Monday, May 11, 2015

Psion/Nomad in 5e

The final conversion for getting my Patfinder/Midgard campaign moved over to 5e is finding some way to implement the Psion class, as presented in Dreamscarred Press' "Ultimate Psionics" (a great product, but very Pathfinder-y).

In this case, the player has specialized as a "Nomad" (teleportation, I mean "psychoportation" specialist), and in keeping with my "just get this working" ethic, here is how I'm handling his character. It's going to be a work in progress, and the player is willing (and eager) to work with me to get the feel right over the first few sessions.

First off, Psions are analogous to Wizards. They improve their powers through careful study and have "specialist schools".

I had already decided to use "Psionics as another flavor of Magic" in the PF version of this campaign. Simply put, "magic" derives from three sources - arcane (powered by the structure of the material plane, by way of ley lines, and wielded through ritual and pattern), divine (powered by the collective belief of trillions of souls, both alive and post-alive, and wielded through emotion), and psionic (powered by the creative energies of the astral "Sea of Possibilities", and wielded through mental discipline).

But for practical purposes, I'm using the "Point System" magic from the DMG, and adding "Nomad" as a school of magic with the following properties:

At 1st level, you gain "Psionic Focus", which is similar to "Concentration". It takes one action to become focused, and if you ever fail a Concentration check, you lose focus as well. While focused, you can "cast" cantrips at no point cost (Normally they cost 1 point), and can manifest any special abilities. Your Intelligence is your casting attribute.

At 2nd Level, you gain "Nomad's Step" - while focused, you can use your action to teleport within line of sight up to 15 feet away, +5 feet for each level above 2nd. You also gain "Catfall" as an always prepared Cantrip. (Catfall is a single-person Feather Fall limited to 20' + 10' per power point spent.) Note, replaces  "Arcane Tradition" - not sure about gaining extra Feather Fall, but that seems to be a decent way to simulate the Nomad's growing control over space and time.

At 6th Level, you gain "Inconstant Position" - use your reaction to give any attack a 50% chance to miss you. You may use this power up to 1+(level-8)*2 times after a long rest.

I'll wing it from there.

I'm "reskinning" some of the spells to sound more "psionic-y", but the game effects will be the same.

I'm leaving Arcane Recovery in, though I need to work out how many points you can recover. It'll probably be something like "regain your caster level in points".

Lastly - since "Psionics" is another form of magic, it's treated as magic for any detection or resistance checks.

There are a lot of holes in this system, such as how many "spells" does a Psion get, and can they collect them like Wizards, or are they "hard coded" like a Sorcerer? Though "Sorcerer" matches the original vibe of "psionics is stuff you know how to do", I like the Psion class as an explorer of the Psionic arts, and though having to prepare a limited number of spells is possibly goofy in this case, I think it will work fine for play balance.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Mongoose Traveller Character: Abigael Tynan

Field Agent 3 Abigael "Abby" Tynan - Age 34
Str:  5(-1)  Int: 9(+1)
Dex: 11(+2)  Edu: 7(+0)
End:  7(+0)  Soc: 7(+0)
Skills: Persuade-3, Deception-2, Communications-1, Investigate-1, Streetwise-1, Flyer-1, Melee-1, Carousing-0, Art(Singing)-0, Art(Songwriting)-0, Trade(Waitress)-0
Possessions: TL-12 Wafer Jack, Cr30,000

Enemies: Count Haakon of Sacnoth

1/2 Term Performer(Singer/Songwriter), 3 Terms Intelligence (Field Agent)

Abby grew up on Sacnoth (Sword Worlds/Sacnoth A775956-C), where she had a brief career as a singer/songwriter. When one of her more political songs became a hit, the local noble whose corruption she was satirizing (Count Haakon) took offense and put an end to her career.

Hoping to escape Count Haakon's reach, Abby applied to be a colonist, but was rejected - the colonial office couldn't risk the wrath of Count Haakon. Dejected and wondering what to do with her life, she was approached by Sword World Intelligence, who moved her to the capital of the Confederation, Gram (A895957-C). Though reluctant to move to her homeworld's chief rival in the Confederation, Abby realized that Gram was probably the one world where Count Haakon's influence would not reach.

Abby rose quickly through the ranks, making a name for herself as a field operative. Her good looks and easy nature made her a natural operative, and she helped to uncover numerous worker revolts and other threats to Gram's leadership.

In her 4th term, an unknown enemy blew her cover and her brother was nearly killed. The service decided that they no longer required her, and she was mustered out. Unusually, Abby was permitted to retain her wafer jack (TL-12, hidden access port), though she did have to turn in her software package and submit to a wafer-jack wipe to remove any classified data.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Tengu, D&D 5e Style

Similar to my previous Catfolk post, another of my players is playing one of the "Ravenfolk", also known as Tengu, Huginn, or Heruti.

