Monday, August 14, 2017

Getting The Money Home

There is a reason stories often end when they do. You know the moment: the dragon is dead, the evil army defeated, and the heroes are standing in front of a giant pile of treasure that's bigger than any could hope to spend in ten life times. It's a happy ending. Other movies will gloss over what happens next. They'll just cut to months later, a year later, perhaps longer. You get to see how the riches have improved the plucky protagonist's life. But why skip it? After all, getting the treasure home can be an adventure in and of itself.

Money Has Weight
People often don't think about it but money has weight. This is more true the more 'historical' your setting is. How much weight? Well, certain denominations of cash have specific amounts to the pound and so drug cartels and other organizations that do a lot of cash exchanges will deal with money by weight. In the future credit sticks solve this for most people. But in the past where currency wasn't paper but coin?

In D&D 5e the system, as a blanket rule, states that a coin is .02 pounds of weight. That means 50 coins of any type is a pound. 500 gold coins is 10 pounds. 5000 is 100 pounds. 500 gold worth of value could be as little as one pound of platinum or 10 pounds of gold. Or it could be 100 pounds of silver. Or it could be 1000 pounds of copper.

This can get so ridiculous that if you're even paying attention to weight a little it's not unusual for D&D groups to just dump all the copper, and sometimes silver, just to make transporting easier.

How Much Can You Actually Carry?
A lot of times weight management and encumbrance gets thrown away because it's not fun. Sometimes this is done because - to be honest - most encumbrance systems aren't realistic at all and don't account for the distribution of weight making things feel lighter than perhaps they are. Still, even with that, how much can a person carry? How much can a man or woman with a maxed out strength carry?

What does that even look like? I mean, cartoons are fine with a strong man loaded down like a triple stacked wagon. But is that what you want in your game? And where does all that stuff go when the party gets into a fight?

A Self Made Escort Quest
I wouldn't recommend doing this all the time. But it can make for a fun "between" quest. How does the party get their hundreds if not thousands of pounds of loot back to their home base? The traditional way would be to load it into a wagon and bring it back along the roads. And yet, well, adventurers cut their teeth fighting the bandits that rob those caravans.

In effect, your party becomes a wandering raid encounter for bandits and other things on the road home. They get attacked, they defend their caravan. Maybe they lose some of their money. Maybe they don't. The point is, they get to see things from a different perspective.

Of course, if your party is prepared for this, let them have their easy trip. But if you need some filler, why not have the trip home be an adventure of its own?

Friday, August 11, 2017

Next Week On Hiatus

As I said on Wednesday, next week is GenCon. If nothing else that means posts here become even more irregular. While I hope to have an update up on Monday, and maybe some final thoughts going into the event for Wednesday, I make no guarantees.

After that, there will probably not be the normal Friday post - though historically I do manage to get some stuff up during the event - and the following Monday will be suspect at best. We tend to leave the Con a little after noon on Sunday, and get home between 4 am and 9 am on Monday morning....then it's time to sleep.

So here's hoping for a fun GenCon, and just another good time in Indy!

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

1 Week 'Til GenCon

It's 1 week until GenCon. The show is sold out too. I'm not even sure what that means, aside from it's probably going to be croweded. There are literally thousands of games being run and everything from table top RPGs, to LARPs, to board games, to card games, to video games is going to be on display. So what are you looking forward to? Do you even go to cons?

GenCon is always kind of weird for me because as a rule I don't like, and don't do well in, large crowds of people. However, at GenCon I usually manage just fine. The crowds aren't as much a bother, and I think it's because while the rooms are full to bursting, the con staff have everything setup so you still always have space.

We'll see if that holds true this year for me as well, but I have no reason to believe it won't. As for what I'm looking forward to, I have no clue. Finding things I want to pin myself down for is hard this year. It might be the year I take the test and see just what GenCon has to offer without ever sitting at a table. I expect it's a lot.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Short Sessions Are Ok...But Don't Make It A Habit

I feel like over the past couple weeks several games I've been in have had short sessions. This isn't a problem. I'm going to say this game: this is NOT a problem. However, I'm not so sure the GMs themselves know that - at least judging by the number of times they've apologized for the short sessions.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Discussion: Your Favorite Mechanic

RPGs have a lot of mechanics to help power their games. However, not all these mechanics work out as well as the designers intended. Some fail to do their job, or do their job but are more burdensome than helpful. Others are great fun, but maybe don't do what they were intended for? Some though, do the job and t hey do it well.

