Jan 26, 2009

There's a RITE way, and there's a Wrong way...

Here we go with another skill challenge! I am liking the hybrid combat challenges, so here we are. Playtesting will be happening this weekend (FINALLY!) and I will post how it went. Until then, if you want to try it out, I would love to hear from you.

This skill challenge is designed to be run with the assistance of a map. The room should contain a summoning circle of some kind. Other props include a telescope-type device near the circle, and a small sacrificial altar.

The ground should have no less than 5 planar tears measuring 5’ X 10’. It is from these fissures that the Riftspawn will be able to materialize.

The rift squares are considered difficult terrain, and any hero that begins or ends their turn on one takes d10 psychic damage.

…The Rite way to close a planar rift…

If you do not seal this planar rift, the kingdom will be overrun by Far Realm monstrosities! The breach must be sealed at all costs!

COMPLEXITY LEVEL – 6 (12 successes before 6 failures)

ENCOUNTER LEVEL – Party level +2

GOAL – A combat-centric skill challenge in which the party must close a planar rift through a combination of sword or sorcery, while defending against the creatures using it.

MODIFIERS – The powers of war - Power Use: Players can expend powers to get bonuses to a skill check. When expending powers, have the players describe how the power is being used. For each power used, the following bonuses are gained:

At-Will: +0 to skill check or attack roll.
Encounter/Utility: +3 to skill check or attack roll.
Daily: +5 to skill check or attack roll.

SKILLS ALLOWED - Arcana, Bluff, History, Insight, Perception, Thievery.

Arcana – (Moderate DC, unlimited uses) – By using sheer arcane power to manipulate the rituals lines of power, you know you can take this gate down…but it will take time.

Failing this check results in a backlash of the potent energies involved. The character making the check loses one healing surge.
SPECIAL – You receive a conditional penalty to the check for each point of damage taken between the end of your last turn, and the beginning of the current one.

Bluff - (Moderate DC, 4 successes allowed) - See History.

History – (High DC, 4 successes allowed) – Seizing on the inherent alienness and chaos of the creatures coming through the gate, you attempt to distract them by spouting random lines of poetry, literature, and sciences. Confused by your actions, they pause to re-assess you. (All enemies full defense action for 1 round).

Failing this check causes all creatures with the Aberrant type within 6 squares to immediately target the character.

Insight – (Moderate DC, 2 successes allowed) – By concentrating, you can almost hear what these creatures are thinking. Alien thoughts…but still recognizable! You call out to aid a companion with that knowledge. (give an ally a +5 bonus to any attack roll or skill check until the beginning of your next turn).

Failure indicates that the splintered minds of the far realm have overwhelmed you. You receive a -2 to Will defense for the duration of the encounter, and may not make another insight check this encounter.

Perception – (Moderate DC, Unlimited uses) - By visibly tracing the lines of power fueling this ritual, you can target the various symbols & Runes that are sustaining it.

Failing this check results in a backlash of the potent energies involved. The character making the check loses one healing surge.

Thievery - (Moderate DC, Unlimited uses) - By tinkering with the telescope or prism clockworks, you can throw the device out of alignment. Each successful check kills all minions in the room.

Failing this check means that the character has been struck by the energies being funnelled through the devices and loses a healing surge.

ADDITIONAL RULES:

Basic attack roll vs. High AC – By smashing the delicate machines supporting the ritual, you damage the magics raging inside of it.

Failure indicates that the hero has failed to damage the portal, but drawn the attention of all the creatures currently manifested. They all disengage from their current activity, and attack the hero to the best of their ability.

A small sacrifice…

The inherent order of permanent magical items is anathema to the portal. For each item cast into the swirling gate, one automatic success is granted. Item must be a minimum of level.3

Endless mass of flesh –

At the beginning of The mindripper's initiative, place D4 fully materialized Riftspawn in any of it's adjacent squares (see Split). They act immediately.
Success: The portal has been closed. The surviving conjurors owe you their lives, and reward the party appropriately. The party is gifted with a treasure of party level +2, and as a bonus, access (and/or copies of) up to 3 rituals of level five or lower.

Failure: The portal stabilizes, and a terrible alien creature comes through the gate. The party must flee or die, and wait for another opportunity to collapse the gate.

Jan 21, 2009

A near TPK...what a ride!

