View Full Version : E6 variant [WIP] [PEACH]

2013-12-17, 04:56 AM
Iíve played a lot of D&D, every edition except 4th (from the beige books through Pathfinder), and run quite a few games in 3.5. I mostly like the system, but see a lot of big problems.

First is that advancement happens way too fast at the mid-high levels; in previous editions, the first few levels are relatively quick and easy but the costs go up rapidly, so hitting 6th level felt like an accomplishment you worked for and getting above about 8th or 9th was something that took a great deal of dedication and luck. In 3.5, it takes about the same number of encounters (13.5 according to the GMG, but they assume encounters with CR balanced to the partyís level, which I find boring since they donít take much in the way of tactics or resources and donít supply much risk) to gain every level, so everybody in the party is improving steadily and rapidly even at the higher levels. It gives players almost constant feelings of reward and progression, but seems to diminish the value of each individual accomplishment and ability they gain. It makes things hard for GMs, because even fairly high powered players will constantly be gaining power and new tricks and making encounters which would have been an exciting challenge just a couple sessions ago trivial. And it means that as a player you canít become attached to a character and play then through several grand quests over a long campaign, because your first big adventure is likely to take you from 1st to 9th level or whatever and lock you out of all the other possibilities for level 3-5ish heroes forcing you to start each major quest as a new person and put more thought into new character builds and other mechanical things instead of developing personality and roleplaying.

Second is power level. PCs get way too strong way too quickly, to the point where somebody often takes less than a month in game to go from a farmhand to a demonslayer. The hit point progression means that a frail, squishy wizard will casually shrug off blows that would decapitate the town blacksmith, and for a monster to even be able to scratch an average adventurer it needs to be able to instantly vaporize any lesser man. I want to play a game of heroes, not inhuman demigods. And itís far too easy to get story-breaking spells; off the top of my head I canít think of a single classic piece of fantasy literature that wouldnít be utterly derailed by at addition of a 7th level wizard and all the horrible things level 4 spells bring.

Third is feat progression. Feats are really cool, flavorful tricks that set every character apart from others of their class. But you get so few of them. A new feat is typically less powerful than a new class feature, but you only get one every three full levels without bonuses, and so almost nobody will be able to take one that isnít vital to their pre-planned build progression, which defeats the purpose of learning a neat flavorful trick that sets you apart from others of your class.

Iíve looked into the E6 system, and I like it. It solves many of these problems. But not all, and it creates more. First, I donít like how progression happens at the same breakneck pace until level 6 and then suddenly stops, instead of having any curve to it. Second, I donít like how a lot of possibilities are simply cut off; it should be possible for a Rogue to learn to Manyshot with extensive training, but by the rules their BAB will never go above 4. And while level 4+ spells should be restricted, removing them almost entirely breaks a lot of other things.
And while itís great for playing as a mere human being heroic in a world of big scary monsters, it has no allowances for the monsters themselves; one of the things I love about 3.5 over earlier versions of D&D is how everything uses the same system instead of monster statblocks only including whatís required to run them in normal combat, so GMs can develop unique and interesting adversaries, players can theoretically play as things other than the typical designated PC races, spells and effects used in creative ways donít break down because nobody gave the goblin a wisdom score, etc. E6 ignores these possibilities, and so in my mind is great for a campaign but not perfect for a whole system.

So I set out to make a set of house rules that take most of the advantages of 3.5, blend them with the things I loved about AD&D, bring in most of the benefits of the E6 rules, and hopefully leave behind almost everything I donít love. Then I realized that I had just tried to use logarithms in a game, scrapped it as overly complicated, and sketched out whatís here. Now Iím looking for feedback, advice, and possibly even playtesting as Iím not sure that I havenít broken everything and some more experienced eyes would see problems I didnít.

2013-12-17, 04:57 AM
1 You do not automatically level up on reaching a certain experience total. Instead, experience is a resource to be spent on advancement.

