2016/09/28

The Stratometaship: A Patreon Vote Your Own Adventure

If you've been following this page for any length of time, you've noticed that I occasionally draw.

I've also got too many different, partially overlapping social media accounts - not least of which patreon (https://www.patreon.com/wizardthieffighter) - and I've been tossing around different ideas for what to do.

At one point, I thought to myself. Maps. But ... those are covered.

Then I thought ... adventures. But they're also covered.

Then I gave up for a bit and just chucked up a tip jar and said, "support pictures."

And that was fine for a while.


A pinkish moon rose and fell.

And I had an idea ... I don't know when/where I'll finish my first illustrated adventure OSR DND game supplement thing. But I realized I'll be drawing all the way till there ...

... and there should be something fun to do with patrons, that doesn't actually involve me doing bonus special extra features. I hate those. I want patreon to cover my papers and pens and things like Adobe CC subscriptions and the like, while letting me keep doing what I love: draw and paint surreal trippy DnD stuff.

So ...

... you're still reading?

Well, patrons get to participate in the stratometaship "vote your own adventure" and contribute to the journey taken.

And yeah, if, when, maybe the book comes out, of course they might get .pdfs and the like. ;)

So, that's the gist of it for now!

STRATOMETASHIP

and related materials also appear here:
  • https://www.instagram.com/lukarejec/ - overlaps with cute penguins and non-dnd art.
  • https://www.facebook.com/wizardthieffighter/ - just starting up, a facetube alternative to G+.
  • https://plus.google.com/collection/ozEE2 - the Art of WTF collection, currently the largest receptacle of stuff for WTF.

2016/09/25

WTF Character Sheets tailored to Character Classes

I'd often thought to myself ... each class in D&D should have its own character sheet. After all, the classes do pretty different things. After making the three sheets that my WTF hack requires, I understand why there are not more class-specific character sheets.

Time. It takes time.

On the other hand, they look pretty. And I also understand more clearly why more adventures don't have infographics outlining the games for the enterprising lazy DM. Enjoy.

(should also be compatible with 3rd level 5E characters)




And for the Generics.


2016/09/15

Improved Information Presentation for Dungeon Masters and the Slumbering Ursine Dunes

The Golden Goats (our D&D party) has chosen (on the basis of insufficient information and DM nudging) decided to (of their own free will) hit the Slumbering Ursine Dunes. This is not a review of that adventure, but I will use it for illustration.

Like many dungeon masters (referees, game masters, whateverees), I have stacks of adventures at my disposal. Infinite modules and adventures, games galore. From the OSR classics like Death Frost Doom to Zak Sabbath strangenesses like Red & Pleasant Land to the gargantuosity of Blue Medusa to short things like Gus L's Tower of the Hated Pretender and the subsequent Dread Machine and Patrick Stuart's Deep Carbon Observatory. Seriously, google those and check them out. They are good.

I've come to really appreciate pre-made adventures, because they provide me with

  1. the skeleton of an adventure to run, useful when short on time, 
  2. and encounters that I didn't make up myself, which is great because they challenge me when running them, expand my experience, and leave me completely indifferent to outcomes.
But one thing I have run into in every one of these adventures is the challenge of information presentation.

The information I need from an adventure as a DM is different from the information players need, furthermore I function as a medium for this information, filtering it for the players. So, the information flows a bit like this: Author (Adventure) ---> DM ---> Players. Every one of those steps is open to entropy, distortion and information loss.

But the big difference is in how information is (or should be!) presented to different audiences.

How Players Receive Information During a Game

A player receives information in a linear fashion from the DM. For example:
DM: There is a great stork in front of you. About 60 feet high. It grabs a merchant and swallows him whole.
PC: Is it blue?
DM: No.
PC: Damnit, my Arrow of Blue Slaying won't work. Can I jump on it?
DM: If you climb a nearby building or tree, it could work, but it'll be dangerous.
In this way, a player's experience is a bit like reading / playing a piece of interactive fiction with a real-live fictomancer (aka. storyteller) and dice to provide random events.

How DMs Receive Information From an Adventure

The same way. In a linear fashion.

Most adventures are laid out and written as though I, the DM, am an invisible, floating, incorporeal, somewhat mind-reading eye or spirit exploring the adventure step-by-step.

