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Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Character Gallery I: The Iron Chaplain

So, just a random idea. I'd like to update more often but I'm often short on time and/or dry on ideas. What I can generally count on is coming up with lots and lots of ideas for NPC and PC characters for games I may or may not ever run. So, I figure starting up a semi-regular posting of random characters I have used or will in the future. Since they're my favorite systems you can probably expect a lot of Savage Worlds and PDQ characters but I promise I'll try and mix it up.

The Iron Chaplain

The Iron Chaplain is a warforged battle-cleric from my Eberron campaign, the War of the Forge. He was a well known war-hero of Thrane during the Last War, and a cleric of the Silver Flame. However, after the war he became disillusioned by the treatment warforged received in Thrane and left the country. He has reappeared as one of the Lord of Blade's trusted lieutenant's and one of the spiritual leaders of the Mournlands warforged. Like most of the warforged followers of the Lord Of Blades he has taken a "weapon name" and now goes by "Morningstar"

Although devoted to the cause of the Lord of Blades the Iron Chaplain is still a fairly noble soul, a believer in mercy and loyalty. He is a strict follower of the "laws of war" and when he takes the battlefield he fights fairly and treats prisoners and civilians with respect. He is often a voice of reason and temperance among the more bloodthirsty warforged who surround the Lord of Blades.

When I introduced the Chaplain I had converted Eberron to Savage Worlds, so here are his Savaged Stats:

Agility-d6, Smarts-d6, Spirit-d12, Strength-d10, Vigor-d10
Skills: Fighting-d12, Notice-d6, Faith-d12, Knowledge (Battle) d8
Pace: 6”, Parry:8, Toughness: 11 (4)
Edges: Nerves of Steel, Charismatic
*Enchanted Mithril Plating +4 armor, grants Arcane Resistance
*Enchanted greatmace (1d10+1d8+2) 2 AP vs rigid armor
*Powers: 35 PP. Powers: Boost Trait, Armor, Blade Barrier (damaging barrier), Dispel, Mending, Smite, Stun, Summon Ally (Sentinel), Divine Power (boosts Vigor and Spirit and acts as 4 levels of Growth. 12 power points to cast). 

Monday, November 18, 2013

CARDS RPG, Mechanics wrap-up

So, still a few things to cover in CARDS. Namely how things works on the GMs side. Obviously since characters use an entire 54 card deck for their "hit points" they won't be going down without a lot of punishment. If each monster or NPC had their own deck things are going to get ridiculous. So, there's got to be a separate mechanic for NPCs and a fairly specific structure for games.

Game Set-Up

So, once everyone has created a character they should get a deck of cards and shuffle it and draw their first hand and the Adventure begins. The Adventure basically consists of the plot for your game. It could be an adventure of courtly intrigue tracking down hidden assassins or (more likely) a journey through a deep, dangerous dungeon to snag some loot. Essentially an Adventure is the period where things are happening, risks are taken and cards are played.

Normally a player keeps the same deck throughout an Adventure. Cards that are played or discarded are put in a separate discard pile. In many cases Adventures will be simple and can likely be resolved in a single play session but if you're running a longer term adventure then it's easy enough to separate your deck and discard with a strip of colored paper or something similar and stick it back in the box.

It's not normally possible to "heal" damage during an Adventure unless you're using a Trick or benefiting from some sort of magic item. Even if you spend the night at an inn, receive first aid or make camp in the woods you can't recover from the strain of adventuring. Full restoration (shuffling your hand and discard back into your deck) normally only happens at the end of an Adventure but for long-term adventures the GM may allow the players to restore their deck under special circumstances (blessing of a divine entity, dousing in a healing spring, a powerful artifact, etc). GMs should keep in mind that restoring a player's deck not only lets them keep going longer, but also gives them back any of the powerful face cards they may have used, making it an extremely potent gift. Don't hand that sort of thing out lightly.

When planning your adventure keep in mind that there's just about no fight a character can't win with a full deck of cards. A 1st-level warrior could probably take down a dragon in a one-on-one fight. Even low-level characters have a full range of face cards for each suit. Higher level characters have more reliability and a powerful suite of Tricks, but if you burn through all your cards in one sitting you're going to end up with a hefty dose of powerful cards before burning through all 54. And no matter how mighty they may be there is no foe who can simply strike down a PC with a full deck in a single blow. Pacing is important in this system, battles are about attrition and forcing the player to make choices about conserving their resources.


After an Adventure is over, foes are slain and the loot has been dragged back to down everyone can shuffle their cards back into their deck and start Downtime. Downtime is when XP is handed out and players have an opportunity to handle personal projects, buy equipment and kill time. You don't play cards in downtime normally, generally there shouldn't be much that would call for it. If things start happening that really need cards to be played then it should probably represent the start of a new Adventure.

NPCs and Monsters

So, if a PCs deck makes it more or less impossible for them to be taken down in a single fight, how does it work for their foes? Obviously an orcish warrior isn't going to be toting around fifty-ish cards of their own.

Instead, each NPC has 4 statistics associated with a card suit: Clubs, Diamonds, Hearts and Spades. Whenever taking an appropriate action they can automatically be considered to play a card with the appropriate rating.

Take an "average" human. They have a rating in 3 in all four categories (2 would be the equivalent of a deficient score, while 1 is practically worthless). If this guy decides to try and clock you with a chair treat his attack as a 3 of Clubs. If he tries to figure out that you're lying he is treated as playing a 3 of Diamonds, etc. Keep in mind that face cards represent immensely powerful abilities, and no one (except perhaps a powerful god) should have an Ace.

As far as taking punishment goes that depends on the opponent's Threat Level, which are as follows:

Fodder: These guys are the weakest of threats and mostly represent nameless human or humaniod monsters who hang around in gangs and are fairly worthless on their own. They generally do not have any stats above a 5 or so and any successful attack will take a Fodder character out. Fodder might have a Talent or two.

Fodder Gangs: A group of Fodder NPCs can team up to take on stronger foes. Treat a band of Fodder as a single character that attacks and defends as a unit. They have the stats of a single member of the gang, with a bonus based on the number of members. Two Fodder NPCs get a +1 to the Card Value of attacks using Clubs and this increases by +1 every time the gang doubles in size (+2 at four members, +3 at eight members, +4 at 16 members, etc.). Each point of damage inflicted on a gang kills one its members. In addition to the Talents of its members a Fodder gang may occasionally have a teamwork based Trick it can perform.

Minor Threat: A minor threat is an opponent who is not tough enough to present a significant challenge to a PC, but a group of them might make for a decent fight. They're often the leaders of a group of fodder (such as a guard captain or an orcish war-leader). Minor threats can take 5 points of damage before going down and generally have stats around 4-6 in their relevant areas. Minor threats usually have 2 or 3 Talents and may have a Trick or two.

Moderate Threats: A single moderate threat might be able to hold their own against a band of PCs for a couple of rounds. A group of them might present a real danger, especially to an exhausted team. They will usually have some stats above 5 and can take 10 damage before giving out. They will have at least 3 Talents and a small selection of Tricks.

Major Threats: Major threats are the really big opponents, dragons, giants, arch-mages, etc. These are usually the "boss battles" of an adventure. A single Major threat could easily burn through half a PCs deck before being taken down...and usually you don't face them until you're already exhausted. A group of these opponents would be suitable only for high-level players. They are likely to have around 5 or so Talents and 3-5 powerful Tricks. They can also take 20 points of damage before being taken down.

Extreme! Threats: Want to challenge your level 10 party? Well, an Extreme! threat is the way to go. These are things like gigantic dragons, titans, master liches and demi-gods. They'll have some stats at 10 or possibly higher. They'll have a selection of talents and unique Tricks as well, likely around 6 or more (although they could easily have 3-5 extremely powerful ones). Extreme! threats can take 40 damage before expiring. Keep in mind that even a threat of this magnitude can't expect to win against PCs with a full deck of cards...save them for final fights.

The DM's Deck

Obviously a monster with stats in the 3-4 range isn't going to be enjoying much success unless they're facing a particularly unlucky PC...and may not be able to act at all if things are Difficult. That's where the DM's deck comes in. The DM has a deck of cards as well that he can use to help out NPCs facing off against players. Any time an NPC takes an action or reaction the DM can play a card from his hand which replaces the monster's suit stat. If the task involved is Difficult the DM can choose to play the extra cards from his hand (or just play two or more and replace the original suit entirely).

