Monday, March 16, 2009

The Ultimate Sandbox: Supplement I - Greyhawk Part 2

ALIGNMENT: We get some more notes on Alignment, beginning with a chart that shows where many of the new monsters and character types fit. There's nothing out of the ordinary here, except to note that there are a lot of awesome monsters in this book. No surprises to be spoiled yet!

This is followed by a description of just what it means to be Chaotic, the general gist of which is that Chaotic characters and monsters don't work well together. Nothing earth-shattering here.

DETERMINATION OF ABILITIES:

Strength: In regular OD&D Strength gives no bonuses in combat. Greyhawk introduces a system where Fighters (and only Fighters) with a high score can gain bonuses to hit and damage, as well as carry more loot and smash doors more easily. Weaker characters have penalties to these, but they apply to every class.

And now we come to a most contentious rule: exceptional strength! Any fighter that rolls an 18 for Strength can then roll percentile dice to see if he is extra-super good. The score is then expressed as, for instance, 18(76). A character with a Strength of 18(00) gets +4 to hit and +6 to damage, which is just massive by OD&D standards - he'd automatically kill any normal man he struck. Exceptionally strong fighters can also knock down magically locked doors, which is an extra option I like.

Exceptional strength is one of those odd tacked on rules. It probably made sense at the time, but it sticks out now as a fairly awkward attempt to make the Fighter more viable in comparison to the Magic-User. Nevertheless, there's little cooler than having a Fighter with 18(00) - and I've seen a few in my day, regardless of the statistical improbability.

In campaign terms, the Adventurers Guild will start to include training that allows Fighters to better make use of their high Strength. However, intensified studies in other areas mean that weaker characters will now suffer penalties that they would not have before.

Intelligence: Magic-Users now get some limits imposed based on their Intelligence score. There's a maximum cap on the number of spells of each level that they can know, and also a minimum cap so that unlucky M-Us don't end up short-changed. There's a percentage chance to know any given spell, and I suppose that the M-U rolls this chance for each spell until he's tested for all of them and gotten over the minimum. In campaign terms it makes sense - as more spells come into common usage the M-Us can no longer be taught every one as their minds cannot handle the load. There's an element of luck to temper their power now, and I like that. Players might revolt, though...

There's also a minimum Intelligence score needed now to cast spells of 6th level or higher (as spells of level 7-9 are introduced later in the book). Again, the increased training areas at the Guild are taxing the teachers, and they can no longer take the extra time to teach the less intelligent students 6th level spells. The others weren't around before this rule came in, so no justification is necessary beyond them being too damn hard.

Dexterity is noted as the Prime Requisite for Thieves (and for those who've forgotten, that means a high score nets them an experience point bonus). They can swap 2 Int or 1 Wis for a point of Dex.

Fighters get another bonus that no-one else receives: they can use their Dexterity to dodge and parry, giving opponents a -1 penalty to hit rolls for each point of Dex over 14. Man, fighters are getting a good old boost here. It's too bad the Thief doesn't get these abilities as well, he could use them.

Wisdom: Clerics spells are noted as being divinely given, so they don't need to roll for spells known or any of that jazz. This confirms the existence of higher powers of some sort.

Constitution: We get a chart that shows hit point adjustments (they go up to +2 and +3 now), probability of surviving resurrection, and the probability of surviving spells like polymorph and being turned to stone. This replaces the system from OD&D, where a +1 to hit points was the best you could get, and there was a Chance of Surviving Adversity which was a bit more vague in its application. The upshot is that Greyhawk characters are bit hardier than their OD&D brethren.

We also get the classic limit on being raised from the dead - you can only do it as many times as you have Constitution points. This doesn't include being raised with a Wish, which I suppose is more potent magic than that of Clerics. In the unlikely event that it comes into play, the justification for the rules change will be that the gods will decree that mortals have been breaking the rules too much, and impose the limit.

There's nothing to note about Charisma, except that any Lawful Fighter with a score of 17 or above may opt to become a Paladin - but more on that below.

PALADINS: As noted earlier, any Lawful Fighter with a Charisma of 17 or higher may opt to be a Paladin when they create their character. They must always do Lawful deeds, because if they ever do anything Chaotic, that's it - the character isn't a Paladin any more, and he can never regain that status. It's tough being a champion of Law.

Paladins get a lot of goodies. Their ability to Lay on Hands once per day can either cure disease or heal 2 hit points per level, but only for others. And it doesn't really matter that they can't cure themselves, because they're immune to disease anyway. They get a +2 to all their saving throws, and as if that wasn't enough they can dispel evil once they hit 8th level. They also get detect evil at this level, and that's a much better thing than in later editions, where they get it from level 1. Detect evil can be a problematic spell, but it really only causes headaches at low level, I feel. By the time they hit 8th, the PCs have plenty of other ways to find out who the bad guys are.

The icing comes when your Paladin gets his sacred mitts on a Holy Sword, as it makes him virtually immune to magic. And it never stops for these lucky bastards - at any time they can get themselves an awesome horse with 5 Hit Dice that shares his abilities - if it dies, though, he has to wait ten years for another. But that's a 5 hit dice creature that you can take into combat with you. It would be a terror in a low level adventure, but thankfully horses can't be taken into dungeons.

And now the bad stuff - Paladins can only own four magic items (not counting armor, shield and up to four weapons), and they have to donate all the treasure they own save that necessary to pay upkeep on themselves, up to 200 troops and a "modest castle" worth no more than 200,000 gp. I can see those vague terms being stretched for sure, because a player's idea of supporting his own character can get pretty far out. And the Paladin has to give his gold to a legit charity or church - there's no passing his gold to the party cleric.

Paladins prefer to live with Lawful princes or patriarchs, trying to live in some Arthurian ideal I suppose. They only associate with Lawful characters, which could be a pain. Again, this may have worked in Gary's game with many players on tap who generally organised their own forays. In a modern game where it's the same bunch of guys meeting every week? Unfeasible. I won't drop it though - Paladins will be plenty rare, I feel.

Introducing Paladins to the game will be fun. I hope to do it when the first player rolls a Fighter with a 17 Charisma. That character will be approached in a dream by some great power of Law, and offered to become their champion in the mortal realm. If he accepts, then bam, we have the first Paladin in recent memory. If not, he goes about his business as a Fighter. It's likely, though, that this won't eventuate, and I will have to bestow the honour to an NPC.

Oh, and it ought to be noted that by the book, Dwarves, Elves and Hobbits can all be Paladins at this point. And Paladins advance at the same rate as regular Fighters.

NPCs: There's a quick note that retainers serving Chaotic characters all have lower Loyalty scores. It seems that they're all starting to subconsciously recognise the signs of a Chaotic now that the adventuring trade has been back in business for a while.

LEVELS AND XP REQUIRED: The XP table for Thieves is given, and as in later editions they advance really quickly. My gut feeling is that it won't be quickly enough to stop them being overshadowed.

Tomorrow we introduce new dice for rolling hit points, a new XP system, and a whole new upgrade of damage rolls.

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