Tuesday, December 17, 2013

D&D Next Custom Content: Legionnaire Fighter Subclass

So far, my experience with D&D Next has been overwhelmingly positive. Over the playtest's run, the vast majority of concerns I've had have been addressed, and i look forward to the final product.

That being said, the one big question that remains unadressed by the playtest documentation is the system's capacity for custom made content. The official D&D blogs have said that they perceive an unfortunate trend in 3e+ of DMs not creating as much custom content as was the norm for OD&D-2e, and plan on emphasizing at-least the creation of custom sub-classes within the DMG. This bodes well, and I can only hope for detailed guidelines for the creation of enemies, sub-classes, spells, etc. in the DMG, but there's always the niggling doubt that they'd prefer to sell you fish than to teach DMs how to do it themselves. I'll make my own content either way, but I'd prefer some clear guidelines for the community that both make it easier for everyone and help make custom content more portable between groups.

As an experiment, I tried my hand at putting together a Roman Legionnaire sub-class for the Fighter. It seemed appropriate as, in addition to the fact that many settings use Rome as a reference point, this would model professional soldiers (IE: NPCs) better than the adventurer focused ones in the playtest. Evank Elkins over at In Places Deep is also running a game at the moment which it could be useful for.

Overall, I found this a surprisingly easy task, completed within an hour's work. I simply identified the levels at which fighter gain sub-class abilities, stole abilities from other sub-classes (largely the Bard sub-class that focuses on being a military leader and the Ranger one that focuses-oddly enough, on 1v1 combat), and modified these abilities where necessary to emphasize supporting allies rather than fighting alone. In general, the strategy was that this character would be less powerful than a fighter of the same level designed for 1v1 combat, but outclass that same character if there were 2 of the same builds on either side of the fight. Explanations of such adjustments may be found below the actual rules.

However, if I'd wanted to do something that didn't have such obvious parallels throughout the playtest document, I may have had more trouble. I'll have to try again with something a bit more off the wall later.

Path of the Legionnaire 

Legionnaire Features
Level: Feature
  3: Additional Fighting Style (Protection)
  7: Discipline
10: Focused Attack
15: Testudo
19: Rally

Additional Fighting Style (Protection)
At 3rd level, you gain the Protection fighting style. If you already have it, take another of your choice instead.

Starting at 7th level, you have advantage on saving throws against being frightened/intimidated/or otherwise forced to retreat from battle. If you have proficiency with Charisma saves, the effects extended to allies within 5 feet of you.

Focused Attack
By 10th level, when you hit a creature with a weapon attack, you cause the target disadvantage against the next weapon attack against it by any character other than yourself until the end of the target's next turn.

Beginning at 15th level, when you must make a dexterity saving throw to take only half damage from an effect, you may substitute a strength save instead. If you succeed on the saving throw, you instead take no damage and only half damage if you fail. You must be wielding a shield.

Rally the Troops
At 19th level, you may, as an action & once per long rest, rally allies. When you do so, any creatures of your choice that can hear you regain 6d8+20 hit points. This also ends the charmed, frightened, paralyzed, and stunned conditions on its targets. Each target can also use its reaction to stand up or move up to its speed. This ability has no effect upon targets immune to mind effecting abilities.


Additional Fighting Style (Protection)
Additional Fighting Styles have already been established as acceptable via the Path of the Warrior subclass. Protection simulates a shield wall effectively enough that I see no reason to create a new rule. It is placed first because it is is the single most essential element of a legionnaire's training, which every member of the unit needs for their tactics to function. If this is considered more powerful that its placement at Lv10 in the PAth of the Warrior, I believe that to be mitigated by the fact that the player isn't allowed their choice of style.

Mostly borrowing the Lv7 ability of the Colossus Slayer Ranger here, because discipline is a major advantage of the legions. The modification is because I find Steel Will to be flawed, as anyone who attains a proficiency in Charisma saves (I personally treat Wisdom primarily as perception, but that's another discussion. Suffice to say, if you would use Wisdom for fear, then the ability is made useless by the fact that Rangers are proficient in Wisdom already.) completely negates the feature. This simple change both keeps the ability useful, makes sense (the bravery of the more experienced soldiers is inspiring), and emphasizes the organized nature of this subclass.

Focused Attack
Essentially the Ranger's lv11 Staggering Attack, but designed to grant allies the advantage rather than yourself. Again, this is to emphasize the group element. When alone, it's useless to you, but this should be balanced out by the fact that, if two people with this ability are adjacent to one another, they not only grant it to one another but any others that may attack the enemy. IE: The front line can loosen up the enemy with gladii while the rear ranks takes advantage with reach and ranged weapons. I debated weather to simply use the Bard's Coordinate Allies for this, as it, at first, seems more powerful - being able to grant advantage to any ally you see on any enemy you see hit within a sizable range, but the ability to grant it to multiple attackers more than makes up for this lack of range and keeps the legionnaire as a front-line support fighter where he belongs.

 This is, again, is the Colossus Slayer ability for this level, but it serves as an accurate simulation of their defenses against ranged attacks. It also provides a fun, martial variant on the classic Uncanny Dodge that can reflect that classic image of a warrior crouching behind his shield to deflect Dragon's fire or absorb a hail of arrows. Requiring a shield is a thematic necessity, and the addition of the Strength substitution feature is meant to balance this.

