Monday, February 27, 2012

Twenty Questions

There are twenty questions going around about different ways DMs run games. I decided to add my 2 cents. I answered them for my D&D (2e) game. Maybe I should answer them for my WarHammer game next...

1. Ability scores generation method?

Roll six stats using 4d6, drop the lowest. Arrange in order desired to create the character you want to play.

2. How are death and dying handled?

0 HP is unconscious. -10 HP is dead.

3. What about raising the dead?

If you have it, cast it. If you can get to a temple, you might find someone who can cast it…if you can afford the price (money, quest, whatever).

4. How are replacement PCs handled?

I’ll work the replacement PC in as soon as I can. This usually only take a few minutes and a bit of liberty with the new PC’s background, as allowed me by the player. Or, the player can jump right in if there are other NPCs around that they want to turn into PCs.

5. Initiative: individual, group, or something else?

Individual. Let there be some consequence for choosing heavy weapons and armor.

6. Are there critical hits and fumbles? How do they work?

Yes. If/when I find a good critical hit and fumble chart I like. I like critical hits doing max damage. X2 or x3 damage sucks if you roll low.

7. Do I get any benefits for wearing a helmet?

Yes. It completes your ensemble. It makes you harder to knock out when someone sneaks up from behind to bash you on the head.

8. Can I hurt my friends if I fire into melee or do something similarly silly?

That’s where the fumble chart comes in handy…

9. Will we need to run from some encounters, or will we be able to kill everything?

You will need to run from some encounters.

10. Level-draining monsters: yes or no?

Yes. They haven’t come up in a long time, though.

11. Are there going to be cases where a failed save results in PC death?

Absolutely. Let’s say a fire ball does 30 damage, 15 with a save. If you have 20 HP and you fail your save, time for that raise dead. (Should you be raised with burn scars, though? Good question.)

12. How strictly are encumbrance & resources tracked?

Not until it’s getting ridiculous.

13. What's required when my PC gains a level? Training? Do I get new spells automatically? Can it happen in the middle of an adventure, or do I have to wait for down time?

Training is not normally necessary. You learn from experience. Experience comes from adventuring. New spells come from scrolls or spell books that you find, or ones you can buy. Or you have to go back to your mentor (or maybe a mentor’s friend who’s a bit more local to where you are right now and wouldn’t mind doing a favor). You can level up any time (except in the middle of a battle…theoretically that would be acceptable but realistically it would halt combat and make everyone else wait.) Normally my group levels up between sittings, as EP is doled out at the end of the night or sometime in between sittings.

14. What do I get experience for?

Just about everything that shows your characters are learning. This includes: making the night fun for all involved, survival skills, overcoming adversaries (not just killing them), and using class skills.

15. How are traps located? Description, dice rolling, or some combination?

Traps are located by searching, either randomly or because something cues you off. Description isn’t needed before rolling the dice, but a particularly good one that hits the type of trap right on the head could give you a bonus.

16. Are retainers encouraged and how does morale work?

Retainers are fine with me. Oddly enough, my group doesn’t usually look into them. Morale depends on how well they are paid and how well they are treated.

17. How do I identify magic items?

Bardic lore, arcane lore, or Identify spell. The first two depend on how much history I create for the item, or if I have a table to help me out.

18. Can I buy magic items? Oh, come on: how about just potions?

I don’t normally have magic items for sale. The party usually finds something acceptable during adventuring.

19. Can I create magic items? When and how?

Sure. When appropriately trained and rich enough to invest in the raw materials.

20. What about splitting the party?

Do what you want, but the enemy is not going to be merciful just because there are only two of you instead of four of you when you happen upon them.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Short Story: Frendei

Tonight I need an item forgotten in a closet in the Grazlov estate in town. Guard dogs roam inside the gate, but they will be overfed and relatively sated. The sides of the house are less guarded than the front or back. I will have the rear window on the right side of the house left unlocked. The closet you are looking for is up the backstairs on the left before the privy. Bring me the empty looking sack lying on the floor on the right wall.

Frendei was chilled to the bone. The Halfling stood in the pouring rain, trying hard to scout the stone mansion ahead. At his feet, rivulets of water wore hard at the muddy road. The job had to be done tonight, regardless of the weather. Pulling his boots from the sucking mud, Frendei slipped around the main gate to the shadows along the side of the house.

Frendei examined the window. It was unlocked, as promised. A little grease on the moving parts would help make sure he wasn’t heard. The party inside the house was loud enough to cover any incidental noise, but it was always good to be safe.

The interior was dark. Luckily, the low clouds helped to reflect lanterns and brighten the night sky, allowing him near perfect sight with his inherent night vision. He was in a study. There were surely treasures to be had in the ornate oaken desk, whether in gems or in valuable information. And the books…any scholar would surely love to set his hands on them. Frendei slunk to the door and listened.

