Monday, February 14, 2011

Homebrew '82: Dice combinations for ability scores

A post by Alexis today (with a pointer to a chart on his "Same Universe Wiki") reminded me about a similar chart that's in my current draft of the Homebrew '82 players guide. First I'll give the chart without context... :-)
When rolling dice to determine a character's ability scores, there are 3 alternative methods that the GM can choose to use:
  1. 3d6 in order.  Not for the faint of heart!
  2. For each ability score, roll 4d6(B3).  That's 4d6, and keep the best 3. First determine all six ability scores in order, then feel free to swap around any two pairs of scores with their attributes.  (That's as close as I feel like getting to "assign them at will.")
  3. The above method allocates a total of 24d6 to the six scores. When using the third method, however, one can distribute those 24 dice to the scores in any way the player wants -- as long as there are at least 3d6 for each score. Thus if you really want a fighter, go for it with 9d6(B3) for strength. But then you're stuck with just 3d6 for everything else. (With this method, there's no swapping when you're done.)
With the possibility of unfamiliar combinations of dice, I thought I'd provide a probability table so players can get a feel for "how good" the various options are. Rather than give the chances for each and every score, though, I'm giving just three things: the average (most probable) score, the chance to roll an 18, and the chance to roll a really crappy score (which I define arbitrarily as 7 or less).

I calculated the probabilities using a simple script in IDL. If anyone is curious about extending the table in any way -- or seeing more significant figures! -- let me know and I can modify the script.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Homebrew '82: Awarding Experience

As player characters explore their imagined worlds, they get better at the skills they've chosen to specialize in: fighting, casting spells, sneaking around, etc.  In classic D&D, the number of Experience Points (XP) awarded at the end of an adventure depends on two main things: foes defeated and treasure gained. Sometimes there could be special awards for evocative role-playing or the completion of specific "in-story" objectives.

As a DM in the 1980s, I dutifully tallied up the XP values of monsters killed and gold pieces gathered, and occasionally tossed in another few hundred XP for other things, but it never seemed quite right. I now see that many other gamers went in the completely opposite direction: just awarding a fixed amount of XP per session, or per adventure (however that was defined), and usually also dividing up the XP evenly between all player characters.

For Homebrew '82, I think a happy medium between those two extremes is needed. I've decided to take a plunge and forgo the detailed XP for monsters and treasure, but still aim for a "crunchy" system that reflects how well each player played, and/or how well each character exercised his or her skills.  So here's Cygnus' attempt at a meritocracy-based XP system, sans monster/treasure tallying:

XP is earned for each hour of play, in real-life player time. The number of XP depends on how much the PC participates in activities relevant to their class, and on how difficult are the challenges faced by the PC. For each hour, the number of XP earned is determined by the GM finding the proper number in the following chart and multiplying it by the square root of the PC's current level (which I hope will make more sense below). A GM can average together an entire session's play, or keep track of what goes on hour by hour.
I'll just give short definitions of the "grades" for participation and difficulty.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The HipBone's connected to the . . .

Okay, back to the Glass Bead Game.

Putting aside Hesse's warnings about how a closed GBG culture could be in danger of never creating anything new . . .

And also putting aside the fact that seeing connections between EVERYTHING and EVERYTHING ELSE is probably a hallmark of mental illness . . .

How could such a game be constructed?

We don't need to reinvent the wheel. People have been trying to "reverse engineer" Hesse's fictional game since at least the 1960s. I'd like to use this blog to talk about some of those attempts. I'll start with my virtual mentor in GBG studies, a fellow named Charles Cameron. These days he's blogging a lot about international politics, but in the late 1990s he was a lean, mean GBG designing machine.

The GBG variant that he's most known for is a deceptively simple game called HipBone. You know, "the hip bone's connected to the thigh bone," and so on. This game starts with an empty board, which consists of discrete nodes (usually drawn as circles) connected by lines. One of my favorites, shown here, is called the WaterBird board. I'm sure there could be 3D (or higher dimensional!) HipBone boards, but most of the one's I've seen are 2D.