lunedì 29 luglio 2013

From LULU with OSR love

There is nothing like a printed book, so even if I have most of this product in pdf (often they are free or have a really convenient price) I always like to buy them in paper (after all RPG are Pen&Paper games)! This was my last buy on LULU, I always wait for the 20% discount code that LULU sends around so I usually buy a lot of books in one time and manage to save something.

As you can see in the photo there are a lot of books from the OSR movement, as an aside OSR note I also bough Carcosa and Lamentation of the Flame Princess in print, but they were not on LULU so I have to wait their coming from Finland :).

In conclusion I have to do more reviews of all this goodness.

In the photo (from right to left and from top to down):

Magical Theorems & Dark Pacts
Burgs & Bailiffs
Kefitzat Haderecht
Swords & Wizardry WhiteBox Rules

Teratic Tome
Darker Dungeons
Blood, Guts and Glory

Swords & Wizardry Core Rules
Swords & Wizardry Monster book
3D6 In Order
Blood & Treasure Complete Game

Theorems & Thaumaturgy
Realms of Crawling Chaos
Companion Expansion
Under the moons of Zoon

domenica 21 luglio 2013

Hit Point training, how to polymorph a sacred cow

Some hp are lost...
The kind of rule changes that I like more than any other are the ones that give new twists on old rules, a change in continuity with the past instead of a totally new mechanic. Thinking about Hit Points for my clone project (Castles & Chimeras obviously), their number at first level and their great variability between different characters I come up with the following idea.

The basic of it is that the maximum number of Hit Points doesn't need to be fixed once and for all at character creation and at level progression, indeed we can think of the maximum number of hp as a number that can change for various reason (training, disease, poisons, undead, curses and more). 

Let see the details coming from this change of perspective.

Gaining a level (and HP)

When a character gains a new level he can just roll his hp as usual or chose to train to get the new level.

Self-Training (takes 3 days/level to be gained and cost 500 GP x level to be gained): this assures that 1 can be rolled again

A true master
Training with a Master ( takes 1 week x level to be gained and cost 1000 GP x level to be gained): this assures minimum half the maximum hp from HD (e.g. if you have HD 1d8, training with a master assures you at least 4 hp, you still roll 1d8 and you gain 4 hp if you roll 1 to 4, and more if you roll more)

Training for more HP
A character can train whenever he wants to improve his hit points, but it will become harder and harder to gain more hp without gaining a new level. The time required is  2 week x level and the cost is 5000 GP x level. The effect of such training is to roll again all HD and keep the higher between current HP and rolled HP (eg a 5 level fighter, constitution 10, with 5d8 HD and 25 hp could train for 10 weeks and roll 5d8, if he rolls 25 or less he will stay at 25 hp, if rolls 26 or more will keep the new total hp).

At times 1st level hp are fewer than needed :'(
First level HPs
At first level you can assume that the character was trained and trained and trained until his master, or fate, sent him away. So you (the DM) can decide to give 1 or more roll and at least half maximum hp or just give maximum hp to starting character (without breaking the rules).

Notice that such a training can be very different from class to class. For example a fighter could train in parries and to roll with blows, a magic-user could train to cast stronger protective enchantments and charms, a cleric could make new oaths and more martial training, a thief could train in new acrobatics to escape from harm.

And now the bad news
Since it's now possible to raise the maximum number of HP it should also be possible to see this number lowered.

Disease: whenever a character is hit by some disease the maximum number can be lowered even to 1hp for each HD, maybe an additional saving throw should be used to simulate such a possibility.

Laziness: a character who stay at home without going around adventuring should train or lose his edge (each month without training could lower the maximum hp by 1 for each HD, to keep fit you must train for at least 4 days each month, or 1 hour each day - the cost of such training is 100 gp/level each month).
Curses: some curses could lower the maximum number of HP for each HD.
Undead: the energy draining of undead could also lower the maximum HP for each HD.

