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Sunday, June 5, 2016

Combat frontage and dungeon design in D&D

Want to make your D&D combat on a 5' grid feel a bit more like OD&D? Make your basic hallway map square a spacious 15' by 15', translating to 3 combat squares across, or assume three guys fit in 10 feet if playing theater of the mind. Why? Well, back in the day, moving on from playing Chainmail to D&D in early '75,  we packed three guys into line to fill a rank in a 10' hallway, based on historical close order infantry like Romans and Anglo Saxon shieldwalls. One 10' by 10' square held nine, not four guys. Two guy could space a bit open order or split the gaps to the walls on either side and hold a hallway without being flanked, since there was no "snap to grid" of 3rd ed and later, but three could pack in and fight as the first rank.

This makes a bit of a difference in dungeon crawls, since except in real chokepoints like doorways, bigger parties didn't become such straggle-fests of characters with their line of sight to the enemy blocked. A typical optimized heavy melee front of PCs and hireling warriors was three with weapon and shield in front and three more with pole weapons or missiles or casters in the second rank.

The 5' grid of later standardization is for the convenience of miniatures play with big single bases after scale creep had driven up the size of figures to 28mm and beyond, often on 1" circle or square bases. Three dinky little 25mm Minifigs or McEwans on close order basing will fit a 10' passage on those maps as long as you aren't sticky-grid about it.

Does it matter? A bit. Besides more guys obviously getting to do something in a basic hallway, and more possibilities for flanking in a hallway fight, if you don't do 15' but do 10' is three squares, fireballs and other area effects are even more lethal, when over twice as many slavering orcs can pack in and be blasted by one.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

The Hiring Hall

Hiring Hall is a new web app I made, drawing on DunGen and DunMap. It's a hireling generator, sort of like Meatshields, which helped inspire me to make it by being down long enough to annoy one of the GMs I play with. Meatshields is quite good. I hope it comes back. But in the meantime, and afterwards for variety's sake, give Hiring Hall a try.

There are some shortcomings with it being a one day project, so far. The names are lifted right out of the namer for NPCs encountered in dungeons in DunGen and DunMap. So they are a bit dark and florid for your usual bunch of torchbearers and mercenaries. The weapons to character class matches are poor for some of the rarer classes, like monks and druids. So edit those when they come up inappropriate. Some of the quirky adjective phrases are out of place in this context, like describing someone as especially well equipped when they roll off the same table as everyone else. Maybe give them a bump in gear if that comes up, or a magic item. I fudged hit points to a D6 + 1 for all mercenary/soldier types, 1d6 for noncombatant servants, and D8 per level for fighter type classes and D6 per level for other levelled classes to keep the coding down.  There is room to add a lot of customization controls, and option in the historical names lists in place or in addition to the syllable masher. All of this stuff is grist for iteration.

But it generates NPCs. Some of them make me laugh out loud when I consider using them. That's a win. And it got me coding game stuff again and some of the data structures I added to equip characters for it can feed right back into DunGen and DunMap.


Thursday, May 5, 2016

Something I have always wanted to do...

I have shied away from attempting landscape painting for decades. Painted hundreds of minis, lots of table top terrain, and not one painting to backdrop it for photos.

Until yesterday.

I took some photos Sunday of my layout for my first game of Andrea Sfiligoi's Of Gods and Mortals*  that I quite liked but the background room clutter really detracted. I started thinking about how I really ought to get started with the airbrush and make a backdrop to hide the clutter for better pictures. Whited in the sky on a couple of handy still-flattened box lids Sunday. Well, I backed off on learning to airbrush too and finished the first painting as a regular brushed painting with some cheap craft store acrylics I usually use for terrain last night. I'm pretty happy with the mountain, not as much with the clouds. But now I know I can do something good enough to use. With the dam broken, I can start getting better. And maybe start learning that airbrush too.

Anyway, here it is, proof of concept...

The painting by itself. Yeah, the box lid folds and corrugations show. But it is basically a throwaway learning piece. Took about an hour and a half maybe. I was in the zone and really don't know. There are some little flecks of white still there from a stupid ancient bottle of blue paint whose lid crumbled to plastic dust as I tried to open it. Got most of them off...

