Poll: The Bloodied Condition

Right, poll time again. Let’s have your thoughts on this little chestnut. Feel free to use the comments below if you don’t like either of the options, or you can think of something better.

All editions of D&D have measured your character’s health by means of hit points. HD&D will be no exception to this rule. I have no intention of going down the Shadowrun/True 20 route of wound levels. That said, fourth edition, added something new to the mix: the bloodied condition.

For those of you not in the know, the bloodied condition works as follows. Your bloodied value equals half your hit points. When you have taken enough damage to reduce you to half your hit points or less, you are considered “bloodied”. You remain bloodied until you are healed over half your hit points.

What does it mean to be bloodied? Not much. There are no inherent penalties in being grievously wounded, and I’m happy to keep things that way as they only act to complicate the game. The point of having the bloodied condition, is that it becomes the trigger for certain powers or feats.

For example, a dragonborn does more damage when he’s bloodied; a tiefling inflicts more damage on bloodied foes. Some feats only work as long as a character is bloodied. The bloodied condition becomes a way of regulating access to certain abilities that you don’t want characters to have constantly available.

So do we want a bloodied condition in HD&D? That’s the question, and that’s the nature of the poll below. My personal preference is to keep it. Having written some HD&D versions of 4e talents, I find the bloodied condition to be a helpful tool. It can also make in-game sense: a wounded dragonborn is more dangerous.

Of course, it has to be done right, it has to be coherent and it has to be consistant. It also means that players must know when their foes are bloodied, and must announce when their character’s are bloodied. Too artificial? You decide!

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The Third Edition Mariner

A little diversion from the HD&D tomfoolery today.

A while back on the blog, I said that I wanted to convert mariners into the hybrid game. This idea has been thoroughly poo-pooed by various sources, who shall remain nameless. Why do I think the mariner merits it’s own class, what evidence do I have?

The mariner was never a core class from a Wizards of the Coast. It was published in the Dragonlance supplement Age of Mortals by Sovereign Press. Malcolm used the class in the Crucible of Youth campaign to create the memorable Thorn Njedlstrom.

During the Crucible of Youth I converted the mariner into something that could pull its own weight within my third edition house rules. After the end of the campaign, I began to embark on a massive third edition conversion project to make the game better. This was before the announcement of fourth edition stymied my activities, and before I decided to try again with HD&D.

The mariner was the first class that I fully converted into this never-to-be-seen version of third edition. In order to prove to Daniel that it could be a fun class to play I present it you in this post (the PDF is below).

This is not an HD&D class (yet). It used the third edition rules. It looks quite powerful but by the time I had finished tweaking with all the other classes they would have been on a par. You can see some proto-HD&D leanings in the design. All those special abilities would be converted into Talents for HD&D.

Anyway, sit back and have a read. And no more dissing the mariner!

The Third Edition Mariner (revised)

Poll: Racial Modifiers to Ability Scores

And here we are with our second poll, which is the product of much useful and fevered discussion over in the Character Races thread. By way of summary:

All player character races get +2 to two of their ability scores. My initial proposal is that for all non-human races that +2 is applied to a prescribed ability score. Dragonborn, for example, get +2 to Strength and +2 to Charisma regardless of the role the player wants the character to fill. Humans got to choose where to apply their bonuses.

James (DH) suggested that all races be given the same freedom as humans. Mechanically, this has some advantages. But is it a route we want to go down? Go to the thread and inform yourself. Primed with this knowledge and your newly formed opinion please vote in the poll below:

Poll: Defences and Ability Scores

There is plenty of discussion on this topic in the Making Characters, but I thought I would formalise things with my first great online poll. You should only be able to vote once, but I’m sure there are ways around that. Please don’t cheat!

To remind you all: we are trying to decide which attributes should be used to modify your defences in HD&D. There are three defences in the game:

Fortitude represents your resistance to fatigue, toxins and poisons.
Reflex represents your ability to get out of the way of danger.
Will represents your ability resist charms, compulsions and illusions.

My initial proposal was to use the fourth edition system: players could choose one of two ability scores to modify each defence. You could use Str or Con for Fortitude, Dex or Int for Reflex, and Wis or Cha for Will. This has not met with universal delight, as there is some disagreement around whether it is ever appropriate for Intelligence to modify your Reflex defence. Bear in mind that Reflex in HD&D fills the role that armour class did in previous editions of D&D.

If we say that Int can’t affect Reflex, then we can’t have more than one ability score influencing the other defences either. It’s a matter of consistancy, don’t you know. Therefore we are left with two choices: do we do it the fourth edition way, or the third edition way?

To remind you, in third edition each defence (they were called saving throws back then) was modified by a prescribed ability score: Con for Fortitude, Dex for Reflex and Wis for Will.

Read the original discussion to inform yourself further, and then please vote below:

HD&D: Character Races

You will remember from my post on Making Characters, that I intend to treat character races in much the same way as fourth edition. All races are balanced because all races get the same bonuses: +2 to two attributes, +2 to two skills, +1 to one defence and two feat-like racial traits. While this works from a mechanical point of view, does it break the suspension of disbelief. Shouldn’t a dragonborn PC be stronger than a hobbit?

In this post, I’ll do my best to explain (and to justify) my current stance. If I don’t convince you, then please do your best to convince me of a better alternative.  We’ll also examine the role of racial traits, and look at the races I want to convert into HD&D to begin with. Obviously, the seven third edition races (Dwarf, Elf, Gnome, Halfling, Half-elf, Half-orc and Human) are the priority, but I would also like to give time to the fourth edition dragonborn, tiefling and genasi. If there’s time we can eventually cast the net wider, but we’ll concentrate on those ten races to begin with.

Character Races

The differences between third and fourth edition in the way they deal with character races is profound. In third edition everything is built from the same base. NPCs, Monsters and PCs use the same mechanics. The result is a system that at least gives the illusion of being consistant. In fourth edition monsters and NPCs are built with a shorthand system, with abilities that player characters can never aspire to. PCs use more indepth and complicated rules.

I think the third edition method is much better. As I have said before a minotaur NPC shouldn’t have abilities that a minotaur PC can never hope to acquire. Neither should things like hit points be different for NPCs simply because of the way those characters function in combat. I can see why the rules work that way in 4e, but this is not the goal for HD&D. Everyone starts on a level playing field, and there are no abilities or powers out there that player characters cannot eventually gain.

However, if we are going for a degree of ‘realism’ and consistency in HD&D then what am I doing mucking about with a 4e-like bonuses and abilities for character races? A half-orc is strong. He gets +2 to strength. A minotaur is stronger. He gets +8 to strength. Surely that’s more realistic?

The Need for Balance

On the whole I am not a great believer in game balance. I’ll happily set a couple of angry wyverns on a party of 1st level third edition characters because I know they’ll have to be creative to get out of the situation. But one area where I think there has to be balance is between members of the same party. If nothing else, HD&D has to achieve a better level of PC parity than third edition. I don’t aspire for it to be as balanced as fourth edition, as that level of balance actively works to the detriment of the game.

Part of my proposal is to give all starting races +2 to two skills, +1 to one defence, knowledge of four languages/scripts and two racial traits. Vision, speed and mundane natural attacks (claws, not breath weapons) don’t really matter in the great scheme of things. A dragonborn might be able to do 1d6 damage with his claws. So what? Every other member of the party will have a weapon that can inflict that, and the circumstances when using a claw offers an advantage over using a weapon are remote.

I don’t think that anything I mention in the above paragraph is objectionable. This is just a formalisation of all many of the benefits that races have enjoyed in all editions. The main bone of contention (I believe) is doing this with attribute bonuses. I don’t think it matters too much, but I sense that some of you will need convincing. Let’s do just that.

Attribute Bonuses: The Minotaur

The Minotaur is more powerful than a normal PC race, and likely to have exceptional attributes (largely in its Strength and Constitution). We also have stats for the minotaur as both a monster and a PC race for both third and fourth edition. This is therefore a good example to take.

The Third Edition Minotaur

In third edition the Minotaur was a published in the original Monster Manual. He’s also in the SRD, and you can find his full stats online here. In third edition the minotaur was a 6 HD (sixth level) creature with the following stats:

Str 19, Dex 10, Con 15, Int 7, Wis 10, Cha 8

Third edition assumed that the stats of all the monsters in the Monster Manual were average for that race. They assumed that those were the stats you got if you took the average of a 3d6 roll (10.5) for each attribute. By that principle, a PC minotaur with the above stats would be the same as a PC human having Str 10, Dex 10, Con 10, Int 11, Wis 11, Cha 11:  i.e. incredibly average.

So for the PC version, the above “average” stats were converted into attribute modifiers. The way this worked in third edition was to subtract 11 from every odd attribute, and subtract 10 from every even attribute. This gave the minotaur PC the following attribute modifiers:

Str +8, Dex +0, Con +4, Int -4, Wis +0, Cha -2

Obviously stat modifiers like that gave a PC minotaur an horrendous advantage over his fellows party members. Anyone playing the minotaur in its idiom would play a fighter-type, and undoubtedly put their highest stat into Strength. If that was an 18 then the minotaur PC would have a Strength of 26. An extra +4 to hit and +4 damage beyond the beefiest human fighter.

Of course, this is not the whole story in third edition. The minotaur is 6 HD, so it immediately has to be a sixth level character. Additionally the rules state that the minotaur is more powerful than your average sixth level character. In fact a 6 HD minotaur is about as powerful as an eighth level character. Therefore the minotaur was given a +2 level adjustment, and an Equivalent Character Level (ECL) of 8th.

Basically, a standard 6 HD minotaur should only be fielded with an eighth level party. The minotaur would still only have six hit dice, but his ECL meant that he would have to earn enough experience for 9th level to advance to level seven.

