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+.


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!


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 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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


47 thoughts on “HD&D: Making Characters

  1. Some good changes :)

    I, too, have enjoyed the look of the thirty-level game (far superior to the 100+ level game epic can stretch out to…) It will be interesting to see how the classes turn out – that, I think, will be what the whole system hinges on!

    I’d also highly consider the 4E way of stat-changes for all 3E games, but its a bit hard to do that with my current games, I think… Too much has already been invested, and people wouldn’t like the “other side” (ie, removing stat items).

    As for HP – I haven’t forced people to roll for ages. My latest campaign I am just taking max HD, but then its a powerful gestalt game. Most games I allow people to roll, but have 1/2 (round up) as a minimum.

    Humans – are you giving them the choice of two +2 stats? So, twice as many in 4E? This will certainly make humans more viable, but it will also make them more powerful, as they adapt where other races cannot.

    I don’t like the skills :) But that’s a personal preference. I thought the 4E skills were a great change, and we have already discussed our difference of opinions, so the only thing I will say is – wizards need to put skills into one skill (Knowledge (Arcane)) to cast all their spells -and that’s a skill they would have had anyway. Fighters, though, need to put skills into different groups depending on different weapons. This does feel like it hurts the fighter.

    If the fighter has to use weapon groups, why not make the spellcasters use skills for spell groups (such as the 3E schools of magic)? Otherwise, if the wizard can use any wizard spell with the same efficiency, why can the fighter not use any weapon with the same efficiency? The only ones that really should be different are exotic weapons.

    I like the idea behind magical items. It also sounds like a lot of work, but would be nice if done well :) I often want to make magic items rarer in my games, but certain players seem unable to hear that and not consider an uprising :D

    Anyway, overall, it sounds good! Apart from the skills, that is :p But looking forward to seeing how it all comes together!


  2. I don’t think that changes make humans more powerful per se, but it does make them the most versatile. While, you might look at a class and say “Gosh, this class is perfect for a dwarf!” all classes will be perfect for humans. There has to be a reason that humans are the most populous race, right? Well, they are on Iourn anyway.

    There is one trade off in as far as the two racial traits that humans get at first level aren’t as interesting as some other races. And they won’t have the breadth of racial talents that are available to (e.g.) the Genasi or the Dragonborn.

    But I like humans and I want to find ways to encourage adventuring parties to be dominated by them. As a GM I find it easier to “get inside the head” of a human PC, than something that has a completely alien mind set.

    I want a game where someone who plays a half-orc is playing that half-orc because they’ve had a fantastic idea for a half-orc character. Not simply a fantastic idea for a character that has +2 Strength.

    I think we may have to agree to disagree on the skills. The point you make about the skills needed to cast spells compared to the skills needed to fight is well made. During the campaign of ’99 I had a system where there were nine different skills for using and identifying magic (Abjuration, Conjuration, Divination, Enchantment, Evocation, Illusion, Necromancy and Transmutation). However, I think it’s a bit much.

    In HD&D as it currently stands a spellcaster will have to have three skills in order to cast magic: Arcana, the related Knowledge skill and Spellcraft. He’ll probably want to max those out. A fighter has thirteen weapon skills to choose from. How many will he max out? How many does he really need to?

    Traditionally in D&D the fighter has had many less available skills than the wizard. To a degree this reflects that as the fighter probably feels as though he has to spread his points over many of the available weapon skills. But there are enough points available to max out all 16 class skills, so how much of this is an issue.

    There may be 13 weapon skills, but there are also 12 Knowledge skills (not including Arcana and Spellcraft). Wizards are often bookish types and will want to learn many of these. As many knowledge skills as a fighter has weapon skills, perhaps.

    It’s hard for me to justify without pasting the whole skills system into the comments field, but I think there’s a degree of balance. If you have multiple skills for different types or facets or magic then it would be difficult to emulate something like the Eldritch Theurge from second edition.

  3. “I want a game where someone who plays a half-orc is playing that half-orc because they’ve had a fantastic idea for a half-orc character. Not simply a fantastic idea for a character that has +2 Strength.”

    – the problem I see, however, is that will be exactly the reason everyone plays humans. To get those +2 bonuses where they want them.

    I mean, perhaps that is your intent, but I would want any character to choose their race based on an idea, and not stats. but, stats happen. Your change, i think, will get more humans, but won’t encourage great ideas, just more stat playing.

    as to fighter / mages with skills – my point was more that a veteran fighter who has focused with swords should still be able to pick up an axe or other weapon and use it better than say a wizard who has also not spent time with it. Just as a specialist wizard who has focused his attention on enchantment could still cast most of the rest of his spells without penalty. Yes, there is a barred school, but every other one is still top level – the fighter, meanwhile, is somehow unable to use those other weapons.

    Anyway, as you said, agree to disagree :)


  4. The ability to assign stat and skill bonuses where you like is a powerful advantage. That’s why in 4e humans only get +2 to one stat. In HD&D a human fighter could put a +2 in strength and then another +2 in heavy blades giving him +3 to hit with longsword over other races. A problem? Quite possibly.

    The thing is that in fourth edition (largely because of the game dependence on stats) humans are bit screwed. You are always better off picking a race with two stat bonuses that synergise with your class’s prime abilities, than playing a human. A human is never going to be as good a paladin as a dragonborn.

    Fourth edition wants the implied setting to be a melting plot populated by many different races. I don’t. I want Iourn to be dominated by humans. In order for the other races to seem exceptional then they need to be relatively rare when compared to mankind.

    The rules feed into that. There are advantages to playing races other than human. Humans don’t get a plethora of interesting racial talents. They don’t have anything to match a dragonborn’s breath weapon, a tiefling’s fiery rebuke or the laundry list of abilities a genasi has access to. A player can go down that route and generally not be at a disadvantage compared to a human. It’s all a matter of choice.

