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 STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)

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Honorbound
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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Sat Jun 03, 2017 10:03 am

That is some haunting imagery right there - I'd explore that over a D&D dungeon any day of the week. This stuff has history.

Regarding Erin'yi, I think that's the best way to handle it - their world's a cold, unhappy place, one where a powerful, beautiful woman in charge of her own destiny wouldn't exist.
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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Sat Jun 03, 2017 3:18 pm

The other thing too is that, even more than the traditional Kalla and Jon (i.e. the half-elven sorceress and sword-wielding armored knight) its Erin'yi and Callahan (i.e. the guy in back with the pirate hat and schizotech gun/projector) who really exemplify the setting and the rules bits that I consider important.

The malfeans are probably the best embodiment of the setting's roots in both the Demon Empire and in their devotion to the Old Faith (which echoes Judaeo-christian monotheism down to the Fall of Man, promise of a savior and miracles granted through the intercession of angels rather than personal power).

From a "This is 4E: The Next Generation" perspective Erin'yi represents the maintenance of the primal power source as something distinct from the divine source and that 'guardian form badass warden' is NOT just some paladin subclass', but also that 'shape-shifting warden' is not just something limited to the strong types and defender role... she's a swift slayer with a dash of guardian via multi-classing.

The same goes for Callahan. He's front and center proof that the '4E martial leader' type is not only alive and well in the game, but its been expanded; not only could your leader abilities lean tactical, wary or daring, but can at the same time let go of strong for swift (which is what Calahan is) or to berserker (for wild bit of mechanics interaction consider that 'Team Player' could let a berserker captain grant the soak points and free save they get at the start of their turns to their allies instead; risky with their lower defenses, but possible to do).

Heck, the PRINCESS BUILD is now its entire own class that gets better buffing than even the captain (at the cost of strong attacks of their own).

Throw in that he claims to have seen most of a world (or at least heard stories of it) and his mish-mash of utilities and specializations and he's a solid leader and support character despite probably having to have been rolled up as a rogue in just about any past edition of D&D. He's also the ideal unreliable narrator (I'm planning to smatter the setting section of the books with quotes from him about various places).

In other words, Kalla and Jon could have been rolled up in virtually any edition of D&D, but Erin'yi and Callahan could really only exist in Terrors & Tactics.
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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Sat Jun 03, 2017 5:16 pm

You're right. Now that I stop to think about it. even 4e, with its wide array of character choice, couldn't create those two. Combined with the familiar Kalla and Jon, and you've got enough familiarity for more traditional-minded players, as well as examples of how far your system could stretch. It's a shame that you couldn't put your playtester's version of Optimus Prime in there, but I think that Hasbro would have fits.

As a side note, I'm picturing a berserker sidekick that's kind of like a soccer hooligan or a particularly irate football fan - their sheer rage bolsters their team from the sidelines.
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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Sun Jun 04, 2017 9:19 am

Just because I can't put Optimus Prime on the cover doesn't mean I can't employ 'fair use' of an Optimus image (probably classic cartoon version) for the sidebar that talks about a player making a transformer PC.

And while you currently can't make a berserker sidekick (because they don't get the strong/swift/berserker choice for balance reasons) I'll figure out a way to make it possible just because you had that concept and its awesome.
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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Sun Jun 04, 2017 7:38 pm

That's gonna be the real beauty of this system: flexible enough to handle damn near any character concept, no matter how off the wall, yet balanced enough that those characters can all sit at the same table and have each of them contribute in a meaningful way.
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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Mon Jun 05, 2017 8:05 am

The most off the wall concepts playtesters made at the last sit-down was a Centaur Were-crocodile, a Princess who controls kitties and rides a tiger, and a fire-breathing dragon with a poisonous bite and with just one cyclops eye and a winged snake's body who scares everyone with its roar.

All of them were built easily (Centaur Barbarian Shifter, Human Noble Summoner with Loyal Steed, and a Dragon Defender who used both utilities on extra damage type and fearful roar species options) and even managed to cover three of the four combat roles in the process.

About the only thing you can't make at the moment are various forms of undead, but that was a deliberate setting choice and the rules for them will show up in the first setting book. The rules for the shadow classes are done, just not going to see release yet (and I'm still debating on if it needs a complete Shadow-themed background or if just giving the Shadow path a set of utility options like I do with some species is the way to go).

Setting-wise Necromancy is believed to have been created by the Demon Emperor itself as it sought to separate itself completely from the Source and all of the Source's creations. It is said the Shadow World, a realm the light of the Source never touches, was the result and that the Demon Emperor itself still resides in the deepest depths of the Shadow World creating terrors that know not even the concept of light or life in order to destroy the Men and their World that are so beloved by the Source.

Thus, Necromancers are essentially seen as the Priests of the Demon Emperor and as they grow in power they transition into undead forms to carry out their dark work for eternity (or until the heroes smash them in the face... usually the latter).

It also keeps there from being a set hierarchy to the Elemental factions of the demons (i.e. the Demon Emperor is not the ruler of the Ember realms or the Briny Abyss or the Endless Wastes of Dust nor the toxic Miasma realms so their types aren't the ones in charge of all the other demons) and they're free to war against each other both in the Outer Darkness and for influence in the mortal world (i.e. a war between two demon lords could spill into the mortal world when their cults start going to war to take out the worshipers who provide their respective demon with spiritual energy).
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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Sat Jun 10, 2017 5:00 pm

Whelp, today was NOT a good playtest for the Benedictor or Interdictor.

The feedback was not good.

1) The bonuses/penalties provided by the auras were too small to really feel they were having an impact (-1 to all enemies in the aura vs. -3 to a key opponent from a spellbinder). At the same time some of the other effects that related to inflicting or mitigating conditions felt way too strong.

2) Didn't feel they were doing as much as the other players because half the time they weren't using their minor actions (no one needed healing that round and the aura effect didn't need changing or moving). This was a bit less for the Interdictor who used Enlarge Spell instead, but that just highlighted that they were getting both the aura effect AND the enlarge spell effect for free at the same time while the Spellbinder would have to pick enlarge or minor spell unless they spent focus on it.

3) It was also realized that a benedictor or interdictor could multi-class into an enabler, controller or slayer class and break the action economy by getting the aura effect and a minor action control, buff or damage effect from another class without having their aura drop.

As the aura is the major difference between the benedictor/enhancer and the interdictor/spellbinder, I'm not sure where this leaves them. All the fluff is up at the power origin level I can't use that to distinguish them.

