Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Monster Mash

This next month, I am going to be outlining some thoughts I have on "trolls," following the Ken St Andre philosophy. But high fantasy is best left for the High Months of Novemeber and December. For right now, it's the Harvest season, and that means Halloween and Dagenhalo. So just a little treat.

Now JerryTel has an awesome Halloween treat for all the guys and ghouls hanging about the place.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Arrow on String or Arrow in Hand: Complex Combat in T&T

I think pretty much everyone reading this blog knows the "stages of T&T combat" as per the book. But just in case you live in a cavern in Le Petit Mont (That's in France), here they are summarized:

1. Surprise Attack
2. Magic Casting
3. Missile Combat
4. Picking Melee Target(s)
5. Rolling of Massive Amounts of Dice.
6. Calculate Damage

Now while other Delvers will come up with other ways of handling determining damage besides massive amounts of dice, I don't really worry about that. Actually I kind of like dealing with tons of dice results. But the overall sequence isn't very "visual" in my mind. So I've developed some little "tweaks" to make the combat turn into a narrative scene that strives for a bit of graphic drama.

The biggest is that I just calculate the damage of each each sequence while it is occurring.
It has the by-product of sometimes reducing the number of dice. And this for the most part, it definitely reduces the bit of number crunching at the end of every Combat Turn. All this is on top of making a better tabletop story. Now while this might draw someone thinking that initiative needs to occur, I rarely need to do that. Magic and missiles are fired at stated targets, I let the PCs go first. Then the NPCs or monsters have their turn. Then both sides state their damage. Unless someone is killed or knocked down to a single hit point, I usually assume that the stricken stay around for the Hand-to-Hand coming up.

Also helpful is to increase, every so slightly, tactical situations with ranged weapons. The missile category during a non-static combat situation is a limited option. That translates as, if the archer, or whatnot, is not in a set and protected position, the missile weapon
user will have to move to a melee weapon after the first turn, or take the next turn moving to an area where he can fire again-- hopefully without a follower. The spell caster can continue to use spells as long as she, or he, is able, but will not be able to partake in the melee portion of the fisticuffs. It is assumed that he is doing the dodging and making spiffy quips bits so popular on TV, while the rest fight on around him.

Then there is my "After Turn Commentary," where after all the damage is tallied up, I go through and narrate how things occurred. I hope this adds a bit of thrill for the players at the table, because it is a task to be a "lyrical" GM outside of set story-points in a session. But even if it doesn't, it helps establish what the tactical situation is for the upcoming next Turn. Of course, I work in things like how hurt certain of my NPCs are and a few if not all will flee. May the Trollgod forgive me for working in a "morale" more into fray, but it really does reduce the number of dice required to roll, as well as add a level of drama that isn't just two sets of numbers clashing until o
ne is zero. You can probably tell that I tend to avoid gladiatorial events, liking the fracas of a brawl or a clash of armed gangs.

I have a pretty set houserule these days, that unless otherwise stated, creatures natural abilities, a specific T&T spell or projectile weapon, occurs at Wz cost, but doesn't affect their melee combat. But this doesn't count for an encounter with a Type, like a Wizard or Rogue, like say a "Dark Elf," or "Ash Gnome," or a 'Weird-beard Dwarf."

My experienced players at the table seem to appreciate the way I handle combats, which I think is the best sign of whether my system is working out or not.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Ego-tripping about PowerTrip'ping

While I should be posting about my thoughts on the T&T magic system, and its spells, even more specifically making new spells, Paul Ingrassia, Mist-Tikk, has diverted my attention. It isn't hard for him to do. he does it to me often, because the guy is a bubbling well-spring of ideas if not always energy. His blog The Troll Hammer was one of my favorite quieter events of this year, 2011 up until the depths of Summer, and then Jaws got him or something. Now he's no Malthouse, but his run of ideas mixes in with our tributaries and sloughs keeping the mighty T&T river, the Crocodile, flowing throughout our season.

...And everyone knows the Crocodile River is no stranger to flooding...

