Monday, January 31, 2011

#31: Chimera Elder

For my final monster in the series, I thought I should go for a big gun… I liked how the hydra turned out a few weeks ago, so thought I’d have another go round with a many-headed monster, this time one that has even more attack options: the chimera. I see these as exceptionally powerful creatures; in D+D, they become sort of glorified treasure guardians. I see them more as evil Aslan creatures; noble creatures of great power that have been tainted by exceptionally powerful evil.

Chimera Elder (150 CPs)
Evade +3; Fighting +10 (bonus attack x2); Might +8 (Strike; Stun); Focus +10; Breath Weapon +8 (Living Conduit); Stamina +7 (Invulnerability); Flight +4; Intuition +6
The Chimera has three heads, attacking with all three on each turn it takes; its dragon head breathes fire each turn, attacking at +10 and dealing +16 damage; it distributes its fighting +12 between its lion head attack and ram gore attack (each dealing +16 damage). It can use one of its ram attacks each scene to stun targets with its horns.

Its natural armor soaks +7 damage from physical attacks and +10 damage from magical energy attacks.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

#30: Wererat Scrounger

One thing I solved for the last edition of Resolute that I especially like is the way that lycanthropy works. When you are afflicted with lycanthropy, you have no control over your transformations. Only after you purchase shape change at a rating sufficient to allow you to change into your wereform can you control your transformations. If you are bitten by a 30 CP lycanthrope, you need to save up enough CPs to get shape change +6 or better to control your changes.

While werewolves are the most iconic of the lycanthropes, I’ve had a soft spot for wererats for a long time. There’s just something about those nasty little buggers that I like. Here’s a relatively tough wererat to challenge your heroes with…

Wererat Scrounger (40 CPs)
Evade +5; Fighting +5; Might +2 (Strike); Stamina +4 (Inflict Lycanthropy); Intuition +4 (Stealth); Focus +2
The wererat scrounger attacks either with a short sword +6 (attacking at +5 and dealing +8 damage) or with a bite attack (attacking at +5 and dealing +4 damage). Once per scene, the bite attack can force a living target to roll stamina (DR 11, as this ability is linked to stamina +4) or suffer the curse of lycanthropy, turning into a wererat scrounger on the next full moon.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

#29: Frost Giant Inquisitor

The idea here is to build a huge, powerful giant that deals as much damage as possible. It has to have great might, fighting, and a new ability: two-handed.

Frost Giant Inquisitor (100 CPs)
Fighting +10 (Two-handed); Might +12; Stamina +6 (Armor Use); Focus +4 (Warding); Intuition +3; Frost Immunity
Wields a massive two-handed sword; attacks at +10 and deals +24 damage. Its armor soaks +7 physical damage, and its cloak soaks +5 magical energy damage.

- Two handed (application of fighting). You wield a two-handed weapon in combat. You cannot use either a shield or a second weapon when you fight two-handed. When you strike two-handed, you shift your might +1 for damage. (This is different than the way that I worked up a draft of two-handed a few weeks ago; that option is a bit too complicated for a relatively simple thing you can do. The +1 to damage is sufficient to make it useful, but even remotely unbalancing. I’m tempted to make it +2 or even +3, but we’ll stick with +1 for now and play with it).
- Beasts should be able to purchase immunity to a specific attack form at a relatively low cost. A frost giant should just be immune to frost; don’t even bother throwing a bolt of cold at him. Immunity does not carry over to other effects; you can still use your frost magic to root him in place or even to stun him, but you cannot use it to deal wounds to him.

Friday, January 28, 2011

#27-28: Double Trouble

I didn’t get to blog yesterday (an 11-hour workday and borderline exhaustion will do that to you…) so I figured I should drop a double dose of dangerous damsels on you (as well as a happy helping of alliteration. You are SO welcome). Here are two daemonic creatures to confound your heroes…

Lamia Noble (80 CPs)
Fighting +7 (Two Weapons); Might +6; Stamina +5; Focus +5; Invulnerability; Intuition +6 (Illusory Form; Stealth); Speed +2
One of: constriction +6 (snake); poison +6 (scorpion); or root +6 (spider)

A creature with the torso of a woman but the lower body of a monstrous creature (typically a snake, but sometimes a scorpion or spider), the lamia attacks with two powerful scimitars +8, distributing fighting +8 between 2 attacks, dealing +14 damage with each.

Constriction allows the Lamia to attack at +6 vs. the target’s might. If successful the Lamia winds around the target, automatically inflicting 6 wounds (no soak allowed) at the end of every round. Targets may use a turn to attempt to break out of constriction (rolling might vs. the Lamia’s constriction) in lieu of attacking.

Illusory Form allows the caster to appear in another form (always as a beautiful woman for the Lamia and Succubus), rolling vs. the target’s intuition. Once the caster attacks, the illusory form automatically ends.

Succubus Handmaiden (50 CPs)
Fighting +4; Might +3; Stamina +4; Focus +4; Invulnerability; Intuition +5 (Illusory Form; Stealth); Flight +3; Charm +7 (9 CPs + Limitation of touch only grants +2 shift)

Manipulative, alluring creatures of the underworld, Succubus Handmaidens seek to tempt mortals to lose their souls.

The Succubus Handmaiden carries a longtooth dagger +5; she attacks at +4 and deals +8 damage with this weapon. The Succubus Handmaiden must kiss her target to attempt to charm; she will only use this ability on male targets.

I’m considering allowing you to tailor abilities with limitations. The limitation grants a +1 shift to the ability. For example, taking a ranged ability (like a spell) as ‘touch only’ grants you a +1 shift to the rating. I’m not sure if this is enough of a bonus, and I’m considering +2. You don’t have to land a fighting attack to hit with a touch; you just have to be in the same unit. You’d still cast the same way…

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

#26: The Classic Vampire

It’s time to stat up a vampire. We’ll go with your classic Count Dracula type rather than an Edward.

The Vampire Count (100 CPs)
Evade +5; Fighting +5 (Strike); Focus +6; Might +5; Stamina +7; Speed +4; Intuition +8 (Charm; Summon; Shape Change; Stealth); Regenerate +5

Shape change allows you to take the form of a creature built on 5 CPs x rating (up to your CP total). If you take the full CP damage, you change form back to your normal form. The Vampire Count can become a 40 CP wolf or a 40 CP giant bat.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

#25: Unseelie Leprechaun Shadowblade

The Leprechauns have been tainted by Oberion’s Fall. When he gave himself over to shadow, all of his ilk followed. Unseelie Leprechaun Shadowblades lurk in the darkness, wielding their daggers as exceptional spies and assassins, carrying out their dark lord’s bidding.

Unseelie Leprechaun Shadowblade (30 CPs)

Fighting +4; Evade +4; Might +1; Focus +2; Stealth +6; Speed +2; Stamina +1
They attack with their daggers at +4, dealing +6 damage.

Monday, January 24, 2011

#24: The Stone Colossus

Here’s a monster based on the newest version of the abilities…

A magical guardian created to stand watch over the most valuable treasures, the 15’ tall stone colossus wades into battle hammering foes with its massive fist.

Stone Colossus (100 CPs)
Fighting +10 (Strike); Might +10 (Diminish Might); Invulnerability +10; Intuition +3; Non-Living
Attacks at +10 and deals +20 damage with its fist; soaks +10 damage from all damage.

- Diminish might allows it to roll an action at +10 vs. the target’s stamina. The target loses the difference in CPs. If the Colossus rolls 17 on the action and the target rolls 12 on stamina to resist, the target loses 5 CPs from his might (minimum might of -1) for the rest of the scene.
- Non-Living is an ability that makes you immune to poisons, toxins, disease, mind-based attacks, stuns, confusion, mesmerizing, sleep and similar effects.

Back to Basics

Ack! I’ve run into two core problems in this process, in terms of how abilities play out:

1. Fighting and weapon damage, as I discussed in the last blog
2. Evade as an ability.

I’ve written previously about how much I like the conceit that you learn how to fight and defend yourself; you learn how to cast spells and how to avoid being hit by spells. This is reasonable and balanced.


How do you get out of the way of a falling stone block? How do you maintain your balance on a ship that is rolling on its side in a storm? Fighting? Precision? Focus? Intuition? None of them fits.

Oh, crud. Yeah. That is my problem.

The more I think about setting your fighting as the baseline for weapons you can use, the more I like it. The more I think about fighting (and focus for that matter) as the way you avoid being hit, the less I like it. Let’s look at these two extreme examples:

The hulking stone colossus has tremendous fighting (say +10). He does not have any ability to get out of the way. If you want to hit him, you’re going to hit him; that doesn’t mean you’re going to do any damage (since his invulnerability is so high), but a leprechaun thief (relatively low fighting) is going to be very hard to hit (relatively high evade).

