this thread about banning certain game materials from their home games. Reading through the thread and seeing what things people ban from their games got me thinking.
Why do we ban certain things from our games?
Generally, there seems to be two major reasons why someone bans something from their games: Mechanical Reasons and Flavor Reasons.
Sometimes, a game master will ban an options they feel is mechanically unbalanced or fear will screw up the mechanics of the game in some way. This tends to be the reason most people ban the Summoner class. Because of the class' complexity, its relatively easy to create an eidolon that is either horribly useless or broken if you don't know what you're doing or rather overpowered if you do know what you're doing.
Others ban certain materials and options due to their flavor and how it might not match the game master's current campaign setting. This seems to be the reason why most people ban the Gunslinger, the Ninja, the Samurai, and certain races. For example, some game masters ban the Gunslinger because they believe firearms have no place in fantasy worlds or blackpowder weaponry just doesn't fit the setting they are using.
Personally, I have a softer view on banning certain materials from my game. I generally allow pretty much anything that is presented in the Core Rulebook unless noted otherwise (I wouldn't allow players to play gnomes if they don't exist in the campaign world, for example). However, if they want to use something from a supplementary source (whether it be from Paizo or a 3rd party publisher), they have to present the material to me and let me look at it first. I will usually allow them to have the option, but if I believe its broken, overpowered, or clashes with the setting, I'll say no and give my reasons for rejecting it. This method has worked for my group so far.
Question Time: Do you ban certain materials from your games? If so, why? Is it due to the mechanics, or is it for flavor reasons? Leave your answers in the comments below.
Friday, December 6, 2013
Thursday, December 5, 2013
|Art By Shawn Sharp|
If you want to get in on the action before its too late, click on the following link. The Advanced Bestiary was one of the best third party supplements for 3rd Edition and I'm glad its being updated for Pathfinder. The different templates allow you to create some really interesting encounters (such as a swarm of tooth fairies from the Bestiary 4) and allows you to breathe new life (mechanically speaking) into some classic monsters. Even though the project has already reached its goal, don't stop donating. Maybe we can reach that third or maybe forth stretch goal (all new color art).
((SOURCE: "This Bestiary is Advanced" Blog Article on Paizo.Com by Chris Pramas. Click here to read the article.))
Wednesday, December 4, 2013
However, as I read the novella, I find myself wanting to flavor the elves in my D&D/Pathfinder campaigns after the Melniboneans. While I'm sure I'm not the first person to have this idea, I still feel like its a cool idea and I think it gives the rather boring elves an interesting take. However, I might change a few things to make the race a little more "player friendly".
So, here's my take on Melnibonean Elves.
Long ago, the elves were once a nomadic race who traveled across the different planes of existence with their draconic companions. For reasons that remain unknown to their descendants, these primordial elves decided to remain on the Material Plane instead of continuing their travels and settled on a small island off the coast of a large continent. Within a few centuries, the small settlements that dotted the island banded together and the first elven kingdom was forged.
Due to their natural command of magic and dragon allies, this small kingdom quickly became a mighty empire and the elves held dominion over most of the known world. Most of the "lesser races" bowed down to their new overlords. However, there were a few who tried to fight back and were ultimately decimated by the empire's superior forces and the few remaining survivors were forced into submission. The Empire of the Elves remained in power for thousands of years.
Sadly, as time passed, the elves slowly grew callous and apathetic to the happenings of the outside world. As the race slowly withdrew back to its ancestral homeland and gave into to its own excesses, their powerful empire began to crumble. All that remains of that once great civilization is their original island kingdom.
Now, the elves are a rare sight outside of their island kingdom and their unique appearance makes them easily stand out in most crowds. The elves are generally taller than humans and possess a graceful, fragile physique that is accentuated by their long, pointed ears. They have slanted eyes that are usually crimson in color and they typically wear their hair long. All elves are albino, possessing snow white skin and hair.
Due to the nature of their culture, the elves can be uncaring at best and downright cruel at worse. Elves tend to focus on themselves first and foremost and have a bad habit of looking down on the "lesser races" (almost every race that isn't an elf), seeing them as less sophisticated and not worthy of respect. A lot of people like to compare the elves to cats, seeing how both creatures can be so uncaring and occasionally derive pleasure from the suffering of others.
