Fourth World 1.4 relayout

LogoSomeone not as enamored of landscape PDFs asked for a more standard layout for Fourth World, my drift of Dungeon World rules to fit the Earthdawn setting. I was not that keen on doing this, but then got curious about experimenting with 6×9 layouts in InDesign. So, I changed the entire layout of version 1.4 and you can find the result at the link below. As always, the InDesign sources are available for tinkering as well.

I plan on using this new layout style for Fourth World going forward. Which means, yes, I will probably release a 1.5 at some point.

For now, here is the new layout of 1.4:

While on the subject of changing layouts, I should also mention the efforts of Seth Halbeisen, who built letter-sized versions of the playbooks (the originals will legal-sized). If you have hacks of your own, let me know here or on G+.

Seed: Fourth World 1.4

LogoAlmost exactly a year ago, when I published “probably the last revision I’ll do” of this hack of Dungeon World to the Earthdawn setting, I really thought I was done. What changed since was some dissatisfaction with parts of the work and with some of Dungeon World basic moves.

The version presented here (1.4) retains the basic approach to the previous versions, an small evolution rather than a revolution. In building it, though, its becoming more clear than one of the main design goals — to change as little as possible in the Dungeon World rule set to retain compatibility with all of its material — is becoming a hindrance. This is not so much that the tonal changes needed for Earthdawn would benefit from a different type of powered-by-the-apocalypse hack, though there is some of that. Rather, some of the warts in Dungeon World itself are becoming more noticeable, both to me and in the community at large.

As one example, version 1.4 already tinkers with some of the basic moves. As another, when running Fourth World, I would almost certainly use nearly every rule in Lampblack & Brimstone’s Perilous Wilds, particularly its replacement rules for hirelings and undertaking a perilous journey. If a future version of this hack is ever done, it will almost certainly alter the playbooks to assume those rules as a baseline; however, once going down that path, the whole thing might just be better served by a PbtA hack more customized to Earthdawn, so that may never happen.

The significant changes in this version include:

  • You occasionally see Dungeon World moves that improve a 7-9 result to a 10+ result, or vice-versa. I found the phrasing of the Fourth World moves that do this awkward enough that I created a nomenclature for it, called “steps” to make this smoother (see the “On Steps” section).
  • The Aid or Interfere move has been tinkered with again. In the prior version, it had already been altered to use stats instead of bonds. This version makes the 10+ result a bit more interesting.
  • The Hack and Slash move has been rephrased. This looks jarring, but the actual result of the move is the same. The reason for the change is that some of the moves in the playbooks seek to give you additional choices if you elect to take damage on a 10+ (rather than the standard “do extra damage”). The wording of the official Hack and Slash made the phrasing on this type of playbook move clunky. It becomes much easier to build playbook moves like this with the different phrasing of the basic move (plus, I think the phrasing for it matches the phrasing of other Dungeon World moves much better in general).
  • The Relics chapter now has a whole section about how the Spout Lore move can/should be used to interact with the concept of item ranks and discovering information about relics to unlock their power. Moves that reveal information about relics were tweaked to match the information in this section. (Those moves are also much faster in game world time now.)
  • Added some clarification about what casters can do while weaving, and what sort of things can interrupt them.
  • Earlier nitpicking about how many spell matrices you can use at each circle have been eliminated as an unnecessary holdover of pointless Earthdawn crunch. The “total sum of spell circles within matrices” limit remains, and takes care of this well enough organically to the point that other limits won’t be missed.
  • Prior versions sort of ignored the existence of thrown weapons. The main ranged-fighter discipline didn’t have choices for them, for example. This has been addressed. Also, the single “throwing dagger” has been replaced with “throwing knives”, representing an abstract “bundle” of knives with an ammo stat.
  • A lot of the species moves got tweaked to be slightly more interesting (previously a lot of +1 to things).
  • A number of playbook moves called for rolls to gauge the degree of success in situations where failure wasn’t actually interesting or it was not obvious how to handle a miss. Many of these got changed to avoid the roll entirely. There are probably some I missed.
  • General move streamlining in all playbooks, including some additions, removals. Added moves were often adding social moves to playbooks that lacked them. All playbooks also get tools for creating art as standard gear.
  • The Swordmaster got a major overhaul. All the fixation stuff (which came from the DW paladin) has been moved to an Obsession (a “compendium class”). In its place is a move that really takes advantage of the rephrasing of Hack and Slash to give the Swordmaster control of positioning and showmanship.
  • The Thief playbook contained redundant moves. So did the Troubadour playbook, with the bonus that one of them didn’t really work. These moves got sorted out, usually by consolidating then adding some additional stuff.
  • Additional magic items and relics.
  • Additional monsters.
  • Several new obsessions. Tweaks to the Obsession rules.

