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Friday, July 17, 2015

Doing the Ranger or Being the Ranger: a #dnd class and its (missing) identity!

The "State of the Game" official podcast on the D&D website was a huge surprise for me and guys like me: they finally admitted having given the Ranger class nothing really unique, no true definite identity, and admitted that they want to work it out and present variants that solve this issue.

I don't want to link now the posts in which you could see that "I told you that!" - But I friggin' told you that!

Now, on to business:

The Ranger as it is today (read: as it always was)

The parenthesis is there to explain the origin of this whole issue.

We tend to associate words with what we know the word for, not with what the word could potentially represent. Due to this fundamental human weakness, every single iteration of the game has tried to refine, fix, and improve a class that was flawed *in its roots*.

The problems of the original Ranger are the following, and they apply to the Ranger as it is today:
  • It's a hybrid class, let's face it. Everything "typical" of the Ranger comes from another class, except for a few things that (even worse) come from Background territory.
  • It was meant to describe a specific character, we even know his name. The very word "ranger" basically comes from that character. The class evolved a bit only when it also needed to describe another specific character, and we know the name of that one too. Still: no class should describe unique characters. Unique characters should use the classes to be better described, which is totally different.
  • It casts freakin' spells. And still it tries to describe a particular archetype of expertise-based warrior/specialist that, if having all the skills and derived advantages it should have, would have no need of spells, other than no time to study them, or no time for the eventual mystical connection needed to receive them.
  • It's portrayed as a tree-hugger (a completely Background-territory concept) for no other reason than pure blatant cliche. To make a comparison, if such a Background-tied concept would be tied to the Fighter, we would have Fighters being described and having *features* such as "Beer-Fueled", "Obsessive weapon polisher", and "Being unable to speak without shouting". These kind of things should be completely out of a class, they just don't belong there.
  • It has no fighting mechanic that makes it different from any other man swinging or firing a weapon, other than some minor things like "extra damage or extra attack" choices, which could belong to just about any other class and don't tell anything about how is the Ranger something different.
Doing The Ranger

So to do the Ranger, what should you do? Being able to track, take the Perception and Survival skills, maybe some Knowledge (Nature) or Knowledge (Arcana) to know the weaknesses of monsters, and maybe have Expertise in these skills to be better than the Fighter with those skills. So you should be a Rogue and do these things. Entirely possible, entirely viable, and you will probably feel like you're "doing the Ranger" better than the Ranger himself, since you actually deal more damage with beautiful Sneak Attacks.

 - FAQs at this point:
  • But what about armor? Take the feat.
  • But what about hit points? Take Constitution, maybe feat.
  • But what about the animal companion? Animal Friendship or Familiar spell or plain-old training and Animal Handling skill.
  • But what about two-weapon fighting or archery? Yeah, what about them? You have them.
It's clear that it is easy to do the Ranger, especially by being a Rogue, but also being a Fighter or Barbarian, or even better mixing all of them, which is entirely possible.
If the Ranger has to be just "the class for those people who want to mix classes but don't want multiclassing", I hope you realize how pointless and shallow that is. The designers, fortunately, realized it now.
So what about being the Ranger?

Being The Ranger

Being the Ranger is basically what we don't know how to do. No Ranger yet has even BEEN a Ranger for real. It was just a class to easily do the Ranger, something that you could do using other classes. To be the Ranger, you must basically be something that no other Ranger class has ever been, then. It's uncharted territory.
Here is my basic point, my manifesto for the Ranger that is instead of the one that does.
The statement could sound a bit too serious and modern, but it's just because it needs to stress out technical differences. Without breaking much the immersion into the world of fantasy roleplaying, or D&D in particular, we could say that the Ranger is:

  • The kind of warrior that concentrates on the environment around him/her other than the foes.
  • The kind of warrior that patiently scouts an area and observes enemies for hours before attacking, to maximize every advantage.
  • The kind of warrior that is always moving and using momentum to dart around the battlefield, nearly dancing around the enemies, and making them die the death of the thousand cuts while pinning them in a situation or terrain from which they can't easily escape.
  • The kind of warrior that would set up traps,
  • The kind of warrior who works best alone.
  • The kind of warrior that can guide his/her allies across difficult terrain, or save them from immediate environmental dangers.
  • The kind of warrior that uses beasts as a tool for combat, sometimes forming close bonds with a beast that becomes the only reliable companion to fight in his way without spoiling the plans.
  • The kind of warrior that takes on the most difficult to reach enemies, by navigating the terrain better and faster than others, and/or by harassing them with bursts of arrows.
  • The kind of warrior that can have a whole bunch of people concentrated on him/her to no effect, because he/she moves better and faster, knows the terrain better and uses it better, and is sometimes difficult to spot or catch.
I think everyone can say that these things are strongly rooted into the fictional Ranger. The kind of Ranger that the Ranger class was never able to deliver.
This kind of Ranger is closer to the Rogue than to the Fighter, so...

The true rival of the Ranger: the Rogue - What should be similar, what different.

  • Both should be experts/specialists, as opposed to pure fighting machines/generalists (aka Fighters).
  • Both should care about their surrounding more than the generalists, because they depend on them both for attacking and survival.
  • Both use intellectual abilities more than the typical soldier.
  • Both are weaker in defense, stronger in attack, at least in general.
  • Both should be able to create the situations they need to excel/survive, at least in some limited fashion, when they can't find them in their surroundings.
  • A Ranger should be an expert in survival, terrain, the use of animals, possibly the making of traps or at least ambushes. A Rogue could be an expert of anything, even the Ranger stuff, but will never get the benefits that the Ranger gets from its particular expertise.
  • A Ranger should be a specialist of open, possibly natural terrain, movement across it, and long ranges (hence "ranger"), whereas a Rogue should excel in close quarters, provided he can use or create a distraction and/or a hiding/escape.
  • A Ranger should use a lot his/her Wisdom, whereas a Rogue should use a lot more Intelligence and Charisma.
  • A Ranger should focus more on open movement as a defense, whereas a Rogue should focus more on hiding or distracting.
  • A Ranger is stronger than a generalist Fighter in attacking multiple enemies, whereas a Rogue is stronger in attacking only one enemy at a time. None of them are strong in attack against a tight group, which should instead be the specialty of the Fighter, that has the defense skills to survive thick melees.
  • A Ranger could create the favored situation using his/her animal, previous terrain recon, and/or with bursts of movement and maneuvers aimed at separating the enemies, making them more manageable, whereas a Rogue could create the favored situation by improvising a diversion, distracting, feinting, hiding, or dirty-fighting alongside a more imposing ally.

And that's it from my side: I hope the designers will follow these new ways at last, after I suggested them for so long. Sure, crafting mechanics that actually represent them could be harder than just describing things like this, but I have a few ideas in those regards as well.
And in fact, I will conclude with a bonus: a pitch for a truly unique Ranger mechanic.

BONUS: Skirmish (A possible signature mechanic for the new Ranger)

Instead of attacking once (or more times, depending on additional attacks), and subsequently dealing damage accordingly, as a Ranger you can attack every enemy you move close enough to, or every enemy in line of sight in case of ranged weapon usage, with a single attack roll and damage roll. You just split the total damage as you wish among the enemies whose AC you hit with your roll.

This feature would work because instead of gaining additional attacks, the Ranger could gain additional movement or line of sight to attack more enemies, while other features could provide additional damage in various situations.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

#DnD in #MtGKtK: Adventuring in #Tarkir! (BONUS: Ainok as a PC race!)

Well, finally after the intellectual injury that I felt during the #Theros period, a new Magic expansion comes. (To add offense to injury, I even liked Theros' art and mechanics, making me even more mad about the flavor...).
Khans of Tarkir looks like it will become one of those expansions that catch me completely, like #Innistrad or #Zendikar (although nothing can beat Zendikar for me, really).

What are some good bullet points about Tarkir as a D&D setting?

  • The land is wild and dangerous but includes some civilization in many different forms.
    This is particulary good because it offers variety in playstyles. You could have dungeon crawls in the bowels of the #Sultai decadent cities, intirgue on their surface, wild adventures throughout #Temur and #Mardu territories, with Mardu offering a cool militaristic/nomad background and Temur focusing more on primal aspects. #Abzan organized cities would be good for crime and politics adventures, while #Jeskai monasteries could house arcane weirdness of all kinds.
  • Each clan has multiple focuses, allowing for different types of characters in it.
    The Sultai (my favorite) are about necromancy, opulence, assassination, intrigue, and even world domination.
    The Abzan are about law and order, with a focus on defense and passive isolationism.
    The Temur are the go-to clan for primal forces, druidic magic, beasts and the wild in general, but also have a good bit of martial prowess in them.
    The Mardu are the typical "horde" clan, the icon of the setting if you wish, with "raiding" being the standard form of living, but with some dark magic (especially concealment) in it as well.
    The Jeskai are the most "enlightened" clan, with monks being prominent, but also wizards and a pursuit of knowledge and perfection in general.
  • There are a few nice peculiarities about magic in Tarkir.
    The "morphs" are basically just concealed creatures or things that fight with some kind of elemental or purely arcane force power. There are artifacts and spells to look what these morph "clouds" conceal, and it's a form of magic available to all clans, something connected with the world itself maybe, worth exploring in D&D even as a new mechanic.
  • Dragons are apparently absent, but at the same time their presence is felt.
    The spirit dragon Ugin is trapped somehow here in its homeland (although he was prominent in Zendikar, so it must be or have been a planeswalker), and Sarkhan Vol is a dracomancer. The spirits of dragons may be the basis of elemental/primal magic in Tarkir, and some dragons may still be alive, trapped in hybernation beneath the ices that they indirectly brought after their last war (some sort of nuclear winter!).
  • A guide to the setting: Part 1 (Intro, Abzan, Jeskai, Sultai) and Part 2 (Mardu, Temur, Planeswalkers)
    There is even mention of locations and prominent NPCs. I'd say it makes for a nearly ready-to-play world!
  • Quite a few interesting races!
    The new tage on naga, the brand new Ainok that come in canine or ursine variants, the extremely original take on djinn and efreet... There is really plenty of races to choose for Tarkir characters!
  • There are strong connections with Zendikar!!
    This is not really an advantage of Tarkir as a D&D setting in general, but for me personally it is that and much more!

Clan Mechanics

I really tried to translate some of the clan mechanics to feats or some other kind of thing, but I must admit that even with my now long experience of translating even the most abstract Magic mechanics into D&D terms, this time I thought it was too much of a stretch. It's really not worthy in my opinion, and subclasses specific to the clans may do a much better job. I might change my mind on special feats, but it would entail changing the original mechanic very much, especially since some of them are just keywords that activate always on the same condition, but never having the same effect. These must change for sure, if they have to be set into feats, while they can retain their variability if set into different subclasses, or variant class features.

