On A Resource You've Never Used Before

I've been playing though Baldur's Gate again. It truly is one of the best CRPG's ever. I've got a review of Dragon Age on the blog. The basic synopsis is that Dragon Age is a poor revisioning of Baldur's Gate.

The Game is essentially a Sandbox Hexcrawl. You clear each hex, covered in darkness. Each one has a variety of adventure sites, which you can explore at your leisure. You have a variety of party members collected from the various interesting personalities that you meet. Once in your party they share their opinions with each other, possibly even coming to blows if they are too different from each other.

It really stands as a signature masterpiece of gaming.

Conviently it's been modded in the several years since it's release, and there is a version on good old games that runs on modern computers. That plus the widescreen mod, plus a number of community bug fixes, makes it possibly the perfect computer game. There is even a mod that lets you play through the first game in the engine of the second allowing a seemless play experience as well as access to a variety of old school kits.

All of this is leading up to the resource that you've probably never used. When creating your character in Baldur's gate, you have the option of adding a custom portrait and picture. While bopping around, I found a site with custom portraits and pictures for Baldur's gate. With thousands of portraits, of a variety of fantasy races. Thousands.

Other then the fact that there are a lot of already recognizable faces in there from common fantasy paintings (Elmore, etc.), I am certainly going to use these images for the various NPC's that the party will come across in future games.

On The Realistic Woman

Not that I'm normally a fan of posting feeds, though this one seems strangely appropo to the old school movement.


It's a selection of pictures of women in reasonable armor. All too often the modern Dungeon-punk astethic espouses wearing belts or straps, or no armor at all. This is fine for a caster or some such, but for a warrior engaging in battle, the plate mail or chain mail bikini, aside from being alluring provides no protective value.

On Magic Item Creation, Rules

Item Creation, Alchemical and otherwise

There are three teirs of item creation. Crafting, Enchantment, and Legendary. For a discussion on these tiers, and the logic behind their design, please reference "On the creation of magical items: A discussion on the state of item creation throughout the iterations of Dungeons & Dragons" (q.v.)

Crafting: These items, though amazing and wonderful in design, are inherently non-magical, based off mathamagical, philosophical, or eldritch principles. Anyone with the appropriate skill who knows the formula may attempt to create the item. These include various powders, grenades (alchemists fire), and other ephimera. These items can often be manufactured en masse, with little impact on play, due to the variety of options available to player characters. More useful for first level parties

Enchantment: These items contain, use, bind, or gyve certain magical energies. They are beyond the reach of normal craftsman, requiring either a mastery of certain talents (level requirement), an astounding technique (feats) or other dispensation (background/story). Skill in creating the type of item is also required. Certain rare materials or magical energies are often required also.

And finally, Legendary item creation: These items are unique - one of a kind. There are no formulas to be followed, no patterns to be found. A sage or the gods must be consulted, the finest of every ingredient acquired, and if all is done correctly, and if the stars are right, then great power can be forged into physical form.

Spontaneous generation of magical items: This has been known to occur, when great magical energies coalesce around a unique or enhanced physical object, but because such an event is uncontrolled, unpredictable, and based on great deeds, it is not covered here. 

Due to the various ways games handle such issues as skills, a variety of options follow in the descriptions for each item listing.

Name: The functional name of the item. Names have been kept simple for reference purposes, but within the game are rarely referred to by these titles, their creators imbuing them with names that have more. . . commercial flair. (Manzerin's fantastic flaming, self propelled fulmination crystal globe! Otherwise known as Alchemist's Fire)

BSC: For use with any game lacking any sort of skill system or resolution mechanic. Roll under this value for a success. Any roll of 95% or greater is a failure. Failure indicates wasted time and materials, a roll of 95%-99% is a failure indicating the creation of a cursed item, and a roll of 00% indicates an alchemical disaster.

DC: Stands for Difficulty Class - compatible with all D20 systems. Roll a D20 and add modifiers to the roll. If the total equals or exceeds this value then the roll is a success. A roll of 1 is always a failure. A failure indicates wasted time and ruined materials, a failure of greater than 5 indicates a cursed item. A roll of 1 that is also a failure of greater than 5 indicates an Alchemical Disaster

CC: This stands for Challenge Class and is compatible with Castles & Crusades. Add this number to the challenge base of Intelligence. This number is the final Challenge Class of the item. This is the target number that must be exceeded for successfully creating the item. A failure indicates that time and materials have been wasted. A failure of greater than 5 indicates the creation of a cursed item. A roll of 1 that is also a failure of greater than 5 indicates an Alchemical Disaster

NWP: This stands for Non-Weapon Proficiencies and is compatible with all proficiency and proficiency throw systems. Add this number to the target for roll under proficiencies based off stats (as in 2nd edition), or add this number to the roll for target number proficiencies (as in Adventurer, Conqueror, King). A failure indicates a waste of materials and time. A failure of greater than 5 indicates the creation of a cursed item. A maximum failure (20 or 1 depending) indicates an Alchemical Disaster.

D100%: This stands for D100% skill systems, such as Hackmaster, Warhammer, and Rolemaster (Open RPG) This modifier is added to the roll in systems where higher is better is equal to success (Rolemaster), or added to the target for systems using a roll under mechanic (Warhammer, Hackmaster). A failure indicates a waste of time and materials. A failure of 95-99 indicates the creation of a cursed item, a roll 100 indicates an Alchemical Disaster. For Rolemaster or Open RPG, Alchemy is a Science/Analytic Static Maneuver, any result of spectacular failure can be considered an Alchemical Disaster.

D6: This stands for D6 skill systems and is either usable as a straight success chance as an alternative to BSC, or as a number that can be added to a relevant skill (tinkering or a new skill, alchemy) in d6 systems, such as Lamentations of the Flame Princess. A failure indicates a waste of time. An alchemical disaster should happen when it seems convenient, or perhaps every time. There should be few modifiers to this roll - perhaps a -1 in case of being forced to work without a lab.

This D6 target is also useful for the Skills: The Middle Road system. This allows an alchemist with basic training a great chance to create most simple items, and yet requires more serious training in order create the most difficult items with any sort of consistency. The number after the slash is the target number in this system.

Modifiers: Nearly all of the above checks are d20 or d100 base. The following modifiers may be used. All + modifiers are in favor of the characters, all negative modifiers are penalties to their chances. I do not recommend applying any modifiers to a d6 system.
  • No laboratory: -5 / - 25%
  • Exceptional or well stocked laboratory: +2 / +10%
  • Successfully crafted the item before: +2 / +10%
  • High quality, exceptional materials used: +1-4 / +5%-20%
  • Each Character level1: +1 / +5%
  • Having a research library available: Varies2
1 This only affects BSC. CC already takes character level into account, and DC systems only allow spending so many skill points per level. NWP systems do not require this bonus.
2 For every 1000 gold pieces value of the library over the difficulty, add 1 or 5 percent. to determine the base cost of the library that must be exceeded, multiply the DC by 500.

(R)gp: This is representative of what the item costs, this is it's fair market value. Note you will rarely be able to find anyone to purchase it at this rate, and if you were going to go looking to buy it at this price, you would find it most likely vastly inflated. This number is what is used for the calculations of value.

