Illusionary Hatred

•September 13, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Within my new system, I will, in some ways, be forcing magical specialization. Sort of. Learning each ‘school’ will be a choice, thus specializing made easier. That’s not terribly important right now, as I’ll get into magic much later once I start talking Talent Points (oh god, I just realized that that abbreviates to TP… hmmm… might have to change that name).

But here is my issue. While I’ve been able to rework the schools of arcane magic a bit, working on this has only brought my hatred of Illusion magic out into the open. I really dislike illusion magic. Lets go over a few things, shall we?

One of the main reasons that I made my world so low-magic when i designed was because I didn’t do hack-and-slash games. Once you start trying to actually run a ‘world’, you start to realize how much most magic completely messes with society (roughly making it impossible). 1st level wizard spell – Disguise Self. I think it’s one of the most horrible spells in the game. If there were as many wizards wandering around as ‘classic’ D&D would have you believe, then everyone who every mildly pissed off a mage would be in jail.

“You have upset me, therefore I will make myself look exactly like you with this weak little spell, and then go and steal/rape/kill something, or go and tell off your wife/husband/business partner. Or hell, maybe I’ll just make myself look like the king and order the guards to kill you. Won’t that be fun?”

Some may say “well, people will see through that!”, to which I call BS. By rule, no. 98% of people in a city are 1st level, and most of those commoners to boot. Think that Sense Motive is a class skill for commoners? It’s not even for guards. This 1st level spell gives a +10 to Disguise. Let’s say our mage has a CHR bonus of +1, and decides to Take 10. That’s an automatic 21. Commoner (or guard (Warrior)) would have maybe a +1 to Sense Motive, thus giving 5% of most people a chance to see through the illusion. Give our mage a +2 CHR bonus, or a single rank in Disguise, and most people in the world won’t see through it.

Oh, and those platinum coins are actually copper. Who needs Bluff to haggle? Sure it’ll wear off when I get out of range, but by then it’s in a bag or a chest, and I’m leaving town anyway.

Oh, and if they’re after me at all, I think that Huge Red Dragon that is landing in the town square should be a good enough distraction.

Those two first level spells by themselves can be a political and legal nightmare for every town, everywhere. This requires either an extremely high-magic world (where every guard and every shopkeeper has a way of Detecting Magic or True Seeing), or an extremely low-magic world where the idea of a mage wandering into most towns would be a cause of a major commotion.

It’s a massively abusable system that is fully subjective to the DM, who no doubt will become very frustrated with a player that does such a thing. Sure, there are things that CAN be done (if the town can ever prove that it’s a wizard doing it, they can attempt to hire their own to find it), but not easily, and not quickly, and it all pretty much depends on the thieving wizard getting, in some way, ‘caught’. Why, if it weren’t for actual combat, I’d never need anything but illusion spells to completely dismantle your society.

Have I personally been frustrated by it? Yes, but not as a DM. As a player who was attempting to build a town, I was quite annoyed when my chief adviser was reported as having raped a woman and murdered a man. It wasn’t him (or at least, I believed that it wasn’t), but it was massively annoying, and the real perpetrator was never caught even though it was a high-magic (Forgotten Realms) campaign.

So, what can be done about it? Some would say that a ‘good’ DM would roll with it, inflict the proper repercussions due to their actions, etc. etc… Others would say that when you have a player blatantly taking advantage of abusable rules you drop a meteor on them (or a helicopter, a mountain, a dragon that suddenly died of a heart attack in mid-flight, etc.).

I tend to try to simply fix things, and especially since I’m reworking things to begin with. I’ve already noticed that a great many ‘Illusion’ spells can be sorted into other categories, so I’ve considered making the base illusion spells (“____ Image”) into enchantments… spells that directly effect the person’s mind… making their effects a bit more specific, and wiping out ‘illusion’ mage all together.

Luck System

•September 3, 2009 • Leave a Comment

One of the other systems that I’ve implemented already is the Luck system. Given that one of my other large complaints about the d20 system is, well, the d20, this was important to me.

Let’s face it. The d20 provides so much variance that it becomes a bit silly at times. that someone with a stellar +19 in a skill can still do as badly as a novice with no skill or even applicable attribute whatsoever is a bit funny, especially in important life-or-death situations: save-or-die spells (one of the few good changes in 4e, which I’ve stolen), succeed-or-die skill rolls (what fun is having that thin, slippery bridge is no one plummets to their death because they rolled a 1 on their Balance check, right?), etc.

