Space travel procedure + random space encounters

Accidental review of Star Trek Adventures

I’ve run Star Trek Adventures a couple of times now. Its core system is feels like a bespoke mechanism for treknobabble and dealing with sci-fi problems, which is pretty much exactly what I need for a trek game.

It’s space combat system feels like playing FTL: Faster Than Light, where either you wipe your enemies or you engage in a manic struggle for survival. The ground combat system is similar, but without the threat of ejection into the void or a warp-core breach.

It’s relatively difficult to find the information you need when running the game, so much so that I created this google slides doc to ease the running of combat when I was prepping my second campaign. Even then, combat took a while.

The game also has a great online character generator.

The characters pick several beliefs and then receive meta-currency for engaging with them. I struggled to make that work in my games, just as I struggled with Burning Wheel’s meta-currencies and belief system.

Star Trek Adventures has lots of material about the federation and trek-stuff in general, and I wonder what it’s for. I assume most people buying the core book know a reasonable amount about Trek already or they wouldn’t be buying it. But if you didn’t know much about Trek, the best way to find out is to watch a few episodes or movies, not read a dusty tome.

There is even a series of missions available for free on their website which I used when I was getting started. TOS and TNG eras supported.

The biggest problem I had was with a total lack of procedural tools. The game assumes you’re playing in an episodic fashion and provides no support for a sandbox. And I wanted to run a sandbox.

So I made up a space travel procedure. Below is a modified version based on what did and did not work.

Optional musical theme for this post. I used to play it at the start of every session. In the second campaign I ran I used the opening and closing credits from The Orville.

Sagittarius, by Sidney Hall and Richard Rouse Bloxam

Actual Space Travel Procedure

I’m assuming the use of a hexmap, and that each hex corresponds to a star system. Hexes can also be empty, and there are space features which span several hexes such as nebulae.

Your ship has two main actions when travelling: Scanning and Moving.

When your ship Scans, choose one option from below

  • Detailed Scan: receive detailed sensor information on any one adjacent hex (the star’s class; along with an estimate of how many space ships or other constructed space entities there are; and how many planetary bodies there are, divided into small (roughly Earth sized and smaller) and large (ice giants and gas giants))
  • Rudimentary Stellar Scan: receive sensor information about two adjacent hexes. Rudimentary sensor information just gives the class of the star (if there is one).
  • Detailed FLT trail Scan: receive detailed information about faster-than-light trails in any one adjacent hex. This might detail the number and direction of any trails, and information about the size and speed of those ships. The information may be up to a week old.
  • Rudimentary FTL trail Scan: receive information about faster-than-light trails in any two adjacent hexes. This is just an estimate of number and direction, and only pertaining to travel from the last day or so.

When you Scan you should make some sort of roll or check that will determine the quantity of information revealed.

When your ship Moves you go from your current hex to an adjacent one. Choose one option from below

  • Cruise: Travel at your ship’s standard speed. You can Move to one adjacent hex
  • Sneak: Travel at half your ship’s standard speed. You can Move half of a hex’s length and it is much harder for you to be spotted by FTL trail scans (get advantage or something)

Each day your ship can choose two actions from the above list.

  • If your ship will Cruise twice, you can go an additional hex. This is called Maximum FTL. Sustaining Maximum FTL for more than one day will require an engineering check.
  • If your ship will Scan twice, then you can scan not only adjacent hexes, but also hexes adjacent to those (ie not only the nearest 6 hexes but also the 12 hexes surrounding that.
  • Your ship can also spend its actions repairing but that is probably too system-specific to get into here.
Infrared image of the Andromeda Galaxy

Random Space Encounters

I would use a hexmap that’s about 10×10 with star systems no further than 4 hexes from each other.

Once per dey, roll on the Initial Encounter table. If you get an encounter as the result then also roll Complication table.

d6Initial EncounterComplication
1Interior EncounterInterior Encounter
2AnomalyInterior Encounter
3Exterior EncounterExterior Encounter
4No encounterExterior Encounter
5 No encounter No encounter
6No encounterNo encounter

If you want to have less encounters, keep the table the same but use a larger dice (d8/d10) and make all results above 6 result in ‘No encounter’.

If you want to have more encounters, roll for an initial encounter twice per day instead of once.

d6Anomaly
1A ripple in space-time: ship’s dog Rover is replaced with a cat from the mirror universe that acts like a dog, answers to the name Rover.
2Beachball sized orb follows the ship: Whoever looks at it sees a minaturised version of their homeworld.
3Ion storm causes a momentary lapse in holodeck safety protocols: A historical figure from a holodeck program is made material and sentient.
4Gaseous mind-parasite sneaks in through an exhaust port and infiltrates replicators: Crew’s food becomes hallucinogenic.
5A rapaciously hungry tar-like blob attaches itself to the hull causing minor damage: It will grow and devour the whole ship if left to itself. It is psychic and is very open about its desire to consume the entire universe.
6Wormhole: Takes the crew back to stone-age earth where aliens are trying to mess up the future. The wormhole will collapse in 3 hours.

As I used up events on the Interior Encounter table below, I added more events based on the actions of the party. These are intended to mostly be short social encounters which emulate day-to-day life on the ship.

d12Interior Encounter
1Cultural celebration for one of the less prominent species/cultures on the ship
2Ship’s pilot is challenged to a simulation race
3Physical poetry recital
4Barcrawl of 20th century pop-culture bars and pubs on the holodeck
53rd grade’s production of the first ever FTL flight – Senior officers are invited to performance
6Safety Drill – how to handle a virulent space-plague
7A live-action production of The Pirates of Penzance by Gilbert and Sullivan, performed by engineering
8An attempt to add obscure alien cuisine to the replicators has succeeded and the crew are invited to Exotic Food Night
9Film night and munchies after
10Chief historian interviews senior crewmembers
11Security Chief puts senior officers through a hand-to-hand combat refresher course
12Judging a contest to name a new species of space-whale
Edmund Hillary, namesake of the ship in my second campaign, the USS Hillary. In my first campaign the ship was the USS Ibn Battuta.

