Experience Points

Go to the Pathfinder: The New Deal index

The root of all evil: This is part of series of five posts concerning how we handle rewards, wealth, money and equipment in the game. The other posts are on Wealth and Economics, the Cost of Living, Making Magic Items, and Treasure. You can read them in any order, but you might want to read them all before commenting.


I’ve used my own way of assigning Experience Points (XP) since the early days of third edition. I always thought the advancement rate was too quick, and I didn’t want characters to accelerate to high levels too quickly… not when there were so many low levels to enjoy. Suffice to say I think it’s time to make use of the written rules in this area, and take advantage of the many options that the Pathfinder game provides.

How XP works in Pathfinder

Back in third edition every monster was assigned a Challenge Rating (CR) value. You compared the challenge rating to the average party level on a table, and that told you how much XP the encounter was worth. That’s not quite the way things are done in Pathfinder. Monsters, traps and hazards still have Challenge Ratings, but they are there to help a GM balance the encounter, and to indicate the absolute XP value of the challenge. This XP is then split between party members who defeat or overcome the elements. Like third edition, it’s not all about killing monsters. Avoiding a combat with clever decisions or good roleplaying is just as effective at earning XP.

The rate of advancement through the levels is actually controlled by the Experience Point Table. The GM chooses a slow, medium or fast progression for the PCs, and they accrue experience points normally. It’s not a revolutionary idea, but it is a welcome one and helps to customise the game.

Experience points aren’t just given for killing monsters. There are also guidelines for non-combat encounters and story awards as well. Roleplaying encounters should only award experience points if there are adverse consequences for failure. If this is the case then I should be awarding XP equal to Average combat encounter (or a little more or less if the non-combat encounter is really hard). I can also include story-goal awards. These should be equal to twice the average combat encounter… or more if it’s a major plot point.

Conversion from the House Rules

At the moment, I use my own experience table that uses different values between the levels. These house rules still have a slow, medium or fast progression variants. It won’t surprise you to learn that the Chosen of Narramac are on the Slow Progression table, but the characters in the Prophet and Loss campaign are on a medium speed progression. How will this change when I move characters over to the Pathfinder XP tables? Glad you asked.

First of all, I’m moving all characters over to the Medium XP progression. I will leave you to wonder over the reasons behind this sudden burst of generosity. Now we have the decided on which XP table to use, we have to make sure we fairly and proportionately convert characters across.

Let’s take our dear friend Elias as an example. At the end of session 115 of the League of Light campaign he was 20th level with 114,873 experience points. Under the house rule XP table the group is using there’s only 6000 XP between levels. Level 20 starts at 114,000 XP and level 21 is at 120,000. Therefore when converting Elias, he should have enough experience points to put him at 20th level and eight-hundred and seventy-three six-thousandths (873/6000) of his way to 21st level.

Pathfinder’s medium-rate  experience table says that characters need 3,600,000 for 20th level. There is no 21st level on the table but there are guidelines. This is what they say: “To gain a level beyond 20th, a character must double the experience points needed to achieve the previous level. Thus, assuming the medium XP progression, a 20th-level character needs 2,100,000 XP to become 21st level, since he needed 1,050,000 XP to reach 20th level from 19th. He’d then need 4,200,000 XP to reach 22nd level, 8,400,000 XP to reach 23rd, and so on.”

So Elias is 873/6000 of his way through the 2,100,000 XP he needs to reach 21st level. That’s 305,550 XP. Therefore Elias’s current XP total as of session 115 is 3,600,000 + 305,550 OR 3,905,550 XP. As for the other PCs: Brack is  18th level with 1,937,500 XP; Arvan is 18th level with 2,066,125 XP; Nicos is 19th level with 2,806,900 XP; Ravenna is 19th level with 3,068525 XP; and Raza is 19th level with 3,468,050 XP.

And no, I haven’t worked out the XP for session 116 yet.

Looking at the XP levels for characters from the Prophet and Loss campaign: Durral is 5th level with 15,165 XP; Hector is 3rd level with 6733 XP; Jumah is 5th level with 18,757 XP; Montes is 5th level 18,736 XP; and Talon is 4th level with 14,846 XP.

Looking at those figures, it is apparent that there is some serious disparity between the high-level PCs (not so much at lower levels). It’s this way not just because of overall attendance at the game, but also when you attend. Missing sessions while your characters are a higher level means you miss a greater amount of XP. Daniel missed the last retreat, Steve missed the one before. They’ve got the same number of sessions under their belts, but Nicos has more XP than Arvan simply because the average party level was higher when he earned it.