I know that I’ve designed dozens of monsters, but I need to backtrack here… the game has to have evade, if for nothing else than the non-combat situations where this is the only ability that reasonably applies. I think that evade should apply to all attacks: physical and magical. This balances out focus and stamina… in fact, now you can make invulnerability an application (linked to both stamina and focus) if you are going to have those abilities, or you can make invulnerability a unique ability (for creatures that don’t worry about stamina or focus- I’m thinking here of inanimate objects like animated statues, many unthinking undead, and even some superheroes). You can have lots of options that are all mutually exclusive: armor and warding as different applications linked to stamina and focus respectively; invulnerability as an application linked to both stamina and focus; invulnerability as an ability that soaks all non-mental damage.

Fighting sets the rating for weapons you can wield; focus sets the rating for wands/staffs you can wield.

Wow. This just caused a whole paradigm shift in my ability hierarchy.

I tell my students regularly that they can’t get married to their writing; just because you wrote something down and spent time on it doesn’t mean that you have to keep it. You can’t look at that time investment as wasted when you trash a good chunk of what you’ve been working on. I accept this as part of the process, and now I get to put my money where my mouth is.

I’m pretty sure I just scrapped several dozens of hours of work.

Hey, that’s life in game design.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

#23: Skull Vanguard (And Musings on Weapon Ratings)

This blog is ending up as a ‘greatest hits’ collection of adaptations of some of my favorite classics- may as well continue with the trend. Today, we’ll do the Skull Vanguard, a fallen, traitorous knight that now wields unholy power to bring suffering to the living. The Skull Vanguard’s unholy power is represented in its regenerative abilities; the magic it possesses (energize weapon, reflective armor) are linked to this power.

Skull Vanguard (70 CPs)
Fighting +8; Might +6; Stamina +6; Focus +5; Intuition +2; Invulnerability; Regeneration +5 (Energize Weapon; Reflective Armor)
Wields a great sword +7; attacks at +8 and deals +13 damage with this weapon (+14 if energized); the Skull Vanguard soaks +6 physical damage and +5 energy damage.

Some thoughts about weapons, finesse, precision and might…

As I think more about the use of finesse, I don’t know that I like how this works. The idea was that a light, quick archer type could still pick up and deal damage with a decent melee weapon. The classic archer is going to take high fighting and precision but no might at all; this character can then (without finesse or a similar option) wield anything better than a dagger. I don’t see this as reasonable at all…

However, what if weapon ratings were based on fighting? If you have fighting +8, you can wield a weapon that deals +9 damage (fighting +1). As an archer with might +2, your melee weapon deals +11 damage; this is quite respectable. However, as a troll barbarian with might +8, your melee weapon deals +17 damage; this is exceptional. Both heroes are very good fighters, and presumably the archer is going to have precision in the +8 range, so this all balances out, and each hero can play to his strengths.

I am concerned primarily with how much weight this gives fighting, and the way you are effectively double-dipping on fighting. It becomes far too important overall… fighting is how you attack, it’s how you defend, and it sets how much damage you can deal… and bonus results from fighting action rolls already carry over to damage. This makes fighting a supreme ability.

In making my friar, Luemas, this is becoming a real issue. He’s a lightly-armored fighter who carries a quarterstaff. He has some speed, although not ‘precision’ per se; he has a little might, but not enough to allow his melee damage to scale appropriately. Maybe I just have to accept that might is linked to melee weapon damage, and if you don’t buy might, you don’t get to deal a lot of damage. Of course, you ARE accepting that; even if you have a solid weapon, without high might, you aren’t going to scale with true melee creatures who get the benefit from high weapons and high might… here’s a rough up for Luemas the Friar at 30 CPs, without any additional item CPs:

Luemas the Friar (30 CPs)
Fighting +4; Might +2; Stamina +2 (Armor Use); Intuition +2; Focus +1; Resolve +6 [9 CPs +1 shift from human] (Boost Fighting; Boost Speed; Healing)
He wields a quarterstaff +3 dealing +5 damage with it; his leather armor soaks +3 damage from all physical damage.
Boost fighting moves his fighting to +6; boost speed brings his speed to +4; can heal once per scene for +6

+5 damage is a little light for a melee fighter at this level… although he’s not a true melee fighter in the traditional sense… it will be an even bigger issue for Avindos the Elfin Blademaster:

Avindos the Elfin Blademaster (30 CPs)
Fighting +6 (Two Weapons); Might +2; Stamina +2 (Armor Use); Focus +2; Intuition +5 [6 CPs; +1 shift from elf] (Stealth)
He distributes +7 between 2 fighting attacks each turn; each successful strike deals +5 damage.

I don’t WANT Avindos to take high might; the whole concept is that he’s this slim elfin dual-wielder who hits light and fast. +5 damage is just too little… if he gets use his fighting to set weapon damage, his blades deal a base of +7, and with his might these deal +9 damage. This is quite a bit… compare this to a dwarf fighter of the same level:

Dwarf Fighter (30 CPs)
Fighting +6; Might +5; Stamina +5 [6 CPs; +1 shift from dwarf] (Armor Use); Intuition +1
He’s one-dimensional. He attacks at +6 and deals +11 damage using the existing rules… if his weapon damage is linked to his fighting instead of might, he now deals +12 damage with a great axe. That’s a lot of damage for this level.

Hmmmm…. Must think on this more…

Saturday, January 22, 2011

#22: Spirit Troll

Another classic D+D monster that was always a favorite was the Ogre Mage. However, I’ve always had trouble transferring this creature- a capable melee fighter that has a wide range of magical powers- into other systems I’ve written. I think that Resolute can handle him… here are some thoughts about my version, the spirit troll:

Spirit trolls were the ambassadors of the Barrens. They were sent on missions requiring diplomacy and subtlety. They had to be able to infiltrate enemy organizations, talking their way out of problems as often as they fought their way out. After the Reckoning, spirit trolls have become either advisors to powerful evil forces or elite assassins for hire.

Spirit Troll (80 CPs)
Fighting +6 (Two Weapons); Precision +5 (Finesse); Stamina +4 (Armor); Focus +5 (Warding); Intuition +8 (Lightning Blast; Living Conduit; Illusory Form; Stealth; Teleport); Regeneration +4
The Spirit Troll wields a pair of katanas +6, distributing fighting +7 between them, dealing +11 damage with each successful strike. The troll wears ceremonial armor granting +5 to physical soaks; it wears a cloak that allows it to soak +6 energy damage.
The Spirit Troll recovers 4 wounds every round.

The Spirit Troll links its magical powers to its intuition +8:
- Blasts (application only) are single-use attack spells that allow the caster to double the action rating for the attack. The Spirit Troll attacks with its blast at +10 (double its focus), dealing +16 damage with it.
- Illusory Form allows the caster to attempt to trick others into believing it is the creature mimicked (rolling an action vs. the target’s intuition). The caster retains all of its normal abilities.
- Stealth is actually invisibility for the Spirit Troll.
- Teleport allows the creature to use 1 turn to travel a number of units equal to its rating; the Spirit Troll can travel up to 8 units in one turn, bypassing all obstacles along the path between the starting and ending point.

Friday, January 21, 2011

#21: Manticore Bombardier

I’ve built a few melee fighters here (okay, probably more than a few), and it seemed like time to build a missile creature or two. I’ve traditionally seen manticores as melee creatures that have the tail spike volley as a bonus thing; from a design perspective, it’s probably better to look at them as ranged attackers that are less powerful if you can close for melee combat. Here’s a build:

Manticore Bombardier (50 CPs)
Fighting +7; Might +2; Precision +6 (Strike); Stamina +4; Focus +2; Invulnerability; Flight +3; Intuition +3
- Manticore Bombardiers throw tail spikes (range 6), attacking at +7 and dealing +12 damage. Their hides soak +4 physical damage and +2 energy damage. If forced into melee, they bite, attacking at +7 and dealing +4 damage.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

#20: Troglodytes and Other Watery Foes

Monster design in many ways is about making an encounter with a monster special. There isn’t much difference in classic D+D between fighting a gnoll or a bugbear- the bugbear has a few more hit points, hits a little more often, and does a little more damage. That’s it. Mechanically, they are the same thing… I’m really trying to avoid that with Resolute. I want even seemingly ‘mundane’ foes to have something special that makes an encounter with them different… so, today I’m going to try working on troglodytes, and see where that takes me…

Troglodytes are basically water-breathing fighter types. They are tribal. They wield spears. They could throw nets (that’s sort of tribal) that bind opponents; they could attempt to pull opponents underwater and fight them there- that makes sense in terms of their natural abilities, and would make encounters with trogs different than with other foes.

What about this- trogs always seek to attack land-dwelling foes near water. Their lairs are invariably built right at the edge of swamps, bogs, ponds and underwater lakes. Their homes rise up from the surface of the water, but also descend below it. In combat, they attempt to bind targets with nets and then drag them into the water to drown them. They stand watch (with male fighters) above water, but their young live underwater (in fact, it is not until adolescence that trogs develop the ability to breathe outside of water; they have a really long ‘minnow’ stage they go through of about ten years). They actually wait under the surface for the males to drag foes down there, so they can attack in swarms with their razor-sharp teeth! This I like. Female trogs are always shaman types- they are a maternal society, revering the female who holds magical power the males don’t have. One of these magical powers is the ability to infuse a dead troglodyte (often one who falls during battle) with an ancestral spirit that attacks with a vengeance. This matron dwells underwater, surrounded by her young, waiting for them to bring her the best of their catch…

Man, I can’t wait to send my players against a tribe of troglodytes!

