Pathfinder to 5e: Setting DCs

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I realized that one thing missing from my post on converting Pathfinder modules to 5e was how to convert difficulties for skill checks and saving throws.

The Math

Pathfinder skill checks tend to scale much higher than in 5e. Between feats, magic that improves ability scores and skills, and the base skill ranks, a highly-focused Pathfinder character could conceivably hit DC 60 without too much difficulty by 20th level. A similarly-focused character in 5e will have expertise, an ability score capped at 20, and probably the use of advantage and some kind of bonus die (like bardic inspiration). The 5e character hits only DC 36 with a similar frequency to the Pathfinder character hitting 60.

Using the theoretically most-focused character from level 1-20 in both systems, as well as a hypothetical “good-but-not-amazing” character, I worked out the skill DC curve below in a way that seems to be equivalent throughout play.

Straight up ability checks that don’t involve skills (like Strength checks to force doors) are probably closer to a wash: A character in Pathfinder can get ability scores over 20, but can’t usually apply most of the other bonuses that scale really high. 5e characters have access to advantage, and most miscellaneous bonuses (like bardic inspiration) apply to straight ability checks as easily as to skill checks, even if a high-ability-score character in 5e will be a few points behind a similarly focused character in Pathfinder. And, honestly, these checks are relatively uncommon at mid-to-high level anyway (since you can use utility magic to bypass them), so will tend to come up most frequently when characters have a similar range of ability bonuses anyway.

Meanwhile, saving throws are easier to figure out, since 5e tends to construct them into a very standardized 8 + proficiency + ability bonus. This means that you can assume DCs are almost always going to range from 10-21, and can figure out the most appropriate one by just figuring out the effective level of the threat plus the intended challenge of the threat (really easy threats are just 8 + proficiency + 0, while really hard ones are 8 + proficiency + 5).

The Conversion

Skill DCs

Pathfinder DC 5e DC
10 8
15 12
20 17
25 20
30 22
35 24
40 27
45 29
50 32
55 34
60 36

For DCs under 20, just take off 2-3 points of DC. For DCs of 20+, half + 7 gets you really close to the curve.

Ability Check DCs

If the ability doesn’t take a skill bonus, just use the printed ability check DC.

Saving Throw DCs

Figure out the approximate CR of the threat (when in doubt, just use the average PC level). Set the DC to 8 + that CR’s proficiency bonus + 0-5 (depending on how serious the threat is supposed to be).

For very quick and dirty math, just set the DC to half the CR + 10 and adjust it up or down by a point or two based on how serious the threat is.

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D&D: Political Alignments

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One of the many weird things about D&D alignments is that Law vs. Chaos tends to do double duty indicating whether you’re an orderly-minded person and whether you prefer a large, law-bound society or a loose, small-group affiliation. When elves tend chaotic, it’s because of their hippie-style small family groups based on respect rather than a deep legal system. Similarly, orcs tend chaotic because they form tribal warbands where there are no rules beyond those imposed through fear of the chief. So I got to thinking about ways to pull that political component out completely from whether or not you’re inclined to do whatever random thing jumps into your head.

Is a political alignment system actually useful? I dunno. Is the current alignment system all that useful?

Empire vs. Tribe

Individuals that favor organizing people into as large a social structure as possible have an Imperial alignment. Those with a benevolent outlook feel that wars and injustice would end if everyone in the world was bound by the same leaders and justice system. Those with less noble aims still prefer a world where you only have to learn and follow one creed and culture to get along anywhere.

Those that instead favor building society through direct ties of blood and respect have a Tribal alignment. They believe that society begins to collapse the moment justice must be administered by someone that doesn’t have personal knowledge of those being judged. “Impartial” is just another word for “uninformed,” and they’d rather stick with tight-knit groups of no more than a few hundred people with loose ties to their neighboring groups.

In between these two, some split the difference and consider themselves of the National alignment. They reject that you must have a personal relationship with your leaders and judges, but still feel that broader ties of race, religion, and culture can only stretch so far. At a certain point, a society would get too large for everyone to have the same aims and willingly agree to the same structures. They think empires fall not because of communication, but because of an unsolvable difference in subject peoples.

Obviously, all three types tend to have drawbacks.

Those that favor Empires, even without the ultimate goal of subjugating the entire world for their emperor, tend to ignore the personal in the legal. They’ll try to make rules apply when they’re clearly wrong for the situation, or to write laws so broad and well-meaning that they’re useless in practice. They tend to be blind to dramatic cultural differences in needs from the law.

Those that favor Nations can become the worst sort of racists: folk that are too different are seen as basically alien. Even the benevolent among them see many outsiders as unable to be integrated into society, and can easily ignore ghettos and similar injustices because they think “those people” deserve their own laws, even as an island in another nation. The worst among them regularly start genocidal wars with their country’s neighbors.

Those that favor Tribes are not just limited to the wilderness: organized crime, guilds, military units, nobility, and law enforcement can easily inculcate a belief that laws should apply differently within the familial organization than in the society at large. They all can grow to feel that the laws of the larger culture don’t apply to them, and only their personal rules should matter. Even in the wilderness, justice based on bias can easily become extremely unfair when elders are weak to favoritism or cupidity.

Republic vs. Monarchy

It’s really hard to get a democratic regime off the ground, but those that favor it have a Republican alignment. They feel that every person in a society should have input into its laws and governance. Annoyingly, many tend to draw a circle around “persons” that doesn’t include all individuals in the society, but they still prefer a broader base of power than in other forms.

