Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Using Feng Shui to Run D&D in 60 Seconds

Dwarf - Big Bruiser
Elf - Archer
Halfling - Everyday Hero (I know Everyman is gendered but this sure is clunky appellation)
Half-Elf - Don't play a half-elf
Half-Orc - This one either
Gnome - Scrappy Kid
Orc - Bandit
Cleric - Magic Cop
Magic-User - Sorcerer
Thief - Thief
Fighter - Ex-Special Forces (but almost any Type would work since the whole game is more combat-focused than D&D, which has that reputation but as oldschoolers know is actually much ...oh whew glad I caught myself, this was almost a blog post)
Assassin - Ninja
Paladin - Bodyguard
Ranger - Bounty Hunter
Druid - Supernatural Creature (or a modded/ported Geomancer from the previous edition)
Bard - Cyborg
Monk - If you can't find a good kung fu type my dude then you might have picked up Mouse Guard by mistake.


I have a card in my wallet. It's a blank playing card. I have taken up both sides game information. The information in question is four character sheets for four systems for four characters who are one character. So now if someone is ready to play VDND or LotFP or Feng Shui 2 or even Fate Accelerated Edition I am prepared to roll. It's actually come in handy a couple times since I made it last year.

The gag is a simple one and derives from some common conventions: a young prince and warrior of the realm might be eligible for governance when his lordly father passes away but his aunt the duchess or his uncle the vizier or whatever frames him for poisoning his father and banishes him, along with any soldiers/guards/servants/retainers loyal to him. This ends up being a far larger number than the Bad Guy expects so they are forever fearful that this aggrieved retinue will one day return, even while under threat of death, perhaps after raising a larger/stronger army. To secure their power base the BG sends out mercenaries and assassins and brainwashed warriors and unwitting NPC adventuring parties all out after the prince and his followers.

This necessitates a peculiar survival strategy.

The prince and all his assembled loyalists split up into groups of four, each of them identically outfitted and groomed, each of them identically armed, and spread out through the land. Even if you find one of these cells, you will have no idea which one is the real prince and which ones are the loyal imposters. That's assuming the real prince ever even is in the group that you find! These days he calls himself Oom and, therefore, so do the servants following him. Occasionally an enemy is successful in striking down the man purporting to be Oom, prompting another retainer to step forward and declare they were the real Oom all the time, taking up his place.

Next time they're in town this trio will be seen drinking in a few bars and the next morning they will be four again. A life of adventure or simply a life outside of village drudgery that comes with the added security of three men pledged to watch your back and the promise of favors should the kingdom of Oom ever be rightly restored? A tempting offer for many a townie, and indeed many a veteran and guardsman. There are warriors everywhere if you know where to look and when there aren't where do warriors come from in the first place except for where Circumstances meet Will?

This is in fact a popular enough strategy that other bands wholly unconnected from the original loyalists have adopted it, traveling the countryside as Ooms. That's not to say that all Oom bands are identical - some may be dressed for Sherwood Forest, others dressed for Kyoto - but while height and weight and countenance may change they are within the band. Even bands of orcish Ooms or Oom women are not generally remarked upon because this story has been kept so deliberately vague, the details so changed from band to band, that who's to say what the real original story was? Maybe there never was an Oom.

Of course there was, and they're still out there doing their thing, but the Duchess Or Whatever never needed to worry: they hated that kingdom and are glad of the back of it, having a blast playing a cup and ball game with the entire world, and never had any intentions of going back.

Oom bands will sometimes run into one another, mix, and separate, to keep things fresh. Other times one band may send for help or counsel from one or more other quartets. These are kept rare when not in outright crisis: staying apart is a key piece of the scheme, after all.

In 5e you can do this really easily with only class and background features, never mind feats to round things out. When it comes to LotFP you just kind of buy them along with your gear. For both of these in the interest of fairness I think you have to pay for every piece of equipment and food for all four in your band and keep that up as you progress, which gets easier. And you may have to go a while with an incomplete group. I'd also say in the interest of fairness only one person in a group should be actively fighting and doing PC shit, though the rest can help like watch for people following your carts or help break camp or climb over a wall.

