Archive for March 2012

The Cleric, the Paladin, and Multisysteming

Not all paladins ride horses or wield swords.
So the majority vote is that a good chunk of voters believe that the cleric concept is wide enough to be an armor-clad warrior type, or a robe-wearing spellcasting type, while another hefty chunk--coming in at a close second--think that both concepts should be divvied up. I think that a cleric's god and/or domains should be a key factor in determining the things that a cleric can wear, wield, and do; cleric's of a god of strength could wear heavy armor and wield lots of weapons, while those worshiping a god of knowledge might stick more with light-or-no-armor and get lots of spells, while those that worship nature might stick with leather and hides, using hunting weapons like spears and bows.

At the concept level I would wonder what actually makes a cleric and paladin distinct. Both are holy warriors that wear heavy armor, attack things in melee, and can cast divine spells. Going to the mechanical level using that mission statement, I guess you could just combine some elements of the cleric and fighter to make a new class...but then why not just let players use the 3rd Edition multiclass method that it sounds like 5th Edition will use to do it themselves?

3rd Edition gave the paladin exclusive class features like detect evil, smite evil, immunity to fear and diseases, the ability to summon a celestial horse, Lawful Stupid jokes...things that you could not get no matter how you tried to mix and match the fighter and cleric. 4th Edition made it possible to blur the line between a cleric and paladin by taking the right feats and prayers, though clerics still got turn undead, encounter-based healing, and at-will ranged attacks, while paladins were more melee focused, and got Divine Challenge and lay on hands.

To me it is not about mixing and matching until you get an iconic result. I want the paladin--or any class for that matter--to provide features and options that you cannot get just by mashing two other classes together. That just sounds lazy. I am hoping that the designers at least give us iconic paladin stuff that we have seen before; even a rehash sounds better than something that anyone could have just done themselves.

What sort of class features do you think a paladin needs to be a paladin?
March 31, 2012
Posted by David Guyll

Dragon's-Eye View: Appropriate Armor

I chose "whatever he or she wants". While I get that the traditional wizard or sorcerer is often seen wearing something between a robe and a bikini, it really should depend on a combination of the race, culture, location, and character's preference. A wizard in the jungle probably won't be wearing a robe, and might be indistinguishable from any other explorer. The same goes for a spellcaster in a cold region; she is probably piled under enough furs to equate to leather armor (which it very well could be depending on how armor affects spellcasting). In fact I think that in most cases where a spellcaster is out adventuring she should not be clad in a robe (or revealing outfit).

Frankly, none of these guys are dressed for the occasion.
I'm not a fan of the design of either the first image or the photorealistic one at the bottom, though I did like a lot of what I saw in Lords of the Rings and on A Game of Thrones. I am hoping for something with a good combination of function and style, as well as balance between genders. The side-by-side of the man and woman wielding a club and sporting a shield was okay, except that if they are both supposed to be warriors then why does the woman look so much more frail and passive (and, well, less armored). At least there are not any armor-nipples.


Baby steps, I guess.
Posted by David Guyll

A Sundered World: Episode 107

Cast
  • Iron Jack (male human Essentialized-warlord)
  • Danh (male goliath serpent shaman)
  • Lothelle (female moon-pie elf bladesinger)
Continuing their trek up the mountain, the characters find the stairs barred by what looks like a massive collapsed pillar. There is a fortification build into the mountain, which they ignore while trying to find a way past the rubble. Lothelle fails again and again to find purchase, and they are ambushed by orcs atop a cliff. They kill all but one and question him about the mountain, but he proves to have little information except that what dwarves still exist are not hospitable (not in those words, as I don't think orcs have a word for that).

They explore the fortifications and learn that the pillar is a focus for a powerful cannon. Further up the hill, they find another cannon with missing controls. They camp for the night and are ambushed by a dire boar, whose meat seems to instantly refresh them despite getting virtually no sleep. Eventually they find a fortress, and while exploring it are surrounded by dwarf skeletons.

