Musing about Upcoming Campaign (and System)

Its looking like I will be facilitating a face to face regular RPG game. And now I’m looking at the systems that I’m planning to suggest to the group:

Of particular note, Dungeon World is not on the offering. One of my players has requested a bit more “crunch” than Dungeon World. And as I pressed him for more information, it sounded as though he had worn through the playbooks. He has just started a D&D 5E game and enjoys the diverse characters within a given class.

Whitehack 2nd Edition is on the list because the rules are a streamlined revisitation of D&D 0E with some more modern sensibilities. I believe there is enough “crunch” to this game even though the rulebook is quite compact. At present this is one I want to see in play.

D&D 5E is on the list because at its heart, my game table has been a Dungeons & Dragons table. I’ve run 2E, 3E, and played 4E. And 5E is an amazing re-engineering of previous editions with attention to some modern developments (bonds and aspects).

Wrath of the Autarch, a dark horse but one with a lot of appeal. First its heavily inspired by Birthright, so that’s a huge plus for me.

Scarlet Heroes is on the list in part because I love the Red Tide campaign tooling. I would love to have a system that requires little in the way of translation for that tooling. Since I’ve been considering a Sandbox campaign, I would like to use Sine Nomine products – the gold standard of sandbox adventuring.

I decided to add DCC RPG to the mix based on a conversation about character funnels. DCC recommends that players start with a few 0th level characters, fragile and weak, then send them through a funnel and see who survives.

When I bring the games to the table I’ll ask the players what they are after:

  • Do you want a “story arc game” in which encounters are always feasible for the characters to overcome? This will result in a more “railroaded” story being told.
  • Would you rather have a “sand box game” in which characters choose where to go, and reconnaissance is greatly rewarded as encounters are not tailored for character level? This should result in more emergent stories.
  • What style of Fantasy are we looking for? I had talked a bit about Eberron’s pulp-noir feel, but I have a campaign map brewed up as well.
  • How do you feel about starting with a character funnel? Make 3 or 4 characters and lets play some disposable characters to see what “sticks”

I played in a D&D 2E Birthright in which the GM started everyone as 0-level characters and we played a few sessions. The GM took notes and when we hit level 1, he handed us a standard class with a few tweaks to show our character’s nuances. It was an interesting experience in which the players had to rely on player skill to overcome challenges.

One thing is clear, I will bring to bear numerous resources from the OSR that I’ve been accumulating. More on that later.

Fate Point Economy: All the Glories of Accounting and Fiduciary Obligations

It is no secret, I dislike Fate. In the hands of an awesome GM, it is a great game. But that is true for any game. However Fate has always come off as a system that assures a particular outcome; Narrative consensus.

In the Fate games that I’ve played there comes a point when someone invokes the meta-aspect “I’m going to MATH this!” and proceeds to burn through many free invokes and a few fate points. And they “win” the conflict.

The narrative beats may feel like the “good guys” are on the ropes, but the underlying mechanical economy appears to insure, through actuarially asserted models, that success will happen.

One of the consequences of invoking the meta-aspect “I’m going to MATH this!” is the extended moment of aspect scrounging. It always reminds me of the old Wheel of Fortune segment in which the winner for the round would buy stuff from a show room; “I’ll take the porcelain dalmatian for $400 and the crystal ash tray for $200 and…”

And while there is a concerted table effort to scrounge up all related aspects related to the meta-aspect “I’m going to MATH this!”, this process invariably feels like the table is awarding participation ribbons for attending a graduation ceremony for 2nd grade.

So how would I solve this?

Invocation of Aspects give Advantage or Disadvantage (as per D&D 5E). And Advantage or Disadvantage does not stack. In other words, you get one invocation in your favor.

Does this break Fate? Perhaps. But unless you are a vetted Fate GM (and you know who you are) I won’t be playing Fate‡.

‡ – Unless it is the Diaspora mini-game for Spaceship conflict. That mini-game is fantastic. Or Wrath of the Autarch, which on my last playing had mini-games and inherent time constraints, thus removing the ubiquitous “I’m going to MATH this!” moments.