TTC: Time to create. This is an estimate of the length of time it takes to create an item. This is ignored in d20 systems (which due to the cost of a feat, increase the speed at which items are created). Other systems treat this as the standard length of time it takes to create an item.

CGP: This is the cost in gold pieces that must be outlaid in order to begin crafting the item.

XP: This is the experience point value of the item. Note that the creator receives no experience points for creating the item (supposedly he received the relative experience when he acquired or expended the gold on the creation of the item) but if this item is found, and then used, this is the value of experience that the user would receive for the use of the item. Useful primarily for 1st edition compatibility, in systems where 1 gold piece = 1 experience point, the (R)gp price is equivalent to the experience gain for use or sale of the item.

Weight: This is an example of the weight of the items. A - followed by a number indicates the number that can be carried together as a total of 1 lb.

Difficulty: This is a one word statement addressing the difficulty in crafting the item.

Rarity: This indicates the rarity of the formula for creating the item. This limits how many new formulas the alchemist gains access to automatically each level, as well as indicating how difficult the formulas are to discover. Without a formula (gained either through Alchemist Class level, bought, found, pilfered, or through the discovery of an example item), the costs and time involved are doubled.

Materials: These indicate materials that are needed to craft the item. Note that some of these materials are quite common, and are assumed to be subsumed by the cost of the lab (i.e. oil, sulpher, sal petrae). There are several categories of special materials that are required: Rare Earth, Gemstones, Rare Metals (coin), and Monster Essence. Required materials are underlined. Monster essences may accept substitutions based on DM approval - the type of essence is listed here to assist DM's with this substitution process.
Rare Earths: Anyone with training can collect rare earths (Wizard able to practice item creation, Alchemist, etc.) They consist of elemental substances such as Antimony, Cinnabar, Pitchblende, and various salts and metal oxides. They also contain trace amounts of all the elements, and can be found in small quantities in all types of soil and sand. An alchemist can generate 1-4 drams of rare earth a day while not engaged in adventuring or crafting.
Gemstone: These are ground down and used in many alchemical formulas. The process requires 10 gp of gemstone per carat. Note that you cannot partially grind down a gemstone without destroying its value.
Rare Metals (Coin): Coins are very impure, thus requiring 10 coins per dram of pure gold/copper/silver/platinum.
Monster Essence: The various beastly essences necessary to produce alchemical effects. The actual parts are not directly used. A single part is taken and distilled until only the pure essence remains. One dram is produced for every hit die of the creature. No essence remains in the rest of the creatures; when removing the appropriate part the essential energy is collected in the removed part. The monster part listed is the part that holds the essential energy the best. Distilling the rest of the creature will produce nothing!
There are certain non-substitutable items, such as the brains of creatures you wish to control. These will be noted by not listing an essence type after the requirement.
Essences may be purchased as rare items in large towns or greater at 100 gp per hit die per dram (i.e. each dram of hell hound teeth costs 400 gp to purchase)

(Any references to more modern games are contained within parenthesis.)

Alchemist’s Fire (Grenade)
BSC:40%(R)gp:20 gp
DC:20TTC:2 days
CC:4CGP::8 gp
NWP:-1XP:4 xp
D100:+15%Weight:1 lb.
D6:3 in 6 / 4Difficulty:Difficult

Materials: Oil/Naphtha, Sulphur, Pitch, Glycerin
Description: A flask of hot, long burning flame. It does 1d6 damage to the target, and 1 point of splash damage to every adjacent creature. The next round the target takes another 1d6 damage.
    The target may attempt to extinguish the flames preventing the second round of damage by succeeding at a Dexterity (Reflex DC 15) check. Dropping to the ground and rolling about provides a +2 bonus to the roll.

Dust of Lightness
BSC:35%(R)gp:1000 gp
DC:21TTC:8 days
CC:5CGP::333 gp
NWP:-2XP:200 xp
D100:+10%Weight:- / 5
D6:2 in 6 / 5Difficulty:Hard

Materials: Rare Earth (4 drams), Sulphur (4 drams), Silver dust (1 dram), Gold dust (1 dram), Platinum dust (1 dram), Griffon Feather/Flight Essence(4 drams), Powdered Sapphire (2 carat)
Description:When this dust is applied to any non-living object, it reduces the weight and bulk of the object by half for 12  hours. The dust can be washed or blown off, so care must be taken if transporting objects in a storm.

All calculations courtesy the OSR Rosetta Stone  

On The Thursday Trick, Falling Up

Reverse Gravity Pit (Spells/Pit)

Trigger: Magical: Proximity
or Magical: Visual 
Effects: Multiple Targets
Never Miss
Save:None Duration: Instant or Varies
Resets: Automatic or Manual Bypass: None (Avoid)

Description: The hallway ahead appears safe and secure. The floor seems solid, but when was the last time anyone looked up?

While walking along, the lead person activates a patch of reverse gravity, and falls, crashing through the false ceiling, smashing into the extended ceiling far above. At which point, the reverse gravity ends, and the character comes crashing back into the ground taking the damage again.

Variations: There could be a series of these, each heading in a different direction, causing a character to fall far from his origin. The reverse gravity could be constant instead of activated by a person tripping a magical trigger, forcing them to "climb" out from within the pit. The ceiling of the pit could be filled with loose debris, or possibly spikes, or some sort of fragile container filled with a dangerous substance.

Finally, once triggered the trap could automatically reverse gravity every round for an entire turn, making a difficult situation even harder.

Detection: The magical trigger on this trap makes it harder to detect (often relying on the thief abilities) but there are a couple of useful thoughts. This trap is unlikely to show up anywhere except places where the builder has access to a lot of magical energy. A trap of this power level is far beyond your local Hobgoblin tribe.

And although the cost and expense of having this trap is high, it is amazing how often few steps are taken to disguise the ceiling well. Most people don't look up, and it's often difficult to construct an automatic reset on the ceiling, so astute adventurers looking up (or brilliantly actually testing the ceiling) will do well.

On Magic Item Creation, Solutions

So, how can we have magic item creation a part of our game?

There are a number of things we can do, but first, lets look at what options the base game has given us, so we have something to work from. We want to make it accessible, but also compatible with traditional expectations (and by proxy, with retro-clones). Not listed in the table below are the constitution costs for casting permanency for permanent items.

Let's look at some of the similarities between editions. Numbers with slashes are for potion/scroll/item levels. Numbers with slashes, always go in that order.

