World of Esaene (ENWorld)

Wednesday, November 29, 2006


I'm working on prestige classes and fleshing out the magical paths right now. When I get a few hours of free time in a row, I'll finish cleaning up the mechanics section and then talk to my layout girl about setting this up in a simple playtest format.

In the meantime, I'm doing what I can in what few scraps of time are available. This is usually an hour here, a half an hour there, etc. It's not the most productive time, but I get a few things done. I'll keep updating here regularly.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

[Magic] Path of Dreams

Dream spells offer insight into the shroud and fate, both past and present. Dreams often deal with what faeries call the “between”, the points between “here” and “there”.

Affect ether (3 MP). Choose either material or ethereal. When combined with an evocation, this spell only harm creatures or objects on that plane of existence.
Prerequisites: Create Space, Dowse, Scry, Caster Level 6

Augury (5 MP). Augury allows the character to read omens in order to foretell future events. This can be tracking the stars (astronomy), examining the liver (hepatoscopy) and/or entrails (haruspicy) of a sacrificial animal, interpreting natural phenomena, or almost any other ritualistic form of telling the future or seeking guidance (prayer, tea leaves, tarot, etc.).

On any augury attempt, the diviner must make a successful Knowledge (Augury) check in order to correctly interpret the omens. The base DC for any Augury is determined by the distance in the future desired, listed on Augury Table. If the Augury check succeeds, you receive a short answer to your question. If the question is direct, you will likely receive a simple “yes,” “no,” or “neither” answer. If the question is complex, the answer will be cryptic. On a critical success, direct questions will be answered with additional information, and complex questions will be answered clearly. You can only ask a question once in a 24 hour period. On a critical failure, you cannot ask the question again for a month.
Prerequisites: Aura Reading
  • Clarity (+1 MP): Affected creatures gain a +5 enhancement bonus to Knowledge (Augury). This enhancement can be taken multiple times. The bonus is capped by the skill’s mastery. A Novice only gets a maximum +5 bonus, a Journeyman +10, an Expert +15, and a Master +20.

Table – Knowledge (Augury) DC
Future time period DC
Within the next hour 20
Within the next 24 hours 25
Within the next week 30
Within the next month 35
Within the next year 40

Aura Reading (1 MP). You learn the nature of a person or object in range by studying them for a full round. The reader may study the aura of anything within visual range with a successful Sense Motive check. The base DC to detect the presence of absence of magical auras is 10 or the target’s Will save, whichever is higher.

A successful check allows the caster to sense any supernatural auras the target may have as well as the strength of those auras — dim, faint, moderate, strong, or overwhelming. A critical success allows the caster to sense the specific nature of those auras and learning what type of magic is prominent (highest magic skill). A critical failure stuns the reader for a round.
Prerequisite: None
  • Clarity (+1 MP): Affected creatures gain a +5 enhancement bonus to Sense Motive. This enhancement can be taken multiple times. The bonus is capped by the skill’s mastery. A Novice only gets a maximum +5 bonus, a Journeyman +10, an Expert +15, and a Master +20. Untrained Sense Motive does not receive any bonus.
  • History Reading (5 MP): If you have a creature or object available, you can use this ability to see an overview of the history of the subject. When you make this check, choose a span of time in history you want to read through. The shorter the span of time, the more specific the details are, and the longer the span, the more general. If you do a reading for a sword’s history in the past week, you will see what battles it has been used in, and who it has killed, but if you try to read the past hundred years on it, you will likely just learn the vague identities of its owners. On a critical success, you get more specific information, but you never learn the full history. You cannot read the history of a creature or object more than once in a 24 hour period. On a critical failure, this ban is extended to a month.

Table – History Reading DC
Time in past DC
Past day 10
Past week 15
Past month 20
Past year 25
Past 10 years 30
Past 100 years 35
Past 1000 years 40
Anything 45

Create Space (6 MP). With Create Space you can create a pocket dimension, with an entrance big enough for you to walk through (though you may choose to make it smaller). You create the entrance anywhere within range. If you are inside, you can close or reopen the entrance as a full-round action. The area of effect you choose is the size of the pocket dimension. Anything in the area of effect is effectively removed from the rest of the world. The interior of the dimension is bare and ends without any apparent solid walls. Temperature and air within are the same as those without when the dimension is created. If the spell’s duration ends, anything in the area of effect is expelled.
Prerequisites: Dowse, Scry, Caster Level 6
  • Giant Area (Special): Create space effects get a 10 MP discount on area. Any other combined spell effect must buy area separately. This cannot be combined with any other effect unless it also benefits from this enhancement.

Dowse (Varies). You choose some type of object or substance, such as water, gold, or magic. If you succeed on a Search check (Awareness + Intelligence), you know the direction to the nearest significant quantity of that substance (what counts as ‘significant’ depends on the substance). If there are several different things of the chosen type within 60 ft., you are aware of roughly how many there are, and can concentrate on each one by one to determine its location. On a critical success, you learn the specific location of the target, including distance, depth, and local conditions, plus the approximate size or intensity of whatever it is you’re detecting. A critical failure will lead you in the wrong direction or give you dangerously false information. If you have knowledge of the substance or creature (Proper Elemental Path or Summoning Focus) you get a +5 bonus to this check.
Prerequisite: None
  • Dowse, Simple (1 MP): The base DC to find a general type of object or substance is 10.
  • Dowse, Specific (+2 MP): To find a specific object, add +10 to the DC.
  • Dowse, Creature (+2 MP): To find a creature, add +5 to the DC. You must have the Path of Life to find a living creature, or the appropriate Element for a more exotic type of creature. To find Undead, for instance, you must have Path of Death.
  • Enhance Awareness (+1 MP): Affected creatures gain a +5 enhancement bonus to Awareness for purposes of Dowse. This enhancement can be taken multiple times. The bonus is capped by the skill’s mastery. A Novice only gets a maximum +5 bonus, a Journeyman +10, an Expert +15, and a Master +20.
  • Area/Range (Varies): Dowse effects receive a 1 MP discount on area or range enhancements, but not both.

Incorporeal (11 MP). Any number of times during the spell’s duration, affected creatures are able to turn incorporeal or corporeal as a full round action.
Prerequisites: Create Space, Dowse, Scry, Caster Level 11
  • Affect Area (Varies): To use this effect over an area, double the base cost before adding general enhancements.

Scry (1 MP). You concentrate on a creature or location and can see and hear what is going on there. Many practitioners go into a dream-like trance when doing this. When scrying, the caster makes a Search check (Awareness + Intelligence), the difficulty depending on the target familiarity as listed in the Scrying Table.

You see an approximately 20-ft. radius, and creatures in your line of sight can make a Sense Motive check with a difficulty of the caster’s Search result to notice, although those unfamiliar with scrying (Spellcraft DC 25, +10 if the target can has the ability to scry) will most likely only have a sense they are being watched. Those familiar with divination will recognize the sensation. The difficulty depends on how familiar you are with the target. If you have a clear, reflective surface you may share the vision with others by projecting it there. The cost of scrying depends on whether the caster knows where the target is located. Scrying a static location is relatively cheap when compared to searching for a specific person anywhere in the world. A basic scrying effect covers only a 5 ft. area up to 30 feet away from the caster, so range and area enhancements are vital to making this effective.
Prerequisites: Dowse
  • Dimensional Sight (2 MP): The caster can extend his senses through the Shroud.
  • Enhance Senses (+1 MP): Affected creatures gain a +5 enhancement bonus to Awareness for scrying. This enhancement can be taken multiple times. The bonus is capped by the skill’s mastery. A Novice only gets a maximum +5 bonus, a Journeyman +10, an Expert +15, and a Master +20. Untrained Awareness does not receive any bonus.
  • Extended Range (Varies): Scrying effects receive a 1 MP discount on range enhancements.
  • Giant Area (Varies): Scry effects get a 10 MP discount on area. Any other combined spell effect must buy area separately. This cannot be combined with any other effect unless it also benefits from this enhancement.

