Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Caustic Elf on D&D Next's modular magic

Reading the latest Mage Mearls scroll from Seabattle made kissing a burnt troll feel like a damned wet dream.  The raven brought this scroll today and I'll address the first question and its answer.

Question : "What about worlds where magic is more abundant or powerful, or worlds with even less magic? Do you think there will be modular rules for making magic more or less powerful for different games in D&D Next?"

Me! Me! I can answer that one.  Fuck I mean a 5 year old could answer it for Mage Mearls.  The answer is.... (drums).... the Dungeon Master handles that when he builds his world.   But let's give Mage Mearls a break and look at his response.

"Absolutely, and I think magic is one of the places where we will spend plenty of time on optional rules. First, we're already taking a step to make sure that magic items don't figure deeply into the core math of the game, making it easier to run a Dark Sun-esque game where finding magic loot is more rare. "  Wo ho ho there editor hold the press.  What the fuck is he saying?  Last time I played a Dark Sun "esque" whateverish game it was damn fucking easy to do.  You went out and bought Dark Sun, tore open the wrapping and started playing.  Really, honest to the tree gods.  It was that simple.  You didn't need to write core game math.  Fuck I doubt they even have a game math.   By the recent crap coming out of Wish-a-ton kingdom it seems game and math on the same sentence are an oxymoron.  But I digress, sorry.  Back on track.  Having more or less magic in a setting was done the following way a) the DM allows it or b) the DM doesn't allow it.  That's it.  No quantum mechanics or string theory.  But let's keep listening to the Mage's wise words again.

"Beyond that, we want to provide ways to turn the "quantity of magic" dial (as well as the "quality of magic dial," but that might be a whole different discussion) up or down as you please. "   Wo ho ho hold it again.  Dial?  Who is "you" in the "as you please".  Is he addressing the Dungeon Master?  If so why the fuck would he want a dial.  He's the bloody fucking Dungeon Master.  Has Mage Mearls forgotten what that fucking means.  He's the god's god.  He's the world.  He's everything.  He's the Dungeon Master.  He doesn't need no fucking dial he IS the dial.  Now on the other hand Mage Mearls might be addressing the players.  In which case I'm obliged to raise the question.  What exactly does he mean by a dial?  A set of rules so the players can grab the Dungeon Master by the balls and use them as the dial to raise or lower the magic setting as they will?  I mean as a character I've had moments in which I wished the Dungeon Master wasn't such a pig.  But he's the Dungeon Master, if you take that away from him what's the fate of the game?  Over specialization.  Imbalance.  All that which we dislike in D&D.  But of course that gives room for Mage Mearls to crank out more scrolls (at a cost for us) to regulate the problems created by his regulation of needs that were solved by fucking common sense when I was adventuring.

Anyway let's finish reading the answer. 

"Want to run a low-magic game? We can make the rules for turning at-will magic into 1st-level spells, criteria for ability score requirements for spellcasters, and guidelines for using only ritual magic and not normal spellcasting. Want to run a high-magic game? Give everybody two at-will spells, and here are three special themes designed specifically for a high-magic campaign. ".  Holy fucking crap.  Can't seem to get past two sentences without getting ogre blisters on my balls.  What the fuck is this?  Rules to regulate the obvious.  If you want a high-magic campaign you need to have more magic in it.  Give more things to players.  I mean isn't that the definition of high-magic?  What next?  Rules to make a hard dungeon.  What's the Mage going to write?  I can hear him already.  "We can create rules for harder dungeons that add more monsters and traps".  Holy shit Mage I think our devote readers can figure that one out on their own.

Lets keep reading.  

"When it comes to creating campaign themes (and I consider "low magic" and "high magic" to be campaign themes, though they may not be the only ones used in a given campaign), the process isn't always going to be as simple as just providing a single optional rule; sometimes, it is going to involve a few variant rules, an optional rule or two, and maybe some player-centric elements (themes, backgrounds, spells, etc.) that are only available in that thematic campaign."

That's why you don't make rules for this Mage!!  You make settings.  That should be the answer to the question.  No rules for high magic or low magic settings.  There is more or less magic, but the rules, the way magic works is the same.

