HD&D: The Dwarf II

A while ago I published my take on the HD&D dwarf. Well, Graham’s been playing a dwarf in my ongoing campaign for the best part of nine years, so he thought he’d take a stab at them as well. This post illustrates something Daniel and I have been discussing in the comment thread of the HD&D Gnome, namely that my take on the HD&D mechanics is far more extreme and 4e-like than Daniel’s. Graham’s ideas here are also much more understated. Have a look, compare the two and see what you think.

The only comment I’ll add at the moment is that Dwarven Resolve needs to give 4 hit points instead of 3. It was 3 on earlier drafts, so Graham may be working from that. It should also only apply to talents and not feat. I’m pleased to see that Graham remembered to include Stonecunning, as I completely forgot about that! I’ll add further comments when I get the chance. Busy, busy at the moment!

The HD&D Dwarf

I present my attempt at the Dwarf. A sturdy race that are slow to laugh or jest and suspicious of strangers, yet generous to those they trust. Dwarves as a race are a varied people ranging from fierce warriors to master craftsmen. They value fine art, jewellery, gems gold and simply a good fight.

Average Height: 4’-4’6”
Average Weight: 160-230lbs

Ability Scores: +2 to Con and +2 to Str or Wis
Size: Medium
Speed: 25 feet
Vision: Low-light

Unarmed Attack: Punch or Kick (Strength)
Unarmed Damage: 1d6 + Strength Modifier

Languages/Scripts: Any four
Skills: +2 to Craft (Stone and Metal) and +2 to Survival
Defence: +1 to Fortitude

Racial Traits

Stout Body
The dwarven immune system is adept at fighting off poisons of all kinds
Continuous Effect | Mundane
Prerequisite: Dwarf
Area of Effect: Personal
Effect:  You gain a +2 racial bonus to Fortitude Defence versus poison.

Stout Mind
The dwarven mind  is practiced at resisting magic
Continuous Effect | Mundane
Prerequisite: Dwarf
Area of Effect: Personal
Effect:  You gain a +2 racial bonus to Will Defence versus spells.

Racial Talents

Appraisal
You are skilled at determining the value of items
Continuous Effect | Mundane
Prerequisite: Dwarf
Area of effect: Personal
Effect: You gain a +2 bonus on checks to determine the value of items.
Dwarven Resolve: You gain 3 additional hit points when you choose this talent.

Homeland Defender
You have trained long and hard to protect the dwarven homelands from their traditional enemies
Continuous Effect | Mundane
Prerequisite: Dwarf
Area of effect: Personal
Effect: You gain a +2 morale bonus to weapon skill rolls against orcs and goblinoids.
Dwarven Resolve: You gain 3 additional hit points when you choose this talent.

Stability
You are exceptionally stable on your feet
Continuous Effect | Mundane
Prerequisite: Dwarf
Area of effect: Personal
Effect: You gain a +5 bonus on checks to resist being bull rushed or tripped when standing firmly on the ground.
Dwarven Resolve: You gain 3 additional hit points when you choose this talent.

Stonecunning
Years of living around stone have heightened your senses at spotting the unusual
Continuous Effect | Mundane
Prerequisite: Dwarf
Area of effect: Personal
Effect: You gain a +2 bonus on checks to notice unusual stonework. Merely by coming within 10 feet of unusual stonework allows you to make a check to notice it as if you were actively searching.
Dwarven Resolve: You gain 3 additional hit points when you choose this talent.

Racial Feats

Art Critic
You know how to value fne art
Continuous Effect | Mundane
Prerequisite: Dwarf: Appraisal talent
Area of Effect: Personal
Effect: You gain a +2 bonus on checks to determine the value of fine art, jewellery and gems. This stacks with the bonus from the appraisal talent.
Dwarven Resolve: You gain 3 additional hit points when you choose this talent.

Dodge Giants
A history of enmity with the giantish races has given you the happy knack of avoiding the attacks of larger foes.
Continuous Effect | Mundane
Prerequisite: Dwarf or Gnome
Area of Effect: Personal
Effect: You gain a +2 racial bonus to Reflex Defence against the attacks of Large or larger foes.
Dwarven Resolve: You gain 3 additional hit points when you choose this talent.

Underground Explorer
Years of living around stone have taught you how to navigate through it
Continuous Effect | Mundane
Prerequisite: Dwarf: Stonecunning talent
Area of Effect: Personal
Effect: You can sense approximately how far underground you are as naturally as a human can sense which way is up. You gain a +2 bonus to survival when navigating underground.
Dwarven Resolve: You gain 3 additional hit points when you choose this talent.

Weapon Familiarity
You know how to use the weapons of your people
Continuous Effect | Mundane
Prerequisite:
Dwarf
Area of Effect: Personal
Effect: You gain a +2 racial bonus to weapon skill rolls for dwarven weapons.
Dwarven Resolve: You gain 3 additional hit points when you choose this talent.

HD&D: The Gnome

Not to be outdone, Daniel has now finished his first draft of the HD&D gnome. Sadly, I don’t have chance to add my comments right away today, I’ll post to the comments thread in due course. That said, I will let Daniel speak for himself:

The HD&D Gnome

 Ladies and Gentlemen, may I present the Gnome.  A creature of great variety and potential.  Full of contradictions, yet unquestionably Gnomish in all that they do.  Gnomes are beings tied to the natural, magical and manufactured worlds all at the same time. 

