Thursday, 25 July 2013

Fight Club: Playtest #2

Well, after my Grappler got his arm broken by a better Grappler, I figured I'd better create a Ground and Pound fighter to set the record straight.  Yes, it's another Fight Club playtest...

Roughneck Red

Red gets in a lot of fights.  And he's good at it.  He did a good deal of highschool wrestling, but a lot of his training is from the street.  He's fast and mean, though a bit of a coward when he's evenly matched.
Body:6 Ref:10 CL:1 BTM:-2 SB: +0
  • Takedown: 9
  • Grappling Counter: 9
  • Strike: 6
  • Enter Clinch: 3
  • Improve Ground Position: 3
  • Dodge Blow: 0
  • Joint Lock: 0
  • Escape to Standing: 0
  • Choke: 0
  • Kick: 0

  • Round 1
    • Biff shot in for a clinch, but was rebuffed
    • Red responded with a sharp jab to the face, which Biff shook-off
  • Round 2
    • Red landed another sweet jab, which again didn't phase Biff
    • Biff shot in again but was again rejected
  • Round 3
    • Red tried another jab, but this time Biff was ready
    • Biff landed a hard kick on Red, nearly flooring him, but he kept on going
  • Round 4
    • I didn't want to get another kick like that, so Red shot into a clinch
    • Biff attempted a takedown but Red avoided it
  • Round 5
    • Red took Biff down to a neutral position on the ground
    • Biff tried to advance to a superior position but was countered
  • Round 6
    • Red landed a punch on Biff that left him Lightly Stunned
  • Round 7
    • Red punched the stunned Biff, knocking him out completely(Stunned)


Wow, another close fight.  CP2020 combat is really intense, because any attack can potentially leave you stunned and helpless, so you weigh each move carefully.

We noticed that there was no advantage to punching over kicking and kicking does more damage.  The solution we came up with is the following rule, based on the reality of kicking in a fight:
  • Easier to counter
    • if your kick from standing misses then you are easier(+4) to strike/kick/clinch until your next turn

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Fight Club Playtest

So my friend A. and I ran a friendly little playtest match of Fight Club by email.  It's fun.  Cyberpunk 2020 combat is strategic and fun.  Anyway, it got really out of hand really fast...

Dog Johnson(my character)

Smallish guy with inferiority complex
Fresh BJJ Bluebelt.  Goes to every competition in the area.  When he wins, he usually wins on points.
Wants to become the "Bruce Lee of BJJ" (whatever that means)
Body:4 Ref:8 CL:5 BTM:-1 SB:-1

  • Enter Clinch: 5
  • Takedown: 5
  • Improve Ground Position: 5
  • Grappling Counter: 4
  • Dodge Blow: 4
  • Joint Lock: 3
  • Strike: 2
  • Escape to Standing: 1
  • Choke: 1
  • Kick: 0

Scared Biff(A's character)

Body:5 Ref:10 CL:2 BTM:-2 SB: +0

  •  Strike: 0
  •  Dodge Blow: 1
  •  Enter Clinch: 5
  •  Escape to Standing: 0
  •  Grappling Counter: 5
  •  Improve Ground Position: 3
  •  Takedown: 5
  •  Joint Lock: 5
  •  Choke: 0
  •  Kick: 6

I knew I was in trouble when I saw his character was also a grappler, with better Reflexes nonetheless. Well, I also rolled poorly and it was a fairly short fight, but pretty tense, with a lot of strategizing before each die roll...

  • Round 1
    • Biff shot into a clinch
    • Dog attempted an arm lock but Biff countered it
  • Round 2
    • Dog tried another lock but was countered again
    • Biff threw Dog to the ground.  He hit his head on the concrete but didn't lose consciousness
  • Round 3
    • Biff caught Dog in a joint lock and broke his arm.  He was incapacitated due to the pain and also failed his COOL check for next round, so the fight was over!


It was fun and intense and strategically rich.  Still felt like CP2020 combat despite the rule changes.

I made a rule tweak that throws only do damage on a hard surface.  

Besides that, there were the standard CP2020 problems:
  • REF is too important a stat in combat
    • That said, maybe it makes sense that the best martial artists have good natural reflexes...
  • Cool still ended up being a dump stat

I thought about how to improve the situation without breaking CP2020's general mechanic.  Cool could be made a little more important at he expense of body by making Stun Checks vs. Cool.  But, body makes sense too, since a big guy is going to be less effected by a little guy's punch.  That's a common problem when expanding CP2020: Which Stat to use for a particular check? Often times there are more than one stat that make sense, but you can only pick one of them, so I usually pick the one that I think has the stronger case.

Anyway, both characters were grapplers, so I'd like to see how other types would fare:
  • Ground and Pound
  • Striker with good takedown defence

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

The Fight Club Mini-Game

So two of you have arrived, but the rest of your gaming group is running late.  The pizza isn't here yet and you've run through all the small-talk already.  What can you do?  NEED STIMULATION NOW! Well here's The Fight Club Mini-Game for two players to keep you busy...


Step 1 Create Your Fighter

  1. Divide 17 points between Body, Reflexes, and Cool stats(maximum 10)
  2. Calculate your BTM(damage reduction due to toughness)
  3. Calculate you Strength Modifier to damage
  4. Divide 30 skill points between the 10 martial arts skills(maximum 10)

Sample Character Sheet

Strength Modifier
Body:6 Ref:7 CL:4 BTM:-2 SB: +0
  • Strike: 3
  • Dodge Blow: 3
  • Enter Clinch: 3
  • Escape to Standing: 3
  • Grappling Counter: 3
  • Improve Ground Position: 3
  • Takedown: 3
  • Joint Lock: 3
  • Choke: 3
  • Kick: 3

Step 2 Fight!