The Caustic Elf's First Round Overview of D&D Next's Playtest First Round Overview

It seems all these long forgotten adventurers are coming out of the dungeons where they were left behind by the most recent D&D versions.  And they seem to be coming out bitching about everything.  It seems the dungeon they've been exploring or should I say the rules aren't quite what they used to be a decade or more ago.  Dwarves, halflings and now elves are pouring out complaining about the hell they've been in during D&D 3 and 4 and screaming at what 5 seems to be turning into.

The Caustic Elf just read a scroll delivered by a raven from the mighty city state of Seabattle in the kingdom of Wish-a-ton.  His skin almost drowed itself pitch black from what he read.  I leave you now with the Caustic Elf in person.

Thank you thank you o great lord Saurondor master of the most pissed barren lands a dungeon master has ever gamed in.  I appreciate this opportunity to rant, ejem, I mean pour my opinion on the news from Seabattle.  It seems my long years adventuring have not been paying off too much.  The most recent news I have received come in this scroll.  I have to say I'm appalled with what I read.  It's not enough to have been rolling all those d20s missing my skill check for no apparent reason.  Now I have to read this:

" Advantage and disadvantage used to be a –2 penalty. By rolling two dice and taking the higher or lower result, we hope to make it easier to resolve situations that call for these rolls."

What the fuck?  Adding a number is harder than rolling two dice and comparing.  What about the change in probabilities.  Why doesn't Mage Mearls talk about that.  No oh no.  He goes on and explains that a good reason for this is : 

"it's much more forgiving if you forget to apply it, but have already picked up your d20 (and can't remember what the result of the die roll was). "

And can't remember what the die roll was?  And you forgot to apply your bonus?  Is he fucking nuts?  You're making a rule and endorsing it because some dim wit can't remember to add a bonus?  I know people want to forget bad news and forgetting a bad die roll is understandable, a fucking week later, but you just rolled the die!  Shit, I mean what next?  The DM says you suffer 12 hit points of damage and you forget that by the time you pick up your pencil to write it down on the character sheet.  "Excuse me DM, how many hit points?"  What happens if the DM forgets too!?!?!?  Oh and it gets better.  Get a load of this:

"The same applies to disadvantage. If you hit and picked up the die, you can just roll again. If the second roll misses, you missed."

Oh so fucking great.  If I forget to add a disadvantage but I hit like hell am I going to remind the DM, gosh you know what I forgot.  So I get a second chance to fail.  Did you also notice how it's like five lines touching the "I forget" topic and one covering the "it's easier to add".

Well there's lots of ground to cover, next. "For instance, you can't pick a lock without thieves' tools." 

Holy shit! A whole new set of rules to say the obvious.  I don't recall a version that allowed to pick locks without tools.  But then again I've been in the dungeon so long I might have missed it.  Nonetheless it seems quite obvious.  Maybe Mage Mearl's age is showing and his memory failing, but for me this is quite clear.

I'm going to add this one We assume that swimming, climbing, and jumping don't require any special checks." to the same rant.  I mean hasn't it always been like that?  I walk into a calm pond and drown?  I don't know how Mage Mearls has been playing the game the last few years.  Maybe he's used to a skill check for walking and talking too.  Doesn't it seem like Mage Mearls is making rules to regulate the rules that shouldn't be there in the first place?  Maybe he's been failing his "write game rules" skill check as of lately (last 6 months).

Onto stealth now.  The Mage says "To design stealth, we first decided that we wanted rogues to be able to hide in situations where other characters cannot."  Oh boy did that bring images of the Pink Panther to my head and the inspector walking right in front oblivious to the Panther's presence.

"Anyone can try to hide in darkness or if they are fully obscured from view."

Holy  crap Mage Mearls you just defined hiding.  If you're fully obscured from view you're hidden.  Your statement can be rewritten "Anyone can try to hide in darkness or if they are hidden".  But it doesn't end there. "If a rogue hides and no one is around to see him, don't bother with rolling the dice unless".  Like no shit Sherlock!  When did common sense leave the game?  Have past editions been such a hand holding experience that game masters are treated like small children.  I mean really small children like 2 years old.

Last but not least Spells : " The spell rules should look familiar to 3E fans. The big change here is in the spell description. We wanted something that was fun to read, so we decided to fall back on plain language rather than a formal stat block."

