Saturday, 19 January 2019

Class: the Artist

Ah, the artist. A sensitive soul, accompanying our band of adventurers in search of inspiration. Despite their talents lying somewhat outside the normal activities of an adventuring party, they can be surprisingly useful.

Experience: The Artist levels up at the same speed as a Thief/Rogue/Specialist/Whatever
Hit Dice: d4
Attack chance & Saves: as a Magic-User
Weapons & Armour: if your system restricts weapons & armour, then the Artist can use any weapons (and shields), but cannot wear armour.
Field Paintings: when presented with an unusual or impressive sight - which might be a strange landscape, monster, magnificent chamber in a dungeon, supernatural phenomenon, or something else - the Artist can make a painting. Doing this requires an hour of safe, uninterrupted work, during which the artist can freely access their subject. A painting can be sold to art collectors, like any other treasure (and the party gets XP for selling it). It's probably worth 500 silver for most paintings. The subject must be something unique or previously undiscovered to be worth anything; the point is that it captures the essence of something truly remarkable.
Wisdom Modifier: An artist's perceptive nature gives them an unusual insight into their surroundings. Their Wisdom modifier is treated as being +1 better.
Alertness: An artist is surprised less often than other characters (only a 1-in-6 chance), similarly to an Elf.
Mapping: If an artist is mapping for the party, then their skill at making quick sketches, measurements etc means that doing so doesn't slow them down at all; the party can move at full speed and still have an accurate map.
Equipment: Proper artist's materials cost the same amount as a thief's tools.

Thursday, 17 January 2019

Custom LotFP Classes, part 2

Part 1 is here, in which I explain the basic idea and then break each LotFP class down into its components and how much XP they cost.

Here's part 2, in which I make up a bunch of new features for custom classes. These are all home-brew.

New Skills, each rolled on a d6 and starting at 1-in-6 like other Specialist skills.
Medicine: On a successful Medicine roll (which takes a turn) you can do one of the following:
   Provide first aid, raising a patient on 0 or less HP to 1 HP, so they're awake and not dying anymore.
   Accelerate healing, so that the patient heals [the result on the d6] extra HP when they next sleep.
   Diagnose a disease, poison, or other condition.
Failing the Medicine roll deals 1 damage to the patient from the dubiously necessary medical procedures.
Swimming: Required to keep your head above water if you're encumbered or swimming in dangerous conditions, might also let you do tricky things underwater. Reduce your swimming chance by your encumbrance level; armour drags you down.
Leadership: A character with at least 2-in-6 in this skill can make a leadership check when first hiring a retainer. If it succeeds, add [the result on the d6] to the retainer's loyalty/morale, up to a maximum of 12.
Cryptography: Works like the Languages skill, except it applies to cracking codes (or devising new ones for a given purpose). A successful cryptography roll lets you read things like scrolls and spell-books without casting detect magic. Intelligence modifier applies.
Force Open Doors: you can put skill points into this. Strength modifier applies.

Spellcasting
The following is an additional option for how you cast.
+500 to cast through an occult pact (see below).
The following are additional options for what spell list you use.
-100 A tightly limited spell list (see below for examples).
-400 A single spell. Probably something flexible like Summon.
The following are additional extras that a spell-caster might have.
-100 if spell casting requires a blood offering (spending HP equal to the spell's level).
-100 if you must spend a round  ritually preparing to cast, before actually casting the spell.

Innate Spells
The capacity to mimic the effect of a spell. Base cost is:
100 multiplied by the level of the spell. (IE a level 2 spell costs 200 XP, etc).
Allowing the spell to be cast once per day.
x2 if it can be cast once per hour.
x3 if it can be cast once per turn.
x4 if it can be cast at-will.
if it can only be cast when the character reaches the same level a Magic User would need to be to first cast it (ignore for 1st level spells).
 if it requires significant materials (costly, rare, proscribed, taken from corpses, etc) to cast.
 if it can only be cast in specific circumstances (while on holy ground, if the caster is on half HP or less, in a well-stocked laboratory, etc).

Combat
So, the fighter is costed weirdly (hence the 'fighter tax'). If we're introducing homebrew, I'd have the fighter's bonus to hit cost only 200 XP, and then all by the book fighters get the following as well:
+300 to be able to Follow Through In Combat: whenever an attack drops an enemy, you can make another attack immediately. Can't make more of these bonus attacks per round per enemy.
The following are also home-brewed combat abilities:
+200 to add your level to all damage rolls.
+200 to be able to step in the way of an attack that would hit an ally next to you, taking the hit yourself instead. Diving in front of bullets, bodyguard-style.
+100 to grant +2 AC to those fighting to either side of you when you use the Parry combat option. Doesn't stack if multiple combatants use it, you dirty power-gamer.

