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Author Topic: DUNEposting: How would riding Shai-hulud work in the OSR?  (Read 429 times)

Azraele

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DUNEposting: How would riding Shai-hulud work in the OSR?
« on: October 03, 2020, 06:53:53 PM »
This thread does what it says on the tin: I'm running a Dune-themed game for my friends. Clearly, the following situation will absolutely occur:



Certainly SOME kind of roll is called for here, I don't want them worm-riding willy-nilly. But what? I'm tempted to do something halfway between the 1e grapple/ thief climbing rules (since they're both d100-based, some variety of synthesis could work) but I feel like this deserves more... I dunno, gravitas?

What are your thoughts, braintrust? How do you translate sandworm-riding into Old School sensibilities?
Joel T. Clark: Proprietor of the Mushroom Press, Member of the Five Emperors

VisionStorm

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Re: DUNEposting: How would riding Shai-hulud work in the OSR?
« Reply #1 on: October 03, 2020, 08:44:20 PM »
I’m not much OSR stuff per se (I tend to prefer nu-school Skill checks), but I would probably use a combination of climbing to get on top, with periodic Dex checks to stay on top when moving across the worm’s back and Wis checks to steer it and keep it under control. These checks could be modified based on the worm’s HD (which I’m guessing would scale with the size and strength/temperament of the worm), though, how high those penalties are would depend on the HD scale used in the campaign and would also vary depending on the worm’s attitude and how calm or agitated it is.

Approaching the worm initially could also require a Wis check to get your bearings and avoid agitating the worm (like a kind of Animal Handling check). If you fail your Wis check you could get an additional penalty to climb checks if you try anyway and have to make a saving throw to avoid going under. A critical failed Wis check (natural 20 on roll-under) requires the save immediately (got too close without noticing, oops!). If your Wis check succeeds you may attempt to climb without additional penalty (other than based on the worm’s HD) and don’t need to roll a save.

Going by general worm size (without knowing specific HD range) penalties could be something like:

Small (for a worm) = 0
Med (for a worm) = -2/-10%
“A big one!” = -4/-20%
“Old man of the desert” = -6/-30%
“Shai-hulud Himself!” = -8/-40%

Worm state modifiers:

Docile = +2/+10%
Calm/Normal = 0
Mildly Agitated = -2/-10%
Very Agitated = -4/-20%
Enraged = -6/-30%

Obviously I’m spitballing here so modifiers might be off and need adjusting. But that would be the general idea.

consolcwby

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Re: DUNEposting: How would riding Shai-hulud work in the OSR?
« Reply #2 on: October 03, 2020, 11:48:04 PM »
Certainly SOME kind of roll is called for here, I don't want them worm-riding willy-nilly. But what? I'm tempted to do something halfway between the 1e grapple/ thief climbing rules (since they're both d100-based, some variety of synthesis could work) but I feel like this deserves more... I dunno, gravitas?

What are your thoughts, braintrust? How do you translate sandworm-riding into Old School sensibilities?

If I was GMing, this is at least 3 rolls:
1. Speed of running with a To Hit (less encumberance means faster running rate bonus of +1 to +5, melee hit bonus of +1 to +5 depending on assumed skill - starting with a base chance of 5 in 20 (would give players between 25% up to 75% chance of success -  if a critical success, give a bonus of +2 to next roll)
2. Climbing up (climbing skill roll or dexterity check* with a possible random -1 to +1 bonus (1d3) 1 = Worm is agitated: -1,  2 = Worm is neutral +0,  3 = Worm is helpful +1)
3. Secure and Balance (dexterity check* with a bonus (+1 to +3) for experience in this)
Every 3 to 12 turns (3d4), I would check for control of the Worm vs. It's desire to roll or dive into the sand. (Assuming a turn is approximately 5 minutes).

*Dexterity check being PC's or party's aggregate/average stat converted into a Target Number, helps if you precalculate this before hand in your GM's notes.

Make sure to make it tense AND to already know what the consequences for failure is.
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Lurkndog

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Re: DUNEposting: How would riding Shai-hulud work in the OSR?
« Reply #3 on: October 04, 2020, 02:12:44 PM »
I’m not much OSR stuff per se (I tend to prefer nu-school Skill checks), but I would probably use a combination of climbing to get on top, with periodic Dex checks to stay on top when moving across the worm’s back and Wis checks to steer it and keep it under control.

This seems solid.

I could also see some kind of "Spice Lord" class giving the player a Sandworm Rider feat that provides pluses to attracting the sandworm and steering it.