So what has gotten me distracted this time around, superheroes. Yes, yes, I know; I've been working on superhero-ey stuff for "Nixon's World." And I don't forget all the superhero movies that are the staple of every Summer since the Lord of the Rings and Star Wars finished their runs as CGI mega-block busters heralding the new millennium, heralding a new age of programming and media manipulation over craftsmanship and talent. But understand that I haven't been thinking about the rules and how to make superheroes in an efficient manner like I feel T&T derivatives should do so for more than a trio of years.

Instead, while lo
oking at the formatting requirements of my Nixon villains for The PowerTrip, I noticed that the game system went the direction of removing the character Type. Not a bad idea, Ken St Andre has been playing with that since Stormbringer(TM), though if I remember correctly, he didn't quite make the leap. MSPE did so, not an overly phantasmal RPG system, but with paranormal abilities available to the heroes participating, went the same way. But this freedom from PCs being "boxed" into a narrow confine of a rather stereotypical character concepts are once again replaced with "Skill Lists." But until Tunnels & Trolls(TM) is renamed "Rune-Inscribed Tunnels with Source Books About Trolls" this just won't smell right to me. D&D and various successful on-line games seem to have noticed the strength of having types of characters as opposed to free-form, if a bit constructed more like Tax Return forms than classic archetypes. In superheroes if not shamans and pirates, it just works. Gimme the Types, baby. Pour them over me.

In my book, these classical types would be the following five categories:

Brawler/Tank- Takes lotsa damage, and can dish it out.
Quirk/Gimmick- One power, err ability, defines that character.
Sneaker- A gal who can duck in and out of a dicey situation.
Blaster/Artillery- Ranged specialist.
Ace- The inventor guy or gal, who with a "gimmick" can be a rather fun player-character.

Now at this point, my self-viewed cumbersome "Skill Lists" like to creep up again. Very often they're arranged into categories and sub categories, with varying "costs" to purchase this or that special ability versus that throw-away one over there. I already have a "Skill List," it's called "T&T Spells." These spells should only be able to be used when the PC's attributes match those of the required levels. But the tests of their character that the characters must face must be empowered to allow him, or her, to increase those stats during the conflicts before him. With great drama must come great opportunity... Stan Lee should be taking notes, instead of writing Peter Parker's suicide note for the umpteenth time everyone, including his blood relatives kick him in the balls.

The characters in this superhero construct, that I am developing as I type this blog entry, gain a "super power" that is es
sentially from the T&T rules book spell list. I recommend using the 5th Edition for this, the 7th gets a little "idiopathic." But allowing each superhero and evil-villain one spell per level, provides a wide basis for diverse characters for any saga without out too much scratching of quills and gnashing of teeth. And practically, even the most established of gaming groups will only have 14-100 game sessions to start to get bored of things. Mind you, the GM should have plenty of graphics of geometrically aligned males and a couple females for players to sketch out and make the PC into a fuller protagonist in the drama being presented.

But I am getting ahead of myself...

What in game terms defines a superhero? Well firstly, greatly reducing the magical perks available to to world around them. Ken is doing this his PowerTrip, w
ith his "Newman," as opposed to human, premise. it is a universe, well setting, where the "magic goes away," to quote Larry Niven, but the supernatural resides in each character playing. But even so the designer of this setting has to draw his players into their characters. This actually isn't hard, just a simple house rule, a certain number of the PC's attributes are multiplied by ten BUT they still start out at first level.

These game-wise unrecognized, but way overly endowed individuals will indeed raise aspects that draw them, the Player-Characters, involved beyond the boundaries of the
mere humanity around them, demand a tabletop (world) full of challenges and obstacles to develop their abilities. And the GM will provide them with such challenges and obstacles in the shape, err shapes, of super-villains and world threatening crises. As for leveling, I'd stick with the 7plus norm of making it attribute-based, but only one of the enhanced ones. The matrix would be something like the next level comes about whenever one particular attribute increases by 10 points from it's starting point.

Well there's the abstract, maybe one day I'll get around to making the game itself.