2 levelling up costs (1000 exp * 2^[your current ECL]). This means that for a normal human,
{table=head] level | gained | cost | total | norm
1 | 2 | 2K | 2K | 1K
2 | 3 | 4K | 6K | 3K
3 | 4 | 8K | 14K | 6K
4 | 5 | 16K | 30K | 10K
5 | 6 | 32K | 62K | 15K
This also means that a level adjustment will not strictly limit a character, but will massively increase the costs of advancement; a drow will have to pay 8K to go to second level and 128K to go from 5h to 6th, a half dragon would pay 32K just to go from level 1 to level 2 and 512K to advance from 5 to 6, and a 5th level vampire would need to pay 8,192,000 experience points to level up again (most undead and other immortals largely cease to grow and develop as a person)

3. No character, except for deities and the like, can gain more than five levels beyond their base. This means that humanoids and such with a single natural hit die may gain six class levels in total. A lizardfolk, with two natural hit dice, may gain five levels in the class of their choice, for a total of seven hit dice (but due to increased hit dice and LA, pays four times what a human would for each levelup). A Titan, Demon, or Dragon could theoretically gain up to five levels in a base (or prestige) class of their choice to supplement their natural abilities, but to do so (except possibly at very young age for the dragon) would be extremely expensive in exp cost, something accomplished over decades or centuries of their very long life.

4. Any character may, at any time, purchase feats for which they qualify with experience points. These are in addition to and tracked separately from feats gained by advancing in level, class features, or racial bonuses. Each costs 1000 exp, plus 100 exp for each previous feat purchased in this manner. (1000 for the first, 1400 for the fifth, 2000 for the tenth, and so on)

5. Likewise, additional skill points may be purchased with experience points. Maximum ranks based on class and level are unchanged (unless increased by feats, see below). The cost of each skill point is ((1000 - 100(base number of skill points by class) * (1 if int mod = 0, (1-.5*int mod) if negative, (1/(1+.5*int mod)) if positive), with all fractions rounding up to the nearest experience point. Confused? of course.
Basically, the base cost is
800 for classes that only get 2 skill points per level (cleric, fighter, paladin, sorc, wiz)
600 for those with 4 (barbarian, druid, monk)
400 for those with 6 (bard, ranger)
200 for those with 8 (rogue)
the multipliers for various intelligences then give us totals of
{table=head] int | mult | 8 | 6 | 4 | 2
-5 | 3.5 | 700 | 1400 | 2100 | 2800
-4|3|600 | 1200 | 1800 | 2400
(if youíre playing a character with higher than 23 int, you should be able to figure out my math)
Thus, anybody can learn more skills and get better at them with time, but skillmonkeys and the naturally intelligent will have an easier time of it (and a stereotypical dumb fighter will find feats cheaper than skill points for a while)

2013-12-17, 04:58 AM
Things I plan to add:
Feats that let you qualify for other feats. Currently Manyshot (requires BAB +6) is unavailable to those without full BAB progression, for example, and it should be possible (with extensive training) to learn to do this as a rogue. And not even the best fighter can learn things like Greater Weapon Focus (needs fighter level 8, and I know this isnít the best example but there are others like it that somebody probably wants).
Currently thinking of something along the lines of
Advanced Combat Training [General]
Benefit: For purposes of meeting the prerequisites of other feats, you are treated as having a base attack bonus one point higher than you do. This has no effect on actual attack rolls.
Special: A Fighter taking this feat also treats their fighter level as one higher than it is for purposes of qualifying for feats. This feat can be taken multiple times and its benefits will stack.

Skills: It should be hard, but not impossible to get more than nine ranks in a thing (or four cross-class). Not sure how to balance this, with the relative cheapness of feats and some of the silly things that can be done with very high skill ranks. Maybe a feat that increases the rank cap by 2 in the skill of your choice, repeatable? Also, definitely a feat to allow for more than three skill tricks to be taken, but Iíll figure out the specifics there later.

Magic: Sometimes, you need a Restoration spell without going to an Angel or whatever. But 4th level spells are off limits to anything that doesnít have inherent spellcasting. Iím thinking the solution is rituals: complicated, expensive rituals that take multiple people, pricy components, big largely immobile focii, and a long time to cast. And thatís after youíve learned how.

