Friday, August 29, 2014

Getting to where I am now. [Philosophy]

I mean, if posting a bunch of links is hard work...

Hopefully this post will help you or maybe link to something you actually found enjoyable or useful. Either way, feel free to comment below. If you've got some links you think I'd like, post them in a comment. I'm off to a wedding.

I started to realize that the foundations of libertarianism really agreed with what I supported, a people focused society. Listening to the rational arguments put forward, I started to question my assumptions about political authority and by extension, government itself. I was a news and politics junky, but nothing was changing because of it and nothing seemed to change despite all the clamoring many millions of people made. Maybe government was not and could not work for the people it was supposed to serve? Unwillingly, I started to see social programs in the same dim light I viewed the military industrial complex. We need defense and we need help for the less fortunate, but in practice the government programs with these stated goals were bloated nightmares that only enriched bureaucrats and politicians. I wanted to prove them wrong, that government was just, but I had long disagreed with policies I didn't like in part because they were mandatory and not fulfilling their stated goals. I could not deny the same logic from others.

After reading and listening to lots of philosophy by proclaimed voluntarists and anarchists, I realigned my remaining values to all be based around voluntary relationships. I had always distrusted big, corruptible government and all its lying scumbag politicians. I had always known that the government did a piss poor job. These weren't closely kept secrets either;  mean, I was able to figure them out. The problem was, I sourced these problems mistakenly as being the fault of politicians, the other party, ignorance, or corporate interests. I thought that, if the well educated, compassionate people could just take control of ‘The One Ring’, we could use it for good unlike all these evil people currently in power (see what I did there? I’m so clever). I believed that government was in its nature good but corrupted from its original purpose. I didn't want to, but I left those thoughts behind because my logic behind those views fell apart when tested. I became an anarchist, coming to the conclusion found by so many others much more intelligent than I, that the government is, by its very nature, flawed. Government is based on coercion and false political authority. The arguments fell short in answering why that coercion is necessary or why coercion is only acceptable for a government. I saw the social contract argument fall flat: agreement by usage ignores a government monopoly on many services, agreement by continued presence to also be usable to condone rape, and authority from ownership leaves the question of how government first obtained land and why anyone else doing the same would be unjustified.

Anarchy, I find, fits with what I always believed: in freedom and individuals; in a social society that look out for each other; justice and opportunity for all. I dove into the mountains of philosophy sitting out there for anarchists: the non-aggression principle/presumption, possession vs. property rights, the methodology of grounding your ethics in first principles, the universality ethics, how an anarchic society could function, the different takes on anarchy, and so much more. I am still reading and working things out: property vs possession, homesteading, how do we transition to a stateless society, and other questions. So much state-sponsored violence, destruction, and theft exists that it seems more prudent to work towards freedom from the state and avoid the Nirvana fallacy of waiting for the 'perfect' solution. Now, I hope to spread the reasoning and ideas of Anarchy. Up against the massive power differential of governments the way forward is with actions that we can all do: raise our children peacefully, build alternatives to government services, help break the illusion of political authority, and help people learn that alternatives exist to coercive systems for when governments inevitably fall apart.

Some other blogs and sites that came to mind:

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

House Rules

So, I've been putting together an updated list of my house rules. With the school year starting back up and my friends in town after the summer, I'm looking forward to starting my campaign back up. Feel free to use, modify them, or share these. Just make sure to link back here.

Rollplaying vs. Roleplaying

I have these rules to explicitly state that I encourage player skill and agency, a la and a number of others. Stating upfront my assumptions about play gives me a solid point to negotiate with my players.

Better Battle Tactics

D&D has always had the problem of having a million different tactics and attack types each with their own mini-system for resolution. I condense that system down and make more tactics viable. Most tactical moves in D&D require you to give up most of your attacks and/or damage. Damage is the most important when you are in a race to drop your opponent to 0 HP before they do it to you, and decreasing damage without a significant payoff makes most tactics useless or even detrimental. What got me started thinking on better battle tactics was Courtney Campbell’s revamp of social attacks, which was trying to bring effects like intimidate into the HP damage system. I just took that a step further, having tactical benefits gained by using your normal attacks with only a small loss of accuracy and damage. This also helps solidify the abstraction of HP as the ability to not get hurt, and once your HP is depleted you are open to some serious wounds.

