Thursday, August 18, 2016

Training 2.0

I was inspired by one of the OSR posters +Ian Wyckoff to create an alternate version of training. While this isn't as simple as the earlier listed one, or as his, I think it gets the best of what I'm looking for. Training starts hard, gets a bit easier, but then gets harder as you try and surpass your limits.

It begins!

Training Redesigned

By spending resources (money, favors, etc.), a PC can find a trainer to help go through rigorous exercise. It could be lifting boulders atop a mountain, meditating under an icy waterfall, extreme studying, or visiting a courtesan school to learn the Great Game, or anything hardcore that you can come up with. This takes time (a week or two, maybe even a month depending on the GM), and at the end of the montage, the character rolls a number of dice against the corresponding stat to see if they gain a boost. If they beat their stat number, then it goes up by 1. If not, then they must complete it again. If they find a trainer that shows them what they are doing wrong, they can get a bonus on the roll, usually just a plus 1. 

There are different training regimen. Novice, Intermediate, and Expert. The table below shows the different training dice rolls and the minimum stat value required to do them.

Training Regimen Dice and Minimum

Novice - 2d4 - Min 1
Intermediate - 2d6 = Min 8
Expert - 2d10 - Min 12

When doing the training, you roll that regimen's dice and beat your stat. If you do a training regimen that you don't meet the stat requirement for, you must roll a 1d20 against your stat (high or low, it depends on the GM. I prefer rolling high) at the end of the regiment at a -5 penalty to see if the training even works. If you fail, the training doesn't take and at the GM's discretion, it could mean injury or simply insulting your trainer and being dismissed from the academy. 

Example: Bearic the Cleric is a bear cleric looking to take an Expert Strength Training course, but his strength is only at an 11. He still takes it, but when he finishes the weeks long training, he has to roll a 1d20 at or below an 11 (or, if doing high rolls, meet or beat a 10+) with a -5 penalty applied to the roll. Here's hoping Bearic the Cleric can roll below an 6 (or above a 15).

If you are training a stat that is below 10 for the very first time, the GM can decide to limit how much training you can do back to back. Since you're going from being a couch potato to a superstar, it is a bit harder to get the training in without becoming exhausted, mentally or physically. This really should only apply up to the second training.

You can roleplay out the training as an adventure. If doing this, the GM can apply bonuses to the final Regimen Dice roll depending on how well the players do.

Maximum Stat Training

We all have limits we simply cannot surpass. A player can raise any stat, but they can only gain up to a total of 8 stat points for their stats. So, if a player increases their Strength by 4, then they have 4 more points to train with any other stat before they've reached their limit. A play can surpass this with performance enhancement drugs and magic, but that has consequences and is something I'll get into another time.

I will never get over this picture of Triple H and his O face


I think I prefer this method honestly. While it is a little bit more complicated, I feel it's still a simple little ruleset that the players can use to get their characters better without waiting to level up. Admittedly, I seem to prefer disconnecting stat and skill advancement from leveling up. Makes me wonder if I would be happier with a classless system. I feel this method fixes the issue of rushing to 18 too quickly, while still making just starting out exhausting. Lord knows when I got started weight lifting, that was really tough. While the maximum stat training is in there, I feel the real limiter is going to be the money to train as well as down time.

I plan on using this for a project I'm working on where training your character is a really big deal. I do hope to playtest this one, as it does excite me. Try it out in your games and see how it goes.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016


Whether it's studying or slamming weights, people can get stronger and better through intense training and practice. Here are some simple training rules.

Time to get those sick gains brah!

Training Regiment

Whenever a character takes time out to do a rigorous training scenario, they can roll to see an increase of their stat. This takes time (a week or two, maybe even a month depending on the GM), and at the end of the montage, the character rolls the corresponding stat to see if they gain a boost. Basically, take their stat, subtract it from 21, and that's the roll they have to beat to increase their stat by 1. So if they have a Str of 5, then they have to roll higher than a 16 to increase it to a Str 6. I decided on beat instead of meet and beat because the idea is going beyond the limit of your character's attributes. This can work with any stat. Go work with courtesans to increase your charisma.

