Sunday, February 24, 2008

d20 Rethought: Classless approach?

I've been working on the previously mentioned (I think) set of generic base classes for d20 rethought, using a talent-feat-talent-feat model similar to d20 Modern for the class features. But I've run up against an obstacle. Without any fixed class features *or* the easily-grasped (but needlessly complicating) fundamentals of base bonus progressions, I'm beginning to feel that these classes are simply too vague to be sufficiently interesting for the player. The goal of base classes that retain the core d20 conventions while still being for any setting has resulted in a compromise that is inferior to either side's preference- that is, setting-unique base classes vs. a completely classless system.

And as I realize this, I also realize that I've already laid the groundwork for a version of the d20 system that would indeed throw class choices out the window completely. It's really quite simple-all characters would receive the following as their level went up:
-Every level characters receive a new feat, 1d6 vitality points and 1d6 resolve points.
-Every two levels, a new talent and a +1 increase to all base bonuses.
-Every three levels, a new ability increase.
-Every four levels, a new skill.
At first level characters also select a two-part background in a similar style to spycraft, with one part representing their past experience and the other representing their general demeanor. In addition to unique bonuses like feats, talents, or other abilities each of these two parts would grant several starting bonuses:
-Demeanor would determine bonus vitality and resolve points as well as the character's starting base will and reflex bonuses.
-Background (Blue Collar Worker, Soldier) would provide starting skill number and selection options plus the character's starting base combat and fortitude bonuses.

Talents would provide all the 'class features' of the game- evasion, contacts, berzerker rage and so on- while feats would continue to function in roughly the same capacity. Characters are free to mix and match as they see fit- for example, a ranger-type character could be created by investing your feats into archery and wilderness survival while your talents go into improving your mobility during combat and granting you some basic healing magic. In this case, however, there's nothing stopping you from investing that last group of talents into flame-throwing magic instead, or mind-reading magic, or becoming a natural liar. If I want to start with a fluff concept like "Brave, charismatic young woman with a passion for wilderness exploration and no small amount of skill with the crossbow" (see above picture) and then start writing the character up, I can do so without shooting myself in the foot from a tactical perspective. (By the way, the workings of the magic system will be covered in another post. I'm quite excited about what I've come up with there) Character creation without being limited to a certain package- how does that sound?

If your answer is "very cool," then I guess I owe you an apology because I've managed to get you excited about the option I won't be pursuing (at least not at this point). My premise for d20 Rethought is that it's what I would do if singlehandedly tasked with coming up with 4E's mechanics. That means adhering to some of the basic components of the system, including classes and ability scores- even if I'll be tweaking what those options are and what roles those parts of the system play in the creation of the character. And more to the point, I now have got a good idea of how I'm going to make setting-specific classes be flavorful without becoming too restrictive for my tastes.

So. Next d20 Rethought-related post will be about my new approach to base class structure, and the one following that can be about the new magic system; as eager as I am to skip ahead, the latter piece will include a few examples that rely partlypon information provided in the former.

Read all

Saturday, February 23, 2008


Just a rumination of mine. I don't know if I've said this on the blog before, but I've noticed how 'genres' tend to be based in a particular cultural framework- especially fantasy. Traditional western fantasy is of course based off the myths and legends of the medieval era; knights and damsels, witches and wizards, dragons and fey. Magical Realism, meanwhile, is a label sometimes given to the modern-day equivalent- stories that feature fantastic elements while drawing on the myths and legends of the present day. The X-Files and Unknown Armies would fit this loose classification (not to be confused with Contemporary Fantasy, medieval fantasy stuck into the modern day). Steampunk is based on the dreams and ideas of Victorian-era England. At any rate, gives a far better rundown that I ever could, but I'm just throwing this information out by way of introduction. The next step in my thought process was to wonder about what cultures have been neglected.

And that's how I came up with this idea: An rpg based on the shared fantasies of the 19th-century American Old West. Not the gritty historical fiction of the Western genre, but a setting based on the rip-roaring tall tales and folk stories of that time, where the players are outlandishly skillful/powerful/intelligent men and women who can stand to-to-toe with the likes of John Henry, Paul Bunyan and Calamity Jane. Mix in a healthy dose of native american folklore- particularly the occasional trickster spirit and/or talking animal- and you've got a setting that's a far cry from your average tabeletop fare.

