Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Encounters: Bar Fight!

One of the goals I have in my Eberron campaign is to hit as many of the big pulp tropes as possible: train heist, airship adventure, ancient temple, cultists, secret science installation, you know, the important ones.  And of course, the one trope that transcends all genres: the bar fight.

With my PCs recently heading into Sharn, I decided that a big-city bar brawl would be a great opportunity to let them bar fight while they were still low enough level that a bar-fight could be a reasonable challenge.  Once this was decided, I figured I should do what Harbinger of Doom did and make alternate powers for my PCs to use in the bar fight.  My next thought was that I have three Essentials PCs that don't have the traditional At-Will, Encounter, Daily structure: Art the Changeling Thief and Tact the Warforged Slayer have no attack powers at all; Bosh the Valenar Elf Hunter has a single encounter attack power.  That's not to say these characters don't have combat options--they have combat useful class abilities, triggered powers, and utilities that make them REALLY strong.  Because of this, I decided to go a new direction to make bar-fighting fun.

I handed each of the PCs this list:

Bar Fight Weapons:
Melee Attack Bonus Damage Special Qualities
Fist +1 1d4 Unarmed
Stool +0 1d12 2-handed, Brutal 1
Pool Cue +1 1d10 2-handed, Reach
Bottle (Unbroken) +0 1d6 1-handed, High Crit., off-hand
Bottle (Broken) +0 1d6 Sneak Attack, Off-hand
Pewter Tankard +0 1d6 Defensive, Off-hand
Chair Leg +1 1d8 Versatile
Ranged Attack Bonus Damage Special Qualities Range
Dart +1 1d4 Sneak Attack 5/10
Bottle +0 1d6 High Crit. 3/6
Platter +0 1d10 Brutal 1 5/10
Plate +0 1d8 Brutal 1 5/10
Billiard Ball +1 1d6 Brutal 1 5/10

I told them, for all attacks, to just use their standard math with their standard gear-but to use the item with which they were attacking's dice, special qualities, and a bonus to the attack roll, if applicable. This changed their combat effectiveness very minimally. My one caster is a bard, and I figured if there was any sort of magic that was acceptable in a bar fight, bardic magic would be it.

Other rule modifications: All damage was "nonlethal." For the PCs, what that meant was that if they dropped to 0 HP, they could still make "death saves," but they'd never accrue failures-they could, however, roll a 20 and get back into the fight.

And the main combatant:

This guy managed to do what I wanted: instill fear into the PCs. It helped that I scored a crit on the poor, defenseless elf on the first punch of the fight, but his other abilities were impressive.

Bear Hug+Hurl proved to be a powerful way to control the fight and deal with being outnumbered. I changed Bear Hug to target Reflex, because it made more sense. I recharged it a lot early in the fight, which made Lurg particularly hated. One-Two punch made for some useful bread-and-butter attacks, once again, taking advantage of a little bit of control, keeping the fight, at least a little bit, on his terms.

The rest of the combatants were minions with a twist: each of them had a "defeated state." For some, their defeated state was simply dropped, for others, like the bouncer, the defeated state was to do something else, like barricade themselves in the back with the money.

Because I never want fights that don't, in some way, move the plot forward, I introduced a temptation to this fight that the PCs embraced. They knew that the Order of the Emerald claw had men in the bar, meeting with the same guy they were about to meet with. They took advantage of the bar fight to take out the two guards (whom they would have had to fight later) left in the common room. This meant two of the PCs who would have made the rest of the fight fairly simple instead fought non-minion Emerald Claw warriors, ratcheting the fight's difficulty from "standard" to "hard." However, considering that this was a low-risk situation, with no bleeding to death possible, it was a good choice, as it lowered the eventual Emerald Claw fight from High-Moderate to pretty easy.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Kingdom Building Part 3: The Anatomy of a Policy

I am going to show you the steps it took to complete a policy in Kingdom Building.  I started out by giving the PCs a bunch of Policy Options to pick from.

What the PCs saw:
Establish Domestic Informants * Domestic, Informant
Moderate Complexity
Moderate Difficulty
Key Skills:
Diplomacy, Insight, Streetwise Success: You will receive regular, general information about events within Cyre. In addition, you will now be able to pursue policies establishing informants close to specific families, political figures, towns and cities, or organizations.
Retry: Yes. But each failure makes future establishment of specific informant networks more difficult.

     I didn't want the math behind Kingdom Building to be explicit. I decided, arbitrarily, that general policies that could be completed by any Joe in Cyre, would either be Complexity 1, 3, or 5, with Complexity being used as the "how-long should this take" factor. I used "Low Complexity, Moderate Complexity, and High Complexity" language to represent these levels. For character specific policies, only to be completed by my PCs, I decided to only assign High or Low complexity (Complexity 2 or 4) for these policies. For Difficulty, my PCs are level 4, so I decided that a solid moderate challenge would be level 5, and then a deviation of 3 either way (Level 2 for Easy, level 8 for Hard) would give me easy and hard difficulties. I included this list of write-ups in the same document containing the Kingdom Building rules.

