'Barbarism is the natural state of mankind,' the borderer said, still staring somberly at the Cimmerian. 'Civilization is unnatural. It is a whim of circumstance. And barbarism must always ultimately triumph.'

-Robert E. Howard
Beyond The Black River

Corrupt Cliffs

Corrupt Cliffs
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Showing posts with label Modiphius. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Modiphius. Show all posts

Saturday, November 28, 2020

John Carter of Mars for Roll20

 Welcome back to Starships and Steel!  

It has been a little while since the last post, but I want to assure everyone that I am still here and I am still playing and creating my own personal RPG experiences.  Most recently I ran a game of Conan 2d20 and a game of Vaesen at the RPG Alliance Convention (online) up here in Calgary.  It was a solid weekend of gaming, playing in two other games.

I have never been a large fan of the original roll20 Conan sheet. Although functional I always felt it wasn't the best way to go about things, and that combined with its creation during the quickstart rules has directly lead to this John Carter project.

Moving forward to run a Conan 2d20 game for all experience levels I elected to write a new Conan sheet that ended up leveraging the Roll20 API.  This means it is not exactly user friendly, but it is functional (It has not support for Alchemy or Sorcery at the moment) and I will most likely make it available in another format for Pro level Roll20 accounts.

After playing Conan 2d20 the sheet was tweaked and the result left me with, what I think is, a decent framework for 2d20.  Of course in creating this sheet for John Carter I have ripped out all the API functionality, basically the sheet no longer tracks momentum and threat, leaving that to the players and GMs.

Without further pre-amble, below is the top-half of the roll20 sheet.


One of the largest modifications I made to the layout was to favor a sheet that scrolls down the page.  During the convention game of Conan I hosted it was determined it was easier for the players to scroll up and down vs. left and right.  The other largest change I made was simpler and larger button iconography.

As we go over the sheet I will explain it's basic functionality, what it does and what it doesn't do.  We shall start at the top and work our way down the sheet, skipping the top player name box, as it is pretty self explanatory.  

Repeating Fields

If you are new to Rol20, this is something that you will figure out, but I thought I would make a quick note about it.  Below lists of items, such as Core Equipment, Weapons, Talents etc, you will see a plus and a lock.

Clicking the "PLUS" will allow your to add a new entry.  I find that sometimes it has trouble accepting a value, if it does, just try again and it will take it, usually, on the second try.  This is a roll20 quirk.

Clicking on the "LOCK" will unlock the table and allow you to sort or delete items from it.  Clicking "LOCK" again will finalize and relock the table.

Stress & Afflictions

The stress panel is a fairly straight forward affair.  
  • Max stress for each of the three tracks is calculated from the character's stat block.  
  • The two attributes each one effects is listed below its name.
  • Each stress track has a unique color, this is handy to color code the 3 red circles above a roll20 icon for a character and link them appropriately left to right for simple reference.
  • Each track has 5 checkboxes below it to represent the various afflictions.
  • Finally the reset stress button resets all stress tracks to full.

The heart of the sheet: Attributes & Die Roller


This section is broken into two major sections.  On the left is the attributes panel that allows a player to enter their character's attributes and on the right, the rolling interface.  We will focus on the right.  The top 3/4s allows us to choose the attributes, difficulty and dice, and the bottom 1/4 shows us the number of d20s we are rolling.
  1. The first thing you do is click the check's difficulty.  This number will populate below in the step 2 section, "> vs. difficulty".
  2. Next we will pick our two attributes.  Back over on the attributes side we will note there are two buttons an A and a B, click "A" next to your first attribute and "B" for your second.  These will populate and update the Target Number and Focus values for the roll.  Back to the difficulty line we see that after our base difficulty we have a box listed as "+ Harms (Max D5).  This box will populate based on your afflictions and chosen stats.  It may not show all afflictions, ie if you have a difficulty 3 check and have 3 afflictions, it will only show 2 of your afflictions and max out the test at D5.
  3. Choose bonus dice.  4 options are available: Momentum (gem), Threat (skull and crossbones), Luck (gold coin), Other (Question mark). Clicking these will update the total dice we are rolling in the bottom 1/4.  It will max out at 3. Below these is a "Reset Dice" button.  This will clear out any dice you have picked from previous rolls and allow you to start again if you change your mind on how you are buying your dice.
One of the things to note, is that this doesn't actually track your Threat and Momentum, it simply reports what was used in the check roll so you and your players/GM can track it how you please.