My question to you is what you want me to do about this (if anything)? Do you want me to try and equalise the character’s experience points so they are all much closer to one another? Elias has nearly twice as much XP as Arvan, and although Marc’s attended more sessions it’s not that many more. I put this to Marc a few days ago, as he doesn’t often post his opinions to the blog. He thought that this was a non-issue, and before you rub your chin sagely and think that Marc may not be seeing this matter very clearly, read through his opinion. I don’t entirely disagree with him:

Experience points are relative. Although there is a ridiculous gulf in XP between the party members, everyone is going to be getting significantly more XP per session at higher levels. Even though Elias is so far ahead in XP, he won’t earn enough XP to reach 21st level before everyone else (even Brack and Arvan) are 20th level. So everyone else will catch up before Elias levels again. There is also very little different in power levels between 18th and 20th level – especially when Elias is so incredibly multiclassed that he hasn’t reach the capstone ability of any of his classes.

What I will add is that you have to consider the amount of XP I’m going to be giving away from now on. As I said, I haven’t worked out the XP from session 116 yet. But you earned a lot of XP from that session. The fight with the Jabberwock and Cezallatānshe alone was worth 2,457,600 XP split between the party. You also got the Vikallians and the ELVES involved in the war which were enormous story goals. Basically, that one session already pushed you much closer together level-wise.

Experience and Encounters in the New Deal

Like most GMs my games are a mixture of carefully planned encounters, and encounters that I’m making up as I go along. Using CR as a way of judging the threats PCs face is very helpful guide to improvisation, and the more detailed rules for combat construction work pretty well too. I just haven’t used them as often as I should have done.

I will point out that Iourn remains a living, breathing world. Just because your characters are 5th level doesn’t mean that every challenge you encounter will be 5th level. You might still get mugged by a bunch of 1st level thugs, or you might encounter a beastie that will eat you up and spit you out without blinking. All potential encounters will not be balanced to your level: the world doesn’t work that way.

With that in mind, here is a summary of how I’ll be calculating XP from now on:

Overcoming Challenges: If the PCs defeat enemies in combat, prevail over physical obstacles or traps, or cleverly overcome their problems without combat then they are awarded XP equal to the CR of the challenge. This experience is divided equally between all PCs that participated in the challenge. So if only three members of a party of four participate in an encounter then the missing PC doesn’t get the XP. Characters gain no XP from defeating a challenge equal to or less than their Average Party Level -10.

Roleplaying Encounters: Experience is only awarded for a roleplaying encounter if four of the following five things are true: there are negative consequences if events in the scene go against the PCs; if the encounter pushes the party toward a definable goal; if most of the players make noteworthy contributions; if the PCs take an active role in the scene and aren’t just listening to the GM; if all the players are attentive and entertained. If most of that is true, then XP is awarded in the same manner as a combat encounter. Roleplaying encounters are assumed to have a CR equal to the average party level, althouh the GM can change that.

Story Goals: Specific goals within an adventure can be assigned an XP award, usually equal to twice the XP of a CR equal to the average party level. That means the average story award for a 19th level party is 204,800 XP, but this award may be more or less depending on the significance of the goal. Saving the world from demons would merit more XP, finding granny’s teeth down the back of the sofa would merit less.

This is all fairly straight forward, but it’s worth me pointing out what this system doesn’t do. There’s no individual XP awards for players (unless you tackle a challenge on your lonesome). I used to offer XP for roleplaying, using class abilities and having good ideas. All that is gone now in favour of the above. I’m happy to move on, but you should be aware of what we’re leaving behind.


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Treasure

Go to the Pathfinder: The New Deal index

The root of all evil: This is part of series of five posts concerning how we handle rewards, wealth, money and equipment in the game. The other posts are on Wealth and Economics, the Cost of Living, Making Magic Items, and Experience. You can read them in any order, but you might want to read them all before commenting.


Placing the correct treasure in adventures has never been a strong virtue for me. Dealing with the minutiae of equipment management and gold-piece accounting has always been my least favourite part of the game as a player, and it’s a prejudice I carry with me to the other side of the screen. For the rules as written to work, then that situation needs to change. I need to make sure I’m handing out the appropriate amount of treasure (mundane and magical) for characters of all levels.

The rules for the placement of Treasure begin on page 399 of the Core Rules (2009). You can see the same rules on the Pathfinder PRD. There’s also a fair amount of guidance on treasure in the Gamemastery Guide (2010) starting on p105. What these rules do is provide guidelines on how much wealth – as represented in gold pieces – should be provided by the average encounter, and consequentially how much wealth in gp a character should acquire at each level.