    I remember posting that the HD&D rules are designed for my campaign, and my players. Inevitably there are going to be instances where rules presented here are going to deviate from something WotC would publish: rules that seem abusable, but I’m confident won’t be abused by my players.

    This may be one of those rules. It may not be. Hopefully, someone else will wade into this discussion with an opinion. The way I see it, though, is if players only play humans because of the stat modifiers then they are still playing humans (which is what I want). If they ignore the stat modifier advantage and go for another race, then they must have a really good reason to play that race (which is also what I want).

    Regarding the skills:

    I do see you point. I’m not saying that I won’t ultimately go down a road similar to the one you suggest. However, there’s a wider balance to be considered. I want all classes to have the same number of available class skills. If you don’t make lots of skills out of fighting, then what’s a fighter supposed to take?

    Wizards and spellcasters traditionally have twin roles. They cast the spells, but they are also learned and know the knowledge skills. Spellcasting cannot, therefore, take up too many skills as the wizard still needs to be able to choose various assorted knowledges as well.

    Weapon Groups are supposed to be broad enough to reflect proficiency in a number of weapons. Should a veteran blademaster who has never wielded an axe in his life be able to pick it up and use it with greater proficiency than a wizard who has also never used such a weapon?

    Skill ranks reflect training. So if you haven’t been trained in weapon then you won’t have ranks in it. The fighter will probably still be better than the wizard because he’ll be stronger, and probably have some feats and/or talents that he can apply to the axe. But he won’t be better trained.

    You could argue swinging a sword is a lot like swinging an axe. But it’s nothing like using a sling or firing a bow. Could we therefore argue that the thirteen weapon group categories are at fault, and we should categorise weapons differently?

  5. OK. I’ve cogitated, ruminated and masticated and I feel generally positive about all this. It’s a good solid basis for the game (well done Neil!) and, with sufficient options developed, should allow players to create any character they like. It’s vital that two players should be able to play the same class without being statistically identical or one having to make sub-optimal choices just to be different. Fourth edition powers, as the basis of the character class system, are just too narrow. We need lots of talents for each class.

    I have no problem with: Thirty levels; defences and armour class; talents and feats (as long as there are enough, they are balanced and it’s clear what the difference between a talent and feat is); race options (human versatility isn’t a big advantage as ‘demihumans’ will be at least as good in classes that favour their ability. Plus nonhumans will get other minor things like low-light vision that humans shouldn’t get).

    The point buy attribute system is fine. I’m not sure about doing away with modifiers to attributes altogether, though. Minimizing them is fine if it makes it easier, but I think you’ve got to have facility for such things as spells that increase your strength that would allow you to lift a portcullis or throw a boulder (common occurrence or not). Giving a bonus to skills that involve strength would work but surely just increasing strength would be easier in this case? I don’t know.

    I’m not too sure about hit points. I’m concerned that wizards and the like will not be too far behind the big boys, especially at mid-levels. I haven’t done the maths though. Constitution only affects hit points at first level. That means it has a big effect at first and little later on in the game (and with that many extra levels it has that much less impact). This seems like a big change. Saying that, I like the use of Con score rather than modifier to affect first level hit points. As far as hit points for different sized creatures, the multiplication modifier works for monsters but doesn’t work if you want PCs, NPCs and monsters to all use the same rules. In the Game of Souls campaign, Lycaon would have suddenly doubled his hit points when he hit level 15 or whenever it was he expanded. That’s clearly destabilizing. Maybe there can be large feats that grant extra hit points? Or penalties to counteract the hit point gain such as the penalties to hit and AC in third edition (and vice versa for tiny creatures)?

    Multiclassing and taking prestige classes looks ok. I’m not sure about the number of classes. I thought third edition got out of control with the number of basic classes it had and I would be wary about adding too many. Are Mariners really necessary? Would a multiclass Fighter/Rogue not be able to replicate it? If not, why not? A Swordmage better be very different to a Fighter/Wizard or what’s the point? I’m not sure what all of the other classes do, but they should only be in if they can’t be created through a sufficiently broad basic class. I’ll reserve judgment until you post the class document. I would advocate Binders though, as an extra class. They are genuinely unique and would be a fun addition (and I call shotgun on the first one, Dr Brown).

    I’m happy with the skills system proposed, in the main. Attack rolls as part of the skills system should work well. I think the point about a master swordsman having no more clue how to wield an axe than a Healer with no weapon skills is a good one, though. Maybe you could have half the skill value in a weapon similar to one you are trained in. Then a swordsman could still use axes and daggers but not necessarily any great skill with longbows. Or perhaps certain classes would give a minimum bonus to hit with certain fairly simple weapons. A trained warrior could pick up a mace or a spear or a crossbow and get some use out of it no matter what their training with it. Or maybe you could have a feat for basic proficiency in simple weapons (+ half your level to hit?) at basic tier, more complicated weapons like flails and greatswords at second tier, and all weapons at high levels? Or would all of these things mess up the skill system?