Finally once everything is set, clicking roll dice will roll the requested check and output a result to the chat window.
Here we see Johnny has rolled a "Cunning + Might" test, using 2 threat.  His difficulty was 1 and he got a total of 3 listed successes.  NOTE:  Since the result in Roll20 is highlighted you *MUST* hover over it to see the actual result.  Complications and bonus successes are *NOT* added into the result.

This result is actually 5 total successes, giving Johnny 4 momentum.

Talents, Flaws and your Weapons.



The next two portions are pretty self explanatory as well.
  • Flaw gives you a simple place to store your characters flow.
  • Talents:
    • Name: Talent name
    • Grade: Talent grade
    • Circ: Circumstance when the talent becomes useful
    • Eff: The effect the talent has.
    • USE button: No real effect beyond reporting the talent to the chat box to allow others and yourself easier reading of the talent

  • Equipment:
    • Name: Equipment name.
    • Type: Core or non-core equipment.
    • Description: Description of what the item does.
  • Weapons:
    • Name: The weapon name.
    • Type & range: Melee, Near, Away, Threaten
    • Dmg: Base damage listed in Combat Dice.
    • Bonus Damage: Bonus dice to be added via momentum or other factors.
    • Roll Damage Button:  Rolls damage for the weapon and reports it to chat
    • Notes: A place to store effects etc.  Also reported with the weapon's damage roll.
For damage to work properly you will need to set up a roll table named "CD". with the following entries "1","2","-","-","1 + Effect","1 + Effect".  This will allow the character sheet to roll appropriately and report the correct amount of base damage.  You will still need to hover over the result to see any generated effects.
With this result we see it is 2 damage with 1 effect.  The weapon's notes tell us it gains +1 fear on an effect.  

Momentum, Renown, Allies and Luck


The final part of character sheet.  
  • MOMENTUM: This is simply a place to record it.  It is NOT automated in any way.
  • LUCK: Again, simply a record field.  It is NOT automated in any way.
  • Renown: Currently simply a place to keep track of your renown, nothing it updated here at the moment.
  • Experience: A basic field to store you XP.
  • Allies: A basic place to store a list of your allies.

Final thoughts, Momentum and Threat.

This is the first half of the John Carter character sheet, "Character".  A second sheet exists to allow the GM to record The Beasts of Barsoom.  Players will have no reason to use that tab.  I will try and get a blog post written about that sheet as well, but if you understand this sheet, that one will be no problem.

There are a few ways to track momentum.  

The most common way I have seen is with a deck of cards, simply handing out the cards as PCs gain and lose momentum.  This works, but I have found it to be slow.

Another way is to simply record it with a pencil and a piece of paper, which works ok for John Carter of Mars as players maintain their own momentum pool.

The method I am currently favoring is using custom token markers.  Adding a marker set with 6 gems allows a PC to turn momentum on and off as they store it from turn to turn.  This way is fast and simple.

No momentum

Custom Token Set, selecting Momentum

Assigned 3 momentum to be saved till next Turn

Without automation this provides a simply way for players and GMs to track momentum from turn to turn.

As for Threat, the Conan 2d20 sheet this is based on has a GM panel character sheet, which I will probably turn back on simply to give the GM a place to record doom and give them an easy way to report it back to the chat window so the PCs can have feedback on how much threat they have saved up.

Lacking that You can still create an Icon called "THREAT" and choose one of the status bars as your threat bar.  Make it visible to players and allow them to see the text overlay.  Finally always update the "Value" and "Max Value".



Remember this isn't the end times, this is humanity working together to save as many lives as we can through a proven methodology for fighting a new virus. Stay Strong.

Till next time, don't forget to Keep it Weird!








Thursday, July 9, 2020

Tool Trunk Thursday: Crescent Knife

Dog Brothers and Sword Sisters welcome back!  Another Thursday!  I hope you are staying safe and doing everything in your power to help slow the spread of Covid-19.  I have returned to the office these days and so have found myself with less time to write articles, but I am still here and so I give to you the latest tool!

