Okay, so some of you have been following me on twitter and you’ve no doubt seen me make a few posts with the hashtag #WoED20. For those of you who are into gaming, it means exactly what you think it does. For those of you who aren’t, it means I’m working on a World of Ere roleplaying game built on the D20 open gaming license.
So if you’re a fan of Rune Breaker, in a year or two, you’ll be able to play in the World of Ere (actually, in a few seconds, you can do that with D&D already.) with rules designed to capture the style and feel of the actual stories written by yours truly.
This is going to be more of a labor of love than a money-making venture, so I’m going to throw open questions, concerns and play-testing to all the fans with regular updates on what I’m working on. And in the spirit of that, this post is all about telling you what this thing is going to be about and why you should get excited about it.
Sound fun? God, I hope so…
If you’ve seen me on certain other forums, I’ll know that my new sig says ‘Bringing Awesome Back’. That’s my aim with this game: I want to facilitate you in playing kickass roleplaying sessions where you remember every bit of it because it was so damn fun.
As such, my aim is going to be very gamist. If you’re wondering what that means, allow me to explain: while there are other approaches to making RPGs, there are two that always seem to be at odd:s simulationist and gamist.
A simulaitonist strives to model every possible situation and action in the rules and have them work as close to ‘real life’ as possible. In high simulation games, you’ll see a lot more rolling on tables for percentages, injury and death being a lot easier, and power levels sans magic being fairly low. They also tend to be less balanced ‘because life isn’t fair’ and less customizable to introduce random elements into characters.
There’s nothing particularly wrong with this in general, but it’s just not for me and I think it often gets in the way of having fun when you’re trying to look up the break DC of a heavy ceramic pitcher when you just want to smash it over a guy’s head.
Gamist systems focus on the game and lets the ‘reality’ of the game sort itself out beyond how it effects the characters. High gamist systems tend to be more forgiving with hit points, abstract a lot of things into simple die rolls or no rolls at all, and might have power levels be very wonky with or without magic. The upside is that they tend to be more balanced and stable to play with, but realism takes a hit (how a high level character in D&D can fall from orbit and get up unharmed, for example)
Contrary to what a lot of people say, I don’t feel like either one of these lends itself better to roleplay because in the end, the actual RP is the responsibility of the players and DM.
For World of Ere, my first rule of understanding is that we’re not dealing with Earth physics and biology, but Erean physics and biology. People can do things they wouldn’t normally on Earth (but would likely be able to pull off in the movies, like awesome long jumps, impossibly strong punches, etc). My second is that if modeling something from Ere would require anything more complex than two d20 rolls, I’ll abstract it into something that does.
For example, Grapple is going to be a single attack roll and a list of actions the grappled and grappler can take on their turns. Oh yes, reforming the grapple rules are a priority.
More than that, my view on designing this is going to be ‘3e body, 4e soul’. D&D 3rd edition was… easier to design for because it was very modular. Classes could just link into whatever other classes had like spells plus their collection of class features while making a class in 4e was more or less writing a whole source book.
On the other hand, 4e was way better to play. It wasn’t stupidly lethal at low levels, you always had something interesting to do, and in the case of weapon users, you could actually do things instead of just attack a bunch.
So I’m going to be using 3e structures like class builds and common spell lists, but with a 4e bent toward making these things more dynamic and interesting in the field. So with that in mind, let’s take a look under the hood…
I dream of a classless system that will just let me customize the crap out of my character. That’s why I love the HERO SYSTEM and suggest you look into it despite its complexity. At the same time, classes make design so much easier it isn’t even funny.
To that end, my intention is to have minimal classes for my game with feats doing all the heavy lifting. I considered making it all feats and having players start with like 5, but that was unfeasible, so classes it is.
In general, my ideal class system was just three classes: caster, combatant, skill-user. The problem I ran into was that there was one archetype that doesn’t fit: the Spirit Docent; characters who gain their most powerful abilities in a unique way.
For a while there, it was going to be a fourth class, but then I realized I already had my solution in how I treat priests: it’s just a starter feat that lets your connection to your god count as where your spells come from and then additional [Devotion] feats that let you augment your abilities in a religion-flavored way. In fact, you can take [Devotion] feats for your combatant abilities to make a Paladin or other holy warrior or with your skill-user (these are not the final names, btw) to make a non-magic priest.
My intention is also to encourage dipping into each class to customize your character (bards would be caster/skill-users with [Bardic] feats, etc) and give plenty of guidance toward building the character you want without the system telling you what to do.
Focus Classes will be my version of Prestige Classes and will serve to give access to greater powers at the expense of variety. For example, the Blade Disciple stops being able to take non-long/short blade abilities from the combatant class and the Shapeshifting Master gets fewer spells for the ability to shift for a cheaper spell point cost.
Everyone wants to know what combat is going to be like and that depends a lot on the classes you’ve focused on. Each class excels at two of three things: brute force, versatility and tactical advantage.
