Alternate titles might be "Fucking Nel" or "Fucking Players" or "Fucking Level Based Systems"
One of the things I did this weekend was sit down with the Nel and cram them into Pathfinder's rules. It still doesn't work perfectly, and it never will. Pathfinder is too rigid of a system to fit things like the Nel into. They would work super well in GURPS by representing the active uses of their Gifts as wildcard skills. Man, that would be, I don't even know, so fucking easy it would hurt. Anyway.
So this morning (Tuesday) I sat down with my Google Drive document and an empty pdf character sheet. I made a Sarownel Lastborn named Bob. Bob is a level 10 Ranger (Skirmisher) with the natural weapons combat style. Bob is 304 years old (that matters, it'll make sense later). Then I ran some numbers.
The players fucked Bob so hard that Herowen felt it in The Nightmare Lands.
Good for them. I hate the Sarownel and I hope they all die. So then I made Andorian, which is a fucking joke. Andorian is a 7000 year old Utenel Lastborn that avoided the Breaking. Andorian is a Fighter (Free Hand Fighter) 10/Duelist 10/Aristocrat 5/Ranger (Trapper) 5. Which is fucking laughable. I'll explain why.
One of the things that has recently been gnawing at me about the class and level based system is that it implies you can stop getting better. Which, yeah, you can plateau. Eventually you cannot get faster or stronger. In the real fucking world. We have to ignore this, because this is a game that believes as one of its underpinnings that the physical damage dealt to human bodies by electricity is not fire damage, but is instead something else. This is a system that believes that how suave you are should be tied to the same ability score that measure dragon ancestor strength and undead lifeforce. This is the system that believes as one of its core concepts that hit points, which are affected by Constitution, also represent your ability to dodge blows.
Side note, I might buy that if you lost hit points every time an attack missed you. But you don't, so it's bullshit abstract nonsense they like to pretend they thought really hard about before instituting.
Anyway. You can't plateau in Pathfinder. You get better forever. A human can somehow support a 20 in Strength, even though burly blacksmith Strength occurs around 12-14. There is no limit on how powerful you can become. Except level 20. Once you hit 20, you should probably take levels in other classes. So when you get that 21st level after being a Fighter for 20 of them and want to maintain that +1 per level base attack bonus your options are Ranger or Barbarian or Paladin. So you either suddenly develop illiteracy (not really) and violent rages, a knack for hunting that you've never had, or you suddenly become a holy warrior (whether you've RPed and sort of religious affinity or not).
That's really fucking dumb. Luckily, I'm not. Pathfinder classes are designed to follow progressions. Everything improves at a set rate, so you just extrapolate on into 21st level and beyond. There's no reason to take levels in something you don't want to, or in something that makes no sense for your character. Ok, to be fair, Pathfinder suggests this in the core book, so I guess they're not completely dumb.
Another aspect of this system is the generally low level long lived folks you find hanging around campaign worlds. I did some research on this recently.
Have you heard of Elminster? Elminster is an iconic NPC of the Forgotten Realms campaign setting created by Ed Greenwood and murdered by 4th Edition. What they did to it to cram it into the 4th Edition rules makes me want to vomit. Elminster is a big deal. He is a big name in a sort of secret society dedicated to good called the Harpers and is associated with the group of good guys known as the Knights of Myth Drannor. Or it's the other way around, can't remember. Elminster was also the boyfriend of the goddess of magic. When she died he took on a sort of grandfatherly role to the new goddess of magic, a young human. Elminster is also one of the Chosen of Mystra (the goddess of magic in Forgotten Realms). This means he has a lot of neat powers involving magic because he's got a chunk of Mystra's divine might within him. He also has something called spellfire, which does a lot of crazy shit but mostly centers on absorbing magic and using it to do crazy shit like hurl fire, heal, fly, etc.
Elminster started life as a young human adventurer. He went out and adventured and did stuff and fought bad dudes and so on. He was pretty good at it because he's still alive and kicking. He's been to the Nine Hells, fucked dragons, fought and killed avatars of gods, stood up to the god of the gods, saved the world, and so on. Elminster has been around for 1267 years fighting and plotting and such in the name of good.
Elminster is a Wizard 24/Archmage 5/Cleric 9/Rogue 2/Fighter 1. Those are his 3.5 stats, the same system of rules that Pathfinder uses. If we do the math, and assume that Elminster was almost 21 before gaining his first level of Fighter, Elminster has gained levels at a rate of 1 level every 30.4 years. Even accounting for Pathfinder/3.5's ridiculously retarded concept of only monster killing and trap avoidance granting xp, that's insane. This dude is an adventurer. He fought and killed an avatar of Bane. He fought his way up out of Hell with his brain (literally, he had no magic at the time). Fine, yeah, we're talking gazillions of experience points to level after a certain point, but still. Point: he averaged gaining a level every 30.4 years.