The house was classy; even the servant stairwell didn’t squeak. Frendei snuck up, making sure to place most of his weight on the edges. The hallway at the top was straight and full of doors. The one he wanted was on the left before the privy. The only way to find that was to locate the privy and work backwards.

The sack was about three feet tall, a couple feet wide, and completely empty. It was on the floor, completely separate from a large pile of various sacks. He grabbed the bag in multiple spots and didn’t feel a thing. Stefan hadn’t asked for anything except the bag, so he started to roll it up. Then he was on his toes, choking. A voice whispered from above.

“What are you doing with my bag, Halfling?” The rope around Frendei’s neck tightened. “I’ve been tracking that for weeks. I’ve been scouting this house for days.” His toes were off the ground and the rope slowly spun him around. Looking up, there was a shadowed shape squatting on a high shelf. The voiced changed to a cruel tone, “It’s not right for you to take what I’m about to rightfully steal.”

A woman screamed in the closet doorway. The rope dropped. “Help! A thief! Guards, please,upstairs! Thief!” Frendei grabbed the sack. The shadow jumped down off the shelf. He was a dark haired human with a black goatee.

“Actually, I have an invitation. I doubt you can say the same about the Halfling.” The man began to unbutton his black top, revealing bright finery. Frendei noticed the maid’s hands twitching in nervous gestures. He slowly backed into a corner. “Where do you think you’re go—“ the man was interrupted as a guard entered the closet doorway with a sword drawn. The maid relaxed.

“Oh, thank goodness! I opened the door to get some fresh linen and this man was dressed in black and sitting on the top shelf.” She pointed to where the man came from as a second guard came to the doorway. The man in black tensed as the first guard grabbed his arm.

“I am an invitee! It’s that blasted Halfling you need to worry about!” The man turned and the Halfling was gone. “Where in the world…?”

“There was no Halfling; I don’t know what he’s talking about. Please keep me safe, please arrest him. I found him dressed like this, hiding in the closet. And he was on the shelf!” The woman backed out as the second guard entered to haul the man in black away.

Frendei poked his head out of a pile of empty sacks as the door closed. He looked down. The pile had light sacks, dark sacks, small sacks, and large sacks. He was completely buried. He lifted his right hand out of the pile. It had the one sack he needed, tightly clenched. Frendei wasn’t sure what in the world just happened, but he knew that he needed to get out. Stefan was waiting and his luck had already been pushed too far for one night.

Friday, February 10, 2012

On The Ropes

GM idea From Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles

Keep the players on the ropes for extended periods.

Keep on the Borderlands was fun. The players had the Caves of Chaos to explore. They could poke their noses down any cave they chose and adventure until they felt like they were done for the day. They would either run out of spells or run out of supplies and head back to town. Sometimes the adventures in the caves only lasted a half-hour, game time, before heading back to the keep. This is a good introduction, but experienced players can handle more of a challenge.

From what I’ve seen in the Sarah Connor Chronicles (and maybe all the Terminator movies, I don’t remember) is that the party gets beat up by the terminator, somehow manages to escape, and then the terminator catches up again before the party is fully healed. The party starts each encounter with fewer resources, whether they are bullets, escape vehicles, or hit points (if you will). If the show was a game, the players wouldn’t always have a chance to re-memorize their spells before the terminator is upon them again. They might not have a chance to eat. Sometimes they wouldn’t have a chance to sleep, or their sleep would be interrupted. This can wear down the nerves of even the most stoic.

All this could add an interesting aspect to your game.

Shake things up a bit. See how your players manage.

Have fun

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Magic Item: Staff of the Stinging Sphere

(Created for WarHammer Fantasy Roleplay, first edition. D&D 2e equivalents are in parentheses.)

Once per day this staff can summon a swarm of wasps, which will surround the wielder in an enclosed sphere for 10 turns (10 minutes). No creature can see into or out of the sphere. Sharp missile weapons such as arrows and spears attack at a -20 BS penalty (D&D: -4 to hit). Blunt missile weapons will be absorbed by the living wall of wasps. Any creature within melee distance will be attacked by a contingent of wasps which break off from the sphere. Treat this contingent as a Swarm, although it is not subject to stupidity. Treat the wasp swarm as if they were flying ants on page 246 of the WFRP book (D&D: Use an equivalent swarm of flying insects).

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

A is for Aren

Aren has a secret.

He is a bard with a soft, soothing voice. He has easily and enigmatically taken up with this band of rebels. He does not fight very well (he is barely able to defend himself), but he is so encouraging, uplifting, and generally helpful around camp that the party would never think of asking him to leave.

What the party doesn’t know, what nobody knows, and what Aren goes to amazing lengths to disguise is the fact that he is actually a female.

(Aren [Erin] was created to play in a Thieves Guild campaign set in a major city where he [she] could more easily hide from whoever is pursuing. Besides his [her] singing ability, skill/talent/proficiency points should also be given toward disguise. The player or GM can decide who Aren is hiding from and why.)