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Michael Hopcroft

[Classic Fantasy] Templating

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Just picked up my PDF of Classic Fantasy. I owned the prior edition and had many of the same thoughts about this edition as I had about this one. These included things like how alarmingly fragile characters are in D100 as opposed to D20, and wondering how that will affect the way a dungeon crawl plays.

But the really interesting thing to me is the way classes work in it. The Ranks system, like level systems in D&D, provide a relatively simple way to scale the game (even if the chances of beginning PCs living long enough to advance seem remote) -- if you want to run a more powerful campaign, this gives you an idea on how to scale it. But the interestying thing is that Passions are used in place of Alignment, only much more flexible.

What I would do, and I'm curious how this would work, would be to divorce Passions from Classes -- using the Classes as a sound template for PC abilities while allowing considerably more freedom in personality. You can already alter a class substantially simply by changing the Passions of the character -- an Anti-Cavalier, for example, can be made with ridiculous ease simply by changing their Passions. 

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Did you play any, or is the opinion based on readthrough?

I played a lot of the BRP version, which I assume is very similar to the Mythras one.

Characters weren't fragile. IMO, starting characters were actually more powerful than their traditional DnD counterparts. I could see a leveling of the playing field as they reached what would be 'mid levels' in actual DnD. Didn't play anything 'high level,' but I haven't even done much of that in real DnD in three decades of gaming.

The issue I had with it was actually the opposite. Low experience characters are almost indestructible if played rationally. 

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23 hours ago, tedopon said:

Did you play any, or is the opinion based on readthrough?

I played a lot of the BRP version, which I assume is very similar to the Mythras one.

Characters weren't fragile. IMO, starting characters were actually more powerful than their traditional DnD counterparts. I could see a leveling of the playing field as they reached what would be 'mid levels' in actual DnD. Didn't play anything 'high level,' but I haven't even done much of that in real DnD in three decades of gaming.

The issue I had with it was actually the opposite. Low experience characters are almost indestructible if played rationally. 

Now I'm curious. what is it about the rules or setting, in your opinion, that  makes "low=-level" PCs so durable? And what in your experience has made medium levels more dangerous?

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During the playtest phase, I ran only classic modules or adventures I had written that were still fairly fresh on my memory so I could compare the game in play to standard old school DnD.

We ran four different starting level groups through sets of a couple to three adventures each (average of about 10 hours with the same characters, then we would rotate out). 

Ran two sets of characters through about the same gauntlet of what you would consider the early mid level adventures, but again using stuff I was familiar with so the results could be compared.

During the playtest phase I noted to Rodney that my group was having a blast but everyone agreed that low level characters had higher survivability than 1e or Basic characters. 

What I meant about the mid level power curve is that sometime around the Basic/1e 'sweet spot' (levels 5-8ish) is where Classic Fantasy and DnD match up the closest. A comparable experience character will have similar power and survivability in either system.

After the playtest ended and the book went to print, the second volume went to playtest and I ran a campaign from starting to high mid level experience. I only had characters die from Save or Die/Paralysis/etc effects, none died from straight combat. 

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On ‎1‎/‎13‎/‎2017 at 0:30 PM, Michael Hopcroft said:

The Ranks system, like level systems in D&D, provide a relatively simple way to scale the game (even if the chances of beginning PCs living long enough to advance seem remote)

Hi Michael.

I want to point out that a starting Rank 1 Classic Fantasy character is actually more powerful than a starting Mythras character, all things being equal. After all, characters are designed pretty much the same way up to the point where the character is given class abilities. So saying that a Rank 1 character's chances of survival are remote, is pretty much saying that a starting Mythras character has a remote chance of survival. I'm sure there are plenty of players that can confirm from actual experience that this is far from the case. Yes, combat is dangerous in both Classic Fantasy and it's parent system, but a judicial use of skill, tactics, and luck points will easily win out.

Plus, if you think Classic Fantasy is deadly at low rank, think back to 1st edition AD&D with its level 1 characters.

1st level Magic-User: 1d4 hit points.

House Cat: 1 attack: 1d2 damage. If that hits he'll also rake with his hind claws for another 1d2 damage.

I'm surprised anyone ever reached level 2. 

I know that as a DM, I typically cheated to help keep my players alive until level 3, then they were on their own.

Oh, and no house cats.;)

Rod

 

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4 hours ago, threedeesix said:

I'm surprised anyone ever reached level 2. 

Our Wednsday group started playing Basic D&D last week... my halfling was eaten by rats just a short ways into our first dungeon. Which was great!

I've yet to play Classic Fantasy but I hope stuff like rats, cats, and dogs still present something of a threat to PCs. There was an old mantra I had when looking at a set of rules, that a pack of wild dogs should always be a viable threat to a PC caught alone and unarmed... but I'm not sure if that's true of D&D past a certain level.

Edited by Simlasa

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3 hours ago, Simlasa said:

I've yet to play Classic Fantasy but I hope stuff like rats, cats, and dogs still present something of a threat to PCs. There was an old mantra I had when looking at a set of rules, that a pack of wild dogs should always be a viable threat to a PC caught alone and unarmed... but I'm not sure if that's true of D&D past a certain level.