My take on a terrible law

This past week has been a whirlwind. I was away at a library conference in California; Meeting with friends and colleagues. As news broke about SB 101 awaiting Governor Pence’s promised signature, I was saddened.

Many of my friends and colleagues already experience discrimination, and now it is to be accepted as legal. I felt powerless, but I looked around me.

There were several committee members for two upcoming conferences will be in Indianapolis: DPLA-fest (Digital Public Libraries of America festival) and Open Repositories.

I informed them  of the current state of the legislation and asked that they review their code of conduct and see how it reconciles with Indiana’s climate.

Within the day there were initial responses; Perhaps timid, but I understand that the response comes from a loose affiliation of people gathering for common professional cause; Not social cause.

But they responded, adding their voice. And I am proud to associate with these organizations.

They reminded me that we are all in this together. And I saw other voices chiming in; Not with bluster and politicking, but with measured delibedration, acknowledging that boycotting an entire state can damage those they are attempting to support.

But I want this to go further, Indiana is not the only state that has similar ordinances, laws, etc on the books. I would like “discriminatory climate” to be a deal-breaker for locations of all future events of conferences I attend.

But not a silent deal breaker.

I want to see open letters, calls for transformation, and conversations about their decision making process.

I want to see conferences already committed to locations to collaborate with their hosts to build a code of collaboration and co-mingling.

I want to see this, so that I can acknowledge and celebrate baby steps towards improving the human condition.

In an era of internet anonymity and animosity, I want people to see that there are allies around them. Not just people, but institutions, federations, gatherings, and congregations. Each willing to say I’m not just open for business, but I’m embracing the humanity in each of us.

Circle of Hands Clash System Shout Out

CIrcle of Hands by Ron Edward

CIrcle of Hands by Ron Edward

I finished reading Circle of Hands by Ron Edwards. The combat/clash system is sticking in my brain.

A brief rundown:

  • Everyone states their intentions
  • Line everyone up in order of quickness (faster characters will go first)
  • Anyone can pay (in resolve/might) to jump to the head of the line…at any time
  • Actions are taken…and can pull other characters to the head of the line

It appears to be an engine that leverages chaos, imperfect information, and resource management to move combat from the poor analogue of the battle mat to a procedure for negotiating a charged moment of fiction.

It reminds me of Diaspora‘s space combat system; Diaspora’s space combat system uses a 1-D map to represent spaceship position and a procedure for resolution.

By reducing the number of physical dimensions representing the conflict, a more concise understanding of positioning, tempo, and advantage is exposed.

Circle of Hands does something similar, pushing the 2-D/3-D conflict to 1-D.

Circle of Hands conflict has a visual placeholder for players to reference. It draws attention to the most important aspect of a table-top RPG conflict: temporal positioning. How and when does each player participating in the conflict take their turn.

I suspect that Circle of Hands will solve one of the problems I have with Powered by the Apocalypse games (looking at you Dungeon World): namely when does someone get to do something?

The answer for Dungeon World is when the GM points the camera at a player. For Circle of Hands, the answer is in front of you, and it is your’s to change.

