Instinctive Spellcasting – The Finale

Okay. We’re nearly there. The results of the voting on the previous two blog entries give us the following results:

  • Instinctive characters will use a Spell Point system that will renew after each encounter.
  • We will use my Rounded Spell Levels total to determine how many different spells instinctive casters can know.
  • Instinctive casters can overcast their spells – this will drain their Constitution score.
  • We will use the standard spell lists and not use Words of Power.

Those results bear a little explanation and possible modification depending on the comments and the vote below:

Regarding Words of Power: The vote between those who wanted to use the Words of Power rules, and those that did not, is tied. Bearing in mind that not everyone who plays instinctive casters has voted, I have decided to err in favour of the status quo. BUT because there seems a fair interest in Words of Power I propose that we test it in game and see how well it flows. I’m not sure when exactly, but perhaps when the weekly game recommences, or the next weekend game.

Regarding Overcasting: Constitution damage was the favourite approach by far, but questions were asked over whether Constitution was the most appropriate ability score. I am therefore wondering if many of you thought Ability Damage was best solution, and voted for Con Damage because that was the only option on offer. So here’s another poll which offers a more specific choice. When you vote imagine the process of casting instinctive magic. Is it draining to the mind or the body? Do sorcerers who overcast burst blood vessels, or are they dazed by the experience?

And there we have it. Thanks very much to everyone who has taken the time to thrash this out.

If it’s not broke…

Generally speaking, it’s inadvisable to change the printed rules in role-playing games. At the very least it causes confusion, and it can undermine the authority of the GM when he adjudicates a contentious ruling by saying “oh, it doesn’t work that way anymore, I changed it – didn’t I say?”.

Of course, I don’t follow this advice. There isn’t a rule in D&D that I have tinkered with or tried to change at some point in my history as a GM. I’ve been as bad as ever (if not worse) under the Pathfinder rules than under all previous editions of the game. However, even I realise that there are times when it’s better – for the sake of clarity if nothing else – to take the rules as written, even if you’re not 100% behind them.

In this post I present four rules or sub-systems that currently use my own rules instead of the rules as written. I am now starting to think that it might be better not to have changed these in the first place. So consider these four rules, think what is best, and then cast you vote in the polls below. I can’t promise I’ll follow through with the results, but it will give me food for thought. The four areas we are looking at are:

If everyone ready, then we’ll begin:

Weapon Groups

Now, I use the rules for Weapon Group feats as presented in the third edition Unearthed Arcana and reproduced on-line at the d20 srd. This replaces the Pathfinder rules for Basic, Martial and Exotic weapons. I don’t propose to change this at all. The rules for weapon group feats have served me well since 2003, and I like them a great deal. What I’m proposing to change is the list of weapon groups themselves.

Pathfinder already has weapon groups. They aren’t used to determine proficiency in a weapon, but they are used to categorise weapons. Some of the fighter’s class features are tied to weapon groups. At the moment we have two lists of weapon groups in play: one derrived from the list of weapon group feats in Unearthed Arcana and one taken from the Pathfinder rules.

What I have done up until now is take the Unearthed Arcana list as the standard. I even changed some of the Fighter’s abilities accordingly. However, as time passes and Pathfinder starts to expand their list of weapon groups (as they have done in the recent Ultimate Combat) I am wondering if I haven’t made the wrong choice. Wouldn’t it be better to make the Pathfinder list as the definitive and change the weapon groups accordingly?

Here’s how the two lists stack up, side-by-side:

Unearthed Arcana

Pathfinder

Axes Axes
Basic Weapons  
Bows Bows
Claw Weapons Close
Crossbows Crossbows
Druid Weapons  
Exotic Double Weapons  
Exotic Weapons  
Flails & Chains Flails
Heavy Blades Blades, Heavy
Light Blades Blades, Light
Maces & Clubs Hammers
Monk Weapons Monk
Picks & Hammers Hammers
Polearms Polearms
Slings & Thrown Weapons Thrown
Spears & Lances Spears
  Nautral
  Siege Engines

You can see that there isn’t very much difference. Claw Weapons are renamed “Close Weapons”; Picks & Hammers and Maces & Clubs are folded into the new “Hammers” weapon group – which makes kind of sense to me (although, I think that I would call it “Hammers & Picks” just to make it clear that picks are also included in this skill set). Natural Weapons and Siege Weapons are added as weapon groups. Small changes, you might think.

Well, yes and no. Firstly, Pathfinder doesn’t have a “Basic Weapons” category. This is simply because the Pathfinder weapon groups aren’t designed to be used as proficiencies. If they were, then undoubtedly they would keep something akin to Basic Weapons. Equally, we don’t see “Exotic Weapons” as a category either, or “Druid Weapons” for that matter.

If we consider that weapons can belong to more than one weapon group, and if we acknowledge the necessity of adding things like Basic Weapons and Exotic Weapons back into the list then I think the Pathfinder categories work rather well. I like separating Natural Weapons, and “Close Weapons” is a better grouping than “Claw Weapons” in my opinion.

The only place where this falls down a little is Siege Weapons. If “Siege Weapons” becomes a proficiency (Weapon Group: Siege Weapons) the we have to slightly revise the rules for Siege Warfare depicted in Ultimate Combat.  In those rules attacks with indirect siege engines (e.g. catapults and trebuchets) are made by rolling your Base Attack Bonus + either your Intelligence Modifier or your ranks in Knowledge (engineering) against the DC of the siege engine. Direct attacks (with weapons like arbalests) run of a normal attack roll with an escalating penalty depending on the weapon size.

Counting Siege Engines as a weapon group wouldn’t overtly change the maths at work here. The base attack would be rolled normally – with the exception that the -4 non-proficiency penalty would apply equally to direct and indirect fire siege engines. There’s no reason we couldn’t say that attack rolls were modified by Int (or ranks in Knowledge Engineering) instead of Str or Dex. So it’s not a great change: but one worth making.

So, based on these changes the Weapon Groups would look like this:

  • Axes
  • Basic Weapons
  • Blades, Light
  • Blades, Heavy
  • Bows
  • Close Weapons
  • Crossbows
  • Druid
  • Exotic Weapons
  • Flails
  • Hammers & Picks
  • Monk
  • Natural
  • Polearms
  • Siege Engines
  • Thrown

There’s still a few anomalies – whips fall under the Flails proficiency, for example – but these are anomalies of the Pathfinder game and not of my House Rules. Plus, we’re able to dispense with the Exotic Double Weapons feat, which always struck me as a bit odd. Also, none of the above stops me from adding further weapon groups if I want to – so Mariner Weapons, or weapons specific to certain clergies are still entirely possible. I’m leaning toward this change, however small it may be.

Cast your vote in the poll and be heard:

The Spellcasting Focus

Right, this is fairly straight-forward. In the hosue rules most spell casters use a focus to channel their magic. This mechanic has largely replaced spell components. That’s not going to change. However, the rules regarding how the spell focus (the wand, the ring, the holy symbol etc.) functions could well change. Here are my house rules on the topic:

Almost all spellcasters have a special focus that they used to direct their magic. Many traditions and character classes favour particular types of foci over others. Wizards, for example, are very fond of wands and gnarled staffs; druids have a penchant for mistletoe; and clerics use their holy symbol as their focus. However, these are simply conventions. The truth is that the spellcaster can choose any object as his focus as long as he abides by the following guidelines:

The construction of a focus is a complex and exacting task. It can’t just be any old thing: a wizard can’t unscrew the head of a broom and call the handle his magic staff. Only the best materials, harvested in just the right manner and brought together by a master of his craft, will result in an object that is capable of being used as a magical focus.

Each focus is created with a specific caster in mind. It is an inherently personal item that functions for the benefit of the caster, and only the caster. A wizard isn’t using some random staff, he’s using his staff. Each focus is attuned to a particular spellcaster, and cannot immediately be used by any other spellcaster.

In order to cast a spell to its fullest effect, the caster must have his magical focus. This focus must be held in his hand and presented in a forthright manner. As long as this is the case then the spell is cast normally as per the description of the spell.

Without a focus, spells can still be cast but spellcaster’s effective caster level is halved. In addition, he loses access to the most powerful level of spells he can cast until he regains his focus.

Advantages of Foci: Although foci seem to be the spell caster’s Achilles Heel, they are actually extremely useful things. Spellcasters can take a number of implement feats that change the way magical spells work when they are cast through a focus. Foci also exist as magical items, conferring even more interesting abilities onto spellcasters. Those few magic-using classes that do not have foci often wish they did.

Traditions and Foci: A focus is only good for one particular magical tradition. A multiclass cleric/wizard would need two foci: one for his divine spells, and one for his arcane spells. Switching between separate foci during combat would mean dropping one (a free action) and drawing another (a move action). The feat Combine Foci can help with this limitation.

Changing Foci: A spellcaster’s focus is bound to him and him alone. A wizard gains no advantage in picking up another wizard’s focus. In order for a focus to be of benefit to a spellcaster it has to be attuned. This can be done during a special ritual that lasts for one hour (and that all spellcasters know). Once a new focus is attuned to the spellcaster, the old focus can no longer be used. A spellcaster can have no more than one attuned focus at any one time – unless he takes the Dual Focus feat.