Inhuman abilities
Abilities you get because you're not even slightly human. Having these probably makes you chaotic (or, less commonly, lawful).
-50 if you must consume some problematic substance (either rare, expensive, harmful or socially taboo) substance each day or else take penalties as if starving. Examples include human blood, carrion, holy libations, or opium.
-50 if you are undead and thus vulnerable to all things that target undead.
-50 if some material does double damage to you, eg cold iron, silver, etc.
-50 if you are unusually flammable and take double damage from fire, heat, etc.
+150 if you do not require food & drink like mortals do.
+100 if you can breathe water just as well as air.
+100 if you cannot feel pain and must be physically hacked apart, making you immune to back-stabs.
+200 if you do not breathe at all.
+200 if you cannot suffer from diseases due to a lack of biological functions.
+400 if your form is amorphous and flexible, allowing you to pass through small gaps, shape your body oddly, and add your level to Wrestling rolls (if you don't do that already by adding your level to hit rolls)
+800 if you are totally intangible, able to pass through walls etc, immune to physical damage, and unable to touch, carry, or be touched by any physical item.
+100 to have an unarmed attack (bite, claws, etc) that does d6 damage. +50 for each dice size bigger the attack is (so d8 costs +150, etc).

Special Talents
Weird things you can learn to do.
+500 to be able to graft body parts onto a patient with a successful Medicine roll (see above). Doing so takes an hour, requires intact fresh body parts. The result depends on the body part grafted, but examples include extra limbs (allowing you to hold more stuff), extra eyes for 360 vision, organs from monsters granting powers the donor possessed, bony armour for extra AC, claws that increase the damage of unarmed attacks, etc.
+300 to be able to take detailed scientific notes, sketches, etc of unusual things you encounter, enough that scientists in the relevant field will pay for them as if they were treasure. Taking these notes requires an hour to work in and uninterrupted, safe access to the subject. Probably worth around 500 Silver, maybe more for the most unusual specimens. Could equally apply to a talented artist making paintings, a chronicler recording findings for a wealthy patron, etc.
+100 to be able to see twice as far in low-light conditions.
+200 if your unusual vitality lets you heal twice as fast as normal.
+100 to be more effective at some mundane task a (digging, navigation, etc). As a rule of thumb, as effective as your level +1 normal workers.
+100 to be able to perform the functions of some specialist retainer (such as an accountant, alchemist, armourer, etc).
+100 for each 100 silver or additional equipment you start out with.
-100 to start out with only a handful of equipment (perhaps a weapon and one other item, and d6 silver).

Casting through Occult Pacts
For when a character's spells are granted directly by the patronage of some otherworldly being.
The spell-caster starts out knowing only 1 spell from their relevant list. They learn an additional spell whenever they gain a level. The level of this spell is equivalent to the highest-level spell slot that a MU of their level gets access to. (So at 3rd and 4th level they get a Level 2 spell, at 5th and 6th level they get a Level 3 spell, etc).
To cast a spell, the spell-caster must roll a d12 and add their level: if the total is 13 or more, the spell succeeds. A roll of 1 always fails.
If the spell roll fails, the caster's patron requires something of them; some specific sacrifice, a mission to advance the patron's goals, setting up a shrine, proselytising, etc. The Referee determines what. The spell fails, and no further spells can be cast until the task is complete. Alternately, the patron might require their pawn to swear some oath (such as never bearing weapons, never harming spiders, etc); breaking this oath deals d6 damage per level to the character as they are smote, and prevents them casting spells at all for a day.

Tightly Limited Spell Lists
Probably want to only have 1-5 spells at each level. Some examples include:
Illusion: 1st: Light, Fairie Fire, Message, Secret Page. 2nd: Audible Glamour, Change Self, Invisibility, Mirror Image, Phantasmal Force. 3rd: Detect Illusions, Invisibility 10’ Radius, Phantasmal Psychedelia. 4th: Hallucinatory Terrain, Improved Invisibility, 5th: Secret Chest, Feeblemind. 6th: Phantasmal Supergoria, Veil. 7th: Mass Invisibility, Prismatic Sphere/Spray/Wall, Vanish. 8th: Symbol.
Necromancy: 1st: Invisibility to Undead, Turn Undead, Unseen Servant. 2nd: Ray of Enfeeblement. 3rd: Speak with Dead. 4th: Shadow Monsters. 5th:Animate Dead, Cloudkill, Magic Jar. 6th: Animate Dead Monsters, Shades. 7th: Simulacrum. 8th: Clone, Trap the Soul. 9th: Power Word Kill.
Prophecy: 1st: Detect Evil, Detect Magic, Identify. 2nd: Augury, Detect Invisible, Locate Object. 3rd: Clairvoyance, Detect Illusion. 4th: Detect Lie, Divination. 5th: Commune, True Seeing. 6th: Find the Path, Tongues, Legend Lore.7th: Remote Surveillance, Vision.
Animism: 1st: Bookspeak, Summoning, Unseen Servant. 2nd: Magic Mouth, Speak with Animals, Web. 3rd: Speak with Dead, Howl of the Moon, Sacrifice, Strange Waters. 4th: Speak with Plants, Growth of Plants. 5th: Insect Plague, Contact Outer Sphere, Faithful Hound. 6th: Mind Switch, Speak with Monsters. 7th: Animate Artwork, Witchlamp Aura. 8th: Maze. 9th: Imprisonment.
Speleomancy: 1st: Spider Climb, Shield. 2nd: Heat Metal, Stinking Cloud. 3rd: Water Breathing, Gaseous Form. 4th: Dig, Seven Gates. 5th: Cloudkill, Stone-shape, Wall of Stone. 6th: Find the Path, Disintegrate, Stone to Flesh. 7th: Earthquake, Reverse Gravity, Statue. 8th: Maze.

