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 STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)

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Chris24601
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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Sun Feb 11, 2018 7:12 am

One update and some playtester commentary I'm not 100% sure what to do with just yet today.

The update is pretty brief; I'm going to have to adjust the Bodyguard utility so that Guardians get Enforcers instead. In fact I think I'll have to adjust it so that no PC can have one of those comps who matches their own role. Interestingly, its only the Guardian + Bodyguard that creates an inbalance due to the inherent catch-22 they can set up.

For the Slayer + Enforcer and Enabler + Medic its that they're actual trap options... the enforcer does less damage with its minor action than a Slayer does with its minor action and the medic does less healing/buffing with its minor action than an enabler does with its minor action.

Terrors & Tactics doesn't have a lot of actual trap options. Some may only be super-useful in certain types of campaigns (i.e. you're running a mostly city-based campaign or one that focuses on palace intrigue), but none are just flat-out wastes of selections on their own.

So just to make it even harder to build a gimped character unintentionally I plan to make the rule a blanket for all the roles instead of just due to the overpowered guardian + bodyguard issue.

* * * * * *

Now for the playtester commentary. Basically, it has become rather obvious over the course of playtesting that NO ONE ever picks a non-dark Elf. I quizzed some of my playtesters about it and the remark was that the Caste-based elves didn't feel like they'd ever be a good fit for a mixed-species group and even in an all-elf group the caste system means its not all that fun to play anything but a high elf since otherwise you're basically any high elf in the party's slave and why would a low elf ever even be allowed to adventure with the high or common elves in the first place unless they were playing the role of pack-bearer via the sidekick class.

By contrast, the dark-caste elves were pretty popular as a choice. Presence is useful for any Skilled class, plus Sorcerers, Astral casters and Cunning Primals and an elf could have a bonus to ANY other ability score depending on its original caste. Rolling twice for initiative, getting some bonuses when you spend focus on certain things and getting effectively a free utility out of it, not to mention the immortal and attractive angsty outcast angle of the dark elf option (which also lets them pick ANY background rather than a limited pallet) is like catnip to some gamers.

One of the better suggestions from one of the players was that I should just flip the script and make "Outcast" the default presumption for player elves and make "Caste" the optional selection instead of "Dark Elf."

I'd probably have to rewrite the fluff a bit to put a little more focus on the life of the outcasts and perhaps change the name of the Caste-based culture around such that "Elf" now means "outcast" in their language (i.e. the Caste-based culture would call themselves the Alfair or Sidhe or The Fey or something while the "dark caste" would be called the Elves), but on the other hand it would make the default PC far more compatible with a typical PC adventuring party.

I dunno... I'm just throwing it out here for feedback because its a rather interesting late-game set of feedback that I really couldn't have gotten prior to looking at what multiple different people chose to build.
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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Sun Feb 11, 2018 7:21 pm

In both instances, it sounds like you've discovered and solved the problem rather neatly. I like the one player's suggestion of flipping the script on the elves. As far as the new species name, I'm leaning towards alfar. Sidhe has pronunciation issues for casual gamers that you may draw in. I don't know if you have fey creatures in your setting, so there may be some confusion with regard to the species names. Perhaps the elves/alfar that remained loyal to the elven/alfar city call themselves fey, pretending to be something they're not anymore.

With regard to the vampire thing, I think that your problem is sort of an "Our Dwarves Are The Same" and "Our Vampires Are Different" situation: there are so many questions about vampires in a setting: how do they drink blood, and what does it do for them? Does it grant additional powers, or does it merely preserve the vampire. If a vampire doesn't drink blood, does it rot, or does it simply age, or go crazy? What powers does it have, and does it acquire them as it ages, or is it related to the blood the vampire drinks? Does the vampire have a demonic, bat-like super mode or game face, and if so, is it permanent with age, or again related to the vampire's power? I've seen vampire depictions where they are literally rotting corpses and bat-like monsters that grow flesh masks to appear human, and that's within just the Dresden Files. The penanggalan's been called a vampire by some folks, and that thing's head comes off, organs trailing behind it as it flies around to suck blood. I'd say you've got your work cut out for you there.

I've had the idea that maybe vampires are born of a curse, and that there are different strains of curses explaining different types of vampires. What are your thoughts on the subject?
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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Mon Feb 12, 2018 12:30 am

Regarding the existence of Fey... its complicated. A lot of what D&D lumped under Fey actually fall under two different headings in the T&T cosmology. The short version is that critters that embody natural forces (rivers, trees, rocks, fire, wind) are Avatars (which include humanoids, giants, sapient beasts and sprites) while critters that embody intangible concepts (dreams, civilization, invention, fear, death) fall under the Astral heading with the Elves and Gnomes specifically as embodied dreams.

The elves are, in a sense, actually a LOT closer to Tolkien's versions than D&D's have become in the sense that their non-dragged into the mortal world by the Cataclysm equivalents are basically the angels/servants of the goddess of dreams (the chief goddess of the elves)... one of the reasons why, when my niece wanted to know what race she could pick to play which would be essentially a winged human/near-human it was pretty much a no-brainer to make it a variety of elf (and those even picked up the name Archon). They aren't the masters of Arcane magic, they are servants of the Astral powers (i.e. the equivalent of the divine power source in D&D).

I've been pondering it over the course of the day and I'm not 100% sure I need a different name for the caste-following elves after all. Especially with some particular revisions that even preceded this the divide between a caste elf and a dark elf (technically elf of the dark caste) is entirely a social construct. An elf is labeled dark by committing some public taboo, but there's nothing magical about it (particularly ever since I adjusted the dark elf option such that elves labeled as dark by their own actions keep the astral spark benefit and only elves born to other dark elves get the 'any utility' replacement benefit).

Instead the name I need to come up with something pithy to mean "elf in good standing with the elven caste system" and what minor trait it grants in exchange for limiting your background selection by caste, your choice of religion and your spellcasting path (if any). Probably something like increasing the value of their allegiances when dealing with other elves also in good standing with the castes (versus the penalty to allegiance modifiers that had been associated with the dark elf option).

* * * *

My first thoughts are I don't think vampires are such a critical element that a fantasy setting will collapse if they aren't present by name. My main concern would be that any vampire I were to include has to fit into the existing cosmology rather than having to torture the existing cosmology into fitting a traditional vampire into it.

The undead cosmology is pretty simple... Souls originate from the Source and usually return there in death (what happens next; obliteration, reincarnation, hypostatic union; is a key point of debate amongst the many religions of the setting). The exceptions to that general principle are that the souls of those who are exceptionally devout to the Astral gods instead travel to their astral realms and those who don't want to go to the Source (whether because they fear judgement or annihilation or have unfinished business that keeps them from going 'into the light' as it were) go instead to the Shadow World and become some type of undead creature by merging with their shadow.

Those newly undead souls that can possess their corpse (either on their own or with the help of a necromancer) become Wights. Those without bodies becomes Wraiths/Spectres (and can slip into the Mortal world either on their own in places where the barriers are weak or by being summoned by a necromancer).

The mindless undead are basically just puppets animated through the general essence of the Shadow Word by necromancers (though they might give control over them to other intelligent undead).

The main loophole in this would be the Necromancers. They're mortals who rip out part of their own souls and let the Shadow seep into the wound. As they grow in power this darkness within them grows; transforming them from a mortal into an undead Lich. Physically a Lich is mostly just a type of Wight that controlled its own transition into an undead state and so retains the use of the shadow magic it had learned in life (arcane, astral and primal magic does not function for the undead; the Arcane Web doesn't recognize them as a living user, astral pacts end at death and primal spirits regard the undead as an anathema to Creation).

My cosmology is very specific that souls cannot be trapped or damned by anything other than their own choices. You can't be "cursed" to become some type of intelligent undead just by being killed by or fed upon by them. This is utterly non-negotiable (to the point I'd scrap the entire project before I'd give up the point). Something might inhabit the body after the soul has left, but the soul itself is inviolate except by its own free choice.

If I really had to nail down some type of concept, I think a vampire would be much more akin to a Necromancer; someone who damned themselves to unlife via shadow magic and uses stolen lifeblood to maintain the facade of life (basically the classical interpretation of Vlad Tepes). Unlike the Necromancer, they focus on using the shadow to empower their own physical form (basically the shadow equivalent of a shifter) instead of creating shadow-fueled minions. Any spawn it might create would be soulless things (akin to animated dead) unless the victim was themselves wanted to become a vampire of their own free will.

Basically, it feels like something I'd want to deal with in relation to exploring the Shadow spellcasting path more deeply (probably "Blood Wastes of Bestia"); but not something defined enough to be its own thing in a monster section where I've already got two similar opponents (necromancers and ghouls) and am already fighting the page count to get a representative sample of all the opponent types as it is.

To wit... here is the statblock for the ghoul, just so you can have an idea of what I mean about already having something in the ballpark of a vampire;

Ghoul_______________________________________200 XP
Level 8 Opportunist (Medium Shadow Humanoid; Undead)


Initiative 7
Defenses Armor 16, Dodge 13, Fort 12, Will 14
EDGE 80 (bloodied 40); Focus 1
Immune shadow; Resist cold, toxic; Vulnerable astral, fire
Speed 6 paces; burrow 4, climb 3, jump 3, swim 3
Free Strike 12

TRAITS
Consume Appearance: As a free action when a ghoul consumes the flesh
of a humanoid (living or dead), it can take on its appearance (including clothing)
and gains the victim’s memories until it feeds again. The form is flawless (no
disguise check needed), but does not function when in direct sunlight.

Undead: Immune to starvation, suffocation and environmental heat/cold.
Takes damage equal to its level at the start of any turn it is exposed to direct
sunlight (heavy clothing or overcast skies prevents this damage).

MAIN ACTIONS
Grasping Claws: Melee 1 (two attacks) / 8 vs. Armor / 10 damage
(16 critical) and target is grabbed (until escape). It can grab only one creature
at a time.

Entrancing Gaze: Melee 10 / 6 vs. Will / 20 psychic damage (32 critical)
and the target is tethered to the ghoul (ENT). This attack is always non-lethal and
stages to compelled if it reduces a target to 0 Edge.

MINOR ACTIONS
Entrancing Draw: Pull one creature tethered to the ghoul up to 2 paces.
Special (use action): Pull the target 4 extra paces per focus spent.

Savage Bite: Deal 12 damage to an adjacent grabbed creature (24 if target
is vulnerable to untyped damage) and the ghoul can use Consume Appearance if it desires.
Special (use action): The target becomes vulnerable to untyped damage (ENT) or
the ghoul regains Edge equal to the damage dealt for 1 focus each.


CHECKS
Ability Checks STR 5, END 3, REF 5, WIT 4, INT 4, PRE 5; Base Load 60 lb.
Skill Checks Deceit 10 (15 impersonation w. stolen memories), Persuade 10
Senses darkvision

VARIANTS
Lesser Ghoul (100 XP): Level 3, Initiative 4, Focus 0, Edge 40 (bloodied 20);
Damage – free strike 7, grasping claws 6 (9), entrancing gaze 11 (18), savage bite 7 (14);
STR 4, END 2, REF 4, WIT 3, INT 3, PRE 4; Deceit 7 (12), Persuade 7

Greater Ghoul (400 XP): Level 8 (Elite), Focus 2, Edge 160 (bloodied 80);
Damage –as above, but grasping claws 20 (32); Savage bite ends one condition affecting the ghoul.

