Thursday, September 29, 2016

More Treasure Tables and Inspiration Pad Pro Tutorial

So for my lunch hour project I been working on Random Treasure Generation for my Majestic Fantasy RPG. First as I stated earlier, making a decent random treasure generation is surprisingly a lot of work. And that it is critical to code it up using software like NBos's Inspiration Pad Pro to see if what you expected happens over 100 to 1000 rolls.

I was surprised to find that Matt Finches Swords and Wizardry  random treasure generation to be very stingy. An solitary Adult Red Dragon with a CR 15 is going to have a treasure horde worth between 4,600 gp to 9,600 gp. According to the Sword and Wizardry treasure rules this will on average result in 1 roll on the major treasure tradeout, 5 to 9 rolls on the medium treasure tradeout and 46 to 96 rolls on the minor treasure tradeout.

There only a 10% chance of getting a trade out over the cash value. When you do roll a tradeout there only a 1 in 20 chance of rolling magic items. This means only 1 in 200 dragon hoards will have a major magic item. Roughly 1 in 30 dragon hoards will have a medium magic item. And finally roughly 1 in 3 even having a minor magic item like a healing potion.

I realize I sound critical, but I do know that for many referee an extremely low number of magic items is what they prefer for this campaign. However this does not fit how I been running my Majestic Wilderlands for the last decade. I been using the ODnD treasure tables and Gygax's monster and treasure assortments. Magic items are not plentiful in either but they do appear about 20% of time with the type of item appropriate to the power of the creature.

The general idea behind the Swords and Wizardry treasure generation system is sound so what I been doing is adjusting the odds in Nbos's Inspiration Pad Pro until it product what I expected over a 100, and even 1,000 rolls.

Before I was getting stuff like this for the CR 15 Dragon

Orb Brass 14 oz. (14 sp), Scroll of Speak with Animals, 400 sp

now I am getting stuff like

Potion of Dragon Control, Potion of Heroism, +1 One Handed Spear, Lapis Lazuli Gem (5 sp), Bronze Necklace (7 sp), +1 Broadsword, 1 crown (320 sp), 1,163 sp

Much better for how I run my campaigns. Again the lesson, if you going to do an elaborate system of random tables, code it up to see if it does what you expect it too.

Now for the second half of my post. How do you code this up with Inspiration Pad Pro. Today I will cover the basics.

The first thing to remember is that Inspiration Pad Pro random table are just text files that can be edited in notepad. The newest version has a built in editor as well. The file is saved with a ipt extension instead of a txt extension. You will need to place your file in a folder in the generators folder where you installed IPP. 

Inside the you will start off like this.

Header: Random Cursed Magic Items for the Majestic Fantasy RPG

Next you define the table like this


1-2:Bag of Devouring
3-4:Censer of Hostile Elementals
5-6:Cloak of Poison
7-8:Crystal Ball of Suggestion
9-10:Dancing Boots
11-12:Flask of Stoppered Curses
13-14:Horn of Collapse
15-16:Medallion of Projecting Thoughts
17-18:Mirror of Opposition
19-20:Robe of Feeblemindedness

Table:(name) is used to name the table which is not important for a file that has single table. However if you have sub tables then it become important.

Next Roll:(dice roll convention) defines what type of dice I will be rolling.

The entries are formatted like:
(dice range):(result)>

The dice range can be a single number '5' or a range '5-6'. The result can be any piece of text you want.

Finally you terminate the table with EndTable:

You also can do random lists like this


With each item having equal odds of appearing.

With this you can define one table per file and save them in a folder underneath the generator folder. When you fire up IPP then you will see them appear.

Is there is more? Yup, and I will cover that in another post. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Old School Is Too Cool: The Dungeon Fantasy RPG

It not often I get asked to help out with another company's promotion. But SJ Games reached out to me and asked to post this article by Christopher Rice about the Dungeon Fantasy RPG.  The only benefit I am receiving from this is a link to my blog from SJ Games; social media. After Mr. Rice's article I will link to some things that may be of interest to fans of GURPS that I have written about.

Old School Is Too Cool: The Dungeon Fantasy RPG

The first ever GURPS Kickstarter ends September 30, and has funded. While that’s incredible news for fans, it’s absolutely amazing news for those not yet acquainted with the Generic Universal RolePlaying System or GURPS.

