Friday, February 26, 2016

Role-Playing Elements as Player Character Cards

Don't you just hate it if you can't keep track of your Character's motives, limitations, nuances, biases, etc...

Can I try to fix that?  

You've heard of Death by Modifiers, the design rational that limited use of modifiers in DnD5E, lets prevent "Death by RP-Elements." Lets just have a few, 2-5, such Role-Playing Elements that will influence the PC and the Player will try to pursue in the course of game session.

I'll put these notes in some Index Cards. So that I can physically track it and anchor it to my attention after repeated play sessions. Let's call them Player Character Cards (PCC for short).

Player Character Cards

PCCs are Cards, they can be index cards where only the Player knows what's behind the card. It can have Motives, Behaviours, Biases, Missions, Secrets, or any Complication that will give the PC a stake or Influences the PC's course of action or decisions.

If a Player is pursuing a course of action or mission, then he will want to remember his motives and limitations. For every "Card" he can relate to the Objectives of the Course of Action then the more character development he can earn.

The GM asks if he can look at the PCCs and takes notes if the Player is pursuing it, and works with the material the Player gives him. The more a PCC is used, the more the idea gets developed.

In these Cards I'll put the Following:

  • The Role-Playing Element: Stuff that gets me to RP, influences my character's decisions, and complicates the adventure. Stuff I want to GM to know, and throw at us. 
  • My Character's name and rationale. (so it does not get lost). 
  • Some Red-Herring Cards. Maybe Wishlist Challenges or Notes for the GM. 
    • ex. Can we fight goblins today? Can we go to town? I want to check out the old Ruins etc... 
    • In the back of the Index Card as another Red Herring: any identifying mark, red herrings, things that will psyche the other players lolz. 
    • "I want to dig into the Clerics's shady past?" player to GM note. 
  • There is a Limit of up to 1 Open Secret, if the Player decides to limit his secrets. As part of the fun he has to Hide stuff from the other Players (consider it a Fog  of War or Information Asymmetry; stuff that cannot be known for certain or would be very difficult and complicated to communicate). 
  • What's important that no one, but the GM sees these notes. He just facilitates, it doesn't mean he will do everything in them. 
    • GM will keep the player off-balanced and will tend to facilitate a pretty challenge scenario with a very good risk of failure and set back to keep things challenging.
    • Write Legibly! 
    • Make sure you can Spin this RP-Element in a way that is fun. Make suggestions to the GM! ASK: "How can my PCC/RP-Element move the plot or make the game or story more interesting for the others?"

What the GM does with the PCCs
  • Check if the PCC is being RPed. Facilitate, Encourage, and Enable the Player to RP the PCC, especially if it is a Hindrance and a Complication. 
    • He keeps notes, but the Players Volunteer and Remind him of their PCCs. 
  • Reward them for helping you make the Game more fun for (you the GM and) for everyone else. 
  • Maintain the Secrecy that makes it a fun Guessing and Meta-Game as everyone else tries to figure out each other's motives. 
  • Set a Difficulty and Reward by how much of these PCC/RP-Elements should be pursued in the course of play. 
  • CONSISTENCY. As the RP-Element Developed, then the GM and that Player needs to maintain consistency. 


  • No point Value for Disadvantages. Particularly those that meet the criteria for PCC. (I use Trait Tables to Roll Up these elements)
  • Give the Players more freedom to rewrite or develop the intensity of the PCC or RP-Element. 

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

More Physical DnD 5E: movement, strength, and exhaustion.

These rules make it harder to travel and perform feats of strength compared to the Rules As Written. This puts characters in near constant exhaustion if they are travelling at half marathon or greater distances per day. Characters, both NPCs and PCs, need to be very careful and manage their energy, resources and effort.

To keep it simple. There are some benchmarks, and characters who try to exceed this without "technique" from skill are pushing their limits.  

Strength. (p79)

For Strength Feats that are Impulse or Instantaneous use Strength, anything longer use Constitution. 

Carrying Capacity. Carrying is bear something with either your arms, back, shoulders, or both. A backpack or load bearing gear that places a load on the character's body is considered carrying.

Deadlift or Squat. This is how many pounds a character can dead lift (lifting something off the ground from a squatting position with both hands a couple of feet until his standing position) or squat on a successful Strength with Athletics Save DC10 per day.

Reduce the DC by 1 for every 20% reduction of weight. Increase the DC by 2 for every attempt per day. Exceeding the weight by 10% adds a +2 DC. Moving such a weight for a minute follows the firemans and farmer's carrying rules. Extending the feat for a round adds +10DC.

