Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Sorcerous Items & Psychic Weapons

All sentient beings constantly emit low levels of psionic energy (“psions”) which are absorbed by inanimate matter. In this fashion, some psychic sorcerers “read” items through the use of psychometry. The psychic residue of immensely powerful individuals may permeate objects to which they have a long or extremely emotional relationship in such a fashion as to create a psychic imprint of themselves. From this, sorcerous items are brought into existence.

The most usual method of imprinting a sorcerous item is by using an object to kill a being with an exceptional sense of self (CHA 13+). In other cases, the exceptional individual will establish such a long term and volatile relationship with the object (such as a conqueror who uses the same sword in all his battles), that his “psychic shadow” will be left on the item. In either case, it can be seen that all such items are unique; there is no such thing as a “generic” sorcerous item.

For reasons given above, the majority of sorcerous items are tools of war and this category of objects is also called “psychic weapons”. There are other examples, however. The regalia of a Sorcerer-King will become imprinted after centuries of use; these crowns, scepters, and jewels are powerful objects able to bend men’s mind with ease.

The Psychic Shadow
All sorcerous items reflect the personality of their creator. Some are but pale reflections of the former being while others are virtual copies. The strength of the psychic shadow is measured by the items CHA score. Although only beings with exceptional (13+) CHA may serve as the basis of the sorcerous item, not all sorcerous items imprint the full degree of the creator’s essence.

Item Charisma
When a sorcerous item is found, the Referee should roll 3D to determine the CHA of the item. A low CHA item will have only the barest hints of the original left, usually a vague emotion of some sort. Such an item will also have very little in the way of power. The higher CHA item’s will have progressively more coherent personalities, emotions, thoughts, goals, and powers.

Item Goals
Since sorcerous items feel themselves to be alive, they adopt goals. These may range from a yearning to kill for low CHA items to complex plots to control the world by high CHA items. The Referee may assign a goal to any sorcerous items or may roll on the following table:

[which I still need to come up with]

Ego Struggle
Because sorcerous items are the residue of strong egos, they will not simply accept being someone else’s tool. Whenever a sorcerous item is touched, an Ego Struggle occurs. The person touching the item must make a CHA Save, with the object’s CHA modifiers effecting the roll (thus, an object with CHA 18, will levy a -3 to the person’s Save).

If the Save is lost, the character suffers Domination by the item (as per the 2nd level Discipline). The dominated individual will be controlled by the item to further it’s goal—whatever that might be. Items with CHA 8- will have no articulated goal and their domination will manifest more as strange moods.

As with the 2nd level Discipline, a dominated being is entitled to a new Save whenever commanded to something which he finds repugnant. If a subsequent Save is made, the character may toss the sorcerous item aside (or keep it and fight another Ego Struggle).

If the character wins the initial Ego Struggle, it is he who dominates the item, bending it’s psychic shadow to his will. Whenever the item is forced to do something drastically opposed to it’s goal, the character must struggle again to maintain control. If the item wins this subsequent Ego Struggle, it breaks free of its owner. The owner may discard the item or attempt to dominate it again on the subsequent round.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Talislanta for FREE

Stephan Secchi, creator and owner of Talislanta (a wonderful game with a comical history of publishing difficulties) has decided to allow all Tal-products to be scanned and made freely available at

I have loved Tal since it came out in '83 (or thereabouts). It's a game that actually had a recommendation on the book by Jack Vance. Yes: that Jack Vance. It's a wonderfully exotic baroque fantasy setting that manages to avoid being so weird that you don't know what to do with it.

As much as I love it, I do not have absolutely everything ever published for it. But I might soon.

In a day where game companies try to squeeze the gamer for everything he has and then some based upon a business model of endless, useless supplements, this is just something I don't even know how to describe.

Playtest draft of "Under the Dark Sun"!

Finally, after way too long a time, I have gotten my little Dark Sun project to a point where I can post a playtest draft. Obviously incomplete, but it has enough to begin play and see how it works. The new step, dear hypothetical readers, is to actually play test it.

I have put the text of the document onto my website here and you can download a pdf copy there as well if you prefer.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Gygax on Campaign Prep

An old (ancient?) article written by Gary was just brought to my attention over at The Grognard's Lawn. It's a 1975 piece from a wargaming 'zine that offers advice on preparing to play this crazy new thing the kids are into: Dungeons & Dragons.

