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.

Character progression in games I

Riding a Dragon is cool?!?

Sometimes character progression sucks in games and sometimes it’s my jam. I enjoy both The Witcher 3 and Shadow of War but I like SoW’s progression way more. They make for a decent case study as the core gameplay is pretty combat focused, it’s third person and they’re AAA fantasy games. All of this is related to tabletop roleplaying I swear.

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

In TW3 as you advance through the game you get skills points which can be spent in 4 different trees. For the most part, spending these points gets you statistical improvements.

  • Fast attack damage increased by 5%
  • Increases crossbow critical hit chance by 5%
  • Time is slowed a further 15% while aiming bombs

This facilitates ‘builds’ and specializing in certain areas of the game’s combat system, especially earlier in the game where skill points are limited. It can be quite fun to find combos that work well, especially in the alchemy tree which intersects with the potion gameplay.

But moment-to-moment it’s boring. I fight much the same as I would have before spending my skill points, except I am now aware that my fast attacks do more damage. I don’t really see that damage though. A marginal increase in the rate at which the enemy’s health bar decreases is all and its not really noticeable.

Intellectually, I know that my skill points are having an effect, but that effect is never obvious and material to me in the moment. Sometimes I want to play spreadsheet simulator, I like Paradox Interactive titles as much as the next nerd, but not when I’m meant to be Geralt of Rivia.

Individual statistical improvements which are not appreciable in the moment are boring

Middle-earth: Shadow of War

In SoW as you advance through the game you (again) get skill points which can be spent in 6 different trees. Or maybe one tree with 6 parts. For the most part, spending these points gets you tangible, concrete improvements.

  • When you shoot a bonfire, spiders erupt from it
  • When you shoot an enemy with an arrow from stealth, you can teleport them to your location
  • You can ride a dragon if it is low on health

When I look at these skills in the skill tree, I want to unlock them. And I want to use them.

When I use these skills I feel cool. I like remembering I have just the right ability to deal with the current situation. And there is all the intellectual stuff going on too as you can change your current skill build to counter a particular orcs weaknesses or strengths.

Individual concrete improvements which are appreciable in the moment are great

In fact, all the worst bits of that game are when you can’t use your cool abilities because you have to fight a ringwraith who nothing works against.1

Total War Warhammer II

So this is a fantasy tactics/strategy game (with more of a focus on tactics) where you can get heroes and generals for your army who have, yeppers, you guessed it, skill trees.

It has one foot in the Witcher’s paddling pool and another foot in the SoW paddling pool. I’m not sure that analogy makes sense but I think you get me. Henri Le Massif, who is essentially a french knight trotting around the warhammer fantasy universe has such upgrades as:

  • Melee Attack +5 (for context it starts at 83)
  • Mount: Hippogriff
  • Hit Points +3%

One of these is not like the others. The Hippogriff is cool. It does have a concrete impact, moment-to-moment, because Henri can fly over enemies. It also has statistical effects that you might notice over a duration.

That time my Paladin had a keen blade

Once upon a time I had a Paladin in a D&D game who got hold of a keen weapon which increased his crit range to 19-20. This was a game where crits doubled the amount of damage dice you rolled. He also was an Oath of Vengeance subclass with Vow of Enmity, which gives you advantage against a single target. So I was throwing out 4 attack rolls a round (with my extra attack features) and if one of those 4 rolls was a 19 or 20 (which it was every 2 or 3 rounds) I would burst my highest level spell on a smite, with the smite damage dice doubled.

It was a nice build, particularly against a single powerful enemy. Intellectually, it was appealing. It also didn’t feel too game-breaking since the keen blade had cost about 20,000gold. And it was nice to be the person who looked for the toughest enemy in a fight and charged headlong at them.

But it felt great moment-to-moment. It felt great when I got a hit due to my advantage. It felt great when I got a crit from a role of 19.

And it felt amazing when I scooped up 8d8 and 4d6 and cast them across the table for my damage, hit for 50 or so damage and flexed ‘and now I’ll roll for my second attack’.

5% increased crit chance is boring. But critting on a 19-20 is exciting even though they are statistically the same.

So when designing games I should remember to make the character options interesting in a concrete way that is fun for the players at the table. Bonus points if its fun when they’re overanalyzing the probabilities too.

Joesky Tax

Hippogriff generator: Front part bird, back part ungulate (hoofed mammal). Roll 1d10 for each

1d10 roll

1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10

Ungulate

Horse
Camel
Hippopotamus
Zebra
Moose
Mouse Deer
Wild Boar
Sheep
Giraffe
Dolphin2

Bird

Eagle
Seagull
Ostrich
Flamingo
Vulture
Hummingbird
Shoebill
Peacock
Owl
Penguin

  1. Also the ringwraith is Helm Hammerhand and don’t get me started on how immersion breaking it is to have timetravelling ringwraiths and then start doubting your knowledge of tolkein’s continuity and to hop on the wikis only to find out that yes, Helm Hammerhand was born thousands of years after the defeat of Sauron so how can be a ringwraith and this fight is monotonous and boring but its a story fight so I have to do it even though its literally the worst part of the game aside from that stupid balrog fight and all the other ringwraith fights I mean you design an entire game about three things: parkour; the nemesis system; batman arkham style gameplay; and emergent narratives, only to neuter all three of those for many of your set-piece story fights?
  2. Apparently dolphins are ungulates, who knew?