Tuesday, January 26, 2010, 7:46 PM
Part of me wants this be an enormous post with detailed ideas on how to further abstract combat, but I don't have the time I wish I did and I'm sure it needs to be enormous - part of the appeal is that it isn't that hard.
Abstract(er) Combat in D&D
Okay, so combat is already pretty abstract. (What are hit points, anyway? Go read about 500,000 posts on the subject to not find out.) Armor decides whether you get "hit," not whether you get "hurt." And so it goes.
The minor change on my mind is to replace hit points with simple "hits." When a PC hits a monster, the DM records a hit against that monster. With the fifth hit against a monster, the PC gets to decide what happens to that monster - the mage's lightning fries it to a crisp, the fighter knocks it out cold, or the rogue sneaks up behind it and pushes it off the cliff to its inevitable death. (Minions still require only one hit.)
But up until that point, the PCs cannot do any of those things. Hits are narrated as near-misses, claiming the advantage, setting up an ally for a devastating attack, or forcing the target on the defensive. (Really, saying "cannot" is being too restrictive; minor cuts and scrapes are par for the course.) But pushing a full-hp villain over a cliff, a valid tactic in vanilla D&D, is a no-no in this more narrative version. You might force Duke Steel Hills to the edge of the parapet, but you can't force him to fall until you've earned it.
Likewise, PCs record hits against their characters. They can take three hits, fewer than monsters do (because monsters are monstrous), and maybe more of those hits are described as physical damage. It's hard to be sure without knowing the members of the party - a cleric heals away physical damage, but a warlord shouts encouragement or tactical advice to eliminate disadvantage. That could be a point of mechanical distinction between leaders. Hm. The cleric heals wounds with the blessings of the gods, so he or she can heal someone with only 1 or fewer hits left. The warlord eliminates tactical disadvantage, so can aid someone with 1 or greater hits left. The bard bolsters people ahead of time, so allies nearby gain +1 hit. The shaman... feels pretty like the cleric in this regard. For now.
Powers need adjustment. Some powers need to do extra hits, or all powers need to have interesting secondary effects in addition to dealing a hit. Battlefield movement is always good. Multi-target attacks become significantly better in this arrangement and need some form of modification - as an off-the-cuff patch, an area burst might only take away one target's "hit," but deal secondary effects to all the targets hits.
At its genesis, this skill-challenge-esque form of combat had, in my head, a tug-of-war mechanic for who is winning. Each side wanted to get to a certain number of successes or hits over their enemies, not striving for a flat number, but for a certain degree of advantage. It doesn't work well when we're tracking hits on multiple targets, though.
Friday, January 22, 2010, 7:02 PM
Playing D&D with History
1) What historical figure would you go back in time to introduce to D&D, and why? What do you think introducing that figure to D&D will change? (I find it best to consider changes to the world rather than to the game.)
2) Create a table of you and 5 persons of note from across history to play D&D together. What role does each of you play at the table?
1 - Napoleon. By giving him another tactical game on which to hone his skills, I grant him success in his endeavor of conquering the world. But I have to buff hobbits.
2 - Benjamin Franklin DMs. Meriwether Lewis leads the party as a ranger. William Thompson, for whom the term "confidence man" was coined, plays the charismatic rogue. Jerry Siegel plays the paladin, while Stan Lee changes his character every week. I play a wizard.
Friday, January 22, 2010, 7:42 AM
"Bluff means never having to say you're sorry."
Monday, January 18, 2010, 8:16 AM
This... looks really neat. Give it a look at www.dungeonmastersmovie.com.
If this looks like your thing, you can also give Darkon a shot, which I liked a lot.
Thursday, January 14, 2010, 5:25 PM
You can find some tips on how to roleplay your gnolls on D&D's facebook page.
Tuesday, January 12, 2010, 8:16 AM
Mordenkainen's Temporal Shift
Level: 10; Category: Travel
Time: 10 minutes; Duration: Instantaneous
Component Cost: 200 gp; Market Price: 1,000 gp
Key Skill: Arcana (no check)
You move yourself through time to a moment 10 minutes after you began the ritual.
Monday, January 11, 2010, 9:04 AM
So, this weekend I watched movies. I also ran my supposed-ta-be weekly D&D game for the first time of the new year, but right now I'm talking about movies.
Friday night, I watched Tai Chi Master, a Jet Li movie which I found to be the best kind of parody: It mocked the kung fu genre while simultaneously being an excellent example of that genre. That exhausted my store of Netflix movies, so I defaulted to movies in my limited collection. The Professional followed on that night, and I loved it as much the second time as I did the first. Leon is the assassin unglorified, a person rather than an ideal, and it works so well.
Wednesday, January 6, 2010, 11:52 AM
Inspired by this thread about the sleep spell, I came up with a brief, untested house rule to make weaker-willed opponents more likely to succumb to sleep after you hit them with the spell.
Replace the hit line with Hit: The target is slowed until the end of its next turn. At the end of its next turn, make a secondary attack.
Add Secondary Attack: Intelligence vs. Will.
Add Hit: The target is unconscious (save ends).
Add Miss: The target is slowed (save ends).
