Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Detailed Combat Posts - More Initiative & Movement

There are some additional aspects of breaking combat, joining combat and forcing a new initiative roll that I have yet to cover.  Consider this example.

Here we have Albert (white) and Bertrand (blue).  Suppose Albert is unarmored and has a movement of 5.  Suppose Bertrand is in chain mail and has a movement of 3.  Albert wins initiative.  He attacks Bertrand (2 moves), breaks from combat (1 move) and moves two hexes (2 moves).  In effect, he attacks and runs away:

Bertrand is slow.  He can move two hexes forward, but it does him no good, as when he gets next to Albert, he won't have enough movement left to attack.  Logically, he has nothing to gain from moving forward, so he remains where he is.

Now Albert is free to turn around (no movement cost, as its presumed he manages it with a bit of the last round and a bit of this one).  He is two hexes from Bertrand, and because Bertrand did not attack him the previous round, the initiative order has been lost.  If Albert moves two forward to attack again, they must both roll initiative, and the winner attacks first.

Albert's tactic works best if Albert has a higher dexterity, and can expect to win most of his initiatives (great for thieves!).  On the other hand, Bertrand can circumvent this tactic by possessing a weapon that can be thrown: a hand axe, hammer or dagger can be drawn with one move and thrown with two more.  Alternately, Bertrand could have a weapon with a reach of 7 or more feet.  If Bertrand were using a polearm, he could step forward one and attack Albert from two hexes away.  Aha!  Suddenly a pole arm has a logical purpose:

If Bertrand wants to be in armor that slows him to 3 or even 2 movement, he must necessarily take a defensive stance against anything that moves faster.  A guard defending a gate in plate mail would likely be supported by a bowman, as the guard could not run after lighter attackers who struck and moved back.

There are a number of space issues with using a pole arm, but I shall take this up in another post, to be written another day.

Let's move on and consider the following:

Albert is fighting against Bertrand and Calvin (green); because Bertrand and Calvin are fighting as allies, they have one initiative rating - they do not determine their initiatives separately.  It was stated in the last example that all four persons were independent; not so in this case. 

Let us say that Albert wins initiative, attacks Bertrand and misses; let us further say he does not break combat.  Bertrand then attacks Albert, also missing; he also remains where he is.  Now, Calvin attacks the same round as Bertrand - and as he moves forward to attack, his initiative has already been determined.  But if we assume that Calvin has a movement of 4, and already has his weapon out, he may take one of three paths - A or B or C:

Both paths A & C leave him with no movement at the end of his turn; path B permits him one more move.  However, B & C permit Calvin a bonus of +1 to hit against Albert's flank.  I don't grant +2 to attack from 'behind,' as combat in this system is nowhere near as static as the Gygaxian ficton.  It is presumed that Albert is in constant motion, showing neither Bertrand nor Calvin his back.  Some might argue - but it is in the interest of removing argument that there are only two positions: forward and flank.  The back position exists ONLY when the intended subject is attacked by surprise and from behind - in which case, yes, a +2 is granted.

Thus, all this makes possible the sort of complex battle strategy that doesn't exist in ordinary D&D combat:

Albert, Bertrand, Calvin and Dennis (orange) all move 4.  Albert gives up his attack and moves four around his opponent in order to better surround the enemy.  Bertrand shifts right and attacks.  Calvin advances two and attacks the enemy that was previously attacking Albert from the flank.  Dennis moves around two and to better encircle the enemy and attacks.

I think I'm ready at last to talk about stunning.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Let The Audience Believe What They Want

From the 10,000 word post:

"If the elephant was described first as purple, it must remain purple forevermore.  If your original purpose was to make the elephant green, you should have remembered to describe the greenness of the elephant accurately from the outset ... If the elephant's greenness was somehow incredibly important to the backstory behind the elephant, then change the backstory that hasn't yet been told to the players."

You must try to be consistent.  If you are not consistent, cover it up.

There are those who would balk at that advice.  Deception is the same as lying, and lying is - in the opinions of some - NEVER an acceptable strategy in presenting the game to your players.  Your players deserve respect; if you make an error, it is beholden onto you to admit your error, set it right, apologize if need be, and move on.  There is no justification, ever, for lying to your players.


About fourteen years ago I was performing a play in Edmonton for the Fringe Festival; it was a fairly large cast, twenty-six in all, and for much of the play we were all on stage at the same time.  The director had worked out a pretty good gimmick.  The scene was a bar.  There were seven tables and seven stories; and as the 'server' came around to drop drinks off at a particular table, the spot would come up and the scene at that table would commence; she'd serve the next table just as the scene ended, the spot would change and the play continued.

This required some pretty precise blocking, along with a very precise technical schedule; we worked like hell on getting the timing right on every scene - not easy with seven tables and twenty actors on stage.

There was an actress I worked with at my table whose father died while we were in Edmonton.  She was devastated; she was not sure if she wanted to continue through the rest of the week, or if she could continue.  But we were in the second largest venue of the Fringe (which cost us a lot) and the reviews were fair; it was an opportunity for all of us.  She had no back-up, so it was going to be a furious mess if she left.  She decided to stay - and the first performance after left her a wreck.  She got through it all right and thankfully we had a 36-hour break before our next performance.  She rushed back to Calgary to be with her family.

When she made it back, she was bone-tired.  I don't know if she got any sleep before we went on.  And in the middle of our third scene, she froze up.

Shit, anyone who performs can tell you a dozen stories like this.  People forget their lines.  I messed up in the middle of a performance of Chekhov in High School and filled the time by walking back and forth across the entire stage while the stage manager (my girlfriend) mouthed words at me.    It happens and you do your best.  In this case, the other fellow at the table and I both got what was going on at the same time - and we staged an impromptu argument that lasted just long enough to get us past her lines, give the cue to the techies and the server.  It was a complete fabrication.  It was a LIE.  What should we have done - stopped and told the audience why we'd spontaneously changed a play they had never seen?

Hell no!  You do what makes the play work.  You fake, steal, break things, stage fistfights - whatever it takes, so long as eventually you get the play back on track and the audience never gets bored.  AND you don't tell them that's not how the play was meant to go.

I had a friend who was an electrical engineer who did stage work for independent theatre in Toronto.  He was working tech on a play he was producing, which included this massive electrical apparatus in which Nietzsche - a character in the play - was supposed to step inside for his 'transformation' into Superman (Nietzsche's, not Hollywood's).  Well, came time for the scene and it didn't work.  At all.  Damned electricals.

The actor, pressed to do something, went on stage without any help at all, transformed, and the play went on.  My friend in the meantime fixed the machine.  When it was all over, the lights in the theatre came up and my friend walked out to meet the applause.  He explained the transformation scene hadn't gone as hoped.  He explained they wanted to do it now.  So the lights came down, the curtains opened, the machine was on the stage and Nietzsche went through his transformation the way it was planned.

The punchline?  The audience thought the play was supposed to happen in exactly that order.

What I'm saying is that if you screw up, shut up.  If the overall performance is high quality enough, it won't matter anyway.  The audience will believe what they want to believe.

There's no sense in popping their bubble if you don't have to.

The Mess That Is France

Bored yet of combat and how to posts?  Sorry, more to come.

In the meantime, I haven't posted a map here for awhile, so here's one of the ongoing mess that is France.  I get a real kick out of posting maps while they're being constructed ... and I won't have this one tidied up for several months.  This is a mash-up of two maps, actually, as France spreads over several plates (each 30x35 hexes, hexes 20 mi. in diameter), and some glitches occurred in the cut-and-paste process ... but what the hell, this map isn't neat and pretty at the moment, anyway.  Not all the rivers are shown, nor all the towns (around the edges).  All that is shown in the pink areas are notes for later design.