Gnomes have an instinctive and humble understanding of the natural world, yet they are also highly intellectual and inquisitive, gathering wild theories and obscure knowledge wherever they can find it.  They can become great masters of Wizardry or can use their innate magic as a simple plaything.  Gnomes are great artists and artisans and love to create physical objects of beauty, usefulness and ingenuity.  They are driven by a constant sense of wonder at the world around them – what it is now and what they can make from it.

This is a first draft of course.  I’ve got plenty more ideas for Gnomes but this is clearly enough for now.  Most of the ideas are from third edition, with a smattering of 2nd and 4th and few from my own brain.  Seal the Breach and it’s derivatives form the base of a prestige class ( the Breach Gnome from Races of Faerun) and could be used as such again.  Anyway, let me know what you think.

Forest Gnome (Stonebark)

Average Height: 3’-3’6”
Average Weight: 40-45lbs

Ability Scores: +2 to Con and Int
Size: Small
Speed: 25 feet
Vision: Low-light

Unarmed Attack: Punch or Kick (Strength)
Unarmed Damage: 1d4 + Strength Modifier

Languages/Scripts: Any four
Skills: +2 to Perception and Stealth
Defence: +1 to Fortitude

Rock Gnome (Five Colour Kingdom)

Average Height: 3’-3’6”
Average Weight: 40-45lbs

Ability Scores: +2 to Con and Int
Size: Small
Speed: 25 feet
Vision: Low-light

Unarmed Attack: Punch or Kick (Strength)
Unarmed Damage: 1d4 + Strength Modifier

Languages/Scripts: Any four
Skills: +2 to Craft and Alchemy
Defence: +1 to Fortitude

Tinker Gnome (Walhoon)

Average Height: 3’-3’6”
Average Weight: 40-45lbs

Ability Scores: +2 to Con and Int
Size: Small
Speed: 25 feet
Vision: Low-light

Unarmed Attack: Punch or Kick (Strength)
Unarmed Damage: 1d4 + Strength Modifier

Languages/Scripts: Any four
Skills: +2 to Craft and Disable Device
Defence: +1 to Fortitude

Racial Traits

Natural Trickster
Magic runs through your blood and you can create minor magical effects with consummate ease
Standard Action | Magical
Prerequisite:
Gnome
Area of Effect: Personal or target
Effect:  You can use the spells Prestidigitation, Ghost Sound and Dancing Lights once each per day, as a spernatural ability.

Animal Friend
You have a close affinity with the small animals which share your home
Continuous Effect | Mundane
Prerequisite:
Gnome
Area of Effect: Personal
Effect: You gain a +2 bonus to Handle Animal checks and can speak the language of small burrowing mammals.

Racial Talents

Master of Illusions
Arcane trickery and obfuscation come naturally to you giving you a deep understanding of the nature of illusions.
Continuous Effect | Mundane
No Action
Prerequisite: Gnome
Area of effect: Personal or target
Effect:  You gain a +2 bonus to spellcraft rolls when using Illusion spells and a +2 bonus to your Will defence against the Illusions of others.
Gnomish Resolve: You gain 2 additional hit points when you choose this talent.

Obsessive Tinkerer
Your expertise in the crafts is unmatched but you can’t resist tinkering with your creations
Continuous Effect | Mundane
Prerequisite: Gnome
Area of Effect: Personal
Effect: Artistry and artisanship go hand in hand for Gnome craftsmen.  A Gnome’s industrious nature is revealed best when they are given free reign to express themselves in their creations.  When using a Craft skill to build either a mundane or magic item, you may add 10% to the cost of the base materials, as you can’t resist adding extra materials to the item.   These extras are superfluous, decorative or overcomplicated additions that do not increase the practical uses of the item and include such things as gemstones worked into the base material, fine carving in exotic woods or unnecessarily complicated clockworks or hydraulics.  These alterations add 10% to the finished value of the item, and the crafting takes only 75% of the time normally required to build the item.
Gnomish Resolve: You gain 2 additional hit points when you choose this talent.

Protector of the Burrows
You have trained long and hard to protect the Gnomish homelands from their traditional enemies.
Continuous Effect | Mundane
Prerequisite:
Gnome
Area of Effect: Personal
Effect: You gain a +2 morale bonus to weapon skill rolls against Kobolds and Goblinoids.
Gnomish Resolve: You gain 2 additional hit points when you choose this talent.

Spirit of the Woods
You are kin to the woodland fey and one with the boundless forests.
Continuous Effect or Recharge | Mundane + Magical
No Action or Standard Action
Prerequisite: Forest Gnome
Area of Effect: Personal
Effect: Your racial bonus to Stealth increases by a further +2 when in woodland (i.e. from +2 to +4).  You may use the spell Pass Without Trace, on yourself only, once per short rest as a spell-like ability.
Gnomish Resolve: You gain 2 additional hit points when you choose this talent.