Example: The DM is in charge of an ogre that is battling 3 PCs and has a 5 of diamonds, a 9 and a 7 of clubs, a 5 of spades and a two of hearts. The ogre has the following stats: 5C, 2D, 4H, 3S. On the monster's turn it wants to try and smash the puny warrior before finishing off his two companions. However, the warrior's player has a couple of defensive Talents and the GM is fairly sure that he'll be able to beat the ogre's automatic 5 of Clubs without a problem. So he decides to play his 7 of clubs. This replaces the ogre's score of 5 for this attack and forces the warrior to play an 8 of Hearts to successfully defend. Now it's the PCs turn. The Trickster uses a Trick in order to make the Ogre's defenses Difficult for the round and his two allies attack. The wizard is low on cards and plays a measely 3 of clubs. Normally this would be beaten by the ogre's Hearts stat easily but since this is difficult he's got to produce another card to defend. The DM decides to accept the failure and plays that 2 of hearts. That's still a failure, but only by one and the ogre takes a single point of damage. 

Just like the PCs the DM will draw a hand of 5 cards at the start of the adventure and after playing any cards will draw up to 5. The DM does not "take damage" and generally only discards cards to active a monster's Tricks. If the DM's deck runs completely dry he is forced to use up the cards in his hand and once that happens he shuffles his deck back together and draws a new hand (however, the PCs get a healthy XP reward every time the DM burns through his deck, see below).

Levels and XP:

I'm still mulling over how levels and experience are handled. Here's what I've got so far:

Five XP is enough to level up until you hit level 4. That point it doubles to 10 XP per level until level 7 when it increases to 15 XP per level. Earning XP is pretty simple:

*2 XP for defeating a Major Threat, 5 for defeating an Extreme! threat.
*3 XP any time the DM refreshes their deck.
*2-4 XP for completing an Adventure, depending on length.
*1 XP for doing something amazing unrelated to any of the above.

You get 3 Talents at 1st level and you get an extra talent every odd level. I also think that at say levels 4, 7 and 10 you should get to increase the size of your hand by 1 but I haven't decided that for sure.

So, I think I'll spend some time organizing all these thoughts, maybe throw them into a pdf and playtest a little.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

CARDS RPG, classes part IV: The priest

The priest class has me a little conflicted. The other three classes serve good, generic roles that can be easily adapted to a variety of different character types. However, the role of "priest" is much more specific and comes with a lot of baggage. At it's heart of course it's actually a very flexible archetype: the 'support' character. This could be a priest, a bard, an inspirational warlord. But the "priest" is so deeply ingrained as the final member of the "big 4" of the classic dungeon crawling group and it has so much history. Not to mention "supporter" makes a terrible name for a class. Leader could work but that still has a lot of baggage.

For now, I'll stick with the idea that what I'm describing is a priest of generic "good" gods. In reality it has a much closer resemblance to a paladin. Since the Mage is the primary magic user they're the ones who'll get the flashy powers. The most obvious of the Priest's Tricks is Support which covers healing as well as the ability to enhance the abilities of others. I'm still a little torn on the other one. My first thought was "smiting" which would cover things like blasting evil and all that...but since part of the goal is to build a very generic set of abilities I don't want to get into too many circumstantial situations. Instead I think I'll make their second tree Miracles. Like a Mage's spells Miracles focus on the ability to perform abilities not covered by normal actions, but they're more focused and less flexible...but often more powerful. Lets see how it works out. Unless specifically noted a priest's powers cannot be maintained like a Mage's

Starting Tricks

*Holy Warrior: The priest is exceptionally good at battling the enemies of  their deity. For most "good" gods this means they have an advantage against beings of supernatural evil such as demons or the undead. Different settings or dieties may alter these definitions slightly. For instance in a setting where there are few supernatural foes your Priest may receive a bonus against followers of enemy gods. Either way, if the priest succeeds at an action against their god's foe then they increase the margin of success by 2.

*Shield of Faith: Each religion has a few basic tenets which should be worked out by the GM and the player. If the priest violates these tenets willfully then they should lose their holy abilities until they atone. However, the priest receives a +2 to the Card Value of any actions made to resist being forced or coerced into breaking the rules of their faith.

Priest Tricks:

 1st Level:
-Prayer: Before he sleeps for the night a priest may pray to their deity for some specific situation ("strengthen my arm against my orcish foes" or "give me courage when I face the dragon") and set aside a Hearts card. At any time the next day when faced with an appropriate situation the priest may use the card for an action and treat it as whatever suit is appropriate for the situation.
+Guidance: At any time when the priest or one of his allies plays a card which fails the priest may discard a Hearts card in order to allow them to play again, opposed by the same Card Value as before. the original card is still discarded.

2nd Level:
-Command: As an action against a target (Hearts vs Hearts) you may command them to perform a single action that would not normally require playing a card (dropping an object, moving, not moving, etc) and would not result in direct harm to the victim. The target may act normally after their next action.
+Aid: Play a Hearts card and your or an ally you can reach may take a number of cards equal to the Card Value from their discard pile and put them at the bottom of their deck.

3rd Level:
-Sanctuary: With about 15 minutes of work or prayer and you can consecrate an area the size of a large room and ensure that no hostile beings may enter or attack anyone within. Anyone within the zone of safety who attacks or otherwise breaks the "truce" will ruin the protection. You must discard at least one card, the protective sanctuary lasts for one hour for every card discarded.
+Boon: Pick a suit, so long as you are conscious any allies within Close range receive a +1 to the Card Value of actions played using the suit. You can change the chosen suit by spending an hour or so praying/meditating.

4th Level:
-Divine Retribution: Play a Hearts Card. For the rest of the Scene whenever you make a defensive roll using Hearts cards then the attacker suffers an immediate "counterattack" using the Card Value of the card used to activate this Trick.
+Rejuvination: Discard a card to allow you or an ally to swap a card from their hand with their discard pile. Each additional card allows an another target to be affected.

5th Level
-Get Ye Back!: By discarding a Hearts card you may make an attack against all foes who are In Your Face. Discarding two will increase the distance to Close.
+Stand Strong: Any time an you or an ally in Close range is damaged you may discard a card to reduce the damage suffered by 2 (to a minimum of 1).

6th Level
-Holy Weapon: Play a Hearts and a Club card to summon a floating weapon. Treat this as an NPC with a Clubs and Hearts rating equal to the Card Value of the cards you played -1 and a Spades/Diamonds rating of 1. You may play cards for the weapon in the same way the DM plays cards for NPCs. It vanishes if successfully damaged or at the end of the scene.
+Never Give Up: Any time you or an ally within close Range are taking an action that would be Difficult you may discard a card to reduce the Difficulty by one step.

7th Level:
-Smite: If you discard a Hearts and Diamonds card you can make an attack (as a separate card action) to call down your god's wrath in the form of a column of fire, lightning or holy power. This is a ranged attack which affects everyone Close range of the target, and will inflict double the normal damage if successful.
+Good Fortune: After drawing your first hand from a Deck (at the start of an adventure or after a recovery) you can set aside up to five cards, face up. During the course of an adventure you or an ally may discard a card to use any of these cards as part of an action or to power a Trick.

8th Level:
-Summon Servant: You may call upon a divine servant. To do this you must play a single card of each Suit. These cards become the servant's attributes (it cannot have any attributes above a 10, regardless of Card Value). You may play cards for the servant the same way the GM plays cards for NPCs. The servant will remain for one Scene and will carry out it's deity's wishes, so it is under GM control and may or may not do exactly what you expect
+Healing Hands: Discard a Hearts card and you or a touched ally are cleansed of any diseases, poisons, curses, or similar negative effects. They may also (if they wish) shuffle their current hand back into their deck and draw a new hand.

9th Level:
-Wrath: Discard a Hearts, Clubs, and Diamonds card to invoke a powerful curse on a target, which cannot be resisted. The target suffers pain, blindness and spasms, making any actions Difficult. This curse can only be removed by another priest of equal power or similar divine intervention.
+Savior: By discarding a Hearts card you can reduce damage inflicted to you or an ally to 1.

