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More 5e Comments

Yet another attempt to leverage the random, off-the-cuff drivel I spout on other gaming sites into an “article” here. Hey, the site’s free. You get what you pay for… including my constantly reusing that lame excuse when I post content I know is sub-par.

Anyway, Mike Mearls has posted an essay on class design that’s as free-flowing, digression-filled, and vague as anything I’ve ever written, so, I felt obliged to offer a response, that serves to also frame my own thoughts on game design and what makes a good game.

If you don’t read this article first, the following reply will make even less sense than usual.

a)Why not “Maneuver Dice”, since they tie into the Maneuver System? Calling them “damage dice” and then using them for non-damage is really poor naming. (How about “Action Dice”?)

b)Every time you say “simpler”, “for purposes of simplicity”, “to make things easier”, etc, I die a little inside. We’re gamers. We don’t need things simple when that simplicity comes at the cost of variety and depth.

c)A class’s story, place in the world, etc, is the province of the DM. A class’s mechanics is the province of the designers. If the class is not mechanically interesting, fun, etc, no one will play it, and that story will not be told. You guys handle the rules; leave the story to us.

d)A monk’s abilities may be “magical” in the plain English sense, “abilities that defy the normal laws of physics”, but they should not be “magical” in the game mechanic sense — they should not be affected by anti-magic fields, or detected with “Detect Magic”, or affect a creature vulnerable to “magic” or be hindered by a resistance to “magic”. WORDS MATTER IN RULES. Don’t say “magical” if you don’t mean “magic as a game mechanic/keyword”. If you DO mean that… please reconsider. A monk’s abilities, for purposes of that “role in the world” and “story” you’re always on about, should not be “magic” in the same same sense spells are.

e)Drop the alignment requirement. THAT is something that’s “story”, and while it’s good to have a note that “most monks are lawful”, it should not be mandated for D&D in general, though it might be part of a specific setting. It would be interesting to have different ki powers available based on being lawful or chaotic, though.

 

 

Oh, Nifty!

I just found out my “AddInto” Firefox add-on can connect to this page. It’s likely y’all will be seeing much more frequent, and utterly trivial, updates, as now it’s really simple for me to connect to and comment on any random gaming stuff I happen upon.

Random WIP: Hyperspace

Honestly, this is sort of being posted because I don’t like long stretches of “No posting”, not because I genuinely think it’s likely to be of interest to anyone. (Oh, BTW, the next stage of the Battlelords walkthrough is almost ready; I need to decide if I want to split it into three parts or charge ahead and finish it now.)

Anyway, work on Stellar Battles proceeds in fits and starts; I’m still having trouble finding the right tone for it, in terms of rules. On the one hand, I’ve really been wanting to do the Ultimate Kick Ass Space Opera Laser Sword Five Mile Long Starship Pew Pew Pew Lasers Barfights And Smugglers And Ancient Mystic Powers And Forgotten Alien Artifacts science fiction game for a long time.  A very long time. As in, honestly, it was the very first thing I tried to design back when I was 14 and one way or another it’s been in the back of my mind for a while. I know I want race/class/level, because while I love freeform systems for a lot of reasons, I honestly find that I prefer RCL designs because they let me better define the core archetypes for a game while still (if using more modern variants, i.e, OGL-based) allowing for the kind of fine-tuned character control I like. I’m definitely not interested in doing a new game w/the 4e engine, not because I don’t like the system, but because I’d rather focus all my 4e efforts on Earth Delta.

This leaves me pulled in two directions.

One, go very much mid/late 1970s, esp. pulling from the “unofficial” stuff and the things Gary Gygax (sometimes with good reason, sometimes without) hated, and that’s Classes Galore… lots and lots of classes, most with some kind of simple “At this level, the blah can blah 1/day” powers to liven them up — see, well, classic Arduin, and no real skills/feats/goodies/ whatever, just boolean proficiencies or class specific powers laid out in varying levels of detail (ranging from simple notes bound to cause arguments to pages of niggling detail bound to cause arguments).

Two, give in to my passions and use a more “modern” system, either an OGL/Pathfinder variant or FantasyCraft, the latter being a system I really like for its plethora of crunchy bits and how it weds the kind of meta-gaming systems you normally find only in wussy free form commie hippie “story telling” games with the kind of hard tactical crunch I find endlessly appealing.

