Tuesday, September 20, 2022

"Let's Go D&D!"


I've got your 6th Edition D&D rule system RIGHT HERE. Free of charge! Feel free to play-test to your heart's content! Totally compatible with 5E!

[disclaimer: you will probably find it useful to own a copy of the PHB (just until the new 6E version comes out), but splat books with your favorite new classes, races, etc. will work in a pinch]

  1. Choose a "class" from any that are available; right it on your character sheet. If you don't see one that suits your character concept, make your own.
  2. Choose a "race" (i.e. species, ancestry type) from any that are available. If you don't see one that suits your character concept, make your own.
  3. Choose a character "background." The 5E PHB has a list of different ideas (the 6E PHB will have a longer list), but you can do anything that pops into your imagination. Go wild! Try to sum it up in a few words (write the elaborate backstory in your spare time), and jot it down on your character sheet.
  4. Write down your character's "best ability" (strength, intelligence, wisdom, etc.). 
  5. Write down your character's "go to skill," some special feat, cool power, or awesome spell that can really save your bacon. 
  6. Give your character any type of equipment that seems reasonable for his/her class, race, and background...it must be noted on your character sheet! Use the lists in the PHB if you need ideas.
  7. Give your character a name. Write "health" somewhere on the character sheet. Your character starts at Level 1.

Gameplay is much the same as it ever was: the Dungeon Master describes the situation, the players describe their actions in response to the situation.
  • Some actions taken by players will automatically succeed ("I enter the tavern." DM: okay, you do).
  • Some actions taken by players will automatically fail ("I fly around the village like a great eagle." DM: no, your character is not a bird and has no magic that would allow such action)
  • Some actions taken by players will have a chance of failure ("I want to fight the orc: to the death!" DM: ok); these are called CHALLENGES and require a die roll to determine the outcome:
    • In a challenge, the player always rolls a D20; a "20" always succeeds, a "1" always fails.
    • The die type rolled by the DM is determined by the relative difficulty of the challenge: very simple/easy (d6), relatively straightforward (d8), burdensome (d10), very difficult (d12), very "iffy" or low chance of success (d20)
    • If the character's "best ability" would play a factor in the challenge (for example, Intelligence for a riddle contest, Charisma for seduction, Dexterity to dodge a trap, etc.) the DM should lower his/her die type by one (so a D20 becomes a D12, or a D6 becomes a D4, etc.).
    • The player's D20 roll must EXCEED the DM's roll to succeed at the challenge; remember a "20" always succeeds and a "1" always fails!
  • If a player does not wish to risk the chance of failure, they may use one of their character's class features to automatically succeed. "Features" of the character include its class, race, background, and go to skill. The player simply describes how the feature causes the character to succeed at the challenge, and then writes a check mark next to the feature. No feature can be used more than once per game session!
For example: Priscilla the tiefling paladin is fighting an owl bear in single-combat (a very difficult challenge!). She could use her "paladin" feature and explain how her training allowed her to suss out the monster's vulnerable spot; or her "tiefling" feature to shoot flames at it, scaring the creature away; or her background of "orphan growing up on the streets" to play some underhanded trick on the monster.
  • Some challenges (notably combat) carry a risk of injury. Every time the PC fails such a challenge, they must reduce their health one step: 
    • Battered: the character looks like they've been in a fight (mussed and tussled)
    • Bloodied: the character is visibly nicked up, bruised, and scratched
    • Beaten: the character has "lost their mojo" and is on the verge of collapse
    • Broken: the character has been knocked out, injured, and/or so traumatized that he/she cannot continue without healing and recovery
  • For D&D campaigns that wish to include a higher level of lethality, add one more level of hurt (Buried) indicating character death, but clerics of 5th+ level are able to bring such characters back to life, providing their bodies are more-or-less intact. In general, it takes one "game day" to heal one health level; however, a cleric may magically heal a character (challenge level determined by extent of injury: d6 for battered, d8 for bloodied, d10 for beaten, d12 for broken); no cleric may heal the same character more than once per game session, except by expending a feature.
  • Enchanted items provide extra features to the PC that owns it and (possibly) extra "automatic" abilities not otherwise available. Permanent magic items (weapons, armor, etc.) last from session to session; temporary items (potions, scrolls, etc.) are removed from the character sheet after use.
For example: a potion of healing could be expended to automatically increase a wounded character's health one step. A potion of flying could be expended to allow the character to "fly around the village like a great eagle." Magic armor could be used to automatically succeed in a combat ('the orc can't penetrate its enchantment!'). A rod of resurrection could bring a single character back to life, once per session.
  • All enchanted items of a permanent nature must be attuned to a character to be used. A character may attune a maximum number of permanent magic items equal to its level of experience; each item attuned to a character should be of a different type (no more than one sword, or one suit of armor, for example).