Three items grabbed my attention:

1. The idea that you should start your planning small and focus on immediate areas: the Dungeon, the Village, and some surrounding wilderness. Gary recommends making your wilderness map no larger in scale that 1 mile to 1 hex. He clearly addresses something that was long forgotten by too many players: the world exists to facilitate play and therefore shouldn't be detailed until play has begun.

A few years ago, you couldn't have a respectable fantasy setting that didn't begin with the Creation, the subsequent squabbles of the Gods, and then lay-out an whole friggin' planet. Criminy! Who explores an entire planet?

2. He discusses the contents of Old Castle Greyhawk before there was a D&D. That's pretty intriguing. I think we all know the kind of things to expect: it was not a realistic ecology or architectural design. Each level was it's own kind of crazy. At one time, I would have thought that was a mess. But it now seems like a Mythic Underworld.

3. Unrelated to the ostensible subject of the article, Gary discusses character creation. Here we are at the roots of the game, since he actually has to explain rolling 3d6. But what is really interesting is his discussion of how to choose a PC's Class and Race because it offers some insight into the rationale behind Demihuman Level Limits. Essentially, Gary suggests that demihumans exist to provide a character choice for those with lousy to average abilities. Those with good abilities should be human: a strong guy should be a fighter and a dexterous guy should be a thief (to be seen in yet-unpublished Supplement I: Greyhawk!). But if you have no good abilities, then the natural abilities of the demihuman can off-set that. Even so, Gary figures your character won't live too long anyway, so the level limit probably won't even come up.

I can't say I agree with this whole idea, but it is (too say it again) fascinating. And just think about the demihuman as the preserve of the hopelessly average, as opposed to the "Elves are better than everybody" thing that would happen not too long after this article was written.

In nay case, well worth taking a look.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Weapon vs. AC: Once More, With Feeling

This is, I think, post No. 3 on the subject, picking up on my last thoughts of some while ago. And I think I may have gotten somewhere. At least far enough to play-test it. This Chart is, again, for Spellcraft & Swordplay; it could be used with other iterations of Ye Auld Game but the number woudl have to massaged to move from a 2d6 dice mechanic to 1d20.

The basic idea here is I have lumped all weapons into a Weapon Class, such as Sword, Axe, Mace/Hammer, and so forth. All members of that Weapon Class have the same base number to hit the various Armour Classes (see? Weapon Class vs. Armour Class. Groovy symmetry). This is the idea that got me through the block of trying to distinguish a dagger from a short sword from a long sword from a claymore.

Here's the Matrix:

Armour Classes in this system are also reduced to five Classes:

All weapon also have a Weapon Size: Small, Medium, or Large. Medium weapons are the baseline and the size is meant to be taken liberally: a Roman gladius is a medium sword as much as a medieval braodsword.

  • Small weapons roll 2D for damage, with the lower result used. In addition, a small weapon can be used in the off-hand to parry. This grants a -1 Defense to incoming melee attacks, but no Defense to missile attacks. However, anytime such a character scores a critical hit (12+), he automatically gets a second hit in with the other weapon rolling 2D damage for damage, with the higher result used.
  • Large weapons roll 2D damage for damage, with the higher result used. They are unwieldy and impose a -1 to the Combat Roll. A character using a Large weapon cannot also use a shield.

And that's it. I like the look of it right now. Oh, I could keep fiddling with it. I could keep fiddling with it for the rest of my life, probably. But I think it's good enough to "test-drive".

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Dark Sun: Deciphering Artifacts

I used to love those Rube Goldberg flow-charts for understanding technological artifacts as presented in Expedition to the Barrier Peaks and 1-2 ed Gamma World. I want something of that flavour for deciphering the weird remnants of the pre-Burn civilizations of Athas. I actually considered drawing up my own charts, but that seemed to be taking things a bit too far. Here's my first draft for Artifacts. If my hypothetical readers find it too harsh, too easy, or too pointless, let me know :

The various pre-Collapse civilizations left many relics behind. Athas is littered with the detritus of the past. One might say that these artifacts range from the mundane to the wondrous except that even something as relatively mundane as a stainless steel dagger is a wonder in a world where most weapons are made from stone and bone. Despite the frequency of finding such items, very few know how to use any whose purpose is not obvious (such as a dagger). Any attempt to decipher an artifact is potentially rewarding, but always difficult and sometimes dangerous. When a character attempts to understand an artifact, he must make an INT Save. Most artifacts have a difficulty of Very Difficult (-4) but can range much higher.

