Tag: games

RPG-ology #17: With the Odds

This is RPG-ology #17:  With the Odds, for April 2019.


A few years ago I launched the mark Joseph “young” web log with post #1:  Probabilities and Solitaire, which talked about how to improve your success at that and other card games by considering the odds of any particular lay of the cards.  I do use those rules when I play the game, and this evening (by now probably a year ago) as I played I was in a situation in which the two black queens (with other cards descending from them) were atop the two right-hand piles, one atop five cards and the other atop four.  A red king appeared to the left, and I had to choose which queen to move.

Recalling the rule, I moved the queen from atop five cards, and continued play as the cards which were freed were one after another moved into other positions.  The fifth, the bottom card, was the other red king, and I immediately shifted the other black queen to open the other pile.  As I did so the phrase against the odds came to mind, which was in a sense true, as it was improbable that the red king would have been on the bottom of that pile given all the places it might have been—but my mind immediately corrected me that this was with the odds:  I had recognized that the red king was more likely to be in the pile with more concealed cards than the pile with fewer, and it in fact was.

Of course, it might not have been, but Damon Runyon said, “The race is not always to the swift nor the battle to the strong, but that’s the way to bet.”  If you know the odds, and you want to win, you act in accordance with your best chance of success.  Bridge players learn the odds of cards being one way or another, and play to the best chance to win.  Knowing the odds of success, and knowing how to make them better, is the best tool for winning in most games.

It’s different with sports and casino betting.  The house sets the odds according to the probability of success, such that although you will probably lose betting on a longshot, if you win you get a better return on the bet.  That helps lure gamblers into “sucker bets” so they will lose a lot of money in small wagers on long odds, and the big payouts are a small portion of the total take and an incentive to others to take the chance.  It also helps cover the winners who bet on the favorite, as if it’s obvious who is going to win and he does win, there will be a lot of winning bets to cover.

Having recognized this many years ago, I devised ADR’s and Surv’s—calculations of the average damage per round an Advanced Dungeons & Dragons™ character could deliver and the number of attacks he could survive as comparative numbers.  It enabled my characters and the others in my party to identify which were their best attack forms in various situations, and let us build strategies on who could deliver the most damage and who could survive the longest in a fight.  I still use a spreadsheet version of the program today when I play or run that game, and while the calculation itself doesn’t port well even to other editions of the game, the factors may well help you recognize the strengths of your own characters in other games.

Even if you don’t care to stretch your math skills to calculating odds, you should try to get a genuine feel for them, to know when things are likely to fall in your favor, and when they are likely to fall against you.  If the odds favor a particular course of action, that’s the way to play; if the odds are against you, it’s time to retreat.

That seems obvious.  What is not quite so obvious is that in life we have to guess quite a bit about odds involving factors outside our knowledge.  In a game, we can quantify enough of the information to do the math, quite literally, and know the probable outcome.  Of course, probable outcomes are not guaranteed, but they are always more likely than improbable ones.


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Next article:  Waterways.

Compendium of the Land Surrounding Blackwater Lake — Table of Contents

 

An Introduction, and Of the Barony of Blackwater

Of Blackwater Keep, and the Inhabitants Therein

Of Lakesend Village, and its Commerce

The Blackwater, its Denizens, and the Lands Surrounding

Various Peoples of Northumbria, and the Cultures

Of Elves

Of Frangians

Of Zeelanders

Of Varangians

The States and Rulers in the Western Lands


In addition to the materials in the above Gazetteer, here are some further notes and systems useful for adventuring in Northumbria:

Languages of Northumbria

The Moons of Northumbria

Rules for an Exorcism Ritual

 


Dungeon Master Michael Garcia runs two games in Northumbria. These are a few adventures featuring the Winchester family:

Screams in Store

Battle on the Beach

Brigands Rock

 

Here are some tales of the Beckett family:

Ants in the Darkness

Treasure Identification

Terror in the Tower, Part 1

Treasure Division (Still to come!)

Terror in the Tower, Part 2

The Investigation Falters

Terror in the Tower, Part 3

Trial by Combat

The Battle of Heinrich’s Horn


The Editor would like to extend his warmest thanks to Michael for sharing his setting and these play reports. We hope that many more are forthcoming! If you’re enjoying the adventures, please let us know in the comments sections!

The Battle of Heinrich’s Horn

Another tale in the saga of the Beckett Family’s adventures in Northumbria! These events follow Trial by Combat


Background

The session began with the PCs at the foot of Heinrich’s Horn, a steep and rocky hill about two leagues east of Blackwater Lake. Lord Balin Blackwater had just awarded the Beckett family the whole of Hickory Mountain, a rugged wilderness area of roughly a hundred square miles! Heinrich’s Horn sits at the southeast corner of that mountain. Lord Balin’s first command to his Beckett vassals was to clear the Horn of a band of wicked robber knights, who had recently established a camp there. They were to bring the brigands, especially the two leaders, Sir Raynald of Setmoor and Sir Aglovale of Kolkirk, back to Blackwater Keep, dead or alive. Two days ago, Lord Roger Beckett led a force of fifteen kinsmen and friends, bolstered by eight mercenaries, to the foot of the Horn. The winding path up the side of the hill—the only approach available to most—was treacherous, but they had a plan. Read more

Terror in the Tower, part 3

This Beckett Family Adventure follows Terror in the Tower, part 2. 


