Archive for December, 2011

Happy New Year!

December 31, 2011

…to you and yours.  Hope 2012 is a good one for you.

My Cheatin’ Post

December 30, 2011

I promised myself that I’d post more often in December than I did in November.  So here we are at the end of December and I only have two more days to make good on that promise, which I’ve done with this post.  Mission accomplished.  It’s kind of a cheatin’ way to do it, but at least it’s done.

However, to offer a bit of substance, I was thinking the other day about very rules-lite rpgs, particularly one-page RPGs like Searchers of the Unknown (and all the other one-page RPGs it inspired).  It got me to thinking, if we can put a reasonably functional RPG on one page, why not one in a single blot post as well?  Granted, it’d be a fairly long post, but probably come to fewer total words than SotU.  And I wouldn’t expect it to have fully detailed spell or monster lists.  But I would expect it to have simple, but workable, mechanics and provide the means for GMs to fill in what they need as they go.  My next post, later today or maybe this weekend, will be my version of a Single-Post RPG.

PFBB Paladin

December 29, 2011

So here’s the Pathfinder BB version of the paladin.  As mentioned before, I omitted the spells that paladins normallly get at 5th level, but beefed up smite evil and a couple other powers a bit to compensate for the loss of spells.  Please let me know if you have any questions.

I’m not sure yet which class I’ll do next, but I will eventually get through all of them.  I’ll finish with the PF core classes first, then work on the APG classes, then UMM and UMC classes.  It’ll take a while, but I’ll get there eventually.

Edit:  Just realized there was a glaring oversight on my part…I forget to add that Paladins must be of lawful good alignment!  Oops, I’m very sorry for that.  A corrected version has been uploaded, just click on the link again.

SWTOR Crafting – Getting Schematics

December 28, 2011

I took a look at this blog’s stats and noticed December 27th was the busiest day yet.  More than one person found there way here doing searches for how to get crafting schematics in SWTOR.  So I thought, why not help out?

There are four ways to get crafting schematics in SWTOR (that I’m aware of).

1) The most common method is to simply buy them from your crafting skill vendor, located on the fleet base and most major settlements.  As you level up your crafting skill, new schematics become available, so you’ll have to return to the vendor periodically to buy new, higher-level schematics.

A word of advice on buying schematics…don’t buy them all.  Most of them are useless, especially at lower levels, and you’ll likely go broke trying to keep up.  Just buy (and RE) the ones you need for your toon or your companions, and forget the rest, at least until you start to craft mid-20 stuff (Biochem implants have done well for me starting around level 29).  Once you get close to maxing out your crafting skill, you can think about buying all the schematics and then REing them.

2) Which leads to the second most common way to get new schematics:  reverse engineering.  When you RE something you’ve crafted, there’s a chance you’ll get a new schematic for an improved version (it is automatically added to your list of schematics).  Then you can RE the improved ‘blue’ version for a chance to get an even better ‘purple’ version.  At low levels it only takes around 6-8 attempts to get a better schematic, but at higher levels it seems to take more attempts (not 100% certain on that though).  At low levels, RE can be a good way to get more resources back to craft more items and level a little faster.  At higher levels you may be better off selling the stuff, depending on what you’re making (in Biochem medkits and buffs don’t seem to sell worth a damn, but implants sell well).

For the most part, I’d only RE mid-range stuff that you can use on your toons or your companions.  Once you’ve maxed out your crafting skill, then RE to get purples to sell (presumably you’d have the credits to afford to do this by then).

3) The third most common way to get schematics is through crew missions, specifically Investigation, Slicing and maybe Underworld Trading (not sure about this one).  These schematics are not BoP, so you can also purchase them on the GTN if you lack the appropriate crew mission skill.

4) Finally, some schematics drop off mobs in the world.  If you’re looking for advice on what mobs drop which schematics, sorry I can’t help you.  You may want to check a SWTOR database, like Torhead.

However, I’m sure some of them are super rare schematics that only drop in raids.  Why?  Well, WoW does it, so why the hell not SWTOR, right? =\

Anyways, hope this post has been of some use.  Cheers.

PFBB Ranger Class – Alternate Version

December 27, 2011

Over at Paizo one of the devs stated (of course, I can’t find it now) that they only presented the four base classes (Fighter, Wizard, Cleric and Thief) because they were iconic and mechanically the most simple to implement.  They also added a fifth, the Barbarian, but as far as I can tell they have no plans to add any of the other core classes to Pathfinder Beginner Box.