10th Level:
-Avatar: Discard your entire hand to assume the form of your diety's avatar. While wielding the power of the avatar all Card Values are doubled (before counting any bonuses). You may keep channeling this power so long as you can discard a Hearts card at the start of your turn. Once you return to normal you must discard your entire hand again.
+Miraculous Recovery: The target immediately shuffles their hand and discard pile back into their deck. This can even bring a character back from unconsciousness or death so long as it hasn't been longer than a Scene since they died. However, until they have time to take a normal recovery they must discard an extra card every time they take an action or reaction. This power cannot be used more than once per adventure on a particular target.

Sunday, November 10, 2013


Wow, it's been a long time. So long I'm needing to re-read these mechanics as a write them to make sure that I haven't forgotten how this game was meant to be played. Here's the Mage and hopefully the rest of it will be completed soon. 

Okay, so now we're on to the mage, and this brings up something I've been struggling with: How does magic work in CARDS? There are tons of different magic systems out there and they all have different things they bring to the table. Personally I always find myself torn between magic systems with unique, iconic spells (D&D and Exalted are good examples) and ones that allow a great deal of flexibility and freedom (QMR or Mage for instance). But, I've also got to keep in mind that this system is fairly simple and I should be aware of it's limits. I also don't want spellcasters to be significantly more complex than the other classes. A complex magic system typically means that a mage is either less fun or effective than other classes or, with enough mastery of the system, significantly more effective.

So in the end, I'll probably take my cues from FATE, especially the Dresden Files RPG. Essentially, magic is not significantly different than anything else. A mage can attack, defend, and perform Tasks just like a normal character. If it's possible to achieve the same effects without magic then it's possible to do it with magic and if it's impossible without magic then magic can't be used to get around it (excepting through the use of Tricks). So, if faced with a locked door a mage could play a Clubs card to blast it open, or a Spades to charm the lock, and the target number would be the same as if they were a warrior or trickster. However, without an appropriate Trick the mage cannot simply walk through the door like a ghost.  Mages can typically ignore the need for tools like weapons or lockpicks, but they do have to wave their hands and chant their magic words.

Magic can be used for ranged attacks (see the rules on range here), in the form of magic bolts and so on. If a mage is attempting to keep a spell "running" for longer than a single Task or action in a Struggle then they have to take an action and playing a new card every turn (effectively "repeating" the spell round by round) in a Struggle, or every 15 out-of-games minutes. The new card played becomes the Card Value of the spell for that turn, or for the next 15 minutes. That sounds a bit awkward so let me give an example.

Mike The Mage is in a Struggle. While his friends are attempting to defeat a golem guarding the king's treasure the Royal Guard have been alerting and are trying to break into the treasure room. On his action, Mike gestures and causes the doors to swing shut and seals them with an arcane rune of binding (this is a Clubs action, effectively holding the door closed with brute force) Mike plays a 9 of Clubs, so the guards will have to beat a 9 in order to break down the door, which they fail to do. Next turn Mike wants to keep the spell running to keep them from breaking through, He has to play another card, dropping a 6 of Clubs. This means the guards now have to beat only a 6 when they attempt to break in this turn. 

Magic definitely can not instantly slay, paralyze, knock out, or mind control opponents. Certainly such spells exist but they work using the normal Struggle system for damage. A death spell is not effectively any different from a lightning bolt.

So, that's a lot of words that boil down to "magic works pretty much the same as non-magic, it just looks neater". The real difference comes in the form of Tricks. The Warrior is all about power, when they succeed they succeed impressively. The Trickster is all about reliability, they will succeed more often than not which makes them very good at defense and tackling Tasks. Mages are all about flexibility and expanded options.They can do things in ways other classes cannot and to a degree that is normally impossible, however they don't get much in the way of flat bonuses so their successes to be less impressive. The Mage's two Trick categories are Spells (-; granting a specific special power) or Enhancements (+, altering how an effect is pulled off or who it affects).

Starting Tricks:

*Magic Resistance: When attempting to resist or overcome a magical effect, the Mage gets a +2 bonus to their Card Value.

*Magic Tricks: Remember how I said that magic works the same as non-magic, just looks neater. Well, that's true in most cases, but sometimes the flexibility of magic gives it a distinct advantage. For instance, a mage's fire-bolt could set fire to a house or severely injure an ice-beast, while an archer's arrow would not. When you want to add some kind of advantageous special effect to a magical action then you must discard a card. You can also discard a card to perform minor, but useful, magic tricks (such as lighting every candle in a room as you enter). Minor, but not useful, tricks shouldn't involve any extra cost (making your nose a bit longer or emitting spectral flatulence).

*Magic Dependent: Magic is a powerful tool, but it demands a lot of it's practicioners, meaning that they're generally not as capable without it. When in a situation where you're attempting to deal with a situation without resorting to magic you suffer a -2 penalty to the Card Value of your actions. If your game is going to involve lots of situations where magic can be suppressed or persecuted then this penalty should probably be dropped to -1, or increased to -3 if the opposite is true.

Mage Tricks:

1st Level
 -Evil Eye: A curse of misfortune and grief. The victim suffers countless minor indignities and bad luck and a -1 to all Card Values. This lasts 24 hours and does not need to be maintained. This is a Diamonds action, resisted by Hearts.
+Far Spell: By discarding a card when making an attack you can increase your range, suffering no penalty for attacking Far Away targets and attacking targets at a longer range (that you can see and directly target) with Difficulty.

2nd Level
 -Telekinesis: This Trick allows you to do anything that could be done by hand a distance (Close range normally, Far Away it becomes difficult). You can cause a sword to swing, open a door, shove a foe, etc.
+Power Up: By taking additional time to build up your magical energy you may unleash spells of immense power. You may play one card per turn (or cards if the action is Difficult), keeping all cards in play until you choose to unleash your spell, adding all the cards together to get the final Card Value. The cards must be of the same suit and it is not possible to "hold" a spell, it must be unleashed as soon as you're done charging up.

 3rd Level
 -Counterspell: Diamonds becomes an appropriate suit for defending yourself against magical attacks, and you may attempt to dispel or break enduring enchantments as a Task.
+Focus: Maintaining your spells is easier. Rather than having to repeat the same action turn by turn you may discard a card at the start of your turn to keep the previous card "in play" for another round. This does not require an action.

4th Level
-Flight: You can take flight as a Spades action, flying at roughly the same speed you can run. The card used in your action serves as the maximum Card Value for any physical actions you take while in flight (such as attempting to dodge an attack or swing at someone else). This must be maintained as normal, if the spell lapses (as opposed to being dispelled in some way) then you float gently to the ground.
+Barrier: Discarding a Diamond card allows you to play a card to create a barrier. The barrier can be offensive (attacking anyone who passes through it) or defensive (resisting attempts to pass through) using it's Card Value. The barrier can be a simple wall (up to 10 yards or so wide) or a circle or dome (which may be big enough to encompass anyone within Close distance). This spell must be maintained like normal.

5th Level
-Drain Life: By discarding a Hearts and Diamond card before making an attack you may absorb your opponent's life force. For every point of damage inflicted, return a card from the top of your discard pile to the bottom of your deck.
+Blast: By discarding a Diamond or a Clubs card you may cause a spell to affect a large area, affecting everyone Close to the original target. This is not selective, all are affected equally.

6th Level
-Projection: As a Diamonds action you may project your senses at a distance (at normal range), ignoring barriers or other physical impediments. Your projection is completely intangible and is usually invisible and inaudible (unless you wish it to be otherwise). This spell may be maintained and if so you may move your projection at a swift walking speed each round.
+Chain Spell: You may discard a card to have one of your spells affect a second target (they get to play their own resistance card against your action, assuming it is negative). You may discard additional cards to affect more targets, but you cannot target the same character twice.

7th level
- Charm Item:  enchantment enhances the ordinary function of an otherwise mundane item. Whatever the item's general function, it will perform better: swords will be sharper, bows more accurate, armor is more durable, etc. The wielder of the item receives a bonus to appropriate rolls for the remainder of the scene equal to half the value of the card used in the action (this is a Diamond Action). This cannot be maintained. None weapon charms will typically add a bonus to some related tasks with the approval of the DM (an enchanted pair of boots may add in leaping and running for instance). 
+Sympathetic Magic: If you have access to some sort of mystical link to a target (typically this would be ritually prepared blood, hair, etc) then you may target them even if you cannot normally perceive them by discarding a Diamonds card. This transcends normal ranges and may affect anyone on the same world but it is always Difficult.