If the Save roll is
  • 15+: Artifact purpose and function is deciphered in (20-Roll) rounds.
  • 11-14: Artifact purpose and function is deciphered in (20-Roll) hours.
  • 7-10: Artifact purpose or function is deciphered, but not both. May attempt to decipher again after one day of further study with a +3 to the next roll.
  • 3-6: Artifact remains a mystery and something bad happens: a weapon discharges upon user or companion, an important piece breaks, etc. May attempt to decipher again after one week of further study.
  • 2-: Artifact forever remains a mystery and something bad happens: artifact broken, a companion is vaporized, etc.
(remember that Survivors get +2 to these rolls)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Dark Sun: 1st Level Disciplines

Ah, it's good to be back at solid work and leave the theorizing for awhile. Here's is the proposed list and description of the 1st Level Disciplines for Psychic Sorcery in Dark Sun. I'd love to get some feedback on them: whether they seem appropriate to the level; whether I've left out something obvious; whether they feel right for the setting. As I mentioned long ago, I started with the Disciplines from Eldritch Wizardry, came up with a rough ranking from level 1 to level 6, and then began adding, subtracting, and modifying as I saw fit. Anyway, here's the list:

Level One
1. After Images
2. Body Equilibrium
3. Detect Psions
4. Empathy
5. Hypnosis
6. Mind over Body
7. Psychic Obfuscation
8. Psychometry
9. Psychokinetic Push
10. Sensory Enhancement
11. Sensual Obscurement

Discipline Descriptions

Level One

After Images
Duration: 1 Immediate Range: Line of Sight Save: Wisdom

Allows the psychic to briefly and subtly confuse the subject’s senses. The usual effect is to create a brief flash as of an after-image, but the psychic could also make the subject think a shadow has moved at the edge of vision or hear a muffled footstep behind him and so forth. This Discipline can be used to briefly distract someone, gain the drop on them or make them turn their head. Nervous subjects might be made scared depending upon the situation.

Body Equilibrium
Duration: 1 Turn/Level Range: Self Save: N/A

This discipline allows the user to adjust the weight of his or her body to correspond with the surface upon which he or she is. Thus, the possessor can walk upon water, silt, mud or whatever. With respect to falling, the psychic cannot levitate, but can reduce falling speed so that no harm occurs.

Detect Psions
Duration: 1 Turn/Level Range: 10’/Level Save: None

Psions are the quanta of psychic energy. All psychics can detect the use of Disciplines or Modes at a range of 10’ per Level/Hit Dice. This Discipline, however, allows one to detect the presence of both passive psychic activity and psychically-powered objects as well. Range in this case is 10 feet per level.

Duration: 1 Turn/level Range: Line of Sight Save: None

This discipline allows the basic needs, drives and/or emotions generated by any unshielded sentient mind to be sensed by the possessor of the psionic power. Thus, he or she can sense thirst, hunger, fear, fatigue, pain, rage, hatred, uncertainty, curiosity, hostility, friendliness, love and like emotions. The discipline functions in a directional path determined by the direction in which the possessor is facing.

Duration: 1 Turn/Level Range: Eye-contact Save: Wisdom

This Discipline allows the psychic to implant simple suggestions upon the target by locking eyes. The suggestion may be a single-word imperative (“Halt” or “”Trip”); it may also be a simple sentence (“These aren’t the nobles you’re looking for”). The subject is allowed a WIS Save to resist. Although there is a duration listed, if the subject has no reason to be suspicious afterward, he will remain unaware that anything unusual has happened. If, however, it is called to his attention after expiration, he will immediately begin to remember the hypnosis.