The game would be all about life on the frontier and beyond- the sort of existence where a brave, hardy soul can thrive like nowhere else. Players might be skilled at tasks like hunting, fishing, trick shooting, horse riding, and any manner of working-class trade. Folk heroes were just that: folk, distinguished not by having a special set of skills but by being great at the sort of tasks most games leave to the NPC peasants/civilians. To put it differently, the fantastic elements of this game wouldn't be separate from the mundane ones. Even if the tall tales of the old west include things like a boat so large its mast scraped the moon, you could still argue that they were still more well-grounded in reality than your average game of D&D.

What's interesting is that this extends into the area of violence. Even when a folk hero's were in an area like gunplay, they were used for the purpose of trick shooting- not killing people. Tall tales were very PG in nature- you tussle with a bobcat, knock an ornery fellow out cold and kill a few deer, but that's about it. There's a friendly, lighthearted tone that makes you reevaluate (Of course, since today America's tall tales are all passed down as children's stories it's also possible the stories with things like Paul Bunyan punching the corrupt lumberyard boss's head off were left by the wayside.)

I'd like to do this as a game that expanded on the roots of these tall tales- bragging contests and group storytelling. Characters would seek to pull off outlandish stunts- the game would escalate over the course of the story not just by throwing more challenges at the protagonists, but by having the scenario become increasingly ridiculous. The waterfall that's a hundred feet high doesn't become two or five hundred feet high when you're at higher levels, it becomes so high that the baby salmon who go over the edge all reach adulthood and begin swimming back upstream before they even reached the bottom- which is just as well, because a small town has sprung up smack dab at the base of the cliff. Since the wind could push the water one way or the other for a time, the folk there just thought they were gettin' some nasty downpours once and a while. Strange but true, friends- the only reason Jed and I didn't just squash a pair of houses is that the women there knew the value of a good home-cooked meal. They cooked bacon and eggs every morning, and the smoke just wafted up the chimneys and up through the rain. Now, Jeb and I were taking the chance to sleep in- we'd been falling for about a month now, and I'm afraid we was gettin rather lax in our habits- but that aroma of fresh-cooked bacon woke me up pretty quick after a month of living on river water and raw fish. I could just see the ground down below, so I woke up Jeb and we both started swimming up just as fast as we could. We'll both admit to being a tad panicky at the time, because the kids in that the village spent a good ten minutes watching us swim up through the rain in the middle of the street, about a yard off the ground. It was only when we were starting to go back up that one of the older boys threw a rock to get our attention.

Okay, that's enough of that- I assume you get the idea. At this point my only reservation is whether this would be worth making into a normal tabletop rpg. So long as the tall tale is a core part of this setting/game, it seems like numbers would just trip up the gleeful exaggerations that make these sort of stories so fun. My inclination is to either use this as a motive for investigating diceless systems, or just provide the setting/description as a guide but have the 'rules' be the same as they've been for a century and a half- a group storytelling exercise whose closest modern-day parallel is Baron Munchausen. Then again, Mutants and Masterminds could probably do a passable job of keeping the flavor while remaining heavy on the crunch. Guess I'll be filing this one away for future speculation.

Read all

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Dark Tide: Eras of Play

Back when it was a two-man project, we came up with the idea of doing a Dark Tide sourcebook that offered the core rules of the setting (rules for vampires and character creation), then followed up by having most of the book be a five-part section describing five different eras of the setting. All fluff would be given from the perspective of one of these eras, and for players each section would have setting-specific equipment notes plus a smattering of era-specific options- always an advanced class for the vampire-hunting types and a prestige class for vampires, plus a few feats/occupations/etc. Add in a set of campaign suggestions and an introductory adventure, and it sounded like a nice thing to have in a set of five. At this point the only part of this that's changed is that I'm considering changing the system to something else- Spycraft, perhaps. Anyway, the five era-based settings in the alternate Earth of Dark Tide are as follow:

#1: 1000 BCE. Brutal bronze age sword-and-sandal struggles.
#2: 1360 CE. Morbid medieval witch hunts in the aftermath of the Black Death.
#3: 1880. Transylvanian monster hunting throughout the world.
#4: 1980. 'Modern'-day bogeymen hunting and magical realism.
#5: 2070. Post-apocalyptic guerilla warfare.