Ghoul Lord (600 XP): Level 13 (Elite), Initiative 9, Focus 4, Edge 240 (bloodied 120);
Damage – free strike 17, grasping claws 28 (45), entrancing gaze 28 (45), savage bite 17 (34);
STR 6, END 4, REF 6, WIT 5, INT 5, PRE 6; Deceit 12 (17), Persuade 12;
Savage Bite ends one condition affecting the ghoul.
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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Wed Feb 14, 2018 8:31 am

With regard to the "elf in good standing," my first thought was "light elf," one who in the caste system's doctrine is still blessed by the light of the goddess of dreams and the astral realm.

With regard to the soul thing, I like it. I was on the same page with regard to 4e's "some souls that go to the gods are stuck in the outlying edges of the god's realm" concept as expressed in The Plane Above, but I didn't extend the concept to vampirism. That was a bonehead move on my part, especially since I loathe settings where there isn't a Heaven, or where Heaven is as bad as Hell - I basically had to ignore The Plane Above for 4e. If I were the Demon Emperor in your setting, I would be doing whatever I could to spread the idea that reuniting with the source results in obliteration, thereby deceiving people into seeking an undead rebirth.

Speaking of vampires, I've read of a couple of settings where the soul was either replaced by a demon or the human made the choice to become a vampire. The Red Court in the Dresden Files, for example, get afflicted with a blood thirst, but in order to become a true Red Court vampire, you have to make the choice to kill someone by feeding on them. The White Court, emotion eaters that feed on lust, fear, or despair, work the same way - they're born with a spiritual demon embedded in their psyche, but they can smother the demon early by avoiding the first, inevitable feeding. Even after that first feeding, a White Court vampire can still exercise self-control and free will, as Thomas Raith did. Black Court vamps haven't been nailed down, but they're more rotting, blood-drinking corpses.

One interesting version of the vampire I read about was Peter Nealen's version, in the Silver Cross and Winchester series, about modern-day Catholic witch hunters. In that setting, vampires are lone super-predators made when another vampire bites a human and injects a 100% fatal venom. At the moment of the victim's death, a demon will sometimes come to the victim and offer a deal: become a vampire and you won't die. The blood drinking is a reinforcement of this pact with Hell, one that the victim can only escape by redeeming themselves and allowing the venom to run its course. The victim may still die, but at least their soul is redeemed. The reason that vampires don't run everything in that setting is that they rarely create new vampires - they reason that every new vampire created is just more competition, and oftentimes the people who accept the demons' pact aren't the kind who like to share power.

With your setting, as you pointed out, vampires are like a cross between a necromancer and a ghoul. Really, if I'm interpreting the statblock right, a ghoul could drink someone's blood and gain the benefits of Consume Appearance, making them vampires in all but name.
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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Wed Feb 14, 2018 2:53 pm

The 'all but name' thing gets especially interesting when you start to look at "vampire" myths across cultures and how similar they are.

I didn't include them in my version, but some ghouls in Arabian myth are purported to have the ability to change into animals (most often jackals) or mist and to also drink blood as well as eat the flesh of the dead to gain their appearance.

The Chinese hungry dead are believed to be souls that escaped from Hell, inhabit their corpses and consume either the flesh, blood or even breath (i.e. life force/ki) of their victims (depending on the myth). The Wendigo is also similar in Native American myth and feeds on human flesh (and some myths attribute excessive greed for turning someone into a Wendigo).

The common thread is that they are some type of evil spirit (be it the soul of a wicked person in life or a literal demon) inhabiting a corpse-like form that needs to consume something associated with life (flesh, blood, breath) from human victims in order sustain itself. Hypnotic gazes to lure in prey and assuming animal and/or mist-like forms are also quite common traits attributed to them.

You could essentially say, in the original myths (vs. the D&D penchant of taking every possible name for something and making it a different monster), that Ghoul (Ghul) and Vampire (Dhampyr) are just the Arabian and Eastern European words for the same general concept of the Hungry Dead.

So you could easily swap out "flesh" for "blood" in the Ghoul description and they'd be pretty much a European vampire. You could rename the "Savage Bite" action to "Inhale Life" and have one of the Ki-consuming Chinese Hungry Dead.

One reason I do prefer the ghoul over the vampire as well is that I've been going outside of the typical European pool for things like demons and such because I don't have the OGL to fall back on anymore and the Babylonian/Assyrian/Arabian/Kabbalah mythologies are a less traveled source of ideas to draw from (and which also fit better with my cosmology). So my demons include ones like the Gallu, Shedim, Labasu, Lilin, Efreet and Leviathan (I'd rather not tempt fate with calling the primordial sea monster Tiamat or Bahamut despite those names coming from Babylonian/Persian myths for essentially the same critter). The Ghoul comes right from those same sources.

* * * *

Quote :
If I were the Demon Emperor in your setting, I would be doing whatever I could to spread the idea that reuniting with the source results in obliteration, thereby deceiving people into seeking an undead rebirth.
Undeath probably would be the go-to method for those who feared the afterlife if the Astral Gods hadn't basically stolen that shtick by essentially offering their own "Better Than Average Place" to their faithful.

The Astral Gods are basically the "safe bet" of the afterlife. They don't promise the perfect paradise of the Old Faith, but they can provide definitive proof of a reasonably comfortable continuation of existence for your soul after death if you can prove to one or more of the Astral gods you deserve it. Basically you can gamble on Heaven vs. Oblivion or you can take the sure thing of uploading your consciousness into a digital world and avoid the risk of what happens after you die entirely.

This also creates an interesting theological debate in relation to the Old Faith. Are the Astral Domains that souls who follow the Astral Gods...

A) Another type of Hell (forever separated from the perfect paradise with The Source and the 'good enough' will eventually become stale and torturous).

B) A "patch" on reality that The Source allows to keep as many souls from going to the Demon Emperor's realm as might otherwise (i.e. something akin to the concept of Limbo).

C) Some sort of waystation where souls not worthy of Heaven, but not deserving of Hell, can eventually work through their issues and eventually move on to The Source.

As with all things cosmological, I'm leaving the precise answer up to the individual GM for their campaign because actual hard answers to those questions makes the various religions all feel a bit hollow and unrealistic (if there is an objective knowable truth about the afterlife why would ANYONE believe something different?). In my cosmology the choices are to take a gamble on Heaven (with Oblivion if you're wrong) if you go with the Old Faith or go with the sure thing of an okay Astral Afterlife by worshiping the Astral Gods, but also risk missing out on Real Heaven (and possibly even being in a "Fake Good Place" version of Hell) if the Old Faith is actually right.

The net result is that actual Undeath is basically reserved for those who really want to say "I did it MY WAY" since the Astral gods still demand certain things from you in terms of proving your belief to earn entry. The Demon Emperor doesn't care WHAT you do with the power of the Shadow World... he's already accomplished his end goal for a given soul by separating another soul forever from the light of The Source.

* * * * *

Which brings me to my next related topic... the more I flesh out the monsters, the more I have to examine them in light of my cosmology and I'm not certain the distinction between Outer Darkness and The Shadow World still works as I'd originally conceived it.

My original concept had the Shadow world as a bit more 'natural'... essentially the World casts a Shadow (just as it has a reflection) and those which fear the light of the Source (i.e. dead with unfinished business) naturally flocked there. It was not evil in and of itself, any more than actual islands that would comprise "The Pirate Isles" are evil because it has pirates living on and operating from them. The barriers could be thin because it wasn't a naturally evil place, just a place that evil flocked to.

But then I hit upon the idea that it was the creation of the Demon Emperor because only in that perfect shadow could it exist entirely outside the light of the Source (whereas even the other demons existed in the Outer Darkness where The Source is still visible as an impossible to reach light in the distance) and that started to change.

I'm not sure the distinction between the Shadow World and the Outer Darkness can survive that.

If it is home to the Demon Emperor then either the Shadow World should be beyond the Great Barrier erected to hold out the Demons or the Demon Emperor managed to escape the fate of all its brethren and has no great Abyss between it and the Mortal World to block its actions. It also makes the existence of the Shadelings problematic as they're basically the creations of the Demon Emperor (and  I already vacillate by the day on whether player dragons need to be revised towards the Avatar end of the spectrum and leave the pure Demon variety to the NPC only category as it is).

One possible solution is that the Shadow World being the creation of the Demon Emperor is an actual myth (i.e. its untrue) and it too is trapped in the Outer Darkness just like all the other demons. Perhaps it created Shadow Magic as a means to corrupt mortals, but the existence of the Shadow World on its own is a natural phenomenon just like solid objects having a shadow is. This makes Shadowborn, including the Shadeling as 'natural' creatures with the distinction being ability to interact socially with fellow PC's the main dividing line on playability between them and other Shadowborn. They're a consequence of Man choosing to murder others as in the original plan for creation the shadow and living person would be united for the entire lifetime of the person.

Another solution is that the Demon Emperor resides in the lowest depths of the Shadow World not because it created the Shadow World, but because it is the Demon Emperor's specially created prison. Its offenses were so great that The Source/Primal Spirits locked it into its own personal prison completely out of The Source's light and completely separated from all the demons it once ruled (basically the greatest Hell conceivable for it). The lost souls, undead and shadowborn are the result of souls making their way to this place for their own reasons and Shadow Magic is either making use of the natural properties of the realm that keeps the Demon Emperor imprisoned or some gambit of the Demon Emperor to try and subvert and/or escape its prison.

Shadowborn in this case probably need to be revised into a sort of "glitch" akin to the Elves pulled into the Mortal World that was caused by the Cataclysm since creating hostile creatures inimical to life itself is not something The Source or Primal Spirits would have included as a property of the Shadow World as Prison concept.

Shadows given life by the chaotic energies of Cataclysm though could still work... though they'd probably need to be a self-perpetuating species which robs them of a lot of the creepy factor of "shadows of murdered X" that they have now and probably means reworking Shadelings into a general "Shadowborn" species since I don't like the notion of irredeemable species as a whole (the current Shadowborn aren't really a species... they're a side-effect of death by violence; there are no baby goblins, orcs or ogres).

A third is that the Shadow World IS the Great Barrier (or is a part of it)... its surface is all the further a mortal soul can reach and "beneath" the Shadow World's surface lies the infinite Abyss where all the demons reside (including the Demon Emperor at the far end of the Abyss, infinitely far from the Source). This has basically the same problems as the previous option for Shadowborn though.

Finally, I could just merge the Shadow World with the Outer Darkness and it becomes a general purpose "Underworld." This would probably necessitate removing the Shadelings entirely as all the Shadowborn would be literal demonic spirits created by murder that have escaped or been summoned up from the Underworld.

Of those, I'm probably most comfortable with the first, blurring with the second (I do like the notion of the Demon Emperor getting a special punishment separate from the rest of the demons), but I am open to suggestions.

* * * * *

One final thought for the day, in the rework of the Elves, I had a notion based on the Elemental Weakness benefit of the Avatars;

Elemental Weakness (Optional): You gain a primal utility but also a vulnerability based on your Elemental Affinity; cold (fire affinity), fire (frost, plant or water affinity), silver (beast affinity), storm (earth affinity) or toxic (air affinity).

The idea would be that some elves have even stronger connection to their Astral/Fey nature and so can gain a second Astral Spark benefit (though they could not choose both Changeling and Archon), but gain a vulnerability to Cold Iron... which in this case I'm defining as nearly pure iron instead of steel (mechanically that would make it a poor quality weapon, but -1 to hit in exchange for all hits being treated as criticals is a pretty potent trade-off).

It should probably also be added to gnomes as they're basically the same type of being.

