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Sunday, June 15, 2014

Empire of the Petal Throne refactored experience points table

In rule 600, it is clear that the basic experience system is based on OD&D. You get one experience point for each Kaitar obtained, with an exclusion for winnings from betting in the Hirlakte arenas, an obvious patch for some player that tried it. And 50 points for each HD of each slain hostile being.

Kill XPs only go to the last one to hit the target, explicitly not to the one doing the most damage.  It's curious as this leads to infighting regarding kill stealing and the like. It's probably not a big deal, since kill rewards are likely to be swamped by treasure XPs even at the 50/HD rate.

Treasure sharing is also discussed in rule 600 on experience points, perhaps because treasure is the main source of XPs.

Rule 630 gives a classic, D&D like upscaling by doubling XP progression table. There are two oddities. One is that after doing the doubling progression all the way up to level 9 (with a bit of flattening to reach levels VIII and IX, oddly only for Magic Users, given the D&D antecedents where they were deemed to need the most per level), the table does not just flatten out to needing the same for each subsequent level, it drops precipitously to a flat 10,000 for each subsequent level (though affected by rule 620). That is a huge drop, even accounting for rule 620.

Rule 620 appears to be a variant on D&D's rule about high level characters fighting low level foes having their experience points reduced for it. But instead it applies more simply to all experience points gained at the level, so the characters get a double whammy going up to level IX, both a doubling of the amount needed and a scaling divisor that makes it even harder. A campaign played straight up is going to have to pour gold through the PCs' hands to keep them levelling up to IX. Since it is a flat effect, there is really no good reason to bolt rule 620 onto the table in 630, other than to make 630 look more like D&D. You have two rules doing the same thing, the intrinsic doubling and then the experience point reduction patch.

It all says to me that MAR Barker was not a systems guy. I'm wondering if the rule about levels X and higher being so much easier than IX is intended or a bug. If it is intended, why?

Here is the refactored combination of rules 620 and 630, run up for a few more levels, following the algorithm specified.
I am rounding away the awkward 1's at the beginning of each level, for simplicity. Add them back, with the appropriate multipliers to account for 620 if you care.
Level Total XPS Needed New XPs needed to reach next level
VII184,000224,000 (184,000 for MUs)
VIII408,000 (368,000 for MUs)1,200,000 (900,000 for MUs)
IX1,608,000(1,268,000 for MUs)100,000
X1,708,000 (1,368,000 for MUs)200,000
XI1,908,000 (1,568,000 for MUs)200,000
XII2,108,000 (1,768,000 for MUs)200,000
So level X is the easiest level to get since level VI. But then it bounces back up and XI, XII, etc take almost as many each as VIII. Overall it strikes me as the sort of hodgepodge you get when layering systems without thinking about it too hard, instead of actually designing software or game rules. The trailing comment about how the seeming impossibility of getting enough to go from X to XI, is another hint, when VII to VIII and VIII to IX are the really hard levels, since you have fewer assets and tougher goals. Trying to come up with a rationalization, maybe the trudge to level IX represents your character getting into the upper reaches of society/administration, but once in, your path becomes easier to accrue more power?

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Hit location percentages from real data

In his article "Fact-checking fight-books: comparing historic injury patterns to strikes in modern European sword arts" on the martial arts blog | The Art of Cutting, Randy McCall summarizes the results from a paper by Johann Keller Wheelock Matzke in which the injured skeletons from 5 battlefield mass burials are statistically evaluated for the location and degree of injuries due to weapon trauma. He has a link there to the PDF of the Matzke paper as well

Looks useful to me for the crunchier sort of RPG or skirmish game, if you want a hit location diagram that mirrors reality, with variation by weapon types involved. The hit location percentage diagrams on skeletons are particularly evocative.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

An Alternate Professional Skills list for Fighting Men/Warriors in Empire of the Petal Throne

After yesterday's run through of character creation, the thing that really stuck with me is that the skill list for fighters is broken. Melee skills except for sword and dagger all come before missile skills, and plain old bowman will take the fighter that rolls a 50 6th level and 51-80 5th level.

