Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Beautiful Bob Blew Up the Hovercraft

Every other Friday I preside over a 4e campaign.  Calling it "4e" is more than a bit of a stretch, as I add new magic and new rules every single session and it ends up being "D&D - Carl's (gonzo/sci-fi/morally relativistic) Flavor" whether we are playing Mutant Future or Dungeons and Dragons, 4th Edition.

I have gotten in trouble before claiming that 4e and Mutant Future and Labyrinth Lord and Advanced Dungeons and Dragons and B/X  et al are all functionally the same thing in the moment of true immersion in game play.  I still stand by that point, but I will content myself with noting that no matter for what edition I play Dungeon Master, the players will always surprise me.

A couple of weeks back, I was totally flabbergasted when Beautiful Bob activated the overload circuit that he had built into the ship at its creation (the entire hovercraft is a magical item created by the party, indestructible by normal means) and let loose all the magical energy stored in its battery in a tremendous explosion to prevent it from being towed to an unknown location.  Maybe even more surprising, the other players did not protest at all.

A tiny bit of back story:  the party was exploring a completely alien planet in another dimension, having left the hovercraft behind well hidden in the canopy of the jungle, guarded by the brothers Beobob and Beebul of the fierce people.  The hovercraft was the destination of the matched teleporter coins each party member held as a get-a-way option.  The hovercraft held Hammer's alternate mechanical/magical bodies (a Warforged Barbarian at character creation, Hammer has subsequently bound his soul and intelligence into a magical crystal that can be mounted in different bodies, allowing him different builds and classes as long as he keeps the same base INT, WIS and CHA scores).  The hovercraft held the largest piece of meteorite metal the party had found, an amazing natural battery capable of storing tremendous amounts of power... which the party had charged completely full by draining a giant whirlpool portal to another dimension.  The hovercraft had 20 rail guns constructed of Brood X leg blasters linked to the central battery with focusing lenses harvested from the eyes of the brood of Kariki Kalos.

And Beautiful Bob blew it all up without a second thought.  Honestly, the hovercraft was the one thing that had made travelling around in the jungle during the wet season feasible, and its firepower when fully manned by native gunners was a powerful deterrent to the devil bounty hunters and everyone else that the party has pissed off so far.

Of course, the party already has plans for how to make an even better hovercraft... 

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Better partial and late than never...

So Mike Monaco's awesome Iron Chef adventure challenge has long since come and gone, but I am still planning on finishing up my "entry" one of these days.  I took a new job that involved getting trained and then starting an office up that had been closed due to widespread corruption for several months.  I literally did not have a day off except for Thanksgiving and Christmas for several months.  Real life once again intrudes on an awesome hobby!

Of course, I kept up on my DMing duties and (mostly) on my player's duties in my buddy Carter's campaign, so it is not like I totally left D&D behind for a few months.  I just haven't kept up on my bloggerly duties.

I am going to try to dust off what I had started for the challenge and present it here, starting with some (incomplete) random encounter tables.  This first post does not really have anything to do with the cards I got, directly.  These are incomplete random encounter tables for road travel through the abandoned vineyards and farmlands outside of the last frontier town.  The wilderness setting I came up with was directly influenced by the cards, but no cards show up in these charts.  If I had finished the Hex Special Chart the cards would have been more directly involved.

Farmland (road travel): (2d6 - roll once per hex traveled across)
2: Possibly Dangerous Encounter
3: Physical Obstacle
4-5: Physical Feature
6-7: Animal Encounter
8-9: Civilized Encounter
10: Rare Animal
11: Rare Person
12: Roll on the Special Chart for this hex