Conversely, the most common beliefs in support of a single strong leader have a Monarchist alignment. For those that have actually thought about it, they think that a single decider is more effective than many special interests all pulling in different directions. Particularly in war, even a tyrant is better than confusion.

There are relatively few in the middle of the two extremes, and they can be considered Oligarchists for lack of a better term. They agree with the monarchists that the masses cannot be trusted with control of society, but they think the risk of a single bad leader is too great. They prefer a small group of powerful and wise leaders that are few enough to get things done but numerous enough to check weakness or madness in one of their own.

These beliefs can reach across all sizes of government.

Those that favor Republics expect rule by the many to apply in an empire as easily as in a tribe. Obviously a tribal republic can easily be a direct democracy, where all individuals in the group offer their input toward rulings. As the society becomes larger, republican sentiment requires more layers of coordination. True republicans are always wary of the representatives they’ve elected as proxies for a democratic nation or empire becoming oligarchs.

Those that favor Oligarchies tend to be happier with the reality on the ground in empires and nations. In a monarchy, the reality of governance falls to important courtiers, and in a republic, elected officials inevitably draw power. Oligarchists just wish these systems could go ahead and abolish the weak link at the top of the monarchy, or the confused desires of the masses of the republic. In a tribe, they tend to favor a collection of elders or deacons rather than a single strong leader, but may be happy with a much smaller number of oligarchs than they would need in a large society.

Those that favor Monarchies are often happiest in a tribal setting, where they can personally know their chieftain. The larger the society they prefer, the more their personal relationship with their monarch is necessarily abstract. Monarchic imperialists often see a narrow difference between emperor and deity: who could truly make laws for the entire world other than someone so abstracted as to have become divine?

Scion 2e: Character Sheet

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It doesn’t look like there’s an official version yet, so I put this together for my game.

Scion 2e: House Rules

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As promised last week, this week’s post is a discussion of my changes to the rules draft for my table.

Overall

This list of changes shouldn’t be seen as an indictment of the new Storypath system from White Wolf/Onyx Path. They’re testing it in Scion, and also using it for the updated Aeon line. I’d also expect miscellaneous developments from it to find their way back into World of Darkness games over time.

Overall, it’s a very nice job at taking the sacred cows of the Storyteller system and updating them with modern design ideas. In particular, the move to using successes to purchase effects from a menu is woven pretty well throughout the system (though admittedly some systems are just like “we couldn’t think of anything granular, so just use it as margin of success” which is always a danger with a universal mechanic). This really shines in combat, as simply dealing as much damage as possible has been downplayed in favor of miscellaneous stunts, which seems like it will result in more tactical play.

Adding Difficulty vs. Complications

One of the areas I think the rules need some more revisions are in the idea of Complications. It seems very much like different sections of the draft were written by people that didn’t agree on what the rule does (which is, of course, likely in this type of development). The core idea of Complications are that they’re “you succeed, but…” thresholds on the action. A test could have Difficulty 1, Complication 2: If you only get 1-2 successes, you still succeed, but you need 3+ successes to get a success without suffering a drawback. With the stunting system, you could even decide that you’d rather buy a 2 point stunt and take the drawback, even with a lot of successes.

Unfortunately, a lot of rules later in the book say things like, “…or take/add a 1 point Complication” as if the writer thought “Complication” was a mechanic unto itself, or just increased difficulty, rather than the formal rule. I cleaned up several of those instances throughout my summary. I expect they’ll be cleaned up in the official book once revisions are complete.

One core bug in the system is that the generic stunts value “add a Complication” and “increase Difficulty” the same: you can spend 2 successes to give someone Complication 2 or just bump their difficulty by +2. Raising difficulty is objectively superior in every case except the weird one where you think your opponent can barely succeed, and would rather she succeeded with a drawback than fail outright. I’ve just altered it in my summary so raising difficulty is something you can do to defend yourself, but you have to add a complication to otherwise interfere with an opponent.

Botching

Botching is the sacred cow of the Storyteller system that I’d most love to go away forever. The version on display in Scion is the somewhat defanged version: 1s don’t cancel successes, but if you have 1s on a failure, you botch. This variant has the known issue that, as you increase in skill, your failures get rarer but they’re more likely to result in a botch when you do fail. In my house rules, I just edited it to a Cortex-style purchase opportunity, where you don’t botch unless you accept the GM’s offer of extra plot currency. I’d just as soon remove it entirely, but they sometimes actually hang mechanics off of botching that are useful and hard to attach to something else if you remove botching outright (this is my major complaint about the Changeling 20th rules).

Actions

Scion has a Standard/Move/Free action system. It’s a fine action system. Many games have been perfectly happy using the D&D model over the last couple of decades. Unfortunately, Scion refuses to admit that it has this system. It thinks it has a Standard/Free action system (it’s calling free actions Reflexive). But then there are a lot of rules about movement and things that prevent you from moving or alter your movement just sprinkled throughout the Standard action options. I think it would be cleaner to just break them out (as I’ve done in my summary).

Initiative

I replaced the existing system entirely with Balsera-style initiative in my summary. The default system is the same as the Fantasy Flight games (Warhammer 3e, Star Wars, and I assume the Genesys generic system). In it, everyone rolls initiative and creates a fixed order similar to the more common initiative systems, but then PCs and NPCs can freely trade slots each round (e.g., one PC rolls really well and goes first, so any PC can take that first slot each round).

It’s fine, and I like it better than fully fixed initiative (particularly in a system where there aren’t any “until your next turn” effects), but Balsera-style seems like it’ll be smoother at the table. The default system doesn’t include, for example, any kind of mechanic for PCs arguing over which of them should take the next slot, whereas Balsera-style still lets players be like, “pass to me/no me!” but it’s still the active player’s final choice.