    Using skills for spellcasting also seems fine but I’m not sure about using the Knowledge skill. In the game so far, Knowledge (Draconic) is not a widespread skill and Elias is notable for his dragon expertise. In the new system, every Wizard needs to be an expert on dragons. How will that affect the verisimilitude of implementing the new system? Patently, not every Wizard encountered in the game so far has been an expert on dragons. The same goes for Bards and fey. Will this be part of the deconstruction of the weave in the League of Light game or will we just assume that Wizards and Sorcerers have known all about dragons all along? And what about Sorcerers that don’t come from dragons? I like the idea of fey or demon descended Sorcerers who have nothing to do with dragons, to say nothing about Ravenna (which is generally wise). I know that Wizardly magic comes from dragon magic originally and I understand the desire to have a second requisite skill for spellcasters but this doesn’t seem right. Also, is Arcana relevant for all casters? I’m thinking about Druids mainly. I’m not sure if it’s crucial for a Druid or even a Cleric. I would suggest having the skill Cast (Arcane/Song/Primal/Divine) Magic and then Knowledge (Nature for Druids; Religion for Clerics; Arcane for Wizards, Sorcerers, Sonorists and Bards).

    Finally, what on Iourn is Residuum? I understand in game terms, but I can’t get my head ’round it as a concept in the world. How do you store it when you’ve got it out of the item?

    It’s not finished…….It’s finished.

  6. Another email discussion between Neil and I. This one pertaining more to this post than what has gone before (although we vear into a discussion about ability scores).

    Hopefully you have received my thoughts and are digesting them now. I have now read most of your HD&D stuff and in general I like it, in fact I want to play it now! However I agree with hvg3 (who is this person?) that the skills system seems slightly skewed in favour of wizards, though it depends upon the broadness of the wea*on categories. I think there was a book in 2e or maybe 3e that introduced wea*on groups (skills and powers?) and I seem to remember that I thought this was very good. Taking the example of a fighter skilled in swords but not axes, they should be significantly better at wielding these than, say, a wizard but shouldn’t be as good as a master axe-smith. Perhaps have some groups which are related (e.g. sword and axe) which allow a fighter to wield a wea*on from the other group but at a reduction in their skill? I think the book I am thinking of had something similar called “tight” and “broad” groups, with the “tight” groups being all swords and daggers and the “broad” group being all bladed wea*ons, or something like that.

    For the advancement and multiclass system to work, I need to divorce hit points, skill points, class skills, talents and feats from any one class. This means that (among other things) all classes start with the same number of class skills. My proposal is that all classes start with 16 class skills, and have enough skill points to max out their ranks in all those skills should they choose to do so. The problem is finding sixteen skills for each class.

    Traditionally in D&D the fighter didn’t get many skill points or many skills. That is because all of his ‘skills’ came off the base attack bonus, or his feats. By exploding out the skill list, I’ve had the problem of finding potential class skills for the fighter. He has athletics, climb, swim and… what else exactly? The use of armour and shields don’t easily lend themselves to the skill mechanic. What else does a fighter do except fight?

    By contrast spellcasters cast spells, but they are also the party member who is most likely to have their hands on all the various knowledge skills. They have two roles. So your wizards class skills will include the skills for casting spells, and the skills for being inveterate know-it-all.

    Turning the weapon groups into individual skills was a good way to give the fighter a bigger pool of skills. I will definitely have a look at Skills and Powers and see how they used broad and narrow weapon groups in that book. I’d completely forgotten about them to be honest. Let me have a look and I may revise my opinion.

    There is some room in the existing system for related weapons. All my skills have the potential to default to another skill if necessary. For example Knowledge (nobility) includes a knowledge of the law of the land. If you rolled on that to find out what the penalty was, for example, killing the queen of Alotha, then you could make a roll at DC 15. If you don’t have Knowledge (nobility) you could make a roll on a related skill. Maybe you roll on Knowledge (history), because you’re remembering a previous occassion when a monarch of Alotha was killed. I’d allow that, but the DC increases to the next level of difficulty: DC 20. Or, in practice, I like to make you roll your History check with a -5 penalty.

    That could work for weapons as well. You are skilled in swords and wielding an axe. They are both slashing weapons, so they are broadly similar. You could make the attack with the axe using your sword skill at a -5 penalty. No further rules are requires. However, I may need to look at rationalising the list of weapon groups.

    There are several levels of proficiency with weapons, but some of them are hidden by the system. Obviously, the more ranks you put into a skill the better you are with it. There’s nothing stopping a wizard putting as many ranks as a fighter into a weapon. A 10th level wizard and a 10th level fighter could both have +5 to hit with the quarterstaff. The fighter will probably be better, because the fighter is stronger… but ignoring stats entirely, the fighter still has some advantages. He gets access to feats and talents that improve his weapon skills. He may take Weapon Focus (getting a better chance to hit), Weapon Specialisation (doing more damage) or any number of other nifty abilities. The wizard is unable or unwilling to take these advantages. Fudamentally, he’s a wizard after all and he has to concentrate on his spell casting.

    The other thing you may have problems with is assuming a group of players can take down a high power monster in an average of 8 rounds. This really depends upon the amount of damage this creature can do in one round. If for example a dragon can take down one, or more, players in one round with its breath, that suddenly massivley shifts the balance of the fight. On the otherhand a Dragon should be able to deal significantly more damage than the average character. Conversely a high level character should be able to go toe-to-toe with a solo (or at least some solos).

    I think if we say that if we aim for the eight round average and scale hit points and damage potential accordingly, then we have a firm base to work on. If it doesn’t work that way in every combat, then that’s fine. We want an element of radomness. I think a lot of work was done on this by the 4e designers, so if we start from their assumptions then we aren’t going to go too far wrong.

    I’m not sure about the actual generation of stats, on the one hand I think a bit of randomness is a good thing, on the other I agree that it can cripple a player. How about a base plus a random element? I’m not sure about the point cost system as I think it loses something in diversity. I don’t have the stats for any characters but I would take a look at generating, for example, the Dragonlance heroes. Caramon for example was meant to be extraordinarily strong (18) and highly charismatic. Presumably he was pretty tough as well and at least reasonably dextrous. Whilst he wasn’t the brightest tool in the box he wasn’t Vic thick (8?) but he was quite wise. I’m not sure you can create him with your system. I had a go with Str 18, Int 8, Wis 10, Dex 16, Cha 16 and Con 15 and it came to 39 points! Perhaps these stats are a little high but I don’t think they’re too “out there”.