Table – Scrying Familiarity DC
Target within sight: You can see the target. Effective visual range usually ends at 800 feet, barring obstruction or concealment. (DC 0)
Target familiar: The target is out of sight and you know the target well - a close friend or relative; a familiar haunt. (DC 15)
Firsthand knowledge: The target is out of sight and you have met the target or been to the location. (DC 20)
Secondhand knowledge: The target is out of sight and you have heard of the target or have an object belonging to the target. (DC 35)
No knowledge: The target is out of sight and you have a hunch, rumor, or vague description of the target. (DC 45)

Teleport (Varies). Once during the spell as a move action, affected creatures can teleport (instantaneously travel) to another place within line of sight. You can simply teleport willing creatures with you, so that everyone ends up in the same place. The base cost of teleporting is 3 MP + the range enhancement for distance. If you teleport to somewhere out of your line of sight (maximum visibility under normal circumstances is 800 feet, or Long Range), you must make a Search check (Awareness + Intelligence) against the difficulty as if you were scrying it.

If you fail the Search check, you veer off course by 10% per point of failure of the total distance intended. Failing the roll by three on a 100 ft. teleport would place the caster 30 ft. away, whereas failing by three on a 100 mile teleport would place the caster 30 miles away. Usually the location is visually or thematically similar to the intended target.

On a critical failure, the caster is scrambled. The caster is off target, as above, and takes 1 point of vitality damage per point of failure. This damage cannot be soaked and normal trauma rules apply. The caster re-rolls each round with the same result until he no longer gets a critical failure or he dies. Knowingly teleporting into a solid object will treat the caster as if he has critically failed the check, doing a minimum of 10 points of vitality damage per round.
Prerequisites: Create Space, Dowse, Scry, Caster Level 6
  • Affect Area (Varies): To use this effect over an area, double the base cost (3 MP + range) before adding general enhancements.
  • Doorway (3 MP): Opening a portal through the Shroud requires this enhancement in addition to normal teleport costs.

Saturday, November 11, 2006


I've managed to run one demo game this morning, with Travis and Dave from The Game Musketeers They had a good time and we had a good discussion about the game afterwards. I have spent the rest of the time here writing and playing Carcassonne. I have a scheduled game of RoboRally tonight (my wife is insisting, since she's running it) and I have one more game scheduled for tomorrow morning, if anyone shows up. :-)

In other news, the BayonetGames forums are now directly linked and managed by It keeps Brant from having to kick off trolls and spammers.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Amara and Rone

Here is a little preview of the area of Amara and Rone, both lands in the New World.

The shining beacon of civilization in the New World, Amara was founded by a joint expedition of Boyden Cartel and several influential Villus noble families. Following several scouting expeditions, the main force made landfall at the mouth of the mighty Storn river, where the city of Amara now sits. The expeditionary force quickly conquered the local peoples and spread along the Storn planes. The fierce warlike people of Galedon have remained unconquered by the Amarans to this date. Rone had fought with Amara for close to a century before a delicate peace was established. The region continues to be difficult on the governors and threatens to reopen hostilities at any time.

A fairly new province of the powerful Amaran Empire, Rone is divided into four geographic regions, two in the lowlands and two in the highlands. Rhoswen is the easternmost duchy of Rone, the lowlands on the Shattered Sea directly west of the Rose Pass – the gateway into Rone. It is the most accommodating duchy with respect to Amara. It is also the richest. Kell is the northernmost Duchy, just west of Rhoswen, and is the historical capital of Rone. A heavily forested area with rich soil and resources, the other regions of Rone look to the ancestral families of Kell for guidance. Greer covers the eastern highlands, south of Rhoswen.

The Highlands are much more difficult for the regional governors to control, however. Although Greer is technically part of Rone and is technically under Amaran control, you will find no garrison or governor in the heart of this land. The land is very self sufficient and independent, but not violently so. Breen, on the other hand, has been very troublesome for Amara. Located in the remote Western highlands and separated from Kell by an inlet, Breen is the heart of anti-Amaran sentiment. After multiple assassinations, no Amaran diplomat will take the position of governor anymore. The last governor, a cocky general named Carnissus, thought he could control the region with brute force and managed to be kidnapped and sacrificed in some fearsome rite. The acting governor of Breen resides in Rhoswen.


It's been a while since I have updated this and I've been working feverishly to get most of this done before MACE in November. Several portions of the game have passed the Alpha stage and are on hold, preparing for Beta. I am brushing up some of the other sections and writing as much as I can before then.

I'll be updating this site regularly as I add more and more content.

Monday, September 18, 2006


BayonetGames will be present at the MACE Gaming Convention in High Point, NC on November 10th - 12th.

We will have a table in the dealer room set up and the World of Esaene will have three sessions available for anyone interested in taking a first look. Here is the schedule:

Fri 08:00 PM - 12:00 AM World of Esaene d20 - World of Esaene demo
Table: 5

Sat 09:00 AM - 01:00 PM World of Esaene d20 - World of Esaene demo
Location TBA

Sun 09:00 AM - 01:00 PM World of Esaene d20 - World of Esaene demo
Table: 2

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Thinking too much

You ever get into a train of thought that leads you into redesigning large chunks of the system? It's very dangerous and I'm trying to keep it in check. I am of two minds - The first is to keep it similar enough to d20 so as not to turn off those consumers; the second is not to try and out-D&D D&D. I mean, I want something simple and easy to use that keeps the strong gamist and narrative elements that I like in my game.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Alternate skills

I saw an interesting thread on ENWorld that matched my goals of overall simplification and streamlining of the system. How does this strike you?

There are three states of skills - untrained, trained, and mastered.
  • Untrained skills have a base roll (either the base attribute, or base attribute/2 for difficult skills).
  • Trained is the base + (level +3)/2
  • Mastered is base + level + 3.
The masteries are like specialties - so someone can be trained in Craft [Blacksmith], for instance, and be a master weaponsmith.

Lets take Sven, our level 4 Expert.
Str 12 (+6), Dex 14 (+7), Con 12 (+6), Int 14 (+7), Wis 10 (+5), Cha 11 (+5).

Craft is an Intelligence/2 skill, so the base value is +3.
If Sven is a trained Blacksmith, his Blacksmith value is +6.
If Sven later spends an additional skill point to gain mastery (weaponsmith), the skill would read: Craft [Blacksmith] +6 (Weaponsmith +10). Note that Sven could have mastered general blacksmithing, but other specialties would be unmastered.

There are very few skill points to keep up with (0 = untrained, 1 = trained, 2+ = mastery) so there is much less math involved with upkeep.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

What is the world of Esaene?

Esaene is a world in turmoil. The people of the land are just starting to see the light at the end of a thousand years of darkness. A long and costly war with mythical beings brought ruin to the land, shattering mighty cultures and laying waste to everything it touched. The fey races have retreated to the darkest corners of the land and new cultures have risen from the ashes of old.

Still, old enmities and fears linger beneath the surface. Old religions are beginning to chafe at a new sect, the Prelacy of Light, who seek to spread their gospel to all living beings. Feuds dating hundreds of years or longer still simmer, waiting for an opportune chance to strike back.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The role of race

How would you all feel to having all player characters be human, with distinctions for locale and culture, instead of the variety of fantasy races that fit that role right now?

This would, in turn, make some of those other races more mysterious and primal, for one, and eliminate some of the stereotypes that exist for them in all FRPGs.

In this scenario, the Akknals would be human (or demi-human) with some traits that make them stick out. In this particular case, Akknals have "giant blood" which makes even the smallest ones larger than an average human.

The elves are already free in this ubiquitous presence that threatens the world sort of way, but it could free the dwarves to be much more mythologically inclined in the same manner, being one with the earth and the secrets therein. The "races' therefore are all byproducts of the mystic sundering of the spirit world from the physical world, left behind - a mythological figure without a narrative, so to speak. The races in FRPGs are all derived from myth anyway, so it would be interesting to bring them back to that root again.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Alpha Game 5 - Fight Night

The intrepid band of adventurers encountered the mysterious Akknals for the first time in the form of a hunting party. Both groups realized the other was out there, but some on both sides managed to be surprised nonetheless. The skirmish set up the night's festivities well and got them into the spirit of it. They found the secret passage into the former dwarven citadel and encountered a large party of Akknal warriors and a Shaman trying to batter down a door.

First off, the fight was fabulous. I have to make some minor adjustments here and there, but it flowed quickly and had a good rhythm. I modified how critical damage is done to not make it so punative over the long haul while still keeping its short term kick in the pants. Now it is something that could very well end your combat, but if for whatever reason you do recover from it, you will not be completely out of everything afterward.

