4e/Dark Sun – Karma

Experience points, encounters, levels, there’s a lot of ‘lego mathematics’ in 4e. You plug in such and such encounter and that entails such and such reward and such and such experience points. If you stick to that in planning the long-game then you’re either limited in how far ahead you can plan or how much latitude you can give your players. Given that it’s also a game of heavy prep (though less than previous incarnations of D&D perhaps) this has knock on problems that can encourage railroading.

There’s various routes you can take to be more fast and loose with the XP/Level/Reward system, you can wing it, award XP per session, level at intervals, but – frankly – bean counting is, I think, a massive part of the reward cycle in D&D type games. Gaining a level should be earned and should be felt to be earned. That said, some of the things I want to emulate are CRPGs which means I want to include ‘side quests’ and ‘character quests’. Things that are beyond and outside the main plotline. I also want the players to be able to wander off the beaten track in a semi-sandbox fashion.

My solution?

The main plotline will be what earns the guys their experience points but for things that go ‘off the rails’ they’ll earn ‘Karma points’, these will be earned as if they were XP but will be tradable – at a rate I haven’t yet decided – for access to benefits, contacts, making items that aren’t normally available, available, personal plot stuff and so forth.

That’ll also allow us to extend sessions at a particular level of play without me having to do a ton of extra prep work. I can re-use beasties and bandits more often and get more use out of the same work while still allowing the players to get their reward kicks.


4e/Dark Sun/Skills and Forging

Crafting & Skills in 4e
You may or may not think there’s a problem with these aspects of 4e but my player group for my forthcoming Dark Sun game think that there is a problem with it. They like greater character customisation and they like to be able to ‘make things’ so I’ve decided that, at least for my game, we’re going to have a little tinker around.

We’ve got a lot less skills in 4e and they’re much broader. They also only give a flat 5 bonus (though level comes into it now). This doesn’t allow for a lot of expression of degree of skill or for much investment in the background of your character, representing it through the odd point here and there.

I think we’re going to go for:

Each skill pick (4e) is equal to 5 skill points (Grim’s Game) and you can spend these amongst your class skills or on non class skills at 2/1. The maximum level you can take any skill at is +10.

EG: Ross is playing a Thri-Keen Ranger. Rangers get 5 trained skills at 1st level (4e) so get 25 points now (GG).
Ross spends his points on: Nature +7, Acrobatics +6, Athletics +5, Endurance +2, Perception +2, Stealth +3

Taking Skill Training Feats etc, gives you another 5 points.

Normal items can be made using the normal skills. These would typically be Knowledge skills, Arcana, Nature. Introducing Crafting skills proper would spread the skill points a bit thin but there’s a model from Adventurer’s Vault that serves. Alchemy.

Alchemy uses up a Feat slot but allows non-magical characters to create items that are essentially magical by incorporating arcane ingredients. Alchemical formulae aren’t really any particular match for enchanted items but they can be powerful.

Essentially the difference is that the ‘rituals’ are more expensive and the recipes are limited in a way that the Enchant Item ritual is not.

We don’t need to balance with the Enchant Item ritual but we do need to fall between that and Alchemy in terms of cost and inconvenience.

Crafting Feats:
Craft Light Armour
Craft Heavy Armour
Craft Weapons
Craft Bows
Craft Arcane (Symbols, Orbs, Rods, Staffs, Wands, wondrous items, Potions)
Craft Jeweller (Bracers, bands, necklaces, rings)

Crafting Rituals:
Master Craft: 1 – 100 GP – Can create Masterwork – but nonmagical – items such as feyleather armour.

Scavenge: 2 – 200 GP – Can scavenge arcane ingredients from dead magical enemies by making an appropriate roll. Value of arcane ingredients collected is expressed as residuum, the roll total multiplied by the creature’s level providing the total.
EG: Tlaloc has killed a young copper dragon and cuts out its jewelled eyes for use in his creations. He rolls his nature + half level + Wisdom bonus and gets 16 total. The level of the dragon is 6 making for a grand total of 96 GP of residuum.

Disenchant: 3 – 300 GP – Can destroy an existing magical item for its residuum at 1/5th of the item’s value.