Characters advance in level based on achievement of milestones. Milestones are determined by Dungeon Masters based on story consideration or (More Often) are already set based on pre-packaged storylines provided by The Company. 

Gaining a level entitles the character to attune more permanent magic items and provides ONE of the following benefits (player choice):
  • Add an extra Bloodied health level (so the character would need to be "bloodied" multiple times befor becoming "beaten").
  • Add an extra Go To Skill to the character sheet.
  • Change the character's Background and/or Best Ability (based on the new background); for example, a PC that wishes to leave their "orphan" background behind to become a "guild master" might change their best ability from DEX to INT. A "soldier" who becomes a "nobleman" might change STR to CHA...or might not.
In addition, each character receives a "Special Benefit" upon achieving 3rd level, and another at 5th level; these benefits are determined by the character's basic class TYPE (priest, rogue, warrior, or wizard) as determined by the Dungeon Master:
  • Priests: reduce challenge die when dealing with undead (3rd level), raise dead characters (5th level)
  • Rogues: miraculously escape death/injury 1/game session (3rd level), automatically defeat opponent using guile 1/game session (5th level)...assassin types might reverse the order in which these benefits are granted
  • Warriors: attack two opponents with single challenge (3rd level), attack three opponents with single challenge roll (5th level)
  • Wizards: affect multiple opponents with single spell (3rd level), create permanent/lasting affects with magic spells (5th level)
6th level is the suggested maximum for all character types; mandatory retirement is expected for any character that has achieved seven milestones.

THE END. Adventures and additional "character option" books to be published soon!
; )

Soccer Haze

Soccer. I'm going to write about soccer. It's not D&D. We'll see if I can tie it into D&D (somehow), but writing out what's in my head at the moment will...hopefully...clear space for the D&D-type stuff folks want me to write about.

This year, due to a lack of sufficient players in any single school, my son's school team is partnered with three other schools. We have a total of 21 kids on the team (at this level...6th grade...we play 9v9) fifteen of whom I'd never met before this year. It's...a lot.

Because we joined them (rather than vice versa), the team does not operate under our school name. For the first time in...mm...six years, I was not expecting to be the coach. Truth be told, I wasn't expecting Diego to want to play, not with all the club soccer he's already doing and after an extremely difficult season last fall.

[last year, our 5th grade class was combined with 4th graders due to them not having a coach or sufficient players...4th graders who, for the most part, were entirely new to soccer or who had not played since pre-Covid. When they were, like, seven years old and coached (poorly) by a volunteer parent. Suffice is to say our team was NOT competitive...at all!...and this caused a LOT of frustration, tears, breakdowns, etc. among ALL the players on the team]

But Diego did want to play, and so did all the kids from last year (minus Maceo who moved to a different school). And, somehow, I got wrangled into being the assistant coach for this year's team. 

I think I mentioned it's a lot of kids?

Anyway. The head coach...I'll call him "HC." He's a nice guy. Totally on the same page with me as far as what's important (kids participating in sport, kids having fun, kids learning valuable life lessons like team work and sportsmanship and effort). Good guy. Not a soccer guy. 

Football guy, yes. Baseball guy, yes. Soccer guy, no.

