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View Full Version : Yet another custom spin on 3e [3.x/d20, discussion thread]



lesser_minion
2009-04-03, 11:23 AM
This thread was originally just houserules, but I've decided to start writing the whole thing up as a custom spin on the 3e game (even though there are now several thousand of them).

I'm open to ideas and suggestions, and I will do my best to implement them (unless they seriously conflict with something I want to achieve).

The changes I'm considering include:

Bring back the rule from older editions where you stopped getting hit dice at a certain level - probably 12 in this case
Re-write classes to be twelve levels. I haven't put serious amounts of thought into what happens after level 12, but high-level play will remain viable.
Heavily reduce spells per day for characters, as well as making it harder to place an effect on an opponent the more powerful that effect is. More powerful spells are also harder to mask and more distinctive, so players will find it easier to notice and identify them - unless they are intended to deceive.
Remove the restriction on multiple attacks per round - instead, successive attacks have a cumulative -4 penalty and you must stop if you miss an attack. Removed by popular protest. I am planning some pretty heavy changes to the combat system.
Make ECL less important in determining experience
Removing the penalty for cross-class skills. Instead, all skills will provide 'talents' at certain ranks - characters who have levels in the right classes gain access to a talent if they have enough ranks in the appropriate skill. These may be comparable to some existing feats - possibly even things like Mobility and Cloak Dance
Remove a few existing feats and make them into talents.
Switch a few skills around - adding some, consolidating some, possibly splitting some skills as well.
Add in a system that allows the DM to give players special powers (like the Bhaalspawn abilities of Baldur's Gate) that they might not normally have access to. The DM treats these powers as an alternative to awarding experience points - either by deducting them from future experience, or from the player's experience award for the encounter where the power was obtained (or, for creating characters who start at high levels, from the initial XP given to create the character). Permanent Magic Items and powerful racial abilities (e.g. Drow Spell Resistance) are handled and balanced by the same system. I'm tempted to remove XP from the level gain and only include it as a currency for obtaining 'personal' character abilities like this.
Wizards and sorcerers will actually be made tougher (in terms of ability to take punishment) - they will pick up larger hit dice, and I'm planning on eliminating weak base attack bonus from the game. A wizard armed with just a staff might be able to take on a cleric or a druid in melee. Oh, and arcane spell failure gets bludgeoned to death with a vorpal baseball bat.


What does everyone think? Are these viable changes?

As a general rule, I'm hoping to make things a little more consistent, make certain rules a little easier to remember and work with (such as multiple attacks) and also try to help the DM handle magic items, unique abilities and racial traits without too much trouble.

I'm also trying to reduce the dependence on tables currently present in the game - for example, in many cases, a character will get spell slots equal to his level, to be used for the most relevant spells at any given level.

I'll see if I can get to work on a few examples of things that have been reworked using these rules - in the meantime, I'm still open to comments and suggestions.

lesser_minion
2009-04-06, 05:08 AM
Bump?

Does anyone have anything to say?

Will this kill the game?

Do I need to provide a few examples?

Should this be in Roleplaying Games?

I've put a rough guide of what a spell might look like in these rules below:
Magic Missile
Minor Mage Evocation [force]
Mastery: 2 per missile + 2 per target
Range: (5 + 1/2 level) squares or 5ft increments
Targets: one or more creatures who must be within a 15ft. radius burst
Resistances: Magic

When cast successfully, this spell conjures a number of small, faintly shimmering spheres of magical energy which head unerringly towards the target creatures. Each missile deals d4+1 damage. You may freely choose how many of the missiles created are aimed at each target.

A caster must declare how many missiles he wishes to create before rolling the mastery check - there is no limit.


OK, so there are a few more changes here.

Spells now have a mastery DC in place of a level. If the spell is described as minor and you can take 10 on casting rolls, then the spell can be recast as often as required - the caster loses one of his daily casting attempts if the spell is miscast, but not otherwise. Major spells have specific limitations on how often a character may cast them over the course of a day, which helps to curb abuses (e.g. Nailed to the Sky - major transmutation, limit 1/day)
If the spell is not a minor spell, or would not succeed when taking 10 (neglecting resistances), then it uses up one of the caster's spell slots
A caster gets one spell slot per level, possibly more if the class has a decent disadvantage to counter things
The mastery DC determines how hard the spell is to cast. A target's fortitude bonus, reflex bonus, will bonus or resistance bonuses may be added to mastery check DCs. This is more like the system used in Ars Magica 5th edition than conventional 3rd edition.
Experience will be slower - most likely the experience total needed to attain any given level will be 1000 x (target level)^2. A 1st level character will have 3000xp to start, which allows them to potentially begin with a minor magic item
Many spells will be either cut or rewritten.

xanaphia
2009-04-06, 05:42 AM
Looks interesting.

