Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Tempe goverment and Society - an Overview

Tempe is the largest city in Arizona, and is the preeminent Arya settlement in the region. The city is hierarchical, militarized, and home to His Lordship, the High King. The city was founded over two centuries ago during the Great Migration, when it enjoyed trade with and support from the Great River Kingdoms to the east. That connection to the east was severed a century ago by the rise of the Dark Hordes, and Arya of Arizona have been forced to subsist largely on their own since that time.

The economic base of the city is agriculture and ranching. Irrigation from the Salt River waters Tempe's fields, groves, and herds, which have become the breadbasket of the Arizona region. The main route of trade involves a triangle trade with metals from Prescott, lumber from Flagstaff, and food from Tempe. An overland route to the Colorado River at Blythe is also a significant trade corridor.

Tempe society is two-tiered, with the land-owning, noble families forming the high society, and the landless, agricultural workers forming the low society:

The Landed gentry of Tempe is made of the seven founding clans which own all the land in the town. The basis of their wealth is land ownership and the guarantee of safety they offer those who live on their land. Their young men are removed from their familes at the age of seven and raised in military academies. After eight years of discipline and hardening in common school, most are granted the rank of squire and returned to their families to assist in the clan businesses. The most gifted among the students, however, continue onward into secondary school, where they are trained as scholars and officers, and enter into the direct service of the High King, in the King's College. Membership in the King's College is considered the highest honor in Arya society.

The Landless commoners of Tempe tend to be poor and uneducated, however, they are not slaves or serfs. The Landless are paid wages and are expected to care for their own housing and family upkeep. Many of the Landless take up skilled trades, and the most gifted among them have some upward mobility through the Church, the Applied Spellcasting University, and the Ranger Battalion (see below). The brave and tough among the Landless have also been known to take up careers as henchmen and mercenary soldiers in the hire of the Landed gentry.


The majority of decision-making power and authority is vested in the King and His College, who are entrusted with ruling for the good of all noble clans and the city at large. The various members of the College serve as administrators of the King's laws, guardians of his Treasury, and officers of his Army. The King's College chooses a new king from among their own members when the office of High King becomes empty because of the death or abdication of a King.

The House of Lords is a collection of representatives from the seven noble clans. New laws or taxes proposed by the King must be ratified by the House of Lords in order to become laws. The House of Lords is also responsible for supplying a specified number of Cavaliers to serve in the body of the King's Army.

The House of Commons is a collection of the more powerful and wealthy representatives from the Landless of the town. They have little decision-making authority, but can propose laws to the King's College, and are authorized to adjudicate disputes and conflicts among the Landless.

The King's Army

The King's Army is made primarily of the Cavaliers from the noble clans of the city. It is a standing force, with a career officers drawn from the King's College, athough the body of the army rotates through in limited times of service. The duties of the Army are primarily external, patrolling the King's settled agricultural territories and roads for incursions from magical beasts, giants, or humanoid raiders. The King's Army also patrols the city itself, enforcing internal laws.

The Ranger Battalion is an adjunct force to the King's Army, with dual headquarters in Wickenburg and Superior. The Rangers' duty is to patrol the mountain wilderness, keeping check on humanoid or giant incursions, while gathering information and expanding Aryan territory where possible. While Ranger leadership is supplied by the gentry of the King's College, the rank and file membership is largely drawn from the Landless. The Landed gentry prefers the status and money-making opportunities of the town-based Cavalier lifestyle, viewing a Ranger assignment much like a form of banishment. The Landless, however, view Ranger membership as an opportunity for upward mobility, wealth, and freedom.

Occasionally, in times of need, the King's army will be supplemented by mercenary soldiers drawn from the ranks of the Landless.

Relations with Applied Spellcasting University

The wizard towers of A.S.U. predate the Aryan settlement of Tempe. The origins of the wizarding community at A.S.U. are unknown, and the mysterious wizards are less than forthcoming with any information, but it is clearly connected with the study of the Phoenix Aerie to the immediate west. Although they share contiguous territory, A.S.U. is an autonomous power and does not bow to the authority of the High King.

Overall, the wizards prefer to be left completely alone and seem to be totally unconcerned with the politics or troubles of any other humans in the region. A cadre of servants maintains trade relations with the outside world, and they seem to derive great profit from the sale of the magical items they create. They are also known to take in students, training them in the magical arts, for a steep fee, of course.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

They Walk Among Us - the hidden Dragon Menace

Citizen's Alert - to be Posted in All Pubic Places

As you know, dragons are terrifying and dangerous magical beasts. We need no reminder of their attacks upon our knights, and their constant depredations of our wealth.

Recent discoveries have revealed dragons to be far more terrifying and dangerous than we imagined. Stated plainly, dragons have been found to be walking among us, disguised in human form. Through some magical means, dragons walk among us in our towns, pretending to be human.

As everyone knows, Dragons are motivated by greed, and power. Disguised as humans, they infiltrate our society, to learn of our treasure, and study our defenses, to better attack us.

All citizens are advised to be on the lookout for dragon-ish behavior in their neighbors. Signs of hidden dragon infiltration include unnatural interest in the location of treasure hoards, selfish hoarding of money, secretive behaviors, anti-social attitudes, and hostility to governmental investigation.

If your neighbors are exhibiting any of the above signs, report them immediately to the nearest King's Guards and Keepers of the Peace. With your help, we can eliminate this hidden dragon menace. Thank you.

Adventuring Hooks

The aging King, paranoid and monomaniacal at the best of times, appears to have gone completely mad out of fear of secret dragons, and his paranoia has spread to the terrified citizenry. King's Guards run amok through the city, rounding up political enemies (and their treasures) on suspicion of secret dragon infiltration. Citizen has turned on citizen in a frenzy of paranoid accusation and revenge seeking.