Rally the Troops
As the Bard's Rally, but with the removal of the "as Mass Cure Wounds" aspect, as its extremely unlikely that a Lv19 Fighter can cast magic.  Instead, I treat it as the 7th lv+ version of MCW, due to the player's high level, while removing its 50ft range/25ft radius in exchange for a more thematic and simple audible range. Changed "undead and constructs" to mind affecting abilities due to flavor and edge cases, but they should almost always be identical.

Outside of the standard balance considerations, this seems fine to me, my only concern with this relates to Roman equipment, i.e., tower shields, pila, and gladii? In D&DN terms a gladii is a shortsword, which most "sword & board" fighters have no real use for. I suppose I could add a sidebar that lists the gladius as a new weapon (just a 1h piercing sword without the finesse & light of a shortsword or the versatility of a longsword - trading these special features for raw damage) but that seems like overstepping the bounds of this exercise. Still, they did move towards longer blades as history went on anyway, so it may not be a big deal in the first place.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

My D&D Setting

Watching a roundtable of bloggers talking about their D&D settings has inspired me to jot down a quick rundown of what my D&D setting is comprised of. In its simplest terms, what you have is the D&D I imagined before I learned of things like Vancian magic, divine magic, alignments, & other such things that really confused the hell out of me when I first started playing because they seemed to be products of something other than literature and mythology.
If there's any interest, I may continue this as a series or split it off into it's own blog. I could probably elaborate on & give my reasoning for every bullet point on this list before even concerning myself with posts about locations, creatures, NPCs, adventures, etc. I know such is really popular amongst the OD&D bloggers, which I enjoy reading, but I wouldn't call my bag OD&D. Sure, the aesthetics tend to be similar, but whenever I actually look down at a page of OD&D rules I tend to feel like the citizen who says the king has no clothes.

But I digress...

Genre: 60's-70's style Sword & Sorcery
Low Magic
Low Power (Not "epic," personal stakes)
Late Iron Age (Steel exists, but is uncommon)
Influenced by Abrahamic & Germanic folklore

Warhammer Fantasy with less Tolkien, lower tech, & it's defining Chaos element
Game of Thrones with less political intrigue
Elric with less Lovecraft
Conan with less pulp

In Short
- No "Fantasy Races" (though not everyone is entirely mortal)
-No Tolkien plagiarized Elves, Dwarves, etc. (Respecting IP is the sincerest form of flattery)
-No arcane/divine magic division (in that one does not differentiate between divine/arcane)
-"Mortal" men are essentially mundane, & can not "cast" magic
-Immortal beings; gods, demons, & fairies, are essentially magical & the source of magic on the mortal plane
-Gods are active participants in the world, with desires, whims, & emotions, and can't be taken for granted
- Men can petition gods & lesser immortals for miracles & other magical boons, as it pleases the immortal
-As a result of the active participation of these immortals, "tainted" bloodlines exist. Such people; including Demigods, demonic Cambion, and Changelings, command a small vestige of natural immortal power
- Small scale. There are only a handful of cities, each with its own personality, the rest is farmland

Who You Play
-"Fighter," & "Rogue," types of course. Anything mundane & European fits.
-"Cleric" types, the "divine caster" role. One may pray for and receive divine boons. This is independent of class. A rogue can pray to and receive blessings from their god. However, one who devoted their life to their cult would, logically, receive more attention from their god. They've earned it.
-"Sorcerer" types for those with blood lines tainted by demonic, divine, or fairy influences.

What You Do
- Earn your fortune through perilous exploits (because farming's for suckers)
- Promote the agenda of your cult
- Defend your community from the influences of demons & fairies
- Seek out sources of immortal power for yourself
- Discover what lies beyond the known borders of your homeland

Where You Are
"The Kingdom," is such only in name, as only one of its major cities remains within the full power of its regent. Despite a history of wise leadership throughout their lineage, the benevolence of the royal line has allowed its subjects to choose the liberty of self governance. Though the rural folk still refer to the land as "the Kingdom," little effected by political upheaval, the larger urban centers have established independence from the crown.
The Royal City, though much reduced in influence, remains a center of culture, and diplomatic relations
The Crossroads is centrally located trade hub in the region, wherein the free market drives policy
The Port is a place of liberty & equality, where every man has a voice
The University is a modern institution, where a man's station is equal to his qualifications
The Garrison is a place of war, its mercenary army fed on tribute & the spoils of foreign foes
The Barbarian lands are wild places for those that reject the yoke of civilization

