27 February 2023

Delvers and Denizens: Elves

 I include 2 basic versions of the elf in my games, the Sylvan Elf and the Water Elf. The Sylvan Elf is the version introduced in the Basic rules and lives in the forest and is reclusive, while the Water Elf is from the gazetteer to Minrothad being seafarers and traders and much more common in human cities. The Sylvan Elf has several ethnicities; the wood, the grey, the high, the wild, the green. There are a few changes to the sylvan elf:

  • I expanded the immunity to ghoul paralysis to any undead special effect such as the mesmerizing gaze of a vampire, and mummy rot. This gives elves and inherent advantage over undead
  • I also expanded their secret door detection to the general ability to search for room traps, I see these as basically the same thing
  • I codified the fact that elves are supposed to have good hearing, giving them a 2/6 to hear noise and a 1/6(as opposed to humans 2/6) chance to be surprised
  • I switched out infravision for night vision, ala eyes like a cat. This also means elves are nocturnal. I've done this for most demi-humans, I do keep infravision for creatures that actually live completely underground.
  • and I switched up how elves cast spells, I call it Fae Sorcery. This is a natural inborn ability that elves just learn to do like walking; they do not have study books and memorize spells like humans to cast them. In reality, much of human magic is an attempt to recreate the magic of the fae. Basically elves and other fae descended creatures can cast spells at will but gain fatigue in doing so and gain spells they know by meditating when they level up. I also require that when casting a spell each elf has a unique "twitch" that triggers the spell, such as wiggling the nose or the ears, snapping the fingers, clicking their tongue, blinking or winking, etc. Elves have access to a spell list first shown here

Water Elves, as sylvan elves with a the addition of:

  •  Direction Sense which allows them to know the cardinal directions if outside, this ability is important to any seaman and serves to separate the cultures of the two types of elves
  • and Navigation Sense allowing the elf to know the cardinal direction of a place they have been to before. This is paired with direction to give the Water Elves a reputation as skilled navigators.
  • their spell list is also modified to reflect their watery environment based on the Minrothad gazetteer. 

11 February 2023

Delvers and Denizens: Rogues

In Delvers and Denizens I have opted to use the modern name for this class, Rogue, as opposed to Thief, because one of the advanced classes associated will be the Master Thief. So Rogue is a more general term that encompasses many activities, while thief would be a specialization of the rogue class; some of the other advanced classes would be Assassin, Spy, Swashbuckler, etc.

Again, as the fighter, this is essentially the same as in the core rules(using the progression in BX and OSE as opposed to BECMI or the RC), with a few clarifications on the Rogue skills:

For Climb Sheer Surfaces a 30% penalty is applied if partially encumbered, and a 60% penalty for encumbered. this references my encumbrance rules which I'll discuss at some point, but could also be used with most encumbrance systems. The basic rationale is that its hard to rock climb while carrying a lot of stuff(think of the scene in princess bride when andre the giant is slower than the man in black).

Hide in Shadows requires the rogue to be in cover, whether that is deep shadows, hiding behind a tree, or rock, or furniture. the thief must actually be hidden, they cant just disappear while standing in plain sight. of course this means that if there is no cover available, they can't hide. This stipulation will also apply to the hiding ability of other classes(garden gnomes aka halflings).

Move Silently requires that the rogue be unencumbered, it's hard to be silent while carrying a lot of stuff. This is why most rogues wear light or no armor. In general Delvers and Denizens is less proscriptive than the original rules; outright bans are replaced by disincentives. 

Pick Pockets allows for more than just picking someone's pocket, it covers any general case of sleight of hand or legerdemain. 

For Hear Noise I've rolled searching for room traps(as opposed to treasure traps, as explained in OSE) and secret doors into the same category. These are all things any PC can do, the Rogue is just better and gradually improves as they gain levels.

Traps includes the setting of treasure traps and not just detecting and disarming. I also allow this roll to be repeated ad infinitum, so essentially the player is rolling to see how long it takes to detect or remove a trap, not if it is possible. However each reroll entails a 2/6 chance of setting off the trap, so there is some danger involved.

I also allow Open Locks to be repeated, so that the roll is a test of how much time it takes to pick the lock. Any roll of 100 always results in failure, jamming the lock with a broken pick, breaking the locking mechanism etc. The standard % roll is to pick the lock in a single round, but if the rogue wants to be sure of success (and has the time) they may take a full turn(10 minutes) to pick the lock and automatically succeed as long as they don't roll 100. Of course the chances of success both in a round or a turn can be adjusted based on the quality of the lock.

For Backstab I added the clarification the victim must be humanoid in form as the rogue would be trained to know the best places to kill a human, and not some non-human beast.

I exchanged the ability to Read Languages with the Encryption ability. I think it fits with the rogue theme better, it still allows the rogue to 'read languages' simply hidden ones instead of spoken languages. Basically this allows the deciphering of encrypted material or the rogue can do the encryption themselves. This ability includes forgeries, coded messages, special inks, etc.

I got rid of the Scroll Use ability of rogues because I don't think it fits with the theme of other mundane abilities a rogue has access to. Also, based on my revising of Vancian Casting, anyone can memorize a grimoire and cast a spell, with a certain degree of risk involved. I thought about replacing this ability with something else, but haven't been able to think of anything appropriate and that mirrors the ability like encryption does for read languages.

29 January 2023

Delvers and Denizens: Fighters

 My version of the fighter is essentially the same as that presented in B/X or BECMI. Though I have made a few minor changes. 

