Friday, October 23, 2020

Oracular Stats

So I stumbled down a rabbit hole the other day ended up on an old reddit post that got me thinking about solo oracles, such as the commonly used "yes/no/and/but" and "percentile chance" systems. Could the stats of a d20 game be converted into their own oracle without the use of an external one? And how much information could be eked out from a single roll? Any information offloaded onto an oracle reduces the creative load on the player. I decided to try and mash together ideas from Flesh of the Tarrasque with the above post to see if I could make a preliminary draft of something along the lines of oracular stats.

To start, take six d20s, preferably physical, but digital tabletops with visual representations could work. Roll the handful of you have onto the table - these are your adventure or world stats (depending on if you're running a story or a sandbox). Leaving the dice where they land, first record the values (range of 1-20) then write next to them relevant modifiers (-3 to +3, extending the end ranges if necessary). These represent the basic stats of your adventure or world. 

For example say you roll: Str 18, Dex 12, Con 3, Int 19, Wis 5, Cha 10 (pictured below).

That could be interpreted on a kingdom with strong military (Str) and sorcerous (Int) factions battling it out at the expense of the populace (Wis), which is ravaged with sickness from said warfare (Con). The mediocre political leaders could be easily manipulated by these powers (Cha), but nonetheless are relatively "flexible" and progressive with policies despite their ineffectiveness (Dex).

Next, look at the dice from left to right - this is your temporal axis. Whether a larger entity or NPC, this indicates the order in which the events in the entity's life - and thus, its stats - developed. For example, in the above roll the first this to develop would be a military presence, hence implying this was originally a military splinter group from another kingdom who took charge. Soon after the sickness emerged and  the sorcerers showed themselves from the shadows, which resulted in all out civil war. The political leaders in the community finally took action, trying to implement progressive policies but it was too late - the kingdom closed itself off from the rest of the world and the leaders became mere puppets of the military and sorcerous factions, which brings us to present day.

Finally, look at the stats from top to bottom gives an indication of importance of the factor in the setting or NPCs life. Continuing on with the example above, it is the sickness that dominates the mind of an average citizen within the kingdom, followed by the civil war and progressive policies being middle, while the societies leaders are seen as ineffectual and are often the last thing a citizen would care about.

The importance of the modifiers comes when creating entities within the larger superstructure, with these nested entities stats being affected by the stats of the level above. For example, a city or a noble within the kingdom would naturally be affected by the external circumstances surrounding them, hence applying the modifiers to their own stats rolls. You could nest these stats infinitely based on the level of granularity you could go to.

Once you've created and recorded some basic facts about elements in a given entity, then comes actual play where the stats start to serve as oracles for the player. For any question, first ask the question, choose the stat most relevant to the question, check to see if any stats would override that stat to apply a modifier, then roll a d20. Any roll equal to or below the stat means the answer of the question should be interpreted as trying to achieve the aims of that stat. For example, a character with a higher strength would be more likely to attack someone than one with weaker stats. But if his charisma is higher than his strength, it is possible he may take a charismatic approach before a strong one, hence the modifier being applied. 

For one off NPCs or larger entities, you could simply use the superstructure. For example, simply roll on the kingdom stats to see how your average Joe/Jane would react to something instead of rolling every stat for them anew. Of course the answer of every question should be interpreted with the context of the question, and based on the stats of other entities. 

Here are some example questions that could be asked for the strength stat:

-Does the man attack (man str 12)? Roll 18, No. 

-How solid is the city wall the dragon is trying to burn (city str 10)? Roll 9, the wall holds against multiple attacks from the beast, giving you time to run.

-What does the letter from the Assassin's Guild say (guild cha 5, overridden by wis 15 -> modifier of +1)? 6, it states that despite the slights made against them as long as the noble doesn't show his face in guild territory again, bygones will be bygones.

Admittedly this limited to classic d20 stats. Maybe it could be mapped onto other systems as well? Most games I've found have a stats basis of some form, its just a matter of expanding those stats to a larger scope. Or maybe the dice needed and the eventual nesting of stats will become more cumbersome than its worth. Who knows?