He told me I could handle the "strategy side" of things if I wanted. His plan for the season was to have one practice a week, consisting of a warm up (he has the baseball guys on the team lead the team in a baseball warm up) and then have the kids just scrimmage each other for the remainder of practice. Because we have so many kids.

The kids from his school include some "really athletic kids" on it. He's not kidding. Many of them are big, strong, and fast. They play flag football on the side. Some of them play "select" soccer and/of baseball. Some also run cross country...right now, during the soccer season. In past seasons, his M.O. has been to put the best athletes up front and the "less strong" kids on defense and let them "kind of figure out their own positions." He won a lot of games the last couple years, mainly, because he had better athletes on his team than other teams. Teams like the team we fielded last year.

Our school doesn't have kids with the raw athletic talent of these kids. They have my boy who, despite being a short, skinny, slow kid (much like his father was, back in the day) is blessed with a pair of incredibly strong, accurate boots, excellent coordination, a wicked intelligence, and a tenacious, ultra-competitive fire. We were blown out every game last year, but we were never shut out because Diego would always find a way to score a goal or two and salvage our school's dignity. And I only ever played him as much as any of the other players (in CYO sports, we are trying to give equal participation time to ALL the players). 

The other kids on the school range from "high motor/effort" to "passable" to "struggling" to "hopeless." I've always seen it as MY role to coach them up and put them in the best possible positions to succeed and contribute (thereby having an enjoyable time and...hopefully...continuing to pursue sport as a fun activity). Until last season, I was always able to do that...with positive, productive results.

SO...enter me and the new team and the new HC. As the kids are now in middle school, this is the first season that results count and that there are "play-offs" in CYO. Kids who don't enjoy soccer or who have decided it "isn't for them" have dropped out...perhaps to pursue flag football or other fall sports. Teams are larger...we're not the only team that's combined schools. Several non-Catholic private middle schools are a part of our league...many with expensive athletic facilities, paid coaches, and (I kid thee not) sports nutrition programs. It's still Catholic Youth Organization where "winning isn't the most important thing" (and where, if you beat a team by more than six goals, you have to appear before the board and explain why you are not adhering to the values of sportsmanship, etc.)...but, still, it's Big Boy soccer. We have seven weeks to accumulate enough points to be one of the top eight teams.

So, I convinced the HC to have two practices a week instead of one, with the rationale that the kids who could make both (because they're not participating in multiple sports) probably could use the extra practice. I convinced him to let me run some drills every practice (before scrimmage) and not just "make kids run." I convinced him that maybe when a kid says he plays "defense" on his select soccer team that he's suitable to play defense, not just striker (because he's big, fast, and strong).

The first week, I spent evaluating the kids, getting to know them. Our first game, I wanted to implement a formation that I thought would play to our strengths. He asserted himself as HC, however, saying the kids would just get confused, wanting to keep it "basic." I deferred to him, though I put forth very strong opinions of which role various kids should play (and why) and HC, to his credit, went with most of my suggestions. 

Our first game was tight...we went down 2-0 before coming back to even, then going ahead 3-2, only to give up the equalizer, before finally (finally) wearing them out and finishing 6-3. And I mean "wearing them out:" we played 19 kids against a team that had 9 total (no subs) and just ground them down with fresh legs. They were tough and played with a lot of heart, even playing (and scoring!) with eight men after one of their defenders took a smoked shot off the face and had to sit down for a few.

Afterwards, HC was positive and (mostly) effusive with his praise, mainly citing "areas of improvement" as being the defense...half of which had been ALL my school's kids save Diego (who played midfield).  One mother later contacted the coaches and apologizing for their son's performance, and asking if there were extra things he could practice to "train up"...when I spoke with her later she related that he had been disappointed with himself because the other kids had been yelling at him for letting in the scores (he was not playing goalie).



