Monday, November 24, 2014

The Cure to an empty room

The Cure to an empty room
By Jesse C Cohoon

Instead of having an empty room in a map how about one of the following d12 choices
1) It's a trap. The exit seals and the following happens (roll a d8)
A) The room fills up with [d4] a) oil b) sand c) poisonous gas d) water
B) nozzles come out of the wall and spew fire to all the characters.
C) shards of glass or metal spheres that combine to become golem
D) The floor drops out beneath the characters, and they fall into a pit with [d4] a) spikes, b) snakes or other small dangerous creatures c) some sort of harmful substance such as a contact poison, mold or jelly d) nothing - just falling damage
E) The ceiling/ walls starts to collapse in on the characters inside or the room itself is a mimic
F) A monster is summoned that must be defeated in order for them to escape. 
G) The room becomes a slide and takes the characters to another place in the dungeon
H) The room separates the characters from each other, giving different challenges to each. 
2) Secret passage.. Where the passage leads is up to the DM
3) it's a library.  Roll on the following table: [d12]
A) Arcana (ancient mysteries, magic traditions, arcane symbols, cryptic phrases, constructs, dragons, magical beasts)
B) Architecture and engineering (buildings, aqueducts, bridges, fortifications)
C) Dungeoneering (aberrations, caverns, oozes, spelunking)
D) Geography (lands, terrain, climate, people)
E) History (royalty, wars, colonies, migrations, founding of cities)
F) Local (legends, personalities, inhabitants, laws, customs, traditions, humanoids)
G) Nature (animals, fey, giants, monstrous humanoids, plants, seasons and cycles, weather, vermin)
H) Nobility and royalty (lineages, heraldry, family trees, mottoes, personalities)
I) Religion (gods and goddesses, mythic history, ecclesiastic tradition, holy symbols, undead)
J) The planes (the Inner Planes, the Outer Planes, the Astral Plane, the Ethereal Plane, outsiders, elementals, magic related to the planes)
K) Erotica - books about sex
L) Races - useful information about different races in the game.
4) a thick layer of dust that causes the characters to start to sneeze and wheeze, causing penalties for attacking and defense
5) a garden. If underground, consider how the vegetation is getting enough light to grow. If above ground, consider it being a solarium, or greenhouse. 
6) A zoo. Captured creatures are in cages, a good many of them obviously dangerous.
7) A sanctuary of some kind, provides travelers with [d6] a} safety, as per the Secure Shelter spell b) those inside the room don't attract notice of wandering monsters c) accelerated healing: all normal damage is healed d) bonuses: characters taking refuge inside, grants a bonus for X number of hours after having left e) divine relief: all penalties disappear after spending X number of hours inside f) divine relief 2: all diseases, maladies, and curses are gone after spending X number of hours inside the sanctuary.
8) Interesting features [d4] a} Natural: stalagmites, stalactites, other stone features b) interesting architecture, possibly of a lost era c)  visual effects: the room acts as an optical illusion d)interesting but dangerous [d4] [1] ice [2] lava [3] poisonous swampland/ stagnant water [4] fire
9) common household items [d6] a) bedroom set (bed, table, lamp, comfortable chairs) b) a kitchen/ dining room c) a bath/ swimming pool/ steam room, etc d) an office (desk, chairs, some books, if in a modern era, a computer, printer, etc) e) living room (couches, seats, TV [if in modern era]) f) oddhouse/ bathroom     
10) a fighting arena/ gymnasium: this could be as simple as a boxing ring, all the way up to free weights/ machines designed to strengthen the users. 
11) Another dimension or time.The doorway is a portal to another dimension. Other rules of gravity, magic, etc may apply. Or a doorway into another time (past or future)
12) Teleport. The doorway teleports the characters, causing them to be someplace else entirely. Is what the characters see the actual place it transports them to, or is it an illusion?

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

A look at character attributes and race

A look at character attributes and race
By: Jesse C Cohoon

In most games in order to create a character you need to possess certain levels of various character attributes. But instead of saying that “due to X race (or monster) not having an attribute level of Y, it’s not playable” why not look at various attributes and find interesting ways of working around the deficiency.

Strength defines how much a character can physically pick up and carry around with them. It also defines how easy it is to burst out of bindings, how far the character can jump, gives a chance to bend bars, break doors, and gives damage bonuses (or penalties) to certain weapons. This attribute may be referred to as Power or Brute Force in some systems.

