... now with 35% more arrogance!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Adversity Rolls

I sent off two articles for the upcoming issue of Fight On!, a weapons critical system and the Leech class (with rules for injury and disease. Both are reworked versions of material I've posted here, but I changed so much, I really want to talk about it here. I'm going to hold off, though, for the most part. But I could go into more detail about one element that only gets a paragraph or two in the articles: adversity rolls.

The idea of adversity rolls starts in an easy-to-overlook section on attributes in Men & Magic:
Constitution 13 or 14: Will withstand adversity
Constitution of 9 - 12: 60% to 90% chance of surviving
Constitution 8 or 7: 40% to 50% chance of survival
No real explanation, although an earlier comment about "how well the character can withstand being paralyzed, turned to stone, etc." suggests that this is the early version of the system shock roll, or a Constitution  check. What I decided to do was to use this, or something like it, to resist or recover from critical injuries and disease.
  • Damage > Constitution = Critical Injury
  • 3d6 > Constitution = Catch Disease (after exposure)
  • 3d6 <= Constitution = Critical Injury or Disease Healed 
It's typically a 3d6 roll, but Minor Diseases (Cough, Sneeze, Sniffles) only use 2d6, and some serious stuff requires 4d6 or more. It's a very tiny disease system, compared even to the simple suggestion I posted ages ago: no disease levels, not much disease detail, just two broad types of disease:
Minor Diseases lower reaction rolls, reduce surprise chances, or have other nuisance symptoms that don't prevent adventuring. Roll every day to recover. 
Major Diseases prevent the use of a body part or incapacitate. Roll every week to recover; if a vital organ is affected, a failed roll after the first week means death.
All of this so far is much longer than what I actually wrote in the article. But what I wanted to focus on here was the way you catch diseases. I don't see the point in having too much disease in the game, especially at the start. There's the obvious exposure to filth, and  there's infection from not cleaning and bandaging wounds. All mostly avoidable. But I make a brief notation in the article that dungeon diseases have a level equal to half the dungeon level (if associated with a place) or half the monster's hit dice (if passed on by a monster's attack.) The obvious example is mummy rot, although that is specifically a magical disease, not curable by bed rest or mundane treatment (but Leeches can cure it.)

(In the article, I didn't mention whether to round up or round down. In truth, I was undecided. But I'm thinking now it should be "round up".)

The implications of this? Diseases on the 4th level of the dungeon would be 2nd level, with 2d6 adversity checks to resist or recover. In other words, these would be minor diseases, mere symptoms like an annoying cough that could spoil surprise, or a rash that could provoke negative reactions when bargaining with merchants. On the 1st and 2nd levels of the dungeon, there probably shouldn't be any diseases to worry about, not even ear seekers and rot grubs.

On the 5th level, that's where you could encounter major diseases, tainted waters that could put you away for a couple weeks or blind you. Or a 5 HD giant lizard could have an infectious bite that makes an arm or a leg useless until you recover.

Ear seekers and rot grubs are combo monster-and-disease. The revised ear seeker would be 3 dice monster that attacks the ear, success means it crawls inside, damage is ignored except to compare it to Constitution to see if the victim goes deaf in that ear. Every week, make an adversity roll to see if it reaches the brain, where it does damage and causes unconsciousness. A second failed adversity roll means death. 

The revised rot grub is likewise 3 dice, attacks exposed flesh (or crrawls around looking for an opening,) and does damage; damage > Constitution means it burrows into the flesh and infects, followed by weekly adversity rolls to see if it reaches the heart. A second failed adversity roll again means death.

Both are still pretty serious, but there's plenty of warniing and time to address the situation. What I always hated about the official ear seeker and rot grub is that they had such byzantine rules and unusual cure restrictions, which add nothing.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Imagining Magic: Gestures

Can a Magic-User cast a spell while holding a torch?

This question popped up in a debate on a forum. The implicit question is: Does spell casting require what AD&D refers to as "somatic components", and if so, how much? AD&D has an answer, or at least a partial one. OD&D doesn't, because that's left up to the GM or group, as are all the derivative questions.

If a spell caster can't hold a torch, but must have both hands free for magical gesticulations, does that imply that spell casters can be prevented from casting spells by chopping off a hand?

If a spell caster only needs one free hand, do cautious villains and/or barons need to chop off both hands to prevent magical reprisals?

Does losing a hand through accident make a PC spell caster useless?

If spell casters don't need their hands free at all, but do it entirely with magical words, why can't they carry shields or use swords?

These questions have no right answer, but must be answered at some point. Players are going to alter the way they play based on how they think magic works. GMs are going to change the way they build the world based on how magic is supposed to work.

My own answer is that the the words and gestures are mnemonic triggers for a prepared spell. They aren't actually part of the spell itself, but part of a memory system the spell caster has developed and practiced. Cutting off a hand disrupts the ability to cast currently prepared spells, and for a time also prevents preparing any new spells, but the caster can come up with a new set of mnemonic triggers tailored for any new body configurations, using the spell research rules.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Ambush Damage

Almost got my computer back online, which will mean that I can tackle a backlog of creative content I want to make available. But I haven't been idle. I've been preparing a revised version of the weapon damage tables, which I've edited, condensed into three tables in a single document, and added a little more supporting material. I've sent it in for Fight On! #15, or if it isn't accepted, I will include it in a PDF for download.

One of the new optional rules is worth looking at here.
Even a non-thief does a little extra damage on surprise attacks, sometimes. Add +2 to damage, +4 if the target is not wearing armor.
The reason for the rule? Mostly to give everyone a chance to occasionally get a Critical Blow in, to cripple or even kill an enemy. Also, though, because I thought backstab attacks should do a little more damage, to reflect being able to aim for armor weak spots. It's not much, so it shouldn't upstage thieves, but if that still worries you, just give it to thieves as well. Add the bonus after any backstab multipliers.

I had an earlier rule that surprise attacks add the descending AC to damage. I rewrote the rule this way to make it usable regardless of what armor class scheme the GM uses.
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