Don't forget to pop over to Runehammer's DJ channel and subscribe, even if you don't want to listen, every subscriber brings him closer to being able to run SUPERCHAT, which he uses to raise some gold coins for charity!  So,  if you are reading this and haven't done so yet please get on over to The Dungeon DJ and subscribe!





These blades are wickedly sharp, and could certainly be used as a weapon in a last ditch attempt to defend yourself, but their small size renders them as nothing more than an improvised weapon.

If you have questions or comments don't forget to hit me up on TwitterFacebookYouTube or Instagram!
Make sure you don't miss a single post and subscribe by e-mail today! 

If you need to check out any of these great games stop on by DriveThruRPG and pick something up through my affiliate link to help support the blog!

Equipment icons are found on https://game-icons.net/ and are provided under CC BY 3.0.

Remember this isn't the end times, this is humanity working together to save as many lives as we can through a proven methodology for fighting a new virus. Stay Strong.

Till next time, don't forget to Keep it Weird!


Thursday, June 11, 2020

Tool Trunk Thursday: Makeshift Torch

Thursday again to all of my dog brothers and sword sisters!  I hope your world is going well and the events of 2020 haven't impacted you too harshly mentally.  If they have don't forget there is nothing wrong with seeking help.

For all those warriors on the front lines fighting for justice or simply trying to save lives.  Thank you for all you have done and continue to do.

Don't forget to pop over to Runehammer's DJ channel and subscribe, even if you don't want to listen, every subscriber brings him closer to being able to run SUPERCHAT, which he uses to raise some gold coins for charity!  So,  if you are reading this and haven't done so yet please get on over to The Dungeon DJ and subscribe!





A properly prepared torch is the best friend of someone who explores the dark depths of Stygian tombs, but as excellent as a real torch can be to illuminate the darkness, sometimes they are not available.  Sometimes all you can do is wrap some cloth or fibrous plants around a stick and hope for the best.

The resulting torch may not burn as bright or as long, but it is better than nothing.

If you have questions or comments don't forget to hit me up on TwitterFacebookYoutube or Instagram!

Make sure you don't miss a single post and subscribe by e-mail today! 

If you need to check out any of these great games stop on by DriveThruRPG and pick something up through my affiliate link to help support the blog!

Equipment icons are found on https://game-icons.net/ and are provided under CC BY 3.0.

Remember this isn't the end times, this is humanity working together to save as many lives as we can through proven methodology for fighting new a new virus. Stay Strong.

Till next time, don't forget to Keep it Weird!


Friday, March 20, 2020

Tool Trunk Thursday: Healing Injections

TOOL TRUNK.....Friday? The world is a little crazy at the moment, and while things here are fine, it has apparently screwed with my schedule more than normal. I have more time, but the days have begun to run together with no actual commute to work. Either way I present to you the new piece of kit for your Conan 2d20 game!

Healing Injections


Those brave enough to drink the concoction of an alchemist know that they can be an effective treatment to many ailments. Some of the crazier alchemists have devised ways to get their mixtures into people in a quicker, less voluntary way. Those who seek to help have developed serums that allow the injured and the weak to be rejuvenated through the injection of some mysterious substance found in the Black Kingdoms.

If you liked this article then don't forget to subscribe to get the next exciting installment on pulp gaming both Sci-Fi and Fantasy!

If you have questions or comments don't forget to hit me up on Twitter, Facebook, Youtube or Instagram!
Make sure you don't miss a single post and subscribe by e-mail today!

If you need to check out any of these great games stop on by DriveThruRPG and pick something up through my affiliate link to help support the blog!

Equipment icons are found on https://game-icons.net/ and are provided under CC BY 3.0.

Remember this isn't the end times, this is humanity working together to save as many lives as we can through proven methodology for fighting new a new virus. Stay Strong.

Till next time, don't forget to Keep it Weird!

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Tool Trunk Thursday: Bow String

Welcome Dog Brothers and Sword Sisters to the next installment of Tool Trunk Thursday! The feature where I present a piece of equipment for Conan 2d20 and its effects in a friendly card-shaped format.