Most elves found outside their island kingdom are either adventurers seeking a life of excitement and new experiences or the rare diplomat sent to bargain with the nobles of lesser kingdoms. These elves tend to be belong to the Fighter, the Magus, the Rogue, the Sorcerer, and the Wizard classes. When multiclassing, elves generally choose a class with the ability to cast arcane spells if they possess levels in a non spellcasting class.
((I left some stuff, like the name of their island kingdom and the continent, vague so others could adapt these elves to their own campaign worlds without a lot of effort. Also, with the exception of the preferred classes part, I tried to remain agnostic with the rules so you can adapt them to your rules system of choice.))
Monday, December 2, 2013
However, I think I've found an interesting alternative in the new retroclone Fantastic Heroes & Witchery. The game presents a divine class called the "Friar", which takes the place of the traditional Cleric class. Unlike its predecessor, the Friar does not receive spells. Instead, the class prays for help from their deity. The player rolls a d6 and adds their Wisdom modifier. Any result above 1 is successful, but each additional prayer during the same day raises the DC by 1. A successful prayer allows a Friar to do one of the following:
- Blessings. Beneficiary is granted a +4 bonus for a single particular task (one die roll), or the next saving throw against a particular threat or creature, within one day.
- Counter Prayer. Cancels sound associated magical effects (e.g. harpy songs) within 30 feet, so long as the Friar loudly prays.
- Dispel Charm. Dispels a mind affecting spell or effect if the Friar rolls 1d10 plus their level vs. 10 plus the caster's level (or creature's HD).
- Encouragement. All allies within 30 feet get a +1 bonus to attack rolls and saving throws vs. fear for a duration of 1 round per Friar level. At 9th level, the bonus increases to +2.
- Exorcism. Expels a malignant spirit from an unwilling host (use a Turn Undead roll, but after 30 minutes of loud prayers).
- Guidance. Answers a question with a short vision, a few words, a coincidental sign, etc.
- Healing Touch. Cures 2 hp/level, or grants a new Con save (plus Friar's level) to cure a disease.
- Sanctuary. No creature can attack the Friar so long as he prays silently during that combat. Common creatures get no save, but supernatural foes get a Charisma save.
- Turn Undead. Repels or even utterly destroys undead and sometimes demonic creatures.
I really love this mechanic and I wonder if I can work it into a project that I've been toying around with for the past year or so. The project has a class similar to the Cleric called the Acolyte, and I believe implementing this prayer system would make the class more unique. However, I might streamline the ability somewhat. Instead of basing it around a random roll, I think I might allow the Acolyte to use this ability a number of times per day equal to their level plus their Charisma modifier (the game only has four attributes). Also, I might toy with the idea where Acolytes might receive a few special prayer abilities based on their chosen deity.
|Art by Erol Otus|
I have a few ideas for a Mutants & Masterminds game and Numenera could fix this science fantasy itch I've had for awhile. However, I really don't feel like dealing with M&M's crunch right now and I'm not sure if I can sell my player's on Numenera. So, after thinking long and hard, an idea popped into my head: Why not give a retroclone a try?
I've been interested in running one of the clones for awhile now, but something has always held me back. This might be the perfect time to fix that. However, I should decide which clone do I want to use? While there are a lot of great clones out there, I think I've narrowed it down to two candidates: Sword & Wizardry or Lamentations of the Flame Princess.
I love the simplicity of Sword & Wizardry, how it presents a few alternate rules that you can utilize within the rulebook (such as Ascending AC), and the rulebook is free to download. However, I love the weird elements present in Lamentations of the Flame Princess, how the rules handle the cleric class, and the d6 skill system. Also, it doesn't hurt that you can download a free copy of Rules & Magic as well (sadly, since its art free, it causes some of the page design to be weird).