In the Exterior Encounters table below, roll d12 twice: the first result is the encountered ship, whilst the second is the mood/motivation of the ship. You may need to roll another ship to interact with the first one for it to make sense. I took inspiration from the random encounter tables in Hot Springs Islands which are fantastic.

The first 8 entries in the table were universal no matter which part of the hexmap the players were in. The last 4 entries changed depending on which inhabited star system they were nearest to.

Because the actual encounters were so closely related to the setting the players were exploring, I’ve genericised them below.

I also used the table below when players scanned a region of space and wanted information on the ships that were travelling through there (or had recently travelled there).

d12ShipMood/Motivation
1Merchant VesselIn distress
2Pleasure craftRepairing
3Insane raiderPatrolling
4Prospector/Mining shipAid Mission
5Archeological/Geological research vesselHunting/Gathering/Mining
6Astronomical research vesselFleeing/Pursuit
7Mind Vampire Psychological warfare frigateIn Combat
8Peacekeeper patrol cruiserCritical Emergency
9Local Merchant VesselSurveying
10Passenger ShipTrading
11Carrier GroupDiplomatic Mission
12Scout ShipEspionage

It would be perfectly possible to re-order the Mood/Motivation column and use 2d6 instead of a d12, knowing that the middle results will be weighted towards much more than the outer results.

Design Notes

I designed the above system for encounters to make it the game feel like Star Trek TNG. Some great bits of sci-fi happen in the less action/diplomacy centered moments of the show, for instance: Data’s excellent poem about his cat, Spot; Worf discussing Klingon mating rituals; and Picard Day. Moments that let us see the characters in a more relaxed setting, or that illuminate and flesh out elements of their cultures.

In my own game the internal encounter table became radically different as play went on and it was increasingly influenced by past actions of the player characters. We had a simulated paintball deathmatch to settle a point of honour; a fashion show to introduce the new ships uniforms; and holographic Steve Irwin examining the ship’s cat, Rover. Our last session had that characters playing a holonovel where they played as their characters playing characters from Robin Hood. It was very meta, very hammy and a great send-off.

The format of the new ship’s uniforms, and probably the best thing to come out of Discovery Season 2

Combat system for Legamon

Recap

I’ll assume you haven’t read my other posts on Legamon prior to this, so here is the recap:

  • Legamon (or just mons) are legally distinct monsters that accompany the characters on adventures
  • Mons have 6 types: Air, Fire, Water, Earth, Verdant and Metal. Some mons may be of more than one type.
  • Some types against stronger or weaker against others, for example Water is strong against fire. This is shown in the type chart below.
  • All mons have abilities relating to their type. For example, Flameingo (an iridescent fire-type pink flamingo) knows the ability Flame Hop, a fire type ability.
  • Abilities have tags which tell help inform all the players about what the ability is good at. Flame Hop has the tags: Fire-type; melee; and moving. Other than the type, there are no hard and fast rules about what the tags do. They exist to inform our understanding of the ability and to make it clear to everyone playing what the ability is good at and what it is bad at.
  • There are also typeless abilities. While every mon has access to a limited pool of abilities with types, there is an infinite pool of typeless abilities that can be used. The only restrictions are what is reasonable in world, so for example a slug-themed mon could not use a typeless ability called ‘kick’.
ScratchBiteKickPunch
ChopGoreBashSlam
BargeSmackClobberClaw
BumpCrashBangWallop
Aggressive abilities

SidestepRollJumpDash
LeapDipTake CoverDrop
DuckCrouchDiveGo Prone
Defensive abilities
  • You roll an ability dice when you are doing an ability to determine its success. Higher is better.
  • Abilities which have a type roll a d6 for their ability dice. Abilities which are typeless roll a d4 for their ability dice.

Modifying the ability dice

If you have advantageous circumstances (from height, a downed opponent, a sneak attack etc.) then roll your ability dice twice and take the higher value.

If you have disadvantageous circumstances (opponent in cover, predictable actions, you are grappled, your ability name doesn’t quite fit what you are trying to do etc.) then roll your ability dice twice and take the lower value.

If you have an advantageous type matchup (eg fire vs verdant) then instead step the dice up (d2->d4->d6->d8->d10).

If you have a disadvantageous type matchup then instead step the dice down (d10->d8->d6->d4->d2).

Example worst case scenario: Flameingo is using the ability Flame Hop on Rocktopus, an Earth-Water hybrid. Flameingo is lying on the ground and Rocktopus is towering over it. Flameingo will roll 1d2 (the d6 has been stepped down twice as fire has a bad matchup against both water and earth) twice and take the lower number (because it has disadvantageous circumstances).

Example best case scenario: Flameingo is using Flame Hop to drop down from above on an unsuspecting Bookerfly, a Verdant-Air hybrid. Flameingo will roll 1d10 (the d6 has been stepped up twice as fire has a good matchup against air and verdant) twice and take the higher number (due to advantageous circumstances).

Spending energy

When a mon uses an ability which has a type, they must spend one energy to do so. The median starting energy for a mon is 3.

When a mon spends an energy they will roll an ability dice to determine the success of their ability.

  • If the dice rolls in the upper half of potential values, the energy remains spent.
  • If the dice rolls in the lower half of potential values, the energy is regained

So on a d4 roll, a 1 or 2 regain the spent energy, whereas on a d8 roll a 1, 2, 3 or 4 will regain the spent energy.

