Friday, December 25, 2015

GURPS Hekinoe Magic: Really? We're Doing This Again?

The answer is yes, yes we are definitely doing this again. There's a not completely ridiculous reason for it though, and I'm not changing that much from the previous iteration. Am I? I don't even know at this point.

First point, in previous versions of this system I've bounced between having sorcery and spells be Will based and IQ based and in the last version I did (IQ+Will)/2. Which is dumb. In GURPS Will is a score derived from IQ. However, Will is much cheaper to improve than IQ is. It takes 20 points to increase IQ and 5 to bump Will up by one. I'm going to follow a suggestion in GURPS Thaumatology and say that spells are based on your Magery level and (Will/2)+5. This makes it somewhat less cost effective for a player to jam points into Will, but still ensures you'll be able to have a decent base skill level with spells.

Previous versions of Hekinoe's magic used additional misfire checks when casting spells. I've come to the realization that that is unnecessary and overly clunky. In GURPS you already make a check to see if you cast the spell, and there are such things as critical failures and successes when casting spells. One of the limitations I've grown extremely fond of is Radically Unstable Magery from GURPS Thaumatology. The gist is that when you fail to cast a spell, it is automatically a critical failure. This limitation comes in three flavors. The first is that you can make a stabilization roll to see if you have the skill to turn a botched spell into a harmless failure. The second is that you get no stabilization roll, all failures are automatically critical failures. The third is the same as the second, except that you roll three times on the critical failure chart and the GM picks what he things is the worst option.

I've said before that one of my design guidelines with magic in Hekinoe is that I want it to be clunky and unwieldy. This is partly to simulate how fucking difficult it is to wield in Hekinoe. I've come to a realization though that the Radically Unstable Magery limitation more than satisfies what I need for my misfires and whatnot, and it doesn't require adding an additional check to the game. 

Looking at Radically Unstable Magery, if we change the language from critical failure to misfire, we've got our misfire checks built right into the system of casting spells. We can also, instead of creating charts and tables going over energy usage and the region of Hekinoe having a effective misfire skill, simply apply penalties to effective skill when casting spells. All we need to do now is use my misfire charts instead of the GURPS critical failure charts. 

Let's poke around with ambient sorcery levels and the effects they have on the continents. I have a table.

Yup. That is definitely a cropped screenshot of a spreadsheet. Don't judge me.  

You may be asking yourself what does that mean? And why is it so small? Let's give you some context. The ambient sorcerous energy levels of The Known World are very high (which is synonymous with very fucked). Fresgulen, which is the continent closest to The Known World, has high levels, Orcunraytrel has normal levels, and Inception has very low levels.

So when a hypothetical sorcerer, we'll call him Karl, casts a fireball spell in The Known World and has a skill level of 16 with the fireball spell, it gets an additional -2 penalty to effective skill level due to all the fucking magic trying to scoot through him into the world. Karl has to divert attention and energy to managing that sorcerous energy, so it is harder for him to cast spells. If he fails to cast a spell, it automatically misfires, regardless of what he rolls on his check. Karl also has mutations because he diverts some of that sorcerous energy away from his spells and into his flesh. Magic items he creates will also periodically explode.

If Karl went to Orcunraytrel for instance, he'd only have access to 10 energy for spells each round. He'd also stop developing mutations and could try to stabilize his failed spells. He'd also never have to worry about his enchanted items exploding.

There are two boons to having such fucked up magic in The Known World. Karl basically has unlimited energy to cast spells with. Most spells limit how much energy you can dump into them by your Magery advantage level. So if Karl has Magery 3, he can still only dump three energy per round into his fireball. However, some spells that would normally require multiple casters or a single caster dumping energy into a spell or item over a long period of time, don't in The Known World. FYI, I'm probably going to change infinite to something less insane but still ridiculously high like 100, rather than infinite. This is because I'm suddenly envisioning Karl rapid fire casting great wish all the live long day. This also means that because magic is so fucking prevalent, it makes enchanted items and devices easier to produce, reducing the costs of such things. I also just came up with an additional column about the recharge rate of powerstones. It's somewhat irrelevant to this conversation though, because this conversation is primarily about The Known World and powerstones aren't used for much more than powering enchanted items in The Known World.

So when do you apply more penalties to effective skill level with a spell? My whole concept of sorcery in Hekinoe works under the assumption that the majority of the spells in GURPS Magic exist, and if they were too unreliable due to excessive energy costs, they couldn't exist. So there's no penalty for the base amount of energy spent on a spell, but energy amount does affect misfire. So you apply a -1 to your effective skill level with a spell when you exceed the base amount of energy needed to cast the spell, and an additional -1 for exceeding further multiples of the spell's base energy cost. Base energy means one of two things: the lowest amount of energy necessary to cast the spell, or your Magery level for spells that allow you to put energy into a spell based on your Magery. Whichever is higher is considered the "base" amount needed to cast the spell. Let's return to Karl and his fireball.

As previously stated, Karl is casting fireball and has a base skill level of 16 with that spell. He gets a -2 to effective skill level due to The Known World's sorcerous energy levels, dropping it to 14 (which is still a respectable 90.7% chance of doing it right. Fireball lets you dump energy into it up to your Magery level each second for a maximum of three seconds before you complete casting it and hurl it. Karl's Magery is 3. Fireball deals 1d burning damage per energy spent on it, so Karl could throw a 3d fireball with a skill level of 14. If he dumped 1 - 3 more energy into it on the second turn, that would exceed the base amount needed to cast the spell and would impose an additional -1 penalty to effective skill level. If he decided to go three full turns at max energy input, he'd be casting a 9d burning fireball with an effective skill level of 12, which is only a 74.1% chance of success. Then he'd have to use the Innate Attack skill to throw it.

As another example, lets look at the extinguish fire spell (which Karl has a base skill level of 16 with), which is an area spell. Area spells have a base size of 1 yard, and casting extinguish fire costs 3 energy. Area spells can be customized, but it costs more energy. You simply multiply the base cost by the number of yards the area is going to be. So Karl's base cost for a 1 yard extinguish fire is 3, so basically he'll have an additional -1 penalty to effective skill level with extinguish fire for every yard after the first he wants to extinguish fires in. It looks like all area spells will operate a similar way.

Spells also become more unreliable the longer they exist. This is mostly only relevant to enchanted items and sorcerously created creatures and objects. Many spells have a specific duration that can be extended via more energy. With a spell that can be maintained, you basically roll against your effective skill level as if you were casting it again when you maintain it. Every duration after the first imposes a cumulative -1 to your effective skill level though, and you also have the issue of exceeding the minimum energy needed to cast the spell.

Let's look at Karl and the resist cold spell, which he has a base skill of 16 with. Resist cold has a duration of 1 minute and costs 2 energy to cast and can be maintained for 1 energy. Karl is in The Known World, so his skill level automatically drops to 14. He casts it successfully though. One minute later, he is still cold, so he maintains it, which gives him a second minute and exceeds the base energy to cast it. He rolls as if casting it again, but has a -1 for exceeding the base duration and another -1 for exceeding the base energy cost, so he's at an effective skill level of 12. He succeeds. He finds he needs a third minute, so he rolls as if casting it again and pays to maintain it. He only gets the -1 for the additional duration this time though, as his total additional energy cost is at 2. If he were to try to eke out another minute from it, he'd exceed the multiple of the base cost and get the -1 from energy expenditures plus the -1 from a fourth duration from the spell.

There will be a technique that may be purchased that reduces the penalties to effective skill level from the various conditions described above. Regardless of how high a character purchases it, there will always be a -2 to effective skill level due to the ambient sorcerous energy levels of The Known World. 

Ok, so that's all fairly minor and basically just makes casting spells slightly less clunky than previous versions of magic in Hekinoe. Let's get to the major change. The one I really want to talk about. Are you ready for this? Here goes:

Magic isn't a taught skill.

Breathe with me now. It took me a long time to accept that fact, and it contradicts much of what I've written in previous posts about magic on this blog, but it's true. I've accepted it. You should too. Ok, magic isn't a taught skill. We've accepted it, together, and bonded over the subject. We're moving on, together, into a future of bright suns and magic that is not learned in a book.

That said, I wouldn't call it intuitive, and we're certainly not talking about inborn magical bloodline DnD Sorcerers here. There are definitely aspects of magic that can be, and are, taught. Learning to sense sorcerous energy, learning to identify types of effects and purposes and stuff. There are techniques that can be taught to focus your will and to disperse sorcerous energy from spells. So yeah, there is a bunch of stuff that can be learned, but the actual spells themselves are not taught, because they aren't something that can be taught. Spells are based on the caster's focus and willpower and their ability to have a solid image of what they are trying to achieve with sorcerous energy. The way I see it is the sorcerer constructs a mental construct that symbolically means "I want to achieve X" and when he calls on sorcerous energy, he dumps energy into it and it either does what he wants or shatters the mold because his will was too weak or the goal wasn't visualized and solidified by his willpower enough. When a sorcerer casts a spell, he isn't running complex algorithms of energy expenditure and the square root of fuck off. He's thinking really fucking hard and focusing his will and imagination into a blade to shave off a chunk of infinite energy that he dumps into a template forged by his willpower for the sorcerous energy to follow to create something.

