Friday, September 3, 2010

Six-Level Steampunk, part 2

Previously, I laid down the framework for an Engines & Empires campaign that tops out at 6th level—a low-powered, low-magic world where nobody is a super-hero (or super-villain) and nobody is ever invulnerable. The basic rules for character advancement were outlined in the last post; and next come the changes which need to be made for each character class when using this campaign model.

Boxers
Lv1: Unarmed Damage 1d4, Deflect Missile 1/turn, Off-Hand Penalty -2
Lv3: Unarmed Damage 1d6
Lv4: Stunning Fist 1/turn
Lv5: Unarmed Damage 1d8, Deflect Missile 2/turn, Off-Hand Penalty -0
Lv6: The Boxer can quest to become a Champion. Once that happens, the Champion immediately acquires the “Feel Qi” ability and a qi pool with 3 + Con mod qi points. Further qi powers (Focus Qi, Control Qi, Project Qi, etc.) are not learned automatically; instead, the Champion must travel and quest to learn them from masters, senseis, and sifus around the world (rather like collecting magical items). A Champion can also found a cloister or dojo and attract students, as normal.

Experts
Lv1: Three Bonus Skills, Critical Hit Chance 1-in-8
Lv4: Critical Hit Damage x3
Lv5: Critical Hit Chance 1-in-6
Lv6: The Expert can quest to become a Professional. A Professional can cast arcane spells as a 2nd level mage (two 1st level spell slots) and acquires a set of combat tricks (1d4 unarmed damage, 1d6 improvised weapon damage, full damage with rarely thrown weapons, off-hand penalty -2). A Professional can also found a guild and attract apprentices.

Fighters
Lv1: Focused Strike 1/turn
Lv4: Whirlwind Attack 1/turn
Lv5: Focused Strike 2/turn
Lv6: The Fighter can quest to become a Lord. A Lord can turn undead and cast divine spells as a 2nd level scholar (one 1st level spell slot), and he can found a stronghold and attract a retinue of soldiers.

Mages
Lv1: Spells 1
Lv2: Spells 2
Lv3: Spells 2/1
Lv4: Spells 2/2, Spontaneous Spell 1/day
Lv5: Spells 2/2/1
Lv6: Spells 2/2/2, and the Mage can quest to become a Sorcerer. A Sorcerer is capable of using Ritual Magic (see below), and he can build a tower and attract apprentices.

Scholars
Lv1: Turn Undead
Lv2: Spells 1
Lv3: Spells 2
Lv4: Spells 2/1, Spontaneous Spell 1/day
Lv5: Spells 2/2
Lv6: Spells 2/2/1, and the Scholar and quest to become a Sage. A Sage is capable of using Ritual Magic (see below), and he can build a stronghold and attract followers.

Techs
Lv1: 1st Degree, 1 Device per day
Lv2: 2nd Degree, 2 Devices per day
Lv3: 3rd Degree, 3 Devices per day
Lv4: 4th Degree, 4 Devices per day, Jury-Rig 1/day
Lv5: 5th Degree, 5 Devices per day
Lv6: 6th Degree, 6 Devices per day, and the Tech can quest to become an Inventor. An Inventor can practice Research & Development (see below), and he can build a workshop and attract apprentices.

Dwarves
As Fighters, plus Dwarf racial abilities (+2 to Saving Throws, 60’ Infravision, Craft skill training, MV 30’).

Lv6: A Dwarf can quest to become a Dwarf Lord, who can cast one 1st level spell as a Sch2 but cannot turn the undead. Instead, a Dwarf Lord has limited access to Ritual Magic, solely for the purpose of creating magical weapons and armor.

Elves
As Scholars, plus Elf racial abilities (+1 to missile attacks, 60’ Infravision, Perception skill training).


Fays
As Mages, plus Fay racial traits (60’ Infravision, Diplomacy skill training, Glamer 1/week).


Gnomes
As Techs, plus Gnome racial traits (Small Size, 60’ Infravision, Craft Skill Training, Speak with Animals)

Halflings
As Experts, plus Halfling racial traits (Small Size, +1 to missile attacks, +2 to Saving Throws, Stealth skill training).