All in all, it's really not necessary to convert these signature mechanics, because more than anything they represent the style of the clan, which is already apparent if one builds a character well-inserted/themed in/around the clan.

Races! The Ainok!

Yes, I could not resist!

Ainok Traits

Ability Score Increase. Your Wisdom score increases by 1.
Size. Canine, desert-dwelling Ainok associated with the Abzan are human-sized or even a tad smaller, while the ursine Ainok of the Temur lands are much bigger, espeically broader.
Subraces. There are two subraces of Ainok: the canine Ainok allied to the Abzan, and the ursine Ainok allied to the Temur. They are very different.

Canine Ainok
Canine Ainoks sometimes resemble hyenas, and are adapted to the desert of the Abzan territories, and the magic art of sandcalling.
Ability Score Increase. Your Dexterity score increases by 2.
Speed. Your base walking speed is 35 feet.
Survivalist: You are trained in the Survival skill.
Desert Adapted. You have the equivalent of the Natural Explorer Ranger feature focused on deserts and dry steppes. If you are a Ranger, you must select another territory, since the bonuses wouldn't stack.
Sandcalling Adept. You can conjure sand to make lightly obscured an area of 10 feet per 10 within a range of 30 feet. The effect lasts until the end of your next turn. You can do so a number of times equal to your Wisdom modifier. You regain all expended uses after a long rest. At 5th level, you can instead make the area heavily obscured.

Ursine Ainok
Ursine Ainok resemble bears, and are adapted to the cold sub-arctic territories of the Temur clan.
Ability Score Increase. Your Strength score increases by 1, and your Constitution score increases by 2.
Speed. Your base walking speed is 25 feet.
Cold Adapted. You have Resistance to Cold damage.
Broad Build. You have Advantage on Shoving and Grappling checks and count as Large for the purpose of carrying capacity and the amount of wight you can lit, push, or drag; but you have Disadvantage on attacks and Dexterity ability checks and saves when confined in a 5-feet wide space.

That's all for now folks, please provide your feedback and ideas!

Saturday, September 6, 2014

@criticalhits: Here's my 10 #DnD monsters I always use & 5 I don't!

A tweet-title for this mini-blog-carnival post induced by Critical Hits!
Here is the original post by legendary Dave Chalker: quite an awesome list, especially because it reminded me of the Zaratan (a turtle-island thing!), and made me think of ways I would use it..!

As my few readers might imagine, my list is gonna be a bit counter-intuitive... But let's start with no further ado! (Usually I don't do it when I declare it, but here fortunately there's really no possibility of writing any useful introduction..!)

10 monsters I use in every D&D campaign:

  1. Gargoyles
    The gothic factor is really impossible to ignore, and where the campaign flavor is not really gothic-y, I tend to use their stats for re-flavored variants. In general, having a cool stony decoration taking life is something that makes my adventures... Mine! Ah, there's no way these monsters won't be customized by me with particularly nasty martial prowess and/or divine magic... They're just made for these things!
    (I know the illustration is that of a Malebranche Devil, but that's how my gargoyles look like, when not of stone!)

  2. Faeries (of any kind)
    The Seelie Court and even more so the Unseelie Court are always present, somewhere, in my campaign worlds. And when these beings come into play, strange things happen. For me, fey/faeries equal morality madness: it's an occasion to introduce truly strange and contrasting morals and ethics to the campaign and make the players question themselves both about these critters and themselves! Who's doing right? Who's the bad guy? When tricksters are beautiful or even cute, the lines of these questions are very blurred!
    (The illustration is that of Oona's Blackguard, from MtG: an example of dark faerie flavor!)

  3. Faerie dragons / Pseudodragons / any tiny dragon!
    First of all, obviously, it's a way to add dragons at low levels, and possibly tie them with the faeries. Second, they can be even more annoying than true dragons! A faerie dragon usually has spells and magical abilities that makes it a pain for adventurers to fight (or even ally with), and pseudodragons, with their random "save or sleep" sting are another major threat when in large numbers! Plus, the whole aesthetics of the campaign and/or setting change when these creatures are abundant. It basically means "in this world, common things are a minority"..!
    (Link to illustration: )

  4. Kuo-Toa / Locatah / Sahuagin 
    There MUST be "fishy folk" in my games... No game of mine is complete without a big part of it at least related to underwater adventuring or underwater threats coming out to do some unusual above-water adventuring! Locatah in particular (in the illustration), this forgotten-by-game-designers kin, are my favorite: their very fish-like look makes them the most alien of the three, and thus the most likely to be related to some kind of cult dedicated to, spawned by, or spawning some... ->

  5. Far Realm entities / creatures
    And I'm not speaking Mind Flayers or other D&D classics... I'm speaking pure Lovecraftian horror!! And they MUST be aquatic. Aboleths are in fact among my favorites, and as many of you know, you can base entire story-arcs on them, even in traditional published worlds such as Forgotten Realms.
    The illustration is originally Juiblex, a demon prince. But the fact I found it in a lovecraft fansite to represent a Shoggoth is telling...
    But since we're speaking aquatic unfathomable horrors, I must go epic directly and call forth The Prince: ->

  6. DAGON
    YES. Even if he's supposed to be an incredibly epic level guy, his presence must be felt since low levels in my campaigns. The Prince of Depths incarnates four things that I like and I already cited in previous entires: aquatic, horror, great evil, alien, blurred morality. You would say a demon prince has nothing to do with blurred moralities, but if you go by the most complete D&D lore about him, Dagon is a demon of an older generation compared to "regular ones", even other princes. He's an Obyrith, demons that basically ended up with their universe of origin already, and crawled into this universe before more regular demons even existed, and possibly even spawning them. It screams alternate creation myths and links to the Far Realm. And just as with Aboleths, Krakens, and other related aquatic masterminds, it also calls for a cult of followers, with all that such a thing implies for a D&D setting!

