Sunday, July 6, 2014

Zero Hit Points: Dismemberment, Dying, and Death

Christian has given me some more inspiration… His own house rules inspired this recent addition to my own S&W game. Thanks again, Christian.  

So what’s the deal with getting beat up (or down) by a gang of Bugbears?  

Bugbear Face Smash by David Trampier
When a character is reduced to zero hit points; is he really dead? Or is it just a way to beat up on him as he lingers, getting closer and closer to death’s door? If he makes it he might have some cool scars and maybe some missing body parts… And certainly a good story to tell around the camp fire. Don’t you remember the time you were tracking that Owl Bear in the Forest of Morne and you got some help tracking the beast from that Ranger who was blind in one eye and had only three fingers on his left hand? He was a real bad ass!

I want a simple but cool mechanic to use which gives characters a more longevity while also giving characters more character (i.e. missing fingers, cool scars, etc.).
I have experimented with a few different methods over the last year or so and they have always come in as being either too simple or too complicated. The method below includes enough variation without requiring too much die rolling. I want players to enjoy the misery of their characters being hacked and smashed to bits but I do not want to slow my game down too much.
Basically once a character reaches zero hit points roll 2d8 and add the absolute value of his negative hit points. e.g. A character takes six points of damage when he has only 2 hit points remaining. He now has negative four hit points. Roll 2d8 and add four. Compare the result to the chart below. The final result tells you what has happened to the character (has he taken some permanent damage or is he just knocked out after taking fatigue damage?).

Joesky’s TaxDismemberment, Dying, and Death

Roll 2d8+Negative HP
2-3 Last Stand: Gain 1d4 HP per every 2 levels in a rush of adrenaline; extra HP lost after combat and the character falls unconscious for 2d6 turns
4 Impressive Scar: +1 CHA
5-6 Ugly Scar: -1 CHA
7-8 Badly Bruised: 1d6 Fatigue.
9 Broken Ribs: 1d6 Fatigue, +1 ENC for 1d6 days
10 Bruised Joint: (knee, elbow, or shoulder) 1d6 Fatigue, +2 ENC for 1d8 days
11 1d6-1 Finger(s) or Toe(s) Lost; 1d4-1 right hand, 2 left hand, 3 right foot,  4 left foot
: 2d6 Fatigue, and DEX/STR penalties when appropriate
12 Broken/Crushed Bone: 2d6 Fatigue, limb useless, and +3 ENC for 2d10 weeks
13 Face Damaged; 1d8, 1-2 Nose (-1 CHA), 3-6 Ear (Disadvantage for Surprise) 7-8 Eye (-2 Ranged Attacks): 2d6 Fatigue
14 Severed Limb: 2d6 Fatigue and 1d4: 1 right or 2 left arm (-1d4 STR, unable to use 2 handed weapons, hook halves STR loss, and a well made prosthetic gives back all lost STR);  3 right or 4 left leg (-1d4 DEX, +4 ENC, +3 ENC with crutch, +1 ENC with peg leg, and a well made prosthetic gives back all but one lost point in DEX); some tasks pay be impossible (e.g. climbing, sneaking, picking pockets, etc.)
15 Mortally Wounded: only magical healing within 1d4 rounds can save you and 3d6 Fatigue
16+ Dead

*Many results require that a character suffer additional Fatigue damage. Use this system. Fatigue damage may still kill a character even when he survives the physical trauma of an attack.

You should really check out Christian’s blog, Wonders and Witchcraft. He has some great hacks. Considering the short amount of time that he has been blogging he has posted some pretty impressive stuff.

Friday, July 4, 2014

The Santicore Gives!

I am finally getting around to posting and sharing this great link to the Secret Santicore 2013. It's one of the best OSR/DIY products out there on the inter-tubes.
Additional Cover Art by Scrap Princess
In the great traditions of gift giving monsters throughout history the Santicore gathers the wishes of DMs in need and provides them what they need: random tables, pantheons of weird gods, info on magic swords, etc. The "work" is outsourced to other DMs who volunteer to help out. Joey did the hard work of linking the wishes to the volunteers who would fulfill the Christmas wishes then editing and compiling the document.

It's packed full of goodies. I know it's late in the year to be talking about Christmas but I just started flipping through Volume 1 to pull up some great critical hit tables contained therein in preparation for my game next week so I figured I should finally get around to thanking Joey for this great publication.

Merry Christmas and thanks, Joey.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Fatigue and S&W Home-School

Even though I have been out of the loop posting-wise lately, I have still kept up on the DIY D&D scene... blogs. I want to let all 1.7 of my readers know about the great new blog Wonders & Witchcraft. In a relatively short period of time Christian has posted some great game-able content. I have been reading his blog for a few weeks and have taken some of his posts to heart in my search for a magic system with a strong swords and sorcery feel.

In this post Christian details exhaustion as part of his magic system (which I will be ripping more from in the future). The mechanic simply turns a spell caster's constitution into a pool (kind of like hit points). As a sorcerer casts spells exhaustion starts to overcome him. When his constitution pool is reduced to zero he falls into a coma, suffers permanent constitution loss, and mutations follow.

I like Christian's idea of using a pool to meter a character's level of fatigue. And I do like having the act of spell casting tire, weaken, and even permanently injure and mutate spell casters.

I am taking Christian's simple hack and doing two things with it. First, I am going to apply it as mechanic which addresses spell casting (more to come... this will combine the ideas of many DIY bloggers); my expanded application of this system uses the same constitution based pool to reflect a character's current level of fatigue. Fatigue comes from many sources and is usually just ticked off, reducing a character's current score. As a character's current score decreases, constitution derived bonuses and penalties are effected. This will not effect the amount of hit points a character has, either currently has or at maximum. Adjusting hit point values on the fly would too crunchy for my tastes as well as being too punitive: I want players to use their constitution pool as a resource which they are willing to dip into rather than being a guarded well from which they are terrified of drawing.

As mentioned above, fatigue damage comes from many sources. The system is simple: from spell casting, characters suffer fatigue determined through casting. Other than from spell casting, characters typically suffer fatigue damage as they endure environmental conditions, such as extremes of heat and cold, starvation, drowning, etc. or from extended periods of physical stress: torture, forced marching, etc. Fatigue taken from the elements, starvation, and other sources will typically come in metered "doses". e.g. When a character is starving, every hour he must make a save or he suffers one point of fatigue.

Joesky's Tax: Fatigue

A character's fatigue pool, at maximum, is equal to his CON score. Character's take fatigue points either from spell casting or from environmental factors such as suffering from starvation or from enduring periods of extended physical stress, such as being tortured. The amount of fatigue points taken from spell casting is determined through the spell casting process. The amount of fatigue points taken from environmental factors and physical stress is typically taken in metered periods and requires a saving throw. e.g. After going two minutes without oxygen a character must make a save every round or he takes 1d10 fatigue points. A character's fatigue pool may have a negative value.

Taking Fatigue:
As a character takes points of fatigue, his effective CON score suffers. A character's effective CON is diminished as his fatigue pool is diminished. e.g. A character with a 12 CON takes 5 points of fatigue. His CON modifier is temporarily adjusted from a +1 to a -2. Use the table below to adjust a character's CON modifier. This does not effect the amount of hit points a character has, currently or at maximum.

Score     Modifier
   1 -5
 2-3 -4
 4-5 -3
 6-7 -2
 8-9 -1
10-11 0
12-13 +1
14-15 +2
16-17 +3
18-19 +4
20-21 +5
22-23 +6
24-25 +7

A character may never inflict more damage with a STR based attack than he has either hit points or fatigue points remaining.


When a character's fatigue pool reaches zero or less, he becomes comatose or worse. Roll 2d8 on the table below, add the character's negative fatigue value.

