Monday, January 30, 2012


During a chat discussion with an "old school" (as in AD&D) friend, Geoffery, I started telling him about my "Tunnelhack" system of scenario organizing. When I told that it is where I step away from my usual narrative style of writing to use random tables to handle entire stretches of the story, he stated "Oh so you're 'sandboxing' but without the miniatures." A week later I was reading a review of Ken St Andre's "Dwarf World" for T&T where the critic states something to the extent that the work is a bunch of random tables and that is about it. That has got me thinking on it a bit on what exactly do I think makes my self-exclaimed exciting matrices different than what what I've seen self-described sandboxers do.

True enough, my Tunnelhacks come from about an hour
's worth of writing up randomized tables.But there does get to be a bit more going on, at least for me.

It's not about half-attempts at improvisation first off. I not only use the random charts to make the tabletop more exciting to me as the GM, but it also helps me explore vast areas of very large campaign areas without going into too much detail and printing expenses. As I write down a table and the sorts of terrain/ encounters come to mind in a quick list form, a bigger map starts to work itself out in my head. A lot of times, I am tempted not draw a map, just ask Christi Crab, and tr
y to make the potential GM have to go deeper into the narrative of the scenario. But with some thumb pulling, I usually come up with a map, so the audience can point to someplace, roll a die or two and then say, "When you get to here, you see... ." But that is as far as I go.

I generally do not do all chart scenarios. I feel the need t
o have some pretty complex narrative to help keep up a pretty atmospheric approach when I move to the random charts. I've heard from a couple people, four really, who have actually ran my scenarios, that they felt that is indeed a common effect as they got to those points in the adventure as well.

And my list themselves are pretty full of wordy descripti
ons of characteristics of the area or say abilities of the creature being encountered. This of course is the occupational hazard of T&T, in that the GM has does not have cookie cutter bestiaries, while at the same time it is the treasure of the system as well. This also helps me later if I decide just to go with a narrative, by having a lot of the wordage worked out, if I decide to go with a scene-driven (railroad car) approach to the session; maybe throw in a few openers and then transitions, wallah! I already have pages of text and color to work with.

Of course playtesting is important to make these things work. At the same time, playtesting with the cat when you should be writing can be more hindering than helpful.

I guess the difference is is that my Tunnelhacking matrices and sandboxed prearranged elements is that it isn't about the abbreviated list being the tale, but the tale being the framework for the abbreviation.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Math of Doom and a Spell a Day.

Wow. I have been getting sloppy with my T&T of late. While writing a new scenario almost every two months, I have really started to get rusty around the hinges with the math and magic of the game. Funny, you'd think this couldn't happen considering that I work out ranges for combat and refer to specific spells as both arise in the course of writing it. But where I've noticed is at the tabletop. And I've only noticed now, because I have only been there twice since November.

On the Math of Mass Deathality... At 2011 Carnage, the final encounter for my pseudo-historical/Biblical scenario duo "Raiders of the Temple of Marduk," was a pretty massive MRed demon, with some highly magical abilities. Still in my head, I figured there was a 70% chance of a party of four adventurers with Combat Adds/Intelligence scores around 55 to defeat it. Well, the encounter was exciting. I had to really pull back my punches at first because the delvers were separated. But then when I got them all into mass combat, ignoring the spell abilities of the demon, I total party killed them all in one round of combat. Of course, I did roll an awful lot of five and six pips. The players were groaning as they tallied their results. And the game was an hour over time, so maybe some Jungian metaphysical occurrence occurred overcoming the math.

The second time was at the premier InConTroll, during my "Journey Through a Strange Vale." I was incrementally increasing the number of opponents for a group of seven PCs, with an average Combat Add at somewhere around 45, though the median Wizards' IN score was only at '19.' These opponent's were orks at MR 30. For the first three combat turns, I couldn't get the group to start to lose, and then on the fourth I rolled a TPK. Huh? Well, as this was the first encounter, I then just fudged things, and the kill result was less than a total of a dozen points so NPCs and horses absorbed damage as well.

Now there is no big mystery here to me, just rustiness on the tabletop running. My Delver's damage potential to Monster's damage potential is close. So if either side rolls high and the other side doesn't roll at least half theirs, the average armor rating cannot adsorb enough Hits. This is exacerbated when I am mixing newer and more experienced PCs. Now, while I don't like fudging, I do like mixed experience levels in my player groups, so I'll have to work out more detailed math. I am thinking along some overly detailed minutia like my MR 30 orks should have been MR 26 and that sort of thing.

A Spell a Day Keeps the Rules Lawyer Away... I haven't been having any problems with spells at the tabletop, actually. But I have been having players read the spells that they are casting to the group. This familiarizes newer players to the rules and has the hidden benefit of reminding me of this or that little detail. This practice won't stop until I am running tables full of people with their own books and characters that they made without help from me, though me seeing their Combat Adds and whatnot will always be required. Alas though I think reading a page or two of spells each day before falling asleep will be a helpful ritual.

Saying this bit aloud makes me feel quaint and silly. Ah what the hell, it's not like I never did anything silly before.

In Conclusive Jelly-filled Conclusion...But what I really need to do is get more play-time. I wasn't falling into the lethality pitfall when I was running every two weeks to a month. I am thinking it's time to get over my psychological inhibitions about video-calls.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Mistress Race Trolls

It is said that the worlds' most famous troll Grimtooth came from this Kin and was only later transformed into what is called the Rock Troll species. These trolls resemble goblin or hobgoblins just a lot taller and rather more muscular, and their ears tend to be much larger as well. Why they are called Mistress Race, no one quite knows. Some say it is from the time of the Wizard Wars, or something called the God Wars.

While their skin gets harder with age (one point Armor gained per century of life) it is rather like the flesh of humans or orks to begin with. They have very poor eyesight but their sense of smell and haring make up for that. They have sonar based hearing similar to a bat that essentially acts as Cat-Eyes at night though the accurate distance is limited making them rather medium range-"sighted" in either night or day.

As Kin they are generally rather civilized, with their own garb, literature and Trade languages. But their tendency to live in the dark and eat the bodies of their vanquished as well as their own is seen as "evil" by most other cultures around them. They do not like to be copied and pasted from the web, where they are posted for free; and pasted into print publications for someone else's profit without the author's permission or compensation. Many of the are devoutly religious to the Cult of the Trollgod and work their way up as Warriors, Wizards, Rogues and whatnot through the ranks of this church.

Delvers encountering these creatures for the first time should be able to handle at least nine dice plus 40 points worth of damage potential.

(This is going to be the last troll for this year's High Season, because I am prepping for Elvismas. And special thanks to Chaosium's Runequest for the inspiration here on this particular entry).