Anubis in a fearsome aspect.
I learned that having tall shadow casting terrain and a sharp board edge in front of the painting is a bad idea. Could take down the towering bits and plunk some lichen or rocks down at the board edge to break the flat line . But hey, he's awesome, so I want a picture here of him until I take a better one! He's an old Diablo-related action figure that I based up on two bases, one for each foot, since he is so big, and could stand, if unstably, without any base at all.


Sobek's left flank guard is the mighty BOAR CROC!



I think my next one will be on foam core to be wider and still lightweight, and not have corrugations to show through. Maybe do two so as to be able to line a 6 foot table edge?

(Thanks to the guys that reported the pictures problem. I was able to see in from Safari on my work machine. I have re-uploaded the broken images by another path and will see if they are visible soon.)

* Published by Osprey. More on the Anubis vs Sobek game I'm doing with it in my next blog post. I think its going to rock.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

The Quicksilver Bow, a Magic Item

The Quicksilver Bow was crafted for the werewolf hunting ranger Ivar the Night Stalker by his friend Venable the Mad Wizard. It looks like a finely crafted composite bow with silver inlay that ripples and shifts over its surface like the patterns on a cuttlefish. It provides no bonuses to shooting or damage most of the time. When drawn against a werewolf or other target that is vulnerable to silver arrows, some of the quicksilver flows over the head of the arrow, silvering it on the fly.

Ivar found great success using the Quicksilver Bow for over a decade, in an illustrious career of surprising duration for a man so frequently endangered by werewolves, but all things have their costs and he eventually succumbed to heavy metal poisoning.  Mad as a hatter for much the same reason, he was imprisoned on a particularly bad day by the city watch of Fellstein. Long and repeated use (on the order of  several years) will afflict PCs similarly.

It is rumored that Venable also made a Quicksilver Sheath that treats the longsword drawn from it the same way if it is drawn in the presence of a creature vulnerable to silver weapons.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Frostgrave at DundraCon

So, I have been silent on the blog for over  a month now, what have I been up to?

FROSTGRAVE!

I'm scheduled to run Frostgrave at DundraCon, Friday Feb. 12 at 4 PM. I expect it will go two rounds with a campaign turn in between and one at the end. The maximum player count I set was eight, so I will have two tables going, either as two 4 player games or four 2 player games. It will be starting warbands with 500 GC. You can bring your own, and I'll have figures for eight pregens set up, with a list for each school of wizard. I've been working a lot on scenery to give it that Frostgrave flavor. Here is a vignette shot on terrain a recent practice game, as an example:



















An earlier practice game before the round towers got painted:



















And here is a shot of my painting table with treasure markers and guys in progress:



And some scenery in progress:




Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Annoying Magic Items

Tonight, while digging for other things, I came across a sheet of paper with a list of mostly flawed magic items I wrote out in one of those silly DM moments. Apologies if this is an inadvertent reblog.

Con-man Sword I10 E12, no other powers but talking, pretends it can Detect Slopes, Traps, Gold, Gems.

Potion of Levitation without vertical hold, you rise and rise until it runs out.

Magic Sword which drains XPs you would normally gain upon killing the monster.

Telepathy Crown which warns the opposition.

Horn of Plenty yielding Spam.

Sword of Chaos- Powers change with each being slain, shapeshifts. Needs a powers table or just roll on the magic swords table each time.

Lightning Whip - hit self on fumbles.

Addictive Potions - probably of Healing

Lightning Wand with a short. 1/6 chance of self zapping.

Coin-op magic sword - pay to play. +1 bonus for a GP for 1D6 rounds of combat, or make it eat a platinum or gem and give it a higher bonus.

Defective Portable Hole, eats stuff on 1/6, or 1/3 if really fritzing out.

Strength Potion - Adrenalin-like with power rush and weakening crash after duration runs out

Flying carpet with a penchant for acrobatics.

Animated shoes

Dragon gecko - changes when it hiccups.

