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13th Age Review

Posted by Dennis

So I've read through the system a few times.  I like quite a lot of what I'm seeing.  Quite a lot.

Just to give you my final thoughts, I'd rate this an 80% without table time to see how she moves when the dice hits the table.   This is a fairly good rating from me.  Sure I can find nits to pick but it wouldn't take much HR'ing to make this a go to for classic fantasy trope'ic play for me.

The score is subject to change for the final product and my own and player reactions to it once it gets put to use.

The meat of the post -

Firstly it's not complete in terms of content.  There's a lot of placeholders for things like monsters and the spell lists are kind of slim.  So this isn't a review of a final product, just a preliminary overview of the system.

It's your classic DnD trope.  Same classes, same monsters, same spells, d20 rolls.

Levels range from 1 to 10.  Each level nets you stuff.  They essentially got rid of the every other level sucks because you get nothing except a few more hit points that's plagued DnD since day one.

They also have 'incremental' advances.  Each level gets you quite a lot of new toys.  So at the end of each session that you didn't level up, you get to pick one of the new things you'd get when you did level up and use it on a loaner basis.   When it's time to level up, if it turns out what you picked for the loaner isn't to your style you don't have to keep it.   A nice way to let players try before they buy and give them a new carrot for each session.  Recommended is you level up after every 12 to 14 encounters.   There's no experience tracking, challenge rating, dividing crap.   Every player levels up at the same time, regardless of participation.  In a way they have to.  More than 1 level difference in the players means someone's over or under powered due ot the power escalation.

The mechanics are lighter than 4E but it keeps quite a lot of flavor of 4e.   Each class has powers/tricks/moves that come in at-wills, rechargables, dailies.

So be warned, if you hated 4E, you're going to be pre-disposed to hate this.  If you like 4E then you might very well like the way this takes 4E and puts in on diet, especially at the higher levels where the slog fest really starts to kick in.

Daily is a misnomer, a 'day' is four encounters and has nothing to do with time passing.  From a 'reaslism' viewpoint this makes no sense.  From a game play viewpoint I love this.

You can do a full rest every four encounters (give or take at the DM's discretion and at your risk).   This helps IMO to eliminate the "Let's rest up after each fight."  Now you have to push through the loss of resources and fight smarter, not harder.  No resting up right before the big boss fight.

Rechargables (encounter style) powers have an activation roll after the encounter.  You only get one shot at recharging the power, it's not automatic.  If it doesn't recharge you have to wait until after the next encounter to try again.  It helps to add situations where the PC's may have to work around missing resources rather than lather rinse repeat syndrome in each encounter.  What if a few key parts of killer combos is missing?  Now you have to come up with something else to defeat the bad guys.

At any time the party as a whole can retreat from an encounter, grabbing the downed and wounded.  A retreat though causes a Complication.  If you were trying to save the sacrificial victim?  She gets killed.  If you were trying to rescue the princess?  She gets moved to another location.  Trying to find the last section of the staff of Law?  Someone else nabs it.

It's not a new technique but I love the fact that it's in the rules...

The same thing happens if you can talk the DM into letting you have a full rest at a shorter interval than 4 encounters.

An encounter by the way is something that requires you to expend resources.   Talking to a street merchant for an hour about the qualities of rope isn't an encounter.

They also have a rule very similar to one that I have in another system I'm working on.  They call it the Escalation Die, I call it Heroic Momentum.  Their rule is there's a big d6 somewhere on the table starting with Round 2 of any fight.  The PC's get to add the value of that die to their rolls.  Each turn the die is turned to the next biggest number.  So by turn 7 the PC's are at a +6.

In my system on any round that at least one PC has a successful meaningful skill roll (attack, heal, buff etc) the party gains momentum for the next turn, the format is still under design.  This keeps piling up until the fight is over or if everyone who makes a skill roll fails on their turn then it's reset to zero.  Nothing rewards success like success and nothing's more defeatest than watching everyone whiff.  Given a 3 or 4 player group with a 60-70% chance for success, odds are good that the momentum will keep building.

But I digress.

Their damage system is iffy for me at first glance but I can kinda see where they're going with it.

One thing I did with 4E was throw out the level +1 boost and dropped HP across the board and reduced attacks and defenses of the monsters across the board to remove the severe stratification that 4E had.  As a result I was able to use monsters that were even 6 levels higher than the players, or 4 levels lower and still make a good fight out of it.   This system I might attempt the same thing.  I don't care for combat systems where the very tippy top of the food chain can completely ignore the lower parts.  I want the top tier to be worried about the lower tier at least a little.

The reason it's iffy is, what this does is cause content stratification especially at the lower levels.  This effect is reduced the higher the levels.  There's a big difference between 1d8 and 3d8  versus 7d8 and 10d8  compared to a level 1 vs a level 3 and a level 7 vs a level 10.

Everyone has at least 8 recoveries (think healing surges) and there's a second wind style option you can use during combat.  When you spend a recovery you roll 1dX per level where X is based on your class.  Or you can just take the average.   This change is good as it removes the 'well crap, who's getting stuck playing the cleric this time?' that we all go through. Clerics are a great resource but they're not critical.

After a fight you can spend as many recoveries as you want but you're obligated to spend at least one, if you have it, if you're at or below 50% health.  You can't horde your recoveries and try to find almost dead if for some strange reason you might want to do that.   This takes a few seconds of 'world time' so as long as you have the slightest break in combat you can catch your breath.

Map grids aren't needed.  There are three distances, Out of the area (my word for it), Far, Nearby.   Any creature in the Nearby ring can reach any other creature in the Nearby ring as a single move action.  No speeds, no counting spaces, no hard corners.  If the general layout suggests it's possible, other creatures can try to intercept another creature's movement and get OA's.   Any creature can shift from Far to Nearby or vice versa as 2 moves.   Out of the area requires a Retreat.  For melee attacks you have to be Engaged with the opponent i.e. base to base.   For ranged attacks you don't have to engaged.  If you are engaged then you suffer OA's as normal for ranged attacks and spells.

There's no shift move action, if you want to Disengage you just do it and roll a d20.  On a 11+ you dodge any OA's you'd of taken.  Otherwise you take an OA.  This nets you about about a 75% chance on average of being able to disengage without penalty.

The bard and fighter, possibly some others have attacks that are called Flexible.  You say you're going to use a Flex attack and then roll the dice.  You can then pick any attack you have that the dice would result in a hit that has the Flexible keyword.  This helps to elminate 'blowing a daily' for fighters and bards as long as it's flexible.  If the dice indicate a miss, you just go with a 'i'm using an at will'.  If it's a critical hit you could go with the daily.

Virtually every damaging attack deals at least your level in damage even on a miss.

Attacks target one of three defenses, AC, Physical Defense, Mental Defense.

A lot of the ideas are designed to reduce the combat slog.  A level 1 fight and a level 10 fight should each last about the same amount of time because while the numbers are escalating drastically, the ratio of damage to hit points remains pretty close.    This gets rid of the slower and slower fights as you go up in level that 4E had because damage didn't keep up with damage sinks.

They also want every round to mean something, no wasted rounds i.e. game time because everyone missed.  Even on misses the bad guys are getting whittled down a bit.

SKills are a thing of the past (Big effin' yay!) and they use a background system very similar to say Barbarians of Lemuria's Professions.   If a background you have would be beneficial to the 'skill roll' you're about to make, you get that background's value as a bonus.  Simple and heavily promotes more narrative style play than calculator play.

Monsters are lighter than 4E in that they don't have a lot of stats. The below is just a level of epic stupidity of information for a monster for a DM to have deal with.  I mean seriously W...T...F...  When the hell would you EVER need to know what a Balor's survival skill rating was?  Or trying to remember to add the various bonuses for the feats list?


Demon, Balor
Large Outsider (Chaotic, Extraplanar, Evil, Tanar’ri)
Hit Dice: 20d8+200 (290 hp)
Initiative: +11
Speed: 40 ft. (8 squares), fly 90 ft. (good)
Armor Class: 35 (–1 size, +7 Dex, +19 natural), touch 16, flat-footed 28
Base Attack/Grapple: +20/+36
Attack:+1 vorpal longsword +33 melee (2d6+8/19–20)
Full Attack:+1 vorpal longsword +31/+26/+21/+16 melee (2d6+8/19–20) and +1 flaming whip +30/+25 melee (1d4+4 plus 1d6 fire plus entangle); or 2 slams +31 melee (1d10+7)
Space/Reach: 10 ft./10 ft. (20 ft. with +1 flaming whip)
Special Attacks: Death throes, entangle, spell-like abilities, summon tanar'ri, vorpal sword Special Qualities: Damage reduction 15/cold iron and good, darkvision 60 ft., flaming body, immunity to electricity, fire, and poison, resistance to acid 10 and cold 10, spell resistance 28, telepathy 100 ft., true seeing
Saves: Fort +22, Ref +19, Will +19
Abilities: Str 35, Dex 25, Con 31, Int 24, Wis 24, Cha 26
Skills: Bluff +31, Concentration +33, Diplomacy +35, Disguise +8 (+10 acting), Hide +26, Intimidate +33, Knowledge (any two) +30, Listen +38, Move Silently +30, Search +30, Sense Motive +30, Spellcraft +30 (+32 scrolls), Spot +38, Survival +7 (+9 following tracks), Use Magic Device +31 (+33 scrolls)
Feats: Cleave, Improved Initiative, Improved Two-Weapon Fighting, Power Attack, Quicken Spell-Like Ability (telekinesis), Two-Weapon Fighting, Weapon Focus (longsword)
Environment: Infinite Layers of the Abyss
Organization: Solitary or troupe (1 balor, 1 marilith, and 2–5 hezrous)
Challenge Rating: 20
Treasure: Standard coins; double goods; standard items, plus +1 vorpal greatsword and +1 flaming whip
Alignment: Always chaotic evil
Advancement: 21–30 HD (Large); 31–50 HD (Huge)
Level Adjustment: —

In 13th Age you have the minimum stats needed to run the monster effectively along with its nifty keen powers that make running monsters just a little more fun and fighting them just a little more fun than standing there rolling d20's until someone drops.  The balor entry is blank so I picked another demon at random.  I also changed some of the headings because I'm intrusive like that.


Large 9th level caster [demon]
Initiative: +17
Defenses -
AC 22 PD 22 MD 18
HP 320
Combat Moves
Melee - Pincer +14 vs. AC, 2d4 x 10 damage Natural 11+: The demon can grab the target, preventing it from disengaging or making non-basic attacks until the end of the target’s next turn. If the glabrezou somehow makes another attack while holding a victim, it can wind
Close Hellfire :+ 14 vs. PD (up to three nearby enemies), 2d3 x 10 fire damage Special: Hellfire also targets any allies engaged with the targets.
Range: Painbolt +14 vs. MD, 2d6 x 10 psychic damage Special: This attack can target a nearby or distant creature.
Cool Tricks -
Lesser teleport: At will, as a move action, a glabrezou can teleport itself about 50 feet. It has to see its destination or at least have a really good idea of where it’s going to end up.
Mirror images: At will, as a move action, a glabrezou can create multiple images of itself that make it harder to target. The next time an attack would hit the glabrezou, the attacker has to roll 11+ or miss it instead, but at least the miss hits the images and dispels them.
Power word stun: Once per day as a free action, the glabrezou can utter a power word, cancelling a single action that a nearby creature has just taken, whether it was casting a spell, healing an ally, or whatever. The GM can see the results of the action, such as a die roll, before deciding whether to use the power word.
Nasty Tricks - 
True Seeing


So my final thoughts are, even though this the same DnD we've had for 30+ years in terms of classes and roles, it's a damn good take on it amid the sea of OSR that's going on that harkens back to the "I roll to hit." "I roll damage." Players need a push to get them off their dice and trying to do cool shit during conflict other than roll dice.


Heroes Against Darkness

Posted by Dennis

Free RPG -

It's hard to argue with free. Very well done in terms of layout, graphics (so not a fan of the dirty paper under text though) and overall'ness of it.

At it's most broad overview you'll see a lot of old school dnd flavoring, the classic six attributes, the mostly standard races but it does start to divulge quite a bit after that point with unusual classes and abilities and magic system.