Creation Check?Success rates1Difficulty?Level? Cost of Laboratory
Gazeteer (D&D) Yes (Int + Level)*2 - (3 or 5)Yes (Spell level)9"Large Library"
BECMI Yes 85%No9-
1st Edition Yes 80-95%/80%
/Save vs. magic
No7(112)/7/12200-1000gp + 10% monthly upkeep
2rd Edition Yes 80%/70%/60%Yes9/9(73)/112000/50004 + 10% monthly upkeep costs
3rd Edition Yes Varies (DC)Yes1/3/5/7/9/115Free6
1 Success rates are before modifiers (bonuses for level/high quality items)
2 Wizards must be 11th level to make potions, unless they enlist the aid of an alchemist
3 Clerics can make scrolls at 7th level, instead of waiting until 9th
4 A lab for potions only costs 2000, for item/scroll creation it costs 5000
5 Not automatic, feats at level 1 for scroll, 3 for potion and item, 5 for wands/armor, 7 for rings, 9 for rods, and 11 for staves
6 "Using an item creation feat also requires access to a laboratory or magical workshop, special tools, and so on. A character generally has access to what he needs unless unusual circumstances apply."
Length of Time Potion Length of time ScrollLength of Time Item
Gazeteer (D&D) 1 week + 1 day per 1000gp in price
BECMI 1 week per "spell level" of power
1st Edition 1 day per 100xp 1 day per spell level3-10 days + 1 day per 100xp of item of complete rest
2rd Edition 1d3+1 weeks for initial formula, then 1 day per difficulty step7 1 day per spell level
(6 days for protection scrolls)
Weeks equal to difficulty rating + 2d6 months
3rd Edition 2 hours if < 250gp otherwise 1 day per 1000 gp in price 2 hours if < 250gp otherwise 1 day per 1000 gp in price1 day per 1000 gp in price
7 Rules from Book of Artifacts. 2nd edition DMG/PHB contain the same rules as 1st edition

My goal here is not just to present some new-fangled system for item creation - my goal is for it to be a more feasible option for games, as well as providing a large database of items designed to be created.

What can we see about our hypothetical situation? Well, that we'd like to have a method where magic item creation can fail, even if it is affected by player choices and skill. We also see that we'd like to have some restrictions on item creation, possibly based off level. I don't want to lose the early edition feeling of having to collect magical supplies, but at the same time, I don't want to stymie player interest in having their characters create items. We can have item creation without the ridiculous barriers to entry ("1 tarrasque tooth per +1 for oil of sharpness, I'm looking in your direction")

Item Creation Restricted by Level
Having magic item creation restricted by level (especially to such a high level) is one of the control mechanisms to prevent abuse - but it is also one of the factors that prevent players from being more active in item creation. There are a couple of solutions for this, Alchemy & Poisons will contain a class (called the alchemist, unsurprisingly) that will have the option of creating items much earlier. There will also be options for a variety of systems, allowing characters to craft items earlier then the official limits (proficiencies, skills). The level limits exist because item creation is not the preview of a first level adventurer. We all know as characters level, the game changes, but if item creation is a thing that you desire to do, the option for you to do so should be there before reaching name level.

The other thing we can do, is separate items (a'la 3.5) into a few separate tiers. One of the largest problems with item creation is that it makes it as difficult to craft a potion of healing as it is to make an intelligent longsword. No game will be unbalanced by a player collecting goblin hearts, and using them to craft half a dozen potions of healing before their next adventure. However allowing the same thing for long-swords. . . that, I think, could become a problem.

So all items are either crafted, enchanted, or legendary.

  • Anyone at any level can make crafted items, if they have the skill, ingredients, and time.
  • Enchanted items are a large subset of items (such as potions, scrolls, wands, etc.) that are fairly utilitarian in nature, but require some special talent or skill to create.
  • Legendary items are things such as ego swords, staves, rods, and powerful rings. They require the rarest ingredients and have no formulas for creation.

Alchemy & Poisons focuses mainly on crafting and enchantment items, but having a large variety of those certainly provides more impetus for the players to engage in crafting. This division maintains the epic nature of crafting special items, while allowing players (who have the proper supplies) to create potions and various other devices as they will without unduly unbalancing the game.

So what will prevent players from using these items that they can create to neutralize your adventure? If they know they are going to have to face a fire giant, what will stop them from crafting potions of fire resistance in advance?

First: This kind of forward thinking should be rewarded. Second we restrict it by requiring certain types of rare materials, enforcing strict cost and time constraints. How do we avoid these factors from creating the same resistances and difficulties that impede item creation traditionally?

Rare Materials
I don't know what your campaign looks like. Do you even have hell hounds or goblins? It's unimportant, because I'm going to assume you're not an idiot and can understand the magical laws of similarity and contagion. For my requirements for a resist fire potion, I'm not going to say 'requires a fire giant heart' I'm going to say, requires 'heart of a creature with the fire type or essence (4+hd)'.

But, you say, what if I'm playing first edition - creatures don't have type in that edition.

Doesn't matter. Does the title say fire, or hell, or is it hot? It's your game, you know what monsters you've used, you can let your players know if it will work or not. There will be a set list of essences and creature types, and you can decide which fit in your world or not. The idea here is to be flexible to encourage item creation.
 The other (optional) material control are 'rare earths'. A limited amount of these can be collected per day, and they can only be collected in a period free of adventuring and crafting.

The other issue is one of time and cost. The fact is, if you're going to have a character that creates items, you're going to have to track time and money fairly closely, being that those are the primary constraints on an overabundance of power. Sooner or later, they will run out of materials, money, or time. Needing certain gems will also prove to be limiting factor if needed. ("Sorry, we're fresh out of rubies!")

Most games I've run, the characters barely have enough funds and time as it is. By the time they do have a surplus of money and time, being able to create a bunch of items isn't all that overpowering (you're spending your time trying to outfit your men at arms in banded mail or better). There is even less danger then a financial fallout due to making and selling items. Not only do you need a buyer, the more you make the more the price drops, and you are far from guaranteed from finding a buyer.

Each crafting item, and magical item has a formula. Without a formula, costs, time, and materials requirements are doubled, as well as a serious increase in the chance of failure. Formulas are divided into common, uncommon, rare, and very rare formulas - alchemists will learn a limited number of these (in addition to all common formulas, like Alchemist's fire) as they level.

Otherwise, without the formula, creating the item is quite difficult. This gives the characters reasons to go adventuring, a new treasure type, and allows the GM to retain some control over which items can exist in his campaign, without making it impossible for the players to create their own items.

Do these things address our fears?
1) Fear of overpowered characters: Separating items into tiers means protection against the super-item. Powerful magical items remain as unique and difficult to craft as always.Yet resourceful players can have options. Formulas provide control over which items can be created.

2) Fear of the snowball effect: Having firm limits on money, materials and time always ensures the players run out of one fairly quickly, and then it is once more unto the breach.

3) Fear of loss of control: The items that are easily created have specific effects, easily forbidden if you find one that doesn't work for your campaign. You have final say over what qualifies as a component or where one can be recouped so players can't create anything you don't want to see in your games anyway.

Tomorrow: Weekly Trap. Friday: The Rules, and an Example

On Magic Item Creation, Problems

So what have we learned?

Magic item creation falls into two camps in early play.

The first camp consists of making it so difficult that it is never intended to be used, finding itself included simply for verisimilitude.

The second camp consists of making it a trade-off in character power. Instead of increasing your personal power by continuing to ascend up a chain of special abilities (feats), you are allowed to be more efficient with your money, if have the time, allowing you to eek more value out of your wealth by level.

Neither of these are very enticing methods of item creation.

The first is too difficult to use for the players. Before they can even consider creating items, they must talk to their Dungeon Master, who will tell them who to talk to in game. And then that person will give them a long and difficult list of demands, and in all likelihood it will take entirely too long jumping through hoops and preparing what is needed to produce a potion of healing for it to be worthwhile to the players.

The second, although more straight forward, requires a lot of work on the player to give themselves a small improvement. All too often though, in play, this comes at a much higher cost to the player, because then he becomes the funnel through which the entire party gains a benefit for his choice. Then he finds himself making more efficient use of party funds, to improve the benefit of cost per level for every member of the party at no personal cost to the other members of the party. He, in effect, becomes a discount magical items store. ("Hey Wizard! Is my belt done yet?!")

