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Gamma World Baseball (Rough Draft)

While they are still pretty rough, I wanted to post my current notes for baseball, Gamma World style. I hope they capture enough of the flavor of baseball while still being fun to play at the table, particularly for a group of strangers. The Wii Sports baseball game inspired me a bit to cut down the game to its essentials.

Gamma Terra is a rough place, much of the nuance and art of our baseball would be lost on its inhabitants. Instead, they took the basic rules of baseball and turned them into a full-contact, spectator sport.

Basics:
* Team with the highest score at the end of the game wins.
* Game ends after 5 innings or when one side is out of hit points.
* All players on a team have one at bat per inning.

Batting: Roll to see the outcome of your at bat.

d20 (need to adjust for level):
2-4: Single
5-10: Double
11-16: Triple
17-19: Home Run
Natural:
1: Strike out
20: Out of the park - Do not provoke opportunity attacks.

(Considering 3d6 here; need to determine how skills such as athletics, science and perception play in)

Base Running:
* You don’t have to go as far as your result allows. Each base you decide not to take increases your AC by 2 until the end of the inning. For instance, if you roll a triple, you can decide to stay at first base and gain a +4 to your AC.
* On your turn, passing a baseman provokes an opportunity attack.
* You may attack at any point during your run.

Extras:
* Sliding (minor, 1/turn): Gone are the rules against spiking. You go for an extra base on your hit and get an extra basic attack. This maneuver provokes an opportunity attack (immediate reaction) from the baseman you are sliding towards and you are prone until the end of the turn.
* Sacrifice Bunt (part of hitting, consipracy check?): Your batting result is used to move a teammate already on base further along. He has all the same choices as if he had hit the ball. You do not get to go on base and you take the damage of any opportunity attacks his movement provokes.
* Stealing (trigger: start of batter's turn): You attempt to steal a base (stealth check). You provoke an opportunity attack from the baseman of the base you are leaving. You cannot steal a base that already holds a runner.

Switching positions: You may switch which base you cover but only at the start of the half-inning.

Things to think about:
* Can I do an opportunity attack each time a player leaves a base or is that too brutal? Maybe lower damage amount on them or have them do something other than damage?
* How does this look with 4 players? 5? 6?
* Do I need to make the decision of which team is home random?
* Do I let the players know that the second and third basemen probably will take the brunt of the hits?
* Do I get the crowd more involved?
* How do I add some combat advantage situations in here?
* How do I make burst and range powers make sense?

Some Pregens for DDXP

So I'm creating my pregens for my DDXP game, "Dream a little dream...of death." As usual, I'm probably putting way too much effort into these, but since it's a good way for me to just have fun, I think that's a good thing. When I created these, I didn't go for the most optimized character ever. I followed my own advice from Temporary Hit Points and worked on creating a character concept first and then picked what I thought best fit that story. That means Desmona is a knight even though she doesn't carry a shield and Alyth isn't a melee fighter even though the switch to using Dexterity instead of Strength for melee basic sets her up to be one.

Desmona (Level 4 Human Knight)

Desmona is a tall, muscular yet soft, woman with striking green eyes. She is an initiate into the Order of the White Oak, a mercenary knights guild. They require their knights to earn their shields by defeating a creature of pure evil, but the relative peace of the previous 20 years means she’s had a hard time finding a way to do so. She hopes the Lady of the Lake knows of a worthy challenge.

In the meantime, she attempts to comport herself as one of the heroes from the Age of Song. Without a shield, she’s convinced bigger weapons are better, and carries a greatsword. Besides, it was good enough for her grandfather and people in four towns know his name.

Base Stats: HP 47, Speed 6, Init +4, AC 21, Fort 22, Ref 14, Will 16
Abilities: Str 19 (+6), Con 14 (+4), Dex 10 (+2), Int 11 (+2), Wis 10 (+2), Cha 15 (+4)
Skills: Athletics +11, Diplomacy +9, Endurance +9, Intimidate +9
Powers: Defend the Line, Hammer Hands and Glowering Threat
Feats: Heavy Blade Expertise, Armor Finesse, Heavy Armor Agility, Superior Fortitude
Equipment: Vicious Greatsword +1, Flame Bracers (heroic tier), Fortification Plate Armor +1, Amulet of Protection +1, 5 Throwing Hammers

Alyth (Level 4 Elf Thief)

Even a land of milk and honey, such as Arcadia, has its share of seediness. Alyth grew up in the port district of the human city of Rhodes. Things weren’t always easy for her, but she used her elven talents to her advantage. By day, she and her brothers worked as shipbuilders with her taking on the tasks that required a bit of climbing and finesse. By night, they were little more than common thugs and thieves. Her specialty was robbing the houses of the rich, climbing up the tall “privacy” walls. Then carefully picking her way to the roof to find the often unlocked windows of the upper sleeping chambers.

