Thursday, December 1, 2016

OMG, STUFF!

Hi there!

For those of you still following this blog, I apologize for the dearth of quality posts as of late.

I'm thinking of ditching the whole Gibbering Gamer thing anyway; it never really caught on like I wanted it to catch on, and I just don't have the time or effort to blog like I had initially intended.  We'll see what happens there.

If you don't know, I'm one of the many hosts on the Happy Jacks RPG Podcast.  Just in case you need to clear your schedule for the live feed (which now includes video!), I'm scheduled for 12/9 and 12/30.  The show starts around 8:00 PM PST!

One last thing of possible interest, I've recently become smitten with ICONS Assembled, the superheroes RPG written by Steve Kenson (of True20 and Mutants & Masterminds fame).  It seems to be a really cool system strongly influenced by both Fate and the old "FASERIP" Marvel Super Heroes RPG, and a perfect match for an Agents of SHIELD game I've had in my head for a year or so.  I'm doing a "Where I Read" thread for ICONS Assembled over at the Happy Jacks RPG Podcast forums; if you're interested in ICONS Assembled, you should check it out.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Vampire: the Anything RPG?

I'm a big fan of White Wolf's Vampire: the Masquerade.  I should say, though, that I'm more a fan of the setting than the system.  At first glance the system looks pretty lightweight and fun, but a little digging reveals a plethora of crunchy rules covering all sorts of situations.  Which - as anyone who has listened to the Happy Jacks RPG Podcast actual play series "The Mote of Sin" can attest - is not my forte.  So I spend a lot of my free time picturing Vampire: the Masquerade in different systems.  Yesterday, it was Risus: the Anything RPG's turn at bat.

Risus: the Anything RPG (hereinafter just plain Risus) is a great little freeware RPG written by S. John Ross, a name that should be familiar to anyone who's been around RPGs for a while.  It's quick, it's fun, it's easy, and it's long been one of my favorite games (I am proud member #C-5 in the International Order of Risus, and last I checked, my name appeared on the first page of the Risus Companion, an amazing tome of gaming goodness).  If you aren't familiar with Risus, go here and check it out.  Right now.  Srsly, I'll wait.

Now that you're up to speed on Risus, let's talk V:tM.  One could easily say that each clan is a cliché, which is a great approach in Risus, but a tad bit boring.  Clichés should have some inherent element of description or characterization, allowing anyone to see that Lord Reginald Cobblebottom isn't just a Ventrue (3), he's a Snooty Ventrue Looking To Improve His Station At All Costs (3).  So let's take a look at Skully Wallace, my character in the Happy Jacks RPG Podcast presentation of "The Mote of Sin", a V:tM actual play series. Originally Scott Wallace, a popular college football/baseball player who caught the attention of a local Toreador vixen and wound up falling prey to the Toreador's rival, a twisted Nosferatu.  Skully's embrace contorted his body and good looks, causing the Toreador to spurn him and leave him at the mercy of his spiteful sire.  Skully's only method of dealing with his fate was to embrace (no pun intended) the absurdity of it all; he left his sire as soon as he was released from the accounting and landed on Caravel Island where he fell in with a local comedy club and started doing stand-up gigs.  Skully is a recent turning, having been embraced within the last 20 years or so.

Skully would undoubtedly be a Stunted And Bitter Nosferatu Stand-Up Comedian (4).  That tells a good deal about him, and sums him up pretty decently.  Since his embrace he's been an outcast, having to get what he needs through less than savory means, so he's also a Sneaky Cat Burglar (3).  We could also say that he's a Former All-Star College Jock (2) and just to round him out a bit, how about a Library Research Assistant (1).  That pretty much covers everything he's done in the game so far, and gives him some future potential what with the Former All-Star College Jock and Library Research Assistant clichés.  It's also a good example of how you can easily Risus-ize a V:tM character.

As mentioned earlier, there are a lot of different rules subsystems in V:tM.  Disciplines, for example, or blood pool.  Disciplines are easy, if you're willing to apply a liberal amount of handwavium.  Everyone knows that the Nosferatu clan disciplines are Obfuscate, Potence, and Animalism; they're part of being a Nosferatu, part of that... wait for it... cliché.  Should a Nosferatu (4) be able to mask his hideous appearance?  Yeah, totally.  Should that same Nossie throw down with feats of super-strength?  Call out to animals?  Yeah, totally.  Just roll the cliché dice against a difficulty set by the GM based on the character and the character's actions.  A Nosferatu masking their appearance to appear like anything but a horrible monstrosity might have a difficulty of 5, but one attempting a massive feat of Potence when the character has been focused on building a cadre of animal ghouls would have a much higher difficulty.  Could that Nosferatu attempt to sway the opinions of the people around him a la Presence or Dominate?  Nope, totally out of scope.