So here is the Racial Template I plan to use for Tengu. It is based off of Kobold Press's "Advanced Races 5 - Ravenfolk" book by Wade Rockett, which is released under the OGL. (The Open Content of his product includes new feats, spells, magic items, gear and player character race abilities, the last of which is what I am using for inspiration.)

Note: this edit includes numerous suggestions from James Ray, Benjamin Eastman and others I don't mean to slight by not remembering.

Tengu/Ravenfolk Traits

  • Ability Score Increase: You are fast and highly observant. Your Dexterity increases by +2 and your Wisdom by +1.
  • Age: Tengu leave the nest at 12 years of age and can live to over 100 years.
  • Alignment: Tengu favor no particular alignment, and are as diverse in outlook as Humans.
  • Size: Tengu are medium sized creatures. They stand roughly 5 feet tall and due to their hollow bones, weigh roughly 100 pounds.
  • Speed: Your base walking speed is 30 feet.
  • Keenly Observant: You have innate proficiency in Perception.
  • Darkvision: You can see in dim light within 60 feet as if you were in bright light, and in darkness as if it were dim light.
  • Natural Weapon: Bite (1d4 Piercing)
  • Languages: You can speak, read and write both Common and Feather Tongue
In the original text, Tengu also had proficiency in all sword-like weapons, due to their cultural upbringing, but I think that in 5e, that might be better left to a Background, so I have not included it. Likewise, though "gifted linguist" is part of their back story, I'm not sure how best to represent that in 5e. Maybe they take much less time learning a language than normal?

Also, I'm balancing the original race's high Dex/Wis by making them naturally proficient in Perception. I considered the suggestion to drop Perception in favor of Stealth, but Dex+2 and Stealth sort of shoe-horns them into Rogues. Also, in my view of Ravenfolk, making them fast (Dex+2) but keenly observant (Wis+1, Perception) fits them better.

The Children of Odin see all....

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Catfolk, D&D 5e Style

I'm planning to switch my home "Pirates of Pathfinder" game over to 5e. My players in that campaign are largely disinterested in the sophisticated character building and combat options of Pathfinder, and I think 5e would be a better fit for them. Plus, I'm all excited about 5e these days. :)

However, one of my players likes to play Catfolk. Those aren't represented in 5e yet.

Here is how I intend to port the OGL Pathfinder Catfolk player race to 5e. Please see the link above for fluff details, I'm going to stick pretty close to mechanics here, though with an attempt to make it "read" like 5e.

Catfolk Traits

As a Catfolk, you are a natural explorer and trailblazer, curious and brave by nature. Your people are known to be generous and loyal to their family and friends, and catfolk are friendly with any people who offers goodwill.

  • Ability Score Increase: You are likable and agile. Your Dexterity increases by +2 and your Charisma by +1.
  • Age: Catfolk reach adulthood at 15 years of age.
  • Alignment: Catfolk are generally Good, with the majority tending towards Chaotic.
  • Size: Catfolk range from 5 to 6 feet tall, with female Catfolk tending to be 5" shorter than males on average. Catfolk are medium.
  • Speed: Your base walking speed is 30 feet.
  • Sprinter: You gain an extra +10 feet of movement when you Dash.
  • Natural Hunter: You have an innate proficiency in Survival and Stealth skills. You are also proficient in the use of your claws (1d4 Slashing) for melee.
  • Cat's Luck: You may claim Advantage on one Dexterity Saving Throw. This ability recharges after a long rest.
  • Darkvision: Accustomed to nighttime hunting, you can see in dim light within 60 feet as if you were in bright light, and in darkness as if it were dim light.
  • Languages: You can speak, read and write both Common and Catfolk.
I'm not doing anything with Subraces for the moment, though the SRD Catfolk gives plenty of room for adapting the various racial feats and such.

I'm also considering a different take on Cat's Luck, which is mostly inspired by how my player keeps trying to use it. Instead of claiming Advantage (which mimics the OSR version), I might allow a re-roll, keeping the second value.

Next, I'll try adapting the Huginn or Tengu "Ravenfolk".

Notes: Thanks to Sean Bircher for his suggestions.

Friday, February 13, 2015

A quick thought on Traveller Social Standing

The topic of "why doesn't Traveller have Charisma, and how do I represent a boorish Noble?" comes up with some frequency in Traveller discussions.

Aside from the obvious hack of just giving characters a 7th stat for Charisma (which works fine), you can also get some mileage out of an alternate reading of the Traveller description for Social Standing (SS).

In Starter Traveller, the book says, "Those with social standing of B+ (11 or greater) are considered to be noble, and may assume their family's hereditary title." That's pretty straight forward.

