Archive for the ‘Advice/Tools’ Category

Monster Manuals: Monsters and Lore

September 23, 2014

Let’s categorize the monsters and their lore into 3 levels:

1. I can build an encounter around this. E.g. stirge, troglodyte, zombie.

2. I can build an adventure around this. E.g. intellect devourer, revenant, myconid.

3. I can build a campaign around this. E.g. slaad, modron, aboleth.

(Background:  I originally wrote this as part of a forum thread, but it seems like a good enough idea that I want to capture it here for later contemplation.)

All three are useful for different things, but it also seems that many people have some inherent preference for one particular level.  I think the 5E Monster Manual hits the mix just about right for me, but I can appreciate that tastes vary on this one.

Sometimes you just want a meatsack with some hitpoints and a sword, is all I mean.

Fate Corps: Skills as Aspects as Qualities

October 17, 2011

Let’s start with skills.  What *is* a skill, or a Strands-of-Fate attribute?  What is Strength+2?

It’s basically an Aspect that’s always invoked, that you never have to pay for.  So why doesn’t it look like an Aspect?

Let’s consider a new thing: Qualities.  A Quality is a type of Aspect, or perhaps an Aspect is a type of Quality.  Unlike an Aspect, you don’t need to pay to invoke a Quality.  It’s always invoked, all the time, for free.  Also unlike Aspects, Qualities are often ranked.

So, what is Strength+2, really?

Maybe it’s Strength+2 (Ninja [+1], Way of the Tiger [+1]).  Or it could be Ninja+2, or (Weightlifter +3, Over the Hill -1.)

“Ninja”, here, is a Quality, and it adds +1 to this character’s Strength.  Perhaps it also adds +2 to his Endurance, and maybe even -1 to Empathy.

That whole thing about “Hey why am I only Ninja when I pay Fate Point for it?” goes away with this implementation.  You are Ninja all the time without paying for it.

This undermines the idea of Aspects as primary characterization, somewhat — and I think that’s a good thing.  If “Ninja” is really central to your character, then he should probably be Ninja all the time.

It’s already invoked (or, depending, compelled) all the time, so it’s not really valid to try to invoke it again for another +2.  You’re already Strength+2 by dint of being Ninja — try a different Aspect.

However, it’s entirely valid to invoke or compel Qualities *for effect*.  You want to spend a Fate Point to have a smoke bomb?  Dude, you are Ninja — of course you have a smoke bomb.  Spend the point and be good.

Similarly, compels for effect are also valid.  If you’re Paladin all the time, then off you go to save the princess from the evil necromancer.

It’s a fine way to implement things like races.  If you are a dwarf, then get the Dwarf+1 quality to your Endurance.  But take Dwarf-1 to your Comeliness.  If you also want to be particularly dwarfy, then sure, take a “Dwarf Among Dwarves” Aspect as well, if you like.  There’s also another way to do it which I’ll mention in a bit.

What else works like Qualities?  Consequences, that’s what.  Say someone breaks your arm.  That major consequence can be the Broken Arm -2 Quality.  You don’t get paid off with Fate points every time your opponents take advantage of your broken arm. You just get the -2.  Maybe to every roll, maybe not.

So say you’ve got a scene in a place where it’s really dark.  Sure, you could make that a Dark Aspect on the scene.  Everyone pay up if you’re hiding better because it’s Dark or stumbling over things.

Or you could make it a Quality.  Dark:1.  That’s a +1 to some skills and a -1 to others; you could enumerate them all by skill and trapping if you really wanted to, but you probably have better things to do.

So someone might want to hide in the Dark, but might want more than that +1 bonus.  How can they get it?  One way would be to Invoke For Effect — “Hey, it’s Dark in here, right?  I use my Perception to find some Shadowy Shadows to hide in, and Invoke for Effect.”  So that character is placing the Aspect “Shadowy Shadows” on the scene, and getting a free tag on it, for an additional +2.  Assuming they make that roll, of course — the GM could make it really easy (“Oh yeah, there’s shadows everywhere, no problem”) or really difficult (“It’s totally dark — every part seems just as  shadowy as every other part”) or anywhere in between.