With so many system integrating a “add points to your roll” system (e.g. Star Wars character points (West End), Cyberpunk, even Eberon D&D I believe, etc.) I wanted to work something in. I wanted the players to be able to say ‘this is really important, my character is really, really trying on this one’. So, Luck.

Firstly, I made Luck an Attribute. Yes, yes, I know. A Luck roll is rolled when I simply need the players to roll randomly to determine if something good or bad is going to happen. Random encounters, miscellaneous “how long does this take” rolls (“I wander the city in search of this guy” – Luck (granted, maybe a Gather Info as well)… And yes, there is even a skill that works off of it (Gambling – new skill that works off of either Luck or Intelligence, whichever is higher (I have a few dual-natured skills now)).

So, here’s where we get into the Luck system itself: currently, each character has a Luck pool equal to their attribute (not modifier, but full attribute). They can spend, on any one die roll, an amount of Luck equal to their Luck modifier + their Level. Once they’ve used it often enough for the pool to be down to zero, they can’t spend Luck anymore until the pool is replenished, which occurs at the end of an ‘adventure’, or plot line (usually about 3-4 sessions). Usually the players are uncertain enough about when an adventure is going to end that they don’t go on a frenzy of Luck spending at any point in anticipation of being about to get it all back (as would happen if it was a per-session thing… “oh, it’s 9:00, this must be the last fight, let’s use up our Luck!”)

They have to declare the use of Luck BEFORE the die is rolled. Luck can be spent on any roll of a d20. Attacks, Saves, stabilization rolls (to stop dying), skills, etc…. but, notably, can’t be used for things like damage rolls.

So far this system has worked pretty good. My players often end ‘adventures’ with Luck left in their pool, but as they are getting up in level (they just hit 10), their ability to spend it increases (Robert can spend 14 on 1 roll (with an 18 Luck)). While I don’t mind the occasional “I’m putting everything on this on”, as it would only leave him with 4 to spend for the rest of the adventure, I wonder if I need to have the pool increase as you level, and/or cap the amount spendable on a single roll somewhere.

Does being able to spend more than 10 at a time make things too unbalanced? Either way, as they level should players be able to spend more overall over the course of an adventure, instead of just more per die-roll?

Thoughts? Questions? Rants?

Health System

•August 29, 2009 • 2 Comments

So, before I get into the things that I have questions about, it’s important to put out what I’ve already got, yes?

So, here is one of the large changes that I have already made, and have tweaked a bit through playtesting over the past few months. Health System.

I’ve never really liked Hit Points. I understand what they represent, but things just have never sat right with me. They say that HPs are meant to represent not only your physical well-being (as in: “am I bleeding?”), but also your state of mind, whether you are getting tired, and just your luck running starting to run out. Thus why you gain more as you level… not because you can suddenly take MORE arrows to the heart, but because you are more adept at rolling with punches, dealing with the stress, and better toned.

“But,” I have always asked, “if it is a representation of my state of mind and such, why do I need healing?”

Healing has always been an issue… for instance, if more Hit Points is simply a reflection of me taking less damage (which in reality it is…), then why does a healing spell that fully heals Joe the Farmer of there not heal me fully?Add to that the fact that my world is low-magic, and thus low-healing…

Yes, I’ve figure out the answer to the healing problems, but you’ll have to wait for it from another blog post…

So what have I done? Well, I’ve gotten rid of Hit Points all together, and instead each character has two sets of ‘Hit Points’, called Thresholds. There is the Exhaustion Threshold, and the Injury Threshold.

Exhaustion Threshold (ET) is based mostly upon your class. This is representative of your training… this is your ‘state of mind’ and ‘conditioning of body’ set. This tends to be the larger of the two Thresholds (but is not always). Currently, all normal damage does Exhaustion damage. Let’s face it, if you’re a good fighter, you can avoid getting hit until you get tired, thus it isn’t until you hit your ET that you start to take Injury damage.

Exhaustion damage can be ‘healed’ quickly and without outside or magical means. There is a special occurrence called a ‘Second Wind’ which can occur in the middle of a fight (anything that boosts moral or gives a rush of adrenaline…  for instance the death of (one of) the leader of the enemies, the falling of a companion, etc.)… but you can only get 1 during any combat, no matter if a second or third occurrence takes place… though you can choose NOT to get a Second Wind and hope for a later occurrence, and it is a roll (Wis or Con check DC 10), and failure allows you to try again later). When a combat ends, in 5 minutes all characters are considered to ‘Catch Their Breath’, which basically means that anyone that didn’t get a Second Wind during the combat now gets one (if you did, then you’re still too tired). Exhaustion then heals at a small rate every half hour (level + Con mod), as the characters settle their minds, and their bodies recover from the exhaustion of the battle.