Moreover, Scion does away with the old workhorses of Wits and Alertness (which is probably for the best, since Alertness is otherwise the single most-rolled ability), so there’s nothing that’s being diminished in power by taking away rolled initiative. The default system just uses whatever combat skill you’re probably going to use. Meanwhile, they had this really cool group currency called Momentum that seemed like it would obviously affect the pacing of combat, so it was a no-brainer to me to use that as the governing number instead.

Defense

Speaking of Momentum, the default rule assumption is that players roll their defense pool once every round they’re attacked, with successes setting the difficulty to hit them. That’s a lot of extra rolling to create minimal swing (the average PC is going to have 3-5 dice for defense, so rarely 0, usually 1, sometimes 2, and rarely 3+ defense difficulty). After realizing I wanted to base initiative on Momentum, it made sense to me to give players a good reason to spend Momentum up front (and maybe let the NPCs go first) in order to set a fixed Defense for the whole combat. Two birds, one stone.

Stunts and Gear Tags

These are largely really cool. My changes were minor, and mostly to streamline verbiage (I expect it will be similarly streamlined in official revisions). I added several ranged stunts since I don’t like lists that only have one entry (necessitated by my moving the stunts available to every weapon to a generic combat stunts section, when they’re individually reprinted for each weapon type in the official document).

The gear tags system is cool. I like that they’re moving away from the weapon porn of old Storyteller, where we need to dither over exactly how to model the difference between a Desert Eagle and a .44 Magnum in capacity, damage, range, and difficulty. I expect that my player that, in every game, is constantly dropping his weapon to slam an opponent into the environment is going to be excited to have a game where that’s a fully valid tactic. Everything does an injury for one point and an additional injury for four more points, and that’s it.

That said, looking at the example gear lists, I think they’re going to have a hard time selling the rule of thumb that most standard gear is worth three points of tags. Most of their examples aren’t. I think they’re going to want to add a few more tags if they’re serious about balancing the gear based on the numbers in this system.

Scion 2e: Rules Summary

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I’m putting together a Scion 2e game based on the Kickstarter backer drafts, and wrote up a rules summary for my players. Why am I posting a rules summary for rules that are likely to change significantly before actual publication? A) This is using up most of my design cycles, so it’s the content I have ready to post for the next couple of weeks and B) it gives me an opportunity to talk next week about my house rules to compensate for in-progress rules. The summary below includes my house rules worked in. They’re colored red to note that they’re not the official version of the rules, and so I can talk about them next week.

Core Mechanic

Roll a dice pool of d10s composed of Attribute value + Ability value. Each die that shows 8-10 is a Success. Reroll any die that shows a 10 to attempt to get another Success. Your action may include an Enhancement bonus: if any dice generated Successes, you add the Enhancement bonus to the result as additional Successes. Spend your successes on overcoming Difficulty, avoiding Complications, and performing Stunts.

  • Difficulty: Most challenges have at least Difficulty 1, and harder challenges have higher Difficulty. You must first spend Successes to buy off the Difficulty, or the challenge is a failure (and you gain a Consolation). Difficulty is either static, or set by the defending character’s Successes.
  • Complications: Some challenges may include one or more points of Complications. If you do not buy off Complications after buying off Difficulty, the challenge is a success with drawbacks (if you do not buy off the Difficulty, the Complications are not applied). This could be a narrative issue or a temporary Condition for your character.
  • Stunts: You can spend Successes beyond the Difficulty to generate Stunt effects. These effects have a fixed or variable cost, depending on the type of challenge. Essentially, rather than a simple margin of success, most challenges allow you to subdivide your additional Successes to accomplish specific goals and indicate what success means to you. See the expanded options for Stunts under the heading below.

Stunts

Generic Stunts apply to any roll, allowing you to narrate how you change the scene. See the Action section for Combat Stunts.

  • Add Complication: Successes spent on this stunt are a temporary Complication for others attempting the action you specify; they will take a Condition if they do not buy off the Complication, as usual.
  • Add Enhancement: Successes spent on this stunt are an Enhancement to the next ally taking the action you specify. (This is also how you use Teamwork on a task.)
  • Add Difficulty: Successes spent on this stunt are a temporary increase to Difficulty to affect you (and only you) with a specified type of action. (This is how you dodge.)
  • Twist of Fate: Successes spent on this stunt allow you to add details/alter context about the scene, on a one-for-one basis. You can only use this stunt when the action was channeled through your Path, and when the changes don’t alter something already established about the scene.
  • Degree of Success: For very simple rolls, you can just use excess successes to indicate the quality of the action.

Consolation

When you fail a challenge, you usually gain a Consolation effect. This is usually a point of Momentum, but may instead be a twist that turns the failure into a different form of progress or advantage.

On a failure with 1s on the dice, the GM can offer an additional Momentum equal to the 1s showing to turn the result of the roll into a Botch (with worse effects than a normal failure). You can choose to not take the bonus Momentum and just take the failure.

Momentum

Momentum (aka, the Black Pool) is a group resource that accumulates through the game (usually through failing challenges). The pool normally has a maximum size equal to twice the number of players. Any player may spend Momentum from the pool to:

  • Add Dice: Add dice equal to Momentum spent to any challenge before the dice are rolled (your roll or another character’s).
  • Add Interval: Spend 3 Momentum to gain another Interval to complete a complex action.
  • Activate Knack: Some Knacks require Momentum to activate.

Momentum spends are generally intended to be with the agreement of all players, since it’s consuming the group’s resource.

