Monday, June 21, 2010

'Cause I'm A Cheap Bastard

I have found that when I look at a RPG, I look at the number of books it takes to run it. Its a cost thing although I also think about how much material I will have to learn and remember to run a game. Why? Because I'm a cheap and lazy DM. I don't want to spend a lot of time or money to prep for a game session. Is that wrong? Its just that we do this stuff for fun and I don't think it should become like a second job.
I might have a chance to run a game for my local RPG group. And I'm thinking of running Swords & Wizardry. Its free to download (good), there isn't alot of pages (less ink and paper). I am also looking at Mazes and Minotaurs. Its also free but has a much higher page count with lots of supplementary material. And the rules are in colour. So its mor of a back burner project.
There can be may things to consider when picking a RPG to run. Economics (money and time) was not one I used to think of. I guess I'm getting old.

Friday, June 18, 2010

I Changed My Mind

Although I like the Shield Class (SC) system I came up with. My original goal was to rationalize the rules not change them. I was trying to make the OD&D rules work as written. Or at least the Swords & Wizardry version. I may still use the idea in a home brew rules system and I welcome anyone else to do so as well.
Taking another look Armour Class (AC) and what it could actually be, I realized that I need to look at hit points as well. If hit points lost in fight are not actual wounds and instead are bruising and fatigue. Then AC is not preventing you from being hit, it is protecting you from deadly wounds. In other words being armoured give a character acess to their hit points. It converts deadly wounds into fatigue and bruising. The shield is rated so low because it doesnt prevent fatigue loss. The impact from a hit carries through and causes minor damage like bruises and tires you. Its a big target and easy to hit. And hit points are not real damage. Of course there are some holes in this idea that need to be dealt with. Missile weapons and AC for unarmoured characters. Normal clothing could offer some protection and you are assumed to be fighting back and not unarmed. Non pentrating arrows can cause bruising. Also does Cure Light Wounds work on characters with positive hit points? If you think of the CLW as a general cure all spell then it does. This idea does allow for armour piercing weapons like firearms. For example, say any character dies at neagtive 6 points plus or minus constitution bonus. Firearm damage takes characters from zero down into negatives becuse its actual damage. Circumventing the function of armour. Another way to look at it is that every attack "hits" and you roll to wear down your target. Of course that also alters what a to hit bonus is (its not accuracy anymore).
It not perfect and logic. And like most rules it might not bear up to close examination. But it is workable I think.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Shield vs Armour switcheroo post 2

I think armour is over rated. If you get hit while wearing armour you almost always feel the blow. Sometimes there partial penetration of the armour. Armour doesn't prevent you from being hit, it prevents you from being killed. Or of dying from from your wounds. Take chainmail for example. It didn't stop any of the energy of a sword blow. It stopped the blade from cutting you. In the middle ages infection was the deadliest killer. You came away form a fight with brusing and maybe broken bones (which they did know how to heal). Not dying from bleeding out or getting some nasty rot in your wound. Armour was continually improved over time. But improvements in armour were matched with improved weapons. In fact the origin and popularity of some weapons can be traced to a specific armour type worn. Armour was an insurance policy against being dead. It was your last line of defence.
Now that I have hopefully shaken your faith in armour let me build your confidence in shields. Look at the shield. Its made of thicker stronger materials. It stands out away from you body with only your arm conecting it to you. By the way your arm is a good shock absorber. It covers your body and hides you form you enemies, they can see the shield but not you. Its portable cover. In melee comabat to avoid being hit you have to dodge. That requires room to manuver. With a shield you block. Without moving, stationary in place.
And now to put into game terms (for D&D at least). The no amour AC rating I think assumes room to move and dodge(remember the -4 AC penalty for being prone). The sheild only AC while being only 1 better than no armour doesn't require you to dodge. So if you are not wearing armour and not dodging your AC should be 13 (original scale) without a sheild and 8 with. Thats + 5 bonus. However the orignal AC chart shows leather alone to be one better than just a shield. So again the shield gets the shaft (pun alert). Why? Maybe because the shield is not something you wear. Its not custom made for you or fitted to your body. And it can be tossed away when damaged. So its temporary not like the more constant armour. Not very heroic. So whats wrong? Fighting with a shield is not the same as without so the AC chart has an apples and oranges problem. Another problem is that while the chart has a number of armour types there is only a single bonus for a shield. So all types of shields are lumped into one.
So now we have a bunch of armour types and only one shield. What if I reversed that. How about a number of shield types and one armour type. Oh no, cry the armour people. Plate armour protects better than chainmail, which is better than leather. I disagree. I would argue that better armour is more durable. Wthout going into details of weapon type vs armour type ala AD&D suffice to say armour and weapons keep pace with one another. So improved materials make the armour last longer. Taking a page from Mazes and Minotaurs where each piece of armour is separate I have an idea on how I want to do my Shield Class (SC) chart.
I picked three generic types of shields plus a bonus for helmet and armour. Using the original decending AC style. Here is my idea.

