Thursday, December 31, 2020

2020 Year in Review

    I set a goal at the beginning of the year to do 48 posts this year, up from the 24 of 2019 and way up from the 3 of 2018, but less than half of my most loquacious year, 2014 where I posted 117 times.  The old Blog Carnivals helped that year.

    With this post I'll have posted 46 times this year, and have been looked at a bit under 20,000 times.  Probably my most visible year ever, as I came in with less than 100,000 views since I started on October 7th, 2012. For that the RPG communities of MeWe have been a great source of exposure, but an even better source of ideas and I'd like to thank everyone who has been interested enough to click on a link and read my musings.

     My most read post this year was the Real Life Hexcrawl Manual concerning Captain Marcy's guidebook for prairie travelers during the settlement of the West.  Right behind it was one of my Wilderlands posts working out the size of a barony.  The whole Wilderlands series, where I'm working out how to set up a Chivalry & Sorcery kingdom using the Wilderlands maps and doing some soloplay with C&S has been very well received.

    On a personal note, made it to Colorado to see one son in January, Belize in February for our regular winter vacation and that's it.  Had to scrub the fall trip to Scotland for obvious reasons, perhaps next year, but more likely 2022 I think.  Have a new granddaughter in Colorado who we haven't been able to meet yet, that's going to happen in 2021 for certain.

    Other than that, we've come out of the pandemic to date much better than many people.  I no longer have to commute thirty seven miles each way, so I have less stress in my life.  My oldest brother and his third wife, along with her son have come through COVID successfully.  And we did manage to meet them at our other brother's cabin on the lake this summer, where I also got to drive a jet boat.  Probably won't bother doing it again, poor visibility at high speed.  I also managed to step off a raised deck and bang up my legs, spending a good month wearing the boot of shame.

    If you see a silver Jeep Gladiator with with a 1st Navy Jack grill insert, wave  - it's probably me.

A Happier and More Prosperous New Year to Everyone

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

2021 Character Creation Challenge

      Been stuck on a soloplay post and on a Call of Cthulhu adventure for most of the month.  My oldest brought the Character Creation Challenge to my attention, so I thought I'd at least map it out.  I will confess in advance that I expect to cheat and create characters in advance or in arrears as needed.  My schedule being overbooked and my time and energy being limited.

     Here's my intended schedule, doing the systems in order of publication until I run out of major systems, then picking up some variants of Chivalry & Sorcery and finishing with a few books that are currently misplaced.

1 - 1974 D&D 0e

2 - 1975 Empire of the Petal Throne  

3 - 1976 Metamorphosis Alpha

4 - 1977 Chivalry & Sorcery 1e

5 - 1977 Traveller

6 - 1978 Runequest

7 - 1978 Gamma World 1e

8 - 1979 AD&D 1e

9 - 1980 Morrow Project

10 - 1981 Judges Guild Universal Roleplaying Adventure

11 - 1986 Warhammer FRP 1e

12 - 1988 Space 1889

13 - 1992 Shadowrun

14 - 2000  D&D 3e

15 - 2005  Infernum

16 - 2006 The Dark Eye

17 - 2010 Lamentations of the Flame Princess

18 - 2011 Labyrinth Lord

19 - 2011 Carcosa

20 - 2012 Swords and Wizardry

21 - 2013 Adventurer, Conqueror, King

22 - 2017 Astonishing Swordsmen and Sorcerers of Hyperborea

23 - 2017 Castles & Crusades 7th Printing

24 - Undated Barsoom (lots of copyright violations I suspect)

25 - 1978 Chivalry & Sorcery: Swords & Sorcerers: Nordic

26 - 1978 Chivalry & Sorcery: Swords & Sorcerers: Celt

27 - 1978 Chivalry & Sorcery: Swords & Sorcerers: Mongol

28 - 1979 Chivalry & Sorcery: Saurians 

29 - D&D 2e (If I can find my book)

30 - Pathfinder (If I can find my book)

31 - Tiny Dungeons (If I can find my granddaughter's book)

Sunday, December 13, 2020

A New Paradigm for Random Encounters

    I've done a couple of random encounter tables this year, where I have taken results from many different systems and created selections for specific localities in the Wilderlands.  In doing so I have used a straight d20 paradigm, giving each monster a 5% chance of appearing.  While I've accepted this, I have also felt that a linear progression isn't right and even a regular Bell Curve is problematical at times - such as when a Star Spawn of Cthulhu has a 5% chance of doing a TPK just by showing up.  Once monsters get tough enough, any Dungeon Master who strives for what's been termed 'Gygaxian Naturalism', has to ask, how do normal people survive when such threats are walking around.