Tuesday, 15 January 2019

Hazards of Metacognition

From the dreamscapes game. Ways that your mind can get fucked up, and dramatically alter how you interact with the world. Not the only way, mind you, but these can happen to you if you learn things you shouldn't.
(add a couple of 0's to the XP amounts for games where a fighter needs 2000 xp to level up)

  • Unusual events are impossible and evil. Make all d20 rolls with 3d6 instead: those you interact with do likewise for that interaction (IE saving throws, rolls to hit you, etc). Wants you to ’correct’ statistical anomalous events, IE kill those who survive what seems like certain death. 
  • Hidden forces control everything. Agent can hear the table-chatter of the players and GM, knows that admitting this results in instant death. Wants others to realise this too, to enlighten them.
  • Everything is made of numbers. Agent is aware of the game’s mechanics, including all dice rolls that happen, and their game stats (and those of their allies if the player knows them). Ackn, and knows that acknowledging this results in instant death. Wants you to take detailed numerical measurements of everything you interact with.
  • Fiction determines reality! The agent gains 1 XP every time their player spots an out-of-character reference to another work of fiction in the world. Two hints: the Orphic Institute are from WoD, Triffids are from John Wyndham. Work the rest out yourselves. Wants you to act in ways that ‘make for a good story’.
  • The thorns, the thorns! Agent perceives long sharp thorns growing out of all plants & vegetable matter. Contact with the thorns deals d4 psychosomatic damage. Can talk to plants. Wants you to tear down civilisation, spread briars and roses, exalt the green world. Likes triffids quite a lot.
  • Everything is doomed. The player starts the session with a suit of 13 playing cards, values 1-13. Whenever a dice is rolled, instead they discard one of those cards and take that as the number. Once the cards run out, go back to rolling normally. Wants you to prepare for the worst, assume that all will come to ruin. Often correct about this.  
  • It’s a conspiracy! They are everywhere! This doesn’t actually change anything. The meme-virus is quite correct. Wants you to be on the lookout for secret influences, disguises, infiltration.
  • Death is but one algorithmic step in a cosmic calculation. When the agent dies for good, their knowledge carries over, replacement comes in with 1/2 their XP total. Wants you to die, to observe and document others dying, or to die while diligently documenting it.  
  • I shall cleanse the earth in Blood! The agent gets 1XP each mission if they kill somebody ritualistically. Totally OK if this is somebody you wanted to kill anyway, so long as you make it weird. Wants you to kill people and offer their blood to dark gods.
  • Reality exists by consensus, belief powers everything. The agent can, once per session, decide one cosmetic detail of the world, overruling the GM. Wants you to focus on propaganda and persuasion to alter perception and, thus, reality.
  • Everything & everybody is made of meat! The agent can bite for d8 damage. Wants you to feed on the weak and vulnerable.
  • Time is cyclical. Agent ‘remembers’ knowledge from the future. Once per session, can get the GM to show them the most relevant page of this rulebook for 60 seconds (double this time for dyslexic players or those who otherwise have difficulty reading quickly). Wants you to make past events repeat themselves, follow the repeating precedents of history.



Friday, 11 January 2019

Fragments of Alternate Worlds

The results of a set of random tables in the dreamscape game. Each describes a snapshot of a new reality. Roll one or more, mix and match results. Surrealism ensues.