I haven't had a chance to do more than glance through it but did I mention it's free? Go download it.

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Heroes Against Darkness Version 1.0 Released!
Heroes Against Darkness Version 1.0 Released! Well, editing has taken several weeks longer than I anticipated but it's done now, so v1.0 of Heroes Against Darkness is released: The major changes a...

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Marvel Super Hero System

Posted by Dennis

Marvel Super Hero System

Disclaimer: I've not actually played this system with players.

This is a particularly peculiar system to me. The feel of it it to me is it comes off as traits based game but with Aspects that are of varying degrees of value at its core for what should I think be a narrative four color comic book action setting.

In practice though, the mechanics come off as overbearing or perhaps overshadowing is a better word. Each round everyone's trying to figure out which dice they can or should use and then determine the results of those dice. There's just a lot of time spent trying to get those 2,3,4 dice they want to roll. And in many cases it ends up being the same effects. Much like a Hero system game you spend your turn doing the same thing over and over again and that can easily lead to player dis-engagement.

Actual narration seems to be taking a back seat in practice. Each player and the GM spends an inordinate amount of time on their turns trying to determine or justify the dice they're going to roll and narrating what happens is almost an afterthought.

In a narrative mechanics (tactically) light system that's not really what I'm looking for. It's like the worst of both worlds, a lot of time spent on mechanics like with a heavy tactical/mechanical game and at the same time mechanics that are too simplified to be interesting at a tactical combat level.

A strong narrative system should free the player characters to take actions within the bounds set by common sense, not a structured mechanical framework. A strong tactical system should provide the player characters with actions, combinations, moves and conditions much like a chess game with opportunities to think three moves ahead.

In the end the system as I've seen(heard) it played doesn't necessarily hit the mark as either type of system.

A lot of this feeling is of course colored by how I see the system and I could be completely misunderstanding it or maybe just haven't seen(heard) it played correctly or at least as intended by the designers.

In the end, I'd just rather use a Fate derivative using Aspects as powers if I had to choose between this and something else. (Or my own Hell Wards system)

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Dread the RPG – Review

Posted by Dennis

Dread the Books of Pandemonium

Free -

Summation: 7 out of 10 due to the fairly narrow scope, 9 out of 10 when considered solely in the 'monster hunter' genre. Strongly recommend (it's free for goodness sake)


You can pick up the Dread RPG system which uses the author's Disciple 12 system.

DIsciple 12 is your basic dice pool mechanic using d12s (as you might have guessed). I do have some issues with dice pools of the roll X dice and use the highest roll. The math behind them is shaky because as you add dice to your pool your average value very quickly approaches the maximum value. So with 6 dice for example your average value is around 11.5'ish.

But for the purposes of this game and it's general mechanics it works reasonably well.

The setting is a fairly standard 'monster hunter' as I call it. Nothing wrong with that, it's popular because it's popular so to speak.

Mature wise, it falls heavily on the grown up side with the monsters being truly bad guys, people getting killed and the best end game is just revenge on the thing doing it and in general fairly dark from the character's perspective. It's basically Supernatural but with more magic by the 'good' guys. This isn't a book you're going to want your kids reading.

It's got a lot of flavor if you like the genre, there's a on-going novella at the start of each chapter which reads a little like a Raymond Chandler book but with less metaphor.

The mechanics are pretty simple. Each character has 3 attributes which they get 9 points to spend on but one has to be a five or higher and nothing can be lower than a 1 (it's not specifically listed but I'll get to that). This has the end result that your character is an expert at one thing in general in terms of attributes. The attributes are Strength, Sense, Soul which equates to body, mind, will but I guess he wanted all S's.

As you might extrapolate out, these mean your character is an expert at combat, lore/research/puzzle solving or magic. You can do all three of course, but you're focused in one area.

The reason is the value you assign to each attribute = the number of dice you roll to determine your success at something. Rolling 6 dice is almost a guaranteed success. This isn't necessary a bad thing, it simply means you're really really good at your job and dabble in the others.

As with most systems you're trying to beat a target number whether it's opposed or flat.

In combat/tactical mode you get one action and there are three ranges, adjacent, same room, same block. If you have move to affect someone, it drops your dice pool in dice counts.

When you roll your combat skill (Strength) your target makes a Defense roll. If you beat the roll you hit. The difference in the rolls is how much damage you do along with any damage added by a specific weapon. So no damage rolls per se.

As you can see it's a light system that supports narrative play. You won't really need miniatures and a tactical map at all although you could certainly use them to help give a sense of the area.

There's a small list of skills that are picked up by taking professions. The basic pretty broad scope you'll find in any light mechanic/ heavy narrative system.

It has a variant on Fate/Plot/Benny points called Fury that let you get some boosts or pay for specific maneuvers like 'cockpunch' which rather than what you might think it would be simply lets you swipe the GM's highest dice roll in an opposed skill roll.

There's a chapter on Sorcery/Magic which includes a biggish list of spells, each one gives a fairly specific effect. A character can cast a number of spells a day equal to their Soul and know their Soul x 2 in spells. So an expert knows around 12 spells and can cast 6. A dabbler knows around 2 and can cast 1. You can cast more than your allotment but if you fail the roll you suffer damage. A nice way to limit it and yet let the players use the ability when they really really need to.

Equipment is also light, you won't find say a Morrowind Project list of weapons here. No point, no need with this system.

Dread is the first book and is the Supernatural / Monster Hunter International book. Spite is the second book and is a step up where angels and daemons are fighting. I'm more a small picture kind of person and would be using Dread primarily.

Mechanically the system is light, easy to pick up and easy to use. It supports and encourages narrative play. You get cool points for having good narrative which translates to bonus dice to roll.

The setting is flavorful and fits the system well enough.

The book is minimally laid out, nothing awesome there but nothing bad. The graphics are mixed bag, ranging from low end to mid range.

Most of the lists and charts are depicted as if on note paper using embedded graphics to appear as if they were pieces of paper stuck in the book and show heavy signs of jpg artifacting making them more difficult to read than they should be especialy when it's grey text on grey backgrounds. The original document is probably fine but the pdf output should have been checked better.

The typography is serviceable, again nothing great but nothing bad. The novella is done in a typewriter font which helps to set it off from the rest of the book and gives you the impression it was the guys journal that the typed up after every mission.

Proofing / copy edit isn't bad. Nothing that made me want to roll my eyes. There are some obviously missing things in some places that show a case of the author simply 'knowing' what he meant rather than writing it. The 'minimum of 1' in a stat mentioned above is one such example. It's not stated but obviously you can't have less than 1 in a stat based on the examples. I can see some player somewhere though going, I don't want to do magic, I'm going for a 6/3/0 spread.

All in all I'd say if I'd paid $10 for one book, I'd of gotten a bargain. The fact that the both books and the two supplements are 100% free, you'd be doing yourself a disservice by not picking it up.

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Game Design – Hell Wards

Posted by Dennis

The opening page of Hell Wards (I seriously wish G+ honored indents in a consistent fashion). It's a system I wrote the bulk of in a weekend. Major gratitude to +kirin robinson for Old School Hack and +Fred Hicks for Don't Rest Your Head for getting me moving in this direction.

What Hell Wards Is

Speaking to the Director, the person who directs and sets up the game play, Hell Wards is a narrative heavy system designed to give you, as the person directing, the freedom to enjoy the story that develops as much as your players will. When all you have to come up with mechanically is the difficulty level of an Obstacle you have complete freedom in describing that obstacle using any narration that you like.

And your players have complete freedom in describing how they use their resources to over come it.

You have luxury to allow your players to help narrate, define and expand your world, setting and adventure. They’re not there simply to provide a passive audience to be entertained by your grand vision of this story you want to tell. They’re there to help you co-author that story using something other than attack and damage rolls in conflicts they’re 95% likely to win every time anyway or that they have to run away from the other 5%.

A narrative game engine gives you the ability to just know your world and the people and places in it and you can let the heroes direct the action, plot and pacing. You will be surprised at how often the group of you together can create a story that’s vastly richer and deeper than you can alone.

How It Came To Be -

I had an opportunity to run Don’t Rest Your Head, Copyright Fred Hicks and Evil Hat Productions LLC 2006, a system of very strong narrative freedom and wonderful setting with a simple elegant challenge resolution system. It was the first time in a long time that I’ve seen players fully engaged in what was going on at the table and not wrapped up in the mechanics of character creation and game play. Or worse, disengaged from the game play because of the mechanics.

With detailed mechanical systems you can fall into a bit of a trap where you feel obligated or even feel no small amount of game-master entitlement to enforce your vision of how the session is going to go. After all, you spent all that time during the week figuring out the NPC’s stats, the features of the areas they’re going to be in, how they’re going to engage the players. You’ve got it all lined out, your ream of notes, monster stats, encounter descriptions, treasure chests filled with loot appropriate to the party and the sequence of events that are going to transpire.

And then the players suddenly decide to go get ice cream in another part of town, completely bypassing that ambush you spent 4 hours detailing out, drawing maps for and setting up the bad guys tactics to really make a challenging fight of it. Which was going to lead to encounter 2 after they were captured and that would lead to encounter 3 after they make their inevitable escape which led to encounter 4 and so on. What the hell, you've got this shit worked out. And then they go and do that to you?

This can end up with you as the GM feeling like those player bastards are intentionally screwing with your adventure, your story.

When the reality is, their characters simply wanted some ice cream, in other words they thought they were free to act as they wanted.

You spent hours creating that content after all, not only do you want it to get used but trying to come up with all new material to handle those ice cream socials during the session can be a bit of a chore at best to almost impossible at worst depending on the system. It’s not necessarily a fault with the system, such systems can be extremely fun. But they can also end up being extremely restrictive.

This particular situation is not uncommon, nor unexpected. We’ve all been there, done that. It's simply that a lot of otherwise enjoyable systems make it difficult to come up with awesome encounters on the fly because the encounters require a certain amount of mechanical preparation to generate.

If you ditch all that work you’ve done and try to wing the situation it can lead to you simply fudging the whole encounter and narrating it how you think it should go. You ignore defenses, dice rolls, health points and just fake the whole thing trying to give the players an entertaining ride. You tell them they hit every so often, pretend to note how much damage they roll and then just kill the bad guys after you’ve burned what you consider enough game time on combat.

I’ve read some guides that say when this happens, the players divert your train, that you can set your carefully planned encounters to the side for now and later on find another place to use them. Unfortunately my experience is that rarely works in a level based striated system because by the time you can figure out a place to use it again, assuming it’ll even make sense, you have to go back and redo all the mechanical bits to account for the players power increases from new gear and leveling.

Again, that’s not to say these systems can’t be a lot of fun. I’ve had grand times with them and I’m sure you have to. I just think that there’s room for all kinds of systems and if you limit yourself to a single one or even a single type, you’re doing yourself a disservice.

What you need to run a Hell Wards adventure

Obviously you should have ‘some’ idea of what’s going on in your world or at least the tiny bit that the players are occupying at the moment. It doesn’t have to a notebook with pages of detailed stats and numbers. Literally just a rough idea on a napkin you doodled down during lunch right before the session can work.
Armed with that doodle you can give the players free reign to pursue the clues, hints and hooks that you present them with. And if they hare off in a completely unexpected direction, well you should have little need to haul them back to your rail like you need to do in many systems.

With Hell Wards, just pencil out some notes, a rough description of the areas you think the players are likely to visit. This gives you not only a better start when it comes time to narrate where they are but it also builds up the setting in your own mind and gives you more resources to work with if they do go somewhere else.

By knowing those basic kinds of things, rather than that city guard has a +4 attack bonus, a defense of 33 and can take 37 wounds, you open the world up to the players and their creativity and imagination. You provide the backdrop that they get to write their stories on, not just listen as you tell them a story.

As an example, you call in the troops, i.e. your players, and tell them they’re agents in a near future world where corporations own everything and corporate espionage is a thriving business. They work for Omnicorp and Omnicorp needs to know what the competition is coming up with. The best way to do that their controllers determine is infiltrate one of competition's HQ’s. You set the opening scene in New Tokyo with the players arriving by plane. You just watched Bladerunner and you have some basic riffs to play off.

