Monday, November 17, 2014

The "No Free Healing" Recovery Model for 5e D&D

My original article Controlling Rest Cycles had it wrong, at least as far as the rules were written...I think I read what I "wanted" the rules to be, but after the last session I played which included a three day journey, where a early nighttime encounter with a group of five Stirges did a significant amount of damage to the 2nd level party.

The character most wounded asked if their was enough time to get an extended rest, to which I replied that they would simply have to rest a bit into there morning, and get a late start but they would be able to get one, so long as they had no other encounters during the night and they slept in.  Well, the rest of the night was indeed uneventful and they choose to sleep in to get the extended rest.

I then stated that everyone gained half their hit dice for the extended rest, but no hit points were returned.  The wounded player challenged me, and I simply stated that, if everyone one is fully healed after every nights sleep, then it makes "traveling" pointless, it goes back to all the issues that I'd had with 4E's resting model.  The player agreed with me, but showed me the Extended Rest as it was written, and I'd realized that I read what I wanted to see when I read this section before.  I did award everyone their Extended Rest, this time...but I'd think up something for next session.

After "thinking" about it I think my previous article is very close to how I'm going to play recovery in the future.  I've read nearly all the Facebook entries on a recent post to one of the groups I frequent on this subject and think it's comical how non-constructive most of the 100+ responses are.  These break down into a few basic types, most are simply the "no-value" I agree that they could have just used the "Like" option, or the "no-value" negative flame/trolling response as with most of these posts.  Others still seems to infer 5e is a Pen and Paper version of World or Warcraft.

Some were good, but the ones that I really want to address are simply the ones that "mock" trying to add realism to an fantasy game with potions and magical healing.  As described in my Controlling Rest Cycles article, I really don't see a down side to making the rest cycle more realistic.  Even the "No Free Healing" model allows for a hero to go from nearly bleeding out death one day to completely healed in a few days, but less than a week for sure, even with the assumption of no magical healing or potions being used.

To me, this model is the Win-Win version, as DMs that don't want to worry about things can simply grant a few more potions of healing, or simply increase the travel distance of areas that the heroes seek to a few extra days, and everyone will be healed within the guidelines of the rules, however for those that want the journey to mean something or create a more dangerous world, damage or lack of hit dice can linger from day to day, and if they party wants to recover then it's a deliberate decision for them to seek out a place that they can "hide out" a few days to emerge at full strength again.

The current recover model in the PHB simply doesn't allow DM's to have damage linger from day to day without them inventing ways to prevent an extended rest from occurring.  I just prefer the players to accept the fact that they do not "auto heal" every night.

So in order to actually have a journey mean something, I'm currently going with the model where after a full nights rest the party only gets half their hit dice back, as described in my previous article, and even this is not guaranteed.  As I've added a 2d6 to the resting routine while the party is on a Journey.  This primarily add flavor text to the reasoning behind not getting full Extended Rest.  These are rolled individually for each character that is resting.

Nights Rest Quality Table (d12)
3 or less = Horrible Night, no hit dice recovered
4 to 6 = Rough night (-1 hit dice recovered)
7 to 10 = Moderate night (no modifier on hit dice recovered)
11+ = Good night (+1 to the number of hit dice recovered)

Adjustment to results
-1: Wearing Light Armor
-2: Wearing Medium Armor
-3: Wearing Heavy Armor
-1: Cumulative penalty for each failed Death Save from previous day.
+1: Consuming and extra days ration while resting
+1: Being attended to by another for at least half the rest.
Special: Weather/Environment can add +2 to -2 on to this roll.

I'm additionally working on a more formal version of "Hard Core Mode, 5e Style", which I think provides the appropriate adaptations to the 5e hit points, death and dying and recovery to play a 5e game that is more gritty and deadly.  This is nearly complete, but I need to test some things out with my personal group before I publish the article, so probably a month or two, unless I go with a more alpha-version of the idea.

The idea behind the Hard-Core mode is more for campaigns that seek the Darksun campaign style, but there's no reason why it can't be applied to a Forgotten Realms / Greyhawk style of campaign.  This model goes a little beyond the simple removing of the "auto-heal" after an extended rest, and does significantly alter one core aspect of the game, specifically hit points.  So, I can see the reluctance of "patching" the game so earlier after its been released, but at the same time to me this drastic patch is required to achieve the type of campaign that I see Darksun being, as the ability to be nearly dead one day and to become essentially fully healed after a nap and a meal seem to undermine the "harsh environment" ideals that the world is attempting to portray.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Wounds in D&D 5th Edition

As I started discussing in my "Controlling Rest Cycles" I had originally framed this along with the that article, which focused more on allowing the party to push through difficult situations.  This article takes the other approach.  Where, in the sake of "realism", or attempting to model sprains, broken bones or more significant injuries than just a typical loss of hit points, their is a need to express the fact that one or more of the party members are significantly hurt.

