Tuesday, March 19, 2013

On Classes: Creating Concepts

One of the interesting new ideas that came out of 4e (at least before we saw 4e), was the idea of power sources.  This had existed in some form in previous editions, but 4e codified them: Martial, Arcane, Divine, Primal, etc., etc.

Someone (sorry, it's been years) had the idea of intersecting power sources to get classes.  This was before the actual advent of 4e, so we had just rumors to go on as to the actual sources and how they would work.  I played around with the idea, eventually developing an Excel file to help me keep track of everything.

The initial group of sources was Arcane, Cunning, Devotion, Influence, Martial, Mundane, Nature, and Urban.  Laid out on a grid, the intersection of two sources was a class.
Arcane + Arcane = Wizard.
Arcane + Cunning = Illusionist.
Arcane + Devotion = Theurge.
Arcane + Influence = Magus.
Arcane + Martial = Spellsword
Arcane + Mundane = Dabbler
Arcane + Nature = Greenbond
Arcane + Urban = Magician

I've found this a useful tool for generating and evaluating class concepts.  Not every class maps perfectly into this, and some are downright esoteric and weird, but the benefits outweigh the drawbacks.

OSR games typically don't have that number of sources, but it's interesting to map what they do have.  Personal interpretation plays a role, but this was my result:

Races can be mapped as a generic "Racial" concept.  Adding a Nature source would make space for the Ranger (Martial/Nature), Druid (Divine/Nature), and Gnome (Nature/Racial).  You can also insert the races straight into the generic sources above (Arcane/Martial=Elf, for instance), but there is overlap (Halflings & Assassins, Dwarfs & Fighters).  This table adds Racial, Nature, and an alternate Racial that includes Half-Orcs:

Obviously, the addition of new sources increases the diversity.  Power sources can be generic, as above, or campaign-specific. Cross the generic sources with "Indian", "Egyptian", or "Norse", and you've got cultural classes that cover the traditional D&D class roles.  Sources can also be more specific; my second set of sources is Artifacts, Bargaining, Feudal, Ki, Law, Lore, Primal, and Stealth. Cross these with the first set, and you get this:
Not every cross creates a great class, or even a basic concept.  What is the result of Bargaining (for magical power) and Mundane?  Or Bargaining and Cunning?  I think it's something like Coyote, or Prometheus - someone that tricks the supernatural creatures into giving away power, but the concept hasn't gelled for me yet.

My tertiary source list has gotten even more experimental.  To be honest, it's mostly blank space. Chaos, Genie, Light, Order, Runic, Psychic, Shadow, and Technological don't always play well, or at least easily (actually, Technological does - definitely a fertile concept).
Here are the Feudal and Technological sources and all their classes:

I worked this idea into my Random Fantasy Class Generator on Abulafia as Class Themes (other people have made additions, so it doesn't match up exactly).

Monday, March 18, 2013

Variant Sorcerer

Soooo...apparently my previous post inspired John Payne, over at Sycarion Diversions, to write up a whole new variant sorcerer, which I think is awesome because a) he has a cool idea and implements it well, with clean, distinctive mechanics that can work with different kinds of backstory, b) he does a bunch of mathematical  legwork that I would never think of, let alone actually do, and c) I'm flattered to have inspired someone to do something this cool.


Friday, March 15, 2013

Channel Divine powers

A few additional or replacement Turn Undead abilities.  All use the standard Turn Undead table, with the addition of a "Bonus" column which gives a +1 per two levels (+1, +1, +2, +2, etc., etc., to a max. of +7 at 13 HD).  I'm pleased about using the Turn Undead table; it's a mechanic unique to clerics.  I intend to add more powers that take advantage of HD as well as T and D results.

Channel Divine Might powers:
To use a channeling power, roll 2d10 and consult the chart below.
Aegis: You gain the listed bonus as a bonus to your armor class and saving throws for a number of rounds equal to one plus your Wisdom bonus.
Command: You issue a one-word command that 2d6 creatures of the listed Hit Dice or less who can understand you are compelled to carry out for a number of rounds equal to one plus your Wisdom bonus.  The command fails if it would obviously cause harm to the creatures.  If the result would be T, the command lasts for an additional turn, and if the result would be D, the command lasts for an additional hour.
Divine Sight: You can see invisible creatures for one turn. You can grant divine sight to a number of allies equal to the listed bonus -1.
Favor: All of your allies within 10 feet gain a bonus to their saves equal to the listed bonus for one round.
Healing Grace: All of your allies within 10 feet regain hit points equal to the listed bonus.  You can voluntarily heal less damage to extend the radius by 10 feet per point less.
Healing Touch: You cure 1d4 plus the listed bonus worth of hit point damage in one creature you touch.
Miracle: You regain the use of a spell you’ve already cast today.  The maximum level is equal to the listed bonus.
Sacred Might: You can expend two uses of your channel divine might ability instead of one, and roll 3d10 instead of 2d10, taking the two highest results.
Smite: You add the listed bonus to your next attack and damage rolls.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Illusionist Spell - Phantasmagoria

Because the old spell was, frankly, kinda dull.  I'm sorry if it was a favorite of yours. I can't even figure out what it was even supposed to make you do, except fall down, thrash around, and maybe barf, which is fine, but not for a 6th-level spell.  This version actually does something.


