Monthly Archives: February 2016

Design Notes: Of the Warp and the Weft

Hello dear readers, apologies for the lack of an update last week. There was an instance of family illness I returned home to deal with and have not yet built a buffer of articles to cover unforeseen circumstances.

Today’s update is, once more, a series of design notes for a product on the DM’s Guild.
This time around, rather than build a class from the ground up, I’ve expanded upon the spell-casting rules and created two new feats and a new Arcane Tradition to take advantage of the expansion. The Arcane Tradition is perfectly usable as a class option for the Wizard without using the rest of the rules so I had to be careful about what made it into the final draft of the Tradition.

The actual spell-casting rules themselves are a) far more cinematic and b) more representative of the double-edged nature of magic (in my opinion, magic should always have a cost other than a spell-slot) but they may not be for everyone. The intention behind them was to enhance gameplay rather than add another layer of complexity to it.

The document is split into three parts: Weave effects, Feats and the ‘Weaver’ Arcane Tradition.

The Weave Effects

The Weave effects (being the bulk of the expanded rules) are presented on a series of tables with a variety of random effects on them. The effects either thematically tie into the School of Magic that the triggering spell is from, or replicate the effects of a spell from that School to a limited degree.

I decided the effects would happen AFTER the spell is cast (whether successful or not) because some of the effects would interrupt the spell-casting process and thus waste the spell-slot. The effects themselves are limited to a certain area (that grows with higher level spells) because I felt that as the Weave was being twisted in a particular place, rather than over the whole battlefield, the effect itself should have a point of origin and then weaken as it moved further from that point.

The effects themselves are merely suggestions and DMs using them should feel free to change the listed effects (or the whole table/section) as they see fit. These rules are a device to enable more dangerous spell-casting, and if they serve as a springboard to even more fun, then so be it.

The Feats

The feats were designed to take advantage of the new rules and Weave effects.

Focussed Caster is intended to represent a spell-caster who has achieved a far greater level of control over the side-effects of their magic. Most of the time, they know what result their magic will have and even when they don’t, can sometimes use their knowledge to create advantageous situations. This is why, rather than the DM rolling for the effect, the player does. If they manage to get either of the two effects they have chosen, that’s great. But even if they don’t, they have a (roughly) 1:3 chance of either one of those effects or a ‘9’ which allows them to roll twice and pick an effect. This means the Focussed Caster has a 2:3 chance of getting the Weave effect they want and then, even if that fails, good odds of still getting it. This, of course, has a cost (a bonus action) and still allows for random chance.

On the other end of the scale, the Refined Caster can’t control what the effect is, but they can control who it affects. This presented, I thought, a nice opposite to ‘Focussed Caster’ and provided a nice synergy with it should a player want to take both Feats. Again, the cost (a reaction) is intended to balance out the fact that the player MAY affect the target of their spell with the Weave effect as well as whatever would happen as a result of the spell being cast.

The Weaver Arcane Tradition

In addition to these, the Weaver Arcane Tradition is also included in the document but can be used independently. My goal with this was to create an option for Wizards who opt to focus on the spell-casting process itself, rather than the magic they wield.

Raw Potential is my way of suggesting that ‘Weaver’ Wizards are more offensively focussed than other Wizard traditions, and ties in with the idea that they have a strong link the Weave.

This link was further strengthened with The Thread, providing an option to use the Wizard’s close connection to the Weave to cast multiple spells per turn.

The Loom is the feature I see getting the most usage. Thematically, it is intended to show that the ‘Weaver’ Wizard has gained a high level of mastery over the Weave and can use it to strengthen their spells. Mechanically, being able to target something else with a spell and not expend a spell slot to use it is offset by the relatively limited range that second target can be in and the cost of a bonus action, as well as the fact that it may only be used with spells that target a specific character and that the damage from the spell will only ever come from the damage dice, never any damage modifiers or critical hits. In order to prevent a high-level Wizard dominating the battlefield with this feature, I felt that at higher spell levels, the concentration required to hit a second target would incur a larger penalty and so built this in as a balancing aspect to the feature.

The Pattern is fairly self-explanatory, at this level of power the ‘Weaver’ can see the Weave itself and replicate the effect of spells if they choose to. The ‘Weaver’ is also capable of pulling harder on the Weave to fuel their rituals, negating most of the time required to perform a ritual. The intention here is that a ‘Weaver’ given enough time, COULD perform a ritual in the middle of combat.

The Tapestry. The pinnacle of the Weaver tradition. At this stage, the Wizard has become one with the Weave, able to use it both as a means of protection and a means of defence. There’s nothing much to say about this one, I wanted something passive that would aid in the Wizard in both attack and defence as well as tie in with the overall idea of the Tradition. I built upon this with the ‘active’ ability by giving it a cost to provide guaranteed damage.