Momentum also affects Initiative.

Complex Actions

Challenges that require multiple rolls are complex actions. Each individual challenge is considered an Interval. Each time you succeed at an Interval, you gain a Milestone (which may have its own narrative description; e.g., a clue). Some complex actions may allow you to accrue Milestones without a roll (e.g., crafting challenges where special ingredients you gained elsewhere count as a bonus Milestone). The complex challenge has a number of Milestones required to complete successfully, and some may have a limited number of Intervals before they automatically fail.

Modifiers

Conditions

Due to various factors (narrative effects, suffering Complications, taking Injuries, etc.), a character can have Conditions. These are bonuses or penalties to a specific type of action governed by the Condition’s description. When a penalizing Condition provides a failure or setback, you gain an additional Momentum. You also gain an additional Momentum for resolving a Condition before it would fade on its own (e.g., healing an Injury).

A Field is an area that applies a Condition to everyone within it.

Scale

Due to size or overwhelming biological, technological, or supernatural edge, some entities and objects operate on a different Scale than humans. They are represented using similar Attribute and Ability ranges, but their results are scaled up in situations where it matters to a conflict (usually based on Size, Force, Speed, or Leadership).

The first value (multiplier), is for Narrative scale: successes are multiplied by this number against minor characters and scenery. The second value (bonus) is for Dramatic scale: this is an Enhancement to rolls.

Normal humans are Scale 0 (Standard: no modifiers for Scale). If two opponents both have Scale, the difference in values is treated as the Scale of the larger opponent (e.g., Scale 2 vs. 3 is treated as Scale 0 vs. 1). Many actions automatically fail if the Scale discrepancy is too large, unless you have a power that allows you to try.

  1. Elite: x2, +2
  2. Supernatural: x5, +4
  3. Incredible: x10, +6
  4. Godlike: x100, +8
  5. Supernal: x200, +12
  6. Titanic: xLots, +16

High-Scale (usually Size) entities can generate Shockwave, their blows radiating out to a larger range than normal. The effect hits the target and several range bands around the target, at -2 Scale per range band, until it would be reduced below 0 Scale. For example, a Colossus at Scale 4 hits its target and applies the same Successes at Scale 2 to everyone in close range of the target, at Scale 0 to everyone in short range of the target, and the effect has dissipated at longer range.

Tiers

Characters are rated by Tier to indicate power level.

  1. Mortal: Legend 0
  2. Heroic: Legend 1-4
  3. Demigod: Legend 5-8 (Target Number becomes 7 instead of 8)
  4. Divine: Legend 9-12

Action

Basics of Actions

Each round, on your turn, you may take one Simple Action (or a Mixed Action), one Move, and Reflexive Actions.

Simple Actions are the majority of things you want to do that require overcoming a challenge (i.e., rolling dice). If you want to do more than one distinct thing in a turn, it is a Mixed Action: use the smaller dice pool and split Successes among both tasks.

On your turn you can also Move automatically approximately one range band. If you need to know exactly how far you moved, you can generally assume a number of feet equal to your Athletics dice pool x2. If you need to move more than that, using your Action, the chase rules are usually in effect. Standing up uses up your Move for the round (and if someone is threatening you in close combat, the rest of your Actions for the round are Mixed Actions with Athletics). If you attempt to Move away from an opponent in close range who will try to stop you, you must Disengage before you can Move. You must roll Athletics vs. the opponent’s Close Combat and win to successfully Disengage (or you can perform a Stunt and spend Successes equal to the opponent’s Composure). Getting over or through a Barrier often requires a roll and consumes your Action.

Most other actions are Reflexive Actions that don’t use any significant time, within reason. You can Drop Prone reflexively (which gives you -1 Defense Score against close combat attacks, but +2 Defense Score against ranged attacks). As part of a Move or Add Difficulty stunt (to dodge), you can reflexively Utilize Cover that’s been described in the scene (cover absorbs 1-10 Injuries from attacks that would have to go through it to hit you before it is functionally destroyed).

Special Action Modes

Some types of actions have expanded rules:

  • Chases: Origin Preview p. 82-83
  • Combat: See below
  • Crafting: Origin Preview p. 86-88
  • Intrigue: Origin Preview p. 88-94
  • Procedurals: Origin Preview p. 83-86

Combat

Initiative

When combat begins, everyone spends Momentum as desired to improve their Defense Scores (see Defense).

After determining defenses, whichever group has the highest Momentum goes first. If NPCs don’t have a Momentum total, they act as if they had a total equal to the number of players (i.e., half the PC maximum Momentum). Whichever side is initiating adds +2 to the effective total, and a further +1 if the other side is actually surprised.

The winning group can decide among themselves which individual acts first. After that person completes an action, she can designate the next person to act. Each subsequent individual designates someone else to act that hasn’t had a turn this round. Once everyone has had one turn, the last person to go designates anyone (including herself) to go first at the start of the next round.

At any point, if your side has more Momentum and you haven’t had your turn yet this round, you can spend a point of Momentum to interrupt the individual acting and take your turn (that person is still owed a turn before the round ends).

