08 October 2017

Alternate Magic system for Wizards

I've been thinking of wizard spells being affected by the specialization school of the wizard, rather than being a generic effect duplicated by every wizard who casts the spell. I'm working from the spell schools as defined in 3rd edition and later, though it could be applied to older versions of D&D as well. For example, Magic Missile effects would vary by the caster's focus:

  • Abjuration: Target of each missile must save or be stunned for (caster level) rounds. Each missile above the first to hit a single target increases the save difficulty by 1.
  • Conjuration: Caster chooses heavy darts or nets at the time of casting.
    • Darts: Targets are hit for 1d4+1 damage per missile.
    • Nets: Targets are entangled for (caster level) rounds. Each additional missile to hit a single target increases the duration of the entangled condition by 1 round.
  • Divination: Targets are automatically hit for 5 damage for each missile.
  • Enchantment: Target of each missile must be saved or be fascinated for (caster level) round. Each missile above the first to hit a single target increases the duration by 1 round.
  • Evocation: choose fire or ice at time of casting. 
    • Fire: Target must save or catch fire; each missile above the first to hit a single target increases the save difficulty by 1.
    • Ice: Target must save or be slowed for (caster level) rounds. Each missile above the first to hit a single target increases the duration by 1 round.
  • Illusion: Target must save or be struck unconscious. Each missile above the first to hit a single target increases the duration by 1.
  • Necromancy: Target must save or have STR or CON (caster's choice) temporarily reduced by 2 for (caster level) rounds. Each additional missile adds 1 to the reduction, and 1 round to duration.
  • Transmutation: Target must save or be transmogrified into a small, harmless animal (chicken, mouse, etc. - caster's choice) for (caster level) rounds. Each additional missile above the first to hit a single target increases the save difficulty by 1.
  • In cases where a saving throw is required, a target that makes a save takes 2 damage per missile that hits instead.
This will obviously require some re-working of the wizard's spell list, to eliminate duplication of effects. Keep in mind not all spells will be usable by all wizard specialists.

18 July 2017

Simple(ish) Social interaction for d20

The next time I run a d20-based game, I'm going to try this relatively simple social hack my partner and I came up with for players interacting with NPCs. This system should work with just about any d20-based system. The examples below are based on Moldvay B/X and compatibles, but with a little modification should work with AD&D, 3E/Pathfinder, 4E, 5E, and so on.

  1. Referee first determines the disposition of the NPC or group of NPCs (target) the players want to interact with. This is done with a standard 2d6 reaction roll.
  2. Presuming parley is possible, the referee generates a Coercion/Persuasion spectrum for the target by rolling 3d6, and using the modifier determination method for their system. Negative modifiers represent susceptibility to coercion, and positive modifiers represent susceptibility to persuasion. An example using the Moldvay Basic rules:
  3. ScoreSpectrum
    3+3 Coercion / -3 Persuasion
    4-5+2 Coercion / -2 Persuasion
    6-8+1 Coercion / -1 Persuasion
    9-12No susceptibility
    13-15+1 Persuasion / -1 Coercion
    16-17+2 Persuasion / -2 Coercion
    18+3 Persuasion / -3 Coercion
  4. Players desiring something from the target then attempts to convince the target to provide what the player wants by either using coercion or persuasion. The player states the method (coerce or persuade), and gives a general explanation of the action the character takes.
  5. The referee determines the appropriate ability (if any) that might apply, and the player rolls a d20 vs the Moldvay Basic rules combat table (reproduced below; p.B27), applying the bonus/penalty as determined by their choice of coercion or persuasion, plus any relevant ability modifier. Note that this table should be used even if the players are using the Expert rules to keep such interactions challenging for higher level characters. The disposition number becomes the armor class number on the table. Any results higher than 9 are treated as 9, and results lower than 2 are treated as 2, just to keep things simple.
  6. CharacterDisposition roll
    Level9+8765432 -
  7.  If the d20 roll +/- spectrum modifier +/- ability modifier (if any) is equal to or greater than the number on the table, the target will (perhaps grudgingly) acquiesce.
  8. If the players simply want to alter the disposition of the target, they can attempt it by following the same procedure. On a success, the disposition score improves by 1 (up to a maximum of 12).
There is room to tinker here beyond simply adapting for a particular ruleset; some possibilities:
  • One could extend the disposition roll out on either end instead of compressing the high and low ranges,
  • The referee could invert the disposition number if the players attempt to improve the disposition of the target, requiring a harder roll to improve it,
  • Results don't necessarily need to be binary - it should be easy for a referee to incorporate degrees of success or failure based on the roll's proximity to the target number, 
  • The referee could instead use a fixed target number for specific actions.
Credit goes to The Discordian for the initial idea and helping me hash it out, and to the BreeYark article How to Use a B/X Combat Matrix for Everything for the (brilliantly simple) idea of using the Basic Combat Matrix.

