an IQ SR (Battle Order) or CHA SR (Rally The Troops) by exploiting a Tactical Opportunity (see below), which provide benefits to ally SRs during combat. 
    • The SR will generally be 1-2 (easy), 3-4 (moderate), or 5+ (difficult) minus Warlord level, to a minimum of 1.
    • Warlords cannot attack and make a Tactical Action in the same turn without spending Tactics Points (see below).
    • A Tactical Opportunity can only be used for any Tactical Action once per combat.
    • Once per combat (or more at GM discretion), a failed Tactical Action SR may lead to disadvantageous circumstances (GM discretion).

  • Tactical Opportunity
    • A situation the Warlord can exploit for Tactical Actions. This is intentionally loosely defined, and can be anything from an enemy weakness, a trap, object, or feature in the environment, having the high ground, outnumbering the enemy, having superior training to the enemy, etc.
    • Tactical Opportunities are only allowed to be exploited for a Tactical Action once per combat so that the Warlord must be creative, and by extension combat will hopefully be dynamic and interesting.

  • Battle Order
    • The Warlord exploits a Tactical Opportunity to gain the high ground, allow allies to flank enemies or bypass a defensive line, find a weak point on an enemy, etc. 
    • Effects may include giving an ally a +3 bonus on a combat-related SR roll (such as missile DEX rolls), receiving a hint from the GM of an enemy weakness, triggering some environmental element that damages the enemies or affects the battlefield (like deploying an artillery weapon or dropping boulders from a cliff), increasing the spite range from 6 on d6 to 5 or 6 on d6, allowing an ally to roll three dice and take the best two on an SR, etc.

  • Rally the Troops
    • The Warlord gives a rousing speech or rallying warcry that fills an ally with determination, creating a Tactical Opportunity to do something extraordinary, resist the effects of debilitating injuries, or overcome the odds.
    • Effects may include allowing an ally to fight for one more round even if they've lost all their CON (if the ally succeeds at a CON SR equal to the Tactical Action SR), giving an ally +3 to SRs to resist debuffs such as poisons, sleep spells, and charms, allowing a spellcaster to channel a spell even if they've run out of WIZ (if the ally succeeds at a WIZ SR equal to the Spell Level), creating a new Tactical Opportunity, etc.

  • Tactics Points
    • Every time an ally rolls an SR to perform a unique action (i.e. not missile attack, spellcasting, character type special ability), the Warlord gains a Tactics Point.
    • A Warlord can only have up to 1 + Warlord Level Tactics Points at a time.
    • Each combat, a Warlord starts with 0 Tactics Points, and any unused Tactics Points are lost at the end of a combat.
    • Tactics Points can be used to give the Warlord a +3 bonus to a Tactical Action SR, give a +3 bonus to an ally on a combat SR, or allow the Warlord to make a Tactical Action as a bonus action. The Warlord can spend Tactics Points up to their level times per turn, but can only spend them in the same way once per turn.
      • I.e. They can spend a point to make a Tactical Action as a bonus action and give themselves a +3 bonus to the SR, but they couldn't spend two points to give themselves +6 to the SR.

Warlord Combat Example

Given that Tactical Opportunities and Tactical Actions are loosely defined, I wanted to give an example of what a Warlord can do. So in this party we have Warlord, Warrior, Rogue, and Wizard, against a horde of goblins, including two club-wielding Clublins, three pig-riding Pigboiz, a goblin Whiz, and a Bugbear.

The Rogue makes a DEX SR to shoot a flaming arrow into the brush to create a fire along the goblins' path. This gives the Warlord a Tactics Point. They use the Tactics Point to make a Tactics Action (specifically, Rallying the Troops) as a bonus action, by exploiting the Tactical Opportunity of the fire. They roll CHA SR 2 (even a horde of Goblins aren't that tough), and on success, intend to give the Warrior a +3 bonus to their CON SR to resist the fire as they charge into battle. The Wizard casts a spell, and the Warrior and Warlord roll their damage dice (the Rogue already took their action to start the fire, but the fire damage dice are added to the roll as well). Since the warrior succeeded at their CON SR, they take no fire damage.

On the next turn, the goblins are intimidated by the Warrior who charges into battle amidst the fire without a care in the world. The Warrior decides to make a battlecry, a showy display meant to further intimidate the goblins, granting the Warlord another Tactics Point. During the commotion, the Rogue wants to set a wire trap to trip the Bugbear, the most dangerous of these Goblins. The Warlord spends their Tactics Point to add +3 to their Tactics Action, a Battle Order, to give the Rogue +3 to the SR to lay the trap. They roll an IQ SR to see if the Battle Order succeeds at assisting the Rogue. Additionally, since this is a unique action SR on the part of the Rogue (and not an SR in response to the circumstance, as the CON SR for the Warrior in the last round was), the Warlord gets another Tactics Point, which it uses to make that Tactics Action a bonus action, so that they can still contribute to the opposed combat roll. The bugbear is successfully tripped, taking them out of the opposed combat roll (for now), and the fight continues...


I really like the core concept of this Character Type, but it definitely needs testing. I like the idea of keeping tactical actions and the benefits they provide fairly rules-light, almost more like FATE aspects. However, in itself it's not a major benefit, which is why I allowed tactics points to be spent to allow Warlords to make tactics actions as a bonus action. However, part of me wonders if that is overkill. Also, all of this only works if players are willing to take the initiative to make a bunch of SRs rather than just straight combat, which I think is really cool and a necessary buy-in, but it is definitely a demanding thing to ask on a consistent basis. What do you all think?