D&D: The Magic of the Skilled Crafter, Expanded

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I’ve been thinking about the original post, and wanted to turn it into a bigger system. The intent of this system remains to produce fewer powerful magic items, to create a downtime-heavy system, to keep players from having a precisely optimized gear loadout, and to bind items more to natural results of superior craft. However, I’ve added back in some more achievable ways for PCs to make items.

Read the original post first for context.

Base Cost to Craft DC

For items that don’t cleanly map to + equivalents, here’s a chart to figure out the craft DC for a particular item. Unlike the note in the original post, this is using quite high DCs with the assumption that you’ll be playing in a game where a dedicated level 20 character could reasonably have a +50 (+23 from ranks, +6 skill focus, +5 ability, +10 magic, and +6 from Aid Another), with certain crafters scraping together even higher bonuses for even more powerful items. If this isn’t true in your game, but you still want high-end items to be available, bring down the DCs accordingly.

Find the highest DC where the item’s base cost is equal to or greater than the entry (e.g., an Onyx Dog Figurine of Wondrous Power is 15,500 GP, which means it’s still DC 30 because it’s not quite 16,000 GP).

There are obviously a lot of Wondrous Items that have a cost below 4,000, and it’s up to the GM whether 30 is the minimum DC, or whether those can be crafted at DC 20.


DC
Weapon/Ring/
Rod/Staff

Armor

Wondrous
30 2,000 1,000 4,000
40 8,000 4,000 16,000
50 18,000 9,000 36,000
60 32,000 16,000 64,000
70 50,000 25,000 100,000
80 72,000 36,000 144,000
90 98,000 49,000 196,000
100 128,000 64,000 256,000

Item Creation Feats

The feats and crafting system for consumable items (scrolls, potions, and wands) works normally.

The other crafting feats for permanent items do two things:

  • If an item is one of your cultural items, if you have the appropriate creation feat you can choose to lower the item’s creation DC by 10. Note that this will make it take longer to craft, as you have a smaller multiplier for the week’s work, so probably shouldn’t be done when you can meet the DC easily.
  • If an item is not one of your cultural items, the feat allows you to learn to make it. You must assist someone who can already make the item (either a member of the culture or someone else with the feat that’s learned it) in the creation of an example of the item. You must be present for the full crafting and be taking the Aid Another action. You cannot reduce the DC of the item once you’ve learned it.

Powering Up Items

Since items output by this system tend to be personal, you might still want to have the additional of simple pluses to be something that can happen from heroic deeds, one-off magical events, or just as a natural result of characters leveling. They don’t necessarily gain new special powers in this state, but just increase in + value so players don’t feel the need to constantly retire their works of major craft.

D&D: Optional EXP as Karma

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Adventure paths tend to assume that the PCs will be a certain level at a certain point. Especially since Pathfinder removed the experience cost for crafting magic items, it’s very easy to go, “okay, you guys just finished the latest act of the adventure, level up.” That is, tracking exp is bookkeeping that’s largely meaningless; the module writers put in exactly as many encounters as were needed to get you to the next level, and if somehow you miss some, you’ll probably want to put in some optional ones to get the PCs back to par.

But sometimes the modules play with optional encounters and rewards: random encounters, side encounters, and quest rewards in experience points. If you’re just giving players level ups when the story suggests they should have them, bonus exp isn’t an incentive. The following system is designed to give a use to bonus experience points when you’ve decided to just level the players up when appropriate.

Earning Karma

Karma is a party resource (i.e., there’s no need to do the math to divide it among party members). The GM can track it, or whichever players likes to do party resource bookkeeping can track it instead.

The players get Karma equal to the experience points they would have gotten in the following situations:

  • Defeating an optional encounter (one that was not required to progress the story) that did not have a treasure reward or other story-based result (i.e., the exp would have been the only reward)
  • Defeating a random encounter that did not have a treasure reward
  • Getting a quest or ad hoc reward in experience points (remember to multiply by the party size if the reward is phrased as “give each party member X experience points”)
  • Giving up treasure (a lot of adventure paths want the players to do this at certain points; if they do, give them double the cash value in Karma)

The players do not get Karma in the following situations:

  • Defeating an encounter that was required to progress the story
  • Defeating or bypassing an encounter that was in the way of progressing the story (i.e., it was not truly optional)
  • Defeating any encounter with a treasure reward (either as enemy gear or in a horde or cache the encounter was protecting)

Spending Karma

Players can expend Karma (permanently removing it from the party’s resources) for the following ends:

  • Pay the sale value (i.e., half total value) to sell something that is otherwise unsellable (i.e., it either exceeds the local purchase limit or is something weird that the GM can’t see anyone needing, like large weapons).
  • Pay the basic sale value to sell something at +10%, cumulative (e.g., if something would sell for 1000 GP, spend 1000 Karma to sell it for 1100 GP or 2000 Karma to sell it for 1200 GP) to a maximum of +100%.
  • Pay the purchase value (i.e., full total value) to buy something that is otherwise unavailable (i.e., it either exceeds the local purchase limit or is something weird that should be hard to find). The GM is welcome to introduce a delay for items that are very specialized (as the universe is conspiring to make an item available for sale in a weird place).
  • Pay the basic purchase value to buy something at -10%, cumulative (e.g., if something would cost 2000 GP, spend 2000 Karma to buy it for 1800 GP or 4000 Karma to buy it for 1600 GP) to a minimum -50%.
  • Pay the normal spell scribing cost to borrow a spellbook to scribe spells; you still have to pay the scribing cost, but not the +50% surcharge for borrowing (e.g., a 5th level spell costs 250 Karma and 250 GP to scribe, rather than 375 GP). The GM is welcome to introduce a delay for rare spells (as the universe is conspiring to introduce the players to a friendly Wizard).
  • Pay twice the cost for basic nonmagical goods, services, lifestyle costs, and other incidental expenses to get them for free (i.e., because you’re such big damn heroes that people will help you out with the basics). It’s the GM’s discretion what counts as an incidental expense.
  • Pay the current party level times 1,000 to get a clue, get out of a tight spot, or otherwise recover from confusion or bad choices. The GM is expected to vary this multiplier down for incidental aid (e.g., a clue to something unimportant or which is clearly frustratingly tedious to solve) or up for significant aid (e.g., escaping certain death from poor decisions).

Shadowrun: Alternate Cash Rewards

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After their first run, my group wondered why the cash rewards table in SR5 incentivizes turning the run into a total cluster. As written, the table mostly gives rewards for getting into fights; if you ghost the mission, getting in and out with the objective and no one the wiser, you get paid very little. It seems like that should actually get you paid quite well indeed.

By my count, the current table should give rewards from 3k¥-40k¥ base, plus 100¥-1300¥ per negotiation hit, so this hack tries to stay in a similar range (but see the notes about increasing rewards).

Setting Up a ‘Run

During negotiations, the Johnson should outline which elements from the table he thinks the runners are likely to encounter. This sets the minimum agreed upon payment (i.e., you can go ahead and add up those numbers including negotiation hits and state “I’ll pay you X”). As a GM, figure out the Johnson’s actual agenda and level of knowledge; assuming he plans to deal fairly, it’s in his interests to try to figure out exactly what the group will encounter and no more. If he tells them something might be an issue and it isn’t, he may overpay. But if he leaves out something, he may pay more for it.

After the run, total up what actually happened (according to what the players encountered), and how much the chart says that was worth. The runners are generally expected to demand double the difference as additional pay. This might be reduced to only 1.5 times the difference if the Johnson gave them at least a week and it was reasonable that they could do research on their own. If the Johnson pitched the entire project as knowing very little, and gave them at least two weeks to investigate and plan the run, this is reduced to just the difference (i.e., he only has to pay what the actual chart total suggests), but what kind of Johnson wants to appear that ignorant? Meanwhile, if the Johnson gave them a last second offer and claimed to have all the information for them, nobody would argue if the ‘runners demand three times the difference.

For example, after negotiating and hearing the basic terms, a run works out to be worth 4,000¥ a piece. But after the mission, the chart suggests what they actually did should be worth 6,000¥.

  • Under normal circumstances, they should expect to demand 8,000¥ (the 4k base plus doubling the 2k difference between expectation and actuality).
  • If they had a week to investigate and mitigate their risk, they can demand 7,000¥.
  • If they were told explicitly that the Johnson didn’t know much and had two weeks to prep, the 6,000¥ suggested by the chart is what they get.
  • If the Johnson sent them in blind and in a rush, they can actually demand 10,000¥.

Expenses and Increasing Rewards

It probably makes sense to let the runners charge an extra share for expenses (i.e., act as if there’s an extra member of the team when payment is determined). Runners who regularly give the Johnson an itemized list and stay under the their expense budget (i.e., accept only enough of the expenses share to cover actual expenses) probably deserve a reputation bump.

The standard reward range generally only pays out 10k¥-20k¥. This leads to forum advice that players should never expect to have any serious ‘ware other than what was bought in chargen, because the difference between actual payments and the money you can start with at a high priority is so great. If you want your players to actually plan to buy upgrades of value, particularly if you play infrequently and/or have long lifestyle-cost-heavy downtimes, you should double, triple, or even quadruple the standard rewards.

