Thursday, May 28, 2015

Neo School Hack: The Ranger

Right, so I'm closing in on the end of design work for Old School Hack.  The last two classes are the ranger and druid.  I tossed some ideas together, then brought in my ranger class consultant (hi Kirk!) for a critique.  Here is the result:

Classic Weapon: bow

Deadly Shot/focus-encounter: taking careful aim at an enemy's vital point, the ranger scores +1 wound on a hit

Boon Companion/constant: the ranger gains a loyal companion creature which is much more intelligent than ordinary ones of its type.  The player decides on the animal type, but it may not be larger than a large wolf.  The critter has statistics of AC = 10, HP = 3, with an appropriate single 2d10 attack (with Face Dice) doing 1 wound.

Survival/constant: the ranger is a master of wilderness knowledge and easily finds food and shelter in normal wilderness situations, and gets +2 to Awareness rolls to survive in unusual environments

Natural Shadow/focus: with a few moments of preparation the ranger blends into nearby natural terrain, gaining +2 to Cunning rolls to avoid being noticed

Down Boy--Here Kitty/focus-encounter: using your charismatic presence and animal lore, you turn away (Daring check at +1) or lure closer (Charm check at +1) one animal-like creature; may be used on multiple animals per encounter but only once per animal.

It Went That-a-way/focus: taking a few moments to study the scene the ranger tracks quarry easily, if slowly, in favorable conditions (soft earth, etc.), and gets +2 to Cunning rolls in difficult circumstances; this talent may be used in reverse to cover tracks

Monday, May 25, 2015

"This one goes to 11"...looking at level caps in Neo School Hack

Okay, so I had a dive back into D&D 4E reading the three "Power" books I bought recently.  Old School Hack, which is the huge inspiration for my Neo School Hack, borrows a bit from 4E in the Talents which each character class gets.  In the original OSH and my NSH each class has six unique talents.  To that I've added separate races which each have three unique talents.

When a character levels up they get to add 1 to an attribute, plus gain either a talent or a hit point.  Characters may multi-class by taking talents from other classes, with the restriction that they may not have more cross-class talents than talents from their starting class.  So with six base class talents, three race talents, and a maximum of six cross-class talents, there is sort of a cap of 15 levels.  Yes, there will be boring "empty" levels where the character gains a HP rather than a talent.  But a maximum of 15 levels isn't necessarily a bad thing.  Early editions of D&D (and modern OSR rules like ACKS) run out around 14.  So a cap of 15 levels is well in keeping with the spirit of the rules.

But I'm not sure whether I really like the idea of characters essentially being forced into multi-classing.  As a fighter you'd have to scrounge around to keep to only fighter-appropriate talents from other classes to stay "pure".  And then there's the problem with wizards learning spell-talents from grimoires.  Wizards have a talent which allows them to gain to get access to a new six-spell grimoire (each of which costs a talent gain to learn).  So they can keep leveling for as long as there are more grimoires to acquire.  None of the other classes is that open-ended.

And clerics get their basic six talents plus access to the six domain talents for their deity.  If the domain talents count as class talents (which I suppose they could), then that's six basic talents, six domains, three racial, and up to twelve cross-class.  So clerics can keep gaining talents for 27 levels.

And alchemists have lots and lots of sub-talents to explore as they level up.  The druid class I'm working on will have a couple Circles of six talents which are a bit like cleric domains.

Hmm, okay so there's a bit of design imbalance here.  Obviously there are two approaches to re-balancing things: limit the more open-ended classes or provide more talents for the other classes.  Re-balancing the problematic classes can be accomplished simply by treating the class-specific domain/spell/circle talents as cross-class talents.  But that still leaves the other classes with fewer options to have fun with.  Eventually I should look into providing all classes with a couple additional six-talent sets of talents, like combat style schools for fighters.  The character could buy into the class sets in the same way a wizards buys into a grimoire.

But I'm really torn about adding so many talents--yes, we're talking rules bloat here.  One of the charms of Old School Hack is its simplicity.  Players can review all the classes, make an informed decision, and jump into play with a character very quickly.  My Neo School Hack rules take the lovely simplicity of OSH but add bulk in the form of more classes, races, and talents.  It's still very simple mechanically but a new player has many more options to review before deciding on what to play, or before even deciding what talent to take on leveling up.

Overall I'm coming up on the last of my work on NSH because I've finalized what I want to have in it and because I want to place a hard stop on rules bloat.  All I have left now are the final two classes: druid and ranger.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Neo School Hack: The Paladin

Right, so here's my paladin class for Neo School Hack, which is my version of Old School Hack by Kirin Robinson.  The basic template for classes is six talents unique to that class.  However, I have already experimented with variations on that base and this class has a new variation.  The paladin has five regular talents, plus a special talent containing a set of three thematic sub-talents called "Devotion".  The Devotion talent may only taken once and one of the three talents contained in it must be chosen at that time.  Once chosen it may not be changed--unless the character has a compelling in-character reason and even then must complete an appropriate quest worked out with the DM.

