A quick though regarding character creation in the 5E SRD

Upon reading the D&D 5E Basic rules I can’t help but feel (sans any further information in the Player’s Handbook or the Dungeon Master’s Guide) that D&D 5E missed the boat with an opportunity to create a very simple social class system that would have added one simple step to character generation. Part of this system is the understanding that this is merely the social class that the character has the most experience with. So you could take the Lower Class Noble for a disgraced and disposed Noble, or Upper Class Criminal for a Noble with a criminal background or enterprise. As a further example, someone from the Upper Class could be a noble, or they could be a well-regarded servant, or they could be the agent of some noble family.

Allowing the characters to designate having come from either the Lower, Middle, or Upper classes would add a fair amount of color to characters, grant them additional abilities related to each social class that wouldn’t ruin game balance. Here is my take on what this would look like.

    Lower Class:
    Starting Gold: 2d4x10 GP
    Starting Clothing: Common
    Feature: “Streetwise” – The character is experienced with the streets and the underworld. As a result they know who to speak to, where to go, and how much things are valued in such settings. They are adept at ferreting out such things in places familiar and unfamiliar.

    Middle Class:
    Starting Gold: 4d4x10 GP
    Starting Clothing: Travelers
    Feature: “Thrifty” – The character is well-skilled in trade and negotiation, as well as knowing the value of goods and services that are available on the market. As a result they have advantage when negotiating the prices for goods and services that are legal and/or non-magical in nature.
    Upper Class:
    Starting Gold: 6d4x10 GP
    Starting Clothing: Fine
    Feature: “Intrigue” – The character has lived a life surrounded and immersed in intrigue. They are knowledgeable of the factions and power structures and adepts and detecting the machinations thereof, often being able to discern the “hidden hand” that moves groups and society.

I must admit, there is a part of me that thinks that Streetwise and Intrigue should actually be proficiencies rather than features. I might actually change that when I see what the Player’s Handbook actually looks like.

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(Cyber)Traveller 2200

Not sure if it is going to be Mongoose Traveller or if I’m going to run using CP2020 as the engine -both have arguments in their favor. At the moment I’m having an interesting set of thoughts – if I do run my first conception, the “2200” will be 2200 Imperial (yeah, roughly 1200 years after the 3rd Imperium) and what T5 calls the “Far, Far Future” and roughly Tech Level 19, or maybe 20.

And that brings up a whole other set of discussions about Traveller that I’ve been having in various versions with KT and others – but which also brings ups a whole new term I just came across and that spawned this post.


Traveller is a one of the oldest TT RPG’s, it’s been around since 1977 it has had multiple licensed incarnations since then.

There is CT, or Classic Traveller (with a sub-designation for the real grognards between pre- and post-1981 rules sets. Nominally set in 1105 Imperial, it was defined by “The Little Black Books” (LBB) of which there were many, there were also many licensed products by Judges Guild, Paranoia Press, and others – I was always a fan of the those two sets of supplements actually.

There is MT, or MegaTraveller, which is Digest Group Publication’s (DGP) “2nd Edition” of the game, even if it was done by Game Designer’s Workshop (GDW). It is set in the late 1120’s to the backdrop of the Rebellion that occurs in the aftermath of the Emperor’s assassination.

Then there is TNE, or Traveller, the New Era, which is set in the 1200’s, after the cataclysmic “Final War” that trashed Known Space. It was also a major departure in the rule engine and was pretty much despised by the majority of Traveller players – I for one have pretty much always seen it as the reason by GDW went out business. That probably isn’t fair, but that’s the timing. I can’t even call it a 3rd Edition because it is basically a new rules engine.

After the dust cleared from GDW’s demise there were a selection of other versions of Traveller -

Imperium Games made “Mark Miller’s Traveller” (T4), which was set at the dawn of the 3rd Imperium and was a return to the recognizable game engine. Well-supported with rules and supplements, I think it mostly appealed to the Collectors.

The game was also licensed for the Hero system (Traveller Hero or “TH”) d20 system (T20) as well as GURPS (GT) – the GURPS version was noticeable in that it ignored the Rebellion timeline and picked up “as if” the Emperor had never been assassinated. It provides an alternate canon timeline for those players that disliked the Rebellion (and the Virus) which were both pretty well disliked by many grognards (the Virus especially). There is also a GURPS supplement for the Interstellar Wars period (GT:ISW), or the downfall of the 1st Imperium and the rise of the 2nd Imperium.