Death and Dismemberment

Mine is a hybrid of their ideas, which are all originally based off of Courtney Campbell’s table. I like death and dismemberment because it keeps players conscious for longer, is counter-intuitively less deadly, and it allows for really fantastic moments and memorable injuries. In my variation, I tried to simplify as much as possible while trying to balance the weight of injuries with players’ desire to not gimp around forever.

Inventory Tracking by Space. ANTI-HAMMERSPACE

This one is almost wholesale grabbed from a few people, with my own twist. My variation ties the number of slots to the STR modifier of the player and makes encumbrance simple. Use one of the ‘encumbrance’ slots and you are encumbered. I just modified their nice PDFs to fit my house rules.

Wear and Tear:

I Got the idea from ten foot polemics house rules document. I like that it offers simple weapon and armor rules, which gives another place for tension to arise, but isn't annoying to track. It also gave me a great deal of ideas in using those mechanics for magic items and spells. It also opens up new avenues for player reward and advancement, comparing your shiny +2 magic sword to your old days of really worrying if your rusty broadsword was going to break.

Simple Camping

I’ve been working on a universal and simple rule set for camping, but camping finally clicked for me after reading these two posts. I got the idea of the level of comfort of campsites influencing how good of a rest the party can take. Simple camping let’s everyone contribute and puts actions like resting, guarding, hunting, cooking, or preparing spells under a single system. This single system is also another place for rewards and magic items to give players a sense of advancement. Remember the days when we had to cook our own food? This monkey-butler is great, I can spend that extra time crocheting a hat!

Simple Travel

Travel is something I was refining based on how my players traveled. Simple travel lets the party explicitly balance their need for speed with other concerns, a la The God’s Will Be Watching. It also makes it very easy to estimate time and gauge how the rest of the world will change while they go adventuring. Are we gonna go the long way around? We could hit a patch of rain and be slowed down while the red countess continues to devour peasants! Mounts and vehicles have an explicit purpose and cost, helping counter the effects of terrain and weather. Magic items, unique items, and skills have a place here in improving the party.
Here is my simple camping and travel tool.


As a nerd for spreadsheets, the numbers for advancement in 5e bothered me because they neither keep to an easy to remember advancement table nor keep to a nice exponential curve. I also wanted to try the house rules I've seen that hearken back to earlier versions where looting was the primary XP driver. I didn't want to totally strip murder out of the EXP equation though. So, I created my own advancement chart which conforms to a nice exponential curve. I decided I want about half the EXP to come from looting and half by murder/other, which brings expected wealth by level onto the same table. This is just ballpark stuff in terms of the ratio of murder to money, of course, but it gives me some guidelines to go by. I will also be reprogramming my DMSCREEN to this new loot amount based on complex treasure hoard algorithms. I expect my players will be spending a good portion of their ill gotten gains on land, resources, tools, information, upkeep, influence, carousing, etc and not all of it on magic equipment. Even spending it on equipment, my other house rules offer many more avenues of advancement and spending than just combat gear.

Language Families

I swear I got this idea somewhere but I cannot for the life of me find it. This house rule is aimed to make languages more fun, interesting, and *gasp* realistic. My simple system can be laid on top of any normal system, as proficiency in languages is gained the same way. What my system adds is decreasing fluency in related languages. I tie these decreasing fluencies to actual player requirements in speaking or hearing those languages. These arbitrary restrictions force players to get creative, which in my mind is the source of fun, and are better in my mind than a binary on/off know it or you don’t. It also makes the world a little more realistically connected, instead of having all these languages that just spring up with little relation to one another (outside of shared alphabets which is difficult to role-play). I have my own chart, but you could easily create your own language connection chart for your world.

Combat Speech

Stolen from ten foot polemic. The idea is to keep combat moving, keep players creative, and remove the long winded tactical discussions that make combat feel slow and boring instead of passionate and crazy.