  • Trees the size of skyscrapers, near-indestructible. Cities beneath their canopies.
  • 8-day week, 13-month year, nonsensical calendar. 
  • Triffid Apocalypse. Plants and Pod-people everywhere. Overgrown.
  • Flooded, everything is built on stilts/concrete pillars/platforms. Landscape surprisingly flat, shallow lagoons and the odd low island. Think Venice meets Waterworld. High likelihood of Aboleths.
  • Single world government, totalitarian state. Squid man puppeteers.
  • Orwellian nightmare. Surveillance cameras fucking everywhere, everything is micro-Dchipped. Ankle-tags are fashion statements.
  • Necropolis-world. Cities built upon tombs. Bones as building material. Corpses choke the streets. A red sun hangs in the sky.
  • Space-travel not merely a pipe dream. Orbiting space-station homes for the wealthy, first colonies beginning to settle mars & luna, mining in operation. Hoverboards & flying cars.
  • Environmental meltdown. Food shortages, mass extinction, weather patterns go haywire. Soylent Green Co. food surprisingly popular.
  • Storm clouds overhead, rain in constant downpours, distant thunder ever-present. Lightning illuminates the overcast gloom in sudden flickers.
  • Everything is nuclear-powered. Tiny reactors power cars, telephones, flashlights.
  • Mutually assured nuclear destruction renders violence unthinkable.  Everybody has nukes, right down to beat cops and common thugs carrying radium grenades. Nobody dares pull the trigger. Crime replaced by brinksmanship and tense negotiation.
  • Burn the recently dead or they come back… wrong. Improperly buried ghouls prowl the streets at night. Agents of Saint Theresa secretly crusade against the hungry revenants.
  • World is dry, dust rains from the sky instead of water. Plant life is withered and desiccated. Rivers and oceans of ashen dust.
  • Cyberborg technology common. Bionic limbs and eyes are fashion statements, cybernetic implants exist for any task or taste.
  • WW1 never ended. Constant air raids. Propaganda the dominant art-form. Shifting alliances, no longer clear who The Enemy is.
  • Air is toxic, corrosive. Merely being outdoors requires gas masks to cope with the poisonous atmosphere. Vorm lurks in the smog.
  • Global archive. Every building stuffed with file storage, paper records or computer databanks. Whole districts dedicated to record-keeping. Bureaucracy interminable. Written records of everything.
  • Twin suns. Day-night cycle irregular. Tides dramatic and unpredictable. Weather prone to extremes.
  • Whole world one big city. Kowleen-style slums built strata-like on top of one another, skyscrapers for the wealthy emerge from the kilometre-high urban tangle like mountain peaks above cloud cover. Down below, smog & gloom, drizzle of pollution-rain, urban decay.
  • No children or elderly people. Population remains stable through unclear means. People simply are. 
  • Heavy Nightmare populations, large glitch-zones, reality in flux.
  • Time of day paused at dawn/midday/early evening/dusk/midnight. People sleep when they feel like it, day-night cycle is largely non-existent, society carries on 24 hours a day.
  • Instead of money, trade is conducted using days of your lifespan. Death by old age creeps a day closer when you buy your groceries, is averted with each paycheck. The wealthy are undying horrors. 
  • Writing isn’t, cannot be permanent. Art & photos likewise fleeting. Corrupts to gibberish in a matter of days or weeks. Only memory is reliable. Vat-grown brains replace computer chips.
  • Causality & chance are all fucked up. Unlikely coincidences are incredibly common, reliably so. Once a certain threshold of improbability is reached, coincidences become almost certain. 
  • People occasionally spontaneously project when they dream. No control over where they go, explore their new destination in a trance-like state.
  • Writing defines reality. Until something is written about, it exists in quantum uncertainty, taking a record pins down the truth.
  • Every midnight, the dead return to life none the worse for wear. Only death from old age is permanent. Mutilation replaces murder.
  • State of the world resets near-exactly each dawn. World is stuck in groundhog-day loops with only incremental changes.
  • Naturally-occurring portals to other layers, you can walk right through them.
  • Doorways (and hatches, trapdoors, etc) link together weirdly. A door can open to a location nowhere near it. Space is a foam of tangled wormholes with doors at each end.
  • Photographs capture the soul, move of their own volition. Burn a photo, and the subject suffers and writhes. Cameras are pre-emptive voodoo weapons. Television is weird witchcraft.
  • The earth is flat, the sky a dome of firmament. Squid-men and their mind-slaves cover this up to the best of their abilities. Geography is all wrong.
  • Squid men, Vorm, Nightmares and worse all walk openly among humanity. Humans don’t notice, can’t notice. Universal perceptual filters prevent frightened responses, citizens can’t comprehend anything unpleasant. A world of sheep with wolves in their midst.
  • Humans no longer dominant species, world ruled by something else.
  • Death isn’t permanent. Wait long enough, and anything heals.
  • Mirrors are windows to some other mirror-world reality. 
  • No colour, everything monochrome. Colour from other layers a maddening, incomprehensible breakdown of reality to these people.
  • People don’t sleep. Not having continuity-of-consciousness is seen as akin to death. Those who fall unconscious awaken as legally new people. 


Saturday, 5 January 2019

I did MATHS to the LotFP classes

I did MATHS to the LotFP classes, to work out what goes towards their different XP costs to level up, with the intention of putting together a set of guidelines towards building your own classes. Strongly inspired by the 'Building the Perfect Class' pdf over at Breeyark, which I stole the idea from (although the numbers are different). Go check it out, it's fascinating.
I have no idea if these numbers were actually what resulted in Mr Raggi picking the numbers he did. I suspect things got tweaked up and down based on playtesting, since some abilities synergise niceley together to be worth more as a package than in isolation, etc etc.
Anyway, here's the results.

* * *

Assembling your class
You basically ‘pay for’ abilities in XP costs to level up. Add them all up, and that is how much it costs you to go from 1st to 2nd level. Then double the cost for each level thereafter, until 9th level. After 9th, it costs as much to go from 9th to 10th (and from 10th to 11th and so on) as it did to go from 8th to 9th.

You start out needing 1000 XP just for existing. You must pick a hit-dice and save progression, obviously, but the rest is optional. If you're a spellcaster, you must pick both a casting type and spell list.
You are strongly discouraged not to take all the best abilities (particularly those that just give a 1-time benefit at level 1) and just resign yourself to never levelling up; if you do this I hereby declare that you must buy the GM a drink each session you play this character. I wrote it down, so now it's the law.