I currently play in a 3.5 age of worms campaign that has been rolling for a year or so now. It's a third weekend game, so it has definitely dragged a bit. My character, a 6'5"- 280lb. Vashar, (Book of vile darkness) filled the role of tank and party hirsute psychopath. Slathered in rancid bear grease, and smelling like an old cheese, he was a murderer and all around bad person (NE Fighter/Ranger with favored enemy humans!) he played nice with his guildies as long as the money and blood was plentiful.

Last Sunday, we had a great old time cruising over speed bu...I mean the temples of Bane and Baal, during the three faces of evil portion of the adventure. The party was 6th level, and had breezed through the rest of the complex. We came to a room with an insidious trap within it. Our party leader, a Beguiler, was ensnared then replaced with a duplicate intent on destroying us.

Well destroy us he did. The Duskblade, Myself, and the real said beguiler all perished. Only the scout survived - and then, only barely!

How do I feel about it? I had a blast! Half of gaming is rolling with the blows, you know, sometimes you get the goblin? Now my character is dead. De-throated by a summoned dire wolf. What now? I was thinking Aasimar Pally/Favored soul of Kord. A close-minded, condescending, pseudo-bully, with a penchant for arm wrestling. I'll be SO good, they'll want to do me in!

Hmmmm....or Blackguard....decisions, decisions...

Jan 16, 2009

...Adrift in a sea of flesh and steel...a 4E skill challenge of survival.

With a little help from The Core Mechanic and At-Will, I have completed my mass combat skill challenge. I included made-up gibberlings, as I miss killing people with them. Feel free to replace them with whatever you want. If you can't help yourself and MUST point out my errors and shortcomings, please do : )

The implementation is a hybrid system that has the skill challenge simulating combat. As such, initiative is rolled, with the monsters always going on 1. Skill checks are full round actions that take place on the player’s initiative.

adrift in a sea of flesh and steel

What began as a simple hunt to cull a nest of Gibberlings, has turned into a battle for survival. Holding the van, Outnumbered 100 to one, you must use your wits AND steel to survive.


- Complexity 5 (12 successes before 6 failures)

- Encounter Level: PC Level+3

- Goal: Survive the onslaught of a horde of maddened Gibberlings.

- Skills Used: Acrobatics, Arcana, Bluff, Dungeoneering, Endurance, Diplomacy, Heal, History, Insight, Intimidate, Nature, Perception, stealth


Acrobatics – (Moderate DC) – By executing a precision series of flips, tumbles, and dodges you manage to stay ahead of your enemies blades – Or fall upon them!
SUCCESS Indicates that you have managed to avoid being damaged by the enemies actions. This check may be made more than once, with the DC increasing by 2 for each additional check made.
FAILURE Indicates that you have tumbled or jumped right into a waiting blade. In addition to taking damage (see “OUCH! THAT HURTS!” below.) there is a chance that the character may be dragged down by the howling mob! (see “THE HOWLING MOB!” below.).

Arcana – (Hard DC) – Using your keen intellect, you direct your powers exactly where you need them to be, hammering away at the enemies weakest points. Of course, any mistake could easily harm your fellows…
SUCCESS Indicates that the character has identified a weakness in the enemy’s defenses. Exploiting this weakness, you may give another character a +4 bonus to their next skill check. This skill is only useable once.
FAILURE Indicates that you are too preoccupied with survival to observe anything that would be useful. Additionally, you lose 1 healing surge, as you momentarily let your guard down to survey the field.

Athletics – (as Endurance below.)

Bluff – (Moderate DC) – Using every trick in the book, and a few made up on the spot, you try to misdirect the horde and turn it upon itself!
SUCCESS Indicates that you have feinted, mimicked, or otherwise bamboozled the mob surrounding you to zig, while you zag. As such, a number of the horrid beasts are trampled by their bretheren. This check may be attempted more than once, with the DC increasing by two for each additional check made.
FAILURE Indicates that you have failed to misdirect your foes. They leap upon you with sadistic glee, trying to drag you down. In addition to taking damage (see “OUCH! THAT HURTS!” below.) there is a chance that the character may be dragged down by the howling mob! (see “THE HOWLING MOB!” below.).

Dungeoneering – (Hard DC) – Understanding the enemy is key to defeating it. You have seen and studied these beasts before, even in a mob, they are somewhat predictable.
SUCCESS Indicates that you recall a tidbit regarding the behaviors of these beasts, say, an instinctive love of shiny objects. Exploiting this may well turn the tide of battle! This skill may be used only once.
FAILURE Indicates that you remember nothing of any practical use in your current situation. In addition to taking damage (see “OUCH! THAT HURTS!” below.) there is a chance that the character may be dragged down by the howling mob! (see “THE HOWLING MOB!” below.).

