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Author Topic: Donjon Krawl  (Read 15046 times)
Clinton R. Nixon
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« on: February 06, 2002, 10:00:49 AM »

I know I haven't designed anything new since Urge - I've been lazy. So, I decided to start finishing my projects. The first finished:

Donjon Krawl, a (hopefully) incredibly Gamist romp through some old territory. It's meant to be deceptive - the rules seem standard until you finally realize what all you can do with them. This is, more than anything, so I don't frighten off the people that might try this instead of D&D one night.

This is a playtest version of the rules, and as such, may have mistakes, errors, things left out, broken pieces of my heart, and other things in it. I wrote 4,500 words of it yesterday, so they may be wonky. Please feel free to point anything like this out.

My eventual goal for this is to actually print and sell it. I'll sell it in some fashion, whether it be PDF or print - but either way, it'll exist at GenCon this year. Your input is greatly desired. Thanks!

Clinton R. Nixon
http://www.acid-reflex.com
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Clinton R. Nixon
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #1 on: February 06, 2002, 10:06:21 AM »

Clinton,

Looks like we got a Missing Link situation here ...

Best,
Ron
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Clinton R. Nixon
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« Reply #2 on: February 06, 2002, 10:11:43 AM »

The link is the title above, but to repeat it: http://www.acid-reflex.com/rpg/donjon/.
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Clinton R. Nixon
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Valamir
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« Reply #3 on: February 06, 2002, 11:28:10 AM »

Absolutely fantastic.  I want to play this game right now.  Any console RPG game from Shining Force to Zelda would be perfect adventure fodder for a Donjon Krawl game.

Couple of quick notes:

1) My personal bias:  too much humor in a game tends to make players think of it as a lark to play rather than a "real" game.  Since you made a point to mention that the game started out as satire but now its not, you may want to dial down the "crazy mad Ninja Speed" type stuff to something more "traditional".  On the other hand its perfectly funny for a satire.

2) The 3d6 thing for stats converted to dice.  Absolutely see the point of this in a satirical game.  Its the modifier thats important, the stat is totally useless and kept for old times sake (just like D&D3E).  However, if this game really isn't a satire but really is a "legitimate" FRPG...I'd lose the 3d6 to mod conversion and just go with the mods.

3) Why have the monsters use different creation methods than the players.  4 Level Dice per level seems pretty straight forward.  A Level 5 monster would thus be exactly equal in total dice spent to a Level 5 character.  Might also help with the OMG note for the Undead Crocs.

4) Early on you describe the Narrative use for player successes.  Consider tieing this in more to the Adventures Chapter.  For example, the players could (I assume) a narrative success to simply discover an entrance to the ancient temple and skip over the entire swamp encounter.  Some examples of this use in the adventures chapter would be good.

Holy cow this would be a fun game to play.
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Zak Arntson
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« Reply #4 on: February 06, 2002, 11:40:24 AM »

Valamir,

About the other things:
1) Serious vs. Silly - That's more Clinton's ballpark, as it's his baby. But Clinton and I are probably meeting on Sunday to hash out a bunch of this stuff.

2) We talked about the 3d6 thing and mods, and decided that we really needed the numbered stats. It really makes the game feel like old-school + new-school.

3) & 4) I can't talk about these as I haven't read the newest draft yet. Yikes!!
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Clinton R. Nixon
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« Reply #5 on: February 06, 2002, 12:06:29 PM »

Valamir,

Thanks for the compliments - I really appreciate it. Answers to your queries:

1) I know - the text is scattered in tone. Part of it's written as a satire, part of it is serious, and part of it is just right off the cuff. The "real" version of it will be cleaned up and more serious, with wicked humor under the hood.

2) I'd drop the 3d6 thing, too. This sort of thing happens with co-contributors. :) Honestly, Zak was so insistent, I couldn't drop it. The one thing it does work for is advancement - it slows ability score growth down.

3) This was just a mistake, I think. I wrote the monster creation off the top of my head. The math will be fixed here - if you change "8 + (4 dice x Level)" to "12 + (4 dice x Level)," it should be the exact same method.

