Monday, August 31, 2015

One Character, Nine Systems: Part 6

Last week, I proposed an experiment of generating the same character in nine different editions/variations of the D&D game. In the first post we introduced Junco Eliade, now it's time to give him some crunch. In this iteration we'll use:

Advanced Dungeons and Dragons 2nd Edition is the first version of D&D to introduce truly expansive numbers of accessories and supplements with additional rules for developing player characters. For the sake of this post, we will assume the scope of 2nd edition rules to be all of the books included in the AD&D Core Rules 2.0 CD-ROM, including all of the "Complete X" handbooks, but excluding the "Player's Option" series of books (sometimes referred to as v2.5).

Race: Dwarf, Hill
While dwarven subraces (Hill, Mountain, Deep, Gray, Sundered, and Gully) exist in AD&D (especially with the Complete Book of Dwarves), the mechanical differences are minimal. Since earlier versions of Junco did not specify a subrace, we will assume that he is the fairly typical dwarf as described in the Player's Handbook (which is the Hill Dwarf).
Class: Cleric / Fighter
The Cleric/Fighter combination is clearly listed in the options for dwarven characters in the Player's Handbook (without the referencing of expansion rules necessary from earlier editions). Earned experience is evenly split between the two classes. The Cleric class requires a minimum Wisdom of 9, and the Fighter requires a minimum Strength of 9.
Kit: Scholar Priest 
Kits are a new rule, introduced with 2nd Edition AD&D and unique to it. Kits are "a collection of skills, proficiencies, restrictions, benefits and hindrances which give the [character] more background and personality". The rules state that "Any multi-class [character] can take one of the kits. However, he can only take one kit, total. If he has several character classes, he can't take a separate kit for each class." While there are numerous kits for Fighters (from the Complete Fighter's Handbook), Clerics (from the Complete Preist's Handbook), and even multi-class Warrior/Priests (from the Complete Book of Dwarves) which Junco qualifies for, his description in the first post, clearly identifies him as "a scholarly dwarven priest", so we will go with the Scholar Priest kit from the Complete Priest's Handbook. A scholar priest must have an Intelligence ability score of 13 or better.
Priesthood:  N/A
While 2nd Edition has extensive rules for priests of specific mythoi, and priests gaining different powers based on their chosen religion or patron deity, the default Cleric class is still an option. Since Junco is not described as having a specific religion, we will continue with the precedent of Junco being a Cleric, rather than some variety of specialty priest.
Level: 3rd
Minimum XP: 8000 (split evenly between to 2 classes or 4000 each)
Alignment:  Lawful Neutral
Hit Dice: ((3d10+6) + (3d8+6))/2
Average Hit Points:  21
As with AD&D, in 2nd Edition, hit dice from each class are rolled (including Constitution modifiers) and summed, then divided by the number of classes. The 2nd Edition version of Junco has the same average hit points at 3rd level as his AD&D counterpart.
  • Str: 9
  • Dex: 16  -- +1 to reactions and missile attacks, -2 bonus to AC
  • Con: 16 -- +2 hit points per die
  • Int: 16 -- 5 additional proficiency slots (see below)
  • Wis: 11 -- 10% chance of spell failure
  • Cha: 7 -- Max 3 henchmen, -1 on NPC loyalty
AD&D 2nd Edition continues the use of racial ability limits (both upper and lower), as well as racial ability adjustments from AD&D. All of Junco's rolled stats fall within the range for dwarves. His Constution has been increased by 1 and his Charisma decreased by 1 by virtue of the AD&D dwarven racial traits.
Dwarf Abilities:  
  1. From living underground, dwarves have found it useful to learn the languages of several of their neighbors, both friendly and hostile. The initial languages a dwarf can learn are common, dwarf, gnome, goblin, kobold, orc, and any others your DM allows. The actual number of languages is limited by the Intelligence of the player character or by the proficiency slots he allots to languages (if that optional system is used).
  2. By nature, dwarves are nonmagical and never use magical spells (priest spells are allowed however). This gives a bonus to dwarves' saving throws against attacks from magical wands, staves, rods, and spells. This bonus is +1 for every 3 - ½ points of Constitution score. Thus, for example, if a dwarf has a Constitution score of 7 he gains +2 on saving throws.
  3. Similarly, dwarves have exceptional resistance to toxic substances. All dwarven characters make saving throws against poison with the same bonuses that they get against magical attacks.
  4. Also because of their nonmagical nature, however, dwarves have trouble using magical items. All magical items that are not specifically suited to the character's class have a 20% chance to malfunction when used by a dwarf. This check is made each time a dwarf uses a magical item. A malfunction affects only the current use; the item may work properly next time. For devices that are continually in operation, the check is made the first time the device is used during an encounter. If the check is passed, the device functions normally until it is turned off. Thus, a dwarf would have to check upon donning a robe of blending but would not check again until he had taken the robe off and then put it on again. If a cursed item malfunctions, the character recognizes its cursed nature and can dispose of the item. Malfunction applies to rods, staves, wands, rings, amulets, potions, horns, jewels, and all other magical items except weapons, shields, armor, gauntlets, and girdles. This penalty does not apply to dwarven clerics using priest items.
  5. In melee, dwarves add 1 to their dice rolls to hit orcs, half-orcs, goblins, and hobgoblins. 
  6. When ogres, trolls, ogre magi, giants, or titans attack dwarves, these monsters must subtract 4 from their attack rolls because of the dwarves' small size and combat ability against these much bigger creatures.
  7. Dwarven infravision enables them to see up to 60 feet in the dark.
  8. Dwarves are miners of great skill. While underground, they can detect the following information when within 10 feet of the particular phenomenon (but they can determine their approximate depth below the surface at any time).
    Detect grade or slope in passage 1-5 on 1d6 
    Detect new tunnel/passage construction 1-5 on 1d6 
    Detect sliding/shifting walls or rooms 1-4 on 1d6 
    Detect stonework traps, pits, and deadfalls 1-3 on 1d6 
    Determine approximate depth underground 1-3 on 1d6 

    Note that the dwarf must deliberately try to make these determinations; the information does not simply spring to mind unbidden.
  9. A hardy and resilient race, dwarves automatically gain the Endurance proficiency (see the Player's Handbook, page 58) at no cost.
Unlike all previous versions, in 2nd Edition, Junco gains automatic proficiency with only two languages: Common and his native language (Dwarvish). While there are a list of languages recommended, skill with languages must be purchased by spending proficiency slots on them (see below). Thus this version of Junco is the least multi-lingual by far.

Cleric Abilities:
  1. Spells are the main tools of the cleric, however, helping him to serve, fortify, protect, and revitalize those under his care. A cleric has major access to the spheres of All, Astral, Charm, Combat, Creation, Divination, Guardian, Healing, Necromantic, Protection, Summoning, and Sun, and minor access to the Elemental sphere. The cleric receives his spells as insight directly from his deity (the deity does not need to make a personal appearance to grant the spells the cleric prays for), as a sign of and reward for his faith, so he must take care not to abuse his power lest it be taken away as punishment.
    1. Cast 2 1st-level spells per day.
    2. Cast 1 2nd-level spell per day.
  2. The cleric is also granted power over undead -- evil creatures that exist in a form of non-life, neither dead nor alive. The cleric is charged with defeating these mockeries of life. His ability to turn undead enables him to drive away these creatures or destroy them utterly. 
    1. Turn Undead: Skeletons 4+ on 1d20, Zombie 7+, Ghoul 10+, Shadow 13+, Wight 16+, Ghast 19+, and Wraith 20.
Unlike in previous editions, spells for various "priest" classes in AD&D 2nd Edition are broken down into various spheres of influence, allowing priests of various mythoi to have unique combinations of spells available to them. Clerics have access to most major spheres, excluding new spheres intoduced in the Tome of Magic. Another difference is the idea of having "minor access" to spells within a given sphere, which allows the priest to only cast spells of up to 3rd level from that sphere.

