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Tuesday, April 30, 2019

The Shortest of Adventures

Reading to much ten foot pole can make me gloomy and despondent for honest industry. To combat this mood I challenged myself to write the shortest adventure I could and remain useful at the table. Even as a system agnostic module. Here is the result;

A Short Adventure

The PCs are passing through a rural village on their way to someplace else.
The locals ask for their assistance.
A lost relative of the long absent Lord has returned to the Lord's empty manor and claimed his inheritance.
This is enacted by a pair of tough henchmen who travel from hamlet to hamlet taking tribute from the scared peasantry.
If they give any more they will run out of their harvest stores.
The village is prepared to offer up wine and amorous friends, perhaps they are in need of craft services? If you cannot think of anything to entice the PCs interest you may resort to money. Just remember these poor sods are living on the edge.
Shortly the PCs get their chance to confront the two powerful mercenaries, as they are now coming to town. They have a cart and sturdy horse. They are in full plate and equipped with two handed weapons, say axe and sword. They talk a tough game, but are really poor, hungry peasants from a nearby village. They will yield quickly after taking any damage. They will plead their case, but the enraged citizens of the hamlet are angry for revenge.
After the killing the villagers pay off the PCs for their part. Then the villagers start trying on the armor. They think they can go around and start doing some extortion of their own. Everyone knows the hamlet over the bridge are a bunch of dunder-heads.

What do the PCs do?

Villagers are skilled only in farming and the like. They are mostly unarmored, but any in the impressive plate mail will have improved protection.

Things to consider:
- Where the armored men come from, and where is the stuff they have been pilfering?
- How many hamlets were victimized and how many hamlets were in on it?
- Change the cart to a truck and it is good to go for modern all the way to post-apoc!

If the sun is in their eyes, do I get a bonus?

How much is too much when listing die roll modifiers for your game? Finding out when a force occupies desired ground and how much sooner they got their then their opponent was what sent me down this tangent. It shows me again the flexibility of the USR game system. For DIY minded Keepers and players bent on creating their own worlds, USR is a good place to start. It is free you know.
I continue to playtest Deluxe USR Sword & Sorcery’s Mass Combat rules. I’ve let the simple resolution mechanics be my guiding hand when wondering; “more modifiers?” More rules to account for a myriad of battle situations pop into my brain and I want to add all sorts of chrome if I get carried away. What about this? What about that? But then I look at the frame work I’m using, (U)nbelievably (S)imple (R)oleplaying. Constructing rules for mass combat encounters can and does take much from traditional war games. Consistent movement mechanics appropriate to the scale of the encounter. I organize the encounter around the constituent troops involved, I have “units” like any other war game, movement facing, etc. Terrain is accounted for. But here is the trick, for me. I’m playing a role-playing game and I don’t want to get into a detailed tactical simulation. I want a useful tool to aid both player and Crypt Keeper run an exciting mass battle, and then get back to the player specific focus of TTRPG’s.
The answer has been the games base character attributes, specifically Action. Any situation not covered in these sparse rules can be answered with a Contested Action Roll. Want to know if your cavalry beats the enemy to the narrow ford? Roll a Contested Action Roll, high roll wins. Withdraw under the cover of darkness keeping the enemy unawares? Roll a Contested Action Roll. Degrees of failure and success are useful time keepers as well. If you beat your opponent’s roll by two you got the ford two hours before they do. Or two days, depends on the scales of movement being used.
Contested Attribute rolls don’t even need to be against the same attributes. Forces climbing a steep cliff face would need to see if they can get to the top before the enemy spots them. Forcing your army over treacherous ground and you can’t have any delays. Probably should use a Non-contested Action Roll with difficulty set by the CK. But by and large competing against your enemy; Contested Action Roll.  Action vs. Wits? Why not? Subterfuge, fakery and misdirection lend themselves to a Wits vs. Wits roll, but I can see where one force is combating the weak morale of their enemy and a Wits roll vs. Ego makes sense. However you choose to assign the contested attributes, it gives you a fast resolution mechanic which includes degrees of success if you like.
The Contested Action Roll adds a great deal of excitement for maneuvers during combat. Anytime troops try to pull off a maneuver (not an attack) with the enemy close enough to engage contested action rolls are a great way to adjudicate the success or failure of the maneuver.
These rolls should not be drowned in numerous die-roll modifiers. The small scale of numbers you are dealing with makes a +1 or +2 a significant bonus. Reduce advantages between opponents until you have only a significant factor to consider against each other. The easiest to figure, and will come up many times, is a force attempting a maneuver in front of the enemy and commanders and leaders are present. A +4 Leadership Specialism going against +2 Insite Loyalty Specialism you just reduce down to +2 for better commander. The other force has no commander, get the full +4! The CK can always consider limits on total modifiers allowed at any one time. You just have to ask yourself how “swingy” do you want the battle to be. If opponents can pile up modifiers against each other the final value of the die rolls can vary widely. Capping them makes for a contest where creating advantage for your army is more difficult.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Want to be a RPG creator?