Mobs form suddenly to put anyone accused of dragon infiltration to the immediate test, such as slicing their bellies open to check for swallowed gems, placing them upon bonfires to test for fire resistance, or dropping them repeatedly from towers to check for flying ability...

Anyone from out of town, or anyone seen carrying bags of treasure, is especially prone to accusation, thus making the environment particularly dangerous for adventurers...

PCs stand a 50% chance (3 in 6) per day of being accused of dragon infiltration by a mob if they appear in full gear or carrying treasure in public, a 17% chance (1 in 6) if appearing in public in disguise, and a 33% chance (2 in 6) per day of receiving a visit from the King's Guards at their home based on a tip from an anonymous neighbor.

Mob Accusation (d100, modify with CHA reaction bonus or penalty)
--01-25 enraged mob attempts immediate dragon trial (d6: 1-2 gutting for gems, 3-4 bonfire, 5-6 drop from tower)
--26-50 enraged mob attempts to strip, beat, and turn over PCs for arrest to King's Guards (loss of all possessions and all but 1-6 HPs, ending up in jail for further interogation)
--51-75 enraged mob attempts to strip and beat PCs (loss of all possessions and all but 1-6 HPs, ending up thrown over town wall)
--76+ agitated mob threatens but does not attack PC

King's Guards actions (d100, modify with CHA reaction bonus or penalty)
--01-25 Guards attempt immediate gutting for swallowed treasure
--26-50 Guards confiscate all PC possessions, scorge PC to the bone (only 1d6 HP remaining) during interrogation, and throw PC in jail
--51-75 Guards confiscate all PC money/jewels, threatening scorging and arrest if PC resists
--76+ Guards question PCs but take no action

Dragon Menace hysteria lasts 3-18 days (3d6).

On any given day, 1 in 6 chance of a real dragon being accused, resulting in a dragon battle in town. If PC assists in the battle against the dragon, they will be hailed as heroes, receive a reward from the king, and be free from any further chance of dragon infiltration accusations.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Dragon Ecology in Arizona Adventures

Dragons are found in large numbers throughout the Arizona region. Though all dragons seem capable of flight, dragons appear to prefer subterrainean habitats. In fact, our most learned sages hold that dragons have an under-worldly origin, vomited upwards from the fiery regions below.

Whatever evil power is responsible for their original creation we cannot know, but our sages tell of a gigantic queen mother dragon who resides in a fiery pit at the gates of hell far below our world. Seated in her infernal nest, she receives a continual stream of sacrifice from her dragon servants, and births forth a continual profusion of eggs which they carry up and out of her underworld nest, to become the dragon plague upon the upperworld.

Dragon Treasure Hoarding Explained

Dragons everywhere have been characterized by their voracious appetite for treasure, and AZ dragons are no different. It has long been believed that dragons hoarded treasure simply out of their greedy, evil natures. However, recent observations have led our sages to conclude that dragons actually use the treasure as food.

The use of precious metals and gems as food would explain a number of puzzling aspects of dragon behavior.

--Lack of hunting-- Dragons are creatures of massive size and would seem to require an equally-massive food supply, but they are never seen hunting food or eating prey animals.
--Preference for armored knights-- Dragons will ignore a field full of helpless peasants in rags to attack a fully armored knight in plate mail, whom they will never fail to swallow whole if they are able.
--Underground lairs-- Dragons can always be found nosing around and living in underground locations, where they appear to spend most of their time. Dragon claw marks on the walls in these locations used to be interpreted as claw-sharpening, but may actually indicate tunnel-digging as they prospect for their food supply.

Parasitism upon Humans and other creatures

Although capable of digging their own lairs and prospecting their own metals and gems as food, dragons seem to prefer letting other creatures do the hard work for them. Thus, they would prefer to take over a dwarven-dug mine to digging one themselves. They would rather invade a king's well-stocked treasure room, rather than prospecting underground for all the raw metalic alloys.

Because humans and dwarves do such a good job digging mines and creating treasures, it seems that dragons have gotten more reliant upon them, positioning themselves as a predatory of and parasite upon their work. However, in the totally uncivilized outer regions of Arizona, we can still find dragons in their "natural state", forced to dig for their own food in lairs of their own creation.

Canyon de Chelly

A major entrance into the dragon underworld appears to exist in the northeastern part of the state, in the area known as Canyon de Chelly. Swarms of dragons appear to be continually entering and exiting the caves there, usually carrying treasures in and often seen carrying eggs out. The savage Dineh tribal people live in the area unmolested, perhaps owing to their lack of treasure or metal weapons. The secretive Celtic druids appear to have some access to the area, but they are not forthcoming with much free information. Attempts by the civilized Aryans to investigate further have uniformly ended badly thus far. What seems certain is that a great deal of treasure awaits any heroes brave and powerful enough to survive an expedition there.

Gods and the Supernatural in Arizona Adventures

Let me start out by saying that I am not a big fan of "designer gods". You probably know the kind I mean: the ones with the five syllable, non-English sounding names, obscure powers and identities, strange motivations... i.e., the one's that are everywhere homebrewed by imaginative DMs and make appearances in many commercial modules. These "designer gods" seem to abound, spreading in numbers that seem to me, to be unjustified.

I think a quality campaign is served well when the structure of the supernatural is intuitive, and simple for any new player to jump into. Most gods can serviceably go without any personal name. This also goes well with the idea of a Dawn of Civ campaign. It gives it a certain "primitive" feel, when the gods are simply referred to as "the Thunderer", "the Fire Starter", "the Sun Bearer", "the Tempest Bringer", "the All-Mother", that kind of thing.

Which pantheon are they? Well, it hardly matters, really, when they are broken down to their primitive, pre-literature level. The operating assumption in the ancient world was SYNCRETISM, the idea that, although we have our own particular names for them in our own languages, the gods behind these forces are one.

Gods as Forces of Nature

The "look and feel" I am going for here deviates strongly from our civilized view of pagan gods, that comes from our literary encounter with the Greek/Roman pantheon. I am going for something more along the lines of the gods in Niven & Pournelle's Burning City books (the Magic Goes Away series). These gods are primitive, scary, and very much out of control.

For example, the Burning City's god of fire, who inspires arsonist orgies of destructive conflagration at random intervals, yet prevents the use of any indoor fires in normal times. Drawing from real history, it is like the ancient festivals of Bacchus, where we get drunken orgies, people running around out-of-control because they are possessed by this god of lust and pleasure.

Imagine a primitive town, a la the Burning City, except, rather than ruled by a fire god, is under the control of the Goddess of Love. Under normal circumstances, fighting or sex is impossible there. Literally, people find it impossible to draw arms on each other, or come to blows, or engage in any sexual activity.

Yet a couple times every year, the Goddess goes into her active phase, and everyone suddenly goes crazy, screaming, yelling, pushing, fighting, ripping their clothes off, making love in the street, that kind of thing. [I am thinking the town of this goddess is a thriving merchant town with a, ehem, "wild side"... hmmm, Scottsdale perhaps?]

THAT would be a very different city in concept and application than the standard "medieval European" milieu we are used to, wouldn't it? This gets us back to that primitive idea that each city has their own patron god/goddess. It's not so much that people are picking and choosing their own personal belief system, which is our modern idea of religion. The idea is that a god is in control of a certain region, and the humans who live in that region are under the control and protection of that god.

Evil Gods vs Demons

I am also not a fan of "evil gods". I think this role is better filled by demons and devils. Evil clerics are those who have made deals with these evil creatures. The dark forces agree to reward these clerics with miraculous powers in exchange for serving them, or selling their souls to them, that kind of thing. Of course, serving evil is unpredictable, dangerous, and always has a high price. Their activities are done in secret, and usually their identity as evil clerics is hidden from the public eye as well.

The Mechanics of Cleric Power

Clerics are miracle workers. I think their mechanics have been improperly conflated with that of magic users, because of the "spell slots" structure. I am fine with limiting clerics to their allotted number of "spells" as per the slots, but I disagree with the idea of preparing them ahead of time.

Miracles are, by their nature, ad hoc, as needed. Thus, a 1st level cleric could call upon their god once a day for a low level miracle (i.e., one first level spell slot). Which miracle that is, is up to the cleric at the moment of need, and can be drawn from any of the potential first level cleric spells.

Supernatural Embedded in the Material

As you can infer from my discussion of the fire god or love goddess above, I disagree with the abstract idea that gods are far removed in some other plane of existence. Returning to the primitive ideal, gods have specific locations on earth, like that mountain, that volcano, deep in that canyon, at the roots of that tree, etc. These are places of temples, pilgrimages, even towns that develop, devoted to those specific gods. Their power is not necessarily transferable to other locations, i.e., they would be a poor fit for an adventuring cleric. Adventuring clerics might even find their miracles restricted in these zones (although they would not know that ahead of time, of course)...

Some gods are above, in the literal sense of above, meaning, in the clouds, in the sun, in the moon, in the stars, in the planets (where are embedded in the dome of the sky, not in some infinite space like our modern scientific view). These gods tend to be accessed only from the highest mountain peak, or some means of flying upward. Because these gods can see the whole earth, their worshippers are more mobile, and thus, would be more appropriate for adventuring clerics. Do their powers extend underground, and if so, how far??? That would be a fun plot twist to explore, as your cleric, a devotee of the Thunderer, finds his miraculous powers fading as he progresses underground....

Monday, November 15, 2010

Creating Psionic NPCs the easy way

From our statistical analysis we know that a city of 45,000 will have 100 psionics in it, and their range of psionic strength with be as follows:

25 with one attack mode (01-25)
25 with two attack modes (26-50)
25 with three attack modes (51-75)
20 with four attack modes (76-95)
5 with all five attack modes (96-00)

25 with two defense modes [all have Mind Blank] (01-25)
50 with three defense modes (26-75)
15 with four defense modes (76-90)
10 with all five defense modes (91-00)

10 with 1 minor & 0 major disciplines (01-10)
15 with 2 minor & 0 major disciplines (11-25)
15 with 3 minor & 0 major disciplines (26-40)
15 with 2 minor & 1 major disciplines (41-55)
15 with 3 minor & 1 major disciplines (56-70)
10 with 4 minor & 1 major disciplines (71-80)
10 with 3 minor & 2 major disciplines (81-90)
5 with 5 minor & 1 major disciplines (91-95)
5 with 4 minor & 2 major disciplines (96-00)

The base psionic strength of any individual is postulated as 1-100 (with bonus for INT, WIS, and CHA), so one roll of the d100 can be used to create your psionic NPC.

Your d100 roll will provide the base strength and be applied to each of the above charts. This ensures that a psionic with lots of attacks, defenses, and disciplines will also have lots of strength points to put them to use. It makes intuitive sense, since a psionic with less overall psionic strength would logically have less attacks, defenses, and disciplines as well.