Combat Rules for one-on-one fights

Combat is made up of rounds. Each round, participants roll 1d6 + speed to determine who goes first that round.

The median speed values for a mon is 3. Whoever rolls higher has their turn first.

On your turn you can move and do an ability. (Instead of an ability you could also use an item or interact with something in the environment.)

If you are going first and you want to do something that does not affect the opposing character, then it will resolve. The gamemaster may ask for a roll to see how successful it is.

If you are going first but you want to do something (for instance an attack) that will affect the opposing character, then the target can choose to either: let it happen and then take their turn after; or forgo their turn and resist the action.

If you are going second and you did not resist the opponents ability, that means you can take your turn now. If you want to do an action that interacts with your opponent, they won’t be able to resist you as they already acted.

Attacking and your opponent does not/cannot resist

Roll your ability dice, the result is subtracted from the opponents Grit.

Grit is a statistic that represents a mons staying power. The median starting grit for a mon is 10. When a mon’s grit reaches 0 or lower they are out of the fight.

Attacking and your opponents resists

Attacker and defender both roll ability dices. The defender’s result is subtracted from the attackers result and the result is subtracted from the defender’s grit. This cannot heal the defender.

The defender is not able to damage the attacker by rolling higher. If they wanted to damage the attacker they should not have resisted, and instead taken the damage and then attacked back.

Using an ability to prevent

Attacker rolls their ability dice. They may spend the resulting value to prevent their opponent from moving or using an ability. 1 point of the value can be spent to prevent the opponent from moving for 1 turn. 3 points can be spent to prevent the opponent from doing an ability for one turn.

Example scenario: Vineapple rolls a 4 when using Vine Lash to wrap their target, Camelamp. Vineapple could either: prevent Camelamp’s next action and next movement; or prevent Camelamp’s next 4 movements.

At the start of any round after the first round in which a mon is prevented from doing something, there is a chance they can passively overcome the prevention. To do so they must roll 4 or higher on a typeless ability roll (this roll does not consume their ability for that round). Each additional round steps the dice up.

Number of turns prevented1st turn2nd turn3rd turn4th turn5th turn6th turn onwards
Passive typeless dice rolledno dice rolledd4d6d8d10d12
Roll a 4 or higher to end the prevention

The target can use an ability to defend and subtract from the attacker’s roll in the same way as with damaging abilities.

Using an ability to end a prevention early

If you are being prevented then you can use your ability to try to end the prevention early. Roll your ability dice, if you roll a 4 or higher then the prevention ends straight away (this may allow you to spend your ability to end a prevention on your movement, which you can then use).

If you are prevented from using an ability then you cannot try to use your ability to end your prevention on using an ability.

Using an ability to do anything else and other rules

The gamemaster makes a call based on the rules above, their reasoned understanding of of the world and the principles below:

  • The logic of the world and the scenario is more important than following the rules.
  • The rules only exist to facilitate informed decision making for players and so the gamemaster has guidance to prevent them from making it up on the spot. Making stuff up on the spot is fine, but its harder to do it well for combat, and with combat a poor decision will sting harder.
  • What one character does using an ability should not be negated by a movement from an opposing character.
  • 0 grit means one cannot carry on fighting, it does not necessarily mean death or fainting. Maybe they are physically exhausted, or mentally drained, or emotionally overwrought. It might mean they flee or collapse or the mon’s human partner offers to parlay or surrender.
  • Give disadvantage if a mon uses the same ability in the same way more than once in a row, or any time after the second time. This is predictable for their opponent which is where the disadvantage comes from.
Camelamp (knows the ability Shining Hump) by becca_3d

Incomplete rules

The average Mon has 10 grit, 3 energy and 3 speed. Mon advancement/evolution will be covered in a different post. I’d also like to post about how to bond mons (bond not catch, it feels a bit oppressive to go around catching monsters).

If I was making up a new mon and wanted to decrease/increase its energy or speed (for instance, Camelamp above should probably have more than 3 energy as camels store energy) then I would modify the grit of the mon up or down by 2 or 3 hp to make it feel more balanced. The other lever for balance is how many situations you can think of that a mons’ ability would be useful in.

The rules for combat could easily be abstracted out to other contests. Grit represents staying power not physical durability so there doesn’t even need to be a terminology change.

The rules would probably also work for battles with multiple participants but I haven’t tried that out.

Design notes

If you go first then your opponent might trade attacks, but yours will hit first. Otherwise they might try to negate your attack, but then they can’t do damage.

Going second means that if you let your opponent hit you, you get guaranteed damage/prevention on them.

Energy and grit should probably reset at a town, village or some other resting spot – they’re a resource to manage through several encounters/events.

There is a gloggy kernel in this game (the regaining of spent mana and the low hp levels relative to attack values). The gloggy kernel has an fkr coating, with world/genre emulation coming as a top priority over the rules. When I ran a playtest I had less written rules than above, but it seems to me that if I’m making something to publish online I should provide a reasonable level of guidance.

Thanks to Becca, Andy and Morat for playtesting.

Move system for legamon part 2

Part 1 here.

The title says moves but I’ll be calling them abilities since that makes it less confusing when talking about movement.

Typed abilities

The types are Water, Verdant, Fire, Earth, Air, Metal.

All ‘mons know at least one typed ability.

  • Vineapple (a Verdant-type pineapple with vines coming out of its head) knows Vine Lash
  • Mistrunk (a cute Water-type elephant) knows Water Spray
  • Camelamp (a baby one-humped Fire-type camel) knows Shining Hump

As they advance, level-up and evolve, their abilities will gain new tags granting them increased versatility

Using these abilities requires one energy to be spent. When the energy is spent roll a d6.