The Silver Piece Standard

I’m not very original, but I basically got tired of having endless and uselessly large piles of small denomination coins. It also seemed a bit weird that there are so few adventurers when a low level adventure can earn what amounts to decades of skilled laborers work. Adventurers don’t seem crazy or heroic, they seem like entrepreneurs eyeing a somewhat risky ROI. I’m dropping to a silver standard while keep other wages at there current price. This just means shifting prices down one denomination, things valued in GP are now in SP, SP -> CP. This lets small coin denominations stay relevant as treasure for longer and downgrades the ROI on adventuring to make your party seem more like the crazy murder hobos they are.The only things that need revaluing are things that used to be valued in copper pieces, and how long do adventurers really spend buying that stuff? You could even just have prices at that level buy bulk or do like the pirates and literally chop up copper pieces.


I had a few minor things like stating explicitly that damage from spells or attacks damage treasure, to go along with the looting for EXP to ensure that my players know to carefully aim or risk losing out. Spells reacting weirdly when really constrained is a kind of half-way interpretation for fun of a number of posts about fireball volumes. I can’t imagine it being fun to calculate every time, but if constrained to less than 50% of its normal area, I could see this being something for a caster to carefully consider.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Envisioned Eldritch Equipment, etc. (Part IV)

Previous post, part III.

Ensouled, Earth Elemental, Lesser 3000

Small crystals and rocks jut outwards from random places. Striking a foe with this weapon will break off a number of these rocks and crystals which multiply and scatter, creating difficult terrain within 10 ft. The wielder ignores this difficult terrain and receives a +1 to AC while standing in this terrain and advantage in damage rolls against foes on this difficult terrain. Further hits increase the radius of the difficult terrain by 10 ft to a maximum of 20 ft. The terrain lasts for one round after the last hit.

Ensouled, Earth Elemental 9000

A stronger earth elemental soul manifests with crystals and rocks replaced by shining black obsidian shards and dagger-like crystals. A fine mist of rock dust fills the air around this weapon, and coats everything nearby. Functions as the lesser version, but the difficult terrain spreads by 15 ft per hit, to a maximum of 45 ft, the AC bonus becomes a +2 and the damage bonus instead adds an additional weapon damage die.

Ensouled, Earth Elemental, Greater 30000

Weapons ensouled with a powerful earth elemental spirit are behemoths of solid crystal with inset obsidian blades. Crystal shards constantly shed into the nearby air, making breathing almost painful. A faint rumbling can be heard from an indeterminate direction, but if the weapon is touching the ground the rumbling grows loud and close, shaking small objects. As the normal version but the spread is 20 ft per hit, maximum 80 ft, the AC bonus becomes a +4, and the damage bonus is an additional two weapon damage dice. Foes that spend more than two rounds in the difficult terrain must save , DC 10, each round or become entangled in the stone. If entangled, save or become helpless.

Ensouled, Efreeti, Lesser 3000

“Chaos” Elaborate brass reliefs gild this weapon up and down, with brightly colored silken tassels loop through a brass loop on the handle. Small wafts of thick smoke hang around the weapon and its wielder. This weapon shifts its base weapon, but keeps all its magical effects. Saying “I Wish” and pulling on the silken tassels causes the weapon to shift form to a new form, some of which have additional effects. Shifting releases a puff of thick smoke and gives a +2 bonus to attack and damage for 1 round. If you are proficient with its base form, you are always proficient, regardless of its current form.

Base weapon
As normal
Doubled critical range.
Two handed. Doubled critical range..  
Forms with quiver and 10 arrows. No penalty up to max range.
Reach. Hits knock enemies back 5ft.
Two Scimitars
1d6 each
Hit with both: roll damage a third time.

Ensouled, Efreeti 9000

The heat and spicy aroma of a candle or incense seems to hover just out of view over your shoulder. Smoke is fairly constant in the air around this weapon, and moving it leaves a smoke trail. As the lesser version, but the bonus doubles to a +4 to attack and damage. When the weapon shifts, it puffs out a large blue-black whiff of smoke, vaguely humanoid in shape, that conceals you for 1 round. As the lesser version with added abilities and two new entries.

Base weapon
As normal
Blood Kukri
Hits cause bleed 1.
Executioner Falchion
Double STR to damage.
Bandits Short-bow
Hits steal 5% of target’s coins or small valuables.
Stone Glaive
Attack all targets in reach at -5 to attack and damage.
Scimitars of Sand
1d6 each
Hitting twice blinds target with sand for 1 round.

