I was on the Geek Gab Game Night podcast just a few moments ago. Nearly two hours on adventure design and other topics – we didn’t hold ourselves tightly to a particular theme. As always, it was a hoot interacting with my gracious hosts, and it definitely plays out as a conversation rather than a lecture!

Give a listen, and of course, support Lost Hall of Tyr!

As sometimes happens, a comment is too good to pass up and reply to in the comments section. Kallatari, who I believe knows of what he speaks, wrote in. His comments are in quote-blocks, and my responses or notes follow.

First, just wanted to say that what you’ve described is pretty much exactly how I’ve been gaming suppression fire in my games. The one exception is that I only did one attack to someone who entered the cone of fire, and not once per hex. I’ll be implementing that immediately.

That was a bit to keep things moving, keep the math to a minimum, and make each hex scary enough that it features as a deterrent in the player’s mind, since most times they’re not nearly as risk averse with their little paper men as they should be. Another way to go would simply be to figure out the transgressor’s “bullet exposure” and base RoF on that. But I really do like the per-hex method, because scary.

One thing I’ve wondered about, but never worried too much because it’s never really come up in my game, is what happens when the RoF divided by width gives an effective RoF that’s less than 1. It’s unlikely to occur when the target zone is centered on opponents at range. But, in a hypothetical situation, what if he made his cone 3 hexes wide 1 hex away (really desperate against that horde of zombies that just closed into melee range)? He’s basically covering a 180-degree cone, and the bullets that don’t hit would likely keep travelling quite a bit further away. So at 10 hexes away in this situation, the RoF is effectively a small fraction. Do we apply penalties to the effective skill of 6 (at which point, may as well declare an automatic miss). But what about the fright checks? I’ve now suppressed a 180-degree angle. Should there be a bonus based on the fraction (RoF of 1/2 = +2, RoF of 1/5 = +5?).

This seems as a good a judgement as any, and the two or three bullets per hex which norms to zero isn’t bad. I think that the usual cut-off for suppression fire is RoF 5 per hex, and since that gets a +1 for RoF in the usual rules and my alternate, using a lower RoF and having the shots be vs the minimum 5 or less wouldn’t be horrible. On the other hand . . .

Additionally, I’ve been starting to question why suppression fire is treated differently than any normal gunshots.

There is this. Technically, with the rules in Tactical Shooting how any near miss can induce a fright check, they’re not. At least for fear.

If I pick a single target and fire at his hex with Suppression Fire, I attack him with a maximum effective skill of (6 + 3 =) 9, even if my skill, say, 25. Even if I miss, he needs to make a Fright Check roll to not take cover. Finally, if any bullets miss, then I get to roll to hit anyone else who enters into the line of fire until my next turn.

On the other hand, if I pick that same target and fire 15 rounds directly at him then I get to attack with my skill of 25 + 3 = 28 (minus range penalty, etc.), which means a better chance to hit. But if I miss, he doesn’t have to make any Fright Check or bother to take cover. And if any bullets miss, I don’t get to attack anyone else who crosses the line of fire before my next turn.

I think there’s a case to be made for a few things here

(a) It’s important to hit the fear check for any missed shots. You might even say that the fear-check zone extends RoF bonus more hexes to the left and right of the area being fired into

(b) ANY use of RoF 5 or more creates a suppression line. For a direct-fire attack, that line is only one yard wide – a line, actually – but you get attacked as stray fire if you’re in the line when the bullets are fired, or with suppression fire if you cross that line later.

These are basically almost two identical scenarios with widely different game effects. I’ve therefore been contemplating – but haven’t yet implement – a rule where anyone in the line of fire of any gun shot (or laser beams, or lightning bolt spells, etc.) has to make a fright roll to not take cover, and that, if a bullet hasn’t hit a specified target, than there’s a “live fire” line of attack that anyone who crosses becomes a potential target. To me, All-Out Attack (Suppression Fire) just allows you to divide your shots over a wider area, reducing your chances of hitting in exchange for possibly affecting more people with fright checks.

Or what he just said. Yeah, this is fair if you can remember it . . .

My one hesitation is that it would possibly slow combat down in order to track all the lines/arcs of fire. But since I use MapTools for my combat, I don’t think it would be that complicated.

. . . and VTTs make it really easy. In fact, in Roll20 in the game described, that’s exactly what we did. Drew the cone of fire. We still had one guy run across it, but that was OK. It also makes the Teamwork or Standard Operating Procedure perks that much more useful, as I think one or both lets you cross suppression fire zones of your own team with relative impunity.

And today, a guest post on Ritual Path Magic by forumite and Discordian Kalzazz. RPM is not my forte, so I’m happy to host articles by folks for whom it’s their bread and butter. -dhc

My first real serious joyful introduction to the concept of RPGs and what made me a huge fan was the old SEGA Genesis game Shining Force.   And one thing in Shining Force I loved was Tao the Mage and hitting enemies with fire spells for horrible death.