What it looks like in my notes:
Establish Domestic Informants * Domestic, Informant
Level 5                         Complexity 3 (6 moderate, 2 hard)
DC 10/15/22                 Key Skills:
Diplomacy, Insight, Streetwise 
1. Success against Streetwise 22 counts as Hard and Moderate success.
2. May Successfully use Streetwise twice per round.
Success: You will receive regular, general information about events within Cyre. In addition, you will now be able to pursue policies establishing informants close to specific families, political figures, towns and cities, or organizations.
Retry: Yes. But each failure makes future establishment of specific informant networks more difficult.

     I decided I would reveal 1 advantage every time a PC attempts the policy, until they've seen every advantage the policy offers. Each advantage can only be used once. I also decided that each PC could use a non-key skill for 1 successful check, and then it would no longer be available. I will probably start giving the PCs this amount of information so I don't have to format two different write-ups for each challenge. I kept this in my secret DM document that also contained my time-line of world events in Eberron.

     Things got done in a shared google doc that the PCs used to update each month's actions. The first month looked like this before the PCs updated anything:

Round 1: February 988 YK
The fighting along the northern border is brief, and casualties are low. The leader of the northern Cyran army, Duke Corlan ir’Varak is captured. Having lost any element of surprise due to your discovery of their approach, however, the young Prince of Karrnath, Kaius, withdraws his troops, leaving a mighty picket force along the river border.
Personal Developments: You receive invitations to the wedding of Lord Leonard ir’Hof to Lady Penelope ir’Stedner. It will take place in March. Much of Cyre’s nobility is invited.
Special Actions: None this round.
Standing Bonuses: +1 Diplomacy (Half-Elf racial from Istav)
PC Actions:
Istav ir’Somme Standard:
Prince Oargev Standard:
(Res Sickness all d20 -1) 

     My plan was to give each PC the information for the month that they need up front, remember their bonuses, and publish their actions. I decided against doing any initiative, preferring to have an "all actions take place simultaneously" approach, so I could just update everything at once. Finally, I decided, except in extreme cases where one PC would be out f the country, all PCs would get the benefit of being close to others from the party at all times.

     Then the PCs added their actions and I rolled on InvisibleCastle, posting their final rolls and weather or not they were successful. Then various PCs used "Reaction powers (this round, Oargev used both his Master Diplomacy Utility power and his Archetype Action Point Power in order to do some damage control on bad rolls:

Round 1: February 988 YK
PC Actions:
Istav ir’Somme

Minor: Inspire Competence - Choose a skill (Diplomacy) Until the end of the encounter you and each ally get a +2 power bonus to their next check using that skill.
Standard: Pursue Establish Diplomatic Credentials (Diplomacy +13) - Schmooze and booze with people at court/on the council in order to curry favor. (+2 bonus from Inspire Competence) Roll=23 Success!
Standard: Pursue Establish Diplomatic Credentials (Insight +10) - While schmoozing and boozing, test the waters and gauge the reactions of the Cyran court and council when considering myself for diplomatic credentials. Roll=20 Success!
Prince Oargev
Standard: Manage the Order of the Prince’s Shield (Diplomacy +8) - Network for list of potential members, gather/vet, and then induct into newly established order. (+2 power bonus from Inspire Competence) Roll=15 Success!
Standard: Determine Eligible Bachelorettes (History +8) - Use available resources to research potential marriage partners, and background on their families. Roll=21 Success!
Minor: Support “Determine Eligible Bachelorettes” (Diplomacy +8) - While researching, I’ll also be gathering various opinions from trusted sources as to whom to pursue. Roll=11, Reroll with Master's Diplomacy=16 Success!
Art (Res Sickness all d20 -1 , Action Point; Support of the Commons +2
Standard: Pursue Establish Domestic Informants (Streetwise +11) - Locate and identify potential informants by hitting the seedier areas of Metrol. Roll=14 Royal Influence turns from Failure into No Result!
Standard: Pursue Establish Domestic Commerce ( Streetwise +11) - Identify potential commercial ventures/services commoners would support. Roll=18 Moderate Success!
Standard: Pursue Establish Domestic Informants (Streetwise +11) - Locate and identify potential informants by hitting the seedier areas of Metrol. Again. Roll=14 Failure!
Minor: Support Establish Domestic Informants (Stealth +15) - Find information on any informants identified via following. Specifically information that will either allow me to persuade them into helping or to impersonate them in meetings. Roll=28 Hard Success!

     Now, this is NOT the only feedback they got. That would be the worst kind of skill challenge: all roll-playing and no role-playing.  Since we're focusing on Art's "Pursue Establish Domestic Informants" policy, I will show you the feedback he got on that policy. This feedback was in a google doc shared only between me and Art's player.

1. Establish Domestic Informants * Domestic, Informant
Began February 988 YK                         Owner:
Level 5                  Complexity 3             Key Skills: Insight, Diplomacy, Streetwise
Advantages Discovered:
1. Success against Difficult Streetwise counts as Difficult and Moderate success. 
2. May Successfully use Streetwise twice per round.
Successes (1 moderate, 1 difficult): 
February 988 YK: You have discovered and studied a pretty interesting information broker who operates out of Metrol, followed him around, and think that you might be able to impersonate him at a later date to intercept some of his informants.
Failures (1/3): February 988 YK: After weeks of asking around Metrol, you relize that many information brokers aren’t interested in sharing territories. You have a few very close calls and have to burn a few throw-away identities, because they weren’t going to make it out of Metrol alive.

      And so on for 26 rounds or so, allowing the PCs to accomplish lots of stuff. Eventually, after Art had finished, this moved from "In Progress" to "Completed" and he started getting news concerning secret goings-on around Cyre:

1. Domestic Informants * Domestic, Informant
Began: February 988 YK                         Owner:
Completed: August 988 YK
Successes: February 988 YK: You have discovered and studied a pretty interesting information broker who operates out of Metrol, followed him around, and think that you might be able to impersonate him at a later date to intercept some of his informants.
April 988 YK: Istav puts a few of your aliases in touch with Barkeeps and Bar wenches who work at key inns and bars in Metrol. Many of them know the sort of people you should be talking to. Also, as you impersonate the information broker, you manage to identify a number of informants throughout the city that you might be able to co-opt with future work.
May 988 YK: Your wench network pays off, as they put you in touch with some information brokers that are willing to engage in some information sharing.
June 988 YK: You continue to develop your wench network and start to set up some informants in Metrol.
July 988 YK: You meet with all of the possible informants you think you can reliably use. They seem eager to get to work, trade favors, and whisper in your ears, however, many of them express concern about what they will do if other rumor mongers and information brokers start having a problem with them infringing on their territory. If you can solve that, your network is ready.
August 988 YK: Istav’s conference with all of the information brokers, including the new-kid-on-the-block, Arturo, is successful, and everyone lays out boundaries, turf, price-sets, and mutual help agreements that seem to make everyone happy. Your network is up and running.
Failures (2/3): February 988 YK: After weeks of asking around Metrol, you relize that many information brokers aren’t interested in sharing territories. You have a few very close calls and have to burn a few throw-away identities, because they weren’t going to make it out of Metrol alive.
March 988 YK: Information brokers in Metrol have started connecting the dots. They are now on the lookout for a Changeling who is trying to make their way in on their territory.
Success: Starting in September 988 YK, you will receive news from around Cyre every month. If you would like information on a specific question, spend a minor action to ask it, and you will receive an answer next round.
  • September 988 YK: You hear rumors that the new Brelish ambassador has been sent here to negotiate an armistice or alliance with Cyre, against Thrane.
  • October 988 YK: You hear rumors that the Atur Thieves Guild has been having lots of problems moving the weapons they stole and are getting desperate and sloppy. A group of Valenar elves have arrived in town looking for some weapons that were stolen.
  • November 988 YK: Apparently, the local Sivis station has personally delivered messages to the Brelish Ambassador nearly every day. Something is going on in Breland, and the ambassador needs to be kept abreast of constant developments.
  • December 988 YK: You hear about a small coalition of lords, mostly minor lords from Metrol, who are wondering what happened to their brothers and sons. They suspect that Prince Oargev lured them into some fool knightly order with stories of Chivalry and Patriotism, and then sent them off to Karrnath to die. No one will answer any of their questions. They are pretty upset.
  • January 989 YK: Everyone is talking about this new, famous group of adventurers, the Champions of the Bell. You piece together the truth about them: they are agents who work directly for your father as Cyre’s unofficial espionage service. They are led by a Changeling Rogue named Beld, and the other 3 members are Elpeth Padalas, a thief, formally of the Metrol Thieve’s Guild, Duril Kelist, a human arcanist who is obsessed with prohpecies written in the stars, and Gesricar Eight-Fingers, a half-elf swordmage bravo.
  • February 989 YK: General Brillick is quietly moving Darguun and Cyran troops along the Brelish border, just in case...
  • March 989 YK: Many of the nation’s leading arcanists are being interviewed by the council in secret. They are being asked questions concerning their knowledge of rituals and unlocking power from ancient sources of eldritch energy.
  • April 989 YK: Orders and procedures are quietly being put in place among the Brelish check-points and border stations in case the council should decide on a no-travel policy with Breland.
  • May 989 YK: A number of different sources are being explored to fuel super-powerful eldritch weapons. One is various types of dragonshards imbued with arcane power. Some are researching ways to make residuum batteries with dragonshards. Another option being explored is finding shards of crystal from deep in khyber that have ambient energy from the Daelkyr bound deep beneath the planet. They have many groups trying to harvest ancient giant power-sources from Xen’drik, and some that have already been harvested that they are examining. Finally, they are looking at certain uses of psionically resonant crystals.
  • June 989 YK: A team of Mror scholars are in Metrol, and they are negotiating for some rare and valuable artifacts. They plan on leaving next month with their purchases.
  • July 989 YK: Considering the recent troop movements, the council is under pressure to treat travel to Breland the same way they treat travel to Thrane and Karrnath: strictly limited with only official or Dragonmark business allowed.
  • August 989 YK: The influx of Goblins into Cyre is causing some upflaring of anti-goblin sentiments in the big cities. There have been minor hate-crimes already committed on both sides. It is a matter of time before something major happens.
  • September 989 YK: Some southern Cyrans who have been most affected by Brelands past incursions into Cyre grumble about the Prince’s wedding to a Brelish woman. They want to know when dealings with Breland have ever really helped Cyre.
  • October 989 YK: A significant bounty has been put out by Haztar on anyone who has information on his missing artifacts.
  • November 989 YK: Lord Hof lets you know that he is uncertain how long the Eastern border can hold out. Analyzing the attacks, he’s afraid Karrnath will figure out how to spread them too thin.
  • December 989 YK: The families of the original Order of the Prince’s shield are talking of refusing to attend the wedding, otherwise, you hear no grumblings.
  • January 990 YK: The commander of Fort Zombie, called "the Captain of Corpses", has sworn a vow that Fort Bones would be rebuilt by the bones and souls of the Elves and their Cyran Paymasters.
  • February 990 YK: Someone high in the government is mysteriously smoothing out shipments from Aundair of livestock and exotic building materials, getting them to the eastern border for some unknown reason.
  • March 990 YK: Breland has started very closely guarding all roads into or out of Cyre. House Orien has, so far, kept them out of the Lightning Rails.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Crossover! Archetypes vs. Kingdom Building

