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 STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)

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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Tue Dec 12, 2017 2:09 pm

So, I figured its time I did a bit of an update on where things are at.

First up is monsteropponent design. Due to using variable attack bonuses (ranging from +4 to +8 vs. Armor and from +2 to +6 vs. NADs) and the resultant damage scales, building all the level adjustments for every level into each monster stat block was no longer an option. Instead there's a table that gives you all the damage and Edge values by level for building or leveling opponents on your own while the opponent entries themselves include 2-4 variants at different levels (usually at 5 level increments; i.e. one example per tier) with all the math already worked out.

Here's a few examples of how they're looking currently...

https://drive.google.com/file/d/191c9HBjNJ9qlq4DlP3ozOLc7yqzh7wFj/view?usp=sharing

Meanwhile, every time I hit a bit of writer's block I've been using artwork as a means to keep making progress even if its not adding to the word count. This includes reworking and improving older pieces to better reflect how the setting is developing.

Here's some of the newer artwork (and old artwork that hasn't changed), mostly from the species section of the Player's Guide and a few of the monsters.

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1QjwM_l3M4SBypPGOhLOtrVTyiV6DKGB9/view?usp=sharing

In terms of world-building, I've had a few insights in terms of development... one of them is that I'm flipping the prominence of Stormhold (the coastal capitol of the southern human region) and Blackspire (the 'adventure hub' city further up the river near the Black Spire).

This is because I learned that historically big port cities at the mouths of rivers didn't thrive all that well because their harbors were prone to being clogged with silt after every rainy season. Big cities on the coasts tend to be away from major rivers. More common is for major cities to appear at what's called the Head of Navigation for a major river... which is a fancy way of saying "as far up the river as a sailing ship can reach."

Now since the main river of the region is HUGE and you could get a sailing ship all the way up to Riverhold, its not 100% applicable in this case, but "as far up the river as the Stormhold/Blackspire territory extends" and "right before the major river branches in two distinct directions" seems like the better bet.

So, as a result, Blackspire is not just adventurer central, its also the capitol of that region with its population and Stormhold's swapped (Stormhold is where the fallout bunker was situated, but the populace quickly outstripped the available resources and started spreading up the river until they reached Blackspire and that became the capitol of that region).

15,000 people... 5,000 of whom are non-farmers with about 150 knights/warcasters and a half-dozen "barons" (more akin to the 19th Century Robber Barons than the medieval variety) with their own often competing interests and a desire to hire adventurers to achieve them are now going to be the heart of the most detailed city in the region.

As with some of the other locations I've described, Blackspire is centered around a piece of pre-Cataclysm architecture... in this case a skyscraper that managed to remain standing (or at least the bottom 30-40 floors of it anyway) and has been re-purposed into a combo of castle and a good chunk of the city's living area.

The windows have long since been blown out and the elements eaten away at the original interiors so that, when it came to be re-occupied not much more than the main structural supports, outer shell and concrete floors were still intact, but artisans were able to fit the structure with counter-balance based lifts/elevators (like the one at the Wall in GoT) and each floor has been packed with smaller "medieval" style buildings (some complete with their own roofs, others built floor to ceiling)... creating a virtual "vertical city" that is a nightmare to assault from the ground (a couple narrow staircases that would have been the emergency fire escapes back in the day are what an invading armed force would have to fight up... meanwhile defenders can pour arrow/projector/spell fire down from multiple floors at once against those approaching the structure).

The other core of the city is the central market district, built along the old city street that ran from the "spire" to the docks. This is where you can find just about anything brought into the region from beyond and what traders from upriver are hoping to sell.
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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Wed Dec 13, 2017 2:29 pm

I'm loving the art - the dwarves look a little better, more obviously magitech-themed. ARA-92 is adorable as all get out, and the shadowborn and Ba'al'ta'gul are rather cool. The hydra as a sauropod-base is neat. I'm used to seeing them as multi-headed snakes. The blade beast is rather interesting as well - I assume that it's a replacement for the hook horror, given how its claws resemble Erin'Yi's claws.

The opponent section is interesting as well. Ba'al'ta'gul's attacks being solely minor actions is mean as hell, a real "oh, shit" for anybody coming over from 4e. I remember from previous documents that you had champion-level monsters work the same way, which makes them scary as hell. The bandit's using thrown daggers for a minor-action ranged attack doesn't really gel with the shortbow main attack, but to me, it just puts them in more of a melee role, using shortsword and dagger in accord, with the dagger as a short-notice thrown weapon.
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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Wed Dec 13, 2017 4:45 pm

Hydras ended up as sauropods because the original one-headed beast was a bio-form from the First Empire of Man (like the Beastmen). It was basically an elephant-sized beast of burden with aquatic capability. You can even purchase the single-headed non-mutated version in the equipment section (it'd be a draft beast with the 'huge' exotic ability).

One line of these critters was mutated by the Cataclysm and gained a version of the 'cancerous healing' ability that occasionally glitches if its head is injured; causing it to grow an extra head in the process. The other thing of note for the hydra, though it's not obvious from picture, but is part of the fluff-text is that hydra skin is prized for fine and legendary leather goods because it can be treated alchemically to retain its regenerative ability (repairing nicks, scuffs and such that might occur to normal leather).

Lady Kalla's new outfit is made from this hydra-skin because the move towards a more 'magitech post-apocalypse' setting made her medieval style dress look a bit out of place; particularly for an adventurer. Plus the clothing designs for the Blackspire/Stormhold region were moving towards a more "split-skirt" design like you can see with her bodyguard, the storm giant, BG-58, Callahan and the Ogre and Orc. I've decided that, particularly for the nobility in this reason, they favor unadorned but high quality clothing... essentially, clothing that looks clean and new and is free of any design-work that might hide where a piece of clothing had been damaged and repaired (i.e. they have enough wealth to simply replace damaged clothing instead of patching it and continuing to wear it). This also makes it quite distinct from the ornate designs seen on the clothing of the elven nobility (and to a lesser extent the elven "middle class").

Ironhold favors more of the long central tabbard/loin-cloth design as you can see with the fire giant, the wolfen and crocodin, the dwarves Sir Jekrit and Lord Krellik, the half-dwarf, Mara'kal (rime malfean) and Aur'rai (miasma malfean).

Riverhold leans towards short tunics over pants that slightly overlaps it as seen with Ezra Stonefist, all three of the gnomes and the goblin and the minotaur mercenary (to a degree). Those who spend most of their time working the river directly tend to shirts tucked into pants with no tunic or or other element covering it as seen with both half-avatars and all three of the male malfeans.

In other words, I'm trying to come up with "rules" for costuming of the different civilizations in the region.

****

The blade beast is indeed my sub in for the Hook Horror as I had a fair bit of fluff relating to them in the setting and their clan-like social organization (they're akin to great apes in terms of sapience).

Yeah... All actions being minor actions for Champions is a thing because unless a creature is suffering from the Held condition they'll at least get one minor action each turn and Champion's Resolve now steps down staged conditions at the start of their turn so that held becomes stunned. Throw in all their attacks also being multi-targeting (so they can usually attack 2-3 targets with each action) and they should be about as deadly as four standard monsters; just as intended.

Regarding Bandits; Yeah, now that you pointed it out, it doesn't make sense. With bandits being able to sub in as "irregular troops" I wanted them to have a better ranged attack than "thrown knives" but I forgot to adjust their "scrapper" minor action attack to match. I think the easiest thing since I do like them being able to throw their dagger in a pinch is put in a caveat for it that "can't be used in the same turn you make a shortbow attack" so its something they have to throw when they're in melee (and have a handful of spares) and want to hit another target that's out of reach (say because they just dropped their main action target) but not something they'd be throwing every turn.

One other thing of note for the Bandits, is that I am including a prototype of my mass combat rules into them (and the other Grunts) with the variant that is a 10-man Bandit Band. Since a wealthy party can actually hire the humanoid grunts (though they eat into XP awards if they aid you in battle) and high level parties might go up against small armies, I wanted to have at least a prototype on hand to speed up larger fights involving grunts.

That said, demographically speaking this region is TINY (lots of dangers in the wilds and the Cataclysm is relatively recent) and doesn't have much in the way of conventional armed forces.

For example, Ironhold has a population of 10,000 people and is the second is largest community in the region. With the number of people needed to labor in food production that means it can support only about 50-100 full time military and draw up maybe 400 more combatants from the general populace if the city came under attack. Maybe 10% of all those (5-10 of the full timers; 40 from the general populace) are either standard/elite opponents (or PC's)... the other 90% are grunts.