Maybe I could reduce the size of the aura's burst (fewer targets) so I could increase the potency of the effects a bit. Then make its duration ENT so it has to be re-applied every turn and you can't abuse other minor actions. The problem is that this gets awfully close to the Transcendent's Aspect schtick which has a not horrible degree of control/buffs to them even if they are a Slayer.

Alternately I could drop the two classes for now and give the names (which I like A LOT) to the Enhancer and Spellbinder and try to rework them down the line for a supplement. That would make the Transcendent's shtick of creating auras a bit more unique to itself.

At the moment it feels like whichever option I choose at least one of the Spellcasting classes needs to go away (at least for now). I've always tried to keep the number of classes balanced (first three per source then equal number of skilled/spellcasting), but without the layer of origin to disguise various spellcasting classes, maybe skilled really does just have more concepts available to it.*

* I could see MAYBE merging the sidekick back into the Captain as an optional choice for the Captain... but the others are distinct to the point that I had to split the Sentinel off from the Defender just because the ranged defender just needed different features and I can't imagine trying to merge the Brigand, Ravager and/or Skirmisher into a single class even if their concepts are variations on 'deal damage with different types of weapons.' They ways they can do that are each mechanically distinct enough that they can be their own class.
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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Tue Jun 13, 2017 11:11 am

Your first solution, reducing aura size and increasing the potency of the effects, could work for the benedictor, since it's less likely to step on the transcendent's toes. The interdictor I'm not so sure about.

Regarding the transcendent, I didn't see whether activating the enhancement or aspect was a minor action or not. I'm assuming that it is.
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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Tue Jun 13, 2017 2:02 pm

I doesn't help that the Summoner also gets the aspects as well for their summons and can spend focus to expand them for a round... when the auras were big it and the interdictor were more distinct, if I brought back the "spirit merge" (with a more agnostic name since it could be arcane or astral now) to the summoner (optional trade-off or just straight up) it would basically eat the interdictor's entire shtick.

One random rework for the benedictor I'm toying with is to make it more of an 'aura granter' where it buffs its allies by granting them aspect auras (and possibly the minor actions) with an ENT duration.

The two issues with that concept at the moment are that the 'buffs' are more like a controller who happens to use their allies as the center of their debuffs and that granting an ENT ability (even if its an aura) isn't THAT different from the Enhancements (Heck, I still wrestle with keeping the Sanctions since I only created them because I wanted something distinct for the Theurge back when it was distinct from the Mage as a class; but at least its "trigger/effect" setup is mechanically different from the minor spells).

In other words; definitely a work in progress at best.

*******

The transcendent activates their aura as a minor action, but as the effects are limited to adjacent creatures and relatively minor I don't feel the need to have them use a sustain minor for them, particularly since the aspect also gives them a minor action that incorporates their slayer damage feature to use every round as well. With their damage feature requiring them to be in melee range to use it, the aura helps make up for their not being able to attack from range the way a maledictor could and not having the hit point boost that the shifter does.
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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Wed Jun 14, 2017 12:58 pm

I've thought about it a little bit, and I think that ditching the benedictor and the interdictor is the best idea for now - from what you're saying, they're "back to the drawing board" kind of classes, which would slow down production.

Something else to consider is that while the spellcasting classes may have fewer expressions of a role compared to the skilled classes, the skilled classes don't have separate sub-origins (arcane, astral, primal, rune) the way that the casters do. Those sub-origins are where most of the caster concepts lie. Besides, having the spellbinder become the new interdictor works well with the maledictor in terms of symmetry, since both of them use minor spells or sanctions.

As for the sidekick, I think it has too many compensatory mechanics to be folded back into the captain, and folding it back in would be a demotion for a concept that is one of your system's hallmark features.
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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Wed Jun 14, 2017 3:33 pm

I've been coming to the same conclusion regarding the benedictor/interdictor. Without a rework that would derail and slow everything else down (I'm within a week-ish of finishing out my reformat and cleanup of the Player's Guide half of the set) there's no way they're going to work in their current form.

One example of what I mean is that one likely path is as radical as flipping the effectiveness of their main and minor actions; i.e. their class attacks are more like minor actions in damage/effect and aren't boosted by focus while their aura effects have the punch of a class attack and CAN be boosted by focus. That's probably NOT as simple as being able to have a rules element for the class like "your class attacks deal half damage and you can't spend focus on them" particularly since it has to interact with the multi-classing rules where every other class doesn't have that restriction.

What it likely means is that instead of flipping the effectiveness of their action types I'm going to have to just write all new main actions (their aura effects) and minor actions (their attack spells) on the order of a dozen or so for each of the classes. MAYBE I can reuse "minor spells" for their 'attack actions' (since energy missiles would be in line with the target damage dealt); but its still a LOT to be developing at this stage.

So here's what I'm looking at for now (unless something really inspired hits me in the face soon);

- Benedictor and Interdictor mechanics get pulled and the Enhancer and Spellbinder get those names (since they're MUCH better names IMHO). I've been cross-checking the list of enhancements with the the benedictor's list and the minor spells/sanctions with the interdictor's list and will be adding any effects that are missing to those lists.

- With the "Enhancer" cleared out I'm gonna change the name of the Transcendent to "Empowered." That was my first choice for the class name a while back and it sounds stupid now, but I didn't want to double up on "E" named classes that were using a lot of the same effects so I came up with Transcendent as a kludge (I'm not fond of the name because it implies more in a metaphysical sense than a Gadgeteer or Rune weapon user might embody while Empowered is more metaphysically neutral).

- The Summoner will get "Merge Forms" that acts like the old 'Spirit Merge' for the slayer version of the old Summoner (which is why they didn't get it in the switch) so they can center their summon's aura on themselves for a close range controller. That then eats the current Interdictor concept and since several of the aspects available to the Empowered and Summoner have ally-beneficial effects (healing, shielding and uplifting particularly) they can be semi-enabling aura users so semi-eat the current Benedictor concept.

- I'm putting the old Benedictor (the priority since I have enough spellcasting controllers in the Interdictor/Spellbinder and Summoner) under the name "Manifester" for now with the idea that its going to be more in line with the Sidekick as an ally buffing class that doesn't attack on its own. My priority will be trying to make it work with 'minor spells' as its 'attack options' and all new main action buffing auras... probably with something like the Sidekick's "You don't gain X but instead gain Y" modifiers.

* * * * * * * *

Have no fear on the sidekick. As I stated its the only skilled class I could even POSSIBLY see getting merged into another class to bring the skilled and spellcasting number of classes into parity; but that's only if absolute parity were to be the goal and its just... NOT.

