Wednesday, December 29, 2010

I love scheming. And plotting.

I don't get to spend much time prepping for my weekly games.  I scribble in my notebook on the bus to and from work.  I grab fifteen minutes here or there, but I never actually sit down for extended prep sessions anymore like I used to think I had to do.

I used to think I had to spend hours creating a fully fleshed out place for the PCs to explore BEFORE the session (heck, before the campaign even started!).  I treated it like an art project; I was creating a four-dimensional sculpture, and a lot of the time, I ended up creating tons of stuff that never saw the light of play.  

What I do now is a lot more like studying for a test than creating an art project.  After a campaign has been going for a while, it generates enough content that you really don't have to create much.  It creates itself.  You just have to sprinkle in some new spices and stir the ingredients around a bit to keep it from burning and sticking to the bottom of the pot.  I look back at my notes from past sessions and refresh my memory with plot hooks that have slipped through the cracks.  I think about new ways to connect all the things that have happened into a coherent framework.  I think about what the logical responses would be to the PCs actions; responses from the other sentient actors on the scene, responses from the plant and animal life, responses from the land.

I have been getting to do a LOT of plotting and scheming lately, because both of my games took a couple week break over the holidays.  On top of that, I got to fast forward time by a year and a half in my Mutant Future game as a result of some extra-dimensional portal hopping and 4-D teleporting done by the party.

A year and a half is FOREVER in game terms.  My Mutant Future game has met for 48 sessions, and only a few months of game time has passed... until now!  The party ended last session having just been reunited with Daybrak and the badders, and soon enough they will find out what Julius Corple has been up to underneath the ziggurut that he built on top of the military complex during the party's absence.

All I can say is it is going to be fun.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Target 10 System for chart-less Attribute Attack Resolution

Mutant Future contains a chart based resolution mechanic for Willpower attacks.  Many mutations call for a Willpower attack rather than a melee or ranged attack roll; the chance of success in a Willpower attack is determined by cross-indexing the attacker's and defender's attribute score on a chart to get a "to hit" number for a d20 roll.

I took this idea and ran with it, coming up with the general idea of attribute attacks.  Any attribute can be the basis of an attribute attack; just like Mutant Future's Willpower attack, there are Intelligence, Dexterity, Constitution, Strength and Charisma attacks.  I used this a lot while writing the "quirks" (mutations by another name) for my Fantasy Quirks character creation supplement for Mutant Future.  I created a version of the Willpower Attack Table found in Mutant Future for any attribute attack:

There are two things that I like about attribute attacks; they do not gain potency while leveling up unless the ability itself increases, so 1st level characters with high attribute scores can contribute meaningfully alongside high level characters in combat; and (more importantly to me) it makes each attribute a defense.  It makes the random attribute increase that is the result of leveling up 80% of the time in the Mutant Future a much more valuable thing.  In a similar fashion to how 3e and 4e took saves and made defenses out of them, this gives me as a DM an easy mechanic to use for all sorts of attacks against the PCs.  Demonic possession?  A Willpower attack with the demons WIL of 15.  A run of the mill pit trap?  Dexterity attack with an attacking DEX of 10.  I would write the previous example using the following shorthand: DEX10 ATT 3d6 (meaning if the Dexterity attack succeeds against the character, the character takes 3d6 damage).

A cloud of gas?  CON15 ATT, 5d6 dmg save for 1/2

Bribing an official?  Obviously a Charisma attack situation.  I don't always (or even most of the time) call for rolls when players attempt to do things, but it is nice to have an easy and unified mechanic to use when I do.  When I don't know the attribute of a creature or situation (in the case of a pit trap or other inanimate attacker or target), I generally use 5/10/15+ as a good guide:  If the creature is not known for that attribute, or if the challenge is easy, I use 5.  If the creature has no reputation for that attribute, good or bad, or if the challenge is moderately difficult I use 10 as the target attribute.  For a creature known for the attribute in question or a difficult challenge, I will use 15 or more.

Today, I looked at the chart a little closer and realized that I could express the attack resolution in very simple terms to allow attribute attacks on the fly without having to look up a target number on a chart.

I realize that many people love looking up numbers on charts.  In my case, it is often one of the only times I have to refer to a book at all while running my Mutant Future game, and I would just as soon not have to break my stride to look at the attribute attack chart one more time.

So here it is:

The “Target 10TM” system for chart-less attribute attack resolution .

(Target 10TM Carl Nash 2010)

d20 roll + (Attackers Attribute - Defenders Attribute) ≥ 10 = Success

In words:  Subtract the defender’s attribute from the attackers attribute.  The result (positive or negative) is the modifier to the d20 roll.  A modified result equal to or greater than 10 is a success.


An attacker with CON 13 makes a CON attack on a defender with CON 15.

Attacker’s CON - Defender’s CON = -2

-2 is the modifier to the d20 roll

The attacker would have to roll a 12 or better (12-2=10)

Friday, December 24, 2010

4e Gamma World online character builder

I have been really curious about the 4e Gamma World game since I first heard about it.

