Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The broadest strokes

My plan is to roll stuff out piecemeal so I can explain it as I go along. My theory is that the bulk of explanatory text and examples are really only useful the first time you read something, so I'd rather not bulk up the document and spend a ton of time formatting that stuff. This way the examples can be more thorough since there are no space constraints. To that end, most of what appears below is just a more complete rendition of what appears in the link. The thought is that you'll be better able to triangulate the intention with more data.

What we're doing here is setting up the overarching framework of how power is introduced to the game. At first level you get a bit extra, but in general the framework should be similar: you have a level, a race, and a class. 

Character Level
Your level provides ability points to increase abilities, feats every even level, and a "level bonus" (equal to 1/2 total level) that is added to a handful of level dependent stuff. The level dependent stuff is a major way in how characters improve with respect to other characters and monsters. Most stuff in the game really doesn't scale that much (i.e. if you're +4 to attack and first level, you might be +6 or something at level ten). So while your chance of hitting doesn't change that much, what happens when you hit does change. You'll do more damage (level dependent), use stronger attacks (because you have more powers), and can use your most potent stuff more often (more action points). The result of this approach is that creatures of differing levels can more easily interact. A low level guy fighting a high level guy will actually hit fairly regularly, it is just that the high level guy will shrug it off. 

At first level, you gain more ability points (or you can roll) and a feat despite it being an odd level.

Your race is just a bundle of middling powerful powers. There are no ability bonuses or other powers important enough that race-class combinations are practically determined for you. This isn't to say that certain races won't be better at certain classes, but never so much better that the guy who wants to play class X feels they have to play race Y. 

To be honest, I'm sort of ambivalent about races in general. I think races are a really useful vehicle to get powers to a character and make them more interesting. The problem is that racial powers have lately been so tied up with combat that picking your race has become the first step in the power-creep arms race. I think races would add the most to the game if, instead of pushing a character further down their narrow focus, they broadened the character out. That is, if you had fighters that could cast Light instead of fighters that could Second Wind as a minor action. That isn't to say the powers can't be useful in combat, I just don't like how transparent race-class combinations have become and then having to deal with the narrative awkwardness of a player not wanting to portray any of the cultural/RP aspects of the race they picked.

Your race also adds a set of racial talents to the pool of talents you can choose from. The idea of "pools" that you can choose from crops up a lot but it isn't a new idea. It could be rephrased as, "there are a bunch of talents with Requirement: Dwarf. If you are a dwarf, you meet the requirement." 

At first level, you gain a talent. You can spend it on a racial talent or a regular talent.

Your class provides the bulk of  your power through masteries. Masteries provide actions called strikes (typically standard actions; they're your attack actions) and maneuvers (typically move actions; they're your literal moves and buffs). Both of these will get a lot more detail in the days to come and they'll crop up constantly. You can also gain strikes and maneuvers from other things like magic items, the terrain, your allies, and so on.

Your class also provides proficiency bonuses. Most of the neat stuff in the game (strikes, maneuvers, feats, talents, and more) all have proficiency requirements. Proficiencies serve as the backbone of the system that allows multiclassing to easily occur. If we think about 3e, the belief was that a level-is-a-level-is-a-level. But in truth a Fighter 8 jumping into Sorcerer 1 probably lost power compared to Fighter 9. In this system, the Fighter 8 would have an Arcane proficiency of +4 (all of it from level bonus) so when he jumped into Mage 1 he'd have Arcane proficiency of +5 (+4 level bonus and +1 from Mage). He can skip the weakest mage powers and jump into something more useful to his level. He can't access the stuff that a pure mage could access, but he isn't relegated to stuff too weak to justify the switch.

You can also see that certain multiclassing wouldn't hurt him at all. If our Fighter 8 jumped into Knight 1, his Martial proficiency would continue to increase so that when he went back to Fighter he wouldn't have lost much at all. If we continue the example, a Fighter 8/Knight 8 would have the same Martial proficiency as a Fighter 16 and so could take the same Martial fighter powers as a pure fighter. He would have a much lower Nimble score, though, and so could not meet the requirements for those fighter powers. In this way, you can blend your proficiencies to really create a profile of the character you want to play, taking different elements from different classes to build whatever you want.

Classes gain a talent every even level. This is a minor tax to discourage multiclassing in that if you take a single level of a bunch of classes, you'll miss out on some talents. 

At first level, you pick three or more affinities which are the equivalent of skills in other games. We'll talk more on these in the days to come. You also get the classes starting feats, typically four. These are things like armor proficiency, additional affinities, spell casting stuff, and so on. You only get the starting feats of the class you take at first level, but, importantly, they are feats. So if your first level is Mage you won't have any armor proficiencies, but you can take them with regular feats later if you want to be the platemail clad mageknight. 

Power categories
Runeward is designed to be accommodating to adding new rules and new content. One of my complaints with D&D is that there are actually few vehicles to introduce new stuff into the game without disrupting it. If I decide that my world needs a robust system for literacy and languages, I don't have many options. I could make it a skill but now I've disrupted the skill-point economy. I could make it a feat but now I'm asking players to trade off combat effectiveness for literacy. I could create an entirely new system, but those often feel tacked on because they are so clearly tacked on. Instead, I tried to develop clear categories of power so that when stuff was added, it could compete in the appropriate sub-economy.
  • Talents. Talents are the weakest category of power. If you think about taking all of the 3e classes and making every class power a feat, talents are the class power feats that no one would take. They are supposed to be the stuff that makes a character interesting as opposed to more effective. If you decide that your campaign will give literacy some RP-game time, then it would be a talent.
  • Feats. Feats are the gatekeeper--you can wear armor, you can't; you are proficient with that weapon, you aren't--and are usually just recorded on the character sheet. You usually don't have to remember you have a feat during gameplay. Two important exceptions to this exist, but they'll get their own discussing in the days ahead.
  • Masteries. Masteries are the flashy actions that you actually take. You will need to remember that you have a mastery because you'll say, "I use X strike" or "I use Y maneuver." 
There are actually a few more categories that we'll cover in time but this serves as an efficient overview. 

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