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 Throwing my hat into the 4E retro-clone ring.

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Chris24601
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PostSubject: Re: Throwing my hat into the 4E retro-clone ring.   Wed Sep 03, 2014 3:14 pm

Cool design update of the day I'm calling the trick to tricks. As I mentioned in my last post, the rogue class is going to be getting minor action tricks as one of their class features. My initial thinking was that I'd need two separate lists based on whether it was being built as a slayer or enabler. What I've realized though in mapping them out is that I don't. I just need an enabler class feature to switch the target.

The gist of the notion is that slayers use tricks to buff themselves, while enablers use tricks to buff their allies. Instead of creating a distraction to hide, you create a distraction to allow someone else to hide.

Essentially, the enabler will get a class feature in place of 'sneak attack' that I'm currently calling 'team player' (when one of your powers affects you, you can instead have it target one ally within X). Just as sneak attack scales up in damage Team Player will scale to allow you to buff additional allies (two in paragon, three in epic).
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PostSubject: Re: Throwing my hat into the 4E retro-clone ring.   Thu Sep 04, 2014 9:10 am

The enabler sounds very bard-ish. Are you wrapping the "traditional" thief rogue and bard into builds of the same class? I think I would definitely support that. Selecting a "sneak attack" or "team player" feature and then selecting from a variety of tricks would allow building vastly different characters from your brutal rogue and cunning sneak to a full on enabling/buffing bard and several shades in between.
Have I got that right or am I misunderstanding?

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PostSubject: Re: Throwing my hat into the 4E retro-clone ring.   Thu Sep 04, 2014 12:03 pm

That is exactly the intention... The bard is a subclass/build of the rogue. Though basically non-magical (akin to the 4E skald) on its own you can add arcane effects via the 'arcane student' background, go for a more druidic-style bard via the 'barbarian' theme, go warlord via the military background and the courtier or noble backgrounds are specifically geared for 'princess'-builds.

Essentially the Rogue is an extremely flexible class for representing a wide variety of 'guile-heroes' (i.e. those who use their wits and charm to win fights) and is currently viable using just about any two of Str, Dex or Cha as your primary/secondary stats and there's even a build which can function with Int/Cha as its key stats (the princess build doesn't need to make its own attacks and so can use Int for AC/Reflex and to bump several key knowlege skills (arcana, engineering*, history and religion).

One other key point about the enabling rogue. The team player ability doesn't REQUIRE you to use the tricks to aid your allies (though once you reach level 5 and can benefit either yourself or two allies its generally more efficient to aid your allies) so even if you do end up seperated from your allies you'll still be able to use your class features to buff someone... yourself (one of my big complaints about several 4E leader builds is that many of their powers became nearly worthless to the point of being no better than a basic attack without allies in range... which is not a problem any of the other roles have).
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PostSubject: Re: Throwing my hat into the 4E retro-clone ring.   Thu Sep 04, 2014 12:17 pm

I'm on my phone atm so I can't edit, but I wanted to add that my basic concept for the martial classes is that fighters are the broad class for representing variations on the 'strong-hero' archetypes, the ranger covers various 'agile-hero' archetypes (archey, trick shots, two-weapon fighting, etc) and the rogue covers the 'guile-hero' archetypes. Between the three of them you should be able to get within spitting distance of just about any traditional martial archetype (with a few edge cases like the mad inventor falling under the gadgeteer class).
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PostSubject: Re: Throwing my hat into the 4E retro-clone ring.   Fri Sep 05, 2014 1:00 am

I really like what you're doing with the rogue - it sounds like you've done an excellent job of condensing the various guile hero archetypes into one class, and you've given the rogue a way to distinguish itself from the ranger. I look forward to seeing what you do with it.
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PostSubject: Re: Throwing my hat into the 4E retro-clone ring.   Fri Sep 05, 2014 1:09 am

I am fond of where you are going with your entire project... in case I hadnt mentioned that ;-p

_________________
Born To Be Kings and Heros -- From the Ashes Phoenix
“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.” - Lazarus Long via Robert Heinlein.

One suspects Lugh Long-hand Samildánach (a wright/carpenter, a sailor, a smith/bronze craftsman, a healer, a champion, a harpist, a poet/historian, a sorcerer, cupbearer) would agree.
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PostSubject: Re: Throwing my hat into the 4E retro-clone ring.   Fri Sep 05, 2014 1:18 am

Same here. Of the various 4e clone/descendant projects I've seen, yours is in the top spot, with C4's right behind it.
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PostSubject: Re: Throwing my hat into the 4E retro-clone ring.   Fri Sep 05, 2014 1:40 pm

Thanks for the praise. I'll do my best to live up to it.

For a little bit of insight into the roots of this project, check out my Essentials Options article (link in that thread). Its rather akin to my retro-clone project what 'Book of Nine Swords' was to 4E... a sort of prototype of certain design decisions that led me to conclude that I should just go ahead and build a true retro-clone.

