Saturday, October 31, 2009

Halloween Creature Feature - Peripheral Terrors

I don't normally deal with specific creatures, but I thought I'd put up a system neutral creature for use in anybodies horror games. The Peripheral Terrors.

Peripheral Terrors are a lanky, fast moving humanoid with a dull grey skin. What exactly they look like is not known... as they can only be seen in your peripheral vision.

Turning to look at a Peripheral Terror means you can no longer see it, asking you to wonder if it was ever there at all. Terrors appear to be incorporeal, in so far as they can only be interacted with while in your peripheral vision, flooding a hallway you are certain they are in with flame,arrows or bullets will not harm them. They leave no footprints, yet cannot go through walls or closed doors or windows. They do however have the ability to manipulate, pick up and move objects (or harm people), though they are always quite discreet to avoid doing anything obvious (such as walking around holding something you can see when you turn to them).

Peripheral Terrors appear to be skilled climbers, able to scale sheer surfaces. They also appear to be quite adept at picking locks, disabling security systems and hiding from someones peripheral view behind objects.

These creatures will frequently be seen out of the corner of ones eye, standing in front of oblivious individuals, doing something with their mouth to the individuals face. Exactly what is being done cannot be seen.

Over time the affected individual will appear to have their face covered in small writhing worms in your peripheral vision, but again, you will see nothing straight on. The targeted individual will start to grow sickly with wasting diseases, their mind will begin to lose memories, at points they will black out and not remember actions they have taken. They end up both insane and infirm unless the worms are removed from on (and inside) their face.

Peripheral Terrors are not invisible, so spells or electronic devices to see the unseen will not locate them... unless you see the device through the corner of your eye, where it will clearly show them (ie, motion detectors), until you once more look at your device straight on..and it will clearly show they were not there. If a security system (such as cameras or motion detectors) leaves hard copy proof (such as log files or photos) the Peripherals will also not appear, unless seen through your peripheral vision.

The exact goals of the Peripheral Terrors are inscrutable, but they are filled with malice. And they do not like being investigated or discovered, they can and will lash out to cause your death..usually through unfortunate but scientifically plausible accidents. The Terror's may act alone, or they may travel in packs.. no one knows how large these packs get..some say they are a rare creature, some say thousands..some say they may outnumber regular people.

Peripheral Terror's will fit into any fantasy, supernatural horror or science fiction game.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Piecemeal Alpha Version 0.35 now released

I am having hosting issues with http://zzarchov.bravehost.com so the file is only currently available at pen and paper games .

This has the following Changelist:

Added Dynamic Saving Throw rules
Added rules for retirement and post-death adventure
Altered "Forked weapons" to be "Vicious" weapons, and included spiked and serrated weapons into the category.
Altered Charm and Command to use social conflict rules.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Saving Throws: Adding thoughts and tactics back into split second choices

Recently Troll and Flame discussed his dissatisfaction with saving throws. On that he brought up a few points I strongly agree with, and a few changes I'm looking to make.

The big one is to make players request saving throws. A saving throw requires the player declare how his character tries to get out of the way or mitigate the problems.

This is a great mechanic for bringing in the next rule I've been toying with throwing in.


Currently I go with ability checks, altered by ability modifiers. Currently these are listed in the spell or effect. IE, Fireball uses agility checks (saves).

But I want to drastically cut it down in complexity to where the type of action the player declare determines not only the ability score tested, but the chance of it succeeding and the effect of a successful save.

I've broken up the actions taken into three categories. The first option if its a situation you can't fully avoid (barring an epic success)such as an explosion and the second being a "hit or miss" event.

Crazy enough to work(I leap at the lightning bolt and hope it goes under me):
Double or half
Double or nothing

Standard response (duck, dodge, dip, dive or dodge)
Normal or Half
Normal or Nothing

Brilliant defense ("I throw the chest into the path of the fireball to make it explode prematurely!")
Half or Quarter
Half or Nothing


Epic successes always result in no loss,
Epic Failures always result in full.


The check will have a difficulty modifier (from +20 to -20) based on the difficulty in pulling off the action, not in how crazy or brilliant it is. It may be very hard (-10) to hit the fireball with the thrown chest or very easy (+10) to pull some form of crazy stunt.

The issue comes to what type of actions some spells have, I'm thinking the "Half" and "Double" should apply to any numeric modifier, most notably with duration for enchantments.

Monday, October 26, 2009

A big thank you to the people behind the RPGBN

I'd like to take this moment to give a brief but heartfelt thank you to the RPGBN. Much of my readership has found me thanks to the RPGBN and I wouldn't want the site leadership to change hands before I can take this opportunity to tell you how much I appreciate you letting me into your merry band.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Upcoming Projects

The last 3 to 4 months have been a sort of limbo for me, moving, living on the road for all intents and purposes, new career. But now Im all back and settled in with an office once more set up in my home. So expect new content to generate a little faster. These are the upcoming projects I hope to churn out before the new year:

Piecemeal A0.35
An OSR Module codenamed "Xenophon"
An Adventuring Party! wilderness expansion

Other projects I am working on with no fixed release date:

An "intermediate" level RPG, halfway between Adventuring Party! and Piecemeal, working title "Piecemeal Basic". PDF and not just a stripped down Piecemeal.