Behind the Scenes
Nothing much to say here, except that it was another short session. It was actually from last week, and due to conventions we will not be playing next week, either.
March 30, 2012
Posted by David Guyll

Sneak Attack & Backstab

Let anyone trade an "attack advantage" for extra damage dice? I can dig it. It gives players with high attack bonuses and/or re-rolls something else to play with, at the least. What about sacrificing multiple advantages for a greater damage bonus? For example if combat advantage is worth +1d6, could prone and flanking be worth 2d6? What if the target is also stunned? It reminds of me a system that Josh mentioned a few weeks ago, where you modified DCs with something like advantages and drawbacks, with each benefit giving you a +2 and each drawback a -2, for a final modifier.

Anywho, other bits mentioned are that (at least currently) rogues have a Sneak Attack cap of +10d6, and I guess can make two attacks overall. Heck, if rogues can make a one-two punch with a full bonus I am fine by that. It is way better than making a bunch of extra attacks that probably won't hit, anyway.

He also drops Rogue Fighting Technique as something that they could get at 2nd-level--allowing them to pick up Combat Maneuvers, skill-type abilities, more Sneak Attack, or specialize in rogue-type weapons--which reminds me of those rogue special features you got in 3rd Edition (including the non-magical daily ability to roll with an attack), as well as talent trees in Star Wars: Saga Edition and D20 Modern. It is not concrete, but it is at least a blurry glimpse as to what might be going on.

The only part of the post that worried me is that the bit about how 10d6 bit helps the rogue "hit the expected damage value". If it is the expected average, then picking anything else but Sneak Attack at each opportunity ends up being a kind of trap option. I would much prefer a rogue who goes pure Sneak Attack to be doling out more than what is expected, making it a compelling choice.
March 29, 2012
Posted by David Guyll

Rule-of-Three: 03/27/2012

So it looks like character progression is regressing back to 3rd Edition, which conceptually I actually have no problem with. Conceptually. I prefer the concept and execution of 4th Edition's multiclassing mechanics because it seemed a lot more "realistic" in that you did not spontaneously gain a working knowledge of a multitude of weapons, spellcasting, or heck, even an animal companion. Instead when you multiclassed you basically got a small taste of the class, and could opt to spend more feats later on in order to swap out more things or take other feats to modify the stuff you picked up.

Now In case you have not played 3rd Edition, at the start of the game it operated very much like 4th Edition; pick your class, get class features, spells, hit points, skill points, etc. When you leveled up instead of being locked in your class, you could nab a level from any class that you were not restricted from, as some classes made it so that if you picked something else you could not go back, or had alignment limitations. The main difference between starting as a class and picking it up were not getting four times the usual number of skill points. This was a problem.

Say I start out as a human fighter. I have a working knowledge of all forms of armor, most weapons, I get bonus feats, plenty of hit points, and can basically max out a pair of skills (the 4E equivalent of training in them). Halfway through exploring a ruin I gain a level. In 4th Edition I would be a 2nd-level fighter. In 3rd Edition? Well...why not take a level in wizard? By doing so I get everything that a 1st-level wizard does. Everything. This includes a spellbook with all 0-level spells, a number of 1st-level spells based on my Intelligence, the ability to prepare and cast spells, and I can even summon a familiar. In comparison in 4th Edition I could burn a feat on being a wizard and gain training in Arcana and the ability to cast an at-will spell once per encounter.


Which seems more realistic?

You could argue that "real" role-players would not do this, but instead would make sure that it was known in game that they were studying magic for...who the hell knows. Wizards in 3rd Edition had a pretty hefty age modifier under the assumption that magic was hard to learn. Even still, the fighter goes from having absolutely no talent or magical capabilities to being able to fire off several magic missiles, detect magic, and more per day. Hell, by the next day he could even have his own enchanted pet.

The other problem is scaling modifiers. In 3rd Edition monsters have Challenge Ratings, similar enough to a monster's level in 4th Edition, and like 4th Edition it is intended to let a DM simply eyeball a monster and get a rough idea of just how tough the monster is. The problem is that monsters do not assume multiclassing. A level 2 fighter has a +2 bonus to attack rolls, just from her class, while a level 1 fighter/level 1 wizard only has a +1. Seems like a minor difference, but the higher level the characters get, the bigger the gap becomes. At level 10 the fighter will have a +10 to hit, while the fighter/wizard will be at only a +7, not to mention that the core fighter will have more bonus feats to help further boost her attack and damage modifiers.

