Monday, August 3, 2015

A Mechanism for Strip Games with Money Chips

Here are the only functional rules for strip poker that I am aware of.

The innovation that I believe to be my own is the mechanism that makes the game work as a real game while at the same time including the stripping aspect.

The reason for creating this mechanism was that the only mechanism (or rule) I knew for strip poker was boring: there were no money chips and so no betting, the losers of a hand had to take off a piece of their clothing, and that was all. To make strip poker work also as a real game, I came up with the following mechanism. It can easily be adopted to any other kind of game that uses money chips or anything comparable (hence the title for this blog entry).

The Mechanism:

Any player may, at any time, request more chips from another player. The need for this obviously usually arises when the player needs more chips to bet (it can be ruled that this is the only situation when the request may be made).

The player must request more chips from the player with most chips. Since counting the chips would be boring, an estimate is enough. If it is unclear who has the most chips, the requesting player may choose.

The player from whom chips are requested divides their chips into piles (no counting is necessary, and the piles need not be equal). The requesting player then takes one of the piles, leaving the rest. Then the requesting player undresses a piece of clothing (or accepts a dare or task from the player from whom chips were taken).

Texas Hold'em Strip Poker With Chips

Use rules for regular Texas Hold'em, for example from here. Some modifications follow, as well as a digested version of the rules. The above Mechanism can be used at any time.

Set up
Required: a regular deck of 52 cards, no jokers, a dealer marker, ("money") chips, enthusiastic players. There is no monetary value for the chips, obviously.

Rules for playing the game

Place blinds:
Small blind (next player left from the Dealer): one chip.
Big blind (next player left from the small blind player): two chips.
Deal each player two (hole) cards.

Starting with the player left from the big blind: fold, call, or raise (no limit), or check at the end of round.

Deal one card face down and three cards face up.
Next player with hand left from the dealer starts betting. No limits for bets.

The Turn:
Deal one card face down, one face up.
No limits for bets.

The River:
Deal one card face down, one face up.
No limits for bets.


Hand ranking copied from the aforementioned site:

  1. Royal Flush
  2. Straight Flush
  3. Four of a Kind
  4. Full House
  5. Flush
  6. Straight
  7. Three of a kind
  8. Two Pair
  9. One Pair
  10. High Card

Pass the Dealer marker to the next player and start next hand.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Stress Reactions in RPGs

I don't think a single Role Playing Game treats fear and the stress reactions one has when placed in a dangerous or threatening situation; the Sanity system of Call of Cthulhu certainly fails to do this. This is a shame, but I suppose it is very difficult to design a game mechanic that would succesfully simulate those effects.

I have recently began experimenting with Minimalistic Call of Cthulhu, a House Rule variant of CoC that uses only the rules regarding Sanity, simply discarding all other rules. Not replacing them with others, but simply doing without rules for the most part. It is especially with this sort of Minimalistic CoC that I write about Stress Reactions, but I suppose players of all sorts of RPGs can make use of the following. And indeed it is Players, rather than Keepers, that I write this for, because without rules for stress reactions, it falls on the Players to roleplay their characters as they go through the kind of stress discussed here.

Characters in RPGs tend to find themselves in extremely stressful situations, where their health or lives (or perhaps even worse) are being threatened. At least in horror RPGs the players characters are also usually unaccustomed to such situations to begin with, and thus lack the benefit of training to help them through the ordeal. Even professional soldiers are not immune to stress. Player Characters tend to be unusual people, but I'm afraid this is mainly due merely to the failure of the game mechanic rather than the anyone's specific intent. It takes a good roleplayer to get into character and have his character act realistically, rather than in the heroic fashion that a typical power gamer or rule lawyer is likely to have him act.