5-10 standard opponents and a bunch of grunts isn't much more than 3-5 standard encounters for a low-to-mid level PC party (and that's the second largest city in the region). The extra 40 standards and all those extra grunts probably keeps all but the most organized monsters from wanting to attack them directly, but if they hope to accomplish anything beyond their immediate environs they NEED bold adventurers to do the job. They just don't have the resources (particularly towns of 1000-2000 people who might have a city of guard of just 10-20 people).

Also worth noting is that, when compared to those numbers, even a single military or noble PC with the right utilities looks like a credible threat (or protector) even at low levels. One figure I've read about was that a typical manor knight when called to muster by their liege was expected to bring themselves, their squire and about three or so infantry or archers. That looks a lot like a PC with the lieutenant/bodyguard and men-at-arms utilities to me.

These are some of the thoughts and considerations that are going into building my Points-of-Light-ish setting.
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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Mon Dec 18, 2017 4:33 pm

So here's yet another example of why its a good idea to have another pair of eyes look at your work... One of the playtesters asked why Light Armor was even a thing.

They asked because they thought no player would ever willingly take it. The Skilled classes all get at least Medium Armor which is categorically better at +3/-1 and Spellcasting classes either get Wards which are as good as Medium armor (+2/-0) or proficiently in Medium Armor (technically its Light + small shield or medium armor, but ever since the bonus to dodge got pulled from shields there's no reason to ever pick shields over having an extra hand free).

I think they had a point so I'm going to drop Light Armor and then shift down the names of the other armors... so its now Light armor (13/-1), Medium Armor (15/-3) and Heavy Armor (17/-5). I might add in a new "Full Armor" that is probably at least twice the cost of Heavy armor (probably 1000c) and is essentially the Gothic Full Plate Harness that is so good that carrying a shield is redundant (essentially +7/-5 with a built-in +2 shield bonus) as a sort of "exotic" armor category.

I might re-evalute the armor numbers while I'm at it... maybe do Light (12/-0) and Medium (14/-2), but Heavy would need to keep (17/-5) or it could futz up the upper end math.

By which I mean, say you change Heavy to 16. To get to the required 17 Armor for a character with a 4 in their key Armor defenses stat the penalty couldn't go higher than -3 (16+4-3=17), but that means someone with a 5 in that stat can hit 18 (16+5-3=18) which gets them Armor 21 with a large shield (or equivalent) and a specialization.

Right now only an extreme edge case can do that (Ward-based Abjurer or Warden with 5 in the key stat and a specialization) and a backburner exercise has been trying to think of ways to close that edge case. I suppose giving the armor-users a means to reach the same edge case 21 would technically solve the problem too, but I really preferred the elegance of the Armor cap being 20 so "a natural 20 always hits regardless of Armor value" wouldn't need to even be mentioned as a rule.

I'll bake my noodle on it, but I'm open to any feedback on the matter.

* * * *

A second, much more minor tweak grew out of the monster design work. Specifically, I hit upon a cleaner way to do mercenaries that didn't require distinguishing between 0-level grunts, other grunts and standard/elite/champion mercenaries.

The new math is very simple. Mercenaries cost 10c/month per XP the Mercenary is worth. I switched it from per day to per month as having to pay a full months wage makes it far more expensive if your plan is to just use the mercs as cannon-fodder or for a single battle. That puts a level 2 grunt (a professional archer or footman; 20 XP) at 200c/month (about 6.7c per day; a bit less than the old cost per day... but only if you need them for a full month).

In other words, "human" assets are something to be spent wisely. Not only does their regular use reduce your XP awards, but if you spend them foolishly you could end up paying 200c for them to fight in a single battle if they perish.

Which is also where the concept added to the grunts of "Allied Morale" (which you can see in the example monsters PDF) comes in... allowing the PC to take the edge loss for an allied grunt in their line of sight so they can keep fighting (or survive to retreat). You might think of this as something of an Alpha version of the mass combat rules in development for the Blood Wastes follow-up.
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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Wed Dec 20, 2017 2:48 pm

I would say keep the numbers the same and just shuffle the names around as per your first idea. You've already got the numbers established the way you want them - any futzing around with the math at this point is more trouble than it's worth. I do like your idea of revamping full armor as an exotic armor with a built-in shield bonus: not only does it reflect the original intention of having full armor be an alternative to a shield, it models historical trends very well. You didn't see full-plate-clad warriors wielding shields, because they were wearing them.
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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Fri Dec 22, 2017 12:07 pm

Yeah, full armor is working rather well. Mechanically its main advantage over heavy+shield is that you get to have both hands free to use a two-handed weapon, which translates to a +1/2/3 (by tier) bonus to damage.

Part of the conceit of the world-setting though is that Full Armor is something very rare and expensive... Blackspire with its population of 15,000 is probably the only place in Old Praetoria that even has sufficient industry to support its manufacture.

Its worth noting that none of the artwork yet depicts full armor... the dwarven knights are in really good heavy armor, as is the elven noble (while his guard with his lack of plate on the arms and exposed legs would only be medium armor). Most of the rest in really obvious armor fall into the medium armor category while some that just have armored arms (ex. the minotaur, wolfen and husk malfean), just their torso (ex. Ezra Stonefist's chain shirt) or sufficient padding (the low elf if she wore a helmet) would qualify as light armor.

* * * *

The opponents are continuing to be refined. The latest update pulled the "ten-man units" from the grunts (some niggly bits cropped up in my mass combat rules and I'd rather not waste space on something that could be completely invalidated in the next book to be released), but in their place added standard variants to the humanoid grunts as "veteran, master and legendary" versions of the bowmen, cavalry, footmen, guardsmen, irregulars and grenadiers (conscripts remain grunt-only due to what they are... if they seriously developed training they'd no longer be conscripts) so as the PC's level up they hire (and face) far more powerful soldier-types.

Taking a cue from OD&D (and a recent thread about it elsewhere) I'm sorting the opponents by category (ex. Men, Shadowborn, Undead, Demons, etc.) rather than purely alphabetically as I think its easier to get a sense of how the world works if the opponents are grouped by where they roughly fit into the world instead of just an alphabetical catalog. This also avoid unnecessary duplication on things across multiple similar entries (ex. covering basic traits shared by shadelings, goblins, orcs and ogres... or the shared traits of the undead or demons) so I can get more monsters in less space (because they are just eating the book in terms of page count).
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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Wed Jan 03, 2018 10:53 am

Now that the Christmas busy season is over, its time for an update.

First, at the request of my niece, who is ten and really wanted to play some type of winged-elf, I've added them as an option to the game. These are "wings of light" (that can be grown or disappear at-will) since I've been trying to abide by the "vertebrates have only four limbs" rule as much as possible (the main exception; centaurs; are explicitly genetically engineered while other commonly six-limbed fantasy beasts like griffins are going to be more wyvern-like where their fore-limbs are used for both walking and flying and sport claws at the wing's wrist joint).

I've decided that the winged elves (which are exclusively high elves) are going to be called Archons and will essentially be seen as the pinnacle of closeness to the elven gods (essentially demigods from the elves' point of view). It creates a nice transition between the elves and the true astral agents of the gods (i.e. angels/devils in 4E). For those who actually want to create an angelic PC, it's now a thing.

It also creates an interesting new angle to elves military and how they achieved early dominance in the region. Sky Knights. Their 'cavalry' would literally be flying warriors in heavy armor.

The other thing this simple request from my niece sparked is the idea that the Astral power is something that breaks the rules of nature in ways even the Fallen Primal Spirits do not. Even in their corruption the demons still follow the natural order established by the Creator... only non-vertebrate demons have more than four limbs. But Astral denizens CAN have more limbs (the luminous wings that some high elves can create are a reflection of this aspect) because the Astral realms were born of the shattered spiritual surface of the Mortal World and when you look in a shattered mirror just right you can seem to have additional arms, legs, eyes, etc.

This then is going to be the guiding principle as I design the astral creatures that the PC's can fight. Beings who might have many arms, or wings on their backs, a third eye in the middle of their forehead. I went the Middle-Eastern well for my demons (ex. Shedim, Labassu, Lillin, Efreet, Gallu), but I'm thinking my Angel/Devil entries will be pulling more from Hindu/Buddist myths and legends.