4) I need to tie all this together more - I think you're correct in that. I plan to write a complete example of play for the finished print version that will cover this. Basically, players can use their narrative successes all they want, but since the DM is left to narrate with their facts, he can thwart skipping of this nature. An example:

Player: I'm looking around for a secret door.
GM: In the middle of the swamp?
Player: Well, the temple door might be hidden in the ground or under moss or something.
GM: Ok.
Player: I got 2 successes. I'm using them both for facts:
 - I find a slab of marble in the ground.
 - It has ancient runes of Nok on it.
GM: Alright. You find this slab of marble with runes in it. Do you try to move it aside?
Player: Yep.
GM: It moves easily, and you see a hole underneath filled with water. A skull bobs to the top. (GM can start a pre-planned encounter here.)

There will be times where this might be hard to do - keeping characters in one step. Part of this is just the contract between the DM and players, but the bigger part of it is that it actually is a contest for the DM to keep the players where he wants them. They have the power to manipulate stuff, so he has to stay on his guard.

See - I was able to work a problem into functional Gamism. Rock on. :)
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Clinton R. Nixon
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Zak Arntson
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« Reply #6 on: February 06, 2002, 12:13:02 PM »

Quote from: Clinton R Nixon

2) I'd drop the 3d6 thing, too. This sort of thing happens with co-contributors. :) Honestly, Zak was so insistent, I couldn't drop it. The one thing it does work for is advancement - it slows ability score growth down.


Hee, I also insisted on Virility. I kind of like the arguments that happen when co-designinng. The give and take is a lot of fun. I can't remember which of us is resposible for each stat name, but there was much debate.

I'm seeing Donjon Krawl as being picked up by indie gamers and traditional gamers alike. Traditional gamers will see things like:
a) Familiar stat break down
b) Weapon & Armor charts (Clinton, maybe the charts should be big and unweildy, but just be an extension of the little chart you've got? Just an idea)
c) Examples of dungeon crawling

Indie gamers will see:
a) Dice pool mechanic (hey, like Sorcerer!)
b) Fun reminders of early gaming (I assume that most indie gamers used to play/still play the more traditional games)
c) Examples of story-telling
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Valamir
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« Reply #7 on: February 06, 2002, 02:30:49 PM »

Heh, I love the stat names...except for Wherewithal...that one is a bit much of a mouthful for me.  But Adoit, Discernment, et.al.  good words and a subtle stab at games that shamelessly copied the D&D six but just changed the terms.

As far as the 3d6 thing...I'll make the following two comments, which are after all just personal opinion based on a first read.

1) Ars Magica is also an old time RPG but its stats are on a +/- 5 scale and have been for several editions.  Thus, you can still be "old school" without being 3d6.

2) I understand the game started out as an attempt to take a good old fashion dungeon hack and slip hidden "new school" design elements in unnoticed...but I REALLY think the game stands up well on it own merits as a game.  I wouldn't worry too much about (if it were me) about the Old vs New thing at this point...I'd say the game's grown beyond those initial goals.  If there is a game reason for keeping it that way (and there's no other way of handling the slowing advancement issue) then go with it.  But if its there primarily to be a tip of the hat to "old school" play...it may be too heavy handed.


BTW:  If you do decide to go with a more "serious" tone to the game you may want to consider shortening the title from Donjon Krawl to Donjon.  IMO, Donjon is just a kick ass word,  Donjon Krawl still sounds satirical.


Did I mention I really want to play this game...now I only need to find a group.  I have no one to play with out here in Peoria.
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Valamir
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« Reply #8 on: February 06, 2002, 02:44:42 PM »

Ohhh, and I just had an idea.  You mention that traditional scenario design will be kind of impossible given the free wheeling narrativist power of the players.

But one staple of old school fantasy gaming that might be quite useable is the random encounter table.

This could be expanded into a whole random scenario generator.  I'm envisioning a Flow Chart design (with all the boxes and triangles and branching arrows and such) with each symbol on the flow chart tieing to a table.  