I use a modified version of Weapon Mastery, which I've rolled into level training, so there is no longer a need to train for weapons separate from leveling up. Along with this, I've beefed up the fighters weapon training so that they get 1 new weapon mastery level at each level. though I have limited them to a skill cap based on level to stop them from just being grandmaster at early levels.

The other changes I've made are to the fighter combat options:

Cleave - available at 4th level this replaces the old 'smash' maneuver, lose initiative and must wield 2 handed weapon, apply -5 to hit in exchange for adding Strength score to damage, if kill foe then can attack another foe

Parry - the only change I made was to make this available at 4th level

Disarm - kept this at 9th level and just changed the save. Instead of making a DEX check, the victim of the disarm simply makes a Save vs Wands. so the fighter rolls to hit, the foe makes a saving throw vs wands adjusted by the DEX mod of the fighter(the save should already be adjusted by the victim's dex)

Multiple Attacks - made this available at 9th level, lets the fighter attack up to 2 opponents(and eventually 3 at 12th or maybe 15th level) at once, but not 2 attacks on the same opponent. I make this distinction to represent how I envision the abstraction of combat, the 2 sides are making multiple moves each round, and the to hit roll represents if any damage was caused from any of those multiple strikes; the attack roll doesn't represent a single sword swing, it represents whether a significant wound was caused. 

Dual Wielding - available at 4th level, I've changed how this works a number of times, because I couldn't come up with something I was satisfied with while adhering to the design principles of Classic D&D. I wasn't quite happy with my most recent iteration, so decided to look The Riddle of Steel RPG, which gave me the inspiration to tweak it to something that I'm finally happy with. 

So first the fighter must be weilding medium sized or shorter weapons; unarmed attacks with the fists or feet and shields can also be used as offhand weapons. Then the fighter must make a choice of how they want to use the offhand weapon. There are 3 basic maneuvers. 1) is the double attack where they simply attack with both weapons, this calls for separate attack rolls and damage rolls, but each roll to hit is done with Disadvantage. 2) is the Bind where the offhand weapon is used to control the weapon of the Foe. A normal attack roll is made with the offhand weapon, and if a hit is made any damage rolled is applied as a penalty to the Foe's AC for 1 round. 3) the last option is to use the offhand purely defensively to simply Deflect(or block if a shield) an incoming attack using the standard weapon mastery maneuver. 4) the fighter could use the weapon to perform a special maneuver if they have weapon mastery in the offhand weapon

26 January 2023

On Adventures vs Campaigns

So kinda inspired by certain posts I've seen around the blogosphere recently and what's been going on in my own recent campaign. 

This kinda goes back to an earlier post I wrote about why I dont like to run adventure modules. I've been running B4 the lost city for one of my groups for a bit now, but I had to take a lot of time to prep for it. Basically I had to rewrite the entire module just so I could run it, I made a few changes to fit with my world, but its mostly unchanged. It went from a 32 page module to 5 pages of notes and redrawn maps(with more detail). I had to do this partly because the module is overly wordy, but mostly because "running a module" just doesn't fit with how I run my world. I had to turn the module into a setting(which ultimately resulted into some really unexpected outcomes)

I've got this one player who keeps asking me to run this or that old module for him, and I keep saying that they exist as locations and he would have to get his pc to make the effort to discover and go to that place(which he finally did for the lost city). Because I use my version of mystara that means that most of the basic line of modules are present in my world, I just don't run them as "adventurers" that I take the party on. 

I run a setting not an adventure. I don't separate between the two. The current actions of the PCs are the adventure, they don't go from one adventure to another, going through a cycle of Dungeons and plots and whatnot. The only real thing separating "adventures" is each individual session we get to play; it's all one continous adventure. The adventure is the players(not the pcs, but the actual players) discovering my world and interacting with it. Without their direct interaction, there is no game. As much effort as I put into the campaign setting it is nothing without someone else playing in it and finding their own adventure. 

It's my job to present the setting, and most assuredly not to give the players an "adventure" to play through; the adventure is created by them.

23 January 2023

Mail Call: Avatar RPG

Came home to a beat up package on my doorstep today. Turns out it's the avatar rpg, nothing inside the box was damaged; I was a bit worried because there were some reports of some people receiving damaged books due to mishandling during shipping. I missed the kickstarter,  but got in on the pre-order through backer kit. Without further ado here's some pics
A really nice cloth map
Books of blank paper for play, digest sized

30 December 2022

Threshold 30: The City of Alphatia

Threshold # 30 was published a few weeks ago, and includes my article on the city of Alphatia. I take elements from Plato's Dialogues(the original source material on Atlantis), the Stargate franchise, the Eberron campaign setting and the City of Sharn, and the Disney animated Atlantis movie.

It is mostly compatible with the Alphatia as described by Bruce Heard, the biggest differences are the presence of the City of Alphatia, and psionics. Essentially anywhere in the canon description of Alphatia that mention magic users, replace that with "followers of air" who are religious psionicists.

25 September 2022

Map of Alphatia

 I've had mapper's/writer's  block the last few weeks, and had almost given upon finishing the article about Alphatia for Threshold. But then today(I guess that would be yesterday as its now 1 am) I had a breakthrough while riding my motorcycle. Below is a simple map of the city; I'm leaving more detailed street level maps for another project. The map is a combination of Stargate's Alantis and Plato's Atlantis. The central hub is a city ship as in Stargate, and the surrounding piers have been built up as add-ons during the centuries that the city has been in place. The city itself is inhabited by the wealthy elites and nobles of the empire, with privilege increasing the closer one gets to the citadel.  The city is floating on a lake at the mouth of Alphas river, and the city of Aasla, inhabited by the common people is on the mainland surrounding the lake.