View Full Version : Seven Sources: 5e system adaptation/setting (early-process thoughts)

2018-11-22, 09:07 PM
This is a preliminary sketch of a rules adaptation/setting that Iíve been kicking around for the last few weeks. Iím looking for feedback from top to bottom: recommendations, cautions, (friendly) criticisms on anything from the names Iím using to whether the whole thing should just be chucked. At the moment Iím assuming this will be mapped onto a 5e D&D system, but Iím open to switching to a different system that will accommodate it better.

I will admit with only a moderate amount of shame that this premise is drawn in large part from the opening sequence of The Dragon Prince on Netflix. I donít know how closely this sticks to that material, because I found the writing too irritating and stopped watching, but itís definitely what got my gears turning.

The essential premise is a fantasy world in which magic power is drawn from one or more of seven primal sources (which Iíll describe in a moment). They represent an attempt on my part to bring a whiff of science and philosophy into the familiar magical elements of D&D, but they shouldnít make it more than a teensy bit sci-fi or steampunkish.

The first four are the so-called elemental sources, but theyíre not the traditional elements to which we are accustomed. The four are Sun, Earth, Flux and Darkstar, representing respectively the creation, conservation, fluctuation and destruction of energy and matter. Of course we all know that in reality energy and matter are neither created nor destroyed, nor is it ever truly stable, but again, this is just a hint of science in what is still essentially fantasy.

The Sun is an inexhaustible source of energy. Itís associated with creation, light, heat, and fire and radiant damage.

The Earth represents solid matter, stable and unchanging. Stone, metal, etc. etc. Possibly plant life? I havenít decided yet. If itís associated with any energy damage type, it will probably be force, but it may be limited to more basic bludgeoning, slashing, etc.

Flux is the movement of fluid matter, namely gases and liquids. It covers both of the traditional elements of air and water, including weather, storms, and lightning damage.

Darkstar is the emblem for the destruction of energy. Itís the antithesis of Sun, representing absence, emptiness, cold and darkness (Iím considering making this a geocentric universe with a literal darkstar circling the planet on the opposite side from the sun, invisible except in that it blocks out the stars when it passes). Cold damage would be associated with Darkstar.

The next two sources are interdimensional and emotive. At the moment, Iím calling them Heaven and Hell, but I imagine Iíll come up with new names at some point. Each is a parallel universe existing alongside the world and inhabited by creatures who are very interested in doings in the world, but unable to communicate via anything resembling language. Instead they communicate empathically by projecting emotion. They seem to be able to understand any emotion they encounter but can only ďspeakĒ a certain part of the emotional spectrum depending on their origin.

Demons, the inhabitants of Hell, can only communicate in intense, agitated emotions: fear, anger and occasionally ecstatic joy. They generally seem to want bad things for most people.

Angels, the inhabitants of Heaven, can only communicate in more muted shades of sadness and contentment. They tend to want only good things for most people.

The final source of power is Dreams. This is, thus far, the least defined power source in my mindÖ Iím only sure that I want it to be one. It will probably have to do with enchantments, illusions, and such tricks of the mind. Maybe the connections that exist between all living things. Iíd love for it also to function in ways that are abstract and symbolic, manifest in archetypes, and thus sort of encompass the whole system.

In this system/setting, only those beings with an innate connection to one or more sources are able to advance in power with experience. Everyone else just advances in age. As a sidenote, Iíve always wanted to incorporate something like this into the D&D system. Magic seems to me to be the best explanation for why a person with more experience can suddenly survive a critical hit with a greataxe when he couldnít just a few months before.

At the start of the game, each player would identify the sources to which their character is innately connected. I envision something like a White Wolf system or the relationships in 13th Age, where a player has, say, three dots to spend and can either stack them in a single connection or spread them among multiple. Iím as yet undecided as to how mutable these connections might beÖ probably it would be a big deal requiring plot justification to change a characterís affiliations, but maybe not?

Anyway, likely the biggest change to the system Iíd be looking at is eliminating subclasses and most of the classes, bringing them down to a few basic archetypes: possibly just one warrior archetype, one skilled archetype and one spellcasting archetype. Each class would have a basic set of abilities, similar to a fighter, rogue and sorcerer, but in the place of the other classes and subclasses, they would get different class abilities based on their spread of source affiliations. So a warrior may look more paladin-like if he has a strong Heaven affiliation, or more barbarian-like if he is affiliated with Flux. Likewise, a Darkstar skill-monkey might draw abilities from the assassin subclass, and a Dream skill-monkey would more closely resemble a bard. Characters with an even spread of three different affiliations would have a more wind up with a broader, more generic ability set, but still be influenced by their particular sources. Spellcasters would have access to different spell lists depending on their connections. I would like to see this system put together so that characters with strong 2- or 3-point affiliations may have a little more raw power, but less versatility than those with several 1-point ties.

I would also eliminate most of the obstacles to multiclassing, so players could feel free to be all-arounders and boost whatever they feel like boosting when leveling time comes around. Of course, thereís no requirement and a character could max out a single stream, once again trading versatility for raw power.

What Iím presently envisioning where races are concerned is a slate of eight possible races: seven that each have a natural connection to one of the seven sources, and humans, who are equally connected to all. So if, for instance, goliaths are the race associated with Earth, a player with a goliath character must put at least one of their affiliation points in Earth, whereas humans are free to put all of their points wherever they like.

Iíd certainly have to modify the fluff of most of the races, and probably have to modify their crunch as well. One idea that Iím kicking around is removing the racial ability score adjustments and replacing them with adjustments based on affiliation (so for instance, for each dot of Sun affiliation, you increase your strength by 1, to the usual maximum of 20), but it would be tricky to make that work with seven sources and only six ability scores. Then again, Iím not totally wedded to those six ability scores either, so who knows where that will go?

Thatís about all Iíve got so far. Exciting? Revolting? Iím interested to hear your thoughts and suggestions, especially folks that have played with similar systems.