Showing posts from February, 2024

Cinco: Encounters & Monsters

Let me share an example of four level-1 encounters, from easy (2 ♥) to deadly (8 ♥). Remember that characters deal a hit on a roll of 20 and up, choose to dodge or exchange hits from 10 to 19, or take a hit without dealing one on 9 or less. Easy Encounter Round 1: Monster strength 2 of 2. Alice dodges an incoming blow (8+3). Bob dodges an incoming blow (15+3). Claire dodges an incoming blow (10+2). David defends themself and lands 1 hit (17+4). Round 2: Monster strength 1 of 2. Alice lands 1 hit but takes 1 in turn (11+3); 2 hearts left. Medium Encounter Round 1: Monster strength 4 of 4. Alice lands 1 hit but takes 1 in turn (9+3); 2 hearts left. Bob dodges an incoming blow (9+3). Claire dodges an incoming blow (17+2). David dodges an incoming blow (13+4). Round 2: Monster strength 3 of 4. Alice dodges an incoming blow (16+3). Bob lands 1 hit but takes 1 in turn (8+3); 2 hearts left. Claire defends themself and lands 1 hit (18+2).

Cinco: Growing Burdens

I suggested shifting goalposts more in favor of players, and a second idea: removing hearts altogether in favor of burdens, fictional effects which disadvantage the character by subtracting their value from rolls. Did that work out? Nope. Simulations Let's assume the original scale and its melee effects for a second: 20+: Triumph 11–19: Compromise 1–9: Failure 0-: Catastrophe For a sequence of attempted melee results, the outcomes for different aspect bonuses are as follows:  Aspect Bonus Total Turns Hits Dealt Burdens +0 6.4 2.6 5.4 +1 7.6 3.2 6.3 +2 8.7 3.9 7.2 +3 9.9 4.7 8.2 +4 11.3 5.9 9.2 +5 12.7 6.9 10.2 This means that a character can take from 5 to 10 "hits" (in the form of burden) while dealing on average 2 hits plus their aspect bonus. Their aspect bonus soaks up the effect of the burden accumulated until it exceeds the bonus, at which point it will basically always take 5 burdens to down the character. This al

Monster Math: Hidden 5e Encounter Structure

Did forbidden 5e math too. The whole game is fake! Shout-out to Paul Hughes' business card monster manual , and Reddit user Asinus for their calculations on average DPR per character tier . Basically, I figured out that the game really is balanced around monsters taking around 4 hits or 7 attacks to defeat if their CR equals the party's level. In other words, a medium encounter should take about 2-3 rounds to resolve. This is because monsters' hit points and armor class increases at more or less the same rate as player-characters' damage-per-round and attack bonus, respectively. We can extrapolate that deadly encounters have double the duration. The damage that a medium encounter deals per round also tends to be 20% of the player-party's total hit points, although it tends to be distributed between multi-attacks and legendary actions for more powerful monsters. An ancient white dragon (CR 20) attacks up to 6 times per turn, each dealing an average of 15 hit points;

Monster Math: Ultimate 5e/Classic Conversion

Wasn't happy with my last conversion because CR is not a pure measure of longevity like HD. It accounts for AC as well. Since then, though, I've come up with an actual measure for OD&D that counts both HD and AC! So we can do some mad science now. I mapped CR values to virtual HD values (virtual HP / 3.5), and found a really tight function for CR ≥ 1 and VHD ≥ 3. CR = 0.5 × VHD – 0.5 VHD = 2 × CR + 1 Let's put this funky function to the test. Below is a table converting monsters from 5e to OD&D and vice versa. Keep in mind that dragons of different ages do not truly have different HD values; instead, they have different hit points per HD. This turns out so that a red dragon with "10 HD" can have the equivalent of from 3 to 17 HD (which is really from 9.5 to 56.6 VHD with an AC of 2; ibid. ). For the purposes of this, I'm interpreting a wyrmling as a "very young" dragon and an ancient dragon as an "old" but not "very old&quo

Cinco: Recalibrating Aspect Checks

From last time : success on 20+; compromise on 10–19; failure on 1–9. I can't stop myself from thinking how, for lack of a better word, "cruel" that distribution is. You compromise half the time unless you have advantage which, unless you have a high enough aspect bonus, just makes compromise more likely. Then there's the 5% chance of straightforward success and the 45% chance of outright failure. I reframed the problem in my head. The roll should be precisely to bypass compromise, and the compromise should be a difficult decision to make when the situation becomes beyond one's control. Readers latched onto the melee example, so let's put it in those terms. The player already makes the choice to melee, and the outcome to avoid is one where they face the consequences for it. Why is the choice to hit (and be hit) or not to be hit (and not hit) the default outcome? What I'm happier now is with shifting the goalposts so that failure is basically what compromi

Breaking News: Psychoanalysis Is Falsifiable!