For some, this will be the most familiar map I've posted, since it covers all of the nastiness that was the Western Front in the Great War.    Cambrai is there, and Verdun, Ypres, Liege, Soissons, Nancy and so on ... a real testament to mass killing on an incompetant scale.

Oh well.  Here's a link to something rare investigators of WWI would want to see.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Detailed Combat Posts - Initiative

Since the core of combat works precisely as it does in AD&D, I need not go into too much detail regarding how to hit, how to calculate modifiers to hit, how to do damage and how to calculate modifiers to damage. All weapons cause the damage which the player’s handbook indicates is done to small creatures; damage is not modified in its effect against large creatures. Why this particular rule was ever invented continues to baffle me. If the purpose was to make it easier to kill large creatures, why give large creatures more hit dice?

Regarding hit points and hit dice, I suggest looking up my rules on mass effects on hit points per hit die, which can be found here.

Rules regarding surprise in my world can be found here.

Initiative is very similar to the manner in which it is stated in the DM’s Guide, but for clarity let’s put up a few images. The primary manner in which initiative differs in my world is that it is rolled only ONCE per melee. For clarity, “melee” is here defined as an uninterrupted hand-to-hand encounter between two or more fighters. The key word here is ‘uninterrupted.’

AD&D, as I have played it for a long time, suggests that each “side” rolls a d6 to determine initiative, and that this is done each round. I propose that each side still rolls initiative, but that this needs to be done only a minimum number of times. First, let us consider the following situation:

Albert (white), Bertrand (blue), Calvin (green) and Dennis (orange) have all come together and are about to fight. Let us presume all four men have a movement of FOUR. Let us say each of these men represent a different “side.” All four of them roll a d6, and by chance, three of them roll a “3”; and the last combatant rolls a “2.” Bertrand is the odd man out.

Let us also say that Albert has a dexterity of 16. This gives him a +1 bonus on his die. If his dexterity were 17, he’d get a bonus of +2, and if it were 18, he would get a bonus of +3. In this case, however, he only gets +1 and his initiative roll is “4.” The other three combatants have a dexterity of less than 16, so they do not get a bonus.

Albert has initiative, so he draws his short sword (1 move), takes a step to the left (1 move) and attacks Bertrand (2 moves):

We’ll put an X there for convenience. Because D&D is a turn-based game, it does not matter that the other combatants do not move during this time. It is assumed that no matter who moves and in which order, when Albert moves to his left, Bertrand is there and can be attacked. Albert rolls to hit and misses.

Now it is presumed that both Calvin and Dennis are moving simultaneously. It assumes that no matter what is the result of Calvin’s action, or what is the result of Dennis’s action, both actions will be judged to have happened. Thus, even if Calvin attacks and kills Dennis, Dennis still has the opportunity to attack and perhaps kill Calvin also.

It gets tricky if both Calvin and Dennis want to move into the same hex. There are a number of ways to resolve this: 1) Have them write their actions ahead of time, and have them roll to “win” if the actions conflict; 2) Judge the combatant with the higher dexterity to move faster, and thus enter the hex first. I usually play (2); it is easier. If the dexterities are equal, then I rate them by intelligence; if that is equal, then by wisdom; then by strength, then by charisma, and finally by constitution. Why that order? No particular reason. A different order could be argued, though I imagine most would agree on dexterity being first. It doesn’t matter, really, so long as it is consistent.

If you want to get really gritty, a third method might be to employ the following table, a holdover from long ancient wargames:

If we presume that Calvin wishes to get out a battle axe (2 moves) and Dennis wants to get out his two-handed sword (3 moves), then we can further assume that Calvin can move before Dennis, and would then enter an adjacent hex before Dennis could. Or else, Dennis could enter a hex while Calvin was still getting out his axe, and then get out his weapon. I can tell you, however, it is usually better to get your weapon out before moving.

In this case, Calvin pulls his axe and moves 1 hex towards Bertrand (he really hates the color blue). This takes three moves; he only has 4, and he chooses not to move further, so he stops and ends his turn. Dennis gets out his massive sword, has one move left, and uses it to move towards Calvin.

Finally, Bertrand moves (last). He draws his hand axe (1 move) and attacks Albert (2 moves). He misses. He has one move left, which isn’t enough to break from combat, so he stays put.

Now, at this point AD&D would have everyone roll initiative again, but I say it is not necessary. The original order was not resolved by any of the participants meaningfully changing the combative “initiative” of their opponents. If Albert was pressing the attack before, he should be able to go on pressing it until something happens which ends that initiative - something concrete, not for the sake of its own randomness as initiative works in AD&D rules.  My argument is that this can only be done by someone doing damage to Albert. This has not happened, so Albert still has initiative.

HOWEVER, the initiative between Calvin and Dennis was never resolved. We know they both go after Albert. They both go before Bertrand. But since simultaneous movement is interesting only in small doses (which is why we keep it), we have Calvin and Dennis roll initiative against each other. We’ll say that Calvin rolls one better than Dennis, and wins the initiative.

So Albert would go first, followed by Calvin, followed by Dennis and finally Bertrand.  And this continues until they quit, they die, or one of them is STUNNED.  Stunning rules shall be discussed in the next post.

UPDATE:  I've had to write more points on initiative before getting to stunning.  These can be read here.

Buy a Bell

Lately, the only posts I want to write are these.

From the 10,000 word post, in reference to the manner in which information should be relayed to the party:

"Repeatedly. Note the point above; your players will have forgotten, so don't hesitate to remind them over and over and over ... don't presume that, having been informed once, they have the detail in their head when they identify the action they wish to perform. In reality they would find it hard to forget the huge purple elephant in the room. The player's imagination may need to be provided this information again, since the player's sense of hearing, smell and sight cannot be relied upon."

In effect, you are the players ears, nose and eyes.  You are the tactile sensation of their hands, you are the rumble in their bellies, you are the rush of lust they have when they see a pretty girl walk by.  You are the constant and ever-present reminder that they get sleepy or that their feet hurt, that the weather is causing their nose to drip or that they need to pee.  YOU are that reminder, because the party will forget or ignore those little elements that make us human ("humanoid") in a most inconvenient and real way.

For you or I, living in the real world, our feet hurting may seem unimportant.  In a fantasy world, it may seem downright inconvenient.  But its real.  It has the feeling of being real.  Its far more relatable than dungeons or dragons ... and when mixed in with the dungeons damp and the dragon sizzle, it fleshes the characters out with real flesh.

Any idjit can describe a 20x20 room and say there are four goblins in it.  Any idjit can say there's a door on the far wall and that the goblins have big boobley eyes.  That sort of detail is easy to convey ... and is included in your handy dungeon kit for your everyday use.  The gentle reader certainly doesn't need advice that says, "don't forget to mention the fountain in the corner when you describe the room."  Of course you should describe the fountain.  That's why you put it on the bleeding map.

What you need to get into your head is to describe all the things that CAN'T be put on the map ... and to describe them in such a way that the party experiences those things just as though they were happening.  If you tell them once that there's a ringing in their ears, they'll forget it.  If you tell them twice, they might write it down and they might conjecture a bit.

But if you want them to understand that the ringing is annoying as hell, then describe the ringing every thirty seconds.  Describe it and describe it and describe it, until the player gets up from the table screaming.  Then you can say, "see ... the ringing is just like that."

If you really hate your players, buy a bell.

Thursday, February 23, 2012


I am simply not happy with yesterday's post.  It is a difficult thing to discuss clarity.  I allowed myself to be distracted by the issue of suspension of disbelief, and I do not believe that I managed the subject of clarity with clarity; and so I shall try again.

A common error, one I make myself, particularly in speaking, is to give too much information that is not relevant to the presentation of the world.  In giving too much information, you will bore your audience.