Training Cap

There's only so much training can do until your natural limitations kick in. Once a stat is increased by 4, you cannot increase it further, unless you begin taking performance enhancement items. At the GM's option, they can have 18 be the hard cap for any stat, no matter what.

Alternatively, you can allow stats about 18 and make getting those gains harder. When trying to raise a stat above 18, you now have to beat your stat's value to increase it by 1. If you have a Str 18, then you have to roll a 19 or higher. This works with games that don't go above 20. Games like Pathfinder and 5e will probably need different training rules altogether.

I wanted to make this because I have an idea I've been brewing up for a game system I wish to create, once I get the bare bones down.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

A Weird Idea

Back in May (on Friday the 13th no less), I was finishing up side work and knocking out trash at my job. Doing tedious tasks makes my mind wander and I began contemplating a what if scenario for the development of Dungeons and Dragons.

Somerset House Conference (Wikipedia)
D&D comes from wargaming origins and that shows in some of the design. You'll find the rules for combat to be more comprehensive than other aspects of the game, XP for killing and getting gold, combat uses for skills and feats. This isn't a negative mind you, nor is it me saying 'you can't roleplay in D&D'. Some of my best roleplaying stories have come from D&D 4e, the edition which has been often derided for being non-conducive for RPing. But in every edition of Dungeons and Dragons, you can see the wargaming aspects in its ruleset, passing down like a gene.

So I was thinking... what if D&D descended from a different hobby? Like say, a debate team, or a story telling game.

What if we flipped some of the assumptions and even mechanics on its head?

In general, you have combat scenarios and roleplaying scenarios. A bit of an oversimplification, but bear with me. While combat rules are more complete and exhaustive, roleplaying is generally left up to the players with minimal conflict resolution mechanics (generally a simple Charisma roll). So what if we switch the assumptions around? Have combat with a simple conflict resolution mechanic adjusted for the difficulty of a battle, and make the social aspect of the game more comprehensive.

Right off the bat, the focus of the game would be very different. I feel you would have a more political game where things like diplomacy, intrigue, and investigation take the forefront. Exploration probably wouldn't change. Combat would still be important, but it would certain be different. Much like social stuff is, combat would be a lot of flavor and description with the occasional die roll to resolve conflict. Perhaps a Strength or Dexterity roll, or a Fighting skill roll, all modified by difficulty penalties and bonuses. It'd probably me more kin to combat in Dungeon World.

Social conflict and discourse being more comprehensive would be an interesting aspect, but one that would have to be handled differently than combat is in D&D. It should be flexible in allowing the players to do clever things when trying to roleplay out social situations while still being robust enough for those of us that don't have the natural charisma or mental energy to play a social engineering con man. In addition, and this is my opinion anyways, it should be applicable to the PCs. Just like the PCs take damage and injuries when treading into combat, they too can make social faux pas or fail in diplomatic scenarios. And most importantly, when making rules for debating, bluffing, and diplomacy, it is important to make sure it isn't mind control. With social combat, it is very easy to cross the line and take control away from the player. While I feel the term "player agency" gets thrown around too much, if the rules ultimately force the player to act against their will, then it's just not fun.

Burning Wheel and the Song of Ice and Fire both have cool discourse rules that look interesting and I would love to try them out in an actual game one day. Burning Wheel in particular has an interesting concept where social conflict only happens if both sides agree to it. So there is still a player opt-in before social combat even happens. But, once you are in it, you are committed and have to accept the results (at least for the interim). It's a cool concept and on paper at least, it seems to have the flexibility I'm looking for in a diplomatic ruleset.