Oh yeah, the wizard's spells are also two spell levels behind what they should be at. Spells in 3rd Edition (and past editions) scaled differently than 4th Edition. All spells were grouped into levels--ranging from 1-9--and these levels set a DC that monsters had to beat in order to reduce or eliminate the spell's effect. The multiclassed wizard can drop a 5d6 fireball on her foes, while a core wizard would be doling out 10d6. Of course, she could also opt for a higher level spell that might not even allow a check to reduce the damage, or do something else entirely. Plus she would also be able to cast more spells and have a higher caster level check for overcoming spell resistances.

The monsters might as well all have honey badger templates for all the shits they don't give. CR 10 monsters are assuming level 10 bonuses and modifiers (if you are lucky, the old CR system was very swingy). Your fighter/wizard will have a harder time hitting them, especially without the right spells, feats, and planning. This was the kind of stuff you hear players complaining about, planning their characters levels in advance, sometimes all the way up to 20, or using builds off of CharOp.

Now they are talking about flattening the math, which alleviates some of the issues. If there are less modifiers, then having a half-fighter, half-wizard is not that big of an issue. I am guessing that a core fighter will deal more damage on a hit, or be able to hit more enemies, but if the character can at least land blows then that is a plus. I even like the idea of a wizard being able to cast spells and followup with some "free action" fighter attacks. That sounds pretty damned cool in my mind, especially since as I had mentioned before that a good barometer for 5th Edition would be being able to make a viable fighter/wizard from the get go.

Hopefully they prevent multiclass inflation. I would rather see a character going fighter/wizard gradually pick up new abilities, instead of suddenly learning how to wield most weapons and wear armor, or gaining a gross understanding of magic.

Oh yeah, I guess solo monsters will still be in the game, even if by another name.
March 27, 2012
Posted by David Guyll

Fighting The Good Fight

Fighters are a tricky business. I remember in older editions (ie, 2nd and 3rd Edition) it was the go-to class for the new guy, a kind of simplistic training-wheels archetype that let you get your game on and pick up the rules as you go. 4th Edition gave it a major overhaul, finally putting its power consistently on par with spellcasters, making it a viable option at all levels of play. Scaling damage, multiple attacks that could actually hit, the ability to actually stop monsters from attacking your allies and impose conditions required that it become more complex. This move was either a feature or a bug depending on who you ask, but the slayer and knight subclasses (introduced in one of the Essentials books) proved that you could make a less complex class that was still viable.

In preparation for a potentially sucktastic new edition (or ideas to pitch whenever the playtest actually starts going), my group is cobbling together a kind of 4th Edition hack using some of the stuff I've talked about previously. One of the things I am stuck on is just how complex to make a 1st-level fighter. In past editions they basically made melee attacks over and over again, gaining multiple attacks at higher levels. 3rd Edition added in attack-like options in addition to feats and feat-trees that could modify attacks and actions, as well as give you entirely new things to do. At the end run Tome of Battle brought in a fighter-esque class that got stances and recharging special attacks. Some people were upset that 4th Edition gave the fighter daily abilities (despite there being plenty of mundane classes with daily features in both 3rd Edition and Pathfinder), though later subclasses removed all of these in lieu of encounter-based exploits.

So...how much is too much? I think that as a baseline a fighter should be wear any armor and wield most any weapon, as well as some feature that lets her focus on a weapon (or weapon group) at the start...but what then? Bonus feats? Talents (with talent trees)? Class features? Stances? Some kind of special attack/exploit/maneuver(s)? An entirely new mechanic, like stamina or stunt points?
March 26, 2012
Posted by David Guyll

The Elder Elemental Eye: Week 3 Play Report

My local hobby store generally gives me the Lair Assault and D&D Encounters packets, so that on the off chance that I am needed I can run them. This "off-chance" occurred three weeks in, with two players, both strikers (an elementalist and a monk). Thankfully I'd had some experience running with a group like this. After a quick recap on how they had arrived in the plagued village, found out about the Elemental Eye, and were attacked on their way to find their lair, I told them that they had stumbled into an expansive badlands, and asked how they would go about trying to find the Elemental Eye.

