On the edge of Loethe
This looks like a lot of rules at first glance, but I’ve spent a lot of time putting them together, and I feel they streamline some concepts, emphasize some others, and add some key ones. I used to explain the intent of each of the rules, but I had a hard time writing a lot of it without sounding like a jerk (some of these rules have sprung from some pretty irresponsible characters’ actions). If there’s anything you just can’t live with, let me know, and we can work it out.
• Ability Scores: Available options for generating ability scores are as follows:
➢ Point Buy system from the PRD – players use 20 points to buy ability scores with this option, with a possibility to gain up to 5 more points, see character depth below.
➢ Rolling – players have the option of rolling one of two styles… roll 3d6 nine times, and select any six of those rolls. OR roll 4d6, six times, dropping a single die from each roll of the player’s choice. If rolling is used, the GM MUST be present.
Ability score sets must fit this criteria for each character upon creation: The cumulative ability mod must be between 1), 12 (4), 12 (1), 9 (-1), 16 (+3), 10 (0) for a cumulative ability modifier of +8. This player must either reroll completely or reduce any number of her scores to meet the +7 maximum cumulative modifier (the 9 could be dropped to a 7, the 18 to 16, the 10 to 9, and so on).
• Alignment (addressed below)
• Character Depth. As described in Roleplaying and Atmosphere below, my style of GMing stresses roleplaying. A vital building block for this crucial element of our game is character depth. During character creation, if a player completes the character depth sheet (attached), he/she will be rewarded in one of two ways, depending on the choice for ability score generation. Once the first game session begins with this character, players may complete, or add to, the character depth sheet for other benefits not described below. Such benefits include custom magical items based on character depth, favor with NPCs, focus of the story spotlight to the character, etc.
➢ Point Buy. If you chose the point buy system, you may earn from 1 to 5 extra points with which to buy ability scores. Merely filling out the sheet is worth one point. An attempt that shows effort but needs some work is worth two points. Three points will be awarded if the sheet paints a detailed picture of the character, what the character would do in example situations, culture is considered.. Four to five points is for all the aforementioned components plus a real story and feel for the character, and non-cliché backgrounds (a red dragon killed my parents). A five-point reward is reserved for the ‘wow factor’, which includes, compelling motivation and purpose, a clear destiny, and that extra effort which shows the individual intends to roleplay deeply. The intent is to award higher ability scores to the players who demonstrate that they can use them responsibly.
➢ Rolling. If you chose the dice rolling system, you may earn up to 1,000 bonus xp before the first game session. Up to 300xp will be granted if the individual shows effort and fills out the sheet. An estimated 400-700xp will be awarded if the character presents a cohesive idea comparable to that worthy of 2-3 bonus ability points referenced in the previous paragraph. 1,000 xp will only be awarded if the wow factor in the previous paragraph is achieved.
• Traits. Characters are allowed two traits. The trait selection will be judged for appropriateness to your background/character type as a part of the bonus xp/ability score reward process.
• Character Creation Above 1st Level.
➢ Joining an existing adventuring party. In addition to the other rules, characters who join the party as a result of previous character death (or they’re new to the party, etc.) will start out at a lower level. That character will start out with 90% of the xp of the average level of the party. Example 1: A player dies in combat, and wants to make a new character and continue playing. The three other party members are levels 6, 6, and 7. The average party level is 6, which requires 21,000xp to attain. The player will get 18,900xp to make the new character, which means they will start at the upper end of level 5 (or level 4 if using a level adjustment race). Example 2: A player leaves the game, and a new one joins. The heroes are all at level 20, and want to continue to epic status. The average party level is 20, so the new player will get 189,000xp, starting at 18th level, just 1000xp shy of 19th level. Due to the higher rate of xp earning at lower levels, over time they will catch up to the party level. This just serves as another incentive not to die (as if not dying weren’t enough itself!) and rewards players who stay alive. EXCEPTION: If the average party level is three or less, the character joins at level 1.
➢ Whole party creation. If the whole party starts above level 1, the target starting level will be chosen. Then players will be given the number of xp required to achieve that character level plus 10%.
• Coordination. I encourage all the players to coordinate amongst themselves regarding what characters they intend to create. This is so that alignments (below) make sense, everyone understands how to best compliment each other’s capabilities. Please don’t feel pressured by other players to play a character you’re not comfortable with, however. If you’re making the last character, don’t feel like you HAVE TO do anything (if the other players are a ‘tank,’ ‘caster’ and ‘rogue,’ there shouldn’t be undue pressure to be the ‘healer’.) Make the character YOU want to play, within reason.
• Source materials.