On a 1, 2 or a 3 the energy is refunded.

On a 4, 5 or a 6 the energy is spent.

The GM will determine the success of the ability based on the result, with 6 being the best result and 1 being the worst. The result could determine:

  • How long an effect lasts for
  • How powerful an effect is
  • How difficult it is for others to counteract
  • Whether the attempted action is even possible
  • How quickly the action is completed

The GM should not allow characters to repeatedly try the same action until it succeeds. This is a waste of time. If time is a factor in an action that is definitely doable, then have the result determine how quickly the action is completed.

Abilities can be used in combat or out of combat.
The above statement might makes it seem like combat is the focus of this game but far from it, it just wanted to be explicit.

Energy will replenish at the same time as Grit (the health system I’ve not blogged about yet). Essentially it replenishes at some time or place of rest.

Why waste time make lot art when few art do trick

Typeless abilities

‘Mons can also do typeless abilities.

You could think of everything else they are doing as a typeless ability but that seems a bit silly. It’s more that we use the ability structure only when we need mechanical support to adjudicate our roleplay.

Really they’re only relevant in combat.

Actually no, there are loads of places they will be relevant, for instance if the ‘mons were in a cooking contest or a game of beach volleyball. However, the game needs combat rules first.

So below is a non-exhaustive list of example typeless abilities. The only restriction on what typeless abilities a ‘mon can do is what the GM and players think is reasonable.

ScratchBiteKickPunch
ChopGoreBashSlam
BargeSmackClobberClaw
BumpCrashBangWallop

Oh and they could be defensive too

SidestepRollJumpDash
LeapCrouchTake CoverDodge
DuckDipDiveDodge

Typeless abilities are not as powerful as typed abilities so they never get type advantage. They also roll a d4 not a d6, which will matter when it comes to combat. Finally, they lack the versatility and potential to affect the scope of the battle in the same way as typed abilities.

At this point my refusal to put a space in the middle is more obstinate stubbornness than anything else

But I mean you still didn’t tell me what am I meant to do with this

Okay the combat system is coming next.

Followed by the beach volleyball system and the cooking system.

Glog class: Elf Wanderer

I wrote this glog classes some months ago for a game I didn’t end up running. I probably borrowed some of the abilities from somewhere else but I can’t find them now (inbox me if you recognise something so I can stick a link to it here and give credit where it’s due).

Elf Wanderer

You are one of the few among the Elves (and their Half-Elf kin) who is not resigned to seclusion, and believe that somewhere out in the world must be a cure for The Great Sorrow (the curse upon all elves that they may bear no more elven children). You wander the lands, searching for the power to restore your people. You are very worldly and knowledgeable but have limited martial training.

A: Weather Folklore
Elven Memories
B: Magelore
Flora
C: Elven Memories+
Ancient Epic

D: Elven Memories++
Seen it Before

Weather Folklore: You have +2 on rolls to predict tomorrow’s weather

Elven Memories: Choose an Elven Memory (listed at end)

Magelore: After examining magic or a magical effect, you know a place where you could learn more about the magic.

Flora: You have +2 to rolls to find useful flora

Elven Memories+: Choose an additional Elven Memory

Ancient Epic: You tell a well practiced story which has stood the test of time, enthralling smallfolk for 1d6 hours and wiser folk for 1d6 x 10 minutes.

Elven Memories+ +: Choose two additional Elven Memories

Seen it Before: You have +2 to all saves relating to fear.

Elven Memories

  • Monsters from long ago: You recall an ancient folk tale of your youth. Once per day when faced with a strange monster, roll 1d4 to see what you remember from this dramatization. When your information is put into action, roll luck to see how accurate the information in the dramatization was.
    1. A weakness of a monster
    2. The food chain of the monster
    3. The temperament (choleric, melancholic, sanguine, phlegmatic) of the monster
    4. Roll twice
  • Items of old: You recall an ancient folk tale of your youth. Once per day when faced with an ancient artifact, roll 1d4 to see what you remember from this dramatization. When your information is put into action, roll luck to see how accurate the information in the dramatization was.
    1. The age of the artifact
    2. The makers of the artifact
    3. The primary use of the artifact
    4. Roll twice
  • Ancient Tongues: You have +2 to rolls relating to understanding dead languages
  • Obscure Tongues: You have +2 to rolls relating to understanding obscure languages
  • Just around the corner: You can remember a place of shelter from the last time you were in this area. Roll luck to see if the shelter is occupied.
  • An old companion: When you arrive at a large settlement, you can seek out an old companion. Roll 1d6 when you arrive at their last known location.
    1. Your old companion has moved on, but locals can tell you where to and why.
    2. Your old companion is here but is bitter or insulted by something you did in the past which hurt them greatly.
    3. Your old companion is here and has not forgotten the debt you owe them.
    4. Your old companion is here but is in deep trouble and needs help.
    5. Your old companion is here and you can pick up your past comradery within a heartbeat
    6. Your old companion is here, stronger than ever, but preparing for a quest they are hopelessly outmatched against.

Notes

This class has almost no combat power, but should make it up through their out-of-combat knowledge. I was originally intending to also have this pair with an Elven Guardian class which would be an Elf fighter focused on defensive abilities and mastery of nature, however it stepped too much on my Ranger and Fighter classes. It would be quite easy to add in new Elven Memories to edit the scope of the class.

Legamon type chart

Below is a legamon type chart. Arrows are pointing towards the type that is weaker. For instance, Fire beats verdant and air, but is beaten by earth and water.

The arrow colours are arbitrary, it just makes it more readable.