  1. The sands here have been compacted by generations of ritual blood-letting by the troglocactus people. A golden cow is buried under the semi-animate dragon statue. A smelly path leads south. A sweet path leads east.
  2. 1d3 orco-agave slaves are here working. Great clay bowls pock the canyon here, where the troglocactus people deposit their sappy discharges to make the delectable nectar known as peopltle. Peopltle causes a buzz and gives advantage to speaking to animals or plants and a 20% chance of seeing a vision familiar (see p. 59). A paved path leads to the adobe hut of the ogro-saguaro chief red-knocker to the west and a dirt track leads to the orco-agave slave village further south.
  3. 40% chance Red-Knocker is here. The adobe hut is fine and decorated. There is always a spiny ant-eater-umber-hulk crossbreed here. She is named Mary-Louise and likes checkers. Can find rumours. Red-Knocker has blown all his gold at the Gamblehouse of Sweet Nectar Slim in Migarro, so there is no loot.
And this is kind of fun. It's like a make-my-own adventure game in some ways. I end up rooting for the Clan of Poo werebear circus performers. I chuckle at puns.

What PCs and DMs Do With Information

The player immerses herself in her own story in a linear fashion, knocking down one door after another, until she discovers the prince is in another castle. And yes, I've done that. She doesn't need to know what is (or could be) behind the window, under the hidden trapdoor, in the background or in the mind of the extra-corporeal corner-demon Pelutho who is tossing bread crumbs into this reality to fish for the souls of men (but not women, for Pelutho is not that kind of tosser).

The DM mediates the adventure to the PCs. The DM is like the adventure's Search and Map and Random Seed and Dice Rolling system mashed together with some bad voice acting and terrible theme music for fight scenes. Oh, also, while generally conducting the party like a master of ceremonies (because a good game of D&D is a party).

And therein is the problem.

As a DM during play I need a synchronous overview of the adventure at multiple levels. I need both higher and lower-level overviews, and I need more information density than a player ever experiences. Adventures try to deal with this, and many recent OSR adventures are taking steps, but they're not there yet. The essence is still linear, even in the Blue Medusa.

Information Presentation (the Example of the Slumbering Ursine Dunes)

I'm going to break-down the SUD based on the information being presented.
  • p. 1 - Welcome to the Dunes - an introduction and some guidelines (not using it during play)
  • p. 2 - Dunes History - dropped it, as I slotted it into Rainbowlands
  • p. 3–p. 8 - Faction Behavior - this is important, but at 4 pages, I don't have the time to review it as I play. In practice, this means my rendition of the SUD diverges at the first NPC encountered.
  • p. 8–9 - Rumor Table - yay! But let's hope I spot it more often. (R&PL has an interesting approach, where all the tables are (repeated?) at the back, which I like. Another cool option would be a bonus .pdf of just the tables to keep them available).
  • p.9–10 - Wandering Critter Table - important. See above.
  • p. 10 - Using the Map - honestly, ignored this in play.
  • p. 11 - the Map - I refer to this constantly. It now has a flap, marking it in the book. This is one of the most important references in the adventure, unfortunately, like on many maps, the locations are simply numbered, not named. Maps are an area of information presentation for DMs that I think present one of the best chances for improvement in future products.
  • p. 12–20 - 25 Point-crawl locations - all the "level 1 locations". A key problem is that there are two key adventure/dungeon locations, which are not marked as such on the map and require "redirection" from p. 16 to pages 20 and 30. Also, several of the small locations do also conceivable break down into smaller sub locations. Linear!
  • p. 20–40 - Actually, three large dungeons, containing 3 of the factions. Together they add an additional 25, 14 and 18 locations, respectively. Each comes with specific local environment settings and encounter tables, but their maps are only at the end of the adventure. And, again, numbered. Linear!
  • p. 41–43 - Chaos Index - a fun tracker-based mechanism to modify the environment based on party activities. However, notice it's location: slotted in the middle.
  • p. 44–55 - Bestiary - ok, reference. It can be here, I probably won't manage to check during play, though!
  • p. 55–56 - Spells - as above.
  • p. 56–59 - Bonus Classes - as above.
  • p.60–61 - NPC hireling pre-gens.
  • p. 64–65 - maps for p. 20–40
At its core, the SUD is a location-based adventure with 4 factions, 4 location areas each with its own encounter tables, a total of c. 85 location objects + additional character and treasure objects, and several global tables and trackers (chaos index). This is an approximate information architecture of the whole adventure:

SUD information architecture: I want stuff like this when I run an adventure.
SUD does its job pretty well, but it's quite classic in that the only non-linear tool is a map, the rest of the adventure presentation is linear.

Ideas on Adventure Information Presentation for Running a Game

That quick information architecture? That's a top-level overview for a DM. Slightly below that, is a diagram breakdown of the different moving parts (objects: locations, characters, treasures, traps, tricks, etc.) and how they pertain to each other. I generally make one for every game I run (here's the DFD example. It has pictures, too.) — assuming I have at least a bit of time.

If I have time, I may try to hammer something like this out for SUD, because it's fun and I'm in the process of running it. When I run a game, I want to have the information presented to me in a dense yet visual format, that I can use to grasp what is going on and stay on the ball ... sort of like a good infographic.