"Exploring the ruins of Azaelchihtotolin" , A Meso-American Piecemeal Module.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Holy Symbols as weapons

One thing I notice lacking in RPG's with clerics or priests is that the holy symbol is rarely a direct weapon in its own right. When Van-Ripoff slams a crucifix into a vampire I expect that vampire to sizzle. That being said, I also always like the quote often used in horror movies "Without faith, the cross is only Iron".

One of the miracles in Piecemeal solves this issue.


*
Icon weapon:

This miracle allows the priest to make a suitable item into a weapon that harms mystical creatures. The item does 2d4+1 damage and gains +1 to hit (requiring no skill to use). The weapon has a speed of 5. The holy item must have a personal history with the priest in question.

Time to call forth: Speed = Priest's Rank

Piety 1 per round

*

Why is this good? It allows items like rosary beads to be used in direct action against a ghost..or a druid to take a fresh oak branch and destroy an undead with the flick of the wrist, while still preventing it from being mass produced and thus destroying the low magic setting.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Nerd Projectitis: Getting things done

Some time ago, the Chatty DM had a great post on the various projects all Geeks and Nerds work on and then abandon half-finished. With both game and software design this is an issue that has often cropped up in my life, so I thought I would have a post dedicated to the "design" portion of game design.

Here are some suggestions for conquering Projectitis:

1.) Set yourself a daily requirement for work, but keep it small and set a specific (and minor) penalty for breaking it.

In my case I demand one line of text per day. Failure to write a line of text per day involves me putting a dollar in a jar. The jar goes to the Salvation Army come Christmas time. This helps ensure I get SOMETHING done. A single line may seem useless, but over a 6 month busy spell it adds up a small chapter completed. This ensures you get over those bad cases of writers block that usually kill a projects momentum.


2.) Accept &*%$#y work.

I love to have elegant solutions that are just perfect. In Piecemeal and Adventuring Party! I have many such mechanics. I also have more than a few solutions that are still in their "awkward teen years". Many of the good and elegant solutions I do have started being awkward and cumbersome, taking many many years of re-writes and testing. Sometimes they even got worse before they got better. But its often easier to stare at a bad solution and fix whats wrong than it is to look at a blank page and create something that is pure win from nothingness.

3.) Don't be afraid of publishing things that aren't perfect

Welcome to the electronic age, there is no real cost to publishing before you are "done". Voltaire once said the enemy of the good is the perfect. This is because if you wait until its "just right" you'll lose inspiration before then. The praise, evaluations and scorns of others can be a powerful motivator to keep working.

4.) Anything worth doing is worth doing better

Following on point 3, you should never consider anything you are working on as "done". It can always be improved even if you can't yet fathom how. Perhaps it currently is perfect, but as you change other "less perfect" portions of the system, new avenues for improvement become available.

5.) don't be afraid of an overhaul, but sit and think on it for awhile

Every now and then you will need to fundamentally overhaul your project. Every now and then you will think you need to fundamentally overhaul your project, begin the process and realised you created even more and unsolvable problems in this transition. Always put in one more "phase" or release with your current version before a major overhaul, that will give you time to think this through further.

6.) Above all, always remember that you can easily save days of planning with a few short months of extra work.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Example combat tricks

A throwback to an old post , I'll toss up some examples of the combat tricks a warrior can learn when he fights new and interesting opponents.

*
Clothesline:
Special Maneuver - Response Maneuver
Mastery: 1 mp
Effect: The warrior immediately deals an amount of temporary damage to the target equal to the targets movement rate. The target may not suffer more damage in this manner than the warrior's strength score. The target must pass a health check or be knocked prone.

Limitations:
The warrior must have just scored an epic success dodge against a charging humanoid attacker of the same size category.

*

Humiliation Strike
Special Maneuver - Weapon Maneuver
Mastery: 5 MP
Effect:
The warrior may make an immediate standard attack upon his opponent. If this attack connects it gives the warrior +1 to his awesomeness score at the end of the session for each point of damage dealt.

Limitations:
The warrior must have just disarmed his opponent and then in turn wielded the weapon (see advanced disarm). This is the weapon that is used in the attack.

*
Throw the Gun!
Special Maneuver - Cinematic Maneuver
Mastery: 0 MP
Effect:
The warrior throws an empty firearm at the target, if it connects the warrior rolls a luck die and costs the target that many luck points.

Limitations:
The warrior must have fired the weapon until it was empty at the target. More than half of the shots must have connected (not dodged or blocked) and have dealt no damage to the target. The fire must have been completely ineffective.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Speaking with Animals

One thing I've routinely seen in RPG's but in practice and in rules as written is the ability to speak with animals has all kinds of limitations on the intelligence of the animal and what they understand.

Things like an empathic understanding, or short memory, or using childish words..squirrels focusing on if things are shiny and not noticing the bigger picture..an inability to count.. etc etc etc.