This is how it works: each encounter in the game has a suggested gp reward that is tied to the difficulty of the encounter, the size of the party, the average experience level of the party, and rate of XP advancement used in the game. For example, if a group of fve 1st level PCs face an encounter with a Challenge Rating equal to their average party level, then that encounter should net them 260 gp. If the same five PCs faced a level-appropriate challenge at 20th level, then they should expect to walk away with 67,000 gp.

Although wealth could be earned on an encounter-by-encounter basis, GMs have the power to hold back awards and give them to the party in shape of a single hoard, rather than doling out the same amount piece-meal over a number of encounters. Basically a few treasure-lite encounters are fine as long as the GM ponies up the goods in the end.

Now this is all a bit complicated. While I understand the rules, my enthusiasm for this will wane if I have to do it for every encounter. So, I’m going to take a slightly different approach that stays completely within the rules, just makes things a little easier for me.

How much Treasure?

The rules state that in a “low magic” game, I should half the amount of treasure that I hand out to PCs. While I’m going to keep that as an option for Iourn, it’s not going to be my initial approach. I’m going to keep treasure awards at the default level suggested in the Core Rules. I think this balance is right, but we’ll see how it goes.

My general thoughts on treasure are summed up very well in the Gamemastery Guide (2010). If you have a copy of the book, read the section “Reducing Magic with World Description” on p106. This isn’t reprinted on the web, but the basic conceit is that magic is rare, and the fact the PCs have it is exceptional. The PCs (and their enemies) are effectively high magic characters wandering around a low-magic world. That’s the way I like it.

So, if I’m using the standard guidelines for treasure, how much am I going to be giving away? This is where Table 12-4 Character Wealth by Level rides to my rescue. This table provides guidelines for how much overall wealth a PC should have at any given level, and acts as a handy guide for starting characters at a level higher than 1st .

The amounts in the table aren’t cumulative. If you’re building a 3rd level character from scratch then you have 3000 gp worth of treasure, but a 2nd level character who advances to 3rd only gains an additional 2000 gp over what he already had. Using this table we are able to extrapolate how much treasure a player character should amass over the course of each experience level as follows:

Between levels Weath Gained
1-2 1000
2-3 2000
3-4 3000
4-5 4500
5-6 5500
6-7 7500
7-8 9500
8-9 13000
9-10 16000
10-11 20000
11-12 26000
12-13 32000
13-14 45000
14-15 55000
15-16 75000
16-17 95000
17-18 120000
18-19 155000
19-20 195000

This becomes jolly useful to me. I know that for the wealth system to work properly, I need to hand out the indicated amount of treasure to a character as he advances between the noted levels. So an 18th level character will gain 155,000 gp of treasure during his advancement to level to 19. Obviously, that’s treasure for each character. If I have a party of six 18th level characters, then I’d need to include 930,000 gp of treasure and let them fight it out amongst themselves.

What I like about this system is that I don’t need to worry about treasure rewards for each encounter, I only need to look at the bigger picture per level. In practice, I’m sure that I’ll dole out treasure over the course of the level, but this gives me the freedom to do it in a more ad hoc manner – and in a manner that’s more in sync with the plot.

What sort of Treasure?

So, my party of six 18th level adventurers has finally made to level 19. Over the course of their last experience level, each of them has had the opportunity to acquire 155,000 gp of treasure according to the table above. But what’s the treasure actually made up of?

If you’ve read my post on Wealth and Economics, then you’ll know that the bulk of this treasure is NOT going to be made up of cold hard cash. I need to restrict the money supply in the economy, so I can’t have even the highest level characters wandering around with that much disposable income. Plus, there’s probably nowhere to spend it anyway. It’s not as if there are any magic item shops.

It’s Table 12-4 Character Wealth by Level to the rescue again! In the guidelines for starting a character at a higher level than first, the accompanying text tells us how the wealth should be spent; it says that characters should “spend no more than 25% of their wealth on weapons, 25% on armor and protective devices, 25% on other magic items, 15% on disposable items like potions, scrolls, and wands, and 10% on ordinary gear and coins”.

So basically, when I’m doling out treasure I should be using the amounts in the table above but giving away items in the following percentages: 10% of the treasure should be in spendable wealth such as coins; 15% of the treasure should be in disposable items such as potions, scrolls or wands; and the remaining 75% of the treasure should be in magic items or unique mundane items that cannot readily be sold such as art objects or gems.

If the party acquires magical treasure that they don’t need, they can still extract the magic from it and use it to create new magic items of their own design, or commission enchanters to do so on their behalf. Read my post on Making Magic Items if you haven’t already.

