Monthly Archives: April, 2012

Links of the Week: April 30, 2012

Just a short one this week, I’ve been busy with work and a few other concerns, including a moderate amount of writing myself.

Tomorrow I start hosting another RPG Blog Carnival, “Fantastic Creations”.  There was a really good turnout to the Carnival I hosted in January on “Fantastic Locations”, and I’m hoping to see something similar this time.

You may notice some slight changes to the layout of the site.  It was recommended that I trim the sidebar and drop some of the sidebar widgets.  After making the change, I have to admit that it was a good  idea — I can use the space, and the page balance looks much better.

Hall of Fame

Coat of Arms Design Studio

I link to the Coat of Arms Design Studio on Heraldry, Shields and Blazoning, under Graphics Resources.

Joe recently (about a week ago, actually) updated three new shield shapes: circle, vertical flag, and horizontal flag.  The circle and horizontal flag are especially useful to me (holy symbols and flags respectively), but I think I can find a way to use the vertical flag shape for banners and the like.

In Like Flynn: Sandbox Encounters from A To Z

Flynn of In Like Flynn took part in the 2012 A-Z Challenge by presenting an A-Z list of sandbox encounters.

I have collected the links to (and brief descriptions of) each in the list below.  I must say that I like how they are presented.  Each encounter is presented at three different level ranges (if I were doing these for Echelon I would do them at three tiers), with several options for the circumstances of each encounter.  The encounters presented are not necessarily with only the named creature, but may include other related creatures.

(Normally when I announce an addition to the Hall of Fame I quote it in full, but that is a 2500-word page, with links to the individual sandbox encounters and the summary description of each.)

Added to the Hall of Fame under Setting Elements.


Response to “Charting Alignment”

Christopher O’Dell, the Grognardling, talks about Charting Alignment, using a mechanism similar to that used to chart honor in Oriental Adventures.

When I’ve considered something like this, I’ve usually found myself treating the various modifiers as ‘encounters’ providing ‘experience points’ toward the alignment.  That is, instead of a “+1 to Law” it might count as a “CR 1 encounter for Law”.  By treating the alignments something like classes you can actually measure progress toward the alignment (possibly attaching traits or powers to the character), and as the character reaches ‘higher level’ various actions become irrelevant — in order to grow further, greater and greater acts are required.

I originally considered this in a Ravenloft campaign, where it takes greater and greater actions to induce Powers Checks… but a single large action might jump the actor several ‘levels’ at once.  Someone who is almost a Dark Lord who kicks a begger in the face is unlikely to cause a Powers Check, but an otherwise innocent who murders his family might find himself catapulted into a position of Dark Power almost immediately.

I never really fleshed this one out much, just kind of noodled with the idea  little.

When You’re Evil

The Devil's Bris

Voltaire wrote and sings When You’re Evil (originally on The Devil’s Bris, and performs it — often as a sing-along — at his shows). I’ve met him, he’s actually quite friendly.

Nick had a post at Troll in the Corner a while ago titled Evil: A Do-It-Yourself Guide.

The gist of it is that evil characters are likely that way for a reason, and most often do have self-control.  This means the evil acts they do likely have a reason (if not a one most would consider reasonable).  As he put it at one point, “The Good are tempted by easy paths to power and riches. The Evil take them.”

All in all, I agree with this post… and I was reminded of a conversation years ago regarding casting charm person on a powerful evil character in order to defeat him.  This is a hazardous idea.

“It says he considers you his friend!”

Indeed.  It does not take away his ambitions, however, and if you stand in his way then he may be regretful, but will still act as he sees necessary to achieve his goals.  He is accustomed to losing (or selling into slavery) his friends, what’s one more?

Come to that, it’s unreliable protection even when you don’t obstruct his ambitions.  If the best way for him to survive a situation involves dropping an Empowered fireball right where you’re standing, he might not even hesitate if it means someone more important (that is, himself) does not get hurt.  Lawful Evil has ‘accepts collateral damage’ written all over it.  Neutral Evil might see it as a helpful preventative measure — if you are no longer of use and may become a threat, it might be a goo… prudent decision.  Chaotic Evil might do it just to see how long you scream.

I agree that most evil characters can have self-control… as long as it is convenient, does not conflict with their goals, and is not a danger to them.  When those conditions are not met, though, it might not be such a good idea to rely on that self-control.

Engaging the Designer

For obvious reasons, this post really applies to both of my blogs, or indeed pretty much anywhere I write about what I am designing, working on, or just goofing around with.

However, because it was prompted by a question specifically about Echelon, my revision of D&D (and other games), I’ve answered the question in full there.

In short, if you want me to work on something specific, rather than whatever I feel like, Engage Me.  If you let me know you are interested in a particular aspect of my work, I become more interested in it, and tend to move my focus there.

It’s kind of a nifty trick, really….


Don’t Mind the Dust…

I decided to take some advice and tweaked the site a little.  Reduced the sidebar, widened the body text to use the freed space, dropped some widgets, and changed the post headers to a format I think makes them easier to read.

I think I got it right.  If you find anything goofy, drop me a line and I’ll fix it.

Random Encounter Tables: Second Thoughts (Heavy Lifting, part 2)

… I suppose I could have found a way to get a dash in there or something.  What’s one more separator in a title?

I realized today after Random Encounter Tables: Second Thoughts (Heavy Lifting) went up that the raw percentages might not be so useful overall, but didn’t have time at that point to do anything about it.

