Monthly Archives: June 2013

Some solutions and insights

So, late last week I finally figured out the issue with 4e skills that had me perplexed. As I entered the ranger and bard who had achieved such crazy results into my Excel sheet, as well as the fighter that didn’t, I started seeing the issue. 4e has a strange synergy created by three or four factors: Class skill options, racial and class bonuses, attack power attribute requirements and attribute/skill relations. Essentially, some classes are more geared to create crazy-high results than others, and the right race will only serve to exacerbate the issue.

In the case of the ranger, almost all of their powers, especially for archery-based builds, require either Dexterity or Wisdom. So do their critical skills. So, assuming the player trains his character in those Dex- and Wis- based skills and pumps those attributes at every possible option, getting crazy bonuses is easy. Same with social skills and a bard. I’m betting rogues are the same, but I have yet to input one into my spreadsheet, but I have no doubt the result will be similar. The fighters, paladins and warlord? Nope, nowhere near the same, with the exception of my LFR warlord, who will have a phenomenal Arcane skill.

So, I have begun to see the logic of the bounded accuracy and background systems in 5e. I still don’t like the game as it stands, though.

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I also began to see the “simple rules” side of the Old School Renaissance movement. There was a brief disagreement between myself and one of my players this weekend. It was over Opportunity Attacks. I begin to see how someone could see them as too complex.

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I also got my copy of Bare Bones Fantasy and tried to figure out how much I’ll have to do to use it as the core for the StarSea. Not a crazy amount, but it would need to be significantly altered to do what I want. I think I need to make similar lists for other systems I’m interested in.

Won’t be tonight, though. I can barely keep my eyes open while reading this. So, to bed I go. TTYL

New job = distraction from gaming…

Of course that’s sort of a facetious title, but it’s sort of accurate. I finally started my new job, but most of my time this week was training rather than driving. That left me rather drained by the end of the day, as it was hordes of computer classes, written at a bonehead level. Left me pretty tired some days, and other stuff going on (including a test for another job) kept me busy all week. I need the income, but it’s that has the typical cost from personal time.

But through it all, I did get some thinking in, as I wandered throughout our wide world. I did some looking at 5e and the skill system therein, and while I still think most of it is crap, there were some nuggets I could use for my skill issue, assuming I use 4e for StarSea. That most skill checks are made against one of three difficulties, and those don’t match the  numbers on the DC charts for 4e, is the core of a solution, I think. The 4e charts are based on some weird numbers, and while I think they take into account some accumulation of magic and attribute bonus, I don’t think they take into account the possibility that the PCs are going to focus on items that bolster their characters’ best abilities. So, I think I’m going to take a swing at adjusting the charts.

Otherwise, I had a long downtime block Wednesday before the LFR game (Living Forgotten Realms) , so I spent my time sketching some armor for StarSea characters. It kind of highlighted one of the issues I have with the 4e classes versus images in my head. That issue is the lack of armor among the core PHB arcane classes. I’m envisioning the Arcanist warriors in the (almost stereotypical) heavy plate armor with spikes, but there are no arcane classes that can wear armor that heavy. The closest are the Bard and the Hexblade and their proficiencies with chain mail. The arcane defender, the  swordmage, is limited to leather armor. They could spend feats to wear heavier armor, but they really don’t need it, from my observations at LFR. So, the image of the hulking warrior wielding magical powers can’t exist in the StarSea, by the mechanics of the system I’m favoring most. So, I either modify the rules or develop my own heavy armor arcanist class. Something I need to cogitate on.

I think that’s all I have for this week. I’ll be prepping for the next segment of my current campaign this week, so things may be pretty light next week, but we’ll see. Laters, all.

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So, the most important piece of information I have to post here is that I finally got the call on the job I was hired for at the first of June. So, starting tomorrow, I’ll be gainfully employed. This has been big on my mind for a while, as one might expect if you knew that I’ve been unemployed since late January, 2011. Over two years. I’ll be glad to have some positive cash flow, finally.

As to the StarSea, I haven’t really given it much thought, except in finding images that fit the setting that might inspire something else. My focus in gaming has been on my current game (the PCs are about to enter the Elemental Chaos prior to leading an assault on the Abyss) and skills in 4e.

I pretty quickly put together an idea for converting 4e skills to percentages. While my PCs are in the Epic Tier, it’s still frustrating to have them completely smoke skill challenges. Last session included two rolls of 49. Admittedly, those were rolls of 19, but that meant, in each case, that the PC had a bonus of 30 at 23rd level. The High DC at that level is 37. This weekend’s was nowhere near as crazy, but the potential still exists. A couple of the characters have a bonus of 32 or better with one or more of their skills. When Hard DCs for their levels are only about 5 higher, it becomes difficult to challenge them, especially with the special rules for advantages for skill challenges. I think eliminating some of those advantages might be the simplest solution, but I’d like to reintroduce the percentile roll to the game in general. I won’t be changing my current game, but I might use a percentage system for the StarSea.

The thing is, I’m not sure the percentages I come up with are high enough. What I used, as a quick idea, was to start with the related attributes as a base for each skill, adding in level as a percentage, plus 5% for every +1 bonus or penalty the players have available to them (such as training, skill focus, or armor penalties). The percentages aren’t bad for Epic Level characters, but for lower level characters (which I have included for comparison) the percentages aren’t that great. I like the idea of competent PCs, and low percentage level skills don’t work with that. It’s something that I need to think about more. I’m also considering redoing the DC chart. If anyone has seen a better chart, (than even the revised chart from Essentials), please let me know. I’m also even considering… D&D 5th Ed! (Still won’t call it “Next.”)