Casters have brute force and versatility, but they don’t get a lot of precise field control and can’t do a lot to interrupt opponent’s actions. Combatants usually want to use the one weapon and what it’s good at, but they dish out a lot of damage and have a lot of powers that inflict status effects, prevent movement, or force movement precisely. And finally, skill users are rewarded for having a lot of Adept skills and get to mess with how opponents work more than anyone.
I know a lot of people said dumb things about 4e like ‘everyone gets spells’, but yes, everyone gets something here that’s written up like a spell. In fact, every character can perform one of the following ‘Basic Maneuvers’: strike, trip, trap weapon, grapple, push; each of which is written up a lot like 4e powers or 3e spells.
Everyone gets them, but each class gets them in a different way. Casters have spells they cast from spell points while combatants have techniques they can use at any time (given the right circumstances) and skill-users get tricks they can use alongside basic maneuvers.
There isn’t a lot of movement-centric stuff like 4e, because I want to be playable without a grid but you will be able to do a lot to gain or lose advantages. There are also a lot of conditions that interact with one another and spells. For example, you can be ‘wet’ and that will let someone using a certain spell coat you in ice, temporarily locking you in place.
The big change is the Reaction action. You can spend one at any time before the start of your next turn. This is usually to parry or block, but there are spells like magical shields you can throw up as a reaction.
Healing is addressed by making it clear that HP are in the eye of the player and not necessarily physical damage. There are mundane abilities that can ‘refresh’ you, but won’t raise you about 75% HP, for example.
I personally like a lot of skills and a lot of skill points so I can be awesome at little things that might not be all that useful, but are still nice to know. Therefore characters will have two sets of skills Adventuring Skills and Mundane Skills.
Adventuring skills are what you would expect: Survivalism, Climb, Balance, Gymnastics (yes!), Conversation, Bluff, Conceal, Stealth, all that good stuff.
Mundane skills cover not only things like Cooking, Singing, Instrument (x), Craftsmanship (x), but they also include a vast array of knowledge skills (monsters for example are identified by biome or regional knowledge OR knowledge of a specific type of creature, so you can have awesome knowledge of horses, which not only has synergy with ride but helps you recall obscure facts about horses or centaurs.)
Having a mundane skill can grant conditional bonuses to Adventuring skills, like Cooking can help Survivalism having to do with food. You roll both skills at once and for every 10 points you get on your roll with the Mundane skill, you get a +2 to you Adventuring skill roll.
Skill-users, of course take this farther. They get tricks with their adventuring skill. For example the Gymnastics Skill trick Tumbling Charge lets you charge an enemy across rough terrain without taking attacks of opportunity. And Sneak Attack is not a Skill Trick for Stealth while a similar ability comes with conceal.
Everyone wants me to get to magic, but first, a subject near and dear to my heart…
Animal Companions, Familiars, and Spirit Companions
I always enjoy having friends along with me that aren’t controlled by other players when I adventure. In WoW? I was always a hunter. And as such, WoED20 is going to have a lot of these and they’ll be given fairly freely.
Anyone can just take a feat and get a basic animal companion or familiar. For animal companions, this comes with a list of stated out animals you can take that are tougher than normal versions and which use your attack bonus for their attacks. Animal companions are also how you get special mounts. New Feats upgrade your companions, making them more powerful or outright magical.
Familiars are stated out and come with a telepathic link, the ability to cast your spells and a unique spell or trick that comes with them. More feats uncover new spells from your familiar, or make them tougher and more dangerous in their own right.
Spirit Companions are essentially familiars for people who take the Spirit Docent feat that can’t be targeted by non-discarnate spells and who instead of giving you new spells give you temporary spell points or extra tricks to stack on top of your attacks. For example, the Risen Hero companion will let you burn a reaction to get in an extra attack in the round. Upgrading spirit companions makes them more versatile as they become able to merge into objects to impart abilities or into you in order to give you new powers.
The equipment section will also have pets who aren’t good at combat at all because… BECAUSE.
Magic needs to be powerful. Magic needs to be versatile. Magic needs to be fun and easy to use for the player.
These are the tenets I’m following in creating WoED20’s magic.
First of all, there are two types of spells: Arrays, which are your combat spells and then constructs, which are longer term, longer casting spells. The difference works like this: at second level a caster with the psi Affinity has a spell that takes over the target’s mind for one turn and lets them choose how they’ll take that turn. At 5th level, there is a construct that lets you brainwash a target that lasts for a week or until a condition snaps them out of it.
But that’s just the start. See, your Arrays are just basic building blocks. They actually get more powerful if you have more Affinities (from leveling up in caster). For example, there’s a first level Basic Fireball that does damage in an area. If you have vin affinity, you can oxygenate the flame and make it burn longer. Or the water spells that you can turn to acid if you have ere-a Affinity.
The idea here is that the better your character is at magic, the more use they get out of every spell they know unless that spell is already super useful.
