Monstrous Formatting

Since yesterday reminded me of the old Monstrous Compendium, can the grognards join me in remembering that book and how it could be improved?

I really liked the looseleaf approach that let you have just the right pages. We needed better binders and reinforced pages, but the idea is right. But here is a thing if you are doing that in a physical medium: it needs to be one monster per sheet, not per side of a sheet, if you are adding expansions. If Black Dragon and Green Dragon are on opposite sides of the same page, a problem arises when Brown Dragons get added. Keeping expansions separate by setting has some logic, but if you cannot even combine the binders for the base game, you have a problem.

Of course, that could lead to padding. How many monsters really deserve both sides of a page of paper? You could fill it in with things like rules for PCs of that race or advanced versions (kobold, kobold sorcerer, half-dragon kobold sorcerer…). The Monstrous Compendium tended to pad with cryptozoology and anthropology. This is useless to the gamist side of RPGs but great for the simulationist. Yes, tell me what ropers do when they are not just waiting for people. I want to hear about alternate names for otyughs. What do you know about ettin harvest festivals or orcish wedding rituals? Fluff and fluff and fluff and fluff.

: Zubon

I think I have all of them, still.

The Cycles of Life

I saw someone explaining how he had bought an extra copy of the latest D&D books, then he removed the binding, punched holes, and kept them in binders so that he could have just the pages he needed for an evening, say the relevant classes, rules, or monsters. This is especially handy for encounters, where you can have all the monsters for each fight neatly stacked together, and if one type of monster is the main foe for this adventure you can clip that one to your DM screen.

And all this is just amazing. We have re-created the 2nd edition Monstrous Compendium. It’s a generational cycle.

: Zubon

[RR] Werewolf the Forsaken 2e Impressions

I was a weird kid with tabletop roleplaying games (RPG’s) growing up. I played RPG’s with my friends, yes. The weird part was that I did not own a core book until high school (Changeling 2e was my first, but we’ll talk about that later this year). Every RPG I played was kind of cobbled together with no base rules system. I didn’t have enough money to buy a corebook, or rather I never saved up enough. The cheaper and shinier supplement books I did accumulate.

The most supplements I bought for a game line whose corebook I only owned last year was Werewolf the Apocalypse, which is a game about tribal werewolf superheroes fighting with spirit allies against Captain Planet-style enemies of the earth. Ridiculous, 90’s, and over-the-top fun for a game that’s way more fantasy than modern. “When will you Rage?” was the tagline. This system was near and dear to my heart, despite my weirdness, and I bought many supplements.

White Wolf recreated Werewolf in the new World of Darkness line as Werewolf the Forsaken (WtF). No longer did you play world roaming heroes. Now it was all about defending territory and surviving against all odds. The best description I heard for the game was you were playing a hated prison security guard trying to keep all the spirit and werewolf inmates in-line while the townies thought you were a destitute human. It was a good game, but it lacked the feeling of purpose. Entropy and erosion seemed like dominating themes instead of success. Continue reading [RR] Werewolf the Forsaken 2e Impressions

CRGE – Roleplaying Without a GM

I’ve finally released CRGE! It’s a complete, concise system for playing roleplaying games without a GM. CRGE has been worked on for well over two years. Possibly three or four, but I didn’t put true pen to paper until just over two. I have refined it as best I could. Polished it until my eyes bled, and playtested the heck out of it.

It’s tiered as a system, which is a design I am immensely proud of because I’ve found that solo roleplayers are immense tinkerers. For my playstyle I have built what I feel is my personal suite of tools for what I feel is a darn good roleplaying experience.

Back to the tiers. The first tier is a “yes or no” question answerer. Very simple in concept, but my idea was to keep pushing for the unexpected. For example, you could ask “is someone standing outside my window watching me?” and get an answer “No, but…” someone is definitely watching you. Or you could get “Yes, and unexpectedly…” the scene changes. It’s all about shaking things up, the way I feel a GM would.

The second tier is focused on making scenes and story threads mean something. It ties back to getting unexpected answers. So, you might learn that the next scene something big is going to resolved. It won’t be apparent until you land on that, but things are always being pushed towards meaning and resolution. Almost like a system built around Chekhov’s gun.

Finally, I try and put this all together in to a framework where you can play a concise story. I was always frustrated at my early attempts at solo roleplaying because I felt I was meandering in a sandbox. Things became too complex and too realistic (in that Sisyphean-type way). I wanted a story with resolution and meaning. I wanted to play in chapters, not endless tangents. Hopefully I conveyed a way to bring it all together.

Anyway, if you are like “how could this possibly work?”, download it for free, and there is a complete example in the appendices. If you like what you see feel free to leave feedback or throw a tip my way.


Family Sickness Fun Time

Well, it sucks I’ve been out of touch. We’re on round two of sickness in our family. Now everybody is on antibiotics. Hopefully that’ll do it. I still game. Have to be bedridden not to, practically.

Shadow of Mordor

I sold my friend on the game this weekend with the help of another one. He was interested to begin with, but it became apparent how great the game was when neither me nor my another friend seemed to agree on the best way to play. He liked doing the whole ninja thing, which I found cowardly, and I liked using the zipline shadow strike where you basically use an orc’s head to hookshot wherever you need to go. My friend said it was a waste of two arrows.

