Thursday, March 13, 2014

Project Spark, and What it Means for DnD

Project Spark is an upcoming game-creation video game, in which users are able to design their own video games of any genre and a wide range of visual styles. I haven't played the game, but I've seen a few videos, and heard a lot about what is possible using its engine. People have created traditional video game RPGs, puzzle games, 2-D scrollers, first-person shooters, the whole wazoo. We're looking at incredible flexibility that allows ordinary people to make very complex programming and design decisions without needing to actually write the code themselves.

Here are a few relevant videos of what people can do with Spark:
Demo at E3, rapid creation of a combat-oriented RPG with full scenery:
Tetris built from scratch:
Tower defense built from scratch:
Five excellent and diverse game designs:
Raw character design in-game:

Since Project Spark is still in its Beta, anything in this post is going to be a lot of speculation. But if Project Spark can follow through on what it promises, I think that Dungeons and Dragons will suddenly have a host of amazing tools at its disposal.

People have been using computers to solve computation-heavy D&D problems for a while, usually for things like random tables, or in the notable case of Alexis over at Tao of D&D, massive trade tables that result in dynamic equipment lists. Project Spark should be able to take these tools to a whole new level.

Here are some ideas that shouldn't be terribly difficult to implement, but could have serious effects on D&D gameplay:

COMBAT - being able to set up a REAL video-game version of your combat is every D&D players dream. You can adjust the rules to work exactly like your miniatures-based combat, but with high-quality visuals and easy manipulation of scenery.

CHARACTER - all Players can have distinct visuals for their characters. All NPCs can have faces. Obviously these are limited by the amount of time you can put in (or that someone else has put in elsewhere, people on Project Spark can share their games and designs).

WORLD CREATION - how does a manipulatable enormous computer hex-map sound to you? Again, Alexis is way ahead of the curve with his enormous project of hex-mapping the world on various publishing software, but I think this could make things easier to implement.

ITEMS - visuals and models for items anywhere you want. You'd have the ability to create randomly generated treasure, in real lairs. Again, sharing of models is going to be huge here. A way to usefully exchange tools is a huge part of why I think Project Spark has serious potential. Also, I believe a long time ago Alexis pitched the idea of having visual representations of wear and tear on individual items, giving them life and sentimentality. Everything is game here.

Those are the first few ideas that pop into my head. Without speculating as to whether Spark can completely replace the speaking, table-top nature of D&D, we're at least going to get a TON of potential tools to enhance our game, and make it as rich as we want.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Religious Affinity

When encountering a new religion, roll an exploding d6 (re-roll sixes and add them to the total until you stop rolling sixes). This is your affinity with the religion, how strongly it speaks to you, and how powerfully its gods, spirits, rituals, etc. affect you.

1: you can't stand this religion, it makes you sick, as do all its followers, for whatever reason
2-4: uninterested, just another thing people do
5: hm, this is sort of interesting, I might want to take a closer look, oh isn't that charming!
6: you can't roll a six (re-roll and add)
7-10: strongly consider immediate conversion, there's something here speaking to you!
11: you can feel the truth of this religion in your bones, you might even want to become a leader someday of this faith
12: you can't roll a twelve
13-17: You are a "prodigy" of sorts, already knowing the rituals, the words, the community, immediately at home and maybe even access to some silly little miracles or divine knowledge!
18: you can't roll an 18
19+: you only have to take a step to start walking the road of a saint, frequent dreams of the faith's figures, etc., you might even get to have a Greater Miracle in your life someday...

Mostly to be used as a guide, for a little spontaneous religious motivation.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Combat Fun

Basics of ANOTHER combat system. This is a response to Charles Taylor's post on his blog, Spells and Steel.

Relevant stats:


For a fighter, attack is a bonus equal to level. Effort is a pool, from which you spend points. Fighters get 6 + constitution bonus at first level, 1d6 + constitution every level thereafter. Defense is 12 + dexterity bonus.

Before you are attacked, you may spend a number of Effort points to increase your Defense against that single attack. You may spend up to 5 Effort points per attack. This maximum increases periodically as the fighter gains levels.

The attacker then rolls a d20 and adds Attack. If the result is equal to or greater than the Defense, the attack hits. Damage from melee weapons adds Strength bonus, damage from ranged adds Dexterity bonus. Damage directly decreases Constitution. If you take at least half your current Constitution in damage, you are stunned for 1 round.