The Dungeon Fantasy RPG is based on the excellent GURPS Dungeon Fantasy series. Dungeon Fantasy is old-school roleplaying (go on a quest, kill some monsters, get some treasure) that uses the flexible and potent GURPS engine. I like to tell my new players that GURPS is like a smartphone: There’s an app for everything! Except in this case, there’s a rule for everything. The beauty of the system is that you don’t have to use those rules. You can pare it down to the bare bones if you want – and that’s exactly what Sean Punch does in this new game. The Dungeon Fantasy RPG starts with the GURPS rules set, takes only what it needs, and ignores everything else. This boxed set is broken down into a multiple books: Adventurers, Exploits, Spells, Monsters, and Dungeon.

Adventurers streamlines the front-loaded character-creation process for GURPS, making it quick and manageable. All the details you need are right there and ready to go.

Exploits gives players and GMs clear and concise rules for Doing Stuff. The task scaling modifiers using narrative descriptors alone is amazing, but everything in this book is downright useful to old hands as well as new. Exploits takes the rules from the GURPS Basic Set: Campaigns, boils them down to their essence, and then adds more, while somehow speeding up game play.

Spells uses the GURPS Magic system, with several tweaks to turn spells into more playable (and streamlined) traits.

Monsters has every sort of creature you can shake a stick at and then some. From your humble orc all the way to the exotic six-armed peshkali, and of course everyone’s favorite: the leaping leech.
The provided adventure, I Smell a Rat, harkens back to the old All in a Night’s Work (though it’s a group adventure, not a solo one).

Sean Punch provides an action-packed boxed set with things newcomers to GURPS can enjoy – and enough novel rules and approaches to game mechanics that old hands will enjoy it just as much.

The design obviously incorporates solutions to problems gamers had with the standard Dungeon Fantasy series, while remaining true to spirit of GURPS and Dungeon Fantasy. If I can use a metaphor: The Dungeon Fantasy RPG is the recipe handed down to your children after years of perfecting the original so it’s “just right.”

This is in my opinion the best work Sean Punch has written to date. What he does with established material turns Dungeon Fantasy on its head – in a good way. So if you haven’t seen the Kickstarter yet, head on over, buy a copy of the new boxed set (or two or three!) and be welcomed into the world of Dungeon Fantasy and the larger world of GURPS.

The biggest concern people often have about this is what I call the Munchkin factor. Munchkin is a game that in part as a parody of various genres including dungeon crawling. I have the Dungeon Fantasy line and for the most part it is a straight forward well designed distillation of GURPS for the type of campaigns that most people use the various DnD core books. It is not GURPS Dungeon Munchkins or GURPS Hackmaster 4e. And the Dungeon Fantasy RPG look to be similar in tone. And as you saw from the preview of the Bard I posted, it will support all types of roleplaying encounter as least as well as any edition of DnD does.

So why GURPS and not just stick with DnD. Well even at the 250 pt level that the DF line targets GURPS is a deadly game. Character survive because of their skill not because they can sit there and absorb blow after blow. If you caught under the wrong circumstance or somebody has better tactics, you are going to go down quickly. Combined with character customization it makes for a different kind of challenge than your average DnD campaign. 

Now the promised links. 

Here is the link to my Majestic Wilderlands website containing some of the house rules I used when running a GURPS Majestic Wilderlands campaign.

The Myrmidon of Set template reflecting how I would write templates for GURPS
A session roster from the last GURPS campaign I ran.
The original Scourge of the Demon Wolf when I ran it using GURPS. Note much in the way of notes. I used the basic wolf and just made the quantity of the wolves such they were a serious threat.
Paltar the Spearman a 100 point GURPS Character. 
No GURPS stats but a handout with rumors for the last GURPS campaign I ran.

Last I want to say that my Majestic Wilderlands is a translation of the templates and stuff I used in my GURPS into DnD classes and items. When the DF RPG is in hand I plan on taking my original notes updating them and releasing them as a free document/ For example the Myrmidon template above. The Knight Killer Crossbow, etc.

Armor as Reduction

+Joshua Macy shared a post from Tales of the Rambling Bumblers about Armor as reduction.