Arrrgghhhhhh holy shit crap fuck.  What is this??  All these months and all they can come up with is a nicer description for spells!  Something nicer to read.  Isn't that the dungeon master's job to describe.  Maybe in the new drone mechanics focused on combat things like "narrative" have become ancient customs.  But there was a time when a short description was enough to get the game masters and players inspired.  Is this the illness of D&D in this day and age?  Over detailed rules that actually play out the adventure rather than set the guidelines for a great adventure.  Trying and failing to lay down in text the most important rule in RPGs: "common sense".

Well that's enough for today.  There's more in the scroll, but it blisters my skin just to read it again.  I'll enjoy a tea now and wait for the next raven to arrive.

Your's trully,
Caustic Elf

Well thank you Caustic Elf for your comments it's put some points into perspective.  Folks don't miss his post on magic here.  Being an elven fighter-magic user Caustic has been quite strongly opinionated on this matter.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Using 2d20 for hit roll (as in 1d20 + 1d20, not the weird other stuff)

Well I've been exploring new combat mechanisms these last few months and although I have the combat mechanics well set I'm still fiddling with the hit roll.  I'm looking into non linear probability distributions as a way to determine a hit or a miss.

Why this?  Excitement.  If the probability of certain numbers is greater the action will concentrate on those values rather than spread all over the place.  I started out with 2d10 that has a mode of 11.  Rolls will tend to fall around 11 unlike 1d20 which can fall anywhere.  A one can happen as frequently as a 10, or a 14.

My combat rules say anything above a 10 is a hit.  So there are high odds of hitting your target.  Although to be honest there is about the same chance of hitting as if you just rolled 1d20.  Let us take a look at the curve on the graph below.  The black line is the 1d20 and the blue line is 2d10.  As you can see the cross just about the middle.  Around 10 or 11.  So what's the difference.  Well the slope.  Notice how the blue line becomes steeper as it approaches 9 and begins to level of at 14.  Six numbers 9, 10, 11, 12, 13 and 14 tend to occur 50% of the time.  Almost as often as the remaining 14.  It's quite probable to get a value near 10 of above it.  What does this do for the game?

This creates excitement in the battle as there is hit after hit.  Now that doesn't mean damage.  Under my rules the opposing party can parry or dodge and does so with 2d10 too.  That means the defenders roll is prone to land near the attackers roll.  Which is what I look for in using 2d10.   Not an 18 by the attacker and a 2 by the defender.  I mean what the heck happened there?  Defenders's cell phone rang?  Not likely.  So those cases when it seems the defender was not paying any attention to this life threatening fight are gone.  Surely a low roll will happen.  People mess up, slip or whatever.  But not usually, rarely.

Using 2d10 gives value to experience and training.  It's less probable to get low values below 7.  A +3 bonus takes you to 10 and you score a hit.  Just barely maybe and the defender can still parry and succeed in preventing damage.  But this is more akin to real life.  A well trained fighter gives an unskilled one his run for the money.  The unskilled fighter has to try its best while a trained one hits with a somewhat poor hit roll of 7.  The curve also makes becoming uber good very hard.  Toward the edges the curves slopes decrease and that means that every plus to hit means less.  If our fighter rolls a 3 on the 1d20 he gets an effective 6 after his +3.  The graph shows us that 75% of the rolls are above 6 for a 1d20, but 85% of the rolls on a 2d10 are above 6.  So parrying is easier for the defender when the attacker fumbles bad.  So training won't save the attacker so easily from a big mistake. The mistakes are rarer, but when they happen they are hard to hand wave away.

So if 2d10 is so nice, why 2d20.  Well let's change the rules a bit so the hit roll is 2d20 (added for a 2 to 40 range).  Any value rolled equal or greater to 20 represents a hit.  On the graph below the 2d20 curve is shown in orange.  Notice how the 2d10 (blue) curve is way steeper than the 2d20.  Every plus on the to hit roll is too much of an advantage if you want to allow a lot of training skills and magic.  The 2d20 roll provides a more gradual slope that is similar to the 1d20 in the 25 to 75 percentile range.  But also has longer tails to each side.  A +3 gives you a 75% probability of hitting your target on the 2d20 while being 80 to 85% certain on the 2d10.  If you get a lucky shot of 35 it will be hard for a +3 fighter to reach you as he'll more often than not land between 16 and 27.

This makes overspecialization very hard and expensive to the point of being unviable.  For a fighter to stop even the most luckiest of shots would mean getting a +10 or +15.  How much would that cost him in experience and training.  If you add the suggested rules for a self regulating game the player would soon realize that the points spent in reaching these extreme benefits would be best invested in other fields which create a lesser XP burden on the character's progression.