In the spirit of ‘keeping things simpler’, I’ve gone back to take a second look at the PFBB Ranger class I wrote up last month.  I decided to drop the Ranger spells altogether, but to compensate for this somewhat I’ve expanded the Favored Terrain bonus to cover any check or roll made while in the Ranger’s favored terrain, or made in relation to the favored terrain (such as a knowledge check about that terrain).  You can download it here if you’re interested.  The old version can still be downloaded here, if you prefer it.

I think I’ll do the Paladin next, and like the Ranger I’ll leave out the spells and just broaden one of the Paladin’s core abilities to compensate for it.

Supply Points: Abstracting resource management in D&D

December 26, 2011

As has been mentioned many other times by many other people, one of the mini-games of old school D&D is resource management.  Do you press your luck and explore a little farther, hoping to find that big score?  Or do you play it safe and return to town to recuperate, albeit perhaps empty-handed?

D&D, and its many variants and clones, have several forms of resource management.  Foremost are probably hit points, representing health, stamina, vitality, experience, endurance and/or luck (depending on how you define a ‘hit point.’)  Another common form of resource management is spellcaster’s ‘spells per day,’ which is a fairly clear indicator.  When the cleric’s and magic-user’s daily spells are expended, it’s usually time to head for camp and rest up, or at least find an out-of-the-way room and barricade yourself inside for the night.

And then there are supplies and provisions.  Rations, arrows, water, oil, torches, rope and all the other various and sundry pieces of equipment advenuterers require, or at least think they’ll require (better to have something and not need it, then to need it and not have it).  Equipment, of course, is not represented abstractly in D&D.  You’ve got to buy every 10′ pole, every torch, every iron ration and arrow, and then keep track of it all as you adventure.  And don’t forget to track the weight for encumbrance and movement purposes!

Except how many of us really do that?  I’m sure the hardcore grognards do so, but I think a lot of us just hand-wave those details.  I know our groups usually do.  After all, the game is about adventure, not accountancy; it’s Dungeons & Dragons, not Quartmasters & Bookkeepers.

So why not abstract equipment, provisions and supplies as well?  Why not Supply Points, to accompany Hit Points?

I tried an experiment with this running a Terminal Space  PbP game over at the OD&D Discussion Forum.  It turns out running a PbP game was a lot harder than I thought it would be, but I think the idea of using abstract Supply Points generally worked well.  One thing I hadn’t anticipated, and probably should have, was that a player would use the points to pull out a whole bunch of the same item (in this case, gravity belts).  For some items this could make sense, but not so much for others.  Why would any character be carrying around a half-dozen 10′ poles with them?  Of course, they normally wouldn’t.

However, I still think the idea of abstracting general equipment and supplies can work, and without a bunch of complicated conditional rules.  So, some guidelines to help it work:

1) Keep It Simple:  With this idea in mind, there should be only one type of supply point.  I had briefly thought about tracking different types of supply points:  ammo points, ration points and equipment points.  But really, tracking ammo and rations points is pretty much already done in The Game.  And three types of points doesn’t simply things all that much, even if they are abstracted.  So, just one general, all-purpose, universal Supply Point.

2) Don’t Sweat the Details:  We’ll assume that the party is competent enough to bring adequete light sources, rations and water on their adventure.  Someone still needs to be a designated torch-bearer, and bad things happen if you lose your light source in the middle of a fight, but we shouldn’t require a strict accounting of every last torch.  Likewise with provisions.  Unless the party is adventuring in a desert or similar barren environment, we should assume they have enough rations to get them through until they can get back to town and can find adequeate water sources along the way.  There’s also hunting and foraging for provisions; the time spent on these activities can be factored into overland travel rates.

3) Voluntary & Beneficial:  Originally I was going to use Supply Points to buy off negative effects, but this seemed distinctly un-fun to me.  I also thought about just ticking off a supply point each day, or every turn in the dungeon, or something similar, but that still involves a lot of regular bookkeeping which could be easily overlooked or forgotten.  So, with principles 1 and 2 in mind, I came to the conclusion that using a Supply Point should be both voluntary, so the player has to make some hard (and fun) decisions, and provide a benefit for using them, rather than buying off a negative effect.  This way, hopefully, Supply Points will be something players want to use rather than have to use.

4)  Limited Resource:  As cost has never been a limiting factor when it comes to standard equipment I think that weight (or whatever you use for encumbrance) would have to be the limiter.  Each Supply Point should be one ‘unit’ of encumbrance (about 5 lbs I’m thinking, or 1 Stone or 1 Encumbrance slot, however you track it in your game, assuming you do).  It should be easier to track 10 units at 5 lbs each than dozens of units at varying weights each.  If you don’t feel like tracking weight or encumbrance, simply set a flat limit…say 10-15 Supply Points per character, 3x that per mule or draft horse, etc.

Following are a few examples of Supply Points in action:

  • Binding Wounds:  After each battle, characters may bind wounds by spending a Supply Point (for bandages and ointments); you can’t heal anymore hit points than you lost in the battle; exactly how many hit points are healed by binding is left to individual DM discretion.
  • Ammo:  you need at least one Supply Point to fire a bow or crossbow, or to fire sling bullets (but not for stones–stones are everywhere); this assumes a deliberate effort to conserve ammunition (and to recover ammo after the battle); however, by expending a Supply Point you can increase your rate-of-fire by one step for one combat round.
  • Equipment:  While torches and rations (and maybe flint-and-steel) are assumed, other pieces of general adventuring equipment are not.  Whenever a character wants to use a specific piece of equipment from the established equipment lists, they must expend a Supply Point.  For example:  flask of oil (as a crude firebomb), 50′ rope, 10′ pole, a dozen spikes, a metal mirror, etc.  This applies only to standard equipment, not to custom-made equipment or masterwork/high quality equipment.  Nor does it apply to weapons, armor or magic items of any type.  Finally, any equipment produced is assumed to be consumed, lost, broken or abandoned after use (adventurers are hard on their gear).
  • Faster Movement:  If we factor time spent on hunting and foraging into overland movement rates, we can then allow players to make the decision to spend Supply Points to increase their overland movement rate (say double rate for one day, to keep it simple).  This sounds like buying off a negative, but instead I think it’s making a strategic decision, expending limited resources for faster movement when speed is of the essence.

Some additional ideas, which bear further thought:

  • Spell Components?:  I’ve toyed with the idea of using Supply Points to represent material spell components as well.  However, this begins to stray into the ‘buying off a negative effect’ territory.  Also, many campaigns (ours included), simply ignored most material component unless they were exceptional (such as a 1,000 GP diamond, for example).  One possible rationalization could be that using material components (via Supply Points) allows magic-users to cast additional spells per day?  But this rationalization doesn’t work as well with clerics.  Naturally, you couldn’t use a Supply Point to represent a valuable material component (like the aforementioned diamond).
  • Hirelings?:  Another idea I’ve toyed with is every hireling and animal the party takes on consumes 1 Supply Point per day.  Again, this strays into buying off a negative rather than providing a voluntary benefit, but it would serve as a kind of ‘Supply Sink’ to make hiring an army of porters less attractive.  Then again, porters can die, mules need camps, camps need guards…all very expensive prospects so maybe a supply sink wouldn’t be required afterall.

Players may redistribute Supply Points between their characters as needed, and they can hire porters or buy mules to carry additional Supply Points for extended expeditions (though, as mentioned, porters die and mules won’t enter dungeons, thus requiring guards to watch them).  A good cost would be 1-2 GP per Supply Point.

Merry Christmas!

December 24, 2011

To you and yours.  Hope Santa brings you what you need, if not what you want.

RPG Settings

December 23, 2011

Following are a couple of RPG settings I doodled out one day.  Haven’t had a chance to use them yet, but maybe someone else will like them and put them to use.


Bazaar of Feasts

Sealed off from the outside world, this strange market is open only to those who know how to gain access.  However, the bazaar has no known doors, gates, windows, tunnels or mundane portals of any kind.  Thus, gaining access is sufficient proof alone that one belongs in the bazaar.

To those who can get in, the Bazaar of Feasts offers every passing decadence, immorality, illegality, pleasure, luxury, good and service.  Most proprietors do not fancy gold or gems; exotica are the medium of exchange within the bazaar.

The sun barely shines during the day; torches and lamps provide murky light at night.  While filled with all manner of the bizarre, the shops and stalls themselves appear nondescript, run-down and seedy even.

