Friday, February 15, 2019

Each One Has to Be All Three

“Do you know where Senator Bean comes from?” Asked Goldberg. Goldberg talked a mile a minute. It made Elias a little nervous. That was funny because Elias used to talk like that too. Arizona life had taken him down a gear.

“No, isn’t he from around here?” said Elias.

“He came from New Jersey! He was a warden at a county jail and he put together a program where the residents would get very little red meat and get most of their protein from beans. In the exercise yard and weight room the heaviest weights were removed. So you would get a lot of guys who were low-muscle, low-aggression, fit and healthy. Long and lean. Like you are, I’d say.

“He was able to, just with diet and a change to the exercise, get the number of violent incidents down by about 60%, and reduce the healthcare costs by about 30%. It was really amazing.” Elias nodded. He was working on the lasagna which was pretty good, considering.

“They were actually able to get a real dental program together so some of the women were able to get their certificate in dental hygiene and I think they even had one guy who became a dentist when he got out. And of course the inmates who wanted it came out with real nice dental work. Top notch.”

“A real success story,” said Elias. He was impressed.

“Yeah,” said Goldberg. He picked up the coffee and tried it again and it dawned on him he was telling Eli about the Senator. “So anyway about 18 years ago he came out here, recruited to run the state prison system. People around here instantly fell in love with him. He speaks fluent Spanish, he pays attention to tribal issues. Compared to the previous guy Lundgren who was a real hardass and made prison a real ordeal, the COs and inmates liked him and the politicians liked the outcomes so he was able to make rounds in the political community. He ran for Pima County Sheriff and won pretty easily,” said Goldberg. He stopped to have a sip of his coffee and made a face like it wasn’t right. He set it aside.

“So last cycle when Wanamaker retired, the state party taps him to run. He had a statewide profile and of course he looks the part and people like him. Back then the whole state was pretty solid one-party, so it was a walk for him. And the rest is history.”

“He’s actually pretty new then,” said Elias.

“Depends. About two thirds of everyone lives in the state has come since 1990. It’s really a melting pot. And there’s no signs it’s going to slow down. So make of it what you will,” said Goldberg. “I’m 100% Brooklyn. Came here to look after  mom when Dad passed but I’ll never get used to it out here. People are too nice.”

Elias started to answer him but Goldberg just kept talking. 

“Anyway. I’m just starting for the Republic covering the courts then and I go in to do a day in the life with Bean. This was back when he was the warden at Perryville. Worst of the worst. He shows me everything, really kind of standard stuff. Halfway through, I’ll never forget the clock on the wall says 11:47 am, and we’re in the cafeteria. Bean turns his back to talk with a CO and all of a sudden two huge guys pull me into a closet and shiv me in the ribs!”

“No kidding?”

“Seriously. I kid you not. Just jabbing me over and over and I think I’m going to die, but then I realize I’m not actually bleeding or anything and they start laughing and let go of me. And then Bean opens the closet door, big smile on his face. The men were stabbing me with these little plastic spoons it turns out. It was a work. But man, it felt really real and I got a bruise in my ribs anyway.”


“One of the inmates, probably six four and all muscle, big black guy no offense, kind of had a lisp, and says, “In here, takes two seconds for you to die. That’s the reality of this place. Two seconds, and you’re dead.” And he bangs his two hands together right next to my face. Bam! I jumped. And all the inmates are laughing with each other. I guess it’s a game they play whenever there’s a visitor in general population. I nearly shit myself.”

“Yeah I can see why! And no offense taken.”

Goldberg was fingering his yellow Bic lighter, fidgeting. “Bean smirks at them and calls the two guys by name and assigns them compound duty, which I guess is like buildings and grounds. It can suck being outside in the heat of the day. Perryville, there’s no grass or trees and the dirt is completely red. Really kind of sucks.

“You could see they all had respect for him. It looked like, you know what it looked like? Looked like a high school. Like Kotter and the sweat hogs. All these guys, very few of them ever had a father figure, so he’s trying to teach them how to be men and have responsibility in their lives if they ever get out. So it’s like a high school or even like a family,” said Goldberg.

