Monday, November 11, 2013

The Hobbit: Nori the thief

From the Lord of the Rings Wiki, some background on Nori for the ongoing films of The Hobbit
"Perhaps the most elusive member of The Company of Thorin Oakenshield, Nori is often in trouble with the dwarvish authorities... Nobody ever quite knows what the quick-witted and wily Nori is up to, except that it's guaranteed to be dodgy and quite possibly illegal."
This is interesting to me because in my post on the use(ful/less)-ness of all the dwarves from a while back, I postulated that Nori was merely the alter ego of Ori, who was a con man trying to swindle the rest of the dwarves out of an extra share of treasure.  Apparently Peter Jackson and Co. smelled something fishy about Nori too.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

XPs for Other Stuff

I've gone on record as an XP for GP maligner and, while I've come to accept that the principle has its merits, I still don't see it hap'nin' at my table.  Partly because hanging at a table full of scavenging, haggling bean-counters seems like it would get old after a while but, mostly, because none of you advocates has come up with a solution for its biggest drawback: who wants to count all those stupid GPs? 

So how do I propose levelling-up the sorry chumps who have the great misfortune of sitting down at a game table with me?  Here's how: XPs are awarded for surpassing certain milestones in your quest for adventure.  For instance, the first step in getting to the next level is getting off your ass and doing something: the first milestone worthy of XP award would be partaking in an adventure of some sort.  Below is laundry list of achievements which could be rewarded with Points of Experience at the MC's discretion.

Please note:
  • Underlined items denote this XP is mandatory to raise level.
  • Nominal, excessive, nefarious, or gratuitous application or interpretation of any of these achievements to the player's benefit will result in the offending player's character  permanently losing 2d8 levels.  Surplus lost levels beyond 0 are to be applied to PC's ability scores.  A second offense will result in the player being pilloried and banished.

  1. Seek out and/or enter a Dungeon--"Dungeon" here meaning "place of known or presumed danger and/or treasure." 
  2. Engage in an Encounter of Note--you have to interact with a potentially significant  NPC, trap, or other encounter such as a parlay with a bandit chief, negotiations with an informant, brawl with a press gang, faceoff with the goblins, whatever.  The success of the endeavor is not important, merely that it was initiated.  Law of diminishing returns applies.
  3. Survive a life threatening situation--so you engaged the encounter, could it have gone ugly pretty easily?  The best way to tell if a situation was life threatening is...
  4. Lose a party member*--party member has to die or turn to The Dark Side or something tragic and final.  No gain if Thad the Destroyer disappears because his PC failed to show up on game night.  Subtract 1 XP if the party kills off one of their number.
  5. Half the party killed*--1 XP for every 2 PCs killed to a max of 3 XPs.
  6. Sole survivor*--receive 1 XP per offed-PC to a max of 5 XP.
  7. TPK*--if your entire party dies, each PC receives 12 XPs/PC killed.
  8. Outsmart the Big Bad--Dupe the hooligans into raiding a decoy town several miles distant, dump the ring into the crack of doom, convince Galactus to spare your planet and accept your girlfriend as his new herald, etc. More than one XP may be offered depending on the stupendousness of the feat.
  9. Hire a hencher--Hire a hencher.
  10. Establish a stronghold--I'd allow this at pretty much any level though the "stronghold" must be commensurate with character's class and level; i.e. 8th level fighter builds a palisade around a tent = not quite buddy.  But a 2nd level fighter could get credit for building the same defensive installation.  A 4th level MU could build a Laboratory of Thaumauturgical Arts, say, or a 5th level thief might establish an insurance brokerage, etc. Upgrading a previous "fortification" also counts.
  11. Party like it's 1992**--This was covered in a previous post, except I'm expanding it from solely a capstone-type event to an XP-worthy achievement in itself.   
  12. Impress me--do something so badass that the MC is taken aback. 
  13. Anyone got any suggestions?  

* These XPs are forfeited if any "lost" PC is raised, resurrected, reincarnated, regenerated, robo-copped or otherwise resumes living in some manner. There is no statute of limitations on this rule; one of those bastards comes back to life during your lifetime, you lose the XPs.
** '92 was a good year for me; I think I made it to 9th level.  You may want to select an alternate year as your benchmark. 
Obviously, if you had to accumulate XP-worthy achievements in the thousands--a la traditional XPs--you'd need the lifespan of an elf to ever hope to see second level.  So I'm resetting the scales.  These haven't been playtested or anything; just a recommendation to get things started:

XPs per level:
Thief: 5
Cleric: 6
Fighter, Assassin: 7
Ranger: 8
Druid, Illusionist: 9
Magic User, Paladin, Monk: 10
Bard: 0.5 

Best idea ever, right?  

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Advanced Gimmickry: Building Suspense

I recently downloaded a module that shall go unnamed because it looks very well-produced and the authors obviously put a lot of work into it and many people will like it and it doesn't deserve to have me crap all over it, especially since it was almost free.  That said, the thing isn't flawless.  In particular, the author(s) have this to say about traveling to the dungeon:
"The game master should use the travel time to build suspense and danger.  Some suggestions follow:
● Make sure that the party gives you a marching order while travelling.
● Randomly roll dice at key moments behind the screen to give the illusion that they are in a dangerous area.
● Ask the party how specifically they will set up camp and watches through the night.

Seriously?  You build suspense with cheap, metagame chicanery?  Sure, we've all used these tricks for exactly that purpose a zillion times, but that just makes it seem extra lazy for a published module to be passing off intro-level gimmickry as advice.

