Thursday, October 18, 2018

Engines & Empires: The Scholar Class

The old, Labyrinth Lord based version of Engines & Empires replaced the cleric class with an "occult scholar" class, which was intended as a reference to the origins of the cleric as a Dr. Van Helsing expy. Since the new, stand-alone version of E&E ditched the Vancian magic system altogether, and with it the need for separate arcane and divine spell-caster classes, some of that flavor was lost, somewhat to my regret.

The old, original version of Retro Phaze also had a scholar class, as a stand-in for the red mage or  bard; the new, up-and-coming version of the game moves the scholar from "optional fifth class in the back of the book" to "standard fifth class, right there with the other main four." Calling this version of the character class a "scholar" is something of a reference to the Final Fantasy scholar class, which is noted for wielding books as weapons, and for "scanning" monsters to find their weaknesses.

Well back in January, I decided to combine these ideas and created a "fifth base class" for Engines & Empires, one based on the Van Helsing style scholar. I suppose I just got too distracted to get around to writing it up formally. Plus, I figured that I would wind up debuting the new class in Shade Isle when I got around to writing that. (Turns out, Retro Phaze VI just felt more urgent.) You see, adding a scholar class to Engines & Empires fills a lot of niches that rather need filling. It provides an alternative Int-based class for cultures, settings, and time periods that aren't inclined to use steampunk technology; which means that in a gonzo steampunk setting, the scholar can be an alternative to the technologist for in-game societies that don't use steampunk technology. And in a non-steampunk setting, Engines & Empires can still be used a complete game with a sufficient variety of classes.

But, most importantly, there gets to be a whole class dedicated to monster- and undead-hunting again, and there gets to be a proper "gish" class for human characters now. The link to the (one-page) addendum is going to live on the sidebar of this blog for the time being, but anyhow, here it is.

14 comments:

  1. I am inspired with your post writing style too, hah. I'm starting a game soon, play by post. My first old school one. So I have one question that I didn't find anywhere in the book: is "the" dungeon supposed to go as deep as to allow the party to reach lvl 10 if vanquishing it? Can I start with just a 2 or 3 levels deep dungeon, so the party can get a taste of things to come before they move to someplace else?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hah, thanks, that means a lot more coming from a real person than it does from the spambot comment above yours that I just deleted. ;)

    Now, as to dungeons, the very traditional old-school campaign is just a town and a really deep dungeon that the players are expected to focus all of their efforts on exploring, Diablo style. And whole campaigns can be focused on that one dungeon if it's big and sprawling and thematic and interesting enough. But it doesn't have to be that way.

    With players who are new to old school games, my usual modus is to have a two-or-three level "training wheels dungeon" near the town where they start, which is also full of clues that lead the players to find the real campaign dungeon somewhere else.

    But there's no rule that says you have to have one big campaign dungeon. It's just very popular in the OSR these days because of its virtues (it's easy to run for the DM; and it gives the players choice in how deep they want to delve, putting agency and risk management entirely in their hands). If, instead, you want to populate a wilderness map with several small module-sized dungeons, that's okay too. But it presents a major difficulty: if the PCs are free to tackle the dungeons in any order, they can get themselves killed by exploring a tough one too early. And if there's supposed to be an order (like Legend of Zelda, you can only open dungeon 2 after finding the right key in dungeon 1), it can feel fairly railroady, which defeats the purpose of turning the players loose in an old-school sandbox to make their own way.

    I'm sure there's a good way to resolve this, but one option is to just make sure that upper levels of your several mini-dungeons are always "dungeon level 1" type levels, and that the harder ones scale faster. That way, players can have their pick of exploration paths (and there are always some low-level places to explore and build XP when characters die and need to be replaced). Like, have your starting dungeon consist of a "lv1" floor, a "lv2" floor, and a "lv3" floor (in terms of monsters, traps, and treasure present). Make the next closest dungeon be "lv1, lv3, lv5"; and the next closest one after that maybe "lv2, lv4, lv6"; and put yet another dungeon somewhere else on the map that goes "lv1, lv3, lv4, lv7". That sort of thing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well it seems my long response didn't post properly. Thanks a lot for reading, and answering so thoroughly.
      I might just make one deep main dungeon and a few short ones around, whose difficulty I will fiddle depending on the level they are in upon entrance.
      A problem that comes to mind (I had this in Barbarians of Lemuria too) is what to do if players want to spend their wealth in magic or tech items instead of crafting them with rituals or schematics. What do you do in those cases? I can think of making them expensive, almost too rare, unavailable, or some combination.