Mind over Body
Duration: 2 Days/Level Range: Self Save: N/A

This discipline allows the possessor to suppress or mentally satisfy the need for water, food, rest and/or sleep. At some point, however, the possessor must spend an equal number of days of complete rest so as to restore this power. While the individual is not harmed, the discipline cannot be used again until complete rest is taken.

Psychic Obfuscation
Duration: 1 Turn/Level Range: Self Save: None

This Discipline allows the psychic to dampen his own psions rendering himself invisible to Detect Psions. However, the Obfuscation ends if the psychic actively uses his powers.

Psychokinetic Push
Duration: Instant Range: 10’/Level Save: Strength*

The first minor manifestation of telekinetic power, the Psychokinetic Push is just that: an instant shove of force. The Push has a Strength of 10 + psychic’s level for purposes of what can and can’t be moved. The Push can be directed against an opponent who gets a STR Save to resist being knocked over.

Duration: 1 Turn/Level Range: 10’/Level Save: N/A

Deaths and other highly dramatic events leave a "psychic residue" in the very earth and stones where they occur or upon objects held, which may last for centuries. The possessor of this ability can sense emotions, perhaps see momentary visions, of those who have died or suffered some powerful emotion in a place just by standing in it for a moment.

Sensory Enhancement
Duration: 1 Turn/Level Range: Self Save: N/A

This Discipline allows the psychic to enhance his own senses. The sense effectively doubles in range. Alternately, vision may be attuned to low-light (granting darkvision).

Sensual Obscurement
Duration: 1 Round/Level Range: Line of Sight Save: INT

The psychic may use this Discipline to distort one of the subject’s senses. Vision becomes blurry, sounds become indistinct, etc. A subject with obscured vision is not rendered blind, but cannot recognize faces or read writing; he also attacks at a -2. A subject with obscured hearing is not prevented from hearing someone sneak past him, but will be unable to recognize the sound for what it is.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Continuing Thought on Uniform Progression

Continuing my thoughts from the original post, I had what at first seemed a crazy idea. I was looking at my Advancement Tables, seeing how best to massage them into uniformity, and something jumped out at me: Survivors should have the best Hit Dice.

Now, I know that my loyal if imaginary readers will gasp in horror at this obscene notion. It is akin to suggesting that, in AD&D, Fighters receive d6 Hit Dice and Thieves receive d10. Ridiculous, you say.

And so said I at first. But the more I thought on it, the more it makes sense. Slayers are good at killing things. They should have the best Attacks. But killing things is not exactly the same as avoiding injury, even if they do bleed over into each other from a practical perspective. Survivors, on the other hand are good at...surviving. And that seems to mean Hit Dice.

But I'm not content to rest upon the tawdry glories of making sense. Not while there is work in the real world to avoid. So, I thought some more. During my last attempt at producing an old-school Thief class that I would want to play, a poster named Yakk tossed off some very elegant ideas based upon the idea of the Thief being slippery. Although I don't want to use those ideas as such (good though they are), they bring up the excellent point of the Thief being hard to get. There are basically two ways to play that in Spellcraft & Swordplay: either give them the ability to penalize attacks on them (in other old-school games, that would be a bonus to Armour Class, but not in S&S) or increase Hit Points.

I could see either as a workable option. I play Hit Points as encompassing a whole bunch of things other than actual wounds, including dodging and luck. The "penalty to others" option (which has no name in S&S, but which I call Defense) treads much the same area. Indeed, there are times that I think about dropping Defense entirely and making the game that much more abstract: Hit Point would represent whatever the hell you want them to represent until you run out of them at which point it really doesn't matter because you are dead. Being tougher means more Hit Points, but being harder to hit also means more Hit Points. So does being luckier.

However, let's keep Defense for now. There is one real difference between Hit Points and Defense--the latter doesn't help you at all in Saving Throw situations, while the former often can. That is, when you fall into that classic pit trap, say, Defense is useless. But since it does Hit Point damage, having better Hit Points is useful here and can be narrated as abstractly as combat if you like ("you twist out of the way, but strain yourself" or even "you twist out of the way. It's exhausting, but you aren't spitted").

As written, Warriors possess Defense and are the only class to have it. I could easily see giving some version to Survivors. But given the above consideration, I'm thinking that better Hit Dice may be the way to go.

