Valinard's Tower

RedHack

Once HP are depleted in #RedHack further damage spills over into CON. Upon taking CON damage a character must make a CON test to keep fighting.

Once incapacitated, a character’s fate is determined by the downed table:

* this save is made on your CON value before the damage was dealt.

Characters without a CON score roll a d6 on the table, subtracting one if they receive magical healing, adding one if they are left for dead.

Characters with CON base their result on their total CON lost. If they are magically healed, the healing restores CON before HP (this is the only time magical healing can directly restore CON). If they are left for dead they take a further 1d6 CON damage before consulting the table.

Exhaustion, Wounds and Injuries are all types of Burden, which affect encumbrance. Most PCs become encumbered when they have three Burdens, fewer if their CON is reduced, so these are a significant problem.

Infections follow the disease rules – I should write up a standard one.

A Doomed character may be dead instantly, they maybe expire after having time to say a few words to their tearful companions, or they may slip into a coma and linger for days – but in any case they are at least en route to the Hinterlands, and will die unless drastic measures are taken.

Healing from Wounds & Injuries

During downtime PCs heal 1d6 CON per week naturally, and this number can vary based on the quality of their lodgings – a stay at the Temple of Chardastes under the care of the healers there might yield as much as 4d6 CON/DT.

Full bed rest increases this number by a flat +6 in any case.

After rolling, the PC can spend any excess on overcoming Wounds & Injuries. They may also wish to sacrifice some of their CON to finish healing from an Injury – rising from their sickbed a little earlier than is prudent, and venturing back into the field shaky as a result.

Last month we tried out some new wilderness travel rules in #RedHack. The party were travelling from Castle Mystamere to the Iron fort, through hexes 502, 402, 302 and 202.

The system divides the day into six four-hour watches:

          Watch Table/Reference
1. Night          8PM-12AM  
2. Small Hours    12AM-4AM  
3. Morning        4AM-8AM   
4. Midday         8AM-12PM  
5. Afternoon      12PM-4PM  
6. Evening        4PM-8PM   

Each day, weather is rolled for, starting with the expected weather for the region and season and adjusting a step each day…

…and the daily travel table is consulted:

           Daily Travel Table
1.   Encounter in jungle, mountains or swamp.
2.   Encounter also in desert, forest or hills.
3.   Encounter in any terrain.
4-5. Apply weather effect. 
6.   No event.

If an encounter is indicated, roll d6 to determine which watch it occurs during; if while the party is resting, they’re surprised if they didn’t set a watch.

Extreme weather like a hurricane or blizzard always affects travel, and is worse on a roll of 4-5. Inclement weather has an effect on the table such as Arid weather consuming extra water rations and Mist causing the party to get lost.

Base speed in hexes per watch is based on mode of travel:

           Base Travel Speed, Hexes/Watch
Riding Horse                              3*
Forced March                              2*
Walking, Mule, Wagon, Warhorse, Donkey    1
Ox Cart or Encumbered Walk                ½
 *Must rest for a watch after 1 watch of movement or gain exhaustion

lalal

Every time the party leaves a hex the per-hex table is rolled on:

      Per-Hex Travel Table
1.   Spoor
2.   Exhaustion
3-4. Hazard
5-6. No event

A Spoor result means signs of a creature nearby; a second such result is an encounter with the creature. Exhaustion is a status in the system which puts an average PC halfway toward being encumbered, and can be cleared by resting for a watch. (In the dungeon, exhaustion takes two turns to clear – the PC only has to be rested enough to keep opening doors, not ready for four hours of marching.) Hazard means a roll on a terrain-specific table.

             Mountain Hazards
1. Precipice (Cliff, slope) - If approached without precautions, roll 1d20; anyone with a lower DEX must make a DEX save or fall for 1d3xd6 damage. 
2-5. Rough Terrain - The hex counts as two hexes.
6-8. Lost - Move randomly out of this hex.

My initial weather roll indicated a misty morning; the daily travel roll indicated weather effects. The PCs set out and immediately got lost, wandering north into hex 501.