Background

The session began with the PCs at the ruined Temple of Pholtus, a few hours from small village of Lakesend. This was their third foray to the temple. The first time, they spotted harpies flying about the tallest tower in the complex. They entered the tower, but a battle with animated guardians inside caused them to return to the village. During their second visit, they fought a swarm of goblyns in the temple’s cellars. This time, they left the horses and a few of their party a half-mile away. The main group then made a thorough search of the ruins, finding evidence of recent inhabitation. The group now stood in the cloister, deciding what to do next. Read more

Compendium of the Lands Surrounding Blackwater Lake

Compiled for Lord Beckett

by Talvion Tulossa

of Clan Cormallen

in the Year 614

by Frangian Reckoning


Preface

The enclosed notes are for the use of Lord Winchester and his kin. The author hopes that they may provide some aid in his quest to locate his family’s ancestral lands, to reestablish the Winchester family, and to restore it to prosperity.

Introduction

Blackwater Lake and its environs lie within a vast region that most people simply call Northumbria. This region, which stretches for hundreds of miles, is comprised mainly of forested hills and mountains, brimming with mineral resources, towering trees, and wildlife. The primary inhabitants of this rugged land seem to be either primitive human savages that dominate the lowlands, or wicked goblyn tribes that swarm over and under the hills and mountains. However, just over a century ago, explorers and adventurers arrived from the Kingdom of Frangia, perhaps the most powerful kingdom across the Great Sea. The Crown first established an agricultural colony called Southumbria, and, a few years later, it explored and claimed the vast tract of virgin wilderness to the north.

The Frangian Crown’s claim to ownership of Northumbria seemed ludicrous at first—and still does—given the sheer size of the region and the scarcity of royal settlers here. Settlement has been steady, but it will take decades before any semblance of control is established. Perhaps because of this uncertainty, daring Frangian settlers and freebooters have flocked northward, seeking opportunity and adventure. Read more

Terror in the Tower, part 2

The Beckett family ventures into the Temple of Pholtus described in part 1 of this adventure narrative.


Background

The session began with the PCs at a ruined temple of Pholtus, not far from the western shores of Blackwater Lake. They had already explored one outbuilding, where they found some hidden valuables in a buried stone vault. One such bauble was a silver decanter that slowly filled with fresh water. Daniel discovered this the hard way when it leaked through his backpack and breeches, giving the group a laugh.

Cast of Characters

Most party members are part of one large extended family—the noble Beckett family. A few are retainers. Characters in gray text were not present during this encounter.

Granny Beckett: Witch, eccentric matriarch of the family
Jade Cormallen: Half-elf ranger, distant relative to most
Lord Roger Beckett: Ranger, new family head
Acolyte Denston Beckett: Cleric of Pholtus, grumpy and dour
Daniel Beckett: Assassin, passionate and protective
Sir Callum Beckett: Cavalier, burly and jovial
Sir William Beckett: Cavalier, sarcastic and brave
Brother Lewie: Cleric of St. Cuthbert, erratic but insightful
Sven Ragnarsson: Barbarian, bastard of Granny, Bjorn’s twin
Bjorn Ragnarsson: Barbarian, bastard of Granny, Sven’s twin
Brother Liam: Cleric of St. Cuthbert, comrade of Brother Lewie
Sir Raynard: Cavalier, handsome and witty
Raymond: NPC (Fighter 1), stoic and responsible
Owen: NPC (Ranger 1), introverted and self-sufficient
Kieran: NPC (Magic User 1), gentle and intelligent
Sergeant Blaine: NPC Fighter, porter to the Beckett family
Dagis: NPC (Fighter 0), new squire to Sir Callum

Read more

House of Keen (Air)

By far the largest house, Keen are gifted with any talents useful in the gaseous environment. Dealing with the classical element of air, they are often involved with gas mining or with the persistent monitoring of gas swells and other storms. A great number of Keen Houses are found with the Eminar living below the vapor line. Possibly the most utilitarian of the Houses, they tend to be work oriented with much to keep them busy on a normal day. Above the vapor line, the houses do have the responsibility of monitoring gas swells in most cities and maintain the alarm system.

Granted Power: Keen can sense gas swells and storms of all fashions one minute before hand per point of WISDOM. In addition, all penalties due to storms are halved.