Pat

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Re: DUNEposting: How would riding Shai-hulud work in the OSR?
« Reply #4 on: October 04, 2020, 02:31:30 PM »
Why not just assume the PCs are competent, and let them succeed automatically. After all, does anyone fail at worm-riding in the books? Worms are big and scary, but it doesn't seem risky in the can-be-represented-on-a-d20-roll sense. Only require rolls for something exceptional. For NPCs, you could make it a morale check.

VisionStorm

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Re: DUNEposting: How would riding Shai-hulud work in the OSR?
« Reply #5 on: October 04, 2020, 04:12:30 PM »
I’m not much OSR stuff per se (I tend to prefer nu-school Skill checks), but I would probably use a combination of climbing to get on top, with periodic Dex checks to stay on top when moving across the worm’s back and Wis checks to steer it and keep it under control.

This seems solid.

I could also see some kind of "Spice Lord" class giving the player a Sandworm Rider feat that provides pluses to attracting the sandworm and steering it.

I’m not sure if feats fit into the OSR style specified by the OP, but a fighter or ranger variant that has that as a class ability could work. Or maybe a kit, though, those are from 2e, so I’m not sure they fit into the OSR either, unless 2e is considered old-school enough (depends on the DM, I suppose). “Sandrider” might be a more appropriate name for the class/kit, though, since that’s what they’re called in the books. “Spice Lord” sounds more like a thief variant class specialized in spice smuggling, which could work too.

There could also be a “Minstrel” class as a fighter-bard variant (focused on combat instead of magic), since Gurney Halleck is described as a warrior-minstrel in the books, skilled in the Baliset (nine-string guitar). So there’s precedent for warrior-bards in the books, which is a type of bard variant I believe exists in some OSR games.

Bene Gesserit and Mentats could probably be monk variants. Though, Bene Gesserit have some mind control abilities, which might take some work to develop properly. Maybe they get those as a spell-like ability instead of some of the weird monk powers. Mentats might get some tactical bonuses instead, since they’re supposed to be master strategists.

Why not just assume the PCs are competent, and let them succeed automatically. After all, does anyone fail at worm-riding in the books? Worms are big and scary, but it doesn't seem risky in the can-be-represented-on-a-d20-roll sense. Only require rolls for something exceptional. For NPCs, you could make it a morale check.

It’s been ages since I read the books or saw the movie or mini-series, so it’s all a jumble now in my memory. But I vaguely recall people going under and being crushed by the worms. Don’t recall if there’s any specific scenes that highlight it, but there is a scene where Paul rides a worm for the first time were they specifically go into details about the dangers of worm riding, and Stilgar later reprimands Paul for taking too many risks in the way he mounted the worm, and says something about the number of fighters who’ve gone under and being crushed by the worm for being too eager and arrogant or showing off.

So there’s definitely an element risk involved that gets specified in the books. They just don’t highlight people getting crushed all the time, cuz it wouldn’t be dramatically appropriate to have the messianic hero of story being crushed by a worm during a routine sandride.

That being said, it also wouldn’t be dramatically appropriate to end a game session minutes from the start cuz the PCs failed one sandriding roll and got killed at the start before the adventure really kicked off. So maybe sandriding checks should be limited to combat encounters and dramatically appropriate moments.

Pat

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Re: DUNEposting: How would riding Shai-hulud work in the OSR?
« Reply #6 on: October 04, 2020, 05:44:28 PM »
It’s been ages since I read the books or saw the movie or mini-series, so it’s all a jumble now in my memory. But I vaguely recall people going under and being crushed by the worms. Don’t recall if there’s any specific scenes that highlight it, but there is a scene where Paul rides a worm for the first time were they specifically go into details about the dangers of worm riding, and Stilgar later reprimands Paul for taking too many risks in the way he mounted the worm, and says something about the number of fighters who’ve gone under and being crushed by the worm for being too eager and arrogant or showing off.

So there’s definitely an element risk involved that gets specified in the books. They just don’t highlight people getting crushed all the time, cuz it wouldn’t be dramatically appropriate to have the messianic hero of story being crushed by a worm during a routine sandride.

That being said, it also wouldn’t be dramatically appropriate to end a game session minutes from the start cuz the PCs failed one sandriding roll and got killed at the start before the adventure really kicked off. So maybe sandriding checks should be limited to combat encounters and dramatically appropriate moments.
I don't remember all that, but it's quite likely I've forgotten.