Fighter Abilities:
  1. As a master of weapons, the fighter is the only character able to have weapon specialization. Weapon specialization enables the fighter to use a particular weapon with exceptional skill, improving his chances to hit and cause damage with that weapon. A fighter character is not required to specialize in a weapon; the choice is up to the player. No other character class--not even ranger or paladin--is allowed weapon specialization.
  2. Able to use any armor, any shield, and any bludgeoning weapon.
The player's handbook states "Regardless of his other classes, a multi-classed priest must abide by the weapon restrictions of his mythos. Thus, a fighter/cleric can use only bludgeoning weapons (but he uses the warrior combat value)."

Scholar Priest Abilities:

  1. The Scholar Priest gains Reading/Writing as a bonus non-weapon proficiency.
  2. The Scholar Priest can "spend" any of his Weapon Proficiency slots on Nonweapon Proficiencies instead. He doesn't have to; he can adhere to the normal pattern of proficiency choice that is appropriate to his priest-class. But if he wishes he may turn Weapon Proficiency slots into Nonweapon slots and thereby become a very skilled character. 
  3. The Scholar receives a +3 reaction bonus from other scholars, admirers of scholastic concerns, writers, journalists, and people who imagine that they are scholars. Because of this, when the party thinks it is in a situation when no one is willing to help, it may turn out that the mousy clerk, antagonistic king, or homely witch they met is an admirer of or even correspondent with the Scholar Priest and will help them.
  4. The scholar-priest must always have writing material, quill and ink with him. If ever he loses them, he must regain or replace them as soon as possible, and in the meantime will be recording his experiences in any fashion he can find.
  5. Many scholars are egotistical, and debates between scholars can become very heated and personal. Whenever the DM rolls a reaction check from another scholar, he should first roll 1d6. On a 1, the player-character scholar gets a -6 reaction adjustment instead of a +3, because at some time in the past (or even the present) he argued or disagreed with this scholar's pet opinion and offended him completely.

All Kits come with some drawbacks, limitations, or requirements in addition to a host of special abilities to distinguish characters of that Kit from others with the same class(es).

Attack Rolls:  As a 3rd-level Fighter, he strikes an unarmored opponent on a roll of 8+ on 1d20.

Saving Throws:
  • Paralyzation/Poison/Death Magic:  10+ on d20.
  • Rod/Staff/Wand: 10+ on d20.
  • Petrification/Polymorph:  13+ on d20.
  • Breath Weapon:  16+ on d20.
  • Spells:  11+ on d20.
The saves vs. Rods, Staves, Wands, and Spells include the +4 bonus for being a Dwarf.

The weapon and non-weapon proficiency system introduced in AD&D is expanded and made core in 2nd Edition. Proficiencies are used extensively with the various Kits, and are intrinsic to their function and many of their special abilities. 2nd Edition also addresses the issue of how proficiencies work for multi-class characters, stating "the character starts with the largest number of proficiency slots of the different classes. Thereafter, he gains new proficiency slots at the fastest of the given rates".

As a Fighter, Junco gains 4 weapon proficiencies at 1st-level, and gains 1 additional slot every 3 levels. Thus Junco has 5 slots to spend on his weapon proficiencies. Unlike in AD&D or the Rules Cyclopedia, 2nd Edition specifies that "Only single-class fighters may have weapon specialization," and limits him to only using those weapons allowed to Clerics, so we will have to find some additional uses for his slots beyond the Staff specialization and crossbow proficiency of previous versions.

The Complete Fighter's Handbook introduces the idea of Proficiency groups, which allow a character to gain proficiency in multiple related weapons for a reduced number of slots, as well as proficiency and specialization with Fighting Styles. While only single-class Fighters may gain weapon specialization, "Warriors, Rogues and Priests can buy Style Specializations. Only single-class Warriors can ever learn more than one Style Specialization,so Junco, as a multi-class fighter/cleric is free to gain specialization in a single fighting style of his choice. The fighting styles are Single-Weapon, Two-Weapon, Weapon & Shield, and Two-handed Weapon. Since Junco traditionally uses a staff, we will go with the Two-Handed Weapon as his specialized fighting style.
  • Weapon Proficiencies:
    • Quarterstaff -- 1 slot (the quarterstaff does not belong to any weapon group)
    • Staff Sling -- 1 slot (seems like a good choice as a ranged bludgeoning weapon)
    • Two-Handed Weapon Style -- 1 slot
      • When you're using a weapon two-handed, that weapon's Speed Factor is reduced by 3.
      • You can use a one-handed weapon in two hands, gaining a bonus of +1 to damage.
    • 2 left over
Clerics start with 4 non-weapon proficiencies, and gain another every 3 levels, for a total of 5. Junco gains an additional 5 non-weapon proficiency slots from his high Intelligence score. We will also take advantage of his ability from the Scholar Priest kit and use his 2 remaining weapon proficiency slots to purchase non-weapon proficiencies, giving him a total of 12 non-weapon proficiency slots to spend. 

The various sources in the AD&D 2nd Edition Core Rules provide well over a hundred non-weapon proficiency options to choose from, with varying costs. The various proficiencies are divided up into groups based on class: General, Priest, Rogue, Warrior, and Wizard. As a Cleric/Fighter, Junco can freely purchase proficiencies from the General, Priest, and Warrior groups. His large number of slots will allow us to double-up on some similar proficiencies to reflect his expertise in certain areas, and offset some of his loss of free languages.
  • Non-weapon Proficiencies:
    • Modern Language (Common) -- automatic
    • Modern Language (Dwarvish) -- automatic
    • Reading/Writing (Common) -- Bonus from Scholar Priest kit
    • Endurance -- Bonus from Dwarf race
    • Religion -- 1 slot (Priest)
    • Philosophy -- 1 slot (General)
    • Healing -- 2 slots (Priest)
    • Direction Sense -- 1 slot (General)
    • Mountaineering -- 1 slot (Warrior)
    • Ancient History -- 1 slot (Priest)
    • Excavations -- 1 slot (General)
    • Teaching -- 1 slot (General)
    • Modern Languages (Gnome) -- 1 slot (General)
    • Modern Languages (Kobold) -- 1 slot (General)
    • Modern Languages (Goblin) -- 1 slot (General)

The Exodus: Session 10

While, given my other posts, it is obviously not true to say that I have no time to write, but I have other things to spend it on, so we'll stick with just notes for now.

By the body of a dead Holy Mountain Beast
    Vadim is wrapped up, in the mud, by two giant acid-spitting snakes
        Ithunn, Pinky, and Khut quickly kick its ass
    Then, of course, there was a giant fresh Holy Mountain Beast...WOO MEAT!
    Ferrik, a very short member of the Dust, shows up and helps himself
        says he knows where the stuck Tradestoners were

We find the Tradestoners...circled up with torches...
    being circled by two full-grown, voracious landsharks
        one tackles Petrana (tradestone general) and starts rolling...
    AND it is night...and Vadim and Khut can't see...
    We shoot into the darkness...hit some Tradestoners...
    Sorq wild-casts some fire to make a light...and Confuses everyone
    Vadim feels some eggs hatching...under his hands...
        AND lots and lots of baby landsharks start crawling out of the ground...
    Ithunn leaps in and stabbity-stabbity the one on Petrana...
        Squee sings and sends pointy thorns impaling the other one...
    Vadim wades towards the Bull Landshark, grunting like a Landshark in heat...
        and tags it with ANIMAL FRIENDSHIP...
    Khut shoots right through a gout of swamp gas...
        AND hits a wagon lightning it on fire... to cries of "NOT THAT WAGON!"

The Landsharks eats Ithunn...
    the other leaps and crushes & knocksout Squee and Ado...
    Barruk tries to leap up on a Hillock...but goes unintentionally swimming...
    Ado and Ithunn leap up on the back of an attacking Landshark...
    Khadagan rushes in and tips the burning wagon...dousing the fire...
        but finding a man with a tube full of imperial fireworks pointed at him...

Vadim rides off with "Swampy" the Bull Landshark...
    Swampy snacks on the landshark-fry as he swims by...
        Khut grabs Squee and books it out of there in Swampy's wake...
The Landshark lady rolls and crushes Ado...
    And the swarm of fry roil over Ferrik...
    Barruk shoves it up out of the water, half onto a hillock with his horns...
        Where Sorq blasts it with fire and Ithunn proceeds to stabity-stabity
Squee drops a thundering depth charge into the middle of the baby-landsharks
    Swampy swims through and eats them all...
Mama landshark leaps and pins Barruk three-feet under the water...
    But gets an arrow from Ferrik strait into the brainpan...
        and then gets skeletonized by the fry...