2: Possibly Dangerous Encounter (Farmland Road) (2d6)
2:Aggressive Wild Boars at the edge of the road roll 1d6: 1-3: 1d4 3 HD boars and 1d4 2 HD sows, 4-5: 1d4 3 HD boars and 2d4 2 HD sows, 6: 1 5 HD boar, 1d6 3 HD boars and 2d6 2 HD sows
3: Biting Fly Swarm persists for 1d6 turns (Save vs. Poison every turn if no precautions taken - minor fever persists for 2d6 days, unless double sixes are rolled for duration; then Save vs. Poison again or drop into a potentially fatal fever coma)
4:Ground Wasp Nest (roll for surprise; if surprised, swarm targets random PC, attacking each round like a 5 HD monster, 2d4 damage, pursuing for 2d6 rounds.  Other PCs that remain in the area or attempt to help must Save vs. Spells or find themselves targeted as well using the same rules.
5-6: Aggressive Dog on the road roll 1d6: 1-3: 1d6 1 HD stray dogs, 4-5: 2+1 HD Guard Dog, 6: 1d4 2+1 HD Guard Dogs
7-8: Local Drunks (Thugs) in a foul mood roll 1d6: 1-3: two 0-level thugs, 4: 1d4 0-level thugs; 5: 1d4 1st level thugs; 6: 1d4 2nd level thugs and 1 3rd level thug)
9:Fracas in the Field roll 1d6: 1-3: 2d6 1 HD Hired Hands quarrelling, 4-5: 1d4 2 HD Hunters pursuing game, 6: Predator attacking a calf (1d6, 1-3: 2d6 wolves,4-5: mountain lion, 6: one mountain lion attacks, one mountain lion is hidden)
10: Aggressive Bull on the road roll 1d6: 1-3: 5 HD, 1d8 charge, 1d6 trample 4-5: 6 HD, 2d6 charge, 1d8 trample; 6: 7 HD, 2d6 charge, 2d6 trample
11: Travelling Sellswords approach roll 1d6: 1-3: 1d4 2nd level fighters; 4: 1d4 3rd level fighters on horseback;  5: two 5th level fighters on horseback with 1d6 extra horses and 2d4 1st level fighters; 6: 1 8th level fighter in wagon, 2d4 3rd level fighters on horseback and 2d6 1st level fighters
12: Poisonous Critter roll 1d6: 1-3: Snake, random PC or horse is attacked (1 HD, 1 damage, Save vs. Poison if not wearing boots or take 3d6 damage), 4-5: Large Snake, random target is attacked (3 HD, 1d6 damage, Save vs. Poison or take 5d6 damage), 6: Scorpion (1 HD) attacks random party member or horse, Save vs. Poison or Death

3: Physical Obstacle (Farmland Road) (2d6)
2-3: Fallen Tree
4-5: Herd of Sheep (4d8 sheep) roll 1d6: 1-5: herded by 1d4 1HD sheep dog (1 HD shepherd within earshot), 6: unattended
6-7: Herd of Cows (4d6 cows: if number of cows is 4-8: roll 1d10, 9-12: roll 2d6, 13-15: roll 1d12, 16-20: roll 3d6, 21-24: roll 1d20) : 1-10: herded by 1 1HD mounted farmhand and two 1 HD dogs, 11: herded by 2 1 HD mounted farmhands, 12: herded by 2 2HD mounted farmhands and 1d4 1 HD dogs, 13-15: herded by 1d4 mounted 1 HD farmhands and 1d6 1 HD dogs, 16-17: herded by 1d6 mounted 1 HD farmhands and 1d6 1 HD dogs, 18-19: 20: unattended
8-9: Washed Out Section (1d6 turns of travel, 10% chance per turn of a wheel breaking or horse turning an ankle unless speed is reduced)
10: Broken Down Wagon roll 1d6: 1-3: abandoned full of produce, 4-5: 1d4 children waiting for pa to return, 6: full of beer kegs, being pulled by two brothers, runaway horse
11: Large Boulder (2d6 hundred pounds)
12: Fire roll 1d6 1-3: small field fire, 4-5: large field fire, restricts visibility, extends 1d6 turns, 6: large fire blocks path for 2d6 turns ahead

4: Physical Feature (Farmland Road) (2d6) (all buildings are set back from the main road, dwellings accessible by a well defined path)
2: Bridge over chasm roll 1d6: 1-4: Wood Bridge, 5-6: Stone Bridge
3: Stone Wall roll 1d6: 1-4: mostly fallen, 5: in poor repair, 6: in good repair
4:Wooden Fence roll 1d6: 1-3: in poor repair, 4-5: in good repair, 6: freshly painted white
5: Old Orchard roll 1d6: 1:Apple, 2: Pear, 3: Nectarine, 4: Peach, 5: Plum, 6:Cherry
6: Stand of Hard Wood (good quality, straight grain, old trees)
7: Outbuilding roll 1d6: 1-3: 3 sided cattle shelter, 4: Barn, 5: Grain Silo, 6: Bunk for Hired Hands
8: Corral roll 1d8: 1-3: 2d6 pigs, 4: 2d6 goats, 5: 4d8 sheep, 6: 4d6 cows, 7: 2d6 horses 8: abandoned and now home to a huge honey bee hive in the old trough
9: Farm House roll 1d8: 1-2: abandoned, 3-4: 1 family hovel, 5: 1 family farmhouse, 6: 2 family farm house, 7: Ale House, 8: Country Estate
10: Year Round Stream roll 1d6: 1-3 decent fishing, 4-5: good fishing, 6: great fishing
11: Thorn Bushes choke the road for 1/4 mile roll 1d6: 1-3: there is an established trail around the briar patch, 1/2 mile detour, 4: there is a narrow overgrown trail down the middle of the road, 5: there are wasp nests, and no easy trail, use ground wasp result under Farmland Road Dangerous Encounters if a path is cleared, 6: a 5 HD witch with 1 2nd and 2 1st level wizard spells and 1 2nd and 1 1st level cleric spells lives in the briar patch. Roll 1d4 random potions and 1d4 doses of deadly poison for the witch.
12: Interesting Mushroom Patch roll 1d6: 1: mildly nauseating, 2-4: edible, 5: rare curative (as a prepared broth): delays poison and grants a new Save vs. Poison or Disease, 6: poisonous, appears as edible (1-3 on d4) or rare curative (4 on d4); Save vs. Poison or Death if ingested