This might present some issues when we talk about identifying the magic of other sorcerers and such. If spells and the casting and crafting of them is symbolic in nature, how can sorcerers identify the spells of others? How can they work together on a big project? Simple. The sorcerous energy acts as a translator. Actually, think of it like different types of currency and the sorcerous energy itself is a currency exchange place. That might sound preposterous, but we're talking about magic here. So what does this mean for buying spells? It means that each college of magic is treated as a wildcard skill. Which means that each college is treated as a very hard skill that costs triple the normal cost. So buying the Earth and Metal College at attribute-3 costs 3 points and buying it at attribute+0 costs 24 points. Attribute in this situation refers to (Will/2) + 5 + Magery level. Using magic as a wildcard skill does impose a frustrating penalty on spellcasters. That penalty is a -1 to effective skill for every prerequisite spell a spell has. In normal GURPS rules, mid and high tier spells often have prerequisite spells or advantages required before you can learn and cast them. The advantages are usually a certain level of Magery, and those will still be required to cast spells. 

So once again, we'll return to Karl and his fireball spell and his base skill level of 16.  GURPS Magic has a handy table in the tail end of it that lists all spells alphabetically and lists their location in the book, what kind of spell they are (melee, missile, area, etc), what college they belong to, their duration, the energy they need to cast, how long they take to cast, any advantage prerequisites they have, and finally how many prerequisite spells they have. So we look at fireball and see that it has 3 prerequisite spells (create fire and shape fire, which both have ignite fire as a prerequisite). So Karl's base skill level of 16 with fireball is modified by -2 for The Known World's onslaught of sorcerous energy, and an additional -3 for how many prerequisite spells it has. This drops his effective skill level with it to 11. This penalty to effective skill level due to prerequisite spells represents the difficulty a sorcerer has when casting complex spells with lots of working parts. When Karl casts fireball, it is more complex than igniting flammable materials (ignite fire), simply creating fire and letting it do what it wants (create fire), and shaping a fire to conform to his wishes (shape fire) each are alone. It combines elements of all three at the same time, so his mental construct is going to be more complex and he's going to have to direct more energy in more ways.

Don't worry. I have more bad news.

Because spells are not a learned thing, there is a cap on how high you can buy each college of magic. Don't get me wrong, you can get better at shaping the energy and that sort of thing and can become more accustomed to the rigors of spellcasting, so there is some wiggle room for improvement. But not enough wiggle room that you can start buying colleges as attribute+5 and whatnot. The cap on how high you can buy each college is attribute+0. 

Now I have good news.

Shaping and casting spells is primarily about mental focus and having a rock solid picture of your goal, half-assed or fuzzy mental constructs are going to get wrecked. Because of this, characters with the Visualization advantage increase the cap on how high they can buy the colleges by +1. So attribute+1. You don't get it for free, it's a permission the advantage grants you. Additionally, each college has a skill tied to it that does the same thing if you have a base skill level of 15 in that spell. These two permissions stack, potentially allowing for the purchase of a college up to attribute+2. For instance, the fire college is tied to the explosives (demolitions or fireworks) skill, the mind control college is tied to either the brainwashing or the hypnotism skill. This all represents practical knowledge related to the college improving your understanding of what that college is about, which improves your ability to create solid mental constructs to fill with sorcerous energy.

So lets return to fire spells and now we'll say that Karl is into demolitions and has a base skill level of 15 in Explosives (Demolitions) and the Visualization advantage and has purchased his fire college all the way up to attribute+2. Let's say Karl has a Will of 14 and he still has Magery 3, so we're looking at Fire College - 17 for Karl's fire spells. If we factor in the fucked up magic of The Known World, we're looking at 15. If we're talking about casting a fireball, we're looking at an effective skill of 12, or a 74.1% chance of successfully fireballing his enemies. With his Magery 3, he'll be able to hit them with 3d of burning damage, with an average of 11 damage. Assuming no magic of fire specific protections, that has a reasonable chance of fucking a bro up. Or at least making them think about life and wish they'd gone to college instead of trying to rob the shit out of this fucking gunslinging sorcerer in a bowler hat.

Unfortunately we run into a slight problem when we talk about spells like flaming armor (you wreathe yourself in flames, with the usual type of effects). With all the information listed above, Karl's skill would be 8 (because flaming armor has 7 prerequisite spells). Even if Karl has Magery 4 (a suggested cap for most game worlds), His skill would only be 9. Which is a 37.5% chance of success. In previous versions of this stuff, I've allowed Magery to go up to 7. Were Karl to somehow be the most powerful sorcerer in Hekinoe and have Magery 7 (only one character has Magery 7 in this previous iteration of the rules), he'd still only have an effective skill level with flaming armor of 14.

Flaming armor and fireball are small fries though. Move terrain, which kind of allows a sorcerer to go Kandor on an area, has 29 prerequisite spells. Enlarge other, which increases the targets size modifier based on the energy spent on the spell, has 17 prerequisite spells. Reflex, which is kind of like the quicken spell metamagic feat, has 16 prerequisites.

So we see here that we have a shit ton of higher tier spells that are going to leverage extremely high penalties for casting them, plus the pre-existing and fairly minor penalty from The Known World's sorcerous energy, plus more penalties for making spells bigger, deadlier, and longer. We also have the issue of radically unstable Magery and all these penalties to effective skill level causing misfires to be excessively likely. This is something I've been gnawing on for days now and I have some options. My goal isn't to make spellcasting impossible, or two create additional options to negate all these difficulties. My goal here is to make it so the GURPS rules accurately represent Hekinoe's magic and how it works. So, onto options for reducing these penalties and making it functional but still accurate to my mental picture of Hekinoe.

The first is to allow Magery to get to excessive levels. As previously stated, it is suggested that campaigns use a Magery cap of 4 or 5 levels. I've gone with 7 for The Known World in previous versions of this discussion. Capping Magery at 15 would make the lives of sorcerers a lot easier. Most high tier spells end up with 10 - 15 prerequisite spells. Spells like move terrain seem to be rarities. So a character with a Will of 14 or higher would have a decent shot at negating prerequisite penalties and casting spells successfully. The problem then becomes Karl shooting off a 15d (average of 53 damage) fireball in one second in a game world where most creatures have 13 - 20  hit points and have to start making HT rolls to remain conscious after 10 - 15 damage.

The second option is to create a technique that lets you buy off the prerequisite penalties for spells, but doesn't increase your effective skill level with them, just neutralizes the penalties. Which is what techniques do. But techniques aren't meant to be used every time you do something. They're meant to buy off penalties for when you try to do something specific under equally specific circumstances with a skill, not be used all the time in place of the skill.

The third option is to remove the restriction on how high you can buy the college skills. I don't want to. It also makes each college of spells into a massive points sink if you're trying to use skill level to neutralize prerequisite penalties. To buy the fire college at attribute+3 to neutralize the prerequisite penalties for fireball would cost 60 character points total. Whoa. Attribute+10 would be 144 character points. It's not practical and isn't what I want to do.

The fourth option, which is really just option three point five, is to create more criteria that allow for colleges to be purchased at higher levels, but that runs into the same excessive cost thing as option the third. This could be ameliorated somewhat by reducing the cost of the colleges to a very hard skills with double the cost, or even just the regular cost. The actual wildcard magic guidelines lump all colleges into one single magic skill, which offers a shit ton of utility even at three times the cost of a normal very hard skill.

The fifth option is to fuck off and play Fallout 4 for six to ten hours.

The sixth option is to drink scotch until my life makes sense again.

The seventh option, which looks promising, is to drink scotch and combine elements of options one and four. So let's talk about that option.

I think I'm ok with saying that Magery caps at 10 levels. Depending on which points total we use for character creation, characters could start with a Magery level of 1 - 3 and have the option of purchasing Magery up to level 6 with character points gain from adventuring or downtime learning. Magery levels of 7 - 9 would need to be gained via character points accrued during downtime learning. Similar to the previous version of this stuff, there would be one character on Hekinoe with Magery 10. To be able to learn Magery 10 you would have to have him teach you. 