This isn't what a final publication would look like - it needs to make sure that making the secondary attack doesn't provoke oppies, and you should be able to continue the spell's effects even if you drop before the secondary attack - though it says something thematic about the power if you can't, that you are continuing to exert your magical influence on the target to make sleep take it.
This makes it more likely that your weaker opponents will fall asleep and less likely that critters with high Will start snoozing. I think it's an interesting tweak.
Novacat has a good idea, below, that has a couple possible interesting interpretations. Each changed from the original power:
Replace the attack line with Attack: Intelligence vs. Will, two attacks
Replace the hit line with Hit: If one attack roll hits the target, the target is slowed (save ends). If both hit the target, the target is unconscious (save ends).
Replace them miss line with Miss: The target is slowed until the end of your next turn.
The attack becomes much more accurate, which is why I reduced the miss line to until the end of your next turn.
Replace the hit line with Hit: Make a secondary attack against the target.
Add Secondary Attack: Intelligence vs. Will
Add Hit: The target is slowed until the end of its next turn. At the end of its next turn, it becomes unconscious (save ends).
Add Miss: The target is slowed (save ends)
This second (third?) option feels like a bit of a tangled nest, which is why I gravitated toward the two-rolls-at-once, but it might work out in play.
Tuesday, January 5, 2010, 10:46 AM
I drove down to Oregon for the holiday and had a lovely time resting up with my family. After a furious December of 56-60 hours each week, I really enjoyed spending my time keeping the woodpile stocked, keeping the woodstove stoked, and watching and reading my Xmas gifts.
Short list of loot: A bottle of my favorite drink, B&B (Brandy & Benedictine).
The "definitive" first season of the Twilight Zone, complete with Serling's teasers for the next week's episode, CBS's teaser for other shows (Wanted: Dead or Alive with Steve McQueen!), a collection of adverts from the show's sponsors (Kleenex!), Serling's video pitches of the show (to the Netherlands, no less), and so on. It turns out I watched that instead of the Twilight Zone marathon.
Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, which I hadn't yet read. Well, now I have. I have mixed feelings about it. The setting is marvelous. The characters were wonderfully realized and a delight to read. The story was engaging, but the conclusion left me disappointed. I found the style sometimes a bore, especially over the first 50-75 pages where very little actually happened and the wordy prose had trouble exusing itself. This is perhaps because Mr. Norrell is himself something of a bore and Mr. Strange, who joins the cast late, is the more interesting character. I suspect that the story and characters I enjoyed so much depended on being immersed in the culture of the era, and being so immersed depended on the style of the writing - that, the verbose style seems necessary to the things I enjoyed about the book, but I did not always enjoy that style. Interesting conflict, that.
After a week+, I drove back up to Seattle and spent a very lazy weekend before returning to this nest of madness and divine wrath we call the office.
Wednesday, December 30, 2009, 6:49 PM
I've been thinking on random character generation. I believe you'll see this month my article on random background generation, which was a fun exercise. I have also made a game of generating characters' histories, called Asylum, which I wrote up before coming to Wizards. That still needs work before I could apply it to D&D or post it here, however. So, here are the products of my recent thoughts: two methods of randomly creating your character's stats that are, unlike the more traditional methods, completely balanced.
Choose ability spread; apply randomly: Choose your ability spread. My default is 16, 14, 13, 12, 11, 10; but some people insist on an 18 in their primary ability, so I leave it to you to choose an appropriate point-buy spread. Then, roll a d6 to determine which ability gains each value. 1. Strength, 2. Constitution, 3. Dexterity, and so on. Reroll repeated results, or reduce the d6 to a d3 or d2 for less rerolling.
Example: You roll a 4, so your 16 goes in Intelligence. Then, a 5, so your 14 goes in Wisdom. Then another 5, so you reroll and get a 6, putting your 13 in Charisma. With only three choices left, you turn the d6 into a d3. Rolling a 2 puts your 12 in the first available slot, Strength. Rolling your d6 as a d2 (or flipping a coin) now puts your 11 in the first available slot, Constitution. Your 10 goes into Dexterity.
Variation: You can also roll your first two stats (most likely your best stats) randomly and then choose the rest. This is best if you're the sort of person who would resent having a 14 and a 13 in the same defense-contributing pair, for example.
Place each point randomly: This method is less likely to produce an ability of 16 or higher than the above, but it's certainly more random. Begin with the standard array before buying abilities with any points: five 10s and one 8. Then, roll 22 d6s. The number on each indicates placing one point in that ability (where again, 1 is for Strength, 2 for Constitution, et cetera). After you've tallied all the points, spend as many as possible for upgrading each abiilty. Take any leftovers (such as when the dice tell you to spend six points, which would place a stat starting at 10 between 14 and 15) and reallocate them with a d6.
Variations: This method gives you well-rounded stats, but is unlikely to give you even a 16 in any single ability. If you want a 16 or higher in your primary ability, you can use this method to generate votes for each ability, and then place the highest ability value in the ability that received the most votes, second highest value in that with the second-most votes, and so on. You can also set all the abilities to 8 and roll an extra 10 dice, if you really want to randomize it - or set all the abilities a little higher and roll fewer dice, to reduce the flattening effect somewhat. Finally, you could roll one die to allocate every two points, which again makes the results a bit more rocky.