Monthly Archives: June, 2012

ACK or Die! Session 7, Orcs and Crossbows

Hi Pop,

Not much to say today and I’m in a bit of a hurry, we’re in a mine with some orcs.

We left the village and took a ferry… ten gold a head to cross the water, and the same for the horses!  Ah well, we were still ahead on the game, so I’m not too worried about it.

After we crossed the water we found an old man being chased by orcs shooting crossbows at him.  Curio and Vesper put them to sleep using magic, and Vesper killed four of them.

I know it’s ‘not sporting’, Pop.  Neither is five orcs chasing one unarmed and unarmored old man and shooting crossbows at him.

They tied up the leader and questioned him.  When they didn’t need him any more they decided to kill him.

Turns out the goblin picked up one of the loaded crossbows while we weren’t looking.  He did a good job shooting the orc before the orc knew what was happening, then asked me to reload the crossbow for him.

I know, I know, “can’t trust a gobbo”.  I’m not too worried about it, to be honest.  If he shoots the wrong person, not only does he stand a chance of being killed on the spot, I won’t reload the crossbow for him.

And he likes that crossbow.

The old man told us about some mines where the orcs had come in and captured everyone, then put them to work.  We decided to check it out and see if we can rescue them.

So, I’m in a mine right now and we just killed some orcs.  I’ll have to continue this later.


Revising Cleric Domains

For some time now I’ve been dissatisfied with how some cleric domains are implemented.  Overall there are things I like, and places where I find them lacking.  I think domains can use a general tuneup.

Things I like about D&D 3.x domains:

  • They provide a set of related spells that (ideally) support the concept and portfolios of the gods with the domains;
  • They provide a power or ability to clerics who choose those domains;
  • Clerics get one bonus spell slot per level that can only be filled with a domain spell, so clerics always have at least some of their power associated with their chosen domains.

Things I don’t like about D&D 3.x domains:

  • The spell choices sometimes aren’t a good fit for how I picture the gods;
  • The spell choices sometimes overlap (same spell appears in multiple domains at the same level), made worse by the overlapping domains being conceptually a good choice to take together;
  • The powers can be lackluster (“+1 caster level”?  Eww);
  • Powers inconsistently grow with cleric level — some do (Strength domain), some don’t and are good choices for dipping (Luck) — or are of dubious value (added class skills for a class with bugger all skill points);
  • The spells or powers can be direct opposites (spells from the Good and Evil domains are sometimes simply the same power with different polarity, so they affect the other team), I’d rather see more qualitative differences.


Anti-Hammerspace Encumbrance

Jack McNamee presented Matt Rundle’s Anti-Hammerspace Item Tracker, and I have to say that I like it.  It’s quick, it’s workable, and it addresses something few workable encumbrance systems I’ve seen have: just where the stuff is.

The short form, modified for D&D 3.x:

  • Each character has up to six containers (define how you like), each of which can hold up to three items.
  • Armor takes up some number of contains (light is one container, medium is two containers, heavy is three containers).
  • Shields take up one slot per point of shield bonus (one slot for a light shield, two slots for a heavy shield; tower shields aren’t mentioned but I’d rule they take up a container).
  • Light weapons take up one slot, one-handed weapons take up two slots, two-handed weapons take up a container.   The original had daggers taking one slot, short swords taking two slots, longswords taking three; this seems too harsh, and doesn’t allow for things like spears or greatswords.
  • Other gear uses arbitrary numbers of slots (a week’s rations fill one slot, that seems awfully light to me).  I would be inclined to use a stone-based system something like Adventurer Conqueror King, where each slot holds one stone (historically a ‘stone’ was 8-14 pounds depending where are, Adventurer Conqueror King settled on 10 pound stones for simplicity).

Encumbrance is then simple, speed is reduced five feet per container used.


Generating Hoards by the Cards, Scrolls

Scrolls are one of the simpler tables to populate.  This isn’t complete yet, but trivially covers most of it.

I’d like to see more ‘special writings’, especially at low levels, but scrolls are about it.  I could imagine mundane books of interest, but there really isn’t much exciting by way of special writings at low levels.  You can always increase the caster level of a scroll, but that gets into fiddly details.  Spell books should, I think, be custom works — though once one is specified I see no real reason why it couldn’t be included in a hoard somewhere.  Once you get above first-level scrolls it can be worth exploring higher caster levels for scrolls.  That makes sense more for some spells (such as dispel magic) than others, though.

