Tuesday, June 7, 2016

P5 Primer, Part 2 Possessions

P5 Primer, Part 2:


By: Jesse C Cohoon

The P5: People, Places, Possessions, Powers, & Plot RPG engine is not meant to replace other roleplaying systems, but to help you by giving ideas as to what you might need and further define what is there providing the people, places, powers, possessions and plots for your game. It’s designed to streamline worldbuilding by helping to create vibrant locales, interesting characters, and complex, crazy plots for your games, both traditional and nontraditional. By using the P5 system, you’re able to take your world from concept to fully fleshed out form in five easy steps that should make world creation a breeze.

Possessions are the things that characters, towns, and companies own. Usually possessions don’t have a mind of their own, but they can, such things as animals, sentient monsters (think stuff like Digimon and Pokemon), and AIs/ robots in futuristic settings. If there are a class of beings who are enslaved, those would go in the “people” section, talked about last time, because while they’re technically “owned” no one really wants to be thought of as an item to be bought and sold. Possessions can be as large or as detailed as you want them to be. They can be individual or corporate as you want them to be. It’s everything from the pair of socks that’s has a hole in each toe the orc wears to the suit of armor that the party’s fighter wears. It’s the scrolls, rings, and wands the sorcerer has on their person. But equally, the wealth contained in safe that is behind the painting in the study (and if the players are ambitious enough, the safe itself!), the sculptures that decorate the garden, and the library of books of the sage. It’s also the items the secret organization owns, the beer mugs and tables and chairs in a bar, and the religious books and hymnals in the pews of the church’s sanctuary. The key point in remembering when making lists of items that the person or organization owns is to think of them of things that are:

  • Important to the storyline: This can be anything from the lines of a clue which would lead to the ultimate antagonist, to a red herring to a piece of the puzzle that will be needed later on. Video games excel at these types of things. Truly excellent DMs are able to spin the most insignificant of items to become the clue that solves the whole mystery, the key to defeating the ultimate antagonist, or the missing piece that allows them entry into the treasure room.
  • Interesting to note: this can be everything from the style of clothing the person or those in the organization wears to the type of books that they read to some personal effect they always have with them.    
  • Valuable: This would be where all the coins and gems, jewels and trappings of royalty, works of art and literature would end up. If armor or weaponry is more decorative or ceremonial than practical, it would fall into this category as well. 
  • Transportable: if it’s too big, most of the time the players aren’t going to bother with it. A single suit of masterwork armor is OK to take because someone can wear it out. An entire collection of empty suits of armor (unless one enchants them to follow the players along) is another matter entirely. And while the mad sorcerer might have a tower in the middle of nowhere that the PCs cleared out, no one’s going to shrink it down to take with them.  
  • Practical & useful: these would be things like items of everyday use: china, tea sets, rations, and any sort of kits, armor and weaponry the PCs can use. 
  • Magical: This would be the belts, rings, armor and weaponry of a magical nature. (the powers such items possess would go into the next section)    

These categories are entirely artificial, and there are lots of overlap between them, but they are good for determining what types of things you might need to describe for your game.

One interesting thing might be to have there be too much stuff (possessions) to take with them, even if they have magic or technological devices that would normally allow them to do so, and have the stuff that the PCs chose not to take with them at a later point in the campaign.

Another thing one might do with possessions is somehow mark them as belonging to a specific person, either with magic, or a characteristic that is theirs alone, and anyone who knows who it belonged to would know it was stolen or that the party in question has been defeated.

More on the P5 worldbuilding system next time.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

P5 Primer, Part 1 People, & Places

P5 Primer, Part 1
People, & Places
By: Jesse C Cohoon

The P5: People, Places, Possessions, Powers, and Plot RPG engine is not meant to replace other roleplaying systems, but to help you by giving ideas as to what you might need and further define what is there providing the people, places, powers, possessions and plots for your game. It’s designed to streamline worldbuilding by helping to create vibrant locales, interesting characters, and complex, crazy plots for your games, both traditional and nontraditional. By using the P5 system, you’re able to take your world from concept to fully fleshed out form in five easy steps that should make world creation a breeze.