Reforge: 4 – 400 GP – Can reforge an existing magical item adding to its abilities – up to your level – or replacing its abilities from those that you have. This costs 75% of the cost if you were crafting the item from scratch.

Learn 5 – 500 GP – By destroying a magical item the character can learn the recipe for ONE of its enhancements.

Characters start with 1 level 1 crafting ritual and gain one of their level (or several of lower level) each time that they advance. They may only buy rituals within their level – provided that they’re available.

Crafting rituals relate to level and cost level x100. The actual enchantments cost half as much but MUST be paid in residuum. Some items will have other material requirements, obvious in their description.

Level 1 Craft Armour rituals
Magic +1 – Confers a +1 magical bonus upon the weapon – 100 GP
Dwarven – Confers a bonus equal to the magical enhancement of the armour to Endurance checks and Daily +1 Healing surge. – 100 GP.
Razor – 1d10+Dex modifier damage when an enemy scores a melee critical on you – 100 GP.

(NB – Dwarven armour is normally a level 2 magical item, but once you remove the +1 bonus, it’s left at level 1. Without a magical bonus there’s no bonus to Endurance checks, JUST the healing surge. You’ll have to play it by ear otherwise. Similarly Razor Armour is normally level 2 but without the +1 bonus…_)

This means that Crafted items are more limited, but cheaper, though their ingredients – Residuum – can be harder to find. It also means that normal, non-magical crafters, have more to put in and especially on Athas this is going to be useful.

6-Pack Adventures: Sickness in Springdale[4e] RELEASED!

The third in a series of 6-Pack Adventures, pick-up-and-play adventures designed to fill 2-4 hours of play and containing everything you need.

  • Battle Map
  • Tokens
  • Pre-generated characters

For longevity you can use the tokens and the map for anything else you care to do and the adventures should be fairly easily adaptable to fit into your existing campaign if you want.

In Sickness in Springdale, the characters attempt to save their town from a deadly illness by finding a cure. To do so, they need to travel through the Lady’s Woods where they will meet a series of challenges to gain her favor.

During the course of their travels, they find that their town is not the only one with the disease and there’s competition for the cure…

For use with 4e.

You can buy it HERE and at all the other regular PDF outlets soon.
You can buy it in hardcopy – which I recommend – and many of our other books HERE

Please also check the following post as we’re trying to put together a bundle to help Japan.

Coming Soon: 6-Pack Adventures

6-Pack adventures are ‘takeaway’ adventures that will contain everything you need for an evening’s gaming or to run a game at a convention. Designed to fit into 2-4 hours of play with pre-generated characters, counter sheets and a short adventure the idea is that they’re like a six-pack of beers, something that you can just pick up for an evening’s entertainment.

To give them a little more worth the pre-gens, monsters etc will all be re-usable and if you buy the print copy the cover will form a battle-map, or pair of battle-maps, cheaper than many similar products that can be torn free of the interior and used again and again.

6-Pack adventures will be initially produced for Pathfinder, with D&D 4E material coming later.

DnD 4E: Groin Weasels

All down to an in-joke from Twitter yesterday… blame them 

“Go for the nards Bu! Go for the nards!”
– Nimsk, Ranger of Shorkyeer

With an ear-splitting squeal of glee a lightning fast streak of fur appears out of nowhere, streaking from your attacker and spiralling up your leg, disappearing into your clothing in a flash of teeth and claws.
Groin Weasel     Level: 1 Controller
Small natural animal XP100
Initiative: +4
Senses: Perception +5; Low-light vision.
HP: 28 Bloodied: 14
AC: 17 Fortitude: 14 Reflex: 17 Will: 14
Bite (Standard, at-will)
+6 Vs AC 1d6+2

Groin-Grip (Standard, at-will, sustained against a single target)

+5 Vs Reflex
The Groin Weasel charges up inside the clothing of the target and bites them on the groin. If the attack is successful it does normal bite damage, as above, and the Groin Weasel makes another attack at +5, this time against the target’s Fortitude Save. If the Groin Weasel succeeds, the stricken character is rendered immobile and unable to attack or defend themselves, due to the exquisite agoiny of having a weasel attached, by the teeth, to their groin.