Tables in the DMG and their Page Number

Table Name DMG Page Roll
Ability Check Proficiencies by Class 263
Ability Check Usage 237
Abyssal Corruption 62 d10
Adventure Allies 74 d12
Adventure Climax 75 d12
Adventure Introduction 74 d12
Adventure Patrons 74 d20
Adventure Villains 74 d20
Adventuring Day XP 83
Airborne and Waterborne Vehicles 119
Artifacts: Major Beneficial Property 219 d100
Artifacts: Major Detrimental Property 220 d100
Artifacts: Minor Beneficial Property 219 d100
Artifacts: Minor Detrimental Property 220 d100
Astral Color Pools 47 d20
Building a Stronghold 128
Buildings: Building Type 113 d20
Buildings: Relgious Building 113 d20
Buildings: Residence 113 d20
Buildings: Shop 114 d20
Buildings: Tavern 113 d20
Buildings: Tavern Name Generator 113 d20
Buildings: Warehouse 113 d20
Carousing 128 d100
Cataclysmic Disaster 28 d10
Chase: Escape Factors 253
Chase: Urban Chase Complications 254 d20
Chase: Wilderness Chase Complications 254 d20
Cleric: Death Domain Spells 94
Conversation Reaction 245
Crafting Magic Items 129
Creature Size and Space 251
Cult and Religious Groups 100 d20
Customizing Encounters: Effective Hit Points Based on Resistance and Immunities 276
Customizing Encounters: Experience Points by Challenge Rating 275
Customizing Encounters: Hit Dice by Size 276
Customizing Encounters: Monster Features 280
Customizing Encounters: Monster Statistics by Challenge Rating 274
Customizing Encounters: NPC Features 282
Damage Severity and Level 249
Damage Severity by Level 121
Dawn War Deities 10
Difficulty Class 238
Discoveries 31 d10
Dungeon Creator 100 d20
Dungeon Goals 73 d20
Dungeon History 101 d20
Dungeon Location 99 d100
Dungeon Purpose 101 d20
Encounter Multipliers 82
Ether Cyclone 49 d20
Ethereal Curtains 49 d8
Event-Based Goals 76 d20
Event-Based Villain Actions 75 d6
Examples of Faction Ranks 22
Exotic Location 99 d20
Explosives 268
Extinction or Depletion 30 d8
Feywild Time Warp 50 d20
Figuring Out Alien Technology 268
Firearms 268
Food and Water Needs 111
Foraging DCs 111
Forms of Government 18 d100
Framing Events 79 d100
Gate-Towns of the Outlands 67
Improvising Damage 249
Invading Forces 29 d8
Leader Types 27 d6
Lingering Injuries 272
Madness: Indefinite 260 d100
Madness: Long-Term 260 d100
Madness: Short-Term 259 d100
Magic Item Power by Rarity 284
Magic Item Table A 144 d100
Magic Item Table B 144 d100
Magic Item Table C 145 d100
Magic Item Table D 145 d100
Magic Item Table E 145 d100
Magic Item Table F 146 d100
Magic Item Table G 147 d100
Magic Item Table H 148 d100
Magic Item Table I 148 d100
Magic Item: Alchemy Jug Liquid 150
Magic Item: Apparatus of Kwalish Levers 151
Magic Item: Armor of Resistance 152 d10
Magic Item: Bag of Beans Effect 153 d100
Magic Item: Belt of Giant Strength 155
Magic Item: Candle of Invocation 157 d20
Magic Item: Carpet of Flying 157 d100
Magic Item: Cube of Force Charges Lost 160
Magic Item: Cube of Force Faces 160
Magic Item: Deck of Illusions 162
Magic Item: Deck of Many Things 162
Magic Item: Dragon Scale Mail 165
Magic Item: Efreeti Bottle Effect 167
Magic Item: Elemental Gem 168
Magic Item: Gray Bag of Tricks 154 d8
