On the Origin of Races

February 23, 2017

This is a…big question. Namely, what role do races play in D&D and how do we do them right? This is especially complicated by the fact that “race” doesn’t mean just heritage in D&D, it’s historically also meant cultural history. As an example, an Orc might have Darkvision in D&D thanks to being born an Orc, but an Elf isn’t genetically or magically gifted with proficiency with Longswords and Long Bows. That’s training. With the Dwarf and Halfling benefits to fighting giants, that was explicitly spelled out – children of those communities gain training in fighting giants.

Since you can’t call a product of training “racial traits”, since there’s no factor of birth there, I think we’ve got to split race in half – Heritage, the people you are born to, and Past, the culture you were raised in. Combined, these are, to borrow from Dragon Age, a character’s Origin. They tell us what kind of Hero the character can become, or at least where they’re coming from.

This also makes it easier to expand races dramatically since we’ve got two small things that combine into a huge number of potential “races”. Now, how do we balance them?

Read the rest of this entry »

So, we’ve done some of the ground work for our themeing. We’ve got our classes down, we’ve got a basic idea for our construction, and we know what “D&D” is. So, how does the game work? 

The environment that D&D takes place in, a tabletop RPG with a focus on storytelling and tactical combat, there are three levels of resolution. Three tiers of granularity in how much we want to simulate the environment. Those three levels are the most simple kind of resolution (like a “strength check” for something coming up but not having a dedicated rule system), the skill resolution (like a “Diplomacy check” for something that has a rules system attached to it but it’s not very granular), and the Combat Resolution System. There’s a huge, wide gulf between type 2 and 3, while there’s barely any difference between type 1 and 2. I feel like we can do better than this.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Music of the Spheres

January 13, 2017

So, Divine magic.

That’s a…complicated bag of snakes. Kettle of worms. Can of hammers. Traditionally, for some reason, Divine magic was basically Arcane magic with the serial numbers filed off and some weird aftermarket spells like “Cure Wounds” and “Slow Poison”. So either wildly useful or strangely useless.

We’re gonna change it. Partly by sticking to the hard spell idea, but really digging into the thematic part of it. Instead, Spheres or Domains are going to be the  most important thing to a Divine caster, and will inform how they act, how they cast, and how they see the world. Being a Divine caster should have some kind of obligation, since their devotion is what keeps their magic alive.

Read the rest of this entry »

The recently graduated student of the largest arcane university on the continent heading out to make their mark in their old school robes, staff and sling clutched tight in anticipation. The child who accidentally destroyed their house with a sudden burst of flame from their hands, outcast and seeking redemption. A price paid, an oath sworn, blood spilled, and vengeance sought; she left that home for the last time with his head above the door and her Master smiling from beyond. He never learned how, exactly, it made sense to him but just on the edge of the vision he could see the shapes and structures of sorcery…hopefully, on the road, he can learn more. She didn’t care for the books her father studied, nor for the raw power that her brother seemed to delve in, she instead loved her potions, her scrolls, her wands, her devices. They had never been very good at being clear on anything, and the fact that every time they tried to form a spell in their mind caused some part of them to change as well didn’t help matters at all.

These are all Arcanists. At this point they’re all young, they’re all unpracticed, and they’re all learning the ropes in most of the same ways. While they are diverse, and will diverge soon into their adventuring career, early on all Arcane specialists follow the same path – learning their first Engrams and forming their Arcane identity.

Read the rest of this entry »

Man, it’s taking me a week to get to this. Arcane is such a mess, thematically and mechanically, in D&D and I’ve been really unsure about how to go about this. What I’m looking for, though, is player agency. Player choice. This is what I’ve come up with.

We’re ditching spells for Arcane. Spells are clunky, weird, and poorly costed. There are some spells that are just obnoxiously powerful for their level, other spells that are totally worthless until you have extra caster levels to cast them with, and yet others that should never be used at all. This is exacerbated in tabletop where “creative” uses of spells have gone on to break the game. The comments here can help explain why the so-called Quadratic Wizard is a problem. On top of that, many Wizard players may come away with a feeling that they’re kind of pidgenholed into a certain kind of play style – even if they’re not playing 4th Edition. The spells are poorly written, which is the biggest problem for me.

So we’ve got to replace the most archaic and traditional D&Dism ever. With something that gives players more agency, which D&D players famously hate. Yay!

Read the rest of this entry »

D&D’s Magic is Busted

January 2, 2017

I’m serious. It’s terrible. Vancian magic is absolutely horrible for a game. I’m not going to preserve it, at all, and there’s no reason to defend it. It makes no sense that beings who are otherwise massively powerful and able to manipulate the very matter of the universe with their will alone, essentially, are trapped in the most player and game punishing system possible.

It’s also far, far too powerful as it exists now.

We’re scrapping the whole thing and starting from scratch.

Read the rest of this entry »

It’s time to shake off my cobwebs and get down to work again. Touche isn’t really going anywhere and I think I’ll talk about another project that’s a lot easier to analyze and dig into. Which is odd since it’s much, much more complicated.

See, I’ve been playing pen and paper RPGs since I was a child. I’ve always been emotionally invested in the opportunity to be someone else – a powerful wizard, a swashbuckling pirate, a fanatical defender of my people, a mad scientist, a humble priest. I’ve been drawn toward all sorts of gaming systems over the years, from the AD&D I started with to the classic World of Darkness that got me into online communities to the new wave of story-oriented systems like FATE and Dungeon World.

Dungeons and Dragons, though, will probably always be special. Besides being my first taste at fantasy roleplaying, it also forms the basis of several of the video games many people love – Icewind Dale, Baldur’s Gate, Neverwinter Nights, Neverwinter, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, The Temple of Elemental Evil, Eye of the Beholder…the list is long and has its own storied history.

I’ve kept up with the edition changes over the years, griping about the things I thought were a problem but mostly seeing the games move forward toward better play and a better understanding of the “D&D Fantasy”, the game’s own unique spin on the high fantasy of Tolkien and Morcock. That is, until 5th edition.

Fifth Edition D&D shoots itself in the foot, so I’m rewriting it.

Read the rest of this entry »

%d bloggers like this: