Sunday, December 26, 2010

D&D But Not - Part 2 my last post I realize its much more 'stream of consciousness' style than I had intended. I was really hoping to have my ideas better organized, though I admit thats been fairly difficult of late. The holiday season combined with various real-life pressures has me a bit overwhelmed. No matter. The road goes ever on or so I've heard...

Additional Notes on Character Creation in D&D-For-those-who-don't-like-D&D

My D&D games are designed on the idea that there are different tiers of play for different types of adventures and campaigns. The tiers are, from most like classic D&D to least, Common Folk, Gifted Folk, Special Folk and Super Folk. Part of the reason for this tier system is to create alternate atmospheres for running my game. I can run a bunch of peasants fighting a single giant ant like its a big deal or a medieval Justice League can try to stop the Arch-Lich Viscousitris from turning the sky into pain with the same system.

Common Folk are your everyday people. They are farmers, merchants, the barkeep's daughter, the blacksmith's son and your average OD&D character. These people get into adventures largely by accident or as the result of a poor understanding of the nature of the world. In my universe these are the bones you see on the ground when you enter a dungeon and wonder if anyone tried to obtain the Golden Wand of Gand Galaran before you. This is the Dark Ages equivalent of a Red Shirt. They begin the game with one Minor Talent if they are a PC and likely not even that if they are an NPC face in the crowd. Ability scores are rolled on 3D6, you take what you get. You can put them anywhere you want since it really won't matter. (turns away and bites knuckle, gripped in sorrow).

Gifted Folk have a knack, a strong will or just got lucky. It resulted in them not sucking as bad as the average person. Perhaps they a part of a prophecy they can't imagine revolves around them or they refuse to die until they get vengence for their father while making no specific deal with fate about getting maimed or badly beat up in the process. These characters begin with one Medium Talent. They roll 3D6, rerolling 1's for their ability scores.

Special Folk are something...well...special. Perhaps they amuse or fascinate the gods or are destined for greatness. A great and/or terrible event happened when they were born or they were by a hidden order of Knights. These guys and gals are something else. They begin with one Minor and one Major Talent. Ability scores are rolled with 4D6, drop the lowest. I am currently running a Tier 3 campaign revolving around a Ranger/Shaman who hunts monsters for their material components (although that's a simplification of what's going on in the story).

Super Folk are basically Superheroes. They are strange Knights and Wizards with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal peasants. Some are the last members of a lost Elf tribe, the children of Demi-Gods or just warriors so focused they have driven themselves to the peak of physical and mental ability. The get the full on Talent set of one Minor, one Medium and one Major. They roll there stats with 4D6, rerolling 1's. The majority of my campaigns have featured this tier.

One option my players have had a lot of fun with is trading in Talents for items or things like a mount or a companion.

One of the things that makes my D&D games different seems to be environment. I am a huge fan of interesting environments. One of the reasons I prefer running Sci-Fi over Fantasy is that the nature of the time period reflected in most medieval fantasy is one where travel is extremely difficult. Going anywhere takes a long time, is frought with peril and is often expensive in terms of supplies. This means that if you start your campaign in a region similar to Germany's Black Forest, well, I really hope you like trees. Your going to be seeing a lot of trees. For a while. If there is a dungeon near by you will likely go there often. Get used to it.

This bores me as a player and a GM. I want to see/imagine breathtaking vistas of majestic cities. I want to freeze in the ice and snow of the Alps and blister under the deadly heat of the summers of a desert region. Show me the mile wide bottomless pit of doom this week and the mile high peak of Mount Skyreach the next.

So, one of the things a player can do is trade in a Talent for an item such as a Mount, a Boat/Ship, a Flying Carpet or any number of crazy item that will enable them to explore the world. Like everything else in the game, I play it very fast and loose with few hard rules. Let's look at a boat for example...

A Minor boat is likely a Schooner roughly 100 tons. It has 3 crew NPCs members and one weapon (a ballista).

A Medium boat is the size of a Caravel, about 200 tons. It has a crew of 5 and two weapons.

A Major boat is a Light Galleon or Frigate, around 400 tons and possessing a crew of 7. Usually this comes with four ballista or three cannons.

Now, if the player wants the crew or craft special in some way (they are normally Tier 1 or 2 regardless of what the campaign PCs are 'set' at) it may reduce their number or the size of the ship. A Schooner with enchanted sails and a Sea Elf first mate will likely take up a Medium slot.

Also note that the number of crew members isn't enough to fully run the ships. This encourages the PC who owns the ship to hire the other PCs as crew or pay for hirelings to help sail it.

In a similar way other ideas can be obtained and adjusted such as a familiar (a Minor might be a mouse with a Major being a mouse that talks and reads maps) or even a magic item (a minor is a dagger that tells you the time while a Major might be a Sword wreathed in a swirl of constantly burning leaves).

See, we don't really care about the treasure finding part of D&D so its cooler to start the game with a customized magic item if you go for that kind of thing. If you find gold or magic items along the way while adventuring its awesome. Aces for you! But its not why we play or where the adventure is about so who cares what you own. Also it gives me backstory to work with. If you tell me you obtained the Shield of Breggor's Stand in a battle years ago I can have Breggor's spirit come to judge you worthy.

OK, other things...Oh!

Alignment - All the AD&D ones but they're more loosely interpreted to some extent. Usually my players don't choose an Alignment for their characters until the third or fourth session so they can see how their particular character is gonna act. Once a personality and philosophy develop we name it. "Man this guy is definitely Chaotic Good." "Ok, yeah. I'll put it down."

Saves - 3.0 style, with Fortitude, Reflex and Will. Bonuses are best on stats, class and level but its simplified similar to the 'to hit' system.

Dang what else can I squeeze in here? Monsters have Talents too, there are 12 classes (I think) and you can attempt nearly any skill-like action by rolling a D20 and adding a stat bonus in an attempt to hit a difficulty assigned by the GM.


Any questions? More to come.

Barking Alien

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