Endurance – (Moderate DC) – SPECIAL
USEAGE 1: Your arms may ache as much as your lungs burn, but you’ll sleep when you’re dead! Drawing on your inner reserves, you put up a wall of steel that sends your enemies falling back…in pieces.
USEAGE 2: Dragged down by the horde, you struggle to regain your feet, and escape the dozens of cuts and stabs being inflicted upon you!
SUCCESS Indicates that you have either regained your footing (see “THE HOWLING MOB” below.) or managed to maintain your defensive footing.
This check may be attempted more than once, with the DC increasing by two for each additional check made. NOTE – USEAGE 2 does not increase in DC, or count against the checks needed for the skill challenge.



Heal – (Low DC) – Just as important as the Butcher’s work all around – the support and care keeping the men and women on the line alive!
SUCCESS Indicates that you have successfully tended to the wounds of one of your comrades, keeping them in the fight. Choose one ally, they may use a healing surge if they wish. Any bonuses to healing that you grant apply here as well. This check may be attempted more than once, with the DC increasing by two for each additional check made.
FAILURE Indicates that you have become a target yourself! In addition to taking damage (see “OUCH! THAT HURTS!” below.) there is a chance that the character may be dragged down by the howling mob! (see “THE HOWLING MOB!” below.).

History – (Hard DC) – Even in the thick of this bloody battle, you recall your war schooling. In fact, Ser Reginald Blackplume faced a nearly identical challenge during his formative years. You recall he…
SUCCESS Indicates that you recall a relevant snippet of military history that is applicable to your current predicament. By directing your allies to follow this tested strategy, all benefit! All allies receive a +1 bonus to their next skill check. This check may be used only once.
FAILURE Indicates that you remember too late that the maneuver in question led to a slaughter of the defenders involved. All allies receive a -1 penalty on their next check.

Insight – (See History, above)

Intimidate – (Moderate DC) – By unleashing your mounting rage, you roar out a challenge…one that is answered!
SPECIAL – (see “PRIMAL CHALLENGE” below.)

Nature – (Moderate DC) –
By observing the terrain and it’s features, you see something that you may be able to use…
SUCCESS Indicates that your trained eye has detected a land feature you may exploit (rockfall, tree limb, bee hive, etc.). This check may be attempted more than once, with the DC increasing by two for each additional check made.
FAILURE Indicates your pre-occupation with your surroundings has made you vulnerable. In addition to taking damage (see “OUCH! THAT HURTS!” below.) there is a chance that the character may be dragged down by the howling mob! (see “THE HOWLING MOB!” below.).

Perception – (Hard DC) – Sometimes, surviving is as simple as knowing what is going on around you.
SUCCESS Indicates that you have been observant enough to stay out of the enemies path. In fact, your situation allows you to assist others – for the moment…You may assist another character with any one check (PHB pg.179) This check may be made more than once, at the same DC.
FAILURE Indicates that you have been blindsided by the enemy! In addition to taking damage (see “OUCH! THAT HURTS!” below.) there is a chance that the character may be dragged down by the howling mob! (see “THE HOWLING MOB!” below.).


Stealth – (Moderate DC) – Remaining unseen, you sneak about the battlefield looking for that one place where you can do the most good.
SUCCESS Indicates that you have remained unseen, and further, may intervene at any time (while hidden) during the challenge to grant a +4 bonus to a single check. This check may be your own or another players, it may be granted before or after the roll, it may be attempted more than once, with the DC increasing by two for each additional check made.
FAILURE Indicates that youhave been detected, and are immediately set upon. In addition to taking damage (see “OUCH! THAT HURTS!” below.) there is a chance that the character may be dragged down by the howling mob! (see “THE HOWLING MOB!” below.).

Success: Like a wave breaking on the rocks, so the enemy breaks against your indomitable prowess. Broken and reeling, the enemy retreats in disarray, leaving only their leaders behind.Failure: The party has been overwhelmed by the horde of gibbering beasts. Have they been killed? Captured? Forced to fight a wildly CR inappropriate battle? Hope they’ve been nice to their DM…

SPECIAL RULES:

- OUCH! THAT HURTS!: If A character fails a check, they have been savaged by the blades, teeth, and claws of their enemies as a result. The amount of damage is equal to the players surge value.