“Strikes me funny how much high schools, jails, and secure mental health facilities are all overlapping.”

“Sometimes each one of them has to be all three.”

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Manageable Yet Simulationist Domain Management Rules

I'm working on them, based largely on BECMI and ACKs. But even so, it's going to be so much math that I'm going to get a little computer program written for me so I can just click buttons and get the results each game month.

Soon as I have something I'll post it for you to use and enjoy.

This isn't tagged OSR because it's just a little stub.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Use Your Words!

Our party was ambushed by two named NPCs and their gaggle of mooks on the way to the Tabernacle of Freya to warn the priestesses of the approaching dark elf army. 

Ambush by -kardisart-

My cleric cast Hold Person and froze two mooks. The rest were killed and one main bad guy escaped. 

After taking them prisoner and hearing they were mercenary soldiers from far away, my cleric offered to employ them as his men at arms rather than killing or imprisoning them. 

Now he has two 2nd level fighters for relatively short money - half price as it turns out. They were making 20 silver pieces a month as regular soldiers. Usually a level 2 fighter makes 200 GP per month. So I offered them 100 GP per month each and their eyeballs turned into dollar signs.

A lot of times talking leads to unexpected and interesting results.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Characters Have a Mind of Their Own

A couple of days ago I asked the question, How do you know who your character is before they show you through actual play?  A backstory is fun to write but what happens when it collides with the "reality" of actual D&D table play? Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't.

And sometimes your man ends up dead and you wasted a perfectly good backstory.

I admit it: I fall in love with a new character about once per story arc. In any group I tend to run through player characters with abandon. It bothered my DM for a while because he has A Story To Tell and he wants to make sure each of our PCs has a chance to shine in His Story. So if he writes a part for my pawn and then my pawn dies, that crimps his style.

But he's finally got the picture that my guys are going to come and go. 

My first guy was a gnome fighter with 2 hit points. He was fearless. Eventually he got half eaten and burned over most of his body while fighting a wight, but he lived. Being a level 1 guy who got level drained back to 0, he left to do penance and pay off the clerics who saved him. 

Yaspar the Lone Wolf

My next guy was a druid who was obsessed with gaining noble title and some land of his own so he could tell other people to leave him and his woodlands alone. He had a longstanding goblin henchman. He died as a cross-dressing amnesiac after the party leader playfully punted him in the skull.

Aeldlin the Russett

My next guy was a dwarf fighter who was on the trail of the same mystery as the party. They saved him from getting eaten by a dinosaur in the swamp, and he joined them. Little did they know he was chaotic evil. Anyway, he got eaten by a giant mantis and cursed them all out with his dying breath.

Hammod Blayscarats

For a little while I took over an NPC that was traveling with our party. We had hired him to smuggle us somewhere and then we got his ship sunk by the guys chasing us, so he stuck around and demanded we get him a new ship. After 2 adventures of that he gave up and decided to part ways and steal a ship himself, since we weren't about to pay him back for the ship we broke. That guy was a cavalier bard (a bizarre and counterintuitive gish if there ever was one) with a bottomless bag of tricks to draw upon and stats through the stratosphere. 

San Holo, who I didn't name.

After that, my current man is a cleric. This was the first character I metagamed. 

Here is the issue: our party leader is a cleric to Odin. He is very good at sucking up damage so he fights on the front line with one of our fighters, despite having another fighter and a ranger. But he's the only cleric. So if he goes down, we're out of restorative magic. While cleric = healbot is kind of lame, that's what happens when you're in the Wilderlands for a long stretch without potion and only the one cleric.

So I told the DM we need a second cleric and I would play one. Not a front-line fighter; a support type. So he introduces the guy as a foreshadow as a cleric tending to the people in a refugee camp near the town we were in. He just says in passing that he's doling out spells and digging latrines, because his job in his church is to make things clean and tidy. 

He is literally the clerical latrine digger.

Okay, that I can work with.

So we finish with the one heist where we finally score some loot, and the guy I'm playing departs (with his loot!) and pick up this other guy. In the interim, I rolled him up and wrote him up and cleared him with my DM.