large shield ; hoplon or aspis or scutium -SC 4
medium shield; viking round or knight's heater -SC 6
small shield; strap on or bluckler -SC 8
bonus to SC for wearing armour -1
bonus to SC for wearing helmet -1

So a fighter in helmet and armour with a large shield would be SC 2 or AC 2 if you prefer.
Fighting without a shield means you will get hit alot more. But thats what hit points are for.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Historical proof of Gold to Silver exchange standard

While poking around on the internets I came across something interesting. I was looking up the history of coinage. I found an article on Electrum and its use in coins. Near the end of the article I found this;

Because of variation in the composition of electrum, it was difficult to determine the exact worth of each coin. Widespread trading was hampered by this problem, as cautious foreign merchants offered poor rates on local electrum coin.

These difficulties were eliminated in 570 BC when pure silver coins were introduced. However, electrum currency remained common until approximately 350 BC. The simplest reason for this was that, because of the gold content, one 14.1 gram stater was worth as much as ten 14.1 gram silver pieces.

Wow, historical basis for the 10 to 1 ratio of Silver to Gold coins in D&D. In my campaign world gold coins will really be made of electrum. Gold in its pure form is too valuable. Now players can't just melt down raw gold to make money (it happend once in a long ago game). Prices are more rational. Finally a coinage system that makes sense.
(ok bad pun)

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Shield vs Armour switcheroo

Many have commented on how in RPG's like D&D the shield seems to not account for much on the defence. Yet in the real world the shield was the earliest and most effective form of protection. It was part of the fighting man's arsenal from prehistoric times until when improvements in armour and firearms led to their decline. The sheild carries on even today in the hands of riot police. Anyone who has done SCA heavy fighting can tell you, its hard to get past a sheild. In D&D all sheild types and sizes are lumped into a single small bonus of 1 to your armour class. In an earlier post suggested alternative bonuses for size. But in the shower today (imagine that, a gamer who showers every day) I had a better idea. What if your AC was based on your shield type and armour worn was a bonus. The size and construction of your shield is taken into account ie a large wicker shield would not be as good as a small metal one. Armour would account for a smaller bouns to your AC based on type scalling up from simple cloth or padded all the way up to full plate. Full knightly plate could provide a large enough bonus that carring a sheild is now redundant (something that happened historically)
I will post some examples later.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Like the game, read the book

I have been slowly working through the insperational reading list from the 1st ed AD&D DM's guide. You know the one. Appendix N, pg 224 insperational and educational reading. Many times during play I visulized the action as something similar to movie or TV show. But the games' creators were more influenced by books than anthing else. After rediscovering the list in the DM's guide. I decided to try a few of the books from that list. It might help me better understand the game I thought. It did, really did. The original alignment system made so much more sense. I could understand just how Vancian magic came to be. They (the game designers) were trying to play in the world of the stories they read. As a story gamer that appealed to me.
During a lull in my reading a friend suggested I try some game based fiction. I had avoided it in the past based on the beleif that all game fiction sucks. I was wrong. I thought only grade B hacks with a MarySue complex wrote game fiction. And only Munckin cheese-doodle powergamers read and like it. I have this really bad habit of thinking that the more popular something is the more it sucks. And not only did my friend give a series from one of the most popular fantasy writers (R. A. Salvatore) but it was starring his most popular character (Drizzt). I grit my teeth and said ok. After only a few paraghaphs in the first book I knew I had been wrong all along. The insight I had gained from the books that inspired the game was about the rules. The books that the game inpired gave me insight on the characters. How they feel about the world they live in. How they react to magic. Or how they think about the gods of the realm.
All of this has help me in understanding in playing the game. And constructing the worlds in which to play. So if you like the game, read the book.