To get in character better, spend some time alone, imagining (honestly!) how you would feel in various situations. For example, imagine landing in an unfamiliar, seemingly empty subway station at 2 a.m., possibly in an unknown city. Walking towards the exit you hear crude chatter coming from ahead. Perhaps a group of aggressive looking young men are approaching. This should make you feel uncomfortable. What if they see you, surround you, and start acting aggressively toward you? Unless you are extremely stupid, you would be scared. That means, you would be under stress, and you would almost certainly react to that stress in some ways, whether you can imagine those reactions or not. I am writing this precisely so that you would have a better idea of how you might actually react to significant stress.

Below I list some typical or likely reactions caused by experiencing a truly stressful situation. I leave it up to you to choose what to do with the knowledge of them -- the reactions a character will have in various situations are likely to vary by situation (and prior events) and by the individual to great extent. Also note that stress is not experienced only by the victim of an attack, but also by the attacker. The following list is based in great part on my martial arts training, limited as it may be. Wikipedia has been useful as well.

Typical stress reactions:
- tunnel vision: loss of peripheral vision, focused foveal vision
- tunnel hearing: it may even be difficult to hear one's own name being shouted nearby when one's focus is on the threat
- panting, difficulty breathing normally
- feeling of weakness, powerlessness
- impaired fine motor skills, reduced dexterity
- inability to think clearly and logically, mind focused on the immediate threat
- possibly inability to comprehend stimuli, and disorientation
- pain threshold significantly raised (you may fail to notice even serious injuries)
- sweating and flushing
- "freezing", being unable to make decisions or even to move
- trembling
- nervous laughter

The symptoms appear fairly quickly, although probably not within seconds. They probably disappear in a couple of hours. It is possible or even likely that there will be difficulties accurately recalling details of the event. Even describing the attacker correctly can prove impossible.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

A Touch Of Evil: the Supernatural (Board) Game

A Touch Of Evil (ATOE) is a boardgame inspired by gothic horror stories, and presumably Arkham Horror boardgame. It is a much simpler game than Arkham Horror, with more limitations to what characters can have, and a smaller variety of card types. There aren't nearly as many cards in the game either, of course. Also, I managed to fit the cards in the least expensive type of card sleeves, which was nice.

Another difference to Arkham Horror is the addition of Event cards the characters can hold (an unlimited number) until deciding to use them. They represent some more or less random events that can be helpful in different situations.

The main difference when compared to Arkham Horror, though, is the option (in fact, default option) to play the game competitively. In this case, while all the players try to destroy the main Villain, they are competing for the honour of being the hero to do so. Their characters do not actually fight each other (all being heroes), but they try to be first to find the lair of the Villain and to have a final Showdown with him. The Villain is not easy to defeat, so more than one Showdown may be required. It is quite possible that the time will run out, and the Villain's forces will overrun the small town the heroes are trying to defend. Unlike in Arkham Horror, there is no final battle in that case, it's just game over then.

As with Arkham Horror, the game may work very well with only two characters. This is because in both games the evil forces are represented by a random card drawing in the end of each game round, called Mystery phase in ATOE (and Mythos phase in Arkham Horror). This at least is my experience after one test game with only two characters. The mystery cards and the optional advanced rules moved the darkness counter too fast for the characters to be able to properly equip, and so they couldn't defeat the Villain (Scarecrow in this case).

The Clue tokens of Arkham Horror are replaced by Investigation markers in ATOE. These somewhat rare (and under advanced rules, difficult to obtain) tokens function as money in town, and perhaps more importantly, as a way to reveal secrets about the town elders. These are non-player characters who may help either the heroes or the villain.

The map of ATOE is simple, but good enough. There are only four main locations (with special cards for them) to be investigated, in addition to the town and some minor locations. Expansions apparently will add new maps to be attached to the original (at least Something Wicked has a new map). Compared to Arkham Horror, the map is small, and the whole game will easily fit on a regular table.

ATOE is the first boardgame I have seen that included a soundtract CD in the box. I did not pay much attention to it yet, but it sounded nice enough.