This is how I envision it:
  1. top-level adventure track = adventure info architecture + factions track + chaox index + key tables (this is basically a table of contents cross-pollinated with DM screen, I guess!)
  2. adventure diagrams = crossbreed of map + key facts about each location (NPCs, treasures, challenges) - these should correspond to the individual adventure levels, so SUD would have four - but the level 1 (pointcrawl) should mark the entrances to sub-levels.
  3. location details = this is basically an index-style presentation of the individual locations. What we already have.
I suspect every DM does some level of self-architecting before running an adventure, but my hunch is that several handout style one-pagers would make running most adventures much, much easier. If I'm write (I'll find out soon enough), a 60 page adventure like SUD really just requires 5 stand-alone .pdfs to make it ridiculously easy to run.

And now, a picture.

See the Red Dunes? Just south-west of Sfera?


2016/09/07

Classy XP for Wizards, Thieves and Fighters

WTF the 5E light game doesn't really do XP, but maybe it should. So, here's a simple system. Based off this a bit. Hey, we're heading back to the Rainbowlands, so it's cool.

When you perform "deeds" and return to a safe haven and boast of them / prove them you gain XP as a die that you roll on the relevant XP table.
  1. Discover ancient and forbidden lore - roll on the Seeker of Secrets XP table (Wizard table).
  2. Retrieve treasure and loot from a 'dungeon' - roll on the Treasure Hunter XP table (Thief table).
  3. Defeat / study a nemesis or new type of creature and bring back a trophy - roll on the Warrior table (Fighter table).
  4. Invest proceeds in carousing / study / temple parties / foolish business ventures - i.e. the character's wealth gold is gone save for some change (Goldburner table).
Ideally, the difficulty / glory of the deed would determine the die. Basically, the deed has to be cool enough that telling the tale in a tavern would at least get the "heroes" a round of drinks and bed for the night. Something like this might work.
  • Drinks are on the house - 1d4
  • Hero of the hour - 1d6
  • Memorable - 1d8
  • They shall sing songs - 1d10
In practice, this is overcomplicated, so just a roll a 1d10, and the result also shows how impressed the townsfolk are.

Seeker of Secrets XP Table (Wizard)

  1. +1 to arcana or science or medicine, 
  2. +1 to religion or history or insight,
  3. learn new spell (1-3: 1st level, 4-5: 2nd level, 6: 3rd level),
  4. +1 to DC of one spell or +1d4 to effect of one spell,
  5. +1 to Intelligence or Wisdom or Charisma,
  6. +1 spell slot of (1-3: 1st level, 4-5: 2nd level, 6: 3rd level) or double scope of one spell,
  7. new familiar or increase die of one spell,
  8. learn new spell (1-4: 4th level, 5-6: 5th level),
  9. gain 1 bonus spell per short rest,
  10. +1 proficiency

Treasure Hunter XP Table (Thief)

  1. +1 to acrobatics or athletics, 
  2. +1 to perception or deception,
  3. +1 to mechanics (thieves' tools) or sleight of hands,
  4. +1 to investigation or stealth,
  5. +1 to Dexterity or Intelligence
  6. +2 to hp or sneak attack damage
  7. new expertise or +1 to AC in light armor
  8. gain advantage on surprise checks or +1 to hit with daggers or pistols
  9. gain 1 bonus action per short rest
  10. +1 proficiency

Warrior XP Table (Fighter)

  1. +1 to acrobatics or athletics, 
  2. +1 to animal handling or survival or an additional inventory slot,
  3. +1 to one save (roll 1d10: 1-3: Str, 4: Dex, 5-7: Con, 8: Int, 9: Wis, 10: Cha),
  4. +2 to attack or defence vs. one enemy type,
  5. +1 to Strength or Constitution,
  6. +4 to hp or +1 to damage with one weapon type,
  7. +1 to hit with one weapon type or +1 to AC in medium or heavy armor
  8. gain additional second wind
  9. gain 1 bonus action per short rest
  10. +1 proficiency

Goldburner Table (To Do)

  1. acquire a random and unusual potion (think purple lotus powder) or gain a boon that gives advantage to 1d6 checks with an ability of choice.
  2. +1 to a random save
  3. acquire a property, it is (1: a house, 2: an apartment, 3: a farm, 4: a house boat, 5: a house wagon, 6: a deed to a ruin)
  4. acquire a loyal henchperson (1: a wizard, 2: a thief, 3: a fighter, 4: a slave, 5: a fop, 6: an intelligent animal or plant)
  5. become inducted into a secret society of (1: inept amateur magicians, 2: corporate rogueish merchants, 3: dashing heroes, 4: underhanded navigators and adventurers, 5: local nobles, 6: local revolutionaries)
  6. acquire a masterful and possibly magical (1: weapon, 2: armor, 3: book, 4: steed or vehicle, 5: trinket, 6: toolkit or dice)
  7. +1 to a random stat
  8. acquire a stake in a business such as a (1: local brewery, 2: local food joint, 3: local metalworker, 4: local alchemical shop or druggist, 5: local protection racket, 6: local affiliated corporate security outfit)
  9. obtain a promise from a local shady cult of a (1: free reincarnation, 2: greater metachemical healing, 3: stored clone body, 4: teleportal intervention when you break this totally safe gas-filled bauble, 5: a one-use summoning figurine, almost certain to summon a demon under your control, 6: a single-use ten-hour sanctuary amulet)
  10. gain a bonus HD for hit point recovery or acquire a bonus feat or an additional bonus fatigue rank.