The Archetypes were my invention from before I even managed to have PCs for this game or have any clue who they'd be.  Kingdom Building was my invention to make sure my PCs would maintain momentum during down times in the campaign and let them avoid going their own ways in sessions, getting the game off-track, but still achieving personal character-defining goals.  When it came time to actually execute Kingdom Building, I realized that, for this part of the game to truly reflect the PCs I had beyond their trained skills, I needed to give them abilities that came into play during Kingdom Building.  I decided to tie these abilities in with the Archetype the had chosen.  Each Archetype represents a particular role at court, and each role at court should be able to influence the world in a different way.

I feel like the levels ending in 4 and 8 are pretty dead throughout a character's life.  Sure, you get ability boosts (boring math bonus) and and a feat (which you could have taken at a number of other levels).  Inspired by Character Themes, I decided to give Archetype special abilities that would help in Kingdom Building at level 4 and 8.  I thought about continuing to add abilities into higher tiers, but realized that it might be fun to introduce something like "Paragon Kingdom Building Paths" that PCs could take in addition to their normal Paragon Path to make them better Kingdom Builders in Paragon Tier.  I might do something more in Epic tier.

So, here I present each Archetype's Level 4 Kingdom Building power.  They each key off of the expenditure of an Action Point during Kingdom building.

Prince Oargev:
Level 4:
Royal Influence: You are one of the most powerful men in the country, so when you put your full support behind something, it has a much greater chance of getting done. You may spend an action point to improve the results of one of your ally’s single Pursue a policy or Support a policy action from this round instead of taking an extra action. If the ally earned a failure on his skill check, then that failure is erased. If he earned a moderate success, then it becomes a major success. You may choose to spend this action point after results are known.
Cyran Patriot:
Level 4: Support of the Commons: Because the commoners of Cyre know you are one of them, they trust that whatever you do is for their own good. When you really need to, you can find plenty of help in nearly any task. When you spend an action point during a kingdom building round, in addition to gaining an extra action, you gain a +2 bonus on all skill checks you make until the end of the round related to Domestic policies.
Cyran Noble:
Level 4:
Courtly Eloquence: You have grown up learning the skills you need to fit in with any court in the world. Your polish and charm grant you a certain gravity in all of your social interactions. You gain a +5 bonus to any Charisma skill check you make during the action granted by spending an action point.
Warforged Servant: 
Level 4: Tireless Support: You have minimal need for rest and can tirelessly pursue your master’s commands. When you spend an action point you may choose to gain two bonus minor actions instead of a bonus standard action. 
Dragonmarked Scion: 
Level 4: House Resources. Your Dragonmarked House offers great resources in a specific field. Whenever you successfully pursue or support a policy during an action granted by an action point using the skill your dragonmark confers a bonus to, you earn double successes. If you fail, your failure does not count. 
Foreign National: 
Level 4: Worldly: You have travelled extensively and have a broad view of how different nations interact with each other. When you spend an action point during a kingdom building round, you gain a +2 bonus on all skill checks you make until the end of the round related to Foreign policies. 
Sovereign Priest: 
Level 4: Religious Resources: There are churches of the Sovereign Host everywhere, and the amount of knowledge they have collected on religions of the world is staggering. Whenever you successfully pursue or support a policy during an action granted by an action point using Religion, you earn double successes. If you fail, your failure does not count. 
Druidic Initiate:
Level 4:
Ancient Secrets: The druids have ancient knowledge on all matter of portals, creatures, and histories which they can access in times of need. During Kingdom Building, you gain a +5 bonus to any Knowledge skill check you make during the action granted by spending an action point.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The War Regalia of Galifar

I mentioned last week that my favorite part of Chapter 3 of The Forge of War was the idea of the War Regalia of Galifar.  This is my redesign of this item for my campaign:

Greaves of Aundair (heroic tier)               Level 12
These armored plates fit perfectly over your shins, fastening in the back with black leather straps.  Each one is ornamented with the regal silhouette of a dragonhawk.
Lvl 12                         13,000 gp
Item Set: War Regalia of Galifar
Item Slot: Feet
Property: You gain a +1 item bonus to speed. 
Power (Encounter): Free.  You take a move action.  After you complete this action, you are dazed until the end of your next turn.