Right now my main reason for not just adding the same form options as the Avatars have to Elves (i.e. Fey beasts) is that the Astral Gods represent fundamentally HUMAN concepts; knowledge, crafting, leadership, skill, compassion, dreams; and so the spirits which embody those concepts (including those that became elves) should also be of human form... but I'm not entirely convinced of that, i.e. what happens when a human dreams about having a dog? What would happen to that dream of a dog if exposed to the same Cataclysm that pulled the dreams of men into the mortal world and made them elves?

I suppose the easiest answer there would be that the dreams of dogs (either men dreaming about a dog or actual dog dreams, take your pick) wouldn't be sapient and therefore aren't playable creatures in the way that non-humanoid avatars are (since all avatars were sapient to begin with).

I'm stopping it here for today though as this ramble as gone on WAY longer than I intended it to.
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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Wed Feb 14, 2018 8:42 pm

Some of the recurring mythological parallels are fascinating: the hungry dead, the therianthrope, the animal with mix-and-match parts, the dragon. As a side note, I would definitely include a sidebar in the ghoul entry referencing ways it can be refluffed as a vampire or jiangshi, and how they all stem from a common myth of the hungry dead.

I think that the demons you've just listed could also work within the elemental framework you've established: efreets have an association with fire in modern culture, leviathan is obviously aquatic, shedim had wings and rooster feet, potentially making them wind demons, and the gallu had a tenuous association with Earth - according to Wikipedia, one particular gallu, Asag, led an army of rock-demon offspring ("born of his union with the mountains themselves") into battle. Also, finding images of these guys is hard - the only image I found of a gallu was a Final Fantasy monster. You've got a lot of freedom to work in.

With the Astral Gods and their afterlife, I think that A, B, and C are all possible - the "waystation of the afterlife" could be the original intent, the "patch against the Demon Emperor" would be a nice side effect, and "good enough turning into Hell" could be the fate of some who lingered too long in the Astral afterlife.

Shifting the demon emperor to the Outer Darkness could run into the problem of making him have too many similarities with Daybringer, the leader of the fallen spirits mentioned in the old Avatar entry, unless you can throw him in the same pit as Daybringer. That would make their shared prison sort of a supermax wing, unless the idea of two great enemies in the same location is too risky. I'll have to think on this one.

Just out of curiosity, how many people play shadelings and gnomes? I figure that humans, dwarves, and elves are the most common, with beast-men, malfeans, avatars, dragons, and golems not far behind.


If you introduce the cold iron weakness as an option for the elves and gnomes, I'd spell out the mechanics of a pure iron weapon in a sidebar as well as in the poor-quality weapons section.

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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Wed Feb 14, 2018 11:14 pm

Yeah... the Middle Eastern demons being a lot more elemental in nature was a big factor in why I picked them over some of the other possibilities. Once you get to the European Medieval classifications its seems like its basically all fire all the time and that's... well, BORING.

Quote :
Shifting the demon emperor to the Outer Darkness could run into the problem of making him have too many similarities with Daybringer, the leader of the fallen spirits mentioned in the old Avatar entry, unless you can throw him in the same pit as Daybringer. That would make their shared prison sort of a supermax wing, unless the idea of two great enemies in the same location is too risky. I'll have to think on this one.
Actually, Daybringer IS the Demon Emperor's Pre-Fallen name. There's only ever been one leader of the Fallen Spirits and that there was a great deal of symbolism to the Primal Spirit closest to The Source... the spiritual embodiment of the sun's light upon the world becoming the Emperor of utter and eternal darkness (it's basically the Ur-example of the evil vizier betraying their king in this setting) and likewise that one of the weakest of breeze spirits growing to become Stormbringer who was the Source's new Right Hand Man and leader of Primal Spirits (i.e. the Ur-example of the D&D adventurer in the setting).

For that matter, I think I need to spend a little time devising a legendary human and dwarf (and possibly the first Malfean to rebel against its parents) to form the First Adventuring Party that was central to defeating the Demon Empire. One of the things I absolutely adored about 4E's cosmology was the idea that the Adventuring Party was essentially an echo of how the gods defeated the primordials in the Dawn War.

The Covenant between the Primal Spirits and Men with the Dwarves bringing in the Arcane magic they'd created seems like THE place to include an element like that... Stormbringer getting around the Demon Emperor's condition by becoming the First Avatar and teaming up with the Leader of Men and the Inventor of Arcane Magic forms the template for adventuring parties down through the ages. Many races, many classes... all working for a common goal against overwhelming odds.

I'm thinking Stormbringer is the Guardian (Abjurer probably), The Leader of Men would an Enabler (likely a Captain), The Inventor of Arcane Magic would probably be the first wizard and an Interdictor. Throw in a Malfean in the slayer role (perhaps a brigand) who seems to have turned against its demonic parent only to stab the party in the back near the end of the story, nearly costing them victory (and ensuring the hatred for Malfeans is remembered down through the ages).

That said, I think there should be a twist to the Malfean betrayal, at least as they tell the story, where the Malfean 'betrayed' them only become the final ritual that would banish all the Demons to the Outer Darkness was also going to affect all the other Malfeans as well (including his brothers, sisters and possibly even children). The betrayal (likely with Stormbringer's covert assistance) was delaying the ritual long enough for the other Malfeans to escape... which nearly caused the entire ritual to fail.

This in turn also sets up another aspect of the setting... the corruptibility of Men (which includes dwarves). Say the original timing of the ritual was the idea of the Leader and the Inventor; basically a shortcut that would have sacrificed some innocents in order to achieve the greater good.

The Malfeans get the blame from humanity for nearly losing the war, but also the promise of a future savior because the Malfean hero sacrificed himself to save them and also the extra support from the primal spirits to those Malfeans who keep the faith.

Meanwhile the Men go on to form the First Empire, but soon decide they need slaves of their own and create the Beastmen (i.e. another shortcut that costs innocents in the name of a "greater good") that ultimately seals the First Empire's doom.

* * * *

As to the "how many play X". Humans are indeed the most played. The second most played is actually Avatars. Elves (notably all dark caste), Malfeans, Beastmen and Dragons are all reasonably common and in that order, then its a step down to a few Mutants (generally the more disgusting the better), Gnomes (with the players often running them more like traditional halflings or Kender) with Golems and then Dwarves falling a bit behind even that.

Then there's Shadelings. I have a feeling its a cooler concept to discuss than it is to actually play because no one ever chose one outside of tests where I was using pregens. I suspect that the whole "actually soulless" is a lot darker than a lot of people actually want to play and it could be that I need to push it more in the direction of making the optional "Jiminy Cricket on their shoulder" into the default for the playable version.

Honestly, I could probably push them back to "Blood Wastes of Bestia" and no one outside of people closely following the playtest would even notice. This would, admittedly, solve the Shadeling/Demon Emperor problem I'd outlined previously... but only temporarily.

As to the others... the definite trend was Humans and "Bad Boys" (Rebel Elves, Malfeans and Dragons) being the largest chunk of characters created. The Avatar is also an "outcast primal spirit seeking redemption" so they can fall into that category too, but none of the playtesters ever played them using that as their angle. Mostly it was the appeal of playing an elemental themed character or, in one case, a Werewolf, that drew players to them).

Beastmen and Mutants are worth special mention because both appealed to the WEIRD side for players. For example, one of the testers made a Centaur Shifter Hybrid who took on Crocodile traits so they were were a half-horse, half-humanoid crocodile. For the mutant the Troglodyte was the only "book" option used... the other mutants were made using whatever combo that player felt was most disgusting (ex. cancerous healing, slimy secretions and pulsing brain).

* * * *

And good point about the cold iron weakness side-bar.

It probably wouldn't need all the much. Mostly a line to the effect of...

"Cold iron is much softer than steel and so is considered a poor quality weapon. Poor quality axes, blades, arrows, bolts, flails (except whips) and spears can be made with cold iron at no cost. Sling bullets and bludgeons can be made of cold iron (or have cold iron cladding) at any level of quality for double the weapon's normal cost."

Another thing to possibly add in conjunction with this would be an Unbreakable minor property for magic weapons;

"Unbreakable: This weapon has been reinforced using magic to make it unbreakable. Actions taken to deal damage to it have no effect. Cold Iron weapons with this property can be made at any level of quality. This property does not count when determining if the item is a minor or major item."
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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Thu Feb 15, 2018 11:48 am

So, I woke up this morning and realized I've been a complete idiot when it came to Grunts.

As you may have noticed with the example grunts I put up a while back, I ended giving them all a "non-grunt ally (including PC's) can take the damage for them" ability because I wanted a way to keep them in the fight a bit longer than their own Edge would allow because without the "no damage on a miss" ability of 4E minions (which I've been avoiding to distance them from the 4E IP) they're trivially easy to remove from a battle before they even get a chance to act.

The better solution in the Edge damage sense would be for grunts to closer to the 13th Age "mooks" with their pooled hit points and dropping a mook each time the damage rolled over, but that was something 13th Age could pull off because of their explicit theater of the mind approach to combat while I was trying to duplicate 4E's tactical experience where every piece occupies a specific space on the battlefield and weapons have explicit ranges and so being able to cleave through one grunt and then into one 30 feet away with a single sword thrust just isn't realistic.

But this morning I realized something... While I'd managed to break away from it for PC's and normal monsters, when it came to Grunts I was still looking at their Edge score as "Meat Points" (in part because that was my reason for making their maximum level based on their actual size, because the little bit of Edge they did have was raw meat without any heroic luck to keep them alive).

But its NOT meat. Heck, I renamed the resource Edge and express it in the rules as "spending Edge to avoid damage" and reworked things like falling so that the Edge loss is based not on depth, but the difficulty of catching yourself (and only falling if you lost all your Edge or choose to fall).

Its not meat and it's now explicitly is mostly morale, luck and fatigue. So who's to say that spill over damage that drops a grunt 30 feet from where you just dropped another grunt with a sword thrust is a flesh and blood wound?

What if its just that grunt standing 30 feet away watching you gut another grunt just like him and saying "Frak this! I'm out!" and fleeing at fast as he can run, even dropping equipment if necessary to hasten the escape?

That even FEELS like it should be standard grunt behavior to me, to the point that Mindless Dead (who never fail morale checks because they have no will of their own) feel like they should be the exceptions with special rules instead of no different than a squad of conscripts or goblins (who are noteworthy for their cowardice when faced with stronger foes).

I also think it's a better precursor to my planned mass combat rules than "Allied Morale" as the gist of that was grunts could be formed into units with pooled EDGE totals and make X number of attacks against other units (depending on the space the unit occupies and the reach of their weapons).

What This Means: Not much on the player side, though mounts will probably get a slight Edge boost. The warriors gained via utilities are fanatically loyal to their PC and so having carry over damage doesn't make any more sense than it would for the Mindless Dead, so they'll keep their current "knocked out by any hit that deals damage" rule.

Monster side, the Grunts will probably see their Edge roughly double from the current 1+1/level to 4+2/level for normal grunts with the following becoming a new standard trait for Grunts...

"If a Grunt is reduced to 0 Edge by an action, transfer any excess damage inflicted to the next closest Grunt (if any). Excess damage from an action that targets multiple creatures at once If a Grunt beyond the action's reach is reduced to 0 Edge by this, that grunt immediately flees in terror (EoE) if it can or drops its weapons, falls prone and takes no further actions (EoE) if it cannot. The space they occupy counts as empty for purposes of movement or determining cover."

This does mean I can probably drop the "Basic Sweep" action as it was literally included just to allow high level warrior types to cleave through multiple grunts in a single round (i.e. make Focus score basic weapon attacks that deal half your Focus score damage each) and that's just not needed if the damage from a single target attack spreads to other grunts on its own.

