World of Esaene (ENWorld)

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


I'm still running my PBEM game at the moment (although participation has lagged in the last two weeks). Things are going pretty well and I've had some time to brainstorm, mostly because I haven't had time to write due to "real work" concerns.

Still, I have had some time to sit down with Brant and go over setting issues. I have a good scheme for areas that should help in multiple ways (both in-game/story and out-of-game/writing).

The biggest issues facing me are as such:
1. Time - I'm working about 50+hours a week, am a hockey season ticket holder, and have two children. You do the math.
2. Philosophy - I dislike the Arcane/Divine divide concerning magic and I'm still working on separating them from D&D Canon.
3. Mapping the known world - this one I solved with some brain-storming. The "known world" is fragmented and small, so maps will exist for individual areas. This has to do with the integration of the faerie-lands into the material plane. In other words, civilization will exist in pockets of faerie; traveling between them will be difficult at best.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Creative decision

I'm playing a wait and see game with fourth edition D&D. In the mean time, I'm spending most of my creative time on setting. I'll try to keep making updates as I come to it.

Sunday, August 19, 2007


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.).

Power Requirements

Future time period


Within the next minute


Within the next 10 minutes


Within the next hour


Within the next 24 hours


Within the next week


Within the next month


Within the next year


Within the next 10 years


Within the next 100 years


Any future


Prerequisites: Wisdom 12

Attribute: Wisdom

Base Power: 1 + Wisdom Modifier

Base Area/Range: Personal

Base Duration: Concentration

Enhancements: None

Power Effect: The character may attempt to seek an answer to a specific question about the future. The diviner must make a successful Knowledge (Augury) check in order to correctly interpret the omens. The base DC for any Augury is 5 times the Power rating of the effect. 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. By succeeding by 10 or more, 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. Fail by 10 or more and you cannot ask the question again for a month. Interpreting the omens of another person is a -5 penalty to your check.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

The game approaches

I've made huge strides on the game system/mechanics and I have two and a half characters ready to start this thing. Once it begins I'll make regular updates of ongoing progress. So far I have an exile from the south, an army veteran turned mystic, and an ambassador noble with mixed heritage. I'm wanting to get one or two more characters sorted out before we start in earnest.

It should be fun.

Saturday, July 28, 2007


Silverford is a large town and smack in the middle of Weir Valley, straddling the Silver River along the Shield Road from Silvergate in the east to Shadow Gap in the west. It has a population just shy of 5000 and is the major trading center for goods traveling back and forth between Rone and Amara.

Technically it is ruled by Baron Callis Taljira, an Amaran noble who leaves most of the actual ruling to the elected city council. The council is currently led by Crispin Aldrich, a retired veteran of the now defunct Sixth Legion. Also on the council are Dugan Baxter, the head of the Merchant’s Guild, Edward Brigham the well known smith, weapon maker, and armorer, and Emmett Fletcher, cousin of the wealthy and powerful farmer William Fletcher and prominent land owner in the city. Also on the council, but not elected, is the town constable, Harrison Gage, another former soldier who served with Councilman Aldrich in the Sixth Legion.

For travelers, there are three main Inns – The Lord’s Inn, the Eastgate Inn, and the Silver Fork. The Silver Fork is by all accounts the nicest and most expensive. There are many taverns throughout the city, some linked to gambling houses and other dens of ill repute.

Weir Valley

The Weir Valley lies between two major political foes – the Holy Amaran Empire to the east and the Kingdom (or Kingdoms, depending on whom you ask) of Rone to the west. Technically a province of Amara, it is the crossroads of any travel between the two lands as it is the only pass in the towering Greer mountains.

Twenty years ago, the lowlands of Rone were firmly in the control of Emperor Augustus IV of Amara when a rebellion cost the Empire many of its best legions. Abram Kiros, the High King of Rone, led the rebellion and crushed the retreating Imperial Legions in sight of Shadow Gap, the western pass leading into the vale. No Imperial Army has marched past the fortress at Shadow Gap since that fateful day.