Items which convert H.P. to spell levels.

Casting amulets give a bonus to casting rolls. - huh, a normal one slipped in...

Hangman's Rope - The rope is thick and coarse, its rough fibers make it painful to grip. It has a noose at one end, caked in brown, flaking blood.  It has a pompous magic activation phrase ", It is thy day to die." If no name is mentioned in activation,  it randomizes among all beings within 30'. Its reach is 30'. It uncoils quickly and moves fast, striking in a single round, hitting on 8+ on D20. Dex save on D30 to dodge. It jerks the victim from the ground and hangs him for 2D6 damage in the first round and 1D6 each subsequent round, AC 2 and 20 HP that will heal at the next new moon. All attacks or other action rolls by the hanging victim are at -2. If found enshrined, there will be an archaic inscription near it that tells a story of a hanging that includes the magic phrase: "Spake the Charnel Lord: ABROM! It is thy day to die. And the Hangman's Rope did lift the man to kick and jerk his life away. Eyes burst from their sockets, black tongue bit half through, he was dropped to earth and given to its cold embrace."

and... a couple of house rules ideas:

Impediment by weapons - can carry/wear 3 hands worth okay, -1 Dex and To Hit for each further. Alternative to detailed encumbrance, would need more when packing a lot of loot/provisions.
Daggers count 1/2 hand
Handaxes 1/2 hand
Shortbow 1 hand
Longbow 2 hands
Light crossbow 1 hand
Heavy crossbow 2 hands
Most shields 1 hand.
Large, heavy shields 2 hands.
Other weapons 1 or 2 hands as needed to wield them

A casting variant for semi-Vancian magic, where most spells are memorized to be reasonably reliable and safe, but others can be cast in a crunch. This was with an INT or WIS roll to cast. Pretty close to what was in my previously blogged 80s OD&D campaign house rules.

Casting unmemorized spells
-2/level of spell on casting roll
Caster takes 1 hit point of damage taken per level of spell attempted
Wipes memory of equivalent in spell levels.

Casting beyond listed number of spells for that level (Crashing for power):
Casting Roll modified as above for unmemorized spell.
Caster takes 1 hit point/ level for the attempt if casting roll failed.
Caster takes 1d6 damage per spell level if successful.

Preparation -
Gain up to 1D6 bonus on chance, rolled secretly by ref at 1 point per full turn of preparation with expenditure of 1 GP worth of magical supplies/turn/level of spell



Thursday, November 19, 2015

Thugs and Ruffians

I'm at the tail end of a cold that kept me home a couple days. Looking forward to going back to work tomorrow. Whiled away some of the time painting and G+ chatting with some other minis painters in a chat organized by Kurtus Brown, muting my mic when the coughing got bad.

 Here are the guys I took from about halfway to pretty much finished in chat sessions. Also did some putty filling on the GW Oculus and sculpting stonework on a tower wrapped around a cocoa mix can. I'll show those pieces later. They're propped against the palette here to face them up into the light to cut down on shadows. They'll get a spray coat this weekend and then I need to pick out a skirmish set of rules to try with them and some older ones.



Sunday, November 15, 2015

Campaign surroundings for the dungeon, UI and data structures, urk...

The idea that some of the NPCs with places of origin in their names should share home towns weaves outward in interesting ways. With templating, it will be pretty easy to have a fair amount of description generated for each place, at least a size, and a label like village, town, city, settlement, etc. Distance and direction could be feasible, though with direction comes the need to discover how close coastlines are in each direction. Governance quality, notable figures,  economy... it starts to feel like campaign gen. Going whole hog, this would be the time to start developing the social/political network graphs, and try out the VisJS hierarchical graphing mode for some of them. And if  doing any of that, even just place names, it needs to have a way to save and reuse the lists so that the places used for naming NPCs met in the first level of a megadungeon are also used for the deeper levels, though it might be good to have some NPCs in deeper levels come from farther afield. If another dungeon is in the same campaign, it should have an overlapping set.