Realising they should be in the valley already, they solved the problem by climbing to a vantage point in the mountains above the mist to orient themselves. By evening they had reached the river valley, and camped for the night.

Here I let them forage a little – 1-2 on a d6 to find a ration, modified by whether the terrain is fertile or barren and whether the PC is an outdoorsy type – and refill their waterskins at the river. I need to be clearer about who can forage and when, and what other camp/travel actions are available.

After a quiet night’s rest they encountered some blink dogs, and fed them in the hopes of inducing them to follow the party. They ventured back into the mountains. They got lost in 302, sending them to 303, where rough terrain ate up a third watch. They camped in the mountains and fed the blink dogs again.

In the morning they spent a watch foraging while two of them looked for high ground; they could see the Iron Fort in a small wooded valley below.

I’d lost track of watches by now so had them arrive earlier than they should have, during the evening watch, and then having rolled exhaustion on the way there, they spent some time resting, looking for water, and observing the fort from a distance, allowing them to get the drop on the troglodytes loitering around the entrance. The blink dogs also deigned to enter the camp this time, becoming more comfortable around the PCs.

Things that worked – the individual rolls were fairly simple to keep track of; the system allowed me to visualise and describe the weather and surroundings; the result was slightly unpredictable travel where terrain and weather matter, with both eating up supplies at a faster than anticipated rate.

What didn’t work – the PCs took novel actions to solve their problems during travel, which is to be encouraged, but they needed some more standard mechanical choices to feel in control of the process of travel. There needs to be more clarity in who is on watch, who is foraging, who is memorising spells etc. My notes were spread out in a large document on my laptop; I need a crib sheet and the players need to be able to see the rules being used so they know what their options are. There were complaints about becoming exhausted after the first watch of travel (4hrs seems long enough to need a rest) and about getting lost leading to random movement (fair – perhaps a 50/50 chance of going to the left or right of your intended direction? But how does one realise one is lost, and how does one become un-lost, barring climbing a high place to get one’s bearings?) and about not knowing how much food to bring (fair, can be addressed by writing out the rules for the players. We’ve also recently changed from rations being a usage die item to a one-use item.)

The map was open, but only on players’ phones, and they didn’t always know which hex they were in. I should have printed it out and given them hex paper to draw a map of their route so they could realise something was off when they compared the two.

For dungeon exploration I make an unkeyed copy of the map and cut it up with scissors as they explore, letting them re-assemble it with a glue stick – this is easier than explaining the exact shape of every room to the mapper. But verbal descriptions of hexes are much easier, “you move SE into a mountainous hex, a river passes through it from the NE to the S side.”

The system worked well enough but I still want to consider whether this is the best way to manage travel events, speed and weather. The blog Copper Pieces, for example, has an interesting series of articles from 2021-2022 discussing the use of Markov chains to generate weather.

I keep coming back to the question of encumbrance in #RedHack. It's a hard thing to streamline, because the input consists of numerous very different items, from loose coins to plate armour, and the output is some point at which the PC slows down to some degree, and another point at which the PC cannot move, ideally mediated by some combination of STR and CON. (I like CON as a measure of how much you can carry, as opposed to how much you can lift.)

But items move around a lot, so it all has to be recalculated anytime something is dropped, picked up or traded.

I started with “one item slot per STR point”, tried a container-based system, a push-your-luck version where you had to roll 1d6 per six items under your CON to move at normal speed , and one which simply counted multiples of six.

Sandra shared her very well thought-out approaches: A block method, which seeks to minimise recalculation by fencing off ‘settled’ areas of the inventory, her 5e sheet, which uses a size-based system, and the sheetless version, as well as pointing me back to page B20 of B/X, which de-emphasises equipment and provisions, tracking armour and treasure as the things that are most likely to slow PCs down.

This is good from a gameplay perspective because it's a meaningful decision – trading speed for either protection or rewards.

I also want to streamline, but I'm leaning toward the opposite direction. Weight of armour and weapons feels less important to me – wearing heavy armour might tire you out over time, but it isn't going to render you immobile. Objects held in hands are less urgent to track because there's already a limited supply of hands.