The advantage of armor is that is distributes the force of a blow over a larger surface area than the weapon itself. The result that the force experienced by any one part of the target's body is considerably less despite the total amount of force being the same. Also note it points out why even the plate armor is not 100% effective in all cases. Not because of gaps but rather there are times when distributing the blow is not enough. A lot of time this will result in some form of blunt trauma.

Armed with this knowledge, it makes sense to represent armor as reducing damage right? That classic DnD got it horribly wrong with the Armor Class system. Well it turns out that classic DnD had a very good reason for using Armor Class in combat. It also goes hand in hand with levels and hit points.

It has to do with the game Chainmail. In Chainmail, you had man to man combat. You cross indexed the weapon you were using against the armor being worn by the target. You roll 2d6 if it equal to the target number or higher the defender is dead. In the fantasy supplement of Chainmail, a Hero could fight as four figures, and you had to deal four hit in mass combat OR man to man to take out a Hero. A Super Hero fought as 8 figures and took 8 hits to take out.

When Dave Arneson started up the Blackmoor campaign focusing on player playing individual rather than armies, his starting point for man to man combat was the Chainmail rules.
One hit = one kill was boring to Dave Arneson, so he expanded it to 1 hit = 1d6 damage and 1 hit to kill = 1d6 hit points. In addition instead having just three ranks of experience (Veteran, Hero, and Super Hero) he allowed character to be in-between those rank. A veteran+1 that could take 2d6 hit points of damage. This led to the concept of levels with the Veteran being 1st level, the Hero 4th, and the Super Hero 8th. Gygax used this as the foundation for his draft of Dungeon & Dragons. And it was carried over the final version released in 1974. In the Greyhawk supplement weapons damage was varied in the number and kind of dice used, and each class was changed to use a different dice for hit points. (MUs and thieves: 1d4, Clerics: 1d6, Fighters: 1d8) That what the abstraction of armor class, hit dice, and hit points means in D&D. Everything else is after the fact justification for how it evolved from Chainmail. The more interesting question is why did it stick around for so long? There are lot of examples where trail blazer in a field is supplanted later by another that finally gets it right. But the classic D&D abstractions persist to this day and enjoy widespread popularity.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Working on Treasure Tables

In this day and age if you going to make a detailed set of random tables take the time to code them in for Inspiration Pad Pro or tablesmith and generate a 1000 results. I been working on random treasure generation for my Majestic Fantasy RPG and just got done a few days ago with the first pass on the tables. On paper it seems reasonable but when I coded them up and looked how they worked. It was not entirely what I expected. So I been playing with the odds to get it more in line with what I expected and then I will edit the rules to match it. The Details
A while ago I coded up the OD&D treasure tables for my own use and generated several rather large locales off of it like the Wild North. So I developed a sense of how much magic items there are versus the monetary value of a treasure. Later I started using Gygax's monster and treasure assortment which generally produces similar results to the treasure type system.

I developed my take on Treasure Tables off of what +Matt Finch wrote for Swords & Wizardry. It is a system where you calculate the value of the hoard then roll for "tradout" in 100 gp, 1000 gp and 5000 gp blocks. If you roll a 19-20 than the gold is traded out for jewelry or magic items. But only magic items if you roll a nat 20.

The result is nothing like the treasure type system of ODnD or ADnD. It doesn't generate any where near the number of jewelry or magic items the original system does.

I like the general algorithm of Matt's scheme so I am tweaking the odds of the tradeouts to get something closer to what I been using. The lesson here is that it pays to spend the time getting into a computer utility to see what it does over 1000s of rolls.

I am going to honest and say that while I plan to include random treasure tables into the books that I am writing, The part you will be using will probably be the assortments. I am defining the assortment as a random table where each entry is the result of using the random treasure generation. It way easier to use as there is just a single table with a 100 or so precalculated entries. Note you can't just roll a 100 entries for the 2nd dungeon level and be done with it. You have to look the result and make sure that there are not too many repeated result. If there are, reroll until the assortment reflects the variety of that available with the full blown random treasure generation.

I still use random treasure generation but only wnen I need something different for a specific encounter or area.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

A sneak preview of a GURPS Dungeon Fantasy Character

Over on the kickstarter, the SJ Games crew released a preview of a Dungeon Fantasy Character.