Trivial Knowledge
You are deeply inquisitive and have gained a vast knowledge of obscure and miscellaneous lore.
Recharge – long rest | Mundane
Prerequisite: Gnome
Area of Effect: Personal
Effect: Once a day, when you make a Knowledge skill or Bardic Knowledge check you may roll twice and choose the highest roll.
Gnomish Resolve: You gain 2 additional hit points when you choose this talent.

Seal The Breach
You are a protector of the Gnomish community and are highly skilled at defending the tunnels that criss-cross Gnome burrows.
Continuous Effect | Mundane
No Action
Prerequisite: Gnome, level 11
Area of Effect: Personal
Effect: You gain a +2 dodge bonus to Reflex Defence when you are adjacent to at least one solid vertical surface (a wall, tree, wagon etc).  When adjacent to two such surfaces, the bonus increases to +4.
Gnomish Resolve: You gain 2 additional hit points when you choose this talent.

Racial Feats

Dodge Giants
A history of enmity with the giantish races has given you the happy knack of avoiding the attacks of larger foes.
Continuous Effect | Mundane
No Action
Prerequisite: Dwarf or Gnome
Area of Effect: Personal
Effect: You gain a +2 racial bonus to Reflex Defence against the attacks of Large or larger foes.

Compulsive Recycler
You always have spare parts and raw materials lying around, ready to be put to better use in new and unusual ways.
Continuous Effect | Mundane
Prerequisite: Gnome; Obsessive Tinkerer talent
Area of Effect: Personal
Effect: Whenever you use the Obsessive Tinkerer talent you do not have to pay the extra 10% to your costs as you already have enough spare parts to improve the item you are building.  Its sale value is still increased by 10%.

Foe-Killer
You have decided that attack is the best form of defence and have focussed your combat training on killing as many of your traditional enemies as possible
Continuous Effect | Mundane
Prerequisite: Gnome, Protector of the Burrows talent.
Area of Effect: Personal
Effect: You gain a +2 morale bonus to damage whenever you hit a Kobold or Goblinoid with a weapon attack.

Insidious Illusions
Your illusions are so convincing that even magical means may not reveal them.
Continuous Effect | Magical
Prerequisite: Gnome, level 11, Master of Illusions talent
Area of Effect: Personal
Effect: When your illusions are targeted or come within the area of effect of a divination that may reveal them to be an illusion, such as Detect Magic, Detect Invisibility or True Seeing, the caster of the divination must succeed at an opposed Spellcraft roll in order to detect anything magical or illusory.

The Immovable Object
When you set yourself to defend your people, you will not be moved from that duty.
Continuous Effect | Mundane
Prerequisite: Gnome, level 11, Seal the Breach talent
Area of Effect: Personal
Effect: Whenever you gain the Reflex Defence bonus from your Seal the Breach talent, you gain a +5 bonus to any attack that might try to move you or knock you over.  This includes bulrush, overrun or trip attempts as well as spells such as Gust of Wind.

None Shall Pass
You become a living barrier, protecting those whom you have vowed to protect.
Continuous Effect | Mundane
Prerequisite: Gnome, level 11, Seal the Breach talent
Area of Effect: reach
Effect: You gain a +2 morale bonus to hit any creature that attempts to move through your threatened area.  In addition, any tumble attempts to move through your threatened area receive a penalty of +10 to their DCs.

Furious Industry
You love of craftsmanship is all consuming and when you set yourself a task you will not stop until you finish it.
Continuous Effect | Mundane
Prerequisite: Gnome; Obsessive Tinkerer talent
Area of Effect: Personal
Effect: When you use your Obsessive Tinkerer talent to enhance an item the time it takes to complete the item is reduced to 50% rather than 75% of the normal time.

HD&D: The Half-Elf

The first results of the recent Design Call are in. Steve has laboured to create an HD&D version of the half-elf. All the details are below, reformatted for inclusion in the body of the post (as opposed to being bundled into a PDF). I hope it’s all legible. I’ll have my say at the end, but for now I’ll let Steve take the floor:

The HD&D Half-Elf

The half-elf has been depicted with two opposite outlooks in previous editions – the isolated loner and the charming socialite. In my view neither of these outlooks should be built into the ‘generic’ half-elf as standard. It is true that half-elves do not have lands of their own and as such have to fit into the lands and societies of others, and that any outsider attempting to fit into another society would either try to charm their way through or to keep their head down and survive on their own. However, I think that each half-elf is an individual and that this should not be prescribed for every member of the race.

I was originally planning to have half-elf specific Racial Traits but after I created a couple I felt that it was making the half-elf two powerful. They already have 6 to choose from (2 human and 4 elf). Looking at all of the pre-4th ed published material, half-elves standard racial traits were always a simple mix of human and elf anyway. I quite like each half-elf to pick one human trait and one elven trait. Consequently I moved the traits I had created up to talents. Of their 4th edition traits Dilettante definitely belongs among talents, and dual heritage among the feats. As mentioned I don’t think all half-elves should be natural diplomats so group diplomacy should be more of an optional feat

I quite like the Social Confidence talent as I think in practice the half-elf player could keep a list of everybody they had bested in the past. I would quite enjoy that anyway, but I do like lists and bookkeeping.