WHAT!? It is Thursday again? Quick week! Here is another piece of kit for your characters! Check out all the equipment over at the Blog's Equipment Chest!

Bow String


Some men and women fling death from the edges of combat. Their weapons are under immense strain and at times their strings snap leaving them next to helpless. Given time they can get the materials to fix their bows, but in the heat of combat being able to re-string and continue to rain hell down can be invaluable

This is a replacement string, cheap and plentiful in pretty much every city, that can be used to restring a bow in the middle of combat allowing the archer to continue to fight. If you liked this article then don't forget to subscribe to get the next exciting installment on pulp gaming both Sci-Fi and Fantasy!

If you have questions or comments don't forget to hit me up on Twitter, Facebook, Youtube or Instagram!
Make sure you don't miss a single post and subscribe by e-mail today!

If you need to check out any of these great games stop on by DriveThruRPG and pick something up through my affiliate link to help support the blog!

Equipment icons are found on https://game-icons.net/ and are provided under CC BY 3.0.

Till next time, don't forget to Keep it Weird!

Monday, October 28, 2019

Persuade & Social Encounters in Conan 2d20

I often have players try and talk there way out of a situation. In one game the characters had been shipwrecked and a band of beach scavengers showed up with the intention of taking what was theirs and killing anyone in their way, the solution, "We should talk to them." In another example I had a group of players come across a barricaded path guarded by some Khitan warriors, they wanted to talk their way past the guards. It is almost like no one has seen 1984's Conan the Destroyer, which I only bring up because of the line enjoyed by Matt John over at Rogues in the House Podcast...


ENOUGH TALK!



Still despite that, it is an RPG and the characters have social skills like "Society" and "Persuade". This article is going be about a simple mechanic you can use to help control how a social encounter might play out using these skills. Keep in mind this is a mechanic for a time when a social encounter is appropriate, you probably don't want players to be able to negotiate with the skeletons that populate your tombs.

In the past when this has come up I have made it into a struggle and a single roll; either they convince them or they don't. It has the advantage of being simple, but it has the disadvantage of resolving something of importance in a very very simple way, which can take the spotlight away from players who excel in social skills, and while the struggle isn't slow to resolve, it isn't as fast as a single die roll.

For me, the heart of how the social encounter will go is going to be based on two factors; how open the NPC is to listen to the PCs and how easily their mind can be swayed once they are listening. A friend is going to be willing to listen a lot easier than the bandit leader attacking you, but it is possible your friend will be harder to sway than that bandit leader. With the system, I have in mind and momentum spends you still might be able to convince a friend to help you quicker than an openly hostile opponent.

Likely to Listen?

This is how difficult the actual negotiation is, and so it makes perfect sense to make this into the difficulty of the skill test, running from close friends to hostile enemies we can set up a simple difficulty chart.
  • D0 - Good Friends
  • D1 - Friendly
  • D2 - Neutral
  • D3 - Dislike
  • D4 - Veiled Hostility
  • D5 - Outright Hostile

This gives us a place to work from that we can apply to the social encounters the players find themselves involved in. You can either make note of them beforehand or implement them on the fly. Like all difficulties, feel free to modify these as you see fit by other factors. Are the PC and NPCs Good Friends, but the PCs failed to do something for them? Move the difficulty up 1 or 2 notches. Perhaps the NPC is generally neutral towards the party, but they have a high level of renown in the area, you can move the difficulty to 1.

Success and Failure: If the social test is successful, simply determine momentum and move on to resolving the effect, "Are they Swayed" of the roll in part 2 of the test. However, if they fail to move the difficulty of the test up by 1 notch. If they fail at D4 or D5, the test is an outright failure.

Complications: The simplest complication for these sorts of encounters is putting your foot in your mouth or offending the person you are talking to. Keeping in mind a complication is about 2 doom we have a few simple options.
  1. Increase the difficulty one step.
  2. Reduce the generated momentum by two.
  3. If the test was D3 and there was a failure with the complication, make the test an outright failure.

Are they Swayed

This part of the mechanic centers around convincing the NPC once they have heard what was said. It might take several rounds of convincing to get them on board, but anytime during that negotiation, we might see that NPC stop listening and have the communication break down. The easiest way to work this is with a "hit point" or "effort" system, which will require a point pool for the NPC to resist with and a way for the PC to whittle away at that pool.