Continuing the try and meet the desire for Traveller materials, there was also the TNE:1248 set of supplements that discussed the founding of the 4th Imperium and resolved many of the “mysteries” of the setting that had been left in the aftermath of GDW and DGP going out of business.

Finally, there has been Mongoose Traveller (MgT) and Traveller^5 (T5) – Mongoose Traveller returning to the “idea of Traveller essentially being a generic scifi system (though with a coherent sense of tech advancement) and T5 being the “Ultimate Traveller” with a very generic set, badly organized and unindexed, of Traveller rules produced via a rather amazing Kickstarter.

Mongoose has actually produced supplements for not just the 3rd Imperium, but also other settings like Hammer’s Slammers and Judge Dredd (and the 2300 AD setting from GDW that was it’s own rule engine). T5, at this point, has produced little other than the initial Kickstarted offering.

One of the great things about Traveller is that there is a well-developed setting and an amazing amount of canon that spawns multiple engines, and many years of game history. This is one of it’s great strengths and, if I’m honest, one it’s great weaknesses. It is, by any honest admission, really hard for a new player to pick of the game with a grognard and not feel hopelessly out of their depth.

That’s where the idea of “Proto-Traveller” was so fascinating when I came across it. It’s essentially a set of rules for Traveller that is based on a very limited selection of the Classic Traveller line (LBB1-3, Adventures 1-4, and Supplements 1-4, LBB4 is optional but LBB5 is not allowed – at least the ship design would be). One of the effects is that the entire setting for Traveller is a much darker, and much different in flavor from what the 3rd Imperium setting developed into. In many ways it is basically the pre-1981 Classic Traveller rules.

In My Traveller Universe (aka “MTU” as opposed to “OTO” for the Official Traveller Universe) I’ve always stolen liberally from pretty much any source that seemed to work. Warhammer 40K, Babylon 5, Star Wars, the Continuing Time, etc. The Mongoose Traveller engine actually has rules that make this easier, while the very spotty T5 flavortext for the Imperium at least finally gives me a timeframe in which I could set it (and it works for me on a purely “gloss” level it fits my affected “2200” date for the setting”).

But part of what I’m really struggling with is if I want to nuke MTU and essentially reboot it into the 2200 setting or if I want to think about the “Proto-Traveller” setting and see about setting things there…



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Musing about the last AD&D campaign

As I’ve been thinking about the AD&D game I was running I’ve been looking at some of the things I’m not so thrilled with. Training for levels is one thing and weapon proficiencies is another. Experience points are the last place where I am just not thrilled with the basic AD&D system.

Weapon proficiencies were ok, but I wasn’t really happy with the way that they worked. While I like the idea of the different classes being restricted in what weapons they can use (it’s somewhat artificial but I’m ok with it for game balance) I’m less convinced that there is any good reason for limiting the learning of new weapons to level advancement. It seems to me that I merely want there to be a cost in time and money (mostly time) in order to learn new weapons.

Similarly, I’m less than thrilled with the time and costs associated with level advancement. This seems to be a remnant of the particular play style that is very “Grognardian” and reflective of the artifacts of the AD&D experience system. Back in the day I had dropped any level training for fighters and rogues (save for when they wanted to learn a weapon proficiency) and retained some costs for spell casters only when they gained a new spell level (to cover initiation and ritual costs). I’m really thinking that I’m going to do the same thing again. This makes the warrior and the rogue classes a bit more popular (not a bad thing) and in turn makes the magic-using and multi-classes a bit less popular because they are actually expensive to play.

In the old days I’d left the old style AD&D system behind and moved to what was basically the Palladium XP system which was far more based on ideas and planning rather the killing and treasure for the generation of XP. The problem is that this made figuring out XP a large investment of time after I was done gaming for the session. So this time around I went with a mix of that style, plus the old AD&D style, and it was still a ton of work. I really like Alexis’ method of 10XP per point of damage done, 20XP per point of damage suffered, with a bonus for the party on total damage suffered. There would still need to be a bit of something figured out for spell-casters and rogues because I like to reward people for using their special skills, but looking at his number crunching and doing some of my own I think it is a pretty reasonable method.

In any case, I just wanted to get this down for posterity. TTFN!


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Converting Chicago Unseen (II)

Yeah, I think I about have the Avatar thing figured out (and will post at some point), plus we reworked The Gift a bit into three separate Gifts, one for magic, one for necromancy, and one for the Sight – and Divine Inspiration / True Faith is just it’s own little thing.

That said, I just had a flash of something like “Holy Orders” that would resolve a couple of problems that we were having in trying to make sense of things.

