Wednesday, September 23, 2009, 6:59 PM
So a couple of days ago, some follow Gm's and I were brainstorming on community chat. I follow gamer by the tag of Skrypter, had an idea for a slow, reliable, natural form of transportation, which he was planning to implement in his upcoming campaign. Some other gamers chimed in with some ideas, and below is a variation which I contributed.
As a biology guy, with an emphasis on botany, when I think of nature, I think of plants. When I think of efficient transportaion in plants, I think of plant respiration. Just a quick overview, without going into gory molucular detail. Everyone knows that plants extract moisture from the ground they are rooted in. But it is really quite amazing how this works. Water has numerous unique properties, one of which plays a key role in the facilitation of respiration. Water has what is called cohesion-tension forces, the same force which allows water spiders to stand on and move across water. When water is in a capilary tube (a microscopicly narrow tube), the cohesion-tension forces actually move the water vertically, against the force of gravity, up the tube. We see this in the classic grade-school science experiment of sticking a piece of celery in a glass of water with food coloring. By the end of the day, the celery takes on a hue of the food coloring, as the vascular system of the celery stalk is made up of capilary tubes.
So how does all of this apply to teleportation? Realistically nothing (teleportation is not real, at least not outside of black holes, perhaps). But in the world of D&D, we can bend and break the laws of nature and physics, in the name of fantasy. Imagine a plant which exists inter- dimensionaly. Think of each plane of existance in D&D cosmology as a seperate fourth dimensional reality (the fourth dimension being time, which is a dimension mere mortals exist in, but cannot directly interact with). By compressing the four above dimensions into a point, and placing that point on a line, the line represents the Fifth Dimension of probability, where alternate time-lines, of a single universe, are represented. The sixth dimension is a plane formed by the intersection between two fifth diminsional lines, wherein alternate universes, a.k.a, alternate planes in the cosmology of D&D exist. Yikes, this is alot to take in, but by looking at a flat peice of paper, say that page in the Manual of the Planes which lays out the cosmology of D&D, we can see this as the sixth dimension. Slap a piece of moss on that page (don't do it for real) and we have a plant which exists in the sixth dimension.
Because time is not directly percievable to the mortal eye, a plant existing two dimensions beyound time is certainly not percievable. In order to survive, this inter-planar moss will suck up (through capilary action) nutrient particles from planes, and perhaps deposite them on other planes. Say that certain races, such as Eladrin, know perhaps a little about the existance of these inter-planar organisims. And as any good micro-organism/parasite will do, they have figured out how to utilize the metabolic mechinary of this host to their advantage. The Eladrin may call these vascular capilaries, Leylines, through which the freely enter and exit the material realm, from their home Feywild. But you as the GM, implenting this theory, will know the complete truth, which you will reveal and create hooks from said revelation. Have fun, and feel free to put all kinds of wacky spins on this.
Saturday, September 19, 2009, 7:04 AM
Last night I was on chat and got into a heated discussion about a cliche trap, staple to DND. A GM needed a hook for putting demons in a lab, so I figured a summon would be the simplest way to go. The trap is simple, a rune trap, which requires a player to interact vocally or visually, in order to trigger it. For more information on rune traps, check out my next blog. I provided a variation to a follow Gm, in the form of an open tome/Wizard's spell book, with a half-finished ritual. The components would all be prepared/used and sitting on the desk next to the tome, and the last words were waiting to be spoken/read, by a curious spellcaster. How many times have we seen this in fantasy/horror films; I know cheesy right? I was adamantly told that the party(more importantly the specific warlock) would never fall for it, and that the idea was stupid. Here is why it works.
If the caster in question has never encountered such a trap, er um . . . the character not the player, the character has no reason to be totally on guard, even if in a creepy/dangerous environment. Routing evil is not the prime motivation of an inherently physically weak caster, for delving dungeons. The experience and knowledge are the primary pay-offs. The acquisition of long lost spells/rituals are the treasure to a true caster. If their is another caster present who has encountered such a devious trap, then he or she can give in game knowledge about the danger of the situation, but no out of player knowledge should be permitted in avoiding this peril. I love it when the group's barbarian, though inherently leery of magic in general, tries to tell the caster not to read the ritual. The only options the caster has is to spellcheck/knowledge arcane, and see if he/she can totally identify the situation for what it is, or simply walk away, and miss the opportunity at learning a new ritual(though the opportunity may or may not truly exist).
Rituals and spells are supposed to become more complex as they are created and cast by higher level casters. If an atomic bomb was easy to make and launch, we would all be in a lot of trouble. Like reading and using web-code/computer programs created by a more advanced programmer, the fledgling programmer will not be able to understand the code in its entirety. Programmers will intentionally mask their code with senseless complexity, and external programing, as they create more advanced functions with their code. This is called job security. The ritual trap should contain a ritual of high enough level, that the target spellcaster has only a 25% to 10% chance of identifying the intention of the trap in its entirety, with a knowledge arcane check. Less than success should only reveal to the caster that this is a high level ritual, with PERHAPS devilish origin. When dealing with summons, the summoned creature is typically a lot weaker than the creature that summoned it, or at least should be. This is why most PC's don't like summon magic. But if the caster who created the trap is much higher level than the party, his summon should present a respectable challenge for the lower level party.