I’ve also continued to think about Bare Bones Fantasy and Warrior Rogue Mage. I think the idea of classes as broad skills has an elegance and simplicity that is amazing. For BBF, I think I’d have to add a couple of skills, or redefine most of the “requires levels” skills, to make that system work for me. But it’s tempting, especially as BBF is Creative Commons. However, I think FATE could be used in a similar fashion. Even that dreaded 5e is going in that direction with the new Specialities and Backgrounds ideas.

Well, I’m pretty much out of juice, and I have to get up in the morning, for a change. See you next week.

Better late than never (AKA My Theme Phrase)

So, Sunday I got to messing around with my desktop computer, which is largely a file server for me. It had started acting weird, so I started backing things up, and eventually, in the back up process, one of my hard drives failed. As well, I have another desktop machine that’s slightly faster, and so I decided to Frankenstein the two together Sunday. Sadly, a lot of this plan failed, but I did replace the failed hard drive and some other “improvements.” However, my skills with hardware aren’t that great, so the entire project took all day. Other projects (job hunting, chauffeuring, and a couple of other duties) took up yesterday, so I didn’t get around to things until today. So, here we go.

Monday, around 3AM, I got a brainstorm on a possible way to do corruption rules, that would primarily work for 4e, but I think could be adapted to other systems. A lot of the basic ideas are from Star Wars d20 RPGs, but with some adaptation based on Heroes of Shadow for 4e. I’m thinking corruption will take it’s toll on a character’s healing surges, rather than his Wisdom. That does mean that controller-roles are likely to meet corruption faster than other roles. However, I’m foreseeing a host of potential “temptations” for this system. 4e lends itself to these ideas, but any game with a power points resource system would work. Right now, I’m thinking of corruption points being used for bonuses to hit and/or damage, as well as possibly recharging encounter or daily powers, or power points for psionic characters. Corruption (which I’m thinking of renaming simply “the Dark,” especially as it’s quicker to type) might also be applied to saving throws and skill/ability checks. In fact, any d20 roll is probably applicable. In other systems, the power of corruption could be used to affect die rolls and negatively affect healing, however it’s accomplished.

However, the end results of Dark Seduction won’t be a just a fall from your order’s grace, but will be a fall unto undeath. This has been part of the setting for a while: the elder empire that spawned the Divine Order fell because they turned to undeath. I want the effect of the creeping influx of the Dark to be more profound than anything mentioned in Heroes of Shadow. HoS simply presented Shadow as a source of power. Certainly one that corrupts, but I want a more grasping Darkness, one that has the potential to pull people in who abuse it’s power.

Otherwise, I’ve spent more of the past few days going through some of my old artwork and swipe files, looking for aesthetic inspiration. I’m thinking that the Divines look like Baroque or Gothic nobles, the Arcane will look even more Gothic and intimidating, the Primals will look savage? Rustic? and I’m thinking the Psionics look more simple and common. That would fit the idea, as I want the Psionics, with their humanistic ideals, to be more in touch with the commoners than the Divines and more positive in their attitude than the Arcane (who are slavers). However, I also like the idea of including crystals into the Psionics’ panoply. The association of crystals to psionics is pretty old, going back to E. E. “Doc” Smith’s Lensmen series, at least, and maybe even further. I want to maintain that connection, so there will be at least some examples of gemstones embedded into psionic gear, if not frequently being the primary composition.

Something else I’m thinking of is a new variant for a psionic striker. To me, monks aren’t really psionics in 4e. I had thought for a while about some of the home grown variants on the Soulblade for 4e that I’ve seen, and I’ve thought of cooking up my own version, but I’m not enthusiastic about it, because I see a lot of the old Soulblade in the Battlemind. I also had an idea for a more Movie Hawkeye-style sniper-striker. I could see this guy as using psionics to hit things he can’t necessarily see, or making bank shots with bows, crossbows, and/or guns, or maybe even using an ally as the point his attack starts from rather than his actual position. I’m not sure I could come up with 100 powers that would make sense, though. As well as feats, Paragon Paths, and Epic Destinies. This might be an easier concept to work out in other systems. And I may tinker on it just for my own satisfaction.

I am still looking at other game systems. I mentioned a criticism of the magic system for Savage Worlds, and I looked into it, and I see the writer’s point. I think the issues I see could be easily house ruled, so SW may still be in the cards. I’m still working on get around to reading FATE, but that may be a while, with all the other irons I keep in the fire. I did get a spark towards an old d20 rules set from the defunct Guardians of Order called Everstone. It’s got a neat setting, but I think the rules set (in which characters get points to buy feats and powers) might work to emulate what I’m looking for, but I think the point-buy system would overcomplicate things, both at the player level and the DM level, as I’d need to write up a set of rules to adapt the system to 4e. Using Everstone with another system would be pointless. I’ve been digging through a host of other systems, but too many of them are Old School Renaissance, and I’ve already gone on at length as to how disinterested I am in those systems.

So, for now, that’s where I’m at. I’d like to more mechanically work on this setting, but like most artists, I skip around from area to area, working towards the final product. Eventually, the project gets done. Sooner or later, I’ll have something playable.