Elite and paragon monsters

Such rules can be also used to represent elite and paragon monster, some chosen unit of monsters could have at least 4hp for each HD, and paragon monster could have at least 6hp for each HD. While the normal rules can be used to represent your run of the mill monster or the possibilities that the encountered monster is already wounded or tired.

Any feedback is welcome!

venerdì 19 luglio 2013

Dice are never enough!

Many dice :-)
As many role-players I am in love with dice, it seems that I cannot get enough and so I keep buying them (usually if I order some books or some games I add a few dice). The picture above is part of my dice collection (about 80% the others are kept around "ready to be used" or in the original game boxes).   

A closer look, notice the tin box with numbers on it and jumbo dice inside :-)
Speaking of dice some links are needed, the Wikipedia Dice Page, the Dice Collector Page (the envy! the envy!) and between his sub-pages a nice one on dice shapes, an Even Dice Kickstarter that I missed (the rage! the rage! How will I get my hand on spherical d14, d18 and d22), and the Platonic Solid Page on Wolfram (for the truly mathematical minded among you) since platonic solids are the perfect five of the dice world (d4, d6, d8, d12 and d20).

Another zoom in

mercoledì 17 luglio 2013

D&D Red Box is back as a pdf of itself

Copertina di scatola e manuali
Per il 30' anniversario della pubblicazione della mitica (specialmente qui in Italia) scatola rossa su è possibile acquistare i due manuali in essa contenuti in formato elettronico, purtroppo il tutto è in inglese e dubito che esista ancora un'ombra della EG capace di rendere nuovamente disponibile per l'acquisto la versione italiana di questo classico di Frank Mentzer, segnalo che Frank è anche raggiungibile su facebook.

Sul sito di vendita online sono disponibili il manuale del giocatore a 4,99$ ed il manuale del DM sempre a 4,99$.

Copertina della Rules Cyclopedia
Per chi non ricordasse questi manuali sono la rielaborazione delle regole originali che ha portato all'edizione nota come BECMI (Basic, Expert, Companion, Master, Immortal) già ripresentata nella su nella sua ultima incarnazione, la D&D Rules Cyclopedia a 9,99$.

Le regole nell'edizione BECMI erano divise per livelli, nella scatola rossa Basic copriva i livelli 1-3 e presentava le classi base Chierico, Guerriero, Ladro, Mago e le tre classi semi-umane (non c'è distinzione classe/razza) Elfo (Mago/Guerriero), Nano (guerriero), Halfling (guerriero più o meno). Dal punto di vista di contenuti è molto più conveniente acquistare la Rules Cyclopedia in quanto un compendio sistemato di tutte e 5 le scatole prodotte per la linea, ma la leggenda e l'affetto che circondano la scatola rossa sicuramente meritano un acquisto separato. Certo sarebbe bello che oltre alla versione in PDF fosse disponibile anche quella in Print On Demand, anche se ognuno può stampare come progetto personale qualsiasi pdf su LULU.

AGGIORNAMENTO: la Wizards of the Coast m'informa che acquistando i due manuali in PDF si ottiene anche un coupon per uno sconto del 50% su uno qualsiasi dei 12 moduli della serie di avventure contrassegnate dalla lettera B (da "B1 In Search of the Unknown" fino a "B12 Queen's Harvest") l'offerta però termina la settimana prossima per cui se siete interessati affrettatevi!

domenica 14 luglio 2013

Vancian Channeling a magic variant

Games like Dungeon Crawl Classic have showed us that the ability to cast spells until some disaster happens are not really unbalancing since the magician and his allies know that each casting could spell disaster.

For my home brew clone project I want a magic system that can be easily added as a variant of the existing rules, something that build on usual rules and at the some time adds what I think is needed.

The mechanics that I want to add to standard "vancian" magic is a roll for each single casting to see if the magic was cast properly or something backfired, at the same time I want to keep all the tropes of the standard vancian system: books, memorization, multiple memorization of the same spell, spell-memorization-table and so on.