For week #2, I told HC I wanted to implement the formation I'd talked about (a 3-1-3-1) as I felt it would give us a stronger defense, and told him I would coach the kids up on it during the week and make it work. He grudgingly agreed to this because our second opponent had just gotten their asses kicked 10-1 in their first week ("this should be a pretty easy one, so a good time to implement new stuff"). He also didn't trust one of the kids who'd be playing goalie (we let the players volunteer for the position and rotate from week-to-week...this week would be one of the "less proficient" kids from my school). We would also be playing without two of our best offensive pieces: a kid with blazing speed who plays striker for the same club as Diego (however, a year up due to an earlier birth year), and an insolent snot-nosed punk of a kid who only knows how to shoot goals (he's a real piece of work...think Jaimie Tartt in miniature).  Little did we know, that our BEST player (in HC's opinion) would spend most of the game on the sideline, getting a bloody nose in the first half.

We won the game 6-0. The last fifteen minutes we just played keep away from the other team, so as not to violate the "lopsided victory" rule. Four of our goals came from assists. It was some lovely soccer.

We are entering the third week (practice...the "extra" one I requested...is today, Tuesday). HC will not be at the game Saturday ("you can do the line-up however you want this week!") as he is going on a camping trip with several of the boys. And I don't even know if my own kid will be available...we're still waiting on his other team's schedule for the weekend.

[the problem with participating in two different soccer teams is that sometimes there are schedule conflicts (duh) and then hard choices have to be made. In our home, we leave this choice up to the kids...even though one team costs about a hundred bucks and the other one costs...mm. I'd rather not think about it. Suffice is to say we've been navigating this conflict the last five+ years]

I know, I know...this is all dumb-ass drama and not worth stressing out. Absolutely right. But I have been stressed...in a year where I thought the soccer season would be, well, stress-free (because I didn't think I'd have to do much, if anything) suddenly I have been experiencing more stress than I have in years. Which is crazy, yeah, I know.

Fact is, I love these kids...my own child not least of all. But the other kids, both the old hands from previous years and the new ones (who are all, rather quickly, growing on me...yes, even the mouthy ones). They're just kids. Well behaved for the most part. Good teammates for the most part. Doing the best they can...for the most part. How can you not love these kids? And want them to have success? For their own sake?

Let's tie this to D&D for a sec. All the games I've run the last couple years have been for kids this age...my son, his peers, etc. And I've prepped the hell out of these games BECAUSE I WANT THEM TO HAVE A GOOD EXPERIENCE. Because I want them to enjoy themselves. Because I want them to come back. Because D&D is awesome and it's something they can do and play and enjoy their whole lives.

Soccer...soccer is awesome, too. For kids this age, it's unlikely to do any permanent harm to their bodies. It's solid exercise. It's good training, not just in the physical realm (speed, stamina, flexibility, agility, etc.) but in the arenas of teamwork and camaraderie, sportsmanship, focus, and discipline. Players learn to both win AND lose with grace and dignity and how to play with respectfulness and gratitude (for their teammates, their coaches, their opponents, and for themselves). Soccer isn't something they can do forever (unlike D&D) but while they have this window of time, I want to instill a love of the game in them. I prep the hell out of my soccer practices and games, too.

My son...he already knows all this stuff. He and I have had long talks about both D&D and sports and why they're valuable and to what degree and their place in the grand sphere of...well, of everything. I'm not really worried about him. He'll give 110% and do his best to win, and shake hands respectfully when he loses while vowing to learn from the experience. Ultra-competitor that Diego is, his head is screwed on right most of the time (probably part of why his premier club coach named him captain of the team this year. Last year he was named captain by the coach, too...and it was a different coach). 

It's the other kids, I'm coaching for. Not my kid, who's already won trophies and has plenty of confidence. No, it these other 11 and 12 year olds...the ones who aren't "great athletes" and, probably, even the ones who are (I've noticed some ego cracks here and there). Because I want them ALL to see their own potential...and to see the potential in each other. Everyone contributes on this team...the team is the sum of all of us.

*sigh* Two practices to prepare. Against the only undefeated team left on our schedule till the playoffs...a team that just spanked some poor bastards 7-1 last week. Notice the goal differential? Another "mercy rule" game...this team is good.  And we will again be missing the same two offensive weapons, at least three defenders, and possibly Diego.  Three other "maybes," too...none of which I want to lose. 12 players. Not a lot to work with. And no help that I can count on from HC, bless his large, carefree heart.