RPM was a giant step for GURPS, in that its ‘build your own spells’ system allowed not only all that secret magic for urban fantasy and monster hunters stuff, it also allowed good old fashioned fireball slingers with Charms as Memorized spells!

Here I discuss how a simple boring fireball, of the classic ‘erupts into being’ sort that I associate with fireballs can actually be a rather multipurpose tool.   This will help show the flexibility of RPM, and that a single ritual can be a starting point rather than a straightjacket.

RPM allows you to do such nifty things as cooking your enemies with fire!  First, on pg 17 of RPM we see that in order to do an Indirect damage spell at range (like the classic fireball that simply erupts into being, as opposed to one thrown like a fiery baseball) we add a Range for where the spell will be created, and roll Innate Attack to hit.  Notably this spell also goes off when we create it, not requiring a round to throw!

So what is a fireball?

Pg. 19 of RPM we see ‘Specific Definition’, it notes that a ritual must be specifically defined for Ritual Mastery perks and for Grimoires.   A mage may or may not invest in ritual mastery perks, but it might not be a bad idea.  Grimoires are love though, so trying to buy a grimoire for your favorite spells is a great thing!

  1. Specific Spell Effects – For ‘Classic Fireball’ we want Greater Create Energy.
  2. What those effects do – A fireball erupts into being and cooks people with painful hurtings.
  3. Modifiers pt 1 – Very important it says these can be changed ‘On the Fly!’, don’t list specific values.   For our Fireball we want ‘Area Effect’.
  4. Modifiers pt 2 and their specific effect – We don’t need the numbers, but we need what they are.   For our Fireball we want ‘External Burning’ damage.
  5. It notes we don’t need to worry about Range here.   

So there we have it, ‘Classic Fireball’, a Fireball erupts into being and cooks people with painful hurtings (External Burning).

Maybe a bit of improvement would help to get an even better spell.   For instance, ‘Classic Smart Fireball’, which has Bestows a Bonus, Narrow, To Hit with Me, as well as ‘Area Effect, with Exclusions’.   This is ‘A fireball that erupts into being (hopefully where intended) and cooks people with painful hurtings (but not the people you don’t want cooked!)’.  It adds a Lesser Control Magic effect to accomplish ‘helps hit where its supposed to’.

Classic Smart Fireball

Greater Create Energy, Lesser Control Magic.  A fireball erupts into being to cook people with painful hurtings, helped by the magic to hit the correct people where desired!  (Area Effect with Exclusions,  Burning External Damage,  Bestows a Bonus, Narrow, ‘To Hit with Me’)

We are going to want to use this as a charm, so another Lesser Control Magic will be involved.

Before actually writing down rituals, we need to get an idea of the Mage who is going to be casting so we know the numbers to play with.

Let us assume then our Mage has Magery 6,  skill 18 in Path of Magic and Path of Energy, and has Ritual Mastery (Classic Smart Fireball), and a +4 grimoire of the same (relatively affordable!), and a +1 Charm Lab (not so affordable, but we are hopeful), and Higher Purpose Pyromania (I mean, Pyromancy!).   So we consider our Effective skill since this spell uses two Paths to be the lower of the two, but in this case they are the same (this is usually the case, you want your Path of Magic to be high enough you don’t turf spells using them as charms), so 18, +2 for Ritual Mastery, +4 for Grimoire, +1 for Charm Lab, and +1 for Higher Purpose = 26.   

How much energy do we have to play with then?   Well, 18 from our Magery 6 (3 per), and we look at the Quick and Dirty Charms Rules on pg 26.   So 125 energy = Safe Threshhold.   So 143 energy to play with without exceeding our safe threshhold.

Here is our most basic elemental form of this spell!

Classic Smart Fireball

Spell Effects: Greater Create Energy + Lesser Control Magic.

Inherent Modifiers: Damage, External Burning + Range + Bestows A Bonus, To hit with me + Area Of Effect.

Greater Effects: 1 (×3).

Classic Smart Fireball – A fireball erupts into being, cooking those intended with painful hurtings (the bestows a bonus and exclusions help avoid cooking those not intended and actually hitting the intended)

This Casting: Greater Create Energy (6) + Lesser Control Magic (5) + Lesser Control Magic (5) + Damage, External Burning 3d (0) + Range, 2 yds (0) + Bestows A Bonus, +1 to To hit with me (1) + Area Of Effect, 2 yards (0). 51 energy (17×3).

Created using this extremely awesome tool by Nick Coffin

(Note, I’m not sure the number it came up with for the Area Effect there is correct!  But, whatever, what the tool says is what I am using!)

Add some more damage and stuff and see what we get?

Classic Smart Fireball

Spell Effects: Greater Create Energy + Lesser Control Magic.

Inherent Modifiers: Damage, External Burning + Range + Bestows A Bonus, To hit with me + Area Of Effect.

Greater Effects: 1 (×3).