Armor acts as limited additional Constitution points. It gets worn away by damage before your Constitution does. Any damage to armor must be repaired later.

A natural 20 automatically hits, ignores armor, and deals maximum damage.

Resting for little while will return any spent Effort.

If you are not carrying a weapon suitable for parrying, you must spend 2 Effort points for every 1 increase in Defense.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The Bell Curve Experiment

Consider the range of 3-18, produced by 3d6. Generally speaking, lower is worse, higher is better. Any particular action requires a roll of 3d6. A result of 9-12 indicates the "expected" result, whatever that may be. 3 is the worst possible outcome, indicating a rare and notable disaster occurring, while 18 is the inverse.

This roll can be used to resolve anything. Is there a hiding place nearby? Can I make an impromptu crossbow? How large is that army? How good is this armor? How far can I jump?

Skill (or lack thereof) is represented by rolling more than 3 dice and keeping the highest or lowest scores respectively. This could be a range of -5 to +5, say. A particularly skilled thief may roll 6d6 (that is, +3 dice) and keep the 3 highest when sneaking about. Contested rolls would be made by either party, the roll consisting of subtracting one entity's skill from the other (e.g. two men arm wrestle, one with +1, the second with +3. If the first makes the roll, it is 5d6 keep the 3 lowest. If the second makes the roll, 5d6 keep the highest; they are symmetrical, and the results are relative the roller's interests).

For any given question asked, action taken, or detail implemented, the DM need only define the expected outcome, then roll to find the deviation from this outcome.

I would group the results into the following 7 categories:

3 disastrous
4-5 severe
6-8 unfortunate
9-12 expected
13-15 fortunate
16-17 grand
18 miraculous

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Cleric Spells

Any saving throws required by a spell at made with a penalty equal to the spell’s level.

The cleric must pray for an hour in the morning to gain his spells. After this, the cleric may cast any spell he knows as many times as he likes, subject to the following limitations:

In order to successfully cast a spell, the caster must roll 2d6. The results of the roll indicates what occurs with the spell. Only one spell may be cast each round. Some spells may be cast instantly or in reaction to an event. This does not remove the one spell a round limitation.

<0 Wrathful Deity: cleric may not cast any more spells this day, and his deity takes punitive action. Roll on the Wrath Table
<3 Failure: cannot cast spell again until the next day
3-5 Marginal Success: spell goes off at end of round, spell cannot be cast again till next day
6-8 Success: Spell goes off at end of round
9-11 Success: spell goes off at start of round
12+ Superb Success: Spell has maximum effect

This roll is modified by several factors. The most important is that every attempt to cast a spell adds a cumulative -1 to the roll. These penalties dissipate once the caster rests for the night.
-1 to roll for every spell cast since rest
+1 to the roll per character level
-1 to the roll for spell level
+1 to the roll per point of statistic bonus

[The above is pillaged almost exactly from -C's Players' Guide to Numenhalla, available here]

A cleric with a wisdom of at least 13 gets an additional first level spell at first level. A cleric with a wisdom of at least 16 gets an additional second level spell at fourth level, and a cleric with a wisdom of at least 18 get an additional third level spell at seventh level.

First Level

The cleric can fill friends and foes alike with divine awe. The cleric’s head shines with a holy light, and all who can see him within 30 feet must make a will saving throw or be stunned for 1d2 rounds as they reel in wonder.

Allies within 30 feet who are the same religion as you increase damage by 1 step and get +1 on any non-combat rolls for 10 minutes. This effect does not stack if cast multiple times.

You issue a one-word command to a creature, which it must obey for the following 10 seconds (1 round). A will saving throw negates this. “Die” makes them fall asleep. Must be within earshot.

A being within 20 feet becomes unable to take any movement actions, unless they succeed at a fortitude save. They may make the attempt again every round until they succeed.

You may instantly repair 1 wound on a person. You can also ease the suffering of a serious wound, causing it to heal 1 day faster than it otherwise would have, though the effect of the wound remains.

For one hour after casting this spell, the cleric’s words are taken more seriously than they might otherwise be.

You may use this spell to note peculiar combinations of numbers that are rolled on dice (mark them down somewhere). These numbers are now meaningful in some way. Whenever they come up in the future, you may ask the DM the significance of the numbers appearing, and gain some divine insight related to this.

