12 December 2018

On the Overland Travel Day


I've been thinking about overland travel in D&D. A week or so ago I was watching Critical Role. The gang were getting ready to camp for the night, as it was getting dark. It hit me that overland travel is suppose to cover the set and break down of camp within the rates given.
The overland travel rates have been relatively consistent over the editions w/ the normal unencumbered on clear terrain rate of 24 miles per day. Removing the 8 hours of sleep, that is 16 hours of travel per day. That's 1.5 miles per hour......
The average real world person walks about 3mph. Not only that but the 5e phb lists 3 mph as the unencumbered walking speed. That's 8hrs of travel. Your players should have about 4 hours to set up and break camp, which should include eating, grooming, and memorizing spells.
Also, I fucking hate the description of "setting of camp as it's getting dark."
The average day would be 6-8am to 2-4pm.

11 December 2018

First draft of Stars Without Number Spelljamming Helms


Reminder, helm refers both to the place a vessel is steered and the person performing that duty, although helmsman is also used and Spelljammer refers to the person operating a spelljamming helm. In Spelljammer, a helm is a magical chair the operator sits in. It is not a piece of headgear. All three of the iterations of SJ helms assume Vancian magic, as do my current rules. 

In 2e SJ, the two standard helms, minor and major, have a limit on the size of craft they can move of 50 and 100 SJ Tons (100 cu yds) respectively. They also translate the caster level of the helmsman to Spelljammer Rating, the number of hexes a ship can move at the rate of 1/3 and 1/2 respectively. Ships also have a Maneuverability Class that determines how sharply the ship can turn per hex. There is also the much complained about helms drain the spellcasting ability of the helmsman.

In the 3e SJ mini-game/setting Shadow of the Spider Moon, helms work slightly different. The speed of a ship is determined by the size class and quality of the helm, minor or major, with an upper limit placed on the minor helm. Maneuverability is still a quality of the ship not the helm. These helms don't drain spellcasting, only requiring a spellcaster to operate. 

Now there are rules for helms in 5e...hidden in a fucking non-spelljamming adventure...thanks a lot WotC. Anyways, the speed of those helms is based on the highest unexpended spell slot. That's kinda cool. It's like the 2e helms as it bases the speed on the caster's level, and it's like the 3e helms by not draining spellcasting for the day. 

These are all specific to combat speeds. There is also spelljamming speed which is really really fast and either the same regardless of the helm or who is piloting, or with a slight variance, favoring major helms.

Translating these rules to SWN is a bit tricky. For spike drive equipped ships, which is the default assumption, speed is comparable to maneuverability class, which is a factor of the ship hull, and is used for combat; while the drive rating is used for in system speed and the distance a ship can travel via Drilling, i.e. SWN FTL. The inverse of how helms work. I could have stuck with that by having helms determine the drive rating by helmsman level in some way with limits on the size of hull a helm of a particular quality can move. In a generic conversion for the default setting with FTL I'd probably go with that. However, as the setting I'm working on, once called "Orbital Space Refuse" but now "Countless Stars But You're Fucking Stuck With One," is a single system STL setting, I'm using the system ship rules in Engines of Babylon and speed is used for both combat and long distance travel. Which leads to my spelljammer rules for SWN. 

Each hull class has a number, 1-4 for fighter through capital-class hulls. 

Helms don't drain spellcasting for the day, but they are based on the highest unexpended spell slot, with a level softcap of 10 means 6th level spells at the highest. 

Ignore the speed of the hull, an active helm overrides that stat because magic. Instead the speed is determined by highest unexpended spell slot level divided by hull rating for a major helm, and divided by twice the hull rating for minor helms, all rounded down. 0 is a valid speed for a ship to have as unintuitive as it may be to someone unfamiliar with SWN. Major helms can move any class of hull. Minor helms stop at frigate-class hulls.
 
A helmsman can operate a helm for 12 hours with no ill effects. Every additional 12 hours expends the highest unexpended spell slot potentially reducing the ships speed. Piloting in combat is considered 12 hours regardless of how long the combat was, but any adjustment to speed occurs afterwards. Because of these limitations, spelljammers will either have multiple casters to pilot in shifts or only operate the helm for a fraction of each day, commonly 6, 8, or 12 hours, reducing the ship speed by 1/4, 1/3, or 1/2 respectively, rounding down, if this reduces a ships speed to zero, the travel time also increases 4x, 3x, or 2x respectively. No spellcasting is possible while operating a helm. 