Lv6: A Halfling can quest to become a Halfling Thane. Thanes can cast two 1st level spells as a Mag2, but they lack the human Professional’s bag of combat tricks. A Thane has the “Hero’s Heart” ability (once per day, roll a Con check to completely avoid a magical attack, or reflect it on a natural 1).

Centaurs
Lv1: Centaur Traits (MV 50’, double damage with Lance Charge, hooves 1d4/1d4
Lv4: Hoof damage becomes 1d6
Lv5: Trample (able to make one hoof attack when also attacking with weapons)
Lv6: Can quest to become a Centaur Paladin. A Paladin can cast one 1st level spell (as a Sch2) but cannot turn the undead. Instead, a Paladin has the power of divination by Star Gazing (as the commune spell, usable 1/week, except that only one question is permitted instead of three).

Fauns
As Experts, plus Faun racial traits (60’ Infravision, Athletics skill training, resistant to charms)
Lv6: Can quest to become a Faun Warden. A Warden can cast two 1st level spells (as a Mag2) but lacks the human Professional’s combat tricks. Instead, a Warden can invoke a lesser confusion spell by playing on the panpipes, 1/day (as confusion, except that the spell affects only 2d3 targets with a 20’ x 20’ area, and then only targets with 2 HD or less).

Merrows
Lv1: Merrow Traits (Amphibious, 30’ Infravision, land MV 30’/swim MV 60’, Speak with Animals, Entertain skill training, Siren Song 1/day)
Lv2: Spells 1
Lv3: Spells 2
Lv4: Spells 2/1, Spontaneous Spell 1/day, Battle Hymn (+1) 1/day
Lv5: Spells 2/2, Siren Song 2/day
Lv6: Spells 2/2/1, and the Merrow can quest to become a Merrow Bard. A Bard can practice Ritual Magic (see below). The combat bonus imparted by a Bard’s Battle Hymn becomes +2, and a Bard’s Siren Song can now affect monsters instead of merely persons (just like the charm monster spell, except that it never affects more than one target at a time).

Sylphs
Lv1: Sylph Traits (Wings, Gliding/Leaping, 60’ Infravision, Speak with Animals, MV 50’)
Lv4: Dive Attack for double damage
Lv5: Flight (the sylph can fly, but only for 6 + Str mod hours per day, half that if encumbered)
Lv6: The Sylph can quest to become a Sylph Dragoon. A Dragoon can cast one 1st level spell (as a Sch2) but cannot turn the undead. Instead, the Dragoon can cast create air 1/day.

Ritual Magic/Research & Development
Sorcerers (including Fay Sorcerers), Sages (including Elf Sages), Merrow Bards, and Dwarf Lords are able to use Ritual Magic. Inventors (including Gnome Inventors) are able to practice Research and Development. These abilities allow the creation of magical items and technological inventions, within whatever parameters or power limits the referee might care to set upon them. More importantly, though, they allow characters to potentially use spells or technologies beyond the scope of their class abilities.

Casting a Ritual Spell: A Sorcerer, Sage, or Bard can cast one Ritual Spell per day. This is not the same as casting a spell in the ordinary sense, and it does not count against the character’s spells per day. A Ritual Spell is not memorized; rather, it is cast directly out of the caster’s spell book. Furthermore, there is no limit on the level of the Ritual Spell to be cast, although casting spells higher than 3rd level is potentially very dangerous. To cast a Ritual Spell, a character must have access to a book with the spell in it, and he must devote all of his concentration to casting. At the end of one turn, the character makes an ability check (Charisma for a Sorcerer, Wisdom for a Sage or Bard) to determine whether the casting was a success. Casting proceeds, with an ability check made at the end of every turn, until the character has passed as many ability checks as the spell has levels. Ritual Casting a 1st level spell (such as detect magic) is fairly easy, since it only requires one successful check, and therefore probably takes only one turn to cast.

