Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Trackmarks: Rules

Remember: Trackmarks is compatible with Lamentations of the Flame Princess. You can download a free, no-art copy of the rulebook here. The rules presented below are exceptions to that rulebook.

Downtime

You get downtime while visiting stations and Qwik Noodles. During downtime, random encounters do not occur and you do not increase threat. During downtime, you can do any of the following:

  • Barter for gear
  • Cook as many hypos as you want* 
  • Gamble for Oblek*
  • Hear rumors
  • Recruit other Blackguard
  • Take as much food and water as you can carry
  • Take as much equipment as you can carry**
*Qwik Noodle only
**Station only

Food and Water

As needed, you can scrounge around for food using Streetwise as if it were Bushcraft, or just shake down vendors, which will likely increase threat. Eating food from dumpsters or drinking water from puddles will likely give you a disease.

Hoods

Hoods consist of multiple blocks. Each hood has a routine, which dictates what happens during the first, second, and third shifts without Blackguard intervention. If a hood goes through a full shift cycle undisturbed, it is considered "reset," meaning whatever the Blackguard did there doesn't matter anymore, unless it was particularly impactful.

Each hood also has escalations, which determine how the hood reacts to Blackguard presence in accordance with its current threat level.

Hypos

When you take an Oblek hypo, the next time you roll a die, you can reroll it once. If you take multiple hypos, you can reroll that die up to a number of times equal to the hypos you took.

You can spend 1 hour to cook as many hypos as you want. Cooking a hypo costs 100 Oblek. Hypos are unencumbering, but can't be turned in as part of your quota: the Amorarchy expects standards that can only be attained through their proprietary (and much more efficient) refining process.

Hypos are still confiscated at a station, however; just because the Armorachy won't take your filthy hypos doesn't mean your CO won't.

Qwik Noodle

Qwik Noodle is a combination convenience store/noodle stand chain. Blackguard are their number one customer, so they are sympathetic, but acting up on premises will get you banned. Other Blackguard uphold bans to stay in the good graces of their only real friend in Byle: a faceless corporation that profits off the fact they have nowhere else to turn.

While at a Qwik Noodle, you recover 1 HP per shift and get downtime.

Random Encounters

At the top of each shift, the GM rolls 1d6 against the threat level of the hood. If the roll is less than or equal to that threat level, a random encounter occurs, which should be flavored by the routines and escalations of that hood.

Shifts

There are 3 shifts in a day, each consisting of 8 hours: first, second, and third. You typically don't have to worry about light unless you're in an abandoned or intentionally darkened location.

At the start of the first shift, there is a 2 in 6 chance that there's acid rain present for all shifts that day.

Stations

You must have at least 1,200 Oblek on your person to enter a station, which is essentially two large sacks full of the stuff. When you enter a station, you surrender all Oblek on your person, exchanging it for XP on a 1:1 basis.

You can remain in the station for 1 shift per 100 Oblek surrendered. While in a station, you recover 1d3 HP per shift and get downtime.

Stashes

You can hide things out in the city, maybe to use for later, or so they won't be confiscated at a station. At the start of each shift, you roll Streetwise. If you fail, all your stashes disappear.

Threat

Each hood has a threat level between 0–5. This level increases/decreases when Blackguard perform certain actions in that block.

Typically, "bad cop" stuff increases threat by +1 and "good cop stuff" reduces threat by –1. Threat also increases when Blackguard linger too long, get into a tussle, or discharge a firearm. Threat in a hood is reduced by –1 per shift the Blackguard spend somewhere else, and is reduced to zero when the Blackguard enter a station.

At the end of the day, threat relies on GM fiat, but the GM should at least telegraph which courses of action will increase or reduce threat.

Travel

You can travel blocks/shift equal to your feet/turn divided by 5. This assumes you are using trolleys, cutting through alleyways, shoving through crowds, and otherwise optimizing your travel time.

You take 1d3 damage per shift you travel in acid rain without intact raingear.

Monday, September 27, 2021

Death Metal Impressions #1

In this series, I choose four death metal albums I discovered recently and try to describe how they sound. They're all bangers!

Slimelord: Moss Contamination

Piercing riffs soaring above a boiling, thrashing ocean punctuated with machine-gun snares and impactful, sparse blast beasts. Occasionally, it all comes together into a tribal cacophony until it organically separates. It's amorphous and larger than itself.

 

Sewer Fiend: Echoes From the Cistern

Positively lumbering. Waist-deep in gore and shit, and each step is harder to take than the last. Pendulum chugs that set time for a trance-like march. One foot in front of the other

Black Wound: To The Endless Depths

What it says on the tin, really: a sludgy dirge for your descent into a pit there's no climbing back out of. The production is muted and claustrophobic, stuffy dark tunnels with no echoes. Interspersed with alternating fits of madness and despair.