I basically gave up on my original absolute parity the moment the number of races dropped to 11 (when avatars ate the giants) and the classes went from 12 to 20 and the merging of the spellcasting classes ended up with 52 spells (less overlap) while the skilled classes had 35 attacks.

And you're right that the sub-origins do cover more concept than the particular type of spells used (the same could be said of combat style and combat focus, but it doesn't take as much room to list those out so its less obvious).

So yeah, the Skilled Classes are completely unaffected by this and the Sidekick remains the Sidekick (because it is awesome).

* * * * * *

I'll update you once all the changes are made in full in the next day or so.
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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Wed Jun 14, 2017 3:59 pm

I like the name "Empowered." It works for the fluff-neutral approach to classes better than transcendent did.

I love the idea of the Manifester - I had previously put the idea of a passive caster under the role of the Sidekick with an Arcanist/Religous/Barbarian background. It'll be interesting to see the end results.

I look forward to the next update.
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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Thu Jun 15, 2017 5:15 pm

I preferred Empowered and only changed it because having both Empowered and Enhancer as classes would probably be confusing (Enhancer had its own problems being so close to Enabler). Now that the Enhancer is getting the Benedictor name, I can bring the Empowered name back.

To cover the areas that the Benedictor's Aura covered the following Enhancements have been added;
Concealment (illusion): You gain concealment (ENT). If you already have concealment you gain total concealment instead.
Freedom (transmutation): You treat all terrain as one step less difficult, but may not move through blocking terrain, only across it (ENT).
Luck (divination): You can reroll one check and use the new result (ENT).

The Minor Spells covered a lot more of the Interdictor's effects, but the following were added;
Misfortune (divination): The target must reroll their first hit (ENT).
Scare (enchantment): The target is shaken (ENT).
Energy Zone (evocation): You create a 1 square zone (ENT). Creatures that enter or end their turn in the zone take Focus + ½ level damage. Creatures that end their turn adjacent to the zone take half that damage. Choose one damage type when you select this spell. The damage dealt is of that type. This replaces the Biting Swarm (this effect with toxic damage) and Combust (fire damage) spells on the list.
Energy Missile (evocation): Added Acid, Psychic and Toxic to the available damage types.

I also added this sidebar to the pages where Enhancements and Minor Spells are found;

Alternate Enhancements and Minor Spells
While the effects listed for these abilities  are the most common, they are far from the only options in existence. There are just as many cosmetic variations on these effects as there are for the attack spells. Many spells can even produce similar effects using different schools of magic. As with the discussion about Signature Spells above, so long as the mechanics are the same, it doesn’t matter whether you’re knocking a foe prone using the Grease spell listed here or with a bolt of force or a psychic compulsion to kneel.

These effects don’t really interact with the school specializations  (the few that do are already in their most effective school) so you can even change the school keyword for these effects and it won’t affect the game balance at all. If your concept works better with a ‘Force Trip (evocation)’ or a ‘Kneel (enchantment)’ spell you should go right ahead and change it. Consider this the default rule for these abilities, not an optional one.


* * * * * *

In unrelated news, the following got added to "Food, Lodging and Services" in the equipment section.

Mercenary (base; per day) 2¢
Experienced (per level) +1¢
Non-Grunt: special

Mercenary: An NPC with combat training. The base cost is for a Level 0 Grunt (see opponents in the GM’s Guide). Experienced grunts cost more. Non-grunts who adventure with you receive a share of any wealth gained proportionate to their level and ability (elites two shares per level and champions get four). GM's will subtract the XP value of any Mercenary from the amount of XP awarded to the PC’s in any battle that the Mercenary assists them in.

- - - -

Between them, laborers and professionals there is now the full array of Hirelings and Henchmen you'd find in older editions of D&D.

Given the setting focus on exploring and taming the wilds surrounding the isolated pockets of civilization that sorta emerged as I've further developed the setting, being able to hire guards and such for an expedition or stronghold your party might build (or conquer) seemed like a logical thing to add.

Also by adding specific mechanics to them (i.e. non-grunts get shares of the treasure and all Mercs cost the party XP if they rely on them) I can provide solid guidance to the GM's for their encounter building (i.e. add the XP value of the Mercs to the XP budget for the party to get a balanced fight) and give the strategic minded players something to weigh costs and benefits against... which was a major problem for a couple of 4E campaigns I played in where the players tried to recruit soldiers to fight with them in a major battle and the DM just had to wing it.

Finally, it puts the Background Companion benefits into better perspective in that it makes clear how much better they are than run of the mill Mercs (just like the Loyal Steed is superior to any of the Mounts available in the equipment section); particularly in that you don't have to pay them beyond keeping a roof over their heads and food in their bellies.

* * * * * *

It wasn't intentional, but between the flatter math (which was mostly to make balancing encounters and the eventual mass combat rules easier) and the setting getting an in-universe 'clearing the ruins in the dangerous wilds to expand the Points of Light' rationale for adventuring and now the Mercs for hire, the game is taking on a bit more of an Old-School Sandbox Campaign with modern mechanics and sensibilities thrown in feel... or at least the possibility of being able to run it that way in addition to Big Damn Heroes mode.

I kinda like it.
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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Mon Jun 19, 2017 2:14 pm

Sigh...

On the one hand, getting less than positive feedback is good because it helps you find the problem points. On the other hand, its yet another new issue that I need to evaluate.

The issue is that either STR-based warriors are not good enough or that DEX-based ones are too good. The specifics are that if you go Strong hero, you get a crappier array of weapons (swift gets all melee, strong only gets thrown ranged), the same climb/jump/swim speeds (cause swift can use its DEX for those) and also end up paying more money for the same defense as a Swift character and get armor check penalties on top of paying more. In exchange they get a better base load that the swift character doesn't especially need because their armor is a lot lighter as well.

And I have to admit, its a pretty valid complaint now that I look at it. My concern was that swift heroes would be too gimped without certain bits of parity, but I think it might have gone too far in the other direction. Heck, by the rules good quality Full Armor costs your full starting budget so you'd have to settle for low quality (so heavier and worse checks) unless you had a background ability to get you a better suit.

The good news is this should be a simpler fix than the aura-based classes were. Essentially it comes down to a mix of benefits adjustments and equipment cost tweaking.