There are 24 colleges of magic, so reducing the points cost of each college to that of a normal very hard skill, instead of three times normal like a wildcard skill would be more expensive than lumping them all into one Magic! wildcard skill. I may combine the colleges somewhat, as there is a bit of overlap between them, specifically the air college and the weather college. Regardless of how many colleges there are going to be, we're going to go with each college skill being a very hard skill, rather than a wildcard skill. I'm also going to say that the colleges default to one another at -4. This would allow characters to focus on a few colleges with their character points, but still be able to do whatever with magic. It would just be harder because they're unaccustomed to shaping and guiding sorcerous energy to do those things. So if Karl had a base skill level of 16 with the fire college, but hadn't bought the necromantic college, he could still try and cast some necromancy, he'd just have a -2 from ambient sorcerous energy in The Known World, -4 from inexperience with necromancy bullshit, plus the prerequisite penalty for any spell he tries to cast. It'll be difficult, but he can do it. 

Interlude: I just took a look at the weather college, it's complete bullshit. Every spell in it appears in the air or water college. So the weather college is gone and we're down to 23 colleges. Woo for consolidation! I might decide to lump the body control and healing colleges together. We'll see though.

Back to business. The maximum at which you can buy each college skill is still attribute+0. But there are three advantages that allow you to increase that cap by +1 for each that you possess. Those advantages are Unfazeable (because it kind amounts to you not freaking out about weird things, like an endless sea of magic trying to shove its way through you like bad Mexican food you bought at a gas station of three in the morning), Versatile (because it means you are skilled at using your mind to imagine things differently than they are), and Visualization (because it means you are skilled at seeing things as you want them to be). So if you have all three, you are allowed to purchase each college up to attribute+3. Additionally, each of the 23 colleges will be tied to a regular skill. Characters that have a base level of 15 in that skill increase how high they can buy that college by +1. Characters that have a base level of 16 in that skill increase how high they can buy the college by another +1. So with all that piled together, you could purchase a college at attribute+5. 

Ok, so that's a rough outline of some changes I'm making to Hekinoe sorcery. I'll probably post a bit more on this topic. There won't be any real changes to the way enchanted items operate, but I would like to kind of outline alchemy at some point since I haven't done it before. Wee!

Friday, November 20, 2015

Fendojon Part -1: Reboot

So I'm scrapping the whole Fendojon/Hekinoe in 5th Edition thing I was going to do. There are a few specific reasons for this, so I'll explain.

One of the things I really want to do, eventually, is run a campaign in Hekinoe using GURPS. That's the dream. One delaying factor to this is setting up a complete campaign book. It's not hard per se, it's just time consuming. Which is why it takes so long. 

One of the things I really like to do is tweak rules and systems so they make more sense to me or better fit my concept of what the rules or world should be. I'm kind of good at it and I heartily enjoy coming up with all the rough drafts and slightly more finalized versions of tweaks and whatnot. This is why I considered pushing the Hekinoe octagonal peg into the 5th Edition square hole for a campaign for my other gaming group. Because it was fun to see if I could make if fit by hammering and brute force alterations to the rules. Sort of a challenge to myself of sorts. 

And I did make it fit. To be fair, I had to modify the background material slightly to fit with what I wanted to do with 5th Edition and Hekinoe, but I was confident I was going to make it all work and finalize it all. But it was going to require some work and some time.

The problem with that is that if I'm going to put forth a bunch of effort on gaming, especially modification of rules and whatnot, shouldn't it be towards my final goal of converting Hekinoe to GURPS and completing the campaign book? I feel like it should be. It feels somewhat immoral to be focusing in on Hekinoe and 5th Edition when I am taking so fucking long on GURPS Hekinoe. Feels like I'm cheating on myself or something here. 

The quickest solution to this would be to just say we're all playing GURPS Fendojon, fuck 5th Edition. But I don't really feel right doing that. This group's preferred system appears to be DnD versions, and GURPS books are expensive and I don't really like the idea of giving everyone a bunch of pdfs, because I like GURPS/Steve Jackson Games, and want to continue to support them with my financial contributions. There's also a somewhat significant time investment factor in learning a completely alien system when you've only just familiarized yourself with a DnD system.  Plus, I kinda like 5th Edition. Excluding Pathfinder, it's probably one of my favorite versions of DnD. It's less "every class is a carbon copy of every other class" than 4th Edition, lighter on rules and modifiers in a good way than 3.5, and it is way more streamlined than 2nd Edition. 

So I don't feel right forcing GURPS on this group. I don't feel right spending extensive time and energy on forcing a piece of Hekinoe into 5th Edition. I also don't feel right using a system that needs such heavy modification to accommodate Hekinoe/Fendojon. If you're going to use a system, it should first and foremost be one you like to run and your players enjoy playing, but it should also be able to fit your world into it without mangling the system's rules or changing your world to fit into the confines of the ruleset. It should all fit together. 

So where does that leave me? I need to scrap Fendojon and run something in 5th Edition designed for 5th Edition, or just give up DMing for this group. I would really like to DM for this group, and I do enjoy 5th Edition, so I think it might be something worth doing to create a 5th Edition campaign. But that kind of puts us right back where we started with putting effort and energy into a campaign instead of working on the GURPS Hekinoe campaign book, which is my Gnomish life quest. 

So what we need to do here is come up with a campaign that utilizes 5th Edition rules in their mostly unmodified form, and uses traditional background elements in their mostly unmodified form. So don't create an entirely different mechanic for casting spells, completely change the way armor and AC work, don't create all new races, etc. Keep the tropes of elves living in forests and being generally good, orcs and goblinoids being generally evil, dragons are powerful, etc. If I maintain those guiding principles, it's basically just plugging in new names in every fantasy trope that has come before. Obviously I'll need to play with some ideas to make sure that I find the campaign compelling and enjoy running it. There's no sense creating and running something I am apathetic about. 

I dunno. We'll see. If more develops, I'm sure I'll yammer about it here. Actually, I already have some ideas that I kind of like involving the map of The Outlands from 2nd Edition and elements of Michael Moorcock's Eternal Champion series. Kind of. 

Monday, November 9, 2015

Alternate Rules: Werebear Archetype

So I'm really fond of two classic monster: vampires and werecreatures. I lean more towards werecreatures than the undead. There's something about them I really like. I think it's mostly the whole primal bestial rage kind of thing. I dunno. I've always been a huge fan of werewolves. They're cool. There's something I find noble about wolves. The pack nature of wolves kind of translates to concepts of community and family and whatnot, even though those concepts don't really enter into the why of wolf packs and such. Wolves are predators and stuff, animals. I can't speak to their intelligence and whatnot, but I doubt love of family is what drives them to run in packs and protect their territory. 

Anyway, point: blah blah blah werecreatures are neat. I'd like to add an aspect of them to DnD. They're not really meant to be player options, but there are suggestions in the Monster Manual. But in this instance I'd like to add an aspect of them to the Barbarian class. There are versions of them that exist for that in previous editions. In this edition, I'm going to go with the werebear, rather than werewolf or something else. The reason for this is because Barbarians are berserkers. Berserk is an old word that some believe means bear shirt. Warriors would wade into battle wearing bear hides and stuff believing these bears to be totems that would grant them power. Supposedly. Who knows what the originally origin of the word was and the why and how of it. It's just what I read on Wikipedia. Regardless of it's accuracy, I like it. So I'm going to run with it. 

I'm just going to say right here that I know that both of the existing arcehtypes for the 5th Edition Barbarian cover aspects of the berserker and having a bear as an animal totem. I don't care. They're dumb and don't have what my goal here is. 

So what do werebears have in 5th Edition DnD. Let's look. They can use their action to switch to a Large bear, their original humanoid form, or a Large hybrid bear/humanoid form. They gain immunity to bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage from non-magical non-silver/silvered weapons. They gain advantage on Wisdom (Perception) ability checks due to their keen sense of smell. They also gain the multiattack ability to attack with two claws when in bear form. In bear or hybrid form, they can bite for 2d10 damage as well as use their claws for 2d8 damage. It seems likely that the werebear's bear form is based on a brown or polar bear, and their bite deals 2d6 damage and their claws do 1d8. There's also a note in the lycanthrope entry in the Monster Manual for player characters as lycanthropes it lists a few things. The character gains a Strength of 19 and a +1 bonus to AC while in bear or hybrid form. The one thing that the lycanthrope entries in the Monster Manual lacks is the regeneration we frequently see in film and literature. 

Since we're adding this to the Barbarian class, we need to look at the open spots for ability gains from archetype choice for the class. These spots are 3rd level, 6th level, and 10th level.  

So at third level, the entrance into the the Werebear Archetype, we add that when the Barbarian rages his size increases by one step and he takes on the burly, hairy, hybrid bear appearance of the werebear. Increases in size, specifically from the enlarge spell, typically gives the character advantage on Strength ability checks and saving throws (which the Barbarian already has while raging) as well as providing a +1d4 bonus to damage. We're just going to give the Barbarian a bite attack for 1d10 piercing damage and two claw attacks for 1d8 damage. We're also going to give the Barbarian advantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks involve smell here because it is a fairly minor ability. Finally, Barbarians normally have resistance to bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage while raging. We change this to be resistance to non-magical, non-silvered bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage. 

