Thursday, November 29, 2012

Why not to extinguish Halflings, Part 2 (introducing the Halfing Adventurer a.k.a. The Contractor)

Why not, indeed (see also Part 1). The idea behind this exercise is to find some kind of tagline or abstract to make Halfings (or any race/species, for that matter) interesting for players and an active part in any setting. Elves, for example, could be summarized like this:
"Elves are known to be immortal fairy creatures. To exist in the mortal world they have to become mortal themselves. Reasons for this are diverse and mostly, in one way or another, connected to the Unseelie Court of the Fae. Their motivations may seem alien to most mortals, but in their fight against evil forces they make formidable allies and adventurers. Becoming mortal for a given time is a strange and new experience for those beings, even though they might have existed for centuries already. When they rest, their soul visits the realm of the Fae. When they die and the body is not buried in earth connected to their realm, their soul is lost and may haunt the mortal world. In their mortal form they are a little bit smaller and fragile then humans and have pointy ears. Hair, skin and eye colour vary and may be chosen by the player."(oriented on my thoughts here)
For Halflings it's a little bit more difficult. At least if the idea has to play in an old edition of D&D. This dissolves to some degree with the 3rd edition, but for no other good reason than rules-related diversity. If one had to give an engaging abstract about Halflings in 3.0, one would still be lost (excluding, of course, setting specific sourcebooks, but I digress...). In the Rules Cyclopedia Halflings are decribed like this:
"A halfling is a short demihuman, and looks much like a human child with slightly pointed ears. A halfling stands about 3' tall and weighs about 60 pounds. Halflings rarely have beards. Halflings are outgoing but not unusually brave, seeking treasure as a way to gain the comforts of home, which they so dearly love. Halflings prefer to live in pleasant areas of fair countryside near rolling hills and gentle streams. When not working or adventuring, halflings will spend most of their time eating, drinking, talking with friends, and relaxing. Their communities are called shires, and their recognized spokesman is called a Sheriff. Halfling families live in Clans.
Halflings are woodland folk, and usually get along well with elves and dwarves. They have special abilities in the outdoors. Halflings behave similarly to fighters and dwarves. A halfling's saving throws are as good as those of dwarves. Halflings may only advance..." (Rules Cyclopedia, p. 26)
So this says... nothing. It's all pleasant, fair and gentle. They rarely have beards and like to eat and drink? Sure helps a lot to get a player in the mood. Well, they need an edge. Maybe they need a history?

Halflings, 20.000 years ago (give or take):

Most likely were the first to have some kind of agriculture and very protected, hidden settlements. So they might have been horticultural from early on, organized in small groups of families (no surprise there, I guess), staying in contact via shamans. Mostly avoided social contact to anything bigger than them and lived very reclusive, say in valleys or on islands. Easy enough, they were very good at sneaking around. Other useful tools they needed to develop were effective traps and strong bows. Domestication is also a big thing.

Being more peaceful than destructive and not abusive with magic, they did get along well with elves (good saves tend to help against tricky magic, too). Early production of tools for, say, mining (but all kind of tools are interesting, really) and a tendency to build their settlements in caves (much safer) makes for good trading contacts with dwarves. All that leads to cultural exchange and positive relations (up to protection) long before humans got there, but (also due to the higher live expectancy) to a less aggressive expansion (again, in comparison to humans).

Random legacies: now buried protective magics, decayed and misfiring near a village of your choice; ancient recipies, worth 1000 of gold pieces for collectors (drawings in a cave); ghost shaman, out to avenge the slaughter of his people, triggered by ... ; undead halfling warrior, hunting a recently resurfaced (unleashed?) ancient foe; ...

High Culture, 6.000 years ago (and for nearly 2.000 years):

The Great Travel was the beginning of a stellar cultural and technological development. With threats all around halfling communities throughout the world, spiritual spokesmen, guided by The Great Goddess*, united all Halflings for a long journey full of deprivation to an island** to form a new society. An island nation of halflings. And they thrived. Being ingenius craftsman and thaumaturgs, halflings stayed in contact with elves, dwarves and culturally higher developed civilisations all over the known world by using flying ships (manufactured with the oil of moonlight, a halfling relic, Rules Cyclopedia, p. 146, but it needs to be a lot more effective than described there, maybe an ancient version...).