  7. Hobgoblins
    Finally a classic, you'd say! And yes, I like the classic-ness of Hobgoblins, particularly the fact that they're militaristic and, in D&D terms, devil-ish, due to their favored alignments and general motivations. They're cool also because they could constitute the army of another race, and because their possible link with devils might make them connected with Nine Hells-related plots. And from a simple humanoid critter, there goes a planar campaign in the making!

  8. Ghosts
    Everybody has a favorite undead, and I go again for a rather surprising classic in this department. Ghosts can be simply everywhere, and they are basically living (undying, actually) mini-quests for adventurers. Each ghost is a side-trek in the adventure of its own.

  9. Angels
    Again a matter of blurred morality, but nobody can deny that angels can be pretty scary. Especially because when you finally manage to stop their fury (by killing them: they would never surrender), you start wondering a bit too much about who or what you angered in doing so... In the illustration, an angel that appeared in the archive of 4e's Monster Manual illustrations online, but not on the actual manual... Never solved the mystery, and yes, although it's probably a rare case of evil angel, don't think the others were less scary!

  10. NINJAS!
    Broad enough to cite more favorite monsters in one entry, in D&D ninjas can be anything, and in my campaigns this is especially true. There can be desert elf magic ninjas, lizardmen ninjas (Predator love, anyone?), naga ninjas (icing on the cake!), rakshasa ninjas (the revelation/transformation moment is golden, plus these cat-people die easily once revealed!), giant undead mantis ninjas (yes, I did it once), warforged ninjas (can't help thinking about that villain from the first Hellboy movie!) and sometimes even DRAGON NINJAS (Shadow Dragons of course)... The important thing is acting like a ninja. Mixing exotic combat styles to plain assassination-aimed lurking! In the illustration, Ink Eyes, a ratling ninja of the MtG setting of Kamigawa. It's an oriental-flavored example, so not very apt at displaying how many more "typical D&D flavors" exist, but she's my favorite by far!

... And 5 I don't:

  1. Drow
    Perhaps due to many players favoring the race, perhaps because they're too obvious, Drow never figured in my D&D campaigns as enemies, except for one time in which they were reflavored as the dominant civilization in a "real world setting" in which they were basically the civilization of Atlantis. And they looked nothing like true Drow.
  2. Orcs
    Come on... Orcs...
  3. Giants
    I find them mostly uninteresting, with the exception of Fomorians!
  4. Zombies
    Another thrill-killing critter! And I hate zombie movies as well!
  5. Elementals
    At least in their single-element standard variants, they are really boring compared to many other elemental-themed creatures!

Now blog yours!

Let's keep up the hype at least until we're not too busy reading the new Monster Manual!!
It's your turn now!

Monday, August 4, 2014

New #DnD #5e class in the making: the Weaver! - Part 1

D&D 5e is out only through the (incredibly promising) Starter Set as of now, but I couldn't hold myself anymore, I did it again: I created a custom class!

Actually, I haven't created it yet... I have some notes, a stream-of-consciousness-like thread of facebook comments in the D&D Next group, and many ideas in my head. But possibly, here and now the class is going to take the first gaming-terms form for the first time.

First of all, a little intro as I'm used to do.

Why a new class, and why the Weaver

To the first question, usually I wouldn't bother replying, because in my world (real-world sense), with my parameters, there is nearly always space for a new class. However, many people are concerned with this question, probably because they don't have/know fixed parameters to regulate new classes.
To me a new class has to exist when NO other class or even multiclass combination has the mechanical and thematic space to allocate for a given concept. 
Negative examples: 
- A Pirate class? Nonsense: even if the thematical niche is big enough, there is nothing in their way of doing things that couldn't be done with other classes, so it ends up being a Background in D&D 5e terms.
- A Ninja class? Hardly: as a subclass of the Rogue or Monk (boys, it's really coming as the latter!!) every needed mechanic can be represented, so add a specific custom Background to that, and a new Class becomes completely redundant.
- An alternative caster class? Depends: if we're just talking of a new way of dealing with existing spells, you could make a new class mechanics-wise, but thematically it's surely going to step on others, becoming more useful as a simple replacement of slots for an existing class, like it happened during the playtest of D&D 5e for the spell points system.

So, for many people, this would mean there is really no space for new classes. For me, it means you just restricted an endless pool to a still numerous list.

The Weaver is a spellcaster in thematic terms (and even there, with a foot steadily set on "trickster class" territory), but mechanically is a completely new animal, with absolutely no spells in traditional sense.
It draws from many past concepts to ultimately becoming something completely unique and new, and as such, also difficult to explain.
I will start with a quote from my draft of full class write-up, to make the Weaver more of a solid concept: sample characters scenes like in the upcoming D&D 5e Player's Handbook!