So, for example, a roll of 50 would produce base 50 psionic strength, 2 attack modes, 3 defense modes, 2 minor and 1 major disciplines.

A roll of 72 would produce base 72 strength pionts, 3 attack modes, 3 defense modes, 4 minor and 1 major disciplines.

To create the bonus points for the psionic strength, roll 3d6 for the NPC's INT, WIS, and CHA. Remember that one of them has to be at least 16, or he wouldn't have psionics in the first place. For each point above 12 in those three categories, add 1 psionic strength point.

If two categories are above 16, double these bonus points, and if all three categories are above 16, quadruple the bonus points. Thus
-- an NPC with 16s in INT, WIS, and CHA would have a bonus of 12 points
-- an NPC with two 17s and a 16 would have a bonus of 28
-- an NPC with three 17s would have a bonus of 60
-- with three 18s, the bonus would be 72.

Wild Psionics of the City: the Brawler

As I detailed in some previous posts (here and here), according to the dice, psionics should be far more common that most people give them credit for. In a city of 45,000 people, the odds indicate the presence of 100 people with psionic powers. In this post, I will detail one of the more intriguing possibilities: the psionic brawler.

The Brawler is a smallish looking fellow, perhaps even a woman. Physically weak, slight of frame, an easy mark, apparently. Perhaps our PCs encounter him as part of a bar bet. Imagine a smooth talking local, baiting our heroes with challenges to their manhood. "Take you guys on? Ha, I bet you can't even toss my old grandpa out of the ring!" as he points to a petite looking fellow at the table next to him. He, in turn, looks our heroes up and down, and snorts, "ha, don't waste my time with a tray full of creampuffs like that" and dismisses them with a wave.

Meanwhile, hearing the challenges and sensing a possible fight, a crowd has begun to gather around. The young trouble maker continues his tirade and insults, "These vagabond yahoos are all the same, they ain't nothing without their candy-ass armor and magic swords. Give 'em an old fashioned fight, man to man, and they cry like little girls!" The gathering crowd begins to laugh and jeer... "I'm not going to waste my time with these patsies... I'll bet you a hundred gold you can't even whip my old grandpa!" The crowd erupts in laughter... The spindly old man pulls himself up on his table and flexes his tiny arms to the crowds delight, toothless old grin leering at our heroes...

Once outside, a ring is quickly drawn in the dirt, a large crowd gathered round, cheering the old man on, as he pulls his overshirt and pants off, stripped down to his girdle. "Now, mind the rules, strangers: no magic, no armor, no weapons, first one out of the ring loses." Your hero nods his assent, as he strips off the last of his outergarments and steps into the ring.

The old man across the ring throws aside his walking stick, and with a crooked smile on his face, straightens up his back to stand to his full height, which, you swear, is bigger than he looked in the tavern. The crowd erupts in a rising roar as he throws his hands up in the air, and continues to grow, up, up, up...

The old man across the ring has grown to the size of a giant, with legs like small trees, and arms as thick as a normal man's waist. The ground shakes before you as he stamps his feet and pounds his chest and lets out a loud scream, which drowns out even the cheers of the crowd...

Psionic Details

The old man is exhibiting his psionic power of Expansion. His sixth level power has transformed him to the size and strength of a large ogre, growing to over 10' high, and adding a +6 damage bonus because his 18(00) strength. Luckily for our hero, this minor discipline uses up 5 psionic strength points per round, enough for, say, 10 rounds of combat. Can our hero stay in the ring that long??? Better brush up on your grappling rules, Mr. DM, cause the fight is on!

Another cool idea for this "hand to hand" fighting scam is versus a brawler who has the minor psionic discipline of Body Weaponry. At the sixth level of mastery his hard skin would equal an armor class of 4, and his fists would strike as a morning star!

A brawler with the major psionic science of Shape Alteration could also be quite fun to play. With that power, the psionic can change forms into anything for 3 strength points, and add 100 pounds of mass to his new form for every strength point expended beyond that. Think: instant transformation from skinny old man to 700 pound sumo wrestler.... Yeah, that is a fun NPC to have around.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Psionic Attacks upon non-psionics: Ego Whip

The Ego Whip is another really cool psionic attack. The ego is our conscious mind, our mental dialog, our sense of self. Attacks on someone's conscious thought process and identity can produce some really excellent effects, including insanity and mental domination.

The basic mechanic of Ego Whip is to overwhelm the other person's mental apparatus. In the best case scenario, you can actually take control of their mind. The shock of the attempted takeover might also cause insanity, or at least knock them out of commission for awhile.

The Ego Whip costs 7 attack points against a psionic, or 27 points versus a non-psionic. Remember, a psionic must have at least 100 strength points to attack a non-psionic. The Ego Whip affects only one creature, and its range is S = 4", M = 8", and L = 12".

Note that mind blank is normally helpful against psionic attacks, but against the Ego Whip, mind blank is actually harmful. According to the DMG psionic combat tables, Ego Whip is twice as effective against Mind Blank as any other psionic defense. Because Ego Whip is basically trying to highjack the victim's thought processes, the Mind Blank actually helps things along. It's like a "lay down" defense against a grappling attack. Yeah, not too smart.

Savings throw table

Effects table

Friday, November 5, 2010

Psionic attacks on non-psionic: Id Insinuation

The Id Insuinuation is another very creative psionic attack. It seeks to loose the uncontrolled and subconsious mind of the victim. Against the psionically-aware, it is an area attack (2" by 2"), and costs 10 points. Against non-psionics, I would treat it as an individual attack, and make it cost 30 points.