Most likely, I think I'll end up going with Sword & Wizardry in the end. While they are both great games, I think I prefer the overall rules in S&W a little bit better. If I go with S&W, I will most likely use the Ascending AC variant (along with "To Hit" Bonuses) due to my player's familiarity with newer editions of D&D. I think I'll also use the "Save or Die at 0 HP" house rule so the characters have a slightly better chance at survival.
Now, I just need to create an adventure and see if my available players are interested. Wish me luck.
Wednesday, November 27, 2013
|Art by Wayne Reynolds|
Re-skinning is one of the most useful tools at a GM's disposal. It allows you to create something new and interesting without creating an entirely new mechanical structure to represent it. All you have to do is pick something that already exists in the game and change its appearance.
Your players are exploring a crashed spaceship and you want them to find some pieces of advanced technology? Just re-skin some magical items with a technological visage. That wand of magic missile becomes a laser pistol and the magical charges become the power cells. That fancy laser sword the fighter found is actually a +1 brilliant energy longsword. It's that easy.
With that being said, you should still put some forethought into the re-skinning process. Since you will be using an existing mechanic to represent your new idea, you need to figure out how that mechanic will be implemented after the change. For example, let's say you are planning to re-skin a couple of kobolds into a hive of bug-men. Knowing that kobolds receive a bonus to their AC due to their scaly skin, you decide that bonus is a representation of the bug-men's exoskeleton.
Also, you should think about the problems that might arise from re-skinning something. Let's look back at the wand of magic missile that has been re-skinned as a laser pistol. Since its now a piece of technology, does that mean its immune to effects that would normal screw with it like spell resistance? If you say yes, does that make this piece of technology overpowered? If you say no, why is this piece of technology hindered by this ability that effects magic? Does that mean magic and technology are similar? Just take some time to think about the changes you are making and the questions that might come up because of it.
However, don't let the problems stop you from utilizing this useful GM trick. A simple re-skinning can take something boring or average and make it interesting and unique (flavor-wise at least). Just be careful with how you do it and give some thought to the repercussions of the changes you are planning to make and you should be fine.
Monday, November 25, 2013
Last week, Paizo released the playtest document for 2014's Advanced Class Guide. While I gave my first impressions of the 10 "hybrid" classes, I want to focus on one of the criticisms I gave to the Bloodrager. For those of you who haven't looked at the playtest document, the Bloodrager is a hybrid of the Barbarian and the Sorcerer who gains the ability to access a number of supernatural abilities while enraged and cast a small number of spells at later levels.
The class itself is an interesting concept and there are a few character ideas floating around in my head that would be a perfect fit for the class, but the name is just terrible. Yes, the name describes the concept of the class nicely (someone who accesses the power of their blood by raging), it sounds like a cheesy metal band from the 80's. Don't get me wrong, I love cheesy metal music, but a name that might work for that genre wouldn't necessarily work as a name for a Pathfinder class.
Names are important things. Sometimes, something that's cool or interesting might be weakened by a bad or boring name. For example, lets say we have a game with three simple classes: the Combatant, the Expert, and the Spellcaster. All three of theses names give you an idea what the class does. The Combatant is great at fighting, the Expert is a specialist in a certain area (like disabling traps or sneaking around), and the Spellcaster casts spells. However, the names are kind of boring. Names such as the Magician, the Rogue, and the Warrior are much more interesting and sound much cooler than the more bland names.
Names, at least certain ones, have a number of preconceptions tied to them. When choosing a name, you should think what kind of preconceptions it might have and how those preconceptions will affect how certain people view your creation. For example, when I hear the name "Swashbuckler", I envision a martial combatant who focuses more on finesse and wit that brute force. So, when someone hands me a class called "Swashbuckler", I expect to see a class focused on Dexterity and Charisma, not Strength.
Finally, names can also affect how serious someone takes something. For example, lets say you create a monster to throw at your players. Depending on the name you give the creature and how you describe it, your players might take it as a serious threat, or laugh at it and see it as nothing but a joke. It sucks when you spend all this time coming up with a cool monster and your players laugh at it because you've given it a cheesy name.
So, the next time you create something, give some thought to the name. The creation's title is sometimes just as important as the creation itself.