8th Level
-Teleportation: As a Diamonds action you may disappear and reappear somewhere else. The range is based on the TN set by the DM (generally 2-5 is within combat range (close to Far Away), 6-9 is within a handful of miles, 10+ would be for Teleporting between cities or countries), which may be increased if the Mage cannot see the target or envision it properly. It is possible to take additional willing targets with you so long as they're nearby and you discard a card for each additional character.
+Contingent Spell: You may play any card(s) you wish and state the spell they are intended for and a condition that will cause the spell to activate. When the condition is met then the spell will activate without requiring an action. If circumstances would cause the spell to be treated as Difficult then you may supply additional cards from your hand if possible...if not then the spell fails. The contingent spell will remain indefinitely until triggered.

9th Level
-Shapechange: By discarding a Hearts, Clubs and Spades card you may take a Diamonds action to transform into the shape of an animal, monster, or similar other form. The Card Value of your action can be used as the Card Value of any actions or reactions appropriate to the new form. For instance, taking the form of a giant would allow you to apply the Card Value of your spellcasting action to rolls to resist physical injury or feats of strength. Your abilities are limited to physical abilities possessed by the new shape...you might take the form of a demon but this grants you no infernal powers. This must be maintained as normal (obviously without the Focus Trick your new form will be quite unstable).
+Persistent Spell: Your spells are irresistible. When an opponent successfully resists a spell you may discard a Diamonds and Spades card in order to have the spell continue to "target" the victim. On the next turn (or 15 minutes of out of game time if you are not in a Struggle) the spell "repeats" at the same Card Value without requiring an action. This continues until the target fails to overcome the spell, the spell is somehow disrupted, or the caster chooses to cancel it. This does not require maintenance, although once the spell succeeds it must be maintained in order to continue functioning.

10th level

-Mage's Eye: The universe opens up to you. As a Diamonds action you may increase the maximum number of cards in your hand by half the Card Value of the action (rounding up). This must be maintained, and if the Card Value drops or the spell ends then you must discard any extra cards.

Permanence: By discarding a Diamonds and Hearts card when casting a spell you may choose to make the spell permanent. The action's card(s) are set aside and serve as the Card Value of the spell until it is destroyed or you intentionally cancel the magic (at which point they are discarded). If you attempt to create more than one Permanent enchantment

Monday, September 23, 2013

D&D Next final playtest review: Other Stuff

So we've covered the main dish, now the miscellaneous appetizers


Equipment is still pretty familiar. It's clear they've simplified some things.

Armor: armor is simpler. Light armor gets you a dex bonus, medium armor has a max dex bonus of +2 and Heavy Armor doesn't allow a dex bonus. Armor also does or does not penalize your Stealth abilities (giving you disadvantage). Oddly, rather than armor being its own bonus it changes your Base AC. Plate Mail is oddly expensive (5,000 gp) vs Splint Mail which is identical other than being one point of AC lower (500 gp).

Weapons: It's good to see that my original issue with weapon classes has been dealt with. Now there are merely simple and martial weapons, not even exotic weapons anymore. Most weapons won't seem much different from earlier editions.

Gear: I'm still unclear if it's possible to add your class's proficiency bonus multiple times to the same roll, but I'm getting the impression that it must be. Several tools specifically let you add your proficiency bonus to skills, which you could likewise have proficiency. It seems somewhat odd...I can understand climbing better if you have a climbing kit...but why doesn't someone proficient in the climbing skill know how to use a climbing kit already. Likewise for someone with Medicine using a Healer's Kit or a the Perform Skill and a musical instrument. It seems like these tools should just be granting a flat bonus to the rolls of those with the skill (or anyone really. I'm sure that having a medical bag will make improvised first aid easier). A simple bonus, or granting Advantage seems far more sensible.


Spells are going to be fairly familiar 3rd edition powers. Many of them do slightly more damage or otherwise have somewhat more intense effects. The main difference is that the spell's level is now merely it's minimum level. It's possible to use a higher level spell slot to increase a spell's potency. In fact, this is the only way to increase spell potency as they no longer scale with level. The only exception seems to be cantrips, making them one of the best ways for spellcasters to inflict damage oddly enough. Compare Ray of frost which inflicts 1d8 damage, increasing by 1d8 every 5th level (so 5d8 at 20th) with Magic Missile which fires one 1d4+1 missile and increases by one for everyone spell level above 1. So that means a spellcasting using one of their only 9th level spell slots to cast magic missile will produce 9 missiles or they can cast a 5d8 missile at will without using any spell slots. For damaging spells there doesn't ever seem to be much motivation to "power up" the spell with a higher level slot, unless you just have no spells prepared already for the higher level. Other than an increased DC the boost to damage or other effects is pretty minor, especially when you consider how few high level spell slots a spellcaster has available in a day.
   Still, when you consider how few spells most spellcasters can memorize it might make for an interesting tactical choice...you can prepare one of your big, level 8 or 9 spells but you'll only be able to use it once or twice. Or you can prepare a broad selection of low-level spells that an be cast repeatedly at different levels of effect.

Not much else that needs addressing. I'll chew things over and probably give a final evaluation soon.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

D&D NExt final playtest review: More Classes


Wizards and Sorcerers seem to be no more, now there are only Mages. They are the sole primary arcane spellcaster in the playtest packet. They are, as usual, the simplest of the classes in terms of unique mechanics. Their big power is obviously their spellcasting.

Because of that I finally began to read the spell mechanics in a bit more detail. I'll still wait until I reach the Spells section for a full evaluation but there are some interesting differences. First, high level spells seem like they're going to be extremely valuable. Any spells above 6th level seem to be limited to once per day. 5th level and lower spells seem to be more common and it's relatively easy for a wizard to regain them between encounters. It's an interesting method of "balancing" wizards, limiting them to a small number of really powerful effects but making their low level effects much more accessible. The same seems to go for the cleric and the druid, although they don't get as many low-level effects.

Wizards use a school specialty as a "path", much like Pathfinder. They seem like pretty useful, and distinct specializations but some of them also seem a little bit too focused. For instance at 20th level the evoker gets to basically cast fireball and lightning bolt at will. Obviously those two spells are classics but that doesn't mean every evoker necessarily wants to make those his go-to spells. There's lots of fun ways to blow things up and it's nice to be able to define your own style. Overall I like the wizard but I'll have to see the spells to find out more. Seems like some effort is being made to limit their ability to dominate the game.


I'm currently playing a monk, so I'm definitely interested in seeing what's going on in the new edition. Monks have always had the problem that they spend a lot of their "powers" on being able to do what everyone else can do with a bit of easily available equipment. Sure, they're awesome when everyone else is forced to give up their equipment but that's perhaps 5% of the time in a normal game, at best.

D&D Next Monks seem like they're a bit more impressive than 3e's. The biggest problem they had originally was although they got lots of attacks their low BAB and general multiple-ability-score reliance meant that many of them would miss. In Next it seems like most people will have pretty similar levels of accuracy, using their proficiency bonus, and Supreme Flurry means that they can turn Advantage on for all of their attacks in a round.

The monk traditions are interesting but they don't seem to be that impressive. They're not bad but they certainly don't match the power of many other class paths. The elemental path is particularly underwhelming since many of them just give you some variety of elemental attack which just doesn't compare very well to spellcasters. The Way of the Open Hand basically duplicates most of the abilities of the standard 3e monk, done better but still unlikely to be amazing. All told, probably going to be better than 3e but it still doesn't compare well to most other combat classes, especially when you consider just how impressive the fighter can be.


Looking over the Paladin entry its good to see that they got rid of a lot of the more useless or problematic class abilities. There are no mounts, and the paladin can sense demons and celestials (and similar phenomena) but not evil in general. Divine Smite and Lay On Hands is also extremely potent compared to the standard. Paladin spellcasting has also been beefed up. Since they are no longer limited solely to Lawful Good they are essentially a highly militant priest variant. Likewise Paladin auras are significantly more potent.

Well, I say they're not limited to good...but honestly I don't see how their theme fits anything but. They heal, do extra damage to undead/fiends and protect their allies. It seems like standard paladin through and through, especially the Oath of Devotion (which is the only one that they have). Of course, the thing about paladins is they're awesome in the right game but much less so in the wrong one. Fortunately it seems like the paladins are much more "generally" effective than before, their smite isn't limited to evil and many of their most impressive powers are defensive or support-based.