 

That rounds out my design notes. If you have any feedback, leave a message or email me at thatshowwerolldice@gmail.com. Similarly, if you have used this class, please feel free to give me feedback on it at the same address so I can improve and update it.

I hope you enjoyed reading this.

Thanks,

Bubbles

Roleplaying 105 – The Story and The World

Today’s update is focussed more on the DM/GM side of things and assumes you’ve managed to get everything you need to run a game, as well as that you know the rule-set you’ll be using.

So, you’ve got the players, you’ve got the game of your choice and you’ve got the means to fuse the two together for a storytelling experience you may not have had before. What now?

Now, gentle reader, it is time to plan. As these articles are system neutral, I can’t go into too much detail regarding specifics but brush-strokes can provide a suitable starting point that I can follow up with specific game settings at a later date.

First of all, when it comes to story planning you need to know what you want to get out of the game and what you want your players to get out of the game. Most of the time these things will be the same, but sometimes they won’t. If you ever feel like you’re straying from this goal, it may be worth re-evaluating things. You don’t need to go into detail at this stage, you just need a good idea of what’s going to happen.

For example, you might want to give both yourself and your players a swashbuckling campaign of larger than life characters and acts of derring-do. In this situation, you might cast the players as Indiana Jones-type characters, roving the world for hidden treasures and saving people as they go.

The next step (although if you’re using a published/real world setting, you can ignore this), is to build your world. With a good idea of the general story outline, it’s time to make a world to anchor the story in.

The world is perhaps the most important thing you’ll create as a DM/GM. Without a believable and engaging world, the players may as well be running around in a literal sandbox. Let the story flavour the world, as it in turn will change the story in unexpected ways later down the line. You want your world to feel like it has history, weight, and boundless horizons (if you’re playing a multi-world/planet game, focus on one to begin with).

The world for the example above would be filled with ancient civilisations, nefarious cults and have rainforests, swamps and deserts aplenty. If your campaign is more intrigue focused, you might want something darker with cramped cities, scheming nobles and rampant illness.

When populating the world, the people and monsters living there should make sense. Some guides will recommend using random encounter tables to spice things up, but if you do use one and get a result that doesn’t make sense, you might want to roll up another result or risk breaking the player’s immersion. Where possible, reflect the fact that different groups of races (usually) have their own, vastly different societies (this can also apply to different groups within the same species).

Again, don’t worry too much about the nitty gritty details at this point, just create a rough outline.

With your story and world done, it’s time to start fleshing things out. Plot out the major arcs of your story, change your idea of it if you have to. The great thing about RPGs is that nothing is set in stone and I can almost guarantee that your players will derail and alter the story anyway. With the major arcs sorted, start making some major NPCs for each one. At this stage, you only really need an appearance, rough backstory and major motivations, as well as how they tie into your plot.

From here, start considering the locations each part of your plot might take place in. Flesh them out, fill them with people and side quests. At this point you can start planning the fine details. Map the cities, work out currencies, do whatever you feel you need to in order to make these places feel real and alive. Figure out how your characters will get from A to B, what problems they might face on the way, how their travel ties into the calendar and local events.

With all this sorted, you should start feeling more comfortable about the world you’ve made. Naturally, of course, different stories require different themes and different worlds. I might go into further detail in a future post about how I populate my worlds and build cities and their histories.

A word of warning though, you may have an entire world planned out to go with your story, but your players will do something you don’t expect and force you to create things on the fly. This is perfectly fine and normal. If you don’t feel comfortable improvising, practice at every opportunity you get. If you really want to learn more, there are classes and books you find, as well as plenty of online videos and resources.

As ever, if you have any questions, leave a comment below.

Thanks,

– Bubbles/Ryan

Design Notes: Spirit Master

Hello. Sorry for the unannounced hiatus last week, I was gearing up to something big (for me, at least). Today, I have submitted my first piece of content to the DM’s Guild, a homebrew class I am calling the Spirit Master (available here). This was planned for last week but it wasn’t in a state I was happy with so I decided to delay the release and not post a filler update that would not have satisfied me, let alone you.

With that said, this week’s update will be my design notes for version 1.0 of the Spirit Master. If this is not something you are interested in reading, I understand and wish you a pleasant day. For those of you still reading this, however, please do step further down the rabbit hole.

Inspiration

The class would not exist at all were it not for Matthew Mercer’s solution for a formerly absent player returning to her group during a recent story arc on Critical Role, so first and foremost, thanks to him.

That’s basically all I can say without spoiling anything. If you would rather not have anything spoiled, skip ahead to the next section.

