Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Best Players

Today's contribution is the rework of this rule - it took me nearly three hours before I was satisfied with the balance of the table.  Not that people will agree with it or adopt it - but just because I was frustrated with the algorithm offered in the old DMG.

Has anyone ever noticed how very little actual description there is of turning undead in AD&D?  Maybe I'm getting old and senile, but I couldn't find the rule for it anywhere, certainly not in the index.  I'm sure the younger version of me remembers where it is.  Even the table on p. 75 of the DMG has no actual description of how it works.  Funny, dat.

My rewrite of the rule can be found on the wiki.

Here's a copy of the table, so that this post looks like I contributed something:

Do me a favor and resist telling me about the versions of the table in later editions (assuming they even still use this rule).  I greatly reworked the rule about four years ago - through game play, I've found it to be quite effective.  The newest change is to remove the clerical level from the equation - and indeed, to diminish the skill so that is it no longer automatically something a cleric has as a power (though there is some minor power if no knowledge of Dweomercraft is possessed).

Why do that?  Well, the sage abilities do add a number of different powers for clerics, though admitted the amateur level skills I've been working on are useful for information but little else.  This is part of my greater plan - to bring every power under the same general system, not to necessarily diminish the overall power but to allow the player to pursue specific elements of that power.

This is, of course, the error that 2e made, that I've railed against a thousand times - the difference, I feel, is in making the strength of the ability somewhat random, including the possibility that skills NOT chosen may become, through chance, as powerful as something that's chosen.  The logic there is that while the character may want to be a great leader, politician, mad scientist or whatever, the character's actual talents may balance towards other things.  Add to this certain elements of cross-training, while working in duality with the original character design of fighting and spellcasting, I feel that there is less chance of a character power-maxing themselves in a manner that others can then copy without fail.

Of course I'm in a room by myself here.  While I expect everyone else to pirate and hack the rules I'm making for their own worlds (and they are encouraged to do so!), I don't imagine anyone will follow my ideas chapter & verse.  Still, my goal is to organize the information until the structure is complete, comprehensive and repeatable in other campaigns.

Let me just add, I've never introduced a character development scheme that was so embraced by players.  Even if I only count the information distribution levels for amateurs only (identify demi-god, beast, manifestation, whatever), the players adore the idea that they simply know something without having to beg the information from someone else.  This is why they have me working hard on the system right now.

I was surprised with the agreement they made.  I explained that the depth of the system would probably mean I couldn't create the tables for every class, from amateur up to sage, in less than two years.  That would mean that if I wanted to reintroduce the rules sooner, either a) some classes would get benefits before every class did; or b) they would have to wait until I did the amateur levels only, whereupon they would have to make their final picks on their knowledge choices without knowing what the higher level benefits would be.

Unanimously, the players in both my off-line campaigns all picked (b).  They all felt that it was enough just to know the most basic skills they would get . . . even if that meant later on seeing something really amazing in another skill that they did not know about when choosing the skills they had.

When you look at some of what I've posted - here and here for instance - consider the unlikelihood of your guessing what sort of skills would be available as a master or sage based upon those things listed under amateur for Fungi or Bushes & Shrubs.  Meaning that the players, picking from amateur skills only, are shooting blind . . . and they are okay with that!

I have two explanations.  First, my players trust me.  Sincere, solid trust.  They know that no matter what skills they pick, I will make sure they are rewarded with something good.  That's the benefit of years of making sure they are enjoying the game.

Second, they trust themselves.  No matter what they get, they know they'll make it work.  They'll apply their imaginations, dig in and find a way to soak every bit of power they can.

You know what else my players told me - each party coming up with this explanation on their own?  Paraphrased, they told me, "Well, our characters wouldn't 'know' what there was to know about the knowledge study when they started out, would they?  Not being experts, they'd pick the subjects because those things interested them - knowing what they could do with the subjects later on would only come when the characters got smarter."

Gawd love these people.  I have the best players ever.

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