Pay particular attention to the Hedge Mage and Gadgeteer builds, as they were the origin of my 'use minor actions for at-will class features' design concept that is becoming an across the board design decision in this project.
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PostSubject: Re: Throwing my hat into the 4E retro-clone ring.   Sat Sep 06, 2014 2:39 am

As I said in the other thread, I love what you've done with the Essentials Options, and if the Hedge Mage and Gadgeteer are a preview of what's to come, we're in for one hell of a treat.
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PostSubject: Re: Throwing my hat into the 4E retro-clone ring.   Sat Sep 06, 2014 8:42 am

The mage and gadgeteer really are my inspiration for a lot of the system and they're going to make the transition mostly intact (their encounter boosts becoming focus-powered being the primary change). Both are also seeing rather significant expansions. The mage in particular is getting a number of additional schools with access based on your role/build with various schools leaning more towards controller or slayer. The current plan is to run the gamut from controller (wizard) to hybrid (warlock) to slayer (sorcerer) and possibly even squeeze the psion into the mix (with the psychic warrior and soulknife concepts worked into the spellblade).

The gadgeteer will similarly be getting a slayer build with more offensive gadgets to deploy. I'll also be weaving what I'm calling the 'self-forged' concept in as one of its builds (think steampunk cyborg... yes, this means 'steampunk cyborg dragon pirate' is a book-legal option).

Similarly the Spellblade is going to be the starting point for this project's spellblade class, though with more significant changes (I'm currently looking at changing the Aegis from an aura to something it can drop on targets at a distance as a minor action... With range and number of targets increasing with level).

Similarly, the daily-less protector druid build is definitely going to inform how my druid's minor action control feature is going be shaped (i.e. summoning spirit aspects with control elements) and the shifter class is pulling from the guardian warden build as a start point (plus a bit of the totemist from 'Magic of Incarnum').

Like I said, my Essentials Options article is something of a pre-alpha build for this project.
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PostSubject: Re: Throwing my hat into the 4E retro-clone ring.   Tue Sep 09, 2014 9:43 am

Just a few design updates today.

The first is that, based on the way the fighter is shaping up (I hope to have an actual preview of it to link to by the end of next week) I may not need to come up with a different 'improved stance' option for each of the roles. I say this because the first one I came up with for the guardian was allowing it to use the benefits of the improved stance on 'reactive strikes' and it just got right to the heart of what it is to have the guardian role.

Just to review, one of my design elements to speed up combat was to streamline off-turn actions by having them be effects rather than attacks. Instead of making a basic attack against a target who provokes an opportunity attack, the character has a 'reactive strike' aura that deals a set amount of damage (set to about 65% of the average damage of a basic attack) when a creature in it takes an action that would provoke an attack.

The guardian-style fighters use reactive strike as the chassis for their mark punishment and get several role-based improvements as they level up (improved damage, being able to spend focus to reduce the damage of enemies in the aura, improved mark penalties, etc.), but the improved stance feature will allow the stances to impact not just their on-turn attack targets, but any foe who dares to violate their mark.

For example, if you've got the improved hindering harrier stance your mark punishment would also slow anyone who violated your mark and you could spend focus to instead immobilize them.

A few of the stances will need specific modifications in this regard (one grants STR damage on a miss which would not normally apply to a Reactive Strike since it's an effect, so it will need a custom improved stance effect), but I think this might actually provide more flexibility than simply adding a specific extra effect choice per role to each of the stances.

The counterpoint for the slayer-style fighters at this point is likely to be more efficient damage (i.e. when you spend at least 1 focus to improve an attacks' damage you deal X extra damage).

-------

The second update is that, after some consideration I've decided to move the 'cantrips/talents/orisons/gifts' out of the classes and into the backgrounds. The reasoning is that your background is where you're more likely to have acquired these sort benefits and it was easier to tie them in.

For example, not all fighters would automatically be predisposed to learning how to forge their own weapons and armor. If you were basing your society on Medieval Japan many of the talents that would have been tied to the martial power source by default would be tasks undignified to one with the station of warrior.

Assigning the available benefits by background though lets them be better tailored to the concept. The barbarian's options would be a variety of wilderness knacks and spirit gifts, the courtier would have access to talents much like the bard's 'signs of influence'.

With these elements properly centered in the backgrounds, only the classes that have a specific thematic leaning towards specific power types (ex. a mage and his cantrips) over and above what their backgrounds would normally imply would need have such an option as a specific class feature (ex. a mage can always select cantrips in place of other such benefits, a cleric can always select orizons, etc.).

------------

Another minor development in laying things out is that there have been elements that have come up often enough in design that its more efficient to assign a keyword to it than to keep spelling them out inside powers. One of these is the new keyword 'isolated'. There were a number of stances that cropped up between the fighter, ranger and rogue that had text to the effect of 'when a target has no allies adjacent to it.' So 'Isolated' became a new keyword for me to use (ex. 'target: one isolated creature' or 'you deal X extra damage if the target is isolated' or 'trigger: you start your turn bloodied and isolated').