    Vic had an intelligence of 6 and he was proud of it. The official 2nd edition Dragonlance stats had Caramon at Strength 18 (63), Dexterity 11, Constitution 17, Intelligence 12, Wisdom 11, Charisma 15. Which (assuming +2 in Str and Con) would be 25 points under this system. Of course, I’m not sure what level he was supposed to be, so he might get some stat advances every few levels.

    Personally, I think that randomness of any sort in character generation has the potential to kill the game. Whether it’s rolling hit points every level or rolling your stats at level one. If the game aims for some parity between party members then I don’t think we can justify a random element. And yes, it means you can’t start with a character with extremely high stats above the board, but hopefully the game will be structured to such an extent as you don’t need to.

  7. Right my comments for Daniel:

    Hit Points

    The difference in hit points between classes is exactly what it is in fourth edition. So if you think 4e got it wrong, then this gets it wrong too. All the classes are closer together in terms of hit points that they were in third edition. Fighter types generally have less hit points.

    As for doubling hit points for large creatures – yes, it would work for monsters fine, but PCs would be trickier. Or would they? I seem to remember Half-Giant PCs in Darksun worked just fine in adventuring parties – and all half giants had double hit points as a racial schtick. I would probably be more inclined to turn the extra points into a Racial Talent (or series of talents) if I went down this road.


    So what do you have against mariners? In truth there are a number of base classes that can be merged. The 4e Invoker has just been previewed on the WotC website. I’m sure its abilities can be folded into the cleric. I suspect the same will be true for the Avenger and the Paladin, and the Warden and the Ranger. However, I’m not against a large number of class options per se (other than the work it will take).

    The eleven classes presented in third edition are a given, we have to include them. Healers have also been established, so I want to include them as well. Swordmages and Artificers have something unique to bring to the table, and Sonorists really need to be doen for the integrity of the setting. And I like mariners.

    Are binders a class of their own. Couldn’t you see their abilities folding rather neatly into the warlock?


    My comments to Neil above might satisfy some of your questions. It is feasible for a character to default to a related skill at a penalty (-5, -10, -15 depending on how far removed the skill is). I would also retain the right to draw the line. “I know how to stir a cup of tea with a spoon, can I use this claymore at a -10 penalty?”

    Your point regarding the magic-related skills is an interesting one though. You can see why I used Knowledge (draconic) – the tradition of wizardly spellcasting is through dragons. You could argue that much of the knowledge that Elias and the rest of the Chosen have discovered about Dragons is so esoteric that most wizards would never have known it any way. You can always sidestep a high DC in a Knowledge check by finding things out first hand, as the Chosen have done.

    The problem with making Knowledge (Arcane) a skill is to determine what it is actually a skill of. What knowledge does if actually pertain to. Most knowledge skills have elements of monster lore, planar lore and so on. Knowledge (Arcane) seems a bit wishy washy, and could make Spellcraft seem even more pointless.

    The skill “Arcana” for spellcasting was designed to be a generic term, not necessarily one that tarnishes the beloved druids with elements of wizard magic. If could be called anything, I thought Arcana sounded cool. Obviously the Nicos would refer to the skill as “Invoke Big Fiery Dude”.


    This was introduced in 4e. It’s a raw component of magic that is bound into magic items when you enchant. You can disenchant and item and remove the magic as a physical component (residuum) that can then we used for a variety of purposes. I quite like the idea, and as a means to explain the lack of a magical economy, it is a good one.

  8. This from Neil:

    One more thing, if you go along the route of 4e defences and using Ref as the difficulty to hit in melee, you are saying that a highly intelligent character is just as good at getting out of the way as a highly nimble character. I have no problem with wizards and the like being highly nimble if they want to be but you can’t use intelligence instead, that’s just stupid, ever been in combat? You don’t tend to think you react.

    I actually don’t have a problem with this. Your Reflex defence is improved by either your Intelligence or your Dexterity. If it’s your Dexterity then you are nimble enough to get out of the way of danger. If it’s Intelligence then you had the forethought not to be standing in danger in the first place.

    It makes logical sense to me. And the game works a lot more smoothly, when you can nominate one of two ability scores to influence your defence. I would argue that Charisma is less well-suited to affecting your Will Defence than Intelligence is your Reflex Defence.

    So unless I have a lot of people lining up to tell me it’s a crap idea, I want to keep this in HD&D. Anyone else agree with Neil?

  9. Neil says:

    You don’t have a problem with it! Okay, your explanation is just about reasonable if you are talking of avoiding combat altogether but once in melee you rely on agility, luck and skill with a weapon, not your intelligence. If someone is trying to hit you with a big bit of metal you are not thinking about the trajectory of that metal, where it will intersect with your head, you just get the hell away! Please, some of your LRPers, back me up on this one!

  10. Then Morgan says:

    Ah, a discussion on combat systems! Woo hoo! Allow me to add some ill-informed nonsense of my own. Call it “opinion”, for such it is.

    IMO, intelligence is every bit as important in “not-getting-hit-in-a-fight” as agility and reactions but none are as important as “perception”. All of my fighting experience is LRP-based (and, thus, b*llocks) but I have seen more people get cut down because they were not keeping their wits about them than because they were slow on their feet.

    But the ultimate melee defence that I have seen (apart from running away) is “skill-at-arms”. ie, I can’t hit that geezer over there because his parrying and shield-use are just too darn good. And D&D doesn’t really work that way, I think. I would prefer to see the base “defence” figure rising as a fighter increases in levels (slower for non-melee classes) and then have Dex, etc. modifying that figure.

