Sunday, February 23, 2014

Spellcasting in Empire of the Petal Throne

IN ARCHIMAGO'S CELL – The evil dream (by H. J. Ford)

In a previous post, I briefly discussed spellcasting in Empire of the Petal Throne ; however, I think that a more thorough explanation is warranted in order to address certain misconceptions.

Jon Peterson's Playing at the World is an exhaustive volume chronicling the evolution of role-playing games.  However, nothing is perfect.  Commenting on Empire of the Petal Throne, Peterson states on page 521:
The magic system, in contrast to Dungeons & Dragons, allows casters to select from a flat list of spells – spells do not have tiers like in Dungeons & Dragons, and thus a first-level priest can just as easily select “Cure Light Wounds” as they could “Revivify”...
The accuracy of this statement is wanting.

There are two sources of spells:  'Professional Skills' and 'Bonus Spells'.

Each of the three classes has a distinct list of professional skills.  For warriors, the professional skills regard weapon use (e.g., slinger, bowman, spearman, et al.).  Most of the 'skills' in the priest and magic user lists are actually spells.  In fact, 'cure light wounds' and 'revivify' both appear on the priest list.  However, first-level characters do not have access to all of their profession's list of skills.  Percentile dice are rolled to determine how many professional skills any given first-level character may have.  A roll of 1-20 means, “Choose any 2 skills from the first 3.” A roll of 96-100 means, “Choose 5 from the first 7.”  'Revivify' is the eleventh 'skill' on the priest list; therefore, it is not available at first level.  The list is not flat.

Upon advancing to a higher level, a character obtains a new 'skill' from the appropriate list “with the least advanced skill being mandatorily chosen first.”  So, a character with the 'Choose 5 from the first 7' result gets five professional skills at first level.  When that character advances to second level, she gets the 'earliest' skill on the list among those she does not possess.  Such a character cannot get the eighth skill on the list until she has all of the preceding seven skills.  Seventh is the earliest level at which a priest may gain 'revivify', and that would only be for the 5% who have a '5 from 7' result.  Characters with the '2 from 3' result would have to wait until tenth level.

Aside from professional skills, priests and magic users have access to bonus spells which “are divided into three Groups of increasing importance.”  (I posit that “groups of increasing importance” could be referred to as “tiers” without undue strain upon the definition of “tier.”)  The 43 Bonus spells are the same for priests and magic users.  Thus the professional skills serve to provide specific abilities to priests and magic users of certain amounts of accomplishment while bonus spells allow for a diverse repertoire among individual spellcasters.  For instance, 'The Grey Hand' may only be cast by high-level magic users, but 'Door Control' may be cast by priests or magic users as early as second level.

When a priest or magic users attains a new level of experience, there is a chance that the character will learn one or more bonus spells.  There is a 'Level of Experience and Percentile Dice Score Needed' table with five rows:
  • One spell of Group I
  • One spell of Group II
  • One Group I and one Group II spell
  • One spell of Group III
  • One Group II and one Group III spell
The indexed columns represent experience levels.  The second level column shows 'One spell of Group I' at 80% and 'One spell of Group II' at 90%.  The rules state that per level, “A person rolls only ONCE for this privilege [of gaining a bonus spell].”  So, upon reaching second level, does a character choose to attempt getting either the Group I spell or the Group II spell?  Or, instead, is there an 80% chance of gaining a Group I spell as well as a 90% chance of getting a Group II spell?  If the latter, it's possible for a fifth level character to gain as many as three spells from Group II and two spells each from Groups I and III.  Of course, it's also possible that the character won't get any bonus spells at a given level.  Regardless, the chances change as the experience level increases.  At 10th level, the chance of 'One spell of Group I' is 5% and 'One spell of Group III' is 30%.

If a character gains a spell from a group, any spell from that group may be chosen.  Each bonus spell can be used once per day; however, it is possible to take the same spell multiple times, thereby permitting multiple castings.

Spellcasting is not automatically successful.  For a 1st level spellcaster, there is only a 40% chance that any given spell will be successfully cast.  Starting at level nine, there is no chance of failure.  A greater than average Psychic Ability affords bonuses to the chance of success.

Among the Group I spells is 'The Hands of Krá the Mighty':  “This spell grapples and squeezes its victim.”  Was this the inspiration for the Bigby spells?