Example Adventures
- Your community has appointed you as a representative for some cause in an envoy to demand further freedoms from the King
- A military threat faces your community. The Garrison demands too high a fee, and none wish to compromise their independence by appealing to the crown
- As a resident of the crossroads, you earn your keep any way you can or starve
- A local crossroads trader is suspected of breaking the one law, disrupting fair trade
- The crossroads is home to professional mercenary, thieves', & assassins' guilds that are never out of work
- A resident of the crossroads has, while travelling, committed a criminal act & now seeks to be hidden within the walls of his own lawless city
- You were abandoned by your parents in the crossroads before your own recollection, but now that you've become successful your birth parents wish to congratulate you and welcome you back into your life
- Born into a successful family of the crossroads, you have been privileged all of your life. But, as you have reached adulthood, your father has informed you that you will soon be relinquishing all of the possessions he has provided you, leaving home, and making your way on your own from now on.
- An important vote is coming up, you fear the wrong decision will be made, and know of no representative with the knowledge and charisma capable of garnering support for the cause
- On the eve of an important vote, a powerful representative bearing the rings & votes of many citizens has gone missing
- A vote has been cast but, upon audit, has been found to contain more rings than the city does citizens. The source of this corruption must be discovered and weeded out.
- The Port is a place of equality, for citizens & foreigners alike, yet something about the presence of rich Crossroads traders rubbing elbows with representatives in the halls of power is making you uneasy
- You are a young perspective student, desiring to leave your homeland and earn a place in the University
- You were born in the University, but have never had a knack for study or a keen hand at any trade. How can one who's good at nothing survive in such a competitive environment?
- A rogue researcher was removed from the University years ago, but word has reached the provost that he may have continued his unethical practices in secret somewhere else in the kingdom. This must be stopped before he can hurt their reputation. (A sadly prevalent problem, it is not uncommon for a woodsman to wander across the hidden towers of disgraced academics. The experiments of such men create no shortage of horrors for the unsuspecting rural folk.)
- Envoys from the Port & University have begun reaching out to foreign lands in the hopes of making peaceful relations that could jeopardize the livelihood of the Garrison
- Members of the Garrison know only warfare, and see much of it
- The Garrison has not been paid full tribute by one of the cities, risking an armed response lest the others follow suit
- Spoils have been poor for the Garrison as of late, and there is talk that their may not be enough fighting to fill the stores for winter
- As a "Hunter," of the barbarian lands, you must fight the land for your survival on a daily basis
- Though you wish nothing to do with them, the city folk of the Crossroads & Garrison tread far too often on the freedom of the Barbarian lands, & one of them has now invited himself into your community.
- Today you become a man within Hunter society. You must first complete the initiation ritual, however, and only then will you be able to hunt for your first trophy.
- Unwelcome in your home city, you set out for a place you feel you will belong - only to find that noone wants you there
- While travelling through the woods, you stumble upon the overgrown shrine of some old forgotten god. What power may lie within? Why was this place abandoned? If he still lives, might he reward you for freeing his shrine from obscurity?
- While on the hunt, you glimpse a golden mane, the mark of a creature which survived pursuit by The Great Hunter, the greatest trophy one can ever hope to bag
- Etc. Etc.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

D&D 5c, Community Edition

So, Wizards is currently trying to design a new version of D&D, with the support of the community. With that in mind, I see no better way to help that along than by showing them the game that the community itself would make. To that end, I'm going to try my hand at drafting up a community-built 5th edition. Feel free to add and comment on this extremely rough first draft/outline.

Absolute Guidelines
- Nothing is sacred, save the game itself
- The rules should attempt to be familiar to those who've played previous editions of the game, while improving upon these designs. If it's constant across all editions, it should probably be in. If it's part of the game's parlance, it should definitely be in.
- Ideally, this should be, in essence, the game you've already been playing.
- The rules shouldn't be designed for how you wish something worked flavor wise, but support how it has always been in D&D, yet improved. D&D Elves, Halflings, and Dwarves should still be D&D Elves, Halflings, and Dwarves. Etc.
- You're goal shouldn't be to make the game more like any one edition, but to find a happy mean between each that we can all agree upon.
- These rules do not necessarily need try to match what we know of WotC's current working version of the 5th edition rules. After all, the goal here is to advise them.
- The core design philosophy should be to first establish the barest bones of the game, then build optional components onto that for those that would like more depth without interfering with those who do not.

My Preferences
- I believe we should go for a "grow out, not up" design with 5e. We've always spoken of the "sweet spot," where the monsters are fun to fight. I believe that characters should always be within this power level and, rather than gaining static bonuses as they advance, should become more versatile rather than simply more powerful. Thus, while better able to take on their opposition, they never outpace it entirely. Some power increase is good, but not nearly to the degree seen in previous editions of the game.
- With the current setup, a new player, or one that simply doesn't want to get bogged down with rules, can simply roll their ability scores, assume that they are a human, apply their class features, and begin playing the game without a single other step. I love that simplicity, and that this is possible without losing a shred of 3.5's character creation depth (in the long-run) or 4e's combat tactics.

Open Questions
- Armor as AC, or should we move on to the defenses structure and do armor as DR.
- Should shields provide a static bonus or be more active tools?
I've left these as per standard D&D because of our guidelines and goals, but I don't consider either of these to be sacred cows, especially if the Reflex defense remains.

This represents an area where I see room for design improvement, but have chosen to go with someone simple and classic in order to keep the rules simple and familiar. Generally, this would be a place for expanded rules in additional material.

This represents comments on the design, not stuff that would actually go into a compiled version the rules.

All numerical data is, at this stage, completely spit-balled.


Chapter 1: HOW TO PLAY
Same stuff, different book.

Core Mechanic
1d20 + Ability Score + Skill Modifier + Misc Modifier, attempting to overcome some set difficulty #
A natural 20, a 20 showing on the face of the rolled die, is considered a "critical success" and always automatically succeeds.
(of course)


Determine your character's 6 primary statistics, or "Ability Scores," Charisma, Constitution, Dexterity, Intelligence, Strength, and Wisdom, by rolling 3d6 for each.