    Does that make sense?

  11. Then Neil said again:

    Also, in assigning your ability score costs you have made a simple progression of adding one more everytime you increase from an even to an even, i.e. 10-12, 2 12-14, 3 14-16 4, so why break it at 18? 16-18 should be 14 not 16. If you really want to penalise people then 15.

  12. Graham pitched in with this:

    Some nonsense of my own:

    It makes sense. Intelligence, Dexterity, skill-at-arms and plain simple armour all could factor into defence, just depends how complicated (or how twinkable) you want the combat system to be.

    A base defence of some value, boosted by skill-at-arms (from being a fighter), perhaps modified by dexterity (dodging) if not wearing armour that’s too constrictive and again modified by intelligence (awareness of surroundings). Then there is physical armour. Armour can be treated simply as an addition to a defence value, or a soak value to reduce damage by, be it by an absolute value or a percentage. D&D opts for the first method, more realistic would be the second.

  13. Neil said:

    Yup makes sense. Perception is a good call but that is a skill which comes into play at the moment of contact, NOT IMO, during melee. I believe that perception runs off Int so there is agreement there but I still maintain that during actual melee int is not useful, only at the point of joining and when others join in. You could also argue of course that all the perception/intelligence in the world is going to do you no good at all if you can’t get out of the way in time (Dex)!

  14. Neil again:

    Okay, I have a compromise, how about the average of the two? That way a vastly intelligent but athletically challenged wizard would have the same sort of defence as a stupid highly nimble fighter/rogue. But a reasonable clever reasonably nimble character would be a bit better.

  15. Then from out of nowhere: Jon!

    Haven’t really had much time to properly look over things yet.
    But with reference to the specifics of this conversation….. (I too subscribe to the LRP Fighting == Knows nothing!)

    A smart but fat man can see the blow coming, but cannot move quick enough to avoid it.
    A thick but quick man, doesn’t see the blow coming and reacts too late.
    A thin & Smart man see it coming and moves before the blow lands….
    A thick and Fat man is called Elias, and therefore gets hit a lot.

    The point I am to make is this – Add Int & Dex together, resolve the combined modifier and use that as you bonus.

  16. Finally, I had my say:

    Dear lord. I’ll transcribe all this to the blog later!

    All defences improve by +1 every two levels for all classes. This is the experience element of the equation. And yes, I know it’s the same for all classes, but bear with me! Bonuses to Reflex defence can be gained from certain feats. Carrying a shield also provides a bonus to reflex defence. Parrying with a weapon provides another bonus (usually at the expense of your chance to hit in the same round). So all these things do factor in to your chance to avoid being hit. Armour itself is going to soak damage, as Graham says.

    Although I hadn’t thought of armour absorbing a proportion of the damage rather than a fixed amount. That bears some thought!

    The question is what ability score modifier do we add to this? Dexterity or Intelligence; or the best of both (which is the way that 4e has it)? Morgan: if we decided not to have an ability score alter Reflex defence at all, then I foresee knock-on effects throughout the entire system. Half level + ability modifier is the base sum I’m using for everything, I think we have to keep that.

    The bottom line is that I’ve based the defences on the 4e system, where you pick one of two ability scores to modify your defences. That’s Str or Con for Fortitude defence, Dex or Int for Reflex Defence, and Wis or Cha for Will defence.

    If we say that we don’t want Int as an option to modify Reflex Defence and we just want Dex, then we have to do that for all the others. We are back to the third edition model: Con for Fortitude, Dex for Reflex and Wis for Will. Now we can do that, but I though the 4e system provided a fairer base where individual stats mattered less in the final equation.

  17. From Daniel:

    don’t have a problem for using Intelligence to get out of the way as long as it doesn’t allow characters to min/max their stats as HVG3 and Graham have pointed out in the blog. Intelligence does represent mental agility and perception so would be appropriate, I believe.

    I think that the skill at arms aspect of defences is a very important point and should be created through feats for the most part (as you already add half your level to your defence). Progressively more effective bonuses for using a shield as you take linked feats or specific feats for parrying that are as useful as feats for hitting that are mainly available to fighter types. The problem with having a set bonus to defence tied to your class that increases as you level, would be that as you advance it gets progressively more powerful. Only high level fighters would be able to hit high level fighters and would always hit characters without that defence. Possibly realistic but is that what we would want in the game? A jack-of-all-trades character like a bard would lose a lot in the fighting department. If it didn’t increase with level it would be too powerful at low-level and pointless at high level.

  18. No itallics, so this is me:

    Neil: you and Jon just came up with the same idea independently. Are you scared?

    The problem with taking the average is that all characters wind up with mediocre modifiers unless they have have high scores in both stats (which the system doesn’t allow). Mediocre modifiers for all defences throws off my maths quite considerably.

    I would rather do the best of one than the average of two.

  19. And from James (of the Wee Jimmy variety):

    The problem you’ve got is that academic intelligence (i.e. what the wizard has) and quick-thinking common sense perceptive intelligence (i.e. what the average fantasy thief has) are not the same thing at all. The wizard may have the most brilliant mind in the known world, but have no idea what that bloke with the pointy thingy (what are they called again…?) is up to before it’s too late. I’m sure we’ve all known academics like that!

  20. Yes.
    And it modifies Perception.
    But I was hoping no-one would notice that.

    We’re not having Wisdom affect your Reflex Defence.
    No, INdran, not even if you’re a monk.

  21. From James (WJ):

    Frankly, I’ve never been sure what Wis is supposed to represent. If it’s common sense, God knows (maybe he, she or it does!) why clerics have it in spades, given some of their weird practices.

