Sunday, August 16, 2015

A Step Forward: My Own Domain!

Sometime Friday night, I hit an astounding 10,000 views! While it may not be much, I am encouraged to keep at this blogging thing. Stepping up to the challenge, I am launching my own website, Head over there and resubscribe with that handy little 'W' button in the upper left tab.

My new logo!

Thank you so much for patronizing my humble blog, and I hope you found something written here valuable. There are grand plans in the works, and I feel that its time I start investing in my own domain and website. As big thank you, I'll be doing a third blog post a week on Fridays.

Part of those grand plans includes branching out. My first step is to create a couple Fiverr gigs where you can purchase some custom content. Your views and comments have been really appreciated. I cannot overstate how excited I am with where this whole thing can go!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

House Rules Evolved: Better Battle Tactics

With a new campaign in the works, I am kicking my house rules update into high gear. Combine that with a big change coming up in the next week and I am getting a ton of things done.
The Original Rule:
What started as a noble drive to make combat more interesting, dynamic, and fun ended with a sputter. The fighting mechanics, I believe, are solid but would be better suited to game focused on dueling and moment to moment tactics. In short, Better Battle Tactics was strangled by its own red-tape.
The momentum behind my attempt at this rule remains. I want combat to offer more sound options than the usual bash-them-to-death. Sure, those rules are in the game, but you have to give up an attack, something that is hardly worth it in a world where the action economy is king.
The problems:
-Too many choices. It is overwhelming to pick from all the options available. Players have to learn this new fiddly subsystem and I have to track it for the hordes of monsters I toss out. This results in decision delay at best and analysis paralysis at worst. The new mechanic cannot have too many options, moving parts, and choices. Research shows smaller numbers of choices to be ideal (links?).
-Not often used. Most of the time, even with the only minor attack and damage penalties listed, it made more sense to just make a normal attack. Intuitively, this makes sense. Alternative attacks and tactics are going to be useful only in the outside cases. Therefore, it doesn’t make sense to create an overarching, complex mechanic just for a few outside cases. Another point for simplicity and a point for a general mechanic that can handle wildly disparate cases.
-Too limiting. Even when used, the ideas of players often went outside the 13 actions listed in the Better Battle Tactics. If I had to ad-hoc a ruling to resolve outside cases, then my rules were not generic enough to really promote a wide variety of tactics. If I want to really meet my underlying goals, I’ve got to be able to handle every case.
-Not realistic. A simple penalty to attack and damage was too abstract to really give any weight to the decision on whether or not to use it. It basically traded one type of damage for another. It boiled down to putting a different story on what happens when a monster drops to 0 hit points. I want the choices to mean something, even when they aren’t successful. Better Battle Tactics should apply throughout the whole battle and not just change the ending.

The Changes:
My explicit goal is to accommodate every combat choice without requiring players to get left behind in the action economy. This has to be simple, without being overly abstract, and should be interesting regardless of the outcome.

A player wants to add some new aspect or action to their attack. They make their attack twice. If both attacks would hit, they make their attack and the action happens. If only one attack would hit, the attack either misses or it hits but the player has to choose a downside. If both miss, the attack misses and the DM chooses the downside.

This mechanic keeps it simple, as the players already know how to make attack rolls and can certainly count to two. What about those downsides? We should keep that list short so it is easy to read and can be meaningfully remembered. We also do not want to railroad the object of the action, so their should probably be a save on their part to resist its damaging effects. Also, complex things should still require the appropriate skill check to be resolved so players can’t skirt around difficult DC’s.

Standard DC is 5+attacker’s attack bonus.

This DC is low enough that enemies can realistically resist but it will scale with attacker skill. This might include things like a morale check, dodging out of the way of a toppled statue, avoiding being disarmed, and more.


-MY PETARD! IT IS HOISTED! The penalty happens to you (unless you make the save).
-IT WAS AN ACCIDENT I SWEAR. The penalty happens to an ally within reach (unless they make the save).
-WIDE OPEN. One of the targets gets a free attack on you.
-LIVE DANGEROUS. You cut things a little too close, take damage equal to your attack bonus.
-KARMA. DM gets one d20 they can give before you roll to give you disadvantage on that roll.
-PUSH IT TO THE LIMIT. Equipment wear and tear or mental wear and tear, depending on the THING.

