Friday, March 27, 2020

Task Difficulty in BXDH

As editing progresses in Sorrow in Haven, I've been running a campaign with multiple parties in Castle Gargantua. I modded up Basic D&D (I'm calling the system BXDH) with a simple "Aim for 20" resolution system.

Aim for 20 in a Nutshell

  • Roll 1d20 + level  + modifier. If the score is 20 or higher, you succeed.
  • Level is character level, except for attacking (which is BASED on level and STR or DEX modifiers for melee and ranged).
  • Modifier is an attribute modifier, saving throw modifier, or skill modifier. Turning the Undead gets another mod based on undead HD, and attacking adds the targets AC.


I've kept it simple on purpose - originally for faster play at the table and now online. It works, but there are some questions about task difficulty. So ... some options ...

Advantage and Disadvantage
This works by changing the distribution of the d20 roll. Disadvantage is usually handed out when folks are in trouble (you are crippled by poison!) or do describe something amazing (handed out as a reward). It works, but is purely mechanical.

More Interesting Option: Change the Stakes
Changing the stakes of failure definitely changes things.  For example, climbing that 30' cliff could have 3 difficulties based on failure:

  • Low: you can't get a good grip and are unable to climb
  • Moderate: you'll get stuck part way up and have to check again
  • High: you'll definitely fall from 20-30' up (which is 2d8 or 3d8 damage, which is a LOT)
Getting a Critical Failure (Natural 1) increases the failure results

  • Low: you are stuck
  • Moderate: you fall
  • High: one of these: no save for 1/2 damage, 2d4+8 or 3d4+12 damage, automatically break a random limb

Another Option: Succeed with a Cost
I really liked this option in Dungeon World and use it sometimes. Using it all the time doesn't feel right because sometimes things just don't work. A roll fails, but I'll give the player an option to succeed for a cost. Some examples:

  • Low: it takes twice the time to climb (time tracking is a big deal in this game)
  • Moderate: Cut off your backpack to lose some weight
  • High: Lose 1d4 HP to exhaustion; 0 hp becomes 1 hp but you have a sprain and disadvantage to things for a while.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Gear Durability

I like the idea of gear breaking down - it makes choosing the right equipment important, adds another layer of resource management, and allows for some minor boons and improvements to gear. But tracking gear hit points sucks. Having items be in perfect condition or broken is boring.

I tried a durability system with descending die types, but that just didn't hit the spot - gear was too durable to the point where it wasn't even interesting to track - it became pointless book keeping.

So ... the Durability Die Rules for Sorrow in Haven v2:

The Durability die is used to check if an item breaks. When the GM calls for a Durability Roll and the result is a 1 or 2, the item is Damaged. A broken item may still be usable in this state (at the GM's discretion), but if a second Durability Roll produces a result of 1 or 2, the item is Broken and can no longer be used.

Repairing Gear
Repairing Damaged gear costs 20% of the base cost. Repairing Broken gear costs 50% of the base cost and 50% of the time will permanently reduce the durability die by 1 type. If the die type would be reduced from a d4, the item is permanently Broken.

Durability Scale
d4: super fragile
d6: normal items
d8: sturdy biz

The die an specific item also determine when a roll is made. If an item is encountering normal wear and tear or use then no roll is needed. Like a prybar being used to pry open a chest - no roll required. But if a 10' pole is used to brace across a hole and a bunch of people hang from it, you bet there is a durability roll.

Advantage and Disadvantage can be applied to durability rolls as well, but if it has Advantage why even roll?


Monday, March 9, 2020

Some Shitty Magic Rings

Artwork for Sorrow in Haven is still filtering in, and looking grand. I'm running some old school D&D and have a Mothership game in the works while I'm preparing for some hard editing. Also, some of my group are running their own games for a while, which is pretty sweet. In the mean time, here are some shitty magic rings I just thought of.