Ok, so now we have some hard math for important and iconic NPCs and calculating their levels and such. Good. Thanks Wizards. You guys are swell.
So I set about creating Andorian after making Bob the Sarownel Lastborn. Andorian has been around for 7000 years. Andorian's first level was Aristocrat, and he got it when he was less than a second old. Andorian also spent 4000 or so years in a box. So I guess only 3000 years count for him. He probably wasn't doing too much monster killing and trap removing in there. Probably too busy wishing for death and being wracked by pain and whatnot.
Using our previously established math for important long lived NPCs, and accounting for Andorian's long stay in his box, he should be a 98th level character. Andorian has fought in wars, has hunted magical beasts and dragons for sport, and has founded nations. Andorian is a big deal. He was active for three thousand years. He didn't just sit around doing nothing. This is a dude that was out and about doing things. So he should be 98th level.
Even if we upgrade him to Fighter 20/Ranger 20/Aristocrat 20/Duelist 10, where do we put the other 48 levels? Split them between Fighter and Ranger? In Dog's name, how many fucking favored terrains and enemies can one Nel have? You would run out of fucking feats if you did that. Where the fuck do you put skill points? At a certain point, you stop needing to put ranks in Swim and Climb and Acrobatics. I'd probably give him 98 ranks in Intimidate and just scare the PCs into doing every little thing he wants.
I fucking hate this level based bullshit. Side note, as a Fighter 10/Duelist 10/Ranger 5/Aristocrat 5, Andorian has regeneration 15, or fast healing 15. I can never decide which it should be for Nel. They regenerate limbs and stuff, but their regeneration can't be impeded and doesn't keep restoring them to life like regeneration does. Once they hit negative hit points equal to their Constitution plus their Gift level, they're dead. It's closer to fast healing than regeneration, but fast healing doesn't restore limbs. At least I don't think it does. Whatever. Andorian regains 15 hit points every round, and he has 276 hit points.
Part of me is starting to regret the presence of the Nel in the campaign. Not because I haven't enjoyed the excuse the guys have given me to bring out my favorite race, but because of their complicated nature. Cary told me that the Nel are basically the gods of my campaign, which is interesting to me. They're not.
What is a god in DnD? It's a hugely powerful creature. So powerful that it can carve out a domain in the planes and fill it with devils or angels and petitioners and so on. A place where it can hear everything its followers say and see everything they do or that occurs in its temples from planes away.
Interesting note, Elminster is higher level than Thor in 3.5. Thor, as a god, can also see, hear, smell, touch, and taste things from up to 14 miles away. Gods are weird.
Anyway, the Nel aren't gods. They're just really fucking powerful. They're not omniscient or omnipotent, they don't have followers they draw strength from. They don't have planar realms they dwell in. They lack all kinds of godly characteristics. There are so many things that gods in Pathfinder/DnD can do that Nel can't. They're not gods. Nor are they demons or devils or angels or yugoloths or whatever.
Which is the main problem here. The guys are players, they have certain expectations when they see something in the game. Because Andorian can teleport and fling lightning bolts, Eric/Karl thinks he knows something about sorcery and Cary thinks he's a Magus. Nevermind that Nel can't even take levels in psionic or arcane classes, nevermind that he doesn't mutter incantations or use components in RPs, nevermind that he creates storms and has them linger around the tower for days. What about Evandor though? The guys haven't seen him do much of anything, but he's the more powerful Nel of the pairing. Evandor's levels are primarily composed of Aristocrat and Expert with a focus on Perform skills. So (some of??) the players have all these preconceived notions based on various monster manuals and such, which they won't let be affected by what they see in RPs or scenarios or background material. I mean, Sereth have pointed ears so they are Hekinoe's elves, right?
Sorry, Lance. That just never gets old. I'm not mad about anymore, if that helps. It just entertains me to mention it. Hehe.
So we're having an RP and whatnot and the guys are interacting with these five gods. What does Donovan do from safely behind the barrier another god put up to protect them? He mocks the Silver King. The Silver King is a 7000 year old Aubernel Lastborn, he's at least as powerful as Evandor. He's also arrogant, and through one of his Silver Guards, he threatened to kill Karl if he spoke directly to him again. Which is when Donovan decided to mock him.