Breastplate of Thrane +3               Level 13
This breastplate is decorated with an elaborate boar’s head hotif.  The workmanship is exceptionally fine, and there are inlaid tracings of silver around the edges of the armor.
Level 13
Item Set: War Regalia of Galifar
Armor: Chain, Scale, Plate
Enhancement: +3 AC
Property: +2 item bonus to Will defense (+3 when combined with with +5 or +6 armor)
Power (Daily): Immediate Interrupt.  Trigger: You are affected by an effect with the charm, illusion, sleep, or fear keyword.  Make a saving throw to negate this effect.
Special: This breastplate does not constitute magical armor on its own.  Instead, it must be combined with a suit of magic chain, scale, or plate with at least a +3 enhancement bonus and no other properties.

Mantle of Breland +3               Level 14
This heavy cloak is made of bulky brown fur, thickest at the shoulders.  When you wear it, you look stronger, broader, and somehow fiercer.
Level 14     +3                    Level 24     +5
Level 19     +4                    Level 29     +6
Item Set: War Regalia of Galifar
Item Slot: Neck
Enhancement: +3 Fortitude, Reflex, and Will
Power (Encounter): Standard Action.  You gain 20 temporary hit points.  (You gain 30 temporary hit points at level 24 and 29).

Scepter of Karrnath +3               Level 15
This scepter is made of polished densewood and inlaid with gleaming mithral.  The fearsome visage of a howling wolf is etched into the black wood.
Level 15     +3                    Level 25     +5
Level 20     +4                    Level 30     +6                       
Item Set: War Regalia of Galifar
Weapon: War Scepter
Enhancement: +1 attack rolls and damage rolls
Critical: +1d6 damage per plus and knock the target prone.
Property: This scepter can function as an of implement of any type for an heir of the Wynarn line.
Property: An heir of the Wynarn line is proficient with this weapon.
Power (At-Will • Fear): Free Action.  Whenever an enemy is hit with any basic attack made with the Scepter of Karrnath, that enemy grants combat advantage to all of your allies until the beginning of its next turn.  Another free action ends this effect.
War Scepter
     Damage: 1d8                         Proficient: +3
     Properties:                             Group: Mace
          Versatile, Brutal 2
Crown of Cyre               Level 16
This fine war helmet incorporates a golden crown formed of overlapping plates resembling the scales of a gold dragon.  No gemstones are set into it, but its beauty is striking nonetheless.
Level 16                             Level 26
Item Set: War Regalia of Galifar
Item Slot: Head
Power (Daily): Minor Action.  You and all allies that can see you gain a +2 item bonus to melee damage rolls until the end of your next turn.  Sustain: Minor. (This bonus is +4 at level 26)
Power (Daily): Minor Action.  You and all allies that can see you gain a +2 item bonus on Charisma Skill checks until the end of your next turn.  Sustain: Minor. (This bonus is +4 at level 26)
Power (Daily): Minor Action.  If you or an ally that can see you is bloodied, you gain regeneration equal to the number of War Regalia of Galifar you wield.  This regeneration lasts until the end of your next turn.  Sustain: Minor.

War Regalia of Galifar Benefits
Pieces              Benefit
2                    You gain the Word of Galifar Encounter Power
5                    When an opponent scores a critical hit against you, make a saving throw  
                   with a bonus equal to the number of items from this set you wield.  If you succeed, the critical hit is instead a normal hit.

Word of Galifar
Encounter * Healing
Minor Action     Close burst 10 (15 if you have 5 of the War Regalia of Galifar)
Target: One ally in burst
Effect: The target can spend a healing surge and regain an additional 1d6 hit points per item from the War Regalia of Galifar that you wield.

     I originally tried to just port over the original items, but that didn't really work to my satisfaction.  I wanted a set of items that pretty much anyone would be pleased with over most of their career, that, at the very least, would remain useful, and would represent the majesty and power of unified Galifar.
     The Breastplate of Thrane presented a challenge because I didn't want there to be lots of different pieces of Galifar Regalia running around: just one of each, which would grow more powerful by the heroic deeds of the wearer (aka, their items would level up when I decided the higher level item was appropriate).  With the way 4ed handles higher-level armors, with changing materials and such, I either needed the Breastplae of Thrane to permanently be better than it should be by having the built-in higher base AC than a +3 armor should have, go the other route and make the base AC stay equal to +3 armor, or find another option.  I decided to make the Breastplate an "add-on" to existing armor.
     The Scepter was another tricky weapon.  I wanted it to be good for anyone to use, weapon or implement user, but all maces were pretty lame simple weapons.  I decided to make a balanced "superior" weapon that anyone (short of a ranged weapon or reach weapon specialist) would be willing to use without losing lots of power.
     I decided that a king should, ultimately, be a leader, so I felt that giving the king of Galifar an encounter power that copies the signature Leader ability would be appropriate.  It is my experience that the leader won't see this as the king stepping on his toes, as the party always welcomes more healing.  