The hatching baby landsharks spread like froth on the water...
    thousands of them in every direction...
    Vadim rushes by on Swampy and tosses two lengths of heavy hempen rope...
        Petrana grabs one and anchors it to a wagon...
        Khut rush swims for another wagon...barely grabs on to the wagon...
            with the rope tangled around his ankle...AND hangs on for dear life...

Khadagan rights the fireworks wagon and throws a keg of gunpowder...
    Ferrik pegs it...
        AND there is a BIG BOOM...dead baby landsharks everywhere...
Everyone books it for the wagons...
    accompanied by Squee's depth charges and Sorq's icy flashes...
    hooking the other wagons onto the train...
        Which are classic Tradestoner praerie-schooners, barges with wheels...
            Desperate hornbeasts trying to swim along as Swampy drags them...
        Barruk makes a flying leap into the last (rootabega-filled) wagon...
            Ferrik grabs Ado and leaps on behind him...

Sorq, standing on a floating hillock, pulls out her thunderbird-feather...
    and electrifies the fry-filled water...
        vaporizing much of it, creating a huge bank of fog...
        AND falls off her hillock...
            vanishing in a flash of flame just before she hits the water...
            only to reappear, precariously balanced, on yet another hillock...
    Khad lights up another keg and chucks it into the water...BOOM!
We get free, cut up the holy mountain beast
    (and feed the rest to Swampy who promptly goes to sleep)...

Petrana introduces us to Broken Tusk...the boom-powder maker...
    He greets Sorq as a "fellow initiate of the burned eyebrows"
    We convince her of the wisdom of a diverse multi-racial "tribe"...

We push hard through the night until Vadim is almost dying from exhaustion...  
    But finally get out of the mud...
        Khut tries to talk to Petrana...
            But finds her truly dying from exhaustion...
                And everyone piles on and manage to bring her back from the brink...
There is some argument with Vadim who wants to go see the Gray Lady...
   but finally we strike W by NW around the fens to catch Drowned River...
We find a cairn with 4 dead Drowned River outriders (sans beasts)...
    shot to death...and stabbed with pikes or lances...

We catch up with the caravan...
    Vadim works with the cattle...Blacky gets Rosebud pregnant with triplets...
    Ferrik makes some challenges within the pack...
    Barruk chats with Ganbaatar, finds out that they lost a patrol...
        and that something has been running ahead of the Clan...
        and flushing out/burning out all the food...

Khadagan sends up a ripclaw (somehow seeing through its eyes)...
    it gets taken down from above and behind...
We find a dead, long-rotting hornbeast calf...
    and some signs of it being dragged/dropped off a cliff...
    And then we get pounced by a "Sabreclaw"...
        big slothlike thing...looking sick and enraged...
            Quothe Sorq "It must be saved...with fire"
        Vadim turns the ground to spikes...
            Khut pushes it back to keep the distance...
        Barruk charges and cleans its clock with his axe...
        Ado drags it through the spikes with a thornwhip...
        Khadagan runs up and gets in its grill...
            And gets shot back onto the spikes by Khut...
    AND then it slams Barruk into the spiked cliff-face...
            impaling him and knocking him out cold...
        Ferrik shoots but it goes wide as the rock he's standing on collapses...
        Sorq summons up some weird black tentacle arm things...
            and slams Barruk, Kahadagan, and the beasty...
        Then Khadagan takes its head...
            AND its rage floods into Khad making him even ragier...
            AND takes its claws as a be converted into weapons...


Sunday, August 30, 2015

Wizard Reskins 6: The Cholimancer

Nature of Magic:
Cholimancers, sometimes called Bile-mages or Humorists, believe that magic comes from within. Every living creature has magic flowing through their veins -- the difficulty is getting it out in the right form and quantity. Magic lives in the body's fluids. Every gutter mage knows that spilled blood can be used to power spells, but only Cholimancers delve into the deeper mysteries of bile, phlegm, and gall. By bringing these humors into the proper proportion in the correct part of the body, great magic can be worked, often without the need to actually bleed the one working it.

Method of Casting:
Cholimancers draw power for their spells by aligning the humors (blood, bile, gall, and phlegm) in their bodies. Each spell corresponds to a specific balance of humors in a specific body part, whether that be concentrating black bile in the fingertips or gall at the knee. The humors may be manipulated by a variety of means (summarized in the table below), which may include controlling the relative temperature and moistness of the body part, encouraging specific emotional states, having a focus of a corresponding element, or bleeding to get rid of an excess of an unwanted humor. They may pour cold water over themselves to excite the phlegm, stare at pictures of dead loved ones to induce the melancholic bile, or insert long pins or needles into their body to call forth blood. Thus a Cholimancer's spellcasting, while much more precise and reproducible in nature, may look very similar to a Xypnomancer's crazed antics to an unschooled onlooker.

Humor Element Organ Qualities Mood
Blood Air Heart Warm, Moist Lively, Hopeful, Sociable
Gall Fire Liver Warm, Dry Impulsive, Aggressive, Passionate
Bile Earth Spleen Cool, Dry Morose, Depressed, Serious
Phlegm Water Brain Cold, Moist Calm, Reasonable, Patient

Cholimancer spellbooks read like medical treatises. Each spell is a mixture of anatomical diagrams show how the humors flow through various parts of the body, descriptions of how the humors wax and wane with diet or activity, and the means by which the correct amounts of the correct humors can be channeled to the part of the body housing the magical energies for the spell in question.

The Limit:
While a Cholimancer's spells are carefully crafted to evoke the necessary power without inflicting bodily harm, manipulating a body's humors is still highly disruptive, both to the caster's emotional state and his long-term health. Cholimancers carefully limit the amount of magic they draw out of themselves, though, with experience, they can learn more subtle manipulations to draw on progressively more power without causing themselves harm. There comes a point though, where one jot more phlegm or bile in their system, or one drop less blood will throw their entire system out of whack.

Breaking the Limit:
A Cholimancer who has exhausted his daily allotment of spell slots can attempt to cast additional spells, but at significant risk to his health. A Cholimancer who attempts to cast more spells must succeed on a save vs spell, with a penalty equal to the spell's level, or contract a random disease (as per the Contagion spell). The disease(s) run their course as described and may be cured in the normal manner. There is no limit to the number of maladies the Cholimancer can contract in this manner. While this may not be immediately debilitative, it is still a significant deterrent to the wise, as many a desperate young Cholimancer has pushed his limits only to be found dead from multiple simultaneous organ failures the next day.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Wizard Reskins 5: The Asteromancer

Nature of Magic:
Asteromancers, or Star Mages, believe that the small lights that illumine the night sky are each a tiny fragment of the magic that permeates the universe. The stars are magic, but a single star does not hold enough magic to be at all useful. To think you could "wish upon" a single star is folly reserved only for children. Rather, the power of magic is summoned and controlled by drawing and understanding the relationships between multiple stars. The commonly known constellations and the predictions of Astrology represent only the barest fraction of the truth of this power.

Method of Casting:
An Asteromancer's methods for crafting his spells is as ostentatious as it is precise and is often what leaps to the minds of most laymen when they think of "spellcasting". To cast a spell, the Asteromancer must point to the location of each star in the sky, using a finger, wand, or other pointer device, and call out the stars by name in the precise order that defines the relationship of the spell in question. As the stars do not have to be visible for the spell to work, and the names of stars (such as "Alpha Crucis" and "Kaus Australis") are so much gibberish to the uninitiated, this casting is typically interpreted as simply waving one's hands about and chanting arcane words. While not strictly necessary for casting a spell, most Asteromancers also carry a sextant and astrolabe for calculating the relative positions of the celestial objects involved in the spell.

An Asteromancer's spellbook takes the form of a collection of star charts, plotting the quadrants of the night sky through various seasons and showing the positions of the innumerable stars and their names.

The Limit: (i.e. Why does this guy use Vancian spell-slots?)
Each spell an Asteromancer casts represents a precise relationship between a specific group of stars. While such relationships are easy to trace when the stars in question are visible in the sky, it becomes much more difficult when they are not. Stars cannot be seen during the day, nor when the sky is overcast, and some more complex relationships may be between stars that are on opposite sides of the planet relative to its current rotation. In order to cast a spell, the Asteromancer must know the stars' exact positions at any given time. While more experienced Asteromancers may develop tricks and references to simplify locating the necessary stars, casting spells during the day still boils down to a monumental task of wrote memorization, accompanied by careful tracking of the time and the planet's rotation.