Yes, because of fumbles, criticals, non-escalating hit points, etc., there will always be a chance of death in any BRP derived system, and Mythras is no different in that regard. But not to the same degree as the poor wizard vs. house cat noted above. Nor should it be. Laws of averages says that wizard should die in the initial attack when fluffy makes his move. However, I think we can all agree that may be just a tiny bit unrealistic.

That's not to say that small creatures cant present an exciting challenge however. Because a lot of new players look at the damage potential based on dice when gauging the deadliness of creatures when first coming to Mythras, before they have really learned the intricacies of the system, they sometimes see small creatures as being a non-threat. However If I may be so presumptuous as to quote myself. Classic Fantasy page 190-191 has this to say on the subject.
 

Quote

 

Small Critters & Damage Penalties

"Many Mythras creatures are small and have the potential to do little or no damage after applying their damage penalty; however, a high damage roll, coupled with a low damage penalty roll, can result in a nasty cut. If the victim has the unfortunate luck to be outnumbered, that’s when things get nasty, as the character will quickly run out of defence rolls. A small creature that scores a hit on a victim that is either unwilling or unable to defend automatically gets one special effect. The most likely special effect caused by a small creature is Bleeding, and all it takes is the creature to score a single point of damage on its opponent. Multiple attackers just increase the likelihood of an attack causing damage getting through.

In the case of armoured opponents, small attackers may find it difficult to get through their respectable defences to even score the one point of damage needed to cause bleeding. In this case, the special effects Choose Location, Bypass Armour, and Maximise Damage may all help in scoring some hurt on the victim, and if two special effects can be achieved (again easier if the foe can be outnumbered), then either of these, combined with Bleeding, can seriously ruin an adventurer’s day.

So don’t underestimate massed attacks by small, seemingly weak creatures; it only takes one kobold’s short spear bypassing armour and maximising damage to pin a paladin to a wall.

 

So, yes. Small creatures can be a threat to a character of any skill level in Mythras. And Classic Fantasy is no different in this regard. However, when fighting a single mundane critter much smaller then yourself, the odds will always be on the side of a player character. 

Rod

 

Edited by threedeesix
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10 hours ago, threedeesix said:

Plus, if you think Classic Fantasy is deadly at low rank, think back to 1st edition AD&D with its level 1 characters.

1st level Magic-User: 1d4 hit points.

House Cat: 1 attack: 1d2 damage. If that hits he'll also rake with his hind claws for another 1d2 damage.

I'm surprised anyone ever reached level 2. 

I know that as a DM, I typically cheated to help keep my players alive until level 3, then they were on their own.

Oh, and no house cats.;)

 

 

There was a motivator I made with a screenshot of Tomo (from Azumanga Diaoh) messing around with Sakaki's Iriomote kitten (who, in the scene, scratched up her hand pretty badly when it finally ticked him off). The caption was "1st Level Commoner: You really should know better than to mess with a cat". I'm attaching the image, but you may have to download it.

1st Level Commoner.jpg

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On the question of small animal injuries to player-characters, how big a jerk would a GM have to be to bring infection and disease into the picture? You probably wouldn't want to do it in this setting, because the game style usually doesn't support it, but unless you get proper first aid or healing spells a small cut or puncture can be really nasty long-term. I came very close to losing a foot to one when a small puncture became infected and gangrenous. It's an even bigger problem when people have no idea of san itation or proper wound care. But to compensate they have some people who can magically cleanse wounds -- if you can find one in time....

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I noticed that in my reading the basic assumption for character creation is that player-characters will be Good, or at worst Neutral. Fair enough -- a game with Evil PCs would roll downhill pretty quickly. However, it occurred to me that for NPCs all bets are off. As they should be. The deadliest monster in any fantasy world is what the deadliest monster is in ours -- Man. And while you may not find them waiting around in dungeons so PCs can kill them, they can still be forces of genuine worry once the PCs emerge into the sunlight.

Imagine a high-rank Cavalier whose Passions lead him to do terrible things. Cavaliers, as noblemen, can be pretty arrogant to begin with as they're ingrained to believe they're better than anyone else. Now think of an NPC who let that all go to his head and the problem that can be for the party, especially if his family is powerful enough that the authorities have to humor him. We're talking the sort of guy who lops off the heads of peasants as he passes because he thinks it's fun. And although he can kill adventurers with impunity, the reverse is hardly true.

If you don't want to go that dark, it's easy to have NPC Cavaliers or Paladins that are in it for the glory and love showing off more than they like actually fighting. They may not help much against the monsters, but you can be sure they'll find a way to take the lion's share of the credit regardless. You sort of expect an NPC Thief to be a lazy coward. You don't expect that from a Paladin.

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For the record, the Classic Fantasy Unearthed Companion will be including a number of NPC Classes that are typically of an evil nature, the Assassin, Anti-Paladin, and the Witch. As well as spell casters common to the primitive humanoid races (orcs, goblins, gnolls, etc) such as the Shaman and Witchdoctor).