At 6th level we add two things: Strength 19 while raging, a +1 bonus to armor class. 

We have two abilities left for our 10th level ability, the regeneration and the immunity to non-magical, non-silvered damage. I think the reason this edition lacks regeneration for lycanthropes is because previous editions did. But they had damage resistance. In previous editions of DnD, it was at some point in some place explained that damage resistance was no always immunity to types of damage, it was also instant regeneration. So when dealing 11 non-magical, non-silvered damage to a werecreature in Pathfinder (they had DR 10/silver), you weren't dealing 1 damage, you were dealing 11 and 10 of it was instantly regenerated. 

Werewolves play a big part in a book series I read a few years back. Silver was still a bane to them, as is traditional. But their regeneration was wondered about and explained by the characters in the book. Werecreatures regularly go through a physical change that breaks and reforms every bone in their body and transmutes human biology into that of a hybrid creature. Regenerating simple damage like cuts and stabs and bullet holes is fairly simple to replace if you can do that every month. It was also explained that this regeneration was not infinite, it was fueled not by magic, but by the creature's energy like any other biological process. So if you can do enough damage to force a werecreature to burn through its fat reserves and caloric intake and whatnot, it'll die. I am particularly fond of this concept. 

So to cover the regeneration of werewolves, I think what we'll do is say that at 10th level, the Barbarian gains the ability to spend one hit dice as a free action every round while raging while his hit points are below their maximum.   

So here is what we have:

3rd Level Abilities

  • The Barbarian gains advantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on smell. 
  • The Barbarian gains physical characteristics of a brown bear/humanoid hybrid while raging.
  • The Barbarian's size increases while raging. 
  • The Barbarian gains claws that deal 1d8 slashing damage and a bite that deals 1d10 piercing damage while raging. A Barbarian may make a bite attack, two claw attacks, a normal weapon attack, or a weapon and a claw attack with an attack action while raging.  
  • The Barbarian's resistance to bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage while raging only applies to non-magical, non-silver sources of damage. 

6th Level Abilities
  • The Barbarian's Strength becomes 19 while raging, unless it is already higher. 
  • The Barbarian gains a +1 bonus to armor class while raging. 

10th Level Abilities
  • While raging, the Barbarian may spend one hit dice every round as a free action on his turn to restore 1d12 + his Constitution modifier hit points. 

I'm not sure how balanced it is. I didn't really compare it to the existing archetypes for the Barbarian class. I just kind of slotted stuff in. It might be more appropriate to push the armor bonus to the 3rd level abilities, as it's fairly minor and the werebear's hide wouldn't suddenly be thicker while raging. I dunno. It seems fairly light on oomph, and it all only occurs while raging for the most part, so it does seem kind of lackluster. Not sure. I could perhaps give the non-raging barbarian resistance to bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage with penetration by silver and magical weapons, and turn it to immunity while raging, but that seems excessively overpowered at low levels. 

I dunno. I like it, it does exactly what I desired it to do and it doesn't seem to be excessively overpowered. So I think it's a success. Woo!

Monday, November 2, 2015

Fendojon Part 4: Altered Spell List

Given that magic works differently and whatnot, we're going to need to alter the spell list of the game. I say spell list instead of spell lists because as has been previously mentioned, all spells are available to all spellcasters.

Let's do an itty bitty little refresh from last week about what magic cannot do: it can't be used to travel to, contact, or summon creatures from other plane (because there are no other planes), it cannot bring back the dead or create or affect undead (because there is no afterlife and there are no undead) on Fendojon, it cannot contact deities or do anything involving holy power or radiant damage (because radiant damage deals damage to the soul with divine power and their are no deities and thus no divine power), it also cannot create life (because). Additionally, divination type spells don't work very well against Buillon and don't work at all on matters that do not take place on Fendojon. This aspect is something that is hard to precisely define because it depends on what the divination affect does.

Just as a reminder, magic in Fendojon isn't permanent.

So let's get started with the list. I'm fallible, so the list is not written in stone. Something is going to slip through the cracks. If it comes up in play and I shut you down, sorry about your luck, but I don't get paid and don't have a team of proofreaders and fact checkers. Also: fuck you for not using common sense you selfish fucking shit-twit of a player.

Damn. I really like that. Fucktwit is one of my favorite curses (second only to fuckhead), but shit-twit has definite appeal. Shitheadtwit? No that doesn't work quite as well. Moving along. Plenty of time for practicing cursing at work tomorrow.

Removed Spells
  • Animate Dead - Creates undead. 
  • Animate Objects - Creates thinking and reasoning life (the objects animated have an Intelligence and Wisdom higher than 0), albeit temporarily. 
  • Astral Projection - There are no planes, thus there is no Astral Plan to go to with this spell.
  • Banishment - There are no other planes to banish creatures to.
  • Blinding Smite - Deals radiant damage, which is not a thing that exists. 
  • Branding Smite - Deals radiant damage, which is not a thing that exists. 
  • Circle of Power - Divine energy is not a thing that exists, therefore it cannot radiate from you.
  • Commune - There are no deities to commune with.
  • Conjure Animals - Fey spirits are not a thing that exists.
  • Conjure Celestial - Celestials are not a thing that exists. 
  • Conjure Elemental - Elementals are not a thing that exists. 
  • Conjure Fey - Similarly to fey spirits, fey are not a thing that exists. 
  • Conjure Minor Elementals - Despite taking up less space, minor elementals, like regular elementals, are not a thing that exists. 
  • Conjure Woodland Beings - Fey creatures are not a thing that exists. 
  • Contact Other Plane - Other planes are not a thing that exists. 
  • Create Undead - Creates undead. 
  • Crusader's Mantle - Radiant damage is not a thing that exists. 
  • Detect Evil and Good - Aberrations, celestials, elementals, fey, fiends, and undead are not things that exist.
  • Dispel Evil and Good - Celestials, elementals, fey, fiends, and undead are not things that exist and thus have no enchantments that need to be broken and no planes to return to, because planes are not a thing that exists. 
  • Divination - Gods are not a thing that exists.
  • Divine Favor - Radiant damage is not a thing that exists and gods are not a thing that exist. 
  • Divine Word - There was one word at creation and it was fuckhead. It is not divine and does not have the ability to harm nonexistent celestials, elementals, fey, and fiends. Because they are not things that exist.
  • Dust Devil - Elemental forces are not a thing that exists. 
  • False Life - Necromantic facsimiles of life are not a thing that exists. 
  • Find Steed - Spirits are not a thing...ok they are, but they're a dead thing so they can't be interacted with via magic. Nevermind. It's complicated. Spirits are not a thing that exists to be called forth for pony play.
  • Gate - Other planes are not a thing that exists. 
  • Guardian of Faith - Spectral guardians are not a thing that exists. 
  • Guiding Bolt - Radiant damage is not a thing that exists. 
  • Hallow - Holy and unholy power are not things that exist. 
  • Holy Aura - Divine light is not a thing that exists. 
  • Magic Circle - Celestials, elementals, fey, fiends, and undead are not things that exist to be affected. 
  • Nystul's Magic Aura - This spell is not a thing that exists due to the excessive volume of pointlessness it would possess in Fendojon. What would be the point of masking the aura of something when a caster can easily sense the aura of the masking spell?
  • Phantom Steed - Creates life (albeit temporary illusory life). 
  • Planar Ally - Other planes are not a thing that exist to get allies from.
  • Planar Binding - Celestials, elementals, fey, and fiends are not things that exist to be enslaved.
  • Plane Shift - Other planes are not things that exist to be shifted to.
  • Reincarnate - The afterlife is not a place that exists that your soul can be dragged back from into another body.
  • (Untrue) Resurrection - The afterlife is not a place that exists that your soul can be dragged back from.
  • Simulacrum - Creates life (albeit temporary illusory life).
  • Speak With Dead - The afterlife is not a place that exists for the dead to be spoken to in.
  • Spirit Guardians - Spirits are not a thing that exists to be called forth for guardianship.
  • True Resurrection - Similar to the untrue resurrection, the afterlife is not a place that exists that your soul can be dragged back from.
  • Unseen Servant - Creates life.
  • Wish - Fuck off. 
  • Word of Recall - Deities are not a thing that exists, so placed cannot be deemed as sanctuaries to them. 