All of the type matchups follow some form of real world logic. The sort of logic that ancient greeks had where they sat around making up reasons why certain things must be true, without actually going out and checking them.

  • Fire beats Verdant because plants are vulnerable to burning
  • Fire beats Air because air is consumed by the process of burning
  • Verdant beats Water because plants need water to survive
  • Verdant beats Earth because plants roots dig into the earth and grow from it
  • Water beats Fire because water extinguishes fire
  • Water beats Metal because it causes rusting
  • Air beats Water because it causes evaporation
  • Metal beats Verdant because metal easily trims and cuts plants
  • Earth beats Fire because it can smother fires

‘Balance’

I don’t entirely believe in balance in role-playing games. Balance is about creating fairness, which is inherently linked to the distribution of power and influence. A lot of balance comes from the game master’s interpretation of the player character’s actions. Perceived likelihood of success, on-the-spot rulings, design decisions for homebrew content, NPC reactions, even the table’s attitude towards the spirit of the rule vs the letter of the rule, all these things affect balance in a way that is impossible to account for when designing a roleplaying game.

And that’s before you start hacking the rules.

Some games give suggestions, options of different rules with an explanation of how your choice might affect gameplay. Others give ongoing design commentary so you can understand why a rule is the way it is. Alternatively, a game might present its vision in such striking terms that most points of contention are easily handled.

It is really important that there is not one option which is obviously way worse than the others because then players won’t pick it and you’ve wasted your development time, word count and design space.

It’s also really important that there is not one option which looks good but actually sucks.

Unlike a video game, I’m not going to have lots of stats and systems to do balance with. And ‘mon video games tend to have lots of visible stats, and even more hidden stats and formulas to tinker with.

So every type gets as many advantages as disadvantages. That’s the balance. That and the advancement system that’s not finished yet. The rest is up to the GM.

Ew your type chart is janky

Why thank you.

Beaten ByBeaten ByTypeBeatsBeats
EarthWaterFireVerdantAir
VerdantAirWaterFireMetal
MetalFireVerdantEarthWater
VerdantEarthFire
FireAirWater
WaterMetalVerdant

Thank you very much.

FireWaterVerdantEarthAirMetal
Fire Bad Good Bad Good
Water Good Bad Bad Good
Verdant Bad Good Good Bad
Earth Good Bad
Air Bad Good
Metal Bad Good

The attacker is on the left, defender on the top.

What about other types?

I have lots of ideas for other types. These ones above are core, physical, real-world types.

It’s noticeably missing magic types and types to represent real world phenomena such as ice and electricity. It’s a lot harder to reason the balance of magic-style types. The more secondary physical types I put in, such as ice and electricity, the more janky it became. I think they can be serviced by water and fire respectively. Or by duo types such as Water/Earth and Fire/Air.

Oh yeah, I guess duo types are a thing too.

There is design space for more types since Air, Earth and Metal only have one advantage and disadvantage each.

List of possible magic types

  • Aether
  • Astral
  • Nightmare
  • Shadow
  • Void
  • Fear
  • Cosmic
  • Decay

List of types that tickle me but I can’t reasonably put into the game at this time

  • Snake
  • Egg
  • Granny
  • Hair
  • Filth
  • Paradox
  • Dino
  • Mech
  • Kaiju
  • Candy

Vineapple

My friend Becca_3D made art for Vineapple, a legamon from my previous post.

Vineapple used Vine Lash!

Wait but you didn’t even say what it means for something to have advantage or beat something else

Yep.

Combat rules are not done yet. But I reckon you could run it as is with minimal elbow grease.

Move system for Legamon

There’s been a lot of chatter in recent months about Legallydistinctémon, a lot of which is collated here. A lot of that stuff is glog-y, though there are some excellent random generators in there.

This is more in the FKR vein of games, though I will be assuming you have two things sorted already. I’ll probably write posts for each of them at some point

  1. A core resolution system. I will use the words advantage/disadvantage to show when a character should have an improved or lessened chance of something, though I’m not necessarily talking about the ‘roll two take the best/worst’ definition. It could be a modifier or whatever.
  2. Some sort of battling system. It could be rules light or glog-y or what have you.
  3. Some sort of levelling/evolving/advancement system

Popplio used bubble

In the pokemon anime popplio uses bubble to attack other monsters but also to envelop pikachu so it can search underwater and it makes a massive bubble to stop the fall of some pokemon from a team rocket gondola.

That got me thinking about how a well enough written legamon move could be used in a wide number of situations outside of combat, or even in lots of different ways in combat. They might only need one or two moves overall.

Vineapple used Vine Lash

Vineapple is a plant-based monster which looks like a pineapple but with vines coming out of the top.

Okay I know that’s dumb but stay with me.

Vineapple has one ability, Vine Lash. Like all abilities, Vine Lash has some obvious qualities – as you will infer, the vines at the top of Vineapple lash out at a target. As it’s a plant-based ability, we’ll give it the Verdant tag. As I can’t really visualise it working well in melee, we’ll give it the ranged tag.

Vine Lash: Verdant, Ranged

^That’s the whole ability. Done.

Explicitly, Vine Lash has limited capabilities

  • It can be used to make Verdant ranged attacks

Implicitly, Vine Lash can do many things

  • Swinging from tree-to-tree
  • Tripping opponents (though it might have disadvantage/no chance against opponents who can fly, who are fiery or who slither like a snake. This list is not meant to be exhaustive, follow the fiction – rule whatever makes sense)
  • attacking with vines at close range (though this might be at disadvantage)
  • grappling opponents (though it might have disadvantage against particularly strong opponents or those who are fiery)

There are some uses of vine lash that are good ideas, but a bit of a stretch, for instance, whirling the vines around quickly enough that Vineapple makes a defensive/protective shield.

