July 6, 2015

Majestic Wilderlands - Wizards and Displacers and Hags oh my

We started the game with +Tim Shorts talking about a new character - a High-Elf Wizard with CON 18 and CHA 6. 
"I'm not going to play him mean; I'm going to play him ugly."
He also rolled HP and true to form, rolled a 5 and a 6 on 4d6 for extra HP . . . dang it! He took the average instead. 

We started with a not-so-brief digression on the strengths and weaknesses of various systems. I won't repeat that here.

* * * * *

We get started reminding ourselves what we're doing. M is the demesne of Mori the dragon. The E is the elven land of Loshain, and the H is the halfling land of the Limerick Shire. We ask Maud if Mori lives near the river; she says it's dangerous to go down there due to . . . dragon turtles? The river plan is modified to accommodate not getting eaten.

Ugly Wizard: "Greetings, gentlemen. I heard you were looking to travel downriver!"
Marcus: "So much for operational security."
Keyar: "You look trustworthy! Please join us."
Ugly Wizard: "And I know the location of convenient outposts that makes me inherently valuable to your quests!"
All of Us: "Welcome aboard!"

July 5, 2015

Violent Resolution – You’ve got to move it move it

Swinging a sword at an orc is all well and good, but if your friend needs help, you have to be able to reach him. Moving to (or fleeing from) a foe, or seeking a position that gives tactical advantage, is part and parcel of fighting. In fact, an emphasis on footwork, distancing, and movement is one of the key parts of combat training in many styles.
I’d love to generalize to “most” or even “all,” but I’ve not trained in most or all styles. The ones I’ve studied and trained in emphasized footwork and movement, and I’ve not see that contradicted in my readings of other arts.
In the games, movement is important because (in the simplest of terms) it’s how one gets from fight to fight. Of course, there’s more to the game than fighting. Well, mostly. But getting into, and out of position can matter a great deal.

In any case, we’ll be looking at several facets of movement in the five selected games. Speed and acceleration drive the ability to position oneself on the battlefield (or battle map, as the case may be). The impact, if any, of posture on  movement and action determine whether that’s important at all. Finally, we’ll look at several types of special movement, such as jumping, sprinting, and of course, the ever-popular chandelier-swinging.

Overland movement and hiking won’t be treated here; while important, they’re more key to large-scale strategic movement than the kinds of personal engagement that Violent Resolution treats. But while hiking isn’t treated, moving around under the influence of materialism – that is, while carrying mounds of equipment and loot – are examined to see if, and how, the games treat movement when loaded. With stuff.

July 1, 2015

D&D Firearms Damage - conversion musings

I have no idea why I did this. But I was thinking, probably because of my comments in my firearms-related Violent Resolution column.

But  . . . I wondered to myself if there was a way to turn some sort of real-world number into D&D damage output.

I know, I know. Why would I ever do such a thing? I had noted (complained, really) that a 9mm was 2d6, and the mighty .50BMG was but 2d12.

So . . . I whipped out solver, and it turns out if you use the energy of the bullet, and only the energy of the bullet, if you use 4 * Log (Base 5) Energy you get a number that might just equate to the maximum damage you can roll on the dice. It compresses the scale even further than the usual result, but it's not insane.


Cartridge Name D&D Damage? Roughly
.22LR 12 2d6
.380 ACP 13 2d6+1
4.6x30mm PDW 15 2d6+3
.45 ACP 15 2d6+3
5.7x28mm 16 2d8
.40S&W 16 2d8
124gr 9x19mm 16 2d8
.45GAP 16 2d8
180gr 10mm Auto 16 2d8
5.45x39mm 18 2d8+2
240gr .44M 18 2d8+2
.50 AE 19 2d8+3
M855 5.56x45mm 19 2d8+3
7.62x39mm 19 2d8+3
6.8x43mm SPC 19 2d8+3
12 Gauge Shotgun Slug 20 2d10
150gr NATO 7.62x51mm 20 2d10
.500 S&W 20 2d10
.30-06 21 2d10+1
.300 Win Mag 21 2d10+1
.338 Lapua Magnum 22 2d10+2
.50 BMG 24 2d12
14.5x114mm KPV 26 2d12+2
120mm M829-A1 39 6d6+3
16" Naval gun 49 8d6+1