A mischievous gnome hops around a minotaur, artfully dodging his axe, and suddenly the expression on the minotaur's taurine roster becomes one of nonsensical amusement, and he starts dancing, carelessly dropping his weapon.
A brooding tiefling runs past the beholder with demonic speed, and the aberration starts emitting unspeakable sounds while it bursts into green flames.
An elf with colorful sparks fluctuating inside her eyes dances intricately as if with an invisible companion, then she abruptly soars in the air and a mighty gale blows from her, hitting hard the imps and dropping them to the floor, tens of feet away.
These magic users are rare gifted individuals who can see and manipulate the weave of magic. As such, they are known to a few scholars of cryptic arcana as Weavers. Their unique way of creating magical effects involves only movement, along invisible and ever-changing leylines that only they can see.

Now, from here the Weaver actually starts looking like a quite familiar concept, and you might think that it actually does step on other classes. But look at a common element among these characters and especially their actions: movement. The Weaver is a movement-based spellcaster. To cast spells he/she actually has to move. However, this is not "its shtick", or its source idea.
Here we go with more specific Weaver info...

Seeing the Weave of Magic and knowing how to use it

This is the underlying concept behind the Weaver. The Weaver does not have an innate source of power, but has an innate supernatural ability to see invisible sources of power all around: the strands, or leylines, of the Weave of Magic. If you prefer to reason in scientific terms, the Weaver has the ability to see in so many spectrums at once, that he/she can even perceive things such as magnetic field lines, electrical fields, and basically every force that could (un)realistically be harnessed.
In fantasy terms, the Weaver is very much tied to the Fey, or better yet to the concept of a parallel invisible world were "magic flows strong". They see these currents and they understood by pure experience that by moving through them, they can produce magical effects.
The tricky thing is that they don't decide where these currents, which we'll call leylines, are or go to. The leylines are influenced by the position in space of living individuals, the Weaver first and foremost, and as such, when the Weaver moves, the leylines are readjusted. But more than anything, they are simply random, and they usually go through, or into, living beings near the Weaver. Whether they are allies or foes.
If you are an experienced D&D player, you already see a lot of mechanics underlying this. And the funny thing is that even with this apparent randomness, especially in the selecting of targets, the Weaver's magical effects are always useful, because they can be used always in two ways: positive or negative. So they can always either help allies, or damage (but mostly hinder) foes. It's just that each turn the Weaver has little control on what of these two he will do, although he can still try to move around, and readjust the leylines to his or her liking (but risking to end the available movement, and thus the available magical effects!)

So this is the general concept in rather gamist terms. It has a lot more theme to it still to be explained, even if I could see already a lot of potential theme in these gaming terms, such as an interaction with the forces of magic unlike any other caster, an innate or acquired special sense to see them, and a surely chaotic tendency, other than little reliance on Intelligence and study, and not much even on true personal power. It's nearly a new take on what personal power is.

The original story of the Weaver and the many possible ones.

I admit that at first the Weaver had a very set-in-stone story/setting element to it. So much so that it could have been "disqualified" by my "new class requirements". In fact, if a class includes a Background, it basically invalidates Backgrounds. But it was pretty easy to overcome this problem. However here goes the original flavor behind the class.

The Weaver was the Spelldancer. A class deeply connected with the Fey. In particular, it had to represent the way fairies do things in Magic: The Gathering. It's incredibly difficult to "port/convert" Magic cards into D&D or even just RPG terms, but it's possible, and with a lot of abstraction, anything can come out, even awesome things. The fairies in MtG are scary because they are fast, and because even if they are "squishy", they can basically run past the opponents that they disable through magic, and defeat the enemy before the big creatures can be effective or sometimes even act. So this was the original idea behind the movement-based spellcasting. As such, the Weaver/Spelldancer was meant to be "the fey caster": the fey version of the Wizard if you wish. As such, however, it covered a really small niche. Some settings don't even have fey altogether. So instead of seeing the fey leylines, I decided that Weaver version 0.2 could actually see the whole Weave of Magic. This makes for a much more general and sub-divisible concept (don't forget every class needs subclasses, in D&D 5e). 

However, the Weaver still has a "main story", and from being a full-on "fey class", it became "a rare type of natural gift that more often appears in fey races", but dealing with energies that are not fey in nature, just purely magical. This can also help explain, in the settings Weavers are present, even if not common, why a fey creature such as a Sprite or Pixie might be very hyperactive movement-wise: it would be their preferred way of creating magical effects.
Being a class common among the fey, the magical effects of the Weaver are still going to bear fey-reminiscing names, but just because they were named by the fey: nothing in their nature is intrinsically fey.
I think this helps convey the original story, without rooting it too much into the class: just rename the magical effects or even just their classification, and you got another flavor. The underlying game-world story of being able to see and manipulate the general Weave of Magic will make the rest: the character would be one of those rare individuals, and could have even named him/her-self the effects that he/she discovered how to produce.

So basically each Weaver can have a unique story, but with a common underline about the source of their power, just as Wizards, Sorcerers, and Warlocks can.

Of Charms and Seasons: the original "spells" of the Weaver

So the "default" idea is to leave a fey-ish tone set into the "spell-list" of the Weaver.
As such, I present to you the table of the Weaver's Charms:

Seasons / Charms of Power - Charms of Hearts - Charms of Making - Charms of Flutter
Winter  /   Charm of Ice       - Charm of Apathy    - Charm of Disappearing - Charm of Borea
Spring  /   Charm of Dawn  - Charm of Empathy  - Charm of Appearing     - Charm of Zephyr
Summer / Charm of Fire     - Charm of Sympathy - Charm of Making         - Charm of Sirocco
Fall      /  Charm of Dusk    - Charm of Antipathy - Charm of Unmaking     - Charm of Mistral

If you noticed a pattern, well... You missed some! Many patterns here, and with many possible implications.