The Id is the animalistic/reptilian part of the brain, focused on passion, emotion, and pleasure/pain. The Id Insinuation stimulates that part of the mind, attempting to cause it to overwhelm the super-ego, which provides our sense of right/wrong.

Because of the nature of this attack, the savings thrown table against this attack is modified differently than against other attacks. It is also more even across the board, as the INT+WIS level matters relatively less than one's mental character traits and habits:
--Bonuses are given to those peolple and races who are disciplined in mental control and less likely to give in to their passions (lawful, good, dwarf, halfling, cleric, monk, cavalier/paladin)
--Penalties are given against those who tend to be less disciplined and more likely to give into their lower natures (thief, assassin, chaotic, evil, half-orc, elf, gnome).
--Mind Blank spells are given extra bonus here because Mind Blank is the most effective psionic defence against this attack on the psionic combat tables.
--Being in a highly agitated emotional state, as well as sleeping, also opens one up to this attack.

Id Insinuation has the longest range of any psionic attack: Short - 6", Medium - 12", Long - 18"

Saving throw Table vs Id Insinuation

save vs id insinuation

The effects of a succesful Id Insinuation attack are more dependent upon the victim's alignment than mental capacity, due to the nature of people's subconscious tendencies.

effects of id insinuation

Psionic attacks on non-psionics -- Mind Thrust

This is house rules stuff for those who enjoy playing with psionics. The way I see it, everyone has a mind, an id, an ego, and a psyche, therefore everyone is potentially vulnerable to these psionic attacks (not just Psionic Blast, as defined in the 1e rules). Giving psionics the ability to attack non-psionics is potentially a big "game unbalancer", so I am trying to constrain these powers to logical limits while still keeping them somewhat effective and fun.

The PH1e states that Psionic Blast is costly in terms of attack point expenditure, but is the only attack that can affect non-psionics. I take that as a statement of intended game balance, and I respect the logic of it. I would postulate that any psionic attack used on a non-psionic costs 20 extra strength points. Keep in mind, the psionic must have a current psionic strength of at least 100 to be able to affect a non-psionic. Thus, only a very powerful psionic would have a chance at using their powers on a non-psionic.

Used on a non-psionic, the Mind Thrust would cost 24 points. The attack range of the Mind Thrust is as follows: Short - 3", Medium - 6", Long - 9"

The Mind Thrust is a stabbing attack which seeks to short the synapses of the victim. I think of it like swirling a stick inside someone's skull. You are basically just trying to mess something up. When used on a fellow psionic, the Mind Thrust can wound or permanently damage the victim's psionic abilities. When used on a non-psionic, I figure that worst case scenario, it can cause the loss of INT or WIS points.

Save vs Mind Thrust table
save vs mind thrust
Effects of Mind Thrust table

effects of mind thrust

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Psionic attack upon non-psionics: the Psychic Crush

This is house rules stuff for those who enjoy playing with psionics. The way I see it, everyone has a mind, an id, an ego, and a psyche, therefore everyone is potentially vulnerable to these psionic attacks (not just Psionic Blast, as defined in the 1e rules).

The PH1e states that Psionic Blast is costly in terms of attack point expenditure, but is the only attack that can affect non-psionics. I take that as a statement of intended game balance, and I respect the logic of it. I would postulate that any psionic attack used on a non-psionic costs 20 extra strength points. Thus, used on a non-psionic, the Psychic Crush would cost 34 points.

Keep in mind, the psionic must have a current psionic strength of at least 100 to have any chance of effecting a non-psionic. Thus, only a very powerful psionic would have a chance at using this on a non-psionic, and because of its cost, it could only be used once or maybe twice.

The Psychic Crush is a pretty cool attack. It is your basic kill shot, "a massive assault upon all neurons in the brain, attempting to destroy all by a massive overload of signals." It affects but one other creature at a time. Its short range is 5", which is also its max range, as no medium or long range is given.

I figure that a person of average INT and WIS has about a 50% chance of throwing off the Psychic Crush without any effect. The saving table works out as follows:

saving throw vs psychic crush

I am also slightly modifying the effect of Psychic Crush, which is normally save-or-die. I figure there is a range of damage prior to instant death that can result from this "massive assault upon the neurons", so the effects table is as follows:

effects of psychic crush

Again, in terms of game balance, I postulated that a person of average INT and WIS would only suffer instant death 50% of the time. Remember, this is after they already failed their saving throw, meaning that the real chance of killing an average person with a Psychic Crush is only 25%.

On the other hand, someone with max INT+WIS would have a 50% chance of suffering confusion, but only a 5% chance of death (and their saving throw was at 0 to start with anyway).

Giving psionics the ability to attack non-psionics is potentially a big "game unbalancer", so I am trying to constrain these powers to logical limits while still keeping them somewhat effective and fun.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Understanding surprise rules

The surprise mechanics in 1e are a bit counter-intuituve and clunky, which is probably why it underwent some changes in later editions. I think the basic point of confusion comes from the fact that you are NOT rolling to see if you surprise your enemy.

Your surprise roll is better thought of as a "paying attention check" for yourself. Think of it as a saving throw against not paying attention.

You have a base 33% chance of not paying attention. On a d6, if you roll a 1-2, you have failed your paying attention check, so you are vulnerable to surprise. Your "success number" is a 3, because if you roll a 3-6, you passed your attention check, meaning, you were not surprised.

Some monsters surprise on 4 in 6, or better. That means your "success number" is a 5, so on your roll, you have to roll a 5-6 to avoid surprise. A better way of putting it is that they cause a minus 2 in your "attention check" rolls. Your normal "success number" is a 3, but because you are rolling at -2, your "success number" rises to 5.