Troglodyte Youngling (15 CPs)
Fighting +3; Bite +2; Intuition +1; Stamina +2; Swim +3; Water Breathing
- Troglodyte Younglings appear as vicious, large-toothed minnows. They swarm upon foes with their razor-sharp teeth (attack +3, damage +2) and voracious appetite for the warm blood of mammals. They can attack a medium-sized creature in packs up to 10 younglings at a time, taking one combined attack at +13 (still at +2 damage) per turn.

Troglodyte Skirmisher (30 CPs)
Fighting +5 (Binding Attack); Might +3; Stamina +4; Intuition +2; Swim +3; Water Breathing
- Troglodyte Skirmishes carry war spears; they attack with these spears at +5, dealing +7 damage. They wear reed armor that provides +5 to physical soak rolls.

A group of Troglodyte Skirmishers will attack en masse, coordinating their efforts. They will be able to use a group attack a number of times equal to the total number of trogs present (up to 8 per team). They have to use two turns; in the first action, they roll fighting + the number of trogs working together vs. the target’s might. Targets are bound, taking a penalty to all actions equal to the number of successes the trogs rolls. Once targets are bound, the trogs make a might (+ number of trogs) vs. target’s might roll. Success means that the target has been pulled underwater. Targets underwater in nets continue to take the penalty to action rolls (until they break free of the net, requiring a successful might roll against the original DR), or until they cut through the nets, which are +2 material (DR 9 to cut, soaking 9 wounds from every attack, having 20 wounds before being compromised).

Troglodyte Spirit Matron (70 CPs)
Fighting +2; Stamina +3; Focus +6; Intuition +10 (Hex; Life Tap; Living Conduit; Summon Spirit Warrior); Leadership +6; Water Breathing
- With her life tap (usable once per scene), the Spirit Matron attacks at +6, dealing +20 damage, and recovering wounds equal to the total damage she deals. Her reed armor absorbs +4 physical damage, and her cloak of human hair soaks +7 energy damage. The Troglodyte Spirit Matron is able to use 1 turn to summon a spirit warrior once per scene, re-energizing the dead body of a recently-fallen troglodyte with an ancestral spirit of warfare. This spirit warrior remains for up to 10 rounds. Her leadership allows her troglodyte allies to draw upon a pool of 6 opportunities to take +6 each to one action, resist or result roll.

Troglodyte Spirit Warrior (50 CPs)
Fighting +6 (Bonus Attack); Might +6 (Strike); Stamina +6; Focus +3; Invulnerability; Intuition +3
- The Spirit Warrior attacks with two claws, distributing fighting +7 between them, and dealing +12 damage with each successful strike; the spirit warrior’s natural protection soaks +6 physical damage and +3 energy damage.

Drowning Rules:

Each turn you spend underwater requires you to make a stamina roll. The base DR of this roll is 2 in the first round, increasing +1 each round you spend underwater. You can’t botch this roll, and you can spend resolve to improve it. You must make this roll (as a free action) each round, just before you take your turn. For instance, if you have stamina +3 and you get pulled underwater, you do not have to make a roll at all for 4 rounds (your action is automatically successful at DR 5 or lower). In round 5, the DR is 6 (requiring a roll of 3 or better); in round 6, this goes to DR 7 (requiring a roll of 4); this moves to DR 8 in round 7 (requiring a roll of 5)… you will be able to stay alive if very lucky (mathematically speaking) until round 14, when staying alive goes to DR 15 (requiring a roll of 12). If you fail this roll at any time, you die.

While I’m thinking about watery foes, here as a bonus creature for today (as if you haven’t already had three bonus creatures already)… and a relic to go with him!


Morokoth is a monstrous squid that inhabits the deep. Its fate has been tied to a powerful relic, the Horn of Morokoth. This horn is only usable underwater; it has no power unless completely submerged in a large body of water (at least 30’ deep, at least 100’ wide). It takes 2D rounds for Morokoth to arrive, but upon arrival he wrecks havoc at the commands of whoever summoned him. The caller does not need to maintain possession of the horn; whoever blows it takes the role as Morokoth’s master for that scene. The horn will only work once per scene. At the end of the scene, Morokoth returns to his watery slumber. If reduced to 0 wounds, he automatically flees at full speed into the deep, refusing to give his life for any mortal master.

Morokoth the Maleficent (152 CPs)

Fighting +10 (Bonus Attack x3); Might +10 (Strike); Focus +8; Invulnerability; Swim +8; Resolve +8; Intuition +8; Water Breathing
- Morokoth attacks with four pronged tendrils, distributing fighting +13 between these attacks, dealing +20 with each successful strike. Morokoth uses its resolve to add its intuition to fighting action rolls, leading off combat with a series of exceptionally powerful strikes.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

#19: The Lich

I see the lich as one of the big bads… probably due to the character grinder that was the Tomb of Horrors. To my mind, a lich has to do a few things to make it tough…

Use magic effectively, dealing considerable damage.
Be clever enough to challenge the heroes (and the players).
Be versatile enough to handle the pesky heroes infiltrating its lair.

To these ends, I’m giving it a few spell powers (including a shadow bolt that deals considerable damage, hex and stun) and resolve (which most monsters don’t get). I see it using its considerable lore to increase other actions (for instance).

Lich Overseer (110 CPs)
Fighting +4; Might +4 (Strike); Stamina +6 (Invulnerability); Focus +8; Shadow Bolt +8 (Hex; Living Conduit; Stun; Summon); Intuition +5; Lore +7; Resolve +5

- Hex (Ability or Application) Use 1 turn to roll casting vs. focus to force the target to take a penalty to all actions. Each success penalizes actions -1 for the remainder of the scene; this does not affect result rolls (such as damage rolls), only actions.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

#18: More Jellies? Really?

I suppose I have a soft spot for Jellies. They are sort of the B-Movie monsters of fantasy gaming; amorphous blobs that want to do nothing more than cover over you and suck the marrow from your bones. Yummy.

I didn’t plan on doing another jelly in this month of monsters (isn’t one jelly enough for anyone?), but thinking about a Lich’s lair led me to think about zombies… and that led to brains… and that led to spinal fluid and mushy brain goo… and that led back to jellies.

What if the ghouls (from yesterday) no longer had brains? The brains were removed when they became ghouls. That’s pretty sick nasty, and somewhat unsettling… you get these brainless (literally) monsters that follow you around; in this case, the kill shot HAS to be to the heart. What happens to the brains? They get mushed together into a huge creature that soaks the brain juices into its hybrid form, going around devouring organic matter to feed its bottomless hunger… and searching for brains to rip from living creatures to assimilate.

Zombie Jelly (60 CPs)

Fighting +3; Elasticity +3; Might +3 (Strike); Stamina +4 (Invulnerability); Focus +6; Mind Strike +7 (Living Conduit; Control); Intuition +4
The zombie jelly uses its gelatinous form to stretch and compress itself (elasticity).
It attacks with a tendril at +3, dealing +6 damage.
Its most feared abilities are its mental ones… it can cast a mind strike once per turn, attacking at +6 (focus) and dealing +14 damage. It will attempt to control a living target, getting that target to join its side and turn on allies to kill them- and feed their brains to the jelly (of course). A creature killed by the mind strikes of the zombie jelly actually have their brains turn to mush… and then the jelly goes in through the dead target’s ear and gathers the grey matter. The target then rises as a wailing ghoul.


Mind Strike is a unique ability that targets resist with focus, but which they use resolve to soak. Mind strike bypassing typical warding (cloaks), but instead is soaked by resolve. Since the primary users of mind attacks are the Messari (and I can see the Messari being behind the creation of Zombie Jellies as they experimented on ways to distill human brains into fear generators- that’s all they really need, not the rest of the shell of the humans).

Monday, January 17, 2011

#17: Wailing Ghouls

In working from the bottom up to develop a lich’s lair, I’m starting with his foot soldiers: ghouls. I want the ghouls to be aggressive buggers that are hard to kill and that just keep on coming. To this end, they have two abilities: a howl that confuses opponents, and a requirement (as undead) that opponents have to use an extra turn after dropping them below 0 wounds to deliver a kill shot (cut off the head, rip out the heart, that sort of thing) or else they keep regenerating and get right back up.

Wailing Ghoul (40 CPs)
Fighting +5 (Bonus Attack); Might +2 (Strike); Speed +1 (Burrowing); Stealth +3; Stamina +3; Nonliving; Intuition +3 (Ghoul Wail); Regenerate +3 (Deathblow Required)
Ghouls attack with two claws, distributing fighting +6 between these two claws each turn; each successful claw deals +4 damage.