I came up with a rather cool Risus mechanic for blood pool, if I do say so myself.  At the start of a game, roll a d4.  This is the amount of Blood Dice a character starts the game with.  Any time a vampire undertakes a physical action, one Blood Die can be added to their cliché dice.  A Blood Die can be sacrificed to return a die to a cliché lost to a conflict (i.e. heal themselves a die lost in combat).  Feeding returns a Blood Die to the character's total Blood Dice, but at no point can a character have more Blood Dice than the value of their highest cliché (so, Skully could not have more than 4 Blood Dice).  Should a vampire lose all their Blood Dice, they frenzy and attack the nearest whatever to feed and gain at least 1 Blood Die.

Here's an example: Skully - the Stunted And Bitter Nosferatu Stand-Up Comedian (4) with 3 Blood Dice - is going to attack Albert using a super-vampire-strength punch.  He's going to pump some blood to make it more potent, so he's going to use 1 of his Blood Dice.  He'll actually roll 5 dice - 4 for the cliché and 1 for the Blood Die - and after the roll is made he'll only have 2 Blood Dice.  When Albert responds and pummels Skully back, causing Skully to lose a die in Stunted And Bitter Nosferatu Stand-Up Comedian, Skull can sacrifice a Blood Die to "heal" that cliché.  So after he takes Albert's punch, and sacrifices a Blood Die, he'll still be at 4 dice in the cliché but have only 1 precious Blood Die left.

I think I might put together a one-shot of this.  Just to see how well it actually plays out.




Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Fudge Hack Design

In my last post, I provided a link to my work-in-progress Fudge hack.  It's basically all the little house rules and tweaks I use when I run Fudge tied together with some new mechanics from other games that I think mesh well. I thought I'd take a minute and explain some of my design goals.

One of my pet peeves with Fudge is the granularity of the adjective ladder; it's not granular at all.  There are only 9 levels and with a die result spread from -4 to +4 it's easy to wind up with nonsensical results like "Legendary +2".  When you start adding in bonuses or penalties it gets even worse... especially in combat when you factor in ODF/DDF and just forget about the adjective ladder altogether.  What's the point of having such an awesome role-playing tool like the adjective ladder if you're consistently pushing it to the side or going beyond it?

So, I wanted to do away with all that. Get rid of results beyond Abysmal/Legendary, do away with ODF/DDF, and figure out some way to provide a viable bonus/penalty that isn't so... well, break-y.  Ultimately, I wanted to do away with numbers altogether.

I tackled the bonus/penalty issue first, by going back to my Advantage and Disadvantage rules.  Under those rules, instead of getting a +1, you ignore a minus result on your roll; instead of getting a -1, you ignore a plus result on your roll.  If you look at the following three charts, you can see that this does exactly what I wanted: it gives a solid bonus or penalty without exceeding the normal range by shifting the probability of a given result up or down:



With that fixed, I then had to consider what happens if a roll still goes past Legendary.  I decided to limit traits to using only adjectives between Terrible and Superb - Legendary and Abysmal are not available for traits - and say that any roll beyond Legendary is considered Legendary and any roll below Abysmal is considered Abysmal.  In cases of opposed rolls, ties would go to the character with the highest original trait; so a character with Great who rolled Legendary would beat a character with Good who rolled Legendary.

The only real issue this left was combat.  In order to get rid of the numbers, I had to figure out some way to address ODF and DDF.  The easiest way to do that was to remove it altogether.  Combat quickly became just an opposed roll, with the winner doing a specific amount of damage to the loser based on the type of attack mitigated by any armor or protection worn; I looked to PbtA games for guidance on this.  I was desperately trying to avoid a d20/D&D-esque "hit points" situation, and I think I've done that.

So, pretty much, that's what guided my Fudge hack.  When it's all done, I hope it's well received.


Monday, September 26, 2016

A call to action!

The Gibbering Gamer has been in a sad state the last few months.  While I could apologize to my few readers profusely and promise more frequent comment, there's a large chance I wouldn't follow through so I won't do that.

Instead, I'll say this: I want to "up" my convention performance this year.  To support that, I'm working on a Fudge hack that will be the system with which I run all my convention games.  It's based on regular Fudge with some Fate and Powered by the Apocalypse (a la Spirit of 77 because it's rad) thrown in for good measure; basically, it's all the stuff I find cool in a bunch of systems put together in a way that I think will work for me in general, and at conventions specifically.

At this point, it's largely my notes thrown together in a pseudo-narrative document.  It is nowhere near complete.  I'd very much like to get some feedback on the document; not on the writing style or format or layout, but rather on the mechanics and play-style.  A few short play-tests would be awesome.  If nothing else, I'll list your name in the final document if you give feedback.