If your audience is in a tavern, it is good to know the name of the tavern.  It is perhaps good to know the name of the bartender, if it is your intention as DM to have that person deliver more to the party than only drinks.  It is good to know the number of persons present, and what sort of social status is represented.  It may be pleasant to suggest that there is a fire, or a storyteller, or that the chairs are well-crafted or the tavern of ancient construction.  But there are details that can be left out.  It does not matter what street the tavern is on.  It does not matter in what year the tavern was built or its dimensions (unless you plan to fight there, in which case they can be given when it matters).  It does not matter how many rooms there are.  Oh, of course someone may ask - but unless they ask, leave the matter lay.  It is a tavern.  That is usually enough.

If your audience is upon a road, it is good to know where the road is going, or how smooth a road it is.  But the details beyond that hardly matter.

If your audience is attending a town festival, do not spend paragraphs describing how the festival came to occur.  If your audience cares, they will ask.  Concentrate upon what they see, and if there is free ale, and if there are women.  But most of all, concentrate on what might matter for the adventure at hand, and save the long-winded storytelling.  If your audience cares, they will ask.

If you will be clear, I suggest you be succinct.

You are in a wood.  There are trees.  The sun is shining.  It is morning.  The woods are quiet.  You hear a maid singing.  She is young.  She sits with three lambs.  She continues singing as you approach.

Simple.  Direct.  To the point.

There is no long winded tale of how the woods reach into the hills or mountains beyond.  There is no long description of the thirty kinds of tree in the forest.  The sun need not be defined by how high it is in the sky, so long as the party knows it is not afternoon or evening.  The hundreds of tiny sounds the woods make do not need to be catalogued.  The maid's song does not need lyrics.  Her exact age is not important.  If the lambs are only lambs, than no more information is of interest.  That she sings even as the party approaches shows as much about her character than insightful comments, by you, describing her as fearless or haughty or indifferent.  The party will fill in these details.  It matters most that they have met a girl and that she sits.  The party will inquire further into what they need to know.  Do not bludgeon them endlessly with things that do not matter.

What matters, that is what I attempted with the last post to explain.  I hope that this, with that, will clarify the issue.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The World They Know

From the 10,000 word post:

"Having produced a setting with these characteristics, as DM you must perceive that your principle goal will be to provide CLARITY.  Having plopped your players in your setting, it is less important that you provide options for your players to follow, than that you begin to create their suspension of disbelief by completely and accurately describing what it is they see and understand about the place they find themselves."

How is this done?  With great freakin' difficulty.

Understand first:  I am not saying in the above quote that providing options for your players isn't important.  It is very important.  What I am saying is that their suspension of disbelief is MORE important - otherwise the options you provide will be evidently contrived, and will completely fail to achieve the running you want.

What is suspension of disbelief?  It is a formula by which a presenter enables the audience to accept fantastic or non-realistic elements because they want to, and not because those elements are necessarily "real."  An audience will accept magic.  An audience will accept imaginary worlds.  An audience will accept a wide variety of things, such as foreigners who speak English, or the convenience of objects that happen to be present when the heroes need them, or explosions in space.  An audience will accept these things because an audience does not care that these things are impossible - they are interesting, and that is all that matters.

As a presenter, it is your responsibility to be interesting; it is your responsibility to give the audience what they want - even if they don't know what they want; and it is your responsibility not to fuck with the formula.  How do I mean?  The formula states the audience will accept falsehood and fakery if it is presented consistently, and if it retains all the elements of drama - that is to say, if the villains are dangerous and the heroes have an even chance of winning.

No matter what anyone tells you, all narrative comes down to Dudley Do-Right vs. Snidely Whiplash.

Oh, we can get sophisticated.  Snidely can be presented as Hannibal Lecter; he can have the vagaries of Mrs. Robinson, or the cartoonishness of the Joker, or even the genial ignorance of George W. Bush; but Snidely exists as someone that seems insurmountable.  If he is to be pulled down, then he must be pulled down FAIR and SQUARE ... meaning from a narrative point of view, by someone using the best means they have available in the cleverest way possible.

If Dudley can destroy Snidely with a snap of his finger, the drama is lost, and so is the audience's acceptance.  If Dudley has been having trouble for all this time, then suddenly finds a way to get rid of Snidely with a snap of his finger, that's just as bad.  Snidely can only be destroyed by Dudley one way:  Dudley has to suffer every step of the way, and when he takes Snidely down, it has to be a near miss thing.  Dudley can have superpowers, but if those powers are more than enough (even by a little bit), the audience won't buy the formula and you've goofed.

In D&D, the whole world is Snidely Whiplash.  The party is just an ordinary Dudley Do-Right, doing its best to survive against all this impossibility.  Oh, we can be sophisticated.  Dudley doesn't have to "do right" ... he can do a lot of wrong.  He can be almost as evil as Snidely.  That doesn't matter - because it isn't how Dudley acts that's important.  It is how Snidely treats him.  Or, how your world treats your players.  No matter what your players do, the world is ALWAYS against them, and they are ALWAYS against the world.  They may find friends; they may find allies; but no matter how many friends or allies they find, Snidely will always have more ... and to win, the party will have to do it by the skin of their teeth.

Your job, as DM, is to see that it happens ... just ... that ... way.

How?  Here is where I talk about completely and accurately explaining your world.  There is a reason why this villain-hero formula has worked since the dawn of time.  We all, you and I, every person you meet, lives a Dudley vs. Snidely existence.  It isn't as grotesque as Batman vs. Gotham.  It is down on the ground and ordinary, yet it is tinged with discontent and dissatisfaction at every turn.  As a DM, you want to begin presenting your world as an ordinary thing.  Describe the bar.  Describe the river next to the party's camp.  Describe the trees and the fields and the distant mountains.  Most of all, concentrate on those things that most annoy a party, and mix those in with things that don't.  There is a beautiful glade, but there are flies.  Here is a beautiful girl, but she's rude.  Here is the promise of a treasure, but there are monsters and traps.  The party has the treasure now, but there are bandits.  The bandits are dead now, but they have brothers.  The party has returned to town with wealth, but there are taxes.  They've paid their taxes, but the townspeople resent the party's wealth.  And so on, and so forth.

You must try to place yourself where your party is, and you must wonder to yourself, what isn't quite right with this situation?  I don't mean that the townspeople should all appear and try to seize the party's treasure.  I mean that they should present their unhappiness in small ways.  Spitting when the party passes.  Refusing to serve them drinks.  Having the guard harrass the party over where the party has tied their horses.  Pestering the party.  Making them feel unwelcome.  Getting things stirred up.

As I say, ordinary.  Not the world burning to the ground, but the same little things that every player associates with the real world as annoying.  We all go to jobs.  We all deal with people.  We know what we like and what we don't like.  We know just how much we'll take before we snap.  So be Snidely, and push them until they snap.

This is a 'clarity' your party will understand.  Trust me when I say you won't win them over with long descriptions of what the king wants or what the nobles have done lately.  The party won't care about far off wars, or the color of the barwench's eyes.  There is a natural disbelief they possess, and if you present a world that has no drama in it, all you will have from your players is disbelief.  Yes, its  a nice castle.  Yes, its a nice town.  Oh, what a nice army.  Right, the road goes somewhere.  So what.  You know that it all sounds awfully boring.  These are the 'options' I spoke about above.  Your players don't need another flat painting of your world.  They need someone to step in and push the party around a bit.  Make 'em feel less at home.  You know, like we all feel, most of the time.

They will believe in the world when the world you run feels like the world they know.  This is what your players expect of you.

Afterword to Combat Movement

There, the previous post is complete.  Bit off a bit more than I could chew there.  If I'd known it was going to take me five days of updates after posting, I'd have held back entirely.  I'll know not to do that again.