Enchanting Foci: Spellcasters have an easier time enchanting their own magical focus than other items. A spellcaster enchanting his own focus uses the standard rules with the exception that the ritual only costs half as much, and takes half as long. So if your focus was a ring, and you wanted to turn your focus into a Ring of Djinni Calling then you would follow all the usual steps except you would only need to find 31,250 gp (not 62,500) and it would only take you 500 hours (not 1000). The cost to maintain your lab, hire the right people and acquire the raw materials would still be the same. If you use these rules for enchanting your focus, you cannot have anyone else help you during the process. It is, after all, an intensely personal process.

However, Pathfinder has it’s own rules for spellcasting foci, or “bonded objects” as they call them. Of course, bonded objects are only supposed to apply to wizards who choose a focus instead of a familiar, however, there’s no reason they couldn’t apply more widely. Consider the rules as they appear in the description of the wizard from the Core Rules (edited slightly to remove all reference to the familiar):

At 1st level, wizards form a powerful bond with an object. The bonded object is an item a wizard can use to cast additional spells or to serve as a magical item. Wizards begin play with one bonded object at no cost. Objects that are the subject of an arcane bond must fall into one of the following categories: amulet, ring, staff, wand, or weapon. These objects are always masterwork quality. Weapons acquired at 1st level are not made of any special material. If the object is an amulet or ring, it must be worn to have effect, while staves, wands, and weapons must be wielded. If a wizard attempts to cast a spell without his bonded object worn or in hand, he must make a concentration check or lose the spell. The DC for this check is equal to 20 + the spell’s level. If the object is a ring or amulet, it occupies the ring or neck slot accordingly.

A bonded object can be used once per day to cast any one spell that the wizard has in his spellbook and is capable of casting, even if the spell is not prepared. This spell is treated like any other spell cast by the wizard, including casting time, duration, and other effects dependent on the wizard’s level. This spell cannot be modified by metamagic feats or other abilities. The bonded object cannot be used to cast spells from the wizard’s opposition schools (see arcane school).

A wizard can add additional magic abilities to his bonded object as if he has the required item creation feats and if he meets the level prerequisites of the feat. For example, a wizard with a bonded dagger must be at least 5th level to add magic abilities to the dagger (see the Craft Magic Arms and Armor feat in Chapter 5). If the bonded object is a wand, it loses its wand abilities when its last charge is consumed, but it is not destroyed and it retains all of its bonded object properties and can be used to craft a new wand. The magic properties of a bonded object, including any magic abilities added to the object, only function for the wizard who owns it. If a bonded object’s owner dies, or the item is replaced, the object reverts to being an ordinary masterwork item of the appropriate type.

If a bonded object is damaged, it is restored to full hit points the next time the wizard prepares his spells. If the object of an arcane bond is lost or destroyed, it can be replaced after 1 week in a special ritual that costs 200 gp per wizard level plus the cost of the masterwork item. This ritual takes 8 hours to complete. Items replaced in this way do not possess any of the additional enchantments of the previous bonded item. A wizard can designate an existing magic item as his bonded item. This functions in the same way as replacing a lost or destroyed item except that the new magic item retains its abilities while gaining the benefits and drawbacks of becoming a bonded item.

Okay. A few provisos. I am not thinking of adopting the Pathfinder rules for bonded objects whole cloth. I’m most interested in what happens when a character loses his focus. Here are the differences:

  • My rules: Without a focus caster level is halved and the caster loses access to the highest level spells he can cast.
  • Pathfinder rules: Caster must make a concentration check (DC 20 + spell level) to  cast a spell without a focus.

 And that’s the choice I want you to make in this poll:

Casting Defensively

Okay, I’ll keep this one brief. In third edition it was called “casting defensively”, in Pathfinder it is called “casting on the defensive”. What it means is that characters who cast spells while in the threat range of their foes provoke attacks of opportunity unless they successfully focus on both the spell and the combat simultaneously. This is what the game says about casting on the defensive:

Casting on the Defensive: Casting a spell while on the defensive does not provoke an attack of opportunity. It does, however, require a concentration check (DC 15 + double the spell’s level) to successfully cast the spell. Failure means that you lose the spell.

Let’s spell this out. If you standing in combat with someone who means you harm and you cast a spell then you provoke an attack of opportunity. If that attack of opportunity hits, then you need to make a concentration check at DC 10 + the damage dealth + the spell’s level (because the attack hits at the moment you’re casting the spell). If your concentration check fails, then the spell is lost.

You can attempt to avoid provoking this attack of opportunity by casting on the defensive. This DC is probably slightly easier (DC 20 + twice the spell level), but no that much easier. You must make this roll before casting every spell that would otherwise provoke an attack of opportunity. If you fail this roll then your spell is lost, however you don’t provoke the attack of opportunity regardless of whether you succeed or fail.

There’s no Concentration skill in Pathfinder as there was in D&D 3.5. Your concentration check is 1d20 + your caster level + the ability score modifier that governs you spellcaster. The combat casting feat gives you another +4 to the roll.

My house rules are easier to remember, and much kinder to spell casters:

It simply isn’t possible for most spellcasters to cast a spell and pay attention to the battlefield around them. Casting a spell while you are within mêlée range of an opponent provokes an attack of opportunity from that opponent. If the attack of opportunity hits (and doesn’t immediately kill or bloody the target), then the spellcaster must make a special concentration check or the spell is disrupted.

The caster must roll 1d20 + caster level + relevant spellcasting ability score modifier (e.g. Intelligence for a wizards, Charisma for a bard or Wisdom for a cleric). The DC of the check is 10 + the damage dealt + the level of the spell you are trying to cast.

If the check succeeds then the spell is cast normally. If the check fails then the spell is disrupted. A disrupted spell has no effect, but it still disappears from the mind of Acquired casters, and still prompts a languor check from Instinctive casters.

Spellcasters can defend themselves against these attacks of opportunity by selecting the Combat Casting feat. Spellcasters with combat casting do not provoke attacks of opportunity when casting their spells in mêlée.

However, even characters with combat casting may still find the spells disrupted by canny opponents. Any attack that strikes and damages the spellcaster during the moment of casting prompts a concentration as above. For spells that are cast as one standard action, the attacker must actively ready an action that is contingent on the casting of the spell. However, some spells take rounds or minutes to cast. Any attack during this time, whether readied or not, calls for a concentration check. In these cases, combat casting grants +4 to the concentration check.

Very different rules. My take is based on the way combat manouevres like Trip, Bull Rush and the like function in Pathfinder. If you have a feat that helps you (e.g. Improved Trip) then you never provoke attacks of opportunity from performing this action, if you don’t have the feat then you always provoke attacks of opportunity. That’s what I am hoping to achive with combat casting. Basically combat casting is to spellcasting, as Improved Grapple is to grabbing someone.

But is it too kind? Do you think that spellcasters need to be put throught more of a ringer than they are? Vote in the poll below:


Polymorph

Okay, we’ve been down this road before, but I’m still not satisfied with how polymorph – and spells like it – function at the moment in the House Rules. Please bear in mind that anything we decide here will also apply to Wildshape. Here is the full text of the house-rule version of the Polymorph spell:

Polymorph
Transmutation (Polymorph)
Level: Arcane 4, Divine (Change) 4
Casting Time: 1 standard action
Range: Personal
Target: You
Duration: 1 minute/level
Saving Throw: None
Spell Resistance: Yes (harmless)

This powerful spell allows the subject to take on the form of another creature. When a spellcaster gains or develops this spell then he must choose two specific kinds of creature that he can transform into. Every time he casts the spell, he must choose which of these two creatures to become.

At any point after gaining this spell, the caster may attempt to add additional creatures to his polymorph repertoire. Simply seeing new creatures or knowing of their existence is not enough; the caster must research each additional creature using the same rules as an acquired spellcaster researching new spells. Once a creature has been researched it is added to the list of potential creatures that can be assumed. There is no limit to the number of different creatures that can be available through the Polymorph spell, as long as each creature follows the guidelines laid down below:

The new form may be the same type as the subject of the spell, or any of the following types: aberration, animal, dragon, fey, giant, humanoid, magical beast, monstrous humanoid, ooze, plant or vermin. The assumed form cannot have more hit dice than your hit dice or caster level (whichever is lower), to a maximum of 15 HD at fifteenth level. You cannot assume a form that is Miniscule or Colossal with the Polymorph spell, neither can you assume an incorporeal or gaseous form. You may not take the form of any creature with a Template.

When assuming a new form you gain some, but not all of the new form’s abilities. Equally, you lose some (but not all) of your own abilities. This addition and subtraction of your character’s ability and statistics can be complex, and it is strongly suggested that players whose characters can cast this spell create full statistics for their characters in each of their available forms. If the player does not have such statistics immediately to hand, then the GM may rule that the spell cannot be cast at this time.

All characters have certain abilities derrived from their race, and certain abilities derrived from their class. Polymorph does not alter the abilities gained from the subject’s character class: therefore all your class abilities are available in your new form. The only exception to this rule is if your new form simply isn’t capable of performing the class ability. For example, if the assumed form cannot talk or hold a focus then it cannot cast spells. If the assumed form has no legs then the flying kick feat is useless. If the assumed form cannot wield a sword then it cannot make use of the suite of combat feats that depend upon using a sword. On the whole, these restrictions should be obvious. The GM and the player should discuss what they are each time a new form is added to the character’s polymorph repertoire.

