February 24, 2009

Comments should now work

...thanks to a friendly neighbourhood person named Richard* who bothered to send me a mail and tell me that they didn't (due to a screwed up captcha prompt). Wonky.

*) Rest of name withheld. You never know how anonymous people want to be.

February 23, 2009

GESF, Stupid Pretentious, and Gamist

...What? Well...

Goer Easily lead Slut Fantasist according to
noism's player categories. Though I think the Iconoclast/Easily lead category might need a third option - Theorizer, the one who dissects new systems with an eye towards making a Frankenstein's Homebrew.

Stupid Pretentious according to Jeff Rient's threefold theory. The best one out there.

Mostly Gamist according to the boring old GNS theory.

February 22, 2009

New look

Pardon the chaos, we're still moving in.
(And Blogger's "Scribe" template felt too crowded in retrospect.)

Scrolls in D&D4

Right now, D&D4 is a little short on one-shot items. Potions basically. And there's four of them. So why not ponder scrolls a little?

Scrolls have been redesigned to hold rituals. But in earlier editions, they used to let a caster cast a spell without expending a memorized spell. That's the likely reason it was changed in 4E - it messes with the expected amount of special abilities a character can bring into combat.

A normal 4E character brings a pair of at-will powers, some encounter powers, a few daily powers, some utility powers that may be useful, and whatever powers are attached to his items (and you can only use a few item powers per day). Adding scrolls to that loadout might double the amount of special powers, or more. Clearly, combat scrolls need to be limited in some way if you care about balance.

So my way to implement spell scrolls would be like this:
  • A scroll lets you use a specific power once, then the scroll is spent.
  • You have to be able to use a power of the scroll power's level, and be using the proper power source. (This means Wizards and Warlocks can use the same "Arcane" scrolls, and Clerics and Paladins can use "Divine" scrolls.)
  • To cast from the scroll, you expend one of your powers of the same level or higher, with the same regain rate (at-will, encounter or daily) and with the same power source (matters for multiclassers and half-elves).
  • Other than expending one of your power uses, the spell will work as if you had had the power and cast it normally. It uses the same action types, keywords, etc.

(Using the proper power source is optional. Fighting Men (and Women) whipping out a scroll and unleashing arcane hell is cool too.)

For example, let's look at a scroll of Fireball, a level 5 Daily from the Wizard list.

Scroll of Fireball

This scroll is warm to the touch, and the writing glows in the dark.

Level: 5
Price: 50 gp

Power (Consumable): Free Action. Read this scroll. You expend one unspent Daily Arcane power of at least level 5 and cast Fireball (as per the Player's Handbook) instead of that power.
(The description of Fireball would go here, if it weren't likely to be copyrighted.)

There we go. A wizard with this scroll doesn't get more spells in one combat, but he gets to switch out a less useful spell for Fireball. And a Warlock is even happier since he normally can't know Fireball.

February 18, 2009

D&D 4E Magazine Coming In April

...from Goodman Games. Not a company I know anything about from earlier (My knowledge is limited to WOTC and Green Ronin.), but it has a flaming sword on the cover and an adventure called "The Hill Giant Thane".

I may have to pick up an issue if my FLGS gets them.

February 15, 2009

Procedurally Generated Text Adventures - Can It Be Done?

Text adventures are fun. I remember wasting a lot of time with Colossal Cave as a kid with an Amiga and lots of free time. Once i found Baf's Guide to the Interactive Fiction Archive, I got stuck again. From the archive, I'd have to recommend Spider and Web, Babel and the oddity Aisle.

But the point of this post is to ponder whether one could generate text adventures procedurally in the way that roguelikes generate level maps? Shouldn't be impossible, after all Yoda Stories and Indiana Jones and His Desktop Adventures are graphical puzzle games with procedurally generated maps. Those create very basic quests, though. Basically drag items all over the map in a series of fetch-quests, with some rock-pulling puzzles thrown in, until you get the final McGuffin.

The generation code would have to be able to structure puzzles in order to make them solvable. Entering a temple would be hard if one of the required items (a key) were already inside it, for example. (Let's ignore puzzles that are based on manipulating items remotely for the sake of that example.) Designing flowcharts for that purpose is nothing new to regular text adventure designers. But how do you make the game more complex than the item hauls linked above?

I think you'd have to assign general qualifiers to every object, and to every puzzle. For example, a ventilation grille can be pried loose with any object with the "prying" qualifier, or screwed loose with an object with the "screwdriver" qualifier. A knife of screwdriver both have the "screwdriver" qualifier and a crowbar counts as "prying", so all those work.

Ergo, if the generator blocks off a part of the map with a ventilation grille, it should look through a list of ways to open it (items with the "prying" or "screwdriver" qualifier) and add at least one of those on the right side of the grille. This still doesn't quite create a Curses-level of puzzles. Also, when you add a new object or puzzle, you will have to go through all existing puzzles/objects to see how they interact with the new thing. (Do new qualifiers have to be added?) I will have to think more about this.

Finally, another concern is that about reasonable maps. The game will have to draw from a narrow pool of locations, otherwise you may get the top of Mount Everest next to the Japanese Pagoda next to the Garage. Sticking to cave rooms ala Colossal Cave is probably a decent approach.

Mike Mearls Hates Resistances

In D&D4, that is. And he makes some good arguments against them.

If you were playing in an Arctic themed campaign, you might think it's a cool idea to play an ice wizard. Well, if you're fighting lots of ice creatures, that's actually a terrible choice. The folk of the frozen north should study and use fire magic. The desert nomads use ice magic.

So what do you do instead? In addition to making creatures immune to environmental effects of their home environment (letting magma beasts walk in lava unharmed), of course...

What I'd prefer, though, are special abilities and bonuses that trigger when you use the "wrong" energy type. Blasting the red dragon with fire hurts it, but it also lets the dragon use its breath weapon again. Using a cold attack on the frost knight gives him +5 AC for a round. Blasting a ghoul with necrotic energy gives it an action point.

I've nothing to add, really. Except that it could become fiddly to track the keywords of every single power the PC:s use against a monster. And that magma beasts do it half right. (They've got regular fire resistance, but get slowed if they take cold damage.)

Introducing Save vs Pointy Stick...

...Or is it SVPS? Anyway, I felt that I wanted a place to blather about game theory and practice my English. Ergo, I started up SVPS, which was far too easy since I already have a Blogger account.

Expect random musings about game theory as it applies to D&D, roguelikes and occasional other RPG:s and computer games.