15 June 2017

XP For SR3

Good Karma is the experience reward system used in Shadowrun 3E. In between activities, characters can expend karma to improve attributes, improve existing skills, or learn new skills. These rules are somewhat complicated, and may be subject to simplification at a later date.


On the table below are two scores for each attribute by meta-human type. The first value is the racial modified value, and the number in parenthesis is the attribute maximum. To improve an attribute less than or equal to the racial modified value, a character must spend 2 times the new attribute score in good karma to improve the attribute. Values between the racial modified value and the attribute maximum cost 3 times the attribute score to increase.
For example, a human who wishes to improve Body from 4 to 5 would require (5 x 2=)10 karma.
The same human who wished to increase Body from 6 to 7 would require (7 x 3=) 21 karma.
Attributes must be increased one point at a time - a character cannot 'skip' from 5 to 7 without purchasing 6.

7 (11)
6 (9)
6 (9)
9 (14)
11 (17)
6 (9)
7 (11)
6 (9)
6 (9)
5 (8)
8 (12)
6 (9)
6 (9)
8 (12)
10 (15)
6 (9)
8 (12)
6 (9)
5 (8)
4 (6)
6 (9)
6 (9)
6 (9)
5 (8)
4 (6)
7 (11)
6 (9)
6 (9)
6 (9)
6 (9)

Skill Improvement

Skill improvement costs are different for active and knowledge skills. The table below shows the needlessly complicated cost calculations:

Base SkillActiveKnowledge/Language
New Skill Rating is ....
Equal or less than the linked Attribute
Equal or less than 2 x Attribute
More than 2 x Attribute
New Skill Rating is ....
Equal or less than linked Attribute
Equal or less than 2 x Attribute
More than 2 x Attribute

Learning New Skills
New skills can be purchased at a skill rating of 1, at a cost of 1 good karma. This is true of Active, Knowledge, or Language skills. Once a skill has been learned, it is improved according to the table above.
A new specialization can only be purchased for an existing base skill. To begin a new specialization, the character must buy the specialization at a rating 1 point higher than the base skill. With a new specialization, obtaining a new specialization does not reduce the base skill.
A character may have as many specializations as equal to their base skill rating for that skill.

Simplified hacking rules for SR3

This is a proposed hacking simplification for Shadowrun 3E. It retains the dice pools, the operational and special utilities for a deck, the deck ratings, and system ratings. The main changes are to the target number to determine a success, and the elimination of the 28 distinct but ultimately limiting actions into 5 broad categories of actions.

Systems are still identified in the format Security Rating-Access/Control/Index/Files/Slave.

Security Rating is a color code followed by a number. The color code (blue, green, orange, or red) is a shorthand indicator for how quickly the system responds to unauthorized operations. Higher difficulty systems respond faster to the security tally than lower difficulty systems. The number is the size of the dice pool the system will use when attempting to detect or oppose an unauthorized user.
The ACIFS code references the strengths of 5 separate subsystems on a particular host.
Access is used for tests involving access and authorization.
Control is used for tests involving altering or executing commands.
Index is used for tests involving locating files, information, or other resources.
File is used for tests involving uploading/downloading/creating/deleting files
Slave is used for tests to control devices under the direct control of this host, such as maglocks, security cameras, etc.

I also use the security rating as a helper when randomly generating the values for a host. The table below lists the various values that are typically assigned to a particular security rating:

RatingTNDice PoolValuesTally Step

TN refers to the target number on a d6 for a success. Rather than use the variable target number in SR3, I am using a fixed TN based on the difficulty of the system.

In the simplified system, the hacker determines which of the subsystem or subsystems on the target host  he or she wants to interact with each round. The security value for the subsystem indicates the number of successes required to obtain full access to the subsystem, at which point the hacker no longer has to make tests when interacting with that particular subsystem.