Three, screw it all, make up my own core rules that will draw from many strains of inspiration but not be particularly “plug and play” compatible with anything else. This is another thing I keep waffling over. I have argued, many many times, that the world doesn’t need one more way to kill an orc. And I stand by that. At the same time, I like creating systems for their own sake, knowing that they’re unnecessary and redundant. There’s a few mechanics I really like (non-Boolean success systems, for one) that aren’t a common part of the core D20 family. (By “non-Boolean”, I mean “multiple successes”, where how well you do matters. Hitting someone by 10 points does more damage than hitting him by 1 point. Tasks such as picking a lock require accumulating successes over time. The best known systems that use this mechanic, though, are dice pool systems which tend to fail in terms of granularity.)

Putting it more plainly, since I get no money, and very little in the way of fame or even feedback, for these kinds of projects, the only thing that drives me is passion, and if I don’t have passion for a particular style, it doesn’t get done. While I’m willing to play almost any game, except that which must not be named, when it comes to either running games or designing games, I like high granularity and high levels of mechanical character differentiation. That last one is important and it’s what tends to keep me out of the “Old School Renaissance” except as a source of ideas I can rip off inspiration. (It also kept me very annoyed at 4e until the first wave of “Power” splatbooks and Dragon articles.) I don’t care if one 4th level Fighter is run as an axe-wielding illiterate barbarian and another 4th level Fighter is run as a gallant Knight — if, when the dice hit the table, they are mechanically identical, then, for me, the system doesn’t work. The more generic the mechanics, the less interest the game holds for me.

However, the title of this topic was “Hyperspace”, was it not? It was! I’ve been dancing around the system issue by focusing on the setting, which is going to be, like most of the settings I prefer, something mostly drawn in big, bold, colorful strokes with unending room for GM improvisation and expansion. However, it does need some “rules of physics”, both literally and figuratively, and if you’re doing a grand space opera setting, you need to set out how faster than light travel works, as this is going to shape the game universe more than any other decision. It will influence politics, economics, and character backgrounds in all sorts of ways. There is no disconnect between “swashbuckling action” and “world building” — if the universe in which you’re buckling your swash has no sense of verisimilitude to it, you are not Errol Flynn innnn spaaaaaaaace… you are a four year old running around a living room, waving a plastic sword and going “I’m a piwate!”.

Thus, the first draft of the hyperspace rules.

Continue reading

Well, This Bodeth Ill

Wizards Of The Coast announced that:

“The Heroes of Shadow product, originally scheduled for March and presented in digest-sized, paperback format, is moving to April to accommodate a change to hardcover format. Additionally, three D&D RPG products have been removed from the 2011 release schedule—Class Compendium: Heroes of Sword and Spell, Mordenkainen’s Magnificent Emporium, and Hero Builder’s Handbook. While this means fewer books, we plan to deliver just as much great content for players this year through other formats, including board games, accessories, and digital offerings. I’ll keep you up-to-date on the latest releases each month as we go along.”

Or, in other words, “We’re not going to print actual books for D&D, but we’ll make some board games, collectible cards, and computer programs we’ll get half done and then abandon.”

Seriously, cut backs in core rule books this early in the product cycle, and right after a semi-relaunch with the Essentials line, is a really, really, scary thing. Yeah, “Imminent death of D&D predicted, film at 11″, but canceling announced rules product has usually preceded the announcement of a new release/version… but it’s way too early for that and Essentials was a kinda sorta semi not really “4.5”, keeping the same rules and systems but kicking one of the key design elements — uniform class progression — to the curb and then running it over.

Obviously, there may be lots of factors involved in the decision. Going from a softcover to a hardcover for “Heroes of Shadows” is generally a sign of strong sales, not weak. It may be that internal review decided the canceled products were just not up to snuff or didn’t fill a clear niche and it was better to cancel and start over than to force inferior product out the door. It’s hard to predict the future, especially when it hasn’t happened yet, but I am having a hard time finding a good spin on “Books, no; board games, si!”.

Yeah, This Is Going Well.

As you can tell by the cheerily generic surroundings, the transition from Joomla to WordPress is going just bloody swimmingly. Fortunately, I can roll back whenever I want. Just posting this to let all both of my readers know this isn’t just some random “Domain abandoned, this is a placeholder” thing, but a work-in-progress. I’ll give myself another 2-3 days to straighten this out, then give up and learn enough CSS to make Joomla do what I want.