But obviously there is a subsection of players that likes to create items. Why are these systems always so difficult and hard to work into play?

1) Fear of overpowered characters. If we allow them free wherewithal to create items, the campaign will be inundated with a massive influx of overpowered items.

2) Fear of the snowball effect. If a character is constantly creating items soon they will be overwhelmed by options and powers. Eventually they will be able to dominate the countryside, either by selling the items and becoming super-rich, or by using them to control the populace.

3) Fear of loss of control. If the character is allowed to create any item he wants, he will be dictating what can happen in the game, not the DM!

These fears are unlikely occurrences that will rarely occur, even in a poorly run game. It is important to maintain perspective on these things - perhaps someone could create an item that would neutralize an encounter - this does not mean that the item is overpowered. After all clerics can turn undead, that doesn't mean that clerics are ruining the game. As long as the cost is reasonable, then being able to bypass or control a specific encounter is fine.

So how can we address these issues to make magic item creation something that's useable in our games? Check back tomorrow when we take a closer look on how item creation will work in the new Alchemy & Poisons supplement - and how it addresses some of these fears, and attempts to put a workable system in place.

On Magic Item Creation

How do you create a functional system of magic item creation?

There are many different ways; The real question, is do you want to?

A discussion on the state of item creation throughout the iterations of Dungeons and Dragons:

OD&D: I could find no reference to item creation Updated , thanks to Herb!

The section asks you to convert each item power into an equivalent spell level, and multiply that by 1000 gold. You then add 10% of that cost per charge, or 10% of that cost * 50 for permanent magical items. The length of time is 1 week + 1 day per 1000 gp in price (or dc as the money is called)

Other then this being a /very/ expensive method in gold and time of shopping, there is this phrase in the beginning,

"A magic-user must be 9th level to even hope to make a magical item. As with spells he must go on some adventure to find one basic spell component for each effect of the magical item he wishes to produce."

So in true, classic style, it was basically left up to the DM & Player to work out.

1st Edition: In 1st edition Gygax clearly lays out his thoughts on magic item creation, which basically amount to - they exist, so someone must have made them. He suggests giving the party no information on the process, and requires a high level for item, scroll and potion creation.

There are a number of hidden guidelines in the rules, A lab is required, and the time varies based on the item, ep/100 for potions, or 1 full day for each level of the scroll.

He then gives examples for basic items, such as a 'scroll of protection from petrification' and what is required. A selected quote showing the process for creating ink for this specific scroll.:
Harvest the pumpkin in the dark of the moon and dry the seeds over a slow fire of sandalwood and horse dung. Select three perfect ones and grind them into a coarse meal, husks and all. Boil the basilisk eye and cockatrice feathers for exactly 5 minutes in a saline solution, drain, and place in a jar. Add the medusa’s snake venom and gem powders. Allow to stand for 24 hours, stirring occasionally. Pour off liquid into bottle, add sepia and holy ,water, mixing contents with a silver rod, stirring widdershins. Makes ink sufficient for one scroll.
After this, of course, there is only a base 20% chance of failure. The bulk of the rules regarding item creation, come in the spells 'enchant an item' and 'permanency'. It basically breaks down into taking 2 + 1-8 days, requires rare components, the best materials, and a saving throw versus spells to be made for success. Permanency carries the cost of lowering the spell casters constitution by 1.

2nd Edition: There are more references then I was able to locate for second edition. Each varying between each author. David 'Zeb' Cook covers item creation in the book of artifacts, and in form and function it is similar to the way that 1st edition handles item creation. It has similarly high level limits for item creation and requires the permanency spell.

It asks you to create a 'difficulty factor' for the item, in a loosely interpretive way. There are guidelines, but they require judgement on the part of the DM. There is nothing wrong with this - in any edition, it is a crucial step in the design, function, and creation of magic items.

There are similar guidelines hidden in these rules - such as a  +5 bonus to success checks for specialist wizards for magic items within their school, in addition to a required laboratory.

The difficulty factor affects several things - including the number of 'special materials' the player must collect - 1 for every 5 points of difficulty. It suggests asking for items that are expensive (100-1000x the difficulty), based off the laws of contagion and similarity.

It also suggests that items be perishable, so that the magic user can't prepare ahead of time, and selecting the items towards creating an adventure for the player. As a final piece of advice, he suggests creating impossible or non-existent requirements such as "A gem hatched from a poisonous snakes egg".

Then, you must roll to succeed. Protection scrolls take 6 days, and spell scrolls take 1 day per spell level, they start off with a base chance of 80% success before modifiers. Potions take 1 day per 100 gp of cost, rather than experience, and an additional 1d3+1 weeks to research the original formula. They have a base 70% success chance after modifiers. (Remember that these success chances are for level 9 characters - level 11 in the case of actual magic items, and not potions and scrolls.) Items work as in 1st edition, Permanency is needed, as well as at least 1 casting of enchant an item, along with whatever items and spells the DM requires. The time on item creation is a number of weeks equal to it's difficulty rating (usually 15-20) plus another 2d6 months! The base chance of success is 60% before modifiers are applied.

3rd edition: This version changed and codified many of the rules around the Difficulty Class system. There were two tiers of item creation, Crafting in which normal items were made, and Magic Item Creation which required feats. The original 3.0 system had the terrible mechanic of spending experience to create items, in an attempt to mirror the fact that wizards required more experience before leveling, among other reasons. The reasons why this is a bad idea are voluminous and better covered elsewhere. It was dropped for more modern versions of the 3.5 ruleset.

The general gist of the Crafting item creation system is, each normal item has a DC and a cost. You convert the cost to silver pieces (x10) and roll the d20, multiplying that number by the DC to determine the number of silver pieces you complete of the item each week. You also pay 1/3 the cost in gold to create the item. There are some modifiers like being able to increase the DC to shorten the time. Unlike in the other systems above, failure of a roll is not total, it just indicates no progress, unless you fail by more than five, in which case you ruin half your materials.

The Magic Item Creation system is the first real change we've had in the item creation paradigm - it sole purpose allows you to exchange resources.

If you give up personal power (in the form of  a feat) and you can acquire magic items for half price with the expenditure of 1 (8 hour) day per 1000 gold pieces of the items cost. So taking the feet allows you to accomplish the creation of magic items in a reasonable time frame (up to a month for the most powerful items).

The main issue with third edition is that each player character is expected to have a certain wealth by level - ergo, if they don't have the magic items for their level, then they become underpowered. This creates the assumption of magic stores and magic conversion shops where the players visit, allowing them to purchase the items they need to maintain their power curve.

Tomorrow: Problems with item creation.

On Being Forced Against Your Will

What is best in Dungeon Mastering?

One navel gazing post on Friday is the deal, but Nooooooo. Stupid (but really brilliant and incredibly smart) Beedo (of Dreams in the Liche House) and Ckutalik (of Hill Cantons) want to ask questions about GM "Best Practices". Apparently someone works in corporate.

Also: This just happens to be something I know all the hell about.

Three "Best Practices"

1) The most important thing you can do as any kind of game master or designer is to NOT REMOVE PLAYER AGENCY.