Making Attacks/Combat Stunts

Roll an appropriate Attribute + Ability. Treat the target’s Defense Score as Difficulty. Spend successes past Difficulty (and any Complications, if desired) on Combat Stunts (or Generic Stunts, like dodging):

  • Close, Grappling, or Ranged Combat
    • Inflict Damage (1s): Deal one Injury
    • Critical Hit (4s): Deal a second Injury
    • Disarm (Variable): Disarm target (Successes equal to target combat skill, +1 to knock it a range band away)
    • Knockdown/Trip (Variable): Knock target Prone (Successes equal to target Stamina/Dexterity)
  • Close Combat
    • Blind (2s): Target takes temporary Condition that applies +1 Difficulty to all Ranged attacks
    • Break-Up Grapple (1s): Knock two characters (not including yourself) out of a Grapple
    • Establish Grapple (1s): Inflict the Grappled Condition on the target
    • Seize (3s): Take a held or loosely-attached non-weapon object from the target
  • Grappling Combat
    • Break Free (1s): Remove the Grappled Condition from yourself
    • Gain Control (Variable): Give your opponent in the Grapple the Grappled Condition (Successes equal to target Close Combat ability)
    • Move (1s): You both move one range band in a direction of your choice (must be in control of the Grapple)
    • Pin (2s): Opponent’s Defense Score does not apply to other attackers (must be in control of the Grapple)
    • Takedown (1s): Both you and your opponent become Prone (must be in control of the Grapple)
    • Throw (1s): Your opponent moves one range band in a direction of your choice, and the Grapple ends (must be in control of the Grapple); opponent gains reflexive Athletics roll to avoid falling/entering hazardous terrain
  • Ranged Combat
    • Cover/Suppress (Variable): Target gains a Complication on the next action equal to Successes spent, and suffers an Injury if it is not bought off
    • Draw Fire (Variable): Target gains a Complication on the next action equal to Successes spent, and gains the Out of Ammo Condition if it is not bought off
    • Gun to a Knife Fight (1s): You must spend an additional Success to hit a target that could hit you in close combat

You can only buy the same stunt once (e.g., even with many successes, you can only usually deal two Injuries on a single attack by spending 1 for Inflict Damage and 4 for Critical Hit).

The Grappled Condition means that you cannot Move and must engage in Grappling Combat stunts (as must your opponent, but your opponent can use the stunts useful for the one in control of the Grapple).

The Out of Ammo Condition means your firearm is out of ammunition, and you cannot make further attacks with it until you spend an Action reloading. This may be applied as part of a Stunt, via the Automatic Weapon Tag, or when situationally appropriate.

Resolving Damage and Healing

When you take an Injury, you may put it in any open Health slot. It applies a Condition related to the source of the Injury. The effect of the Condition is usually to increase Difficulty to related tasks (e.g., anything using a wounded arm) or to reduce your Defense Score. Bruised Conditions apply -1, Injured Conditions apply -2, and Maimed Conditions apply -4. If you put an Injury in your Taken Out slot, you are unconscious and helpless. Remember that you gain 1 Momentum every time a Condition impairs you.

You can opt to Concede any time you would take one or more Injuries. Instead of taking the Injuries, you mark your Taken Out slot (usually in a more temporary way than taking it as a Injury), gain 3 Momentum, and are helpless until at least the end of the fight.

Once per session, you can receive First Aid. The assisting character rolls Reason + Medicine, with a Difficulty 0. Spend Successes on Stunts to reduce the severity of an Injury (2s for Bruised, 3s for Injured, and 5s for Maimed. Taken out requires Successes equal to the total number of other Injuries). Bruised Injuries are cleared completely (though might linger cosmetically). Worse Injuries move into an empty higher Injury slot (so you must have higher slots, often requiring you to clear Bruised first).

Weapons

Weapons are created by purchasing Weapon Tags. Most weapons have 3 points worth of tags, though cheaply made or improvised weapons may have fewer, and extremely valuable ones may have more.

  • Aggravated (2): Injuries dealt by the weapon are magic and can only be healed by magic.
  • Arcing (1): Attacks with this weapon reduce the quality of Cover by one step.
  • Automatic (2): When used in automatic mode, add +1 enhancement to attacks but add a cumulative +1 Complication to subsequent attacks. If this Complication is not bought off, you gain the Out of Ammo Condition. You can remove the Complication by spending an Action reloading, even before getting the Out of Ammo Condition.
  • Concealable (1): You gain Enhancement 1 to sneak the weapon past observers.
  • Damage Type (0): Weapons are Bashing or Lethal.
  • Grappling (1): The weapon can be used in a Grapple, and you gain Enhancement 1 to initiate a Grapple.
  • Long Range (1): The weapon can be used from the Long Range Band, but targets in the Close and Short Range Bands are treated as having +1 Defense Score.
  • Loud (-1): The weapon is noisy and will draw attention when used.
  • Messy (-1): The weapon leaves very distinctive wounds and evidence at the scene of the fight.
  • Piercing (2): You gain Enhancement 1 to attack targets with the Soft Armor tag.
  • Pushing (1): You gain Enhancement 1 if you are using the Knockdown Stunt.
  • Reach (1): You can make close combat attacks from Short range.
  • Returning (1): The weapon returns when thrown (often due to a chain or line).
  • Shockwave (4): The weapon deals Shockwave as if it had Scale +3 (this is typically magical or extremely heavy weaponry).
  • Slow (-1): This weapon gains the Out of Ammo Condition after every attack.
  • Stun (1): Injury Conditions dealt by this weapon are always temporary, and heal quickly on their own.
  • Two-Handed (-1): This weapon requires both hands to use.
  • Unconcealable (-1): This weapon is too big or bulky to be easily hidden or smuggled.
  • Versatile (2): You gain Enhancement 1 to perform any Stunts other than dealing Injury.
  • Weapon Type (0): Weapons are Firearm, Melee, or Thrown.
  • Worn (2): This weapon is strapped on or otherwise can’t be Disarmed.

Armor

Armor is created by purchasing Armor Tags. Like weapons, armor normally has 3 points worth of tags, but may have fewer or more based on value.