The table below is created using the updated card values.


Generating Hoards by the Cards, Worksheets

I cobbled together a quick worksheet for choosing general items for each treasure type and tier.  I want the value of the treasure associated with each card to generally trend upward with the rank of the card (Aces low), and the value between tiers to roughly triple.  The values within a tier (and between the top cards of one tier and the lower cards of the next) overlap, giving something of a smooth curve.


Generating Hoards by the Cards, Updated Card Values

A few days ago I described approximate card values for generating hoards by the cards.  Ultimately I found the card values really hard to work with because the range for each card was so narrow.

For shiggles I reworked the table, expanding the range for each card to span three of the previous cells in each direction rather than just one, then modified my worksheet so it showed the range of values for each card in each tier rather than the specific average value.  I printed off a few copies and took them upstairs with my D&D 3.5 Dungeon Master’s Guide and started to populate them.

This worked way, way better.


Links of the Week: June 25, 2012

Another week spent more on writing than reading.  I’ve been delving into a series I call ‘Hoards by the Cards’.

It started as an exploration of Looting Hoards by the Cards, but I’ve since started on Generating Hoards by the Cards, doing some Groundwork, working out Card Values at various levels, and populating a table of Armor that might be found in a hoard generated by this method.

I’m going to rework that last one, and redo the potions example from Card Values.  The way I was going about it was much more troublesome than I liked.  The other night I printed off a set of my worksheets (I’ll make the worksheets available when I’ve had time to test them some more) and went to town on building tables for several of the treasure types.  Once that is done, I’ll copy the information back to pages showing the eight treasure types for each tier, giving a set of nine complete sets of treasure tables, one for each four-level tier from two below Basic through to Epic.

Later, though.  For now, a few additions to the Hall of Fame, a few links to blog posts, and a few videos I found worth passing on.  No new Kickstarter projects came to my attention this week, nor stories about science and technology.


ACK or Die! Session 6, Suspicion and Exploration

Hi Pop,

Vesper figured that the stories we’d been told about the village problems might not be true.  The dragon ate the girls I told you about, so how could they be the ghouls bothering the village?  He also thinks the crypt we were exploring was there for a long time before the dragon came around.  He talked with the village elder and told them the village curse probably has nothing to do with the dragon.  If they get enough money he’ll try to find a priest to remove the curse.

I don’t really understand it.  They had a problem with ghouls, we killed ghouls.  The problem should be solved.

We went back to the crypt to explore some more.  We went through the crypt and into the caves. We find and fought a big metal snake.  The bites burned, turns out they were poisoned.

I am really starting to hate poison.  We smashed the snake.

We explored some more and found rooms with different kinds of elements.  A room full of lava that we didn’t explore because it was really hot and dangerous.  We went another way and found a room full of water with a big bridge, where we were attacked by a bunch of mudmen.  We were outnumbered, but knew that Goraj wouldn’t want to back down.  They weren’t so tough as we thought they might be.  Vesper went over the bridge and explored a bit, found a little cave with another of those stone spiders I told you about last time.  No big deal.

We followed the cave out into another hall with a room where we found another coffin.

Of course we looked in it.  Plugged our noses first this time, though, no way did I want to smell something like that last coffin.

Just some dead guy with some stuff.  Took the stuff.  Curio said it looked like he was trying to turn into some kind of undead wizard thing, so we threw the body into the lava before we left.

I think we’re off to Blackmarsh soon.  Vesper really wants to go talk with the elves, and he might be able to find a priest there to help the villagers.


Generating Hoards by the Cards, Armor

I quickly sketched together a potions table earlier today, I think I’ll try armor this time.

I’m not going to bother with the Epic tiers because they’re outside my expected range of play.  I’ll keep the Basic tiers because low-level creatures are likely to have hoards of low-value items… though I’m not absolutely certain that medium armors really count as ‘low-value’ items.


Generating Hoards by the Cards, Card Values

In Generating Hoards by the Cards, Groundwork, I suggested different cards might have different ranges of values.

I’ve calculated possible values such that each card is roughly the same amount larger (by ratio) than the card below it.  The values of Aces and Twos overlap the nominal upper values of the next-lower tier, and the values of Queens and Kings overlap the nominal lower values of the next-higher tier.  The table below shows the approximate nominal value of each card.

Additional values (two below Ace, two above King, and two tiers below Basic and two above Epic (three above Legendary)) are shown because they may be useful when ‘near the edges’ of the main body of the table.