- THE HOWLING MOB: A character that has failed a skill check may be dragged down by the mob of ravenous monsters. They must make an immediate endurance check (same DC as failed check) or be pulled down by weight of numbers. The character is considered grabbed. Each round, at the start of the Gibberling’s turn, the character takes damage equal to their healing surge value.
The character may attempt to rise by making an endurance, athletics, or acrobatics check at (Mdoerate DC). This check is a move action.

- PRIMAL CHALLENGE: A well placed challenge calls out one of the beast’s leaders. The two of them will battle, with their combat actions taking the place of the character’s skill check. It is recommended that the creature be an elite of equal level to the character, or possibly N + 2 or 3 depending on how well equipped the PC is. Failure results in the PC being incapacitated (just like a combat encounter) and possibly dying. Victory awards two successes in the skill challenge, possibly tipping the scales to victory!

Powers of War: Players can expend powers to get bonuses to a skill check. When expending powers, have the players describe how the power is being used. For each type of power used, the following bonuses are gained:At-Will: +0 to skill checkEncounter/Utility: +3 to skill check.Daily: +5 to skill check.

Blood from Stone: Facing overwhelming odds, the players gamble with their lives hold back the tide of enemy forces. The party can elect for a member of the group to take damage equal to their healing surge value in exchange for a +2 bonus on an individual skill check by any other member of the group. This action can be taken more than once for the same skill check, and can occur after the die is cast but before the skill check is resolved.

- Attack Rolls - (High DC) - Player may make use of an attack role to cut right through their opponents by sheer martial skill. The attack roll is subject to any bonuses or powers that would be relevant to combat. At-will powers grant no additional effect, but expending Encounter or Daily powers grants the following bonus for one roll only.
Encounter/Utility: +3
Daily: +5
- Failure to meet the target DC will result in the character losing hp equal to their Healing Surge value

OR



NOTE: These two monsters are two VERY different ways to resolve a primal challenge. Use accordingly, or make your own.

Jan 13, 2009

I'm the DM, and NO, you may not roll a save...

VERSUS LAUGHTER!

I Wish I could remember where I found these. I was young, and needed to artwork!

In any event, about a year or so ago, I found these posted on someones blog...it was just a "website" then right? While culling the herd, I re-discovered them, and after giggling to the point of near hernia, I decided that you all needed a good laugh. And away we go!






Should the original artist/blogger want credit, It will be happily given...I just can't seem to remember where I sto...borrowed them from. Otherwise, let me be clear that the handiwork you have just chortled at was NOT BY MY HAND...I just chose to perpetuate it :)















Jan 12, 2009

I need another opinion, can I get a hand?

After spending two weeks working on this one, I am getting frustrated.  Maybe I just need a fresh opinion.  My personal thought is this:

Combat Encounter level of Party level +3-5
1 hard target per PC of = level
A nonstop flow of minions at a rate of, say, 6-10 a round.

At that rate, the party will be overwhelmed by sheer numbers in about 8 rounds.  All of the flashy powers in the world won't save you from an avalanche of meat and daggers.  Any opinions/advice/support would be welcome.  So, without further ado...

Mass combat. Simultaneously the most awesome part of a fantasy RPG, and the hardest to faithfully simulate. Here is an attempt to codify it with a skill challenge!


The implementation is a hybrid system that has the skill challenge happening during combat. Skill checks are standard actions that may be made in place of attacks on the player’s initiative.
_______________________________________
…adrift in a sea of flesh and steel…

What began as a simple hunt to cull a nest of Gibberlings, has turned into a battle for survival. Holding the van, Outnumbered 100 to one, you must use your wits AND steel to survive.

- Complexity 4 (7 successes before 3 failures)

- Encounter Level: PC Level+3

- Goal: Survive the onslaught by fight or flight before three failures are acquired.

- Powers of War - Players can expend powers to get bonuses to a skill check. When expending powers, have the players describe how the power is being used. For each type of power used, the following bonuses are gained:

At-Will: +0 to skill check
Encounter/Utility: +3 to skill check.
Daily: +5 to skill check.

- Skills Used: Acrobatics, Arcana, Bluff, Dungeoneering, Endurance, Diplomacy, Heal, History, Insight, Intimidate, Nature, Perception, stealth

Acrobatics – (Moderate DC) – By executing a precision series of flips, tumbles, and dodges you manage to stay ahead of your enemies blades – Or fall upon them!

SUCCESS Indicates that you have managed to avoid being damaged by the enemies actions. This check may be made more than once, with the DC increasing by 2 for each additional check made.
FAILURE Indicates that you have tumbled or jumped right into a waiting blade. In addition to taking damage (see “OUCH! THAT HURTS!” below.) there is a chance that the character may be dragged down by the howling mob! (see “THE HOWLING MOB!” below.).

