Showing posts from May, 2023

Shifting From Economics to Logistics

Imagine your basic D&D . Your character starts with about 100 gp, so you buy a basic weapon (10 gp), maybe a shield (10 gp), maybe some light armor (20 gp), a backpack (5 gp), some resources for crawling (10 gp). I'm high-balling most of this, and you still end up with 45 gp leftover. Maybe you spend all that on some additional tools. But then you go to a dungeon and you end up with maybe like 200 gp. All you spent at character creation is pocket change. After a while, money stops meaning anything. You want it, you got it. A couple months ago, I tackled a different issue which was the persistence of coin-based economy even into slot-based games . Abstract it all! I said. Turn it all into slots! Unit quantities! Abstraction! I think that the approach was right, but that there was also a deeper problem left unanswered. What is money good for anyway? We take for granted a certain question that, once you advance in D&D , what do you do with all the gold you acquire? The standar

Things Necropraxis Beat Me To

Meaningless! Meaningless! There's nothing new under the sun! I wanted to take this time to appreciate Brendan S of the Necropraxis blog. I think we all recognize him for the hazard die which has basically swept old-school play, but there are many other ideas Brendan came up with. Rationalized Hit Dice : A systematic reevaluation of OD&D -style (d6-only) hit dice, attempting to standardize rates of acquisition for the three main classes. I was originally going to include something like this in the FMC optional rules before deciding it felt too arbitrary; little did I know that Brendan already came up with something like it! Backpack Encumbrance : Rather than counting pounds, only keep track of a character's armor type and whether or not they are wearing a backpack. I thought I was clever for generalizing D&D Basic 's simple encumbrance from treasure to backpacks, but Brendan beat me to it! Ascending AC in OD&D : Isn't it kind of funny that you can read t

OD&D and Outdoor Survival

One of the most common misconceptions I’ve seen about the original Dungeons & Dragons is that it tells players to use the Avalon Hill board game Outdoor Survival to handle wilderness exploration (in the same way, perhaps, that it recommends Chainmail for handling combat encounters). Strictly speaking, this is not true; the passage only says to use the board from that game as a map for wilderness adventures, but does not say to use any of its rules. However, it’s entirely possible that original D&D wilderness exploration procedure does indeed take specific influence from the Outdoor Survival ruleset. In this post, I’m going to closely read these rulesets to see what relationship may exist besides what is explicitly stated. OD&D’s Wilderness Adventures The adventuring party moves around a hex map to explore the wilderness and claim territory for themselves. Each turn represents a day of travel, where each mode of transport (e.g. on foot or on horseback) affords a differ

Disclaimer: Self-Descriptors

Idk this is kinda like a disclaimer that I don't identify with any of the below terms and I get frustrated when people apply them to me: Academic: I am literally not an academic. I graduated! And was never a graduate student. Reading books doesn't make anyone an academic. Writing about books doesn't make one either. I studied humanities in school as a side thing because I had a scholarship that afforded me the extra credits. Reading, synthesizing, and applying 'theory' is not a super unique thing; sure, some people overstate either how accessible or inaccessible it is, but it's something anyone can do if they're motivated and have what they need to learn. Indie: I think of "indie" as short for independent production or publication, and as such I think it boils down to someone producing and selling things in an economic sphere but not owning or being employed/contracted to a large firm. So, I'm not indie, because I'm not like a small busin

Opt-In Subsystems

Just a thought: maybe more complex rules should be presented as opt-in player options rather than as universal rules for all players, not all of whom will actually be interested in using them. I brought this up in my post about magic , that maybe only players whose characters have a certain feat would have the ability to spend HP to cast spells. This has so many benefits: it makes complex subsystems opt-in, which is important when a ruleset doesn't use classes to partition player options; writing down a character special ability doubles as writing down what would otherwise be a rule; and it centers player choice rather than rulebook prescription, even opening the door to abilities and features unlisted. So what else besides magic, which (like I said) has often been locked behind certain character classes for similar reasons as above, would also benefit from being similarly locked behind piecewise character features? How about variable weapon damage, however that would look? Collect

HP Cost for Magic?

How could you regulate spell-casting in a classless ruleset without doing something like Knave (1 spellbook per spell, and each spellbook can be used once per day) or Cairn (casting a spell fills an inventory slot with fatigue)? What if I feel like Knave is kind of too restrictive, and don't want to fiddle with inventory slots like Cairn does? Something that is not specific to magic, and something that is not too complicated, and something that doesn't introduce a new subsystem? Maybe spend hit points to cast a spell. Whitehack? So, this is not anything new per se. Whitehack does it. I just don't particularly care for how it does it. Let's go over it anyway, so at least I can say I've considered it. Spells (or, rather, miracles) are cast by members of the "wise" class by spending hit points. However, spells are not hard-coded; a wise character has access to themes, so to speak, and negotiates the hit point cost of performing a miracle for a certain th

Evolution of Fifth Edition, Part 2: Maneuvers & Schemes & Sorcerers & Warlocks!