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Voices from the Coast - Alwin

Dearest Linn, 
I've had a miserable couple of weeks. As you know, work hasn't been plentiful here in the Lothrheim countryside. I had to get a contract with the Péridot Firm. I know what you're thinking. Didn't I know what happened to Father? Didn't I know better than to gain employ as a Cutter? But I didn't have a choice. I was desperate.
The bank sent me and a group of Cutters out on a job to go unearth some ancient ruin. I can't remember the details exactly. Or rather, my contract says I can't. They might get their hands on this letter, so I can't say too much. We managed to make our way up to the town of Hamburg, as far north as you can get before encountering the River Sten and the northern border. Once we'd arrived in the town, I knew something was off. 
You see, most of these coastal towns are bustling hubs. There's always people out and about, even late into the night. We'd been resting up in those types of places whenever we had the chance, better than in somewhere in that Aveth forsaken countryside. But when we came to Hamburg - it was dead silent.
When we walked into that town, we all knew at once what our job was going to be. Only one thing could create this feeling of dread in a coastal village. Plague.  This was last night. This morning, we've already seen our first deserters being carted off. If I hadn't been so tired yesterday, I would have been with them. 
The expedition supervisor gave us instructions on the task a little while back. We're going to enter the ruin to the southwest of the hamlet later today, clear out undesirables, and retrieve the assets. Failure would result in termination and collection of payment for the services rendered on this expedition. We all knew what this meant - we were Grue fodder. We were given a short period to rest up and get affairs in order if we need to and...shit, they're calling for us to line up. 
The small hamlet of Hamburg sits along the shore of the Holm Sea, and hearing children running through the streets of the lively little fishing village, it is hard to imagine the desolate scene described by one Alwin. I had acquired the letter from the local church, written documentation being scant in the best of times, and have reproduced it here for your perusal.

However, the strangest part of the ordeal was not the acquisition of the letter, but subsequent events upon further investigation of the document.  I had reached out to the Péridot Firm that had apparently been in charge of the expedition, only to receive notice that such an expedition had never been carried out. Furthermore, visits to the church resulted in assurances that such an event had never indeed happened, and the letter was nothing more than fictional fancy.

I would have written off the letter as a piece of fantastic fiction had I not received a summons by one Josef of Hamburg. Josef was one of the few in the village who had been alive at the time of the aforementioned expedition, an elder by even Academy standards. Upon visiting his homestead, he had pressed upon me a note given to him years ago by whom he claimed was the same Alwin I had been investigating, and that I must not let "them" get away with it. The note seemed to be a simple note of appreciation, written as if talking to a child clearly enamored, with an autograph at the bottom to boot. He remained silent to further questioning, and I eventually gave up and left the man to his worries.

I was not able to get away from my nagging curiosity, however, and having both letter and note in hand, contacted a colleague in the graphology division back in Firlund. I further contacted some other colleagues of mine, noted historians of Lothrheim, to see if I could piece together anything from their researches as well. What came of my inquiries seemed to raise more questions than it answered, but I will outline for you the highlights. Firstly, the handwriting between the letter and the note did indeed match, confirming the existence of one Alwin, or at least, the confirmation of an elaborate hoax by one individual. 

The second piece of information was that which I received from my colleagues in the history department. During the period the aforementioned letter was written, there had indeed been a well documented outbreak of the Plague in Lothrheim, like the many which had been seen across the Coast since the emergence of the disease. Tucked away in the mass of papers documenting this outbreak was reports from one Ebarim Zeef, an Academy magus tracking strange magical tremors giving off signatures that defied conventional understanding of magical law. These readings were understandably written off as a case of faulty detection of magic by administration and subsequent tests yielded roughly normal results. It was easy to see how it would have been brushed off without a second thought, and I wouldn't have looked into it either if not for the timing and location of the reports. The unusual tremors had occurred only within the reported time period of the Lothrheim plague outbreak and that too at a specific location - coordinates pointing to a location in the wilderness southwest of the village of Hamburg.

Of course, perhaps I am an old man reading far too deeply into something that may not exist, in which case, forgive me dear reader. As I often tell my students, I will leave it up to you to come to your own conclusions, for better or for worse.