The document is the only thing in this shared folder:
https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B1uDpP8NyrImT2hEbDFCOTRfYlk


Now, that said...

If you're not listening to Happy Jacks RPG Podcast, you should be.  It's a great podcast on which I am a part-time host.  It's made up of a great bunch of gamers - some of the best RPers with whom I've ever had the good fortune to play - and it's a fun show to boot.

There's also a thriving channel of actual play episodes, too!  So you can listen to actual plays of everything from Legend of the Five Rings to Traveller to Star Wars and Vampire: the Masquerade.  Really, there's something for everyone.

So fire up those feed burners and give Happy Jacks a listen.  You'll be glad you did.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Powered by the Fudge!

A while ago, I got to play in my first Powered by the Apocalypse game at a convention.  It was fun, and I was really enthused about taking what I'd learned from that game and applying it to Fudge.  I was using Spirit of '77 as my guide, and pulled in stuff not just from Fudge, but from Fate and d20 Modern as well.

Well, nothing really came of it and I don't really have the time to devote to writing it up.  So I'm posting what little I did write here so that if anyone wants to pick up the ball and run with it, they're more than welcome to do so.  Enjoy.

Approaches

Characters have six Approaches which are used to describe how the character is going to do something.

Careful: A Careful action is when you pay close attention to detail and take your time to do the job right.
Clever: A Clever action requires that you think fast, solve problems, or account for complex variables.
Flashy: A Flashy action draws attention to you; it’s full of style and panache.
Forceful: A Forceful action isn’t subtle—it’s brute strength.
Quick: A Quick action requires that you move quickly and with dexterity.
Sneaky: A Sneaky action is done with an emphasis on misdirection, stealth, or deceit.

Approaches are rated on the following scale, from best to worst:

Superb
Great
Good
Fair
Mediocre
Poor
Terrible

Each character starts the game with one Approach rated at Great, one Approach rated at Good, three Approaches rated at Fair, and one Approach rated at Mediocre.

Stunts

There are two different types of stunts: basic stunts and role stunts.  All characters have access to basic stunts.

Attack (Deliver a Beatdown/Hack and Slash/Smoke His Ass/Volley)
Defend (Take a Hit or Get Outta The Way/Defend)
Focus (Keep Your Cool/Defy Danger)
Manipulate (Get In Their Face/Getting What You Want/Parley)
Investigate (Scope out a Scene/Discern Realities)
Aid (Help a Brother or Sister Out/Aid or Interfere)

Roles

Each character selects a role.  The roles are as follows, and each role has role-specific stunt trees associated with it.

Strong
Powerful and good at combat, the Strong character typically relies on a Forceful approach.

Fast
Quick and nimble, the Fast character  typically relies on Quick or Sneaky approaches
.

Tough
Able to shrug off the most damage, the Tough character typically relies on a Forceful approach.

Smart
Brilliant and skillful, the Smart character typically relies on Clever or Careful approaches
.

Dedicated
Strong willed and alert, the Dedicated character typically relies on a Careful approach.

Charismatic
As charming smooth talkers, Charismatic characters typically rely on Flashy approaches..

Rolling the Dice

To do something, describe what the character intends to do using an Approach and a Stunt, then roll 4dF.  Move up the scale starting at the Approach level once for each “+” shown, and down the scale once for each “-” shown.  Where you end up is the result.

If you don’t have Fudge dice, regular d6s can be used.  In that case, move up the scale once for each 5 or 6 shown, and down the scale once for each 1 or 2 shown.

Rolls which result at levels higher than Superb are Superb; rolls which result at levels lower than Terrible are Terrible.

If the result is Superb or Great, you have achieved a full success and your character does exactly what you described.

If the result is Good or Fair, you have achieved a partial success and your character does some of what you described, or does it all but with a cost.

If the result is Mediocre, Poor, or Terrible, you have failed and the GM can take an action against your character.

Sometimes you might be told to roll with Advantage or Disadvantage.  When you roll with Advantage, you ignore one “-” result (or a 1-2 result on regular d6s).  When you roll with Disadvantage, you ignore one “+” result (or a 5-6 result on regular d6s). 

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Let's Read the AD&D 2E PHB, Part 3!

Today I'm reading chapter 3 of the AD&D second edition Player's Handbook: Player Character Classes.  Rather than give a blow-by-blow of the chapter, I figured I'd talk more about the approach to classes used, and the changes made to classes in, second edition.

But before I get into that I was struck with something while reading this chapter.  More current editions of D&D have been saddled with the criticism that combats take forever, especially at higher levels.  In second edition, hit dice are capped at 10th level (9th for warriors and priests) with a fixed number of hit points assigned per level thereafter, and Constitution bonuses to hit points no longer apply after 10th level.  So a 15th level fighter in second edition would have 9d10 + 18 + (Con bonus x 10) hit points, whereas a 15th level fighter in, say, 5th edition would have 15d10 + (Con bonus x 15) hit points.  I wonder if that disparity is one of the contributing factors to lengthened combats in 3rd, 4th, and 5th editions of D&D?