Average Height: 5’5″ – 6’2″
Average Weight: 130 – 200lbs

Ability Scores: +2 Dexterity, +2 to ability of your choice
Size: Medium
Speed: 30 feet
Vision: Low-light

Unarmed Attack:Punch or Kick (Strength)
Unarmed Damage: 1d4 + Strength Modifier

Languages/Scripts: Any four
Skill Bonuses: +2 (Diplomacy or Survival); +2 to any other skill of choice
Defence Bonus: +1 to Defence of your choice

Racial Traits

Elven Heritage (Half-Elf Trait)
You exhibit one of the traits of your elven ancestor
Continuous Effect | Mundane
No Action

Area of Effect: Personal
Effect: Choose one Elf Racial Trait

Human Heritage (Half-Elf Trait)
You exhibit one of the traits of your human parent
Continuous Effect | Mundane
No Action
Area of Effect: Personal
Effect: Choose one Human Racial Trait

Racial Talents

Dilettante (Half-Elf Talent)
You take a great interest in other classes and gain an amateur knowledge of how one of them functions.
Varies | Varies
Trigger: Varies
Prerequisite: Half-Elf
No Action
Area of Effect: Personal
Effect:You may choose one Class Talent for another class without the need for purchasing a multi – class feat, Please note that if you wish to take more than one talent from another class you will need a multi-class feat as usual. You are required to meet any pre-requisites for the talent and class as usual. You may also take any class specific feats that have the talent as a pre-requisite as long as you meet all other requirements.
Half-Elf Resolve: You gain 2 additional hit points when you choose this talent.

Social Confidence (Half-Elf Talent)
Half-elves are always outsiders and have become accustomed to fitting in among other cultures and people either through charm or a thick skin. You are both particularly sure of yourself and particularly difficult to unnerve. This can be unsettling to those who are trying to gain an advantage over you with words.
Varies (See below) | Mundane
Trigger: (i) Somebody attempts to intimidate you. (ii) Somebody attempts and fails to use a social skill against you.
Pre-Requisite: Half-Elf
No Action
Area of Effect: Personal
Effects:(i) You gain a +2 bonus to avoid being intimidated, but not when trying to intimidate others. This remains in continuous effect. (ii) If somebody attempts to use a social skill against you (initimidate, diplomacy, bluff, streetwise) and you beat them in an opposed roll, they suffer a -4 penalty to use any of these skills in the future against you or an ally, as long as you are present. This penalty will persist as long as your goals or bargaining positions remain opposed, relative to each other. The penalty could remain in effect for many years, your adversary unable to forget being bested in your previous meetings. This use of the talent requires recharging i.e. only one opponent you beat in an opposed roll each encounter will suffer the ongoing penalty.
Half-Elf Resolve: You gain 2 additional hit points when you choose this talent.

Outsider’s Alertness (Half-Elf Talent)
After years as a loner without anyone to watch over you, your senses are particularly alert to danger when others would let down their guard.
Continuous Effect | Mundane
Trigger: (i) a perception check is required when you are asleep, distracted or fascinated. (ii) An attack is made against you when you would ordinarily lose your dexterity bonus to your reflex defence.
Pre-Requisite: Half-Elf
No Action
Area of Effect: Personal
Effects: (i) You can continue to make perception checks without penalty even when you are asleep, distracted or fascinated. This effect is continuously active. (ii) When an opponent has combat advantage against you because you are surprised, flanked or unaware of them, they do not gain the usual +2 Bonus to Attack Rolls. Special attacks such as a rogues sneak attack which require combat advantage still function, providing they hit. To use this effect again you must take a short rest.
Half-Elf Resolve: You gain 2 additional hit points when you choose this talent

Racial Feats

Additional Elven Trait (General Feat)
Your elven blood shines through more strongly than for a typical half-elf.
Continuous Effect | Mundane
Pre-Requisite:
Half-Elf
No Action
Area of Effect:
Personal
Effect: You may choose a second elven racial trait

Additional Human Trait (General Feat)
Your human blood shines through more strongly than for a typical half-elf.
Continuous Effect | Mundane
Pre-Requisite:
Half-Elf
No Action
Area of Effect:
Personal
Effect: You may choose a second human racial trait

Awakened Elven Blood (Half-Elf Feat)
You can exhibit some of the stronger racial talents of your elven ancestor
Continuous Effect | Mundane
Pre-Requisite: Half-Elf
No Action
Area of Effect:
Personal
Effect: Once this feat has been chosen you may select elven Racial Talents and feats, as if you were a full blooded elf

Diverse Dilettante
You take a broarder amateur interest in other classes
Continuous Effect | Mundane
Pre-Requisite: Half-Elf, Dilettante Racial Talent, 11th level
No Action
Area of Effect:
Personal
Effect:You may now choose talents from your first ‘Dilettante’ class as if you had purchased a multi-classing feat. In addition you may choose a single additional class talent for two further classes. Like your first dilettante talent, you are required to meet any pre-requisites for these additional talents