Attempting to cast a higher-level spell is potentially hazardous. For every spell level above the 3rd, whenever the ritual caster fails an ability check, the referee must roll for catastrophic failure. This occurs 10% of the time per spell level above 3rd (i.e. 10% chance for a 4th level spell, 20% chance for a 5th level spell, etc). The exact effects of such a failure are left up to the referee, but they ought to be nasty indeed.

Research & Development: An Inventor uses R&D, which is similar to ritual magic. Ordinarily, this ability allows for the creation of technological inventions. Once per day, though, R&D can also be used to create a Prototype Device. A Prototype does not count against an Inventor’s ordinary suite of devices built per day. Instead, the Inventor cobbles it together from handy materials in his lab, a process which consumes a great deal of attention and concentration. The Inventor must make an Intelligence check each turn while building, and the Prototype is complete only when the Inventor has passed a number of Intelligence checks equal to the device’s technological degree. Once built, the Prototype can be activated at the Inventor’s leisure (like any other device, a Prototype is single-use), although it is always too big to move. A Prototype is more fragile than most devices and will break down after twelve hours if left unused.

Attempting to build a Prototype from a technical degree above 6th is a potentially dangerous prospect. For every degree above the 6th, there is a 5% chance of a laboratory accident whenever the Inventor fails an Intelligence check while working (5% for 7th degree technology, 10% for 8th degree technology, etc.). A laboratory accident might result in an immediate explosion, or it could unwittingly leave the inventor with a dangerously malfunction-prone Prototype that otherwise looks like it ought to work normally.

Helpful Items
Magic-using and technological characters are very limited in a six-level campaign. This is part of the appeal: characters won’t have so many spells that they can easily circumvent challenges, obstacles, or formidable foes. And the very powerful effects, such as polymorphs and teleports, if they’re even allowed at all, are limited to time-consuming ritual-castings or slapdash laboratory construction, possibly dangerous in either case. But a character’s repertoire of low-level spells, while limited, might be expanded a little bit if the referee should wish to include a few new items aimed at making characters more flexible with their special abilities. Most of the time, though, these items should only be found by characters who have already reached 6th level and have therefore been halted their normal spell or tech progressions. Neither can items like these ever be created by PCs; they are quasi-artifacts.

Tomes: A Tome is a special kind of magical book which contains a single spell of 1st, 2nd, or 3rd level. A Tome is essentially identical to a scroll, and it works the same way, except that a Tome is not destroyed when used. Instead, the magic is simply drained out of it for twenty-four hours. The next day, the Tome can be used again.

Mana Orbs: An Orb is a kind of crystal sphere which acts as a capacitor for magical energy. A Mana Orb comes in one of three varieties: lesser, median, and greater. A Lesser Mana Orb grants to its possessor an extra 1st level spell slot, which the caster can fill with a memorized spell as normal. A Median Mana Orb contains an empty 2nd level spell slot, while a Greater Mana Orb serves as a 3rd level spell slot—when the caster memorizes spells for the day, these Orbs can be filled by a spell of the appropriate level or lower.

Qi Focus: Some magical weapons, martial arts weapons in particular, act as a “qi focus”. These items add their magical bonus to a Champion Boxer’s pool of qi points per day.

Technical Manuals: A Technical Manual contains all the schematics needed to build any devices associated with a particular technical degree. In this way, a technologist character can surpass the ordinary limit on technical degrees known (which is usually equal to the technologist’s level). A Manual might even contain a schematic for devices of 7th degree and higher, normally unattainable in a six-level campaign, which can be used to make Prototype Devices.

Inspiring Journals: Scientists and engineers must always keep up on the latest academic literature. Occasionally, one will even stumble across an intriguing scientific theory that leads to a “eureka” moment in the laboratory. A technologist character who finds such an Inspiring Journal becomes capable of building an extra device per day.

OOOOOOO

All righty then. Closing thoughts on the "six-level campaign" model next time. But I wouldn't leave another post without a Farscape quote.

RORF: I am Rorf!
JOHN: Worf?
RORF: Rorf!!
—Episode 1.11, "Till the Blood Runs Clear"

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