Still not satisfied, I made up a little spreadsheet, ranking the three classes and their relative strengths in the following categories: Hit Dice, Attacks, Arms Use, Armour Use, and a catch-all for Special Abilities. Having the best of something gives a "3"; the worst gives a "0".

Now, let's grant that this is not in any sense precise. Perhaps the better Special Abilities of the Survivor are relatively more better than the Hit Dice of the Slayer (yes: more better). Fine. But I noticed something interesting nevertheless: if we switch the Hit Dice to give Survivors the best (a "3"), the numbers change like this:

The Slayer and the Survivor are much better balanced (yes: balanced).

of course, Sorcerers aren't, but then they never are really. Sorcery is probably worth a 5 or something anyway, but I'm not going to worry about that.

Thus, exhausted, but proud, I come to this firm conclusion: I might give Survivors better Hit Dice than Slayers.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Five Ways to Avoid Tracking Thousands of Experience Points

Yesterday's post got me to thinking. Offhandedly, I mentioned that uniform level progression would free me from having to account for thousands of experience points. Here's five ways to do that, off the top of my head, from simpler to simplest:

1. Give characters 1 experience "tick" for every 1 Hit Die of monster over come and 2 "ticks" for ever 100 gold pieces worth of treasure. Characters level up at 5, 10, 20, 40, etc.

2. Give characters 1 experience "tick"for every monster(s) overcome and 2 "ticks" for every treasure found. Characters level up at 5, 10, 20, 40, etc.

3. Characters level up upon completion of a number of sessions equal to the level sought. So, they get Level 2 after 2 sessions, Level 3 after three more, etc.

4. Characters level up whenever they successfully complete navigate an encounter on a new level. So, venturing from the 1st dungeon level to the next, if they don't get eaten by the first monster, they level up.

5. Characters level up whenever the gosh-darned Referee thinks that they should.

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Heresy of Uniform Progression Tables?

I am seriously considering making uniform progression tables for this Dark Sun project. Despite their heretical status, I don't disagree with the theory behind them. Past implementation? Not so good. But the theory is sound. The fact is that saying some classes are weaker than others so they advance faster has never sounded totally kosher to me. Because the weaker class needs less experience, they advance faster and so become relatively stronger, which kind of washes out and makes it complicated to know how strong a character is. I'm not saying it's a horrible idea or the game is broken or anything melodramatic like that. But maybe changing it isn't the worst thing ever either.

Uniform progression has some real advantages. First, it's dead-easy to know how strong a character--any character--is. It also removes the need to really scrutinize XP awards. Indeed, you could just let characters gain a level when you think they have earned it. I kind of hate tracking XP myself. The trick, of course, is in having classes that this works for. Can it be done in D&D? I honestly don't know.

But the more I look at the classes for Under the Dark Sun, the more it looks right for them. Sorcerers don't have nearly the power-jumps of Magic-Users: there are no Fireballs for one thing and anyone can have psychic sorcery for another. Conversely, they can use weapons and armour. Sure, Slayers kick the most arse, but Survivors aren't much weaker in combat or Hit Dice and have some actually useful abilities, the best physical saves, and the best chance to work out ancient artifacts. Heck, I'd actually play a Survivor and I have always hated playing Thieves in D&D.

As I looked at the Spellcraft & Sorcery tables for this, I keep fiddling and fiddling and the charts are looking more and more alike. All of this leads me to consider become a heretic.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Dark Sun: Races (Take 2)

The section of the original post regarding races was very off-the-cuff. I've worked on this some more in the interim. In general, I've tried to keep the spirit of both the Athasian races and the OD&D mechanical approach to races (that is, not too much); one of the things I disliked about AD&D was the huge list of advantages and things that Elves got. Enough already! Anyway, here's the current stab:

There are five races: True Men, Muls, Desert Men (replacing Elves), Wild Men (replacing Halflings), and Thri-Kreen.

Muls are artificially-bred hybrids. They may only be members of the Slayer class and can never possess sorcery. They receive a bonus of +2 to STR and CON Checks (as opposed to +1), but also suffer a penalty of -1 to WILL and CHA Checks.

Desert Men have evolved to accommodate life in the deserts. Tall and thin to radiate heat. They may take any class.