You may coat yourself or an ally in divine armor. This increases Damage Reduction by 1, but only against melee attacks. Lasts for 5 rounds. Does not stack with multiple uses.

You may purify food and water for 1d6 people. This eliminates any poison, disease, or parasites.

The cleric’s weapon becomes imbued with the colors of their god, and they may increase their damage die by 1 step. This effect lasts 3 rounds, and may not be used against a member of the same religion (though it does work against heretics).

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Mage Spells

All mage spells have a charge effect and a release effect. Charge effects are either passive auras or abilities that may be used at will until the spell is released in its natural form, and may be either beneficial or a hindrance. Once the mage has used a spell’s release effect, he may not use that spell again (charge or release) until he has rested for one night and restored the energies to his person. Restoring the energies thusly requires an intelligence check minus the spell’s level. The mage may attempt to restore the energies of a number of spells per night equal to his intelligence modifier, with a minimum of 1.

A mage may attempt to use a known spell without its energies being present. When attempting this, roll a d6. For first or second level spells, a 2-6 indicates success. For third or fourth level spells, a 3-6 indicates success, and for fifth and sixth level spells, a 4-6 indicates success. Wound penalties apply to this roll. On a failure, the spell has backfired. Roll on the backfire table and apply the results.

If a save is relevant, the target receives a penalty on their save equal to the level of the spell.
All spells require 2 movement points to cast unless otherwise noted (this applies to both charge and release). Spells cast during a round are only activated at the end of the round (after everyone has acted). During the intervening time, the caster is subject to their spell being disrupted. Any damage the caster takes requires a will saving throw with a penalty equal to the damage or else the spell is lost.

Spells require arcane hand motions and arcane speech of at least normal speaking volume. It will be obvious to all present that a spell is being cast, though they will have no idea which spell. This has a tendency to make people nervous at the very least, and occasionally violent.

Casters with intelligence of at least 13 gain an additional first level spell at first level (chosen). Casters with intelligence of at least 16 gain an additional second level spell at third level (chosen). Casters with intelligences of at least 18 gain an additional third level spell upon reaching 5th level.

First Level

Charge: Objects adhere to the caster’s skin. It grips with a strength of 2.

Release: The mage can bind together two objects with magical force. The two act as though held together by a strength equal to the mage’s strength plus his caster level. This lasts a number of minutes equal to caster level. At 8th level and higher, the mage may choose to have the effect be permanent.

Charge: The mage gets a +1 bonus to persuasion attempts.

Release: A single target considers the mage to be a close friend, and interprets all actions in the most favorable way possible. This lasts a number of hours equal to the mage’s level, or until the mage or his allies directly harm the target. A successful will save negates.

Charge: The caster’s height increases by 1d6 inches (afterwards, this is constant until the spell is released). His weight is unchanged, and he thus looked stretched and unnatural if examined too closely.

Release: The caster may make an object or being larger by up to 25% per caster level. If cast on an unwilling being, a will saving throw negates. Weapon damages increase by 1 step every 50% increase, though they require larger and larger beings to wield them.

Charge: The caster may see twice as far and clearly as he is normally able.

Release: The caster may painlessly remove his eye and have it float about independently. He can see what the eye sees. The eye lasts for a number of hours equal to his caster level. If it has not been returned by that point, it falls lifeless and cannot be replaced until the caster restores the spell’s energy.

Charge: Birds do not fear the mage, though abusing this trust may lead to a general spitefulness from all birds.

Release: An object or person falls to the ground as lightly as a feather. This spell may be cast without expending any movement points or taking any time, but the caster must succeed at a dexterity check to do so (failure indicates the spell is lost).

Charge: The caster has minor control over fires, making them form strange shapes and quelling or feeding them to a limited extent (candles can be put out, torches go out 1 in 4, fires grow faster, etc).

Release: A given fire suddenly explodes or immediately goes out. Explosions spread outward 10 feet, and deal 1d6 damage, or 2d6 in the case of particularly large fires. The caster may put out any fire up to the size of a large campfire, or significantly dampen a bonfire. Large areas of a burning building may be made safe in this way as well.

Charge: The mage unconsciously draws the visual attention of all those around him, through no describable mechanism.