I’m not going to get into a discussion about how broken and unnecessarily complicated the ECL system was. However, there is one thing I would like to underline. There was little provision for playing a minotaur from level one. This basically meant that everyone who had an idea for playing a minotaur (or any monstrous character) had to wait until an appropriate point in the campaign, or they had to break down the minotaur into eight racial levels. This was messy, time consuming and rather annoying. And it didn’t work very well either.

I think the problem here comes from assuming that the Monster Manual contained average attributes. What if it didn’t? What if the attributes in the MM were a true reflection of the race specialised in one particular direction – mêlée combat on the part of the minotaur. This was the approach that fourth edition adopted.

The Fourth Edition Minotaur

The fourth edition minotaur is found on pp190-191 of Monster Manual 1. However, it doesn’t give us one version of the minotaur. It gives us three. They are as follows:

Minotaur Warrior (Level 10)
Str 23, Con 18, Dex 10, Int 9, Wis 14, Cha 13

Minotaur Cabalist (Level 13)
Str 22, Con 17, Dex 12, Int 13, Wis 17, Cha 16

Savage Minotaur (Level 16)
Str 24, Con 20, Dex 12, Int 9, Wis 19, Cha 12

These are obviously not average minotaurs. In fact, in 4e, there’s really no such thing as an average minotaur. The above tells us that a Minotaur Warrior of 10th level will have these stats. Now, in 4e 10th level for a Monster or NPC is not quite the same as 10th level for a PC. But what if it were? In HD&D we are going to assume that it is.

In fourth edition a Minotaur PC starts at 1st level with + 2 Strength and +2 Constitution (his racial strengths). Assuming you use the standard array (16, 14, 13, 12, 11, 10) for his stats, and assuming you want to play a Fighter then the chances are the stats of Minotaur Fighter (Great Weapon Build) in fourth edition will look like something like this:

Minotaur Fighter (1st level)
Str 18, Con 16, Dex 12, Int 10, Wis 13, Cha 11

Now, PCs get stat advances. They get +1 to two attribtues at levels 4, 8, 14, 18, 24 and 28; and +1 to all attributes at levels 11 and 21. If we take these into account, this is what this Minotaur looks like as he advances through the tiers:

Minotaur Fighter (4th level)
Str 19, Con 17, Dex 12, Int 10, Wis 13, Cha 11

Minotaur Fighter (8th level)
Str 20, Con 18, Dex 12, Int 10, Wis 13, Cha 11

Minotaur Fighter (11th level)
Str 21, Con 19, Dex 13, Int 11, Wis 14, Cha 12

Minotaur Fighter (14th level)
Str 22, Con 20, Dex 13, Int 11, Wis 14, Cha 12

Minotaur Fighter (18th level)
Str 23, Con 21, Dex 13, Int 11, Wis 14, Cha 12

Minotaur Fighter (21st level)
Str 24, Con 22, Dex 14, Int 12, Wis 15, Cha 13

Minotaur Fighter (24st level)
Str 25, Con 23, Dex 14, Int 12, Wis 15, Cha 13

Minotaur Fighter (28th level)
Str 26, Con 24, Dex 14, Int 12, Wis 15, Cha 13

Look at the Minotaur’s stats during this advancement, and then compare them back to the stats of the minotaurs from Monster Manual 1. It is quite possible to see that by 10th, 13th or 16th level the PC minotaur can feasibly have very similar statistics.

It doesn’t quite work – but that’s because we’re looking at 4e. In HD&D it will work. In HD&D all races will start first level on a par. As they advance in level some  races will “grow into” the stats as presented in the Monster Manual. The attributes of Monster Manual denizens are already exceptional for their race.

Coping with Ridiculous Stats

Well, that’s all very well and good I hear you cry, but what happens when you’ve got a race that doesn’t fit that model? There might be some races (such as dragons) where the magnitude of their attributes outstrips their level. Anything that has a attribute of higher than 28 falls into this category, but the attribute ceiling for low level creatures is less. If there is no way a PC can get a stat that high by that level (assuming they only start with a maximum of +2) then we have a problem.

My first response is that PCs don’t play those sort of races, but dragons are an extreme example. One can imagine that there are quite feasible races (perhaps yet to be published) that suffer from the same problem. My solution? Give the PC a stat boost by way of a racial talent. Maybe a PC dragon can choose a talent that gives them (e.g.) an extra +4 to one stat.

This gives the player character the choice (see below) to advance the race in a traditional manner. It also frees the hands of the games designers (that’s us, by the way) to give monsters whatever stats we think they deserve, without worrying too much what would happen if a player ever got their grubby little hands on the race.

My post on Monsters is a long way off. But when we get there, we’ll see how this works in practice. The important thing to underline is that character races and monsters are connected, and they must use the same inherent mechanics, resources and calculations otherwise the integrity of the game is diminished.

The Importance of Player Choice

Using a system of +2 to two stats (whether prescribed or not), and doing away with attribute penalties gives the player more freedom. Dwarves are normally gruff and dour, which is why they have traditionally had a penalty to Charisma. Doing away with the penalty doesn’t mean that most dwarves aren’t stll gruff and dour, but it does mean that we are no longer penalising the PC who wants to play a dwarven paladin.

