Monday, September 15, 2014

Dice Census

This weekend was a "end of summer" cleanup at my house. Gathered a few dice here and there that had gotten separated from the main "dice tribe". Last night I decided to count them all.

261 dice.

d6's were in the clear majority, no doubt from my years of playing GURPS.

There were also a surprising number of Fudge dice. They were colored, so I'm thinking that there's another packet somewhere with about 20 white dF. It could be that I gave those away years ago, however.

The d10 was also in abundance, perhaps due to the fact that each "set" comes with 2d10. I had also purchased some matching "d10 only" sets back when I was writing/playing Dekahedron.

The dice have clearly outgrown their current pouch, and I need a new storage technique. Maybe a box. Maybe a better solution would be to down-size, but what do you do with used dice?

What about you? How many dice do you have, and how do you store them?

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Savage Worlds Play Aid to Resolve Incapaitation

A few months ago we switched the fantasy campaign over to the Savage Worlds rules set.  As with any RPG there's some things it does well, and other things that it doesn't do so well.  I'll probably do a full review of the system in a future post.

I'm a fan of flowcharts.  A good flowchart can replace several paragraphs, though they tend to take up more paper, making it understandable why more publishers don't include them. When I found Andrew Gronsky's Combat Flowchart, it made life a lot easier for me. While it's from an older edition, it still works. As a new player/GM its a lot quicker for me to just run down the flowchart for each player than it is to flip through the rulebook when I come across a lesser used part of the rules.

In our last session a PC became incapacitated. "Incapacitated" is the Savage Worlds' equivalent of AD&D's 0-hit points or Schrödinger's cat--the PC is neither alive nor dead, but rather exists in an indeterminate state. Establishing the state of Dr. Schrödinger's feline friend is easy: you merely open the box. Establishing the state of an incapacitated PC in Savage Worlds, on the other hand, requires a series of dice rolls.

You know where this is headed, don't you?


So I made a flowchart following the process to determine the poor PC's ultimate fate.  The image below will be hard to read on screen, so for your printing pleasure, I also made a PDF version.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Preparing for a Real Life Adventure

Following in the mode of the Tolkien stories, characters in fantasy campaigns often face long treks from one place to another. These are often long arduous journeys taken on foot. I have decided to embark on one such journey, known as the Camino de Santiago. Rather than fill this blog with all that off-topic stuff, I have started a new blog just for that.If you're interested, you can follow my preparations and my thoughts on that in my new blog, Camino Crawler.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Problem with Talking to Normals

Being a gamer, it should come as no surprise that I am a geek. I also have the good fortune of working with a fairly geeky crowd. As wonderful as this is, it can cause problems when I have to talk to "normal" people. I forget where I am and slip into my normal geeky ways, which the normal person has no way to cope with.

Just yesterday I had an appointment at the State Department to get a new passport. The lady there took my (original) birth certificate, and said that it would be mailed back to me with the new passport. The gamey/geeky idea hit me that documents have power. Instead of our normal world where documents reflect reality, I thought of an awesome fantasy scenario where the reality would reflect the documents! Thus the person who had the right document could control the universe by changing the document! (This probably isn't an original thought; indeed, if I recall correctly, the ending of The Never Ending Story is something like this).

So when she told me that she was keeping my birth certificate, I feigned a gasp and said "Oh, no! That means I haven't been born!"

The State Department lady was completely deadpan, and said "Of course you've been born. You just can't prove it for a few days."

Surely, I thought, no one can be this literal! She must be playing along! Encouraged by finding a government employee with such a keen wit, I followed with "Ah, well, if you want to make me younger, that would be awesome."

She gave me a blank look and replied, "That would be fraud."

That's when it occurred to me that she was neither playing along nor was she keen of wit. I smiled, and briefly thought of trying to explain the concept of documents controlling the world, but it seemed to me that the discussion would be lost on her. Instead I reassured her I wasn't looking for fraud, and I left.

It's hard to talk to normal people.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

A New Magic for a New Dekahedron

Years ago I did what every GM does: I wrote my own RPG to reflect my play-style. It had many names during development, but due to the (non-)availability of domain names, it was eventually officially named Dekahedron. The intent was to create a rules-light, skill based system that was unencumbered by copyright or licensing hassles.

