- Roll20 and Gods & Monsters—Tuesday, May 14th, 2013
Because the Gods & Monsters maps are made with layers in Inkscape, they are easy to repurpose to other uses. For example, Rob Conley, several weeks ago, mentioned Roll20 over at Bat in the Attic. Roll20 accepts PNG and PDF images, and it honors transparency.
To create the player map, I unchecked visibility on everything except for the map itself: no grid, no key, no secret places.
Then, for the GM overlay, I unchecked everything except for the key. Because Roll20 honors transparency in PNG files, the map shows through.
The “fog of war” is especially useful: it lets you show only the specific part of the map they’re currently able to see. Fog of war is a setting in the page’s settings from the gear in the page toolbar. It’s only drawback is the lack of reveal shapes. There are only two reveal tools: rectangular and polygonal. So you can make any shape you want, as long as it has corners. This makes it a bit tricky to reveal full tower rooms or grand balconies without revealing the areas beyond the tower or balcony. You need to be careful setting up the polygon.
Very cool—with a caveat—is the map measurement tool. It quickly shows distances simply by drawing a line from start to finish. That’s as long as you aren’t looking at an overview of the entire map: the size of the measurement number scales down with the map, so if you set the map to be 20% size, the measurement number is also 20% size, practically unreadable.
- The Secret Bookshelf—Sunday, May 12th, 2013
You’re in your run-down school, and you get into a fight near the books. You’re pushed back into them—and the bookshelf slides back to reveal a secret passage! Sounds like the beginning of a fantasy book, but for Sarah Hoyt (author of, among many other things, A Few Good Men), it was real.
In today’s post she describes a scene from her childhood in Portugal, unruly kids going to school in a re-purposed earl’s palace:
However, in our exploits, while we were being little (or in my case big) monkeys, we shoved at this big cupboard that looked built in, and which was used for school supplies. Okay, there was a fist fight (me? I was more likely to kick. Honestly I don’t even remember if I was engaged, because what happened next wiped it all out of my head) and one or more people fell heavily against the cupboard, which swung away, creakily, on hinges and long-disused wheels, revealing… a passageway.
Did we go down it? Are you kidding? Wild horses couldn’t have stopped us. For one, they wouldn’t have fit into the passage.
We went into it, and found ourselves in this sort of box high up on the side of one of the most magnificent churches I’ve ever seen. I’m not sure what was the point of the secret passage, unless someone didn’t wish it known she prayed a lot.
The church was all in ruins, of course, and smelled strongly of mouse whee. In retrospect, I think that the people from the great glorious revolution—no, no, the anti-monarchist one—which was strongly anti-religion sealed all other accesses to the church so well that, barring a drawing of the building by an architect, no one suspected it was there.
Anyway, the church had been decorated in the baroque style (yes, RES, they were going for Baroque) which means that it had enough gold everything that even in a corroded and tarnished condition it looked like Donald Trump’s wet dream. It also means that the various saint statues were in positions of martyrdom and had expressions that could be either of extreme pain or orgasm, and it was best not to look too closely. Saint Sebastian, pierced by however many arrows might have seen heaven close, but the smile was still disquieting.
Anyway, to the right of the altar, directly facing the box we were in was the best statue of Senhora das dores that I’ve ever seen “Lady of the Pains” is the straight translation, but I think in the States she might be known as Madre Dolores, thereby giving rise to a number of women named Dolores. Her chest is pierced by seven swords, and she looks up to heaven with an ecstatic/painful expression.
Believe it or not, this is Hoyt’s Mother’s Day post. I can‘t imagine what I would have done finding a secret passage behind the ancient copy of Thunderball in our Catholic grade school. It’s like a real-world Scooby Doo. But with mouse pee.
- Remington Steele’s Detection Lesson: The Cluedunnit—Friday, April 5th, 2013
If you have not yet seen the first-season Remington Steele episode Hearts of Steele, watch it first. This episode is a classic cluedunnit, which means that I can’t talk about it without giving away a significant part of the enjoyment of the show.
Mind you, if you enjoy cluedunnits you’ll probably pick up on the solution pretty quickly: Remington Steele’s schtick was riffing on other media, mostly movies, and the clues—at least one of them—comes from a very well-known Sherlock Holmes story. In this sense, it resembles a lot of role-playing adventures and makes a good, simple, lesson in the presentation of clues in an RPG. While abductive reasoning should always be the number one tool in any adventure where the player characters must unravel a mystery, there need to be some pre-laid clues to let them know there’s a solvable mystery in the first place.
