Sunday, November 10, 2013

Experience by Critical Fail

So no post in a while.

Study work, yada yada.

Something that I thought would be worthy of a blog-post would be the idea of gaining Experience from rolling critical fails. This is currently my preferred method of advancement in my homebrew campaign.  I like it because it goes a step to modelling the idea that characters advance in the areas they use, rather than the areas they don't use.  For me at least it helps to combat the orc-who-does-nothing-but-cut-people-with-axes-but-somehow-learns-to-multiclass-as-a-wizard problem (other than dealing with this outside mechanics with GM's discretion to say "look buddy I know you want to be a wizard, but you really gotta roleplay that before I'm going to let you multiclass.")

The essential premise is that you could supplement normal experience or replace normal experience gain  (and I think supplement is best in this case) from combat or looting or whatever your system uses, with experience gain from critical fails, critical fumbles or whatever you want to call them.

By this I mean quite simply when a character rolls a natural 1 something horrible happens to them. The GM fiats something nasty and the player has to deal with it, AND they gain experience. Monte Cook plays with a similar idea in Numenera of the GM Intervention granting experience if accepted, and from my wikipedia and web gained understanding of the Burning Wheel something similar might be at work there.

Anyway. Down to the specifics of this idea and I'm going to try and keep this as system agnostic as possible, which is kind a difficult to do because this assumes several factors about the game your playing, but I'm sure if your game is that fair removed you can lift the general premise from this. This will all generally revolve around d20 systems that use experience, and has similar advancement thresholds to DnD.

My homebrew uses a buy-whatever-ability-or-advancement-you-want-for-experience-cost model of advancement (it has no levels) so for that when a character critical fails they gain experience directly towards the next level of whatever ability or skill they were checking on.  I think this idea of experience from failure can still be hacked into a level based system, you just need a little more math.

What I would suggest is that when a character rolls a natural 1, and fumbles or critical fails the GM comes up with something bad to happen to them based on the check (falling over, falling off the cliff, angering the noble, dropping their sword, fainting) and they gain experience. This idea of critical fails is already quite salient and lots of people/games use it so adding experience to it shouldn't be hard. It also has the brilliant effect of kinda-being-how-we-learn-in-the-real-world, in that we don't get experience from killing monsters or looting treasure, but rather from fucking-up-and-learning-how-not-to-do-that-again.

After telling the player the effects of the natural 1 you should then dish out some experience to them. This should be some sort of appropriate amount. I think that based on some quick d20 calculations that the number of experience gained should be:

10 x DC or Target Number of the Check

Thus rolling a 1 on a DC 15 check gives 150 experience, and rolling a 1 on a DC 30 check gives 300 experience.

Hmm good so far but not enough experience gain, particularly at higher levels, this would slow to a crawl.

I would then modify this by adding some edition experience based off the target's skill/modifier on the check they are making. This doesn't make intuitive real world sense, but works well in the structure of d20. Thus I would run the full experience gain as:

(10 x DC or Target Number of the Check) + (100 x Relevant Class Ability or Skill Modifier for the Check*)

or more simply

Experience = 10 x DC +100 x Modifier

* I wouldn't include ability score bonus here, just things like Skill Ranks, Feats, Abilities, Base attack Bonus, if it's a save then the save bonus is fine, if its spell check perhaps Caster Level is appropriate. What exactly applies to this modifier is I guess entirely up to GM discretion, but I would be inclined to include everything but ability score bonuses, or if you are running a earlier than 3.5th system maybe you would want to also include ability score bonuses  I leave this up to you because you are more than capable of figuring it out. Equipment bonuses should definitely not count though.

This means that your Fightorson son of Fightor will gain more experience from rolling a natural 1 on his attack roll, than your Magessia daughter of Mageon will.  It also means that as characters level up the experience gained from natural 1s also increases at a small rate, to account for the dramatic shift in level experience. Things will still be quite slow going however. For example:

Fightor rolls a natural 1 on his attempt to skewer the knight in plate. The AC of the Knight is 18 and Fightor has a BAB of +6. The GM declares that Fightor has been disarmed and lets the Knight make a free attack (or whatever they think is appropriate) and he awards Fightor with experience. This is equal to 10 x 18 (10 x AC of the Knight) + 100 x 6 (100 x BAB of the attack roll) and Fightor gains 680 experience !