The downsides are where things get really interesting. As players try more of these alternative tactics, they risk exposing themselves and their allies to the dangers they were foisting on their opponents. I kept the list short to be easy to remember but long enough to provide suitable penalties for all attempts. If you don’t have any sort of wear/tear or insanity system, the last option could be worked out as broken equipment, penalties to all rolls, or other long-lasting penalties.

While this new system will require some interaction between DM and player to resolve, I feel that it gives mechanical backing to a whole host of options. No longer are players required to give up their attacks to attempt something with a decent likelihood of failure. Now, they can take on some extra risk for a chance at cleverly punishing their foes.

It isn’t perfect. It has the quantized effect of something like intimidate having no effect until suddenly the monster flees from failing a save. It doesn’t mechanically take into account other factors like how worn down a monster is like the previous system. A DM can always insert situational modifiers to saves, if and when this becomes important. Overall, I am excited about the overhaul. Stay tuned for action reports from the field.
So go forth and have some sweet battles!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Mythoard: Adventure Forth

Just got my July Mythoard in the mail, and I'm enjoying it while I sip some delicious homemade Umeshu (not included). I defitely needed this, as I've had some busy days moving furniture and getting a ton of my to-do list finished. 

With a slight USPS related mix-up last month, David promised to toss something extra my way this month to make up for it. He kindly tossed in that second undercroft book and two more magnetic flat minis (as far as I can tell). What a stand-up guy!

The Tunnels & Trolls adventure, Rat on a Stick, has probably my favorite meta-trap, the players have to save or sit around the stuffed-couch filled room. It even mentions rolling for wandering monsters, but that those monsters might succumb to the effect as well!

The Red Mausoleum is a solid, creepy-at-times adventure with a creepy Michael Jackson looking lich. This guy alone makes me want to run this adventure.

My favorite half-page binder map so far out of all the Mythoards. This ship-wrecked necromancer adventure has so many compelling hooks and story, that it feels like you're interrupting.

The Ancient Odysseys quick guide looked fun from the short read I did. I will be looking through some of its mechanics that caught my eye and possibly stealing them. We'll see. 

Here's a handful of blank, dungeon-morph coasters. The front side hosts 3"x3" tiles and the opposite is 1/4" x 1/4" gridded. Sitting on top is a handy little campfire plastic token and the two magnetic minis David threw in. I may touch the campfire up with some paint highlights, but it's cool!

Flipping through the Undercroft booklets and Mr. Scissor Beard here caught my eye. Who doesn't like it when a scissor muzzle dives down your throat to do your breathing for you? Items, organizations, places, and people just as gonzo/creepy as this fill this book. I will be reading these two many times.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Single-Use Substances and Spelljunk (Part V)

Part IV.

Escape Plan 750
What appears to be a normal button fastener can be snapped open with purposeful force. The hollow button contains a powerful mix of abjuration and vapor stimulants. Broken, it releases a faint garlicky vapor that invigorates the user. The Escape Plan obscures the wearer by 50% and grants a 50 foot speed boost. The obscuring effect fades by 10% each round and with each attack the user makes. The speed boost lasts for 1 minute and by 10 feet for each attack made.

Don't overdose

Essence of Life 5000

A black and white spiral shell houses a squirming, ten-tentacled leech responds to a warm-blooded touch. Held up to the mouth, the Essence of Life steals the user’s hit points, 1d6 hit points each round. When it is cracked open, the foul, rotting salty smell of its organs restore as many hit points the Essence has consumed. The Essence of life digests 1 stored hit point each hour. After consuming a total of 100 hit points, the Essence of Life buds off into ten larval mollusks. These mollusks, if they survive predation, will grow into Essence of Life in 1d3 years.  

Evard's Black Bomb 650

Squirming, tickling black koosh-ball explodes with a loud squish when it hits a hard surface. Thrown up to forty feet, it expands like a coiled black snake into a rude mass of black tentacles. Thick strands of mucus string between the waving pseudopods. Any creature that enters within a 10 foot radius of the center trigger a grapple attempt with a +5 strength bonus.

Explosives, Crude 400
Crude Explosives are a small ceramic barrel shrapnel bomb made with a combination of alchemical and magical processes to launch a burst of stone and metal offal. It deals 4d6 damage to creatures within 30 feet but only ¼ damage to objects. A Dexterity save (DC 14) for half damage. Crude explosives detonate 1d6 rounds after the fuse is lit.