So 2d20 rolls gives a good distribution with a nice set of common values.  The slope is lower than for the 2d10, so each extra plus gives less benefit to the character.  So it allows the game to have more bonus levels, magic, spells and items that grant pluses to hit while not allowing the creation of super characters.  The tails at both ends make it harder to secure a hit or parry in the game with a 100% certainty.  A character with a +8 (not very hard to get) can guarantee a hit on a 1d20 and 2d10 system.  But hes a long shot from perfect on the 2d20.  He's damn good, but not flawless.


Monday, May 21, 2012

Era - página de descarga

Aquí encontrarás los links para descargar la más reciente versión del rpg Era

Hit Points, our eternal nemesis

Mike Mearls just published article regarding hit points in D&D Next (or as some would call it D&D Collage). In it he covers the explanation of what hit points mean in the D&D system. You can read the article here.

In the article Mearls say "In D&D Next, hit points and Hit Dice are an abstraction that we use to model more than just a character's physical durability. In fact, we have three elements that tie into a character's hit points and Hit Dice." He then lists three points which I'll briefly reproduce here for clarity.
  • Physical capacity for punishment, which is measured through a combination of size, bulk, and durability. [...] 
  • Energy and experience, which is measured by a creature's ability to turn a direct hit into a glancing blow and ignore minor aches and pains. [...] 
  • Luck and cosmic significance, which is the simple truth that in a world of high magic, gods, and planar powers, some creatures are consigned by fate to take on a great task. [...]

I'm totally turned down by their incapacity to think outside the box. When I hear the name "D&D Next" I imagine the next best thing. Not a remake of the old rules which also happen to bring forth one of the greatest problems with D&D: "excessive hit points". A problem in D&D I call "hit point fuge". Hit point fuge is the problem presented in a campaign when characters reach too many hit points. The adventure requires ever escalating monsters because characters don't suffer any real damage until they're practically down to 0 hit points. On top of this there's the issue with the clerics. It is ironic that Mearls mentions the following in the same article, "We want to make the cleric as optional for a group as a fighter, wizard, or rogue. [...] First, it's worth noting why we want to reduce the party's reliance on healing magic." That seems contradictory to the beginning. More hit points or reliance on hit points to represent all that he mentions makes the cleric NOT optional for a group. When hit point fuge kicks in players hack and slash and then power up on hit points to hack and slash again. The low level risk of dying disappears when the characters hit points way exceed the monsters potential for a kill in one blow.

I would suggest the following addendum to the rules if game masters want to actually do what Mike preaches. That is actually reduce the dependency on cleric and create a really captivating and epic adventure.

  • Don't do away with hit points, just make them fixed for life at a somewhat high value. Say between 15 and 25. The game rules I use set hit points at constitution + 1d10. 
  • Add another value called stamina. Stamina is actually a representation of all that which Mearls attributes to hit points. Damage happens to stamina first then hit points. 
  • Use a value I call Pain Threshold. This is the amount of stamina points above which hit point damage is inflicted. I've set the value at 10% of stamina. 
  • Stamina recovers quite quickly at a rate of 5 per hour + constitution bonuses. 
How does this work? Suppose a character has 20 hit points, 60 stamina

and a pain threshold of 6 (10% of 60). Any damage under 6 HP goes to stamina. So a character can suffer 12 hits doing 5 HP each and suffer no real life threatening damage. But a hit for 10 HP does 6 stamina points of damage an 4 hit points of damage. Stamina acts as a shield, but not an invulnerable one.

This mechanism does provide a solution in which stamina is a representation of a character's endurance and does away for the need to carry a cleric around all the time. First of all players will think their encounters better before they engage. In this example 26 hit points of damage still kill the character (20 HP + 6 pain threshold). When in the classic rules it would take 80 hit points of damage (20 HP + 60 stamina). Thus the cleric might not be helpful in time given the fast pace of combat. Secondly stamina heals quickly. So in combat a character might suffer 5 hit points of damage and 38 stamina points of damage. Those hit points may take days to heal, but the stamina will fully recover on its own in 8 hours or less.


PS: Mearls might also want to include parry and dodge to the combat phase. The game system these rules belong to contemplate parry and dodge and thus the pain threshold is low. For D&D game master who don't want to rewrite the combat rules might want to experiment with higher stamina and pain threshold values.

