Friday, March 12, 2010

things I want to do better

Lighting - This post has gotten me thinking. Often someone playing a magic-user says "I'm carrying a torch" and then we forget about the whole thing. If you were really going into a dungeon would you trust the wimp in the mumu with the sole source of illumination? I sure as hell wouldn't.

Encumbrance - I don't like long tallies and making players add and subtract how many .1 pound units they are carrying. But I do like players making decisions. What is important to bring to the dungeon and what has to be left behind? And even more importantly: what treasure is worth lugging out of the dungeon? Here's a huge chest full of gold, but it'll take two dudes moving at 3" to get it out. Are those coins worth the 6 extra wandering monster checks between here and the surface?

Rations & Wineskins - I've seen (and run) lots of games where the PCs buy rations and wineskins at chargen and then everybody forgets about the whole issue. Wearing armor, carrying a crapload of equipment/treasure, and fighting ten times a day is going to burn up a lot of calories. I recall reading somewhere that troops in combat zones can be expected to go through six M.R.E.'s a day. I don't have any combat experience but I know that after a hard day of moving furniture or playing sports or whatever that everyone wants to chowdown on pizza and guzzle beer.

Colorful Fights - I usually don't need the rules to encourage me to buckle swashes, but sometimes players can use a little reminder or a push in the right direction. Perhaps something simple like Lucky Number Kung Fu, whereby every once in a while they get some sort of extra action with which they can be awesome.

Filth - After a long day in the dungeon everyone will probably come out with torn clothes, dried blood on everything and smelling like a dragon's latrine. Any self-respecting adventurer probably gets a bath and a new suit of clothes the moment they get back to town. A lot of equipment probably needs to be replaced, too.


  1. As far as lighting, one of our PC tricks was to cast Continual Light on a bag of coppers (or rocks or whatever else small and worthless you had). Set several of these glowing tidbits in a bullseye lantern and we each had our own D&D "Maglights." Plus, you could take a handful and hurl them down a dark hallway for illumination. Or drop 'em into a pit to gage the depths. The uses were endless.

  2. Anonymous9:42 AM

    Six M.R.E.s a day = one fat, stopped up individual.

  3. Lighting - Every two wandering monster checks (for torches) or every 4 checks (for lanterns) - they need to relight. Unless they have uberawesome lighting, they can always just see 30' around them. I may "give" the room dimensions unless it's big or there are creepies, then it's "I wonder what's in the corner..."

    Bulleye lanterns are a flashlight beam. Claustrophic inducing. :)

    Munchies - I just remember to tell them to mark off once a day. After 2 days, if they only have one waterskin, they are not feeling well. Players now have two to three waterskins. Rangers in party == almost automatic find water. Unless I want to be an ass or they're in a desert. Then it's a dice roll.

    Encumbrance - I am like you... once they get encumbered, by my gut check, I start dropping rates. Suddenly, a lot of copper and silver gets left behind or they go back to town, dump the loot, and go back. That's fine and cool.

    Colorful fights - I ask them to describe crits, kills or fumbles a lot... if they do something really cool in the description, I may give them a +1 based on what they're trying to do.

    Hey man... we do shower before we play.. oh, you mean the CHARACTERS!...

  4. Oddly enough I was about to drop paper (pixels? keypresses?) on overlooked "dull" stuff like lighting and encumbrance.


    * Light: The original EPT booklets had a rule that you had to have at least 1 torch per 5 people, or you ended up taking penalties to everything for fumbling around in each others' shadows.

    Individual lighting? Candle in the helmet, Miner Smurf-style. Of course, you can't cause surprise (or hide in shadows, or backstab) if you're carrying an exposed light source...

    * Encumbrance in stone and sizable fractions thereof, not in lbs, not in cns (pron. "ounces" in English). Units big enough that you care about then in numbers small enough that you can count 'em on your fingers. And you can drop a simple "colour in the blocks as you pick stuff up" enc. chart on char sheets.