The skill challenge here is really well written, and strays pretty far from the original model of "garner x successes before y failures". Namely there are a lot of group skill checks, and not all checks incur failures, instead either costing healing surges or modify the DCs of other skill checks. Mostly I like that it kept both players trying, instead of just relying on one player with a massive bonus making all the skill checks. I also really liked the win-lose results; you either learn about an upcoming drow camp, or wander into the middle of it and get ambushed.

There is also an alright social role-play instance with a galeb dhur (earth elemental type thing). Given that I only had two players, I had him sink into the ground after talking to him, only to pop up later during the fight against the row to interrupt a charging spider. Speaking of the drow, I drastically altered their stats; reduced damage,  having each take a few good hits before going down, stuff that I'd been doing in my home games for the past few months. The other player (the one I do not normally game with) didn't even notice, and both seemed to have a great time.

I really pleased with how the module runs. I have noticed the quality of Encounters gradually improving each time, moving away from an hour-long (or longer) to something that you would more reasonably expect at a home game. I am actually hoping that I get to run again this week, as I left them at the entrance of the dungeon with the galeb dhur in tow and wanna see how it all pans out.
March 19, 2012
Posted by David Guyll

D&D Next: The Iconic Cleric

Personally when I think of cleric I tend to almost reflexively envision an armored spellcaster, often with a holy symbol, and a lot of the time channeling divine energy as undead flee and/or disintegrate. Really though I think that a cleric class could have enough flexibility to wear heavy armor and emphasize melee, hang back and call down the wrath of her god, or something more in between. I guess I have just really never liked the idea that clerics all get heavy armor, a generally poor weapon selection, and either chase off or command undead.

As with my prior post on how I might do a wizard, here are some ideas I have been kicking around concerning the cleric.

No Turn Undead
I know that this is a staple of every basic cleric class, but it just does not make sense to give it to every cleric as not all gods really seem like they would care too much about undead critters. Instead it becomes a type of prayer (which I'll get to in a tick), perhaps limited to specific gods and/or requiring a feat.

Weapons and Armor
I like the idea of clerics sticking with weapons that their deity uses, so I would not restrict them. As for armor...well, I am on the fence here. One of the Legend & Lore or D&D Next articles mentioned a priest class as a more "wizardly" version of the cleric, and I kind of want them to have armor proficiencies based on their god as well. Like, I could see a cleric of Kord running around in heavy armor and a big sword, but I see a cleric of Ioun or Corellon as more lightly armored. I'd like to reflect that sort of thing, perhaps by letting them add Wisdom to AC or getting a flat AC bonus through some kind of arcane/faith shielding.

Domains
Almost every edition of D&D has included gods with associated domains, and it makes sense to keep them. The cleric chooses one of these domains (for now), perhaps gaining a benefit, but mainly determining the list of prayers and miracles that she can choose from, perhaps also proficiencies. A feat could let the cleric pick stuff from other domains, or she could just add more as she levels up. Depends on what they do and the initial power structure I want.

Prayers 
In books and movies priests brandish holy symbols, while reciting and/or repeating passages from holy scriptures in an attempt to ward away vampires, demons, and other monsters, to various degrees of efficacy. I could see clerics doing this to generate "aura" effects, similar to the skald subclass from Heroes of the Feywild. One could give an attack, damage, defense, skill, etc bonus, while others could do things like shed light and/or impose penalties to certain types of creatures. Another could boost healing or give damage resistances. Powerful prayers might be usable a limited number of times, or require a Standard action to maintain (like turn undead).

I would not want them to all necessarily be combat oriented, though I am having a hard time figuring out how to make it work otherwise. For example, a cleric devoted to a god of magic might be able to mutter a prayer while trying to identify a magic item, disable a ward, keep an arcane forge from exploding. Stuff like that. I just do not want it to happen all the time. I am thinking that some could be on a per-encounter basis like guidance, x times per day, or use some kind of other resource management system (who knows, could be points!).