Level: Illusionist 6
Range: A 60-foot radius around you.
Duration: 1 turn
You summon a host of terrifying spectral images, which pursue anyone you choose within range for the duration of the spell.  Targets must make a successful saving throw or take 3d6 points of damage and be affected as per a fear spell, fleeing in terror and with a 60% chance to drop anything they are holding.  A creature that successfully saves is ignored by the images, which race madly around area of the spell, screaming, cackling, shouting, laughing, and otherwise inducing terror and chaos.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

On Spells: Spell Schools

I took my computer to a comfy place without internet the other day, and got almost 6 straight hours of work done on revising spells from 3e into S&W format.  It was nice.  I'm not done, but it's a lot closer.  Unfortunately, I can't do that too often.

On the downside, my brain is still a bit fried, so I'm going to throw this post out there and not worry about whether it comes to a logical conclusion or not.  Just some ideas from years ago.

If you want to see me froth and foam, tell me how logical and well-balanced spell schools are in D&D.  This was fairly irrelevant in 1st Edition AD&D, but with the advent of specialists in 2E, school mattered.  The problem in part was a lack of consistency between schools about cause and effect.  An evocation "creates" energy, but an illusion "creates" an image, which may or may not have a material effect.  Unless it's a shadow illusion, in which case it "brings" shadow energy, which would normally make it a conjuration.  Abjurations do whatever they want, as long as it keeps things away.

Back when I was hacking on 3e, I tried two different ways of taming spells & their schools: descriptors and sub-schools. The descriptors option wasn't bad, but I really sort of like the sub-schools, in part because the foundation was already laid in illusions, conjurations and haphazardly in a few other schools.  I'm not sure why it wasn't ever extended to the rest of the schools: sacred cow or historical ennui, I suppose.

So, here's a breakdown of 3e spell schools and sub-schools.

Abjuration: Barrier, Condemnation (ie banishment), Negation, Protection (a person or creature, usually mobile), Warding (an item or location, usually static)
Conjuration: Calling, Creation, Healing, Summoning, Teleportation
Divination: Awareness (detect something), Lore (know something), Precognition (foretell something), Psychic (read your mind, which could also be enchantment), Scrying (see something)
Enchantment: Charm (make them want it), Compulsion (make them do it), Morale (make them feel good about it).
Evocation: Elemental, Energy, Force, Positive Energy, Negative Energy.
Illusion: Figment, Glamer, Pattern, Phantasm, Shadow
Necromancy: Curses (could move to Enchantment as well), Death, Flesh, Life, Spirit, Undeath
Transmutation: Alchemical (non-living target), Enhancement (buff), Manipulation, Transformation (living target)

This has been on my mind while I've been working through spells for illusionists and variant illusionists.  I won't put schools or subschools in the spell descriptions (has no meaning in S&W), but I will list them in an appendix.  The biggest change will be adding a Radiant subschool to Illusion, which absorbs the prismatic, chromatic, iridescent, and color spells (and maybe the patterns).  I like illusionists as masters of light as well as shadow.

Schools also seemed like an unexplored area for customization.  With a few exceptions (elemental schools, wild magic, and chronomancy), the idea of new schools was never developed.  Why shouldn't there be a School of Elven Magic?  Enjoy.

0 - arcane mark, detect magic, light
1 - arrow mind1, charm person, dawnburst3, dispel ward1, endure elements, entice gift1, ghost touch armor1, guided shot1, guiding light1, lesser deflect2, light of Lunia1, mage armor, magic weapon, spontaneous search1, surefooted stride1
2 - deflect2, eagle's splendor, protection from arrows, see invisibility, stay the hand2, sure strike2
3 - arcane sight, crown of clarity2, crown of protection2, daylight, dispel magic, ghost lantern3, glowing orb1, greater mage armor1, greater magic weapon, heroism, light of Venya1, mask of the ideal3, spellcaster's bane3
4 - charm monster, detect scrying, lesser geas, Melf's slumber arrows3, spell enhancer1
5 - break enchantment, dominate person, dragonsight1, lucent lance1, Mordenkainen's faithful hound, radiance2, sending
 6 - brilliant blade1, geas, greater dispel magic, greater heroism, Tenser's transformation, true seeing
7 - greater arcane sight, spell turning, synostodweomer1
8 - mass charm monster, mind blank, protection from spells, sunburst
9 - genius loci3, Mordenkainen's disjunction, unbinding1

1 Spell Compendium
2 Player’s Handbook 2
3 Complete Mage