The scenario where the party was significantly beat down and is out of healing spells, out of hit-dice, and very low on hit points, typically plays out as follows: the first long rest would consume all of the healers spells and all of the hit dice gained from the rest to the hit points to be such that they could handle a moderate battle, especially considering all of the other powers are restored, though they are still far from recovered.  The cleric (or other healer role) is likely very low on spells and no one in the party has any hit dice to use.  So, it will likely take a second long rest to allow the party to be close to full strength, as now they will have healing spells and some hit-dice in reserve, but technically they would not reach full strength until one more (a total of three long rests).

I think most people would be satisfied by this time scale...I'm currently close to being satisfied, but I'd like to suggest the following optional rules or ideas that could be expanded upon to create a more robust way to measure all for long term damage.

My initial idea is rather simple idea, which treats such that a Wound similar to an illness or disease that a hero might contract on an adventure.  Whenever a player takes a large amount of damage from a single attack the DM can request a CON Save.  The DC of this could vary based on the amount of damage that was done, for possibly for 25% of their maximum  hit-points the DC might be 10, whereas a wound dealing 50% of their maximum might be DC 15 or higher.  The idea hear is NOT for every attack that meet the damage percentage listed below to inflict these wounds for a typical D&D adventure, though this could be attempted in a lower combat campaign, where there is stress on how deadly battle can be.

In general I would limit these blows to thematic events (large falls), critical hits or botched rolls that might leave a character in a particularly prone/susceptible position.  When these occur, the result of this could be based on where the damage was dealt, or a table could be determined by the DM for such attacks, but it could be simply one of the follow examples:

Minor Wound
Onset: suffering at least 10% of their maximum health in a single attack
Difficult Check to Avoid: DC 10 Con Save
Failure Scenario: Loss of one Hit-Dice
Recovery Period: None
On Going Effect: None

Deep Wound
Onset: suffering at least 20% of their maximum health in a single attack
Difficult Check to Avoid: DC 13 Con Save
Failure Scenario: Loss of two Hit-Dice
Recovery Period: None
On Going Effect: None

Major Wound
Onset: suffering at least 30% of their maximum health in a single attack
Difficult Check to Avoid: DC 15 Con Save
Failure Scenario: Loss of four Hit-Dice
Recovery Period: After Long Rest may attempt a DC 10 Con Save to remove this condition


On Going Effect: While a character has this affliction they may not recover Hit Dice or spend Hit Dice to recover hit-points

Vile Wound
Onset: suffering at least 20% of their maximum health in a single necrotic attack
Difficult Check to Avoid: DC 13 Con Save
Failure Scenario: Loss of two Hit-Dice
Recovery Period: After Long Rest may attempt a DC 13 Con Save to lessen this condition, after three successful saves the condition is removed.  After each failed save the wounded character suffers an additional d6 necrotic damage.


On Going Effect: While a character has this affliction they may not recover Hit Dice or spend Hit Dice to recover hit-points

Broken limbs or other bones might be modeled as either Deep Wounds or Major Wounds, with pain penalties, such as half movement or disadvantage of skills/attacks that require the use of the wounded limb, possibly with a Con Save required to avoid additional damage or further loss of Hit-Dice.

Magical Healing

When magical healing is used to patch up a wound and it completely heals the individual's hit points to maximum, they may make an immediate Con save DC 10 with advantage, if successful they regain half the hit-dice loss from the wound.


Controlling Rest Cycles in 5E D&D

In my opinion, the recommended rest cycles in 5E D&D are much better that the times that were laid out in the fourth edition rules, though I find myself liking some of the older school rest ideas.  I know their are those that want to think of their characters more as "Superheroes" where they can be nearly totally spent on spells, special abilities and out of hit-points and after a nights rest they are all back up to full and ready to go (this was sort of the 4E model).

I typically like a slower paced recovery, where the party must make hard choices of whether to push on or try to rest up.  In this regard I think 5E does a decent job out of the box of splitting the difference between the ultra fast model of 4E and the very slow old school model of recovery (1hp + Level + Con modifier, was the one I used to use).  I do think some modification can be made to the 5E rest model (see entry Wounds in D&D 5th Edition if making recovery a little more difficult), but for the most part it stands as a viable model.

That said, there are definitely times where you want a session to be more fast paced, possibly with a tight time constraint, such that the story doesn't seem to allow even a short rest to be had.  For these cases I created the following items and/or magical effects that can be found or encountered by the party in scenarios where the party might want to rest, but it is simply not a good location or the situation that they are in, makes actually taking a rest be problematic.

I'm currently thinking about a more energy based system for spells that is compatible with 5E, but without totally changing this or adding a spell level recovery system, the follow items grant a mechanism for players to sort of have an "Ace in the Hole", where they can regain spells much more quickly.

If you use the potion side-effect table, where consuming multiple potions in too short of a time must be rolled for on a table, possibly causing deadly side effects, may be enough of a deterrent stock piling a large store of these potions and then being able to replenish all of a characters spells and daily powers multiple times over in the course of short adventure.  Using this side-effect however may prevent the benefits of implementing this system in the first place.