At the broadest sense, people are the characters that are in the world – both player characters (PCs) and non-player characters (NPCs). These are the roles, traits, and types of people that make your world truly alive. But when examining P5, don’t limit yourself to one type of personality type. People are very complex and may have many facets. Use as many as you think helps to describe the person you’re portraying – but keep in mind that more may not necessarily be better. It’s better to have more characters with fewer traits than to have fewer with more because the more categories a character can fit into, the less you’re able to make them shine because the few you have can do it all. 

When doing your own people for the P5 engine, think of all the appropriate types and broad categories of people that exist within the world that you’re creating and list them out, providing a short description for each. As you’re making these categories, try to make sure that there’s no significant overlap (there may be some in that categories are artificial and don’t exist in real life).  

Also, keep in mind that people aren’t limited to humanoids. This includes all the sentient and non-sentient monsters in your game as well.  

Once you have the people figured out for your campaign, you can start to give them stats, if your system uses such a thing. If you’re the type of a GM who has difficulty making names, nicknames, and or titles for the characters in your game, it’s also useful to provide a name generator there as well.

Places are the locations in your world. But don’t think of strictly outdoor places such as forests, mountains and streams. Places can also be movable things such as the tinker’s traveling wagon, the touring circus’ Big Top, the revival tent set up at the edge of town. They can be the rooms of the inn, the campfire around which they tell scary stories, the kitchen of the inn, and the grand ballroom of the duke. Places can be as specific or as broad as you want them to be, but the common thread when trying to pin down places to list for the P5 engine is to ask yourself:

  •  Where are the PCs likely to visit?
  •  How important is this place?
  • How much detail do I need to provide?

Answering these questions can be as simple as figuring out where the NPCs the PCs will be able to interact with to as complex as defining the rooms and parts of a castle and its surroundings or the layout of a dungeon. By doing so, you’ll know the necessary level of detail you need in order to provide your characters. In doing the P5 books, I base locations off of what’s absolutely necessary for the subject matter and present the information in broad strokes, as I figure that the individual DMs can provide the needed details when necessary.

 Next time, more about my P5 RPG engine. 


Saturday, May 21, 2016

Unexpected Consequences from Spellcasting

Unexpected Consequences from Spellcasting
By: Jesse C Cohoon

There are a variety of things that can either go wrong, or cause the circumstances in which the spellcasters in your game to have unexpected, unforeseen consequences from their casting. These consequences can be beneficial, harmful or neutral in nature, due to the dynamics of the battlefield.

Damage, in general
One thing that RPGs tend to gloss over is that the scenery is capable of being damaged. For most things, this damage is either negligible or doesn’t make an impact in the game, but this doesn’t necessarily need to be so. If a building or cave is sufficiently damaged, it could collapse, trapping those inside the area, forcing others to dig them out in order to save them. If a person’s weapon or armor is damaged from spells, “normal” repairs might not work on it and ‘mending’ spells might be useless, because the spellcaster might not know how the item in question was made, however it can be house ruled that the character’s knowledge to repair items doesn’t matter. Items might become warped, unable to be bent back into shape. Their clothing could become worn and threadbare just from being exposed to various spells. Conversely, they might become brittle, and any attempt to work on it would damage it further. Glass objects in a character’s backpack can shatter, and the contents leak out and damage the rest of the character’s belongings.    

Fire Based Spells:
Fire based spells take oxygen, without enough of which, nothing can happen. If a magic user tries to cast a spell in such an environment, the spell slot is still used, but nothing happens. Or if there’s enough oxygen and not much more, the characters could start to suffocate, or pass out due to lack of oxygen.

Conversely, if you open an area that had been sealed off, which previously had been filled with an inert gas, there could be flammable crystals in there that, once exposed to fire would cause the fire based spell to become more powerful. Or there could be pockets of explosive gas. If others had gone through the area with fire based light sources, there could be scorch marks on the walls, ceiling, and ground. Some spells specifically state that the fire can catch flammable objects in the area afire. When you think about it, there’s not much that isn’t able to catch fire: clothes, plants, paper, and more.  

Water Based Spells
Water based spells pose an entirely different set of difficulties. Some of these may be able to be circumvented with house rules.

For instance, when creating food and water, where does the water go? Most characters don’t carry around buckets or a bathtub to either store or use the water as needed. If the just appears midair and falls to the ground, it doesn’t do much good, as the ground beneath, unless soaked already will simply absorb most of it. Even in a drought, most spellcasting characters aren’t going to be attempting to water a garden in that fashion either, as it’s inefficient.