Proper key-wording is one of the strongest points of 4E design for me. It removes a lot of the ambiguity of 'natural' language which can be a bane to clear rule interpretations. As I go forward, my rule of thumb is that any effect/condition I have to spell out more than three times in the character design section is likely worth having its own keyword assigned to it, since it will likely come up again and again down the line, especially when you get into monster design (and I will be the first to admit, taking the mechanics design work which is where my interests lie most strongly and simply applying it repeatedly to create the monsters needed for the system is likely be to be my biggest obstacle and where I will likely need to turn to outside help to get this project done).
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PostSubject: Re: Throwing my hat into the 4E retro-clone ring.   Thu Sep 11, 2014 10:14 am

As is starting to become a noticeable pattern on my part, when I end up skipping a day on updates its because I've run into another design snag. If I can't figure it out it out that missed day I've been making a habit of bringing it here for some feedback (which if I haven't said it enough, thank you to those who've been replying here... the input really does help me focus my thoughts).

This time though its really weird because literally in the process of writing out the issue to bring to you guys the answer presented itself to me... so today's update is going to be about that.

This update is about the mage and, more specifically, the warlock.

The specific issue I was having is overlap. My initial design plan for the Mage was that wizard, warlock and sorcerer would all be able to sit inside the mage class with the 'school' selections varying the focus-boosting effects and minor magic effects between the three to create the distinction between controller (wizard), slayer (sorcerer) and hybrid (warlock).

So far this has worked beautifully for the wizard and sorcerer. The wizard has the 3E schools of evocation, enchantment, illusion, necromancy, summoning and transmutation (abjuration and divination fall under utility powers) while the sorcerer has more elemental themed schools (aeromancy, cryomancy, pyromancy, terramancy and two late-comers; aethermancy [radiant effects] and chaomancy [random effects] which were added in part to help solve my warlock issue) and there's only a slight bit of overlap between the sorcerer's effects and parts of evocation (the only wizard school that can currently inflict raw extra damage) and transmutation (mostly with terramancy).

Where it was falling down for me was the warlock. As I started laying out obvious school choices for different 4E pacts, my first run through basically gave it two-thirds of the wizard's schools plus pyromancy and umbramancy (my name-change for nethermancy) and the only reason it had umbramancy and the wizard didn't was because I wanted there to be SOME sort of distinction between the two so I took it away from the wizard (just as I made pyromancy a sorcerer exclusive).

My issues really were two-fold; first I wanted each of the types to feel extremely distinct from each other and the second issue was that I was trying too hard to hold to the 4E warlock pacts which don't 100% hold up in the new cosmology I'd set up (ex. if the stars are divine realms and not the dwellings of mind-bending horrors from beyond space and time then the star pact doesn't fit cleanly anymore).

The first step to resolving the issue was to actually acknowledge the second issue and take steps to fix it. The infernal pact was mostly okay, though there isn't really the distinction between devils and demons in the setting as was the shadow/darkness pact and to a lesser extent the fey pact (their shifting more into the realm of immortals puts them closer to divine powers, but I did make a distinction between the moon/fey realm and the stars/gods' realms means there's a BIT of difference there), but the Star Pact (see above) and Elemental and Vestige Pacts (which would basically be the spirit alliances of the primal or fallen/infernal/shadow powers) were pretty much non-viable in the new setting and needed to be re-imagined or just thrown out.

The first issue ended up being resolved as I started laying out the 'schools' of the revised pacts and that was that I needed to STOP trying to make the warlocks 100% unique since, by definition above, they were going to be hybrids. So instead of trying to specifically create new schools just for the warlocks I started pairing off the wizard schools with the sorcerer schools to create the basis for new pacts.

Here are the four pacts that I ended up with; Infernal (pyromancy and summoning), Fey (aethermancy and illusion), Shadow (necromancy and umbramancy) and Madness (chaomancy and enchantment).

This actually gives the warlock two more school choices than the wizard or sorcerer gets (including exclusive access to umbramancy), but it pays for that in that two of its three school choices must be from the from the same pact (whereas the wizard and sorcerer can choose any of their six schools for their three choices).

That's how its sitting right now, but I definitely would not mind some input on the design since I've been flailing around a bit on this for the past couple of days to the point of even considering moving either the warlock or sorcerer into another power source entirely (divine for the warlock... specifically making it the slayer build of the invoker or primal for the sorcerer since it relies on primal connections in its blood) and then reworking the set-up of the remaining two to fit the design (wizard/sorcerer as described above or wizard/warlock by dropping the school division by magic type and using other mechanics to distinguish the two).
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PostSubject: Re: Throwing my hat into the 4E retro-clone ring.   Thu Sep 11, 2014 5:00 pm

I'm a little leery of the warlock's hybrid role, since previous 4e classes that tried to straddle the fence suffered for it - including the 4e warlock itself. If it were me, I'd be tempted to make the warlock a theme or background, explaining how you got your wizardly knowledge or sorcerous might. You could even expand the warlock's coverage entirely and make it about anyone who made a deal with any entity for power, even if it's superior martial ability. I saw Wrecan do something similar on the WotC 4e forums a long time ago.