The Chart

Base Cost: 1,500¥ + 50¥ per negotiation hit

Situational Modifiers

Average opposing Dice Pool +(Dice Pool/3)
Highest opposing Dice Pool +(Dice Pool/6)
Could easily be outnumbered three to one in a combat situation +1
Could easily be outnumbered (any amount) by critters +1
Target has at least three non-watcher spirits +1
Target has easy access to non-internal security (e.g., Lone Star or Knight Errant) +1
Run risks public exposure or raised profile as natural part of the run +1
Run brings runners into direct contact with a notably dangerous part or element of Sixth World lore +1
Run is out of town or otherwise far from known resources and escape routes +1
Run is way out of town (i.e., severe logistics and escape issues) +1

Final Multipliers

Standard Ethics +0%
Cold Hearted +20%
Good Feelings -20%
Standard Run +0%
No non-target deaths or major property damage
(target is less likely to make a big deal about the crime)
+10%
Runners were not identified in any obvious way
(much harder to trace the crime back to the Johnson)
+10%
“Ghosted” the Run
(target may not even discover that a crime was committed for some time)
+30%
Deaths of non-security personnel
(anyone died other that those that were paid for the possibility)
-10%
Deaths of significant asset
(not including actual targets; i.e., someone died that was important enough to attempt vengeance)
-20%
Significant property damage
(targets may try for revenge just to recoup infrastructure costs)
-20%
Runners left significant clues as to their identities and those of their employer -10%

All modifiers and multipliers are cumulative.

Examples

  • The group is hired to steal some paydata.
    • The Johnson expects that the target mostly employs scrubs (+1 for average die pool less than six) but has a couple of skilled guards (+2 for a highest die pool around 12). There are potentially a lot of the scrubs, so the ‘runners could easily get outnumbered three-to-one (+1). He makes all this clear to the group, and (after three hits on the negotiation), offers them 6,600¥ a piece (plus the same as an expense budget).
    • What he left out was that the the targets had been beefing up their mystic security, and they had a pack of Hellhounds (+1) and several spirits (+1); and those actually brought up the average opponent dice pool to over six (+1 beyond the expected). Despite this, the group took the extra time to do it without deaths or major damage (+10%) and without being identified (+10%). They count up that they were actually owed 13,860¥
    • Since that’s a difference of 7,260¥ from what they were told, they actually demand 21,120¥ a piece. Maybe next time, the Johnson will give them more time to plan, and try to do some more legwork on his own first.
  • Another group is hired for some wetwork.
    • The Johnson expects them to sneak in and take out a high profile target. If they do it right, they’ll get the 12-die-pool target alone and have few other encounters (12 average and highest pool for a total +6). The target has mage backup, so the Johnson warns of spirits (+1) and the possibility of a call to Knight Errant (+1). This is a Cold Hearted run (+20%), and the Johnson expects them to get in and out with only the target dead (+10%) and without being identified (+10%). For all this, and with three hits on negotiation, the Johnson expects to pay 18,480¥ a piece.
    • What actually happens is that the group screws up and Knight Errant shows up. They wind up lowering the average die pool they fight (just because they fight so much Knight Errant backup) to 9 (-1 to average threat), but they do manage to have to take out a 16-die lieutenant (+1 to highest threat). They’re certainly outnumbered three-to-one (+1), risk public exposure (+1), wind up doing significant deaths and property damage (-30%, plus the loss of the 20% from the expectation of not doing that or getting identified). At least they get the target. When counted up, they were actually only owed 11,550¥ a piece.
    • The Johnson grudgingly pays out the 18,480¥ he promised, since they did at least complete the job, but resolves to never work with this crew again.

D&D: Workouts and Atrophy

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RPGs with attribute systems pretty much always have fixed scores that go up with exp and, maybe, down with age. This is a poor simulation of real life, and doesn’t allow for stories like The Incredibles that feature getting back into shape as part of the narrative. The system below is probably more bookkeeping than it’s worth for most, and may be a fight with players who only want the numbers to go up, but allows telling stories where the capabilities of the heroes wax and wane as their situation demands. It’s meant for stories with long downtimes where the PCs aren’t so much adventurers that are constantly in action as they are heroes that step up when they’re needed.

Core Ability Scores

No matter how much the scores shift, keep track of the ability scores the PCs started with (modified by race, age, level increase, and inherent bonuses). It’s easier to return to these scores despite increases or decreases.

If you rolled scores randomly to start, you can instead assign point-buy totals or an array as these core ability scores. In that way, the random rolling may have favored certain players at the beginning, but those high scores represent a lot of workout in advance and have to be maintained, while lower-than-average rollers have an easy time advancing once they get into the heroic lifestyle.

Whenever you are under your core ability score, it takes two marks to require a roll to decrease. Whenever you are above your core ability score, it takes two marks to allow a roll to increase.

Downtime

Figure out what a standard longish downtime is for your game. A year is a good start, but if you’re rarely going to have that much downtime, set it to six months or even a month. If you regularly have more (e.g., your PCs are all elves), increase the length.