Magic Item: Horn of Valhalla 175 d100
Magic Item: Instrument of the Bards 176
Magic Item: Iron Flask Contents 178
Magic Item: Manual of Golems 180 d20
Magic Item: Necklace of Prayer Beads 182 d20
Magic Item: Potion of Giant Strength 187
Magic Item: Potion of Healing 188
Magic Item: Potion of Resistence 188
Magic Item: Qual’s Feather Token 188 d100
Magic Item: Ring of Resistance 192 d10
Magic Item: Ring of Shooting Stars 192
Magic Item: Robe of Useful Items 195 d100
Magic Item: Rust Bag of Tricks 154 d8
Magic Item: Scroll of Protection 199 d100
Magic Item: Spell Scroll 200
Magic Item: Sphere of Annihilation 201 d100
Magic Item: Staff of Power 203
Magic Item: Staff of the Magi 203
Magic Item: Sword of Answering 206
Magic Item: Tan Bag of Tricks 154 d8
Magic Item: Wand of Wonder 212 d100
Maintenance Costs 127
Map Travel Pace 242
Mixing Potions 140 d100
Mob Attacks 250
Monsters by Challenge Rating 306
Monsters by Environment: Arctic Monsters 302
Monsters by Environment: Coastal Monsters 302
Monsters by Environment: Desert Monsters 302
Monsters by Environment: Forest Monsters 302
Monsters by Environment: Grassland Monsters 303
Monsters by Environment: Hill Monsters 304
Monsters by Environment: Mountain Monsters 304
Monsters by Environment: Swamp Monsters 304
Monsters by Environment: Underdark Monsters 305
Monsters by Environment: Underwater Monsters 305
Monsters by Environment: Urban Monsters 305
Monuments 108 d20
Moral Quandaries 79 d20
NCP Class 101 d20
New Organizations 31 d10
NPC Abilities: High Ability 89 d6
NPC Abilities: Low Ability 89 d6
NPC Alignment 100 d20
NPC Appearance 89 d20
NPC Bonds 91 d10
NPC Flaws and Secrets 91 d12
NPC Ideals: Chaotic 90 d6
NPC Ideals: Evil 90 d6
NPC Ideals: Good 90 d6
NPC Ideals: Lawful 90 d6
NPC Ideals: Neutral 90 d6
NPC Ideals: Other 90 d6
NPC Interaction Traits 90 d12
NPC Mannerism 90 d20
NPC Talents 90 d20
Object Armor Class 246
Object Hit Points 247
Other Goals 74 d12
Paladin: Oathbreaker Spells 96
Poisons 257
Proficiency Die 263
Psychic Wind Effects: Location Effect 48 d20
Psychic Wind Effects: Mental Effect 48 d20
Random Dungeon Chamber Contents 296 d20
Random Dungeon Chamber Purpose: Death Trap 292 d20
Random Dungeon Chamber Purpose: General Chambers 295 d100
Random Dungeon Chamber Purpose: Lair 293 d20
Random Dungeon Chamber Purpose: Maze 293 d20
Random Dungeon Chamber Purpose: Mine 293 d20
Random Dungeon Chamber Purpose: Planar Gate 293 d100
Random Dungeon Chamber Purpose: Stronghold 294 d100
Random Dungeon Chamber Purpose: Temple or Shrine 294 d100
Random Dungeon Chamber Purpose: Tomb 295 d20
Random Dungeon Chamber Purpose: Treasure Vault 295 d20
Random Dungeon Chamber State 295 d20
Random Dungeon Dressing: Air 299 d100
Random Dungeon Dressing: Books, Scrolls, and Tomes 301 d100
Random Dungeon Dressing: Container Contents 301 d100
Random Dungeon Dressing: General Features 299 d100
Random Dungeon Dressing: General Furnishings and Appointments 299 d100
Random Dungeon Dressing: Mage Furnishings 300 d100
Random Dungeon Dressing: Noises 298 d100
Random Dungeon Dressing: Odors 299 d100
Random Dungeon Dressing: Religious Articles and Furnishings 300 d100
