Thursday 26 September 2013

The Every Skill Ever System

Note: This is probably going to work best in d20 basic d&d type systems.

Giving a PC in any system a stat/skill/ability/feat not only defines what that PC can do, but defines what they can't do.

In a highly granular skill/feat based system this can lead to silliness; a character missing the art skill couldn't ever draw a picture, a character without the etiquette skill couldn't ever talk his way in or out of a situation, a character without shield-bash couldn't possibly ever hit something with his shield.

The 6 attribute system (strength, dexterity, constitution, intelligence, wisdom and charisma) defines in an abstract and vague way what a character can do. It also defines what he can't do and how well he can or can't do things in general.  The 6 attributes essentially correlate to the experience of being a human being on earth. It's not a system for roleplaying a psychic-inter-dimensional-gas-blob, a time traveling flat man or human being NOT chained to the constraints of physical reality on earth. It's also not relevant to roleplaying a duck, amoeba or other non-human carbon based life.

Anything a human being could do can be extrapolated into a roll from these 6 attributes.

The reason for having a stat/skill/ability/feat is to calculate the bonus to a chance that a character has of achieving something of consequence. There's no reasons to roll for entering a shop but there could be reason for rolling to enter a shop without any one seeing you.

Players should want to do things all the time, all types of different and varied things.

Let them do things; simple relate the thing they want to do to the most applicable attribute and get the player to attempt a  D20 roll under their listed score for that attribute. This is colloquially known as an Attribute Check. This is the basis for the Every Skill Ever System.

Only do this when the thing the player wants to do is something that will have a consequence for either attempting it, achieving it or failing it.

Apply bonuses and negatives to each roll when relevant. This is the important part of the Every Skill Ever System. As the player is trying to roll the lowest number possible on a D20 (to get a result under the relevant attribute score) a bonus would be a subtraction from the roll result and a negative would be an addition to the roll result.

It's going to be easier to enter that shop unnoticed when it's dark, crowded and the character is wearing a hood (that sounds like a -2 bonus to the roll result to me).

It's going to be harder to enter that shop unnoticed when the character is wearing a clown suit and narrating his actions in a shouted voice to the people around him (+4 negative to the roll result).

Communicating to players that proper preparation and intelligent description of how they want to attempt a task will convey a bonus or a negative gives a great space for roleplaying. 

It's important that as the 6 attribute system correlates to the experience of being a human being on earth, players can't do things that human's can't do. No flying on a passed strength check.

It's also important to remember that just like here on earth some things are hard, sometimes impossibly so (this sounds like a +20 negative on the rolled result to me). I can attempt to pick up a car, but its not going to happen. Plus when I do this there is a chance I will injure my back or look like a fool (remember to only roll when there is a consequence for attempting, achieving or falling a roll).

Because it's a game, allowing criticals (a natural 1 in this case) to succeed on seemingly impossible tasks results in some loveable over-the-top action. Ensure there is negative consequences for failing though.

One final caveat of the Every Skill Ever System is that it works best for tasks attempted "in the field". Tasks that can be boiled down to a singular, or a small number of actions. Long term tasks (scientific research, writing a book) require a bit of extra work for the DM in the application of consequences.

Is learning or remembering how to play a piano related to intelligence, wisdom or dexterity?

In reality it's probably a combination of the three, but in a game it's up to the GM. It's important that once a call is made, it's written down and remembered to avoid discrepancies in further piano playing checks.

Is it important to write down every skill human beings could do ever and relate them each attribute? 

No, in fact just by writing that list down your putting boundaries on what players can attempt to do in your game. Define skills to attributes as they come up, don't waste time thinking up what players might want to do.

What about player's that want their characters to get better at doing a certain thing over time? 

Let them do it. But as every human being on earth is aware there is consequences for everything you do. The onus is on the GM to make sure this principle is applied logically to 6 attribute system (along with any of the other player resources included in the game).

If a character wants to get really good at playing the piano (say, receiving a -4 bonus every time they attempt to perform) there going have to spend time and money. Also, those months spent practicing the piano they would not have been working out in the dungeon (taking a hit to their strength or constitution).

The Every Skill Ever system recommends never, ever giving character's bonuses to attributes from levels or miscellaneous magic items.

The Shramgalders

Possible sighting of a Shramgalder.