Iím currently thinking that every spell in the book has a ritual equivalent, which has the same end effects, is more costly in every way than the way to do it with normal casting, and requires special knowledge, but can be done at lower level. Currently planning on having a series of ĎRitualistí feats going from level 1 through 9 with each taking the one before it as a prerequisite, and then a separate feat for each specific ritual which requires both the appropriate level of ĎRitualistí and actually learning how to do it in-game. For simple, relatively common things that knowledge is as easy as going to the high priest in a decent sized temple in a decent sized city and convincing him to let you study the ancient scrolls of Restoration. For high level or obscure spells, this could require going on long quests into the ancient ruins of some forgotten empire; this allows for higher level magic to be possible (making flesh to stone or negative levels significant but no longer a permanent Ďyour character is screwedí) but strictly limited to what the GM deliberately places in the world rather than a way for players to derail things as soon as they hit level 7.
As for the cost of rituals (each can be customized by the GM, but there should be some sort of standard for the common ones)Ö not even remotely sure yet on what itíll cost to set up the focus, or how much in components per use. Currently thinking a base casting time of an hour per level. The leader of the ritual will need the specific feat for what theyíre performing (and use their own caster level and such). Everybody else involved will need the basic Ritualist feat, with higher ranks of it being better. A ritual requires total caster levels equal to the level of the spell squared, with no participant being able to contribute more than double their own rank in the Ritualist feat.
So a Restoration (level 4) would require a leader with the Ritualist Rank 4 feat and the Ritual: Restoration feat, assistants bringing the total caster levels to 16 (three at level 6 with feat rank 3+, or a level 6 leader and 10 acolytes), a ritual circle prepared beforehand for Restorations at great cost, four hours, and expensive but not prohibitive components.
A True Resurrection, if even included in the campaign, will require a rank 9 ritualist to lead who has learned the secrets of the ritual (and spent a feat on it), and 81 total caster levels of participants (minimum of fourteen people if theyíre all max level, and everybody assisting is a rank 3+ ritualist), along with truly absurdly expensive components.

Iím also thinking of adding a modest exp cost to even simple rituals, to diminish the risk of unforeseen overuse of something to break the game by putting a real cost on it instead of just a monetary one.

Magic Items: Dunno what to do here. Rods, Staves, and Rings can currently only be made by supermagical monsters. Iím not sure if thatís a problem. Maybe a feat to increase effective caster level for qualifying for feats and item creation? Make those two separate feats? Making an item that takes spells of level 4 or higher will require either a creature (titan, dragon, godÖ) who can cast them naturally. Might also allow rituals to be used here, but at massively increased cost and maybe a separate feat to put the spell into an item instead of just using it directly.

2013-12-17, 04:59 AM
Other things Iím thinking about:
The cheapness of feats in this system means that Humans are less valuable than other racial abilities, and fighters are even more useless than normal. Iím thinking of giving them a discount to the cost of feats (and skill points for humans) but I have no idea how much would be balanced.

Iím thinking of expanding the level limit, and just letting the rapid increase in experience costs prevent players from getting too high level and encouraging them to spend their points on skills and feats instead. But I remain very leery of granting free access to level 4+ spells. They break things. Iíd like to keep effects like teleportation, polymorphing, dimensional anchors, and Scrying as the domain of magical creatures, major magic items, and slow, costly rituals.

2013-12-17, 05:00 AM
Major implications of the system:
As a result of rule 4, spells of higher than level 3 are generally off-limits. Some creatures (demons and titans and such) have spell like abilities which are higher level than what can be achieved with real spellcasting. Others, such as True Dragons, Nymphs, and Angels, have natural spellcasting ability much greater than what can be achieved through training alone. And of course Demigods and full Deities can perform feats far beyond the likes of mortals.

For creatures with natural hit dice or level adjustments, it will be orders of magnitude easier to gain skills and feats than to gain levels. I like this, as it means that powerful, immortal creatures like demons, dragons, and vampires will develop a lot of tricks, a great deal of knowledge, and become very skilled over the years, but theyíll have a hard time changing big things about themselves; it should be easy, I think, for a succubus to learn the entire history of a nation or pick up a new trick with the bow, but it should be difficult for such an old and powerful creature to change her ways and pick up a level of wizard, for example. A dragon, as an intelligent creature, will learn new maneuvers whenever it suits them, and centuries of life give plenty of time for practicing any skill which takes mere time and effort to pick up, but very few will bother to learn a class (one might endeavor to become a rogue as a wyrmling, when it takes only a couple months or years of effort, but as one grows it becomes content to be a dragon). I welcome feedback on any problems with balance and such this presents.

