Two Dice and a Deck of Cards

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Carl Sandburg mentioned iron thoughts in one of his poems. Mine come when the insomnia  wears out the part of me that second guesses my ideas.

About ten days ago, I flushed out an idea for a general purpose RPG that used two regular six-sided die and a standard deck of cards. For those that do not have tsu.co accounts, I repeated it again on Google Plus. The idea can be summarized as follows:

Spread ten points across three attributes, Brawn, Finesse, Acumen. If you are a Wizard, set your Magic stat as 1.

The secondary stats are Health and Mana. Health is calculated by (2*Highest Stat)+2nd Highest Stat+Magic. Mana is calculated by your Magic stat + 2.

Draw a card from the deck and mark it on your character sheet. This is your chi or whatever you wish to call it.

For non-magic actions, roll 2d6+associated stat. If the result is 10 or more, the character succeeds! If not, mark a tally under the associated stat. Once the tally marks equal 4 + stat, increase the stat by 1 and erase the tally marks.

For Magic, draw a card and add your magic stat to the rank of the card. Then consult the table below. The first item that applies is your result.

  • If you draw your chi card, the spell is a success.
  • If you draw a card that equals your chi card's rank, the spell is a success, but deduct the spell's Magic Rating from your Mana.
  • If you draw a card that matches your chi card's suit, the spell is a failure, but do not deduct Mana.
  • If you the drawn card's rank + Magic stat is 10 or more, the spell is a success.
  • If you draw a face card, the spell is a success.
  • All other results, the spell fails and deduct the spell's magic rating from your Mana.

That was a week ago. Since then, I realized that I could add other special abilities with a fourth stat and a resource pool to manage it. The ideas started flowing.

Yesterday, Eric Nieudan happens upon this post and decides to build his own dungeon generator with 2d6 plus a deck of cards.

I read over it and instantly love it. So, I did what any self-respecting geek would do, I made a spreadsheet of it for testing. After testing it, I offered some suggestions that tested out well. I'll post a link to the corrected system when it comes available.

The iron thought that will not escape me is that I need to finish this game somehow. In addition to the Wizard character that uses magic, I have a psionic character, a priest character, a thief character, a martial character, and a few more. With Jens D and Eric Nieudan to start the idea, I have something for the referee's section of the game.

This needs to be made and I can't sleep for thinking about it.

Maybe supers would work on this system...

More to come on this and other game stuff in progress.

And Now, The SW Monster Database

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Last week, I mentioned the SW Monster Database project. At long last, it is finished. After the links below, I'll talk a bit about the spreadsheet.

To download an MS Excel version, click here.

To download an Open Office version, click here.

To add your own creation to the database, click here.

After looking around a bit, you may feel a bit underwhelmed.

Gee John, for all the build-up, it's a list of stats with no monster descriptions.

I get that. I struggled with how to get the descriptions in the spreadsheet easily, but everything up to this point would be days of copy and paste. I'm a bit embarassed to say that as someone that has passing familiarity with awk, sed, bash scripting, and VBA macros. Someone with more skill than me should be able to do it easily.

If you can, please do so. I welcome anything that will make this resource better.

Having said that, I believe I can get the descriptions included without manually pasting them into the submission form. We'll see how that goes. The beauty of the project is that it can grow and continue to add features.

What we can do now is make all kinds of useful tables. Some of the most obvious include a list of monsters by Challenge Level. Download and then Sort by CL and then by Num.

Guess what Challenge Level has the most monsters? CL 5. There are 104 monsters in the SRD with a CL 5. After that, there are 98 monsters with CL 8. Here's the full count.

CL Count
0 2
A 10
B 12
1 50
2 77
3 88
4 93
5 104
6 75
7 75
8 98
9 74
10 65
11 48
12 52
13 59
14 18
15 31
16 14
17 26
18 8
19 9
20 11
21 3
22 4
23 7
24 3
25 2
26 4
27 3
28 4
29 1
30 8
31 3
32 2
33 4
34 4
35 1
36 1
37 2
38 2
39 1
40 5
42 1
varies 12

Most of those varies entries are followers of a specific demon or devil. Later on, I plan to publish a few of those, with full stats.

Other possibilities have been mentioned on G+ already, but with this kind of spreadsheet, you can right a pretty good monster generator. Nothing beats writing one from scratch, but sometimes I need something that is "good enough" for right now. After all, a random encounter is truly random when even you don't know what the next monster around the corner will be.

I'll be adding more to this, but I'll be back to the S&W Magic project for the most part.

Sword & Wizardry Monster Database

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Believe it or not, I'm one of the editors for the Swords & Wizardry SRD site. I haven't been able to do much recently, but the Frogs have put in a lot of time entering monsters from the Tome of Horrors Complete and Mosntrosities. There are also a handful of creatures from modules (like the Kamarupa from Splinters of Faith 10) and the Swords & Wizardry complete rule book (like the Giant Vampire Bat).

Recently, Jeff Barrett posted on G+ asking about a master index of all the S&W monsters from the various books. It's something I wanted to do for a long time, but all my attempts to get a project like this started had previously failed. The biggest hindrance was not owning either of the two big monster books.

Yet, when I saw the post, I tried again using only the data on the SRD site. This time I had great success. In about two hours I was able to get a list of 1150+ creatures' stat blocks into a spreadsheet. It wasn't pretty and some of the AC values were in the Attacks column and stuff like that, but it was a spreadsheet that just needed some data work.

That was eleven days ago.

Since then, I have been harkening back to my DBA days cleaning the data to make a good database. Specifically, this means a list of all the monsters from the SRD site with stat blocks, OGL section 15 information, and adding a column for a "catalog name" that allows me to sort the monsters in the same order as they appear on the SRD. Once finished, the monsters will be sortable by AC, HD, Challenge Level, etc. It is a lot of OCD type of work, but it will lead to what I hope is some useful features for all of us.

For example, after the data is all cleaned up, I wil have a field in the spreadsheet that is a one line stat block that you can copy from to paste into your own house rules/modules. Practically, that means finding the monster(s) you want by sorting, searching, and otherwise manipulating the spreadsheet. Then, copying the one line stat block(s) from the spreadsheet into your Word or LibreOffice document.

This will also lead to other benefits like a master index of creatures by Challenge Level. Looking into the future, it can also lead to indexes of creatures by attack type (acid, poison, teleporting victims into an Iron Maiden, etc.) or special abilities (breath weapon, pyromaniac, carousing, etc.).

The final benefit is that with a spreadsheet full of "good" data (I say that as a former DBA, not as a comment on S&W) it becomes easy to input new creatures from all of us. It also means it will be easier for me and others to publish third-party monsters to the SRD.

I have a Google Doc link that I have shared with the other SRD editors with my daily progress. I am still working on the OGL Sec 15 part, but the bulk of the work is done. Now I'm down to stuff like standardizing the Move stat (some monsters are flying 9, others are fly 9 or 9 fly or fly 9 on Tuesdays while flying twelve on February) I'm not going to change any stats, just make them all say fly 9 or swim 10 instead of fifteen other ways to say how fast a creature flies or swims.

To give you an idea what it look like at this point, here's a screen capture of the Giant Aardvark entry:
swmonsterspread

For what it is worth, I don't include any monsters from Tome of Horrors 4 or the Rappan Athuk bestiary because I don't own either one yet. I'm one of those folks that will file my taxes on the first possible day (Jan 31st) so maybe I'll be able to buy it soon.

I haven't forgotten about the Magic project and I have drafts of posts for it. Since Sum Bach o Hud, the magic systems book, is a goal for all of 2014, I decided to let my weakness for spreadsheets take over long enough to get this done.