The character’s racial abilities are significantly altered. However, Polymorph only affects a physical change to the character: it does not allow access to any of the magical or supernatural abilities associated with the new form. Neither does it affect your character’s mind or mental acuity. A summary of the changes wrought by the Polymorph spell are as follows:

Racial Features Gained:

  • Gain the new form’s Type and Subtype (if any).
  • Gain the new form’s Strength, Dexterity and Constitution scores. These changes modify your skills, attack rolls, saving throws, CMB and CMD, but not your hit points.
  • Gain the gross physical qualities of the new form: this includes the creature’s appearance, colour, number of limbs, wings and so forth. Characters can decide the form’s more specific qualities such as height, gender and hair colour as long as it is within the norm for the race.
  • Gain the mundane movement capabilities of the new form: including burrowing, climbing, walking, swimming, flying with wings. You speed can never be more than 30 ft. (swimming or burrowing), 60 ft. (on land) or 120 ft. (flying) regardless of what a normal creature of this race
  • Gain the natural weapons of the new form, and proficiency in them. However changing form doesn’t give you any extra attacks. If you assume the form of a bear you don’t automatically gain its claw/claw/bite attack routine. If you only have one attack per round, then you still only have one attack per round in the new form, but you can choose which natural weapon to attack with.
  • Gain any racial bonuses to skills.
  • Gain the Natural Armour Bonus to armour class of the new form.
  • Gain the Size of the new form. This may mean applying a size modifier to your Armour Class and attack rolls (but not to your ability scores).
  • Gain the new form’s Exceptional racial abilities.
  • Gain any bonus racial feats of the new form as long as those feats provide Exceptional advantages. Bonus feats that provide Magical or Supernatural advantages at not gained.

Racial Features Retained:

  • Retain your Intelligence, Wisdom and Charisma scores.
  • Retain your own hit point total (do not modify your hit points even if your Constitution score changes as a result of the Polymorph).
  • Retain your own Magical and Supernatural racial abilities.
  • Retain your own base saving throws.
  • Retain your own base attack bonus.
  • Retain the ability ability to speak, as long as the new form is able to speak intelligbly – i.e. it has a decernible language, not just the ability to make sounds.

Racial Features Lost:

  • Lose your Type and subtype (if any).
  • Lose your Strength, Dexterity and Consitution scores.
  • Lose your gross physical qualities – i.e. appearance and form.
  • Lose your mundane movement capabilities (these are replaced by the new form)
  • Lose your natural attacks (if any).
  • Lose any Exceptional racial abilities that you possess.
  • Lose any racial bonuses to skills (but don’t lose any extra skill points conferred because of your race – such as the bonus points granted to a human).
  • Lose your Natural Armour Bonus to armour class (if any)
  • Lose your Size (and any size modifiers to armour class and attacks).
  • Lose any bonus racial feats you have (this includes the bonus feat that humans receive at first level). If the lost feat is a prerequisite for any other feats, then also lose access to those feats for the duration of the spell.

Upon casting this spell, you are effectively disguised as a member of the assumed race. If you want to disguise yourself as a specific individual, then the Polymorph spell grants a +10 bonus to the disguise check.

When the change occurs your equipment, if any, either remains worn or held by the new form (if it is capable of wearing or holding the item), or melds into the new form. Items that provide constant bonuses and do not need to be activated continue to function while melded in this way (with the excpetion of armour and shield bonuses, which cease to function). Items that require activation cannot be used while you maintain that form.

When you revert to your true form, any objects previously melded into the new form reappear in the same location on your body they previously occupied and are once again functional. Any new items you wore in the assumed form and can’t wear in your normal form fall off and land at your feet; any item that you could wear in either form or carry in a body part common to both forms at the time of reversion are still held in the same way.

Any part of the body, or piece of equipment, that is separated from the whole reverts to its true form. Should the subject die when in the assumed form, then he immediately reverts back to his true form upon death.

In Pathfinder, you don’t actually take on the full stats of the creature you become. Instead you take on the form and appearance of the creature, and a number of special abilities if the creature has them, and if they are listed in the description of the spell. Polymorph has been replaced with the following suite of spells. Have a good read, and then come back to vote.

So what do you think? Which version is better? My house rules are very much based on third edition D&D before the Great Polymorph Errata was imposed. Does this make it doubly broken? Consider how easy the rules can be implemented in play, whether they work mechanically, whether they work from a narrative perspective (i.e. the verisimulitude), and whether they just feel ‘right’.

Bonus Poll for Druids

Okay – finally. I don’t think all the rules for Wildshape work very well. Namely, the one about druids being able to change form as often as they like with an increasing chance of being stuck in that form forever. Here is the full text of those house rules: 

Although the druid can Wildshape at-will, his level governs the number of times he can safely attempt the change. The druid may wildshape safely 1/day at level five, 2/day at level six and gains one more safe use of wildshape at each even-numbered level to a maximum of eight safe uses at level eighteen. If the druid wildshapes beyond these safe limits then the following rules apply:

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.

At twentieth level, the druid does not need to worry about  these checks, as he is able to Wildshape safely at-will with no penalty.

I have two problems with these rules. Firstly, they diminish the awesomeness of the druid’s 20th level ability to wildshape at-will, and secondly I think this rule has only come into play twice in the last eleven years (and that’s with a druid in practically every party). So I would propose to make a change thusly:

The number of times per day the druid can wildshape is definied in his class description: 1/day at level five, 2/day at level six and one further use per day at each even-numbered level thereafter to a maximum of eight safe uses at level eighteen. If needs be the druid can wildshape once more than this limit suggests – however if he does so, he is automatically stuck in his new form until after he takes an extended rest.

You know the drill by now:

I would also be interested to hear any thoughts about limiting the amount of time druids can spend in their wildshaped forms (as per the rules) as opposed to being able to remain in animal form indefinitely.

And there we have it. Long post – but stuff I’ve been ruminating on. Now let the comments commence:

Pathfinder House Rules

Hello all. It’s been a while since my last post. During that time, I’ve been concentrating on getting the new rules in run-fit shape, as well as doing an untold amount of slightly more annoying things. For those of you following my exciting adventures in roleplaying from a distance, it’s time to get you all up to date:

The Iourn campaign has moved from third edition D&D (version 3.5) into Pathfinder. My weekly, and my twice-yearly campaign, are now using these rules. Both are at entirely different ends of the player-power spectrum so it’ll be interesting to compare how successful they are mechanically. Because I am an inveterate fiddler (when it comes to rules, at least) the campaigns also make use of a medley of house rules – many of which have already been discussed on this site.

I’m now posting the latest versions of all these rules to the blog for wider edification and comment. I doubt I’ll add any further PDF updates here, as I’m trying my best to get them into a format a can upload to the new Iourn.com. I’m hoping to have that site ready before next Spring. I can dream.

However, I do have some rule-related matters that I intend to discuss on the blog in the fairly near future. I’m also working on an updated version of the Swashbuckler class for Pathfinder that I’d like to run past everyone.

The New Rules

Below are links that will take you to PDF copies of my house rules. Please use the comments below to leave your thoughts if you feel so inclined.

Rules Miscellany

Character Classes

Magic

Spells

Feats

Cleric Domains (Excel)

Cleric Domain Power

 

 

Wildshape

Now, I had originally intended to include my revised rules for Wildshape in the pending document on Magic. All of the magic-using classes are getting some small revision, and I certainly have something to say about the druid in that document. However, this is such a complex and potentially contentious issue that I thought it would be lost in a wider discussion of the magic system. So here it is:

Wildshape 101

On Iourn, the druid’s Wildshape ability has never followed the rules laid down in the third edition rulebooks. I’ve largely allowed druids to transform as often as they want and for long as they want. By-and-large I don’t think that this has caused too many problems. Certainly our local druid (Arvan) has taken to wandering around the wilderness as a club-wielding dire ape in case he gets mugged, but that’s not the form he decides to take while visiting dignitaries or having half a shandy at the local inn.

In our current house rules, the number of times per day that the druid can Wildshape is actually the number of times per day that the druid can safely wildshape. They can change form as often as they like, but once they change more in each day than their level normally allows they have to make a Will saving throw. Failure means they are stuck in that form for the following morning. If they succeed then they are fine… until they Wildshape again. That prompts another Will save (this one slightly more difficult) and so on.

The full rules are over at the old Iourn site. Please go over and take a look.

What I like about these rules is that they fit in well with my understanding of druids. Wildshaping is like a drug to a druid. Their senses are completely overwhelmed by the experience. Once they’ve wildshaped, they want to do it again, and again and again. There are stories of druids who turn into an animal and never come back.

I also find the restriction of wildshaping ‘x’ number of times per day drains a little of the flavour of the druid. I want the PCs to arrive at an isolated inn after miles of trudging through boggy, rain-soaked moorland and the druid character to be able to turn into a cat and settle down in front of the fire for a nap. And I want the player to have the freedom to do that without thinking he’s ‘wasted’ one use of his wildshapes for the day.