It seems like a more 1 or 2e D&D game. I like the tone. Make sure your players really want to do this, before screwing around with the rules this fundamentally.

2d8 HD seems ugly to me. I think that the mechanics for monsters are the most elegant in all of 3.5, and they are made more clear by having classes with only one HD per level. You really don't need to do that.

I like the idea of multiple attacks. It seems abusable against lower level people though.

I like the idea of giving players abilities as rewards. I do that all the time.

Satyr
2009-04-06, 05:49 AM
Bring back the rule from older editions where you stopped getting hit dice at a certain level - probably 12 in this case

That would work. Alternatively, reduce the number of hitpoint each character gains per level.


Re-write classes to be twelve levels. I haven't put serious amounts of thought into what happens after level 12, but as a general rule, numbers all stop at 12th level except pretty much caster level and number of spells.


While an E12 approach would work fine, but the idea to only favor spellcasters after a certain point is completely horrible; not only are spellcasters are prefered by the rules as written from the get-go, the determination of an arbitrary point in life where people stop to learn new stuff is ridiculous and counter-intuitive.
I would suggest to take a look at the E6 rules and copy those.


Hit dice will work like weapon damage dice do in 4e. So a class could have a hit die type of, for example, 2d8.

Rolling hit dice is an extreme arbitrary method; a fixed number of hitpoints work almost always better.


Heavily reduce spells per day for characters, as well as making it harder to place an effect on an opponent the more powerful that effect is. More powerful spells are also harder to mask and more distinctive, so players will find it easier to notice and identify them - unless they are intended to deceive.

Remember that spellcasting is pretty much the only thing that some spellcasters can do; reducing this will in some cases reduce the spellcaster to an extra in many scenes, and that is probably not what you want; I have great experiences with making spells depending on succesful skill checks, ad reducing their overall power (see Serpents and Sewers (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?t=102346)), and for balancing issues I also found it very helpful to make cantrips practically free to use, so that a spellcaster never really runs out of fuel, and can even contribute if he or she has run out of proper spells.


Remove the restriction on multiple attacks per round - instead, successive attacks have a cumulative -4 penalty and you must stop if you miss an attack.

That is pretty much what we did as well, and it works fine, albeit i don't know about the missing attack aspect; the way I am used to the D&D rules you roll all iterative attacks at the same time, and putting them into a sequence would probably slow the game down.


Make ECL less important in determining experience

I found this pretty much obligatory for the creation of narratives that are more depending on a plot and less on a string of encounters


Removing the penalty for cross-class skills. Instead, all skills will provide 'talents' at certain ranks - characters who have levels in the right classes gain access to a talent if they have enough ranks in the appropriate skill. These may be comparable to some existing feats - possibly even things like Mobility and Cloak Dance

I am not so sure about this one, it could be great if the implementation works well, but if it is not well implemented, it can easily become a more complex rule that does not anything beneficient for the game;


Remove a few existing feats and make them into talents.

See above.


Switch a few skills around - adding some, consolidating some, possibly splitting some skills as well.

Again, this is also depending on the implementation. But if you increase the number of skills, you should also increase the number of skill points per level for player characters; thinking about it, increasing the number of skill points is good idea even if you keep the same number of skills or slightly reduce the number.


Add in a system that allows the DM to give players special powers (like the Bhaalspawn abilities of Baldur's Gate) that they might not normally have access to. The DM treats these powers as an alternative to awarding experience points - either by deducting them from future experience, or from the player's experience award for the encounter where the power was obtained (or, for creating characters who start at high levels, from the initial XP given to create the character). Permanent Magic Items and powerful racial abilities (e.g. Drow Spell Resistance) are handled and balanced by the same system. Losing the abilities will be handled by the DM making a note of the value of the abilities lost and reducing any future 'XP debt' the player incurs by that amount

That could work well, but it can lead to a lot more bookkeeping, which is not really that much fun.

lesser_minion
2009-04-06, 06:18 AM
The idea is to make things a little more like 1e or 2e, which I don't think will be much of a problem. Mostly they are still used to things like Fireball being one of the best spells in the game.

As for the 2d8 hit die - those will be pretty much reserved for monsters. I'm hoping to streamline the monster rules slightly, although not to the extent of 4e's monster streamlining. The main point is to hopefully make constitution a little less important and also move a little of the game's emphasis onto avoiding damage (especially at high levels).