Critique

There are no house-rules here at all. This post has merely been an exercise in getting on top of the rules for treasure. They are clinical and prescriptive rules, that make the storyteller in me wince. Implementing this system is going to be a challenge for me. My instinct tells me that the figures in the table above should be used as a fairly firm guideline. But one that I could break given the needs of the story or the campaign.

Artefacts or items that are only there to drive the plot along aren’t included in this budget. If I want to give a party of six 6th level PCs a flying ship and send them out on a fact-finding mission to the Floating Islands of Krell then these rules aren’t going to stop me.

Inevitably, this system requires a certain suspension of disbelief: “Oh how handy that orc was wearing +5 splintmail, and look – it’s just my size!” But it does enable me to tailor the acquisition of magical items to the players, and allow players to use the resources they find to make new magic items if they desire.

I am determined to keep each magical item unique and flavourful. I want everything to have a history, that the party can find out about if they are prepared to investigate. It will take more organisation to pull this off, but at least you should all be equipped with magical booty that reflects your experience level. Something that the maths of the Pathfinder game demands.


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Wealth and Economics

Go to the Pathfinder: The New Deal index

The root of all evil: This is part of series of five posts concerning how we handle rewards, wealth, money and equipment in the game. The other posts are on Making Magic Items, Treasure, the Cost of Living and Experience. You can read them in any order, but you might want to read them all before commenting.


Iourn is a low-magic setting. There is no trade in magical items. This makes perfect economic sense, but flies in the face of the official rules that expect PCs to be able to trade, buy and make magical items and mundane gear to augment their characters. Let’s be clear: this augmentation isn’t optional. If you don’t have the right bonuses in the right areas you won’t be able to punch your weight in combat. Encounters will be too hard. You’ll die more often. Dogs and cats will start living together. Bad times.

There are many things I can do to alleviate the pressure on PCs caused by the low-magic economy. Very few changes to the published rules are required. But I’m not going to talk about my intentions, or the rules, in this post. Instead I wanted to take a little time to justify why a trade in magical items doesn’t make any sense for Iourn and why we need to address this.

The Money Supply

Everything in the Pathfinder game has a gold piece value. As characters adventure, they earn gold pieces (or items of equivalent gold piece value). They need to have earned a certain amount of wealth at any given experience level or they won’t have the items, or the purchasing power to gain items, necessary to enable them to succeed in level-appropriate adventures. The amount of wealth is shown on the Character Wealth by Level table. Have a good look at that, we’ll be coming back to that table in successive posts.

Those of you who are tempted to point out that this whole system is a jolly silly way of doing things should stay your typing finger. I agree with you. This wasn’t the approach in 1st or 2nd edition. It won’t be the approach in 5th. But in 3rd edition and in Pathfinder it is the way things work. Our Pact of Minimal Tinkering does not allow for wholesale jiggery-pokery of the wealth system. We’re just going to have to suck it up, and learn to live with it.

So: back to character wealth by level. Now, I don’t doubt that PCs need access to magical equipment that has a listed market price in line with the gold piece values in that table. The power of magic items is measured in gold pieces, and therefore more expensive items are more appropriate for high-level characters. I don’t have a problem with PCs finding items of that power. However, when it comes to buying items (or even making them) we run into problems. In those situations you have to envisage the PC as having that much gold in his pocket, and merchants to have sufficient gold in their tills to pay the correct rate for items that are for sale.

That’s never going to be case because, frankly, there just aren’t enough gold pieces in existence to allow for this happen.

Let’s look at the wider economy. What’s the most expensive mundane thing you think a stupidly affluent mediaeval bod would want to purchase? Is it warship? A castle? In the Pathfinder rules a fully equipped warship costs 25,000 gp. I can’t find any prices for a castle, but if we refer back to the Stronghold Builders Guidebook (2002) then a normal keep will set you back about 70,000 gp.

Compare those prices to the cost of magic items. Setting aside potions and scrolls, the prices of magic items are astronomical. A lowly +1 longsword costs 2315 gp according to the rules. You could buy eleven of them, or your could buy a warship! A +5 holy avenger has a market price of 120,630 gp. A ring of regeneration costs 90,000 gp. A staff of power is 235,000 gp. Seriously… you could buy a staff of power or build three castles and still have enough money left over for a nice little hunting lodge with mountain views.