Thank you for your patience.  We will be returning to our regular posting schedule soon.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Detailed Combat Posts - Movement

I've been thinking lately of a series of posts which would simplistically explain, piece by piece, my combat system.  I've put forth demonstrations, and there have been combats shown on the campaign blog, but it is evident that people don't quite get the whole concept.  This would take a long time to crystallize, but I suppose that if I don't do it, the whole notion is going to die with me.

Therefore, let us start with movement.

Albert (white) is wearing no armor whatsoever. A round is considered to be 12 seconds in length, and Albert, an ordinary humanoid, is considered to have a “normal” movement of 5.

A hex is 5 feet in diameter.

Albert’s move is 2.4 seconds per hex, or 0.48 seconds/ft. This is slow—a total of only 1.42 miles per hour. However, the pace is slowed to consider caution, fatigue and the likelihood that Albert has been walking/marching all day while carrying more equipment than simple armor.

However - and has always been a bugbear with movement - it is entirely possible for a young human in good shape to run 100 yards in 24 seconds or less.  100 yards is 60 hexes ... which should mean that an unarmored Albert should be able to run six times his ordinary speed over two rounds.  When I was in high school, I could run 100 yards in just over 13 seconds.  What gives? 

The problem is usually handwaved.  I usually handwave it.  The problems are that wide-ranging movement like this would require an immense map board and it does not add much to the fundamental combat interaction.  So, for convenience, we're all assumed to be moving slower than we are actually moving.   The matter could be resolved, obviously, by shortening the round or enlarging the hexes; but lets recognize that so long as everything moves at the same comparative "rate," the whole question is moot.

Let us return to Albert.  According to my system, his speed is determined by his armor and his strength.  I could concoct a table that would calculate all his carried weight to determine his speed, but for the present I am satisfied with the simplification of armor + strength = speed.  The table for this is below, or can be clearly read here:

The table is very simple ... though there's a column missing.  Presume a column on the left headed "Strength - 3 to 7" in which all armor besides the helmet is slowed 1 point from what's shown under 8 to 11.  I should fix this some day.  I trust subtracting 1 is not too difficult for the gentle reader.

Very well.  Your strength is 15.  You are wearing chain mail & shield.  You can move 3 hexes per round.  Your strength is 12.  You are wearing plate mail and shield.  You can move 2 hexes per round.

We'll say that Albert has a strength of 17.  He is not wearing armor.  He can move 5 hexes per round.

Every other imaginable task that takes place during a combat round is measured not in seconds, but in moves equivalent to hexes per round.  If an individual is able to move 5 hexes per round, he has a movement of 5 with regards to everything.

An attempt to categorize all this possible movement during a combat round was made here.  I shall try to reproduce the table below (can't say how well Blogger will do with it):

This looks complicated, but it isn't.  It is a LOT to remember.  It is also boring and pedantic, but for absolute clarity, I'll go through the entire list to describe what the actions are.

Activate a magic item.  This would not include a potion or a scroll, which would take a longer period of time to consume or read than 1 movement.  It refers to things like pointing a wand or using a ring, flipping a switch on a rod or initializing a given power in an artifact.  In effect, anything that can be accomplished by a simple hand movement or finger, biting down or performing a quick jerk.

Apply poison to weapon.  This presumes the character has the poison in hand at the start of the round, and that it is not still in a pocket or hanging from a belt or otherwise buried on the person - it also presumes the poison isn't being handed to the user in the same round.  The previous round the user should indicate, "getting ready to apply poison to weapon" by finding the poison, uncapping the bottle or otherwise opening it.  The entire round, with no other movement whatsoever, must be used to apply the poison to the weapon.

Applying healing salve to a recipient I have a healing salve which can be purchased, which heals 1-4 hit points.  It is somewhat magical, and can be swallowed or poured into a bleeding wound (qv).  The rule about the salve is similar to that of the poison above.  The salve must be in hand at the start of the round (though I am often relaxed about the rule, as it often means life and death for a character, and I'm inclined to be lenient (qv).  Often the medicant and the recipient are the same person, but sometimes circumstances require another individual to perform the administration.  The effect of the salve is taken to be immediate.

Awake from sleeping.  Requires full movement, and does not guarantee full awakedness.  Most carnivorous animals and a wide range of monsters are presumed to automatically achieve their "wisdom check" as the nature of these animals is to respond quickly to danger.  A few herbivorous animals will also wake up quickly.  A DM must use their judgement.  Humanoids, sorry to say, often wake up very groggily.  The wisdom check is made to see if it will take one, or two rounds to wake.  No other actions can be performed while waking up, whether over one or two rounds - which includes drawing weapons, casting spells and so on.  Awakening persons retain their full armor class, however: a naked person with a 16 dexterity is still AC 8.

Awaken someone else from sleeping.  3 movement points presumes time taken to move to their exact location, reach over, what have you, kick them awake, shout at them, and make sure they are woken up before moving on.  It presumes automatic success - though the awakening person will not actually perform the "waking up" until the round after being awoken.  Thus, in round 1 Albert wakes up Bertrand.  Then, while Albert performs some other action, Bertrand wakes up.  Assuming Bertrand is successful, the following round Bertrand can take another action also.  Bertrand does not wake up the same round he is woken up.

Note that if your movement is 2, it will not take one and a half rounds to wake someone up.  It is presumed that all movement requirements equal to and above your movement require one full round, and no more.  Exception: see "break from combat."

Bestow beneficial spell effects.  In effect, "discharging" the spell.  This presumes that your character has already cast the spell, and possesses the power of the spell through concentration.  See "cast spell" below.  This is, in effect, the spellcaster placing a hand on the willing recipient, or discharging the spell from a distance at a desiring recipient, for spells such as aid, cure light wounds, remove curse, bless, etc.  The caster can complete their normal movement after discharging a spell.

Bestow detrimental spell effects.  Because there is a natural resistance in others against attacking magic, it requires twice as long to overcome that resistance in discharging the spell.  Thus, charm person, curse, cause light wounds, fireball, meteor swarm or any other harmful spell requires two movement points to discharge.  The caster can complete their normal movement after discharging a spell.

Break from combat.  This I think needed more explanation than could fit on one line.  There are two possible actions here - withdraw and flee.  (For the record, I'm just realizing this has never been as clear a rule as it ought to be, so I am fixing the rule here and now).

To withdraw, the character moves back one hex and keeps his or her front to the opponent.  In this case, to move back requires 2 points of movement (one to remain ready and one to retreat the necessary hex).  After he has separated himself from combat, he may move normally.  See figure 4.

Albert and Bertrand (blue) are in combat.  Bertrand has a 16 strength and is in leather armor, and so he moves 4.  He requires 2 movement points to break from combat, and thus retains two movement points.  He might throw an axe (if he had one in hand), or any other action taking two moves or less.  He might also turn to run away:

Note in the above example, that if Albert (still white) is moving 5, he is able to move forward three and attack Bertrand from behind.  However, while this is true, Bertrand (if not stunned) would be able to double his speed the next round, while Albert, having attacked, would not.  See "flight".

There are a multitude of ways that this particular movement rule affects combat, but for a further discussion, see "melee"

Cast Spell.  Regardless of the character's movement, this requires the complete round (or rounds), allowing the player to move one hex, if desired.  It does NOT allow the spellcaster the opportunity to take any other action while casting besides movement.  The spellcaster is presumed to be in a state of deep concentration, so a slow shuffling of feet in a given direction is all that's allowed.  As some spells in my world take two or more full combat rounds to cast (a method of reducing the power of high level spellcasters), the caster may move 5' in any direction each round of casting.  Please note that casting a spell and discharging that same spell do not take place in the same combat round.  see "bestow."

