Friday, March 30, 2012

Monster in the Details: MR and the Attributed Encounter.

I happened to be re-reading the hill giants hanging out in the the wilderness between Thornguard and Willowmoss of Peakvale, and it just so happened that my T&T 7plus rulebook was open to the "Rare Kindred Attribute Modifiers" pages. You know, like I was writing a T&T scenario or something to that nature. But then something struck me about Scot Malthouse's assignment of 90-120 range for the MR for the creatures, his detailed example of a specific hill giant and the Attribute multipliers. The numbers translated nicely considering the calculus of T&T Stats.

Now this doesn't surprise me. Scott Malthouse tends to be from the under-reported school of the empirical T&T designers. While many authors run around worrying about the most dramatic event that they can think in a solo, usually meaning the instantaneous death of the single PC or a very lop-sided combat, leading to a not so quick death of said PC, "Malty" takes the time to think about making an obstacle possible, even likely, to be overcome by the PC or group of them. I noticed this when I read his "Depths of the Devilmancer" and "Forest of the Treelords" scenarios some months, maybe a year, ago. I happen to be one as well, which is why I like to work with the man. So while our works don't get half the press, mostly complaints about "dungeon" lethality, and long-lengthy articles trying to come up with game norms to increase survivability of the player's character, our audience generally doesn't perceive much imbalance in our scenarios.

Once again, this isn't what is interesting. What is odd, is that Scott and I never sat down and talked about our methods, outside of reading each others shorthand at our blogs for creating encounters. Over the years, I've spent more time trying to explain T&T's "Monster Dice" to people more familiar to D&D than Our Game and trying to explain why one does not really have to worry about size. Indeed, our infrequent correspondences have been about two handfuls over five years and mostly pertaining to projects that one or the other has going on, not rules discussion. But somehow his encounters for this or that "Level" of Delver in T&T game terms mathematically add up to me when I read them. So I've spent this morning figuring out how is this so.

You take the eight stats (Strength, Constitution, Dexterity, Speed, Intelligence, Wizardry, Luck and Charm) and apply 1/10th of the MR to each. Then you apply the Kindred Attribute Modifiers. Figure in a 3d weapon, really any weapon or just a single die for fists or kicks but there will be a bigger difference in results. And add the Combat Adds. To proof yo
urself, you do the damage potential ranges (excluding DARO and TARO), for both the detailed encounter and then the generalized "MRed" encounter. What will vary will be the Combat Adds between the two, but the damage potential ranges will be within 9-12 points of each other, with the Detailed encounter doing less than Rated one.

Godsheads, I am glad I've gotten this out of my head. Now I can get some real work done.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

From the Desk of Mad Roy Cram

This just came in my mailbox today from Roy Cram, who's Yorda personna is as developed as my own Kopfy, following up on an article that he wrote. He adds adventure seeds for my New Khazan T&T setting. I am dying to see more of this Professor Whenn character of his.
Dear Kopfy,
Yorda asked me to provide you with some info on the T'wall for gaming purposes. You have read the description and seen Grummlakh's nice picture (they are uglier than that). Based on my travels and talking with people who have met them T'wall come in the following sizes:

Hatchling - = Grizzly bear - shell = chail mail MR 100-200
- = Kodiak Bear - shell = plate mail MR 300-400
= Rhinoceros - shell 2 x plate mail MR 500-700
size = elephant to Mammoth size. Armor = 3 x plate mail MR 800 plus

They are fire proof (though lava and molten metal will hurt them); liquid air will freeze them, but not kill them. They can be shattered if frozen this way. Otherwise they are impervious to ordinary cold. Electricity, short of a full fledged lightning bolt will just annoy them. No known disease can hurt them (though a specially developed bioweapon might be developed if one had time and the resources.) Fortunately, most of the specimens encountered are small and usually injured or impaired in some way. This unfortunately makes them even grumpier than usual. They tend to be magic resistant. Hope that is helpful. If you have questions or comments trollmail Yorrdamma and he will get in touch with me.

Your humble servant and friend,

Professor Whenn

Thursday, March 15, 2012

T&T Gameplay: Showing Some Skills... (Talents)

Apologies Paul (G'noll) not the topic you inspired just yet.