At the end of each such downtime period, make a decrease mark on all ability scores. Any score with an increase mark has a mark erased instead of adding a decrease mark.

During the downtime, each PC can take up to 12 increase marks representing working to keep in shape on particular ability scores (physical workouts for Strength, Dexterity, and Constitution, and more academic or social workouts for Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma). Those marks are instead of other downtime actions that could be taken in the same time period (for a standard one-year downtime, each mark represents a month not spent on other system-based activities like rolling skills to earn money). You can gloss the fiction as desired (e.g., a character that took six increase marks and six months of skill checks may have been working full time, but only half as effectively due to time spent keeping in shape).

Adventure and Imprisonment

On adventures, the GM may award bonus increase marks as additional rewards, possibly even assigning them directly based on actions (e.g., “For passing the ordeals, everyone gets an increase mark on Con” instead of just giving out a mark in anything).

If the characters are imprisoned for long periods, they gain decrease marks at double the normal rate. If they’re imprisoned in a small space with limited mobility, they gain decrease marks at triple the normal rate. Fortunately, they probably have few other duties, so can use most of their time to try to cancel out these marks.

Increasing and Decreasing

At the end of a downtime period, make rolls to see if your scores changed. For both increasing and decreasing, roll 4d6 (drop lowest; or 3d6 if you’re old school) plus mods (racial, age, level increase, and inherent).

  • If you have any decrease marks, make a roll for each (or a roll for every two if you’re below your core score). If you roll less than your current total, it decreases by one.
  • If you have any increase marks, make a roll for each (or a roll for every two if you’re above your core score). If you roll more than your current total, it increases by one.

Erase all the marks you rolled for. Any left over (such as ones requiring two to increase or decrease) remain until the end of the next downtime.

Changing Intelligence doesn’t change skill points (use your core score for this), but does change its bonus to things.

Supers: Powers

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And due to hitting 50k on NaNoWriMo and then being out all Thanksgiving weekend, here’s one more background excerpt before returning to our regularly scheduled program.

Superpowers or simply Powers are superhuman capabilities bestowed on individuals via a Rosen-Tesla Event.

Scientific Basis

The majority of powers manipulate forces explicable by science in inexplicable ways. Despite over sixty years of study, no theory of powers has been accepted as predictive by the scientific consensus. While the forces supers manifest may be themselves quantified, the mechanism by which they are generated has not been.[1]

Supers regularly appear to violate the laws of conservation of mass and energy. (Some scientists believe that apparent violations are simply a transfer of matter and energy via an unknown mechanism for creating stable wormholes.[citation needed]) Certain demonstrated powers seem to violate basic understandings of how fundamental forces work (e.g., Telekinesis and other applications of motive forces without an apparently source). Others have biological effects that are very poorly understood (e.g., Regeneration and Shapeshifting).[2]

In general, researching powers is complicated by lack of access to repeatable test conditions. Not only are many supers unwilling to subject themselves to extensive tests, the tendency for powers to be unique even among those in the same Event makes it hard to set up proper controls.[3] It is theorized that certain countries guilty of human rights violations may have a better understanding of powers, due to willingness to run invasive tests on powered citizens, but these governments are the most likely to keep their research and actions secret.[citation needed]

Even though many of the mechanisms for powers are not understood, their repeatable elements can produce scientific breakthroughs. For example, MIT has announced a potential artificial gravity generator based on study with the retired hero Heavyweight.[4]

Rules

While the scientific principles behind powers aren’t understood, there are several consistent similarities between known power wielders that have become accepted as rules.

The first is that all individuals within the same Event gain powers with a consistent theme. Each power can be described as a variation on a central concept (e.g., different forms of Telekinesis, Energy Projection, Mind Control, Healing, etc.).[5] Certain scientists believe that these concepts must be understood to form a scientific understanding for powers: the unique individual powers are all results of a central factor interaction with the different physiology or psychology of the individuals.[citation needed]

The second is that a single individual’s powers can always be expressed as a single concept. If a super appears to have multiple powers, they will always be expressions of a single, central power. For example, Liberty’s great strength, durability, leaping ability, and ability to climb any surface are all expressions of Telekinesis used to enhance her body or things touching it. This means that many active vigilantes and villains require a way to gain additional offense, defense, or mobility not provided by their powers; there are few powered individuals that simultaneously have an ability to cause harm, resist to harm, and move in a way that exceeds normal human capabilities.[6]

The third is that all supers develop an intuitive understanding of and ability to control their powers. There have been very few examples of supers that lost control of their powers, required extensive training to access them, or did not know the extent of their powers, and most of these are believed to have had psychological problems that prevented the normal intuitive control.[7] Smith vs. The Exploder set a precedent that supers cannot legally claim that they lost control of their powers without extenuating circumstances; there are no accidental power activations, just potentially negligent uses of powers.