We’ve also been running through the various Covenants and Traditions and Sects and deciding which ones we like and which one we don’t really. In all cases these are really meant to represent general philosophies and paradigms, the broader of which are the more diverse and less structured. So closer to Witchcraft than Mage, and often taken a step or two further.

So, the Old Faith, the Hermetics, the Akashic Brotherhood, the Legbans, the Dreamspeakers/Ghostdancers, the Technocratic Union, the Syndicate, the Lodge of the Undying (perhaps by a different name), the Solitaries, the Arcanum, the Hunters – we have decided that there is likely some sort of Necromancery thing, but aren’t really very certain what it is yet. Similarly, we like the idea of Ferals being organized around packs and the vampires being organized by bloodline, but haven’t got much further than that.

Actually, we looked at things and vampires are going to get tweaked a fair amount. We like our vampires as bloodsuckers, and we even like the idea that certain bloodlines are known for certain of the gifts/qualities. So, we’ll have to figure that out and get it down in writing.

Yeah, and we’ll have to someday make some rules for the Fae – definitely Seelie and Unseelie Court stuff, Glamours, Miens, Changelings, but we both hated the WoD vision of the Fae so it’s not going to look like that much at all.

Cosmologically speaking, we’re dumping the whole sephiroth thing. It would drive my husband crazy given the lack of concurrence with existing esoteric lore and confuse the hell out of players trying to google things and make sense of it. So at the moment we’re keeping things slightly more simple – Mundane World (or Midworld), Underworld (with a Threshold), Dream Realm, the Realm of Faerie (with a Borderland), and the Overworld (or Overworlds, given that these are the realms of the Gods). There is Astral Travel, plus we’ll probably have to figure out where the Eternal City (Heaven) and the Pit (Hell) are. There is probably a realm or two that we need to include as well, but this was a very cursory first pass from last night that grew out of the idea that we wanted to make sure that “Horizon Realms” from WoD still existed, which matched some things from the Book of Hod which then spawned the idea that perhaps the various Overworlds are actually horizon realms that “grew up” (evolved/etc).



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Converting “Chicago Unseen” to Witchcraft

One of the critiques of Witchcraft is that it is nothing but a World of Darkness clone. There is, I have admit, some truth to that. There are many protestations that this isn’t the case but if folks are being honest I think you have to admit it. That said, it does kind of make it easier to convert a Chronicle from one system to the other.

But it does mean that you have to decide how to translate certain concepts if they played a large part of the original. For example, there is essentially no analog to the Avatar from Mage, so if that was an important part of the chronicle (as it was for us) you will need to decide if there is something from the Unisystem that can work or if you need to come up with your own Quality to explain it (which is our method, though we’re saying that this is a Quality akin to True Immortal and represents a connection to some other type of remnant from the Elder Kingdoms.

But do you use the Storm Dragons? Or the Akashic Brotherhood? I have to say that I like the Akashics better than I like the Storm Dragons – though I think the rules for martial arts are overly complicated and rather kludgy. They may get a re-write.

Similarly, the Nephandi are just way more fleshed out and cooler than the way they present the cults of the Mad Gods. I can’t say that I’m thrilled with the Combine, but the canon Technocracy isn’t much better. Luckily, the version of the Technocracy we came up with made much more sense and actually probably works better in Unisystem in general and the Witchcraft setting in specific.

But I have to say that while Witchcraft still tries a little bit too hard to do the “world-wide secret society” thing with it’s Covenants, they are still a million times better than the Traditions/Clans/Tribes of the World of Darkness.


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And now for the morning news…

Yeah, I’ve been busy with work and not paying attention to my long-neglected blog here…

Let’s see here, I pledged to a handful of Kickstarters – the CoC 7th Edition, the Islands of Ignorance Companion, and I’m hopeful that I’ll see my copy of Sense of the Slight-of-Hand-Man soon as well. I *really* want my copy of Pulp Cuthulhu now…

I finally received my copy of the new Traveller along with all of my goodies. As much as I wanted to love it, it’s kind of a trainwreck. Not so much in the rules themselves but in the sheer disorganized mess that the rulebook is. All of the -Makers in there, while I can understand why they are a part of the main rules given the history of Traveller, just add a huge level of confusing bloat given the lack of good organization.

Some of the ideas I really liked, the changes to character generation were actually pretty decent as near as I can tell (again, some of the lack of organization creates some real confusion). I look forward to integrating the new rules as part of my CyberTraveller 2200 campaign – I’ve always integrated Cyberpunk Lifepath with the Traveller Extended Character Generation in some very cool ways.