Allied Morale might still stick around though, at least for the sapient grunts, as it allows PC heroes and leader-type monsters to effectively improve the morale of the grunts just by their presence; which seems fitting for the setting.

Area of Effect attacks might be a bit unbalanced if they can drop a group of grunts as a LOT of damage would then carry over to other nearby grunts... but on the other hand, seeing three of your allies incinerated with a single spell probably SHOULD throw the other grunts into absolute chaos.

If I leave it with AoE damage overflowing though I almost have to put something into the Death Knight because "Kills half the opposing army with its frightful glare and causes the other half to flee in abject panic" just seems so over the top that it... that it...

Fuck it... It STAYS exactly like that.

Its too cool a moment for the PCs to shine to not let it work exactly like that. Death Knights and Death Lords are literal "Army Breakers" that only PCs can stop like the Big Damn Heroes they are. That is EXACTLY how this setting rolls.*

* The above, complete with the ...'s and mild expletives is a dramatization of my actual thought process as I started trying to explain just why it would be terribly unbalanced to let a Death Knight get away with something that broken. I feel it accurately conveys just why, in this case, the unbalance is probably actually not worth fixing. If anything, it suggests that what I actually need is to add a Level 16 "King of Death" variant to the Wight entry.
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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Tue Feb 20, 2018 5:36 pm

I have a couple of varied updates today;

First up is grunts. After looking it over, I ended up NOT making the 'spread damage' a universal trait to all grunts because the way it worked for men needed to be a bit different from mounts and the mindless dead. As such, the spreading of damage varies from grunt type to grunt type.

Here's the soldier variety;

Allied Morale (Grunt only): Total the Edge of all grunts of this type in the conflict. Damage dealt to any of them is taken from the total. Remove one grunt for every 6* Edge taken, starting with targets of the damage dealt (any others removed exit the conflict by the most efficient means possible; flee, hide, surrender, etc.).

* this value varies with the grunt type and is equal to the edge value of one lone grunt.

The ability to soak Edge for grunts has been made into a special ability available only to certain other creatures (ex. the Officer) and to PCs.

This actually works very well for a foundation and is going to make the Mass Combat rules I've got in the wings for the Blood Wastes book a LOT easier to integrate into the game's normal rules (one of the main goals of the mass combat system is that you don't have to use any sort of "conversion rules" for PC's engaged in the battles).

* * * * *

Second and Third, I finished the rebuild on the elves and, combined with the debate I've been having over the nature of the Shadelings led me to a very interesting thought and prospect for expansion in the future.

Since I was reworking the elves a bit anyway and had added an optional trait that would let them become even more "celestial" at the cost of a vulnerability (which I finally settled on calling "Star Iron" rather than Meteoric Iron and is a special property just like Silver is)... I started thinking.

The elves are essentially the embodied dreams of Men; spirits from the astral realm of dreams. But since they're getting a bit more overtly angelic, why limit them to just dreams? The lore is already there that the high elves view themselves as the descendants of the astral gods. Why not expand the concept out and instead of being just from the dream realms (why would they only be from the dream realms, anyway?); they're from all the astral realms.

The answer is because that's actually a LOT of work and trying to nail down a specific Astral Spark benefit for each of the dozen astral gods (changeling would obviously be the one related to dreams) would eat up a ton of time and add to an already quite bloated Player's Guide page count.

BUT it has given me an idea in terms of overall world-building and a game mechanics concept I could expand on in future books that even links into my Shadeling problem. So here it is;

Spirits from ALL the astral realms were pulled into the Mortal World by the Cataclysm... BUT they weren't all dumped in the same places. Elves are in the core book because they happened to have landed in the Old Praetoria region of the world which is the default setting in the core books.

But the spirits of the Sea God, the Queen of Passion and all the rest came too... but they ended up in completely different parts of the world. Some might be called elves elsewhere (ex. Sea Elves, Sun Elves, Wild Elves), but others might get different names entirely...

Like, say, Shadelings.

I think my loophole for Shadelings is that while they closely resemble the Shadowborn, they're actually astral spirits like elves who were servants of The Grey Huntress (the astral goddess of death). This gives them an actual spirit that could reincarnate as the elves do and, more importantly, gives them the ability to have a conscience and be driven by more than their base urges.

Perhaps the current Shadelings are more akin to gnomes; spirit guides for the dead who can slip between worlds easily while an adult variety (say Fetches or Shadow Elves) is the kind that has been bound to the mortal world. Hmmm... Fetch sounds like a better name than Shadeling for that matter and the ability "fetch things" from the Shadow World even makes that name make sense (I'm now thinking one of their options could be some sort of "shadow conjuration" where they can make tools and weapons from shadow).

Regardless, the Grey Huntress and her servants are diametrically opposed to the undead in all their forms (and I think an interesting take in terms of keeping the spirit world a bit more mysterious is that these astral servants don't worship the Elven version of the Pantheon, but the Imperial variety with its dualism... so the elves don't have the end-all-be-all answer to which version of the astral gods is correct) and, given the amount of re-working they'd need under this revised concept (and their general unpopularity as they currently exist), I think moving the Shadeling back to Blood Wastes (along with the mass combat, shadow spellcasting path and more undead) might make a good fit as a part of the groups who war against the legions of the undead arising from the Blood Wastes.

The additional exiled Astral groups would also be good things to cover in later supplements as well; "Sun Elves" in the "Sun Empire and Star Kingdoms" location, "Sea Elves" in the "Endless Archipelago" location, etc.

* * * * *

Fourth, I just statted up the Crocodiles and due to an intersection of their tactics and the suffocation rules they're scary in the same way the healing draining undead of 4E are.

Basically, they can grab you on a hit with a pretty high escape TN and are big enough to drag you underwater with them and you don't get a chance to hold your breath first (since you can only do that on your turn) so you're immediately making Fitness checks (DC 10+1/round without air) and each failure costs you a heroic surge.

The dire version (level 14) is massive (4x4 squares) and can actually grab multiple targets by swallowing them whole. Who needs a sea serpent entry when you've got a prehistoric nightmare like that? (that said there is an aquatic dragon and the giant squid/kraken as well).
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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Wed Feb 21, 2018 7:48 pm

Thanks for clearing things up regarding Daybringer. With that in mind, I would probably move him to the farthest reaches of the Outer Dark, as far away from the sun as he can get, basically your first option in that previous post.

The adventuring party as historical figures is a neat pattern that does a lot to reinforce the game tropes. The leader, inventor, and malfean are all controversial figures in your history, with alternate versions depending on who's telling the tale. What about Stormbringer, though? I figure that both sides hold him in high regard. I think it's kind of ironic, that he was the First Avatar, yet he doesn't carry the shame of cowardice associated with them - I figure that it's because he was a little breeze spirit, yet he stepped up. I wonder if the avatars' exile was an attempt to offer redemption, by giving the deserters the same chance.

I figured that the races played out somewhat like that - avatars got more play than I expected, and I figured that the gnomes would be run like regular halflings. Nobody playing Shadelings is a shock. Between nobody picking them and the reworking you're doing of gnomes, I would definitely move them back, as you stated.

Speaking of elves as divine servants, I think that some of the gods have more natural ideas for servants than others: The sun lord, sea god, and nature mother have concepts, as you stated, but what would the champion and queen of passion have, for example? Some of them, like the storm king and fire god, might have more elemental servants, which could be redundant with the avatar mechanically. Perhaps golems could be connected to at least the forge god, some of them at any rate.

Something else I just thought of is that you could rebuild elves, gnomes, and shadelings as part of a generic astral servant race, kind of like how you did the avatar and had it include giants, werebeasts, elemental humanoids, and elemental beasts. I know you're pretty far along, but it might be worth exploring.

Finally, the bit about the crocodiles makes sense - their death role is no joke.
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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Thu Feb 22, 2018 5:35 pm

Well, the thing to remember about Stormbringer is that the war against the Demon Empire occured BEFORE the Avatars were placed into exile. Being embodied as an Avatar was a loophole in the Demon Emperor’s ‘hostage deal’ with the Primal Spirits from the old Avatar fluff... the Demon Emperor had created a ritual that would slaughter every last human if an immortal not bearing the Emperor’s mark tried to enter the Mortal World (The Great Barrier that holds out the demons is essentially an inversion of this, destroying any demon that tries to enter the Mortal World under its own power).

So Stormbringer (and later other Primal Spirits) cast aside immortality and manifested as a mortal and limited being to fight the Demon Emperor. The Primal Spirits then gathered the humans and dwarves and shared the Covanent with them (giving them access to primal magic) and eventually won the Demon War.

Only after the demons were cast out did attention turn to those Primal Spirits too cowardly to pick a side. While not deserving the Abyss, it was decided they needed some form of penance and it was decided that they would be exiled to the same Creation they were too afraid to fight for until such time as they earned their redemption by protecting Creation.

The short version is Pre and Post Demon War avatars while physically identical came into existance for different reasons.

* * * *

As to the Astral servitors, I’m kinda wanting to keep them seperate species mechanically because having them all have the exact same hierarchy and caste system as the elves doesn’t quite fit conceptually to me.

For example, I don’t think that Nymphs/Satyrs (the likely serivors for the goddess of passion) would work with High/Common/Low distinctions. Likewise, I think they’ll be more interesting if different types adhere to different versions of the Astral faiths (Imperial, Bestian, Elven, the Astral Bureaucracy of the Sun Empire where the gods are believed to be ascended mortals) as best fit their type.

As to the possible elemental aspects overlapping with the avatars, I’m not too worried. For the astral gods the elemental aspects are secondary to the aspect of human culture/existence they represent. The Sky Father’s opposite number is the Tyrant and overall they are the god of rulership and authority (so the Sky Father’s astral servitors should all be his sons/nobles and so super-rare (and all winged) rather than the more numerous dreams/elves which everyone great and small has.

Likewise the Earth Mother/Mother of Monsters isn’t about Nature per se, but man’s relationship with nature; agriculture in the positive and the dangers of the wilds in the negative. I’m inclined to towards making their religion another divergent one that seeks to integrate the primal spirits more fully than most Astral religions do (the default for the Imperial/Bestian/Elven faiths is that the primal spirits aren’t any different than demons (technically true in that demons are fallen primal spirits, but also obtusely missing the point) and while not quite wicked enough for the Abyss, they are still capricious and dangerous spirits that are not to be trusted and will lead you to ruin and then abandon you to a dark fate... an echo of the primal spirits’ silence during Beastman uprising).

Another point worth mentioning with the servitors is that the Astral Gods first followers were the Beastmen and so their default representations are often in their likenesses (ie the Sky King is usually depicted as a hawk-headed man akin to Horus, the Earth Mother as a cow-headed woman and so forth). While not all their servitors match their gods’ appearances, some certainly will (the Sky Father’s sons probably would, but satyrs look nothing like the queen of passion (the nymphs on the other hand...).

The point being that the Astral servitors are, at least in my head, far more different from each other than the avatars (who represent simpler concepts... an element in a given shape. Ice-man, firewolf, earth giant, etc.) and so probably need more separate entries than the avatars do.
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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Fri Feb 23, 2018 11:42 am

To elaborate a bit on my thoughts regarding the various Astral servitor types and what their differing species might look like, I thought I'd provide a few rough examples of how they look very early in the concept process. Note that the names are entirely fillers at this stage and will almost certainly change before they're done (Fetches and Celestials probably being the two exceptions who prove the rule);

1) Fetches: servants of the Grey Huntress (i.e. the 'Light' aspect of The Reaper) would be a lot like my current shadelings, but be actual spirits instead of shadows. They were the spirit guides of the newly dead. No longer able to perform their primary duty effectively (as they are "Earthbound" like the Elves and Avatars) they focus on their secondary duty... protecting souls from the depredations of the undead. As death is the ultimate in egalitarianism the Fetches have no castes or ranks, but instead form quasi-military clans led by a clan council who in turn appoint a chief who leads the clan in matters where holding a council would be impractical.

