Yearly Archives: 2007

Expanded Ranger Combat Styles

While reviewing Thieves’ World: Player’s Manual from Green Ronin, I found an expanded list of combat styles for rangers. I posted it to rec.games.frp.dnd, where people proposed additional ranger styles. This article collects them.

‘Ranged’ and ‘Two-Weapon’ styles below are as per RSRD, but the others are new. Unless otherwise indicated, the normal rules for ranger combat styles apply (gain the feats even if they don’t qualify, may use them only in light or no armor, may use as prerequisite feats for other abilities but they only apply when in light or no armor, etc.).

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Complex of Zombies

I was asked to review Dream Machine Productions‘ mini-adventure, The Complex of Zombies.

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Pillar of Souls

Most creatures, when they die, simply pass on. Their spirit may linger near the mortal world for a short time, and may even be called back by the right magics (such as raise dead and the like), but even this is uncommon. Less frequently, a dying creature with unfinished business may find his soul trapped near the mortal world until his ghost is laid to rest or destroyed. The ghost that is created may be bound to either the place he dies or another place of great importance to him as a mortal and usually tied to his unfinished business.

What few mortals realize is that the soul, once released from the body, does not pass directly to the outer planes, or face final dissolution, or whatever else they believe ultimately happens to souls of the dead. When a soul becomes untethered from the body, it is drawn to the Pillar of Souls for a time, in preparation for its final determination and departure from the mortal world.

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Racial Ability Improvement

One of the things I like about my Revised Character Advancement rules is that they allow (require, in a sense) that a character grow in a way that suits his racial archetype. Orcs are usually tough and violent, elves are quick and graceful, and so on. It also allows me to have racial abilities become available at a time they would not be unbalancing for a PC to have them — a drow’s spell-like abilities might be too powerful for a first-level character, but suitable for a fifth-level character. In the RAW, these could be part of the +2 level adjustment that is currently inflicted on drow PCs (Spell Resistance is obviously another part).

By making these racial treats accessible by feats at appropriate levels, the need for level adjustment is reduced. A common rule of thumb is that three decent-chosen feats are about equivalent to one level. If a drow’s spell resistance accounts for half of the +2 level adjustment, it seems pretty simple to conclude that making the SR available at the cost of three feats would be about in line.

  • Spell Resistance (gives SR equal to HD)
  • Improved Spell Resistance (increases racial SR by 5)
  • Greater Spell Resistance (increases racial SR by another 5, to 10+HD… RAW, drow have SR 11+HD, so I’m prepared to consider this ‘close enough’)

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Armor Fortification Feats

Lots of feats are available to improve how you use your weapons, including increasing the chance of landing a critical hit. Until I presented Armor Focus Feats) there weren’t many ways to improve how well you use your armor. Here I present some more feats that allow you to make better use of your armor by reducing the chance of a critical hit or sneak attack doing extra damage to you.

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Polyhedral Pantheon Design

I am shamelessly stealing the idea for this from The Rose of the Prophet trilogy by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman.

The pantheon is designed somewhat using an icosahedron (a d20). There are twenty gods, each defined by three attributes or primary influences (which color the personality and goals of the god). Good, Evil, Love, War, and so on.

This seems almost made for a pantheon design system using clerical domains, doesn’t it?

(It could make use of portfolios instead, but when working semirandomly I like to assign portfolios based on the domains rather than the reverse because I think it leads to more interesting combinations. Also, the models described below can lead to a single porfolio being split between many gods, leading to many gods with the same domains modeling them.)

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Nodes of Power

Another idea inspired by fiction, this one is based on the Dance of the Rings series by Jane S. Fancher (I’ve only ever found three books; there’s a fourth book in the works).

In this series there are ‘leythium nodes’, places of power. Leythium seems to be a form of plotdevicium, so there really isn’t much detail about how it works or what it does, beyond “these are places of power”. I’ve inferred the following:

  • A leythium node is a place of power.
  • Nodes may have different powers available (one is known for healing).
  • Nodes have different natural levels of power.
  • A node may be ‘capped’, there is a method for controlling (or at least making use of) the power of a node.
  • Capping a node requires a certain degree of skill; more powerful nodes are harder to cap.
  • Capped nodes may be linked to each other, increasing the power available to those who make use of the nodes.
  • As a capped node becomes more linked, the area affected by the node gets bigger.
  • The person who controls a capped node (the Ringmaster, named after the rings of the device that governs the capped node, and the links to that node) can make rather direct use of the power of the node.

Now, aware that the leythium nodes of Dance of the Rings are a plot device more than a gaming element, I’m going to try to come up with some rules to model the observations made above.