Appendix: Alternative Martial Arts Rules for CP2020

Here are all the posts on this alternate system for Cyberpunk 2020 Martial Arts

Cyberpunk 2020 Updated for MMA: Part 4

So let's run our character from last time through an example now that we have skills and advancement down.

The Lineup


Strength Bonuses
Maxim is a pro-boxer, considering transitioning to MMA.  His stats are:
Body:6 Ref:9 CL:9 BTM:-2 SB: +0
  • Strike-9
  • Dodge Blow-9
  • Enter Clinch-6
  • Escape to Standing-6
  • Grappling Counter-3
  • Improve Ground Position-3
  • Takedown-3
  • Joint Lock-2
  • Choke-2
  • Kick-2

Maxim pissed off the Russian Mob who wanted him throw a fight.  Now The Boss sent a couple of his goons after him:


Lead Pipe(1d6+2)
Body:10 Ref:5 CL:5 BTM:-4 SB: +2
  • Melee-8
  • Strike-5
  • Dodge Blow-3


Light Knife(d6/2)
Body: 8 Ref:7 CL:3 BTM:-3 SB: +1
  • Strike-7
  • Dodge Blow-7
  • Kick-4
  • Fencing-4
  • Takedown-3

Round 1

Initiative: Maxim 1+9=10, Goon1 8+5=13, Goon2 5+7=12
The goons catch Maxim flat-footed, fumbling for his keys in the alley.  They don't attack just yet, planning to intimidate him verbally and get him to grovel before roughing him up.  Seeing these two big Russian mobsters, one of them holding a pipe, Maxim springs into action.  He shoots in to clinch-up with the one with the visible weapon, hoping to then attempt a submission.  The two thugs are ready for him though.

Goon1 swings his pipe...
Maxim catches a nasty blow in the left leg
  • Goon1: 7+5+8=20
  • Maxim: Dodge Blow=1+9+9=19
  • He hits him in the left leg for 5+2+2=9.  Modified for BTM that's 7 dmg
  • Stun Test: 3 which is less than or equal to his body value 6-1=5 so he is OK!

Goon2 kicks at the boxer...
Maxim just dodges the kick
  • Goon2:8+7+4=19
  • Maxim: Dodge Blow=1+9+9=19

Maxim shoots for a clinch...
Maxim get's the big man in a clinch
  • Maxim: 9+9+6=24
  • Goon1: Grappling Counter=7+5+0=12

Round 2

Initiative: Maxim 1+9=10, Goon1 8+5=13, Goon2 5+7=12

Goon1 tries to get out of the clinch...
he fails to escape the clinch

  • Goon1: Escape to Standing 4+5+0=9
  • Maxim: Grappling Counter=1+9+3=13

Goon2 punches at the clinched-up boxer...
Max falls to the ground, Lightly Stunned.
Stun penalties based on wounds

  • Goon2:6+7+7=20
  • Maxim: Dodge=5+9+8-4(3rd party dodge)=18
  • The boxer takes a hit to the head for 1d6/2+4+1=6dmg.  Modified for btm that's 4dmg.
  • Stun Test: 7 which is more than his body value 6-2=4

Max loses his turn on account of being Lightly Stunned.

Round 3

Initiative: Maxim 9+9=18, Goon1 10+5=15, Goon2 3+7=10

Maxim's Cool Test: 5 which is less than his modified cool score of 9-2(-11dmg)=7.  He stands back up.
Maxim punches at Goon2, hoping to knock him down...
he falls to the ground Lightly Stunned

  • Max: 4+9+9=22
  • Goon2: Dodge Blow=2+7+7=16
  • He punches him for 3+5=8dmg -3BTM=5dmg
  • Stun test: 8 which is greater than his modified body value 8-1=7

Goon1 swings at Max with the pipe...
Max dodges the weapon

  • Goon1: 9+5+8=22
  • Max: Dodge Blow=5+9+8=22

Round 4

Initiative: Maxim 9+9=18, Goon1 2+5=7, Goon2 1+7=8

Maxim shoots for a clinch at Goon1...
Maxim get's the big man in a clinch

  • Maxim: 1+9+6=16
  • Goon1: Grappling Counter=3+5+0=8

Goon2's Cool Test 9 which is greater than his modified cool value of 3-1=2(5dmg), so he's still Lightly Stunned

Goon1 tries to get out of the clinch...
he fails to escape the clinch

  • Goon1: Escape to Standing 9+5+0=14
  • Maxim: Grappling Counter=10+9+3=21

Round 5

Initiative: Maxim 8+9=17, Goon1 2+5=7, Goon2 4+7=11

Maxim attempts a choke on Goon1
Goon1 avoids the choke

  • Maxim: 3+9+2-4(from clinch)=10
  • Goon1: Grappling Counter=8+5+0=13

Goon2's Cool Test 9 which is greater than his cool value of 3-1=2, so he's still Lightly Stunned

Goon1 tries to get out of the clinch...
he fails to escape the clinch

  • Goon1: Escape to Standing 9+5+0=14
  • Maxim: Grappling Counter=6+9+3=18

Round 6

Initiative: Maxim 6+9=15, Goon1 6+5=11, Goon2 3+7=10

Maxim attempts a choke on Goon1
He chokes the man unconscious

  • Maxim: 10+9+2-4(from clinch)=17
  • Goon1: Grappling Counter=9+5+0=14

Goon1 is unconscious

Goon2's Cool Test 6 which is greater than his cool value of 3-1=2, so he's still Lightly Stunned.