It would be better to use these as environmental effects in many cases that will only alter the current situation and allowing expended powers to be recovered allowing the party to continue with more abilities and/or spells at their disposal.  Granting potions may cause players to attempt to hoard them, and possibly allowing them to become significantly more powerful in the future if they have many of these available.

Mana Potions

These potions are meant to help spell casters regain spell levels that are lost through casting.  Often casters will push the party to rest when they are out of everything except their minor cantrips, so having one of these on hand will make them feel better about continuing.

Mana Draught: the least powerful of the mana potions, this allows one 1 spell level to be regained.  Thus after quaffing this potion a wizard could cast a first level spell, consuming multiple can allow multiple 1st level spells to be cast, but does not allow a 2nd level spell level to be gained.

Mana Potion: Like a Mana Draught, but this grants two spell levels back, either in the form of two 1st level spells or one 2nd level spell.  To regain two 1st level spells the drinker simply consumes half of the potion, and then the other half.  If they only desire one 1st level spell regained, they may choose to drink half of the potion as save the other half for another time.

Mana Elixir: This is similar to a Mana Potion, but it contains four spell levels, which can be regained in any of the following ways: 1x4th, 1x3rd+1x1st, 2x2nd, 1x2nd+2x1st, or 4x1st.  Essentially this has 4 spell levels in it and can be consumed in quarters to regain any of the following combinations, even at separate times.  So 1/4th could be drank to gain a 1st level spell, then at so other time the rest can be consumed to regain a 3rd level spell.

Other Potions

Potion of Vigor: Consuming one of these potions allow the drinker to regain a Hit Dice, these may be spent in the normal means, but do require a short rest after drinking the potion to actually recover hit points.  Consuming a Potion of Vigor may not allow the drinker to exceed the maximum hit dice, determined by their level that they may have at one time.

Potion of Recovery: This grants most benefits of a short rest, thus powers that return after a short rest are regained, and hit dice may be spent provided the drinker of the potion has them to spend.  When hit dice are spent using this potion, they may only spend a maximum of three.

Elixir of Recovery: This grants most benefits of a long rest, the only exception is casters do not regain any spell levels back for consuming this potion, all other abilities that return over a long rest are regained, as well as the recover hit dice as if a long rest was taken.

Environment Effects

Enchanted Grove: Those is spells can feel something is special about this grove, and a feeling of peace can be felt upon entering the grove.  When the party rests in this area they gain all the benefits of an Elixir of Recovery upon taking a short rest.

Way Point of Recovery: This is basically taking a page out of modern video games, where in locations where it is particularly dangerous to linger, travelers were required to forced-march through the territory until the advent of these arcane platforms.  Travelers simply need the activation ingredients (or maybe there are ingredients on hand, or the Way Point simply recharges every few days).
     Upon activation, all those that at within the area of the effect (typically 20 foot radius of monolith or all those on the platform) are recovered as if a Long Rest was taken.  In very dangerous areas these my be located 20 to thirty miles apart, with the occasional way-point having been destroyed or may be non-functional.

Magical Fruits/Fountain: These may have any of the same potion-like effects, but the magic quickly deteriorates if the item is not used in a relatively soon fashion, waters from a fountain might lose their benefits after as little as an hour, where as fruits may retain their magic for a few days.

Conclusion

When adventure scenarios are imagined sometimes they just don't "fit" into a particular game system's mechanics, so as a DM, you can either alter the scenario, which may or may not work...or you can alter the mechanics.  This just briefly touches on some of the easy things that can be done to subtlety alter the game mechanics to allow your party to be "push through" even when it seems they are all tapped out.

As a player these items are very attractive, because knowing you can reactive a power once it is used, if the situations arise then it would allow me to be "less stingy" if I see a situation where that power seems like it could be used for a heroic action, as if an even better situation comes up or it's required that I have the same ability to overcome an obstacle, then no longer do I have to rest (possibly 8 hours), I can simply quaff a potion and reuse it.  Sure, I'm out of the potion, but that's sort of the definition of where it's meant to be used.

As a DM, I like the idea of giving the players items such as this, especially in the Magical Fruit/Fountain variety, as those that don't take advantage of this simply lose the regain ability when the item expires, but those that do have the chance for especially heroic moments.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Bag Mechanics

After being a little unprepared for the first official session of D&D 5th edition, I was asked by one of my players, "If I was ever going to award any of them 'Inspiration'?".  I had definitely seen this written a few times, but never had given it much thought, beyond thinking "I need to look that up sometime".

Well, I admitted to them that I didn't read what that meant, so the players happily explained it to me, which I then award them all "One Inspiration" right there on the spot, for me being so negligent during the first half of the session.

I'd wished I'd brought my poker chips as a means for tracking Inspiration, being it was easy enough just marking it down, and crossing it off once it was spent by the players, which really didn't take all that long.