Now it will still be quite possible for players to have attibutes of less than 10. Low stats are important – low stats can define a character as much as high ones. However, players will have to choose to have a low stat rather than being lumbered with one from their choice of race. Surely this is better?

Next

Okay, time to climb down from the soapbox. This post is already 2000 words long, so we’ll draw a line here. Next time, I’ll post the stats for some of the ten races, as well as their racial traits (the things they get for free) and some of their racial talents. Until then.

HD&D: Ability Scores

I know I said this post was going to be about Character Races, but I thought that we really should discuss Ability Scores before we go any further. My first question is: what do you want to call them? Ability Scores? Attributes? Stats? I use all three interchangably, but if we’re going to do this properly we better pick one term and stick to it.

Anyway – my overall intention is that stats are less important in HD&D than they are in either third or fourth edition. Although it looked as though fourth edition lessened the importance of stats (by allowing characters to choose which attribute modifies their defences), stats are actually more important.

In fourth edition, all classes need to have one excellent and two good stats. That is the foundation on which all powers are built on. That means that 4e pushes you into choosing a specific races – for the ability score bonuses – and then pushes you to arrange your stats in a particular order.

I want to get away from this metagame approach to attributes. Yes, you want to have high stats in areas where you excel, but the system shouldn’t force you to do that just to be moderately effective.

Note on Races

The following assumes that every race in HD&D gives you a +2 bonus to two attributes. You may not agree with that, but assume it’s true for the duration of this post. We’ll discuss racial modifiers at length in the next post!

Calculating Attributes

The first point, that I will not be moved on, is that we are definitely not rolling ability scores. What the designers of third edition didn’t seem to appreciate (or if they did, it wasn’t reflected in the finished rules) is that attributes really, really matter in D&D. A character with average or poor stats is always going to be overshadowed by the lucky bugger who rolled three 18s. Point-buy stops that sort of thing from happening.

The question is: what sort of point buy do we use?

Fourth edition is as good a place as any to start. They have a number of suggested arrays for your attributes, the most common of which is 16, 14, 13, 12, 11 and 10. If you don’t want to use any of the pre-generated attribute arrays you can make your own with their point-buy system:

You start with six stats: 10, 10, 10, 10, 10 and 8. Then you have 22 points to spend on stats. The costs of raising a stat from 10 are as follows: 11 (1 point), 12 (2 points), 13 (3 points), 14 (5 points), 15 (7 points), 16 (9 points), 17 (12 points) and 18 (16 points). To improve the 8 you must first increase it to 10, which costs 2 points.

There is an automated tool to produce ability scores in this method, but you need to subscribe to the D&D Insider to access it.

The Pathfinder Roleplaying Game published by Paizo Publishing has a slightly different idea. In this system, all your attributes start at 10, and you have a number of points to buy your stats. Unlike the D&D model you can choose to lower stats to get more points. You cannot lower a stat below 7. The cost of each stat is as follows:

7 (-4 points), 8 (-2 points), 9 (-1 point), 11 (+1 point), 12 (+2 points), 13 (+3 points), 14 (+5 points), 15 (+7 points), 16 (+10 points), 17 (+13 points) and 18 (+17). Subtly different from the WotC version.

The number of points you get depends on the needs of the campaign. This can be anything from 10 to 25 depending on how powerful the GM wants his players to be.

I like the idea of you starting with 10s in all your attributes and then modifying them accordingly with a point buy system. I also like the idea of being able to lower your attibutes below 10. But I don’t want a system where players think they are obligued to have two cripplingly low attributes, just so they can be godlike in other areas.

A want most characters to have a stat no higher than 18 including racial modifiers. So the point buy system should encourage you to buy a stat at no higher than 16. However, I want it to be difficult to get a character to have two 16s, without reducing the other attributes down to 10.

I think my ideal system would allow a character to have a respectable collection of stats (the WotC standard of 16, 14, 13, 12, 11, 10 is good). An 18 should only be possible to the extreme detriment of your stats. After all if you buy an 18, it means you are starting with a stat of 20 once you have added in the racial modifiers. That sort of thing is not to be encourage, but I can see the justification for some PCs.

Here’s my proposal for point buy. Have a play it with it and tell me what you think:

The Proposed HD&D Point Buy

You start with 10 in every attribute and have 20 points to spend, using the costs on the table below. Under this method it costs 20 points to get an array of 16, 14, 13, 12, 11, 10 (which is what I was aiming for). There is also the scope to reduce your attributes below 10 if you want. Reducing an attribute gives you extra points to spend.

No attribute can be reduced to less than 6, or increased to more than 18.

Score

Points
6 -5
7 -3
8 -2
9 -1
10 0
11 +1
12 +2
13 +3
14 +5
15 +7
16 +9
17 +12
18 +16

So what do you think? Do me a favour and create some ability arrays from these rules. Try to recreate old PCs from second or third edition. Does it work? Is it broken? Abuse this as much as you can and tell me the results.

