About Me

My photo
Denver, Colorado, United States
I'm an old time roleplayer who became a soldier who became a veteran who became a developer who became a dba who became a manager who never gave up his dream of a better world. Even if I have to create it myself.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Mega Millions vs Pot Odds

Anyone play poker?

They'd probably beat me.
Poker players that have moved beyond the basics of "wait, does a flush beat a straight?" eventually learn the concept of pot odds.  Basically, if the odds of getting a winning hand are better than the ratio of the bet to the pot+bet, then the player should make the bet.  So if the pot is $90, the bet is $10, and the odds of winning are 20%, then the player should bet, since $10 is less than 20% of $90+$10.

That's intermediate strategy, of course, and advanced strategy can try to outsmart people playing pot odds.

But the lottery doesn't outsmart anyone.  It's just straight odds.  Let's explore that in terms of pot odds.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Phoenix Initiative

Design Goal #3 for the Combat Round was:

Order of action must be determined separately every round, independently for each PC and major opponent (at a minimum), with modifiers for faster/slower characters.

And, of course, this all has to be very fast and not take a lot of time, to achieve the other design goals.

Although designed for Phoenix, this system could be adapted to most games by simply selecting thresholds for the various methods.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Awesome Tool: Token Packs

Devin Night over at http://devinnight.wordpress.com/ has 20 free token packs suitable for use with MapTool.

Freakin' Sweet.

You can find the tokens here.

Devin did a great job putting these together, so support him if you can.  He has other packs for sale, with nice effects, and even does custom tokens for a fee.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Awesome Historic Creatures: Tonals

Previously in our Immortals adventures, we've encountered the mercenary d20 and the hungry copy machine. Now it's time for the really loud radio!

A Guide to Office Geography

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Book Review. Yea, that book.

You may recall my mentioning of a certain unmentionable book.

I only read it out of a deep desire...
to serve the public.
Here's my review of The Kobold Wizard's Dildo of Enlightenment +2 by Carlton Mellick III.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Structure of a Combat Round

Sometimes, opponents in close proximity to each other decide they want to start fighting until one of them dies.

The relevance of this picture is entirely up to you.

Combat is the most structured part of Phoenix, as it is in most tabletop games.  This is a necessary feature, because GMs have to pretend they are being fair when they kill off PCs.

The structure of a combat round is a time where design theories like gamism, disassociated mechanics, and rules-oriented design take first priority.  Once this framework is established, drama-oriented design can take over to fill in the meat and potatoes part of combat.

Here's the simple structure of combat in Phoenix.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

How I overcome getting stuck


When working on game design, I get stuck. A lot. That's reasonably normal for any creative endeavor, and how different people overcome it is always interesting to me.

When working on Phoenix, associated mechanics keep me afloat in challenging waters.

Definition of Terms
For those not aware, there are two general approaches to mechanical design theory in RPGs.  This is my take on these definitions.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Attributes in Phoenix

Attributes in Other Games
Lots of games have attributes, and they vary widely.  D&D uses the familiar STR/DEX/CON/INT/WIS/CHA complex, GURPS uses ST/DX/IQ/HT, Basic Roleplaying uses STR/CON/SIZ/INT/POW/DEX/APP, Rolemaster has 10 attributes, and FUDGE has a list of dozens that the GM can choose from when building a campaign.

Generation methods are equally disparate.  D&D has a number of methods, with the most popular probably being 3d6-in-order, 3d6-arranged, 4d6/drop 1-arranged, and point buy.  GURPS uses point buy.  BRP uses 3d6-in-order, although players get automatic 6's for one die in each of SIZ and INT.  Rolemaster uses d% or point buy.  FUDGE uses either 2d6 or a buy system of sorts.  And in all systems, gaming groups everywhere have customized these methods.

Knowing only these things about a game - the attributes and their method of generation - tells players quite a bit about what to expect.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Wherefore art thou Wemic?

Wemics - a sort of centaur made from lion instead of horse - are fairly well known in the RPG realm.  They first appear - in modern RPG form - in Monster Cards (Set 3), and internal sources from the former company attribute Dave Sutherland III to originating this D&D creature.

How did jaguar get on this list?

After that release, wemics appeared in 1e's MM II, and the rest is history.  Bart Carroll from WotC gives D&D credit for wemics - "...the game's own varieties, including the wemic, scarrow, and 1st Edition's lamia."  Wemics also seem to be part of WotC's reserved "product identity" group of monsters that includes things like beholders.

Now, like most classical students, I know darned well that the lamia existed at least a couple of millenia before D&D - and under different names, even in similar present form.  So maybe wemics are worth investigating, too?

Thursday, March 15, 2012

May 15th, 2012...

... is the Diablo 3 release date.  There is an above-average chance I won't post a blog entry that day.

Unless it crashes.

Macro for Random Gems

I've previously posted how Phoenix randomly generates gems.  This is the sort of thing I like to automate, and MapTool provides an easy platform for that automation.

(created for MapTool v1.3.b87)

It was a good chance to enhance my MapTool macro coding skills a little bit, so here we go.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Awesome Historic Creature: The Repeater

I failed my save.

Awesome Historic Creature: The Repeater

Also called the Ditto.  I am not kidding.
This creature's most feared ability is its snort. The monster can snort at the end of any melee round, and no other limit applies to the frequency. Its snort produces an odd feeling of entrapment in all life forms within 300 feet of the repeater. Each victim within range must make a saving throw vs. Magic Spell. If successful, the victim resists the trap; but if failed, the victim falls prey to the infamous repeater effect.