Seep: Souvenirs of a Necrosadist

Molasses-like death-doom, oozing out of every crevice. Even when the drums blast the instrumentation remains calculated and deliberate. Everything has plenty of room to breathe. Good stomping rhythms.

Friday, September 24, 2021

The Knave Monoclass for LotFP

Instead of using multiple classes for Lamentations of the Flame Princess, I use a single, highly customizable class, called the Knave.

The Knave

  • HD: d8
  • Saves: 15 at 1st level, –1 each level thereafter
  • AB: +1
  • Spell Slots: None
  • XP to Next: 2,000 to reach 2nd level, doubled each level thereafter

Ability Modifiers

  • STR: Paralyze save and items per encumbrance point
  • DEX: Breath save and base AC
  • CON: Poison save and HP per level
  • INT: Magic save
    • INT score is used to determine skill points (see below)
  • WIS: Device save and initiative
  • CHA: Reaction and recruitment

Skill Points

Getting
  • 3–4 INT: 2 at 1st level, +1 each level thereafter
  • 5–8 INT: 2 at 1st level, +2 each level thereafter
  • 9–12 INT: 4 at 1st level, +2 each level thereafter
  • 13–16 INT: 6 at 1st level, +2 each level thereafter
  • 17–18 INT: 6 at 1st level, +3 each level thereafter

Spending

  • Demihuman: 4 points (1st level only)
  • Advanced Fighting: 2 points
  • +1 Skill: 1 point
  • +1 AB: 2 points
  • +1 Spell Slot: 2 points

Demihumans

Demihumans need 2,500 XP to reach 2nd level, doubled each level thereafter.

Elf

  • When rolling initiative, roll 2d6 and take the higher
  • Cast read magic at-will
  • 3 in 6 Search
  • 1 in 6 Surprise

Dwarf

  • When determining HP, roll 2 HD and take the higher
  • Saves start at 12
  • +1 item per encumbrance point
  • 3 in 6 Architecture

Ratfolk

  • When in pursuit, roll 2d20 and take the higher
  • +1 AC
  • 3 in 6 Bushcraft
  • 5 in 6 Stealth

Spell Slots

When you get your first spell slot, decide whether you cast Cleric or Magic User spells. You have access to that entire spell list and can create holy items or magic items, respectively. Your decision cannot be changed.

Your spell slots are all the same level, which is based on your level. Spell slots can be used to prepare lower-level spells.

  • Level 1: 1st
  • Level 2: 1st
  • Level 3: 2nd
  • Level 4: 2nd
  • Level 5: 3rd
  • Level 6: 3rd
  • Level 7: 4th
  • Level 8: 4th
  • Level 9: 5th
  • Level 10: 5th

Monday, September 20, 2021

Trackmarks: Equipment

Blackguard Uniform

You are assumed to be wearing the Blackguard uniform at all times. The uniform does not count towards encumbrance. Armor is provided by inserting armor plates into the uniform, each of which provides AC +2.

The uniform gives its wearers a +1 or –1 to reaction rolls depending on the person (e.g., civilians +1, hardened Oblek dealers –1). It also includes a set of tinted goggles that grant +1 to saves versus blinding effects and a neoprene mask that grants +1 to saves versus airborne toxins.

The Blackguard uniform. Click to enlarge. Art by Icarus.

Grenades

All grenades have the same range as a thrown rock. The effects of grenades always apply at the end of the round. Cooking a grenade allows its effects to take place immediately, but it has a 2 in 6 of going off in the user's hand instead.

  • Flashbang: Targets in a 15-foot radius must Save vs. Device or go deaf and blind for 1d3 rounds.
  • Fragmentation: Targets in a 15-foot radius must Save vs. Breath or take 2d6 damage.
  • Incendiary: Acts as throwing lit oil, but uses 1d6 for damage instead of 1d4.
  • Smoke: Creates a cloud of 75% cover in a 15-foot radius that dissipates in 1d4+1 rounds.
  • Gas: Targets in a 15-foot radius must Save vs. Poison or take 2d6 damage.

Guns

Ammunition

When attacking with a firearm, its ammunition type determines how much damage it deals and its AP rating, which is the points of armor it ignores.

Belts and tanks don't track individual bullets. Instead, when fired more than once in an encounter, they are out of ammo at the end of that encounter.

  • 20 Bullet (Large): 1d8 damage. 4 AP.
  • 20 Bullet (Small): 1d6 damage. 2 AP.
  • 10 Shell: 2d6 damage. 2 AP.
  • 1 Belt: 1d8 damage.
  • 1 Tank: Acts as throwing lit oil, but uses 1d8 for damage instead of 1d4.

Firearms

The quantity for the ammunition listed for a firearm represents its capacity, which is the number of times it can be fired before reloading. Reloading takes up your action for the round, but not your movement.

