Friday, August 24, 2012

Let's Play Labyrinth Lord!

Hi, a quick post today just to let people know that I have a Labyrinth Lord (B/X D&D retro-clone) game on the online RPG Table, and I still have a couple of slots open!

If you ever played on the old Wizards VT, basically when they decided to drop it, the company that developed it picked it up. The great news is that it is free to play; the rules are also free to download.

We meet kind of loosely on Fridays at 8 pm EST (GMT-5). Once you have registered above, you can join the game here. Full details on the game, including character creation rules, can be found here at the online retro-game Wizards group.

Anyways, if anybody is interested in checking it out, even for a session, it would be cool! Have a great weekend!

P.S.-Don't forget to check out the 4e Forever playtest if you haven't already!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Memorable Mechanics Part 5: Poison

Hello, hello! Before I get started, I really want to thank readers for the response to the first 4e Forever playtest. That post quickly became my most viewed of all-time, and I have gotten lots of feedback. It is much appreciated! If you haven't checked it out yet, it is free to download, and I would love to hear your "two cents". I had the pleasure of running an online game with some folks and it was a sight to see 20+ PCs and henchmen take on 40 Giant Ants!

I haven't made a post in the "Memorable Mechanics" series in a while, but thought I might share some of my recent ideas regarding Poison in 4e.

In the old days, poisonous creatures were feared and dreaded. In fact, if I was playing, and I knew a creature was poisonous, I would likely yell to the party to run. Why? Well, one bite could mean death. Since that time, the history of poison in D&D has been one slow, gentle retreat from the cruelties of yore. Nowadays, there are only a few points of light in the 4e community and blogosphere that feature anything approaching save or die mechanics.

Now, I do not want to go back to insta-death from poisons, but I do want to bring a healthy fear of poison back to the game. To do that, I first wanted to differentiate between common "poison damage", and capital-letters-run-like-hell Poison. As you know from this blog series, I want to add memorable mechanics to games. Even if it goes badly for your PC, things are a lot easier to take if you died a spectacular or memorable death. I also like 4e conditions a lot; as I have mentioned before, I like the codified nature of them, how they are the same table to table. So, my thought was to come up with a "Poisoned" condition. Something not quite "save or die", but still "run like hell".

As I was thinking about bringing this idea into my 4e Forever project, I realized that if I gave EVERY Giant Snake and Centipede the ability to poison PCs, it would be too much. So I decided to make "poisoning" a daily, perhaps weekly, ability for a creature. Once they have "spent" their poison, it has to have time to build back up. The determination of whether a creature is currently "poisonous" is left to random chance, partly because I am always looking for any excuse to make a random roll. So for example, if a Giant Rattlesnake is encountered, there may be a 2 in 6 chance that it is currently poisonous.

So what is the "Poisoned" condition?

Poisoned (edit): A poisoned creature is weakened, slowed, and grants combat advantage (save ends all). If the creature is not currently bloodied, its hit points also drop to their bloodied value. On each failed saving throw, the creature's hit points drop to zero.

I am really digging this! I hope you like it too! If you have any thoughts, leave a post, and thanks again to everyone for checking out the playtest!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

4e Forever Playtest!!! Check it out!


I am very happy to be able to share with you a short playtest of some material from my upcoming FREE zine, 4e Forever. It includes the new stat block! Please check it out and follow the instructions if you can! You should be able to finish it in one session. Even if you cannot playtest the material, I would still like to hear your thoughts. Oh, and there's a new Savage in there too!

4e Forever Playtest 1

*EDIT 8/9- I made some small edits and have re-upped it. I clarified some rules questions I had received regarding henchman initiative, savages, skills, etc, as well as made a few edits to the stat block to help its readability, something else I had some comments on. Please keep the comments coming! Thanks! 

Monday, August 6, 2012

The Hybrid Stat Block: Special Attacks

Welcome to the final installment of my series on my new hybrid stat block for 4e monsters. This is basically an alternate stat block for 4e that incorporates classic edition statistics, and it will be used in my upcoming zine, 4e Forever. Today we look at the way the stat block presents powers.