Removing the Groin Weasel requires either killing it (missed attacks hit the character to whom the weasel is attached) or pulling it off. Removing the Groin Weasel in such a way is a Strength contest (d20 + Strength bonus) against the Weasel’s Strength, though the Weasel gets a +1 bonus for its sharp teeth being sunk into flesh (Straight d20 roll). Each failed attempt, no matter how many there are, causes the standard bite damage again.

Str: 8 -1

Dex: 19 +4        Wis: 12 +1
Con: 12 +1    Int: 2 -4            Cha:8 -1The dread Groin Weasels are specially trained by the Rangers of Northern Albion to attack and cripple their enemies, allowing the Rangers to then, pick them off at their leisure. Groin Weasels are vicious, nasty, evil little bastards who are only kept in check by regular treats of rabbit innards. On command they leap forth from the Rangers sleeve, backpack – or specially constructed wicker box, streak like lightning towards the enemy and attach themselves tightly, by the teeth, to their genitalia, refusing to let go.

Deadly and feared, the Groin Weasel has become a favourite familiar for magic users who are sick of having sand kicked in their faces by mighty-wanged Barbarians and by Rangers who like sitting targets they can turn into pincushions.

Living Constructs Released!

Golems make excellent servants, tireless, tough and obedient, but they lack that spark of life and adaptability that free thinking people have. Some have tried to instil their creations with some imitation of the free though, the soul, that ‘real’ people have with varying degrees of success and sometimes spectacular failure. When a slave has the ability to recognise that it is a slave it chafes against that control and seeks to free itself from it. Some of those constructs have managed to win their freedom through violence, labour, the death of their creator or their largesse and these constructs have gained true freedom, true self determination and true souls, becoming complete. Now these freed slaves form an ever growing community of liberated beings and they are learning to make more of themselves.

Living Constructs provides the opportunity to play self-determining devices, golems and constructs in D&D4E campaigns and game worlds.

Purchase it HERE.

New Year, New Direction

Happy Arbitrary Time Increment everyone!

I’m just here to give you a heads up on what the plans are for Postmortem Studios in this forthcoming 2009.

  • Redesign: Expect this blog/site to get a facelift and redesign in the early part of this year, something a bit more slick and professional and I think I’ll be retiring the old Postmortem Studios logo for something a bit more ‘chic’.
  • Cthentacle: This is my first priority this year, to get Cthentacle out of the door. I have, somewhat controversially, decided to go with the simplified, faster, Vs rules for this iteration of the game.
  • All These Worlds: Mongoose’s Traveller is going a storm and there’s really no point me reinventing the wheel, so this is being revised for a second time and will become a series of expansions and materials for Traveller, most likely released – somewhat – via Mongoose’s Flaming Cobra line.
  • 100 Series: 100 Conspiracies and 100 Conspirators, 100 Supervillain Plots and 100 Supervillain Lairs will be the next few 100 Series books. I’m also cooking up a similar concept for players, something akin to the old Central Casting ‘lifepath’ books.
  • Neverwhere: When I get time the third edition of this free RPG will be made available. This will also have more ‘proper’ rules for those who like such things.
  • D&D4: I hope to be writing for Axe Initiative and I also hope to be releasing a complete adventure line, piecemeal, for D&D 4th Edition, a ‘super campaign’ that takes character from starting out to maximum level while also spinning out a complete game world. I also hope to begin work on my world-city setting.
  • Gumshoe: Expect a Gumshoe version of @ctiv8 at some point during the year.
  • Blood!: If there’s time I hope to get Hell on Earth out of the door this year. That’s the Renaissance/Enlightenment/Witch Burning era version of Blood!
  • Fiction: I WILL complete a book of short-mid length stories this year and self publish, this is my promise to myself.
  • Fanbooks: I hope to complete a Fallout fanbook for the Xpress system, again, depending on time.
  • Getting Paid: Fingers crossed I get paid for work I’ve done over the last 2-3 years that I haven’t yet been paid for 😛
  • Other: Agents of Swing (Xpress) and Unnamed Barbarian Fantasy Game (Xpress), The Pretentious Game.

