May 25, 2012

Thoughts on More-Lethal Combat.

Today we see me actually adding something to the blog, fancy that! In other news, I would like to return to my thoughts on hit points, the abstractions of combat, and how much fun it is to see experienced characters collapse, lifeless forever more.

First however, the topic is the dreaded fire-arm, and its place in the role-playing game. Often scorned in fantasy settings, the efficient, ranged killing device is a common staple of any setting not historical or Tolkien-esque fantasy. I've nothing against the primitive handgonne (sp?) in my backwards fantasy, given that guns, bombs and roman fire are all staples of my favorite sort of fantasy trope, the alchemist.

At the table (when it is mine), my methods are often criticized, mocked even, for it is the players' opinions that they don't "do enough damage." Why so, you or I might ask? Simple: the concept any grognard (or reader of the old scrolls) knows; that a dagger is just as capable of ending one man's life as a spear, though perhaps not that far back (we're talking the variable damage days of that mentality.) Given that a common man usually has 1-6 hit points (average 3-4), I'd based the damages dealt by fire-arms (per bullet) to this standard. Below is a quick list of some guns :

Handgun             - 1-6
Handgun, heavy  - 1-8
Machine Pistol    - 1-4
Pocket Pistol      - 1-4
Rifle, civilian       - 1-6
Rifle, military      - 2-7
Rifle, target        - 2-12
Shotgun, break   - 1-10
Shotgun, pump   - 2-9
Sub-machine gun- 1-6

To an unarmored man, each of these looks to be a fair bet dead, no? Of course, explaining the concept of variable weapon damage, and how it applies to normal men, removes any doubt that my weapons are too "weak," but what it doesn't make up for is how leveled-up characters can survive multiple 'hits', especially in settings like Metamorphosis Alpha. Everyone has so many hit points it's crazy. But back to the leveled characters; my views of hit points have changed some since last I spoke of the matter here, but more or less, I hold to that Arnesonian view of hit points as a "hard-to-kill" rating. In movies we see several instances of the big, strong character taking many bullets before he collapses in death, but how does this work for all Player Characters?

My point, if it can be found somewhere, is when does the character "just die?" This train of thought is one I've often boarded, but only yesterday had I started to actually remember *why* I board it. In Supplement II: Blackmoor, we find a juicy little tidbit that shares my interests in death by common sense: "roll of 19+ (95%+, in any case) — victim seized & severed," as written for the giant crocodile entry. Given the strength and ferocity these creatures can put into ravaging their prey, this is perfect sense for the outcome of a croc, especially a giant version, grabbing a poor, poor human.

This returns to the mentality I've had with a rules system I've been writing on and off for mostly science fiction games of a specific setting. The system follows that the first value of hit points are a character's true "hit points" in the physical damage sort of way, and that later pips gained through the leveling system we all love (or hate and despise) merely increase that "harder-to-kill/hit" value of the character. It also goes on to mention at the section's end, that where common sense dictates, even those at top condition may be claimed by death.

How death by common sense and fire-arms correlate is that I'm somewhere at an impasse between abstraction and easy death for the system. It is predominantly science fiction, so long arms would be fairly common, so following this mentality, I cannot decide if guns should have some (even if small) chance to outright kill both players and monsters alike, if not give them injuries, and if so, should other weapons as well? Being a long-time player of the older video games, there's an inherent interest in the death spiral, given that "bosses" in these games get stronger as their life closes. The death spiral is very self-explaining, and to many people, "no fun," but to me, the abstraction of D&D combat, with no reduction in abilities all the way till 'just dead,' is no worse, nor greater.

So anyway, for more-lethal fire-arms, I was thinking something like this (D&D-isms for reader convenience): on a natural roll of  19+, or maybe 20, characters and comparable non-players are subject to more-lethal damage. Then roll for hit location.

 1          Head
2-4        Trunk
 5          Arm
 6          Leg

1. Injury to the head is fatal with failed Save vs Death (at +1 with helmets). Character stunned for 1-6 turns. Halves current Hit Points.
2-4. Injury to trunk is fatal with failed Save vs Death (at +1/+2?). Makes character easier to hit by 2 until properly healed.
5. Injury to arm lessens chance to hit by 2. Reduces hit points by 2 (subdual).
6. Injury to leg halves movement for duration. Reduces current hit points by 4 (subdual).

How does that seem? It's simple, to the point, and dangerous. My games don't want to focus around a lot of status affectors like busted limbs, allergies and bad colds, but sometimes injuries and other incidents make for more varied and interesting situations. The further reduction in hit points from torso and head wounds does cause a death spiral, but it does emulate the sudden shock and slowing from an obvious wound, therefore lessening the character's "hard-to-kill."