You can download the lot, including InDesign sources, here:

Seed: Fourth World revisited

LogoWhen I last published this hack of Dungeon World to the Earthdawn setting, I claimed that it was as complete as I intended to make it. Apparently, that was a lie.

This version (1.3) remains much like the previous version, with the following changes:

  • Bonds have been replaced with flags, an idea from Rob Donoghue. This necessitates changing some other things, such as the Aid and End of Session moves. Disciplines now have a “suggested flags” section rather than a bonds section. All references to Dungeon World-style bonds removed and moves that mentioned them changed. (This turns out to solve a problem: version 1.2 also used the word “bond” to refer to weaving a thread into someone or some place. It still means that in 1.3, but is no longer ambiguous.)
  • A lot of people wondered what happened to the idea of karma from Earthdawn. It actually was there in version 1.2, it was just called what Dungeon World calls it: “preparation”. I gave in and switched to calling it karma in this version, even though the term as used in Earthdawn bears little resemblance to what the word actually means. Still, this change should help Earthdawn players who are looking for it. Also, it has always been the intent to make preparation/karma significantly more useful and present than it is in standard Dungeon World (where it is so useless that, I’d wager, most players aren’t even aware it exists), so this change should differentiate it even more.
  • Most of the disciplines were tinkered with a bit. This is particularly true of the air sailor, as that playbook is significantly based on the aid move and, therefore, was previously based on bonds. In general, the number of “plus something to something” moves has been reduced, as have the (already small) number of moves that dictate what happens on a miss. All of the disciplines remain based around two stats, but a few now have a better balance of moves between those two stats than they did before.
  • I took a crack at building character sheets. These are experimental, continuing my dabbling with legal sized paper. (The aspect ratio of legal paper falls between 16:9 and 16:10, the typical aspect ratios of nearly all modern laptops, so landscape legal pages fit very nicely in full screen.) It’s also the largest paper that most home printers in the US can easily support. For those in places where the only aspect ratio for paper you can easily buy is based on the square-root of two (the ISO 216 standard), shrinking these sheets onto A4 is probably your best bet, but probably not entirely satisfying. Each playbook is formatted to fit on a single side of once piece of paper (spell casters also have a separate spell sheet).
  • Debilities now inflict -2 instead of -1. This makes them more…debilitating, and forces them to be taken a bit more seriously. They can often be glossed over, forgotten in standard Dungeon World.
  • A number of rules have been changed or tweaked. Magicians can now get a fifth spell matrix, for example, and move triggered when someone aborts a spellcasting attempt has been added. Swordmasters can no longer become immune to stuff. Fireball is a bit different. Changed a warrior’s “carnage” to “impetus” and altered the way it worked and is explained a bit. Addressed monster tags better. And so on.
  • Some added gear, magic items, mounts, monsters and so on.

This is probably the last revision I’ll do of this hack. Maybe not. Anyway, you can download the lot, including InDesign sources, here:

Seed: Fourth World

LogoSince its creation in 1993, the fantasy world of Earthdawn pushed my buttons. Now, the recent kickstarter to fund the game’s fourth edition has rekindled my enthusiasm for the game. Yet, as eagerly as I backed the kickstarter and long to play in that world again, my interest in going back to those mechanics, even in updated form, approaches zero.

Therefore, this seed, suggesting ways to alter Dungeon World to fit into this rich high-fantasy setting. Like all DivNull Seeds, this one isn’t fully grown. If it plants a fire in your belly to do something with the idea, go for it. But, please, share what you make of it with the rest of us.

This hack sticks to the standard Dungeon World rules as much as it can, but all of the standard playbooks (Fighter, Thief, etc.) have been cut up and reassembled into the fifteen Earthdawn disciplines, adding custom bits to fill in the gaps. Had this work not largely been completed before the release of Class Warfare, the disciplines would probably have been built using those more modular rules instead. I contemplated going back and redoing them all, but by then the disciplines had sort of mutated into their own thing and it didn’t seem worth changing.

If you want to have a go at this hack, here are some possibilities you might try:

  • Actually do use Class Warfare to make the disciplines.
  • Instead of shuffling around existing moves, rebuild each discipline from he ground up, based more strongly on the Earthdawn originals.
  • Expand the hack with conversions of Earthdawn monsters, mounts, ships, relics, etc.
  • Convert more existing Earthdawn adventures to fronts.
  • Expand areas that I glossed over a bit, like horrors, blood magic or astral space.
  • Build obsessions (compendium classes) based around species or nationality or whatever else.
  • Anything else.

As I do not plan to do any of the above myself, I’m making the source files (except the fonts, which I lack the rights to distribute) available as well. Post a comment here if you turn them into anything You can download the lot here:

Update: A more recent version of this document exists here.