For each ability score, (Ability-10)/2 = the "Ability Modifier" for that score. Round up.

Step 2: RACE
Do we really still need to call them "races?"
Choose a race. Note that, in addition to these features, further race-specific features will become available to your character as you progress.

This design is intentionally simple in order to reduce both complexity and the possibility of any one race being overly linked with a given character class. 
Things such as racial weapon preferences, Stone Cunning, etc. can be handled via character features with racial pre-requisites. The more traits we give each race, the more each member becomes closer to being the same character. See: my opinion on that.

+2 Str, -2 Cha, -2 Int
Chromatic Dragon Herritige: Choose the color of your scales. This will determine the type of damage dealt by your Dragon Breath ability.
Dragon Breath: Ranged Attack vs Reflex, 6m Blast, XdY (z)damage.

+2 Con, -2 Cha, -2 Dex
Low Light Vision: You can see as well as a human in half as much light, though colors are be muted.

+2 Dex, -2 Con, -2 Wis

Low Light Vision: You can see as well as a human in half as much light, though colors are be muted.
Fey Origin: Your ancestors were native to the Feywild, so you are considered a fey creature for the purpose of effects that relate to creature origin.


Gnomes are similar in height to Halflings, though they retain child-like proportions throughout life.

+2 Dex, -2 Int, -2 Str, -2 Wis
Beast Tongue: You can speak with animals, though they remain limited by their intelligence.
Low Light Vision: You can see as well as a human in half as much light, though colors are be muted.
Small: Your relatively small size will often result in contextual modifiers to rolls.

Fey Origin: Your ancestors were native to the Feywild, so you are considered a fey creature for the purpose of effects that relate to creature origin.


Halflings are roughly half the size of Humans, though identically proportioned.

+4 Dex, -2 Con, -2 Str,
Small: Your relatively small size will often result in contextual modifiers to rolls.

You are of a mixed heritage, displaying traits from each side of your bloodline.
Choose your non-human parent race. Lose one beneficial and one negative trait from that race. In place of a trait, you may increase/reduce a racial ability score bonus by 2.
For example, a Half Elf born to a Human mother could trade in lose their +2 Dex and -2 Con modifiers, but still have her father's -2 Wis and Low Light Vision. Her twin brother, however, may have +2 Dex, -2 Con, but no Low Light Vision.
This seems closer to ideal, and rather simple, but does still require the player (or DM at-least) have some fleeting grasp of game balance, as simple as it is made, and does exclude non-human combinations. The options does exist to do it this way, but clearly mark which racial traits are considered positive and negative in the formatting.

No special rules.

+4 Strength, -2 Intelligence, -2 Wisdom, -2 Charisma
Low Light Vision: You can see as well as a human in half as much light, though colors are be muted.

-2 Wis

Demonic Origin: Your ancestors trafficked with demons, and in doing so tainted your bloodline. You are considered a demonic creature for the purpose of effects that relate to creature origin.

Low Light Vision: You can see as well as a human in half as much light, though colors are be muted.

Step 3: CLASS
Choose a Class.
I'm not a fan of Wizards' choice of branching out beyond a few core classes. If anything, 4e's design goals should really have resulted in "Defender, Leader, etc." classes - with variants like "Cleric" and "Warlord." As far as I can tell, constantly introducing new classes has 2 major results.
A) More class specific rules/feats/powers that the majority of characters can not use.
B) Requiring the purchase of more books to use all classes.
Selling books isn't a bad thing, but I'm of the opinion that fewer books with better rules will make more money than a ton of lower quality content.

I'm also not a fan of prestige classes. At least as traditionally handled. Feats can carry that weight.

You are a servant of a higher power.
+1 to Religion rolls.
+1 Will Defense
Compel: You can issue simple commands to chosen creatures of your deity, even if they would not normally be capable of understanding you. (Wis vs Will, if resisted, one creature within line of sight)
Defender of the Faith: If your deity has a favored weapon, you gain the "weapon proficiency" feature with that weapon, and the +1 bonus to attacks it provides.
Divine Magic: You may cast all 1st level divine spells (see spells for rules).
Rebuke: You may make repel creatures anathema to your deity, even if they would not normally be capable of understanding you, knowing fear, or feeling pain. (Wis vs Will, one creature within line of sight )


+1 to Athletics, Endurance, and Intimidate rolls.
+1 Fortitude defense.

Military Training: You gain a +1 attack bonus with all non-exotic weapons and  +1 defense bonus with all non-exotic armor & shields, as if you had taken all of their respective "armor/weapon/shield proficiency" features.

+1 to Stealth and Sleight of Hand rolls.
+2 Reflex defense.

+1 to Arcana rolls.
+1 Will defense.
Magic: You know 1d6 random 1st level spells (see spells for rules).
Feyburn: You know magic to be somehow linked to the Feywild, and thus like many Fey, anathema to metal. Wearing metal armor results in penalties when casting magic.

Step 3: SKILLS (optional)
Your character may be particular efficient in certain areas of expertise. If so, you may choose take a +1 bonus to rolls with that given skill, but take a -1 to rolls for another skill. Time spent on one interest necessarily precludes another. This may be done as many times as you please.

