Wednesday, December 7, 2011

And now for something completely different

I wrote this... wow, more than 3 years ago. Posted it to EnWorld. Got a little feedback, even an offer to publish an expanded version as a PDF. But the feedback got too circular and the publishing offer vanished in a puff of smoke when I started asking questions. So here it is, absolutely free and middlin'-good:

***D&D 4.18***

I've been tinkering with ways to remove character classes from D&D - or at least to make them optional - without destroying the balance of the game. The mechanical precision of 4E makes it a more tempting target than previous editions. If anyone's interested, here's the character creation system I'm currently working on. You can use it to make characters very similar to the PHB classes, or characters that match your own concept.

Each class feature and mechanical detail is purchased with what, in a fit of genius, I'm calling "character points" or CP. Every character has 18 CP to spend at creation; unspent CP are lost. Every character also starts with the following:

  • Proficiency with cloth armor and all simple melee weapons
  • 2 points to add to Fort, Ref, and/or Will defenses as desired
  • 10 starting HP and +4 per level
  • 6 healing surges
  • 3 trained skills of their choice
Your 18 character points can be spent on options from the following list. Any unspent points are lost. Note that some options have prerequisites, or exclude you from making other choices. A character may only pick one option each from the Damage, Marking, and Healing categories.

A character with a Healing feature gets +1 healing surge. A character with a Marking feature gets +3 healing surges. These bonus surges stack.


  • +2.5 starting HP and +1 HP per level: 1 (may select twice; half-points round down)
  • 1 additional trained skill: 2 (may select three times)
  • Proficient w/all light armor: 1
  • Proficient w/all heavy armor: 1 (must be proficient w/all light armor)
  • Proficient w/all shields: 1
  • Proficient w/military melee weapons: 1
  • Proficient w/simple ranged weapons: 1
  • Proficient w/military ranged weapons: 1 (must be proficient w/simple ranged weapons)
  • Hunter's Quarry: 5 (Damage)
  • Sneak Attack: 5 (Damage)
  • Warlock's Curse: 5 (Damage)
  • Combat Challenge: 5 (Marking)
  • Divine Challenge: 5 (Marking)
  • Healing Word: 5 (Healing)
  • Lay On Hands: 2 (Healing)
  • Inspiring Word: 5 (Healing)
  • Arcane Implement Mastery: 3
  • Cantrips: 5
  • Channel Divinity: Divine Fortune: 1
  • Channel Divinity: Divine Mettle: 1
  • Channel Divinity: Divine Strength: 1
  • Channel Divinity: Turn Undead: 2
  • Combat Leader: 3
  • Combat Superiority: 2
  • First Strike: 1
  • Healer's Lore: 2
  • Prime Shot: 2
  • Ritual Casting: 2 (grants the Ritual Casting feat, plus two 1st-level rituals of choice and a ritual book - see also Spellbook)
  • Rogue Weapon Talent: 1
  • Shadow Walk: 3
  • Wizard Training: 1 (you must buy this option in order to use any wizard powers; it serves no other function)
  • Spellbook: 5 (Grants bonus daily and utility powers of your choice as described. If character has the Ritual Casting feat, the spellbook also serves as a ritual book. It has one 1st-level ritual of your choice, plus any bonus rituals from the Ritual Casting feature, and gains new rituals as described.)
  • Commanding Presence: 2 (only one option may be selected)
  • Eldritch Pact: 3 (only one pact may be selected)
  • Fighter Weapon Talent: 3 (only one bonus type may be selected)
  • Rogue Tactics: 2 (only one option may be selected)
  • Ranger Fighting Style: Archer: 1 (only one ranger fighting style may be selected)
  • Ranger Fighting Style: Two-Blade: 2 (only one ranger fighting style may be selected)
*whew* After all that, powers are much easier. Choose your character's powers from any class list. Mike Mearls thinks it's okay.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Rules of the Road

A couple GMs are writing about how they run things -- how their sessions are physically set up. I first found it through Barking Alien's writeup of his style. This is what I do.

I sit on the floor. When I write about RPGs I always refer to what happens at "the table," but in reality I'd rather sprawl out. The floor has a lot more room for dice and books and, crucially, the long long legs that come from being 6'4". Players sit in a loose circle on the floor, the couch, the recliner, wherever. Keep it casual. In someone else's house, a decent recliner with a small side table does the trick.

The battlemat (hexes on one side, square grid on t'other) is standing nearby in case I need it. I probably won't, since I like to run a description-light game with few maps, but it can be handy if you want a tense tactical throwdown.

Character voices are gonna happen. People who don't like to deal with voices, or watch me do facial expressions as I lurch around the room, should go find a different hobby. I hear that the model train people are pretty docile.

I like a GM screen to hide my dice and my behind-the-scenes maps, but it's not essential.

My notebook, however, is crucial. That's where the notes are. I'm pretty good at making it up as I go -- better than most GMs, perhaps -- but you still need the notebook to write down what happened. A good group will surprise you a half-dozen times every hour; save those memories.

Plus someone will invariably want a map of Where Everyone Is, and it's a pain to get out the battlemat and the markers and do all the post-map cleaning just for a quick sketch. The notebook suffices.

I'll need liquids within arm's reach. All that voice-acting and lurching leaves me with a raw throat.

One downside of the floor-based GM style is that the dog will want to get involved. This requires a certain caution with the deployment of dice, pencils, and my well-loved Marvel Super Heroes cardboard minis. But if you all sit at the table, then the dog gets whiny about being ignored, and the whining is much worse than the occasional pencil theft.

Yes, we'll probably order pizza. No, we're not some stereotype. I just like pizza.