Similarly Sneakthief the halfling attempts to disarm a trap DC 20 and he has a +10 to disarming traps with his relevant skills and feats. He rolls a natural 1 and the GM declares that the trap goes off and resolves the trap's potentially dismembering effects on Sneakthief and awards experience, the Halfling gains 10 x 20 + 100 x 10 experience yielding 1200 experience.

Whilst the amount gained from modifier may seem quite large (being 100 x Mod rather than 10 x mod) this means that characters who fail spectacularly in their respective professions and specialities gain more experience than if they had failed spectacularly at something that is unrelated to their class. This has the benefit of modelling characters advancing according to skills and specialities actually used. A Fighter who doesn't make many attack rolls under this system will advance more slowly than one who does.

In a different system simply change the amount of experience gained and the exact modifier and presto. Also systems which are level-less can track this experience gain against certain upgrades if you like, meaning that critically failing a test gives you experience directly towards whatever you checked on, rather than anything else.

There are definitely tweaks this system needs for your own game (I'm thinking crazy numeric modifiers from synergy and skill and ability in 3.5) but should fit with a little creativity.  It is also important to note that this system is not entirely designed to replace experience via slaying monsters, or from adventure rewards or from loot but rather to compliment it. The potential issue with gaining experience from critical fails is that some people are lucky and never roll 1s. Also some people are horrendously unlucky and always roll 1s. If this balance issue causes you concerns, you use your common sense and balance this out but giving experience at the end of the session or whatever you normally do, just decrease the amount slightly over-all to account for the new experience gain from horrendous failure.

The only other thing to be said would be, if they roll a natural 1 and you can't think of something horrendous to inflict on them for their critical fail / fumble then maybe don't award experience, or vastly reduce the experience gain!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Goodbye Damage Dice

Damage dice are totally unnecessary, yet the majority of gaming system has them (or at least some random damage component).

The reason they are illogical is because when you have damage dice in a system you are taking a random component in your effectiveness twice. This places damage dice in the similarly bad philosophical position of taking an ability score modifier or skill bonus twice in the same mechanic. It's illogical, and is unnecessary duplication.

Also it fails to model reality, which is essentially what games try to do. I'm sure many players are familiar with the feeling of scoring a really great hit, exceeding the AC by many points and rolling a 1 for damage. Alternatively when you try and explain combat to non players, and how you roll to hit and then roll damage, sometimes they just balk and say "Ummmm but that doesn't make sense?".  This is because of the dissonance between rolling to hit and then even if you hit really well, or only just hitting, your damage component being unmodified by the whether the hit was good or not.

A better way of modelling weapon damage is to apply them a set amount of damage.

For example:

A shortsword (commonly d6 in d20) we could say has a Damage Score of 3.

A longsword (commonly d8) we could say has a damage score of 4.

D10 = 5
D12 = 6
2d6 = 7
2d8 = 9
2d10 = 10
2d12 = 12

...and so forth.

When you hit a target (by equaling or exceeding their AC) you deal this amount of damage plus 1 point of additional damage for each point you exceeded the targets AC by.

In d20 this would make your damage:

Strength Bonus + Weapon Damage Score + (Attack Roll - Targets AC)

The additional benefit of this system is that whilst big weapons hit much harder on low hits, on a really good hit, small weapons are just as deadly, and this models the capacity a dagger or short sword has to really maim somebody if it gets in a vital spot or through armour.

It also increases the benefit of heavier armour, as it makes you not only harder to hit, but more likely to take less damage (which is kinda cool in d20 because heavy armour is pretty bad considering the penalties).

This would require a bit of hacking to make it work for spells, but you could potentially leave their damage as is, as this does not work for area of effect attacks (or any attack that doesn't roll to hit though you could base the damage off how close to the epicenter of the attack the target is, which is what I'm doing). You could also mess wit the mechanics for Called Shots and the like by giving them extra damage for better hits. I would suggest critical hits double the weapons damage score and the Strength Bonus of the wielder, but not the extra damage points, but this is all up to you.

I am sure their are games out their that have set damage for weapons like this. I'm just young and I haven't read them.

My groups are currently using this set damage with my homebrew system, as well as having hacked it into Rogue Trader. In both it is working super well and has been well received.

Because who doesn't want a Damage 22, Pen 12 inferno pistol?

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Feudal Military Ranks

So, its been a long time between posts.

