Thursday, June 23, 2011

Pendragon D&D: the Matrix Method

Today I trot out the first (and most bare bones) of four methods I am working on to help judges navigate the off-season in the “Pendragon D&D” section of the Domain Game. Note that all four are very rough at this point, almost more like a thinking out loud. 

Any input as always is greatly appreciated.

Method One: The Matrix Method
Have each player put together--at the end of the last adventure season session or in-between--a short narrative about what their character has been up to during the off-season. This can be accomplished either in a written pre-session format or in a round-robin oral manner as you go around the table calling on players--alternately this could be done in individual one-on-one sessions.

(In my own experience, handing out writing assignments will produce highly uneven results: some players will jump at the chance, others will roll eyes and bellyache, and some will just vote with their feet.)
Whatever format you decide on you should keep the same framing questions:

What are your character's goals for the season? Wealth? Fame? Experience? Knowledge?

What's he going to do to accomplish these goals? Packed up the elf henchman and visited the oracle? Captained a merchant vessel? Hired on with that crank of an alchemist in town?

Now on your end you match the logic of this argument to your own “counter-argument”.

How did the players preparations stack up against the dangers of your campaign world? What did she accurately take in to account or not? What is the endeavor going to cost the player, financially or other cost? Given the stated goals, how dangerous of an endeavor is the player embarking on?

With these questions in mind the GM makes an arbitrary call about the relative soundness of the plan. Detail, anticipation, and forethought are hallmarks of a stronger argument. Using the simple Engle Matrix chart below the GM finds the category that fits closest to this call. Now think about the dangers move the category up and down if you think that the danger warrants

Strength Of Argument
Dice Score To Be Successful
Very Strong Argument
6, 5, 4, 3, 2
Strong Argument
6, 5, 4, 3
Average Argument
6, 5, 4
Weak Argument
6, 5
Very Weak Argument
Stupid Argument
No Roll

If the roll is successful grant the player their goal. If the roll is two higher than the minimum grant them some extra boon. Make sure to account for any costs in the final reckoning.

Example: Umma the Undying says that this off-season she will turn “corsair” along the coast of the Slumbering Ursine Dunes with loot, loot, loot as her stated goal. She doesn't have money for a galley of her own, so she cooks up an elaborate plan to hire a crowd of rowdies and commander a vessel in the creepy seaside village of Ennsmuth.

The plan seems to account for a number of reasonable dangers (Strong Argument) but fails to account for the singular danger of Ennsmouth being a town infested with demons from the deep (move the Argument down to an Average one).

Umma rolls a “5” a success. The GM thinks up some appropriate loot for her level and risk and she leaves the off-season richer and refreshed. 


  1. Interesting.

    Your comment about written assignments and player's fits exactly with my experience. Some player's will write you more than you want--others act like you're taking blood if you want a few sentences.

  2. Mechanically, this is fine, but the example given is something which seems like it would have been fun to play at the table. Perhaps I'm thinking too much in the Pendragon mode, but it seems as if you don't want something which could be classed as an adventure happening in the off season.

    I'm probably over thinking it.

  3. Kelvin, looking at the example you are totally right. I would absolutely play that out at the table if it was in my campaign.

    In fact, I probably should have used something a little...well...duller as this would be more typical of the ostensibly less onerous activities of the off-season.

    Perhaps something more like magical research or opening an inn and the like?

  4. I can't comment really, because I don't play. But I did learn something. I learned bellyache is one word, not two. See ... I didn't that before.

  5. How would you handle XP for the time away from the game; and, how do you handle the alleged gold won by pirateering or whatever?

  6. @Whisk
    Texans intuit the use of it as one word.

    I'm getting there, slowly, but getting there though in this method it could be used a bit more freeform.

  7. I like it. :)

    Confused by this bit: "The GM thinks up some appropriate loot for her level and risk and she leaves the off-season richer and refreshed."

    Where is the risk resolved?

  8. Seems to me that the off-season would preclude any adventuring, it is just too risky. If a character wants to adventure during off-season then it needs to be a game with the aforementioned penalties involved.

    It seems that your earlier example of what is accomplished during the off-season would be the better example. With players possibly taking up a local job to flesh out their skills and garner more money. Or possibly use some CHA rolls to court a lady and potentially start the next-generation that you will undoubtedly be playing later on.

  9. I know this is post necromancy, but I was pointed here by Skerples about this matrix approach.

    I think this would be a session with all the players. I'd ask each player in turn for their goals/plans. Together, we'd all discuss how likely it is to happen, I might even let the players vote to help me decide. Then the player would roll to see what the result was, and we'd discuss/I'd rule the outcome right there.

    That would avoid writing paralysis and make it a bit more interactive.