To reach this result I am going to introduce the idea that spells are not memorized (and forgotten when cast) but memorization is a lay-men term to indicate something more complex, indeed in this system spells they are some sort of magical non-material constructs that is used to give shape to magical energy channeled by the conjurer from elsewhere; furthermore the act of using the construct to channel magical energy can be damaging to the construct itself (to the point of its utter destruction, exactly as it was erased from existence given rise to the myth of "memorization") so one of the usual result of spell use is the damaging of the construct and some penalty to further use of it. The summoner can repair the spell construct if he has access to his spell books or if he want to repair a mastered spell (more on this later).

It must be noted that spell can be repaired or even constructed from scratch whenever the illusionist want to do it (you don't need 8 hours of sleep since it would have no more meaning in this system), the time to build a construct from zero is (15'xSpell Level), to repair it instead you need (1'xSpell Level) for each point of malus to further castings.

Obviously, given my objectives, the wizard will be able to construct and keep in mind as many constructs as indicated by the standard memorization table of your favorite rule variant (be it AD&D 1st edition, D&D BECM, OSRIC, Labyrinth Lord, Basic Fantasy RPG, Swords & Wizardry, Crypts & Things, Astonishing Swordsman and Sorcerers of Hyperborea, Adventures in the East Mark, Ambition & Avarice..... or whatever system uses spell memorization for most of its classes), the only thing that this system is going to make useless is the "sorcerer" mechanics introduced in same variant like D&D 3rd edition, or the magic systems of D&D Next and ACKS (because they are using a variant of 3rd edition sorcery as the only magic system), but even in this case the system can be easily converted (the ACKS system more easily than D&D Next since it uses standard memorization tables while the Next have a reduced daily usage table and a level based number of spell readable).

When a magic-user want to cast a spell he must make a Channeling-Roll to see how well he managed to channel energy through the spell-construct, the target number of such a roll is modified by the caster level and by the spell level (further modifier can be added by longer casting time, missing components, special focus and whatever - maybe in a future post or in my complete rules, just a few note at the end of the post).

The base target is 14+Spell Level, the roll is modified by the relevant characteristic (intelligence for magic-users, wisdom for clerics) and the character gain a +1 for each 3 caster level rounded down (rangers, and paladins gain a +1 for each 4 level beyond the 9th level in most standard rules). So for example a 7th level magic user with +2 to intelligence want to cast a Fireball (which is a 3rd level spell and the construct was not previously damaged), the target number for this casting is 14+3=17, the bonus of the magic user is +4 (+2 for intelligence and +2 because he is 7th level)

natural 1: spell is not cast, disaster table, backfire and the spell-construct is destroyed
16 or less: spell is cast with some side effect, the spell-construct is damaged (-1d8 to spell-construct and furhter casting unless repaired)
17 or more: spell is cast, the spell construct is damaged (-1d4 to spell-construct and further castings unless repaired)
natural 20: spell is cast with some additional effect (special casting table)

It must be noted that Wizards and Clerics have mastery over 3 spell per level, this are the spell that can be constructed/repaired without a spell book or a mystery book (yes in this system even clerics needs some sort of recording to gain access to their vast repertoire of spells - mystery books work exactly like spell books but are considered holy items).
Will he control his magic?
The tables are for now omitted, but let's consider some guidelines:
+disaster table: should contemplate curse, ability losses, ostile monster summoning, ostile demons/devils conjuration and random magical effects on the caster and/or his allies
+backfire table: lesser magical effects on the caster and/or his allies
+side-effects: additional ambient (lights, sounds, tremors, vapors, smells) effects
+special result table: lessened saving throw, additional damage, additional range or duration some additional effect.