Group Social Confidence (Half-Elf Feat)
When you are within a group, the united façade you exhibit is even more unsettling for others
At Will | Mundane
Pre-Requisite:
Half-Elf, Social Confidence talent
No Action
Area of Effect:
Personal
Effect:All effected allies receive your +4 bonus to avoid being intimidated. Furthermore you may use your Social Confidence talent, if an opponent attempts to use a social skill (initimidate, diplomacy, bluff, streetwise) against one of your effected allies and is beaten by an opposed roll. The opponent will suffer future penalties to their social skills when you are present just as if it was you that beaten them in the opposed roll. If used in this way, you will need to take a short rest before using the talent again

Improved Outsider’s Awareness (Half-Elf Feat)
You remain alert more frequently
At Will | Mundane
Pre-Requisite: Half-Elf, Outsiders Alertness talent
No Action
Area of Effect:
Personal
Effect: You may use the Outsiders Alertness talent three times before you require a short rest to recharge the power

Lasting Impression (Half-Elf Feat)
When you have beaten an adversary in a war of words, they will not be able to forget it for a long time
At Will | Mundane
Pre-Requisite:
Half-Elf, Social Confidence talent
No Action
Area of Effect:
Personal
Effect: When you have successfully used the Social Confidence talent on an opponent, their penalty for future interactions while you are present is increased to -6

Prominent Human Blood (Half-Elf Feat)
You can exhibit some of the stronger racial talents of your human parent.
Continuous Effect | Mundane
Pre-Requisite: Half-Elf
No Action
Area of Effect:
Personal
Effect: Once this feat has been chosen you may select human Racial Talents and feats, as if you were a full blooded human

Versatile Outsider’s Alertness
You remain fully alert when others would let down their guard
At Will | Mundane
Pre-Requisite: Half-Elf, Outsiders Alertness talent
No Action
Area of Effect:
Personal
Effect: Your attacker loses the +2 Bonus to attack rolls from combat advantage when you are balancing, blinded, climbing, dazed, prone, squeezing or unable to see the attacker.

My Initial Thoughts

Well, firstly thanks very much to Steve for taking the time to do this, and for being the first to submit. Secondly, I’d like to say how much more liberating it is to see this process from the other side. I think I like it. Now onto my critique, I’ll undoubtedly change my mind as the ensuing discussion takes flight.

It was my intention to give the half-elf its own racial traits, to try and give the race a greater identity than simply half an elf. However, your approach works equally well. It will be interesting to see what INdran does with the half-orc. I think we should have a consistant approach to all the various half-races that have cropped up in D&D.

Fourth edition positions the half-elf as the most versatile multiclasser, and the only race that can pick up powers from more than two classes (at least until the bard class was published in PHB2). You are hanging onto that element here, which is a perfectly acceptable way to go.

In the Iourn setting, half-elves are survivors. Whether they live lives of solitude in the wilderness, or whether they live by their wits in urban areas, half-elves need to be supremely adaptable to anything that life throws at them. My initial thought is that it would be nice to have a  racial trait that reflects that in some way. Of course, I’m not sure what it is, so I’m not being overly helpful here.

Perhaps there could be a way to work he ‘Dilettante’ aspect back into the racial traits, perhaps dividing it into two traits. Maybe something along the lines of: “A half-elf selects a second class. He can choose talents and traits from that class as if he had selected a multi-class feat.” That may actually be a slightly underpowered trait, as it would be less powerful than a standard multiclass feat. Hmmm. Maybe the half-elf just gets a free multi-class feat of his choice?

On Racial Attributes

I’m perfectly happy with most of this. The human aspect of the half-elf gives it versatility and this is reflected in greater freedom of where to apply skill and defence bonuses. One prescribed skill bonus is still a good idea, but I like that half-elves still get to choose where that goes. This reflects the Woodsy vs Urban conflict well. I think it’s debatable whether diplomacy or insight is a more appropriate skill, but that’s a small thing.

Regarding ability scores, I think it’s right that the half-elf has one prescribed score and one score that the player can choose. This should be the case with all half-humans. Of course, it may be the case with all races if the trend on the poll continues. However, I don’t think I would have chosen Dexterity.

If I had to think of an ability score that most exemplified the half-elf I think I would have gone for Charisma. However, I may be in the minority here. Thoughts anyone?

On Racial Talents

I shall take these individually if I may. Dilettante is probably not powerful enough to be a talent in its own right. Basically it’s a not-quite-as-good version of a multiclass feat. Talents need to be better than feats. I’ve suggested folding Dilettante down to Racial Trait level; I’m becoming more convinced that would be best.

Social Confidence is very good. It says a lot about the half-elf (or a lot about the half-elf who chooses to take this talent). I definitely want to keep this in the final draft. My only concern is that the mechanics might become a little tricky to remember. Rather than giving the half-elf a +2 to avoid being intimidated, we could just give the half-elf the power to make foes reroll intimidate checks against him. That actually equates to about a +5 bonus, but has the advantage of not increasing the maximum DC the half-elf could attain. It might also be easier to remember than a +2 in certain circumstances.

The other use of Social Confidence is also a good one, and probably required as without it the talent may be slightly underpowered. I’m unsure whether this should apply to Bluff and Diplomacy as well as Intimidate? Maybe I could be convinced on Bluff, but Diplomacy is the skill of convincing people to do things by being nice and reasonable. Should half-elves be against that?

