Monday, June 29, 2015

Adventure Sound Bites

From this evening's Majestic Wilderlands D&D 5e game...

"We liberated the town. By which I mean, we killed everyone indiscriminately and burned the place to the ground."

"Green dragons – those are just copper dragons that have oxidized, right?"

[Entering the city of Modron]
"Rule number one – no shooting the prince. Rule number two – no burning anything down."

A: He left the Gnome Kingdom to become a wanderer.
B: In other words, he's a gnomad.

A: Olive Oyl was a crack-whore.
B: Olive Oyl is hawt.
C: I've seen trees more shapely than Olive Oyl.

[Entering the Temple of Mitra in Modron]
"Again. Rule number one – no shooting the bishop. Rule number two – no burning anything down."

[Speaking to the Archbishop]
"I'm grateful to have this liaison with Carmina. Wait, no, that came out wrong. I'm grateful to have Carmina under me. No, no, that's still not right..."

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Three Taverns

Browsing the blogosphere yesterday bounced me back to an old post by Zak S called "How I Want to Hear About Your Setting."

I find Zak's idea of defining a setting and its various elements through strictly useful information (tables, rules, etc.), rather than using lengthy prose text, to be very appealing. I'm going to start tinkering with ideas for a future campaign world by doing this.

As an initial exercise, I made up three taverns just to see if I could differentiate them simply through their names and lists of typical encounters.

The High Road: 1d6+6 patrons plus (roll 1d8).
     1. Adventurers – looking for work.
     2. Adventurers – looking for a brawl.
     3. Traveler – for a drink, offers information picked up on journey.
     4. Barkeep – offers to sell information for 1d6 gp.
     5. Minor Notable – offers PCs a low-level job (caravan escort, watchman, bodyguard, etc.).
     6. Special.
     7+. No encounter of note this visit.

The Cat's Claw: 2d6 patrons plus (roll 1d8).
     1. Pickpocket – steals random item from one PC.
     2. Fence – will buy goods of questionable origin, no questions asked.
     3. Gambler – invites PCs to low-stakes dice game (50 gp pot; win/lose 1d10 gp per round).
     4. Prostitute – possible source of info; possible source of disease.
     5. Spy – can be hired to acquire information about anyone.
     6. Special.
     7+. No encounter of note this visit.

Winston Cellars: 1d6+1 patrons plus (roll 1d8).
     1. Bouncer – looks the PCs over; kicks them out if not level 4+.
     2. Dandy – drinks/talks with PCs only if CHR = 15+; offers minor future social favor/aid.
     3. Courtesan – can be bribed for info about high-level NPCs.
     4. Major Notable – offers PCs a dangerous (level 4+) job; discretion a must.
     5. Major Notable – has information on political goings-on.
     6. Special.
     7+. No encounter of note this visit.

GM can roll 1d6 if guaranteed encounter is desired; roll 1d10, 1d12 or even 1d20 if less frequent encounters are desired. Info and secrets may be false at GM's discretion; notables are any personage of importance (respected merchants, government or church figures, wealthy citizens, etc.). "Special" is for any out-of-the-ordinary event (appearance of monsters, sudden disasters, major criminal acts, people who are not what they seem like con men, doppelgangers, disguised fugitives, etc.).

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The X-Y of XP

Tenkar's through-provoking post on XP bonuses did it's job and got my brain going.

There are two major factors that affect how fast and how far people advance in proficiency with any given skill set. These are natural talent, and practice. Natural talent is an affinity or the possession of some requisite trait that makes that skill set come more easily. Practice is the actual use of the skill set in question, either in a staged or a real-world setting.

There are of course other factors (psychological/affective for example) that impact people's learning outcomes. But in general, talent and practice are the big ones. And if my 25 years as a foreign language teacher have taught me anything, it's that practice is by far the more important of the two.

In game terms this effectively corresponds to earned XP for the practice element, and XP bonuses for the natural talent component. You can effectively place these on a set of X-Y axes to get the array of level advancement speeds possible.

Given that in-game, as in real life, practice carries more weight, advancement will be faster for people who have more practical experience (i.e. more earned XP), with the bonus for natural talent being a "value-added" component. Those with higher earned XP, who get more practical experience through adventuring, will advance faster regardless of modifiers, and those with low earned XP will advance slower regardless of modifiers. The fastest advance will be by people who have both high levels of practical experience (earned XP) plus natural talent (attribute bonus), and the slowest advance will be by people with both low levels of practical experience plus low levels of natural talent.

It is true that individuals with lots of natural talent will be underachieving slackers if they don't get the practice. I have seen this all to often in the classroom. Practice always has a greater impact than natural talent, and that is accounted for in-game in earned XP. If your character earns few XP (because the character isn't doing anything) then that character will by definition advance more slowly regardless of level of natural talent (which only gives you a bonus to what you earn through practice). But given equal amounts of practice, the person with an innate gift should always be more proficient than someone without the same level of natural ability.