Connected to the surface via straight up-down mile-long tunnels are underground laboratories. The tunnels have no stairs/ladders/elevators and their sides are sheer stone. The laboratories are filled  with vats of bobbing body parts, preserved in a stinking liquid. Any one who spelunks down the tunnel and makes it into the laboratories will find that the body parts bubble, shake and mutate constantly.

Attending these vats are Human Sized Bat-Snakes, known as the Shramgalders. In the laboratories they slither upright, tinkering with the globs of flesh with delicate hands at the ends of their wings. At night they fly out of their laboratories to harvest more flesh for the vats. The skin under their fur bubbles and morphs, a side effect from too long spent near the preserving-mutating liquid. The completed products of their flesh melding exercises are unleashed deeper into the underground. Shipments of the vat-liquid are supplied monthly at a shadowy cove, delivered by a group of mercenaries under the hire of a distant nation.

Tuesday 24 September 2013

House rules for death (or near death) in Labyrinth Lord

I like running and playing games where the world is deadly. But, sometimes just saying "you're at negative 1 HP, you're dead, re-roll" is as boring as playing supermen that cut through swathes of enemies without a scratch. Near-death ( and alternatively near-not-death) open up a world of role playing possibilities, drama and emergent game play.

The most important thing here is that the conscious players have the opportunity to DO SOMETHING to help their dying companion. It doesn't have to be medically correct, unless your group is all doctors/nurses and you get off on that, it just needs to be SOMETHING. Best case scenario that SOMETHING is entertaining, creates drama and depletes a player resource (more than likely time). Get the players thinking about what they would and could do in a fantasy world to help some one at Death's door. It can be outrageous, silly, possibly even deadly but just getting them doing SOMETHING to save their dying companion will pull them into the world. It makes the prospect of death more realistic (unless your letting them heal wounds with bananas) by turning it into a role playing process rather than an arbitrary game mechanic.

Vanilla Labyrinth Lord (and therefore early iterations of D&D) is pretty blunt; get below 0 and you're dead. This is my house rule for dealing with dying characters;

Once a character gets to 0 or below HP they are unconscious. Have them make a CON save. For each negative HP they have add 1 to their roll (their trying to roll UNDER their CON, so this is a bad thing).

If they fail it, roll a d6, that's how many more HP they lose. Give the other conscious player's some tells that the passed out character's condition is getting worse: more blood gushing out, vomiting, choking etc. See if they do anything to help the situation. Depending on what they do (bandage the wound, turn the character on their side to let the vomit escape their throat, step on the character, wander off) the character receives a bonus or a negative to their next CON save. Roll that next CON save, if they make it, see below. If they fail it, repeat the process above (another d6 of damage, another check to see if the party helps) until they are below the negative equivalent of their HP. At that point they're well and truly dead (unless a player comes up with something spectacular, then go with that).

If they make the CON save, they're stabilized. Unconscious, possibly bleeding to death, but stabilized. They're a useless, helpless sack of meat at this point. It's up to the other player's to do something. If they just ignore the passed out character (not bandaging the wound, not turning the character on their side, running around with their hands in the air) get the player to make another CON save. Add some numbers to whatever they roll depending on the severity of the other character's negligence. If they fail it, and continue to be ignored by the other characters, they can just keep failing CON saves until they're below the negative equivalent of their HP. At this point they are really dead.

If a character makes three consecutive CON saves, even with gross negligence of the other party members, they have stabilized themselves through some subconscious will to live. They will awake, hurting all over but alive, in 24 hours. Their dickhead party members have probably left them to rot, or buried them alive. The unconscious form is going to have to survive the nights random encounter checks.

If the character makes their CON save, becomes stabilized and given reasonable medical attention by their fellow party members they will be unconscious but stable for the next 12 hours. They are not out of the woods yet. Have them make an additional 2 CON saves over those12 hours. Add a bonus you think appropriate for the care the other members have given them (remembering to factor in the amount of negative hit points they have). If they fail any of the saves, roll a d6 and apply the damage. This process continues until they pass 2 consecutive CON saves or they die by exceeding a negative equivalent of their HP.

If they live, by making those CON saves, they wake up in 12 hours at 1 HP and in a world of hurt.

Bring a Cleric next time.