    Late in November 2020, Goblin's Henchman over on MeWe shared a post where he discussed using non-homogenous random tables, based on distance from a town to determine what monsters may show up.  The idea is pretty simple create a random encounter table, set your weaker monsters in the lower range, say 2-12 where you can  use smaller dice to generate the curve.  As you move away from civilization, add tougher monsters and increase the size of the dice you roll.

Probability Breakdown

A simple table compares the probability of any combination being rolled by two of the standard gaming dies.  Looking at any line, for example rolling a 5 - shows how the probability falls off precipitously as the size of the die increases; going from 25% when rolling 2d4 down to a mere 1% when rolling two d20. 
I was going to stop at 2d20, but when I started crunching numbers, I realized that 2d20 wasn't going to drop the probabilities enough - so I added the 2d100 progression also.  THEN I realized that was too long AND it STILL didn't give me the progression I wanted (see below), so I added 3d10 and 4d10 columns.  

Roll    (2d4)      (2d6)       (2d8)      (2d10)       (2d12)       (2d20)       (2d100)       (3d10)       (4d10)  
2 6.25% 2.78% 1.56% 1% 0.69% 0.01% 0.01% - -
3 12.50% 5.56% 3.13% 2% 1.38% 0.50% 0.02% 0.001% -
4 18.75% 8.33% 4.69% 3% 2.08% 0.75% 0.03% 0.003% 0.001%
5 25% 11.11% 6.25% 4% 2.78% 1.00% 0.04% 0.006% 0.002%
6 18.75% 13.89%7.81% 5% 3.47%
1.25% 0.05% 0.010% 0.004%
7 6.25% 16.67% 9.38% 6% 4.17%
1.50% 0.06% 0.015% 0.006%

Even going to 2d100 wasn't enough, I ended up calculating the odds for combinations of 1-4 d4, d6, d8, d10, d12 and d20.  I did decide that going beyond 40 lines in a table was more than I'd like to tackle routinely.


    The first change to my approach to building the random encounter tables is that I now need to categorize the encounters by strength.  I have five rather broad categories in mind.  (1) Local inhabitants, farmer, merchants etc.  not usually combat threat but may have information of adventure hooks for the characters, (2) weak monsters - arbitrarily I'll say 1-3 hit dice; I'll need to tailor the definition for Runequest and other such non-leveling systems - I think.  If you're looking for an example, I'm thinking anything weaker than an ogre, as one ogre can put some hurt a party of 1st level characters. (3) middling monsters - say 4-8 hit dice, (4) strong monsters - of 9-15 HD and Oh My God, We're Doomed! monsters of 16+ hit dice.

Taking those categories and adding in some desired frequency by range data produces this matrix.  (I'm thinking of the Wilderlands 5 mile hexes, would also work for ACKS 6 mile hexes.  Would change the range buckets if using 10 or 15 mile hexes; if you're using D&D 30 mile campaign hexes, go straight to the 4+ Hex column.)
Category     0 Hexes      1 Hex         2 Hexes       3 Hexes      4+ Hexes  
Local Inhabitants 85% 75% 50% 15% 5%
Weak Monsters 15% 20% 30% 20% 15%
Middling Monsters - 5% 15% 40% 30%
Strong Monsters - - 5% 20% 40%
Oh My God! We're Doomed! - -- 5% 10%

Thinking about it, probably just use the 2 and 4+ Hexes ranges for waterborne encounters to simulate the increased covert mobility of water creatures compared to land creatures.

Results vs Plan

Playing around with a spreadsheet for several day led me to this distribution of encounters in a single table.  I used examples from the last Random Encounter table I constructed.