The players had a lot of fun and the system was able to accomodate narrative combat actions quite easily, such as when the (foolhardy) wizard decided to run after the fleeing Akknal hunter and tackle him before he could alert others, or when the sorcerer transformed back to human form from his animal shape under the Sorcerer, knocking him over. The players had some suggestions and I saw some things that needed fixing, but overall it was a resounding success.

New toys

MonkeyGod Presents: From Stone to SteelI was browsing ENWorld's store and came upon a book that caught my eye. I bought it on a whim and was glad for it afterwards.

MonkeyGod Presents: From Stone to Steel from Highmoon Media Productions is definitely worth the money. If you are at all interested in weapons from different historical ages and how they fit together, check it out. You won't regret it.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Combat thoughts

Combat has been going pretty well, but something about the feel just isn't right yet. I'm going to play around with a few more variants and possible changes at the next game; there should be plenty of combat on a larger scale, as opposed to the few small scale tilts the characters have been involved with the past few weeks.

I actually took a few days off to clear my head and I went through some variants in Unearthed Arcana and other places and I may have sparked some further ideas on keeping the combat grim (which the players have responded to favorably thus far) and keeping it within the right feel that I'm looking for. I've spoken with Ryan Nock (of Elements of Magic fame) recently about the magic system and he said he'd look at it after GenCon (which ended today). I definitely have to make it up there next year. Hopefully I'll have a new game book in tow too.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Alpha Game 4

We were missing two participants on Monday - Brian (Isaac the fighter) and Rich (Demetrius the Hunter) which was good and bad. The three spellcasters were in attendance, so we used the time to come up with tradition feats for each - one wizard, one sorcerer, one spellsword. After that was done, we had a side-plot that happened sometime in the night.

Jess, the Wizard, was on watch when he noticed a fog roll in and the strange sound of bells. He tried to wake everyone up, but only the sorcerer, Aren, and the spellsword, Capernius, would wake. They encountered a young girl singing to herself while sitting on a rock, brushing her hair. They approached and were immediately caught in the snare of a charm spell, making them feel happy and friendly towards this strange girl.

Meanwhile, her friend was looking through the camp until he found an old curved blade made of strange metal. The three spellcasters noticed this and started to move his way when the girl, bored with her song, threw a knife at Aren. The three spellcasters got into a solid fight with the Elves. Capernius was gutted pretty well by one of them while Jess the wizard got into an extended grapple with the girl. Aren managed to barely take care of the elf who nearly killed Capernius before Jess was finally able to overpower the girl and stab her to death.

The grapple test went really well and it was a nice magic test too.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Magic Preview: Cure


The Cure magical skill can cure afflictions, heal wounds, and even bring back the dead. Unwilling creatures are allowed a Will save to negate.

CURE AFFLICTION (VARIES). The following conditions can be cured. Casters may not spend more MP on a Cure Affliction effect than their ranks in the Healing skill.
• Blindness (2 MP): This spell allows a target to get a Fortitude saving throw in order to cure blindness. If the effect is magical in nature, the original DC is used. Naturally occurring blindness is a DC 30. If the target’s eyes are missing, they must be regenerated first.
• Deafness (2 MP): This spell allows a target to get a Fortitude saving throw in order to cure deafness. If the effect is magical in nature, the original DC is used. Naturally occurring deafness is a DC 30. If the target’s ears are missing, they must be regenerated first.
• Disease (2 MP): This spell allows a target to get a Fortitude saving throw in order to cure disease. If the effect is magical in nature, the original DC is used. Naturally occurring disease is a DC 30.
• Fatigue (2 MP): The spell suppresses fatigue for the duration of the spell. At the end of the spell’s duration, the target must make a Fortitude saving throw (DC 20) or become exhausted. Fatigue can only be eliminated through rest. The duration of the spell does not count as rest.
• No Pain (5 MP): If there are any magical effects reducing one of the subject’s ability scores, the effect is suppressed. This does not cure ability damage or permanent ability drain, but it can sober a drunk without giving them a hangover. While under the effect of this enhancement, creatures have a -2 penalty to Dexterity, Vitality damage does not cause wounds and the affected creature does not suffer the affects of any trauma failure except death. At the end of duration, the affected creature must immediately make a trauma save with all applicable penalties and wound carryover.
• Paralysis (3 MP): This spell allows a target to get a Fortitude saving throw in order to cure paralysis. If the effect is magical in nature, the original DC is used. Naturally occurring paralysis is a DC 30. If the creature’s Strength or Dexterity had been drained, they are restored to at least 1.
• Poison, Negate (3 MP): This spell allows targets to get a Fortitude saving throw in order to negate poison. The original DC of the poison is used. Creatures with natural poison abilities that succeed their saving throw can keep their poison stores and use their poison to harm creatures outside the area of effect.
• Poison, Slow (3 MP): For the spell’s duration, poison in the area of effect has no effect. Once the spell elapses, poison takes its usual course. The caster must be able to use Time effects in order to use this enhancement.

HEAL (VARIES). These spells help the healing of wounds. Casters may not spend more MP on a Heal effect than their ranks in the Healing skill.
• Enhance Healing (+1 MP): Affected creatures gain a +2 bonus to Fortitude saves for purposes of healing only.
• Endurance (4 MP): Affected creatures gain a +4 bonus on the following checks and saves for the spell’s duration: Swim checks made to resist vitality damage, Constitution checks made to continue running, Constitution checks made to avoid vitality damage from a forced march, Constitution checks made to hold your breath, Constitution checks made to avoid vitality damage from starvation or thirst, Fortitude saves made to avoid vitality damage from hot or cold environments, and Fortitude saves made to resist damage from suffocation. Also, you may sleep in light or medium armor without becoming fatigued.
• True Healing (+3 MP): Affected creatures heal 1 wound and take 1 point of vitality damage. Creatures with no vitality get no benefit from this. This damage cannot be soaked.

REGENERATION (VARIES). These spells restore atrophied or missing body parts. These effects must be used in conjunction with Craft Permanent Spell. Casters may not spend more MP on a Regenerate effect than their ranks in the Healing skill.
• Regenerate, Lesser (12 MP): Regenerates lost body parts no larger than an eye or finger. The target takes 12 points of vitality damage. This damage cannot be soaked.
• Regenerate, Moderate (15 MP): Regenerates lost body parts no larger than a hand or foot. The target takes 15 points of vitality damage. This damage cannot be soaked.
• Regenerate, Greater (18 MP): Regenerates lost body parts no larger than an arm or leg. The target takes 18 points of vitality damage. This damage cannot be soaked.

REVIVE (VARIES). These spells restore the dead to life. The body must be complete in order to be revived. No being can be revived after 1 week. Reviving a body causes the target to permanently lose a point of Constitution. A body with a 0 constitution cannot be revived and this loss may not be restored by magic. These effects must be used in conjunction with Craft Permanent Spell. This often does not work without a No Pain or Slow Poison effect on the corpse allowing the caster to heal any lingering wounds and maladies. Casters may not spend more MP on a Revive effect than their ranks in the Healing skill. A revive enhancement may not be used more than once on the same corpse, meaning a caster who fails a Lesser Revive must use a Moderate or Greater Revive on his next attempt. A corpse failing a Greater Revive cannot be raised at all. Revived creatures are exhausted, have 0 vitality, and whatever unhealed wounds remaining from their death.
• Revive, Lesser (10 MP): This spell attempts to revive someone who has died within 10 minutes. The target gets must make a successful Fortitude saving throw (DC 25) to be revived.
• Revive, Moderate (15 MP): This spell attempts to revive someone who has died within a day. The target gets must make a successful Fortitude saving throw (DC 35) to be revived.
• Revive, Greater (20 MP): This spell attempts to revive someone who has died within 1 week. The target gets must make a successful Fortitude saving throw (DC 45) to be revived.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Alpha Game 3

The characters got to explore some more of the Shattered Sea as they were retained on an expedition to find some ruins in the north. On their way, a storm forced them to take shelter in the city of Mara, a now-decaying port that was once the jewel of the sea.