I like what you did with the wizard/sorcerer split, though.
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PostSubject: Re: Throwing my hat into the 4E retro-clone ring.   Thu Sep 11, 2014 8:58 pm

The biggest issue with making it a theme/background though would be how to distinguish between pact types within the relatively limited framework (four benefits and five utility power options) and, somewhat ironically given what I just said, whether there are enough unique elements to a given pact of the type I need for a background (backgrounds do not provide attack powers in and of themselves) that would also be universally beneficial to all the other classes. Right now I can think of shadow walk and the pact boon as potential features for such a background.

Related to that is that Pact-Blade is already conceptually in place as the slayer build for the Spellblade, so if Pact magic becomes a theme I've got to pull that aspect from the Spellblade as well as the Mage (with Aegis marks and Pact curses being the major class features distinguishing the guardian and slayer builds).

The other related option and the reason why it and the Pact-blade build are both under arcane is because pacts with dark powers for spellcasting (warlock) or martial (pactblade) strength has a fairly narrow band of classes they could apply to. Divine and Primal classes already pledge themselves to supernatural forces that are less inclined to share... especially with the type of entities who make the warlock pacts and the arcane pact is specifically what distinguishes a warlock/pactblade from a martial combatant in the first place.

So I don't think it quite works as a background... especially as I'm establishing them (i.e. what you were before you stepped into a life of adventure). Basically the Pact is the event that changes you from being just another commoner, outlaw, scholar or noble (backgrounds) and into an adventurer.

So it has to be worked into some class or another. As I said, I could easily see it becoming the slayer build for the theurge/invoker where it involves making a pact with a divine power's darker aspects (in which case I slide the Fey/Moon realm fully into the divine realms and make devils the servants of the darker gods... The avenger would then, in essence, be a divine pact hexblade). It's an odd fit given the basic expectations coming out of 4E, but if you look at the pure fluff of it, the dinstinction between the 4E warlock and the divine classes is more about who is investing the character with power than anything else (bonus point is that the divine classes run of Charisma so it would keep the Warlock a Cha-primary class). Like  the Invoker these are personal pacts/covenants with a supernatural force that, once enacted cannot be undone.

I'm not sure I'm any more committed to this than I am my previous version, but how does the 'pact-empowered enforcer of various amoral immortal powers' sound as the basis for the warlock/pactblade?
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PostSubject: Re: Throwing my hat into the 4E retro-clone ring.   Fri Sep 12, 2014 12:48 am

It could work very well, since according to your cosmology, the main thing separating the gods from other powerful entities is their morality.
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PostSubject: Re: Throwing my hat into the 4E retro-clone ring.   Fri Sep 12, 2014 8:44 am

Honorbound wrote:
It could work very well, since according to your cosmology, the main thing separating the gods from other powerful entities is their morality.
Well, I've slept on it and I'm definitely leaning more this way than my initial solution. The big reason is because it helps clarify the arcane and divine power sources.

If pacts are moved into divine source, then all those classes gain power through swearing fealty to or making bargains with various immortal powers (and the very 'I scratch your back and you'll scratch mine' of the warlock's pacts is actually pretty old-school polytheistic worship). Perhaps the distinction is in the nature of the vows. The more mainline versions (the cleric, the paladin, the theurge) are formally invested by an organized clergy while the warlock-like versions are personal pacts/devotions made directly with an immortal power. One uses their power to uphold the tenants of their religion and promote the general advancement of the faith while the other was granted power to achieve a specific purpose desired by the immortal power (after which the mortal is free to use their bargained for power until the end of their days).

Such a thing could even become a source of contention between the clergy and the pact-makers in the conflict between those who have been granted the power after some organized process to prove themselves worthy and those who have been granted power without such structure or seeming concern for the 'greater welfare'.

There's also the fact that some powers would be more likely to make such pacts than others. The god of civilization probably hasn't granted a random mortal petitioning them for power since the first city and temple were built... they were built specifically so that they could have an organized way of granting such requests. On the other hand, the Fey Queen loves to spread capricious wonder in the world and might even grant such powers to certain individuals whether they like it or not. Then there's the god of tyranny who will make a pact with anyone willing to conquer someplace in his name.

And while I've established a kind of 'major hierarchy' of gods (constellations of facets of reality) that is not to say there aren't lesser powers who might be willing to forge a pact with a mortal in exchange for expanding the reach of their aspect of reality and thereby perhaps one day join the ranks of the greater gods (I do like Terry Pratchett's "Small Gods" concept though my version is not quite the same... worshipers only matter to the extent they expand the sphere of the gods' aspects; civilization, justice, slaughter, etc.).