  • Bulletproof (2): You ignore the Piercing Weapon Tag on Firearms.
  • Cumbersome (-1): Most Athletics challenges while wearing the armor are at Difficulty +1.
  • Concealable (2): This armor can be hidden under clothing.
  • Hard (1 or 3): This armor grants you +1 or +2 Armor Health slots.
  • Innocuous (1): The armor is or at least appears to be mundane gear (such as a leather jacket or sports pads) that will not be especially strange when worn in public.
  • Resistant (2): You ignore injuries from a particular energy type (this usually requires magic).
  • Soft (1): The Inflict Damage Stunt costs an additional success to use against you.
  • Weighty (-1): After extended labor or sleep while wearing the armor, you must succeed at a Difficulty 3 Athletics + Stamina challenge or gain the Fatigued condition. The Difficulty increases by +1 each time until you rest unarmored.

Character Traits

Deeds

Each player character should have at least one of each of the following Deeds: stated goals for character achievement and growth. Accomplishing them earns Experience and Legend.

  • Short-term Deed: Something that you should be able to accomplish within a single session
  • Long-term Deed: Something that you should be able to accomplish by the end of the story arc (related to a Path)
  • Band-term Deed: Something your group should be able to accomplish in a season (this is developed by and shared by the whole group)

Each deed has a theme chosen from Conviction, Courage, Duty, Endurance, Expression, Harmony, Intellect, Justice, Loyalty, Piety, Valor, or Vengeance (e.g., “Valor: Rid the neighborhood of the Bratva mob”).

Path

Each player character has three Paths: Origin, Role, and Society/Pantheon. Paths provide context for actions and Twists of Fate as well as connections (to a Group, Contact, and resource Access). Origin indicates backstory, Role indicates occupation or area of expertise, and Society/Pantheon indicates relationship to the larger supernatural world. Each Path includes a Condition that can be triggered if used too often (indicating overdrawing connections/resources or otherwise bringing down problems).

Attributes

Attributes have an Arena (Physical/Mental/Social) and an Approach (Force/Finesse/Resilience) which governs when they are used.

  • Might (Physical Force)
  • Dexterity (Physical Finesse)
  • Stamina (Physical Resilience)
  • Intellect (Mental Force)
  • Cunning (Mental Finesse)
  • Resolve (Mental Resilience)
  • Presence (Social Force)
  • Manipulation (Social Finesse)
  • Composure (Social Resilience)

Abilities

Choose a Specialty for any Ability at level 3+. You gain bonus Momentum for failing a roll in your Specialty.

  • Academics: Humanities, Law, Politics, Bureaucracy, Languages Spoken
  • Athletics: Sports, Lifting/Breaking, Thrown and Ranged Weapons
  • Culture: Societies, Art/Religion Appreciation, Etiquette
  • Close Combat: Melee Weapons, Martial Arts, Assessing Enemy Fighters
  • Empathy: Emotional Cues, Lie Detection, Profiling
  • Firearms: Firing Guns, Maintaining and Modifying Firearms
  • Integrity: Emotional Fortitude, Hide Emotions/Intentions, Resist Mind Control/Torture
  • Leadership: Manage Individuals, Strategy and Tactics, Persuade Groups
  • Medicine: Diagnose and Treat Living, First Aid, Judge Creature Health
  • Occult: Cryptozoology, Secret Histories, Mystic Rituals, Paranormal Phenomena
  • Persuasion: Seducing, Debating, Compromising, Fast Talk, Persuade Individuals
  • Pilot: Drive Automobile, Pilot Watercraft, Pilot Aircraft, Ride Mount, Navigate in Vehicle
  • Science: Scientific Method, Research and Analyze Data, Create Compound and Reactions
  • Subterfuge: Deception, Stealth, Disguise, Forgery, Sleight of Hand, Lockpicking
  • Survival: Find Food and Shelter, Craft Basic Tools, Navigate on Foot, Tame Wildlife
  • Technology: Operate/Repair Software/Hardware, Programming, Electrical Engineering

Callings

Callings are divine archetypes, and indicate the role you fill as you approach divinity. Mortal Scions start with a single calling (drawn from the portfolio of their parent/patron), and can eventually develop up to three as they grow in divinity. Your available Knacks are based on your Callings. The Callings are Creator, Guardian, Healer, Hunter, Judge, Leader, Lover, Liminal (boundaries), Sage, Trickster, and Warrior.

Knacks

Knacks are low-level powers possessed by all Scions. Some of them require Momentum to activate. They are drawn from lists associated with each Calling.

Defense

Your base Defense pool is equal to your highest Resilience attribute (Stamina, Resolve, or Composure), and may include other bonuses. When you determine Initiative, you may spend up to your base Defense pool rating in Momentum to add to the total. Your Defense pool plus Momentum spent divided by three and rounded down becomes your Defense Score for the combat (e.g., if you have Defense 3 normally, you could take a Defense Score 1 automatically, or spend 3 Momentum to gain a Defense Score 2). The Defense Score is the Difficulty for anyone who attacks you in combat (and might be further increased by armor and dodging).

Health

You have four base Health slots: Bruised, Injured, Maimed, and Taken Out. If your Stamina is 3+, you gain a second Bruised Health slot, and if your Stamina is 5+, you gain a third Bruised Health slot. When you take an Injury, it fills the highest unfilled Health slot, and applies a Condition based on the slot filled (e.g., a Maimed Condition is worse than a Bruised Condition). Armor may add additional Armor Health slots that absorb Injuries without applying Conditions.