Here's the game's page in Boardgame Geek.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Pelaajien määrä roolipelissä

Neljä on mielestäni ihanteellinen määrä pelaajia (pelinjohtajan lisäksi siis). Tosin joskus vain yksi pelaaja on kyllä mainio, erityisesti kauhujutuissa. Mutta yleensä neljä on paras.

Viimeistään kuuden pelaajan kanssa alkaa jo tulla vaikeuksia antaa kaikille yhtä paljon aikaaja huomiota. Pelaajat voivat myös alkaa puhua päällekäin yms jolloin GM joutuu toimimaan puheenjohtajana, mikä ei ole ainakaan minusta kovin kivaa.

Tietysti useammilla pelaajilla erilaiset salaiset intressit voivat olla mielenkiintoisia ja toimia paremmin isommassa joukossa, mutta ne yleensä toimivat jo neljälläkin.

Neljää pienemmällä porukalla voi tulla tarpeelliseksi tai ainakin houkuttelevaksi antaa pelaajille enemmän kuin yksi hahmo pelattavaksi, mikä kuitenkin lähes aina on huono ratkaisu. Sen ainoat hyödyt ovat (1) hahmojen taitovalikoiman kasvu ja etenkin (2) ryhmän (siis ainakin sen osan) selviytymisen todennäköisyyden kasvu. Etenkin CoCissa kun hahmoilla on usein lyhyt elinajanodotus. :-) On kuitenkin paljon parempi mm. hahmoon eläytymisen kannalta, jos pelattavana on vain yksi hahmo.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Hardened Investigators in CoC (house rules)

When an Investigator in CoC loses SAN, he becomes hardened against similar causes of SAN loss for an undefinable period of time. Typically, this means reduction of maximum SAN loss from that type of cause. E.g. - Investigator faces a Deep One for the first time and loses 3 SAN. If he observes other Deep Ones in the near future, his maximum SAN loss is reduced by 3. With other types of causes of SAN loss, such as violence and loss of friends, the reduction cannot be as great, but some reduction should occur. CoC RAW (Rules As Written) are silent on this.

What if the same Investigator faces several different Mythos entities during his Investigations? Are his SAN losses affected? CoC RAW are silent about this. Inspired by Armies of Darkness (RPG), I have thought of a simple house rule for CoC that doesn't deviate much from CoC RAW. It goes as follows:

When an Investigator has lost a total of at least 5 SAN from a given type of cause of SAN loss (such as observing Deep Ones), he becomes Hardened against losses from similar causes of SAN loss. Some Insanities may also cause the Investigator to become Hardened in some way.

These are the categories in which an Investigator can become Hardened in:

  1. Violence (includes also witnessing the effects of violence, seeing mutilated bodies, &c.),
  2. Humanoids (includes all kinds of roughly man-sized creatures with bodies, heads, and a number of limbs, even if winged, for example),
  3. Monstrosities (include all things "monstrous", even if animal, such as things with tentacles, or basically anything disgusting),
  4. Paranormal / magic,
  5. Otherworldly (includes experiencing strange geometries, unearthly sights, the void, the abyss), and
  6. Self (loss of limb or a sensory organ, mutation, helplessness, hearing voices in one's head, acting against one's sense of self).

When an Investigator becomes Hardened, note that in his sheet with the applicable type and a number representing how hardened he has become; for example "Hardened / Humanoids 1". This means that maximum SAN loss from a failed SAN check caused by that type of cause of SAN loss is reduced by the number indicated.

If the Investigator becomes Hardened in more ways than one, also add a "Hardened / Total" score on his sheet. As he becomes more Hardened, the Investigator becomes less emotionally receptive, perhaps more cynical and pessimistic, and possibly even intentionally less sympathetic or attached to other people. This can be considered a form of insanity, of course. The game mechanical effect of this change in personality is a reduction in social interaction skill checks, such as Persuade and especially Psychology, and even including appealing to Contacts (see below for Humanity Rating).

Special rules apply to becoming Hardened in some categories.