Arcana – (Hard DC) – Using your keen intellect, you direct your powers exactly where you need them to be, hammering away at the enemies weakest points. Of course, any mistake could easily harm your fellows…
SUCCESS Indicates that the character has identified a weakness in the enemy’s defenses. Exploiting this weakness, you may give another character a +4 bonus to their next skill check. This skill is only useable once.
FAILURE Indicates that you are too preoccupied with survival to observe anything that would be useful. Additionally, you lose 1 healing surge, as you momentarily let your guard down to survey the field.

Athletics – (see acrobatics, above. OR Endurance below.)

Bluff – (Moderate DC) – Using every trick in the book, and a few made up on the spot, you try to misdirect the horde and turn it upon itself!
SUCCESS Indicates that you have feinted, mimicked, or otherwise bamboozled the mob surrounding you to zig, while you zag. As such, a number of the horrid beasts are trampled by their bretheren. This check may be attempted more than once, with the DC increasing by two for each additional check made.
FAILURE Indicates that you have failed to misdirect your foes. They leap upon you with sadistic glee, trying to drag you down. In addition to taking damage (see “OUCH! THAT HURTS!” below.) there is a chance that the character may be dragged down by the howling mob! (see “THE HOWLING MOB!” below.).

Dungeoneering – (Hard DC) – Understanding the enemy is key to defeating it. You have seen and studied these beasts before, even in a mob, they are somewhat predictable.
SUCCESS Indicates that you recall a tidbit regarding the behaviors of these beasts, say, an instinctive love of shiny objects. Exploiting this may well turn the tide of battle! This skill may be used only once.
FAILURE Indicates that you remember nothing of any practical use in your current situation. In addition to taking damage (see “OUCH! THAT HURTS!” below.) there is a chance that the character may be dragged down by the howling mob! (see “THE HOWLING MOB!” below.).

Endurance – (Moderate DC) – SPECIAL
USEAGE 1: Your arms may ache as much as your lungs burn, but you’ll sleep when you’re dead! Drawing on your inner reserves, you put up a wall of steel that sends your enemies falling back…in pieces.
USEAGE 2 – Dragged down by the horde, you struggle to regain your feet, and escape the dozens of cuts and stabs being inflicted upon you!

SUCCESS Indicates that you have either regained your footing (see “THE HOWLING MOB” below.) or managed to maintain your defensive footing.  This check may be attempted more than once, with the DC increasing by two for each additional check made. NOTE – USEAGE 2 does not increase in DC, or count against the checks needed for the skill challenge.

Heal – (Low DC) – Just as important as the Butcher’s work all around – the support and care keeping the men and women on the line alive!
SUCCESS Indicates that you have successfully tended to the wounds of one of your comrades, keeping them in the fight. Choose one ally, they may use a healing surge if they wish. Any bonuses to healing that you grant apply here as well. This check may be attempted more than once, with the DC increasing by two for each additional check made.
FAILURE Indicates that you have become a target yourself! In addition to taking damage (see “OUCH! THAT HURTS!” below.) there is a chance that the character may be dragged down by the howling mob! (see “THE HOWLING MOB!” below.).

History – (Hard DC) – Even in the thick of this bloody battle, you recall your war schooling. In fact, Ser Reginald Blackplume faced a nearly identical challenge during his formative years. You recall he…
SUCCESS Indicates that you recall a relevant snippet of military history that is applicable to your current predicament. By directing your allies to follow this tested strategy, all benefit! All allies receive a +1 bonus to their next skill check. This check may be used only once.
FAILURE Indicates that you forgot that the maneuver in question led to a slaughter of the defenders involved. All allies receive a -1 penalty on their next check.

Insight – (See History, above)

Intimidate – (Moderate DC) – By unleashing your mounting rage, you roar out a challenge…one that is answered!

SPECIAL – (see “PRIMAL CHALLENGE” below.)

Nature – (Moderate DC) – By observing the terrain and it’s features, you see something that you may be able to use…
SUCCESS Indicates that your trained eye has detected a land feature you may exploit (rockfall, tree limb, bee hive, etc.). This check may be attempted more than once, with the DC increasing by two for each additional check made.
FAILURE Indicates your pre-occupation with your surroundings has made you vulnerable. In addition to taking damage (see “OUCH! THAT HURTS!” below.) there is a chance that the character may be dragged down by the howling mob! (see “THE HOWLING MOB!” below.).