If a character’s race has a strength score of 0, they may be immobile because their body won’t allow the muscles to move. A real life example might be a paraplegic, or perhaps a deathly ill person. A fantasy equivalent would be something like a “brain in a jar.” But an alternative way of looking at strength might be to say that the character has no physical form in which to lift an object, and any object not treated with substances that allow ethereal creatures to manipulate it wouldn’t simply work.  

Dexterity tells how fast a person can avoid hits, how well they can perform legerdemain, ride a mount, how well they balance, how quietly they can move and how easily they can wiggle out of constraints. Some systems call this stat Agility, Finesse, or Quickness, which also gives this attribute a sense of how fast a character can travel.

If a character’s race has a dexterity score of 0, they may be a plant rooted in place or a statue rooted in place. But just because a character has a dexterity of 0 doesn’t mean that they are useless. Perhaps they are a computer program that in and of itself doesn’t have any movement, but when put into a body that they can control, they have the dexterity of the body that they possess. Another possibility is that they are a tree, but have the entire network of the forest to be their eyes and ears and limbs for them.

Constitution is the prime indicator of a character’s health. Sometimes it’s listed as Endurance, Vitality, or Resistance. Constitution tells how long a character can hold his or her breath, how long and how well they fare after strenuous activity, how well they can fight off disease, and, at least in D&D how well they can concentrate.

A character with a constitution score of 0 would find it difficult to move, as any exertion would be tiresome. They would also be quite sickly, in that their bodies could not fight off infectious disease. On the other hand, maybe the character’s health is tied into another system altogether. Maybe the character is undead, and such things wouldn’t bother them the way that they would a living creature. Maybe it’s a construct of some kind that doesn’t need a constitution score to function.

Intelligence showcases a character’s smarts. In some systems, this attribute may be listed as Reason, Mental or Education. Whatever it’s called, this attribute is the cornerstone to what a character knows, and how much they know. The higher the character’s intelligence, the more they know, and the more they can figure out.    

A character with an intelligence of 0 would be acting on instinct alone, and thus difficult to play as a part of a group. All a character’s skills, the ability to use language, their ability to think about future actions becomes nonexistent. But in some unique circumstances such a character might be playable.  Maybe the character by themselves has no intelligence such as an individual ant or bee in a colony, but the mass has intelligence because it makes decisions as a cohesive whole. The question is what happens when the lone soldier in such a situation gets cut off from the input of the others?  

Wisdom is an attribute which tells how easily fooled the character is, how perceptive they are, how well they inspect their work, and how well they can survive in various circumstances. This attribute is   sometimes called willpower in other systems is how    

A character’s race with a wisdom score of 0 would be incredibly naïve, believing anything that was told to them, no matter how ludicrous. They probably would not have any common sense. They might not be able to control their base impulses because they wouldn’t have the wisdom to do so. They would be extremely susceptible to magic, having no guards against such. The closest thing that comes to a race with a Wisdom score of 0 in current published works would be Dragonlance’s Kender.

Intelligence vs. Wisdom Zacharythefirst put the difference the following ways:

A character with a High Intelligence but Low Wisdom might be incredibly book smart, but continually makes poor decisions, is absent-minded in the extreme, and tends to miss "little picture" stuff in favor of "big picture" stuff. This is the incredibly learned wizard who basically needs a handler wherever he goes due to his eccentricity. One example might be Walter Bishop from the TV show Fringe, if that makes sense.

A character with Low Intelligence but High Wisdom might be considered a dullard by society's standards, but has some matter of insight, or might be very attuned to the smaller things in life. This person might be illiterate or might be an idiot savant, but they have a way of picking up on the simple, straightforward solutions that other people miss, perhaps because they're going for the "big picture" stuff.

Charisma can be looked at in several ways. One way might be a simple awareness of social situations, and the ability to manipulate them. Another might be linked to a person’s appearance. A third might be how tame and wild animals react to the character.

Depending which way of looking at charisma one uses, a character’s race with a score of 0 might be interpreted in a variety of ways. For instance a race might be totally socially blind and thus have either a severe case of Asperger’s syndrome or Autism. If this is the case, they might have a few moments of clarity and then they slip back into their own world.

If Charisma measures a race’s (true) appearance, a score of 0 would make anyone seeing then permanently insane. In cases like this, maybe the race has developed various ways of disguising their appearance. In the case of appearance it could be that the person is filthy, and doesn’t take care of their hygiene, has bad breath, missing teeth, messed-up greasy hair and soiled clothing.