With regards to weapons, I don't think I can take weapon choices from swift. Too many concepts get closed off if you say 'one-handed and double melee weapons only' for example. So that leaves buffing strong's choices and the best way I think to preserve the theme would be to buff the strong hero's throwing ability. I'm thinking that 'increase the damage die of your thrown weapon attacks by one type (d4 > d6 > d8 > d10) and then adding a 'heavy javelin' as a thrown weapon with a d8 damage die (boosted to d10 for the strong hero making it on par with a longbow) will address the weapon problem.

As to movement, my thinking is to change the swift benefit to using half-DEX in place of STR. Since any swift hero is virtually certain to have a DEX 4 that translates into climb/jump/swim 3; equal or better than any character without a 4+ STR and without the check penalties for heavy armor.

As to equipment costs; I may have to take a page from 5e and put in some type of starting package for weapons/armor/shields so that the strong armored defender (and armor-based abjurer) can afford the roughly 750c that full armor, a large shield, melee weapon, some javalins and an adventurer's kit costs. Perhaps make it a choice of packages where one of them is the current 500c and the others give slightly more overall, but without the choice that the flat sum provides.

One final bit is that I think its time to solve the math hole with heavy armor where it ends up with a lower AC than medium armor plus a DEX 4. This was deliberate originally back when the ability scores were more linked to the classes and the classes with a guardian build got more hit points (the -1 AC for heavy armor for the slayer build put their survivability on par with those that didn't have the hp buff), but with the strong/swift split happening above the class level it puts those who pick strong behind swift with no real benefit.

My solution is to let strong heroes (and strong rune and militant astral ones; strong primal already had this benefit) use STR in place of DEX for AC with heavy or full armor (technically the -5 dodge penalty from full armor means no stat bonus would ever apply, but for completeness sake I feel it should be listed just in case someone houserules stats of 6+ for PC's into the game). For those with a 4 STR this works out to a +1 to AC (4 -3 dodge penalty) while not making it any better for a DEX-based hero than it is now.

So that's where things sit at the moment.
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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Tue Jun 20, 2017 11:53 am

I haven't commented on this thread so far, mostly because I really don't have much to add. But I have to say that I'm following it with a lot of interest. This is some interesting and in depth analysis and I like it!

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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Tue Jun 20, 2017 12:54 pm

Cool beans. I'm glad people are enjoying reading it.

So here's the update for today... I made the changes to the Strong and Swift builds mentioned above (though the spellcasting ones like the Militant Astral and Strong Primal didn't need the buff to thrown weapons since they have implement attacks) and worked out the following for starting equipment;

Starting Equipment
Each Player Character starts with a certain amount of gear. Usually these items were not purchased all at once, but gathered over the course of the character’s life to this point.

Each PC chooses one of the following packages and gains the equipment listed and a number of coins they can spend on other things. All gear is of good quality unless otherwise noted;

Cash in Hand Package: You gain 500¢ in coins you can spend as you wish.

Skirmisher’s Package: You gain a suit of good clothing, an adventurer’s kit, a suit of medium armor, your choice of three proficient melee weapons and either a shortbow, sling or staff sling with 40 arrows or bullets, five proficient thrown weapons of choice, a proficient one-handed implement of choice or upgrade your melee weapon to a runic weapon implement. You also gain 300¢ in coins you can spend as you wish.

Sniper’s Package: You gain a suit of good clothing, an adventurer’s kit, a suit of medium armor, your choice of a proficient bow or crossbow and 40 arrows or bolts or one proficient implement of choice (including a runic bow or crossbow) and two proficient melee weapons (or one melee weapon and a shield of choice). You also gain 250¢ in coins you can spend as you wish.

Spellcaster’s Package: You gain a suit of good clothing, an adventurer’s kit, two proficient implements of choice (the tome implement counts as two implements) and one of the following rituals (in your ritual book if you have one or on a scroll if not); Animal Form, Endure Elements, Floating Disk, Gentle Repose, Mending, Purify Food & Drink or Sure Climber. You also gain 50¢ in coins you can spend as you wish.

Wall of Steel Package: You gain a suit of good clothing, an adventurer’s kit, a suit of heavy armor (or full armor if proficient with it), your choice of two proficient melee weapons (or one melee weapon and a shield of your choice) and either three proficient thrown weapons of choice, a proficient one-handed implement of choice or upgrade your melee weapon to a runic weapon implement. You also gain 150¢ in coins you can spend as you wish.

Wealth and Privilege Package: You gain a suit of fine clothing (for court), a suit of good clothing (for traveling), an adventurer’s kit, and a riding beast with riding tack. You also gain 200¢ in coins you can spend as you wish.

While some are slightly better than others, none of them, even with the best possible options that you then sell for coins will beat Cash in Hand if all you want is cash. The packages let PC's who need some specific things get them, they don't let you game the system to get more than 500c in loose change to start.*

*There's one edge case where a character with full armor proficiency, light projector implement proficiency AND exotic proficiency with large spiked shields could picked two spiked shields as their melee weapons and pick a light projector as their implement as part of the Wall of Steel Package that would get them 580c to start if they sold everything off; but it requires such a specific set of selections for such a small gain.

I don't feel like punishing the guy who takes the reasonable heavy armor, small shield, battleaxe and three throwing axes (total value of all gear with coins, clothes and adventurer's kit of 525c) or the guy who needs the full armor and heavy shield to hit their class' target defenses just to shut down a marginal edge case like that; particularly when just getting from level 1 to level 2 is probably going to earn them more treasure than that.

For that matter, a character with the Better Bargaining utility who goes Cash in Hand and buys all their gear during the first adventure can do almost as well (about 555c worth of gear even if they fail on negotiation checks) as the edge case without hurting their effectiveness at all and having a very useful utility throughout their adventuring career.

So yeah, for the sake of the guy who needs Full Armor for their class I'm not going to fix that trivial loophole; particularly when the tradeoffs (only humans can do it and they'll have no specializations other than in things they're planning to sell off). I WILL however, point out that the loophole exists so GM's can take action if they feel they must (I don't particularly see the need).

* * * * *
Three other minor changes related to this;

First, the price of full armor got reduced to 400c so that its half price value didn't break the math above like the 500c version did.

Second, I notice that I had never included a 'selling gear' section of the rules, so that's now in. Default is 50% if selling to a merchant, but can negotiate for more. Selling to someone who isn't just going to try and resell it can net you full price, but you have to find someone interested in buying it (i.e. roleplay or even a minor quest).