Time marches on, and preferences change. For reasons that I'll probably put in a future post, I've moved away from skill-based systems and my current preference is for attribute-based systems. Coincidentally or not, this is very much in-line with what I believe to be the essence of the current "old school role-playing" movement. This led me to work on a new version of Dekahedron. This isn't the Dekahedron 2.0 that I talked about a few months ago, rather this is a new project. I'm currently calling it Dekahedron: Old School Revision, or "Old School Dekahedron" for short. When I'm feeling particularly terse, I just call it "OSD".
The core rules — saving throws, task resolution, melee combat — are all pretty straight forward, and already written. The complicated part is a magic system.

I'd decided to go definitively non-old-school for my magic system. It seems to me that all the old games centered around a list of spells. When the new style of rules-light games hit the market, the rules were so loose to give the spell casters increased flexibility, but adjudicating these became completely arbitrary. I've decided to take a page from BESM and Hero, and let players create their own spells, but with a strong rules framework about what they can create.

I'll let you know how it turns out.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

The Flavor of Space Battles

I am currently planning a space opera campaign, to be set in a distant future. Unlike the previous game that was set in the Star Trek universe, this one is set in a universe of my own creation.

I want the characters to be space travellers. I want them to have their own ships. I don't want them to be able to get on the phone with headquarters to request more stuff, so perhaps they'll be merchants, or pirates. Either way, it's obvious that there will have to be space battles.

Oddly enough, while I dislike combat in a sword & sorcery RPG being handled as a miniatures tactical board game, that's exactly what I want in space combat. Maybe it's because that zero-drag Newtonian motion is so unlike anything that we have on earth that it becomes interesting.

Anyway, the main question that I'm battling (heh heh) with right now is the flavor of those battles.

In the space opera genre, there seems to be three main flavors of space battles. Not coincidentally, each corresponds to a war movie:

  1. Midway (or maybe, Baa Baa Black Sheep if you remember that TV series): This flavor of campaign is marked mainly by carriers and fighters. In this type of campaign, player characters would probably be fighter pilots--each one launching his own fighter from a huge carrier to break through the lines of enemy fighters, and attack the main enemy fleet. This is the style of Star Wars and Battlestar Galactica. The benefit of this style of play is that space combat becomes just an extension of personal combat--each PC has their fighter, and each makes their own offense and defense rolls, and each takes their own damage. It's very easy to write the rules.
  2. PT-109: This is the type of campaign in which ships--be they destroyers or battleships, or even armed merchant vessels--fight each other directly. While fleet actions are certainly possible, in the campaign most combat would be the PC's single ship against one or two enemy vessels. In this flavor, PCs are usually all crew members of the same ship, filling different roles such as the Captain, Pilot, Gunner, and Engineer, each somehow contributing to the combat effectiveness of the vessel. This is the style of most episodes of Star Trek. The challenge with writing these rules is that you need each PC to have a meaningful role in the combat, otherwise the other players mentally check out while the captain and GM play a board game.
  3. Hunt for Red October: In space terms, this is a situation where ships are hard to detect. Kind of like if the cloaked Romulans went to war against the cloaked Klingons. Instead of worrying about the accuracy of the gunners to hit the enemy ship, the focus shifts toward a big game of cat-and-mouse where you attempt to detect the enemy ship without giving away your own location. You see this in the old submarine movies where they "run silent, run deep", and they debate whether or not to use a sonar "ping". Instead of action scene, you have a lot of tension scenes. PC roles are the same as the Pirates, but the Gunner becomes a sensor operator (the sonar man in the old sub movies). This shares the same disadvantages ad #2.

Number one was ruled out by one of my players. That leaves two or three. Currently I'm leaning towards the second flavor.

Edit: Original post had formatting errors due to copy/paste retaining HTML. Tidied it up but didn't change content.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Roll20.net: Another Virtual Tabletop

I've posted multiple times about my quest for a virtual tabletop solution.  At the time I had been using ScreenMonkey, and was happy with it.

Then I picked up the September issue of Knights of the Dinner Table magazine.  In the editorial Jolly Blackburn mentioned another solution in passing--Roll20.net.  As I said, I've been happy with ScreenMonkey, but I like to check out "new shinies", so I did.

You may recall a few posts back that I said I was thinking about writing a plug-in for Google Hangouts to facilitate die rolling.  Now it looks like I don't have to, as Roll20.net supports voice and video chat natively.

So the game moved over to Roll20 for a few trial sessions, and I have to say we won't be going back.  The move to voice (we don't use webcams) has sped up the game to near-tabletop speeds, and has added 100% to the enjoyability of the game.