But what if your surprise roll was already modified, so you are normally only surprised on a 1 in 6? Essentially that means your "attention check" roll is +1. So against the monster that "surprises on 4 in6"/"causes -2 on surprise check rolls", that means you would only be surprised on 3 in 6 by that monster. Your "success number" has risen to 4, because of the -2 and +1.

Segments Lost

The number of segments you lose by being surprised is calculated by how far below your "success number" you actually roll. Normally, your "success number" is a 3. But if you roll a 1, you lose two segments to your opponent (3 minus 1) . If you roll a 2, you lose one segment to your opponent (3 minus 2) .

But if your "attention check" number was 5, because the monster was a "surprise on 4 in 6"/"minus 2 on surprise check rolls" monster, that means you could lose up to 4 segments, if you roll a 1. (5 minus 1)

Your individual DEX score can reduce the number of segments you lose to surprise.
DEX 16 = 1 segment bonus
DEX 17 = 2 segment bonus
DEX 18 = 3 segment bonus

Segments lost to surprise are extra important because while you are surprised, you can be attacked once every segment. Think of it as a complete blindside attack, followed by a bunch of easy follow-up blows as you stumble around trying to get your bearings.

We can see that stealthy monsters are particularly dangerous. If you roll a 1 against a "surprise 4 in 6" monster, that means you are subject to 4 attacks in a row, because 5 (your target success roll) minus 1 (your actual roll) equals 4 (the number of segments you lose). You would be subject to 4 straight attack rolls before you could even roll for initiative to counter attack.

The DMG is a bit vague on the this one fine point: can your DEX bonus remove all suprise segments, effectively eliminating your surprise? The DMG states that a low DEX penalty cannot cause you to be surprised, although it could add to the segments you were vulnerable. Think of the big clumsy guy who is stumbling around for longer, vulnerable to more attacks. Just because he is more clumsy doesn't mean he pays less attention than anyone else. His recovery time is slower, but his odds of being surprised are no worse than anyone else.

But what about on the high-DEX side? DEX is said to reduce the number of segments you are surprised by your DEX bonus. But that would seem to imply that your surprise segments can be cut down to zero, and I think that would defeat the whole reality of the surprise. I would say that your DEX adjustment can reduce your lost segments down to 1 from a higher number, but cannot get rid of the surprised penalty altogether.

To allow the DEX bonus to reduce the surprise segments down to zero would be to confuse categories. High DEX allows you to recover more quickly from surprise, but it doesn't prevent you from being surprised in the first place, and if you are surprised, you are surprised, there is no getting around it.

While your teammates are getting knocked about while they stumble around for multiple segments because they weren't paying attention, your lightning reflexes may allow you to spin off the attack, tumble and roll back to your feet to avoid further attacks... But it doesn't prevent your vulnerability to the initial suprise attack in the first place.

Anyway, that seems reasonable to me!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Psionic attacks on non-psionics - Psionic Blast

In the 1e DMG rules, the only psionic attack that can be used against non-psionics is the Psionic Blast. I find this a bit arbitrary and inconsistent. After all, the attack modes are Mind Thrust, Ego Whip, Id Insinuation, and Psychic Crush. Doesn't everyone have a mind, an ego, an id, and a psyche? Of course they do. Therefore everyone should be vulnerable in some degree to these attacks.

The main limitation on Psionic attacks upon a non-psionic is that the psionic must have at least 100 strength points in order to affect the non-psionic. This makes perfect sense to me, and will apply to any of the attack modes.

The Psionic Blast is described as a wave of brain force, experienced like "stunning news" to the mind. The attack is a cone-shaped waive of force 1/2" diameter at its source and 2" diameter at its terminus 6" distant.

The saving throws for Psionic Blast attacks on non-psionics is as follows:

psionic attacks on non-psionics

range for psionic blast:
short = 2"
medium = 4"
long = 6"

The effects table is as follows:

Psionic blast effects

Seeding the city with Wild Psionics

Wild psionics are those people who have inborn psionic power. I postulate these people as separate from those of the [optional] Psionic class, who develop their psionic powers as a science and therefore progress in levels and psionic power. The "wild psionics" of the world just have it as an inborn and never-changing power (perhaps as a vestige of their descent from a god).

As detailed in a previous post, wild psionics are not as rare as most people play them. In a city of 36,000 people, random chance would indicate the presence of 80 people with wild psionic power. In order to get the nice round number of 100 psionics, we would require a city of 45,000 people. The following list is based on the percentage charts in Appendix I of the 1e Players Handbook.

In our protype city of 45,000, those 100 wild psionics would line up as follows

25 with one attack mode (01-25)
25 with two attack modes (26-50)
25 with three attack modes (51-75)
20 with four attack modes (76-95)
5 with all five attack modes (96-00)

25 with two defense modes (01-25)
50 with three defense modes (26-75)
15 with four defense modes (76-90)
10 with all five defense modes (91-00)

10 with 1 minor & 0 major disciplines (01-10)
15 with 2 minor & 0 major disciplines (11-25)
15 with 3 minor & 0 major disciplines (26-40)
15 with 2 minor & 1 major disciplines (41-55)
15 with 3 minor & 1 major disciplines (56-70)
10 with 4 minor & 1 major disciplines (71-80)
10 with 3 minor & 2 major disciplines (81-90)
5 with 5 minor & 1 major disciplines (91-95)
5 with 4 minor & 2 major disciplines (96-00)

The PH1e lets the PCs choose their modes, but for random purposes we can use the d10:
--attack modes
1-2 --> Psionic Blast
3-4 --> Mind Thrust
5-6 --> Ego Whip
7-8 --> Id Insinuation
9-0 --> Psychic Crush
--defense modes, d8 (all have Mind Blank automatically)
3-4 --> Thought Shield
5-6 --> Mental Barrier
7-8 --> Intellect Fortress
9-0 --> Tower of Iron Will

Psionic attacks upon a non-psionic creature can only occur if the attacker has a current psionic strength of 100 or more. Of course, by the book, only a psionic blast can be used upon a non-psionic creature. In my house rules, I would open that rule up a bit. After all, don't all humans have a mind, an ego, an id, and a psyche? Since attacks target those aspects of the mind, it only makes sense that any human would be vulnerable to them. I will detail this house rule in a future post.