Whaddya' think? Yea, or nay? It's to be a suggested, though unnecessary ruling that has yet to be tested in game situations. I really don't enjoy the "my precious PC" mentality, and am also an advocate for Saves versus Death too, in case that wasn't clear.

May 16, 2012

A to Zed - the rest of 'em

For those keeping track, I ended off with the Elder Scrolls in this challenge. I've been absent for quite some time. Between just not being around and a curiously dodgy internet connection, there's been little time for the web, or Blogger for that matter. Now, instead of spamming everyone's blog watch I'll condense the rest of my list into one post, that you may at least know where I was going to go.

Frank Herbert - the mastermind behind Dune and various other works of science fiction. Besides my long-standing love for Dune, his Destination: Void (The Jesus Incident being my favorite) series and The Dragon in the Sea are some of my favorites of his works.

Gyrojet - Gyrojet were a unique family of weapons back in the 60's that utilized gyroscopically stabilized microjet bullets for projectiles. Poor manufacturing and design dashed their chances of becoming any more than a curiosity. I first encountered these weapons in the role-playing game, Star Frontiers. Curious as to the nature, I did some research and was very pleased with what I had stumbled upon. The designs of the real world Gyrojets even had the visual aesthetics of fire-arms in Traveller.

Hivers - Given my fixation with non-human sapients, the hivers of Traveller fame were a welcome discovery. Their bodies are fine examples of symmetry, with a distinct society and culture.

Illithid - The Mind Flayer, the brain lasher, cutter, devourer, alhoon, and et cetera ad infinum. They're freaking aliens that eat fantasy adventurer brains; what's not to like? These practically build adventures on their own.

Jason and the Argonauts - Any person considering inspirational flicks to watch prior to running a game should see this beauty. The combat isn't retardedly choreographed, the monsters are mean, and the stop-motion animation still looks fluid.

Knights -I would have prefered to have done a bit on armsmen, or "men-at-arms," though knights are these things. Though there has been, I believe, two paladins throughout our group's entire history together, not one knight has ever truly graced its collective chronicles. Whether it be an errant knight, or merely nobility.

Lüscher -My family name; a Swiss name. I like pole-arms, but no, I'm not some autist with a thing for tables and charts. There is history behind this name, though I know so little of it. My grandfather came to North America after his stint as a missionary and eventually married, then later moved to Canada where when he retired, he took up farming. I've seen pictures of the Lüscher homestead in Aargau, somewhere near Muhen in Switzerland. It was a thatch-roof structure that I believe has since been torn down decades ago. Should I ever get a chance to see Europe I would much like to meet his family, and also give Mr. Giger a good handshake, and buy a pint. My name means roughly "he who lives near reeds."

Marathon Series - One of Bungie Software's flagship series. Originally for the personal Macintosh computer, the games were later ported to Windows. Totaling three games, each starts right where the previous left off; going from first contact with a hostile (aren't they all?) collective of races, the generation ship, Marathon, and its colony on Tau Ceti, is assaulted, to later adventures near the galactic core in a stolen vessel with a rampant AI, (and a good supply of expendable human meat-bags). The first game was instrumental in story-telling within first-perspective video games. For those even remotely interested, I heartily recommend going to and downloading Aleph One (all Operating Systems), and the three accompanying games. Marathons RED, Evil and Morgana's Revenge are also available there, and while fan projects, each are built to a high standard, almost befitting professional standards.

Non-Humanity - This is a recurring interest of mine. Sapient life of any matter, form, or environment, that is by definition alien. It could think completely different and apply obscene logics that make sense only to themselves, and it could be bizarre anatomy and senses that stand apart from ours. Basically, while I do enjoy 'men in rubber suits' aliens, I get a figurative hard-on, (pardon my vulgarity), just guessing at and musing how life not like our own would function.

OD&D - When I first encountered Dungeons & Dragons, it was as AD&D 2nd Edition, and that was just before 3rd started doing the rounds. I've never had a real copy of the three Little Brown Books, but once their realm was known to me, and I made my first step past the threshold, I knew what Arneson and Gygax had done, was lost with time, and edition. There is no purist here; I play anything set before me (except 4th Ed., once was enough!), but I am lessened for knowing too few do or want to play the game as it was. As a result, I also became quite interested in the history and development of the game, and later found things like a copy of the First Fantasy Campaign, and the lovely sites Hidden in Shadows, and Philotomy's OD&D Musings.