I use a much clearer method. Animals talk and by and large (depending on animal) have average intelligence and vocabularies. The notion of animal intelligence as being universally sub par is very much a modern concept. If a druid speaks to an owl in my game, the owl is not dull as bricks (as real life owls are some of the dumbest birds around) but is instead very wise and intelligent, probably more so than the druid.

Why don't animals use more tools? Religion, thumbs..the usual reasons. Animals may very well use magic and miracles however, some of them may also have levels. Ol' One Eye isn't just a grizzly bear, he's a level 3 warrior as well. The silver fox is a thief, and the leader of the wolf pack is a priest to the moon god.

This also means that talking to animals is no more of an auto-win in the woods than "language common" is an auto-win in the city. Just because you can talk to animals doesn't mean they obey you, it doesn't even mean they want to talk back. And lord help you if they decide to lie or trick you.

The nature of animal speech as just another language also means PC's can learn the language non-magically, if they have a teacher. Their voices may not allow them to imitate the cry of a bird, but they can hear the crows talking about something wicked moving through the woods to this direction. You could also extend this to tree's and the rustling of their leaves should you wish.

Consider trying it in one of your games.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Natural and the Supernatural in terms of Fantasy Ecology

I was recently reading this article on Monstrous and Normal creatures, in it the absurdity of defining a creature as normal or a monster in a fantasy world emerged. If a Druid for instance can commune with normal creatures only, why is a Griffin a monster and a Platypus normal?

How should a druid know that a Griffin is "supernatural". Sure a Griffin may have been created by the gods, but in most mythologies EVERYTHING is created by the gods. In our own history creatures such as the Griffin were assumed to be normal creatures.

My explanation follows to the answer of another question "What do all these super-predators in the ruins EAT, the should have depopulated the area for thousands of miles around".

My answer is that Monstrous creatures don't follow the normal biological patterns of regular creatures. A dragon that is a monster does not need to eat for instance, it doesn't age or excrete or replicate unless it chooses to or magic compels (or in some cases enables) it too.

A monstrous dragon (in an appropriate campaign) is a demon that feeds on fear and greed and malevolence in the area. It was not born it sprung into existence, it only eats when it finds the action enjoyable or when it can sow terror into others. You cannot starve the dragon, you will not catch the dragon vulnerable when it needs to take a leak.

Thus the druid could not speak to a monster because the monster does not follow the laws of nature, it is a thing that "just is", and its very nature is an abomination to existence. There is no requirement for the area to be depopulated unless the dragon wishes it to be so (perhaps to spread famine).

This requires the game to be set up for it, but it offers interesting choices too. There very well be "Normal" dragons and "Monstrous" dragons who are dark mockeries of their existence. Neither group may be nice or friendly to humans (ie, neither are "good") but it allows for a very different manner in dealing with two different types of dragons.

Thoughts?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

No kingdom for old men - Retiring PC's

One thing I thought I would briefly mull on is the concept of character retirement. A high level character is hell on wheels, why not simply reforge the whole world with one hand behind your back? Now sometimes doing just that is a good idea in a one shot world, the other option is to have a ridiculous number of other stupidly high level NPC's around to balance things out. But then you can't make ANY major changes..what fun is that?

In piecemeal, it is also very hard to level past the key points if you just pick on the weaker..you need to do grand and epic things to go up.

But eventually everyone reaches their limit. The rule I use is that when you have reached the maximum level possible without breaching a new keypoint and earn enough XP to reach the next level (past the keypoint) without breaching said keypoint. You retire (more on the mechanics further down).

What does this mean? Lets say you have done something of minor import (being local hero) and breached the first keypoint/milestone and reached level one. You battle your way up to level 5, the maximum level you can reach without breaching another keypoint (by say slaying a dragon) and becoming a national hero (or villain). You can keep earning XP and adventuring until level 6 would be reached if possible. At that point you retire (you can also change this until you would reach level 7).

You've milked your heroism/villainy for all its worth and the fates no longer favour you, you're old news. So in sets retirement.

What does retirement mean? A retired individual cannot regain any luck points they lose (HP beyond physical durability if you haven't read that article), either normally or through magic. They also no longer gain fate or destiny points (re-rolls). This makes them still powerful, but if they keep fighting it out on piddly battles they will fall eventually. Thus they shift to more of a political game (or a simple life).


How does retirement end?

Option 1.) You manage to breach a key point and regain the call to adventure! You finally slay that dragon and the fates take notice of you once more, like John Travolta after "Pulp Fiction!" you are back in action and trying to forget "Look who's talking III" with all your heart.

Option 2.) Up and coming punks try to prove their mettle by taking you on. Up until you finish up these glory seekers (who are out to get you and not vice versa) you can regain your luck and prove you aren't dead yet. You may be down but you aren't out... (also why PC's should be wary of taking out retired villains)

Option 3.) Six feet under, you finally croak and make your trip to the afterlife.



Pros: Allows PC's to have a "wrap up" period after a long campaign to make changes to the world without getting into a ridiculous and overdrawn "wank fest" that permanently despoils the campaign setting.

Cons: Sometimes PC's want to have an unkillable uber-PC who goes on said "wank fest"