I’ve redone the tables for this post, showing the likelihood for each slot that the encounter is enhanced, standard, reduced, or evidence only.


RPG Blog Carnival: Fantastic Creations

I almost forgot!

I’ll be hosting the RPG Blog Carnival again, starting a week from now.

The topic will be ‘Fantastic Creations’.  Magic items, cyborgs, golems, sonic screwdrivers, how to make any of the above, what to do with them, and so on.

I think it’ll be fun, and joining is as easy as writing a blog post (such as a new magic item, cyb… you get it) and adding a comment to the Carnival page I’ll be putting up.

RPG Blog Carnival Logo

RPG Blog Carnival

Random Encounter Tables: Second Thoughts (Heavy Lifting)

I had some Second Thoughts about Random Encounter TablesErik Tenkar likes using three dice for his random encounter tables because he likes the curve, and planned to have deliberate, potentially large gaps in the table so he could combine the random encounter check (determine whether there is one) and the encounter selection (determine what the encounter is).  That’s fair enough.

It’s not to my taste, though.  I have historically preferred two dice, usually mismatched, because of the ‘pyramid curve’ they give me.  However, as described in the Second Thoughts post yesterday I think there might be a better way.  Use three dice but have one of them, in addition to adding to the roll to determine the encounter also be used to determine an encounter modifier.

This feels pretty good, and has some good possibilities.  However, I like to back these things up with numerical analysis to make sure that it makes sense.

Math happens, but it’s mostly tables.  I can provide spreadsheets if anyone is really interested.


Random Encounter Tables: Second Thoughts

After talking about Building Random Encounter Tables a couple days ago, I’ve seen a few suggestions that could improve the results somewhat.

Erik Tenkar talks about deliberately leaving blanks in the random encounter table so a single table handles not only the selection of encounter but whether or not there is an encounter at all.

I’ll be frank, I don’t really like this idea.  If encounter frequency varies (as it should) then you commit varying and different amounts of the table to… nothing.  The mechanism described is somethat adaptable, true, but applying it correctly depends on accurate knowledge of the frequency of each possible result (such as 10-11 coming up 25% of the time when rolling 3d6… unless you’re rolling ability scores, true enough).

Chakat Firepaw also suggested on Building Random Encounter Tables including encounters or events that are definitely out of the PCs’ league… but at low frequency, and then only evidence of the encounter.  For example, finding signs that the local big bad dragon was here not too long ago.  I like this idea, but my normal random encounter table range (d8+d12, 2..20) doesn’t really leave a good amount of room for this sort of idea.

Then I considered Dragon Age’s ‘Dragon Die’.  You often roll 3d6, but one of them is a different color and may be used to determine unusual results.  What if something similar were done here?

Add a d10 to the mix.  This extends the range from 2..20 to 3..30, and it lets me introduce some modifiers to the encounter.  Assuming the encounters are all creatures (because it’s easier to explain that way), you might have:

d10 Encounter Modifier Example
1-4 Enhanced Encounter Bigger group than normal, unusual helpful item, ally, ambush
5-7 Standard Encounter Normal numbers, gear, and preparation — might be smaller group than normal, but better gear
8-9 Reduced Encounter Smaller group than normal, injured, want a peaceful encounter (looking to make a deal?)
10 Evidence only Not actually present, but may have just been here or left a message or something

Populate the table normally.  I would expect to do it least dangerous encounters to most dangerous. This way the normally less dangerous encounters are likely to get some kind of enhancement (anything six or less on the table must be an enhanced encounter, sevens will often be enhanced encounters, and so on) and the most dangerous (that might normally be expected to lead to TPK) might be softened a little.  The most dangerous of all (the big bad dragon) will only be present by evidence.

This also provides a more standardized mechanism for adjusting the encounter frequencies.  You might drop an entire section (only consider 5-10, with 1-4 meaning ‘no encounter’), or specific slots (4, 7, and 9 indicate no encounter), or some other mechanism.  Single-die frequencies are dead easy, especially when you use a d10 (units of 10%) or d12 (which lets you do 1/12, 1/6, 1/4, 1/3, 1/2, 2/3, 3/4, and 5/6 trivially).

As just suggested, you could make any one of the three dice the modifier die, which will obviously change the frequencies of the encounter modifiers.

I’ll aim to do the frequency tables for the three options (d8 modifier die, d10 modifier die, and d12 modifier die) tonight after we get back from town; expect to see it tomorrow morning.

Links of the Week: April 23, 2012

Playing catchup again, I’m back into the same month (barely; I’ve finished off up to April 3…).  A busy couple of weeks at work and home as well, and I’m going to be losing about half a day or more per weekend on going to the market (fresh local vegetables again, hooray!) and cutting the grass (even with a riding lawnmower, it’s still a few hours, boo).

Lots of good material, though.  Several completed PDFs printed, some good Kickstarter projects to talk about.

Hall of Fame Additions

Hack & Slash: On Village Resource

-C at Hack & Slash has built a template for describing a settlement, including in each section links to random generators that may be of use.

On Village Resource looks like a good hub for designing a settlement.

I like the way it is presented, too, and I think I’ll consider it for similar templates I create.  I usually build a list of resources on one page, template on another, I hadn’t considered putting them together this way.

Added to the Hall of Fame under Setting Design.