Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Snippets from Grim Tales Combat Rules

In dramatic situations, such as combat, the sequence of events becomes increasingly important, so determining who may act after whom is necessary. Participants (PCs and NPCs alike) roll 1d20 + Wits (+other bonuses if any) to determine their initiative score, based upon which they are placed in the Combat Queue in decreasing order. Equal scores favour PCs, and further ties are broken by negotiation between the players.

The first character in the Queue takes two actions (either two Minor actions, or a combination of a Major and a Minor action), then they are placed to the bottom of the Queue, and the next person takes their turn, and so forth. Characters may have a Reaction even when it is not their turn to act. That, however, puts them on the defensive, and they are placed right below the participant whose action they attempt to counter, thus delaying their own turn.

Major actions include melee and ranged attacks, charges, and most actions aimed at significantly altering the opponent's state. Minor actions include readying a weapon, reloading a crossbow, or traversing the battlefield (distances are handled in abstract Zones). Reactions are the likes of parrying an attack, rolling behind cover, etc.

If an attack hits, roll two six-siders called Red and Black. Damage depends on the weapon wielded (light weapons deal the lowest of them, heavy the highest, and medium equal to Red). If Black is a 6, it also triggers the weapon’s special effect.

Damage is deducted from the target's hit points. When someone loses all of their hit points, they become Incapacitated. When an Incapacitated character takes Damage, they receive an Injury, that applies one of the following three conditions to the character: (1) scarred, (2) maimed, or (3) dead. Each can only be opted for only once.

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Grim Tales Hexcrawling

This post sums up the streamlined hexcrawling procedures I developed for Grim Tales. This lacks the tables referenced in the rules (except for the master level "Event Table"). I'd like to thank Gavin Norman, whose recent blog posts really inspired me.

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Zweihänder Rules Summary

Originally made for my players, here is a rules summary of Zweihänder, a grim and perilous fantasy role-playing game.

Saturday, 3 September 2016

Zweihänder - Session #0

Dramatis Personae
  • Ozir the Stump
    Elderly, Corpulent Ogre Hedgewise
    Scholastic Lowborn
    Ferocity/Hatred
    Drawback: Veteran's Foot
  • Ray "Walking Stick" Reddington
    Elderly, Slender Human Pugilist
    Reverent Lowborn
    Adaptation/Mayhem
    Drawback: Cursed
  • Sir Fergus Witherwaddle
    Middle-Aged, Frail Human Slayer
    Villainous Aristocrat
    Humility/Incompetence
    Drawback: Black Cataract
Events, Thoughts, Etc.
  • Character creation was pretty smooth. Everyone rolled twice for Racial Trait and Profession. Otherwise, everything (except the choice of Human/Demihuman, Archetype, sex, and starting weapon) was determined randomly.
  • Everyone opted for a Drawback to gain a second Fate Point. Ultimately, we ended up with a crew of elder adventurer wannabes. Cue in Silver Horde jokes by the dozen.
  • Didn't prepare much in terms of setting and plot, so it was mostly about making sure the players were familiar with the system (a Skill Test or two, a straightforward combat, stopping some Bleeding, that sort of stuff).
  • Party encountered a pair of wolves attacking a trio of small children. Put down the wolves. Took children to the village (one of them was severely injured). Went to look for their father, the lumberjack.
  • Another player will probably join, too. I expect an other handicapped elder, so... more Silver Horde jokes. Maybe Expendables, too. Won't lie, I'll enjoy hurting them. Unfortunately, so will they.

Monday, 22 August 2016

Comprehensive List of OSR Games

I present to you a comprehensive list of OSR/D&D-esque games. Only those games qualified that are either (1) retroclones (presenting an older system with or without modification; e.g. Kazamaták és Kompániák and AS&SH), (2) belong to the OSR by consensus (games building off of D&D's mechanics in innovative ways; e.g. Mazes & Minotaurs and Ghastly Affair), or (3) old-school in gameplay (having the same or very, very similar gameplay to D&D but with a different system; e.g. Torchbearer and Dragon Age).

Mind you the list includes games that had to do with 3E and 4E as well, so it is not strictly pre-3E D&D, and even some edge cases are on the list, such as Zweihänder and OpenQuest, which are clones of WFRP and Runequest, respectively (but the gameplay patterns are notably still D&D-esque, and they fit the spirit of the DIY OSR community). I fancy the term broad OSR (because some people would argue Wayfarers or Radiance disqualifies), but that might as well be as inaccurate as narrow D&D-esque (but then where's Infernum and Warcraft d20, one might ask).