Enter the rest of the tag system.

Tags for abilities

So you might want a monster to do something with its ability that is ‘a bit of a stretch’. When the monster levels up/evolves/advances or when it is dietetically appropriate, for instance when you’ve been training a Vineapple to whirl its vines around, choose an ability and add a new tag to it.

Tags can be words or phrases. They cannot be rules-lawyered, that goes against the spirit of this sort of game, a game run on consensus and player trust in the GM’s model of the reality of the fiction.

Some examples:

  • Whirling Vines: Vineapple can now cycle vines in front of itself to try to shield against ranged attacks. I’d also say that it can attack in melee without disadvantage now, though it also tires itself out when it does so as whirling the vines takes a lot of energy
  • Sleight-of-Hand: Vineapple is now precise enough with its vines (the word ‘lash’ before implied some imprecision) that without disadvantage it can pickpockets, flip switches, grab small items etc.
  • Razor Sharp: Vineapple’s vines are razor sharp so they can cut through things now.
  • Cracking Lash: The vines now crack as they lash out, the noise can be distracting or draw attention
  • Metal Vines: Vineapple has evolved into Zincanut, a metallic coconut who has metal vines above its head. The tag metal should be added and the tag verdant removed.
  • Wicker Weaving: Vineapple can weave its vines back and forth to make a wicker item, then dis-attach them. It takes a while for the vines to come back to full strength
  • Powerful Lash: Vineapple’s vines are powerful enough that strong monster could be grappled now, and weaker ones with advantage. Any other logical extensions of the vines being more powerful would also occur. Maybe it does more damage in your battle system
  • Hover Vines: Vineapple’s can hover through the air by spinning its vines above its head. I might allow this tag to occur by itself, or I might say it needs one or both of the Powerful Lash and Whirling Vines tags already.

So the new ability might be written thus on the character sheet

Vine Lash: Verdant, Ranged, Whirling Vines, Razor Sharp

or following a different route

Vine Lash: Metal, Ranged, Powerful lash, Hover Vines

That’s all we need to write ‘cos that’s all we need to record, the rest is in our heads.

Vineapple, courtesy of Becca_3D

The risk of that is when an alternate move use becomes a Magic Key that Solves All Problems Ever

On the glog discord Spwack said ‘ The risk of that is when an alternate move use becomes a Magic Key that Solves All Problems Ever’.

I absolutely agree.

Looking at you, Minor Illusion.

It’s a classic problem of having an optimum solution to every problem. Having dynamic goals in the game (not just fighting in a blank arena (or just fighting for that matter)) goes a long way to solving this. Another long way is gone (?) if we all agree to disavow a magic key if ever we find one. As I said before, the game should be run on consensus.

But what kind of ways could an ability be modified?

  • increased power
  • increased precision or nimbleness
  • decreased precision for an area of effect
  • modifiying light/vision levels
  • changing sound levels quieter or louder
  • change in speed
  • applying conditions/statuses grapple/paralysis/sleep/fear etc.
  • flight or other increased mobility (swimming/moving through earth/lava)
  • increased size or scale
  • healing
  • protection
  • reflection
  • penetration/sharpness
  • constructing items/objects/consumables
  • human actions (such as the weaving)
  • changes in type (verdant to metal etc.)
  • etc. I mean its your game jeez

But I can’t think of any abilities for this legamon

vine lashshell shrinkflame tailsilk string
poison shankwing flapgnawpeck
zap tailcurl upunfurlconstrict
spore spraydigsingecho
swipegrowlchoplift
wrapmagnetismrock rollrock yeet
seasonabsorbdirtifyclean
ethereal formpinchshock furchatter
coordinatemystic punchfire kickegg roll
entanglenurturehopglitter
glimmerspincopymesmerize
lava divecrushstampedecute look
enter cyberspaceinvisibilityshimmerdevour

What next?

I think I’ll probably make my own monster types and do a post about ‘catching’ monsters and evolving them.

I mean what am I meant to do with this

Idk use it or something

How to use Pokémon cards and tabletop slither.io

I saw a group of four or five 8-year-olds playing with Pokémon cards recently. The kid who owned them poured a bag of a hundred or so onto the table and they picked six cards each. The kids took it in turns playing cards onto the table (regardless of the evolutionary stage of the card) and then attacking other player’s cards (completely ignoring the mana costs for doing so).

Obviously they had a vague idea how the game was played, but were making up most of it

I let them get on with it.

At one point somebody had played a poison Pokémon, maybe a Nidoran? We’ll assume it was this exact card:

Source: Bulbapedia but I guess its copyright Nintendo?

The kid played the card and attacked with it.

What should have happened: Assuming the card had sufficient energy cards attached (a poison and one other energy card of any type), it would have done 20 damage (before applying weaknesses and resistances). Additionally there would be a 50% chance the target would be poisoned, meaning it would take an extra 10 damage each turn until it feints.

What happened:

‘I attack that one with my sting, it does 20 so its dead’

‘Nooo that’s not how it works, because he is poisoned it means every time he is attacked he takes an extra 20’

No flipping coins, no initial 20 damage, no weaknesses and resistances.

Was it balanced? No

Were they having fun? Yep

Tabletop slither.io

I also saw a group of six-year-olds the other day playing with multilink cubes

These things. From wikimedia

They scattered the cubes out across the surface as unconnected singles. They then each chose a cube and began hoovering around the table, and whenever they connected to other cubes they added them on.

At one point one kid accidentally knocked the front of their snake into another kids and then had to dismantle it into its constituent pieces and start over.