First of all, these are not exactly the bread and butter of apprentice Weavers, at least not in my current idea. The first two levels are going to be those of Minor Charms. A bit like the cantrip versions of Charms, although all Charms are at-will, more on that later. From 3rd level onwards though, you're gonna be able to select 10 Charms. If you notice, 10 among a selection of 16, arranged as a "4x4 matrix", means that you could complete only two "rows" or "columns" of Charms. Which means, only two Seasons or two types of Charms, or one of each. This gives me some room to do something cool with Weavers: making them change based on what Charms they are able to produce. Or even better, leaving it unclear if they are really selecting them, or if they are just unraveling a deeper magical nature within them! Lots of story possibilities.

Again, if you think the names make the flavor too set in stone, you can change a lot. The ones which are perhaps a bit bound are the winds, or Charms of Flutter. In theory, these Charms could optionally make the tactical aspect of the Weaver a bit more complex, adding preferred attack (or buff) "directions". However, I think about leaving this rule optional. And if optional, it could mean they could be renamed in many ways based on their effects. The Borea is a wind that opposes movement. The Zephyr facilitates movement. The Sirocco increases movement, and the Mistral just moves everything. They could be interpreted as (and they are, actually) different ways in which the magical strands of the Weave and its "currents" can affect the physical world, just like the other Charms, but in a more literal/physical way. They are the true forces at work, and I'm even thinking about associating them with areas of effect. One could be cone, one could be line, one could be "burst", and so on.

As you can see, it looks like one Charm by itself would not be very useful, but two or three together might turn into real spells. Well, that's exactly the case. And "two or three" is exactly the number of Charms that a good Weaver could cast in the time a Wizard casts one spell..!

Weaving. Or how to cast 2 or 3 mini-spells to get a full one.

This concept I hadn't touched yet. The Weavers use movement to cast Charms. But they are also very good at movement, and can move in strange ways, when the leylines allow them to. In particular, they are extremely fast when near other living beings, which bend the leylines. This is represented by a simple rule which will say that "circling around" a living being (or more than one, with the progression of levels), only costs half of the base movement, whatever the base movement is. This rule implies they can do so two times, potentially. And these two special movements are the triggers for 2nd and 3rd Charm in a row! The 2nd is actually going to be a Bonus Action. The third is actually going to be a Reaction, so it's gonna come up later in the round, but still necessarily before the start of the Weaver's next turn.
Note that the Charms are meant to be combined, and they work in a "cascade-like" fashion: the 2nd Charm is going to include elements of the 1st, and the 3rd is going to include elements of both 1st and 2nd, becoming the most dangerous or useful, depending on who's the target. 

So yes, Weavers actually do their most awesome thing outside of their turns. The problem is they don't know the target, or not much in advance: the leylines are constantly changing with movements of creatures!

The Leylines: their randomness and their awesomness

Let's go with my proposed mechanic, without much ado:
At the start of your turn, and each time you move at least 5 feet, roll 1d6 to determine the direction of the leylines: 
- 1: The leylines go upwards. (You can still use them using a Charm of Flutter or any other ability to jump at least 10 feet up, or fly.) 
- 2: The leylines pass exactly in between the two nearest living creatures. (You can circle them only if they are separated by no more than 5 feet.) 
- 3: The leylines go through the second nearest creature. (You can circle it.)
- 4: The leylines end into the second nearest creature. (You can circle it, you have Advantage on Charms against it, or it has Disadvantage on Saves against your Charms.)
- 5: The leylines go through the nearest creature. (You can circle it.)
- 6: The leylines end into the nearest creature. (You can circle it, you have Advantage on Charms against it, or it has Disadvantage on Saves against your Charms.)
So basically, from 3 to 6 you will surely be able to do something interesting (that is, casting at least two Charms, if the distances permit it), while 1 and 2 can mean being limited to one Charm, and possibly being better off using weapons, unless you have a Charm of Flutter, roll 1, and use a Charm of Flutter to soar a little, then possibly another one to soar more, and then use a third Charm as a Reaction later, with devastating effects. You will see this is possible only past 5th level, and it's good because it can result basically into a Fireball!

Note that "circling" is still a placeholder name, and it refers to actually circle around a creature. In the upwards leylines it would actually mean circling in the air. I will think of a standard terms to use, maybe, or keep circle just because it's easily understandable.

That's it! I think the table and the possible cases look as simple as I see them, to everyone.

A Weaver's Abilities.

So, for the final part of this part 1, I will talk about the abilities needed by a Weaver. I hope I won't surprise too much anybody who read until here, at this point, if I say Dexterity will be the "spellcasting ability for Weavers". Yes. There is still a bit of uncertainty about the second most important ability. Part of me is prone to making it subclass-decided. And in particular, it should affect the Unarmored Defense, if present (still thinking about it). The most thematically-correct choice would be Charisma, and could even be class-wide, but it would make the class a bit too race-tuned, something I don't like. Wisdom would be very correct under the Unarmored Defense point of view, and the fact the class actually needs to sense the Weave well, but it would make it too Monk-like. So in the end, I think I'm gonna stick with Charisma, and say that the Leylines themselves can basically be a form of defense for a Weaver, and this defense is stronger the more his or her force of personality is strong, because the Leylines would be affected by it. In ways only a Weaver can exploit.

So to wrap up everything, here is an illustration that I hope won't cause wrong judgments by the sexism-conscious crowd, of which I'm part, actually... It's just that it's hard to find good illustrations of spllcasters that look like they are dancing...
Plus, for a Weaver it actually makes sense to have absolutely no armor: movement is everything. And Charisma adds to AC...