One of the players really wasn't paying attention when the "Inspiration" was awarded, then he failed his attack roll, and I allowed him to use it anyway, which made me think that "It'd be nice to have more types of Inspiration to grant."  This thought came at a particularly profound moment, as four of the five party members were making Death Saves.

Luckily for most of the party they managed to stabilize themselves, though one member was killed in the battle.  Which was tragic, but this was Hoard of the Dragon Queen, and everyone knew it was a dangerous adventure...and not much one can do about things at first level, this near TPK was the end of the evening of gaming anyway, so we packed up and I  left for home.

The next day I was thinking about the"Inspiration Award", and was thinking of using Token's to track these for next time, thinking about maybe granting different colored tokens for different levels of Inspiration.  This, and having recently played Dead-Lands and Sixcess at GenCon, I was thinking about other token based systems, and how much my players liked the mechanics of those games and the mechanics of the game Yggdrasil, where you can add or remove Vikings (good) and Fire-Giants (bad) from a bag that you randomly draw from at various time for bonuses.

This caused me to think that I could improve on the mechanics of Inspiration, but filling a bag with tokens and when the DM (myself) grants a character Inspiration, the player then would get to blindly draw from the Inspiration Bag, which would have various colors poker chips in to grant differing odds for each type of token.

The Inspiration Bag

When a campaign starts the bag might be filled as follows:

White (x9) = Standard Inspiration, this must be declared before a roll is made by the player and allows the roll to be made with Advantage (roll twice keeping the highest).

Green (x3) = Great Inspiration, this grants a additional dice to be rolled when a player is unhappy with the original die rolled.  This effectively is allowing advantage, but may be declared after the result on the first die is rolled.

Red (x1) = Heroic Inspiration, this grants Standard Inspiration, with the addition of granting temporary hit-points of d6 per level, up to a maximum of 3d6.  The temp Hps are awarded when the inspiration, advantage, is used on a die roll.  The Hps are lost if the damage taken in an encounter exceeds this amount, or after a short rest is taken.

Blue (x1) = Restful Inspiration, this grants Standard Inspiration and acts as if a Short Rest was taken before the Inspiration is rolled, this allows up to three Hit-Dice to be spent and recharges powers as if a short rest was taken.

Black (x1) = Enemy Inspiration, this is kept by the player and is spent only when the DM chooses to attack their character with advantage, as if the attacker has Inspiration on the character.  Optionally, the DM can optionally spend this token on the character by having some unfortunate event happen to the character, usually this is something minor.

Reward Bag

Another idea that came to me about the same time, at first I'd mixed the Inspiration Bag and reward bag together, but after thinking about it I think it's best to keep these separate.  The reward bag with a way to grant treasure to the players with a mechanism that they may feel they have a little more control over.

Basically, its a random item bag, where the items can be all tokens with sticker labels on them designating what the item is, or the bag may be filled with actual items, game pieces, token coins, small vials, small gems and chits of card stock.

Typically their will be various of each type of item in the bag, and normally at least one false item of each type, for game pieces this may just be an item of a certain color signifies the "false-magic" one, or even "cursed" item, for the coins the one that designates copper would be the undesirable one, where silver or gold would be a more significant reward.  For the vials, their may be one that is infact poison, or simply empty, where other colors may be different types of potions, for gems one color may signify glass or false gems, where emeralds, sapphires and rubies would be gems of greater value, and the chits can be anything from magic scrolls, to treasure maps to journals that provide clues or other random things, or they may even be cursed.

The benefit with the reward bag it that the players choosing the reward will actually get to choose the category of item that they wish to gain, but the actual value of the item drawn is up to whatever the player randomly pulls from the bag.  The DM can stock the reward bag differently for each reward, or keep it weighted a given direction, so the players "think" they drew randomly, but it was pre-planned, at least by item type.

When to draw from the Reward bag is again left up to the DM, likely it won't be every encounter that gains a draw...unless the bag is poorly stocked, but more so reserved for the more difficult encounters to be defeated.

Fate Bag

This bag can be to randomly give the party perception that they have control over their fate, whether or not the DM has actually spiked the bag is up to them, but some of my more common uses of this item, where I really do leave it in the hands of the players are things like:

The party has tracked an NPC bandit into a box canyon with 8 caves in it.  The last night had torrential rains, so the actual trail has been lost, but the bandit is in one of these caves, two of the other have very unfriendly beasts and the rest are simply empty...So one Black token (for the bandit), one Red (for the deadlier of the two beasts), one blue (for the other beast) and five white (empty caves) go into the back and I let the players choose their fate when they start walking up to a given cave, by simply having them pull a token from the bag.

Another "Group Test" inspired use of the Fate Bag is in situations where the party in attempting to be stealthy to avoid attracting enemy encounters.  For this type of Fate Draw, I first assign a difficult of the Stealth Check, based on environmental considerations and distance to the creatures, then I seed the bag with the likelihood of something bad, good or neutral happening.

