Monday, September 29, 2014

AD&D Dungeon Master Guide's Glossary

While waiting (and waiting) for my roll20 fellow adventurers to open a door, any door. I perused a pristine print of the the AD&D Dungeon Master's Guide. Three things stood out.

1. I forget how neat this book is.
2. I don't think I've ever really read the glossary A-Z.
3. Reading the glossary from A-Z I'm reminded how much vocabulary and words I learned as a 14year kid reading DMG and other game books. E.g. what i.e., e.g., and et al mean. Many more lost to time. Although, I specifically remember looking up "knoll" in a paper dictionary...

On to the glossary entries that piqued my interest...

Ability Scores -- Numerical ratings ranging from 3-18 for a character's strength, intelligence, wisdom, constitution, dexterity, and charisma.
First entry. Simple. Should be part of every newb's introduction to character.

Alignment -- A general description of a character's behavioral and ethical tendencies named by a combination of Law, Neutrality, or Chaos with Good, Neutrality, or Evil.
Take note of  words"general" and "tendencies". People put way too much stock and effort into AND ARGUMENTS over alignment. Was never a fan of five fold path. Less hateful of Law/Chaos with side of Neutrality OD&D style alignments.

Campaign -- General term referring to one DM's adventures as a whole rather than individually. An ongoing series of games based upon a created milieu. 
Milieu -- An unique game setting embodying numerous possible variables in its creation, i.e. the "world" in which adventures take place.
Rarely are these definitions used today. What we call campaign (settings) Gygax (at least in this glossary) named milieus. A word I much prefer.

Experience -- The reward (expressed in points or x.p.) for slaying monsters, winning treasure, and playing the character role. The more experience a character has, the better his or her fighting ability, saving throws, etc.
In some ways, for me, AD&D is Hack&Slash. "If it moves kill it", and "whoring for xp" are integral parts of D&D. Still missed opportunity to have said "overcoming monsters"

Henchman -- A low-level non-player character whose loyalty is to one member of the party rather than the party itself. 
Hireling -- A non-player character hired to accompany a party on an adventure, or employed for some other temporary purpose. 
Hip Points -- The number of points of damage a creature can sustain before death (or optionally, coma), reflecting the creature's physical endurance, fighting experience, skill, or luck.
Ah, meaning of hp. How much time has been wasted arguing over this? When definition has been right there all along.  Coma option is interesting, some threat of death (which is critical) but maybe not perma-death. Although, I've done something like this and options are to not let player play for a while (seriously unfun) or bring them back (really not much of a "threat")

Holy/Unholy Water -- Water which has been specially prepared by a cleric. Useful as a weapon against undead or to slow the effects of poison.
Wait, what!? Slow poison? When, how was that feature lost? Or, has it always been buried here, largely unnoticed and forgotten.

Magic -- Anything which cannot be explained b y the science of the milieu. Any weapon....
Yeah body! Magic is how my fucking red dragon got into into this room and it's also what he eats. Now quit stalling and roll your save vs magical fucking dragon breath.

Persona -- The role or identity of the character the player is portraying.
Hmmm, much better term than character.

Philter -- A magical draught or potion
Another word Gary taught me, draught too, probably potion for that matter.

Polymorph -- The physical alteration by magical means of the shape of a creature.
Is this a made up word, or just archaic, obscure? Various spell checkers don't like it. Same with Scrying?

Trap -- Any of several mechanical or magical devices which may be triggered by adventurers, usually causing damage to one or more of them. Examples are pits, pits with spikes, poison needle traps on treasure chests, etc.
Contrast with...
Trick -- Any device or machination which is more likely to be solved by wits rather than force. Tricks do not necessarily involve physical harm to the characters; examples are rooms which rotate or descend to confuse mappers, statues which perform random actions, slanting passageways which take the party unknowingly to a deeper level, etc
And also

Death Magic, Mezzodaemon!?, Nycadaemon!? Monty Haul and many others are also defined. So is Random Generation. Man was there a time when people didn't know what that meant?

Friday, September 26, 2014

S3M Diaspora Ends, Fantasy Effing Vietnam Begins

Finished up running 4th session of Diaspora Fate.  Some quick thoughts.

  • Confirmed, I don't really like "indie" cooperative story telling. I want to play (run) a game not a thespian circle jerk.
  • I much prefer FUDGE over Fate.  Fate adds aspects and forces the cooperative story telling aspects.  FUDGE by itself is nice rules lite, generic system featuring bell curve mechanics.
  • Games you don't like can still be fun given right group of people.  Inverse is also true.  Which is to say rules matter, but not as much as people.