Round 7

Initiative: Maxim 10+9=19, Goon2 9+7=16

Goon1 is still in a chokehold and misses his turn

Maxim releases his choke on Goon1. He steps over the bodies and runs out of the alley, roughed-up but not seriously injured(11 Non-Lethal Damage).

Goon2's Cool Test 3 which is greater than his cool value of 3-1=2, so he's still Lightly Stunned.


I was pretty happy with how that turned out.  The grappling was useful, the strikes were useful. There are enough trade-offs between different approaches to allow for interesting strategies.  Also it makes Cool, often considered a Dump Stat, more useful.  I guess the next step would be to do a real play-test against another player.

Monday, 22 July 2013

Cyberpunk 2020 Updated for MMA: Part 3

Continuing from the last post on an modernized martial arts system for CP2020.


Key Attacks
CP2020 has a rather complex system for advancement in Martial Arts.  Each individual Art has a difficulty level to determine how much XP you need to advance in it, and a bonus it gives for Key Attacks.

Due to today's more cross-training approach, I'm going to say that characters improve a particular technique rather than an art. Since this makes martial arts a bit more expensive, we'll say that 1 skill point buys you 3 martial arts skill points(to be divided between 3 different martial arts skills).  I'm also going to do away with the art-specific bonuses.

This requires 10*10/3=33.3 skill points to max-out all martial arts skills, which seems like a reasonably high-enough number since characters will generally want to specialize rather than max-out(in CP2020, you begin with 40+INT+REF skill points, so around 50)
Key Attacks for Karate

So for example if I created a martial artist character, and I wanted to put 15 skill points into martial skills, I would have 45 martial arts skill points to distribute between the 10 martial skills.  So let's say this guy's a pro-boxer, but has trained Brazilian Jiu Jitsu on the side in hope of transitioning to MMA:

  • Strike-9
  • Dodge Blow-9
  • Enter Clinch-6
  • Escape to Standing-6
  • Grappling Counter -3
  • Improve Ground Position-3
  • Takedown-3
  • Joint Lock-2
  • Choke-2
  • Kick-2

Side Effects

One side effect is that whatever Martial Arts you studied is no longer your skill, it's now your back-story to explain your martial skills.

Another is that the Brawling skill is no longer relevant.  If you want to make a Brawler, who has learned to fight on the street, just spend 7 skill points on 21 martial arts skill points.

  • Strike-7
  • Dodge Blow-7
  • Kick-4
  • Takedown-3

Cyberpunk 2020 Updated for MMA: Part 2

CP2020's Martial Arts combat is built around 11 general techniques.  In this article I'll propose my own alternate set of 10 techniques for modern martial arts.  Unlike CP2020, martial level will be per-technique, not per art i.e. each technique is effectively a separate Skill.

CP2020's General Melee Mechanic

1 Techniques

The popularization of ground fighting due to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has added a lot of techniques to the martial arts world, as well as a good deal of positioning strategy.

1.1 Positions

There are a number of positions your character can be in, and this determines both w
hat techniques can be used and with what chance of success/effectiveness.

So simple, even a Rockerboy could do it!
  • Standing- standing far enough away from opponent to trade powerful punches/kicks
  • Clinched- two adversaries are standing, but tied-up with one another such that it's harder to trade blows.  Close enough to attempt take-downs
  • Ground- two adversaries are grappling on the ground.  Three possible sub-positions:
    • Neutral- both adversaries are on equal footing
    • Superior/Inferior- one adversary has a better position than the other

1.2 Positional Techniques(4)

During his turn, a character uses his action to attempt to change positions.
Original List of Techniques

  • Enter Clinch
    • Transition from Standing to Clinched
    • Roll against opponent's Grappling Counter
  • Takedown
    • Transition from Clinched to Ground(Neutral)
    • Roll against opponent's Grappling Counter
    • Success by 5 or more means you threw him for a transition straight to Ground(Advantage)
      • If you're on a firm surface 1d6+Damage Modifier
  • Escape to Standing
    • Transition from Clinched/Ground(Neutral) to Standing
    • Roll against opponent's Grappling Counter
  • Improve Ground Position
    • Transition from Ground(Disadvantage) to Ground(Neutral) or Ground(Neutral) to Ground(Advantage)
    • Roll against opponent's Grappling Counter

1.3 Attack Techniques(4)

There two types of strikes and two types of submissions.  Note that head strikes/kicks against an opponent wearing an open helmet have a 50% of hitting the helmet(modified location chart below) and thus having their damage reduced.
General Hit-Location Chart