Let’s step out of the game and look at this with our real-world eyes. Our own history is replete with kings and rulers desperate to try and raise money for what they wanted to do – be it defend their country from attack, or raise an army to wage war. Those rulers couldn’t raise enough in tribute and taxes to maintain a standing army, to have the freedom to build a navy, or to build defensive castles. They needed to beg, borrow and compromise to raise the cash. This is not your common man on the street having these cash-flow issues: this is the king!

If kings need to go to such lengths to raise money for all their mundane expenses, then they certainly don’t have the cash to fritter it away on high-priced magic items. A ring of regeneration is handy to have, but if there’s a choice between making that and outfitting a battalion then a wise monarch only has one choice. And if kings don’t have enough disposable cash, what would be the effect of a PC having it? What happens when the PC with 300,000 gp in his pocket rides into town? Economic chaos, that’s what!

The Trade in Magic Items

This is why a trade in magic items, as detailed in the Pathfinder rulebooks, simply doesn’t work. You can’t introduce that many gold pieces into a mediaeval economy. There probably aren’t enough coins in existence to allow for this sort of trade to exist. Logically, you can’t have a shop in a town that sells items for hundreds of thousands of gp, while the king in the palace down the road finds it hard to raise tens of thousands of gp.

Who exactly is going to buy these items? And how would you make a living from selling them? Think about it: you run a magic item shop. You have a holy avenger in the window that you know is work 120,000 gp. No-one in the kingdom, not even the king, has that kind of money. If you sold it you would be made for life, but no-one can afford it. So you sell cheap items (potions and scrolls) in the hope of one day shifting the high-ticket item… and in the meantime you hope no-one steals it.

But what about the wizard who makes magic items and then sells them on at a profit? The rules say that a holy avenger costs 60,000 gp to make and sells for 120,000 gp. Instant profit, right? Well, no. Instant bankruptcy and probably starvation. How do you raise 60,000 gp? That’s two and a half of the finest warships artisan shipwrights can produce. A monarch would probably have to increase taxes or marry off a daughter in order to raise that money, so how’s Elminster going to do it? The answer is that he’s not. He would never be able to raise the money to make the sword in the first place – and even if he did, no-one would be able to afford to buy it.

What does this mean for the game?

The game assumes that PCs find an unending amount of wealth in the form of gold, artefacts and magic items in dungeons. It also assumes that they spend the gold, and cash in the magic items for more gold so they can spend that as well. I think it’s plain that in any economy that bears even a passing ressemblance to reality that is never going to happen.

PCs cannot, therefore, have the spending power the rules suggest. However, as a GM I have a responsibilty to make sure that the party is sufficiently tooled up to face the challenges I set them. Therefore, the way I handle and place treasure has to evolve; and the rules for creating magic items need to be tweaked to allow that practice to even exist in a moderately believable economy.

Aside from adjusting the amount of wealth that I hand out to PCs (which is an optional rule anyway), these aren’t things that really affect the mechanics of the game. But they are still an important element, and I want to share how I intend to implement them.


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The Cost of Living

Go to the Pathfinder: The New Deal index

The root of all evil: This is part of series of five posts concerning how we handle rewards, wealth, money and equipment in the game. The other posts are on Wealth and Economics, Making Magic Items, Treasure and Experience. You can read them in any order, but you might want to read them all before commenting.


Once again, this post has nothing to do with House Rules. It’s an enquiry into the best way to handle petty transactions and the day-to-day accounting. Because we are using the rules for treasure as they are written, I am obliged to make a bigger deal of financial transactions in the game. I can’t just wave my hand and say say: “Sure you have enough money to buy a wagon”.

The problem with this is that bean-counting is pretty boring. It’s boring in real life, and it doesn’t get any better in a roleplaying game. While I can imagine some campaigns where not have two copper pieces to rub together is a defining element, for most games it’s just a bit irritating. Should adventures really have to worry if they have enough coin for a bowl of watery soup and some black bread from Honest Azalin’s Cut-Price Eaterie?

Pathfinder has rules to get around this. They are called the Cost of Living rules and you can find them on p405 of the Core Rules (2009) or on the Pathfinder PRD. Go over and have a look at them now. It’s fine: I’ll wait.

In my opinion we are faced with a very simple choice. We either account for every coin that your character spends in the game, or we use The Cost of Living rules. It seems a fairly simple decision.

Critique

The Cost of Living rules basically state that the PC ‘pays’ an amount in gold at the beginning of each month equal to the standard of living he wants to maintain. An average lifestyle costs about 10gp month. For that much money a PC can maintain a small house or apartment, he can have his own private room (although not an opulent room) at an inns, and he doesn’t need to worry about purchases of food or taxes that cost less than 1gp.