The ranger was always kind of odd. Even more than the bard they never quite seemed to know what they were doing. They were generalists who were also oddly specific with their nature-focus and their two-weapon fighting. 3e expanded that to archery, but it was still a pretty bizarre requirement.

Next rangers do not have a hard-coded fighting style anymore (although like fighters and paladins they can select a general style). Instead they focus more on terrain advantages, stealth, spellcasting (which like paladins is improved over 3e). Their favored enemies are also more significant, becoming their class "path". They're also more generalized, rather than picking specific species or categories they are focused on broad categories such as hordes of weak monsters or killing big, giant monsters. These broader definitions make favored enemy more applicable.

Overall, rangers are decent. I'm not amazed or anything but there's definitely work that has been done to make them more useful rather than cripplingly specialized.


Finally we have rogues. These guys are all about success on rolls. They minimize bad rolls, have plenty of bonuses and lots of defensive abilities. Honestly though, they haven't changed much. They've still got their sneak attack. They still have plenty of skills and bonuses to skills and they're going to be good sneak-attackers and skill monkeys

So, not much to say about them, but they're still pretty good.

Overall I like all the classes, even the ones that aren't too different from the original. The druid is the exception and the monk still seems fairly underwhelming. But overall still good. I'll be interested in seeing if there are any more coming for the core books like Sorcerers.

D&D Next final Playtest review. Part 2, Classes

So, Classes are of course the meat of D&D, so this may get long. I'll go in order and give my evaluations as we go down the list.

So, we'll start with Mister Angry. Looking over the class abilities I notice a few things. First, it seems like they are taking every effort to simplify things, cutting down abilities to their bare essential functions compared to 3e. For example, barbarian rage no longer gives a bonus to strength, con and will saves and a penalty to AC. Instead you get advantage on any Strength rolls and temporary hp equal to twice your level and a bonus to damage based on level (starting a +2).
   In addition to simplicity it seems like the philosophy behind the racial design is still holding true: the character abilities seem like they're meant to be something that are functional at any character level. Many are designed to give your character Advantage (I still really like that mechanic) and function without needing to be "scaled up" or recalculated at higher levels. I definitely approve of this change.
  I'm also seeing what looks like some pretty clear inspiration from Pathfinder. Classes seem like they'll have specific "paths" which function a lot like class-specific "feat trees" or Pathfinder's Archetypes. The barbarian for instance gets the "Berserker" path which focuses on ignoring negative effects and inflicting more damage and the "Totem Warrior" path which focuses on quasi-magical bonuses. Presumably they'll be more available in the final product and I'm certain there will be plenty of expansion books which will include lots and lots of extra paths.
  Overall barbarians seem like solid bad-asses. We'll see how they compare to the other classes.


Like always the Bard is focused on doing a little bit of everything. Still a bit roguey, a bit fighty, a bit casty and of course musical. One of the first things I notice is their spell list is much smaller. At 20th level they know 11 spells. Compared to 30ish at 20 for 4th edition.
   The bard's performances seem serviceable. it's a little odd that they've replaced a flat bonus to damage with a dice-based bonus. But rolling extra dice can always be fun and I can see it easier to just hand out an extra d4 to everyone rather than trying to keep track of an extra bonus among all the others. Inspire competence might be really powerful or fairly meh, depending on whether the bard's proficiency bonus would stack with the other characters.
   I also notice that spell DCs are quite low, unless the bard is holding an instrument to give themselves their proficiency bonus to the DC. Which seems to indicate singing/chanting/speech-based bards aren't really viable anymore. It could also really hamper combat bards since I don't know that there are many instruments that are "one-handed" so to speak. Expect to see a lot of bards with a sword in one hand and a maraca in the other.
  One of their early abilities is Expertise which grants a whopping +5 bonus to 4 of the Bard's skills and/or instruments. This is impressive but it brings up some questions...a bard's tool proficiencies are all musical instrument and skipping a bit to the equipment section I can see that if you're proficient with an instrument you add your proficiency bonus to ability checks with it. If you're proficient with a skill you add your proficiency bonus to your ability check...so what does that mean if you're proficient with both a skill and a tool...double dipping? Do you get both? Then what about expertise with both a tool and a relevant skill. Does a bard with the performance skill, a proficient instrument and expertise in both get twice his proficiency bonus and a +10 bonus on top? If not then why bother with proficiency in an instrument at all when you can just be proficient in Perform? Of course, not that a massive Perform skill is going to ruin any games...it's just a curious situation.
   Despite their small spell selection bards end up with an impressive set of magical abilities...at 11th they automatically Quicken their spells and they are apparently masters of dispelling magic for some reason at 16th level. They actually remind me a bit of the Pathfinder's Magus.
   The bard is one of the classes that never seemed to have enough going for it to appeal to me, but I could see myself playing one of these guys. Definitely good.


reading through the cleric description at first they seem pretty unchanged...then I notice at 10th level they have a % chance equal to their level to successfully call upon divine intervention. Well, that's a hell of a thing.
   Although the cleric is still primarily a spellcaster I do notice that their domain powers are now, very, very significant parts of their class as opposed to just a source of bonus spells. A "life" domain cleric is very different from a "War" domain for instance. I quite like this. It's not quite the sort of miracle-casting I've talked about in the past but it's much closer. For example, Life gets quite a few significant healing feats (channeling divinity to heal level x5 hp divided as you choose among multiple allies) or at 20th maximizing all healing rolls. War on the other hand gets extra attacks a round, or channel to add +10 to an attack roll. At 20th you halve all bashing/slashing/piercing damage against you. Daaaamn.
  At this point I'm just hoping the clerics don't come out too powerful. I haven't gotten a chance to look at spellcasting yet but the domain abilities alone make a War cleric pretty damn powerful...adding spellcasting on top of that is going to make them a pretty amazing fighter.
  Speaking of spells they seem to be doing something new with spell preparation. You prepare a list of spells for yourself at the start of the day and then cast freely from the list...some kind of hybrid between spontaneous casting and memorization.


Next we have druids. Frankly I've always found druids a little odd. They never quite seemed to fit into the D&D theme and they always seemed to have the least reason to take up the "adventuring" lifestyle. Shapeshifting has also always been one of "those" abilities. The kind where you can pick two out of three: simple, useful, or balanced. It'll be interesting to see how they turn out.
   They seem to be handling shapechanging by giving the druid a set of generic "shapes" they can assume as they rise in level. So for instance, at 2nd levels druids can assume the shape of the Hound, which seems to include all dogs, wolves, coyotes, dingos, foxes, etc. While in most shapes you keep your own ability score, but some include modifications or replacements of ability scores.
   Frankly, looking over the shapes most of them seem...pretty lame. The Hound for instance has your exact same attributes, an attack that inflicts 1d8 damage and you lose any armor while in the shape. The one advantage is a high speed and good senses. I guess it's helpful if you want to run away or find someone hidden but otherwise there's not much reason not to stay human. At 5th level you can change to the Steed (basically any Large, herbivorous quadruped). The steed has the same high land speed and low-light vision. They also get a +2 to Strength, but their only attack is a 1d6 + strength slam/gore attack. I guess it's a slight improvement on the Hound but only just barely. Then you can turn into a Strength 5 Fish at 7th level (a creature with zero offensive or defensive capability) or a Rodent which only boasts a Stealth bonus, or a bird which can fly.
   I know the druid was often criticized as overpowered in 3e, but honestly if this is the shapechanging options then I don't know why anyone would ever want to be a druid. The "baseline" druid has a very limited selection of shapes and frankly they're only useful in very specific situations (none of which are combat). Now, druids do have paths (or circles) one of which is the circle of the Moon which gives access to "battle" forms like Bear or Cat and finally the Behemoth shape. Now, that's cool...however that means that you're only going to be changing to those shapes if you pick that one, specific Circle. At that point why even give baseline druids shapechanging at all? The limitations are also fairly arbitrary. A 7th level druid can become a dog, bird, fish, rat or horse...but can't become a housecat, snake, monkey, or a turtle.
  Other than that the druid seems to be a slightly more martially focused cleric. The Circle effectively replaces their Domain and their other abilities aren't worth much mention. Frankly this version of the druid is pretty disappointing and I'd probably just write them out of the system at this point. But at least no one needs to worry about them being overpowered anymore.