Ironically, fourth edition captures the flavour of the ability far better than third. Wildshape is an at-will power for a fourth edition druid. However, in fourth edition the ability of a druid to take on the other qualities of the creatures he becomes is described only in the abstract. The third edition rules are much stronger in that regard. If the druid turns into a rat then I want him to at least have the powers of a normal rat, not simply a druid in rat-form who can do something vaguely rat-like once per encounter. I want druids to become the animal, not just look like the animal.

Of course, the third edition rules have had some major problems with Wildhape over the years. Originally the power was based on the Polymorph Self spell, which was apparently too powerful. The official errata changed things so that the power now follows the rules laid down by Alternate Form (the distinction is subtle, to say the least). Then in Player’s Handbook II (the third edition one) they offered the Shapeshift class ability instead of Wildshape. This was an abbreviated ruleset that was designed to play more quickly at the table. In hindsight, these were the fourth edition rules in proto-form. If you have Player’s Handbook II to hand turn to p39 and have a read – it’s interesting stuff.

All these changes have been designed to speed up play. It’s the same arguments that have been used to attack Polymorphing and Shapechanging in general. It takes too long for a player to work out his stats mid-combat when he changes form. I think there is some truth in this. If a druid declares that he is turning into a giant squid, and he has never turned into one before…. well, there’s more than a little maths involved.

However, the answer to this is not to castrate Wildshape, but compel players to be more prepared. If you want to play a druid, and you have the Wildshape power then make sure you have the stats for all the creatures you want to turn into. It doesn’t have to be every creature in every Monster Manual…. just the ones your druid is comfortable and familair with. And if you have that information ready at the table, then Wildshape’s a doddle. It’s no more complex that swapping to a different character sheet.

Wildshape is Polymorph (with bells on)

In Pathfinder Wildshape is based on a series of new spells that purport to make the adjudication of the ability simpler: the spells Beast Shape, Plant Shape and Elemental Body (the links take you to the Pathfinder PRD). I’m not following those rules. As far as I’m concerned, Wildshape is based on the Polymorph spell. Not the published version of the Polymorph spell, but my version. It’s appeared on the blog before, but (in true Paladium style) I’ll reprint here for your conveniece:

Polymorph

Transmutation (Polymorph)
Level: Arcane 4, Divine (Change) 4
Casting Time: 1 standard action
Range: Personal
Target: You
Duration: 1 minute/level
Saving Throw: None

This powerful spell allows the subject to take on the form of another creature. When a spellcaster gains or develops this spell then he must choose one specific kind of creature that he can transform into. Every time he casts the spell, that is the creature he becomes.

At any point after gaining this spell, the caster may attempt to add additional creatures to his polymorph repetoire. Simply seeing new creatures or knowing of their existence is not enough; the caster must research each additional creature using the same rules as an acquired spellcaster researching new spells. Once a creature has been researched it is added to the list of potential creatures that can be assumed. There is no limit to the number of different creatures that can be available through the Polymorph spell, as long as each creature follows the guidelines laid down below:

The new form may be the same type as the subject of the spell, or any of the following types: aberration, animal, dragon, fey, giant, humanoid, magical beast, monstrous humanoid, ooze, plant or vermin. The assumed form cannot have more hit dice than your hit dice or caster level (whichever is lower), to a maximum of 15 HD at fifteenth level. You cannot assume a form that is Miniscule or Colossal with the Polymorph spell, neither can you assume an incorporeal or gaseous form. You may not take the form of any creature with extra racial hit dice, class levels or with a Template.

When assuming a new form you gain some, but not all of the new form’s abilities. Equally, you lose some (but not all) of your own abilities. This addition and subtraction of your character’s abilites and statistics can be complex, and it is strongly suggested that players whose characters can cast this spell create full statistics for their characters in each of their available forms. If the player does not have such statistics immediately to hand, then the GM may rule that the spell cannot be cast at this time.

All characters have certain abilities derrived from their race, and certain abilities derrived from their class. Polymorph does not alter the abilities gained from the subject’s character class: therefore all your class abilities are available in your new form. The only exception to this rule is if your new form simply isn’t capable of performing the class ability. For example, if the assumed form cannot talk or hold a focus then it cannot cast spells. If the assumed form has no legs then the flying kick feat is useless. If the assumed form cannot wield a sword then it cannot make use of the suite of combat feats that depend upon using a sword. On the whole, these restrictions should be obvious. The GM and the player should discuss what they are each time a new form is added to the character’s polymorph repetoire.

The character’s racial abilities are significantly altered. However, Polymorph only affects a physical change to the character: it does not allow access to any of the magical or supernatural abilities associated with the new form. Neither does it affect your character’s mind or mental acuity. A summary of the changes wrought by the Polymorph spell are as follows:

Racial Features Gained:

  • Gain the new form’s Type and Subtype (if any).
  • Gain the new form’s Strength, Dexterity and Constitution scores. These changes modify your skills, attack rolls, saving throws, CMB and CMD, but not your hit points.
  • Gain the gross physical qualities of the new form: this includes the creature’s appearance, colour, number of limbs, wings and so forth. Characters can decide the form’s more specific qualities such as height, gender and hair colour as long as it is within the norm for the race.
  • Gain the mundane movement capabilities of the new form: including burrowing, climbing, walking, swimming, flying with wings. Your speed can never be more than 30 ft. (swimming or burrowing), 60 ft. (on land) or 120 ft. (flying) regardless of what is normal for a creature of this race.
  • Gain the natural weapons of the new form, and proficiency in them. However changing form doesn’t give you any extra attacks. If you assume the form of a bear you don’t automatically gain its claw/claw/bite attack routine. If you only have one attack per round, then you still only have one attack per round in the new form, but you can choose which natural weapon to attack with.
  • Gain any racial bonuses to skills.
  • Gain the Natural Armour Bonus to armour class of the new form.
  • Gain the Size of the new form. This may mean applying a size modifier to your Armour Class and attack rolls (but not to your ability scores).
  • Gain the new form’s Exceptional racial abilities.
  • Gain any bonus racial feats of the new form as long as those feats provide Exceptional advantages. Bonus feats that provide Magical (Spell-like) or Supernatural advantages at not gained.

Racial Features Retained:

  • Retain your Intelligence, Wisdom and Charisma scores.
  • Retain your own hit point total (do not modify your hit points even if your Constitution score changes as a result of the Polymorph).
  • Retain your own Magical (Spell-like) and Supernatural racial abilities.
  • Retain your own base saving throws.
  • Retain your own base attack bonus.
  • Retain the ability ability to speak, as long as the new form is able to speak intelligbly – i.e. it has a decernible language, not just the ability to make sounds.

Racial Features Lost:

  • Lose your Type and subtype (if any).
  • Lose your Strength, Dexterity and Consitution scores.
  • Lose your gross physical qualities – i.e. appearance and form.
  • Lose your mundane movement capabilities (these are replaced by the new form)
  • Lose your natural attacks (if any).
  • Lose any Exceptional racial abilities that you possess.
  • Lose any racial bonuses to skills (but don’t lose any extra skill points conferred because of your race – such as the bonus points granted to a human).
  • Lose your Natural Armour Bonus to armour class (if any)
  • Lose your Size (and any size modifiers to armour class and attacks).
  • Lose any bonus racial feats you have (human bonus feats are excluded from this proviso and not lost: it would be too complicated if they were). If the lost feat is a prerequisite for any other feats, then also lose access to those feats for the duration of the spell.

Upon casting this spell, you are effectively disguised as a member of the assumed race. If you want to disguise yourself as a specific individual, then the Polymorph spell grants a +10 bonus to the disguise check.

When the change occurs your equipment, if any, either remains worn or held by the new form (if it is capable of wearing or holding the item), or melds into the new form. Items that provide constant bonuses and do not need to be activated continue to function while melded in this way (with the excpetion of armour and shield bonuses, which cease to function). Items that require activation cannot be used while you maintain that form.

When you revert to your true form, any objects previously melded into the new form reappear in the same location on your body they previously occupied and are once again functional. Any new items you wore in the assumed form and can’t wear in your normal form fall off and land at your feet; any item that you could wear in either form or carry in a body part common to both forms at the time of reversion are still held in the same way.

Any part of the body, or piece of equipment, that is separated from the whole reverts to its true form. Should the subject die when in the assumed form, then he immediately reverts back to his true form upon death.

As I said before: the description is long but I think that it needs to be. At least all the relevent rules are together in the same place for the first time in third edition. However, although Wildshape is based on the Polymorph spell, it isn’t exactly the same as the Polymorph spell. The differences make druids better than a wizard with a polymorph spell when it comes to turning into animals. However, the wizard has the freedom to transform himself into many different weird and wonderful (and magical) creatures.

So without further ado, let’s look at the shiny new description of the druid’s Wildshape power:

Wild Shape

At fifth level, a druid gains the ability to turn herself into a Small or Medium Animal and back again. The druid can only take the form of a creature he is familiar with. For example, a druid who has never been outside a temperate forest could not become a polar bear. Wildshaping is a standard action that does not provoke an attack of opportunity. There is no limit to the amount of time a druid can remain in his animal form. Returning to his original form is also a standard action.