2) Banshees: servant of the Fates. They were the fates of Men which could not be delivered becuse their lives were cut short by the Cataclysm (which has interesting theological implications as it seems to have occurred in spite of fate rather than because of fate) and are now stuck in the Mortal world with the power to bend fate and a faith broken by the Cataclysm. They roam the world in search of answers with their caravans being met by other communities with false-friendliness and dread, for ill befalls those who make enemies of them and they'd rather not tempt fate whether they like the Banshees or not.

3) Fables: servants of the Storyteller. They literally embody heroic (and villainous) archetypes and storytelling tropes.

4) Celestials: Servants of the August Personage (i.e. the Storm King) and his Celestial Court (believed to be mortals who ascended to godhood) and chief overseers of the Sun Empire. Their words hold power over lesser beings and their wings carry the Edicts of the Celestial Court swiftly to even the furthest reaches of the Empire.

5) Amazons: Servants of the Battle Maiden and basically living up to their mythological namesake. The main change would be that instead of abducting men to father children and then murdering them (which runs against the whole Battle Maiden them) when one of them falls in battle another of their number spontaneously becomes pregnant as the spirit reincarnates.

6) Nymphs/Satyrs: Servants of the Queen of Passion and again... basically like their namesakes.
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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Sun Mar 04, 2018 3:57 pm

Chris24601 wrote:

But this morning I realized something... While I'd managed to break away from it for PC's and normal monsters, when it came to Grunts I was still looking at their Edge score as "Meat Points" (in part because that was my reason for making their maximum level based on their actual size, because the little bit of Edge they did have was raw meat without any heroic luck to keep them alive).

But its NOT meat. Heck, I renamed the resource Edge and express it in the rules as "spending Edge to avoid damage" and reworked things like falling so that the Edge loss is based not on depth, but the difficulty of catching yourself (and only falling if you lost all your Edge or choose to fall).

Its not meat and it's now explicitly is mostly morale, luck and fatigue. So who's to say that spill over damage that drops a grunt 30 feet from where you just dropped another grunt with a sword thrust is a flesh and blood wound?

What if its just that grunt standing 30 feet away watching you gut another grunt just like him and saying "Frak this! I'm out!" and fleeing at fast as he can run, even dropping equipment if necessary to hasten the escape?

That even FEELS like it should be standard grunt behavior to me, to the point that Mindless Dead (who never fail morale checks because they have no will of their own) feel like they should be the exceptions with special rules instead of no different than a squad of conscripts or goblins (who are noteworthy for their cowardice when faced with stronger foes).

Can I say a no duh? without it giving you too hard a time? It does seem that you have absorbed that realization appropriately so I will just hum in a corner nodding. Been spending most of my time over on en-world recently.

Love what you are doing here.

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Born To Be Kings and Heros -- From the Ashes Phoenix
“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.” - Lazarus Long via Robert Heinlein.

One suspects Lugh Long-hand Samildánach (a wright/carpenter, a sailor, a smith/bronze craftsman, a healer, a champion, a harpist, a poet/historian, a sorcerer, cupbearer) would agree.
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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Mon Mar 05, 2018 2:29 pm

Thanks for the input, it’s all appreciated.

I have a couple of updates for today. First, a little behind the scenes stuff.  I finally got a PDF editor with bookmarking capabilities so my future PDFs will all come bookmarked. I also finally got around to getting a cheap tablet for viewing the PDFs during my play tests without having to use up reams of paper and ink every time I make an update. It’s also helping me check the e-reader legibility of the work is in that format (the 6x9 format with 10.5 font I switched to awhile back looks FANTASTIC btw).  

Also handy is that it has talk to text features so I don’t have to type up these updates, I can just speak my mind (more or less).

Designwise, the most recent round of playtests has been at higher levels and the stacking of effects When there’s more focus to throw around has forced a slight rework of the conditions.  The main issue was that certain conditions could be stacked to the point that opponents could only hit on a natural 20 very easily and it often came down to which side won initiative to lay down those penalties and keep their opponents from being able to hit back at all.

So to fix that I’ve had to give most of the condition modifers and a few attacks/abilities a named type (tactical modifiers) and rewrite cover, obscured and flat-footed from modifiers to defense into tactical modifiers to the attack roll. While bonuses and penalties with the same type are added together only the highest of each will apply to any given attack.

This sets a floor on the penalties to about -5 to hit and bonuses to about +5 to hit. With the basic monster math set at a 50% hit rate this puts the practical range for effects as between 25% with a -5 penalty to 75% with a +5 bonus. Focused advantage; the bonus you get the first time you use focus for special attack; remains untyped so it’s possible to overcome, mostly, a big penalty for a counterattack, but no one should ever be completely debilitated without using teamwork to stage up affects on a target.

We’ll see how it goes at the playtest tonight.
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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Tue Mar 06, 2018 10:07 am

Figured I'd elaborate just a bit on the altered conditions I mentioned last night.

The big thing I wanted to add is that while the tactical bonus/penalty has been capped via tactical type bonus and stacking rules, there are still reasons to apply multiple conditions to the same target.

Cover, for example, has the limitation of being positional... if a creature can maneuver to a space where their line of sight isn't blocked, it goes away.

Obscured didn't stack with cover to begin with and only apply to non-area attacks, but also reduces movement (obscured squares worsen terrain by one step to a maximum of challenging, two steps for totally obscured squares) and creatures become flat-footed against anything that is totally obscured from them.

Shaken (plus Scared and Terrified) applies not just to attacks but ALL action checks the target makes.

Taunted is almost exclusively used by guardians and their punishment features are triggered by taunted targets taking a forbidden action, so its still valuable even if the penalty doesn't stack. Its also not affected by blindsight/tremorsense (vs. obscured) or fear resistance/immunity (shaken).

So even though the tactical penalties might cap out at -5 (instead of -13 before), there's still an advantage to blinding (slowed movement, flat-footed to attacks), terrifying (-5 to all other action checks, checked by source) and taunting a target all at once.
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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Mon Mar 12, 2018 3:25 pm

Okay, time  for another update. First two minor things;

- The tactical modifiers changes seem to be working well, so I think that's locked in.

- The new tablet is coming in really handy with proofreading. The format and look are sufficiently different from how it looks on a regular monitor or printed on a page that its like looking at the thing with fresh eyes and the tools for highlighting are so convenient that I can drop a note as soon as I catch something and come back later to fix it in the main document.

... and one big one;

Woo boy...

This is one that's been brewing for awhile and, for once, its NOT coming from playtest feedback, but from the ongoing filling in of details for the campaign world in the GM's Guide causing things to just not quite fit right.

Let's talk about dragons.

Mechanically, the dragon species is fantastic. Its abilities are flavorful and its neither outperforming nor under-performing relative to the rest of the species.

BUT the fluff just isn't working anymore with the rest of the cosmology as its getting better defined.

The short version is that as the nature of primal spirits got hammered out (such as the fact that they don't even HAVE stats of their own unless they take on a mortal form either as an avatar or by summoning magic) the nature of their fallen brethren was too and it created some problems.

First is the issue of redemption. Basically, mortals can sin against God and be redeemed because we lack perfect knowledge of our actions and their consequences, are tempted by outside forces and can even lack the capacity to make a free choice due to circumstances beyond our control (ex. addiction, brain damage and/or faulty knowledge) and have to take even the existence of God and what His will is for us on faith.

None of those mitigating factors existed the angels (or primal spirits in this case). They had full knowledge of God's existence and God's will for Creation. They also had no outside forces tempting them away from God (indeed, they were the ones who became the tempters of Men). So they had full knowledge that what they chose to do was in defiance of God and freely chose with their unimpeded free will to do it anyway. Basically, an angel (or primal spirit) is incapable of redemption because it can never meet the requirements.

Maybe you could make the case for some low-tier ember spirit that was lied to by its boss and might deserve a shot at redemption, but even then it still would have had to make the choice to keep following its boss or choose the Source eventually and if it was cast into the Outer Darkness it certainly chose its boss. Likewise, the Dragons were already said to be second only to the Demon Emperor in power so that excuse wouldn't really fly anyway.

So both the demons and the avatars are 100% deserving of their fates and the main difference between the demons and the avatars is that the avatars didn't actually defy the Great Spirit... they just pissed off the rest of the unfallen Primal Spirits by not stepping up and doing more than the bare minimum required of them (they were sentenced by Stormbringer, who was given authority over them, not by the Source/Great Spirit itself) and essentially got sentenced to extended latrine duty for slacking off instead of being sent to Leavenworth for treason.

Which also brings up the fact that playable dragons and avatars share the same basic shtick; primal spirit on the outs fighting for either redemption or their own ends.

The second metaphysical issue is the scope of the Source/Great Spirit's power and whether any demon can defy the rules it lays down. Dragons, it was said, were slipping through what was basically a barrier that could only be opened from the Mortal side on what was said to be a loophole. But why would that loophole be exclusive to dragons and why would the Source even allow such a loophole from the demon side in the first place?

Right now the ONLY way a true demon (that wasn't a dragon) can enter the Mortal World was via a foolish mortal using a ritual to summon it (basically humans have the free will to make bad life choices and suffer the consequences... one of which might be having summoned up a demon they can't actually control).

The convergence of the "are they redeemable" (No) and how can they enter the Mortal World despite the Source/Great Spirit's decree/barrier (they really can't unless a mortal opens the door) is why a bunch of critters that were originally going to be demons ended up being reclassified as "Demonspawned" (basically non-human versions of the Malfeans... things like Hellhounds, Nightmares, Gargoyles and such).

* * * *

Basically, demonic dragons have been muddying up my cosmology for a while now, but I've resisted doing anything about them because A) they were really awesome and different from typical dragons, B) they worked mechanically and were fairly popular, and C) I hoped I'd figure out a way around it eventually.

But we're entering the late stages of development now and no better solution has come up and I'm having to write up sections of the world and make it all fit together into a coherent whole and dragons were still clogging up the cosmology by not fitting with the rest of the whole.

So I spent most of last week biting the bullet and the net result is that, once again, the Sprites (who grew into the Avatars) ate another entire species and took their stuff (who knew those little buggers had the appetite to eat both the giants AND the dragons?).

That keeps the notion of primal spirit on the outs and perhaps seeking redemption intact and, to be fair, you could 90% make a dragon using the Avatar rules already (of the basic stuff a dragon got it just lacked the AoE ability with its breath weapon).

Mechanically, Dragons are Beast form avatars with the flight beast trait. Their ability boosts are now to WIT or PRE and one of two options based on their form.

The avatars gained Elemental Projection (which beasts can gain for free if they want since they lack hands to use ranged weapons), Morphic Form and Fearsome Roar as optional traits which also apply to some of the other forms so you could also have a fire-breathing giant or a thunderbird that hurls lightning in addition to dragon breath. Then, since I realized that when Stormbringer became the first avatar he'd not have ever actually been able to fly, I also added an Elemental Movement option that adds movement options to the avatars as a utility selection.

I also added an "Avatar Examples" section like I did for the Beastmen and Mutants with the precise selections needed to create a dragon (Beast form with the flight beast trait, the Oversized option and the Enhanced Elemental Projection option; for the cost of one starting utility or taking the Elemental Weakness option) along with several other common types (Azar, Brownies, Dryads, Sylphs, Undines, Unicorns and Werebeasts in addition to Dragons).