I would increase the penalty from -4 to -5, as bonuses and penalties in blocks of five are more common in HD&D. I would also add that it must be the player’s responsibility to record which NPCs are ‘marked’ with this lack of confidence. But you already convered that.

What I really like is the way the two halves of this talent work together. It’s very hard to intimidate a half-elf, and if you try (and fail) then you are likely to be shaken by the experience, and carry bitter resentment of the failure around with you for some time. Nice.

Outsider’s Alertness could easily be renamed Half-Elven Paranoia, and it could certainly be played that way. Perception checks when “sleeping, distracted or fascinated”… well, I’ll certainly keep the flavour of that, but as the rules for fascination haven’t been set (there may not even be such a term in HD&D) the application may change somewhat. That’s inevitable at this stage in the design process.

The secondary use of this talent is also spot on the money. This makes it useful for all classes, and I like the way that it doesn’t scupper a rogue’s Sneak Attack power. I’m not sure that this needs to be a Recharge power. I think it could work as a “Continuous Effect” without breaking the game. In any event, this is a good, solid talent.

On Racial Feats

On the whole the feats you have devised to alter or augment the racial talents are fine. Improved Outsider’s Awareness is a no-brainer if we keep the ‘recharge’ aspect of the talent (although I’m not sure we have to). Versatile Ousider’s Awareness allows you to retain awareness in more circumstances. This is fine, but the actual circumstances may change depending on the final form of the HD&D rules. Group Social Confidence is interesting. I think it would have to be playtested, but I like the idea a lot. Lasting Impression is also fine, but I would increase the penalty to -10 and make 11th level a prerequisite.

Now we get onto the feats that allow a half-elf to mutliclass and take on the abilities and powers of humans and elves. This is where I think the mechanics fall down slightly, largely because they are dependent on Dilettante being a talent, which I don’t think it deserves to be.

There’s no reason you could have known this, as I haven’t told anyone, but it’s my intention that multiclass feats do slightly more than just let you multiclass. If you take a multiclass feat you can select class talents and class feats of a second class, as if you were a member of that class. You also add one still from that class’s list of favoured skills to your list of class skills. So basically, multiclass feats let you multiclass and give the benefits of a more highly focused Skill Training feat.

I had hoped to approach half-races in the same way. Half-races should be able to select feats that allow them to “multirace” – that is gain access to the racial talents and racial feats of other races. Half-elves, should be able to multirace into Elf or Human. But like multiclass feats, multirace feats need to do more than simply permit multiracing.

My idea is this: multirace feats are limited to certain races. Half-elves could only ever take Human or Elf, half-orcs could take Human or Orc. Arguably, Genbassi could select any multirace feat. Taking a multirace feat gives you several benefits:

Firstly, it let’s you select racial talents and racial feats as if you were a member of that race. Secondly, you gain a racial trait of that race. Thirdly, you can (in the future) select additional racial traits from that race as if they were normal feats.

So, Illyan the half-elf decides he wants some extra skill points. He takes the Human multirace feat (that I might well call Prominent Human Blood). He decides to gain the trait Human Endeavour which gives him one extra skill point per level. He can now also select human feats and human talents as if he was a human. If we wanted to, he could also take the other human trait, Human Perspicacity as if it was a feat. (Yes, obviously there wouldn’t be any point because Human Perspicacity just gives you a feat, but you get the idea!)

The feats you invented (Awaken Elven Blood, Prominent Human Blood, Additional Human Trait and Additional Elven Trait) do exactly the same job. It’s just a slightly different way of presenting the same mechanics. Obviously, I prefer my version or I wouldn’t have mentioned it, but I will throw this open to debate.

Perhaps a half-elf should receive one multiclass feat and one multirace feat as his two Racial Traits? Just a thought.

To Conclude

Inevitably, when you critique something you dwell on the negative points. However, on the whole you’ve given the half-elf a pretty comprehensive package. The mechanics you suggest give the half-elf an identity, and something to hang the roleplaying off – which is what it’s all about. Well done, Steve. Now – when can I have the halfling?

Poll: Spellcraft and Spellcasting

For those of you who haven’t been following the discussion in the Knowledge and Magic Skills thread, here’s a brief summary for you.

The proposed mechanic for casting magic is to make a roll on Spellcraft, using your ranks in Spellcraft or your ranks in a related Knowledge skill (whichever is less). Different magical traditions use different related knowledge skills, e.g. Draconic for wizards, Religion for clerics and Nature for druids. This different related knowledge skill is our primary means of differentiating between different spellcasting traditions.

Daniel has taken two issues with this. Firstly, he says that the knowledge skills I have pegged to various spellcasting traditions aren’t justified in the history of Iourn as he understands it. Secondly, he thinks the mechanic a bit clumsy. Now he has a point on both counts, but it’s his second comment I’d like to dwell on here. I’m not particularly attached to this mechanic and, although it looks as though it might work, I can see that it might make for some fiddly recalculation during the game. Daniel was also keen to draw a line between knowledge skills and spellcasting, but still have something that (e.g.) gave a wizard a different skill set to a cleric.

