Blog Archive

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Morale Checks

One of the rules I miss for later editions is morale. It always seemed to heighten tensions during battle, and then a relief at the end when the foes depart. There was a sense of believability that not all monsters fight until dead.

While some bloggers and forum posters say, that they decide when enemies flee, I really don't like doing it that way. I want that decision to be taken out of my hands as sometimes I am "too fair" or even "too mean." depending upon my mood and may not even be aware of it.  This is a game where chance determines outcome, and to take the dice out of morale, is equivalent to taking dice away from saving throws or even attacks. Set up the scenario, run the scenario and then see what happens based on the player's decisions and rolls, that is the game I want to run not to arbitrarily making every decision at every turn.

I fiddled around with the morale rules previously, but found that I had too many modifiers, which slowed the game. Instead this uses a starting base, default adjustments and situational ones. The trick is using just enough to give a sense of realism but not too many to slow things down. Once you have the starting morale check number you only need to track the seven listed situational ones, so there's not a lot to keep track of so book-keeping should be kept to a minimum.

Morale Checks

Battle often occurs randomly, when unknown, unprepared foes face each other. In many of these cases, individuals often don't fight until they are dead, instead they flee when scared from the battle site. While PCs never need to check for morale, retainers & hirelings will if threatened; companion creatures should never flee.

Morale checks happen when PCs fight groups of four or more individuals, if less then that, the DM should determine based circumstances, not dice rolls. Some types of creatures, such as animals, constructs & undead never check morale, as they do not think about their own well being in this manner. If the DM decides a creature should stop engaging in battle, rolls should not prompt that decision.

When to check Morale: After a quarter of the enemies have fallen or every four rounds whichever happens first. The DM should roll secretly, if the number rolled is higher then their current morale, the group will disband and immediately flee the scene.

Starting Morale

10 + HD + Best of any either Wisdom or Strength bonuses + default modifiers

After the first round of combat add the situational modifiers mentioned below to any morale check, this is important to track if a PC decides to use intimidate skill.

Groups use the highest or strongest individual among them from their standard race, for example if an ogre is heading a group of orcs, the ogre could fight until it chose to depart, but the orcs squad leader would make it for the orcs. The roll is applied, and since some individuals might be injured, some may flee while others will stay.

Default Modifiers are known at the start of combat and usually applied to all creatures on one of the sides and generally do not change. They always encourage foes to withstand

Situational Modifiers change as individuals are hurt or affected by the individual circumstance, these you need to roughly track.

Default Modifiers
Lawful                                 +  2
Defending Home                             +  3
Hungry or desperate                        +  2
Dedicated Cause, Brave or Elite      +  3
Outnumber foes by X to 1 ratio       +  X

Situational Modifiers
Exhausted                                      -  1
Minor Injuries (25% or less)           -  2
Serious Injuries (50% or more)       -  5
Fallen Leader                                 -  8
Fallen Spell-caster                          -  4
Shaken                                           -  4
Spectacular Display                         -  2

Raging & creatures immune to fear never fail morale
Intimidated: See Below

If rolling morale checks for groups that include NPCs, do not include the default modifiers, only the conditional ones plus wisdom bonus.

Cleric, Druid or Monk, Ranger, Sorcerer, Wizard: 10 + level + conditional modifiers
Fighter: 12 + 10 + conditional modifiers
Rogue: 8 + 10 + conditional modifiers
Paladin: 16 + 10 + conditional modifiers

Modifier Descriptions

Brave, Dedicated Cause or Elite: If considered elite in their race, known for bravery or on a special dedicated cause, the DM can give a bonus to their morale check. This should only apply to the best ranks, not all particular creatures.

Defending Home: If in their lair, creatures will put up a braver response, as they probably have no other place to go, so their only real hope is to win the battle.

Fallen Leader or Spell-caster: once such an important person is seen to have fallen in battle or left the battle scene, this will demoralize the troops, and make it much more likely they will flee. Note if in a unit where there is more than one spell-caster, this penalty would only be appropriate for the considered best or highest classed spell-caster. These are cumulative, so a spell-casting commander's death would inflict -12 on their morale checks.

Hungry or desperate: If so hungry or in a desperate situation , they have no other option, so they put just a little bit more into the battle, unwilling to flee

Intimidate: Normally morale is checked at specific time during the battle, however PCs can enforce a morale check on individuals by making an intimidation check vs someones Morale Number. This can be done after the first combat round. If the PC beats the creatures morale check, the creature flees.

Lawful: If aligned LG, LN, LE they add +2 on their morale checks, as their dedication to a cause makes them less likely to desert the battle

Outnumber foes by X ratio: If the foes outnumber the PCs, use the same ration as a base additional to morale. For example if there are four PCs and eight enemies, the enemies gain +2 to their default modifier. If there are twenty enemies to four PCs, change that to +5.

Shaken creatures are already trying to hold on to their wits to remain in battle, they are often the first to flee.

Spectacular Display: If the DM decides the PCs or their allies put on a display of awesome or particularly frightening sight (decapitation, unique weapon , magic weapon, etc) an additional penalty can be given to the party trying to muster their morale.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Cultist (Alt NPC Class)

Many of my games involve secretive groups that skulk in the night going about their nefarious agendas. There was no obvious class that represented these mysterious types the way I thought they could be played, the Adept had too many spells, both rogue or cleric were too powerful as the low-rung cult member, so I did what I usually do - create my own.

This cultist NPC class is designed for use in either Pathfinder, d20 or 3.X games.

Cultist (NPC Class)

Cult members live duplicitous lives, a public one whereby they work and socialize with fellow citizens and another secret one on specific times of the year. Members may not know each other personally, only code words or hand signals to identify each other. Cultists need not worship a god or other entity, some may simply have esoteric knowledge that enables them to cast their boons and rituals. Only ten levels are listed, if they are going to be higher than this use a PC class to represent the individual NPC. since cultists need to participate with large groups of like-minded followers, they do not make a good PC class.

Alignment: Any

Hit Dice: d6

Skill Ranks: 4 + Int modifier.

The adept's class skills (and the key ability for each skill) are Craft (Int), Disguise (Cha), Escape Artist (Dex), Handle Animal (Cha), Heal (Wis), Intimidate (Str), Knowledge (arcane, history or religion) (Int), Profession (Wis), Sense Motive (Wis), Spellcraft (Int), stealth (Dex) and Survival (Wis).

Weapon and Armor Proficiency: The cultist is proficient in the use of all simple weapons and with light armor, but not with any type of shield.


Shared Knowledge: Something that all members either believe or know to be true. This is the key motivation of the cult as it defines their goal and their beliefs. Some examples could be knowing of a sleeping god and wanting to awaken it, to imprison an ageless agent of chaos to wreck havoc, or a doorway that can open to another world during specific rituals.

Boon: A boon is a supernatural effect that the wielder can enact once a day. Most have specific listing based on their cult's devotion or focus. 

Rituals: While spells cannot be cast by individuals but groups of cultists create ritual that matches or mimics a spell from a clerical domain or a wizard schools / spell type. Rituals take much longer to cast, taking a minimum of one minute per spell level of uninterrupted chanting. They need a ritual focus, which can be either a ceremonial act, a leader,a place or time. Depending upon the power level of the ritual a certain number of cultists need to be involved. Only one cultist need to have the power to initiate a ritual, all the others must simply have shared knowledge to help participate in the chanting (or other) ritual. There are rumours of much more powerful rituals needing even greater time and members to perform.

Ritual 1st Rank- Mimic a 3rd level or lower spell from any spell list. Must have a minimum of 5 members, only one person need to have the ritual as part of their level abilities, but must still be at least first level cultist or member of any spell-casting class. The casting takes ten uninterrupted minutes per spell level to complete. Cultists usually cannot participate in more than one ritual every week.

Ritual 2nd Rank- Same as Ritual level 1, except can mimic a 5th level or lower spell, 15 cultists or spell casters must be present, and requires twenty uninterrupted minutes per spell level.

Ritual 3rd Rank - Same as Ritual level 1, except it can mimic a 7th level or lower spell, 50 cultists or spell casters present, and requires an hour uninterrupted minutes per spell level.

Sample Cults

Here are three samples of potential cults that you can use. These cults do not have set boons or rituals, as it is left up to the story to determine. No two cults even if focused on the same goal will perfectly mirror each other. While some cults work together, many work against other groups having the same goal. Most cult groups are worried about their own local practices to benefit their individual members. The boons are not described as these are just suggestions as to what you can do.

Cult of the Snake: As the snake sheds its skin so too can you grow out of yours, becoming more than what you once were.
This is a transformation cult that believes in literally becoming something else. While this may not sound horrible, the cult kidnaps subjects to perfect their pseudo-ritualized science. Their lairs are often in sewers or other dark locations close enough to populated areas to experiment on. Nagas or snake-men despise this group, yet many have found their way in commanding these gangs. There are small networks of Snake cultists, and most know only those in their immediate cell.
Potential Boons: Snake-skin, Change bones, change one arm to a snake, control snakes, summon snakes, regeneration, snake transformation

Cult of the Dead: The dead await until they called to serve.
This group believe they control the undead to serve as needed. Few clerics even ones that serve the dark ones are in this cult, perhaps because they know the potential danger. Theirs is a mysterious cult of learning about the dead, the practices, and their resting places. Their lairs are often in crypts or graveyards. Unlike other cults, they usually have a constant presence in evil churches, but rarely as the priests. Lichs desire to control these groups, they rarely do as the dead-cult wants control not to be controlled. Members of the cult of dead generally respect each other and give aid when one of their members are in need.
Potential Boons: Charisma bonus on undead reaction, peace-pact with undead, bonus on necromantic spells, Command Undead at 1/2 their level as cleric, undead followers

Dark Dreamers: There are dark, unimaginable, mysterious things that will arise when the time is right to destroy our enemies!
In a few places, sleeping, trapped or forgotten about bizarre entities that wait to be called out of their slumber. Some dark dreamers wish for power or wealth, some to command these creatures, others simply desire chaos and destruction. Cult members always work together in areas where these creatures are rumoured to exist, but while they hear the ethereal summoning none truly know where these beings hide.
While the two previously mentioned cults may have schemes that take a year or two, many dark dreamers wait a lifetime for a chance at accomplishing their great ritual of awakening. Some legends abound of non-cult members being tricked into becoming a part of this cult or joining along with the rituals.
Potential Boons: detect wealth, detect sources of magic, dream-travel, change to a shadow-form, interpret dream messages, send dream messages, awaken the dream beasts, control the dream beasts.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

What is Nyssa ?

It is my game world, ongoing in one way or another for almost 15 years with a half dozen player groups. It is a place dedicated to islands, the idea that anything and everything can be found here but everything is isolated from everything else in distance. There are Gothic influenced lands of hidden terrors, islands in the skies, ancient forests holding fae and the unliving, dragons as terrible war-beasts and magical saviours, traditional pastoral lands having terrible sects doing unholy things to keep the Cthulhu-like entities at bay, high magic civil society with wands, energy guns and a fermenting class-war, just to name a few locales. Creatures exactly as games have known them, and other things that I hope surprise them. Each location hidden away, little knowing, affecting or acknowledging the other, a dozen styles of games in the same world, offering me a chance to explore it with my players.

This is a world that went through its Ragnarok and the civilizations fell, but after thousands of years they are started to rebuild. The world is cursed by three never-ending terrors that stalk the world at large: cold, undead & crumbling magic. While some places may have found temporary escapes, between these areas, the entropic cold exists to crush everything, a natural but still supernatural effect. Undead, everything arises unless it is properly interned, the undead haunt everything and everyone, a past that its unknown citizens know nothing about. Finally, magic is crumbling. It exists in strange, magical, wonderful ways but it can no longer be captured as artefacts or devices as most players know them.

This blog will explore some of my ideas both rules and themes.

Friday, 21 September 2012

Days of the Week

For my ongoing world, these are the days of the week that most human communities follow.

Days of the Week

1st Day: Counting Crowns (Crown is a gold piece for most civilized people)
2nd Day: Steadfast (or Steadfast Prayer or just Prayer)
3rd Day: Burning Candles
4th Day: Sharpening Swords or Sharpening
5th Day: Market (or Tower Day)
6th Day: Wash (or Well Day)
7th Day: Peal (Ringing Bells or just Bells)
8th Day: Hammering (or Hooping)
9th Day: Gate (Travel)
10th Day: Sword Day

Days are generally known by these names throughout the domain for most Nyssian speaking peoples. Here are specific tasks most people follow on that day.

These days are rarely fixed, cities share the same week day names, but have them on differing days. Thus the day that fair are is in that location is Market day, the next day that town will have Market day, and so on and so on. Usually scholars will keep a definite record to determine where they are in relation to other locations as counted by the number of days from a specific event.

Most faiths have a day of service, wherein the faithful should visit their church (Obelisk); once a specific period (some every week, others every month, etc.) The 2nd, 3rd & 7th days are the most common. Market day is the rarest, as it is fair day when the market is open and most people do their weekly shopping. Sword Day is often used for military faiths.

Because the days can differentiate between towns, it is possible to visit the same days in a row by Chasing the Week-Wheel. Some merchants, bards, and religious orders deliberately make their living doing this, so virtually every day they have their special day of activity. 

Sword Day: Most non-nobles do not pay taxes but can be called upon for military service in times of danger. It is mandatory to participate in training once a week during sword day, but not necessarily using the sword as a weapon. 

Monday, 17 September 2012

Reward Tokens

Game Tokens

My bi-weekly game is utilizing standard Pathfinder rules in my own game world. I've gone through various levels of optimization and home brew rules over the years wwhen using the D&D (1e, 2e 3.x)  but am trying to stick mostly to the core stuff for a whole bunch of reasons. One difference is in how I reward players - with ongoing tokens, it tracks both good / bad actions, successes as well as awesome moments. It is similar to action points, but there are many more benefits they can potentially utilize them for.

Players are given two red & two blue tokens at the start of every game; players earn a white chip at the end of the adventure not always a session. Players keep any unused blue or white green tokens at the end of the session at the start of the next session. They need to declare their use before a dice is rolled.

Blue: +3 to  to any roll deciding roll (attack, saving throw or skill check but not damage or initiative checks)
before the dice is dropped for either their own or another player's rolls. Having five unused blue tokens, a player can trade up for a white token at the end of a session. Blue tokens are open, meaning other players can throw down another blue without limit.

Red: -2 to any roll deciding roll; if someone puts down a red token, no other player can put then put another token (either red or blue) down on that same roll. The rolling players can put down one other token if they so choose.  If the dice roller fails the check, they take the normal in-game penalty and keeps that red token. If they succeed, they trade the red for a blue token. Any unused red tokens at the end of the game will penalize the player in an equal number blue tokens.

Green:  +4 to any roll (attack, damage, initiative, save, or skill roll.) These are given to player whose character are at least two levels below the highest level character in the party. Unlike Blue or Red tokens, these are use or lose, they do not count if you have them at the end of the game, every session you gain these tokens if you play a character at a lower level. This is really a way to help minimize character level difference.

White: +5 to any roll or a re-roll. Using these tokens will enable players to purchase Player abilities

The GM can also reward red and blue chips through-out the game, normally a red will be given if someone rolls a natural 20 and a blue for a natural 1,2 or 3 assuming failure at that specific action.

After every adventure (not session) the DM rewards one white token for every player.

Typical Player Abilities (1st - 5th level; double at 6-10, triple at 11-15)

5 white tokens: being able to lay a blue token down after a dice is rolled

5 white tokens: being able to lay double the normal tokens at any one time

5 white tokens: create a character to be in the character pool. Creating a character is open to every other player after the first mission.

5 white tokens: receive double starting red or blue tokens at the start of a game

5 white tokens: being able to lay a blue token down to add to damage (only your roll)

5 white tokens: being able to lay a blue token down to subtract damage (your roll or others), never less than 1 damage

5 white tokens: lay a blue token down to grant auto success for skill checks before dice are thrown, this is permitted once a game and never in a final boss scene

5 white tokens: lay blue token down to grant auto success for saving throws before dice are thrown, this is permitted once a game and never in a final boss scene

5 white tokens: lay a blue token down to re-roll initiative

5 white tokens: lay a blue token down to re-use a character ability, if normally limited to a certain number of times a day

10 white tokens: being able to play two characters at the same time

5 white tokens: Making a character exclusive for one player

2 white tokens: re-do character skills, feats & spells


I have used the red and blue token rules at some local cons and had some pretty good feedback.  Decided to incorporate them in my game sessions. Players seem to like it but what I have found thus far, is that players are *stingy*. They keep the blue ones for themselves to build up, and rarely help the other players. However, when players deviate from the group, players certainly won`t hesitate to penalize using the reds one after the other.

Also hope that the player abilities don`t become overly burdensome to either keep track or or unfairly affecting the game. There is still a cost in blue tokens so you might have lots of abilities, but you can use only them four times or so a session, not too over-powering I hope.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

20 Questions Version 1

Ability scores generation method? All characters are pre-gen at start, I use 16 points

How are death and dying handled? Normally staggered below 0 hp, dead at their constitution score (Standard PF)

What about raising the dead? Common among PCs, in fact, players can assume that as long as they are on good terms with their employer, it will happen in a day or three. If their bodies are not raised by the fifth day, the COMPANY probably won't raise them.

How are replacement PCs handled? They travel in a war-wagon, their next PC will walk out and join them. There is a list of 15 or so pooled characters, so they can choose among those.

Initiative: highest individual wins first action, then we go counter or counter-clockwise until combat ends based on even or odd dice. Generally all NPCs act in the same sequence. Started this at a con worked really well to keep track of & then implemented it for all my games.

Are there critical hits and fumbles? How do they work? Standard Pathfinder rules. I decide the results of a fumble based on a dex or str check.

Do I get any benefits for wearing a helmet? Yes, much less likely to be stunned

Can I hurt my friends if I fire into melee or do something similarly silly? Yes

Will we need to run from some encounters, or will we be able to kill everything? Yes, I use random monster tables in dungeons, without taking APL into consideration

Level-draining monsters: yes or no? yes

Are there going to be cases where a failed save results in PC death? yes

How strictly are encumbrance & resources tracked? specific resources like spell components yes, but nothing mundane, if it isn't rare or expensive and fits into your back, you have it if you want it. Don't want to limit players creativity, and this kind of book-keeping isn't why I play.

What's required when my PC gains a level? Training? Do I get new spells automatically? Can it happen in the middle of an adventure, or do I have to wait for down time? There are long period in between adventures, that's when this kind of things happen. Training is required for spell-casters or changing classes

What do I get experience for? attendance and completing goals; but being smart and funny helps

How are traps located? Description, dice rolling, or some combination? combo, if they are lazy they roll and then I describe; if they perfectly describe what they want to do they get a +20 + their perception rank for their search, thus most non-rogues can do this

Are retainers encouraged and how does morale work? encouraged, as they work with lesser soldiers

How do I identify magic items? Skills will give you a good chance at having an understanding, but, should be examined by a priest or mu of mid-level to determine specifics

Can I buy magic items? There are limited use items available, but enchanted weapons, armor, misc are extremely rare and expensive. Items also have a limited shelf-life, so they are relatively cheap and they don't add up as they eventually expire.

Can I create magic items? When and how? only limited or one time use ones, but weapons, armor, miscellaneous are not really available, there's an asterisk here for my players but that sums it up.

What about splitting the party? easiest way to get killed, but sure, I rarely disallow anything the PCs want to try

Thursday, 6 September 2012

First Post

Umm, hi there.

Welcome to Discrete Dice my gaming blog. My mission statement: write stuff, get into some conversations, & post some links that I like.

What do I want to do with this space:

1. Post my game summaries
2. Post back-up info for my players, both direct and indirect
3. Rules, Changes, Adjustments, Clarifications
4. Random Tables

What I don't want to do: Care about real world problems, issues, politics. Also not gonna care about anyone else's posts or critiques.

Things I am not sure about yet: How much of the game world and my ideas I want to publish for players to see and read.