Hit the link for more detail.

In Era #1, humanity is enslaved by a vampiric empire. This empire is led by noble houses which jockey for power; in this era True Vampires are considered to be a part of the house's noble bloodline and the ruling upper class, while revenants are tasked with managing and leading the various skilled human servants. Most humans are mere thralls, used for simple manual labor, feeding and breeding. For human players, games that start at first level will usually entail plots to gain their freedom unless they've been raised in the far-off wilderness away from the vampire's cities. High-level play will often have the players be a crucial part of a growing revolutionary movement aiming to free humanity from the vampire's rule. Vampire-centric games, meanwhile, would likely focus more on house intrigue, even as the cities begin to burn; most True Vampires scoff at the idea of a human being able to even harm them, and see any warnings by Revenant underlings as being simply signs of their cowardice and weakness. Major influences for this era include "300", "Gladiator", "Spartacus", "Troy", and an intriguing bronze-age fantasy novel whose name I've long since forgotten.

In Era #2, the nations of Europe (and beyond) have been devastated by the black death, and vampires that two decades ago were slowly being pushed to the brink of extinction now have an inherent advantage; in the face of death, the prospect of immortality becomes a far greater temptation. European culture has become extremely morbid, with unspeakable numbers dead and many more continually displaced even now as they flee new outbreaks. The organized effort to wipe out the undead is falling apart, and now individuals are forced to improvise lest the enemy begin to spread across the land unchecked. My only major influence for this era is history itself, though I'll likely work The Masque of the Red Death in at some point; it may well end up being a No Life King or having historic roots as an organization in ancient vampiric culture.

In Era #3, the civilized society of the Victorian Era sees supernatural monsters as the stuff of folklore. Organized vampire hunting is a shell of its former self, with its few experienced hunters doing all they can to contain a Revenant outbreak in rural southeastern europe, while True Vampires take advantage of their diverted attention in numerous ways. Nor is modern society nearly as removed from the horrors lurking the shadows as they think; various malevolent beings are infiltrating society with ease, some lurking in alleyways or stowing away on ship bound to new lands free of hunters while others hide in plain sight as normal members of society. The defense of mankind falls to intrepid individuals with the nerve, wits and strength to root out these evils and dispatch them. The main influence in this setting is classic victorian era gothic horror novels, especially Dracula.

In Era #4, the world bears a noticeable resemblance to the setting in Vampire: The Masquerade- at least, on the first impression. But even after setting aside the lack of non-vampiric supernaturals, there's still more to the situation than meets the eye. Your average revenant believes that he/she's all there is to vampirism; that the "secret society" breed of hunter is a crazed, uninformed fanatic who isn't nearly the threat they think they are. In reality, the organized vampire hunters are investing their energy into hunting down the True Vampires, who unlike their weaker kin are powerful enough to not give a damn about maintaining the status quo. Beyond the subverted V:TM theme, the biggest influences for this genre are likely Hellsing, Delta Green and the Magical Realism genre as a whole.

In Era #5, vampires are believed to be responsible for the permanent layer of clouds that developed 50 years ago, preventing direct sunlight from ever touching the earth's soil and dropping the globe's temperature enough to devastate the environment. The human society that existed before the dark times is now in ruins, thanks in no small part to the further manipulations of the undead. Now the battle is out in the open; will humanity defeat the vampires and rebuild their society, or will the vampire barons prove to be the foundation upon which a new vampiric empire is built? The closest thing I can name to this take on the post-apocalyptic genre is the visions in Terry Brooks' novel Running With The Demon.

What are your thoughts on all this? Does a particular era gain or lose your interest?