I named him Bluetooth and made him Lawful Neutral. He is tall and bald with medium-length grey hair and a wavy beard. I gave him a footman's flail, which is a nice peasant-style weapon with the possibility of reaching and tripping in the right situations, DM willing. I made him a cleric to Frigga, who is like the Hera and Hestia of the Norse pantheon. She's both the  queen and the master of the home and hearth. That seems like a neat-and-tidy kind of god. 

I put him in regular plate mail with a clerical vestment over the top. I described it to the other players that he is dressed kind of like jedis in the Old Republic, who wear a robe over their clone armor. Something like that. The footman's flail is a two-handed weapon so he doesn't carry a shield. It means he can grab his holy symbol when he needs it.

Robert Bluetooth. Something like this. Sort of.

And so he's a level 4. I made him level 4 so he would be just right behind the lowest-level PCs who are about halfway to 6.  I gave him a couple of minor magic items, a mule, a riding horse, and a lackey retainer. The lackey's name is Smudge. Smudge sweats profusely, licks his fingers, touches everything, and obsesses about death. So you have this sort of forthright and immaculate cleric and his disgusting dingy lackey. 

But what nobody knows except for the DM is that Smudge is actually a magic user. Not the kind that shoots off fireballs; he's the kind that casts Comprehend Languages, Knock, and Hold Portal. A utility guy. We made it through the first game night without having Smudge reveal he's a wizard, even though there were two fights and a dragon was chasing us at one point. So it's a little fun secret just between my DM and me... and all of you of course. I think Smudge looks like a slim Ignatius Reilly in dark sackcloth.

Anyway. I'm thinking about Bluetooth as a back-line guy who doesn't do a lot of fighting. So I take multiple Cure Light Wounds of course and then Hold Person spells. Almost immediately he and the party leading cleric get into a brawl with two assassins who just killed Bluetooth's peasant acolyte, so I had to fight with him, and he did very well.

But the Hold Person spell... it truly made him who he will be. I ended up using that spell several times during the course of the two fights over the night's adventuring. 

And in the second fight, he used it to hold two enemy soldiers. All the rest of the soldiers and the leaders either got killed or escaped. It was just these two left. We were going to take them prisoner and deliver them to the Tabernacle of Freya, where the forces of good were marshaling for a coming battle. But along the way, Bluetooth talked to them and offered to hire them as his soldiers. They are level 2 fighters - not nearly at the level of our party who are all level 5-7 (Plus Bluetooth), but if they turn out to be good soldiers, maybe they can be NPC sergeants or lieutenants in the army we're amassing. It should at least be a good opportunity for RP.

Hold Person has made Bluetooth who he will be. No amount of backstory could have predicted "latrine digger" turning into the rich personality and character he became after only a few hours' of table time.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

How I Do Fighting

This post originally appeared on 14 March 2018, but it's worth revisiting in light of the debut of The Chain, a new actual play webcast by MCDM Productions.

Someone on G+ started a thread about how to handle initiative in their basic-style game. We discussed it stylistically - some folks prefer very intricate steps to make sure each individual character is treated as an individual, and some folks prefer wargames style abstractions. I am in the second camp.

It is important to remember though that no matter how you do it, the unusual moves and cinematics are always possible because you have a referee, and not an AI, running things. For instance if you want to combine two attacks, or you want to have one guy throw another guy or something, that's covered in step 8, Misc. Actions.

Here's how I do it.

First here are the steps in a combat round.

Click to Enbiggificate
Here are the rules that go along with it!

0.       Combat Rounds Last One Minute, unlike in many other kinds of D&D. Therefore a lot of small actions can be presumed. 

1.      Each side checks morale, if appropriate. First the monsters, then the Henchmen of the Player-Characters and other NPCs on the side of the good guys. Check Morale for either side first when one side or the other has their first casualty, and then again when half of that side or more has been defeated. If the side passes both Morale checks, they will fight until death. Otherwise someone will surrender or try to run away.

2.      Once combat begins, each person and then the monsters declare what kind of action they intend. The kinds of actions are full movement, make a missile attack, cast a magic spell, make a melee attack, and “other” which includes anything else.