Obviously I never started the "Animal Encounter", "Civilized Encounter", "Rare Animal", "Rare Person" and "Hex Special Chart" sub charts. The hex special chart was going to be a big 2d20 chart of special encounters and unique places that would not get put on the map until rolled randomly. Groups of hexes could share a Hex Special Chart, but a result could only be placed in one hex, subsequent rolls of that result calling for a reroll. Some hexes might have a unique Hex Special Chart, while other large tracts (of similar farmland type, for instance) might all share one Hex Special Chart.

I was going to do a similar type of encounter chart for offroad farmland travel, town outskirts and town, the hot springs area, forest edge/ mixed forest, deep forest, forest swamp, and mountains.

Of course that would have been a crazy amount of work! The next time I start a "traditional", more western / Tolkien / pseudo-medieval game I would like to do something like this, however. I have never been satisfied by traditional random encounter tables. Encounter or No Encounter does not seem like a good initial result; using my charts, every hex will have some kind of randomly generated feature to spur the imagination of DMs and players, and that does not necessarily just mean the potential for combat. An unattended herd of cattle is an extremely unlikely result to roll, but it is also essentially a big pile of loot just sitting there in the middle of the road. But if the party succumbs to temptation, whose cattle were they? Who will come looking for them?

I like the highly varied results of the basic structure of two bell bell shaped 2d6 charts multiplying and then multiplying by at least a 1d6 with three results to get the final outcome. For instance, you would have to travel through 3888 hexes on average to encounter a large enough wildfire to block your path while travelling on a farmland road (1 in 18 chance of getting a result of "Physical Obstacle" on the original 2d6 throw, 1 in 36 chance of getting a "Fire" result on the second 2d6 throw, and a 1 in 6 chance of getting a large fire result on the final throw).
The probabilities get too complicated for me to figure out quickly in my head when you start talking about a 1 in 36 chance of rolling on the Special Hex Chart multiplied by a bell shaped 2d20 chart. At its simplest, a result of 2 or 40 on the 2d20 chart would only happen once every 14,400 times! Outlier rolls on the Special Hex Charts were going to call for extra planar activity, including a chance for a roll on the gate to random plane opening and things coming across chart.

What I was trying to accomplish was to change the basic dynamic of the random encounter roll. As usually played in D&D a single roll (often a 1 or a 6 on 1d6) determines if there is an encounter; if there is an encounter, a second roll on the encounter chart determines what the encounter is. This leads to frustrating results occasionally (three straight "random" encounters with black dragons on a road trip by wagon in Carter's campaign come to mind) and it is usually fairly obvious to the players if the result of the initial throw was "no encounter" so the basic mechanic does not build excitement well. The first throw on my charts is not a chance to see if there is or is not an encounter, it is a check to see what kind of encounter occurs when the hex is traveled through. It can and should be rolled each time the hex is traveled through! It is an acknowledgement that if you spent time in any chunk of land on the map, you would keep finding "things of interest". No DM will have these detailed out beforehand, but there is no reason that the random charts cannot combine "encounters" and "physical features" and even blur the lines between the two. For instance, rolling a possibly dangerous encounter is an outlier result on the initial throw, snake eyes. 1 in 36 chance to even get to roll on what would be the only chart in a standard D&D random encounter system. Rolling a physical obstacle to encounter while travelling through the hex is twice as likely, but still something of an outlier result. But if the "Thorn Bushes choke the road" result is thrown on the Physical Obstacle chart, itself a 1 in 18 result like the first throw, there is a slim chance that a possibly very dangerous encounter will be rolled in the form of a witch living in the middle of a large briar patch, armed with both wizardly and clerical spells, potions, and poisons.

I probably won't finish the planned charts for the challenge, but I will still put the main gist of my ideas out there in the next few posts.  My cards inspired a creative twist on the traditional frontier sandbox, and I can't wait to show how a Moon Dragon, a Sun Dragon, and an Astral Dragon all fit into it!
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