Never turn down ideas from 10-year olds. They are often the most creative sparks you'll come across.

* * * *

As to the armor issue... After a couple of weeks baking my noodle on it, I've decided that I am going to change the numbers on them.

My reasoning is this... I've been trying to close the "Armor 21" loophole for more than year to no good success. I REALLY wanted Armor 20 to be the cap because it eliminates the need for a special "20 always hits" rule and it was only two classes (abjurer using defensive wards and warden) that could even reach Armor 21 so I'd been working for a good way to reign those back to 20.

But the thing is, the more I thought about it I realized two things. First, I'd still need a "natural 20 always hits" rule because conditions like being totally obscured could bump your defenses up by 5. Second, that if I allowed every class to potentially hit the same 21 value (in this case via a 5 stat and heavy armor + shield or full armor) that would also close the loophole by allowing everyone to hit the same actual hard maximum value.

So the new values are;
- Light (Armor 12, -0 ability, -1 to checks; 20 lb.; 100c)
- Medium (Armor 14, -2 ability, -1 to checks; 30 lb.; 200c)
- Heavy (Armor 16, -3 to ability, -2 to checks; 40 lb.; 400c)
- Full (Armor 18+Shield 2, -5 to ability, -2 to checks; 50 lb.; 800c)

It also has the effect that people in everything but the exotic armor should get at least some benefit from their ability score in determining their Armor values. Full Armor may not benefit from the ability score directly, but anything less than a Strength 3 (60 lb. base load) is going to have some encumbrance problems wearing it and wielding a weapon or implement of any kind (and STR 4 would probably be better if you wanted to be able to carry anything of significance).
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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Thu Jan 25, 2018 11:53 am

So, opponent design has run into a bit of an unexpected snag. More accurately, the economy has hit a snag in that, even if you equip them all with poor quality gear, the resale value of basic arms and armor pulled off the corpses of humanoid opponents (which include goblins, orcs and even ogres)... heck, even the scrap value of the steel at 10c per pound... is enough to make the PC's extremely wealthy extremely quickly.

You'd think something like this would have popped up sooner, but the fact of the matter is that almost all of my play-testing has been reserved for problems with the tactical engine; PC vs. opponent defenses and damage, combat length, Edge/Focus/Surge expenditures, etc. Its only been as my main group has moved from combat scenarios into an actual campaign (because having players explore a world is one of the best ways to spark ideas on what's IN the world) that this stuff has come up because "Murder Hobos will do what Murder Hobos do."

The short version is that its quite easy for a PC party to earn over L15 (1500c) or three times their starting wealth and enough to afford nearly any of the minor magic items in the game by the time they reach level two if they just stripped and resold the equipment of their fallen humanoid foes. It gets worse if they selectively target specifically humanoid foes.

This creates three interrelated problems.

1) It highly incentivises targeting certain types of opponents over others that don't have such rich hauls connected to them. Incorporeal undead, moldering zombies and wild beasts don't have much treasure other than incidentally being in its proximity. Murder the people on the other side of the valley and take their stuff is NOT the mindset I want the rules to encourage, but at the moment that's where all the wealth is.

2) It gives PC's access to much better equipment much more quickly than I first expected, which affects encounter balance a bit. You have to presume that every 2nd level PC will have at least one magic item and/or a fine quality weapon and possibly armor (depending on the type used). A one-handed axe or chopping sword given the accurate quality by making it a fine weapon is functionally the same as wielding an accurate two-handed weapon while still gaining the benefit of a shield.

3) It makes certain utilities that grant freebies for room/board, travel, basic equipment and so forth (even the 'here's a free magic item or ritual') MUCH less valuable. Even excellent quality inns and meals only add up to about 140c per week and the newly second level party just hauled in 10x that EACH.

Basically, my "value of money" and "wealth by level" are all out of whack.

So I'm going to just throw out a bunch of unrelated ideas and see what people think about each one.

A) Increased Luxury and Magic Costs: One of the easier solutions, though only a partial one, would be to increase the cost of superior quality goods/services and magic rituals and permanent items. This doesn't solve the issue of certain creatures being more lucrative (and might even make it worse) but it would solve the issue of item availability (and keep the utilities related to rituals and free magic items worth their value).

B) Tank the Resale Market: 4E used a 20% resale value for a reason. When that 60 lb. suit of poor-quality heavy armor can only be sold off for 40c it might be just as well to leave it and save your carrying capacity for something more valuable. The only issue here is that I'd need to adjust the commodities market a bit since the resale value of a crappy sword can't be less than the value of the raw steel comprising it.

C) Improve the "Free Stuff" Utilities: Unless the costs of basic services like room/board, travel and such go up significantly, the value of those utilities is really marginal. Perhaps, something more like 'basic level is free and upgrades are cheaper (i.e. get an excellent room at the inn for the cost of a good room)' Couple that with increased costs of the upper end items that might make those more desirable.

D) Battle Damage (Version 1): Killing or defeating a foe takes its toll on their equipment (particularly armor and weapons... the biggest offenders in the wealth crisis). For example, every weapon or set of armor pulled off a defeated foe would be worth one quality grade less due to damage it suffered in defeating them. Legendary and Fine items would lose 90% of their value and only be considered 'fine' or 'good' respectively for purposes of reselling. Good items would lose half their value and only be considered 'poor' for reselling and poor items would essentially be worthless, the metal in so poor repair that with battle damage thrown on top you'd be hard pressed to even sell it for scrap metal. Obviously this wouldn't apply to items NOT taken from defeated foes (ex. a legendary quality sword or armor found in a crypt), but it keeps the 'random' treasure gain a bit more under control.

E) Battle Damage (Version 2): Same basic principle as the previous one, but instead of making it automatic, make it a check. This could either be a separate check made for each item (say 50% chance any given item got scrapped in defeating the opponent), a single check made for all the items stripped from a battle or single adventure (ex. the items you scavenged have a base resale value of 1d6x10%... so average 35%, but with the chance that a lucky find gets you more than even the usual 50% value) or even just part of another check (ex. if the opponent was defeated by an attack where the die result was a natural odd number then their gear is ruined). Note: even as I typed this out, I'm less fond of this than version 1 because its a lot more bookkeeping for the GM, but these are spit-balls not solutions. I'm trying to see what sticks.

F) Standing Rewards: More of an RP hook than a rule, but something that could be listed under treasure for a monster is if there is a known bounty on certain critters or their parts (ex. hydra hides, wyvern eggs) because of their danger or value would add incentive to go after things other than just well equipped humanoids. This already exists to an extent with the need to go after creatures with abilities similar to those of a given major magic item in order to get the rare components to craft that item, but cold hard coins are a better incentive for some people.

G) Real Market Forces: Not one I'd really want to force GM's to deal with, but there's only so many scavenged longswords and suits of armor that even a larger trade city like Blackspire actually has a need for and even the demand for raw steel if you sold the stuff for scrap metal has its limits. The simplest version of this would be the old 3e 'gold piece limit' they had in their community rules. My biggest issue with that is that it risks changing the PC's from Big Damn Heroes into accountants as they move their barges of scavenged weapons and armor along the coast in search of places to offload their goods.

H) Tax Them to Death: Again realistic, but utterly anti-BDH would be to impose recurring taxes and fees on the PC's whenever they return from the wilds to civilization. The local noble needs his cut of the take, as does every other member of the administration up the chain to said noble. Then there's the gate tolls, the weapon registration and licences, etc.

I) Gift Based Society Costs: Alternately impose a 'cost of living' requirement where you suffer social penalties from not 'sharing the wealth' with your community on things like rounds of drinks, banquets, hiring more people than you actually need to do work for you, putting up a new mill for the locals, etc. Basically, emphasize the old medieval standard of wealth (i.e. how many people you could afford to support rather than how much you had saved up) that would probably be likely to arise in a semi-feudal post-apocalyptic society as well.

J) Abstract Wealth: This is utterly unrealistic at this stage of development as I'd have to scrap huge sections of the game, but basically roll taxes, fees, gifts and general upkeep into some sort of abstract wealth system where you make wealth checks to see if your current funds and good name (i.e. credit) are enough to afford items you want to acquire. The earliest I could include a fix like this would probably be Terrors & Tactics 2nd Edition, but I'm just throwing it out here to gauge the appeal as much as anything.

* * * *

My guess is that it'll take some combination of the above to actually get things back into line.