Exaggerating a little. This article came to me twice—on Twitter where it was posted by @ pourfairelevide , and again when my friend John B. of The Retired Adventurer shared it with me directly. " Phallocentricity in GPT-J's bizarre stratified ontology " by Matthew Watkins describes an experiment where the author generated a semiotic map of definitions used by GPT-J and found the meaning most likely to lead to any other meaning—as it were, the most specific definition to which others can be relative—is "a man's penis". I recently posted an article about Freud being 'literally correct', i.e., about the Oedipus Complex being the most accurate model we have of heterosexual socialization. There I mention Lacan's abstraction of Freud, that unconscious desires are not necessarily structured around the literal male penis (of the father) but around the phallus (to be specific: the symbolic phallus of the desiring-subject which compensates for the lack i

Speed-Based Initiative

Had a thought: speed rates in Fifth Edition pretend to be in five-feet increments, but they're really in increments of 1 sq. This means that a speed of 30 feet is really one of 6 sq. What if we used this as an initiative bonus instead of dexterity or intelligence? I'm eager to throw out the vestiges of the original D&D war game , but before then I had the thought of a simple armor table (which already exists in FMC Basic , but which I was also ready to re-employ for my 5e heartbreaker because it's easy to keep track of): Armor Type DC SP None 10 6 Leather 12 5 Chain 14 4 Plate 16 3 This means that an unarmored character moves 6 sq. (double in FMC Basic ), whereas a character in plate is half as fast. But what if you also want individual initiative while not wanting to introduce ability bonuses? Why not use one's speed, so there's a trade-off between being better protected or being quicker to move? That sounded intuitive, but

d20 Bonus Relative Efficacy

While simulating an idea I had for speed-based initiative , I realized that the results had implications for bonuses on d20 rolls in general. When two characters roll off, how good is a relative +1? Column A is where the more capable character breaks ties, and column B is where ties are broken with more rolls. Bonus Results A Results B Relative +0 50% vs 50% 50% vs 50% 100% +1 57% vs 43% 55% vs 45% 125% +2 61% vs 39% 59% vs 41% 150% +3 66% vs 34% 64% vs 36% 200% Those are really intuitive odds, actually! A character whose ability bonus is 3 pips greater than another is doubly capable. This contextualizes ability scores and modifiers in 5e proper: a character with an ability score of 16 is twice as capable as a character with a score of 10 in the same ability. Compare this to B/X where you need a score of 18 to get that +3 bonus. Then I simulated for a group of characters with bonuses ranging from [+0, +3]. Bonus Results A Results B

d20 Character Icebreaker Questions

When playing Trophy Gold with my friend Alex of To Distant Lands as the referee, I was delighted at how he subverted a classic D&D trope. Instead of "starting at a tavern", going through the motions of meeting each other and stumbling onto some quest or other prospect—Alex asked us each how our player-characters act when drunk as part of introducing them. Are they a raging drunk, or a sleepy one? Do they go all out or do even they drink at all? The icebreaker was like alcohol, distilling and exaggerating our characters' personalities to their very base. It was so fun! After introductions, we had a good idea of our characters, and could go straight into the adventure proper. Whereas the tavern starter feels very played-out and insincere, the icebreaker hones in on what is really important for a first session: getting to know each other's characters and how it feels to play with them. It could also serve as a prompt for role-play if characters already know each o

D&D Pride Flag

Have been reading Levi Kornelson's series on modeling the play-style of D&D , which has been really fantastic and full of fun graphs! Each time ones comes out, though, my friends joke that each new graph is also a pride flag. With their help, I've finagled this beautiful work of art based on Levi's graphs and color scheme. While I have a soapbox: one criticism I have of the articles, though I really enjoy them and have mostly agreed, is that the rows of the graph-turned-flag correspond to the frequency of ability scores and their applications. I feel like it would be more representative if they represented play activities instead, whether OSR modes of play or the modern notion of pillars (role-play, exploration, and combat). After all, the ability scores he discusses overlap in their applications between these play-contexts, and are not as specific to D&D as the game's play procedures are. Plus, too, I feel like magic is so strict because of how it must be hi