The system is not without its flaws; each one of which stems from a lack of verisimilitude. The fact is that adventurers move around all the time. They may not have permanent residences, they may not have a home they can simply pop to in order to retrieve “any nonmagical item that costs 1gp or less”. And if they arebpaying this cost of living, who are the paying it to? and when? If they can retrieve any item worth 1gp or less from their home, what’s to stop them gathering those items and selling them on?

The rules are an abstraction. Is it an abstraction that we can live with? Or would we prefer a world that works in the same logical manner as the real world? Should we simply say that if you don’t have the gold, you can’t have a room at the inn? After all, I am actually going  to be giving you the requisite amount of money this time.

If there are players who like the book-keeping and accounting side of the game, would it be best to pass the task of recording the minutiae onto them? Could one player be responsible for maintaining a pot of “party funds” that everyone pays into? That way only one person has to do the maths?

The world-builder in me would rather see us track every minor expenditure. The player is telling me it’s more hassle than it’s worth. Is there a compromise here, or do we have to pick one approach over the other?


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Making Magic Items

Go to the Pathfinder: The New Deal index

The root of all evil: This is part of series of five posts concerning how we handle rewards, wealth, money and equipment in the game. The other posts are on Wealth and Economics, Treasure, The Cost of Living and Experience Points. You can read them in any order, but you might want to read them all before commenting.


The rules for creating magic items in Third Edition (and Pathfinder) are complex. Magic items are divided into numerous different forms, types and categories. Each of their special features and abilities are distilled down to a monestary (gold piece) value, and from there it’s possible to calculate how such an item could be replicated by a player character.

As long as a GM only allows PCs to create items that already exist in a published book, then the process isn’t too painful. However, when you step outiside the strict guidelines of ready-made magic items and try to build something for yourself it can be more than a little confusing.

The official rules for magic item creation can be found on p548-553 of the Core Rules (2009). They are also on the Pathfinder PRD. On the whole I have no great desire to try and change them. This means that the house rules that do currently exist will have to be swept away. Well, *almost* swept away. There’s one thing that I think we should keep. I’ll get to that in a minute, but first we should consider the three tests:

The Three Tests

Narrative Integrity

The actual mechanic of using the written rules and returning Item Creation feats to the game doesn’t impact on the story of Iourn. The current house rules have never really had an airing in the game, and the number of PCs who can actually create such items is pretty low. However, there’s more to creating magic items than the mechanics.

Each item has a gold piece value, and in order to create the item the creator needs to pay half that value in material components, special candles and whatever other magical tomfoolery is required. The problem is that these sums of money can be very high. Very high indeed.

As I explained in the post on Wealth and Economics (or will explain if you haven’t read that yet) there simply isn’t enough free money sloshing around on Iourn – or any sane mediaeval economy – to allow for a trade in magic items. No one has enough money to buy them. There aren’t enough gold pieces in the world! By the same token there aren’t enough gold pieces in the world to allow for the creation of new magical items in any meaningful quantity.

This becomes a rules issue because a gp value is assigned to each item. It’s a game balance thing. PCs need that much wealth in order to make magic items. But that much wealth is in itself ridiculous. If they didn’t spend it on magic items they’d have more than the treasury of most kingdoms. Therefore something needs to be done to ensure game balance, and keep the sums of money in the economy at a reasonable level.

Games without Miniatures

Although individual magic items may make use of the tactical rules, the creation of such items is an activity that takes place outside combat. As a result there are no complaints on this score.

Our Preferences

I have no great preference for my house rules on magic item creation over the published rules, except in one area. That’s the rule I think we should maintain, and that’s the rule I intend to deal with now:


Cannabilising Magic Items

Bacially: what we need is a way to create magic items that doesn’t use gold.

In fourth edition, magic items can be drained of their magic to create a substance called residuum. This residuum can be bottled and kept indefintiely. It can be sold on. And it can be put toward the gp cost of creating a magic item. So if you had 50,000 gp worth of residuum in a bottle you could use that instead of gold to make items. I liked the rules for residuum and incorporated them into the original house rules. However, in hindsight, I don’t think they’re a brilliant fit for Iourn; so they become the inspiration for these rules instead.

I propose that spellcasters should be able to cannabilise magic items in order to gain the power that is required to make a new magic item. No special feats, spells or rituals are required. Under this system any caster who can create magic items has the ability to drain the magic from an existing item and use it directly in their casting.