So our old friend who is a Dwarf Among Dwarves would perhaps rather do things this way — just make ad-hoc invocations of his Dwarf Quality to put Dwarf Among Dwarves on himself, and then tag it.  The possibility of a skill roll is what makes this different and inferior to buying the Aspect outright.

So what’s the real difference here between Aspects and Qualities?  Should that dark room have the Dark Aspect, or the Dark Quality?

This gets into the philosophy behind what’s going on narratively with Fate Points. What’s the difference between the guy who is Strength+2 and the guy who has the Strong Aspect?

The difference, in my opinion, is free will.  It’s about choice.  The Strength+2 person is strong all the time — when they’re asleep, in the shower, etc.  The Strong person can choose to make an extra effort to lift that heavy thing.

When it comes to scenes and things, I like to imagine a robot or giant insect or other thing with no free will or volition.  Is that robot having problems moving around that Dark room?  Then it’s probably the Dark Quality.  Or can the giant insect move around without problems, although a human could easily take advantage of the shadowy darkness?  Then that points towards the Dark Aspect.

It can also help build up difficulties.  Why is this wall +3 to climb?  Well, it’s Wall +3 (Tall+1, Slippery When Wet+3, Ivy-1).  That implies the mechanical effects of waiting around until it stops raining.

There could very easily be two characters in the same game, in the same party, and one has Ninja as a Quality and the other has Ninja as an Aspect.  That’s no problem at all.  Quality Ninja is Ninja all the time.  Aspect Ninja is only Ninja when he feels like it.  Qualities are truly the “this is what this character *is*” part of the game, while Aspects become “this is what the character *can be when he feels like it*” part.  It can even become a part of character ‘advancement’, if the character changes his Aspect to a Quality, or vice versa.

Assessing:  Unlike Aspects, Qualities are almost always self-evident.  You don’t need to roll to know that the wall is tall and wet, that that guy over there is a cop.  You might need a bit more finesse to know that a particular guy is Cop:+2 and not Cop:+1, but even that’s probably easier than noticing he has the Aspect: Behind On My Mortgage Payments.

Manoeuvring:  I’ve actually already covered this, although you may have missed it. If a character wants to give the room the Dark Quality, as opposed to just the Dark Aspect, can he do that?  How?  In fact, I’ve already told you how you establish new Qualities — it’s what attacks do, by establishing consequences.  Indeed, that is what distinguishes the ‘attack’ version of ‘I shove him off balance’ from  the ‘manoeuvre’ version.  If your character wants to add the Dark Quality to  the room, he makes an attack — perhaps against the lighting.  And, yes, this means  that, finally, you can literally attack the darkness.

Levels:  In some systems, the player characters are just flat-out better than the average person.  One way to do this is to give those characters a Quality like “Centurion:+1” that applies to every skill there is.  The average person might default to +0 on a skill, but the PCs default to +1.  Why?  Because Centurion, that’s why.

You could use this to level up the party.  After a while, everyone is Centurion:+2.  This does two things:  It increases all their skills by 1 (probably) and it  increases the minimum skill default by 1.  That’s a characteristic of level-based systems (like the various D&Ds) in contrast to skill-based systems (like the various GURPSs.)  In a level-based Fate game, you would know that 3rd-level characters have at least a +3 in every skill — Endurance, Wealth, etc.  That can make scaling some things a lot easier — you can determine, for example, that every 3rd-level character can survive a point-blank shotgun blast from a 1st-level enemy.  Without a level system, you generally don’t know that.

Qualities As Skills:  Consider this enemy:

Ninjas! — Ninja+2.

By which I mean: this guy has a +2 in the Ninja skill.

What the heck is in the Ninja skill?  I don’t know.  I mean, I *know*, just like you do, but it’s not written down anywhere.  I know what the trappings are associated with that skill.  Stabbing the characters with his sword, climb up walls, etc.  Trying to sell the characters life insurance, not so much.

Is that superior to listing out every enemies’ Strength, Fists, Melee Weapons, Athletics, etc etc etc skills?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  If you don’t know what the trappings of the Ninja skill are, you’re probably a lot better off with the extensive list.