Roll                 Category                    Example  
2-7 Local Inhabitant Farmers, Merchants, Local Patrol, etc
8 Weak Hawk (ACKS)
9-11 Local Inhabitant Farmers, Merchants, Local Patrol, etc
12 Weak Orcs
13 Middling Troll
14 Weak Al'mi-raj (FF)
15 Middling Ankheg
16-17 Strong Chimera
18-20 Middling Weretiger (ACKS)
21 Weak Giant Skunk
22 OMG Star Spawn of Cthulhu (CoC)
23 Strong Rakox (Gamma World)
24-25 Middling Cthonian (CoC)
26 Strong Apparition (FF)
27 OMG Small Warrior (MA)
[1 HD, but # appearing 50-100]
28-29 Strong Yexil (GW)
30 Weak Wood Nymphs
31 Middling Cockatrice
32-36 Strong Bearoid (MA)

With this distribution, I could check the probabilities generated by various combinations of die rolls and find the ones that fit my desired distribution the best.

Category     0 Hexes
   1 Hex
   2 Hexes
   3 Hexes
   4+ Hexes
Local Inhabitants 87.5% 75% 43.1% 20.5% 6.1%
Weak Monsters 12.5% 16.7% 29.2% 18.9% 15.6%
Middling Monsters - 8.3% 20.4% 40.6% 38.3%
Strong Monsters - - 7.4% 23.0% 30.1%
Oh My God! We're Doomed! - -- 7.0% 10%

I could play with the encounter category distribution and try to refine it further, but I think I've dialed it in enough for this exercise.


     I don't know if I'll use this when I construct random encounter tables in the future.  The idea sounds good, but in practice you need tables that allow you to roll for monsters of specific strengths.  D&D has done that for dungeons since the beginning, but not for hex crawls.  When I add in my favored way of adding whimsy by combining results from every game system on my shelves - well that would be a project in and of itself to create a set of master encounter lists.
     The other thing I don't like about this approach is the players will learn the numbers to run from and the numbers to ignore.  Such meta-game knowledge I think would lessen the immersion of the players in the game, as they will react differently how their characters would.  After all if the player knows the rustling in the bushes is a wood cutter or shepherd or such, the they lose the mystery and excitement that this time it might be the Blatant Beast come to hear the epic poem it tasked them to create the last time they encountered it.

Your thoughts?

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

King Moonracer

  King Moonracer - Ruler of the Island of Misfit toys in the made for TV "Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer" holiday special.  What kind of monster would he be in D&D?

My much better half decided to put the show on this evening, must be twenty years since the kids wanted to watch it, so that's probably the last time I would have seen - or thought of it.  It's not my most loathed holiday special - that distinction goes to anything where they play "The Little Drummer Boy" - pah-rump-a-dum-dum.

When I saw the scene this time I immediately tried to classify him in terms of the D&D or other RPG bestiary.  Obviously some sort of winged lion, but that's still leaves a choice of monsters.


     Left: Sullivan's manticore from the Monster Manual.  Bat wings and the head of Rutherford B Hayes.  Close, but Moonracer is a King not a President.

    Center: Trampier's manticore from one of the Treasure Assortment card stock playing aids of the 1970's.  Still bat wings and a human head, not sure who it looked like when he drew it, but now after watching the Harry Potter movies with the eldest granddaughter, he reminds me of an evil Hagrid.  Well, Hagrid's dad didn't size matter, maybe he was even less picky in his youth.

     Right: Manticore illustration from Warhammer FRP 1e.  Bat wings, human head - Gene Simmons from K.I.S.S.?


One of the fandom wiki's suggested Moonracer was a Griffon.

Left: ACKS Griffon - love it noshing on hobbits, excuse me, "Halflings".  I hate halflings so much I made a completely different race to replace them.  But the classic front of an eagle, rear of a lion coniguration.

Right Top: Griffon from the Monster Mnaual.  It doesn't have Sullivan's or Trampier's initals, so I'd guess one of Hean Wells or Tom Wham's illustration.  Classic configuration for a griffon.

Right Lower; Griffon from Warhammer FRP.  Again, classic configuration.


Maybe something from the Fertile Crescent.  Here's Sullivan's Shedu from the Monster Manual.  Winged, but body of bull not a lion.  Oddly, it wasn't included in 3rd Edition.


We may have something here.

Left: Trampier  illustration from the Monster Manual

Right: Lockwood illustration form the 3rd Edition Monster Manual.  I think we have a winner.

Lawful Good, flies, turns invisible, innate dimension door ability.  Clerical spells up to 4th level.  For whatever reasons of his own, Moonracer left his sandy desert for the icy one to provide a refuge for the unloved.