There, in a small tavern called the Goddess' Arms, they met a small contingent of dwarves - the first they had ever seen. The dwarves had more gold than the party members had ever seen too, which got them greedy. They learned a little bit about dwarven culture in some pretty funny bits of dialog and discovered the dwarves were refugees - fleeing from their stronghold in the north from a tribe called the Akknals. They entered into an agreement with the dwarves, via a dwarf named Garek, to retrieve a blackwood chest from within the vault of the stronghold in exchange for a reward. The party was headed that direction anyway, so they agreed to the quest.

They went north and docked their ship in a small hidden cove, making the all-day trek to the ruins. Demetrius got to show off his survival skills by providing for the party with some hunting and keeping them from freezing to death. In the ruins, they found an ancient hill fort and what looked to be a temple complex. Area transformed into a bird and scouted the area, noticing magic in the hill fort. The party examined that area while the sailors looked at the temple.

At the hill fort they encountered a large horned giant (a troll) with a club. Half the party and the troll were surprised - Demetrius and Capernius downed him with two pin-point shots with their bows after doing nothing to him in the surprise round. Jess detected silver under a large stone and moved it over with Isaac's help, finding a silver medallion with an iron spike driven through the center. They also discovered the stone was somewhat magnetic.

After knocking down an additional stone (number 13), Ares warned them to not touch the stones any further and not disturb the medallions. They reluctantly agreed and headed back to the temple, where the sailors had uncovered a cache of treasure and were busy gathering it up. They plan to approach the dwarven fortress the next morning and retrieve the darkwood box.

The characters all advanced up to third level and I'm still messing with the magic system. If I can get the rules cohesive enough in one week's time, I may attempt to make it up to GenCon and run some demo games at the Matrix booth. Right now, I'm not comfortable with them to really do that at all, so we'll have to see.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Magic Magic Everywhere

This continues to be the main source of concern for me so far. I do need to enforce Brian using signature spells, because he has a tendency to try and magic anything that pops into his head. Still, it needs work. I've been brainstorming this evening trying to come up with some alternate strategies to deal with it and make it interesting. If anyone has suggestions, feel free.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Alpha game 2

Everyone had a blast tonight. I made some changes to some basic premises of the game - ability scores always give a positive modifier, so I had to raise the DC of just about everything by 5.

In tonight's story, Isaac - the son of a rich noble, but weak and gullible in his eyes - was conned not once, but twice by the beautiful Zatina. Jess was arrested for running out on his debts after Isaac unwittingly led a bounty hunter back to the inn. His debt was paid off by the mysterious Mr. Haron, who now holds the key to Jess' future. Capernius "the Just" (aka Capernius the Gullible after the situation with Zatina) made some inroads with the Templars of Valar and the group found work - the first job being an elaborate con by Zatina that made them the patsies for her crime, the second a boat headed north for an expedition into newly discovered ruins. Luckily, the boat was leaving the morning after the Zatina situation.

The mysterious deaths of clergy continued and they finally put a name to the threat - a bean sidhe, legendary harbinger of death native to the Breen highlands, Demetrius' homeland.

The high point of the evening from a gaming perspective was the beliefs. I'm going to work on them some more, but right now the group is using the concept right out of Burning Wheel.

Isaac believes his father was a weak man and a failure, even to the point where he believes he may be illegitimate. He also believes greatness can be achieved through daring a guile and he must do everything to escape his father's shadow. The temptress and grifter, Zatina, was a good tool to bring forth Isaac's own shortcomings and force him to face it. It worked really well and he is really engaged with the character and his love/hate interest, Zatina.

Demetrius also has father problems - he is trying to escape the long shadow his father casts over him and prove that the sins of his father do not reflect on him. His problems stem from his homeland and he is being dragged deeper and deeper into who his people are, their strange beliefs, and the mysteries going on through two siblings, Haldis and Kaelin, that he keeps seeing all over town.

Jesseldar Gianas, or Jess, cannot see beyond the shine of the coin. He believes he can run from any debt and that money is the end, not just a means. The bounty hunter with an Imperial Warrant immediately brought him into a situation that was close to his character's center and the paying off of the debt by a mysterious crime lord embroils him further into dangerous territory.

Capernius is consumed by the church and has, almost on his own, been investigating the murder of the priest and several other clergy members since he has been in town. He believes that he has been chosen by God for some special purpose and is pretty self-driving in that respect. His interactions with church members are always very interesting from a story perspective.

Aren has been the most difficult so far, but I think that has been more of a timing issue than anything else. He is another character who believes he has been "chosen" for greater things - instead of the Lord of the Valarian church, it is by the spirits of Silea, his homeland. He is actively searching for the culprit who is trying to destroy his home at the behest of his spirit guides.

It's a nice mechanic that really brings the characters in the game and it really worked out well from a storytelling perspective. I had a few ideas of things I wanted to do tonight, but mostly it was working with the various beliefs and getting them on a roll.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Alpha game 1

The game went OK. These are the characters as of right now:
  • Capernius (Scott), an initiate of the Prelacy of Valar from Amara. He is a level 2 Spellsword loosely in the service of the church (he believes he has been chosen by God, although the church doesn't actually recognize him as such).
  • Jess (Matt), a wizard of the Guild Moryan, traveling to avoid his various debtors and seeking his fortune by any means necessary. He is a level 2 wizard.
  • Demetrius (Rich), a lvl 2 hunter from the outlands of Breen who is seeking his past by finding out who, and what, his father was.
  • Isaac (Brian D), a brash nobleman from the Empire who is seeking to overshadow his father and make a name for himself. He is a level 2 fighter.
  • Aren (Brian C) is a level 2 sorcerer from the Silean wilds who believes the spirits of the forest chose him as a savior from those who are currently seeking to destroy his homeland.
We went through some basic combat and magic as they were aboard a ship headed to the free port of Tycho. I have a few adjustments to make before next game:
  • Lower the magic DC from 15 to 10.
  • Go over the alpha rules to clear up some text and eliminate some errors.
  • Clarify the magic rules a bit. Tighten them up.
  • Maybe fiddle with the combat mechanic - perhaps introduce a vitality threshold where damage goes into wounds.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Alpha Playtest

The rules are to a point to where I am now playtesting them with my gaming group.

It's funny, because I have advanced beyond so many of my previous posts and ideas that they seem kind of alien at this point. Anyway, I'll keep a log of how the playtest is going.

We did some basic character stuff this past Monday (the 10th of July) and the guys are getting used to the changes in the rules. I'm talking with a very talented artist right now and I hope to have some headway in that arena soon. More later.

Friday, July 07, 2006


The Con went well. I had a lot of fun and met lots of interesting people. The coolest game I saw and played was Artesia, which won the Best RPG Award at the show. The game is gorgeous and the author/artist, Mark Smylie, is really cool. I also managed to pick up a copy of Burning Wheel from Indie Press Revolution. Brennan Taylor, the guy who runs IPR, played Artesia with me on Friday night. I met him the year before and he's a pretty cool guy.

I also met Aaron Acevedo, Andy Hopp, and Sean Preston at a party thrown by Sean Patrick Fannon (who I know from back when he was trolling around Raleigh). A good time was had by all. I also came away with some good ideas for changes in my design, so that is moving forward as well. I hope to have the Alpha rules done by the end of the month.

Monday, June 19, 2006


Real life has taken precedence for a while. After tonight my time should start to clear up a bit. I've made significant progress, but haven't had the time to update. I plan on rectifying that, especially after Origins at the end of the month.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006


I'm sticking to a blend of Elements of Magic (Revised) for the magic system. I've made a few changes, but overall I think it will work well. If you haven't checked it out, I highly recommend it. It's published by ENPublishing (of Enworld) and is a nice alternative magic system.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Damage and Endurance

I've decided to tie magic into endurance, a stat (like hit points or vitality, although I'm not using hit points) easily managed during the game. A lot of this ties into the damage accounting system I'll be using too. I'll explain it as clearly as I can without doing a full rules review.
Damage (above) is charted on a little graph easily tracked on a character sheet. The penalties listed are to attack, defense, skill checks, saving throws, ability checks, etc. When a person reaches "Mortal", they make a saving throw each round they take damage to see if they are dying or flat out dead.
Endurance is also charted like this. Whereas every character has a Toughness score that mitigates incoming damage (modified by armor, etc.), every character also has an Endurance score or vitality pool. When this pool is expended (round of combat, extra exertion, spellcasting) it bleeds over into the chart. The penalties incurred are the same, but when the character reaches Exhausted, they make a save to avoid being stunned or unconscious.