➢ If it is found in the PRD, it is generally allowed.
➢ Any other source materials will not be used. Exceptions will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, but are discouraged. No one (including myself) has played so many characters that they don’t have enough material in the above sources to make a compelling, unique, fun, effective character. Note that these exceptions pertain to specific, individual items. Keep in mind that the idea here is to keep things open so if someone finds something that fits their character concept (or is just really cool), they might have the option to use it.
ROLEPLAYING AND ATMOSPHERE
Roleplaying is the intent of my games. I want them to be ‘roleplay heavy’, leaning towards ‘deep immersion storytelling’ as defined in the DMG, and I have incentivized my games to make it rewarding to play along. Roleplaying incentives are by no means meant to penalize characters that don’t have interest in acting, but the rewards are significant enough that if you have no interest in trying RP, your character will fall behind on the power curve.
• Roleplaying Rewards
➢ In addition to bonus XP for character depth and personality, bonus XP will be awarded subjectively after sessions using the following guidelines: Bonus XP equals hours played multiplied by character level multiplied by a factor representing the skill of the roleplaying. A factor of 1 or 2 will be awarded to anyone who tries to roleplay their character, or those who roleplay well but tend to get on everyone’s nerves or are a thorn in the DM’s side. A factor of 4 or 5 will be awarded if the character is essentially captured, and played consistently, but the player didn’t necessarily go the extra mile. A factor of 10 will be the maximum, and will be reserved for players who not only capture the essence of their character, but foster an enjoyable, friendly environment allowing for all players to contribute, includes a signature voice, and/or provides props for atmosphere. (You may get some XP for playing your really disgruntled jerk that you’re proud of, but not as much as if you created a character who helped everyone out). NOTE: Absolutely no bonus XP will be awarded for characters who do not complete the character depth sheet.
➢ In-Game Rewards. A player whose character has a background and destiny to draw upon naturally demands the spotlight. Players who put in the effort up front and during the games will find their characters’ backgrounds being referenced, NPCs from the past contacting them, and destinies knocking at their door. Players who don’t won’t.
➢ Painted Miniatures. After a few levels of play, if a player has accomplished the character depth sheet and has roleplayed well (at least a consistent factor of 6 or so), then the DM will contact that player and have them select a pewter mini that defines their character. The DM will purchase it and pay for a semi-professional paint job.
➢ Character Portraits. After a several levels of play, if a player has accomplished the character depth sheet and has roleplayed exceptionally well (at least a consistent factor of 8 or so), then the GM will contact that player and offer them a custom character portrait from AvatarArt.com. The GM will pay 5% of the cost of the portrait per level at the time of commission (5% at level 1, 50% at level 10, and 100% at level 20.)
• Spell Acquisition. The intent of this rule is to have a logical reason spells are learned. Although magic is prevalent in the Realms, remember this is a medieval world, without free trade agreements. It’s not feasible to go to the marketplace and lay down gold for a fireball spell. Good kingdoms certainly don’t want this potential lawlessness (which amounts to weapons of mass destruction available to anyone) and evil kingdoms certainly want to horde the power for themselves.
Additionally, the real world ‘magicians’ keep the tricks of their trade very secret, giving up the right to a trick or illusion if they pass it on to one person. How much more will a wizard scrutinize those he shares his powers with? Wizards may start play at 1st level with any spell in the player’s handbook, 0 or 1st level. These are not difficult spells, and are common tricks taught to graduating apprentices. 2nd level spells or higher must be sought out and found, either on the black market, from fellow mages (by good or ill means), or through research. Wielding such power comes with a high level of effort, but the DM will never stifle fun or ease of the game for this rule.
Lawful Good (LG) Neutral Good (NG) Chaotic Good (CG)
Lawful Neutral (LN) Neutral (N) Chaotic Neutral (CN)
Lawful Evil (LE) Neutral Evil (NE) Chaotic Evil (CE)
An alignment is not meant to be a trap, a label, or a restriction. Characters do not have to always ‘play their alignment.’ Alignment is simply a way to categorize the way a character consistently acts. It is possible (and very likely) that a lawful monk would do something chaotic if doing so would result in the greater good. This should be done rarely, however. Again, alignment is a reflection of your character’s consistent actions. If your rogue consistently pays his taxes, establishes marching orders, is organized and list oriented, and honors the local authorities, he is clearly a lawful character.
That being said, alignment can change for a character. Alignment change should be done rarely, and should only be done if there is an in game catalyst for the change. If your monk becomes disillusioned by corruption then consistently disregards the self discipline, honor, restraint, and reverence required for their faith, they will change alignment.