Desert Men have the following special abilities, for which they receive a -5% experience penalty:
  • +1 to DEX Checks and -1 STR Checks in addition to any class-based bonuses.
  • May perform shot on the run with the bow.
  • Move twice as quickly as True Men when unencumbered.. They have a base move of 120’ per round. This is reduced to 60’ in armour up to Chain and to a normal 30’ in Plate.

Wild Men are either evolved or mutates. They may take either the Slayer or Survivor class. They suffer a -5% penalty on earned XP.

Wild Men have the following special abilities, for which they receive a -5% experience penalty:
  • +1 to WIS Checks and -1 to INT Checks in addition to any class-based modifiers.
  • May perform shot on the run with slings or spears
  • Camouflage themselves in the wilderness, becoming effectively invisible unless they make more than a half move or attack.
Thri-Keen (Mantis Men) are a race of humanoid mantids. They may take any class. They are cold and emotionless from a human perspective—fierce hunters and warriors, they live for nothing so much as to continue living. They do not understand humour or religion and have no sentimentality—they eat their own dead as convenient.

They are not “hive minded” as sometimes thought by humans. They have as much individuality as any True Man. That said, they generally find communal life more conducive to survival and thus typically live in large “hordes”, herding __ and battling any whom they encounter. Also, they do have a concept of loyalty as “enlightened self-interest”. It has been observed that lone Thri-Kreen will sometimes form “horde –bond” with humans if they spend much time with them.

Mantis Men have the following special abilities, for which they receive a -15% experience penalty:
  • Nearly 360 degree vision, giving them +2 to any Checks against surprise where vision would help (their hearing and smell are human-normal).
  • They have four arms, allowing them to make one extra attack per turn.
  • Their bodies are covered in a chitinous exoskeleton, giving them a natural Armour Class of 5. Wearing other armour has no effect other than potentially slowing them down.
  • Suffer a -4 penalty to CHA for purposes of reactions from humans, including number of hirelings. This penalty does not apply to other Thri-Kreen nor does it impact CHA Saves.
  • Mantis Men can jump prodigiously. They may leap 15’ straight up or 30’ laterally. They often literally jump into combat. Doing so earns them a +2 to hit for that round, but their opponents all receive +2 to hit them in return
A variety of mutants exist. In general, they are not for PC-use.

I think this is fairly successful, although Thri-Kreen still seem a bit too mechanically involved for me. I may remove the jumping thing, although I do like it. It doesn't have too much to do with actual mantises (who fly), but it is a direct crib from Lin Carter's Yathoon of Callisto, which gives it a warm place in my heart. I also tried to differentiate the Desert Men and Wild Men a bit more in terms of abilities.

Spellcraft & Swordplay Spell Saves

Just something I thought of looking at today.

Rather interesting results. I know that Jason basically used the save types from Castles & Crusades, but I'd like to make a little sense out of this.

Well, WIS is obviously the most useful attribute in this area, applying twice of much as the next most useful attribute (CON). And it largely makes sense to me when thinking of WIS as encompassing willpower. I think Faerie Fire doesn't get a save; it's essentially a targeted Light spell, so I could see giving it a DEX Save, but it's effect's are so minor that I think I wouldn't bother. Phantasmal Killer is an illusion and that should go in the INT column. That's the easy ones. The two problem areas are Polymorph and the various Enchantments. Polymorph I can sort of see if I squint a bit: using willpower to keep one's form. But I think CHA might be more obvious here if you understand CHA as encompassing self-image.

The issue of Enchantments is harder because saves of this type are spread out between WIS and CHA. Frankly, either makes sense to me, but I think we need a but more uniformity here. Charm (Person), for example, uses a CHA Save, but Charm Monster uses WIS. Fear uses CHA, but Sleep uses WIS, even though both would seem to be the same sort of magical influence.

Indeed, CHA is the weird one here, rightly reflecting it's troubled history of identity (that is: what the hell does CHA measure anyway?). It shows up relatively frequently (one of the top 3), but the spells it helps against are rather a mixed bag: some enchantments (as discussed above), but also Disintegration, Finger of Death, and (most confusingly) Telekinesis.