So taking a leaf from history, I'll organize skills along military battlefield roles, instead of specific weapons. It is not that different using an axe and a mace in terms of the skills and biomechanics, for example. By reorganizing this way, the progression is more natural, toward more heavily drilled and specialized combat forms and then leadership. A character will have all the basic combat skills a bit earlier, and the missile skills considerably earlier, with leadership skills a bit more fine grained at the top end. Later combat skills supercede earlier ones regarding weapons use, armor, morale, ability to lead, etc.

1  Skirmisher - Many ancient armies had their youngest members in the lightest infantry role, expected to throw things like javelins or rocks, and maybe melee briefly against other lights or disorganized/demoralized heavies. They can use bucklers, daggers, and clubs in melee, but not well, -1 to hit and damage with these. They can select one of the serious missile weapons in addition to the above. With archery, bolas, staff slings or slings they are -1 to hit and to damage. Crossbows are -1 to hit and an extra turn to reload. Reduce their range with all of these missile weapons by 1/2. They are not yet armor trained. -2 on morale rolls in melee situations. Simple maneuvers only, but are used to swarm outward and back and take advantage of defensive terrain.

2  Levy Spearman OR Warband: Levy spearman - Leather armor training, can fight in close order and use full shields. Decent at combat with a spear, a poleaxe or one handed weapons without particular skill or subtlety. -1 to hit with these.  Not particularly skillful in maneuvers. Not very steady. -1 on morale in melee. Can serve as sapper crew but not lead.    Warband, same but very poorly drilled and impetuous, no penalty with one hand weapons, no penalty on melee morale, -1 morale when subjected to missile fire. Cannot be a sapper crew.

3  Missiles - Armor training up to chainmail, can initially fight with full skill with one missile weapon, and -1 to hit and 3/4 range with others, gaining one additional weapon at full to hit and range at each character level after the first in which the skill is first gained. Trained to execute simple battlefield maneuvers. Can use bows, crossbows, slings, staff slings, bolas.  One handed melee sidearms without shield can be used at -1 to hit. -1 on morale in melee. Can serve as artillery crew. Can lead a squad of missile troops or skirmishers.

4  Phalanx - well drilled, all armor trained, close order. No penalties with spear or pike. Can use any shields. -1 to hit with one hand sidearms like swords, axes, maces, or two handed special pole arms like flails and halberds. Normal morale in melee. Can lead a squad of Phalanx or levy.

5  Legionary - extremely well drilled, capable of complex maneuvers like formation changes to allow line replacement without disorder, forming the tortoise or opening lanes to pass large enemies through their formation. All armor trained. Any shields. No penalties with one handed melee weapons, spears, javelins. +1 morale in melee. Can lead a squad of legionaries or any earlier skill type. Can be sapper crew.

6  Shock Troops - Fully skilled with two handed heavy weapons, any armor, well drilled. Skilled in breaking up spear and pike formations. +1 morale in melee. Grappling at +1. Can lead any combat infantry squad.

7  Fencer - +1 to hit, parry, and damage with a single sword or dagger and off hand empty. Can fight with sword and dagger together per the standard rules. Formed combat is not an issue. Armor is addressed by other skills by the time. +2 morale in melee. Not about leadership.

8  Junior Officer - lead a company sized formation up to around 100. More in a pinch at a penalty.

9 Sapper OR Logistics Officer - can manage entrenchment, mining operations, build mantlets, siege rams and towers OR  manage accounting for and supplying large formations

10 Catapult-Artillery Officer - as per the catapult/artilleryman skill in the book. Can command, target, and build artillery siege engines  OR Intelligence and Planning Officer

11 Command Officer - can lead a battalion sized formation, and includes whichever skill was skipped from 9.

12 Strategist - skilled in leading whole legions and armies, and includes whichever skill was skipped from 10.

Rolling up some Empire of the Petal Throne characters

So, in the interest of shaking off the rust and locking in what I've been re-reading, I'm going to make a few characters for use as NPCs or Flailsnails or whatever.

Starting off with a run through Brett Slocum's Tekumel Word and Name generator we get a list of names:

Qalunurr hiChum
Ulgu hiZishalengha
Mu’arrin hiTurmork
Chi hiTsoru’or
Mritlonu’u hiFres
Ganti hiZanomun
Dorik hiAkaliyalalu
Zaggaya hiSrin

The first three will be level 1 characters of the three classes, the simplest thing  possible with mechanics. Stats in EPT are percentile rolls.