So far multilevel dungeons have been an implied feature, you can generate a set at different levels of opposition, and put in save names with the names matching but L1, L2, L3 or "the castle", "the pits", "the tombs" appended or some such to see in the select menu that they are related, and edit in level linkages into nodes or room descriptions. With at least NPC hometowns being shared, the saved data structure to fit the needs mentioned above starts to look like we build more than one data structure, dungeonLevel, dungeon, and world, or we build a nested data structure, a world contains dungeons and places, and possibly places are nested like dungeons, if some are taking their names from towns and some from higher levels of political organization, like kingdoms or regions. There either needs to be a way to load in starter lists to save and reuse or an editor list view that lets a DM replace random people and place names with names from the campaign. The reskinning tool can help at the current level of complexity, but there is a point at which the data flips the presentation from map of level plus room list plus free form notes field to something a bit more organized, where you can oversee and edit the various lists. The design tension is between making the additional features convenient, and not detracting from the convenience of the basic generation controls currently always at the top, map, lists, & notes.

Another area I've been muddling over using templating for is dungeon history. Pick an age since it was started, who dug or initially populated it, and if it is old enough, a brief narrative cycle of replacement, invasion, magical accident, corruption, etc that fits it with the current occupants. This could be a good source of room names in DunGen and of creatures, traps, hooks, and oddities for both DunGen and DunMap. Digressing, maybe there should also be a list of mundanities to go with the oddities, so that food stores, furniture, spare weapons, etc get more of a mention in room listings. DunMap, especially could use some of these scene setting items to replace implied atmospherics of the node labels. Anyway, potted history is more for the whole dungeon than dungeon level, but some could be done by level, perhaps with an evolving model kind of like Tony Dowler's How to Host a Dungeon. If actually building a megadungeon, it could even all be generated at one go, starting with a name and saving levels as you go, ending up with a hierarchical menu where each entry at the first level is a dungeon name and dungeon levels are nested.

So, yeah, that's at least another year's worth of stuff to do, aside from features like cultural name lists, theming on the remaining stocking lists, drawing and rescanning maps, adding graphical icons to the node style options, wikifying the stocking lists, intelligent magic items...

Postscript: Realized after posting that the natural presentation of the megadungeon is a graph of the levels and their connections in DunGen, and a classic side view with the level nodes placed on it in DunMap.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

NPC names with the new template system

I will be uploading today's version of DunGen & DunMap in a few minutes. A few days ago I uploaded the version that plugged in a dungeon name at the top of the Notes field using it. Today, I'm adding an upgrade to NPC naming that uses it. There will still be a couple more passes at least on naming to

  1. Improve the way the actual proper names of people and places are being generated from a simple one from list A and one from list B initial system, and possibly differentiate them.
  2. Store a set of place names early in the process so some can be reused by more than one NPC.
  3. Add more to the nicknames list. Found some nice historical viking and medieval ones on the web today and put a lot of the less raunchy ones in.
  4. Maybe add a way for users to plug in character and place source names so they fit their campaign a priori rather than after editing. This would probably go a separate entry for user preferences in LocalStorage, so you only have to do it  once per device (since I am not ready to deal with the concept of accounts and persistent server side storage for this project).
I'm really enjoying the nested templating and have more uses for it in mind than I have time to implement.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

A Very Meta Random Dungeon Generation Post

Nothing to show for it yet, but I just achieved a milestone. Got my recursive string insertion templating function working. So I can pass it a string now that has sets of templating handlebars in it, calling functions inside, whose results could be other randomly generated string that have other handlebars, and it keeps calling and replacing until the whole thing is a resolved string. This means I can now do tables that have lookups inside of entries, and get the kind of effect the random generation wikis like Abulafia get for interesting merged results. It's much simpler that serious templating engines, but designed to be just what I need, and I can grow it as necessary.

So now I am writing some of those tables & functions to test it out in actual use, not just tests. I'm starting with a set of tables and functions to generate Swords & Sorcery trope dungeon/scenario names. The nice thing is the functions and lists that go inside the insertion marks will be usable as parts for naming other things.

I hope to have some results to show tomorrow night.