Lyndon Glibtongue

First off kudos for releasing a Bard character first. There been considerable debate over the fact the project is oriented towards Dungeon Fantasy and that all that it will support is hack and slash gameplay. Looking over the Bard character you can see that the character has plenty of skills (Carousing, Savoir Faire. Merchant) that could be used in pure roleplaying encounters. 

Also as far as being a GURPS character it looks pretty standard which should make using the rest of the GURP line pretty easy to use if you want too. Of course compared to a OD&D character there is a lot more there, but I think people will know that when they try this game. 

The key will be how easy it is to make this character? With the 4th edition core books it is a matter of going through voluminous lists which takes considerable time and very confusing to a novice. With the Dungeon Fantasy RPG hopefully it is as easy as going through the 2nd edition boxed set with its 72 pages of character rules. 

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Dungeon Fantasy is Funded!

The Dungeon Fantasy RPG powered by GURPS is Funded! It is getting to be a nice package and the add-ons seem pretty sensible like a pregenerated PCs to be included with the GM Screen.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Adventures in Middle Earth, a review

I bought Adventures in Middle Earth, the D&D 5th edition sourcebook for Tolkien's Middle Earth produced by Cubicle 7. Cublicle early published The One Ring RPG after securing the Middle Earth license. I have PDFs of the first two books of The One Ring. It OK but not really my style as it has to much narrative/metagaming mechanics in it and abstract in other eras like combat. It seem to me more focused on creating stories set in Middle Earth than experiencing what it is like to do things in Middle Earth. Which is what I want out of an RPG I referee.

So I was eager to get a crack at a D&D 5th edition sourcebook because if they make a honest effort at being a sourcebook there only so much storytelling metagame they can try to jam in. And the good news overall, they do a good job. It is a solid 5th edition sourcebook.

So lets get that out of the way. Adventure of Middle Earth isn't a clone it is a source book. You will need the D&D 5e core book, the 5e SRD, or the 5e basic rules on hand to run this. The Loremaster supplement looks like it will extend the Dungeon Master side rather act as a replacement.

The Wilderlands

The default setting of The One Ring and Adventures in Middle Earth is set in the Wilderlands (the area in which Tolkien's Hobbit took place) after the death of Smaug and before the events of the Lord of the Ring. Now that Smaug is dead, people are resettling and reclaiming old homes and building new ones. But evil still lurks and Sauron's hand still reaches out from the darkness of Mordor.

But Cubicle includes enough of the rest of Middle Earth that you could pretty much set your campaign anytime after the downfall of Numenor in the 2nd Age. Perhaps even back to the end of the first age if you know your Tolkien lore and proficient in D&D 5e. The only major thing that is omitted are the high elves like Elrond and those who live at Rivendell.

The first section is devoted to fleshing out the Wilderlands and its inhabitant. It is a travelogue full of high level details. You will have to work at fleshing a specific area in order to start a campaign. If your know your Tolkien already it serve as a useful summary of what they are planning to cover.

Adventures in Middle Earth is not focused on race but rather cultures. Races are wrapped up in this sections so you can play a Dwarf of the Lonely Mountain, or an Elf of Mirkwood. Men of Bree are treated a little different than Men of the Lake which are not the same as the Dunedain. The full list is Bardings,Beornings, Dúnedain, Dwarves of the Lonely Mountain, Elves of Mirkwood, Hobbits of the Shire, Men of Bree, Men of the Lake, Men of Minas Tirith, Riders of Rohan, Woodmen of Wilderland. Like I said before the only major omission are the Elves of Rivendell.

I am all for the culture based presentation as when I run my own Majestic Wilderlands, I focus on the adventure that rises out of the clash of culture, religion, and politics. However I am little disappointed in the write up of the elves. My own version is largely taken from Tolkien's writings. Here they are pretty D&D 5e elves with a few changes to make them into Middle Earth woodland elves. I think they were afraid to present an "unbalanced culture" even though that would better reflect Tolkien's source material.

But this a minor nitpick in otherwise good job in this section.