2d8+Negative Fatigue 

2-3 Second Wind: Gain 1d4 fatigue points, only fall unconscious if you have zero or fewer fatigue points.
4 Hardened by Adversity: Fall unconscious for 1d6 rounds, awaken with one fatigue point.
5-6* Exhausted: Fall unconscious for 2d6 hours, awaken with one fatigue point.
7-8* Concussed: Fall unconscious, take 1d4 hit points
9-10* Comatose: Fall unconscious, take 1d4 hit points. Make save or travel to the Dreamlands.
11-12* Brain Fever: Fall unconscious, take 2d4 hit points. Make save with -2 or travel to the Dreamlands.
13-14* Time TravelerFall unconscious. Make save with -2 or travel to the Time Piece (thanks, Venger).
15-16* Vessel of the Great God: Fall unconsciousGenerate a random godling. You are now the rock and cornerstone of its church. Lose half your levels and become the first priest of your new master.

17-18* Psychic Hemorrhaging: Fall unconsciousOnly magical healing can push you up into positive fatigue points. Make save every hour or die.
19+* Dead
* Character may suffer from magical corruption if casting a spell.

Recovering Fatigue Points: 

A character typically heals only one fatigue point per day when in the field and 1d4 fatigue points per day when resting in bed at home or in an inn, etc.


This seems like a pretty good system. I have a bit of simulating to see how it "works" and I am sure it will work out well in play. Additionally I have committed myself to doing two things which I have been toying with for a while: creating my own Dreamlands table for travelling and getting lost in dreams and comas, and creating a system of randomly generating godlings for use in my game to worship. 

Monday, May 12, 2014

Universal AC Compatability... Moving Toward a Rosetta Clone

Paul, over at his blog, The Blog of Holding, talks about establishing a community standard for use when we discuss AC. Whether you favor descending or ascending armor class in your games there has to be a simple, easy to transfer from method to method, manner to notate and discuss AC; whether you favor descending or ascending AC.

There is, and it seems that all Paul had to do was consider how we think about and notate bonuses and penalties in D&D... a bonus is always a "plus" and a penalty is always a "minus" whether you prefer descending or ascending armor class.

Do you remember the first time you picked up and played Moldvay (or Holmes, or AD&D, etc.)? A naked humanoid had an AC of 10 and when he put on a suit of chainmail his AC improved by 5 to become a 5... huh? An armor class modification of plus 5 translates to AC's the actual numerical value decreasing by 5. So a suit of chainmail +2 improves a character's armor class by 7. Improving his AC to either a 3 (descending AC) or a 17 (ascending AC). So a simple method we can use to record AC values, making them accessible to all dungeon masters and players, is by just annotating the vale as the AC modifier.  Thus a suit of chainmail has an AC value, or modifier,  of +5.

Without even thinking about it I have been doing this for quite a while. Take a look at the AC values of the first few pieces of equipment on this list.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Leveling Up!

As I have started a new campaign and am trying to be a better DM, I have decided to finally codify, after years, what exactly I award Experience Points for.

I first started playing with the Moldvay Red Box and have played every iteration of D&D since, even flirting with Next for a few games last year. We all  know awarding XP has, over time, gone from an XP for GP model to an XP for killing monsters model. In 4e PCs even get XP for defeating level appropriate traps and puzzles.

It has always been my experience that when I do straight up XP for GP I end up with characters awash in gold. Even though they do have to spend their loot to cash in on its XP value, it just does not feel quite right to me. I do not want my games to be filled with millionaire adventurer-superstars. I want the PCs to be hungry for adventure... for loot... hell even for food. I prefer using other means to bleed off extra cash... like carousing (thanks Jeff), which does allow PCs to exchange GP for XP but with added risk.

I am splitting the difference. I am giving XP for loot extracted from dungeons, etc. as well as for defeating monsters, etc.