Also worth noting in the update is a side effect I didn't intend, but which I think will carry over into my rebuild of the Shadeling; the Species now has enough optional features that, at least for beasts and giants, it could completely replace your background in terms of utility selections.

I had considered having a "Shadow" background to go along with the Shadow power source, but I'm thinking now that instead it could be built into the Shadeling (perhaps renamed to Shades) species just as ended up happening somewhat unintentionally with the Avatar.

Also, this isn't to say that the actual demonic Dragons are going away entirely; it just means that they are utterly beyond redemption and were initially summoned into the world by forming a cyst/egg for them to hatch from by a hapless mortal (who was very likely eaten). The oldest would pre-date the Cataclysm... Hell, for all anyone knows it was one of the demonic dragons that CAUSED the Cataclysm in a bid to try and breach the Great Barrier (and instead only shattered the barriers to the Astral Realms) and might even now be scheming to try again.

Fluffwise, the main thing it is that the playable dragons shifted from fully fallen primal spirits to only half-fallen primal spirits.

* * * *

Okay, off to the weekly playtest. I'll let you know what results.
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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Wed Mar 14, 2018 10:23 am

Figured I'd share the full revised Avatar traits so people can actually look at all the options available;

* * * * *

Avatar Traits
Origin: Primal
Ability Scores: +1 WIT or PRE and see Incarnate Form below.
Size: Medium (5–9’ /110-800 lb.), Small (2–4’/10-60 lb.)  or Tiny (4– 8”/1-3 lb.)
Speed: 6 paces (and see Incarnate Form below)
Vision: Normal
Skill Bonuses: see Incarnate Form below.

Earthbound: Each day you spend away from the Mortal World you lose a heroic surge that cannot be regained until you return to the Mortal World.

Elemental Affinity: Choose one of the following; Air, Earth, Feral, Fire, Frost, Plant or Water. You gain the benefits associated with that element.
Air: You gain the Air Spirit primal utility, resistance to storm damage and when you deal damage, you can change its type to storm. When you deal storm damage you can daze (ENT) the target for 1 focus.
Earth: You gain the Earth Spirit primal utility, hardness 1+½ level and a burrow speed of 4 through earth and stone (but not metal). When you hit with an attack, you can push targets Focus paces for 1 focus.
Feral: You gain one Beast Trait from the Beastman list and your choice of either a second Beast Trait or the Beast Spirit or Skinchanger primal utility.
Fire: You gain the Fire Spirit primal utility, resistance to fire damage and when you deal damage, you can change its type to fire. When you deal fire, you can spend 1 focus to deal Focus extra fire damage.
Frost: You gain the Ice Spirit primal utility, resistance to cold damage and when you deal damage, you can change its type to cold. When you deal cold damage, you can render the target fatigued (ENT) for 1 focus.
Plant: You gain the Plant Spirit primal utility, resistance to toxic damage and treat all terrain effects from plants as two steps less (to a minimum of normal terrain). When you hit with an attack, you can immobilize (ENT) the target for 1 focus.
Water: You gain the Water Spirit primal utility, resistance to forced movement, can breathe underwater and gain a swim speed of 4 or +2 to your existing swim speed (whichever is greater). You can shift 1 pace when you hit an enemy with an attack. You can improve this distance by ½ Focus paces per focus spent.

Incarnate Form: Choose one of the following forms;
Beast: You gain +1 to STR, END or REF, low-light vision and +2 to Nature and two skills of choice. Gain natural versions of a proficient melee weapon and armor of choice. If the weapon can be used in one hand you also gain either a natural version of a proficient shield (if any) or the ability to use it as both a main and offhand weapon for abilities (if it has the offhand property). Also choose one Beast Trait from the Beastman list, but lose the ability to perform fine manipulation with your limbs.
Giant: You gain +1 to STR or END, Fitness proficiency and +2 to Intimidate. Your Base Load is doubled, but you suffer penalties for squeezing when flanked by blocking terrain.
Humanoid: You gain +1 to STR (earth, feral, ice, plant), REF (air, feral, fire or water) or INT (any but feral) and gain +2 to three skills of choice.
Sprite: You gain +1 to REF or INT and +2 to Nature, Stealth and one skill of choice. Your size is reduced to tiny and your ground speed to 4 paces, but you can wield weapons as if you were small. You gain a fly speed of 6 paces, but must end your turn within 1 pace of the terrain beneath you unless you spend a main action on your turn or 1 focus. You can reduce it to a minor action (EoE) for 2 focus or to a free action (EoE) for 3 focus.

Primal Soul: When you select a utility, you may select it from the list of primal utilities instead of those normal for your background.

Spirit Speech: You have fluency (base TN 0) in the dialect of the Primal language that matches your Affinity (air, earth, fire, ice, plant, water or wild).

All Shapes and Sizes (Optional: Beast or Humanoid only): You may choose to be small sized at no cost. Beasts may also choose to be oversized at no cost. See the Beastmen options for the benefits of being small or oversized.

Elemental Movement (Optional): As a utility selection you gain one of the following based on your Elemental Affinity;  Flight as the Beast Trait (air or fire), Gain incorporeal to unworked earth/stone (earth) ice/snow (ice) or plants (plant), +2 to swim speed (water), +2 to any one speed you have (wild).

Elemental Projection (Optional): You can project your element at a distance (ex. hurled lightning, fire breath). You gain a natural primal implement and proficiency with it. It can be used with combat stances and attack spells, but always deals based on your Elemental Affinity;  acid (wild), cold (ice), fire (fire), storm (air), toxic (plant) or untyped (earth or water). To make an attack with it you must have as many hands free as it would normally take to use the implement (beasts have as many hands free as their natural weapons occupy).
Beasts gain this for free if desired, but it costs a utility for other forms. For an additional utility selection it gains one of these enhancements;
Blast: Special (make attack): can target a melee blast 3/4/5 (by tier) for 1 focus.
Burst: Special (make attack): can target a ranged burst 1/1/2 (by tier) for 1 focus.
Line: Special (make attack): can target a square within 5/10/15 (by tier) paces and each creature in or granting cover to that square for 1 focus.

Elemental Weakness (Optional): You gain a primal utility or another optional avatar trait, but also gain vulnerability based on your Elemental Affinity; cold (fire), fire (frost, plant or water), silver (animal), storm (earth) or toxic (air).

Fearsome Roar (Optional; Beast or Giant only): You may choose this benefit in place of a background utility. As a minor action, you can spend 1 focus to make an attack using your best ability score for the attack roll; Melee Blast 3 (enemies in burst), targets Will and targets hit are frightened (ENT).

Hidden Aspects (Optional; Beast or Humanoid only): You may select this as a utility. As a minor action you can suppress your elemental traits and assume a specific animal form (beast) or human appearance (humanoid) that matches your gender. This effect ends when you use any Elemental Affinity ability.

Morphic Form (Optional): You may choose this benefit in place of a utility. When you take this option choose a different incarnate form from your own and make any selections for it (ability score bonus, skills and/or beast traits). As a minor action you take on this form until you die or use this power again. You lose all the benefits of your normal incarnate form and gain those of your new form (this can change your ability scores and skill modifiers).

Empowered Growth (level 6, 10 – Optional; Beast or Giant only): Giants and Beasts may choose this benefit as a utility when they reach level 6 or higher. As a minor action, you increase your size to large; doubling your base load when you do so. This lasts until you fall unconscious or end it as a free action.
You may select this a second time at level 10 or higher to also increase your size to huge; gaining +1 to melee reach and tripling your base load.

Avatar Examples

Azari are humanoid fire avatars with reptilian features. Lava-like fire is visible through the gaps in the scales that cover their obsidian black skin. They reproduce via eggs they incubate in the heat of volcanos or hot-springs.

Brownies are small humanoid earth avatars whose coloration and often shaggy clothing cause them to resemble root-filled clumps of dirt. They live in tunnels and are experts at staying out of sight. Option: small (+2 to Stealth).

Dragons are large beast avatars with reptilian features and winged forelimbs like bats. Each embodies one of the elements and are more solitary than most avatars, often coming together only to mate and leaving their eggs to fend for themselves. Options: beast-trait (flight), oversized, enhanced elemental projection (any of the three shapes; costs 1 utility or gains an elemental weakness).

Dryads are humanoid plant avatars who choose a sections of forest as their domains and become protectors of all who dwell within it.

Sylphs are humanoid air avatars and natural explorers. They generally gather only to share stories of their adventurers before scattering like the winds.

Undines are humanoid water avatars who build their dwellings under lakes and seas and sometimes come to the aid of sailors in distress.

Unicorns are feral beast avatars known for their healing abilities and insight. Options: natural weapon (spear/warspear), agile movement and improved speed, +2 to insight and medicine, air spirit (to use the medicine skill) and elemental weakness.

Werebeasts are feral humanoid avatars resembling Beastmen who can change into fully human and beast forms. Curiously, their offspring with humans are either full avatars and full humans instead of the usual half-avatars. Options: appropriate beast trait and skinchanger, hidden aspects and elemental weakness.

* * * * *

I know I said that I wanted to wait because I wanted to get this project out; but with all the species options there for Avatars and true Shadow magic having shifted heavily into the "Irredeemable" category (you're doomed to eventually become a life sucking undead from the moment you start down the path) I'm beginning to re-evaluate whether or not I should just expand the elves to include the shadelings and other astral sapients pulled into the Mortal World now after all just so all the playable species of the world are accounted for in core book.

Not that there's any absences in the playable species list that anyone who hasn't been following the develop would even notice could be missing... the available species pretty much blows any fantasy setting I've researched that isn't 100% point buy out of the water for available starting species (mainly because avatar, beastmen and mutants are so broad... while dwarves, elves, gnomes, golems, humans and malfeans are more typical of what you'd see (though the half-humans would probably be separate species anywhere else), but its one of those 'how much is having those options in from the start worth' debates in my head.

I think I'll focus on hammering out the Astral origin opponents for the GM's Guide this week while I bake my noodle on that one. It needs to be done and it might spark ideas one way or the other towards resolving the issue in my head.

* * * * *

Edited to Add: I've thought about it today as I was proofreading the elf and gnome entries and I'm NOT going to combine all the astral options into a single species like I did for the Avatars.

The dragon problem wasn't its mechanics but its fluff not meshing with the evolving campaign setting.

There's just too much distinctive character to the elven and the gnomish fluff (not to mention how Shadelings/Fetches are setting up) that fits just fine, particularly to nature of elven culture that would be lost if I bunched them all together with each other and all the other varieties I intend to include (whereas Avatars and dragons lack a cohesive culture because they are largely solitary or are members of small tribes that each make their own cultures).
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PostSubject: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Update)   Fri Mar 23, 2018 11:54 pm

So this past week has been interesting on the development front.

The biggest would be that the Player’s Guide got reorganized based on feedback. The ‘Conflict Resolution’ section got moved to the front (right after the introduction), the character creation rules (picking species/class/background, determining ability scores, derived traits, etc.) got split out into Chapter 2, Archetypes/Classs and Backgrounds got swapped in order with the skill rules made into their own chapter right after backgrounds with equipment now the last chapter and an appendix with stats for some basic types of mercenaries so players can have some options even if they don’t have the GM’s Guide.

The result is that new readers get all the rules and terminology they need to be able to decipher the species, archetypes/classes and backgrounds before they start into those sections.

The swap in order between backgrounds and classes was because your choice of class options determines your highest ability scores and some options also grant the ability to select skills or utilities from certain backgrounds (or gain bonuses if you select that background) that are good to know before you get to the background section.