By combining all of that under different flavors of the divine power source, it frees the arcane power source to be the source of personal power. Whether from unlocking power through study and knowledge or through inborn power in one's blood those with arcane power have it by their own right. Whether it be earned or inherited, their power is never borrowed. That 'ownership' encourages the typical arrogance one would expect from a wizard. Its the same swagger that one sees in a modern professional athlete or a martial hero because they are larger than life through their own talents and abilities. The wizard has unlocked arcane secrets, the spellblade has honed the arts of mixing magic with swordsmanship and the gadgeteer produces wondrous devices of his own design. Heck, even psionics might have a place inside such a scheme (I'm not planning on it outside of the monk... but who knows; call it an extreme stretch goal).

I think that might be a pretty clean division that could be built off.

And just to repeat; thank you for the input. Getting my mind flowing down these paths is why I post here.
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PostSubject: Re: Throwing my hat into the 4E retro-clone ring.   Fri Sep 12, 2014 6:29 pm

Had a brainstorm on saving throws this evening. One of the biggest issues I've heard regarding them was that they were often less effective than an EoNT effect because if the monster saved on its turn the effect wouldn't even last a full round.

Another thing that has particularly bothered me is forgetting to make my saves at the end of my turn and applying ongoing damage is sometimes overlooked (its rarely intentional in my experience, but I've got plenty of pop-psy theories regarding aversion that likely apply) and its usually the person who laid down the effect who has to be sure to remind people that its in play.

So as we've discussed here previously, I've been looking for alternatives. One of my personal favorites if I could have found a way to make it work would have been setting effect durations based on margin of success, but its just not practical for a game where you're trying to avoid one-hit wipeouts (minions excepted).

My next notion was simple to change the timing of saves to being able to the start of your turn, but only after you'd already spent one of your turns under its effect. This would ensure that the target was affected at least as much as an 'end of caster's next turn' effect, but at the expense of more complexity and the prospect of an effect cast on a target just after its turn would carry over almost two full turns before a save could be attempted (basically the opposite of the current problems).

Well, the answer hit me while I was going over some stuff for a Mutants & Masterminds game (2e by the way). We've been toying around with some house rules and one of the specific aspects required flipping the rolls from defender to attacker just as 4E did when its F/R/W saves became defenses.

BANG! That was the hit I needed to knock the idea into place. To fix the timing and tracking issues we need to apply the same fix to 4E's saves that 4E applied to 3e's saves.

Instead of the target making a save at the end of its turn, the attacker makes a check during its turn to see if it can sustain the effect on the target. This ensures the effect lasts at least one full turn and puts the job of tracking the effect in the hands of the player with a vested interest in remembering that it effecting a target.

The only question is if this mechanic needs to be its own thing (i.e. everyone needs a sustain defense to give a DC for the sustain check) or if it can be worked into the existing attack/defense mechanics (i.e. extend the duration by repeating the attack against the defense, likely with a penalty to the attack to get the odds down from 60% to 45%).

Personally, I'd lean towards the latter since it keeps the number of mechanics/stats down and it allows there to be greater distinctions between the type of effects target's are vulnerable to (a target with a good Fort defense and a poor Will would throw off ongoing effects that target Fortitude more easily than they could effects that originated from an attack against their Will).
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PostSubject: Re: Throwing my hat into the 4E retro-clone ring.   Sat Sep 13, 2014 12:50 am

Now that is ingenious. I also like the idea of linking it to the attack/defense mechanic, since as you put it, it's more intuitive. It's also proactive as opposed to reactive, which is always a good thing. Finally, it's a major point of separation from D&D, allowing you to make this product your own thing.

From the looks of things so far, your project is shaping up to be awesome.
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PostSubject: Re: Throwing my hat into the 4E retro-clone ring.   Sat Sep 13, 2014 8:58 am

My own thing yes, but ultimately I'm working from the basis of doing to 4E what 4E did to D&D in general. Question everything and hold nothing sacred. Is there a better way to do something? Is this something that's needed at all.

Sometimes the answer is to break with tradition. There's no reason to hold onto the 8-20 ability score range when their ONLY purpose is determine an ability bonus of (X-10)/2 (plus encumbrance and starting hit points). So I went from a 10 average ability score design to a 0 average ability score design (PC range is -1 to 5... with 4 being the usual for a hero's primary ability).

Other times after looking at it the best answer is to hold with tradition. I seriously looked at dumping AC as a defense and working weapon attacks into F/R/W with armor providing alternately Resist or bonuses to all three defenses in different amounts (chain giving a better bonus to Reflex than to Fort since it protected well from cuts, less so from blunt impact), but unfortunately ran up against issues with how to justify it bumping your Will and how to deal with scaling damage.

In the end, the distinction between AC and Reflex made sense to me in the sense of AC is your ability to parry (and padding/plates give you solid surfaces to parry or otherwise deflect an attack with) while Reflex is your ability to dodge (plate armor doesn't do much when an entire 15 foot area is engulfed in flames... though a shield can help to an extent).