  1. Eldriband's Canker: simple silver ring with a grotty white stone. Put it on and you are covered, head to toe, in painful bloody warts. Disadvantage to everything for a day, then you get used to it. The benefit? Gain 1 DR forever. But you look nasty - which is Advantage or Disadvantage to PRE checks (depending on the situation). Cursed: take it off and a replacement GROWS on your finger in 1d6 days. If the curse is removed, the warts fade after 1d4 weeks.
  2. Ghostfinger: translucent crystal ring. Put it on and your finger is chopped off and the ring falls to the ground (it clearly has other applications) - lose 1 point of maximum VIT because it is really painful. After 1 night of sleep, your ghost finger, which is entirely invisible, appears and is fully functional.  Also, you can hit incorporeal things now. Lose more fingers? gain +1 to hit incorporeal things for each finger you lose. That last bit doesn't work if you are wearing gloves. 
  3. Ring of Rings: simple gold band inscribed with concentric circles. Roll 1d100 after each night of sleep. A new gold ring appears on an adjacent finger worth that much (in groats, of course)! The new rings are completely normal and you must have a free finger. However, for every 10g of value of new rings generated, add +1 to the next roll. If you ever roll MORE than 100 the next ring is a brass collar and you are now enslaved to the Ringlord Freldor who will find you and will be able to control all of your actions and he is pretty unpleasant. Also the when that happens the Ring of Rings disappears.
  4. Brass Destroyer: a brass ring that becomes brass knuckles when you get angry. you get +2 damage if unarmed and you punch with this hand. On a critical success do triple damage (quintuple damage on a legendary) but your hand is broken and won't heal for a month, which means no holding things (or punching) with that hand. Luckily you have another hand. And feet - it could be a toe ring.
  5. Ring of Posies: with a touch you give folks the plague, even if you don't want to or if they touch you. You are immune to disease until you take the ring off, then you immediately contract the black death, or red death, or whatever super awful plague exists in your campaign. On the bright side, you always smell like fresh flowers even if you take the ring off - forever. How delightful.
  6. Circle of Death: ring of bone, carved tiny skull on it. looks super metal. touch anything alive and say the word and they must pass a CON Save (difficulty 10) or die. Each time you do this one of your fingers withers and will remain on your hand as a blackened reminder of your move (no healing or magic can fix this relic's curse). When you lose a finger roll 1d6: (1-2) lose that many max VIT (3-5) -1 DEX (6) -1 CON and your shadow starts acting up and plotting what may be your own demise.
Not using Sorrow in Haven - no problem. some OSR conversions:

  • Chance PRE to CHA
  • Maximum VIT loses are losses to maximum HP
  • groats are whatever your base currency is (or if in a money-tight game the next lowest coin)
  • critical or legendary hits - just increase the critical hit results for your game. don't use critical hits? add them in for this one


Thursday, January 23, 2020

Castle Gargantua

taking a break from Sorrow in Haven for a bit. the new artwork is coming in (Scott Lemien) , which is fantastic, but I just can't start the editing process - need to spend some time looking at other things. So right now one of my players is running a 5e game for the group, but that is set to finish up shortly. Another is going to run a KULT game when he is back from a trip to Vietnam. In between, though, I I've prepped for a game of Castle Gargantua!

The Game System
I wrote up rules that I'm calling BXHD. They are basically BE(CMI) D&D with an adaptation of the Target 20 system. Human characters only - which means cleric, fighter, mage (I've always hated "magic-user"), & thief. Then to add some spice, I'm using a variation on the Random Character Advancement to allow for characters to have a bit of elf blood or be more barbarian than fighter. I'm 100% OK with a thief taking a ranger roll or a cleric picking up something from the barbarian table. Should be fun :)

I'm also a sucker and had to add in OVERCASTING. Mage and Cleric can cast a spell beyond their "safe" limit (spell slots), but failure has consequences. Magical Chaos in the case of the Mage, Atonement requirements in the case of Clerics.

... and the LUCK stat. CC is 3d6 in order ... then roll for Luck and you can swap it with another score. There might be a LUK check sometimes, but mostly characters can burn the score and get a +1d6 on their d20 rolls. Characters with a positive LUK modifier are "lucky" and those without are "unlucky" - that will start showing up immediately when random targets are assigned and whatnot.