Breaking the Limit:
An Asteromancer who has exhausted his daily allotment of spell slots can attempt to cast additional spells only if he can directly see the stars in question. Without such visual references, a tired mind cannot possibly locate the correct stars. The Astronomancer may freely cast spells using his The Stars are Right ability, even once he has used up his available slots.

The Stars are Right:
When the stars are clearly visible in the sky (on clear nights and well away from other light sources), an Asteromancer armed with a sextant, astrolabe, and his star charts can calculate the necessary relationships without needing to resort to his own memory. In such situations, he can cast any spell he has prepared without expending a spell slot. Casting a spell in this way increases the casting time by 10 minutes.

Monday, August 24, 2015

One Character, Nine Systems: Part 5

Last week, I proposed an experiment of generating the same character in nine different editions/variations of the D&D game. In the first post we introduced Junco Eliade, now it's time to give him some crunch. In this iteration we'll use:

Much like the Basic boxed-sets, this incarnation of the D&D includes everything in a single volume with no expansions. Which might be its greatest selling point,

Race: Dwarf
Class: Dwarf
As a redux of the "Basic" line, the Rules Cyclopedia has race-as-class. 

Level: 3rd
Minimum XP: 4,400 (split evenly between to 2 classes or 4000 each)
Alignment:  Lawful
Hit Dice: 3d8+3
Average Hit Points:  17
  • Str: 9
  • Dex: 16  -- +2 to missile attacks and Armor Class
  • Con: 15 -- +2 hit points per die
  • Int: 16 -- 2 additional languages
  • Wis: 11
  • Cha: 8 -- -1 on NPC reactions, Max 3 retainers, Morale 6
AD&D introduces racial ability limits (both upper and lower), as well as racial ability adjustments. All of Junco's rolled stats fall within the range for dwarves. His Constution has been increased by 1 and his Charisma decreased by 1 by virtue of the AD&D dwarven racial traits.
With a Strength score of 9, Junco just barely meets the ability requirements to become a Fighter. His 11 Wisdom is more than sufficient to qualify as a Cleric, but does provide him with a % chance of his spells failing.
Dwarf Abilities:  

  1. Armor: A dwarf may wear any kind of armor, and may use a shield.
  2. Weapons: A dwarf may use any small or medium melee weapon. (If you're unsure as to whether a weapon is small or medium, see the Weapons Table in Chapter 4.) They may not use longbows, but can use short bows and crossbows.
  3. Dwarves are good fighters. Like fighters, they know the Lance Attack and Set Spear vs. Charge maneuvers.
  4. Infravision is the ability to see heat (and the lack of heat). Dwarves have infravision in addition to normal sight and can see 60' in the dark. Infravision does not work in the presence of normal and magical light. With infravision, warm things appear red, and cold things appear blue. A creature could be seen as a red shape, leaving faint reddish footprints. A cold pool of water would seem a deep blue color. Characters with infravision can even see items or creatures the same temperature as the surrounding air (such as a table or a skeleton), since air flow will inevitably show the viewer their borders, outlining them in a faint lighter-blue tone. Until they move, they will be very faint to the eye; once they start moving, they become blurry but very obvious light-blue figures. Infravision isn't good enough to read by. A character can use his infravision to recognize an individual only if they are within 10' distance . . . unless the individual is very, very distinctive (for example, 8' tall or walking with a crutch).
  5. In addition to Common and alignment tongues, a dwarf can speak the languages of the dwarf, gnome, goblin, and kobold races.
  6. Dwarves can sometimes detect traps (specifically, traps built into stone-work or heavy construction, not other types of traps such as rope-traps in the forest or spring-out needles built into a jewelry box); they can also detect sliding walls, sloping corridors, and new constructions. If your dwarf character wants to search for such things in an area, tell the DM. You have 1 chance in 3 to find them. The DM will roll 1d6, and a 1 or 2 will indicate success if there is anything to find; a result of 3-6 means your dwarf detects nothing. You may check once for each trap, sliding wall, sloping corridor, or new construction. You must tell the DM if you want to look for anything; the detection is never automatic.
This version of Junco is the least multi-lingual yet, being able to speak only 8 languages (Common, Dwarven, Gnome, Kobold, Goblin, an alignment language, and 2 of his choice).

The Rules Cyclopedia introduces some interesting abilities for higher-level dwarves. While Junco loses his clerical powers in this edition, he will eventually gain the ability to make multiple attacks and perform special combat maneuvers (like a Fighter), establish a stronghold as a "Dwarf Lord", and suffer only half damage from damage-causing magical attacks.

Cleric Abilities:
Not applicable.
Fighting Man Abilities:
Not applicable.

Attack Rolls: 
Demihumans advance in attack probability at the same level as Fighters up to "name level" (9th for Dwarves). Thus, Junco strikes an unarmored opponent on a roll of 10+ on 1d20.

Saving Throws:
  • Death/Poison:  8+ on d20.
  • Wands:  9+ on d20.
  • Petrification/Paralysis: 10+ on d20.
  • Breath Weapon:  13+ on d20.
  • Rods/Staves/Spells:  12+ on d20.

The major thing that sets the Rules Cyclopedia apart from the original B/X line is the introduction of rules for varying levels of "Weapon Mastery" and Weapon Choices, as well as a Skill system. 

As a Dwarf, Junco gains 3 "weapon choices" at 3rd-level. Similar to his AD&D version, we will use 1 slot to gain a "Basic" skill level with the Heavy Crossbow, and the 2 remaining slots to gain the "Skilled" level of training with a Staff.  He can use all other weapons allowed to dwarves at an "unskilled" level, with the normal chance to hit, but dealing only half damage. At the Basic skill level, the various weapons are basically the same as they work in previous editions, but at higher levels of mastery, they gain additional properties. Since Junco is "Skilled" with the Staff, we'll enumerate those here.
  • Weapon Mastery:
    • Staff (2 slots): The staff is a two-handed, medium melee weapon. 
      • +2 on all attack rolls (the staff has a primary attack group of "All").
      • Damage 1d6+2
      • Gain a -1 bonus to AC against 2 attacks per round
      • Can attempt to Deflect one melee or thrown weapon attack per round by making a save vs. death ray (this is in addition to attack actions and the AC bonus).
      • Despair: If Junco deals maximum damage on an attack with his staff, or takes no damage in a round by using his Deflect ability, up to 4HD of opponents must make immediate morale checks (once per fight). 
In addition to the Weapon Mastery options, the Rules Cyclopedia includes a system of "General Skills". All 1st-level characters start with a number of skill slots equal to 4 plus their ability modifier for Intelligence, and additional slots every 4 levels thereafter. Thus, Junco has 6 skill slots available to him. Skills work by rolling equal to or less than the relevant ability score on 1d20. Unlike AD&D's proficiency system, skills do not have variable costs. Junco's skills are selected to reflect his role as a traveling scholar and holy-man.
  • Skills: selected from the list of  Sample skills in Chapter 5
    • Mysticism (Wis)
    • Healing (Int)
    • Leadership (Cha)
    • Knowledge: Theology (Int)
    • Cartography (Int)
    • Knowledge: Philosophy (Int)

Friday, August 21, 2015

Wizard Reskins 4: The Voskomancer

Awww...who's a good little spell...yes you are...

Nature of Magic:
Everyone who has witnessed a spell go awry has probably heard the phrase "the spell had a mind of its own", Voskomancers, sometimes called Spell Herders, will tell you that "yes, they really do". Voskomancers believe that spells are living things -- sentient creatures composed of pure energy with their own needs, wants, and preferences. Spells must not be 'shaped' or 'commanded', as some mages claim to do, but rather must be carefully husbanded and coaxed into acting in the way you want.