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Even More Magic Items (and Monsters) in Empire of the Petal Throne

Amulet of Venus and Mars from Oedipus Ægyptiacus by Athanasius Kircher

Previously, I wrote about “Eyes.”  Among “other types of ancient mechanisms [that] are encountered [in the underworld],” there are Amulets.  With Eyes, a referee is encouraged “to insert other types into the game as he sees fit.”  Not so with Amulets; Barker describes exactly twelve types and does not suggest that others might exist.  Of course, there is nothing to stop a referee from inventing other Amulets, yet that was not Barker's intent.  Barker treated Eyes and Amulets differently and must have had a reason to do so.  Many of the Amulets could just have easily been Eyes, some even have 'charges' that are recharged in the same manner as Eyes.

Barker states that, “Like the 'Eyes,' Amulets are rather rare.”  Interestingly, when describing Eyes, he writes that Eyes are the “most frequently encountered” ancient devices with which “Tékumel abounds.”  I suppose the professor meant that most people neither own nor have access to working ancient technology/magic items.  Compared to Eyes, Amulets are much less common.  A 2nd level Non-Player Character Priest or Magic-User has a 13% chance of having – at most – one Amulet; however, that same character has a 20% chance of having at least one Eye (and possibly as many as six).  Also, according to the Treasure Determination Table, Eyes are more likely than Amulets to be included in any randomly generated treasure hoard.

It is assumed that if a character wanted to buy an Amulet, the likely way to purchase one would be from a temple (except there is only a ten percent chance that the temple would be willing to sell any given Amulet).  Prices for Amulets are determined like prices for Eyes; rare types can be more expensive than relatively common types by an order of magnitude.

The Amulets are described below.  They are grouped according to rarity.

Relatively Common Amulets
The Amulet of Finding Treasure in the Underworld:  This is a one use item.  Within a range of three hundred feet, “It infallibly guides the user to the nearest treasure hoard in the Underworld.”  What constitutes a treasure hoard?  Two thousand copper Qirgál?  A flask of water would be treasure to a man dying of thirst.  What does “nearest” mean?  Let's say there is a hoard 150 feet to the west and another 250 feet to the east.  To get to the western hoard, the party would have to traverse 500 feet of corridors but only 300 feet of tunnels to get to the eastern hoard.  Which is the nearer hoard?  What if, when infallibly guiding the user to a hoard, the Amulet detects another hoard that was previously out of range but is now closer than the original hoard?
The Amulet of the Good God:  Hrá are undead entities that can only be destroyed be depleting their hit points, then touching them with this Amulet.  Because of this, Hrá in the presence of the Amulet are likely to retreat; even other undead might retreat.  “[A]n evil being picking it up suffers 1-6 6-sided dice of damage...”
The Amulet of Mastery over Rényu:  Rényu (mentioned previously) are humanoid 'animals' that can be trained to speak and use tools and weapons.  This Amulet allows the wearer to control 1-3 Rényu without going through the process of subduing or training them.  What happens when a character removes the Amulet?  Does it still work as long as it is in his or her possession?
The Amulet of Perceiving the Scintillation of Metal:  By expending a charge, this Amulet “will point to the largest hoard of metal of any kind within [20 feet].”  'Largest' hoard in volume or mass?  What about degree of refinement of the metal?
The Amulet of Power Over the Undead:  This Amulet gives a Magic User an 80% chance to cause various forms of undead to retreat.  An Amulet can attempt to affect any given undead being only once.

“Rare” Amulets
The Amulet Against the Iniquitous Nshé:  A product of ancient sorcery, a Nshé is a being composed entirely of viscous, watery liquid.  It sometimes assumes a 'solid' form.  A person reading the inscription on this Amulet (written in the Language of Tsáqw) will cause Nshé to retreat automatically.  This is ineffective against any Nshé that “has taken on its man-like form.”  (The Nshé creature listing implies that the Amulet is ineffective after the Nshé adopts any form.)
The Amulet of Invincible Steel:  Ngáyu are “flattish crustacean creatures” that can “squirt some 20 feet” a liquid that destroys metal.  I think of them as the Tékumel equivalent of a rust monster.  This Amulet protects the wearer's belongings from the Ngáyu's secretions.  (The description of the Amulet makes specific reference to steel, but I suppose all metals are protected.)
The Amulet of Warding Off Thúnru'u:  Thúnru'u are known as 'the Eaters of Eyes' and they are “somewhat manlike, doughy and blubbery looking.”  Appropriately named, “This amulet causes 1-6 Thúnru' flee.”  If one does not have access to this Amulet, Tsúral buds can repel Thúnru'u 80% of the time.

