Sunday, March 27, 2016

This doesn't have grappling rules, does it?

That was a question from a player, during a game of Into the Odd. They had run out of the Underground and into Bastion, having stolen an Arcanum from two old doddering cultists. They had gone to a local bathhouse and met a contact, Grer, who they knew could move Arcanum, but Grer lowballed them (they felt). Grer said they could always take it over to Laugher, Laugher pays well, but he's crooked and a double-crosser. So to Laugher they went, and almost immediately (after an offer of 45 silver), began shooting Laugher and his two men.

Laugher had Tyrant Rod'd one of the PCs into fleeing, and his men were in turn forced to flee - via stealing said Rod, using a Pain Wire oddity. Laugher got the drop on the remaining PC and their two companions. All were down, but above 0 strength. The last PC came back as Laugher was humming to himself and sharpening a long knife, comatose people slumped about his office.

"Oh, there are grappling rules," I said, "what're you trying to do?"

Well, throw Laugher out the window of his top-floor tenement building. I figured this was just a strength save, rolled up Laugher's strength (14), and watched as the dice said he passed a strength check. He grabbed the window frame to keep himself from falling out, and tried to do this to the PC in turn, who made a strength save as well to stay in the room and alive.

(Laugher went back to stabbing with his knife, won, killed the companions, and sold the PCs into slavery. They awoke shaved, branded, and in a mine. My first TPK - though everyone kept their strength above 0, so no PCs really died.)

This is a real strength of Into the Odd - if you can figure some way to grapple and throw a human NPC (or a reasonably-sized nonhuman) into instant death, you can try - but you're not guaranteed to succeed. Whereas damage is going to happen, against unarmored people, but it's going to take longer. Slow but reliable, faster but chancy. To me they're very well-balanced, different approaches. I don't want combat maneuvers to be 'sweep the leg' or the like, unless that's done the way DCC does it. Warriors (and dwarves!) can sweep the leg and do damage. And at higher levels, the leg is gone.

To me that makes combat feel real, like, really dangerous. When I've had rounds where all players and I whiff, it makes combat droll. I mean, if you're enjoying everyone just missing, that's fine. It just makes me feel like I'm doing something horribly wrong. It should be quick and tense. Whiff rounds take it in the opposite direction.

And then I try to figure out how to take this and stick it in my DCC campaign

Even with the absence of to-hit rolls, I want combat to always be moving somewhere dramatic. Maybe I just need something like Detect Magic's Scary Combat Choreography, or, for DCC, a modification to +Claytonian JP's super-sweet Things Hurt and Armor Soaks houserules. Clay has been running it with the soak roll going on in every round (every round a 1 HD monster rolls a d8 to see how much damage it absorbs). I was thinking of it like soak being your 'not getting hit' points, restorable with an Into the Odd short rest, and your Con being your static HP. Pretty sure a Star Wars RPG has been set up this way.

(I also really like how Clay's rules mean you crit on rolling max damage! No more 2-hp-damage crits.)

The problem might be scaling - how does a 3hd monster in chainmail roll soak? 3d12? Averaging, what, 18? I just don't want soak to become another HP inflation. I'm also leary of computing a constitution score for every monster. Probably some will just have soak, and one hit past that, they are DED. Others will get CON scores and take wounds like the PCs.

Other people who have thought about this: B/X Blackrazor has a good post about auto hits in B/X DnD where armor changes the damage die an attacker rolls.

Necropaxis might've done this in the simplest way with Damage Symmetry. Every miss means the enemy hit. Unlike Clay's rules, this will not Make Daggers Great Again (1/4 chance of a crit!), but it does mean less thought goes into changing things up. Maybe. Or maybe since low-level PCs miss half the time, it makes Everything a Meat Grinder.

For now I'm going to get through level 1 before hacking the DCC combat rules much - I feel like once we got away from a massive 0-level funnel of scrubs, combat has been more interesting. But we'll see.

Gameable Moments: Master of the Flying Guillotine

(I own nothing, I uploaded nothing, etc etc. I imagine people who see these things will be inspired to go buy them, because they are awesome.)

Sweet Crom, Master of the Flying Guillotine has an incredible soundtrack. Neu! provides an awesome intro to the villain (who has mastered the art of the flying guillotine) with this song:

And really, the whole villain intro is just wonderful. The villain is entering the story because the hero, a one-armed boxer, has killed two men. These men were apprenticed to the imperial assassin, the flying guillotine wielder, and before their final fight, sent off a clay tablet bearing a drawing of their nemesis (the master is blind, so, gotta have tiny clay tablets). Have to love consequences of the PCs slaying folk, even if said folk deserved it.