Start: <clatter of dice>  You're in an old mining camp now largely deserted <clatter of dice> all Resources are low but so is the markup.

etc. etc.

There could even be a random monster generator complete with one of those tables of names yielding combinations like "Dire Hell Wolves" for a more serious game or "Ferocious Mutated Monkey Zombies" for a more humorous one.  Then random up some stats, levels, and skill options and voila a totally unique opponent.

You could even allow Player Successes to be used to call for rolls on certain tables.

Maybe an idea for a supplement...Donjon: The Tome of Tables.
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Clinton R. Nixon
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« Reply #9 on: February 06, 2002, 02:58:51 PM »

First, Valamir, let me say that I like your ideas. Very cool. Expect to see some random city tools and the like on the site soon.

Quick note, though:

Ohhh, and I just had an idea. You mention that traditional scenario design will be kind of impossible given the free wheeling narrativist power of the players.

Oh, no. There's nothing at all narrativist about Donjon Krawl. The players hold a lot of authorial power, but that's different. The authorial power is used to compete with the DM and each other to describe encounters to their advantage.
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Clinton R. Nixon
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Valamir
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« Reply #10 on: February 06, 2002, 03:05:29 PM »

You're right, of course, I allowed my self to get sloppy with vocabulary
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Jared A. Sorensen
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« Reply #11 on: February 07, 2002, 08:24:16 AM »

I always wanted to see a D&D clone that just dumped attribute names and went with Attribute A, B, C, D, E and F. Then it hit me: Donjon Krawl could do this and get away with it. The key is that the players can just make up their own attribute names. Since the numbers all appear to be derived values anyway, this could work without being confusing (plus it meshes well with the "make your own class" concept).

Oh man, and those pictures are the best. I love the masked mallet man!

This is a great game and I wanna play it at GenCon (or sooner, dammit).

- J

Postcrypt: oh yeah, you could replace the "Other Items (inn rooms, food, travel, etc) " tag in the town descriptions with "Hospitality."
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jared a. sorensen / www.memento-mori.com
Valamir
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« Reply #12 on: February 07, 2002, 08:27:32 AM »

Ok, read through the site again and have a few more queries...primarily about combat.

1) The "combat round ends after the 20-1 countdown" rule.  My first reaction was "pretty cool, all kinds of 'hurry up and kill this thing before the combat ends' kind of thinking evolves from that.  In fact, that tied directly into to alot of combat oriented console RPG games where you fight for a couple of turns and the screen fades and you're done until the next game turn.

BUT...how do you implement this in actual play.  In a table top RPG as opposed to a machine based one players will often demand justifications from a GM that they'd just accept as the "way the game is" from an electronic GM.

Does the combat ending mean the bad guys got away?  Does it mean the animated skeletons ran out of juice and fell apart? Is is up to the players to decide what it means?  What exactly does "the players decide to continue it" mean?  What if they are getting completely whooped up on and don't want to continue...why would the bad guys suddenly stop coming?  Maybe some examples of how you'd use a "time limit" in this way to end the combat.


2) Active vs passive defense...in general it looks like sacrificing an action allows you to get combat skill+adroitness instead of just adroitness to defend with.  Does the defender have to declare this in advance or can they roll adroitness and after seeing the result decide to sacrifice an action?  It sounds like its declared in advance, but its not explicit.  

But sometimes you can add a Dodge skill to even a passive defense.  If a character actually possesses a Dodge skill that anywhere close to the level of his combat skill it would seem that such a character would almost always be better off not actively defending.  If so, this may be one of those obnoxious min/max type situations where EVERY fighter decides to take a dodge skill.

What may help here is the secondary skill rule.  I would assume that "dodge" would be unacceptable, but "Dodge Sword" would be required.  Which would limit the Dodge utility somewhat, but what about an attempt to just say "Dodge blow".  It may not help dodging a run away wagon, but is still pretty broad.  Or the inevitable "I want to use my acrobatics skill to dodge the attack"...