In the streets of New Tokyo, you know for instance that street gangs show their colors and ride around in low slung cars. You know the sides of buildings are covered in advertising, slogans and propaganda. You know the corporations are in charge and each of their buildings has its own security force to keep things in check.

Knowing even that tiny little bit it should be no problem for you to come up with the narration as the heroes land in the city and then make their move to reach the Onyx Corp HQ where they’re going to try and break in.

In some systems you’d need to come up with stats for those gangs, the guards, the police forces. Perhaps a city map that the players have to navigate. Some kind of wandering monster or random encounter tables and plan out some encounters in the streets.

And what happens when, in that other system, as you open the scene for the players expecting them to drive through the streets, your heroes come up with some brilliant plan of hiring a chopper and making a low level chute drop onto the top of the building close to their target and then using a grapnel launcher to put a zip line to the other building and zipping across.

You might be inclined, or feel entitled to say, “Well air flight in the city is strictly controlled, there’s no way you can get someone to do that.” and get them back on track of going through the streets because you don’t want your prep to go to waste.

In Hell Wards you tell them, “That’s fucking awesome. Convincing a pilot to break regs which might cost them their license, at least temporarily, well that is going to cost you a lot of credits or one hell of a persuasive argument or both. It’s an Hard 5 obstacle.”

The players come back with, “We go find a pilot and I jab him with a pen, this one right here that I stole from the check in desk earlier and then we tell him he’s been injected with a neurotoxin that will kill him in 3 hours. If he helps us we’ll leave the antidote in a locker along with a stuffed credit chip for his trouble in the terminal and give him the key over the drop zone...”

You respond with “That isone hell of a persuasive argument. Beat the obstacle and you can narrate exactly that. Probably Social or Deception would be best suited but if you can come up with a way to persuade him with something else go for it. ”

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Session Report – DRYH – Session 1

Posted by Dennis

Session Report

Don't Rest Your Head

I ran my first for real session of DRYH or Dont' Rest Your Head last night. It's a strong narrative, light mechanics system set in a dark surreal land of horror and scary things that really do live under the bed, things that are all pointy bits and razor edges.

In attendance were +Laura Dollins (my lovely wife), +Scott Stone and +David Warren friends who I've shared gaming tables with for 20+ years. Two other players +Temple Smith and +L. Scott Rubin were unable to make it but hopefully next time.

Laura and Scott had already created their characters and we were able to go through Dave's pretty quickly. The mechanics are easily explained and eventually learned. I've read a lot of game systems and the dice mechanic is unique in my experience.

Laura turns out to be a young woman named Sophia, a serious social misfit and introvert who's secret hatred of people turns out to fuel her Madness Talent although it got little use last night. Her hatred of others is contagious and she can make them so hate themselves that they... well let's just say you wouldn't want to get on the bad side of this woman.

Scott is a mature man, a salesman by the name of Jimmy who can sell anything to anyone, even himself at times as he covers up his horrible self image with flashy material goods. The power to Forget his Madness talent, when pushed he can reach into the past and make a person forget to have locked a door and by pushing to the limit his Madness talent could literally do something like make gravity forget about him for a short instant while falling 40 stories to the ground.

Dave is a older fellow with a lot of suppressed rage. A german butcher by the name of Klaus from a long line of butchers it's not surprising that in the end, his Madness talent is The Knife. It's always there, in whatever form it needs to be and it knows even before he does when he's going to need it. Push him too far and the Knife can sever the tie between your mind and body and leave you in a rather bad way.

Each character had their opening scene, based on their character questions and their What Just Happened answers.

These are the results of those opening encounters. I'll follow up with the rest of the fallout later on this week as well as the player's reactions.

Assuming the recording didn't jack up, I'll get the podcast cleaned up this week hopefully and posted for anyone that wants to listen.


The fated evening started quietly enough with a authoritative knocking at Jimmy's door. Peering through the peephole he sees two policeman. Being all to familiar with debt collectors and eviction notices, Jimmy's not too keen on opening the door.

"Who is it?" Jimmy calls.

"The police. We need to ask you a few questions sir. Please open the door." The stilted way the one policeman was talking had images of James T. Kirk and a T-101 running through Jimmy's mind.

"Jimmy doesn't need anything officers." he replies. His odd way of talking about hismsef in third person creeping in.

The the wierd way the the police have of talking and the high sheen on their skin was definitely freaking Jimmy out a bit.

He calls 911 and requests assistance but the police outside seem to have some urgency to talk with Jimmy and start to break the door down.

Jimmy attempts to block the door with furniture but in the end decides to flee, grabbing his new jacket ($399 custom fitted and brand new that day bought on the last of 10 credit cards that was still working) he flees through the window of his 8th floor condo. ("A decision I think I'm about to regret, after stating he lived on the 8th floor earlier")

The two policemen give chase but they're slow and Jimmy flees down the snow covered escape, breaking windows and arousing an outcry as he passes them. He ducks back in on the 5th floor and then takes the stairs down.

"Hi John, Mary, just passing through." he says with a bright salesman's smile as he crosses in front of the couple watching the latest reality television show. "He's never going to win you know."

Outside there's a police car parked at the curb, an odd one, one more fit to be seen on the streets of London. And even odder, there's a large, slowly turn wind up key sticking up out of the trunk which brings back childhood memories.

"That's something you don't see every day." Jimmy says, bouncing from one foot to another, filled with nervous energy.

The few other cars ("No I'm currently in between cars." Much like he's in-between jobs...) on the street are snow bound and besides Jimmy isn't a car thief. But that police car running at the curb, headlights on attracts his attention and as heavy footsteps each from inside the building he dives in and decides to head out. The two police come back and Jimmy, in an unusual fit of rage, throws the car in reverse and speeds back the way he'd just come, deftly flipping the wheel at the last minute to spin the car and catch both cops with the side of the car. Metal crushed and clanged and the cops went flying heavily through the air to burst through the front of a building.

With air leaking through the damage doors of his acquired cop car, Jimmy proceeds to head toward the river with the idea of ditching the car and catching a water taxi.


Sophia on her way home spots something really odd in an alleyway, a man who appeared to be shoving his arm through another man's chest. "Serves the bastard right I'm sure." she mutters, hating him instantly for attracting her attention. Head down she trudges home in the heavy snow from her minimum wage job at Walmart. Oblivious to the figure that's now ghosting along the dark streets of this run down section of town behind her, one that minutes earlier was doing... something to another man in an alley.

Her crappy apartment building, never warm enough to drive the chill of Boston's December chill is waiting, empty and silent. Even with her employee discount TV, much less cable is out of her budget so after a quick raman noodle dinner she heads to her bedroom to try once again to make a futile effort to sleep while listening tot he radio. Her inability to sleep is perhaps what allowed her to hear the window in the living room roll up or perhaps it was the cold draft that whistled through the rooms.

Regardless the heavy maple baseball bat was a comfort as she moved to the door. She reached through the opening and flipped the lightswitch. Rising up from where he'd just crawled through her window is a man. Her second floor window although it didn't occur to her to question that was a man in a dark floor length overcoat. His face was oddly hard to focus on, as if her eyes couldn't... or wouldn't... focus on it. His right arm is stained a deep crimson almost to the elbow.

"Oh that's fucking it!" she swears and steps forward and brings the bat around in a blow that had every bit of force of her sinewy muscles in it. The deep cracking thud as it hits the man in the side of his head echoes through the apartment. His head snaps to side and his vertebrae crackle. He folds like a wet dishcloth and lands on the floor.

She looks for her phone, realizes it's in the bedroom and heads to go get it. Hating that her night is going to screwed up dealing with this crap.

As her hand picks it up from night table, her bedroom door shuts. She turns and the man from the living room is standing there and takes two swift strides and grabs her by the shoulders.

Something inside her flowers and one handed she hammers his hands away and then brings it back and down on top of his head. The wooden thud is if anything louder than before and he staggers and falls.

She flees the apartment and into the cold air outside. Not really dressed for the outside now, she pushes through the piled snow to find a working street light three blocks away. Calling 911, she waits for someone to show up, hating the cold, the bastard who drove her out of her apartment and every son of bitch that conspired to have standing there shivering in the snow, bathed in the sickly yellow of the arc light above her head.


"Godamn bitch, I should throw her in the locker and set this place on fire." Klaus muttered as he drove his cleaver through the side of beef and hard enough to embed it a solid inch in the old butcher block table top. Another 16 hour day, one in a long series of them to try and make a better life for the two of them and then she up and runs off that creepy bastard and his gods be damned expensive cars and townhouse.

The little silver bell over the door rang out in the shop. The same bell his great grandfather had brought over from the old country and his butcher shop there.

"Closing up in 5 minutes friend."

"No hurry Klaus, this won't take a moment."

Klaus recognized the voice immediately although he'd only heard in the background after talking his wife. He moved around behind his counter before turning, his right hand closing on the walnut hilt of the .357 magnum he kept by the cash register. He'd acquired it through a friend of friend after getting robbed twice and ironcially had never had a need for it afterwards.

Jack smiled at him in passing, his glance moving around the shop taking inventory, appraising it.

Something broke inside Klaus, the predatory way this son of a bitch was looking around was the straw. The straw that broke the dam holding his rage back. He pulled the gun up and centered the barrel directly over the man's heart. "What do you want?"

The man smiled, seemed unperturbed in the slightest by the sight of the huge silver pistol. He carefully reached into his suit and pulled out some folded papers. "I just need you to sign these Klaus. Won't take a minute of your time."

"What are those?" Klaus said through clenched teeth.

"A bill of sale. For the shop. You see I need money and the money your wife brought wasn't enough. Ergo I need your shop."

Thoughts raced through his head, red thoughts, red broken glass and metal fragment thoughts. He nodded, "Fine, let's go to my desk and I'll look at them. It's through there."

Jack sighed in exasperation, "Fine, whatever." He opened the indicated door and found himself staring at a meat cooler, heavy iron hooks suspended from the ceiling.

Klaus said, "The desk, back corner."
Jack advanced into the cooler, "Odd place to keep a desk Klaus."

Klaus followed him in, closing the heavy insulated door behind him.

Jack looked around then said in a musing voice, "Those look like they'd hold a lot. Your wife, she dresses out at what? 130lbs or so?"

Klaus barely heard the words, his concentration on his right index finger, feeling as if he was an outside observer as the finger continued it's slow pressure and it came as no surprise at all when the revolver bucked like a kicking mule in his hand.

The heavy slug punched straight through Jack's spine, expanded and then exploded out from the center of his chest to spray heart and lung tissue all over an side of beef. Jack toppled forward and his chin fell onto one of the hanging hooks and his body dangled there as blood ran out of his chest in a quick torrent of crimson.

Klaus looked at the body, then the pistol and then around. He stepped outside, no one appeared to have heard anything. He flpped the closed sign and locked the front door. A last glance out and the streets were still empty.

Swiftly, working on auto pilot from long practice he went into the cooler, strapping on his tool belt that held the various tools his trade. In the meat locker on the prep table he began to work. The meat was swiftly boned and then processed through the industrial grinder, the end product making a fine sausage like grind. It was as he was reaching for his spices that some level of sanity returned and he stopped.

Using waxed cardboard boxes and butcher paper he boxed Jack up and then moved him out to his car.

Heading to the river he drove slowly and carefully, the driving patters of a sedate middle aged man and so ingrained he couldn't have hurried if he'd wanted to.


Tagged as: 1 Comment

Get Cinematic On They Azz

Posted by Dennis

[Warning, I'm rambling as I tend to do. If I come off as an asshat, that's not my intention. ]

With player engagement a big part of why I wrote (am writing) LCA! my own RPG system I find myself listening to podcasts by other groups and literally shaking my head going no, you're doing it 'wrong', you've already lost them at this point.

I think it's easier to hear player disengagement as a third party than the GM sitting at the table can even though they're there and have so many other cues to go on.

Primarily because the GM has sooo much on their plate. Trying to keep their planned story straight, trying to juggle the numbers and plans and tactics of the endless lists of bad guys, weaving plot lines together, all the while trying to keep the players entertained. If you've never sat in the GM's chair then take some time out to be nice to one. If you have GM'd then you know what I'm talking about and should already be doing it to someone who's willing to GM for you and put up with your crap as you surf the web looking at football scores while they're trying to run an adventure or playing doodle jump on your phone.

