Sunday 14 August 2016

Single-Round D&D Combat

Recently, I've been thinking about how one could speed up combat resolution in D&D. These thoughts began after a one-shot which I ran a few weeks back, for a reunion of the most part of my old LL campaign group. I noticed that, even with experienced players, the time taken to resolve each round of combat (assuming a decent number of combatants -- six to ten -- on each side) is significant. Rolling initiative, each player declaring their actions, making to-hit rolls, making damage rolls, describing what happens. Even without the laborious tactical discussions and tomfoolery that sometimes slows combat down even further, when one is dealing with a less experienced or more drunk group, D&D combat is just slow. (I dread to imagine how it gets in a more complex rule set! I'm talking low-level, Basic characters here.)

If a single, significant battle occurs in a session, I'm fine with it taking 30+ minutes to resolve. But when several combats occur in a single session, they can start to drag. Thus, my search for ideas to speed things up.

I recently posted an idea for a simplified D&D combat system, based on Chainmail (via the semi-clone Platemail). This was, really, just a step on the way, though. My ideal would be a single-round combat system. A complete battle resolved in one step. After some fermentation time, the following rough system has emerged:

Super Abstract D&D Combat
When an encounter occurs and it leads to combat, the procedure is as follows:
  1. Both sides determine their Combat Strength (CS) -- a simple number.
  2. The leader of each side makes a battle roll: 1d6 plus the CS.
  3. The results are compared. The side with the lower result is defeated.
  4. Based on the difference between the two battle rolls, damage is applied to the victorious side.
  5. The results of defeat are determined.
1. Combat Strength
The force is divided into combatants and non-combatants. My inclination, inspired by LotFP, is to say that only fighters, monsters, or trained 0-level soldiers count as combatants. Adventurers of other classes count as non-combatants. (Games using clerics or other half-fighting classes may say that they count as half-combatants.)

(Note that by declaring non-fighters as non-combatants, I'm assuming that spell casting has little impact on battle. This assumption varies significantly with the D&D standard, but I'm happy to go with it. I actually like the idea of this being an area where fighters can excel, while spell casting is useful in a different arena.)

Combatants add their Hit Dice to their side's CS. Non-combatants add 1 to the CS.

Many other modifiers may apply (to be fully elaborated... just some basic ideas for now):
  • Character below half hit points? HD counts as half, for the purposes of calculating CS.
  • Character AC 6 or 7? +1 CS.
  • Character AC 4 or 5? +2 CS.
  • Character AC 3? +3 CS.
  • Character better than AC 3? +4 CS.
  • Character armed with a magic weapon. +1 CS.
  • Tactical advantages (this is an area ripe for elaboration). Varies.
  • Surprise +4 CS.
  • Missile weapons which can be fired before melee begins. +4 CS.
2. Battle Rolls
Just roll 1d6 and add to the side's total CS.

3. Compare Battle Rolls
The side with the higher roll is victorious. The other side is defeated.

4. Apply Damage to Victorious Side
Of course, entering into battle is a dangerous business and even the victor may suffer losses. The losses suffered are determined by the victory margin (i.e. the difference between the two battle rolls):
  • Narrow victory. Less than 5 difference: 75% damage.
  • Sound victory. Difference 5 - 10: 50% damage.
  • Triumphant victory. Difference 11 - 15: 25% damage.
  • Rout. Difference 16+: negligible damage.
Damage is applied as follows:
  • The total Hit Dice of the defeated force is calculated (without any of the modifiers mentioned above). This is the number of d6 damage suffered by the victor.
  • The number of d6s is reduced by the percentage noted above. Fractions are rounded down.
  • Each combatant may declare how many damage dice they will take -- at least one die and up to their HD. The damage dice are rolled and the combatants' hit point totals adjusted. If damage takes a character below 1 hp, they are treated the same as an ignored, defeated character (see below).
  • Remaining damage dice are applied evenly to non-combatants.
Negligible damage means that the damage inflicted is one hit point per HD of the defeated force. This damage may be distributed between characters as described above.

