Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Edit... Edit... Revision!

Well, here's hoping this is the last time I feel the need to bother to do this... but after more than two years, I've finally found the time to go through E&E and Retro Phaze again and revise them for typos, writing, content, and balance.  So now Retro Phaze gets its fourth edition (not counting editions from when it was called Elegia) and the E&E Campaign Compendium gets is fourth revised edition.  Here's a run-down of what was done to each.

The greatest change to Retro Phaze is renaming the "Hobbish" race to "Gnomes".  So now the four core playable races are Man, Elf, Dwarf, and Gnome.  It just has more folkloric resonance that way (and I can't, for the life of me, understand why I didn't just do this this way from the outset... unless I was trying to make an oblique reference to the "Bobbit" race from the Ultima games).  But that means, of course, that the entry for "Gnomes" in the monster section (where they were included as an earth-elemental sub-race of Sprites) had to be renamed, so now the three breeds of Sprites are Pixies, Nixies, and Kobolds.  Thankfully, RPz never included Kobolds as a distinct variety of monster, so the shuffle was able to end there.

Apart from that, Druidic Dual-Casting got a little tweak to make it easier to track and use, Rogues had their critical hit range bumped up to 10-12 right from day one (a very necessary change, as it turns out, to make Rogues worth playing!), and Soft effects now cure paralysis as well as petrification (a dire oversight on my part, since so many RPz monsters can paralyze!).

Engines & Empires, meanwhile, only really has two big changes.  The first is a simple tweak to non-human AP progression.  10 AP per level all the way up to level 36 is just too costly: it isn't balanced, and I knew that it wasn't when I first implemented that rule, but I guess back then I was more interested in pleasing the hard-core old-schoolers who wanted to see "humanocentric" settings and something at least akin to strict demihuman level-limits.  But at the game table, it really just doesn't work.  If demi-humans gain a level every five sessions, while humans gain a level every four sessions, that just pisses off the demi players; no amount of cool elf-powers will make up for that.  So now, to mitigate this somewhat, demi-humans only need 10 AP to level up to the end of Expert-level play (14th level).  That creates an eventual three-level gap between humans and demi-humans.  From 15th level onward, everyone advances at the same pace.  So the advantage to being demi-human is that you get a few cool tricks at 1st level that help you survive in a dungeon-crawl; and the advantage to being human is that you'll slowly pull ahead by three levels over the course of the first fourteen levels of gameplay.  That seems much more reasonable.  (And, of course, at the higher levels, demi-human racial abilities become somewhat useless.)

The second bombshell is the tech class.  Here's hoping that I'm finally satisfied with it, but here goes.  The tech and gnome now get their technical degrees even faster: primary degrees come at every level up to the twelfth still, but now secondary and tertiary degrees alternate levels, so that secondary degrees come at levels 1, 3, 5, etc, up to 23rd, and tertiary degrees come at levels 2, 4, 6, etc, up to 24th.  After that, techs of 26th level are able to research their own "technical marvels" that mimic the effects of 7th level spells (these cost three "device per day slots" to prepare), and after 31st level, they can create "greater marvels" that equal 8th level spells in power (these cost five slots to prepare).  Finally, techs are now permitted to pass their daily devices to other characters for use, although any character who did not build the device (even another tech or gnome) must roll an INT check in order to activate the device -- with failure destroying the device to no effect, and critical failure (20) causing the device to backfire on the wielder.  (This change seemed necessary to emphasize the fact that the tech's devices really are items, not just re-skinned spells.)

This rule about letting techs hand out their devices to others was originally part of the E&E rules, but I nixed it for fear that it would unbalance the game by upsetting the action economy--if a tech could build, say, six combustion bombs in a day and then pass them out to his buddies, they could end a fight really quickly by just having everyone in the party lob a fireball on the first round... but then, of course, I realized that such tactics would quickly tap out a low-level tech.  One round of going nova, and then you're even more useless than a mage?  Sure, okay, go ahead!  And as for high levels, well, at that point scrolls and wands are a dime a dozen anyway, so it hardly seems to matter then.  By now, I've just learned to accept that epic-level gameplay is gonzo and uncontrollable; I've stopped worrying and learned to love the meteor swarm.

Anyway, there you have it.  The first updates to my game books in entirely too long.  And hopefully the last for an even longer time.  Maybe now (especially now that it's summer and I finally, finally don't have any classes to worry about... at least until I have to start writing my thesis, <<nervous laugh>>) I can at last focus on E&E Supplement I.  E&E needs a playable automaton class, dammit!  And robot monsters!  And... well, you'll see.  Maybe I need to start putting some of this stuff up on the blog for criticism.  That is, if I have any readers who still care about this stuff.


1 comment:

  1. Hi! My group has been playing Retro Phaze and it's been a blast. I think the Wizard class got hosed a bit though. Why can't they do some nifty 8 bit fireball every round that scales as they level. To me, Vancian magic is not in keeping with the genre. Besides that little thing though I love your game.

    Did you every finish your updated edition for it?