Operational utilities that the hacker has loaded into his/her deck will modify this number of successes - the utility rating is subtracted from the subsystem rating, and the difference is the actual number of successes needed, with a minimum of 1 success required.

Note that full control of a subsystem isn't always required for an action; the results of an incremental success (cumulative total of less than the total required) should be communicated to the player as to what new information or actions are now available.

Finally decryption/encryption will be handled as an isolated system. The encryption strength of a remote host can be determined randomly with a value tied to the host's security rating, or assigned a number. A hacker who is encrypting data from his deck will use the deck's MPCP rating to determine the strength of his encryption.

14 June 2017

News excerpts - June 14 2065

Excerpts from the morning news on the 'net:

  • New York Post: "Eight people were injured, two of which are in serious but stable condition, after an emergency crash barrier suffered a malfunction yesterday. The barrier, located near the Midtown Pedestrian Zone entrance at 7th Avenue and 39th Street, released without warning, injuring several people. 'An equipment malfunction resulted in the injury of several people, and we are conducting a full investigation,' said NYPD, Inc. spokesperson Tariqua Enqar. 'We're conducting a full audit of the emergency traffic control systems surrounding the Pedestrian Zone to make sure there are no additional failures,' she said..."
  • Bitcoin Buzz: "Share price for local courier service Hustle & Bustle suffered a major drop this morning as the rumor mill is buzzing about the loss of a very lucrative contract with Aztechnology. The contract was purported to account for more than 60% of H&B's annual revenues..."
  • rumormill.nyc.mastodon: "Spitfire Lightning: a little birdie tells me that the azzies are pretty pissed at the nypd and nyc corps after some property of theirs was lost yesterday. no chirping on the nature of the lost property, but i hear aztech is angling for some concessions from the city's corp and using the shitshow in midtown as an excuse..."
  • hiflyers.ny.mastodon: "FlyingHi: I'm hearing reports from some fairly reliable sources that there's some sort of illness spreading through the Straekker Orbital. Anyone have anything concrete on this?"
  • My Body Is A Weapon: "Chepi School, Inc. has apparently suspended operations in the wake of an ongoing investigation that a performance enhancer demonstrated through MMA rising star Steel Hicks was responsible for the deaths of dozens of people."

25 May 2017

SR3 Session 3 - Security Through Obscurity Is Not Security

May 23 2017

+Beloch Shrike as Minnie Billions, street samurai
+Ronnie Whelan as Nadya Tatyana Mihalovich, russian hacker

New NPC: "King Gin", troll mage leader of the NAoNYC collective.

Rewards: 41,500btc and 20,000btc worth of BTL (wholesale price). 4 karma each.

Other: Blockchain ID for King Gin - can be used to contact King Gin through the 'dark Matrix' mastodons.

We pick up where the shadowrunners left off - parked in the ruins along the Newark Bay in Jersey City. They are following up on a lead that was discovered when looking for a quick way to build funds to acquire more stock in the corporation Bi-Courios, a bicycle courier service that operates in New York City.

The lead is the current location of the leader of the 14K Chung Lee tong, Chin "Curry". The 'runners intended to collect him and turn him over to rival "industrial" leader Tiang Ping, who runs the On Leong tong and is willing and anxious to pay for the opportunity to have his rival in his clutches.

Curry, who has been on the lam after Lone Star and NYPD, Inc. issued an arrest warrant for racketeering, trafficking, manufacture and sale of controlled substances, and a host of other charges, has been paying a local anarchist collective (the NeoAnarchists of New York City) to shuffle him from location to location and is currently occupying one of the NAoNYC's safe houses in this abandoned area of Port Newark.

A tip from a contact directed the 'runners here, and in the relative safety of nighttime they exit the expressway and make their way through the deserted streets. The two 'runners secure the WizardVan and move through the ruins far north and west of the warehouse where Curry is rumored to be holed up, looking for lookouts. Nadya soon spots the glint of reflected city light from plastic or metal. Further investigation discovers a a small tachikoma, reeling in its control tether (and thus not operating autonomously) as it patrols the ruined streets. Skirting the drone tank and proceeding further east, a river camp of squatters is spotted, its firelight a giveaway in the darkness.

