Wednesday, July 30, 2014


Readers of this blog will know that I'm into heavily homebrewing my campaign. If I were running games right now, I'd be running a weird cross between S&W and ACKS with some LotFP and DCC RPG thrown in for good measure, along with plenty of stuff I've taken from the OSR blogosphere and some of my own contributions.

Homebrewing is fun, and, especially when I do it in consultation with my players, results in a game that is more fun to play for us than running a game straight would usually be. Over time the game is shaped to fit us like a glove.

I've noticed a cycle, though, in homebrewing. I find my homebrewing getting out of hand, the complexities and ramifications needing to be resolved and enumerated. For example, I've decided to include something like a Carcosan sorcerer in my games, as well as various academies of magic, and to have the clerics tied intimately with the setting… all of that requires a good deal of either figuring out the execution, a good amount of time sitting down and generating/writing it all out, or both. In the meantime, if I'm going to start running my old game again, I need to write some more dungeon. It's all pretty exhausting and I find myself taking a step back sometimes until I get another burst of energy to finish the current cycle of changes I want to make and it makes sense to run games again.

I don't like this.

I want to be running and playing games all the time. I don't want for it to be a chore. Here's my solution.

On the one hand, I'm breaking the homebrewing I need to do up into manageable chunks in the form of a 'zine. I'm trying to decide whether I'll make it available to others, and if I do I'll probably get a few issues done first so I create a time buffer and know I can deliver, but just breaking everything into one or two pages of a digest-sized 8-page 'zine, I think, will help me to take it bit by bit, not all at once.

On the other hand, in order to get playing again I think I'm going to start running DCC RPG straight, and use written modules instead of my own dungeon. I'm funding the Peril on the Purple Planet Kickstarter, which is on track to reach all of its stretch goals if it brings in about $600 each of the remaining eleven days. As part of my funding, I'm buying four modules that should level my players up from 0 level to 4th level, ready for the Peril on the Purple Planet. There's a FLGS that opened up recently and, along with asking about buying Zocchi dice, I want to see about setting up a face-to-face game and maybe creating a gaming group there.

The things I like about DCC RPG is that it's different enough from the directions I'm going in my own homebrewing that I think it will diminish my temptation to homebrew it, and yet it also is committed to OSR gaming… and is all sorts of zany, dice-whimsical fun.

So, anyway, that's where I am with my gaming right now. Hopefully I'll be checking in more in the future, but no guarantees right now.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Setting Design by Committee

I realize the conventional wisdom is that doing much of anything creative by committee, or even in a team, is a poor idea, especially when it comes to RPGs, but I've been wondering…

What if a dozen or so people got together and everyone who had an idea (the more out-of-the-box the better, though creative, interesting takes on classic/traditional-style settings are allowed) for a setting drew lots to decide who's idea they would work on first. Then they spend six months fleshing out the setting together, improving the format, making art, writing gazetteers and bestiaries and porting them into 3-5 different systems to be released simultaneously.

And then what if they spent the next six months writing adventures. There would be some leeway for each person to contribute during the setting creation phase, but the real license to go their own way would come here, with all kinds of adventures, varying in tone, style (sand-boxy hooks and relationships, one-shots, adventure paths, etc.), seriousness, whatever.

Then, after those adventures have been released, we have a reasonably well developed setting, complete with maybe 20-30 adventures. That counts as well-supported, I'd say.

Then everyone with an idea for a setting draws lots again and works on fleshing out a new setting for the next six months.

Then, during the six-month adventure-writing phase adventures are allowed to be written for either setting already produced, allowing for continuing support. The added choice, especially as the cycles continue, encourages fresh, exciting, well-done adventures, with more settings hopefully increasing the chance of good ideas occurring to adventure writers.

As this continues, more people join in, allowing for new settings to still have enough adventures written for them and eventually allowing some members to skip the setting-creation cycles sometimes and write adventures for 18 months straight.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

I've Got Your Sword-Wielding Wizards Right Here!

Idea for a magic system:

  1. Enough non-magic-using classes that you think the campaign will be interesting. How many counts as interesting obviously depends on you and your players.
  2. A spell list.

Only non-magic-using classes are available. When stocking treasure, increase the chances of magic scrolls being found by at least 2, maybe more, depending on just how much magic you want the PCs to have access to.

When characters find magic scrolls, they can choose to read them. If they read them, the magic spells leap from the scrolls into their heads (erasing the scroll). They now know the spell and can cast it, as with standard Vancian magic. Casting a spell memorized in this way erases the spell from memory, as with standard Vancian magic. There is a 1/6 chance that such spell scrolls are labeled so that characters can determine what the spell is before reading and memorizing the scroll. 

The number of spells that can be held in memory at one time is limited by class level. The simplest way to do this is to have the number of spells memorized be equal to or less than the class level.

Whenever the character levels up while having one or more spells memorized there is a chance (a Wisdom check, or # of currently memorized spells/20, say) that one of the memorized spells (select randomly) will "stick" and the character will be able to cast the spell indefinitely. The simplest way is to allow each "permanently memorized" spell to be cast once a day.