  1. Obscuring Mist: Fog surrounds you.
  2. Wind Wall: Deflects arrows, smaller creatures, and gases.
  3. Lightning Bolt: Electricity deals 1d6/level damage.
  4. Air Walk: Subject treads on air as if solid (climb at 45-degree angle).
  5. Control Winds: Change wind direction and speed.
  6. Chain Lightning: 1d6/level damage; 1 secondary bolt/level each deals half damage.
  7. Control Weather: Changes weather in local area.
  8. Whirlwind: Cyclone deals damage and can pick up creatures.
  9. Storm of Vengeance: Storm rains acid, lightning, and hail.

House of Arocon (Knowledge)

The House of Arocon is concerned with the preservation of knowledge from the past age and cataloguing the present age. Unsurprising their temples and building often serve as a type of library, while many who are part of the House run actual libraries or deal in information. While some may view them as purely academic,there are a significant numbers who scour all the globe in search of lost knowledge or to discover new knowledge. As would be expected a large number of Wardens belong to the House of Arocon.

Granted Power: Autodidact: Once per game session the player may substitute their levels in the House for a bonus to ANY skill roll, even if they do not have ranks in a trained skill.

  1. Detect Secret Doors: Reveals hidden doors within 60 ft.
  2. Detect Thoughts: Allows “listening” to surface thoughts.
  3. Clairaudience/Clairvoyance: Hear or see at a distance for 1 min./level.
  4. Divination : Provides useful advice for specific proposed actions.
  5. True Seeing : Lets you see all things as they really are.
  6. Find the Path: Shows most direct way to a location.
  7. Legend Lore : Lets you learn tales about a person, place, or thing.
  8. Discern Location: Reveals exact location of creature or object.
  9. Foresight: “Sixth sense” warns of impending danger.

House of Holma (Healing)

The House of Holma is the branch tasked with healing. Despite what would be expected, Holma is one of the most highly criticized Houses. Naturally, their abilities are in high demand which has often made them the targets of extortion, kidnapping and bribery. Due to those realities they are secretive and mostly nomadic. Their own temples are unmarked, located in difficult to reach areas or out of sight in dark alleys. These serve as reprieves and safe houses for them. Everywhere they go they are in high demand if their GIFT is discovered. Instead, they work with the other Houses and travel to where they are needed for a few days before moving onto the next.

GM Note: Holma is intended to be a difficult House to play. If the PC’s identity is discovered they will be pursued. Sometimes the need is legitimate and sometimes it is born out of greed. The player should feel cautious any time they reveal their GIFT

Granted Power: Once per game session the character can use any talent they have without fuel or tokens.

  1. Cure Light Wounds: Cures 1d8 damage +1/level (max +5).
  2. Neutralize Poison: Immunizes subject against poison, detoxifies venom in or on subject.
  3. Cure Moderate Wounds: Cures 2d8 damage +1/level (max +10).
  4. Remove Blindness/Deafness: Cures normal or magical conditions.
  5. Cure Serious Wounds: Cures 3d8 damage +1/level (max +15).
  6. Remove Disease: Cures all diseases affecting subject.
  7. Cure Light Wounds, Mass: Cures 1d8 damage +1/level (max +25) for many creatures.
  8. Heal: Cures 10 points/level of damage, all diseases and mental conditions.
  9. Regenerate: Subject’s severed limbs grow back, cures 4d8 damage +1/level (max +35).

House of Ascen (Good)

Guild member R.C. Brooks returns with more Lands in the Clouds, a home-brewed OGL setting and system.


The House of Ascen, or simply Ascen, is the sect devoted to that which is good. More specifically, good is that which edifies. It heals the soul. In the world they are often the shelter for those dealing with grief and loss. Mechanically they are the House that deals with SPIRIT damage and combating evil entities. The House of Holma may heal the body, but SPIRIT wounds are more dangerous and can fester.

Typical temples are humble buildings often in poor or otherwise troubled areas as that is where they are needed most. Almost all carry low level tokens.

Once per game session, a character of the House of Ascen may use his SPIRIT score as an attack, defense or damage reduction vs SPIRIT opponents/damage.

Ascen Tokens:

  1. Protection from Evil: +2 to AC and saves, counter mind control, hedge out elementals and outsiders.
  2. Aid: +1 on attack rolls, +1 on saves against fear, 1d8 temporary SPIRIT +1/level (max +10).
  3. Shelter (Magic Circle against Evil): As Protection from Evil, but 10-ft. radius and 10 min./level.
  4. Holy Smite: Damages and blinds evil creatures.
  5. Dispel Evil: +4 bonus against attacks by evil creatures.
  6. Heroes’ Feast: Food for one creature/level cures and grants combat bonuses.
  7. Holy Word: Kills, paralyzes, slows, or deafens non-good subjects.
  8. Holy Aura: +4 to AC, +4 resistance, and SR 25 against evil spells.
  9. Grace: Removes all STRESS points for any willing up to 1 character/lvl in the House.