  22. From Daniel:

    Good point. Now that I come to think about, perception comes off Wisdom, not Intelligence. Maybe we should scrap Dex and Int and use Wis instead as that represents forethought AND perception. The wisdom to not be there in the first place….

    Realistically I think we should choose the best of Dex or Int but only if there is enough reason for characters to choose better stats than the 20/6/20/6/10/8 that Graham was proposing for his fighter. Parrying, dodging and not being in the wrong place at the wrong time feats and talents should come off a variety of Str, Dex, Int and Wis to encourage variety and at least a small degree of ‘realism’.

  23. From Neil:

    IMNSHO ;-) the problem with linking feats to a fighter’s greater ability to defend against melee attack is that you’re saying that he is not intrinsically better at defending than any other class, which is patently wrong. Feats and talents should be about adding to the basic class (giving nifty extras like multiple hits, extra damage etc.) not just giving the class what it should have in the first place! I know that you are saying that wizards have to take x number of talents for the same sort of thing (spell levels) BUT, the fighter would take a double whammy since he needs to take talents to be trained in different weapon groups (doesn’t he?).

  24. From Jon:

    OK – off the wall suggestion.
    Why not introduce a new skill called combat wisdom.

    As your experience (wisdom) in combat increases so this bonus is added to your defense
    Base stat : WIS
    Convert the total skill into a bonus as per a stat.
    Becomes a class skill for Fighters and other pointy object classes – not so much for your point hat classes

    (I know it’s off the wall)

  25. From Neil:

    Why not? If we are agreed that perception, not intelligence is more important then surely it should be Wis? It would help mitigate the problem of having a wizard who has spent years in musty old libraries and labs being as good (if not better) than a young fighter/rogue at defending himself against melee weapons! I agree with Daniel. I also like his suggestion of using various ability modifiers for the different talents/feats to mix it up.

  26. From Daniel:

    I don’t know if fighters, paladins etc should be intrinsically better at dodging or parrying. They are not better at hitting in Neil’s system unless they take the talents and feats to get that way. Skill with a weapon is just that, a skill as opposed to spellcasting which is a talent. That leaves a fighter able to use many more talents for combat purposes. Dodge and combat expertise (i.e parrying) are already feats. Add in a few more and you could be a master at parrying and striking through talents and feats. That way you can decide how far your character is going to specialise in attack or defence rather than having a set figure for all fighters, paladins etc. I would prefer that.

  27. Okay, okay…

    To take Neil’s most contraversial point first: classes is HD&D are all about talents and feats. That is all they have. That is all that makes them unique. Hit points, skill points, base defences are all completely indepenedent of character class. This isn’t “patently wrong” it’s patently right. It’s the fudamental upon which the entire system is based. Wizards can’t even cast spells without selecting the right combinations of talents. So using the fighter talents and fighter feats (which are unique to the fighter class) to improve the way that the fighter fights, is not only appropriate but essential.

    Daniel: yes, feats and talents will be based on a variety of stats to reduce the min-maxing evidenced by Graham’s godlike fighter. But the jury is still out on the point-buy system so it’s possible that we use a subtlely different system any way.

    Combat Wisdom? Okay, I see where you’re going with this Jon. I want to say no (actually I want to climb onto a chair and shout no, but there are other people in the office at the moment). My opposition is largely on moral grounds. To do this creates an un-needed sub system within the game. That’s the sort of thing that happened all the time in second edition.

    Also I don’t see that we need the skill. If the consensus is that Intelligence is an inappropriate modifier for Reflex defence then we just ditch Int. Dex and Dex alone modifies Reflex Defence. And we also return to lone stats modifying the other defences as well. This would be to the general detriment of player characters, I should add.

    We cannot use Wisdom because Wisdom modifies Will. We simply cannot have one attribute modifying two defences. It makes the attribute too powerful. That’s the main argument for having Int or Dex modifiy Reflex. And frankly I’m still behind that. I really don’t see the problem here!

  28. From Neil:

    The thing is a character needs a weapon group talent to use a weapon, any character without that talent has a substantial modifier to hit (don’t they?).
    Whereas currently all characters have the same chance to defend against a melee attack unless they have a particular feat/talent. There is no penalty if you don’t have the “defend” talent/feat.

    IMO the class should give a character the basics of that class, i.e. a fighter should be better than the average at using weapons, thieves should be better at sneaking and magic users have access to magic! If this isn’t the case then why have classes in the first place? Simply to restrict access to certain talents/feats by the look of it. Why not get rid of classes and just have a list of talents/feats that anyone can pick. Multi-classing isn’t an issue then since it just means a partcular set off talents/feats. It is similar in idea as the race of a character being more or less just a background.

  29. If classes give abilities and advantages just because you’re a member of that class, then you have the same multiclassing problems that were evident in third edition. You can multiclass in multiple classes to cherry-pick abilities.

    If all class abilities count as talents, and you have a finite amount of talents depending on your overall level, then cherry-picking isn’t a problem. Certain talents and feats are resticted to certain classes, and you must take a multi-class feat to unlock them. This is simply to prevent every character choosing talents from all classes and being an unidentifiable morass of unrelated abilities.

    To use a weapon, a character needs a weapon group *skill*, not a talent. You spend skill points on the skill to give you ranks in that skill. The maximum ranks you have have in a skill is half your level.

    The base for defences are automatically set at half your level. So a character with maximum ranks in a weapon skill has (all things being equal) a 50% chance to hit a character of the same level.

    Fighters are better at using weapons because they are more likely to have weapon skills as their class skills, and they will have access to feats and talents to improve them. That’s the same for all classes everywhere.