Pocket Danger Patrol cards

Danger Patrol CardsI’m looking to play John Harper‘s Danger Patrol (Pocket Edition) with my group, but I really loved the idea from the beta edition of each player selecting two “cards” which fit together to make their character sheet. So, I built a file with cards appropriate to the pocket edition (that is, very trimmed down from the beta versions).

In keeping with the flavor of the pocket edition each card is rendered at index card size (3"×5"), one page per card. You’ll likely need to experiment with settings if you want to print them. You can also print multi-page, or even build custom sheets by selecting to print two pages on one piece of paper, then selecting just the two pages you are mixing together (e.g. to get something like the image shown above, you’d set the pages field to “2,15”).

I built these in like an hour, so they are not the highest quality things I’ve ever done. Like Danger Patrol they are released under the Creative Commons attribution- Noncommercial-share alike 3.0 United states license.

By the way, if you like Danger Patrol, consider backing the author’s Patreon.

Vector demonweb

demonwebFor various important reasons (ok, not really, I just wanted a skin for my new phone) I needed a crisp version of the map in the Queen of the Demonweb Pits, but all I could find were various beaten up, not great resolution scans. So, I built a quick vector based version.

This should scale to any size you like. There wasn’t much in the way of quality control when I made it, so it very likely has errors. Let me know if you find any. I also don’t own the correct weight of Franklin Gothic to exactly replicate the labels of the original. Let me know if you use these files to make something else.

Seed: Goth Gulgamel

Goth Gulgamel IsometricSince the Bundle of Holding is offering a great deal for the Ptolus setting for the next few days, this seems like a good time to post something I’ve been working on, but am not going to do much more with: a revision/hack of one of the dungeons within that setting.

For reasons explained in more detail in the documents below, I was a bit unsatisfied with this location. I was also intrigued by Justin Alexander’s article on “Jaquaying the Dungeon”, a method of using design ideas from the dungeons designed by Jennell Jaquays to make dungeons more interesting. I was also keen on messing with isometric maps in Adobe Illustrator.

As with all DivNull Seeds, this is work isn’t entirely finished, but is in a decent enough state to be used. Feel free to pick up where I left off, but please share the results with everyone. With most seeds, I’ve posted things I’ve learned along the way, but this one, I kept a log of progress on the Cartographer’s Guild which contains most of the stuff I want to remember. That forum thread also lists the goals of this project.

I targeted legal-sized paper for most of these maps, as it is the largest paper most home printers in the US can easily use. I also tried to set up the battlemaps to use as little paper as possible, with locations rendered separately. In play, I would tend to only put the parts of the map the characters could see on the table at any given time.

I also decided to try to make a couple of poster sized maps (the large centerpiece location, for example, is a 24″×36″ poster), and used on-line print services (Vivyx printing in this case) to make hard copies. This worked pretty well, though uploading could be a challenge (had to resort to downsampled PNG files in one case).

The upshot of these last two points is that you might need to experiment to print these things.
The files for this are pretty large, so please download and read the first one before deciding if you want to download the rest. It is a guide that tells you about the location and what I’ve done with the place. If you’d like the Adobe Illustrator and InDesign sources for these documents, drop me a line here and I can get them to you.

Thanks to Monte Cook for allowing me to make use of his intellectual property, yet again.

Visualizing probabilities in player defense rolls

Many crunchy, combat-focused roleplaying games (including various editions of Dungeons & Dragons) run combat by having the attacker roll some dice to attack, add some sort of modifiers and compare the result to a defense number (usually calculated by some formula, but typically a fixed in value for the duration of a combat). This is part of the fun for players, rolling dice and seeing how you do. It can be a bit of a chore for the game moderator, though. If, for example, four protagonists (one for each player) are fighting, say, eight antagonists (all controlled by the GM), that’s a lot of rolling for the GM when the antagonists follow the same system as the protagonists.

To alleviate this you can find suggestions for a lot of these games for breaking this symmetry and putting the players in charge of seeing if the antagonists damage their characters. The idea is usually that, instead of the antagonists rolling an attack, the protagonists roll a defense. This involves a bit of shifting some numbers around in most cases but, ideally, when you invert the control like this, you want to make the probability of the protagonist getting hit remain the same. This is especially true if you have a complex combat system with a lot of interlocking parts, as small probability changes can accidentally mess the system up.

A typical example of a house rule to give the players defense rolls comes from the Players Roll All the Dice variation suggested in the d20 SRD. I say “typical” because this example contains two large flaws that seem to be present in every other variation that does this that I have seen.

The first problem is adding needless complication. Let’s look at the d20 suggestion to illustrate. In normal rules in this game, an attacker hits when:

1d20 + attack bonus ≥ target AC

The two main traits used in this formula turn out to be derived in a somewhat complicated way. The target AC, for example, is calculated like this:

target AC = 10 + various armor modifiers

…which complicates even further to something like this:

target AC = 10 + armor bonus + dex bonus + size bonus + natural bonus + etc.