Friday, June 20, 2014

Oracle of Nectars from #MtG as inspiration for #13thAge/#DnD character!

My Zendikar 13thAge / D&D conversion is revealing itself a titanic task, and although I deeply enjoy writing for it, sometimes I need a change of pace, and creating a character from a random (and awesome) illustration is exactly the change of pace I need!

We now know that codename D&D Next will simply be called D&D (as easily foreseen), and "5th edition" will be written on the back cover, because they can't lie of course. :)

I'm still under NDA from my Wizards Of The Coast internal playtesting group (have I ever mentioned that?), so I can't use any of the more up to date material. As such, in this indirect comparison between the two RPGs' character creation systems, 13thAge rolls with Advantage, to use a D&D game term... Or D&D with Disadvantage... Or both. You got my point.

So here is the guy I want to represent!

We are clearly seeing, apart from the exaggerated ears and the horns typical of some MtG planes, a light-armored if not unarmored elf, with some kind of spellcasting looking perhaps druidic, perhaps holy, perhaps elemental in nature, and a fine sword. Clearly a Dexterity-focused type, probably also Wisdom. Perfect as a Wood Elf!

Here I go with my D&D Next (last public playtest packet) version!


Thursday, May 8, 2014

#MtG #Faeries as a #13thAge Playable Race!

I couldn't help it once +Adam Minnie gave me the idea, and here's an initial adaption of the Faeries from Magic: The Gathering to the rules of 13th Age!
I think I found an elegant solution to represent the variety and the "tempo mastering" of MtG faeries, although it's so difficult to find equivalent mechanics between such fundamentally different games...

Feedback needed!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Trying to replicate #MtG Faeries in #dndnext and #13thAge!

Ok so I'm having a LOT of fun with the "Up To Mischief" deck for the soon-to-be-obsolete Duel of The Planeswalkers 2014 (that I play on my Sony Z1 compact... Very small text, not for everyone).

I was sure I was going to love Faeries decks in MtG since I saw some decklists around the web, and this deck, although far less powerful than optimized ones, and surely not as powerful as other decks in the videogame, is a blast to play. And even more than that, the flavor is awesome.

The Faeries work with one another in a very particular way, and are basically "spell-creatures", in that each one of them does something that normally only sorcery or instant spell do, and they do this as instants because they can be summoned off-turn. It's actually easier for me to show you how it is in play, than to tell it, so let me do an example with the actual cards.

  1. Ok, so this random ugly faerie is the basis of the deck. It costs one mana and it flies. There are other creatures this convenient, but not many. Usually fliers cost more. So it's already a nuisance for the enemy to see this on turn one, because it very probably won't have anything to block it with.
    But what it does best is being a buddy to the faerie that comes next...

  2. This awesome lady instead is much more interesting. She has Flash, meaning that she will be summoned off-turn. And she counters ANY enemy spell, provided it costs as much mana as you have faeries. And since it's turn two, the enemy will only have two mana. And you have already one faerie. With this one coming, it already counts as two, so basically you can counter whatever the enemy tries to cast!
    Only problem: she does that as a one shot. Then it's just a common 1/1 flier that will die easily.
    Note that this is true for the whole "army of the faeries": they have great utility and they surprise the enemy coming off-turn, but they are very frail, and will die if you sneeze at them.
    But look what happens when the following girl comes into town...

  3. At turn three, if you have three mana as you should, you can use one to summon this mischievous winged girly. She is mischievous because she doesn't want to enter the scene unless someone else comes out. But guess what, you have a very good reason to kick out the Spellstutter Sprite. After all, she's just coming back to your hand. And you're leaving two mana untapped. That means that right when your enemy will have three mana himself (all of this assumes you play first by the way, paramount importance for Faeries decks). you will be able to summon Spellstutter Sprite again, and counter whatever he or she may cast, again, for the second turn in a row, and using the same creature, and even after that creature had already scored one point of damge. It's not much, but little by little, the enemy is gonna die the death by thousand cuts..!

  4. Ahh this is my personal favorite, especially for the name: Pestermite! It's a true pest, and the enemy will know it! It can tap or untap anything. Use it to untap a land of yours and possibly have mana to cast another faerie (maybe another Spellstutter, which will benefit from another faerie in the battlefied, being able to counter even bigger spells!), or tap a land of the enemy before he or she acts, reducing the available mana for the turn. Or tap a creature that you know will be a problem, such as one that deals a lot of damage or is unblockable. Or use it during your turn to tap the only flyer that the enems might have at this point, thus making your army of faeries damage the enemy without anyone trying to block!
    The Pestermite has tons of uses, and the cool thing of this deck is that you will always find new creative ways of using the creatures.

  5. This guy is visibly and mechanically the bard of the group. He buffs all the other faeries, but the nice thing is that as most of them, he can enter off-turn. So you can lure the enemy into attacking your weak fairies and then bam! Suddenly they're not that weak anymore, and in addition, they gain complete protection from spells or abilities that target them.
    Note that this guy can't affect himself. But if you manage to land TWO Scions, then they're gonna affect each other, and you're gonna have a truly fearsome army!
    However, useful as he may be, he can't reach the coolness levels of the next in the chain of command...