The Castle
I took the random generators in the book and created some Tablesmith tables, then generated the whole damn castle, each region having 1d4+4 rooms. 20% of the rooms have descriptions pulled from my random dungeon generator instead of those in the book to add some spice, and i added a few other bits including a few restock rolls to make things faster later.  Generated rooms look like this:

Area 5-3: TUNNEL, Rectangular chamber (3x2) [STONE]
  Furniture: Man-sized      Lighting: Dark
  Enter from 1
     Exit 1 (N): Iron door; room after corridor with several turns and doors
  * Drizzling rain

Restock: Monster: Valkyries
Restock: Nothing
Restock: Nothing
Restock: Monster: Border patrol
Restock: Nothing
Area 6-6: TOPIARY GARDEN, Circular chamber (radius 5) [LUST]
  Furniture: Mixed      Lighting: Illuminated
  Enter from 2
     Exit 1 (W): Wooden door, painted; room after climbing several flights of stairs
     Exit 2 (S): Wooden door, painted; room just behind exit
  -- rotted Tatters lie bundled against a wall. Wode tattooed pigs pursue, nipping at heels
  # Monster: Houris
  # Loot: A sturdy copper collar with a chain worth 9cp

Restock: Nothing
Restock: Nothing
Restock: Nothing
Restock: Nothing
Restock: Nothing

I wanted to include the option for classic D&D monsters too, so 50% of wandering monsters are the patrols from the book, which are awesome, and 50% are random D&D critters (basic and expert only). The D&D creates are generated with NO REGARD for character level because that is just more fun. They don't have to fight them - they just encounter them, maybe in the middle of something else. Sample from the generator:


Castle Guards x3
  Made of: Rotting Flesh. The guards always attack last.
  They can shoot black laser rays for 1d8 damage with their eyes in addition to their standard spear attack.
  HD: (rabble), AC: 7, Spear: 1d6 (rabble scale)


Gargoyle x2 (Chaotic)   (B30)
HD: 4 XP: 125 Treasure : C
Mv: 90(F150) Morale: 11 Save: F8
AC: 5 Thac0: 16 Attacks & Damage : 2 clws (1d3), 1 bite (1d6), & 1 horn (1d4)
* Can only be hit by magic or magic weapons
* Not affected by Sleep or Charm


Bandit x1 ( Neutral)   (B25)
HD: 1 XP: 10 Treasure : U(A)
Mv: 90 Morale: 8 Save: T1
AC: 6 Thac0: 19 Attacks & Damage : 1 weapon


Castle Guards x4
  Made of: Tin. The guards are considered to be wearing chain mail armor.
  They ignore all creatures except undead.
  HD: (rabble), AC: 7, Spear: 1d6


They list Thac0, but only because I couldn't be bothered to remove it from the generator as it was written ages ago. Same with the treasure - that isn't happening.

So ...

  • I've pre-generated 2 Castle Gargantuas (one for a game I'm trying to run at the Granite Coast Brewing on their game night, the other for my home game).
  • I generated a few pages of wandering monsters, to be used by either game
  • I created a "quick view" of the monsters presented in CG for quick reference
  • I have the game system written up/out and ready go
  • Character sheets are ready

I'm super stoked to run this properly ... dipped my toes in a year or tow ago with a single session, but this is full prep madness. If anyone is interested in the tablesmith tables, let me know; i can set you up with everything.

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

4 (New) Common Creatures of the Dust

With the campaign reboot on the horizon (distant 4-6 month horizon I think) I'm digging into the monsters again. Time for a clean slate on the monster book and, while I'm at it, a complete refresh of the monsters themselves.

The biggest chance between v1 and v2 monsters are their END and VIT and damage. Damage (per segment) is increased and their END and VIT are lowered. Non-essential combats were taking too long. Long combats are fairly boring. I encourage everyone to be creative, but there are only so many ways you can smash someone in the face with a mace before even you become bored with describing cool ideas. So - monsters die faster but cause more harm - the net effect is more or less the same, but the combats run faster.  WIN!

I broke out the random monster generator, kicked up 16000 entries, and started filtering for things that i could use/tweak into the game. Rather than "force" things into position (must find medium unclean so i can make skeletons) I let the results inspire new ideas and creations.

4 (New) Common Creatures of the Dust

Parson's Beetle
Threat 1 [Dust A] Small Miscreant Beast (Animal Intelligence); Demeanor: Distant; Ferocity: Passive
Encounter 1d6 wandering, 1d8 stocked; 20% chance in lair (x3 multiplier)
 Init: +2    Attack: +2    Speed: 10    Damage: 1d4+1    Rending claws   
 Defense:+2   DR: 0    KO: 0    END: 3    VIT: 3   
Description: almond-shaped beetles the size of small dogs. Their touch is corrosive (armor, shield, weapon must make DUR Check on contact) but they are easily distracted by carrion or any sort of fresh ration. They tend to be flee conflict unless actively swarming from a lair.