The size and diversity of the creature the druid can become increases as the druid gains levels. He can become Large creatures at level seven, Tiny creatures at level nine, Huge creatures at level eleven, and Diminutive creatures at level thirteen. The druid expands his repetoire to include creatures of the Vermin type at level eight, the Plant type at level eleven, and the Elemental type at level fourteen.

Although the druid can Wildshape at-will, his level governs the number of times he can safely attempt the change. The druid may wildshape safely 1/day at level five, 2/day at level six and gains one more safe use of wildshape at each even-numbered level to a maximum of eight safe uses at level eighteen. If the druid wildshapes beyond these safe limits then the following rules apply:

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.

At twentieth level, the druid does not need to worry about  these checks, as he is able to Wildshape safely at-will with no penalty.

Wildshape otherwise functions as the Polymorph spell.

The description here is a melange of my old house rules, the Pathfinder and third edition versions of Wild Shape. The house rules are slightly different in that I have opted to introduce a level check as opposed to a saving throw for the druid to regain his original form. I have done this for the same reason a level check governs a sorcerer’s spellcasting: it limits multiclassers taking advantage of the rules. Otherwise any character could take five levels in druids and then rely on a high Will save to Wildshape a number of times per day. I didn’t want that.

You will also notice that Wildshape doesn’t follow the restruction placed on Polymorph of there being a finite number of creatures available to the shapechanger. Druids don’t have a list of some animals they can change into, and some that they can’t. While I think this restriction works well for wizards and the magical shapechangers, I don’t think it really fits with the druid. I want them to have access to as broad an array of creatures as possible.

Which is why I have added Vermin into the types of creatures that druids can assume. It always seemed odd to me that druids could turn into animals, birds and fish but not insects. The restriction is entirely arbitrary and ripe for removal.

The changes to the druid progression in the Pathfinder rules is also marked. Druids gain Wildshape one level later (just as they did in third edition), but the progression of safe number of wildshapes per day remain the same. I have altered the progression of when druids gain access to different creature types, and when different sizes of creatures become available.

Pathfinder pushed forward acquisition of new sizes and forms the druid progression. For example: under Pathfinder, druids could turn into Huge elementals at level twelve, where they would have to have waited until level twenty in third edition. The House Rules take the middle road. Acquisition is later than in the standard Pathfinder rules, but nowhere near as slow as third edition.

Problems with the Druid Progression

The fact is that under the house rules, a druid gaining the ability to Wildshape at-will is not the incredible advantage as it is in Pathfinder. By 20th level most druids haven’t felt much of a limit on their wildshapes for some time. I therefore felt that there was some danger of level 12 being an obvious jumping-off point from the druid. Once they can turn into elementals, the time is ripe for players bid farewell to the druid class and multiclass into something else.

I have addressed that in several ways. Firstly, is the level-check mechanic for continuing to wildshape. Without levels in druid, that feature becomes less useful. Secondly, I have slowed down the acquisition of abilities so that the jumping off point is at least delayed to level 14. Thirdly, I have made sure that the druid gets interesting abilities in addition to Wildshape at levels 15, 17  and 19. That means introducing brand new abilities for the druid. You can see what they are in the forthcoming magic document.

The Warshaper

One last thing to addresss, and that is the Warshaper Class from Complete Warrior. Arvan has levels in the Warshaper, and I wanted to make a few things clear. The class is largely unchanged except for two points. Firstly, levels of Warshaper stack with levels of Druid when it comes to making your caster level check to regain your original form. A Warshaper is the consumate shapechanger, and it seems appropriate to make that change.

Second, is the description of the fifth level ability of the Warshaper (Flashmorph/Multimorph). In light of the new rules for Wildshape, changes need to be made to this ability. The new text is as follows:

Flashmorph (Su): At fifth level, a warshaper who changes shape as a supernatural ability can do so as a move action instead of a standard action. Additionally: Warshapers who transform a limited number of times per day (such as a druid) gain two additional uses of their shapechanging power. Acquired casters treat all spells of the Polymorph subschool as if they were favoured spells (q.v.). Instinctive casters gain a +5 bonus to languor checks against spells of the Polymorph subschool.

And there we have it. The new Wildshape rules for Iourn. Tell me what you think.

Skills and Languages

Every time I think I have the system cracked and ready for playtesting, something else pops up that reminds me there is still work to do. In this instance it’s the Pathfinder skill system. Now I already did a lot of work on skills for HD&D that I don’t want to go to waste. Don’t panic: I’m not making any major revisions. I’m still using all the rules for skills as they appear in the Pathfinder game – skill ranks, class skills and so on will work exactly as published. However, Iourn throws a few more skills into the mix.

The Master Skills List

Below is a list of all the skills available in the game. This list differs slightly to that published in the Pathfinder book, so please pay attention! As there are more skills on this list than in the traditional Pathfinder game, I’m also going to give all classes some extra skill points. However, we’ll get to that in a moment.

Acrobatics (Dex): The skill of dodging, tumbling and balancing – indeed, this replaces the Tumble and Balance skills from 3.5. According to the Pathfinder rules, it should also replace Jump. However, I think that Jump is based more on Strength than Dexterity, so it is folded it into the new Athletics skill instead.

Athletics (Str): New skill! Consider this skill the other side of the coin to Acrobatics. If the physical feat you are attemping is dependent on Dex then use Acrobatics. If it’s dependent on Strength, then use Athletics. Athletics covers jumping, and general feats of strength such as bending bars, wrestling and so on. You can make an Athletics roll instead of a Constitution check when running and holding your breath – so it’s jolly useful.

Alchemy (Int): Under Pathfinder the skill is listen as Craft (Alchemy). However, I think that Alchemy is important enough that it merits a skill all of its own. I’ve not done much work with alchemy in the system so far, but I’m hoping that will change before the next weekly Iourn game. Alchemy is going to be bigged up.

Autohypnosis (Wis): This skill isn’t in the third edition PHB or in the Pathfinder rules. It’s in the Expanded Psionics Handbook and represents heightened mental discipline, and using the power of the mind to overcome the physical or emotional responses of the body. It’s an underused skill, and I’m happy to keep it in the game.

Appraise (Int): Unchanged from the Pathfinder rules.

Bluff (Cha): Unchanged from the Pathfinder rules.

Climb (Str): Unchanged from the Pathfinder rules.

Control Shape (Wis): A specialist skill from the third edition Monster Manual that hasn’t made it into Pathfinder. With this skill a character afflicted with lycanthropy can attempt to control his shape. I like this skill as it fits in very much with the way that lycanthropes work on Iourn. Those exposed to lycanthropy can be taught to control the affliction. I may get around the modifying the text of this skill at some point, but it’s important to note that it exists in the world. You could also use it to resist spells such as Baleful Polymorh or the touch of a Chaos Beast.

Craft (Int): Largely unchanged, but it would be a shame to let the massive amount of work I did on Craft skills to go to waste. I’ll integrate these into the final version of the rules, although it seems unlikely that many of them will see play.

Diplomacy (Cha): The third edition Gather Information skill is folded into Diplomacy in Pathfinder. However, I don’t agree with that. Instead I have introduced the new skill Streetwise (see below).

Disable Device (Dex): In Pathfinder this skill merges the 3.5 skills Disable Device and Open Locks. This seems like a good move to me.

Disguise (Cha): Unchanged from the Pathfinder rules.

Escape Artist (Dex): Unchanted from the Pathfinder rules.

Fly (Dex): A new skill for Pathfinder. It doesn’t let you fly, but it does allow you to expertly control your movement if you can fly.

Handle Animal (Cha): Unchanged from the Pathfinder rules.

Heal (Wis): Unchanged from the Pathfinder rules, although I should mention that the Heal skill is more potent now and can actually restore hit points.

Intimidate (Cha): Unchanged from the Pathfinder rules.

Knowledge: The Iourn system removes Knowledge (Dungeoneering), Knowledge (Local) and Knowledge (The Planes) from the game. However, it adds knowledge skills in Aberrant, Ancients, Draconic, Elemental, Fey and Undead. That’s a new gain of three knowledge skills. Read on!

Knowledge [Aberrant] (Int): New skill for the Iourn game. This is the knowledge of Aberrations, as well as the environments that aberrations tend to live in. It also tells you information about the Far Realm on a high enough roll.

Knowledge [Ancients] (Int): In the Iourn setting the Ancient races are the first races that came into existence after the dragons. Angels, devils, demons, guardinals, eladrin (proper second edition eladrin), genies, rakshasha, geherleths, yugoloths and the slaad are examples of Ancients. If they were classified as an Outsider in third edition then they are probably Ancients on Iourn. This skill tells you all about those Anceints, as well as the planes on which they dwell and the Astral Plane.

Knowledge [Arcana] (Int): This is the same as Pathfinder. Knowledge of the Weave, magical traditions in general, artefact, constructs and other magical beasties.

Knowledge [Architecture & Engineering] (Int): Unchanged from the Pathfinder rules, although I might increase the utility of the skill when I finally finishe my rules on siege warfare.

Knowledge [Draconic] (Int): Knowledge of all dragon races, dragon myths and dragon believes – as well as the planes closely associated with them such as the Maw of Io.

Knowledge [Elemental] (Int): Knowledge of the elemental realms, and the creatures that dwell there. Knowledge of Elementals also gives you an understanding of the nature and the power of the Moon Gods (from a non-dogmatic perspective), as well as the role the elements play in the six humours that make up all life.