5. Determine Results of Defeat
Characters on the defeated side may attempt to flee the battle, realising it is lost:
  • Attempting to flee incurs automatic damage: 1d6 if a narrow victory occurred, 2d6 for a sound victory, 3d6 for a triumphant victory, and 4d6 for a rout.
  • A DEX check determines whether a character manages to escape, with non-combatants gaining a +2 bonus to the roll. If the roll is successful, the character escapes and is not counted in subsequent defeat resolution. (The victorious side may decide to pursue escapees, however, which should be dealt with separately.)
Characters who do not escape battle suffer one of the following fates, as chosen by the victorious side:
  • Killed: eaten, finished off, dismembered, sacrificed.
  • Captured.
  • Ignored. (This may occur if the victorious side immediately leaves the battlefield, for example in pursuit of fleeing characters.)
Characters who are lucky enough to be ignored or forgotten after being defeated in battle may make a saving throw versus death to determine their fate. If the save fails, the character is dead. If it succeeds, he is alive with 1hp and an injury which permanently reduces a random ability score by one. (A "death & dismemberment" table may be used at this stage, instead.)

As before: this is completely untested. Thoughts welcome!

Friday 12 August 2016

The Complete Elementalist: 1st and 2nd Level Spell Lists

Of the many writing projects I have on various back/front/middle burners, the one which tends to get the least attention is my eternally work-in-progress The Complete Elementalist. I had a look at it again last night -- just to review what I have and how far along it is -- and felt this great sense of regret. I really like the material I have, but it's a really long way from completion.

Unfortunately, I can't really see myself getting the time to properly finish this off any time soon and I'm not sure what will become of it. I'm vaguely considering whether I could publish the material that I have in some other form, to get it out there. We'll see.

Over two years ago (yeah...), I posted a list of the 1st level spells. In between then and now, I think I had one more spurt of writing and completed the 2nd level spells. So, here are the finished spell lists -- including the single-element specialist lists -- as they stand.

Complete Spell List
1st Level
  1. Burning hands
  2. Bury / unearth
  3. Create water (reversible)
  4. Crystal resonance
  5. Dust blast
  6. Feather fall
  7. Firelight
  8. Firewreath
  9. Fist of stone
  10. Flickerflame
  11. Hush
  12. Ignite (reversible)
  13. Lasting breath
  14. Lodestone
  15. Manipulate fire
  16. Message
  17. Purify
  18. Ray of fire / ice
  19. Resist cold
  20. Rusting grasp
  21. Seasong / windsong / firesong
  22. Shapes
  23. Slingshot
  24. Sound the deeps
  25. Stalagmites / stalactites
  26. Summon/banish lesser elementine
  27. Unburn
  28. Wall of vapour
  29. Water walk
  30. Windwreath
2nd Level
  1. Animate elemental
  2. Circle of frost
  3. Conceal flame
  4. Control buoyancy
  5. Crystal blast
  6. Dweomerfire
  7. Elemental cancellation
  8. Enlarge / reduce portal
  9. Erosion (reversible)
  10. False gold
  11. Fire trap
  12. Fog cloud
  13. Incinerate (reversible)
  14. Levitate
  15. Moonstone
  16. Obelisk of marking
  17. Produce flame
  18. Pyrotechnics
  19. Resist fire
  20. Ride the waves
  21. Sea lust
  22. Summon/banish greater elementine
  23. Tidal force
  24. Whispering wind
  25. Whisper thief
  26. Word of passing (reversible)
Air Spell List
1st Level
  1. Dust blast
  2. Feather fall
  3. Flickerflame
  4. Hush
  5. Lasting breath
  6. Message
  7. Purify
  8. Seasong / windsong / firesong
  9. Shapes
  10. Summon/banish lesser elementine
  11. Wall of vapour
  12. Windwreath
2nd Level
  1. Animate elemental
  2. Control buoyancy
  3. Elemental cancellation
  4. Erosion (reversible)
  5. Fog cloud
  6. Gust of wind
  7. Levitate
  8. Summon/banish greater elementine 
  9. Whisper thief
  10. Whispering wind