Friday, May 18, 2012

New Universal RPG Combat Mechanics

After some time reviewing, rewriting, testing and simulating a bit I have a first revision for the mechanism I proposed back in February.  These rules are meant to be universal in nature.  Setting the groundwork for the steps to resolve combat and to be able to do so in different settings.  From medieval fantasy adventure to futuristic sci-fi.

You can download the document for my rules for the universal combat mechanics here:

Combat Mechanics


Feedback as always is welcome.  Stay tuned I'm working on some futuristic weapons and armors for this system.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Principle for a self balancing game

Well I've given it some thought on the matter of balancing classes and gameplay in general.  There has been a great deal of conversation on this issue given Wizard's work on the D&D next.  Even Monte Cook recently asked the question, "It is difficult (not impossible) to create a character creation system for an rpg that allows for customization of capabilities that doesn't greatly encourage optimization." By optimization we mean min-max issues that lead to over specialized characters that unbalance the game or take too much "action" from the others.  

This begs me to ask the question:  If you could would you be able to prove it?

Ok, so what if I can come up with a character creation system that allows for customization without encouraging optimization.  How do I know it discourages optimization given all the possible combinations a character may take?  Do I play test all possible scenarios?  Well that is truly impossible.  It's like knowing all the RPG adventures that will ever happen before the rules go to print.  Or limit adventure/character options to such a limited set the game becomes boring.  Which is against the ideals of RPG in the first place.

So this got me thinking about the whole objective of building a character generation system and its relevance in game balance.  I arrived at the conclusion that it is totally irrelevant to game balance.  It might appear so, but in truth it isn't.  It's like shooting and unguided rocket to the Moon and hoping it lands safely there or at least enters Moon orbit.  It won't.  It will fly towards it.  It will seem to get close, but it will miss by a long shot.  No matter how good you do the initial trajectory calculations without onboard flight control you will miss the Moon.

The secret I believe is to create "onboard flight control" for the RPG.  That means less concentration on the character generation and more concentration on the gaming side.  Define "balance" in the game and give it some numeric value.  Then rank characters against it and keep tabs on things as they evolve.  This requires a different character sheet system (or recording system if you will).  One that keeps tabs on how strong the character is.  Numerically!

So far I've seen no system that does this.  Point buy systems provide XP or means to adquire more skills, but there is no clear "feedback" link between the amount of skill points given and the way XP is supplied.  Class based systems rely on levels to "supply" skills which are acquired at each level and the level-class combo is presumed to be balanced at design time when in truth it isn't so.  Because skills can cause unwanted synergies and not all skills are the same even if they can be acquired at the same level.  There is no "skill weight" if you will allow me the expression.  With such a value you could rank the character, but D&D lacks it.

So I propose the following.  Quit trying to balance the game from the character generation point of view and look to balance it during game play.  One way I see of doing this is to create and index or value that shows how strong the character is.

To implement this index I coined a term called XP Tax.  Once a skill is added to the character the character's XP tax is increased.  The XP tax is in turn a % of the XP gained in every adventure that is "lost" to upkeep of current skills.  The greater the skill count the greater the tax and the slower the progression is.  It is also a good index to measure characters with.  If you have a party with members having 18%, 22% and 47% XP tax you have a balance issue.  This XP tax mechanism provides what is known as "negative feedback" on the character progression mechanism.  It is negative because the stronger the character the more negative the feedback value (increased XP).  In spite of the term "negative", negative feedback is a good thing.  Like the rocket shooting to the Moon.  The negative feed back in the guidance system works to reduce the error between the rocket's path and the Moon's position.  In a similar way this feedback keeps the character at check.

So now instead of best guessing the character class progression during class design time you have a mechanism that allows you to measure the class as it advances.  More so it "decouples" skills and skill design from character class design.  If at some point you find out that some skill or power is actually too strong you just need to increase its XP tax to account for its bigger impact on the character class.  So you can fine tune the system during playttest without having to go back to the character class drawing board, and you don't have to redesign the whole class to fix an issue.  This is what "decoupling" means.  Things are no longer tightly bound together and small changes to the parts don't affect the whole as much.

