Wednesday 8 March 2017

TBH Rules Dev - Armor, Shields

Currently Armor is damage reduction through a pool of additional 'fake' HP called ArmorPoints. There are various semi-official ways of doing it differently out there - Additional Things has some. But I've always been uncomfortable with Armor Points. They don't play existing OSR content well, there's a barrier to conversion and playability. I pride myself on TBH being able handle anything you throw at it -- Just look at the sea of genre hacks! Cyberpunk, Fantasy, Horror, Cats. TBH does it all with ease -- but having to convert armor types for stuff blows.

In this hack I've kept Armor Points, but they function slightly differently -- as does the Warriors Shield Sunder. Big shout goes to +Mike Evans

  • Each Armor Point can be spent to ignore the damage of an attack
  • If you don't or can't spend an AP, you take damage/go OofA normally.
  • When you rest, roll a 'save' .. 1d6 for each Armor point, Each type has its save value. When you roll the save you regain the use of the AP.
  • When a piece of armor has no more AP - it is destroyed/damaged beyond usefulness.
  • Armor is available in 3 types, Light, Moderate, Heavy.

Lightly Armored - 1AP (save 2+)
Moderately Armored - 3AP (save 3+)
Heavily Armored - 5AP (save 4+)
Shield - 1AP (save 2+)

Shield Sunder is now Shield Bash

Shield Bash
When you are attacked in melee combat and your roll to defend is 1-5, the attacker takes damage equal to your level.


I like this system because it removes an unnecessary level of bean counting. If you're using armor to reduce damage, just reduce it all. We don't need a usage die - armor degrades over time as you fail its saves. It works well with monsters from existing modules and sources, just a judgement call on how well armored something is. Goblin. Lighly if at all. Black Dragon .. Heavily armored. Simple. I also like the new Shield Bash adds an extra things for a player to do reactively, thats always a win.

Feed me back.

Wednesday 1 March 2017

Additional Things - Doing Away with Hitpoints

So there s a couple of things you need to adress, if you want to get rid of Hitpoints. These are not fully formed rules, this, like much of the stuff i post to my blog is me thinking out loud. Expect gaps and inconsistencies. Also expect pearls of juicy rules wisdom - you might just have to string them into a necklace yourself.

Each class has a Vitality Die.

  • Conjurer - d6
  • Thief - d8
  • Cleric - d10
  • Warrior - d12
When they take damage, roll that Die and add the damage to the result. If the total roll is above the maximum you could roll on that die (12 on a d12 for example) you could do two potential things A) Reduce the die by one step. B) Go out of action - I think that totally sucks, but, its an option.. you could forgo the OofA roll and use the Surplus above the Die value. So. If your Vitality Die is 12 and you roll an 8 + 6 points of damage, you OofA roll would be 2.

The way armor works doesn't entirely mesh with this - it would need some work. Perhaps you use a low AP value, and just 'tick them off' ignoring hits? The same way the 'Sunder Shield' Warrior ability works? Perhaps you use them as damage reduction, reducing the modifier you roll? Who knows. More thought needed.

I'll revisit this at some stage this week - get something more solid.

Anyways. Enjoy!

Sunday 19 February 2017

Additional Things - Luck

Prompted by the excellent people and excellent conversation in TBH's G+ community here's my very quick, thinking-out-loud version of luck (that means no play testing and it could be well wonky). I might add that if this makes it into the next version of the black hack -- it will be optional -- hence the 'Additional Things' tag.


When the PC's do something dangerous, ask them, "Do you want to push your luck?"

If they say no. Resolve the dangerous thing as you would do normally. If they say yes, pass them a Luck Token. (I'll explain what that is a little later, but its good)

Now choose one of the following things to make the dangerous situation potentially even more dangerous or complicated.

  • Ask the Players to roll to see if there is a random encounter.
  • Make the PC's involved pass an additional test or take damage.
  • Have every PC involved roll a Usage Die.
  • Give them Disadvantage on the test they're about to take. 
  • Split the party.
  • Disarm the PC's involved.
  • The next reaction roll is rolled with 3d6 (instead of 2d6)
  • The next Initiative test will be with Disadvantage.

I'll likely finesse and add to that list. I want these things to be adaptable to any situation the PC's find themselves in (Social conflict, Exploration, Combat, etc) and have distinct mechanical hooks ie, they link to something that TBH does mechanically. Still some testing/work to do.

Luck Tokens

These are shared between the whole group, and can be used at any stage to automatically succeed at any test.

Additional thoughts - I think that you should use this sparingly, ideally I don't want the players having more than 1 or 2 Luck Tokens.Otherwise it would be too easy for them to just steamroller those really important moments. If its a scarce resource, tough decisions will have to be made when and where to use it. I'd probably start the group with one Luck Token, then once used, start thinking about offering them an opportunity to get it back.