I'm happy with how it is looking so far and I believe I may be ready to do some serious alpha testing with it soon. It has the feel I'm looking for. The endurance system can be incorporated into a lot of interesting ideas for combat and general use.

For instance, theoretical combat has some elements of simulationist gaming and some elements of narrative gaming.

I'm thinking, currently (so subject to change) that each attack and defense roll a character makes will cost 1 Endurance. So someone who is being harried by multiple attackers is more likely to tire first. This way you don't have to keep track of consecutive penalties (-1 per extra attacker) or anything like that - it's easily tracked.

Certain abilities may also have an endurance cost, not just casting spells. Maybe something like power attack (since with the relative degree mechanic it is rendered somewhat impotent) could be an endurance for damage tradeoff. Combat movement will probably also cost endurance, so it will build up quickly. Recovering is fairly easy (a round of rest will get you back some) but it does require some thought as to how you would go about your plan.

A character's endurance pool is easily replenished, but penalties from going overboard take more time. Therefore, someone with 18 endurance can go hard and become winded (maybe 2 blocks in), rest for a few rounds to regain their endurance, but still be considered winded (the penalty remains). They are "catching their breath", although they remain tired still.

Dealing with magic, this allows someone to cast indefinitely if they have the time and space to do so - as long as they can rest relatively short periods of time between spells, they'll be alright. It is far too easy, however, with high powered magic to become tired and start taking penalties. The endurance costs are very high and will cause problems. I'm still working out the specifics, but the concept is solid.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Thinking outside the box

Too many magic systems are outside of the normal rules. That is to say you have a base mechanic that works a certain way (attack/skill system for D20 for instance) and your magic system works differently (spell slot with saving throws). Some systems are a bit more unified, but most have magic as being completely separate from the rest of the character.


I've seen some systems use a skill or pseudo-skill system for magic, which is not a bad idea but still seems a little off. I was brainstorming the other day and came up with an interesting idea.

What if a character's magic abilities were feats that allowed him to modify his base abilities. Specifically, say your magic allows you to modify your bluff skill outside of "normal" boundaries.

With bluff, you can convince someone of a lie or trick them. With bluff backed by magic, you can convince them of things they would never believe normally, fascinate them into a stupor, or any number of things. Magic-backed intimidate could cause fear and panic, decipher script could allow you to read dead or alien languages, Gather Information could allow you to commune with spirits for ancient lore, etc.

The point is that magic becomes a seamless part of the skill system. The mechanic from that point could be similar to the base - d20+modifier (even a skill) vs. DC.

This puts a premium on skills, which is what wizards were supposed to be about. They were wise men who valued knowledge. If someone wants to turn lead into gold, instead of learning a transmutation spell, they take ranks in Craft (Alchemy). The magic allows them to increase their skill bonus to perform things that would otherwise be improbable.

Therefore, if a wizard needs to perform a dangerous spell on a demon, he would either need to know about demons already or go research it.

There would be higher magics as well - basically new feats that allow him to modify skills in new ways and ones that allow him basic powers that he could use with effort.

I really loathe spell memorization and want to get away from that. Wizards should be powerful because of their knowledge and skill, not because they have two wish spells memorized, or they have a ring that gives them three extra fireballs per day.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Balancing world & rules

So a few questions for any readers out there:

What should be the intial balances of rules v worldbook in the initial release?
How integrated should the rules be into the worldbook?
Should they be completely separate parts of the book, a la Castle Falkenstein?
How much of the rules should depend on the use of Esaene as the game world?

Just some random musings as we wait for Chris's next big burst of creativity...

Story theories

I will start GMing a game of Mutants and Masterminds soon with my normal gaming group. I haven't run a game in some time and I was going to try out a lot of the story and theme ideas I have read about on many sites, as well as some basic story structure elements I have read about while persuing my dream of fiction writing.

We'll see how it goes. I'm curious to see how the fiction structure will compliment or clash when you have multiple points of view all shouldering each other aside for screen time. It will have to be managed.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Base class

I had a thought today. Instead of everyone choosing a "standard" class like Fighter, Wizard, Bard, etc. - everyone chooses a base class that represents where they came from. This could be noble, artisan, commoner, outsider, warrior, etc. - they get a basic package of skills and saving throws then they continue on to whatever prestige class they like - be it soldier, knight, wizard, sorcerer, etc. Racial classes can also be substituted in for characters who have a certain upbringing, like dwarves.

Just a thought. I'm curious if anyone has an opinion.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Themes, too

Continuing on Chris's idea of underlying themes, there are some things I was always big on with the original conception of Esaene.

1. History - there are a few 'big' stories that underlie the world and much of them are considered to be 'folk legends'. However, there are elements of truth in every fairy tale and legend, and separating fact from fiction can unlock some powerful secrets.

2. History, 2 - Everything has a story. That "longsword +1" in the pile of treasure is really the finely-crafted 9th blade of Ythifir the Black, one of the dozen he created for the Guardians of Perisis. It is distinguishable by it's off-center hilt, balanced for left-handed users (which all Guardians were) and the Illusin engraving on the blade. Such a finely-balanced blade moves with the wielder, giving him or her an edge in combat. Usually, stories like that are reserved for the Vorpal Bastard Sword +4/+6 vs Nocturnal Lycanthropes.

3. Motivations - No grand good vs evil story here. Everyone has a reason to do what they do, and people with perfectly legitimate reasons for pursuing their life's goals may often find themselves at cross-purposes. Chris highlighted that alignment is not a major factor. More important to me, people have to have a reason for doing what they're doing, instead of the wishy-washy "that's what my alignment would have me do."

4. Magic - A strange and wondrous thing. Even hedge wizards are treated with great reverence, once the crowd believes that it's not a sleight-of-hand trick.

5. Separation - There's no 'line in the sand' at the edge of the king's lands. But the distance from this land to that land is pretty vast when you have to spend 4 nights in "Injun country" to get there. Adventurers are treated in high regard but are very rare; merchants bringing wares from another land are also treated with great reverence for having travelled beyond the next two hills.

As Chris had previously noted - comments are welcome & encouraged.


Brant and I have been discussing story and theme for the Esaene setting lately. He has already published Esaene under his own rules several years back, but if I'm writing this thing I wanted a bit more creative control. We've decided that, instead of making everything in the world of Esaene, we're going to start with a specific place and work out from there.

Anyway, the themes are not well defined in the game as is. Brant's original idea was exploration and political struggle. I have a lot of ideas, but they need to be fully developed.


  • Boundaries - the area between civilization and the wild is a thin line and one that should be examined. Where does civilization stop and nature begin? What are the problems encountered when they come into conflict?

  • Consequences - There is no alignment in this game. There are plenty of sides and factions who believe they are right. Sometimes they both are. Each action has consequences and no one lives in a vacuum.

  • Struggle - Conflict is always a theme and should always remain - Religious and political ideologies, mercantile wars, limited resources. Everyone is at odds for one reason or another, with the players inevitably in the middle. Peace is boring.

  • Fantasy - Magic and wonder are still important parts to the game, but they come with their dangers. Fairy tales, tragedies, and myths should all have parts. The fantastic should not overshadow the characters though.

Those are the overriding themes as I see it. Anyone have any suggestions or critique?


I've been working on an overreaching mechanic for the system. The Grim'n'Gritty revised and simplified by Ken Hood is a nice system that makes combat very lethal and nasty. The mechanic is very nice and also can be used to streamline other parts of the game, so the mechanics do not get in the way of the story.

The critical mechanic used in the system is a little similar in the set up to what I already have, but the execution at the end is much better.

The base threat range for any weapon (or check) is 10. If you exceed your target number by 10 or more, you threaten a critical - just like rolling a 20 in D&D. Instead of doing extra damage, you can select critical effects with a modifier to the confirmation roll.

Example (Normal D&D vs. Modified GnG)

  • Fighter with Longsword (19-20, x2) - if he rolls a 19-20 on a d20, he threatens a critical and has to only hit the base Armor Class to confirm it - doing double damage (x2).