On a totally different note, I’ve gone around and been poking at the old “Chicago Unseen” setting that my spouse first ran and that we then ended up running together. It was a oWoD mashup based on the Mage game, but as much as we used much of the canon setting we trashed much more, and eventually couldn’t keep using such a cool but almost impossible to use magical system. So what I’ve been doing is looking at the old Witchcraft and Armageddon games first by Myrmidon Press and later by Eden Studios. I’ve had copies of the original rules for awhile now and always thought they would make a decent alternative to the White Wolf rules. I’ve bought things like Dresden Files and Savage Worlds hoping that these would be the solution but as decent as they are I just could quite make then work.

The Unisystem rules really seem to fit the bill, as long as being simple enough to tweak those couple areas that we’d need to manipulate to create a vision of an occult world that fits our own better. Plus, the existence of the multiple power levels available when looking at both games combined is a real benefit. We’d ended up with characters and NPC’s who arguable would have been Avatars and Inheritors (or Enlightened) by the time we gave up on the oWoD rules and it would be nice to have a rules-set that would allow this more easily.

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Fixing Humans II

So there is an interesting set of dilemmas when it comes to making humans more attractive as a race – but part of this has to be role-play. As much as I can create some real benefits to playing humans, I think that strongest benefit is ultimately social. That said, there can be some differentiation when looking at humankind that goes beyond merely culture, and my game world has pretty much always done this -thanks to the influence of Tolkien. So, here are the broad varieties of humankind that exist.

The Common Men – This is the vast majority of the humanity, they are common men and women, average in build and appearance. Found across the Mortal Realms, they vary in coloring and build based primarily upon location within the Mortal Realms. For example, the Northmen of Thule are tall and blond, the Kistathians are of average height and dark in complexion and hair, and tribesmen of Zul are black of skin and hair.

The High Men – The hidden scions of Ryl Shantor, the blood of the High Men that runs through all those with blessed with the Talent. Those for whom the blood runs particularly true are fair of form and strong in body. In High Men the Talent is often linked to red hair, though not exclusively, and the bloodline can run dormant with Common Men for generations before flowering again for unknown reasons.

The Beastmen – Generally considered a primitive people, the Beastmen are often considered barely human at all with their sloping foreheads, and almost brutish appearance. They have an intentionally simple society eschewing magic and power, preferring to remain a quiet people living in simple conditions as a matter of philosophical choice after a long ago history of conquest and bloodshed. Ogres are considered to be a further devolved form of the Beastmen by many sages.

The Ithians – The rulers of the great continent of Ith, the Ithians are the descendants of the slave race of the Serpent Kings. Pale of complexion, smooth of skin, and black of hair, the Ithians are a sensuous and decadent people with a dark and hidden secret. They carry the blood of the Serpent Kings within them, and while it gives they power it also carries the seeds of their corruption. An ancient and hierarchical society, their inbreeding and dark magic often brings about chaos and insanity in the end.

The Old Race – The dreaded and fallen remnants of the first men, the scions of the First City, the Old Race do not dwell in the Mortal Realms. Instead they have wander the Paths between the Realms and weather the Maelstrom, occasionally returning to plague upon their descendants. Over time, they have developed the Talent to a extreme degree, and have a complex but evil society. Angular, thin, pierced, and tattooed the Old Race barely appear human to some.

The Feyhd – When the Great Old Ones, now known as the Five Demon Emperors, attempted to corrupt Aden, most humans were cast out into what became known as the Mortal Realms. But some, those who most fierce with anger and fear in the chaos of the War Without End, ended up in the Great Waste. The Feyhd are those humans that have survived and thrived within the lethal and dangerous testing ground that is the Great Waste, creating a people and society when only the strongest and most intelligent survive.

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It really sucks to be poor in AD&D

So, I was reading an article in the Smithsonian Magazine about paleopathology, specifically about working the remains of renaissance nobility and essentially doing “cold case work” in determining the actually causes of death. What I found interesting (though not surprising) was that despite being nobility they were still plagued by abscessed teeth, cancer, and the common diseases of the day – not to mention the toxic results of what passed for medical care at the time.

This had me thinking, Cure Light Wounds doesn’t do anything about infection – so while it might heal the wound associated with a abscessed tooth it would cure the actual infection – potentially setting someone up for series of further infections. What you need is Cure Disease, and that is a third level spell.