Firemans or Farmer's Carry. A Firemans carry is carrying a load over one's shoulders, while a Farmer's carry is carrying a load with both your arms hanging down. A character can do so with a Load x8 his Strength for 1 minute. The character is considered heavily encumbered when performing this task. Roll Constitution save vs DC10 with Athletics. Failure is suffering Exhaustion.

Reduce the DC by 1 for every 20% reduction of weight. Increase the DC by 2 for every attempt additional minute performed in a day. Exceeding the weight by 10% adds a +2 DC.

Push or Drag. (no lift) x30 of strength in pounds. Ignore fricton or if it is a significant factor increase the “mass” of the load being push or dragged by the factor of friction. At x30 lbs in Strength roll Constitution Athletics every minute at 10. Reduce the DC by 1 for every 20% reduction of weight. Increase the DC by 2 for every attempt additional minute performed in a day. Exceeding the weight by 10% adds a +2 DC.

Strength TLDR 
A high DC if trying to do strength feats more Intense or Longer. Feats of strength is incredible useful and very common need for it when costs to travel and move equipment is in the PCs consideration.  

Variant: Encumbered. If you carrying something x2 your strength score in lbs you are encumbered and suffer -10ft to your base (instead of 5x). Roll Con and Athletics DC10 every couple of hours and +1 for every couple of hours.

If you carry something x4 your strength score you are considered heavily encumbered. In this condition the character's speed drops by 20 and suffers a disadvantage in ability checks, attack rolls, and saving throws that use Strength, Dexterity, or Constitution.

This is the highest effort level of the character that can be measured of hours. Roll a Constitution Save DC10 every hour in this condition, adding +2 to the DC per additional hour.
Increasing Heavy Encumbered Carrying Capacity by 10% adds +2 to the DC. Failure is suffering Exhaustion.

Dwarven Resilience p.3 and Relentless Endurance p.7

Grant Orcs and Dwarves the advantage in Strength and Con checks featured here. 

Mounts and Other Animals p69

Use the capacity to get their strength by dividing it by 16. Consider them Heavily Encumbered while bearing that load. Since they are much larger than humans they have the x2 capacity.

These animals also suffer that conditions. The GM can use these stats to have more expensive stronger specimens as well as cheaper weaker specimens. The deviation tends to be plus or minus 20% from the average in strength. While the price for every 10% increase or decrease may go up by x2 to x5 for 20% better or 1/2 to 1/5 for -10% or -20% worse stats.  

Travel Pace p84

Use pacing as a measure of effort, which can be applied to other physical tasks. The table assumes a 30ft movement score. Use the Move Modifier for different scores (like Dwarves or Barbarians with Fast movement).

Forced March. The hourly roll below replaces the forced march.

Travel Pace Table
Distance Travelled per… Constitution**

DC Modifier

Fast (Run)
400ft (116m)
4miles (6km)
16miles (24km)
+5 by minute
+10 by hour

Normal (March)
300ft (96m)
3miles (5km)
12miles (20km)
+0 by minute
+5 by hour

Slow (Walk)
200ft (45m)
2miles (3km)
8miles (12km)

Pace can be used as a level of effort.
* includes 10 min breaks. So if you want to get the mph or kph x 1.16.
** add Athletics to this Save.
*** roll Constitution and Athletics vs DC 20 per 4 hours of travel to simplify. Every margin of 5 failure is a level of exhaustion.  Given that Making Camp is time consuming and may take up 4 hours by itself. Scrounging and Foraging would take up about 4 hours as well.

Allow Constitution and Survival instead of Athletics. It would be reasonable to allow Survival and Constitution for long travel. Of course you can't use Survival for feats of strength and dexterity.

On long Temperate Climate Days, where daylight is 16 hours long, its common to travel 16 hours long with 4 hour breaks in between. But this is not sustainable for many consecutive days. In far off places, they can do with low security camps since speed is their "security".


Good shoes had a 500mile or 800km. The SRD has not much in boots, so I can recommend 8gp.  Hobnailed boots is 4gp more. Increasing the quality by double triples to quadruples range. A pair of poor shoes (1/2 the quallity or value) has 1/3 to 1/4 the range.

Getting Lost

Roll Survival Wisdom DC 15. Reduce the DC by 5 in for familiar terrain and location.  +5 to DC more than 3miles or 5km from the nearest village or land mark. +10 to DC for more than 6 miles or 10km from nearest village or landmark. Add 5 to DC if unnatural and familiar terrain type.  Add 5 to DC in navigating at Night, with poor star visibility or dense canopy. 