Random Dungeon Dressing: Utensils and Personal Items 300 d100
Random Dungeon Random Traps: Damage Severity 297 d6
Random Dungeon Random Traps: Effects 297 d100
Random Dungeon Random Traps: Trigger 297 d6
Random Dungeon Tricks: Objects 298 d20
Random Dungeon Tricks: Objects 298 d20
Random Dungeon: Beyond a Door 291 d20
Random Dungeon: Chamber Exits 291 d20
Random Dungeon: Chambers 291 d20
Random Dungeon: Door Type 291 d20
Random Dungeon: Dungeon Hazard 296 d20
Random Dungeon: Exit Location 291 d20
Random Dungeon: Exit Type 291 d20
Random Dungeon: Monster Motivation 296 d20
Random Dungeon: Obstacles 297 d20
Random Dungeon: Passage Width 290 d20
Random Dungeon: Passages 290 d20
Random Dungeon: Stairs 291 d20
Random Dungeon: Starting Area 290 d10
Random Encounters at Sea d12+d8 117
Random Undersea Encounters d12+d8 116
Random Urban Encounters d12+d8 114
Running a Business 129 d100
Salable Magic Items 130
Sample Hierarchy of Noble Titles 19
Saving Throw Usage 238
Scroll Mishaps 140 d6
Selling a Magic Item 130
Sentient Magic Item: Alignment 216 d100
Sentient Magic Item: Communication 214 d100
Sentient Magic Item: Moonblade Properties 217 d100
Sentient Magic Item: Senses 214 d4
Sentient Magic Item: Special Purpose 216 d10
Settlements: Current Calamity 112 d20
Settlements: Known for its… 112 d20
Settlements: Notable Traits 112 d20
Settlements: Race Relations 112 d20
Settlements: Ruler’s Status 112 d20
Shadowfell Despair 52 d6
Side Quests 81 d8
Sowing Rumors 131
Speed Factor Initiative Modifiers 271
Spell Damage 284
Spell Points: By Level 289
Spell Points: Cost 288
Starting Equipment 38
Sylvan Forest Encounters d12+d8 87
System Shock 273
Targets in Areas of Effect 249
The Calendar of Harptos 33
The Outer Planes 58
Tracking DCs 244
Training to Gain Levels 131
Trap Save DCs and Attack Bonuses 121
Treasure: 10 GP Gemstones 134 d12
Treasure: 100 GP Gemstones 134 d10
Treasure: 1000 GP Gemstones 134 d8
Treasure: 25 GP Art Object 134 d10
Treasure: 250 GP Art Object 135 d10
Treasure: 2500 GP Art Object 135 d10
Treasure: 50 GP Gemstones 134 d12
Treasure: 500 GP Gemstones 134 d6
Treasure: 5000 GP Gemstones 134 d8
Treasure: 750 GP Art Object 135 d10
Treasure: 7500 GP Art Object 135 d8
Treasure: Horde: Challenge 0-4 137 d100
Treasure: Horde: Challenge 11-16 138 d100
Treasure: Horde: Challenge 17+ 139 d100
Treasure: Horde: Challenge 5-10 137 d100
Treasure: Individual Treasure Challenge 0-4 136 d100
Treasure: Individual Treasure Challenge 11-16 136 d100
Treasure: Individual Treasure Challenge 17+ 136 d100
Treasure: Individual Treasure Challenge 5-10 136 d100
Treasure: Magic Item Rarity 135
Twists 80 d10
Underwater Encounter Distance 116
Villain’s Methods 94 d20
Villain’s Scheme 94 d8
Villain’s Weakness 94 d8
Weather: Precipitation 109 d20
Weather: Temperature 109 d20
Weather: Wind 109 d20
Weird Locales 109 d20
What is a Detail from its History? 141 d8
What Minor Property Does it Have? 142 d20
What Quirk Does it Have? 143 d12
Who Created It or Was Intended to Use It? 141 d20
Wilderness Goals 73 d20
Wildnerss Navigation DC 112
World-Shaking Events 27 d10
Wuxia Weapon Names 41
XP Thresholds by Character Level 82