Pathways into Darkness - Before there was Marathon, there were pathways into darkness, and they  were full of things that go bump in the night. Though most certainly not fantasy, this was a dungeon crawl; with guns, the dead, Nazis, aliens, and skinny Buddha monks. Popular oppinion says Marathon shares more than just a few easter eggs with this gem of a crawler. As of yet though, still no Windows port or source game.

Querulous - And I don't mean the adjective. Arne of Querulous, his blog, has been to some manner of degree an inspiration to me when it comes to visual design, and just video games in general. Through his web log, there is often re-imaginings of various old game series, and other media icons. He is also responsible for Android Arts and Prometheus Spawning Grounds 7. For anyone simply interested in just looking at pretty pictures, or interested in something to ruminate over if video games are an interest of theirs, I heartily suggest taking a gander. His material on Exile is some of my favorite, given how he somehow makes an awesome game better!

Robert A. Heinlein - If you couldn't already guess, I dig science fiction, and the older stuff moreso. Mr. Heinlein is no exception. And I don't care what claim Games Workshop supposedly has to 'space marines', given that this guy (and a coupla' others) all beat those toads to it, (and can make more interesting space marines to boot!)

Syd Mead - A futurist artist of great repute and resume. A good chunk of his early days were doing futuristic paintings for Ford. If I were to look at a non-dystopic future, I would see it in his worlds. The stylings have 50's leanings, but with the right counter of post-modernism to balance it out. The new world look may not be to everyone's tastes, but there's hope, and a bright future to be had in each of his works, and it is things like his paintings that keep my hopes for the future high. That sounded pretty corny, no? All the same, this man is my favorite visual artist ever.

Tales from Earthsea - Or Gedo Senki, is an animated film by Studio Ghibli roughly(?) based on a collection of stories under the same name, as I recall tell. I've only ever watched it a few times, but the setting, along with various other objects and designs that persist about the world made it special. And definitely a setting I would enjoy running or playing a campaign to.

Unobtainium - Phlebotinum, handwavium, et cetera. This is the magical sauce, the stuff, and the E-99 that makes the latest gadgets, gizmos and reactors run on all cylinders. Often a plot point or enabler in any piece of fiction, without Unobtainium we would instead have to rely on real world materials that wouldn't work as well, either stretching plausibility, or completely throwing adventure out the window.

Vallejo, Boris - If Syd Mead is my fondness for the future, Boris is my fondness for monsters and babes in the company of monsters. A maker of very fantastical illustrations, but I'm sure we already know who he is.

Wipple Shields - Science has told me that wipple shields are a very important asset to spacecraft. So what made them get this spot? Simple: it's one of the first realizations of space armour, and is almost as important as radiation shielding. How wipple works, is that it is a very thin layer of ablative material designed to take hits from micro-meteorites, using their own kinetic energy against them, disintegrating the particles with little more than superficial damage to the surfaces below the shield.

X-Files - One thing I've  humored myself with repeatedly is how much this show is an inverse to Scooby-Doo. They kept thinking it wasn't so, yet always found the supernatural. Scoob and Crew are always on the hunt for a monster, but it's always that old man Jenkins. Incidentally, this post is moreso aimed at my general paranormal interests, and the title music still invokes an emotional response from me.

Yazirians - These anthropomorphic, gliding apes are positively my favorite of the main races in Star Frontiers. I couldn't really tell you why, and it definitely is not the battle rage ability, but the idea of power gliding across some moon with bubble goggles might have some say in the matter.

ZOrk - You wouldn't believe how hard I had to think of, and remember, the only interest of mine that starts with a zed. So, Zork. The text adventure role-playing game. Where being eaten by a grue was punishment for trying to not find a lamp. Originally, as I recall, the eponymous grue was added to replace the fallible logic of stumbling into a bottomless pit in the dark, given that this pit could happen in nonsensical locations. I had the gameboy version, not the original.

May 5, 2012

Kickstarter: Champions of Zed

Hello to you lot.

Just stopping by to say that the Champions of Zed is up on Kickstarter, and could use your help, if you've not already. It's all well set out and nicely explained on there what CoZ is if you don't already know.

I'm pretty excited for it and hope it gets enough support. A hard-cover copy would be aces to me.

As for A to Zed. I've been lagging terribly behind schedule, and thankfully this isn't some established, or official, establishment, otherwise I'd have been shit-canned earlier this week, haha! After I go to see the Avengers flick tonight, we'll see about getting me caught up in full.