For your hit dice, pick one of the following:
-100 if your HD is a d4 (or +1 from 10th level)
+0 if your HD is a d6 (or +2 from 10th level)
+100 if your HD is a d8 (or +3 from 10th level)
+200 if your HD is a d10 (or +3 from 10th level)
if you go mental and include d12s as hit dice, that would be +300.


For your saves, pick one of the following:
+200 if you save like a cleric
+0 if you save like a fighter
+0 if you save like a magic user
+0 if you save like a specialist
+200 if you save like a dwarf
+100 if you save like an elf
+300 if you save like a halfling
This was the least well-researched bit, as I don't have the sort of insane analytical skills to line all the different save progressions up against one another and exactly how they compare. Leave a comment if you think I made a mistake here.


For skills, pick any of the following you want:
+200 for each skill point gained when you level up - you may take this multiple times and gain 1 extra skill point per level each time you do.
+50 for each skill point gained at first level - you may take this multiple times and gain 1 extra skill point at first level each time you do
+100 for each skill that starts at 2-in-6, increasing at the same rate an Elf’s Search skill does – you may take this multiple times, and it applies to another skill each time you do.
+200 for each skill that starts at 3-in-6, increasing at the same rate a halfling’s bushcraft or dwarf’s architecture skill does – you may take this multiple times, and it applies to another skill each time you do.
+300 for each skill that starts at 5-in-6, and doesn’t improve as you gain levels – you may take this multiple times, and it applies to another skill each time you do.
You could conceivably add new skills (such as swimming, medicine, 6th sense, disguise or what have you) that use the same x-in-6 mechanic.

If you are a spellcaster, you must pick your casting method (prayer or spellbooks) and spell-list (chaotic or lawful), and can pick any other stuff from the big list. If you aren't a spellcaster, you can't pick anything from here at all.
Pick one of these two:

+500 if you cast like a cleric, by praying and receiving your allotted spells from a set list. Use the Cleric's Spells per Day progression.
+800 if you cast spells like a magic user, by using a spellbook that you can copy spells into, that starts out with only Read Magic in it. Use the MU or Elf's Spells per Day progression (so far as I can tell, they're identical).
And one of these two:
+0 if you cast from the cleric’s spell list (which also makes you lawful)
+300 if you cast from the magic user’s spell list (which also makes you chaotic)
(Option: you might want to alter these spell lists to give custom spell lists for, say, illusionists, cultists, etc. You'll definitely need to add spells above 7th level if a character casts lawful spells from a spellbook.)
And then any of the following you want:
+50 if you can create spell scrolls
+50 if you can create protection scrolls (option: technically nothing about this requires spellcasting, so maybe you can have it even if you don't have spells).
+50 if you can create holy (or unholy) water
+50 if you can create potions
+50 if you can create wands and staves
+50 per extra spell in your spellbook when you start the game (for spellbook users)
+100 if you can cast spells while heavily encumbered and/or with a hand full.
-100 if you require a holy symbol (or equivalent) in order to cast.
-50 if you cannot move at all if you wish to cast.
I, for one, have always felt that clerics get it too easy what with getting full access to their whole spell-list and needing less XP than magicians, but hey, this is how the numbers for LotFP shook out. I guess the potential to learn fucking any spell

Combat training (take any you want):
+100 to be able to use the Press and Defensive Fighting options.
+100 to get an additional +2 AC when parrying.
+100 to get an additional +2 to hit when aiming (no class gets this, but I added it for symmetry).
+300 to get +1 to hit per level, like a fighter. (This is on top of the +1 to hit all level 1 characters get).
+100 to reload guns faster, like a fighter.
+100 to have maximum HP at first level, like a fighter.
+200 tax if you’re a Fighter, the Best Class, and also I couldn’t make the numbers add up without including the Fighter Tax.

Other abilities:
+100 to get +1 to an attribute modifier -  you can take this multiple times, each time you do it applies to a different attribute.
+100 to get +1 AC so long as you aren’t surprised.
+100 to apply your Constitution modifier after 9th level.
+100 to ignore the first five items towards encumbrance, like a dwarf
+200 to be innately chaotic/lawful and thus immune to various things that affect mundane beings, like an Elf is (obviously, this makes you chaotic/lawful).
+50 to be immortal and never age
+100 to be surprised 1-in-6 less often
-50 to be unnatural and vulnerable to holy water and so on (obviously, this makes you chaotic, or perhaps lawful).
-100 to be small, and so unable to use large weapons and forced to use medium weapons two-handed.
+variable for abilities you made up (discuss this with your GM, obviously), using the amounts for similar abilities as a guide.



Class: the Miner

A class of specialists in digging, excavation and other underground activities. Largely self-explanatory, fluff wise. This is the grubby, burly expert you bring along on your expedition when you're expecting serious subterranean work will need doing. By turns a caver, engineer, labourer and prospector.
Design wise, the class is intended to be good at dealing with the practical problems of underground travel: they can dig quickly, cope in the dark, wriggle through gaps, and so on. In terms of combat, they get to use any armour and have a good hit-dice, meaning they're at home on the front line, although not as skilful as fighter types.

