2019/02/20

OSR: The Grand GLOG Playtesting Review

The GLOG is Arnold K's fantasy heartbreaker homebrew. I've been using it for, oh, ~50 sessions now. At ~4 hours a session that's 200 hours of accumulated playtesting for the Rat on a Stick Edition. Not bad. In a now-deleted post, Lungfungus asked for playtesting notes on OC. I hope this helps!

Is the GLOG really OSR?

I have no idea; don't particularly care either. It meets the 10 OSR Commandments. If you want to be charitable, it's broadly compatible with most OSR products. If you want to be uncharitable, it's equally incompatible with all of them.

I can run just about any dungeon or module with the GLOG rules I've got, adapting stuff on the fly. Some might need bit of prep work but that'll always be the case. At the table, I use AD&D monster manuals and add on GLOG bits as needed.


Everyone seems to be writing GLOG classes these days. There are probably at least 100 floating around out there in the blogosphere. Here are 50 (!!) wizards. It's leading to the impression that GLOG games are class focused, whereas, in play, class features and abilities don't actually come up as often as you'd think. I've written a bit more about this in the section below. It'd be a mistake to think of the GLOG as character-focused in the same way as D&D 3.5 or 5E just because all you see on the blogosphere are GLOG classes.

The GLOG isn't a unified system so much as a series of really nifty subsystems bolted on to each other. If you're running a game, consider popping off a subsystem and bolting it on to your system. If you like some bits of the GLOG but not others, remove the bits you don't like and write replacements.


Attack and Defense

PCs  have an Attack stat. Some classes (Fighter and Knight come to mind) grant a bonus to Attack, but most classes have the same Attack. It starts at 11 and goes as high as 15. PCs need to roll equal to or under Attack to hit an enemy, with a penalty equal to the opponent's Defense.

Defense is equal to 10+Dex bonus or 10+Armour. +2 for Leather, +4 for Chain, +6 for Plate, +1 for having a shield.

Really, all you need to remember is the armour an enemy is wearing. Orcs in leather? Ask the PC to make an "Attack -2" roll. Risen undead legionaries with plate and shields? "Attack -7". Conversely, if you remember than Attack 11 is a low-level PC and Attack 15 is a max-level PC, you can easily calibrate for any monster.

I like both systems, though I've fiddled with the Attack per Level table a few times.


Roll-Under Stats

This is a bit controversial. 3d6 down-the-line stat generation creates a lot of variance in starting PCs. Asking for a roll-under test can be seen as an unfair penalty.
1. Only ask for rolls if both success and failure are interesting. If it's trivial, the PC just succeeds. If it's impossible, the just fail.
2. Ask for rolls sparingly.

3. Use roll-under Move, Defense, or even current HP to help normalize results.
4. Rolls should not replace player skill. Rolls are risk. A good plan means less risk and fewer rolls. A lousy plan can involve lots and lots of risky rolls.

+4 is close enough to a "reroll and take the better result", -4 is close enough to "reroll and take the worse result". I use +/- instead of rerolls to save time and to let multiple types of bonuses or penalties stack.

Rolls I've Called For:
Strength: bend an iron bar, toss a fully loaded PC across a chasm

Dexterity: run along a collapsing wooden bridge, leap away from an exploding fireball
Constitution: eat rotten meat, hold perfectly still
Intelligence: recall some highly obscure fact, remember the path back
Wisdom: rolled under each round for Initative. If equal to or under, the PC acts before the monsters. If over, acts after.
Charisma: recall some bit of protocol, turn a phrase, carouse
The GLOG also has a generic Save value for any luck- or supernatural-based rolls. It's 5+Charisma bonus and goes up with level. If you need to pick a Save for a creature, use 5 for most animals, 10 for sufficiently magical creatures, and 15 for truly frightening things.


Manuel Castañón

Inventory

GLOG inventory is great. I can't remember where all the refinements below came from, but they're in the version I use now.

PCs have Inventory Slots equal to their Strength. This assumes they've got backpacks, pockets, hammerspace, etc, etc. I don't want to bother tracking it. The first 3 slots are quick access. Anything in them can be drawn and used immediately. Anything in other slots takes 1 round to remove.

A slot can contain: 3 small items (torches, rations, scrolls, potions, oil flasks), 1 large item (sword, shield, etc), or 0.5 really big items (hammers, etc). Leather armour takes up no slots, Chain takes up 2, Plate takes up 4. Coins and gems don't take up inventory unless you have 1,000 of them.

Every slot you fill over your Strength counts as a point of Encumbrance and applies a penalty to your Attack, Move, Stealth, and any other rolls that require you to be quick on their feet. Being over-encumbered sucks. Don't do it unless you have to.

5th Edition inventory is ridiculously difficult to track! This system is clear, elegant, and helpful. The list of stuff on your character sheet also tells you how much you can carry. Exhaustion can take up inventory slots! It's all so simple. I just put a numbered list, 1-18, on the back of the character sheet, with a line below the 3. 


Lighting

Good torches and lanterns illuminate 30' clearly and an additional 30' of shadows and vague outlines. Candles illuminate 10' clearly and an additional 10' of shadows.

Torches and candles last 1 hour, but are they are cheap. Candles can be extinguished and re-used. Torches, not so much. A flask of lantern oil lasts for 3 hours. It's not napalm, so you can't use it to light your enemies on fire, but you can grease things or make improvised lanterns (as candles).

As a GM, I call for the group to "mark off 3 hours of light" or more, depending on what they're doing. They can mark off 3 torches or 1 flask of lamp oil and move on. If they can't, they're in the dark and are very likely to be eaten by a Grue.


Character Creation

I use a Table of Races. Players roll on it, then either pick or roll for a class, then roll stats (3d6, rerolling one from their race), a background from their class, etc. It's a very quick and painless. Rolling up a new character takes about 3 minutes, and most of that is writing down numbers.

The random element (from race, stats, and potentially class) keeps character generation very interesting. I think only one player, once, had a really firm idea of what they wanted to "try next". Most of the time it's easy-come easy-go. I also don't usually let players read through classes before picking them. I just give a name and a brief description. 


Classes

Writing a GLOG class is easy. It meets what I'd call the "minimum creativity threshold". To write a wizard you just need about 20 decent ideas. To write any other kind of class you need between 4 and 10. It's not difficult to make a class based on any random idea you've ever had. It's also a lot easier to think of elements of a class than it is to, say, a fill in a d100 table or write a dungeon.

By default, GLOG classes have 4 Templates (A, B, C, and D). You can only have 4 templates (from any class, but multi-classing without in-character actions to back it up is difficult, min-maxing is next to impossible).

A really good Template gives the class a few interesting abilities without giving them a "push to win" button. There are a few classes with quite powerful abilities, but there's usually some drawback or limitation. Templates are very rarely about mechanical bonuses. Instead, they're convenient, if a little odd, tools to solve problems, some directly and some laterally.

Player enjoyment seems to come mostly from the weird interactions between treasure, abilities, enemies, factions, and traps, not from any one ability a class has.

I also want all classes to fit onto 1 side of a sheet of A4 paper, unless they've got spells, etc. If you're going to do worldbuilding, either subtly build it into the class abilities or put it in separate paragraphs.

Going forward, I'm going to more clearly separate classes into "Core", "Extra", and "Novelty" classes. Core classes should work. Extra classes sometimes work. Novelty classes, who knows? Use them at your own risk.
Svetoslav Petrov

Core Classes

The core trinity of Fighter - Thief - Wizard should feel right. Sadly, it doesn't quite. Not yet. All numbers below are made up.
  • Fighters have an 80% chance to solve a fight-based problem and a 20% chance to do nothing.
  • Thieves have an 80% chance to go around the problem completely and a 20% chance to find a new and exciting problem.
  • Wizards have a 60% chance to solve the problem, a 10% chance of turning into a toad, and a 30% chance of making the problem worse.
There's just something about playing a wizard that appeals to people. It's not power, it's the sheer delight of accidentally turning yourself into a toad. It's the joy of having a tool kit full of slightly dangerous and poorly understood things. Statistically, playing a Fighter or a Thief will keep  your character alive much longer. They're candles. Wizards are fireworks. And while some people might turn up to a candlelit mass, more people will turn up for the fireworks show.

Lungfungus has a much more sensible and sober take on core classes, if you're interested.


Fighter
This class works fairly well. I'm going to rewrite the "Tricky" ability in template C. A lot of the time in D&D you're fighting something that can't easily be tripped, shoved, or grappled. Combat Maneuvers are significantly less useful than just smacking someone. Fighters are likely to survive low levels, get a few magic items, and end up as solid centerposts of a party.

Thief

I've never quite got Thieves to work the way I wanted to them to. I think I'll need to re-write the entire class. Fundamentally, a GLOG base adventurer can do everything a Thief can do almost as well as a Thief can do it. I probably under-use locked doors and chests in my games, but the players usually bash through them somehow. Traps are disabled with common sense, rope, or foolishness.

I thought "the Heist" ability would provide an interseting incentive to Thief PCs. It ended up not being used. I've gone off bonus XP in general, except for frivolous spending. "Lucky" and "Very Lucky" are quite good.

Wizard
Everyone wants to play a wizard. I don't think I can get away from that. I could make wizards less interesting (boo!) or make the other classes more wizardy (why?), but instead I'm just going to give Wizards fewer options and a bit more squishiness. Players tend to alternate between spellcasting classes and non-spellcasting classes.

My players never really used "Spell Breeding". They tend to neglect downtime in favour of more risky exploring. "Book Casting" also rarely gets used, mostly because of player skill (or the lack of it). I'm not going to drop either one, but I'm going to try and get more use out of them.

Wizards currently gain 2 spells at template A, 1 at B, 1 at C, and 6 at D. I'm going to drop that to 2/1/1/ and 2. Arnold had it so that you could only gain Emblem spells as treasure. I never bothered with that; I prefer generalized randomized treasure rather than crafting PC-specific stuff. Anyway, I'm going to limit it to choosing one of two Emblem spells with Template D. Individual wizard schools will need to be adjusted in accordance with these principles. I'll also sort them into Core/Extra/Novelty schools at the same time.


Extra Classes

These classes do something a Core class does (but differently), or solve a rare type of problem, or compliment a Core class.

Barbarian
They work really well. Every ability harmonizes.

Knight
Knights also work well, especially in generic medieval games where nobility and estates are important. The "Challenge" ability is under-utilized and may need to be replaced, though this might just be player skill.

Paladin of the Word
The main downside to the class is the inability to speak. It's a very difficult thing for a player to manage and can lead to frustration in a voluble person. I may tweak some of the secondary abilities slightly.

Sorcerer
I need to adjust the Mishaps table slightly. Some of the Doubles effects are underwhelming and a Sorcerer with lots of HP can cruise through them with ease. A Sorcerer can solve lots and lots of problems... but only temporarily, and with a dire risk of exploding. High-powered creatures get better Saves, meaning the Sorcerer gets less effective against powerful monsters.

The Sorcerer class tends to outright solve between one and three problems a session. After that, it's either ineffective or actively dangerous. It's a bit of a shock, as a GM, to see the group breeze through a challenge with a literal hand-wave, but it's very satisfying to have it all come crashing down through poorly thought-out sorcery, bad planning, or reliance on the sorcerer's "get-out-of-jail-free" card.

Summoner
This class works fairly well, but I'd reduce the total number number of summons from 6 to 5. 5 is plenty. I also need to adjust a few of the Summons to be more clear and concise. 



Novelty Classes

I think it's completely acceptable (and a lot of fun!) to come up with a few dumb and unbalanced classes from time to time. They're a fun way to test out a new idea or a new mode of play. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don't. It's a fun project for an afternoon but if it's all you do, you may want to channel your time more productively.

Cannoneer 

Lots of damage but you've got to haul a great heavy cannon around. Tends to end in fire, landslides, and all the wandering monsters turning up at once.

Exorcist (Bell, Book, Sword)
Bell Exorcists need a substantial rewrite. They're just too fiddly. Fun, but fiddly. Book Exorcists work much better in a medieval game, but not so well in a pure dungeon or cave crawl. Sword Exorcists haven't seen enough play to form a solid basis for comparison yet.

Ghoul
The ghoul class hasn't seen enough play to edit yet.

Goblin

The Goblin class is hilarious and works as intended. Goblins are ludicrously squishy but they're an endless source of chaos.

Goliard/Monk
The Goliard and Monk classes are the "Tourists" of my games; high-challenge low-impact classes with some vaguely useful abilities, but nothing like as useful as a Thief. Pick them if you want to really have to work to succeed. The "Fortune's Wheel" ability the Goliard has is less neat than I'd anticipated. It just feels disappointing in play; knowing what's coming down the line feels flat and dull.

Inventor Necromancer

A surprisingly decent class at low levels. It's a slightly different flavour of Summoner, but it does require an active and invested player.

Many Goblins
Hilarious but needs constant adjudication. Also tends towards ludicrous farce.

Surly Gnome
This class is a novelty because it only applies to gnomes, but it's still fairly solid. No adjustments needed.

Underground Cannibal Gourmet
This class hasn't seen enough play to edit yet.

Witch Coven
Didn't work as well as I thought it would. The novelty of playing a low-level goat is short-lived. I may rework it or just abandon it completely.


Spellcasting

GLOG spellcasting is great. I've got my condensed version here.

Level-less spells make balancing everything so much easier. Using Magic Dice as Charges for magic items is very convenient. The entire system makes improvising trivial. 


In Conclusion

If you've got questions, ask away!

2019/02/15

OSR: On Zak (Sabbath) Smith

If you're not sure what all this is about, Justin Stewart (Dragons Gonna Drag) has an excellent summary post linking to several stories and accounts. You can also look through the Old School RPG Planet list. I'm not going to try and repeat any of it. Other people more closely connected to the entire event have already covered all the major points. So if this post is mostly about trivia, it's because I don't have much else to say. As usual, Cavegirl's got it covered.

 I believe women. I believe Mandy, Hannah, Jessica, and Vivka. Their abuser cannot debate, intimidate, or manipulate me into silence. There is no place for abusers among us. 

Everything below the jump is significantly less important than the preceding paragraph.


2019/02/10

OSR: One Page Dungeon: The Biggest Aspidistra in the World

The Magical Industrial Revolution book I'm working on will have a few dungeons in it. Here's a quick low-level one. Everything about it is still in draft form of course, but it might be useful.

It's the biggest aspidistra in the world! Click here or on the image for the PDF.

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1itfF2aI1vYmtjgQ1WLLgVkoY94eXqCMO

2019/02/07

40k: Unified Skirmish Terrain Theory

I've been playing a fair bit of Kill Team recently. Everyone has opinions on strategy and tactics but nobody really seems to know what to do with terrain. I've seen all kinds of setups. Some worked, some produced very short or extremely one-sided games.

Objectives
-Produce interesting, dynamic games.

-Force players to make meaningful choices.

This article isn't about positioning terrain to guarantee a win. It's all about setting up a board to produce a fun game for everyone involved.


Guidelines

1. Don't put terrain on the outer edge of the board.
Not sure where I got this image. It's a nice board overall but the stuff around the edges is just decoration.

Not sure where I got this one either. The buildings in red are in deployment areas. The models in them will just sit there all game sniping away.
You want to encourage movement. Putting terrain in a ring around the edge of the board and then leaving the middle empty makes for short and boring games. Teams deploy in the best buildings available and blast each other to bits. Anything foolish enough to wander into the empty middle can be targeted by anyone.

Tall terrain on the outer edge of the board also means you'll spend all game leaning over and trying not to snag a sleeve on a parapet. The official GamesWorkshop boards can trick you into putting buildings along "roads". Not the best plan.

2. The best positions require movement to reach.


Image provided by Ramanan S. The red soup can tower has two snipers on it. The poor models in white can hide in the green areas, but the snipers can hit any other part of the board.
If you can deploy a sniper (any model with a long-ranged high-powered weapon) in a spot where they can see the entire board, they can very easily control the entire game. It should take a turn or two of movement (and not shooting) to reach a position where the model can fire at two or more quarters of the board.

3. Place objectives carefully.
It's surprisingly hard to find images of objective placement, so here's an example of good placement I set up. There are multiple ways to get to the objective.
Objective markers are ubiquitous in skirmish games. Try to put them in locations that will drive conflict. Objectives in the open are difficult to hold; no cover means no protection. Objectives protected by walls on 3 sides are too easy to hold; all attacks will come from one direction. I like putting objectives on the second level of buildings or in areas with two different approach lanes.

I recommend using the objectives rules from the 2018 Nova tournament (PDF) for Kill Team. They create much more dynamic and close games.


Terrain Plan

Ok, this might be a bit difficult to follow but bear with me.

Top left: It's a skirmish board. The white areas have no line-of-sight-blocking terrain in them. The mid grey areas are places where one-story terrain should go. The dark grey square in the middle is for two-story terrain or higher.

Top right: Here's a potential layout. The light grey areas represent the back side of buildings.

Bottom left. The board divided into quadrants. In most games you'd deploy either in opposite quadrants or opposite board edges.

Bottom right: The board with examples of good objective placement. Corners are good. Objective  1 is out in the open, but there are no better locations in that quadrant. It's OK to have one or two objectives out in the open, just not all of them.


Guideline: Gap -> Ring of Buildings -> Gap -> Taller Central Building



Example Board


I set this up a earlier today. The outer edges of the board are empty. All the two-story terrain (and all the best firing positions) are near the middle of the board. The objectives are accessible in several different ways. One objective marker is on the upper level; I could put marker (1) up there too to drive a bit more conflict, but it's already a fairly powerful position to hold. Moving models in the centre of the board will be tricky but not impossible. There's a completely open side to the catwalks.

2019/02/01

OSR: The Eight Deadly Sins of Endon

I'm trying to find ways to better utilize a city map. Sure, there's a list of landmarks and major buildings, but I'd like to have a few pages to provide easy answers for GMs. "Where can I waste my money?" "What is my secret passion and how can I gratify it?" etc. One of the ways to make a city feel like a city is to have lots of interconnected areas, reinforced in the mind of the players by repeated associating under different context. Basically, they keep finding themselves in the same areas for completely different reasons.

If you're designing a city, consider listing where the seven (or eight) deadly sins can be gratified. It's very helpful.

Alexandru Negoita

The Eight Deadly Sins of Endon



Just as they recognize the eight points of a compass and the eight true colours, Endoners recognize (and cater to) eight deadly sins. Costs can be found on pg. ##.


An enterprising GM may want to inflict a single Sin on each PC at character creation; their secret vice, guilty pleasure, or open cause of ruination.
 

1. Gluttony: Dining Halls of Haymarket Square

Fiskelby’s, the Chuzzle, The Wobegone Club, The Red Lion, the Grand Cafe, Boutillon’s.

The fashionable restaurants and clubs of Haymarket Square (6, pg. ##) provide dishes to stagger the imagination. The Upper Class “dines out” rarely, the Middle Class whenever it can afford to, and the Lower Class gorges itself at pie-shops, gin dens, and roasting places.

2. Lust: Rampant Prostitution

Rathbone Place, Miss Chaterham’s, the New Parliament, the Duke’s Stables, Fancy-Free. 

For many, the only way to avoid starvation. In the knocking-shops around Colbraith Square (19, pg. ##) any preference can be accommodated at a few moment’s notice. Nearly everyone visits.

3. Greed: Betting Shops

Wise Fortune’s, Glengallery, Tipping House, the Great Sweeny’s, the Bell, the Chapel.

Endoners bet on everything: horse, dog, and pony races, dog-on-rat fights, boxing, tides, politics, and spur-of-the-moment wagers. Vast fortunes are lost on a throw of the dice or a turn of the cards. The best-appointed gambling dens cluster near Loxdon College (21, pg. ##).


4. Pride: Fashionable Tailors

Velvet Concourse, the Elm Trees, Matwick’s, the Brothers Bamstead, the Old Reliant.

Fashions change every Season. Dandies, courtiers, and ambitious young people follow fashion’s siren song to Needle Circus (24, pg. ##).

5. Envy: Watching Carriages at the Long Mall 

Ooh, there goes Lord Ginthem with a paid companion. And Lady Shreevly, like a clipper with all sails set. Look there, it’s the Duke of Bradham in his dress uniform, back from Foreign Parts, with Miss Scrupe, star of the stage.

Throughout the Season, the rich and powerful take long drives or pleasant walks through the Long Mall (12, pg. ##), watched with awe and envy.


6. Wrath: Boxing

Knock-em-Down Hole, the Splitters, Jack Rail’s Den, the Whisperplane, Hal Harrow’s, Squeakers 

Fighting pits and rat-rings are technically illegal but are rarely shut down or prosecuted. All red-blooded Endoners love a good fight. Anyone can participate if they don’t mind a few bruises. They can be found near Saint Nigel’s Workhouse (23, pg. ##). 


7. Sloth: Opium Dens

Land of Dreams, the Blue Steeple, the Clay Bins, Beckim’s, Master Morpheus’s Chambers
 

Though it is not a widespread vice, many people of all Classes and backgrounds take up opium to dull the everyday pain of life. Many dens of lassitude and decay can be found near Hasselby Court (10, pg. ##). 


8. Hatred: Newsagents

Foreign Agents in Our City, Sick Poor Spread Plague, Den of Iniquity, Child Murderer Walks Free, Luxury in Jail, Hanging Is Too Good For Him, Dozens Dead: Who to Blame? 
 
In Endon, it is said that any beast can be wrothful but only a men and tigers can hate. Wrath is bodily, foggy, red. Hate is cerebral, sharp, icy. Many small newspapers and pamphlets are deliberately inflammatory, playing on the worst fears and the deepest prejudices of their readers. Newsagents can be found on every street corner; discarded pamphlets in every dustbin. Of all the eight deadly sins, hate is the easiest to obtain.