Classic Smart Fireball – A fireball erupts into being, cooking those intended with painful hurtings (the bestows a bonus and exclusions help avoid cooking those not intended and actually hitting the intended)

This Casting: Greater Create Energy (6) + Lesser Control Magic (5) + Lesser Control Magic (5) + Damage, External Burning 13d-1 (13) + Range, 30 yds (7) + Bestows A Bonus, +4 to To hit with me (8) + Area Of Effect, 3 yards, excluding up to 2 subjects (3). 141 energy (47×3).

That is a nice spell!

But this blog post is ‘The Many Faces of Fireball’.   Say instead you want to hit someone farther off?  We can lower damage and raise range!

Classic Smart Fireball, Sniper’s

Spell Effects: Greater Create Energy + Lesser Control Magic.

Inherent Modifiers: Damage, External Burning + Range + Bestows A Bonus, To hit with me + Area Of Effect.

Greater Effects: 1 (×3).

Classic Smart Fireball, Sniper’s – A fireball erupts into being, cooking those intended with painful hurtings (the bestows a bonus and exclusions help avoid cooking those not intended and actually hitting the intended)

Sniper’s – This one trades damage for better range and accuracy!

This Casting: Greater Create Energy (6) + Lesser Control Magic (5) + Lesser Control Magic (5) + Damage, External Burning 4d+2 (2) + Range, 100 yds (10) + Bestows A Bonus, +5 to To hit with me (16) + Area Of Effect, 3 yards, excluding up to 2 subjects (3). 141 energy (47×3).

Or a closer ranged harder hitting one?  

Classic Smart Fireball, Intense

Spell Effects: Greater Create Energy + Lesser Control Magic.

Inherent Modifiers: Damage, External Burning + Range + Bestows A Bonus, To hit with me + Area Of Effect.

Greater Effects: 1 (×3).

Classic Smart Fireball, Intense – A fireball erupts into being, cooking those intended with painful hurtings (the bestows a bonus and exclusions help avoid cooking those not intended and actually hitting the intended)

Intense – This one focuses on intensity of the flames sacrificing range and accuracy

This Casting: Greater Create Energy (6) + Lesser Control Magic (5) + Lesser Control Magic (5) + Damage, External Burning 21d (24) + Range, 7 yds (3) + Bestows A Bonus, +1 to To hit with me (1) + Area Of Effect, 3 yards, excluding up to 2 subjects (3). 141 energy (47×3).

How about one with greater area of effect to hit more targets?

Classic Smart Fireball, Widefire

Spell Effects: Greater Create Energy + Lesser Control Magic.

Inherent Modifiers: Damage, External Burning + Range + Bestows A Bonus, To hit with me + Area Of Effect.

Greater Effects: 1 (×3).

Classic Smart Fireball, Widefire – A fireball erupts into being, cooking those intended with painful hurtings (the bestows a bonus and exclusions help avoid cooking those not intended and actually hitting the intended)

Widefire – This one spreads weaker flames over a farther area, trading accuracy and intensity. It also increases exclusions as you may have more people you don’t want to hit!

This Casting: Greater Create Energy (6) + Lesser Control Magic (5) + Lesser Control Magic (5) + Damage, External Burning 10d-1 (9) + Range, 30 yds (7) + Bestows A Bonus, +1 to To hit with me (1) + Area Of Effect, 20 yards, excluding up to 4 subjects (14). 141 energy (47×3).

It wouldn’t be right to avoid mentioning grappling!  Here is one intended to help squishy mages avoid being grappled!

Classic Smart Fireball, No Touch Me

Spell Effects: Greater Create Energy + Lesser Control Magic.

Inherent Modifiers: Damage, External Burning + Range + Bestows A Bonus, To hit with me + Area Of Effect.

Greater Effects: 1 (×3).

Classic Smart Fireball, No Touch Me – A fireball erupts into being, cooking those intended with painful hurtings (the bestows a bonus and exclusions help avoid cooking those not intended and actually hitting the intended)

No Touch Me – This ones range is less than its area effect, intended as a resort for mages in danger of being overrun! The wise caster will choose themselves as one of the exclusions.

This Casting: Greater Create Energy (6) + Lesser Control Magic (5) + Lesser Control Magic (5) + Damage, External Burning 18d (20) + Range, 2 yds (0) + Bestows A Bonus, +1 to To hit with me (1) + Area Of Effect, 10 yards, excluding up to 4 subjects (10). 141 energy (47×3).

There are 5 different versions of the same ritual, cast at the same level of energy, all doing the same thing.   But doing it in 5 different ways, so that they can each play a similar but different role on the battlefield.

Hopefully this illustrates that creating a spell for RPM need not be one and done, instead, by moving the numbers around you find new uses for the same ritual, and get more bang for your buck out of the same grimoire and Ritual Master purchase!   It also greatly helps out designing your spell loadout, as this way you can have several Classic Smart Fireballs listed.

I have used this method in play with several characters and it has seemed to work well . . . . until you run into enemies who are fireproof at least.   Which leads us to our next Face of Fireball.