Now, if you really don't want to be bothered with coming up with in-game devices for building tension, here are some advanced gimmicks for the lazy MC:
  • Periodically check your phone and frown as if someone is texting you worrisome messages.  Perhaps go so far as to have an off-site friend send you actual disturbing texts to heighten the realism.
  • After about an hour, ramp up the suspense by abruptly interrupting play, telling your players that you have to make a call, then leave the room. Surreptitiously order a pizza. Before returning to the gaming table, splash some water on your face to give theimpression of a cold sweat. 
  • Tell the players "It's nothing; everything will be fine" repeatedly. Repeat the last part under your breath several times. While avoiding eye contact.
  • Periodically look out the window as if you heard something.  Try to seem more and more agitated as the evening progresses.
  • When the inevitable hand of doom/pizza knocks at your door, emit a shriek of terror and cower in the corner.  Insist that it's a demon here to collect the souls of all convened and it can only be exorcised if everyone at the table contributes $5.  And that there's root beer and sprite in the fridge if anyone wants some.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Carousing for XPs

Rients, as you all know, made carousing for XPs famous years ago, and it was universally acknowledged as the best idea since fermented grain juice.  But I'm going to go screwing it up and add my own twist.  Rather than an optional activity, carousing shall be mandatory to advance level, much like training was in certain versions of Big D.

Say your theurgist wants to upgrade to thaumaturgist.  After acquiring the appropriate XPs, you're gonna need to party your face off for a number of days equal to the level you hope to achieve, and he or she must spend at least 100 GPs per level per day.  That is, your aspiring thaumaturgist (4th level MU) will need to rock out for 4 days, dropping 400 quid per day, minimum.  

But the player doesn't just scratch the required gps off his or her character sheet and call it good, no sirree. Rather, your daily expenditure is determined randomly by rolling a 20-sider and multiplying by 100 for each day.  So it's quite possible that your almosturgist could drop the 1,600 bucks he allotted for raising level on day 1--if he rolls a 16--and still have 3 more days of partying to go.  And lets say Brad--all thaumaturges are called Brad--rolls a 3 on day 2; that's only 300 GP spent, not enough to qualify for advancement so it does not count toward the total.  He still has at least 3 more days and 1200 more GPs of partying to go before he 's done and he's already dropped 1,900 Deutschmarks!  Poor bastard.

To make matters worse, once the bacchanalia is engaged, the player cedes all control over their character's spending until they have achieved the next rank.   As you can see it is entirely likely that the PCs will find themselves in debt to a bevy of taverners, bail bondsmen, prostitutes, bookies, tattoo artists, haberdashers, etc. and will be wanted by a retinue of cops, con men, goons, and pimps. They may very well be sent on a quest to satisfy some or part of this debt, leaving behind a substantial collateral such as their most potent magical items or a beloved henchperson.  On the other hand, they may also find themselves suddenly in possession of several fabulous new suits, front row season tickets to the hippodrome, a menagerie of exotic animals, several acres of swampland, or even a new spouse.

Folks will notice that it is virtually impossible to spend enough money in a place like Hommlet to raise beyond 2nd or 3rd level.  Of course, carousing in the V. of H. or that drab old Keep out on the borderlands is not going to build you much of a rep, so obviously you're going to have to go somewhere more cosmopolitan to ratchet yourself to the next level.

Beginning at name level, the PC has to host an extravagant banquet in their stronghold including tournaments, court jesters, and all the tiresome pageantry that goes with being a douchebag in a castle.  Cost goes up to (Level + d20) x 1,000 rupees per day.  Though the cost fluctuates on a day-to-day basis and is always gonna be a lot higher, the PC now has control of the length of the affair: a 13th level wannabe-lord can schedule his bar mitzvah to last exactly 13 days. 

Friday, November 1, 2013

3 Adventure Hooks Dice Chucker style

It's inconceivable that any literate soul would give a shit about my answers to Zak's latest Pornstar questionnaire so instead, this will be my Onanistic OSR Offering of October (OOOoO).  

If you ever find yourself at my gaming table, these will give you some insight into how the night is likely to begin: 
  1. It's evening in Portown and you're walking through the Cheese Grater District when you hear someone yell out “Hey, smurfdick!”  You look around and see a bushy-haired man of small stature who seems to be staring right at you even though he has his pointy wool hat pulled down over his eyes.  “Yeah you-“  He then loudly mocks your [clothing/appearance/etc] so that there can be little doubt who he’s talking to.  “You fistfuckers lookin’ for somethin’ to do?  Cuz if you are, yer fuckin’ it up big time.”  You notice that he is standing in front of a bookseller’s stand with a papyrus sign tacked to it which reads: “Treasure maps for sale 50 gold ea. 100%  money back guarantee.”  Sure enough, the odd looking dude who runs the place has numerous maps for sale, an abridged list of titles includes:  “Orc stash”  “Lich cache” “Eagle Eryies” “Smaug” “Capt. John Swallow's booty"
  2. You walk through the crowded tavern to the one free table near the center of the room  [DM rolls percentile dice at least once for each party member, glances meaningfully at the PCs, but says nothing].  A barmaid shows up, plunks a mugful of sudsy ale in front of each of you, and brusquely demands payment.  After checking your pockets each of you realizes that you haven’t a copper on you.  You’ve been cleaned out.  The wench is getting pretty steamed, and several gents at nearby tables are starting to scowl menacingly at you.  Your way to the front door is blocked, but you could probably make it to the window near the hearth before the crowd closes on you.  But what lies outside the window?
  3. You’re en route to the Roosevelt Island tram when suddenly an enormous fucking bird swoops down at you, its gigantic claws large enough to carry off a draught horse and cart in each talon.  Roll for initiative.  [A successful strike by the bird means it has clasped on to one of the party members.  Once it does so, it flies away.  As the party watches, futiley launching arrows at its diminishing form, the bird flies off across the East River to that big-ass tower in the middle of Queens.]