So what is your favorite?

For me, I think I have two.

The first is Raises. Raises is basically the system allowing the player to call their own critical hits. If you're good enough to do a task well, you can call raises and get more impact out of the GM. It's the difference between needing to hope for a mega good roll that is a low percentage chance of happening, and being able to make those moments happen when you want. Sure, it robs the joy of a nat 20 at the right moment, but it also lets you feel your character's superior skill when you can do things better than other people not because you luck out on the die roll, but because you can call more raises than them. You can find this mechanic in Legend of Five Rings and in the original 7th Sea.

The second is actually another John Wick game. It's the "team bond" mechanic found in The Aegis Project. The mechanic is simple: for every mission a PC has survived with the group they putt 1d6 into a communal pool (up to 5 max) at the beginning of the session. If the PC wants to keep some for themself that's fine too, but it's holding back from the group. Then, during play, any Player can pull one or more dice from that communal pool at any time (without group permission) and spend it to help with an action. At the end of the session, every unspent die is becomes an alotment of XP that gets evenly spread across the whole group. Remainder dice are lost.

I love this second mechanic because it very aptly represents a group cohesion in a stress situation. It makes the whole group feel it if someone dies, because suddenly Tom isn't dropping 5 dice into the pool anymore. He's dropping 0. Only, Tom is still spending from the pool, and Tom's new character is still getting a fair cut of the bonus XP even though he didn't put anything in to it. Which means you also get the feel of the FNG and having to accomodate getting this new person not only into the squad, but meshing with the other members.

It's a wonderful mechanic, and one I try to use anytime I'm doing a war game where the idea is the story of a squad.

How about you?

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Sub-Optimal Builds and You

I've been playing a lot of D&D lately. Or should I say, I've been playing a lot of D&D for me lately. After about a 15 year dry spell of no D&D I find myself running a bi-monthly campaign and playing in a separate one with random one shots to boot. I've also done Adventurer's League stuff at GenCon which is much like Pathfinder Society, just for D&D 5e.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Can You Predict Your Players?

There's an old addage in gaming that no plan survives contact with the players. There are pages and pages of advice saying about how you can't plan for what your PCs might do, and that anything and everything could happen at the gaming table. In general I agree with this advice. As a group it is very hard to tell what your players will do. However, what about in isolation?

Do you take the time to poke and test your PCs on an individual level? If you isolated one and provided stimulus do you know how the PC would react? Do you have an idea at least? If not, why not?

Being able to predict your players is a hard skill - and you will be wrong sometimes - but it is one that is worth developing as a GM. It lets you build specific content for people that can give them the spotlight, put them in interesting positions, and really shine certain aspects of the character. You can also cheat at this and just talk to the player. If they know their character they can tell you.

But how does it work?

Well, for example I'm going to take one of my own characters. In a friend's Star Wars: Edge of the Empire game I am playing a pantoran mechanic named Rhine. Rhine is brilliant, but also a coward with a willpower of 1. When confronted with a threat or a show of force, Rhine immediately buckles and goes with what is said. Why? because Rhine is a coward, and anyone and everyone could be trying to kill her.

Because I know this, and my GM knows this, Rhine is able to make interesting sessions for game because if an NPC gets to Rhine, she can be coerced to do about anything to keep her alive. This lets him give the bad guys a "thing" the PCs may not want them to have, show more depth of said bad guys, and a reason to give other PCs urgency because even good players take things more seriously when another PC is on the line.

Now balancing that out is another thing the GM has to do. Every adventure can't just be "Rhine has been abducted again" but at the same time, if the PCs are leaving Rhine alone, why not? Still, the fact Rhine is a coward and will react with direct self interest means the GM knows to factor that in for combat and other threats.

So, can you predict your players? And if so, what fun things has it let you pull off?