I can once again claim inspiration from M&M for this resolution in my head (3rd ed this time... which though I do not play, I picked up because there were some elements I felt could be hacked into the 2e system pretty easily*). In transitioning from Defense (i.e. AC) and Fort/Reflex/Will the system replaced Defense with Parry (i.e. close combat defense) and merged ranged defense and Reflex into Dodge for a final grouping of Parry, Dodge, Fort and Will (plus Toughness which is the True20 version of hit points).

One other point worth mentioning is that M&M has its own OGL SRD that includes a number of useful terms which I could use and pretty much have cover simply by claiming reference to that as much as the standard d20 SRD (they notably include the distinction between basic conditions; which are things like slowed; and combined conditions which are common groupings of basic conditions used as a shorthand... 'staggered' just means a character is dazed and slowed for example).

The reason I bring this up is because perhaps, in questioning everything, it may be worth looking at certain types of nomenclature to see if they can't be improved and made more intuitive. Perhaps I should actually use Parry, Dodge, Fortitude and Will as my defenses with armor providing an Armor bonus to Parry and shields providing a Shield bonus to Parry and Dodge. I'm not convinced this is actually needed (at least at this point) and that keeping certain things familiar in term (i.e. AC) even if cleaned up in function could be a benefit worth holding onto.

*Side-bar: 3e M&M is rather like 5e D&D to me. It improved a few things, but it also took huge steps back in some areas and those steps back outweigh the improvements for me.
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PostSubject: Re: Throwing my hat into the 4E retro-clone ring.   Mon Sep 15, 2014 7:13 am

I like the roll to sustain, it fits perfectly with the attacker always rolls. It also makes it easier to make elite and solos more durable by just giving them the ability to end effects as a free or minor action on their turn.
I think just 3 defenses is fine. You could rename Reflex to Parry/Dodge, but adding a fourth is adding complexity. Is the value of what you get out of it greater than the complexity?

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PostSubject: Re: Throwing my hat into the 4E retro-clone ring.   Mon Sep 15, 2014 10:52 am

Durriken wrote:
I think just 3 defenses is fine.  You could rename Reflex to Parry/Dodge, but adding a fourth is adding complexity.  Is the value of what you get out of it greater than the complexity?
ETA: The tl;dr version of what's below is that it is a mistake to presume that four defenses vs. three is added complexity.

Its not added complexity because you're never referencing all four defenses at once, just the one that is currently being targeted. There is no extra step in the process added by having a fourth defense to compare an attack result to. All you've done is reduce the distinctiveness between some types of attacks (such as a sword and dragonfire) or defenses (made armor into fluff) with no net reduction in complexity of task resolution.

By contrast, changing armor into something like DR does add complexity because you're adding an extra step to the process (reducing the effect by the amount of DR).

Therefore, with nothing gained and distinctiveness lost by dropping the number of defenses and with an armor defense being less complex than changing armor into something else, the best solution is to keep the distinction between AC/parry and Reflex/dodge in the system.


--------
The Long Version:

I would argue that yes, the benefit outweighs the complexity (which isn't all that complex) because there IS a difference between how one goes about avoiding a sword (where design and/or training in the use of armor can improve the odds of success significantly) and evading a twenty-foot wide gout of dragon fire (where all the armor in the world will not keep the flames from seeping in through the cracks and burning you).

That is the necessary distinction I see between AC and Reflex (or Parry and Dodge)... if armor could help (swords, arrows, small stones), then its AC/Parry. If it wouldn't help (dragon's breath, lightning bolts, five-hundred pound boulders) then its Reflex/Dodge.

I've also seen the solution of merging AC and Reflex into one defense come up in three different game systems; Palladium, Arcanis and 13th Age; and in all three cases I wasn't particularly happy with the results because it either lost that granularity between where armor can help you and where it cannot (I especially disliked 13th Age's approach in that regard) or it overcomplicated things by turning armor into damage resistance or bonus hit points. The first two also tended towards having super-stats (PP and Prowess respectively) that were way undervalued for their cost (Palladium at least used randomly rolled stats done in order as its default rules, but Arcanis has no excuse as they were always point buy) because 80% of attacks were targeted against the 'Parry/Dodge' or 'Avoidance' defense.

And I'll be perfectly frank. dropping AC was one of the first things I tried to do when I started designing the system because I had the gut reaction you did... why don't we just combine AC/Reflex? I took it a step further and started designing around the idea that some weapons would be more useful against Fortitude (hammers and other bludgeons) than against Reflex. The concept was great right up until I started actually having to get into the guts of the design work and realized how necessary it was to have the divide because it actually REDUCES the complexity in several other areas while barely increasing the complexity of its own.

Let's take one of the common alternatives; combine AC/Reflex and turn armor into damage resistance (DR). You haven't actually reduced any complexity since all attacks still need to reference a defense. You've just changed it from one of a list of four numbers to one of a list of three numbers. At the same time you've actually increased the complexity by adding the DR system to every turn of combat and added another stat that's either going to have to scale in order for it offset the scaling damage or not scale and become worthless as the reduction it grants becomes trivial.