What the fuck am I supposed to do with that? Seriously. What kind of fucking death wish do you little shits have? Do you hate your characters this much? Do you hate my campaign this much? Every fucking time I turn around someone is poking the Dog damn "gods" with a pointy stick and daring me to respond. I almost killed Eran already. I straight up rolled a d20 and gave Eran a 50/50 chance of Andorian walking away instead of zapping Eran to death. Luckily, it came down in Eran's favor and I didn't have to kill a player.
Look, here's my school of thought: PCs can't kill gods. That's stupid. Thor can hear you from 14 miles away. He can throw Mjolnir at least that far. You can't kill gods. A god can kill a god. An artifact can be used to weaken or harm a god enough that you can finish the job. You can kill an avatar of a god. But you cannot punch a god to death. Nor can you kill him on his home plane. He has armies of god crap at his command and he can to the plane into a box and go somewhere else and leave you there. Have you heard of Carceri?
Now even excluding my personal thoughts on gods, killing them seems like a 20th level kind of thing. Not 10th level. So why would you mock one that has displayed pettiness and arrogance and has a crap ton of power? One that only lives 3000 miles away on the same plane as you and has armies at its beck and call?
Like I said, I'm starting to regret the presence of the Nel in this campaign. I don't like this position I'm in. Members of the group have taken a very adversarial stance against the Nel, and there will be blowback for it. Fine, I ran the numbers and a Sarownel is likely an easy conquest for them. But Sarownel calculate Nel crap using different guidelines than the Aubernel, and Utenel, and Feronel.
I dunno. I'm worried. If it comes down to it, what are they going to do against the Nel? They know nothing about them. There's no handy dandy monster manual entry for them to read to learn all their strengths and weaknesses. They can't make a Knowledge (The Planes), (Dungeoneering), or (Religion) check to learn anything about them either. I'm certainly not going to tell them anything about them. All they knows is what they've learned from the RPs.
They use something like sorcery, but don't need verbal, somatic, or material components and don't know anything about sorcery. They regenerate, and don't seem to be inconvenienced by having swords cutting through half their chest. This likely indicates resistance or immunity to critical hits and precision damage. Some at least have energy resistances. They've said their Gifts make them resistant to the sorcery of mortals. They don't sleep, eat, or breath. Some are shapeshifters. Some are undead. Some can kill with their voice. Some can teleport. Some commit genocide. I also told Cary that they are not as a race immune to mind-affecting effects. Finally, Andorian has 276 hit points. His class levels would account for 149 of them based on his first level being Aristocrat, but that leave 4.23 hit points per level unaccounted for. None of his classes provide bonus hit points and an 18 in Constitution would account for 4 per level, but where does the .23 come from? So something about their hit points are off as well.
Plus, they've encountered a single race of the Nel, the lastborn. There are six races in total and they are further differentiated by their various allegiances to six different courts of Nel, only four of which the players have encountered.
Maybe I'm too aware of things, but I have to believe I'm smarter than that. Some guy throws lightning bolts and teleports like its nothing and uses a 9th level Cleric spell with a maximum duration of a minute, but gives it a duration of over 24 hours, my response to him is going to be "Yes, sir. Thank you, sir. May I have another, sir?" and then when he leaves, I'm going to go take up farming and name myself Sven and pretend I never met him and never took that arrow to the knee. Because he is terrifying, and arrows hurt.
That is the appropriate response to the Nel (at least to some of them). Terror.
I'm not trying to scare anyone, and I am slightly exaggerating the behavior of the guys. It's just that I really don't want to hurt the guys with the Nel. The hundreds of them that are on their way to Orcunraytrel aren't going to be a problem. Well, not immediately. But the characters and the Nel don't know that (Nel cannot hear, smell, see, taste, and touch things up to 14 miles away like Thor can).
I dunno where I'm really going with this post here. Part of it was to mock levels, and another part was an excuse to collect all the information they have about the Nel in one place for their viewing. I guess I'm just concerned that I've backed the guys into a corner they don't realize they're in or don't know how to escape. I like the guys, I like this campaign. I like the fact that they are ready to fight Nel if they have to. I like the idea of watching (some) Nel die at the hands of mortals. I like the idea of them having to plot and plan to take out stronger Nel. I want to see what they come up with, the mistakes they make, the insights they surprise me with.
I guess this ultimately about me being a sadistic GM fuck. Heh. Oh well. I'm sure they'll all be fine.