When I last reviewed the playtest material way back when I found the Fighter the most intriguing. They seemed to focus on giving the fighter lots of choices as well as their own, fairly unique mechanic.
    The "meat" of the fighter seems to be in their "Paths" however lets look at how they stack up to the other classes in some more general ways first. Most other martial classes like the Barbarian or Druid get an extra attack per round at some point. The fighter gets that at 5th level, like the barbarian, however they continue to get more. A third attack at 11th, and a 4th at 20th. Keep in mind these aren't 3e's iterative attacks...all of these use your full attack bonus. So it's pretty clear that a high level fighter is going to have some significant advantages...the barbarian may hit harder but the fighter is going to be unloading a ton more attacks as time goes on. The fighter is also looking very tough to kill. They can give themselves temporary hp, and at 9th level they can make a DC 15 con save to avoid being reduced below zero hp from any attack that wouldn't kill them outright. And at 13th level they have Advantage on all saving throws.
   Clearly fighters have the "tank" role down, their offensive abilities (aside from a buttload of attacks) are handled mostly through their Paths. Two paths are presented. The first is the Path of the Weaponmaster which is where the "Expertise Dice" from the original playtest document went. You get a handful of dice (d6's at first, increasing to d10's at higher levels) and on a successful attack you can spend one to add an effect to the attack if you roll well enough on the dice. If you fail then you just get to add the dice result to damage. I really like that mechanic, it doesn't require you to worry about declaring the action before attacking or "wasting" attempts, and even if you fail to pull off your special move you have a nice damage bonus to compensate.
  The one issue is it seems like it's kind of awkward to have this unique and distinct mechanic used purely for just one of the fighter's paths. In comparison the Path of the Warrior is mostly about increasing the frequency and deadliness of your critical hits. No dice, no combat options. It's a little lopsided, but honestly I still find the fighters to be impressive battle-masters and so far they seem like they'll hold their own against other classes...in fact in comparison the Barbarian seems fairly unimpressive...hopefully the other martial classes will manage to make a decent showing compared to these gods of war.

 Well, that's enough for now. I'll go through the other classes soon.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

D&D Next Final Playtest review

Been a good long while since I posted anything huh? Been having some family medical issues which haven't really given me time to do much outside of work and a very small amount of relaxation. I'm still planning on finishing CARDS, the Wizard has been sitting half-finished in my drafts for weeks. Speaking of wizards though...

The thing that brings me here is the final D&D playtest packet which has just been released. Now, I've mostly been too busy to investigate the playtesting material other than the thorough examination I gave a bit over a year ago.

So, I actually have very little idea of what the evolving game has looked like, but since this is the last playtest packet I figure this will be a good time for me to look it over so I can see the changes that have been wrought since I first flipped through it and share my opinions. I'll try and make things a bit more concise than last time.

I'll be going in no particular order here as I read through the packet...

So, first we have the races. I mentioned last time that I liked that they seemed to be avoiding the "cultural baggage" of the different races (namely things like racial hatred/training bonuses, etc) and fortunately that still seems to be the case. There's still racial weapon proficiencies but that's about it. They're also making sure that the racial abilities are almost universally useful at any level. Halfling luck is an excellent example of this...rather than just a flat, +1 bonus to saves (something that will be less and less important as time goes on) halflings get to reroll any time they roll a 1 on a d20. Now, is that mathematically superior to the +1 bonus? Maybe, maybe not. But it is something that remains consistent throughout the halfling's career and it will be just as useful at level 20 as it was at level 1. Other racial abilities grant things like Advantage or resistances which will likewise be universally helpful, no matter what your level is.
  I do see the Dragonborn are sticking around from 4th edition. I've always been conflicted about them. On the one hand I find the idea of them as a "core" race somewhat silly and they always feel more tacked on. However, on the other I know from experience that half-dragons/dragon-kin/etc are very popular and frankly there are probably more people who've played a dragon-something than have played a gnome...even before 4e. 
  Overall, the races seem good. I like the fact that the difference between a dwarf and an elf is still significant no matter what level you are. The one exception seems to be humans sadly. Their racial ability is a +1 to all 6 ability scores rather than a +1 to two like most other races. One the one hand it's neat that humans are no longer just the baseline, but are actively superior in their ability scores to most races. On the other I've peeked at the class descriptions and...well ability score modifiers get handed out a lot. A human who starts the game with good rolls may actually be in a situation where they hit the maximum value (which seems to be 20) on all their relevant ability scores. Time will tell but human exceptionalism may not be as great as it seems. Oh, they also have half-elves in this one...sadly not too impressive. They're basically elves with a different ability bonus set up and less abilities. Half-orcs are much more impressive. 


So, when I first reviewed the playtest packet I was pretty rough on backgrounds. I really liked what Wizards was going for, but I felt like it didn't live up to it's potential. I've had a chance to read over some of the refurbished background rules and I've got to say that I see improvement...but the Backgrounds are still somewhat unsatisfying. 

Let's start with the good. They've ditched things like the commoner's house. And a lot more of the backgrounds are focused on what you know and how you interact with others as opposed to the more generalized and harder to use "reputation". This means that for the most part your background can't be taken away or rendered irrelevant by your own actions. 

However, it quickly becomes clear that they could not come up with many new background ideas. For example, a good third of the backgrounds basically boil down to "you can get food and shelter from X" where "X" relates to your background. Some come with a few vaguely useful other aspects or limitations...but that's a lot of sameyness and frankly a pretty minor benefit. The thug notably is almost completely unchanged. 

But the changes have at least upgraded backgrounds to "acceptable" levels. I doubt most of them will be more than window dressing for your character (and a source of skills of course), but for the most part you at least can't claim it's not fairly even across the board. 

Specialities...I mean Feats

So, originally these were Themes then they became Specialties, only to be replaced with entirely optional Feats. You see as you level up you get the option to take 2 ability score points or take a feat. An interesting choice and it becomes more interesting as a flip through the Feats. Unlike previous editions these Feats are big deals. They're big, character-defining bonuses. For example, Alertness (more or less the poster child for the useless feat in other editions) makes you immune to surprise, grants +5 to initiative and gives you the perception skill (or another skill if you have that already). Nice. 

Other Feats are basically substitutes for prestige classes (Arcane Archer for instance). While I'm here I'll note that there's an important thing that makes Arcane Archer a bit...overpowered. First the spells imbued in an arrow last until you next rest...second they don't require you to be the one to shoot the arrow. A wizard with this feat could easily give a more combat-focused archer a huge arsenal of magical arrows to use throughout the day. 

Overall I quite like feats. It's nice to have big, chunky bonuses that grant significant abilities rather than gaining them piecemeal. Some are pretty darn weak (toughness is extremely unimpressive for instance as are the Arcane/Divine/Druid adept abilities), but for the most part they look like a lot of fun. 

I'll tackle the rest soon. 

Sunday, June 30, 2013

CARDS: The Trickster

Thief and Rogue always seemed like too restrictive a term for one of the classes with the broadest possible theme out there. So I think I'll stick with Trickster for now, the same name I use in Olde Skool.

While coming up with the Trickster...Tricks (okay, maybe a different name, we'll see) I was considering how multiclassing might work. Perhaps allowing classes to swap out one of the two "branches" for another classes' (such as the Warrior's Offense/Defense brances for one of the Trickster's). We'll see if anything comes of that idea.

The Trickster's Tricks (*sigh*) will focus, like the Warrior's, on two categories. In this case, Luck (+) and Expertise (-). Both are fairly self explanatory. Luck will be a bit more defensively focused, and Expertise a bit more offense, but both will be fairly broad and meant to be very utility focused. While the Warrior is amazing at combat they need to burn through their cards fairly rapidly in order to pull off their more impressive feats. The Trickster should be more of a long-runner, a lot of their abilities won't require discards or even allow them to use less cards. However, the net results will be less awe-inspiring than the warrior's massive damage capability. While Hearts was the warrior's "secondary" attribute, Diamonds are the Trickster's.

Starting Tricks:

*Takes One To Know One: The Trickster receives a +2 bonus to Card Values to spot deceit or trickery (seeing through a disguise, spotting a sneaking assassin, finding a trap or secret door).

*Exploitative: You receive a +1 bonus to your Card Value when your opponent is making a Difficult roll.

Trickster Tricks

1st level:
+Dumb Luck: When taking a Difficult action you receive a +1 bonus to the final Card Value for every card you're forced to play.
-Sting Like a Bee: When taking an action against an opponent you can make their resisted action Difficult, but if you succeed you reduce your margin of success by 2 (minimum of 0).