    * Rations. Morale penalties (and possibly health complications) after week after week of iron rations.
    "Scurvy? In my D&D?"

    * Filth. The AD&D DMG has some fiddly rules on infections and parasites. IIRC WFRP did similar better.

  5. That’s pretty much my list of things that I vacillate between wanting to do better and deciding that glossing over them most of the time is a good thing.

  6. Lighting: That's why I hates continual light forEVARRR! Having enough light to see what you're doing and not run out of torches or oil should something the party has to really think about, at least during crawl-prep.

    ENC: I've never seen an encumbrance system I was entirely happy with. I agree with you perspective but have not greet insight into how to handle it without excessive book-keeping.

    Rations: I've had 10th level characters who still had the iron rations they bought at 1st level in their backpacks.

    Colorful fights: LNKF looks awesome!

    Filth: Again, agreed. And it is generally my laziness as a GM that prevents me from incorporating that into the game. ("The nice inn refuses to serve you unless you get yourself cleaned up. You can try your luck at the Blind Hog over by the tanning yards.")

  7. Crose8742010:46 AM

    Torches (30') last 6 turns, lanterns (30') last as long as flasks of oil burn, forget the time, everyone seems to use torches. Plus turns are easy to keep track of.
    Encumbrance in coins, so simply.
    Rations feed for a day, of course. If the party rests so the magic-user can re-memorize they burn rations and running out of food is bad so choose rests wisely!
    Combat fun means adding the max damage on nat. 20's, charges, going defensive, multi-attacks, etc. just to add some spice.
    Dirty gear...all part of the job.

  8. Filth has been on my mind as well. I'm thinking a penalty to reaction rolls with civilized folk. I might give bonuses to characters who wear expensive clothes and jewelry, so there's a reason to keep some of the "rich stuff" they find.

  9. Re: Filth: At the very least, one could charge players for new threads and a trip to the blacksmith upon each return to town. Those who refuse face amusing penalties (social rejection and unreliable equipment).

  10. Re: Filth. In my current campaign the filth of adventuring has had dramatic results. The earliest session featured two of the main characters, and their reaction to being coated in centipede gore ended up becoming a defining moment in their relationship. (Agnarr didn't mind it; Tee hated it.) Ever since, the party has had to struggle to keep Agnarr properly bathed for social events, while Tee burns through significant portions of her loot trying to replace her expensive clothing (which keeps getting destroyed or soiled).

    They also became aware of the "backdoor policy" of the local inn ("I am not mopping these floors every twenty minutes," as Tellith the inn-keeper explained.): Go to the stables out back, get water repeatedly dumped over your head, and then you can come in through the kitchens and up the back stairs.

    This prompted some clever roleplay later in the campaign: When they went through the secret sewer entrance to the Temple of the Ebon Hand, they found several large, magical paving stones that had been enchanted to sluice away the filth of the sewer. This wasn't a magic auto-shower, but it did clear away the worst of the muck.

    The PCs were enamored with them: Once the bad guys had been routed out of the temple, they took the time to lever out these heavy slabs of magical stone, transport them across town, and gift them to Tellith. They eventually had them decorously installed at the front of the inn.

    Long story short (too late): It doesn't take a lot to put these kinds of details on the radar. And once they're on the radar, all kinds of interesting drama and gameplay can result.

  11. Heh. A resonant voice from the Great Beyond intones . . .

    "And from thus was AD&D born!"

    "Shut up, Gary," we respond. "It's all part of the fun - your mistake was canonizing the results of little discussions like this."

    And these ARE fun discussions. They always make me want to go completely retro and fire up what's left of my TSR-80 and write a detail tracking program in BASIC.

    Ain't gonna do it, though. Takes too much time away from reading conversations like this. (Also, I haven't seen the Tape Drive in ages, so how would I save the result?)

    Anyone wanna buy what's left of an old Model 1 TRS-80 computer?