The outline of my XP system (updates will come in time... e.g. class based awards):

-100 XP per Monster Hit Die shared among all party members (Monsters must not be killed, just defeated: charmed, bribed, etc.)
-100 XP for a PC when he finishes off a monster
-100 XP for a PC when he cleverly defeats a trap, puzzle, etc.
-100 XP for a PC when he acts heroically, crazy, etc. and survives/succeeds
-25% of GP looted by a PC is converted to XP

I can keep my PCs cash poor while not bogging them down, keeping them from advancing.

Also, per my signing the FLAILSNAILS Conventions, my PCs earn XP in a per level method, zeroing out each time they level. See Jeff's update to Article 3. He has calculated the amount required to advance each level, making it simpler to calculate advancement.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

The DIY D&D Community Just Keeps on Giving

I am sure that most of the readers of this blog have already scoped out these great new products but I just want to be sure that everybody out there is aware of them.

The first is the most recent issue of Greg Gorgonmilk's great community sourced 'zine: Underworld Lore. UL #3 continues to deliver the high quality, community sourced content that the first two issues have delivered.  #3 is a Hyborean special. I love the way in which Greg concentrates each issue on a specific topic. Though I play S&W, I did support the AS&SH kickstarter; I have mined the game for hacks and setting material time and time again.

Download it here... Now! My thanks go out to Greg and all of the UL contributors past and present. 

The other great new offering is installment one of the 2013 Secret Santicore. For those of you who do not know what the Santicore is, it is the accumulated wish lists of the DIY D&D community with community generated tables, rules hacks, etc. which fulfill the community's wishes. Download the Santicore! The Santicore has been delivering great, community sourced content for years and  I hope it will continue for years to come. Great job and thank you Joey!

Moving on to the Next Session

I am pleased with how the S&W Home-School game is coming along. I have six players and might have a few more that will begin popping in and out. The goal is for me to have six players each time we play... give or take. I should be able to keep enough players in my group between local players and G+ players. I have asked some players for their opinions on how the game is going and they are pleased.

But there are a few improvements I need to make to keep the good times rolling... d20s! I need to speed up combat while making things more visual/transparent (we have had a couple cases in which PCs were not sure of their positions in relation to their foes during combat).

I am making a two pronged assault. The first prong consists of using roll20. It's a new-ish VTT that offers both free and pay version. The free version offers mapping with free tokens to represent PCs and monsters by Devin Night. Our party mapper (David) will use roll20 to share his maps with our G+ players; it can be launched as a G+ app. See the map below which shows the party and their location in the dungeon. For speeding up play, roll20 offers two neat little tools. The initiative tracker digitizes tracking order of initiative; no more scribbling numbers on my pad. Each token has options for storing/saving information. I can input PC and monster hit point totals and statuses (slowed, poisoned, etc.) on their tokens.

The other prong: making a decision on how I want to handle surprise and initiative. I have been waffling between rolling d20's (a bit of 3x/4e baggage), using weapon speed and going back to d10's (2e style), or going with d6's. Here is what I am rolling with (at least for a while):

1. Roll 1d20 adding or subtracting DEX and Encumbrance modifiers for Initiative. 
2. Each individual (PC or  monster) or group of similar monsters rolls Initiative separately.
3. Roll initiative only at the start of combat. Once Initiative order is set for an encounter, the only way to "move" up or down in Initiative order is through the use of magic, holding actions, etc.
4. Surprise is handled by rolling Initiative at the start of combat as normal, the only change is that the ambushing party receives a significant modifier to their rolls; in cases where both parties might be surprised roll Initiative as normal. Surprised party members and monsters lose DEX bonuses to AC, do not have shields and weapons readied, etc. These, and other, penalties are suffered by PCs and monsters any time they act late in the first round of combat. i.e. If the enemy acts before you act, you have been surprised. 

Expect more posts to follow in the next few days. I have been out of the area for over a week with work and now I have some time to catch up.