Television shows, like RPG adventures, have a limited period in which clues must be laid in order to have a fun result. In this episode, there are two clues that should direct the player characters, in this case Remington Steele and Laura Holt, to the solution of the mystery. There was one red herring, never explained, to lead them off-track.
In the movie, someone is trying to murder divorce lawyer Malcolm Marcall. Marcall is pretty certain that it’s the wife of one of his four current clients; he only has four clients because he’s winding down his practice in preparation for a very early retirement. He doesn’t want his wife to worry, so he hires the Remington Steele Detective Agency to go undercover as a potential fifth client and find out who. Since Remington Steele and Laura Holt bicker all the time anyway, they have no trouble convincing Marcall’s wife and the four suspects that they are in fact a divorcing couple.
The murder attempts are:
- Uriel, Angel of Fire drops you to 666 hit points—Friday, March 8th, 2013
As we come into the endgame in our current campaign, we’ve been trying to make sure everyone can show up for each session; this makes the sessions fewer, and so I end up playing Angband again. I’m not sure why, Angband/Moria is pretty much the opposite of tabletop role-playing.
Here, I backed myself into a corner to ensure that the Archon in Yellow did not summon a horde of angels to kick me back to Eden.1 The archon did manage to summon Uriel, Angel of Fire after I pounded on him for a turn or two. Uriel then brought me down to… 666 hit points. No wonder the angels on this level wanted to kill me.2
This level was filled with angels, and they all wanted to kill me. Beside Uriel (who was a bit of a pushover), Azrael, Angel of Death was also wandering this level and making a beeline for me whenever I got near him. Because I have no nether resistance yet3, Azrael does about 700 points damage in one turn.
Since I only have 926 hit points and even with the Glaive of Pain it will take me several turns to kill Azrael, that is, as they say in economics, not sustainable. Fortunately I have telepathy (via the Iron Helm of Dor-Lomin) and Azrael blazes like a star telepathically, so it’s easy to avoid him.
- How True Are Your d20s?—Friday, March 8th, 2013
“Did Zocchi pick and choose for best effect? If it was accurate at one point, is it still? I’m pretty sure that the photograph dates to the late 1980s or early 1990s. One of the companies, TSR, hasn’t existed since 1997. Is this still a fair comparison? Eva and I set out to find out.”
Alan puts Lou Zocchi’s famous video rant to the test—do GameScience’s dice still stack up, so to speak?(Hat tip to Delta at Delta’s D&D Hotspot.)
- Subplot Kudzu—Monday, February 18th, 2013
- Troll and Flame—Thursday, January 10th, 2013
Look around for the 3.5 cards of men-at-arms, dogs, and hirelings, and for links to Texas conventions.
- Conflicts and Contests—Friday, January 4th, 2013
Now that I’ve got the final version of Gods & Monsters almost ready, I want to talk about two rules that aren’t in it. I never got a chance to play test these in our current game but I think they’re an interesting idea. These rules make conflicts and contests interchangeable. It’s something I’ve had in mind ever since I separated verve from survival. Because of that change, warriors will not automatically be better than sorcerors at chess, for example, if it’s handled as a conflict.
You can see examples of this idea in rudimentary form in some of the other rules, such as ailments and falling.
A conflict can always be switched to a contest; a contest can only be switched to a conflict once, and not after the contest has been lost. Only player characters can request a switch.
Beat conflicts into contests
At any point in a conflict, a player character can choose to turn their conflict into a contest. If they fail, they lose the conflict and their opponent wins. They are captured, and in the next scene they’re in prison, tied to a spit, or in a sailing ship on the way to America.
They will also be injured, most likely, and will take damage, just as with any contest involving weapons. If their opponent(s) have more than one attack form that they use regularly, add them all together. For example, a dragon that does 2d6 points with claws and 5d8 with breath will cause 2d6+5d8 points damage. Seven of those points will be injuries, and the rest will come from survival.
In contests, the roll is against an ability, with field bonuses and situational modifiers. Usually, combat contests will be against strength, with either agility or endurance as a major contributor and the other as a minor contributor. Each side rolls until one side loses at the same time that another side wins. Then the contest is over, and the losing side has lost the contest. Contests are all or nothing; once a contest has been resolved, there is no backing out.
When handling combat encounters as a contest, a good rule of thumb is that combat is a Very Difficult action. In a fight, the losing side is either semi-conscious or captured or, for non-player characters, routed and afraid to return. Player characters will only be captured or semi-conscious. Semiconscious characters cannot initiate any action except movement. Whether the loser is captured or not is up to the Adventure Guide, and will generally depend on whether the victor would want to capture the loser or not.