It is my hope that having a stat of 18 will be seen as less advantageous than spreading those points around all your stats. It is my hope that 16 should be seen as optimal. Low stats will still hurt you more than high stats will benefit you, so beware!

Ability Score Advancement

I intend to use the rules for ability score advancement laid down in fourth edition. That is, you gain a +1 to two stats of your choice at levels 4, 8, 14, 18, 24 and 28; and +1 to all stats at levels 11 and 21.

Ageing does not affect your stats per se. You don’t take a dip in your physical stats when you hit middle age. Presumably there would be diseases or poisons that could permanently reduce your attributes, but on the whole these  would be things that affect your character outside combat. I want to get away from a player deliberately ageing their PC wizard just to get the stat bonuses.

There will be no magic items, spells or outside influences that damage your character by reducing ability scores. That is just too fiddly to work out on the fly during a combat. Equally, there will be nothing that can raise your attibutes either.

Next

Next, we really are going to discuss character races.

HD&D: Making Characters

Thus we continue our whistle-stop tour of my initial ideas for a Hybird Dungeons and Dragons game, pulling together the best aspects of all previous editions. Last time we looked at the core maths that need to underpin the system, and my intention to use Iourn as the default (and only setting). This time, I’m giving you a full overview of making characters.

Chapter Three: Making Characters

This is the chapter in a rulebook that usually sports a representation of the character sheet in a double-page spread, with lots of annotations explaining what everything means. I don’t have a character sheet, but I’m going through the annotations anyway.

The Thirty Level Game

I propose that, like 4e, HD&D is a thirty level game. Characters advance over thirty levels rather than the twenty levels we saw in second and third editions. The extra ten levels give us the opportunity to grant PCs extra toys as they advance. However, PCs won’t become any more powerful. A 30th level character in HD&D will be about as powerful as a 20th level character in third edition. This means if we are converting from third edition to HD&D we need to multiply all the character levels by 1.5 to make sure all the characters are at the same power level.

With another nod to 4e, I’d like to keep the three tiers of play. I find this a helpful distinction, and we could have certain powers and abilities that advance per tier instead of per level. Fourth edition refers to the Heroic, Paragon and Epic tiers; I’m more inclined to call them Basic, Expert and Master – just to hark back to D&D’s earliest days. It also means that I can make 1st, 11th and 21st level something special.

Epic levels in HD&D will be level 31 onwards. I don’t want to touch on epic play in the first run through these rules. Those levels would be largely irrelevent to most players anyway. Rather like 4e (again) Epic levels won’t actually use different rules, although they may require greater options. Some of the off-the-wall abilities found in fourth editions Epic Destinies would be more at home with characters of level 31+.

Attributes

Let’s not mess with the classics: Strength, Constitution, Dexterity, Intelligence, Wisdom and Charisma. They still represent the same things, they are still scaled from 3-18 and still give the same bonuses they did in third and fourth editions.

I am convert to a point-buy for stats rather than rolling the dice. While I’m not sure of the exact method at the moment, it should be possible for most players to be able to start adventuring with one 18 stat (including racial modifiers) without otherwise crippling their character.

Attributes increase at the same rate as in fourth edition. +1 to two attributes at levels 4, 8, 14, 18, 24 and 28. +1 to all attributes at levels 11 and 21. I want to avoid all items, spells and abilities that alter or increase your attributes. I can see that being a problem for things like Wildshape. However, such abilities are incredibly fiddlesome and can demand the recalculation of 70% of the character sheet each time they are used. Better to say +1 to damage than +2 to strength isn’t it?

Hit Points

No more rolling hit points. Fourth edition taught me that this was a good thing. Everyone starts with a number of hit points equal to their constitution score (not Con modifier). Additionally everyone gets an extra 4 hit points per level starting at level one. So at first level you get your Con score + 4 in hit points.

Hang on, everyone gets the same hit points? Shouldn’t a fighter have more than a wizard? Yes, they should – and I have a mechanic to remedy this. It’s a bit off the wall, so you need to bear with me. Suffice to say that it’s quite important for multiclassing to work smoothly.

As characters advance in level they receive certain advantages called Talents. I’ll explain what Talents are in a moment. Each time a character gets a Talent he also gets extra hit points.

Everytime a character picks up a Defender talent he gets 3 extra hit points. When he picks up a Striker or Leader talent he gets 1½ extra hit points. When he picks up a Controller talent he gets no more hit points at all.

Let me qualify this by saying two things. Firstly, I am only using the Defender, Striker, Leader and Controller monikers for want of something else to call them at present. If anyone has any better ideas please let me know! Secondly, the ½ hit points gained through this mechanic are not treated like any other ½ unit in the game. You don’t round these up.

If this sounds a bit fiddly, then you’re probably right, but this does work. A character who takes nothing but Defender talents will reach 30th level with exactly the same hit points as a fourth edition fighter of 30th level. The maths work, but how we get there is rather odd.