Anyway, on to the changes made to classes in second edition from first edition.  As I've mentioned in other posts in this series, better organization was one of the driving factors of second edition, and that is evident in the treatment of classes.  In second edition, classes are grouped into one of four groups: Warrior, Wizard, Priest, and Rogue.  All classes within a group share the same hit dice, combat, and saving throw progressions.  Fighters, rangers, and paladins are all in the Warrior group, for instance, and so those shared items need only be explained once, leaving the individual class descriptions to focus on what makes a fighter different from a ranger, and what makes a ranger different from a paladin.

As part of this reorganization, several classes underwent monumental changes.  The assassin, for instance, was removed completely; that's a pretty monumental change.  Magic-users were given the ability to specialize in a school of magic, and the illusionist became an example of a specialist mage, alongside conjurers, necromancers, and diviners.  Bards morphed from an almost unattainable pinnacle of multi-classing to a regular class in the rogue group.  Clerics - similar to mages - were given the ability to become a priest of a specific mythos, and druids - very similar to illusionists - became an example of a specific mythos priest.

Later books greatly expanded on specialist mages and specific mythos priests, and introduced the concept of "kits" which will be covered at some later point.

The second edition Player's Handbook retained the first edition rules for multi-class characters (allowing demi-humans to take on multiple classes at once, like a fighter/magic-user) and dual-class characters (allowing humans to leave one class and take on another, like the fighter who hears a divine call and leaves his old ways behind to join the priesthood).

And with that, my reading draws to a close for the day.  There will be more to come, once I read the next chapter (alignment... oooh).

Friday, August 12, 2016

Let's read the AD&D 2E PHB, part 2!

In my continuing quest to re-read the revised second edition AD&D books, I move forward into chapter 2 of the Player's Handbook: Player Character Races.

The chapter starts simply, with a quick definition of the word "race" - as it applies to AD&D - being one of many fantasy species as opposed to what we consider one's race today.  It then immediately jumps into minimum and maximum ability scores, explaining how a character must have a specific minimum score, and cannot go above a specific maximum score, in certain abilities to qualify for that race.  Minimum and maximum scores are considered before any racial adjustments are made, so it is possible that after adjustments a character could fall below the minimum, or go above the maximum, in a specific ability score.

A quick example may be in order.  To select the Halfling race for your character, you must have a minimum Strength score of 7.  Assuming your character has a Strength score of 7, and you select the Halfling race, you would then apply a racial modifier of -1 to your Strength score for a net value of 6.  This is below the racial minimum allowed, but since it was the racial modifier which brought it below that value, it's acceptable.

It then goes on to speak about one of the most hotly debated topics of the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons game: class restrictions and level limits.  Human characters can choose any class in the game and rise to 20th level in that class; for reason of game balance, or racial archetypes, or Gary Gygax thought it was a cool idea, or any number of other reasons, non-human races (called demi-humans) do not enjoy that benefit.  Demi-humans are limited both in class availability and the maximum level they can attain in those classes.  However, demi-humans can multi-class, whereas humans cannot.

As I mentioned in my last post on this subject, the revised editions of the AD&D second edition core books re-organize a lot of the information in the volumes, putting more information that players need into the PHB, instead of in the DMG.  Interestingly enough, while chapter two talks about racial level limits it does not include the actual limits in the PHB; it instead refers the player to their DM for the level limits imposed on non-human characters.  An interesting choice.

The last topic the chapter touches on before discussing the actual races is that of languages.  Basically, all characters automatically know their native language, and a number of other languages (which are defined per race in the race description) based on their Intelligence score or, if the optional proficiency system is used (which will be discussed later), what proficiency slots are spent on the desired languages.

Next, we get into the actual races allowed to players in the Player's Handbook: Dwarves, Elves, Gnomes, Half-Elves, Halflings, and Humans.  Each race receives about a half-page write-up, including a general description, habits, likes, dislikes, special abilities, and available classes.  They're all fairly in-line with the modern, fantasy expectations of them; if you've ever seen the Lord of the Rings movies, or read the books, or played any fantasy RPG ever, you've got a pretty good handle on Dwarves, Elves, Half-Elves, Halflings, and Humans.  Gnomes - as described in the PHB - are much less like the Dragonlance/World of Warcraft "tinker" gnomes, and much more like... Dwarves with a sense of humor.

The last page-and-a-half of the chapter detail other characteristics: height, weight, age, etc.  Nothing really blog-worthy here.

And with that, my reading draws to a close for the day.  There will be more to come, once I read the next chapter (player character classes).