Thursday, May 30, 2019

Interesting Choices and Mundane Armor

So we've established that mundane armor is the pits and that choosing armor involves zero actual choice. Simply choose the one which gives you the highest number allowed and you're set. That's boring. What to do about it?

Design Goals:
  • choosing which armor to wear is hard
  • reward wearing the best armor for the situation
  • ruthlessly simple
  • leverage the systems I already got
So the systems I have in place are armor class (how hard am I to hit), damage absorption (how hard do I get hit), and inventory (how hard is it to carry). I think we can make some hard choices for our PCs with these. I discussed Death saves in my last post, but fiddling with those feels as though it should fall into the realm of magic. Although... thinking about it maybe a helmet should be a separate thing which gives you a small bonus to your death saves? Always wear a helmet!

So here's a table with basic armor types. Now lighter armor makes you harder to hit since you are more maneuverable! huzzah! groundbreaking hacks here, folks. And heavy armor makes hitting you easier, but you get hit less hard.


This looks like it would work well in a game with flat hp and damage. If you are getting hit for d6 damage at a time, then heavy armor is better since there is still a chance to dodge and quite a significant chance that even if you are hit you take no damage. Go up against an ax-wielding giant and the measly 4 hp of damage reduction is going to make you rue the day you found your heavy plate and wish you could properly dodge!

Image result for leather armor
yep, nothing there to hinder your movement

So this effort has all been to capture the distinct feel of different armors. Next is weapons.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Mundane armor sucks!

Rewarding players in-game is something I routinely screw up. In my misguided early years of DMing (like 2 years ago) I wanted my 5e game to be hardcore and so I dolled out treasure at a slow drip. The irony that my PCs could fly well before they had a magic sword was completely lost on me. See every game implies a rate of treasure acquisition by the players, but effing none of them spells it out.

Jimmy has a push-over for a GM

Us poor GMs are stuck here doing maths to figure out how much gold/xp to give players to allow them to level up at a satisfying rate. And I'm not talking about planning out their story arc from level 1-20 and fine-tuning the rewards to match satisfying beats. I'm talking about figuring out a ball-park general range of treasure to put in a given encounter/dungeon.

Once you figure that out, you also should split that value between cash, interesting items, and useful items. The last category is probably navigational items (keys, a grappling hook, a canoe), magical items (+1 sword, boots of climbing, circlet of fire), or both (potion of walk on water). In a low magic setting, or low-level play I have a terrible time coming up with magic items that don't seem lame. Mundane items are often things you buy with your starting copper pieces and never revisit again.

Skip to here
So let's look at armor in RPGs. I'm going to be considering armor from the point of view of the GLOG system I'm currently playing (now that I think of it, I don't use the GLOG's AC values...Anyway, high AC is harder to hit!), but we'll start big enough for any system. Armor is there to keep you from dying. This fictional purpose is typically tied to one of two mechanical effects; reduce your chance to get hit or reduce damage taken. Usually, it does one or the other, but any mechanical system that comes into effect when PCs might die is an opportunity for armor to do its job. I use this nice Death and Dismemberment system.  When one of my PCs reaches 0hp they compare their negative damage to the table to see if they die. This system can be affected by armor just as the earlier rolls and armor will still be right in line doing its "keep you alive" thing. Why not?

Let's define the typical armor types. The AC numbers are obviously different based on your game. I Use roll under attack stat, which is around 10-15 depending on your level, minus AC.

Armor AC Absorption Death Inventory
cloth 0 0 0 0
leather 1 0 0 1
chain 3 0 0 3
plate 5 0 0 5

So that's about the most boring table I can imagine. But that's just what armor is in most games. 5e, it's a don't-get-hit number and they even have damage absorption, resistances, and death saves already in that game!

Anyway, if you're a working DM, then this is probably where you start. You can start to introduce new pieces with absorption and death save effects to make armor more interesting and treasure something other than +1 swords and gold pieces.

So I have three mechanisms armor can impact, four if you include inventory. Let's make some interesting pieces for your low-level game.