With this it is an easy matter to create an exponential XP tax progression for some skills.  For example basic proficiency in a weapon might cost you 1 XP tax point, expert 2,  master 4.  Two weapon fighting might double your XP cost for the used weapons.  So if you have 8 XP tax for long sword and 4 for dagger thats 12 XP tax points base.  Add two weapon and that becomes 24 XP tax points.  That's a lot of XP lost every adventure to have such a skill.  It's a great skill to have, but it has got to be worth it for the player.  Maybe those 12 points would be better used somewhere else?

The graph below shows the impact of XP tax on various XP incomes and the possibility of purchasing skills.  This measures the skill purchasing power and it is plotted on a logarithmic scale.  It goes from 2 on the outer rim to -2 on the center.  The inner circle represents 0 or "unity gain" (one hundred times less progression speed than the outer rim).  Each color represents an average XP income per adventure.  Starting characters would average 1000 XP points and as they progress they will be able to tackle harder adventures that bring in more XP (2000, 4000,... etc).  The percentage values represent the XP tax.  The graph starts with 5% a very low tax value representing starting characters.  As characters increase in skills their XP tax increases as well going counter clockwise on the graph.

If a starter character with 5% XP tax could bring in 32000 XP points per adventure it's progression would be monstrous as you can see the light blue triangle is nearly on the 2 (100 times faster than the inner circle of 0).  But lets be realistic.  How can such a weak character gain so much XP in a single adventure?  Not going to happen.  So we take the more realistic value of 1000 XP points which is closer to the inner circle of unity progression, but slightly above it.

As it gains experience the character then increases its skills and goes up to 10%, then 15% and then 20%.  At that point the blue square has fallen nearly to the inner circle and the orange diamond is now where the blue square used to be.  XP tax is such that progression at a rate of 2000 to 4000 XP per adventure is now equivalent to the early 1000 XP tax.  This coupled with ever more expensive skills keeps the system under control.  If players spend too much on certain skills their XP tax can skyrocket too early in their game and they find themselves doing an uphill climb from there on.  If the points cross the inner circle to negative values the progression is practically impossible.  So it is good to keep the number between the inner circle and halfway to the outer circle.


Saturday, May 12, 2012

Balancing skills and synergy

A recent conversation regarding customization and rules abuse to obtain certain optimization benefits got me thinking in the need to balance skill point assignment.  Optimization occurs when a player customizes a character in an extreme way that leads to game balance issues.  In the particular case of D&D I believe this is due to the linear nature of skill rank and point assignment.  There is no increased cost for improving a rank as long as you're level is high enough.  So going from 3 to 4 costs the same as going from 8 to 9.  This makes it very easy for a player to optimize certain skills and become ubber good at something.

If costs were cuadratic then it would cost considerably more to go from 8 to 9 than 3 to 4.  Quite prohibitively so.  Players would soon reach a point in which raising the rank of a skill does not provide the benefit enough to justify the cost.  It is much better to improve in other fields that would be cheaper and give a better point to benefit ratio.

As I solution I've been working on an XP tax system that accounts for the character's constant training to keep skills in shape.  The more you're skilled at something the more you'll have to pay to keep up that skill.  So overly skilled characters would pay a heavy XP tax.  This tax is literally deducting from XP assignment.  If you earn 2000 XP in an adventure and your tax is 10% you only get 1800 XP.

This makes players think twice about optimizing a value.  As a high skill doesn't only cost a lot to get it keeps costing on and on and on.  The higher XP tax derived from that skill affects all gameplay.  So a high skill kept to be used in combat for some specific advantage costs the player a lot of XP even if it wasn't used at all during a particular adventure.

Obviously this does not prevent optimization, but is sure promotes its disuse.  Players that are willing to pay the high price for an overly optimized character are free to optimize, but their advancement will be hindered in comparison to others.


Wednesday, May 09, 2012

It pays to play with class

I guess I've come full circle on the class issue.  First I started all against it.  All against it.  As the source of all that is evil and inflexible in RPGs.  Why would anyone want to build a game around the concept of a player taking a sacred oath so their character may forever be what is chosen during character creation?  Why after two decades of beating the dead horse of multiclassing does D&D still miss the point?  Do away with classes, begone evil things from Hades himself.  Or so I though.

I started on a point buy system that could make your character multiclass easily.  A nice set of rules to self balance and off you go.  Want to be a fighter magic user?  No problem.  Thief magic user?  No problem either.  Just plain bad ass figher?  No problem there!