Change Form.  This applies regardless of the method of changing form (druid ability, spell, magic item, etc.), and requires the full round.  Note that while a spell may be discharged in one move, the actual time of change requires the entire round (at the beginning of which the spell is bestowed upon the recipient).  If the spell is bestowed/item activated at any time except the beginning of the round (before the recipient takes some other action), then the entire NEXT round is taken up with changing form.  Potions which are drunk, note, tend to require 2-5 rounds before they activate; they will always activate at the beginning of a given round, before any other action can be taken by the imbiber.

Charging, 2nd Round.  Presumes that the charger has applied their full movement the round before to travelling forward an equal number of hexes (move of five, runs forward five hexes). 

Where it reads, "double the cost of all other actions and penalties," this could have been worded better. Take all other actions to have the same movement requirement - please count each hex at one half movement point.

The charger can move up to double their speed - however, take note that the charger must retain enough movement in order to still attack.  The attack is not considered a "charge," however, unless the charger has already spent one full round moving beforehand.  The attack is presumed to take place before the end of the second round.  See Figure 6:

Albert, charging Bertrand, takes his movement of 5 hexes the first round.  The second round, he is able to move six hexes using only three movement points.  This leaves him 2 move left in order to charge Bertrand.  If Bertrand had been one more hex away, the charge would be assumed to take place in the third round of charging (see below).

Charging is changed from the DMG.  When charging, just prior to contact, player characters make wisdom checks; NPCs and mounts roll against their morale.  If both succeed, initiative is rolled - regardless of the length of the weapon.  The charging side gains a +1 to their initiative roll.  The side that wins initiative attacks at +1 to hit; if initiative is simultaneous, both sides attack at +1 to hit.

IF the charger fails their wisdom check (player characters) or morale (NPCs), they are considered to have A) lost initiative and B) lost 2 points of armor class when they are attacked,and as long as they continue to be stunned (qv).  Thus, when the defender attacks a charger who has "broke ranks," the defender gets +3 overall "to hit" (initiative and failed charge).  If the charger is then stunned, the defender gains +2 for that next round, and every round until the charger is not stunned.

If the defender fails their wisdom check or morale, they are considered to have A) lost initiative and B) lost 4 points of armor class when they are attacked, and for as long as they continue to be stunned.

Overall, this balances the odds in the favor of the charger if both succeed morale, and very much balances the charge in the favor of those who stand firm in the face of those who panic at the last moment ... with the charger getting the better end.

Charging, 3rd round.  It is presumed the charger has already moved two rounds at no less than their full movement rate, plus at least 1 hex.  Thus, in the example above, Albert moves 11 hexes in two rounds, and would have to move 12 if Bertrand were one hex further away - which satisfies the requirement.

Otherwise, if the charger had moved at full double speed the round before, each hex this round may be counted as a 1/3rd movement point.

However, for the attack to remain a charge (the charger potentially becoming fatigued), the charger cannot be more than 80% encumbered, or be wearing scale, chain, banded, splint or plate armor.  Otherwise, the charge bonuses do not apply and normal melee ensues when contact occurs.

Charging, 4th round.  Like the third round, it is presumed the charger has already moved three rounds at no less than their full movement rate.  The charger cannot be more than 50% encumbered, or be wearing ring, studded leather, leather or padded armor.  Otherwise, the charge bonuses do not apply and normal melee ensues when contact occurs.

Otherwise, if the charger had moved at full triple speed the round before, each hex this round may be counted as a 1/4th movement point.

Please note:  The method to get around the charge fatigue rule is for a party of attackers to move forward at an enemy at normal movement until the last necessary round, when they give a last rush and charge.  They wouldn't be running across hundreds of yards of country.

Please also note that this rule applies to mounts differently, as mounts can retain double movement with respect to charging for up to a distance of 132 hexes (an eighth of a mile).

Climb downwards.  Movement rate is considered to be one third normal movement, and one half for slopes between 45 and 75 degrees, discounting fractions.  Thus, a climber in leather armor is able to climb down at a rate of 5' (1 hex) per round.  Additional unused movement may be applied to other actions.

Climb upwards.  Movement rate is considered to be one fifth normal movement for vertical walls, and one quarter for slopes between 45 and 75 degrees, discounting fractions.  Thus, a climber with a movement of 4 cannot climb a wall unassisted.  This rule is to disallow thieves from climbing walls while wearing armor.  Unfair and indecent of me, I know.

Concentrate to maintain spell.  If a spellcaster casts the spell, magic is such that the spell can be retained for as long as the caster can concentrate upon the spell, and is in no way disturbed or distracted.  The spell remains in full potency until it is discharged.  During this concentration, the caster may move one hex per round; like in casting a spell, the caster cannot take any other action at this time, except to sit, stand up or turn.

Control a frightened mount.  If the mount has been upset to the point where it has become frightened, the individual in charge of the mount must spend three successful rounds (36 seconds) calming the beast and bringing it back under control.  No other action may be taken at this time, including giving orders or speaking to anyone else.  It presumes that a check is made to determine success - typically a wisdom check on the part of the rider, but in the case of some intelligent animals, a wisdom check on the animal's part may be substituted (whichever is higher).

Arguably, a similar rule could apply to any non-magically frightened person or creature ... but there are no rules that indicate a person becomes frightened (that I know of).

Dismount a horse.  Applies to any mount, generally.  Presumes the rider wishes to dismount the animal by setting feet upon the ground, in the usual way.  Leaping from a horse to attack while still in the air might be considered a movement of 1 + 2 for attacking; some might consider this still to be a movement of 2 + 2.  DM's privilege.

Dispel a working spell.  My personal belief is that any spellcaster ought to be able to dispel their own magic (assuming it is ongoing, and not instantaneous like a fireball) at will.  The time for a spellcaster to dispel their own magic is the same as bestowing a beneficial spell.  Dispelling another caster's magic would be considered bestowing a detrimental spell, and would require 2 movement points.

Draw weapon.  Weapons are divided into two-handed and one-handed weapons.  It does not say on the list, but a light two-handed weapon, weighing less than 10 lbs., requires two movement to draw.  Some might dispute these times; I argue that the seemingly lengthy time necessary includes more than unlimbering the sword.  A period of time is also necessary for limbering up the arm and the grip, plus taking a proper stance, before expecting to cause any damage with the weapon.  Remember that 3 movement points are typically 7.2 to 12 seconds.  Not very long.

Drink from Item.  This requires one's full attention and movement; I think a lot of people assume that a potion can be drunk at a walking speed, given that we drink from bottles of water and coke and whatever else while moving around.  I have problems with this - one, a medieval bottle has an odd shape and isn't a nicely balanced, or possessing of the same perfect opening as a modern bottle; and two, the potion being drunk tastes bad ... or weird ... or highly disconcerting.  In other words, it will strip one of concentration.  Finally, you don't want to take a chance a trip while sucking down your precious liquid.  I might be willing to concede that you could move a hex and drink water or wine.  But a potion?  Never.

Drop an Item.  Seriously, no movement.  Oh, it might take one movement to set an item down, nice and neat, but if you're pulling an axe, and you have a sword in your hand, you drop your sword at no penalty.  That only seems fair.

Drop prone to the floor.  Two movement points seems fair.  Players hardly ever do this in combat; its usually done long before combat occurs, in order to avoid combat ... but if you're going to fall down to the ground in armor, and carrying weapons, 4.8 seconds seems a reasonable time to me.  I wouldn't want to make it longer, and shorter is ridiculous.  A player arguing the point might convince me to make it one movement - so long as I can do 1-4 damage to him for falling on his mace.