The second part in my series about the evolution of Dungeons & Dragons, Fifth Evolution during the play-testing period from 2012-2013 when it was known as DnDNext ! If you haven’t read the first part, you should. The first look we got at DnDNext dated to May 2012, consisting of: a bestiary, an explanation of ability checks, a scant section on exploration, a ruleset for combat, and some sample characters. Three months later in August 2012, we get a vastly expanded play-test packet focused on how to create characters in the everchanging system. And then another play-test release just five days later, offering two new spell-casting classes with totally different mechanical relationships to magic. Let’s see what they cooked up! Bestiary Monsters have been slightly changed: some getting more hit points, most getting less. What’s more interesting is a new attribute that’s appeared, called “level”. Each monster has a level, up to 6 in this packet, which factors into how encounters ar

d20 Morale Checks & Undead Turning

On a Discord server, I suggested that turning the undead should be treated as a forced morale check (which undead monsters usually don't make) rather than as a distinct mechanism. Little did I know that my friend John B. of The Retired Adventurer had the same idea a while ago ! :) Taking that as a jumping point, I wanted to consider morale checks using the monster scheme I have been messing with for a couple weeks. Monsters are defined primarily by die type (e.g. d10), and roll that die size to determine an HP bonus (" grit ") as well as a bonus to any d20 check they make ("grit check"). So, a morale check might just be a creature or group leader checking grit versus a DC of 12. (I've been ruminating over target numbers in my head for a while, and have that decided 12/16/20 is a fine set of potential DCs for a range of ability bonuses from +1 to +10). If they fail, the creature or group retreats. This puts a weak grit-1 creature with a 50% chance, and a gr

d20 Random Reactions

I actually really like Fifth Edition ’s RAW approach that an NPC’s reaction is something the referee can easily adjudicate and roll with , but what if you really don’t know or if you want to roll the die anyway? Here’s a quicky: d20 Reaction 1-6 Hostile 7-14 Uncertain 15-20 Friendly There are two ways you can modify the result: either by using constant modifiers of ± 4 (give or take), or by using advantage/disadvantage. 2d6 for Comparison Here’s a breakdown of a three-tiered 2d6 reaction table with neutral results from 6-8 and modified by ± 1 based on if the NPC has a hostile or friendly disposition. Reaction Hostile Bias Normal Friendly Bias Hostile 41.67% 27.78% 16.67% Uncertain 41.67% 44.44% 41.67% Friendly 16.67% 27.78% 41.67% ± 4 Modifier Add 4 for characters with a more docile/friendly bias, or subtract 4 if they are more likely to be hostile. The outcomes are: Reaction Hostile Bias Normal Friendly Bias Hostile

d20 Encounter Checks & Clocks

Arnold K’s recent blog on Goblin Punch has sparked some discussion in my circles on using timers instead of random checks for wandering monsters and similar encounters. Going to throw my hat into the ring by looking at a sort of compromise: an encounter check whose likelihood increases over time. This is similar to something I wrote forever ago , except using a d20 in order to be consistent with a ruleset that uses d20 for resolving most tasks. I’m also going to explore using d20 with constant modifiers that do not increase over time, because I think it might also be useful. Without further ado! Simulations I wrote a simple Python script to simulate a handful of encounter check algorithms: Traditional 1-in-6 check. d20 + 0 ≥ 20. d20 + 1 ≥ 20. d20 + 2 ≥ 20. d20 + 3 ≥ 20. d20 + 4 ≥ 20. d20 + 5 ≥ 20. d20 + T ≥ 20, where T is the number of turns that have passed. The script attempts each algorithm 10,000 times and finds the average of how many checks are made before a rand


What is there to say about a nekoblin ( D4, A1 )? They're extremely little. And stupid. They love to scream and shout. They have a ravenous hunger but are too helpless to do anything about it themselves. Nekoblins are the perfect minions to throw at a problem over and over again until it goes away. The best part is that for as feisty as they are, no one really wants to hurt them. They're just cute and silly and stupid. What are you going to do about it? Should you find yourself dealing with a nekoblin, you won't have too hard a time: they're food-motivated and easily distracted. It's much worse when you have to wrangle a bunch of them together, in which case they're going to keep each other distracted and make you frustrated. When a nekoblin pounces at a target as far away as their maximum movement, they add their maximum grit to damage dealt. I guess I need movement rates now. Ummm 4? Like 4 squares? Their full statblock is (D4, A1, M4) now. DAM!

Evolution of Fifth Edition, Part 1: Thank You, Next!

I got my dirty paws onto a bunch of play-test packet PDFs from 2012-2013 for DndNext , the pre-release version of D&D Fifth Edition . I thought I would check them out sequentially, to figure out at what point different changes were made, and how different play styles contemporary to that time period meshed and came into conflict with each other. Notably, DnDNext was supposed to be the great absolution of the OSR; at the same time, it was an implicit apology for the radical changes made in Fourth Edition from the wildly successful Third Edition . Does DnDNext return the game to some past state, or does something new come out of this mess? Let's learn and find out! Don’t tell those pesky Pinkertons. The picture above is originally by GeekDad. B/X and the Caves of Chaos The original adventuring locale used to play-test DnDNext was the Caves of Chaos from the 1979 module, B2: The Keep on the Borderland . Doesn’t it go that something isn’t old-school unless it can run B2 (whic