The defeat impacted the Empire in many ways. The path to the Shattered Sea was now cut off, isolating provincial troops throughout the region. The provincial governments fell one by one and the Free Cities were formed as a result. The Empire had never been defeated on the field before that point, causing many to question the leadership of Emperor Augustus and whether or not he had been abandoned by God. The financial impact was devastating, sending the Empire into a depression they are just now recovering from.

Besides the Fortress at Shadow Gap and the matching one, Silvergate, at the eastern pass, there is only one settlement of note within the valley. Silverford, the largest town and capital of the valley, sits astride the Silver River in the middle of the valley. The river itself flows north, from Darkwood Falls at the south end of the valley to the Crack at the north, where the river becomes wild and erratic in dangerous rapids as it twists through a canyon down towards the coast of Rone.

Other than Silverford, there are two smaller fords across the river. Ramford in the north valley gets its name from the primary purpose of the route – moving herds of the well known and expensive Weiran Blacks, sheep from which the valley gets much of its income. In the south is Applecross, a ford in the rich and fertile orchards. Both fords have small villages at the banks to take advantage of the traffic.

There are also smaller settlements throughout the valley, although none more than a few hundred people. Richland is the land of William Fletcher, the wealthiest man in Weir Valley. His farmlands and orchards provide him with his ample wealth. Sawyer’s Mill is a forestry town on the edge of Northwood Forest. Cameron Hill is the westernmost settlement in the valley and has a larger than average Ronish population. Darkwood Falls is near the forest and waterfall it is named for in the south. Finally, Harlot is a little mining town in the northeast that works the last major silver mine in the valley.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Play by Post

I'm starting a play-by-post game with several people soon to go through some setting and rules stuff. I plan on keeping it updated here as we progress.

Thursday, July 19, 2007


I've figured out a simple system for snapback, something Brant has always liked about the magic. I won't go into too many details now (tweaking), but I like it a lot and it should add some flavor to the magic. It's very simple.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Back home

I'm back from Origins. Much fun was had by all and I got a lot of work done on Esaene. I'll need to collect my thoughts a bit before posting any of it, but things are looking up.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007


I'm here in Columbus for Origins. I'll be at the BayonetGames booth - we're sharing it with Lock & Load.

Monday, July 02, 2007


Brant and I will be at Origins this year, although I don't think we have anything specifically to show. We will spend the time getting some of this game stuff sorted out. Having several days to only work on this will help a lot.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Some thoughts on classes

Looking at what Chris has developed, I'm seeing a lot of tie-in with the original Esaene rules.
To recap: there were only 3 stats: ST, SK, IQ. What I didn't do as well as Chris was balance the classes like he has.

ST: combat-heavy warriors
SK: dextrous and nimble rogues
IQ: smart guys (like wizards)

In between these, there are
ST-SK: Ranger
ST-IQ: Mageknight
SK-IQ: not sure, but bears watching for development...

I'm intrigued to see how the wizard/sorceror dichotomy shakes out, too.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Esaene outline (working)

I'm still brainstorming this and it is subject to much change...
I think each release should be focused on an adventure and have it include the supplementary information along with it. Have an adventure in the Riverlands, the Pellinans, the heart of Amara or the highlands of Rone.

Esaene primer

  1. Introduction

  2. Races
    1. All characters are human
    2. Certain feats represent bloodlines (half-elves, etc.)
    3. Regional benefits are granted to different groups of people (cultures, etc.)
    4. Many cultural groups will be detailed in separate regional books.