Release: The mage can produce a perfect visual illusion of 10 sq ft per caster level, of anything he desires. The form can be as specific as desired, though the caster must know what the illusion actually looks like. A will save negates, observers to see faintly see the illusion, and also that concealed beneath. The illusion lasts for 1 minutes per caster level.

Charge: The mage may move any object within sight that weighs less than a pound as he desires, as though it were a minor form of telekinesis. Particularly coordinated actions may require a dexterity check at -4. Only one object may be moved at a time.

Release: The mage may throw an object in an uncoordinated fashion weighing up to his level x 100 lbs in weight. The object can be moved or thrown 5 feet in a given direction. This distance can be modified proportionally by fractions of the weight attempted (A first level caster attempting to move a 500 lb object could move it 1 foot, or a 50 lb object 10 feet). The maximum distance is 100 feet, the minimum is half a foot (therefore, a first level mage cannot move any object weighing more than 1000 lbs any distances at all). The object must begin within 20 feet of the caster.

Charge: The mage is surprised more often, from 2 in 6 to 3 in 6. The same applies to ambushing.

Release: The mage specifies a field of interconnected hexes equal to his caster level. Any beings moving through this field must expend 2 movement points to move one hex, as their legs muscles spasm and weaken in the field. The field lasts for 2d6 rounds.

Charge: The mage deals 1 additional damage when throwing items.

Release: The mage leaps, 1d6 + intelligence modifier in hexes. An exchange of one hex for 5 vertical feet is permitted. The number of feet leapt is not rolled until the leap occurs.

Charge: The caster’s hair and nails glow slightly, and are apparent in the darkness.

Release: A touched object is infused with daylight. Everything in a 15 foot radius appears to have a sourceless light shining on it. The line between illuminated and dark is sharp; on one side, daylight, on the other, no illumination. Beings outside the sphere can also see the daylight shining on the objects within the sphere. This effect lasts for 1 hour per caster level. The caster may split hours between different objects as he pleases (1 hour minimum).

Charge: The mage is functionally ambidextrous.

Release: The movement of two touched, non-living objects is permanently linked. Both objects may weigh no more than 1 pound each. The two attempt to follow the movement of the other with a strength of 3. If they cannot follow one another’s movements, they press against barriers until they have enough free space to act as their partners.

Charge: The caster can write in ink with mere hand gestures, no materials required.

Release: The caster can transmit whispered messages into the ears a being within sight. The communication is one-way. The ability lasts for one minute per caster level, though the caster must be able to see the target the whole time for the effect to work.

Charge: Objects on the caster’s person have a tendency to fall apart. Every time the caster does anything that could in any conceivable way cause an item on their body to break, roll a d6. On a 1, a random item breaks.

Release: The caster releases small streaking meteors of condensed entropy at his foes. These missiles strike unerringly, as long as the caster could see his target when he cast the spell. Each deals 1d6 damage and automatically wounds if it deals any damage at all (a strike that would have been a wound is still just a single wound). At every level divisible by 4 the caster gains another missile, which may strike another target or the same.

Charge: The caster may polish items to a nice sheen with a simple hand gesture.

Release: The caster may repair a small item (could fit within the caster’s torso) that was broken in the last number of days equal to caster level.

Charge: The caster does not get wet from regular rainfall, though torrents still affect him.

Release: The caster may choose one person within 20 feet to be shielded. If the target is struck by a ranged weapon, roll a d6. On a 4 or higher, the shot is entirely deflected. On a 3 or less, the caster takes damage as normal. On a 1, the shield is broken and the spell ends. This effect lasts for 2 rounds per caster level.

Charge: The caster gains a +2 bonus to resisting poisons.

Release: A target of 6 HD or less within 20 feet must succeed at a fortitude save or be swept with terrible nausea, retching and becoming disoriented for 1d4 rounds. During this time, they must succeed a dexterity check or drop any items held, and can take no action but movement. They may still dodge, but doing so deals them 1 damage from staggering during the attempt.

Charge: The caster needs only sleep for 3 hours a night, instead of the usual 6.

Release: The caster may choose up to 6 HD of creatures, distributed as he pleases, within 30 feet. All those affected must succeed at a will save or immediately fall asleep. The sleep is very deep and peaceful, and only pain or extraordinarily loud noises will wake them. The sleep lasts for 1 hour if uninterrupted.

Charge: The caster’s shouts are magnified in volume.

