Wednesday, January 20, 2021

AD&D Psionics Unification

 So, 2e Psionics had a couple different versions, the Complete Psionic/Will and the Way version, and the Skills and Powers/Way of the Psionicist version. This system is somewhat of a compromise between the two, heavily favoring Complete Psionic/Will and the Way, but making psionic combat, especially a combination of the two. Attacks against other psychics deplete PSPs, but contact doesn't require them to be without PSPs... just sufficiently overmatched (or unlucky) to be hit several times without getting any hits in return. This required a rewrite of attacks and defenses. I also rewrote Telekinesis, because the Complete Psionics version really sucked... it was not worthy of being called a science.

As I have changed the way power scores are calculated, I refer you to this spreadsheet, compiled by garhkal, then adapted to my new system.

Psychic Powers: A General Primer

The use of psychic powers requires the psychic to first know the power, to have sufficient remaining PSP (Psionic Strength Points) to make use of the power, and to successfully complete a Power Check (which is not to be confused with a Ravenloft Powers Check, to see if one gains the attention of the Dark Powers which control that demi-plane).

Powers are divided into six disciplines, and divided in power into Sciences and Devotions. The six disciplines are Clairsentience (divining information about the world), Psychokinesis (moving and manipulating objects with one’s mind), Psychometabolism (altering someone’s body; usually one’s own), Psychoportation (moving through space, dimensions, and time), Telepathy (reading and manipulating someone’s mind), and Metapsionics (manipulating one’s own psychic powers). Sciences are usually more powerful, flexible, or both, while devotions tend to be less powerful or flexible. Many psychics are what are known as “wild talents”; they have one or two psychic powers, but do not study these powers in any organized fashion. It is a skill, knack, or special feeling they have. The most powerful are known as “psionicists”, who make psychic powers the focus of their studies. As the advance, they learn more powers, and improve the ones they have.

One’s reserves of psychic power are counted in Psionic Strength Points, usually called PSPs. Depending on one’s attributes, training, and level of experience, PSPs can range from as little as 1 (a wild talent of Know Direction), to several hundred (a high-level psionicist with superlative attributes). Using, or maintaining, psychic powers drains PSPs, according to the power. PSPs are recovered with rest and time; you cannot recover PSPs during hard exertion, and those with extremely high pools of PSPs may find a night’s rest insufficient to recover all of their PSPs.

Lastly, there is the Power Check, which is made like a Non-Weapon Proficiency. One’s Power Score is the number that must be rolled under to successfully use the power. A higher Power Score is better, and a higher successful roll is usually better. Failure of a Power Check results in half the PSPs necessary to use the power being expended without benefit. Many powers have special effects when the psychic rolls exactly their power score, and many also have special penalties if the psychic rolls a natural 20; a natural 20 requires a second roll of the power check. If the second roll is a failure, then the negative effects apply. If the second roll is a success, the power merely fails, with the associated loss of PSPs. Some powers have a lesser effect if the psychic rolls a natural 1; the power is still successful, but it does not function up to its full potential.

Each power has a base Power Check, which is modified according to the listed attribute. These modifications are laid out on Table 44 in the Skills and Powers supplement; no modification for an attribute of 8-13, and 1 point higher for each point above that, until a +5 is gained at an 18, or 1 point lower for a 7 or below, to a maximum penalty of -5 at a 3 attribute.

Psychic Combat

In addition to traditional powers, psychics also have the option to engage in Psychic Combat. Many wild talents do not learn psychic combat, unless they have Telepathic powers. All psionicists are familiar with psychic combat, however, and have the Contact proficiency, which allows one to enter the mental combat arena.

Regardless of their ability to engage in psionic combat, all characters have a Mental Armor Class (MAC). This MAC is used to determine basic defenses in psionic combat, but also the ease of contacting their minds for use of telepathic powers. This MAC begins at 12, and improves based on Intelligence; the Number of Languages provided by their intelligence is the bonus to MAC, so someone with an 18 Intelligence will have an MAC of 12-7, or 5, while someone with an Intelligence of 8 will have an MAC of 12-1 or 11. MAC can be improved with practice, even by non-psychics.

Contact is used to touch someone’s mind, and is a prerequisite for many telepathic powers. If someone is not capable of engaging in psionic combat (whether they have psychic powers or not), then their MAC plus five is the power score to use Contact on them; consult the Contact Power in the Psionic’s Handbook for the cost of Establishing Contact, modifiers due to distance or order, and the ability of characters aware of the psychic attack to resist contact.

Against those with the ability to engage in psionic combat, MAC serves a more traditional purpose; defense against psychic assault. All psychics begin with two Psionic Combat Actions per round, but psionic combat actions take the place of physical combat actions; while engaged in psionic combat, a character can do little more than defend themselves physically (they take no penalty to AC, nor are they helpless), and move up to half their movement rate. One of these psychic combat actions may be used to activate a non-combat psychic power.

Attacks are rolled against the MAC, and the die roll is compared to Mental ThAC0 (MThAC0) to determine if the MAC is reached, much like in physical combat. A psionicists MThAC0 begins at 20, and improves by 1 point each level. A wild talent’s MThAC0 improves at every odd level. MThAC0 also improves based on the psychic’s Intelligence; a bonus of 1 for a 16 or 17, 2 for 18 or 19, 3 for 20-22, and 4 for 23 or higher.

Psychic attacks serve two purposes; first, they deplete the PSPs of the victim. Damage to an uncontacted mind from psychic combat is only in PSPs. Once all PSPs are gone, the psychic is unable to initiate any psychic attacks, and only their MAC (possibly augmented by Mind Blank) remains in their defense. Secondly, psychic attacks serve to create or resist contact. Even more physically-oriented psychics may choose to engage in some level of psychic combat, as the defense of a trained psychic combatant is far greater than that of an untrained target. If that physically-oriented chooses not to engage in psionic combat (instead choosing, perhaps, to punch their opponent in the face, or fling bricks at them with telekinetic powers), then their proficiency with psionic combat will at least help in resisting contact for a round or more.

Each successful psychic attack inflicts damage to the target’s PSPs, depending on the experience and training of the attacker. It also creates a “tangent”, however. Tangents are a partial contact; not enough to create contact, but a step towards it. In order to contact a defended psychic mind, a psychic must acquire three tangents. However, successful attacks by the other psychic will move a tangent between them; thus, psychics must score three unanswered attacks to manipulate the defended psychic mind. Each tangent requires 1 PSP per round to maintain, and a psychic can only maintain tangents against one target at a time; however, they can maintain contact with any number of minds at once, paying the PSP cost. Once contact is achieved, it is not broken so long as the attacker maintains the Contact power, or uses other powers against the mind, unless the victim has a power to remove contact (such as Ejection).

For example, if Betsy and Charlie are in a psychic combat, Betsy gets the first hit, giving her one tangent against Charlie. He swings back and misses; she follows up with a hit, giving her two tangents against him. He hits back, removing one tangent from himself and giving it to her... they both have one tangent. Betsy hits again, putting Charlie at two, Chuck misses, then Betsy hits again... Contact. She can use other Telepathic powers on him, even though he has PSPs left. He can still engage in psychic combat, trying to contact her mind, but she's still got defenses. Now, each of these hits have inflicted PSP damage... if either Chuck or Betsy had completely run out of PSPs, then they'd be unable to fight back, making it easy to get three unanswered attacks on them.

A psychic without powers that require contact may thus choose to engage in psychic combat to remove tangents; even without engaging, though, it will still require three successful hits against their MAC to use those powers against them. The psychic may also choose to erect psychic defenses, improving their MAC, but then engage in physical endeavors. These defenses are specific telepathic powers, but psionicists learn them as part of their training.

The Psionicist

The psionicist is a wizard of the mind; while others may dabble in psychic powers, the psionicist has made their psychic abilities the focal point of their studies. While a wild talent may, at the beginning, have a number of powers and an impressive pool of PSPs, they are unlikely to advance far in either, while the psionicist will gain power, proficiency, and points at a far faster rate.

Many details of the psionicist class are laid out in the Psionic’s Handbook; the XP required, their hit dice, ThAC0 progression, saving throws, weapon and armor selections, and number of powers and psychic defense modes are all as described there. However, there are a few modifications to the rules as written, explained below.

The method labeled “Raising Psionic Scores” may be used, but such a repetition of powers adds 3 to the power score, and expands the range at which an improved “Power Score” result happens by 1 point; so, if your previous power score was 10, your new power score will be 13, and you will achieve a Power Score result on 12 or 13. A third power selection spent on the same power will improve the Power Score to 16, and allow the improved result on 14-16. No power score may be above 19, but a character dedicated to a single power can continue to expand their enhanced result range by 1 point with each additional selection. Such specialization in a single power can have negative effects on further advancement; specializing in a power means the psychic did not gain a new power, and so limits on how many sciences and devotions one can have in secondary disciplines, or number of sciences v. devotions in a single discipline, can further limit their breadth of ability than it might first seem.

Psionicists may also spend proficiency slots (either weapon or non-weapon) they may gain to improve a single science or devotion’s power score by 1. This method does not increase the range of enhanced effects, only the power score.

In addition to this, however, psionicists improve power scores as they increase in level. Every 3rd level, the power score of all devotions increases by 1 point (so, +1 at level 3, +2 at level 6, +3 at level 9, usw). Likewise, the power score of all sciences improves by 1 point every 4 levels (+1 at level 4, +2 at level 8, +3 at level 12, usw). This bonus applies to all powers the psionicist knows or may learn. This does not increase the range for enhanced effect, but does make it more likely that all powers will succeed.

Regardless of method, no power score may be raised above 19; a natural 20 is always a failure, but increased power scores make it far less likely that it will be a catastrophic failure.

The Psionicist in Psychic Combat

All psionicists begin with the Contact proficiency and power, which does not count against powers or proficiencies known. This allows them to engage in psionic combat. Their MAC is calculated as noted above; 12, minus the number of bonus languages they receive from Intelligence. Their MThAC0 begins at 20, and improves every level thereafter. Their damage, however, is somewhat more complex.

At 1st level, a psionicist inflicts 1d6 points of damage in psychic combat. As they level up, they gain 1 additional point of damage for each psychic defense mode they have, as well as 1 more point of damage if they have any Telepathic Devotions if that require Contact, and 1 more point of damage if they have any Telepathic Sciences which require Contact. So, a 1st level Telepath may do up to 1d6+3 damage; +1 for having a defense mode, +1 for having a devotion requiring contact (even if they have 3 devotions which require Contact, they only receive +1 for this), and +1 for a science requiring Contact. As they gain more psionic defenses with levels, their damage will increase.

Likewise, damage may be increased by taking certain psychic attack powers; Psionic Blast, Psychic Crush, Ego Whip, Id Insinuation, and Mind Thrust. These powers all have special effects on contacted minds, but each additional one possessed increases the damage die used in psychic combat. With one psychic attack mode, their damage increases to 1d8, then 1d10, then 2d6, then 2d8, then 2d10 if they have all five psychic attack modes, plus any bonuses from telepathic sciences, devotions, or defenses. A fully armed telepath thus may do 2d10+7 damage in psychic combat, provided they have expended the resources to do so.

Lastly, a psionicist in psychic combat may attack more frequently. At 7th level, they gain one additional action in psionic combat every 2 rounds (going from 2/1 to 5/2), and an additional psychic combat action every 2 rounds at level 13 (going from 5/2 to 3/1). They may sacrifice two psychic combat actions to take an action in the real world.

Wild Talents

Wild talents have psychic powers, but do not make them the focus of their lives. Some may be simple people; potters, bartenders, or clerks, whose special psychic knack aids them in their daily lives, or is a simple trick that they can usually perform. Wild Talents are much as described in the Psionic’s Handbook, and that source should be consulted regarding their generation, unless specific rules are in place (for example, Dragonlance allows no psionic powers at all, while in Dark Sun, every character is a wild talent). Instead, special consideration must be given to Wild Talents in psychic combat.

