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 STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)

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Chris24601
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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Tue Dec 12, 2017 2:09 pm

So, I figured its time I did a bit of an update on where things are at.

First up is monsteropponent design. Due to using variable attack bonuses (ranging from +4 to +8 vs. Armor and from +2 to +6 vs. NADs) and the resultant damage scales, building all the level adjustments for every level into each monster stat block was no longer an option. Instead there's a table that gives you all the damage and Edge values by level for building or leveling opponents on your own while the opponent entries themselves include 2-4 variants at different levels (usually at 5 level increments; i.e. one example per tier) with all the math already worked out.

Here's a few examples of how they're looking currently...

https://drive.google.com/file/d/191c9HBjNJ9qlq4DlP3ozOLc7yqzh7wFj/view?usp=sharing

Meanwhile, every time I hit a bit of writer's block I've been using artwork as a means to keep making progress even if its not adding to the word count. This includes reworking and improving older pieces to better reflect how the setting is developing.

Here's some of the newer artwork (and old artwork that hasn't changed), mostly from the species section of the Player's Guide and a few of the monsters.

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1QjwM_l3M4SBypPGOhLOtrVTyiV6DKGB9/view?usp=sharing

In terms of world-building, I've had a few insights in terms of development... one of them is that I'm flipping the prominence of Stormhold (the coastal capitol of the southern human region) and Blackspire (the 'adventure hub' city further up the river near the Black Spire).

This is because I learned that historically big port cities at the mouths of rivers didn't thrive all that well because their harbors were prone to being clogged with silt after every rainy season. Big cities on the coasts tend to be away from major rivers. More common is for major cities to appear at what's called the Head of Navigation for a major river... which is a fancy way of saying "as far up the river as a sailing ship can reach."

Now since the main river of the region is HUGE and you could get a sailing ship all the way up to Riverhold, its not 100% applicable in this case, but "as far up the river as the Stormhold/Blackspire territory extends" and "right before the major river branches in two distinct directions" seems like the better bet.

So, as a result, Blackspire is not just adventurer central, its also the capitol of that region with its population and Stormhold's swapped (Stormhold is where the fallout bunker was situated, but the populace quickly outstripped the available resources and started spreading up the river until they reached Blackspire and that became the capitol of that region).

15,000 people... 5,000 of whom are non-farmers with about 150 knights/warcasters and a half-dozen "barons" (more akin to the 19th Century Robber Barons than the medieval variety) with their own often competing interests and a desire to hire adventurers to achieve them are now going to be the heart of the most detailed city in the region.

As with some of the other locations I've described, Blackspire is centered around a piece of pre-Cataclysm architecture... in this case a skyscraper that managed to remain standing (or at least the bottom 30-40 floors of it anyway) and has been re-purposed into a combo of castle and a good chunk of the city's living area.

The windows have long since been blown out and the elements eaten away at the original interiors so that, when it came to be re-occupied not much more than the main structural supports, outer shell and concrete floors were still intact, but artisans were able to fit the structure with counter-balance based lifts/elevators (like the one at the Wall in GoT) and each floor has been packed with smaller "medieval" style buildings (some complete with their own roofs, others built floor to ceiling)... creating a virtual "vertical city" that is a nightmare to assault from the ground (a couple narrow staircases that would have been the emergency fire escapes back in the day are what an invading armed force would have to fight up... meanwhile defenders can pour arrow/projector/spell fire down from multiple floors at once against those approaching the structure).

The other core of the city is the central market district, built along the old city street that ran from the "spire" to the docks. This is where you can find just about anything brought into the region from beyond and what traders from upriver are hoping to sell.
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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Wed Dec 13, 2017 2:29 pm

I'm loving the art - the dwarves look a little better, more obviously magitech-themed. ARA-92 is adorable as all get out, and the shadowborn and Ba'al'ta'gul are rather cool. The hydra as a sauropod-base is neat. I'm used to seeing them as multi-headed snakes. The blade beast is rather interesting as well - I assume that it's a replacement for the hook horror, given how its claws resemble Erin'Yi's claws.

The opponent section is interesting as well. Ba'al'ta'gul's attacks being solely minor actions is mean as hell, a real "oh, shit" for anybody coming over from 4e. I remember from previous documents that you had champion-level monsters work the same way, which makes them scary as hell. The bandit's using thrown daggers for a minor-action ranged attack doesn't really gel with the shortbow main attack, but to me, it just puts them in more of a melee role, using shortsword and dagger in accord, with the dagger as a short-notice thrown weapon.
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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Wed Dec 13, 2017 4:45 pm

Hydras ended up as sauropods because the original one-headed beast was a bio-form from the First Empire of Man (like the Beastmen). It was basically an elephant-sized beast of burden with aquatic capability. You can even purchase the single-headed non-mutated version in the equipment section (it'd be a draft beast with the 'huge' exotic ability).