  • Bolt-Action Rifle: 50'/100'/600'. 1 bullet (large). Double AP.
  • Revolver: 25'/50'/100'. 6 bullet (large). Must reload 1 bullet at a time.
  • Trench Gun: 25'/50'/100'. 6 shells. Must reload 1 shell at a time.
  • Pistol: 50'/100'/200'. 10 bullets (small).
  • Grease Gun: 25'/50'/100'. 20 bullets (small). Spend 10 bullets before an attack to deal +1d6 damage.
  • Machine Gun: 50'/100'/200'. 1 belt. Target must Save vs. Device or take damage.
  • Flamethrower: 25'/50'/100'. 1 tank. Target must Save vs. Breath or take damage.

Suppressing Fire

When attacking with a firearm, you can choose to spend its entire capacity (or 10 bullets, whichever is lower) to make the target Save vs. Paralyze. If the target fails, during the next round, they can only either drop prone or move into at least 50% cover. The GM may have some NPCs make morale checks as well.

If you provide suppressing fire with a belt or tank, treat it as if you fired twice.

Shields

Despite the modern weaponry, shields still operate as-written. They are riot-style shields constructed from transparent plexiglass.

Odds and Ends

  • Flare Gun: Summon 2d4 Blackguard to your current location. They arrive in 2d6 turns (take the higher roll). Be careful using this, since most Blackguard will want something in exchange for their assistance! When used as a weapon, a flare gun acts as an incendiary grenade with the range of a pistol. Flare guns are single-use items.
  • Raingear: Rubberized canvas hooded poncho that fits over the Blackguard uniform to protect from acid rain. While wearing raingear, if hit with a weapon or fire attack that deals maximum damage, the raingear is destroyed.
  • Walkie-Talkie: Each set of walkie-talkies are paired to each other. Someone holding a walkie-talkie can cast the message spell at-will targeting someone holding the paired radio.

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Trackmarks: Character Creation

Download a form-fillable PDF copy of the Trackmarks character sheet here.

Classes

The following classes are available:

  • Cleric
  • Fighter
  • Magic User
  • Specialist
  • Draconian
  • Elf
  • Orc

Draconian

  • HD: d6
  • Save: As Specialist, but swap Magic and Breath values
  • XP to Next: 2,000
  • Advanced Fighting: No

Draconian have scales that add +1 AC, claws and fangs that deal 1d6 damage, and wings that allow flight at double movement speed. Draconian have a 3 in 6 Climb, which is typically used to maintain flight after taking damage or performing an aerial stunt, but can also be used to dig claws into sheer surfaces for traction.


A Draconian Blackguard. Click to enlarge. Art by Wynterhorn.

Orc

  • HD: d10
  • Save: As Dwarf
  • XP to Next: 2,200
  • Advanced Fighting: No

Orcs have supernatural resilience that grants +1 CON modifier and allows them to carry +5 items (or +1 oversized item) before taking their first encumbrance point. Orcs start with 6 in 6 Tolerance, the one upside of their heavy Oblek abuse.

Skills

Architecture

Architecture can be used to determine the general layout or likely purpose of a building, sometimes without even going inside. Perhaps you've been in similar buildings or know telltale signs of certain activities.

Bushcraft

Though Bushcraft is still available, it's only useful in the Wastelands. Most characters can get by without it and are assumed not to have it. Wilderness-oriented characters should cross out Streetwise on their sheet and replace it with Bushcraft, indicating they chose (or were forced) to master living outdoors instead of in cities.

Languages

For convenience, it is assumed all residents of Byle speak the common tongue. Hulder is the traditional Elven language, though most Elves don't know it. Each faction has its own slang, which can be used verbally (e.g., jargon, doublespeak) and nonverbally (e.g., hand signs, markings).

New Skill: Medicine

A successful use of Medicine doubles the patient's recovery of hit points and ability scores for that day. If the patient has below half their hit points, you can instead apply first aid, which takes 10 minutes and restores 1d6 hit points.

At the GM’s discretion, you can apply first aid to a patient (but never yourself) within 1 minute of them dropping to zero hit points. If you succeed, they are still unconscious at zero hit points, but do not die unless they take additional damage.

You cannot treat a patient again until they naturally recover at least 1 hit point. If you have at least a 3 in 6 in Medicine, you can treat yourself as a patient.

New Skill: Streetwise

Use Streetwise to put your finger on the pulse of the city, or at least the block you're currently in. You can find out what’s going on, who the movers and shakers are, where to get what you need, and where not to go.

New Skill: Tolerance

Tolerance is modified by CON. In a given day, you can use Oblek hypos equal to your Tolerance. Each hypo used thereafter deals 1d3 CON damage.

Equipment

New characters can take as much equipment as they can carry.

You can designate 4 pieces of equipment as readied, meaning you can access them freely during combat. Unready equipment takes 1d3+1 rounds to access (3d6 rounds for oversized items).