I am nearing the end of the game. My bars of progress are getting fuller, but it has never felt grindy like Assassin’s Creed often does. Less is more Ubisoft. I don’t need 20 gorram sparklies per map unless they mean something.  Continue reading Family Sickness Fun Time

[RR] D&D 5th: Classes

The first thing that strikes you about the 5th Edition classes is how many there are. As with races, 5th Edition has embraced the expanded core, with barbarians, sorcerers, and warlocks all in the base PHB. You expect editions to add and subtract from the core classes as experiments did or did not work, but 5th has leaned towards as many “add”s as possible. Previous posts in this series have mentioned my brothers’ reactions; they started back when there were four core classes, and they seemed ambivalent between whether these were a variety of exciting options or an excess of bloat.

Classes are the main area where D&D turned around and fled from 4th Edition. 4th Edition treated classes and abilities fundamentally differently from every other edition of D&D, and 5th looks a lot more like 2nd Edition. That will tie into combat and spellcasting mechanics. Everyone used the same system of daily and encounter abilities in 4th Edition, while 5th Edition returns to the familiar attack actions and daily spells.

Does this bring us back to linear fighters and quadratic wizards? It certainly moves in that direction, but the section of the book on spells will tell us just how far. A 4th Edition innovation was severely curtailing the scope of high level spells. From the classes section, we see that 5th Edition is curtailing the number of high level spells, with lots of access to low level spells but capping at 1 9th level spell per day.

As noted previously, all classes have a core and specialization framework. You choose what sort of Fighter, Rogue, or Wizard you want to be, which dictates your abilities at certain levels. All Wizards are specialists now, but that means less than in previous editions. One big thing for 5th Edition is “no dead levels.” Every class gets something every level, such as a new ability or a new level of spells.

Finally, 5th Edition has quietly thrown open the gates on multiclassing again. The rules are tucked away, but they are freer than 3rd Edition, complete with a unified multiclass spellcasting level computation. (If that last phrase made no sense to you, just read it as “there was an issue in 3rd Edition.”) The layout of information and the class design encourage single-class play, but the mechanics are there for optimizers to cut loose. That seems a “best of both worlds” situation.

: Zubon

[RR] D&D 5th: Races

5th edition starts with many races, re-vamps the idea of subraces, takes another pass at balancing races while maintaining classic flavor, builds its new mechanics into the races, and nudges the player towards certain norms.

The pool of “standard” PC races has fluctuated over the D&D editions, and 5th edition starts with almost all of them. Dragonborn made it back. Half-orcs are still in. More setting-specific races like warforged and half-giants are not in, but you surely have a dozen homebrew versions online to tide you over until they become official again.

The only big surprise for me was that tieflings made it in but aasimar/devas did not. Continue reading [RR] D&D 5th: Races

[RR] D&D 5E: Proficiencies and An Economy of Actions

Two more general notes on simple changes that are likely to have widespread effects on the game.

First, one new mechanic replacing many is “proficiency bonus.” This takes the place of what has been many tables across the editions: THAC0, to hit bonuses, saving throw tables, spell DCs, proficiencies, and more. Those were all separate tables, sometimes separate tables by class, sometimes separate table by effect. For example, saving throws in second edition were divided by class, level, and what you are saving against; combine those three factors, look up the right cell on a chart, and there you have your base number to which to apply other modifiers. The same edition introduced included THAC0, which simplified several tables into one odd number, the number you needed to hit an enemy (modified by all these things), and it meant “To Hit Armor Class 0,” where 0 is not “no armor” but rather “pretty good armor,” as armor classes ranged from +10 to -10. In third edition, your number of attacks per round was a factor of your attack bonus, and each class worked from one of three attack bonus tables (another simplification over time).

Anyway, sweep all of that away for something simpler. If you are proficient in a weapon, you get a bonus. That applies to spellcasters’ focuses to, say a wizard’s want or a bard’s harp. The same bonus also applies to a rogue’s lockpicking tools and a ranger’s tracking. If you are proficient in a type of saving throw, you get the bonus. No separate tables for similar things, just the same bonus for every class, ranging from +2 at the start to +6 at the level cap. And then you apply all those modifiers.

Simplicity is a virtue. I’m concerned that giving spellcasters the same bonus as the fighters only helps them more, but I think they got nerfed on the other end to balance it out. Multiple attacks are now handled through a separate system. You can now have proficiency is just about anything, since that term has become a catch-all for “gets a level-based bonus.”

Second, the economy of actions has again been revised, or at least renamed. You get a move, an action, and potentially a bonus action. That is pretty close to fourth edition, and similar to third if you remove the possibility of a “whole round action.” What has been variously called a minor or swift action is now a “bonus” action, and you get one a turn from whatever menu you can acquire from your class, equipment, whatever. Maybe you are a two-weapon fighter and use the bonus action for off-hand attacks. Maybe you are a rogue and use the bonus action to pick a lock mid-combat, you cunning halfling.

A great merit here is the ability to give someone more cool options without surrendering too much to min-max. The limitations of action + bonus action is a balancer; while someone can acquire many great abilities, there is a built-in speed limit, so you get diversity rather than a master of all trades. Well, maybe you can master all trades, but you can only use so much at once. Preferably with a proficiency bonus and advantage on your side.

: Zubon