April 22, 2011

Handling artifacts in a glowing future

One of the aspects I find most interesting about Gamma games is the chance to discover strange artifacts and figure them out. One of the things I always found somewhat disappointing was the approach to just use a "handle items" chart, probably adjusted by some kind of item complexity, to finally figure out what a lump of metal (or whatever else material) was designed to be doing originally or what you think that it should be doing. Thus for Gaia Gamma I envision a different approach:
The treasure charts will include a slew of "mundane" items. But there also will be one or more charts to randomly alter the way a well-known mundane items looks or works. This will IMHO greatly enhance the fun of the players (and not just the excitement of the characters) in figuring out stuff.

Take the following example: On the "Mundane item chart" table we roll a "toaster". On the "Mundane item chart modifier" table we roll "Looks like a pen". Now we have a creative challenge - how could a pen-like toaster work? The Mutant Master decides that the pen toaster works in the most obvious way: when touching a piece of bread (or similar food) with the tip while pressing the button at the other end the food will be insta-toasted. And now figure out the fun the players might be having with this strange new item: It doesn't write, paper might sport tiny scorch marks, etc.

As far as I am concerned this adds a whole new dimension to the process of figuring out artifacts and the old and well-tried "handle item" charts take the backseat they should be taking in an old school game (as much about the old school IMHO is about challenging the intelligence and the creativity of the players and not just their luck at rolling dice).

While I do not want to bother you with the details of the mundane items chart (that is to be left to the next upcoming release of Gaia Gamma) here are some positions from the "Mundane item chart modifier table". I suggest to roll 1d3 times for each mundane item found in order to make it an exotic piece of wonder directly taken from the last day of the Ancients. Oh, yes, the "Mundane item chart modifier" table probably will use a d66 to determine the modifiers (which means: roll two six sided dice and combine them in order to get a number in the series 11, 12, 13, ..., 16, , 21, 22, ..., 26, ..., 61, ..., 66):

11 - Looks like a pen.
12 - Glows upon activation.
13 - Can be folded into a tiny cube.
14 - Translucent surface shows gelatinous circuits.
15 - Can only be used 1d3 times per day.
16 - Explodes on a roll of 2 on 2d6 for 1d6++ damage in as many meters radius (malfunction).
21 - Disc-shaped.
22 - Floats when pressing a green button.
23 - Sports 1d6++ buttons that all do not work.
24 - Changes color each time it is used.
25 - Causes addiction to use it (malfunction of the psi circuits).
26 - Can be activated by mental commands.
31 - Replays past uses when pressing a yellow button.
32 - Displays messages in an unknown language.
33 - Spews forth smoke when fiddling with it (malfunction).
34 - Is made from a cloth like material.
35 - Indestructible.
36 - Teleports 1d6 meters into a random direction when used (malfunction of the flux generator).
41 - Can only be activated by spoken commands. All mechanical contraptions on the device simply exist for design purposes.
42 - Causes a serious itch to everyone in 1d6 meters radius whenever used (malfunction).

And so on. Do you have other suggestions for interesting modifiers?


  1. This seems to remind be quite a bit of the weapon/armor prefixes/suffixes in ADOM. Am I on the right track, or is this something mostly unrelated?

  2. A bit. I generally think that the modifier idea should be used a lot more in RPGs as the amount of variability increases so easily with very little effort. Which always is good in my book.