If one of the wild talent’s powers requires Contact, then they receive Contact as a bonus proficiency and power; if none do, they may choose Contact by spending a single non-weapon proficiency slot. Non-psychics may not choose the Contact proficiency; psychics without the Contact proficiency are treated as non-psychics in psychic combat, requiring only a simple Contact Power Check to affect their minds.

However, wild talents do not excel in psychic combat as psionicists do. They still have 2 psychic combat actions each turn, one of which may be used to activate a non-combat psychic power. Their MAC is calculated normally (12-the number of bonus languages provided by their Intelligence), and their MThAC0 improves at a rate of 1 point every odd level. In psychic combat, they do 1d4 points of damage, and may, if they have telepathic powers, gain a +1 to damage for each Telepathic Devotion which requires Contact, and another if they have a Telepathic Science which requires Contact, to a maximum of 1d4+2. They do not gain access to either telepathic defenses or telepathic attack modes, and so usually gain no benefit from either (though, if extraordinary circumstances grant them these powers, they will gain their benefits).

Altered Non-Weapon Proficiency

The Psionic’s Handbook should be consulted regarding the proficiencies Harness Subconscious, Hypnosis, Meditative Focus, and Rejuvenation. The Dark Sun supplement, The Will and the Way, should be consulted for the proficiencies Crystal Focus, Power Manipulation, and Psionic Lore. The power Psychic Defense is considerably altered, however.

Psychic Defense (1 slot/Psionic Group): Psychic Defense improves a character’s MAC. The first time the proficiency is selected, the character’s MAC improves by 2 points. Each additional selection improves MAC by only 1 point, and no more 5 points of MAC may be gained from this proficiency.

As this proficiency is in the Psionic Group, those without access to the Psionic Group (including wild talents) must pay 2 slots for the first selection of this proficiency.

Modifications to Powers

Most psionic powers remain unchanged from their descriptions in Psionic’s Handbook, Dragon Kings, Will and the Way, or other sources. However, the changed nature of Psychic Combat necessitates that the Telepathic Defense Modes be rewritten. Likewise, the power of Telekinesis is rewritten, below, to bring it up to the level of a Science. The current power of Telekinesis is renamed “Telekinetic Manipulation”, and downgraded to a devotion, with a power score of 13 (Wisdom), with no prerequisites, and prerequisite to nothing.

Telekinesis (Telekinetic Science)
Power Score: 13-special
Initial Cost: 3+
Maintenance Cost: 1+/round
Range: 30 yards
Preparation Time: 0
Area of Effect: single item
Prerequisite: none

Telekinesis, or "TK" for short, is the ability to move objects through space without touching them. The psychic manifests a formless, insubstantial force, capable of lifting objects, manipulating them, and moving them from place to place as if they were being carried.

The initial cost of the power is 2, plus one point for every point of strength that the telekinetic force possesses, up to and including an 18 strength (costing a total of 20 points). Maintenance on the power is equal to one-fifth the initial cost, rounded up (1 point for a strength up to 3, two points for a strength between 4 and 8, three points for 9-13, four points for 14-17, and 5 points for a strength of 18). Additionally, there is a penalty to the power score equal to one-sixth the relevant strength, rounded down (so, -0 at Strength 1-6, -1 at 7-12, -3 at 13-18).

A psionicist using TK can move an object up to 60 feet per round, but may be slowed if the weight would encumber a person of that strength. The object can serve as a weapon. In this case, the character attacks using his own THACO score, with a bonus or penalty dependent upon the Strength of the force. The force may be considered, depending upon the psychic’s mood, either as an arm or as a bowl; it can carry one object easily, or many small objects grouped closely together, but it cannot, for example, carry several objects widely spaced apart without being initiated several times.

Power Score - The force can divide itself in two; while its Strength remains the same, it can form two “arms”, two “bowls”, or one bowl and one arm.
20 - The psionicist "fumbles" the item, knocking it over, etc.

Telekinetic Manipulation (Psychokinetic Devotion)
Power Score: 13-special
Initial Cost: 3+
Maintenance Cost: 1+/round
Range: 30 yards
Preparation Time: 0
Area of Effect: single item
Prerequisite: none

Telekinetic Manipulation is a lesser power related to the science of Telekinesis. Seldom studied by those with Psychokinesis as a Primary Discipline, it is instead useful for those psychics who wish a degree of telekinetic power, without investing a full science. It is not a substitute for Telekinesis as a prerequisite, and is prerequisite to no powers. All telekinetic efforts tend to be physically taxing, because they involve real work. Moving small, light objects is relatively easy. As the objects become more massive, the task becomes significantly more difficult.

The costs above (3 PSPs initially and 1 per round of maintenance) assume that the object being moved weighs 3 pounds or less. For heavier objects, these rules apply:
• The initial cost equals the object's weight in pounds.
• The maintenance cost is half the initial cost, rounded down.
• The character's power score is decreased by one-third of the object's weight in pounds, rounded down.

For example, to telekinetically snatch a 15-pound battle axe from a rack, a psionicist must pay 15 PSPs and make a power check with a -5 modifier to his score.

A psionicist using Telekinetic Manipulation can move an object up to 60 feet per round. The object can serve as a weapon. In this case, the character attacks using his own THACO score, with a penalty equaling the object's weight modifier (one-third its weight, rounded down).

Power Score - The character can lift a second item of equal or lesser weight simultaneously for the same cost.
20 - The psionicist "fumbles" the item, knocking it over, etc.

Tower of Iron Will (Telepathic Science)
Power Score: 11 (Wisdom)
Initial Cost: 6
Maintenance Cost: 3
Range: 0
Preparation Time: 0
Area of Effect: 1 yard
Prerequisites: none

Tower of iron will is one of the five telepathic defenses against unwanted contact. It relies only upon the superego to build an unassailable haven for the brain. Tower of Iron Will provides a bonus to MAC of 6.