All that changed one night when she was caught in the apartments of the fiancee of Lord Bryon’s son. Due to her youth and circumstances, she was given a choice. Spend the next 5 years in the city’s prisons or join the King’s army. She chose the latter, believing she could desert at the first opportunity. However her first commander was so nice and, as soon as he saw her talents and the way others responded to her, he recommended her for service in the the army’s demonstration squad, the Rose Guard. Her talents make her excellent at high wire acts and tumbling.

Base Stats: HP 38, Speed 7, Init +6, AC 19, Fort 13, Ref 19, Will 16
Abilities: Str 10 (+2), Con 11 (+2), Dex 19 (+6), Int 10 (+2), Wis 16 (+3), Cha 15 (+4)
Skills: Acrobatics +11, Bluff +9, Insight +10, Perception +12, Stealth +11, Streetwise +9, Thievery +11
Powers: Sneak’s Trick, Ambush Trick, Tumble, Acrobat’s Trick
Feats: Master at Arms, Hidden Sniper, Crossbow Expertise
Equipment: Delver’s Leather Armor +1, Safewing Amulet +1, Vicious Hand Crossbow +1, Catstep Boots, Short sword

Where's the beef?

Lately, I've heard a number of rumblings on Twitter and other places about the lack of this or that D&D content. This morning we had a discussion about the lack of concrete content in blogs and podcasts, how most of it consists of generalities and wishy-washy suggestions. I agree that this problem exists and, to be honest, I see it as a long term problem. Related to this lack of specifics is a general lack of debate. As a group, we are often afraid to create "in your face" controversy. Here are some of the problems I see with changing things and ideas for how we might improve.

Different meanings to different people

Creating content with some real meat to it is often difficult. For instance, my experience tells me that I need to sculpt encounters to appeal to my players and their characters' abilities. I've played with my guys long enough to know what that means for them. However, I have no idea what your group is like. With the number of play styles, group interactions, etc, coming up with actual tips is pretty difficult and quickly become niche. The problem with niche is that it only applies to a small number of people and the return on investment is very small. In the end, I think we just have to embrace niche, but it's scary to do, especially when people then complain that what I just spent my life energy on doesn't appeal to them and is useless.

Difficult to create

In addition, podcasts have the added hurdle of two distinct audiences. One audience wants to listen to it in the background. They don't want to have to pay attention. But the type of information we need to convey requires a much more active audience. To add to the pain, presentations without visuals are difficult for a fair number of people. Have you tried listening to a football game on the radio? At the end of the day, I know I don't know how to provide information in this format in an efficient manner. I'm willing to learn, but it will take me awhile.

Debate needed

We need to debate things. Through debate we often get to the crux of the issues. It requires us to spend resources and proves to ourselves and others what ideas we really care about. My posts on dungeons created some awesome and heart-felt responses. What's important to remember is being anti for the sake of it can easily backfire. But if you have an issue with something, open your mouth. Write an email to a the site (especially if it's not a personal blog) to see if they would be willing to post your rebuttal.

Participation society

Like open source, the D&D blog/podcast community is based on who participates. I produce content, some people seem to like it, and my role in the community increases. That is awesome because it lowers the barrier to entry. On the other hand, it doesn't mean that the people who rise to the top are the best at what they do or have the tools to provide everything to everyone. Don't like what you see? Create something you love. Talk to the people in the community you like about working on your dream project.

Opportunities abound

I mentioned niche earlier. One nice thing about blogs in particular is that they don't have the overhead of other forms of publication. Printed material needs to be, well, printed. Audio podcasts need to be edited. However, both blogs and podcasts have a low cost of distribution. This makes them great for niche. All it takes is time and love.

Anyway, that's how I see things. I have one wish for 2011 and that's people get out there create, tear down and talk about it all with passion and respect.

Epic Mickey

My in-laws were nice enough to give me Epic Mickey for Christmas this year. I heard good things about it from @ThadeousC and @MichaelRobles, so I decided to give it a try. I'm glad I did. Unlike other video games that I try once and put away, I go back to this game again and again.