Friday, September 17, 2021

Trackmarks: Introduction


Disclaimers

Trackmarks is an independent production of The Wrong Room and is not affiliated with Lamentations of the Flame Princess. Lamentations of the Flame Princess is a registered trademark owned by James Edward Raggi IV.

Trackmarks contains themes of colonialism, drug abuse, and police brutality.

 Credits

Art provided by Icarus and Wynterhorn.

Editing provided by Caravan Crawl and Tim±.

I listen to a lot of boom bap and crypt hop while running Trackmarks. I get most of my crypt hop from the Mystical Place Records catalog. Bangers include 1997, Dungeon Rap, Dreadlord, and Barnaul City Life.

Elevator Pitch

Trackmarks is a dieselpunk fantasy noir tabletop roleplaying game. In Trackmarks, you play members of the Blackguard, a police force tasked with getting a supernatural drug off the streets and into the veins of the nobility. Each shift, Blackguard must choose whether to meet their quota or use the drug to survive in a city that wants them dead.

Trackmarks is compatible with Lamentations of the Flame Princess. You can download a free, no-art copy of the rules here.

Two Blackguard visiting a Qwik Noodle. Click to enlarge. Art by Icarus.

 Founding of Byle

There is a massive nest of dragons slumbering inside the earth. They’ve been sleeping for so long that their bodies have started to decay. The soil surrounding the dragons’ nest is so oil-rich it pools on the surface. Extruding from the center of the nest is a gargantuan spire of tar-like black substance—emulsified dragon scales, which don’t rot like flesh and were pushed upwards by the rising oil.

New world explorers spotted this site on a few occasions, but it was typically hidden under illusory terrain, so these sightings quickly entered the realm of legend. The illusions were generated by the dragons’ protectors: an ancient tribe called the Hulder, who the dragons blessed with longevity and innate magic. The dragons had been sleeping for so long even the Hulder forgot their existence; rigorous duties became rote traditions, resulting in the weakening of the illusions.

Petty nobleman Lord Ljubav heard these legends and commissioned explorers to find it, bypassing the illusions, slaughtering most of the Hulder, and claiming their land. The first settlement was named Byle after the fetid state of the land. Byle quickly became a cosmopolitan center on the back of its generous oil exports. The handful of Hulder who remained begrudgingly assimilated to remain on their land. The Hulder were derisively named “Elves” by the colonizers because of their fae-like qualities.

Ljubav organized mining projects to increase oil exports, including hollowing out the spire and digging a shaft down from its center. Ljubav, a misguided amateur alchemist, performed nefarious experiments to learn more about the substance that made the spire, culminating in melting and injecting it into test subjects. As it turns out, injecting yourself with the essence of a mythical creature produces an unrivaled high. Ljubav named the drug Oblek and distributed it throughout Byle, intending to control his citizenry through addiction. It soon caught on with tourists and became another lucrative export, elevating Byle from picturesque city-state to booming metropolis.

Impacts of Oblek

In addition to the unmatched euphoria, Oblek briefly attunes users to the dragons’ psionic Network. Typically, this results in a flash of heightened awareness and mental processing power. Oblek users with high psionic potential found themselves able to manipulate the world within the Network's area of influence, even after the Oblek wore off.

This seemed like magic to the uninitiated (the name stuck), but instead of burning magic users as witches, the Amorarchy funded magical research in an attempt to harness its power. This resulted in the distribution of dense instructional tomes that enabled anyone to use magic, assuming enough study and psionic potential.

The discovery of magic and Byle's massive stockpiles of oil spurred a second industrial revolution, propelling their technology from machines and guns to machine-guns. Under the influence of Oblek, Ljubav named his noblesse the Amorarchy and himself the Poet-King. His intent of controlling his citizenry through addiction warped into uniting the entire world in "love." Since the old world was still on the cusp of their first industrial revolution, the Poet-King took advantage of the tech disparity and invaded, spurring a war of cataclysmic proportions lasting decades and counting.

Byle was already a dirty city, but after natural gas became the name of the game, pollution was rampant. Proud skyscrapers eroded under acid rain. The surrounding farms became unusable, left to go to seed as companies in Byle invented synthetic food substitutes. On bad nights, you can barely make out neon signs through the smog.

Draconian

Though the dragons are slumbering, they are fully lucid in the dreamscape of the Network. To prepare the world for their eventual awakening, they began creating servitors in their image by deforming fetuses carried by Oblek users into half-dragon abominations. Draconian minds typically shatter young under constant psychic barrages from their masters, all attempts to reprogram them into servitude. Only the most resilient can join society as anything more than rabid guard dogs.

Orcs

One would think long-term heavy Oblek abuse would result in some sort of transcendence, but the opposite is true: constantly overclocking your brain and injecting foreign alchemic substances denatures both mind and body, eventually transforming you into a grotesque, unpredictably violent, superhumanly resilient zombie called an Orc. Orcs must be herded out of Byle and thinned during frequent (and dangerous) patrols. Some Orcs retain their sentience, but most people fear them, believing they could snap at any moment.

