Thursday, January 31, 2013

Effects of Terrain

Here are the common terrain types with the skills that one may find useful, as well as events and other effects that may commonly occur on them:


While traveling on a road, the Guide is not required.  Typically events are more random while on the road, most encounters can be seen from a ways away, and seldom do staged ambushes occur.  Though a wandering group of bandits may be disguised as travelers and after determining the party is a good target they may launch a surprise attack.  However, most wanderer are merchants, patrols or even people that don't want to stop and chat.

Useful Skills: Diplomacy, Haggling and most interpersonal abilities are useful do to the number of travelers that are encountered.  Perception and knowledge of rare plants might be handy as most commonly known fruits and berries get "picked over" by those wanting to conserve their rations.

Events: As previously mentioned, most come in the form of different types of travelers, possibly carrying cheap or rare goods, maybe news of the road ahead or news from the next settlement.


These are similar in purpose to roads, but have many more options for ambushes, encounters, and other water based events.

Useful Skills: Navigation and watercraft experience are handy, as are local lore or the river or creature found in the area.  If not the one responsible for navigation, then possibly crafting or other types of activities can be performed, or one could simply fish.

Events: Nearly anything can occur on a river, such as attacks from the water or the shoreline, to problems with the boat, to other nature events such as low or high water, that may cause travel to become more treacherous.


These provide much less difficult means of trail, but also the most likely place for an enemy to setup an ambush.  Trails are less prone to respectable travelers, but this may very on the locations at either end of the trail.  If these are fairly well traveled they will be likely to function similar to roads, less traveled or game trails will be treated closer the the terrain they are found in.

Useful Skills: Tracking and Perception are especially handy on trails, largely to determine what other creatures use the trail and how long ago they passed by.  Skills involving the nearby terrain are equally handy, and if the trail is a common one, then the people-skills that are useful on a Road also come in handy.

Events: Again, almost anything can happen on a trail, from ambush to road type events to ones similar to the terrain that the trail cuts through.  So it's important to be on ones toes when traveling on a trail.


The easiest to travel of the wilderness terrain types. and most common as well.  This have miscellaneous pockets of forests, as well as being criss-crossed with roads, trails, as well as streams and rivers leading to lakes or ponds.  Typically travels will be local folk, or animals, and dangers will likely have to be camouflaged, since visibility on the plains is so good.

Useful Skills: Tracking, Hunting, Foraging, Gathering and Perception are especially useful, as the opportunities to do so comes up quite frequent.

Events: Local travelers, shepherds, other hunters or gatherers, patrols and scouts both friendly and foe can all be encountered on the plains.  Most dangerous creatures on the plains can be avoided by the party properly scouting the area, as visibility is so good (weather permitting).


Not only are forest the next most common terrain that adventurers will likely find themselves in, but its also the definitive wilderness terrain.  The natural brush, hills and ravines make if very easy for creatures to sneak up on the party, or allow them to remain concealed as the party approaches it/them.  These are a hunters and gatherers paradise, as both plants and animals typically exist in abundance in forests.

Useful Skills: If it was useful on the Plains, then chances are it will be even more important in the Forest.  With animal and plants as abundant as they are, anything dealing with these can be especially effective.

Events: Mostly events with local animal and creatures, that due to concealment may not be as easily avoided as the plains.  In addition to animal related events, there are solitary traveler, hunters, or bandits and other creatures that have made the forest their home and do not wished to be bothered.

Deep Forest

These are especially dense and difficult to travel regions.  You'll not find any wanderers this far in, creatures found here do like like most other types of creatures, and most often prefer solitude, which is why they are here.  These area are often home to rare and exotic flora and fauna, and those home to especially rare finds for hunters and gatherers, they can also harbor some very dangerous situations for them as well.

Useful Skills: See Forest, in addition to those, anything dealing with rare/exotic plants and animals that prefer the conditions of solitude of the Deep Forest.

Events: Things here are like the forest, only more magical/mystical in nature, whether the source is creature, animal, plant or spirit.  Also, events involving mysterious weather or ancient ruins or spirits would be much more likely in these untraveled lands.


The dread of adventures, nothing saps the stamina or optimism out of a traveling band of heroes like a swamp does.  Slow progress, poor visibility, nasty biting insects, constant pools of stagnant water hiding who knows what type of dangers.  Most often avoided when possible, but when required adventured will reluctantly enter them.  The most recluse and dangerous creatures are found here, and often will get the jump on the party.

Useful Skills: Swimming, Wilderness Survival, most skills involving plants or reagent gathering have uses here, especially since these areas are fairly rarely visited.  Hunting, Tracking and Perception typically always have uses in the wilderness and Swamps are no exception.  Due to the exceptionally difficult travel Endurance helps in Swamps, and due to gloom Awe can be useful in avoiding the disheartening affects in Tainted areas often found in Swamps.

Events: Swamps and Jungles probably have the most variety of events that can occur, there's lots of concealment and cover, creatures can hide in the water, plus nearly anything that could happen in the Forest or River can also happen in a Swamp.


A hybrid terrain of Swamps and Deep Forest, they are typically only seen by adventurer on rare epic quests, unless the heroes are from areas where Jungles would be common.  Jungles like swamps require a lot of endurance to travel through, and often the climate is as much of a foe as the strange and rare creatures found within.