Spells With Minor Mechanical or Thematic Alterations
  • Blink - Blink still exists and functions as normal, you just don't appear in the Ethereal Plane, you effectively become insubstantial and invisible when you would hop over to the Ethereal Plane, but the spell is unchanged mechanically.
  • Creation - The Shadowfell is not a place that exists, but this spell still functions as described by using magic to create a semi-real illusory object. 
  • Etherealness - Etherealness still exists and functions as normal, you just don't move through the Ethereal Plane, you effectively become insubstantial and invisible, but the spell is unchanged mechanically. 
  • Flame Strike - Deals only fire damage because radiant damage is not a thing that exists. 
  • Mordenkainen's Faithful Hound - This spell is more like a semi-permanent divination sensor tied to a force effect than it is a creation of sentient life, so it stays and functions as is. 
  • Prayer of Healing - Works as described, but it's not a prayer, it's magic. Like cure wounds and healing word. 
  • Revivify - This spell functions as normal, but it doesn't pull your soul back from the afterlife. It's like the magical equivalent of high quality CPR and rapid defibrillation. The spell's school changes from conjuration to evocation. 
  • Shield of Faith - Works as described, but it's more like a shield of force energy and not one composed of faith in a deity. Which are things that don't exist to have faith in.
  • Sacred Flame - Works as described, but deals fire damage. 
  • Sunbeam - Works as described, but deals fire damage. 
  • Sunburst - Works as described, but deals fire damage. 

Spells With Major Mechanical Alterations
  • Find Familiar - The familiar is not a spirit, it is natural animal appropriate to the environment the spell is cast in (rats or dogs in an urban setting, snakes or frogs in a sawmp, etc), and has the appropriate statistics for such a creature. The familiar does not disappear when dropped to 0 hit points, instead it is treated like any other creature that drops to 0 hit points. The familiar cannot be dismissed to a pocket dimension. Whether you are actively using the senses of the familiar or not and while you are able to speak to the familiar telepathically, line of sight for the targets of your spells may use the familiar's position instead of your own, but this does not change line of effect and you remain the origin of the spell. Finally, your familiar may concentrate on one spell for you, allowing you to concentrate on another. This only functions if the familiar is within 100 feet of you and ceases if you or the familiar are rendered unconscious. 

So there is some info on which spells are excluded, which ones are thematically different, and one with some major alterations. Wee. If I add more in the future to the list I'll add the Edit After the Fact label to the post and a note on what I added and when. 

Monday, October 26, 2015

Fendojon Part 3: Magic and Stuff

Magic is going to be the big thing that acts a bit differently in this campaign. It will diverge quite a bit from the magic stuff in the PHB. So we're going to outline a few things about magic and how it works in Fendojon and some of the changes to magic in general and the classes that will use it.

The magic of Fendojon stems from the Numen, their very presence fills the continent with their energies. Over time humans have learned to sense and control this energy with their willpower. Spellcasters learn to sense and detect this energy and latch onto it with their wills and shape it into a specific desired effect. Unlike other areas of Hekinoe, the magic of Fendojon does not cause misfires, physical mutations, or lead to exploding magic items. 

Magic can do many things, but there are several things it cannot do. Period. Regardless of caster level and ability scores. There are no planes, so it cannot be used to travel to other planes or contact creatures from other planes. Since there are no other planes, it cannot summon creatures or objects from other planes. It cannot bring back the dead or create undead. There are no gods on Hekinoe or in my campaign universe (though there are extremely powerful supernatural entities), so it cannot do anything involving holy power or contacting a deity. It also cannot create life. This last part is relevant because in the Pathfinder and GURPS versions of Hekinoe summoning type spells did not actually summon planar creatures, they used sorcerous energy to create living creatures made of magic. The magic of Fendojon cannot do this.

The magic of Fendojon is also impermanent. It doesn't wear out or run out, it just returns to the grand mass of magical energy that suffuses Fendojon. The maximum limit on how long a spell will last in Fendojon is equal to the caster's Wisdom modifier. So mage armor can still last up to eight hours, but imprisonment, even though its normal duration is until dispelled, cannot last longer than a number of days equal to its caster's Wisdom modifier. This obviously limits the usefulness of some spells. This also means that spells that can be made permanent through repeated castings, like guards and wards, cannot be made permanent. 

Because using magic is not a learned skill and relies entirely on a caster's ability to control and shape magic with their willpower, all spellcasting is done via Wisdom, not Intelligence or Charisma. So any time a Wizard would normally use his Intelligence modifier, he instead uses his Wisdom modifier. The same goes for Bards, Eldritch Knights, Arcane Tricksters, feats that grant spellcasting ability, and so on. 

One of the very very major changes to magic is that all spells, except those that do something magic cannot do (animate dead, commune, raise dead, plane shift, etc, etc, etc) are available to all casters. So Wizards can use cure wounds, Bards can use fireball, and Druids can use eldritch blast if they want to. Bards, Druids, and Wizards will all still have a variation of spells known and spellbooks, but this mechanic will represent a focus of theirs, rather than the sum of their abilities. They may actually all end up with a spellbook mechanic like the Wizards for the sake of simplicity on my end. Dunno yet. We'll see.

This spellbook/preparation/known spells mechanic is going to represent a kind of mental muscle memory. You train your body to automatically do something a certain way. This known/preparation mechanic represents magical castings that are so second nature to the caster that they require little to no effort on their part to cast properly. So what happens when a caster goes outside of their known/prepared spells? The first thing is that they lose their proficiency bonus on the DC and attack rolls of the spell (assuming the spell has such mechanics). The second thing is that the spell costs them more spell points. One step higher in cost specifically, so a first level spell a caster is unfamiliar with would cost as much as a second level spell. A first level unfamiliar spell augmented to third level would cost as many spell points as a fourth level spell, and unfamiliar cantrip would cost as much as a 1st level, etc, etc. This is somewhat limiting. Since your level limits the level of spells you cast, the increased level/cost of unknown/unprepared spells will delay your ability to cast certain spells if they are not spells you're familiar with. Don't worry. This will be explained more intuitively in documentation for this campaign. 

The mechanic I'm going to utilize instead of spellbooks and spells known/prepared is going to be Wisdom based. You'll start off "knowing" spells equal to your Wisdom modifier plus your proficiency bonus. So casters won't "know" a lot of spells, but they'll be able to use all of them on the fly, albeit at reduced efficiency. In addition to this, all spellcasters will be able to cast detect and dispel magic at will as if they were one of their "known" spells. I may institute certain specialties allowing spellcasters to add more spells to their "known" list. Like Wizard (Transmuter) adding transmutation spells or a Fighter (Eldritch Knight) adding abjuration spells. We'll see.

Fyi, I'm considering instituting something like mental fatigue for when you spend most or all of your spell points. It's actually extremely likely. Spell points do not represent a spellcaster expending his own internal magical energies to cast spells. It represents his skill in drawing and directing larger amounts of magical energy from the magic suffusing Fendojon. What he's really expending to cast spells is his mental energy and strength of will. When he runs out of spell points, it's too hard for him to focus his will, similar to how workout nuts are exhausted after they go into beast mode on leg day. 

The next relatively major change is that spells do not require verbal, somatic, or material components in Fendojon. This may seem somewhat overpowered, but it's a universal change not limited to just characters. If a spell requires you to interact with the world or your target in some way, like touching them or spitting at them or screaming at them, that is unchanged, so having your hands bound or being mute may still be relevant.

The magic of Fendojon is flavored by the thoughts, emotions, and personality of their wielder. Their spells are flavored with this as well and they develop and aura that can be sensed by other casters. So the spells of a very stoic and reserved caster of earth magic will feel like silence shrouded in wall of stone. A very disciplined, but passionate, caster of earth magic might have an aura that feels like the heat of lava at the heart of a long dormant volcano. Because all spellcasters are able to sense and direct this magical energy, they can sense these auras innately and have advantage on all Wisdom (Insight) and Wisdom (Perception) ability checks against spellcasters, the same goes for magical creatures and plants, but that would fall under Wisdom (Animal Handling) and Intelligence (Nature) instead of Wisdom (Insight). This does have the added effect of adding a signature of sorts to a spellcaster's spells, which makes it potentially easier to identify who did what to whom with magic.

Magic items will also operate a little bit differently as well due to the nature of magic on Fendojon. Due to the sheer amount of magic on Fendojon, they will be cheaper and more common. However, permanent items will be something of a pain in the butt to use. As I said, the magic of Fendojon is not permanent, so eventually the magic of enchanted items leaks back out into the world. Magical items with normally permanent effects purchased in stores will automatically have five days of charge left, those looted from fallen foes or stolen from random passersby will have 1d4+1 days of charge left, while those looted from long derelict tombs and such will be empty. An empty magical item will have an aura left on it as easily detected as that of a normal magical item, so discovering magic items won't be terribly difficult. This aura, an echo of the item's enchantment, just needs to be topped off with a Wisdom + proficiency bonus check with a DC dependent upon the item's rarity: 12 for common magical items, 14 for uncommon, 16 for rare, 18 for very rare, and 20 for legendary. The spellcaster also needs to spend spell points equal to a spell of a certain level to recharge the item: 1st level for common magical items, 3rd level for uncommon, 5th level for rare, 7th for very rare, and 9th for legendary.

Alright, so I think I've covered the majority of the issues regarding magic in Fendojon. It's still all broad strokes and rough ideas at this time, so it's not really juicy mechanics and stuff, but that will appear at a later date. Probably. 