Injury Threshold (IT) is based entirely upon your Constitution. It is a direct representation of your ability to take physical damage and roll with it, or work through it. If you’re playing a class with a low Exhaustion Threshold, but your Con is quite high, it’s possible for your IT to be higher than your ET. Injury Damage is usually only taken once your ET is hit, but is also taken if you are critically hit (a lucky (or good) blow gets through your defenses), where the extra crit dice rolled are Injury damage. Also, right now a Rogue’s Sneak Attack damage is Injury (yes, it’s horribly overpowered, but it works well enough for the current system (and the player’s don’t care that it’s overpowered)).

Injury damage is healed only by magical means, or it heals at a slow rate of level+Con mod per DAY. Yes, it’s slow, but it’s more realistic (which I always tend towards), and it makes the players fear things… but the Exhaustion healing keeps them fighting.

There is also a Disabled Threshold, which is basically your negative Hit Points, except that it’s based on your Con, and there are Fort saves available to stay conscious (though you are restricted to a single action a round while Disabled, though you CAN take two actions, dealing more damage to you, and prompting another consciousness save).

So, how does this stand up and compare to the normal system? Characters end up with about 125% of what they would normally have, split between their ET and IT (which is intentional). Monsters end up with about 125% as well (I have a system for converting), but more than once the PCs have managed to take out a monster’s IT before capping it’s ET, thus taking it down really quick, which is fun. Go them.

Future plans will change things quite a bit… Everything will have 2 Armor Classes, Exhaustion and Injury… roll above the EAC and you do Exhaustion damage, roll above the IAC and do Injury damage instead. So, if you’re really good, you can bypass someone’s defense and just cut them. I’ll go into that a lot more in a later post.

There you have it. The Health system pretty much factors in to everything else for the new system, so even though it’s a biggie, I wanted to get it out there first. Questions? Comments?

‘Luck’ system comes up next.

And so it begins…

•August 26, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Hello to everyone.

A bit of an introduction here, at the beginning, perhaps. I’ve started this blog as a large source of feedback from those in the gaming world whose opinions I respect. If, within that process, random other people with an interest in helping out care to show up  and share their opinions, all the better. I’ve made this blog public for just that reason, hoping that interested people might wander in eventually.

So, here’s the current situation: I hate 4th edition D&D. I feel that they changed it too dramatically into a miniatures battle game, taking out every element of realism and detail that 3rd attempted to enter into the game (notice I said attempted, not succeeded at). They made it into a sterile video game without depth. My feelings, anyway. 3.5 has always been OK for me, with modifications… it at least had some good basics for detailed work, and had a flexible enough system to create a lot of new functions within the system… but I had been holding out on changing anything major until 4 came out. Now that it has, and I have decided to pass on it, it’s finally come time for some serious work on retooling the system to better suit my needs.

While in the process of putting together my own system, I often run into issues that would work themselves out SO much faster with direct input… with people telling me that the idea is silly (or, more hopefully, the constructive reasons why it wouldn’t work), rather than me taking the time to get it to a point of playtesting… or helping me to figure out some way for this or that to work when I just can’t find it myself. It happens.

So where do I stand? My Graytower campaign runs on 3.5 with some modifications (changed the magic system drastically (both arcane and divine), a few small house rules, a ton of house rules regarding production/crafting, and most notably made an Aristocrat PC class (which the one player is playing… as that new class will carry on to the new system, I’ll give the details on it later).

My Salis campaign is my test subject… 3.5 with all the modifications of the Graytower campaign, but with a lot of the internal systems I’m intending for my new system in place (new health system, luck system, new skill set), all things which I’ll talk about one at a time.

While I’ll be talking about these actual campaigns a bit, it might be a bit difficult given that the players (hopefully) will be reading this blog, so nothing regarding the future plot lines or ‘unknowns’ can be talked about…

Most this blog will be about my new rules set (which I’m currently calling the JCS (Jhenos Campaign Setting – Jhenos being the name of my world)). I’d like to have this new system up and running by the time I have a new campaign to run, and I expect the Salis campaign to be over in about a year… so…I’ll be trying to break what I’ve got down into bite-sized pieces, and lay it all out in the next few posts. Should be fun!

The final thing is, please comment. If I’ve invited you here, that means I want input! Granted, some posts will simply be “hey check this out” kind of things, but if it’s a question, something about rules, and you have an opinion (good or bad), please comment!

Under construction

•August 12, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Currently building site… if you’re here, come back in a few days.