Useful Skills: Jungles are essentially hot muggy Deep Forests with plenty of marshy pools of water, so in many respects the also combine Swamps with Forests, and have a large amount of overlap in skills with those terrains.  Like Swamps, Endurance is a helpful skill to have in Jungles as well.

Events: As mentioned under Swamps, nearly everything can happen in Forest, Deep Forests, Swamps or Rivers can happen in a Jungle, typically with a moist exotic twist.


Extremely hot and dry burning wastelands, where hunting and gathering can at time be especially challenging.  Most often tackled by adventuring parties only after they've made special preparations, often with mounts native to the area, which are accustomed to the extremes.  These can be especially deadly to the unprepared.

Useful Skills: Heat Resistance, Endurance, low encumbrance and light armor are all good things to consider when traveling in the desert.  Local knowledge of flora and fauna are always helpful, but especially in the deep Desert there often aren't many plants around.  Reagent knowledge can be handy as many earth based reagents may be found in Deserts by those with knowledge of them.

Events: Deserts bring many new types of events not seen in any other terrains, except Tundra (where the extreme cold has similar hazards).  There are blinding sand storms and the more deadly shard storms.  Elementals are more common in the Desert regions, and many of the indigenous species have the ability to bury themselves and surprise unsuspecting travelers.  In addition to these the winds blow dunes from place to place and the constantly shifting terrain can randomly uncover ancient tombs and ruins that have been buried for centuries.


Common enough terrain seen by adventurer, but most try to stick to the trails and roads when traveling in hilly regions.  Many times these are the precursory to mountains, though equally common they are found covering large areas of wilderness without their big brothers nearby.  Hills are homes to many types of dangerous creatures, including ogres, trolls and giants.

Useful Skills: The strenuous nature of traveling up and down hills, Endurance is a good skill to have.  Rope Use, Climbing and Atheletics can also come in handy.

Events: Some unique events that occur in Hills are miscellaneous things involving bridges that would normally save time, but the events can be anything from damaged bridge to missing bridge, which may involve repairing, trying your luck, or finding alternate routes.  Events involving tunnels and caves are also fairly common to Hills, that don't occur in many other terrain types.


These giants of the wilderness are avoided by adventures when at all possible, travel is extremely slow and perilous.  The terrain and natural disasters can be just as dangerous as the creatures that make the mountains their home.  Travel is most often on the trails and mountain passes that are well traveled by those seeking to get to the other side or to the next valley.

Useful Skills: Mountain travel involves essentially the same skills that come in handy in Hills, but items specific to mountaineering such as pitons and plenty of extra rope are also desired equipment when it come to off road mountain travel, which is dangerous and slow.

Events: Avalanches, falling rocks, attacks from above, blocked roads, tollways (possibly setup by the local village, group of bandits, or opportunist creature), ambushes are some of the events the party might see.  Other things that may occur, narrow trails or fragile terrain that may result in dangerous falls is someone should slip.  Winds storms and snow can also occur as well as altitude sickness if the party is climbing too rapidly.


Most often this travel will be done aboard someone else's vessel, as few adventurer types have the skills, coin or desire to purchase the cost ships required to make safe and speedy travel across the great distances required, and I use the term "safe" in the most broad definition as possible.  Huge and dangerous creature lurk beneath the surface, and travelers in these regions just hope that what ever is beneath the ship is sleeping or not  hunger as they pass or head.

Useful Skills: Astronomy, navigation, seamanship, sailing, shipwright, swimming, athletics and Perception are all useful.  It is probably wise to not wear heavy armor as well, in case the ship goes down or the hero falls (or is pulled) over board.

Events: Many weather related events could occur from no wind, to terrible storm.  Also, being trapped aboard a ship can lead to many types of illness or even sea sickness if travelers are new to ocean travel.  Then there's the many typed of encounters from harmless whale sighting to deadly sea creatures or private vessels.  Possibly even a mid ocean sand bar or volcanic island...maybe with lost species native to it.

Barren Wastes

Some what of a cross between desert and hills is this forsaken wilderness type.  There is literally almost nothing a live for hunters or gatherers to find, except the creatures and plants that are hunting the party.  There is not such thing as a friendly or good encounter in places that fall under this type, the only good encounter is no encounter.

Useful Skills: Typically anything that holds true for Desert or Hill travel also applies to Barren Wastes, though they typically are some what flat, they are often broken up with large ravines or rocky regions that may require skills more suited for mountainous regions.

Events: Caves, tunnels and bridge related events similar to Hills can be encountered, if the heroes are traveling along the bottom of a ravine to avoid detection, then they could run the risk of falling rocks or attacks from above.  These combined with Desert like heat or sometime Tundra like cold, depending on the zone the wasteland falls in, can also occur.

Arctic Tundra

Similar to the Desert, but at the opposite temperature extreme.  This is a place a dreadful cold and piercing winds.  Days and nights can last for months, plains of endless snow, oceans of ice in this where the sun never rises or sets can make navigation a challenge.

Useful Skills: Cold Resistance, Endurance, Wilderness Survival, and protective gear grant the most advantage in this terrain.  Most often approaching creatures and be seen in the distance and avoided, however not all creatures need approach, some my buried in the snow waiting for travelers to approach them.  Often weather can severely reduce travel speeds and visibility, luckily not many creatures are out traveling when conditions are this bad.