One line of these critters was mutated by the Cataclysm and gained a version of the 'cancerous healing' ability that occasionally glitches if its head is injured; causing it to grow an extra head in the process. The other thing of note for the hydra, though it's not obvious from picture, but is part of the fluff-text is that hydra skin is prized for fine and legendary leather goods because it can be treated alchemically to retain its regenerative ability (repairing nicks, scuffs and such that might occur to normal leather).

Lady Kalla's new outfit is made from this hydra-skin because the move towards a more 'magitech post-apocalypse' setting made her medieval style dress look a bit out of place; particularly for an adventurer. Plus the clothing designs for the Blackspire/Stormhold region were moving towards a more "split-skirt" design like you can see with her bodyguard, the storm giant, BG-58, Callahan and the Ogre and Orc. I've decided that, particularly for the nobility in this reason, they favor unadorned but high quality clothing... essentially, clothing that looks clean and new and is free of any design-work that might hide where a piece of clothing had been damaged and repaired (i.e. they have enough wealth to simply replace damaged clothing instead of patching it and continuing to wear it). This also makes it quite distinct from the ornate designs seen on the clothing of the elven nobility (and to a lesser extent the elven "middle class").

Ironhold favors more of the long central tabbard/loin-cloth design as you can see with the fire giant, the wolfen and crocodin, the dwarves Sir Jekrit and Lord Krellik, the half-dwarf, Mara'kal (rime malfean) and Aur'rai (miasma malfean).

Riverhold leans towards short tunics over pants that slightly overlaps it as seen with Ezra Stonefist, all three of the gnomes and the goblin and the minotaur mercenary (to a degree). Those who spend most of their time working the river directly tend to shirts tucked into pants with no tunic or or other element covering it as seen with both half-avatars and all three of the male malfeans.

In other words, I'm trying to come up with "rules" for costuming of the different civilizations in the region.

****

The blade beast is indeed my sub in for the Hook Horror as I had a fair bit of fluff relating to them in the setting and their clan-like social organization (they're akin to great apes in terms of sapience).

Yeah... All actions being minor actions for Champions is a thing because unless a creature is suffering from the Held condition they'll at least get one minor action each turn and Champion's Resolve now steps down staged conditions at the start of their turn so that held becomes stunned. Throw in all their attacks also being multi-targeting (so they can usually attack 2-3 targets with each action) and they should be about as deadly as four standard monsters; just as intended.

Regarding Bandits; Yeah, now that you pointed it out, it doesn't make sense. With bandits being able to sub in as "irregular troops" I wanted them to have a better ranged attack than "thrown knives" but I forgot to adjust their "scrapper" minor action attack to match. I think the easiest thing since I do like them being able to throw their dagger in a pinch is put in a caveat for it that "can't be used in the same turn you make a shortbow attack" so its something they have to throw when they're in melee (and have a handful of spares) and want to hit another target that's out of reach (say because they just dropped their main action target) but not something they'd be throwing every turn.

One other thing of note for the Bandits, is that I am including a prototype of my mass combat rules into them (and the other Grunts) with the variant that is a 10-man Bandit Band. Since a wealthy party can actually hire the humanoid grunts (though they eat into XP awards if they aid you in battle) and high level parties might go up against small armies, I wanted to have at least a prototype on hand to speed up larger fights involving grunts.

That said, demographically speaking this region is TINY (lots of dangers in the wilds and the Cataclysm is relatively recent) and doesn't have much in the way of conventional armed forces.

For example, Ironhold has a population of 10,000 people and is the second is largest community in the region. With the number of people needed to labor in food production that means it can support only about 50-100 full time military and draw up maybe 400 more combatants from the general populace if the city came under attack. Maybe 10% of all those (5-10 of the full timers; 40 from the general populace) are either standard/elite opponents (or PC's)... the other 90% are grunts.

5-10 standard opponents and a bunch of grunts isn't much more than 3-5 standard encounters for a low-to-mid level PC party (and that's the second largest city in the region). The extra 40 standards and all those extra grunts probably keeps all but the most organized monsters from wanting to attack them directly, but if they hope to accomplish anything beyond their immediate environs they NEED bold adventurers to do the job. They just don't have the resources (particularly towns of 1000-2000 people who might have a city of guard of just 10-20 people).

Also worth noting is that, when compared to those numbers, even a single military or noble PC with the right utilities looks like a credible threat (or protector) even at low levels. One figure I've read about was that a typical manor knight when called to muster by their liege was expected to bring themselves, their squire and about three or so infantry or archers. That looks a lot like a PC with the lieutenant/bodyguard and men-at-arms utilities to me.