Shell Horror
Threat 2 [Dust A] Large Unaligned Ooze (Non-Intelligence); Demeanor: Disorderly; Ferocity: Hostile
Encounter 1d4 wandering, 1d6 stocked; 20% chance in lair (x3 multiplier)
 Init: +0    Attack: +1    Speed: 8     Damage: 1d4+1    Spurt of blood  
 Defense:+0   DR: 2    KO: 1    END: 9    VIT: 10   
Description: These oozes craft crab-like exoskeletons from the bones of their victims or those they find lying about. They amble haphazardly toward anything moving and attempt to eat it. Capture of a living ooze from inside the shell is worth 50-100g to the right collector.

Bramblecorpse
Threat 2 [Dust B] Small Neutral Unclean (Clever); Demeanor: Malicious; Ferocity: Cowardly
Encounter 1d8 wandering, 2d6 stocked; 5% chance in lair (x6 multiplier)
 Init: +3    Attack: +0    Speed: 9     Damage: 1d6    Thorny vines  
 Defense:+3   DR: 0    KO: 0    END: 4    VIT: 3   
Description: Crow-headed corpses of children wrapped in thorny vines. They lash out with the vines (attack can count as ranged) as well as use them to move about. They caw incessantly once excited. In combat they tend to disarm not as a tactic, but to grab the "shiny things". They are intelligent enough to be bribed if they aren't already excited, which happens easily.

Brunki
Threat 3 [Dust B] Medium Wicked Fey (Low Intelligence); Demeanor: Distant; Ferocity: Hostile
Encounter 1d8 wandering, 2d6 stocked; 5% chance in lair (x6 multiplier)
 Init: +5    Attack: +1    Speed: 7     Damage: 1d6    Razor-sharp wings 
 Defense:+1   DR: 2    KO: 2    END: 10    VIT: 10   
Description: Spring-green humanoids with immense compound eyes and over-sized dragonfly wings. They can fly rather quickly, but only over short distances, which allows them for an opening charge attack at +3. Rather than fight themselves they will summon a random wandering monster and flee. They detest flowers of all kinds and will avoid getting near them.

Stats for OSR-type Games
You should be able to translate into 5e easily enough as well ...

 Creature
 HD 
 AC 
 The Rest
 Parson's Beetle 
 1/2
  as leather  
 Corrosive touch destroys item 1 in 20 
 Shell Horror
 1 
 as leather 
 Attacks are totally random target except on other shell horrors 
 Bramblecorpse
1
 as chain 
 Disarm instead of damage on damage roll '6' 
 Brunki
 1+1 
as leather
 Advantage (or +5) to charge attack

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Map of Haven

I've decided that I'm going to make an updated map of Haven for the V2 release. Progress so far:

Sorry the quality is so shit ... I blame Blogger.

I'll likely adjust The Dome a bit (shrink it) partially to tidy up the grid and partially because there is too much space on the outside edges of Haven that isn't accounted for. We shall see. Also need to add bridges. ANd some of the district names will move a bit to adjust perceived district placement.

When it comes to the street-level maps, I've decided that I'm going to go a completely different direction than the usual "this building that building". I'm thinking more like point-crawl maps; the points having areas within them that are point-linked as well. One can move between any regions, really, but doing so outside of the "routes" incurs some sort of problems. 

Or is a map more detailed than the one above really necessary?  Maybe add some MAJOR points of interest: the Block, Temple of Eternal Light, Magistarium, the Chancery, the Tower of Kings, that sort of thing.

Maybe the only time the point-maps are of value are if the crew are searching tor chasing. Perhaps a combination of the two. Or a method to generate the point-maps (both before a session and on the fly)?


Monster Lore in Sorrow in Haven

I've been pushing so hard to get v2 of the rules written up that I have entirely neglected this blog! Tomorrow is the last session of both the year and the current campaign, then I'm taking a break from GMing Sorrow and getting into the editing process - because the text is done and artwork is coming in. Satisfaction all around.

Here, in all sorts of glorious detail. are how characters (and therefore players) know about Monsters.