Ensouled, Efreeti, Greater 30000

Holding this weapon for more than a passing moment glammers you with fine silk turban and robes, tied at the waist with bright colored sash. As the normal version, but the bonus increases to a +5. This bonus and the protective smoke last for two rounds. Shifting the weapon to a new form summons forth a large humanoid form of blue-black smoke, which will attack once each turn at your command using your stats. This effect lasts for two rounds. When shifting, roll twice on the normal version’s table, and choose which form your weapon takes and which form the smoke will wield.

Ensouled, Fey, Lesser 3000

“Joy” Swirls of dye and clusters of inset gems move around your weapon, occasionally even up your arm, with the tickling touch of a chick’s down. Any light above shadowy illumination is sufficient to make this weapon faintly sparkle with pastel rainbow colors. Hitting an enemy brings forth the sound of a strumming harp, shoots out bright rays of colored light, and switches you with an enemy within 10 ft. The sudden switch puts them off balance, and confuses the enemy you just attacked. One creature hostile to you makes one attack against the foe you just switched places with if within reach.

Ensouled, Fey 9000

While moving, a fey ensouled weapon bends and twists to some unheard melody. While still, small birds, butterflies, and moths slowly coalesce and land on this weapon. As the lesser version of the weapon, with the range increased to 30 ft and the teleport causes the enemy to be the recipient of one attack from up to three of your enemies within reach of where you were just standing.

Ensouled, Fey, Greater 30000

Small amounts of sparkly dust float around the greater soul of a fey weapon, itching the noses of creatures within 5 ft so that they constantly feel ready to sneeze. Any hits with this weapon cause this weapon to shake and laugh with the innocent laugh of children. The weapon functions as the normal version, with the range increased to 60 ft. The teleported enemy receives attacks of opportunities from your foes and allies within reach. Teleporting bathes you in bright rays of vibrant color and creates 1d4 color clones that last 4 rounds.  

Ensouled, Fire Elemental, Lesser 3000

Oily and hot. Charred and sooty. Stains your hands, gloves, and anything else it touches. Each hit ups its critical range by one and sprays a shower of useless sparks. On a critical hit, the sparks ignite the air in a 10 ft burst for 2d6 damage. The critical boost tops out at 3 The critical range boost resets on a critical hit or after one round without a hit.

Ensouled, Fire Elemental 9000

Oil drips sooo slowly down your arm. Charcoal dust wafts through the air around you constantly. As the lesser version, but the critical boost maximum is 5, the burst is a 15 ft burst dealing 3d6, and the boost lasts for two rounds without a hit. The air around you noticeably heats up as your critical boost increases. Deal one fire damage for each point of critical boost on your normal hits.

Ensouled, Fire Elemental, Greater 30000

Smoulders fly off, following the hot, rising air. It soothes your hands like a long rest in a hot spring. As the normal version but the critical boost has no maximum, the burst increases to a 20 ft burst dealing 5d6 damage. The boost lasts for three rounds without a hit. Deal one fire damage for each point of critical boost on normal hits and enemies within 5 ft of you take 1 point of fire damage for each point of critical boost you have from the sweltering air pouring off of you.

Ensouled, Inevitable, Lesser 3000

“Law” Straight, rigid, and unyielding. Always naggingly uncomfortable to hold, as if it was purposefully designed not to fit your hand. Like a DMV for your hand. Upon striking a foe, you make a declaration of a rule. You can outlaw a damage type, movement, or speech. Magic runes float around them, making them aware of the limitations so placed. If they break the ‘rule’, they take 5 damage. The ‘rule’ lasts for 1 round, and you can only have one can be active at a time.

Ensouled, Inevitable 9000

The drained colors give the weapon a tired appearance. Orderly writing in an inscrutable language neatly covers the weapon. As the lesser version, but the ‘rule’ lasts for 2 rounds, two can be active at a time, and the damage increases to 10. Two new rule types can be created: spells and extraordinary abilities.The rules stack.

Ensouled, Inevitable, Greater 30000

Cold, grey, and absolutely neutral in every way. Holding it cools your chaotic emotions and calms your speech to a slow, assertive, and calm legalese.  Striking a foe creates a ‘rule’ like the normal version, but with a duration of 5 rounds with up to three effects active at once, and dealing 15 damage. Hostile creatures within 5 ft. of a ‘rule’ creature take 5 damage if they break a ‘rule’.

To part V.