Friday, November 11, 2011

Getting Crafty Part 3: It's Magic!

What about magic items?
What about them? Just kidding, they are an integral part of what makes Dungeons and Dragons Dungeons and Dragons t many people. They'd work the same way, more or less.

  • "Enchant Magic Item" would be a ritual that would require a skill challenge to complete. The DCs and Complexity would be set with how many enchantments and of which type you are trying to magically imbue into the item.  
  • Special reagents, much like special materials in crafting, would work the same way, granting bonuses (or penalties) to checks in the challenge.
  • Failures would result in Cursed items. There would be lesser curses and greater curses.
  • This brings back the early edition ability to have multiple magic item enhancements on a single item. I have missed that a little bit.
  • All complexities and levels would be added to determine the DCs and number of successes, rather than added to any item's base.
I have started putting together a list of potential enchantments for weapons.  I am generating this list by going through the magic weapon list and thinking to myself, "Self, could this be done non-magically in a weapon?"  If the answer is no, I decide it should be magic-based, rather than craft-based.  Yes, you've read almost that exact paragraph before, but with a couple of words swapped.  Get over it.  

Here are three I have created so far:

  • Feature: Flaming Type: Weapon (Any Weapon)
Complexity +1 Key Skills: Arcana
Level +5
Benefit: This weapon gains the Flaming magic item power
Flaming (Daily Power)
You can will this weapon to burst into flame.
Free Action Target: The creature hit
Trigger: You hit a creature with this weapon.
Effect: You deal 1d6 fire damage, and the target takes ongoing 5 fire damage (save ends.)
Lesser Curse (1 failure): The DM gains access to the Glowing Brightly curse
Glowing Brightly (Curse)
When it is least convenient, the flames of your weapon draw attention to you.
Free Action  
Trigger: You attempt a stealth check while carrying this weapon.
Effect: You fail the stealth check.
Greater Curse (2 failures): The DM gains access to the Uncontrolled Flame curse
Uncontrolled Flames (Curse)
The fires in your weapon do not distinguish between friend or foe.
Free Action
Trigger: An enemy saves against the ongoing damage dealt by this weapon while adjacent to one of your allies.
Effect: Your ally takes ongoing 5 fire damage (save ends.)  
  • Feature: Frost Type: Weapon (Any)
Complexity +1 Key Skills: Arcana
Level +3
Benefit: This weapon gains the Frost magic item power
Frost (Daily Power)
A thin layer of frost coats the business end of this weapon.
Free Action Target: The creature hit
Trigger: You hit a creature with this weapon.
Effect: You deal 1d8 cold damage, and the target is slowed until the end of your turn. Lesser Curse (1 failure): The DM gains access to the Icy Grip curse
Icy Grip (Curse)
The grip of your weapon sometimes frosts over too.
Free Action
Trigger: You roll a 1 on an attack roll with this weapon. 
Effect: You drop your weapon.
Greater Curse (2 failures): The DM gains access to the Cold Feet curse
Cold Feet (Curse)
Wielding this weapon, you sometimes think you will never feel warm again.
Free Action
Trigger: You take cold damage 
Effect: You are slowed and dazed (save ends).
  • Feature: Lifedrinker Type: Weapon (Any Melee)
Complexity +1 Key Skills: Heal
Level +3
Benefit: This weapon gains the Lifedrinker magic item power
Life Drinker (Daily Power)
This weapon transfers an enemy's vitality to you.
Free Action
Trigger: You drop an enemy to 0 hit points or fewer with a melee attack made with this weapon.
Effect:  Gain 5 temporary hit points.
Lesser Curse (1 failure): The DM gains access to the Clinging to Life curse
Clinging to Life (Curse)
You never want to let go of the life you've stolen.
Free Action  
Trigger: You gain temporary hit points while you already have temporary hit points.
Effect:  When you take damage, you lose regular hit points before you lose any temporary hit points.
Greater Curse (2 failures): The DM gains access to the Overloaded curse
Overloaded (Curse)
It is hard to concentrate with the life of others coursing through your veins.
Free Action  
Trigger: You gain temporary hit points. 
Effect: You grant combat advantage to all enemies until you no longer have temporary hit points.

So, a magic item imbuer could make a Flaming Weapon and only have to hit level 5 DCs 4 times, A life-drinking cold weapon for level 6 DCs, but it'd be complexity 2 (5 successes), or an amazing level 11 magic item at complexity 3, requiring 6 moderate successes and 2 difficult successes. You can put a lot on a weapon, but it get much harder as you go.