Events: Many unique events can occur on the Tundra that are no where else.  Blizzards and the more deadly shard storm (similar to those in the desert) are some of the worst.  Blades (large bladed vessels that skate on the ice) can be encountered or seen at great distances on the seas of ice.  In the arctic mountains various caves systems or ruins can be buried or uncovered by the shifting snows.  Also Ice bases elementals are some of the most common creatures on the Tundra.

Special Terrain Features

There are many special effects that can be applied to the terrain that the heroes are traveling through, here's a brief list of items that I came up with, as a basis to start from:

Ancient: There exists many ancient ruin site in the area, in which many often powerful creatures have made their lairs.  These area can be have opportunities for heroic battles and vast riches, but also hold much danger and should be avoided by travelers not seeking the secrets within.

Blessed: The area is a spiritually sacred place due to some ancient enchantment or event.  The source of the blessing may be something like a tree that sparkles in the light of a full moon, or a waterfall always shrouded in a shimmering rainbow (even at night?), or maybe ancient shrine favored by a deity.  Whatever the source of the blessing, these areas typically enhance recovery and healing.  The effect maybe only for those in the shrine, or possibly the enchantment reaches out for miles but strengthens the near one gets to the source.  Only those with high Sense scores can detect the presence of the blessing.

Cursed: The area has been fouled by the presence of an unnatural creature, such as a Demon or Horror, or some unspeakably vile act that occurred here.  The curse may prevent the recovery of health or worse actually drain life of those that spend too much time in the region.  The curse my be lifted by slaying the creature or banishing it, or possibly performing a ritual or through the use of some divine artifact.

Mana Spire: This zone is rich with arcane energies, and spells may be cast sightly cheaper than the usual Energy cost to the caster.  There is also an increased chance to find reagents here.  The spire may be invisible to most being or may exist as a beacon of radiant energy streaming out of a fissure in the ground or ruins.

Mana Siphon: This zone is a arcane dampened area, in which arcane abilities cost more Energy than usual to the caster.  There is almost a non-existence chance to find reagents while in this area.

Hostile: The Leader makes a Battle Check vs the DR of the Hostility, success means that party has managed to avoid the inhabitants of the terrain.  Failure means that they have wandered into a group of the inhabitants.

Tainted: The Leader makes a Awe Check vs the DR of the Taint, success means that they manage to keep morale strong, failure means that each party member must make an individual Awe Check or suffer a Morale Wound.  Tainted lands often have creatures that have been mutated by living in the Taint for generations, typically they are more violent and aggressive than others of their species.

Dangerous: The Leader must make a Perception Check to successfully steer the party, this can be deferred to the Scouts if the band is traveling with them.  Failure indicated that the members each must individually make a Perception Check vs the DR of the danger.  Some Journey Roles can modify this based on the type of danger.

Difficult: Use the Guide's Perception Check vs DR, and the amount they make or fail it by will adjust the DR of the Vitality Checks that all the party must roll individually.  The amount they fail by will reduce their Energy by that amount.

Rift: The area is prone to random surges of energy, these my take the from of traveling Rifts in space/time some of which that may move so fast the only way to enter is to be in their path.  Other more chaotic behavior might be a Portal Storm, which randomly opens short lived Rifts that can scatter the party across the region.  Typically the destination of Rift that occur during a portal storm is less than 20 miles away.

Portal: The area contains a fixed portal to another location on the world (or maybe not), whether the portal is still functional is a mystery.  If broken can it be repaired?  All of these are interesting side trek quests that the party may attempt.

Wild: Hunter will be much more likely to kill a creature in this area, additionally those Scouting or Gathering are more likely to be ambushed by one of the natural predators found in this area as well.

These effects may be known before advancing into the Terrain if the Guide makes a Knowledge Check vs the DR of the Lore of the next Hex.

Roles and Terrain Thoughts

Journey Roles

Every member of the party on a quest assumes a role for the day, this becomes their job during this day of travel.  Switching role is only permitted by those that choose the "Wanderer" Role, which is just that.  They can attempt to do multiple things throughout the day, and the GM will normally ask "Where they are", before describing an event, location or encounter.

Anyone can switch into a "Camp Role" once the decision has been made to "hole-up and camp", this transition will take effect at the start of the next March Turn.  After a period of at least one March Turn of rest a new role can be assumed with no penalty.  Otherwise, a role transition requires the hero to spend one March Turn as a Wanderer, before assuming their new role.  This option typically on occurs when the party is on a forced march and is not taking a rest.

Not every role has a function in every day of travel.  Hunters only hunt if there's an animal present, the GM may offer them a risky choice in order to grant them a roll when they may not otherwise have one.  In which case it may be handy to have a Look-out of other Hunter as a partner.  Scout only roll when there is something up ahead to possibly uncover, likewise an Explorer only rolls when there is something in the hex that they are passing through.

The Leader and Guide are the ones that roll each day, and have the most impact on the events of the upcoming day.

Leader: This role will settle disputes and their attributes serve as the base attributes for the party in all roles that are unaccounted for. They also gain bonus checks in certain instances based on if they possess a given Gateway. The Leader role on a journey can, and should, shift based on the terrain or assumed danger that lies ahead.  Typically bonuses and the skills used for the Leader's Travel checks change based on the type of terrain.