Difficult Terrain (p85)

Emphasis on this. typically roads wind and hug the terrain, the distance becomes longer. Grades of incline also add to the difficulty. x1.2 to x3 the distance based on the grades of the roads. Save the basic movement for flat level roads.

Making Camp

Making Camp is a Survival Wisdom Roll of DC20. Every margin of failure of 2 adds 30mins. This roll is modified by the quality of the terrain. The roll is for a Secure and Sheltering Camp. A Poor camp is less secure and easier to find (DC10). A terrible camp would be dangerous.

More secure camp farther out. Its easier to make a camp thats farther from a main travel areas. Every 15 minutes march away (about 1 mile or 1.6km) would give a +5 to the roll. 

Scourging and Foraging (Self Sufficiency p. 73)

Self Sufficiency only allows for Poor instead of Comfortable. This is a Survival Wisdom DC 15, every margin of 5 fails lowers the lifestyle by 1 level worse (Wretched and Squalid). A margin of success of 5 would increase the Lifestyle by up to 2 levels (Comfortable to Modest). 

It takes about 2 hour Scrounge, Forage, find potable water, and Find Game for food. Roll Survival Wisdom DC10. Add 5 for every additional person this is going to feed. Every Margin of failure by 2 adds 1 hour.
This can be used for foraging for materials found in the wild. 

Simplification of so many Exhaustion Rolls

Many Constitution Rolls, just ask them to Roll vs DC 15, 20, and 25 when ever they are doing something very difficult for an hour. The ideal is they keep a light load. If the Players are overpacking then the penalty is these rolls. 

Exhaustion and Injury

Failing an Constitution and Athletics roll that leads against Exhaustion leads to an Injury. A failed roll by more than 5 deals 1d3 points of damage, and an additional 1d3 points of damage. The GM can rule if this can be lethal. The limbs injured is considered disadvantaged when being used for any physical task or roll.

Food and Water p.86

Grant a +1 to +2 DC bonus when the character has additional rations. Every 50% additional ratios and water helps up to a max of +5 per day. Having more food and water to do all the work helps a lot.

Resting p.87

Short Rest reduces the level of exhaustion by 1 and up to 2 levels of exhaustion plus constitution modifier can be reduced per day by short rests. Long Rests can reduce up to 1 additional level of exhaustion.
This means at 5 levels of exhaustion, it would take more than 2 days for a person to recover fully.

Exhaustion p.192

Remove the Immunity to Exhaustion of all creatures that have it. Creatures that would normally push their limits, like Undead or Machines, instead of suffering Exhaustion will suffer Wear and Tear aka Damage. They take about 1d3 damage for every 5 points of strength they have. A Zombie of 15 strength will deal 3d3 damage when they would otherwise exhaust themselves.

What will this Do to your adventures?

  1. Travel Pacing conscious Players and strategies. They will depend on roads, load bearing animals, time, and supplies. The world is their antagonist.
  2. Wearing Armor and full Kit is a careful consideration.
  3. Optimal Light Load Kit.
  4. Water and Food Conscious. RPing the value and appetite for supplies, catharsis, rest, and recovery. 

  • The SRD 5E
  • and to learn the benchmarks of a marathon and what stat's such distances should entail. 
  • for feats of strength. 
  • Marching, Survival and Camping rules are derived from the Small Wars Manual
  • Lindybeige authentiboots
  • Lindybeige authentiboots

Sunday, February 7, 2016

It's all about the agency

In historical settings, where status matters more, it just highlights the adaptability and agency of the character by how they work limitations and challenges. It also informs on their identity, as with so little to lose they can impress upon the audience how they are different or special.

I always thought and measured scenes by how much it showed the characters agency.

Agency and how a character defines his identity by the color of their actions, intentions,  and objectives.

Looking at the DnD model of race, class, and role in character creation, I realize I cannot compete with that model in simplicity and how it captures the audience. It does it in a way that is so embedded with implied personal self identification.

Its just such a turn-off to decide to be a slave, serf, peasant, townsman, Warrior, clergy, vs the elite in comparison.

When playing a non elite it's about having  agency what makes it interesting to me .In contrast being an elite it's about having no agency - doing everything to maintain status quo and raising it.

 It's not impressive to play a game where character comes from mediocre background, with no messianic attributes of how special a character is. There is no great prophecy or destiny - there is shit and the agency to outwit, work through, or compromise with shit.