Using the same Classic Smart Fireball we can make a Classic Smart Forceball by just changing ‘Burning’ to ‘Crushing’ and changing the text to say ‘A forceball erupts into being, smashing those intended with painful hurtings (the bestows a bonus and exclusions help avoid smashing those not intended and actually hitting the intended)’

Unlike all the versions of Classic Smart Fireball, the Classic Smart Forceball IS a different ritual!  It is using force (or kinetic energy or whatnot!) to smash people, not fire to cook people, but, the actual writeup is identical.   Lets assume our example mage still has 18 in skills and 6 magery and a +1 charm lab. So the mage buys a Grimoire of Classic Smart Forceball at +3 (doesn’t want to spend as much on a secondary spell) and has no Ritual Mastery and no Higher Purpose, so, are looking at a 22.   Safe Threshhold is 85, so our spells energy is 103.

Classic Smart Forceball

Spell Effects: Greater Create Energy + Lesser Control Magic.

Inherent Modifiers: Damage, External Crushing + Range + Bestows A Bonus, To hit with me + Area Of Effect.

Greater Effects: 1 (×3).

Classic Smart Forceball – A forceball erupts into being, smashing those intended with painful hurtings (the bestows a bonus and exclusions help avoid smashing those not intended and actually hitting the intended)

This Casting: Greater Create Energy (6) + Lesser Control Magic (5) + Lesser Control Magic (5) + Damage, External Crushing 9d (8) + Range, 20 yds (6) + Bestows A Bonus, +1 to To hit with me (1) + Area Of Effect, 3 yards, excluding up to 2 subjects (3). 102 energy (34×3).

This way you do not have to reinvent the wheel, just tweak an existing spell and off you go!

I have been using RPM since it came out in MH1, and the ‘make one spell, and then fiddle with it for several variations’ is one of my favorite tricks, so I hope this was of use.   Thank you very much to Doug for agreeing to host this!

Reading an article on the differences between Pathfinder and Starfinder.

Well, I guess I was on to something with the Dragon Heresy Wounds/Vigor split.

I’m sure Starfinder has been in development for a long, long time. And I’m also sure I came up with Wounds/Vigor independently, though someone later pointed it out that Wounds and Vitality had long been tucked into an optional rule in the PFRPG Core book.

Still: let me echo that I think it’s absolutely the right call. Differentiating between “stuff that makes you bleed” and “reserve of skill, stamina, luck, and divine favor” as hit points were described on p. 82 of the original Dungeon Masters’ Guide by Gygax is, to me, incredibly useful and helps solve some real problems, especially when you push the game engine into the firearm era.

For now: yay, parallel evolution.

Also: Clearly Starfinder came out first, because, well, Paizo has resources and staff and I’ve got me. But Dragon Heresy, that rough beast, continues to move forward, slouching towards Bethlehem to be born, etc.

Live to Grapple. Grapple to Live.

  • Beowulf struggles with Grendel. Sinew parts, Grendel flees, dying.
  • A dragon plunges from above. It’s grasping talons seize the adventurers, bearing them away.
  • Mighty Ajax and Clever Odysseus struggle against each other, yet neither can throw the other, nor be thrown.
  • A python lashes out, grasping its prey first by the mouth, then its coils. It struggles weakly, then not at all.

From the first story ever told, to tales on the silver screen. They all have at least one thing in common: Grappling.

Grappling is thrilling, dangerous, and drives thousands of years of epic storytelling.

Dungeon Grappling brings those thrills to the oldest fantasy RPG with rules and examples for Swords and Wizardry (and other OSR-style games), the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, and 5e.

Dungeon Grappling provides:

  • Simple, unified mechanics, using the same concepts as weapon strikes
  • Variable outcomes – grapples can be good or bad
  • Dynamic, tense stories
  • Weapons, talons, magic . . . they’re all in here.
  • Grappling just got scary again!

What’s in the Book

First and foremost, this book contains rules based on Open Gaming Licence content from several editions of the industry’s most popular RPG – explicit examples for Swords and Wizardry, the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, and Fifth Edition.

This is the printed, hardcopy version. 

Let’s look inside:

Introduction: How can grappling be as epic at the tabletop as it has been in stories throughout history?

Core Concepts: Dungeon Grappling shows that the same basic concepts that you use to smite a foe with your sword are perfectly appropriate when grappling. The attack roll, target number, and effect roll are all unified in the context of grapples to minimize special cases.

Grappling Effects: Dungeon Grappling presents a variable effect roll – using both “control points” as well as conditions to make grappling exciting and unpredictable.

Grappling Techniques: This section gives you options, from simply rendering them immobile, to tossing or dragging, to takedowns, throws, choke holds, grappling with weapons, using magical spells to grapple in a way that makes all of them follow the same basic principles.

