Wednesday, November 5, 2014

A Bit of Inspiration

Being a collection of weird things from gaming and non-gaming news which may prove useful for future campaigns...

1) First let us speak of the Musk Deer...
If the image to the right alone is not sufficiently creepy and fantasy-enough, let me point out that this species of sabre-tooth cervid, native to the Hindu Kush mountains of Afghanistan, is so rare that it has not been "officially" sighted in 60 years and its musk glands are "considered more valuable by weight than gold, fetching as much as $45,000/kilo on the black market." 
Then, of course, there is the SKULL. What self-respecting adventurer would not want one of these bad boys hanging on their wall? 
And, for your alchemist friend "It is rumored that ancient royalty wore the scent of the musk deer and that it is an aphrodisiac."

2) Also, Sunken Ships is not a thing I have ever done in a game...
I can't imagine why I have not done this yet. I've had plenty of underwater exploration in games. Given the wealth of deep-sea exploration magic (not to mention awesome squatic monsters) available in the various versions of D&D, a just-a-bit-too-deep shipwreck has so much potential. 
Then of course, there is the specific wreck referenced which includes such wonders as the Antikythera Mechanism and a 2 meter long solid-bronze spear (anyone else thinking of an underwater hybrid of Expedition to the Barrier Peaks and Against the Giants yet? Of course you are...)
 3) Diet as an identifying characteristic?
Obviously, I try to find real-world examples and inspiration for the things that go into my fantasy games. The other day I came upon this article where some researchers analyzed the diets of deceased Roman gladiators based based on trace elements found in the remains (summarized in plain-English here). The idea that gladiators not only had a specific diet (consisting mostly of grains, beans, and a tonic of plant-ashes dissolved in water as a beverage and calcium supplement) but that other people had a special word for them--"hordearii" ("barley eaters")--is just fascinating.
I've played lots of games where adventurers eat things like weird meats or encounter subterranean societies that have to subsist on mushrooms and the like, or cannibals (surprisingly many cannibals actually), but haven't ever really bothered to distinguish specific cultures or subcultures in my games by diet. 
Plenty of real-world religious sects have odd  dietary constraints. Likewise there are tons of interesting choices of food (based on availability or taste) between various cultures. Why don't we do that more in-game? What about mechanics for physical changes brought on by diet (like the gladiators drinking ash to promote accelerate bone healing and growth after battles or the chunky "chankonabe" stew that sumotori eat to promote growth)?
What about competitive eating? Plenty of games have a scene with a drinking competition (and accompanying wages or dares to spark adventure). What about hot sauce shots? Or mechanics for tolerance to the effects of certain food additives (such as the increased general pain tolerance exhibited by extreme chili-heads)?
 4) Are encumbrance rules completely wrong?
Everyone hates encumbrance rules right? All that tracking of how much what you are carrying weighs and whining when you had to make Strength your dump stat and you can't haul any loot, and delegating all the carrying to a single large party member as the proverbial "pack-horse". Well, a recent  study by the American Institute of Physics proved that, put simply, "Overall strength of an individual does not determine how heavy a backpack a person can comfortably carry."
In fact, the finding was that "smaller students could comfortably carry a greater pack weight than the larger ones of similar fitness levels". That's right...D&D got it backwards...
The reasoning..."hikers must haul not only their packs, but also their own body weight". Or "incorporation of the backpacker's weight as part of the carrying capacity was essential to model the backpacker."
You can dig into the math here.
My simple solution...
  1. Increase the overall amount that a character with a Strength score of X can carry (by a factor of n, where n=the minimum weight for the character's race).
  2. Subtract the character's weight from that carrying capacity.