Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Improve your GMing: Fumble - Let your players come up with their own misery

Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Foreword: D&D lacks good fumble rules. In the Dungeon Master's Guide House Rules are proposed for what happens if someone fumbles but I was not able to find or come up with rules to my liking. They either discriminate characters with many attack rolls since more rolls often means more fumbles. And/or they are rather boring because they are pure 'board game' mechanics and their effects are always the same and add nothing to the roleplaying component of an encounter.
When we started playing D&D a creature granted combat advantage whenever his player rolled a 1 on a attack roll, a rule which falls in both categories mentioned before. I eventually got feed-up with this House Rule and removed fumbling all together from the game.
Some GMs have created their own fumble charts or Paizo has published a Fumble Deck (which is very brutal) to add some randomness. But nothing did really appeal to me until I heard from the following concept.

Details: On The Exemplary DM Podcast Session 2 Episode 1 (at around 36 min. in the podcast) a simple but yet good way to handle fumbles is presented. Whenever a player rolls a potential fumble (a 1 in case of D&D) he chooses whether he wants his character to fumble or not. And if so, he comes up with what happens and he receives some kind of reward. The GMs in the Podcast give away Drama Points which can be used as re-rolls.
The combination of these components make the concept so appealing to me.
First of all if the players can choose whether his character fumbles or not and therefore no type of character is discriminated. Controllers in D&D for example which are area attack heavy, roll many attack rolls and are therefore more likely to fumble if a 1 on an attack role always meant a fumble.
Second of all if the player sets up with his own misery nothing is pressed on him and he will have more fun.
Third of all players are encouraged to be creative since they receive a reward if the select the fumble and have to come up with what will happen which hopefully will make encounters more unpredictable and make it more fun for everybody.
And finally the reward reimburses him for for his bad luck and the dire consequences he might face.

Advice: Be cautious whenever a player comes up with a fumble that effects other players in a negative way. Check whether the players idea is OK with them and do not be shy to say no if it is no fun for somebody.

Monday, July 18, 2011

House Rules: Minions Military-Style

Minion Commander
The Minion Commander might inspire his comrades by his bravery or they might fear him more than death itself. Indifferently of the reason why his presence lets them fight on when they normally would have turned and run away, but when the commander falls their will to fight is crushed. They have lost their teeth and will be overcome more easily.
The Minion Commander does not have to be a minion itself but should be at least a Two-Hit Minion. Treat all (other) minions as Two-Hit Minions while the Minion Commander has 1 hp or more. When the commander is reduced to 0 hp all minions return being normal minions with only 1 hp. Bloodied minions stay as they are and are not removed from table automatically.
When a Minion Commander is part of an encounter make sure that he sticks out of the crowed. Let him bark commands, shout insults and such. So that the players get the idea that he is special and if they take him out while minions are still standing describe their reaction to the death of their commander.
If you want to speed-up combat think about using Diceless-Minions but the difficulty of the encounter will increase quite a bit and might even unbalance it.

Minion Warband
Did you as a GM every wanted to send a whole unit of soldiers against the players or wanted to have an encounter where units fight against each other?
Even if the soldiers would only be minions it becomes quite time consuming to move all minions involved and to resolve combat rolls. Try using the following rules to speed-up the encounter.
Select a type of minion you want to have a large number of in the encounter. Then choose whether the minions should form huge or large Warbands.
A huge Warband starts as a huge monster (9 squares) which has the same values (defenses, auras and attacks (including number of attacks and damage output), etc. ) as the selected type of minion. It has a range 1 aura and all enemies which start their turn in the aura take two times the damage the minion normally would do on with his standard attack. When the Warband takes two hits replaced it by a large Warband.
The rules for a large Warband are the same as for a huge one except that it is only large (4 squares) and its aura does only the same amount of damage the minion would do on a hit. When the large Warband suffers two hits it is replaced with a normal medium-sized minion for which normal minion rules apply.
Since area attacks are devastating to groups of minions a successful area attack deals 2 hits and a miss still causes 1 hit to the Warband. A huge mob therefore instantly is replaced by a large Warband when hit by an area attack.
A huge Warband is weaker than 9 individual minions of the same type would be, but it is easier to keep track of and it speeds-up combat, since only one instead of 9 moves and attacks have to resolved. The auras are meant to reimburse for the fact that mobs have only one attack which causes the same amount of damage a normal minion does.
The concept of Dicless-Minions could easily applied to a minion Warband. And since it has only one attack it will not unbalance the encounter but it will also hardly speed-up the encounter.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Random Findings: Two-Hit Minions

Ameron from Dungeon'sMaster.com has a less radical approach to make minions more dangerous than the diceless-minion: The Two-Hit Minion. I like the idea, especially that critical hits or hits with damage types the minions have vulnerability will outright kill them.