Third, the starting feature of the Noble Finery utility has been updated so that instead of getting gear of a higher tier (which is problematic if they tried to sell it), they instead get their choice of either the Cash in Hand or Wealth and Privilege Package in addition to the selection they normally get. The in play benefit (half price for fine quality goods in lands loyal to the noble's family) remains unchanged.
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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Mon Jul 10, 2017 12:10 pm

121,103 words.

294 pages.

The formatted manuscript for the Terrors & Tactics Players Guide is DONE!!!

Only artwork and error corrections (including changing 'see page XXX' entries since those won't be final until art is added and its easier to search for XXX to replace in the final document than finding every in column page number that might need to be changed) remain to be completed.

Some updates to the final version since the changes last discussed;

- Added the concept of "Archetype" to describe the Skilled versus Spellcasting divide. So you now pick your archetype and gain its benefits (the skilled and spellcasting benefits) and then pick your class from the list available to that archetype and gain its benefits. It helped make things a little clearer for some players.

- The rest of the background 'class' and 'questions' entries have been filled in.

- Shields were moved out of armor and into bludgeoning weapons (there is a note in the armor section on where to find them). They were also made Exotic weapons.

- The "Defensive" property was renamed "Shield #" where # is the shield bonus to your AC and Reflex. This also let me remove the shield property from the special list for implements.

- It was clarified that you must have proficiency with a weapon to use any properties other than melee reach, ranged or two-handed. This means that if you aren't proficient with a shield you don't gain its defensive bonuses and you can't reload a crossbow (but can use a loaded on) if you aren't proficient with them.

- The vehicle section was cleaned up with canoes and rowboats merged into 'boats (small and large)' and a catamaran added. The keelboat was downsized for a better range of sailing ships and the longship was renamed the light galley (with the light becoming a medium galley) after research revealed that they were basically coastal ships like other galleys (the long overseas stuff was done by ships like the knarr which are closer to a keelboat or caravel). Also added were barges (i.e. the poor versions of which would be basic rafts), steamboats (keelboats with a steam engine) and steam powered airships (as in the dirigible) just to make things a little more schizo-tech.

- The self-propelled magic property got divided into arcane engines and arcane sails and downgraded to a minor (albeit very expensive) property while the 'airship' feature was renamed 'sky sails' and remains a major property.

- Concealed and Obscured got merged together into Obscured. Obscurement already granted concealment and calling it two different things wasn't as clear as it could be. I chose Obscured over Concealed because there's already Cover and its harder to confuse Obscured than Concealed for Cover.

- People were finding "numerical obscurement" and "light, medium, heavy, total cover" a bit too fiddly so I went backwards to "Obscured, Heavily Obscured, Totally Obscured" and "Cover, Heavy Cover, Total Cover." The modifier for Obscured and Cover is +3 instead of +2 though as people didn't feel like +2 was enough of a difference and it splits the difference between the old Light (+2) and Medium (+4) cover bonus.

- I pulled all the Optional Rules and Artifacts out of the Player's Guide text. They're not gone; they're just going to be moved into the GM's Guide.

- The revised character sheet is in the back of the book. A letter-sized version will also be available.

* * * * * *

Because this is essentially the complete Player's Guide rules now, I'm going to be doing access to it a little differently. Instead of just posting an open link here, I'll instead send the link to anyone who PM's me requesting one for review.

* * * * * *

And now its on to the "GM's GUIDE."

I should have an update on the monsters here in the next day or so. Not so much mechanics... those have been surprisingly stable... but more about how they're being categorized.
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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Mon Jul 10, 2017 9:36 pm

I'd love to have a look.
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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Mon Jul 10, 2017 11:45 pm

Honorbound, check your PM's, there should be a link there.

Now, on to monsters since that's what I'm working on for the GM's Guide at the moment.

If you've been following my ramblings on this project for awhile you know that one of my big things is a world that makes sense. For example, hundreds of different sapient species don't evolve on the same planet which is why I made a big deal about how humans are the only natural sapient species to evolve in the mortal world in my setting and that everything else that's playable as a PC is either a completely alien being from another realm (avatars, dragons), a reflection of humanity from a parallel realm (elves, gnomes, halflings, goblins, orcs, ogres), created by humans (beastmen, golems) or was created from humans by varying means (dwarves, malfeans, mutants).

Well, the same goes for monsters... which is why I've been putting my monsters into categories based on their origins.

Some are easy because they're also playable species; dragons, giants, treants, dryads, sylphs, brownies, azer, werebeasts, couatls, salamanders, unicorns, gnolls, minotaurs, lizardmen (crocodins), kobolds, centaurs, golems, trolls, cyclops, bladelings, troglodytes, cambions and changelings are all found in their number.

Others didn't quite fit so easily; particularly with how the primal spirits became very much akin to the 'angels' opposing the 'demons'. So if the primal spirits are benevolent while the demons are outright malevolent, where exactly did things like the traditional elemental, the completely alien and often hostile elementals fit into the cosmology?

I found a partial answer in my giants. It says outright in their description that they reincarnate because they aren't allowed back into the primal realms. The concept I devised for the traditional D&D style elementals is that they are the spirits of giants who have completely lost hope in the possibility of redemption or even having meaning and so, instead of being reborn into new giants, their hopeless spirits instead incarnated and animated the raw forces of nature and lash out at anyone who draws their attention while lost in such despair. Giants in turn see the Elementals as their lost brothers and sisters and seek to free their spirits from animated forms so that they might hopefully properly reincarnate this time.

I think that had a lot of potential, but at the same time it felt rather off that something like a giant might have its spirit reincarnate as a small or medium sized elemental instead of one that is large like them. It wasn't until the avatars ate my giants that the elemental concept I had truly worked for me. Now elementals could derive from the spirits of avatars ranging from a tiny sprite through medium to large and even huge avatars.

Another category that's been bothering me for a while is the outright demons. By the established fluff, they were banished to the Outer Darkness and a barrier erected to prevent their return. Dragons are rather unique among demons because they found a loophole around the rules. The other major way would be via summoning magics; but that ties a lot of demonic critters that should probably not be regularly summoned off the table as free agents.

What finally registered with me though was that the Malfeans were my answer. I already had part of it in the notion of Cambions to cover some of the more "human" (if you count tails, horns, cloven hooves, wings, claws, fangs and armored scales as "human") varieties of demons... but the other half was remembering that, like the primal spirits, demons are spirits and so could assume all manner of forms and could have sired offspring with all manner of beasts as well.