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Thematic OSR Games

This is a taxonomic post; its goal is to establish a term referring to a subset of OSR products. Using the Pundit's terminology, these are a subset of third-wave OSR products, while in Dan Proctor's terms they fit the broader category of neo-retro games. Alternatively, you may just want to read further to find some cool games.

The OSR has many wonderful things to offer from straight-up clones (e.g. OSRIC and Labyrinth Lord) to neo-clones with refined mechanics (e.g. ACKS and AS&SH), from fantastic adventures (e.g. Slumbering Ursine Dunes and Deep Carbon Observatory) to innovative supplements (e.g. Red Tide and Vornheim). But one of the many kinds of products - one that I might enjoy the most - seems to attract less appreciation: thematic games.

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Grim Tales, Playtest 1

We had our first playtest of Grim Tales (well, more like a proof of concept session), this dark fantasy thing I have been thinking about lately. It has been on my mind for quite some time, but reading Blood & Bronze (a fantastic sword & sorcery game) was the catalyst I needed to start fleshing out my ideas.

The basic concept behind Grim Tales was to give players certain unique tools, abilities that don't just enhance something they can already do but provide them opportunities they otherwise wouldn't have (possibly mitigating risks in some endeavours, thus rewarding pro-activity). This was done by introducing a list of unique backgrounds (a sampling of which can be found here).

Characters present:
  • Melvina Shabriri, a Cambion Witch
  • Wolfgang Tranquility, a Shadowtorn Warrior
  • N/A, a Nameless Scoundrel
  • Balthasar Corvus, a Skinthief Scoundrel
Highlights and stuff I've taken away from this session:
  • I didn't prep a proper adventure, just a bunch of loosely connected personalities, their goals, and the general environment, much like with my previous Vikings & Valkyries campaign. We started the session with a bogus mission of sorts (find the lost brother of some mayor), but ultimately the players found enough toys to play with instead of completing the quest.
  • The resolution system works fine (roll [Attribute] six-siders; count 5s and 6s; the more the better), although I'm not sure if it adds to the game (I might end up playtesting certain things used as an overlay onto B/X).
  • The players really liked their special abilities, although now I think the Backgrounds might be too exciting compared to the Classes. I think I want to keep the mostly mundane aspect of Classes, though, so I might just add more varied and flavourful items to their equipment lists.
  • The players got themselves involved in a religious conflict going on in the shadows. The village's priest had an artefact (a grail that grants sacrifical wine ale special properties) that he had hidden, and apparently some people (the priest's right hand man included) were conspiring to acquire it.
  • There was another artefact in the village: a small scythe's blade that when attached to the sacred (and, as it turns out, purely ornamental) scythe's handle, became a magical object (its capabilities yet unknown to the players).
  • The players, as they were trying to figure out who is against whom, switched sides a couple of times, basically ending up with most major participants dead. Except they know the priest tried to contact allies in the nearby town.
  • They went deep in the forest and witnessed a horrific ritual that bore demons into the world. Despite the session's generally jovial nature (and that's a huge understatement), this scene managed to invoke feelings of uneasiness, so not all was lost.
  • As it stands now, the Skinthief poses as the former under-priest. They claimed the forest people killed the priest, so they basically run the village now (although some elders might not like what they are doing).
  • The Nameless, although really flavourful as a concept, probably shouldn't work in a party if we take the ability to its logical conclusions. I think I can sacrifice immersion for the party's sake for now.
  • The Skinthief is really fun to watch in the hands of a creative and proactive player. Need to turn up the ability's cast time, though. Regardless, his ability alone can make so many shenanigans possible, it definitely stays.
  • The Shadowtorn is pretty sweet as is, but I'll keep a close eye on him to make sure its restrictions are clear but not overly limiting.
  • The Cambion mostly shined in providing moral dilemmas for the player (whether they should give in their darker self; it helped that as a witch she had opportunities to gain power in exchange for terrible things). It is certainly something the player was happy to play with, and had she chosen otherwise, the Background wouldn't have provided much in terms of gameplay, so I might need to rectify that.