House Rules for upcoming D&D 5E campaign

Following up on my post on building a set of D&D house rules, here are the current rules that I want to use, along with their intended purpose. The overall guiding principle is that I want players to consider combat as a dangerous, unpredictable, and costly option.

Table of Contents

  • Ability Checks
  • Aftermath of Combat
  • Conversation Reaction
  • Exploding Criticals
  • Firing into Melee
  • Hazard System (Time Management)
  • Healing and Recovery – pending; Slowed recovery times
  • Life Drain – pending; Based on 5E but slower recovery
  • Loyalty – pending; Based on 5E DMG
  • Massive Damage
  • Morale
  • Missile Fire While in Melee – pending
  • Pushing Spellcasting – pending; Rolemaster and Burning Wheel inspired
  • Ritual Magic
  • Scripted Combat – pending; Inspired by BWG, D&D 2E yet cribbed from 5E DMG
  • Spellcasting While in Melee – pending
  • Where We Last Left Off

Ability Checks

When you fail an ability check, you may choose to succeed at cost. If you fail by more than 5, choosing success will come at a major cost.

Intention: Sometimes failure is boring, or the player really wants it. If that is the case, I’m willing to give it to them, at a cost.

Aftermath of Combat

After any combat, each character that engaged in combat must either:

  • Spend a turn resting
  • Ignore resting, making a Constitution save (DC 8 + number of rounds of combat) or gain one level of exhaustion.

While spending a turn resting, a character may:

  • Spend one (1) hit die to regain hit points
  • Cast non-ritual spells
  • Perform other non-strenuous activity

Intention: To highlight that combat is exhausting and has a potential opportunity cost.

Conversation Reaction

Not all encounters need start with drawing swords. If characters choose to engage in a conversation, the GM will determine their starting disposition – friendly, indifferent, or hostile.

Once the players get to the point of their request or demand roll the applicable Charisma (perception, persuasion, or intimidation) check as applicable. Then consult the table for the response.

Extracted from the 5E Dungeon Master’s Guide p244
DC Friendly Indifferent Hostile
0 Do it if no risk/cost No help nor harm Opposes action might take risk
10 Do it will accept minor risk/cost Do it if no risk/cost No help nor harm
20 Do it will accept major risk/cost Do it will accept minor risk/cost Do it if no risk/cost

Exploding Criticals (Old House Rule)

When you roll a critical hit, roll your attack again and increase your critical hit range by 1. If this would be a critical hit, roll again and increase the range again by 1, and so on. Once your roll is not a critical hit, the number of critical hits you achieved is the number of extra times you roll damage.

Example: Fath, an elf fighter, wielding his longsword (d8+3) is attacking an ogre. He rolls a 20 on his attack. A critical hit. Fath needs to see if his critical explodes; He’ll need a 19 or 20 to continue exploding; The roll is a 19. Fath’s player grabs the die and rolls again; This time he’ll need an 18, 19 or 20. He rolls an 17. So close.

Fath’s final damage roll is 3d8+3; one die for base damage, one for the ciritical, and one for the first explosion.

Intention: Because ever-increasing chances of doing damage builds an interesting excitement; Once I start rolling my odds keep getting better. How lucky will I be?

Firing into Melee (Inspired by DMG 2E Revised p132)

When firing into a melee, any attack that requires a to hit roll might hit unintended targets. Count the target of the attack and any potential targets adjacent to the intended target.

For each target determine their chance value, doubling the chance for the intended target. Then randomly determine which target is hit based on the weighted chance.

Target Size Chance Value
Tiny 1/4
Small 1/2
Medium 1
Large 2
Huge 4
Gargantuan 8

An attacker may take a -5 to their to hit roll to avoid any chance of hitting an unintended target.

Intention: I want to highlight that firing into melee is unreliable and dangerous. I could grant disadvantage, but the nuances of random means that leaders can have meat shields to better save themselves.

Hazard System

I will be using the Brendan S’s Hazard System; Though perhaps with a few adjustments.

Intention: My goal is to expand the elapsed campaign time. I want changes in the world around the players. I want careful consideration of all resources.


An injury occurs when you…

  • Drop to 0 hit points but aren’t killed outright.
  • Fail a death saving throw by 5 or more.

See page 272 of the DMG for the chart.

Intention: To add combat induced complications. To call attention to the fact that combat heroics are not without cost.

Massive Damage

If you take half of your maximum hit points (or more) in a single attack, you must succeed at a DC 15 Constitution save or suffer system shock (see DMG p273). If you fail your save by 5 or more, roll system shock with disadvantage.