It could be a general cleric feature, but only applicable to situations where it makes sense. Kind of how like in Exalted: Infernals you can use their excellencies on anything, but only when it fits the purview of whatever yozi you serve.

Miracles 
If you recall how sorcerers operated in 3rd Edition, this is where I am going with this one. The cleric has access to a group of powers related to her god, and can times per day call upon these when the situation arises. This is interpreted as the god intervening or answering a desperate plea for help. While this is very different from prior incarnations of the cleric, I like this because it is less the cleric pre-packing specific magic for later use, and more of the player taking narrative control when she thinks she really needs it.

Ideally I would like to incorporate some sort of mechanic where the cleric could regain the use of miracles over the course of a day, such as by tithing, performing ceremonies, converting followers, following her god's ideals, etc. I could also see clerics sacrificing defeated enemies and the corpses of creatures. At the very least it could be good for ritual purposes. Speaking of which...

Divine Rituals 
These basically work like the 4E stuff, except that they probably won't have as a diverse amount as wizards. I would still want to rely on specific types of ritual components, however; focuses like the bones of saints, burial shrouds, ashes, etc, and consumables like holy water, wafers, and incenses. Make it at least read differently.

So which--if any--of these ideas do you like? What would you change? What do you think a cleric needs to be "cleric-y" enough?
March 15, 2012
Posted by David Guyll

Legends & Lore: Turning and Churning

Previous incarnations of turn undead both ruled and sucked. It was awesome because it could get undead to flee or instantly destroy them, and it sucked because it could get undead to flee or destroy them. There was basically no middle ground here; you would either get them to leg it--and there is no way I could describe a zombie or skeleton running with a straight face--vaporize them, or do nothing at all. Also for some reason every cleric got this ability, no matter what god they worshiped or what their attitude toward undead was. 4th Edition was not really different, but at least it dealt some damage and could be modified through feats.

My personal preference for turn undead would be to attach it to gods that would make sense to have it, namely Pelor, or just make it one of many options for clerics to nab if it makes sense, such as by class feature or feat. Also if Mearls wants turn undead to be something for players to consider, why not make it so that you can activate it, but it requires the cleric to continuously concentrate on it for it to work? Like, so long as the cleric keeps burning through Standard actions each turn it generates an area that undead cannot enter, deals, damage, imposes a penalty, etc etc.

Hell, you could have it so that weak undead are burned by it or forced back while in the area of effect, while stronger undead merely take an attack or defense penalty (though I do like Mearls's idea of adding a turn effect into a monster's stats). This makes it a consideration without making it an opener or something that is whipped out with an Action Point to just immediately tip the fight in the party's favor. It also evokes scenes in movies where the priest keeps chanting and brandishing a holy symbol to keep a vampire or demon away, or even that scene in Return of the King where Sam keeps Shelob back.
March 12, 2012
Posted by David Guyll

A Sundered World: Episode 106

Cast

  • Iron Jack (human drinking warlord)
  • Danh (goliath serpent shaman)
  • Lothelle (moon elf bladesinger)
The characters make a direct line for Moradin's forge. On the way they are attacked by an astral kraken, which they escape from by throwing a lightning shell into its mouth and having Lothelle disrupt the binding magic, and a githzerai caravan making a return trip to the Elemental Chaos. They purchase a few potions and warn them about machines before leaving.

They find the location of the forge without further incident; the mountain of ancient Celestia, eternally beset by a storm. The clouds darken the skies, which are only briefly illuminated by frequent blasts of lightning. They manage to find a ransacked village, but the seas are too wild to keep the ship docked and so the characters end up swimming to shore so that the rest of the crew can move the ship to a safe distance.

They note that the buildings are of dwarven make, and are apparently so old that they have actually eroded over time or have been smashed by something very big. They find nothing of value, and begin the trek up the mountain on a set of water-worn stairs. After hours of hiking they settle down for the night, and Danh miraculously discovers a mostly try area in the mountain side.