Very Rare Amulets
The Amulet of Peace Amongst the Servers of Ksárul:  As indicated previously, Ksárul is one of the 'evil' gods.  The Priests of Ksárul 'create' various Underworld creatures.  By expending a charge, this Amulet causes such creatures “to cease hostility against the user” for three turns (although they will defend themselves).
The Amulet of Protection Against the Grey Hand:  'The Grey Hand' is a potent spell learned by Magic-Users no earlier than eighth level.  It can be used once per day.  If the victim is successfully touched by the Magic-User, “the victim is reduced to a heap of greyish dust” – no saving throw.  The wearer of this Amulet, however, is immune.  Each Amulet attunes itself to its owner; until the owner dies, no one else can benefit from the Amulet.
The Amulet of Ruling the Ru'ún:  The Ru'ún are described as “manlike bronze demon-automatons some seven feet tall.”  They have three attacks per round:  “a powerful electric shock,” “a +1 sword,” and a “device...which casts steel bolts 30 feet.”  They cannot be surprised.  Anyway, assuming the owner knows the Llyáni language, this Amulet gives the owner a 60% chance of controlling 1-4 Ru'ún for two turns.
The Amulet of Safety Amidst Putrefaction:  The Shunned Ones are an intelligent race that has been on Tékumel since before the arrival of humans.  “This Amulet allows the wearer and 1-6 comrades to move unharmed among the Shunned Ones.”  Each charge lasts four turns.  My interpretation is that this Amulet counteracts the Shunned Ones' “terrible and repellent stench which drives off humans and non-humans alike.”  Let's say you have this Amulet and you have seven comrades.  At least one comrade will succumb to the Shunned Ones' odor.  When do you know how many are protected?  What decides which are protected and which aren't?

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Customized Classes (part IV)

Art by Léon Bakst

Here are more classes designed via a system derived from the one presented by Paul Montgomery Crabaugh in Dragon 109 (May 1986).


The rakasta were introduced in The Isle of Dread:
The rakasta are a race of nomadic, cat-like humanoids.  They walk erect, much like humans, but are covered with soft, tawny fur and have feline heads and features.
In presenting them as a class, I decided to provide them with abilities typically associated with cats; hence three thief abilities and the feature of “feline senses” (mainly, a cat's ability to see in the dark).

Rakasta favor a weapon called “war claws,” inflicting 1-4 points of damage.  In terms of 'Weapons Allowed', I have included war claws as a distinct weapon type.  Without the war claws, rakasta can inflict 1-2 points of damage.  According to the Expert Rulebook (p. 25), this is the same amount of 'unarmed combat' damage inflicted by humans (and elves and dwarves and halflings).  However, unlike humans (and their ilk), rakasta have two claw attacks per round; they also have a bite attack (1-4 damage).  The 'additional attacks' cost covers a second claw attack as well as a bite.  Even so, I think it is appropriate for player character rakasta to suffer a -2 cumulative modifier per attack beyond the first in a round.  Additionally, I think a rakasta's armor class should be unfavorably modified by 1 during any round in which it chooses to bite.  Of course, if a rakasta elects to use a normal weapon, it is restricted to one attack per round.


Aranea were also introduced in The Isle of Dread:
Aranea are an intelligent giant spider race...The front limbs of an aranea are divided into flexible digits.  The aranea uses these to grasp prey and manipulate simple tools.
I felt the aranea should have the thief ability of 'Climb Walls'.

Aranea are web-spinners.  This is a useful ability and it would have a greater cost, but there is no evidence that aranea can produce webs so quickly for this ability to be useful in combat situations.  Naturally, aranea should be restricted regarding the amount of webs that they can produce.  Perhaps the equivalent of one wall of webs per day is an appropriate limit.

An aranea has only one (natural) attack; a bite that inflicts 1-6 points of damage.  Additionally, the bite is venomous, meaning a target must save vs. poison or die.  Such an attack may be worth more than what I indicated; however, just like with webs, there should be a limit to the amount of venom an aranea can generate.  Perhaps an aranea can generate enough venom per day for a number of bites equal to (Constitution + Level) / 3.