Those vessels could only fly with moonlight, so halflings needed to have good night vision (maybe like elves) and very good navigation skills (by the stars and with very good maps). This high culture produced many legends, of course***. Flying vessels, highly effective missile weapons, strange machines, expensive spices (not to forget delicious food and beverages), aid given by this ancient race in epic battles, all this could give a rich background for tales, songs and legends still recited to this day. They didn't need that much protection anymore.

Of course, a world shuttering catastrophe of sorts brought destruction to this culture and most of the achievements got left behind in ruin as the world fell into anarchy. Nobody knows for sure how this happened (there were many theories, naturally) and the location of the island, with all the treasures and secrets it could hold, is lost (the old races won't talk about it either).

Random legacies:  ports on mountains and connected to dwarven settlements (lost or forgotten); a hidden salt mine with factory, heavily protected; strange artifacts, mostly cooking devices, but also (maybe) weapons of mass destruction; a halfling spa with a legendary well of restoration in a lost valley, it's in a jungle with dinosaurs and savages; finding the legendary halfing island is stuff for a campaign and should be a real scavenger hunt, many have tried and failed, mysterious halfling cultists with strange weapons protect the secrets, finding it should change the face of the world etc.,etc.; ...

Scattered, but still around (4.000 years ago til recent history):

So the world fell into some kind of dark age for about 500 years. Everyone struggled tried to rebuild, failed, the usual. Halflings (and here is a surprise) were an integral part of this process. This is only reasonable, because in this fictional history they got some essential talents to make this happen:

  • Due to their (extensive) travels they had not only the best maps of the then known world, but also the diplomatic connections to elves, dwarves and most of the civilised human empires.
  • The need to reestablish civilisation is obvious. In a barbaric world they are just prey (and might have been on occasion in the last 4000 years). In a civilised world they fit in the cracks and find the comfort they got used to.
  • Their island nation (and most of their achievements with it) might have been lost, but some of the knowledge and devices must have been still around. Again with the need to protect them.

Now we have a picture of the halflings nature. If they are able to achieve a protected home base, they thrive to the benefit of all civilised nations. In realising this, they need to be capable to get there, too. So they are diplomatic, civilised, nifty craftsmen and experienced travellers.
They might not be great warriors, but they are great adventurers, infiltraters and thieves (which is a harsh word and they wouldn't call themselves that, maybe specialists?) with an attitude towards "if it's not protected good enougth, it might as well be useful..." and a good sense for business. Altruistic by nature, they have no problem with helping others to help themselves.
They oppose evil and destructive forces that threaten civilisation. Traditionally they go on adventures only to use their talents, earn some experience and get the gold they need to settle down for good as fast as possible (usually to open a business of sorts). Any halfling going further than needed will feel the social pressure (and here are the level restrictions...).

Random legacies: elite academies, education is key; highly organized bands of adventurers; excellent craftsmen from brewers to trap-builders, many a wizard contracted a halfling architect to protect his dungeon; famous diplomats and thaumaturgs; many attempts to restore the legendary island nation; ...
The halfling in the Rules Cyclopedia (p. 27), art by Terry Dykstra

The Halfling Adventurer (aka The Contractor)

This is mostly the halfling as written in the Rules Cyclopedia. The changes are either house rules I already presented somewhere or stuff I wrote about in this post (nightvision, special advantage, skill mastery, etc.). It plays out like this:

Prime Requisites: Dexterity and Charisma (or Luck)
Experience Bonus: 5% for DEX or CHA higher than 12, 10% for DEX and CHA higher than 12
Hit Dice: 1d6 per level up to 9th level.
Maximum Level: 9 (I decided to give them one more level, saves stay the same for 9th level)
Armour: any up to banded mail, no plate mail, no suit armor, shilds permitted
Weapon: restricted by size
Combat Progression: as demi-human
Weapon Mastery: as demi-humans (optional rule: 1d6)
Special Ablities:
  • Skill Mastery (yeah, this includes backstabbing, but only for ranged weapons)
  • 5 skills (acrobatics, sabotage, sleight of hand, stealth, 1 craft or social skill (players choice))
  • Nightvision (like elves in my game and in contradiction to the Rules Cyclopedia where elves got infravision)
  • Use magic scroll (from the beginning, alternative rule: mana is used to activate scroll)
  • +2 AC bonus against Enemies bigger than medium sized
  • Special Advantage: Civilised, d% roll vs. ([3 x Charisma/Luck] + [2 x Lvl]); usable in any kind of social interaction, when successful, the interaction plays out in favour for the halfling (this is mostly instead of a passive reaction modifier)
New xp value to reach level 2: 2100 xp