  • Strike- Strike with hand/elbow.  Cause 1d6/2+SB+Damage Modifier
    • Roll against opponent's Dodge
    • Roll Location: Face 1-4, Head 5-8, Body 9-0
    • Positions and Bonus/Penalties
      • Standing: 0
      • Ground(Neutral): 0
        • MMA Equivalent: punching from within the guard
      • Ground(Advantage): +5
  • Kick/Knee- Cause 1d6+SB+Damage Modifier
    • Roll against opponent's Dodge
    • Roll Location: Face 1, Head 2, Body 3-6, R. Leg 7-8, L. Leg 9-0
      • Positions and Bonus/Penalties
        • Standing: 0
        • Ground(Advantage): 0
          • MMA Equivalent: knee from side mount
        • Ground(Neutral): -5
      • Easier to counter
        • if your kick from standing misses then you are easier(+4) to strike/kick/clinch until your next turn
    • Joint Lock
      • Hold Submission to cause pain, threaten major injury, force prone
      • Force Submission to break the limb
        • Limb incapacitated until medical care+healing time
        • 4d6 damage, unmodified by BTM/armor
      • if the joint being forced is the neck/spine, paralysis/death ensues
      • Roll against opponent's Grappling Counter
      • Roll Location: Neck 1-2, R. Arm 3-5, L. Arm 6-8, R. Leg 9, L. Leg 0
          • Positions and Bonus/Penalties
            • Clinch: -5
            • Ground(Disadvantage): -5
            • Ground(Neutral): 0
            • Ground(Advantage): +5
        • Choke
          • Hold Submission to cause pain, threaten unconsciousness, force prone
          • Force Submission to choke unconscious
            • Once released, you are considered stunned, with no Stun Check
            • Each additional round the choke is held, the victim must make increasingly difficult Death Save(as with mortal wound levels: -0, -1, -2...) or die
            • Roll against opponent's Grappling Counter
          • Positions and Bonus/Penalties
            • Clinch: -5
            • Ground(Neutral): 0
            • Ground(Advantage): +5

        1.4 Defense Techniques(2)

        These are usually used reactively, without using-up a character's turn, to counter techniques in 1.2, 1.3 above as specified.  If the character focuses on defence and doesn't do any other action, then he can get an additional +5 to his defence roll.  There are two types.

        • Dodge Blow(distinct from the Dodge skill, which no longer applies to combat)- dodge or block a strike, kick, blade, club, etc.
        • Grappling Counter - prevent opponent from executing a technique

        1.5 Miscellaneous Rules

        • Damage modifier = level of the technique/2
        • 3rd party dodge
          • When two characters are Clinched or on the Ground and a third character attacks one of them, they have a more difficult time dodging
          • -5 penalty to Dodge Blow
        • Small weapon can be drawn from Clinched/Ground, even your opponent's weapon
          • Opponent can try to prevent this
          • Roll against opponent's Grappling Counter
        • Small weapons can be used from Clinched/Ground as a normal attack from that range
          • pistols considered point blank range
          • knives: -5 to Dodge Blow roll
          • rifles can't be used effectively from those positions
          • clubs, swords can be used from the same positions as strikes, with the same penalty/bonus
        • Non-Lethal Damage
          • Strikes/Kicks/Throws/Joint Locks do damage.  So do blunt attacks to limbs.  But it's a non-lethal type of damage.  So no Death Save is neccessary. That's right, no Fists of Death--that only works in Anime
            • On the other hand, throws which hit the head on a hard surface, or blunt attacks to the head/body do normal damage
          • You do still need to make a Stun Check.  If you fail then you are Lightly Stunned(as opposed to Stunned when shot, stabbed, etc.)
          • Being Lightly Stunned is less permanent than being Stunned by Normal Damage(Stunned for
            Stun penalties vs. points of damage
            the rest of the combat)...
            • You miss your next action, but...
            • For each following round make another Stun Check.  If you succeed, then you are no longer Lightly Stunned and can start performing actions again
          • Non-lethal damage heals at a rate of 1 point per hour of rest(though the bruises/cuts take longer to go away)
        • Disarm- done as Strike/Kick/Joint Lock with an additional -4 penalty
        • Dirty Shot- strike opponent in the groin, eye, etc.
          • Roll with a -5 penalty(same as attacking specific limb)
          • Does 4d6 non-lethal damage like a broken limb
          • Successful eye gouge blinds character in that eye
        • Once Opponent is Stunned/Lightly Stunned
          • No escape skill check is needed to stand back up from ground, put opponent in Ground(Advantange), continue to punch opponent, etc.

        That's it for Techniques.  Next time... Advancement!

        Sunday, 21 July 2013

        Cyberpunk 2020 Updated for MMA: Part 1

        Wow.  This post got way too long, way too fast.  So this will be the first part of a series.  Gygax had his Polearms, I have my Martial Arts...

        So let's start with the problem:

        When I was running Polish Resistance with CP2020 rules, we were dissatisfied with the martial arts rules.  Bottom line, CP2020's fights just didn't seem realistic.

        To list some of the problems:

        • The Boxer in the party, his punches were doing an amount of damage on par with a rifle-shot
        • Strikes do the same type of damage as a gun-shot(i.e. no non-lethal damage), so all his punches were fatal
        • Grappling was pretty useless in practice
        • There were no submissions

        So you have to ask: How did CP2020, a game which LOOOVES martial arts, get it so wrong?

        The answer is, to a large degree, due to how martial arts and our perception of martial arts have changed since the game's publication in the late 80's.

        How Martial Arts Have Changed

        The advent of Mixed Martial Arts competition, popularized with the advent of the UFC in 1993, has led to a lot more cross-over in the Martial Arts World.  Specific schools borrow from each other much more, you have MMA schools which don't even attempt to focus on a single style, and martial artists cross-train multiple arts to a large degree.  In short, the trope of going to live in a Shaolin temple and learning the 7 super-secret strikes of death is no longer culturally relevant.  Now it's all about breadth.