Read all

Saturday, February 16, 2008

d20 Rethought: Combat Fundamentals Part 2

All right, now we're getting to the fun part. I'll just start with an example of strategy: You've got a first-level character with a 12 in all ability scores and no particular special abilities beyond being trained in basic combat skills. Let's call him Jim. Jim is going to fight using a longsword and large shield. During your typical combat round, he can take a simple, effective approach: Spend a standard action to attack with his sword, a move action to make a block check with his shield and a swift action to threaten the area around him or take a five-foot step. Alternately, he could give up that guard check and make a full attack with his sword, which at first level means he'll score a second hit if his attack beats the opponent's AC by five.

Now, what if Jim was using a greatsword instead? Well, it would mean more damage, in the same fashion as 3.5 D&D. When making a full attack, he'd have to beat his opponent's AC by six rather than five to get that second hit in- hardly a deal-killer. No, the real drawback is when Jim wants to take that "guard and attack" approach he was using before- using the same weapon to attack and block in the same round gives him a -2 penalty on both checks.

Of course, there's still another option left to Jim besides defending with that greatsword: armor. For a starting character, a chain shirt is just as good for blocking as a light shield, with the added bonus of DR 2.

The Guard skill is the single biggest change to how combat plays out. Level, class and equipment all affect both your Reflex defense and your Guard skill in the same fashion, but guard gets an additional +5 bonus if it's a trained skill. Combine that with the fact that your guard skill doesn't decrease your defense on a bad enough roll, and characters are looking at an average of a +6 increase to defense if they take that move action. So even at first level, you've still got a set of meaningful choices: Guard and Attack to go for the middle ground, Full Attack for a chance to seriously increase the damage dealt if you exceed the opponent's defense enough, or Full Guard to make two Guard checks (against two opponents or a single opponent, taking the better result) in order to better defend yourself against an opponent. If Fighter A favors full attacks, Fighter B might take a full guard one round to better defend himself, then do a full attack the next round after Fighter A's full attack left him open. I'm considering letting characters make guard checks as immediate actions so long as they give up the appropriate action at the start of their action in the next round, which could disrupt a swift action-dependent special attack or other action.

So even at first level, characters have some simple, meaningful choices they can make before combat (two-handed weapon vs. one-handed and dagger/shield vs. other weapon setup that tends to be more specialized until you take the feats/abilities to properly support it) and during it (How much you should guard vs. how much you should attack). At higher levels the complexity increases as players gain new maneuvers and options from feats chains and, to a lesser degree, talents; tricks and stances that avoid universal increases and instead can be selected to personalize your fighting style as a whole.

To summarize: Mundane Combat in d20 rethought, compared D&D 3.5, should:
-Require less rolling. Though damage dice rolling potentially remains about the same, there are a maximum of two d20 rolls being made by each character each round
-Offer more fighting styles. The full attack with a greatsword is a viable melee combat option but not always the ideal one, even before artificial class restrictions and special bonuses are applied.
-Offer choices with uncertain outcomes on a round-by-round basis. Maybe you'll get lucky on that full atttack and inflict hordes of damage, while your opponent won't roll well enough to hit you even though you didn't guard. Or you could guard yourself, which on a 20 would make you nigh-impossible to hit and on a 1 would be no help at all. Score a critical success? Well, you can either take a quick, handy benefit or give it up for a shot at ending this combat much quicker.
-Offer increasing options over time. An accomplished high level fighter will have many more options at his disposal- the sword-and board warrior can force his shield up into the opponent's face and obscure their view as he hacks at a leg, or easily guard against multiple adjacent opponents while still being able to strike, and in a pinch can easily use only his shield to bash his enemy's face in.

I hope this all sounds like a viable way to improve the combat system.

Read all

Sunday, February 10, 2008

d20 Rethought: Combat Fundamentals, Part 1

Yeah, no way I'll finish writing this up before midnight. This post repeats some previously mentioned material in an attempt to lay out all the various relevant ideas I have; part 2 will discuss how all these individual changes interact with one another to fundamentally alter how the combat works, at least in theory. The hoped-for end result is that the revisions will simplify (and thus speed up) combat while simultaneously making it less abstract. In other words, I'm trying to have my cake and eat it too.