The following is a highly recommended list of standard skills which should cover all areas of specialization without being so specific as to complicate or reduce their use in the average session.

Acrobatics (Dex)
Arcana (Int)
Athletics (Str)
Bluff (Cha)
Bushcraft (Int)
Diplomacy (Cha)
Endurance (Con)
Engineering (Int)
Heal (Int)
History (Int)
Insight (Wis)
Intimidate (Cha) 
Perception (Wis)
Religion (Int)
Sleight of Hand (Dex)
Stealth (Dex)
Streetwise (Int)

HP = x+Con*y
AC = 10 + Armor + Shield + Dex
Fortitude Defense = 10 + Con + Misc
Reflex Defense = 10 + Dex + Misc
Will Defense = 10 + Wis + Misc

You start with xdy silver to buy whatever you need.

There should be a generic melee & ranged attack, on the character sheet itself for characters who do not wish to bother with equipment. This should be no stronger or weaker than any other weapon of its type, and do bludgeoning/hacking/slashing/piercing damage depending on context. 
For example, the generic attack may be 1d20+STR to hit & deal 1d6 (x)damage, while a short sword might be 1d20+STR to hit & deal 1d4+1 (slash or piercing)damage. Statistically they are identical, but the latter more accurately simulates the intended weapon. Both players could be wielding the same weapon. One simply knows and cares about what a short sword is, while the other only knows that it's a melee weapon he picked up off of that dead goblin.
The default attack should be mechanically simple (1dX vs 2dX+Y bludgeoning, reroll 1s) and unremarkable, dealing very standard damage rather than hitting any extremes.

Whenever you advance in level, choose a new character feature for which you qualify from "Chapter 6: Character Features."

If a group has decided that they would like their characters to be more complex and differentiated at character creation, they may simply agree to each select an agreed upon number of character features, effectively beginning at a higher level. As the game is advancing out & not up, there should be little appreciable difference in the group's over-all combat efficacy.

Greater depth into the various race options, full of context and role-playing advice. This chapter could be removed from a short & sweet reference version of the rules.

Greater depth into the various class options, full of context and role-playing advice. I don't expect there to be any kind of 4e style "powers," nor am I currently using class specific advancement at the moment. Thus, there is no reference material for this chapter and, if this remains the case, it could be removed from a short & sweet reference version of the rules.

Chapter 4: SKILLS
Greater depth into the various skills, what they cover, and examples of common uses. This chapter could be completely missing, covered simply by one line descriptions of the skills in Chapter 2 in a short & sweet reference version of the rules. The examples of use are really more useful to the DM, and the use of skills at all is already optional.

Herin lies the bulk of the book. Since we're taking a lot of the core complication out, the best place to return optional complexity would be within the game's "feats." Reducing the emphasis on linear progression also increases the importance of this section in differentiating characters. 
A major benefit to the "versatility not power" version of progression is that characters will not have any concrete limit on the # of feats they will be able to select over the course of their journeys. Furthermore, there would be far less reason for levels to become increasingly less common. This both de-emphasizes ideal builds and puts less stress on individual feat choices. There would no longer be "mistakes" made during character advancement. Otherwise interesting but under-powered feats become a viable option when the greatest limiter on character progression is time at the table, rather than a level cap.
For all intents and purposes, you character features are what will define the character in the long run.

- Add double your STR bonus to attacks when wielding 2h weapons.
- Gain an attack of opportunity on any adjacent target either turning their back on or moving more than 2m away from you on their turn.
- Gain an attack of opportunity on any adjacent target attempting to make a ranged attack.

- Gain an attack of opportunity on any adjacent target attempting to cast a spell.
- Power attack
- Cleave

Chapter 6: EQUIPMENT

Insert items here. Be sure to include misc items to inspire creativity in the players.

It may be worth having penalties on armor equal to the benefits, in order to better allow new players to play with only ability scores, a class, and human as their race (no rules).

See: Chapter 2:Character Creation, Step 5: Equipment about the generic attacks for players who wish to eschew buying arms and armor.

Chapter 7: MAGIC
De-emphasizing the class chapter means putting the divine/arcane magic in its own chapter.

Need the two magic types retain individual lists?

Let's do away with traditional spell levels. The nomenclature makes no sense, is incredibly confusing for new players, and doesn't jive with our "grow out not up" concept.

A thing that adventurers tend to do.

Chapter 9: COMBAT
Melee Attack = STR+Weapon vs Reflex (Add STR to damage)
Ranged Attack = DEX+Weapon vs Reflex

Any roll of a natural 20 (the number on the face of the die being 20) is considered a critical hit, always hitting the target and dealing double damage.

If you would like to use a grid, treat each space as being 2m in diameter.

So, thoughts? Anyone else want to jump in on the project? (If so, probably best to move this over to a Google doc.)

Saturday, January 28, 2012

RPG Races

So, most RPGs feature "races." The term is an artifact, has unfortunate connotations, and we should have universally switched to "species" a long time ago - but I digress.

I'm not racist! I havean Elven friend.
In every single RPG I've played, that has the feature, from D&D to WoW, you have some races that are simply better choices for a given class than others. Go look on the official D&D forums for 3e, 3.5e, or 4e and you'll see the same thing. "X's Fighter/Cleric/Etc. Guide," a ridiculously well researched break down of every possible choice for building a character. One of the first issues is always race, of which there is usually a list of only 2 or 3 ideal choices. 

