Bad luck with dice?

Sly Flourish, one of my favorite gaming bloggers, tweeted the following today:

The many replies seem to fit one of these three ideas:

  1. adjusting difficulty: fudge things on the fly, behind the GM screen
  2. breaking the rules: give their character bonus options and actions
  3. doing nothing at all: tell the players to get over it and be tougher

None of those answers felt satisfying to me.

  1. Adjusting difficulty on the fly feels like the wrong solution. It comes across as condescending or patronizing. From my experience, I hated it when the GM ignored a failure or backtracked the narrative on my behalf. I can’t really explain why I felt this way.
  2. Breaking the rules means more management and record-keeping of house rules. If a ruling was made for one player, then it should be for anyone else in the same situation, right? This could lead to inconsistencies and even perceived unfairness.
  3. Doing nothing at all and macho posturing about gamers getting “tougher” or more “macho” is completely ludicrous to me so I won’t even address it.

So how can we fix it?

Well, here are some ideas:

Bonus experience points on a failed dice roll

This is from Apocalypse World-derived games, such as Dungeon World. It softens the blow a lot! I’ve seen it first hand with many different groups. You could even be consistent about it: give them some base amount multiplied by their level. Example: 10 x level. So 10xp at level 1, 100 at level 10, etc…

Let them expend “effort”

This is from the Cypher System. Basically, after a failed dice roll, let the character spend some kind of in-game resource to nudge that failure into a success. This could be:

  • A point of inspiration
  • One or more hit dice
  • Or a number of hit points equal to the difference (if the character failed their roll by 3, let them spend 3 hit points to succeed)

Each player gets their own “escalation” die

This is inspired by 13th Age. The idea is that each player gets a special d6 called an escalation die. When they fail a dice roll, they set their escalation die to “2” and places it on their character sheet. Their next dice roll gets a bonus of 2 to it.

If they fail their next dice roll too, then their escalation die goes up to 3, granting a bonus of +3 to their next dice roll.

For each successive failure, the die goes up, granting the bonus on its top face to the next roll. Up to a maximum of +6.

Once they actually succeed at a task, then their escalation die “resets” to 1 and gets removed from their character sheet.

Why not grant a bonus of +1? Because a 5% increase of chance is so minimal that I wouldn’t even bother. +2 is 10% and it “feels” more substantial.

imaginary player character gives the player the middle finger because their action failed on the result of a 1, again.
source: Penny Arcade

So what do you think? Have you ever tried something like this? Do any of these options appeal to you?

Please check out Sly Flourish’s website

Vampire: Flying Discipline

Something that has always bugged me about any World of Darkness Vampire edition (new, old, revised or anniversary). There’s never been any discipline that enables a power featured in vampire media all over: that of moving in a way that defies gravity.

A few scenes from famous media that grabbed me:

  • Interview with the Vampire: that fellow walking up a wall and even standing upside down under a bridge
  • Bram Stoker’s Dracula: titular character climbing down a wall like a lizard or spider
  • Salem’s Lot: the kid vampire floating up to a window sinisterly waving
  • Underworld (1): vampire lady leaps up to ceiling and hangs there like a cat/spider
  • Lost Boys: hovering, floating vampire bad dudes

I also recall that in a few of the Anne Rice novels, Lestat actually flew through the air like Superman.

Now I’ve heard people argue that with a clever application of Discipline X and Thaumaturgy Y, or simply with great Potence and Protean, you can emulate flight or wall crawling. But I don’t accept that.

Here’s how I’d do it: Levitatus

That’s a working title. I need to find something pretentious and esoteric while using some words from Latin, French or Romanian. You get the idea.

This Discipline could work with any edition of White Wolf’s Vampire RPG.

The power comes on gradually:  it’s more about defying gravity in a supernatural sense while tapping into a few mythical tropes. It also isn’t just a flat progression of “you can fly a bit, then a bit faster/higher, then a bit MORE fast/high etc…” and instead, structured like some of the existing powers. I mean, look at Protean, Animalism, Dominate. They have different abilities at each dot that scale up in power but they’re not all the exact same effect.

Wallcrawl (one dot)

You can crawl on vertical surfaces; your hands and feet, even if clothed, somehow “stick”. Otherwise gravity still affects you and you can only move as quickly as you can walk. In addition, you can hang upside down from ceilings.

Glide (two dots)

You can move around without touching the ground. Rising one to three feet, you can propel yourself slowly in any direction (at the speed of walking). Extremely useful for theatrics and stealth.

Leap (two dots)

You can jump vertically upwards from a still position. The distance travelled is up to 10 feet (for every additional dot in Levitatus, the distance increases by another 10 feet). Alternatively, your regular horizontal leap gets a boost in distance of 5 feet per dot. This has nothing to do with physical athletic strength: the power comes from another source.

Hover (four dots)

Spend a point of blood to rise up into the air or float down at a speed of a slow walk. It is not possible to move around in a chosen direction but momentum is a factor. For example, if you take a running leap off a sky scraper and then invoke Hover, you’ll descend slowly across a distance (rather than straight down). The effect lasts until you land on a surface (horizontal or vertical).

Flight (five dots)

Spending a point of blood grants  you the ability to move freely about in the air.  You can fly as slowly as you wish or as quickly as a run.

What do you think?

Featured image from Phantom City Creative.

This is based on a thread that I started on the wonderful new gaming discussion forum called RPGPub. Here is a link to this thread.

Domes of blessed dark

In the Sepulcher of the Abyss, the dungeon featured in A Thousand Fathoms Deep, there are all manner of interesting locations. Unlike typical dungeons, not all are necessarily dangerous or lethal. That all depends on why the adventurers are there, and how they’re behaving.

Here are a few titles to entice your curiosity and dread:

  1. Embalming orgy
  2. Well of Souls
  3. Scriptorium & tattoo parlour
  4. Sharktopus nursery
  5. Geothermal sauna
  6. The Great Seal of Stygia (cracked)
  7. Mandela of the Vortex
  8. Screaming Ossuary
  9. Abominable pulpits
  10. The twin Coral thrones
  11. Mummification Urns
  12. The Black Mirrors
  13. Library of living flesh
  14. Puzzles of brass chains
  15. The Sleeping Bodhisattva
  16. Mara’s feast
  17. The scalding baths
  18. Squid barn
  19. Jellyfish pit
  20. Brittle Star gardens
  21. Giant anemone dances
  22. Shrine to the Anti-Cosmos
  23. Opium vents
  24. Kilns for blasphemous pottery
  25. The sleeping masters
  26. Prophetic cloisters of the dawn-less day
  27. Fangtooth acupuncturism
  28. Cleansing Fountain (home of an abyssal mermaid)