Guide: Attempts to force the party to keep on pace, and take regimented breaks. When in doubt they make their best guess at which direction to go. When a guide is doing good, they party will make significant progress on their journey, but if they are doing poor, then the party's progress will be slowed or they may become lost.  Have skills in various abilities can adjust the chance of success for the guide, so some times it may be advantageous to change guides, but those skilled in Wilderness Survival make the best guide.

Scout: This role will float at various locations and directions ahead of the party, to scout out if it is safe for the rest of the party. They are typically fast and stealthy members (and required to have a speed at least 1 greater than the speed of the party, or the party must slow down to allow scouting to occur), that have skills that allow them to detect enemy ambushes or traps, such as high Perception and Tracking. A good scout can give their party the advantage in encounters, a poor scout will fail to detect a trap or ambush or worse set it off themselves.

Lookout: The role stays with the main party, but is focus on keeping track of where all the other members of the party are, and serves as a in-party scout, as they also attempt to spot dangers and creatures that are in the general locale. They aide many other roles in the party by granting bonuses or lessening penalties, such as those gathering, wandering or exploring really benefit from a lookout.

Defender: Those in this role stay in formation behind the Scout's and the Guide. Those that roll well on their Defender Check will have the benefit (or luck) of being where they are needed, for that turn when things go wrong.

Hunter: Similar to a Scout, this is often roaming out of the main party formation. They attempt to hunt creatures to provide food to conserve rations or simply aid in the party's survival when the rations are gone. A good hunter can more than make up for the party's daily food consumption, a poor hunter may mistake tracks and errors of this type can quickly cause the hunter to become the hunted.

Gatherer: Many types of gathering can be done, but in any case the chance to locate items along the way will require at least take one party member out of performing this task rather than other duties on the journey. While Gathering, they may be looking for expensive reagents that will aid in spells, potions, inks or poisons, or they may be looking for mundane items such as food. They typically wander off from the main party from time to time, which can get them in trouble in the rare case.

Explorer: Like the hunter and gatherer the explorer is often in and out of the parties formation, but they are looking of unnatural signs, ruins, or various other entrances. This role is often skipped at the beginning of the journey, but as the party approaches their destination more members will switch into this role to attempt to find the ruins or objects that they are questing for.  This is the role that has the best chance of uncovering hidden entrances, or concealed or overgrown ruins.  The Scout or Lookout would likely be the first to see a tower, village or keep, but the explorer is the one that would like uncover something that is not obvious to passerby.

Wanderer: This role is a filler, and can choose to switch focus to any of the other roles, except the Leader and the Guide during each turn, declared before when the turn starts, or they are assumed to be remaining in the same role as last turn. This role takes a -1 Rank on Checks of the role that it is masquerading at. This increases to -2 on the third time they switch roles, ignore Rest/Recover as a role for this "switching" calculation.

Special Case Roles

These roles are only usable in certain situations, and some are likely not apart of a typical journey, but if the terrain shifts to allow such a role, then some become required or replace other roles above.

Navigator: While aboard a boat or ship, a Navigator role replaces the role of the Guide, and keeps the boat or ship on course. It uses different skills than that of the guide, but the benefits and penalties of the good and poor results in this role are comparable to that of the guide.

Oar men/Crew men: Another boat/ship role that the name varies based on the size and type of ship, but a given vessel will have a minimum and maximum number that can be in this role. This number and their Check results will essentially determine the speed on the vessel. Often, locals or experienced men are required to fill in these roles, so the party can focus on other areas. Even for River travel it may be worth a small investment in a local to perform this task.

Mountaineer: While traveling in regions of altitude, especially when not traveling on common roads or trails in these regions, this role is essentially required to speed travel and reduce the risk of traveling disasters such as slips and falls.

Trailblazer: Dense forests, jungles and swamp journeys can benefit from this role. They serve as the strength, often constantly swinging their machete to clear a travel for others to follow. They have an additional benefit if the party plans on re-tracing their path out of the area, then they do so at an increased speed. This may be worth the party investing in a locale guide to perform this role if there is one available.

Adviser: The day after a Leader is replaced the only role that is open to them is the Adviser role, in this they aid the Leader, and in this role the Leader gains +1 Rank in all Checks that they have to make on the party's behalf. After serving as the Adviser for a day they must assume another role for the next days journey.

Camp Roles

Guard: Like the Defender the Guard is there to protect their companions, but their place is in the camp.  They provide a safety net for those resting, healing or crafting within the boundary of the camp..

Rest/Recover: During the resting turn those that make it through this phase without event may attempt a Recovery Check. Most often this is under the watchful eyes of one or more Heroes in the roles of Lookout or Guards.

Healer: In the case where some of the party is in particularly rough shape, one or more Heroes may assume the role of Healer during a Rest turn, these will make their Healing Check and then grant bonuses to one or more of their patients, based on the result of their Check.  Normally it doesn't make sense to have someone in this role if they not actively applying aid.

Crafting: Certain professions can creation items such as potions or inks, or repair weapons and armor. This items typically require a given amount of progress. Most crafting requires the Check be made during a Rest turn, but possibly does exist for progress to be made while traveling...For example if the party is on a boat, those not Navigating or manning the oars might be able to Rest or Craft, possibly at a penalty given the situation.