The solution that Jon came up with is quite elegant and, like all the best ideas, absolutely obvious once someone has said it. Instead of pegging different knowledge skills to Spellcraft, why not simply have different flavours of spellcraft? Imagine Spellcraft (arcane), Spellcraft (divine), Spellcraft (pact), Spellcraft (primal) and so on. This represents the spellcasting tradition of a particular class or group of classes. It divorces the spellcasting from the ‘book-learning’ – although knowledge skills could still play a role as prerequisites for certain talents.

Does this penalise multi-class characters? No, not really. Under my first proposal a character who knows how to cast spells from two different traditions (such as Elias, who can cast sorcerer and paladin spells) would need to max-out Spellcraft and two knowledge skills, now he needs to max-our two Spellcraft skills and he can take the knowledges if he wants to. To me, this looks to be a change for better.

So, let’s put it to the vote. Read the thread for yourselves and then vote in the poll below:

The State of HD&D Address

Over the past few years March has been a busy month for me, and 2009 is looking to be no exception. In four short weeks the fifth annual Roleplaying Retreat begins; preparation for that marathon event will consume the time I would otherwise have spent writing this blog. While the blog is unlikely to be completely devoid of new content during March, I think it’s fair to say that most of the major new posts will have to wait until after the Retreat in April.

In order to set the scene for this potential hiatus in blog activity, I thought now would be a good opportunity to look back on the last three months of HD&D. I’d like to take stock of what we have achieved, opine what we have left to do and see how closely we are keeping to the original timetable I outlined back in December. There are also a couple of new ideas I’ve had in the past few weeks that I wanted to run past you.

Where are we now?

Progress over the last few months has been quite encouraging. There’s certainly been a lot more discussion than I hoped. Which is, of course, a good thing. Much of the posts up until now have been concerned with creating the general rules and conventions that will drive HD&D. We’re coming to the end of that process. Expect to see more specific work on races, classes, talents and feats over the next few months.

The date we are currently working toward is 1 September 2009. By this date I want rules for all everything that is necessary to move the game forward (combat, magic, healing, hit points and so on), I want a selection of character classes (at least Fighter, Wizard, Rogue and Cleric) and a selection of character races (most of the ten already stated).

I think that we’re on course to do that. What’s coming up on the blog? See the bottom of this post.

Design Calls

The Design Call for races is the first of many such appeals for direct help that I’m going to be making over the next few months. At present Steve is tackling half-elves and INdran is trying his hand at the half-orc. If anyone else wants to jump in and take on the halfling or the gnome then please be my guest.

I’m going to ask for help with more races, character classes, magic items, spells and monsters. So please make yourselves available during the summer.

Polls

The polls are the best way for me to gauge your mood and opinions. Of course, asking the right question is a bit tricky. At the moment there are six polls running on the site. I’m going to keep them running for the foreseeable future, so if you haven’t voted please do. Just so you know, I don’t vote in any of the polls on this site.

Here is the current state of play with them:

How should ability scores modify defences in HD&D?
13 responses:

  • Choose from two ability scores: 2 (15%)
  • Only use one ability score: 11 (85%)

This goes against my original argument, but you’ve convinced me. One ability score for each saving throw: Constitution for Fortitude, Dexterity for Reflex and Wisdom for Will.

How should we apply racial modifiers to ability scores for non-human PCs?
18 responses:

  • +2 to two prescribed: 9 (50%)
  • +2 to any two: 2 (11 %)
  • +2 to one prescribed, then any other one: 7 (39%)

This is a polarising result. My original preference is at 50%, but that still means that half of you think it’s a bad idea. Despite the age of this poll, there’s been an extra vote cast on it in the last few days so please vote if you haven’t already. I’m looking for a popular mandate here.

Should we keep the bloodied condition in HD&D?
11 responses:

  • Yes: 10 (91%)
  • No: 1 (9%)

I was an advocte of this initially, but now I’m in two minds. By forcing the GM to declare a creature is bloodied you effectively announcing “this is the middle of combat”. This might not be in the player’s best interest if the GM wants to discreetly reduce the number of hit points the bad guy has in mid-melee. Not something that occurred to me at the time.

Should armour defend against energy attacks?
20 responses:

  • Yes: 6 (30%)
  • No: 14 (70%)

The discussion regarding this was heated, but the vote seems far less polarised. It does seem that the majority of you want to keep your energy damage and weapon damage separate entities. I could also add that if 20 of you can vote in one poll, then 20 of you could vote in all the polls, but that would be cherlish.

Should HD&D use saving throws as well as static defences?
11 responses:

  • Yes: 10 (91%)
  • No: 1 (9%)

A clear winner here. I’m glad to see that, I really think that saving throws will improve the flow of the game.

What determines the attack roll for Supernatural Attacks in HD&D?
7 responses:

  • Specific Skill: 0 (0%)
  • One catch-all skill: 5 (71%)
  • Half the character’s level: 2 (29%)

Once more against my recommendation. You are a contrary lot. There’s few votes here, but it does look as though “Supernatural Attack” is a winner. I’ll have to think on this.