Additionally, just having an Affinity and knowing the right Fundamental (gained via levels in caster), you get cool at-will abilities from conjuring small amounts of elements to being able to hover just off the ground at-will.
You can also dip into casting; taking a feat that give you one Affinity, one Fundamental and one spell if you’d like, but you’ll always be a hedge wizard unless you devote some time to casting—which might be right up your ally.
As said before, you cast from spell points and there are ways to get more during the day—but that’s because you can overcast, burning spell points to deal a little more damage or make a save a little more difficult. What is known as Metamagic in d20 such as casting silently or maximizing spells is done through points, but you can also take a feat to declare a Signature Spell, which costs a bit less and is always under that effect. You only get one of those, so you might not want to just take a basic fireball as your signature.
And yeah, the stuff you see in the books will be stuff you get to do, from Nightmare Syndrome, to having pocket dimensions for your clothes, to Immurai’s Bones of the Earth and the Earth slide trick he was using in the finale.
Speaking of which, magic items will abound because this is both high magic world and high magic game. They’ll mostly be nice adders, like +skill items or items that give you another trick or technique, but weapons akin to The Eastern Brand, the Razorblade of Remedy, and the Seven Virtue Blades will be included, plus fun stuff like a cloak that redirects all blunt force directed at you into adjacent creatures and objects.
On a related note, there will be plenty of alchemical and mechanical items from firearms to expanding staves, the later of which will work like a magic item except for the ‘being magic’ thing.
This game is not here for you to just replay the books. It’s here to let you fully explore the World of Ere. Whether you want to run confidence scheme in Rivenport, delve into the ancient ruins of the Ashed Lands, or play Superhero with your fabulous powers in Harpsfell, my aim is to make that possible.
Characters will be able to be specced for combat, diplomacy, puzzle-solving, and everything in between without bogging every character down in minutia. There will be serious discussion in the DM’s guide suggesting the DM makes sure the players know what to expect in the game during character creation so no one accidentally ‘traps’ themselves in an unplayable character.
And yeah, you’ll be able to have the full Ere experience: fly (or even steal) airships, fight ancient monsters, defend the helpless on the frontier, or do the dirty work of the influential and powerful. It’s all there for you—to the best of my ability.
If you want to know more about what I’m doing, I’ll be starting a design blog soon, but you can ask away right here in the comments or on the forum and I’ll be glad to help. Please allow up to 12 hours for account confirmation thanks to the truly heroic numbers of spambots that try to get in.
I think this has the potential to be a lot of fun and hope you guys agree.
Why, yes, yes it does.
Balance is a separate skill? I play Pathfinder right now, and I can’t say I disagree with their decision to fold it into Jump and make Acrobatics. In fact, if I were them I would have also fused Climb and Swim into an Athletics skill, because seriously, f*** spending points on something you use as rarely as Swim.
Balance will probably end up as part of Gymnastics. I’m still working on he skill list.
Keep in mind though that the lowest number of skill points you’re going to get is 8 +INT.
I approve. “2 skill points per level” is at the very top of my things to houserule into oblivion.
But aren’t you worried that the game will be too hard without a class that is effectual without having any options in or out of combat other than hitting whatever is in front of them? Which is clearly what the D&D 3.0/3.5/Pathfinder fighter is about.
Which makes for a funny comparison with RoleMaster fighters, who are generally the ones that have points to spare on all sorts of rarely used skills since they don’t need to spend on magic or stealth and anything combat-related is ridiculously cheap for them.
To be fair, depending on what you do with all your feats, you can have some other options.
Like hitting you opponent’s weapon so they can’t hit you back. Or hitting harder by sacrificing accuracy. Or hitting you your opponent’s legs so they fall on the ground (which makes it easier for you to hit them). Or hitting…
So if I’m reading this right, this would allow making a fighter-type with a tiny wizard familiar to provide tiny magic support. Or a wizard who rides into battle on a megatherium. Do want.
As to the skill system, it retains the basic issue I have with D&D skill systems: At heart it’s still just Non-Combat Proficiencies since combat-related skills are not called skills but rather Proficiencies, Basic Attack Bonus, or in many cases just Feats.
And also that since skill points come from levels, anybody who is particularly good at something is going to be a high-level character with all the mysterious superhumanity that comes with it and the implication that almost everybody was an adventurer before taking an arrow to the knee as not-adventuring will not make a person good at anything within a human life span.
Or to put it another way, I don’t like level-based systems.
Level-based is necessary to this because I don’t have the design chops to go full point-based.
HOWEVER, don’t be so quick to assume non-combat proficiencies. The Skill user gets most of their combat power from skills, as they only have basic maneuvers. Also, the system is going to be designed to do fun stuff with winning via skills beyond Skill Challenges.
And yes, yes you can have a megatherium for your wizard. Not only that, but with a high enough psi caster, you can possess him and temporarily become a spell-casting megatherium. Because ‘yes’.