It is best if one knows specifically what they are looking for and where to find it, for blindly stumbling around the bazaar is a dangerous business.  All manner of shady affairs takes place there, and sometimes customers don’t leave the bazaar…ever.  “Window shopping” is discouraged.

Order is maintained by the Dukari, a corps of extra-dimensional enforcers.  They eject trouble makers, execute thieves and go to any extent necessary to retrieve stolen property (the definition of ‘stolen’ and ‘property’ can be quite flexible to certain of the merchants of the Feast).


The Graveyard

The blasted wasteland called The Graveyard extends scores of miles in all directions.  The Graveyard was the site of a great battle, some say the last battle of the Apocalypse.  As such, it is filled with ghosts of the Ancients who fought, and died, there.

The rusted hulks of massive war machines lie everywhere, in ruin.  No animals live there and no plants can grow there, not even a single blade of grass.  It is said the Ancients unleashed their most terrible weapons in the Final Battle, poisoning the area for all time.

Despite its name, The Graveyard is not completely dead.  The machine ghosts of the Ancients are still fighting their war, constantly patrolling and alert for any sign of their enemy.  Any creature or thing that cannot be identified as a friend is classified as a hostile and subject to immediate termination.

Despite the dangers, many brave The Graveyard in search of relics and salvage that can be repaired or put to good use.  But few have penetrated to the Graveyard’s heart, where the greatest treasures are said to be found.

SWTOR Crafting

December 22, 2011

Originally I dismissed crafting in SWTOR as, more or less, a clone of WoW’s crafting system.  While that is fundamentally true, there is more to it than I originally thought.

I’ve played quite a few MMO’s, and one of the things I like to do most is craft.  The robustness of the crafting system is one of the standards that I measure any MMO by, and in my experience Star Wars Galaxies crafting was, by far, the best system yet implemented (even after the NGE debacle).

SWTOR’s system takes the basic WoW-style crafting model of get schematic, find resources and combine into a finished good, then adds a new wrinkle to it in the form of reverse engineering, which I’ve mentioned previously.  Reverse engineering your own crafted items has a chance of providing a new schematic for a slightly improved version of that item (i.e. RE a green item to get a slightly better blue item).  Then, if you RE that blue item, you have a chance of learning a schematic for an even better version of the item (i.e. a ‘purple’ item).  Something else that is nice about RE, though it takes some effort to get a ‘purple’ schematic, it doesn’t take days and days of grinding.  You can usually get it within a dozen attempts.

(For those unaware of how MMO’s grade items, a color code is used where ‘white’ items are the basic form, ‘green’ are slightly improved, ‘blue’ are a little better than green and ‘purple’ is the best, or close to the best (depending on the system there could be one or two better grades than purple)).

The form of the improvement varies depending on what you are crafting.  For example, Biochem can ultimately make reusable ‘purple’ medkits, so once you have one you never have to buy that type of medkit again.  Weapons and armor, however, add new stats or even mod slots, which allow a user to modifier the item as they see fit.  Thus, when you RE something, you have a chance to learn different variants of that item, then when you RE those variants you have a chance to learn even more variants.  In other words, there’s a lot of variability and it seems to me that it would take great deal of expense and effort for someone to master every variant of an item at every quality level.  This is a good thing, in my book, because it means that instead of everyone making exactly the same items, different crafters will have different schematics, and thus a degree of differenation even within the same crafting profession.

It gets even better, though.  Crafters also have a chance of creating a mastercraft version of an item,which includes additional bonus, or possibly a mod slot.  Therefore, every crafter has a chance to create items that are, if not quite unique, at least highly distinctive and rare.  This gives everyone a chance to compete, provided they’re willing to put some effort into it and can find a way to differentiate themselves.

So, while SWTOR’s crafting systme isn’t quite as robust as the SWG gold standard of crafting, it still presents a very engaging system with plenty of room to explore and create unique and interesting items.

Hobbit Trailer

December 21, 2011

I’m not sure if this is a new trailer for The Hobbit, due out next December, but it’s the first time I’ve seen it.  I’m glad to see that it maintains the quality and overall feel of Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings movies (even the same actors).  I’m sure the Tolkien die-hards will pitch fits over this movie, as they did LotR, but I’m looking forward to it.  LotR was a joy to watch, and if this trailer is any indication, The Hobbit will be a joy to watch as well.