By FFV I mean, of course, Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. Fantasy Flights version which I picked up boxless and cheap from EBay and haven't touched since...

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

DM Makes All the Rolls.

Tldr; to instill wonder, roleplaying, and fear into current Ravenloft game I'm hiding most rolls and mechanics from players. Also, secretly tracking their hit-points.

For awhile, 5+years, my game mastering has leaned towards "players' make the rolls" and "DM rolls in the open", don't necessarily hide monster hp, etc. Some of the game systems I've been interested in supported that, and it was kind of a "thing" in the blogo. The DM rolls in open was to combat/prove no DM fudging and to push "game with consequences" over "railroad with same ending no matter what happens".  Player's making rolls was a "fun" thing. Rolling dice is fun, keep players engaged/active at the table. Player's should have agency (not sure how much rolling own dice provides that).  One system, or several, or houserule (I forget) even had players making defense/save rolls vs static monster/trap attacks.

For similar awhile, I've been largely dissatisfied with my DMing and games, jumping from one to the nest. All seem to devolve into mechanics and spending majority of game time in combat . I've never been supreme roleplayer. Still I remember, DMing long ago 10+years (I've been doing this for 30+years) lots of description of environment, scene, of NPC, monsters, combat, everything. Player curiosity, engagement, attention and really getting "into" the scene/world/game. Spending most time exploring and discovering "the world"

I don't believe it's just nostalgia.  Remembering back, I use to hide my rolls, hide mechanics of monsters, and proactively "deceiving" players as to mechanics (such as randomly rolling dice and appear to be looking something up, describing monsters in terms players wouldn't recognize since the characters wouldn't either). The, perhaps unconscious, mechanical cues were unreliable. Players had to listen to description and engage through their characters to "figure stuff out".

For the D&D 5th edition I6 Ravenloft I recently started, I was struggling with how to put fear into players. Thinking that the root cause of fear is ignorance and unknown. I decided to experiment with (secretly) tracking player's hit points. Damage taken, healing, all of it. Players will never be quite sure how close to death they are. They'll have some idea, conveyed "in game". 5ed rules say first 50% hitpoints aren't physical, in that range tell players they are "fine, maybe little tired". The last 50% I divided into thirds. "Hurt", "seriously injured", "near death" are the general terms I'll use if they ask. Instead of "wolf savages your leg for 5hit points" I'll say (assuming 50% or less hp) "wolf savages your leg". Minor difference, but one I believe will have strong psychological impact. If only for me.

Deciding to hide HP (which I've never done before) is what got me thinking about this blogs topic and how I used to run games. I'm now determined to run Ravenloft in my old style, with most mechanics hidden from players. To take term from Software Development, I'm wondering if "Players roll the dice" is an anti-pattern. Rolling dice, being pulled from their suspension of disbelief and forced to apply mechanics is not how players should be engaged. They should be rapt, actively listening to the scene the other players, including DM, are spinning. Formulating how their character will respond.

I've "outlawed" meta-talk, and strongly encourage incharacter conversations/planning.

  - Hiding and varying monster hit points abilities.
  - Pre-recording AC and keep hit rolls secret instead of asking does 17 hit?
  - Don't reveal save targets, AC, or DC, asking player for their total roll instead.
  - Rolling some saves and checks for players, so they don't know if they have failed or not.
  - Deceive the player, inform the Character. What I mean by this is making, the possibly unconscious, out-of-character cues unreliable. Forcing players to think and investigate through their character.

Maybe this isn't revelatory and is what all good DMs do.  Maybe this isn't what I've been "missing". Although, I hope so. I used to have a lot more fun running games.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Deadly Falls

Most the D&D I run leans towards gritty and harsh. Dirty, ignorant, diseased. More Flesh+Blood and Dragon Slayer less high fantasy. In this type of world falling is deadly and injuries debilitate you. I've always house-ruled falling damage. Here is a version for 5ed D&D.

Feet DC   Damage is cumlative
10    5   1d6
20   10   3d6
30   15   6d6
40   20   10d6
50   25   15d6
60+  30   0hp and dying, 1 failed death save

Falling inflicts an Injury unless character passes a Constitution or Dexterity (player's choice) save with DC equal to 1/2 distance fallen (max 30).

When injured your maximum hit points are temporarily reduced to your current hit points (or 1 if current hit points are 0). And you suffer disadvantage on all physical (Strength, Constitution, Dexterity) attacks, saves and tasks.

Recuperation (from rulebook): After 3 days full rest DC15 Constitution check to remove one effect (injury) preventing regaining hp. Some spells (such as Greater Restoration) can also remove an injury.

If falling wasn't deadly, wizards would craft
infinite jump spells. Nobody wants that!

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