Method of Casting:
Each spell a Voskomancer intends to cast must be carefully stored in a vessel -- a tiny box or cage designed to comfortably hold that spell's power. When the time comes to cast the spell, the Voskomancer must open the vessel to let the spell out, then instruct the spell as to what he desires it to do, explaining the situation, the desired target. why it would be a good thing for the spell to do as he asks. Any Voskomancer will tell you that spells are skittish, flighty creatures, and must be treated with the utmost care and should only be addressed in calm, soothing, respectful tones. Of course, to a lay observer, Voskomancers usually look like they are talking to thin air.

Pages in a Voskomancer's spellbook resemble drawings of complex mazes. Voskomancers refer to these as 'habitats' and insist that each must be carefully drawn to match the preferences of the specific spell it is meant to house. Preparing spells for a Voskomancer consists of tracing the route of the maze, leading the spell out from the page where it can be coaxed into a vessel for use.

The Limit: (i.e. Why does this guy have Vancian spell-slots?)
Spells are flighty creatures and tire easily. Much like trying to walk a pack of dogs, an inexperienced Voskomancer cannot handle more than a few spells in a given day, or else he risks the spells running away from him. Spells that have not been with the Voskomancer long are less prone to accept his orders, and will not come out of their vessels more than once before demanding their rest. With time and experience, the Voskomancer and his spells become more accustomed to each other and he can bring more with him and coax them into service more frequently.

Breaking the Limit:
A Voskomancer who has exhausted his daily allotment of spell slots finds his spells have become too tired and unwilling to follow his orders. He can still, with much coaxing and negotiation, get the spells to do what he wants. Each time a Voskomancer attempts to cast a spell after reaching his limit, he must make a Charisma check, with a penalty equal to the spell’s level. On any failed check, the spell has been angered at being awoken and runs amok, creating a Wild Magic surge. A spell that has gone wild immediately returns to its 'habitat' and is lost from the Voskomancer's list of prepared spells. It can only be prepared again after the Voskomancer (and his spells) have had at least 8 hours of rest.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

In Defense of the 2nd-Edition Bard

Throughout the various gaming-oriented corners of the world wide web can be heard the cry... "Bards suck!"

Everywhere, in every forum, every G+ thread, every Facebook group you can expect to find more than a few people who share this opinion. In some places, the opinion is unanimous. There are also hundreds of memes touting the same opinion with such lines as "When the group says they need a Bard, I must assume they are joking".

YET, in every group I have ever had the pleasure to play with or DM, there is an insistence that there needs to be a Bard in the party. I myself refrain from such suggestions, but often end up playing the Bard.

Why the disparity? Why can so many people say that Bards suck, and yet so many gaming groups find them indispensable to the success of the party?

This post will look at one particular (perhaps the most classic and defining incarnation), and very much maligned, incarnation of the Bard and try to explain, through math, that Bards do not, in fact, suck.

The Arguments Against:
From looking at numerous sources of 2nd-edition Bard hatred the arguments against Bards boil down to three basic ideas:

  1. Bards are not as good at "X" as "Y" other class. They have lower THAC0 than a Fighter of the same level, fewer spells than a Wizard of the same level, or worse and fewer % skills than a Thief of the same level.
  2. Bards are not as good as good as a character with two classes. "What could be less useful and less powerful then a scaled down thief mixed with 20% of a wizard? Why not just play a multi-class Wizard/Thief?
  3. Bards are lame because they play harps and shit...
The core of the argument for the Bard class focuses on item #2, but let's go ahead and deal with #1 and #3, shall we.

Not as good at X?
The idea that the Bard is less good in certain areas than another class is fundamentally flawed. The bard is a generalist, while most other classes are specialists
  • Yes, the Fighter can wear slightly better armor than the Bard, and has a better chance to hit, but can he cast spells? No. Can he climb a sheer wall in his armor? Again, no.
  • Yes, the Wizard can cast more spells and higher level spells than the Bard, but can he do it while wearing armor and swinging a sword? No. Can he use Pick Pockets to steal his rival's spellbook? Also no.
  • Yes, the Thief has a broader array of skills and higher percentage chance of success compared to a Bard of equal level, but can he wear Chainmail? No. Use a Longbow? No. Cast magical spells without reading it off of a scroll? No.
Specialists are good at one thing, but only one thing. The Bard is a generalist, or as the Player's Handbook very clearly states, "a jack-of-all-trades but master of none". Of course he cannot hit as well as a Fighter, but he can augment his attacks with magic (haste, strengthtenser's transformation, etc.). Of course he cannot cast spells as well as a wizard, but he has more hit points and can do so while wearing armor, thus increasing his survivability. He is not as good at sneaking as a Thief, but he can cast invisibility so why would he need to be? 

Comparing the Bard to a specialist class is comparing apples to oranges. If you want to do a single thing well, play a specialist. If you want to do everything play a Bard.

Okay...This argument is just flavor. It is strictly a role-playing choice, and perhaps a negative side effect of lame fantasy art. 

The Player's Handbook states "The music, poetry, and stories of the bard can also be inspirational..." Everyone seems to stop at "music" and skip over the two very important words after that "poetry and stories". Bards have skills in performance, but do not have to be musicians. Nothing says they have to be singing as they fight, or lugging a lute into the dungeon (and really, no sane musician would take their prized instrument into imminent danger).

Bards should be inspiring their allies with rousing speeches...
Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
Or close the wall up with our English dead.
In peace there's nothing so becomes a man
As modest stillness and humility:
But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger;
Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,
Disguise fair nature with hard-favour'd rage;
Then lend the eye a terrible aspect;
Let pry through the portage of the head
Like the brass cannon; let the brow o'erwhelm it
As fearfully as doth a galled rock
O'erhang and jutty his confounded base,
Swill'd with the wild and wasteful ocean.

Or with EPIC Viking poetry...
The giantess old in Ironwood sat,
In the east, and bore the brood of Fenrir;
Among these one in monster's guise
Was soon to steal the sun from the sky.

There feeds he full on the flesh of the dead,
And the home of the gods he reddens with gore;
Dark grows the sun, and in summer soon
Come mighty storms: would you know yet more?

Not by jangling on his lame-ass harp.

Seriously, your Bard should be in the front lines swinging his sword or axe and quoting some Shakespeare or the poetic eddas, not standing in the back looking like this...
Granted, that guy looks pretty bad-ass...

If your party's bard is lame, it's the Player's fault...not the class.

Why not just play a multi-class Mage/Thief:
Many people who look at the 2nd-Edition AD&D Bard class seem to think of it as a "thief with spells" or as previously quoted "a scaled down thief mixed with 20% of a wizard". They see the thief skills and the spellcasting and immediately think that it must be functionally equivalent Mage/Thief hybrid.

Ignoring that the Bard has four additional class abilities which may offset the loss four of the classic thief abilities, this comparison of Bard to Mage/Thief (hereafter referred to as MT), taken at face value does result in the Bard appearing to be underpowered (at least at lower levels):

Putting the two side-by-side at 1st-level, the two options (Bard and MT) have comparable hit points (the MT's averaging at 3 rather than the Bard's 3.5), similar saving throws, THAC0, and proficiencies, and the MT has a single 1st-level spell, while the Bard has none. Even if you assume that the Bard's influence reactions, inspiration, countersong, and legend lore abilities balance the loss of four core thief skills (not to mention Backstab and Thieves' Cant), the MT wins by virtue of having access to spells starting at 1st level.

The Bard will soon pull away from the MT in hit points and THAC0 by virtue of leveling slightly faster, The Bard will remain roughly 1 level ahead of the Thief part of the MT and 2 levels ahead of the Mage portion until around 11th level, where the Bard will begin to pull ahead of his Multi-classed counterpart even more in terms of their relative levels.

As you can see from the table below, after 1st level, by virtue of faster leveling, the Bard actually outstrips the Mage/Thief's spellcasting capability until level 6, at which point they maintain relative parity until level 10, where the MT gains a slight advantage until level 16, then struggles again to maintain parity until level 20, where the Bard has a clear advantage (with 2 more 6th-level spell-slots than a Mage/Thief of comparable XP total.