Player agency is the single most important factor of a satisfying game.

I should point out that games that have little player agency (Cosmic Encounter for instance) can be quite fun. What they do not support is long term memorable campaigns.

What is player agency? Two things. Does the player have choices? and more importantly do those choices matter?

Walking down the hall and popped by a trap? No player agency if the trap was just checked for by some roll the players had no control over. Minimal player agency if the player could put points into a find traps/perception/spot skill. Great player agency, if all traps are visible, and the players have to make choices on how to bypass the traps. Examples of how to use player agency in play.

Things that remove player agency. Fudging dice rolls. Using a magician's switch. Engaging in palette shifting. (see comments)

2) Remember that the point is to have fun. There are two key critical factors to this.
  • A) Fun does not mean that everything goes the party's way - sometimes it means bad things (including TPK's) happen, because things that are not guaranteed, like success, are important. And having the choice you make matter is fun.
  • B) Pay attention to what your party is asking, and do not shut them down. Don't say no, explain what that's going to take to do, or who they will have to talk with to find out what to do.

Again for emphasis.

Don't Say No.

Pay Attention to what your players are really asking for.

Give them everything they ask for, and three things they don't.

3) Have some fun with the game. Ham up your NPC's. Speak in funny accents. Remember to not expect your players to treat the NPC's like real people, but have them react like real people and comment on the craziness of the players. Remember that all these comments are for entertainment value, to make everyone laugh, and enjoy the NPC - not be difficult or obtuse for the sake of teaching lessons.Have them provide some post modern commentary on events.

Have the NPC's have wildly differing character traits, like the Kuo-Toa, who are really cool, like frat dudes, who have some non-specific plan for taking over the surface world. When the party attacks, they scream and ask, "BLUBWHHY ARE-GARBLE YOU GUYS SUCH DICKS?!!"

Beedo covered several important logistical things in his post - Describing the most important thing down to the least important, and keeping things vague until they are examined. Track time.

What is important to remember, is that the point is to have fun. If you find yourself ever trying to do anything next other than make it more entertaining, then you're wrong for that. It is important never to forget you are guys hanging out in a room, just because you're a DM, doesn't mean you're the boss of them - just responsible for their enjoyment.

On Experience

What I wouldn't give to be 15 years younger and know what I know today.

Intelligence and Wisdom are really about our ability to know things. Do you know what to do? Do you know what that is? Do we know a lot of things, can we figure things out.

What they don't represent is our experiences of having been there - what have we actually seen and done.

The first time we experience something in life is almost universally the most intense experience we will have with that thing. It is why youth and our teenage years are filled with so much angst. Our first loves and breakups are chemically more intense inside our brains then those of later years. (Of course there's the small matter of super-powerful hormones flooding your system also, but in general novel experiences cause the most change in our brain).

This is also evidenced in athletes, competitive gamers, soldiers, programmers, functionally all areas of life.

The first time you run a course, it will not be your best time, because you're forced to process a lot of extra information. In a fighting game, there is so much motion and activity on the screen, often you can't even tell what's happening at first, but eventually all that fades away, so that you only receive the relevant information. Then when you are playing time seems to slow down, and you wonder how anyone could miss the information that you see.

And so it is in RPGs. The increased experience doesn't mean that you're suddenly endowed with greater ability (well, mostly not - there's a bit of that in superhero edition). The reason your saves improve is that the tenth time you jerk back from a poison needle trap, you were probably expecting it more than a little bit. The fiftieth orc is a lot less likely to surprise you then the fifth orc, simulated by the larger number of hit points. Your familiarity with forcing arcane formulate into your brain means that it no longer takes the same effort it once did.

To understand what is going on the first time would mean that things would not be as they are. That is often what we wish we could do, go back with the experience we have and do a different thing.  It is one of the great things about Dungeons & Dragons (that your experience with the game continues to improve, so that when you're starting out with a new character, you will play better then you did the last time). And there is something in that, for we cannot go back and relive our lives. But we can continue forward with the knowledge that we have, and maybe keep a few more PC's alive then before.

Oh, and use some of that experience to be a better person, of course. :-)

On The Thursday Trick, A Pit of Infestation

Infested Pit (Pit)
Trigger: Mechanical: Proximity  Effects: Multiple Targets
Save:None Duration: Instant
Resets: Automatic Bypass: None (Avoid)

Description: The pit trap is bad enough, no? But wait, there's more! This can apply to any pit - in fact, you can roll a d6 for any pit and have any result of 1, indicate that the pit is infested.

If you think about it, the pit is a perfect environment for many monsters. Hidden and out of the way, avoided by the resident denizens, and your food comes to you! There are a variety of monsters that can survive in a pit for long periods of time, where the confined quarters and long waits are not bothersome. There are often small tunnels and such giving access to such pits.

Some monsters that might inhabit pits include: Giant microscopic creatures, beetles, fungus, insects, jellies, animated objects, mimics, mold, oozes, rats, parasites, shadows, slimes, stirges, and undead. A longer list is here.

It is suggested that the player roll a d20 with no modifier, to see if the creature in the pit is struck. If so, then the creature will take the same damage as the player falling into the pit. Note that striking many pit creatures with your body will have many negative effects of their own.

Detection: Detection is as any standard pit. Most of these monsters should be easily detectable once the pit is located and that is fine. Allow them to avoid your monster, if the monster is discovered. Of course if you were to place a magic sword, stairways, secret doors or even a lair could convince them to have the encounter anyway. If you are truly wicked, have the magic sword be worthless, the stairway a dead end, or the lair filled with nothing but monsters. 

On Roostercat

Frequency: Too often
No. Appearing: 1
Armor Class: 10 (4, everyone is at a -6 to hit from the aura of what the f**k)
Move: 12"
Hit Dice: 1
% in Lair: NIL
Treasure Type: NIL
No. of Attacks: 1
Damage/Attack: 3-6
MR: Standard
Intelligence: Low
Alignment: Neutral
Size: S

The terror of the 0-level PC, it's like a cat but more guaranteed to murder you if you're a normal human. Often heard by the ghosts of the dead, warning,
"Beware the Rooooooster Cat! It's all messed up in the face!"

On Being Left Out

I had my housewarming the other day, and it was a nice affair. I enjoyed the time with about a dozen of my friends and the children enjoyed ransacking my apartment. But there were several people who I invited that were forced to cancel, or didn't attend.

It is difficult in life, to find time between work, kids, family responsibilities and obligations to do the things we enjoy. And I greatly appreciate the time that I do get to spend with the very many busy people in my gaming groups and such, but I have noticed a certain ennui among the people that I game face to face with.

Gaming has been, for many of them, just another obligation.

So my current idea is a little different.
Something a little more epic. 

Zak covered one revelation that occurred to me - that system is irrelevant. You could move a character back and forth between basic, S&W, Pathfinder, whatever, with little to no changes in the character sheet. System for the most part could even be left up to the player, if there weren't such a strong mechanical necessity for everyone at the same table to share a common rule-set.

My idea is not only that characters travel between games - but that the games themselves are linked within the same worldspace, Now, maybe your campaign is only accessible through spelljamming (or heaven forbid, wildjamming), the astral plane or whatever, but by tacit agreement in FLAILSNAILS they are all accessible to each other.