I'm not planning on non-casters ceasing to improve altogether past 12th level, as you are right about it being horribly jarring and unrealistic. I'm probably going to avoid being too like an e12 style system though.

Also, I am planning on changing things so that scaling spell effects are handled by raising the mastery check DC rather than using caster level. Exactly how you improve your mastery check bonus isn't something I've decided yet - you might not get anything more than an ability modifier, a few feats and some talents.

As for the cantrips thing - I'm planning on including something similar. If taking 10 on a Mastery check would cast the spell and it isn't listed as a 'major spell' then you can cast it for free. Eventually you will be able to at-will some pretty cool stuff. By this point, melee characters should be managing something vaguely comparable (hopefully).

I'm also going to make a list of things that massively go against the spirit of the rules and inform players that any combo that allows one of them to happen is banned. It won't stop everything, but at least it gives me a last line of defence against somebody being able to at-will Nailed to the Sky

As for skill list changes, at the moment I have a mix of standard changes (Acrobatics/Dance in place of Balance and Tumble), similar changes (Trade in place of Craft and Profession, because I'm taking an Ars Magica-style route of having the GM decide which ability modifier to use on a case-by-case basis), a couple of skills which have been renamed and repurposed (Command replaces Intimidate, Shadow replaces a few aspects of Bluff, Ghost (look, it has to go up against Shadow) being the catch-all stealth skill, and Analysis replacing Search, Disable Device and some aspects of Forgery). I'll post a full list at some point in the future.

I think the biggest change will be the barbarian, which I am pretty certain was originally depicted in D&D as being distrustful of magic, to the point of learning his own techniques to supplant the role of magic in more normal society. Among other things, a barbarian gained abilities such as being able to hit incorporeal and otherwise immune creatures with mundane weapons.

Am I right here? I don't have access to the 1e version of Unearthed Arcana, but I'm pretty sure I'm not too far from the mark.

Random_person
2009-04-06, 11:29 PM
Hooray! Someone needs a book that I have!

Jubilation aside, that is exactly what the barbarian was like, to the point that they couldn't associate with magic-users at all until second level. I don't know about the developing to replace, they just got these awesome abilities and needed a balance on it. They were eventually allowed to use magic items, but they could only strike creatures that required a certain enchantment, incorporeality completely blocking them. Of course, they were allowed magic weapons at level 4, about the time the first incorporeal nasties began to appear I think, so yeah.

RandomFellow
2009-04-06, 11:47 PM
Personally, for the feel your going for, I'd aim for E6 or E8. High enough level to be able to do stuff, but low enough you can cut away most of the rule changes you'd need to make to 'fix' things.

The only thing I think is a horrible idea is the attack system (iterative attacks until you miss). I'd just give a purely martial class an extra iterative attack (ignoring misses).

Otherwise, you'd be giving the same 'boost' to Divine Power Clerics, etc.

lesser_minion
2009-04-08, 05:15 AM
I was planning on rewriting quite a few spells and developing a system for making certain skills work well alongside combat buffs, so I'm not too worried about giving a boost to CoDzilla (because I intend to make that much more difficult)

The barbarian re-write I'm working on at the moment for these rules basically gives them a few abilities that help them deal with damage reduction and hostile magic, I haven't cut skills that I intend to change and repurpose (intimidation is covered under the Command skill, which is a lot more versatile and has combat applications beyond just yelling loudly at your opponent).

I don't really want to go with E6 or E8 in this case - I still want the 'higher' levels of play to be viable, as in older editions, rather than stopping at the heroic fantasy level. Even with the magic item changes, high powered games will be possible. They will play a bit differently to vanilla 3e however.

Also, before the legion of XP-cost-haters starts throwing bricks through my window, I would like to try justifying the idea of making characters pay XP to acquire and make use of a magical sword.

Basically, it makes WBL guidelines and arguments irrelevant, and means that the main limit to a character's mechanical power is their XP. It is vaguely inspired by the way that WFRP uses XP as a currency for gaining new abilities (admittedly not magic items, but they are almost as rare as Fate Points in WFRP).

In game terms, it means that when a character makes himself mechanically stronger on a long-term basis, he moves behind in XP in comparison to the rest of the party. It's not 'casters drop behind if they make items to benefit the rest of the group'. It also means that characters have to make a decision - do they seek out all of those awesome magic swords of awesome? Or do they seek to increase their own power?

It also means that monks might be a little better off, depending on exactly how I handle them.

lesser_minion
2009-04-10, 09:41 AM
Another bump?