3.      Each side rolls 1d6 for Initiative. The side that rolls higher gets to make their actions first. In the case of a tie, everybody does everything simultaneously.

4.      Movement happens. Characters and monsters can move 1/3 of their base movement in scale inches for free. Moving farther than that precludes taking any other actions that Round.

5.      Ranged Attacks happen. Anyone with a sling or a bow fires off their weapon. In the case of hitting an enemy Magic-User, their spell is ruined!

6.      Magic Spells are cast. Again, if you are going second or there is a tie in the Initiative that Round, and you are hit with a missile weapon, your spell has been ruined and is lost from your mind.

7.      Melee Attacks happen. Anyone attacking with a sword or mace, for instance, makes their attack now.

8.      Miscellaneous Actions happen. Maybe you want to drink a potion, use a magic wand, or push over a table as a barricade. These actions happen last.

9.      Repeat for the side that lost Initiative. Go back to #1 and see what happens next!

Like a lot of things in Mythical Journeys this seems like a lot at first. But in actual play, it happens very quickly. Now, there are a few exceptions we should talk about.

The Surprise Round: For the first Round of combat only, each side must check to see if it has surprised the other. Have each side throw 1d6. On a result of 5 or 6, they have achieved surprise. In this case, the other side may not act in the first Round of melee. It is possible for both sides to be Surprised at once!

During the Surprise Round, the side which has surprised the other gains a +1 To-Hit. This bonus does “stack” with other To-Hit bonuses.

The Opportunity Attack: Should a combatant currently engaged in melee attempt a Full Retreat or if a character moves right past you (including on a Charge), you get to have one “free” attack out of turn. If this attack succeeds at dealing at least one Hit Point of damage, the moving combatant must stop moving. Only one such Opportunity Attack may be attempted per combatant per Round.

Tactical Movement: Clever players and monsters won’t simply stand toe-to-toe beating each other’s brains out, but will rather make movements within combat- advances, withdrawals, and even full retreats when the time is right!

Fighting Withdrawal: A Fighting Withdrawal is the only safe way to leave a place that is threatened by an opponent. When a character withdraws, he backs carefully away from his opponent without turning his back or creating an attack of opportunity for his opponent.

Withdrawing is a move that takes place at the beginning of the Round. A withdrawing character cannot attack or cast spells, although he can still make opportunity attacks.

He does not attack, but moves backwards up to one-third speed (usually 4” or less) and retains his full Armor Class.

Full Retreat: Any melee combatant may attempt a Full Retreat. He moves away from melee at full speed (usually 12” or less). His opponent(s) get a free attack out of turn against him and the character does not receive the benefit of his Shield or DEX bonus to AC. If any attack deals damage to him, the Retreat is negated and the retreater is stuck in combat for another Round!

The exception to this free-attack rule is if an ally moves into melee with the same opponent(s) to cover the retreat.

The Charge: A "Charge" is a melee action in which your character moves as fast as possible, planning to use a weapon at a point of impact, benefitting by the force added due to momentum.

A PC or other character can "Charge" anywhere as long as he expends at least half his base full move in the process, and only if he is holding and using a melee weapon.

A Charging character is +2 to hit, but -2 Armor Classes. If your man’s “Charge” hits, the damage inflicted is double normal; throw twice the normal number of dice, and then apply bonuses (strength, magic, etc.).

Charging creatures must have suitable weapons: a skirmish weapon or large horns or tusks. A monster without such weaponry doesn't have the ability to charge.

Setting the Spear: If a PC or another character is aware of an opponent using the “Charge” maneuver against him and is acting first in a Round, He can use a tricky maneuver to stop the Charge: he can “set” a spear or pole arm against the charge by bracing it with his foot or against some heavy object. On a successful hit, he deals double damage and negates the attack at the end of the Charge. Only Fighting-Men, Men-At-Arms and Demi-Men are able to “set” a spear in this way.

Rear Attacks: Melee attacks to the rear of the target (aside from being dishonorable), gain a +2 to hit, and the defender does not get the AC benefit from his shield if he uses one.