My idea is to make it explicit. My attempt will be to have the games I'm partially attached to in the Northwest Arkansas area, meet, and use microscope game in order to have the selected DM's create a world history (creating a shared setting, mythic artifacts, etc.) and allow each DM to set up certain adventure sites, NPC's, provinces and such.

You are not yet to the epic part.

Then we run the games we are normally running, but in each of the different games (Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays currently). Anyone can go anywhere where there is a DM for the setting. The focus will be on Domain play, so using some rules from ACKS, Chaotic PC fighters can have mighty hordes of beastmen, Paladins holy provinces, Thieves can run syndicates, Druids can create mighty holy groves, Priests use miracles to shape the land. Fighters can become mighty kings, Psionicists can create mighty crystal spires, Alchemists hidden research labs

And they don't stand just against one DM, but against many, as well as against the wills of many of the other players.

This is epic, but. . . I am unsure I will even see any of the people on Sunday I due to this ennui. It addresses (due to the freeform nature of the meets, and the freedom to visit other worldspaces) scheduling issues, for players that can play bi-weekly, or can't make every sunday. It is a return to the old forms.

It is a thing to get excited about. We'll meet this Sunday, and hopefully work out the details. The great thing is, either way this is going to happen. I much prefer gaming face to face, but if I can't garner enough local interest in this great thing, then I will take that time, and devote it to Consticon.

On Three Spell Spirit (a little help for a friend)

The erudite Roger over at Rolls, Rules, and Roles is onto a fairly brilliant observation, but he needs some assistance.

He's attempting to pare the spell list down to six first level spells and three spells of each level following.

But which spells!?

The post is here, go and comment. I think discovering what the crowd wisdom is over which spells are essential and not is going to be quite interesting.

On Alchemists are D**ks!

Work continues on the Alchemy supplement. Finally got the base form and structure of the entries somewhat finalized, and have come to some conclusions about item creation. . . but I'm going to talk about that later. Today we have a different topic.

Alchemists are jerks!

This is an exciting project, and you know why? Because Alchemists are Arseholes. Think about it for one second. Anyone who's strong or popular is going to be a fighter or rogue. If you're smart, you'll enter the honorable career of a wizard. People who don't fit in elsewhere, or are interested in spiritual advancement become priests. Even out of those categories, those who become adventurers are anti-social and often sociopathic. In all of these Alchemists are the worst.

Not smart enough, spiritual enough, strong enough, rejected by the world - they alone have the time to painstakingly research esoteric interactions, and strange energies, then they take this mighty knowledge and power and use it to make people choke to death!

Set people on fire! Make people hallucinate! Weeks of painstaking research just so they can throw poison sand in someone's face, a sad feat for someone willing to devote so much effort into those things. The revenge of the 90 pound weakling with no wisdom gained from it at all! That is what it means to be an alchemist.

On Charisma

Far and away in my experience, Charisma is the statistic that has the most to do with your success in life. It has the greatest bearing on your happiness, your employment, and nearly every factor in existance.

This is not surprising at all. We are tribal animals - each dependent upon each other for everything in life. Our place in the community is critical to our mental well being.

Is it any wonder this is the least mechanically useful stat in most versions of Dungeons and Dragons?

The above is a little joke - certainly not true in the older editions. The number of henchmen and hirelings you can have is crucial to your survival, but a lot of that strength dissipated in the more recent editions. And the use of henchmen and hirelings was very Dungeon Master dependent, whereas I have never met a Dungeon Master who didn't give the Strength bonus to hit and damage.

But then this isn't surprising that it's poorly represented in the rules. It still is a major factor though - however, it's not your characters charisma, it's yours. For this is a social game and you're doing a social thing, making it by far the most important attribute at the table.

Too bad we can't re-roll in life if our dice came up as a 4.

On The Thursday Trick, A Tricky Pit

A pair of more traditional traps this week.

Tricky Pit (Mechanical, Melee/Ranged Attack, Pit)

Trigger: Mechanical: Pressure Plate Effects: N/A
Save:NoneDuration: Instant
Resets: AutomaticBypass: Disarm

Description: The hallway contains an obvious hazard ahead, most likely a pit. The stone should be of a different kind or style, and clearly indicates there is some sort of pit or deadfall. Select whatever type of lid you wish, but the presence of a pit should be obvious.

The pit of course, is simply a 10' depression easily traversed. Anyone traveling by pitons on the wall (or on ledges if you are so kind to provide them) will be surprised by the eruption of spikes, arrows, spears or darts from the walls. Anyone jumping over the pit upon landing on the other side, will discover the same welcome on the ceiling, or possibly even his doom if the ceiling collapses.

Of course at the bottom of the pit, there is a pressure plate to disarm the trap. Or possibly a lever. Perhaps if you're not feeling charitable, there should be no disarm mechanism at all.

Detection: The pit is obvious and will even be seen by someone running in the dark. The real trap is detected in more subtle ways. As with any missile/melee attack, the portal though which the attack emanates will be detectable in some manner. Testing the far surface with a large enough object will preemptively trigger the trap.

Tricky Pit (Magical, Melee/Ranged attack, Pit)
Trigger: Magical: Proximity  Effects:N/A
Save:NoneDuration: Instant
Resets: AutomaticBypass: Special

Description: This pit is as above, except the triggers, either on the side or the opposite surface are magical sensors that will teleport the player. Obviously there are any number of options for a teleport, but several entertaining options include above the obvious pit, or to a nearby hallway or corridor in front of an activated dart or arrow trap.

Detection: As above, anyone will be able to detect the pit. A thief should only be allowed to sense the magical sensors, but anyone should be able to see an object teleport if it hits the other side.

On the Science of the Potion

Work continues on the alchemy document.

I seem to have come up with quite a few items (well over 100), I may shoot for 1000.

I have a question for my readers - I've never done anything like a feedback post before, so I'd really appreciate your comments.

Have you ever used 'item creation' in your game before? If not, why not? Lack of interest? Complexity? Balance? What are the biggest hurdles to such a task?

I'm attempting to make this compatible with all old school clones, and all their different skill systems. At the least, it will be many hundreds of new magic items (focusing on potions and dusts), but I'm curious what everyone would expect to see in a supplement about potions and poisons.

I've looked at some other commercial supplements, and excepting the ancient Judge's guild Complete Alchemist, they are all pretty terrible, with bizarre and complicated systems, or a small selection of some extra gear or items.

On the DM is the Dungeon

Another find from Rythlondar.

This one speaks for itself.

"This campaign is composed of a number of dungeons DM'ed by John Van De Graaf (Weir), Len Scensny (Morbundus), Paul Wood (caverns), Laurie Van De Graaf (Taru and the Ruins of Thon), Ray Ulman (Ile-Mot Sznader and Apo Kalyps), and Greg DeCesare (Kerwylon)."

On Strength

I am a strong person. I lift in an attempt to become a stronger person.

My primary observation about Strength is how often is is useless.

I am a person who has a job that requires Strength - often when people are ill, they attempt to harm themselves or other people, and it is my job to keep the situation safe.

Even in this situation Strength is as much as a drawback as an advantage. It helps to be able to exert more force when opposed by someone, and to have the muscle endurance to avoid becoming fatigued against someone's struggles, but it comes with substantial risk also. I am responsible for the safety of all those involved, and cannot exert too much force or I will hurt or kill the person instead of keeping them from hurting themselves. Of all of the techniques we are taught to use to restrain people, none require being stronger then the person you're restraining.