  3. Classes
    1. Fighter
    2. Mageknight
    3. Ranger
    4. Rogue
    5. Sorcerer
    6. Wanderer
    7. Wizard

  4. Skills
    1. Skill updates
      1. Language
      2. Profession
      3. Spellcraft

    2. Changes
      1. Remove Use Magic Device
      2. Remove Magical Skills from EoM - Dispel Magic, Divination, Scry

  5. Feats
    1. Magical feat changes
    2. Magical traditions
    3. Combat style trees
    4. General changes

  6. Magic
    1. Elements of Magic revised
    2. Changes to base system

  7. Starting region for base game

Regional Book

  1. Introduction
    1. Overview
    2. Map
    3. Politics
    4. Religion
    5. History
    6. Organizations
    7. Adventure hooks/seeds

  2. Races
    1. Regional Feats
    2. Languages available
    3. Physical characteristics
    4. Religion/Faith
    5. Benefits/Drawbacks
    6. Magical Traditions
    7. Standard and exotic weapons/equipment
    8. Preferred and restricted classes/traditions

  3. Focal point write up
    1. Location description & statistics
    2. Important characters
    3. Full adventure in setting

A question of criticals

This is something I have been wrestling with for months, if not years...

Is it better to have a static percentage chance of a critical (a natural 20 is a 5% chance to threaten, regardless of who the attacker is) or make it a matter of degree? For example, if a target's base armor class without modifier is 10, a natural 20 is beating the target by an additional 10 (10 will hit on the nose, as will 11-20).

So a rapier, normally a 18-20 threat range, would threaten/critical on a +8 (getting a result of 18 or better against an AC 10). Of course, at low levels critical hits would be less common as armor class often outstrips attack bonus. At high levels, however, this would reverse itself. It would probably require a defense bonus to mitigate it a bit, so high level opponents squaring off don't just crit each other to death. I'll have to run the numbers, I think.

On the positive, certain maneuvers (like feint, trip, etc.) designed to make your opponent temporarily vulnerable would have a very real impact on combat. Feinting an opponent to make him flat footed against your next strike could very well end the combat. A trip attack puts a target in a very vulnerable position, making a wolf pack a very real and deadly threat.


Well, I have all but finalized the classes. Minor tweaks still remain, but this is the current list*: Fighter, Mageknight, Ranger, Rogue, Sorcerer, Wanderer, Wizard.

Fighters will handle all of the combat-intensive work and can be customized quite a bit - they get a feat or ability every level toward this end. They are the only class with the full attack bonus. Fighters have a hit die value of 1d12.

Mageknights, Rangers, Rogues, and Wanderers all have a 3/4 attack bonus and different specializations. Mageknights are obviously spell-casters and their abilities are groomed in that direction. Rangers specialize in the hunting, guiding, and tracking; Rogues are experts in finding, avoiding, and acquiring; while Wanderers are jacks-of-all-trades who are good travelers - a "gypsy" class if you will. These classes all have a hit die value of 1d8.

Sorcerers and Wizards are opposite sides of the same coin - 1/2 attack bonus, full magic, with their own strengths and weaknesses. Sorcerers have a greater breadth of power whereas Wizards are much more focused and have a more classical "wizard" feel to them. I really like the differences and unique feel to both. These two both have a hit die value of 1d4.

All classes have starting abilities - class features they only gain if they start as a class. This consists of all weapon and armor proficiencies, as well as initial saving throw bonuses. Technically, the initial burst of skill points is also part of this, but it isn't listed that way.

* I may add a "noble/leader" class, but that has not been finalized.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The game goes on

Session two of our game was last night - it brought us through Act 2 (of 3) of the first adventure. The group has done well and they all advanced to level 2 after resting at a safe house in the city (a temple). In the process of all of this I have made adjustments to the magical skills (combining the Scry and Divination skills into a Divine spell list; moving Dispel Magic to spellcraft). I'm also in the process of creating my first tradition.

In the adventure, the main NPC the party interacts with is a cleric/fighter called Torrent. I have made her a level 2 mageknight instead and I started creating a magical tradition to encompass her faith. This will be the first in, I hope, many of such traditions.

It's tentatively named the Order of the Blue Circle - a religious order devoted to a god/goddess protecting travelers. They will have certain restrictions on which spell lists they can take first and they will have some bonuses to certain types of magic. The faith began around water magic, so I think I'm going to require followers of the faith to make 3 of their first 6 spell lists water-based or air-based and give them a +1 MP limit on air/gen and water/gen spells.