Also FYI the text of this section needs a little clean up, specifically the part where a player "must have an available action to actively *dodge*" and then later Dodging is said to be passive.


3) Hit Dice and skill wounds.  Successes from damage rolls can be used to reduce the target's hit dice or reduce skill dice (and presumeably attribute dice).  This is another rule that made great sense on first read but now I'm having a little trouble with.  

It seems to me that leaving this choice up to the players results in one of 3 possible choices.
a) the player will ALWAYS target Hit Dice because that is the only way to kill the bad guy (or to render him unconcious and nearly dead for capturing purposes).
b) Only for REALLY tough monsters (or those with alot of attack actions) would it be beneficial to soften them up first with skill hits and this would almost certainly be limited to either Wherewithal hits to make them easier to damage or Adroitness hits to make them easier to hit and reduce the chances of being hit.  Damage to other areas would in most circumstance be less effective that this.
c) Only players interested in "letting the bad guy get away" or "leaving the villain something to remember me by" or other such tangental purposes would reduce skills etc...  If the goal is to "kill the monster" as is the case with 90% of dungeon crawling I think a & b are likely to be the case.

Related to this are the DM's choices for damage against the players.  Since monsters are somewhat disposable, the only real reason for a DM to damage a player's stats rather than try to kill them out right with HD hits would be to *not* kill them out right with HD hits.  This stands to bring the same sort of negative thoughts as "fudging die rolls" to save a characters life in many "traditional" gamers.

I can think of 2 possible "solutions" (I put solutions in " " because you may not see the above as a problem)...perhaps alternatives is a better word.

I.  the choice of hitting HD or Skills is not up to the player or DM but rather is either a) random for each success or b) tied to the die type.  In the random category "even" successes might be HD hits while "odd" successes might require the player to choose a Skill hit.  Alternatively, dice of a different color could be used to distinguish weapon dice from skill dice.  Weapon Dice might always be HD hits and Skill Dice always Skill Hits, or for non lethal weapons Weapon Dice might be Skill Hits and Skill Dice give a choice.

II.  Define an effect for HD that is different for Skills, perhaps making MORE HDs.  Meaning if 3 Success will Kill a monster I wouldn't waste 2 of them reducing its Wherewithal.    BUT if it took 12 Successes to kill a monster and I only have 2, starting by reducing Wherewithal might be a better strategy.

Further, with regards to healing, you mention that players get a die back with each new location.  What if instead, HD came back with each player Action (or perhaps an Action could be sacrificed "resting" to get 1d6 HD back or something similiar).  Skill hits on the other hand Linger.  Thus, a DM isn't necessarily doing the player any favors by hitting him with a Skill Hit that will linger as opposed to a HD hit that can be recovered quickly.


4) Specifically with regards to healing, the healing rules seem rather generous.  I don't mean from a simulationist perspective, which clearly they aren't, but from a game perspective.  Many of my most memorable dungeon hack moments are when we're way deep down, out of healing potions, the clerics burned his last Cure X Wounds and most of the Tanks are at 1/2 HPs.  Seems to me (unless the DM is very forceful in not having many "filler scenes") that the current rule is potentially regenerative.

In the interests of keeping it simple and tying it in with the above, perhaps it is HD hits that recover quickly but Skill hits only come back 1 die per "dungeon level"...as in "ok you've left the swamp and are entering the first level of the temple, everyone regain 1 skill die".

Just some things I came across as I began thinking about how I'd actually run a game.
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Clinton R. Nixon
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« Reply #13 on: February 07, 2002, 09:09:10 AM »

Valamir,

Great, great questions. Here's my attempted answers.

1) Does the combat ending mean the bad guys got away?  Does it mean the animated skeletons ran out of juice and fell apart? Is is up to the players to decide what it means?  What exactly does "the players decide to continue it" mean?  What if they are getting completely whooped up on and don't want to continue...why would the bad guys suddenly stop coming?