Traveling System (explained)

As mentioned before the journey is an important part of any quest, and situations encountered on the way to the quest goal can make or break the outcome of the quest.  So I began to flesh out a system to help "Gamify" this, that would be usable in nearly any type of campaign style game.

I figured the maps could default into Hexes that are 10 miles across, or for longer journeys use a 30 mile across hex.  With the guideline below using this 10 mile hex as the default, but it could be scaled using simple math to other models.  Also the basic game movement for the system here is from my HitDice game, but for sake of helping D&D or Pathfinder players (Speed 4 = 6 Move in 4E = 30 feet movement in Pathfinder).  Additionally HitDice use a system of exploding d6s that result in "Hits", the basic check mechanic below would have to be re-worked to allow a functional d20 based system (I'll tackle this in a later article).

Here Goes...

Travel is broken in March Turns which are 4 hours each, thus there are six March Turns each day.  Of these six since rest in the wilderness isn't all that restful, two of these are normally required as "rest" to meet the needs of the adventurers.  Then one is spend on "Guard Duty" while other companions try to get their rest.  This leaves three March Turns for actually travel.

When traveling don't think of this as a leisurely walk through a state park, so your not really moving at the 3 miles per hour pace here.  Adventurer's are wearing heavy armor, with all their food and equipment.  Research I've seen on the Roman soldiers point to travel speeds of 10 miles per day not being unusual, but they could do about 20 miles in forced marches, and rates of 20 miles per day on horseback was a good day as well.

My travel rates take into account that the roads are seldom straight, thus even a 10 mile hex on the map may require 20 miles of walking to cut across it due to obstacles or having to avoid creatures, and such.  So if the speeds seem a little "slow" for your liking feel free to adjust them.  The rationale that I use that grant "road" travel such a substantial bonus has to due with these reasons as well...Roads typically meander less than wilderness travel and you don't require as much rest when your not constantly tripping or having to free gear that is snagged in thorny brush.

Plus Adventurers can always "Push on", they are hardy folk and can cut back on the sleep for days at a time, or skip camping at all and travel all night if they really need to cover a lot of ground (rules defining game effects for not resting or traveling for days straight will come later).  So, that said the chart below assumes 10 miles are typical coverage for a Movement rate 4 adventurer...roughly 1 mile per hour assuming a 10 min rest every hour.  At these rates you can also see why hunting or gathering doesn't really "slow" that party down any further.

For detailed traveling each March Turn can be played out, but for most RPGers this might be "too detailed", it does add a lot of play time to the journey, but if the journey is measured in weeks, then it does probably make a lot of sense combining the three traveling March Turns into one roll for the day, and applying a x3 modifier.  This still makes the time for the journey significant, but other activities still get time during the session as well.

For GMs, if the journey is going to take over two weeks, they should prep at least one or two side trek adventures for every week of travel, in addition to the "random" encounters/events.  This just gives the heroes more opportunities to role play, even if the encounter is abandon ruin or dried overgrown well...something to let them get some exploration on other skill use.  These can also provide hunting and gathering opportunities, or chance to find hidden items or clues to creatures in the area.

The detailed rules (one cycle per March Turn) is as follows: both the Leader and Guide make their "Travel" roll and the higher of the two results is used, using the slowest party members movement.  Additionally, for each dice that explodes they are granted a "Favor", which can be used for "special" bonuses, one of which is a +1 bonus to the parties movement rate.

Typically I will track the party's location on a GM only map, but than use a set of Travel Tiles, which represent zoomed version of the party's current tile.  The Travel Tiles are essentially terrain tiles that are hex shaped and four hexs across.  Each of these sub-hexes require the amount of progress mentioned below to move into one of the adjacent hexes on the other side, each representing 2.5 miles of progress.

Using "Travel Tiles" the party can essentially get idea of what terrain is on the current tile, and what the terrain is on all adjacent tiles.  Sometimes you may allow them to see two or even three tiles ahead, if they are on an especially good vantage point or, if the other terrain is mountains that are visible for great distances.  Then as the party leaves their current tile and crosses into the next you can keep re-centering the tile they are on, and placing the new terrain up ahead, to allow them to adjust their path.

The speed of the slowest member marks the parties progress, which is adjusted by the amount of the Travel Check, increased by one for each "Hit" succeeded by, or reduced by two each "Hit" that it failed by, based on the Difficulty of the Terrain, below.

Road/River (Downstream)2*
Hills/Forest/River (Upstream)43
Dense Forest/Jungle44

River travel assumes they are riding in water craft, the actual craft will determine the base speed, and possibly grant bonuses or penalties to the travel rolls.  Progress can not typically "no negative", but I do allow negative progress to be made when traveling on Rivers up stream, if the result ends that way.  I feel that this is a measurement of "going the wrong way", or a minor repair that had to be made.  The GM can assign special consequences for other terrain rolls that result in what would have otherwise been negative progress, like possibly moving them to a tile in another direction (or even backwards).

For typical road or downstream river travel the Guide role is not required as the road/river acts as the guide and assumes that a Successful guide roll has been made, thus this allows a rate of travel higher than walking across plains.  The Leader is rolls a Travel check, and any results above a GM assigned number (likely 0, 1 or 2) further increases the progress, this roll also allows a chance of "favors" to be accumulated.