Knowledge [Fey] (Int): Knowledge of fey creatures (pixies, nixies, sprites, nymphs, elves) and their planes of existence such as the Feywild.

Knowledge [Geography] (Int): Unchanged from the Pathfinder rules.

Knowledge [History] (Int): Unchanged from the Pathfinder rules.

Knowledge [Nature] (Int): This is the knowledge of natural (Animals, Plants, Vermin) creatures and the natural environments in which they live. As there is no Dungeoneering skill in the game any more, Knowledge Nature encompasses subterranean realms as well – as long as those realms are not compeltely alien.

Knowledge [Nobility] (Int): Unchanged from the Pathfinder rules.

Knowledge [Religion] (Int): Pretty much unchange from Pathfinder except that a knowledge of religion no longer gives you any understanding of the Undead. Knowledge Religion is designed to grant an understanding of the dogma and beliefs of specific churches as well gods in general.

Knowledge [Undead] (Int): This is the skill for knowing all there is to know about the undead. It also covers lands such as the Land of the Dead and the Shadowfell.

Linguistics (Int): I’m in two minds about this, as I’m worried that it will shake the current status quo a little too much – however, we’ll give it a whirl and see how things turn out. In Pathfinder the Linguistics skill plays two roles. Firstly it is the new name for the third edition skill, Decipher Script. Secondly, it is a measure of the number of languages characters can know. In Pathfinder all characters can speak a couple of languages determined by their race and additional languages equal to their Intelligence ability modifier. They also know one additional language for every rank they have in Linguistics. I am keeping the distinction between learning spoken languages and learning written scripts that I have always used so there is definitely a great choice for PC linguists. It will be interesting to see how this works in play.

Lucid Dreaming (Wis): The ability to be aware of your own dreams, master your own dreamscape and enter the dreams of others. An uncommon ability to be sure, but a skill that has been available in the campaign for a long time, I’m not going to change it now.

Perception (Wis): A combination of third editions Spot and Listen skills. Unchanged from the Pathfinder rules.

Perform (Cha): Pathfinder returns to the version 3.0 description of Perform. It is a number of separate skills (they list act, comedy, dance, keyboard, oratory, percussion, strings, wind instruments and singing). The character has to put ranks into each one separately. This seems to be a tax on the bard, but it does make logical sense.

Profession (Wis): Unchanged from the Pathfinder rules, but as with Craft all the HD&D work on the Profession skill will not be in vain.

Ride (Dex): Unchanged from the Pathfinder rules.

Sense Motive (Wis): Unchanged from the Pathfinder rules but I might wind up taking a leaf from 4e and calling it Insight, as that’s a much cooler name.

Sleight of Hand (Dex): Unchanged from the Pathfinder rules.

Spellcraft (Int): Largely unchanged from the Pathfinder rules.

Stealth (Dex): The Move Silently and Hide skills combined into one package. And very sensible too.

Streetwise (Cha): New skill that folds together the third edition skills of Knowledge [Local] and Gather Information. This sits better with me than shoe-horning these skills into Diplomacy. There is no Urban Tracking feat as there was in third edition, but any one with this skill can attempt Urban Tracking if they wish.

Survival (Wis): As Pathfinder. It’s worth mentioning that there is no Track feat in Pathfinder. Instead everyone with this skill can use it to track. However, Rangers get a stonking bonus to tracking rolls – so Brack may be even better than Arvan under Pathfinder.

Swim (Str): Unchanged from the Pathfinder rules.

Use Magic Device (Cha): I was on the verge of dropping this skill from the game, as I can’t remember when I have ever used it. However, in the end I decided that it fills a niche that no other skill does – and there might be occassions when a rogue wants to cast a spell, or a sorcerer activate a holy relic of an alien faith.

Skill Ranks and Class Skills

There are 36 skills in standard third edition. In Pathfinder there are only 26. In my system above, there are 34 listed skills. When you consider that I have also introduced more Knowledge skills, I think you’ll agree that PCs in this system need more skill points than in traditional Pathfinder. Below are listed the skill points for each of the eleven core classes as well as any prestige classes patronised by my players. I also update the class skills for each class.

Barbarian

Class Skills: Arcobatics, Athletics, Climb, Craft, Handle Animal, Intimidate, Knowledge [Nature], Perception, Ride, Survival, Swim
Skill Ranks: 6 + Int Mod

Bard

Class Skills: Acrobatics, Appraise, Bluff, Climb, Craft, Diplomacy, Disguise, Escape Artist, Intimidate, Knowledge [all], Linguistics, Perception, Perform, Profession, Sense Motive, Sleight of Hand, Spellcraft, Stealth, Streetwise, Use Magic Device
Skill Ranks: 8 + Int Mod

Binder

Class Skills: Bluff, Craft, Diplomacy, Intimidate, Knowledge [arcana], Knowledge [history], Knowledge [religion], Knowledge [any one], Linguisitcs, Profession, Sense Motive, Streetwise
Skill Ranks: 4 + Int Mod

Chameleon

Class Skills: Athletics, Bluff, Craft, Disguise, Knowledge [any one], Profession, Sense Motive, Swim, Use Magic Device
Skill Ranks: 6 + Int Mod

Cleric

Class Skills: Appraise, Craft, Diplomacy, Heal, Knowledge [arcana], Knowledge [history], Knowledge [nobility], Knowledge [religion], Linguistics, Profession, Sense Motive, Spellcraft. Cleric gain additional class skills depending on their choice of Major Domains.
Skill Ranks: 4 + Int Mod

Druid

Class Skills: Athletics, Climb, Craft, Fly, Handle Animal, Heal, Knowledge [fey], Knowledge [georaphy], Knowledge [nature], Perception, Profession, Ride, Spellcraft, Survival, Swim
Skill Ranks: 6 + Int Mod

Fighter

Class Skills: Athletics, Climb, Craft, Handle Animal, Intimidate, Knowledge [engineering], Knowledge [choose any one], Profession, Ride, Survival, Swim
Skill Ranks: 4 + Int Mod

Glorious Servitor

Class Skills: Bluff, Craft, Diplomacy, Handle Animal, Intimidate, Knowledge [history], Knowledge [religion], Perception, Profession, Sense Motive, Streetwise, Survival
Skill Ranks: 4 + Int Mod

Monk

Class Skills: Athletics, Acrobatics, Autohypnosis, Climb, Craft, Escape Artist, Intimidate, Knowledge [history], Knowledge [religion], Perception, Perform, Profession, Ride, Sense Motive, Stealth, Swim
Skill Ranks: 6 + Int Mod

Paladin

Class Skills: Athletics, Craft, Diplomacy, Handle Animal, Heal, Knowledge [nobility], Knowledge [religion], Knowledge [undead], Profession, Ride, Sense Motive, Spellcaft
Skill Ranks: 4 + Int Mod

Pious Templar

Class Skills: Athletics, Climb, Craft, Heal, Knowledge [religion], Perception, Profession, Sense Motive, Swim
Skill Ranks: 4 + Int Mod

Ranger

Class Skills: Athletics, Climb, Craft, Handle Animal, Heal, Intimidate, Knowledge [geography], Knowledge [nature], Perception, Profession, Ride, Spellcraft, Stealth, Survival, Swim
Skill Ranks: 8 + Int Mod

Rogue

Class Skills: Athletics, Acrobatics, Appraise, Bluff, Climb, Craft, Diplomacy, Disable Device, Disguise, Escape Artist, Intimidate, Knowledge [any one], Linguistics, Perception, Perform, Profession, Sense Motive, Sleight of Hand, Stealth, Streetwise, Swim, Use Magic Device
Skill Ranks: 10 + Int Mod

Sorcerer

Class Skills: Appraise, Bluff, Disguise, Craft, Fly, Intimidate, Knowledge [arcana], Knowledge [any one], Perception, Profession, Sleight of Hand, Streetwise, Sense Motive, Spellcraft, Survival, Use Magic Device. Sorcers also gain an additional class skill depending on their Bloodline.
Skill Ranks: 6 + Int Mod

Soulknife

Class Skills: Acrobatics, Athletics, Autohypnosis, Climb, Craft, Hide, Knowledge [aberrant], Knowledge [arcana], Perception, Stealth
Skill Ranks: 6 + Int Mod

Spellsword

Class Skills: Athletics, Climb, Knowledge [all], Profession, Spellcraft
Skill Ranks: 4 + Int Mod

Swashbuckler

Class Skills: Acrobatics, Athletics, Bluff, Climb, Craft, Diplomacy, Escape Artist, Knowledge [any one], Profession, Sense Motive, Streetwise, Swim.
Skill Ranks: 6 + Int Mod

Warshaper

Class Skills: Acrobatics, Athletics, Climb, Craft, Disguise, Escape Artist, Stealth, Swim
Skill Ranks: 4 + Int Mod

Wizard

Class Skills: Appraise, Autohypnosis, Craft, Fly, Knowledge [all], Linguistics, Profession, Spellcraft
Skill Ranks: 4 + Int Mod

And that’s about that. Back to the adventure writing!

Concentration Checks

Just a quick post today. It’s something that came up as I was putting together the rules for spellcasting. The rules for Concentration have changed in the Pathfinder game. This is what they were like in third edition, and this is the newly minted Pathfinder version. In brief: the Concentration skill has been replaced by a level check.