  • Fighter with Longsword (8/+0) - if the fighter exceeds his target by 8 or more, he threatens a critical. He may select multiple maneuvers with modifiers, such as Disable Arm (-4) and roll his confirmation check at -4. If successful, the target makes a saving throw or has his arm disabled. The +0 is a modifier to the saving throw. High impact weapons, like picks, are harder to make a successful save against.

This can be further extrapolated to other checks.

Skills: Craft (Weapon) - if the user makes his check by 10, he can attempt to craft a masterwork item with a modifier. This is bounded by material costs, of course.
Magic: Power check - if the caster makes his check by 10, he can add metamagic or additional effects to the spell.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Grim n' Gritty

I've been looking over Ken Hood's revised Grim'n'Gritty combat rules. Very nice stuff. I may incorporate more into the game. I want combat to be streamlined as much as possible.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006


I've been reading a lot of indie game design blogs lately and there is a lot of great material out there. Here is a great example:

Flag Framing - this is pretty much how the key system works, except I'm tying it into experience and level progression. It is then both an informal-structure role-playing tool and a formal level-progression tool.

The key system is something that Brant, the original designer of Esaene 1st Edition, was really adamant about and I agree with him. It gives both the player and the GM a focus for character development and role-playing. It also covers some fundamental issues with level progression in standard D&D. In theory, a player can choose to take a level of wizard out of the blue. Sure, GMs sometimes will mutter something about finding a tutor, but there is nothing specifically in the rules that says they can't do it.

To advance a level in Esaene, you need the requisite "life" experience (experience points) as well as personal growth (goal achievement). Each level a player must accomplish five goals.

Two of these goals are required - a class goal (meaning an accomplishment that reflects the class you wish to attain. It could be something simple like training or combat for a warrior, or something as extensive as achieving a certain level in a specific skill. In that case, for instance, you may not be ready to train in a specific class until you take the time elsewhere to learn the basics).

The other required goal is a key goal - essentially, the character must deal with a difficult task concerning a key. If the key is, for instance, "Sir Reginald upholds the code of chivalry", then dealing with a situation where that Code is questioned or Sir Reginald has to uphold the Code even when he doesn't want to would qualify. Since keys are player-defined, it allows the player to interject what he or she wants to see in the game as a real mechanic with consequences.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Short break

I'm taking a short break to refresh and come back to the material clean.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Monster Redesign: The Basilisk

Transferring some (but not all) creatures from the SRD to the new rules has been interesting. I've made some other changes just based on personal tastes. Take the Basilisk, for instance. What is the purpose of turning an opponent into stone? Do they eat stone? It always seemed odd to me. It makes more sense, from my viewpoint, that the turning to stone is more of a folk tale to explain some odd behavior rather than reality.

Medium Fey (Magical Beast)
Hit Dice: 6 (34 wounds, 7 toughness)
Initiative: -1
Speed: 20 ft.
Defense: 12 (+3 Base, -1 Dexterity)
Protection: 3 (Natural)
Base Attack/Grapple: +6/+8
Attack: +6 Bite (1d8+3)
Full Attack: +6 Bite (1d8+3)
Space/Reach: 5 ft./5 ft.
Special Attacks: Petrifying Gaze*
Special Qualities: Darkvision 60 ft., Lowlight Vision, Natural Camouflage**
Saves: Fort +8, Ref +3, Will +3
Abilities: Str 15, Dex 8, Con 15, Int 2, Wis 12, Cha 11
Skills: Perception +9, Sneak +5 (+9**), Survival +7
Feats: Alertness, Blind-Fighting, Great Fortitude
Environment: Warm desert
Organization: Solitary or colony (3-6)
Challenge Rating: TBD
Treasure: Only in nest
Advancement: 7-10 HD (Medium); 11-18 HD (Large)

A basilisk is a reptilian monster that stuns living creatures with a mere gaze. A basilisk usually has a dull brown body with a yellowish underbelly. Some specimens sport a short, curved horn atop the nose. An adult basilisk’s body grows to about 6 feet long, not including its tail, which can reach an additional length of 5 to 7 feet. The creature weighs about 300 pounds. The stunning effect lasts long enough for the basilisk to devour its prey whole. Small treasure and items are excreted near its lair.

Basilisks are very territorial and only coexist with other Basilisks to mate.

A basilisk relies on its gaze attack, biting only when opponents come within reach. Though it has eight legs, its slow metabolism renders it relatively sluggish, so it does not expend energy unnecessarily. Intruders who flee a basilisk rather than fight can expect, at best, a halfhearted pursuit. These creatures tend to spend most of their time lying in wait for prey, which includes small mammals, birds, reptiles, and similar creatures.

Petrifying Gaze (SU: Charm 4/Gen 4)
Strong Daze effect, range 30 feet, duration 1 hour; Fortitude DC 14 partial. The save DC is Charisma-based.

Natural Camouflage
The basilisk’s dull coloration and its ability to remain motionless for long periods of time grant it a +4 racial bonus on Sneak checks in natural settings.

Monday, January 23, 2006


The constant effort to simplify and speed up combat (while keeping it interesting) continues...

The wargaming/battlemap roots of D&D introduced several concepts that may have outlived their usefulness. Everyone is so concerned about being in this specific position to get a flanking bonus, while keeping this person three spaces away to maximize this feat, etc. - it's too much to worry about.

This really was made evident recently when discussing rules from Mutants and Masterminds, second edition. The guys running the game (Two GMs) are having trouble dealing with super-speedsters (really, any super movement) because the character can go on and off map at will, especially with move-by attack.

The thing to keep in mind with M&M (and other games) is that movement doesn't have to be tactical for everyone. Slow characters may need the board, but fast ones are more conceptual than tactical. A lot of the problems they're having could be solved creatively, such as an opponent taking a readied action or having a rival super-speeder who can walk up and attack just as easily as the counterpart.

This gets to specific combat modifiers. These can go overboard, with tables and tables of modifiers. Right now I have three primary sets of modifiers "outside" of a character (meaning a character may have modifiers specific to himself).

Concealment, Cover, and Advantage. Concealment, obviously, is when something cannot be seen clearly. The base mechanic for concealment is a percentage chance to miss, which I loathe. It's an ad hoc mechanic thrown on to the end. The base d20 roll is a percentile (each number is 5% - duh) - so if you have a 20% miss chance for partial concealment, why not just add a +4 to the target defense? Since critical hits are tied into a degree of success mechanic, this makes that +4 very important.

Here are my (current) rules for all three conditions:

If there is any object between your character and a source of attack, you can gain a degree of cover. There are many types of cover available: light cover, heavy cover, soft cover, and total cover.

Light cover can be anything that partially obstructs you from your target, from 10% to 50%. It provides you with a +4 bonus to Defense and a +2 bonus to Reflex saves from attacks on the opposite side of the cover.

Heavy cover is anything above 50% and provides you with a +8 bonus to Defense and a +4 bonus to Reflex saves from attacks on the opposite side of the cover. Heavy cover also grants the Improved Evasion ability while you’re protected, meaning that any failed saving throw only does half damage. Heavy cover also grants a +10 bonus to Sneak checks.

Soft cover only applies to ranged attacks, granting a +4 bonus to defense only when any non-adjacent creature is between you and your attacker or if you are in melee combat. Precise Shot negates the penalty for soft cover.

Total Cover is 100% coverage and means you cannot be attacked through the cover at all.

If a target is hidden or distorted, it makes attacking more difficult. Much like Cover, there are several levels of Concealment.

Light Concealment, such as being behind branches or being in dim light, gives a defender a +4 bonus to Defense against ranged attacks and a +5 bonus to the Sneak skill.

Heavy Concealment, such as being in smoke, fog, or darkness, gives a defender a +8 bonus to Defense against ranged attacks and a +4 bonus to Defense against melee attacks. The defender also gets a +10 bonus to the Sneak skill.

Total Concealment, such as being in total darkness or invisible, makes the target even more difficult to find. If an attacker can make an opposed Perception check versus the defender’s Stealth, he may attack with a chance of success. If the concealed creature attacks or otherwise does something to announce its presence, the affected creatures gain a +20 bonus to the perception check against the concealed target on their next action. A totally concealed defender gets a +8 bonus to Defense and a +20 bonus to the Sneak skill.

There are several miscellaneous modifiers that affect combat checks.