But to highlight the more general point I'm making: Parachuting is dangerous. When you learn to parachute, they tell you all kinds of horror stories, at least partly to help ensure everyone takes it seriously. But if you roll a d20 and there's a chance of dying based on that roll, then that means (at best) that 1 in 20 people aren't coming home. That massively overinflates the danger. The same is true with rock climbing, caving, fork lift driving, driving a regular car, even putting a baby to sleep. Those kind of risks can't really be represented by a d20, and even if you use bigger dice and multiple rolls, all it really means is you're rolling a lot for something that probably will never happen. And since the consequence is death, it's like playing the lottery where the reward is losing everything. Nobody wants to play a game like that, so the players will avoid riding worms.

That's why I come to a similar conclusion: I'm inclined to let them succeed, and only require rolls in usual circumstances, like a battle on the back of a worm, or a nasty storm. But there are other ways of highlighting the perceived danger, like the morale check I mentioned. Since morale doesn't apply to PCs, the party won't be affected, but an NPC's courage could break and they could swerve away. Another method is when dangerous circumstances do arise is to avoid a single save or check that results in disastrous consequences, like falling off the side and getting crushed, but to have multiple stages. That allows tension to build, and the possibility of recovery or aid. Even better if the player to actively choose to take the risk at each step, making any end result the result of their deliberate choices not just random rolls.
« Last Edit: October 04, 2020, 05:46:28 PM by Pat »

VisionStorm

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Re: DUNEposting: How would riding Shai-hulud work in the OSR?
« Reply #7 on: October 04, 2020, 07:41:53 PM »
It’s been ages since I read the books or saw the movie or mini-series, so it’s all a jumble now in my memory. But I vaguely recall people going under and being crushed by the worms. Don’t recall if there’s any specific scenes that highlight it, but there is a scene where Paul rides a worm for the first time were they specifically go into details about the dangers of worm riding, and Stilgar later reprimands Paul for taking too many risks in the way he mounted the worm, and says something about the number of fighters who’ve gone under and being crushed by the worm for being too eager and arrogant or showing off.

So there’s definitely an element risk involved that gets specified in the books. They just don’t highlight people getting crushed all the time, cuz it wouldn’t be dramatically appropriate to have the messianic hero of story being crushed by a worm during a routine sandride.

That being said, it also wouldn’t be dramatically appropriate to end a game session minutes from the start cuz the PCs failed one sandriding roll and got killed at the start before the adventure really kicked off. So maybe sandriding checks should be limited to combat encounters and dramatically appropriate moments.
I don't remember all that, but it's quite likely I've forgotten.

But to highlight the more general point I'm making: Parachuting is dangerous. When you learn to parachute, they tell you all kinds of horror stories, at least partly to help ensure everyone takes it seriously. But if you roll a d20 and there's a chance of dying based on that roll, then that means (at best) that 1 in 20 people aren't coming home. That massively overinflates the danger. The same is true with rock climbing, caving, fork lift driving, driving a regular car, even putting a baby to sleep. Those kind of risks can't really be represented by a d20, and even if you use bigger dice and multiple rolls, all it really means is you're rolling a lot for something that probably will never happen. And since the consequence is death, it's like playing the lottery where the reward is losing everything. Nobody wants to play a game like that, so the players will avoid riding worms.

That's why I come to a similar conclusion: I'm inclined to let them succeed, and only require rolls in usual circumstances, like a battle on the back of a worm, or a nasty storm. But there are other ways of highlighting the perceived danger, like the morale check I mentioned. Since morale doesn't apply to PCs, the party won't be affected, but an NPC's courage could break and they could swerve away. Another method is when dangerous circumstances do arise is to avoid a single save or check that results in disastrous consequences, like falling off the side and getting crushed, but to have multiple stages. That allows tension to build, and the possibility of recovery or aid. Even better if the player to actively choose to take the risk at each step, making any end result the result of their deliberate choices not just random rolls.

Agreed. The same could be said about regular climb rolls too, though. This is why I treat failed climb rolls as a set back rather than as a “your character fell through the precipice to his death...Roll a new one”. In my campaigns if you fail a climb roll you make no progress, and on a critical failure you lose your grip and drop 10’, but immediately get another roll to regain your grip. If you fail again the process repeats until you either succeed the roll (in which case you regain your grip and may continue climbing) or roll another critical failure—only then does your character become fully detached from the wall and start falling like a rock.

In the case of riding a worm I would probably use a similar structure for both, the climb rolls, as well as balance rolls. A failed balance roll would just mean you struggle to keep your balance and make no progress moving. A critical failure means you start sliding down the worm’s back, but may attempt to regain your footing with another roll. Only on another fail do you fall, and falling does not mean instant death, since many Fremen just fall in the sand, which cushions your fall. I would probably require some type of Reflex or equivalent save to avoid getting crushed by the worm.