As befits them being extremely advance magi-tech they take the form of ornate chairs and are essentially plug-n-play. Just find someplace to bolt the helm down and set a spellcaster down in it. A minor helm costs roughly 100,000 credits, and a major helm costs roughly 250,000 credits. I'm lazy and just used the prices from 2e SJ. The rarity, value, and portability as it stands does make them easily stolen, therefore prime targets for space pirates.

A rough outline for converting spelljammer from Spelljammer is to compare their minimum crew to a particular base hull. It turns out that in general the ships in the original box set are generally frigate-class hulls, mostly patrol boats or free traders. Another rough guide is to compare the largest dimension to either the Millennium Falcon or the Serenity, both of which I would classify as frigate-class hulls, free traders (TL4) or passenger liners (TL3).

As my setting assumes system drives are the default, this also helps solve the "elven flitters are trash in one of their listed roles as fighter craft" because a military force isn't going to put high enough level casters to make a flitter fast enough to run down larger vessels, and conventional drives are in many respects better than a spelljamming helm. The advantage of a helm is no fuel, and the advantage of a system drive is higher base speed and not needing a wizard to operate it.

10 December 2018

Air elementals and Airships


Controversial opinion that shouldn't be if people would bother to read the rules: air elementals do not, by their description or the rules as clarified in Spelljammer, inherently refresh the air of a spelljammer. Summoning one does. If one did, then fire elementals and other magical fire also consumes air.
By extension, an Eberron elemental airship, which in 3e uses air or fire elementals, has no effect as written. When I tried pointing this as I explained why I was going treat the elementals as crew members for purposes of air consumption I got weird ass rules-lawyering.

05 December 2018

Of course it's unrealistic, they're fucking elves, Brett.


D&D is the game where you can have an Elizabethan elf, Thundarr the Orc in a loincloth, a half-dragon wizard in a bathrobe, some kind of dirty child with a cockney accent, and two human knights in different eras of armor about to fight a dragon after going through tunnels.

You start mixing dudes in mail, conical helms & kite shields with fucking high gothic plate harness, landsknecht, and other folks in tights and puffy clothes. Of course D&D combat makes no sense. It's shit far less people have experience with than boxing, wrestling and other unarmed martial arts, which is why grappling systems are such messes throughout the editions. Which is also why D&D has far more rules about combat than everything else. Sorry that is thing that got missed and then buried. It's easy to see how it's always been about combat, and pushing exp into killing monsters didn't help. 

And it's a fucking anachronistic mess. Like actually pick a time period as the baseline, and I mean more narrowly than "middle ages" became that shits like the crusades through to Italian renaissance, but folks include shit that happened in early modern England.

But no-one gives a fig about overly broad swords, everything being back-scabbarded, or potatoes in Fauxrope.

Don't get me wrong. I fucking love that D&D is a fucking anachronistic mess, but I also grew past my "must make D&D model combat as realistically as possible phase."

I'm pretty sure that if you get rid of proliferation of weapons and armor, simplifying them back to three classes of armor (filing the names off of leather, mail, and plate), made maybe 2 types of shields, and got rid of all the fucking million weapons.

I fucking hate rapiers in D&D, its fans are just as bad as weaboos.

It's a fucking sword. But folks act like only in the renaissance are folks walking around without armor and have to defend themselves with a single bladed weapon.

A rapier is a fucking sword. It should do sword damage and not have some bullshit "finesse" tag. All fucking weapons need finesse, that's what the fucking improving attk bonus, thac0, matrix or whatever is for. That's fucking skill.

Like even the fucking context weapons and armor get used is different in the same time frame. Do really think some jack hole is going to dungeon crawl or march overland in a full harness?
I'm even that guy who is playing the fully armored knight with a shield in a dungeon because that is what works I'm the context of the game. D&D gets a lot of shit wrong about combat and arms & armor. But so does every game.

And then the big examples of weapons associated with that, rapiers and katana, got these fucking fans are agitate for "but it's an elegant weapon that defeats armor by getting into the gaps and I should get my dex mod so I can dump str"

"But the point requires all that dex" I vaugly gesture at spears and all other pointy swords.

And I fucking hate "but historical accuracy" with D&D and then no guns because magic? Which is it buddy? If you have fucking rapiers where are your fucking flintlocks? Oh you have guns but they need to so much deadlier than everything because you watch too much history channel?

We got fucking dragons and wizards shooting lighting but you need to have 3d10 with exploding damage on a pistol that ignore armor? 

Use a fucking 0-1 lvl soldier as the baseline for deadliness. Is the weapon's average damage the same as or greater than the average soldier's hp? Congrats the weapon is deadly enough.

02 December 2018

On Sanctum Secorum Episode #38 and "Fencing" Weapons


Last week I listened to Sanctum Secorum Episode #38 Nine Princes in Amber. I  have some mild criticisms for what is an overall excellent episode on one of my favorite books.  Around 17:25 Bob Brinkman talks about the use of "fencing" weapons, rapiers, sabres, smallswords, and courtswords, stating that "fencing of that nature is different from hacking someone with a shortsword or a longsword." The thing is, the use of a rapier IS different from the use of a short sword, and I am not going to travel down the rabbit hole of defining a short sword or a long sword, yet. But they aren't different because "you're really trying to bludgeon them with whatever you hit them with." That right there is some Victorian malarkey.

There's a whole lot of stuff going on with this.

"short swords" and "long swords" are not used hack and bludgeon people with. Or to be more specific, they are not designed for that and only bad fencers would use them in such a manner.
If a sword has a point, it is designed to use it. If a sword isn't meant to use the thrust it would not have a point. That is literally the point of having a point. 

Short and long are very vague descriptors of swords, same with broad. For the sake of this I'm assuming that they refer to the description in the DCC book and rpgs in general and not the single-handed basket-hilted sword or the long-bladed rapier as described by George Silver. Or the longsword as is depicted in historical fencing manuals. So let's just assume the really bad pop culture definition of short and long sword given to us by the Victorians by way of Gygax and D&D.

Just because pop culture says rapiers are a more elegant weapon etc etc doesn't mean a rapier is a more elegant weapon. It is due to pop culture in general that folks say a long sword is used to bludgeon about artlessly. Unskilled fencers universally attempt to use brute force, battering about with whatever like a club. Regardless of how the weapon is to be used.  

When all you have exposure to is sport fencing and swashbucker films, it can be easy to assume the common knowledge about long swords is true. This is pretty much why folks think nihonto are universally super cool weapons. The Japanese have multiple schools on the arts of war. And anime.

At the same time, if you are trying to replicate fencing by way of Zelazny in your game, then totally stick to the "point fencing is superior to the artless hackery" dichotomy because he straight up wrote a fight scene on that premise in Madwand. However, I do not recall Zelazny ever writing about the weapons themselves, only the manner in which they are used. He clearly felt that fencing as it was in his day was superior to the way swords were used prior to modern fencing. 

Now in the Companion, I find the assertion that the small sword's strikes are so fast that they are quicker than the eye and by extension all other blades are not, to be bogus. And by that I mean damn near every sword moves quicker than the eye. Binding and actions at crossed or halfswords (not to be confused with halfswording which can still include being crossed or at halfswords) has been a known thing since at least the 14th century, and were done to control the weapon because the hand is quicker than the eye.

A list of online transcriptions and facsimilies of 14th-17th century fencing manuals
Walpurgis Fechtbuch  14c Sword & Buckler
Fiore de Liberi Grappling, batons, dagger, dagger vs sword, sword in one hand, sword in two hands, sword vs spear, sword in armor, axe in armor, spear, spear vs other weapons, while mounted
MS Dresd.C.487 15-16c Longsword, sword and buckler, grappling, more grappling, even more grappling, short sword (spear and halfsword in armor), and while mounted
Joachim Meyer 16c (long)sword, dussak, rapier, dagger, staff, halberd and long spear
George Silver 16c short sword vs the like, short sword & dagger vs the like, short sword & dagger vs the long sword & dagger or long rapier & poniard, sword & buckler, the two hand sword vs the like, the short staff vs the long staff, the forest bill against the like or the staff, the morris pike vs the like, dagger vs the like.