Conan has a mental damage track that might work for this, resolve and trauma. Generally, we see this damage track in regards to actually trying to scare away or mentally break the opponent, or simulate the effects of fear and is soaked by courage. I don't think it is the perfect fit for what we are trying to accomplish. We also don't have a great "weapon" to use to try and convince the NPC. We aren't trying to Steely Glare them into seeing our side of things and convince them we are correct. This is supposed to be a social encounter and not a scare the pants off of the local bürgermeister.

I think the Willpower attribute will work well for this number, which sits around 7-10 in most humans. Adding a simple modifier based on how easily swayed they are will let us make the NPC a little more interesting.
  • Easy to sway - -1/2 willpower attribute
  • Default - Willpower attribute
  • Difficult to sway - +1/2 willpower attribute

With that in mind, we still need a way to bring that value to 0 and convince them to buy into the social encounter. Give the players 1 combat die for each level of FOCUS they have in their social ability (generally Persuade or Society) and use the following momentum spends as a guideline.
  • 1M - add 1 to the combat die roll - repeatable
  • 1M - Re-roll any number of combat dice
  • 2M - Reduce the difficulty of the test by 1

Example

Example 1
Balor is trying to convince the local sheriff to let his friends go. They were captured and locked up after a night of drinking. You could of course just do a 100% roleplay if that suits your group better, but if you want to work it mechanically it might go something like this.....
Balor says, "Ah come on man, they didn't mean any harm to the village, they were just blowing off steam after all the horrors they have seen defending this place!"
The sherrif looks Balor up and down and says.....
GM - Balor, make a D2 Persuade test, he dislikes you and your crew, but will be neutral due to the aid you have rendered the village.
Balor - Ok my Persuade TN is 8 with a focus of 1. I will roll 3d20, and give you a point of doom....

Balor - 4,14 and 12...So 1 success. The Sherrif looks at Balor up and down and says, "no harm? they burned down the blacksmith and caused considerable damage to the tavern. You may have defended the village, but perhaps we would have been in better shape with the creatures of the dark!"
"Balor replies with, "Ah come on, you know that isn't true! It was only a little fire!"
GM - Ok, if you continue the difficulty will now be at D3. Do you want to continue?
Balor - I roll 4d20, and give you 2 more doom.....

Balor - 6,2,9 & 13! for 4 successes! and 1 momentum!
GM - Great! roll 2 combat dice for your persuade focus!
Balor - OK.....

Balor - I roll a 1, and a 2 for 3 points. I want to add 1 more point with the momentum bringing the total to 4!
GM - ok. The Sherif is easily swayed so he only had 4 points.
The sheriff shrugs, "Trouble follows your party around, but we do appreciate what you have done for us..", and tosses the keys to Balor.

Example 2
Ismene is working to try and sell some stolen goods, she is locked into negotiations with a local kothian fence she knows.
"Come on! This is the finest Stygian gold, This statue has to be worth more than a measly 3 bags of gold, how about 5? ", Ismene smiles slyly.
The fence looks at the statue and then at Ismene and says.....
GM - Ismene, make a D1 Persuade test, he is neutral towards you but knows of your skills, so we will treat him as friendly.
Ismene - I will give you 2 doom and roll 4d20.....

Ismene - 2, 17 and 2 20s...... GM - Ok, roll a combat die equal to your persuade focus.
Ismene - OK, I have a focus of 1, I roll..
Ismene - 2!
GM - Ok, you reduce is resistance to moving to your price by 2 points leaving him with 4!
The fence looks at the statue and then at Ismene and says, "The statue is truly of great quality, but I am just can't give you 5 bags of gold."
GM - But you rolled 2 complications.....
GM - During the negotiations, you mention the words "cursed temple" and "dangerous Stygian sorcery" one too many times...
GM - Negotiations are now at D3 as the Kothian fence becomes less certain he even wants this potentially cursed item and is growing untrustful of your intentions.

And so Ismene could continue the encounter attempting to get more money for the Stygian gold she has stolen or cut her losses and take the original gold offered....