-Dr. Arvis Trilf, Professor of Anthropology, Royal Academy of Firlund

Description: Untrained Journeyman.
Motivations: Associate Pride, Overthrow the Poor, Weaken Valor.
Bearing: Hostile, speaks of judgement in relation to his family.
Focus: Afflicting Illness.

-Randomly determined. 1-2=Poor. 3-4=Average. 5-6=Good.
-Penmanship: Poor.
-Language: Average.
-Heart: Poor.

Ink Pot:
1. bank/Péridot Firm (+1/+1)
2. northern/Firlish (+0/+0)
3. god/Aveth (+1/+1)
4. sickness/Plague (+1/+1)
5. monsters/Grues (+1/+0)

Total: 7, tepid reception with negative and positive consequences.

Well, I finally got around to playing a session and it was pretty entertaining. I'm not usually one for long form writing games but using UNE and Quill mixed with the Coast as a setting gave the experience some focus. Especially rolling the primary focus of the scenario as an "afflicting illness" immediately brought to mind the Plague, a defining part of the games I've played in the Coast (and considering when I'm playing this game, somewhat timely as well). Adding context to the letter outside of that turned out to be just as fun of a creative writing exercise, using the final result to roughly interpret how much information Arvis uncovered in his investigation. I'll probably be returning to the Coast at some point, though I may see if I can expand from Quill since I've gotten my hands on a gamut of journal and long form writing games that I want to test out at some point.

Monday, May 18, 2020


So I decided to spice up the barest outlines of the thing I'd made earlier this month, with a dash of inspiration from here added on for good measure. So here we are, AQUTGL v2 in all its glory.

Friday, May 1, 2020


...or my OSR rules in 6 words.

Ask Questions. Use Tools. Get Loot.

Monday, April 27, 2020

Voices of the Coast - Preface

It was on a lazy midsummer's eve, nestled in my office at the Royal Academy of Firlund, that I first gained the desire to leave the ivory tower and head into the bowels of the Coast. As I sat there devouring The Los Karkinos Letters in my leisure time, I was struck by the fact that, while our leaders and statesmen received copious attention in various academic circles, we seldom considered the other denizens of our vast land. What magnitude of perspectives were being restrained by the shackles of obscurity? How many stories were being lost to the mists of time? I was thus compelled to pack up my books, pull out my travelling boots, and leave the cloister of academia to walk directly amongst the voices of the Coast. I present to you the compilation of my travels, and humbly hope this work may provide a small window for the inquisitive reader into the various, multilayered perspectives that inhabit this land we all share.

-Dr. Arvis Trilf, Professor of Anthropology, Royal Academy of Firlund

This post is a new experiment I'm going to be trying out. I'll be using Quill, UNE, BOLD, and the setting of the Coast to create a narrative in an epistolary format, told from the perspective Dr. Arvis Trilf of the Royal Academy of Firlund, who will be doing research by uncovering letters and conducting interviews throughout the Coast. I will start out by creating a character and scenario using UNE, BOLD, and the Incunabuli setting to fill in context. Once the random character and story thread are created, I will begin writing up a letter from the characters perspective, detailing how they fulfill the task at hand. The letter writing will be scored using Quill rules to calculate points for each paragraph, with the final score being listed at bottom of the post in an out of character section. Finally, I will interpret the score for the letter as Dr. Trilf, writing the outcome of the scenario addressed in the letter, as well as any other interesting history, in the form of his analysis of the document. Depending on how I can hack the rules, I may see if I can expand this to an interview transcript format as well, if it goes on long enough, maybe by re-skinning some of the Quill stats.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Serendipitous Meanderings 1

When we last left off, rules were laid out, our hero had been rolled up, and a prompt had been determined to start the adventure of our ne'er-do-well Avin. We'll pick up where our story begins. In regards to formatting, prose will be in italics, dialogue will be surrounded by "quotes", and mechanics and out of character descriptions will be placed in [square brackets].

A cold wind blows through the broken hills as Avin stands at the edge of a dark pit, watching a contingent of orc brigands pick their way through the wreckage of a caravan. Avin decides he will wait out of orcs, not being a big risk taker.