Other Combat Rules

Cover: Should a character in missile fire combat find his mark behind cover of some kind, throw 1d6 after determining a hit. A throw of 1-3 means the attack hit the cover instead. Of course, characters may “cover” one another, like a Secret Service man taking a hit for the President.

Firing into Melee: A missile shot into melee that is scored a hit has an equal chance to hit any character engaged in that instance of melee, even the attacker’s allies. So be careful! Henchmen and Retainers will never fire into a melee, for fear of hitting their bosses.

Mounted Combat: Mounted cavalrymen and knights gain a +2 to hit and a +2 to damage over combatants on foot. Lances have an extra 10’ reach as well, which makes it likely that cavalrymen automatically gain initiative if he uses one.

One the other hand, shooting a bow from horseback imparts a -1 penalty to hit, and only Shortbows can be used from horseback anyway.

Surrounding Individual Combatants: If you and your party want to surround an enemy, up to six Men may encircle a Man-sized opponent. Up to eight Men may encircle a larger opponent.

Fighting requires 5’ of frontage per man in any case, unless in tight formation. If a single target is at least halfway surrounded, the majority attackers get a +1 to hit.

Shields Shall be Splintered!: You get the usual -1 to your AC with a shield. However, any time you take damage, you can opt instead to say your shield absorbed the force of the blow. The shield is shattered and must be discarded, but you don't take any damage from that hit. It's quick, it's easy, and it's valuable.

Magic shields can be given up once per day without shattering, but then they are considered nonmagical for the rest of the day. If you give it up again, it is shattered permanently.

Shields made from the heartwood of the rowan tree (which is sacred to the Elves) can be given up to avoid one magic effect, even one that deals no damage or one that offers no Save.

Subdual Damage: Attacks made with the “flat of the blade” for non-lethal damage suffer a -2 attack penalty. Many weapons can be used this way.

If a character or monster reduced to zero Hit Points has taken at least some subdual damage, the he becomes unconscious rather than dead. A character knocked out in this way but not subsequently killed will wake up with 1-3 hit points in 1-3 Turns, or can be awakened by someone else after 1 Turn. This is one way to force a monster to serve you if you want.

Friday, February 8, 2019

In Praise of the Gold Piece and the Lume

One of the genius moves Gary or someone there at the beginning came up with, and I think it was Gary, was tying all of your advancement to the gold piece.

The goal of the game was to get rich.

Therefore, the gold piece measured your XP advancement. 

But it also measured your encumbrance. 10 GP (or 10 coins of any kind) equal 1 lb, and you can only carry so much.

So encumbrance was measured in coins. This gives players a concrete tradeoff between what they carry and how much XP they can conceivably earn on a dungeon trip. Carry more in, carry less out.

Unless you're willing to drop potentially life-saving gear on the way out, that is.

But it gets better.

Encumbrance, which is measured in coins, also measures your movement speed. So there is a direct tradeoff between how much you're hauling and how far in you can explore. 

Advancement in XP is directly proportional to advancement in through space inside the maze.

So now 
advancement in wealth is proportional to 
advancement in XP is proportional to 
advancement in space (and as it is measured in speed) is proportional to 
advancement in time.

All through the device of the humble gold piece.

Now fast forward like 40 years and Patrick Stuart moves the ball downfield a ways more with his concept of the Lume. You can read about it and thousands of other incredibly useful and flavorful OSR concepts he personally invented in Veins of the Earth, which is a seminal work.

With art by Scrap Princess. Yum.

A Lume is a unit of light, or more concretely, a unit of oil. 
One Lume also equals one silver piece, or ten Lumes to a gold. 
One Lume also equals one hour of light. 

So the Lume tracks the time you have and the distance you travel based on that time, and relates it directly to money.

How far can you go? How long have you got? When will you be swallowed up by the darkness?

This is way better than a pint. A pint of oil doesn't track well with encumbrance, to be honest. Off the top of your head can you remember how much a pint of oil costs and what the encumbrance is on it? And can you do the conversion in your head to how many hours you can be in the maze per gold piece worth of oil?

Maybe. But the Lume does it for you.

On the Emergent Nature of Story


From the Referee's Guide from Treasure Hunters Precis Edition. A lot of my ideas have changed in five years but the emergent nature of story remains the same.