I DO have a hard limit on permanent magic items used at once, but that was meant to be more of a hard to hit limit on Monty Hall situations rather than a default limit every group runs into.

I am not opposed to what I refer to as "emergent complexity solutions" either (i.e. one where interlocking things create an actual solution to a problem without needing to make it a hard and fast rule; ex. the focus limits and rally rules creating a 4E style limit on healing per encounter without having to actually limit it to X/encounter) so something that layers several solutions onto each other to create the environment almost organically without needing any sort of hard "you cannot do this even if it would make sense for you to do it rule" would be ideal.

So, that's my current design issue that was mostly a monster issue... but has infected the gear/equipment rules by proximity.
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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Thu Jan 25, 2018 4:56 pm

I would implement the "standing rewards " and "improve the free stuff utilities" as a general rule, along with rolling out some combined version of "tanking the resale value" and "battle damage, version 1." Of the latter two, one may result from the other. You might also consider the first option, "increase the costs of luxury/magic goods and services." I'm not a fan of the market forces, taxation, or gift-based society options, since they impose on the player's choices and undermine the big damn heroes aspect of the setting.
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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Thu Jan 25, 2018 5:43 pm

I pretty much agree on the market forces/taxes/gifts being bad options... they're in there mostly for completeness sake because when I'm brainstorming I don't throw anything out until I've finished the list. Its good that others are having a similar reaction to it though.

One other spit-ball I had as well since posting to throw in the mix is "reduce the costs of the most basic items."

It would require the costs of iron/steel to be much more in line with modern production levels to pull off, but that would get the scrap costs for most things enough below the cost of production that you could plausibly tank the resale values (right now a one pound dagger that isn't so riddled with rust as to be useless can't be worth less than about 10c just because there's nearly a pound of steel in it. But if steel prices are more like modern times... (for comparison modern silver and steel prices work out to 5 ounces of silver being worth about as much as a TON of steel) then the scrap value of stuff would be a LOT less.

Say you put steel costs at 1c/pound and figure half the cost of a finished poor quality product is labor then a poor quality dagger goes from 5c (less than the cost of the metal its made from) to about 2c. Its probably not much more than a one-pound piece of sharpened scrap metal with some rope wrapped around it for a handle (i.e. worth 1c for its metal content). A good quality dagger might be 4-5c new, but with only 1c in materials, its resale value could be dropped to the 1-2c range.

The same would go for armor; 40 lb. of steel in heavy armor goes from having a scrap value of 400c to 40c and you can justify a 20% resale value in the economy. By contrast, the week's pay in the defeated soldier's pocket (say 30c for a grunt) that weighs just a fraction of a pound is still valuable enough to take, but all that steel is only useful if you have a personal use for it (say outfitting your own mercenaries).

In terms of justification, even 300 years after a magi-tech apocalypse a huge portion of iron/steel "production" going on could just be scavenging the literal TONS of steel present in ruined skyscrapers and such. Blackspire is centered around a lucky skyscraper that didn't collapse (well, at least the bottom 20-ish floors didn't) and is literally surrounded by other buildings nowhere near so lucky.

How much of imported steel would such a place even need when the surrounding area is littered with tons of it just beneath a few inches of sediment and overgrowth? Even with magic 15,000 people can only clear out so much in a given year and still raise crops to feed themselves. And they didn't even always have that many people to do the work.

I think cutting the scrap steel prices (and a few other key commodities) while keeping the cost of services relatively stable would be a good starting point to start adding the other elements (battle damage, reduced resale value, standing rewards, etc.) on top of.

That does mean revisiting the construction time formulas for the Engineering skill, but that's a pretty minor hurdle overall. Actually, reviewing the production TIMES using Engineering might not be a bad way to judge prices of manufactured goods since I do have an established cost of labor (1-4c/day for most commoners depending on profession... smiths being on the high end of that).

I'm going to fiddle for a day or two and see what I can do with that as a start point. If you have any other ideas in the meantime, I'll be checking in regularly and will reply to any suggestions given.
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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Thu Jan 25, 2018 6:01 pm

I like this new suggestion - like you said, it forms a solid foundation that you could add the other ideas onto.

This discussion demonstrates why I think your project will succeed where others have failed - the sheer work ethic involved, even in something so mundane as working out the kinks of the item costs and the economy of the setting, is something to behold.
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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Fri Jan 26, 2018 6:34 am

Thanks for the praise. I do try to be diligent about things.

On the subject of steel prices; the average skyscraper uses THOUSANDS (often tens of thousands) of TONS of steel in their construction. A real monster like the Sears Tower (I know its the Willis Tower now, but most everyone knows it as the Sears Tower) used 76,000 tons of steel and had another 17,500 in mechanical equipment (a significant percentage of which would be steel) in it.

Just the top 3/4 of such a structure (which is kinda what Blackspire's tower/castle is based on... the bottom 24-ish floors of a mega skyscraper) would supply probably 40,000 tons of steel (the top is smaller so I'm estimating a little over half instead of 75% of the total steel used).

One ton is enough steel to forge 50 suits of heavy armor, 500 longswords or tens of thousands of arrow/spear heads. You could equip the entire population of Blackspire (15,000) with heavy armor and a melee weapon of choice 120 times over with just the steel found in the wreckage from the top floors of one building. Unless they used up over 130 TONS of steel every year, the residents of Blackspire could still be getting by on just the steel salvaged from the wreckage of that one building even after three centuries.

Realistically, most communities would have more scrap steel than they knew what to do with. Even 1c/pound is probably too high in that environment, but there's gotta be a floor somewhere and 1c/pound might reflect the cost of labor to drag in scrap steel and reforge it into something useful rather than the actual value of the metal itself in that environment.

A rather interesting alternative to that though would be to acknowledge that there's so much previously refined steel around that its basically "free" for anyone willing to go out to a scrap heap and pull some out and the only value a steel item really has is this environment would be in the labor required to manufacture it.

Smiths in such a situation would just send their kids or apprentices out to scavenge whatever steel they'd need from nearby ruins and might have a literal ton of scrap steel sitting out behind their shop that they barely even guard because its so plentiful. Alternately a city might have a communal scrap heap of stuff pulled in through other activities like clearing fields for plowing.

The other interesting factor about that is that it means that WHEAT (at 10 lb. per cent); a basic food staple; would be more valuable than steel is. For that matter firewood is valued at 40 lb. per cent... which makes sense as these isolated enclaves of civilization are surrounded by now centuries old forests and trees are just there for the taking.

Hell, concrete slabs/rubble are probably every bit as plentiful as steel. There's your three primary medieval building materials; steel, lumber and stone; all so plentiful that they're seen as nuisances that need to be cleared away to make room for more cropland to feed the growing population.

This is a world that is utterly upside down; where labor and food stuffs are more valuable than any of the durable raw materials needed for manufacturing or construction.

What this means is that tanking the resale value on anything that's not magical, consumable or of exceptional quality makes in-universe sense. Poor-quality items would be nearly worthless for resale and even good quality arms and armor won't be worth much since most communities probably have all that they need already. "Your group dragged in twenty suits of basic plate armor? Great. Throw it on the pile. We'll use it for something... eventually."

Another prospect is that I could probably also increase the price gap between poor and good quality. A poor-quality dagger or sword is little more than a bar of steel pulled off a scrap heap with the edges sharpened and some sort of material wrapped around one end to make a grip. A good dagger actually took a day's labor from a competent smith, charcoal, oil for quenching and other consumables to actually produce.

Maybe even make everything a factor of ten. Poor quality is 1/10th the cost (basically scavenged/improvised), Good is normal cost, Fine is 10x, Legendary is 100x with basic resale on arms/armor being only 10%. Poor quality isn't even worth picking up, Good gear barely is (unless you can use it yourself) while fine and legendary gear are worth just enough to be worth taking as treasure (it doesn't hurt that fine/legendary armor weighs less than normal so you can haul more of it... legendary heavy armor would weigh 20 lb. and be worth 4000c or twice its weight in silver).

That would also solve a good chunk of the value of "free stuff" utilities issue since goods and services aren't affected. A week's room and board even at the common level is 70c and a fresh riding horse is still 200c.