Experience: The miner levels up at the same speed as a Cleric.
Hit Dice: d8
Attack chance: as a Cleric
Saves: as a Cleric
Weapons & Armour: if your system restricts weapons & armour, then the Miner can wear any armour, but may not use shields. They can use any melee weapons, but the only ranged weapons they are allowed are thrown weapons.
800xp
Spot Underground Features: Miners have a 3-in-6 chance to spot underground features, which increases to 4-in-6 at 4th level, and by 1 every 4 levels after that (at 8th, and 12th). This lets a miner spot features such as unsafe construction, traps concealed in underground structures, geological features, the culture that likely built an underground environment, hidden exits, areas that can easily be collapsed, thin easilly-broken walls, seams of metal ore or gems, and so on. This is essentially the same as a Dwarf's stone-senses and an Elf's ability to spot hidden doors combined.
Efficient Worker: A miner working underground can accomplish much more than other single characters. When tunneling, building underground, excavating and so on, the miner's efficiency is multiplied by their level plus 1. So, at level 1, they are as efficient as two normal workers combined, at level 2 they're can do as much as three workers, etc.
Low-light Vision: A miner can see further in dim light than normal. Multiply the distance they can see by their level plus 1. So, at level 1, they can see twice as far as normal, at level 2 they can see three times as far, and so on. Similarly, since they're used to working in the dark, they can always find gear stowed on their person, light a lantern, tie knots and perform similar tasks from memory, without needing to be able to see at all. Darkness has no effect on their ability to perform a task that only involves themselves and their own equipment.
Spelunking: A miner is better at moving underground than other characters. They have a chance to wriggle through any gap at least 6 inches by 6 inches without so much as a scrape. They can likewise climb and crawl over steep, slippery or unstable surfaces that other characters would be unable to tackle. Their chance to succeed here is 3-in-6, which increases to 4-in-6 at 4th level, and by 1 every 4 levels after that (at 8th, and 12th). This is essentially like a thief's ability to climb, with added bonuses to wriggling.
Pick Expertise: A miner is an expert at using their pick-axe, even when the stone they're mining fights back. When using a pick-axe to fight monsters made of stone, clay, metal, and so on, they ignore any damage resistance or reduction that monster has. Their pick-axe always does its normal damage against things made of stone, metal, etc and is never halved, reduced or ignored. (Treat a pick-axe as a two-handed axe).


Friday, 28 December 2018

Gosh Darnit Somebody Is Wrong On The Internet

So I found this blogpost,from the guy who did the hilariously naff review of MotBM, and it  mentions my stuff in it a few times. And it sorta pissed me off, but since it doesn't have a comments section I can find I'm gonna write about it here in an incoherent and vague sort of way.
Maybe there'll be some insight in here. Maybe it will be useful. Mostly it's venting.

part 1: anecdotes
I find this argument to be pretty weak given how drab, and often even out-right bad the ancedotes of OSR-driven games tend to be. For example, on Emmy Allen’s post about her DMing style, she lists five of her favorite gaming anecdotes. Two of these involve being vindicated that a player character died, another is basically “I almost died because of a bad die roll, but then another die roll also failed so I lived”. The only anecdote that seems mildly interesting ironically comes from VTM, a story game.
So, this right here is the point. 'Mister C. Reservations' takes these little anecdotes and assumes that these are the best plots and storytelling that I've experienced in RPGs, and that if this is as interesting as it gets, then the playstyle must be uninteresting. Which is untrue. 
In my time roleplaying, I've done all sorts of interesting things. I've been involved in melodramatic sweeping tragic love stories that, to this day, I find genuinely touching. I've seen political intrigues and skulldugery that took out-of-game months to pull of. I've played through crises of faith and experiences of religious fervour. I've played a mystery campaign that took literally three years to conclude, start to finish, and was consistently weird and intriguing every week as we probed deeper. At larps, I've fought in mass battles with 800 on a side, blocks of troops manoeuvring against each other. 
The thing is, though, those stories don't make for pithy anecdotes. They don't make for the sort of story you share in the pub("Remember that time Hideaki botched his drive roll so badly he owed a major boon?") They didn't prompt those moments of unbelieving laughter at the table.
Those little anecdotes got picked out because they were times something unexpected happened and it took the game in weird new directions.
[[also, if you call Vamp a story game to actual story gamers, they'll laugh at you. It's pretty much as trad as they come. Fuck, the whole indie forge thing happened as a direct reaction to why they felt Vamp wasn't working.]]

Here's the thing. Other people's games are boring. They are! To the extent that 'let me tell you about my PC's backstory' is joked about in some circles as being the stereotype of boring RPG conversations. The reason we like Actual Play (in my experience) is when it's being used for illustrative purposes; when the events in the game are being taken apart and analysed to show what makes a particular rule-set or module or setting or playstyle tick. 
But those same stories that seem boring to an outsider form a sort of shared mythology between the people that were actually there. We still joke about Grub, the caveman who died to the first dice roll of the game (and whose corpse was taken apart for materials by a ruthless band of players, making him in many ways the MVP of the campaign). Gaming is a social experience, and after your four hours of gaming are up, you're left with a set of shared memories that mean fuck all to people who weren't there.

Moving on.