Of course, my wedding and honeymoon this summer have left me broker than I have ever been as an adult person, and my student loans are in repayment, and I have so far resisted the urge to buy all the booster packs.  Because I have to confess, I am not one of those people who got all aghast about the use of cards and the inclusion of extra cards in booster packs.

I love cards.  I used to play and collect Magic the Gathering back in high school, and while I haven't played that game in years I still get a kick out of the cards.  All that glorious art...  I could run many an awesome session of D&D using nothing but a bunch of Magic cards randomly dealt to me as a DM to give me inspiration.  Come to think of it, I should do some Magic the Gathering inspired monster and magic posts over on my other blog.  But anyway...

In a rare display of doing something other than sticking their collective heads farther into their collective arseholes, the good folks at Wizards have given us this.

Follow the link and read the brief article if you want a discussion of how to use the character builder.  It is free, totally awesome and I love it.  It does not include the tech cards or the Alpha Mutations (the mutation that changes randomly with a card deal at the start of each session, if my sketchy understanding of 4e Gamma World is correct) that would be dealt to you at the game table and which are not permanent parts of the character.

Here is the link straight to the Character Builder for those of you who are American by gum and don't read instructions:

I am going to stop typing so I can go play around on this now.

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Powered Armor in varying states of repair

My last post about destructible armor and damage reduction has gotten me thinking about powered armor.

I want to extend these rules to this fertile ground, but with more options than a simple loss in base AC bonus when soaking up damage into a suit.  My initial thoughts were to divide a suit up into sub-systems:  AC Bonus; propulsion (if any); weapons; defense (if any); carrying capacity/strength.

For example, the Iron Man suit in my campaign has a base AC bonus of +8 (AC of 1); repulsor tech propulsion enables flight up to 1200 MPH (James, the player in my campaign who controls the iron man suit, may pop in here and correct me on that, I don't have my notes in front of me and I can't actually remember top flight speed right now...); 2 x Repulsor Beam attacks per round for 4d6 damage, or a Repulsor Beam cone, +4 to hit against all targets in a 50' long 15' wide cone, doing 2d6 damage to those hit, or a mini-missile at +4 to hit with targeting computer lock, doing 7d6 damage in a 15' blast radius; 50 HP per round force field; 2 ton lifting capacity/1 ton carrying capacity in flight.

If damage was soaked into the suit, I would roll 1d5 (d10 / 2) and go down the line of sub-systems to see what got messed up.  I would rule that you could soak the entire damage of an attack by suffering damage to a random subsystem.  I would probably base the severity of the damage on the total HP being soaked, so absorbing a 127 HP explosion would definitely completely destroy whatever sub-system was rolled.

Like armor, powered armor can be repaired.  This requires a successful tech roll and some raw materials (wiring, circuit boards, pipes, metal sheets, blow torch, etc.).  A sub-system can only ever be restored to half functionality; in the Iron Man suit example, if the weapons sub-system had been completely destroyed, I might rule that the mini-missile launcher was a total loss but the repulsors could be restored with some hard work; if flight capability was lost, it could be restored, but only up to 600 MPH max speed and at greatly reduced maneuverabilities.

I am kind of excited about this.  I have been thinking about how to make my Mutant Future game a little more Mad Max in flavor, and the scavenging and scrounging of weapons and armor and robotics is going to go a long way towards achieving that.  More so, I look forward to seeing what kind of Frankenstein creations my players come up with after a while of adding on random junk to their rapidly disintegrating mech suits.

Scavenging Armor in the Mutant Future

I mentioned my "Let it Ride" house rule a little while back, which has served to both speed up combats and make them much more exciting for everyone involved.  At this point, combat in the Mutant Future is finally humming along at the pace and lethal tone I like without having to rely on grenades and laser blasters.  Nothing wrong with those, mind you, I just want the guys with the lead pipes and hockey sticks to be able to mess someone up as well.

I am also introducing a simple damage reduction mechanic, which I think will resolve a long standing frustration of mine with the way D&D AC works.  This was inspired by the Shields Will Splinter houserule, that my friend Carter is using in his Labyrinth Lord campaign (and which I know he got from another blogger in this small blogoworld).  Shields Will Splinter allows you to sacrifice your shield to prevent the damage from an attack, and I have used it several times to save my dwarf's neck in Carter's campaign.  I basically took this concept and ran with it, applying it to any type of armor.  My hope is to see characters running around with half destroyed armor, looking for stop signs and car doors to patch themselves back up with.

Armor Will Crumble 
(Mutagenic Houserule)

When a character takes damage, her player has the option of soaking up some of that damage into her armor.  Damage can be soaked in 10 HP increments, with each 10 HP soaked reducing the base bonus of the armor by one.  For example, a character wearing chainmail takes 15 HP of damage from a laser blast.  Soaking all of that damage into her armor would reduce its base bonus by 2, resulting in her chainmail having a base AC of 7 instead of 5.