Other Thoughts:
The more I think through this system, the more I am inclined to scratch all powers from Non-magical crafting (minus flaws). I think rewriting my crafting rules to let you incorporate all sorts of cool passive bonuses into more and more advanced weapons (or setting detailed tasks to crafting existing weapons) would make it feel less like magic, and then anything that needs a power to activate would be magical. That would make them seem like two distinct complimentary systems, rather than the same system with an arbitrary magic/non-magic divide thrown down the center. I'm done tinkering with this for now, but I might revisit this concept at a future point.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Kingdom Building Part 2: The Rules

General Rules:
Every month is a round. Each round you get two standard actions and a minor action. For each Kingdom Building phase (the time between adventures), you start with 1 action point which can, as usual, be spent during a single round to get an extra action. In addition, your Archetype will grant you a special ability during Kingdom Building that is activated by an action point. You gain an additional action point whenever you hit a milestone. You may only spend one action point in any round.  The end of any round you or an ally have completed any number of policies, is the end of an encounter. Every two encounters is, as usual, a milestone.

Timing and Duration of Powers and Power Resets:
  • All powers take effect in any round when they would be most useful. For instance, if a power grants a skill bonus to all allies for the entire round, it takes place before other actions are resolved.
  • Powers that last until the end of your turn or the beginning of your next turn last until the end of the round in which they are used.
  • Powers that last until the end of your next turn apply in the round in which they are used and in the following round.
  • Powers that last until the end of an encounter last until the end of a round in which any Policy has been successfully completed.
  • Powers that have a duration of (save ends) work as normal, but will likely never be seen in Kingdom Building.
  • Any powers with a sustained duration must be sustained as normal. If they have (which I don't THINK this exists, but just in case) a Sustain (Move) duration, you may use a minor action to sustain the power.
  • At the end of any round in which any player completes a policy, all players reset encounter powers for the next round.
  • After every 3 encounters, all players reset all daily powers.
Pursue a Policy:
Standard Action. Select a policy to pursue. Select a skill that represents your overall approach to achieving this policy for the month. Make a skill check to see if you have successfully advanced the policy. Once you have successfully Pursued a policy with a specific skill, you may not to attempt to Pursue or Support that policy with the same skill this round, though other characters may. If you successfully pursue a policy with a non-related skill, you may not use this skill again.
Support a Policy: Minor Action. Select a policy to support. Select a skill that represents your overall approach to supporting this policy for the month. Make a skill check with a -5 penalty to see if you have successfully advanced the policy. Once you have successfully Supported a policy with a specific skill, you may not to attempt to Support or Pursue that policy with the same skill this round, though other characters may. If you successfully support a policy with a non-related skill, you may not use this skill again.
Aid Another: Minor Action. Select an ally who is supporting or pursuing a policy. Make a skill check with the same skill they are using to pursue or support the policy of DC 10+1/2 the level of the policy. If you succeed, you grant your ally a +2 on their skill check.
Transfer Policy: Minor Action. You may give a policy you own over to the control of a willing ally. They are now the owner of the policy.
Use a power: Action varies. If you have a power that might reasonably help a policy come to fruition, describe how/why. This will be most common for utility powers that grant a bonus to skill checks. The action used is whatever the power’s action is.
Use a Ritual: Action varies: If you wish to use a ritual to support a policy, let me know which one, how, and why. I will determine if an action is appropriate. Many may simply be free actions.

     Each policy is a modified skill challenge. This list of policies is not exhaustive. If you would like to pursue something not covered here, let me know and I will write a policy that will let you complete what you wish. The Key skills are suggestions for ways to pursue the policy, representing the clear and expected avenues for success. If you use a non-key skill and get a success, you may never use that skill again on that policy. You are encouraged to come up with creative ways to use non-related skills to work towards successes. Completing a policy usually has both an immediate effect and unlocks the option of trying other, related policies. For instance, once you have completed Establish International Informants you can then pursue Establish Karrnathi Informants or Establish Aundarian Informants.
     A single PC cannot use the same skill twice in a single round to pursue or support the same policy. Multiple PCs may use the same skill in a single round, and a single PC may use the same skill on multiple policies.
     Each policy has an owner. The policy owner controls the benefits of the policy. Any ally may work on the policy. Multiple PCs may pursue identical policies on their own in most cases, but not always. For instance, both Istav and Art could Establish International Informants. Once they have done so, they will both receive news about goings on around the world. Their information may or may not be identical. However, only one PC can own Expand Eastern Border Defenses because there is only one eastern border to defend.

Commentary: I originally planned for 3 months=1 Kingdom Building round.  My players wanted to do a lot, and pursue many options, so I let them have 1 round=1 month.  The original intent was that this would act as normal combat rounds on a larger scale, however, I couldn't figure out an appropriate "move" action that would be reasonable to use.  I also wanted them to get plenty done, so that's why I landed on 2 Standard Actions.  I also saw Kingdom Building as an opportunity to expand on my Archetype system.  I figured Archetypes, in addition to giving small-scale bonuses, could also give larger benefits during Kingdom building.  More on those later.

Encounters were tricky for me.  With my original plan of 3 months=round, I planned on each gap between adventures being a single encounter.  30 rounds, however, make for a LONG encounter.  My next thought was to give each power a "recharge" based on its type and level.  That was overly complex and didn't, at all, match any existing design.  Following that train of thought, I considered calling a new encounter after so much "XP" worth of challenges had been completed or calling a new encounter after 5 complexity worth of challenges have been completed.  Both of these seemed rather complex.  The simplest answer was 1 encounter=a policy is finished.  I am not totally happy with this answer, and am considering moving back to 1 encounter=5 complexity or a certain amount of XP completed.

