Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Roll20 is pretty cool (and my Scion campaign is a little creepy)

Of the four campaigns I'm currently GMing, only one of them is face-to-face. The other three all use Roll20 as an online host so I can game with friends in other states.

Roll20 is a pretty cool set of tools for running RPGs over the net. It's got audio, video and text chats, dice rollers and customizable tools (decks, charts, tokens, API scripts, etc) for automating your mechanics, and a virtual table top with live-updating for your maps and tokens. I'm pleased with it. It's still not quite as good as running a game in person, but the tools are good enough to almost consider using them instead of dice and minis at the tabletop. If you're going to be running a game online for some reason, I strongly recommend Roll20.

Here's a partial screen shot from yesterday's session.
The setting is Scion, but the rules are FATE. Tracking down a lead, the PCs broke into a Museum after hours. So I grabbed a map I found online of the Chicago Field Museum, and slapped it down on the virtual tabletop. The Curator of Antiquities had an eyepatch, so clearly that meant he was evil. :) They eventually caught him performing a creepy ritual with the bodies of mummified children, about which I had prepared a virtual handout with some disturbing images.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Skaven can't hit the broad side of an inn

My party of 4 PCs in the Warhammer Fantasy campaign tore through over 30 skaven last session.  Dead ratmen were scattered all around the inn they'd been staying at. Most of those were wimpy skavenslave henchmen, but it was still impressive. Even counting each stack of 4 henchmen as a single NPC, they were still outnumbered by 3-to-1 or so. Only two of the PCs ended up wounded at all in the fight, and then only lightly. Well done, players!

It was kind of remarkable just how badly the dice hated the skaven. Their basic "Cheap Shot" attack includes a Chaos Star trigger that lets the target make a free counter-attack. Again and again the skaven kept rolling this result, and each time it resulted in multiple dead henchmen in the middle of the skaven's turn. It was brutal.

A couple weird observations about specific skaven subtypes in the 3rd Edition of WFRP:
  • Stormvermin aren't nearly as tough as I imagined them to be. They only get one action card beyond the basics, which limited their ability to hit well. They had good dice pools on the attack, but since I chose an action with a large recharge rating, it only got to fire off once in the whole fight. That particular one action ended up paired with a bad die roll, so it accomplished very little. They do have a lot more armour than lesser skaven do... but it turns out it's not enough extra for it to actually matter. 3 of the 4 Stormvermin ended up being one-shot kills, IIRC.  Instead of being added challenge, it just meant the PCs didn't waste any unused damage points.  At least the PCs got to be bad-ass monster-killers. That's okay.
  • Poison Wind Globadiers are incomplete to the point of being unusable as-written. They have stats in the Creature Guide and Creature Vault, but no actions. The implication being the GM is expected to just have them use Basic Ranged Attack and their DR of 3. That means you'd be representing a vial full of poison gas as just a normal (kinda weak even) single-target attack that technically doesn't even use the Poison effect. It's odd. As written, their protective gear doesn't actually protect them from their own weapon either, since it only uses normal damage and no resilience checks. I realized the day before the game that there's no card representing the Globadier's weapon / action, so I cobbled something together.  It wasn't perfect, but it worked well enough for a single encounter. It was certainly the only real threat in this particular fight.

Memo to Myself: I probably need to make my PCs take Easy (1d) Corruption tests at the start of the next session. I posted the action above to the Warhammer Forums and got an immediate response of "don't the books say that one of the ingredients in the Poison Wind Gas is Warpstone?" Oops, yep, the books do say that.

  • I specifically chose not to use the Clan Skryre tracking sheet during this battle, because in general the monster's "Party Cards" never matter. They all rely on progress trackers that are 7 or 8 spaces long but only advance 1 space per turn. Fights are usually over in 2 or 3 turns, so it's not typically worth it. This time, though, the fight was actually a little longer than normal, and Chaos Stars advance the track. I actually kinda regret not using it.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Steal These Cards

As mentioned in my previous post, I spent part of the holiday break converting 2nd Ed Warhammer Spells into 3rd Ed Warhammer Spells and Blessings.

Here's a present for your local Priest of Ranald:

Click for a larger image.

Converting Ranaldian lore into 3rd Ed blessings was a little tricky. Between Ranald and his related god Handrich, there's a ton of redundant "bonus to Haggle check" spells in 2nd Ed that mostly weren't individually powerful, but could quickly get out of hand if the GM let them stack. I certainly don't want to convert them all, so I've tried to expend energies on only the most interesting ones and build in mechanisms to prevent them from stacking.

Eye of Ranald is a loose conversion of the 2nd Ed spell of the same name. I added the chaos-star line to make it feel like other Ranaldian blessings in 3rd Ed. Making it recharge at sunrise prevents the in-game economy from taking a beating.

Conveniently Open / Undeniably Open is a high-level conversion of Open. FFG had already made Open into Lockbreaker, but it was underwhelming. It let you roll Invocation + Fellowship instead of Skullduggery + Agility to open a lock, but gave you the same (nebulous) odds for lock-opening that you'd have if you did things by hand. Making this an Epic action gave me some freedom to make the effects more dramatic, and play with the differences based on stance. So the green side is Ranald arranging for the door to have been left unlocked, and the red side is Ranald forcing the door open for you.