I'm calling this category the Hellborn. It includes malfeans/cambions, but now also includes critters like Hell Hounds, Hellcats, Nightmares and Devilfish; mortal beasts infected with demonic essence in the same way malfeans are. Like malfeans they're natural habitat is the Mortal World and so they aren't subject to the barrier keeping the true demons out. It also allows for grades within the same general category as, like malfeans can become creatures akin to the dread cambions, the other Hellborn can grow in demonic corruption and gain new demonic traits in the process.

The other main challenge has been deciding which creatures fall under the bio-formed category (deliberately created like the beastmen) and which fall under the mutation category (warped by the arcane cataclysm 300 years ago). Some, like the wyvern, were easy... the humans of the first empire bio-formed them in the image of dragons as flying mounts. Others like the hydra keep flopping categories in my head; multiple heads suggests mutation (a second head is even one of the options for PC mutants) but the symmetry and lack of other horrific mutations suggests bio-forming. Mechanically it makes no difference, but knowing where these things fit helps with my world-building process.
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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Mon Jul 24, 2017 9:56 pm

Minor update today since I hadn't heard anything from anyone;

Fortunately, my local playtesters haven't found anything game-breakingly problematic in the Player's Guide. The main one of note is with the various item creation utilities ("Creation", "Plant Spirit", etc.) related to the use of consumables.

Specifically, you could get seriously abusive with consumables like food, oil or coal (if you have a steam or airship) if you just use them before you dismiss them and then you could make more of them immediately.

The change I'm looking at to correct this just a bit is that used consumables count against the value you can create for 24 hours. So, for example, if you created 50c of coal with the Earth Spirit utility and then burned it all up in a steam engine, you'd only be able to create 50c of other items for the next 24 hours while the consumables recharge.

Its a bit more book-keeping, but only if you're using it outside the intended use (being able to conjure up a weapon, armor, tool or such and then dismiss it when you no longer need it), but even then, you can still create the consumable item if you want; it just doesn't allow infinite moltov cocktails or feeding an entire city with a single utility that has no resource cost (50 days rations is a lot, but being able to feed 50 people and when they're done, feed 50 more then 50 more and so on is not all what was intended).

But if that's the most broken ability they're finding, I think this project is in excellent shape.

* * * *

For the GM's Guide, monsters continue apace, but they're taking up a LOT more room than expected. In the new format I'm only fitting about one monster per page.

Traps are coming along and are being designed to interact with skills rather than combat stats, Acrobatics checks for things that might target AC/Reflex, Fitness for things that target Fortitude and Intimidate for fear or similar mind-affecting traps. Perception and sometimes Arcana or Nature (depending on the trap) play a role in finding them and Engineering in disabling them.

Basically, they're working very well as essentially skill challenges.

My big setting debate at the moment is that I really will only have space to cover one of the major communities in detail and whether that should be Stormhold (the largest city in the region with over 15,000 people and the major port of call to foreigners) or Darkhold (the more 'Gold Rush' town of about 3500 people that specifically caters to adventurers due to its position on the edge of the wilds, proximity to the Black Spire and access to the Deep).

Other cities and towns will be covered in general, but its more "here's one or two points interests and one or two notable figures" whereas the detailed one will have a street map, multiple interesting personalities and locations and plot points and so forth detailed.

I'm 55% sold on it being Darkhold because it caters to traditional adventurers. On the other hand traditional adventurers probably will only be there to restock and/or recruit new members and wouldn't need many more personalities than the major outfitters of goods and services nor a specific layout. Also the more "wild west" feel probably probably makes it less useful to someone looking to run more urban adventures in a cosmopolitan city with a sizeable noble court (for those who want palace intrigue type events).

Basically, I could go either way and there's no 100% right answer.
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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Tue Aug 01, 2017 12:14 pm

Time for a little design update.

At the request of one of the GM's I have helping me with the playtest (I need to be sure running it makes sense without me to course correct on site) I'm adding some variability to the hit math.

The short version of which is, virtually every monster has the same to-hit bonus (6 vs. AC or 4 vs. NAD; strikers are 9 and 7) so they sorta felt a bit too samey; a sharpshooter was as likely to hit as a conscript.

My solution is to use the same type of math adjustment I used for the brittle-standard-brute options for defenses/edge;

Very Accurate: 8 vs. AC / 6 vs. NAD / -2/4/6 (by tier) to base damage
Accurate: 7 vs. AC / 5 vs. NAD / -1/2/3 (by tier) to base damage
Standard: 6 vs. AC / 4 vs. NAD / Standard damage.
Lethal: 5 vs. AC / 3 vs. NAD / +1/2/3 (by tier) to base damage
Very Lethal: 4 vs. AC / 2 vs. NAD / +2/4/6 (by tier) to base damage

The actual math for the average damage to be on par with "standard" for lethal/accurate worked out to about +/-0.8 at level one and then +/-0.22 per level after that, but being able to list the level adjustment math as a nice compact "7±2±1/t" made the slight imbalance at certain levels acceptable to me.

Including the bonuses that Strikers get to their main attack this provides a range of 8 points so that monster attacks can feel more distinct from each other. It also creates an easy way to customize an existing monster. For example, the basic Conscript (level 0) now has its attack 4 vs. AC and deals 4 damage. The Veteran Conscript (level 2) can be 6 vs. AC and deal 5 damage.

Among the traditional starting monsters, Humans are variable (half are standard, a quarter each are accurate or lethal), Goblins are mostly accurate, Kobolds are mostly very accurate, Orcs are mostly lethal and Ogres are mostly very lethal.

* * * *

Setting-wise I've decided that one way to help solve my population problem was to stop treating the knowledge base like its that of medieval peasantry. Three hundred years ago before they cataclysm they had magitech flying ships, golem servants, force guns and healing rays.

The industrial base to produce magitech combines and biomancy augmented crops may be gone, but the general principles of things like germ theory, steam power and fertilizers/pesticides/crop rotation in farming are still around, making farm production more akin to the late 19th - early 20th century America than 6th century Europe.

The big advantage there is that, unlike most of human history, you don't need 90-95% of your population tied up with farming just to keep from starving. Instead just 65% of the population will be enough to produce not just enough for the population but enough for export.

This means that instead of needing a population of 135,000 farmers spread across 833 square miles (roughly a 30x30 mile area) to support a city of 15,000 people you'd only need about 30,000 farmers spread across about 150 square miles (about a 12 x 12 mile area) to support it (and if its coastal you could throw half that area over the water since fishing would bring in a lot of the nutrition needed).