Like intellect fortress (a telepathic devotion), tower of iron will has an area of effect beyond the psionicist’s mind. At 3 feet, it’s very limited. Tower of Iron will also reduces all PSP damage suffered by those within its area of effect by 1 point, and by 1 additional point per psychic attack mode the attacker possesses so, while the attacker will roll higher damage dice, they will suffer a higher penalty.

Power Score - The area of effect increases to 10 feet.
20 - The psionicist is lost inside himself and cannot engage in psionic activity for 1d4 hours.

Intellect Fortress (Telepathic Devotion)
Power Score: 10 (Wisdom)
Initial Cost: 4
Maintenance Cost: 2
Range: 0
Preparation Time: 0
Area of Effect: 3-yd. radius
Prerequisites: none

Intellect fortress is one of five telepathic defenses against unwanted contact. It calls forth the powers of the ego and superego to stop attacks. Intellect Fortress provides a bonus to MAC of 4.

Unlike most other defenses, intellect fortress has an area of effect beyond the psionicist’s mind, offering protection to other minds within that radius. Every mind within that area receives the bonus to MAC. This can have downsides, as it will protect enemies as well as friends.

Power Score - The psychic can exclude certain minds from the Fortress, leaving them vulnerable.
20 - This defense falters and is not usable again for 1d4 rounds.

Mental Barrier (Telepathic Devotion)
Power Score: 11 (Wisdom)
Initial Cost: 3
Maintenance Cost: 1
Range: 0
Preparation Time: 0
Area of Effect: personal
Prerequisites: none

Mental barrier is one of five telepathic defenses against unwanted contact. It is a carefully built wall of thought repetition which exposes only one small area of the mind at a time. Mental Barrier provides an MAC bonus of 3.

Power Score - Contact during this round and the next is impossible.
20 - The barrier fails, and the mental attempt disrupts any currently active powers.

Mind Blank (Telepathic Devotion)
Power Score: 6 (Wisdom)
Initial Cost: 0
Maintenance Cost: 0
Range: 0
Preparation Time: 0
Area of Effect: personal
Prerequisites: none

Mind blank is one of five telepathic defenses against unwanted contact. It attempts to hide the mind from attack, making its parts unidentifiable. It provides an MAC bonus of 2.

Mind blank is unique. Unlike the other four defense modes, it costs nothing to maintain. In fact, a character can still recover PSPs while using this power. That’s because mind blank is almost instinctual; if a character knows it, it’s nearly always active, even when he’s sleeping or meditating. The power is inactive only if 1) the player announces it, or 2) the character uses another defense mode (other than Thought Shield).

Even though mind blank has no PSP cost, it still constitutes psionic activity. If the power is active, a character is vulnerable to detection. He still may attract psionic feeders, or suffer some other unpleasant effect.

Power Score - No other effect.
20 - The character cannot use mind blank for 1d4 hours.

Thought Shield (Telepathic Devotion)
Power Score: 10 (Wisdom)
Initial Cost: 1
Maintenance Cost: 1
Range: 0
Preparation Time: 0
Area of Effect: personal
Prerequisites: none

Thought shield is one of five telepathic defenses against unwanted contact. It clouds the mind so as to hide first one part, then another. Thought Shield provides an MAC bonus of only 1, but it can be used in conjunction with any other Defense Mode.

Power Score - Thought Shield’s Maintenance is free if maintaining any other Telepathic Defense.
20 - No other effect.

Friday, December 18, 2020

So You Want to be a Disney Princess

Clerics of certain faiths (most often nature-based ones) have access to a series of spells to Enthrall Animals. With a lengthy casting and a failed saving throw, the cleric can bond one or more animals to them for the rest of the creature’s life. The spell grants them an incredible rapport and, even without their own skill in training animals, the cleric is able to teach the animal various tricks and tasks, making them a more useful companion.

For many clerics, this is a means of attracting and connecting with a useful animal companion; a pet and helper. Some within the Brotherhood of the Bear will also raise animals for sale, or to give as gifts to those who will care for them. Priests of the Merry Marksmen are less likely to do so, as they do not like to train their beasts for hunting. A Golden Arrow may enthrall a dog or mountain lion, and may hunt with that animal, but the animal will not be trained to the hunt; rather, they will hunt free of training, and the cleric will hunt with them.

However, these spells contain some ambiguities that might, otherwise, fall prey to Hackmaster Rule One: Always rule against the player in cases of ambiguity. This article is written to provide some guidance for Game Masters, clearing up some ambiguities and allowing these fun and useful spells to be used.

The Limits of the Spells
Each spell has three limits, that can fail in different ways. These three limits are Size, Intelligence, and Hit Points. Of the three, size only matters at the moment of casting; Intelligence is always relevant, and Hit Points are considered only at the maximum. Additionally, however, the spells are limited to living, non-humanoid, creatures. One cannot Enthrall a Crawling Claw, as it is not living. One cannot enthrall an orc of 5/25 Intelligence, despite that being the upper limit of the range.

Size: When the spell is cast, what size would the creature being enthralled be if it were healthy and well? While this may exclude some creatures that are malnourished, or allow the inclusion of very overweight animals, this does not necessarily indicate that the creature is an adult; creatures that are enthralled when they are young remain enthralled, so long as they do not violate the other strictures of the spell (hit points, intelligence, or non-humanoid). Some clerics will use Enthrall Medium animal to Enthrall a foal, who they will mount when it has grown. There is some Game Master’s discretion on whether or not an animal will begin within the size range of a given spell; dogs, even war dogs and guard dogs, obviously begin within the size range of Enthrall Tiny Mammals (being less than five pounds), but how big is a baby elasmotherium? How long until it’s mature? Are smilodon kittens within the range for Enthrall Small Animals? It is possible for a cleric to Enthrall a baby elephant, for example (size medium, born at 250 pounds), though the elephant may grow to exceed their hit point limitation (given that a full grown elephant may have 120 hit points, though that may take 20 years or more).