2nd Level
+Deep Pockets: By discarding a Spade you can declare that you have an object on your person. You must have had some means of carrying and concealing the object up until now and it cannot be any larger or more valuable than an ordinary knife or a small book.
-Eyeballing it: By discarding a Diamond you can determine the target number of a Task before you attempt it.

3rd Level:
+Bad Aim: In a Struggle, when an opponent fails at an attack against you, you may discard a Spade in order to redirect their attack against another opponent that would be within their range.
-Feint: When you succeed at an attack against an opponent in a Struggle you may choose to inflict no damage and instead get double your Card Value on the next attack you make against them.

4th Level
+Don't Mind Me: At the start of your turn in a Struggle you can choose to make your action for this round Difficult and in exchange any actions targeting you until the start of your next turn become Difficult as well.
-Never Mind: If you attempt to overcome a Task and fail, you may discard a card to return the card(s) you played to your hand.

5th Level
+It Wasn't So Bad: After suffering damage you may reduce the damage by half (rounded down), but your next action becomes Difficult.
-Off Balance: When you successfully beat an opponent's action (whether an attack, defense, or otherwise) you can discard a Spade to make their next action Difficult.

6th Level
+Mulligan!: You may choose to put your hand on the bottom of the deck and draw a new hand of 5 cards.
-Efficiency: When you succeed at a Task, an attack, or a defense then you may choose to swap the card you played with another from your hand so long as the new card would still succeed.

7th Level
+All In: Discard a Spade at the start of your turn to draw 5 cards. If your hand is above 5 cards at the start of your next turn then discard any extras.
-Wearing Them Down: Every time the Trickster succeeds at an action against another character they receive a +1 bonus to their Card Value for any other actions against them. This bonus increases by +1 for each subsequent successful action. The bonus resets if the trickster fails an action or intentionally takes an action against someone else (so defending against other opponents doesn't count).

8th Level
+Make It Work: If you fail at a Task or action then you may play a Spade and add it's Card Value to your total Card Value.
-Slow Death: If you succeed at an attack you may discard a Spade in order to inflict the attack's damage again at the start of your next turn. You may discard another spade at that time to continue inflicting damage if you wish.

9th Level
+Spanner In The Works: At the start of your turn in a Struggle you may discard a Spade to make all opponents action's and reactions Difficult until the start of your next turn.
-Cool-Headed: When you are forced to discard your cards, you may look at the top card of your deck before deciding whether to discard from your hand or your deck.

10th Level
+Charmed Life: Whenever you succeed at a Task or action, take the bottom card from your discard pile and put it at the bottom of your deck.
Jack of All Trades: When you attempt an action using cards of an inappropriate suite the action is no longer Difficult and just suffers a -1 penalty to the Card Value.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

CARDS The RPG, part 4: The Warrior

The Warrior will be the first class I'm tackling here. Although generally speaking I'm trying to keep things flexible and not box them into a certain category of fighting...but generally speaking the Warrior is still going to be more about dealing out and receiving massive amounts of damage. This may involve dual-wielding, berserk fury, clanking around in heavy armor, what have you. I'm not certain about archery yet...I may make ranged attacks a function of Spades.
   The way I figure it each class has a few "core" starting Tricks, and then you can pick one of two Tricks every level. It seems like a good way to promote flexibility. I only have to come up with 20 Tricks for each Class, but that gives 100 different combinations per class. To try and keep each class with a strong theme each Trick will be drawn from a category. Lets see how it works out for the Warrior.

Starting Tricks

*Well-Armed: When attacking with a weapon, the Warrior can add +2 to the damage of a successful attack in a Struggle.

*Courageous: No matter how they choose to fight, a warrior fights with courage. They add +2 to any rolls made to resist intimidation, fear, or poor morale.

Warrior Tricks
Warrior Tricks are divided into two basic categories: Offense (+) or Defense (-). As the Warrior levels up they can choose to focus one or the other or balance the two aspects of battle as they wish.

Level 1:
-Wild Swing: Before making an attack, you can choose to add +3 to the damage if it is successful but the attack becomes Difficult.
+Stand Strong: When defending using Clubs, you may add +2 to your Card Value.

Level 2:
 -Thwack!: When you make a successful attack using Clubs you may discard a card and add +2 to the Card Value.
+Shield Bash: On a successful defense using Hearts you may discard a Clubs card to stun your opponent, making all their rolls Difficult until the start of their next turn.

Level 3:
-War Cry: On your turn you may play a Clubs card. For a number of rounds equal to the Card Value you and your allies may add +1 to the Card Value of any Clubs actions.
+Second Wind: You may play a Hearts card and take a number of cards equal to the Card Value from the discard pile and swap them for cards in your hand.

Level 4:
-Keep On Swinging: When you successfully make a Clubs attack you may make an immediate, free attack against a different enemy that you could theoretically attack this round. If the second attack is successful the Warrior can continue chaining attacks until they miss or there are no enemies who they haven't already attacked.
+Iron Jaw: On a failed defense using Hearts you can play a Clubs card to reduce the damage by the Card Value. 

Level 5:
-Critical Strike: When attacking with Clubs you may play an additional Clubs card and add the card’s value to damage if the attack is successful. 
+Wall of Steel: Your defense is unbeatable. So long as you discard a card at the start of your turn any attacks against you become Difficult

Level 6:
-Ferocity: When you draw a card, if it isn't a Clubs card you may immediately discard it and draw a new card. You can keep doing this until you get a Clubs card. 
+The Best Defense: When you make a Clubs attack you may discard a Hearts card to use the Card Value of the attack to defend against every attack until the start of your next turn. These defenses are not considered Difficult, but you may not play any other defensive cards and have to use your Clubs card for any defense until your turn. 

Level 7:
-Rage: You may fly into a blinding rage. While enraged you may add +3 to the value of any Clubs cards you play but any non-Clubs actions become Difficult. Rage lasts until all enemies are slain, but can be ended prematurely by discarding a Diamonds card. 
+Counterattack: When you play a Hearts defense you may immediately make a free attack using Clubs, but the Card Value cannot exceed the value of the Hearts defense. 

Level 8:
-Explosive Attack: When attacking the Warrior may discard a Clubs card to make the attack apply against all targets nearby (In Your Face range). 
+Inexhaustible Strength: When you defeat an opponent you may switch a card from your hand with one from your discard pile. 
Level 9:
-Unstoppable Force: When your opponent is defending with Hearts then you may discard a Clubs card to cut their Card Value in half. 
+Immovable Object: When your opponent is attacking with Clubs you may discard a card to defend using Clubs without the attempt being Difficult

Level 10:
-Battle Instinct: When playing a non-Clubs card you may discard a Clubs card to treat it as a Clubs card of the same Card Value. 
+Unyielding Tower: You now have two Favored Suits: Hearts and Clubs. 

Saturday, June 22, 2013

CARDS RPG pt 3: One more thing

Okay, before I get to the individual classes there are a few things I guess I forgot. Let me see...

Movement and Range

I didn't really address this in the Struggle rules and I suppose it could use some basic info. First and foremost I should mention that if there's a particular range/movement system you're a fan of then there's not much to stop you from porting it over. Do you want to use a tabletop mini's system? just use the basic Savage Worlds or D&D movement rules. Or if you really like FATE's Zones or what have you then go for it.

For me, I'll stick with something really simple. There are essentially 4 categories of distance:

*In Your Face: This is where most fights take place, within 5-10 feet. Easily enough to duck and weave and punch and swing.
*Close: Anything within 20-30 feet. You can shoot or throw things or cast spells at this distance. Or just run up and get in their face (without taking an action).
*Far Away: 30-150 feet. This is far enough that you can't just run up and sock someone. It's down the street or on top of a roof. You can shoot or cast spells this far but the range makes it Difficult. Movement may involve a Task and will probably involve at least a round or two spent doing nothing but moving.
*Really Far Away: 150+ feet. You can see this far, but generally you can't affect anything directly in most cases. Exceptions are always possible.