-Saga Edition-style reflex defense. I've discarded the "Guard Defense" mentioned in the "Base Bonus" entry (and will edit that bit out soon); characters will use their reflex defense both to avoid explosions and to dodge the attacks of their enemies.
-Vitality and wounds. As in other d20 products, but cut vitality points in half and have them fully regenerate in between encounters. Plus Wounds are dependent on Brawn, which as a whole is the closest thing d20 Rethought has to Strength. And then there's Resolve and Trauma points, but while those are certainly a factor in combat they're a post unto themselves and would really confuse things here.
-Guard skill. Guard has two applications: Block and parry checks. Like attack types, these two checks function the same except that different equipment and feats interact with them in a different fashion. With a move action, characters can make a block, parry, or reflex check against a single opponent; until the beginning of the next round, the result can be used in place of their reflex defense against any attack that opponent makes.
-Armor as DR. Armor provides damage reduction, which protects against damage regardless of whether it'll reduce your vitality points or wound points. Armor can also be used to make block checks, with heavier types providing a large bonus on the check. On the other hand, one's reflex defense will likely be subject to a character's armor check penalty.

-Weapon Group skills. As mentioned in the "Combat Skills", proficiency in a weapon comes from having the relevant Weapon Group skill. So a fighter-type might find themselves weighing Heal against Weapon Group (Heavy Blades). In term of classification, d20 rethought's attack roll is a Weapon Group skill check.
-Multiple attack types. Just as there are multiple types of damage (piercing, slashing, etc), there are multiple types of attacks- swing (axe), thrust (rapier), bash (armor spikes), hurl (dart), and launch (bow). There are no special rules applying to any of these attack types, though a bash is normally a close-ranged improvised attack (such as with an elbow or sword hilt). Many weapons have more than one attack; as a hypothetical example, a longsword might say "Swing, 1d8, Slashing, 20" followed by "Thrust, 1d6, 19-20, Piercing". But small stat block differences aside, the real reason a character would want to, say, swing instead of thrust is because of situational rules- maybe your opponent is wielding a weapon meant for parrying and your Cleave feat only applies to Swing attacks.

-Two degrees of crit. Roll in the crit range of your weapon, and you have a choice. You can automatically maximize your damage dealt, or you can spend an action point and make a second attack check in an attempt to score a dramatic success. Against an opponent with Vitality Points remaining, this means you can deal damage straight to wounds. If you're dealing damage to wounds already, a dramatic success is a called shot; you accept a penalty on your confirmation roll and strike the body part of your choice if you succeed. Characters who can spend two or more action points in a single round (through class abilities, feats, or being at least 5th level) can try to score a double dramatic success if the first confirmation roll is also a crit (though maximum damage straight to wounds is often lethal enough).
-Single-roll full attacks. You score additional hits for every X by which you exceed the target's defense, up to a certain maximum. (It may help if you start by thinking of it as rolling once and using that result for all of your attacks.) X is 4 when using a light weapon, 5 with a one-handed weapon and 6 with a heavy one. Most Flurry of Blows-type abilities improve the maximum number of hits you can score, though a few (such as attacking with two weapons) can reduce X by one or (at higher levels) even two. None of these reduction stack with one another, though.
-Full incorporation of the swift action. Like in Saga edition, the swift action is an integral part of the system; many special attacks and other actions require the expenditure of one or more consecutive swift actions before they can be used. Said expenditure can happen partly at the end of one turn and partly at the beginning of the next; also keep in mind that you can trade a move action in for another swift action. The 5-foot step is a swift action, and characters will also have to expend a swift action to threaten the area around them for the purpose of making attacks of opportunity.
-Tricks and Stances.
Taking another page from spycraft and similar faire like the book of nine swords: Stances grant you passive combat bonuses and abilities. You can only benefit from one at a time, and can assume a new stance as a swift action. You can also only use one trick at a time, even though some adjust how a normal attack works and others are attacks unto themselves. Both come from feats, and possibly class features.

Read all

Thursday, February 7, 2008

There Is No Spoon: TD-Retake #2

Work continues on this little rpg, which is quickly shaping into something quite entertaining. I'm currently collaborating with one of the original creators, though others may be joining us in the future. Hit the link for a full list of further evolutions to the concept.