Monday, October 19, 2015

Fendojon Part 2: Character Creation and Classes

So the next step is to talk a little about character creation and such.

I have a strong fondness for everyone starting out the same, so as has been typical for many of my campaigns, this one will use the point buy system for ability scores. Additionally, normally a character's ability scores cap at 20. I don't like that. If a race is innately stronger or faster than humans, which are the baseline, they should have a higher cap on that particular ability. So I'm going to rule that the cap on ability score is 22 if a race has a bonus on that ability score. So a human that puts one of his +1s towards Strength will have a max of 22 in Strength.

Because of my love of equality, everyone will use static hit point gains modified by their Constitution score as they level up.

I like the backgrounds of 5th Edition. It's a really neat way of tying RP and character story into the process of character creation. I think they're a little limited though, so I may expand on some of them a bit. We'll see. Part of me also wants to institute a flaw system similar to what I did in my Pathfinder campaign. Something along the lines of if you take a flaw, you gain proficiency in one weapon, one armor, one skill, or one tool. If you take a two flaws, you may gain a feat at first level. I'm not sure. With the main race being human, giving out extra proficiency options and feats may be overkill. I'm not sure. We'll see. If I do end up instituting a flaw system if will follow the design guidelines of previous editions: flaws impart a penalty that cannot be overcome simply by taking a feat. For instance, in 3.5 there were flaws that gave a -3 to your saving throws, or maybe it was -4. I forget. Regardless, you couldn't just solve the penalty by taking Iron Will or the other two feats to bump saving throws because they only offered a +2.

Leveling will session/story based advancement. The more goals the players have and the more of them that they achieve, the more leveling they do. The caveat to that is that there must be an element to a challenge that they overcome. If there is no element of risk and no expenditure of their resources, they don't advance as quickly. This doesn't mean they don't find loot or gain other rewards for the time they spend doing stuff, it just means they're not really learning enough from their challenges to justify the sometimes sizable power increases that come from leveling up.

Classes will need a bit of modification. Since this is primarily a faux-European setting, Monks have no real place among the classes, so they are unfortunately out unless a player can significantly reflavor them through an explanation of their background. Monks are way too magical and unique and eastern martial artist flavored to be justified by saying your character just likes punching things. If someone really likes the concept of punching dudes into submission, I can happily create a brawler type archetype for Fighters or Barbarians.

Since there are no gods in this campaign, Cleric and Paladin are obviously out. Neither can be reflavored sufficiently to divorce them from the core concept of them being enslaved to deities. Rangers will remain an option, but they'll do so without spells. I have mixed thoughts about Druids, but they are likely to remain with a bit of reflavoring and modified mechanics to make them more Wizard-like. Bards are likely to be removed. Sorcerers will be completely removed, as there are no races that are innately magical due to some magical creature being an ancestor.

The Eldritch Knight and Arcane Trickster archetypes will need to be reworked a bit to more resemble the Wizard class. Right now they work more like Sorcerers with limited amounts of spells known and no spellbooks and that sort of thing. If I keep the Druid and the Bard, they'll need to have similar changes made to them. If I do keep the Bard and Druid, they'll be more akin to specialty Wizards than anything else. If I could conceive of a way to condense them both down into Wizard archetypes, I would, but I'm not sure that is feasible.

Warlock is a class that at one time existed, the Sorcerer Kings were actually Warlocks. But there are currently no Warlocks on Fendojon. Characters are not banned from taking levels in such a class, but they will need to first find one of the Numen and enter into a pact with them for power before they can do so, so it will be more of a mid to late game class than a starting class. It will also have been modified to be the most powerful magic using class in the game. Hehe.

I also intend on using the spell point system outlined in the DMG for magic using classes, rather than the standard spell slot system found in the DMG.

The class that will be most significantly altered will be the Wizard. But I'll elaborate on that in the near future when I talk about magic a little bit more in depth.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Fendojon Part 1: Races and Broad Strokes

Last week (was it last week?) I spoke about some rough ideas I had for a campaign with my 5th Edition group. I'd like to continue that with some more ideas. They may be a little different than some of the things I spoke of last week here on the blog. At one point I had a name I like for this campaign/continent, but then I forgot it. The new name is Fendojon (fend-oh-jon). Like many of the things in my campaign world, the name has meaning. Raise your hand if you remember why Hekinoe is called Hekinoe. Forget? Never knew? It's because the folder I was originally throwing things into on my computer as I was building this campaign world was called Heck If I Know. Moving along.

The history of this little continent gets interesting around what those of us from The Known World would call 8000 DK. At this time, Fendojon would be around late Stone Age/early Bronze Age level societies. It's a relatively small and flat continent almost cut in half by a large mountain range. There are forests and lakes and rivers and so on. The main races of this time are the Humans and the Buillon. At this time there is no magic whatsoever in Fendojon.

At this point I'm going to switch away from the 8000 DK (8000 years since the destruction of Kalesmar) time stamp and switch to the 0 CN (0 years since the coming of the Numen) time stamp. This is because at 0 SK the Sorcerer Kings come to Fendojon. Legends speak of great upheaval across the land, but centered mostly in the northeast of the continent. A decades long summer heat scorches the land into desert and wasteland, the earth cracks, lava surges up from the ground to form sharp edged mountains in the northeast. During this time tribes of Buillon and Humans flee to the southwest through the mountains in the middle of the continent.

With them they bring tales of the nine Numen kings and their iron keeps, their twenty-seven lords and ladies, and their eighteen knights. They collect and share these tales and form a tapestry of words about a mythic time of immortal creatures, mighty iron fortresses, and powers that twist and warp the landscape and elements. The Buillon and the various human tribes settle in the southwest chunk of the continent, expand, and proliferate. Eventually the nine Sorcerer Kings become known: Rakios Blackheart, Sokenvel Oakbow, Vargath Firetusk, Kelliel of the Bloody Grin, Quickhatch,Yellow Eyed Skathis, Blacktooth the Thirsty, Calien the Weeper, and Howling Strigi.

Over several hundred years everything settles the fuck down on Fendojon and the Human and Buillon tribes shape themselves into kingdoms and inch into the iron age while all the craziness settles down in the northwest. Over the next few hundred years the northwest seems to reshape itself into something similar to what it used to look like, mostly flat, forests, planes, rivers, lakes, no crazy volcanic formations, etc. The nine Numen remain remote and unapproachable but their knights, lords, and ladies make their presence known, as does their magic. The magic of the Numen seems to flow out across the landscape. It reshapes it, soaks into plants and animals and people.

It gets really really bad. It's hard to cut down a forest that is encroaching on your village if that forest is the most powerful Druid on the continent. A pack of super big wolves whose howls can shatter the earth with sonic force can't be fought. Anyway. The land ends up getting blanketed in magical energy and it looks like everything but the Buillon and Humans can use it. It gets really hard to survive in this supernaturally fecund continent. Pacts are made. Eighteen of the most powerful human tribal leaders make overtures of fealty and loyalty to the Numen and their agents. They become the Sorcerer Kings and build mighty keeps of iron and stone in the mountains bisecting he continent. With the power of the Numen infusing them, they eventually found ways to confine all this magical energy to the northeastern portion of Fendojon with artifacts called Iron Obelisks. This spikes drew the magical energy of the Numen up into the mountains, decreasing the amount that flowed into the the southwestern portion of the continent.

We fast forward to 2000 CN. The Sorcerer Kings have been long dead, their keeps abandoned and empty. The Numen still remain remote, the lords and ladies less so, and the knights less so. The northeast portion of the continent is a wild place of storms and violently magical energies and creatures.

In the southwest we have four human kingdoms, one major Buillon kingdom. In the inhospitable mountains in between we have ancient keeps full of magic and loot. We've reached Medieval Age technology and whatnot. Humans have developed the ability to interact with and command the magical energy that leaks into the southwest. Buillon have been found to be completely unable to do so. This is about races, so lets discuss races.

Humans in his campaign will all use the variant human from the PHB. They gain a feat, a skill proficiency, and +1 to two different ability scores. I may decide that one of those ability bonus will depend on the nation they are affiliated with. So like the warrior culture nation has one as a +1 Strength bonus, the educated nation has one of them as a +1 to Intelligence, etc. The broad strokes for the nations are a warrior culture nation, a rich merchant nation, a freedom loving border nation back right up against the middle mountains, and a magocracy type nation. The Buillon are going to be Goliaths, but replace their natural athlete, stone's endurance, and mountain born racial traits with advantage on all saving throws vs. magic. They are also completely unable to use magic. Like they can carry and wield magic items that don't require magical ability to use, but they can't ever cast spells or use magical abilities like a Druid's ability to shapeshift. I guess they could take levels in those classes, but it seems like it would be rather on the stupid side to do so.