On the other hand, the price of structures probably needs to be adjusted a bit if stone, lumber and even steel are so readily available and the main costs to construct a building is the labor. At the very least is probably warrants including a separate line for the cost of a steel-plated building as there would be enough large plates in most ruins (and enough fire magic if not) to make such a structure viable. I'll probably have to research construction time for various materials (bricklaying/masonry vs. steel frame vs. wood frame). If they're at all similar I may need to find a way to balance out the stats a bit since the cost of materials isn't much of a factor in this setting (ex. stone is hard but brittle, steel is softer than many stone types, but structurally stronger).

One final factor to consider is that these prices are contingent upon a specific post-apocalyptic setting. For groups that want to use a more traditional setting I'll probably need to include notes on how cost of materials would apply in a more traditionally resource starved Medieval setting. The Empire of Nerath in the Nentir Vale setting for example was a traditional fantasy empire/kingdom and its collapse more akin to the fall of the Roman Empire. That's a whole different kettle of resources than T&T's where the survivors of the Cataclysm dug themselves out of a fallout shelter in the ruins of Magitech New York City.
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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Tue Jan 30, 2018 4:38 pm

Couple of updates and general notes on the project.

I resolved the monster equipment crisis via a couple of minor change ups.

The first was making resale values based on the value of an item one grade worse (unless you find a buyer looking to actually use what you found themselves... which is good RP and an adventure hook). Items without an explicit quality rating (ex. structures and services) can be sold for their full value.

The second was to use different cost formulas for different item categories. Arms and Armor now have poor goods worth only 10% of good quality gear (and are expressly called out as items cobbled together from scrap) and legendary items are now 100 times the cost of good gear (and not even legendary quality monsters carry legendary quality items by default).

BUT other items like general adventuring gear and mounts use more forgiving grades for their qualities (i.e. poor is still half the cost of good gear) because they are more likely to be found as 'treasure' versus items the opponents will actually be fighting with. Other items, like bottles of wine don't follow the usual poor/good/fine/legendary rating and so could be sold for full value (finding an excellent vintage bottle of wine would be worth its full list price).

Meanwhile many other non-humanoid monsters are getting what I'm informally calling a "pelt value"... i.e. putting a value on certain body parts like skins, teeth/claws, bones, etc. so that they compete with the value of the equipment carried by more humanoid foes.

The end goal is to reach certain benchmarks; roughly 2c per XP in easy funds (coins and other lightweight things comparable or better than silver in value per pound), another 2c per XP in difficult funds (heavy things worth considerably less than their weight in silver like normal weapons and armor) and about 1 found major permanent magic item per group of five players per level. That won't actually fill every permanent item slot with a major item (for that they'd need to get the dangerous components needed to craft them).

The idea is that if groups just take the easy funds and found major items they'll be well equipped enough to deal with most anything that would cross their paths (the majority of magic item slots filled with major items, enough funds to fill the rest of the slots with minor items and still have funds for rituals and other sundry items) while still offering an edge to those groups that make a concerted effort to take everything of value (who would probably have all their slots filled with major items and a few other major goodies besides).

Obviously these are subject to the GM's desires and should be adjusted by events. If the players suffer a great loss and have a good chunk of their wealth stolen, the GM can offer them the opportunity to go after bigger hauls to recover the loss, but these values work as a baseline for the GM to work from. Conversely, a GM who really wanted to stress the day to day struggle for survival (say the party is mostly barbarians who live far from civilization where little silver reaches) might remove all the "easy funds" entirely, but up the value of items recovered from opponents by making their home base rely on straight barter so even poor quality sword is worth something in trade.

* * * *

The second update is that I am once again praising the concept of power gaming play-testers. Because they will try to actually break things in ways that many other player types just won't.

It should be pointed out though that isn't so much a rule change as it is a much needed clarification. The situation involved the player deciding to take the "men-at-arms" utility.

Now it was clear to me, and to every play-tester before this player, that the intention of the utility's variable elements like racial benefits, ability scores and trained skills were meant to allow it to represent a variety of military units; a barbarian tribe's war band, a unit of human footmen or elven archers... but the assumption was that the unit itself would be homogeneous (i.e. all human footmen or all elven archers).

But the thing is, the rules don't actually say that.

As this player read the rules they presumed it meant that each of their men-at-arms could be a different species with completely different ability scores and different trained skills.

So they picked a dragon, a sprite and a gnome (the latter two because they'd be light enough to ride the dragon with him). The dragon with high strength (for a high base load to carry him as a mount), the gnome with a high wits and insight to spot things more easily and the sprite with high reflexes and stealth to be a good scout.

And... as written... that is a perfectly valid (albeit grossly over-powered) interpretation of the rules that someone who comes across my game on DriveThruRPG without having any input from me might take from it.

Fortunately this was a pretty easy fix... "A All your warriors are the same species with the same species options (if any)" and "All your warriors have the same ability scores and proficient skill."

For good measure I also changed select a species on both warriors and followers (the non-combat helpers) to "select a species (except avatar or dragon) and gain its benefits" because no dragon or avatar is intended to be a "grunt." I don't have a problem with a starting character having a dragon or unicorn bodyguard or a dragon or fire giant lieutenant, but they should not be able to start with a flight of dragons under their command even if those dragons go down with one hit.

I should probably put the same "all your non-combat followers must be of the same type" rule as for the warriors, but since they're all non-combat (the rules are they automatically flee or cower in any combat) and it makes sense for certain types of followers to be somewhat varied (ex. a courtier or noble's entourage or an entertainer's acting troupe).

So I think I'm going to have to see just how broken I can get with a varied band of followers in non-combat situations and,  more importantly, if it does break... is the break unfun for the other players (ex. the follower can potentially beat a similarly focused PC at the same checks) or if they're potentially more fun due to the followers being more than just cardboard cutouts (i.e. the GM/player can flesh them out as actual NPC's... Bex the strongman and Winn the acrobat for an Entertainer's Troupe for example).
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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Mon Feb 05, 2018 8:19 am

And the answer to "are followers overpowered if allowed variability?" is "a bit, but not as badly as I feared."

The primary break point actually wasn't utilities, it was that they had too many skills (and too broad of options for skill choices) and their best ability score was too high. This meant that it was extremely easy to have three human followers, each with a 4 in WIT, INT or PRE and proficiency in all three skills linked to that score and a +2 bonus to each of those scores as well... basically granting all nine of the "mental" skills with +9 to their checks.

The fix was to cut the followers back to one proficient skill each and then drop the highest ability score in their array from 3 to 2 (so 3 with a racial modifier instead of 4) and then, on top of that, limit their skill options to ONLY those that match their background and establishing that the followers have the same background as the PC who's selecting them (the courtier and noble attendants being the exception because they get no other special ability).

This generally means you either get a general purpose follower whose got several okay checks or a specialist who can almost match a PC's ability, but only with a single skill. This means the best uses are to provide "aid other" bonuses to PC checks (the general purpose follower) or to cover a skill the party is actually missing (the specialist).

This process also led to an overall review this weekend of the companions as a whole and a few changes were made.

The first is that the equipment using companions had their defenses changed to base values that are actually modified by their ability scores instead of the more monster-like setup they had previously. The reason for this is that there was zero reason, beyond fluff, to ever put those companions in any armor as it would just weigh them down without any benefit.

The second is that "loyal lieutenant" just flat out wasn't working. Variety is nice in theory, but with almost all the 'slayer' options requiring a minor action to engage for a turn, it made them unable to fill that role at all since they couldn't attack and activate their damage bump without the PC spending both their main and minor action to gain a minor action's worth of damage.

So the Lieutenant companion got dumped and in its place the lieutenant utility now allows the selection of either a bodyguard (a basic guardian and the same as the courtier/noble gets), an enforcer (a basic slayer that as also been added as a utility to the outlaw) or a medic (a basic enabler)... each with their own much more specific stat-block.

Each also had their skills curtailed a bit... one choice plus one required (instead of two of choice); Insight for bodyguards, Intimidate for enforcers and Medicine for medics.

This also eliminated the prospect of problematic class attacks or minor action abilities the lieutenant might gain via the multi-classing utility that could be disproportionately more powerful than intended and they can no longer select specializations that require a class. Its less versatile than before, but it closes a lot of loopholes down so that's worth it.

On the closing loopholes front, I also added to the Lieutenant utility and to the Bodyguard (courtier/noble) and Ruthless Enforcer (outlaw) utilities that you cannot select any of those utilities if you already have a bodyguard, enforcer or medic companion. This closes a loophole where a PC could end up with multiples (previously a bodyguard and a loyal lieutenant was possible) via cross-training or a few of the "esoteric experience" type utilities.
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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Wed Feb 07, 2018 4:17 pm

I'm glad that it wasn't as severe a problem as you thought it was going to be - it's always nice when that happens.