Experience Points Bard Level Bard Spells MT–Thief Level MT–Mage Level MT Spells
0 1 0 1 1 1
1250 2 1 1 1 1
2500 3 2 2 1 1
5000 4 2 1 3 2 2
10000 5 3 1 4 3 2 1
20000 6 3 2 5 4 3 2
40000 7 3 2 1 6 5 4 2 1
70000 8 3 3 1 6 5 4 2 1
110000 9 3 3 2 7 6 4 2 2
160000 10 3 3 2 1 8 7 4 3 2 1
220000 11 3 3 3 1 9 8 4 3 3 2
440000 12 3 3 3 2 11 9 4 3 3 2 1
660000 13 3 3 3 2 1 11 10 4 4 3 2 2
880000 14 3 3 3 3 1 12 11 4 4 4 3 3
1100000 15 3 3 3 3 2 12 11 4 4 4 3 3
1320000 16 4 3 3 3 2 1 13 11 4 4 4 3 3
1540000 17 4 4 3 3 3 1 13 12 4 4 4 4 4 1
1760000 18 4 4 4 3 3 2 14 12 4 4 4 4 4 1
1980000 19 4 4 4 4 3 2 14 12 4 4 4 4 4 1
2200000 20 4 4 4 4 4 3 15 12 4 4 4 4 4 1

Also, with the difference in experience by that 2,200,000 XP mark, the Bard will have an average of 56 hit points, compared to the MT's 41, will have a THAC0 2 points better, and 1 better in all saving throw categories (except save vs. Breath Weapon). So, strictly by the numbers, the Bard is the clear winner.

The Real Argument for the Bard:
But wait! There is one other thing about the bard that everyone seems to miss. The Player's Handbook states "Although he fights as a rogue, he can use any weapon. He can wear any armor up to, and including, chain mail." The Bard can use ANY weapon.

So, again...why do so many D&D players have their Bards wearing puffy shorts and fighting with rapiers? This is, again, strictly a flavor problem (or perhaps the fault of the limitations of the 3rd-edition Bard back-propagating). Your Bard should be charging into battle wearing chainmail and wielding a f*cking Greataxe, while quoting the best inspiring general speech you can find!

Using any weapon is an ability normally reserved to warriors, in fact the original D&D game made access to all weapons the defining characteristic of another class: "All magical weaponry is usable by fighters, and this in itself is a big advantage." So, the Bard not only has some thief skills, and spellcasting ability, but also has access to the primary defining ability of the Fighter class.

But...the other big advantage of the Fighter is his really good THAC0. Yes, but, again, apples to apples. The Bard is a generalist. What if, instead of being a Thief/Mage hybrid, the Bard is actually meant as the Human answer to the infamous Elf Fighter/Mage/Thief uber-multiclass?

Let's look at the Bard alongside the strangely popular Elven super-triple-class...

Again, at 1st-level, the FMT has everything over the Bard...more spells, more armor, more hit points, and better thief skills. But by virtue of the ridiculous experience requirements for the triple-class, the Bard soon pulls ahead. The Bard crushes the elven triple-class on spells and average hit points. The interesting part happens on the Fighter side...

The two characters start with the same THAC0, but the Bard gains a quick advantage and maintains that advantage until level 8, where the Fighter Multi-Class pulls ahead, until level 19 and 20, where the two are once again, exactly the same...

TOTAL XP Bard Level Bard Spells Bard THAC0 Bard AVG HP
0 1 0 20 3
1250 2 1 20 7
2500 3 2 19 10
5000 4 2 1 19 14
10000 5 3 1 18 17
20000 6 3 2 18 21
40000 7 3 2 1 17 24
70000 8 3 3 1 17 28
110000 9 3 3 2 16 31
160000 10 3 3 2 1 16 35
220000 11 3 3 3 1 15 37
440000 12 3 3 3 2 15 39
660000 13 3 3 3 2 1 14 41
880000 14 3 3 3 3 1 14 43
1100000 15 3 3 3 3 2 13 45
1320000 16 4 3 3 3 2 1 13 47
1540000 17 4 4 3 3 3 1 12 49
1760000 18 4 4 4 3 3 2 12 51
1980000 19 4 4 4 4 3 2 11 53
2200000 20 4 4 4 4 4 3 11 55

XP Per Class FMT-Fighter FMT-Thief FMT-Mage FMT Spells FMT THAC0 FMT AVG HP
0 1 1 1 1 20 4
417 1 1 1 1 20 4
833 1 1 1 1 20 4
1667 1 2 1 1 20 5
3333 2 3 2 2 19 9
6667 3 4 3 2 1 18 13
13333 4 5 4 3 2 17 17
23333 5 6 5 4 2 1 16 21
36667 6 6 5 4 2 1 15 23
53333 6 7 6 4 2 2 15 25
73333 7 8 7 4 3 2 1 14 29
146667 8 9 9 4 3 3 2 1 13 34
220000 8 11 9 4 3 3 2 1 13 37
293333 9 11 10 4 4 3 2 2 12 39
366667 9 11 10 4 4 3 2 2 12 39
440000 9 12 11 4 4 4 3 3 12 42
513333 10 12 11 4 4 4 3 3 11 43
586667 10 12 11 4 4 4 3 3 11 43
660000 10 13 11 4 4 4 3 3 11 45
733333 10 13 11 4 4 4 3 3 11 45

So...comparing Apples to Apples, the Bard matches the multi-class Mage/Thief for spellcasting capability AND matches the multi-class Fighter/Mage/Thief for weapon selection and THAC0.

Also, interestingly, the level limits for the Elf would cause them to top out only slightly past the point where the Bard does (12th-level Fighter, 12th-level Thief, 15th-level Mage), but would not reach that limit until a lofty 5,625,000 experience points.

Thus, the 2nd-edition Bard is clearly Humanity's answer to the ability of the various Demihumans to multi-class, and it is a very effective answer indeed.

If your Bard sucks...IT'S YOUR OWN DAMNED FAULT!

Oh...and they are the only class that has any chance to identify your magic items without spending 100gp per item...

Wizard Reskins 3: The Stoicheomancer

F*ck you four elements, I've got one hundred and eighteen...

Nature of Magic:
Stoicheomancers, or Elementalists, believe that everything in the world is composed of matter, and that all matter is composed of small particles of a finite set of "pure", "fundamental" substances (elements). They claim that even such aetherial things as the air we breath is made up of such tiny particles of matter, just spread out further. By understanding the nature of the elements that make up everything, the Stoicheomancer can enact fundamental changes on the nature of reality by changing the elements within a thing or the way those elements are arranged and combined.

Further, they postulate that their are nearly a hundred different "pure substances" in existence, including such things as lead and gold, and that, while they can be combined, not even wishing could turn one pure substance into another -- much to the consternation of practitioners of traditional alchemy. More traditional mages and alchemists point out that these theories are obvious bullox, as every well-educated sage knows that there are only four elements.

Method of Casting:
The key to a Stoicheomancer's spells is the catalyst, a particular element or combination of elements (often an acidic or volatile one) which, when exposed to the base matter of the universe causes it to change in some way. These catalysts are often stored in small glass vials, and must be carefully prepared for each spell, taking into account both the desired effect to be created and the target of that effect -- since an Orc may be made of different elements than a Dwarf, and different sized targets require different amounts of the catalysts. Thus a Stoicheomancer's spells require a great deal of preparation and forethought, but can be cast simply by throwing the correct vial at the correct target.

A Stoicheomancer's spells take the form of complex formulae, resembling mathematical equations but written using symbols that indicate the various elements, which describe the reactions between those elements. They have much in common with alchemical texts, but are much more complex, and are all but indecipherable to those without at least basic alchemical training.

The Limit: (i.e. Why does this guy have Vancian spell-slots?)
Stoicheomancy is no where near as simple as alchemy, and is not just a matter of 'bottling fire', as some laymen think of it. The complex calculations involved in finding the right catalyst and amount of catalyst for the right situation is very taxing on the mind, especially in the heat of battle when one does not have the luxury of writing out the formula on a blackboard. While in theory a Stoicheomancer could keep using his magic indefinitely so long as he had a ready supply of the correct catalysts, in reality, after a few uses, even the most intelligent and experienced Stoicheomancer will become confused and likely to lob a vial of element that is in no way reactive with the chosen target. A Stoicheomancer who has exhausted his daily allotment of spells simply can no longer think fast enough to figure out the right catalysts to use until he has had time to rest and relax his mind.