Rod

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1 hour ago, threedeesix said:

For the record, the Classic Fantasy Unearthed Companion will be including a number of NPC Classes that are typically of an evil nature, the Assassin, Anti-Paladin, and the Witch. As well as spell casters common to the primitive humanoid races (orcs, goblins, gnolls, etc) such as the Shaman and Witchdoctor).

Rod

Anti-Paladin. That's a name I haven't heard in a while. Good for you! Are those the only "villain classes" you'll be adding?

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There were some pretty silly articles in the early years of Dragon. The one I remember most is the assertion that Chaos is evil and you cannot really be Chaotic Good because Elemental Chaos is seeking to destroy everything -- a Moorcock-like view that wasn't really applicable to standard D&D.

Thankfully CF does not make that sort of conclusion -- this isn't Stormbringer. Nor does CF seem to be built world-sweeping storyarcs in mind, as some players who like this sort of style might not have the patience for them.

I'm looking forward to the new book now. How does one go about adding new spells to the game. I'm kind of fond of Explosive Runes (as presented in Order of the Stick), especially if the spell remains intact indefinitely until someone reads the writing -- then BOOM!

 

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12 hours ago, Michael Hopcroft said:

I'm looking forward to the new book now. How does one go about adding new spells to the game. I'm kind of fond of Explosive Runes (as presented in Order of the Stick), especially if the spell remains intact indefinitely until someone reads the writing -- then BOOM!

 

Adding new spells just takes experience with both systems. Simply compare existing spells and extrapolate from there.

As for Explosive Runes, see the Rank 3 Arcane spell Fire Trap as a baseline.

Rod

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19 hours ago, Michael Hopcroft said:

There were some pretty silly articles in the early years of Dragon. The one I remember most is the assertion that Chaos is evil and you cannot really be Chaotic Good because Elemental Chaos is seeking to destroy everything -- a Moorcock-like view that wasn't really applicable to standard D&D.

I think Moorcock was in fact the original inspiration for the Law-vs-Chaos axis of D&D alignment; so the confusion & "silliness" is IMHO entirely understandable!  I agree, however, that D&D really used a different conception of it, so the POV that "Chaos is fundamentally evil (or at least life-inimically destructive)" missed that difference...

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On 1/30/2017 at 10:22 AM, g33k said:

I think Moorcock was in fact the original inspiration for the Law-vs-Chaos axis of D&D alignment; so the confusion & "silliness" is IMHO entirely understandable!  I agree, however, that D&D really used a different conception of it, so the POV that "Chaos is fundamentally evil (or at least life-inimically destructive)" missed that difference...

It clearly changed into something different. IIRC, it wasn't until the second edition of AD&D that alignment was clarified as a concept, as Gary Gygax was dragged kicking and screaming into the idea of actual roleplaying. Before then mixed-alignment parties were common because alignment was a much more abstract concept and Good and Evil could easily work together for the common goal of slaying things, collecting stuff, and getting rich. IIRC, the main point of alignment in 1st edition D&D was that it restricted what classes you can take and enabled spells like Protection from Evil or Detect Evil (a spell that would do a great job of short-circuiting many adventures outside the dungeon -- if you know the merchant hiring you to plunder the orc lair is Lawful Evil, you would be well advised to turn down the job!).

Passions are much better for roleplaying, even if dungeon crawling is still the major feature of the campaign.

(There is a Detect Evil spell in CF -- thinking about this topic caused me to look it up. How would it be used in the wild?)

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On 1/15/2017 at 7:50 PM, threedeesix said:

Plus, if you think Classic Fantasy is deadly at low rank, think back to 1st edition AD&D with its level 1 characters.

1st level Magic-User: 1d4 hit points.

House Cat: 1 attack: 1d2 damage. If that hits he'll also rake with his hind claws for another 1d2 damage.

I'm surprised anyone ever reached level 2. 

I know that as a DM, I typically cheated to help keep my players alive until level 3, then they were on their own.

 

I actually liked the lethality of levels 1-3 D&D. When you made a new first level character you never knew if you were going to make it past the first encounter. The shortage of spells and hit points made everyone paranoid -- in a good way. It was some of the sillinesses* of mid-level D&D that pushed me into the BRP world and I haven't looked back.

* I think in my case it was a party of 5-6th level characters, admittedly well-equipped with magic items, slaughtering an *entire* tribe of orcs (as rolled up in the monster manual) in a pitched battle without taking a scratch and -- which is worse -- without any interest. It was just a grind, and it killed my interest in D&D for many years. 

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On 1/23/2017 at 11:11 AM, Michael Hopcroft said:

On the question of small animal injuries to player-characters, how big a jerk would a GM have to be to bring infection and disease into the picture? You probably wouldn't want to do it in this setting, because the game style usually doesn't support it, but unless you get proper first aid or healing spells a small cut or puncture can be really nasty long-term. I came very close to losing a foot to one when a small puncture became infected and gangrenous. It's an even bigger problem when people have no idea of san itation or proper wound care. But to compensate they have some people who can magically cleanse wounds -- if you can find one in time....

Infection and disease are better in historical games or horror ones.

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