Thursday, July 30, 2015

Rule 1-2-3: A Super-Simple RPG Mechanic

While preparing my Stuper Powers adventure for the upcoming convention season, I remembered that this particular RPG is kind of lacking in the mechanics department. There are no PC stats, no combat or action rolls, no resolution rules of any kind. The game is solidly tongue-in-cheek, and most actions are resolved in a narrative manner. (AKA “Tell me what you do and I’ll tell you what happens.”) When a random result is needed, Stuper Powers suggests either 1. flipping a coin, so all actions have a 50/50 chance of success/failure, or 2. Beating the GM in a game of rock-paper-scissors, so all actions have a 33% chance of success/failure/tying.

Needless to say, I’m not a fan of either system.

I suggested a system using 1d4 in my earlier post about the game, but the mechanics never really "gelled" for me. So I’ve been noodling around with a super-simple random gaming mechanic that I can shoehorn into games I want to run simply – or games that don’t have a “true” mechanic, such as this one. So here is my concept for my “Rule 1-2-3” RPG mechanic system:

Before I begin explaining, keep this all-encompassing rule in mind:

1s, 2s, and 3s are ALWAYS successes.

Each player and the GM will need to have one 4-sided die, one 6-sided die, and one 12-sided die.

For any action that has a chance of failure, the GM should determine the difficulty of the task, whether it's Easy, Average, of Difficult.

Easy tasks would be remembering a phone number you were told 5 minutes ago, punching someone while they're asleep, or parking a car at the mall.

Average tasks would be remembering a phone number you were told last month, punching someone you're fighting with, or parallel parking a car during downtown rush hour.

Difficult tasks would be remembering a phone number you were told 5 years ago, punching someone who's currently shooting at you, or parking a car while blindfolded.

For an Easy Task, the player should roll the d4. On a 1-2-3, he succeeds. (A 75% chance of success.)
For an Average Task, the player rolls the d6. On a 1-2-3, he succeeds. (A 50% chance of success.)
For a Difficult task, the player rolls the d12. On a 1-2-3, he succeeds. (A 25% chance of success.)

The system is somewhat reminiscent of "target number" mechanics, but with Rule 1-2-3, the target numbers never change -- you always need to roll a 1, 2, or 3. However, it's the die used that represents the challenge level.

That's really all I've sussed out so far. I want to keep this super-simple, so I've steered clear of bonus/penalties or contested rolls. I'd like opinions on whether you think this would work well as a basic resolution mechanic. Thoughts?

Monday, July 27, 2015

Happy Birthday Gary

Chuck a 20-sider in honor of Gary Gygax today.
"I would like the world to remember me as the guy who really enjoyed playing games and sharing his knowledge and his fun pastimes with everybody else."

Gary Gygax

Sunday, July 19, 2015

[Cryptworld] New Thing: Humansquito

A Biohazardous Bloodsucker for Cryptworld

STR: 4 (60) --- WPR: 1 (15)
DEX: 6 (90) --- PER: 2 (30)
AGL: 6 (90) --- PCN: 5 (75)
STA: 3 (45) --- PWR: NA
ATT: 1/75% --- WND: 12
MV:  L 75† F 75

Experience: 800

A Humansquito is a grotesque hybrid of man and mosquito. The humanoid insect stands about 7 feet tall and has insectile features such as multifaceted eyes, a chitinous exoskeleton, and a pair of insect wings enabling it to fly. The THING's eyes are especially adapted to see images on the infrared scale, enabling it to detect any heat sources (such as prey) with ease. The most frightening feature of a Humansquito is its long, sharpened proboscis which it uses for feeding, draining a victim of every last drop of blood in mere seconds.

A Humansquito is created when a human is bitten by a mosquito carrying mutated DNA. This genetic error is usually triggered by radioactivity exposure, feeding from biohazardous waste, or ill-advised genetic tampering by scientists. The infected mosquito passes along its genetic traits when it bites its victim. The physical changes start to manifest in the THING within the first 24 hours, as the victim's body begins an agonizing metamorphosis. Even before the victim's physical changes start to surface, the future Humansquito might have an overwhelming craving for blood -- attacking small animals or even humans in a deperate attempt to quench its hunger. Within 48 hours, the skin will transform into a hardened insect exoskeleton; the eyes will bulge and become more like an insect's; and two large membranous wings will shred out from the shoulderblades. At 72 hours, the metamorphosis will be complete, and the Humansquito will fly into the world, looking for victims.

The Humansquito will make its lair in locations that are warm and damp such as swamplands and bogs. In a more urban setting, garbage dumps and landfills will appeal to the Humansquito. When it spies a victim, the Humansquito will mindlessly fly down to attack. (It will not wait to surprise or stalk its prey, working on insect instinct at this point.) It will attempt to subdue and grapple its prey (with an "H" result or better on an unarmed combat attack roll). Once it has its prey held down, it will try to sink its proboscis into the victim's chest to begin feeding. This attack requires a successful "C" result on an unarmed attack roll. If successful, the spear-like tube strikes its target's heart, instantly killing the victim. The Humansquito can drain the prey of blood within 1 minute, at which point it flies off, bloated and sated. A Humansquito must feed once each week before it begins to weaken.

NOTE: The Humansquito is a specific version of the Brundle to show you how to customize a Cryptworld THING into a new cryptid threat!

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Dungeon Solitaire, Tomb Of The Four Kings: Solo Adventuring With Just A Deck Of Cards

True story: When I was younger, I used to have a book of solitaire variants. I'd while away the hours with a deck of cards playing klondike, pyramid, spider, clock, etc. I was in my 80's D&D phase at the time, and I noodled around with designing a version of solitaire around a dungeon-delving theme. One concept was to have the cards act as 10 x 10 rooms, laid out in a random map format, as the other cards acted as monsters and treasure and...ughhhh, I never got further than the conceptual point.

So imagine my surprise and delight to discover that Matthew Lowes has developed and released the rules for Dungeon Solitaire: Tomb of the Four Kings! This snappy little solitaire card game uses only a standard deck of cards (plus one Joker) and challenges the player to enter a long-forgotten tomb, fighting monsters and gathering treasure. You only score if you can make it back out alive, so watch your hit points and don't run out of torches! You score more points if you're able to discover the four treasure rooms of the Kings, so will you delve even deeper into the crypt, or will you run for the entrance when the mighty 10 of Spades surfaces?

Since its release, I've been playing game after game when I can find the time, and this solo card game is exactly what I tried cobbling together years ago. You set aside the 2 through 10 of hearts, which acts as your hit point gauge. As you take damage, you turn over the cards until you either escape or die. The rest of the deck acts as your GM for the delve. You initially turn over a card at the beginning of each turn for your "encounter." The deck then become your "action" deck as you try to surmount the exposed challenge. Clubs are sealed doors which must be battered down or lockpicked. Diamonds are trapped treasure hoards which must be disarmed. And spades are the monsters and creatures guarding the dungeon's rooms and corridors. The higher the value, the tougher the challenge. After the encounter is exposed, you must turn over a card from the action deck of an equal or higher value to overcome the obstacle (suit doesn't matter). Succeed, and you survive to gather up treasure and go deeper into the tomb. Fail, and you take hit point damage equal to the difference.

The gameplay gets even more challenging when you account for the
aces and the faces. Aces are your four torches which represents an ever-dwindling supply of light in the dungeon. When an ace turns up, you set it aside, as it's gone out. When the last ace turns up, your last torch has gone out, and you are plunging into darkness, losing the game. Jacks represent skills learned while adventuring ("jack-of-all-trades"), and each allows you to bypass one encounter of the matching suit. For example, the Jack of Clubs represents the lockpick skill, so you can bypass any one "sealed door" encounter. Queens are the Divine Favors of the Goddess, which allows you to immediately win any encounter in which she surfaces. And the Joker is the Scroll of Light, allowing you to relight that last torch when it goes out.

As you can see, there's a lot of strategy and pre-planning to consider as you adventure in Dungeon Solitaire. Should you press on, or turn around and hope to make it out alive? Will your torches hold out until you reach the surface? A perfect score is 4/100, so even if you survive, there's always a higher score to strive for. And there's no denying the portability, as you only need that afore-mentioned deck of cards to play anywhere. (I would love to one day have a custom card deck created with an appropriate dungeon-y card back with each card face representing the creatures, doors, treasures, torches, goddesses, and Tombs you'd encounter. One day, perhaps.)

John Payne released his home rules and variants for Dungeon Solitaire, so here are two of my suggestions to the gameplay:

MORE HEALTH, LESS LIGHT: Your hit point gauge is made up of the 2 through 10 of Hearts. When the 2 is showing, you technically only have one hit point left. (When that card is turned over, you're dead.) I suggest taking the Ace of Hearts and adding it to your HP gauge, giving you a "true" 10 hit points. However, you now only have three torches during the delve, making survival more difficult. Which is more important: one more hit point or one more torch? Play this variant and see!

ACCUMULATED DAMAGE: When you encounter and fight a creature (any Spade card), you must turn over a card of equal or higher value to win. Failure means you take damage and continue to turn over cards until you win. If you're up against a 9 or 10, you're likely going to die before you turn over a similarly high card. I suggest that each non-winning card deals damage to the creature. For example, you reveal the 10 of Spades -- a very high level monster. Your first action card is a 6, so you take 4 HP damage. But rather than staying at a level 10, the monster would now be wounded down to a level 4 creature, as you did 6 points of damage. The next round, you reveal a 3, so you would now take 1 HP of damage (4 - 3) while doing another 3 points of damage to the monster, who is now at 1 HP. The next card you reveal should end it's life. With this method, you won't die so quickly as you turn over card upon card hoping to equal/beat a 10. Instead, this method has you slowly weakening the creature until you finally (hopefully) defeat it.

Dungeon Solitaire: Tomb of the Four Kings is available as a free download at Matthew's site, and links to the files appear at the end of this blog post. It's an amazing game, Matthew, and thanks for releasing it to the wild for us!