Monday, May 21, 2007


You can use items of your foes to enhance your spells.

Benefit: When casting a spell that targets a single creature and grants a saving throw, the DC to resist is increased by +2 if you possess an effigy – an item of physical, emotional, or spiritual significance to your target. If you possess a body part of the target, the DC is increased by +5.

If part of a ritual, possessing an effigy will give the caster a +4 bonus to the caster level check. A body part will give a +10 bonus. If you use this ability, the target is always considered unwilling, so it must attempt a save to resist, even if the spell is normally harmless.

Any effect on the target will affect the effigy or body part. For many spells, this will do nothing; evocations will often destroy the focus.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Game update

I have started a game using some of my new rules, although I am starting out very slowly on that front. I plan to introduce rules one at a time in order to not inundate the players with changes. I'm running an existing campaign (WotBS), although I have changed the place names to protect the innocent (or guilty).

Rich is playing Cyrus, a fighter. He was nearly killed by a mercenary and later made a rousing speech to inspire the citizenry in a time of crisis, organizing a bucket brigade to put out a burning building and generally acted heroically.
Scott is playing Nabron, a sorcerer. He is cowardly and self-serving, thinking only of his immediate goals.
Brian C is playing Arwin, a rogue with some fey blood. He heroically saved a woman from a burning building by scaling the wall and carrying her down from the fourth story.
Brian D was absent, but is playing a yet to be seen MageKnight.

I have changed the classes slightly, added a few feats, and changed the magic system to Elements of Magic (Revised) along with the existing errata and Lyceum Arcana.

Current Classes:
  • Fighter (slight modification by adding combat styles at odd levels)
  • Rogue (more akin to the Thief from Conan)
  • Sorcerer (Mage from EoM)
  • Wizard (Arcanist from LA)
  • Taskmage (EoM)
  • Mageknight (EoM)
Future Classes (tentative):
  • Hunter/Ranger (non-magic)
  • Expert
Class Mechanic Change: All classes have "Starting abilities" and "Class features". Some class features are only gained when you start as a class. This includes weapon/armor proficiencies, some first level abilities, and any initial saving throw bonus. This prevents picking up a single level of a class just to get a special ability and never going back. You have to invest to get something back from anything.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007


I always feel that I'm getting too far ahead of myself and need to slow down in some of the changes I make. I know they're good, but it's too much to do at once and I somehow get lost in the shuffle. I have decided to take a more iterative approach in the time being, especially with the lack of time I have.

I want to start with the base SRD classes and work from there. Since I'm using Elements of Magic as my base magic system, I'll also throw in the three classes from there as well.

  • Barbarian - Just a flavor of fighter. Can safely be eliminated as long as class abilities are rolled up into ability trees.
  • Bard - Tradition of spellcaster.
  • Cleric - Tradition of spellcaster.
  • Druid - Tradition of spellcaster.
  • Fighter - Standard
  • Mage - Standard
  • Mageknight - Standard?
  • Monk - Flavor of fighter. I've never been a fan of this class.
  • Paladin - Mageknight variant?
  • Ranger - Fighter-light?
  • Rogue - Standard
  • Sorcerer - Mage
  • Taskmage - Standard
  • Wizard - Replaced by Mage

When broken down, this leaves:
  • Fighter - includes Barbarian, maybe some Monk stuff
  • Mage - Magic heavy
  • Mageknight - Fighter/mage
  • Ranger - Essentially a fighter/rogue hybrid
  • Rogue - Skill heavy
  • Taskmage - Rogue/mage or skilled mage

I would like to get down to a good core of classes that covers all of the basics and allows a player to play just about anything. I may just start with the basics big groups and go from there.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Weapons updated

Weapons will be given a base damage and the attack roll will determine the amount of extra. Base damage equals a static number + size modifier, the static number based on medium damage. To determine the base, divide max damage by 4 and round up. This is all computed beforehand so no one has to do it on the fly.

d2 +1
d3 +1
d4 +1
d6 +2
2d4, d8 +2
d10 +3
2d6, d12 +3

Damage, as previous stated, is determined by degree of success. Melee is base attack + strength mod + other bonuses. Because of this, you don't add strength into the base weapon damage - it's already accounted for. The other things to modify are threat range and critical.