In Feng Shui (2) I just used the Ex-Special Forces type and just changed the skills and weapons to make them more period appropriate. In FAE I just make these whole core concepts into Aspects and take the "You didn't get the original Multi-Man!" shit and turn them into Stunts 1/session. I have never ever had a human say "Let's play Fate" in person (not "have you tried FATE" but "FATE seems like fun let's play it") but enough of my friends purportedly appreciate the idea of playing it that I have it on hand.

Keep in mind that losing an Oom and having the 'real' Oom step forward means starting from scratch with XP and advancement and shit, they just retain knowledge of what has gone on so far. So it's the same character but it isn't, and they likely have different ability scores and shit where the DM feels that's fair. Honestly the version in my wallet has good-but-not-great scores so I think he's fine.

This is just a reskin really of the old gag where your dwarf Gunnar dies so you cross out his name at the top and a dwarf named Sigmar with the same starting gear walks in from the next room and now he's in the party and he picks up all of Gunnar's stuff, but it's got just enough to it to turn it into a weird setting detail, encounter table entry, quest hook, or tavern rumor. It's also a reliable way to pick up backup for a big fight or a dangerous delve.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Coins of Corrine

There is a game that war men play.

A sigil beats a scar, a scar beats a staff, a staff beats a steed, a steed beats a sheaf, a sheaf beats a sigil.

Each coin has a value: sheaf is 5, steed 6, staff 7, scar 8, sigil 9.

Each coin can smile or shun, depending which side faces up. Smiles count as two of their kind, shuns instead knock out the lowest value coin from an opponent. Usually only one coin smiles or shuns per hand, but some gamblers insist playing with one of each. Playing where every coin can shun or smile is playing in the manner of gnolls, for whom the true test of skill in this game is being able to track the math, rather than how often you win.

A full purse is eight coins, a hand is five coins, a play is four coins. When you pull your coins you can pay a token of one of your highest value coins in order to take a look at your hand. Otherwise you must bet blind but you get to drop the lowest coin in your hand from play. After bets you reveal your hand and go to town.

Shuns take effect first. Coins triumph over each other as listed above. Once everyone's finished with their triumphs if there are still people in play (sometimes there aren't) then it goes to high coin, and then remaining multiples of high coin in order to determine the victorious Sceptre. Once that has been determined their opponent has one last chance for a Steal play, where they can try to make a pauper play (3 coins) from their fallen coins whose total is greater than the Sceptre's hand (or, in casual play, their highest remaining coin); the catch is that this play must contain one coin that the Sceptre's highest coin normally triumphs, e.g. You can only defeat a sigil if your play contains at least one scar and either staffs or steeds.

There are two other unofficial rules to mind.

One is the Stranger, a coin that nobody else at the table has, usually some foreign currency. If your hand has a stranger in it when you look at your hand then you do not have to discard your highest coin, you can instead drop the stranger. If you bet blind a stranger has no value but cannot be triumphed and can be used to break ties.

The other is the Slug, a token given out in lieu of normal pay, an IOU marker for soldiers. Slugs always count as two sheafs and cannot triumph or be triumphed.

If you're playing D&D 5e and you have proficiency with a gaming set that means you know how to play this game. Orcs bet brashly, halflings are little rules lawyers, dwarves try to yell everyone down and scare them off, tieflings are almost uniformly bad at this since if their genetic ancestors had much luck that didn't come from the devil then they wouldn't look like they do.

The entire story of how much action a soldier has seen, where, and under what circumstances can be told in a handful of coins. Any PC or NPC can get in at this if they have any pocket change. Like so many games that soldiers love in all realities the point of the game is not even to win but to eat up time and distract from looming concerns. Therefore circular rules arguments and bitching about obvious exploits are key parts of the process.

You will see soldiers wearing necklaces made with the coins they carry from fallen friends. They have a familiarity with currency that most treasurers would envy and can appraise and mentally convert most non-magical lucre easily enough. There are soldiers with leather wallets of strange coins they have found, like a binder of pokemon cards. Favored or lucky coins are left on the eyes of the lives they never wanted to take. You will see in the chapel a row of knights in solemn regalia and an elderly one-armed captain...he rises after the service and donates a small pouch, spilling an oft-mended pouch into the poor box. It is a small donation. It is an enormous gift.