-The dies are changed to d10s for longevity. There is also a third die, the Mecha die, whose stat represents the quality of the character's mech. A GAR success trumps a Mecha success trumps a Discipline success.
-Each episode must contain at least 5 scenes. Each non-combat scene costs one budget point to animate under normal standards. Each combat scene costs 2.
-A character's first triple success during an episode earns him one fandom point. If the scene is being produced using QUALITY budget, he earns no fandom points. If the scene is being produced at +1 budget this fandom point can also be recieved after a double success involving GAR. If the scene is being produced at +2 budget he earns an additional fandom point with every triple success made.
-Characters can build up a "GAR charge", up to the limit of their current GAR score. Characters may spend up to three GAR charges before making a roll. One charge lets them reroll a failed discipline roll, two lets them also reroll a failed mecha roll and three lets them also reroll a failed GAR roll.
-Characters must each choose one archetype and one role.
-Archetypes are used to build up GAR charge. To build up one charge an archetype must work to ____ for an entire scene or combat turn.
arrogant: Assert superiority over others.
brainy: Technobabble.
coldblooded: Unnerve others with his emotionless nature.
hotblooded: Clash with authority.
laidback: distinguishes himself from others through laidbackness.
psycho: Unnerve others with his psycho nature.
withdrawn: Refrain from speaking or other forms of socialization.
uncertain: Inner monologue on self.
scheming: Inner monologue on personal machinations.

-Roles provide a character with a free GAR chip once per episode, which may be used on:
dutiful soldier: Anything fulfilling his orders/directions
mentor: Any roll being made by a teammate that falls under one of his disciplines.
mercenary: Anything being done on his own, without any help
renegade: Anything being done in defiance of authority.
rookie: Any skill where someone with more ranks is giving the rookie advice.
specialist: One single skill chosen at character creation.
trusted friend: Anything being done for the sake of someone else on the team.
veteran: Any roll where no one has a higher score in a relevant discipline.

Read all

Saturday, February 2, 2008

There Is No Spoon: Trigger Discipline Retake

Note: All further posts on this system have been tagged under "Trigger Discipline".

Okay. Since maybe *one* person will know what both these things are:

There Is No Spoon is an excellent, mechanically simple action rpg that was conceived with the Matrix movie in mind but is fairly easy to convert due to that aforementioned simplicity. I highly recommend checking it out.

Trigger Discipline is an rpg concept that started with this 4chan thread; the existing work has been collected here. It's a satirization of anime, particularly the "giant mecha" genre. I was never involved with the project and it eventually stalled, but it's been coming up again on 4chan recently and when I actually took a close look at it I found myself having some ideas about how the game should work. These are just my musings, I have no connection to the project and can take no credit for any of that material I just linked to.

So, here's how I would recommend doing trigger discipline: Each player controls a character, while the Director controls about everything else about the show in standard GM fashion. The ultimate goal for both parties is to get through a full season- twenty-six episodes. Of course, both sides probably have their own ideas about what's going to happen over the course of those episodes. . .

-Start with the rules for There Is No Spoon, but rename Matrix as "Gar" (internet slang for "manly badass"), Skill as "Discipline", and Body as "Plot Armor". Include the "Woah," "Dicing With Death" and "Sick At Heart" variants.
-Characters also have a Fanbase statistic, representing how rabid and numerous their fans are. Fanbase cannot be purchased, only earned.
-The director has a Director Mandate rating, which represents how much control he has over the show. Characters contest director mandate like anything else, using their Gar stat as well as a relevant discipline, if any- "Dignity" is a good example of a discipline meant specifically to help your character resist cheapening themselves for the good of the series.
-The show itself has two statistics, budget (representing how much you have to spend on the animation for each episode) and popularity. The players normally decide how much budget to spend on a given scene; by default, most take only one or two points. Spending more than that gives characters a bonus on rolls and can let a Gar success increase a character's fanbase without an associated discipline success, while spending less grants penalties, prevents character's fanbases from increasing in case of a double success, and can even make it so that complex actions have to happen offscreen. Recaps provide another way to conserve the budget for a series. A show's popularity, meanwhile, is the aggregate of the player's fanbase scores plus any modifiers from Real-World Events (see below). High popularity can increase a show's budget, while low popularity can reduce a show's budget or even lead to its cancellation.
-Subplots: At character creation and in between episodes, players may select subplots for a character. Each subplot has certain details determined by the player; everything else is up to the director, who secretly chooses which subplots to bring into play each episode. The requirements for successfully resolving different types of subplots will vary, but doing so always counts as a learning experience for the character, earning them at least 1 point to spend on character creation.
-Fates in Trigger Discipline represent the director's plans for the plot, and always have an associated subplot. Acting in a way that brings them closer to their fate gives characters a bonus on die rolls. If a character fulfills their fate,
-At the beginning of each episode, the director rolls randomly to determine the episode's title and theme. Additionally, they must roll on the Real-World Event and Director Madness tables.