     Typically Red for bad, Green for good and White for neutral.  For a fairly density populated area, I may assign 4 Red, 3 White and 1 Geen to the initial bag.  Then, I typically use one the following mechanics.

Mechanic I (Luck by distance traveled)

  • For each player that beats the assigned DC by 5 or more, add one Green and one White to the bag.
  • For every player that beats the assigned DC, add one White to the bag.
  • For every player that fails the assigned DC, add one Red to the bag.
After this Draw once for every X distance traveled through the dangerous area.


Mechanic II (Luck based on failed rolls)

  • For each player that beats the assigned DC by 5 or more, add one White to the bag.
  • For every player that beats the assigned DC, do nothing
  • For every player that fails the assigned DC, draw a token from the bag.
If they draw the Green, they are lucky and no one after them has to draw.  Drawing a White also means they were unseen, or more likely no one wandering into their area, however if some has drawn a Red token not only do they have an encounter, but for each Red that they have the difficulty of the encounter increases.  Additionally, before the players draw there my be a set number of tokens that the DM draws first.

There are obvious variation on the above methods, such as altering the initial contents of the bag, the DC of the initial check, how often the bags reset back to their initial state, and the frequency that items are drawn before the bag resets.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Putting the "Oh Sh*t!" back in Ogre...Damage Reduction in 5th Edition

During the long alpha and beta test of D&D 5th edition (a.k.a D&D Next), I ran an accelerated campaign through Ghost of Dragonspear Castle, by accelerated I mean 1 level per session, and we played for 10 sessions through the adventure over 5 months.  During which I've noticed that seldom could the bad guys last more than a few rounds, even when they were large solo opponents.  I even threw at them encounters with eight Trolls as optional things, and yes they took damage, but it didn't seem like they party was ever afraid, at least not after the limbs started flying off these guys.

Without trying to give away any spoilers, it was so bad that even one of the main bad guys was way overpowered for the party at 6th level when they encountered them, and the guy knew they were coming so he was fully buffed...Having Haste, Stone-Skin and Immunity to every damage causing spell the party had, and having resistance to normal weapons (combined with Stone-Skin this was having most party attacks dealing 1/4 damage) only the monk, who's hands are considered a magical weapon could deal 1/2 damage.  On top of this, his base hit point were over 100...combined all of these factors should have made this an impossible, but it wasn't.

They dealt over 400 damage to this foe, all of the spells were completely ineffective, and as mentioned above the weapons were only 25% effective for the most part.  This battle combined with another one where the Ranger in the group was scouting ahead, about 50 feet in front of the party was surprised by a Behir.  The Behir only received it's surprise round and one other round of attacks, even on the surprise round having swallowed the Elven ranger whole, it never made it to the 2nd round of combat.

Granted, at first I liked the fact that D&D Next had quick battles (especially compared to 4E), but after awhile they were just too quick, even for complex battle where I'd actually pull out miniatures to make sure the players knew what was going on, it was hardly worth the effort as it was over before it really started.  I do like the AC changes, where they are lower and that the combat bonuses slowly increase and begin around +4 to +6 for the party at low levels.

Players would seldom even bother to think before entering a battle, the attitude was, "Sure my weapon deals 1/4th damage, but this fight will be over soon enough."  This got me thinking, what was missing?  I even started adding more resistances to creatures where it made sense, like Undead gaining a resistance to cold.  I was attempting to get the party to think before rushing into battle, what really seemed to do the trick was granting creatures damage reduction (DR).

As an example a Fighter with a Great Sword vs Silver Dagger going up against a Werewolf.  Without Monster Manual (not being available until next month) I have no idea what the actual stats are on a Werewolf, so I'm making them up here to demonstrate how using resistances, vulnerability and DR changes the battle.

Granting the Werewolf resistance to normal weapons would cause the great sword to deal (2d6+3) / 2, or 5 on average per hit.  The dagger, even if it dealt normal damage would be d4+3, or only 5.5 on average.  This would hardly make it worth it to go through the effort and expense to carry around a silver dagger, even if the players knew Werewolves were in the area.  However, by adding vulnerability vs silver to the werewolf changes the story.  With this the average damage with the silver weapon is twice that of the great sword.  Further granting the werewolf a DR of 2 cause the Great Sword's average to be reduced to 3, where DR does not apply to vulnerable attacks, so the dagger remains at 11 which is nearly a x4 (using average damage) over the great sword.  Now that's worth having.

In the above example, a creature with all three resistances, vulnerabilities and damage reduction (RV&DR) clearly shows the benefit of not only going through the extra trouble of finding a weapon that exposes the creatures weakness, but even in the extreme great sword vs a dagger, it's over three times more effective using the dagger.  This is the type of game mechanic change that I was looking for, one that exposes how useless always rushing into battle with the same attack can be, versus thinking about how to best effect the creature encountered, then using that to your advantage.