So they were playing slither.io. But they could choose how quick or slow to move their snakes with only “hey, that’s too fast” as a mediation tool.

Was it balanced? No.

Were they having fun? Yep

Playground Among Us

I would’ve thought that a social deduction game with randomly assigned traitors would be about as immune to adaptation for the playground as any game could be but boy oh boy, was I wrong.

It was a group of ten-year-olds this time.

Yes, your assumption is correct, I work in education.

On the playground they gathered and closed their eyes. One person secretly chose a couple of others to be the imposters.

Then they all went around doing ‘jobs’ on the ‘ship’ until someone ‘died’.

But it was a playground without pipes and tunnels and vents, where they should’ve all been able to see each other and keep track of who might be the imposter.

As canny as ten-year-olds can be, they can also be oblivious.

Inevitably one of three things happened

  1. The imposters were found out after the first two murders
  2. The imposters positioned themselves near a group and fake-shanked them all before they could call a meeting
  3. Some non-imposters got bored, decided that they had been imposters all along, then piled in on option 2.

It was the least successful of these games. Its rules made the least sense and were adhered to the least.

And yet they keep on playing it.

Is it balanced? Dream on.

Are they having fun? Yes

Here’s a reward for reading the above ramble

Glog spell: Misremember

Range: Touch

Target: Person

Duration: [dice] hours

The person will misremember a rule, law, instruction or regulation from within a body of rules, laws, instructions or regulations. You can add, revoke or rewrite up to [sum] sentences.

Three Glog fighter classes: Slayer, Captain & Ranger

I wrote these glog classes some months ago for a game I didn’t end up running. I probably borrowed some of the abilities from somewhere else but I can’t find them now (inbox me if you recognise something so I can stick a link to it here and give credit where it’s due).

Slayer

You are a dedicated warrior, focusing on the killing of your enemies to the exclusion of the development of wider abilities.

A: Focus
Attack Surge
B: Called Attack
Named Weapon
C: Feud
Focus+
D: Double Attack

Focus: You have an extra chance to crit when attacking (crit on 19 or 20)

Attack Surge: When you defeat an enemy, or crit, you may make an additional attack

Called attack: You can choose a particular spot on your target to strike at when attacking. You get a -2 modifier (-4 if it is the head) to your attack roll but if you hit the attack will inflict an additional debilitating effect appropriate for the location.

Named Weapon: Name your weapon, when you kill a new type of enemy with it you can increase its damage or attack bonus by 1 up to a maximum of +3 each.

Feud: You gain advantage when attacking individuals you have previously fought against in deadly combat

Focus+: You have another extra chance to crit when attacking (crit on 18, 19 or 20)

Double attack: You can attack twice when you make an attack or an additional attack. This includes all sources of attacks.

Captain

You are a trained warrior and leader, skilled in personal combat and the inspiration of your allies, at the sacrifice of your own fighting potential.

A: Guardian
Coordinate
B: Captain’s Speech
Battle Master
C: Sacrifice
Bring it down
D: Coordinate+
Focus

Guardian: You may sunder your shield to reduce incoming damage to yourself or an adjacent ally by 1d12.

Coordinate: When you defeat an enemy in combat, you may direct an ally to make an additional attack or combat maneuver.

Captain’s Speech: You may give a five minute speech to your allies before beginning a difficult endeavour, increasing their potency during the initial segment of the endeavour (+2 bonus to the first roll made by each character during the endeavour).

Battle Master: Your combat maneuvers, or combat maneuvers that you direct allies to make through your abilities, have a greater likelihood of success (+2 bonus to the roll).

Sacrifice: You may declare that you are sacrificing yourself for your allies, massively increasing your fighting potential (advantage to all attack and damage rolls), for as long as all your allies disengage and flee.

Bring It Down: You can mark a target by directing allies to focus on it, your allies will be more effective against this target (+2 bonus to their roll). This ability resets when spells reset.

Coordinate+: When you attack or make a combat maneuver, you can additionally direct an ally to make an attack or combat maneuver. [This functions like attacking twice when you attack, except your second attack goes to an ally]

Focus: You have an extra chance to crit when attacking (crit on 19 or 20).

Ranger

You have wilderness expertise and some fighting skill.

A: Silent Walk
Practiced Eye
B: Shelter
Tracking
C: Forager
Animal Whisperer
D: Silent Walk+
Opportunist

Silent Walk: You can move silently when outdoors in a natural environment, except when moving over/through really loud surfaces like gravel.

Practiced Eye: If you miss with an attack, your next attack against that target has advantage.

Shelter: You can always quickly (1d6 x 10 minutes) find or make shelter in the wilderness.

Tracking: This ability buffs the wandering monster/random encounter rolls [highly dependent on the other subsystems you are using. Suggestions: rerolling a dice on the reaction roll; rerolling a dice on the wandering monster table; rerolling spoors/tracks etc.]

Forager: You have a +2 bonus on rolls relating to foraging.

Animal Whisperer: Non-sapient wild animals have a more trusting view of you, as long as you do nothing to counter this view. You can easily infer what they want and what they don’t want.

Silent Walk+: You can move silently even on loud surfaces when outdoors in a natural environment.

Opportunist: Your hits are always crits if you have a situational advantage (elevated position, surprise,…) [I am almost certain I stole this ability from somewhere].

Notes

These three classes are quite strong compared to the original fighter over on goblinpunch, but I think they’re pretty in-line with each other, and with my Dragon Wyrmling class, which is a pseudo-fighter itself. The Slayer has the potential to get really dangerous at 4th level, but has no defensive or utility abilities so is pretty one note and quite vulnerable. I’d be certain to telegraph this to a player considering playing as a Slayer.