- Ghoul Wail is done as a free turn with other actions. All living targets within 4 units must roll Focus to resist the action of the ghouls (DR 7 + the number of ghouls wailing). Targets take a penalty of -1 to all actions per success the ghouls take on the roll. For instance, 10 ghouls have a DR 17 wail. A target that rolls 18 or better resists the effect (since ties go to the attacker, a 17 means that the target suffers a penalty). A target that rolls 13-17 takes a -1 penalty; a target rolling 7-12 takes a -2 penalty; a target rolling 6 or less takes a -3 penalty. This penalty is to all action rolls (including attacks and damage rolls), but not to defensive or resistant rolls.
- Deathblow Required means that ghoul regeneration continues into negative wounds, and the attacker must declare that a deathblow is being delivered, requiring 1 turn after the ghoul has been reduced to negative wounds.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Lessons of Conaferos the Earth Wizard

In attempting to create an earth wizard, I ran into some problems. When you build a hero with most of his points invested in abilities (like our friendly dwarf warrior from a few posts ago), it’s not so hard to build him and max out the points. However, when you build a wizard (or another character with a lot of points in applications and fewer abilities overall), you run into trouble. Here are a few rules I assume should be included regarding magical items:

- I’d prefer that an item can’t grant you an application, only an ability. This one I’m torn on… can’t a wand of Stunning grant you stun as an application? If it can, then that solves the problem… his staff of earthen mastery gives him 10 CPs in applications… that seems reasonable.
- An item can’t grant more than +10 to an ability; I’m thinking that artifacts probably default to a +15 bonus. I could give Conaferos (our earth wizard below) a few artifacts, but that feels like cheating. You can’t build an ‘optimized build’ assuming that you’d have access to one-of-a-kind items.
- You can’t use multiple items granting bonuses to the same ability. You get the benefits of the most effective item only.
- An item cannot grant a bonus to Resolve. Resolve sort of defies magic; it’s the innate perseverance of the human spirit (or mortal spirit, I guess) in spite of the magical forces it faces. Magic can’t then enhance this same ability.

Conaferos, the Earth Wizard (99 CPs; +50 CPs from items)
Fighting +3 [Gauntlets of Fighting +4]; Might +1; Stamina +4 [Jewel of Stamina +6] (Armor)
Focus +12 [30 CPs; +10 Robes of Focus] (Warding); Earth Magic +10 [20 CPs; +10 Ring of Earth Magic] [Staff of Earth Magic grants applications Boost Armor; Boost Might; Earth Shield; Life Tap; Reflective Armor] (has applications Summon, Stun); Intuition +8 [10 CPs; +10 Ring of Intuition]; Resolve +10
Wielding his Staff of Earth Magic +11, Conaferos attacks with his bolt of earth at +12 and deals +21 earth damage.
Conaferos wears enchanted robes allowing him to soak +5 from physical attacks; his cloak of warding allows him to soak +13 from magical attacks.

- Boost Armor and Boost Might grant 10 CPs each to improve his own or allies’ armor and might (typically used on his elemental).
- Earth Shield grants him a pool of 10 points to add to armor soak rolls.
- Life Tap allows him to use his baseline attack spell to both deal damage and restore his own wounds equal to the damage he deals; if the attack deals 24 damage and the target soaks 10 points, Coniferos deals 14 wounds and also recovers 14 wounds (up to his maximum).
- Reflective armor forces all targets landing melee strikes against the recipient to suffer 7+ rating damage (17 points per strike), less their magical soak rolls. A target hitting Coniferos (after casting this spell) rolls 12 to soak magical damage; the target suffers 5 wounds from the reflective armor.
- Summon (application) allows you to call one or more creatures built on a CP total equal to rating x5.

Conaferos summons his elemental with his first turn (in most instances). If he can get a target in melee with his elemental, he casts boost spells on the elemental. If targets attack him directly, he casts protective spells like earthen shield, or reflective armor, depending on the situation.

#16: Earth Elemental

I’m working out the concept for a capped out earth wizard, so I figured I’d use my monster a day as an excuse to stat up his summoned friend, an earth elemental…

Earth Elemental (50 CPs)
Fighting +5 (Bonus Attack); Might +6 (Leap; Strike; Stun); Stamina +5 (Invulnerability); Focus +3; Intuition +3; Non-living
The earth elemental attacks with two fists, distributing +6 fighting between these attacks; each successful fist strike deals +12 damage.
In lieu of dealing damage, the earth elemental may attempt to stun once per scene, rolling might vs. the target’s stamina; the target is stunned for a number of turns equal to successes; if the earth elemental rolls 15 and the target rolls 9, the target is stunned for 2 turns.
The Earth Elemental soaks +5 from all physical damage and +3 from all magical damage.

- Leap allows you to use 1 turn to travel the linked ability rating. Leap typically links to might, precision or stamina.
- Non-Living is a 2 CP adaptation; as a non-living creature, you are immune to diseases, poisons, stuns, mesmerizing and other abilities that affect living creatures.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Cap 99

I rather like the idea that there’s a ceiling to character progression; there is a maximum limit to how powerful you can get. This doesn’t necessarily fit a supers game (where Superman pretty much sets the bar for most things at a pretty high level), but in a fantasy game, this is a cool conceit. I always liked this about the old school Dragonlance setting, where you were capped at level 15. If you were level 15, you were among the best in the world. In MMORPGs, you can only get so powerful; you work to balance the numbers to squeeze every conceivable bonus you can out of those numbers.

This also appeals to my design sensibilities in terms of challenges to players; build the coolest character you can in 99 character points. Story-wise, this also fits; mortals killed their goddess, and their ability to attain her stature has been cut off. She was the conduit to great personal power; that conduit has been dissevered.

If this is the case, you have to also be limited to the total number of points you can get from magic; it seems like half your CP total is a very generous amount. I’m almost thinking 1/3, since many heroes will get further boosts from spells cast by themselves or allies. Even so, we’ll go with half your CP total (rounded up) as the allowed amount for now. At 99 CPs, you can have 50 CPs in magical bonuses from items… note that such magical bonuses do not affect your total wounds. Torom below still suffers 99 wound before he has to start rolling to stay vertical…

You can build a very cool character with 99 character points +50 from items. To whit, here’s an optimized dwarf fighter:

Torom Thudershield (99 CPs, +50 CPs from items)
Fighting +12 [30 CPs; +10 Gauntlets of Fighting] (Shield Use); Might +10 [20 CPs; +10 Belt of Might]; Stamina +11 [25 CPs; +5 Ring of Stamina; +1 shift from dwarf] (Armor); Speed +6 (2 CPs; +10 Boots of Speed)
Focus +7 [6 CPs; +10 from Amulet of Focus] (Warding); Intuition +4 (+1 CP; +5 Ring of Intuition); Resolve +5
Torom attacks with a great axe +11, dealing +21 damage with each successful strike.
His armor and cloak allow him to soak +12 physical damage and +8 magical damage.
His great shield gives him a pool of 12 points to add to armor soak rolls each scene, applied to either his own soak rolls, or of allies within the same unit.

He’s got about as much fighting and stamina as you can get… he could squeeze another point or two into each of them, but he’d have to give up quite a bit to get those points. I’d like for him to have higher resolve, but +5 is respectable. His speed keeps him from having to worry about missile attacks (he can close the distance with most foes quickly), and his high soaks will keep him involved in the fight for a long time.

Conceivably, you could have several ‘builds’ for your main character, based on the situation… Torom can swap out his boots of speed for a helm of leadership when he wants to stand back and command his dwarf army, for instance.

#15: Fen Hydra

I’ve found that building multi-headed monsters is one of the biggest challenges in ‘balanced’ game design. It’s not so bad in D+D, where you just have each head attack each round; point-build systems like Resolute make such creatures (typically in my experience at least) difficult to balance; you have to purchase each attack separately, meaning that you build monsters that are way more expensive than they are powerful. Each head does only moderate damage, but the creature is so expensive to build that heroes of comparable level easily absorb most of this damage, rendering these foes less powerful than their allocated points would suggest.

It seems like the best way to handle this is through bonus attack, a +2 CP application. Since bonus attack gives you an extra attack each turn, and gives you a +1 shift to fighting to free some points up for it, this seems the best way to go. In general, the rules are going to say that you cannot purchase an application more than once; you can’t take root twice so that you get to cast two root spells each scene… the use of resolve already allows you to repeat spells you’ve already used, so this strikes me as redundant.

Except in the case of hydras. A five-headed hydra would take bonus attack four times, once for each head beyond the first. Let’s go with fighting +8 (bonus attack x4); might +7 (strike) for our hydra… this creature gets to attack five times each turn; it distributes +12 fighting among these bites (an average of just over +2 per bite), and deals +14 damage with every bite attack that strikes. Since you get to distribute your pools as desired, after seeing all the dice results, the hydra should be able to hit with its first and probably second strikes each round, maybe hitting with a third or fourth if it gets some lucky rolls. It’s rarely going to hit with all five heads each turn… but the odds of it getting a few hits goes up just by sheer volume.

