Thursday, February 08, 2007

Dark•Heritage Mk. II rules

Well, I didn't say that I was going to address the topics in my placeholder in order--since this is the Dark•Heritage Mk. II blog, I thought I'd toss out the rules I'm considering for Dark•Heritage Mk. II (technically, this is Mk. III, and they are much more like Mk. I but take advantage of the experience of running Mk. II.)

This time around, the rules base will be built around d20 Modern, not variant D&D. It will also liberally use d20 Past which is an expansion for d20 Modern as well as some Urban Arcana and a touch of Unearthed Arcana. Eventually, I'd like to put these rules in a single location--I'll probably retype them all, save as a pdf and store as campaign notes, but in the meantime, this post just describes which rules I'll be using.


The d20 Modern occupations list doesn't exactly work for the Dark•Heritage fantasy setting, so the following are available occupations:
Aristocrat (from d20 Past)
Blue Collar
Cloisered (from d20 Past)
Cosmopolitan (from d20 Past)
Impoverished (from d20 Past)
Law Enforcement
Military (can choose Archaic Weapon Proficiency if desired)
On the Run (from d20 Past)
Primitive (from d20 Past)
Servant (from d20 Past)
Slave (from d20 Past)
White Collar


The following skills are not available to any characters: Computer Use, Craft (Electronic), Investigate, Knowledge (Behavioral Sciences), Knowledge (Business), and Knowledge (Technology).

The following skills are slightly changed as indicated: Drive--there are no automobiles in the Dark•Heritage setting, but this skill still works for wagons, carriages, stagecoaches, etc. You do not need a proficiency feat to avoid the -4 penalty. Pilot--there are few aircraft in the Dark•Heritage setting (except balloons and zepelins) but it also applies to any watercraft that a character may wish to pilot. You do not need a proficiency feat to avoid the -4 penalty.


The following feats are not available to any characters: Advanced Firearms Proficiency, Burst Fire, Double Tap, Drive By Attack, Force Stop, Gearhead, Medical Expert, Strafe, Aircraft Operation, Surface Vehicle Operation, and Vehicle Dodge.

The following feats from d20 Past are made available: Find Clues, Minions, Obscure Knowledge, Secret Identity, and Sidekick.


The following equipment tables from d20 Past are made available:
Table 2-3: Cannon
Table 2-4: Flintlock Firearms
Table 2-7: Other Ranged Weapons
Table 2-9: Explosives and Splash Weapons
Table 2-10: Melee Weapons
Table 2-11: Armor (minus the Chemico, EOB and M12 options.)

Advanced Classes

The following Advanced Classes from d20 Modern are made available, with any changes as noted:
Soldier -- Feat requirements are Personal Firearms Proficiency OR Archaic Weapons Proficiency
Martial Artist
Gunslinger--At 5th level, instead of the Lightning Shot class ability, pick another bonus feat. Also, be aware of the bonus feats listed that are not available in the Dark•Heritage setting.
Daredevil--Skill requirement of ranks in Drive is dropped
Bodyguard--Feat requirement: Archaic Weapons Proficiency OR Personal Firearms Proficiency
Field Scientist--Requirements for ranks in skills that are disallowed in the Dark•Heritage setting are dropped
Field Medic
Shadow Slayer

The following Advanced Classes from d20 Past are made available, with any changes as noted:

The following Advanced Classes from Urban Arcana are made available, with any changes as noted:
Arcane Arranger
Archaic Weaponmaster--Skill requirement of ranks in Knowledge (history) is dropped. These weapons are not yet archaic in this setting.
Shadow Hunter--Skill requirement of ranks in Investigate is dropped
Street Warrior

Prestige Classes

The following Prestige classes from d20 Past are allowed:
Frontier Marshall

Miscellaneous Rules

Incantations from Urban Arcana are available.
Traits and Flaws from Unearthed Arcana are available.
Action Points get the expanded usage described in Unearthed Arcana instead of the more restricted usage of d20 Modern. In addition, Action Points roll d10s instead of d6s.
Fractional Base Attack Bonus progressions from Unearthed Arcana are also used.

Hit Points and PC Mortality

Back in the day, when I wasn't playing Dungeons & Dragons and wasn't likely to, hit points were one of the things that I commonly heard (and believed myself) to be a problem with the game. The d20 iteration of the game has brought me back, and brought me back to the point where I'm using d20 for everything and don't anticipate changing any time soon. To do this, I've had to make my peace with hit points, among a few other things.