Traveling on a trail, assumes a "0" Difficulty, but these meander more than roads so they require 3 progress to follow.  Additionally, if a hex has a stream crossing it could add 1 or 2 progress to cross, and crossing a river may add from 1 to 5 progress to the hex, or even have it's own difficulty and progress challenge to successfully cross.

Example: A party with the slowest member movement rate of a 4 is traveling through a Dense Forest, they only roll 2 "Hits" for their Check, so they are 1 short of success, but they do get one "Favor".  So their progress is 4 (base speed) +1 (when favor is applied) = 5, but the failure by 1 reduces this by 2, for a final progress of 3.  Which is not enough progress to move to the hex of the Travel Tile, but they place three progress tokens to note they are nearly off of it.  If the GM is using "Fast Travel" rules, which means 1 roll per day rather than 1 per March Turn, then days travel would be their result of 3 x 3 or 9 progress, which would allow them to move 2 hexes (4 per hex) with 1 progress token on the 3rd hex on the Travel Tile.

Example #2: The party above gets out of the Forest and enters in the Plains, they roll a 5 "Hit" Check with 2 "Favors".  Plains have a Diff rating of 2, so the result of a 5 gives the +3 to their speed, and if the "Favors" are used as well they gain an additional +2, but assuming they use the "Favors" on other travel rolls in this example.  This means they travel at 4 (base speed) +3 (the 5-2=3) for 7 progress, which at 3 progress per Travel Tile hex, gives them 2 hexes of movement and 1 progress on the last.  In "Fast Travel" this would yield 7x3 or 21 progress or 7 Travel Tile hexes (which at 4 hexes per tile is 1.75 Travel Tiles or about 17.5 miles for the day).

The deck of Travel Tiles, that I use includes 10 Tiles for each of the main terrain types (plains, forest, forested hills, dark forest, hills, mountains, swamp, jungle, barren, desert, ocean and deep ocean), but maybe when I post these or allow them to be purchased I'll assume that GM's could get by with half that number.  For trails and streams I use wood sticks of brown and blue (like those in Catan), and for roads and rivers I use double sticks.  Then I use blue wooden disks for ponds or lakes, and various wooden cubes for other landmarks, such as farms or villages.  My supplies allows me to typically keep the current tile and all surrounding tiles, as well as an addition ring around the next Tile in the desired direction, this makes up the 10 tiles of each type, in the cases where all these are the same.

However, I can see dropping off the three "backward" tiles for the current position, so even if every tile was the same, it seems like 7 of each type would be sufficient, and maybe reducing it to one type of ocean, and removing barren (desert would suffice for barren) and forested hills (somewhat redundant)...which would result in half the number of cards (from 10x12 to 7x9).

Other playing aides are Role Cards, that players use as reference and to mark what role they are currently in, then I have a few different event decks that are used to draw from when certain Journey rolls are failed.  These could just as easily be done as tables that are rolled against to see what the consequence of the failure is.

Typically I design for smaller "dungeons" or "quest locations", and create a number of "landmarks" or curious events that occur along the way.  Then a typical session is spent roughly 1/3 travel, 1/3 role-playing, and 1/3 exploration of destination...The actual time is 30% Intro/RP (investigate/prep)/Journey, then 60% destination exploration/encounters...with 10% journey home/conclusion.

This design stresses the importance of the Journey to the campaign, and allow for more character development with being forced into battle after battle for excitement.  More time is spent doing day to day things, rather than some systems that use Hook/Intro/Encounter/Encounter/Boss/Reward session design...There is no time left for role-playing, unless the player does it in combat.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Modular RPG

Through my 30+ years of gaming I definitely see from the mistakes of the other gaming companies (TSR and Wizards of the Coast), and I can see these and other what things really works well.  Then expanding on the different ideas that I've learned from the multiple game types within the single HitDice game system, here is what I'm thinking about when it comes to the campaign style RPG.

The game needs to maintain the modular feel, somewhat the way that the old GURPs system was developed, but more so in terms of rules, and not so much in terms of genre (but it seems they would be just as plug-able).

In 2nd edition AD&D I liked the "Complete" series of books, but at the same time I didn't like the cost, as the collector in me had to have them all.  I largely skipped 3.5 and PathFinder  from the stand point of having to own everything, and the in 4E I was back at it, and pretty much have every book, even though I have many problems with the game system...Which is sort of why this blog started with me having to "fix" all the issues I had with 4E missing many of the RP elements of an RPG.

Anyway, back to what to keep and what to throw away...The "Red Box" set was great, it gave you Fighter, Magic-User, Thief, Cleric and even gave you Elf, Dwarf and Halfling as classes, but it only gave you 1st to 3rd level.  On top of this is gave you and adventure and monster stats for only the most basic and common creatures that one could expect to encounter from 1st to 3rd level.

I do like this idea, and I'm thinking that the above, combined with the "Iron Heroes" style of "The One Ring" has even a better idea.  This way it leads to sort of the ultimate in simplicity and streamlining of play.  By removing the Arcane, Primal, and Divine archetypes from the game, players still get to choose from Fighter, Barbarian, Ranger, Archer, Rogue, Thief, Assassin, Martial-Artist and Knight type characters, again leaving out the advanced abilities of these archetypes to keep the rules lean.