    There’s still plenty fo distinction between the classes, but what we can’t have is a player getting anything from a class for free. That way lies multiclassing insanity.

  30. Charisma is the other stat that modifies Will at the moment.

    But I honestly can’t see why you think Wis is a better choice to modify Reflex than Int.
    To me straight intelligence is far more appropriate. It represents forethought and cunning.

    Anyway, some of us have homes to go to!

    Speak again later!

  31. And finally, from Chiara:

    Ok ok ok! But you know what – my head hurts!

    Waaaaaay too much number crunching getting in the way of fun. The only question you should be asking is: “will it make for an enjoyable game?” Fights should be exciting and help to transport the imagination of the players The moment you have to resort to complex mental arithmetic and you progress at one round per hour you’ve lost me to the mud & rubber sword brigade.


    A strangely shaped boy….

  32. At this point, I sent an email begging everyone to stop discussing this over the email and start posting on the block. I expect to be soundly ignored.

    Anyway – reading back over my comments, I apologise if I sounded a bit shirty. I promise I wasn’t, I was just having to type very quickly to keep up with Neil.

    Neil: look at it this way. In third edition all the classes had a number of specialised class abilities they got as they advanced. At certain levels they were granted certain benefits. What I’m doing is simply taking all this class abilities and calling them talents. When a character advances to a certain level he can select a class ability from a pool of talents. It’s just a different way of doing the same thing. But it avoids a character having having few levels in lots of different character classes and doubling (or tripling) up on class abilities.

    Back to the old should Int affect Reflex Defence debate. The way I see it we have two choices:

    1) Keep it as I have suggested and have each defence modified by the higher of two ability scores: Reflex (Dex or Int), Fortitude (Con or Str), Will (Wis or Cha).

    2) Jettison the option of using a second ability score and return to the third edition mechanic: Reflex (Dex), Fortitude (Con), Will (Wis).

    There’s a lot to be said for option 2. As it stands at the moment, Con doesn’t do much in the game. It will be harder to Min-Max a character if only half your stats improved your defences.

    However, Option 1 helps to avoid the situation at higher levels in D&D when some characters can only be hit with a natural 20, but other characters in the same party can only be missed on a natural 1. I’m hoping the maths for HD&D should avoid that anyway (or at least put it off to about level 45), but the problem is there.

    Also you might find that with Option 2, Wisdom becomes far too useful an ability score (especially if you’re a Cleric). One of the things I like about 4e is that it has increased the importance of Charisma so that no stat is necessarily a stat you can ignore.

    Jon: Taking your idea of a skill/seventh stat that modifies Reflex in combat would unbalance the game. It would simply be too specialised.

    Chiara: You’re right. You’re always right. All the complex arithmetic needs to be solved and put to one side now. Then in the game I can get on with the important job of persecuting the PCs.

  33. This from Wee Jimmy:

    So are you saying dusty academic wizards have more combat forethought and cunning than fighters and rogues? Seems very weird to me. I’ve always seen Int as a representation of problem-solving ability, not quick-thinking. On the other hand, I haven’t seen Wis as that either – as I said, I’ve never been sure exactly what Wis represents.

    I’ve always thought that D&D (and indeed many other games) falls down by using Dex to represent both manual dexterity and agility. Being able to pick a lock does not necessarily make one also able to dodge a blow, and vice versa. By the same token, Int can’t realistically mean both quick wits and academic intelligence, Cha can’t realistically mean both true charisma, good looks (I know it’s not technically supposed to, but we all know that every good-looking NPC in every published adventure has a high Cha) and whatever else it means, Con can’t mean both healthiness and resistance to physical damage (not quite as silly, since tough people are often healthier as well, but certainly not always), Wis can’t mean both perception, common sense and whatever it means for clerics. Why do the clerics of a straight-laced, bookish, monotonous-chanting-for-interminable-hours-in-services religion and those of a free-thinking, wild, lots-of-leaping-about-and-swaying-in-services religion both have high Wis? It makes no real sense. Basically, the only sensible characteristic is Str (although someone can probably point out a problem there too).

    But, at the end of the day, D&D works in abstracts, with the same attributes meaning different things to different classes and in different situations. Without dozens of stats (which would make it even more unplayable than it is at the moment) it’s never going to be entirely satisfactory.

  34. James (WJ):

    I’m in total agreement with Chiara here. Which is why “systems” (in the loosest possible sense) like The Window are far more fun than number-crunching systems. Although more difficult to play well obviously.

    Mind you, try playing Aftermath (which is now being issued and supported again after about 20 years hiatus)! You need a calculator for combat. No, really!

  35. How about scrapping character classes altogether? A character’s profession would become apparent from the talents and feats they pick up. Multi-classing (or talenting) would be very easy. Someone could choose to be a moderatly proficient fighter at the same time as being a moderately proficient spell caster or just specialise in one career route.

  36. This selection of posts from Neil.
    His comments in itallics:

    I see no point in classes, all they do is restrict what you can do. What is wrong with having a morass of skills and abilities? People in real life are not necessarily easy to pigeon hole why should PC s be? As long as you restrict the number of talents/skills/feats a PC can have at verious levels, what’s the problem.

    I’m sorry, I can’t use your comments field in the blog, I will remove anyone who doesn’t want my wisdom however… (waits for deluge of e-mails).


    Actually I think LRP combat is quite similar in many important ways. Certainly the basic premise of trying to hit someone with a big bit of metal (latex) while doing all you can from preventing your opponent from doing the same thing is the same. Of course the two big things are fear and the weight of the weaponry and armour. Fear can literally paralyse a person and is probably the biggest single factor in single combat, you could even argue that will should be an effective fighter’s main stat! (Only joking Neil ;-)


    We’ve just been through that, perception is the “cerebral” skill which most counts and that is Wis. Simple!