For example, a Dwarf makes a good fighter, and a crappy wizard - in everything.

In 4e D&D, Dwarves are resistant to poison, can heal themselves more quickly than others, are resistant to being moved, tougher and wiser, but have slightly slow movement. Writing off poison resistance, both of those other special features help them effectively stand between angry things and other characters.

In WoW, they get "Gun Specialization" and "Mace Specialization," which increasing damage with those weapons; "Frost Resistance" and "Stoneform," damage mitigating abilities; and "Explorer" which provides more loot from archaeological sites. A whopping 4/5 of those are combat based, 3/5 specifically fitting into the "tank" role, and the other one is class agnostic. This, in combination with a very high Strength & Stamina, but low Agility, make them obviously superior as martial combatants.

For the proof of this, a census of WoW shows usthat 24% of Dwarves are Hunters, 22% are Paladins, 21% are Shamans (similar to Paladins, still prone to melee combat), 11% are Warriors, 8% are Priests, 6% are Death Knights, 4% are rogues, and Mages and Warlocks make up only 2% each of the population. Out of 3,058,888 distance characters, only 3009, one in every 1000 are Dwarven Mages.

Skin color, size, hell - you don't even have to have a beard - but you damn well better be a warrior.
From both a game design & business perspective, having a feature (Dwarven Mage) that only 1 in 1000 players will use is bad news. It's simply a waste of resources.

From a roleplay perspective, it sucks that the rules serve as a disincentive against a particular character build, effectively punishing players for wanting to go against the grain. Though this is possible, the peer pressure of allies knowing you could be performing your role more effectively and the persistent idea that you are objectively playing the game "wrong" are hard to fight, as numbers show.

Why is this such a global problem? Well, the popular conception of Dwarves comes directly from J.R.R. Tolkien's works - wherein every featured Dwarven character, to the man, is a warrior.

My axe, his axe, it doesn't really matter.
A google image search provides empirical evidence of it. Every dwarf on the first page is a warrior. It's not until page 2 that we start seeing Disney's Dwarves, but other than a few of those throughout, its still warriors. After that, we get pictures of them as smiths, then merchants, then engineers. It isn't until page 8 that (at the moment) we see the first non-warrior Dwarf, a female druid.

The "white goat" of her family.
It is a problem because:
A) RPGs are built upon character options. This has come to define the genre as much as the concept of Role Play (see: computer RPGs existing). Effectively limiting these options unnecessarily makes your RPG worse at this cornerstone of the game.
B) If you DO offer the option, despite it being an objectively poor choice, you are creating content that will be rarely used and thus wasting resources.


What we need to do is ensure that each race can play each role equally well. How? Provide specific "racial features" per race/class combination. As a general example, here are some spitballed things Dwarves are traditionally good at that fit within the fortes of the basic D&D classes:

-Cleric: Incredible composure and strength of faith [read: resistance to evil compulsion] (Tolkien's are notoriously stubborn and traditional). Better with defensive buff spells. If you get to choose between gods, and there are Dwarven/Non-Dwarven choices, some bonus for choosing their own gods. Very subjective to setting - due to particular gods.
-Rogue: Better with mechanical devices (craftsmen, engineers, and architects), especially stonework. Perhaps slightly improved night-vision (living underground) - nothing that would make the rogues seem like a different biological organism - just a case of specialized training to enhance their natural strengths.
-Warrior: Better with axes & hammers, heavy armor and shields (they tend to be heavy, armored guys rather than light, agile, harriers or cavalrymen). Perhaps good at standing their ground.
-Wizard: Runic magic.( They're good at spells that function by marking a spot/item.) Enchanting items.

In addition, each race should have at least one universal trait, be it ability scores, poison resistance, or what have you, to make sure that there is a sense that these characters do have essential elements in common. If ability scores are used, it is important that these are not more important than choice between Race/Class combo traits, lest the whole exercise be pointless.

Let's look at WoW's dwarf again. We could keep the exploring skill as a universal feature, but only gun skill for hunters, the hammer skill for warriors & paladins, the frost resistance for mages & warlocks, and the stone form for shaman and druids. That less than ideal, because the features still lean towards melee combat, but it gives you a good and unique reason to choose such combinations.

The result of this is better both for the game and for the setting's flavour. It's not that all Dwarves are warrior craftsmen of stout faith, but that Dwarven warriors tend to be this, their cult is known for its stout unwaveringness, their merchants tend to deal in mechanism and metalcrafts, and their wizards share ancient secrets of enhancing magic via the written word. It gives the species dimensions, rather than having each member basically be "like Gimli, but -"

Friday, January 27, 2012

D&D 5e & Happy Coincidences

So, as anyone who's into D&D probably knows by now, there's a new edition in the works. The key concept? Scaling complexity.

Oddly enough, I'd had a little inspiration a few months ago and had hit upon the same idea. I never went anywhere with it because, upon showing it to my primary collaborator, it received a resounding meh.