Most significantly, aranea are spell-casters; these are actual spells, not abilities that generate spell-like effects.  In fact, mention is made that “they spend much of their time in magic research.”  It seems to me that – in order to study and cast magic-user spells – aranea need spell books (or something very much like spell books).  Given their limited ability to use tools, I cannot imagine aranea creating spell books, nor can I imagine aranea easily obtaining spell books.  I think that aranea must weave and tie strands of web together in order to create magical documentation; something akin to quipo.  A 'read magic' spell should be sufficient for non-aranea spell-casters to decipher such a thing.

Beast Lord / Beast Lady

In Crabaugh's system, the Animal Trainer 'specialty' had a 30% cost and was evidently meant to represent the ability described for Animal Trainers in the 'Specialists and Mercenaries' section of the expert rules.  An Animal Trainer – as described in the rulebook – is limited to one type of animal; such a restriction is hardly appropriate for a player character.  Starting at first level and with each level thereafter, the Beast Lady/Lord chooses a type of animal about which she or he is knowledgeable (and can therefore train).  For the first few levels, the Beast Lady/Lord should be limited to types of animals that are commonly domesticated (e.g., dogs, horses, et al.).  Once the Beast Lady/Lord reaches sixth level (or thereabouts) she or he can start choosing more exotic animal types (e.g., reptiles, bears, hippogriffs, et al.)  Assuming the circumstances are not threatening, a Beast Lady/Lord can usually obtain a positive reaction from 'untamed' specimens of an animal type with which she or he is knowledgeable.  The information in the Animal Trainer description can be used as a rudimentary guide for the amount of time required for training.

A 'Beast Buddy' is a single animal of 2 Hit Dice or less that has an empathic connection to the Beast Lady/Lord; it is very much like a familiar, although the basic game does not provide rules for familiars.  For an animal, a Beast Buddy is uncommonly intelligent and loyal.  A Beast Lady/Lord starts the game with her or his Beast Buddy and does not need to train it.  (At the discretion of the DM, a Beast Lady/Lord might have two Beast Buddies of the same species with 1 Hit Die or less.)

In addition to a Beast Buddy, a Beast Lady/Lord can have “animal retainers.”  Although not as intelligent as a Beast Buddy and without an empathic connection, animal retainers are loyal enough to sacrifice themselves for the Beast Lady/Lord.  A Beast Lady/Lord does not start the game with animal retainers; they must be found and trained during play.  The maximum number of animal retainers a Beast Lady/Lord may have is the same as the maximum number of human(-oid) retainers based on the character's Charisma score.  (e.g., A Beast Lord with a Charisma score of 13 can have five animal retainers and five 'human' retainers.)  If an animal retainer dies in the service of a Beast Lady/Lord, the Beast Lady/Lord should lose experience points –perhaps the Hit Dice of the lost animal retainer times 10% of the character's current level requirement.

The 'heal animal' feature allows the Beast Lady/Lord to restore 1 - 4 hit points to an animal; the Beast Lady/Lord must touch the animal to accomplish this.  The 'speak with animals' feature functions just like the cleric spell.  The 'charm animal' feature functions just like magic-user 'Charm Person' spell except that it only affects animals.

Aquatic Elf

The aquatic elf actually requires less experience to advance compared to regular elves. There are several reasons for this: ‘hit progression’ is less frequent, ‘spell progression’ is less powerful, the only ‘armor allowed’ is a shield, and the aquatic elves would have little use for the languages of orcs, hobgoblins, and gnolls. Instead, aquatic elves can breathe underwater, have an impressive swimming movement rate, and they know the language of dolphins. (According to the Rules Cyclopedia, “Dolphins are intelligent and have their own…language.” Thus, using game logic, communication with dolphins should not require a ‘speak with animals’ spell.)

Since aquatic elves are ‘magic-user’ spellcasters, they ought to have spell books, just like their land-lubber cousins. Books, of course, are not practical for a submarine environment. I imagine that aquatic elves, when they need to record information, engrave symbols upon sea shells. As such, an aquatic elf would have a collection of shells in place of a spell book.

 Falcon People

These beings appear like humans except with a falcon's head, wings, and talons (all in proportion to the human form).  Because of low bone density, they use a d4 for Hit Dice.  They posses the visual acuity of birds of prey.

The 'additional attacks' feature refers to one beak attack (1-4 damage) and two talon attacks (1-6 damage each) per round.  The talon attacks do not suffer the multiple attack penalty that applies to rakasta, but they can only be used while the character is flying.  The beak attack is subject to the same armor class modifier as a rakasta's bite and does suffer the multiple attack penalty if used in the same round as the talon attacks.