 Maybe people will like it because if I work with this baseline, like a shepherds tone, I can make something great with out escalating. More importantly an awareness (availability cascades or denning Kruger effect) of great challenges, tragedy, and sacrifice in one's surroundings. Thus appreciate something that would have been otherwise overlooked after emerging from the distraction of play.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Hangouts Updated 2016

Google System Requirements for Hangouts

300kbps (kilobit) (35KBps or KiloByte/s) uploading just voice and downloading just 1 other participant for a total of 600kbps (70KBps)

For every additional participant you download more data. So if you are talking to 3 other people then you will be download 300kbps (35KBps) per participant for a total of 900kbps (105KBps). Don't forget to add yourself for a total of 900kbps down and 300kps up for a total of 1.2mbps or (140KBps).

Like Marching you can move only as fast as the slowest member. This means that the user experience is by the person with the worse internet. This can translate to a bunch of you being affected.

Hardware Matters!

Noise Cancelling Headphones is just plain basic Courtesy in Voice/Video over IP. Even the robust Iphone Earbuds are pretty good noise cancelling. The more ambient sounds you have the get into your mic the harder it is to be understood.

Latency, like in Online Game, Matters
So PING or MS matters. I normally use my Steam PING measures to see how things are by loading Insurgency and see how the Ping is per

or you can use a PING test  to see how is the MS of your country or region with your players/gm's region.

DSLReports is the Bandwidth tester I use these days. It tells me my Ping as well.

Latency Benchmarks are those you need for an FPS, about more than 200 becomes noticeably difficult and blow 100 becomes easy and undetectable. (Check the MS rating for the location)

DDOS Attack Map: Checking the Internet Weather.
Check the Digital Attack Map to see if your Country and Backbones are experiencing any irregular attacks.

Google Alerts ISP Outage and Conditions 
If you use Google Alerts than make an alert sends alerts before your game day about Outages, Interruptions, Maintenance, and Servicing. (Use those words as key words).

2.6mbps (megabit) (350KBps) up or down with video.
So in a Game of 4 other players, thats 10.4mbps (1.4MegaByte/sec). This can even be more if the Video is in HD.

My internet at home is measured at 100KBps. This means I can talk to 2 other people in a voice only Google Hangout. I have a "advertised" 4mbps aka 500KBps. 

If PLDT FINALLY comes up with 50mbps (60usd/mo) and PLDT delivers only 1/5 of promised at 10mbps (1.25MBps) I need to still do the Hangout on Audio to maximize the user experience. 

GM and Players need to MATCH Bandwidth.
If I run a game with 4 other players EVERYONE will need about 1.4MB and a latency of about below 300ms.

Roll20 needs about 400kbps to 800kbps (50-100KB/s) to add on. Again check the latency of this all.  Here is Roll20's image best practices and my Optimized Combat Mapping Post

Turn Off Mic if not Speaking
You will learn that turning off the Mic when its not your turn (and to comment on the chat or send whispers) is better to minimize confusion and maximize everyone's Mental and ISP bandwidth. More Voice Streams of data the more Download the system needs.
If you find it Rude for the GM or Other players to mute you, then be aware when its not your turn and your Mic is on.
The GM may make a disclaimer - Will mute you if its not your turn to talk to limit noise and bandwidth. 

Computer CPU and RAM.
Browsers can surprisingly eat up a lot of ram, and when I have it on my CPU monitor shows all 4 cores firing at max in my i3 computer. So if you can divide tasks by devices it would help. I ran a hangout from my phone and Roll20 on my laptop to help with the responsiveness.

In Closing
Hopefully one day someone can make a Chrome or Firefox Plug-in to automate all this. I'm sure someone would have figured out this pain point and

Second - Skype and Hangouts can have a dashboard for matching.
If all VOIP services can have a way to test and measure. like my tested bandwidth quality, capacity, and beside each name the PING/MS/Latency I have with each player updated every couple of minutes would be AWESOME!

Allow us to Search by Hubs and Discussion on User Experience.
If we can find gamers to play with online by the Quality of the Connection it would also be awesome. Breaking it down to "Hubs" would be ok and an opt in system. As well as informing people how they can improve their User Experience. In my area X is the best way, as I've tried Z, Y and B!

The Philippine Condition
It seems my timing leaving Roll20 is not so bad since I've been downgraded and will need to look for a good ISP. The example is true that If I do get to move to a new ISP at BEST I have only 1.25MB/s to look forward to or 4 player slots in only Voice.

But I'm not getting that until PLDT gets a fiber backbone in our area (by the experience of them just setting up a leased line in our provincial plant may mean x2-3 the amount of time, for a project that should have taken 60 days), I can only get 8mbps which is sobering 200KBs (remember 1/5 of the advertised rate) and that means Voice only and latency problems. Thats probably 2 years away (2018) or never.