Well, that's not technically true. d20 and the OGC has introduced a variety of alternate methods, including the Wound Points/Vitality Points system, first shown in Star Wars, and the Damage Save first shown in Mutants & Masterminds and then further shown in Blue Rose and True 20. Both options occur in Unearthed Arcana and the new, expanded SRD, so they are "official" as alternates. In addition, the little d20 gem "Grim N Gritty Hit Points" by Ken Hood uses hit points, but the method for determining how many a character has is very different than in D&D.

Where does that leave us? Well the recent discussion, which I participated in just a bit, had the multipronged approach of internet discussions everywhere, but there were two themes that I took from the discussion.

1) Hit points are problematic because at higher levels, a guard--heck, a whole platoon of soldiers--with arrows trained on the characters still can't hope to stop them before they kill them all. This, naturally, stretches the credibility of the system for some players, who don't like the idea that characters are apparently bouncing swords, arrows, fireballs, etc. off their skulls without too much ill effect. The game itself tried (halfheartedly, in my opinion) to address this issue by defining hit points as something else--the ability of a character to avoid damage, turn a critical hit into a lesser one, etc. This is a problem for a lot of people because it requires that we now assume that a "hit" isn't necessarily a hit, and that damage dealt isn't exactly damage dealt. Semantically, anyway. Bleagh.

For my money, there are a few possible solutions--#1 don't play at higher levels (this is nice for a lot of reasons--it's not just hit points that breaks down at higher levels, the game itself becomes pretty difficult to manage in all kinds of ways) or #2 use some mechanism that keeps hit points from getting to high--"Grim N Gritty Hit Points" does this for example, or 3) switch to WP/VP. Vitality points work like hit points, but Wound Points are essentially equal to your Constitution score. If you take a critical hit, you take Would Point damage instead of Vitality Point damage. This represents the possibility that even Joe Blow peon guard-duty chap can take you down if he gets lucky, while still maintaining the flavor of hit points.

Again, for my money, Option #1 is what I tend to focus on. It's a bit of a workaround rather than a real solution, but since there are other things besides just hit points that I don't like about levels higher than about 10 or so, it ends up being a bit of a moot point for me. But if it does, a flatter, or capped, or flattening hit point curve would be nice. I've seen the idea that starting after 10th level, you don't get a new hit dice when you level up, just the other level benefits (maybe a Con bonus addition to your hit points) which means that they never get above about 12th level or so worth of hit points no matter what happens.

In any case, the discussion at ENWorld ended up drifting into the Wound Points/Vitality Points discussion, which is my point #2.

2) Lots of people have complained about Wound points being too gritty, which at first amazed me, since it's the least gritty way of dealing with "the problem of hit points" of any of the common ways I know of. I've since realized that for the most part, the people who complain about this are not the ones who complain about "the problem of hit points"--for the most part, they see that problem as perhaps academic, but not really an issue ranging up to seeing escalating hit points as a good thing and not a problem at all. Many of them also referenced a storytelling preference for not having their character go out like a chump in what could be merely a throwaway encounter with a few goblins.

This is where my tastes break from them. To me, gaming is not just about creating a story, it's about simulating events that lead to a story. If a character dies like a chump--well, that happens sometimes. It's not necessarily a bad thing. And a game where that risk wasn't always there would be pretty boring to me. The discussion went on to talk about it being boring having a character either dead or seriously incapacitated for a significant portion of the session, but I believe that if there's no risk of that happening, that's even more boring. By a long shot.

In any case, I've experimented a bit with ways to address some of these issues that I have with d20, and there are plenty of ways of addressing the problem of greater PC fragility, even in games where the recovery of hit points via magic isn't something you can count on. Because of that, I have no problem either capping hit points or using alternate schemes to derive hit points where the total isn't nearly as high. But, for all that, I've pretty much just made my peace with the concept of hit points anyway. Combined with the fact that I also don't like really high level play for other reasons besides "the hit point problem", hit points are a moot point to me anyway.

Placeholder for topics

Still very busy, but I want to post a placeholder of some topics that I want to blog on. These are topics that I've seen pop up either on EN World or Circvs Maximvs recently, but I've been too busy to spend much time at either. After skimming the topic, finding it interesting and noting that I want to put into words my thoughts on the matters, I figured I'd do it here.

But, it'll take some time, so I'm posting these placeholders so I can come back and do it later.

1. Hit Points and character mortality

2. D&D editions through the ages

3. Fiends

4. Gen Con

5. The source of morality

6. Dark•Heritage Mk. II ruleset

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

New blog

Well, my old blog has sat fallow--but not unused. In fact, I've been archiving a character from a play-by-post game I'm in on the most recent post, so I'm reluctant to post again. But since I have an unquenchable need to blog (or to hear my own voice, or see my own words in "print") I'm starting a second blog that will be my, err.. my actual blog. Anyway, this is just to claim the territory. More meaty entries yet to come.