But what if you decide instead that SS is how well does the character handle themselves in social situations? Assuming that SS of 11 or better is having "courtly manners" that would imply a noble background, give the player the option of actually being a noble OR having some other back story to explain their knowledge of courtly ways. It might even be possible that a high SS player came from a bloodline in exile, or that they served a noble family and the character is "passing".

Of course this is a two-edged sword. The Referee would then have to permit "fallen nobles" who has SS of less than their family due to apathy or ennui, but still maintained their title.

However, interpreting SS even more loosely allows lowborn characters who are highly charismatic to have entre into high SS situations because, though they're unlearned in manners, they have a magnetism that even nobles find charming.

I prefer this interpretation of SS. Just like having a high Education does not automatically make you a professor, having a high Social Standing ought not force a player into the nobility.

Just a thought.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Just got my D&D 5e Player's Handbook!

Yesterday evening, my 5e PHB arrived from Amazon. Here are a few very brief impressions.

I haven't had a chance to really dig into it, but scanning over the book gives me warm fuzzies. The artwork is a bit less "Wayne Reynolds" than I like (I'm one of the few people who like the kind of Anime-style of Pathfinder) but it's very attractive. The book's production overall is very nice as well. I like their whimsical touches as well. It hearkens back to AD&D a little, which I'm sure is the point.

I was happy to see so many classes represented in the book. It's not just the standard "Fighter, Cleric, Thief, Wizard" by any stretch. I was a bit confused why there were only two bloodlines for Sorcerers, but I guess the authors wanted to leave some room for future expansion.

The spells list seems to be a smaller percentage of the book than it was in previous editions, though I haven't actually done the page count to verify that. I really like this edition's take on Cantrips, Spells and Rituals. It matches ideas I've been using in my own games. The "Spell Slots" system is interesting, though it doesn't mesh with my "spells are like grenades - you prepare them and then throw them" explanation of D&D magic. That's ok, the 5e system might not make as much sense, but it looks like it will be more fun to play.

I may have more impressions once I've read the thing, but honestly everyone's doing 5e blogs these days, so I don't know that I'd have much to add to the discussion. I'll stick with more obscure topics, I think.

DBA Army Upgrades

I tried to think up a fun title for this one, but failed. Sigh.

So DBA3.0 has a few surprises up its sleeves for those of us with existing armies. This post is going to get technical, so my apologies in advance for this deep dive.

First a few definitions, in case non-DBA players have decided to push on anyway:

In DBA, each army is composed of 12 "elements", where an element is a rectangular base with figures mounted on it. The size of the base and number of figures varies by what type of troop and what size figures you're using, but for my case of 15mm figures, they're 40mm across and have varying depthts from 15mm to 40mm, with 20mm being the most common for foot and 30mm being the most common for mounted.

Elements are specified in a sort of code. "3Sp" means a base with 3 spear men on it. "4Bd" would be a base with 4 blades (think Romans or Vikings) on it. 6x4Bd means 6 elements of blades with 4 blades per stand. In previous DBA incarnations, the number of figures was more of a suggestion. In 3.0 though, it helps determine if a foot element is "Fast" (usually 3 figures) or "Solid" (usually 4 figures), so it does matter.

Also, DBA uses some idiosyncratic terms for element types.

"Psiloi" (Ps) is used for all skirmishers. Originally, the Psiloi was the word ancient Greeks used for their unarmored, unshielded warriors who often fought with nothing more than a sling, bow or some javelins. But in DBA, they're any skirmisher troop.

"Auxilia" (Ax) was originally what the Romans called their native allies. They didn't have very good equipment or discipline by Roman standards, but fought in an organized way, and were pretty reliable if you didn't ask too much of them. In DBA, Ax troops are pretty much any troops with a shield but no body armor, and who are comfortable fighting in the rough.

Enough DBA history for now, let's get back to how my armies have changed.

The Hittite Empire army used to have a core of 6x3Sp but since Sp can't have only 3 figures in 3.0, they've separated that group into two - one group of 4x3Pk elements, and another of 2x3Ax elements. "Pk" means "Pike", and like other descriptors, DBA doesn't seem to literally mean "fighting with a 15 foot pole", but rather "fights in a close, deep block". And more mechanically it means, "fights about as good as Auxilia, but can double-up to take on just about anyone".

So my existing 3Sp figures are good enough for the new 3Pk, but I need 2x3Ax to round things out. The solution I've come up with is based on history somewhat. Hittites Auxilia are most probably Syrio-Canaanites, but the Hurrians were still around during the Hittite Empire days, and given their sometimes close political, cultural and dynastic ties, I've decided to raid my Hurrian army bag for some light infantry. They're mostly just wearing a Canaanite-style "kilt" with a bare chest and small shield, so they look the part. So I'll save myself $5 and just use them.