Still, figured I'd post what I'd had here for the sake of it. That IS supposed to be the idea of this blog after all.
THE GAME- Concept: A rule system designed to be incredibly simple and intuitive (playable from memory) while allowing for as much depth as the players want.- Features: Requires only a d6 Requires no other accessories, even a character sheet (though writing things down is... good) Can be played purely from memory (gotta avoid feats/perks because of this. not sure if this will ENTIRELY remain the case for DMs, as referencing tables and such is useful, but certainly for players. At minimum I’d like to leave the door open to DMs playing from memory. E.G. you can look up the stats on a skeleton, but it’s completely possible to spit ball them off the top of your head as well.) Scalable complexityA player can choose to define skills and shop for the perfect combination of arms/armor, or can simply roll 1d6 for their 6 basic stats and assume that each hand = 1d6 damage. The two approaches are compatible with one another, side by side, within the same game, with no effective balance difference beyond the greater degree of tactical options available to the more in-depth player. Classless Setting Independent (with some notes here and there for my own use that DO tie into mine)
Resolution Mechanic: Statistic+1d6 vs Static value or opposed Stat+1d6 roll.
Example A: Jack wants to walk a balance beam. His Agility statistic is 4. His host decides that this is an average difficulty task, and informs him that he will need a result of at least 7 to succeed. Jack rolls a 3, and crosses successfully, as 4+3>=7.
Example B: Jack & Jill are engaging in an arm wrestling competition. Jack’s Strength statistic is 3, while Jill’s is 5. Jack rolls a 2, while Jill rolls a 1. Jill wins, as 5+1>3+2. On a tie, they would have had to re-roll. In combat, however, ties are given to the attacker.
-  To Do:
Determine HP derivation
Install Magic system
Add armor
Add more complete weapons listing, perhaps re-organizing things
Add enemies & enemy generation rules
Add misc goods listing
Determine starting Gold/item value
-  To Do:
-Current Working Problems:
The reliance on a single, small die means that static modifiers count for a lot. IE: It’s always possible for someone with the worst possible attack stat to hit someone with the best possible defense stat (1d6+1[=7] vs 1d6+6[=7], but only BEFORE situational modifiers are applied. This in itself I’m not all-together too concerned about, however I AM concerned as to weather or not the weapon damage system I have in place is negatively effected by this.
As it stands, the base damage of a weapon is 1d6, then it takes penalties as it gains more features, trading versatility for raw power. E.G. A longsword deals an average of 2.5 dmg one-handed vs a broadsword’s 3.5, and 6 dmg two-handed vs a barbarian(2-handed) sword’s 7, but the user can switch between the two options at-will.
I’m concerned as to weather this overly penalizes the more versatile weapons. A spear, for example, has the double, reach, and thrown qualities. Ideally, this would make the spear a very popular choice. I’ll simply have to playtest things a bit once I have HP worked out.
It may not be a problem at all, especially in light of the “minimum 1-damage on a successful attack” stipulation, but it is a concern.
So far, I have mitigated the problem by not penalizing weapons with multiple damage options at all. A proper sword is just better than a sickle sword. There’s a reason that Halberds grew so popular. This is a calculated choice however, as in the setting I’ve been using these weapons are balanced by their lack of availability to the players, requiring a special trip to their place of origin for acquisition - thus creating natural adventure hooks in-system.



All players must, minimally, derive the six essential statistics of their characters. All characters have an identical list of statistics ranging from 1 to 5, with 3 being average, 1 extremely poor, and 5 exceptionally gifted.
Agility A character’s balance & mobility, affecting their ability to move quickly and quietly.
Dexterity A character’s fine motor skills, affecting their ability to manipulate with their hands.
Intelligence A character’s mental acuity.
Perception A character’s awareness and analysis of their surroundings.
Strength A character’s raw physical might.
Willpower A character’s resolve and influence, social and sorcerous, upon the world around them.
Players divide 18 points amongst their 6 statistics.

Step 2: SKILLS (Optional)

If a player wishes, they may choose to define their character’s abilities in greater detail. Skills are specific areas of expertise or weakness for a character. They represent special cases in which a number other than the normal governing statistic should be used to determine a character’s chance of success. Though a character’s Agility may be 3, for example, they may be especially stealthy(4) but have poor balance (2).
Like the essential statistics, skills range from 1 to 5. By default, it is assumed that all skills governed by a given statistic are equal to that statistic’s value. A player may choose to increase the value of a single skill by lowering that of another. The two skills need not be governed by the same attribute.
The following is a non-exhaustive list of suggested skills to use in your games.
Agility Acrobatics, Balance, Stealth
Dexterity Axes, Blades, Bludgeons, Marksmanship, Polearms, Shields,
Intelligence Alchemy, Bushcraft,
Perception Empathy, Hearing, Sight
Strength Athletics, Endurance
Willpower Charm, Deception, Intimidation, Sorcery

Step 3: FAULTS (Optional)

