Friday, July 31, 2020

Fifth Edition Downtime

I'm running a new 5E campaign in quarantine, and I'm trying not to get ahead of myself. But I'm also finally reading Matt Colville's Strongholds and Followers and I'm pleasantly surprised. It's very tempting to go all in and use. Demesne/domain level play is something I've always really wanted to try but I've never had the chance. I've never played more than a session or two of the oldest D&D editions (back when demesne play was just an assumption of the game) and even then, only as a low-level murderhobo. I've read some of the rules for getting castles and whatnot from BECMI and I'm not crazy about the old system. But the idea is really cool to me.

Actually, just doing a lot more downtime play is something I want a good experience trying. I think in my mind, it is one of the biggest elements that makes me really think of a game as a "campaign" rather than a bunch of one-shots strung together. I do, after all, basically just play a bunch of mostly-unrelated miniseries of dungeoncrawls and mysteries. I've never fleshed out a sandbox world that my players have the freedom to invest in easily. One of the things that makes downtime play really sing is a well-realized world full of potential. I tend to design isolated scenarios, but for a player to feel inspired to delve into the world and start moving mountains and making their impact feel real, they need a place that's got some jen-yu-wiiine verisimilitude.

This has been one of my design goals for Brave, and so far it's going fantastic. But I even want to try it for 5E as well. Like, I might even be able to trick my players into liking the Forgotten Realms if they get really invested. So read on for some bizarre ideas about how I might achieve this.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Bugbears that Go Bump in the Night

I never liked Bugbears much. Always loved Goblins and I long ago fleshed out Hobgoblins into something I was so happy with they became one of my favorite races. But Bugbears didn't do it for me.

One visual re-skin later and now I love them. This does not fundamentally change much about them or their lore, but I think it "clicks" with me better now. Here are some images of Bugbears as they appear in my setting:

...more below...

Monday, July 13, 2020

Potent Potables

Here's a small one you can steal. It's going in the next draft of Brave but works great as a standalone homebrew. This is inspired by something Patrick Stuart once spitballed in (I believe) an interview I saw/read at some point. I've worked out the kinks and then fleshed it out further.

Potent Potables 

Characters can get intoxicated to temporarily adjust their stats. A character drinking alcohol loses an amount of WIS and gains HP equal to Xd6 - CON, where X is the number of drinks they have. If they reach 0 WIS, they become poisoned and have disadvantage on all checks. Every point of negative WIS incurred also gains one level of exhaustion. Characters sober up at a rate of 1 hour per WIS point regained/bonus HP lost. If sobering up reduces your HP below 0, you pass out and gain exhaustion.

Example: You drink 3 bottles of ale and have a +2 CON bonus. You roll 3d6 and get 1, 5, and 6. 1+5+6-2 = 10. You gain 10 HP and subtract 10 from your WIS.
These mechanics can apply to other potables as well! While “pure” potions and poisons exist, many consumable items instead have a tradeoff. Different items that affect the same stats will stack. Potables with this tradeoff are usually listed with the notation of “stat gained/stat lost” with their ratio.

Example: Alcohol is listed as: HP+1/WIS-1. This means that for every temporary hit point gained, a point of Wisdom is lost.

But wait! There's more!

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Medieval City Sizes

Paris in the year 1300. At 150,000 people, it was the largest city
on the continent, rivaled only by Constantinople. It was also about
1.5 miles across. Compare to Paris in 2020, closer to 6 or 7 miles
across. But a typical "city" in 1300 would really have had a
 population closer to 10,000. Think just how small that must be.
Medieval cities were very small. Like, even the really big ones were small. Something that makes it tricky to research is that "size" of urban areas is almost universally measured in population (which for the vast majority of anyone's purposes is a lot more useful) but I am deeply interested in "size" as measured by actual physical area. I think it's important to making maps, and I like using maps when running adventures in urban areas. Not for most activities. It doesn't matter for shopping or carousing or even investigating, for the most part. Or it doesn't have to. But what if you have a battle happening in the city? It's being attacked, raided, besieged, whatever. Mapping out the specific parts that have been taken is useful. And even those other activities can be enhanced by map elements. I like using tables of random encounters and locations the PCs would run into, but being able to divide them by district or neighborhood or whatever would break it up some and give the city as a whole a better sense of identity.

Monday, May 18, 2020

Talking Statues: The Ultimate Quest Dealer

Statue of Saint Tarscel. Click the pic for details.
This is one of the best ideas I've ever had and you should all steal it immediately.

Have you ever heard of the talking statues of Rome? I'd known about them for awhile, thought they were neat, maybe some potential worth exploring for worldbuilding purposes. Tucked it away in the back of my mind. Now, I've finally found a use for them.

Rumors are a classic thing to include in D&D. More so in the old school, but it's an ever-popular tradition. Lots of adventure modules come with them. But I've always found them tricky to integrate, myself. That's not the sort of things my players usually go for, and I'd hate to force-feed them stuff like that. But I'm working on a cool sandbox campaign, and suddenly having a system for "quest hooks up for grabs!" is really convenient.

And especially because we're all playing online now and I'd like the PCs to have an idea of their next adventure during the week between sessions ("downtime" in a sense), having a passive way to distribute this info, and consumed at their own pace, is the ideal.

So my city has a bunch of talking statues that my players can always look at. They update regularly, and the player characters can even post stuff themselves. There are 6 statues, each with a different theme, so there's a ton of variety. They have fantastic potential for worldbuilding, as the statues themselves and their theme embody a specific deity in my setting. In addition, not every post is tied to a quest. Lots of it's just flavor. A decent amount of it came about as a consequence of something the PCs did. That top-right post on my boi Tarscel up there? About vacated farms? Yeah, that all happened during our last session, and the PCs' next planned move was to start looting.

Want to know how to set this up in your game? I'll give instructions on how I did it, below. Adapt it however you need to fit your table's setup. I'll also show off my own statues a bit more if you want some inspiration.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

BRAVE 1.5 Playtest Recap

For our last session, I got to playtest my current draft of BRAVE. It was pretty successful. I don't normally care for "game tales" myself but I'll share some of the experience here since this was an incredibly valuable learning experience for me.

Firstly, here's a link to the playtest doc the PCs used. I modified a handful of things specifically for this session because certain features might not be "ready" for testing yet, but this is the first time I've had a chance to play with the actual classes.

Here's a map that the PCs used for the session. This is an area called the Wyvern Marches, with modest Marion at the center of all the chaos. Each location is 3 miles (1 hour, generally) apart. Here's the quick-and-dirty 3-step travel procedure I used:

Monday, April 20, 2020

Infatuation as a Condition

No, this is not the same as the Charmed condition. I'll explain, just hear me out.

Love usually doesn't find its way into TTRPGs, for obvious reasons. Some people try to tackle it, usually they fail. The systems most open to it are ones that already impose mechanics on lots of personality and communication related things anyway, like a lot of story games. It's pretty common in Pendragon to make a flirting check or to roll on a cuckoldry table or have to make a saving throw to not be too heartbroken or whatever.

But people like agency over their character's brain and are less inclined to allow "character skill, not player skill" into that part of your stats. That is more true in OSR games than probably anywhere else and lots of people in that scene will shriek at the mere suggestion that you mechanically enforce a specific mental state on a PC. It is a common paradigm that you cannot tell a player how their character feels about something, and I've frequently heard people bring this up as a reason you can't roleplay a true Arthurian story with all the romance bits. BUT...