This doesn’t create residuum; the magic is simply taken from the sacrificial magic item during the item creation process. It all happens seamlessly. Each magic item contributes a gp value equal to its construction cost in the Pathfinder rules. So if a party has a Ring of Water Walking that they don’t want, they can drain it of magic and it would contribute 7500gp toward the cost of a new magic item.

Within the game world this works really well. The magic item creation rules can exist in exactly as they are written, and I don’t need to make tens of thousands of surplus gold pieces appear in the economy just when a wizard wants one. Most wizards creating magic items would actively have to seek out caches of existing magic items in order to create new ones.

These rules don’t preclude PCs finding magic items in treasures or in the cold dead hands of NPCs. It doesn’t stop a wizard discovering a laboratory that has 100,000gp worth of magical components in it, or an elemental vortex that enables him to forge a Flame Tongue sword with little components at all. It won’t attack any flavour, it will just make the low-magic economy thing make sense.

As I mentioned in the section on Treasure, I will need to do more to place magic items in the path of the party. These are either items that can be kept, or items can be viewed as a resource for creating something else. I think this is the only sensible way to go about things. I can’t logically give away the sort of money that the rules would demand at each level: it’s insane and incompatible with Iourn. But at the same time, I can’t not give away the money and maintain the magic item creation rules unchanged. I don’t want to change those rules, and so this is a compromise.

Let me know what you think.


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The New Deal Wizard

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The wizard is not a class that I want to do a lot of work with. In fact, I’d prefer to do none at all. However, there is one house rule connected to the way that Specialist Wizards work that I wanted to put on the table. It’s probably worth considering if we want to keep the house rules we’ve been using since 2000.

Specialist wizards are wizards that specialise in one of the eight schools of magic (Illusion, Evocation, Conjuration, Necromancy, Transmutation, Abjuration, Divination or Enchantment). They are better at casting spells in those schools than some other schools of magic. Pathfinder also introduced nifty powers that these specialist wizards could use, as well as giving other powers to the general mage so they didn’t feel left out. I don’t propose to change any of those powers. It’s simply the way the spells work that concerns me here.

You can read the official rules on p78 of the Core Rules (2009), they are also on the Pathfinder PRD. However, I’ve included them again here for sake of clarity and comparisson.

The Official Rules: A wizard that chooses to specialise in one school of magic must select two other schools as his opposition schools, representing knowledge sacrificed in one area of arcane lore to gain mastery in another. A wizard who prepares spells from his opposition schools must use two spell slots of that level to prepare the spell. For example, a wizard with evocation as an opposition school must expend two of his available 3rd-level spell slots to prepare a fireball. In addition, a specialist takes a -4 penalty on any skill checks made when crafting a magic item that has a spell from one of his opposition schools as a prerequisite. A universalist wizard can prepare spells from any school without restriction.

Specialist wizards receive an additional spell slot of each spell level he can cast, from 1st on up. Each day, a wizard can prepare a spell from his specialty school in that slot. This spell must be in the wizard’s spellbook. A wizard can select a spell modified by a metamagic feat to prepare in his school slot, but it uses up a higher-level spell slot. Wizards with the universalist school do not receive a school slot.

The Existing House Rules: Universalists have access to all arcane spells at the level noted in the spell description. Specialists cast all spells of their school as one level lower than they actually are, and gain access to these spells at a lower experience level. Conversely, they cast spells of all other schools as one level higher than they actually are and gain access to these spells at a higher experience level. For example, a necromancer would gain access to 9th level necromancy spells at level fifteen, but would have to be level nineteen before he could cast 9th level spells of any other school. Cantrips are not effected. 1st level spells of the specialist school are still cast as 1st level spells. In addition to this, specialists add +2 to the DC of all the spells from their specialist school, and -2 to the DC of all the saving throws of the spells from their other schools.


The Three Tests

I’m not particularly wedded to the house rules here. I do like them, I probably prefer them to the official rules, but I’m happy to follow the Pact of Minimal Tinkering and give them up. However, some of you may feel differently and be more attached to these rules than I am.

Narrative Integrity

Although there have been plenty of examples over the years of specialist wizards casting spells more powerful than their level might otherwise allow, these haven’t really been story issues. These are elements of the game that hide behind mechancis. I don’t think that anything breaks down irrevocably by saying that De Chesiré Mk. 4 couldn’t actually have teleported in session X. I don’t get the same sense of narrative imperative overriding mechanical concerns as I get for the druid’s wildshape, or the cleric’s granted powers. These are the issues that always manifest when you change editions.

Games without Miniatures

Again, not a concern here. There’s no grid-based element to these rules.