Should we adopt the above list of Weapon Skills
7 responses:

  • Yes: 3 (43%)
  • No: 4 (57%)

The Nos have it in this one so far, but it’s a small return of votes at the moment. I would also like to ask those of you who voted “No” to let me know why you voted no. That is assuming it wasn’t just Neil voting No four times.

New Ideas

Here are three additional thoughts for HD&D. They amend many of the things I have already said about the hybrid game. Feel free to let me know what you think.

Even Shorter Combats

Right from the beginning, I said that assuming you were fighting a foe of the same level, then you should have a 50% chance of hitting them with each blow. Each successful hit would inflict about a quarter of the foe’s hit points so four successful hits, or eight rounds, would be required to put that foe down. Casting my mind back to combat in third edition, and more recently to my 4e experiences, I’m now of the opinion that eight rounds is just too long for combat. Therefore I’m going to reduce it. Instead of eight rounds, I want the average combat to last six rounds instead.

This can be achieved by giving characters a greater chance to hit, by reducing hit points, or by increasing the damage the character inflicts. Personally, I think that the latter is the easiest to implement. It is also quite helpful, as the proto-fighters I’ve created for HD&D have been inflicted far too much damage.

Therefore, each successful hit reduces the hit points of an average target by one third. This is the new Average Damage Table based upon this change in the rules. Obviously all the things I said in the post on Hit Points and Damage still applies.

Level

Average Hit Points

Average Damage

1

23

8

2

27

9

3

33

11

4

37

12

5

43

14

6

47

16

7

53

18

8

57

19

9

63

21

10

67

22

11

78

26

12

82

27

13

88

29

14

92

31

15

98

33

16

102

34

17

108

36

18

112

37

19

118

39

20

122

41

21

132

44

22

136

45

23

142

47

24

146

49

25

152

51

26

156

52

27

162

54

28

166

55

29

172

57

30

176

59

Capping Ability Scores

Back in December, I published an article on calculating Ability Scores for HD&D. I am still committed to a point-buy system for stats, and I want players to be able to voluntarily lower ability scores below 10. However, I don’t want get characters crippled in one area just so they can have godlike scores in others. I also don’t want races to get pigeon-holed into certain roles. Fourth edition is particularly bad for this. If you want to play a ranger in 4e you need a very good reason not to play an elf – they are just so good at being rangers. It’s the same for genasi and swordmages, eladrin and wizards, tieflings and warlocks. Each race’s ability score bonuses direct players to a certain class.

Assuming we have +2 to two prescribed abilities in HD&D (and it is only an assumption as the results from the poll are thusfar rather foggy) we are in danger of falling into the same trap. I have introduced a couple of things into the game to mitigate this: Firstly, defences and saving throws only key off one ability score and not the best of two. This makes it far more difficult to ‘hide’ poor stats behind good ones. Secondly, character classes are normally built around less stats. Often you are able to boil a class down to one ability score that he really needs. My third option is to cap starting ability scores to 18.

This is something that was done in second edition. It doesn’t matter what bonus you had to your ability scores, as a starting character you were limited to no more than 18 in any ability score. Powerful races (the sort of races that carried a level adjustment in third edition) would be exceptions, but you bog-standard garden variety player character would be guillotined at 18. I think this would encourage the building of more rounded characters. Thoughts on this?

The Twenty Level Game

I am seriously considering turning HD&D into a twenty level game instead of the thirty level game that it currently is. I am driven largely by logisitics. By thirtieth level a HD&D character has 21 talents and 18 feats. That is a lot of different abilities. Perhaps too many for the time we have given ourselves. We have to invent or adapt all these talents and feats after all. To give player’s a meaningful choice each class should really have at least forty talents to choose from. Do we have time for that?

Levels 21 and above are epic levels (just as they are in third edition). We ground the game in the same frame of reference that we have now. It might make it easier, and would give HD&D a greater sense of continuity from third edition. Of course, it isn’t all good news.

Spellcasting requires ten talents. By twentieth level a spellcaster would only have fourteen talents. That’s about 70% of all talents on spellcasting, if the spellcaster wanted to get access to ninth level spells before epic levels. Is this a problem? It doesn’t give clerics much room for their granted powers does it?

But then, maybe we shouldn’t expect all characters to have access to ninth level spells in the non-epic levels. In second edition, clerics of that level only had access to seventh level spells. Do we take that approach in HD&D?

Anyway – have a think. I’m convinced that combats need to be shortened to six rounds. I’m less convinced of my other two ideas.

Things to Come

So that’s a summary of where we are. These are the posts I’m going to be making to the blog over the next few months, and the order in which I’m likely to make them. There are no dates attached to this list, but I would hope to have the whole thing wrapped up by July.

  • Cavalcade of Skills (the third post on the skills system)
  • Master list of all skills (including favoured skills for all classes)
  • Master table of all weapons
  • Combat
  • Character Classes and Multiclassing
  • Wounds and Healing
  • General Feats
  • Design Call: Feats
  • The Fighter
  • Magic
  • The Rogue
  • Spells
  • Design Call: Spells
  • The Wizard
  • The Cleric
  • Design Call: Character Classes
  • Monsters
  • Design Call: Monsters

Which I think (by and large) should cover most of the Dungeons and Dragons system. Playtesting starts in September.