Qalunurr hiChum
STR 63
INT 24
CON 30
PSY 15
DEX 02
COM 30

Well, that's an inauspicious beginning. A fighter, but one to cull or use as a mook NPC.

Ulgu hiZishalengha
STR 89
INT 58
CON 91
PSY 67
DEX 95
COM 58

Ulgu is a character with possibilities. Probably a fighter or mage. 

Mu’arrin hiTurmork
STR 86
INT 47
CON 42
PSY 49
DEX 01
COM 41

Well, at least he's strong. But another abysmal DEX. Something in the water...

I think I'll roll a couple more before fleshing out one in each class.

Chi hiTsoru’or
STR 51
INT 42
CON 20
PSY 39
DEX 22 
COM 77
Another mediocrity, but handsome or pretty this time.

Mritlonu’u hiFres
STR 76
INT 32
CON 38
PSY 21
DEX 74
COM 22
263 Total

Below average overall but with a couple of good stats, Mritlonu is a keeper in this sad company.

Ganti hiZanomun
STR 35
INT 57
CON 09
PSY 02
DEX 12
COM 19

It may be time to execute my tens die pour encourager les autres.

Dorik hiAkaliyalalu
STR 07
INT 19
CON 21
PSY 96
DEX 02  Again the feeblest DEX!!! Aaggh...
COM 49
Doesn't even break 200 pt. Ouch.

So let's flesh out the best of the lot:

Ulgu hiZishalengha 
STR 89 Powerful (+1 to hit and damage)
INT 58 Average
CON 91 Very Healthy (+1 to hit and damage dice)
PSY 67 Somewhat Psychic (+5% chance to spells working, can use all spell levels)
DEX 95 Dextrous (+1 to hit and damage dice)
COM 58 Goodlooking

So, are bonuses to hit dice to the roll for hit points or to hit bonuses or both, since they appear on multiple stats? As far as I can tell, it's to hit, even for CON, but I'd probably house rule it as a per hit die bonus in CON, instead of to hit. He's at +3 to hit, +3 damage, or +2 to hit, +3 damage, +1 per hit die under the house rule. He will make a formidable Warrior.

Original Skills: 57, so one group I and one group II.
Tanner and Smith-Armourer - He built up his physique in the smithy.
Professional Skills: 72 - 4 among the first 5.
Spearman, Axeman, Swordsman, Slinger

This table has some oddities to it, since the range from which you can pick means that no one can be an archer at 1st level, and even crossbowmen are very rare. When levelling up, you have to fill in the unchosen ones, so there is little variety among characters of the same class after a couple levels except in the overall progression from the initial roll. I'd houserule this a bit to allow for more variety. Given the descriptions, I'd say sapper and catapult artilleryman skills make you capable to organize and lead these two areas, and not be required for basic squad members in these activities.

[Edit] Using my variant from the next post: Skirmisher(Bow), Levy, Missiles(Bow, Sling), Legionary

Hit points: rolled a 3 so 4 (or 5 by house rule on CON)

Money - 95 Kaitars
Spending that for gear:
sword 10
javelin 4
leather armor 30
helmet 13
shield 10
backpack 5
waterskin 1
rope 3
10 torches 2
flint & steel & tinder 3
sling 3
20 lead pellets 1
remainder for food 1 week underworld 10

Fleshing out a Mage:
Dorik hiAkaliyalalu, Level 1 Mage
STR 07 Weak -1 To Hit
INT 19 Stupid, -1 To Hit, -1 Damage
CON 21 Puny, -1 To Hit,. 40% Revive, 20% Magic heals fail
PSY 96 Highly Psychic +15% spell working
DEX 02  All Thumbs, -1 To Hit, -1 Damage
COM 49
With -4 to Hit and -2 to Damage or -1HP/die, -3 to Hit and -2 Damage, Dorik had better avoid combat and really focus on magic.
45% chance of spell failure.
HP 6, or 5 if CON house ruled
Original Skills: 81, 2 Group I, 2 Group II, 1 Group 3
Glass blower, Paper-ink maker, scribe-accountant, bird-trainer, alchemist
Profession skills: 01, Choose 2 of first 3. Control of Self, Illusion

99 Kaitars, of course his best roll would come here... x-(
Fresh garments 30
Warm cloak 15
pole 1
small sack 1
5 flasks of oil 5
Flint and steel 3
lantern, 5
Cage with 2 homing birds 10 (price guesstimated)
Charting paper and pen 3
waterskin 1
Dagger 5
Rations, outdoor- 15
Has some money left.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

What gaming and geekery I have been up to lately

I hope to get some real content posts going again soon, but here's a rundown of what's keeping me busy/distracted...