Earth Spell List
1st Level
  1. Bury / unearth
  2. Crystal resonance
  3. Dust blast
  4. Fist of stone
  5. Lodestone
  6. Purify
  7. Rusting grasp
  8. Shapes
  9. Slingshot
  10. Sound the deeps
  11. Stalagmites / stalactites
  12. Summon/banish lesser elementine

2nd Level
  1. Animate elemental
  2. Crystal blast
  3. Elemental cancellation
  4. Enlarge / reduce portal
  5. Erosion (reversible)
  6. False gold
  7. Moonstone
  8. Obelisk of marking
  9. Summon/banish greater elementine
  10. Word of passing (reversible)

Fire Spell List
1st Level
  1. Burning hands
  2. Firelight
  3. Firewreath
  4. Flickerflame
  5. Ignite
  6. Manipulate fire
  7. Purify
  8. Ray of fire / ice
  9. Seasong / windsong / firesong
  10. Shapes
  11. Summon/banish lesser elementine
  12. Unburn

2nd Level
  1. Animate elemental
  2. Conceal flame
  3. Dweomerfire
  4. Elemental cancellation
  5. Fire trap
  6. Incinerate (reversible)
  7. Produce flame
  8. Pyrotechnics
  9. Resist fire
  10. Summon/banish greater elementine 

Water Spell List
1st Level
  1. Create water (reversible)
  2. Lasting breath
  3. Purify
  4. Ray of fire / ice
  5. Resist cold
  6. Rusting grasp
  7. Seasong / windsong / firesong
  8. Shapes
  9. Sound the deeps
  10. Summon/banish lesser elementine
  11. Wall of vapour
  12. Water walk

2nd Level
  1. Animate elemental
  2. Circle of frost
  3. Control buoyancy
  4. Elemental cancellation
  5. Erosion (reversible)
  6. Fog cloud
  7. Ride the waves
  8. Sea lust
  9. Summon/banish greater elementine 
  10. Tidal force

Sunday 7 August 2016

Dolmenwood: Encounter Tables 2

Following on from my post the other day, describing the basic premise for random encounter tables in Dolmenwood, here are fleshed-out tables for the different types of creatures that may be encountered (animals, fairies, monsters, people) during the day and night. Each chart has 20 entries. A random encounter may thus be determined by rolling a d12 and a d20, then consulting the appropriate charts.

(The Animals charts, by the way, also include mobile or semi-mobile plants or fungi.)

Creatures marked with an asterisk appear in currently published issues of Wormskin. As more creatures are described in the zine, the encounter charts will be updated / expanded.

Animals - Day
Neutral creatures of animal or lesser intelligence, active during the day.
  1. Deer
  2. Deer
  3. Boar
  4. Boar
  5. Bear
  6. Bear
  7. Wolves
  8. Wolves
  9. Giant weasel
  10. Sentient crow
  11. Sentient squirrel
  12. Sentient hare
  13. Giant centipedes
  14. Snake
  15. Giant ants
  16. Killer bees
  17. Insect swarm
  18. Giant fungus (shrieker)
  19. Giant stag beetle
  20. Griffon

