Tuesday, February 9, 2016

5e Musings - Simplified Encumbrance

Making encumbrance work seems to be a strange goal of mine. Throughout the past few years, I've been tinkering with several alternatives for different systems. Since I'm not getting more into 5e, I figured I should try my hand at doing one for it as well.

Here's the result of my brainstorming. Characters have a specific limit to the number of significant items they can carry without being negatively effected. This amount is known as the character's Carrying Capacity.

Carrying Capacity is equal to 1/2 the character's Strength score (rounded down). A character can carry an amount of significant items equal to or below this amount without any problems.

A character carrying a number of significant items passed this amount, up to double their Carrying Capacity, is Encumbered. While Encumbered, she drops her speed by 10 feet. Carrying a number of significant items equal to or greater than triple her Carrying Capacity is Heavily Encumbered. Like before, her speed is reduced by 20 feet, but she also suffers disadvantage on ability checks, attack rolls, and saving throws that use Strength, Dexterity, or Constitution.

Now, I'm sure you noticed throughout the above text that I used the term "significant items" several times. Instead of every item counting towards a character's Carrying Capacity, only a specific few do. The following items are considered significant enough, but Dungeon Masters may add or subtract to this list as they see fit:
  • Armor, Weapons, & Shields
  • Magic Items
  • Bundled Items (Ammunition, Coinage, Rations, etc.) 
  • Containers (Backpacks, Quivers, etc.) 
Let's take a look at what this might look like at the table. Lauren's character Althea has a Strength of 15, meaning she has a Carrying Capacity of 7 (1/2 of 15, rounded down). She can carry 7 items without a problem, becomes encumbered when carrying 8 to 14 items, and heavily encumbered at 15+ items. 

Like the Simplified Ammo rules I posted a few weeks ago, the main goal of these rules was to abstract the mechanics in order to make their application at the table much easier. I believe only focusing on specific items and basing the amount you can carry on 1/2 a character's Strength score achieves this pretty nicely.

With that being said, I acknowledge utilizing 1/2 Strength does seriously hamper those characters that happen to have lower Strength scores. Those wishing to relieve this can make the number of significant items that can be carried easily equal to the character's Strength score instead.This will inflate the later numbers a little, but that might just be a necessary evil. 

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The Doom that Came to Pandemic

Debuting at Gen Con 2016, Pandemic: Reign of Cthulhu will be a Mythos-themed version of Matt Leacock's popular cooperative game. The designers heading this project are Leacock himself and Rise of Cthulhu's Chuck D. Yager.

Very few, concrete details have been released about Reign of Cthulhu. However, we do know what the basic premise will be. Instead of playing CDC agents attempting to cure several diseases spreading across the entire globe, you will take the role of investigators trying to seal numerous portals throughout Lovecraft Country while battling insane cultists.

Imagine that Arkham Horror had a weird, yet surprisingly kinky one night stand with Pandemic, and this game was the aberrant spawn of that freaky moment in time.

This just proves to me that Z-Man Games knows the secret to separating me from my money. Take one of my favorite board games and add a heavy dose of Lovecraftian goodness.

What do you guys and gals think? Are you excited for Pandemic: Reign of Cthulhu? Are you apprehensive, and if so, why? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

You Can't Forget the Classics - Wizards of the Coast Releases OD&D in PDF (Again)

Yesterday, Wizards of the Coast made the PDFs for the original edition of Dungeons & Dragons available again.

These are based upon the Original Collector's Edition released in 2013. For $9.99, you will get all three books contained in the original box set plus the Reference Sheets booklet.

I'll admit something here: I've never played OD&D. I came into the hobby with 3.5, and my experience with older versions of the game have been rather limited until very recently.

However, I've always wanted to give the version presented in those three, white booklets a try at some point. This might be the perfect opportunity to do so, allowing me to check that off my gaming bucket list.

Those interested in purchasing the PDFs can find them at D&D Classics. $10 for a piece of gaming history is a pretty sweet deal if you ask me.

5e Musings - Simplified Ammo

The tracking of ammunition is very similar to the management of encumbrance in Dungeons & Dragons. They're both rules that should be used do to the effect they'll have on the adventuring lifestyle. However, I can count the number of groups that actually enforce these rules as written on one hand and still have fingers left over.

The most common reason for this is it tends to bog down the actual gameplay with a particularly boring level of bookkeeping, especially in regards to encumbrance.

This inspires people such as myself to attempt to create alternate ways to implement these rules that do away with the negative aspects while maintaining the interesting elements.