Breaking the Limit:
A Stoicheomancer who has exhausted his daily allotment of spell slots can attempt to cast additional spells, so long as he has additional catalyst to use, but is likely to select the wrong catalyst. He must make an Intelligence check to cast the spell, with a penalty equal to the spell's level. On a failed check, he has selected a catalyst that is inert with regard to the chosen target and nothing happens (other than the loss of the catalyst). On a natural 20, he has selected a catalyst that reacts, but not in the manner desired. Roll for a Wild Magic surge, with all effects centered on the target of the catalyst.

Magic Items:  
Just don't call them potions...

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Wizard Reskins 2: The Xypnomancer

From the Greek ξυπνώντας (xypnó̱ntas -- awakening).

Nature of Magic:
Xypnomancers, or Awakaned Mages, believe that reality is a dream. That which we can see, hear, and feel around us does not exist, but is rather just a shared sleeping fantasy. Reality, to them, is as meaningless and forgettable as a drug-induced stupor. Once one becomes "Lucid", that is, aware of the dream, then one can begin to manipulate reality and create magical effects by simply "willing the dream to change".

Method of Casting:
There are no set formula or tools for casting an Xypnomancy spell, rather, the key to a Xypnomancer's spells is the caster's ability to "wake up" and become aware of the fragile nature of reality. Spells are cast by a combination of visual, auditory, and tactile cues used to get the Xypnomancer into the "right frame of mind". Whatever these cues are, they are, to the untrained eye, always flashy and unorthodox. The caster may shout obscenities, spout free-verse poetry, unleash primal screams, throw handfuls of glitter into the air, leap about, slap himself, imbibe all manner of intoxicants, stare intently at a spoon, or any of a variety of other stunts intended to convince himself that what he perceives is not real and that what he desires to perceive is.

Xypnomancers' spells are recorded as drawings or paintings. These are always done in a highly surrealist style, attempting to convey at once the desired effect of the spell, and the pliable, dream-like nature of the world. The exact content of the image has less importance than the feeling it evokes. The same spell, learned by multiple Xypnomancers, may result in a vastly different array of images when inscribed into their various spellbooks.
Magic Missile? This is why you need a fricken Read Magic spell...
The Limit: (i.e. Why does this guy have Vancian spell-slots?)
Xypnomantic spellcasting is much more physically strenuous than any other form of magic. "Freeing one's mind" enough to perform the greatest feats of such magic can often escalate to the point of beating your own head in with a rock while screaming at the top of your lungs, or lighting yourself on fire. While the body can become inured to some level of hardship through practice and experience, even the strongest body can only suffer so much self-induced duress.

Breaking the Limit:
A Xypnomancer who has exhausted his daily allotment of spell slots can attempt to cast additional spells, but at this point his manic antics become truly self-destructive. A Xypnomancer who attempts to cast more spells suffers 1 point of damage per level of the spell being cast (caster's choice as to what type, but such damage cannot be resisted), and must succeed on a save vs spell or become Confused (as the spell) for one minute per level of the spell. The damage dealt by this exposure can be healed normally. The confusion in no way impairs the Xypnomancer's ability to cast further spells, but may put his life in greater jeopardy.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Wizard Reskins 1: The Kathreptomancer

I woke up yesterday morning with the idea that I should, for some unknown dream-addled reason, rewrite the way magic works in my games. My first thought was just to make up some new schools of wizardly magic for AD&D, but as I started brainstorming, it instead it turned into a bunch of ways to reskin Vancian spellcasters. 

I will be presenting these as ideas, with as few rules as possible. They could be seeds for alternate classes, or just fun ways of reskinning the existing wizard class to look and feel a little different. They could be given unique spell lists, or be typical mages with full access to whatever spells are allowed in your system. Use them as you will. 

I expect there will be several of these...


From the Greek καθρέπτης (kathrépti̱s -- mirror).

Nature of Magic:
Kathreptomancers, or Mirror Mages, believe that magic is made of light. By reflecting, bending, breaking, and otherwise manipulating light they can tease forth a variety of extraordinary effects.

Method of Casting:
A Kathreptomancer's spells require no words or gestures, but are cast by complex manipulations requiring a light source, mirrors, lenses, filters, gels, and prisms. The various components must be set up 'just so' in order to direct the light in the precise way needed to generate the desired effect. A typical Kathreptomancer carries a high-quality bullseye lantern, to ensure a ready source of light. As they rise in levels, these often become rigged with numerous adjustable arms and slots for mounting the various lenses and reflectors necessary to cast their most powerful spells.

A Kathreptomancer's spells are always complex descriptions carefully written out with the off-hand while viewing it in a mirror. While true masters may be able to read it directly, most aspirants can only read this "mirror writing" by viewing the words' reflections.

The Limit: (i.e. Why does this guy have Vancian spell-slots?)
Light contains much more energy than the uninitiated are aware of and the Kathreptomancers tap into a great portion of that energy with their spells. There is only so much exposure to such radiations that a body can withstand before the strain becomes too much, though a body can learn to grow accustomed to it with experience and prolonged exposure. Once a Kathreptomancer has reached his daily limit of spells, he must rest, or risk doing considerable harm to himself.

Breaking the Limit: (Because allowing that last desperate spell attempt is awesome.)
A Kathreptomancer who has exhausted his daily allotment of spell slots can attempt to cast additional spells, by pushing past his body's ability to resist the powerful energies of the Light. A Kathreptomancer who attempts to cast more spells suffers 1 point of radiant damage per level of the spell being cast, and must succeed on a save vs spell or be Blinded. The damage dealt by this exposure can be healed normally. A Kathreptomancer that is blinded by exposure will have his sight restored after 8 hours of rest. A blind Kathreptomancer cannot cast any spells (as he cannot see the light to be manipulated).

Magic Items:
When Kathreptomancers make magic items these most often take the form of "wands". No simple sticks, these items are complex contraptions of polished metal, glass, and crystals, charged with arcane energy and designed to produce a single, specific effect (typically a damaging ray of some kind). The devices almost always include a handle and a clear "business end" from which the Kathreptomantic magic is emitted and which should be pointed at the intended target of the spell.

Frickin laser beams!

Masters of Reflections:
At 20th level (or name level), a Kathreptomancer's understanding of his craft is such that he no longer needs the complex tools used by his lessers. He can cast any Kathreptomancy spell using a single handheld mirror or prism (a well polished shield or chunk of broken glass will often suffice) and any available light source. Likewise, he can understand mirror-written scrolls and spellbooks at a glance, without the need for a reflective surface.

Monday, August 17, 2015

One Character, Nine Systems: Part 4

Last week, I proposed an experiment of generating the same character in nine different editions/variations of the D&D game. In the first post we introduced Junco Eliade, now it's time to give him some crunch. In this iteration we'll use:
Basic D&D
"Basic" is a good bit different from the other editions so far, in that it was released (multiple times) as a boxed set, and did not include any real expansions (other than "The Book of Marvelous Magic" which was magic items only). The follow-up boxed sets (Expert et al.) are not relevant to a 3rd-level character.

Race: Dwarf
Class: Dwarf
Here we have the first big deviation from the original version of the Dungeons and Dragons game -- race as class. I would argue that this is THE biggest deviation from the intent of the game's creators in any version of D&D yet published. Whereas in OD&D and AD&D, Eliade was a Fighter and a Cleric, now he is just a "Dwarf" with a significant loss in capabilities relative to his original incarnation.
Level: 3rd
Minimum XP: 4400 (as a single-class character, he requires much less experience in this version)
Alignment:  Lawful
Hit Dice: 3d8+3
Average Hit Points:  16
  • Str: 9
  • Dex: 16  -- +2 to hit with missile attacks, -2 to Armor Class, +1 to initiative
  • Con: 15 -- +1 hit points per die
  • Int: 16 -- Read and write native languages, +2 additional languages
  • Wis: 11
  • Cha: 8 -- -1 reaction adjustment, 3 retainers, morale 6
Basic D&D has no racial ability adjustments. Dwarf characters must have a Constitution score of 9, but Junco has that covered.  Basic D&D introduces standardized modifiers for abilities of specific levels (which we shall see used to even greater effect in later editions).
Dwarf Abilities:  
  1. Dwarves may use any type of armor and may use shields. They may use any type of weapon or normal or small size, but may not use long bows or two-handed swords.
  2. Dwarves are very hardy creatures and have better saving throws than most other character classes (see below).
  3. Dwarves often live underground, and have infravision (heat-sensing sight) which allows them to see 60 feet in the dark.
  4. They are expert miners and are able to find slanting passages, traps, shifting walls, and new construction one-third of the time (1 or 2 on 1d6) when looking for them.
  5. All dwarves speak Common, Dwarvish, and the alignment tongue of the character, plus the languages of gnomes, kobolds, and goblins.
Once again we see a drop in the number of languages Junco can speak from 11 in OD&D, 9 in AD&D, to only 8 in Basic (Common, Dwarven, Gnome, Kobold, Goblin, an alignment language, and 2 of his choice), losing automatic access to Orcish.