I don’t see it making sense that the hydra takes the limitation that it loses one head at damage thresholds. While it would be easy enough to rule that it loses one head attack every 15 wounds (since 5x15=75, its total CPs), this seems awfully arbitrary (only hydras have this limitation… but they don’t get anything for it). I haven’t decided how to handle limitations for foes yet (since they don’t really care about hero points, which is why heroes take limitations…), so I'm not going to impose this on the hydra... for now...

Here’s our hydra:

Fen Hydra (75 CPs)
Fighting +8 (Bonus Attack x4); Might +7 (Strike); Stamina +6 (Invulnerability); Focus +4; Intuition +4; Speed +1; Water Breathing
- The Fen Hydra distributes +12 fighting among five bite attacks each turn; each successful bite deals +14 damage.
- The Fen Hydra soaks +6 from physical attacks and +4 from energy attacks.

Friday, January 14, 2011

#14: Merman

In creating stats for a merman, I’m also effectively putting together stats for my own version of Aqualad (somewhat inspired by the Young Justice cartoon- although not that particular version of Aqualad). Basically, this is an especially cool Merman, almost as cool as classic Aqualad… how’s that?

Merman Champion (50 CPs)
Fighting +6; Might +4; Stamina +4 (Water Breathing); Swim +4
Focus +3; Intuition +6 (Charm Aquatic Creatures;
Wields a trident +5, dealing +9 damage with it

About movement…

- All creatures may travel up to 3 units + their speed rating in one turn. Each unit you travel imposes a penalty for any travel beyond your speed rating; each unit beyond imposes a -1 penalty to the simultaneous action roll. For instance, with speed +3, you can travel up to 6 units in one turn; travel up to 3 units allows you to also attack with no penalty; if you travel 4 units, you take a -1 penalty; at 5 units, you take a -2 penalty; at 6 units, you take a -3 penalty. You cannot travel more than 6 units on any one turn.
- Swim and burrow work the same as speed; however, swim has a default travel rate of 1 unit per turn, and burrow has a default travel rating of 0; you cannot travel through earth without burrowing!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

#13: Basic Beasts

I know that my last post discussed the idea that basic beasts may not have a place in my game, but I think it’s helpful to have these things ready in case you need them. I didn’t feel right about devoting an entire entry to any one of these, so I put a bunch of them together. Here are some simple foes to drop in quickly; they’re each built on 5 CPs.

FYI, it seems reasonable that creatures could elect to purchase ‘bite’ or ‘claw’ instead of might + strike; a jackal or rat has no particular might, but its bite is still somewhat fearsome. It’s only investing a few points here, so it’s no great shakes either way.

Scrublands Jackal (5 CPs)
Fighting +2; Bite +1; Speed +1; Intuition +1

Sewer Rat (5 CPs)
Fighting +1; Bite +1; Stamina +1; Disease +2
Those suffering damage from the bite of a sewer rat must roll stamina (DR 9) or take a -1 shift to stamina for D6 days.

Skull Watcher (5 CPs)
Fighting +1; Stamina +2 (Invulnerability)
Wields a dagger +1 (deals +1 damage); soaks +2 from all physical attacks

Tunnel Spider (5 CPs)
Fighting +1; Bite +1; Stealth +1; Poison +1; Speed +1
Targets suffering damage from the bite of a tunnel spider must roll stamina (DR 8) or suffer poison damage.

Some Random Thoughts

1. In thinking about the dragon posted yesterday, I thought more about Resolve. One of the uses would be to take one action as if against mooks; your wizard can throw his flame bolt as a fireball that targets all creatures (even ones of comparable level) in the vicinity; the dragon can breathe frost on all targets- even those more powerful; the hero can take a mighty swing of his sword, attempting to strike a number of opposing knights. I like that; it’s self-limiting (since you can only use a resolve point to do this), but it’s heroic. It can’t really be abused; however, this allows a group of heroes to take on a group of hill giants of comparable level in epic fashion, and they don’t have to spend all night rolling dice (since each of the giants is built on 80 CPs, and takes a while to wear down).

2. I’m becoming more and more convicted that there should be nothing ‘generic’ in the game. I get that veracity is aided by the fact that most monsters you face are pretty normal; veracity is also aided by having most rooms in a dungeon be empty. Neither of these is productive to fun fantasy gaming, at least to me. As I get older, I have less and less time to game (or even think about gaming); the last thing I want to do when I sit down to play is open a door to an empty room, or pick up my sword to fight another ‘generic’ wolf.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

#12: The Winter Dragon

It’s time to make a dragon… if the game can make convincing dragons, it can make anything! Here we go…

Coldsnap, the Winter Dragon (147 CPs)
Fighting +8; Might +8 (Strike; Bonus Attack); Stamina +8 (Invulnerability)
Focus +8; Frost Breath +9 (Living Conduit; Root)
Flight +6; Speed +3; Intuition +7

- He can choose to attack with a claw and bite, distributing fighting +9 between these attacks, dealing +16 damage with either.
- He can breathe cold, dealing +18 damage; he can use this breath weapon once per scene to root targets, rolling +9 vs. the target’s might.
- His invulnerability allows him to soak +8 from both physical (linked to stamina) and magical (linked to focus) attacks.

I like how you can ‘customize’ breath weapons a little bit… in this case, the winter dragon uses his frost breath to root targets. Fire breath could set targets on fire, causing damage over time… lightning breath could stun targets… that sort of thing. As an application, it’s only usable once per scene. However, since the dragon is built on 147 CPs, the heroes are going to likely be mooks to it (as long as they are built on 73 CPs or fewer), so it will be able to target many of them at once; when Coldsnap breathes and fills the entire chamber with frost, and all of the heroes have to roll or be stuck in place, there’s going to be trouble… his flight and speed allow him to close quickly for melee with all foes, so he’ll move from foe to foe, picking apart one at a time until he kills them all.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

#11: N'Orks

In thinking about humanoids, I wanted to create a core humanoid race that did something unusual… something that would mix up and add interest to encounters with these foes. In thinking about the humanoid as fundamental fighter, it seemed that the god of the underworld (Beal, their creator) would want a fighting force that was pretty resilient. He’d want them to keep on fighting. Serial immortality seemed like a good way to go, with progressively higher levels of toughness along the chain of progression. It felt like a random element to this would make play more interesting… here’s how it works:

- N’Orks are degenerate, 3’ tall goblinoid creatures of low intellect. They exist only to fight; if foes are not present, they will turn on each other eventually. When you kill a N’Ork, there is a 1 in 6 chance it arises at the end of the round, reborn as an Ubern’orker.
- Ubern’orkers are the next up the food chain. They are thinkers and planners, able to lead N’Ork armies, and able to keep lesser N’Orks under their thumb. Multiple Ubern’orkers will work together rather than resorting to in-fighting. When you kill an Ubern’orker, there is a 1 in 6 chance it arises at the end of the round as a N’Ork Ubermonger.
- N’Ork Ubermongers are the highest form of N’Ork, but also the least intelligent. These are the Incredible Hulks of the N’Ork world… these are the ‘true forms’ of N’Orks… the other two forms are avatars they send out into the world in their stead.

Basically, statistically it comes down to this… if you fight 6 N’Orks, odds are that one of them will be reborn as an Ubern’ork. If you fight 36 N’Orks, odds are that 6 of those will reincarnate immediately as Ubern’orks, and 1 of those will reincarnate immediately as a N’Ork Ubermonger. However, there is a chance (albeit a slim one) that a fight with a solitary N’Ork escalates to a battle with a N’Ork Ubermonger. In terms of play, the drama of the fight continues after death; “congratulations on killing the two N’Orks this round… now let’s see if they stay dead…”

It seems appropriate to give Ubern’orkers leadership, and to give N’Ork Ubermongers rage… so here we are:

N’Ork (15 CPs)

Fighting +4; Might +2; Stamina +2 (Armor); Focus +1; Intuition +2
Wields spiked club +3 (dealing +5 damage); wears hide armor +3.

Ubern’orker (30 CPs)
Fighting +6; Might +4; Stamina +3 (Armor); Focus +2; Intuition +2; Leadership +2
Wields spiked morning star +5 (dealing +9 damage); wears reinforced hide armor +4

N’Ork Ubermonger (60 CPs)
Fighting +7 (Bonus Attack); Might +6 (Strike); Stamina +6; Focus +3; Invulnerability; Intuition +3; Rage +4
Wades into combat swinging two fists; fists distribute fighting +8 between them, dealing +12 damage unarmed each; soaks +6 from physical and +3 from energy attacks

Monday, January 10, 2011

#10: Young Necromancer

I’m going to cheat a little, because I’ve got a hankering to make some caster types to play with magic rules some, so I’ll make a necromancer as a ‘villain’ and throw him in here. It’s my blog, and I can cheat if I want to…

Young Necromancer (40 CPs)
Stamina +2; Focus +6 (Warding); Bolt of Shadow +6 (Summon Undead; Fear; Boost Armor; Stun); Intuition +3
Bears a staff of shadows +7 (bolt deals +13 damage); wears cloak of warding +7 (soak +7 magical damage from all attacks); wears traveling robes +1 (soak +1 physical damage/soak +4 damage when armor is boosted.)