This turns out not to be that big of a problem in play, however, because the AC is pre-calculated and written on the character sheet. (Some sheets might also list some or all of the bonus individually, too, but all of them will list AC.)

The variation in the SRD, however, undermines this, attempting to invert the math and ending up with a defense roll where the protagonist avoids getting hit if:

1d20 + various armor modifiers ≥ 11 + attack bonus

What happened to the nice, pre-calculated AC number, that every player already knows how to use? Fortunately, this is easy to fix, given the definition of AC above, by adding 10 to both sides of the equation:

1d20 + 10 + various armor modifiers ≥ 11 + 10 + attack bonus

1d20 + AC ≥ 21 + attack bonus

This may seem like picking nits, but this actually makes a huge difference at the table, because it allows players to use numbers they already know, without modification. (If you use software character sheets and such, it also means that you don’t have to customize the software to display some new number, but can just use what is already there.)

The second problem, however, is a lot worse: the formula suggested doesn’t preserve the probability of being hit. It’s off by five percent.

Now, while the probabilities involved are not that complicated, this is sort of hard to see. The point of this post is provide a visual way to illustrate what is happening. The key, as is often the case in probability, is to focus on the number of outcomes that result in a hit. That is, of the numbers on the die being rolled, how many cause a hit?

Let’s look at an example of what we are trying to model, the probability of the original rules. Lets say an antagonist with an attack bonus of +5 is attempting to hit a protagonist with an AC of 15. This would mean the attacker adds 5 and has to get a 15 or higher to hit. It would look something like this, with the outcomes shown in bold text with a red background indicating a hit:

d20 roll 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20
attack result 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25
outcome miss hit
9/20=45% 11/20=55%

Now, lets create a mirror to the table showing the suggested house rule. Remember that succeeding on this defense roll means that attack misses, so the defender adds 15 to a roll and needs to get 26 or more to defend (21+attack bonus 5). Let’s still color the results such that bold, red background numbers show cases where the protagonist is hit (meaning a roll of 25 or less). To line up the results, lets display the numbers running the opposite direction:

d20 roll 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20
attack result 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25
outcome miss hit
9/20=45% 11/20=55%
10/20=50% 10/20=50% outcome
miss hit
35 34 33 32 31 30 29 28 27 26 25 24 23 22 21 20 19 18 17 16 defense result
20 19 18 17 16 15 14 13 12 11 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 d20 roll

By laying out the numbers like this, it is immediately obvious that the defense formula has a problem. Granted, that problem is in favor of the players, so it could be worse. To match the probability of the original rules, however, you need an adjustment of +1 to the target, so:

1d20 + AC ≥ 22 + attack bonus

This kind of “off by one” mistake is easy to make in systems that use “equal to or greater than” resolution. When inverting an “equal to or greater than” rule, the result must be “greater than” or you have to adjust the numbers. For example, instead of adding +1 to the target, we could have adjusted the comparison operator:

1d20 + AC > 21 + attack bonus

In this particular game, this would be a bad idea, though, because all the rest of the mechanics use “equal to or greater than” style checks. Better to have one slightly odd constant than to have a divergent comparison.

Some additional scenarios comparing the original probability to the “players roll defense” variation can be found in this spreadsheet.

Murky Dealings

Dealings mapI am entering Murky Dealings into the One Page Dungeon Contest 2014, even though it turned out a lot different than I had original intended it. As with my prior entries, I’ve left specific details deliberately vague. When I actually use a published dungeon (one page or otherwise), I usually only make use of the skeleton anyway, and replace the rest with campaign-specific stuff. I assume everyone else does the same thing, so just try to provide a feel to a place and let the reader fill in the blanks with stuff specific to their own game. (In the past, this approach has irritated some judges, but so be it.)

I also think this is more in keeping with the system neutrality which supposedly governs the contest, making it easier to, for example, use the map in a sci-fi game. Settings which don’t allow flying will make this dungeon significantly more difficult (would work well as a final challenge for a modern tomb raiding type game, for example). Another variation is to play with just how dark is “dark”. If you ran it in the Ptolus setting’s Utterdark, for example, everyone would basically be totally blind between the rooms. Even if it is normal darkness, the “see in the dark” magic of most fantasy systems will (intentionally) only be able to see one or two rooms nearest to the one you are in, sometimes none.

I continue to use vector software for maps, though this one also made use of a 3d modelling system to get the shapes right. This dungeon is significantly shorter than what I’ve done in the past, and better suited to a single night’s play. Like my 2012 entry, this is also another attempt to build a dungeon that is not a directional graph.