Release: The caster may perfectly imitate a known sound of a volume up to a shout. The sound may last up to 1 minute, and can come from a desired point within 40 feet. A successful will save reveals the illusion.

Charge: The caster’s voice is soothing and pleasant to listen to.

Release: The caster may speak and understand a chosen language for 5 minutes per caster level. This spell also allows limited communication with birds and beasts. The caster is not able to read the chosen language, however.

Thursday, May 2, 2013


This post is essentially a dissection of the encounter table. I have difficulty making straight encounter tables that work well for me, so I'm always tinkering with new ideas.

Roll 3d6. This number simultaneously represents both how unusual an event is and how noticeable; we'll call this its Subtlety. 3 and 18 are equally rare, but 18 is very discreet, while 3 is exceedingly obvious. 10 and 11 are the most mundane occurrences. A quick chart, with chance of occurrence and examples (obviously tailored toward a city environment):

3 (.5%) - an open murder, a flash flood, a building collapsing
4 (1.4%) - a hanging, a lynch mob
5 (2.8%) - a public fight
6 (4.6%) - a rich man with his entourage, a skilled bard playing
7 (6.9%) - a mad man talking to himself, a street preacher sermonizing
8 (9.7%) - a servant being whipped
9 (11.6%) - a drunk swaying down the street
10 (12.5%) - a beautiful person, a heated conversation
11 (12.5%) - a deformed beggar
12 (11.6%) - a wanted poster
13 (9.7%) - a merchant selling unusual wares
14 (6.9%) - a woman being beaten in her home
15 (4.6%) - an expensive item hidden on a person
16 (2.8%) - a man passing by linked to his wanted poster
17 (1.4%) - a pedestrian with backwards hands
18 (.5%) - a secret message from assassin to assassin

Let's say that in a bustling, vibrant city, we want a 3 (a striking and rare event) to occur about once a month. Statistically, if we roll on the above chart seven times a day, we will roll a 3 about once every 30 days. So, we can now organize our city's (or any environment's) vibrancy by the number of times per day we roll on the chart.

7 times/day: Large, bustling city (3 rolled once a month)
6 times/day: City
5 times/day: Large Town (3 rolled once every 40 days)
4 times/day: Town
3 times/day: Large Village (3 rolled once every 2 months)
2 times/day: Village
1 time/day: Hamlet (3 rolled once every 200 days)

It's a simple task to make this chart work for traveling hexes as well. Just determine how interesting the given hex is and roll a number of times. In general, deeper wilderness is more interesting, more infrastructure is less interesting (until we hit larger settlements, that is).

Assassins and thieves can roll 1d6 and add this to their wisdom when checking what they notice in an urban environment. Scouts can add 1d6 while in the wilderness.

For a traveling party, whether the party knows about the encounter ahead of time is important. If moving in a line, each character has a penalty to their wisdom equal to their distance from the front of the line (1st position at -0, 2nd position at -1, 3rd at -2, etc.). Then use the resulting highest wisdom. Remember that scouts may add 1d6.

This system is heavy on improvisation. The chart will tell you the rarity of the event, but no particulars about it. Right now, I'm experimenting with breaking down encounters into three categories: Subtlety/Rarity, Type, and Reaction. We've covered the first, obviously. Type can be pretty simple. Here's an example for the wilderness:

1 - Human/demi-human
2 - Humanoid
3 - Monster
4 - Location
5 - Wilderness event
6 - Animal
7 - Resource
8 - Roll again twice

For Reaction, I'm a fan of keeping things simple. For wilderness, roll 2d6 and keep the lower, in civilization keep the higher:

1 - actively seeks to harm
2 - suspicious
3-4 - ignores
5 - curious
6 - friendly

We roll three sets of dice for a wilderness encounter, and we can know how unusual that event is, how difficult to notice it is, what it concerns, and how dangerous or helpful it is. A wilderness example:

Type: Location
Subtlety/Rarity: 6
Reaction: 1

We have a rather unusual (4.6% chance), very obvious, very dangerous place in the wilderness. Off the top of my head, this could be an old haunted battlefield, an avalanche-prone section of mountains, or a poisonous salt marsh.

Another example:

Type: Humanoid
Subtlety/Rarity: 12
Reaction: 3

Ordinary humanoids not givin' a damn. Perhaps some goblins just trying to celebrate their harvest in peace.

Tell me what you think.