Critical is a bonus to wound damage on any critical hit. Multiply the critical multiplier by the weapon's base damage, adding one to the base for each extra threat range. A rapier (1d6, 18-20/x2) has a base damage of 2 and a critical value of 8 (base 2 + 2 for the added threat range, multiplied by 2 for criticals). Whenever someone rolls a critical hit with a rapier, add 8 points to the damage for wounds only. This value scales with base damage for size.

Range is actually a factor of strength, whether it be muscle or mechanical. The standard range increment is assuming a average strength. The base is 10 x some modifier; Add the strength modifier to the base 10 and remultiply. See below for examples. Mechanical weapons are slightly different and will be covered later.

Crossbows have a default mechanical strength. Heavy crossbows have a strength of 14, which is the strength needed to crank them (either manually or by winch). This affects criticals and range respectively. Light crossbows have a strength of 10; the range of a light crossbow will be adjusted accordingly.

Bows have an inherent strength value. If a character (using two hands) has a lower bonus than the bow's strength, they suffer a penalty to hit and range. The strength of a longbow is 10 (+0), whereas a composite longbow has a strength 12 (+1), increasing the range. Composite bows with increased pull will increase the range as appropriate. A composite longbow with a Strength 18 (+4) will have a range increment of 140 (10+4)x10. Of course, someone with a 10 strength would suffer a -4 penalty when using it and would not be able to string it at all. You need to be able to match the bonus with two hands in order to string a bow. When using a bow that has a draw greater than you can pull, the range defaults to your strength and you take a penalty to the difference.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007


The goal is to allow healing without it overcoming the game completely. I want to break it down into two philosophical concepts:
  • Ignoring trauma/wound penalties
  • Healing wounds
Ignoring trauma/wound penalties
There will be some magic, class abilities (like rage) and maybe herbs/drugs that allow a character to ignore existing trauma. In essence, the penalty for being wounded (fatigue) is ignored. This is important, as it allows characters to function when they should long ago have succumbed to exhaustion and pain. If a character is ignoring wound trauma, they effectively have a recovery of 1. Any addition to the recovery modifier are against the base value, however, not the effective level. This will allow someone seriously injured to heal on a normal night of rest instead of needing complete bed rest.

Some of this may be accomplished by giving the target "false life" - temporary wound levels that will disappear after the duration. This may be the only way to keep someone dying alive long enough for healing. Note: This can really open some interesting game avenues, with necromancy, bound foci, linked lives, etc. More on this later!

Healing wounds
To determine your Recovery modifier, calculate an ability modifier from your current amount of Wounds. In other words, a character with 2 wounds would have a -4 modifier.

With a full night’s rest (8 hours of sleep or more), you recover 1 + your Recovery modifier in wounds. If that value is less than one, the character must undergo complete bed rest to heal. Any significant interruption during your rest prevents you from healing that night. Note: I probably should add in a mechanic for getting worse; either that or just make it a narritive challenge for the healer

If you undergo complete bed rest for an entire day and night, you recover twice your normal recovery if positive. For negative values or zero values, fractionalize the gain. A RecMod of 1 would be 2 wounds/complete day of rest (since recovery is doubled), a RecMod of 0 would be 1 wound/complete day of rest, a -1 would be 1 wound/2 complete days, -2 would be 3 complete days, and so on. As wound levels decrease, healing is quicker.

Magical healing in EOM is a number of dice, just like with evocation. We will treat it like evocation and make it a simple bonus of 1 + 1.5/MP. This bonus is added to a character's recovery. Duration will play a part in this. So a +10 healing effect to a dying character (0 wounds, -5 penalty) would give them a +5, effectively a recovery of 6. With a full night's rest, they will have 6 wounds and be out of danger.