I'm also interested in seeing how classes would fit in something like this. In general, the base 4 classes have assumptions that you'll be adventuring in the wilderness, fighting orcs and taking their stuff. It shows in things like extra attacks, extra damage, backstab/sneak attack, weapon and armor proficiencies, AC/THAC0, etc. I wonder how we would format classes that focused on diplomacy, intrigue, and investigation? For class names, I'd like to change them, at least to something more evocative of the courtly nature. Taking the Fighter, Mage, Cleric, and Thief/Expert, I'd probably call them the Warrior, the Magician, the Priest, and the Spy (although Expert is still very fitting). I'd also fit them out with diplomatic abilities that would fit with their archetype. The Warrior, being the knight or samurai equivalent, could have a bonus to seeing through lies, or being stubborn against people that try to extract information. The Priest could trade Turn Undead for bonuses to appealing to emotion, or using their position of holy reverence to extract favors and demands much easier. And so on. It's an interesting idea.

I think the most important thing to do for these types of rules is to calibrate the expectations and desires of your players. Players come into role playing games with certain expectations and non-negotiables out of their D&D game. It's critical to be upfront and let them know about the change to this style of campaign to prevent miscommunication and PC-GM dissonance.

So what would this type of game look like? Would it even work, or more importantly, would it even be fun? I would like to try and build a game like this with OSR materials and see how it'd work.

Monday, August 1, 2016


If you look around dark allies or in the deepest of forests, you are likely to run into a gangling creature called a huraño. Chances are, they are following you right now, trying desperately to stay out of sight while watching you jealously.

Huraño are crippling shy creatures filled with self loathing, so much so that they universally cover their bodies with worn rags and white masks so no one can see them. Their masks generally have a poorly drawn facsimile of a face of a creature they wish they were. Usually it's big predators, or beautiful animals, or mortal races. Mortals are common because they are so numerous and pretty and confident. That's what the huraño lacks. That's what they desire. A huraño will act out as their chosen creature, staging mock plays and changing its lair to look more like that of their 'prey'. In many ways, it's like watching a child play make believe with its toys and furniture scattered about. 

Huraño are harmless, almost laughably so. One confronted by their 'prey' will prostrate itself and beg for mercy, usually giving into any demand they make in hopes of escaping alive. It's not unusual to see a huraño crying and pleading in front of a small child or other harmless creature.

Most humans use the huraño for their own amusement. A huraño will do whatever you say out of fear of reprisal and if harmed, will assert that it somehow deserved it. It makes a great companion for the sadistic and sociopathic nobles that can somehow catch one. That's a feat in itself, as it is so frightened of being around people that it will flee instantly. It's joints are highly flexible and the huraño is very fast and limber, allowing it to fit through tiny cracks and get away from anyone. If you can catch one, you'll have an amazing slave to harm. Removing a huraño's mask will force it to die from sheer embarrassment and shame, since in its mind, you are removing its face. Its corpse won't last. Even in death, its body will disappear before anyone can see its true features. Such is the extent of a huraño's timidness.

But sometimes, very rarely, you'll have a kind-hearted soul that befriends the creature and fills it with the confidence it needs to remove its mask and live its own life. Many warn that they become a terrible, overconfident monster that eats people, and that's why they must be kept in place. Though the people that say this are the same ones that love torturing them, so who knows what's true. Maybe you'll get an amazing, life-long companion. Maybe the huraño can finally grow into its dream creature.


HD: 1
AC: 17
Movement: Always 5 feet more than the fastest person chasing it

Laughably Pathetic: Huraños have no attacks or natural defenses. They are simply hard to catch. Once caught and cowed, any attack against them automatically hits. Anyone that attacks a huraño gains health back equal to the damage. Huraños will do whatever is asked, except to remove their mask.

Crippling Depression: Huraños can only die if their mask is removed. Removing it is a DC 23 Strength check and the creature instantly dissolves into dust.

What's the Point?