Perfect Empathy is such a strange spell, and hardly feels like it should be in the Ranaldite repertoire. In 2nd Ed it was mainly a gigantic haggle-booster, which I nerfed because it would have broken the system. I left in the translation and interrogation aspects, because they're a heck of a lot more interesting than just saving you a few more silvers.

Rumour of Bounty is one of the more flavorful and interesting haggle-boosters in 2nd Ed, but the "reversed" version Rumour of Dearth seemed at first glance to be all but useless. Even in Warhammer FRP, how often are PCs actually merchants? Then it occurred to me, PCs always want to pawn or fence the crap they've looted from the battlefield and are never happy if the GM provides them with realistic pawn rates (5% to 20% of the retail price of the item). Now PCs can occasionally sell items for much more, provided they're willing to take the risks associated with a bad die roll.

I ended yesterday's Bright Order article with a list of other spells I may eventually convert. For Ranald, I'm afraid I don't really have a list. The only remaining spell I'd dream of converting is Trapsense, and that was technically redone by FFG as the terribly underpowered Gut Instinct.

I have, however, made a "Pilgrimage of Fingers" card for Ranald worshipers. I nearly posted it here, but it uses the "Secret Society" rules from Liber Ecstatica / Lure of Power, and that system very specifically states those cards are for secret tracking by the GM, and the PCs shouldn't know what benefits they are getting until they earn them. Effectively, they provide a plot line that helps the GM track how fast the character progresses on the "Quest" and what rewards they get for doing so.

Friday, January 10, 2014

New Spells From Old

One of the things I've done over the holiday break is make some new action cards for my Warhammer 3rd Ed campaign. The first several were loose conversions of 2nd Edition spells into 3rd Edition spells and blessings.  Here's some Bright Order spells I (re)made:

Click for a larger version.
Choleric Provocation is roughly a lighter version of "Choleric" from 2nd Ed's Realms of Sorcery. In the original, you got to choose who they were angry at, but they also got a lot of extra willpower rolls to try to shrug it off and would only actually attack if they really blew the test. I made it simpler and more elegant, but it lost some of the raw power in the translation. This seemed like a serviceable compromise.

Flashcook was pretty minor in 2nd Ed, where all it did was cook your food. However, I felt the precedent set by the Halfling Chef's meals enabled a 3rd Ed version of Flashcook that would actually be worth the XP.  So, here's a Flashcook that aids later Recovery checks. Cantrip can't do that. To eliminate excessive die-rolling, I made it possible to cook food for the whole party in one roll, and made sure it didn't stack with itself. It's just Rank 1, so it's not particularly potent, but healing is one of those areas where every little bit helps... maybe I should cut the power cost in half so you could make a banquet in a single roll?

Hearts of Fire is probably the best one in the group here, being much easier to use than the version in 2nd Ed. The problem with the old spell was you had to know in advance that you would be needing to take Fear tests, and cast no more than 10 minutes before the encounter. That wasn't likely to happen very often, so the solution was to make it a Reaction. For a relatively modest 4 power, you're getting bonus dice on the whole party's Fear checks, and giving them something useful to do with Boons on those rolls.

Soothing Red Wind is more or less a conversion of Shield of Aqshy, which had already been roughly converted by FFG into Shielding Winds of Aqshy. In the process, they changed the nature of the spell, instead of being protection from fire it was magical armour. It felt like "fire doesn't burn me" was totally a thing that Fire Mages ought to be able to do, so I made a card for it. Making it a Reaction frees up the caster to not have to anticipate the need nor waste a turn casting. The total damage or fatigue prevented is pretty small, but that's actually in keeping with the scale of the existing location and condition cards. It won't invalidate the dangers of a dragon, but it will let you escape from a burning building or most miscasts.

Other Bright Order Spells that I may convert down the road if I find time:
  • Boiling Blood and/or Breathe Fire: Bright Mages really don't need more single-target kill spells, but these at least have interesting visuals to go with them. If I can think of a way to make them interesting instead of redundant, maybe I'll take a stab at them.
  • Burning Vengeance and/or Consuming Wrath: Spells that make people angry and violent. If there's elegant ways to make them distinct from each other, Choleric Provocation, and all those many "white die to certain rolls" actions FFG made, I just might convert them one day.
  • Cauterize: FFG already converted this one, but basically made it an unreliable healing spell that's not worth it unless you have Spell Mastery (or your GM hasn't read the Player's Guide and still lets you spam-cast healing spells). In 2nd Ed, it was a reliable way to save the life of a mortally wounded ko'd character, but it did no actual healing. Also, you could use it to brand people. I've got my eye on it.
  • Inextinguishable Flame: Technically FFG already converted it (into Unquenchable Flame), but the duration of their version is in mere actions (not weeks or months), so a higher-level version that fixes that flaw would be a lot more useful.
  • Ruin and Destruction: This was also technically converted by FFG (into Destructive Fires) but their version takes 8 turns to accomplish, and is thus useless during a fight. So, maybe a faster Rank 5 version is in order? I'm not certain.
  • Taste of Fire: It made booze stronger and food spicier. So, it'll probably just stay "cantrip" unless I can think of some elegant way to make that useful in-game.