Regarding the 'great eagle' language, the Creature Catalogue states, “great eagles are much more intelligent [than their normal cousins].”  Additionally, “They have their own rudimentary language.”  Just as with aquatic elves and dolphins, it is reasonable to think that bird people can communicate with great eagles in their own language.


These entities were one of the original four player character races in Star Frontiers :
Dralasites are short, rubbery, aliens that have no bones or hard body parts. Their skin is a flexible membrane that is very tough and scratchy. It is generally dull gray and lines with dark veins that meet at the Dralasite’s two eye spots…The Dralasite’s central nerve bundle (brain), numerous small hearts and other internal organs float in a pudding-like mixture of protein and organic fluids. Dralasites breathe by absorbing oxygen directly through their skin, so they have no lungs. They are omnivores, but eat by surrounding their food and absorbing it, so they have no digestive tract or intestines.
Why stat them as a Basic D&D class? Why not?  Maybe they're descendants of an expedition that was stranded on the campaign planet ages ago.

If shapechange can be used to shift into an alternate form, I assume it can represent Dralasite malleability.  A Dralasite doesn't actually acquire an alternate form, but it is able to modify its body; for instance, it can generate a number of limbs equal to ([STR + DEX] / 5) + 2.  'Fashioning' its body requires several minutes, so 'adapting' in the middle of combat or emergencies is not likely.

Dralasites have a keen sense of smell, so 'heightened olfactory sense' is appropriate.  A Dralasite's lie detection ability does not work like the Detect Deception skill.  A first level Dralasite has a 5% chance of detecting a lie; this chance is increased by 5% every level to a 90% chance maximum.  If a roll is successful, the Dralasite receives a cumulative +10% bonus on additional attempts upon the same target on the same day (to a maximum chance of 90%).  On the other hand, if a roll is failed with regard to a certain target, the Dralasite character cannot successfully use this ability upon that target again that day.  Of course, the DM should make all lie detection rolls so that the player doesn't know if the Dralasite character failed.

For additional information, please visit here.

Green Martian (male)

These beings were first described in Edgar Rice Burroughs' A Princess of Mars.  Given their huge size and four arms, 'normal' armor will not accommodate them.  The 'leather' listed as 'Armor Allowed' refers to straps and belts a Green Martian warrior might wear; enough material for two full suits of 'normal' leather armor must be tailored for the Green Martian form.  Upon reaching fourth level, it is assumed that a Green Martian has collected enough metal from his fallen foes so that – when worn – it is the equivalent of chainmail.  By virtue of his eye stalks, a Green Martian warrior can only be surprised on a roll of 1 instead of 1-2.  His tusks do 1-6 damage in lieu of any other attack in a given round.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Alignment and Religion in Empire of the Petal Throne

Two Skull-Priests of Sárku, the Five-Headed Lord of Worms, are seen
calling forth the Fire Demon, Jnékshaa. (Art by Karen J. Englesen)

The first step in creating a character for Empire of the Petal Throne is to “choose between two 'alignments':  Good or Evil.”  (In fact, it is in the section on Alignment that Barker explains how to use dice.)  Barker explains that
For convenience's sake (and not to reflect reality necessarily), all characters are divided into two basic types:  those serving the Good Gods and their Cohorts, and those serving their Evil counterparts.  There are no “neutrals” on Tékumel...
Barker provides details about the Gods much later in the rules, but in the five paragraph section on Alignment he describes the behaviors to which good and evil characters are expected to conform.  Good characters do “not consort with” evil characters.  Good characters do not attack non-humans that are not hostile and they do not attack one another except in a mutually acceptable duel after an “honourable challenge.”  Barker states that “evil characters never attack each other within their own party.”  [Original emphasis]  “A party,” Barker explains, “is...a body of two or more players sharing an adventure together.”  (One assumes they are “sharing an adventure” via their characters.)  “Once a group has disbanded,” Barker continues, “evil characters may indeed state their intentions to begin hostilities with one or more ex-members of the group at the start of the following adventure.”

How do people of disparate alignments peacefully co-exist in society?  Barker explains that...
Most worshippers live out their lives without ever experiencing a God directly:  they go to the temples, celebrate the rituals, pay the tithes, and give lip-service – yet never face any real demands upon the depth and strength of their faiths.
Additionally, there is the notion of “noble” versus “ignoble” action – a concept of social etiquette that transcends alignment.