Again, a very long post with a lot of stuff in it. I hope this presents the halfling in a somewhat different light and has a few new ideas to ponder on. For me at least halflings are now way more play- and usable without being too far away from the original. Now I have to do this for the dwarves...

* Name as per setting.
** In size much like Japan, maybe.
*** I'm thinking Atlantis here.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Favourite wikipedia entry EVER!

Working on the post about halflings (part 2), I stumbled over this nice sentence:

"Archaeologists speculate that beer was instrumental in the formation of civilisations."
And this is talking about as early as 9500 BC! Source is the wikipedia entry on beer. Read the whole story here.

Ernie Hare about the prohibition (source: wikipedia)

So I was spot on with the halflings in part 1 :)

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Why not to extinguish Halflings, Part 1

Short answer:
They invented beer. Gave them credit for centuries to come...

Long answer:
I like The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings as much as the next fantasy enthusiast, but I always asked myself how the hell hobbits fit in a D&D campaign setting. The values they stand for are neither heroic nor epic. I'm not able to imagine an evil halfling without him being a small evil human of sorts. There is no variety to them, no huge subtext to draw from like I tried with the Elves nearly a year ago. The most sensible conclusion would be to dismiss them or, like Brendan, replace them with something different.

The Neanderthals didn't make it, why should the Halflings?

There are several extinction theories about the Neanderthals. I'll go with Wikipedia, because it's enough for the ideas I'm about to develop here. I'm sorry to say this, but it applies to great degree to Halflings:

  • First things that come to mind, are the facts that halflings are small and live longer than humans. Both are believed to be part of why the Neanderthals didn't survive. They were slower than homo sapiens (halflings are slow as well) and they reproduced slower, too (using the Rules Cyclopedia, humans age up to 100 years, halflings up to 200 years*, this should slow the reproduction rate of halfings down).
  • Crossbreeding might be another cause for the vanishing of the Neanderthals. It's been, as far as I'm aware, never really discussed (or even canon) if humans and halflings are able to have cute little bastards. But them being demihumans (I'm thinking something like homo floresiensis) suggests it might be possible. And believable, too. It's not hard to imagine Halfling men liking big women or women liking kid-sized men (to give but two examples...).
You get the idea...
  • Let's not forget genocide. I know, it's a bad word. But whenever humans encounter something weaker, chances are, it won't be around for long. Why should Halflings get away, where Neanderthals, Native Americans, you-name-it, couldn't?

What could save those poor guys from being extinguished?

Two factors, actually. One of them is magic. Not that halflings are famous for their power in the arcane arts (at least not in the older editions), but if some powerful entity likes and protects them, they are good to go, I guess (I'd go with a goddess, but more on that in Part 2). And look at the saves they got:

This is good stuff (Rules Cyclopedia, p. 109)
The second aspect is something that might be considered another reason for the demise of the Neanderthals. They weren't advanced enough to compete with humans. Halflings, on the other hand, seem always much more civilized and it's not far fetched to assume they might have been a little bit more advanced when they first encountered humans. There you go, halfings invented beer...
Not to forget: they are good at hiding and are good snipers. So the Halfling might be saved after all.

Let's try and give them a history... the next post. Have to learn to keep those things short :) Next up is not only an attempt to fit halflings in an epic fantasy setting (not only "beause Tolkien did it"), but also my shot at an Halfling Adventurer. So stay tuned and have fun!