D&D 5e: Blade Witch (Fighter Subclass)

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Similar to the Mutant, this is intended to provide a Charisma alternate to Eldritch Knight. It has some major conceptual overlap with Hexblade, but hopefully takes it in a different enough direction to feel distinctive.

Many of the greater powers of the otherworlds forge weapons with a purpose unique to their ethos. Most of these are typical artifacts, usable by nearly anyone, but some draw their power from a unique bond with a mortal spirit. This power source allows the weapon to be created with much less personal investment of power by the creator, but grants much more agency to the wielder. The creators try to imbue the weapons with a fundamental desire to bond only to mortals that seem likely to fulfill their wishes, but, once bonded, the wielder has free will and often goes well off script.

Often found dormant in the form of a magical gauntlet or bracer of uncertain properties, the weapon comes to its full potential when it chooses its wielder (sometimes after the bearer carried it for years before reaching sufficient martial skill to make best use of it). While the weapon can only subtly nudge its wielder to actions that its creator would desire, the design of the weapon (and any other items later incorporated into it) is heavily based upon the aesthetics of the creator. Even if the wielder does not wish to pursue the ends of the weapon’s creator, the unmistakable visual stylings of the device will tend to mark the wielder as an agent of the creator to enemies and allies regardless.

Spellcasting

When you reach 3rd level, you gain the ability to cast spells. You gain cantrips, spells known, and spell slots based on the rules for the Eldritch Knight. You draw your spells known from the Warlock spell list, use Charisma as your spellcasting ability, and are not limited to abjuration and evocation spells, but otherwise follow the Spellcasting rules for Eldritch Knight.

Alternate Spellcasting (I have balance concerns about this): You gain cantrips, spells known, pact spell slots, pact slot level, and invocations known as a Warlock of 1/3 your Fighter level (round up). You use your full Fighter level to qualify for invocations, and may choose Pact of the Blade invocations, if desired. If you multiclass into Warlock, you must choose Pact of the Blade and your spellcasting and invocation levels stack (e.g., a Fighter 6/Warlock 3 casts spells and has invocations as a Warlock 5, but can choose invocations that require Warlock 9).

Your bonded weapon serves as a spellcasting focus, and must be used as a focus for all spells (though may be in its dormant form): in a very real way, your spells are not cast so much as manifested from the weapon itself.

Bonded Weapon

At 3rd level, your powers and abilities come from your bonded weapon, which is tied to your very soul. It has a dormant form, which typically takes the form of a distinctive bracer or gauntlet (this does not interfere with wearing separate bracers or gauntlets: the weapon adjusts to fit around the other item). You can switch your weapon out of its dormant form as an action (and return it to its dormant form as a free action). When you switch the weapon into its active form, you can choose its shape: it can function as any melee weapon.

If you ever lose your grip on the weapon, it disappears and immediately reforms in its dormant configuration (it cannot be stolen, but it also cannot be thrown). If the weapon is broken, it appears in a cracked dormant form and cannot be used for spellcasting or as a weapon, but automatically repairs itself after a short or long rest. If greater magics destroy the weapon, you cannot use it or cast spells until completing a long rest, at which point it reforms.

You may also, if desired, use an additional action to manifest an offhand weapon or shield in the same styling as the main weapon.

All manifested weapons count as magical for the purpose of overcoming resistance and immunity to nonmagical attacks and damage. You can perform a one-hour ritual to allow your weapon to “eat” a melee weapon or shield and gain its magic powers and special materials. Subsequently, any time you switch to an active form that is the same weapon/shield type as the consumed item (in your main hand or offhand) you may treat it as the consumed item (though it still has the visual stylings of your weapon). You cannot combine powers/materials from items, even of the same weapon type, but may switch between them by re-manifesting the weapon. At the DM’s discretion, some items may immune to being consumed (due to power or role in the world).

Witch’s Armor

Beginning at 7th level, your weapon may additionally manifest and consume armor identically to weapons and shields. You may garb yourself in armor of a type of your choice as an action and, as with weapons and shields, it may have the material and powers of any armor it consumed of the same type. As with the weapon, the armor is heavily stylized based on the aesthetics of the weapon, making you extremely obvious as an agent of the weapon’s creator.

Additionally, while you have any type of this armor manifested, you gain Resistance to one or more types of damage based upon the creator of the armor. Suggested resistances include:

  • Aberrant: Psychic (and you gain advantage on Wisdom saving throws against spells and similar mental effects)
  • Celestial/Divine: Radiant and Necrotic
  • Fiendish: Any one damage type (changed over a short or long rest) unless dealt by silver or magic weapons
  • Fae: Bludgeoning, Piercing, and Slashing damage unless dealt by cold iron or magic weapons

Unearthly Might

Beginning at 10th level, you’ve become sufficiently in tune with your witch’s armor to augment your physical capabilities. While you have any armor manifested from your Witch’s Armor ability, you gain advantage on Strength and Constitution checks, and on Death saving throws, and you may expend a Hit Die as a reaction to reroll a failed Strength or Constitution saving throw.

Deathless Warrior

At 15th level, the magic of your weapon has deeply infused your body and soul, preserving you as an eternal champion. You no longer age naturally, and will not die from age-related causes (if you were already of advanced age before gaining this ability, you gradually decrease in physical age to your prime). All of your hit dice rolls to regain hit points during a short rest are maximized (take the maximum value of the die instead of rolling). When you use your Second Wind, you roll additional d10s for healing equal to your Charisma modifier (minimum 1) and remove any diseases or poisons affecting you. Even without using your Second Wind, any diseases or poisons affecting you are removed upon completing a short rest (or after the first hour of a long rest).