Perception – (Hard DC) – Sometimes, surviving is as simple as knowing what is going on around you.

SUCCESS Indicates that you have been observant enough to stay out of the enemies path. In fact, your situation allows you to assist others – for the moment…You may assist another character with any one check (PHB pg.179) This check may be made more than once, at the same DC.
FAILURE Indicates that you have been blindsided by the enemy! In addition to taking damage (see “OUCH! THAT HURTS!” below.) there is a chance that the character may be dragged down by the howling mob! (see “THE HOWLING MOB!” below.).

Stealth – (Moderate DC) – Remaining unseen, you sneak about the battlefield looking for that one place where you can do the most good.
SUCCESS Indicates that you have remained unseen, and further, may intervene at any time during the challenge to grant a +4 bonus to a single check. This check may be attempted more than once, with the DC increasing by two for each additional check made.
FAILURE Indicates that youhave been detected, and are immediately set upon. In addition to taking damage (see “OUCH! THAT HURTS!” below.) there is a chance that the character may be dragged down by the howling mob! (see “THE HOWLING MOB!” below.).

Success: Like a wave breaking on the rocks, so the enemy breaks against your indomitable prowess. Broken and reeling, the enemy retreats in disarray, leaving only their leaders behind.

Failure: The party has been overwhelmed by the horde of gibbering beasts. Have they been killed? Captured? Forced to fight a wildly CR inappropriate battle? Hope they’ve been nice to their DM…

SPECIAL RULE MODULES:

- OUCH! THAT HURTS! : If A character fails a check, it is likely that they have been savaged by the blades, teeth, and claws of their enemies as a result. The recommended damage tables can be found using ASMOR’s Monster Maker 3.4 Available at: here. It is recommended that each failure be “rewarded” with an appropriate amount of damage. This damage is inflicted at the time of failure.

- THE HOWLING MOB: A character that has failed a skill check may be dragged down by the mob of ravenous monsters. They must make an immediate endurance check (same DC as failed check) or be pulled down by weight of numbers. Each round, the character may attempt to regain their feet (see endurance, above). Failure to do this results in additional damage.

- PRIMAL CHALLENGE: A well placed challenge calls out one of the beast’s leaders. The two of them will battle, with their combat actions taking the place of the character’s skill check. It is recommended that the creature be an elite of equal level to the character, or possibly N + 2 or 3 depending on how well equipped the PC is. Failure results in the PC being incapacitated (just like a combat encounter) and possibly dying. Victory awards two successes in the skill challenge, possibly tipping the scales to victory!

Jan 7, 2009

Too Cool For School? When did awesome become lame?

I couldn't help but notice all of the noise out there regarding the "rule of cool". As a blatant effort to drag you kicking and screaming with promises of a train-wreck, my thoughts...

I'm not looking for a fight. If I was, your mother is always the first casualty of war :) I fight dirty. This, however is not like that. This is my respectful disagreement with intelligent, articulate, and otherwise great folks who I also happen to strongly disagree with.

NOTE: If you don't actually read the text of the "rule" you may be a bit confused, please scope that out first - I'll wait.

NOTE B: If you aren't linked it is because my IT department thinks you are bad bad bad! I will try to read the google cached images, as they still get through :)

Alrighty then.

First off, this may or may not make a difference, but as a statistical anomaly, it bears reporting that all of the bloggers in question have rejected 4E. I can't speak 100% for 6D6, but if the Pathfinder RPG campaign summary is any clue, they have fallen to the dark side as well :)
This may very well be a red herring, but with "traditional" RPG values being what they are...well, I'm not opening that particular can of worms today.

I do, however, think this is a good indicator as to the dislike of flash over substance. The rule of cool, after all is basically saying that the rules take a backseat to enjoying the ride. Our problems start with the fact that the rules specifically referenced in the article pertain to movies and reality. The more I read over at 6D6, posts one and two, the more I feel like, while well written, the great guys there missed the point.

I say this because nowhere in Chatty's rule (slightly modified from the above tropes article) does he ever say that this awesome kewlness should be A.)All pervasive or B.)All consuming. I agree with them in that a campaign can be TOO COOL. Over-the-top cheese, covered with monty haul hot fudge, smothered with homebrew gravy, two scoops of Uber NPC's, and topped with Munchkin sauce sounds TERRIBLE. Point is, (IMO anyway) that isn't COOL, and therefore the rule does not apply now does it? Too much of a good thing comes to mind.