It should be noted that there are no Orcs among members of the Amorarchy: the wealthy and powerful can afford the highly refined Oblek and preventative psionic therapy needed to prevent their degradation into Orcs.

Lockdown

Eventually, miners discovered the first dragon. Then another, and another. Quickly and quietly, Ljubav had the mines sealed; waking them would spell disaster for Byle and perhaps the entire world. This made both oil and Oblek inaccessible, so the Poet-King cut off all exports to preserve local stockpiles. As the economy crashed and Byle’s infrastructure deteriorated, the people of Byle turned to heavy Oblek abuse.

After issuing a final decree, the Amorarchy withdrew into their own decadence, locking themselves in a paradise built in the hollowed-out spire. The Amorarchy’s final decree ordered the following, which would ensure them (and only them) a steady supply of Oblek for the rest of their natural lives:

  • Use the Amorarchy's massive treasury to fund the survival of Byle, but only just so. The distribution of resources and maintanence of utilities became the purview of criminal organizations, military forces, and rich moguls, at their convenience. Rolling blackouts are common.
  • Prevent people from entering or leaving the city, ensuring all Oblek remained in Byle. Besides safeguarding the Amorarchy’s spire, this became the primary directive of Byle’s military, which still recieved ample funding due to the perpetual war overseas. The military answered this order by building the Ramparts, a concrete wall surrounding the entirety of Byle.
  • Lift all regulation on Oblek production, giving free reign to what were formerly criminal organizations. The legalization of Oblek production didn’t make these organizations any less violent and exploitative. Even though the mines are out of commission, there's still plenty of stashed raw materials left to synthesize Oblek for a couple decades.
  • Stand-up a task force dedicated to collecting the Oblek still flooding the streets, ensuring the Amorarchy’s demand is met. This force needed to be large, have strict quotas, and possess the authority to seize Oblek under any pretense. This resulted in the formation of the Blackguard.

Meet the Blackguard

Anyone can join the Blackguard, but you typically see the following among their ranks:

  • Soldiers: Prisoners of war. Court-martialed infantrymen. Civilian law enforcement getting promoted or demoted, depending on your perspective. Veterans chasing their next adrenaline rush.
  • Dilettantes: Rich kids with nothing better to do. Idealists who think they can affect positive change. Fools looking to "broaden their horizons." Bootlickers.
  • Criminals: Murderers and thieves who were sentenced to join. Much worse types who joined to avoid capture. Troublemakers the Amorarchy just wanted to get rid of.
  • Opportunists: Desperate folks who wanted consistent room and board at any cost. Addicts who saw joining up as boarding the gravy train. Genuinely bad people who just want an excuse to get ahead or hurt others.
  • Othered: Draconian who are too unstable to integrate into society but just stable enough to sniff out Oblek. Orcs who decided to make careers out of the terror they strike in others. Elves who seek empowerment by reclaiming their traditional raiment and duties.

Once you're in, you're in: for the rest of your wretched life you're permanently saddled with the following "perks:"

  • Brand: You get a goat skull branded on your face so you can be readily identified as Blackguard. This makes it impossible to go undercover or emigrate. Surely undercover work would be more efficient, but the Amorarchy has no issues throwing bodies at the drug problem.
  • Uniform: You are assigned a uniform appropriated from the Elves. Ideally, its menacing design strikes enough fear to make people think twice about shooting you. It’s also important to remember who’s who in a firefight, and the uniform makes your fellow Blackguard unmistakable.
  • Quota: Stations are fortified bunkers scattered throughout the city where Blackguard can rest and resupply; in fact, once you join, stations are the only safe places left. To enter a station, you need to deposit your quota, which is a flat (and high) amount of Oblek measured by weight.
  • Authority: Blackguard can ply their trade with impunity because absolutely nobody has the power to stop them, save through violence. Conveniently, Byle's military drastically outguns the Blackguard and the Amorarchy is safe in their spire, so the people who "matter" have effective immunity.

Friday, September 10, 2021

LotFP Combat Quick Reference

General Maneuvers

  • Standard Attack: AB +0 and AC +0. 
  • Parry: For the round, AC +2.
  • Aiming: Spend full round aiming; no Dexterity modifier to AC. Ranged AB +4 next round. When firing into melee, may choose one participant to count as two.

Advanced Fighting

Fighters, Dwarves, and Elves only.

  • Offensive Fighting: For the round, AB +2 and AC −4. 
  • Defensive Fighting: For the round, AB −4 and AC +2.
  • Parry: For the round, AC +4 (instead of AC +2).