Keep in mind, this is still only in the philosophic area right now and is subject to change.

Example of Healing
Paul the Peasant is burninated by Trogdor. He has a constitution of 14 (14 wounds) and is down to 0 and dying quickly. Helpful Harry the Healer is on the scene quickly and applies a +10 healing charm to the rapidly fading Paul.

Paul is stabilized (I need to add a quick mechanic for this, perhaps related to Harry's healing skill - I still want knowledge of healing to be very important) so vitality loss is not an issue at the moment. Paul's base recovery is -4: a base 1 + a recovery mod of -5; With the healing charm, his recovery rockets up to a +6, meaning he'll heal 6 wounds with a full night's rest. He'll be fatigued, maybe exhausted depending on his vitality situation, but should be able to travel the next day and begin the road to recovery.

The second night, Harry puts the same charm on him. This time, Paul's base recovery is only -1 (base 1 + recovery mod of -2 for his 6 wounds), so the healing charm makes his effective recovery +9. He'll completely heal up with a full night's rest. Not bad for someone on death's door less than 48 hours previous.

Monday, April 09, 2007


This was taken from rycanada on ENWorld, on his blog.

The highest-level PCs at the table get 6 Conviction, and for each level lower than the highest that you are, you get an extra point of Conviction. This pool is restored whenever the party has a night of complete rest (this effect cannot be magically reproduced). Conviction is spent as follows:
Table R-04: Conviction

ActionConviction Cost
Roll an extra d20 (if you declare before the roll)1
Roll an extra d20 (if you declare after the roll)2
Take an extra move-equivalent action on your turn**1
Take an extra standard action on your turn**2
Gain an extra use of another X/day ability, including spells2*

When you roll extra d20s, you take the highest roll. You can roll as many extra d20s on a roll as you can pay for.
** Each of these can be performed only once per round. If you have an extra move and an extra standard action, you can perform a full-round action instead. PCs have a death flag that they can raise in order to get 4 extra Conviction. This flag can be lowered by spending 4 Conviction. While a player-character's death flag is raised, they can suffer death as per the standard rules. While the flag is lowered, the player character can still be captured, imprisoned, fall off a cliff into a river and left for dead - but will not actually die. NPCs with names use the normal rules for death, but NPCs without names die at 0 hit points. Because this rule makes death something players have some control over, players should consider it very unlikely that their soul will be free to return in the event that they die (i.e. Raise Dead spells aren't likely to work).


Magic will be using a hybrid mana points system with Elements of Magic/Revised as a base. There will be no "cantrips per day" mechanic; casters can enter the mystic focus state and cast a cantrip whenever they like, so there is essentially no cost for this, only a concentration check.

Wizards have a small to moderate mana pool to draw spell power from. When that is exhausted, mana is drained from their vitality. The normal rules apply with this - half vitality is fatigue, no vitality is exhaustion.

Some types of magic will change to fit the rules as a whole.
  • Magical evocation as it functions in elements of magic is a base 1d6 damage with an additional 1d6 per MP. This works just like a weapon does. A 1MP evocation is a +3 attack (2d6), 2MP is +4, 3MP is +6, 4MP is +7, 5MP is +9, etc. The formula would be 1 + 1.5/MP (rounded up).For example, a Fireball (Evoke Fire 10, Gen 4) would be a +16 attack. A saving throw for half damage will keep a strong character from taking wound damage. This makes low-level attack spells not very powerful on their own without some cleverness. Note: DR does not affect magical evocation unless it is physical in nature; Only ER will help with that. Magic has AP value equal to 1 + Cha Mod?
  • Magical healing only helps with wound damage. Vitality damage can be temporarily ignored with magic, but it fades. The only way to truly recover vitality is rest. Note: See Healing post about Magic adding to Recovery
  • Spell lists have other requirements, such as abilities, magical traditions (like combat styles mentioned in a previous post), or even skill levels. Knowledge is power and the magic should reflect that fact. Many spells will key off a character's existing abilities, such as a magical skill bonus should have a relation to the number of ranks a character has in the skill.
  • Magic items should not define characters nor should they be pervasive through the game. Most magic items help a character do something better rather than outright give them something they never had. Charms and trinkets are fine, but magic items should not be a requirement or crutch for heroes to succeed. Note: Spellcasters can make semi-permanent effects (longer durations without the MP cost) by an XP expenditure, like any magic item. The best example would be a healing rune. It is meant to assist healing on a person, so the spellcaster creates the healing effect with a 10 minute duration (like any magic item) and spends some XP to make it stick.