Now, I’m not a big fan of Concentration checks and I’ve been wanting to simplify the system for some time. While I still think that you should be able to disrupt spellcasting, I don’t think the rules for Casting Defensively work particularly well. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a spellcaster fail that check, and it’s just another die roll clogging up an already crowded combat system. So here’s my alternative:

Concentration and Disrupting Spells

It simply isn’t possible for most spellcasters to cast a spell and pay attention to the battlefield around them. Casting a spell while you are within mêlée range of an opponent provokes an attack of opportunity from that opponent. If the attack of opportunity hits (and doesn’t immediately kill or bloody the target), then the spellcaster must make a special concentration check or the spell is disrupted.

The caster must roll 1d20 + caster level + relevent spellcasting ability score modifier (e.g. Intelligence for a wizards, Charisma for a bard or Wisdom for a cleric). The DC of the check is 10 + the damage dealt + the level of the spell you are trying to cast.

If the check succeeds then the spell is cast normally. If the check fails then the spell is disrupted. A disrupted spell has no effect, but it still disappears from the mind of Acquired casters, and still prompts a languor check from Instinctive casters.

Spellcasters can defend themselves against these attacks of opportunity by selecting the Combat Casting feat. Spellcasters with combat casting do not provoke attacks of opportunity when casting their spells in mêlée.

However, even characters with combat casting may still find the spells disrupted by canny opponents. Any attack that strikes and damages the spellcaster during the moment of casting prompts a concentration as above. For spells that are cast as one standard action, the attacker must actively ready an action that is contingent on the casting of the spell. However, some spells take rounds or minutes to cast. Any attack during this time, whether readied or not, calls for a concentration check.

Other distractions: Inflicting physical damage is the most common way to disrupt spellcasting, but it isn’t the only way. The spellcaster might be hit by a non-damaging spell, they might be grappled, bundled to the floor or riding a rollercoaster. In these circumstances a concentration check is called for, although the DCs for the checks differ slightly. See the table below.

Situation Concentration DC
Injured while casting 10 + damage dealt + spell level
Affected by non-damaging spell while casting DC of the attacking spell + spell level
Grappled or pinned while casting 10 + grappler’s CMB + spell level
Inclement weather (wind, rain or sleet) 5 + spell level
Extreme weather (hail, debris, blinding rain) 10 + spell level
Vigorous motion (riding in a wagon) 10 + spell level
Violent motion (on a galloping horse) 15 + spell level
Extremely violent motion (caught in an earthquake) 20 + spell level

 Maintaining Spells: The effects of some spells last for “as long as the caster maintains concentration”. What this means is that the caster is spending some of his attention on maintaining a spell effect. Spending concentration in this way is usually a free action, but this concentration can be disrupted in the same way as normal spellcasting.

And here’s the text of the Combat Casting feat:

Combat Casting [General]
Once you start casting a spell, it is very difficult to disrupt or distract you.

Prerequisites: Spellcaster
Benefit: You may cast spells without provoking attacks of opportunity from enemies in mêlée range. You also gain a +4 bonus to concentration to defend against attacks that try to disrupt your spellcasting.

Analysis

So what we’re left with is a much shorter explanation of the Concentration system – which can only be a good thing. Casting spells in melee combat becomes an either/or situation: you either don’t have combat casting and provoke attacks of opportunity, or you do have it and don’t provoke attacks of opportunity. There’s no middle ground here.

This fits in with the way that ranged weapons (such as bows) work in melee combat. If you use a bow when there’s someone within melee range of you, then you provoke an attack of opportunity. There’s no roll you can make to mitigate that, you can’t “pull bowstring defensively”. The only way you can use a bow in melee combat is by way of a special ability. The same is now true for spellcasting: you need to have the feat.

The rest of the rules are pretty much undisturbed. I can still ask for a concentration check if I think there is something afoot to distract the spellcaster, and wily fighters can still disrupt the spellcasting of powerful wizards if they are quick and patient enough.

On the whole this change feels right. The number of times as a GM that I have forgotten to ask PC spellcasters to make concentration checks, and forgotten to have my NPC spellcasters make these checks is enormous. I just can’t seem to remember the rule, and the times I do remember it the results are a foregone conclusion. If that’s how the rule for casting defensively is working in practice, then that’s a good enough reason to get rid of it. Yes?

Saving Throws and Proficiencies

Okay, I lied. I actually have a few additional posts to share with you. Today I want to consider the rules for Saving Throws, Weapon Proficiencies, Armour Proficiencies and Shield Proficiencies. These new rules are designed to make multiclassing flow a little more easily in the game. I think these changes are entirely fair. Let’s see what you think.

Saving Throws

Third edition uses the same saving throw table for all core classes and all prestige classes. I’m sure you’re very familiar with it, but let’s take a quick look for old times sake:

Level

Good Save

Poor Save

1

+2

+0

2

+3

+0

3

+3

+1

4

+4

+1

5

+4

+1

6

+5

+2

7

+5

+2

8

+6

+2

9

+6

+3

10

+7

+3

11

+7

+3

12

+8

+4

13

+8

+4

14

+9

+4

15

+9

+5

16

+10

+5

17

+10

+5

18

+11

+6

19

+11

+6

20

+12

+6

The standard third edition table gives character a +2 bump in their good saving throws at first level. Arguably, if it wasn’t for this small advantage the character wouldn’t be able to hold his own in the game world. A fighter without +2 in Fortitude at 1st level wouldn’t be the robust powerhouse of the party (in relative terms, of course).

The problem comes when a player multiclasses into lots of different classes that give him the same 1st level bump to the same saving throw. A 4th level character who has 1 level in fighter, 1 level in paladin, 1 level in cleric, 1 level in monk has a +8 base fortitude saving throw, and +2 in Reflex and Will. It’s an extreme example, but extrapolated over a number of levels you have the problem that a character can be almost certain to succeed at one saving throw, and almost certain to fail the other two.

To be honest, as long as you allow multiclassing there’s not much you can do about this except to try and put it off for as many levels as possible. And that’s what Pathfinder does. It keeps the original third edition saving throw table for the core classes, but when it comes to prestige classes it uses a completely different one:

Level

Good Save

Poor Save

1

+1

+0

2

+1

+1

3

+2

+1

4

+2

+1

5

+3

+2

6

+3

+2

7

+4

+2

8

+4

+3

9

+5

+3

10

+5

+3

It’s quite a difference isn’t it? The Poor Save for prestige classes is slightly improved, but the Good Save is significantly less… well, Good, than it used to be. You can see why they’ve done this. Pathfinder has taken out the XP penalty for monstrously multiclassed characters, so they’ve found other ways to penalise such builds. Players who take on too many prestige classes will find themselves with lower saving throws than someone who only has one class.

The trouble is that I don’t think this is a very good solution. In my experience, the main problem with multiclassing doesn’t come from a character taking on an insane number of prestige classes: it comes from taking levels in multiple core classes. And these rules do nothing to stop that. In fact by making the saving throw progression of prestige classes unattractive, they encourage more multiclassing between core classes.

Let’s look for a second at dear old Elias Raithbourne. I keep trotting him out as an example of an overclassed character – but to be fair this choice of classes perfectly reflects how Marc has played him over the years, and I have no problem at all with his choices. Anyway, Elias is currently a (deep breath!) Sorcerer 1, Fighter 2, Rogue 2, Paladin 5, Pious Templar 4, Glorious Servitor 3. He has four core classes and two prestige classes. These rules aren’t as harsh on him as Pathfinder probably intended.

So here’s my compromise. It’s a new saving throw table that is the same for Core Classes and for Prestige Classes. It walks the middle line between the original saving throw table, and the new Pathfinder one. It makes all multiclassing equal. Here it is:

Level

Good Save

Poor Save

1

+1

+0

2

+2

+0

3

+2

+1

4

+3

+1

5

+3

+1

6

+4

+2

7

+4

+2

8

+5

+2

9

+5

+3

10

+6

+3

11

+6

+3

12

+7

+4

13

+7

+4

14

+8

+4

15

+8

+5

16

+9

+5

17

+9

+5

18

+10

+6

19

+10

+6

20

+11

+6

In this table, the poor saving throw is the same as the standard third edition table. The good saving throw is slightly emasculated. From now on you only get +1 at first level instead of +2. But don’t panic, there’s slightly more to it than that.

The class you take at first level gains a special one-time bonus to its good saving throws. For example if Fighter is the class you take at first level, then you gain a special +1 bonus to your Fortitude saving throw. Anyone multiclassing into Fighter after first level doesn’t get that bonus. This preserves the necessary +2 bump to good saving throws at 1st level, but prevents anyone from getting that bump later on by multiclassing.

The rules should be obvious, but here are the bonuses that each of the eleven core classes (and the warlock, because I likes warlocks) get at 1st level:

Barbarian: +1 Fortitude
Bard: +1 Reflex, +1 Will
Cleric: +1 Fortitude, +1 Will
Druid: +1 Fortitude, +1 Will
Fighter: +1 Fortitude
Monk: +1 Fortitude, +1 Reflex, +1 Will
Paladin: +1 Fortitude, +1 Will
Ranger: +1 Fortitude, +1 Reflex
Rogue: +1 Reflex
Sorcerer: +1 Will
Warlock: +1 Will
Wizard: +1 Will

Characters who used the Version 3.0 rules for apprentice characters (and therefore have two classes at first level) must choose which of those two characters get the saving throw bonus. They can’t have both.