Items can still possess magical properties, and so can creatures, but GM's can opt not use these and simply play an "Iron Heroes" campaign, or if GM's want to allow the Arcane archetypes, that supplement can be used to add spells, wands and potions to the game to give the Wizards, Summoners, Alchemists, Warlocks and Sorcerers choices within a campaign...Then Divine, Psionic and Primal would have additional supplements that would fully wrapper the rules that encompass these types of archetypes.

The game system is not one that is "Level" based, it's a skill based mechanic, such that the levels found in D&D and Pathfinder don't exist, however the game-play style is what you would find in these systems from about 4th level to probably what a 10th or 12th level character would be in Pathfinder (those more familiar with 4E leveling it would go from about a 6th level character to probably 18th or so).

So with that leveling scheme in mind the "Basic" books in a supplement would essentially start a hero about 4th level and allow them to progress until what they might look like around 8th (or just about paragon in 4E language).  Then the advanced supplements would allow the heroes to achieve what one could do in the next level range.  To me there would be little advantage in explaining beyond that, as so few players even get to that range.

Thus characters are "Heroes" right from the start, they can hold their own in most situations so long as the battle is 1:1 or something that is seems a "Hero" should be able to deal with, such as a ruffian in a tavern, or goblin ambush.  That said, there is no such thing as an "easy" battle.  In HitDice, with the exploding dice mechanic, any attack roll can seriously mess up a hero's day, but same can hold true of the hero's attacks.  Combat is almost like double the damage with half the hit points compared to other D&D like games, but armor essentially adds temporary health to a hero.  So, battles typically have fewer combatants than other RPGs and they typically end faster, and the surprise is often a major factor in the out come.

On top of this, with the game being a "Skill-based" game there is no traditional "Class", so your defined by your skills, and each hero would begin progression in 3 to 4 Pathways, so even with the basic "Iron Heroes" lists, there would probably be 15 different Pathways of which you would start with 3 or 4 of, and the degree to which you master these essentially determines your Archetype, as does your Attributes.  So even if you were playing what might be a Fighter, you'd really be a Sword master, Armor Proficient, Tactician with arena experience.

Additionally there would be a campaign supplement that would aid in giving depth to a character, this would essentially a campaign world guide for the player which would grant them the choice a species, a background, and a career, all of which would broad the choices for the players of how to develop their hero, as well as to make them more unique.

Something that I see as a must for the initial box-set is a set or character templates with essentially all decisions made to create many classic hero archetypes, such that people can literally "just pick and play", much like pre-gens at a con.  Advanced players can use a point-buy system to alter these or start from scratch, but these and the next few choices in each Pathway for hero advancement would all that the basic game would require.  These become essentially the "classes" even though this is a class-less game.

I've discovered that so many people don't want to create a character when trying out a new game system, they really just want someone to make the choices for them and give them a recognizable archetype to play, and then they can determine very quickly if its something that they are interested in continuing.

Also for GM's...Who remembers the Monstrous Compendium?  Another awesome idea, that was so poor executed it failed in my option...What they did was to publish monster on 3-ring binder paper, so that you'd only need to bring the required monster to the play session.  What they did however was to publish different creatures on the front and the back of the pages, such that you'd end  up with scenarios that were impossible to alphabetize after a while (they published many differ monster sets) so you'd end us with many pages that had a "Ca..." creature on one side and a ""De..." on the other, then you'd get a "Da..." and "Ea...", or a "Bo..." and "Do...".

Great idea!  The implementation just sucked...So, I'd publish monsters on a two sided card, say 5x7, image and main stat block on front, details and ecology on the back.  Some creatures like "Lycanthrope" or "Dragons" may require separate cards for more background or miscellaneous information, but these will be organized too as "stand-alone" cards, such that alphabetizing will remain intact.  Additionally, the creatures would be organized in such a way that you'd get common creatures in various packs, and then themed creature packs such as "Swamp and Jungle", "Caves and Dungeons", "Dragons" and "Undead and Spirits" that the first monster book you get isn't half filled with Demons and Devils, especially princes and lords that really no one actually battles and never really needs a stat-blocks on.

With all these "supplements" one might complain about having to carry so many different booklets around to track all your hero's abilities, but I think I'd alleviate this with "Power Cards".  I know that many gamers complained about 4E's use of cards, and that it was a detraction from play...but I think that power cards would be the perfect reference material for players.  I admit I'm more of a card junkie though, and understand that making these a "requirement" of play may be going too far, but I think to allow players a reference deck is better than carrying multiple source books around, and trying to remember what ability is in which book.  So I think each supplement would either come with or allow the purchase of a separate reference deck.

With the cost of even low volume cards less then $0.25 per card, $10 might include all the cards in a given supplement, but with print on demand or self print PDFs, players can print their own cards and crop them in a card sleeve at pennies per sheet of nine cards.

Not to blast Wizards of the Coast again, but I could never understand how the company that pretty much re-invented artistic gaming cards create such shitty cards for 4E.  In my option, if they would have done up the power cards with special symbols and cool layout they would have sold like wild fire.