During Lothelle's watch, she hears creatures outside through the rain. Something speaks to them in Draconic, then she is blinded by light and deafened by thunder. When he vision clears and her hearing returns, there is nothing but silence. The party waits until they have finished resting before investigating; they find a crater blasted into the stairs, charred skeletons, and melted metal. Danh identifies the skeletons as orcs.

And with that, we called it a night.

Behind the Scenes
We ended up having to run on Thursday, so this was a very short session. I will say that I was pleased with the creativity in dealing with the astral kraken. We aren't gaming this week, so I have some time in trying to think up something for them to do while here; I would like for them to spend a few sessions exploring and interacting before leaving. If you have any ideas, post them in the comments. :-P

Assorted Arcanists

In a previous post I touched on how I might initially design my own wizard class. It draws a lot of elements and concepts from other games, notably Mage: The Ascension and Skyrim, as well as fiction like The Dresden Files and Codex Alera series, A Wise Man's Fear, and The Name of the Wind. Maybe also Harry Potter. The way I envision it despite having access to "only" a few schools overall, the wizard retains much of her flexibility through ritual magic and spell preparation/modification.

With a D&D playtest looking over the horizon, my group has started tossing out ideas in an effort to make magic more diverse and unpredictable (or as unpredictable as a system where magic has explicitly rigid effects can be). Personally I would want other classes to have different areas of expertise, capabilities, and I guess style. Here are my initial thoughts on the artificer, sorcerer, and warlock.

Artificer
These guys should be really good at charging items with magic, effectively making temporary magic items, constructing permanent magic items (at least if the campaign calls for it), constructs, as well as diverting and/or redistributing magic energies (making them the go-to guys for arcane traps and the like). Ritual magic, especially stuff in the abjuration and transmutation categories, would also be pretty high on the list. After reading The Name of the Wind, I can definitely seeing these guys using lots of runes and formulas.

I could see an artificer draining magic energy from traps, wards, magical environs, etc, and storing it for later. A fire trap could be used to temporarily enchant a sword with some sort of fire effect, create a fire resistance potion, super charge a fire-based ability, or maybe just create a quick-and-dirty explosive item. Weakening the structure of a locked door (or reinforcing it) and crafting talismans that help shield the wearer from magic would also be evocative of the concept. I would also want to see feats/talents/whatever that would allow an artificer to build a golem.

Sorcerer
Sorcerers have magic in their blood and should be heavily defined by it. Unlike wizards they do not prepare spells, and they cannot learn new ones on the fly (though could charge them up like a wizard by taking damage or exhausting themselves). A dragon sorcerer might have a breath weapon, be able to harden her skin into scales, or briefly transform her hands into claws to make devastating melee attacks. An aberrant sorcerer might feature tentacles, warp reality around her, and even be able to mutate other creatures. A fey sorcerer might be able to camouflage herself in the wilderness, shape wood, and command beasts.

Their "spells", such as they are, would be more like...special abilities, I guess, and most would not run out, or would probably refresh given enough time. I suppose this is where encounter-centric powers would fit in well. Abilities similar to rituals might be usable, albeit severely limited. A dragon-blooded sorcerer might be able to grow wings or transform into a dragon, while an aberrant sorcerer might be able to open a gate to the Far Realm. It would just exhaust the hell out of her.

I am on the fence about implements. I think they are great for wizards and other arcanists that learn their magic through a more academic process, and am also thinking that wizards should suffer a penalty without one, while sorcerers can operate just fine on their own. That being said, I am not opposed to focus items that give the sorcerer a bonus or alter their magic.

Another thing I would like to see is some kind of feature where they gain a bonus when bloodied, angry, etc. Like red dragon sorcerers dealing fire damage while bloodied, after using specific magic, or even at a cost.