Thing is, I keep reading these analysis posts, and the assumption seems to be that the rule of cool means ALL AWESOME, ALL THE TIME. This is simply not the implication or the case.
Brushing aside the inherent problems with comparing a made up fantasy storytelling game with a big budget audio-visual blitzkrieg, we can boil the two down to the lowest common denominator...Fantasy.

Not swords and sorcery fantasy, but escapist fantasy. What is escapist fantasy? Without a dictionary and a 9mm, no two people are ever going to agree on that - hence, the root of the "problem". If you can't even agree on a common set of rules for skewering orcs, how are you ever going to find more than a sliver of Venn love for matrix style I eat-the-laws-of-physics-for-mid-morning-snacks? I for one LOVED the matrix movies, easily amused fool that I am :)

Movies to RPS's (as much as we like to wish it otherwise) are apples and oranges. I won't bring up the two D&D movies, if you all promise to do the same! One is a passive experience. You check your cares at the door, pay your 8 bucks, and escape your cares for 2 hours. An RPG has an interactive element that cinema simply does not have. Everything in the game is a subjective, shared figment. None of it exists outside a small group of friends sharing said figment. And, as is natural to the beasts we are, there is nothing out there that is better than our figment.

We naturally externalize our individual experiences, leading to the vaunted "Yer doing it wrong" memes that even the elite group that we are, are quite guilty of. Nowhere in any of the posts above, and only grudgingly brushed upon in the resulting comments, is "what if I LIKE doing it that way?" Idiocy, Being disowned by other gamers, or ridiculed...great job supporting the hobby guys. A little more tolerance would be a good thing all around.

Another thing I see, is that people are losing sight of the interconectedness of the various tropes. By my interpretation, the rule of cool and the rule of fun are inexplicably interconnected. After all, is it possible to have one without the other? Is there really any difference? Isn't Cool = Fun?

In other words, say, a movie screen shows a monk dodging a clip full of hot lead, before single handedly de-spining 14 bad guys in 45 seconds. Is this FUN? Or is this COOL? Where is the line? Do we need a stinking line in the first place? By extension, is being able to do this as say, part of your character design suddenly stupid? Why?

Need a different example? Your character (edition neutral) has a two-handed sword. When it was "given" it to him, did you actually tell him it was a Zweihander? Or a Claymore? how about a Uchigatana? If you ask him to describe it, and hint that it matters, which one do you think it would be? BAM! Rule of cool just ate your ass! See, given a choice, he will make it whichever one is either A.)Most aesthetically pleasing, or B.)Gives mechanical advantage. In a word, whichever one is cooler, right?

Thing is, the rule of cool, isn't just breaking the laws of physics and reality. It is about what the individual being subjected to the circumstance in question thinks. Ever give a player a small treasure just for being persistent while "in-character" BAM! another piece out of your arse! Ever fudge the HP of a tough monster because dragging out the encounter would result in more awesome factor? BAM! you are running out of arse! Let's not even talk about Role-playing experience, or immortal mythical monsters using a riddle any 5 year old could solve JUST because you already know your players are too dense to figure out a REAL one.

Geek Related uses the helicopter RPG example of lame. Below, I agreed, but upon further thought...I only conditionally agree. My Shadowrun/Cyberpunk/GURPS character spent a frickin butt-load of money and precious develpment points on cybernetic implants, A rocket pack, Retinal targeting systems, and a fully automatic rocket launcher. Why in the hell can I NOT jump out of a helicopter and shoot down missiles? Are YOU the DM going to tell me that I CANNOT do it? Rule of cool be damned, tell me why?

The rules are the rules until they get in the way, that's when you throw them the frack out, and improvise. I guarantee that your player wanted jump out of that helicopter for a reason, it is a futuristic make-believe fantasy game, or are we playing my lame ass life as an insurance agent in the year 2305?

This post has gotten long enough. I will close by saying that I'm okay with agree to disagree. I look for reasons to say yes, while the older ways always felt like overly complex ways to kill a PC before level 3 until they get bored and quit. This doesn't mean that you should give your players the world on a silver platter. Nor does it mean that you should just hand them the adventure, and tell them to take notes. It means that you have a DUTY to your players to make the game fun. If fun means occasionally letting the rules fall by the wayside, why not?

Jan 6, 2009

How about some funny!?

Well then...I've been so busy driving everyone at the google group nuts, I haven't had a chance to get anything else accomplished!