So that's some rough outlines of the races and a little bit of historical set up for this campaign setting. I'll probably continue with some other stuff on the blog here to help me organize my thoughts. We'll see.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Running Campaigns

One of the things I do is game every other Saturday with some guys that I know through a guy through work. At this point I consider them friends, so I game with a group of friends every other Saturday. We currently play 5th Edition DnD. There are two DMs in this group: Kyle and Kevin. They've both run a few campaigns and one shots and such in the time I've been gaming with them, which is probably approaching a year or so now. With the crashing and burning of my Pathfinder campaign, I've been kind of wanting to show my appreciation for them by DMing something for the group. Kind of give them both a break and get myself back into the role of running games. Something relatively short, definitely not a three year long campaign, but something more than a one shot or multi-session dungeon.

I also want to run it as a sort of palette cleanser after the Pathfinder campaign. Not because it left a bad taste in my mouth. I liked that campaign and am curious how it would have all ended (which is now up to Eric to decide). What I mean is that I've been running campaigns for the same group of friends, for the most part, for 21 years and ran a campaign for three years with guys who were adjacent to that group of friends. Shawn was part of that original group and he introduced me to Lance, who introduced me to Jason, who introduced me to Cary. I've grown accustomed to these guys and their friends and their various idiosyncrasies. I feel like it would be beneficial for me as a GM to run things for a different group of people. A group of people that grew up on different games and versions of DnD than we did. Doing the same things over and over again and running games geared towards the same set of expectations and whatnot leads to stagnation. Because of the my experience as a GM and because of my experience with my core group of players, I've very rarely had to plan any alternative routes for task completion in my scenarios over the past three years. I almost instinctively know what they're going to do, how to get them to do what I want, and what is going to interest and bore them. This isn't a criticism of any of us. We're all just accustomed to each other's tastes and quirks. For the most part.

This is more about me expanding my horizons and seeing what other people have to say about me as a GM and what they have to say about Hekinoe. I dunno. These guys are cool. I think it'd be fun to plop them down in Hekinoe and see what they do with it. So I've decided to do this. The first step is figuring out what I want to do. The first step of that is determining system.

My heart always flies like an arrow to GURPS for representing Hekinoe, but that's not exactly ethical in my opinion. I don't really feel right demanding they all buy new books and stuff, especially when both of the core GURPS books are fifty bucks each. I also don't really feel right giving them all free pdfs because I like GURPS and want to support the game. Anyway, long story short: I've opted to go with 5th Edition for this campaign, but significantly modified. As I've said many a time before, various versions of DnD don't really work with Hekinoe, also DnD is stupid.

So the main point of this post is to establish how much I need to modify 5th Edition to fit it into Hekinoe. Just like other 3.X Edition versions of Hekinoe, some things will get handwaved because game. I want to tweak it to make it fit, but I don't really want to overdo it. So we need to first establish a little bit about this continent I plan on setting this campaign on and how it different from The Known World and go from there into modification of rules and mechanics.

The first difference is that it will have its own set of races, and there will only be four races. The Buillon, the Gobeneru, the Halflings, and Humans. The Gobeneru are of the Goebleen/Ethryll/Hulderfolk lineage and Humans will be the same type of stock as Uncout, so there will be some familiar/common races. The second difference is that magic is more stable and does not cause mutations and magic items don't eventually explode when used. However, magic is also weaker. Because background, this continent will have the lowest risk of misfire of any of the continents in Hekinoe. The third difference is that the tech level of this continent is more along the lines of normal DnD, rather than the Wild West era technology of The Known World or the Iron Age era technology of Orcunraytrel. Steel is a thing, but guns and steam engines are not. This continent also has no Elduman, so there are no psionics on it.

So how is this continent different from DnD? This question kind of shows what the necessary modifications to 5th Edition's rules will be. This will keep me from going hog wild and doing things like converting armor to damage reduction, making massive reductions in hit points to everything, etc, etc, etc. There will be plenty of modifications. No need to add more nonsense onto what has to be there. There's a fine line between needing to modify a system and needing to use a completely different system. If I just end up hacking apart 5th Edition to be more GURPS like, rather than to fit Hekinoe, it might be more appropriate to use GURPS in the first place.

Anyway, Hekinoe is different from the core DnD world described in the Player's Handbook. Let's talk about that.

Races. Hekinoe has no Dwarves, Elves, Orcs, etc, etc, etc. It's all my own races. You could, like Lance, be an idiot and say that the Sereth and Vyanth are just Elves because pointed ears (nevermind that they're actually an offshoot of Uncout, but whatever) or that Greenskin Abraxens are Orcs, but that's not true. Some of the races of Hekinoe resemble common DnD races, and that may be intentional on my part, but they are not those races. What this means is that I need to stat up the Buillon, Gobeneru, Halflings, and Humans. Not too difficult. It's actually be pretty easy to make them work, Buillon will be a modified Goliath race, Gobeneru will be a modified Halfling or Goblin race, Humans will be Humans. Halflings will actually be something I have to write up from scratch.

No gods. Hekinoe has a decent share of powerful supernatural entities. Primarily members of the Nel race, but there are others. However, these are not gods in the traditional sense. Gods, in DnD, are creatures powered by the faith of their followers, they have ideologies they want followed, they exist on planes that are fairly mutable to their whims, and command legions of planar entities like angels or demons. They are also to a certain extent omnipotent and omniscient, at least in areas related directly to their followers and their areas of control. The supernatural entities of Hekinoe have none of these capabilities. It may seem like they do, but they do not. This means Cleric, Druid, and Paladin are outright gone from the class options. Ranger may stay, but will lose its spellcasting abilities. Can't have divine magic without divine creatures to give the characters magic.

No planes. Hekinoe has no planar cosmology. The only plane is the real world. This means several things. Spells involving planar travel need to be modified or removed. Spells that pull things from other planes need to be altered or removed. Creatures native to other planes, such as angels and demons, do not exist in Hekinoe. There are small sort of demiplanes that I for some reason decided to call adjacent realms, places like The Shadowwlands, the Hound's midnight forest, Nel holdings, and various little sorcerous apartment complexes built by various hermit beard wearing Wizards. Mostly this amounts to some spell alteration and a little bit of outright removal.

Magic. Magic is going to be a big sticking point and will require heavy modification. In Hekinoe there are three types of magic type stuff: magic, the psionics of the Elduman, and the Gifts of the Nel. Each of them have their own unique rules. The two present in this 5th Edition campaign will be magic and Gifts. Magic in Hekinoe is an external energy source that spellcasters shape through symbolic incantations, gestures, and raw willpower. It's a large and chaotic energy source separated from, but always seeking entry into, the physical world. I've described sorcerous energy as an endless sea of power shaped like a funnel with a magic user at the bottom of the funnel. Gifts are an internal energy source, they're the lifeforce of a Nel. Both are powerful, but both have some a variety of limitations and restrictions on their use.

In DnD, magic is an internal force, otherwise the Wizard ability known as arcane replenishment could not exist. How else could you replenish arcane energy to restore spell slots if it didn't come from within you? It's also an external energy source? Or something. It's super dumb. None of the rules about magic mean anything in DnD. How do Clerics gain more spells per day if they don't do stuff that furthers their deity's goals or rise in their church hierarchy if the power comes from their god and not them? Clerics, as non divine beings, have no divine energy. It comes from elsewhere. Their level and ability scores should have no impact on their spells, as all that power comes from their god. Anyway.

Basically we have three magic classes: Sorcerer, Warlock, and Wizard. Warlocks make pacts with Nel for power, Sorcerer's can only be the Halfling race because they use Gifts from an ancestor who was invested with Gifts by a Nel, and Wizards cast spells using the ambient magical energy from the world around them. The first problem here is casting ability scores. Warlocks use Charisma, and they get their power from a patron they persuade or make a deal with to gain it, so Charisma is fine for them. Since Sorcerer's use internal magic energy that is at least partially their lifeforce, they use Constitution instead of Charisma (which is idiotic even in normal DnD). Wizards do learn certain forms of spells and incantations, but spellcasting in Hekinoe is more about forcing the energy of magic into a certain shape with your willpower, so Wizards use Wisdom instead of Intelligence.

Because there are no Old Ones, demons, or fey in Hekinoe, Warlocks will need a different set of pacts and stuff. Since magic is much less narrowly focused in Hekinoe than in DnD, we'll need to modify spell lists to incorporate all the spells that don't directly reference divine might into the spell selections for the classes. The spells that directly reference divine might will need to go or be altered to fit the Warlock list. Because Sorcerers have bloodlines and traits related to their ancestors who were shaped by the Nel that gave them power, we'll need a different set of sorcerous origins for sorcerers. Wizards will also need some specialty options for Druid and Bard type stuff to go along with their options for specialty school. 

So that's kind of the broad strokes about what I'll need to be doing for this 5th Edition campaign. I may or may not get into the mechanical modifications to magic on the blog here. We'll see. 