2013-12-17, 09:36 AM
I hink if you have an insane cost curve, then you could forgo the level cap altogether. The game Im creating has each rank ten times more expensive then the previous rank, thus the first few are quickly possible, but slow down really quick. However I dont use classes and have the skills, feat chains, etc, level seperatly, so it is easy to broaden ones capabilities but to be truly good at something requires dedication. You could try a similar tree concept for feats, thus there is still requirements but they are no longer based on class levels and players dont need to buy "blank" feats just meet prereqs either.

I like your ritual idea but since feats get expensive by the time you could do any decent level rituals, I dont think you need an exp cost, just have a great cost of time, say six hours per level of spell. Highlevel rituals would require the caster to be fighting fatigue to accomplish. Though, spells were supposed to be controlled the same way you are suggesting to control access to rituals, but I think players just like to ignore that since it was such a small notation to that effect.

With that time cost, you wouldnt need to make the rituals particularly costly either, I would suggest cost imilar to creating a single use magic item. I dont remember if 3.5 has the item creation cost tables, but I know pf does so you could use those.

You do need to consider how Cl works on rituals for the numerical effects though, and if there is any way to increase the effective CL, even if only for certain elements like duration (perhaps add another hour to casting time for each plus one to CL). This way, you can more use out of rituals without being easy. Having a restoration ritual is pointless if you have go pay a bunch of people to cat it for you anyway. The advantage of learning such things yourself is to avoid involving strangers and the ability to use them out in wild. Thus being able to spend 24 hours to fix the fighter is better then travelling for a week and hoping the fighter survives the trip. You can include other casters by letting each additional caster shorten the time to cast the ritual, but each additional caster must have the ritualist feat at least within one rank of the ritual,and they also have to pay half the cost of the ritual. The cast time is then divided by the number of casters. As you shorten the time you vastly increase the cost.

I have never felt humans were balanced with other races, so I probably shouldnt comment on that.

I analyze some more after I sleep.

2013-12-17, 10:30 AM
In 3.5 RAW, you can control what spellbooks and scrolls the players can find in the world, but every time the wizard gains a level they can add 2 spells of their choice to their book. That means that as soon as they hit level 7, they have two different ways they can completely derail any story which hasn't specifically been planned around them. And as soon as you manage to adjust things to those two gamechanging abilities, they'll hit 8th and pop two more. And that's before you even go into Warlocks and Factotums creating scrolls of anything they can imagine, so long as it's in an allowed sourcebook. With 4th level spells available at all, the only way for the GM to really control which ones the players get access too is by expressly forbidding large chunks of the PH.

I don't think that doubling the cost each level is too insane of a cost curve; it means that for most people it's cheaper to get a dozen more feats than to go from level 5 to level 6, but I don't think that a 64,000 exp price tag will deter a 6th level mage from suddenly gaining ultimate cosmic power. I could increase the multiplier at the higher levels, but I've been trying (and perhaps failing) to avoid making the math too complex. And I have no idea how much of an increase would be appropriate. For now it's looking like a hard limit is better. Though I suppose that hard limit could be put on spells higher than 3rd level, rather than all class levels... that way multiclassing is more of a possibility, and casters can still become more powerful and versatile with their low level spells without gaining easy access to things that crack a campaign open. It would also make metamagic a thing that could happen. I dunno.