Intelligence: Creatures enthralled must have less than a 5/26 Intelligence score. In Hacklopedia terms, this is non-intelligent, semi-intelligent, animal (low) and most of animal (high). In theory, animal (high) extends to 5/100, which exceeds the intelligence range of the spell; you cannot enthrall the smartest of dogs, but many very bright dogs will be within the power of Enthrall Medium Animal. Should an enthralled animal somehow rise above this intelligence, they will remain positively disposed towards the cleric, but not enthralled by them.

Hit Points: The three spells have a maximum hit point total that grows with the cleric’s experience, and are considered based on both the cleric’s maximum hit points, and the maximum hit points of the creatures enthralled. Enthrall Tiny Animals allows a total amount equal to the cleric’s own hit points; Enthrall Small Animals allows 150% of the cleric’s hit points, while Enthrall Medium Creatures allows twice the cleric’s hit points. The maximum hit points the cleric can enthrall are limited to the most generous of the limits they have access to; a cleric of 40 Hit points with access to all three spells cannot enthrall 40 + 60 + 80 hit points worth of creatures for Tiny, Small, and Medium creatures, respectively, but only 80 hit points worth of creatures for the most powerful of the spells they can cast.
As the totals are based on the creature’s and cleric’s maximum hit points, not current total, it is not possible to purposely damage the creature, then attempt to enthrall it, nor does finding an injured creature allow the cleric to enthrall more than their usual maximum. While training or nature may incline some creatures to being enthralled, being in pain does not.

Should a cleric attempt to enthrall more hit points than they are allowed, the animal with the least hit points that will clear the difference will cease being enthralled. Note that, unlike some more traumatic charms, the animal is not necessarily hostile to the cleric, and will remember the tricks that they have learned under the cleric’s care. If a creature dies while enthralled, the cleric may immediately attempt to enthrall more.

In addition to these limitations, the cleric must care for the animal, and interact with it on a regular basis. In most cases, more than a week of abandonment will allow the creature an additional saving throw (though this may be mitigated if others are around to care for the animal). An enthralled creature subject to neglect and abuse will eventually break free of the charm, though someone who intermixed cruelty and affection for the creature will keep it far longer than the simply abusive or neglectful. Saving throws for such situations can come at the Game Master’s discretion, though they should be no more frequent than once a week.

This spell does not grant the cleric any sort of magical insight into whether or not the creature is enthralled; detecting it is an Average or easier Animal Empathy test, made while examining the animal (this particular test may be made untrained, though at one difficulty greater). Others may also detect the bond between the cleric and the animal by observing them making an Average Animal Empathy test, though they will not necessarily know that it is a magical bond, only that the animal likes and trusts the cleric.

Training Your Monkey Butler
All enthralled creatures, without training, will happily accompany the cleric wherever they go, and engage in natural behaviors around them. An enthralled spider will travel with the cleric, catching its own food (as it is able), and may bite those who threaten the cleric in defense. However, such behavior is unpredictable, and subject to the creature’s own discretion. The rapport created by the spell, however, allows the cleric to instill in their companions certain tricks; 1d3p tricks per point of intelligence. If the cleric is skilled in Animal Training for that type of animal, these tricks are in addition to those allowed by that skill, and are learned far faster.

Training an enthralled creature to a trick requires seven hours of work, and at least one hour of work each day. If a cleric has more time to devote to training, they may engage in no more than one hour of training per per day for each point of intelligence the creature has; so, for a creature of 3 intelligence, the cleric may train them to a new trick in seven hours of work over at least three days. Time spent training beyond one hour per point of Intelligence each day is wasted; the animal simply cannot absorb more information. If the cleric has enthralled multiple animals, each animal requires its own training period with the tricks; training five puppies at a time requires at least five hours a day of work, just on the tricks.

As the spell says, the tricks must be of the sort that can be taught to a dog or a horse, and may be limited by physiology. You can certainly teach a dog to go outside (or ask to be let out) when it needs to poop, but you cannot teach that to a bird; they simply do not have the ability to control themselves in that manner. Likewise, if the blind hermit has enthralled a basilisk, it cannot be trained to not convert others to salt, as it is a simple consequence of meeting its gaze.

Like spells, many tricks will have both verbal and somatic components, sometimes integral to the trick themselves. For example, a command to attack will often be accompanied by a gesture, as the handler points to who the animal is supposed to attack. Issuing commands to an enthralled animal is a one-second action which resets count for both animal and cleric. If one aspect of the trick is missing (for example, trying to get a dog to attack an orc, while the cleric’s hands are bound), commanding the trick requires 3 seconds, resets the count, and may require a intelligence test on the part of the animal, at the GM’s discretion.

Sample tricks include
Attack (usually with a target pointed out, though sometimes with the animal being trained to attack a specific race, such as orcs)
Come, returning the animal to its cleric
Defend, indicating a place or person to defend
Fetch, either a just thrown or indicated item
Heel, returning the animal to the side of the cleric

Saddle Training is also available, and some smaller clerics make use of it with larger animals, while medium sized-clerics may use it on larger animals they enthrall while the animal is young.

The Behavior of People, Clerics, and Other Animals
In general, enthralled animals will continue to act like other animals of their species. Owls prefer not to be awake during the day. Housecats will chase small animals and display their butt inappropriately. Birds will cheep and flutter and mute on your clothes. They are enthralled and enjoy the cleric, and they may be trained in many ways, but they are, at their heart, animals. This can make travelling with enthralled animals difficult; your owl companion is not going to be pleased to fly all day and sleep at night, and your friendly boar will not like being told to stop eating all the delicious food the farmer left sitting in his stall at the market. As such, those with more exotic enthralled animals tend to account for the creature in their plans. While the magical nature of the bond will prevent the animal from leaving in the case of casual mistreatment, prolonged abuse and disrespect may allow a saving throw.

Enthralled animals also do not automatically accept other humanoids who are not “their” cleric. Other characters attempting to interact with the animal may need an Animal Empathy check to make the interaction positive, especially at the outset. While a dog might warm up to other friendly people relatively easily, a raptor will remain cautious for far longer. Again, the cleric can help here, introducing the people to the animal and helping to mitigate reactions; the rules for encounter reactions might be appropriate, depending on the interactions the non-cleric party member desires.