Anyway, I'm currently listening to a podcast by a group at a con and I keep waiting for the GM to grab these people by the throat and send them on a wild roller coaster of emotional highs and lows given the subject matter and it keeps just kind of fizzling.

I think our player groups of today, even though a whole lot of us are the same people that were playing 20-30 years ago, we're simply not the same players we were 20-30 years ago but I keep listening to GM's doing the same style of gaming.

We, the old timers and the new players, are more comfortable with shorter sessions but packed with more flavor. The really pointless encounters that have no bearing on anything should be minimized. Both sides know the players are going to win them. It's only a question of how many healing potions, spells, surges, cure light wound wand charges are going to have to expended at the end.

Just hand wave them, if the encounter is nothing but combat? By that I mean it offers no background, no information/clues, no quest items,no phat lewt etc, it's just combat for the sake of filling session time. Then I recommend don't having that encounter at a tactical level, just narrate it out.

[Disclaimer: If a pure dungeon crawl is the point of the session then of course by all means have encounter after encounter, just be sure to make them hard or you'll lose your players through most of them. "My turn again? Okay who did what?"]

For today's players you really really have to have a big opener, a Trinity against the Agents or the Expendables on the ship encounter. Something with bombs, guns, kung fu, either literally or figuratively to get your players attention. Then you can slow it down with some filler, background, color and backstory before you heat things up again with another explosive encounter.

If you're going to strand some people from a plane wreck in the amazon, then open with the storm that takes down their plane and the big crash and dash as they struggle to recover enough gear as it slowly sinks in the swamps and go straight into a fight in the jungle with the natives as the rains lash around them and lightning flares in the skies.

If your'e going to plan a jewel heist then the first scene should have U.S. Marshals or the Feebies breaking downthe door to the building the group is planning their strategy out in and have the group have to disengage and get away while sub machine gun fire Brrrrraaaaps through the air.

We're a different bunch than we used to be, tailored that way with the movies we watch and the books we read.

Watch movies from 20 years ago, or 30 or 40 and you can see the stark contrast in the way the popular moves of each decade have changed.

To get back to the point, (You have one Dennis?) I find myself telling the GM I'm listening to, Dude, you're at a con, you have at most 4 hours and probably less than 3 to engage these people and show them a good time. Don't blow the first 30 minutes on the ride just to get to where the action might eventually start. Specifically in this instance I was all "Man, throw some scary ass shit at them now, throw a silver eyed clown at them peering through a sewer grate, or a black shadow with razor sharp talons and red glowing eyes briefly glimpsed out the corner of their eyes. Have the guy in charge shimmer revealing a creature of such unimaginable horrific visage that everyone who glimpses it has to make a fear check or huddle in the corner for an hour.

And then mellow their shit out with descriptions of how idyllic the place they're going to appears and how serene it is on the surface even as the stench of evil and decay and danger wafts over the french vanilla of the air freshener fastened on the rear view mirror.

And if you made it this far in this post then you have a lot of stamina or mroe than a bit of a masochistic streak. 🙂

Tagged as: 2 Comments

Game Review – 6d6

Posted by Dennis

6d6 core system by

Disclaimer - This first glance is based on the open source core ruleset as presented on the wiki by the developer/publisher located here

As a result I won't/can't make any comments as to the layout, index, ToC, graphics etc of the system given my source.

I have no personal or financial affiliation with the developer or publisher.

Random thought - I wonder why 6d6 fireball when if memory serves wizards got fireball at level 5 making their first fireball a 5d6. Perhaps just the symmetry of two 6’s.

Initial thoughts (pre-playtesting)

My initial thought was it’s a CCG RPG but it’s not really. It does have an air about it of the MtG if you’ve played that game. Your character is very similar to a CCG deck where you put together the best mix of cards for your particular design goals. In this case to build your character’s skills, abilities and equipment.

The basic mechanic -

At any given time the typical character can have a ‘hand’ of four cards that you adjust as needed from your deck of cards and in addition you have another pool of cards, specifically those with the Static keyword that are always available to you until they’re used.

If you read that you’re probably going, WTH? A CCG mechanic? Well yes and no is my answer so far. Yes it’s kind of like having a hand and a deck in any given CCG. I should probably expand that for the 1 person who may not be familiar with the term, it means Collectible Card Game of which Magic the Gathering by Wizards of the Coast is quite possible the most well known in the U.S.

But it’s more a similar but different thing. The cards simply represent all the stats and values that would normally be on a character sheet in an RPG but with the pretty cool feature that you as the player get to literally build your ‘powers’ on the fly by combining them in different ways as long as they make sense. Perhaps you want to use a combination of Speed, Brawn and Sword as a charge across the tavern? As long as it makes sense then it would be allowed.

And by make sense, it’s pretty much anything that the majority of group agrees makes sense, the Game Leader is more an arbitrator or tie breaker for these kinds of things and simply provides a final sanity check on those times when a player tries to combine Reflexes and Diplomacy when they’re trying to bribe a guard to let them pass. Although I suppose one could argue that some sleight of hand and magic tricks might be useful to garner some favor with a bored guard.

On your turn you can play none, some, or all of the cards in your two pools, the dynamic (4 card hand) and the static (any cards that have the Static keyword) assuming they’re applicable to your action. Each card adds some value to your overall action dice roll, from a small +2 to a basic 1d6 and on up to a massive 1d6+6 or even higher. You compare your roll to a target number which might be a flat value or Resistance (aka Target Number or Difficulty Number) as determined by the Game Leader (aka Gamemaster, Dungeon Master, Storyteller, Keeper, Loremaster, Director) or it might be an opposed dice roll.

Oddly there are no recommendations for suitable static Resistance values in the document that I could find, only an example where a book was given a 10 Resistance for the purposes of deciphering it. We can assume perhaps that in most situations a character can bring 3 1d6 cards to bear on a problem on average and thus assume a 10.5 as the average and round down to 10 giving the player a slightly better than even odds of success. But the lack of a chart of any kind does mean you’re going to be winging it you try to use just the core system as outlined in the wiki. The pay to play version or the settings rulesets may include these charts.

Obviously some cards work for a given situation and some just wouldn’t. Let’s suppose you’re a warrior in a fantasy setting about to whack a goblin with your sword. You can add say your Brawn (1d6) + Short Sword (1d6+1) + Sword Expertise (1d6) and roll those dice and total them up. The Roll With the Punches (1d6) card also in his pool is probably not applicable to an offensive attack.

(Please note that I’m making several of the cards up off the top of my head and they’re not necessarily indicative of actual cards that might be published.)

The goblin is going to try to resist getting hit and might select from his pool to use Small (1d6)+Shifty Bastard (1d6+1)+Leather Armour (1d6) and roll the those and add them up.

This isn’t to say that you always use 3 cards, you can use none to the limit of cards you have in play but there’s a catch to that of course.

All the cards used (simplified) get tapped or sent back to the character’s deck of cards. This comes into play in the next round. In this case the sword being a physical object is just tapped and the expertise being a innate ability is also just tapped but the Brawn is moved back to the deck. Tapped cards untap at the start of the warriors next turn and they can spend ‘flow’ to move cards from their deck back into their hand.

So the Catch is - Cards that are in the player’s deck or tapped can’t be used until they’re returned to the player’s hand or untapped. A character can at most return or Flow two cards from their deck to their hand on their turn and to do that they must give up their ability to move on the field as Flow also provides movement. This certainly can add a tactical element to choices, do you use several cards trying to go for the knock out blow or reserve some to use in your own defense in case you don’t manage to take the creature out.

The goblin’s Small and Leather Armour are both persistent advantages and neither tap or move to his deck but his Shifty Bastard trait does.

For the attack to succeed the instigator, in this case the warrior, has to beat the goblin’s roll, ties go to the defendant.

Let’s say the warrior hit and beat the Resistance roll by 10 points. The goblin now has to discard 10 points worth of life cards. If he’s out of life cards, then you can guess what happens next. Note that if the goblin had say 3 life cards worth 4 points each, obviously worth 12 points or 2 higher than he needs to discard, he still loses them all, you don’t get ‘change’ from spending life cards.

Action continues in this way until someone’s out of life cards or the conflict is otherwise ended.

This same mechanic is used everywhere you’d normally make a skill roll in any RPG. Want to bribe a toady to get an audience with the CEO? Then use your Bribery+Wealthy Backer+Persuasion cards against him.

Or say your character is caught in an earthquake and about to go on a journey deep down below and needs to do some white water rafting? The GL could just assign a flat resistence that you have to beat.

Or a little more cooler, the GL could treat the white water just like a creature and assign a pool of cards, perhaps cards for Swift Currents (1d6), Boulders (1d6+2), Submerged Tree Trunk (1d6), Water Spray(1d6), Whirlpool (1d6+2), Large Drop (1d6+4), Waterfall (1d6+6) and give it a pool size of 3 and flow of 1.

The player in the raft would then ‘fight’ the white water by using purely as an example their Reflexes, Brawn, Driving - Rafts, Awareness, Sharp Eyes and Lucky Bastard or whatever they have that’s appropriate.

If the player wins the ‘fight’ then he sails out at the end of the section of white water alive, if the river wins, he sails out at the end of the section of white water a corpse.

Which anyone has to admit is a pretty damn cool way to do what would be a flat skill challenge in other systems.

As you can see there’s definitely a flavor of the fairly common Traits mechanic from say Spirit of the Century / Fate derivatives to the system although the mechanic is different enough to be it’s own unique thing.

The system is fairly inclusive in provide rules for the most typical needs in a generic setting, the setting rulesets would expand as needed for specific rules covering things like detailed Magic or Cybernetics etc.

Movement, Damage, Healing, Weapons, Social interactions, Skills etc are all handled in a pretty straightforward manner and should be pretty clear to anyone. The only complex part that I came across is when dealing with range modifications to dice rolls when the target is resisting it or when there’s cover involved on one side.

I was able to, I believe anyway, pick up the general gist of it with a single read through and although I’d have to go back and look up various specifics to actually play it, that shouldn’t be necessary more than once or twice. And not even that much if you happen to have a better memory than myself, I’ve got rules for over 200 core game mechanics rattling around in my head, colliding, merging and juxtapositioning with each other until that section of my brain is just a chaotic mess.

The Pros -

The pool and flow mechanic is fairly elegant and self balancing so that character's tend to be level across the board in terms of power. A very huge thing for me in a game system, I dislike systems that allow some players by accident or design (i.e. power gaming) to be significantly more powerful/useful than others.

Character creation also seems reasonably balanced and pretty simple and straight forward.

The concept that everything costs in some fashion is a good one because it provides the players with discrete choices that have impact.

The card mechanic lends itself nicely to having interesting creatures for the GL to engage the players with, much like DnD 4E did, with creatures combining their cards in nifty ways. Additionally it can work very well with adding flavor and color to challenge sequences like the white water rafting I mentioned above that in many systems would be a dull series of dice rolls until success or failure was achieved. “I roll my nature skill, yay I got a success, how many more do we need?”

There are a few one-shot adventures for free to anyone that can be played along with the openly available core ruleset to give anyone who wishes to try the system out, the chance to do so.

Additionally there are some example rulesets that provide, well examples I guess, of how the system can be extended to add things like a Shadowrun feel with body augmentations.

The Cons -

Note while the con section is longer in word count, overall I’m still highly in favor of the system as of right now.

The core rule system is fairly bare bones but really what do you expect for free? I’d be curious to see how much more information the paid versions have. Perhaps if a playtest shows promise with my players I’ll indulge myself.

In terms of dealing with the core rules and card design might start to get unbalanced for cards that have multiple keywords or advanced keywords. The designer states that designing cards is an art which I can understand.

Personally I prefer a more hard system in that respect or at least a few pointers. And again the paid for version may have all this.. One of the reasons I enjoy 4E for example is the creation system simply works from the DM’s viewpoint. Previous editions did require experience, the more the better, in designing content for the players to engage. 4E made it simple(r) for anyone to pick up the DM hat and go to work.