      Delete
    2. That's exactly what you're supposed to do in old-school D&D. If a player wants their character to have a particular magical item, unless it's something like a potion or a scroll, they either need to find in a dungeon, make it themselves, or hire someone to make it for them (which is even more expensive.

      Traditionally, there are no Ye Olde Magic Shoppes in older D&D. Hunting down a particular item should always be its own quest or adventure. Now in Engines & Empires, that's going to be a slightly different story where technological inventions are concerned, because these aren't impossibly rare, occult things that maybe only one wizard in the world even -can- produce. If one tech can make a particular item, any tech of equal or greater skill can also learn to make it.

      But again, it's worth remembering that tech items (that is, inventions, not gadgets) are meant to be cutting-edge prototypes which are not yet mass-produced, user-friendly, or readily available anywhere. Individual scientists or university laboratories might have one or at most two such signature items, and then they aren't just going to share the schematics (never mind actual copies of inventions) with an adventurer off the streets.

      In short, it should be less difficult for techs to learn new schematics or buy copies of inventions than it is for mages to learn new spells and rituals — but only a little bit less difficult, and still by no means easy.

      Delete
    3. That's a good concept. I was thinking how in Arcanum, the simpler schematics are for sale in shops (though annoyingly at random), and the more powerful ones have to be sought in dungeons, ruins, or from quests.
      Thanks, I'll start my PbP game soon, and your answers have been very helpful.

      Delete
  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hi! I don't know where else I can chat with you but... Can I translate your Retro Phaze PDF to Russian language? And it will be non-commercial, of course

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So, can you share with me name of fonts?

      Delete
    2. Arcade Classic for the titles, Agency FB for the headings, and Vera Humana 95 for the body text.

      Delete
  5. Hey man, sorry to keep coming with questions. With a lack of a centralised forum hub for us players, you're my best recourse!
    My players are asking how to handle sacks and backpacks -- since backpacks have EV 1 and sacks have EV --, it seems like they can add an effectively infinite amount of encumbrance to your inventory, right? I could just store armor sets and heavy stuff in sacks and make these things 'vanish' from the encumbrance grid. Of course, this is a gamey way of playing, but can you give me some advice?
    Additionally, are clothes, readied weapons, and worn armor supposed to take encumbrance grid space?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's not a problem. Ask anything!

      As for containers, they don't expand the encumbrance grid, they overlay it. Like so:

      https://drive.google.com/file/d/15FHIIC75jYhIigdIw8bguEi3DOU4rRAo/view?usp=sharing

      They're necessary to carry things effectively at all. You can't carry loose coins without a sack or a backpack (either of which is going to be lighter than the chest you found the coins in!). And the EV spaces listed for each container are considered to be the -maximum- size for that container; they don't HAVE to conform to them if they're not full. In the example above, the character is moderately encumbered because they have only two empty quadrants; but if they dropped the sack with the copper pieces, they could easily squeeze the armor and sword onto the same quadrant as the backpack (its maximum space is 4x4, but it can take up less space than that if it isn't full) and be lightly/un-encumbered.

      Weapons count against encumbrance, always, even when ready. Clothes only count for encumbrance if carried, not worn (so worn clothes, including jewelry and cloaks or capes, including magical versions of all of them), can be listed in the "trinkets" space on the character sheet. Armor has its listed encumbrance value when worn, and double that when carried——so wearing a suit of armor encumbers 2x5, but CARRYING one around is 4x5!

      Delete
  6. Ah, good thing I asked! Thanks a lot for the clarification.

    ReplyDelete