I do like the idea of trading longer casting time for fewer participants in a ritual, so they could be performed out in the wilderness by a single caster but take much more effort and concentration. Perhaps reduce the effective level of the ritual for caster levels required by one, in exchange for doubling the time taken? So a 4th level ritual like Restoration would normally take 16CLs and 4 hours, but could be done with 9CLs in 8, or 4 in 16, allowing a properly trained ritualist to do it alone if they take all day? In this case a Concentration check should probably be added, so longer rituals become risky as the caster needs to maintain focus for long periods and fight sleep deprivation... this would however allow a 4th level mage to use a 4th level spell if they paid their five feats and could maintain focus for 16 hours, or a 5th level spell if they could keep it going for 40 hours straight. I'm not sure whether or not this is a problem. And while a 1st level caster could theoretically cast a Restoration over the course of 32 hours, I doubt anyone would take the five feats necessary plus whatever they need to pull off that extended Concentration test instead of just gaining a few levels.

And of course there should probably be some meta-ritual feats that let you accelerate the casting by adding more people, components, or increasing the concentration difficulty (or vice versa) but those can be written much later, once we have more of an idea of how things will go.

As for balancing humanity... I've met two kinds of people. Some say that since they don't get any ability score bonuses or useful inherent features, they're worthless compared to other races. Others look at their build, discover that they really need to squeeze in one more feat to make it work, ask their GM about Flaws and are immediately denied, and end up being human because it's the only way to make things work. If feats become a thing you can just buy for relatively cheap, I don't think anybody will have reason to play as humanity. If they actually are 'quick to master' and can learn new feats and skills more quickly and easily than other races, that becomes a valuable tradeoff. But I have absolutely no idea how much of a discount would be appropriate. On skills I guess I can just treat their Int bonus as one higher than it really is, but how do I balance the feat costs right to make them attractive but not the Master Race?

2013-12-17, 09:34 PM
The idea that someone alter would such a large portion of their character concept for a single feat that could be attained two levels later is a very munchkin like thing to do. Designing around munchkins tends to leave the hard core anti munchkins and newbies feeling a bit lost.

You can leave the spell slots open at higher levels but make learning a metamagic spell like learning a new spell and deny learning level 4+ spells to rituals only, so the base spell must less than four, but the higher slots and spells known are still worth something because they get used for metamagic spells.

Also, feats start off cheap, but they do get expensive. casting a single ninth level ritual costs 14,500 and that doesn't include any other feats the character may need to survive long enough to learn them, nor does it include gaining the wealth to cast the ritual, and given the time it takes to cast such a ritual, the player would rarely find a use for them, most of the time the fighters have already finished, and those few cases where they decide to cast anyway, well, they become sitting ducks that the others must defend and thus major plot point tool. Though I would suggest limiting ritual level to equal CL, so a level six can learn up to sixth level spell rituals, and attaining higher level rituals is still possible but you have get the requisite CL first.

As for insane cost curve, you can simply make the curve sharp. In my game, I multiply by ten and so if it costs 900,000 exp to get to level 7, that is quite the limit, yet still doable for the truly dedicated. But if you don't want that insane, you could also try (1000*[new class level]^[current ECL]) this gives a significantly higher cost as you go up. Additionally, hand out exp based on how difficult the encounter was for the players to complete rather then a mechanical CR equation. Thus if the players finished the fight in one round with no casualties or injuries, then they get like 50 xp but if they nearly exhausted their resources and two of them dropped, they get like a 500 xp.

Of course, I have a large preference for what I call "soft boundaries" over "hard boundaries." Soft boundaries are where players can go as far as they like but it becomes so difficult or impractical they would be crazy to try, while hard boundaries are just absolute "You hit an invisible wall. You can go no further."

2013-12-17, 10:03 PM
I agree on many of your points of contention with 3.5. I'm starting a game using my Overhaul, class fixes, and especially my E10 Variant. Relevant info is located in my Signature.

It's focuses on minimizing vertical and exponential progression in favor of horizontal and quadratic power increases.

Take a look, you may find some things you like. It limits characters to 4th level spells, but allows for expensive rituals to create higher spell level effects if needed.

At level 20 all characters are effectively 10//10 Gestalt characters with more skills.


Takes twice as long to gain Hit Dice, but there is continual advancement with Feats and Class Features.

It's also using some variant rules systems such as Wound/Vitality Points, Armor as Dr, and an AC bonus based upon BAB.

I've tested the Variant rules before with success at lower levels, this will be a long term test of the Overhaul and the E10 rules.