I’d like to see some general guidelines on how much keywords that add/subtract/impact Flow are ‘worth’. It’s well and good to say it’s an art and I think after 30 years of using RPG’s I could do a reasonable job, someone with less experience might end up floundering a bit.

I think personally I’d start with each advanced keyword adding a 50% cost to the card with some unique keywords costing double for instance Persistent which as I read it means that card never taps or returns to your deck and thus is usable over and over. Obviously Persistent would be mostly restricted to things like Armour.

The Rotate keyword that lets you tap a card but otherwise leave it in your pool for use on your next turn, thus not costing you any flow to return it from your deck is fairly powerful as is the ability to use flow to untap it on your turn and use it again. So a character could for instance, again as I interpret the rules as presented, have a Sword card with the Rotate keyword and attack with it, spend one Flow to untap it, attack again, spend one flow to untap, attack again.

Granted the character is giving up their ability to move, but once combat is engaged, how much movement do you typically do? And while they probably don’t have a lot of cards to combine with each attack, neither will the defender have a lot of cards to try and resist each attack. And remember if you beat the target’s Resistance roll by even 1 point, they have to burn a full life card to cover the damage.

As written/read the Rotate ability is pretty powerful stuff. As intended the mechanic might be different, perhaps you can only use a card once on your turn and being able to spend flow to untap it (un rotate it) is just designed to let you use that card defensively when you’re getting attacked. It’s not written that way though and as written as best as I can determine a character could attack up to four times on their turn assuming they have two weapons with the Rotate ability, either use both and untap each one once or use both and untap one twice. Personally that seems a little over the top and is a huge advantage to whoever wins initiative. I believe I’d simply use my own rule from my system and say in general any given item/skill can be used once on any given turn as a house rule.

The gun/ranged weapons as listed lack any modernization and have a strong old west or even further back leaning to them such as having to load bullets one at a time and the ranges are extremely short. A modern ruleset may resolve that minor issue and of course it’s an easy fix to bump the ranges up and adding the concept of magazines to the reload mechanic for firearms.

Final Verdict -

The system is definitely something I’m going to work into our rotation. I believe the card mechanic can simply work for a lot of gamers and the ability to combine the cards to perform actions as well as the costs involved give the players some really cool decision points.

I think there are a few minor places where I’d personally house rule some things but really who doesn’t end HR’ing stuff?

This is a system I definitelyrecommend checking out, especially given the price of admission to see what it’s about.

Tagged as: 4 Comments

Vanilla Updates

Posted by Dennis

Obviously not a lot of awesome updates to post the last couple of weeks.  It's all been minor cleanup on LCA! and working on the sample scripts.

I'll be using the included Zombie Apocalypse script that will be included with LCA! as a general play test that I'll podcast in the upcoming weeks.  Getting the group together is proving to be troublesome and on top of that I need to delay the test until the current project has run its course.

In addition Skyrim has captured a sizable portion of my free time the last week or so along with the holidays which is never good for productivity.

The Change Log  for the last few iterations, I change the revision every couple of days on average.  Just so you can see the pure 'awesome' changes that are being worked on.  Yes awesome was meant sardonically or ironically or even sarcastically.  Take your choice. 🙂

Updated references to skill rolls to allow the addition of the base stat.  This will need playtesting obviously.  Power gaming is a big concern.
Dropped the total skill and attribute values to allow for room to grow.
Added skills for Fortitude and Resolve.   Physical Strength

Script work
Minor clean up in various places.

sample script work.

Additional work on zompoc script.
Added noise/attraction system for zompoc.
Revamped the carry system/encumbrance system.  It was way too detailed for my needs with too much math.

Additional work on zompoc script.

Increased critical failures to equal an unmodified 5 or less on the 2d20 dice.  This equates to a 2.5% chance per dice roll.  Frequent enough to come up once a session but not so frequently it fucks with people too badly.
And 5 or less ties in with the multiples of 5’s I use.

Simplified Improvised weapons.  They deal the same damage as normal weapons so no confusion but their damage dice do not explode and they’re ruined if you roll a critical failure on the attack roll.

Unarmed damage I’m going to settle on it dealing 1d6 and 2d6 damage.  You can Knack up to get skill at killing people with your bare hands but without a knack or a weapon you’re just not going to hurt people very easily.

More rewrites in section two.
Overhaul of boosts and handicaps.
Changed Evasion penalty from Armour to 2 for 1.  With the change to 2d20 it’s necessary to balance out.
Extended human attribute range out to around 8.  Might make it 10 for the pinnacle of human possibilities.   Would need to extend supernatural creatures out to 20.
If that’s the case then will have to make Strength worth half damage.   Still pending consideration.
Added Drifting as a drive/motivation actually an anti-drive motivation.
Lots of clean up in the Powers section.

Lots of rewrites in the various skill sections  in sections 1 and 2 for clean up/streamlining purposes.
Wielding Heavy weapon one handed is changed to -5 after doing the math.

Pass 2 through Section 1 started
Added Mini Powers to powers chapter secton 2
Play Examples to section 1.

Work on zombie script

Work on the Zombie Apocalypse script in preparation for playtesting.
Changed bonus/penalty to boost/handicap

Added synergy mechanic for skill checks to allow AOE’s to be used as bonuses for regular skill checks or vice versa.


Game Play Results –

Posted by Dennis

This is a quick demo interplay using the Don't Rest Your Head gaming system in a play by post format, some of it was typed on a phone so the quality can be hit or miss... 🙂

It's a highly narrative but with dice system that allows for very freeform gameplay.

*Opening Scene - *

As mentioned, you haven't been sleeping lately, at all. Sleep terrifies and you've been living on whatever it takes to keep from falling asleep. You're starting to get worried though that the lack of sleep is starting to affect you mentally.

On the way home from work you saw a building you've never noticed before, an alleyway that you don't remember, an intersection that had two manhole covers where you only remember it having one. You're debating which is worse, going crazy or dying of fright in your sleep.

Your house thankfully looks like it always has and you make dinner, well put it in the microwave at least and go eat it in front of the TV, watching re-runs. As you flip through the guide you spot a new channel but it's blank at the moment and idly wonder if they're going to raise your cable bill to pay for it.

Eventually you make your way to the rest of the house but stop as your bedroom door comes into view. What the hell? There's a section of a sheet from a newspaper stuck on it with masking tape. Flipping on the hall light to get a better view the headlines read "Satan Slasher Nabbed!"

Below that is a picture of you, face contorted in anger, a picture you simply do not recognize. It's a tight shot, showing you being shoved into the back of what can only be a police car. Someone's playing a prank on you surely, one of your so called friends is being a prime asshat.

You go over and read the article which looks like someone spent some time manufacturing, it reads like a real article. Describes how the alleged [your name] was arrested at the scene of another slasher attack, lists the history of the slasher [13 young women found so far, more assumed.]

But the date on the paper is for tomorrow and the name of the paper is the local one like you'd of thought for a joke but is for some paper called the Daily Oracle.

Ripping the sheet down, angry, you stop short as a bloody hand print hidden under the newsprint comes into view. The blood [surely it's fake] still fresh and red. You touch it, its tacky and it 'feels' like blood.

You push your bedroom door open. One of those cheap Walmart flex neck lamps is next to the bed, the light bent around so it illuminates the sheets. You've never seen that lamp before. [Or have you? whispers some frightened back part of your mind.]

Sprawled out on your bed is a body, naked although most of the flesh is covered in red. Long slash marks criss cross over the body, forming symbols although most ones you don't recognize but there's no mistaking the pentagram carved into the chest. The sheets are soaked with blood, the edges of the wounds glisten.

And protruding from the center of the chest is your best chef's knife, the one with the ceramic blade you spent your whole bonus on this year. And on white texture handle is a bloody handprint that somehow you know matches the one on the door. And somehow you fear

You're not sure how long you stare, brain clouded with shock when there's a loud pounding from the front room, a heavy fist on your door. An authoritative sound, one heavy with meaning.

A stilted voice, barely muffled by the solid door echoes through your house, " Open.the.door."

Player -

Oh crap. Do I run out the back door or window? Do I try to overrun the cops? I didn't hear a siren. That's not good.

I gotta run. There's no way in hell letting the cops take me will be good for me.I'm heading into the bedroom, try to lock the door, block it with a chair. Then I'm going to wrap the chef's knife with a t-shirt, pocket it, and head for the window. My goal is to get away. ASAP.

Narrator -
[Notes: The player won a conflict roll but Pain dominated causing him to lose the knife.]

"You quickly but trying to be quiet close the bedroom door and drag a chair over and shove it under the door knob. A t-shirt is ripped free from a hanger and with no small amount of squeamishness you pluck the knife free, the metal grates on the bones of the rib cage, sticking.

For a terrible instant you think it's not going to come free but the sound of your front door being smashed open gives you encouragement to yank it out hard. It slips from your tshirt covered hand and slides across your floor leaving a streak of red. The sound of footsteps storming in has you scrambling and you lunge toward the window as your bedroom door thuds and the wood of the chair creaks.

Player C-

Realizing I don't have time to return for the knife, I open the window, duck out, and close the window behind me (hey, it might confuse the cop if he's a dumbass). The fire escape gets me down to the ground and I'm off at a run. To quote Umberto Eco, "if you're running from the police, head for an alley. No police force can cover them all." I do not want to be picked up. I'm kind of pissed at myself for dropping the knife; a key piece of evidence and a handy weapon. I have a sinking suspicion it has my finger prints on it. And that's got me a bit worried. Crap, and I forgot the damn newspaper, too. I'm going to toss the bloody tshirt in a dumpster somewhere along my escape route. hopefully, my uncanny intuition [cause-effect power] will help me run away from the cops and not into them. "Trust your feelings Luke," was probably never meant to cover escaping from a murder, but hey desperate times and all that.

Narrator -
[Player won conflict again which reduced the obstacle he was facing down to a single cop at the moment]
As your feet speed over the concrete you hear the sounds of a whistle split the air behind you. It's echoed instants later, once, twice from the direction of your house.

You glance back and see a cop lurch into view right before you disappear into the dark mouth of an alley. Did he see you? Then just what you saw registers. The cop had a large key sticking out of his back. Slowly turning. A wind up key.

You pound down the alleyway. It seems dark. Darker than it should be. The air is filled with foul odors and you stumble and are at risk of falling.

A whistle blast echoes and reverberates down the alley. Behind you! You spin and outlined against the street lights is a dark form running in a jerky gait but one scary. A pair if red glows, they can only be the cops eye gleam at you as he runs after you.

Player C-

Glowing red eyes and clockwork keys are not a good thing. The gamer in me has lots of ideas on how to react. The character however wouldn't be so analytical. Flight or fight here. If the alley is narrowing, dead-ending, or etc. then I'll have to face the thing and try to disable it. Somehow. The key being the obvious, um, well, key to disabling it. If the Alley continues, then I'm going to keep trying to lose it. Knocking down trash cans, etc. to try to make pursuit more difficult. It's gait is jerky. That implies that this thing isn't graceful or highly mobile; time to start looking for a third dimension to my escape: going up and over obstacles rather than just pounding the side walk left or right, forward or back.

Narrator -

"The alleyway walls seem to close in, perhaps it's the darkness, perhaps it's actually getting narrower. Two red eyes are drawing closer and far in the distance you can see two more pairs of them, mere pinpricks. That's when it hits you, this alleyway has gone on for a very long time with only the occasional door on the brick walls and the occasional fire escape, rusted and decrepit hanging down."

Player C-

I use it's lack of speed and fine motor control against it instead of treating it like a human. I grab a trashcan lid and throw it at the thing's face. While it jerks to react to that, I duck behind it and twist the key out of it's back. Sadly, this doesn't turn the damn thing off like I'd hoped. But it does seem to slow it's reactions; maybe it's winding down without the key? I don't have time to figure it out. Instead, I shove the thing into the wall, hard. It slumps down awkwardly off balance. As it starts trying to right itself, I take off back the way I came. Shit. The alley has gotten longer since I ran in. Righto. Time to find a door that's not locked and try my luck along that path!