Furthermore, however, the people around the cleric will still react to the animal as the animal they are; fellow adventurers may put up with your odd new pet, but the common folk won’t always make allowances. Placing a bright collar on your wolf companion will convince few that they are under control, and an unattended giant rat may be slaughtered as vermin. Again, this may be mitigated by familiarity; that the local Brother of the Bear is friends with an actual bear may be viewed as an eccentricity, even a marvel, the wanderer who comes into town trailing a dire wolf or wolverine is likely to be met with less aplomb.

Tiny (0-5 Pounds)
Giant Centipede*
Skitter Rat
Big Spider*
Large Spider*
Giant Wasp*

Small (0-25 pounds)
Giant Worker Ant
Giant Soldier Ant
Giant Beetle*
Giant Bombadier Beetle*
Giant Boring Beetle*
Giant Fire Beetle*
Massive Centipede*
Rat, Giant
Very Large Spider*
Giant Tick*
Giant Weasel
Reef Terror

Medium (Size M)
Arakian Warrior
Arakian Worker
Arakian Brood Watcher
Cheetah, Wooly
Mountain Lion
Lesser Orkin Wardawg
Giant Scorpion
Boa Constrictor
Huge Spider
Gigantic Spider
Giant Toad
Dire Wolf
Owlbeast Chick
Giant Vampyre Bat
Giant Crab
Giant Fly
Massive Rat
Oliphant Rat
Rooftop Prowler
Blue Shark
Shoagg Spider Runner/Prowler
Giant Exploding Termite

Those marked with a * are listed as being non-intelligent; that the GMs discretion, this can be increased to "Semi" (0/01-1/100)

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Birthright Bloodline using Oriental Adventures

Birthright Bloodline Using Oriental Adventures Rules

So, I don't particularly like the rules for Bloodlines in the Birthright Campaign setting; bloodlines are the character-level hook of the setting, and but the default rules don't result in a lot of bloodline powers being acquired.

Now, another book I enjoy is Oriental Adventures. It is incredibly problematic, from the name on down, but there's a lot of fantastic mechanics in there. I love the Hengeyokai (which I cribbed to make the Shapechangers for Hackmaster), and I generalized the Martial Arts rules to apply to the rest of 2e AD&D (and have some ideas about applying to other systems, but it needs more work). And, lastly, the family system from Oriental Adventures neatly dovetails with Birthright's bloodline system, replacing it with the notional "Honor" system of Oriental Adventures.

In Oriental Adventures, a character rolls their family, with adjustments based on class; this system is just a 3d10 roll to determine, which the DM may adjust up or down depending on their campaign's needs (I might suggest a bonus to the roll if you are a Regent, for example, or have holdings). Using the table in the link above (and here), you get a base strength, from 3-30. That base strength also determines how many times and what die you roll on the Ancestry tab, and on the Blood Abilities tab; for example, a roll of 16 on the table means you start with a base blood strength of 16, roll five times with a d100 on the Ancestry table, and 4 times on the Blood Abilities table with a d100 (unless their blood strength increases due to Ancestry).

Unlike Oriental Adventures, all modifiers to blood strength on the Ancestry table are positive. If your ancestor was an Infamous Criminal in Kara-tur, that would be a detriment to your family honor; in Birthright, it means your family DID something, and that usually means that you had more blood strength than usual. Our example character, with the 16, gets 74 (nothing), 70 (Folk Hero, +10),  73 (nothing), 38 (Nothing), and 34 (Ancestral Feud +2)... and my dice get side eye, since I rolled in the 70s three times and 30s twice. Their total Blood strength is now 28. This does not alter their rolls on the Blood ability table, just what their current score is. As the descendant of a Folk Hero, the character receives +2 reaction from commoners when their lineage is known, but receives a -4 on reactions with a specific family (who should probably feature in the game, somewhat).

Now, blood abilities. With a 28, they now have 10 rolls of d100: 84 (nothing), 50 (nothing), 73 (Enhanced Sense, Major), 11 (nothing), 26 (nothing), 06 (roll again +10; result is 64, nothing), 07 (minor power of choice), 02 (nothing), 65 (nothing), 32 (Enhanced Sense, Minor). Despite their advantageous rolls, they wind up with only 3 powers. Since they rolled both Enhanced Sense, Major and Enhanced Sense, Minor, they get a second minor power of choice, from those available to their bloodline.

As they play, they will get additional powers, but it should be noted that they don't get all new rolls every improvement of blood strength; going from 28 to 29 will not give them 10 new rolls, and going from 29 to 30 will only give them 1 additional roll.

I feel this makes for more interesting characters. They have more powers, but their families are more detailed, with histories as distinct or indistinct as the dice determine. Of course, the DM might choose some family events for you, or may allow you to describe your family history without rolls, but these also provide guidelines to do so... a DM might decide that you can have X number of points in Ancestry events, for example, letting players tailor their family histories.

Friday, October 23, 2020

A Time Errant

In AD&D 1st edition, three classes are notable for a pair of reason: Each has a defined maximum level, and each must fight to advance past a certain level. These three classes are the Druid, the Assassin, and the Monk.The requirement to fight for levels… to seek out an opponent, challenge them, and prevail against them… can make these characters even more difficult to integrate into a standard campaign than their often-niche abilities. Some players may choose to eschew these requirements, but not particularly want to abandon their characters. Considering that, this introduces a new pseudo-subclass of each of these, the Druid-Errant, the Assassin-Errant, and the Monk-Errant, with considerations for each.

To Be Errant
To be one of the Errant classes is to be separate from the standard hierarchy; you attract no followers, but also do not need to fight for dominance. As both Monks and Assassins reach name level (7th, 9th) before they must choose whether to be Errant (8th, 14th), they have no need to worry about training, and Druids lose the requirement immediately after (12th for both). If the Druid is performing sufficiently so as to be able to self-train (DMG, p. 86), then they may avoid the question entirely, as do the Monk and Assassin; if they are not, they may engage in the ritual combat, and then abandon the post they have just received, or find another Druid-Errant and train with them.