The last paragraph of the Alignment section says that a character can change his or her alignment by going to a temple of one of the Gods of the desired 'side' and rolling 60 or greater on percentile dice.  Later in the book, a more detailed procedure is provided.  Each character can be devoted to a single God or Cohort.  If a character wants to start worshiping a different God – even one of the same alignment – that character, “at the beginning of the adventure,” must make an offering to the appropriate temple and secure an “Agreeable” (or better) reaction from the priests by rolling on the NPC reaction table.  (Technically, this is a roll of 61 or better, not '60' as indicated in the Alignment section.)  The offering must consist of a number of Káitars equal to 1d100 × 1d10 × 1,000 (i.e., from one thousand to one million Káitars – good luck with that).

There are five “good” Gods (the Tlomítlanyal) and five “evil” Gods (the Tlokiriqáluyal).  For each God, there is a Cohort; collectively the Cohorts are the Hlimékluyal.  Thus, there are twenty 'deities':  5 “good” Gods along with 5 Cohorts and 5 “evil” Gods along with their 5 Cohorts.  However, deities tend to have Aspects, “particular facets of...identity...not separate deities but only specific manifestations...”  As an example, “Avánthe [Mistress of Heaven] has 93 Aspects, one of which is the personification of maiden beauty, another a fierce Aridáni warrioress, another a mother with a child in her arms, another an old woman wise in her years, etc.”

In a later supplement, Barker refines the Good/Evil dichotomy of the Gods – “the deities of Tékumel are only peripherally involved with 'ethics' or 'morality.'”  The “good” Gods  are actually the 'Lords of Stability' while the “evil” Gods are actually the 'Lords of Change.'  According to Barker:
These deities are really vastly powerful inter-dimensional beings, but for all practical purposes they are “gods” to such a limited and tiny being as man.  The Gods express not so much human objectives as their own viewpoints of existence and the eventual destiny of the cosmos.  The Lords of Stability urge a slow and gentle progress towards a final glorious stasis which will endure for all time to come.  The Lords of Change preach violent and constant mutability, unceasing, always ephemeral, and resulting only in ever more change.  The Gods are immanent and omnipresent.  There are innumerable documented instances of “miracles” and “manifestations,” and only a fool is an atheist in Tékumel.
Speaking of miracles, player characters can seek divine intervention.  If successful, “the player has obtained the ear of his or her deity, and then the referee then considers the request and responds accordingly (but not to such an extent that the game becomes unbalanced).”  Seeking divine intervention is not without risks.  Percentile dice are rolled with three possible outcomes:  successful intervention, “no effect,” and retribution.  Retribution means that the character sustains 1d6 of damage for each of his or her experience levels.  However, characters with higher levels of experience have a greater chance of success.  A second or third level character (first level characters cannot seek divine intervention at all) has a 70% chance of retribution and only a 5% chance of successful intervention; a fourth or fifth level character has only a 50% chance of retribution but a 20% chance of successful intervention.  It is easier to obtain intervention (as well as avoid retribution) from Cohorts than with A-list Gods.  Magic-users get a +3 modifier and priests get a +5.  Offerings of money (in 5,000 Káitar increments) and magic items also provide a bonus.  Sacrifices can also improve the odds.  The good Gods and Cohorts accept sacrifices of an undead being, Underworld creature, “or other large, dangerous, and inimical being” but “the evil Gods and Cohorts accept only human sacrifices.”  Finally, divine intervention is successful no more frequently than once per week; further attempts within a week result in automatic retribution.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Customized Classes (part III)

Léon Bakst's Tsarevitch costume for The Firebird

Here are some D&D classes fashioned using the system described in this post.  (Incidentally, since that post, I have tweaked Table 9 – Spell Progression Costs.)


These ne'er-do-wells can pass themselves off as fighters, but they are unfettered by notions of honor and bravery.  The 'weasel maneuver' regards the 'fighting withdrawal' and 'retreat' rules specified in the Expert Set.  According to page 24, “In crowded situations, characters or monsters behind a creature attempting to use a fighting withdrawal will prevent this form of defensive movement.”  A knave is able to perform a fighting withdrawal in such situations if a saving throw vs. paralysis is successful.  Also on page 24, “If a creature tries to retreat, the opponent may add +2 to all 'to hit' rolls, and the defender is not allowed to make a return attack.”  With the 'weasel maneuver', a retreating knave who succeeds in a saving throw vs. paralysis is not subject to attack.