[Do the orcs come in his direction after they finish moving through the caravans? No, but they don't budge for a long while, almost hours on end.]

It takes until late afternoon as Avin squats in the brush, waiting for the orcs to leave, until at long last the orcs start up out of the pit and head into the wilds. Avin waits a bit longer, and then checks at the edge of the pit to see if there was anything else down in the awning depths.

[Is there something more sinister than orcs down in the dark pit (likely)? Yes, something that has been waiting for the dark to come from wherever it rests. A lightning-scarred treant seeks revenge against any wizard it encounters. Does Avin sense that something is moving down there? 5/6 Danger Sense, Success.]

Avin looks down into the pit when he suddenly notices a movement of one of the tree trunks in the wreckage, scarred and blackened to the point that it mixed into the ruined backdrop. He freezes, holding his breath as the trunk seemed to lift itself from the wreckage as darkness fell, and move around inside the pit.

[Is the thing coming out of the pit? Yes, and its heading in Avin's direction! Is Avin able to remain hidden as it passes? 5/6 Hide in Shadows, Success.]

Avin remains still, holding his breath as the tree beast reaches to the sides of the pit and pulls itself up, dragging its form out of the pit and to the land above. It doesn't notice the man hidden in the brush and lumbers onwards, receding into the horizon in the direction of the orcs. Avin looks down at the pit and up at the sky, growing darker by the minute, and decides that he'll have to head down now before it get's pitch black, or abandon any hope of getting anything from the wreckage today. He takes the risk goes ahead, lowering himself into the pit.

[Is there anything else in the pit? No, and it is absolutely still in the pit.]

Avin descends into the pit, slowly pulling himself down before going to the wreckage of the caravan. He starts to pick through what he can before darkness sets in, racing against the rapidly vanishing light.

[Is he able to find anything of use in the wreckage before it gets too dark? Yes. He finds 7 gp, 4 sp, and a Coral (7 gp).]

Avin pockets what he can and in the receding light, and gets out of the pit, not eager to stay there overnight. More than satisfied with the days exploits, he heads back to Town.

[Any encounters on his way back to town? Yes, but it's once he comes back into town limits. The main street is strewn with broken arrows.]

Avin kicks around the arrows, and squats into an alleyway, looking around to see if anyone shows themselves or anything else erupts. He makes sure that he's also not being tracked as well.

[Avin's Stealth: 2/6, success! Does anything happen in the next few hours to warrant further investigation or suspicions? No.]

After a couple of hours with nothing much happening, except some street sweepers coming to clear out the arrows and guards patrolling the area, Avin decides to leave the street. He wanders down to The Drowned Duckling, a seedy local inn of less than stellar repute and dirt cheap prices. He goes to ask for a room, and is told that he owes 3 silver pieces, which he forks over for the night. He goes up to the dingy quarters and gets a good nights sleep for the first time in a long time.

[Downtime (per my rules posted here): Avin will sell the Coral and spend the week blowing through all of his coin at the Drowned Duckling (Carousing). +16 XP. I'll be updating the character sheet in the introduction post.]

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Yet Another Downtime System

I needed a downtime system and looking around I didn't find one simple enough for my tastes, so I whipped up my own. I condensed downtime into its simplest classic elements, and structured it in such a way that I can roll a d6 to randomly determine activities and living costs if desired.

1. Carouse: Blow all cash and convert directly to XP+10%.
2. Make Friends: Roll NPC reaction. On a neutral reaction, reroll but with incentive or fail.
3. Find Rumors: Find d6 rumors.
4. Investment: Gain a +1 on investment related rolls for every d6*1000 gold invested.
5. Thievery: Roll d6. 1=Trouble with the law. 2-5=Fail. 6=Success, get random loot.
6. Unique: Roll a random encounter (or reroll).

Living Costs:
1. Poverty: d6/10 GP
2. Middling: d6 GP
3. Wealthy: d6 x 10 GP
*If you can't afford any of the options, roll a d6. On a 1-5, you are imprisoned. On a 6, you manage to avoid guards and scrape by on the streets.