Minor Devotions
1 Animal Telepathy
2 Body Equilibrium (walk on water/feather fall)
3 Body Weaponry
4 Cell Adjustment (heal wounds/cure disease)
5 Clairaudience
6 Clairvoyance
7 Detection of Good or Evil
8 Detection of Magic
9 Domination
10 Empathy
11 ESP
12 Expansion
13 Hypnosis
14 Invisibility
15 Levitation
16 Mind Over Body (no need for food/water/sleep)
17 Molecular Agitation (cause heat)
18 Object Reading
19 Precognition
20 Reduction
21 Sensitivity to Psychic Impressions
22 Suspend Animation (death-like sleep)

Major Sciences
1 Astral Projection
2 Aura Alteration
3 Body Control (withstand hostile environment)
4 Dimension Door
5 Dimension Walk (quick long range travel)
6 Energy Control (cancel energy attacks)
7 Etherealness
8 Mass Domination
9 Mind Bar
10 Molecular Manipulation (break hard objects)
11 Molecular Rearrangement (transmute metals)
12 Probability Travel (to parallel worlds and planes)
13 Telekinesis
14 Telempathic Projection (sending emotions)
15 Teleportation
18 Shape Alteration

Monday, November 1, 2010

Initiative, Weapon Speed, Charging, and who strikes first

In 1e, initiative determines who "strikes first". I played a 3.0 or 3.5 game with a friend, and it was all about weapon speed, and guys even got to strike first because they were using their fists. I'm all, WTF??? Something didn't sound right to me about that system.

Weapon reach can be even more important than weapon speed when it comes to determining who hits first. This is seen in the "charge to attack" rule and the "grappling" rules.

One page 66 in the DMG: "Initiative is NOT checked at the end of charge movement. The opponent with the longer weapon/reach attacks first. Charging creatures gain +2 on their 'to hit' dice if they survive any non-charging or charging opponent attacks which occur first [although their AC is one factor worse and they lose DEX bonuses]...."

Weapon length also has an effect in a grappling scenario (pg 73):
"If the opponent of a grappling, pummeling or overbearing attack has a weapon, the opponent will always strike first unless the attacker has surprise. Any weapon hit does NO damage, but it does indicate that the attacker trying to grapple, pummel, or overbear has been fended or driven off, and the attack is unsuccessful. The weapon-wielder then has the opportunity to strike at the weaponless one 'for real', if he or she so chooses. "

Weapon speed only comes into play for tie during initiative:
"When opponents in melee have tied for initiative, blows occur simultaneously, except when both opponents are using weapons. Each weapon has a speed factor, and in the case of otherwise simultaneous blows, the opponent with the weapon which has the lower speed factor will strike first."

Interesting extra factor thrown in here:

"When weapon speed factor is the determinant of which opponent strikes first in a melee round, there is a change that one opponent will be entitled to multiple attacks. " In sum, a speed factor advantage of 1/2 the other weapon, or total value of 5 better than the other weapon = two attacks for the speedier weapon, and a speed factor advantage of 10 provides 2 attacks plus 1 extra simultaneous attack.

Speed factors of common weapons:
Axe, hand -- 4
Club -- 4
Dagger -- 2
Hammer -- 4
Mace, footman's -- 7
Scimitar -- 4
Spear -- 6-8
Sword, bastard -- 6
Sword, long -- 5
Sword, short -- 3
Sword, two-handed -- 10

Population Distribution of Psionics

According to the math of 1e, Psionics are WAAAY more common than you thought. Hell, they're way more common than I thought, and I like psionics. Doing the math is really enlightening.

OK, so first of all, what is the basic probability of psionics? According to the Player's Handbook 1e, if you have an ability score of 16 or higher in INT, WIS, or CHA, you have a base 1% chance of having psionic powers. So the question then becomes, what percentage of people have ability scores that high?

First of all, from the basic odds of rolling dice: The odds of having a score of 16 is 6/216, or 1/36.

So, 1 in 36 people will have a 16 in, say, INT. 1 in 100 of them will have psionic power. Thus, 1 in 3600 people will have 16 INT and a psionic power. Think about what that means:

--In a city of 36,000 people, 10 of them will have 16 INT and a psionic power.

Now given that the base chance of having a 16 WIS or 16 CHA is the same as having a 16 INT, the 1% chance of psionics gives us the same number as well. Thus 1 in 3600 peole will have 16 WIS and a psionic power, and 1 in 3600 people will have a CHA of 16 and a psionic power.

--In a city of 36,000, 10 of them will have a 16 WIS and psionics, and 10 of them will have 16 CHA and psionic power.

Thus, in our city of 36K, we can expect 30 people to have psionic powers because of their single 16 ability score.

So what about people with scores higher than 16? It gets a little more complicated here because the Players Handbook gives different bonuses for high scores in the three different abilities. First, the basic probability of the dice: The odds of having an ability score of 18 is 1/216, and the odds of having an ability score of 17 is 3/216, or 1/72.