I have to say that classes and how they all mesh together is pretty sweet. In my view this is the definitive low fantasy presentation of D&D. There is still magic but it is very low key. Here an example of a 17th level Scholar ability
Words Unspoken
At 17th level, you may convey your thoughts without speaking aloud. When dealing with high-level Scholars, Elves, Dúnedain or other folk of power, you may hold a full conversation, speaking mind to mind. Others have a sense or intuition of your words, but cannot reply, and may misinterpret your thoughts as their own. You cannot read the minds of others with this ability. Once per long rest, you may send brief snatches of your thought over great distances, conveying a single word or short message in dreams.
Here the list of classes and their specialties Scholar (Master Healer, Master Scholar), Slayer(The Rider, Foe-Hammer), Treasure Hunter(Agent, Burglar),  Wanderer(Hunter of Beasts, Hunter of Shadows), Warden(Counsellor, Herald, Bounder), Warrior(Knight, Weaponmaster).

The downside, none really. I didn't spot any obvious mistake and they all convey the flavor of Middle Earth. I can them seeing working with the traditional 5e classes in another setting. Even they are "weaker" than standard 5e classes when it comes to combat, they will probably do quite well in terms of the life of campaign setting. Probably better than most of the standard classes as they feel more organic.

Now this is a clever use of feats. On one hand Virtues are nothing more than 5e feats with the additional provision that some are limited to specific cultures. Just like feats you acquire them in lieu of an increase in ability scores. (4th, 8th, 12th, 16th, and 19th level).

They work for Adventures in Middle Earth as they all been rewritten to fit in the Middle Earth setting. For example this for Dunedain
Endurance of the Dúnedain
"Hardy is the race of Elendil!"
The Dúnedain have long endured war against Mordor and the forces of the Great Enemy. They are slow to weary and endure burdens stoically. In battle they are fearsome foes, often able to fight on against overwhelming odds and in spite of grievous wounds.
When a blow reduces you to 0 hit points, but does not kill you outright, you may spend Inspiration to automatically stabilise, remain conscious and continue to take actions.
I read one interesting suggestion by a fan that all characters of a given culture should automatically get their cultural virtues. That might something you want to try.

All specific to Middle Earth and pretty much have the same effect as they are in the D&D 5e core books. Of course this specific character mechanic was meant by Mearls and crew to be customized for ones campaign.

The backgrounds are Loyal Servant, Doomed to Die, Driven from Home, Emissary of your People, Fallen Scion, The Harrowed, Hunted by the Shadow, Lure of the Road, The Magician, Oathsworn, Reluctant Adventurer, Seeker of the Lost, and World Weary.

The D&D 5e equipment list modified and rewritten to fit Middle Earth. The most interesting thing are culture heirlooms which function as roleplaying macguffins and minor magic items. You get them either by taking the Cultural Heirloom virtue, maybe as treasure, and perhaps as a result of a successful audience
Númenórean ArrowsFor many long centuries, the “Men of the Sea” sent cohorts of archers to deluge their enemies under a rain of steel. Their long, black-feathered arrows can still be discovered inside burial mounds, among the tall grass of Eriador or where long-forgotten battles were fought across Gondor.
You start each Adventuring phase (see pg. 198) with a number of Númenórean Arrows equal to half your proficiency bonus (round up). When you attack using a great bow, you may declare that you are using one of them. If you succeed on your attack roll, the arrow does additional damage equal to your Wisdom bonus; moreover, your target’s next attack is made with disadvantage.
At the end of the battle you can recover your used arrows if circumstances allow it, unless you rolled a 1, in which case, that arrow is lost or broken beyond recovery.
I want to note that I like the section on Middle Earth herbs. It fits well with the low fantasy feel of the product.

Now here is an interesting section where they give you some mechanics for making journeys interesting. If you read the book, you know the character travel a lot. This is their way of fitting that into a Middle Earth campaign. It is consist of three main things. First, the conditions at the start of the journey, a way of generating what your encounter on the journey. And then your condition at the end of the journey.