A quick word on Talents. I am as fond of talents as one who is lactose-intolerant likes milk shakes, but I have allowed them since I started playing T&T 7plus. At first it was because I wanted to "play-test" them and see how well they worked. Later, after the play-test campaign, my rationale was more like, the burger joint that I like to go to keeps the customers coming in with them. Now that there has been some discussion of them over in the Halls, I've had to take a look at why I not only think they help Our Game appeal to other, less true T&T-heads, but why I have grown fond of them.

There is something to be said that Talents aren't just combat enhancers. As Talents are in the current 7plus of T&T, Ken's (Trollgod's) rule that Talents cannot enhance combat. I quote here, "What about a Talent for combat? Wouldn't that make the character fight better all the time? No!... ." I'm not going into the specific reasons that Ken St Andre ruled this way, I'll let others go into that wording and what is right or wrong about with the rule. I agree with it. I just agree that talents presented on the tabletop during a role-playing session should bring something more than a damage bonus or a foil to an attack, that's too much like wargaming to me.

Because of this, what Talents have done for almost a decade now for me in T&T has been to retain the convention of a role-playing game to have a rule that prompts something other than combat during a game session. At first, during the initial sessions, Robin (Peryton) would challenge herself to come up with a "Talent" versus a "Feat," a term from That Game. This meant that she would find something other than a tactical shortcut that could be used during game play, and often it had nothing to scenes where violence was occurring.

Now as any good TV watcher faked violence is not a problem, and it is a lot of fun for the audience; but there is a difference between a wrestling match and a good prime-time soap opera. And the wrestling only airs when the network doesn't have any money to show anything else. The T&T Talent gave me something else besides sexual titillation to help craft a fantasy melodrama along with my players. And as Robin and I are married, we don't do a lot of sexual titillation for the other guests at the role-playing session. We did have a nice sun set in Athebes where my main NPC and her Wizard character made it to the top of my version of Mount Kilimanjaro, but we just flirted as I revealed background information on the setting for everyone. Still Jonathan, Ziggy and Shelly stopped rolling dice to watch the scene unfold. Anyway... !

Later games, new players to the game were just flat-out intrigued by the Talents. Most I feel were just trying to recreate combat feats, unsuccessfully, from D&D 2e. Quite a few complaints arose with words like "subjectivity" and "idiosyncratic" came into play. But some did try to experiment. A few of these flexible few were able to move beyond describing acts that everyone else in their imaginary world should be able to perform, on a daily basis, at that. Almost half of these Talents didn't even come from Star Wars or Star Trek. It was fun to see a Rogue able to basically psychoanalyze the minotaur in the maze by the way he was munching on pistachios (Thanks Lumberjack!).

Most recently, a fellow by the name of Andrew at the BASHCon convention last February, was insistent on playing a Citizen. To define his character, he and Robin, as I was not paying that much attention to him as he was dead meat in book, came up with a couple Talents that a cook would have. Me being the every dutiful GM, came up with a reason as to why he would come hang out with a group of grave-robbing and Prone-to-Violence sociopaths that call themselves "Delvers." You guys want to know what, the Cook made the whole of the "Leprechaun Island" scenario work. Don't believe me? Ask Robin, Paul and Jerry (Jherri).

So these days, I give people insistent on having Talents some respect. They have some skills that can be shown. And they keep it about the story, not the "disarming" and "power surge" of combat.


Saturday, March 10, 2012

The Case For Warrior-Wizards, err Paragons

According to Paul Haynie, G'noll at the Halls, Uncle Gnoll elsewhere, "...I REALLY dislike Paragons in 7.x. In 5.x, they turned up about one time in 360, which was already too rare to waste rules space on for my money. In 7.x, the two additional attributes make it one Paragon in more than 2500 characters, which is pretty much an absurdity..."

Statistically speaking, he's right. I've even argued this point with Ken St Andre about Warrior-Wizards from 5th edition back in the 80s over a dispute with my players. My rule was "Warrior-Wizards had to be rolled up in front of me, the GM. Or another GM that knew and trusted."

