Tuesday 30 April 2019

Keystone Species Encounter Table

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This one of those "thinking aloud"post where I had an idea for something and see what it looks like when I write it out.
Which hopefully results in something usable , salvage , inspiring or at the very least interesting.

This idea is building an areas encounter table around a single species , in order to make it feel more alive and dynamic , and allow more forewarning to happen about the more dangerous encounters.

So you decide on a keystone "species" (though this can be any thing "ëncountable") and think how it would effect everything else.

What is a keystone species? Let me just copy/paste from wiki here:

"A classic keystone species is a predator that prevents a particular herbivorous species from eliminating dominant plant species. If prey numbers are low, keystone predators can be even less abundant and still be effective. Yet without the predators, the herbivorous prey would explode in numbers, wipe out the dominant plants, and dramatically alter the character of the ecosystem."

 A keystone species doesn't have to be a predator but we'll start with one because it's the easiest to d&d.

So let's take the Hydra-Moray from  the "Ramanan Sivaranjan Excellence in Gaming Best God Damn Book of 2015"award winning book Fire On The Velvet Horizon.

It's one of the simplest monsters in there, a hydra of eels , so it will do nicely.

Let's have it live a mangroove, because they are under used biomes. Mangroves are great because you have all kinds of water monsters there but have the party  still basically on land.

Real life mangroves are kind of a nightmare to travel on foot, the footing is treacherous, sharp protrudings from the mangrove roots ,  deep sucking mud and biting insects.

But for our purposes I'll say there's more reliable ground than there actually is.

What does a Hydra Moray eat? Basically everything.  It will eat the mussels and other shellfish , it will eat fish, it will eat alligators , it will will eat too slow climbers and flyers.

So I'm think it's unlikely to have another large predator here unless its swam in from further away.

However smaller & faster and/or more versatile predator/scavengers seem plausible (also I could always have something with some unusual property allowing its survival.)

So let's have some kind of tree climbing Hyena-Otter.

Like the Amazonian giant otter but hunting in packs and a rapid climber . They will scavenge, eat shellfish, chase smaller or weaker Hydra Moray away from kills, snip off stray bits of a meal or even a head, or just finish off the remains.

They will retreat into the tree tops when endangered and make large messy nests there.

Okay now for hapless prey animal.  Gibbons.The Bald-screamer gibbon which I'm making up , it's nearly hairless and has a look of constant fear on its face. It eats leaves, fruit , bark and occasional shellfish.
They will get eaten in the water and they will get eaten in the trees. They have the long limbed graceful  swinging in trees but in the water they have an absurd looking butterfly stroke .

They will squirt big jets of blinding green shit loaded with herbal toxins from their diet if disturbed, while fleeing and hooting.

This hooting will attract attention of the Otters but not the Moray.

Now I got 3 beasts lets build an encounter table.

I don't have a clear system about how I do these numbers , but generally I treat a hex/ turn of traveling like doing a room in a dungeon so I like a 3/3/3 of Definite threat, possible threat, environmental.
Definite Threat is something that is very likely to result in harm unless action is taken, a possible threat will result in harm only in specific situations or fuckery, and environmental is traces of the threat , clues, and resources.

Then with those categories , where needed, a third are unluckier than usual and a third  are luckier.

That's my guidelines here anyway. I'm still not 100% in these numbers and I actually deviated from it when making the below table. ヽ(。_°)ノ
Note that a lot of traditional encounter chances are created with them as a counter /penalty /risk to taking too much time/ covering distance , while I use them as a "what are we doing this session" generator.