Now, I don’t think it is too hard to find 1st level priests around to take care of the odd broken bone or gashed hand, but finding a 5th level priest is a bit harder…

So what this means is that nobles, the wealthy middle-class, and the adventuring-class most likely regularly benefit from a Cure Disease spell. Adventurers simply from the normal travails of the adventuring life and either have a priest with them or are paying for the spell, and nobles because they have a household priest casting it on them when they get sick enough or when they (also) pay someone for it, and the wealthy middle class because they’ll just pay for it when they get sick enough.

(And don’t get me started on the stupid ridiculous prices in the DMG – I hate to say that whatever “the sainted EEG” was, an economic genius is not a good description)

So, being poor, you might (and probably would in my world) get a Cure Light Wounds if you had a serious injury – what good is the local, village priest otherwise? But, if you waited too long (or the injury was something like a tooth abscess) you wouldn’t get cured of any resultant infection. As near as I can figure, this means that what is likely to happen is that if, post-wound, they don’t toss off the infection, they will develop blood-poisoning from a free-floating infection or simply redevelop some sort of abscess at the same location or another spot in the body.

This has some potentially interesting effects on the demographics of a game world. But instead of looking like “the ancient world” this somewhat replicates the modern world but where the upper and adventuring classes look more like the first world citizens when it comes to both health and overall physical well-being and the lower and poorer classes look more like third world citizens. The health and welfare of a class tends to breed (literally and metaphorically) more of the same, which in turn will increase class stratification save in the few folks who can “break into” either the merchant class or the adventuring class.

So think about this sort of thing when you are designing your own world!

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Fixing Humans…

So as I mentioned in the last post I’m trying to fix the balance for taking human vs. non-human characters. This was always a bit iffy in many AD&D games because there was rarely a downside for playing a demi-human. Many campaigns never reached the level caps and of those that did, they often seemed to ignore them or have rather easy ways to sidestep them.

I’m generally happy with what I’ve done with Demihumans and Darklings (Half-breeds of Goblins, Ogres, and Trolls) and Shadowkin (the creatures of the Shadowlands) so I don’t want to mess with them particularly. Yes, they are significantly more powerful than they are in standard AD&D, but they’ve been that way for years now and I don’t think the change in engine really makes this a game breaker.

What I do have to do, in a game without skills, is find a way to boost up regular humans into something that is attractive beyond simply being the most predominant race that advances the quickest via XP. My current model for this is using secondary skills/professions and linking them to additional abilities or skills and having this be a human only benefit. This could range anywhere from allowing a initial dual-class, to additional weapon proficiencies, to tracking ability, to any number of isolated special skills for various character classes.

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LOL! Yeah, there’s been another slight break here…

Apologies for that, life and work has been busy.

A sad part is that I haven’t really been gaming. There was a little bit of Dark Heresy with my son that led to the musings on the Lost Imperium project, I’m not done with that, I think it would be lots of fun to run. I’ve been talking with my spouse about running a small little Artesia game just for the two of us and at the same time revisiting the “Pulp Cthulhu” (using Call of Cthulhu) game that I was running for my son and KT.

I’ve also been doing some real pondering about what went wrong with my AD&D game. In some ways that’s not a fair statement because I know people had fun, but I think I burned out a bit faster than I was expecting. It was also more of a s=chore to pick the game up again after 15 years and start running it.

Part of that was having other old-time AD&D players in the game (KB & CB) who were used to their own house rules and who have been playing in a several edition long campaign elsewhere (now in some 3.5E version IIRC). Going back to 1E was a great blast from the past for them, but I really had some very different house rules that they weren’t used to and I was also getting used to AD&D again on top of rebuilding an old set of house rules.

Some of the new house rules don’t work as well as I’d like (and will get tweaked again), some work really well, and in some ways I’m wondering if I was/am trying to make things too neat and clean. Now part of it was trying to come up with a coherent version of some of my older tweaks to character classes (Bards, etc) and make it easier for newer players who hadn’t been playing the game for years and didn’t have an encyclopedic knowledge of old articles, character classes, spells, magic items, etc.

At the same time, my campaign world has another 15 years of non-AD&D development and that has taken it away from a straight AD&D game as even just perusing my character races would show. That said, one of the things I’ve realized is that I either need to dial down the powers of non-humans (which I’m loathe to do because I do like how they feel) or I need to figure out how to increase the appeal of humans as a player race. That’s something I’m struggling with slightly, but it may simply be a matter of increasing the XP penalties of being non-human so that humans advance significantly faster or coming up with some extra penalties that the non-humans suffer from.

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