        How Our Perception of Martial Arts Has Changed

        This really get's at the heart of the matter.  When CP2020 was published in the 80's, we only knew what high-level martial arts looked like from from the movies. Today, due to the proliferation of martial arts training and cheap electronic video cameras, we know what it looks like from actual fight footage.  For example, take a look at Bruce Lee's fight in a Karate Studio, versus this recent fight in Wandrelai Silva's gym.

        To name a few of the things we have learned since then:
        • There are virtually no knock-outs on the first strike
        • The fights often end up in a clinch and then on the ground
        • Brawls generally go the way of those with superior numbers
        • Breaking bones and choking your opponent unconscious is a very effective way to win a fight

        So in subsequent posts I'll describe an alternate system for CP2020 Martial Arts which is a better fit for today's updated outlook...

        Saturday, 20 July 2013

        The Dweller in the Gulf

        The trio of earthmen, hard-bitten adventurers who disdained the services of Martian guides, had started five days before from the outpost of Ahoom, into the uninhabited region called the Chaur. Here, in the beds of great rivers that had not flowed for cycles, it was rumored that the pale, platinum-like gold of Mars could be found lying in heaps, like so much salt. If fortune were propitious, their years of somewhat unwilling exile on the red planet would soon be at an end. They had been warned against the Chaur, and had heard some queer tales in Ahoom regarding the reasons why former prospectors had not returned. But danger, no matter how dire or exotic, was merely a part of their daily routine. With a fair chance of unlimited gold at the journey's end they would have gone down through Hinnom.

        That from Clark Ashton Smith's "The Dweller in the Gulf".  Sounds like a setup for a DnD game if I ever heard one: a rag-tag band of adventurers, following vague rumors to the hazardous edge of civilization...

        Monday, 15 July 2013

        NPC Tactics

        So, looking back on a recent WFRP session I ran.  This was set-up to be a seriously epic-battle.  Lots of mutants, about to overrun Mother Brain's waning forces and the PCs have a chance to turn the tide. But it didn't turn out that way and I want to think about why...

        Static Tactics

        I had assumed that the party might succeed against the mutants at first, but that eventually their superior numbers would drive the party back into hiding within the caves.  This was not the case.  The party were mechanically better than the mutants, and they employed a number of tactical methods for furthering their advantage.

        • Move party to within the passage so they can't be flanked
        • Dwarf fighters up front
        • Archers/magic users behind a chest-high barrier
        • Set traps in front of the passage

        My plan to counter this consisted of the following:

        • Mutant groups 1, 2, 3 will charge together
        • Mutant groups 4, 5 will attempt to enter the dungeon's Southern entrance

        Both sides stuck to their plans, and Mutant groups 4, 5 did indeed achieve their objective, but much to my chagrin, groups 1, 2, and 3 got slaughtered without putting up much of a fight.  This made for a long, but not particularly interesting battle.

        What makes an interesting battle?  One side makes a move.  The other side adjusts to counter the move. So the first group changes to a different tactic.  Their opponents respond in turn.  i.e. it's the chess game, the tactic and counter tactic, changing as the battle progresses that really makes things interesting.

        So here are some potential tactics, in retrospect, that the mutants might have used to give the PCs a run for their money and made the battle a bit more dynamic and interesting.

        Make them Flee Without a Fight

        Rather than having mutant groups 1, 2, and 3 attack outright, I could have had them wait for 4 and 5.  At the same time, the mutants would taunt the PCs to try and intimidate them with their numbers.  If this didn't work, the mutants could also bluff and pretend they have some secret plan, like if they would start carrying timbers to the position above the PCs on the crater rim and start making a lot of noise and hamming, so that the PCs would think they are up to something and flee into the tunnels.

        Archer Superiority

        WFRP has a rule that if you fire into a group of tightly-packed opponents they you can use double your Ballistics Skill and determine the target randomly.  The mutants were spread out widely and had many short-bows among their ranks, so they could possibly have used this rule to chase the party out of their tightly-packed formation in the passage.

        Height Advantage

        In the initial ambush, the mutants were up above the crater's edge and the party was down below.  Also in the larger engagement, the mutants could have sent a party around to take up that same position.  Now I gave the party a 10% to hit the mutants up there, but I think I could have made it -20% according to the Target in Hard Cover Rule.

        Also, rather than having some of the mutants scramble down the cliff to engage the party, the mutants with no ranged weapons could have thrown rocks or even rolled down boulders onto the party.  A good sized boulder(+5) has the potential to harm the toughest dwarf.

        And if party members tried to climb up to the mutants, they could be attacked with a +20% WS(major advantage of ground).

        Flank Rather than Charge

        Instead of giving the party's archers several rounds of free shots on their charging opponents, I could have had a group of mutants go around and flank the cave entrance via the cliffs above.  That way the melee would start from close and the party wouldn't get all of those free shots to reduce the mutants' ranks.

        Similarly, the flying beast man could have flown high enough so as not to give the party's archer an angle on him until he swooped down to engage them.

        And finally, when the moving mutants engaged the static party, the DM could have remembered to use the charging rule and give them +10% to hit.

        Sunday, 14 July 2013

        WFRP Empire Campaign: Session 10

        Session 10 picked up with the PC's fleeing Bogenhafen as passengers on a boat.  The decision was made to head to Weissbrook where "Drugs" could train as an Alchemist's Apprentice.