Aw, heck, because I’d love to delude myself into believing someone is reading this, here’s some content (with crappy formatting because I haven’t learned how to paste RTF into WordPress yet.)

Annihilation Army Alchemist

Annihilation Army Alchemist Level 13 Artillery
Medium natural humanoid XP 800
HP 100; Bloodied 50

AC 25; Fortitude 25; Reflex 27; Will 24

Speed 6

Immune fear; Resist 10 fire, 10 acid

Initiative +15

Perception +12

Standard Actions
m Acid In The Eyes (acid) • At-Will
Attack: +18 vs. AC
Hit: 4d6 + 6 acid damage, and target is at -2 to all attack rolls and perception checks until the end of the alchemist’s next turn.
Special: If the alchemist hits someone already suffering from this effect with any attack with the “acid” keyword, the penalty doubles to -4. .
A Explosive Brew (fire) • Recharge 3 4 5 6
Attack: Area burst 3 within 10 (All creatures in burst); +15 vs. Reflex
Hit: 4d8 + 2 fire damage, and ongoing 10 fire damage.
C Acid Spritzer (acid) • Recharge 5 6
Attack: +15 vs. Fortitude
Hit: 4d8 + 4 acid damage, and target gains vulnerability 5 (acid) (save ends).
A Acid Grenade (acid, fire) • Encounter
Attack: Area burst 2 within 10 (All creatures in burst); +17 vs. Reflex
Hit: 2d10 + 5 fire and acid damage, and target takes ongoing 5 acid damage (save ends) and ongoing 5 fire damage (save ends). So long as the target is taking both types of damage, they are at -2 to all defenses.
A Bouncing Bomb (fire) • At-Will
Attack: Burst 1 within 10 (All creatures in burst, see special.); +15 vs. Reflex
Hit: 2d8 + 7 fire damage and target is knocked prone.
Special: The alchemist designates one creature in the area as the primary target. For all other creatures in the area, roll 1d20: On a roll of 1-5, they are not target; on a roll of 6-15, they are targeted normally; on a roll of 16-20, they are targeted with a +2 on the attack roll.
Triggered Actions
C Suicide Bomb (fire) • Encounter
Trigger: The Alchemist is reduced to 0 hit points.
Attack (Immediate Reaction): Close Burst 2 (All creatures in burst.); +16 vs. Reflex
Hit: 3d8 + 4 fire damage and creature is pushed 1 square.
Effect: The squares occupied by the alchemist are ablaze and will remain so until the end of the encounter. Any creature entering or beginning their turn in this area takes 3d6+5 fire and acid damage. This area is difficult terrain.
Skills Technology +15
Str 16 (+9) Dex 28 (+15) Wis 13 (+7)
Con 16 (+9) Int 19 (+10) Cha 13 (+7)
Alignment chaotic evil Languages Common

It’s easy to think of the Annihilation Army as nothing but insane, mindless, psychopaths bent on nothing but destruction. This is a sad and demeaning stereotype. Some members of the Annihilation Army are insane, highly intelligent psychopaths bent on nothing but destruction. The alchemist is one such, a mad genius who mixes up explosives and corrosives and hurls them recklessly around the battlefield, not caring in the least if he catches some of his “allies” in the blast, or even himself.

Because they work with bizaare chemicals and strange substances, even if the alchemist began as a normal human (which should not be assumed, feel free to tack an ‘oid’ onto these guys), they often develop additional mutations. See the bolt-on list, or look at these:

Exposed Brain

The alchemist’s brain has exploded out of his skull and is a massive, throbbing, organ that spurts madness-inducing lightning.

Exposed Brain
The creature gains telepathy (100 foot range) and vulnerability 5 (Psychic) per tier.
C Electric Psychic Insanity (psychic, lightning, reliable) • Encounter
Attack: (One creature in burst); +16 vs. Will
Hit: 3d6 + 11 lightning and psychic damage, and creature uses an at-will attack power against his nearest ally as a free action (this attack does not provoke) or is slid 3 squares.

Assymetric Tentacles

The alchemist has grown numerous tentacles of varied length.

O Asymmetric Tentacles • Aura 1
Any creature beginning their turn in or entering the aura must save or grant combat advantage until the end of their next turn or until they leave the aura.