Does this turn the game into Risus?  Yeah, sort of.

Is this the same as the Quality of Ninja+2?  It’s certainly very similar.

Of course, the Ninja skill and all the ‘usual’ skills are not mutually exclusive.  You could customize up this guy:  Ninja+2, Swords+1, Climbing-1.  That guy is +3 to hit you with a sword, +1 to climb up a tree.

Is that exactly the same as a 3rd-level Centurion?  It is looking pretty similar, isn’t it.

So, that’s Qualities.  Give them a try.

Vocabulary of Locutions

August 26, 2011

I ran across this list in a palmistry book, and it really seemed like something well-suited for character generation, or plot generation, or whatnot.

Entries include things like “Character (Good) but sadly influenced by women; will however conquer fortune anew” and “Intrigue based on the fancies of love and sure to be suddenly annihilated”.

Anyway, feel free to take a look.

https://stirgessuck.files.wordpress.com/2011/08/vocabulary_of_locutions.pdf

PtAing Fringe Season 3: Episode 1, Olivia

March 30, 2011

In this series (hopefully) of posts, I’ll be using Primetime Adventures to analyze and dissect the various episodes of the third season of Fringe.  I’ll start with the pilot episode of season 3, “Olivia”.

http://fringepedia.net/wiki/Olivia

Transcript:  http://fringepedia.net/wiki/Olivia/Transcript

Episode Analysis:

I think it may be most useful to our purposes to consider the first three scenes, which form the Prologue, as a single “scene” for PtA purposes.

Focus:  This is purely a plot advancement scene.  Indeed, it doesn’t even really advance the plot per se as much as establish the plot; it’s an establishing scene.  This is what this episode will be about.  It almost literally has an “As you know, Bob” speech.

Agenda:  (“…should explain what the likely conflict is.”)  Secretary Bishop at his cronies are trying to implant a new personality into Olivia, who is trying to keep her current personality.

Location:  Technically the three scenes each have their own location, but it’s not too much of a stretch to consider them all taking place, more or less, at the Liberty Island Prison.

Cast:  Again, the cast varies slightly between the three scenes, but it’s substantially the same throughout the prologue.  In total, we have Olivia, Secretary Bishop, Brandon, Doctor Anderson, and various soldiers.

I think it might be useful to consider Secretary Bishop as the only ‘real’ character other than Olivia, although Brandon comes pretty close too.  The others — Doctor Anderson, the soldiers — are essentially just proxies or puppets of the Secretary.  It’s sort of an interesting technique — compare this use of proxies to Walter Bishop, who is generally doing things himself and getting his hands dirty.

So that might be a handy tip to keep in the PtA toolbox — a character can be “present” in a scene without personally being there, by using a proxy minor character.

Practically, it would also be sort of clever to let the players handle both their ‘real world’ character and their ‘alternate universe’ version.  They’re never on screen at the same time, so that wouldn’t be a problem.

Conflict:  First of all, this is a fairly nice example of conflict escalation.  The Secretary wants to imprint memories on Olivia, it isn’t working, so he escalates his actions.  Olivia wants to go home, but she hasn’t been able to, so she escalates her actions.

So we have the stakes:

Olivia:  Can I escape the prison?
Secretary Bishop:  Can I imprint new memories onto Olivia?

Olivia has a whole lot of screen presence, and the producer is not inclined to spend a lot of budget at this early point.  It’s a little strange that, according to PtA, both conflicts must be against the same difficulty.  Possibly there’s a bit of room for a hack here.

Anyway, we go to the cards, and both Olivia and Secretary Bishop win their stakes.  Olivia is narrated to have escaped the prison right away.

For the Secretary’s stakes, though… I think the narrator has decided to delay gratification, which I think is legal, if wildly-underutilized, by the PtA rules as written.  It’s an interesting technique; I’ll be keeping it in the back of my mind for future reference, to see if it comes up in other episodes.

And that about wraps up the Prologue.  Cut to commercial!

Act I:

The ‘main’ scene here is the one in the cab, with Olivia and Henry.  We occasionally cut away to different scenes, which PtA explicitly recommends.