Here's what still needs to be done for this to be a working game:
-Full list of scene types (Action, exposition and so on)
-Episode name generation tables
-Full list of episode themes (plot advancement, fanservice, focus on a random subplot. . .)
-Director Madness table (Can abruptly tweak the feel of the show for good or ill, usually ill.)
-Real-World Event table (Internet meme makes random character's popularity skyrocket, random producer goes bankrupt, publicisized tragedy makes upcoming story event potentially offensive (a.k.a. "My brother died that way"), etc.)

Read all

Friday, February 1, 2008

Vagabond: Trevata

This race, first conceived over two years ago, is still one of my personal favorites; I took some pages from the case-building caddisfly larvae common in the streams of the Pacific Northwest's more rural areas.

The trevata are a race of frail, humanoid insects. Though they posses indoskeletons, their predecessors also constructed exoskeletons, bonding surrounding materials (bark, rocks, etc.) to their skin by secreting a transparent paste. These shells served both as protection and camoflauge. As their civilized culture began to develop, they started to carefully construct their outfits and wear masks to establish their identity. Their progress was equivalent to 6th-century earth when interstellar contact was made. Now the majority of the Trevata spend much of their lives in customised suits of armor.
• Medium: As Medium creatures, trevata have no special bonuses or penalties due to their size.
• A trevata's base land speed is 30 feet.
• Easy Breathing (Ex): A trevata requires much less oxygen to breathe than a human does, and can hold its breath for a number of rounds equal to 10 x (Its constitution modifier) without having to make constitution checks. If exposed to a dangerous inhaled effect, a trevata gains a +5 species bonus on any required saving throw.
• Carapace: The trevata construct shells covering virtually all of their bodies by bonding materials to their hide with a transparent paste. Bonding or unbonding to a suit of armor or other shell takes 2d4 hours.
-- While not bonded to a suitable shell, a trevata suffers a -2 penalty to strength; they rely on their exoskeletons in order to fully exert themselves. Also, they suffer a -2 natural armor penalty to their defense and their massive damage threshold decreases by 3.
-- The Trevata can bond to any armor that they’re wearing, usually supplementing lighter armors with other articles of clothing. Once the bonding is complete, the armor gains the following bonuses: The maximum dexterity increases by 2, the armor class penalty decreases by 2 and the armor is treated one category lighter than normal for purposes of movement, proficiency and other limitations. Light armor doesn’t count as armor except in terms of available equipment slots; thus a trevata with no proficency in armor could bond to a light undercover vest and get the full bonus to defense. These bonuses last for as long as the armor remains bonded to its wearer.
-- The Trevata can also combine available materials (garbage, rocks, bark, thick clothing) to form a makeshift shell that grants a +1 armor bonus to AC. At the DM’s option, the materils used may serve as camoflauge, granting up to a +4 bonus on hide checks.
-- The same paste that bonds the armor to the trevata can repair damage by filling craks and holes, then hardening. Trevata who have seen much battle often have scars covering their armor that eerily resemble those found on living flesh. Damage to a bonded suit of armor is repaired at the rate of one point per character level per day.
• The trevata have unusually fast response times. They gain a +2 racial bonus to initiative checks and reflex saves.
• +2 racial bonus to survival checks: The trevata maintain a strong instinctual connection to the “outdoors,” even those who have dwelt in cities all their lives.

Read all