The Captain is almost entirely inspired by things that Aragon does in the LOTR movies. The Ranger forgoes the common ‘animal familiar’ trope, I’d prefer a pet focused class for that idea. Maybe a Falconer or Kennel Master or Knight. In fact I guess it could be a single Pet Master class with three subclasses: flying pet; mount; and dangerous beast. I do like the Critter Master class by Type1Ninja, but that’s more focused on manipulating a swarm.

None of the classes posted above have skills or starting equipment as those are more table-specific, but if you want guidance I would use the fighter’s setup from Goblin Guts for the Fighter and Slayer, and use the Ranger setup from the same for the Ranger.

Glog class: Dragon Wyrmling

I wrote this glog class some months ago for a game I didn’t end up running. I might have stolen some of the abilities from somewhere else but I can’t find it now (inbox me if you recognise something so I can stick a link to it here and give credit where it’s due).

At the time I was writing I had an advancement idea similar to GLΔG but less diegetic: that characters would level-up upon completing certain conditions instead of when they hit xp requirements. This is the ‘advance when’ statement on the classes.

A note on chromatic/metallic dragons

I was going to run this game for players with a variety of experience with d&d. Some of the players  would know the difference between chromatic and metallic dragons (and have further expectations about how a white dragon might act vs how a blue dragon might act. However others wouldn’t even be aware that the colour of the dragon would mean anything in particular.

A zombie is useful because everyone knows how it is going to act. A chubby, grey-skinned, knee-high fellow with a tall purple hat and a wide grin is useful because nobody knows what it is and how it will react.

Coloured dragons straddle this awkward spot where there is a high variance of expectations amongst players and their characters. Some people know exactly what to expect from each colour and others just know ‘dragon=dangerous and greedy’.

To get around this (the campaign was to be set on an island renowned for its many dragons) I decided that the dragons would be non-chromatic and non-metallic.

Cue Astral Dragon, Magma Dragon, Rainbow Dragon, Lightning Dragon, Ice Dragon and Flower Dragon.

Gimme the actual class so I can cannibalise it for parts

You are a baby dragon also known as a Wyrmling. Advance when you eat magical or monstrous prey larger than yourself.

A: Baby Dragon Biology
Dragonspeech
Draconic Flavour

B: Growth
Dragonflight

C: Growth+
Draconic Terror

D: Growth++
Draconic Breath

Baby Dragon Biology: You are a small dragon, the size of a cat. You have a limited carrying capacity. You cannot fly but you can glide. You have a coldblooded metabolism and can go a long time without food if you are not exercising or exerting much energy. You are a hypercarnivore. Your teeth and claws are as dangerous as a light weapon. Civilians and guards may react very badly toward you.

Dragonspeech: You understand and can use Dragonspeech, the language of dragons. Draconic is to Dragonspeech as a three-year-olds rambling babbles are to Shakespeare.

Draconic Flavour: Choose your Draconic flavour. Learned folk, especially Elves and mages, know about the different flavours and may judge you accordingly.

  1. Astral Dragon: You are very difficult to spot in the night’s sky. You have increased luck, at night, when outdoors.
  2. Magma Dragon: You are immune to fire damage
  3. Rainbow Dragon: You can change the colour of something by licking it
  4. Lightning Dragon: You always emit sparking light and must be careful to avoid setting things on fire. You have an advantage on initiative rolls.
  5. Ice Dragon: You are resistant to the cold
  6. Invisible Dragon: As long as your eyes are closed and you are holding your breath, you are invisible (takes an action to turn invisible)

Growth: You are as big as a medium-sized dog.

Dragon Flight: Your wings are developed enough to fly for 1d4 rounds, though you cannot hover and must keep moving. Your wings get tired easily so you must take a breather before flying again.

Growth+: You are as big as a large dog. Your teeth and claws are as dangerous as a medium weapon.

Draconic Terror: You have advantage on attempts to induce fear/intimidate.

Growth++: You are the size of a lion. Your teeth and claws are as dangerous as heavy weapons.

Draconic Breath: You can unleash a dangerous breath attack which recharges when spells recharge (default once per day). The attack is a 15ft cone unless you have a better idea.

  1. Astral Dragon: Your breath attack can light up those it strikes for 1d6 rounds, enemies get advantage when attacking them and they get disadvantage to hiding
  2. Magma Dragon: Your breath attack is a plume of hot ash, which damages those it hits for 1d6 fire damage, can set fire to suitable targets, and leaves a lingering smoky cloud giving disadvantage to attacks in/through it.
  3. Rainbow Dragon: Your breath attack can mesmerize those with a neutral or better disposition toward you that it strikes, freezing them in place. Charisma saves to avoid it, and again each round to break it.
  4. Lightning Dragon: Your breath attack does 2d6 damage to the target, and can chain (1/2 chance for those in melee, 1/6 chance for those near but not in melee) to other nearby individuals.
  5. Ice Dragon: Your breath attack is a freezing torrent of wind and ice, coating everything in the area with a sheen of slippery ice, dexterity saves are required for any movement more than half-speed per turn. It also does 1d6 cold damage.
  6. Invisible Dragon: Your breath attack turns those it hits invisible for 1d6 rounds.

Notes on the Dragon Wyrmling Class

This class is supposed to be a pseudo-fighter, with some varied utility depending on the draconic flavour. Like the Really Good Dog it has some in-built roleplaying challenges and boons. You could easily make new subclasses, all you need is a breath attack and a small A template boon.

Some of the subclasses are probably more powerful than others but a lot of balance would come from how the GM plays out NPC reactions to you so I think the imbalance is fine. The subclasses are hopefully different enough to be relatively incomparable too.