Monstrous Grappling: Let’s face it. Grappling is for monsters. A dozen examples are provided to highlight how to calculate the attack bonus, grappling target number (the equivalent of armor class for grappling), and the grappling damage roll, as well as brief discussions of how such monsters fight.

Combat Examples: An example vignette and grappling-oriented combat is provided for each of Swords and Wizardry, the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, and 5e.

Quick Reference Sheets: All of the key calculations, tables, and concepts are summarized in three pages in the back of the book for easy lookups and rules checks.

Art and Layout: Laid out and illustrated in full color by a great team of professionals, the interior is as beautiful as the rules are elegant.

 

I was invited by Jasyn Jones and John McGlynn to join them on their Geek Gab podcast to talk about Dungeon Grappling, after I posted my GenCon reports about the playtest.

Well, yeah, we covered grappling. But we also covered GURPS, the DFRPG, game design principles, and many other things, including HEMA and how useful first-hand research can be if you can do it. Roland Warzecha’s Dimicator videos got honorable mention. We talked a lot of 5e, some Pathfinder, a bit of Fate, and WEG’s d6 and GUMSHOE got a nod. I talked quite a bit about Dragon Heresy.

I had a great time, and we spoke for about 75 minutes. I talk kinda fast, but I don’t think I was incoherent, so yay.

Anyway: enjoy!

At GenCon, I sat on a panel. My first one, on how to get into the games design industry. I’d included this in my write-up/summary for that day, but the title didn’t give away the summary of the panel. So:

It was me, Andreas Walters (Baby Bestiary), a graphic design guy whose name I unfortunately can’t remember, and a real heavy hitter who was a big-dog project manager with a huge resume. I joked that I should just go sit in the audience.

In truth, though, he was talking mostly about how to manage a staff. Multiple writers, artists, a full time editing or layout staff (or at least many of them on contract), and running a big project by the scrum method.

For most of the folks there, I was a better model. I am currently doing what they want to do. So I added value.

Some things covered?

  • Yes, you need a professional editor. Yes, you. Always.
  • If you are looking to work with a game company, the first thing they will do is check you out on social media and see if you’re an ass-hat who picks fights. Several names were mentioned as folks not to emulate, including some fairly well-known names. But if you’re online picking fights, trolling, and generally being disagreeable, it is (in my mind correctly) assumed you will be a prima dona who is more trouble than they are worth, and your proposal and idea will be rejected (in truth, your proposal will be rejected anyway, by and large). If you want to be a game industry professional, the key words there are professional first, industry second, and game third.
  • Don’t pitch your new cool game to established companies. They don’t want it. WotC or Paizo or SJG have their own in-house things to do. This is probably true of most established companies. Want your game done your way? You’re going to need to do it yourself or find a company like Andreas’ or mine who is actually trying to build a portfolio of games and act as a rent-a-skill house for project management, art direction, etc.
  • When talking to a company about terms, rights, IP, etc., don’t expect there to be a One True Way of contracting and rights and IP assignment. Most of these contracts are ad hoc at the smaller guys, and negotiable at most of them. The folks that do have a One True Way probably don’t want your idea anyway. See a theme here?
  • No one is going to steal your Cool Game Idea. No one. Of the four folks on the panel, we probably had 20 or more ideas in the hopper. There are more ideas than time to work them. So we don’t much care about yours enough to steal it. That’s not an insult: you’re more likely to get helpful advice, and best wishes.
  • Much like in a roleplaying game, the key to happiness is to set expectations and meet them. Are you thinking you might be late? Say so early. Most companies can react to a well-timed and early note that things aren’t going well, that your computer or dog died, your wife left you, and your pickup truck broke down. They can’t react to “we needed this to be ready for GenCon, and your last minute note of panic means it won’t be.” You will simply never be employed by that company again.

Those were some remembered highlights from the panel. There was a lot covered, and it was a good time. I left my battle-mat in the meeting room, though. Alas, it was a casualty: missing, presumed lost.

I’ll add on a bit, thinking about it more.

Creativity and rules design are good skills to have for a writer and designer. For a publisher, someone that wants to bring games to market, you will need a whole lot of project and people management. You’ll need a suitably-sized rolodex (or digital equivalent) of contacts for artists, editors, layout pros, and printers. You’ll need to know more than just the basics of print specs, and what kinds of binding and production values are worth paying for. You’ll want to know the break-even points between POD and offset, and how to limit your risk. You need to know critical path theory, and what that implies for deadlines and parallel processing of work. You’ll need to know how to soothe ruffled feathers, give direction without giving offense, and work with folks you might not have at your dinner table, and to give hard negative feedback even to those you’d eat with, party with, or do adult things with. You’re a professional, and that has certain connotations. They can be a bit different for each person and company, which is why corporate culture matters. You’ll need to know the sticking points for artists, writers, and others. When to let folks keep their work as their own copyright, and when to insist it belongs to you.

Business is business, even when it’s the business of fun.

A Note on Book Pricing

This is an edit after the fact, because I know I mentioned this, but it’s buried somewhere else in a G+ or blog post.