The other extreme is 13th Age's combination of AC/Reflex and turning armor/weapons into class fluff. I HATE this method because it follows the fallacy that all reductions in complexity are good. By that conclusion checkers is universally superior to chess because it is a less complex game. There is a certain degree of necessary complexity for a game to feel worthwhile and 13th Age's decision here dropped it below my personal threshold. To me it reduced complexity at the cost of also reducing distinctions between characters of the same class without meaningfully reducing the complexity of the system. You're still comparing a check result to a single number on the character sheet and whether there are four or three numbers there is irrelevant to that process. There is no reduction in the number of steps needed to complete the process, just a loss of options when designing powers for the system. Throw in 13th Age's own super-stat issues in that Dex and Con both play into AC and PD as well as Con playing a role in hit points/recoveries and its a no-go for me.

The genius of 3e's changes to the save system was not so much that they cut six or so saves down to just three, but rather that they streamlined the process from 'roll a die and add bonuses from yourself and penalties from the attacker to reach a static target number' to 'roll a die and add your bonuses to reach a target number based on the strength of the attacker.' It moved the numbers around so that everything was additive (to two different things) which is more intuitive to most people. The reduction of saves to three categories based on physical resistance, avoidance and mental resistance helped make the process of which save to use in the design process or when deciding an ad hoc effect at the table more intuitive, but it did not reduce the complexity of the task resolution in and of itself (i.e. roll d20 + bonus vs. target number).

The genius of 4E's changes were to normalize Fort, Reflex and Will with with AC and make all four of them defenses so that they resolved in the same way (attacker rolls vs. target number). Once the task system was normalized, adding additional defenses does not especially add to the complexity in and of itself (ex. the designers have mentioned that passive perception functioned a sort of fourth NAD; ambush/trap defense) and it would only be the time needed to find one option among many that would slow the system down, not the complexity of the task itself.

There's another factor involved too that largely explains the design decision to retain AC in 4E and why I will be retaining it in mine. If you want armor and weapon proficiencies to mean something, it has to provide bonuses (or negate penalties, but that's less elegant than bonuses) to something. That means the things they affect will be higher than those that they do not affect. It therefore follows that the best way to keep those two factors from being strictly better than the other defenses/attack types is to ensure that 95% of the time they interact with each other so the effects are more easily predicted (i.e. you only have to balance a bonus to a weapon attack against one defense instead of having to balance it against three defenses).

By the same token, the genius of heavy armor proficiencies in 4E (specifically that they overwrote the Int/Dex bonus) was that it allowed for any class to reach the desired defense target number against weapons (which will likely be using the attacker's best stat for accuracy) without needing a particular score in Int or Dex (its no accident that most heavy armor classes tend to not have Int or Dex as a primary/secondary stat... the fighter was initially Str + Wis/Con, the Cleric was Wis/Str + Cha, the Paladin was Str/Cha + Wis, the Warlord was Str + Int/Cha). This allows for proper balance of weapon attacks to their appropriate defense and a more even split between Fort/Reflex/Will for non-weapon attacks which thereby keeps the stats which determine Reflex from becoming extremely more valuable than the other four.

In short, having four defenses (one of which is expressly for weapon attacks, which is buffed or overridden by armor) instead of three isn't meaningfully more complex than the three defense system of 13th Age (you're still only comparing the attack result to one specific number) while providing greater distinctiveness between characters (more variation in NADs is possible). It is likewise less complex than a system that merges AC/Reflex and then incorporates armor via a damage reduction system (which adds an extra step to each attack).
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PostSubject: Re: Throwing my hat into the 4E retro-clone ring.   Fri Sep 19, 2014 2:40 am

Chris24601 wrote:
Instead of the target making a save at the end of its turn, the attacker makes a check during its turn to see if it can sustain the effect on the target. ... (i.e. extend the duration by repeating the attack against the defense, likely with a penalty to the attack to get the odds down from 60% to 45%).
I really like this idea, and will probably try importing it into my 13th Age game.

Chris24601 wrote:
The other extreme is 13th Age's combination of AC/Reflex
Just to nitpick, it's Fortitude and Reflex that 13th Age combines into a single defence. AC is still its own thing.

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PostSubject: Re: Throwing my hat into the 4E retro-clone ring.   Fri Sep 19, 2014 7:14 am

Duskweaver wrote:
Just to nitpick, it's Fortitude and Reflex that 13th Age combines into a single defence. AC is still its own thing.
That honestly makes it even harder for me to visualize than combining AC/Reflex... which is probably as much on me as anything. I just have a hard time visualizing non-superheroes being able to shrug off being drenched in lit napalm because they're at peak human strength and toughness without magic being involved. That's something that only works in my head by being fast enough to physically evade or quick-thinking enough to get out of the target zone before the dragon breathes in the first place and having cover (either real cover or a big shield) between you and the napalm would be something that would help.

Not saying its bad, its just different enough from my expectations that its not working for me as well as I'm sure it does for others.