For example, Violence:
Points in Hardened / Violence are gained also from (for example) the following causes:

  • Witnessing the brutal death of a friend.
  • Witnessing the brutal death of a loved one.
  • Brutally treating a helpless person for the first time.
  • Torturing someone brutally for the first time.
  • Brutall killing (non-human) animals in order to toughen oneself intentionally.
  • First kill (of a person comparable to oneself, usually another human).
  • First kill not (strictly) in self-defense.
  • Murdering someone.

Further use, or witnessing, of violence can cause additional points (for example participation in mass murders &c.). If the Hardened Rating is later properly reduced, the "first time" causes are considered unused, and can again cause an increase in Hardened Rating again.

More than one cause can occur at once. For example, brutally treating one's loved one, then torturing the loved one to death could cause up to 8 points at once. Killing another loved one in the same fashion would still increase the Hardened rating, but now "only" by a few points.

If one's Hardened / Violence rating goes above 5, the Investigator is in danger of becoming a psychopath. At 10 it is nearly achieved. Whether he can ever return to normal after that, I will leave open for now. If the Hardened / Total goes beyond 10, similar problems

When the Investigator become more Hardened, he becomes less humane. Investigators (and presumably CoC characters in general) have a Humanity Rating. This is a measure of how bening, empathic, and generally "humane" the character is. The rating can usually be assumed to be just zero. If, on the other hand, it differs from zero, it will influence the character's social interaction (slightly): the value of the Humanty Rating is added to social interaction checks (such as Persuade, Psychology, and other such skills, and appealing to Contacts for aid).

This means that a positive Humanity Rating will make the Investigator very likable (the bonus, even is small, applies to many skills and is thus very useful). Conversely, a negative Rating can be caused by becoming Hardened, thus making social interaction more difficult. There is, of course, a major down side to being very humane: a positive (not a negative) Humanity Rating influences SAN checks as a penalty. Humanity Rating of 10, for example, means that the Investigator will have a penalty of -10 to his SAN checks.

The initial Humanity Rating can be chosen by the player during Character Generation, but is limited to a maximum equal to the Investigator's POW.

Investigators usually have at least one Pillar of Humanity (something inspired by Trail of Cthulhu RPG). For every 5 positive points (or fraction) of Humanity Rating, the Investigator must have an additional Pillar of Humanity. The Pillar must be something that gives hope for the Investigator, but can be very abstract. If for some reason, that pillar should crumble, then a reduction in the Investigator's Humanity Rating would also occur.

Some Insanities may affect the Humanity Rating as well.

As long as the Investigator can be supported by Pillars of Humanity, he can resist becoming too Hardened: with (or possibly even without) psychological treatment, combined with the support of the Pillar, a point of Hardened can be removed, increasing simultaneously the Investigator's Humanity Rating.

It is conceivable that a truly unusual event would lead to the crumbling of a Pillar of Humanity, in order to protect the mind from total disintegration. This would reduce the SAN loss by 20 points, but the Pillar would be permanently gone. For this to be possible, the Pillar must obviously be plausibly challenged by the cause of massive SAN loss (such as witnessing the rise of Great Cthulhu).


The above are so far only my musings and suggestions for house rules - I have not tested them yet.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Contacts for CoC Investigators

To flesh out the Investigators (PCs) in Call of Cthulhu (CoC), I will try the following houserule. Each Investigator has a number of (possible) significant Contacts that depends on his age, Credit Rating, and luck (die roll), as follows:

((Age -30) / 5) + ((Credit Rating -15) / 20) + d3

The assumption is that the Contacts will be mostly from the Investigator's class and profession. Before rolling anything for these potential Contacts, the player can decide to either (1) replace two Contacts by one Contact of a higher social standing, or (2) replace one Contact by two Contacts of a lower social standing.

Once the social status of all the Contacts has been decided, roll d100 for each of them. The number is a measure of the closeness of the Contact (list them on the character sheet with the Contact info). The higher the number, the more significant and close the Contact is to the Investigator. It could be a member of the family, lover, or best friend. With low results, the Contact is just an acquaintance. The numbers also represents how likely the Contact is to aid the Investigator when called upon.

