-8 hp . . .

For a variety of real-life reasons, I won't be updating this for the immediate future. It isn't dead (at least not yet) but it may be heading that way.


nWOD House Rules: Melee Combat

This is the melee expansion of the nWODcombat hack that I put up a few months ago. The intent is to make combat a little more mechanically engaging, and less like two combatants rolling all out attacks every round. It's still in beta testing, so feedback or thoughts are very welcome.

The goals of the change are twofold:
1) Characters have realistic options other than just going full-tilt and hoping they kill the other guy first. A defensive character can likely avoid taking hits for at least a couple of rounds. At the same time, an unarmored character, especially a mook, can often be dropped in a single good hit. This makes things like surprise and tactical movement more effective.

2) A character's equipment choice affects their fighting style. Weapons like axes are great for dishing out lots of damage, but less effective for playing defense. Pole-arms are good all-round killing tools, but can't be paired with a shield, which leaves the character vulnerable to projectile weapons. Knives are concealable and still pretty useful in a grapple, etc.

Details and a stats handout below the cut:


Skills and specializations

One of the many (many) game engine debates has to do with how many skills a 'skill based' engine (open d6, nWOD, etc) should have. I'm of the opinion that long and short skill lists both have their advantages and disadvantages. What follows is a generic houserule for skill specialization that I've been using in an attempt to have the best of both worlds.

The short version: require specialization past a predetermined skill level.


Rehashing Fantasy Species: Elves

It's not that I don't understand why most people hate generic fantasy elves - I hate them too. The whole 'beautiful nature-loving people who are in all ways superior to you' is obnoxious. But I'm a sucker for ninja-species, so rehabilitating elves is something of a compulsion. 

(Edit: 07/13 - some minor rebalancing and reorganization.)


Elves are the alpha-predators of the deep woods; nocturnal carnivores who live in small nomadic tribes. Their cultural ethos and raiding practices put them at odds with more settled species. Human myths and rumors paint elves as predatory sociopaths, and there is some truth to this view. Ruthlessness comes easily to these sentient pack hunters.  


Monster: Mordt-spinner

Also called: Khalikarch, Bone Harvester

A man-sized tangle of spider-legs and savage claws, the Mordt-spinner decorates its body with pieces of refuse and carrion as camouflage. The smaller ones prey on rats and the occasional possum or dog. The larger ones can tear a man out of his armor and devour him in minutes.


SMG Archetypes (with nWOD stats handout)

In an age when a sniper with a .50 caliber rifle can turn an enemy into pink mist from over a mile away, some of the best weapons for door-kicking and room-clearing are still compact, low caliber automatic weapons.* Submachineguns are the quintessential short-range firearms - compact for easy handling in close quarters, but still capable of automatic fire.

(*To be fair, the M4 and other assault carbines are arguably better, but I'll talk about those later).

This is a followup to an earlier post describing handguns. The idea is to break down firearms into categories that are still fairly general, but offer more variety than the barebones groups you might find in nWOD or d6 lite. Below the cut you'll find a statted handout (based on these nWOD houserules) and my ramblings about submachineguns.


Opening sessions: Getting the party started

Sure, you could just open with a mysterious old man who calls for all the PCs to meet him in a tavern, where he explains that he wants to hire them to recover the McGuffin from Adversary Corp or the Dungeon of Generic Goblinoids.

But how much fun is that?

Tips for an awesome first session:
1) Give the PCs an immediate and compelling reason to work together.
2) Show the players how much fun this campaign is going to be.

Thoughts and advice below the cut.


What would you like to see more of?

Work is killing me this week, so no new material.

But - I have a bunch of half-written stuff lying around that can be easily finished and posted next week.Which brings me to the topic of this post:

What, if anything, has been useful so far?

Is there anything in particular you would like to see posted? More in-depth rules hacks? More commentary and stats for weapons? More monsters? Or more of me rambling into the void about how I like to run my games?


Pilot episodes: Great for testing mechanics and new settings

I've used pilot episodes as a GM, been part of them as a player, and have generally liked the way they turned out. The idea is pretty straightforward, and it's a lot like running a convention game for your players. When the GM wants to try out a new system mechanic, or run a different kind of game, they put together a 1-2 session 'episode' with pre-made characters and a self-contained plot.

When it works, everyone is happy. The GM gets to 'field test' whatever shiny new thing they are interested in and the players get a quick introduction to it (and the chance to comment) without putting a whole lot of energy into new character or risking their existing ones.

Here are some things that I've found help make it work:


Re-trying Failed Skill Checks

This is another one of those things that happens in most games sooner or later . . .

After narrowly surviving an attempt on their lives, the PCs take a (locked) briefcase from the car of that guy in the suit who tried to kill them, and they want to open it in the safety of their hotel room. Or perhaps they are in an abandoned warehouse in Detroit, going over a murder scene for clues. Either way, the players roll dice for their characters, and fail. And so the players want to try again - after all, they have all the time in the world. Sure, the friends of the man in the suit might find their hotel room eventually, and the warehouse killer will strike again tomorrow, but there are a whole lot of rounds (or minutes, or even hours) between now and then.

So - what can the GM do when a player wants to re-try something that requires a roll, but has no apparent consequence for failure?


nWOD House Rules: Handgun Stats Handout

The handout is here: nWOD Handgun Stats

If you are looking for a block of statted out real world handguns and like the combat house rules I posted earlier, this is for you. It isn't production quality (no pictures), but if a bunch of people start downloading it, I'll put together one with pictures and some more detail for the firearms, and post similar handouts for long guns.



Random Loot: Jamming Devices

Designed for: Modern and most Near-Future or Sci-Fi settings.