Special Maneuvers

  • Change Weapon and Attack: Drop current weapon and draw a new one, assuming easy access. AB –2 for the round. 
  • Charge and Attack: Move full rate and do double damage, but AC –2 for the round. Combatants who have not acted that round and have weapons that can receive a charge strike first and deal double damage. 
  • Take Cover: For ranged attacks against targets, –2 AB if they are in light cover and –4 AB if they are in heavy cover. For targets you cannot see (e.g., darkness, invisibility), –6 AB to all attacks. 
  • Fire a Gun: Ignore 5 points of armor and cause an immediate Morale check for all enemies with Morale 7 or less. 1 in 10 chance of misfire (2 in 6 in dampness, 4 in 6 in wetness). Takes 5 rounds to reload (3 for Fighters).
  • Fire into Melee: Dexterity modifier does not apply to AB or AC. Each participant in the melee has an equal chance of being hit. Large targets count as two participants. 
  • Hold an Action: Instead of taking an action on your turn, specify an action to take at any point before the end of the round. When the action is performed, it occurs simultaneously with other actions. 
  • Holy Water: Sprinkling in melee takes both hands and the whole round. Treat the target as AC 12. When thrown, treat as a rock. The vial bursts 75% of the time. Deals 1d8 damage to appropriate targets. 
  • Mounted Combat: Melee AB +1 and AC +1 vs footmen. Ranged AB –5. 
  • Oil and Fire: Target subjected to ignited oil suffers 1d4 damage. If damage roll is 4, Save vs Breath or suffer another 1d4 damage on next action. If that roll is also a 4, become engulfed, suffering 1d8 damage per round until fire is put out. 
  • Pursuit: Both sides roll 1d20 + slowest movement rate divided by 10. Highest roll wins.
  • Retrieve an Item: You can freely retrieve readied items. Unready items take 1d3+1 rounds to retrieve (3d6 if oversized). 
  • Spellcasting: Magic Users must have both hands free and cannot have 2+ encumbrance points. Clerics must have their holy symbol in one hand. Neither can cast spells in a round if they took damage earlier that round.
  • Unaware Target: For the attack, AB +2 and target loses Dexterity and shield modifier to AC. Multiply damage by Sneak Attack. If 2+ Sneak Attack, AB +4 instead.
  • Wrestling: Both combatants roll 1d20 + melee AB. Ties decided by Dexterity modifier, then reroll. Winner decides whether target is immobilized (another wrestling roll to escape) or disarmed (target Save vs Paralyze). When ganging up on one person, the combatant gets +1 per person helping them.

Thursday, September 9, 2021

No More Required Rulebooks for PF2 APs!

Bestiary 3 is the last book Pathfinder 2e Adventure Paths will assume you own. As a GM who exclusively runs Adventure Paths, this is exciting news!

I just got Secrets of Magic, and Guns and Gears will likely be the last rulebook I get a physical copy of. The next rulebook is Book of the Dead, which indicates to me books in that line will get increasingly niche, like the Lost Omens books did post-Ancestry Guide.

Thanks to tools like Archives of Nethys, I am content with only owning physical copies of the rulebooks I consider essential to portraying the world of Golarion (i.e., they have enough broad applicability).

Switching to PDFs

I've decided to make the switch to PDFs for my RPG collection. I'm keeping the physical products I have, but won't be adding more, besides those that come with my Pathfinder 2e Adventure Path subscription. I use my smartphone and Samsung Galaxy Tab A to reference PDFs at the table.

I love books to death, but PDFs are cheaper, and it's easy to maintain a collection of them. I've had to wean my collection multiple times because I'll buy books I never end up using, and they just occupy space on my shelves or in boxes.

Plus, since everyone has a smartphone, I won't feel the need to purchase enough copies of a book for everyone at the table to have one. This is especially tempting for games like The Burning Wheel or even Old-School Essentials, which require a lot of page-flipping during play (e.g., skill descriptions, subsystems, equipment tables) or while making characters.

This also means I won't be purchasing physical products like screens or minis. I roll all my dice in the open when I GM, so foregoing screens isn't a problem. Minis are too expensive and difficult to store to make up for the fact that you never have quite enough or the right ones; tokens are better in both regards, but not by much.

I use theater of the mind unless a scene gets complicated, at which point I sketch out a map on my chalkboard table and use dice from my enormous collection. NPCs are d6s, grouped by color and identified by number. Players are d4s, differentiated by color.

I know I'm not the only one doing this; I've watched the RPG zeitgeist shift over to PDFs for a while now. It's great for accessibility (particularly the ability to zoom in and out) and enables creators to get their products out there for little to no cost. Most of the Kickstarters I see now are to make print runs of products (which typically already exist or will be released concurrently as PDFs) and cover shipping (which gets so exorbitant there are some who literally can't afford to have collections in print). Honestly, print products seem like more of a formality at this point.