The Outnumbered advantage means when a character is trying to fend off more than one attacker. Attackers get a +2 bonus to hit when fighting an outnumbered opponent.

The Unaware advantage means the character does not know an attack is coming. An unaware character is considered flat-footed against the unknown threat until an attack is made or the threat is realized.

Higher Ground, such as being mounted or standing above a prone adversary, provides a +2 bonus to attack and a +2 bonus to damage.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Sample Combat

I was asked to provide a sample combat, along with explanations.

The situation: Manfred [Human Man at Arms 5] is riding his light warhorse, Charger, down a dark path. Waiting in ambush is Hoster [Human Hunter 5], Ragnar [Human Raider 5], and Roberto [Human Rogue 5]. The highwaymen know a knight should be coming through here, but not when.

Determine Awareness
All three ambushers roll Sneak (for Manfred's opposed roll) to remain quiet and Perception (to sense Manfred's approach). Manfred rolls Perception to sense the ambush.

Hoster: 20 +6 Sneak +5 light concealment = 31; Aware: 18 +7 Perception = 25
Ragnar: 15 +6 Sneak +5 light concealment = 26; Aware: 17 +6 Perception = 23
Roberto: 2 +8 Sneak +5 light concealment = 15; Aware: 8 + 6 Perception = 14
Manfred: 15 + 6 Perception = 21

Outcome: Hoster and Ragnar immediately spot the armored knight trotting up on his horse. Roberto didn't notice the armored knight coming and stepped on a twig, alerting Manfred to danger. Since Manfred made a major success (5+) against Roberto (Perception 21 vs Stealth 15), he immediately knows something is up. Roberto is the only one surprised. Everyone rolls initiative.

Hoster 21 (+2 Dexterity, +5 Quick to Arms class ability)
Manfred 19 (+1 Dexterity)
Ragnar 18 (+2 Dexterity, +2 Initiative class ability)
Roberto 16 (+2 Dexterity, +4 Improved Initiative)

Surprise Round
Hoster curses Roberto under his breath and lets loose an arrow at Manfred. Manfred has yet to act in the surprise round, so he is still considered flat-footed [Defense 10]. Hoster declares a Called Shot to Weak Point. He looses an arrow at Manfred and rolls a 15 with his longbow attack for a total of 23, hitting Manfred [Flat Footed Defense 10 + 8 for Called Shot = 18]. Manfred's Armor provides only 1/2 protection versus the attack. Hoster rolls 1d8 and gets a 6, adding 1 for a Point Blank Shot, for a total of 7. Manfred's armor only absorbs 4 points of this, so he takes 3 points of damage.

Manfred realizes that the rogue with his pants down is not alone and draws his sword and shield as a move action. Since this is the surprise round, he can only make a move or standard action. He now has his full defense bonus (21) against all attacks. He guides Charger forward as a free action, advancing towards the rogue in the brush.

Ragnar wildly runs out of cover brandishing his battleaxe. Roberto is unaware and remains flat-footed until his action next round.

Hoster: 30/30 wounds
Manfred: 28/31 wounds
Charger: 55/55 wounds
Ragnar: 30/30 wounds
Roberto: 25/25 wounds

Round 1
Hoster readies an action, waiting for an opening in Manfred's defense. Manfred sees Ragnar and slices downward with his warsword. He rolls a 2, for a total of 12 (+8 attack with warsword, +2 for advantage - mounted), not enough to strike the wily raider. Manfred makes a Ride check (DC15) to attempt to get Charger to attack, but rolls only a 2 (total of 8).

Ragnar strikes the mounted warrior with his trust battle axe, rolling a 4 (for a total of 9), missing the heavily armored knight. Roberto fumbles with his weapon and moves to the other side of Manfred to attack. He rolls a 12 (total of 19, +5 attack, +2 flank) but cannot get past the knight's shield.

Hoster: 30/30 wounds
Manfred: 28/31 wounds
Charger 55/55 wounds
Ragnar: 30/30 wounds
Roberto: 25/25 wounds

Round 2
Hoster's readied action never triggered, so he continues to wait for an opening. Manfred slices down at the Raider once again, rolling an 11 (total of 21 against a defense of 18) and connecting. The warsword does 2d6 (3,3) damage along with Manfred's strength bonus (+2), a total of 8 wounds. Ragnar's Ringmail absorbs 4 points of it, and 4 points bleed through. Manfred makes his ride check (19 for a total of 25) and Charger enters the fray, but misses with both hoof attacks against Ragnar and the bite against Roberto.

Ragnar grits his teeth and uses his Ferocious Attack ability for the day. It grants him +2 to attack and damage while penalizing him -2 to defense. He rolls an 11 (+7 battleaxe, +2 ferocious attack, +2 flank) for a total of 22, barely hitting Manfred. He rolls an 8 for damage (+2 strength +2 weapon specialization +2 ferocious attack) for 14 points of damage. Manfred subtracts 9 (8 AR +1 Armor Compatibility) and takes 5 wounds. This doesn't exceed his toughness score (7) so he's OK still.

Roberto decides to do a Called Shot to Vitals against the horse. The normal penalty for this is -8, but Roberto's Sneak Attack reduces this to a -6. Roberto rolls an 12 for a total of 17. The mount's normal defense is 11, so this is a hit! A called shot to vitals does maximum damage and reduces the target's toughness by 2 for the blow. The horse takes 7 points of damage (-1 for padded armor) and its toughness is reduced to +10. This is not enough to stun the horse.

Hoster: 30/30 wounds
Manfred: 23/31 wounds
Charger 49/55 wounds
Ragnar: 26/30 wounds
Roberto: 25/25 wounds

Round 3
Hoster clearly sees the opening he wants is not coming, so he changes tactics and aims at the horse. He fires an arrow at Charger, declaring a called shot for vitals. He rolls a 19, for a total of 28. The target defense is 23 (Base 11 +4 soft cover +8 called shot), a hit! Hoster rolls a 6, for a total of 7 (point blank shot), doing 6 more wounds to the horse.

Manfred slices at Ragnar again, rolling a 6 (total of 16), barely hitting the raider because of his defense penalty (18 -2 for ferocious attack). He rolls 11 on the damage dice this time, for a total of 13. Subtracting the Ringmail (AR4), Ragnar takes 9 wounds. His Toughness is only 7, so Ragnar is stunned! He loses his Dodge bonus and can only take a move or standard action. Manfred does not make his Riding check, so Charger does not act.

Ragnar, stunned, tries to attack Manfred but rolls a 2 and misses. Roberto tries to knock Manfred off his horse by initiating a trip attack. This is a touch attack (no shield bonus) and Roberto rolls a 19. Since Roberto does not have the brawl feat, he may not add his Finesse bonus to the unarmed attack. The total is 22, easily hitting the target of 13. Roberto rolls a strength check (12 +1 for strength =13) against Manfred's strength (2 +2 for strength +2 for superior position = 6). Surprisingly, Roberto dismounts the knight and sends him to the ground. Manfred takes 5 points of damage (ignoring armor) for falling off his mount and is prone.

Hoster: 30/30 wounds
Manfred: 18/31 wounds - PRONE
Charger 43/55 wounds
Ragnar: 18/30 wounds - STUNNED
Roberto: 25/25 wounds

Round 4
Hoster sees his chance and fires at the prone knight. While the knight gets a +4 bonus to defense for being prone and +4 for soft cover, he is otherwise flat-footed. He declares to bypass armor (+8) and fires. He rolls a 14 (+8 attack +1 point blank) for a total of 23, 5 more than his target of 18. He rolls 7 on the die, for 8 points of damage - 4 of which slips through to wound Manfred.

Manfred stands up as a move action and slices at Roberto. He declares Called Shot to Bypass Armor (increase defense by AR x2) and rolls an 11 (+8 attack) for a total of 19, just matching Roberto's modified defense of 19 (13 + AR3 x2). Manfred rolls 12 on the dice, for a total of 14! Since armor was bypassed, Roberto takes all of this damage. What's worse is that this exceeded Roberto's Toughness more than twice (toughness 6) so Roberto is Seriously Injured. He is stunned and takes 1 wound per round of activity until he has been healed.

Ragnar recovers from being stunned and attacks Manfred. He rolls a 12 (+7 attack, +2 flank) for a total of 21, just enough to hit. He does 11 damage, doing 2 more wounds to Manfred.