You may extend some of this protection to allies of your weapon’s creator. You can automatically detect whether a touched entity is considered to be serving the ends of the weapon’s creator (which usually includes any of your personal allies currently assisting you towards ends approved by the creator). You can use your Second Wind to heal such an ally instead of yourself: apply the effects of your Second Wind to the touched target instead of yourself (including the removed diseases and poisons and increased healing based on your Charisma).

Mutability Mastery

At 18th level, you’ve gained mastery of the protean nature of your weapon. You can now manifest weapons, shields, and armor as a free action on your turn (instead of a standard action), which can allow you to change weapons between attacks, switch to a shield after attacking with a two-handed weapon, and other such tricks.

If your weapon is broken or destroyed, you may now repair or reform it as an action instead of during a rest.

Further, you may make subtle shifts to your weapons and armor during an attack to optimize them. As a reaction, you may grant yourself advantage on any attack with your bonded weapon (including spell attacks). Also as a reaction, you may impose disadvantage on an attack made against you or grant yourself advantage on Dexterity saving throws against effects you can see.

D&D Premise: Lord of the Flies

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Where do goblins come from?

While only the most skeptical of city-dwellers, insulated from the terrors of the wilderness, would opine that there are no such things as goblins, those that have encountered them are largely at a loss to explain their origin. Though many a hero for law and goodness has worried about the ethical conundrum that would entail from finding innocents of the species, none know of such a thing ever happening. Occasionally, a nest or warren of them is found that, if squinted at, seems like a cruel mockery of a town, but there is no real evidence of a greater culture or interaction with other goblin groups. Most religions write them off as merely the sins of the kith personified, to be killed on sight.

They’re not far wrong.

Another great mystery of the world is the nature of heroism. If a city gets large enough, it begins to train advanced techniques in the pursuit of battle, craft, and magic. Those that spend years and years training at colleges and gaining experience in the world can become extremely competent. Most humans and similarly-lived kith may master complex techniques equivalent to the third circle of magic before they enter their dotage, but it takes the lifespan of the elves to truly master such techniques. Still, only the most ancient of the elves, sequestered deep in their lands, profess to understand magics of the ninth circle.

Yet, there are constant tales of small groups of adventuring heroes that seem to have mastered skills while still young that rival the eldest scholars of the land. They don’t like to speak of what makes them different, if they understand at all.

There is a theory called spontaneous generation. While learned sages with an interest in experimentation are convinced that flies work much like moths, laying eggs that grow into maggots as a larval form before eating enough offal to become flies themselves, most common folk do not have access to this science. As far as they know, maggots and flies are spontaneously generated from rotting meat. When they leave meat to rot, maggots appear as if from nowhere, and flies thereafter.

They think the same thing about goblins, and they’re missing the point in exactly the same way.

Goblin hierarchies don’t make much sense. If they didn’t look similar in general shape and work with one another when no one else will, none would believe that the cowardly goblin, organized hobgoblin, and bestial bugbear were of one race. Were any hero to ever find evidence of a goblin civilization, it would have to explain much about the processes that could result in such differentiation in both size and temperament. Why are there no cowardly hobgoblins or organized bugbears? Does growing past a certain size change their entire mental state?

It all comes down to the flies.

Goblin flies are distinctive, if you look closely enough: greenish and with a goblinish cast to their features. Few have made a study of the differences, because they come in a swarm unaware on small villages far from scientists, and few kith tend to survive to spread the tale. First, they bite the livestock and small animals they can catch. The beasts get sick, and many of them die from the strange pox. If you don’t burn the bodies quickly enough, the larval goblins within manage to eat enough to burst free, fully formed. Their first task is to try to add more offal to the piles of their nascent siblings, creating enough rotting meat to build a whole goblin. Some say, in the death throes of the illness, the smallest animals are driven to seek out piles of other dead to add their own meat to the stores. Deep in the woods, sometimes a big predator falls ill. While prey and vermin universally produce the small goblins, a big enough predator can result in a bugbear. Those that named it must have known better than any ever guessed what was going on.

Kith are harder to bite, and tend to resist the illness better, in the early days. But as the goblins kill the livestock, foul the fields and the water, and wear down the town’s guards with their attempts at incursions, it becomes harder and harder to stay healthy. Once the disease takes, the people fall just as ill as the livestock. There’s something about the minds of the kith that speaks to the growing goblin, and so the hobgoblins that burst forth from kith corpses share the kith tendency towards organization and structure that their brethren born of beasts lack. Never think of them as your loved ones turned into hobgoblins: that’s not your friend, it’s what ate her from within. Any similarities are just echoes of her mind that the larvae picked up.

Sometimes, though, an infection gets resisted. The healthy, or just the lucky, overcome the disease, purging it from their systems. But something of the magic remains. Perhaps it was the soul triumphing over the evil of the goblin plague, or the strange effects of magical fever dreams, but the survivors gain powers. For kith, this is one way that an adventurer is born: somehow, it’s much easier and faster to pick up the skills of battle, craft, and magic than for others. For beasts, this is often how the stranger magical creatures arise.

Adventurers don’t like to talk about it, because for many of them their first adventure was using their newfound strengths to purge the goblin infestation from what was once their idyllic village home. Often there’s not much left. They adventure because everything they know is gone and, if they’re honest, they’re seeking an answer to what happened to their families.

It’s clear that the goblin flies aren’t natural. They choose their targets. They come when those villages are least able to defend them. Somewhere, there’s a malevolent intelligence directing these swarms to bring ruin upon the lives of well-meaning settlers and peasants:

A lord of the flies.

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