See also:

A short intermission     and

Part 2

*See Rules Cyclopedia, p. 143

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Let's loot the Mystic for fun and profit (Part 1)

The Mystic, as introduced in the Rules Cyclopedia, is far too special to be of any use in a campaign. I had my take on a Monk about a year ago, but that's not what this is about. Parts of the subsystems used for the Mystic are ripe for looting and that's what I intend to do here...*

The Mystics acrobatic ability is an easy one to steal!

This subsystem in itself is pretty flawed. A Mystic can do Jumps and Flips, move over difficult terrain without penalty and stuff like that, but he gets a -20% xp-penalty for something that should be possible with any character in any game. Plus: it's in addition to the skill system presented in the RC, which is making it kind of redundant. But here is the interesting part (quoting Rules Cyclopedia, p. 30):

"The mystic's chance to perform any of these
actions successfully is calculated this way: Three
times the mystic's Dexterity score plus two times
the mystic's experience level equals the mystic's
percentile chance to perform the action. 
Acrobatics Check =
d% roll vs. ([3 x Dex] + [2 x Lvl])"
It made me thinking. Using it for specific actions is not working (with a skill system, etc.), but describing it as some kind of special advantage a character has might just do fine for flavour. Now it looks like this:
Special Advantage =
d% roll vs. ([3 x significant attribute] + [2 x Lvl])
+ 100 xp to base value of chosen class (using this again)


A player in my group wanted to play a fighter of noble heritage. With this subsystem it turned out to be:
Noble Heritage =
d% roll vs. ([3 x Charisma] + [2 x Lvl])
xp needed to reach level 2 = 2100 (2000 xp as fighter + 100 xp)
With level 3 and 15 CHA he had a 51% chance to use his noble heritage in the game, be it to intimidate officials, to get informations from other nobles or whatever he and the DM think fits in a given situation. One time he demanded a fair duell, because the group was outnumbered and he saw a chance to appeal to the honour of the bandits leader.

It's not much, but I figured it gives players one more tool to interact with the game world and adds a little flavour without taking too much space...

*I realized I'm going to need this for a post about halflings in the (very) near future. It's short enough and I will reference it quite often.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Learning by pain (on xp)

Tucker's Kobolds is one of the most famous examples how low HD Monsters can be a threat to high level characters. The DMs creativity is more of a threat than the basic stats given in the game (and it should be like that, shouldn't it?).

But is it rewarded?

No, not in the game as is. Killing one Kobold (as stated in the the Rules Cyclopedia) gives a group 5 xp to share. 5 xp per Kobold! Highly unsatisfying for a mid-level group, I'd say. But brutally discouraging if they get their asses handed like in Tucker's Kobolds.

Always good to see THE MAN having some fun...

How to change that?

Well, damage dealt (times 20, divided by the number of group members) and taken (times 20, divided by the number of group members) for xp is what I do. Read about it years ago on a blog I can't find anymore. But while googling for it I found this:

Alexis from The Tao of D&D also wrote an excellent post on the subject in 2009! Couldn't top that, wouldn't try.

Go there, read it, be enlightened :)

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Things to come (+joesky tax)

My D&D campaign is now officially paused. This is a good thing, because I'll now have the time to take a very hard look at the D&D rules and see what flinches. I did this before on this here blog and at least it helped me to fine tune my house rules and to understand better, what D&D is about (maybe...).

No D&D for my group in the near future.

About the blogging experience.

I'm really not sure I want an audience, to be honest. Of course I want to share my ideas with the OSR and all that. But I just don't think the quality of my ideas match the quality of the things already written in our small community of the web. To me at least it seems clonky at times. And that's for two good reasons: I'm neither a skilled writer nor is my level of rules transcendence very high.

So the reason to blog at all is to GET THERE. Find a voice, get the knowledge, get used to write something on a regular basis. Don't fear the trolls (or pay the bridge toll...).

And for that I might need an audience after all.

But what to do, what to do?!

My regular group will, if Ze Gods are in a good mood, engage in Witchcraft for a while now and I'll be all over D&D variations only in theory. I'll try to post two or three posts a week. Focus should be on some of the following topics:

  • Futher deduction of house rules from THE GAME. My goal shall be to be able to write down rules in a few sentences (as it should be). But to get there, I have to dissect it first.
  • Every aspect of the game should be open for revision. I want to go deep into the rules and make them my own (classes, experience, etc.).
  • What do I need in a game? What is necessary to achieve that?
  • A working setting is is as much part of the rules as anything else (at least in D&D), so before I'm going to  DM another session of the D&D Bastard of my choosing, I'll try and develop a setting, monsters, random tables, etc..