As far as how strength applies to daily life - How many times this last week have you been asked to do something requiring more strength then you possessed. Hell, I've recently moved and even counting everything I've brought over here, smart packing and assistance of friends has obviated the need for needing extra-strength.

On Which Wish?

I've been reviewing Rythlondar, which makes for fascinating reading.

The documentation of this classic campaign is unsurprisingly structured like a classic campaign. There is a veritable year of adventuring, in various sites of various depths. A slow but steady accumulation of treasure. The loss of many members of the expedition, and finally a sojourn into the wilderness to find a nymph.

They find that the nymph has the power of infinite wishes but that she was fickle. I find the final comment fascinating. I will let the text speak for itself.

"The robed man seemed pleased, and became quite talkative (though wary) and stated that the nymph lay just a few miles north of the valley, and that he was one of her friends guarding the approaches to her pool. He said she had the power of infinite wishes, but that she was fickle. Half the time the wish would be granted, the other half of the time she would utterly and irrevocably destroy the person making the wish. The highest members of the party realized that the risk was too great for them to chance, but it was decided to continue for the benefit of the lowest members of the group. Besides, the toll for passage had already been paid.

The Nymph was reached the following day, and she greeted them and offered to let anyone make a Wish. Only five members of the group elected to try a wish. First to try was Zonker, who wished for a rod of lordly might. The nymph went into her trance, blinked once, and Zonker disappeared. Unintimidated, Solstice next wished that his ancestor Equinox were alive again, and Solstice also vanished. Next Questor wished to be a patriarch, and found that his wish was partially granted and that he was now a priest. Balderol then wished for 10 points to apply to his abilities, and was dismayed to learn it would require another wish to apply the points to specific abilities. Balderol tried to apply the points and vanished. Finally Noto succumbed to temptation, being grieved of heart that he had progressed to the limits of a dwarf, and Wished that there would be no limit to how high he could go. Speculation on the possible results of the wish's wording proved moot as poor Noto disappeared with a last wave to his companions of many long adventures. Lastly, Questor, having tasted the only success thus far, could not resist another wish, and asked that the bag of holding be filled with gems. Questor's luck ran out, though, and he too vanished. By now the score was 5 persons wishing and five persons gone, with no net wishes granted, so the remaining members decided to leave. As they left, the nymph muttered that the odds were too good, and that she thought that one wish in three would be more reasonable. (!)"

Just what exactly happened there? The DM thought killing 5 (out of 5) characters was too generous, I suppose.

On DCC RPG: The Play and Rules

I know everyone has moved on to ACKS, but we're still thoroughly play-testing DCC over here, so here are my observations of actual play, along with player comments.

What follows is a long list of thoughts coming up during play and play-testing:

Major Issues:
  • Fumbles! Apparently if you are a fighter, who's job is fighting and killing things in armor, then not only will you fumble much more then the other classes (because you are attacking more) but your fumbles are more severe because you are in heavy armor.
  • The thought of a fifth level fighter rolling a 1 on his attack die, bothers me even with the addition of damage. The fact that average on a d7 is 4 with the chance of it being 1 for a fifth level fighter still seems low. Also, what happens at level 8? 10? Is the fighter capping out rolling a d12? That's some pretty wild variance for the guy who's supposedly best at fighting.
  • Why would you *ever* *ever* spend luck before a roll.
  • As cool as I think this system is, the extreme randomness of character creation + funnel, and the lack of player control over their character (from corruptions, etc.) make for fun one-offs, but cause serious misgivings about using the system for campaign play. Is anyone running a six month campaign with this? How is that working out? Did you have any spell-casters reach mid levels that used spells?
  • Characters are effectively invulnerable after hitting level 1. First, they have to be reduced to 0 hit points. Then they have to be ignored by every party member for a number of rounds equal to their level. Then, they *still* have a better than average chance of being alive. It makes it feel a little cartoonish at times - the opposite of old school/deadly.
  • The "Be creative with deeds" and "Here are a list of specific effects for specific kind of deeds" are directly at odds. One reason I enjoy old school games is that I'm not going to get into rules arguments with players about the 'rules' and I'm certainly not going to reference an effects table for a character ability during play. Should I just photocopy this section and hand it out to the player, so they can tell me the effect of the deed?
Things that are Confusing:
  • Why would you ever not declare a deed?
  • Spells in the beta document make no sense. Can you learn a spell between levels? How many can you prepare? Each once?
  • Luck? So having the birth-sign makes you bad at something? Until you earn enough luck to be good at it? If thieves and halflings always regenerate luck and they gain 1 or 2 per session, how do they not end up with luck totals in the 30+
  • Why are there no options for druid ranger types? No animal friendship? No animal companions? I play with a lot of girls, so these things are deal-breakers.
  • The character sheets are not labeled as to class
  • There is a discrepancy between the cleric turn unholy and character sheet regarding the application of the luck modifier.
  • The differences between weapons (mace? warhammer?) seem pointless. Either make them all do 1d6, or do some pathfinder style weapon balancing.
  • There are a ton of edge case, specific rules, that are interesting but difficult to keep straight after years of playing Dungeons & Dragons. Some clarification or collection of these would be useful. I am refering to Strength less than 5, 2-handers having an initiative penalty. 
Minor Issues:
  • It's unclear from the beta how experience points are acquired.
  • Over a campaign you will see a lot of repetition in the mercurial magic table.
  • How can the spell fumble table options for 'rain' not include frogs?
  • "Chapter: FIve"
  • "suffering a. -1" (Page 98, result 0)
  • "Attack" on the fighter character sheet should read "attack die" or some such to indicate that it's a variable amount.
 Again, I know the above seems negative, but we did have a lot of fun playing.

On the Vagaries of Fate

The Names and Fates of each of of the starting characters in our DCC Playtest:

