Saturday, February 27, 2010


According to the Legend Quest rule book:
Adventurers have a special “edge” that allows them to perform at their best in the worst of situations. Others, not as at ease with adventuring, will suffer for their lack of that “edge”. Any non-adventurer will be -20 on initiative, defense and sensing rolls. This is to simulate jumpiness, distractions and not always looking over one’s shoulder.
So is “adventuring” the only time this happens? No! A well used optional rule within the play-testing crew has been that this lack of an edge affects a wide range of environments where one might not be familiar. Here are some examples:
Sea Legs - Any land lubber on a boat would experience the same type of penalty. They wouldn’t know where to stand, how to avoid the ropes/sails, would be more unsteady on their feet, etc. Once they gained their sea legs, typically by being on the boat for a week or so, they would likely not suffer the penalty, even if they never fought during that initial period of time.
Mounts - There are already rules about mounted combat, but what about switching to a completely different mount? Put a skilled horseman on a flying pegasus, and he is going to suffer a penalty. Not only is the three dimensional form of combat likely to be new to him, but he is also going to have to look out for those massive wings. No use clipping your own stead’s wings while trying to stay in the air. The same would be true of a person riding a massive beast, such as a dragon or elephant for the first time. Without training, it would be incredibly difficult to balance on a back that you can no longer wrap your legs around.
Flying - On a similar front, someone who had never flown before (we’re assuming a flying spell or some other sort of individual magic here), would suffer the penalty. Imagine strapping on inline skates for the first time and then trying to conduct a sword fight. That’s what flying should be like.
Major Military Action - Skirmishes are one thing, but when you line up 10,000 soldiers of each side of the battlefield, fighting becomes a whole different thing. For those (and we mean adventurers here) who have not drilled in close order combat with large numbers of troops, simply being shoulder to shoulder with 10K of your closest buddies is going to throw you off your game. The comedy in my head right now is a guy with a flail standing in a line of pikemen. There was a reason that all those soldiers used spears, while adventurers often go for more exotic weapons - spear work great in close quarters. Anyway, not being use to that style of combat should put those folks at a disadvantage.
Underground - Similar to close quarters would be underground. Here it is likely the walls and ceiling that are going to hang you up instead of your buddies, but the effect is similar.
Let’s stop being so long winded and just hit some of the other environments: underwater, on the back of a giant sea turtle (you run your campaign your way, I’ll run mine my way), volcano/hell, a gravel (unsteady) path on the side of a mountain, amidst the trees (no, not on the ground - actually up in the tree limbs standing on branches), zero gravity, and the list just goes on and on.

Why do you do this? Well for two reasons - #1 - it makes sense. #2 - it can help you even the “playing field” against your heroes. Adventurers should be better suited to investigate a haunted coal mine then the local sheriff. (That’s a revenue maker for your players.) At the same time, the duke’s sentries should be better suited to take the field, than some dragon slayer. Oh, he’d still be a fearsome foe, but he’s out of his element. Quick example - A group of halflings live amongst the boulders on a steep mountain side. Not only have they adapted their defenses to take advantage of the difficult and often blocked pathways, but they have learned to fight and move like mountain goats. With these nimble warriors leaping from boulder to boulder while stabbing with their daggers, they should have an advantage over anyone who assaults their mountain home and fights, well, like a normal person. Think of it this way - How many American kung-fu movies have you seen where the American hero keeps getting kicked by the martial artists, because he doesn’t know how to defend himself. So he dodges for a short time and watches the speed demon attacking him, until finally, he reaches out and blocks the kick. OK, not the best analogy, but it is like that. Given time, they can get use to this environment and style of combat, but the first couple of times, they’re going to be like the new kid on the inline skates.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Character Backgrounds

How’s this for a character background: (This character actually exists in an on-going campaign as an NPC.) From his earliest memories, he has been an orphan and been fascinated with magic. One day at the orphanage, the local noblewoman was visiting, but a band of villains attacked her. They used magic to put everyone to sleep; everyone but this little boy. He played possum, but watched them. When the heroes arrived, he was able to give them descriptions and point them in the right direction. Because of his information, the heroes were able to rescue the noblewoman. She returned to reward him, and asked him what he wanted (expecting to give him cash). He said he wanted to be the apprentice of the wizard/enchanter among the heroes. Now he is. That was three or four years ago, and now he’s 15 and gaining a strong magical education.
So where did your character learn to cast spells? From a powerful adventuring wizard hero! My character was in the right place at the right time and through luck and slightly higher mental attributes, resisted a powerful spell.
Now what’s wrong? Well, this PC now has a very powerful mentor and guardian who will likely bail him out of trouble whenever it becomes necessary. Do the other PCs have that? Should any of them have that?
Gamemasters need to demand that players actually come up with character backgrounds, but they cannot let those backgrounds cause unbalance in the game. Too often GMs let these things go because they sound cool, not thinking of the nightmare it will cause later in the campaign.
Force the players to think up something cool, but restrict them from anything unfair. If you’re stuck for good ideas, pick up a copy of Character Foundry (e23 or RPGNow), the character building books we put out a short time ago.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Gauging Enemies

So my son is starting to game master. Of course - he swears he doesn’t need to write anything down in order to GM. Actually tapped his temple to tell me it was “all in there”. Yeah, LOVE that in a GM!
OK - so one of his earlier mistakes involved giving the enemy wolves 12,000 LB - Yes, that would be 2,000 Endurance. But Wait! The players’ weapons did % die damage (1-100 or 2-150). He felt this was entirely reasonable. Truth be told, the players would have won. Of course, it would have taken them 200 hours, but hey - these kids had some time on their hands.
So I made a spreadsheet. It lists chance to hit, defense, damage and LB for both physical and magical. (One list for the good guy and one for the bad guy) It computes the % chance of success and uses that compared to the damage and LB to compute # of turns it would take to kill someone. That way you can compare how many turns it would take either character to kill the other. If there is a party, divide the turns by the number of guys per side.
Is this the world’s greatest gauge of threat level? Of course not. But it’s turning out to be a sweet little tool that makes you think. Once you spend the four minutes to create it, it only takes a couple of seconds to drop in the numbers.