My 2d10 hombrew is like 79,000 words and 150 odd pages. Still definitely not share able unfortunately. Far too many spelling mistakes, grammar and unresolved conflicts. Suffice to say it plays awesomely thought and I swear i will offer to run a game on G+ some time. 

This is something I mocked up the other day for a military campaign I am running. I made this because doing my research I found that medieval military ranks are ridiculously confusing. Suffice to say that Lords basically commissioned whoever they wanted as officers before our much more sensible modern systems.  I thought that sharing the reasonable interpretation of how ranks worked might help with some peoples setting stuff. It might not, but hey, that's okay too.

I have taken the liberty to add a Magus rank, which is obviously not a real rank, but works in fantasy settings, as you would surely have mages in command ranks in armies. Also I have pulled Bombardier from more Renaissance style warfare because that may be applicable to some campaigns, and also because it is applicable for my magepunk campaign.  

The Thick of it;

Note that these ranks are all fairly fluid, and forces whilst always lead by a captain and Lieutenant, may not have need for any other ranks. These ranks are generally based on the requirements of a Company, rather than the structure of ranks determining a Company's leadership. A Commissioned officer is one who's authority is vested by the Regent, or in the case of Mercantile Armies, the Commander/Owner. Warrant Officer's are those given rank (warranted) by the Officers above them, rather than a Regent or Lord.

In some cases ranks and specialities will be denoted together. For example, Magus-Lieutenant is both a Lieutenant and a Magus, in charge of the Mage Platoon and the Captains second. Similarly Bombadier-Sergeant could be used the company artillery Platoon is only one squad. Other examples are Magus-Sergeant, Magus-Corporal and the like. Mages are usually denoted by Mage or Mancer as a prefix to their rank, as frequently are Artillery officers and sometimes Cavalry officers.


Lord-Captain or Captain (if not the Lord himself)Commissioned by the Regent or Empire; Nearly always Nobility.Has command of what is called a Company, but the size of a company is variable but is generally made up of at least two Platoons. A company is the amount of men contributed by a Master, to his Regent for battle. Lords are default the leaders of a company, but may give command to a Captain they commission on behalf of the regent.
LieutenantCommissioned by the Captain, is the officer assisting commandThe Lieutenant is the the second of the Company, but need not be appointed. Lieutenants are generally in charge of unit of soldiers called a Platoon, and this is normal specialised. It could be common for  Lieutenants to be Magus-Lieutenants, as a second to the martial Captain and to command a companies Mages.
MagusThe Commissioned Officer in charge of Magic.This ranks second to the Lieutenant and is in charge of a Mage Platoon.
CornetThe Commission Officer in charge of bearing the Cavalry's banner.This rank is second to the Lieutenant, and is generally in charge of the Calvary squad, or Platoon. He bears the Company's cavalry standard.
EnsignThe Commissioned Officer in charge of bearing the Infantry's banner.This ranks second to the Lieutenant, Cornet and Magus and is in charge of a Infantry Platoon. He bears a Company's infantry standard.
BombardierThe Commissioned Officer in charge of artillery.This ranks second to the Lieutenant, Magus, Ensign and Cornet and is in charge of an Artillery Platoon.
SergeantHighest Warrant OfficerThe rank of Sergeant is a catch all term, as Sergeants are generally a jack of all trades. Their main role is to administrate the men under their commmand, less than a field command role. Typically a sergeant will have commanded a squad, a small unit of men that makes up a Platoon. Generally a Platoon is at least two squads of men.
CorporalSpecialised Warrant OfficerA corporal has command of a squad, and is generally warranted by a Sergeant or their Lieutenant, Cornet or Ensign. Most of the time a Corporal is specialised into a specific area, perhaps recon, intelligence or magic. It may be common of many mages to obtain the rank of Corporal simply because of their specialisation.
Lance CorporalLowest Warrant OfficerAn Lance corporal is promoted to the role by his Corporal, they are the second to a Coporal. Almost always non official the Lance Coporal is essentially there in case a Corporal is killed. In some cases a Lance Corporal may be a private who leads as squad who has no Corporal warranted.

Other Ranks

AdjutantA Warrant or Commissioned Officer in charge of Administration and assistance.They are outside the direct chain of command, typically promoted by their commanding officer to assist in a administration capacity. These roles are filled by Mage- Adjutant who's specialties lie outside Battlemagery (such as Divination).