In a stone based environment it’s not much better. Unless the cave floor is perfectly level, it’ll do what water naturally does: find the lowest point. Now this may lead the characters to have some interesting discoveries. For instance if the water is seeping under a crack in the wall, it may mean that there’s a secret passage there or there’s chambers beneath that need exploring.

Depending on the volume of water created and the speed at which it flows, it could cause flooding problems, and erode the plants anchoring a hillside in place. Or floods a town because the water, once started, can’t be stopped without a specific set of circumstances.    

In an all desert setting such as Dark Sun, because there is no water, the water has to come from somewhere: the plants and animals, the characters or NPCs, or even the planet itself. In normal deserts, however, having a large source of water appear would cause life to reemerge from the stasis. Within a few hours of the water’s arrival fish, frogs, insects, and more come alive, mate, give birth to offspring and die… only to burry themselves again to repeat the cycle again once more water appears.

Electricity Based Spells
Lightning and shocking types of spells have their own set of problems based on its ability to travel, or be transferred . 

The most basic unforeseen consequence is if a character in metal armor is able to hit an NPC or grapple them as they’re being struck by an electric spell, the damage would bleed over to the struck/ grappled character. The reason why this makes sense is because the electricity doesn’t “stay put”

If you cast an electric based spell onto someone who’s wet, they’ll take more damage. If you cast it into a body of water, it has the ability to travel further than you might think. See here https://www.reddit.com/r/askscience/comments/2wb16v/how_far_can_electricity_travel_through_water/ for the science behind it.

Casting “lightning bolt,” “forked lightning,” etc. into a cavern filled with veins of metal, might have it bouncing off the walls until the energy is used up. Conversely, casting lightning bolt into a crystalline structure such as the picture would cause it to scatter in all directions, possibly striking the caster.

Earth Based Spells
Earth based spells can also have their own set of unforeseen consequences. Casting “earthquake” in an earthquake prone area can cause the fault line to become more active than it would be normally, causing massive destruction over a much wider area than anticipated. Conversely, casting the same spell in a swamp or in a marshy area might not do much that much. Earthquakes in large bodies of water have the potential to be very destructive, due to the fact that they become tsunamis.

Digging in earth may not be safe either. Passageways or holes that the spells create may fill with water, possibly causing a sinkhole. If deep enough, lava is a concern. Furthermore, the magic may allow transport, but not breathing, such spellcasters would have to hold their breath the entire time they’re moving through the earth, and hope they can emerge before they suffocate.

Cold Based Spells
Wizard 101 IceCold spells like “cone of cold” and “ice storm” have their drawbacks. Even though many of the descriptions state explicitly that the snow and ice melt, that isn’t necessarily the end of it. In areas more susceptible to cold weather, the spell may simply bring in cold weather to an area earlier than it normally would arrive. This can have a ripple effect in your game. Winter comes early, kills crops, causes death of livestock, etc.

There can be other effects, too. In a cave the cold can get trapped in the stone, and radiate outward for a time. The ice can also remain longer without melting in a colder climate. The cold can actually do enough damage to plants to kill them as well.   

Monster Summon
What happens when the wrong monster is summoned, or a misunderstanding of the type of monster that the caster is asking for? The caster may not have control over it and it attacks the party for having the audacity to summon it. Or it resents being summoned, and follows orders begrudgingly, but not to the best of its ability. Or it tricks the caster into doing something stupid (like signing a contract) for its services, but instead enslaves the caster.   

Plant Based Spells
Plant based spells can have unplanned-for consequences as well. Think of things with today’s technology/ science. Adding “miracle grow” to a weed makes it get bigger. Same thing with the spell “plant growth.” Using weed killer to a plant damages it, by the roots, many times. What happens if you cast the spell on the wrong plant? An entire castle could be held captive to a giant thorn bush. The cave becomes impassable due to the overgrowth of molds/ slimes that the characters have to fight their way through. Conversely, what happens if you cast “horrid wilting” on a plant, but it’s not one, but the entire crop for the kingdom?   

Next time a spell is cast in your campaign, look for ways to have it do more than what the description says. You’ll add depth to your world, and give more challenges to your players by making them think “Do I want to cast this spell here and now?”