A shortbow or longbow with a good DEX will get you 1d6+4 or 1d8+4, which are 10 and 12 max damage . . .basically a longbow has the same max as a 2d6, which energetically works out fairly well, since powerful bows deliver on the order of 100-200J. So that's not crazy-town.

Now, this is totally based on energy, and that means the big, slow bullets are worse than small fast ones. Fine - acknowledged it's not perfect, but it's a scale that actually fits reasonably well with d20 Modern and can be extrapolated to other weapons.

Show the Work
How did I do it?

I tried to make a .22LR 8 points (2d4), a 9mm 12 points (2d6), and a .50BMG 24 points. I used a formula to set a quantity of D = A * logB(Energy). I squared the difference and normalized it to the target squared . . . so (D-T)^2 / T^2. I also weighted the results, so the .22LR got 1000x the figured sum, the 9mm got 4000x, and the BMG got 9000x. That was to force Solver (in Excel) to give more weight to making the .50BMG 2d12 or 24 points. The energies I used were 130J for the .22LR, 585J for the 9mm, and 14,700 for the .50BMG, which assumes a man-portable 32" barrel instead of the 43" bbl on the machinegun (which is about 16,000J).

Solver gave an exact figure of A = 3.88 and B of 5.1. But setting A=4 and B= 5 is actually better at fitting the BMG, and puts the .22LR at the 2d6 value above. Given the energy involved, that's probably as good as the d20 modern values.

When converting max damage to dice, I always use the largest dice I can, but don't allow subtraction. So 19 points isn't 2d10-1, but rather 2d8+3. That's a quirk of mine. You can certainly convert any way you like, and 39 points could be 4d8+5, 4d10-1, or 3d12+3 easily enough. Heck, have at it and make it 9d4+3, and the 16" Naval Gun 12d4+1 to keep the minimum damage high.

Note that the Naval Gun is just the kinetic energy. I haven't yet figured out how to rate the explosion of 150 lbs. of high explosive inside about 2,000lbs of metal.

Bah! The Damages are Too High!

A comment on G+ noted that 3e humans only have 4 HP, which is a fair point. If you wanted purposefully lower numbers, then here are some nudges/hacks, as well as my line of thought.

I based them off of d20 Modern's list, where a 9mm was 2d6 and a .50BMG was 2d12. The math forced the 9mm to 2d8 and put the .22LR, which I tried to make about 2d4, into 2d6.

In 5e, at least, a 1st level fighter is going to start with at least 10 HP, and you get a DEX bonus to the 1d6 or 1d8 base damage of a short or longbow, respectively. So from that perspective, 2d6 (ish) or 2d8 for a pistol is the equivalent, on the average of 1d6+3.5 and 1d8+4.5 for damage, neither of which is out of line for d20 Modern or 5e, at least.

If you lower the values to make them work for low level characters, you have the opposite problem - a high level fighter can shrug off a burst of .50BMG unless you invoke the harshest of harsh wounds rule where if you take more HP than your CON, you save or die (that's a suggested threshold - the harshest one - from the d20 Modern SRD).

If you force the .22LR down closer to a shortbow, the formula becomes something like 2*log(base4) Energy. That makes a .22LR 1d6+1, a 9mm about 1d8+1, a 5.56mm 1d10+1, 7.62mmNATO 1d12, and a .50BMG 1d12+2.