On the other hand, if Charisma represents the way animals react to the character’s race, this can be played out in a number of ways. Perhaps the animals sense that there is something “unnatural” about the character. Maybe the character’s aurora disturbs them and it makes them uncomfortable. It’s also possible that the character was mean to animals in the past and animals sense that about them. Depending on the exact situation, the animals may seek to flee from the character, or attack.  

Instead of saying “no you can’t play a race with any of these deficiencies,” why not see how to make the fact these can add interest to your game?  

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Sunday, November 9, 2014

Top 8 ways to Choose Your Game’s Playable Races

Top 8 ways to Choose Your Game’s Playable Races
By: Jesse C Cohoon

Fantasy races are a staple of roleplaying games. But just because you have a million races to choose from, doesn’t necessarily mean all of them are appropriate for your game. When deciding on which to allow (and say firmly, they can’t be played), consider the following ideas:

1)      Consider what world the game is to take place. Game worlds such as Faerûn, Krynn, Eberron, or your own are unique homebrew world each has its own personality, its own unique feel. Importing or introducing races from another world into a pre-generated world – or even your own world, if it is to be done at all, needs to be done carefully, deftly. 

One tactic to use to have a unique group of heroes brought together to a location is to have them be summoned there, and they can’t leave until their task is completed. Another tactic is to have some dark entity snatching them from wherever they’re adventuring to be transported to another world, and they must find their way back. A third way to bring them together is to have them all be survivors of some sort of disaster. In a BESM (Big Eyes, Small Mouth – anime) game I played once the players all were brought together from MegaCorp, which essentially “owned” the characters and told them what to do, because of the fact that they saved their lives.

2)      Consider the area’s geography, weather conditions, elevation, and depth. Ask yourself what races would be comfortable there. Elves, for instance, with their love of nature, trees and lush areas, would fare poorly in a completely desert area. Neither would Aarakocra do well in a campaign set completely underground nor would dwarves feel comfortable in a city in the clouds. While it might make for an interesting campaign, if you didn’t factor these types of things into the game, such combinations simply “don’t belong.”

3)      Consider the town’s size. A large metropolitan area, such as Waterdeep in Faerun, Sharn in Eberron or Sigil: the “city of doors” in a Planescape campaign are all likely to have more races going through them, then, let’s say a backwater down in the middle of nowhere. The more populous the city, the more likely that the race the player is wanting to play will have a reason for being there.

4)      Consider the town’s political climate. A dwarven town that is at war with a neighboring Giant tribe isn’t likely to take too kindly to a Giant player character. Neither would a forest full of elves at war with their neighboring Orcish village be happy about a half orc party member. Sometimes these types of situations can be fun to play, but they can quickly become tiresome after awhile. As a DM you have to ask yourself ‘Is the trouble that this type of a character would cause worth the trouble it would cause in the long run?”

5)      Consider the time frame. In most gaming worlds, the game is set in what amounts to the dark ages/ early renaissance period. Some gaming worlds are set in feudal Japan. Consider what would happen if the game is set in the early days of the races, how they might have developed to where they are. Also consider if the races are in the far off future: What races would have become extinct? If so which ones? What races would have survived? How would their survival change them as a race? How would their survival change the game world?   

6)      Consider the race’s scale compared to everyone else. A giant will not be able to fit into a halfling’s community. Neither will a human sized creature be able to fit into a badger’s hole without great difficulty. Depending on the creature’s size, they may have a very difficult time fighting in cramped (or too large) of quarters/ passageways.

7)      Consider the race’s mindset. Any race whose mindset is world domination, extreme xenophobia, or see other races as food such as beholders, Yuan-Ti, or orcs, among others – generally speaking isn’t a good choice for a player character, unless you have an “evil only” group.

In one blog/ article I read the DM allowed the players to play evil characters, allowing them to take over the world. Then he flipped the script with the next campaign was in the same gaming world with the group of heroes having to “take back” the world from the clutches of evil.     

8)      Consider the race’s powers / abilities. Allowing an over powered monster to join a party can be a recipe for disaster if handled improperly. For instance, how would you make sure that monsters would be a threat to the more powerful character, but at the same time, wouldn’t wipe out the lower-level characters? Even challenges such as traps would have to be modified so that they would be specifically more deadly for the more powerful character, yet no more deadly for the average character. 

Keep in mind with this advice that I’m not saying “in all these situations always say ‘no’ to players,” but these are simply things that need to be kept in mind when designing your game. Also remember that just because this advice used fantasy races, doesn’t mean it’s not applicable in science fiction. I could just as easily be talking about Humans, Vulcans, and Klingons in Star Trek or any of dozens of races in the Star Wars franchise. 
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