I also really wanted to reduce the number of opponents required to make a battle challenging, so rather than me having to use three ogres, because factoring in the damage per round of the party and the hit points of an ogre, the "mathing" it all out and guessing that with three of them it will grant the ogres 6 to 8 attacks on the party before the party finishes them off.  Reducing the number of opponents by adding RV&DR does increase the complexity of the reduced number of creatures, but it also reduces having to track more of them and gives the party less to focus on as well.  The goal could be realized by granting damage reduction and giving the ogre a cleaving attack (because why wouldn't it be able to swing through an arc of heroes?).

Then three ogres could be replaced with a single one, that is a much more dangerous opponent where the creatures DR might reduce every attack by 5, causing only "good" attacks to get through.  This puts characters with magical powers into a more critical into defeating such a the creature, where the tanks are more put into the roll of simply stopping this hulk from getting to the other party members, with the majority of the melee attacks on such a creature be ineffective, though not completely as character's attacks in 5th edition typically are in the range of 2d6+3 damage (or basically [Weapon] + 3 for Attribute + d6).  Magical Weapons would grant a Penetrate of 2 (on average), thus a magical sword vs the Ogre in the hands of a 16 Str Fighter would exactly overcome the DR of 5, allowing for straight weapon damage to be rolled each attack.

It seems like a simple mechanic (if you can deal with arithmetic) to reduce the meta-gaming that goes on in most groups (at least the ones that I play in), and not only that it will force the party to try to use things like the environment to their advantage, or attempt maneuvers like finding a weak spot in the Ogre's defenses, which would force them an attack with disadvantage or at a -5 to hit and would do things like penetrate the creatures DR and possibly deal a critical hit, which grants an extra damage dice.  Something that an archer might want to perform, allowing their arrow to go from (d6+3)-5 to (2d6+3), but at a significant penalty, but definitely more heroic of an action as well.

For many battles the addition of DR will likely not have much of an effect on the speed or actions of the party, as bandits or the like will only have a DR of 1 or up to DR 3, though likely no vulnerabilities or resistances. However for fantastic creatures, like ogres, giants, umber hulks and of course dragons, adding DR along with a special ability that grants them some type of multi-attack or area of effect attack makes these creatures all of the sudden a force to reckon with or something that requires them to change tactics.  No longer is every just everyone essentially performing their standard "at-will" power...Though, when added DR you likely will have to scale AC to an appropriate number.  For example, Hobgoblins AC 18 (chain+shield), should likely be an AC of 16 DR 4.

Two more things to add...I admit that all my data on was gathered from the alpha/beta versions of D&D Next, and so some creatures may have already been altered, possibly with the resistances and vulnerabilities that make sense that they should have, or their hitpoints and damage may have been altered such that granting them too much DR turns them into a TPK machine, so take the above advice with caution as you explore the new 5th edition.

Taking the time for the party to use things like fire or other environmental effects to their advantage will become important in their situations when their weapons are not as effective as they want them to be.  Though don't forget the party also has DR, typical values might be Leather = DR1, Chainmail = DR3, Platemail = DR5, with shields granting either +1 AC or DR2.

Looking at it this way it is clear that a Paladin in platemail with an AC of 19 and DR of 5, is an impossible target for say goblins to touch, so the additional change that needs to happen is the drops by half the value of the DR granted (like the Hobgoblin example above).  So in this case the Paladin's AC would be 16 (the same hold true for dragons, but Ogres with an AC of 11 probably wouldn't need to change Ogres might need to in fact go the other direction to a 13AC).  The thought being they are easier to hit, as their bulk slows them down, just the attacks are less effective.  Also, kobold/goblin tactics would change, they would likely have one of them aid another one, granting them advantage on their attack, this attack would then attempt a called shot (see above, with disadvantage canceling the advantage), thus over all it halves the number of attacks on well armored foes, but the damage on the successful attack would go from (d4+2)-5 to 2d4+2 (using kobold damage here).

The DR can be situational as well, such as heavy boots vs caltrops or leather gauntlets vs poison needles, but this would only matter in cases such as Orc barbarians that aren't wearing much, if any, armor, but have their thick heavy steel toed boots, and the party Druid casts Spike Growth...Then the 3 DR of their boots would help them vs the Spike Growth damage.

In my personal campaign all the DR is going to be handled behind the scenes, when the archer shoots an arrow at a skeleton and announces "7 damage", I'll halve it and subtract 2, and record the resulting 2 damage, along with a verbal description, "Your arrow connects with the skeletons leg, but the arrow mostly ricochets off taking small fragments of bone with it."  They will get the hint of what's going on when the Ranger is normally 2:1 vs the Cleric in body count, but with the Cleric's mace they are out killing the Ranger 2:1 in a battle vs skeletons, and the Barbarian with their maul is simply a bone crushing machine.

This way I can tweak the mechanics along the way, most of it is not that hard as I created "Monster Stat Cards" of all the creatures for the session, including party members and I have all the notes on them, plus its not a big deal if I forget DR sometimes, and attribute it to a lucky shot.  I'm sure many will view this as an unnecessary complexity, but it seems like a fairly easy way to add additional realism into ones campaign, especially if you're seeing the same thing I was seeing in the beta of D&D Next.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Sculpting Miniatures

Seeing what some of these guys are doing on KickStarter as far a miniatures go is pretty amazing.  An example of this is the guys at Mercs Miniatures in there successfully funded Myth game, for the $100 level you get around 150 minis, which the prototypes of look incredible.  Plus, in addition to the 150 minis you get a lot more components that allow you to actually play the game.

What gets me is I look at the most basic of playing pieces, which is the Meeple, which the Game Crafter's sell for $0.40 each.  Now I realize that Merc is a miniature design company, but other games do essentially the same thing.  Zombiecide KickStarters also included a huge number of minis for the cost of the game.

What I'd like to know is how these companies design and manufacture minis of such high quality and add them to their games with other high quality components and do all this at half the price that I can do the same thing with crappy components and the most basic of game pieces.

I realize that I just need to spend some time chatting with game designers to figure out this magic formula, but I know that it essentially comes down to it being their full time job, and for me it's just a one person part time hobby.  To get the costs down as much as they do, they must be doing runs of tens of thousands of the common figures, and these runs are done in China where they end up costing pennies per final product figure.  Where for my stuff it'd be a run of like 10 or 100, from someplace in america where everything cost much more.

So, my solution for at least my prototypes has been to learn how to sculpt.  I agree that is sounds silly, especially since I have enough (actually more than enough) hobbies as it is, but when you look at the cost of even dopey looking custom meeples, they are around $1 to $4 per figure.  So, i figure an 8 oz. block of Sculpty Putty is about $5 from the local craft store, and a set of tools was another $10...So for an investment of around $50, I've got enough supplies to make an army of mini-figs and even if they are dopey looking, they beat the crap out of resorting to a standard wooden cube for $0.10.

My first project was a 4X game I'm calling Eternal Wars, where each player controls an Arch-devil and manages resources to be the one to a mass the most victory points while building a palace for themselves and increasing their personal power.  This is essentially a typical resource management game with each player requiring 8 Devil Meeples, a custom Meeple for representing each of the three resources and and another 3 place holder figures, so basically I was originally thinking a standard meeple for most of these, which came to about round $7 per player plus another $7 for the demon hordes...So $35 in meeples alone.

So, I basically nearly made back my $50 in sculpting supplies in my first project.  I made simple devil meeples out of the putty, which consist of a ball for the head on top of tapered cylinder body, with horns, eyes and a goatee.  Yeah, they are some what dopey, but also sort of cute, and actually look much better than the meeple alternatives.  Then I made the resource trackers: a crown for power, a tormented soul and a demonic slave, and crafted the demonic hordes similar to the slaves.

So now I have a set of 50 or so custom meeples and still have hardly dented my putty supplies, which also includes allowing the kids to craft a whole bunch of creatures and items of their own design.  The sculpting is something that I can do late into the night while I catch up on a Netflix series, which otherwise would be, lets face it, wasted time.

In addition to the dopey looking demons and devils, I've also started making custom 25mm figures of heroes that could be used as characters or NPCs in a fantasy campaign.  Now I'm not sure what my original motivation was here, seeing that I have nearly 2500 minis as it is, I think it was more to see if I could.

I admit that my first two were less than desirable, but looking at some of the WizKids minis, even my crappy ones are on par with some of these crappy minis.  My third attempt is already looking like an actual usable mini, even in the middle stages of creation.  It really surprised me how fun and easy it was to get to this point.

Now, the 25mm figures took considerable more time than the ball and cylinder devils and demons, but to rough out a mini takes about twice as much time as the very simplistic meeples.  The good thing about the 25mm heroes is that the wire frame takes up a fair amount of the overall model volume so that they take hardly any putty to create, in contrast to the devil and demons with no internal structure so their entire volume is putty.  The other good thing about the hero figures is that since they will eventually be primed and painted, so they can be sculpted out of any material that is left over...so I typically just mix all my scraps together for use in mini creation.

I'm only on my forth hero mini (the archer), but already I'm feeling like its something that is an enjoyable hobby, and can't wait to display my own custom creations at the gaming table once I have them painted.

I still have some work to do on the minis before I consider priming them for painting, and am liking going to be switching to "Green Stuff" on any future additions to the characters, to avoid having to bake them over and over (plus I just want to see the difference in the material).  I like the idea of being able to add layers to the minis and only having to wait for the green stuff to dry.

Friday, March 7, 2014

The Next RPG

I've just got finished getting my initial version of "D&D Thoughts" down on paper (or rather down online), and I wanted to switch gears and get down what I think the Next RPG should be, which just so happens to be the system I've been working on, but I want to go a little more into what exactly are the problems that I've attempted to fix.