A few suggested spell casting roll modifiers:
add 1 full round/minute to spell casting: +1 (max +1!)
use a special focus (lesser magical item) for that spell: +2
use a generic focus (lesser magical item) for a group of spells: +1
destroy a special material component: +1
don't use a needed material component: -3
don't use somantic component: -2
don't use verbal component: -2
take half casting time: -3

Or maybe it's a +2 focus to the various hand spells

I am adding same optional result tables as options and memos to myself

natural 1: spell is not cast, disaster table*, -2 to all further castings until you are cleansed**  and the spell-construct is destroyed, furthermore make a save for each other spell construct or it's damaged (-5 to spell-construct and furhter casting unless repaired)
16 or less: spell is cast at reduce efficacy***, backfire****, the spell-construct is damaged (-5 to spell-construct and furhter casting unless repaired)
17 or more: spell is cast with no backfire, the spell construct is lightly damaged (-2 to spell-construct and further castings unless repaired)
natural 20: spell is cast with some additional effect (special casting table: double damage, double duration, double save take worst or the like)

In the d20&d12 system this will look like:

f-- (1 on d20 & 1 on d12): spell is not cast, disaster table*, -3 to all further castings until you are cleansed**  and the spell-construct is destroyed, roll a save for each spell construct to see if it's damaged (-5 if save is failed)
f- (fail & 1 on d12): spell is not cast, disaster table*, -1 to all further castings until you are cleansed**  and the spell-construct is heavily damaged (-10 to spell-construct and furhter casting unless repaired)
f (fail & 2 to 12 on d12): spell is cast at reduce efficacy***, backfire****, the spell-construct is damaged (-5 to spell-construct and furhter casting unless repaired)
s (success & 1 to 11 on d12):  spell is cast with no backfire, the spell construct is lightly damaged (-2 to spell-construct and further castings unless repaired)
s+(success & 12 on d12):  spell is cast with no backfire
s++(20&12): spell is cast with some additional effect (special casting table: double damage, double duration, double save take worst or the like)

* this is bad as all the magic channeled goes into an unintended wild magical effect that can alter the local area for a long time (days or weeks) or hit heavily the mage, his allies, enemies or bystanders for a very long time (months or permanent)
** cleansing take off a -1 for each day without using spells and doing some sort of meditation (no other activity is possible)
*** the enemy get double save, or damage is reduced in half or similar
**** some energy goes into a side effect that can hit the mage, his allies, enemies or bystanders... or even some local effect

lunedì 8 luglio 2013

Print On Demand and OSR

One paper book is much better
than a thousand PDFs
One of the best thing to happen to the OSR (and to RPG in general) games is Print On Demand (POD), while many still try to print their book I think that to not have also the manual in a POD format is a a bad idea, bad for the game company that produce the game and bad for the gamer all around the world.

This article is about my experience as a collector and my  insight on POD.

The option to print manuals and have it delivered to your home is usually a much cheaper option (at least in Europe, USA and South America as far as I know) that to have it sent from the game company to you (this is a problem if you live in Europe and the company is located in the USA as it happens). And things get cheaper the more books you order.

Another nice thing is that usually you can have your books printed in hard-cover, soft-cover or some other options. The quality is quite good, the binding is usually glued (but there are other options), the print quality for black and white art and text is also good.

In my opinion the best idea is to have one products on as many platform of POD as viable, but at the very least on the big three in the gaming world: RPGnow/DriveThruRPG, LULU and Amazon.

I have bought printed books on all three and I am quite happy with all of them!

RPGNow Binding
RPGNow book
RPGNow/DriveThruRPG: this two have lots of game mostly in pdf, but also a good choice of printed manuals, the best thing is that when you buy something with the pdf option it goes in your library and you can always download it, also if update come they are automatically there. I like it because I can usually buy the pdf+printed copy and have additional copies if the needs come. The postal costs are bearable. Furthermore it have the hardcover and softcover options. My printed copy from them is the Adventure Dark and Deep Player's Manual (soon to be followed by the DM guide and a few other things) and I am really happy of printing, cover and binding.

LULU books
LULU binding
LULU: maybe the most famous of the POD has a lot of printing options (hardcover, softcover, coil bounded, color and b/w), postal cost are a bit on the high side but they make a lot of 20% offer during the year. From LULU I got printed copies of Crypts & Things, Labyrinth Lord, Dragons at Dawn and I am quite happy with bindings, print quality and cover quality (but I have yet to buy hardcovers from them).