Summary

This gives you a way to walk through social encounters in a fair and even manner, and may even convince a few of your players to spend a few points on persuade for reasons beyond simply striking at your opponents. As you can see in the examples it gives us a quick way to mechanically guide the narration between the players and the NPCs.

Games like 2d20 can be mechanically heavy at times, especially if all you do is roll the dice and apply the results. These games really shine when you narrate and work together as a group to not simply roll and apply, but roll, apply AND use your results to guide your narration.

If you thought this was interesting drop me a comment and let me know your thoughts. Is this something you would use? What would you change? Do you think the social struggle is already enough to accomplish this? Let me know.

If you liked this article then don't forget to subscribe to get the next exciting installment on pulp gaming both Sci-Fi and Fantasy!

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If you need to check out any of these great games stop on by DriveThruRPG and pick something up through my affiliate link to help support the blog!

Till next time, don't forget to Keep it Weird!

Monday, September 30, 2019

Conan 2d20: Zones and Ranged Weapons. Do they even make sense??

Without a doubt, the ideas behind ranged weapons in Conan 2d20 feel odd to many people, and flat out make no sense to many others. In most RPGs and wargames ranged weapons generally gain damage and range as they become more powerful. There is little reason to use a lower-end bow when you can use something bigger and better. In D&D 5e we can compare two missile weapons: the hand crossbow and the heavy crossbow.

Name Damage Range
Crossbow, hand 1d6 piercing 30/120
Crossbow, heavy 1d10 piercing 100/400


Here we have two similar weapons, but the heavier one shoots much further and packs a larger punch. Both have a basic range and a long-range, but the heavy crossbow has little to no disadvantages, why would you ever pick the hand crossbow?

This increase in specs between ranged weapons to differentiate which is the superior weapon is a common idea we see in wargames and RPGs. It isn't specifically what we see in Conan 2d20 though. In Conan 2d20, the weapons change range based on where they should be used. There may be places you want to use one bow over the other. Let's take a look at the stats between two different bows in Conan.

Name Damage Range Special
Hyrkanian Horse Bow 3 Combat Dice Close Volley
Shemite Bow 3 Combat Dice Long Volley, Piercing 1


These bows are practicaly identical, with the shemite bow being long range and doing slightly more damage, but in the thick of battle, with enemies closing in fast? The short Hyrkanian Bow is going to be the superior weapon. But why does Conan do this? We will start with a basic idea: within an action scene in Conan, generally, a hero is going to be able to hit someone with a ranged weapon. Even in the above D&D example, the hand crossbow can shoot 20 squares, in most areas that range is not going to be the issue. More often, the line of sight will be the limiting factor, not the weapon's range. So if we decide the weapon's range itself isn't the issue at hand, we can forget about it for right now.

Let us talk about the idea of skill vs weapon. We take two archers and we place them on an archery range. Each shoots arrows at identical targets. Each is equally skilled. One uses a Shemite Bow and one a Hyrkanian Horse Bow. They should both be able to do about as well on our target. Neither is rushed, neither has outside forces acting on them, it is simply a test of skill. An average difficulty test if you will.


Still, we see ranges listed in Conan, even though we just decided that, pretty much, anything you can see is going to be in range. Instead of describing how far a bow can shoot, these ranges describe where the bow will be its most effective. It is used to describe a short bow being more effective in the thick of combat and a longbow working better at targets that are further away.
  • Close range: Shooting within the zone. The archer and their target are constantly moving, constantly looking for openings. The archer needs to have a nimble weapon and one that can shoot fast in order to get the shot off when they need to.
  • Medium Range: Shooting into the next zone. It is possible the archer and the target are in motion within their zones, moving for position against others in their zone, but we can generally assume that since the target and the shooter are further away, the shooter has a little more time to aim and isn't as hampered by the size of the weapon.
  • Long Range: Shooting two zones away. The distance starts to be a factor at these ranges, and weapons that excel at close ranges become more difficult to use accurately.

Reasons For Effective Ranges
The Hyrkanian Horsebow. Listed as Close-range, we have a bow that excels at close combat. It is small and can be fired quickly, but the short limbs tend to make it a little less accurate compared to it's larger brethren, this is magnified by the high pace within an action scene. Shooting out to the longer ranges simply takes a more skilled archer, especially under the pressure of combat.
The Shemite bow. Listed as Long-range, the bow is huge and stable upon release allowing its missiles to land more accurately at longer ranges, but up close in the thick of the action, its size simply gets in the way and makes it harder to shoot.