HNNN that opening. The downside is that it's hard to describe some evil villain just straight-up coming to kill the PCs from afar, absent some prophesy, mushroom-tea hallucination, astral beast whispering, poison save vision, or near-death out-of-body experience. Which of course are things the game should be filled with, so, just keep them in mind for having some little 'cut to' part where the next villain is described, briefly but awesomely, practicing martial arts and burning down his own fucking house to come after the PCs. 

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Crab Temple Random Encounters

So my PCs for a DCC game went through the Time Portal in Frozen in Time. The time and world they arrive on is somewhat inspired by a Dungeon Dozen post and contains Marlinko and the Slumbering Ursine Dunes. But all that worldbuilding ain't where we're at; we're in a crab temple! The upper levels contain ships that fly through the sky (thanks to a large fluffy plant stalk embedded as the main mast); the lower level is full of somewhat hostile crab folk.

Crab Folk Stats

They're about 4 to 5 feet tall crabs wearing belts, with spears or crossbows. They have wet sponges and 1d6 coppers in their belt pouches and bleed blue blood. They can speak to humans via translator orbs (a chittering-to-Common Ioun Stone, DC 19 to steal, AC 19, hp 2), if they bother to have them.

HD 1d8. +1 to hit. 12 AC. Mov 30' (or whatever a human can do). Spear (1d8) or Crossbow (1d6) and 10 bolts. +1 to all saves.

Max HP: Elite. Has a d3 attack/damage bonus, 14 AC in built-up excess temporary chitin. Can use Mighty Deeds as a lvl 1 warrior.

Tactics: Pincer attack! Flank! Fall back! Defend crossbowmen! Acquire human ghosts! Deploy Horseshoe Crab Dogs! Establish outpost and grow another Crab Folk City!

Horseshoe Crab Dogs

HD 1d6. 12 AC. +1 Atk. 1d6 damage (biting). Mov 40'. 

Max HP: Extra aggressive. Attack has 50/50 change to either cause 1d4 damage from bleeding or knock victim prone (DC 17 Reflex save to stay on foot).

Temple Encounters

  1. Crab tourist family. Dad (crossbow crab). Mom (spear crab). Daughter (gas grenade, DC 15 save or blinded for 1d4+1 rounds). Son (2 short swords, 1d6 dmg each, 2d16 to attack). Want to escape alive, parents will save kids over themselves. All kitted out in religious paraphernalia of their god, Brachyura.
  2. Horseshoe crab trainers (2) armed with crossbows and knives. 2d8 Horseshoe crab dogs on leashes. One trainer has a training gong.
  3.  Wandering ghost. Use a reaction roll, higher means not dangerously insane. Or less so.
  4. Old man pacifist crab. Translator orb, 6 smoke bombs (humans in the smoke are blinded, infravision works through it), dagger. Wants to find snacks. Comes in and out through panels that connect him to the sewers below the temple.
  5. 6 crossbow crabs with two spear-bearers. Just back from target practice.
  6. Priest (blunted spear, 1d6), bearing a ghost in a lead bottle. 3 guards with lightening whips (1d4, double damage to ghosts). Priest can cast Word of Command (language difference won't matter in the eyes of Brachyura) and Paralysis. +5 to cast rolls. 3x spells a day, or can use the spell slot to cause/cure 1d6+1 HP. The ghost is as above, only 50/50 chance of being hostile, but a) the crabs can drive it about with their lightening whips and b) its hideous countenance requires a DC 12 Wil save or you freeze up for a round. The crabs are used to ghosts and do not have to make this save.
  7. Stray Horseshoe crab dog. Reaction roll for hostility! Can be bribed with food; potentially a loyal and happy ally, though has a 50% chance of running off if ordered to attack crab folk.
  8. 2d4 Crab sneaks. Slingshots (1d4, 2d20 action roll to use, or x2 attacks per round). +5 to sneak and picking pockets. Good at running - DC 18 to catch in a chase. Backstabbers - crit on a sneak attack.
  9. 1d6+2 Opium-addled crab folk. -1 to hit (other than any Warriors). Reroll HP with advantage (pick higher of two) when rolling HP. Want to repel invaders and PARTY!
  10. 1d6+3 patrolling guards. Escorting a human prisoner (level 0, occupation: sky skipper crew) to the Ghost-maker chamber for deconstitution. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Running The Nightlight Circus

So if you have not gotten Odditional Materials, and you like Into the Odd, I heartily recommend it. It's got rules hacks like Maze Rats and Odd Dungeons, arcanum and new monstrous beings, and adventures like The Nightlight Circus, which I ran recently.