Amazon books
Amazon binding
Amazon: have only the softcover option but nobody can beat it's postal cost (usually free if your order is over 20 $ or €), the added bonus for a lot of book buyers is that if you are ordering a few book or some other thing (in this days amazon sell almost everything) you can round the order with a few RPG books. Here I bought a lot of Basic Fantasy RPG (at less than 5 € it's a steal and a nice gift for fellow players). Also here printing, cover and binding are good.

In the end my suggestion to publishers (both to professionals and self-publishers) is to put their book in all the principal POD platform, and eventually to have also small print of their own books (or box) for luxury quality (paper, print and covers) and binding. But, please, put your book also on POD at reasonable costs and try to find a way to give your supporter easy access to PDF if they want to buy also a printed copy (sometimes happen that you pay the book two times), maybe a voucher to have free pdf after first buy or something.

In this article we spoke of: Basic Fantasy RPG, Crypts & Things, Labyrinth Lord, Adventures Dark and Deep and Dragons at Dawn but there are a thousand more Print on Demand RPG systems around.

Overall good print quality

mercoledì 3 luglio 2013

d20 e d12 una versione semplificata per gestire contrattempi e disastri

Oggi riprendo uno dei primi post e lo ripropongo in versione semplificata e rivista, in particolare questa versione a differenza della precedente come da tradizione considera il risultato di 1 o di 20 sul d20 come eventi importanti.

L'idea di fondo resta la stessa ovvero utilizzare, nel determinare il successo o il fallimento di un azione, insieme al classico d20 (dado a 20 facce) anche il bellissimo, e trasuratissimo, d12 (dado a 12 facce) per aggiungere un livello di successo e di fallimento ulteriori a quelli possibili.

Il d20 come è noto è il dado più usato da tutti i sistemi ispirati o derivati da D&D (la maggioranza dei cloni e dei giochi OSR, ma anche le versioni commerciali più recenti). Il d20 viene infatti usato per i tiri per colpire, per i tiri salvezza e a volte anche per le abilità di ladro e abilità non di combattimento. Invece il d12 è uno dei dadi meno utilizzati.

In questa versione della meccanica d20&d12 il d12 si tira insieme al d20 e modifica il risultato quando sul d12 si ottiene un 1 (solo se il d20 dava un fallimento) o un 12 (solo se il d20 dava un successo).

Una tabella chiarirà immediatamente il meccanismo che si propone:

Risultato d20 Risultato d12  effetto
11fallimento molto grave (f--)  
12-12fallimento grave (f-)
Fallimento1fallimento grave (f-)
Fallimento2 - 12fallimento normale(f)
Successo1 - 11successo normale (s)
Successo12successo speciale (s+)
201-11successo speciale (s+)
2012successo eccezionale (s++)

Gli effetti dei vari gradi di successo e fallimento dipendono molto dai gusti e dalla specifica campagna, si possono utilizzare effetti generici il cui dettaglio viene lasciato alla fantasia del GM o dettagliatissime tabelle di risultati.

Le ragioni per legare il d12 al d20 restano le stesse del primo articolo ovvero la volontà di utilizzare il d12 almeno quanto il d20 e poi perché da un punto di vista geometrico il d20 e il d12 sono legati, infatti i solidi su cui sono costruiti, ovvero l'icosaedro (20 facce, 30 spigoli e 12 vertici) ed il dodecaedro (12 facce, 30 spigoli e 20 vertici) sono l'uno il duale dell'altro e per ragioni assolutamente arbitrarie trovo giusto utilizzarli insieme; per approfondire vedete qui:

Per eventuali tabelle di risultati rimando al precedente articolo Dal fallimento disastroso al successo strepitoso (viva il d12!) e mi riprometto di riprendere la questione con nuovi esempi.