        Quite fortuitously, the party came upon a riverboat that had just been captured by mutants.
        The party defeated the mutants and took over the boat.  Seigwart had been learning Sailing and Riverlore so he took the helm until Weisbrook.  The lone survivor from the boat gave testimony that the boat was salvage, so that party can keep it unless the heirs make a claim on it.

        In Weissbrook the local Alchemist's house was empty except for her terrified niece and a threatening note, with a symbol associated with Scaven.  After some quick detective work questioning the locals, the party found their way to an abandoned barn.

        Siegwart knocked the sentry out cold with his brass knuckles, while the Elf archer shot the dagger from the hand of the hooligan threatening the alchemist.  The third scoundrel got away, but the party had earned the alchemist's trust enough for her to take "Drugs" as an apprentice.

        Some guys wearing purple made some weird sign to Seigwart and left an ink stamp on his hand.

        The session ended with an uneventful trip to the big city of Altdorf.  There the elves sought training and Seigwart and the dwarves ambushed a pair of purple-wearing knaves tailing them around town.  The knaves managed to give the party the slip, but they left a mysterious note.

        Thursday, 11 July 2013

        The "Masks" School of Mystery Design

        1. The On-The-Fly Approach

        I've mentioned before how I like to run a mystery:

        1. DM develops a general idea of "what is going on"
        2. Clues/leads randomly generated or made-up on the fly for the PC's as their investigation advances
        3. These lead to further people/places with more clues/leads

        2. The Masks Approach

        But there's another approach: the Masks of Nyarlathotep Approach.  And it's all about Master Craftsmanship.  Here, the clues/leads are painstakingly prepared in advance, with actual pictures/text to cut-out and give to the players.  To give you an idea of the amazing design-work that went into this, here's a graph of clues and the people/places/things they lead to constructed by one dedicated fan.  Keep in mind that the adventure has 5 such locations:

        My On-The-Fly approach is clearly easier to prepare/run.  But Masks' approach means that you can actually give players a physical clue to hang-on to, that they can analyse in detail and will actually remember between sessions.  Thus the game becomes less about killing stuff and taking their treasure, and more about putting together all the clues and figuring out the mystery.

        3. The Player Skill Problem

        As I mentioned recently, one of the difficulties in running a mystery is that of Player Skill.

        Player Skill- solving mysteries can be difficult, and additionally, what seems obvious to the DM may not be to the players. So what does the DM do when the party is stuck, besides throw a tasteless Deus Ex Machina at them?

        Both approaches above deal with this problem in different ways:

        In the On-The-Fly Approach, I randomly generate clues for each location, so that even if the players miss a critical clue at some location, they may still find another one elsewhere.

        In the Masks Approach, there are so many clues that even if the players don't find them all, they still have a good chance of finding some clue to advance them in their investigation.

        Tuesday, 9 July 2013

        The Probability "Cooker"

        Brookida had told him that there was even one small area where the metal had been changed from one alloy to another.  The structural integrity of the ship was intact, but it meant that someone had come awfully close to them with a probability distorter.  It was disturbing to think that that piece of Streaker had been swapped with another similar but slightly different ship, containing similar but slightly different fugitives, in some hypothetical parallel universe.(David Brin, Startide Rising, 1983)

        This passage about the effect of probability distorters inspired me to make the following contraption:

        The party enters a room filled with strange machinery and blinking lights.  A small hatch is visible, roughly in the centre of the largest machine.  If the party puts anything in the compartment(1ft x 6in x 1ft), seals it, and presses the button, then it will be swapped with a similar item from a parallel universe.

        To determine the effect, roll a d6 and add a pinch of imagination:

        Master Table(Type of Change)

        1. Material Change Sub-Table
        2. Type Change Sub-Table
        3. Bizarro Change Sub-Table
        4. Genre Switch Sub-Table
        5. Absent Change Sub-Table
        6. Incompatible Change Sub-Table

        Material Change Sub-Table

        The item is now made out of another material.
        1. More Valuable Material(Sword gains Gold-inlay)
        2. Similar Material(Sword turns from Iron to Steel)
        3. Less Valuable Material(Sword turns to Brass)
        4. Inappropriate Material(Sword turns to Plastic)
        5. Poorly-Understood Material(Sword turns to Pure Energy, non-existence, etc.)
        6. Item is now enchanted/cursed(roll effect at random)

        Type Change Sub-Table

        (If you get the same type, re-roll)
        1. Animal
        2. Mineral
        3. Vegetable
        4. Man-made
        5. Liquid
        6. Gas

        Bizarro Change Sub-Table

        Roll a Random Item from SCP 261 (d100 should do)

        Genre Switch Sub-Table

        The same item from a world with a different genre.

        1. Caveman Cthulhu
        2. High Fantasy
        3. Spelljammer
        4. Arabian Knights
        5. Wild West
        6. Hardboiled Detective
        7. Everything is Dolphins
        8. My Little Pony
        9. Cyberpunk
        10. Space Marines

        Absent Change Sub-Table

        Nothing appears except...
        1. A strange smell
        2. Some condensation
        3. A small pile of ashes
        4. A short sucking sensation
        5. An inert powder
        6. Just nothing

        Incompatible Change Sub-Table

        Something from a parallel universe with incompatible laws of physics.
        1. Same item, made from a tasty Jello-mix
        2. Same item, too small to be useful
        3. Same item, too large to be useful--only a portion small enough to fit in the "Cooker" appears
        4. Bad Reaction- explodes as a bomb, damaging the machine and anyone too close
        5. Out of phase- item can be seen dimly, but cannot be touched--your hand passes right through it.  It fades away after a few seconds.
        6. Item shatters upon contact with air

        Let's Give this a Trial Run

        Curious what this machine does, the party thief puts in a dagger and presses the button.  After about a minute the door opens...
        • Out of phase- item can be seen dimly, but cannot be touched--your hand passes right through it.  It fades away after a few seconds.