With regard to the basic companions, I can see why you didn't have a controller role - the other three fill some basic function, and can be expressed rather simply, while the controller is both too complex for a companion character, and it's more of an enemy force divider. Besides, there are too many fluff interpretations to get a standardized controller the way you could with the bodyguard, lieutenant, and medic.
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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Wed Feb 07, 2018 6:05 pm

The complexity of the controller is part of it, but it was also a lot easier to justify since the only background where it was even an option before was Military; so despite there possibly being military forces that were entirely spellcasters... at the end of the day having just basically soldier types for the options.

Mechanically, the main issue was that the controller PC's actually need both their main and minor actions to really pull it off... either by enlarging a main action attack to hit multiple targets or by using a minor action with the same effect as their main action attack to stage that hit up (ex. dazzled to dazed) without needing to spend focus on it. Unless you gave it a whole series of conditions and the PC had an attack power with a matching condition it just wouldn't add much to the fight to drop a single minor condition on one target for a minor action.

By contrast, being able to restore Edge or grant a recovery check is a fairly central concept of the enablers. A true enabler would also be able to attack and provide some other benefit on top of that, but its a quick and dirty backup not a true replacement. Getting the healing and recovery checks is the most obvious thing you'd feel the pain from if you didn't have an enabler... while still giving an actual enabler the ability to shine even if a medic is around.

Likewise, giving the Enforcer an option for extra damage via condition (in this case flat-footed targets) instead of via a minor action boosting the main action (which is how all the PC slayers work) is workable. So long as the average damage is less than an actual Slayer would add to their own attacks with their minor action its never going to outshine an actual slayer even if it will add extra damage to the party they might need if the PC's main role is already covered that round.

The Bodyguard hasn't really changed from the versions I've presented in the past, so its main use is actually in making reactions/free strikes rather than its main action, though it can provide some extra damage on your turn (roughly as much as a non-slayer damage would do) if you don't have any sort of minor action damage option (ex. energy missiles for an interdictor or "add Focus damage to your next attack") and you feel that burning something down with more damage would be more useful that turn than taunting, buffing or hindering.

One last thing I need to finish out my review of the companions those is how the bodyguard interacts with the Guardian role classes. With the Loyal Lieutenant ability you can fill in a specific hole in the party or just give yourself some extra versatility by taking a companion that does not match your own role. But bodyguard on top of guardian is basically doubling up and I'm not sure that's a good thing mechanically... at the very least it might require clarifying that if you use the bodyguard's intercept ability to make it the target of an attack it does not trigger the guardian punishment feature for attacking a target other than the guardian.

If its a real problem, that utility might need to be changed a bit to something like; if your role is Guardian you gain an Enforcer (or medic) instead of a Bodyguard... but that's only IF its a problem.

I've also just about got the monster list firmed up (still some design work, but levels and roles for all the critters and their variants is nearly done) which is a significant step in the mechanical design portion. Its a bit weird in that the number is both less (I had originally wanted 300-ish unique critters, but they're clocking in at a page each so that's not happening unless I go to THREE books with an exclusive monster book) and yet more (because there are a LOT more variants than I'd expected).

As an example of those variants; Cavalry has Normal (level 5 grunts), Veteran (level 5 standard), Master (level 10 standard), Legendary (level 15 standard), Aerial Cavalry (as above, but with flying mounts), Centaur Cavalry (as above but they are their own mounts) and Archon Sky Knights (winged high elves who come only in veteran, master or legendary) as the available variants (15 possible combinations).

Another example is the Wolf... which has Normal (level 1 grunt), Alpha Wolf (level 1 standard), Dire Wolf (level 6 standard), Dire Wolf Alpha (level 11 standard), Werewolf (as above, but gets shapeshift, regen and is vulnerable silver) and Frost Wolves (which have cold auras)... (12 possible combinations).

Its kind of funny how when you actually start looking at a lot of D&D monster entries... particularly older ones, a lot of critters are just stronger versions of other monsters with different art.

4E did better between monster types (kobolds aren't just weaker goblins and goblins aren't just weaker orcs), but even then they sometimes resorted to using monsters that were basically just up-leveled weaker versions, sometimes with stronger status effects.

I'm handling the stronger status effects portion via the focus mechanic that basically gives the stronger versions of the critters 1 or 2 encounter powers in addition to beefed up damage, Edge and skill checks. This lets me actually fit a number of slightly different critters all into the same entry. Master/Legendary cavalry can stun instead of daze 1 or 2 times per battle and the aerial cavalry and sky knights can use that attack with dropped rocks or darts.

Once I have the full list with levels and roles done I'll be posting it here just to see what people think.
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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Wed Feb 07, 2018 9:14 pm

That makes sense. Perhaps with the bodyguard, you can implement the first fix as a preemptive measure and run it past the group, with the second fix as an ace in the hole.

Given the variant combinations you just listed for two entries, you've got your work cut out for you - some of it may be just similar stat blocks with different numbers, but the time and labor put in is nothing to sneeze at. I look forward to the final result.
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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Wed Feb 07, 2018 10:50 pm

The monsters and the amount of work required for their stat blocks is not nearly so bad as it might seem; the variants are mostly just the different numbers, not reprinting the entire stat-block as there's not enough room in the book for all the variants to get a full block and because of my version of "bounded accuracy" they're also not nearly as needed.

For example; here's actually the full text of the Cavalry stat-block;

Cavalry_________________________________________________35 XP
Level 5 Brittle Grunt Controller (Medium Natural Humanoid)

Defenses Armor 19, Dodge 14, Fort 16, Will 15                             Initiative 2
EDGE 5; Focus 0                                                           ________Free Strike 4
Speed 6 paces; climb 3, jump 3, swim 3 (–1 to all speeds in full gear)

TRAITS
Allied Morale (Grunt only): If dealt damage while within line of sight of a non-grunt
ally, the ally can choose to take some or all of the damage dealt instead.

Mount: Cavalry usually ride Large War Beasts (see facing page for easy reference).
Because of the weight of the rider and gear, the beast’s speeds are reduced by 1.

MAIN ACTIONS
War Spear: Melee 1 (Melee 2 if mounted) / 7 vs. Armor / 8 damage (12 critical)
and if the cavalry moved 2 or more paces this turn before making the attack the target is
also knocked prone and pushed half the paces moved.

Dazing Blow: Melee 1 / 7 vs. Armor / 8 damage (12 critical) and the target is dazed (ENT).
Special (hit w. attack): The target is stunned (ENT) for 1 focus.

Crossbow: Range 10 / 6 vs. Armor / 9 damage (13 critical).

CHECKS
Ability Checks STR 4, END 3, REF 1, WIT 2, INT 1, PRE 2; Base Load 60 lb.

Skill Checks Acrobatics 5, Fitness 7 (–3 armor and load penalty in full gear)

TREASURE
Gear (heavy armor, large shield, war spear, melee weapon, crossbow) and coins (2¢/XP).
They typically have good gear (580¢/70 lb.) or fine gear (£58/60 lb.) at level 11+.

VARIANTS
Veteran Cavalry (140 XP): Level 5 (standard), Initiative 2, Edge 42 (bloodied 21);
 Damage – free strike 9, war spear 16 (25), dazing blow 16 (25), crossbow 18 (27);
 STR 5, END 3, REF 1, WIT 3, INT 1, PRE 3; Base Load 75 lb.; Acrobatics 5, Fitness 7

Master Cavalry (240 XP): Level 10, Initiative 5, Focus 1, Edge 72 (bloodied 36);
 Damage – free strike 14, war spear 25 (39), dazing blow 25 (39), crossbow 28 (42);
 STR 7, END 5, REF 3, WIT 5, INT 3, PRE 5; Base Load 75 lb.; Acrobatics 6, Fitness 8

Legendary Cavalry (340 XP): Level 15, Initiative 7, Focus 2, Edge 102 (bloodied 51);
 Damage – free strike 19, war spear 34 (53), dazing blow 34 (53), crossbow 38 (57);
 STR 9, END 7, REF 5, WIT 7, INT 5, PRE 7; Base Load 75 lb.; Acrobatics 9, Fitness 11

Aerial Cavalry: The cavalry uses a flying mount (see facing page). Dazing blow gains
 the thrown 5 property against targets beneath them (dropped rocks or darts). This doesn’t
 affect their XP value, but they cost double as mercenaries.