Narrator -
[Player won the conflict roll again but again Pain dominated the interaction which is blended into the narration]

"With the key removed there's a viscious ZZzzzzzzzziiiipppppppwwwhhhrrrrrr sound, as if a giant coiled spring was unwinding all at once. The cop who at all appearances aside from the red eyes appears to be otherwise normal starts spasming, his limbs moving at lightning speed, flailing around.

You can't pull back in time and one arm smashes into your side and you go flying sideways to smash into the wall. The cop spins and twitches like a man caught in a lightning storm for several seconds, the length of time it takes you recover and sit up, gasping for air. Chips of brick fly up pelting the walls as it smashes them and then quickly it starts to spin down."

"You climb to your feet, only then aware you still hold onto the big silver key. Inscribed across its face is a 6 digit number, 815631 and the words "Property of Officer Tokk".

You start to head back the way you'd just run, but spastic footfalls echo faintly in the distance and there in the far distance you can see two angry red glows, two pairs of angry red glows.

There's a click, much louder than it should be from a little way down the alley and a door opens up and a man steps through. He's dressed in a wrinkled suit although expensive and carrying a briefcase in his hand. He looks around, spots you. In his other hand is a piece of paper and you can see a photograph on it along with blocks of text. Light streams from the through the doorway along with massive crowd babble and noise.

He looks at it and then at you and nods to himself and then checks his watch. He drops the page and it falls neatly into his suddenly open briefcase which snaps shut with a disquieting organic sound Mmmmm.

He gives you a nod and then steps back through the doorway which starts to slowly shut behind him.

Your ribs flare in pain and the jerky sound of footfalls grows closer.

Player C-

Keep the key. Follow the man through the door.

Narrator -

A blast of exotic odors assails your senses as you step through the door, lights flare and scream for your attention, voices call out to come see their wares, cajoling, insulting, calm or excited, whatever the seller thinks will work.

You've emerged into the middle of a teeming crowd of people, all kinds of people, it's like a madman's nightmare of an ancient persian bazaar that cuts across centuries.

To your left a ancient old hag who hasn't seen 100 in years leans forward, "2000 for 5 years dearie! You won't find a better offer! What's five years of your life, you're still young, 5 years will only make you more mature! Okay 2100, final offer!"

On your right a suave ivory skinned man, literally the color of old ivory, stands naked except for a necklace and an obvious display of excitement. His face is rather dreamy and vacant and he smiles, his under lit by the the rainbow colored glow of the necklace. He catches your eye, "Pleasure necklaces, finest in the bazaar. You won't need seek out companionship every again. All for the mere cost of a few memories sir. Come, avoid frustration and disappointment in seeking solace in others. He opens a case on the counter before him, the case bears a tri-part symbol in yellow and black on it. Lifting out a necklace similar to his own he beckons you, "A 60 second trial, guaranteed to be the best 60 seconds of pleasure you've every experienced. All for the worthless cost of the memory of your first kiss."

Suddenly something hits you in the back and your ribs feel like molten metal charged with lightning as the pain flares.

"Well well, lookie here boys. Fresh meat."

Behind you are three biker types although their flesh is pierced all over, chains, nails bent in rings, spikes protrude from everywhere. Their heavy leather clothing has bones attached to it, finger bones or even larger and each wears a necklace of teeth, human teeth and things like look like pieces of dried fruit, things you find yourself avoiding looking at too closely.

"And what do we do with fresh meat?" the one in the middle asks.

And in sync the other two growl, "We eat it up yum!" and flash smiles filled with teeth filed to needle points and razor edges.

Player C-

Yeah, this is going to go badly.

"Hello boys! How's business? Everything going well these days? No run-ins with Officer Tokk, I hope?" While I'm spinning that inane prattle, I reach out to the leader and whichever of the other two goons looks biggest. I find the most strategically placed piercing -- the one that seems to be tapped into the most nerve bundles. And as I say Tokk, I grab those two piercings and I pull down as hard as I fucking can. Then I run through the Bazaar. After the man I was following, if I can see him in the crowd.

Narrator -
[Player invokes his Madness talent which allows him to see cause and effect in detail.]
"Something flares inside you and your field of vision is filled with numbers, percentages, forces, vectors and links between everything you can see. The world is frozen for an instant but it's way more time than you need and you're ready when everything snaps into motion again, almost bored by that time.

You punch out with the key directly into a piercing on the goon to the left and then drag it sideways into a bundle of metal located near the collarbone of the leader. The first one is just reacting as the pain reaches his brain and he screams and spins. The leader drops to his knees just in time to catch the jagged shiv held by the first in the throat. A spray of arterial blood blasts out drenching the face of the third.

He screams and staggers back, crashing into the old hags counter and smashing it flat. She screams in anger and clamps her hands on his head and you see him visibly age as she grows younger almost too fast to see. The first completes his spin in time to stab it into the thigh of a heavily armed passer by who without pausing pulls semi automatic 12 gauge pistol and there's a huge boom and when the smoke clears the headless corpse of the first goon topples backwards."

Player C-

The fight seems to have been fun while it lasted... but I'm going with flight. This shit is too freaky to hang around waving my privates in the air.

Narrator -

"Lost by the sudden massive violence you've been subjected to, from finding a body in your bed to fleeing from wind up cops to opening doors into other worlds by all appearances to being able to with two single light touches cause the deaths of three people, you find yourself suddenly in the center of an empty space with bodies bleeding out while a crowd gathers to watch. You hear murmurs, "that's a key, a cop key." and as that whisper races like lightning through the crowd they start to look around, raising up on their tip toes and as if on cue you hear a whirring clicking noise in the distance and the jerky thuds of feet pounding the pavement.

You put your head down and push your way through the crowd, they split before you like the red sea before noah or perhaps more correctly, like an ancient mariner who killed a albatross.... You run until your lungs are gasping and you're coughing up blood and still you run until you find yourself in a dank, run down section of urbanism. Strange graffiti mars the walls, layer upon layer of it. Some of it glows with an unhealthy purple hue. Mold covers the walls and the air is damp and you just know it's unhealthy to breath. But at least you appear to be alone, perhaps there's safety in being alone. "

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...from Google+


Don’t Rest Your Head – Talents Explained

Posted by Dennis

DRYH characters have two talents, one Exhaustion and one Madness.

The Exhaustion talent is something any normal person can do, it's just for that character as they get more tired, the more Exhaustion dice they have in play, they can do it better. To pick an Exhaustion talent if you think of any standard Skill in any given RPG, you'll be in the ballpark. So your Exhaustion talent might be Diplomacy or Mechanics or Melee or Shooting or Persuasion or Perception etc and so one. As you add Exhaustion dice to your roll, the better you can talk people into buying snake oil or ice boxes, or the better you can see and hear until eventually you can hear a fly stumble in mid-flight or read the fine print of a contract with Satan.

The Madness talent is more uber. It can be something as mundane as Flight or Teleportation if you're really stuck for creativity. Just pick a power out of any super hero rpg and go with it. The problem with those is they end up very unitasking. If you were to take say Energy Blast as your MT, it's not going to be much use for you when you're trying to sneak into the Daily Oracle to try to stop the presses before the evening edition with the headlines of your death are printed. And the Oracle only prints true news stories.

But if you're feeling a little more creative I've outlined examples of Talents below and the various effects you might get by burning Madness on them.

Madness Talent 1 -


"No matter where she went, the clicking of nails soon followed, echoing down alleyways, around corners in halls,always out of sight but never out of mind. In the distance were always the sounds of yips, barks and growls, playful, neutral and aggressive and everything in between. And the odd thing was the sounds mimicked her own emotional state."

Use your Madness:

1-2 dice - canines are friendly to you, regardless of their training or instructions. They show up as you need them, a bloodhound if you need to trail someone, an attack dog if you have concerns for your physical being, a golden doodle if you're feeling down.

3-4 dice - packs of dogs stream from just off camera to your aid, your own senses sharpen and your teeth extend and sharpen, you can run fast and forever and if you wish assume the classic half man/half wolf shape.

5-6 dice - Cerebus and Fenris are yanked to your location in an instant to deal with your problems, you can assume the shape of any canine, command any creature with any relationship to dogs who is instantly submissive to you

What you are becoming:

If you use your power too long and too hard your humanity begins to fade, you spend more time in dog form, around dogs and less time among humans. In the end you become The Den Mother (or if you're male, The Alpha Dog)

Madness Talent 2 -

"All your life nothing's gone right for you in the little ways and the big. Your tv breaks the week after the warranty expires. Your cars are always lemons. If someone finds a pie, you find an empty plate. But lately things have taken a turn for change and the shoe is on the other foot."

Use your Madness:

1-2 dice - Minor things go wrong in your favor. The cop's radar gun fritzs as you go past at 100mph. Traffic lights get hung on green. The systems go down at work just when you needed a day off. The mugger's gun misfires blowing his hand off."

3-4 dice - The welds give out in a lamp post just as you're accosted by three gang bangers and it falls critically wounding them. Your bosses pace maker shorts out right before he was about to fire you. A computer glitch causes an ATM to spew itself empty as you try to take out $20. A fire breaks out in the apartment due to faulty wiring of the man who stole your woman killing him allong with everyone else.

5-6 dice - Everything that can go wrong, does in a city block. Utter chaos ensues yet leaving you untouched.

What you are becoming:

As bad luck surrounds you it starts to stick to you, forming an every larger bubble of bad luck. Little things go wrong to those around, friend and foe alike without your control until eventually you become a pariah, unwanted and unloved by anyone. You have become, The Murphy.


Touch Table Demo

Posted by Dennis

Using my frickin' laser touch table with Maptools for a L4D kind of zombie apocalypse thingie - Zoe, Francis and Bill are about to get chomped.


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My Touch/Gaming Table

Posted by Dennis

Just a short video of my table in action.  I got the lasers calibrated this weekend.  Still needs some carpentry work to lock down the U channel that keeps any stray laser light from leaking off the edge of the table.


It's based on Laser Light Plane technology or LLP and I'm using 4 x 850nm IR lasers, one in each corner that use a beam spreader to convert the laser dot into a 120 arc of IR light.   This is project just above the surface which is two sheets of polycarbanite and a sheet of vellum sandwiched between them as a projection surface.  I've tried other surfaces and broke ass cheap vellum is by far the best on the 'reasonable' side of things.   Sure you could go with the $40 a foot projection film/acrylics and get superiour results but on a cost effective basis I'll take my $2 sheet of vellum any day.

When objects intersect the laser field, they're first cut in half like in Resident Evil no wait, that would be cool but they're not.  What really happens is the laser light hits the object and then reflects off it.  That reflected light shoots off the object and a good chunk of it goes down into the interior of the table where it's picked up by a PS3 EyeToy camera with a custom lens and that has had the IR filter removed and a visible light filter added that filters out everything but the laser light.

This creates bright blobs in the camera view and a couple of pieces of software turn those blobs of light into something that act like mouse cursors.

The image is just Microsoft's Surface Globe app that comes with their Surface SDK kit.

The primary use of the table should be pretty obvious.


Gaming Table Update

Posted by Dennis

I've decided to switch to using IR Lasers to make a LLP or Laser Light Plane style table.  I'm just unable to get IR LED's to work the way I want them to due to the size of the table.

The LLP method should work and is cheap enough to experiment with to see if it does and if the experiment works then I can pick up a couple more frickin' lasers to make it a fully functional massively multi-touch.

I've got a couple of 10mw IR lasers in the mail somewhere on their way to me that are in the 850nm range.  I could have gone with the cheaper 780nm lasers but I already have a camera that filters for 850 and 850 works better with ambient light and allows for lower wattage lasers.

I'm doodling with how to set them up so that they can be adjusted for pitch/roll/yaw and remain 'locked' in after finding the right setting.

If these work then I can also pick up a sheet of tempered glass to put on top of the table surface to use as the touch surface.  Glass is easier to clean and way less scratchable than arcylic is.


LCA! 2d20…WTH?

Posted by Dennis

Okay I've switched to rolling 2d20 for skill mechanics.  It's an odd choice I know but it makes the math pretty on the back end and I like pretty math.   It also lets me fall back to a unified "Any skill roll on your turn takes a standard action" rather than "All skill rolls except in the case of duel wielding weapons".   And its more likely that any given player will have 2 d20's versus 3 d8's.  And you can buy a bag of d20's, but not a bag of d8's.