Likewise, your skill proficiencies come from your background, so the actual rules for using the skills coming right after backgrounds is a more logical progression than putting them at the end of the whole book after all the task resolution rules.

Finally, it puts the things most traditionally in the Dungeon Master’s provenance (magic items, exotic mounts and hirelings) at the end of the book which makes it almost a lead in to the GM’s Guide.

The net result is that the Player’s Guide flows a lot more organically than it did previously.

*****

Other developments are that several species got more options added to them. Dwarves got some additional artifice options (enough that, like avatars and malfeans, they could make every utility one from their species) and most of the artifice options are now available to golems as optional “upgrades” to the basic model.

Mutants also got an “ongoing mutations” option rather like “empowered growth” that lets them pick up a couple of additional mutations down the line in place of utilities.

That means that Avatars, Dwarves, Golems and Malfeans have a full set of species utilities and Mutants have the option for essentially “half-utilities” (use both at creation, then one at 5 and 11 leaving standard utilities for 3, 7, 9, 13 and 15 for a total of 4 mutant and 5 background utilities).

As much as I’d like to include more options after creation for Beastmen, elves, gnomes and humans; that wouldn’t really fit their concepts. Humans’ shtick is the adaptable everyman... the learner of skills; getting extra background utilities is their hat. Elves are defined by immortality and their caste... if they kept changing the whole premise of being locked into unchanging positions within society would feel rather artificial. Beastmen species were each created to perform a specific task and not to grow and change; the many options are just to be able to build as many species as possible rather than needing separate entries for minotaurs, kobolds, gnolls, crocodin, wolfen, etc.

Gnomes are about the only ones where adding more options would make sense since unlike the broken dreams that are the elves, gnomes embody the full potential of dreams. That might actually be something worth exploring if I get the time.

*****

On the GM’s Guide front, the NPC section is firming up, the T&T equivalent of Page 42 is just about there and more monsters are getting added daily. The interesting thing at the moment is that the skills surrounding traps have been so well laid out that I don’t think its actually going to take up as much room as I was thinking it would. Rather like monsters, once you have the trap’s level, the rest of it falls into place.

Finally, while it IS still on the back burner, I have sketched out a rough draft of the Fetch (formerly Shadeling) that should make them a more enjoyable option to play. No longer being explicitly Shadowborn opens up some avenues they didn’t have before like using astral damage (as former servants of the Gray Huntress) in addition to their resistance to shadow damage to be REALLY good and hunting the undead.

In terms of options akin to caste and seelie/unseelie, they’ll be divided between those who once hunted down wicked souls at their death to drag them away before they could become undead and those who came to guide the souls of the righteous to the next stage of their existence with further distinctions in how they manifested in pursuit of that purpose; images of loved ones lost (where the child versions come from), grim reapers, deathless hunters or even as the hounds of the Gray Hunt.

The main city in the sample region has also seen some fleshing out as I’ve started into the “Near Deep” beneath Blackspire where cargo cults of mutants and malfeans have used forgotten pre-Cataclysm relics to create a funhouse mirror of the world as it was during the Second Empire in the tunnels and chambers that run under the new city above.

In other words, its going rather well.
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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Sun Mar 25, 2018 8:55 am

Sigh... I really need to learn to stop saying things are going well.

I have to give a hearty ‘thank you’ to one of my playtesters who caught a rather glaring rules loophole that is quite literally game breaking. Thankfully their playstyle is radically different from the others, including myself, or it could have actually gone out the door and I’d have never even realized the problem.

If your primary goal is to adventure and gain levels at a reasonable rate you’d never see it, but the Creation ritual is utterly broken (as in one PC could build Rome in a day, plus 29 more days to make it permanent).

It wasn’t as obvious a problem in early iterations of the game because there was a “Surge Limit” rule keeping people from spending more than 3/4/5 (by tier) surges per encounter. But in retrospect it would have been a problem regardless, just not in levels 1-5.

What it boils down to is the surge costs were meant to create a sort of cost/benefit analysis between the surges you can spend on an ongoing creation and those you need for adventuring. But it short circuits the moment a PC with the creation ritual says “Guys, a month is nothing... give me a month and we’ll have a fortress/fleet/arcane siege engines worth ten billion pounds silver before we start out.”

Because a guardian (or just someone with END 3) could have 10 surges on hand. So that’s 1 surge for 1000c (L10) x 1,000,000,000 for the other nine. That’s 100 million carracks (or a million legendary ones) or a wall 100 times the size of the Great Wall of China (or a medieval city 50 miles on a side).

At level one.

THAT is a problem. Worse, its a problem that completely undermines the setting. Why is human civilization in Old Praetoria centered around fortified pre-Cataclysm ruins when in a single day (plus a month to make it permanent) a hero could build a brand new gleaming and lavishly furnished citadel that could hold ten times the current population of the largest city in the region?

I’m not 100% certain how I’m going to fix this one. A “don’t abuse this or it will wreck your game” note would be a complete cop out.

Limiting the number of surges that can be spent is one option.

Making akin to the Mending ritual where it requires reagents (arcane) or sacrifices (astral) equal to half the cost of the item being created (i.e. the same as crafting costs) in order to create a permanent item/structure would be another.

Making it work a bit more like crafting (cost x base casting time / check result = actual casting time) might be an option for either of the above.

Could also be a third option I’m just not seeing yet too.

If anyone has thoughts I’d be happy to hear them.
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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Mon Mar 26, 2018 12:34 pm

Well, it took a bit of wrangling around, but here's what I came up with to fix the Create Objects ritual;

Create Objects: Arcana check + 1 surge / Pick one of the following categories each time you purchase the ritual; weapons/ammunition, armor, implements, adventuring gear, structures or vehicles. You create one or more pieces of this equipment worth up to 500¢+100¢/level that last for the 24 hours. Double the value of the items created for each additional surge spent. If you pay the cost again before the duration ends, it is extended for 24 hours.
If you supply alchemical reagents (arcane) or sacrifices (astral or primal) worth half the created item’s cost, the duration is permanent. Blood sacrifices (Astral only) are worth a creature’s XP value x 20¢. Only the rituals of the Pantheon of Darkness (or those that call upon demons) allow the sacrifice of unwilling sapient creatures. Non-permanent items have a lack of substance that makes them impossible to pass off as a normal version of the item.

First, it makes it impossible to make a permanent structure without supplying something with a value equal to the raw materials you'd need to craft an object yourself (though that value might be in more transportable forms like alchemical reagents).

Second, it scales the value way back and makes it scale with 'caster level' so that a beginning caster might be able to create a pretty expensive object (c. £3000 in value if they burned 10 surges on it), but only by burning through ALL their heroic surges and only if they pay that cost every day or can scrape up £1500 (about 300 times their starting funds) in alchemical reagents to make it permanent.

Third, crafting Alchemical Reagents either have to purchased from the limited stocks a magic shop might carry (probably only £10-£20 available even a bigger city at any one time) or craft it yourself via the usual time for crafted items (cost in cents x 10 hour work days/check result). Even with a check result of 30, £1500 of Alchemical Reagent would take 5000 days (150,000/30) or over 13 years for one crafter to produce.

Which combines with my Fourth point, by throwing in the option for sacrifices it adds some nuances and role-playing hooks. Where do you find the veritable mountain of alchemical reagents you need for your ritual? What are you willing to sacrifice for the ritual? Likewise, while a primal ritual might only use the sacrifice of goods, food, art or wealth, the Astral faiths allow for blood sacrifice (typically of animals) and sometimes even willing volunteers (if the situation is dire enough) and the Pantheon of Darkness and Demon worshipers can try to enact powerful crafting rituals using the time honored evil scheme of human sacrifice.

Note that "non-magical" has been removed from the conditions for the type of items created for the ritual (but not from the Arcanist/Artisan utility that creates smaller objects as a minor action). This means that a dark practitioner might enact a scheme of sacrificing a village to empower a weapon intended for their evil champion or similar classic plots of epic fantasy. On the flip side it also allows things like a hero voluntarily giving up their life to empower a weapon needed to fight a dark and terrible foe that threatens the Realm.

It gets me to thinking that, perhaps I need to incorporate a "sacrifice" mechanic for other rituals that would allow Pantheon of Darkness/Demon versions of the rituals to function without the heroic surge cost IF you perform a blood sacrifice of a sapient creature to pay that cost... probably as an optional rule in the GM's Guide... since ritual using NPC's generally only have 2 surges that can only be used for rituals at most and that would be the avenue by which villains could gain far greater power (at the cost of damning their own souls).

ETA: I just realized that my math was off and the correct value for alchemical reagents and sacrifices would be the full value of the item created because you can craft alchemical reagents and things that you sacrifice for half the cost.

ETA 2: I also just realized that I can totally express crafting times a lot more simply than I have been. Instead of cost x days/check result a little algebra means it could be better expressed as “You make progress on the item(s) equal to your check result in cents per day.”
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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Tue Mar 27, 2018 6:28 pm

I'm glad that got sorted out pretty quickly. I was thinking that given the scale of the near-miss here, you might want to start chanting "things are going well, things are going well, things are going well," and see what else crops up.
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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Wed Mar 28, 2018 5:00 am

Lol. Things are showing up fast enough as it is, I don’t think I need it all piled up at once.

What it does show is the benefits of using as many different play testers with different play styles as possible (the player in question was involved with logistics in the Navy and approached the game from a standpoint of not beginning an operation until you’ve go overwhelming logistics in place and that a month of preparation for an operation is nothing in the grand scheme of things).

But there’s a second half to it too that, as much I love 4E, those devs really fell down on; actually listening to the feedback. From everything I’ve heard of 4E’s playtest, the testers actually found just about everything that ending up getting fixed over the course of the next two years (math hole in attacks/defenses, “padded sumo”, skill difficulty not scaling right, etc.), but the devs were so convinced that their decisions were right that they ignored the feedback and pushed out 4E with all the warts they ended up not putting its best foot forward and then had to fix anyway.

I don’t want my playtests to validate me. I want them to find the critical lapses in my design; Things that make perfect sense if you play the game exactly like I would, but are massively abusable if used outsiders that framework.

And to be fair to the 4E devs, my first reaction to the ‘Create Objects’ hole WAS to try explaining why I thought it was balanced and wouldn’t be a problem, but I had the playtester right in front of me at the time who could refute those gut protestations (and rather easily I might add) and I am not above admitting when I’m wrong about something and in this case I absolutely was.

Another plus of finding this hole is that I was able to expand the fix to improve other elements of the game. To start with I added “Alchemical Reagents” to the Magic Consumables list (so they can be crafted) and then adusted the Create Magic Items ritual so that it uses the same Alchemical Reagents (or sacrifices) as Create Object does instead of the Engineering skill and crafting rules. This allowed me to again put the non-magical objects only restriction back onto Create Object while still allow for the “Blood Sacrifice to create a potent magic item option.

The second thing I did was adjust all of the “do this for 30 days to make it permanent” to “or use X value of Alchemical Reagents to make it permanent immediately” and makes the resource used by the Mending cantrip and ritual an explicit item that can be purchased.

The result of this is an underlying structure to the rate at which arcane magic can create permanent solutions to problems (Astral and Primal have “will of the gods/God/spirits” to limit them, but Arcane is more like technology... its limits have to be inherent to its structure) and that is the rate at which the Arcane Reagents needed to build magical and non-magical objects and effects can be manufactured.

My setting presumes one Arcanist per 200 population. Let’s say a quarter of those actually manufacture Alchemical Reagents full time. The typical NPC Arcanist produces about 20c worth a day by taking 10 on their crafting check.