The next step is to switch over to HTML, something I've seen murmurs of lately. PDF is a proprietary format and that carries all sorts of baggage: Only certain programs can read, create, or modify them, and all of them are clunky, feature-starved, and costly. I'm excited to see a big push for HTML products, which will make all these operations free and easy, not to mention really broaden the horizons of what accessibility in a document looks like.

Thursday, September 2, 2021

Touch it With Your Eyes

The idea that you are supposed to read the entirety of the Pathfinder 2e Core Rulebook is ridiculous. Same goes for every other Pathfinder 2e rulebook, setting book, and Adventure Paths. It's a whole lot of reading you might never get the chance to capitalize on! Luckily, most of these are reference materials, and aren't made to be read in one setting. Most players who know the rules by heart learned them piecemeal, looking them up as they went.

But what if you do have to read it all? Possibilities that comes to mind are the gazetteers in Adventure Paths. If the players are spending all their time in a town or region (surely one of these entries will come up), or a particularly long and dry stretch of rules specific to your class. Even then, I don't recommend reading deeply—skim it with as shallow of an understanding as possible. But most importantly, make sure your eyes land on each and every word.

Like I said, even in the more narrative Pathfinder 2e products, you'll be flipping through them constantly. But if you've taken the time to just look at every section—not study or even comprehend, just look—you'll have instant neural pathways to those bits of information. "I think I remember seeing a spell that did that!" "Oh yeah, this town has an inn this NPC frequents!" "I know where that magic item is located, something to do with that one castle!"

Not only will you be using the books as intended, you'll be doing it much faster, and the information will stick better when it finally comes time to apply it at the table. Essentially, you're optimizing your Pathfinder 2e experience with little to know effort. It might still take your time, but pump some tunes, stare into that middle-distance, and just look, damn you! Your future self—rifling hurriedly through tomes and booklets—will thank you.

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Building Sub-Optimal Characters

Pathfinder 2e is a very tactical game that relies heavily on good builds. If you run the game a little looser like I do (e.g., theater of the mind, letting it ride, just saying yes), builds matter a little less. It helps that Pathfinder 2e is not nearly as bad as Dungeons and Dragons 3rd Edition when it comes to intentional "trap" options.

What I'm saying is, you don't have to build your character to be totally optimized and synergistic. You should try to build well, but the system will pick up some of the slack, and using the rules as a conflict resolution tool instead of dominating the entirety of the at-table experience will pick up the rest.

I'm not recommending you build intentionally flawed characters. I'm saying pick options that seem cool and don't agonize over your build. You can always use Retraining to swap things that don't work. And if you keep your approaches to situations fresh and creative, you probably won't be in a position where you die (hero points all but prevent that anyways).

Yes, if you're playing Pathfinder 2e or other crunchy systems, you're doing it for a reason. But they don't account for everything that needs to happen at a table, like storytelling, roleplay, and having fun (which you can forget to do regardless of what system you use). Trust that the rules are there when you need them, but don't obsess over them or use them as a crutch.

THE WRONG ROOM 6

The Wrong Room is a tabletop roleplaying podcast available on Spotify. The new episode is Moon Spooge.

Burning Wheel House Rules

Practice

Most paperwork is generated via active play, but not practice! As such, I felt it prudent to streamline practice as much as possible. This was done by focusing on the cycle, which is the most important limiter in the practice calculus.

You can practice whenever your character is not actively engaged in the situation. Typically, this happens when a party member is recovering from a wound or taxed Forte, getting a job, performing a lengthy task, or instructing or receiving instruction.

Practice is measured in days. Spend days equal to that ability's cycle (BWG 47) to log one test of any difficulty. Treat each month in a cycle as 30 days.

Lifestyle

Players determine their lifestyles up front instead of having the GM gauge their character’s financial choices over the course of a cycle.

For each Resources cycle:

  • Beginning: Pick a lifestyle with an obstacle equal to or less than your Resources exponent.
  • During: You enjoy assets equivalent to those listed under the chosen obstacle. Only test Resources for purchases not covered by your lifestyle.
  • End: Test Resources against your lifestyle obstacle.

Practical Magic

Practical Magic (Codex 263) replaces the standard mechanics for both Sorcery and Rituals of Night. I have modified Practical Magic as follows:

  • Sorcerous Skills: Practical Magic allows the use of all sorcerous skills. Sorcery tests proxying for sorcerous skills are never open-ended.
  • Subtlety Clause: Ignore the clause that Practical Magic must be subtle.
  • Push it to the Limit: A sorcerer can ignore the double obstacle penalty for not having tools by instead adding the test’s obstacle to their tax obstacle. Pushing the limit causes tax even on a success. 
  • Creative Thaumaturgy: A sorcerer can declare a wholly magical intent and task, then test Sorcery. These tests are never open-ended, cause tax even on a success, and carry dire magical consequences on a failure.
  • Destroy with Sorcerous Fire: Sorcery can be used as a weapon in Bloody Versus and Fight:
    • Bloody Versus: Counts as a longer length weapon and shield.
    • Fight: Power is sorcerer’s Will, VA 2, DoF as bow, length longest, range as bow. Add can be used to increase damage (+1 Power each), increase VA (+1 VA per 2 successes), or modify the DoF (+1 each).
  • Void Embrace: Sorcerers with Void Embrace can use Blood Magic (Codex 367).