  12. We used to cast continual light on the inside of a scroll tube, so we could use the cap to cover it when we wanted it turned off. Otherwise, it was a magical flashlight. ;)

    Those Were The Days,

  13. Oddly enough, as I was reading what you wrote about light sources and rations, I thought--"Oh, you could use a system like the Lucky Number Kung Fu system to determine when PCs run out of lamp oil or get tired of carrying stuff"

    i.e. If you roll (some number) on a d20 while doing some routine DM thing you'd be doing anyway, then it means a gust has blown the lamps out or a weak character has dropped something.

    All of this is descended from the DC Heroes "reliability number" system, which they invented to prevent players form having to keep track of "charges" in their devices.

    Hmmmm...alternately it could happen every time a certain thing that you KNOW is going to happen at your table happens--someone drops dice on the floor, someone texts during a game--like a drinking game.

    Man I just made up some house rules trying to write this comment.

  14. done:

  15. Re. Filth: I've been "enforcing filth results" for years now, it's makes for good "humiliation/sitcom" humor, especially when a character tries to get new clothes in some backwater town and ends up with something embarrassing like really tight really red loverboy-esque leather pants...

    And characters have had to pay for baths and barbers before, some fancy brothels require their clients to be presentable!

  16. Terrex6:52 PM

    I've been DMing AD&D for my players on an off for like 20 - 25 years. Recently we tightened things up. The major changes I made were:
    1. Eliminate Unearhted Arcana
    2. Tighter Surprise/Initiative
    3. BTB Encumbrance

    #1 and #2 increased quality of play immediately. But, #3 Encumbrance is an issue once your in the dungeon. It's the only time I ever even thought "I wish I had a piece of software" while I was at the table that just calculated on the fly... Of course I would never do that. I still want to make encumbrance work.

  17. Light becomes a non-issue once players have continual light. I'd make it always a non-issue or get rid of continual light.

    I read somewhere (one of the basic editions I think) that one light source is required per 3 adventurers.

    Made me think if you use mini's to attach a wire circle or whatever around the guy with torch. That's how far there is light, move away from that your in shadow, twice as far and total darkness please roll save vs walking into wall.

    Water: unless it's arid terrain access to water is easy enough it should be ignored. And since no one wants to roll on that table they never stay overnight in the dungeon.

    I usually charge characters a weekly "upkeep" which rolls in food, cloths, minor repairs and all the mundane stuff.

  18. For lighting, I think camping helps a lot. I just picture what it's like to be in the dark with a small lamp or flashlight and describe accordingly.

    For colorful fights, if I think something cooler could be happening I ask the player to describe it and impress the group for a bonus to dmg(anywhere from +1, +2 to 1d4 bonus dmg)

  19. On a similar note, have you ever walked through a cave? The footing is treacherous and you're likely to hit your head if you move to quickly. Hitting your head on stone: not something to gloss over.

  20. We usually had at least two (sometimes more) people carrying light sources, unless we were running low on torches or whatnot.

    Rations weren't soemthing we much had to worry about. Sure, we bought them and packed them, and replaced them when we needed to, but we also pretty much ate everything we came across. X3 We're talking an adventuring group that would drag a dragon's carcass out of an underground maze and spend a a couple of days butchering it and setting most of the meat to smoke, before going back down to see what else was to be had. Even critters we didn't plan to eat usually got skinned.

    And as for filth, man, our parties bathed after every adventure. Sometimes they even used magic to clean themselves up before it was over. It's sort of a necessity when you're creating that much gore, or working your way across a roomful of wet zombies, or fighting a mad cleric who was putting disease in the water supply. In that last instance, our intrepid adventurers had to burn everything they were wearing that could be burned before they got back to their mounts. Celebrating a job completed usually involved the bathhouse. Hell, at least one adventure started in the bathhouse... XD Ah, good times.

  21. Six M.R.E.s a day = one fat, stopped up individual.


    You would explode or simply keel over and die. MRE's clog you up like nobody's business, which in many ways is an asset in a combat zone. But it doesn't make it any more pleasant.

    Water on the other hand. High rate of activity+high tempratures= the 3 gallons of water a day I drank.