Ways to make this more complicated:
  • Labeled scrolls may be mis-labeled
  • Stipulate that spells of spell level higher than class level may not be memorized
  • Stipulate that total spell LEVELS memorized must be equal to or less than class level
  • Bolt on some sort of damage or sanity mechanic, or some other consequence, if memorizing more spells or spell levels than is allowed is attempted; if spell levels rather than spells are being counted, this means that memorizing an unknown spell is always a risk
  • Alternately, stipulate that the only way to read a spell (and figure out what it is) without memorizing it is to read it while already having memorized the maximum number of spells currently allowed to be memorized
  • Introduce costs to casting a spell, such as hit points or attribute points, which replenish at some rate
  • Stipulate that how often a permanently acquired spell can be used depends on class level and spell level ratio. For example:
    • A spell that is 4 or more spell levels below the character's class level is an at-will spell
    • A spell that is 2 or 3 spell levels below the character's class level can be cast 3 times a day
    • A spell that is within 1 spell level of the character's class level can be cast once a day
    • A spell that is 2 or 3 spell levels above the character's class level can be cast 3 times a week
    • A spell that is 4 or more spell levels above the character's class level can be cast once a week
  • If using a system like this to determine how often a permanent spell can be cast, choose between having the frequency with which a particular acquired spell can be cast either always stay the same as it was when first acquired or increase as the character levels up
  • Bring in a second spell list. The first list is for the spells that can be found. The second list is rolled on to determine permanently acquired spells. Arcane spells could be found, but Divine spells acquired, both Arcane and Divine spells could be found, but psionic powers are acquired, etc.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Blessed Helmet of Flummoxification

The Blessed Helmet of Flummoxification appears to be a standard, well-made riveted helmet. When found, it is immaculately clean and usually finds its way onto a pedestal that will mysteriously be lit as from above. The Helmet smells faintly of garlic and onions.

The Helmet radiates magic so strongly that any caster with Detect Magic even prepared will sense magic radiating from it, and those who cast Detect Magic on it will sense what is most likely the strongest emanation of magic they have ever sensed…

Part of the magic, however, is that no amount of trying will reveal what the Helmet does! The Helmet may be put on and taken off with ease - the only obvious sign that this is not technically a cursed item.

The benefits of the Helmet last only until the Helmet is removed. They are:
  • ONCE per owner, the Helmet will restore all hit points and health, healing all injuries, neutralizing all poison, removing all curses, restoring all drained levels and experience, etc. This will ONLY occur when death is otherwise inevitable (most commonly when hit points drop to whatever it takes to die in your system of choice).
  • The Helmet improves the wearer's AC by 1 more than a normal helmet.
  • The wearer of the Helmet adds +1 to attack and damage rolls.
  • Whenever the wearer of the Helmet would normally be surprised, the wearer instead surprises the enemy. If the enemy would normally have a bonus to attack or damage, or some other ability, during a surprise round, such as a backstabbing ability, the wearer of the Helmet gets that bonus or ability for the surprise round.
  • While the Helmet is worn, none of the costs of the Helmet adversely affect the wearer's ability to conduct combat. Any actual benefits to combat from the costs are adjudicated by the Referee, as are in-combat disadvantages if not wearing the Helmet.
Whenever the Blessed Helmet of Flummoxification is put on, a random effect upon the wearer takes place. Roll on the following table to determine the random effect:
  1. Nose grows into an elephantine trunk
  2. Earlobes droop to the knees
  3. Eyebrows sprout half-sized peacock plumes
  4. Mouth replaced by hawk's beak
  5. Ears grow into pachyderm flaps
  6. Beard grows or falls off, depending on previous beardedness
  7. Grows long, gerbil-like tail
  8. Face turns various shades of red, blue, green and yellow, which migrate slowly across the face in patches
  9. Nose increases 3 times in size and is covered in scales
  10. Canine teeth grow into saber-tooth fangs
  11. Canine teeth grow into large tusks
  12. Mouth grows into a duck's beak
  13. Ears turn into a bloodhound's flaps
  14. Mouth and nose turn into a mastiff's mouth and nose
  15. Eyes grow out on stalks, like a slug or snail's
  16. A small octopus tentacle sprouts from each cheek and temple (4 total)
  17. Fairy-like antennae sprout from forehead
  18. Eyes bulge out into fly-like compound eyes
  19. Daisies burst forth from the elbows and knees
  20. Each finger is replaced by a finger-length, fully prehensile tentacle
The mechanical and/or role-playing penalties (or benefits) of these effects are left to the referee to adjudicate as the referee sees fit.

The costs of the Helmet last NOT until the Helmet is removed, but until the wearer loses consciousness. This means two things:
  • If the wearer manages to sleep with the Helmet on through the night, the wearer may wear the Helmet the next day with all the benefits and none of the costs. An unsecured Helmet has an 80% chance to fall off during sleep. Measures taken to secure the Helmet to the wearer's head during sleep are adjudicated on an individual basis by the Referee using common sense.
  • If the wearer dons the Helmet, takes it off and then puts it on again during a single period of consciousness, the wearer now experiences TWO random effects. Taking it off and putting it on again once more results in THREE random effects simultaneously affecting our unwise hero.
There are rumors of a Cursed Helmet of Flummoxification, completely identical to the Blessed Helmet except that it has no benefits and cannot be removed once put on, per normal cursed item rules.