World of Esaene (ENWorld)

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.