So with the problems that the 3d8 were influencing gone, I now have to re-balance dual wielders.

Primary Hand -2, Off hand -4 and +3 Damage vs Dazed characters

Bonus damage from strength applies to a single attack per turn.  Your choice.  Otherwise dual wielders get too much of a boost from it since it would affect two attacks.
FYI, if you don't like the 'feel' of the penalties for dual wielding then just use a 2H weapon or a 1H + Shield.  You'll be just as effective that way.  Millions and millions of simulated fights have proven it.
There's an interesting side play in the math though:
  • If you lack skill then go with the 2H weapons.
  • If your target is heavily armored then go with the 2H.
  • If you have mad skillz then go dual wielding.
  • If your target is lightly armored then go dual wielding.
  • If your target is dual wielding then go 1H + Shield
  • If you just want to extend a fight then go 1H and shield.
The differences are reasonably minor on any given fight. But noticeable when examined a million times, up to a 9% change in win/loss rates.
FYI if you don't choose one of those, dual wielding, 2 handed or sword and shield, you're at a significant disadvantage.  Don't be the guy who brought a single short blade to a sword fight.
There's now an Ambidextrous Knack as a side bonus of this that gets rid of the off hand penalty for dual wielders.  This balances because the penalty only applies to 1/2 your attacks so another character can just raise their skill by one point and get the same results.  But for those that the -4 penalty seems onerous can take the ambi knack and have a -2 / -2  versus a -1 / -3.  Isn't math fun?
I have another option where I can get rid of the off hand penalty but as a result I have to remove the bonus damage against dazed characters across the board.   The reason is dazed damage benefits someone making two attacks twice as often as someone making 1 attack. So I have to balance the double damage boost with a handicap on using your off hand.
With the 2d20's another change had to occur, for each point of armour you add to your defense, your Evasion drops by 2.
This keeps the swashbuckler on par with the knight in terms of straight up fights.  Swimming after falling overboard is another matter.

Dual Wield Balance LCA!

Posted by Dennis

[Just an FYI: After discussing this with my wife who will be using this system I'm leaning heavily on a single attack roll at +2 bonuses to attack and damage.  A character dual wielding the same type of weapon i.e. two melee or two ranged can make a single attack roll at +2 attack and +2 damage when attacking one target.  If they want to they can make a split attack and make two attack rolls at -1 each and will know that long run that's the worse solution by the math.  If they're wielding a ranged and a melee then they have to make a split attack.  Of course making a ranged attack while in melee range causes OA's so I don't think it'll come up that often to be honest but I didn't want to just flat out ixnay a character being able to split their attack.  Against minions it might make perfect sense to go for two kills rather than a more assured single kill.]

As luck would have it with my near obsession with having a trued up base foundation to build LCA!'s mechanics on, I unovered a problem with the current system for Dual Wielding.

The mechanic of the day for dual wielding is they make two attack rolls, one for each weapon and suffer a -1 penalty on this.

This has some issues -

  1. It complicates the Action definitions and action economy.   All standard actions are one action with the exception of dual wielding which is two sub-actions.
  2. It slows down combat that extra little bit as the dual wielders have to make two attack and two damage rolls compared to other builds making one.
  3. As skills go up equally between the Dual Wielder and the 2-Handed wielder the odds shift in favor of 2H.  At the end of the skill scale the fights are 60/40 in favor of the 2H wielder.  At the start of the scale they're 50/50.
  4. It's balancing with penalties rather than bonuses which is perceptually not as good.
  5. It complicates the attack roll ever so slightly as people have an easier time adding than subtracting.

So I looked at duplicating the same mechanic that other systems have used, i.e. making dual wielding a single attack roll with bonus(es).   FYI, none of the ones I'm familiar with that use this method give you enough of a bonus to make up for the difference.  Typically they give you a +1 or something silly like that.  It doesn't come close to balancing when the average damage on a hit between the two weapons is significantly better than the typical 5-9% that a +1 adds depending on the system.

Anyway to get numbers that balance up and down the skill levels so that the two types of warriors remain evenly matched, assuming no other changes, I have to offer a total of +4 to the dual wielders attack mechanic.

This +4 can be a +4 on damage, or +1 attack roll and +3 damage or +2 attack roll and +2 damage.

The most balanced (for obvious reasons if you're mathcentric) is the +4 damage.  The other two options are not quite as balanced but are within acceptable margins.

So the question becomes, do I keep the current unbalanced system (depending on skill levels) or do I drop the two attack rolls and make it a flat bonus.

The down side is as I see it -

  1. Dual wielding doesn't necessarily feel like you're dual wielding any more
  2. You either hit or miss with 'both' weapons.
  3. Adding bonuses to attack rolls results in fewer misses.

The numbers and background data -

LCA Melee Basics:
1H weapons are 2d6 and max at 4d6.
2H weapons are 3d6 and max at 5d6.
Trained Melee skill ranges from Rank 0 to 5

I can offer the following options (stats down below)

Dual Wield with seperate attack rolls at -1 penalty
Dual Wield with one attack roll at +4 Damage
Dual Wield with one attack roll at +1 Attack, +3 Damage
Dual Wield with one attack roll at +2 Attack, +2 Damage

Dual Wield with 2 attacks is okay at low skill numbers but as the skill increases on both sides the numbers start to significantly favor the 2H warrior.

The stats (100,000 fights at each combination)

Using Dual Wield = 2 attack rolls

Both attacks suffer -1 penalty
With Rank 0 on each side the ratio is 50/50 win/loss between the two builds.
With Rank 5 skill ratio is the 40/60 win/loss in favor of 2H builds.

So between two equally skilled opponents with everything else equal the 2H just got a +20 boost in win rate.

Using Dual Wield = 1 Attack Roll

1 Attack at +4 Damage, no penalty or bonus on AR.
With rank 0 the ratio is 50/50
With rank 5 the raito is 50/50

End result both builds benefit equally from skill and equally matched up and down the skill range.

Using Dual Wield = 1 Attack Roll
1 Attack at +1 Attack Roll and +3 Damage

With Rank 0 the ratio is 51/49 in favor of dual wield.
With Rank 5 the ratio is 51/49 in favor of dual wield.


Using Dual Wield = 1 Attack Roll  (Probable winner)
1 Attack at +2 Attack roll and +2 Damage
With Rank 0 the ratio is 53/47 in favor of dual wield.
With Rank 5 the ratio is 50/50 tiny favor on dual wield



The One Ring RPG

Posted by Dennis

I've recently had a chance to page through The  One Ring RPG manuals.

The books are pleasant enough, seem to be quality printed.  There's not a ton of artwork, no full color spreads that I can remember now, just a small quarter panel scattered every couple or three pages.  I'm fine with that myself.  They do use a fairly heavy texture graphic under all the body text which personally I hate.  Anything that makes the text harder to read is a bad thing to me.

The artwork is more watercolor'y rather than pen and ink but pleasent in most cases.

Without more extensive viewing than I got, I don't remember it being badly copy edited, nothing jumped out at me in terms of typo's grammar or spelling.

Their system has a LOT of similarities to LCA!, the system I've been developing for the last 6 months.  Under no circumstances am I implying that is anything more than a coincidence.   I just find it very interesting, it's almost like reading a paraphrased version of my various design versions.

For example when you get wounded their mechanic calls for underlining a box on the character sheet when you fail a healing check so that you know to wait 24 hours before you try again.  I was going to go with putting a \ through a box to denote a wound and then if you failed the roll to heal you put a / to make an X to indicate you need to wait a day before trying to heal it again.   I recently changed my damage system to something else but still it's odd reading something so similiar.

They also have the concept of Focus Skill, I call them Heroic Skill and Focus Skill.  These are the skills that you're particular good at.

They use the term Degree of Success, up until a week ago I used the same term but I switched to defining success by Level a few days ago.

They use the term Target Number, as do I.  Not a big thing obviously, Difficulty Number is the most common other option.

They also have 5 stats well 3 character stats and 2 that are statish.  Until very recently I had 5 stats.  They generalize even further than I do with 1 stat for all body/physical , 1 for all mental, 1 stat for all spirit.  It would equate to my Strength+Grace, Intellect+Empathy, Resolve+Fortitude, roughly.

They have 3d6+1d12, i went with 3d8 for better scaling but I offer an optional box for how to convert to 3d6 if you'd rather use d6's for everything. You lose some granularity and have to make some adjustments to various numbers but it's doable.

I kick their ass in Skills though, they only have 18, I have 25, 2 of those are open ended and can be anything a player might wish to be skilled at.

They also use Traits although theirs are canned like Herb-Lore or Smith-Craft.    The One Ring's Distinctive Feature's are much closer to my Trait system although again theirs are canned, as in pick from this list.   Rather than give you hard list of things you can use, I prefer to leave it up to the player like so much else of LCA!.  I want players to make their characters Their Own, rather than being fighter_001 with Longsword and Chainmail.

They have am Emdurance system which is similar to my Vitality system although theirs is more complicated and detailed and is almost a damage system by itself.  Technically I guess mine is as well but mine's more abstract.  Actually their damage system comprised of damage and endurance is very close to my Stress + Trauma system.   In their system your'e more likely to get 'tired' to death than killed to death, much like in my system you're more likely to get knocked unconscious than killed.

Their treasure system is kind of cool and avoids having the 'bag of 1800 silvers'.  I might borrow that concept for a setting expansion.  Assuming I ever do a fantasy setting expansion.

Before I forget, they have special dice symbols on their dice.  I didn't even consider going that route.  For good reasons, not because I'm teh dum.

The combat system has shades of deja vu although they have a Stance system for everyone that determines how hard you are to hit.  Yeah, I have Stances too that you can buy as Knacks.    They add the target's parry to the TN though which seems wrong to me for ranged attacks.  Not that many people would be able to Parry an arrow coming at them assuming they even knew it was coming in.  That doesn't reflect reality very well at all in my opinion.  Not that a game system has to.  It just seems that it makes ranged weapons nothing but melee weapons that you can use at range.

Do you see where I'm going with this? 😉  If you like the One Tree RPG mechanics then you should find a lot of things to like about LCA!

If you're fan of the Hobbit / Towers setting then there's a lot to like about the system.  I can't not say that given the similarities after all.  Personally I'm not a fan or a detractor of the world and given it's mostly the setting that I'd want from a book I didn't buy them myself.  But if you see a Fellowship in your future then you could do worse than The One Ring.


Blender Update 6/28/2011

Posted by Dennis

I've decided to settle on 3 second turns.  I know, radical departure from the standard 6 second turn but 3 second turns work better for me from a realism perspective.  The 'average' person can sprint roughly 14-18 squares (5' per square) in a 3 second turn.  The typical character using LCA can run about 16 squares on their turn if they Run twice also called a Double Move (clever name eh?), a slow one 10 and a fast one 18.  A high level character built for speed could achieve about a 26 square run in one turn which again is fairly realistic.

And I'm using the 5' square simply because it makes for brain dead easy math to convert squares to feet and feet to squares.

So 3 seconds works very well from a 'realism' perspective.  Not that I care all that much for realism per se but rather the semblance of realism is a vague goal.

So we can assume the more average slow jog of a combat at 6 squares per turn for the average character falls right in line with reality as well.

LCA isn't the same as say 4th Edition or Hero System where you move then attack, or attack then move, or old school DnD where you moved then attacked and couldn't move after you attacked.   In LCA your move occurs over the entire space of the 3 second turn and you can take other actions at any time during the move.

I debated briefly on having actions cost you a movement point.  So if you were to attack during your move and you had a base speed of 6 then you have a speed of 5 for that turn but it added a minor complexity to the turn without adding a lot of interest in my opinion so I shelved the idea.   I might return to it later and see how it plays out.

In other news I've updated several powers with minor adjustments, against based on playtesting results and simplifed some Knacks and made a couple more attractive by removing some of the limits on it.