  6. The Archmage of the faeries really gives the impression of being a miniaturized version of a powerful mage: she's not a force to be reckoned with, but she is surprisingly resilient.
    Basically, she can receive any mount of damage, she can die, literally. And she will come back, just at half power.
    And she can exploit this "magic shield" she also visually has around there to use a very romantic ability of sacrificing to counter a spell. Yes, she's basically killing herself, but she also basically has two lives. So you can view her in two ways: either her magical forcefield is one of her lives, and she can lose it either by interposing herself between her allies and any monster or her allies and any spell... Or she can really die and resurrect, at least once, and she can literally sacrifice herself to counter a spell. She's the cutest of the bunch to me, only by virtue of having this ability!

  7. And there she is, the Queen! Oona is an engine of arcane destruction. She messes up with the enemy library of spells directly, not just forcing a discard (which means they could be recoverable in some way) but exiling them, which is a complete erasing from the game. And for each one exiled like this of a chosen color, you summon a pesky faerie rogue.
    You can also do this off-turn (although you can't summon her off turn) to have these new faeries be ready to fight on your next turn. But more often than not, at this point of the battle, you could just "turtle up" in defense, and win by depleting the enemy's library, since if the enemy starts a turn in which he or she can't draw a card, the game is lost!
    Now two more ladies that come up a bit off the list...

  • This faerie is basically a kamikaze, but defensive. She's a living minefield. And the explosions will permanently cripple the enemy. Basically she will never survive an attack, but the enemy, if surviving the two damage, will never heal from the wound and will also lose strength in equal measure! So if a big 4/3 creature is attacking, it will become a much more manageable 2/1 after dealing with the Gatewarden. And as such, she will be blockable by any Scion-enhanced "soldier faerie" (one that I didn't put here), which will be 3/3. Or simply by another kamikaze defense of a worthless Zephyr Sprite..!
    So she's not necessary in the ecosystem, and this is why I wanted to separate her from the true list, but the fact she's basically the personal guard of the Queen could make me think of something RPG-wise...

  • And here's a much more important faerie, and darker too! In fact, she's a blackguard, and she empowers only Rogues. Not only she empowers them, she infuses them with the dark magic necessary to make the enemy forget spells!
    And do you remember (apart from the Impostor and the Pestermite) who else is Rogue? All the countless faeries summoned from enemy spells by Oona the Queen! So just add this Blackguard to the mix, and the enemy is going to be hopeless against them.
    The problem with this Blackguard is that she's... Black. The fact that basically all the rest of the ecosystem is Blue, makes me think that even if this Blackguard costs only two mana, she comes into the fray much after what her cost suggests.
    And I'm not reasoning in MtG terms anymore, because if you haven't understood yet, I found the way to replicate this "ecosystem" in D&D-like games just fine..!

Translating a deck of creatures in D&D

... Is not an easy thing to do. At least not until you figure out what translates into what. The concept of mana is completely out of question, or isn't it? In a way, yes, because there's no way to translate the tapping of lands to get mana. But the mana cost gives some kind of ranking to the creatures. And the fact that in Magic they come out sequentially, has given me the idea to represent the whole thing:

What if we treat these faeries a bit like the demons of old in D&D, which were able to summon others of their kind..?
Basically, the "type 1" (or 1 mana) Faeries would be able to call the Type 2, and so on. So the encounters would always (or regularly) begin with only Type 1s. But they will soon call Type 2s, and the Type 2s will call the Type 3s and so on! With one exception: once a Type is called in, even if the directly inferior are not there anymore or are dead, even the lowly Type 1s will be able to call the Type 3s, and 4s. It's like a threshold system. Once a type is ready, it will always come, even if the "callers" are not there anymore. That is, you'd have to kill ALL the faeries to get rid of them completely. Or they could retreat of course, but the game wouldn't be over...

So basically this would be the system. Then the abilities are much easier to convert:
  1. Impostors would basically protect a faerie already called in, making it come again later. Mechanically, this could be like a teleport with delayed re-entry, or in 13th Age, it would be perfectly represented by the Shadow Walk mechanic of the Rogue, but applied to another creature, by the Impostor.
  2. Spellstutters would of course make spells fail. But I'd say not only spells, everything ranged. They would come out of nowhere, fluttering right under the nose of the casting or shooting character, and the attack would fail, based on how many other fairies are present.
  3. Pestermites would do pretty much the same, but they would make the character lose the action directly, making them useful also against melee characters. In addition, they could basically insta-call somebody else (in particular Impostors or Spellstutters), to represent their ability to free-up used mana.
  4. Scions would just give a small combat buff (namely a +1 to AC and a +2 to damage), and they would make everybody invisible, forcing the characters to deal with them, since they would remain visible and weak.
  5. The Archmage would lure attacks onto her, just to make the characters discover that she's invulnerable, at least for a round. Then she could remain in the back, until a big danger comes, and at that point she could again interpose herself and die for good, but maybe saving many more in the process.
  6. The Queen would right away suck Hit Points from characters and use them to summon "type 1s". Along with Hit Points, she could also interact with prepares spells, or draining Intelligence/Wisdom/Charisma, making spells ineffective. But sucking true HP is important as well, because the point is that you can't let her do her thing for more then 4 or 5 rounds, or you're dead.
  7. The Gatewarden would be a mook/minion but that gives a combat debuff that doesn't go away, to those who kill her.
  8. The Blackguard would be pretty much like the Scion, but no Invisibility and instead add some debuffing effect to the attacks of rogues (Impostors, Pestermites, and the Oona minions).
And basically that would be it! I'll also add true stats to the post, but for now I'm happy like this already!

Keep up the faerie-like mischief, everybody!