Cleric Abilities:
Not Applicable.
Fuck this shit.

Fighter Abilities:
Not Applicable.
Fuck this shit.
Attack Rolls:  As a 3rd-level Dwarf, he strikes an unarmored opponent on a roll of 10+ on 1d20.
Interestingly, the attack matrix for characters of levels 1-3 in this version are not class-dependent. A 3rd-level fighter has the same chance of hitting as a 1st-level magic user, a thing we will not see in any other edition until 5th.
Saving Throws:
  • Death Ray or Poison:  10+ on d20.
  • Magic Wands:  11+ on d20.
  • Paralysis or Petrification: 12+ on d20.
  • Dragon Breath:  13+ on d20.
  • Rods, Staves, or Spells:  14+ on d20.
This version shows a significant improvement in Junco's ability to avoid a dragon's breath weapon, but a corresponding reduction in his ability to avoid magical spells (a strange reversal from the typical assumption in other editions).
Not Applicable.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

The Exodus: Session 8

The caravan is moving determinedly to the west
    well supplied with bolts and wood,
    Altan and Ganbaatar finally pacified by gifts of beasts

Hundreds of Dust plies us with fermented diabetic warbeast blood
        asks about integrating the tribes (Dust & Drowned River)
    Clearly she thinks helping each other is a "filthy" practice
        Hors'deouvre (chatty gnome working for Gray Lady) buts in confusingly
            "Warren" racist gnome who can't discarn 'big-folk' genders,
                kicked out for not being able to use the right gendered pronouns
    There is a long, convoluted discussing about "trade" (sex)
        how to strengthen the pack
        the proper place of the nohai in the pack
    We dispatch three nohai hunting parties one "howl" to the east, west, and NW
        Giggles leads the group to the East
    Hundreds says she will "make herself useful",
        by which we think she will try to supplant a member of the heirarchy
        She heads out and jumps Ma'Chek...
            Khut flags to Ma'Chek that she should bare the throat...
            Ado hits the crowd with Calm Emotions...
            Sorq stuns Ganbaatar before he interferes...
    Hundreds of Dust becomes our new mayor (very charismatic at that)...
        She warns Khadagan that he should be careful of her mate...
            Khut and Khad follow up to learn that Chinua is now her mate...
    Warren the gnome hits the downed Ma'Chek with a Charm Person...
        and get hauled off to a tent to "trade"...forcibly...
    Ado goes out and tries to get the DR folk to calm down about the change...
            Kicks Ma'Chek's power base out from under her...

We wake up to the sound of Hundreds howling...
    to a strange crystalline awareness...the world is phosphorescent...
    Hundreds of Dust is seated in the very center of the camp,
        in the middle of an ornate sand drawing...
    The Moon splits, divides in three (silver, rose, dark)...
    The symbol on the ground glows the same rose colour as the third moon...
        clearly we have touched the 'Spirit Realm'...
        three separate distinct worlds...
            "The Verge" -- the near almost-future
                the moment in the split second before the 'world comes into being'
                before a thing happens...before reality crystalizes...
            "The Cusp" -- the moment that is
                a place where it is almost impossible to exist unless very Zen...
            The "Near Verge"
                where you can slip between the Verge and "the Cusp"
            Part of "The Fade" is infringing...
                part of what happens after we are done with the present moment...
                the Past in a creepy, unchanging, dead kind of way...
    Figures moving around cast three different shadows...
        one real, one faint, one disintegrating...
        portraying three different actions...
    Squee suddenly screams "ITS THE MOON PEOPLE"...
    Ado steps out and echos the sound of an angry, imminent thunderbird...
    Khut reaches into his pants and pulls out his second-most prized possession...
        his third knife...the cold-forged iron one...
        the kind that you stick between the shoulder-blades of spellcasters
        because they deserve it...
    A spiked, brutal THING appears...
        woven from Sorqutani's fear of the future...
        fears of starvation, fear of being driven out, fear of oppression...
        fear of the journey west...
        it looks scared of Khut's iron...
    Ithunn bears her broken tusks (which are surrounded by burning black flames)
        says "I Remember", and jumps the thing...
        the weapons pass right through it almost as if it weren't there...
    Khad swings at it...
        somehow only the trailing edge of the blade contacts it...
    Khut jams his blackened blade in the thing's back and rakes...
        getting its attention...and gets clawed a bunch for his efforts...
            he didn't need that kidney anyways...
    Ado takes the distraction and puts the arrow strait into its rib-cage...
    Warren lets his batshit crazy mind race...
        all of his crazy postulations somehow appear and attack the thing...
            making it jump strait into Khad's axe...
            an illusory Warren hits it with a pie...
        AND...the thing suddenly bursts out laughing...
    Sorq paralyzes it and bends it into a pretzel staring at its own ass...
        And Ithunn, Khut, and Khad tear his lungs out...
        AND Ado jumps up and plants his iron foot-spurs strait into its eyes...
            and Sorq roasts them in a fire...

And then, we appear to be sitting around a campfire
    the strange pungent smell of something burning in the fire...
    Ado sticks his hand in the fire and is not burned...
        pulling forth five fire opals (which are continuously warm to the touch)...
    Hundreds of Dust is there, with an elaborate sand-painting around the fire
        and a lot of psychotropic shrooms burning in it...
    Dawn breaks so we get to sleep...
Late in the day,
    Khad wakes up and goes to bug Semek for some armor,
        and to ask what he thinks about the events of yesterday...
    Everyone else jumps in with orders:
        armor for Ado,
        Yaghuth-tusk holder belt thing for Ithunn,
        razorclaw spine-mounted bracers for Sorqutani...
    Khut, not on Semek's good side, keeps his distance.

We get moving...moving west...
    With Shield Breakers as vanguard
    Dust hunting-parties running watch
The krockodile split up...
    ripclaw breeders stay with the caravan...
    Ado takes fletchers to join the Gray Lady's caravan...

The Maggotfolk wagons are brightly-painted gypsy caravans
        covered with Maggot warding-sigils warding against "The Fade"...
        accompanied by about a hundred hired mercenaries
        and lots of Tradestone refugees...
    We meet the Gray Lady and her sister (who has bright green hair)...
        Khut stares at the sister and gets a staff to the head from Ithunn...
            who is apparently a little annoyed with his wanna-be philandering...
        We debate their needs for food vs. our ability to provide...
            and the opportunity to travel together...
        She tells us about the Empty Circle worshipping some
            "monstrous power from beyond space who is immensely strong
            and powerful and somehow allows evil to exist" -- Balderdash
        She informs us that the Yaghuth follows in our wake...
            and are probably too scared to approach...
            but they have a Holy Mountain Beast
            Khut wonders how they can get hold of the HMB for their herd...

        We ask about news from the west,
            she replies saying that there is little news from the West
                (emphazised capital, more like 'Sunset', obviously a Place)...
            "The far west I would not worry about too deeply...
                there are few who reach 'The Land Beyond the Sun'"...

Ado talks Gray Lady into letting us into her rolling library
    asks her to read selected passages...
    Ado gets hold of an atlas...
        Steppes lead to Deserts,
        Deserts lead to the ziggurats of a decadent Malik empire...
        circumventing the Desert north or south would take us off the map...
            We should probably do that...
    Khadagan gets some education in western medicine and herbalism...
    Khut watches over her shoulder trying to learn the language
        the "Old Imperial" language
            cased, gendered, stratified, honorific, and extremely complex...
        text translated from a deeply individualist, unstratified language
            with ~18 different temporal modes...
        WTF, he could never learn to read this shit