Crunchy Systems Rock

Pathfinder 2e and The Burning Wheel are both wonderfully designed, so I don't have many house rules. For Pathfinder 2e, the only one I use is the free archetype one, which everyone uses. For The Burning Wheel, I have my own overhauls of Practical Magic, practice, and lifestyles, but these changes are isolated to those respective subsystems.

The reason I like crunchy systems like Pathfinder 2e and The Burning Wheel is because it's easier to ignore rules than make up consistent rulings on the fly. In essence, it's better to have and not need it, than need and not have it.

It's not that I deviate from the rules. Oftentimes, I'm "just saying yes" and "letting it ride"—valuable, generally applicable lessons from The Burning Wheel—meaning nobody's breaking out the dice and sheets until we reach a contentious point in the narrative. That's what the rules are there for: To be a robust, authoritative source from which to adjudicate those contentions.

Ironically, excessive rules make things simple!

Pathfinder 2e Landing Page

Tools

  • Rules: Archives of Nethys is a free official database that contains all the rules for the game. No books required! You can also use PF2 Easy, which is much more feature-rich.
  • Character Creation: Pathbuilder 2e makes it possible to create characters in 15 minutes or less. It is available for web browsers and Android devices.

House Rules

  • Free Archetype: Use the Free Archetype rule from GMG 194.
  • Timed Turns: In combat, if a player takes more than 1 real-time minute to declare their actions, they automatically Delay.

Getting Started

Before the first session, be sure to do the following: 

  • Read the Player's Guide for your adventure path. Message me and I will send you a copy.
  • If you are a new player, first read the Archives of Nethys Player's Guide.
  • Come to the table with a completely built character. I recommend using Pathbuilder 2e to create your character, and will reimburse you on request for purchasing full access.

Pathbuilder Setup

  1. Navigate to Menu | Character Options.
  2. In the first section, only check the following boxes:
    • "Autosave Character"
    • "Separate Adventurer's Kit into individual inventory items"
  3. In the second section (i.e., "Advanced Options"), only check the following boxes:
    • "Allow Gamemastery Guide Free Archetype"
    • "Add level to proficiency"
  4. In the third section, check all boxes.
    • If you are feeling overwhelmed by the number of options, I recommend only checking "Pathfinder Core Rulebook"
  5. In the fourth section, click Deselect All. Then, only check the boxes for your current Adventure Path:
    • Age of Ashes:
      • "Age of Ashes Player's Guide"
      • "Pathfinder #145–150"
    • Extinction Curse:
      • "Extinction Curse Player's Guide"
      • "Pathfinder #151–155"
      • "Pathfinder Adventure Path #156"
    • Agents of Edgewatch:
      • "Agents of Edgewatch Player's Guide"
      • "Pathfinder Adventure Path #157–162"
    • Abomination Vaults:
      • "Abomination Vaults Player's Guide"
      • "Pathfinder Adventure Path #163–165"
      • "Pathfinder Adventure: Troubles in Otari"
    • Fists of the Ruby Phoenix:
      • "Fists of the Ruby Phoenix Player's Guide"
      • "Pathfinder Adventure Path #166–168"
    • Strength of Thousands:
      • "Strength of Thousands Player's Guide"
      • "Pathfinder Adventure Path #169–174"

Thursday, August 26, 2021

OSR Treasure Placement

For protected treasure, I always use its protector’s treasure type, even in dungeons (RAW, you're supposed to reserve that for wilderness lairs). I also always use the average value listed for treasure types, in gold pieces, though I generate magic items as normal. I'm not sure if listing average values is just an Old-School Essentials thing, but that's my go-to dungeon crawler!

For unprotected treasure, I always use the average value for unprotected treasure types. This isn't calculated in most OSR products, so I created the table below. I still generate magic items as normal. 

I calculated average gem and jewelry yield using spreadsheets from Delta’s D&D Hotspot. The average expected value for gems is 194.5 gold pieces, and for jewelry 1,050 gold pieces. The average yield of gems or jewelry is determined by multiplying their average expected value, their percent chance of appearing, and the average quantity that would appear. Additionally, these averages were calculated assuming gold pieces always appear.

Dungeon Level

Gold Pieces

Magic Item

1

240

3% chance 1 magic item appears

2

800

5% chance 1 magic item appears

3

1,100

7% chance 1 magic item appears

4–5

1,500

9% chance 1 magic item appears

6–7

4,400

15% chance 1 magic item appears

8+

8,300

20% chance 1 magic item appears