Cosmic Tales Quarterly #1Then this blog post by Aos is worth a read. It is worth a read because a) he is doing or has done what he is talking about. b) How to prepare for the necessary and expensive use of quality art, also his use of the word an analogies of commitment ring true to me, c) the Work Flow piece is really strong. I took notice of his mention to not go back and rewrite drafts. I find I do this and I'm glad to hear a fellow creator thinks "You need to write your first draft from end to end without going back and revising. It doesn’t matter if it’s garbage. It is a natural resource. Think of your first draft as mining the ore. Subsequent drafts draw out the METAL!" 
There is a nugget of valuable information/advice throughout the short post. And buy a copy of Cosmic Tales #1, it is pretty dope.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

OSR Race Rules Rolled Out

I took a shot at cobbling together race rules for my BFRPG Dying Earth campaign by hacking apart AH's Circus Maximus chariot game and today they were put to use. 

All four entries forgo attacks on each other and blazed down the track, speeding through the turn and burned it to the finish. Imagine that, the PCs long shot (actually one of the PCs was the long shot) came in first for the win!

At the same time this was going on the rest of the PCs were in the city getting ready to go with their heist they joined at the last minute. Split party doing major game stuff at the same time.  I've gotten at ease with running a split party over time and I think it is an exciting dynamic when it emerges out of play. Yes it is more "efficient" to have the party together to maximize some PC to Play ratio, buut there is fun to be had switching from scene to scene at cliffhanger moments. 

As far as the race rules they did an admiral job. I need to edit them for a set of rules which don't contradict themselves or make illogical play mechanics, but the concept and ease of use did come through to me. I think I'm on the right track.

And a good concept trumps all I think. This race track episode showed that yes you need rules which work, but having a straight play-balanced tactical challenge isn't necessary for a role-playing game. Good guidelines and like a race, just move it along fast. Same with the heist. Every good heist flick has the "unforeseen complications" which spring up mid-operation. Just like the race, keep the action going. PCs shouldn't have time to debate the next move. Guards are coming, goods aren't were they where supposed to be, someone arriving who should have been long gone. Change the weather, make someone go missing and not show. Pile on the complications until it turns into a flight through the city doing your best to recreate that scene from Heat but with daggers and arrows. 

The brief street scenes did give some brief moments for the PCs to catch their breath and figure out how to make all the chaos pay. I don't think I'm going to give them a breather :)

Monday, April 15, 2019

Partial Migration from Drivethru

The site is still essential to produce my three POD titles, but my Products Page gives you my Paypal address. This way you can purchase PDF versions direct from Vanishing Tower Press. That additional $0.68 will go a long way towards hiring a decent editor around here!

Image result for frustrated editor

Thursday, April 11, 2019

AD&D armor types for Ascending Armor Class

One of the players in our BFRPG Rom’Myr campaign wanted to know if other armor types were available in the game. Specifically Ring Mail, Studded Leather, Splint Mail and the like. All the additional armor types you will find in 1E AD&D Players Handbook. At the time I said no, you’ll have leather, chain and plate and that should suffice.
Image result for scale mail

For the record it isn’t that I was opposed to additional armor types. I was opposed to taking the time to shake out the details during game time. Now I have had the time. To assign Armor Class values at least. Still haven’t settled on price yet. I don’t want to take the prices right out of the book because in Rom’Myr your cost for armor is substantially higher than traditional OSR equipment lists. 