Consecrated Curiass
armor class: as plate, damage adsorption: 0, death save +2, inventory: as plate
rusted breastplate pulled from a holy font. angelic chimes ring when armor is struck.

There, pretty basic. Not an interesting choice though. Better plate is a no brainer. What if you already have plate?

Fool's Padded Harness
armor class: as cloth, damage adsorption: 4 from blunt weapons, 0 from others, death save +0, inventory: as plate
a fool in the court of a mad king needs all the padding he can get.

Nighting Gale's Cloak
armor class: as leather, damage adsorption: 2,  death save +0, inventory: 1
the dead of night is hardly the place to be caught unawares.

armor class: chain, damage adsorption: 0,  death save +4, inventory: 1
It's better to be lucky than good, they say. Poor chap I pulled this off must've been neither.

Cast Iron
armor class: plate, damage adsorption: 0,  death save 0, inventory: 7
The slave gladiators of Kust train night and day to heft their heavy plates of iron into the arena. A herniated disk is a small price to pay for protection.

Hmm. Some of those I like! Anyway, that took about 2 minutes to come up with. Once all the playing pieces are pulled out in front of you, it's pretty simple.

What's interesting is that there are situations where some pieces are better than others. That is what leads to interesting choices and hopefully leads your PCs to think about where they're headed and gear appropriately.

We'll see if it works out.

Also, writing this has sparked a few ideas. I'll come back to this soon. What if plate didn't make you harder to hit at all? What if it was just protection against damage? Now my fighter has a tough choice. What if leather didn't provide armor, but allowed you to use your dex as armor? My high dex PCs might have an easy choice, but how about my wizard? Hmmm.

Image result for onion knight

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Magic items by AI

Turns out that we don't need a full idea to make up a thing anymore. We don't even have to search around and piece together half ideas. We only need a few weird words and an AI.

I spoke with Transformer to do the legwork of making interesting magic items. It took like  3 minutes.

Shrouded Eye: A rare item that allows a user to see ghosts. These glowing mirrors are as old as the world itself and can reveal other items like books and scrolls that the user has retrieved through time or magic. All types of ghosts are revealed or destroyed when this mirror is used, allowing the user to recover lost items.
Damn! That's better than I could do!

Shadow Mirror: An item created by the spirits of monsters that help the wearer avoid being harmed. This mirror lets the user cast spells and abilities, as well as gain a sense of security and peace. When a ghost is attacked by one of the shadows, the mirror casts a protection spell to aid the attacker, causing them to be shunned and driven away while the shadow remains.
Does the mirror help the person attacking you? probably. stupid cursed mirrors.

Ascended Deathwatch: A white helmet with several gold rings set on its head. They cannot walk for a short time. Like a guardian spirit, they may appear for a brief moment and then disappear.
Teleportation helm. basic.

Bastille: The glass glows golden orange under a light of 100 lux in the moonlight.
A dim desk light is ~100 lux. hmm.

Borzoi Eyewear: A silver eyeglass with gold eyeshadow.
More of a fashion statement than a magic item.

Brilliant Bamboo Scissors: These sharp and light swords are made of bamboo and shaped like one with sharp edges.
Now we're talkin!

Brick Glasses: Made of durable glass, these lenses allow them to easily move around.

Bryling's Cauldron: The glassware within this glasshouse is composed of a crystal of a crystal. The crystal is shaped with an upside down V-shape and comes in different lengths. The crystal glass can be used to reforge equipment, as well as to create an invisible spell that is invisible to sight.

Frozen Heart Mask: A black hood tied around his neck, the mask provides the user immunity to the ice and frost elements.
Pretty basic, but very usable!

Spirilicious Ring: A ring shaped like a red star that allows the user to teleport to nearby stars. Once used they cannot be removed once the energy from the star dissipates.
Damned cursed items showing up again!

Lustrous Follower: These gold earrings are fashioned from the luster of the fuchsia. They are very popular among both male and female magic users. They are crafted from silver and decorated with flowers.
Fashion souls, anyone?

Amber Lantern: An unusual item created using the spirit of the amber tree, this item allows the wielder to emit sound waves by touching their hands.
This one allows the user to clap!

