Monday, August 25, 2014

DCC Houserule: Glancing and Penetrating Hits

Credit goes to one of my players who also GMs from time to time.

Glancing Hit: On any attack roll where the dice total the target's AC, all damage is reduced by half, rounded down.

Penetrating Hit: On any attack roll where the dice exceed the target's AC, damage is rolled normally.

Friday, August 22, 2014

DCC RPG Variant: Thief Advancement by Guild

Of the seven available classes in DCC RPG, the Thief is the only one with a codified skill system. Naturally, these skills revolve around hiding in the shadows, pickpocketing, and stabbing things in the back. Y'know, Thief stuff. However, one of the more curious design choices was tying which ones advance to alignment. The book tries to make this more flavorful by renaming each advancement tree after a path (Path of the Boss, Path of the Assassin, Path of the Swindler), but I don't feel this adequately captures the true variety of Thiefdom. None of the three paths offered, for example, allocate the highest bonus to the Pick Lock skill.

One houserule I've been working on is advancement by Thieves' Guild. Rather than tie the skill advancement to alignment, it would be based on the flavor of the guild. Want a guild that is notorious for breaching the highest security areas in your world? Done. All the GM has to do is choose:

  • 4 Skills to receive the highest bonus
  • 4 Skills to receive the second highest bonus
  • 2 Skills to receive the second lowest bonus
  • 2 Skills to receive the lowest bonus
  • One of the two advancement tracks for Casting Spells from Scrolls

Of course, basing advancement on guild flavor opens up a world of possibilities. For one, having a guild with such influence on a character means a direct source for adventure. It also provides opportunity to completely customize the Thief class. In exchange for a smaller selection of skills, perhaps the player advances faster or higher in their areas of expertise. Maybe each guild has a wholly custom list of skills and abilities or favored weapons. With all of these options, I find it best to start with the the fiction and worry about how to make it work within the rules after the fact.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Microscope Explorer Announced

Microscope Explorer is a supplement that explores (ehh? get it?) different facets of Microscope. Seeds to get play started quickly? Check. Tools to hone your history? Check. Rules variants and other twists? Check.

The full announcement is here

Monday, August 18, 2014

Ability Scores Above 18

As I gear up to run a DCC RPG campaign, I've been tinkering with some optional rules I want to add to my game. One of them is a mechanical benefit of ability scores above 18. Rather than simply tack on an additional +1 bonus, what if that score had a bigger impact?

If an ability score is increased above 18, either temporarily, magically, or permanently, the player may choose one of the following abilities:

  • When using any ability rooted in this stat, the player rolls +1d on the die chain
  • When using any ability rooted in this stat, the player rolls 2d10 instead of a D20
  • If the stat is Strength or Agility, the player may re-roll damage rolls
  • If the stat is Personality, a Cleric may re-roll the damage healed from their Lay on Hands check
  • If the stat is Intelligence, a Wizard or Elf may re-roll their spell damage 
Players must accept the second roll, even if it's worse. If a character has more than one stat above 18, the player must choose a different ability for each. Should an effect reduce the ability score to 18 or below, either temporarily, magically, or permanently, the character immediately loses access to this ability. 

Monday, August 11, 2014

Review: Torchbearer GM Screen

GM screens are always one of the more trickier products to produce. While all accomplish the basic task of offering the GM's notes some much needed concealment, few are more than folded cardboard wrapped in some cool (or not) art. All of the good screens double as quick reference documents. I'm happy to say that the Torchbearer GM screen is one of the good ones.

The art depicts a sprawling dungeon in the typical light fantasy fare we've seen in all of the other Torchbearer products. At the upper levels are the archetypal fantasy creatures most people are familiar with: orcs, goblins, and the like. The lower levels are filled with dragons, demons, and other abominations. I particularly like this illustration because it reinforces the notion that you don't need to travel far and wide to find adventure, you just need to keep digging deeper.

This screen is smaller than the ones you normally find for use with the world's most popular roleplaying game. This is a good thing! Maybe I'm just short or need to better match my chairs to my gaming table, but I always feel like I'm straining to see over the top of those screens to make eye contact with the players. This screen provides adequate coverage without being obstructive.

One thing that did strike me as odd is that only two of three player-facing panels have art on them. The other one has the rules for conflicts printed on it. It's not an issue for me because I like the size of the screen and the art is really the least important part of this product, but I have a feeling that some may wonder if they couldn't have made a larger screen and put all of the rules on one side.

The hardest and most important part of designing a good GM screen is deciding which rules to include. Torchbearer is among the best as it includes rules for the Grind, Camp, Town, Light, Equipment (how much space they take up, how much they cost), Conflicts, and Loot tables, among other things. In short, there is not a session that goes by that almost all of the rules included do not get used, and having a quick reference to them will drastically cut down on the time spent flipping through the rulebook.

I think it speaks volumes that the only real criticism I can muster is that there is too much useful information included on the Torchbearer GM screen. Some may take issue with the size, but its utility for quick rules-reference far outweighs any form factor gripes. This product joins the Torchbearer Player's Deck as an essential play aid.