I'm considering changing this so that characters don't have to throw out experience to gain powers and magic items, and just use an extra store of "character points" depending on their level.

Another change will be to make virtually all magic items give bonuses that scale with their wielder's level - this is mainly an attempt to make magic items seem a little more personal, as one thing I dislike is the idea of players regularly chopping and changing magic items. This way, you can have a vorpal sword at 1st level (instead of cutting people's heads off, it just gives you a little extra damage - once you hit level 13, however...)

As for hitpoints - I want to have a standard rule where an effect that 'heals' a character does something specific, most likely healing the character to double their current hitpoints (this might be too close to something mentioned on p.293 of the 4e PHB to be OGL-workable, however.)

This seems to work nicely with the idea of advising the DM to describe the severity of a wound based on how many hit points the character has remaining rather than how many hit points they lost from the attack (which seems consistent with the idea that hitpoints are an abstract measure of roughly how hard it is to fully incapacitate a character)

It also means that you can have the spells Cure Light Wounds and so on actually do so - a lightly wounded character would need to be healed once, a moderately wounded character twice and a seriously wounded character three times in order to restore them to full hitpoints (I fully intend to impose activity limits on wounded characters)

Otogi
2009-07-13, 09:42 AM
Are you sure that improving past 12 for non-casters won't seem fair? Why not just stop the spellcasting progression and improve versatility or "spellshaping"?

Zeta Kai
2009-07-13, 11:14 AM
I like it. I haven' read the whole thing but I like a few of the points you made in the beginning. I'll read the whole thing a bit latter.

So you commited threadomancy to say that you haven't even read the thread that you bumped from the grave? :smallconfused:

Otogi
2009-07-13, 01:38 PM
Not all of. I skimmed and I saw parts I liked, so I commented on them. I'm not in some kind of trouble, am I?

Djinn_in_Tonic
2009-07-13, 01:43 PM
Not all of. I skimmed and I saw parts I liked, so I commented on them. I'm not in some kind of trouble, am I?

Not as such. Thread necromancy (resurrecting a thread after three months of inactivity) is usually frowned upon, and this particular thread is pushing that age limit.

Exceptions do exist, but are usually limited to the original poster bringing out some new addition, or some complete revision of the old work. A non-original poster should be bringing something truly extraordinary to the thread to merit a revival past about the one month mark, and your post, while promising things to come, didn't really add anything new or offer any good critique...and so is percieved as a rather pointless thread necromancy. In general, saying "nicely done" or "I like this, and am going to use it" are things which are not considered good form for necromancy. Posting a complete overhaul or a comprehensive playtest result is taken better, as it's useful information for anyone who was interested in that material.

Otogi
2009-07-13, 01:46 PM
To Djinn: Thanks, I'll put in my first post right now!

Djinn_in_Tonic
2009-07-13, 01:48 PM
Got it. I'll delete both my previous post, and this post in about 5 minutes. I don't know what good it will do, though.

None at all, so don't bother. :smallbiggrin:

Nobody is yelling at you. In fact, now that this is back up, you may as well post your review. Maybe someone can indeed use it. I was just answering your question. :smallbiggrin:

lesser_minion
2009-07-14, 04:29 AM
Otogi - feel free to post your review. I haven't done a lot of work fleshing all of these ideas out though, and I'll probably post an entirely new thread when I'm done.

I've actually been considering making some changes to the core mechanic (moving it to d10s or d12s, as this simplifies calculations, makes most of the numbers smaller and easier to handle, and also allows me to rework the core mechanic as "you need to roll X to succeed, here's how to calculate X" - which I think is the best way to express things).

I also have a possible idea for allowing skills with variable levels of detail:

A character's rank in a skill represents their overall ability in a fairly broad array of related disciplines - for example, natural science, philosophy, and so on.

The basic idea here is that a character learning one of these disciplines implies that they also have experience and training in a number of fields which are actually common to most - if not all - disciplines within the remit of one skill. It also implies that they clearly have an aptitude for most - if not all - of the disciplines encompassed by the skill.

Even so, a character will generally achieve the most dramatic and most exceptional results when what he is doing clearly falls within the remit of a discipline in which he has received extensive training. This is represented by allowing characters to 'name' disciplines which they have studied within a particular skill. Each named discipline a character applies to a task permits them to roll an additional d10 for their skill check.

The end result of such a check is a success if any of the dice report a success, and every success rolled uses the highest magnitude.


OK, that was a lot harder to explain than I expected.

I'm also trying to think of potential settings to use with all of this, so any help there would be appreciated.