Also I'll try to be a good boy and be more active in the community. Blogging is a lot of work. Nobody mentioned that.

Shameless self promotion (skip that, gentle reader, it's hard to stomach for myself, too):

I'm so glad Jeff Rients is back and not only for the obvious reasons (his blog is one of the best out there and you know it). No, it's also the only blog list I'm on. There, I said it, I want traffic, maybe even some comments. So if you're a blogger and willing to have my blog in your list, I'd be very happy about that (and return the favour, of course, for whatever that's worth).


A plague nobody wants to heal with magic, because (1D8+):

  1. It's justified, the gods think it's a good idea and put the lid on healing it.
  2. The gods are the reason for the plague, nothing to do about it.
  3. They fear to get the plague themselves. Nobody needs a dying pantheon.
  4. Finding the cure another way will save the world from something more dangerous (not that anybody is telling...).
  5. This is no plague, it's the transformation to something new (they say).
  6. The gods are not affected, but the channels to the gods are. It taints magic.
  7. To heal it makes the cleric loose faith permanently. Nobody knows why (or do they?).
  8. To die from the plague transforms a victims soul to ambrosia in the netherworld. A freak accident, but the gods like ambrosia very much.
  9. ...

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

How to kill a horse (Again about Endurance...)

This is not about animal cruelty. It's rather a dry-run for the Endurance system I proposed here and here (and thanks to the comments by 1D30!).

I really hope somebody will take the time to read all this (and maybe comment?). Sorry for the huge post, I guess (it's not what I meant with "Again about Endurance").

After doing a little research, I realized it's hard to find rules for extreme travel situations like forced marching or how far you can push a horse without killing it. This might be due to the fact that to many factors need to be considered or that it doesn't happen that often in a game and a rule of thumb is enough to make it happen.

But it should be possible to estimate the breaking point for an individual (be it character, npc or monster) derived from actuall play and I think it should have a place in the game (not just a number in a table...).

So what do we have?

Endurance (very short summary):

  • Characters use CON/2
  • Monsters/NSCs use 4 + HD
  • A fight costs 1 Endurance (you loose more in a fight, but it's recovered fast, see links above)
  • Skill checks cost 1 Endurance
  • Endurance is only recovered with a full days rest (or magic)

Travel rates will be taken from the Rules Cyclopedia as a guideline for the loss of 1 Endurance per miles travelled:
As per Rules Cyclopedia. p. 88
Interesting part:

"The travel rates listed here are possible but will kill the horse if only one is used for the entire trip. Typically, a rider only manages to achieve these rates by riding one-third the distance listed and trading his horse in twice at way stations for fresh mounts. At the end of the day, he and the three horses are exhausted, but all are alive. If a rider does not intend to kill or exhaust his horse, he should use the travel rates listed for the war horse instead." (RC, p.88, Travelling Rates by Terrain Table)
This assumes a rate of 72 miles/day under ideal circumstances (36 miles/day with a war horse or travelling without killing a riding horse). Is this realistic? Google agrees mostly, so I'll take it as a basis and go from there.

Now some calculations and additions to make it fit.

  • After 36 miles/day a riding horse is exhausted (normal road/weather for travel).
  • Having an Endurance of 6 this means it looses 1 point Endurance every 6 miles travel.
  • Doubling the speed doubles the loss of Endurance, so with a travelling rate of 72 miles/day it looses 12 Endurance (which is the maximum before the horse is in mortal danger).
  • A first skill check is needed to keep the horse going after it reaches zero Endurance (36 miles)
  • After 72 miles a second skill check is due, after that it needs a successfull skill check for every six miles (the rider looses 1 Endurance for every skill check).
  • The rider additionally looses 1 Endurance for 12 miles travel.
  • So if the rider in our example wants to get there (see below), he has to succeed in 5 skill checks or the horse struggles and goes down before he arrives.
  • Any mount can be forced a number of times equal to it's HD and is entiteled to a save versus death to survive the treatment, after that it just drops and dies with the first failed skill check (same goes for humans, etc.).