Computer games - I am still playing a lot of War Thunder online as Argg on both planes and tanks.  I am looking for a mature squadron of semi-serious players with people on in Pacific Time primetime. By semi-serious, I mean people who are interested in squadding up and using voice chat for teamwork, but not super hardcore with lots of pressure to be there for matches and such.

Miniatures - I am reading the skirmish rules "A Fistful of Kung Fu"from Osprey. So far, they seem worth giving a  couple plays to decide how I like them.

Miniatures - Finishing up the rebasing of my Confederates for a 6mm Longstreet campaign starting this weekend at Gamescape North. Did a bunch of repainting on the weirdly painted horses in my cavalry unit and some finish painting on details the guy I bought them from hadn't finished. Have about half the bases painted and need to decide if I am going to flock or not. Still have a few more infantry singles to glue on the ends of ranks on the bigger bases. Thinking about hacking some infantry into standard bearers and doing some flags. Cavalry had them, these infantry don't.

Miniatures - Backburnered mulling of the Samurai rules concepts I posted about a few months ago. Started hearing ads for on the radio, and their card printing service might be an reasonable way to prototype a nice deck for the rules concepts I was knocking about. Would have to work up some art to print.

Board games - Played three games of the first scenario in the Austrian expansion of Command and Colors Napoleonics with Henry about tens days ago. We did one from each side and then found one error in our rules understanding re Austrian card use and dropped Battalion Masse for the scenario, as it is early and historically they were surprised and had issues with getting organized. Concluded the scenario needs another layer of Austrian hamstringing in the early turns to give the French a chance at historical success.

Board games - Bought the bashed box copy of Wallenstein at Black Diamond and skimmed the rules. Look forward to playing it, since Shogun with mostly the same rules is pretty good.

Board games - dragged Twilight Struggle out and re-read it with intent to play, but that fizzled.  Need to line up somebody to play it with.

Books - I'm reading Daniel Abraham's "The King's Blood", an interesting fantasy, second in a series and  Peter Turchin's "War and Peace and War", which makes a good case for his theory of history as it applies to the rise and fall of empires. Recently finished Nicola Griffith's "Hild" about Saxon England, Abraham's "The Dragon's Path", first in that series, and A. Lee Martinez's "In the Company of Ogres" a light romp of D&D-ish fantasy humor. Starting Wolfgang Jeschke's "The Cusanus Game" in English translation. Yes, I juggle multiple books at once. My son thinks I'm weird that way, but then he reads faster.

RPGs - I'm playing a half orc rogue in a new Pathfinder campaign at Henry's lately on Friday nights, a dwarf in Billy's Labyrinth Lord and a mutant in Eric H's Mutant Future games on Google chat.

RPGs - I have been re-reading Empire of the Petal Throne and considering running it again. Haven't decided between a typical Jakalla start or setting up on the less explored west map. If I go with this, I'll cull through the maps I made last winter and start populating some of them for EPT, and I expect, draw up some more with EPT in mind. If I don't pursue this, I'll probably try a reboot on Barbarians of Lemuria, that got a couple games in online before a mix of schedule issues and me getting sick for a few weeks killed it off.

Video - Did a binge on the holiday weekend of season 1 and half of season 2 of Game of Thrones. Still need to go through the discs for the rest of season 2 and season 3.

Hobby programming - started reading the language guide to Swift, but not too far in. Have to decide if I want to try some of that and target my phone, or set up an Android environment and target my tablet. I don't have a specific project in mind, probably something RPG-ish, but need to keep it very small, as my bigger project concepts never get done with all the other irons in the fire. Maybe pick the Barbarians of Lemuria character generator and database back up?

 Conventions - The Labor Day cons are coming up.  I need to settle on what event I want to run and which to go to.