I sat down for lunch with a pair of strangers on Friday, after my game. In discussing books and game design, I mentioned I’d come up with an algorithm which estimated pricing for a book as proportional to the square root of page count. A black and white softcover with descent illustration might wind up being 1.5-2x sqrt (Page Count), while hardcover, color, sewn binding (top production values) seems to fall around 3 x sqrt (page count).

One asked me how the heck I could come to that conclusion. I told him I’d gotten page counts and production values for the games and books on my shelf and others, and done a regression analysis. In short, I built a model that fit the observations. The other gentleman told me that I’d successfully re-created an old print industry rule of thumb: he’d been in the business a long time.

That’s not the only way to price books – you can use the “realtor” method and find a similarly-niched product of similar quality and type. In real estate, that’s called “comparables,” and is how houses seem to be priced. But since those books seem to follow the rule of thumb too, well, either will get you in the ballpark.

Let’s look at a few games.

  • My own Dungeon Grappling. 51 pages of content. Softcover. Color, nicely illustrated, but perfect bound. Print book for $18.99. Multiple is 2.66, and about 1.33 for the PDF. Truthfully, that might be a bit high. Not a ton: it’s still a nice book. But with softcover perfect bound from POD, the production values are good but not spectacular.
  • ACKS. Hardcover, black and white interior. 105# paper and a sewn binding. Retails for $40, and is 270 pages. Multiple is 2.43, which suggests about a 1.2 for the PDF. Color adds a LOT to the price of art buying (2-4x depending on the artist).
  • Shadows of Esteren. A4 size. Hardcover, gloriously illustrated. Sewn binding. 290 pages and $50. Multiple is 2.93, and is an archetype for what “high production values” means. I’d have pegged it as a 3.0, gotten a $51.09 price point, and then said “yah, $50, then” myself.
  • Pathfinder Core book. Letter, hardcover, 576 pages. Sewn. Thinner paper than ACKS, maybe 70-85# at a guess. Only $50, so a multiple of barely more than 2.0. With a multiple of $2.75 it would be a $66 price point, and fair for the cost of the book. I suspect they can do optimal 9,000-unit type print runs, and so the cost of the book is probably less than $8, which means that at $50 they’re still getting more than 6x their cost, allowing for good profits to be made even through wholesale (40-45% of cover).
  • GURPS Spaceships. 70 pages. POD. Black and white interior. Sparse art of mediocre inspiration value. $16 softcover through CreateSpace. That’s a 1.91 multiple, and that’s about right, I think.

My conclusion here is that DG is probably priced a bit high. That might help explain why it moves very well on sale but not as much regularly. I may wind up adjusting this by a buck or two.

So maybe start at 3.0 for full-on awesome. Drop -0.45 to -0.55 for losing color and about -0.25 for perfect bound vs sewn, and another -0.25 for softcover. Also consider your cost to manufacture and make sure you can make money, but realize diminishing returns. Fred Hicks has suggested PDF pricing should be about half of the physical copy, but one can see alternate philosophies. SJG has the PDF at about 70% of physical copy cost, but that might be as much that they priced their PDF at a 1.31 multiple, so could have/should have gone for a 2.66 physical copy cost, but instead did not. Through CreateSpace, the books are $2.15 each to print, I think; $4.11 through DriveThruRPG. If the PDF price was long-standing set at $11, then a $15-16 price would basically give them a tetch more profit than PDF . . . but of course CreateSpace takes their chunk of flesh.

Pricing is an art, not a science – but it’s informed by science and apparently an industry rule-of-thumb that I mathed my way into reproducing. It’s a decent guideline, though.

I’m working through my Grappling Smackdown scenario here, and setting the DCs for various tasks is a thing. I wanted to make a table to quickly inform me of roughly how hard something might be, so I figured I’d share the results. This isn’t a revelation, but it’s useful to me so it might be useful to you.

One useful tidbit from the post on The Standard Array: Joe Human PC with the standard array and who is proficient in a given task will sport a 13.5 attribute as a median, and of course have a +2 proficiency bonus. This makes the average starting boosts to the die rolls about +3.5.

I’ve picked out some example DCs. Obviously moving the DC up or down a point changes the odds of success (on the average) by 5%.

DC 6

At this level, a potted plant that isn’t proficient in the skill has a 50% chance of noticing something or accomplishing a task. I’m having to significantly question why bother rolling at all here. It’s a level that might get interesting if due to unfavorable terrain or darkness or something everyone gets disadvantage.

DC 8

A first level, proficient character with a 10 ability score will still succeed 75% of the time, or a non-proficient character with a 14, a solid but not exceptional DX, for example. This is a good level for a simple task which requires some talent or expertise to get through, but by and large will be a speed bump. Even my potted plant, above (-5 ability score, not proficient) if allowed a roll will succeed on a 13 or higher, 40% of the time.