Any victim of the repeater effect must repeat all of the previous round's actions. The repeater, of course, is under no such compulsion, and acts with deadly foreknowledge of its victim's actions.


    - Frank Mentzer, Dungeon Master's Guide to Immortals, 1986

I'm fairly certain that by the time Immortals came out, ideas were running short.  Still, I gotta love the blatant use of "things around the office" as creatures.  First the bag of dice, then the copy machine.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Kobold Wizard's Dildo of Enlightenment +2

For those of you that keep coming to this site after googling "Kobold Porn", I have what you are looking for.

The holy grail!
You can buy it on Amazon, since I doubt your local retailers will be carrying it anytime soon.

Thanks to one of my readers for pointing this out.  I'll let that person identify themselves, should they be willing to admit publicly that they searched for this.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Random Gem Generation

In general, I like tabletop RPG rules to be lightweight and quick.  But, like most people, I have a few spots that I enjoy getting carried away in.  For me, gemology has always been fascinating, so I like to have some extra variation in them beyond "You find a 100gp Gem!".  Here's what I have done for Phoenix.
Oooooh shiny!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Macro for Exploding Tier Dice

MapTool has a built in dice interpreter, so you can type things like [d20] into the chat panel and it will kindly obey.  Phoenix RPG uses exploding dice for most rolls, and MapTool supports this with the 'e' suffix: [d20e].

However, it doesn't show component dice involved in that roll, so if you roll [2d6e], and get a 9, it is impossible to tell whether that roll was 5/4, or 6/1/2.  (School me if you know a way around this.)  Also, it's pure text, and I prefer seeing the dice imagery.

I'm not trying to take away from the very awesome job the devs have done on this product, but for my game I would like to see all the individual dice - graphically - and have the explosions displayed in all their extra-dice glory.  The excitement of getting a die explosion is very important to the Phoenix experience, and I want virtual play to get as close as possible to the same fun!

No problem - MapTool has a macro language, so it's a good time to try it out.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Awesome Historic Creature: The Jumper

WTF?
These odd creatures were created by a former Hierarch of the Sphere of Time, who granted them some characteristics of Initiates for their own protection.  They thrived and spread quickly, and are now common sights on the Outer and Astral planes.  When each new Immortal of Time gains a Home Plane, a flock of these creatures (3-24, each with 11-18 Hit Dice) soon arrive to seek employment.  If none are hired, they may retaliate as a group by stealing something.

    - Frank Mentzer, Dungeon Master's Guide to Immortals, 1986

These creatures attack 12 times per round, each of which ages the target 10-40 years with no save, and they heal themselves by pushing gods around in time.

Jumpers appear in groups of 1-8.  That's up to 96 attacks, or 3,840 years of aging, per round.  But don't worry, one or two might miss.

... Ready to roll Initiative?

(use that dead Jumper you've been carrying around)

Awesome Tool: MapTool

Folks kind enough to play RPGs with me over the years are now spread out amongst three continents - so, I've been examining various tools for a potential virtual playtest.

I've selected MapTool for a number of reasons.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Search terms to find this blog

So far this month, my top search terms are:

  • key and peele dungeons and dragons
  • key & peele roleplaying
  • key and peele roleplaying
  • kobolde toon porn

Which leads me to the inevitable conclusion that Key & Peele are kobolds.

Stop smirking.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Awesome Tool: Dicenomicon

Don't care about dice probabilities?  Just want to pick up a few dozen d20s and see what happens?

Dicenomicon is the dice rolling program for iOS devices like the iPad and the iPhone.  I have been using it for a while now and it is the only software dice program I would happily use as a GM at the gaming table.  I have used it quite a bit for fast-playtesting of mechanics and mock combats in Phoenix RPG, and it has never let me down.

I got a 54, woohoo!

Here are some of my favorite features.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Awesome Historic Rule: Damage

"All attacks which score hits do 1-6 points damage unless otherwise noted."
  - Men & Magic, Gygax & Arneson, (c) 1974.

Book of Awesome, Volume 1

Take that, multi-page modern weapon tables!

Monday, March 5, 2012

The Rule of Assumption

Many things in Phoenix are abstracted to improve game flow, allowing concentration on things that are fun and avoidance of things that are mind-numbing. The Rule of Assumption is a key example highlighting this approach.
What follows is an excerpt from the current draft.

The Silver Standard

I like the silver standard, and Phoenix uses it.  Many games - including D&D - use the gold standard.  So what's the difference?

Well, in the silver standard, silver is the standard upon which all values are built. In the gold standard, it's gold.

Helpful?  Good.  Now let's delve into the details of currency and exchange rates in Phoenix.  If you really want to learn more about the silver standard, then follow the yellow brick road instead.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Playtest, in the key of B4 minor

I converted part of The Lost City, module B4 of OD&D, to the fledgling Phoenix RPG rules and Baby Bat ran an Elf Conquestor through it.  This was the longest playtest to date, and it went very well.  In an hour and a half of solid play, we made it through the first two tiers of the pyramid.  We were so focused on the dungeon exploration that we completely forgot we were playtesting for most of the session - a good sign!

Behold... Zargon arises yet again!

Several key elements of Phoenix have come together in this playtest better than ever before. 

Friday, March 2, 2012

Awesome Clip: Reno 911

 I really miss Reno 911.  Here's one relevant example:  Chaotic Evil

Miami's Finest.
Get a cell ready for our demigod.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Awesome Tool: AnyDice

Phoenix RPG uses exploding dice extensively.  You can read about my earlier analysis on exploding dice, but if you want to know how likely it is that a 14 comes up on a roll of 2d+10's, then this is the tool for you.

Mathgasm.

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