Dumping a bag or a back pack.  One of my pet peeves is the tendency for players to think that pulling something from a medieval backpack is exactly similar to taking money from a wallet.  To empty a back pack, to let everything fall out, would require at least three good solid shakes - thus, two movement.  See "retrieve an item from inside backpack"

Eat an item.  Here I'm willing to make a concession.  I'm willing to let a player eat something while doing whatever action they can with the other hand, so long as it doesn't take more than one movement.  The difference is, I suppose, that a whole object can be put in one's mouth and chewed, while a potion requires holding the bottle steady and swallowing.  If you don't hold the food steady between putting in your mouth, even if you drop it - no problem.  It can be picked up again and eaten.  Not so a potion.

Escape from Entanglement.  This would where the character was pulling themselves free of some non-magical, non-alive restrictive situation:  a net, complex vegetation, a rope that has been untied but is still wrapped around the body, bolas, a sucking mudhole, etc.  A 'dexterity check' would be rolling equal to or less than the character's dexterity upon a d20.  Thus, if a fail occurs on the first round, the second round 4 is subtracted from the die; upon the third round, 8 is subtracted from the die and so on.  Obviously, some situations would guarantee success; it's the DM's judgement.

Extinguish a candle.  Again, not simply a matter of blowing; candles tended to drip something awful, given they were made of tallow and beeswax, and the matter had to be done carefully.  Assumes 2.4 seconds.

Extinguish a lantern.  Probably requires a sequence of actions to put out the lantern; of course, the lantern could be simply dropped to the floor, and that would put it out ... but the ideal here is that the oil within is not tipped over so it can be relit.  Assumes 4.8 seconds.

Extinguish a torch.  More difficult, in that the torch produces a lot of flame which must be snuffed by suffocating the flame, probably with a cloth or blanket.  A torch cannot be 'blown out.'  Of course, dousing it in water, or by some other method, would take less time.

Fall back from combat.  This is a rather poorly written entry, referring to the movement point penalty explained above; obviously, the point of movement would not be expended if one did not also move at least one round back.

Feint.  I've had this listed on this table for a couple of years, and I have yet to have a single character take advantage of it.  It does not increase armor class ... it is merely designed to make an opponent shift to the left or right as desired, presumably so the player can either lure the opponent into a better position, or get around the opponent.  See below:

Supposing that Albert has put on some chain mail, and now has a movement of 3.  He attacks Bertrand, expends one movement to feint to his right, then remains where he is.  Bertrand makes an intelligence check (d20, equal to or less than intelligence to succeed) and actually moves to his left, or Albert's right.  Note that this feinting action must be the last thing done, as it immediately precedes Bertrand's turn.  Note that it also tricks Bertrand into using one of his movement points, which could also work in Albert's favor.

This is effective against low intelligence creatures, if you want to maneuver them so their back is to the thief hiding in the corner, or for some other reason.  It is also important in that if you move one adjacent hex to a combatant, you must expend the extra point (see "break from combat" to move from that hex, even if you are not in combat.  This is because you must dodge, perhaps parry, or otherwise avoid the general melee, if you are crossing next to the melee:

Calvin (green), wishes to get past Albert and Bertrand while they're fighting in the room above.  He starts behind Albert, moves one forward, and from that point on he must move 2 points to escape each hex adjacent to Bertrand, until he's free.  In this case, if Calvin moves 4, he can't do it this round ... but if Albert were to successfully feint, Calvin could get past Bertrand easily.

Flight, 2nd round.  The argument here is that you can increase your movement while running IF you drop your weapons and carry nothing in your hands - and this is aided by not having your heavy weapons banging against your middrift while you are hurrying away.  It also presumes you've dumped your weapons (while running) - all at no movement penalty.  This reflects the first discussion, above, about how the contrived movement rate is much lower than what is possible.  Distance travelled in the second round would be 250% of normal movement.

Flight, 3rd round.  Like the above, only now you've dumped your backpack, belts (those with scabbards and such) and bags.  Distance travelled is 400% of normal movement.

Heavily encumbered.  I confess, I don't generally challenge a party's encumberance.  this is easier online, where everyone has time to measure, but real life parties tend to hate and resent encumberance rules to the nth degree.  I have never gotten very far with promoting them.  Still, if in my judgement you're carrying more than is reasonable, I'll knock off a point of movement with regards to your total possible actions.

Laying hand upon a willing/unwilling recipient.  The times for these actions are basically the same as bestowing a beneficial spell or a detrimental spell (see above).  The action assumes the willing recipient spends one movement point.  Laying hands upon an unwilling recipient is treated as an attack.

Leading a mount, first round.  Assumes the mount is willing to move; simply describes the loss of one movement point in encouraging the mount to begin moving forward.  Note that a full movement is lost in encouraging the mount to double, triple or quadruple its speed, at each level.  Thus, if you are moving 4 hexes while leading a mount, and would normally move 8 hexes upon doubling your speed (1/2 a movement point per hex), the lost movement point counts as 2 hexes - so leading a willing mount would cause you to move 6 hexes the second round.

The rule isn't listed, but compelling an unwilling mount to move forward requires a successful morale check on the animal's part.

Light a torch from an existing fire/tinderboxIt is presumed somewhat that torches light as though they are coated in gasoline, but such is not the case.  I argue that the torch must be applied to an existing flame for a round before it can be considered lit, and three rounds where a tinderbox is employed.  And yes, you must ready the torch (or tinderbox) the previous round before starting to light it.  Most items weighing less than 5 lbs. can be readied with 1 movement.  Success is guaranteed, unless other conditions are judged to apply (a high wind would usually mean that a lack of success is guaranteed, unless a windbreak is available ... then I suppose the time might be doubled).

Load a bow, patiently/rapidly.  That is, taking a full round to take arrow, nock, draw bow and decide upon a target.  I know this gets a bad rap; I know that most argue a bow can be fired a lot more often than this.  One of my offline players is a competitive archer, however, and he has no real problem with it.  Once again, it's a question of playability ... and at any rate, it is easier to shoot at targets than to shoot at people in the middle of a melee.  Quite often, bowmen are firing through crowds - one will have to wait for a convenient shot.  Firing the bow (not shown) takes an extra 2 moves, which must be accomplished in the round after loading.  Loading cannot be done over two rounds ("I take two moves of the this round to load, then two moves of the next round ...").

Loading the bow rapidly was a concession I made, however; it can be done so that the bow is fired every round, provided one has a movement of four or more.  The to hit penalty is -4 ... which isn't that bad once a fighter has reached 5th level.  It's not much of a penalty at all when the shooter has a 17 or 18 dexterity - which we must assume competitive bowmen have, right?

Load a heavy/light crossbow.  The times indicated - 2 rounds for a light crossbow, 3 for a heavy - are the rounds of loading apart from firing.  Firing is done in a separate round, and as always, requires two movement.  This movement is not merely pulling the trigger; it is balancing the crossbow and reacting to the the shot as well.  This cannot be accomplished faster unless the character has an unusual skill with a crossbow - something that is possible as part of my character background system.

Melee.  One might ask why I did not simply change the table posted above with all these actions upon it.  I suppose I shall have to do so after this post - because it does seem to have a few holdover points on it that I haven't played in years.

Melee, for example.  So please ignore the description under "Melee additional attacks..."  That's been improved.

The basic requirement for attacking is 2 moves.  This does not mean that if a player moves four, they may automatically attack twice per round.  It means that 2 moves must be expended before there is a chance of attack.  A character who normally gets one attack per round still only gets one attack - how they expend the rest of their movement is up to them.

However, if a character attacks with two weapons, they must expend 2 of their movement per weapon they use.  Thus, a thief with an 18 dexterity attacks with two daggers - if he wishes to attack twice in that round, he must use four movement points to do so.  If he does not have four movement, he cannot attack twice per round.

If the character gains multiple attacks on account of their level, however - whether a fighter against zero levels or gained attacks by fighters and monks, then those additional attacks are accomplished with only 1 movement point extended.