DC 11

This is still an entry level task, where a completely non-proficient average guy can succeed 50% of the time. The median starting human PC will be succeeding on this by rolling an 8, so 65% chance of success. There’s only a 10% chance of failure for a typical proficient 10th level PC operating in the expert zone. A DC 11 means that it’s still expected most folks will do this well, but the odds of failure for the uninitiated are high.

At DC 11 and DC 12, a non-proficient character rolling against one of their lowest two ability scores (9-11 as a human) will more or less have a 50% chance of success. So it’s the dividing line for “requires some sort of atypical ability or advantage to succeed better than half the time.” Atypical for PCs, that is.

DC 14

Odds of a median first through fourth level PC who is proficient in the skill failing this roll is about 50%. At this level if you’re positing (say) a forked path for adventurers of 1st through 4th level (+2 proficiency), you’re basically saying “flip a coin.” I feel this is a pretty important DC level, as it sets the boundaries for making decisions in adventures. Want your “secret pathway” to come up about half the time? That’s about a DC 14 check . . . but you better be darn sure you have it in your mind that if everyone is allowed a roll, half the median party will fail, and half will succeed, assuming their attributes and skills are spread around a bit.

Anything harder than DC 14 will require advantage, high attributes, and high proficiency to make it a cake-walk. For example, a +4 bonus and +4 proficiency, given as a 10th level character with an 18 or 19 ability score, will still fail this check 25% of the time, although if they have expertise or can eke out advantage from somewhere, they’ll only fail if they crit.

DC 17

Now you’re into telling the GM and PCs you expect them to fail. A first level PC will need to roll 14 or higher to succeed here, and even our hypothetical +8 bonus 10th level proficient character will need to roll 9 or higher (60%). An untrained person using their “dump stat” of (say) 9 or 10 will have a 75-80% failure rate here. Only a true expert (has Expertise in the skill) at high proficiency with an outstanding ability score will be looking at this as trivial.

DC 17, though, is also the level where your low-level party expert (+2 proficiency, +4 in their chosen skill at 4th level due to an ability score improvement) has a 50% chance of success. So much as DC 11 or 12 is the dividing line for making it hard for the unskilled, DC 17 is the line above which only the truly exceptional will succeed more than they fail.

DC 21

Now you’re just being mean. You need +5 proficiency, +5 attribute score, and you have a 50% chance of making this. It’s the break-even for high-level, high-skill “this is still hard” tests. At low level, you’re saying “only a crit will get you here, and only if you have a bonus, at that.” Again, one has to ask why bother unless it’s something that you think the PCs might try but it’ll be pretty silly. Well, yes, you could leap the chasm, but it’s DC 21 . . . chances of success are low.

Parting Shot

So, hopefully this will be of use as a quick reference, if nothing else. Good ability score bonuses to keep in mind are probably +0 (dump stat), +1.5 (median starting character), +3 (expert starting character), and +5 (fully developed unless you’re breaking the 20-maximum rule, as some classes do). Proficiencies are +2 (starting), +4 (mid-level), and +6 (pinnacle). Figure out how likely you want success to be, and adjust from there. Ergo, a handy table. Well, handy for me.

Ability Score Proficiency 25% Success 50% success 75% Success
0 2 18 13 8
0 4 20 15 10
0 6 22 17 12
1.5 2 19.5 14.5 9.5
1.5 4 21.5 16.5 11.5
1.5 6 23.5 18.5 13.5
3 2 21 16 11
3 4 23 18 13
3 6 25 20 15
5 2 23 18 13
5 4 25 20 15
5 6 27 22 17

Monster Monday again. This time with a repurposed Invisible Stalker, an elemental of vengeance.

While some elementals are brought for benign reasons to the Realms of the Field, the Invisible Stalker is always brought for one purpose: to hunt and kill some quarry.

The invisible stalker is a limited form of air elemental, but has sacrificed some of its cousin’s offensive power (the whirlwind attack) for true invisibility, except for the exact moment it attacks. Even then, it is a DC 15 perception check to see the “thickening” of the air that occurs when the creature uses its melee attack.

It is the attack itself that is visible (and very audible!), however, and once it moves away from the target, it becomes invisible again.

Stalkers are not always summoned to evil intent, but they are always brought to the Realms of the Field for lethal intent. Unlike many other creatures, an Invisible Stalker will not stop attacking its target until it has reached more than double its wound maximum—it beats its target until the stalker is defeated or the foe is broken and dead on the ground.

Medium elemental, neutral

Speed 50 ft., fly 50 ft. (hover)

STR DEX   CON INT WIS CHA
16 19 14 10 15 11
 +3  +4  +2 0  +2 0
Defenses   Wound Thresholds
Threat DC 14   Morale Injury KO Death
Hit DC 25 0-4 5-8 9-17 18+
DR 0 Control Thresholds
Vigor 104 Grab Grapple Restr. Incap.
Vigor Dice 16d8+32 0-5 6-10 11-20 21+

 

Proficiency +3

Skills. Perception +8, Stealth +10

Damage Resistances. Bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing from nonmagical attacks

Damage Immunities. Poison

Condition Immunities. Exhaustion, grappled, paralyzed, petrified, poisoned, prone, restrained, unconscious

Senses. Darkvision 60 ft., passive Perception 18

Languages. Auran, understands Common but doesn’t speak it

Challenge 6 (2,300 XP)

Invisibility. The stalker is invisible.