Unarmored: AC 9    
Current AC: 9 - current armor bonus - Dexterity modifier

Armor Type: Base Bonus: Current Bonus:

Shield +1
Cloth +1 
Leather +2
Studded Leather +3
Chainmail +4
Scale Mail +5
Plate Mail +6
Full Plate Mail +7

Magical Armor:  If a player chooses to soak damage into magical armor, the player rolls a Save vs. Energy Blast for the armor as if it were a character of a level equal to twice its magical bonus (+5 armor saves as a 10th level character).  If the save is successful, the damage is negated and the armor is unscathed.  If the save fails, the attack does double damage and the armor is completely destroyed.

This will require a minuscule amount of record keeping for the players, but only if they choose to use the houserule... and that will probably only be in a situation where it saves the character's bacon, so I don't envision any complaints...

All a player has to do is say how much of the damage they just received they are soaking, reduce the amount of incoming damage accordingly, and then adjust AC and current bonus of armor.

 For every two points of AC bonus lost to damage soaking, one point could be restored by scavenging material and taking the time to repair the armor.  This also means that you can only repair leather or better armor, and that repaired armor will be only half as effective as new armor... but hey, its much better than nothing!

I think this houserule will encourage a kind of hording mentality that I think actually would exist in the Mutant Future - I imagine if you found an extra suit of armor in the wasteland, you would lug it around with you if you could...

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Teleporting in 4D

I have been thinking a lot about time travel lately as it relates to portals, teleporting and dimensional shifting.

One of the things I have been kicking around is the idea of linked portals both advancing through time.  The simplest example is two portals linked together and advancing through time at the same rate.  So you step through a portal and pop out five years in the past (these portals may or may not also travel through physical space or dimensional space, regardless of being linked temporally).  You spend a year farting around in the past, then step back through the portal and find that you have missed a year in your original timeline.

A slight wrinkle is to have the two portals advance through time at different rates.  This is what happened recently in my Mutant Future campaign, when despite experiencing just a few weeks as the party experienced time, the characters found that almost two years had passed when they passed back through a dimensional portal into their original home (and home dimension).  This allowed me to make some changes to the swampy home they have come to love, such as the disturbing tendency of recently killed things to rise up from the dead and stumble around looking for brains, and some major reshuffling of the local power players (most noticeably the Knights of Genetic Purity withdrawing from the valley and a major increase in Julius Corple's activities and influence).

Anyone else ever played around with this?  I first got the idea when a new character in the campaign got the Plane Shift mutation and I was coming up with a list of some random destinations in case it was ever used.  One of the destinations I wrote down was in the past of the campaign world, before the apocalypse.

That destination came into play because I just couldn't resist it... I had decided that the first time the mutation was used, it was opening to the present.  I had gleeful visions of a mutant party crashing through Eugene, looting the army installation by the fair grounds and then jetting with the military in hot pursuit.  The first time the mutation was used, the party was in a desperate struggle against a Xiticix Killer (a great monster that I stole from a wonderful Rifts book called Lone Star which I actually wrote a review of on this blog - I highly recommend Rifts as inspiration for Mutant Future DM's, even if you just look at the pictures...)

In a sudden flash of inspiration, the player with Plane Shift opened a portal to random destination behind the creature and the rest of the party bull rushed it and forced it into the portal... to a busy intersection in west Eugene on the evening that I was playing the game with my friends in real life.  Only of course, we didn't hear about the national guard being called in to deal with an alien monster that night...

I recently picked up Transdimensional Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which is more or less an entire book of possible destinations for time portals as well as advice for running exactly the kind of time and dimension-spanning game that I have come to love!

So of course, I recently had the players discover a "portal tree" with 18 twisted columns of energy intertwining around each other, each leading to a different destination if stepped into.

They have learned what is on the other side of about half of the portals.  They very nearly dropped everything else they were doing and went exploring a giant temple of the snake men on an apparently abandoned planet, and they stuck their heads out in my 4e campaign world (two players who cross-over between my campaigns were duly impressed, and got to feel like they were in on a joke).  But what is on the other side of the other nine portals?  Or when?

Friday, December 17, 2010

Stars Without Number

Wow.  Just simply wow.  Check this out right now.  Author Kevin Crawford has released a free .PDF of his amazing retroclone, Stars Without Number, which is not released under the OGl and thusly does not claim any direct compatability with any system... but it is pretty much compatible with any pre-3e edition of D&D with minimal changes.  The coolest thing is that this looks suspiciously like B/X crossed with Traveller. 

No, I lied.  The coolest thing is the equipment list.  No, the world building tips.  No, the easy to read layout and the concise but evocative writing.

I am going to hork the equipment list and make a few random tables out of it so that new starting characters in my Mutant Future campaign can have something cooler than a short sword to kill things with at 1st level!


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