I've always found people and nature to be more interesting as monsters and villains than hobgoblins and dragons. I wanted to do something different from the standard "make a terrifying monster". So I made a creature that will bring out the monster in the players. Throw it in and see what happens. You may be surprised! I leave it up to the GM to see what happens when a huraño is met with kindness and makes a lifelong friend with the PCs. 

Friday, July 29, 2016

Dirtsheets and Rumors

The wrestling game that I'm running is still in full swing and tomorrow, it will be out third PPV event, the American Open. About a week ago, I started writing up a series called the Dirtsheets. For those not into wrestling, the dirtsheets represent insider information and rumors about the wrestling industry. Sometimes they are true, while other times they are red herrings and misdirection. After writing this one up (located here), I was inspired to talk about rumors in all kinds of games and take a break from my sci fi chatting for a bit.

Look At All These Rumors Surrounding Me Every Day

Rumors are a fantastic resource that I feel doesn't get used enough in modern day gaming, Rumors are a great way to really get your players invested in the world that you are running. It helps your world feel less like a novel and more like a living, breathing world that the players can explore. Rumors make great adventure hooks for players in a sandbox style game, or clues and hints for a more narrative node based game. And even red herrings can and should lead to something cool and interesting. Rumors about a ghost on a mansion may in fact just be Old Man Jenkins chasing people away so he can find a secret stash of doubloons!

Rumors fit in all styles of adventuring. Use it for exploration so the party can go out and hunt for a new landmark, new people, and new adventures. For treasure hunting, rumors are clues to get to the next part of the search. The same is said with investigation styled adventures. Rumors also make great foreshadowing for future event. For my Dirtsheets, that's what I tend to use them for. 

One of the best part about rumors is that it can help to gauge your party's interest. It's like a small, crowdsourced way to see what the party loves and goes for, and you can throw more of those types of adventures at them. Even a red herring that the players end up taking a liking to can be changed into something amazing and memorable.

Ultimately, my favorite reason to use rumors is that it shows your excitement and dedication to the game you are running. And that is infectious. Players see their GM putting in the work and they get excited to play in your game more and more. And seeing players excited to game with you is pretty awesome (and a great ego booster ;) ).

So use rumors today to take your game to the next level. Whether it's town people, a criminal contact, or dirtsheets about your favorite wrestling company, get on it and have some fun. At the very least, you'll have a cool list of adventure hooks for another game.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Coming Back

I've been on a hiatus as I've had graduation from culinary school and family down to visit. That combined with some nasty hand eczema has made blogging very difficult to do these last few weeks. hand hurts too much to type and the stress has made thinking up ideas more difficult. Still running the wrestling game, which is a good way to keep myself grounded in the gaming world. And I'm reading a lot of Eclipse Phase and related novels to prepare to run a game in that.

Friday, July 8, 2016

To Vesper Skies VII: Propulsion

Distance is a bit thing in space. Everything is so far away from each other. So when making a sci fi game, you have to ask yourself how fast all of the spaceships can travel outside of combat. To answer that, you first have to figure out what kind of scale you want for your game.



First things first, we have to discuss different measurements used for space movement. There are three measurements used. Astronomical Units (AU), Light Year (ly), and Parsec (pc). We've heard these before but some probably don't know the definition of the terms.

AU is the smallest measurement used in space and is very useful for solar system travelling. 1AU is the distance from the Sun to the Earth, about 93 million miles (or 150 million km). A ly is the distance light can travel in one year. This turns out to be about 186,000 miles per sec (300,000 km/s) or roughly 5,880,000,000,000 miles (9,460,000,000,000 km or 63,240 AU) in a year. That's a lot of distance and is great for going between stars in the same sector. Of course, sometimes even that's too small of a scale. So we get into parsecs, which are 3.26 ly in distance. So each unit of measurement here will have its usage when figuring out the scale of your game.