The Value of Art: Decommodification

Written in March 2022, written in light of the reception to " Steps to Demonetize the TTRPG Hobby ". Was never happy with it, but rereading it now it isn't the total worst. Just wordy. I got better. Art is, at this point, whatever you want it to be. Humans produce things that are meaningful to them, and which are shared with others. If art is just meaningful things, then there's nothing at stake here. However, when we discuss art as something which is usually expensive (in terms of time, resources, effort, etc.), then we're obviously not talking about things which are just meaningful to people. We're talking about something that is valued by society as being worthy of social investment. This could be because society finds it meaningful. It doesn't have to be, but it's not an unfair assumption to make; it just doesn't factor into the production and distribution of art except as the pretense of both of those social processes. Maybe we like to make a

Cinco: Group Combat

While inactive but lurking, I saw someone on a Discord have a question about handling groups of figures with two-sided melee rolls (where partial success may mean both hitting and getting hit). There's some answers on the Dungeon World side of things , but I wanted to think about what a dynamic ruling would look like were I in the driver's seat. When multiple players target the same monster: Everyone rolls. Successful hits accumulate, but only the character with the lowest roll takes damage if they would otherwise. Everyone gangs up on a living scarecrow. Alice rolls 16, Bob rolls 3, and Claire rolls 8. Only Alice rolls enough to land 1 hit, and would usually take 1 hit in return, but only Bob takes 1 hit from the scarecrow for rolling the lowest. When a monster would deal multiple hearts of damage : They may deal 1 heart of damage up to that many characters. Hearts of damage in excess of characters cycle through again. Alice and Bob attack a dragon, rolling 15 and 17. Bot

Genders Without Number

I was hanging out with my friend Ènziramire who told me about a certain page from Kevin Crawford’s recent cyberpunk rulebook Cities Without Number , about corporate genders. He was surprised that I hadn’t heard of it, so he explained it to me: in the world’s setting, corporations mass-produce new genders and sell them to targeted audiences. He was even more surprised when I said that sounded fascinating as hell. So, later, I got the book to find the page and read it for myself. In this post, I want to explore the context of gender discourse in which this page was written, as well as the relationship between that and digital-age structures of consumption. This is not meant to be a justification or reinterpretation of the page per se, especially in that I'm not trying to argue that the author was not intending to write something negative and conspiratorially-minded about trans people. Rather, this is sort of an "immanent critique" of the text. I want to poke at its deepe

DCs for Individual vs Party Rolls

Continuing discussion on worker placement and dis/advantage math . Here's a thought, in the context of good old D&D Fifth Edition : for standard tasks, low DCs (~10) make more sense for rolls made by individual characters whereas, high DCs (~15) make more sense for rolls made by a group of characters or by a single specialized character. This seems like the rationale behind the differing likelihoods of success in classic D&D using d20 or d6. The former die, used in combat, hovers around 50% for weaker monsters fought on-one-on and closer to 25% for stronger monsters that are fought by the whole party. The latter die on the other hand hovers between 17–33%, for tasks that can be attempted by up to three people at a time (e.g., opening doors). I've noticed the same thing sort of happens in Fifth Edition . High DCs tend to be for tasks which require assistance or multiple tries to get right. For example, a target of 15 by itself has a chance of 30%, but that increases t

Nelson A. Denis' War Against All Puerto Ricans: An Informal Review

Author’s Note: Feeling sort of better since I wrote this. It’s a process! But wanted to get it out there as a signal that I’m still alive and kicking. Been feeling mentally unwell lately. Social isolation, emotional withdrawal, boredom. You know the hierarchy of needs. Without the middle part of the pyramid, you’re not going to get the top part. No elf game fun. Started reading again to stimulate my brain and also because I accumulated a tall stack of books since my last spree. Picked War Against All Puerto Ricans for starters, a critical history of the American occupation of Puerto Rico by Nelson Antonio Denis. It was a quicker read than I expected, but nevertheless full of research never before compiled (including, surprisingly, primary-source material from elderly boricuas or their families). Denis divided the book into three parts: historical context of the early/mid twentieth century; biographies of significant figures during that time; and the unfolding of the national revol

Boooo We Hate Torches

Wanted to share two good posts on Illusory Sensorium : " There Is No Light " and " Doom Clock ". Totally agree with the critical dimensions of those blogs, especially about the futility of light-as-resource-management and the disappointment of the hazard die in its attempt to simplify the typical dungeon exploration procedure. Really good reading!! That being said, I phrased the above like that because I care less for his proposal of the doom clock. This is a personal preference thing, not me trying to dog on him. I feel like the basic dynamics of site structure and exploration procedure already increase risk and tension as the game progresses, especially as players lose hit points and delve into deeper parts (i.e., higher levels) of the site. The impact of risk necessarily increases as time passes, even if its frequency does not—and imagine how tedious it would be if the frequency of random encounters did increase. Anyway, light. How do you make light feel like it