These are some of the thoughts and considerations that are going into building my Points-of-Light-ish setting.
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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Mon Dec 18, 2017 4:33 pm

So here's yet another example of why its a good idea to have another pair of eyes look at your work... One of the playtesters asked why Light Armor was even a thing.

They asked because they thought no player would ever willingly take it. The Skilled classes all get at least Medium Armor which is categorically better at +3/-1 and Spellcasting classes either get Wards which are as good as Medium armor (+2/-0) or proficiently in Medium Armor (technically its Light + small shield or medium armor, but ever since the bonus to dodge got pulled from shields there's no reason to ever pick shields over having an extra hand free).

I think they had a point so I'm going to drop Light Armor and then shift down the names of the other armors... so its now Light armor (13/-1), Medium Armor (15/-3) and Heavy Armor (17/-5). I might add in a new "Full Armor" that is probably at least twice the cost of Heavy armor (probably 1000c) and is essentially the Gothic Full Plate Harness that is so good that carrying a shield is redundant (essentially +7/-5 with a built-in +2 shield bonus) as a sort of "exotic" armor category.

I might re-evalute the armor numbers while I'm at it... maybe do Light (12/-0) and Medium (14/-2), but Heavy would need to keep (17/-5) or it could futz up the upper end math.

By which I mean, say you change Heavy to 16. To get to the required 17 Armor for a character with a 4 in their key Armor defenses stat the penalty couldn't go higher than -3 (16+4-3=17), but that means someone with a 5 in that stat can hit 18 (16+5-3=18) which gets them Armor 21 with a large shield (or equivalent) and a specialization.

Right now only an extreme edge case can do that (Ward-based Abjurer or Warden with 5 in the key stat and a specialization) and a backburner exercise has been trying to think of ways to close that edge case. I suppose giving the armor-users a means to reach the same edge case 21 would technically solve the problem too, but I really preferred the elegance of the Armor cap being 20 so "a natural 20 always hits regardless of Armor value" wouldn't need to even be mentioned as a rule.

I'll bake my noodle on it, but I'm open to any feedback on the matter.

* * * *

A second, much more minor tweak grew out of the monster design work. Specifically, I hit upon a cleaner way to do mercenaries that didn't require distinguishing between 0-level grunts, other grunts and standard/elite/champion mercenaries.

The new math is very simple. Mercenaries cost 10c/month per XP the Mercenary is worth. I switched it from per day to per month as having to pay a full months wage makes it far more expensive if your plan is to just use the mercs as cannon-fodder or for a single battle. That puts a level 2 grunt (a professional archer or footman; 20 XP) at 200c/month (about 6.7c per day; a bit less than the old cost per day... but only if you need them for a full month).

In other words, "human" assets are something to be spent wisely. Not only does their regular use reduce your XP awards, but if you spend them foolishly you could end up paying 200c for them to fight in a single battle if they perish.

Which is also where the concept added to the grunts of "Allied Morale" (which you can see in the example monsters PDF) comes in... allowing the PC to take the edge loss for an allied grunt in their line of sight so they can keep fighting (or survive to retreat). You might think of this as something of an Alpha version of the mass combat rules in development for the Blood Wastes follow-up.
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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Wed Dec 20, 2017 2:48 pm

I would say keep the numbers the same and just shuffle the names around as per your first idea. You've already got the numbers established the way you want them - any futzing around with the math at this point is more trouble than it's worth. I do like your idea of revamping full armor as an exotic armor with a built-in shield bonus: not only does it reflect the original intention of having full armor be an alternative to a shield, it models historical trends very well. You didn't see full-plate-clad warriors wielding shields, because they were wearing them.
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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Fri Dec 22, 2017 12:07 pm

Yeah, full armor is working rather well. Mechanically its main advantage over heavy+shield is that you get to have both hands free to use a two-handed weapon, which translates to a +1/2/3 (by tier) bonus to damage.

Part of the conceit of the world-setting though is that Full Armor is something very rare and expensive... Blackspire with its population of 15,000 is probably the only place in Old Praetoria that even has sufficient industry to support its manufacture.

Its worth noting that none of the artwork yet depicts full armor... the dwarven knights are in really good heavy armor, as is the elven noble (while his guard with his lack of plate on the arms and exposed legs would only be medium armor). Most of the rest in really obvious armor fall into the medium armor category while some that just have armored arms (ex. the minotaur, wolfen and husk malfean), just their torso (ex. Ezra Stonefist's chain shirt) or sufficient padding (the low elf if she wore a helmet) would qualify as light armor.