Propulsion Technology

In science fiction, you can categorize movement into subluminal and superluminal movement (slower and faster than light, respectively). Subluminal can cover anything from basic rockets to solar sails and any kind of drive that simply can't reach light speeds. There are all kinds of examples of superluminal drives, but they can be generalized into three categories.
  • Faster Than Light Drive: Simply put, FTL drive gets you from point A to point B at faster than the speed of light. You see this kind of warp drive in Star Trek, where Warp # is essentially used like the Mach number system, but for FTL speeds.
  • Hyperspace Drive: Seen in Star Wars, hyperspace is a higher dimension that can get you to where you need faster. By imputing coordinates and doing the calculations, hyperdrives can cut down the distance between two points and open up more of the galaxy.
  • Wormholes: This technically isn't superluminal, as you aren't really moving. Instead, you open a hole in space-time that folds two points together. This bridges the points and allows for instantaneous travel. Wormholes can be stuck to just gates, or more advanced ships can simply do it.
If you want to limit these methods of propulsion so your players aren't zipping to the other side of the galaxy, there are several tried and true methods. Wormholes can be limited to gates and treated like a turnpike system. A common trope for hyperspace and FTL are that gravity wells interfere with the drive and make it difficult to leave. "Tachyon inhibitors" or any other techno-babble thing could prevent warping out. I'm generally okay with players zipping around a little bit, so I'm fairly cool with FTL in star systems until they approach a planet.

Solar System Focus

The scale of your sci fi game will decide on how fast your ships can go. If it's going to be centered on a single solar system, then chances are most ships will be going at subluminal speeds. Movement will be based on AUs or even miles/km for early technology. If you want your game to focus on solar system exploration or a race just getting into space, miles and km or fractional AUs will be useful. Original Gundam is a good example of this, where only the moon is really colonized. If you want the inner system explored but have a focus on exploration of the outer planets and Oort Cloud, then AUs will be more useful. Remember that Pluto is on average 39 AUs from the Sun. 

Your propulsion tech will also be much more early. Chances are that you'll probably want to keep it at subluminal drives. This makes exploration to the outer system and back a much bigger deal. Depending on how much of the system is colonized will depend on how fast your ships can go. Something like Gundam or Total Recall, for example, only focuses on Earth, the Moon, Mars, and orbiting stations. On the other end of the spectrum, Eclipse Phase and Cowboy Bebop has a large focus on the outer ring as well as the inner system.

You can actually have wormholes if you want if they are stuck to gates. These wormholes act as kind of a Panama Canal in space. It'll take you to between two areas only, so that makes them prized and limited, but still opening up an entire solar system to your players.

Star Focus

If the focus is going to be on travelling between the stars, then you probably want to go into the superluminal propulsion. Everything is measured in lys and if you want to get to the stars in your lifetime, you'll probably want ships that can go lightspeed. Like before, this is dependent on the story you are looking to tell. If you want to emphasize the journey and exploration, then maybe lean on the slower end of things. This is especially true if the focus is on a singular, alien planet like the movie Avatar, or the video games Alpha Centauri, Pandora: First Contact, and Beyond Earth (see the previous section about focus on a singular system).

If you'd rather the focus be on the destination of exploration and seeing more in a star cluster, then lean more towards the faster side of travel. Wormhole gates would fit pretty well with this, as would hyperspace for covering the large distances involved. FTL would have to be fairly high if you want to get to the nearest star in a game session within the lifespan of the PCs.

Galaxy and Beyond Focus

If you want your players in a galaxy spanning adventure, zooming around the Milky Way or beyond, then you pretty much want the fastest propulsion available. Unlimited wormholes to get from one galactic arm to the other if the focus is more on the destination. Super FTL  or Hyperspace drives if you want the focus on the journey (I'm talking severaly ly/pcs per hour). Parsecs are going to be your main unit of measurement going between star clusters and galactic clusters. This would be interesting if your players end up in another galaxy or even an completely different galactic cluster.

Remember, space is big, but it's only as big as you want it to be. Whether the focus is on a single colony or a massive galactic empire, choose the propulsion that will fit your story.