Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Campaign Developments

Since it's been months since the last time I posted, and my very well be a long time before I next post, here are a couple of "status of the campaign" notes.

  • As of 3 or 4 sessions ago, the players have really begun to take the "mapping the Barrowmaze" project seriously. They have a pretty accurate map with two entrances on it.
  • The party is trying to find what in the Barrowmaze printed product is called "The Fount of Law". I've turned it into the very rare fruit-orb of a tree from the closest town. This is a tree whose leaves contain poetry and lyrics and songs and cryptic information and whatnot, and there's an ancient order that maintains archives of everything that comes from it. They say that a knight came stole the fruit hundreds of years ago, but that they recently read that the orb would soon be found and would end a great evil (the Pit of Chaos!!!). Also, they helpfully gave the party a divining stick (like what people use to find water) which will lead them to the orb. It's really speeding things along. 
  • The archives management has sent some guards to help the party find the orb. There are usually 3 or 4 players, and 3-5 npcs. It's been going well.
  • They have a pet cat named Victoria who lives at the campsite. 
  • They've started running into members of the cult of Thanatos (reskinned Cult of Set, from the print version (so that I could connect all of this with the Caverns of Thracia someday)). One of the NPCs speaks a little Ancient Thracian, and they have a disguise...

The Allure of Subsystems

Since late last year- November, 2011 maybe? I've been running a pretty straight LoTFP game. It's been a really great way to introduce people to roleplaying. You just don't have to know that much about the game mechanics to participate as a character, and there's not a lot of opportunity for min/max style play.

Lately, though, I've been finding myself drawn to incorporating additional little subsystems to the game.  In the past two sessions, we've added two house rules:

  1. The advantage/disadvantage mechanic from the D&D next playtest
  2. The Table for Avoiding Death
1. I've actually only read about the advantage/disadvantage mechanic secondhand (sorry, I don't remember where, but there was a whole amazing statistical analysis), so I may not have it quite right. If not, I like my version. I've always played that if you're in a tactically advantageous situation, you get slight bonus in your attack roll (+1 or +2 to the d20 roll), and vice versa. My understanding of the way that the advantage/disadvantage rule works is that, if you have the advantage, you just roll 2d20 and take the better roll, and if you have the disadvantage, you roll 2d20 and take the worse roll. 

I've really been enjoying this kind of dice-based (instead of basic math based) stuff lately, and although it hasn't come up a whole lot, the players seem to like it as well. It has the benefit of taking a little more power out of my hands (deciding on what modifier to give them/the enemy), taking the responsibility of consistency out of my hands, and delivering straight up dice rolls to them. Also, it's hella more dramatic to have your fate depend on the roll of the dice than on the cold numbers. We used this in the last session when the party was shooting arrows down a long Barrowmaze hallway at a fleeing necromancer and it was great.

2. I downloaded The Table for Avoiding Death from Hack & Slash months ago and forgot about it pretty quickly- it seemed like a lot of complexity to suddenly drop. It caught my eye a couple of weeks ago, though, and I liked it. Play has been increasingly combat-heavy lately- the party is getting stronger and more able to deal with the Barrowmaze, and they recently acquired a shit ton of retainer-npc's. Also, there really might be real-life consequences for me if one player's character dies. If/when??? she does go, I want it to be because she first had her helmet smashed, then her arm gets broken or whatever. She, and probably everyone, deserves a drawn-out, visceral death, not unconsciousness and mechanically disconnected inevitable bleedout in a couple rounds.
Now I'm thinking about adding a new thing. Full disclosure- picked up the Dungeon Crawl Classics hardcover yesterday and I just wanna use it. That's definitely its own post. 

But there's actually a game-driven reason to add a new subsystem.

What with all the combat in the game recently and with the characters getting a little tougher, they've been getting a little fancier with the fighting moves. So- in a fight with Fossil Skeletons, Nyrad the Dwarf wanted to break their knees and hinder their movement and attacks. You know, the usual. I think I did something like gave the skeleton's a saving throw to avoid getting their knees broken (after a successful to-hit roll), but it got me thinking. I'd love to have a more reliable way to handle "moves" in combat. Also, Nyrad's player said that he was bringing his axe down on a ghoul to try and cleave it in half, vertically. He rolled a natural 20 and it was amazing.

What I don't want to do is have discreet, circumscribed moves, as in 4th edition. I don't want the dwarf to look over his character sheet, see the "Courageous Melee Strike", or whatever, and choose that. Cause I don't know what that is, but it's not based in what's happening in the game. I want to be able to adapt to whatever the players want to do with a consistent, reliable system, much like the advantage/disadvantage system.

So the Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG includes a "Mighty Deeds of Arms"system. Here's how they describe it: "The goal was to create a rules system that encouraged situation-specific freedom without creating a lot of cumbersome rules." Perfect! In DCC, a fighter or dwarf will be successful in any combat "move" if they roll a 3 or higher, they start with a d3 and they can roll bigger dice as they level up. Other saving throws and whatnot may apply. 

A proposal: introduce the Might Deeds system to LoTFP, disregarding the damage and to-hit bonuses that the Deed die usually comes with (didn't mention that above). Allow everyone to have a chance to performing a deed, but only dwarves and fighters go up in the dice chain. Similarly to how LoTFP gives everyone a base +1 attack bonus, but fighters increase. So Fatima the 3rd level wizard can do a fancy move with her rapier if she rolls a 3 on a d3, and she'll never have a better chance. Nyrad the 3rd level dwarf would roll a d5. 

A separate proposal: handle all this with the LoTFP skill system, which is hella flexible, as demonstrated on Dreams in the Lich House today. All classes start with one pip in the "Mighty Deeds" skill. Fighters (and/or Dwarves) get a point each level which they can allocate either to the skill or to their attack roll. 

I'll probably try experimenting with both, or try some combination. To make it all more confusing, LoTFP already has it's own system of customizing fighting styles, with the Press and Defensive Fighting options. Hmm. 

I'll just post this and let it marinate a bit.