With a population of 15,000, Blackspire has about 75 Arcanists, of which maybe 20 work full time at producing Alchemical Reagents (more likely each Arcanist spends a quarter of their time making whatever Reagents they need and a bit more to sell for a profit). That means if you gathered up all the Reagents produced daily you’d have about £4 worth to use for every newly built magic item and Created object in Blackspire.

It would take 5 days of the total arcane output of Blackspire to produce one Arcane Engine that replaces one draft horse team or ten rowers on a ship and that’s competing with everburning torches, decanters of endless water, etc. for priority.

For comparison, a basic 20x20 four story stone keep (not even reinforced) would cost £64 and the gutted skyscraper that forms the heart of Blackspire would cost over £20,000 to duplicate (no, that’s not a typo, its a 100’ x 100’ stone structure with 24 intact stories... if it weren’t practically next door to THE Black Spire it’d probably be one of the great wonders of Old Praetoria). How much of a stockpile of Alchemical Reagents does a fortified location need to keep on hand to close breaches in its walls if ever it comes under siege? (Or to keep the tower of Blackspire from collapsing if it were to be undermined).

The answer is... not nearly enough.

Is it any wonder that heroes are needed to go plunder the ruins of the Second Empire for intact Arcane Engines, Torches and even forgotten stockpiles of Alchemical Reagents? The veneer of civilization is paper thin and arcane magic is the only thing keeping these points of light from collapsing into a true Dark Ages level of technology and misery. There aren’t enough people with the ability to produce magic to keep up with the needs of this growing population.

So, it is your  DUTY as a defender of civilization to go delving into lost ruins, slaughter any monsters you find and take their stuff. Civilization needs You... to be a Murder Hobo!
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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Fri Mar 30, 2018 10:10 am

Okay, another "glitch" has been found via aggressive playtesting (i.e. diliberately trying to break the system). The funny thing is its not so much a glitch in the mechanics as it is in the logistics.

A good rule of thumb I've always heard for 4E-style encounters is you want them to occur in a space about five times the size of all the combatants so there's enough room for maneuvering.

For example, 5 PC's vs. 5 medium-sized enemies would fill 10 spaces, so you'd want a combat area that is at least 50 spaces in size (7x8, 6x9, 5x10 or bigger) so everyone would have space for their tactics to matter.

So, what happens when a party of five ALL take one of the "warrior" feats (i.e. Band of Thugs, Warband or Men-at-Arms) and one takes Bodyguard as well? Suddenly the PC party of five, if they're bringing all their utility companions along is a small army... 5 PCs, 15 warriors and a bodyguard.

In 'theater-of-the-mind' style combat this isn't a problem and they work fine, but on a gridded battle map that puts the minimum map size at 105 squares + 5x the enemies' squares. Even against 5 standard enemies that's 130 squares (12x11, 13x10, 15x9, 16x8, 20x7 or bigger) or it'll be extremely cramped.

And that's level one. At level 2 they all get an extra warrior (since they don't scale in damage per warrior, but in number of warriors) which bumps their numbers up 26 and a minimum of 155 squares against 5 medium enemies.

By level 15, the group's men-at-arms, thugs and barbarians number 50 strong and they're all mounted on large animals just for kicks and giggles. Two side-by-side battle maps is barely enough for THEM to maneuver, much less the rooms that any opponents will need.

* * * * *

In other words the problem is that, while they're thematically appropriate and not mechanically unbalanced, the warriors place a real burden on miniature-based play (but are just fine in theater-of-the-mind combats) just due to their sheer numbers if they're stacked.

I don't want to cut them because they're fun, appropriate and, when not taken by everyone in the party (say just one player has them) adding 3-10 minions to the fight also isn't a problem.

But this was found via destructive testing... and that needs to be addressed just like the Create Objects rules did. The trick is keeping it fun for those who aren't abusing it as well and I'm not sure which is the best approach to take. Here are three I'm mulling over;

1) The worst options is limiting the number of times the utilities can be taken by a party because it puts players into competition with each other over finite resources. This one is a total no-go and I'm just mentioning it to explain why its not a possible solution.

2) Set the number of warriors at a much lower level, but allow them to scale up with player level (say 3-5 or maybe 3/4/5 (by tier)). The trick here is that for PC's growing in power, the getting extra warriors to support them was rather like the whole 'reaching name level' thing; a visible sign of your growing power in the world and even with scaling, they can never really be tougher than a grunt of your level or the balance breaks so they don't feel badass individually, its the large numbers that makes them feel impressive. It also makes them less distinct from the bodyguard, enforcer and medic in terms of ability.

3) Turn them into a 'swarm'... basically presage my Mass Combat rules by switching them from 3+ individual units to one swarm unit that occupies X squares (and because of their tight formation that might only be 4 squares even at max level). Advantage is it keeps it distinct from the bodyguard, enforcer and medic, but also limits their ability to move independently for flanking and feels much more kludge-like.

4) Use the bodyguard rule and let them stack 2 to a square without penalty. This at least cuts the problem in half with no other issues, but is still rather annoying from the minis-side since you have to squeeze two-figs into a square or have some means of keeping track of when they're doing so.

5) Make an optional rule of allowing you to gain an 'improved warrior' instead of gaining an extra one (basically one equal to 2, 3, etc. normal warriors). Parties where there's only one PC with the ability can just use it normally, but in ones where large numbers will be a problem, the GM could require PC's to use this option once the number in the party gets to be too much for them to want to deal with. This one at least feels strongest in terms of a solution, but its also probably the most involved mechanically in making sure that the fix doesn't break more than it fixes.

So it almost goes without saying at this point, but any feedback would be appreciated.
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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Fri Mar 30, 2018 4:21 pm

So, I've been baking my noodle on what I'll call the "men-at-arms problem" from here on out and while I don't 100% have an answer I like yet, some research into medieval armies did turn up something that could be promising; the Lance.

The Lance was the medieval equivalent of a squad and was essentially the amount of military force a knight was expected to bring to the battlefield, representing the knight and his support retinue.

Given that the men-at-arms utilities are only available (without cross-training) to the military and noble backgrounds, this feels promising.

The actual size of a Lance varied with location and time. The dead minimum for a lance was three people; the knight, his squire who assisted in combat and a non-combat support person (with titles like junior squire, page, valet, etc.) who watched over his gear and spare horses. This pretty easily corresponds to a PC with the bodyguard/loyal lieutenant utility with the military PC hiring a non-combat hireling at a cent or two per day or the noble PC also having the loyal attendants utility (the valet, plus a messenger and a dedicated groom for the horses just because).

The next most common number given was that the people above would also have to supply three archers and possibly three infantry on top of that (the THREE part was rather oddly specific because it came up repeatedly for Lance-like units separated by centuries and on opposite sides of Europe). If it was more than the basic three (knight, squire, valet) the next three were almost universally the three archers with the addition of three infantry only rarely added on top of that.

Now, this being a fantasy world where the "knight" could just as easily be a spell-slinging wizard, I think waiving the requirement that they be archers would make sense... but a static three (without hiring mercenaries) would be a much better number than six per player by the time you're level 6.

Actually, it wouldn't be much worse in terms of space needed than accounting for the player as a large creature (four squares) instead of a medium one.

The first downside I see are that while this means they'd have to scale up for the math to work, I'm not sure if 'you've got these three guys who are getting better, but never as good together as a single standard monster (and probably not even a grunt individually) of their level' is going to feel as awesome as 'you've just gained a new warrior to your band of men-at-arms' does.

The second downside is working out the actual math. Giving them Edge scores is probably okay. The default companion has 12+6/level... which if divided by three is 4+2/level; the exact value used for standard grunts.

The trick is going to be the damage. The basic damage for the Warriors was 2 each which worked out to 6+2/2 levels (or 6+1/level on average)... basically on target with the usual 6+level for the other companions. Dividing that out by three gets you 2+1/3 levels... which is a complete PAIN when virtually everything else is a minimum of +1/2 levels.

I also have a hard ceiling of less than Focus+level damage per action (the average extra damage a slayer PC gets by using their minor action either via automatic damage like a maledictor with their minor spells or from the average hit rate from something like the skirmisher with its multi-attacks).

Honestly, the ceiling for the other companions is WELL below that; 6+1/level with a 50% hit rate is about HALF that per action (it just spikes enough on a hit to feel meaningful), though still better than anything a non-slayer's minor action could do for damage output (normally just Focus damage).

One possible prospect would be that I could up the damage of the warriors slightly above the other companions because, unlike them, they suffer a "death spiral" (loss of effectiveness with injury) that the other companions don't. When you're only losing 2 of 10 points per warrior dropped, the slight edge of getting +2 at the even levels (instead of +1 then another +1 the next level) and the benefit of being able to split your damage up more seemed to balance... But if the hard limit is three warriors, as soon as the first one drops, you've just lost 33% of your damage output from them while any other companion is still at full damage output.

Another factor that probably warrants increasing the damage output is that grunts got significantly beefier (while the grouped Edge decreased their resistance to typical PC attacks); from 1+level to 4+2/level, meaning that you'd need all three of your warriors now just to drop ONE minion using your minor action (whereas prior to that change, each one could drop a level 1 grunt with their attack).

I'll be honest; a part of me does favor just making them a "swarm" that deals 6+level damage divided evenly among any targets it attacks (max 3+1/2 level targets) just for the easier math, but half the special stuff like the defensive bonus for being adjacent to each other or being able to shaken a target when you get two or more adjacent to them or extra damage when the target is flat-footed (due to being flanked) loses a lot of its character that way.

Another part of me wonders if the number needs to be bigger than three, even if that does make the math more problematic. Four, for example, would put their numbers right on par with the usual number of grunts per at-level monster you swap out you're likely to face in an encounter. It would also put their attrition based loss of damage in line with normal grunts (who have a quarter of the Edge of a standard critter, but still do half the damage each since they'll drop in number pretty quickly).

I dunno... but thought I'd provide a mini-update on how the process is going since its a fairly tricky wicket and if anyone does have feedback, seeing what I've been pondering might spark some suggestions.

ETA: And once this is solved I have to share with you this issue that has come up from some play-testers about wanting to be able to play Orcs (of the traditional D&D/Warcraft variety... not the soulless Shadowborn) since 4E allowed them to do so (also that Half-shades really do NOT feel like half-orcs at all to them).
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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Mon Apr 02, 2018 5:11 pm

I think that option 5, the optional "improved warrior" mechanic, would be your best bet - with the swarm option, as you said, it removes a lot of the character of the utility, and the others are kludges. Some groups with a thing for wargaming could look at the numbers of troops as a feature, not a bug, but I'm not a wargamer, so I wouldn't know if the amount of miniatures would be too much even for them.

If I understand correctly, the orc problem is one of setting lore, not mechanics - you can just build an approximation of an orc using the beast-man rules, as your guide on page 1 said. The only way I came up with to have orcs in the setting is to have them be the shock troops of a rival of the First or Second Empire, probably the Second. When the Second went up in flames, it took the rival with it, but the orcs were left behind, forming tribes and hordes. Either that, or you can play up their porcine roots and make them pig-men.

On a separate note, I only just noticed the message regarding the PDFs a few days ago. I'm liking the new chapter order - it flows much more logically than before and makes finding related mechanics much easier. I did notice that you condensed the Runic section to just a sub-category of arcane casting, which makes sense. The astral and primal paths each have their own ways of fielding warrior-mages, making the runic entries for them rather redundant. About the only thing lost in the transition was a Presence/Reflex Astral character, something that could easily be put in Militant Astral entry the same way that Runic Arcane got Strength or Reflex.
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