With 36 miles/day being the suggested norm, I'd go for 3 possible random encounters on the road (ca. 3 times the norm). Each encounter could force a skill check to avoid and costs Endurance.

This leaves us with the following basics to apply the idea everywhere.

Having four legs is a boon, so a horse would only loose halv the Endurance a human would, while sitting on a horse makes a human only loose half of what the horse is about to loose. Other than that I took the base rate (36 miles for being exhausted) for a given factor (riding horse, 2 HD) and divided it by the Endurance (4 + 2 HD = 6). So here are a few examples how it turns out (based on the table above):

Travel Mode      Trail    Clear   Hills   Mountains Desert
Foot              1/3      1/2     1/1       1/1      1/1
Horse, riding     1/6      1/4     1/3       1/2      1/1
Horse, war        1/5      1/3     1/2       1/2      1/1

With this on hand it is possible to see how far an army might get with forced marching and how many dead would be left behind.

Or one could try and see if a courier would be able to deliver a urgent message in a totally random setting and with a satisfying result...

So this is a small setting and a dry-run.

Let's build a course for our courier. I used the always fantastic Abulafia to generate the background information and gimp for the map. This is what I got:

Cave Bridge is a dangerous farmland in the frozen north.
The weather there is usually almost windy and warm out (because of the Letchhead Gulf).
It is ruled by an ancient vampire (Count Shrop).
The people of this domain are cannibals (a cult that worships the Count and eats the sucked-out victims of him and his vampires).
This domain is famous because it is a place of uncanny magical occurances (see the red skulls).
The laws of this domain are harsh and unjust. Punishments for misdeeds tend to be almost nonexistent.
Recently, the land has experienced the flight of a prince and his forbidden lover into hiding .

Cave Bridge (I'd go for 10 miles per hex)
Hexmap Key

Castle, Towns and Settlements:
0500 Shropcastle
0800 Scholar's Peak
0401 Muntonburgh
0201 Inverby
0704 Chesterwich Farm
0802 Rustyhickory
0305 Trebluff
0505 Havster Springs
0006 Lydstanham
0808 Confidantsbarton Springs
0905 Axefathom
0208 Tower of the Relentless
0508 Monk's Vale

0205 Ivory Arch
0208 Barber's Cove
0303 Dolphin Kurgan
0304 Ruins of Bird Haven
0306 Northwood Bluff
0401 Queen's Bridge
0403 Tree of the Banshees
0507 Bear Head Trail
0507 Bear Menhir
0508 Monk's Vale
0601 Dishonor Cave
0701 Neophyte Mines
0701 Brazen Hill

Areas (land):
0505, 0506, 0605 - 0607, 0704 - 0708, 0807 - 0809 Tinker's Flatland
0502, 0602, 0603, 0702, 0703, 0802 Hog Forest
0305, 0405, 0406, 0504 Griffon Morass
0403, 0404, 0405, 0503 The Marsh of Destruction
0306, 0307, 0408 Berkway Forest
0201, 0202, 0301 Dawn Delta
0006, 0106 Owlbear Isle
0204, 0205 Westlock Archipelago

Areas (sea):
0000 - 0009, 0100 - 0109 Letchhead Gulf
0200 - 0207 Titan Coast
0208, 0209 Wolf Coast
0105, 0206, 0207 Bullsmore Channel
0003, 0004 Hunter's Sargasso
The Course:

Our courier starts at the Wolf Coast from the Tower of the Relentless and aims to reach Muntonburgh as fast as possible. He wants to arrive within the day.

Using the roads available, he has to pass two towns (Trebluff, Havster Springs) and use Queen's Bridge to get there. It's round about 100 miles.

This means he has to travel through Berkway Forest, the Griffon Morass and, finally, the Marsh of Destruction.