Damn. Better make these good practices.

Monday, September 19, 2022

Monday Morning


Lot of distractions lately, and I'm not just talking about the putrid football coming out of the local team.

[make no mistake: the Seahawks are not good. And I was at that Monday Night Football game where they beat Denver. That victory was 85% crowd...I haven't heard the stadium that loud since the NFC championship game against Green Bay. Hell, I'll even give myself credit for starting the chants of "Geno! Geno!" but, at least in our section, we meant it in a sarcastic, raucous way in order to poke the eye of...and stick it to...Russell Wilson. If you rewatch the broadcast, you'll see that the chants started in the second half (when the offense was stinking up the joint and the ONLY thing Smith was  doing was running the ball like a poor man's RW). We weren't actually backing the QB; we were yelling nah-nah-nah at the Broncos and their $250M man. Longtime fans who remember the AFC West will remember how much we hate Denver]

No, the majority of distraction is all family-related. Good things to be sure...not financial issues or health issues or marital issues or anything like that. School, church, and a TON of sports activity. Yes, sports participation for the most part (two kids on four teams, one of which I'm coaching), but also 2-3 fantasy leagues (that I'm running, or helping to run, for extended family), a Blood Bowl season of 16 teams, and then the ongoing, must-follow fun of the NFL, Sounders team (struggling), Mariners team (ascending), and local college programs.

[let's not forget the Seattle Storm's playoff run...yeah, it ended a few weeks ago, but I didn't post much even in August, and the Storm was part of that. Much love and respect to Sue Bird

Fact is, Dungeons & Dragons has, in general, taken a backseat. Oh, I did get something written up for the second installment of Prince of Nothing's "No ArtPunk Contest"...a little high level one-off for AD&D that came out to some 17ish pages. This one actually got some play-testing from the kids (Diego, Sofia, Maceo, and Winston), and much fun was had.

[a couple quick notes about that (for interested parties): none of the players have "high level" characters, so they used pre-gens made specifically for the adventure (these were included with my submission adding another six pages for a total of 23). Second, on average a party of 10th to 14th level are looking for the same x.p. as a party of 16th, 18th, or 20th level so treasure scale for high level adventures aren't all that tough to write...the main thing is to create scenarios that take into account the higher level of resource attrition. I might talk about this in a future blog post]

But other than that, I haven't been doing anything as far as running/designing for D&D. I was playing in my son's AD&D campaign...absolutely destroying the Keep on the Borderlands (that's a future post, too), but even that's been put on (hopefully brief) hiatus as our focus and priorities have shifted.

And so we come to the "Blues" part of my Monday Morning: I know I've been lax in blogging, but there's two things that have delayed/prevented me from posting. I've kind of decided that I really, really want this blog to be about gaming, specifically D&D, AND I want it to be as positive and constructive as possible...which I've probably said a dozen times in the past but this time (yeah, sure) I really mean it.

I've got multiple posts sitting in draft form on Ye Old Blog because they just tend to go off into fairly negative rants (also, they're not all that good...you folks aren't missing much). And while it's easy to denigrate someone's play style or design work or gaming ignorance...or even The Company's failings...that's all a waste of my time. I mean, it's not like I haven't vented that a gazillion times already, right?

I want to be helpful. It IS useful to tear things down to build them back better and stronger, but I have to make sure that that's what I'm doing. Doing that takes focus...and the distractions get in the way of focus. Right now the majority of my focus has been on my family and (probably not surprisingly) the kids I'm coaching. I could certainly blog about the latter...but, then, that's not D&D, right?

[by the way, ripping on the Seahawks isn't exactly positive, but players and coaches in pro-sports are paid millions of dollars to entertain fans. I don't feel zero remorse about expressing negativity and disapproval to guys making that kind of money: that's the job, dudes]

So, a bit of a quandary. But I'll give it a shot, in the next few days, to get things going. I should have a little more time coming up (especially after next weekend). I'll try to put together a list of topics and see if I can't bang out a couple per week in the next few weeks.