Roberto, injured and desperate, attempts to grapple the bigger man. He makes a touch melee attack and rolls an 11 for a total of 16 (+3 attack, +2 flank), just enough to initiate. Roberto and Manfred now make an opposed grapple check. Manfred gets a +7 bonus while Roberto only has a +4. Roberto rolls a 9, for a total of 13, while Manfred rolls a 17, for a total of 24. Manfred shrugs off the smaller man. Since Roberto was active this round, he takes a wound from his serious injury.

Hoster: 30/30 wounds
Manfred: 12/31 wounds
Charger 43/55 wounds
Ragnar: 18/30 wounds
Roberto: 10/25 wounds - STUNNED, 1 SERIOUS INJURY

Round 5
Hoster abandons his bow and moves forward, drawing his shortsword as he charges the knight. He rolls a 19 (+5 attack +2 charge +2 flank) for a total of 28, beating the Manfred's Defense by 7. This normally would not be enough for a critical, but a short sword has an improved threat range (+1) of 7. It's a critical hit and Hoster rolls 8 on two dice for a total of 10 damage. The armor absorbs most of it, but some gets through.

Manfred improves his defense by 3 with combat expertise and attacks the stunned rogue in an attempt to finish him off. He declares a called shot to vitals (-8) and rolls a 15 (+8 attack -8 called shot -3 combat expertise) for a total of 12, hitting the defenseless rogue (defense 10 stunned). The attack does maximum damage (14) and reduces Roberto's toughness by 2 (6-2 = 4). Roberto takes an additional serious wound and is at -4 hit points. Roberto's wounds (-4) equal is current negative toughness, so he passes out.

Ragnar attacks the knight and rolls a 16 (+7 axe +2 flank) for a total of 23. Normally this would hit, but Manfred's increased defense is 24 with Combat Expertise.

Roberto is considered active this round because he was in combat, so he suffers 2 additional wounds for his serious injuries. Next round he will be considered inactive and will only take wounds every minute.

Hoster: 30/30 wounds
Manfred: 11/31 wounds
Charger 43/55 wounds
Ragnar: 18/30 wounds
Roberto: -6/25 wounds - DISABLED, 2 SERIOUS INJURIES

Round 6
Hoster realizes his sword is not strong enough to pierce Manfred's armor, so he initiates a grapple and rolls an 18 to hit (+5 attack +2 flank) for a 25. Manfred's defense is only a 16 against this, without his shield counting. They make an opposed grapple check, but again Manfred throws his attacker off. (Hoster 15+1 vs Manfred 20+2)

Manfred maintains his Combat Expertise at +3 and strikes Ragnar. He rolls a 13 (+8 attack -3 combat expertise) for a total of 18, just enough to hit. He does 7 points of damage (3 after armor) to Ragnar.

Ragnar, at this point, has had enough and makes a withdraw action - running at full speed in the opposite direction.
Hoster: 30/30 wounds
Manfred: 11/31 wounds
Charger 43/55 wounds
Ragnar: 15/30 wounds
Roberto: -6/25 wounds - DISABLED, 2 SERIOUS INJURIES

Round 7
Hoster comes to the same conclusion as Ragnar and makes a withdraw of his own. He turns tail and runs into the trees.

Manfred attempts a Fast Mount (Ride DC20) and rolls an 18, for a total of 24! He successfully mounts Charger with a free action and spurs her forward, drawing his lance as part of the charge. He charges Ragnar on horseback and rolls a 17 (+7 attack +2 charge) for a total of 26, 8 more than Ragnar's defense. A critical while charging does 4d8 points of damage and other modifiers are multipled by 4. Manfred rolls 17 on the dice and adds 8 for strength, totally 25. Subtracting Ragnar's ringmail (AR 4), he takes 21 points of damage. Ragnar is seriously injured and rapidly dying.

Ragnar takes an additional point of damage for the serious injury, is completely disabled and bleeding on the ground.

Hoster: 30/30 wounds
Manfred: 11/31 wounds
Charger 43/55 wounds
Ragnar: -7/30 wounds - DISABLED, 1 SERIOUS INJURY
Roberto: -6/25 wounds - DISABLED, 2 SERIOUS INJURIES

Manfred dispatched Ragnar and Roberto, but lost Hoster in the forest. Manfred ended the combat with 12 wounds left (out of 31), Hoster was unhurt (30/30), while Roberto and Ragnar died. There are a few things I liked and a few I disliked. The heavy armor (while rare) is very, very effective in combat as are shields. I think,perhaps, there should be some armor modifiers for critical hits and perhaps a lessened impact of shields.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Gaming Credits

This is a list of my gaming credits of all kinds.



Combat Goals - To Save or Not To Save

The basic idea of combat in E2E is for it to be streamlined and dangerous, but not have player characters dropping dead like flies. The Shock mechanic from A Game of Thrones is nice - basically damage exceeding the shock value (1/2 constitution) has further effects on the character - serious injuries (bleeding wounds) or what have you. The basic mechanic is nice and is one I've been experimenting with.

The problem is you can't track too many effects or combat slows down to a crawl. The question is whether or not to implement a save mechanic (Fortitude) to resist a multitude of effects or just have effects kick in at certain levels. For example:

Method 1 (Save Mechanic)
If damage > toughness, Fortitude DC 12 + damage - toughness (in other words, 12 + the excess damage). I implemented the original mechanic similar to how charms work in magic. Basically the save is against a moderate daze effect (Stun). A successful save reduces this to dazed. Succeeding by 5 or more eliminates the effect. Failing by 10 or more will increase the effect to staggered. 15 or more is an instant kill.

Method 2 (Magnitude Mechanic)
If damage > toughness, the target is stunned (if the damage is nonlethal, he is dazed). If damage > toughness x2, the target is staggered. I suppose toughness x3 could be death, if necessary.

The problem here is that it takes some of the control away from the player - no save, which is like a safety harness. The ability to roll a die gives a feeling of power, whether it is justified or not. The save mechanic is comprehensive, but at the expense of time.

Basic Design

I've bought and examined many different game systems and compiled them into one composite for Esaene (E2E).

Here's the current copyright notice that I'm including in the OGL statement:
Open Game License v 1.0a Copyright 2000, Wizards of the Coast, Inc.
System Reference Document Copyright 2000–2003, Wizards of the Coast, Inc.; Authors Jonathan Tweet, Monte Cook, Skip Williams, Rich baker, Andy Collins, David Noonan, Rich Redman, Bruce R. Cordell, based on original material by E. Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson.
Modern System Reference Document, Copyright 2002–2004, Wizards of the Coast, Inc.; Authors Bill Slavicsek, Jeff Grubb, Rich Redman, Charles Ryan, Eric Cagle, David Noonan, Stan!, Christopher Perkins, Rodney Thompson, and JD Wiker, based on material by Jonathan Tweet, Monte Cook, Skip Williams, Richard Baker, Peter Adkison, Bruce R. Cordell, John Tynes, Andy Collins, and JD Wiker.
Elements of Magic: Mythic Earth, Copyright 2005, EN Publishing
Elements of Magic: Lyceian Arcana, Copyright 2004, EN Publishing
Elements of Magic, Revised Edition, Copyright 2004, EN Publishing
Monte Cook’s Arcana Unearthed, Copyright 2003, Monte J. Cook
A Game of Thrones RPG, Copyright 2005, Guardians Of Order, Inc.
Spycraft, Copyright 2002, Alderac Entertainment Group
Mutants & Masterminds, Second Edition, Copyright 2005, Green Ronin Publishing; Author Steve Kenson
A Magical Medieval Society: Western Europe, Copyright 2003, Expeditious Retreat Press; authors Suzi Yee and Joseph Browning.

I may include more as I write more. Basically, I'm taking a lot of the character creation and combat mechanics from AGOT and AU, using EOM as the core for magic (with some AU concepts), taking a lot of mechanics from Spycraft and M&M and using the Expeditious Retreat stuff as a good level set for economics and content structure - like designing cities, etc.

I've written a lot and it's currently undergoing many revisions, rewrites, and general error proofing.

Design Blog

I've started this blog to keep track of the various design changes as Esaene 2nd edition is in development. I'll post more information when I get a chance.