Explosives 1000

Inside the lantern-sized wood barrel lies a deadly payload. A massive shrapnel burst of sharpened metal bits and jagged rocks deal 8d6 slashing damage to all creatures in a 50 foot radius but only ¼ of that damage to objects. A Dexterity save (DC 15) will reduce the damage by half. Creatures receive one point of ongoing bleed damage for every 5 damage taken from the blast. Those that failed their saves get a -2 penalty on their death saving throws until their bleed damage is healed. The explosives go off 1d4+1 rounds after the fuse is lit.

Explosives, Refined 5000

A deafening explosion precedes a cloud of sharpened ceramic needles and sharpened metal coils bursting from this fist sized metal canister. 1d3+2 rounds after the fuse is lit, the explosive deals 15d6 slashing damage to all creatures in a 60 foot radius. Objects only take ¼ of this damage. The magical shrapnel inside will curve around cover, negating everything short of total cover. A Dexterity save (DC 17) reduces the damage by half. The deep, vicious wounds from this bomb inflict ongoing bleed damage equal to one quarter the damage taken from the blast. Bleeding creatures have disadvantage on their death saving throws until their bleed damage is healed.

Feather Token

Feather tokens originated from the moltings of Harzus i’Otun, demi-god of birds of prey. Every thing he ate became a feather on his gargantuan, four-winged form. Most feather tokens today are recreations. Harzu i’Otun’s feathers are mostly found near great craters, the remnants of towns and mountains swallowed up. It is rumored that his brightest and largest feathers hold mighty beasts, artifacts, oceans, and continents.

Feather Token Fan 100

This tiny white-grey feather transforms into an elaborate wooden handled ostrich feather fan that can create a continual minor wind within a 30 foot 90 degree arc or single, strong blasts of wind in a 60 ft line every 1d6 rounds. Each new activation of the fan has a 1 in 20 chance of irreparably destroying the fan.

Feather Token Air Buffalo 8000

A beige feather bears upon it a wide brown arrow. If the user breaks the feather and stands back, a Huge, saddled giant beige buffalo will grow forth. This buffalo has the inexplicable ability to fly with average maneuverability and can carry up to four tons. It has enough space for 5 medium sized creatures to ride comfortably. It won’t attack in combat but can slam and gore attackers to defend itself. It will only go inside with a very difficult handle animal check (DC 25), and even then will still be ornery. Each day, the Air Buffalo must be kept fed and well groomed, costing 50 in supplies each week.  Failure to keep the buffalo happy means the buffalo will get grumpy and leave. HD 5 (60), Huge, AC 15, Slam/Gore, +7/+6 (2d6+3,1d8+2), Move 30 ft/ Fly 60 ft.

Feather Token Boat 500

This large white feather transforms into a lightweight but sturdy swan feather boat complete with long stemmed feather oars. The boat can hold up to 2000 pounds yet it weighs only 5 pounds.

Feather Token Great Bird 10000

Cracking this pebble-grey feather causes it to transform into a loyal dove the size of a horse. With  The dumb, but well meaning bird can carry a small creature easily and a medium creature at half speed. It take orders like a small child, and can relay basic scouting information, albeit with a simple version of charades and cooing. HD 3 (20), Large, AC 14, Beak/Talon x2, +4/+2 (1d6+2,1d4+1), Move 10 ft/ Fly 80 ft.

Part VI.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

The Art of Being a Monster: Illithid

Wait for a little longer, what I'm working on is going to be awesome (at least from my perspective). In the mean time, here is another type of monster laid out in crystal clear, rational strategery.
In the deep dark, dangerous places of the world, your kind does not hide from the world. The world and all its light and heat hide from your psionic powers and cunning minds. This guide will serve to reaffirm what you already know and humbly put forward variations of your existing plans. Your psionic gifts and mental dominance is assured, whatever your path to domination might be.
Often, adventurers and surface folk will seek you out to slow or stop your plans. These enemies will be well trained and prepared for your tactics. You must at all times keep your wits about you and assume nothing about your opponents. Pride has been the downfall of many weaker psions and Illithids. Keep every terrain advantage, minion strength, and psionic ability between you and your opponents. It is imperative that you be free to move about the battlefield and strike where you please. There is no shame in retreating if it means that you win when it really matters, in the final battle.
F: When against the melee focused enemy, unleash your psionics while keeping out of reach. Turn them against their allies with mind control or simply lock them down with disabling effects. Minions and terrain can be put to great advantage by screening your attacks and movement from their reach.
T: The flanking, sneaking enemy will require you to stay close to terrain and your minions. They can screen out the thief's flanking attacks, engage a thief directly, and give you breathing room. They are a minor threat compared to other enemies but will suffer easily from mental attacks.
R: A ranged enemy will be a grave threat if you are stuck out of cover or stay in one place. Keep behind cover and force them to fire at any other target than you. Like the fighter, they are very useful if mind controlled, but the ranger is still a priority to keep disabled. Be wary of stepping out of cover predictably as they may delay their arrows until you move from cover.