Friday, October 2, 2015


For those of you that don't know, I currently play in a Shadowrun campaign run by Lance every other Monday night (usually). Shadowrun is a cyberpunk RPG set in 2070. I am a big fan of the cyberpunk genre. When I say cyberpunk, I mean the actual meaning of the word. Characters that are typically working in the shadows or outside the bounds of normal society struggling against a dystopian government or mainstream culture and featuring things like cybernetics and hacking. In the case of Shadowrun, you're shadowrunners, mercenaries with no identities doing espionage for or against the big corporations that refuse to become wageslaves. Shadowrun is special because it injects fantasy into this genre. So you have megacorps being owned by dragons and a crew of shadowrunners composed of magic wielding elves, chromed out trolls, physical adept (magic using monk types) dwarves, as well as hackers and drone users of various races, and so on. It kind of seems a little kitchen sink-like, but it works.

Shadowrun has been around for a while. The first edition came out in 1989. Lance and I and our group play the 5th Edition of the game that came out in 2013. There have been several video games as well. The current crop (Shadowrun Returns, Dragonfall, and Hong Kong are quite good. There's also Boston Lockdown, but I can't speak to its quality. So it's not DnD with a pedigree going back to the seventies, but it has been around a while. I've gotten my hands on copies of previous editions, but only for the purposes of the lore, so in this post if I refer to mechanics I am speaking only of the 5th Edition of the game.

The game is a skill based classless system similar to GURPS in that you invest far more time in character creation than you do in leveling and your increase in abilities is rather slow and it is skill based and classless and has positive and negative qualities you can add to your character for a points cost. The main mechanic is rolling d6s attempting to achieve a certain number of hits to be considered a success (opening a lock) or meeting or exceeding an opposed roll's number of hits (attacking an enemy and comparing your roll with their defense roll). Hits are a result of 5 or 6 on the d6s. The number of d6s you roll is determined by your skill level, relevant attribute, and gear or qualities you may have that augment it. Your characters and some gear (mainly weapons) also have inherent limits to them. When attacking, your number of hits can't exceed a weapon's accuracy. Certain skills and such can't exceed your physical limit (a calculation based on your physical attributes), mental limit (based on mental attributes), or your social limit (your social attributes). Your attributes are Agility, Body, Strength, Logic, Intuition, Reaction, Willpower, Charisma, Magic, Essence, Edge, and Initiative.

The first thing I want to say is that I have been enjoying playing it with Lance and his associates. Good people and Lance is a good GM. The second thing I want to say is that this system is one of the clunkiest most unnecessarily over complicated rulesets I have encountered in my primarily d20 system focused gaming history. This, coupled with the third thing I want to say, makes it a very frustrating game to play. Oh. The third thing. The rulebooks are some of the most poorly designed I have every fucking encountered in terms of layout, rules clarity, and the separation of background material and rules.

I'm not going to speak about my dislikes of the system, as they could just as easily be my personal likes and dislikes and my d20 system Stockholming coming to the fore, but I would like to talk about a few things I like about the system.

The first is the concept of Essence is it relates to social interaction and cybernetics. Essence is part of the calculation of your social limit. Did I say that already? It tends to stay at 6 or go down and it represents your metahumanity. It's also tied to your Magic attribute, if you have one. One of the primary things that decreases essence is chrome, cyberware. There are high quality versions of cyberware that reduce it less, and there is bioware as well which tends to reduce essence by a smaller amount than its cybernetic equivalent but tends to be vastly more fucking expensive. The gist of this mechanic is that when you replace your skeleton with titanium bones or implant kevlar into your skin or replace your fingernails with razors blades, you lose something of yourself, something hard to define. Something just begins to seem off and inhuman about you and others react to this offness. Thus the impact of Essence on your social limit. If it wasn't obvious, a really shitty social limit is going to prevent you from being an effective talky character. If you can only get one or two hits tops due to your social limit, it doesn't really matter how many handfuls of d6s you are tossing onto the table. 

This makes a lot of sense to me. If your bones are titanium, you're going to move and carry your weight differently. You're not going to react to physical pressures on your body in the same way. You won't be easily shoved and surfaces are going to respond differently to your weight on them than they would flesh and blood bodies. If your eyes are implants, you're not going to need to blink to keep them moist or squint in the sun. If your skin is made of kevlar, it's not going to itch or cause you to slap at mosquitoes and bugs on it. A completely cybernetic limb isn't going to twitch or shift to find a comfortable position because it's asleep and you won't crack your knuckles as a nervous tic. As you pile on the chrome, the comforting little tics and idiosyncrasies of flesh and blood that we rarely notice are going to fade away and since we rarely notice them consciously, we'll just have an indefinable sense of something being off. You might say that having kevlar skin or metal limbs is fairly obvious, but in a cyberpunk setting the chrome itself is not unnatural or weird. It's no different than wearing glasses or walking with a cane would be in our society. Maybe I'm over analyzing it or attributing more to the mechanic of Essence and social limit than the designers were, but it makes a lot of sense to me and it's kind of an elegant way of showing what replacing your flesh with chrome does to you.

The second thing I like is the damage tracks. There are two, physical and stun. Physical is lethal physical damage based on your Body attribute and stun is nonlethal and mental damage based on your Willpower attribute. Shadowrun recognizes that there is a sort of mental hit point value for your character. Both damage tracks have negative effects they inflict on your character as they decrease as well. Which is a big beef I have about DnD. There's no difference in the effectiveness of a character with 1 hit point and one with 100. Shadowrun also doesn't go for overblown hit point sacks. My character, Marius the Elf Street Samurai, only has like nine boxes on his physical damage track. Damage is figured out by the damage value of a weapon and the target making a roll of their Body + their armor's rating. That's a slight simplification, but the gist is that if your weapon's damage exceeds the target's roll, you start marking off boxes.

The third thing I like is the concept of racial minimums and maximums for attributes. This is something I liked about 2nd Edition AD&D as well. The attribute range for humans is 1 to 6. During character creation you start at the minimum for your races and use your attribute points to increase from the minimum. Elves are faster and prettier than humans so that have a range of 2 to 7 for their agility and 3 to 8 for their Charisma. Trolls and orks are big and tough so their racial minimums and maximums are higher for Strength and Body than a human's. This doesn't mean all orks and trolls are tougher and stronger than all humans. But the troll that is a street samurai using melee weapons is probably going to be stronger and tougher than the human or elf street samurai that uses melee weapons. This makes sense. Orks and trolls are big, they can physically support more muscle mass and whatnot than a human or elf can. Elves are slender and graceful, their bodies are naturally able to achieve more agility than a humans, the same way cats are naturally more agile than a cow or dog. Halfling characters in DnD could have a Strength far surpassing that of the average human, even just at character creation, even though they are skinny and half as tall as the average human.

Next up on my list is how Shadowrun does initiative. Just like DnD, initiative is a measure of turn order in combat. It's your Intuition + Reaction +1d6. There are things that can increase your bonus dice and whatnot. The first thing I like is that initiative is based on a physical attribute (your reaction speeds) and a mental attribute (your awareness of your surroundings). I find it odd that Reaction is not folded into Agility like it is in other games, but whatever. So I think it's really neat that the majority of your initiative in Shadowrun is static with only a minor amount of variation. It makes sense, people who react quickly and pay attention to their surroundings and are experienced with seeing when people are ready to kill would statistically, probably maybe, be quicker to react and be ready than people who are not those things. Anyway. So one interesting thing Shadowrun does with initiative is that everyone takes their turn, then they subtract 10 (I think) from their initiative and anyone with an initiative above 0 gets to go again. So instead of gaining additional attacks because class feature or attack bonus, you gain additional attacks and actions for being super fast and stuff. I dig it. Additionally, there are some forms of attack and defense and some special actions you can take that cost you initiative. It's kinda neat. I like it. It makes combat a little bit more fluid and interactive and that sort of thing. 

So. Last thing, the priority system. Originally I found this system incredibly confusing and clunky, but it's actually kind of neat. There are five priorities: A, B, C, D, and E. During character creation you choose your metahuman type (race), magic (which determines your magician type and spells and magic skills), skills, attributes, and resources (cash). You choose things by assigning them a priority. So if you want to have a lot of cash, you assign your resources priority 4 (400,000 nuyen). I tend to like Elf characters because I am partial to brutally quick little characters. Elves are only an option if you choose metatype priority as A, B, C, or D. Elves at priority A are noted as Elf (8), elves at priority D are Elf (0). The number after the parentheses are points you can use to increase your Edge (which is basically luck), Magic, or Resonance. So you can choose a "weaker" race, but augment it with other features. Anyway. It's an interesting system that's less complicated than completely constructing characters from scratch via points values, but is much more reasonable than just mandating all races and classes are equal in power. 

So yeah, there's some stuff I like about Shadowrun and stuff.