- Fear forces the target to turn and flee for a number of turns equal to successes on a casting vs. focus roll.
- Stun forces the target to lose a number of turns equal to successes on a casting vs. focus roll.
- Summon calls creature built on rating x3 CPs. This creature remains for a number of rounds equal to your rating. At +6, his undead creature is built on 18 CPs, and it remains for 6 rounds. (As an ability, the summoned creature would remain for the remainder of the scene, and be built on rating x5 CPs). Our young necromancer could choose to summon two undead built on 9 CPs each, 3 creatures built on 6 CPs each, etc.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

#9: Infernal Gargoyles

My gargoyles have always been sort of boring; they end up being stony versions of flying monkeys. Gargoyles should probably be somewhat more B.A. than that… my current vision of them is part Hellboy, part the Demon, but burning with blue infernal flame, and relishing in inflicting pain. They should have unique powers that make them more dangerous… I’m also tinkering with revising the rules (again) for armor/invulnerability/warding… so I’ll play with them here…

Gargoyle of Infernal Flames (60 CPs)
Fighting +5; Might +5 (Strike; Two Weapons); Stamina +6 (Shadow Bolt; Pain; Energize Weapon)
Flight +4; Focus +4; Intuition +3 (Stealth); Invulnerability

The Gargoyle of Infernal Flames leaps into battle with two claw strikes; it has fighting +6 to distribute between these two strikes, dealing +10 damage with each. The gargoyle has its infernal magic linked to its stamina, allowing it to energize its claws to deal additional shadow damage (increasing the damage rating rating from +10 to +11, due to the [3 CP] bonus from energize weapon each claw receives. The gargoyle rolls +6 to soak physical damage, and +4 to soak magical damage, from its invulnerability.

Pain (Application Only)
Roll your action vs. the target’s focus. The target suffers wracking pains, taking a -1 penalty per success you roll to all action rolls for the remainder of the scene. If you attack with pain, rolling 17, and the target rolls 8 to resist, you roll 2 successes (scoring 1 success at 8, another at 13). For the rest of the scene (or until you fall unconscious), the target suffers a -2 penalty to all action rolls from tremendous pain.

About Armor/Invulnerability/Warding
I’m back to thinking that these should be applications. One big reason is the functionality of stamina. Right now, it’s not a particularly important ability. It gets used for a handful of resists, but is not an ability that many players can afford to dump a lot of points in. Stamina should have a close connection to how durable you are in a fight; linking it to armor/invulnerability does this. Here’s the shorthand:
- Armor allows you to wear armor rated at your stamina +1.
- Warding allows you to wear cloaks of warding rated at your focus +1
- Invulnerability gives you your stamina rating vs. physical attacks and your focus rating vs. energy/elemental attacks.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

#8: Psimian Mandrill

I remember seeing Su-Monsters in the original Monster Manual and thinking that they were incredibly goofy monsters; I also remember thinking that the psionics rules were way too complicated for me, and I’d never use them. I was eleven, so take both opinions for what they’re worth…

However, the more mature me (heh) has a find spot for Gorilla Grodd and the whole idea of psionic apes; and these are like cuter, little, meaner versions of Gorilla Grodd. He’s a master manipulator who uses his psionic abilities to enslave mankind and further the cause of apes; these are angry little creatures that use their psionic abilities to steal food and throw poop. They’re just mean, nasty little buggers.

Psimian Mandrill (26 CPs)

Fighting +4; Bonus Attack; Might +1; Speed +2; Stamina +1; Stealth +3
Focus +2; Intuition +4 (Confusion)

3’ tall monkeys of silvery coats and burning, amber eyes, psimian mandrills seemingly exist only to sow discord among mortals. They may attack with two claws, distributing a total +5 attack rating between the two attacks; each claw attack deals +1 damage.

Confusion (Ability or Application)

Roll your action vs. the target’s focus. Success means that the target randomly acts for D6 rounds. As a victim of confusion, roll D6 below to see what you do. (Note: Players and referees are encouraged to develop their own lists for confusion; this list represents some of the options that could appear. One option on the list should be to continue attacking the caster or acting normally; randomness should include some option for things to not work out so well for the caster of confusion). As an ability, you may use confusion at will; as an application, you may use it once per scene. A target that resists your confusion, or that has already been affected by it that scene, is immune to further uses that scene.

1. Turn and attack your nearest ally.
2. Attack the caster of the confusion spell.
3. Babble incoherently.
4. Turn and flee.
5. Decide that your feet really, really itch.
6. Start looking for something in your backpack that isn’t there.

Note: In thinking about two weapons/bonus attack, this ability should give you a +1 shift to fighting in a turn you use it; if you have two weapons and fighting +6, you get to have fighting +7 whenever you wield two weapons, but you distribute this +7 between the weapons; you can elect to go +6 with your primary and +1 with your secondary, or as far as +4 with your primary +3 with your secondary. This doesn’t unbalance things at all, but gives you a small additional benefit for having spent 2 CPs.

Friday, January 7, 2011

#7: Medusa Handmaiden

Concept: I have this idea for the lair of a medusa; all of the creatures within (now statues) are in various states of activity; a pitched battle is taking place between two adventuring parties, a huge lizard is preparing to chomp down on a humanoid. By killing the medusa, you bring all of these things back to life from their slumber. The only thing is, you have no idea who would be friendly, and who is going to decide to turn on you. The heroes could conceivably go around and destroy all of the statues before killing the medusa, but then they will surely miss out on some valuable allies or unique experiences…

Since this is the encounter I want, I have to build the rules for petrification around that. I’ll start with those, then stat up the medusa.

Petrification (Ability or Application)

Roll your rating vs. the target’s focus. Success means that the target turns to stone. As an application, petrification ends either at the end of the scene or when you lose consciousness (whichever comes first). As an ability, petrification only ends when you die.

Medusa Handmaiden (50 CPs)

Fighting +4; Might +2; Petrification +5; Poison +5; Precision +3 (Finesse); Stamina +4
Focus +3; Intuition +4 (Stealth)

The medusa handmaiden will use a short bow +4 in combat (dealing +7 damage with it). She uses her serpentine hair to poison the arrows. If forced into melee combat, she will switch to a scimitar +4, dealing +6 damage with this, also coating it with her poison.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

#6: Spitting Tomb Creeper Spider

Concept: I spent six whole days before I broke down and created a spider- pretty good by my standards. These are pretty much basic big spiders that inhabit ruins and dungeons, but I thought I’d mix them up a bit. Instead of weaving webs, they spit mounds of webbing that they shape into their dens and burrows. They can use this ability once per scene in combat to bind targets, so I get to stat up rules for binding attacks.

Spitting Tomb Creeper Spider (20 CPs)
Fighting +5 (Binding Attack); Might +2 (Strike); Speed +2; Stamina +1; Wall Crawling

Binding Attack (Ability or Application)

You bind the target in place, confining the target to remain in one unit for the remainder of the scene, or until a successful might roll frees him. Roll your action against the target’s might to bind. All creatures taking an action against a bound target take a bonus to action rolls equal to the number of successes rolled on the action. The target may continue to attempt to free itself from these binds, but must spend 1 turn per attempt, rolling might against the DR (the original action roll you made to bind the target). With fighting +5 (binding attack as an application), you may, once per scene, attempt to bind a target up to 5 units away. You roll 2D+5 vs. the target’s might resist roll. You roll 14 and the target rolls 9. You succeed, getting 2 successes; all actions made against that target are at +2 as long as the target remains bound. On each of its turns, the target may attempt to break free of these binds, rolling might DR 14. Success means that the target breaks free and suffers no further penalty; failure means that the target continues to be bound, continuing to give foes +2 to action rolls.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

#5: Ogre Berzerker

Concept: He's a big, mean ogre who also goes all Hulk mode when he gets into combat. His basic abilities will be very simple, but he gets a new ability: Rage.

Ogre Berzerker (30 CPs)
Fighting +4; Might +6; Rage +4; Stamina +4
Wields a spiked club +7 (dealing +13 damage)

Rage (Ranked Ability)
Rage stacks with your fighting, giving you a diminishing bonus on fighting action rolls each round after it’s activated. You must spend 1 turn to activate rage. With fighting +5 and rage +4, you activate rage in round 1. In round 2, you attack with fighting +9 (but still defend with fighting +5… defensive rolls are unaffected by rage). In round 3, you attack with fighting +8; in round 4, you attack with fighting +7; in round 5, you attack with fighting +6. Starting in round 6, and for the rest of the scene, you are back to your fighting +5. This wouldn’t affect your defensive rolls; sure, you are attacking at +9 at your peak, but rage isn’t going to make you better at getting out of the way… you still roll +5 to evade enemy strikes.