So how do these changes affect Elias – who has become the benchmark of all multiclassing in the game. Well, in terms of his base saving throws (not allowing for ability scores, inherent bonuses or magic items) this is how Elias works out in each of these three systems:

  • D&D Version 3.5: Fortitude +12, Reflex +6, Will +10
  • Pathfinder: Fortitude +11, Reflex +6, Will +10
  • New Rules: Either Fortitude +10, Reflex +5, Will +9 or Fortitude +9, Reflex +5, Will +10 (depending on how Marc assigns saving throw bonuses as an apprentice character)

In some respects, this isn’t a fair comparisson. Pathfinder makes Will a good saving throw for a paladin (which is something that third edition didn’t do). If that wasn’t the case then Elias’s Will save would have dropped to +7 in Pathfinder, and +6/+7 under the new rules.

Anyway – the results here are clear. The saves in Pathfinder are slightly worse than in 3.5, and my proposed amendments lower Elias’s saves still further. The question we face is whether this is a fair change or not. Personally, I believe it is. Compare Elias’s saving throws with a straight 16th level paladin (which is the nearest pure class to Elias’s multi-faceted nature). A single class paladin under Pathfinder would have saving throws of Fortitude +10, Reflex +5, Will +10. Stonkingly similar to the saving throws that years of multiclassing have given Elias.

But I don’t want Marc to feel as though I’m picking on Elias (I do enough of that in game). Let’s compare the old, new and would-be base saving throws of all the members of the Chosen of Narramac (and their hangers on) and see what happens. I have to say that I owe Marc an apology, Elias isn’t the character I should have been holding up as an example of over-twinkedness: it’s Syrah.

Arvan Walker-in-Shadows (Druid 11/Warshaper 4)

  • D&D Version 3.5: Fortitude +11, Reflex +4, Will +8
  • Pathfinder: Fortitude +9 Reflex +4, Will +8
  • New Rules: Fortitude +10, Reflex +4, Will +8

Brack Ogrebane (Ranger 11/Fighter 3)

  • D&D Version 3.5: Fortitude +10, Reflex +8, Will +4
  • Pathfinder: Fortitude +10 Reflex +8, Will +4
  • New Rules: Fortitude +9, Reflex +8, Will +4

Diablo Trent Cortez (Rogue 3/Wizard 3/Arcane Trickster 7)

  • D&D Version 3.5: Fortitude +4, Reflex +9, Will +9
  • Pathfinder: Fortitude +4 Reflex +8, Will +8
  • New Rules: Fortitude +4, Reflex +8, Will +7

Elias Raithbourne (Fighter 2/Sorcerer 1/Rogue 2/Paladin 5/Pious Templar 4/Glorious Servitor 3)

  • D&D Version 3.5: Fortitude +12, Reflex +6, Will +10
  • Pathfinder: Fortitude +11, Reflex +6, Will +10
  • New Rules: Either Fortitude +10, Reflex +5, Will +9 or Fortitude +9, Reflex +5, Will +10 (depending on how Marc assigns saving throw bonuses as an apprentice character)

Nicos Tannesh (Cleric 10)

  • D&D Version 3.5: Fortitude +7, Reflex +3, Will +7
  • Pathfinder: Fortitude +7 Reflex +3, Will +7
  • New Rules: Fortitude +7, Reflex +3, Will +7

Ravenna Malbraeve (Sorcerer 11/Fighter 1/Spellsword 3)

  • D&D Version 3.5: Fortitude +8, Reflex +4, Will +10
  • Pathfinder: Fortitude +7, Reflex +4, Will +9
  • New Rules: Fortitude +6, Reflex +4, Will +9

Raza de Luna (Monk 15)

  • D&D Version 3.5: Fortitude +9, Reflex +9, Will +9
  • Pathfinder: Fortitude +9 Reflex +9, Will +9
  • New Rules: Fortitude +9, Reflex +9, Will +9

Syrah Pendragon (Paladin 2/Ranger 2/Bloodhound 4/Dragon Shaman 1/ Dragon Devotee 5)

  • D&D Version 3.5: Fortitude +16, Reflex +8, Will +4
  • Pathfinder: Fortitude +13 Reflex +7, Will +8
  • New Rules: Fortitude +12, Reflex +6, Will +6

Weapon and Armour Proficiencies

Thinking along the same lines as the above (but this time with no intention of picking on Marc) I want to look at weapon, armour and shield proficiencies. For the last eight years or so I have been using the rules for Weapon Group feats from the Unearthed Arcana. I still prefer that system, and I won’t be changing it any time soon.

In third edition all characters start with a number of bonus Weapon Group feats, Armour Proficiency Feats and Shield Proficiency feats. This reflects their mastery of arms and armour when they begin the game. This is all well and good, but the rules also state that anyone multiclassing into another core class automatically gets the same weapon and armour proficiencies on top of all the weapon and armour proficiences he already has.

That’s crazy. The rules as presented in the Pathfinder rulebook mean that a 1st level wizard who multiclasses into fighter at level two actually has more weapon proficiencies than a 2nd level fighter. We can’t be having that can we?

I have two thoughts here. We can say that these bonus weapon, armour and shield proficiency feats are only available at first level. After that multiclassing gets you nothing, and you have to buy any other such feat you want with one of your finite feat slots. That’s the easiest solution, and its the way prestige classes work.

The alternative, is that characters who multiclass into a core class gain some (but not all) of the weapon, armour and shield proficiency feats that a 1st level character in that class gained. For example, a 1st level fighter gains Basic Weapons + any four other Weapon Group Feats, Armour Proficiency (Light), Armour Proficiency (Medium), Armour Proficiency (Heavy), Shield Proficiency and Tower Shield Proficiency. It’s quite a list. A character multiclassing into fighter after 1st level doesn’t gain all that, instead they gain one weapon group feat of their choice, and either one armour proficiency or one shield proficiency feat of their choice.

Here’s a summary of all the feats in tabular form:

Class Bonus feats from 1st level Bonus feats when multiclassing
Barbarian Basic Weapons + any three other Weapon Group Feats, Armour Proficiency (Light), Armour Proficiency (Medium), Shield Proficiency One Weapon Group Feat, either Armour Proficiency (Light) or Armour Proficiency (Medium)
Bard Basic Weapons + any two other Weapon Group feats, Armour Proficiency (Light), Shield Proficiency One Weapon Group Feat
Cleric Basic Weapons + any two other Weapon Group feats (one of which must include deity’s favoured weapon), Armour Proficiency (Light), Armour Proficiency (Medium), Shield Proficiency The Weapon Group Feat that includes the deity’s favoured weapon, either Armour Proficiency (Light) or Armour Proficiency (Medium)
Druid Basic Weapons + either Druid Weapons or Spears Weapon Group Feats, Armour Proficiency (Light), Armour Proficiency (Medium), Shield Proficiency Druid Weapons or Spears Weapon Group Feat, Armour Proficiency (Light) or Armour Proficiency (Medium)
Fighter Basic Weapons + any four other Weapon Group feats, Armour Proficiency (Light), Armour Proficiency (Medium), Armour Proficiency (Heavy), Shield Proficiency, Tower Shield Proficiency One Weapon Group Feat, either one Armour Proficiency Feat or one Shield Proficiency feat.
Monk Basic Weapons + any one other Weapon Group feat. None.
Paladin Basic Weapons + any three other Weapon Group Feats, Armour Proficiency (Light), Armour Proficiency (Medium), Armour Proficiency (Heavy), Shield Proficiency One Weapon Group Feat, Either one Armour Proficiency feat, or Shield Proficiency.
Ranger Basic Weapons + any three other Weapon Group Feats, Armour Proficiency (Light), Armour Proficiency (Medium), Shield Proficiency One Weapon Group Feat, Armour Proficiency (Light) or Armour Proficiency (Medium)
Rogue Basic Weapons + any two other Weapon Group Feats, Armour Proficiency (Light) One Weapon Group Feat.
Sorcerer Basic Weapons + either Spears or Crossbows Weapon Group Feats None.
Warlock Basic Weapons + one other Weapon Group Feat, Armour Proficiency (Light) None.
Wizard Either Basic Weapons or Crossbows Weapon Group Feat None.

A multiclassing character still needs to be qualify for the feats he is selecting. So a character who multiclasses into barbarian can only select Armour Proficiency (Medium) if he already has the feat Armour Proficiency (Light). If a character already has the specified feat then they don’t get any other benefit. A Fighter multiclassing into barbarian would get knowledge of an additional weapon group feat, but wouldn’t get either armour proficiency because he already has both armour proficiencies.

I hope that these rules go a little way to balancing some of the insanity of the D&D multiclassing rules. As you will remember, one of my goals in HD&D was to make multiclassing equitable. Well, these rules don’t do this. They’re a patch, not a solution. However, I think they might eliminate some of the excesses of multiclassing whether intentional or unintentional – or at least postpone them for a few levels.