All games have rules & fiction. These do not have to be explicit. In the case of playing fetch with a dog, you & the dog know the rules even though the dog has no ability or method to explain them. In chess, the fiction is very thin. But there are no "real" chess men out there which the pieces represent, &you are not really "at war" with the other player.

In a Role-Playing Game specifically, players take turns gathering information & using that information to manage resources to transform scarce turns into other scarce game resources. While situationally-oppositional, players generally work together to achieve goals that are marginally greater than they could achieve individually.  For instance, players may bargain in splitting up the exposure to danger or the rewards gained.

The reward for this behavior is three-fold: in-game resources such as the gold piece; an expansion of the ability to manage resources through character growth (XP & levels), and finally a sense of wellbeing &camaraderie gained through collective success.  The first two rewards are game rewards; the latter one is a table reward.  All game rewards are ultimately subordinate to table rewards, or else players will cease to return to the table.

One player, the Referee, is set apart from the others by virtue of two distinctions:  one, asymmetrical information that the other players have not got; & two, he must simulate the opposition to the group by playing the monsters & describing the effects of traps, &c.

This distinction-- the simulation of opposition rather than actual opposition-- is important. It informs the participants that the Referee is not actually an opponent to the rest, but part of the team of players. Again, while there is situational opposition, the goal of the Referee is to experience the collective camaraderie of the team of players and not to thwart it even if the pieces he controls do thwart certain player actions!

Inasmuch as the Referee maintains this juxtaposition of both opposition & facilitation in his mind, the players (including him) will have a better go at the common table rewards they seek.

This is not an easy concept for the uninitiated; indeed, some Referees shall struggle mightily with their understanding and application of this juxtaposition.    

Let us examine how this role-within-a-role and game-within-a-game that the Referee plays came to be.

In the beginning, there were war-games.  Battles were re-enacted and the use of randomizers (dice) stood in for the Fog of War, as it were.  Tables, based upon real-world physics of machines of war and the real training levels of real soldiers, served as indicia of outcomes.  The men (and they were exclusively men) who played these war-games were military commanders.  They did not play for enjoyment or the thrill of competition, but as a teaching tool in order to prepare these men to lead real battles.  But these tables were incomplete; a Judge was necessary to adjudicate what flat and lifeless numbers could not.

The pieces—little men and tokens—were absolutely representative of actual men and actual machines.  The maps they used were absolutely representative as well.  These were no “fictional” wargames in the sense of Chess.  The rules were explicit, unlike playing fetch with a dog.  In fact, it is hard to say whether these original war-games were games at all.  The object was teaching exclusively.  The simulation allowed iteration at a reasonable cost in money and time rather than any extrinsic enjoyment.  Certainly the rewards gained were far-away in an intellectual sense from those rewards that we think of when we think of “games” today.

In time, some war-game historians and enthusiasts (the earliest we know of is H.G. Welles) divorced this teaching tool from its purpose, and re-purposed it for play. Rather later, war-games enthusiasts made another intellectual leap:  if war-games were no longer about teaching history and stratagems in real wars, then do they need to feature real wars at all?  They did not!  Further, do these war-games necessarily have to feature Man & Machine as they really exist, or shall they rather be allowed to simulate any sort of fantastic creature or device?  This leap of the imagination brought us to the shores of a whole new kind of pass-time.

And from this leap came the idea of the fantasy Hero leading a unit of Men and others in battle.  Eventually, some of the war-gamers rather fancied leaving the armies on the battlefield, and concentrating entirely on the Heroes themselves.  

These Heroes walked off the game board, delved into an ancient dungeon, and the rest is history.

So the Famous Game came to be; & so the Referee became not only an impartial judge of the action, but also simultaneously another equal player at the table.

How the Sausage Gets Made

Story is the goal of playing the game in its entirety; it is not the point of the rules themselves. Without the proper inputs, no set of rules will produce a suitable story.

Story emerges thusly:

The game world exists, brought into imaginary life by you, the Referee. It is largely independent of the Heroes; it is a thing unto itself until the Heroes begin to inhabit it.