Effectively, rage is the polar opposite of battle acumen. With rage, you start good and then peter out as the fight continues because you’ve burned your berzerker mode.

Experience and Limitations

I’ve gone back and forth about limitations, and I think I have a workable solution. Rather than giving you a pool of bonus points at character creation, limitations give you experience bonuses when they come into play.

Generally speaking, players purchase limitations that they think won’t hurt them; I will take fear of water because the campaign is called “Dusty Death of the Ancient Pharaoh”; I take ‘enmity with demons’ because I figure demons will want to kill everyone anyway, so why not get some points for it.

Reverse that thinking. Superman doesn’t get additional CPs for taking a weakness to Kryptonite; he gets bonus experience during a scene in which an enemy uses Kryptonite against him. I LOVE this, because it means that players will look for ways to include their weaknesses as part of the game; they know that by surviving the encounter, they get more experience. Superman’s player hopes that the group of thugs firing a huge machine gun at him have Kryptonite-tipped ammo… otherwise, this encounter isn’t going to be worth squat.

Here are some examples:
- Allergy. When in the presence of an allergy (range at the rating you take), you suffer -1 to all rolls cumulative each round, until you reach the threshold or you remove the allergen. For example, with allergy to Immodium +10, you start to feel the pinch whenever you are within 10 units of Immodium (stay away from the drug store). At 10 units away, you suffer -1 to all rolls. If the Immodium is 3 units away, you suffer -1 in the first round, -2 in the second round, -3 in the third round, -4 in the fourth round, -5 in the fifth round, -6 in the sixth round, and -7 in the seventh round, and going forward. If someone gets into melee range with you bearing a weapon that is coated in Immodium, you take a -1 penalty in the first round, -2 in the second, etc. until you max out at a -10 penalty in the tenth round. For taking this +10 allergy, you get +10 XPs whenever you face an Immodium-wielding foe. You could elect to take allergy to cats +1, meaning that within 1 unit of a cat you suffer a -1 penalty to all rolls until you get at least 2 units away from a cat. Whenever your cat allergy affects you in a fight, you get +1 experience point.
- Susceptible. You take extra damage from a particular energy. Each +1 to damage gives you +1 experience point per scene. For example, if you take susceptibility to fire +5, your hero suffers +5 damage from any fire-based attack that hits you; when Pyrannicus Rex hits you with his jet of fire and deals 17 points, you have to roll to soak 22 points. You could still soak it all, but odds start to stack up against you over the course of a fight. For winning this fight with Pyrannicus, you get +5 experience points, on top of the experience value of the fight. If you take susceptible to sonic attacks +1, you are probably not going to get much mileage out of it; fewer foes use sonic attacks, and when they do, that +1 to damage you suffer is not really going to matter; meaning the +1 experience point you get is well deserved (as in barely at all).

This last one has all sorts of carry-over effects to play, however; when fighting a huge wolf, you petition the referee to have it emit a loud howl that will force you to resist or be stunned due to your sensitive hearing; basically, you (as a player), try to get the scene to shape itself in some way to your limitation, so as to get more experience from it. It’s the total opposite paradigm from any such system I’ve seen.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

#4: Malignant Jelly

Malignant Jelly (26 CPs)
Fighting +3; Elasticity +4; Invulnerability +2; Might +2 (strike); Stamina +2; Stealth +3; Stun +3
The malignant jelly uses its gelatinous form to stretch and compress itself, hiding along walls and floors to attack prey. On a successful fighting attack, the malignant jelly will attempt to stun targets, rolling stun vs. the target’s focus, forcing the target to lose 1 turn per success on the action.

Elasticity (Ability)
You may strike a target in hand-to-hand combat up to your elasticity rating units distant; with elasticity +4, you can land a punch against a target up to 4 units away.
You have a pool of points equal to your elasticity to add to invulnerability soak rolls each scene.
You may use 1 turn to use elasticity to perform a feat such as forcing your way through a narrow opening or turning yourself into a parachute, rolling against the situational DR. To create a balloon that will carry two allies (weighing a total of 400 lbs) to safety is DR 11 (500 lbs. – the nearest weight on the chart - is +4). Slipping under a narrow door frame might be DR 14 (a superior use of your ability), while squeezing through the head of a pin might be DR 19 (a supreme application of your power).

Stun (Ability or Application)
Stun allows you to force the target to lose turns. Roll the rating of stun vs. the target’s focus. The target loses a number of turns equal to your successes on the roll; if you roll 17 and the target rolls 14 (a difference of +3), you stun the target for 1 turn; if you roll 21 and the target rolls 4 (a difference of +17), you stun the target for 4 turns.

Note: successes are scored at 0, 5, 10, 15, etc.

Yeah… this means that successes are back, albeit in a much simpler form. Many abilities (especially superhero abilities as I’ve conceived them thus far) need successes to be viable. Since I’ve defined hitting the target difficult rating (at +0) as being successful, it seems reasonable that you could generate an extra success at easy-to-remember thresholds. Every 5 points seems pretty reasonable. If you have +10 more in your ability than the defender’s ability, and you roll +10 more than the target rolls, that’s +20 on this particular action … 5 successes seems very reasonable in that circumstance. You stun for 5 turns, you force the target to take a -5 penalty, etc.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Monster #3: Shades

I want to work out the kinks of the phasing ability, so spirits and ghosts are a good place to do it… keeping with our low-level monsters, we’ll start with the Shade of Sorrows.

Concept: the lingering spirit of a fallen mortal who suffered an especially gruesome death, shades seek to revisit their final moments of torment upon other living creatures. The only way to truly destroy a shade is to completely burn its remains, which must first be located… a shade that is dispelled (reduced to negative wounds) will re-form within 2D hours.

Shade of Sorrows (28 CPs)
Fighting +3; Focus +3; Intuition +1; Invulnerability +2; Phasing +6; Precision +2 (Strike); Stamina +1

Phasing (Ability or Application)
Phasing allows you to become partially immaterial, able to move through solid objects and bypass protection that normally would impede you. You must spend 1 turn to activate phasing.
• As an ability, once you activate it, phasing gives you several pools:
- You have a pool of points equal to your phasing rating to add to invulnerability soak rolls each scene.
- You have a pool of points equal to your phasing rating to add to unarmed damage rolls (via strike) each scene.
- Additionally, phasing allows you to pass through solid objects. You roll your phasing vs. the DR of the object. For example, a wooden door has a +3 rating (DR 10), while a double-reinforced titanium door has a rating of +10 (DR 17). You may phase through objects as often as you’d like, although each such use of phasing requires a turn to attempt (if you are going to walk through a 30’ thick slab of stone, you must spend 1 turn activating phasing, and another turn actually traveling through the stone).
• As an application, you get to use phasing once per scene, activating it to any one of its functions (to move through a wall, take a pool of invulnerability points; take a pool of unarmed damage points).

Rate of Progress

The other major consideration regarding awarding experience is the speed of progress. One school of thought is that the heroes shouldn’t progress at all; they should be of sufficient heroic stature throughout the game. Over the course of his 70-year comics career, Superman hasn’t really gotten more powerful over time; in fact, several times he’s been revamped to be less powerful! You could argue that Superboy is Superman at lower level, but you never really see that progression/discovery process of new and different abilities play out that much in comics, and if you do it’s REALLY slow. Spiderman today vs. Spiderman of 1963 is better because he’s more experienced and mature, not because he is innately more powerful. In game terms, his Resolve and Fighting have gone up, but that’s about it. He’s still basically the same guy. I don’t like this for extended campaign play; if you start at level 5 (whatever that is), how do you ever get to be level 10? I understand that Spidey will never be the physical equal of Thor, but as a player I’d like my game version of Spidey to get noticeably better as I play.

Conversely, the fantasy RPG paradigm has been gradual progress as you go, slowing the more powerful you get, and this has been reinforced by video games. You probably can knock out the first few levels in a handful of adventures, but the higher levels are going to linger. Resolute doesn’t really support this approach, since the distribution of CPs into abilities and the points-based approach to character building don’t align with this. I do think that this is already built into the ability system anyway; you only need 2 CPs to move an ability from +3 to +4, but you need 5 CPs to move it from +9 to +10. Things go slower at the higher end on an ability-by-ability basis, not necessarily in overall character power.

One of the things I toyed with while writing Mythweaver: Reckoning was the idea of giving multiple levels of complexity for various game functions, giving the whole thing more of a toolkit feel. I can see this particular element of Resolute working that way… for instance, my instinct right now is to give you two options for progress: a standard option, and the ‘lite’ option. (This may be a good way to designate this in the rules; a small sidebar appears near a more complicated rule to give the ‘lite’ option. This way, you can layer in elements of the game as you play or as you introduce things to new players).

Here’s the crunchy option:

An experience point is 1% of a character point. When you earn 100 experience points, you redeem these for 1 character point, or you continue to accrue these until you have sufficient experience to redeem for the desired CPs; you want to move your stamina from +4 to +5, and you need 3 CPs to do this. You bank your experience until you get to 300 experience points, and you then redeem these for 3 CPs.