Focus:  This is a character development scene.  It mostly involves the characters’ opinions of other characters.  But it’s intercut with a plot advancement scene, which is a pretty good way to do it.

Agenda:  Olivia jumps into Henry’s cab and tells him to drive.

Location:  This all happens inside the cab, which probably counts as a personal set for Henry.

Cast:  We’ve got Olivia again, and a new character, Henry the cab driver.  He’s not a major character in the series as a whole, but he’s the other main character in this particular episode.  Peter’s player has little to do this episode; maybe he’s running the character.

Conflict:  We’re treading pretty close to player-versus-player conflict here, but I think we can avoid it.

This was a bit of a tricky one to analyze, and I can imagine some PtA players wrecking the scene in a variety of ways.  I suspect the key here is to focus on The Issue, as usual.

Which means I should probably get around to The Issue, which I’ve been avoiding up until now, as I’m sure the astute reader will have noticed.  As I see it, the Issue for Olivia is this:  “Who am I?”

Specific to this episode, the Issue is expressed as:  “Am I the person that everyone thinks I am, which is the sane answer, or am I the person I believe I am, which seems totally insane?”

Interestingly enough, I think this idea of ‘the search for identity’ is also essentially the Issue for both Peter and Walter.  It might be something to try in a PtA game — give everyone in the series the same Issue, more or less,  and see how they each tackle it.

To bring us back to the scene, we have two people trying to form and exert their individual opinion on the matter:

Olivia:  I am She Who Must Be Obeyed; if you don’t do as I say, bad things will happen to you.
Henry:  That lady is crazy.  Crazy!  Isn’t she?

Some specific lines underscore this idea:

Olivia:
“What I need you to do right now is I need you to drive.”
“You’re not in any trouble, Henry… As long as you do exactly as I say.”
“If you alert anyone, Henry, I assure you trouble will find you.”
“Well, I’m not insane. I’m not who they say I am.”

Henry:
“I’m gonna need you to Show Me. You know I can’t put this cab into drive without your I.D.”
“Why are you wearing a hospital gown? Are you sick?”
“Nice ink [tattoo]. What’s it mean?”

This can be a bit tricky because many other RPGs treat “Player X tries to change Player Y’s mind” as a direct, opposed conflict.  The trick here with PtA is to make sure each player has his own, unique opinion that he’s trying to impose.

Olivia is trying to convince Henry… of what?  That’s she’s sane?  Not really.  I mean, she does claim she’s not insane, but that’s not most of what she says.  Most of what she says involves threatening Henry.  Indeed, it’s hardly detrimental to her threats if Henry believes she’s crazy.

Henry is trying to convince Olivia… of what?  That he doesn’t need to do what she says?  He offers up only the most feeble resistance.  Most of what he says involves trying to convince himself, and incidentally Olivia, that she’s crazy.

If we consider the matrix of success and failure, we can see that all the outcomes are potentially interesting.

The actual outcome is that Olivia succeeds (again) while Henry fails.  Olivia probably lost narration here, though, because she succeeds in getting to the opera house only to find it encased in amber.  Man, that narrator is a jerk.

Also note the use of one of Olivia’s Edges — “Photographic Memory.”  Not easy to work that into a threat; nice work by the player.

The intercut scene involves the other characters getting their search for Olivia underway.  The Focus, as mentioned earlier, is plot advancement.  The Agenda is essentially “hey gang let’s start looking for Olivia.”  Most of the action happens in a hospital, which is one of those sets that keeps showing up in the series.

The cast consists of Colonel Broyles, Secretary Bishop, Agent Francis, Lincoln Lee, and an extra named Melissa.

There really isn’t any conflict here.  Nothing good comes from “My stakes are whether Lincoln Lee stays in bed for the rest of the episode.”

It’s a bit of foreshadowing, a bit of plot advancement; an interstitial scene.  It probably could have been cut without any ill effects.

Act II:

This contains a couple of scenes that are probably best viewed as continuations of the scenes of Act I.

The intercut scene of “we’re looking for Olivia” continues on into the first part of this Act.  Again, stakes like “do we find out where Olivia is?” probably don’t work very well.