I'm eliminating Attacks of Opportunity and many feats. I'm trying to make feats simple bonuses and modifiers to the character. In place of that, I'm making maneuvers available to anyone who meets the requirements. Many times these requirements are a critical hit (succeeding by 10+) and sometimes may include such things as the type of weapon, the amount of damage done (usually wound damage), and maybe any combat styles they know (feats). Some existing feats need to be modified while others will be removed altogether.

The end goal is to provide a general framework for a character to develop (taking feats that would represent a specific style of training - like the different sword styles in Swashingbuckling Adventures/7th Sea).

You can break down the styles and grant benefits from there, maybe even as prestige classes. The base soldier class would represent general weapon training, while a prestige class would open up specific types of training - ways to fight. There are inherent advantages and disadvantages to each.

  • Dramatic. Eliminate the need for miniatures. They can be used, but should only be a point of reference, not a tactical mandate. One way is to eliminate Attacks of Opportunity. Another way to make combat more narrative is by changing the structure from Maneuver -> Success/Fail to Success/Fail -> Maneuver. Meaning the degree of success on a combat check opens up available maneuvers instead of attempting a maneuver and outright succeeding or failing.
  • Efficient. Make combat quicker by eliminating die rolls and having most variables pre-calculated.
  • Dangerous but fair. Combat should be inherently a dangerous activity, not approached lightly by anything. It should be gritty and lethal with enough leeway to allow characters to be seriously threatened without crippling the party. Characters should always be in danger, but it should not be life-threatening unless the player wishes it to be. One mechanic I found for this was use of action points. A character may gain action points by putting his character in mortal danger. In other words, if a player decides to make a "stand" against opponents, he will get bonuses by essentially opening himself up for character death. This is not to say that characters cannot be seriously wounded and left for dead, but the story won't dictate that they die at that time.

Wounds and Vitality

The quest for simplification continues still...

The wound/vitality variant is not the same as defined in UA or other games, such as d20 Star Wars.

Vitality is a measure of toughness and endurance. It is used to track non-lethal damage and fatigue. Configuring the mechanic this way enables you to use vitality for spells (like MP) and for general fatigue for other activities. So extended combat will do vitality damage to you the same as any other damage source - like trying not to drown.

At 1/2 vitality, a character gains the Fatigued state. At 0 vitality, the character gains the Exhausted state. Once at 0 Vitality, additional damage is taken as Wounds.

Wounds are exactly what is described - your physical ability to withstand damage. It is equal to your Constitution + size modifier. Some feats may add to this as well. In reality, it actually functions more like hardness than anything else.

Characters take X amount of damage and they have Y wounds. The character takes X in vitality damage, subtracting any damage reduction from armor and the like. If the remaining damage (X-DR) is greater than Y, the character takes that many wounds (New Y = X- DR - Y).

If a character takes any wound damage, they are fatigued. This state combines with Vitality, so a character at half vitality and some wound damage (fatigued+fatigued) is exhausted. A character at 0 wounds is dying and losing vitality each round. When a character is at 0 vitality and is wounded, they are unconscious. If they are at 0 vitality and 0 wounds, they are dead. Pretty simple, really.

The size modifier for wounds would also apply to damage, meaning that larger creatures would be much harder to kill easily - you have to continue to beat on them until they wear down. Smaller creatures would be harder to hit, but easier to take down with a solid blow.