        The party puts in a copper coin...
        • Nothing is left but a strange smell

        The party puts in a lantern with oil...
        • A glowing stone appears, wet with salt-water(Everything is Dolphins)

        Hoping to get a magic-effect, the Elf puts in his favourite bowstring...
        • He pulls out a 1-ft long section of very thick rope(Too big to be useful)

        The mage puts in a small ruby he found...
        • He pulls out a rectangular block of solid ruby 1ft x 6in x 1ft(Can't believe I rolled Too big to be useful twice in a row!)

        The barbarian puts in his collection of 4 gold rings...
        • Nothing is left in the compartment, although it feels a bit sticky(Some condensation).  With a roar, he stabs the mage and takes his ruby-block!

        Sunday, 7 July 2013

        Laser Rifles and Space Suits for WFRP

        Well I did Phasers, so now some other equipment.

        Laser Rifle(found in Session 7)

        A laser rifle is a strength 5 missile weapon with very long range.  If a shot hits someone in the head, they must make a toughness test for each eye or be blinded in that eye.

        To Hit is rolled with ballistics skill--no special skill is needed as long as the character has been instructed how to use the weapon.  Range as follows:

        Weapon  Short Long Extreme
        Laser Rifle 64128600

        Space Suit(found in Session 6)

        A shiny metallic full-body suit with glass-like helmet. Allows the wearer to breath in the vacuum of space, under-water, in place with poison gas/spores.

        Attacks to the wearer will usually damage the suit, ruining it.

        Saturday, 6 July 2013

        New Tilia: Session 8

        The battle to protect Mother-Brain's realm from the mutants, that was set-up in session 7, ended up taking the whole of session 8.  I printed out a map of the crater in advance to show a high-level view of the battlefield, and also pulled out my Flip-Mat for the zoomed-in view of the party's location.

        The Roster:

        • Sir Blathers A Lot- Elf Noble 
        • "The Trapper"- Elf Gamekeeper who leaves a trail of traps and snares wherever he goes 
        • Maria- Dwarf Mercenary 
        • "Drugs" the Dwarf Pharmacist 
        • Frizband the Fabulous- Wizard's Apprentice 
        • Grim- Dwarf Pit Fighter

        Initial Set-Up

        The encounter started as the party looked across the crater(P) and saw two groups of mutants(M1,M2), each fighting a security robot.  The robots were in the process of disengaging, presumably to recharge their weapons.


        The party decided to run and engage the closer mutants(M2), but as soon as they left the passage and entered the crater, they were ambushed.  A third group of mutants(4 mutants led by a Beast-Man) was on the edge of the crater above them and began firing short bows and spitting acid down on them.


        After defeating the ambushers and chasing-off the survivers, the party decided to bunker-down inside the passage and wait for the invaders.  Maria and Grim took the front rank, with the elves, the wizard, and the pharmacist taking cover behind.


        The two groups of mutants, as well as the surviving ambushers(M1,M2,M3) made a coordinated attack on the party.  They numbered 14 mutants and 2 beast-men.  Meanwhile, two other groups of mutants(M4, M5) showed up on the edge of the crater.

        Divide and Conquer

        Seeing the cramped melee going on in the main entrance to Mother Brain's realm, the rest of the mutants(M4, M5) disappeared into another cave to the South.  The party had seen this cave at the start of the encounter, but do not know where it leads.

        In the end, the party's tactics paid-off.  At the end of the battle they had killed 3 Beastmen and 14 Mutants.  However, they did not manage to keep the invaders out of Mother-Brain's realm, since 2 Beastmen and 11 mutants entered the cave to the South.  Nevertheless, the party was elated, and they managed to restock their supply of arrows, as well as take from the mutants a good deal of Blue-Metal salvage and even a laser rifle, apparently John's from session 3.  Of course he won't be needing it any more, since the rocket launch blew his house to smithereens.

        Overall it was an exciting session, although I was a bit disappointed that the battle took so long.  Ultimately, WFRP has a heavier rule-set than DnD, so things take a bit longer.

        Tuesday, 2 July 2013

        Alternate Wizardry Training for WFRP

        So Frizband the Fabulous has enough XP to change careers from Wizard's Apprentice to Wizard.  The problem is that he doesn't know anyone in the Border Princes to train him.  His player asked me if I'm going to insist on him training by another wizard, so I came up with the following alternative:

        The grimoire the players found in Session 4 is "The Trifold Codex of the Planar Flame", a treatise on a
        particular type of Elemental Fire magic.  As a wizard's apprentice, you can't understand the spells inside, but you can possibly understand some of the theoretical discussions. For every 8 hours spent reading the book, make an INT-10% check. Success means you gained a greater theoretical understanding of Magic(can only succeed once).