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Eye of Fire

Geography

The Eye of Fire is a caldera lake over an active volcano. From above it is almost perfectly circular, a deep blue (except for some red of magma visible at the bottom), and steaming hot. It is said to be a holy site of the good god of the elements.

The Brotherhood of the Eye is an obscure order of paladins. Their headquarters is in the caldera, about a quarter mile from the shore of the lake. Their major rituals (including investiture) usually involve immersion in the lake.

Game Mechanics

  • It is hot in the caldera.
    • Within 100 feet of the shore of the lake is considered “severe heat” (above 110 degrees F).
    • Within 1000 feet of the shore of the lake is considered “very hot” (above 90 degrees F).
    • The Brotherhood’s headquarters is close enough to the lake to be uncomfortable to live there (until you get used to it), but not dangerous.
    • There are places around the lake that qualify as “extreme heat” (over 140 degrees F).
  • It is also hot in the lake. A splash hurts (but does no damage), immersion deals 4d6 scalding damage per round. The water gets hotter toward the bottom of the lake (at the bottom it is considered “boiling” and does 10d6 scalding damage per round).
  • During the rituals of the Brotherhood of the Eye, key participants in the ritual enter the water. Those in good standing with their god are protected from the heat and emerge with reddened but undamaged skin. Those who are not in good standing take damage normally.
  • The caldera has an affinity for holy and elemental magics. Items created here that have most of their enchantment coming from these groups have their base XP costs reduced by half.

Diamond Mist Falls

A waterfall with elemental power.

Geography

Diamond Mist Falls is a waterfall so high that the water turns to mist before reaching the bottom. There seems to be some kind of elemental power here, though what kind is not entirely certain.

Game Mechanics

  • Spells cast in the mist at the bottom of the falls can waive any ‘diamond dust’ material components.
  • Magic items created using spells that require diamond dust, the XP requirement is halved.
  • Anyone who passes over the falls travels through a gate when entering the mists. There is no clear indication as to where the gate goes. Only someone who travels the entire length of the falls into the mist is gated; simply flying in or otherwise entering the mist does not work.

Charnel Plains

Geography

These plains are located fairly centrally to the nearby countries. The red, moist soil does not support very much plant life, in most places.

The Charnel Plains have been the site of many battles over the centuries. So much blood has been shed here that the ground itself now bleeds. There are a couple possible explanations (with different game mechanics). It is possible that both could apply, though perhaps in different areas.

Game Mechanics

Either or both of the sets of rules below may be in place here, I haven’t decided yet.

Life Has Taken Root

So much life has been lost here that some of it has actually been absorbed by the land itself. There are few plants here because the living soil eats them.

  • The Charnel Plains are in fact mildly postitive-dominant. All living creatures here gain fast healing 2 (but the increased sensation usually present in positive-energy dominant areas is not noticeable).
  • Unliving organic matter that remains in contact with the soil for more than a day is consumed by the soil (this includes corpses — leave a body on the ground for a day and it will be gone).
  • Inorganic matter is not consumed, but the soil tends to cover it fairly quickly (‘slowsand’, if you will).
  • The ground is quite soft.
    • In most places it should be treated as ‘light rubble’ — DC of Balance and Tumble checks increases by 2.
    • In some places the life force is greater and the ground is stickier. Treat as ‘dense rubble’ — DC of Balance and Tumble checks increases by 5, DC of Move Silently checks increases by 2, and it costs 2 squares of movement to enter each square. These areas are treated as major positive-dominant (again, except for increased sensation) — living creatures gain fast healing 5, and run the risk of overload if they remain in the higher-dominant area.
    • While the increased sensation normally present in positive-dominant areas is not particularly noticeable on the Charnel Plains, creatures can usually feel the difference (DC5 Spot check) in energy levels, and any with even a small amount of experience will discover the link between ‘stickier soil’ and ‘higher energy’. Anyone who spends a day here can be expected to have figured it out.
  • ‘Pools’ are fairly uncommon — while there are low spots, the soil tends to suck up any liquid (blood, that is) that would normally accumulate. If one is found, treat as a ‘shallow bog’ (double cost to enter and DC of Tumble checks is increased by 2).

Anger Lives Here

So many battles have been fought here that the emotions have been absorbed by the land.

  • Any living creature that is wounded or makes a melee attack must make a Will save (DC probably varies by ‘local strength of land’, but start at DC14 (rage is a Wiz3 spell). Creatures who fail this save enter a Rage as a Barbarian of the same Hit Dice, except that the character cannot end the rage voluntarily.
  • Soil taken from certain locations (TODO: decide what location characteristics apply, but assume they’re deep in the Plains) has an affinity for blood-related magics (those that grant temporary hit points) and anger (anything that induces rage, hatred, and the like). Items made using the soil (either incorporating it or as part of the process) that have such effects as the primary enchantments have their base XP cost halved.