You are severely undermining the playing experience for the caster if you are allowing him/her to purchase each ritual at the local shop, especially with high level rituals. Spell shop owners are simple sales-men, because they were not entirely successful in the adventuring field. They do not, and should not have access to high level rituals. The market demand for such rituals is low, as few casters reach high enough levels to use them, and the market overhead of acquiring such rituals is too high. I reiterate, they do not have them. So where else to get your grubby hands on high level rituals, but in creepy, guarded, secluded dungeons. As fighters must test their might against countless foes to reach epic, casters must scour dangerous libraries and labs to get their high level spells. The trap presented here is but a representation of that risk.
A Little Twist
So what if a spell caster is not alive, present, cognisant, or existent in the party, but you want to use a rune(summon) trap. No-one will be inclined to interact with the trap visually or vocally. We have to stretch a little for a tactile interaction. This is deviously simply. Instead of a half complete text component to the ritual, lets make that component completely written but invisible(no magic required). Say the devious wizard used a metal quill without ink, to scrawl the runes into his tome, leaving only an indentation of the runes. The magical ink needed to complete the text component sits in the inkwell directly above the declining desk. But something is extra special about this ink in its well. The ink is mercury-based, and the well is rounded at the bottom, and sits balanced on a small flat spot (if you have ever seen a can of pop balanced on it's corner, you will know what I am talking about). The desk only needs a slight bump, to spill the ink over the tome, where it will sink into the scrawled runes, completing the text, opening the portal, and releasing the Demons. If the paradox of the curiously balanced inkwell, or the question of what contents may be in the desk, is not enough to entice a character to touch the desk, then a loose floor-board acting as a lever might do the trick. I hope that you have I new respect for runes, and more specifically tomes. Have fun trying this.
The image at the top of the page was found at www.MikeWuebker.com.
Thursday, September 17, 2009, 10:50 PM
Ok here we go, I have built that fun deck that everyone loves to hate, Hulk/Flash. I believe that Flash is restricted now, if not banned, but future incarnations of the deck will surely benefit from this analysis. You can surely net-deck plenty of different deck varieties, utilizing Protean Hulk, so I see no need in posting a list. Just know that the purpose behind any Hulk/(whatever) deck is to put your Protean hulk in play by turns 1, 2, or 3, have it immediately die, via Flash, or whatever else is legal now, and use the Hulk's leaves play ability to pull the combo pieces strait out of your library, pulling off an infinite damage combo, FTW. I have highlighted the key phrase in the previous sentence, as it is important; I need at least one copy of each of the key pieces to stay in my deck, so I don't want to draw into them. I will have 3 or 4 Hulks, doesn't really matter for this study. But the combo pieces in question are the Body Double and Revilark. The other two pieces in my deck are Carrion Feeder and Mogg Fanatic, but they can be hard cast before the combo goes off, so they aren't in question. I can either run the two key sets as one-of's, or two-of's. I am assuming, and this is not a horrible set of assumptions, that my opponent will not remove any of my key pieces from my library, on turns one or two. I am assuming that the deck is sixty cards. I am assuming that as the bulk of the deck is geared around drawing/tutoring into Protean Hulk and Flash, I will have these cards in hand by turn three. Lastly I am assuming that I am opting to play first. So how do I find the probability of having at least one card of each of my key sets in my library on turn three?
Let's first assume that they are one-of sets, one Body Double and one Revilark. The probability of not drawing into a card from a one-of set by turn 3 is found by using the HYPGEOMDIST funtion on a spread sheet. Go to any cell on a spread sheet, let's assume cell A1, and type =HYPGEOMDIST(0,9,1,60). 0 is for drawing 0 of the set in question, 9 is for the number of cards you draw into by turn 3, 1 is the number of cards in the set, and 60 is your deck size. Hit enter and you have 0.85, or an 85% chance of failing to draw into a card from a one-of set on turn 3. Copy and paste the value to cell A2 and this will represent the same probability for the other one of set. As you must have at least one copy of each set for the combo to go off, both failures must occur. So we take the product of both probabilities. Type =PRODUCT(A1,A2) in cell A3, hit enter, and we get .7225. The chance of not drawing into the Body Double and Revilark on turn three is 72.25%.
Now lets make these sets two-of's. Go to cell B1 and type HYPGEOMDIST(0,9,2,60), hit enter and we have a 72.03% chance of failing to draw into a single copy in a two-of set on turn three. Now because we can still pull off the combo by drawing into a single copy, but leaving the other copy in the library, go to cell B2 and type =SUM(B1,HYPGEOMDIST(1,9,2,60)). Hit enter and we have a 97.97% chance of failing to draw into both copies from a two-of set by turn three. Copy the value to cell B3, and in cell B4 type =PRODUCT(B2,B3). Remember that we are looking for two failures of drawing into both cards from the two-of sets, thats why we take the product. Hitting enter in cell B4 we come up with 95.57%. Soooooo, be playing our key pieces as two-of's instead of one-of's, our chances of pulling of our combo on turn three increases from 72.25% to 95.57%. For more details on this kind of analysis in Magic the Gathering go to www.magiclaboratory.blogspot.com.