Shadows to the Past: Black colored glasses that offer excellent visibility around the eyes.
Just, like, some nice glasses.

Invisibility Shades: These dark glasses provide an excellent sense of invisibility. If one is wearing this form, they can see through other people's thoughts even though they are not themselves. The shades are not as bright as before.
Opaque thoughts bothersome no more!

Aura of Absorption and Recall: The form can use this to recall spells that the user cast and that had been cast when the user first stepped through the form.
Nice, MUs always trying to cheat the system.

Mental Retrieval Form: This form allows the user to take over another person's mind with ease. The user is a form that is able to assume control of the thoughts of another person.
Cursed Paperwork needs muuuch more representation in the rpg community.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Mordheim 03: The Proud

"A man without peer. Few are as prodigious with a sword in Reikland as he, and fewer still are more despised. Marius the Proud they call him; a contemptuous title. How many men have you seen wield two swords? Most others would be a joke in battle. But don't let this one catch you laughing."⁣

This model was inspired largely by Jaime Lannister from GOT. I loved the idea of a great swordsman but a flawed man. The chaos cultists kit is great to add some variety to your warband. More to come.


Mordheim 02: The Rat

"A rat, nothing more. Make sure to keep an eye on him. Mordheim beckons the virtueless of all kinds."

Thursday, April 18, 2019

The Figurante: for Harry Clarke Bestiary Project

A humble contribution to the Harry Clarke Bestiary Project:

The Figurante

Armour class: as chainmail. Hit dice: 8. Move: as a racehorse. Attacks: 2x Pirouette (d10) and Mesmerizing Performance*. No. Appearing: one Figurante plus 3 admirers**. Morale: 10 Treasure: twin lockets, each with the heart of the other. Two individuals holding the lockets are irreversibly in love and their hearts may be found in the other's locket. Alignment: chaos.

Elegant gods burned into existence by The Lady Candlemaker as a case study in duality. The opposite halves of the Figurante are Passion and Poise, united in unquenchable love. Art critics muse that with love so apprehensible, so tangible, the Figurante should be considered a trinity.

*Mesmerizing Performance: Passion and Poise entwine in a breathtaking display of skill, love, and dance. All who see must save or be stunned each round. If two saves are failed in a row, then the observer must grab the nearest partner and begin to mimic the dance.

1 - two former enemies locked in mesmerized dance, unable to escape
2 - a corps de ballet (group of dancers) on a field trip
3 - an angry mob of crop farmers with mushed crops
4 - a priest delivering passionate sermon against the sensuality of dance to a large crowd
5 - a heartbroken giant who can't look away
6 - a panel of critics
7 - an achemist who wants to capture the essence of true love

Cathedral in Flames, Ode to Our Lady of Paris

Cathedral in Flames, Ode to Our Lady of Paris

Link to google drive document is in the name above.

So the interior of Notre Dame has burned out. It was quite a shocking spectacle. I'd never known much about the building, but everyone's heard of it. As I saw the fire blazing away from the point of view of countless reporters and iphone users, I couldn't help but think the place was utterly magical. The intricate carvings, biblical iconography, centuries of history, and unquenchable fire. It was tragic and beautiful and evocative. In a small way, from someone a million miles removed, an Ode to Our Lady of Paris.

My design goals for this little dungeon were to respect the architecture and history of the building, make it gameable and fantastic, and to cross-link to tons of other pieces of the community project this is a part of.

The dungeon is submitted as part of the Indefinite Train community project. So technically the whole thing is on a train car hurtling through worlds and time, but it works pretty well without any of that, too. Just replace the italicized references with other monsters/NPCs and forget it's moving.

Apart from running the Indefinite Train, you could use it as an interesting site for a relic the PCs area after. Put the item up in the spire or bell towers. Your Moriarty analog could easily have sent a good to burn down the Cathedral. whatever.

Let me know if you use it! I'm extra interested in how using multiple ton magic bells goes. That and what sort of mischief 50+ toddler gargoyles get up to.


Interesting Choices and Mundane Armor

So we've established that mundane armor is the pits and that choosing armor involves zero actual choice. Simply choose the one which gi...