Where this ties into my setting concept is that, first, it means the "human" civilizations can have a more realistic population growth rate from the relatively small number of survivors in the fallout shelters that survived the Cataclysm and the dangerous surroundings, but still have big enough cities for my needs.

Second, it makes the concept of walled bastions of civilizations in the middle of monster haunted wilderness more sustainable. When it takes 5-10 hours just to reach the edge of land you need to farm in order to feed everyone the ONLY viable layout is numerous small villages with just two or three defenders that are completely vulnerable to, say, a wandering hydra or pack of wyverns using it as a snack. But if the furthest field is only an hour's walk on foot from the city walls (and a horse at full tilt could cover the same distance in less than five minutes), it allows a more dangerous world where you can fit the farmers behind the thick walls and guards of a city during the night.

In short, it makes the setting more "Points of Light" and less of a medieval pastoralism recreation.
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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Wed Aug 02, 2017 8:44 pm

Sorry I've been away for a while.

I've looked over your pdf, and I'm loving the improved formatting - it makes for a much better read. Moving shields over to exotic weapons is an interesting touch - it de-emphasizes shields as a default armor increase, instead making them just another option.

With regard to your monster fluff, utilizing your avatars' reincarnation cycle to recreate the classical D&D elementals is a stroke of genius. The Hellborn are natural evolutions of the malfean idea. As for the hydra, perhaps you could combine the two concepts and have mutated and normal hydras - either that or the hydra could have gotten lucky, like your bladelings.

With regard to Darkhold vs Stormhold, I'm thinking that Darkhold might be a better fit - it's in close proximity to the Black Spire and the Deep, both of which connect to your setting's history. In addition, having a more adventurer-friendly "gold rush" town would serve as a familiar touchstone for older players easing into your setting, while new players get broken in with something similar to D&D. Stormhold could get expanded later on in a book or article covering urban adventures.

Finally, your reduced population demographic, specifically the comparison to 19th and 20th century America, also feeds into the adventurer/"gold rush" dynamic of Darkhold. It reminds me of Eberron's pulp adventure style, minus the noir. It also creates a dualistic picture - on one hand, the world is a land of opportunity in the day, where people can take horses or automatic cart relics out past civilization to explore the uncharted wilds. But when night falls, the darker side of the world comes alive, and mortalkind is reminded that monsters rule the night.

Edit: I just want to say that I love your character sheet, especially the fact that you could fit it on a single sheet of paper of you print it double-sided. Perhaps in the future you could release a PDF with just the character sheet, kind of like how WotC does their character sheets.
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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Thu Aug 03, 2017 12:00 am

Actually, the character sheet doesn't even need to be double-sided. The pages in the book are 6x9 and with the margins you should be able to throw it on a copier and fit both halves onto one sheet.

Or you can use the single page version HERE.

Population-wise that dualism is kinda what I'm going for; the notion that the points of civilization are small and isolated and that travel is risky unless you can reach a safe place before night falls. I'm thinking I might even shrink the scale on my map a bit so that the spacing between towns and cities along the main travel routes are closer to 20 miles apart instead of 30 miles.

The reason being that while PC's can pull off regular 10 hour days of walking and get 30 miles, non-PC's can usually only manage 8 hours of walking or 24 miles. If the night is dangerous enough that small villages aren't all that common (and those that do exist probably have at least wooden walls and gates) then people need to be able to get from one safe place to the next. I'm thinking there are probably fortified inns every 10 miles or so along heavily traveled routes, because delays happen and you don't want to be stuck in the open when night falls.

I'll go with your suggestion of which city to use; though looking at my notes its actually Darkhaven (it was originally Darkhold, but then I decided to limit the "Hold" title to just the original three cities in the region that grew out of the "Holds"/fallout shelters and so changed it to "haven"). I'm also in the process of adjusting the population values to account for the fact that fewer farmers are needed and there aren't many villages at all.

I think I've decided that the Hydra is a mutated bio-form. The original beast was a single-headed beast of burden created during the First Empire about the size of an elephant and able to carry heavy loads while swimming across wide rivers. A few of those beasts were mutated by the Cataclysm and gained an unstable healing ability that, when a body part is lost, causes them to temporarily regrow too many replacements. The extras normally wither and fall off over time, but occasionally one of the extra heads is stable enough that it doesn't wither away and becomes a permanent part of the beast.

The more heads the older the hydra.
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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Thu Aug 03, 2017 4:16 am

I clearly didn't factor in the book's size with regard to your character sheet. Either way, it's good to have a single-page reference - the lack of such is many editions' weaknesses, I'm thinking.

With regard to the setting, the lack of small villages should be a big clue to the PCs that bad things are about. If they ever come across such a village, that's when they should be getting nervous - what nasty thing have the villagers cozied up to for protection?

Finally, that's a neat bit of fluff regarding the hydra.
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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Mon Aug 07, 2017 11:33 am

Okay, three updates for today.

Short version of 1 and 2: I'm going to need to take another look at my defense numbers/names (and a look at shields).

First, playtesters have been asking a bit about shields and why, if they're essentially mobile cover, why do they only help against AC/Reflex attacks and not Fort/Will like actual cover does (this also plays into the second update, but we'll come back to that).

It was pointed out that shields are basically a trade-off of offense for defense. A shield means you can't use higher damage two-handed weapons and/or implements, but you only gain a bonus to AC/Reflex for the trade-off and gain nothing when facing things that target mostly Fort/Will while the bonus to damage applies to everything.

Basically, shields applying by default only to AC and Reflex was just borrowing directly from 4E without analyzing if that was actually the best way to handle it. Its a sacred cow I should probably question just a bit even if I do leave it as is.

The second update is that I've been talking with some people who know a little about law and reading up on some copyright/trademark law and, contrary to what I suggested recently over on an RPGnet thread, their MIGHT actually be some legal jeopardy to my defense scores after all.

Specifically, my use of 'better of two scores' for the defenses is NOT something that's covered by the d20SRD and is ONLY found in 4E. It should be noted that two other 4E-ish games that used defenses went with "Middle of Three Values" (13th Age) and "Add Both Values to a base of 8" (Arcanis) respectively.

Right now I've rewritten that section to be "Use EITHER ability" with the obvious assumption that anyone would reasonably use the larger without outright saying it, but this isn't the sort of project where I can afford to take risks and that might not be distinct enough.

One proposal was that at least some of the defense names be changed to make it less overt (rather like how I went with Malfeans instead of Tieflings and Edge instead of Hit Points). The best suggestions for replacing Reflex was "Dodge" or "Evade" and the three most likely prospects for AC are "Block", "Absorb" or just "Armor" (i.e. Armor Defense instead of AC defense). Of those, I think I favor "Armor" and "Dodge" but I'm not sold.