This is a quick and dirty way of distinguishing your Fighters from each other and building in your backstory. The medic from Brescheau who only keeps sheaves and paints on the other suits. The Delt warrior prince who has had several platinum pieces smelted down and recast into a bespoke playing set. The young cadet whose purse is fat with his enlistment pay. The wounded pikeman lost in the Strangle who plays a game against a velvet voiced stranger in too-early forest twilight, a game where his opponent holds only a single smiling staff.

Again, many times you never make it past the triumph phase, players taking it in turn to risk their coins to knock others' coins out of contention. Again, the point is not to win. In that way it's like warfare. No, the point is to spend time with your friends and comrades before it's too late. Maybe get to know a new companion. Or perhaps have a conversation that only those thoroughly versed can comprehend, such as in enemy captivity. Pass a message by means of a distant traded copper.

Pickpockets know to steer clear of any person who jingles. That's not the sound of a dinner bell, but of a rattlesnake's warning of a weapon ready to cut its enemy down.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Dawnstar Registration

Saturdays, 9PM Eastern US to roughly 11PM Eastern US, and we can go later some nights depending on whether I work or not. This will be weekly and if I know I won't be able to make it I will try to get a fill-in Referee.

You do not have to know how to play Feng Shui/Feng Shui 2, or have read the articles I've put up about it. Just know the following before the first session:

  • This is basically Studio Ghibli Wacky Races with some other cartoons and Japanese shit and 80s cartoons and (being FS) action movie stuff thrown in. Sometimes it will be mainstream, sometimes more fantastic or sci-fi, sometimes whole sessions will focus on the more pastoral aspects of these characters' lives. Don't take everything very seriously but don't roll up with Johnny Fart and the Dildo 5000...try to keep the basic gist of this in mind.
  • You only need a few D6.
  • You need to know what kind of guy you want to play. This might mean that you look at one of these documents and pick a Type you want to play, or maybe you could read the Background for the campaign or check out the individual entries under the tag. Or just...have a guy in mind and I'll pick something close enough to play for your first session.
  • That said, after the first session or two be prepared to play more than one character. If you've played certain types of RPG you're used to filling out the cast in certain situations, this will be one of those.

Our first couple sessions will be a little stripped down because I'm still getting all my video/call streaming stuff re-worked out on my computer. So have a lot of patience with me on that and I'll have a lot of patience with you regarding everything else.

Now I'm open to as many people as want to play but know that I'm not going to run with more than 6 in a week (cross talk becomes too much a problem online). If a week shows where I can't get 3 together to run then I do a shorter little session with whoever showed up and go do something else.

Additionally I would prefer to start the campaign knowing for certain that at least 3 players will more or less be able to make it every week. Things come up, people go out of town, get sick, I get that, but I want a few people on board for whom this is their Saturday night thing, not a backup. I know that can be a big ask because it is Saturday night but, well.....that's when I can do this.

Any questions just ask them here or on G+ and I'll answer. Depending on response I can start as early as this weekend but otherwise I'm going to begin 10 February 2018 at 9PM Eastern US. Otherwise, sign up below or on the G+ thread.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

The Wizard

Magic is not real.

Not everyone knows that. Some insist they can cast spells and are actually quite convincing but anything they can do you can do.

HD/Saves/Attack/Advance as Thief/Specialist.

You are well read and well practiced in your many talents and that's it.

When you encounter a problem - a monster, a locked pyramid, a riddling illusion, a crystalline barrier, an uncooperative sheriff - you can roll 1d100. If your result is equal to or less than your Intelligence plus your level then this is something you know about or know how to do. Your Int+Lvl is called your Theory.

You can use this for languages but a positive result doesn't imply fluency, it just means you know how to convey the specific message you want to say or decode this specific cave pictogram.

At any point you may add any number of Experience Points you've earned to your Theory as a one-time bonus before rolling d100 to determine your success. You level up more slowly but learn quickly.

If you ever want to deduce how to duplicate the effects of a spell or seemingly supernatural effect you've witnessed then you must roll against your Theory but may not add any XP to boost your chances. You get 1 chance for each spell/effect until you get another chance to observe it.

If you want to actually put your knowledge to use you have to make another roll to see if you can actually walk the walk or if you're just full of book smarts, not ready for the real world. This is a d100 roll against #x2, where # is the relevant Ability Score. #x2 is called your Practice. You may not add XP or your level to Practice but you get a +1 bonus to Practice cumulative the longer you try to grasp this new technique.

Once per level you can take some trick that you've successfully Practiced and turn it into a Technique. Techniques are a flat d20 roll equal or under Intelligence.

You have to pay to learn how to do stuff, you have to work to actually get good at doing stuff, and after that it becomes routine and memory.

The big control on this is that pulling off a lot of Techniques requires a lot of preparation or a lot of materials. A good Wizard has a whole lot of junk and tools on them at all times in order to better improvise but sometimes actually trying their Practice roll or executing a Technique will be just impossible without a trip to the store or some rare resource being involved.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Strangleparts - A "One Day" Forest Crawl For Two Systems

Image result for kids in creepy forest
If you are an adventurer from out in the wider world, Corrindi or some other Delt people or from beyond the red mountains, perhaps, then you may well adventure into the Strangle using the rules of D&D 5th Edition, hereafter VDND. That makes sense. You are wandering heroes, perhaps basing your operations from one of the nearby towns of kingdoms. Maybe you venture into the Strangle in search of strange game, or fantastic treasures, or because some lord or god commanded it be so. You may be someone dedicated to preserving the Idle. You may even be one of the strange creatures who there dwell, such as a Wolder or Mag. That makes sense. All that seems right and good. You can use these rules here in order to do so.

But that's only one side of the coin. What about the denizens of the Idle Lands? The towns and villages and farms cut off from the wider world by the god-forest? There are no Idle adventurers, that's surely some kind of moron if not an oxy one. These people have grown up in the shadow of things stranger than deaths. None venture in cavalierly. Those who have grown up here are all old enough to know better. But you're not grown up yet.

Strangleparts is an attempt to fulfill the literalization of +Pearce Shea's Monsterhearts game, stripping it of much of its novelty and invention in order to make its "attributeless D&D" something more like something on the back of a DM screen. The idea here is to end up in less of a Pennywise place and more of a Gingerbread House place. If it helps you to think of this as "perma-death Disney" or "Clive Barker's A Wizard of Earthsea" then do so.

If you want to play a campaign heading from within the Idle Lands into the dark and menacing Strangle (or through the same, trying to get out to the nations beyond) then you can use the rules on Pearce's website or buy In The Woods and get the straight dope. To summarize as succinctly as possible as not to bite Pearce's traffic or sales:

8 Simple Rules For Playing My Green Age Daughter

  1. All characters are around 11.
  2. You are each either a Toughie, a Smartie, or a Baddie. Baddies have experienced some strange secret of the Strangle and become somewhat changed by the experience. 
  3. Every Secret you know reduces your max EP. Every round you spend in the presence of a monster or some unspeakable weirdness reduces your EP. Any attempt to convince someone of a Secret prompts an immediate wandering monster check whether you succeed or fail, and, likewise, lowers the NPC's EP.
  4. Every character has a sack with a day and a half worth of spartan rations, a good knife, their Talisman against the unknown and a Nickname to protect from the known. Smarties can read and make maps, and so they begin with a map.
  5. When you're out of EP you are helpless. The Strangle claims you or something weirder happens. Toughies have the most EP.
  6. Toughies are the best at hurting creatures.
  7. Baddies are the best at hiding and sneaking.
  8. Smarties are the best at searching or puzzling.
Additionally all your characters have 2 other items in their sacks, roll here to determine..

1. A roll of canvas to use for shelter
2. Sleeping bag
3. Good luck charm
4. Small offering to the gods
5. Rope
6. A pot
7. Flint and steel
8. Shears
9. Mask
10. Fishing line and hook
11. Net
12. Torch or Lantern
13. Chalk and charcoal
14. Paper and paints
15. Yellow thread
16. Hooded cloak
17. Climbing cleats
18. Grandparent's diary
19. Magnifying lens
20. 3x food

The purpose here is to get two different game experiences in the same setting even if your table is made up of the same people, each campaign happening simultaneously and maybe bumping into one another but being very much their own thing. These aren't meant to dovetail. In fact, the VDND party may seem very much like a kind of enemy or strange secret to many of the Monsterparts kids. You can map out the track around the Ryvern and get vastly different games depending on which direction you're traveling, even if both parties hit all the same beats. They'll occur in a different order and have vastly different impacts.

I don't know. Just something I want to do if I get the chance.