Summary: Great for surprise attacks, ambushing convoys, and foiling terrorists.


Intimidate checks: Making them an offer they can't refuse

It happens sooner or later in every game: one of the PCs is holding a gun on an NPC and they want the NPC to drop a weapon, or open a door, or whatever. The GM has the PC make an intimidate roll, and because the PC has a low intimidate stat, or because the dice gods hate them, they fail. It should be clear to the NPC that failing to comply is tantamount to suicide, but the dice say the NPC isn't afraid.

What is a GM to do?

Some thoughts below. Also - Google tells me that I have lurkers. Feel free to chime in with comments/suggestions on this or any other posts.


Monster: Wyvern Parasite

(06.09.2012: edited from original for typos and clarity)

An insectile nightmare that grows inside a person, consuming their organs and wearing the host's body like a shell. It looks sort of like smart, fast zombie, until 4' of glistening wet spines and legs and chelicerae reaches out of an empty eye-socket and latches on to your face.

Description and Biomechanics: 
Full grown parasites resemble 5-6' long black centipedes, with a cluster of long grasping claws and hooked chelicerae at their mouth and every other set of legs replaced by retractable tendrils. When inside a host body, they usually wind themselves around the spinal cord, or coil up inside the ribcage or the skull. Their tendrils branch out through the body and take over muscle control from the host nervous system. This gives the parasite reasonably good gross motor control, but fine motor control, facial expression and the like are beyond them.


nWOD (Storytelling) House Rules: Combat

(Disclaimer: 'World of Darkness', is a registered trademarks of CCP, inc. The author is in no way affiliated with this company or any of their products).

Late Edit: I've posted a handout with handgun stats here, and one with SMG stats here. If you like these house rules (or just want stats for a bunch of real world guns), feel free to take and use these. 

The first of many posts about my heavily houseruled version of the nWOD mechanics.

The essence of the modification is that rather than weapons being defined by a single stat that adds to the attack roll, weapons have a 'to hit bonus' (which you add to the attack roll) and a 'base damage' (which adds to any successes on the attack roll). Revolutionary, I know. If the King of Sweden calls with my Nobel Prize for Awesomness, I'll be down at the bar.

The trouble is that introducing that change requires a couple of other changes to avoid radically altering the game balance. What follows is an explanation of the rationale and development of the core mechanic. At some point, there will be an easily useable pdf of the mechanics, along with some gear lists.


Weapon Archetypes: Handguns

Edit: If you are interested in a concrete example of what this looks like, I've posted a handout with handgun stats here. This handout uses the house rules outlined in another post.

Some GMs (myself included) are borderline autistic stat-junkies who can happily spend an afternoon making giant tables of weapons, each with its own unique strengths and weaknesses. If you don't believe me, go back and look at the AD&D 2nd edition weapon damage table. Although I disagree with much of what is on there (only 1d4+1 for a heavy crossbow?! are you sh*tting me?) I cannot fault the love that went into that table and recognize a kindred spirit in whichever poor soul back at TSR tried to decide whether a ranseur or a glaive should do more damage, or whether a bill-hook should still get to do extra damage when set to receive a charging opponent.
Other GMs would probably rather fritter away their time making interesting NPCs, or worldbuilding, or coming up with interesting encounter ideas. In that spirit, these posts are going to be for GMs who want more varied weapons then the super general lists that come with most games, but don't want to spend a bunch of time trying to figure out how many different light pistols they need and working out ways to make them different. The idea is the same one that games like World of Darkness and Star Wars use ('light pistol,' 'heavy pistol,' etc), just with an extra layer of detail that can be added as desired to give subclasses of firearms slight mechanical advantages based on their intended role.

So - here's my breakdown of the main types of handguns:


Running investigations and mysteries

I don't know about other folks, but when I started running games with a heavy investigative component, I structured them the way you see investigations structured in movies and books. Just add freedom of action for the PCs and stir. For some people, I'm sure this works great - your players piece together your cleverly (but not too cleverly) hidden bits of information and come to the conclusions that you expect.

This pretty much never worked for me. Too often, players miss key clues, no matter how smart the player or how obvious you've made the clues. Investigative games where players aren't finding their way have a habit of slowing to a crawl as the PCs start flailing - interacting with every NPC they find to try and get a hint, or throwing their characters at the setting to try and cause a reaction.

So, here are 3 things that I've done to make my investigative games work better:


Roleplaying games and copyright infringement II

This part is mostly about derivative works. For Part I (game mechanics and IP law) go here.

So - game mechanics are not protected by copyright, and are unlikely to be patented.

Suppose you have written a supplement for a particular game system - say, a spin-off game called 'Hipster: The Irony.' Are there restrictions on how closely this can be based on existing, copyright protected material, beyond a prohibition against copying and pasting copyrighted text or images? 

You bet there are. But there is a good chance you could make the game anyway.


Random Loot: DuraFoam Canister

Designed for: Near-future Sci-Fi, but works just fine in any reasonably tech heavy setting.

Summary: Instant concrete in a spray can. Good for last-minute repairs, securing a room against zombie hordes, and causing all kinds of mayhem.


Roleplaying games and copyright infringement I

About game mechanics and IP law:

I've made a lot of homebrew content over the years, and now that I'm putting out on the interwebs, I thought I'd figure out how IP law (copyright, patent and trademark) applies to the distribution of house rules, content and even home-made game systems via the internet. Thus begins my journey . . .

Driven by my own hubris, I delved into that which is mercifully hidden from human comprehension. My answers are incomplete - compared to the mad prophets of old, they are but the scratchings of a child - but they may yet be useful to others who are driven by the same questions. An attempt to make some sense of what I have learned follows: