Usage Dice

I've been fascinated off and on by the Black Hack. I appreciate the simplicity of the system, I'm fascinated by the idea of player facing rolls in combat, but haven't really played it yet. Anyway this little post is about the Usage Dice. 

For those that don't know the Usage Dice works it goes like this. An item, usually a consumable has a die number U12 would be a 1d12, U10 would be 1d10. If you roll 1-2 your Usage Die drops one die, so down to U10, then U8, U6, U4. Naturally the odds of rolling a 1-2 increase as the size of the die drops. You roll 1-2 on 1d4 and your item is depleted. Usage Die are typically used for torches, food, and arrows but I think the idea can be expanded far more than that.


A new character might start with U20. Nobody has heard of them. Whenever they complete an adventure they roll the usage die. Then construct reaction tables to use the Usage Die. I don't roll reaction for the big bad or lieutenants but different NPC and lackeys, why not. In this system you either have a group Usage Die or use the lowest Usage Die in the band. The reaction table provides randomness. So construct the table so that low results indicate lackeys running away or surrendering and high results indicate the NPC And lackeys have no idea and assume the characters are just another group of push-overs to bully and threaten.

So the idea is that the mechanic ensures the reaction of NPCs is random but different as the character or party becomes more and more (in)famous. When/if the players journey a good distance the Usage Die can go up again.

Weapon Damage

Weapon damage is easy. The usage of the weapons equals the damage die of the weapon. Roll a 1-2 on your attack and the usage die and damage die both drop to the next die. So Aleena uses a weapon that does 1d10 damage but rolls a 1 on her to hit roll. That drops her weapon to U8 and does 1d8 damage now. If she rolls a 1-2 again it'll do 1d6 damage. She better get the thing fixed or have a backup. This provides a slow ticking warning about the weapon quality.

Once that weapon breaks Aleena will scrounging weapons which might not start at full value.

Ship Damage

I've always liked the way RuneQuest handled ships. Each ship had what in effect were armor and Hit Points and if you run out of hit points the thing sinks. I think using a usage die might be better than Hit Points as it is less, precise. In the heat of battle you might not know that a few cannonballs hit you below the water line.

Mass Combat

The last example, for now, would be mass combat. Maybe not a really big mass combat but a large skirmish where say the players stand with a bunch of allies. Break the local combatants down into groups that correspond to a die. Then roll the players combat as usual, and roll the usage die for the other combatants and tell the players the results. The guys on the flank, well they've got like 6 standing at this point. Their enemies don't look any different. 

So that's the basics. This might add more bookwork than desired, especially the weapon damage one, but I don't think so.

Best of the Web - Coins, One Class Campaigns, City Adventures

Dansumpton at Peakrill has a post called Money and coinage in RPGs. It's an interesting post as it dances around the issue of historical simulation and gaming fun as Trollsmyth more or less points out in the comments. Games do a lot of unrealistic things to amp up the fun and remove the boring. Which circles back to coinage nicely in my mind, people talk about gold being unreal and the silver standard being better which is true, but to me misses the point. 

If you were in the USA and found a purse with 2 dollars in it would you tell the cops (or your dishonest pals you owe money too) that you found 2 dollars, or would you say I found six quarters, three dimes, two nickels and ten pennies? It is somewhat absurd to track coins separately unless there is something special about some of the coins (difficult to cash because of size or rarity) in which case the coin should be considered along with jewelry and gems. 

Personally I think a generic coins should be used with terms like Guilders, Florins, Crowns or Marks to give a horde some kind of color/history. I'd also say that Merchants in Venice would probably hesitate to take English Marks without an exchange fee, that sort of thing is very far on the dull side of the scale and it should just be assumed to be built into the value of the coin(s).

Noism has a post on Monsters and Manuals called The Single Class Campaign which is an interesting idea and I think would be a lot of fun as one-shots rather than as a campaign thing. Imagine a series of one-shots each starring a different class, or as a side adventure. For example if the group has a Druid, you have one adventure where everyone else rolls up a Druid and join the party Druid in some side adventure, that sort of thing could be a lot of fun, but I just can't imagine an entire campaign.

DwizKhalifa at Knight at the Opera has a post titled A Thorough Look at Urban Gameplay in D&D, and its pretty thorough and well worth a read. It really sparked for me at the end of Point 6 when he says:

In a way, the "answer" to how you should create a usable town or city for D&D in a sandbox game is to follow the same logic you do for anything you prepare in a sandbox game: create and provide lots and lots of information. You don't plan for what'll happen. You don't tell the players the steps to follow. You don't try to categorize their actions. You just give information to players and they decide what, if anything, they want to do with it. They'll come up with stuff that'll very quickly break your attempts to structure their actions. The more information you provide, the more they have to work with and, in all likelihood, the more they'll do. The real skill is in being able to know 1) how much information you need to provide for things to be satisfying (since no one likes doing more work than they have to), and 2) what kinds of information is useful and gameable to PCs. This is why providing every single shop in town is unreasonable, but providing a list of 5-15 "special, important, or otherwise notable landmarks" in town is a great starting point. A lot of players will gladly look at that list and say, "alright, I'll bite: let's go to this 'undead labyrinth bazaar' I see next to the river."

This seems the correct way to handle a city. Have encounter tables for when they enter streets (either from another street/alley or from inside) and combine with handouts (which he covers in Point 7) and you should have a workable and very fun city.

Don't describe the city beyond the basics (stone first floor, waddle and daub above, and shale shingle grooves with a cobblestone streets and dirt alleys for example). Give the players a map of the city with some details and let them decide what to do. Give them a handout from time-to-time with rumors and scuttlebut to help define factions and whats going on. With enough detail you could turn a boring trip to the sage to learn about some magic item into a trip into the district controlled by One-eyed Frank and his gang (that want the characters dead because of a bar room brawl they think the characters started that smashed up one of their places). The players can try to sneak in, pay an urchin to try to convince the Sage to come out, but hopefully the players noticed in the handouts that One-eyed Frank is the main distributer of Pipeweed in the city and that the Cult of Gax has forced the City Guard into a major crackdown so the load aboard the Northern Storm, a Carvel in port at the moment, is lingering and may go bad before long. The Toothless Wizard staying in the Sea Shanty tavern is believed to be going into withdrawals and has threatened One-eyed Frank over the delays. Or that the Red Princess and her gang that runs the dockyard have an ongoing rivalry with One-eyed Frank and might be willing to help take him out in order to take over the territory and the Pipeweed trade. 

That's the sort of thing that should drive day-to-day sort of things in a city. The entire campaign doesn't have to be based in the city but the campaign will be more memorable if the city isn't just an offscreen safe space.

Best of the Web - GM Challenge Compilation, Hommlet, & Politricks

 Hillcantons has a GM advice PDF called The GM Challenge Compilation which is a super-old post from 2011 but new to me and worth checking out if you missed it way back then, its well worth the time.

Greyhawk Grognard has a post called T0 Journey to Hommlet which includes a PDF download of a short adventures for characters on the way to T1 (or T1-T4). I ran across B4 expansion once upon a time and love the idea and wish more would take up the task to fill out areas that modules left blank (for lack of space I presume). The missing T2-T3 in the Temple of Elemental Evil seems ripe. I might have to create interior maps for a few of the T1 buildings if I ever get any time.

Matt Strom at Ice and Ruin has a post called Politricks about giving goals to factions. Its short and worth a read and mostly seems to deal with lower level politics. Politics can make a game, especially a high level game. I'm talking wars, civil wars, and secession crosses. Bback in the day I GM's a game on Harn and had Rethem fall to civil war and their neighbors Kanday and the Thardic Republic moving in to take advantage of things and I guarantee the players remember it to this day (the world of Harn made it easy with the high level of detail). This sort of grand scale gives lots of chance for players to get into the middle of things. Ice and Ruin does bring up one thing I somewhat disagree with:

If the players don't really seem interested in engaging in the politics of the setting, don't foist it on them. 

They don't need to be involved or know they are involved and the politics can still happen around them. They could end up working on behalf of a faction from time to time, or the bigger conflict could get in the way of their goals (enter the besieged city, or an army might show up and besiege a town if you take too long). 

I'm surprised that more games don't talk about this sort of thing. If you're gonna get out of the dungeon then make the world move around a bit and break things.

Best of the Web - LotFP and James Raggi

Travis Miller at Grumpy Wizard had an interesting post called The Best Thing LotFP did for RPG's. In the post he talks about how James Raggi of Lamentations of the Flame Princess fame changed things. I'll let Travis tell why:

He pays an advance and then a share of the profit to the designer. The designer retains copyright for the product and may choose to end the license when the term of service is over. This last bit is very significant and almost no other publisher offers that.

Most importantly he assumes almost all of the risk involved in the product. He pays for art, layout, editing, printing and shipment to the distributor. All of that before the first book is sold. If you haven’t seen LotFPs books, they are some of the highest production quality in the business. 

In short he does what most publishers do but gives the creator a lot more in return.

Why? Wouldn't it be far more profitable to profiteer off the writers? In Raggi's words:

So anyway, this has good and bad effects. Good, because after years of running my metal zine and talking to musicians who didn't have the rights to their own work and were making pretty much no money while their record label was, when I got into RPGs I wasn't going to do the same thing. Even if that means certain titles going bye-bye because their creators weren't sticking around.

So he saw how it sucked and had integrity to not pull that same shit on others even when he was small time and could easily justify it as the way the system worked. Raggi gets a lot of grief online because of the shock aesthetic of LotFP artwork, and because he took a goofy picture with Jordan Peterson, and because he mostly sided with his most successful writer who was unpleasant online and accused of horrible things by his girlfriend. 

I've always been a bit neutral towards Raggi, but now looking at the way he does business when he didn't have to, without bragging about it as far as I can tell, makes me like the guy. I wish him success and hope LotFP survives.

Best of the Web - Furca, Design Layout, and Religion

Phil Viverito has a post on Furca called The Hobos Have Them... The title wasn't particularly interesting but I clicked through anyway because Phil writes good stuff. I was surprised and amazed. I've read a lot of history and yet never came across such wonderful usable detail into a piece of equipment. The Roman Furca should have been part of everyones campaign long ago.  

Brian C. Rideout at the Blog Welcome to the Deathtrap has a post called Designing Layout and Information in Adventures. I think we need more of this type of thing, including designing for PDF (which seems to have been skipped but is all over the place and has certain different requirements). The game world is filled with awful design (some of it self-congratulating itself on how great and useful the design is) and bad design can cause folks to hate a great book or great game.

Great Job! at boxfullofboxes has a post called Those Faiths Which Bind -- A Religion generator. The generator is a great start giving an overview of a religion. It goes nicely with a few other boxfullofboxes generators. 

Create some religious myths and the Holy Books using So what do we do 'till the stars are right? and Step on a crack and you'll break an Elf's back! -- A superstition and myth generator and Hey, what's with this weird book? (with a wee bit of judicating unfit results).

Generate some holidays & game and food enjoyed at those festivals with A Red Letter Day - a holiday & festival generatorOh, What Games they Play - a Contest and Diversion generator. and with a slight bit of effort the Yeah, but what do they eat? - A Local Cuisine Generator.

I think Religion and Cults (or lack thereof) are one of the primary ways to define a campaign area and I'm surprised I haven't seen more of this sort of thing.

Best of the Web - GLOG Domain play

Reading through the Manse still and I found an older post called Small GLOG Critique + 20 GLOG 'A' Templates in which Cacklecharm discusses adding a 5th level to GLOG play. This E level template would be for domain play. The idea is a good one and goes along with my own thinking actually. I find 4 levels too limiting and was thinking of 6 levels (keeping the 4 template per class though) to force some kind of multi classing. 

I was was also thinking some classes should have pre-requisites. So as you get into higher levels of play those become options. That is where Noble class could come in, you don't start as a noble but might be knighted during play, or High Priest (must have 4 Priest templates to qualify). The way I understand the GLOG you get 4 templates and then can continue play up until 10th level, you just don't get any more templates, so this would be setting you up with something different as you enter that template free late game. I was thinking these late game templates would have things like Followers (you take cultists, crew, or many goblins as a second character you control) as well as a few negatives (gotta pay money fight off schisms in your church, or duplicitous nobles, I'm not really sure about the negatives yet). The templates could also be full of much more role playing type skills (such as the Get out of Jail Free card that comes with nobility). Also these late game templates could be 2 templates or 3 templates instead of the usual 4 since you already had to earn your way.

Best of the Web - The Goblin Law of Gaming

Anyone that reads my blog probably already knows about the GLOG but I'm gonna mention it anyway because the GLOGsphere has been consistently some of the most creative content.

I have conflicting feelings about the GLOG (Goblin Law of Gaming) by Arnold K at Goblin Punch.  Conflicted because I love the way the magic works. I love the way multi-classing works. I love the way a lot of it works but the core skill system just didn't sit well with me. But I love DIY games and GLOG is as easy as any other game to swap out components like that.

I'm not alone, for some time the GLOG was one of the most vibrant bits of online RPG activity as people created a metric shit-ton of classes (here and here).  It is a lot like the Black Hack except things are shared for free, which creates more of a sense of community. It's like a big buffet of great ideas that you can pick and choose from and then tweak as needed. 

DIY & Dragons has a post detailing Who is the GLOGosphere? that gives some history on who and what has been writing what.

The whole thing is designed for low levels and to be compatible with most OSR compatible games. Arnold K has even written a scenario Lair of the Lamb: Final specifically for GLOG (which includes some rules) which made Bryce Lynch's Best list at Ten Foot Pole.

Usage Dice

I've been fascinated off and on by the Black Hack. I appreciate the simplicity of the system, I'm fascinated by the idea of player f...