I've also done some work on the Dodge mechanic and dodge knacks and added "Neener neener!", a combat knack that once per round, when you're missed with a melee attack you can shift as a free action immediately after the attack.   It's a knack I added for mobs and it adds some unique mobility to a character that takes it and works very well for an 'assassin' or rogue type build that needs to maneuver more than most so they can get that bonus damage that build can garner.

I've dropped the bonus on the Signature [blank] Knacks from 2 to 1.  I'd boosted them from 1 to 2 because otherwise the only reason it made any sense to take Signature Weapon for instance is after you'd hit the skill cap.  But a +2 seems like too big a boost.  So to make Signature weapon attractive, at least at some point in a character's career is there's +1 damage knack that's dependent on having Signature Weapon.  So if you want to open up the + damage knack line you have to have a weapon that's uniquely yours.

I'm considering limiting the exploding dice to one explosion per dice to help calm down the damage rolls a bit.  Double (or more) explosions don't happen so often that taking them out would hurt too badly but they happen often enough that combat is turning out pretty risky.  Not necessarily a bad thing but it puts more importance on saving Rewrites for Shake It Off rolls than I'm liking.  I want Rewrites to be available for re-rolling attacks when you really need to hit or re-rolling damage when you flub a 5d6 attack and end up with 6 damage.

Between the Dodge mechanic, the Parry mechanic,  the Dodgy Bastard knack and the Wired focus players need to remember to speak up before hearing the numbers.  Dodge and Parry have to be announced before the attack roll is made, and Dodgy Bastard and Wired have to be announced after an attack hits but before the damage is rolled.

To insure that combat isn't nothing but Dodges and Parries, those two functions allow a character to add either their Grace or Intellect in the case of a Dodge and their Melee skill in the case of a Parry as a penalty to the attack roll coming their way.  But they themselves take the same penalty on any skill roll they make on their next turn when using any Grace or Strength based skill.   So you're trading off the hope you're going to get missed because you're dodging or parrying and that you roll well enough on your turn to offset the same penalty.

It becomes a tactic to Dodge or Parry, primarily when you're skill is higher than your opponents or they have a low Evasion or when you're just trying to tank and keep aggro from some mobs while your friends run the DPS train on the bad guys.

Dodgy Bastard lets you retroactively add a -5 penalty to an attack roll but you're rendered Off Balance (-2 penalty to you).  You choose to activate it after the attack roll is rolled.  Since it's something you spend character points on it has to be more powerful than the basic Dodge available to everyone.

You can Dodge or Parry once per turn, not both and not multiples.

With Wired, which is a focus you set when you build your character, once per encounter you can dodge an attack entirely but you have to choose to dodge it before damage is rolled but you do know that the attack hit or missed.

These are all, reasonably, balanced I think so if you don't use them and want to simplify your combat, then you don't miss out, but if you do want to go for a more complicated fighting style then you can add them to your repertoire.

That's another design goal, I don't want the rules experts to be an order of magnitude more powerful than the casual player.  I want to avoid the 'must have' character options or the "Imma Demigod!" build.

Which all comes back down to making my life easier as a gamemaster.  Lopsided power output in a party is such a major pain in the ass and you spend too much time trying to make the game a fun and enjoyable challenge for both the casual player and the hard core player and in the end it's impossible to do it in many systems.


Engaging Players – Universally

Posted by Dennis

I've been meaning to write this and just hadn't gotten around to it.  I want to offer up some observations, all personal and from 30+ years as player and gamemaster for Pen and Paper RPG's.  (Who uses pens anyway?  I guess pen is just easier to say than pencil)

It's about engaging the players and keeping them interested and focused on what's going on at the table.  First let me state you're not going to get every player every session every round.   It's just not going to happen, maybe they're tired from a long day at work, or having issues at work,  or they've had a fight with their significant other, or their car needs costly repairs, or whatever.  Real life intrudes no matter how much we might want to get a few hours to escape it.  Expect it and work around as best you can.

Your goal as a game master is to engage most of the players at the table most of the time during most of your sessions.

To help with this, here are some things that I've come up with after thinking and experiencing modern life -

Downtime -

This is a big one to me personally.

You have to reduce the downtime between each player's turn so they're not sitting on their thumbs for long stretches of game time.  If the player only gets to actively participate in what's going on, once every half hour then you're going to have a serious problem. Even if it's once every 20 minutes you're going to have a problem.  IMO you should be shooting for sub 15 minute's between a given player's turns and sub 10 is better.

Do whatever it takes to get that time down.  If it means moving out of your game system of choice comfort zone then do it.  Nothing in my opinion will make a player wander off mentally and physically more than having to wait too long between their turns.   There are tons of lighter game systems out there that can reduce the time for a players turn from minutes to a minute or less.  Don't use a heavy system UNLESS your players are seriously interested in the system directly and the system itself will keep them engaged.

There is a huge list of factors that contribute to this.  The system you're using, it could be inherently slow due to the number of options each player has to choose from when its their turn.  It could have complicated combat mechanics that require a lot of repeated math and comparisons.  The system may be structured such that it simply takes a lot of time to wear down a the bad guys, aka The Grind.

The players, they could be disengaged when it's not their turn taking additional time each time it is their turn to get up to speed on what's going on.

The gamemaster could have so many bad guys and so much data to keep track of for each one that his/her turn takes unduly long.

Something as subtle and simple as the number of dice rolls involved for each participant in the situation, if there are several involved then each one adds up.

The Setting -

If the setting isn't grabbing the majority of your players then you're going to get disengagement and honestly if you're not running or playing in something you're looking forward to each week then consider coming up with something else.

Game settings and storylines are very strongly influenced, even dictated, by the gamemaster.  In my experience most GM's have a story they're wanting to tell and that story unfortunately may not be one that their players are interested in at either the macro or micro levels.  I don't exempt myself from this issue by the way.  But your idea of a great story may not be interesting to your players or interesting enough to engage them.

Maybe the player doesn't like the excessive roleplay segments but the world setting is interesting.  Maybe they don't like the excessive combat segments because they're not playing a combat oriented character.   Maybe they want to be killing zombies instead of dragons or the other way around.

But if you're not engaging your players with the setting then you have to engage them with something else.  And vice versa again.

The System -

Not everyone enjoys the same mechanics in a system.  Many people for instance find the Fudge system too simple.  Others find GURPS too complicated.  Some people enjoy the Aspects of the Fate system while to others they're just a "Uh what now? How does a parking lot have aspects?"

I don't personally believe that a system will make or break a campaign as long as the gamemaster is familiar with it enough so that it doesn't get in the way of the story.  But if every 5 minutes you're having to look up rules because you're not sure exactly what happens when you grapple someone or how damage is computed or what determines success on a skill check etc.   Then odds are you're in for trouble in terms of keeping your players interested in what's going on.

Modern Day Reality -

Let's face it, the players are not the same players the were 20-30 years ago.  We've played MMOG's, CRPG's, we've got RPG's on our phones for goodness sake.   We're used to, spoiled by and expecting swift game play, infrequently missing, and lots of POW! and Kablam!  We simply aren't the same as we were back then.   We don't have the time to invest in gaming.

And I don't know about your players but my experience hasn't been great in getting old players to learn new tricks.  Or even show a minimal amount of interest in new tricks at times.

So What Can You Do?

That's probably what you're asking yourself and struggling with if you've come across this article and it hit home enough to get you this far.

On some levels I wish I could tell you something other than find try again or find players who slot better with what you're trying to do.

But that's rarely an option for most locations at least in finding physical bodies to sit in chairs, virtual gaming is a horse of another color and not germane to this post and comes with it's own host of issues.

So I'll offer this little nugget of wisdom which I'm sure you've never heard before, "Know your players.  Know what drives them to show up."

And "If your desires and the players desires don't mesh, don't try to force it.  You're doomed to failure."

Design your story around those drives and desires.  If it's hack and slash group, then throw dungeon crawls at them with vast amounts of loot and monsters to take it away from.

Say yes to your players. I repeat, say yes to your players.  Don't come up with ways to screw them.  If a system is inherently screwing the PC's then fix it, do away with the mechanic or get a new system.  I have one golden rule in designing my own game system, if a mechanic sucks then it's coming out.  There's a difference between a mechanic that adds difficulty/tension and one that sucks.  Spell memorization sucks.  Making death saves when you're dying adds tension.

Learn you're system or know your system.  Yes you might end up having to shoehorn a size 9 hiking boot onto a size 3 ballerina's foot to make a system work for something it wasn't intended to do but at least you won't waste time looking up rules.  And hopefully you'll be able to keep the game moving quickly enough to keep most of the players entertained at a given time.

And a key rule, if you're not having fun as a GM then again don't bother.  If you're not having fun there's just little to no chance you're going to be able to make it fun for your players.

Don't railroad your story.  The story that you think is just oh so damn cool, the players may end up with a been there, done that or I'd rather be buying rope.  So be flexible and learn to read your players.  If they're browsing ESPN on their laptops while you're trying to play a game then odds are you're story is of little interest to them.   In a side note, if they're wandering away when it's not their turn, odds are you're system of choice is taking too long to play out and they're simply getting bored waiting.

Boring, don't bore your players.  Don't have scenes where most of the players didn't need to be there but were forced to.   If you do have to focus on a single player for undue amounts of time make sure that the other players have at least the appearance of having something to do during the encounter even if you're just pretending and nothing they do will have any impact.   And make sure they don't know that.

And finally don't force it.  I used to have a saying, primarily right after Ultima Online came out, if it was pretty obvious that the majority weren't paying attention I'd close my notes and say "Okay disinterest has reared it's head, we'll try again next week." and we'd spend the rest of the evening talking about something else.   Just because you're pumped and ready to go doesn't mean you're players are and you have to learn to recognize that and work around it.

I hope something here helps you get a more engaged players and more engaging materials to present to them.  Because nothing kills your own enjoyment of this particular hobby than presenting it to players who aren't interested.


Multitouch Driver Windows 7

Posted by Dennis

I was looking for a multi-touch driver to use in Windows and it took some looking obviously enough to get one that worked the way it should be.   One that emulated the touch ability of a typical Windows 7 tablet.

This is for my Multi-Touch Gaming Table experiment.  Speaking of which I do have an update, Deal Extreme takes forever to ship.  It was over a month from the time I placed my order before I received the 48 IR LED security lights.  Both of which worked by the way, I cut the existing plug off and used an old PC power supply (i have a lot of them) to power them.  Just wire the red wire from the lights to a yellow wire from the power supplies main lead (the big mass of wires) or the supplemental power lead (small square plug).  Then wire the black wires to any black wire for a ground.   To get the power supply to turn on short circuit the green wire in the main plug with any back wire. I just clipped and soldered them together.   Unfortunately the lights help but not enough.

I'm thinking I may have to just bite the bullet and get a piece of Endlighten and some strip lighting and deal with the loss of Fiducials.

Anyway, after putting the table on hold for a month waiting for the IR lights I went back to getting it working again using some IR pens I made.  It's not great but it's better than nothing right?

So I found this - The instructions on the site are for getting it working with multiple mice.  I offer the following instructions instead since they're not obvious nor posted anywhere.

Install the driver as posted on the site.   Then run the two console files, the MultietouchDriver.console and the Multitouch.Service.Console.  I DON'T recommend the open Pen and Touch and then checking the show mouse box that is listed on the site, that puts a virtual mouse on the screen.  Not really what we're looking for here.

Then open the MultiTouch-Configuration.WFP app and click TUIO and then the obvious option.  At that point the WFP file crashed on me but it did flip it from MultiMice to TUIO input.

Now close the driver and service consoles and fire up CCV.   Calibrate it as normal and minimize it or whatever.

Now re-run the two console apps above.   The reason you don't want them running when you calibrate CCV is it turns the long press of the calibrate procedures into right mouse clicks and if there happens to be anything on the deskop, a window, icon, whatever it jacks around with you by right mouse clicking it.

With those simple but not obvious steps you should now be able to use touch on your table and control windows.  A double touch is a left mouse click, a long touch is a right mouse click.

I'm having issues with calibration at the moment.  I get steady seeming blobs with the pens, the ID doesn't change but it can take an ass load of attempts to get the calibration to work as each point requires a bunch of attempts to try and get the blue sweep to go all the way around.   Annoying as hell.