Azraele

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Re: DUNEposting: How would riding Shai-hulud work in the OSR?
« Reply #8 on: October 04, 2020, 09:50:44 PM »
Man, awesome replies thus far.

Re: the consequences of failure. I'm not sold on the OSR style really leaning towards the "roll to success" model that's being pursued here. Save-or-die is pretty standard in how old games are played; players still open doors and chests and go into dungeons, so I don't buy that they'd avoid worm-riding if death was on the line IF the reward justified that risk.

And, let's be real here, it totally does. Who doesn't want to ride a living tank-juggernaut straight into an enemy base and completely demolish it?

What would more likely happen is exactly what I want: that players wouldn't take that risk casually. Sure, you might go under: but if you succeed? You're a legend.

I also feel like if, rather than death, you simply took say, 6d6 crushing damage and got a new save to dig your way to safety, you'd have higher-level characters (especially HP-rich fighter-types) more willing to roll the bones more frequently as their danger of death from that damage diminished. That seems to track with what we see of the Fremen, so I'm generally pleased with that paradigm.

In terms of the roll: Mathematically, multiple rolls risking failure encourage failure. So if the consequence for failure is damage, then that danger needs to be present only ONE roll. I think some variant of

Call worm> mount worm> rig worm

Might be best, because then there's a bit of ritual to the stages which can give us pauses to build tension. Especially OH! If the call worm action determined how big of a worm you called? Like maybe I could do a little encounter chart, and maybe you get to roll more or bigger dice behind the screen depending on how well the call roll went?

Then we lump the danger of crushing damage on that mounting roll, and possibly allow multiple attempts to harness/steer (so you could possibly save a bad final roll, but it would get more chaotic and dangerous if you continued to screw up).

.... Yeah, that feels pretty good. I feel like post-rigging, they're pretty docile. Nothing really added by putting in further rolls (although maybe I could give them some kind of morale or something? They're still big creatures with some volition, after all). But those three feel tonally right, and like they'd get the *feel* right.

I'm all on board for further ideas folks, but I think I've got the skeleton of what I'm gonna use for my game now.
Joel T. Clark: Proprietor of the Mushroom Press, Member of the Five Emperors

Pat

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Re: DUNEposting: How would riding Shai-hulud work in the OSR?
« Reply #9 on: October 05, 2020, 08:05:34 AM »
Re: the consequences of failure. I'm not sold on the OSR style really leaning towards the "roll to success" model that's being pursued here. Save-or-die is pretty standard in how old games are played; players still open doors and chests and go into dungeons, so I don't buy that they'd avoid worm-riding if death was on the line IF the reward justified that risk.
It's not the OSR orthodoxy, but it's a reasonably common heterodox approach. Cf. Black Dougal is dead discussions, how the thief class is mechanically a trap, and the narrative approach to exploration. But play however you want to play; people have fun in all kinds of different ways.

I do like the idea of damage on failure -- it makes it more common at high levels, without being a hard barrier preventing low level characters from trying, and favors the tougher classes. Name-level fighters might be regular worm-riders, magic-users are always hesitant, and 1st level characters can try it in extremis.

The worm-calling roll could borrow from the B/X rules for hunting or something similar. The danger point is really the mounting, so that's what the the risk of damage should be associated with. 6d6 sounds good, half on a save. A save seems the natural mechanic for danger while mounting, but a 40-80% failure rate seems way too high, so some alternative is probably a good idea. An attack roll against a fixed AC might work, though it should probably be a fairly high (descending) AC -- it's hard to miss a giant wall moving in front of you, you're not trying to punch through the armor just get a hook in, plus you want most people to succeed. Maybe AC 7 or even 9.

Could lower the AC to set the goad and open the flap, or since it's a matter of brute strength, maybe tie it to a damage roll instead. If a goad does 1d6, then a 3 point threshold makes it fairly automatic for anyone strong, a 5 point threshold make it easy for mighty characters but a challenge for weak ones, and a 7 point threshold makes it impossible unless you're strong.

Once you're moving, again borrowing from B/X, you could use something similar to the getting lost rules from B/X to see if the worm is recalcitrant, or maybe there's a chance the goad slips or something. Dismounting might require some finesse.

Ghostmaker

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Re: DUNEposting: How would riding Shai-hulud work in the OSR?
« Reply #10 on: October 05, 2020, 10:20:02 AM »
Don't botch your Handle Animal or Ride checks.

tenbones

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Re: DUNEposting: How would riding Shai-hulud work in the OSR?
« Reply #11 on: October 05, 2020, 11:34:32 AM »
Save or die?