It is the latter that will probably get ignore by traditional 5e gamers because it requires you to roleplay how your character feels. Many if not most players react poorly to mechanics that dictate how they must roleplaying. It one thing to read a cultural or race description to use as a starting point, it is another to have a specific mechanics that says
3. Arrival in Poor Spirits
They are beset by foul moods and short tempers that they must work hard to throw off. They are considered disadvantaged on all rolls pertaining to social interaction, until such time as they succeed in one of these rolls. This penalty will apply if they seek an Audience at the destination. If there is a single upside to this dark mood, it is that they are so spoiling for a fight that each member of the company receives advantage to their Initiative rolls should they find themselves in combat at the destination.
It not that that this can't work in a campaign, but it will have limited appeal. While success at overcoming the various challenge during the journey has an impact on the final rolls. I will have to try it and see how it works but it may be too random. The system for generating encounters however is solid.

Keep the roleplaying aspect in mind as move forward. Aside from the occasional use of 5e' Inspiration mechanics there is little in the way of anything involving metagaming or narrative mechanics. There however a whole lot of what I would call roleplaying mechanics. Think how people play being charmed, under the effects of a confusion problem, suggestion, etc. Some groups roleplay it quite well, others don't.

There is no alignment in Adventures in Middle Earth. There is however corruption. The basic idea is the more evil acts you commit, the more evil you experience, the more open you are to the corruption of the shadow that is Sauron. This is basically Call of Cthulu sanity mechanics adapted to Middle Earth and crafted to fit with D&D 5e. Like Coc insanity mechanic, successfully using this require player willing to roleplay. The part with the least appeal will be where even exposure to evil cause corruption. While true to Tolkien's presentation of Middle Earth, many players will not find this appealing. Particularly as it runs up against the player's tendency to thrust themselves into danger in pursuit of their goals.

Another feature of Tolkien's stories is that the adventurers will occasionally encounter the great and mighty of Middle Earth mostly in the form of audience where they either have to explain themselves, or ask for a favor. This short section gives some rules and guideline for making this work during the course of a Middle Earth campaign.

The Fellowship Phase
Ars Magica was an RPG released around 1989 that focused on players roleplaying mages living in a secret magical society within the confines of otherwise medieval Europe. Pendragon is another RPG focused on roleplaying in the setting of of the legend of King Arthur and features, among other things, playing characters across generation of a family. Both of these games devote a portion of their rules to laying out system of time keeping to reflect how character live their lives within each setting. Unlike many D&D campaign, the time adventuring is the exception not the norm. Both RPGs have rules that flesh out the other parts of the character's lives.

The Fellowship rules does this for Adventures in Middle Earth. The idea is that at the conclusion of an adventure the fellowship disbands for a time and the character return to their lives to recover, heal, or to undertake long term projects. Then the fellowship is reformed when the course of events require everybody to adventure again. An important use of the Fellowship phase to recover from corruption.

Adventures in Middle Earth pretty glosses over the details and references the upcoming Loremaster book. It also mention sanctuaries which I assume are places like Rivendell where players find safety. It also mentioned that it not totally devoid of action or important events. For example Elrond's Council in LoTR, Lothlorien, or Elrond helping Thorin and Company in the Hobbit.

Overall I am pretty happy with this product and eager to see the Loremaster book. I hope to run a campaign provided my players are interested in the roleplaying aspects.

Addendum - Inspiration. 
+Douglas Cole asked what they have to say on acquiring inspiration which has a brief mention in the core rules of DnD 5e. Inspiration plays a major part in various specific abilities. And they do give more specifics on how to earn inspiration. Although at its heart it remains a judgment call on the quality of roleplaying done by the player.
From the General Overview
Roleplaying your character in accordance with your background grants Inspiration. Inspiration not only allows Adventures in Middle-earth a roll with advantage, it can also be spent to trigger certain special abilities, representing an effort of will or the use of an innate power. Finally, while a character has Inspiration, they may avoid the worst effects of being Miserable.
From Backgrounds - Distinctive Quality
Distinctive qualities define a Player-hero’s personality traits and physical peculiarities, whether inborn or developed during their upbringing. Highlighting one’s most distinctive quality is generally worth the awarding of Inspiration.

Distinctive Qualities are one of the four tables for  each background and have entries like
2 Fair-spoken. You have a pleasant speaking voice that puts your listeners at ease.
3 Honourable. You are the consummate diplomat and have garnered a reputation for being respectful with your foreign peers.
While they don't say it outright I get the feeling that the Loremaster Guide will be covering the awarding of Inspiration.