Thus, if a 7th level fighter gains 3 attacks every 2 rounds, the round in which he makes a single attack requires 2 movement points; but the round in which he makes 2 attacks requires, again, 2 movement points.

It is assumed that during combat, weapons are flashing around and hitting one another - the increased ability in fighting is not increasing the number of times one swings the weapon, but in the number of times that swing means something.  A first level swings and swings without getting a chance "to hit" ... a higher level makes those swings count.  Thus, the time required to hit is shortened.

Consider the following scenario:

Bertrand (blue) is fighting Albert (white) and Calvin (green).  Bertrand has a move of four and is 2nd level for the purpose of this example.  Albert and Calvin are zero level.  Thus, Bertrand gets two attacks.  Because this is inherent to his being a fighter, and not due to a choice he makes about using two weapons, each attack requires 1 movement.

Bertrand is therefore able to attack Albert (1 move); break from combat from Albert (1 move); enter the hex to his left (1 move); and attack Calvin (1 move).

This can be quite effective when we are talking a high-level monk that is able to move 8 hexes per round, and attack 4 times per round.

Mount a horse, saddled.  This presumes a great many things beyond just a willing animal.  It presumes it is the rider's horse, that the horse is calm, that the rider is on the correct side, that the rider is not in melee and so on.  Given a situation where the rider is fully able to climb aboard the animal, yes, 3 movement points.  Of course, there are those who will want the sort of Zorro-inspired leaping aboard a horse from a wall or even from the ground ... in which case I suppose one or two movement points might be all that's necessary.  But for that to work, the conditions, athleticism and method of approach would need to be quite exact.

Open a door.  Seriously, three movement points?  In this case, we are not talking about an ordinary door.  To open a simple hut door, one could argue one movement point for kicking it open would be all that's necessary - and I agree, so long as another movement point must be used to move forward.  But here we're talking a standard thick heavily reinforced wooden door.  And for that, 3 movement.

Overrun opponent.  This is the movement penalty in addition to the movement required to move through the hex as well, and does not include the movement required to attack.  Thus, to overrun a completely healthy opponent who is defending, and thus must be attacked, a total movement of 5 is required.  However, if the attacker is moving at double speed, then the hex requires only half a point of movement, and the overrun requires only 1 point of movement (thus requiring 3 1/2 movement overall).  The overrun penalty does not improve for moving at triple or quadruple speed.

Note that if the opponent is stunned (qv) or otherwise cannot defend, an attack does not need to occur in order to move through the hex.  It can be effective if, as front attacker, you move through the hex containing the stunned defender to attack someone in the second defensive rank, while a second attacker behind you attacks the stunned defender.  Does that need a figure?  I'll say not for now.

Ready an unstrapped shield/remove a shield's straps.  I'm just seeing now that these two headings are reversed.  It should be 1 movement to remove the straps, and 4 movement to ready them.  Damn, I have to rewrite this table.

Assumes the shield is in hand (which will take an additional movement point).  It must be stated that individuals cannot carry a shield strapped to their arm perpetually, and that ordinary walking would be made exhausting by having a heavy shield in one's hand (no matter how Hollywood depicts Romans marching).  Yet when was the last time you heard a player announce they were taking their shield off their back before a battle?  To be honest, I often forget myself.

Ready any light object for use.  I've already stated that objects less than 5 lbs. DO require a one movement.  (I really MUST rewrite this table!)

Remove back pack for dropping/searching contents.  This DOES require 1 movement ... unless one is fleeing combat (see "flight").

Replacing a back pack.  Presumes the back pack has been made ready (which would be equal to 1 movement point per 50 lbs. of backpack weight).

Retrieve an item from inside backpack/saddlebags.  I have modified this, and it no longer needs a wisdom check.  It does require the full movement of the searcher, and it presumes that any object, regardless of what it is, will be found within 3 rounds.  Typically, I roll a 33% chance of getting the object (and freeing it from the backpack, if its large) the first round; a 50% chance the second round; and guarantee the object desired at the end of the third round.  Note that large objects are easy to find, but often difficult to extract from back packs.  Includes movement cost to making an object ready, but does presume the backpack has been made ready (untied and opened - 1 movement point per 50 lbs. of backpack weight).

Retrieve an item from place on body.  Assumes the player has made note of the object being on the character's belt, in pocket, hanging from a strap or some such.  Includes movement cost to making an object ready.

Sheathe a weapon into a back scabbard/waist belt.  Simple enough.  Pretty much what it says on the table.

Slowing from quadruple/triple speed.  "Half movement" means that you cannot slow to less than double normal speed (half of quadruple) unless you wish to crash to the ground and tumble.  This causes 1d4 damage.  Slowing from triple speed requires that you cannot move slower than normal speed without tumbling, which causes 1d3 damage.

Speak.  Yes, I charge movement for speaking.  Arguably, you can speak while fighting, and you can listen while fighting; but cognizance requires a certain amount of thought process in order to give and interpret orders, and this is reflected in the movement penalty.  What this might mean is that while you're hammering at the enemy with your sword this round, to keep your enemy from hammering you, you lose you chance "to hit" your opponent if you spend it telling your compatriot to get his ass around to the left and attack the mage.  So it goes.

As far as 4 words per movement, try to say four words comprehensibly and loudly in less than 2.4 seconds.

Special ability employment.  Perhaps not the clearest term to describe this.  What's meant is anything a humanoid or creature is able to do that isn't a spell, but is like a spell.  Many demons, for instance, can cause darkness at will; or gate; or teleport.  A learned character in my world has a chance to know things about the world if they take the time to think about them; this would apply to that, too (though I usually don't penalize the players).  The beneficial or detrimental time period for such an employment against others is the same as for a spell.  See "turn undead."

Stand up from a prone position.  This is the time required to get into a fighting stance from a position of lying down ... for most humanoids, it means that if you are woken up, you spend one round doing nothing (you're waking up) and most of the following round standing up.  Most carnivorous animals require less time (2 rounds, and sometimes 1 round, depending) and have more movement to spend than the average humanoid.  A character able to "kip up" (see "tumble" is able to stand in 2 movements.

Tumble to a stop.  This is different from the above tumbling (see "slowing from"); here we mean pulling the Captain Kirk maneuver and actually wanting to stop.  Note that if it is done successfully, the character can stop from quadruple speed and not take damage; if a dexterity check is made, the character does not suffer damage.  However, the character is considered "prone" (see "stand up from a prone position) the next round.

Recently I've added a number of gymnastic abilities to characters (random character generation), including handwalking, round offs, side aerials, kip-ups, a back walkover, the splits,  frontbending, front aerials, corde lisse, hand springs, full backbending and enterology; I'm not certain at the moment how those would apply - some of them would certainly allow beneficial modifiers for dexterity checks in tumbling.

I don't use tumbling rules found in the Unearthed Arcana or later editions for thieves.  A higher dexterity results in a higher likelihood of gymnastic abilities.

Turn Undead.  I don't consider this to be an innate "ability" of the cleric.  I consider it to be a favor which the cleric asks of the god, and therefore this asking takes one whole round.  Unlike a spell, the cleric does not enjoy the ability to move; the cleric's whole faith and being must be focused upon the favor asked.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Pretend that it IS Blue Mud

From Time Enough for Love, by Robert A. Heinlein:

"Whenever the locals rub blue mud in their navels, I rub blue mud in mine just as solemnly."
- Lazarus Long

"Whenever possible, principle behaviours of the non-players in your setting should not be required of the players - if your NPC's rub blue mud into their bellies every day, the fact that your players choose not to do so should not automatically cripple their freedom to play as they wish. Have a setting that does not depend upon a character's behavior matching that of the natives ... this sort of constraint will build up resentment that will ultimately erode the suspension of disbelief, in that it will be perceived that the DM is fucking with the players for personal reasons."