If such a change was made the defense line would look more like;
Defenses Armor 17, Dodge 15, Fort 14, Will 14

Because I'm not sure about "Either of Two" being distinct enough, I may need an alternative there. Right now I'd lean towards "Add both" because its easier math and will have less effect on most character builds because the bottom three values in most of the arrays are 0,0,-1 (focused), 1,0,-1 (strong) and 1,1,-1 (balanced). So from net +1 to -1 with most probably being net 0.

But that's got a TON of problems to it in terms of the carefully built balance in the system. Particularly egregious are the number variances for when primary and focus scores are in the same group.

For example, it would not be unreasonable for a "swift tactical" character to have STR 1, CON 0, DEX 4, INT 4, WIS -1, CHA 1 with medium armor and a small shield. With adding both they end up with starting defenses of AC 21; Fort 13, Reflex 19, Will 14 (total 67).

Meanwhile a reasonable "strong daring" character might have STR 4, CON 1, DEX -1, INT 1, WIS 0, CHA 4 with heavy armor and a small shield. Their starting defenses look like AC 18; Fort 16, Reflex 13, Will 15 (total 62 or 4 less than the Swift Tactical build).

Under the current system the Swift Tactical would have AC 17; Fort 13, Reflex 15, Will 15 and the Strong Daring build would have AC 17; Fort 15, Reflex 14, Will 15 or just one point of difference in between them.

If I have to take a risk, I'm more inclined to go with redoing the names of the defenses and keeping the current math (with "use either" instead of "use best") than keeping the names and having to redo the math practically from scratch.

One much further out there alternative would be to do like what I recently did with the Strong characters and armor... build the alternate scores into the classes instead of the basic math.

So the following would essentially be added to the classes;

- Strong Combat Style (skilled and rune): you can use STR in place of CON for your Fort defense.
- Tactical Focus: you can use INT in place of DEX for your AC and Reflex defenses.
- Daring Focus: you can use CHA in place of WIS for your Will defense.
- Arcane Spellcasting: you can use INT in place of DEX for your AC and Reflex defenses.
- Sorcery Path: you can use CHA in place of WIS for your Will defense.
- Astral Spellcasting: you can use CHA in place of WIS for your Will defense.
- Faithful Focus: you can use INT in place of DEX for your Reflex defenses (already get CHA for AC).
- Strong Focus: you can use STR in place of CON for your Fort defense.
- Insightful Spirit: you can use INT in place of DEX for your Reflex defense (already get WIS for AC).
- Potent Spirit: you can use STR in place of CON for your Fort defense.
- Arcane Runic Focus: you can use INT in place of DEX for your AC and Reflex defenses.
- Astral Runic Focus: you can use CHA in place of WIS for your Will defense.

This has the side-effect of making a couple of marginal builds a bit worse (ex. someone picks Wary combat style only for the perception/initiative boosts because their doing a CON/surge build and has a better CHA than WIS), but it should completely remove the legal jeopardy even if I kept AC, Fort/Ref/Will as the base calculations would be in line with the Unearthed Arcana SRD.

The other downside is that it might favor certain species (those with CON/DEX/WIS bonuses) over others (those with STR/INT/CHA) for off-stats (i.e. +1 to CHA might bump a strong tactical character's CHA to 2 for a better Will defense right now, but if the change was made it would only affect their skill modifiers).

I'm open to suggestions.

* * * * * *

The third update is more fun.

Given what we've discussed about population numbers I've started to work on what I'm calling internally the "Practical History" section.

By practical history I mean, while it may be cool to know about Ancient Egypt and the Pyramids and the Roman Empire and the Middle Ages and how certain elements affect today; for the most part even the American Revolution just 240 years ago is practically a legend in today's terms.

So yeah, the Demon Empire and the First Empire of Man are important historical elements, but more because PC's will occasionally stumble upon ruins or artifacts related to them. Even the Second Empire is mostly important because its ruins are what will likely be explored.

But in terms of what is most important to shaping the world the PC's inhabit, most of the focus should be on just the 300 years since the Cataclysm... How the survivors first organized, first contact with the Elves and the eventual elven enclaves in the major cities, the rise of various strongmen who became the new nobles and their wars against hostile monsters and cults to establish their realms, the re-establishing of contact and trade between Stormhold, Ironhold and Riverhold and how those realms expanded over the last 300 years; Malcer's theocratic reign of terror and his overthrow and the government in Stormhold that replaced him, et cetera.

Malcer being overthrown only about a dozen years ago is probably the single most important piece of history relevant to the PC's. "Lord" Blackthorne defeated him by gathering up a motley coalition of those most oppressed by Malcer without much support (but not much opposition either) from the ruling nobility and most of the last dozen years worth of politics in Stormhold (which includes Darkhaven at its periphery) has been in the conflict between newly liberated lower/middle class and an upper class that still has significant influence via their wealth and military assets.

Where I'm thinking this plays into things for PC's is that since most of the nobility's land is what is called Allodial (i.e. they own it outright and are loathe to sell it because the key to their fortunes is the collection of rents, usually in the form of goods and services) there is a LOT of demand for new land that can be claimed and owned outright. But unclaimed land only exists in the monster-haunted and ruin-filled wilderness at the borders.

So there is a rather sizeable market of nobles, and collectives of former peasants and serfs who wish to be freemen, merchants looking for untapped resources they could own outright and so forth who would be more than willing to hire hardy heroes to clear a region of monsters and make it safe for them to claim.

Alternately, the second-sons and daughters of nobles (i.e. PC's with the Noble background) might be looking for their own realm since they won't inherit or a daring commoner might decide to clear new ground so that his family and friends back home can have land of their own and keep all they've produced instead of paying most of it to the noble who owns that land. Arcanists might just want an isolated tower for their research, Barbarians might want to keep encroaching colonists away from their lands and the Religious/Monastic might want to establish a new religious community free of secular governance.

I think a key part of this would be Blackthorne's coalition essentially establishing some sort of general charter akin to the United States Homestead Acts (basically, if you can claim, clear, improve and farm the land for five years, the land is yours with no additional expense) and the idea that Darkhaven is a boom town because it is the main jumping off point for a new series of land rushes made by citizens of Stormhold looking to gain land of their own.

* * * * *

The more I've been thinking about it; the American frontier is probably a MUCH better model for the campaign setting than trying to model the Medieval world.
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