Animals - Night
Neutral creatures of animal or lesser intelligence, active during the night.
  1. Giant toad
  2. Giant stag
  3. Giant boar
  4. Giant snail
  5. Giant snail (psionic)
  6. Giant rats
  7. Giant weasel
  8. Sentient fox
  9. Sentient owl
  10. Sentient badger
  11. Giant centipedes
  12. Bog salamander
  13. Sentinel owl
  14. Moon doe
  15. Giant fungus (shrieker)
  16. Shambling mound
  17. Translucent ape
  18. Giant leech
  19. Shaggy mammoth
  20. Flying horse
Fairies - Day
  1. Barrow bogies *
  2. Mogglewomp *
  3. Scrabey *
  4. Sprites
  5. Sprites
  6. Dryad
  7. Elves
  8. Elves
  9. Unicorn (noble)
  10. Unicorn (black)
  11. Grimalkin, estray *
  12. Grimalkin, chester *
  13. Changeling
  14. Changeling
  15. Boggart
  16. Grigg
  17. Leshii
  18. Pook
  19. Poppet
  20. Hob
Fairies - Night
  1. Barrow bogies *
  2. Scrabey *
  3. Dryad
  4. Nymph
  5. Nymph
  6. Elves
  7. Wild hunt
  8. Unicorn (noble)
  9. Unicorn (black)
  10. Will o’ the wisp
  11. Will o’ the wisp
  12. Grimalkin, wilder *
  13. Changeling
  14. Crepuscular gnome
  15. Glegg
  16. Tomfools
  17. Woodgrue
  18. Woodgrue
  19. Redcap
  20. Hob
Monsters - Day
Inhuman creatures, active during the day, which are often antagonistic toward or prey on mortals.
  1. Gloam *
  2. Scrycke *
  3. Ogre
  4. Troll
  5. Grey worm
  6. Root thing * (autumn) or giant spider
  7. Giant spider
  8. Centaur
  9. Basilisk
  10. Goatmen, longhorn *
  11. Goatmen, shorthorn *
  12. Goatmen, wild
  13. Deodand
  14. Chimera (any number of hybrid monstrosities)
  15. Evil tree
  16. Lycanthrope
  17. Wyrm
  18. Scarecrow or wickerling
  19. Atacorn
  20. Peryton
Monsters - Night
Inhuman creatures, active during the night, which are often antagonistic toward or prey on mortals.
  1. Antler wraith
  2. Giant spider
  3. Giant spider (spell-weaver)
  4. Devil goat
  5. Bog zombies *
  6. Gelatinous hulk
  7. Nightworms *
  8. Witch owls *
  9. Gloam *
  10. Centaur (deformed)
  11. Groaning spirit
  12. Sodder/grasper
  13. Ghost
  14. Evil wolves
  15. Goatmen, wild
  16. Wyrm
  17. Ogre, horned
  18. Nightgaunt
  19. Evil tree
  20. Lycanthrope
People - Day
  1. Pedlar/merchant
  2. Beggar
  3. Villager
  4. Villager
  5. Villager
  6. Pilgrim/friar (travelling to random shrine)
  7. Soldiers/knights (in the High Wold, 2 in 6 chance of shorthorn goatmen)
  8. Bandits/highwaymen
  9. Adventurers
  10. Hunters/woodsmen/trappers/anglers
  11. Wizard
  12. Witch
  13. Drune
  14. Nobles (in the High Wold, 2 in 6 chance of longhorn goatmen)
  15. Officials (bailiffs, tax collectors) (in the High Wold, 2 in 6 chance of longhorn goatmen)
  16. Refugees / the lost / exiles
  17. Hermit
  18. Fortune teller
  19. Explorers (cartographers, scouts)
  20. Messengers (criers, emissaries)
People - Night
  1. Pilgrim/friar (travelling to random shrine)
  2. Bandits/highwaymen
  3. Bandits/highwaymen
  4. Bandits/highwaymen
  5. Adventurers
  6. Adventurers
  7. Adventurers or explorers
  8. Hunters/woodsmen/trappers/anglers
  9. Hunters/woodsmen/trappers/anglers
  10. Witch
  11. Witch
  12. Drune
  13. Drune
  14. Drune
  15. Refugees / the lost / exiles
  16. Villager
  17. Nobles or messengers
  18. Pedlar or beggar
  19. Soldiers or officials
  20. Hermit or fortune teller

Saturday 6 August 2016

Accelerated D&D Combat, Platemail-Style

So, a couple of days ago, I discovered Platemail 27th Edition. It's, loosely speaking, a retro-clone of Chainmail, though (as far as I understand -- I've never actually read Chainmail) it's greatly expanded, as Chainmail wasn't really a full RPG.

This link seems to contain the most up-to-date versions of the rules:

Direct links to the main rule book:

It's got some really nice touches and I'd definitely recommend you to check it out. Some highlights for me include:
  • The book of magic. There are some super nice, flavourful spells in here. Not just rehashes of the classic D&D spells (though, naturally, some of them do make an appearance).
  • The rules for divine magic. There's no cleric class, but any character who takes the Devout ability is able to petition their god for magical aid. It's a really nice system.
  • The skirmish combat rules. These are what initially brought me to wanting to look into Chainmail, in the first place, as I will elaborate below.
Skirmish Combat for D&D
One thing that I find irksome about D&D, from time to time, is the amount of time that resolving combat can end up taking in sessions. Even in simple, old-school systems, a fight can easily take half an hour (or longer). Sometimes this is fine, but at other times -- especially when several combats happen in a single session -- I find myself wanting something quicker. The original idea I had was the possibility of a system where a complete battle can be resolved in a single step, without requiring individual rounds/actions to be resolved. I've not managed to come up with anything so greatly simplified (yet), but I did come up with a system for D&D combat, inspired by Platemail's skirmish system, that I reckon should be significantly quicker than the standard D&D combat system.

Here goes:

Hit Dice
In addition to his or her hit points, each character has a number of hit dice. These depend on class and level (fighters have one HD per level, rogues have about one per two levels, wizards have about one every three levels -- proper progression charts needed). Hit dice represent both a character's ability to avoid dying and to inflict death upon others.

Action in Combat
Combat rounds are of indefinite length, somewhere between ten seconds and a minute. Many attacks may be made each round. Each round of combat:
  • Each character can move, attack, or cast a spell.
  • Move: up to full movement rate.
  • Attack: make a number of attack rolls equal to current hit dice. Apply all normal modifiers, but THAC0 is always 19 (the same as a first level character). Attacks are directed at groups of enemies with the same AC. If different groups are present, attacks may be divided between them. Each attack roll that succeeds is one hit. See damage, below.
  • Casting spells: healing spells restore one hit die per die of healing. Damaging spells inflict one hit per die of damage.
Damage and Death
Each hit reduces the enemy by one hit die -- either defeating an individual with one hit die or reducing a more potent foe's total by one.

Defeated characters may not move or act in any way. Defeated monsters are assumed to be dead or shortly on the way to death. Defeated PCs have a chance of survival, see below.

At the end of combat, if enemies remain, defeated characters may be:
  • Killed: eaten, finished off, dismembered, sacrificed.
  • Captured.
  • Ignored.
A PC who is lucky enough to be ignored or forgotten after being defeated in battle may make a saving throw versus death to determine his fate. If the save fails, the character is dead. If it succeeds, he is alive with 1hp and an injury which permanently reduces a random ability score by one. (A "death & dismemberment" table may be used at this stage, instead.)

After a battle, undefeated PCs lose 1d6 hit points per hit die lost during the fight. If this brings the character's total to zero or lower, a saving throw may be made, as above.

Recovering Hit Dice
Hit dice can be lost during combat and are recovered after a night's rest.

I've yet to try this system, so can only speak theoretically, at this stage. I feel it should be quicker in the following ways:
  • No initiative roll. A minor thing, but every "roll this per round" makes a difference.
  • No damage rolls. This is the big one. Hit points are abstracted into hit dice, making damage rolls redundant. Every hit simply reduces the target by one hit die. The conversion from HD to hp is done at the end of the battle -- either via the death save (-> 0 or 1hp) for defeated character or applied as hit point damage to undefeated characters.
  • Resolving multiple attacks per round. Characters with more than one HD can make multiple attacks per round. This should greatly speed up resolution, as lesser enemies may be mown down. This of course changes the balance of combat and may skew it too heavily in favour of those with higher HD. I also don't think this scales up to the standard D&D level range -- a 15th level fighter rolling 15d20 per round?? That probably wouldn't work so well.