Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Differences from d20 games



 

By C.N. Constantin

Many of you are already familiar with the normal d20/ogl mechanics, you’ll notice there are a number of changes.  This post is to explain such changes:

1. The Sweet Spot: Most ogl systems are most fun from level 3-10.  Too low and you are basically fodder. Too high and prep time and the new toy are pretty much the only factors. 

It's why I added a hit point kicker at level 1, which straightens the parabola and lengthens the
sweet spot.  It's also why I did talent trees and redesigned the magic system, and increased the tech power level. It was to make it more enjoyable for both pc's and npc's to go up to 20th level.

2. Playing Monsters:   I like monsters, from the smallest demons to the largest dragons.  I enjoy playing the weird and bizarre, not just for the power, but but for the different perspective in both a physical and cultural aspect.

However, the rules of the OGL are designed to counteract this enjoyment.  They have slanted all races to emphasize the standard races and made  it complex to balance such races, especially when compared to other games.  Yo often end up with a monster character that has a "glass 
 jaw."

Previous editions of  dnd had the opposite problem.  After the Complete book of humanoids, it was infinitely preferable to play a monster over the standard races.

I believe I have found the best model to do monsters without going overboard and keeping things balanced.  To use all monsters PC races start at ECL 0, and you have the option to take racial talents instead of class talents to represent the really powerful racial abilities.

It's also why for many of the critters why I am pushing the envelope of what is normally considered standard 3.5 critters.  I want to find out where it breaks and plan my future races accordingly.

I'm also using this race building as a base to figure out how to do other concepts common in my post-apocalyptic environment (such as mutation, cybernetics, etc.).  Hopefully these will be revealed in a later date.

3. PCs and Monster are Built Differently:  In normal ogl systems, there was an attempt to make all the rules universal.  This was a heavily needed action at the time, as previous editions had all sorts of optional rules all over the place.

However, it complicated both pc and monster generation.  Because monsters had some players options, it ended up increasing gm prep time.  It also made most unusual options for pcs a complicated mess.

Dark Revelations - the Role Playing Game has attempted to expand the separation to keep both sides of the rules clear.  Monster and villain building should be easy for the gm and pcs should have the majority of the options for their characters, as they have a vested attachment to their character.

3. All Classes are Useful: When I was playing an ogl game, I noticed a severe disparity between spellcasters and non spellcasters.  In a nutshell, in ogl spellcasters dominate situations over non-spellcasters even in areas where a non-spellcaster had an expertise.

I really like what 4th edition did, but I also don't want to rip them off. As a result, I developed a class/path system to have a measuring stick to confirm balance and to allow for future building concepts.  It's also why I'm using a talent system, for it can allow "specialization" in a particular feature of the class or path.  Not only do this give choice and a focus, but it also makes it possible to add new material with comparable ease in later books.

4. Magic verses Technology: Spells: Expanding on point 3, because of the nature of dnd, magic is god.  Magic spells are essentially "rules benders" that change the nature of a game.  Some spells are flat out game changers that aren't even controllable even by an experienced gm.  In particular, save vs. die or save vs. lose spells basically change the game so that you’re either the star or feeling useless.
 
 I've already audited the spells to some degree with this in mind. 
 
 Permanent effects from magic should not be available till 6th level at the earliest...because that’s when you get permanency.
 
 Spells should be fun to useful, but not game breakers or stoppers.
 
 It's also why I did my magic system the way I did.
 
5. Creation of Magical Items: As a player I love this, but there are some real issues with allowing pc's to make magical items. The concept leads to player entitlement, escalating arms race, the breaking of the "sweet spot", and disparity between PCs (it is the spellcasters that can make the items).


It also increases the likelihood of building items that are based on the big magic items (magic weapon, magic armour/protective device, stat booster, saving throw boosters).

However, the items that seem to have the least amount of issues with it are the limited use items (potions, scrolls and wands), and I've based my rules on Faustian Mechanics on the last one, with some tweaks.  
 
The other half of this is magical items with respect to non-magical equipment.  the 3rd edition Dungeon Master's guide created a fairly fastidious formula in creating magical items.  However, there is no similar formula used with the overwhelming amount of standard equipment.  When I did my weapon audit, I noticed a lot of weapons  that really didn't make sense in the way they were designed.
 
A similar effect happened with non-magical items.  When you start putting tech that compares with magic, you need some sort of gauge. Oddly enough, when I started using the conversion chart from Purchase dc to actual numbers, modern d20 was a lot better gauge than originally thought for both equipment and modern weapons.  It also surprisingly lined up with modern weapon costs as well.
 

In my opinion, the gun is the great equalizer. A wizard or similar spell caster is a lot more vulnerable to a fighter if he or she is armed with a firearm. It's also why I decided to not have them magical, unless it is built as a Faustian device.  It's simply too gonzo after a certain point, and it allows me to fulfill a niche for my Faustian Mechanic path.
 

It's also why we spent a hell of a lot of time working on the driving rules and the vehicles themselves.  They need to be useful, but not game breaking.
 
6. Playing a Character: This is not a problem that is solved easily.   
In my opinion, when you build a character, you are building an archetype of some sort.  One that is malleable and can be modified as you see fit, but also stays true to the basic concept.

This doesn't mean you can't do builds.  Quite the opposite, it is why we have free downloads for builds on this blog.
 
 My reasoning is as follows:
 

  1.   They are for newbie players to start quickly playing, especially if playing with other newbie players or veteran gamers that aren't interested in helping build a character for the newbie.
  2.   They are for quick building of characters for short games (nothing more annoying then spending more time building the character than playing it).
  3.   It can be faster to tweak a build then to build from scratch.
 However, the builds aren't written in stone and are more ideas, to show what you can do with the path.
 
 It is the closest means I have figured out of having your cake (building characters quickly) and eating it too (building the exact character you want within the archetype and level).
 
 7. Nasty Permanent Effects: There was this old module known as return to Castle Ravenloft.  It was probably one of the nastiest adventurers I have ever been in.  Part of the reason is because it
 picks away at your character till there is nothing left.
 

While this fits the theme of the module, it is bad game design for the purposes of player/gm enjoyment.  I've revised energy drain to make it more forgiving.  I’ve also attempted to remove any “stop game” powers and spells, which is basically anything that forces you to revise your character drastically during combat and other intense situations.  Instead combat puts status effects that have a limited duration.
 
8. Cleric Stuck in Medkit Mode:  Cleric's in the original ogl system, have gotten increasingly more powerful to the point they are unbalanced.  One of the reason is because one character was stuck in being resident healer. While it can be a fun character to play, not everybody wants to play the concept.

Because of this, I have created technical repair and healing rules that are based roughly on the healing spells that are available to the witch (the closest class/path to the old 3.5 cleric).  I have also  given the option to all ritualists to take both the old cure/inflict spells, in case you want another option.

It creates an "agony of choice" that forces a character to either heal or perform another action and separates the niche so it's a shared burden.

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