Character Basics:

Each character is going to have a few specific traits:

*Class:Your class is the profession that you follow. The standard classes are Warrior, Thief, Mage and Priest. These classes can be mixed up a bit to produce different themes or ideas...but for now I'm keeping things simple. Your class allows you to pick from several Tricks. The individual class entries will have more details. Each class has an associated Suit (Warriors =Clubs, Thieves =Spades, Mages =Diamonds, Priests =Hearts).
*Level: Tied very closely with Class, your level is basically how powerful your character is. I think we all know how this works. Your level determines what Tricks you can select and if you get any new Talents. When playing a card that is associated with your class the Card Value is the value on the card or your level, whichever is higher. So a 4th level Warrior who plays a 2 of Clubs may treat it automatically as a 4, but a 7 of clubs would still be a 7 and spades, diamonds and hearts are unaffected.
*Talents: Talents are special abilities or traits that apply a bonus to specific situation. Whenever one of your Talents applies you can increase the Card Value by 1. See below for more info on talents.



The cards in your hand determine general abilities that anyone can pull off. Your Talents represent specific areas where your character is exceptional. Each character starts play with 3 Talents of their choice. Any time you level up you can redefine a Talent that hasn't really gotten much use and every odd level you can pick a new Talent.
   Whenever you're playing a card for a situation that would be covered by one of your Talents then you can add +1 to the Card Value. Multiple Talents can cause your bonuses to add up pretty quickly.

Players define their own Talents, within limits. There are 3 basic categories of Talents:

*Specialization: This is a very specific set of actions or skills. For example: Picking Locks, Breaking Things, Dodging, Keen Eyes, etc.
*Tool: A particular object or weapon that your character is uniquely able with. Ex: My Father's Bow, Hitting People With Furniture, My Running Shoes, Sexy Pants.
*Foe/Situation: A particular category or targets or situation where you're exceptionally talented. This must be paired with a type of action. "While Underground" is too broad, "Fighting While Underground" works. Ex: Intimidating Criminals, Fighting While Screaming, Sneaking Through The City, Slaying Orcs.


If you want to play a race other than humans then Talents are the way to go. Any particular traits you feel you should have because of your Race can probably be represented by one of your three starting Talents. Dwarves might have Talents like Fighting With Axes, Battling Goblins, or Resisting Magic, for example.



Still haven't worked this out yet. probably just a very simple XP system, or a level per X adventures.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013


Am I really sticking with this terrible name? Well, I challenge anyone else to come up with a better one (come on, it can't be that hard) and I'll take it.

Anyway, recapping the basics.

*Each player has a full deck of playing cards, jokers included (they're wild cards).

*Each suit has a purpose. Clubs are for brute force, Spades for finesse, Diamonds for intellect, Hearts for fortitude. Using a suit for something other than the intended purpose makes an action Difficult (see below).

*There are two situations where a player might play a card. Tasks involve a simple, unopposed challenge. Struggles are turn-by-turn situations involving other characters and inflicting damage. Tasks involve a set target number, Struggles involve opposed playing cards.

*Difficult actions require you to play two cards of the same suit and both must beat the minimum target number. Only the highest counts for determining the value of the card played.


So, lets try and hammer out a few more basic mechanics. As stated before, every PC gets a deck of cards. At the start of the game they each draw a hand of 5. When attempting an action the PC must play one or more cards. Unless a special ability is used only the highest card is counted, determining the Card Value of the action. This must meet or beat the Target Number of a Task or the opponent's Card Value in a Struggle. Ties in a Struggle will go to the PC (or to the defender in PVP).

The GM gets a deck as well, but that's going to work differently. I'll deal with that a bit later.

Anyway, so player's get their deck and their hand. Cards played are discarded and the player immediately draws enough cards to bring themselves back up to 5. Once a player draws their entire deck then they become disabled (unconscious, exhausted, stunned or whatever). If a player is forced to discard every card (deck and hand both) then they're dead.



So, Tasks are pretty self-explanatory. It's any situation that a player must spend significant effort to try and resolve. Since a Task will consume some of a player's energy and fortitude (by whittling down their deck), there should never be any "easy" or "average" Tasks. Things like lifting a heavy bag or breaking a window are not things you should be expending cards for. Likewise, if a player could just keep trying over and over until they manage to succeed then don't bother making it a Task. Breaking down a door in one kick because you have to get into the room to stop an evil arcane ritual is a Task, battering a door to pieces over several rounds with your axe isn't. Here's some examples of suitable Tasks.

*2: Hurl a heavy object (50+ pounds).
*3: Break down a wooden door.
*4: Topple a man-sized boulder.
*5: Break down a reinforced door.
*6: Bring a galloping horse to a stop.
*7: Hurl a large person (250+ lbs) over a chasm.
*8: Break down a stone door.
*9: Topple a stone statue.
*10: Break down an iron door.
*Jack: Topple a giant statue
*Queen: Keep a dragon from flying off by holding it by the tail.
*King: Break down castle gates.
*Ace: Topple a stone tower.

*2: Cheat at cards
*3: sneak past your average guards.
*4: Climb a smooth stone wall.
*5: Rob a merchant blind.
*6: Pass yourself off as a well known public figure.
*7: Run across a tightrope
*8: Sneak past a pack of guard-dogs.
*9: Steal from the king's vault.
*10: Steal something that someone is currently holding without them noticing.
*Jack: Sneak past a sleeping dragon.
*Queen: Sneak past an alert dragon!
*King: Run safely through a trapped corridor, blindfolded.
*Ace: Impersonate a god.

*2: Recall a useful, obscure fact.
*3: Spot an ambush
*4: Solve a complicated puzzle. Win a riddle contest.
*5: Identify an obscure spell or artifact.
*6: Win a court case.
*7: Interpret ancient runes.
*8: Memorize the contents of a large book.
*9: Outsmart an ancient intellect.
*10: Win a needle-in-a-haystack finding contest.
*Jack: Invent a new concept or device.
*Queen: Mentally reconstruct a situation or environment from it's remnants.
*King: Memorize an entire library of information.
*Ace: With time, invent a world-changing concept or tool.

*2: Drink all night and awake bright and alert.
*3: Take a punch without flinching
*4: Consume rotten food and tainted water with no ill effects.
*5: Snort hot chili powder.
*6: Resist the effects of snake venom
*7: Resist torture without breaking.
*8: Touch a red-hot poker without flinching.
*9: Walk all night through a blizzard, naked.
*10: Survive an avalanche.
*Jack: Chug  a mug of hemlock.
*Queen: Chug a jug of dwarven moonshine.
*King: Shake off the black plague.
*Ace: Resist the curse of a vengeful god.



 Obviously, most struggles are going to be fights. Battling a horde of orcs, wrestling a minotaur, slaying the Rock-Beast of Blood Mountain, etc. However, it can be used for pretty much any extended contest: a wizard's battle of wills with a summoned demon, a drinking contest, or a spirited debate. But let's be honest...mostly fighting.

In a struggle each character involved takes turns acting. During your character's turn you may take one action that requires playing a card (an attack for instance or a Task) and one action that doesn't (such as running to reach an enemy or closing a door). Of course you can also yell to your comrades, scream a battle cry or what have you at the same time. In most Struggles a turn is just a few seconds long, so any actions have to be something that could be accomplished in that amount of time (so you could break a door or jam a trap but not write a letter). Remember, once you've played your card(s) you need to draw enough to bring yourself back up to 5.

When a character is the target of an action during another character's turn they may play cards in response to the action to attempt to defend against or overcome the action. If the defending character has the highest Card Value then the action has failed and there is no effect. If the acting character has the highest Card Value then the action has succeeded. If the action is an attack of some sort then the defender suffers damage equal to the difference in the CV.

When you suffer damage you must discard cards from your hand or blindly from the top of your deck, one card for each point of damage inflicted. This works a bit differently for NPCs who don't have their own individual decks

Once everyone has had a turn a new round will begin. To determine turn order (assuming it's not obvious in the case of an ambush or sucker punch) everyone plays a card before combat begins. Turn order is based on suit (Spades, then Diamonds, then Clubs and last Hearts) and two or more character's with the same suit will act based on the card value. Ties will be broken by rock-paper-scissors. Keep these initiative cards out while the Struggle is going on so everyone remembers what order they're going in, they'll be discarded at the end of the Struggle. At the start of a new round any character may choose to play a new card to replace their current initiative card, discarding the old one.

That seems to pretty well cover the basic PC rules. Next I think I'll start tackling the classes. Since this is meant to be a simple game I'll stick with the basics: Warrior, Rogue, Mage, Priest.