Sweeping story arc, short tasks

One thing I enjoy about the game is that while it has a longer story arc and a number of long term quests, most of it is focused on short objectives. Find and turn the two gears, climb to the top of the clock tower, deal with two threats. In my busy life, it's hard to find more than a half-hour to an hour to play, so the short quests make me feel like I accomplished something. Then at the end of a chapter, I complete some of the longer term quests and feel even more satisfied.

Meaningful choices

We talk about this a lot in D&D land, but in the flurry of campaign design, it often gets lost or, at least for me, I try to let my players get everything they want. In Epic Mickey, you have to make choices that affect not only you, but the entire game world. In one scenario, I had to choose between a life and treasure. When it comes to "bad guys," I can try to knock them out and maybe push them into some terrain that will kill them or I can try to hit them with enough paint that they will like me. The latter tends to be much more dangerous for me, but I gain some protection if I can turn them. Recently, I had one of the random characters tell me that word on the street is that I'm a softie and that's not good in the Wasteland.

The tension between creation and destruction

When you play, you have two main tools at your disposal, paint and thinner. Paint repairs. Part of the bridge is missing? No problem, just paint in the missing part. But what may be done, may be undone with thinner. I have the most problems with this part of the game. I'm a creator and a builder and I often forget that wiping away can be as useful as building up. When I get frustrated with the game, it's usually because I forgot to give thinner a try.

That's where I'm at now. I really like the game. I think it's the perfect amount of challenge and I'm enjoying the story. Some of the interludes are great too. For instance, they have some great Steamboat Willie mini scenes in there.

The Importance of Storytelling

Deconstructing Powers

One of the things I do love about the Esssentials martial builds, especially the rogue and the fighter, is that the new powers are mostly deconstructed versions of previous ones. What I mean by that is that the heart of most rogue powers was their ability to do damage. How accurate the attack was or how much damage it did was really a function of what additives the particular "power" gave the character. The more awesome stuff a power did, it became less accurate, less damaging or harder to do by limiting it to encounters or dailies. To support this, I offer that in my quick comparisons, "Sly Flourish" matches pretty well with the thief's basic attack.

However, we still need to give the thief something interesting to do. The designers of this class build decided that the thief needed to be the master of mobility. By removing the move actions from powers and making them at-will move tricks, we no longer need to worry about those penalties when doing our attack since we are sacrificing our move action. Thus the thief could still do his damage and have some fun movement options without unbalancing the game. The final item was to provide a class feature that made their melee basic key off of dexterity instead of strength, something that probably should have been in the original version too.

A nice by-product of the simplified power structure is that only so many different powers can be produced. By combining moves, attacks and other benefits within one action type, we introduce infinite variation, each combination needing its own "power." By pulling them out, we allow the players to build their own combinations without cluttering up the character builder with 1000s of powers.

The issue I have with this change is that the build is a bit too simple. When I read through the list, they all seem a bit fiddly to me. They don't have enough differentiation to make me really interested in choosing between them. In addition, I really miss having that cool cinematic moment in the game where I worked for a few turns to set up a situation I wanted. Perhaps I used my rogue's forced movement powers to move the bad guy towards the edge of the cliff so I could have that cool 300 moment where I kicked him off. Or I just really wanted the opportunity to pull out 6d6 at once. Regardless of the setup, some of the excitement is just gone for me. One easy solution would be to add more trick options. Perhaps we could add a trick that uses a minor or move to allow the character to push their target on a hit.

Now it isn't all bad. Maybe seeing their players get bored or feel too restricted with the pre-made options for their characters will open DMs up to the wonder of page 42 (from the original DMG). That's the page with the damage by level charts and information on how to adjudicate rules on the fly. As a DM, when your player wants to do something not covered by the normal rules, that's the first place you should look for guidance on how to adjudicate their requests. For instance, if one of your players wants his character to swing from a chandelier into the bad guy, you can find damage expressions here.

Another option that I have floating around in my head is an expansion of the power points system. I really don't like how they get used in PHB3. Each power has some additional options that can be purchased through power points. The problem is that you might like parts of two different powers but neither one completely. Imagine if instead, you could build your own powers on the fly. Adding an additional two shifts or pushing a character one space costs one point. Adding another melee basic attack costs two points. I'm not sure of the details but I think it would satisfy what I find missing from the build and even make me like power points.

Well that's how I feel anyway. I know a number of you really love the thief and fighter and I'm so glad to hear that. At the end of the day, I just want us all to have fun. And if you are interested, here is the auto-build thief from character builder. Yeah, some issues with the build exist and I notified Wizards of the Coast customer service about them.

Send feedback using the contact form or through twitter, @sarahdarkmagic.

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