TABLE ETIQUETTE AND LOGISTICS
• Missing players. If we’re missing somebody, we’ll play anyway. PCs of missing players may be run by other individuals if at all possible (but no player will run more than one character per game), if that player is willing.
• Outside activities. No one should do other things during the session (watch TV, listen to iPod, play games on laptop or Xbox/PS3…). Breaks will occur for smokers and those needing to make phone calls, and I won’t be a jerk about this rule, but understand the intent of having characters’ minds on the game while we’re playing. If you’re not around or not paying attention while the game is happening around you, you may be skipped.
• Preparation. I highly recommend writing down all of your character’s abilities, feats, qualities, spells, magic items, etc in a manner that you can easily determine what they do. This avoids having to constantly look up information when you use an ability you aren’t familiar with. I can provide index cards, tools, or resources to do so. All relevant information should be included, including a description of the spell. See Battle Time Limits.
• Off-topic Discussions. During the game, they’re discouraged. Breaks, before game, and after game are a good times to discuss non-D&D topics.
• Character Speech. Everyone is allowed to converse regarding your PCs and their actions “out of time’s flow” with no hard limit…though certain rare circumstances will require time limits. I do this because encouraging teamwork and thinking is more important to me than realism.
• Advice. Please only give advice if asked for, but be careful about metagaming.
• Rules Lawyering. The DM has final say in all rules interpretations.
• Die rolls.
➢ Cocked die rolls will be rerolled. If dice leave the table they must be rerolled.
➢ Die rolls must occur at the time of declaration of the desired attempt, not prior. The DM and/or players must witness the die roll.
➢ The DM will roll many of the players’ rolls in which seeing the die result may encourage metagaming (e.g. move silently, sense motive, appraise).
• Paladins must flesh out their moral codes. I have a supplement with guidelines on this I can provide upon request. The guideline assigns points to the stringency of the code in different areas. A minimum of 15 points is required for character creation. 20 points are required to gain bonus xp/ability points upon creation, and a 25 point code is required in order to approach max xp/ability point rewards upon creation.
• Skill Checks. Players who demonstrate a knowledge of the skill being used may garner bonuses if they roleplay the skill check appropriately.
• This is meant to encourage players to learn about the medieval fantasy world, add description to their characters’ actions, and ultimately increase story quality.
Example 1: The PCs are being pursued by enemies. They will soon be overrun and decide to hide in the forest alongside the river. Three players say, ‘I hide.’ They roll hide checks, applying normal modifiers. The player of Rygan the half-elven ranger states, “I lower myself into the lazy river, grab a handful of mud and smear it on my eyes and hair. I drop down to where my eyes can see, holding my breath. Every so often I inch up, breath through my nose, and lower myself down. Rygan’s player garners a +4 RP bonus to his hide check, and gets a warm pat on the back.
Example 2: Hans the swashbuckler has just lassoed a harpy to halt her retreat. He intends to secure his end of the rope to the gunwales of his ship, Tymora’s Own Luck. If his player says, “I tie a knot.” He’ll apply his Use Rope modifier. If he rather says, “I’ve spent years out on the seas. I’ll tie a taut line hitch, a quick, easy slipknot that’ll tighten more as she struggles more,” he’ll garner a nice bonus.
• This is NOT meant to allow metagaming use of anachronistic knowledge. Such use will garner penalties.
Example: Miles Weatherby, Hin arcane trickster, has just set up his alchemy lab in the City of Splendors, and gets to brewing. If his player says, “I want to retrofit my equipment and apply a state-of-the-art polymer lining which will keep goo from sticking while boiling at temperatures hotter than 240 Fahrenheit. I read it in Popular Science,” then he’ll likely not be allowed to even try the event (if he does he’ll get a -8 penalty to the try) and will get a metaphoric slap on the head.
• Battle Time Limits. Players have 1 minute to decide what their characters do in combat. An electronic hourglass is used to keep track. If after 1 minute the player has not decided, the DM will decide for them. The intent is two-fold. Players should have a sense of the urgency of battle and the inherent impromptu nature of combat, and battles need to have a steady pace in order to not bog the game down. Preparation, above, will help players meet this requirement.
• Leveling Time. Characters must rest in order to attain levels. To attain levels 2-12, once a character receives enough xp to gain a level, they must then rest uninterrupted for a consecutive number of days equal to half the next level. This is meant to represent meditation, practice, study, and trade required to display new abilities. For levels 13-20, this time requirement increased to xd2 days, where x is the next level.
• Critical Hits/Fumbles. The Critical Hit and Critical Fumble decks from Game Mastery will be used. The DM and players will make use of these decks for fumbles and confirmed crits.