Any Large amount of Noise (i.e Gibbons) , or blood in the water ,will trigger another encounter roll , only using results relating to Hydras or Otters

Definite Threats
1. A younger , wounded, or depleted Hydra Moray. It has less than normal heads (1d4+2) , will follow at a distance and attack if approached , the party seems weak, or there's a lot of blood in the water. It will settle for at least a dogs worth of meat.
2. A healthy Adult moray will become aware of the party and start slowly swimming towards them , waiting for the best moment to strike. It will want at least 2 adults worth of food , and if it incapacitates one while the rest of the party flee , it will stash the downed one under a root mass and continue 
 3.Adult Moray about to eat or currently eating a shark or crocodile . Will defend its meal against others. Roll again to see if anything else shows .
4. 1d4 younger Otters. Will follow just out of reach , both in the water or tree branches looking cute. Will attempt to snatch and flee with food or small animals , and attack isolated injured individuals
5. Standard pack of otters , 5+1d6 of them. Lolling about in branches and eating shellfish.  Will attack a weak looking party, try and chase off other packs or smaller morays from a kill. If the next encounter triggers an encounter roll , this pack will show up.
 6. Otter Nest. Looks kind of like a bunch of flotsam jammed in a tree. 2d8 pups present. 1d4 otters present that will chase off anyone getting close. Another 2d6 will show up if prolonged combat or aggravation happens. The pups are worth a lot for their fur, and use as  hunting./guard animal. 
The nest also might have rings or jewellery from limbs or heads brought back here for the pups to eat.
 7. Shark
9-15: Gibbons up trees . Will freak out if disturbed, shitting jets of blinding spray and making a lot of noise.
16 A corpse up a tree. Legs eaten off, rest of body stripped of bone. Some salvagable equipment
17. Battered down smaller trees
18. Submerged corpse under a root mass, with a single limb rising up. Hydra Moray that stashed it was driven out of the area.
19. Crocodile corpse caught up in emerging root mass, being picked clean by crabs
20. Knocked over Otter nest , ripped open.  Human limb and gibbon bones through the compacted nest surface of fur, plant material , and feces. Some jewellery.

Next post , if my or your interest continues , will have one the following goals:

>Make a  way simpler version of this.

>Show an example with lots more variety

><Maybe do one with something other than an alpha predator

>Or even building it around something that isn't part of the food chain (directly) like rogue golems, or wandering bands of undead

Friday 12 April 2019

Exacts In the Theatre of the mind

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picture from Wonder Momo via  Hardcoregaming101 though the page seems to have become unfindable by me

 Well g+ got put-down and I have not a lot strong feelings about it.
Other than maybe comparing the user built connection networks to soil.
As you may or may not know uncultivated (cultivated meaning dug up, worked over or otherwise human messed with) good soil has the majority of its properties due to the work of micro and not so micro (i.e invertebrates s visible to the naked human eye) organisms.

Organic matter is and has been broken down into small pieces, tiny little tunnels have been dug, a certain amount of biofilm is also clumping the soil together.
Because of this good uncultivated soil has a good amount of available plant nutrients , holds water but has drainage, lets air into the top layers, resists water loss and erosion due to sun , wind and water action.

If you got some earth moving equipment, dug it all up and dumped it somewhere else the soil would then compact down due to the collapsing of the microtunnels built by countless little critters and no longer have the water and air permeability as good. If was repeated wet and compacted it would have worse and worse ability to let water and air through.

But as long as nutrients were available , its biome of flora and fauna would gradually return it to is former pristine state.

A social network platform closing is somewhat like this. The networks and awareness of others that makes a social network good are collapsed if the network closes. The users of it can certainly start again somewhere else and reestablish the connection they had previously but like the soil, it will take time.

Slowing down the process is if the users don't use same name and profile picture with their new account.

Not so much a problem with people that you spoke to often but more with the people who you didn't but  the awareness of formed your network.

This network is a map of everyone you disliked (but didn't necessary blocked), the people you disregarded, the people whose opinion you valued but rarely had anything to talk about directly.

The sum total of that is what motivates or deters one to bother reaching out or contributing to.

So that is what everyone (everyone who was using it on the regular anyway) has lost with google plus gone.

Where and if people start their new networks depends on a multitude of factors , but some of the most important I feel are A regular source of interesting and Not having To Interact with Worthless People.

I don't have the time and interest right now to settle down on some other platform and try and point forth content to help grow the nexus (the network of networks) or even search other platforms adequately to find growing ones.