For dramatic purposes, a player may choose particular character faults or physical problems a character may have. These are not simply areas in which the character is untalented or uneducated, i.e. low skills, but essential obstacles to the character achieving their goals. A holy man of a benevolent deity, for example, will find gently persuading information from a captive far more difficult than beating it from him. Likewise, a knight with a crippling phobia of horses may find himself unable to properly aid his allies in a cavalry battle.
When a character fault becomes relevant, the player, and their allies in turn, will suffer for it. A character committed to absolute honesty may, for example, come right out and confess their plans to the team’s adversary, or an acrophobic character may automatically fail a skill check to cross a tightrope. As the character is choosing to fail for the sake of drama, however, they should be rewarded with the ability to dramatically circumvent the game’s mechanics for their benefit as well.
Any time a player suffers a significant setback (complication of or failure to overcome an obstacle) due to their character’s faults, that player is rewarded with a free re-roll of any die roll of their choice in the future. Players may, and are advised to, hold on to these rolls for use in dramatic moments when, though statistics may not be on their side, it would be narratively interesting, i.e. cool for their character to perform an otherwise risky maneuver.
This system should not be seen as a way of improving a character, however, but simply making characters and games more interesting. If the host notices a definite trend towards players using faults as a means of ensuring success, the host is likely either treating the faults themselves too lightly or giving out free re-rolls too cheaply. That being said, there’s nothing wrong with playing the Hunchback of Notre Dame and working your faults for all their dramatic worth.


All players begin with a full set of clothing, provisions as appropriate for their travels, and X copper coins.
If a player wishes, they may choose to detail their character’s equipment by spending some those coins before the game begins (see the Equipment chapter).
Techniques (Learned from others, intentionally or not)


Armor is classified only by it’s material.
Sorcerers will find that they can not cast magic while touching metal, making most armor impractical.
Barbarian AxeB 2d6 2h, Hack
Barbarian HammerB 2d6 2h, Bash
Barbarian SwordB 2d6 2h, Slash
Bow Draw, Ranged
Dagger 1d6-1 Small, Stab
Dagger, Throwing 1d6-2 Small, Stab, Thrown
Double SwordSt 1d6-1 2h, Double, Slash, Stab
Crossbow, LightT Load, Ranged
Crossbow, HeavyT Load(Full Turn), Ranged
Hand Spear 1d6 Stab
Sabre 1d6 Slash
KnifeSh 1d6-1 Slash, Small, Stab
Knife, ThrowingSh 1d6-2 Slash, Small, Stab, Thrown
LongswordSh 1d6-1 Bastard, Slash, Stab
Shield 1d6-1 Bash, Block
ShortswordSh 1d6 Slash, Stab
Spear 1d6-2 Double, Stab, Reach, Thrown
Staff 1d6-1 2h, Bash, Double
Unarmed 1d6-2 Bash, may incur damage yourself
Gauntlet - Modifies the material bonus of unarmed attacks.
Superscript indicates limited in-setting availability
2h Requires the use of both hands.
Bash Can deal bashing damage, ignoring half of a target’s armor.
Bastard Deals an additional die of damage when wielded with 2 hands.
Bifurcating A double weapon which may be split into a pair of 1h weapons and rejoined.
Block Can forgo this hand’s use next turn in order to reduce an incoming source of damage by 1d6.
Double Treat as either two 1h weapons or a single bastard weapon.
Draw Weapon must be readied before each shot.
Hack Can deal hacking damage, doubling the final damage.
Load Weapon must be reloaded after each shot.
Ranged Weapon can hit targets within line of sight.
Reach Has a melee range of 4 meters (only when wielded in both hands)
Small Can easily be concealed in the hand or on one’s person.
Slash Can deal slashing damage, causing recurring damage equal to that dealt (does not stack).
Stab Can deal stabbing damage, ignoring armor completely if actual damage is dealt.
Thrown Can be effectively used either in melee or thrown as a ranged weapon.
Unarmed/Armored 0
Leather/Stone/Wood 1
Copper 2 (Fairywood)
Bronze 3
Iron 4
Steel 5
A well or poorly made weapon or suit of armor may gain an additional +1/-1 modifier and/or benefit from special features, such as the bifurcating feature for double weapons.


7 = Normal difficulty
The rules as presented here assume a classical bronze age setting. To create a more traditional fantasy feel, simply apply the following changes:
-Consider steel to be a +0 material, with material bonuses deriving either from fantastic materials or magical enchantments.
-Ignore weapon availabilities based on location or technology, and feel free to add exotic weapons. A katana, for example, would be statistically identical to a longsword.


Turn = Move & One action w/ each hand
(ie 1 attack w/ a 2h weapon, 2 attacks w/ 2h weapons, or a block and attack)
Melee Damage = Weapon+STR (Min 1)
Double STR bonus when wielding 2 handed 
May simplify to simply blocking/dealing 1d6/hand for ultralight games.
Improvised Weapons: Treat as the closest equivalent weapon above, but consider the item’s materials and workmanship. A sledgehammer and a bar stool would, as 2 handed bludgeons, both effectively be barbarian hammers, but, as a tool, the sledgehammer will be more durable. Neither, of course, will last as long as a proper weapon and neither is likely, in a bronze age setting, to be made of bronze.
Resolution Mechanic: Statistic+1d6 vs Static value or opposed Stat+1d6 roll. Example A: Jack wants to walk a balance beam. His Agility statistic is 4. His host decides that this is an average difficulty task, and informs him that he will need a result of at least 7 to succeed. Jack rolls a 3, and crosses successfully, as 4+3>=7. Example B: Jack & Jill are engaging in an arm wrestling competition. Jack’s Strength statistic is 3, while Jill’s is 5. Jack rolls a 2, while Jill rolls a 1. Jill wins, as 5+1>3+2. On a tie, they would have had to re-roll. In combat, however, ties are given to the attacker.
edit: Wow, sorry for the ridiculous formatting error.