Our Preferences

It all boils down to what we think is better. The trouble with the official rules (in my opinion) is that they don’t actually make the specialist better at casting his chosen spells… they just make him worse at casting other spells. Sure he can cast more specialist spells, but there’s not the same incentive as the house rules provide. I think the house rules do a better job of encouraging players to select spells of their chosen school for their character. Necromancers under the house rules probably have a spellbook that is almost entirely made up of necromancy spells. They feel more like necromancers to me.

The house rules have problems, though. They make specialist wizards extremely attractive. By giving characters access to high level spells sooner in their careers, there is the risk of destabilising the system balance. Do you want 7th level wizards to be able to teleport, or 15 level wizards to be able to use Wish? Also by the time you hit 19th level the benefits of being a specialist disappear entirely. Plus it’s a change to the published rules that we don’t strictly need to make. Should a desire not to change things for the sake of changing them stay our hand here. The published rules work well enough, so we should probably not change them.

Have a think and cast your opinion below.


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The New Deal Druid

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With the cleric out of the way, you’ll be delighted to learn that my desire to make changes to any other character class is minimal to say the least. However, there is a little to be said about the druid, and in particular their wildshape ability.

The current house rules for druids are extensive: there’s a different progression of class abilities, they gain access to cure spells at lower levels, and I’ve introduced two 2nd edition inspired powers at high level… with a wave of my hand I want to sweep all of that away. N0ne of those changes are fundamental, and getting rid of them makes things easier for us all. Wildshape is a little more complicated than that.

Firstly, Wildshape lasts one hour per druid level in the standard rules. In the house rules, druids can remain in the chosen form indefinitely. Secondly, the official rules limit the number of times per day a druid can wildshape. In the house rules druids can wildshape at will, but it’s very dangerous for them wildshape more than their level normally allows. Although I’m not too fussed about the extended duration of wildshape, I am going to make a case for wildshape-at-will. Let me explain:

Wildshape for Iourn druids is at the core of their beliefs. Gaining the ability to wildshape is a coming-of-age event for all druids. They become one with the natural world in way they never have before, and this overwhelming assault on the senses is intoxicating. Novice druids are often tempted to spend more and more time in their animals forms, risking more and more transformations. Each successive wildshape could be their last one, as they could become stuck in their animal form forever.

The following is an account of the way these rules currently work. They’ve already been modified to fit more closely into the Pathfinder rules. The following text can be added onto the end of the existing Wildshape entry in the Core Rules:

Wildshape on Iourn: The number of times each day that a druid can Wildshape is actually the number of times the druid can freely wildshape with no chance of dire consequence. The first wildshape each day beyond the safe limit imposed by the druid’s level functions normally. However, the druid must make a special level check to revert to his original form. The check is 1d20 + the druid’s level + the druid’s Wisdom modifier. The DC of this check is 21. If the check succeeds then the druid reverts to his original form normally. He may then (if he chooses) attempt to Wildshape again. However, each additional Wildshape attempt adds a cumulative +2 to the DC of the level check to revert to his own form.

If the level check fails then druid is stuck in his creature form until dawn the following day. At this point he can make another level check (at +2 to the DC of the previous check) to revert to his original form. If he fails again then he remains stuck for another day, before he can try the check again (at an additional +2 to the DC). He continues making checks at an increasing DC each dawn until he either succeeds or fails four successive checks. If four checks are failed then the druid remains in his creature form forever and may take on the mentality and nature of the creature as time passes.


The Three Tests

These rules aren’t part of an archetype. I don’t think they’re significant enough for that. They are simple additions to the way Wildshape works on Iourn. Let’s run through the three tests and see how leaving these house rules out affects things:

Narrative Integrity

I think that Wildshape defines the way that druids act and think within the setting. I consider this house rule fundamental to that. Wildshaping is a drug to druids, and some simply cannot stop doing it. It’s flavourful, and adds to the druid’s mystique. Experience tells me that it isn’t particularly overpowered. In past campaigns, those PCs playing druids have tried to avoid making use of these rules as failing a saving throw puts them at a  significant disadvantage.

What is more, these ‘rules’ been established in game. It’s never been at the forefront of an adventure, but it is a welcome piece of background colour that helps to make Iourn unique. I really like this house rule, and I think the setting and the druid is richer for having it.

Games Without Miniatures

No problems here. The wildshape rules don’t require the use of a combat grid.

Our Preferencess

In this situation, I don’t think the two versions of wildshape are created equal. I much prefer the house rule over the written rules for narrative reasons. This isn’t a purely mechanical thing like Spell DCs. I would be interested to hear from all of you on this, but particularly those who have played druids in the past.


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