First off I think the conflict resolution is critical to any game, and that the resolution should default to the dice ultimately defining success or failure.  I think the best combat mechanic should be something similar to what skirmish system use.  I my opinion most RP systems fail to produce what I think combat should be, which is a scary deadly event that should be avoided except when the odds are greatly in your favor.

Most RPG both tabletop and computer/console revolve around the players killing essentially legions of enemies, or even if they lean toward fewer battles the also tend to lessen the impact of any given round, by making the damage sustained in a given round a small fraction of a creatures overall health.

On the opposite end of this spectrum are the war-games where they are dealing with possibly 100 vs 100 opponents, where they need much faster resolution, but these games are not concerned with the contributions of individual combatants, they are all about squad vs squad rolls...there are simply too many units on the field to place too much focus on individuals, but they do demonstrate how deadly combat can be.

The systems that seem to have the correct focus are the tactical skirmish systems.  In these their is enough troops on the field that they can't be over concerned about allowing individual heroics to play too great a roll, they minimize the offensive and defensive rolling to get to the resolution as fast as possible, they seem to have the correct amount to deadliness in them to get to the final resolution of the battle as quickly as possible, and yet the stronger side does typically prevail against the weaker opponent.

This is what I think should be pulled into more RP system mechanics.  Too often the attack rolls miss or are blocked completely round after round, with in my mind seem like unnecessary dice rolling, the purpose of combat is to come to a resolution and move on.  When the hit points or resistances of the defenders are such that it's going to take 20 rounds of rolling to determine who will win, than something is wrong.


I believe a good RP system should adopt a skirmish battle mechanic, what this does is combine the best of both worlds as far as individual contributions and getting to overall resolution.  Combat needs to be deadly for it to have any meaning, so there's nothing wrong with a weaker opponent beating a stronger one...there's a lot of things that can be considered in a battle.  The dice attempt to make a guess at the probability, but once the dice are determined then the outcome needs to be determined by their result.

Heroes will have special abilities that allow them to cut through some of the randomness of battle, the odds have to be in a hero's favor or they would never engage, after all how many times can one realistically beat a 50/50 scenario.

This takes me to my second point, which is "Damage hurts".  Knowing that combat is deadly, but heroes have their ways of bending the odds in their favor, however lasting damage needs to be another equalizer in the grand scheme of things.  When five minutes after a battle everyone is back up to full strength it takes away another whole aspect of the game.

Having damage linger around for hours can represent fatigue, for days can represent significant wounds, and for weeks can represent broken limbs or possibly some extraordinarily vile effect.  When damage always recovery quickly it removes the ability to represent in game terms wounds or broken limbs.

Also if damage comes back too quickly, it completely negates the point of weaker opponents to be encountered.  If a creature has almost zero chance of killing the heroes, but their damage lingers, now the opponent has a purpose...the party may have to rotate around who is going to be defending if they want everyone to make it to the end.  It becomes more of an endurance contest, without lingering damage it completely removes these types of adventure scenarios from play.

Lastly, rolls must be made with a pool of dice, its the only way to account for both extremely difficult and extremely easy tasks.  It's tough to account for odds in less than a 5% chance accurately without using a pool of dice, even d% most often are really only a d10 (if you have a 45% chance of success and if the ten's place is anything except a 4 you don't need the second dice, or if the 00 = 100 then you always need to roll the second die if the first comes up a 0).

When a task is easy the more dice that are rolled puts the odds of rolling average at a higher percentage, for example typical attributes are randomly generated using 3d6, which means only 1 in 216 will have and 18 or a 3, but your chance of having at least a 10 are about 50/50.

The addition of exploding dice (when a dice rolls the maximum number it gets to be rolled again, with continual rolling allowed so long as it rolls maximum) allows for those extremely difficult rolls to be made even when the chances of success are very small.

When a dice pool is rolled you can use the results to help craft an explanation of the results, especially true if certain dice were added for certain random effects.  For example some dice might represent you skill in battle, other my represent you weapon, other the opponents armor and other good or bad might have been added for environmental effects.  In which case the results for each type of die can be summarized, for example you might be able to say, "Even though I hit them in the dead center of their breastplate where their armor was thickest, my skill with the blade was able to drive the weapon right through."

Dice pools also aid in contests where the warrior may be rolling 6 dice vs a wizard that may only be rolling 1 or 2 dice, but even with that there is a chance (especially with exploding dice) that the wizard might be able to beat the warrior in a test of strength.  In which case you could likely chalk up the wizards victory to a well timed distraction that gave him the victory.

These are all things that all versions of D&D and Pathfinder fail at, which is ultimately the reason why I've felt the need to craft my own game mechanics to take these and more into account.  Ultimately, I felt the need for dice pool based skirmish mechanics that allowed for fast and deadly combat resolution with possible lingering effects from encounter to encounter.