Let me just say ... I love Heinlein, and I love his character Lazarus Long.  And I agree absolutely the sentiment expressed by the author in the book quoted above.  It's only that I believe in it where it applies to real life.

D&D is different, if for no other reason than that it is often impossible to convey true, actual danger to a party which is often as full of bravado as an old Tom turkey strutting about a week before Thanksgiving.  Nine times out of ten, if you have your NPCs rub blue mud, your players just won't get that failing to do so will result in their deaths sometime in the next five minutes.

Some can argue that this is justification for ludiocide - or killing players, if you don't speak Latin.  I argue that players are made far too complacent by living in a society where remarkably few are ever killed for failing to obey social standards.  Once, you could count on getting socked around by a local mob for failing to tip your hat to a woman.  Those days are - thankfully - long gone.

Players are not institutionalized to the idea of cultural misbehaviour having tangible, uncompromising consequences - and if you as the DM insist on punishing them for not aptly interpreting your few sentences to the contrary, you're just a smug little bastard.  Maybe, if you spent two or three hours with a white board and graphs, and possibly with a few guest speakers besides, you MIGHT get across to them that the locals will be watching every action they make with the intention of vivisecting their hearts from their chests if that is considered necessary, but I doubt it.  The Tom turkey just doesn't believe in Thanksgiving, and arguments to the contrary are not going to make an impression.

When you sit down as DM and devise your setting, keep in mind that your players are incapable of living in any time except the one they're actually living in.  Your world, at best, is a Disneyland attraction - its there for playing up the visuals, the occasional feel, even the tactile sensation of the fantasy medieval environment ... but don't kid yourself that the players strutting around said environment are living in any period but the present.  They are interlopers, tourists and noobs.  If a 40-year veteran of roleplaying found himself in an actual medieval setting, he or she wouldn't last a week.  Apart from having to vomit from the smell for the first week, they'd sure enough offend someone by insisting on some dumb ass privilege to speak that did not exist ... and in turn they'd get clubbed to death by a bunch of pastoralists.

I'm not saying this whole difficulty is a bad thing.  We are enlightened in this century, and good on us.  We make inroads daily towards a greater enlightenment (everywhere, that is, except certain crimson or mauve provinces of certain subtropical regions), and this is a good thing.  There's nothing wrong with presenting the D&D setting with the flexibility of the present day.  Your players - the fanatic ones aside - aren't looking for the genuine experience ... they are quite happy tackling the everyday problems of hitting with a broadsword and doing enough damage to kill.  They don't need to be heaped with social degredation besides.

Now, the DM can certain wallow in such as much as the DM desires.  There's nothing that says the NPCs can't cheerfully murder one another over a split infinitive or fashion faux pas.  Remember, however, that in your world, most of these culturally established rights and wrongs are in your head!  They're not inbred into your players, and yes - if you get dictatorial about seeing them met to your standards - you will be fucking around with the players for personal reasons.

That isn't the game.  Too much cultural crap in the setting is like grit in the wheels - it will kill momentum, it will grind the campaign to a crawl and it won't add one thing to the player's enjoyment of the game.

So here's what you do.  Have the cultural norms that please you.  Have the  NPCs play up the cultural norms as far as you, the DM, would like.  When the players speak, translate their speech into the speech of the natives, and act as though every word the players say - or every action the players make - is in tune with the local scenery.

If you're very good at your world, and you are consistent, with time your players will fall into speaking back to you the way your NPCs speak to them.  It will come naturally.  The Tom will walk right into the axe when you present it.

But if you try to get behind and push the Tom, you're in for a rough time.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Be a Decent Fellow

From the 10,000 word post:

"The gentle reader will take note that when you play football with your friends, the field's measuring capacity hardly needs to be as complex and detailed as its NFL counterpart; 'Ten Yards' requires no precision; the number of players on each team do not need to be exact, and can even be unequal.  In short, where it comes to playing the game for the sake of fun, excessive rules monitoring is a detriment to game play - that is, momentum - and thus needs to be incorporated into the setting and the narrative as sparely as possible."

There is a counterpart to rules' lawyering on the part of players - and this is excessive rules' mongering on the part of Dungeon Masters.  I don't say there shouldn't be rules.  I don't say that the players shouldn't be limited, reasonably, by those rules.

But the sternest rule should be FLEXIBILITY.  In particular, the very loose application of rules which are lacking in specificity to begin with: alignment, say.  If you have a DM who makes dictates about alignment, or any party behavior, to the point where they are practically running the character's, then something has gone wrong with the game.  The same might be said for the player's adherence to religion.

For example, its often assumed that because the religious elements of my world are deep and complex, I expect player characters to adhere to them.  Not so.  It wouldn't be good gamesmanship if they were required to restrict their activities to those nominally approved by the "church" or religious doctrine.  Within the game, the character's god has to have something of a Live and Let Live sort of attitude.  Yes, now and then the cleric might be asked to perform some local service.  Yes, now and then the cleric might be advised to restrain themselves where it comes to activities directly harming the cleric's religion or its followers.  And if the cleric wants HELP from the God, then yes, you've got a bit of carte blanche to demand certain behaviors and actions of the character - the character opened that door, so walk through it.

But if the character spends a bit of the church income on a bit of resupply for the general party, DON'T jump in like an asshole and obliterate the cleric's spell using ability.  That's harsh, that's stupid, and you won't win much understanding from your party.  Here's the thing in a case like that:  it isn't that important.  Try to keep your dictatorial application of the rules to things that actually do matter.

How do you figure that?  Well, consider your setting as a whole.  What does it hope to accomplish?  Obviously, to offer challenge and reward.  Obviously, not to coddle your characters or grant them more than they deserve for the effort they've made.  Hopefully, you want to scare them a little, create a little fun, encourage some drama and a sense of victorious success.  Fill in the remainder of your purposes here.  Using those as a guideline, important monitoring of the character's behavior applies whenever the player is fucking up the system for everyone else.

In D&D, the squeaky wheel gets the least.  That is to say, stomp on that squeak, and give a bit of leeway for the player who has toughed out the world day in and day out without a complaint.

This isn't an alien idea.  If we go back to the football metaphor, and if the gentle reader can return to the halcyon days of being 14 (when boys were all a bit vindictive - I trust the women reading this can identify in their own manner).

If you found yourself playing tackle, you KNOW you hit that asshole on the other side who griped or whined or acted like a general ass just as hard as you could fucking hit him.  If you were up against a guy who offered his hand to help you up; if he joked with you as you both walked back to the scrimmage line; if he hit you square when he dropped your rush with the ball ... that guy you were decent to, whether he was on your side or not.

But damn ... your blood boiled looking for a chance to hit that bastard on the other side who laughed at every uncompleted pass.

Now, I did say stomp on the squeak as a DM, but you have to restrain yourself somewhat.  I'm not saying that you should rearrange the circumstances for the squeaker, and deliberately go after them.  You're a DM, a referee, and you've got to be above such things on principle.  But where it comes to a not-so-gentle application of the rules, you can't be blamed for counting every one of the 32 points of damage the polar worm's bite just delivered to the squeaker's ass.

You just might, however, want to back off from that sort of absolutism where it comes to killing a party that hasn't actually done anything wrong.  You are the DM, and it is in your purview to relax an attacker's effectiveness, or willingness, at the critical moment, if it saves a good party's ass.  If you can invent a justifiable reason why the polar worm might get distracted at a critical moment, do it!  Save the party's ass.  Don't be such an inflexible bastard.

This is doubly true if the party works with you towards making your world a healthier and more interesting place.  You owe them more than just the flat application of the rules.  They're giving you a good time, just as you're giving it to them.

If you're a decent fellow, they'll appreciate it.