I suppose knowing that I trusted no other GMs besides myself, my players went to extreme measures. And after being very publicly embarrassed by two players with letters proclaiming me a bad guy, I had to write my letter to the Game Designer, THE CREATOR. And I eloquently, for a 16 year-old who didn't speak English that well and didn't like to proofread anything, argued the strict math and pointed to the number of the Types that were coming across my perusal. So a week, or maybe ten days, later I was able to show a letter from the man that I now know as the Trollgod, reversing himself and stating that I could, and should, run my tabletop any way that I want I want to.

It's a good thing too, that I stuck with the rule. If only to see the magic of tabletop role-playing versus statistical analysis. Player-Characters with all initial attributes over 12 do happen, even in 5th edition without the TARO rule, more often than one would think. In practice at my 32 T&T campaigns to date, that lasted over three weeks, the Warrior-Wizards seem to come in runs. At one time, I had three out of six delvers playing Warrior-Wizards. And the guys weren't cheating. In 7plus edition, the occur about once in ten character roll ups. I even had to bar the Type from my first playtest campaign, see Athebes, because I wanted to teach the players "true T&T."

That said, I am not the world's biggest fan of the uber-class of character Type either. But once again, seeing the players in front of me light up as their dice rolls are "on a roll" just melts my heart. Such success in "roll-playing" merits reward. It's like winning a poker game AND collecting on bets on the Superbowl in the same night. How can I be such a minimalistic nihilist (BUZZKILL) and deny the players a "prestige class."

And lastly, it's a popular Type. Doing without it would probably hurt the appeal of the game.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Tom's T&T X Edition: More on Types

There's been a discussion on "Classes and a possible Classless" T&T over at the Halls. Of course, I am chagrined at the use of the term class outside of a socioeconomic treatise, but at the same time the rules tweekers got me thinking on Types. I have to admit it rather expanded my horizons. While I don't like the idea of a classless mode for Our Game, there already is RuneQuest and various other games now in existence for decades now. But a "trans-Type" model came to me.

Citizen= no minimum Stats
Rogue= Lk or Ch or Dx "12"
Warrior= St or Sp "15"
Wizard= Dx "12;" In "15;" Wiz "20"

A player character could advance his Delver from a Citizen into a Wizard as his statistics increase using the Attribute increasing experience system. Given no restrictions as to the "perks" that he could retain, by the time he was a Wizard he'd be a Paragon and go even farther than that. A Paragon with the Roguery Talent, key music,...the Uber-Paragon.

That isn't quiet how I'd use the convention. I am not a big fan of Paragons, uber or unter, except as very occasional delver Types, and it kind of flies in the face of Ken St Andre's mentions of Wizards and Warriors as being occupations of years of training and preparation. The player rising up on the slow road from either a Citizen or Rogue, would be bound to his choice of being a Wizard or a Warrior.

Some disagree with the meta-Type model all-together. One of the grounds being "Ken says, it should take years
." This begs the question, how old are delvers when they start adventuring down tunnels? Are the Warriors in their 50s and Wizards in their 60s when they first raid a goblin warren? Considering that this is a make believe endeavor that we're on about, I suppose that can be one interpretation. But I tend to be a media child. If not paperbacks, then film, or even a TV series. So what are the ages of the actors that portray Conan, Perseus and King Arthur? Not a one over 30. So exactly how many years does it take to make a true Wizard or a Warrior? So in mixing up reality and fantasy, I'd equate being a Wizard or Warrior with advanced education. Now while some might think that superior education is unattainable for most, maybe even a matter of genetics. Functionally though, peoples from various backgrounds can attain such at varying speeds, if not social acceptance by those that got theirs first.

To reflect the passage of time, the convention of Experience in the game would suffice. Getting a Citizen's Wizardry score up to 20, to say the least, would be quite a bit of adventuring. In my book that would be an adequate amount of time.

Would the delver have to give up old perks from their previous Type? In my book, no.

Even while working out this more of Type experimentation, my model strikes me as very regulated and over codified. Still It'd be interesting, and maybe not just for a campaign or two.