The main scene, in the taxi, carries on to its logical conclusion.

Act III:

Now we’re cooking with some real new scenes.  The main scene here is at the gas station; it technically starts just a little earlier, with Lincoln’s appearance.

The Focus here is essentially character development.  You can tell it’s not plot advancement because the state of the plot — “Olivia’s on the run; the rest of Fringe is trying to find her” — doesn’t change between the start of the scene and the end.

The Agenda is Lincoln confronting Olivia.  For the cast, we have Olivia, Lincoln Lee, Henry, and Agent Francis.  Well, sort of Agent Francis.  He’s got two whole lines in this scene:  “Liv!” and “Hey!”  So he hardly counts.

Conflict:  For a short scene, this has quite a bit going on.  We’ve got three players who all have their own stakes.

Lincoln, like Henry before him, is trying to convince Olivia that she’s crazy and needs to come in.

Henry, having decided in an earlier scene that Olivia isn’t crazy, has yet to really help her of his own free will.  His stakes here are:  Do I voluntarily help Olivia escape?

For Olivia, it’s tempting to make her stakes something like “Do I escape or not?”  But there’s good dramatic and gameplay reasons not to do that.  If she’s simply captured again, we’re more or less back at where we started at the beginning of this episode.  And if she succeeds in escaping but fails to win narration, there’s a pretty good chance that jerk narrator would make her shoot Lincoln in the head.  It’s what I’d do as narrator.

Taking another look at Olivia’s Issue, we can see her stakes here are:  “Am I a cold-blooded killer?”

Again, it’s worth thinking about all the various combinations of success and failure.  Maybe Olivia shoots Lincoln, and that’s what convinces her that she’s gone insane.  Maybe Lincoln talks Olivia into coming in, but Henry decides to drive off with her anyways, convinced she’s more sane than the people chasing her.  Maybe there’s a gunfight and Henry runs for the hills.

The really interesting thing here is that Olivia’s player decides to use one of her alternate-universe-version’s Edges — Olympic Sharpshooter.  That’s a great way to mechanically give some weight to the false memories taking hold.  I bet she got some sweet fanmail for that.

The cards come out and Olivia wins, Henry wins, and Lincoln loses.  And Agent Francis gets to yell a bit.

The next scene here isn’t a PtA ‘scene’ at all — it’s that belated narration of Secretary Bishop’s success, way way back from the Prologue.  Pretty neat, eh.

Act IV:

Again, essentially two scenes here.  The first, Mixing Memories, is back in Henry’s personal set, the cab.

The focus is still character development; cast is still Olivia and Henry.  Henry really doesn’t have any stakes here; he’s pretty much done with wrestling with his decisions this episode.

Olivia’s stakes here are “Do I think of somewhere to go that’s safe from my pursuers?”  The producer still has a fat wad of budget to spend, and it’s time for him to start burning it.  Olivia’s still got a trick up her sleeve, though — she brings in a Connection from her alternate-universe-version.  Which continues to be a pretty slick manouever and is still probably worth some sweet fanmail.

These stakes are a little subtle; they’re basically determining whether the place she goes, wherever it may be, will have Fringe agents all over it.  It’s not simply an issue of “Do I decide to hide in a gutter, or in Secretary Bishop’s garden shed?”

She fails the draw pretty badly, and happily heads off to her mom’s house — or, at least, her alternate-version-mom’s house.

The intercut scene here is basically driven by the main scene — the usual gang chasing her is allowed, by the stakes of the main scene, to figure out that the mom’s house is the place to go.  And poor old Frank, dead for many an episode, gets to make an appearance.

One last little bit of narration sneaks into the end of the main scene.  Henry finally gets a chance to explain how and why he tagged his Connection: Jasmine, My Wife way back when he was trying to decide if Olivia was crazy or not:

“You know, a few years ago, I was in a bad way. Couldn’t pull myself out. Inside, I knew I was somebody else. There’s only one person who believed that… Jasmine. She saw the man I knew I was. But she was the only one.”

That’s a nice bit of long-delayed justification for bringing a Connection into a conflict which, at the time, might have seemed pretty sketchy.  But Henry’s player set it up fair-and-square, by mentioning the picture of his family in his cab quite early on.  For another example, see the very early mention of alternate-Olivia’s gold medal in marksmanship, which came up as an Edge quite a bit later on in the episode.

The lesson here:  figure out some way to bring your Connections and Edges into the narrative of a scene, even if it’s obliquely.  They may well come in handy.  And the other lesson:  trust your fellow players if they draw a card for a Connection or an Edge that might not seem justified at the time.  They probably know what they’re doing.  They’ll explain it eventually.

Act V:

There’s one last ‘real’ scene here, and a few small wrapping-up plot sccenes.

The main scene is at mom’s house.  The Focus is character advancement.  The Agenda is, much like previous scenes, “Marilyn the mom tries to convince Olivia she’s really the alternate version.”

Olivia has one last chance to win her “I’m not the alternate-universe version of me!” stakes.  But the deck is stacked against her, especially with the Edge and Connection that she’s brought in.  Technically I don’t think there’s any way for a Producer to use an Edge or Connection “against” a character, but it might not be a bad house rule.

It’s still not a foregone conclusion; if Olivia wins her stakes somehow, it might mean that she’s managed to hold onto the truth but can fake it well enough to fool everyone else.

But she doesn’t win.  She loses, and her assimilation is complete.  Her little chat with Agent Francis later on is essentially a bit more narration from this scene.

A few notes about the remaining plot-wrapping-up scenes:

“Liberty Island – Memory Implant”:  finally, *finally*, the narrator who won Secretary Bishop’s stakes way way way back in the Prologue gets to finish his narration.  His patience adds a nice touch.

“Fringe Division – Pressing for Details”:  This is both a bit of plot-wrapup for this episode, and some foreshadowing for conflict yet-to-come in future episodes.  It certainly works fine as a “Next time on Fringe…” teaser.

“Congressional Building – Personal Testimony”:  I’m not really sure why this scene is here.  Maybe Peter is contractually-obligated to appear in every episode.  Anyway, nothing to see here.

“Congressional Grounds – Budding Romance”:  This is pretty much pure foreshadowing.

 

So… that’s the episode analysis.  As a bit of trivia, the episode had 257 lines of dialogue; here’s how they broke down:

Olivia: 80 lines, or 31 percent.
Henry:  42
Lincoln: 19
Agent Francis: 18
Broyles: 17.

This analysis was 2600 words long; thanks for reading.  Next time on PTAing Fringe, I’ll be looking at episode 302: The Box.  Stay tuned!

Slacking Through the Sandbox

January 21, 2011

I’ve written an article about how I put together a slacker’s sandbox — a slackbox, if you will.

Read the pdf here.

All comments welcome.

How to Edit the Character Builder XPS Character Sheet

March 25, 2010

So, you love the D&D Character Builder, but wish you could change just a couple things on the character sheet before printing? Here are some instructions on how to do that. (more…)

Must Read: Anti-Grind Guide

March 9, 2010

About a year ago, Stalker0 wrote a guide to avoiding the grind in 4E combat. Like a fine wine, it keeps getting better with age. Read it and be enlightened:

Stalker0’s Guide to Anti-Grind

From a purely structural viewpoint, it’s wonderfully well-written. It describes the symptoms of the problem, the causes of the problem, and the cure for the problem. If you read only one thing before DMing a 4E game, read this.

Character Builder Tip: Adding a Bonus Feat

February 24, 2010

So I’m working on a new character for a new D&D 4E campaign (much more about that later!) and I ran into bit of trouble with Character Builder.

Don’t get me wrong — I love Character Builder to bits. But the new campaign has a house rule that grants characters a “non-combat” bonus feat for a cool backstory.

Do you think I could figure out how to get Character Builder to let me drop a bonus feat onto my character? After much cursing and fiddling, I eventually figured it out — and thought I’d share my hard-earned lesson with everyone.

There’s a little teeny tiny button that looks like a little house with an ‘H’ in it. Presumably this stands for “house-rule”:

Character Builder

Click on that, and you can add as many feats as you like. And Character Builder is even smart enough to later tell you how your character is house-ruled, in case you ever want to revert it back to a legal state.