And if you don't want it spoiled, stop reading! It's a fun adventure with well-thought-out room descriptions, which describe both the rooms and the liminal connections between them (dusky smells versus fresh smells versus a staircase with light leaking through), which is great for making informed decisions. And it's got gambling and creepy folk!

The adventure is a location, the aforementioned Circus, a gambling den fronting for joy-missionaries waiting to brainwash more poor souls clapped in irons. There's a rumors table, but I figured I'd give the players more of a job or mission to have a reason to be there. The husband of a missing City Council troubleshooter hired the PCs to rescue him. Errol Brightlow, John's husband, knew the passphrase to let the PCs in, and gave them 20 pence up front to gamble with and blend in. Errol was a great reason to have them start in the Circus, rather than trying to shake the password out of random gamblers in various other parts of Bastion.

(Gambling in Into the Odd is fun! I imagine this maps to most OSR games. I decided games of chance would pay out on a 5-6 on d6, since the house clearly has an advantage. Games of skill required a WIL save to win. In games with a Wisdom score, I'd have them roll under that, possibly with a +1 per opponent.)

One of our players was rousing up a distraction, winning at cards, whilst the other used his starter package to try to read a grinning cultist's mind. Failing, he cast about for a familiar face and found... Santos Barbato, a confidant and bomb enthusiast. They spoke of the place at length and I rolled for a random encounter, discovering that a grinner had brought in vicious dogs who got loose. Toby, the professional duelist PC, ascended the bar and shot one dog down, while Lazarus abandoned his card table and rushed the south doorway, leading past the gaming front and into the quarters of the cultists.

The players killed a waiter rushing out of the gambling room, as the remaining dog caused an enormous mess of things. The waiter managed to down a companion, but they dragged him south and entered a room with a fire pit and couches, where a hugely muscled man hunkered down, captured and iron-clapped sailors imprisoned behind him. The PCs bested said man in combat, incapacitating him and stealing his thoughts, thanks to Toby's starting gear/traits - low stats and alright HP had given him telepathy. They freed prisoners and had them go through a doorway which smelt of fresh air.

Each room describes the passages out quite succinctly - well enough for the players to make decisions, without giving away more than their characters could get from standing at the threshhold. This is incredibly helpful when they're deciding where to go next.

The seriously injured strongman gave some clues as to Brightlow's location, due to our thought-stealing PC, and then was summarily thrown partway through an illusory wall, which electrified him to death. The PCs jumped through into... the Loot Room. My only regret is not pondering the loot room's description a bit more.

The loot room paragraph states that anyone disturbing the treasure would be known to the Joy Machine. That's well and good... but it is an immobile column of light, which has no obvious means of communicating with its people. If I had thought things through in advance, I would've decided that it could communicate with Copper, a beastly and mobile fellow, and send it after interlopers. As is, I figured it'll know who did things, and the cultists will be after the thieves... So a reaction perhaps more suitable to a second session, and less towards a one-shot. Hopefully I'll manage some time to run this again, and when the same players can return.

(The other question I would've answered with a bit more forethought: what happens if the players cut or destroy the electrical cables between 3 and 11? I'm sure that they could cause serious damage (d10), but what happens? Terrible, wonderful things, I'm sure. Copper running around on fire, dogs running around on fire, etc.)

Suffice to say, the players wisely snuck around / away from the Joy Machine (one had a Smart Arm oddity which was gnashing its mental teeth near it). They killed another enslaver, freed more prisoners (so now 10 random Bastiards owe the PCs their lives) and escaped, leaving an enraged/joyful Copper and company to hunt for them. Errol and John, reunited, headed home. The PCs got away with 125 silver each, and a 10g piece of Golden Lands jewelry with a melt value of 4g - they intend to find a very discreet fence and get a fuller price for it.

Twas a great adventure! The Circus-folk are wonderful, creepy characters, and it was nice that their lair has a public-facing front where the PCs can pretend to be about for legitimate reasons. I regret not thinking through the Loot Room implications, but I think it worked out fiiiine. And certainly the adventure does a good job of making dangerous things obvious - like the Joy Machine, which seemed to creep folks out.