Group one
  • Sham the Pious, Dwarven Miner: Killed by fire while covered in oil
  • Higgens the Honest, Halfling Trader: Killed by a henous vortex issuing from the mouth of an ancient god.
  • Zak the Lion, Human Locksmith: Speared by Kobold
  • Spoag the Deed-Doer, Dwarven Blacksmith: Killed by crushing dragon's maw trap
  • Pennington, the Human Herder: Fell down stairs
  • Tavis the Accursed, Elven Forester: Falling to ground in net trap with bugbear
  • Byron the Belligerent, the Human Hunter: Mauled by a wild dog
  • Goodman the Simple, The Human Woodcutter: Mauled by a wild dog
  • Russ, son of Nickle the Grim, Human Blacksmith: Death from raven poison
  • Curtis the Magnanimous, Human Fortuneteller: Killed by Kobold spear
  • Gorgonmilk the Vain, Elven Sage: Killed by a spider
  • Blackrazor the Longshanks, Elven Forester: Killed by a crushing dragon's maw trap
  • Beedo the Tall, Human Hunter: Killed by Armored Skeleton
  • Finch the Affable, Human Jester: Survived
  • Cher, Human Guild Beggar: Survived
  • William the Human Wainwright: Survived
  • Chang, Human Rice Farmer: Survived
  • Stroh the Careless, the Human Woodcutter: Survived
  • Leroy the Human Herder: Survived
  • Maliszewski the Fat, Human Shaman: Survived
  • Gordon Strongarm, Halfling Vagrant: Survived
  • Balky, Human Herder: Survived
  • Rose the Picker: Dwarven Miner: Survived
Group 2
  • Lord Nelson, Human Cleric: Survived
  • Beedo the Cruel, Elven Artisan: Survived
  • Wilber, Human Armorer: Slain by a Raven
  • Goodman the Accursed, Human Wheat Farmer: Survived
  • Zak the Fat, Human Ditchdigger: Survived
  • Thyme the Tough, Human Turnip Farmer: Survived
  • Vibora, Human Parsnip Farmer: Survived
  • T-rex, Dwarven Miner: Died to a minotaur cleave. (Note, had a 3 Strength)
  • Tavis the Affable, Human Woodcutter: Critically hit by a flaming firebrand thrown by a Minotaur while covered in oil.
  • Carisse, Human Rutabaga Farmer: Speared by Kobolds
  • Kendra the Simple, Human Herder: Speared by Kobolds
  • Bing the Human Blacksmith: Death by Raven
  • Russ, Son of Nickle the Pale, Human Gravedigger: Killed by Kobolds.
  • Gorgonmilk the Bold, Human Corn Farmer: Crushed by Skeletal glaive
  • Blackrazor the Deed-Doer, Human Mercenary: Killed by Lizard King on Giant Spider with glaive.

On DCC RPG: The Funnel

So we've been play-testing the DCC RPG.

This game is a complicated beast.

Today we're just going to talk about the Funnel section, where 0-level characters are hewn down like wheat at harvest.

First, the funnel part was highly entertaining, people did laugh a lot during play, but there was a substantive amount of player frustration. Everyone enjoyed themselves, but afterwords expressed some comments that they had no desire to repeat the process.

This was played out with 2 totally different groups sharing no players, running the same module. My thoughts follow

On Randomness and the determination with that method:
The random determination of the characters and the low stats were a *huge* issue. Even with characters that were way statistically above average (on 3d6) players had serious issues with playing any character that has a penalty. This is among 8 players in two different groups with no overlap.

This was compounded when it was time to pick a class. People wanted (of course) to maximize their choices with their luck bonus and such, along with their stat selections. This is, of course, not possible; leading to many of the players feeling like they were playing substandard characters (even when their character was above average).

The biggest problem of the whole exercise really was that it was very difficult for the players to get attached to any of their characters in a long term type sense. They basically felt out of control of the process and didn't look forward to investing energy in whatever was just given them for a three to six month campaign.

I do have some ideas for solutions, I think for any long term play that characters would need to each be created by hand, with the profession selected (as the rules suggest) rather than sticking with random determination.

Also, the scales could be altered slightly so that 3 offers a +0, 4-5 offer a +1, 6-8 offer a +2, 9-12 offer a +3, 13+ offers a +4, 16+ offers a +5 and 18+ offers a +6 would go a *long* way towards mitigating the feeling like you were playing a lousy character.

On Beta Design:
The layout and design of the beta testing document is atrocious. Yes, the art is very pretty. Sadly I do not own stock in ink, and having to print out dozens of ink heavy illustrations for reference during play was a pretty thoughtless move. I'm sure it will look wonderful in it's final printed version.

On Luck and Confusion:
Other more minor things include the fact that Luck was somewhat confusing, and the fact that it is spent permanently being an issue. Also, luck modifiers being negative can make the birth-signs bad.

In spite of the comments and criticism above, there was a lot of laughter during the game. The herd animals and various and sundry items caused a lot of entertainment. At one point someone said "We only have 50' of chicken". However when combat happened, no one was able to remember animals that were able to attack. 

The funnel play seems great for a 1-off, but for campaign play which is primarily  what my gaming groups participate in, it requires a lot of work before we'd find it suitable for our table.

Here are some comments from the players:
"I think that, like most well-done random character generation, it provided us with hooks to make up fanciful stories about our fresh meat. I definitely would not want to do it every month or two, stalling the start of short campaigns. I also wouldn't use it to introduce a first-time roleplayer to the hobby--it might be traumatic to lose so many characters in such a short time.
     Overall, I think it's a fun concept that lets you throw around super-low-powered pre-adventurers with barely two hitpoints to rub together. I just wouldn't want to reset to that power level constantly. " - G
"So far it seems like the best part of the game. It is at least the most original part. The rest of it seems relatively standard." - R

"fun and entertaining... could be a game all its own." -J. M.

"The funnel play was entertaining. It was fun and I think it added a nice dynamic to the game. I would play it again." -J. S.

"I do not feel inclined to play this system again. 

Starting with a handful of random names, numbers, backgrounds, even if allowed to customize each one, still inserts to (sic) much of a degree of randomness. From a power-gaming perspective, there are effectively only two methods of character creation that should be followed. Each player should create each of the four fundamental character types or each player should create multiple versions of what they want to play so that the survivors are most likely to cover standard party needs and be something the player wants to play. I'm also not inclined to want to have a starting character (though proven to be indifferent in Hackmaster) trying to "run" with higher level characters - making the funnel just a mechanic for playing 0-level characters. Both magic path systems provide interesting development options, but at a cost that is probably a little too steep at the outset and just irritating at higher levels. Certainly having disapproval (or whatever the term is) of the divine spell casting path makes the cleric more interesting and not the standard heal-bot. However, such limitations on spell-casting make an already underpowered caster even less effective when combined with the silly "turn everything opposed to you" mechanic. If the mechanic were scaled back to a more limited target: undead, outsiders, beasts, etc. - it would make for a more directed (and possibly interesting) character and limit "wasted" turning attempts and reduce disapproval build-up. Corruption of an arcane spell caster is a pretty common theme in media and makes some sense as it relates our generally perceived ideas of magical addiction. However, using this type of rolled 1 mechanic is specifically punishing spell-casters. Certainly, the ability to continue casting spells as long as you don't fail a roll is powerful, but so is being able to swing a sword or fire a bow indefinitely and there isn't much punishment for a thief or fighter rolling a 1 - saving dropping a weapon, getting it stuck or breaking a bow string. To balance that playing field, why not have the weapon wielder remove a finger/toe/eye/ear leading to them being "freaks" in the same manner as the arcane casters eventually become? I know, because magic is so powerful, but a one-eyed, hook-handed, peg-legged barkeep is a great NPC. Luck dice are just an added complication that people will often forget about or misuse (cheat) because they don't fully understand the mechanic and/or if it does or does not apply to every character and does or does not apply to each roll. I'm not saying dumb it down, but it seems there could be a more effective implementation of this type of "bonus"." - P (You can comment on this at his blog.)

On it Being Too Late for the Stones to Vote II

Diablo III is going to have a real money auction house.

Two thoughts:
"Times are bad. Children no longer obey their parents, and everyone is writing a book."
Marcus Tullius Cicero


How is this not my new part time job?

"The world is passing through troubling times. The young people of today think of nothing but themselves. They have no reverence for parents or old age. They are impatient of all restraint. They talk as if they knew everything, and what passes for wisdom with us is foolishness with them. As for the girls, they are forward, immodest and unladylike in speech, behavior and dress."~Extract from a sermon preached by Peter the Hermit in A.D. 1274.
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