W: The enemy spellcaster is the most dangerous enemy. Tactically position your minions and psionic effects to screen out the wizard’s allies. Once the path is clear, move in close. Blast them with close range effects and any unused minions melee attacks. If their spells prove troublesome or your minions clustered dangerously, be ready to interrupt their spellcasting. A particular joy is sending the wizard’s allies to do this job under mind control.
The Illithid’s Refined Machinations
Nothing below is anything new to the wise psionic creatures reading this guide. What is presented below will be a helpful reminder for an Illithid’s minions, allies, and thralls. These points will be the methodology that will be followed to avoid unnecessary delays and setbacks in ones plans.
  • I will not stop and devour enemy brains or energies before destroying the other enemies. I will double-check all bodies to make sure they are dead.
  • Never will I allow my minions or thralls to wear helmets. My traps and minions will attack head-wear in my lair where possible.
  • While it is menial to search the minds I control, I will never remain in the dark about my minions’ states of mind. In order to ensure that secret betrayal is not looming, I will take precautions to randomly sweep their minds at unpredictable intervals.
  • I will not assume my control is flawless or permanent and I will plan accordingly.
  • The true extent of my powers will not be measured or explained. No one will ever be truly sure the exact nature of my powers as I will routinely use new tactics and psionics. Research will be vital in this role.
  • I will not rely entirely on my psionics. Mixing in mundane items, alchemy, and other magics will round out my power and ensure I am not easily defeated by those prepared to fight psionics.
  • My neighbors will not be ignored or denigrated. I will keep good and regular contact with others. This contact should be mutually beneficial.
  • My psionics are not perfect and I will supplement mind control and mind reading with more mundane hypnosis, diplomacy, motive sensing, and other psychological skills.
  • No one will be entirely sure what will happen to those I have mind controlled when I die or lose control. I will spread terrifying rumors to this effect so it is easier to convince my opponents to spare me in exchange for their allies’ minds.
  • No matter how useful they are for fighting other psions, I will not keep psionic immune or psionics cancelling minions or artifacts nearby. I will not contract with anti-psionic mercenaries.
  • I cannot assume there will be sufficient time to rest after any combat and I will not expend all of my mental energies immediately in any combat unless necessary.
  • I will not mistreat or denigrate my minions or thralls. I will reinforce my mind control with mundane kindness, illusions, and aligning our goals where possible.
  • My pride is not worth my life. I will never risk my life just to defend my pride. Who cares what lesser beings think of me if I win in the end?
  • I will not wait until I fight my opponents to discover if they have brought anti-psionic weapons. I will bait out their attacks with psionic minions, illusions, and traps in my lair.
  • Under no circumstances will the traps in my lair be able to kill me by accident. I will never assume them to be disengaged or expended.
  • It shall not be easy to kill or capture me without well thought out plans. I will keep active psionic, magical, or mechanical effects that attackers know will end upon my kill or capture.
  • My masterpiece, doomsday machine, or psionic opus will not be easily destroyable. Illusory copies, defensive mechanisms, and decoys will all be applied where appropriate.
  • I will not retain projects, experiments, or minions whose goals do not align with mine in some way. They will be sent away, in kindness, when our paths differ. Mercenary work is a tenuous shared goal at best.
  • I will not lair entirely in a stereotypical locale. I will branch out to new environs to expand my impact, broaden my power base, increase my stability, and control places unaccustomed to psionic influence.
  • I will not anger my neighbors where possible. Enough ants can still eat a bear.
Keeping your due diligence in commanding your lesser thralls to keep in line with these guidelines. The world will bend at your will and you will enjoy the delicious minds of every sentient creature. Fail in this diligence and your rivals will best you.