So the next bit of that importance is currently of theoretical value to me; the Not Having To Interact With Worthless People.

I won't try exact define worthless here , but in general I mean people acting in such bad faith or who value internet conflict so highly that they negatively add to any conversation going on.

Domestic Abuser Zak Smith wrote alot about his rules for determining worthwhile people and how to push out Worthless people.

Towards the end his application of these were so blatantly about control that's it hard to remember having ever held them in regard at all.

Never the less it will be interesting seeing where creative and productive places happen and if any of his theories hold up in regard to them.

His stated goal of having better social spaces online that were still critical (i.e not just endless affirmation hug fests) is still one of merit, and I hope the conversation around it can continue without his malign influence.


So you aren't using miniatures or a hastily drawn battlemap, instead you are being a loose-goose and keeping it all "theatre of the mind" .

If someone is attacking someone they are beside them , if they aren't they aren't. If they are on something or behind it then that's where they are. Otherwise it doesn't matter.


Because there's a number of tactical options that new players will often try and then abandon when the dm seems to not really care that they are doing that.

These options get represented by more tactical systems and/or any with miniatures,  but are often overlooked by theatre of the mind play.

Which is a shame because they are fairly intuitive and can be fairly  crucial to survival.

Basically these are the positions that should matter , or at least be considered , with theatre of the mind.

Hiding behind something:
And that something being relatively static. This is easily supported by the existing mechanics but its important to not just think of it of something thieves can do.
Not just always assuming the monsters can detect and easily access the characters
Giving players information about this

Staying out of the way/Staying at range
Moving out the monsters reach and keeping there. This is far less supported directly by the mechanics
even when using miniatures, as for convenience moving and attacking often both happen in the same turn .  So a slow monster can move up and attack if it has initiative, and then the character that can move much further goes and moves out of range and (missile )attacks. While explainable in some situations is rather odd if generally the case.

A possible mechanic support for mind-theatre is some kind dex contest (but also modified by the rate of movement)  to determine if a character can stay out of the reach of the monster. Say die+dex mod vs die+ dex mod. With the die being Slowest d4 , Average d8, Fastest d20

SO: still good idea to be clear to players if a monster can reach them in its turn and if they want to do something about that

Using long weapons
Can get very mechanically complicated if you want to, but my main point is a new player will often expect it to matter if they have a long spear they are prodding something with and will be confused when the monster just effortless is beside them when it needs to be.
A possible simple mechanic : Resolve longest weapons first regardless of initiative 
Attempting to keep a monster always at spear length is more detailed of a combat matter than I'm getting into in this post

Either let players know that the chaos of the melee , unsteadiness of the footing , terrible light etc, makes the length of the spear matter little or have a mechanic to make it matter.

Intercepting/Keeping someone between you and enemy
The old Fighters In front of Mages / Marching order  deal. But also includes where someone is trying to cut off an exit or get between the tied up sacrifice and the Great Bile Toad Of Go'r'r
 For the amount you can mechanically support this one need only to consider Attacks Of Opportunity in 3rd edition.
A simple approach is when players state they are trying to do this have their attack resolved first and if succeeds the monster can't resolve their attack on anyone other than the interceptor.
Additionally where someone is trying to be a meat shield and circumstances are favorable, allow them to dive in-front of an attack resulting in that attacker having advantage to hit and damage them (even after a failed intercept).

Waiting for something to move before doing a thing

aka overwatch. Simple enough, the player resolves their attack when that happens. However in some cases, like waiting for the lizard man to close before striking, individual initiative might be still appropriate to see who goes first.

 The Basics:
Is Character above or below this?
Are they near or far from this?
Are they ontop of this?
Are they/ can they pay attention to this?

I've tried to keep this to just the most basic situations that still require some consideration and avoid stuff that is more like a stunt or specific combat tactic.
For example , climbing on giant things. That is a topic I will come back to at some stage though.

If you can think of anything else that seems like it isn't considered enough with MIND-THEATRE comment below!