Catching up

Been busy, although I have been writing and tweaking - just not on the blog. That needs to change, so I'll be doing a lot more tinkering here instead of in my notebooks and on my laptop.

Thursday, February 15, 2007


The mechanic I devised to keep the class and cross-class distinction without complicating issues with 1/2 skill points is listed below. Instead of spending class skill points per level, you choose a number of skills (from the normal list of class skills, referred to as the class skill list) to be "class skills" from your class skill list, gaining 1 rank per level (2 at 1st level) automatically. You then may spend free skill points (1+intelligence bonus, doubled at 1st level) every level from a restricted list.

Class skills and free skills
In any class, a number of class skills are selected from a class skill list. These skills are that character’s class skills. First level characters automatically have 2 ranks in all class skills. Class skills gain an additional rank each class level.

Characters also receive a number of free skills per level, equal to 1 + their intelligence bonus, minimum 1. At first level, this number is doubled. Free skill points can be used on the following skills: · Any untrained skill · Any skill in their class list · Any trained skill in which they have 5 or more ranks.

Some skills, such as Craft or Disable Device, are considered trained skills. This means a character can only spend free skill points on them if they are in that character’s class list. Furthermore, all trained skills have a +10 penalty to DC. Each rank of a trained skill reduces this penalty by 2, so having 5 ranks of a trained skill will have no penalty at all.

The following skills are considered "trained" in this system: Appraise, Craft, Decipher Script, Disable Device, Handle Animal, Knowledge, Perform, Profession, Sleight of Hand, Speak Language*, Spellcraft, Tumble, Use Magic Device**

* I have my own rules for Speak Language that is off-topic for this mechanic.
** I don't use this skill in my game, but it would be considered trained nonetheless.

Working things out

I've updated the skills, which I'll get updated on the group soon. Other than that, I've been going the public route and trying to get some rules and permutations worked out within the gaming community, most notably ENWorld. Here is a link to the latest thread and what I'm trying to get sorted out.

I'll add some more threads and try to get other things worked out as I see fit.

Friday, February 02, 2007

New update: Skills

In the first time in over a month, I was able to get some work done. I went through the skills and simplified them, basically restarting with the base set of D&D 3.5 skills, removing a few things I didn't like, and rewriting the skill allocation to fit a more simplistic style.

The main difference is that each class selects a number of skills from their skill list as "class skills". For example:

The fighter’s class skills (and the key ability for each skill) are Climb (Str), Craft (Int), Handle Animal (Cha), Intimidate (Cha), Jump (Str), Ride (Dex), and Swim (Str).

Since Fighters get 2 skills per level (not including intelligence), a player chooses two skills from the fighter skill list as class skills. A horseman would probably take Ride and Handle Animal.

At first level, these two skills are rank 2. Each additional fighter level increases these two skills by 1 rank. A 4th level fighter with Ride and Handle Animal as class skills would have Ride 5 and Handle Animal 5.

Characters also get a number of free skills per level equal to 1+ their intelligence bonus. The free skill points can be spent on any skill from your skill list or any untrained skill. So, the same fighter could spend free skill points on Climb (untrained) and Craft (trained, but in the skill list), but not Disable Device (trained, not in the skill list).

Characters can still used skills they are not trained in, but trained skills carry a DC penalty until you have 5 ranks in them. This is to represent how difficult they are, but also to keep from grabbing a single level of another class, buying a rank of some cross-class skill, and then using it without penalty from that time forward.

Monday, January 15, 2007


My (paid) work (that pays the bills and keeps my family fed) has been taking up a lot of my time lately - moreso than I would necessarily like. The work has to be done, but it has been taking a large chunk of my time that would otherwise be used for writing and getting this ready for consumption.

I have been unable to work on anything since mid December, essentially, so progress on Esaene has ground to a halt. With any luck, I'll be able to get some time as our frantic end-of-cycle testing schedule is slowing down and we enter a new software iteration at work. I'll try to keep things updated more often.