What this system doesn’t do is take into account Large and larger creatures. You can’t use these rules for a dragon because even a 30th level dragon is likely to have less than 200 hit points. I’m not sure how to address this issue. I have though of multiplying total hit points depending on size:

Tiny (×½), Small (×1), Medium (×1), Large (×2), Huge (×3), Gargantuan (×4) and Colossal (×5). To a degree this mirrors the distinction between Regular,Elite and Solo monsters in 4e. However, their hit points aren’t dependent on their role, they are dependent upon their size. This is more realistic. Fortunately most solo monsters tend to be very big, so this might conceivably work.

Of course, this causes its own issues if you’ve got a Large PC in the party. Headaches! Headaches!

Defences

I will be using the fourth edition model of Defences instead of the third edition model of saving throws. From what I have played of 4e I find that using defences speeds play along.

All characters have three defences that improve as you go up levels. These defences are Reflex (to avoid being hit), Fortitude (to resist poisons, disease and fatigue) and Will (to resist compulsions, charms and see through illusions). The level of defences are determined as follows. Remember that all fractions are rounded up:

Reflex: 10 + half your level + (Int Mod or Dex Mod)
Fortitude: 10 + half your level + (Str Mod or Con Mod)
Will: 10 + half your level + (Wis Mod or Cha Mod)

So far, so identical to fourth edition. But you will notice that I haven’t mentioned Armour Class at all. When you roll to hit someone in HD&D you are rolling to hit their Reflex Defence. Armour Class still exists. It’s granted by armour. But it doesn’t make you more difficult to hit, it makes you more difficult to damage. Armour Class works like Damage Reduction did in third edition.

There are two reasons why I have done this:

1) It makes real-world sense. This is the way that armour actually works. Putting on a suit of plate armour doesn’t make it more difficult to land a blow, it makes it more difficult to damage the target once you have landed a blow.

2) The maths demands it. You remember I said that defences had to advance at the same rate as skills and attacks? Well, if the level of those defences is dependent upon an outside agent (namely armour) then it throws out everything. A first level character in plate mail becomes literally impossible to hit. Fourth edition saw this, which is why it gave all weapons a proficiency bonus to strike. But moves like that are damage limitation. I’m trying to solve the problem at the source.

And no I haven’t worked out what the Armour Class (aks DR) of different suits of armour will be yet. Certainly, this needs to be factored into the equation when we’re working out how much damage a particular character needs to inflict at each level

Character Races

Everyone starts off with a character race (goes without saying doesn’t it?). All races have the same sort of benefits to the character. Regardless of the race you have chosen you will get:

  • +2 to two prescribed attributes
  • +2 to two prescribed skills
  • +1 to one prescribed defence
  • Two “Racial Features” that are each about as powerful as a feat. These are minor racial traits like a dwarf’s Cast Iron Stomach, or a dragonborn’s Dragonborn Fury.
  • Four languages or scripts of their choice.
  • Speed, vision and natural attacks (punch, kick, claw bite) will vary between races. On the whole these advantages are so minor that they don’t need to be balanced.

Humans are a slight exception to the above. While the decriptions of all the other races tell you which two attributes, which two skills and which one defence you get a bonus in – humans get to choose. This makes humans supremely versatile. They are no better than any other race, but they are an equally good choice for any character class. Iourn is a world dominated by humans. I wanted to make the mechanics reflect that.

You’ll notice above that this looks pretty much like fourth edition. There are no racial penalties, and all races start out equal. Again, this is intentional. While you could argue that hobbits should be weaker, goblins less charismatic and elves weedier than humans – Player Characters are an exception to the norm.

It’s up to the player where he assigns his attributes during character generation. If he wants to play to type and come up with a weak and corpulent hobbit, with high Charisma and high Constitution then they can. If they want instead to create Bullroarer Took then that is also an option.

What about more powerful races that have more than two racial traits? Well, everything else that a race can do is labelled a racial talent. I’ll talk about Talents below, so please be patient. There will be a lengthier post on races in few days.

Character Classes

After race the next step is class. As I said in a reply to Daniel a few days ago, my intention is look at converting 22 core classes from third and fourth edition into HD&D. Do you want the list? Deep breath:

Barbarian, Bard, Cleric, Druid, Fighter, Monk, Paladin, Ranger, Rogue, Sorcerer, Wizard, Warlock, Warlord, Avenger, Invoker, Warden, Shaman, Swordmage, Artificer, Sonorist, Healer and Mariner. You’ve gotta have mariners.

I’ll deal with the classes in more depth in later posts. Being a member of a class gives you access to specific talents and feats that are only available to those classes.

Characters can multiclass by taking a Multiclass feat. The feat gives you a worthwhile benefit in addition to letting you multiclass. When you multiclass you gain access to all the talents and feats of a the second class as well as the first. This only increases your choice, it doesn’t increase the number of talents or feats you have access to (see below). There is no limit to the number of multiclass feats you can have. Multiclassing gets a longer treatment in an upcoming post.