Heroes act upon the game world.  Character actions are based on character motivations.  Character motivations change and grow, both in terms of what's going on in the game, and what's going on at (or away from) the table.

Thus far the division of creative labor in the making of the Story has fallen more or less evenly between the players of the Heroes and the Referee.  The Referee often puts in much more labor to create his part beforehand, while the players take up the lead during table time.

This is a process by which the players become entangled in some deep and inscrutable way with one another and a set of premises: there exists a Hero, he lives in this place, these are the events happening, &c; which you feed into a black box called "The Rules."  The rules spit out a different animus, and again, the entangled player-gestalt makes sense of the new animus.  

The sense they make is "The Story."

When the machine works well, players feel like it is magic. When it works poorly, players will seek to place blame- or even disengage from the process and shut that machine down.

As the referee, one job you have is to keep the black box functioning properly at the table, while the proverbial sausage is being made. You must know what subset the rules which you wish to use and where to find them (or have them in your mental catalogue.). You must make or be prepared to make rules which bridge gaps un-foreseen by this set of rules (i.e. create house rules).  You must jump into the breach instantly with your virtual tool-box and make rulings in real time when gears grind and sprockets spring.  And spring they will, at junctures shrouded from prognostication.

This aspect of the referee is essential to the creation of story.  This is your Role, and this guide will help you be ready to play it.

Scott Anderson
Seekonk, Massachusetts
20 May 2014

Thursday, February 7, 2019

How do you know what the story will be?

I've been watching a lot of how-to D&D content lately on YouTube and I cannot believe how many people are fixated on "telling their story" or "making compelling characters" for when they sit down to play.

How can you tell what your story is going to be before you get together and make it? 

How can you tell who your character is going to be before he shows you through play?

Story is what you get out at the end, not what you put in at the beginning.

Admittedly this is me being obtuse and pedantic. Some people like story paths. Some people like railroady stuff where the players figure out the "how" of the DM's plot rather than the "what" and "where" of the PC's ideas. 

This is literally my play style summed up in one photograph
But to me, there's nothing more satisfying than telling the story of a completely unexpected adventure that materializes when you all least expect it. And there are ways to prompt and foster that amazing experience and, I suppose, procedurally generate such a tale. 

But the question is, what are those procedures that will generate that unexpected story?

Fallen Empire is a setting (not a product - it's nowheres near complete) that is attempting to put those procedures and elements in place. 

There's only a hint of story: "Here's A. What B do you want to get to, and how do you plan to do it?" along with some shared assumptions. 

Along with the several resourced I've made for myself and collected from other people, I expect to have a good shot at answering all the "what ifs" that come up between A and Z.

I wrote an essay a few years ago about this. It said just about the same thing I'm saying now but in a different style. At some point I should share it here.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

On Sale April 30th

Heavy Crossbows

This is COOL. Who wouldn't want to carry this?

There's always been a problem with heavy crossbows, I think. The rate of fire is a bad tradeoff against the (slightly) better damage and better range.

In Mythical Journeys, all weapons do the same 1d6 damage on a hit (modified by a small number of factors) so it's even harder to justify carrying something heavier just for some added range.

Detail from the Mythical Journeys basic weapons tables

Therefore I am considering allowing the Heavy Crossbow to ignore all artificial armor in order to simulate its penetration power. A heavy crossbow bolt at mid range ought to carry more kinetic energy than a lead ball from a primitive rifle or musket and therefore be able to penetrate even plate armor. At least that's the fantasy-medieval justification.

So the Heavy Crossbow would be ROF 1/2 but it would ignore artificial armor and shields, even magical armor. It would not ignore natural armor nor magic spell protections. It would not ignore cover or concealment which are different mechanisms.

What do you think?


A G+ contributor suggests that a shield should work against the heavy crossbow. I think that is a good idea. In the fullness of consideration I'm going to rule that shields do not work against heavy crossbows at my table because it makes things too complicated.

HOWEVER, if you were to figure out a way to carry cover with you (for instance, work up a tower shield), then that cover would help.

That would be up to the player to ask about though since I don't have tower shields on the basic equipment list, but would allow it.