Searching a Hex

December 3, 2009

(Inspired by Chgowiz’s “Finding things in a 5 mile hex”)

So there’s basically four variables in the equation.

1. How big the hex is
2. How far they can look
3. How fast they can move
4. How likely it is that they recognize the target when they see it.

1. How big the hex is:

Unlike labyrinth maps, wildness maps are usually recorded on graph paper with hex grids, at a scale of 6 or 10 miles for each hex. -LL pg 45

Assuming this is ‘centre to centre’ distance, which is the ‘short width’.

“t” is the length of one of the hex’s six edges:

>> Hex Width (opposite sides, aka short diameter) = 1.732t

For our example, we divide 6 by 1.732 and get 3.464 miles.

>> Hex Area = 2.598t^2

So the area of our example hex is 31.178 square miles.

This is more useful in square yards (3,097,600 square yards to one square mile):

96,576,443 square yards. Yes, almost 100 million square yards.

2. How far they can look:

when monsters are encountered the Labyrinth Lord will roll 4d6 x 10 to determine how many yards away the characters are from the monster. -LL pg 50

Assuming weather conditions are normal, other ships can be seen when up to 300 yards away. -LL pg 58

4d6 averages to 140 yards.

The party can decide to use whatever “search footprint” they like, though. A large value is a quicker but less thorough search, while a small value is a slow but methodical search.

Whatever value they choose (called the Search Radius), the search footprint is 2*pi*r:

For 140 yards, this is 61,575 square yards.

Note this is per observer: If four characters spread out 140 yards apart along the search line, then their search footprint is four times larger (and help is that much farther away if a wandering monster attacks.) Furthermore, there are fewer characters to spot a hidden or secret target.

It’s useful to figure out how many search footprints are contained within the hex, simply by dividing the area of the hex by the area of the footprint:

For our example, 96,576,443 / 61,575 = 1,568.4 footprints. Expressed as a percentage, the odds of a terrain feature falling into any given footprint is about 0.064%.

3. How fast they can move:

A character that moves at 120 (feet or yards, depending on environment) can move 24 miles in the wilderness per day. -LL pg 45

Given our search footprint, how many footprints can a character move through?

This depends on the character’s inherent movement rate and also the Terrain Movement reduction amount, if any.

Determine the modified movement rate, and then divide by 12 to get a movement rate per hour assuming 12 hours of marching and 12 hours of rest.

An unencumbered human moving through the plains moves at 2 miles per hour, or 3520 yards per hour.

Divide that by the diameter (twice the radius) of the search footprint to determine his footprints/hour rate.

For our example: 3520/280 = 12.57 footprints/hour.

This can be multiplied by the number of independent searchers, so for a party of four we have about 50.3 footprints/hour.

Hours are not necessarily the most useful unit of time here.

Wilderness Wandering Monsters: This check is only made 3 to 4 times per day of game time in wilderness adventuring. –LL pg 125

4 times per day is once every six hours. Our party is searching for 12 hours a day, so six hours is a useful division of time (perhaps as “morning” and “afternoon”.)

Multiplying by six hours gives us 75.4 footprints/quarter-day per person, or 150.85 footprints per day of searching.

That is close to 10% of the hex’s footprints per day, or 5% per quarter-day.

Thus, for our example, based on these rates of searching, every searcher has a 5% chance every six hours to run across the terrain feature. A generous DM might make this cumulative.

4. How likely it is that they recognize the target when they see it.

The first thing to test is whether the party chose a sufficiently tight search pattern.

The potential target-finder should roll 4d6 and multiply by 10 for a monster-sized target or by 20 for a ship-sized target.

If the roll is less than the search radius, the target is not found after all — it has slipped through the coarseness of their search pattern. Otherwise, the target has been found, but it might not be recognized.

If the target is not hidden in any way, then the character has found it. Otherwise it is detected only on a 1 in 6 chance, as a secret door. Elves and dwarves might find it on a 2 in 6 chance, if it is related to their racial abilities. Thieves may use their Find Traps skill percentage.

A failure here means the searchers have walked right past their target; they must complete their search of the rest of the hex before trying again.