Coming soon, a new hybrid skill challenge - ...Adrift in a sea of flesh and steel... it's what happens when your merry band of 5 gets swarmed with, oh, 5 or 6 hundred bad guys! Gibberlings were the inspiration! Until then, have a laugh, on me!















And last...just for Wyatt...








Jan 5, 2009

Skill Challenges - Own that @#$%!!

Sitting at work, trying to look busy has it's advantages. You get to read truly great posts like this one. After reading it, I find myself in 90% agreement. Mostly with the opinion that as written, skill challenges are an awkward morass of suck.

I consider myself pretty all around average. As such, I feel a criticism is warranted. WotC, if I am having a difficult time

A.) understanding it, or
B.) Enjoying it

There is obviously a problem. You wanted a cinematic gaming experience? 4E does that. However skill challenges need work. My solution is to abandon the "Forced whole party role-playing experience" and tie them to an encounter as an optional or integral condition of victory. Having a viable action for each party member each round shouldn't be limited to giving them some flashy at at-will powers. It should fully encompass all aspects of the gamer's character sheet.

IMO, a skill challenge is what "some" of the players do to support the "other" players in any relevant encounter. I tried to do this with my freshman effort . It isn't perfect, but look at the concept. A combat encounter that can be resolved by any combination of skill checks (under duress, lol.) or straight up brutality.

Does this fit anyone Else's ideal for a well balanced encounter? If you prefer pulping bad guys to flexing grey matter, more power to you. If you are like me, you want to put the efficiency of 4E combat to work. Here's how we do that.

  1. Choose your goal(s). - This may be as simple as kill all of your enemies, to capture the three princes alive, to snatch the pendant from around the vampire's neck.
  2. What is success? - Is there cake and champagne for all, or is it simply another battle won in a long war? Success should be measurable and satisfying.
  3. What is Failure? - Marilyn Manson once said "Without the threat of death, there's no reason to live at all." Even coming from a Pseudo-goth moron, the words have significance here. What's at stake? How does it affect the parties long-term plans? What about their immediate future?
  4. How hard should it be? This is the hardest part (IMO). Ideally, it should be no more difficult to use one's wits as force of arms. I have no answer to this yet, I've been winging it.
  5. What sub-systems/Rules should you use? - One of the most overlooked parts of a skill challenge is the ability to make the rules up! They are only specific to this one single encounter, so have fun with it! Look at the fishing challenge, my goal was to dump everyone in the drink at least once...I think I will succeed : )

As far as fitting a decent challenge into the story, a few examples come to mind;

  • An otherworldly beast trapped in a wizards summoning chamber. After killing it's summoner, it has free run of the tower, but cannot escape until it unravels the ritual itself. and will try to prevent the players from reaching widget X. somebodies need to distract it while the otherbodies try and complete the ritual.
  • A portion of the party stumbles into quicksand. As the remainder attempts to rescue them, a tribe of primitives attack. Under duress, the party must defend itself WHILE trying to save their trapped members.
  • A forgotten keep has been taken over by bandits/monsters/girl scouts. There are simply too many for the party to have any reasonable chance of success. The party must form a plan, and use their wits to infiltrate the castle and assassinate the leader. Sounds easy...until you see the fighter try and roll stealth.

I think that the 4E designers saw skill challenges as simply a break from combat. While this is a possibility, the inclusion of a skill based challenge AS PART OF a combat encounter has the most appeal to me.

My group come to my games to play their part in one of the few stories left that doesn't have an ending yet. They come to hear me spin flavor text. They come to try and out-wit me. They come to be a part of something bigger than the tedium of being a plain old person in the Bay area, Circa 2009 AD. As such, it is my honor to try and spin up the best possible stories and situations for them.

Dangling above a nigh bottomless pit, held only by the dragonborn fighter, you slip every time the enemy lands a blow upon her...(lol, 6 pulls before 3 slips).

Prying that damn gem out of the giant idol, while the rest of the group struggles to keep the tribes attention...(8 prys before 4 lame jokes?).

Sure you can do all of these things free-form, but is there any fun in it without a risk of failure? THAT is what skill challenges are supposed to be. The mechanical underpinnings you need to be able to roll the dice and play, however it falls.

I for one, love skill challenges. I have made them my own, and look forward to sharing my vision of them with you as I work my a$$ off to challenge my small group of Tri-Weekly escapists. The fruits of my labor will be posted here, with follow-ups as to how it actually worked. Until then, screw the book, this is the most houseruled game on the planet, take your game back!