Faultless Tracker. The stalker is given a quarry by its summoner. The stalker knows the direction and distance to its quarry as long as the two of them are on the same realm within Yggdrasil. The stalker also knows the location of its summoner.

Actions

Multiattack. The stalker makes two slam attacks.

Slam. Melee Weapon Attack: +7 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 2d6+3 thunder damage.

In Wednesday’s post, plus others, I mused on shields, and how actively they’re used. Thinking about DnD5e, and therefore Dragon Heresy as well, how can we model this, if we wanted to?

DnD5e

In a way, this is the easiest. The options are fairly straight-forward.

Protection Plus

The Protection fighting style allows giving an incoming attack disadvantage so long as it’s not directed at you. It costs you your reaction. OK, well, if you’re going to spend your reaction, you should benefit. So just extend it. Spend your reaction, and you can give one incoming attack disadvantage, so long as it’s directed at a target within five feet of your location. This includes yourself.

So between the +2 you get for just being proficient with a shield and the +5 (ish) you’d get for opting to stick your shield in your foe’s face, suddenly shields no longer suck so long as you’re using it actively. So actively, in fact, that you can’t make opportunity attacks or do all sorts of other things that come by spending your reaction.

I’m sure this is a house rule already in use all over the place, but it seems logical. Personally, I might allow the protection action to apply to yourself as a matter of being proficient with the shield; to use it for others provides the style. Or, perhaps, you can “protect” a fellow combatant by using your bonus action, and so long as you are within five feet of that creature, the first attack sent their way is at disadvantage. This does not use up your own reaction.

Obviously both would need playtesting. But shields would be very, very desirable here.

Sword-and-Board?

The dueling fighting style gives you more damage when you’re only using one weapon, but the other hand can use a shield.

Two-weapon fighting is for things like dual-dagger, and shortsword and dagger: two light weapons unless you take a Feat that’s in the PHB but not the SRD which allows you to fight with (say) rapier and dagger, or katana and wakisashi.

But what about aggressive sword-and-board? Let’s see how far we can get by just bastardizing the text.

Shield-Weapon Fighting
When you take the Attack action and attack with a light melee weapon that you’re holding in is being wielded with one hand, you can use a bonus action to attack with a different light melee weapon a shield that you’re holding in the other hand. You don’t add your ability modifier to the damage of the bonus attack, unless that modifier is negative. A medium shield strikes for 1d6 damage. You must be proficient with shields to take this fighting style.

Strikethrough is removed text; italics are added.

See above about being able to impose disadvantage on one attack directed at a shield-wielder by spending your reaction. Much like the Two-Weapon Fighter Feat allows you to add both the ability bonus and to use not-light weapons, there should probably be a version for Shield-Weapon fighting.

Either that, or simply let “a different light melee weapon” be appended with “a shield.” This would be best if 5e included a buckler-sized shield (say, at +1 to AC) that was 2 lbs and considered a light weapon/armor, and then the medium shield would be considered a not-light version.

Note: allowing a buckler to be actively used to induce disadvantage on one attack, at the cost of spending your reaction, but give no AC bonus, that is, +0 to AC, but allows this use of the reaction, would be a good way to go here as well.

Another way to go would be to allow the primary weapon to be either light or finesse weapons, so that Two-Weapon fighting would include sword-and-buckler or Florentine sword-and-dagger, but you’d need the feat to do shield-and-longsword, flail, battleaxe, or shield-and-spear (which is versatile, not finesse).

That’s not bad either, and might be preferred so one doesn’t waste a feat/style to mimic one of the more popular cinematic and realistic fighting methods!

Parting Shot

One has to be careful about mucking about with fundamental stuff in a deeply playtested game such as 5e. Tweaking bounded accuracy or changing fundamental assumptions of how certain things work (or don’t) can ripple through with some pretty big unintended consequences.

Still, advantage/disadvantage is not considered to be breaking such things, and it already exists, in a way, for the Protection fighting style for others. There’s really nothing between +2 to AC for being proficient with a shield, and the Dodge action which is a total defense that gives disadvantage on all attacks thrown at you.

Allowing being proficient with a shield to give the benefits of a dodge to a single attack by spending what seems to be one’s precious reaction hopefully shouldn’t break much. It will give a boost to shields that makes them more useful, which I like a lot. But they’re still vulnerable to multiple attacks by one or many foes – they can’t be everywhere.

I’ll have to review my Dragon Heresy manuscript. I do some cool things with shields in that ruleset, but I wonder if some of the ideas I’ve had here should either be added, or even replace some of the existing concepts.