The Paladin

Detect Evil/focus-encounter: concentrating, the paladin listens to the surrounding auras and will sense any evil creatures in a 90-degree area out to 30 feet.

Lay on Hands/focus-rested: pausing to pray and gather holy energy, the paladin lays a hand on an injured person and heals them of 1 wound.

Sacred Immunity/constant: filled with holy essence, the paladin is immune to all diseases, normal or magical.

Aura of Courage/focus-encounter: the paladin's inner resolve makes fear impossible, not matter what the circumstances; and with a declaration of holy purpose, all companions and allies within 15 feet are emboldened, gaining +2 to any rolls against fear.

Glow/focus-encounter: pausing to pray and express inner holy essence, the paladin glows with a golden light like a divine torch.

- Divine Avenger/focus-encounter: channeling holy energy into a held weapon, the paladin gains +1 to hit and +1 wound of damage to attacks against evil creatures.

- Divine Protector/focus-encounter: channeling holy energy into a held shield, the paladin gains +2 AC and +2 to saves when attacked by evil creatures.

- Divine Knight/focus-rested: the paladin gains a loyal, divine riding creature which is much more intelligent than ordinary ones of its type.  It can be called with a special prayer; once called it remains until dismissed to return to the heavens.  The mount is saddled and armored, with AC = 14, HP = 3, with an appropriate one 2d10 attack (with Face Dice) doing 1 wound.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

I read a steampunk book and I think I liked it.

I have an ambivalent relationship with the steampunk genre.  I love the whole look of it--the two decades straddling the turn of the last century have a great aesthetic.  But as a gamer I don't find the idea of gaming there very interesting.  For me it's really all about the visuals of steampunk.

But I picked up a book a little while ago on a whim and finally got around to reading it.  The Court of Air by Stephen Hunt is set in a fantasy version of late 19th century England, with other fantasy surrogate nations nearby.  And we've got airships, gear-work people, fey magic, druid-y earth magic, clock-work computers, and ancient lost cities in the mix.  But it also has some weird elements like kings who get their arms amputated for their coronation, and creepy human transformation bio-engineering.  It starts out pretty well, with two protagonists from miserable backgrounds who turn out to be a complementary pair of heroes pulled into a massive plot to destroy the world.

But that's where it sort of fell down for me.  The first half or so of the book is solid steampunk, just the sort of thing I was looking for.  I was in the groove for mystery, murder, intrigue, and cool bits of fey and clockwork spicing things up.  But then it spins into a rather over-the-top massive war with ancient evil gods and stuff.  The shift in the latter part of the book kind of threw me off.

But overall a good read.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Adding to my 4E collection...really, I mean it.

Okay, so you're probably thinking "Dude, 4E is stone cold dead. Why are you clogging your gaming shelves with it?"  Well, I've only played the 4th edition of Dungeons & Dragons twice but I liked the design concepts.  I was glad to see the designers were bold enough to stop polishing the same apple over and over and try something new.  When the game was announced I pre-ordered the core books at my FLGS and was pleased with what arrived.  Alas, 4E seems to have pretty much died before I could play it more fully somewhere--and few of my group seem enthusiastic about trying a campaign with it.  Nevertheless, I have had several 4E books on my wish list to get in order to go a little deeper into the system and be ready in case I ever end up in a group which wants to play.

So I just recently bought three of the power books to add to the Arcane Power book I purchased earlier.  The core books were good but obviously the options for characters were limited and I wanted to have these "power" expansions.  If I ever run a game it will be the core books, the 2nd and 3rd player's handbooks, and these four power books as the basis.  The only other 4E books left in my wishlist now are the Shadowfell and Secrets of the Elemental Chaos setting books.

As for my three new books I will say that the art (the first thing I go through a book for) ranges from good to great.  The content is good stuff, although I thought that they had more paragon paths than anyone will ever use, and crazy amounts of feats.

Hirelings and Henchmen for Neo School Hack

One thing which was typical of old school D&D was hirelings and henchmen.  Roughly speaking, hirelings are minor servants and guards, but henchmen are more like the sidekicks to your hero.  So for Old School Hack I'd borrow from the given monster classifications as foundations for building these two types of companions.   An easy approach is to make hirelings a type of "minion" and henchmen like a weaker PC class character.

HP: 1
AC: 8 or 10 (light armor) when hired, but can be equipped better by the characters
Attacks: 1 x 2d10 (but no Face Die)
Weapons: only cause 1 wound no matter the actual weapon type

HP: 2
AC: 8, 10 or 12 depending on class and may have a shield if appropriate for their type
Attacks: 1 x 2d10 (do get a Face Die)
Weapons:cause damage normally for their type
- Henchmen have a race and class, usually selected from those available to the players for PCs; however they start with only one talent instead of the two a PC starts with.
- Henchmen attributes come from an array of one being -1, one being +1, and the rest being 0; the +1 is usually in the attribute most useful for that henchman's class.
- Henchmen advance in class level whenever their patron PC goes up one; however, unlike PCs the only increase on gaining a level is to take a talent from their original class or race; once all the class talents and race talents have been taken the henchman may no longer go up in level.