Today, I'm going to present a house rule for ammo tracking that's inspired by the Ammo tag from Dungeon World.

Instead of tracking individual pieces of ammunition, players will purchase a specific bundle based upon the weapon being used. Bows use a quiver of arrows, crossbows use a case of bolts, and a sling uses a pouch of bullets. The price of these bundles match the prices for the ammunition listed in the Player's Handbook (pg. 150).

Each bundle has a numeric rating of 3, abstractly representing the amount of ammunition the character has on hand at the time. As long as the bundle has a rating above 0, the character is considered to have ammunition for the appropriate weapon.

Every time the owner of the bundle rolls a natural 1 on an attack roll with the appropriate weapon, she will lower the bundle's rating down by 1. When this rating hits 0, the character has run out of ammunition and must purchase a new bundle.

I believe this rule does a good job at keeping the actual tracking process incredibly simple. All you need to do to see if you have ammo left is look at the rating of your bundle. Furthermore, you only decrease that rating on a critical failure instead of every attack roll means you will not have to worry about it too much during the actual session.

However, there is still an annoying wrinkle that I have yet to iron out: magical ammunition. There's a part of me that wants to air on the side of caution and just keep track of it as normal due to most characters rarely having a large amount of it at a time, but another part of me wants to keep things uniform. Maybe one could have "magical bundles" with a much lower rating to represent the rarity. I'll come back to this when I find a satisfying answer to this situation.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

WoTC Delivers a (Late) Christmas Gift - A New SRD for Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition

Wizards of the Coast finally did it.

They finally released a System Reference Document (SRD) for the 5th Edition of Dungeons & Dragons under the OGL (version 1.0a).

This is a very positive development in my book. I've been begging WoTC to release something like this since Day One. I wish they would have come out with this sooner, but that's really just me picking some nits out of the situation.

I've been flipping through it over the past few minutes, and I'm happy to see so much content presented within it. I'll admit, part of me worried the Basic Rules would be turned into the SRD, but I'm glad that's not the case.

Anyway, feel free to click the link above to check out the PDF of the new SRD.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

My Three Favorite Posts of 2015

Today is the last day of 2015, which means it's time to take a look at the past year of blogging and select several posts that I have personally deemed my favorites. I haven't placed any of these in a particular order, and I'll be linking to the original posts within the text so you can read them if you haven't yet.

Now, let's get to the actual point of this post, shall we?

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Shadows Over Elsir Vale - The Rhestiloran Calendar (A.K.A. Creating a Fantasy Calendar)

Two weeks ago, I mentioned I'll be running my first 5th Edition campaign very soon. In preparation, I've been working on some details to flesh out the Elsir Vale a little more. One such detail is a fictional calendar to help me keep track of the passage of time within the game. This has led me to post my work here to show my process for creating such a thing and hopefully help other attempting similar endeavors.

Recently, I've really become a big proponent of the "Keep it Simple, Stupid" mentality of game/setting design. I firmly believe keeping things simple and concise makes said things a hell of a lot easier to use at the table.

This is why I decided to utilize a simple base for this calendar, one that's incredibly easy to grok. This calendar, which I'm calling the Rhestiloran Calendar after the kingdom that once ruled the Elsir Vale, uses the four seasons as its base. Each season is further broken down into three months each, that have 30 days divided between them. The following are the four seasons and the common names for each month.

SPRING: Newyear, Rebirth, & Storms
SUMMER: Light, Sowing, & Growth
AUTUMN: Toil, Harvest, & Rest
WINTER: Snow, Passing, & Yearsend 

Originally, I have the seasons divided into 8 months. However, I decided 12 months would be better due to it mirroring the traditional Gregorian calendar, meaning players had a familiar concept to latch onto. Furthermore, 12 months allowed me to have 30 days instead of 45, making it easier to divide into 6 weeks. This means I'll have to sacrifice the familiar 7 day week for a 5 day one, but I'm okay with that.

I also wanted to keep the names simple so they were easier to remember. I could have given them exotic, fantasy names, but I can guarantee you I'd forget them and would kick myself in the ass for doing so. I also feel like these simple names give a quick description of the month's place within the year. For example, figuring out what activities happen during the Month of Harvest shouldn't be too hard. I'll be using a simple naming scheme for the days of the week as well.

This is just one method. I could have also gone with a lunar-based calendar, having 13 months derived from the phases of the month, or just created a fantasy version of the real world calendar system by just replacing the names. However, I wanted to try something different and I think it turned out pretty well..