Also consider when you offer to push their luck - I'd recommend dangerous situations that aren't life or death, but have the potential to really ramp-up the tension if they were to get more complicated. Climbing ropes, Balancing over thing beams, Sneaking ahead to scout and orc camp etc.

Anyways, that's it for now.


Saturday 18 February 2017

The Usage Die and why its isn't that great

So here's the thing. I see a lot of people introducing the Usage Die (UD) mechanic into their hacks and house-rules for things that really shouldn't be using it. The UD is great - its a really neat tool for making resource management fun, something I think a lot of other games do really badly, but, it isn't a one stop solution for plugging the perceived holes in your home-brew system. There's two good reasons why.

Risk vs. Reward
Mechanical Association.

First up is Risk vs Reward. One of the very interesting things the UD lets us do is inject tension and drama into a situations that typically aren't very tense or dramatic. Normally D&D goes "Oh, my wand of Stone to Flesh has 3 charges, sorry petrified 4th party member, you'll be staying a statue" Whereas TBH asks us to take a Risk by rolling that UD for every 'Zzap' of that wand. Will that 4th party member be brought back? Will we be Rewarded? Maybe. Hopefully. Suddenly a very 'routine' situation became fraught, transformed into an event where everyone at the table will be watching the dice - holding their breath.

Well that's good, lets create those moments for other elements of the game - you might be saying. And I agree that we should, but not not using the same tactics. In Horror films a jump scare is only effective when delivered with a certain pace and it's the same with the UD. If we overdo it's use that natural tension becomes routine again, acting in opposition to the UD strengths -- we aren't asking people to make interesting choices -- just roll more dice. That's run-of-the-mill. It could even get boring.

Second is Mechanical Association. This is important, but probably not considered so much, so think of it like this. When you pass GO. What do you do? I'm gonna bet you know the answer, and when you get a chance card or whatever that asks you to pass go and not collect $/£200 .. how much more interesting is that, due to the subversion of that readily identifiable mechanic. Its the same with consumable, limited things in TBH. When you use something like a wand, drink a potion, light a torch, fire a bow. What you do? A readily identifiable, unique and special thing.

So when we apply the UD to traps, hirelings, the weather, armor all these other things -- rather than what does that add to those game elements -- think about what does it take away from the things the UD is meant for. The distinction of what your meant to do and why you do it blurs, any subversion becomes meaningless because its not special.

Now of course you should feel free to mash up TBH's rules however you want, its your game. That's TBH's spririt. But next time you think about using the UD to model something, think at it from a different angle. Is there a way you can uniquely model this thing, giving it its own Risk vs. Rewards. It's own Mechanical Association? Roll the Usage Die on the Usage Die mechanic, I hope it comes up a 1-2.

Looking forward to the comments.


Thursday 2 February 2017

Having fun with Lockpicking (v2)

A loong time ago I posted this which dealt with Lockping, it was fun and made for a nice change of pace in the dungeon delving, but, it was far from perfect. I had to explain the rules, my old players helped me playtest it so they got it - but new players? Head-scratching commence. Time for something new.

This is based on a idea stolen from Warhammer Quest: Silver Tower box set. Its got some very D&D'able ideas.

When someone attempts to pick a trapped lock - rather than resorting to boring skills checks - take a playing card, (or if your a fancy pants like I am - draw a padlock on a bit of paper the same size.) and make a tower from 2d6 on it.

  • The player must pick up the card from the table with one hand without spilling the dice or touching them in order to spring the lock.
  • If they touch the dice, their lockpick is broken - the GM resets the challenge.
  • If they spill the dice, any trap on the lock is set off.
  •  EDIT: If they have no thieves tools plus there's no trap .. go through the same process and if they spill the dice the tumblers in the lock are jammed/frozen -- now the lock must be forced open with a STR check or some other creative method. 

Its very doable, but requires some patience .. and a bit of practice. Its a focus on very literal player skill that old schooler's bang on about, AND explaining the rules to the players takes about 30 seconds, so you don't have to worry about muddying the waters with games-within-games. #winning

Also! Make things easier/harder by stacking less/more dice. If players have fancy thieves tools - less dice, maybe if the lock is magical and enchanted you swap the playing card for a bigger thing? Have a play, you get the idea.

EDIT: In a conversation with the super talented +Karl Stjernberg its become clear that its the tension of failure that makes this mini game interesting. So, Im going to rule that thieves with appropriate tools can open any lock, given enough time. However i'll use this method if there's some time-sensitive thing going on OR if the lock is trapped. I'll probably still use the method above if they have no thieves tools too.