I love the clarity of the 4e stat block. I love the way powers are basically coded so that anyone can understand them. On the flip side, I also love the more conversational, narrative tone that classic edition monsters were presented with. It might seem that these two approaches are too incongruous to work together. However, I think they can, given a few considerations.

As readers of my blog have noticed in previews of my monster design, I am all about an "attack routine". I like multi-attacks as a fix to 4e's lack of high-level encounter balance, and I LOVE me some old-school Claw/Claw/Bite action, so it should come as no surprise that my 4e Forever monsters typically have a go-to attack routine consisting of multiple attacks. Simultaneously, I have also previewed and shown how I am working with variable encounter levels, and groups of the same monster. Both of these things make my new monsters very, very, easy for DMs to run, something that I am hoping will help speed up combat (along with Morale). You do not have to worry about multiple sets of statistics and a bunch of little powers here and there, hiding, spread out amongst 3 to 4 different monster types.

Since the monsters are easier to run, and since the DM is only having to look at one, perhaps two, different stat blocks for the entire encounter, I can afford to be slightly more conversational in tone with the powers. In other words, the simplicity of running the monster encounter groups allows for a more relaxed power presentation, without adding any extra prep time or difficulty to the DMs job. Now, I don't mean to make it sound too "loose", because it isn't. When I reveal the stat block later this week, you will see what I mean.

Now let's take a quick trip down memory lane. In 1e monster statistics, you have a couple of listings that I really wanted to include in my new block: Special Attacks, and Special Defenses. I decided to put a monster's primary attack routine under the listing "Attack". This listing also includes a creatures "basic attack", as its basic attack tends to be included in its primary attack routine. I also kept the "Traits" listing, used exactly the same way as it is in late 4e. Then, if needed, there are three other possible listings underneath "Attack". "Special Attacks" is used if a creature has any other attacks besides its primary attack routine and basic attacks; it also can include situational bonuses or tweaks to the primary attack routine. "Special Defenses" is used if a creature has a purely defensive power, i.e. one that does not include an attack. Finally, "Special Movement" is listed if a creature has a special power that is purely movement related.

This ends up looking and feeling very intuitive. I must say, I am quite happy with it. I still am a step or two away from revealing the complete block, however. This is because I am putting together a free playtest of some new material! This PDF will include a copy of the new 4e Forever stat block, along with three new monsters! Some basic rules (Morale, Henchmen), will be provided as well. I am trying to get it done as quickly as possible, and hopefully some of you gamers out there can run the monsters, using the variable encounter ranges, and let me know how it goes. More on this to follow! In the meantime, leave a post and let me know what you think!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Hybrid Stat Block: Alignment

Today we continue taking a look at my ideas for a classic edition/4th edition stat block for my upcoming 4e Forever project. We are getting very close to the end of the series. I have found it helpful to talk about my ideas here, and I feel it has been a good way to not only show some of the stats that will be listed, but also the philosophy behind including/excluding things. Today we tackle alignment.

Lots of folks love the way 1e did alignment, and lots of folks hate it. 9 alignments always felt like a lot to me, and I was never completely sold on the whole punishment thing for PCs that deviated from alignment. 4e simplified it considerably, but still ended up feeling a bit like "damaged goods" to me. For creature alignment in 4e Forever, my choice was easy: take it back to OD&D.

In the Men and Magic book in the OD&D set, alignment is handled in a pure, straightforward, non-mechanical manner. "It is...necessary to determine the stance the character will take: Law, Neutrality, or Chaos." Me likey. There is no other explanation, no in-depth analysis, no forced punishments. Just Law, Neutrality, and Chaos. It seems to me so much more grand to think in terms of law and order, entropy and chaos, rather than tired old good and evil. If you go back to Chainmail, Gygax states that, "It is impossible to draw a distinct line between 'good' and 'evil' fantastic figures." I wholeheartedly agree. I could speculate on why this later changed; maybe people playing supposedly chivalric knights that steal from the poor? Who knows? All I know is that it eventually went sour, at least in my opinion. By Eldritch Wizardry, Gygax was already showing signs of the (needless) complications to come.

Anyways, in Men and Magic it was pure. That is what I want. At first, I was tempted to not provide alignments at all, but I actually quite like the OD&D alignments, and they help provide a little old-school flavor. So there we have it!

Love it? Hate it? Please share any thoughts!