Still here? Good. Ashley Johnson, actress and Gnome Cleric, was unable to join the party as they travelled to the former home of one of the party members but then re-joined several sessions later as a celestial form (explaining how she covered the hundreds of miles between her Cleric and the rest of the party). This got me to thinking about how projections such as this could influence the battlefield, which gave me the basis of what I thought was a cool idea.

Rather than adapting an existing class, I took this core concept and ran with it. What if there were other ways to project oneself? What if you could choose to swamp the battlefield in smoke, or turn your enemies’ fear into a reality?

Class Features

In terms of starting items and proficiencies, I wanted something that was similar to a monk (reflecting the meditative state required to unlock a Spirit Master’s powers) but also reflected their focus on introspection and observation. A proficiency with Dexterity saving throws was given because I felt it reinforced the idea that the Spirit Master is so in tune with their body that they react without thinking. This emphasis on the body also makes Spirit Masters natural healers.

This was all rounded out with simple and relatively basic starting equipment as a way of showing the lifestyle many Spirit Masters lead.

Projection is the core around which the whole class is built. I felt that having players need to make Concentration rolls when taking damage would be annoying and instead chose to lower their AC and make them aware of attacks against their body whilst using the feature. As it is the core of the class, I felt that it should be the conduit for all the other abilities.

Spirit Weapon was created to solve the problem of Spirit Masters having to resort to fists. I wanted players to feel they were having a meaningful impact on the battle and making this damage magical but only from simple weapons reflects the strange abilities of the class. This is then improved upon at 11th level with Manifested Weapon, because I felt that at that point, the Spirit Master should be so in tune with themselves and the core of their power that they should be able to use fragments of it without using the Projection feature.

When looking at ways in which a keystone ability can be reflected for a class like this, I felt that turning the body completely into its spirit was the way to go. Both Spirit Essence and True Spirit Essence are intended to reflect the mastery of the Spirit Master over both body and spirit.

Nightmare Spirit

This Mastery was designed as a debuffer. The class, as a whole, screamed ‘CONTROLLER’ at me while I was working out the basics and I realised that there are a lot of different ways to control the battlefield. The Nightmare Spirit was built around the idea that rather than locking down areas of the battlefield, hostile NPCs themselves can be locked down.

The Shade was present in several different forms before I realised that this Mastery could probably do with a utility feature. It turns the Nightmare Spirit into something less combat orientated and brings some interesting solutions to the tabletop.

Both The Fear and The Terror were created as a means of locking down the enemy. The Terror was intentionally created as a double edged sword that affects allies as well to reflect the power of the Spirit Master and give a sense of threat to the action, meaning it should be saved for the perfect moment.

The Nightmare is just a nuke, pure and simple. I wanted some way the Nightmare Spirit could unleash its power without dominating every fight.

Smothering Spirit

This Mastery was built as the ultimate control form of this class. It specialises in locking down the battlefield.

Smoke on the Breeze was the most interesting way I could think to lock the battlefield down. It’s balanced by the creation of multiple targets all sharing one health pool.

Grasping Smoke increased the threat range of the class, presenting it with an opportunity to support allies as well as deny enemies movement.

Much like The Shade, Obscuring Smoke was created to offer some utility to the class. This time however, it gives much more reliable protection to allies whilst damaging the Spirit Master. As with Smoke on the Breeze, this double edged sword is intentional, the Spirit Master’s influence on the battlefield is balanced by the risk to its health.

Toxic Smoke, again, is a nuke. I wanted something to synergise with Smoke on the Breeze that also reflected the double edged sword aspect. Risk and reward was a big theme when I designed this Mastery.

Radiant Spirit

This was built as the opposite of Nightmare Spirit. Rather than debuffing the enemy, I wanted something that would buff its allies as it took damage. Again, risk versus reward played heavily into my design. Rather than inflicting favourable conditions, I wanted a front-line healer that effectively used its own hit points to heal allies.

Rejuvenating Flash is pretty self-explanatory and fits with the aims of the Mastery.

Restoring Light and Celestial Reinvigoration were created to provide a good supply of healing whilst providing opportunities for your allies to exploit.

Burning Radiance is intended to reflect some combat utility in this Mastery. The addition of the restoration of the Spirit Master’s maximum health value was created to give some resilience to this Mastery. It is, after all, fuelling most of its features with its own hit points.

Celestial Reinvigoration was given a damage effect and an auto-blind to reflect its status as both a high level ability and to encourage the Spirit Master to sacrifice large amounts of maximum health to fuel the feature.

 

That rounds out my design notes. If you have any feedback, leave a message or email me at thatshowwerolldice@gmail.com. Similarly, if you have used this class, please feel free to give me feedback on it at the same address so I can improve and update it.

I hope you enjoyed reading this.

Thanks,

Bubbles