Part two: OSR principles and discussion thereof.
I don't know what this guy is advocating for, really, except that he doesn't seem to like the whole OSR style of play. He says he does, but... Iunno.
A lot of the discussion in OSR circles tends to define OSR ideas in relation to the other big trad game: WotC D&D. A lot of the points about things like death being expected, lack of balance, the world existing outside of the PCs... all of those points are being made compared to the distinct style of play that modern D&D produces. That is, a sequence of combat heavy encounters tightly balanced to provide a tactical challenge but no real risk of character death, strung together by a pretty linear plot where the PCs move from one set-piece to another. 
If you're coming from playing a game like Vampire, Call of Cthulhu, Shadowrun, Dark Heresy... well, those games already do most of the things being discussed in OSR circles, to a greater or lesser extent. So if you're used to playing Call of Cthulhu, and then the OSR tells you to embrace lethality, then you're going to think we mean 'even more lethal than CoC' which is... just gonna be unplayably silly.

So, I'll say this again: the OSR exists as a reaction to the direction WotC took D&D in. This is a pretty well documented fact (that I can't be assed to provide proof for). I don't just play/run OSR stuff, and the dirty little secret nobody talks about is that these principles - the ones OSR thinkers bang on about, and that those outside the movement are so perplexed by - are seen just as much in other games. When I've had Vamp or Hunter or Mage run for me, particularly in larp settings but at the tabletop too, 95% of the time the STs are using very similar principles to what I see OSR players use. The idea of a living world, of challenges that aren't perfectly matched to PC capabilities, of death being a risk, of player agency, all of that... I see the GMs using it when running everything from Lacuna to Monsterhearts to WoD.
Hell, there's been a pretty neat series done by necropraxis about how Apocalypse World and OSR gaming use basically the same set of assumptions if you drill down to it.


Part 3: the bit that pissed me off
Here's the whole quote:
I have serious problems with the way RPGs are written, presented and designed. Why do I mention this? Because from what I’ve read, much of the OSR does as well. In that Emmy Allen post, she mentions that she hates “fights that go on forever, setting agnostic systems… slavishly rolling for everything” and mentions that she “doesn’t play RPGs for the story”, but rather the “ancedotes” and the setting. The things she’s describing are things common to almost all RPGs, and she can’t even enjoy the story–but she does enjoy the setting.
If this sounds like you, I’m going to be frank: You do not like RPGs. Or at least, not the part of RPGs that people commonly sign up for. What you like is emergent gameplay, which can be better obtained through video games and board games, without any of the awful scheduling issues or any of those things you said you don’t like. What honestly seems likely is that many people (overwhelmingly these people are DMs) are attempting to reverse-engineer the medium into something more palpable for them, and to be honest? I was once like that. It is an almost addictive experience, being a DM controlling a “living, breathing world”, and many people find that the desires of the players get in the way of this euphoria. It’s an ego trip. The OSR provides unlimited fuel for this ego trip, providing adventure after adventure where “anything can happen” but none of it really requires much consideration or personal sacrifice. Maybe I do understand the OSR, or maybe I have it all wrong. But it’s just like I said: all games have expected outcomes, and the ones I see in OSR games are overwhelmingly not healthy.

[angry cavegirl noises]
So, let's pick this apart.

The things she’s describing [these things: "fights that go on forever, setting agnostic systems… slavishly rolling for everything"] are things common to almost all RPGs, and she can’t even enjoy the story–but she does enjoy the setting.

So why are these bad? Why don't I like them? (In the post, I also lump in 'PvP' and games that encourage system master in character gen). In short, because they get in the way of the stuff I enjoy: mystery solving, exploration and discovery. In quick succession:
Most boring fights take up a disproportionate amount of time for the amount of decision making and information learned the players actually get. Since the chance of death is probably high, you need to do the fight 'fairly', but dividing a group of 5 and one GM into strict initiative order means that one sixth of the time a given player is just sitting twiddling their thumbs waiting for their action to come up. It gets in the way of the activity of roleplaying: if you want constant violence, a skirmish game like Malifaux or Inquisimunda is much better. A good game is one where violence is scary but over quickly: nasty, brutish and short.

PvP is horrible and I hate it, and like fights it eats up game time and distracts from the important stuff.

Slavishly rolling for everything is just... bad design and/or bad GMing. Most players don't play RPGs so they can roll lots of dice. Those players are off playing 40k or, I dunno, yahtzee. The problem is that while randomness is good (in that it keeps things exciting) but too much randomness makes the game too unpredictable, where chance has a greater effect than anything the players choose to do. In my view, skillful play largely consists of taking a situation where random chance might fuck your PC up, and reducing the ability of random chance to do that (such as, finding ways to stop that monster making attack rolls against you).
Lastly, setting agnostic systems... well. Why don't I like those? Because fundamentally, my enjoyment of the game - both as a player and as a GM - comes from the setting. It's a common saying that the game mechanics are the physics of the game world, and that's a sensible viewpoint imho. The strength of a game like Vampire or Call of Cthulhu is that the game mechanics represent how things work in that world. As a slightly twee example, the Blood Point in vamp is not an abstraction used for game mechanics. It's about a pint of blood sat in the vampire's system. It's a fact known in-world that rising for the night, or sprouting claws with Protean, or mimicking being properly alive use about a pint of blood. The mechanics aren't just abstractions and shorthands, they refer to actual things in the world. So I can play and not have to worry about game mechanics intruding on my immersion in the setting, because the mechanics are the setting.