Here's how I envision this sort of situation. Most combats come in "waves." The good guys and bad guys clash for a minute, tearing into each other and then stop and breathe before smashing into each other again. The end of the initiative countdown represents this. It's not that everyone gets away or all the enemies fall apart as much as the moment where either side can go "that's about all I want of that business."

I need to add some rules for getting away. If the players decide, "Screw this noise" and try to run, and the DM decides the monsters want to press the combat, I'd call for an Adroitness + pertinent skill (Run, for example) roll versus the monsters' Adroitness. (I'd compare all the players' rolls against the best monster roll. Anyone with successes can get away, anyone without is back in the grinder.)

2) You must declare active or passive defense when attacked.

But sometimes you can add a Dodge skill to even a passive defense.  If a character actually possesses a Dodge skill that anywhere close to the level of his combat skill it would seem that such a character would almost always be better off not actively defending.  If so, this may be one of those obnoxious min/max type situations where EVERY fighter decides to take a dodge skill.[/red]

The problem with this is the limit on skills. Anyone who wants to be a fighter-type can take a Dodge skill, but they also need a Fighting skill, might want a damaging skill, and might want a skill to get more actions in combat. You run out of options fast. Still, you might take, for example:

Beating Things up with Weapons
Laying Down the Smack with Swords (damage)
Whirling Blades (adds to initiative in combat with a sword)
Dodge Hand-to-Hand Attacks
Intimidate Humans

In this case, it's up to the DM to balance this with encounters. Send the characters into encounters with pits, crevices, traps, and the like. This character will rule in combat, to be sure, but will meet his match outside of it. In addition - have the opponents in combats have missile weapons or spells.

What I see as really powerful is a character with a "Dodge" main skill.

3 & 4) All your suggestions here are good in regards to damage and healing. The healing rules were written at the tail end of the 4,500 words-in-one-day stretch when I realized, "I gots no healing rules." I like the 1 Hit Die back per encounter + 1 Skill Die back per dungeon level idea, and think I will steal it liberally.

Other reasons to attack skill dice, though:

Let's say you have a monster attacking the party with an obscene attack rating. It's well worth it to knock down that attack rating early on to avoid the damage it will cause. The same applies to an opponent with powerful magic.

In addition, the rules are there for the DM in this case. If you note, I make it real hard for player characters to die. Once their Hit Dice are gone, opponents can start hacking down their skills instead of trying to kill them because (a) they have a better chance of reducing skills than killing them and (b) what the hell sort of fun is character death? I prefer player fear.

I think I'm going to change it from skill damage to ability score damage - you accidentally used the ability score names in your post, but it makes sense. In the text, I mentioned narrating an attack on a body part in order to reduce "all skills applying to that," i.e. hitting someone in the arm in order to reduce all attack skills. I think narrating an attack hitting someone on the head to reduce Cerebrality, or hitting someone in the arm to reduce Virility makes more sense, and makes the act powerful enough that people will want to use it instead of attacking Hit Dice.
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Clinton R. Nixon
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Valamir
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« Reply #14 on: February 07, 2002, 09:46:29 AM »

1) Makes sense in that context.  Should work slick then with rules for what to do if the sides don't agree on what to do next.  Perhaps this is also a natural break for a "ok everyone recover 1 Hit Die (but not Ability Die)" rule.

2) Here's a tangental idea.  What if there was a third time of skill even more narrowly defined.  A character could trade a secondary for 2 specialized secondaries.  In other words:  Dodge Everything (main), Dodge Blows in Combat (secondary), Dodge Swords (specialized secondary).  Just a brainstorm I had when reading your reply.  May or may not have merit.

3-4) Feel free to steal as you like.

I think the change to Abilities is a good call.  Its more obvious how those items would be effected by wounds.  However, reducing Skills should still be an option.  Against that pansy little elf with the "Landscape Painting" skill, I might want to chop off a couple of fingers on his brush hand thereby reducing his skill at painting happy little clouds and bushes :-)

You may want to include an option that Total Success on a damage roll results in a permenate die loss...adds to that fear factor a little.
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