The system works pretty well.  You can be all sorts of magic users.  The nerdy all power spell caster.  A threatening warlock.  A paladin styled heavy armored and magic backed character or just some cleric or monk type wandering the fields.  All was well.

Until I started playtesting it.  Problem was there were so many options it was hard for the unexperienced player to make up his or her mind as to what to include.  If only I had.... mhhhh noooo!!  If there were.... nooooo!! I resisted, and resisted, and resisted to say the dammed word.  The it finally came out as "character templates".  I would not, for the life of me, call it class.  But it is a class.  In a way at least.

So what took me so long to come around to the same point I started from?  Mhhh I felt damned.  All that work for nothing.  I had spent countless hours working up a system that brought me to using the one thing I vowed not to use: the class.  But then it hit me.  The problem with D&D is that its building blocks are classes.  There is no smaller element than class.  Yes there are skills and feats, but that's like left over pieces.  Image a Lego you buy not only prebuilt, but glued together too (a D&D class).  Then Lego out of their good will adds a couple of scattered pieces in the box so you can add to your prebuilt Lego (skills and feats).

Real Lego comes disassembled and in small bags.  It includes a booklet with instructions to build a few models.  You quickly build them and get to play with your Lego.  You build block A with a few pieces.  Then block B and then C.  Put B and C together with some other pieces and get D which you add to A to complete the model.

So in the end I realize that the concept of a class is necessary, but only as the top level item.  It's building blocks are roles which are in turn built up by skills.  Roles are like fields of training and experience.  They group together a set of skills which are know to well define and balance the role.  Characters then multi-role rather than multi-class.

D&D has the pyramid upside down it builds on top of classes and decorates these with skills and feats.  It should take skills and feats, and build roles with that then define classes as a set of roles.  For example a rogue would have a basic role of rogue.  An assassin would have rogue plus a specialization role of assassin.  Game masters can then build roles as they see fit for their campaign setting and customize and intermix them into classes rather then modify the rather inflexible concept of class we have always lived with.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Why 2d10 makes sense for skill checks

In my local D&D group I've been discussing the skill check mechanism for 3.5.  In my opinion it makes no sense or at best little sense to have a d20 as a die roll.  First of all its a flat distribution.  Secondly ability bonuses add between 1 and 4.  Yet to get a +4 you need an 18.  That's quite an uncommon value and you only get +4?    So randomness is more significant that character abilities!  More so, training is way more valuable than abilities.  What ever happened to the saying "Quos naturat non dat Salamanca non praestat".  As if any fool could become a master craftsman if he works at it long enough.

As an alternative I've seen 2d10 as die roll suggested and here's some math I see that backs it up.  Let us take a look at the following graph (rendered with

This shows the percentage chance of rolling at least the value on the x axis.  The black line is our well known 1d20 (with its classic 5% steps).  The orange line is the curve for 2d10 (notice it starts at 2).  The blue line is the normal 3d6 ability roll and the green is the more commonly used 4d6 drop the lowest ability roll.

Lets set up a simple rule that says a skill check is done against the skill's ability and the player needs to roll lower than the associated ability to succeed.  Clearly the 2d10 is a tougher roll for characters with a low value.  Rolling a 6 or higher happens 75% of the time with a d20 and nearly 90% of the time with 2d10.  But that's all right if you're dumb your dumb.  Now as you reach 11 and 12 the orange line goes below the black line and it is harder to roll 15 or higher (mess it up) with the 2d10 than with the d20.  Which is also reasonable.  If you're smart you're smart and things begin to get easier.

Now for DCs and training.  Instead of having absurdly high values like DC 20 or what not just have 0 for trivial up to 5 for very hard.  If you add 5 to the 2d10 die roll (equivalent to moving the green line 5 to the left) you see that a character with a 15 ability has a 65% chance of blowing it.   Which is pretty high for an gifted character.  One with 18 would have a 35% chance of blowing.  Your average human with an 11 would blow it 85% of the time.

Training could then go from 0 for basic training to 5 for grand master or some other title you come up with.  A grand master with an ability score of 11 would still succeed 85% of the time.  Showing that mastery in the field counts.  On the other hand an expert with a simple +2, but a 15 ability, would succeed 90% of the time.  A worth while benefit for being gifted by the gods.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Graveyard Dungeon

Welcome to the content page of the Graveyard one page dungeon.

You can download the PDF to the dungeon here.