Here is the breakdown for BFRPG’s Ascending scale;
Padded Armor: AC 12
Ring Mail, Leather & Studded Leather: AC 13
Scale Mail: AC 14
Banded & Splint: AC 15

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Re-Purpose Circus Maximus for OSR Race Rules

Image result for avalon hill circus maximus
The BFRPG Rom’Myr Dying Earth campaign has presented the possibility of live racing on mildly domesticated mounts. I looked towards my ragged copy of Circus Maximus from Avalon Hill for inspiration. More like just rip-off their tables and apply them to the OSR mechanics of BFRPG.

I’ve never been a fan of the game. While chariot racing in Ancient Rome sounds hella cool, it never translated for me or my juvenile friends on the table into anything exciting. But I’ve kept it nonetheless all these years for that fateful day. The day when I may need to adjudicate a race that the PCs are participating in. This particular race is a Dero Race but the rules can be used for any type of live mount or any type of track you have in mind. For Dero racing you are looking at 20’ at the shoulder, six-legged pachyderms. Being extremely large, and not want the race to take a whole afternoon, I’ve decided on a “horseshoe” shaped track. I then broke up the race into three parts; the start, the turn, and the stretch. Now with Avalon Hill’s map board for guidance, I abstracted the track on an excel spreadsheet so precise position can be established throughout the race.

Skipping all the fiddly bits I’ve added, here are the base rules. At its core there are only two stats to track. Points in your Speed Bank and your jockey’s rating. How a character’s individual attributes will be affected during a race will have to be adjudicated by the DM as she sees fit.

Race rules in case it comes to that; Dero Racing

  • Roll d10 or d20 to establish your Dero’s speed for the turn. Rolling a d20 costs a point from your speed bank.
  • Breaking to reduce speed costs a point from your speed bank no matter how much speed you are shedding.
  • If you go over the posted speed limit through a turn you need to roll on the blowing the turn table. When racers are side by side they may make a jockey attack or dero slam. Either one, both or none are all legal. This is settled with a contested roll on d20’s. Roll on the appropriate tables to find out the results of successful attack. Racers can make as many attacks as they want but can only attack from any square once. Unless the racers are side by side than additional attacks can be made as long as the racers want. The racer who’s turn it is can disengage at any time. Making an attack costs a point of speed for the turn.(edited)
  • Your speed bank is your constitution score. These points can also be spent one-for-one for additional speed in the turn.
  • The jockey is assigned a rating from +4 to -1. This rating can be added to the turn speed and attacks, a negative rating must always be added.
  • This is determined by the DM. It is the DM’s job to assign final odds and establish every jockey’s rating at post time.
  • Blowing the Turn; subtract the lane’s posted speed limit from your turn speed. This is the number of crash points. Roll 3d6 for that column and check results. The jockey’s current rating score is subtracted from the roll.
  • Attacks; a defender can avoid the attack by sliding back one and spending 2 points from their Speed Bank.
  • A Dero Slam; the attacker rolls 3d6, adding his current jockey rating and subtracting opponents. The resulting number will tell who is injured in the slam on the Slam Chart. Then roll on the Damage Effect Chart to find out how many points are subtracted from their speed bank.
  • A Lash Attack; each racer rolls 2d6(+/- jockey rating) and the attacker’s total is subtracted from the defender’s total.

All the charts referenced are just the Circus Maximus tables re-purposed for my particular race. It is real easy to reskin results on these tables with your own for unique flavor, and should be done! I am not worried about the race being balanced or fair. Its use is to give a tool to give turn by turn results of all the racer’s actions. And I only intend to use it if the PCs are personally involved in some way. This level of detail is in no way necessary if they are only spending a casual day at the track trying to win big. In those instances Rock, Paper, Scissors or a random d6 roll can give winners and losers quickly. I wouldn’t worry about odds. Whether a racer is 2-1 or 12-1, rolling randomly for a winner makes it feel like gambling (since anyone can win) and resolves the race quickly. It is only when everyone wants to hang on every turn and bloody move on the sands and drive home a winner should these rules be used.