Knowing About Monsters
Every good adventurer should know something about monsters, but definitely not everything. At least not until they've encountered them enough. If everything is known by the players (and hence their characters, meta-gaming be damned) then the monsters are effectively just normal creatures to battle - a gibbering red torture spider may as well be a rebid lion for all the terror it elicits from the players

Common Monsters
If a monster is Common (the actual monster Frequency Encountered classification) and the Threat (how dangerous the monster is) is equal to or less than the character's level, they will automatically know a few things. If the creature's Threat is above the character's level, they can make a Level Check (difficulty equal to how much higher the Threat is than the character's level) to know the stuff.


  • Name (not the personal name)
  • Threat (the actual threat level, which is meta-gamey, but a quick note on how dangerous they are)
  • Type (filth, unclean, beast, etc)
  • Territory (what type of region or dungeons these things hang out in)
  • One fact about the creatures attacks, defenses, habits, or abilities
  • If the character has the Monster Lore advance, also 1 rumor about the creature

All Other Monsters
Monster frequencies other than Common are

  • Uncommon
  • Rare
  • Very Rare
  • Unique
  • Local

Local, incidentally, means the creature will ONLY EVER be found in the specific location. It is like unique, but for a group of critters. Unique, of course, meaning there are just one of them. If a character wants to know things about any of these creatures, they need to know about they'll need to make a Monster Lore Check.


Monster Lore
Monster Lore is an Alternate Advance (anyone can take it)  with no requirements.

After spending 1 Turn studying a monster (active observation and interaction) the character makes an INT check, the difficulty based on the rarity of the creature. With a successful check, the character will know the information about the monster as though it were Common. 

If the check is a Critical Success the player may also ask a number of yes/no questions equal to half their level.

If the check is a Legendary Success the player may also ask a number of yes/no questions equal to their level (instead of half).

This ability does not work on NPCs or non-famous unique creatures.

This advance may only be used once per monster until the character advances in level. In other words, if a character uses monster lore on a particular creature, success or failure, they can't use it again on that specific monster again until they go up a level.

Famous Monsters
But what about famous monsters? Everyone knows about Gurnd07, the Mecha-Cyclops of the Void Gate. Of course they do. If a creature is tagged as Famous, they are treated as Common, but each piece of information provided is a rumor and not necessarily true!

  • Uncommon: each rumor is 50% true
  • Rare: each rumor is 40% true
  • Very Rare: each rumor is 30% true
  • Unique: each rumor is 20% true
A Monster Lore Check against a famous monster is made with Advantage, success indicating actual information is gathered.

Monster Lore II
This advance can be taken to enhance the Monster Lore ability. In addition to the benefits of Monster Lore, the character will know if any of the monster parts are valuable or have specific uses and may ask the GM one open-ended question about the monster. If the INT Check is a Legendary success all questions may be open-ended.

The Actual Monster Lore INT Check
This roll should be made in the open, never secret. The difficulty is based on the monster frequency:
  • Common: +0
  • Uncommon: +1
  • Rare: +3
  • Very Rare: +5
  • Unique: +8
On a Failure, the player can request information, but it has a 75% chance of being false.
On a Critical Failure, the player can request information, but it has a 90% chance of being false.
On a Legendary Failure, doesn't know anything about this monster.

Multiple Characters with Monster Lore
Great! They each get a roll if they want one and can confer all they like. Since Monster Lore is an Advance, it is a significant investment in the character. If multiple characters go that route, the GM will hand out info like mad, but the characters may be lacking in other areas.

Multiple Characters, Common and Famous Monsters
For common monsters, the GM hands out set of information for everyone. For famous monsters, they should hand out a set of info for each character that wants to participate. This could cause some serious confusion as everyone has different info, or a consensus (which could be wrong). In either case, the GM should do what seems like the most fun for the group. 

Final Thoughts
Monsters should be mysterious, and learning about how they work can be fun. The rules above give the players a chance to get some insight for their characters when something unknown is encountered. However, when players encounter something they have encountered before, even with new characters, that information doesn't mysteriously go away - the actual experiences become common knowledge within the game world. Characters from the last campaign were paralyzed by the bite of a gorging worm? Well - the new characters know about that because the players do - and that is OK! Maybe they heard a story about those other adventurers, or perhaps it is part of some macabre children's song. In any case, be reasonable and have fun!