Warlock 
Seeing as warlocks gain magic from a patron, there should be more emphasis on said patron; it could make demands of the warlock, or be contacted for advice or changing up the warlock's spells. Hell, the warlock might be able to requisition magic or other resources by altering the nature of the pact. The patron could even directly intervene on the warlock's behalf, or make bargains in exchange for aid (especially if the patron is the sort to prey on the character's desperation). I guess that, at the least, the patron will require the warlock to in some way further its ends, punishing her--or at least trying to--if she fails/refuses.

As with sorcerers, the available spells would be limited thematically to the nature of the patron; I do not see the star pact allowing the warlock to summon devils or open portals to the Feywild, and infernal pacts are not going to be conjuring tentacles or sending pixies on errands. Unlike the sorcerer, I see ritual magic being a greater aspect of the class, especially when it comes to contacting the patron (or related parties). I also see warlocks using focuses and specially granted weapons. I really like where the hexblade went with this.
March 10, 2012
Posted by David Guyll

My "Next" Wizard

So there has been a lot of talk about how 5th Edition wizards are going to go back to the pseudo-Vancian magic system. Personally I have never liked guessing which spells are going to be useful (which goes for preparing, selecting, and casting), or basing the adventure schedule around remaining spells. Hell only a handful of games or literary works even include it, and even then it is often only one facet of how magic works. I guess the silver lining here is that only wizards get saddled with it, though they can crib the Reserve feat mechanic from 3rd Edition, or that it is only one proposed magic system.

Personally I would like to see wizards being required to focus on a few schools of magic as opposed to potentially equally good at everything. This models real life in the sense that no one is good at everything, and I remember something like this being played out in The Name of the Wind, the Dresden Files novels and RPG, Mage: The Ascension, and more shit that I am not thinking of. With this model you can get the wizard that is really good at evocations, but not so much at illusions due to a lack of patience or artistic talent or whatever, or something who prefers using ice or fire magic. Note that specialists might only be good at one school and might know a thing or two from something else (or not, depends on what is available), and would get some other benefit like the mage from Essentials.

From these schools they would choose a few rotes, which are spells that are so simple and/or have been practiced so often that they have become almost reflexive. Encounter spells would go away entirely, and daily spells would be the sort of complex magic that they have to cast ahead of time and retained. Rituals would be the utility stuff that keeps spell prep from turning into guesswork, and I would allow the expenditure of healing surges or something to help power them, or charge surges anyway. Actually for the grognards that do not like how many of the spells are combat-focused (I guess ignoring rituals), why not turn daily spells into the number of rituals that a character can store at any given time? This way something like knock could be used as a ritual, but a wizard could also pre-cast and store it for an impromptu use.

I would also allow wizards to draw in will, mana, energy, or whatever, allowing them to charge up their at-will spells. This would take a turn, extra action, or cause some kind of stress (like psychic damage or whatnot, though burning healing surges from exhaustion is still a possibility), and potentially leave the wizard vulnerable to attack, adding a level of tactical complexity and drama to a wizard that decides to turn her magic missile from a single bolt into a salvo; enemies might decide to directly target her in order to disrupt the spell. Some spells could also require multiple actions or rounds to cast.

Finally I really dig implements, and would like to see them stick around. Instead of a specialization bonus like the wizard gets, or having them largely not matter at all, you might penalize a wizard for not using one when casting. I would like to see implements of special materials granting a benefit without demanding a feat. The spellbook would mostly be used for rituals instead of spell prep.

Ultimately depending on what martial classes can do, I see these changes giving a wizard a lower average baseline, some good spike opportunities, and flexibility on how to handle things. Ideally martial classes would have a more "middle-ground" approach, with scaling damage and exploits to give them some tricks up their sleeves.

Too-Long, Didn't Read Highlights

  • Wizards pick from a handful of schools that they can cast. Feats could add in others.
  • Wizards know a smattering of rotes (at-will) spells. These do minor things.
  • Rotes can be charged up through time, penalty, and/or resource.
  • Daily spells would still be in and be quite badass, but fewer in number (like, maybe 1 at 1st-level).
  • Rituals are still in, but drain healing surges and/or require specific components.
  • Implements are still in, and are more required.
  • Wizards would be able to create new spells, more easily learn new spells, and potentially modify them.
March 03, 2012
Posted by David Guyll

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