Resets for Dailies were even harder.  I pulled up 3 completed encounters=1 day on the basis of using 1 daily attack power/encounter.  The party has 3 members, and at level 4, they have 1 daily power each (okay, the Thief doesn't, but he would were he not Essential).  

Overall, I wanted to create a system that rewarded players for working together on policies by making aid another a minor action and limiting the number of times they can use the same skill in a single round on a single policy.  I also like that, as it stands, if the entire group REALLY needed to act quickly, they could, using action points each, Complete a Complexity 5 Policy (12 successes) in a single round.  Alternately, they can work on their own projects, giving them good stories to tell once we get back together again.

Monday, November 7, 2011

My Favorite Gaming Book

Note: The following was meant to be a review on how useful this 3.5 Dungeons and Dragons book could be to a 4th Edition gamer.  It turned into a  love letter.  I apologize.

Okay, so I've gotten hours, heck YEARS, of enjoyment from lots of different RPG book over the years.  I made build after build with my first PHB just for fun.  I poured over the 3rd Ed. Forgotten Realms source book learning about every detail of the setting, rejoicing at things I recognized from my trips through Balder's Gate 1 and 2.  Both The Epic Level Handbook and Deities and Demigods inspired me to design and plan grand campaigns (that never happened.  Boo.)  There have been many gaming books I have loved, but none so much as:

I can say, without any hesitation or irony, that the campaign I am currently running would not exist without this book.  I have read most of this book from cover to cover multiple times, made detailed notes concerning its contents, and reworked entire plot-lines to better fit the events of this guide.  It is, for all intents and purposes, my campaign bible.

I like Eberron.  I think there are lots of good stories that can be told in this setting, and have tried to do so more than once.  I heavily adapted The Red Hand of Doom 3rd ed. module to Eberron and later ran a Noir-Crime drama set in Sharn.  I played in a number of play-by-post Eberron games.  But when I first read the Forge of War, I was instantly inspired by a very specific vision for a campaign.  That's what every good campaign book should be able to do.  Here's why I love it:

Chapter 1: The Course of the War
This chapter is amazing.  It's like a history book that takes you through the entire war, calling out key events, key people, and exploring the roots of the war.  It is a straight-up fun read.  I've used this to create a timeline of events that has been informing events in my campaign, especially in the Kingdom Building phase of it.  The closest thing to statistics or ANYTHING "crunchy" given in this chapter are lists of the types of units and how many of them participated in the major fights of the campaign.  The maps that show how borders changed every few years are also useful.  Since most Eberron cartography includes the Mournland, having actual maps of Cyre is very useful.  This chapter fills out all of the history, the grudges, and the motivations that make "modern" day Eberron tick, giving players a deep well to draw on for character histories.  In addition, it gives an awesome backdrop upon which to run military and war-time campaigns.

Chapter 2: A Guide to the Last War
If the first chapter gives you the background, this chapter introduces you to the players.  If ever I need to make a character or fill out a detailed PC who was around and active during the last war, I can just flip to the appropriate page in this chapter and learn nearly everything I need to know about what was important to that nation/faction/or group during the war.

Chapter 3: Heroes of the Last War
I admit, this chapter is full of rules stuff for 3.5 Dungeons and Dragons that I never got a chance to use back when I played 3.5, and will likely never use in the future.  Chapters 1 and 2 are the reasons I love this book, except for one little thing: the Magic Item Sets section which contains the War Regalia of Galifar.  This magic item set was one of the things that helped cement this campaign.  The chance to have Prince Oargev, the King with no Country, searching for the Regalia that proves he's worthy to wear the crown of all Five Nations? Awesome.  So I have remade this Regalia, using inspiration from this book, for my own campaign.  I will share it soon!

Chapter 4: The Last War Campaign
Could I run the game I'm running without this chapter? Sure.  That said, this chapter has offered my some great advice on how to run this game.  Things discussed in this chapter helped me form the idea that Heroic Tier will be historical, Paragon Tier in traditional "modern" Eberron, and Epic tier will change the face of Eberron forever.  It also made me realize that years can pass between adventures, and that's okay.  That said, I knew my high-powered characters would want something to do in those years, so I invented Kingdom Building.

I sold most of my 3.5 books a couple of years ago.  The Forge of War was not sold, nor do I anticipate selling it any time soon.  It is the foundation of my campaign, and explains the deep motivations that have run the world of Eberron.  I highly recommend this book to ANY DM who is running a game in Eberron with any sort of depth.  I also recommend it to ANY PLAYER who is playing a character whose back-story even touches on the last war a little bit.  Chapter 3 is the only part of the book deeply rooted in 3.5, and in all honesty, it was never the reason to get this book.  Chapters 1-2 alone would be worth the price on the cover, and Chapter 4 is a great bonus.  If you play or plan to play Eberron, or just want an entertaining fantasy-war history to read, buy this book.