Platforms and Other October Things

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By now, I'm sure that many have read the recent buzz about creating platform instead of product. This has triggered a few things in the RPG set starting with Zak and then continuing in this and this.

Oddly enough, there has been criticism in the past where Labyrinth Lord called itself the Rosetta Stone of Old School Fantasy. Truth be told, it is the platform that created Original Edition and Advanced Edition. It also spawned Mutant Future and Humanspace Empires. All that's left is Alternity and Boot Hill and we got the whole shooting match. (Maybe if you're a completist, you'll want the Amazing Engine, too.)

But Swords&Wizardry has generated its own progeny as well. There's Ruins & Ronins, Ultima, and Battlemech (can't find the link). This isn't even mentioning the number of versions of the core rules and Brave Halfling's new rules in development.

Are there more clones that operate like platforms? Looking at other old school games, S&W and LL appear to be the two largest platforms. Microlite20 is a strong third, there are so many add-ons for it, that compiling them all generates a 600+ page document. Openquest is a great rules system, but no one that I know of is working on a space-based game with OQ as the foundation. The D6 game spawned all sorts of games in West End Games' hey day, but only one publisher is actively building on it. Both of these systems could be great for making all sorts of games. That's why I use part of the spell building system in D6 Fantasy and a variation of the OQ skill system in Andras.

So, what does this prove except the fact that I can add a boatload of links to a post? There a platform out there for whatever game you want to make and it is broader than the legacy of TSR.

Did you know that the STRength scale in the Action! System is setup so that the STR of a horse will scale to units of horsepower?  Give a STR value to a vehicle and you have the power rating for its engine. It also scales in powers of 10 so that you don't have to have a space craft with a STR 4200.

But I digress.

I don't believe that Andras will become the platform for gamers everywhere. What I do know is that I like a game that can help me define just about anything I want. Mechs? Sure. Interdimensional Self-Replicating Bismuth Golems? You betcha. Greyhawk? Not a problem. A Spelljammer version of Tekumel? Yes, but the rest of the internet will hate you for it.

I hope that with the fair number of systems presented, folks can find something to use for their game. Skill-based wizard? Roll d20+d10 under the INT score for a rules-lite game and a roll under Spell skill for a more nuanced approach. Spell Creation System? Here's a short version and a detailed version complete with an expandable table assigning effects to point values. Vancian Spell Name Generator? How about Hastra's Delicate Surfeit. Monster Builder? Here's some tables and an XP Chart.

More than that, I also want to provide spreadsheets. If someone wants to make their own spreadsheet based generators, lots of useful data will already exist in spreadsheet format. Better yet, convert the files into csv and build database apps. Go for it. I am intentionally building the various spell lists in a spreadsheet for this reason. Monsters will exist in a spreadsheet as well as the class builder. It's one thing to provide a text version of the rules, it's another to provide a dataset for folks to build with.

The ideal system for me would be 48 pages of rules and another408 of magic item tables, classes, spell lists, price lists, etc. The GM's guide would have a bunch of tools to make just about anything from a monster to a class to a demi-plane and everything in-between. A person could basically ditch everything after page 48 and use the GM guide to recreate anything needed.

Work continues very slowly in October - with birthdays, anniversaries and non-profit events, it's a very busy time. But I have the XP tables for monsters ready as well as the SRD versions of spells in the 2e PHB in a spreadsheet. This winter, I hope to get quite a bit of work done and have a playtest document before March.

Thanks for the six people that indulged me a bit of commentary.

Quick Notes

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I have a post in the queue about an alternate origin of dragons. This article is in the same vein (though not the same manner) as the dwarves of Dwimmermount. It should show up on Monday. Today, however, there is a hodpodge of ideas that I wanted to share instead of creating yet more draft posts.

Azamar Review

Over 250 people have read my review of Azamar over the past few days. I hope that it was helpful. Sales seem to be going well, it is #12 on the Hottest Items list at My two part review can be found at these links:

Azamar Part the First
Azamar Part the Second

Arcanist Rules

I've written about a skill-based mage called the Arcanist for Andras a number of times. Before jotting down a few notes, here is an index:

First Draft of the Arcanist (I don't like this version)
Discussion of Spell Points
Yet More Thoughts on Spell Points
A Brief Mention about the Spell List
The First Stats Appear for the Arcanist

I've shifted a bit from the OpenQuest Magnitude chart to using the Open D6 chart. I've also changed the spell point system. The main reason for doing this was the ability to create spells by effect. I still generate some spells from TFT, OpenQuest, 2e Psionics, etc. The difference is that now there are spells from OpenD6 as well. Basing spell creation on a simplied OpenD6 spell building system allows the Arcanist to have similar spell school options as regular Mages. In other words, you can have a specialist Arcanist.

Another reason for changing to something like the OpenD6 spell system is that I can provide bonuses/penalties for all kinds of situations that would pertain only to a skill-based mage. For example:

Increasing Casting Time to 9:                 +2
Increasing Casting Time by a round:   +5
Eschewing Material Components:         -2
Eschewing Verbal Components:            -2
Eschewing Somatic Components:         -2
Casting a Spell with students:                +1 per student max +10

Again, the Arcanist cannot change the intensity, range or area of the effect without researching a new spell. However, that research will be significantly reduced from the cost of researching the original spell.

With the group casting bonus, if would be fair to surmise that there are some spells that can only be cast by a group of Arcanists. The +1 per student bonus is only for spell that were originally created to be cast by a sole Arcanist. Group Spells that will be given in a later PDF have the benefit of a community already factored in.

