Wednesday, May 18, 2011

LARP design: Storyboarding and Downtime

For people who don't play Eclipse, this post may not hold a lot of interest, except in the area of theoretical design for boffer LARPs. For people who do play Eclipse, and especially for those who run it, this post may be controversial, but I will studiously obey the second rule of this blog: commentary without fulmination.

In the days leading up to the most recent Eclipse event, Plot made posts on the main in-play boards about a surprise attack by one of the major setting villains, the Ahramni Empire, against the planet of Taranis. The game has long been in the habit of posting "news from around the galaxy" in the form of INN broadcasts. They serve to keep players informed (through an unreliable source) about all kinds of developments, but typically they are written (as its ancestors, SI's Whispered Tales and KG's Port of Call, were) about events that are essentially completed and finite events - most often something that happened several days, weeks, or months ago. Knowing about these events may be interesting or useful to the players, but (until this particular case) there has not been a sense that PCs could interfere with them while they are ongoing.

Seizing the initiative, however, enterprising players questioned why they could not mobilize the military divisions of which they are Champions, and travel through the Web Ways to Taranis. There was some in-character argument about this, centered on possible political fallout, but in the end, I think just about all of the ten player-controlled divisions of the Army of the Covenant traveled to Taranis. Players communicated orders to their divisions from afar, through the Web Way communication beacons.

A much larger number of players than the ten PCs commanding the Army of the Covenant were also interested in traveling to Taranis, however, once it became clear that this would even be possible. To the best of my recollection, this was also the point at which the AoC PCs also decided to travel to Taranis in person. They did so, with updates over the course of a day posted in Google Buzz or sent to them in email. Events transpired, with the unexpected appearance of some long-lost NPCs and a last, grand gesture of obliteration by the Ahramni Empire. It looked for a time as if the entire group might be destroyed by a massive atomic bomb, but thanks to the intervention of a character back on the main game world of Eclipse, the atomic bomb was rendered inert and harmless. Countless lives saved, et cetera.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

3.5 Kitbash: Planetary Spell Lists

Way back in this post, I proposed a rework of 3.5e spell lists to create a new and different cosmology in a setting, one based on planets and constellations rather than the eight schools of magic. At the time, I was not at all sure that I would do anything with the idea, but it's a lazy Saturday afternoon, so I decided that now was a good time. In this post from even longer ago, I threw out a pantheon off the top of my head for the sake of attaching names to the idea I was proposing. Since I need the same thing for this post, I've used those names and themes. I've only gotten through third level spells so far, but were I to run this, it would be E6, so I might not go much beyond this. I've drawn spells from the 3.5 PH, Player's Handbook 2, and Spell Compendium, so it is not actually OGL-compliant as such, but I don't intend to sell any of this.


Astrologers have observed six celestial bodies that they call planets. Those who commune with the gods have learned that each of the five gods is associated with one of these planets; no one is exactly certain who or what might be associated with the sixth planet, but given the constellations through which it passes, many have wondered and feared at the answer.

Forgeheart, the Planet of Talend
First Level Wizard Spells
Mage Armor
Magic Weapon
Summon Monster I
True Strike

Second Level Wizard Spells
Fox's Cunnng
Ghost Touch Armor (Spell Compendium)
Gust of Wind*
Locate Object*
Summon Monster II

Third Level Wizard Spells
Bands of Steel (Spell Compendium)
Diamondsteel (Spell Compendium)
Explosive Runes
Greater Magic Weapon
Lesser Telepathic Bond* (Spell Compendium)
Shrink Item*
Summon Monster III

The Silver Eye, the Planet of Vashtal
First Level Wizard Spells
Disguise Self
Magic Missile

Second Level Wizard Spells
Acid Arrow
Arcane Lock*
Eagle's Splendor
Magic Mouth*
Mirror Image

Third Level Wizard Spells
Arcane Sight*
Deep Slumber
Dimension Step (Player's Handbook 2)
Dispel Magic
Gentle Repose*
Lightning Bolt
Unluck (Spell Compendium)

Purifier, the Planet of Tura Keshik
First Level Wizard Spells
Burning Hands
Charm Person
Comprehend Languages*
Entropic Shield
Reduce Person

Second Level Wizard Spells
Bear's Endurance
Command Undead
Delay Poison
False Life
Owl's Wisdom*
Scorching Ray

Third Level Wizard Spells
Halt Undead
Protection from Energy
Tiny Hut*
Wall of Light (Spell Compendium)

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

New 4e Terrain Powers from the DMG

As suggested in my last post, I think there's a huge amount of potential for additional terrain powers. In this post, I'm mining the terrain section of Chapter 4 of the 4e DMG (pp 64-69) for types of terrain that might have associated powers, which brings me to the realization that I have only ever skimmed this section before. This will probably be an ongoing series of articles, particularly because the original seems to have been tolerably popular.

Before I dive into it, I want to comment on the WotC article I linked before, here. The article includes some really neat ideas for terrain powers relating to specific dungeon dressing, and I especially like the way powers that take a move action at heroic take a minor action at paragon or epic. I think this is a great way to keep players using terrain powers at higher levels without scaling up the damage or other effects, given that the opportunity cost of those actions increases. Oh, and the article remembers to introduce some terrain powers that don't rely on Athletics to use.

Pivoting Statue  Single-Use Terrain
This statue is built to pivot in place. You hang your enemy on the statue's sword, and kick the base of the statue so that it whirls around.
Standard Action
Requirement: You must have an opponent grappled, and you or your opponent must be adjacent to the statue.
Check: Athletics check (hard DC) to hang the opponent on the statue firmly.
Success: The opponent is immobilized until the end of your next turn.
Target: One grappled opponent
Attack: Level + 3 vs. Fortitude
Hit: Target is dazed (save ends) and takes ongoing 5 damage per tier (save ends). This ends the grapple.
Miss: Target grants combat advantage until the end of your next turn. This ends the grapple.

Maybe a little cartoonish, but fun.

Burning Tapestry Single-Use Terrain
How about some fire, Scarecrow?
Standard Action (heroic)/Move Action (paragon or epic)
Requirement: You must be adjacent to the tapestry and have an at-will attack with the Fire keyword.
Check: Athletics check (moderate DC) to pull the tapestry down.
Success: The tapestry falls.
Target: Each creature in a close blast 3 out from the tapestry.
Attack: Level + 3 vs. Reflex
Hit: The target takes ongoing 5 fire damage per tier and is slowed until it is no longer in the initial area.

This is a blatant riff off of the DMG2's Tapestry terrain power, but I felt like they ignored one of the other, more brutal things you could do with something large and flammable.

Crate and Barrel... Ass Over Teakettle  Single-Use Terrain
Other than the chandelier thing, this is about the most common move in all of swashbuckling.
Move Action (heroic)/Minor Action (paragon or epic)
Requirement: You must be adjacent to the barrel, and the barrel must be within one square of the top of a set of stairs.
Check: Athletics or Acrobatics check (moderate DC) to kick the barrel down the stairs behind you.
Success: The barrel bounces down the stairs, threatening anyone in its wake.
Target: Each creature standing on the stairs below the barrel's starting point.
Attack: Level + 3 vs. Reflex
Hit: The target is pushed to the base of the stairs and knocked prone, taking falling damage as appropriate.

This power has some nonstandard things going on with its area effect, but it's the kind of thing that should be clearly defined on the map. I figure a staircase with multiple landings on the way up counts as multiple staircases for the purposes of this hit effect.