This class represents entities that are half-human and half-troll.  What's that?  Humans and trolls are not genetically compatible?  Fine, a wizard did it.  Given its human heritage, a Half-Troll's talons and teeth and not developed sufficiently to act as reliable weapons.  Its tall and lanky frame can accommodate only lose, pliable leather as armor.  I suppose that, for the right price, a properly fitting suit of armor could be made, but maybe the metal prevents regeneration. 

Raven Witch

The idea for this class came from Pendragon.  Regarding Shapechange, Crabaugh's article states that 'shapechange' has a cost of 50% per hit die of the animal form.   Ravens have a hit die of ¼, but being able to turn into a raven should not be so cheap as a '0.12' modifier.  I think the '0.50' cost should be the minimum.  That being said, the raven is certainly not a normal raven so it might as well have a full hit die worth of hit points – as long as the hit point total does not exceed the hit points of the human form.

Of course, the shapechange alternate form in Crabaugh's article was limited to a “specific, predetermined land-based mammal.”  I think this is too limiting.  Certainly, players are liable to exploit potential forms, but it is easy enough to check such exploitation.  For instance, if a character can shapechange into a venomous snake, the character might try to collect the venom to ensure a never-ending supply of poison.  This is easily thwarted by having collected venom change to saliva as soon as the character returns to human form – and it remains as saliva if and when the character resumes snake form.


Bummed out because you've been reincarnated as a goblin?  Well, this is for you!  You're welcome.

There's not much to say – it's a goblin.  The combat penalty in daylight is listed as a negative modifier.  I tossed in some extra languages listed as 'Bonus Languages' for goblins in another edition.


I attempted to think of a class that would use cleric magic, but which wasn't a derivative of the cleric or paladin classes.  I came upon the idea of a class with spell-like powers originating not from gods/Immortals, but from the so-called “spirit realm.”  After all, the Rules Cyclopedia stipulates on page 13 that “sometimes the cleric is serving only his alignment, and has no interest in immortal beings.”  If an alignment, why not the spirit realm?

Given an association with the spirit realm, such a class ought to have features that regard the non-corporeal undead.  The immunities are self-explanatory.  I wanted the class to have some sort of protection against 'spirit poison', but I felt immunity was too much.  So, I created the “guarded” feature.  With this feature, if a spiritualist fails a saving throw against spirit poison, he or she gets another chance to save.  “Phantasm detection” does not work like the other detection features; it works more like a 'Detect' spell than a sense.  A number of times per day equal to half of his or her level, a spiritualist can detect non-corporeal undead within sixty feet for two turns.

Another interesting feature might be for a spiritualist to be treated as twice his or her level when casting the 'Speak with the Dead' spell.

War Master

Not surprisingly, this class specializes in combat.  It provides more features than the fighter class, but needs more experience to advance and has significant 'ability requirements'.  Starting at fifth level, a war master may – instead of applying +1 to personal initiative – attempt to apply +1 to group initiative for a round.  The attempt is successful if the war master makes a save vs spells; if failed, the war master does not receive the personal initiative bonus that round.  Starting at sixth level, for a number of times per day equal to half his or her level, a war master may cause a +1 modifier to be applied to enemy morale rolls.  (Alternately, a -1 modifier can be applied to morale rolls for allied NPC combatants.)


This class is competent with technology as it might exist in a fantasy medieval setting.  For game purposes, this primarily means traps, doors, and other contraptions one might find in a dungeon or other adventure locale.

'Secret door' and 'construction' detection function just as they do with Elves and Dwarves respectfully.

The “save vs traps” feature applies to any saving throw the mechanician attempts against the direct effects of a technological trap (as opposed to magical traps).  For instance, if a trap is sprung that fires poisoned darts at a mechanician, the +2 modifier applies to any saving throw to avoid the darts.  If hit by such a dart, the +2 modifier does not apply to saving throws against the effects of the poison.

“Door Expert” means that the character adds his or her level to his or her strength when attempting to open stuck doors, but not magically stuck doors.  'Doors' in this sense includes portals, gates, and similar items designed to block/permit ingress/egress.

“Various, appropriate skills” refers to 'Engineer' and 'Craft (Tinker)' from the Rules Cyclopedia.  If skill rules are not in effect, just assume that the character is capable of performing tasks related to engineering and/or tinkering.