        You must now learn to apply that understanding by successfully performing the simplest ritual in the grimoire. For the ritual you need to gather solid manifestations of the 4 elements, and throw them together into a great fire, hot enough to melt them all. You must then perform the ritual, thus opening a temporary door to the Plane of Flame.

        The material components you must gather in order to do this are:
        • diamond(Earth)
        • magnesium(Fire)
        • ice(Water)
        • gossamer(Air)

        Once you have completed this ritual, you have attained a greater applied magical ability and you may spend the XP on becoming a wizard.

        Of course, one of those cheeky players asked where they are going to be able to find a fire hot enough to melt a diamond.

        I pointed out that in Session 2 they were explicitly warned to "Stay away from the Volcano".

        Bwa ha ha!  Maybe he'll look for a Wizard to train him after all...

        Monday, 1 July 2013

        Phasers for WFRP

        I owe my group some stats for the phasers they found last session, so here goes.

        Phasers have a "battery" which can typically hold up to 10 charges before it needs to be recharged/replaced.  They also have a control which allows the user to select how many charges to use for a particular shot, typically with a maximum of 5.  Each charge used adds another +5 to damage.  So the damage per number of charges used is:

        • 1 charge, the phaser does normal damage(1d6)
        • 2 charges 1d6+5
        • 3 charges 1d6+10
        • 4 charges 1d6+15
        • 5 charges 1d6+20

        To Hit is rolled with ballistics skill--no special skill is needed as long as the character has been instructed how to use the weapon.  Range as follows:

        Jimmy-Rigged Phaser81625
        Handheld Phaser163250
        Phaser with Electronic Sight64128600

        Personal Motivation in Mystery Games

        One topic I've been thinking about a lot is how to run a mystery game.  There are two unique challenges that running mystery games present:

        1. Player Agency- this is a problem of all adventures with a pre-determined plot, but it is especially acute with a mystery focussed adventure.  The DM wants to steer PC's towards a certain goal, but when the players want something else(as they often do) then he must step on the toes of Player Agency to do so.  When the DM drags PCs where their players don't want them to go, they get frustrated/bored with the game.
        2. Player Skill- solving mysteries can be difficult, and additionally, what seems obvious to the DM may not be to the players.  So what does the DM do when the party is stuck, besides throw a tasteless Deus Ex Machina at them?

        Motivation to the Rescue

        When I ran Polish Resistance, I dealt with the Agency problem by making the mystery totally optional.  And it worked okay--some sessions the PCs focussed on solving the zombie problem, while others they spent running around the sandbox pursuing their own goals.  Dave Sokolowski, in the "Keeping" Section of the "Masks Companion"(thanks TotGaD for the link), takes a different approach.

        "My motivation?  To stay away from tentacles."
        The Story
        Deciding the investigators’ introduction point is the most important decision relating to character generation the players will make—how do they know Jackson Elias? And how does his death suck them into the mysteries of the cult? While this is discussed elsewhere in this book, one point must be made here: the further your investigators get from their original relationship to Elias, the more difficult it will be to keep them engaged. All investigators need motivation, and Elias’ death is ultimately only one part of the puzzle.

        The point is that players will be much more motivated to solve the mystery if their characters have a personal reason to.  As DM you should take the time to connect each PC to the mystery and as the investigation progresses, more work will be needed to keep them connected.  This doesn't force players to take the path you have laid for them, but in practice you will have less of a disconnect between the plans of the DM and the actions of the players.  And a smaller gap means that it will be easier for the DM to improvise when the players do choose a path that he hasn't prepared for.

        Examples from Shadows Over Bogenhafen

        As an exercise, I'm going to brainstorm a few examples of how a DM could connect PCs to the mystery in Shadows Over Bogenhafen as per Dave's recommendation.  I chose Shadows because I'm not the only player who has observed that it has this Agency Problem.

        1. Murder of a Friend

        Like "Masks", "Shadows" also pulls the PC's into the mystery with an NPC murder, that of an Dwarven drunkard that they meet at the festival.  So I would attempt to connect the PC's more meaningfully to that Dwarf, so that they are more motivated to investigate/avenge his death.  For our recent game that should be easy, given that 3 of 6 PCs were Dwarves.  Upon meeting the Dwarven drunk, it would turn out that he was a well-known Dwarven hero, fallen on hard times, whose service to his race is a well known tale.  Additionally, he was the personal friend of one of the PC's fathers and even saved his life once, etc.

        2. Saving a Friend

        One of our PC's was a noble, so in that case one could say that one of the lower-ranking cult members(all high-ranking personalities) is an old friend of his.  The cult member confides in him that he's gotten in over his head and needs help.  Then he disappears.

        3. Getting Back What's Mine

        Our party spent a long time getting the run-around from town officials, but never really encountered any harsher sanctions.  Why not have them fine the party so that the party will want to prove their innocence.  For instance:

        The party has to check their weapons at the door upon entering the town hall.  When they compain to a clerk, he offers to file a report for them that the official story about the Goblin was false.  When they then go to collect their weapons, they are told that they are being fined 100GP for having filed a false report, and that their weapons are being kept as collateral against the payment of the fine.  The PC's may pay the fine or not, but either way they now have a motivation to solve the mystery and thus prove their innocence!

        4. Let's Rob a Cult

        Our party was more interested in making some cash than bringing down a cult.  So if I were to run this, I would slip some hints of riches to be gotten in bringing down the cult.  For instance, in the message about the new temple being ready, I might mentions something about the Jewels for the altar having been delivered or something like that.