New Dice

I went to an educational store and picked up some unusual dice. One is a d6 that has negative numbers. The others are all fractional. There is a red d8 that features 1/8 through 1,  a white d10 with 1/10 through 1 and two white d6's that have different fractions. One d6 has 1/6 through 1. The other d6 has 1/2, 1/3, 1/4, 1/6, 1/8 and 1/12. Lots of fun to be had besides adding and subtracting fractions practice.


I've asked Google+ developers for a page that anyone could post upcoming hangouts on. I could post something here, but I'm thinking of something that is editable by the community and doesn't rely on me to find all the ConstantCon Hangouts and Games that are going on. Here's to hoping.

Also on the ConstantCon front, I hope to have a game scheduled to start in November for a Spelljammer game. I am a parent of two young ones, so it will be a weekend schedule.

Arcanist Update and NPC Idea

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Back in January, JD posted this gem about an RPG mashup. It appeals to the part of me that likes to provide the unexpected to folks like me that have been playing for years.

In Andras, I mentioned the Arcanist Class a while ago, and then instantly regretted its poor execution. Testing has proven to be positive for the new and improved Arcanist that is based  on OpenQuest's Sorcery rules (with a touch of Battle Magic). OpenQuest's skill-based and spell point sorcerers are working out pretty well. The only difficulty lies in determining spell points. I can't seem to find that happy medium that prevents lower level Arcanists from being too powerful and allows higher level Arcanists to be greatly feared. The idea of basic spells that can be increased by expending more points is exactly what I wanted. The Magnitude table of effects provides a compact way to describe what powering up a given spell will do. The spell list is complete and allows Arcanists to be very distinctive spellcasters in the D&D world. Throw in a dash of Gygaxian Spell Names, and it could be something fun for your OGL game.

One of the spells in OpenQuest is Animate (Substance). This is actually a category of spells because an OQ Sorcerer has to learn a different spell for each substance. For example, Animate Earth is a different spell from Animate Wood. In an attempt to flesh out the Arcanist class more, I came up with an Arcanist that specializes in the Animate (Substance) and Form/Set categories of spells. For simplicity of reference, let's call him Tim (or more properly in lingwa de planeta, Faihonaboh). So far, I have Animate Earth, Animate Stone, Animate Bone, Animate Steel, Animate Water, Form/Set Earth, Form/Set Stone, Form/Set Darkness. He also has the Create Magic Point Store and Create Spell Matrix spells.

The important skill Tim possesses is sculpting. A successful skill roll for sculpting allows him to form various minions to do his bidding. Not all of them are humanoid in shape, so some of his constructions perform unique tasks. For example, the stone spheres of various sizes work to take intruders off their feet. The more humanoid shaped minions can hurl un-animated spheres as weapons. Why is this important? Once major limitation of the animate spells is that only one or two animated objects can be controlled at a time. That's why he can created a number of spheres that can alternatively be animated or thrown by other animated object. Form/Set Steel allows him to repair swords and shields. The Animate Steel spell allows him to animate suits of armor. The Animate Earth spell allows him to manipulate earthen embankments in all kinds of bizarre ways like having a giant hand come out of the earthworks can throw would be attackers or defenders.

Note that he doesn't have the blacksmith skill, so he can't really manufacture weapons and armor, only perform minor repairs. According to the Andras proficiency system, anything can be attempted by rolling 3 or under with a d20. With a 15% chance of success, this prevents him from becoming a wholesale weapons and armor manufacturer. Maybe, I could allow making a steel shield, but nothing like a sword and definitely not chain mail.

Those are just the military purposes, but other are available as well. A small stone structure can be animated to assist the occupant. In other words, tables spontaneously form from the floor for mealtime, create an opening for a window, wall-up the door, etc. You could even have the house get up and walk away to a new location. Animated stone ladders can be used in a scroll repository. Being fairly small, it would use only one or two spell points to raise/lower or move around. Oddly enough, you could even get your steel cutlery to chop vegetables and help prepare meals.

With so many spells, I figure that Tim has reached 80 percent with his Arcane Skill. This translates to rolling a 16 or under with a d20. Just like 2e, though, this represents casting in an extraordinary situation. When Tim can take his leisure to cast a spell, he do the equivalent of taking a 10. I also figure that he is around 12th level or so.

Based on my current point system, he has 26 points to invoke spell effects. Invoking any of the Animate spells for a human sized creature takes 14 points, but lasts as long as he maintains concentration. The stone spheres take only 2 points to animate for the larger ones and 1 point for a smaller one. This doesn't include the form/set costs because we're assuming that the objects he wants to animate have already been created. This seems like he is limited in spells at this point, but the effect of Create Spell Matrix, allows him to store animate spells in certain objects. This means he could create a few of these devices in advance to animate pre-made objects. With the sculpting skill, he could certainly create any number of statutes, humanoid and otherwise. With the Animate Steel spell, he could also use empty suits of armor. Using a few Spell Point stores, he could also spontaneously animate and form/set any other figures he may need.

Still, despite the ability to store spell points in advance, the points feel too low for a 12th level spellcaster. I have the feeling that the arcanist should be able to animate and form/set at least one human-sized object before draining his power points. I like the flexibility of the arcanist at this point, but I'm having trouble with the points to use. I still need to settle on a table that determines what a 1 point effect does compared to higher point effects. I have a good idea based on weight, but want something that would include length, area, information and other variables. Any thoughts are welcome.