2016/09/03

Healerrior - The Healing Warrior

A player joined our group and asked to play a healing warrior. So we made one. These were the notes:

HD - like thief
Armor & Weapons - like warrior
Spells - like wizard, remove one ... (2nd level) - 3 cantrips, 4 level 1, 2 level 2 - spell slots: 3, 3, 1

Spells cost: 2 hit points, cantrips count as level 1

subtype - rustumani leveller / breaker of chains
no chains,
chosen weapons: hammer and sickle

spells

Now lets turn that into the ... Healerrior?

Class Features:
  • Hit Dice: 3d8
  • Hit Points: 16 + 3 * Con modifier
  • Spells: cost 2 hit points or ability points per spell level, cantrips count as level 1 for cost, rituals vary.
    • Spells Known: 3 cantrips, 4 L1, 2 L2
    • Spell Slots: 3 cantrip, 3 L1, 1 L2
  • Armor proficiency (roll d6): 1: light and shields, 2: light, shields and medium, 3: all organic armors and shields only, 4: all metal armors and shields, 5–6: all armors and shields.
  • Weapon proficiency: all weapons.
  • Tools: healer's kit and (roll d6) 1: barber's kit, 2: herbalist's kit, 3: surgeon's kit, 4: scribe's kit, 5: thief's tools, 6: musical instrument (1d4: 1: bongo drums, 2: flute, 3: harmonica, 4: lute).
  • Saving Throws (roll d6): 1–3: Con and Wis, 4: Str and Wis, 5: Str and Con, 6: Dex and Wis.
  • Skills (roll d6 twice): 1: History, 2: Dialectics (Persuasion), 3: Insight (Clairvoyance), 4: Psychological Opiates and Religion, 5–6: Medicine and Opiates.
Class Features:
  • Fighting Style (roll d6): 1: archery (+2 ranged), 2: defense (+1 AC w armor), 3: dueling (+2 dmg with 1h weapon and no shield), 4: great-weapon fighting (reroll 1 and 2 with 2h weapon), 5: protection (reaction to Disadvantage an attack against an adjacent target), 6: two-weapon fighting (add ability mod to second attack damage).
  • Forbidden Weapons by the Grace of Reason and Faith (roll d6): 1: blunt weapons, 2: edged weapons, 3: chain weapons, 4: ranged weapons, 5: melee weapons, 6: magic weapons.
  • Chosen Weapons (roll d6): 1: hammers and sickles, 2: quarterstaffs, 3: swords, 4: pistols, 5: great axes, 6: scythes and polearms — grant (roll d4): 1: +2 to hit, 2: +1 AC, 3: +2 to damage, 4: greater critical range (19–20).
  • Healing (roll d6): 1: kiss, 2: touch, 3: whisper, 4: bite, 5: strike, 6: blood. Functions as Lay on Hands (PHB p.84), restore 15hp per long rest. Neutralize poison or disease = 5 hp.
  • Second Wind: self heal for 1d10+3 hp once per short rest.
  • Action Surge: take additional action 1/turn, use twice per short rest.
Level Up (roll d20):
  1. +1 proficiency,
  2. gain 2 hp,
  3. gain 2 hp,
  4. gain 3 hp,
  5. gain 3 hp,
  6. +1 cantrip spell slot
  7. improve 1 ability score by 1,
  8. improve 1 ability score by 1,
  9. extra attack,
  10. gain +1 L1 spell slot,
  11. gain +5 to healing pool,
  12. learn new skill or become expert in existing skill,
  13. learn new weapon,
  14. gain +2 to hit with existing weapon,
  15. d6: 1–4: +1 level 2 spell slot, 5–6: +1 level 3 spell slot
  16. gain +1 AC with armor type (light, medium or heavy)
  17. gain one feat (see PHB),
  18. improve 1 ability score by 2
  19. healthy as a mule, gain advantage on all saves vs. poison and magical disease, gain immunity to regular disease,
  20. healing discharge: every time you use a healing spell, an additional 2 + spell level hit points are restored to you or another adjacent creature of your choice.