Centaur Cavalry: Increase its size to medium (oversized), ground speed to 7 paces and
 double its base load. It suffers squeezing penalties when flanked by blocking terrain.

Archon Sky Knight (veteran, master or legendary only): Can roll twice for initiative and
 gains a fly speed of 6 paces. It can use dazing blow as a thrown 5 attack against targets
 beneath them (dropped darts). This doesn’t affect their XP value, but they cost double as
 mercenaries (and will typically only work for high elf nobles or religious).


DESCRIPTION
Cavalry are usually the backbone of  any armed force. They can quickly reach distant foes and
bring their heavy weapons and armor to bear upon them. Veteran or better cavalry are typically
knights (or an equivalent). Rather than weekly pay Knights will serve in exchange for being able
to collect rents from land controlled by their employer (i.e. a fiefdom). A veteran can be retained
with rents from 300 acres, masters with 600 acres, and legendary ones with 1200 acres.

They are most effective when they have space to move and will use the charge maneuver for
the attack bonus, disengage and move back to repeat the maneuver.

Many regions with access to flying mounts (wyverns, griffins or rocs for examples) will equip their
cavalry with them. Some cavalry are not even mounted at all, but possess abilities which allow
them to act as cavalry regardless (centaurs and elven archons for two examples).

* * * * *

That's one of the few "standard" entries that's more than a single page (and its the long description that really pushes it beyond one page). Most multi-page monster entries are elites or champions who traditionally have more powers than standard and minion type foes.
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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Thu Feb 08, 2018 6:14 am

Okay, I understand now. I should have remembered your previous stat blocks.
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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Thu Feb 08, 2018 8:10 am

Yup... its more pronounced with some of the others, but just 1 or 2 abilities and the availability of focus can change up how an opponent feels.

In this case you have the grunts that a PC might hire on as mercenaries. They're hard to hit, but are still dropped by one good hit just like any other grunt. The veteran though takes several hits to drop, the master and legendary are going to be able to stun 1 or 2 opponents during the fight and then the airborne and archon varieties add flying into the mix.

Cavalry are also on the low side of variability overall. The Quickshot has the allied morale for grunts, but the standard version gains a volley fire ability (bonus to hit granted to adjacent allies), can spent focus to make even more shots in a round and has a Warcaster variant that replaces their bow with spells dealing energy damage and targeting one of the non-Armor defenses.

The Wight has a grunt, two standard and two elite variants (the Death Knight and Death Lord) mostly by changing up how its minor action ability functions (in addition to the numbers).

My goal is a minimum of two (level +5 and +10), but preferably 1-2 additional variants per opponent type and so far only the Conscripts have failed to meet that standard and the average is close to four per critter.
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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Thu Feb 08, 2018 12:19 pm

Just for an additional example; here's the Wight stat block for Terrors & Tactics;

Wight_______________________________160 XP
Level 6 Blocker (Medium Shadow Humanoid; Undead)


Initiative 6
Defenses Armor 17, Dodge 15, Fort 16, Will 15
EDGE 64 (bloodied 32); Focus 1
Immune shadow; Resist cold, toxic; Vulnerable astral, fire
Speed 7 paces; climb 4, jump 4, swim 4
Free Strike 20

TRAITS
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).

Unhindered Dead: The wight ignores all movement impairing conditions when moving closer to a target it has taunted.

MAIN ACTIONS
Iron Grasp: Melee 1 / 6 vs. Armor / 20 damage (30 critical) and the target is grabbed (until escape). It can grab only one creature at a time.

MINOR ACTIONS
Death Threat: One enemy the wight can see is taunted by the Wight (ENT).  For 1 focus it can target every enemy it can see.

CHECKS
Ability Checks STR 6, END 4, REF 5, WIT 3, INT 2, PRE 4; Base Load 75 lb.

Skill Checks Fitness 8, Intimidate 8.

Senses darkvision

TREASURE
Equipped in the arms and armor of a previous age (worth 1c/XP to a collector, but weighs about 50 lb.) and is usually adorned in jewelry or other grave goods (worth 2c/XP).

VARIANTS

Decrepit Wight(15 XP): Level 1 (grunt), Edge 2, Damage – free strike 5, iron grasp 5 (7); STR 3, END 1, REF 3, WIT 0, INT –1, PRE  1; Fitness 4, Intimidate 4; Base Load 60 lb.; Cannot use Death Threat (which also prevents Unhindered Dead from triggering).

Lesser Wight (60 XP): Level 1, Initiative 3, Focus 0, Edge 24 (bloodied 12), Damage – free strike 10, iron grasp 10 (15); STR 4, END 2, REF 3, WIT 1, INT 0, PRE 2; Fitness 5, Intimidate 5; its arms and armor are damaged and stained with rust.

Death Knight (320 XP): Level 6 (Elite), Focus 2, Edge 128 (bloodied 64); Death Threat deals 10 shadow damage to its targets and ends one condition affecting the Knight.

Death Lord (520 XP): Level 11 (Elite), Initiative  8, Focus 4, Edge 208 (bloodied 104), Damage – free strike 30, iron grasp 30 (45); STR 7, END 5, REF 6, WIT 4, INT 3, PRE 5; Fitness 10, Intimidate 10. Death Threat deals 15 shadow damage to its targets and ends one condition affecting the Death Lord. Targets of Death Threat can be shaken (ENT) for 1 additional focus.


DESCRIPTION
Wights resemble withered corpses with black pits for eyes and adorned in whatever arms or armor they were buried with. They are animated by the blackened souls of warriors who fell in battle and merged with their own shadows rather than let go of tasks left unfinished. Twisted by this dark apotheosis, their intellects and wills are driven by cold hatred for all that is living.

* * * *

As can be seen with the design, the grunts are your basic undead foot soldier, distinguishable from zombies mainly by their greater speed and having their own intellect and will to guide them.

The two standard varieties make good blockers for a larger group of undead with their ability to taunt targets and ignore slowed, immobilized and similar effects to reach melee range with their designated target.

The elites fulfill the main requirements for an elite combatant by modifying Death Threat from a simple taunt into something that also damages its target and ends a condition upon it (essentially allowing it to do about as much damage as two creatures during its turn). The Death Lord also had an additional status effect added for it to spend focus on so that it had a reasonable chance of burning through all four of its focus before even a concerted attack by the PC's could bring it down.

Also of note here is how the mechanics help reinforce some of my setting designs. Its not just vampires that suffer from direct sunlight, but ALL undead. This goes in line with the description of the Shadow World's origin as being attributed to being the creation of the Demon Emperor itself because it desired to cut itself entirely off from the Source (represented in the material world by the light of the sun).

This is true to a lesser extent to the Shadowborn who do not burn in sunlight like the undead, but do have day blindness (i.e. they suffer from the shadowed condition when in direct sunlight).

The gist of this is that two of the greatest threats to the civilized world are most active at times when most mortals are disadvantaged. They attack settlements at night when many are asleep and move most effectively in numbers during the longer nights and often overcast days of the late fall and winter months. The danger they present is why civilization gathers behind the safety of firelit city walls when dusk falls.

With fire as one of their most commonly available banes, they are literally the antithesis of civilization that the default presumptions of the setting presume the PC's champion. Humans gather at their fires while the undead and living shadows lurk just beyond the safety it represents.

I've also decided to pull from more non-D&D sources for my inspirations as well. I decided to not include a vampire in the basic game largely because the Ghoul had taken its place. In several classical stories one of the abilities of a ghoul is to take on the form and even memories of those whose flesh it eats and could even enthrall the unwary and lure them to their dooms. A caveat that they need eat only part of a person, who need not even be dead turned the ghoul from a graveyard scavenger to a cunning predator who replaces its victims (sometimes keeping them alive and eating them piece by piece to maintain a particularly useful form) and sows chaos among the living. Their disguises are flawless... only failures in impersonating the person or the direct light of the sun (which reveals the ghoul's true form) will expose them.

In other words they can pull off everything a hostile vampire can accomplish with its own twists that make it one of the top tier undead for the setting (including legends which claim they are the Demon Emperor's favored children).
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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Thu Feb 08, 2018 7:38 pm

The wight's statblock is simple, yet effective. The only question I had was about the lack of a ranged attack, but it makes sense with the wight as a blocker.