And now we deliver an importand message

We need a normal horse and a skilled Courier to make this happen. If it is a player character, one starts with the distance he wants to cover and goes from there (maybe even with an individual horse, healing potions, etc.). In this example I'll keep it as simple as possible (with no random encounters):

The Horse: 2 HD, 6 Endurance

The Courier: 3 HD, 7 Endurance, DEX 12 (riding +5)

First skill check (Courier Endurance after 36 miles = 4):
Dex 12 + 5 (riding) + 1D20 (15) vs. DC 25 (success)
Second skill check (Courier Endurance after 72 miles and one skill check = 0):
Dex 12 + 5 (riding) + 1D20 (18) vs. DC 25 (success)
Third skill check (Courier Endurance after 78 miles and two skill checks = -1):
Dex 12 + 5 (riding) - 1 (Endurance) + 1D20 (19) vs. DC 25 (success)
Fourth skill check (Courier Endurance after 84 miles and three skill checks = -3):
Dex 12 + 5 (riding) - 3 (Endurance) + 1D20 (18) vs. DC 25 (success)
Fifth skill check (Courier Endurance after 90 miles and four skill checks = -4):
Dex 12 + 5 (riding) - 4 (Endurance) + 1D20 (12, close call...) vs. DC 25 (success)
Sixth skill check (Courier Endurance after 96 miles and five skill checks = -6):
Dex 12 + 5 (riding) - 6 (Endurance) + 1D20 (14) vs. DC 25 (success)
So they manage to arrive in Muntburgh, the courier is dead tired, the horse stops and drops dead. I'm happy with that, it is as it should be. But don't try this at home...

Saturday, November 3, 2012

The Thief (Reskinning Classes: Part 2)

It's about time...

...someone inspires me to finish my thoughts on the Thief (and reskin it like the MU some time ago...). With all this writing about it, -C finally hits a sweet spot for me in (basically) handling the Thief abilities like Weapon Mastery in the Rules Cyclopedia. Wuhu! It's genius! Let's reskin the Thief.

(funny pic to emphasize how I feel about this)
Basic assumptions for The Game.

In game terms I found it always somewhat unrealistic that Thieves have no access to magic other than using magic items and scrolls at some point, but have no problems handling magic traps. There are just no other connectors. So using this in our game Thieves are able to cast spells with a quarter of the abilities a MU has and more oriented on physical spells like spider climb or jumping (other spells need more Mana). Works out fine so far.

With a skill system in charge, using Thief Skills as they are presented in D&D is not very ideal. On the other hand using the system presented as Weapon Mastery in the Rules Cyclopedia to enhance existing skills for the Thief is just what I was looking for to make this work.

Skill Mastery:

  • The abilities/skills a Thief has access to are: Backstab (melee), Backstab (ranged), Acrobatics, Sleight of Hand, Stealth (moving, hiding, keeping a low profile or doing something like picking a lock in total silence...) and Sabotage.
  • Using the skill system of the Rules Cyclopedia, every class has access to other skills. So skills like Disguise or Alchemy are, too, relevant for Skill Mastery.
  • At character creation a player may now choose (like with Weapon Mastery) 4 of those abilities/skills for Skill Mastery.
  • Basic Skill Mastery is one additional D6 either for the skill check or for backstab damage.
  • Every 3 levels a Thief gets one more point Skill Mastery to distribute.
  • Progression is: Basic +1D6, Skilled +1D8, Expert +1D10, Master +1D12 and Grand Master +1D20.
  • Echo applies.

Thief reskinned*:

  1. Take the Thief as written.
  2. Divide ability to Backstab.
  3. Divide Thief Skills.
  4. Add Skill Mastery (this includes Backstab again).
  5. Add 4 skills (Acrobatics, Sabotage, Sleight of Hand and Stealth in my case).
  6. Add ability to cast spells (like 1/4 MU, first spells at Level 4).

New xp value to reach level 2: 1600 xp

List for spell level 1 (proposal, 1D10 for random pleasure):
  1. Affect Normal Fires 
  2. Audible Glamour 
  3. Change Self 
  4. Charm Person 
  5. Comprehend Languages* 
  6. Dancing Lights 
  7. Featherfall 
  8. Jump 
  9. Sleep 
  10. Spider Climb
This is it. I think it is highly compatible with the Rules Cyclopedia and any hack close enough to that.

*Again using this pearl of wisdom.