To be continued?

Sunday, February 2, 2014

More Magic Items in Empire of the Petal Throne

or “The Eyes Have It

Among the types of magic items in Empire of the Petal Throne, first and foremost Barker discusses “Eyes” (thus capitalized).
...Tékumel abounds with devices surviving from the ancient and glorious days of high technology.  The most frequently encountered of these are the “Eyes,” so named because they are shaped like small, dull gems, with an eye-like aperture on one side and a protruding stud on the other, which activates the device.
Barker describes thirty-six Eyes, although he states, “The...list is not exhaustive, and the referee may insert other types into the game as he sees fit.”  Eyes are common enough that they are in circulation, so to speak.  Various private interests (including temples) are in possession of Eyes and they are sometimes available for purchase (rarely) or loan (more commonly).  Eyes are common enough that “Many fakes are manufactured.”

I would think that anyone possessing an Eye would have the wherewithal to retain it (i.e., guard it from the acquisitive), else they would not possess it for very long.  Still, what's the point in having an eye if you're not going to use it?  I'm certain Eye owners could be enticed to use them in the right circumstances.  Barker tells us that “The Tsolyáni themselves do not use money much, employing a system of cross-clan obligations and favours...”  I can easily believe that use of an Eye could constitute a “favour” – perhaps not often, but certainly something to consider when bargaining.  Given these circumstances, I imagine that most Tsolyáni have seen an Eye or two and – although not a common occurrence – have probably seen one being used.

The use of Eyes is all the more precious in that every type of Eye (save one) requires an expenditure of “charges.”  Apparently, each Eye can hold one hundred charges.  (When an Eye is found, percentile dice are rolled to determine the number of charges.)  About half of all Eyes have “a tiny dial just below their operating stud which indicates charges remaining.”

A person finding an Eye is, of course, ignorant of its function.  About half of all Eyes have “a tiny inscription on the back, written in one of the ancient languages.”  Eyes tend to have grandiose names, such as 'The Eye of Being an Unimpeachable Shield Against Foes' and 'The Eye of Ruling as a King in Glory'.  So, even if the inscription can be read, the name of an Eye does not necessarily describe exactly what happens when the Eye is activated.  Characters might need to experiment with an Eye to determine its function.

Eyes, of course, are very old – perhaps lying around unused for thousands of years.  A recently found Eye has a small chance of being defective.  There are four possible defects:  (1) the Eye no longer works at all, (2) the Eye has only half the number of charges indicated, (3) the Eye has a distorted or opposite effect, or (4) the Eye explodes when activated.

Barker states there is a ten percent chance of 'common' Eyes being available for purchase.  He provides two examples common types ('The Eye of Frigid Breath' and 'The Eye of Illuminating Glory'), but we are left to wonder what other types might be classified as common.  “Less common (or more destructive) types” might have a five percent chance of availability.  If available, common types can cost from 1,000 to 100,000 Káitars and less common types, ten thousand to one million Káitars.  Finally, “really rare varieties” can cost from one hundred thousand to ten million Káitars.  I assume these 'prices' are symbolic given the nature of the Tsolyáni economy.

Some examples of Eyes:
  • The Thoroughly Useful Eye – This is the one type of Eye that does not cost charges to use.  In fact, the function of this Eye is to recharge other Eyes.  “It is naturally the rarest of all varieties of Eyes, there being only four known specimens in the Empire and two known in other lands.”
  • The Eye of Retaining All Things – When activated, this Eye becomes a portal to an airless void where up to 100,000 Káitars in weight may be stored.  “Any size object may be sucked into this Eye, providing only that some small corner be small enough to fit within it.”  I assume magic prevents suction from drawing air and unintended items into the vacuum.
  • The Eye of Strengthening the Majesty of Weapons – Each charge imparts a cumulative, permanent +1 to “weapons, armour, shields, etc.”  The maximum bonus to any article is +2, except edged steel weapons have a maximum of +3.
  • The Eye of Opening the Way – Each charge allows the Eye to function for two turns.  During this time, it “automatically finds and opens secret doors” within its range and it buzzes when brought within one foot of a trap.
  • The Eye of Calling Forth an Unconquerable Army – This Eye brings 1-100 automatons from “another dimensional plane” for a maximum of two turns.  They are only capable of fighting.  Successive uses still bring up to 100 automatons “even if some have been slain previously.”