Errants occupy an odd part of the social world of these classes; they do not have rank, but their power and skill are such that others rely on them. While the Grandfather of Assassins may have too much to do to casually engage in high-level murder, an Assassin-Errant may be just as skilled, but with fewer responsibilities. A Monk-Errant will be a wise master with no disciples, a hermit who spends their time in contemplation, or a wandering teacher. A Druid-Errant is often a hermit who spends their time protecting a place, or intervening in such matters as concern them. They may be sought out by those who want training, and may even be sought by those who wish them to shed their errantry and take up an empty (or empty-able) position.

Being Errant does not free a character from the restrictions of their class; a Druid-errant must still be True Neutral and eschew metal armor. A Monk-Errant must still remain lawful and is limited in their possession of magical items. Assassins-Errant may be required to join a guild, or at least pay lip service to it, lest they attract its wrath (you may be a hot-shit assassin, but five “extremely-warm-shit” assassins will still most likely ruin your day).

The Druid-Errant
The Druid-Errant may take several forms (no pun intended). Some are truly Errant, owing no allegiance to any organization of Druids. Some become separated from the hierarchy proper to serve the Grand Druid, who has 9 attendants, plus three Archdruids (13th level) to assist them; these positions are coveted, but are not directly competitive; you do not slay or defeat the Archdruid aide of the Grand Druid and thereby become the new aide. Any of these 12 positions may be filled with Druids-Errant, including, possibly, other Grand Druids-Errant.

Errant Great Druids may advance to become Errant (or actual) Grand Druids, and, like Grand Druids, have six spell slots of each spell level. They do not, however, have six levels of additional spell slots; though, if serving as one of the Grand Druid’s Archdruid aides, they will receive the additional 4 slots that position grants them. An Errant Grand Druid (i.e. a 15th level druid) may even advance to hierophant status, using the table provided in Unearthed Arcana.

But what does being Errant cost a Druid? Prestige, Followers, and Social Power. A 12th level Druid has three underlings, ranging from 1st to 9th level (depending on where that leader falls in the hierarchy of 12th level druids). As name-level Druids, they have a degree of authority over all other lower-level druids, which is lost to the Druid-Errant, who can exercise personal power (i.e. “Do this because I am stronger” or “Do this because you like me”), but cannot exercise positional power (i.e. “Do this because I am your organizational superior”). Their Errant status may also cause other name-level and above Druids to shun them, or limit their access to resources such as stone circles and sacred groves. While still a power in their own right, Druids-Errant are cut off from the greater society of Druids, and must bargain favors for that which others are granted freely. This lack of access can make it difficult for Druids-Errant to create magical items or acquire greater mistletoe.

Who becomes a Druid-Errant? Some are simply scholars, unconcerned with the machinations of the Druid hierarchy. Sages with Druidical ability may be Druids-Errant, if they are sufficiently skilled (though this option is seldom open to player characters). Many elven and half-elven druids pursue this path, with their longer lives and different traditions leaving them somewhat uninterested in the largely human-driven politics of the Circle. Others are adventurers, unwilling to be tied to the requirements of the position, unwilling to be responsible for the protection of the druids under their care, or simply uninterested in fighting for position.

The Assassin-Errant
The Assassin-Errant is one who has chosen to relinquish any claim on the leadership of a guild, instead concentrating on their skills in assassination. This is not an uncommon choice; half-orcs, who excel at assassination, but whose low charismas and correspondingly low base loyalty, often choose the route of the Errant. Other assassins may choose to retire from their position as Guildmaster or Grandfather of Assassin, relinquishing their position to an up-and-comer without relinquishing their lives. Some few are assassins who have had a change of heart, becoming Neutral or even Good. They may still practice the majority of their skills, being spies, thieves, or simply frighteningly efficient, if lightly armored, warriors, but they are no longer assassins-for-hire.

While Assassins-Errant may leave the Guild, the Guild does not necessarily leave them. An Assassin-Errant is still subject to the requirements of Guild membership if they perform assassinations in Guild territory; as noted above, the Guildmaster is often the Assassin-Errant’s equal or near-equal, and they command a cadre of assassins to aid them in hunting the interloper. This can be avoided by joining the local guild and subjecting themselves to the Guildmaster, refraining from assassination, or by living in a place without a guild.

Moreso than the other two Errants, Assassin-Errants may be called upon to oust or usurp a Guildmaster. Particularly unpopular Guildmasters may find their underlings have hired an Assassin-Errant to assassinate them. Because of this possibility, Assassins-Errant must always beware of assassination; a Guildmistress who fears for her position may eliminate potential usurpers. Assassins-Errant of 15th level must similarly fear the Grandfather of Assassins, especially if they’re being courted to become a Guildmaster.

The Monk-Errant
The Monk-Errant has chosen to live a life of solitude and contemplation, rather than the teaching of disciples. Monks-Errant may still receive henchmen, as laid out in point 5 on page 32 of the Player’s Handbook, but do not receive followers, and must otherwise abide by the restrictions of the monk class. Their discipline requires that they remain lawful and ascetic; few magic items, little wealth. A Monk-Errant may choose what to do with their money, but it cannot personally, directly, benefit them. Some may donate it to a church, to their old home monastery, or to various schools (a lawful evil Monk-Errant may fund a school of assassins, for example). Other Monks-Errant will simply give it to those in need.

Monks-Errant are seldom approached by others to fulfill roles within monasteries; unless there is a great need, most monks will respect that the Monk-Errant has chosen not to take a leadership position. At most, they may acquire potential or low-level monks as henchmen, but subject to the restrictions of their Charisma, rather than as followers divorced from those requirements. However, Monks-Errant are not immune to challenge; while there is no level-based benefit to doing so, they may be challenged by other Monks-Errant to prove their mastery, by members of rival monasteries who perceive their isolation as a chance to beat some justice into a member of the Monk-Errant’s home school, or members of their own monastery who feel that their refusal to take up a leadership position is an insult to the school. These challenges should be infrequent (no more than once per level), but do not carry the standard risk of loss of level, merely loss of face (or, possibly, life).