Transcribed from the 5e Dungeon Master’s Guide p273
d10 Effect
1 Creature drops to 0 hit points.
2-3 Creature drops to 0 hit points but is stable.
4-5 Creature is stunned until the end of its next turn.
6-7 Creature can’t take reactions and has disadvantage on attack rolls and ability checks until the end of its next turn.
8-10 The creature can’t take reactions until the end of its next turn.

Intention: Keep ratcheting up the notion that “combat is dangerous”; Under the existing rules dropping to 0 hit points buys you quite a bit of time before you die.


Creatures might flee if…

  • Surprised
  • When reduced to 1/2 its hit points or fewer (for the first time in the battle)
  • Has no way to harm opposition

Group might flee if…

  • All are surprised
  • Group’s leader is incapacitated, killed, captured, or removed from the battle
  • Group is reduced to half its original size with no losses on opposing side.

Check morale by having the creature or group leader make a DC 10 Wisdom saving throw.

Note: Player characters need never make morale checks. Henchmen, retainers, and hirelings must make morale checks.

Intention: I don’t want combatants to fight to the death; Draw attention to the fact that few people would fight on to the bitter end.

Ritual Magic

Any spell may be cast as a ritual. Spells that have the ritual tag may be cast as a ritual as per the existing rules. Otherwise, the following rules apply.

To cast a spell as a ritual, you must:

  • Spend viz or arcane reagents in GP value equal to 10 x spell level2
  • Reference a ritual (or spell) book that has the spell
  • Have the ritual casting feat or class feature

Intention: I want make ritual books

Where We Last Left Off

At the beginning of the session, one player should give a brief retelling of the previous session. That player’s character gains inspiration. Any player that wrote up a session report for the previous session gains inspiration.

Intention: To help refresh everyone’s memory of what happened last week.

Building a Set of D&D House Rules

I have very fond memories of D&D 2E combats:

* Firing into melee
* Declare actions, roll initiative, then resolve; Repeat each round
* Spell casting disruption
* House ruled exploding criticals
* System shock
* Limited healing

Combat in 2E was chaotic and dangerous – not Rolemaster dangerous – but more so than later incarnations. And 4E was an unmitigated slog fest of predictability.

This is one reason I love the Burning Wheel combat system; Shit goes sour fast. And diving into Fight! or Range & Cover is something to carefully consider. But Burning Wheel is not in the running for the game I’d run.

So as I prepare for my next campaign short-lived multi-session game, I’m looking towards the 2E rules for inspiration and how they would map to a 5E game. I am also looking around for other things I want to add to the game.

Burning Wheel’s spell mishap is crazy awesome; My character summoned imps on a few occassions. We would kill the imp and extract the essence to make baked goods that never went stale.

I like the idea that spells are predictable if you cast them “by the book”; But you want to remove or reduce a somatic or verbal component, you need a casting check. If you cast a spell while an enemy is threatening you, you are tempting fate.

I’m also balancing the idea of Torchbearer‘s resource management, Brandon S’s Hazard System, and 1E DMG advice; “YOU CAN NOT HAVE A MEANINGFUL CAMPAIGN IF STRICT TIME RECORDS ARE NOT KEPT” (1E DMG page 37). Jeff Rient’s Timeliness is next to Godliness has an insightful perspective on this topic.

All of this is to say, I am after a game in which combat is a viable option. However, its unpredictability encourages players to find alternate solutions. What I am after is hinted at in Torchbearer:

If you think the players have come up with a good idea—a smart use of their gear, spells or even bodies—then there is no need to roll the dice for test, no need to spend a check and it doesn’t cost a turn.

In other words. Make time important. Make conflicts cost more time. Make the cost salient. All of which is there to encourage players to solve problems without resorting to combat and to a lesser extent direct conflict.

And there-in lies the game design. What about the game do I want to make important. And shape the subsystems to hammer on what is import.

But as with any system, if you change something, pay attention to the ripple effect. For example, since I’m discouraging direct conflict, I’ll need to review the expectations of combat; And one of those is encounter XP.