The team then proceeds south, avoiding an encounter with a sleepless squatter as he makes his way to the rusted hulk of a car to sleep. A bit further on, in the midst of a massive multi-vehicle collision, they spy two gangsters sporting Kalashnikov-style assault rifles and arguing about the necessity to kill the squatters for operational security.

After the gangsters move off, their argument trailing off into a more philosophical discussion, they eventually gain the rooftop of a building near the warehouse. Waiting for the drone to patrol the street directly below (hoping that if the cameras they spotted are motion sensing they will be drawn to the drone), the 'runners observe the roof and the two floors directly across and above them for light or movement.

A tell-tale whine heralds the return of the drone below. The moment it is directly below, they grapple across to the roof of the warehouse. A quick scout shows no one else is there.

Nadya taps into one of the hardlines running from each of the cameras into the warehouse through the roof-access door. She quickly determines the cameras are cheap Indonesian models, with rudimentary encryption and nothing in the way of local storage. Sniffing the camera's authentication token, she gains access to the computer the gangsters have set up to control the cameras and alarms, and quickly instructs the computer to delete any recorded footage from the cameras 30 seconds after it is saved. She then alters the condition of the door alarms (1 for the roof, and 5 on the ground floor) so they only sound if the doors are opened on Monday.

The two quickly enter and move down through the warehouse, noting that the top three floors appear to be deserted, or at least without any light or movement. They reach the ground floor, and see cheap disposable LED lights stuck at intervals along the walls in the stairwell.

Exiting the stairwell quietly, they immediately encounter three gangsters sleeping in the room adjacent to the stairwell entrance. The 'runners sneak past them, encountering two more guards dozing near one of the entry doors to the warehouse. While Minnie silently positions herself near one of the guards, Nadya draws down on the other guard with her silenced sniper rifle, and on Minnie's signal shoots him. Her six successes stage the damage up from 14-Serious to 14-Deadly (the max), and the guard manages no body saves. He slumps over, dead from a gunshot wound. As the other guard struggles awake, Minnie swings her squad automatic toward him and offers him a simple choice - cooperate or be shot.

The guard hastily informs the team where Curry is located within the warehouse, but attempts to warn them off with dire predictions about the gang's leader, "King Gin". Minnie cuts him off, and offers that now is the perfect time to leave. The ganger agrees, and hauls ass out the front door.

As the party moves down a main hallway toward the cluster of four rooms set aside as Curry's "suite", King Gin is finally awakened by the spirit guardians he set in place. He begins to bellow about intruders from a room behind the 'runners, and initiative is rolled.

With her wired reflexes, Minnie runs into the suites, quickly finds Curry, and exits the suites with Curry in tow before anyone else can even react.

As she begins to drag Curry up the hallway, King Gin finally bursts from a room right off the hallway. Nine feet tall, the troll King Gin drops into a crouch and raises his hands to fire off a spell. Minnie quickly begins to negotiate, suggesting that a fight would be terrible for both the neo-anarchists and for her team, and that she and Nadya had no grudge against the neos. She offers Gin 20,000btc to let her team leave with Curry. King Gin mulls this over for a moment, and after verifying that the neo-anarchists could keep the money, weapons, and supplies Curry had already provided, he agreed, stating that Chin had worn out his welcome. A safe distance was established between the two groups while Nadya obtained Gin's blockchain ID and forwarded him the promised 20,000.  Gin then withdrew to a safe distance, asking the 'runners to keep the neo-anarchists in mind if they ever needed any anti-corp work done, "the bloodier the better."

As Nadya ensured Curry couldn't talk to counter-offer, the team moved out of the warehouse and back through the ruins to the WizardVan. An hour later or so, the 'runners arrive in the Gansevoort district in Manhattan to turn Curry over to a giddy Ping. Ping, very pleased with the rapidity in which the 'runners nabbed Curry and delivered him, offered a boon over and above the agreed-upon payment. Minnie thought about it a moment, and mentioned that they had paid the NAoNYC 20,000 to release Curry. Making sure the two runners only wanted the 20,000 in cash, Ping handed over the payment, and chuckling loudly escorted Curry into his warehouse.

Minnie and Nadya receive 41,500btc and BTL chips worth 20,000btc at wholesale. Both also receive 4 karma each for an excellent execution of their plans, with only one shot fired and one casualty.

These events occurred on or about the early morning of Thursday, May 14, 2065.