This gives fewer categories of damage
  • 1d6+1 for .22LR 
  • 1d8 for .380 ACP 
  • 1d8+1 for PDW rounds and all normal military pistols (.45 ACP, 9mm, 10mm, .40S&W) 
  • 1d10 for magnum pistols (.357M, .44M) and lower-powered assault rifles (4.73x33mmCLS, 5.45x39mm) 
  • 1d10+1 for standard military assault rifles (5.56, 6.8SPC, 7.62x39mm, 6.5 Grendel) 
  • 1d12 for battle rifles and sniper rifles from .308 to .338 Win Mag 
  • 1d12+1 for .338 Lapua or .416 Rigby 
  • 1d12+2 for .50BMG 

June 29, 2015

Majestic Wilderlands - The Party Goes to the Mall

When last we left our heroes, we were being relentlessly pursued by an angry flesh golem (and really, is there any other kind?), which was currently tearing apart the secret door we'd closed behind us. We decide that the equivalent of a short rest has passed.

We shoot a few arrows at it, and it withdraws . . . only to bash through the door using another door as a battering ram. Curses . . . animated mound of flesh is a SMART animated round of flesh.

We toss a torch on a quickly-erected pile of wood, and the thing again withdraws screaming. We also withdraw, so as not to choke to death in the smoke.


The fire collapses the basement, which also collapses the house above it - but that was the bad guy's house, so we're not that concerned. We decide to split up, take watches, and read up on Osral's notes:

June 28, 2015

Violent Resolution - Guns . . . Lots of Guns

In a previous article, Violent Resolution looked at the skills used for ranged weaponry. In this column, I look at the weapons themselves.

Similar to differentiation found in hand-to-hand weapons, differentiation in ranged weapons, including the titular guns, provide a way of showing strengths and weaknesses, and providing different dramatic opportunities, within games. Most games (but not all, even in this list!) will feature the gross physical stats of the weapon: weight and cost.

June 25, 2015

Surprise love for The Last Gasp in the SJG Live talk with Steven and Sean

I would never in a billion years thought that the fairly fiddly The Last Gasp would have been one of those that "surprised" and delighted Steven. Woo hoo!

June 20, 2015

Violent Resolution - As Three is to One

“In war, three-quarters turns on personal character and relations; the balance of manpower and materials counts only for the remaining quarter.”
– Napoleon Bonaparte (Observations on Spanish Affairs, Aug 27, 1808)
Napoleon’s quote is stolen here for a reason, but mostly as a jumping off point. The mightiest weapons and the most efficient logistics train mean nothing if a soldier – or an army – will not fight when told to fight, persist in their mission even in the face of their own doom, and withdraw in order rather than flee in terror on command. This holds for armies and battalions, but also for small units as well. Or, as our buddy Thulsa Doom summed up:
Thulsa Doom: Ah. It must have been when I was younger. There was a time, boy, when I searched for steel, when steel meant more to me than gold or jewels.
Conan: The riddle… of steel.
Thulsa Doom: Yes! You know what it is, don’t you boy? Shall I tell you? It’s the least I can do. Steel isn’t strong, boy, flesh is stronger! Look around you. There, on the rocks; a beautiful girl. Come to me, my child…
[coaxes the girl to jump to her death]
Thulsa Doom: That is strength, boy! That is power! What is steel compared to the hand that wields it? Look at the strength in your body, the desire in your heart, I gave you this! Such a waste. Contemplate this on the tree of woe. Crucify him.
In short, that which gives Conan his power is his moral courage, not his weapons or perhaps even his physical strength. That in the end, two had the heart to stand against many.

As one would imagine, fear and courage – the will to fight – can occur at all parts of the story, and the fight. At the beginning – when fighting is either decided upon or left behind. The middle, in hot combat or cold slaughter – who will maintain their composure, stay in formation with shields locked? Will fear of death and pain cause the heart to break and the will to leave the fighter with palsied hand? Or will (laying about me with the quotations) they stand as Ulysses: “One equal temper of heroic hearts, Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”

Do any games support this mechanically? Not terribly well, at least among the core rules of the books presented . . . with one notable exception, and perhaps one honorable mention.