Wednesday 1 February 2017

The Black Hack : Marauder

Here's what is an essentially working draft of a 'Barbarian' class. It combines some elements from the Beserker I wrote a while back, that's now been cannibalized to fix some issue's with the Warrior - so there's a job vacancy.

Starting HP : 4 + d6
HP Per Level/Resting : 1d6
Weapons & Armor : Anything that can be swung or thrown & No armor.
Attack Damage : 1d6 (See special features)

Special Features
When a Marauder is reduced to 0hp they are not taken Out of Action - Instead every time they would either Move or perform an Action, they must pass a CON test - if successful the action has succeeded. If they fail they are taken OofA and roll on the OofA table as per normal.

A Marauder may go into a rage for the duration of a combat, giving them:

  • Advantage on all tests to deal damage, Disadvantage on all tests to avoid damage. 
  • 1d12 damage instead of their normal 1d6. 
  • They may rage once at level 1, twice at level 3, three times at level 6 and four times at level 9 - per day.

If they receive any healing whilst in a rage it comes to an end.

A Marauder gains an AP for every severed head (of a sufficiently powerful enemy they have defeated) that they keep upon their person as a trophy - upto a maximum equal to their level.

Monday 30 January 2017

The Black Hack : Creature Reactions

TBH Development.

Currently TBH handles creature reactions with a straight d8 roll. Thats ok, i'm happy with the general results at the table - it models the old school 'Not-everything-wants-to-immediately-kill-you' feeling that I think is a huge part of the early D&D experience. But, it seems a little arbitrary and 'spikey'

Here's my working edits, i'm putting this out there because I know some bright spark will have some awesome tweaks, or even better - something different entirely. So here's the whats and the why's.

Roll 2d6. Introduce a bell curve, less random.

We'll be adding the Powerful Opponents modifier. I hate math, but, needs must. Now if you're outclassed your opponent will see you as weak and be more likely to try and squash/subjugate you.

Increase the results available to us. 2-12. More options is always good, but we'll keep them broad for GM interpretation - just as before.

2 - Surrender/Offer their allegiance.
3 - Give the PC's and Item/Info/Aid.
4 - Make a mutually beneficial trade.
5 - Mistake the PC's for friends/allies.
6 - Wait for the PC's to act first.
7 - Withdraw to a safer location.
8 - Demand the PC's withdraw. (if they don't add 1d6 to this result)
9 - Call for Reinforcements. (then see 6)
10 - Trick the PC's using result 2-4 (then see 11)
11 - Capture the PC's.
12+ - Kill/Eat the PC's.

There's a couple of 'Roll again' or 'See result x' .. this adds a This injects a HUGE element of unpredictability into creature behavior, which is exactly what we want to model when we've got random encounters or encounters we haven't pre-planned. After all, the game should be fun for the GM too! I've found these curve balls tend to generate memorable and enjoyable moments.


Thursday 26 January 2017

Secret Things

This will be short - I've decided to post my note taking here, in part to use the blog more, but also make it more visible to myself. Also, this might not be a revelation to anyone - but it's useful for me.. so.. err.. Gerr'off'my'lawn!

One of the things I've always uneasily tangled with is secret things, such as traps and doors - and the concept of the Gotcha! trap. You see on one hand, i'm a very new school GM, I believe in co-operative play, storytelling, friends just playing a game. On the other hand i'm a firm believer that it wouldn't be D&D if at some stage someone didn't fall down a greased hole with spikes at the bottom. That's a little bit oil and water, if not handled in the right way.

 4e/5e is kind of there with Passive Perception, but I don't like skills lists. Too defining, too much character skill not player. And putting the concept in player hands? #NOPE  So, I've been thinking about random encounters. There's a certain tension and magic in letting the players know that you're checking for random encounters, your pushing their resources, they shouldn't want to fight. So its fun to roll a die and let them know whats going on, under the hood so to speak. That builds uncertainty and apprehension. So, why can't that be the same for Secret Things?

Here's the idea, every-time the party enters a new space (room, corridor etc) I roll a passive perception check - regardless if a secret thing exist or not. Now that's not a late-gen skill check, no, a simple 1-in-6 chance will do fine. That fits with the roll low aesthetic I've adopted in TBH. If they get a 1, I alert them to the clue that gives away the secret thing. They still have to do all the hard work of searching, testing, teasing out its secrets. Narrative searching is fine, i'll give Advantage if they make a big meal of that, but i'll always use attribute tests to determine how things pan out - that way I can remain completely impartial. Just a referee. Plus whats the point of generating a Wisdom score and not using it?

At least this way there's a very real and obvious Gotcha! safety net in place. The players know its fair and thorough. I didn't get you, the dice gods did.