Anyway, on to a progress report, I've been guts deep in fiddly mechanics most of this week of the 'lay out specific class powers variety' that isn't particularly interesting to read about until its actually done. I've currently settled on about a dozen at-will powers per class. With characters picking up about four over the course of their careers, that's enough that you could have three players with the exact same class and every one could have completely different powers from each other. The biggest difficulty in this regard has been cutting back my ideas for powers to a reasonable number each. I'll admit that the mage/wizard/sorcerer is the biggest issue here; due to the lack of overlap between wizard/sorcerer schools I may just have to bite the bullet and accept that I'll need closer to two-dozen at-wills to give adequate representation to all the schools, but I'm looking to see if some other approach might work better. Hammering that out is probably going to be my project this weekend.

Speaking of career courses, I've realized that because of how I'm doing the designs with certain things like focus, hit points, level bonus and number of feats all specifically scaling with level (i.e. you have X times your level of these things) that it would be super-simple to add a '0-level' into the game for those who want that 'starting as less than full heroes' experience. Such characters would get the base hit points, two at-will powers (martial classes' at-wills have their focus-spending effects built into them, but 2 focus per level x 0 levels means they have 0 focus to spend on them), their role specific benefit and their starting background feature (most utility powers require focus to use and so would be granted at level one). Once they reach level 1 (or start normally) they would gain two focus and two powers/effects that let them spend it, a utility power and a feat (plus hit points and level bonus, obviously).

Beyond just allowing for people with the desire to start at 'apprentice' level to do so, I think I can also use the 0-level option for other things. One that I'm definitely looking at is as the basis for building NPCs/custom monsters. Just like 4E, monsters are built differently and I'll be having a bunch of standard monsters in the usual stat-block arrangements. But, the main differences between a PC and an NPC/monster come from the fact that PC's get focus, heroic surges and feats while monsters do not and all the stuff that really separates a PC from an NPC/monster doesn't truly kick in until 1st level. This means that the 0-level version of character (ex. a human knight) can be used as a sort of template for building a custom monster off of... all you'd need rules for is how to advance it as a monster instead of as a PC.

Instead of focus (which gives PC's a flexible resource to expend) monsters just need a couple of cool one-off powers to throw out before they drop. I'm thinking something to the effect of 'pick one focus effect with a cost of 1/2/3 (by tier), the monster can use this effect once during a battle' for standard monsters. Elites and Solos would get extra hit points instead of heroic surges and the default action recovery power for such custom-built solos would be the ability to burn off hit points to cancel conditions affecting them (thus ensuring that negative conditions always bring a target closer to defeat even if they don't suffer the debilitating effect of them... right now I'm thinking the damage taken should be equal to their level per condition ended).
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PostSubject: Re: Throwing my hat into the 4E retro-clone ring.   Mon Sep 22, 2014 7:21 am

So, in the spirit of questioning everything, I've had something of a conceptual thought over the weekend about resistance.

4E resistance was a carryover from 3e and while that numeric resistance made sense in the more simulationist 3e, where occasionally you'd find something that could completely shrug off the fire of a torch, I'm not sure it actually needed to be that complex for 4E where everything is balanced relative to the current power of the heroes and where hit points are more clearly than ever not meat points.

My observation is this; A non-striker low heroic tier character is probably going to be doing about 1d8+4 to 1d12+4 damage on a hit (average of 9.5... round to 10) and heroic tier resistance is usually 5 points... so half damage. By low paragon tier you're going to be able to hit with an encounter power (about +1 die of damage) at least four times so the average damage jumps to about 20 and the paragon tier resistance is usually 10... or again, half damage. The same holds for low epic level where 30 damage is pretty typical and the resistance is usually 15.

So my observation is this; presuming you're going to be using mostly enemies scaled to the party do you need a complex formula for scaling resistance (ex. 5+1/2 level in 4E) or could you simply use 'half damage' and be able to ignore scaling resistance entirely (i.e. the couple of points of damage a 0-level commoner with a torch could inflict to a balor; presuming the commoner could even hit it's AC of AC 28+; is so trivial compared to its 300+ hit points that it may as well be immune)?

You'd need a way to deal with effects that already deal half damage on a miss (right now I'm thinking to keep it simple and make it like 'improved evasion' and simply state that resistance means half damage on a hit and never takes damage from a miss).

By the same token, I think if you're generally using scaled enemies then vulnerability could be simplified and streamlined along the same lines by simply stating that 'all hits that deal damage a target is vulnerable to are critical hits' (which, as currently written in my system are just max damage for the attack plus your level).

I don't know that I'm sold on this yet, because it would eliminate a couple of effects which use sub-par resist numbers (ex. resist 2/4/6 all) to slightly augment a character's effective hit points; but the reduction in complexity (resist always means 1/2 damage, vulnerable always means hits are crits) might be worth it.
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PostSubject: Re: Throwing my hat into the 4E retro-clone ring.   Mon Sep 22, 2014 12:53 pm

Yeah, I kind of thought the half-damage way would be good too. I don't think the problems are that big.
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