Sunday, July 26, 2020

Transforming Black Hack's Usage Die Into a Quality Die for Equipment

At lunch I was listening to the Purple Worms podcast. The specific episode was titled Spicing up Combat. They mentioned Black Hack and its usage die and the idea of changing the usage die into a simple quality die for equipment banged into my head. I've heard since there are variable versions of this already, but I thought I would explain my version.

Before I get too far into this, the quality die I am considering is just a rough idea and I haven't put into play yet. I understand that it adds extra dice throws, but shame on you if you complain about that. And I thought about it, in my game the extra dice throws might happen once to three times in game. So the intrusion is minimal.

What Items Would it Work On
For this post's purposes I am focusing on combat items. Weapons and armor.

When to Roll
After a combat I'd have the players make a single roll for each  weapon used. Even if the PC missed all three attempts. Combat considers all the dodging, parrying, and so on. Also missile weapons would need to roll. While a bow or crossbow isn't used as a contact weapon, it does wear. Wood cracks, strings snap. Armor and shields would need to roll also. I'm guess a fighter might need to make three rolls after combat, most classes two, and possibly none for a magic-user. 

How it Would Work
I would use the Black Hack version where an object is designated a die of quality and if a 1 or 2 is rolled the item's quality is reduced. A d8 quality die would reduce to a d6. A d6 would reduce to a d4. If a failure occurs on a d4 the item breaks.

Example, if you had a d8 quality sword and during your adventure of murder hoboing you fail and your sword drops to a d6. Then in the final fight against the big bad thingy you failed and now the sword is a d4 quality. When you return to town and want to get your sword repaired. Repairing it only improves the quality die by one. So that d8 quality sword is now only a d6 at its best.

Repairing a magic item is difficult due to the quality level it needs to be before hand. I'd say a crafter of exceptional skill would have the ability to repair a magic item. Again, I am writing about combat items.

What Happens on a Critical Failure/Success
The item loses a quality die automatically. No roll. And I would say if the PC was critically struck the armor quality die is decreased automatically. I considered a chance of catastrophic failure but decided against it. The item automatically declines a die, the player then makes a roll using the new usage die and if a 1 or 2 were rolls the items breaks on the spot no matter the quality die.

Example of Standard Quality Dice
If the party is buying things straight out of the book I would assign those pieces a d8 quality die. If they are buying used items on the cheap, a d6 quality die. Say they find an item made by some sort of quality craftsman I'd bump the quality die to a d10 or d12. This gives a little range for craftsman ability. Then the d20 would most likely be assigned to magic items. But not necessarily. Some of the magic items may decrease in quality due to use or age.

I like the idea. I really do, but until I put it into play I'm not sure how it'll work and if the players will find it annoying. But I like the fact that a found sword wears out after usage and a new one would need to found after a time. I run a tight resource game, so sometime the store in town may not have a sword, but if you have a game where resources are plentiful it won't have much impact.

And don't be this guy. Cannon balls are not your friends.

Friday, July 3, 2020

Going Through the Spells: Resist Cold

Wow, Am I tired. Getting back into swing of having other people around, opening the doors to the crowds, and the general chaos that is a constant of my job. But we are not here to speak about such nonsense. I have one more spell in the 1st level cleric spells in OSE to cover. The all important Resist Cold! A it anti-climatic, but here we are. Grab a coat and a hat.

Old School Essentials Mechanics
Duration: 6 turns
Range: 30'
All creatures within this range are protected from cold, as follows:
Normal Cold: Unharmed by non-magical freezing temperatures. 
Save Bonus: Gain a +2 to all saving throws vs. cold-based magical or breath attacks.
Cold-based damaged: Is reduced by 1 point per die damage rolled. (Each die inflicts a minimum of 1 hit point of damage.)

So there it is. One of the first things that popped out at me is I didn't realize it was a radius spell. So everybody who huddles around the cast, within 30', gains the bonuses of the spell. That makes the spell more interesting. More useful. While the cold-based attacks, I did a quick search through OSE Monster book, only a white dragon, frost giant, and frost salamander do that kind of damage. Magic items include Wand of Cold, Staff of Wizardry, and the spell of Cone of Cold. 

But I think of it more as an environmental spell to help survive arctic-like conditions. And 6 turns won't get you too far so it could add some urgency to the game. "The next village is an hour away so we've got to move fast." Then the dread GM rolls a random encounter, giant flying frost worms with laser eyes! This is going to slow down the party. While they may hide to let the giant flying frost worms with laser eyes pass, they've used valuable time as the spell is now going to end one or two turns before they reach the village. That's good stuff right there. 

AD&D Mechanics
Duration: 1 turn/level
Range: Touch
When this spell is placed on a creature by a cleric, the creature's body is inured to cold. The repentant can stand can stand zero degrees Fahrenheit without discomfort, even totally nude. Greater cold such as that produced by a sword of cold, ice storm, cold wand, or white dragon's breath, must be saved against. All saving throws made against cold are made with a bonus of +3, and damage sustained is one-half (if the saving throw is not made) or one-quarter (if saving throw is made) of damage from that attack form. The resistance lasts for 1 turn per level of experience of the caster. A pinch of sulphur is necessary to complete this spell. 

Whew. Got to love those AD&D spell descriptions. The simplicity of OSE version shines when sitting next to this version. 

Let's take a look at what I think works in the spell. 

  • I'm always a fan to have a spell increase in use/power as a mage gains levels, so the duration advancement is a welcome option. 
  • While it's not going to be much good for exploration it'll have more use in combat in AD&D. More opponents, magic items, and spells use cold based damage. 
  • And I always enjoyed the addition of specific spell components even though I never used them in game. I have adopted the components to enhance a spell's performance.
What I'm not a fan of is...
  • The overly complicated way the saving throw works. Too much math. 
  • I'm not sure why the spell description was so specific about working at zero degrees. Gary lived in Wisconsin, I'm sure he know zero degrees wouldn't do in most location especially if you have some wind. 
  • And while I like spell components I don't feel sulphur is the correct one. While I understand is associates with flame and warmth I would lean more toward something like a vial of ice from a glacier. I dunno, just throwing it out there.
Normally I would do another version of the spell to compare it to, but not this time.

This concludes the going through the 1st level cleric spells in Old School Essentials. I haven't decided to move onto the 2nd level of clerical spells or do the 1st level magic-user spells. 

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Let's Get Weird

And let's face it, those of you reading my blog have already passed getting weird. However, I wanted to spotlight Weird Adventures by Trey Causey. He's the maestro behind From the Sorcerer's Skull blog and long time member of the dubious and infamous group of RPG Publishers known as The Hydra Cooperative.  

I've had the absolute pleasure to be in a game where Trey ran Weird Adventures. If you're looking for a pulp setting with lots of crazy stuff worked in seamlessly, this is it. It reads like entries in Atlas Obscura. A road map through this weird setting. Make no mistake, this is a setting all on its own. And it is a blast.

Normally the PDF runs $10, but today it's only $4. But I'm telling you just go for a physical copy. This is one of those gaming books that's a great read. 

I bought Weird Adventures nine years ago. It still sits on my prime shelf next to me when I game. It's that good.

And if you don't believe me I wrote a review about Weird Adventures in 2012 give it a read.