I'm loving the thematic setup you have here, with the fires of civilization being the bane of the darkness and what dwells in it - it just resonates on an instinctual level.

I'm not too sure about pulling the vampire, even temporarily, but your version of the ghoul is freaky as all get out - that macabre ability and its, well, ghoulish applications would make for one horrific antagonist. Just, damn.
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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Thu Feb 08, 2018 10:16 pm

Well, there's a distinction that needs to be made on the Wight when it comes to ranged attacks.

The grunts don't have ranged attacks, but they're also barely sapient (but still more so than animated dead). The standard versions can taunt any creature in line of sight and then ignore any movement impairing conditions it might take for them to close the distance and, as a standard monster, will almost always be part of a larger group.

And then there's the elite versions... which can inflict damage at line of sight without a hit roll. For its level its not all that much damage (10) relative to a PC's 64-80 Edge at level 6. But its a minor action so if it is stuck at range it can do 20 damage plus a taunt to a target automatically on its turn... and God help you if a Death Knight is facing typical soldiers in battle... for one focus it can deliver 10 damage to every creature it can see as a minor action... enough to drop an entire cavalry charge of a hundred men and mounts with its dread gaze.

If anything I might need to scale the range on that down to something like 10 paces because, yeah, its a horror show if it can catch grunts (and non-combat types) in the open... All the more reason for mankind to huddle behind tall walls with crenelations and arrow slits so that when such a beast rides forth with its legion of the dead, the city's defenders can hide themselves from its gaze and pray that the community's heroic defenders can defeat it... or that they can at least hold out until dawn.

Thematically, the undead in general and necromancers in particular are seen as the most terrible threats to civilization in existence. Even the demons seem more motivated by enslaving and corrupting the world, but the undead seem driven to end all life and cover the world in eternal icy blackness. Just the rumors of a Death Knight in the area would be enough to throw most communities into a panic and offer great rewards to those willing to seek it out and destroy it.

... and its not even the most terrible of the undead. The ghoul, the lich and the wraith are as or even more potent that the death knights and even death lords (the Wraith King is something suitable for an end of campaign final battle type scenario).
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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Fri Feb 09, 2018 7:50 am

For the lower-level guys, I figured it was something like that. I hadn't realized how scary the death knight could be - I hadn't thought of the death knight versus a bunch of human grunts. Holy God!

Speaking of wights, if a wight is a human merged with its shadow and trapped in its decaying corpse, then I assume that a wraith is basically soul plus shadow, but without a body? I figure that a wraith king is about Nazgul tough, maybe more so.
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PostSubject: Re: STILL Not Dead (Terrors & Tactics Updade)   Fri Feb 09, 2018 12:41 pm

Death knights and the like are why there is a need of heroes in the world. The threat they pose is simply too great for most mortals to face.

Even the normal wights are faster than a man on foot and once they've singled someone out as a target NO condition imposed by fancy maneuvers or even magic can slow its approach so long as you remain in its sight.

Now that I've thought about it a bit more too, I'm going to change the damage they inflict with Death Threat to psychic with the further explanation that this is a fear effect. The taunt is that you are so freaked out by the Wight that you have difficulty focusing on anything BUT the wight and its threat to you and the psychic damage from the death knight would be a bone-chilling terror so great that it is literally lethal to all but the bravest of souls.

The X+shadow is a little bit about preventing the weirdness of a single fallen creature birthing both an undead and a shadowborn (goblin/orc/ogre)... instead one or the other is born if a creature dies before its time. But it also exists to explain why every dead soldier doesn't just rise from the grave to finish its war... it takes that extra push of willingly embracing the shadow instead of being called into the light as most souls are to transform a soul into one of the sapient undead (versus just needing energy from the Shadow World to animate the mindless dead).

As to the Wraith King; the garden variety Nazgul would probably be Greater Wraiths (level 13 elite) while the Wraith King would be the Witch-King himself. Its a level 18 Elite Brittle Blaster. Its not quite death knight level in the "kill all mere mortals who meet its gaze", but it has much greater staying power due to its higher defenses and life draining aura that deals 22 cold damage to creatures that end their turns within 2 paces of it and it regains Edge equal to the damage dealt (basically you either deal with its free strikes to withdraw or it will do just as much damage via the aura AND regain Edge in the process). Throw in flight and being incorporeal and its reach can be even greater than the Death Knight's; it just takes longer to do it... throw in the ability to shadow/darken/blind with one AoE, shaken/scare/terrify with another and throw off any condition with a minor action and its an absolute terror to face.

* * * * *

Its also worth noting in regard to the above that, other than barbarian tribes where nearly everyone of age is trained to hunt (and are limited by game density to communities of only a hundred or so with maybe 40-50 adult hunters/warriors), most settlements simply do not have the resources to maintain a permanent military force much bigger than about 1% of its population without risking famine (someone has to plow the fields and tend the flocks) and the ability to maintain civilization in general (someone has to bake the bread, spin the cloth, sew the cloth, make the nails, etc.).

That means that even Blackspire, the largest city in the Old Praetoria region with a population of 15,000, can barely support 150 full-time defenders and maybe another 600 freemen trained enough to form a levy when the city proper is threatened. MAYBE 15 of them qualify as veteran or better warriors (i.e. non-grunts). Its got a bit of an advantage as an adventuring hub of hosting a fairly large number of mercenaries for hire who could be pressed into service if the city's survival is at stake, but even that's probably not more than another 150 troops and 15-20 non-grunt warriors.

The much more typical Daysmarch has only 2000 people, probably 20 full-time defenders and, at best two veteran troops (probably the lord and his squire) to defend them. Their town's defenses are reasonably strong (built within a reinforced concrete stadium) and they will have fire-based weapons (torches and flaming arrows if nothing else) to strike at undead forces (who are universally vulnerable to fire)... but anything beyond a raiding party of the most basic types of undead (mostly animated dead, skeletal hordes and a few standard wights) and they'll be calling for the aid of heroes to protect them.

In thinking about it, I also suspect that communities almost certainly have some basic protections against the undead/outsiders. I'm specifically thinking of how the church has probably had its ground consecrated (which helps to hold out shadow and outsider typed creatures) so that the community can huddle together within its walls in the face of a wraith or similar creature that can overwhelm its conventional defenses and then send someone to ride for help once the sun rises.

While I had not consciously realized it before typing this out, this also explains why the elves can have a more conventionally medieval-based setup (i.e. 90% rural... vs. the human cities where they farm beyond the walls but fall back within them before night falls). EVERY elf is born with an astral spark, so just the law of averages says that any community of even a score or so of elves would have someone able to use the consecrate, bless weapon/water or turn undead abilities and, more likely, would have all three available, possibly multiple times over. This makes them VERY bad targets for the undead and shadowborn and probably something they have learned to avoid over the centuries.

The gist is that, at least in the Old Praetoria region... civilization is hanging on by a few threads and without heroes it probably would fall. Blackspire and its surrounding walled towns number about 30,000 people in total. Ironhold and surrounding areas is about 25,000 and Riverhold's domain is barely 20,000 people. The barbarian tribes have a density of about 1 person per square mile (so a band of 100 might be the only "civilization" in a 10 mile by 10 mile area).

* * * *

Those low populations above are also one of the reasons I'm probably going to save the vampire for a later supplement. Vampires are generally creatures of civilization. They feed on the living so they need enough living around to satisfy their hunger.

Presuming that they're classical vampires who wantonly kill their victims and are leaving a blood-drained corpse every couple of days (maybe a week between victims) then Blackspire is about the only city in the entire region that might be able to support ONE such vampire for any length of time and doing so would basically drop its rate of population growth to zero. Their diet would essentially consume 10% of Daysmarch's population every year and the community would disintegrate long before then unless the vampire was dealt with.

Enter the more mythological ghoul. It possesses many of the same powers attributed to vampires (disguise themselves, hypnotically lure victims to their doom, even assume animal shapes), but they can sustain themselves of the flesh of the dead as well as the living; helping them to hide their presence within a community or even exist entirely on its outskirts.

The other half of why I'm putting a specific vampire opponent on hold to a later supplement (probably one where the population density is higher... and unlike player options, GM's rarely have a problem using monsters from later supplements) is just that... like my long ago problem with dwarves (before they turned into magitech cyborgs)... I need my vampires to be something more than just a garden variety knockoff for the sake of having a vampire opponent in the core monster book.
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