Last night, I got all 6 of those guys primed and painted with the exception of their kilts. I'm going to go for "Canaanite chiq", which will be white with solid colored borders. It' been a while since I've painted 15mm figures, and my eyes aren't up for the task without a magnifier. I hope tonight to get their kilt borders painted in and their faces touched up so I can base them.

From later in time, my Carthaginian Army (Hannibal's era) got the work-over too, essentially making me choose between Iberians or Gauls. But to make matters worse, DBA now classes almost all Gauls as SOLID Warbands instead of FAST. So all those 3Wb need to get rebased as 4Wb.

I actually did that rebasing work last night, and it went better than I was afraid it would. By the rules, 4Wb should be on a 15mm deep base, but since the army lists allows them to be 4Wb or 4Ax, and 4Ax is a 20mm deep base, I went for 20mm. DBA3 allows a 20mm deep 4Wb, so it's not technically wrong, it just looks odd to me.

Finally, my Ancient Nubians swapped one of their-bow Psiloi for a javelin Psiloi. No game function change, but I happened to have two left-over javelin & shield armed Nubians from a pack of 8 that was used for 2x3Wb, so now the Nubians have a new Psiloi element.

There are plenty more upgrades to go. My Thracians got savaged, and my Republican Romans need some proper Auxilia (2x4Ax), but those are projects for when I want to do some REAL painting.

Friday, January 16, 2015

A Time of New Editions?

Everyone is probably already aware that Dungeons & Dragons has recently released their 5th Edition of the game, and it seems to be a hit with most "old school" gamers. Or at least those who, like me, were playing OSR games out of a combination of nostalgia and a dissatisfaction with the gamey-ness of D&D 4th Edition and the munchkin friendly often hilariously rules-heavy 3rd Edition series of games.

But another, equally revolutionary game has also had a new edition published in the recent year - the historical miniatures wargame "De Bellis Antiquitatis", or "DBA" to its friends. DBA was first introduced in 1990, but gained much popularity in the mid-90's with it's 1.1 edition. The 2.0 edition released in 2001 greatly expanded the army lists (which range from the dawn of history in Sumer and Egypt up until the Renaissance.), and culminated in 2.2, which was sort of the "D&D3.5" to 2.0's "D&D3.0" - a clean up and minor enhancement, but still pretty much the same game.

The primary innovations of DBA over the rules that existed at the time were twofold.

First, the cumbersome command and control rules common to games at the time, often involving a myriad of carefully written orders (yes, written orders) and pro-rated movement, were replaced by a simple, abstract D6 roll. That roll gives you points to spend ordering your troops however you see fit. There is no simulation of HOW the army is commanded, only the overall difficulty of controlling the army.

Second, the size of the game itself was revolutionary - each army consists of 12 "elements", where an element is a single game piece with between 2-4 miniatures on it. That means a whole army can be built with only 24-48 miniatures, usually averaging around 32 miniatures. Also, the game board itself is only a 2 foot square for 15mm figures, or 3 foot square for 25mm figures. Just about anyone can find a table to throw down a 2x2 piece of cloth and some simple pieces of terrain, and DBA introduced the idea of being able to play miniatures as a "pickup game".

DBA's third edition comes after a 10 year break. The game is superficially the same as it was before, though a number of very controversial changes were made. Here is a good overview of the changes, but in short, the rules seem to even better reflect how ancient battles were pitched and fought, and the "game" aspect of DBA has been tightened up as well. In short, it brings the 90's-era game more into the modern mindset, which is a bit ironic, since DBA originally killed off the 90's era wargaming mentality.

Now, I haven't played DBA much since 2.2 came out. I haven't played at all in the last 6-8 years. But this new edition has me excited. I've dug out my old armies and the heaps of lead I'd collected. I have almost as many armies still in their boxes as I do painted.

Amusingly, since DBA3.0 has some significant changes over the 2.x games, many gamers are refusing to switch, and a "DBA2.2+" movement ("Pathfinder", anyone?) has started.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Treasonous Thoughts

I'm very seriously considering ditching Pathfinder for 5e.

There, I said it.

I could never bring myself to sell my PF rulebook though. And it's unlikely I'll sell my Swords&Wizardry books. There are only two of them, and frankly, they're good enough that I'm still likely to run S&W for an even more casual game.

I only have a few non-primary PF rule books, though I do have a few full adventure paths worth of modules.

The only wrinkle is that I'm currently in love with the Midgard setting, and at the moment, that's only spelled out for Pathfinder. I suspect that until WOTC makes their licensing scheme known, we won't see any 5e Midgard stuff, which would be a shame.

Hopefully the rumored "3e to 5e conversion guide" will help.

Honestly, I'm probably not going to be playing much D&D over the next few months, since our "Supers!" game is going well. I'll blog about our latest session in the near future.