If you’re looking for work this year and you’re a writer or an artist I need the following things:

  • Someone with knowledge of d20 Modern, RuneQuest and my game, Blood!, willing to do some system conversions/creations for all three systems at about ten dollars a shot.
  • A map-maker, preferably using the newer versions of campaign cartographer, willing to do play-mat style grid-work (nothing too fancy required) at about the same payment as above, per map.
  • A map maker/illustrator willing to do larger, more freehand maps at about 25-100 per shot, depending on the size and intricacy required. CC maps also acceptable here.
  • If anyone wants to release clipart through my established channel, they’re welcome to, the profit split is about 50/50.
  • I’m also willing to take on, produce and publish games that you’d like to and have no time to put out yourself at a similar profit split (after my costs are recouped.

Watch this space!

So, what does this mean for Postmortem Studios?

The Actual line couldn’t be done under the 4th Edition license since it depends on the redefinition of existing classes to make them  fit better and depict what they profess to be better. We could create alternate core classes that better reflect what they’re supposed to be but the restriction on naming terminology and the necessity to terminate the entire line presents problems. Creating a new line called REAL wouldn’t fool anyone and since the license says it’s Wizard’s say so on what constitutes the same line or not it wouldn’t matter how much effort I put into differentiating them from each other if they didn’t buy it. One way out might be to provide an ‘Alternative Basic Classes’ book, with alternative versions of all the core classes, and perhaps a couple of extra ones. These would have to be given new names though, EG: Hospitaller, Soldier, Templar, Warden, Scoundrel, Infernalist, Captain and Mage (And Berserker and Martial Artist).

Bloodsucker: The Angst
Bloodsucker falls afoul of the ‘decency’ clause, since it rips the piss out of goth/emo subculture and includes themes of sex and drugs. So this will have to continue to be published under the OGL.

Feast of Crows
Publishing a 4th Edition version of this would mean ceasing the sale of the OGL version. This is one of my strongest OGL/3rd Edition products so it is the best candidate for a revision to 4th Edition. To do so I’d fold it all together, Army Books and Main Books but I really dislike the lack of ability to continue to support the old edition. Nonetheless I think this will likely be my first/main foray into 4th Edition territory in order to test the waters.

Cloak of Steel
Thanks to the publication of the French version, Mantel D’Acer, I am no longer free to convert this to 4th Edition, though 4th Edition’s mechanics may have been a better fit for the frenetic, anime style thematics of Cloak of Steel. I think the second edition is more likely to be developed either for Xpress (my house system) or for Mongoose RuneQuest, or both. There WILL be a new edition late 2008-2009.

Live System
Doing a ‘fix’ on the 4th Edition system as a whole simply isn’t possible under the new license, so converting it to a classless, levelless version simply can’t be done.

New Products
The main things that can be done with 4th Edition are setting books and adventure books.

I am hesitant to release setting books because the license restricts me from also/later publishing under the OGL. While this only applies to the Wizards OGL and wouldn’t apply to, for example, the RuneQuest _logo_ license, the RuneQuest logo license is too restrictive to release a full and complete game and the open version used the Wizards OGL – which is what the GSL supercedes.

In my experience, adventures never sell that well and I don’t like writing particularly structured adventures. I can do it, and I believe I can do it well – as people will hopefully find out when Cross City Race finally graces Dungeon Magazine – but they’re not, normally, a fantastic amount of fun to write or to play, since they’re hedged in and too structured.

One way might be to compound the two in a gazeteer type structure. A line of adventures taking characters from beginners to near-godhood travelling around a world describing it and expanding on it as one goes, with side quests and sub missions all along the way.

Class expansions are possible, so a series of toolkit books for the various classes might be a possibility, the threat is though that Wizards will release something similar/identical and demand that you stop publishing it, if, for example one did something on colour wizards replicating the various schools in new power selection tables that might bone you further down the line.

Lots to think about.

Sally Fourth!

With the clarification on the GSL having been forthcoming I’m now in a position where I feel comfortable enough to confirm that Postmortem Studios will be supporting 4th Edition in both Fantasy and in Modern under the ‘Sally Fourth!’ imprint. I never could resist a good pun.Sally Fourth will produce conversions of our old 3rd Edition supporting material as well as producing new material suited to the play style and nature of the 4th Edition rules set.