I think we can ditch TK right off the bat: that ought to be a STR Save (which is nice because STR only has one Save as it is and that's kind of a weird one). I'm unsure on Disintegrate: I think that should probably be a CON Save if it works materially, but stay a CHA Save if it's work be destroying an object's essential self. I'll leave it as CHA for now.

The only way I can approach CHA Saves is, as I said above, to approach CHA is measuring the strength of one's self-image. In that case, we can (try anyway) to make distinctions between spells that work against one's conscious mind, which could use WIS as a save, and those that affect the unconscious self , which could use CHA. Let's see how that goes:

  • Sleep and Hold would stay as WIS Saves. They are on the order of hypnosis.
  • Confusion is harder, but I think I'd call that for WIS as written.
  • I see Fear as going down to the subconscious, so it stays in the CHA list.
  • Similarly, Magic Jar deals with identity, so it stays CHA.
Well, those were easy. Here are the harder ones:
  • The two Charm spells could go either way. One could view them as a hypnosis or as changing the underlying sense of the target's idea of who is a friend. All things being equal, I think I might call them for CHA just to balance out the lists a little.
  • Finger of Death is a toughie. I honestly don't know how that spell works except that it is a curse. I think we can distinguish it from Slay Living, which materially attacks the target, by saying that this spell is a cosmic punishment from the Gods (or whatever). Let's say, then, that it is like Disintegrate and attacks a person's identity, not think about it too much, and move on.
That leaves a couple of spells without saves that probably ought to have them:
  • Curse would be like Finger of Death, and goes into the CHA column.
  • Geas goes into the WIS column.
  • Bane is like Cause Fear so it gets a CHA Save.
  • Death Knell is suppose to have a Save, but ti isn't listed. I'm thinking CHA as it drains a person's essence.
  • Unholy Blight seems analogous to Cloudkill to me, so it goes to CON.
  • I'm unsure of Circle of Death. CON would be the choice, but I think maybe I would say that only creatures of HD/Level equal to or greater than caster get a Save. Why? I don't know; it just sounds right to me.
As a first stab then, our new list would look like this:

STR Saves (2) - Chill Ray, Telekinesis
INT Saves (4) - Illusions, Feeblemind
WIS Saves (11) - Sleep, ESP, Hold, Confusion, Geas, Abjuration spells, Blasphemy
DEX Saves (5) - Dodging
CON Saves (9) - Slow, Cloudkill, Circle of Death, Blights, Phantasmal Killer, Slay Living, Blind/Deaf
CHA Saves (10) - Charms, Fear, Polymorph, Magic Jar, Disintegrate, Curses (Bane, Finger, of Death, Curse), Death Knell.

I like that. Admittedly, the CHA Save tend toward obscurer spells (3 out of 10 are optional Necromancy spells), but then the WIS Saves tend toward monster-only Abjurations ( 6 out of 11). But still, I think these very few changes give a bit more cohesiveness to the thing.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Some Ideas on the Weapon vs. AC Chart

Ignoring my previous post, I thought I would show where I am in fiddling with the Weapon vs. AC Chart after my analysis of the iterations. I've been playing at it and have this as the leading contender so far:

I've been doing this partly through feel and partly through analysis and I'm only partly happy with it. Another idea I had was to lump types of weapons (axes, swords, etc.) as all having the same number and then applying +/-1 based on size. In that table below, the TN listed is for medium, one-headed versions of the weapon with modifiers below:

Finally, I thought more about how King Arthur Pendragon does this thing and started some ideas along these lines: Anyway, that's where I am right now.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Well, I got a bit sand-bagged at work (that is, in the real world) last week. The largest hotel transaction in Maui's history went down in flames and I was asked to review the history of the thing and figure out what the fore-closers could do with it. Interesting, actually. But featuring very few Mantis Men (something about Department of Health regulations I think).

Looking back at my last post, that darned Wheel of Dismemberment is still giving me trouble. I think I'm going to take up psychic powers again. Over at the wonderful Blood of Procopius, Father Dave is beginning to explore the same Weapon vs. AC issues I have and I'm hoping his thoughts may help me out with that one.

If I can get some psychic powers worked out enough for 1st level and and a combat matrix that's acceptable, then I can get on with some play-testing at long last.