Prestige Classes are simply a collection of specialist talents and feats. In order to qualify for a prestige class you must be of a particular class (or have the relevent multiclass feat), and satisfy certain prerequisites. These prerequisites will always (always) have an in-game roleplaying element. You must be a member of a certain society, or achieve a certain task and so on and so fourth.

Talents

Talents are the core abilities of each class. They would have been called Class Abilities in third edition, and Powers in fourth edition. These are the elements that make each class unique. Things like a rogue’s backstab, or a ranger’s twin strike ability are talents.

You gain one talent at every odd numbered level, with the exception of levels 1, 11 and 21 (when you gain 3 talents). This measn that between 1st and 30th level you gain twenty-one talents. This is the same progression as powers in the fourth edition game.

Spellcasting is a talent – or more accurately a collection of talents. Each spell level (from levels 0 to 9) requires you to spend a talent to have access to it. Therefore a 30th level wizard who can cast 9th level spells would have used ten of his twenty-one talents on Spellcasting. He’ll probably think it’s worth it.

This harkens back to third edition prestige classes where wizards and clerics limited their spell casting progression in return for cool abilities. A wizard could have lots of natty talents, but he gets them at the expense of his spellcasting power. There’s more on spells below.

Ideally, I would want a list of forty talents for each class divided between the Basic, Expert and Master tier. This would give sufficient choice for each character class.

Remember that there are also Racial Talents (such as a dragonborn’s dragon breath) for characters to select as well. The number of talents available is dependent on your level and not your class. So it doesn’t matter what race you are, if doesn’t matter how many classes you have, you still only have a maximum of seven talents in each tier.

This is how I balance powerful races. All the game destabilising powers of these races are not given away for free at first level – they are talents instead. If a player wants to pursue these racial abilities then he can, but he does so at the expense of his class abilities. It is up to the player to find the right balance.

Talents should grant characters unique abilities. They may work like spells, but more often they are “always on” or at-will abilities that the PC can draw upon at any time.

Skills

There are about fifty three skills in the game. Every class will have a list of about thirty Favoured Skills. These are designed to focus the mind, and will be the skills most associated with a particular character class. From those Favoured Skills, a character chooses 16 skills. These 16 skills become a characer’s Class Skills.

Everthing that isn’t a Class Skill is then a Cross Class skill. Even if the skill was originally on the list of a class’s Favoured Skills, but the player chose not to select it, then it is a cross-class skill.

Every level (starting at level one) a character gets 8 skill points. It costs one skill point to advance a class skill by one rank. It costs two skill points to advance a cross-class skill by one rank. The most ranks you can have in a skill is half your level (rounded up).

That is the essence of the system. It is fair and it works. All classes get the same skills, and the number of skills are not modified by race or by attributes. That is important for balance. Why should one class have more skills than another. A different focus I can accept, but why more? Also if all classes have the same skill points it takes away one of the big advantages of third edition style multiclassing.

Here is the big change:

Weapon skills use the same skill point system. The thirteen Weapon Groups from fourth edition become thirteen different skills. It’s up to the player to assign the skill points accordingly. Fighters will have to spend their skill points to choose to be skilled in numerous different weapons. There is no base attack bonus in HD&D, there is no THAC0. If you don’t have the ranks, you’re no good at the skill.

Some skills will work together, although there are no synergy bonuses any more. For example:

Track is not  a skill in and of itself. To attempt to track you must have ranks in the Survival skill. However, in order to track you make a Perception check using your ranks in Perception or your ranks in Survival. Whichever is less.

Because we are using defences instead of saving throws, spellcasters have to roll to cast their spells. The skill they use to do this is Arcana. All casters use Arcana, but the governing attribute (Wis, Cha or Int) varies by class. Each spellcasting tradition is associated with a knowledge skill as follows:

  • Arcane magic (wizards, sorcerers): Knowledge [Draconic]
  • Song magic (sonorists, bards): Knowledge [Fey]
  • Primal magic (druids): Knowledge [Nature]
  • Divine magic (clerics): Knowledge [Religion]

Casting a spell uses the same mechanic as tracking. You make an Arcana check using the ranks in Arcana or the ranks in the related Knowledge skill, whichever is less.

Feats

You gain one feat at every even numbered level. In addition you gain an extra feat at levels 1, 11 and 21. This means a 30th level character has a maximum of eighteen feats. This is also the same progression as feats in fourth edition. I am toying with idea of giving about two feats at levels 1, 11 and 21 – which would give characters the same number of feats and talents. I think I’ll wait and see how many useful feats we generate before making the final decision.

Feats are usually knacks that allow to enhance a skill or ability that you already have. So a feat might make a talent more effective, it might give you more skills, a better defence or another language. Very rarely do feats grant unique abilities.

Feats are divided into four broad categories. Multiclass feats I have already discussed. General feats can be taken by any one of any race or any class (although they may still have some prerequisites). Racial feats can only be taken by characters of a certain race. Class feats can only be taken by characters of a certain class.

Just as with talents, the number of feats you have is dependent upon your level. Therefore players must strike a balance between all the different options available, and choose to specialise their character in particular directions.

Spells

There are ten talents that grant spellcasting for each spellcasting class. So a mutliclass wizard/cleric who can cast 9th level spells in each class would have to spend twenty talents to do it. Each spellcasting talent has a level prerequisite. You cannot know the talent or cast spells before reaching this level:

  • Spellcasting (0): Level 1
  • Spellcasting (1st): Level 1
  • Spellcasting (2nd): Level 5
  • Spellcasting (3rd): Level 9
  • Spellcasting (4th): Level 11
  • Spellcasting (5th): Level 15
  • Spellcasting (6th): Level 19
  • Spellcasting (7th): Level 21
  • Spellcasting (8th): Level 25
  • Spellcasting (9th): Level 29

Notice how the progression is neatly divided over the three tiers. Also remember that Level 30 in HD&D is the same as Level 20 in third edition. So you don’t have to wait as long as it looks.

Once you have the appropriate Spellcasting talent you can learn spells of that level. There is no limit to the number of spells that you can know. However, you get very little for free. Every time a spellcaster advances a level he can automatically add one spell (of a level he can cast) to his repetoire. Anything else he has to learn/research/buy in game. This applies to druids and clerics as much as it does to wizards.

There are no spell points. I am leaning toward a Recharge mechanic similar to Encounter powers in fourth edition. Once you have cast a spell you cannot cast it again until you have taken a short rest. You can imagine certain feats that grant spellcasters the ability to cast a certain spell twice before taking a short rest. I like the way that when you start to look at the rules, all the feats seem to write themselves.

Most spells will be cast as standard actions, meaning they can be used once per “encounter”. However, many higher level spells will have a much longer casting time. These will be cast in a manner more similar to 4e rituals, or third edition incantations.

Does this mean that spellcasters will be more powerful than non-spellcasters? Yes. Is it a problem? Probably not. I think there is a less scope for abuse in this system than using spell points. All the really annoying spells (powerful divinations, teleportation and the like) will take much longer to cast. Plus it supports the fantasy archetype of the wizard with a vast repetoire of spell books. We want to keep that, right?

And before anyone asks: yes it is my intention to bring back the nine schools of magic; and to allow specialist wizards in HD&D.

Alchemy

As a quick note, I am beefing up the role of Alchemy. I love the way it’s presented in Adventurer’s Vault. It’ll work in the same way as spells, except that “casting times” will always be longer. Mastering alchemy would probably require three talents (one per tier) instead of the ten required for magic.

Equipment

Firstly, we’ll use the gp costings from third and second edition with a firm dose of common sense. The economics of fourth edition is out there with the fairies. This will help to limit things like plate mail falling into the hands of first level adventurers.

Magic items can’t be bought and sold. That’s just stupid. However, I like the concept of residuum introduced in fourth edition (I don’t play an MMORPGSs so the concept isn’t soured for me). I also like the idea that the use of residuum makes the resale of magical items economic nonsense. If a ritual converts a magic item to its true gp value in residuum, then it is always better for criminals and shopkeepers to reduce expensive magic items (which no-one can afford) to their component parts that they sell off separately.

I think I’m going to do away with Superior (aka Exotic) weapons. I’ll make all weapons equally usable, but the application of certain special feats or even talents will allow those who are truly proficient to take their weapons to the next level. I hope that different weapons can have different effects in the hands of different characters.

As far as magic weapons and items are concerned, well I’m going to be a bit revolutionary. I am doing away with the endemic +1 to +5 bonus that is stuck on weapons, armour, cloaks and whatever have you. Allowing magic weapons to grant a bonus to hit and to damage skews the underlying mathematics I was talking about in the last post. There will be no such thing as a +1 sword.

Instead, all magic items will be unique. They will all be worth having for dint of what they are, and not because you’re 10th level, therefore you have to have a +2 sword. You see, if magic weapons have these bonuses then the campaign evolves in one of two ways:

1) You build the bonuses into all the DCs in the game. You assume a 10th level fighter has a +2 sword, so all Reflex defences must be 2 points higher to take account of it. But if you do that, then the GM is forced to give away magic weapons in order for the game to function. PCs without magic gear are screwed.

2) You ignore the bonuses from weapons when working out all the DCs. This means that everyone with magic weapons has it too easy. They’ll be making all their Moderately difficult tasks far more often. PCs without magic gear are still screwed.

Neither of the above is desirable. I don’t like  giving out copious magic items because I like them to be special. I certainly don’t like the game forcing me to do it just so the mechanics work. Therefore, let’s bite the bullet and get rid of mundane magic items. For example:

A PC comes across a magical scimitar that bursts into flame at his command. It has the soul of an efreet bound into it you see, as part of a complex plot that ties directly into that character’s background. As the character advances in level, so the sword increases in power until the day the PC of sufficient power that he is worthy be possessed by the efreet. The item is unique. It’s not a +1 flaming burst scimitar.

Next

Well, that was a long post. I could have added more, but I think you’re beginning to get the picture. Next time we’ll look at Character Races in more detail.