Mechanically this is represented by a bow having no difficulty modifier added to the skill test at its optimal range, and a +1 is added to it as we move away from that optimal range, in either direction. So at Close Range (In the same zone) the Hyrkanian Horsebow is going to shoot at a difficulty of 1 (assuming a base difficulty of 1), while the Long Range Shemite bow is going to suffer a +2 to the skill test, Long -> Medium -> Close, making it a difficulty of 3. If there are environmental concerns like rain or darkness, it just makes everything more difficult.

If you liked this article then don't forget to subscribe to get the next exciting installment on pulp gaming both Sci-Fi and Fantasy!

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Till next time, don't forget to Keep it Weird!

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Narrative Terrain Decks.

At the beginning of the year I played a game of Primeval THULE via the Genesys system. During this game we had to make a daring escape, which involved cards drawn and skill checks made. That day is the direct inspiration for these terrain decks.

I worked on the idea and tried it for the first time at the Calgary Expo during my two Conan 2d20 games. The prototype, as you can see, isn't nearly as polished as the current offering. The decks changed from the basic idea to the current idea between day 1 and day 2 at the convention. Those cards would eventually become the "Weird Wood" deck. Since then I have created a desert deck, a cave deck, a passageway deck and a cliff climb. The cliff climb was my second attempt at a deck and I used to for my home players scaling a cliff, where they had a standard room encounter before finding their way into a set of caves which used another cave deck.

But why these decks over a more normal exploration system with a grid or a hex map? The two biggest reasons are player engagement and prep time.

Often some players are left in the back and don't get to contribute as much as the others, sometimes they roll less dice and this often can translate to less fun for them. The second reason is prep time and these cards require almost none. At most you might need a list of monster stats that players may or may not end up fighting in the dark passages or twisted forest.

The Decks

Generally the decks contain about 36 cards in total. 5 of these are the reference cards and the remaining cards are split between terrain and encounters.

  • Reference Cards - Basic instructions, sample monster ideas, sample cards.
  • Terrain Cards - Each card shows a picture of terrain as well as a skill.
  • Encounter Cards - Each card shows a skill or fight that must be overcome before continuing.


An Introduction to the Cards

Terrain Card
  1. Picture of the area the players are crossing. Strictly aesthetic.
  2. A good place to place a chit or a d6 to record the difficulty of the card.
  3. The default skill a player can use to cross the area. Use the cards base difficulty.
  4. When using another skill, add this modifier to the difficulty before making the test.

Encounter Card: Obstable
  1. Description of the obstacle and skill used to pass it.
  2. Difficulty of the skill check.
  3. Cost of skipping the skill check in doom.
  4. Damage a player suffers for failing the skill check.

Encounter Card: Fight
  1. Description of where the fight takes place.
  2. Base difficulty for physical attacks in the area.

Using the Decks

Step 1: Set aside the reference cards and split the deck into encounter and terrain decks. Determine the total momentum required to proceed through the terrain, this should be 1 per player at minimum.
Step 2: Shuffle the decks and place them in a convenient place.
Step 3: Draw a Terrain card and place it face-up on the table. Place a D6 or similar in the corner showing the "1", to symbolize a D1 skill test.
Step 4: A player either attempts the skill test listed on the card or chooses another skill test at a +1 or +2 difficulty modifier, depending on the card.
Step 5: Whichever skill the player uses, they must be able to narratively describe how it helps the party move through the card.
Step 6: Assuming success, place a momentum marker on the successful card. Place another terrain card above the first and increase the D6 by 1. ie a 1 becomes a 2. Any excess momentum can be stored in the pool as normal.
Step 7: Repeat the process increasing the difficulty until enough momentum is generated to move the players through the terrain. Each terrain card must be attempted by a new player until everyone has gone, then the process repeats.
Step 8: On a failure draw an encounter card and place the card beside the failed terrain card.
Sept 9: On a skill encounter each player individually attempts to succeed and move past the obstacle. On failure, they can pay the listed doom, or take the listed damage.
Step 10: On a fight encounter describe the terrain listed on the card and the base difficulty the players face. Run a simple combat encounter.
Step 11: Once the encounter card is complete place a new terrain card above it and reset the difficulty counter to 1, repeat steps 3-11 until the players are through the terrain.