The referee awards experience points at the end of every scene. Completing a scene is worth a base of 10 experience points +/- the difference between the level of the team of heroes and the level of their adversary. If four heroes (two of level 5 and two of level 4) face a necromancer of level 8 and his zombie minion of level 6, the heroes earn 9 experience points each (the total level of the foe was 1 level below theirs, so 10-1=9). In the following scene, they overcome eight rabid wolves (each of level 3), earning 8 experience points each (the total level of the foes was 2 levels below theirs, so 10-2=8). In the third scene, they face a wyvern of level 15. For this, they earn 13 experience points each, since this foe was 3 levels higher than their total level; 10+3=13.

The heroes have a total level of 12 (5+2.5+2+2= 11.5, rounded up to 12)
The necromancer/pet combo has a total level of 11 (8+3)
The eight wolves have a total level of 14 (3+1.5+1.5+1.5+1.5+1.5+1.5+1.5= 13.5, rounded up to 14)
The wyvern has a total level of 15, as a level 15 foe.

Light Option: Award 10 experience points at the end of every scene in which the heroes successfully overcome a challenge.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Rewards and Character Progression

There are several different layers of character and player rewards that can and should be part of the game. I’m endeavoring to find a perfect balance (at least for my play style) of crunch and flexibility. I know that experience awarding (or whatever economy you use for character progression) runs the full gamut from overly complex to far-too-simple. Here are a few things I want to avoid:
- minutia of counting individual experience awards, with all manner of factors for bonuses, penalties and the like (divide the level of the most powerful foe by 15 and add the number of players in the group x3… count every henchman or summoned creature as ½ a player).
- hand-wavey experience that gives the referee few concrete examples to work from (if your group did well, give ‘em 20 more XPs)
- ‘role-playing’ based rewards. This is tough, because you want to reward players for exceptional play… but this leads into a general thought about play styles…

Several GM/Referee sections I’ve seen discuss how to deal with ‘problem players’, or how to characterize the play style of different people in your gaming group. Really, I think that the referee section just needs a paragraph on social dynamics- this is a social game, and the more you know your players and what they are like as people, the better you are going to be at running games for them. You need to listen to and adapt the game for the group of people you are with. For every specific piece of advice you give for how to deal with a ‘rules lawyer’, you are going to have a ‘rules lawyer’ as a player who defies those descriptions. This sort of thinking also fosters a really negative approach to gaming- putting each of your players into a narrow definition before you even start playing. These people are all as complex as you are (and in many cases probably more so!), and deserve to be approached that way.

This applies to rewards in that many GM sections infer a ‘correct’ way to play the game. If you are a social person who has his characters make sacrifices for the group and who tends to play quirky characters, you tend to get rewarded. This is generally the way I play. However, the people I most regularly game with (which is sadly rare these days) have a wide range of styles.

- One player likes to break stuff. As long as she is hitting and dealing a lot of damage, she’s fine. She doesn’t want a lot of tactical options; she doesn’t want fiddly details to worry about. She wants to swing the biggest weapon possible and do the most damage each time.
- Another player likes to encounter epic fantasy elements. She likes dragons and castles and elfin kingdoms. She doesn’t like slogging through dungeons particularly or worrying about the contents of her backpack. She wants to be heroic against medium challenges; she doesn’t want to have to face exceptionally difficult foes or barely escape with her life. She’d prefer to win most fights with only a few scratches on her armor.
- The third player likes to think through all problems. He doesn’t like to get into the heart of a battle. He’d rather sit back, survey what’s happening, help develop strategy, heal, provide support for other characters and generally get as much utility out of his character as he can.
- The fourth player wants to be cool, and find creative new ways to solve every situation. He wants to use flaming arrows to cause the roof to cave in on the group of goblins rather than just firing the arrows at them; he wants to use his pet raven to blind the sorcerer to help the team overcome him, rather than just dishing out as much damage as possible.

At the front end, I’ve endeavored to build the game to tailor all of these styles. The first two players are not going to purchase a lot of resolve; they want to know what they can do and do it. The second two players are going to purchase more resolve; they want flexibility and creativity in the moment. Player three is going to pick up lore, leadership, storytelling, healing, stun, boost spells and energize weapon… he’ll have tons of options for helping the group. Player four is going to take a lot of resolve, allowing him to use his intuition to improve his bow attack, pumping his own fighting into his raven’s talon strike, and generally doing all sorts of whacky things (often successfully, because he built his character to do that).

At the back end, the game shouldn’t penalize players for approaching the game a certain way. If you always give a bonus for ‘heroism’, player three is always going to miss it. He sits back and lets others take all the damage, but he also makes sure that they stay vertical. He typically finds the safest spot on any battle field. That’s how he plays. Penalizing him for this (or rewarding other players for not doing this) will not ‘encourage him to play better’… he plays just fine! All it will do is build slow resentment against the other players, the referee, or the game itself. All of these are detrimental. The same is true for ‘role playing’ rewards or for using special skills or abilities. A thief should not get a special bonus for finding a hidden door; isn’t that just part of his role in the group?

To summarize, the way that experience is doled out should be fair, dynamic, and easy to adjudicate…

Monster #2: Harpies

I’m going to stick with threats to low-level heroes for a bit. Here’s a creature that I think could play havoc with a low-level group of heroes quickly. If it happens to charm 2 or 3 members of the team, there’s going to be trouble!

Concept: Creatures with the head and torso of hideous women and the lower bodies of huge vultures, harpies dwell in fallen lands, seeking to lure mortals into their traps. Their beautiful song belies their malignant nature.

Harpy Deathsinger (22 CPs)
Charm +4; Fighting +3; Flight +2; Focus +2; Intuition +2; Might +2; Stamina +3
Harpies wield clubs +3, dealing +5 damage with these weapons.

Charm allows you to take control of the minds of other living creatures that you can communicate with, within rating range. Targets roll focus to resist your charm. Targets built on more CPs than you are have automatic immunity to your charms, although you may use a resolve point to allow you to attempt to charm a target built on more CPs than you are; however, a target built on more than twice your CP total is always immune; if you are built on 30 CPs, you may attempt to charm a target built on up to 30 CPs at will; you may attempt to charm a target built on up to 60 CPs by spending a resolve point; you may not attempt to charm a target built on more than 60 CPs.
• As an ability, you may attempt to charm a number of times per scene equal to your charm rating, affecting targets up to your charm rating range. With charm +5, you could charm (and control) up to 5 different targets simultaneously.
• As an application, you may attempt to charm once per scene, using the linked ability rating up to the linked ability range. With lore +6 (charm), you may charm a living target up to 6 units away, rolling +6 vs. the target’s focus.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Monster A Day for the New Year (or at least a month!)

I always learn a great deal about a game by building monsters for it; they tend to have wacky, oddball powers and abilities that inherently break the game. How does dragon breath work compared to other attacks? What about poison? Petrification? The semi-transparency of spirits? The fluid form of animated jellies?

It’s a pickle; or rather, it's a jar of pickles.

I’m going to spend the month of January creating a monster a day (in addition to other blog posts I do; some days you’ll get double the goodness!). Most of these will end up in the core book at some point, although I can’t say for sure where and how they’ll make it in; also, a caveat: these are drafts and not finished versions of anything.

One of the goals is to make the experience of fighting monsters different. It should feel different to battle different foes; you use different abilities and face different challenges depending upon the abilities of the foes you face.

Monster #1: Myrmidon Ant

Idea: I like bugs as a staple of fantasy gaming. I usually default to spiders (the image of the spiders climbing out of the sand and attacking the heroes in the first Desert of Desolation module is one of my all-time favorite gaming scenes). I'll mix it up a little by going with ants instead.

Concept: stout, giant ants (3’ long), these burrowing pests attack en masse, growing more powerful as the battle continues. They attack without reason, seeking to kill and take food wherever and whenever they can. Having a virtually bottomless hunger, myrmidon ants have wiped out entire communities.

Myrmidon Ant Soldier (30 CPs)
Battle Acumen +3; Burrowing +2; Intuition +2; Invulnerability +4; Fighting +4; Might +3 (mandible strike); Stamina +4

Ability Notes:
• Battle Acumen stacks with your fighting. Each round after the first, you take a +1 shift to your fighting, up to your battle acumen rating. With battle acumen +3 and fighting +4, myrmidon ants have fighting +4 in round 1 of every new combat; this moves to fighting +5 in round 2; to fighting +6 in round 3; and to fighting +7 in round 4 (and beyond). With battle acumen +10 and fighting +20, by round 11 of a combat, you’d have fighting +20… that’s pretty awesome (but then again, you did invest 60 points to get it).
• Burrowing is an ability that sets your travel rate (in units per turn) through earth and soil; as an application, you can purchase this linked to speed, allowing you to move your speed rating through soil, not taking the +3 bonus that all creatures normally get while moving. Swimming will be a similar ability, although swimming as an application defaults to 1 unit per turn, + your speed rating as applicable.