What matters most from a weight perspective is provisions and treasure.

So, this where I am now:

Each PC can carry a small number of burdens. A burden is-

  • Up to 20 items of weight in a backpack.
  • (Optional) More than 20 items of weight worn or held.
  • A level of exhaustion.
  • A long-term injury.
  • Privation from lack of food, sleep, water etc.

Most PCs can carry 2 burdens before suffering penalties, and become immobile once they exceed 6. High CON or low CON adds or subtracts 1 from the amount that can be carried without penalty. High or low STR modifies the maximum burden limit by 2.

Held items don't normally count toward burdens. Some items can only be held (or carried on carts) such as halberds or 15' poles. If the item held is a table or something, it may be a burden in itself.

Worn items – armour, weapons in scabbards, magic jewelry, a shield across the back – don't count either. If you're wearing six swords and three cloaks the DM may rule you have an extra burden.

(Alternatively, worn/held items could be limited to 20 items weight total before a burden is incurred.)

Heavier armour makes you more likely to suffer exhaustion when exhaustion is rolled on the dungeon die. (DM Rolls d20 when the result occurs; any PC with lower CON than the roll gains exhaustion. Any PC with equal or more levels of armour than the roll (3 for leather, 7 for plate etc.) also gains exhaustion.)

A pack holds 20 items and usually counts as a burden. A sack holds 10, perhaps? And can be carried in a hand if you want to trade a free hand for more capacity.

The threshold for an item is about 2lbs. Half-items exist but I'll try to minimise them to make counting faster. Items under 1lb are counted as 0 unless you have a lot of them (a shipment of compasses obviously weighs something, but 2 compasses aren't going to add anything to your load.)

A stack of coins is an item. I'm not sure how big a stack. Black Hack uses 250/item. Since switching to the silver standard – and thus dividing most published hoards by 10 – I've been using 100/item. With the revised figures and AD&D weights it's looking more like 20/item. Amethyst disagrees and says this is far too heavy. Looking at the weights of two iconic 'treasure' coins, doubloons and pieces of 8, we'd get 134 and 33 per item respectively, which points to a figure of 100 or 50.

With the Gem Table we devised recently unappraised gems are homogenous and could also be stacked, at perhaps 50 or 20/item .

#RedHack combat rounds are 30 seconds long – long enough for multiple attacks and for a sprinting PC to cover 180' or more. Each character only has one action during this time, but the additional opportunities for action are provided by reactions. These might be the biggest divergence between the rules and B/X D&D.

Each character with class levels has a pool of reactions per round based on level:

Wizards have one reaction. They aren't good at fighting. I'm toying with letting them spend it to maintain certain spells or fire off magic-missiles, rewriting some spells to utilise the mechanic.

Thieves have one reaction, but it hits hard. If they use it to attack, they deal double damage plus half their level, and may roll DEX to attack instead of STR. They can also spend it immediately to attack an unaware or surprised foe, dealing triple damage plus their level.

Fighters gain a reaction every other level, and also have special Techniques which give them additional opportunities to spend them – for example Riposte allows the Fighter to make a reaction attack against anyone who misses him in melee.

Clerics also gain a reaction every other level, but can only use them in the standard ways.

Read more...

On the one hand, writing #downtimes has been one of the most rewarding parts of running games with #RedHack. On the other, it’s also the most time-consuming and demanding, equivalent to prep for the game itself.

So as well as providing for a range of downtime activities and results, I’m looking for ways to reduce bookkeeping.

In a addition to resolving downtime actions, I like the idea of Lodgings: Allowing PCs to trade upkeep costs for ameneties and the security of their possessions and persons, but there’s a risk of ending up with many steps of bookkeeping for each character – deducting upkeep, checking for illness, robbery, poor maintenance of equipment and so on, applying any perks, before even getting into downtimes and having to design progress clocks and roll for complications.

How much of this can we concentrate into one roll?

Read more...