NOTE: I don't specifically mention what to do with a complication. I believe they should be open-ended and make things interesting. That being said a simple idea is to draw an encounter card and have the player that rolled the complication resolve it, or the group if you get a monster card. Once complete place the next terrain card down and do not reset the difficulty counter.
*NOTE: The trek through the terrain should be viewed as a single scene giving the players no downtime. They should be weakened and haggard when they come out...iF they come out.

A Sample Play Through

We will assume our party of 4 adventurers need to find something within a dark and twisting forest. We set the number of successes they need to 4, one for each player.

Card 1: Terrain Card, Difficulty 1

Balor chooses to go first. He chooses to use his Survival skill instead
The difficulty becomes 2, as this falls under the "Other" Skill.
Balor says, "As we enter the dark forest I look around and try and see an open area to lead the party into the darkness."
He rolls 1 and a 15, and gains two successes. The party moves deeper into the woods.
Card 2: Terrain Card, Difficulty 2

Dorian takes up the lead. He chooses to use his Observation skill instead
This is the cards default skill, so the difficulty remains 2.
Dorian says, "Continuing into the darkness, I try and build on the path Dorian has found by looking for the signs of animals passing this way, indicating a path to something....." Dorian also chooses to use a bonus die and so rolls 3d20 (Either through Momentum or Doom)
He rolls 11, a 12 and a 15, and gains two successes. The party moves deeper into the woods.
Card 3: Terrain Card, Difficulty 3

Sarina takes up the lead. She notes acrobatics is not her strong skill and so attempts to use her Lore skill
Lore is again a +1 difficulty since it is not the default skill.
Sarina says, "Using my knowledge of the area and how trees grow from within my vast store of natural world knowledge I take note of the moss on the trees and use it to gain a direction and guide us further into the forest."
Sarina knows this will be a hard roll and so chooses to add 2 dice to her pool, rolling 4d20
She rolls 11, a 3, an 18 and a 15, and gains three successes.
Her failed roll leads the party astray......
Card 4: Encounter Card, Cliff Climb

The party's path leads them to a sheer, scalable cliff in the forest. The only way forward is to climb....
It is a simple D1 Athletics check.
Balor, Nualla and Dorian all choose to make the check and easily scale the cliff.
Sarina being less confident in her atheletics skill, chooses to pay the doom cost to join her companions at the top.
Card 5: Terrain Card, Difficulty 1

Nualla is the last party member to contribute to finding their way through, so it is her turn.
She chooses to use her resistance skill, so the test remains at a D1
Nualla says, "As we move beyond the cliff the insects begin to increase in numbers causing us to be maddened by their constant annoyance. I manage to push through the host of insects....."
Nualla rolls a 4 and a 20. A success and a complication.....
The party gains another success but is ambushed by a group of wolves.
Card 6: Encounter Card, Monsters!

Due to Nualla's complication, the party is set upon by a group of wolves! Note that the battle takes place in a thicket making the base combat difficulty a 2.
After taking some scratches the party defeats the wolves and presses on into the darkness, sensing they must be close to their goal!
Card 7: Terrain Card, Difficulty 2

We don't reset the difficulty as the encounter card was a complication, not a failure.
As the whole party has contributed we reset and choose someone else to start again.
Sarina using her keen sense of observation, at a difficulty of 2 tries to lead them to their goal.
Sarina says, "Excitedly I point into the trees and say, "Look I can see it through that break in the trees!"
She rolls a 5 and an 11, succeeding.
Finally, after the long trek through the forest, the party emerges at their goal......

And finally we see the final layout, and which cards gave the characters their successes.



As you can see we can create a large variety of terrain maps that are engaging on a role playing level as well as on a visual level with next to no prep from the GM. If you like these you can grab a set of cards over at the Game Crafter for about $10USD. You can also get a set of counters that include numbers which can be used for difficulty markers.

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