    Forethought and cunning are useless in a melee! All you are trying to do is hit and prevent yourself from being hit while desperately coping with the fear of injury. Forethought and cunning are fine for tactics and stategic planning but when the proverbial hits the fan it’s instinct and training all the way, just ask any soldier.

    I don’t care about mechanics I just don’t think it is right that potentially a wizard holed up in his lab for years on end can have the same base defence as someone who regularly gets exercise!

    Do what you want, it’s your game but I thought it was an ideal opportunity to create something better, more cohesive and internally consistent.


    Agreed! The Skills and Powers book (I think) actually had 12 abilities doing exactly as you say. I thought it was good.

    (I’m not entirely sure what Neil is agreeing to here, but the way)


    To be honest I’d be happy to play a diceless game, mechanics just get in the way.

  37. Graham:

    Breaking down the class boundaries would be an interesting move.

    Perhaps instead of having rigid classes, just re-jig the feats/talents/traits to depend on earlier ones in the class. E.g. 3rd level spell casting dependant on 2nd level spell casting, which is dependant on 1st level spell casting. Similarly, a warrior has the progression of power attack, cleave, great cleave, etc.

    Or for example, a 5th level ‘fighter’ talent requiring you to have a 3rd level ‘fighter’ talent.

    This would allow characters such as elias to be created :)

  38. Morgan:

    May I be the first to utter the ever-popular words: “Burn the heretic!”.

    I mean, yeah, he’s *right* obviously. But when did that ever matter? I actually do like dice + mechanics because I think they can (used correctly) drive the story in unexpected directions keeping it exciting for all. Also, it can go TOO FAR. For example, I am on an email discussion group for the RPG Torg – a current discussion is on horrendous number crunching on exactly how far a car could jump if it goes up a ramp, etc, etc. People are using “SIN” and “COS” and other mathematical gubbins. My answer: “As ref, it jumps exactly as far as a dice roll and drama dictate that it should jump.”

  39. So, do away with character classes?

    Two things on that score. The first is that I think character classes help to focus the mind. They work particularly well in a game like D&D when there are a plethora of unique items. It’s all very well saying you’re going to play fighter and then choosing from a list of twenty talents. It’s not so hot if there are no boundaries and you have to choose from a list of three hundred talents. Where do you begin? Less is definitely more.

    If all talents are available to everyone then it becomes increasingly more difficult to avoid combinations that break the game. You will note that most of the classless roleplaying systems are usually ones set in the modern day, where the PCs don’t have a fantastic array of supernatual options at their disposal.

    I would also direct you to our remit, which is to create a better version of D&D… not to create the best roleplaying system we can from scratch. If we dispose of classes and levels, then it’s not D&D any more.

    Neil: I agree with Morgan. Everything you have said is right. But you’re on the verge of re-inventing GURPS. Classes and levels give the game a certain feel. D&D has a certain feel. And I want to preserve that.

  40. Let’s sort this attribute business out once and for all. I redirect your attention to eight posts up. Do we:

    1) Have a choice of two ability scores to modify each defence (as in fourth edition).
    2) Have only one ability score modifying each defenec (as in third edition).

    Show of hands, then the matter rests.

  41. I think the one or two attributes for defences probably needs to be playtested before deciding definitely. I would vote for the third edition system for now. I think the fourth ed system does the opposite of making all stats useful, as you can hide low stats behind the partnered good score. Con in particular would seem to suffer in comparison to strength.

    Getting rid of classes would definitely remove the link to D&D and it would be a totally different game. I want to feel like I’m playing a better version of D&D not a new game. I like other games too, but Iourn is a D&D world and, like it or not, the system definitely affects the way you perceive the game world. You do think of PCs and NPCs in terms of their class as well as any other part of their character. A paladin or a sorcerer is a very specific thing in the game and removing the defining characteristics of these classes would change the way that we have to think about the world. I think that there is a massive difference in the way one thinks of ‘a paladin’ and of ‘someone with the ability to smite evil and lay on hands’. We need classes that are broad enough to encompass lots of potential character ideas, so that no two paladins are the same, not an absence of classes.

    We can get rid of mariners though.

  42. digging out old blogs…

    i am not convinced with ur hit point system link with talents…i would keep to the 3rd edition hit points…

    i think hp is one of the most versatile stats one can have to bring balance to combat…i.e. if ur HDnD AC is harder to hit, u can justify having lower HPs, and vice versa.

    HPs also dictates how long a combat should last….

    HPs dictates how much damage an attack should make…

    my point being that it is important to tweak the correct maths for HPs as it can make a difference between, life or death, long or short combat, or sitting thru a whole session not being able to act cos nobody wants to heal u after u have fall unconscious… :)

  43. As I pointed out to Daniel, using this system we get exactly the same hit point progression as fourth edition D&D. That in itself is different from third, so I can still imagine that you’d have issues with that.

    The problem I have is that I need to separate hit point progression from character class. The only I thing I want you to get from your class is access to specific feats and talents. Everything else needs to accrue by character level. That way the only reason to multiclass is because you want to multiclass, not because you want more hit points / skill points / defence bonuses and so on and so forth.

    The system I have does that. But, as I said, it is rather fiddly. So if yo uhave another alternative then I’d happily hear it.

    Hit points in themselves don’t dictate how long combat lasts. It’s a combination of hit points, damage reduction (or armour class in HD&D speak, damage inflicted and the chance of hitting. If we know that a blow should hit a foe of the same or similar level about 50% of the time, and we know how many hit points that character has then we should be able to work the rest out.

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