I might also use a table for deciding the social standing of the Contacts.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

CoC Investigator generation / Skillpoints

I made some corrections and additions to this text on 2011-06-12.

I love Call of Cthulhu (the story too, but I'm talking about the RPG here), but the rules are a bit too light or unreasonable for me. As a result, I sometimes like to tinker with them a bit.

The (reasonable) assumption of the game is that the Investigators (PCs) are academics, and that shows in character generation in how many skillpoints the player can allocate for his Investigator. Unfortunately, often the Investigators are not academics, and having a labourer's, say, occupational skills be based on EDU just makes little sense. Also, Listen is a skill in CoC, when the senses really would be more reasonably dealt with as Characteristics (aka Stats), as they are in HarnMaster. I will mostly ignore this last point for now, though, while showing a way to make the skillpoint allocation at least slightly more reasonable (without complicating or even changing the game significantly). At the same time, my suggestion makes other Characteristics become slightly more significant, which is good because they are almost irrelevant in CoC RAW (Rules As Written).

Instead of RAW, allocate points for skills as follows:

For physical skills (such as Listen, Jump, Swim, &c.) allocate points equal to
(SIZ + CON + DEX + (STR x2))x2.
I know this is a bit clumsy, but I think it's best that way.
STR is the least useful skill in the game, and certainly strenght plays a very big role in most physical activities, so it makes sense to give it more significance here.
If the above formula seems unduly complex, you could just use STR x5, but I prefer my formula, at least for now.

For communication skills (Fast Talk &c.) allocate points equal to
INT + POW + (EDU / 2) + (APP x3).
If allowed, players usually use their worst characteristics roll on APP, because it is practically useless in CoC RAW. With this houserule, they might think again.
The above formula could be replaced by a simple APP x5 as well.

For the occupational skills (whatever skills are listed for the occupation, even if in the above categories) the player can allocate now only EDU x10 points. But regardless of the occupation, the player is allowed to use up to EDU x2 of these points for academic knowledge skills (including Natural History, perhaps the most useful and likely knowledge skill for non-academics).
This intentionally reduces the significance of EDU in the game. EDU is still one of the important characteristics because the Knowledge roll is so commonly used, of course.

For hobby skills (any skills) one can still allocate INT x10 points, as per RAW (5th edition at least).

I also allow the players to have a Quirk skill, which can either be rolled from a table I have, or suggested by the player as suitable for his character.

The total of skillpoints thus allocated is about 430 - 460 for average character (plus Quirk), as opposed to the roughly 390 pts awarded byRAW. I do not think this will too greatly increase the skill levels of the Investigators (having a little higher skills might be good actually), but since I have added some skills in the mix (and reduced unarmed basic), this should be even less of a problem. Besides the amount of points, the main difference here is that all characteristics now add skillpoints, instead of them being almost completely based on just EDU. I haven't tested this yet, but will try to, as soon as possible.

I made several test characters to see how the above rule would function. It seems that the range of Skills points using this rule was more limited (355 - 525, that is a range of 170 pts) than it would have been with RAW (290 - 570, i.e. a range of 280 pts). According to this houserule, the characters with (only) high EDU "lose" comparatively and absolutely, by having fewer skill points than they would according to RAW, and also by having fewer points than a more well rounded character would have. But this only seems realistic to me. All other types of characters had more Skill points under this houserule than they would using RAW.


I have made some changes to skills, and added some (mostly from Keeper's Compendium). The following are what I now use:

Climb (STR + DEX)
Legerdemain (10)
Block (DEX x2)
Mathematics (EDU x2)

Brawl (35)
Brawl replaces all the Natural Weapons, and does d3 + db knock out damage. (With Martial Arts, a d6 of knock out damage is added.) It is possible to change this damage to normal damage in certain situations (e.g. prone opponent), or with things like brass knuckles or improvised weapons.