Monday, October 26, 2009

Rules Hacking: Combat, Reach, Facing, and Areas of Control

I've been working on my FATE-inspired fantasy rules project, and got to thinking about combat yesterday. The ideas I was having were a bit too crunchy for my current project, but they should work as a tweak to d20-based games, 4e, or other games that use a similar minis set-up.

The basic idea is that everyone has an Area of Control (AoC). This replaces reach, attacks of opportunity/opportunity attacks, flanking, and a few other things. The basic AoC looks like this:

The space taken up by the creature (G) is green. The AoC is blue.

  • G gets a free attack on anyone moving out of a blue square.
  • A melee attack on G from anywhere outside of a blue square is at +1. An adjacent attack on G from anywhere outside of a blue square is at +2. This replaces flanking.
  • Reach weapons change a characters AoC dramatically. A longspear, for instance, might give a character an AoC like this:
  • A character can change the orientation of their AoC on their initiative.
  • A flat-footed character has no AoC.
  • Large+ creatures can have uniquely shaped AoC (and take up non-square spaces) to reflect their physiology and abilities.
  • Feat ideas:
    • Most feats building off of flanking, reach, etc. will have obvious correlates.
    • Allow a character to change the orientation of their AoC as an immediate action in response to a successful attack.
    • Allow a flatfooted character to have an AoC of one adjacent 5' square.
    • Allow a character to treat one extra square adjacent to them as part of their AoC.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Using Google Wave for RPGs

I just got my Google Wave invitation today.

Is anyone thinking about ways of using it related to gaming? I can think of some possible uses. Using it to run online games is obvious. There is even already a dice-rolly-thing. For people (like me) who prefer to play around a real table, it would still be a great way to record campaign notes and session write-ups. It would also be a great tool for collaborative campaign/setting design.

Any other ideas?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Thoughts about Swords and Sorcery

I've never been a huge fan of Conan. It isn't so much the idea of the setting, but Howard's writing style. I'm not a fan of the florid prose of that age. I'm not a big Lovecraft fan for much the same reason.

That said, I do like a lot of the implicit ideas in the Hyborean/Cthulhu mythos. The idea of ancient things from an incomprehensible beyond... the idea that learning about such things can lead you down a spiral of power and madness. That's good stuff. Also good is the idea that most monsters are human in origin.

Things I'm not as much a fan of that are typically included in such settings include social darwinism and rampant misogyny. Also, while I love the idea of madness and things from beyond reality being a source of magic, I have issues with them being the only such sources. There should be mysteries of the light as well as the dark... and it should sometimes be hard to discern between the two.

I think it would be awesome if there was a RPG setting that strongly supported playing a character who began by studying natural magic, but could be seduced to madness. This might include things such as herbalism, but it would also include the magical/natural laws that govern the powers of the unicorn and dragon. A natural mage could gain considerable power by harnessing these forces. Still, by studying them, he'd find inconsistencies... ways that the natural laws governing magic can be broken. Cheated. Exploiting these could expand his power. Doing so a small amount may not be harmful. Learning more, though, whether through texts of those who have studied such things extensively or through entreating entities that break such laws regularly, would be increasingly more dangerous to ones sanity.

I don't remember anything that really splits the difference in this way between your typical fantasy RPG and S&S-style power=madness. If you know of something, please let me know.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Natural or Monstrous?

In your favorite fantasy game, is there a difference between animal and monster? If so, why?

One thing that bothered me about some versions of D&D is just that distinction. Druids, for instance, could speak with animals. Could they speak with Owlbears? Displacer Beasts? Stirges? My understanding was that they generally could not... because these were monsters rather than animals.

There are (at least) two things that I can think of that might validly differentiate between monster and animal:
  1. Intelligence and instinct: Animals are ruled by instinct, are possessed of sub-human intelligence, and are generally incapable of using language. Monsters violate at least one of these. They might have cruel natures that are malevolent rather than instinctual.
  2. Origin: Animals evolved or were created in a process (possibly divine) that ensured they would be in harmony with the natural world. Monsters violate the natural order. They might be from another plane of existence where the laws of nature are different. They might be the result of magical experimentation. They might be the creation of a malevolent god.
In D&D, though, the main distinction seems to be that animals are things which exist (or, maybe, could exist) in the real world, while monsters aren't. Given a point of view within the game world, though, this makes no sense. How is a druid supposed to know that stirges don't exist in the real world? On what basis does he judge it unnatural?