So there's that. Saying that I can't enjoy fights or dice rolling or whatever is missing the point; what I'm complaining about is when an element of the game becomes disruptive of the overall experience. And then saying I can't even enjoy the story is likewise missing the point. The story is, by and large, whatever happens in play. Largely, what I - and other OSR writers - argue for is games that model narratives other than the hollywood 3-act script. Perhaps a soap opera where characters rise and fall, plotlines are introduced, some elements grow to prominence and others fall by the wayside. An organic story. Why? Because other mediums - films, novels, etc - do conventional narrative better. The strengths of RPGs (particularly RPGs where the PCs go into dungeons) lie in other styles of narrative, so you're better off playing to the medium's strengths.
If this sounds like you, I’m going to be frank: You do not like RPGs. Or at least, not the part of RPGs that people commonly sign up for. What you like is emergent gameplay, which can be better obtained through video games and board games, without any of the awful scheduling issues or any of those things you said you don’t like. 


Well this is just presumptive. Video games and board games are often highly competitive and require a often lack that sense of immersion in a world that I want. (This doesn't apply to all video games. Some - Dark Souls and Silent Hill spring to mind - totally do this.). Besides which, I like RPGs as a social activity with friends. 
And now we get to the bit that pisses me off.

What honestly seems likely is that many people (overwhelmingly these people are DMs) are attempting to reverse-engineer the medium into something more palpable for them, and to be honest? I was once like that. It is an almost addictive experience, being a DM controlling a “living, breathing world”, and many people find that the desires of the players get in the way of this euphoria. It’s an ego trip. The OSR provides unlimited fuel for this ego trip, providing adventure after adventure where “anything can happen” but none of it really requires much consideration or personal sacrifice. Maybe I do understand the OSR, or maybe I have it all wrong. But it’s just like I said: all games have expected outcomes, and the ones I see in OSR games are overwhelmingly not healthy.
What the fuck, mister ChimRes? The implication that everybody GMing OSR games is just in it so they can engage in an unhealthy ego trip is just obnoxious. This was the point where I went from perplexed to irritated.
My experience has always been that GMs run the game they'd want to play in. If a GM enjoys games about characters' emotions and relationships as a player, then the games they run will facilitate that. If a GM enjoys crunchy tactical combat, they'll run that sort of game. And, when a GM enjoys games about exploration and discovery, they'll run those games. 

Part 4: Why OSR?
There's a lot of misconceptions about what OSR games are out there. I've come up against this a lot. My ex used to refuse to play in my games because 'well, they're basically D&D, and D&D is boring'. Other people think the genre's about constant grinding death-by-kobolds, or tomb-of-horrors-style GM power trips. 
As I mentioned earlier, when OSR games are largely explained using their relation to modern D&D and games of its ilk, then that's going to produce a distorted image in people who don't play them.
When discussing this stuff with people that haven't got into it, you're going to hit misconceptions like this stuff all the time.

So what is OSR to me? Why do I make stuff for it, why do I like it so much?
The answer, I think, comes in three parts.
Firstly, the skeleton of the game (six stats, hit dice, AC, etc etc) is a lingua franca. This is incredibly important. It means that you can have a family of games and rules and hacks that all inspire each other. Since the game's comparatively simple, has been around for ages, and has been hacked to hell and back, it's well understood. Any given mechanic is pretty well grocked by the community at large, and so your tweaks to that mechanic (or stuff in the world that interacts with it) is coming from a position where everybody basically knows how it all functions. 
The fact that it's based on D&D is, to my mind at least, largely incidental. The point is that this is the common language everybody basically understands, so when you describe things in those terms or analyse those mechanics, people know what you're doing.
The second reason is the creative people that make OSR stuff. A few points stand out here: the OSR is largely amateurs and small-press publications. Most people making OSR stuff are doing it for the love of the game, and are driven by artistic vision over the corporate line. A company like WotC wouldn't produce Veins of the Earth or A Red & Pleasant Land. It's weird and risky and cool.
That's not to say you don't also see this in other indie RPG scenes. Apocalypse World hacks have a similarly vibrant and diverse scene, because again it's a scene made of hobbyists using a common lingua franca to inspire each other. 
Lastly, I find that what motivates me as a player is discovery. I want to explore the game world, to find new things, to investigate mysteries, to solve puzzles. I want to feel like I'm learning about the game world. When I GM, I'm GMing to facilitate that experience in my players. When I write game stuff, the product is likewise there so the GM can facilitate that experience.

Now, to plenty of players, that sense of exploration and discovery isn't what they're here for. If you don't enjoy that sort of game, that's fine! Other games exist, and serve that niche. If you like politics, join a vamp larp. If you like melodramatic emotion, play monsterhearts. 
The appeal of the OSR, to me at least, is that it's a community that's grown around a shared love for a specific experience in play, and creating games that help create that experience.