INT = 17

The score of 17 INT gives the person a +2.5% chance of having psionic powers. 1/72 has a 17 INT, and 3/100 of them will have psionics. Thus 1 in 2400 will have both. In our city of 36,000, we would expect to have 15 people to have INT 17 and psionic power.

WIS = 17

The score of 17 WIS gives the person a +1.5% chance of having psionic powers. 1/72 has a 17 WIS, and 2/100 of them will have psionics. Thus, 1 in 3600 will have both. In our city of 36,000, we would expect to have 10 people to have WIS 17 and psionic power.

CHA = 17

The score of 17 CHA gives a person a +0.5% chance of having psionic powers, but unfortunately, fractions are rounded down, so it remains the base 1/100 chance. 1/72 has 17 CHA, and 1/100 will have psionics. Thus, 1 in 7200 will ahve both. In our city of 36,000, we would expect to have 5 people to have CHA 17 and psionic power.

Thus, in our city of 36K, we can expect 30 people to have psionic powers because of their single 17 ability score.

INT = 18

The score of 18 INT gives the person a +5% chance of having psionic powers. 1/216 has a 18 INT, and 6/100 of them will have psionics. Thus 1 in 3600 will have both. In our city of 36,000, we would expect to have 10 people to have INT 18 and psionic power.

WIS = 18

The score of 18 WIS gives the person a +3% chance of having psionic powers. 1/216 has a 18 WIS, and 4/100 of them will have psionics. Thus, 1 in 5400 will have both. In our city of 36,000, we would expect to have 6.7 people to have WIS 18 and psionic power.

CHA = 18

The score of 18 CHA gives a person a +1% chance of having psionic powers. 1/216 has a 18 CHA, and 2/100 of them will have psionics. Thus, 1 in 10,800 will ahve both. In our city of 36,000, we would expect to have 3.3 people to have CHA 18 and psionic power.

Thus, in our city of 36K, we can expect 20 people to have psionic powers due to their one ability score of 18.

****In sum, because of single ability scores of 16, 17, or 18, we can expect a city of 36K to have 80 people with psionic powers. ****

Combinations of Ability Scores

Having multiple scores that are in the high range gives you a slightly higher chance of having psionic powers. The problem is, people are far LESS likely to have multiple high ability scores than just one high ability score. Thus, the people who have high scores in 2 or 3 abilities and a psionic power are much more rare.

17 INT (+2.5%) + 17 CHA (+0.5%) = 1/72 x 1/72, 4% base chance = 1 in 129,600
17 INT (+2.5%) + 18 CHA (+1%) = 1/72 x 1/216, 4% base chance = 1 in 388,800
18 INT (+5%) + 17 CHA (+0.5%) = 1/216 x 1/72, 6% base chance = 1 in 259,200
18 INT (+5%) + 18 CHA (+1%) = 1/216 x 1/216, 7% base chance = 1 in 666,514

17 INT (+2.5%) + 17 WIS (+1.5%) = 1/72 x 1/72, 5% base chance = 1 in 103,680
17 INT (+2.5%) + 18 WIS (+3%) = 1/72 x 1/216, 6% base chance = 1 in 259,200
18 INT (+5%) + 17 WIS (+1.5%) = 1/216 x 1/72, 7% base chance = 1 in 222,171
18 INT (+5%) + 18 WIS (+3%) = 1/216 x 1/216, 9% base chance = 1 in 518,400

17 WIS (+1.5%) + 17 CHA (+0.5%) = 1/72 x 1/72, 3% base chance = 1 in 172,800
17 WIS (+1.5%) + 18 CHA (+1%) = 1/72 x 1/216, 3% base chance = 1 in 518,400
18 WIS (+3%) + 17 CHA (+0.5%) = 1/216 x 1/72, 4% base chance = 1 in 388,800
18 WIS (+3%) + 18 CHA (+1%) = 1/216 x 1/216, 5% base chance = 1 in 933,120

--17 INT (+2.5%) + 17 WIS (+1.5%) + 17 CHA (+0.5%) = 1/72 x 1/72 x 1/72, 5% base chance = 1 in 7,464,960

--17 INT (+2.5%) + 17 WIS (+1.5%) + 18 CHA (+1%) = 1/72 x 1/72 x 1/216, 6% base chance = 1 in 18,662,400

--17 INT (+2.5%) + 18 WIS (+3%) + 17 CHA (+0.5%) = 1/72 x 1/216 x 1/72, 7% base chance = 1 in 15,996,342

--17 INT (+2.5%) + 18 WIS (+3%) + 18 CHA (+1%) = 1/72 x 1/216 x 1/216, 7% base chance = 1 in 47,989,029

--18 INT (+5%) + 17 WIS (+1.5%) + 17 CHA (+0.5%) = 1/216 x 1/72 x 1/72, 8% base chance = 1 in 13,996,800

--18 INT (+5%) + 17 WIS (+1.5%) + 17 CHA (+0.5%) = 1/216 x 1/72 x 1/72, 8% base chance = 1 in 13,996,800

--18 INT (+5%) + 17 WIS (+1.5%) + 18 CHA (+1%) = 1/216 x 1/72 x 1/216, 8% base chance = 1 in 41,990,400

--18 INT (+5%) + 18 WIS (+3%) + 17 CHA (+0.5%) = 1/216 x 1/216 x 1/72, 9% base chance = 1 in 37,324,800

--18 INT (+5%) + 18 WIS (+3%) + 18 CHA (+1%) = 1/216 x 1/216 x 1/216, 10% base chance = 1 in 100,776,960