I too like the idea of "Item Cards" where all the card really has is an image on it, and the description or powers of say a magical effect would be on a separate card.  This would again allow mixing pictures with various magical effects, and not allow players to instantly recognize a previously found magic item from the image they had come across in another campaign.  These I definitely see an optional, but I can't help but want to try them in a campaign...

So in summary I'd like to hear the thought from any readers about the ideas that I'm pitching here...which are essentially a narrow scoped initial box set that gives you everything you need to start an Iron Heroes type campaign with minimal reading, and then small inexpensive supplements for players, and the GM would have monster packs or adventure kits that would come with new monster cards, and come with or allow special adventure kit cards for items discovered in the module.

The box-set will cover basic game play, core mechanics and basic GM information, but it is the adventure that will append the core rules with what ever they need to enhance game play.  These will be separate from the adventure and describe the rules in a stand alone manner, possibly with alternate optional rules.

One system to rule them all

Re-Branding "Open Gateways" as "The Hit-Dice Gaming System"...As not longer is this project specific to an RPG, is more of a Pen and Paper gaming system that you can "plug" nearly any type of game into.  What I did was to start with the RPG version that I've been working on for a while now...Then I started simplifying it.  It began while I was putting the Quick-Start Rules together for the Alpha testers, while at the time the RPG campaigns I'd been in fell-apart/wrapped up, so I was playing a number of systems at Cons and the weekly RPG time slots were becoming filled with cards games and board games.

It was about this time that I began appreciating some of the simple systems that I was playing at the time, Doom and Descent had a nice RPG feel, but were lacking in some areas, as well as having some issues with game balance.  I began ratcheting the "Open Gateways" RPG back to better serve the game style as well as time and commitment level of the "Overlord" style games, this was fairly straight forward...taking an RPG to an Overlord style.

While this conversion was occurring, I was playing a lot of full co-op games...specifically D&D Drizz't, Zombiecide, Arkham Horror, FlashPoint and Pandemic...These games seem to have a nice time-bounded nature to them and especially Drizz't and Zombiecide also had campaign style play that could be done as well (or at least seemed like it could be added fairly simply), additionally they did not seem to suffer with the lack of having a player control the monsters/zombies.  So I took the rules one step further, and added some random elements for level design.

With this complete, I thought any Co-op game could be turned into a PvP game with just making a "group goal" an individual goal, and the first player to reach it wins, but rather than solely playing against the games random elements, I thought a PvP style game would play better with a way to "Screw your neighbor" one was developed.

At this point I realized what I had was a "Engine" for lack of a better word, that provided mechanics that could be shared between just about every style of game I could thing of.  So I began putting some time into polishing the design for a co-op style game that I could play with my family, which included kids (ages 7 to 18).

Co-op games work great as teaching style games, since the party has a shared goal, and the advanced players can guide the newer players in forming a better strategy for their turn that better serves the group's goal.  I've found that some kids like to be on the same side as other players for the "shared victory" condition, that way its okay to lose, so long as everyone else has the same result.

The Overlord variant of Co-op play, is a step toward mastering the mechanics of a game, that pits a group of players not only against the random elements of the game, but allows the player that is acting as the overlord to insert their own strategy into the game.  The Co-op players are no longer to predict exactly how the opponents will move and act, since their is a human intelligence controlling them

More competitive gamer's I've found enjoy the PvP style games, as they get to further their understanding of the rules, by not only mastering the game mechanics, but having to compete against against other players improves everyone's abilities.

I know that many players enjoy the challenge associated with figuring out a whole new rule system, and often have seen certain players seem to thrive on the fact that they can adapt to new rules faster that others, so they like to change things up, playing a different game each week, and trying to improve on strategies of the past weeks.

So, to aid in improving and simplifying in my HitDice game mechanic, I've created two games of different genres to help prove the simplest versions of the HitDice mechanic.  This games are "Zombie Town", which is a map building post-apoc survival game where the Survivors draw a random objective (each objective is nearly a whole new game type) and work toward completing it before the activity level on the streets makes game play impossible to survive any longer.

The other game is similar dungeon exploration game where there exist a number of different "mission-types" and the Hero's explore the dungeon in either Co-op, PvP or first Hero to complete the goal style of play.  During which the hero's can explore the dungeon, enter rooms, fight monster gather treasure, even buying better items or crafting enhancements can be done.  This might feel like a mash-up of Super Dungeon Explores, Dungeon, and Lords of Waterdeep.

Both of these games have the terrain cards and rules complete, but I'm still working on the other miscellaneous cards in the decks.

The whole idea behind HitDice, is "One Mechanic" that works for everything from simple card/board game to fully functioning Pen & Paper campaign style RPG and everything in-between.  These first two games are just as much to introduce my players to the mechanic as it is to flesh-out the basic creatures and final stats of the creatures.  The creatures in Dungeon Tiles are the same stat-blocks that are going to be in the full blown RPG, with the only different being the relevant information about the creatures.

With the "one mechanic" everything will be sort of "plug-able" into any other game, as with Zombie Town and Dungeon Tiles, the game play is very similar in how one explores, open doors, and attacks an enemy.  With the difference being the types of foes in the game and the items that are found.  With Zombie Town focusing more on what a typical zombie survival game cares about, and Dungeon Tiles definitely has the feel of a "mini-RPG", complete with a supplement that turns it into an Overlord style game.