Dan Vincze

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Re: DUNEposting: How would riding Shai-hulud work in the OSR?
« Reply #12 on: October 05, 2020, 12:28:07 PM »

What would more likely happen is exactly what I want: that players wouldn't take that risk casually. Sure, you might go under: but if you succeed? You're a legend.

FWIW, in the books, calling and mounting a worm was a requirement of being a grown man among the Fremen, and they took the risk casually enough to measure long distances in "thumpers." I.E. how many worms you had to call to get to your destination, from the device used to call them.

So, if we're being accurate to the books (first 3), I'd think that unskilled characters should have no chance of success and qualified sandriders should just ride the thing without rolling. How you want to handle semi-skilled characters or prodigiously talented off-worlders depends on what sort of genre feel and risk calculus you're looking to promote.

Of course, in a less metal setting it might be a much rarer feat.
« Last Edit: October 05, 2020, 12:30:22 PM by Dan Vincze »

VisionStorm

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Re: DUNEposting: How would riding Shai-hulud work in the OSR?
« Reply #13 on: October 05, 2020, 02:17:11 PM »
Abstracting the whole thing to a simple save for damage (rather than save or die) sounds good, and it would help streamline the process and allow multiple tries without characters dying instantly on a failed roll. It gives them a fighting chance. However, I would make it so that making the save negates all damage, since the point is that you’re avoiding getting squashed, rather than mitigating assured damage. Otherwise characters would always get damaged when they try to mount a worm.

How about something like this:

Call Worm
Calling a worm requires preparation to look for a good spot, then planting the thumpers, etc. Multiple groups could attempt to call multiple worms by spreading out and planting additional thumpers on their own, with each group handled as a separate attempt. In the books worms always come eventually to the sound of vibrations, so rolls should probably be in terms of how soon they show up, how many worms show up, and how big they are.

Time for Worm Sign: 2d6+4 rounds (assuming 1 minute rounds, since it’s OSR), subtracting caller’s Wis modifier, plus one per thumper used (4 max). To a minimum of two rounds.

Number of Worms: 1d6 -3 (1 minimum). This way only one worm usually shows up, but more may come. Additional worm could be one size smaller than the main worm.

Worm Size: Roll 2d6 +Wis modifier, +1 per Thumper (max +4).
- Small = 7 or less
- Medium = 8-11
- Big One = 12-14
- Shai-hulud = 15+

Mount Worm
Mounting a worm could be a two-step process. First you must successfully approach the worm without being dragged under. Then you must successfully attach the hooks to mount it.

Approach Worm: Roll Dex-based save every time you approach a worm to avoid crushing damage. Fail means character gets dragged under and takes 4d6 damage, +1d6 per worm size category (Small, Med, Big, Shai-hulud). Success means you don’t get dragged under and avoid all damage.

Attach Hooks: Make attack roll vs AC 8 or so (assuming descending AC) to attach the hook. On a successful attack you attach the hook and begin getting dragged up as worm turns (worm does rest of the job). If you fail, you must try again next round, but it counts as approaching the worm again.

Rig Worm
Rigging the worm IMO should be pretty much automatic unless you (or the worm) are being attacked or something. If you’re attacked (or the worm is agitated or something) you could call for a Dex-based save to avoid getting knocked off the worm. If you succeed, you may use your action to rig the worm, which takes up your round.

Some of this stuff could change depending on what size categories you use for worms. I used four—Small, Medium, Large (A Big One!) and Very Large (Shai-hulud)—to allow some degree of granularity while keeping it simple. Details would have to be modified if worm sizes are more or less variable than this.

Lurkndog

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Re: DUNEposting: How would riding Shai-hulud work in the OSR?
« Reply #14 on: October 13, 2020, 04:16:39 PM »
I could also see some kind of "Spice Lord" class giving the player a Sandworm Rider feat that provides pluses to attracting the sandworm and steering it.
I’m not sure if feats fit into the OSR style specified by the OP, but a fighter or ranger variant that has that as a class ability could work. Or maybe a kit, though, those are from 2e, so I’m not sure they fit into the OSR either, unless 2e is considered old-school enough (depends on the DM, I suppose). “Sandrider” might be a more appropriate name for the class/kit, though, since that’s what they’re called in the books. “Spice Lord” sounds more like a thief variant class specialized in spice smuggling, which could work too.
My thought was that the "Spice Lord" would be a premiere class that became available once your character takes the spice and gets the blue eyes, etc. As I recall, the spice also unlocks some mystical abilities for all its users, not just Paul Atreides. "Spice User" is probably more accurate, but not as amusing.