* * * *

The opponents are continuing to be refined. The latest update pulled the "ten-man units" from the grunts (some niggly bits cropped up in my mass combat rules and I'd rather not waste space on something that could be completely invalidated in the next book to be released), but in their place added standard variants to the humanoid grunts as "veteran, master and legendary" versions of the bowmen, cavalry, footmen, guardsmen, irregulars and grenadiers (conscripts remain grunt-only due to what they are... if they seriously developed training they'd no longer be conscripts) so as the PC's level up they hire (and face) far more powerful soldier-types.

Taking a cue from OD&D (and a recent thread about it elsewhere) I'm sorting the opponents by category (ex. Men, Shadowborn, Undead, Demons, etc.) rather than purely alphabetically as I think its easier to get a sense of how the world works if the opponents are grouped by where they roughly fit into the world instead of just an alphabetical catalog. This also avoid unnecessary duplication on things across multiple similar entries (ex. covering basic traits shared by shadelings, goblins, orcs and ogres... or the shared traits of the undead or demons) so I can get more monsters in less space (because they are just eating the book in terms of page count).
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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Wed Jan 03, 2018 10:53 am

Now that the Christmas busy season is over, its time for an update.

First, at the request of my niece, who is ten and really wanted to play some type of winged-elf, I've added them as an option to the game. These are "wings of light" (that can be grown or disappear at-will) since I've been trying to abide by the "vertebrates have only four limbs" rule as much as possible (the main exception; centaurs; are explicitly genetically engineered while other commonly six-limbed fantasy beasts like griffins are going to be more wyvern-like where their fore-limbs are used for both walking and flying and sport claws at the wing's wrist joint).

I've decided that the winged elves (which are exclusively high elves) are going to be called Archons and will essentially be seen as the pinnacle of closeness to the elven gods (essentially demigods from the elves' point of view). It creates a nice transition between the elves and the true astral agents of the gods (i.e. angels/devils in 4E). For those who actually want to create an angelic PC, it's now a thing.

It also creates an interesting new angle to elves military and how they achieved early dominance in the region. Sky Knights. Their 'cavalry' would literally be flying warriors in heavy armor.

The other thing this simple request from my niece sparked is the idea that the Astral power is something that breaks the rules of nature in ways even the Fallen Primal Spirits do not. Even in their corruption the demons still follow the natural order established by the Creator... only non-vertebrate demons have more than four limbs. But Astral denizens CAN have more limbs (the luminous wings that some high elves can create are a reflection of this aspect) because the Astral realms were born of the shattered spiritual surface of the Mortal World and when you look in a shattered mirror just right you can seem to have additional arms, legs, eyes, etc.

This then is going to be the guiding principle as I design the astral creatures that the PC's can fight. Beings who might have many arms, or wings on their backs, a third eye in the middle of their forehead. I went the Middle-Eastern well for my demons (ex. Shedim, Labassu, Lillin, Efreet, Gallu), but I'm thinking my Angel/Devil entries will be pulling more from Hindu/Buddist myths and legends.

Never turn down ideas from 10-year olds. They are often the most creative sparks you'll come across.

* * * *

As to the armor issue... After a couple of weeks baking my noodle on it, I've decided that I am going to change the numbers on them.

My reasoning is this... I've been trying to close the "Armor 21" loophole for more than year to no good success. I REALLY wanted Armor 20 to be the cap because it eliminates the need for a special "20 always hits" rule and it was only two classes (abjurer using defensive wards and warden) that could even reach Armor 21 so I'd been working for a good way to reign those back to 20.

But the thing is, the more I thought about it I realized two things. First, I'd still need a "natural 20 always hits" rule because conditions like being totally obscured could bump your defenses up by 5. Second, that if I allowed every class to potentially hit the same 21 value (in this case via a 5 stat and heavy armor + shield or full armor) that would also close the loophole by allowing everyone to hit the same actual hard maximum value.

So the new values are;
- Light (Armor 12, -0 ability, -1 to checks; 20 lb.; 100c)
- Medium (Armor 14, -2 ability, -1 to checks; 30 lb.; 200c)
- Heavy (Armor 16, -3 to ability, -2 to checks; 40 lb.; 400c)
- Full (Armor 18+Shield 2, -5 to ability, -2 to checks; 50 lb.; 800c)

It also has the effect that people in everything but the exotic armor should get at least some benefit from their ability score in determining their Armor values. Full Armor may not benefit from the ability score directly, but anything less than a Strength 3 (60 lb. base load) is going to have some encumbrance problems wearing it and wielding a weapon or implement of any kind (and STR 4 would probably be better if you wanted to be able to carry anything of significance).
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