The Final Analysis
The ability to become Errant is, without a doubt, a great boost to the playability of these classes. While they do not provide actual powers to the characters, they remove or alter a role-playing restriction that comes in to play at higher levels. To an extent, this brings them in line with other classes; a fighter has no obligation to build a stronghold, clear land, and attract followers. With this restriction removed, players of monks, druids, and assassins are no longer obligated to seek out others to challenge, and do not risk the loss of level due to a failed challenge. However, these same options can limit the characters. They will not have the followers assumed by the class, may have limited access to resources, holy items, or face censure from others in their class.

A DM should carefully consider whether this option makes sense for their campaign. The increase in flexibility may suit their style and the on-going campaign, or the lack of responsibilities and stability may hinder where the campaign is heading. A campaign that is heading to the Planes may find it useful; one where the other player characters have acquired significant holdings may find that their characters have little to do without such responsibilities. The choice should be made by the DM, in accordance with the needs of their campaign.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Capital and Caravans

 This is actually the original of what became my HackTrade article. I wrote it because a player had too much money, and wanted to invest some. I came up with a modified version of what I call "The core crunch" on the spot (it was more generous, and made a positive return likely), and then built the article around it. When I got into Hackmaster a bit later, I polished the idea into HackTrade.

Capital and Caravans

Basic Investing for Castles and Crusades

There comes a point in many games when the characters simply have too much money. They may have purchased everything the CK will let them purchase, may be on the move and unwilling to buy real property (houses, bars and the inevitable stronghold), or may simply be wanting to make more money when they’re in that limbo between being having to scrape every last copper and being able to destabilize the local economy without half trying. Some mercantile-minded players may turn their minds towards investing some of their rewards in commercial ventures, hoping for a return in wealth and influence. Unless you truly wish to be playing Capital and Caravans, however, most CKs will seek to abstract this process a little, letting the game flow without preventing the character from spending his wealth as he sees fit.

Investments are of two different types: caravans and in-place businesses.  Many of the same principles apply to each, but some modifiers will have different effects depending on whether or not the business venture travels.

The Core Crunch

Before I spend a long time discussing the options in dealing with investment, let’s look at the core mechanic of simple investing: 2d8*10%. That’s the average return on investment for the gentleman adventurer. For those who don’t do the probabilities in your head, this means that, on average, an investor will see 90% of his money back; if he gave the merchant ten gold pieces, he gets back nine, for a net loss of one gold. This is intentionally not fair. A great many business ventures lose money, and if all the character has done is toss money at an investment, he will likely lose money. This number is, also, simply return on investment. It does not include taxes that might need to be paid or fees that accrue, which tends to drive returns even lower.

The average time for maturity on any investment is one month. This allows a trade caravan to make it to another city, sell its wares, buy more, and sell those upon return. For an in-place business, this covers a period of purchases and sales. Some investments may take longer to mature, or players may look to make quick money through short-term loans of a few days or weeks. All of these can be handled through similar mechanics, but shorter-term investments tend to carry a LOT more risks, while long-term ventures tend to be more stable. For short term investments, I suggest a return of (1d20-1d4)*10%; you’re far more likely to lose your shirt, but your returns will rarely be much higher. For longer-term investments, I suggest (2d6+1d4)*10%; the floor is higher, the ceiling about the same, and the average about the same.

What makes merchants (and adventuring venture capitalists) profitable is research, hard work, and a bit of luck.

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Updates to CP-based D&D

 A couple updates to CP-based D&D:

I've put in a lot more abilities

*Psionics with two variations; Complete Psionics Handbook/Will and the Way version and Skills and Powers version. These are at the end, in the Psionics Addendum.

*Priest Spheres as an additional way of gaining spells. 

*Shamanic powers (as in Spells & Magic and Faiths & Avatars)

I've also included non-proficiency penalties for weapons, and added a way to determine your saving throws in this system; you begin with 70 points divided among your 5 saving throw categories (minimum 2, maximum 20, lower is, as always, better), with the total decreasing 3 points every level (meaning you reach all 2s at level 15). This is still experimental, so I would like feedback.

Follow the link above (or here) to see the document.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Talents for D6

Initially designed and written for Star Wars D6, this also will work for other D6 games, such as Space, Fantasy, Adventure, and Zorro.

Talents add +1D to tests with a certain skill specialization. Talents apply to a specialization, not a skill; you don't have a Talent with Space Transports, you have a Talent in Space Transports: YT-1300 or Space Transports: All-Out or Space Transports: Dodge; the last two aren't usual specializations, but they work for talents.

Humans begin with 2 free talents; anyone (including humans) may spend 1D of skill dice to begin with 2 (additional) Talents. In play, Talents cost 5 CPs per talent. Talents do not require a teacher; they are a natural ability (that may have been latent until now). If a player has 5 CPs, they may acquire a Talent at any time, with the Game master's permission. Talents are a bonus; they do not increase the cost to improve a specialization, as they do not increase the rating of the specialization.

You may have only one talent per skill, but you do not need any training in the skill to make use of a talent. You may have no more talents in a single attribute's skills than dice in that attribute (so, if you have 2D+2 Dexterity, you can have 2 Dexterity skill Talents; if you increase it to 3D, you can learn another Talent.)

Force Powers and Advanced Skills: Beginning characters may not have Talents in Force Powers (other other Metaphysical skills, depending on your system) or advanced skills; these must be acquired in game. You may have only a single talent per Advanced skill. You may not have talents in the Force Skills, themselves. A talent with a force power applies +1D to the use of the power; you may have no more talents in powers associated with a single Force Skill than dice in the Force Skill. Talents with Force Powers that rely on multiple skills (q.v. Lightsaber Combat) require only 5 CPs, like other Talents, but count against the limit of both Force Skills.