Roll Charts: Weapon Properties

Shattered Empire has a deep randomized system for generating weapons and their properties for treasure parcels and shopkeepers. This system is designed for GMs to setup before play, as it involves separate rolls for type, condition, material, and bonus properties. But what about generating quickly on the fly? What about other games that don’t have a system in place?

The following may not work with every game system, but it should be easy enough to adapt. Note: This is for generating special properties, not the base weapon itself.

Roll 1d20:

1. Unskilled Craftsmanship. The damage and attack dice each receive a -1 penalty.

2. Shoddy Craftsmanship. The damage and attack dice are each reduced by one size.

3. Damaged. The damage die receives a -1 penalty.

4. Rusty. The damage die is reduced by one size.

5. Primitive Material. The attack die receives a -1 penalty.

6. Unrefined Material. The attack die is reduced by one size.

7. Average. No change to weapon stats.

8. Refined Material. The attack die is raised by one size.

9. Quality Material. The attack die receives a +1 bonus.

10. Fine. The damage die is raised by one size.

11. Superior. The damage die receives a +1 bonus.

12. Exquisite. The damage and attack dice are each raised by one size.

13. Masterwork. The damage and attack dice each receive a +1 bonus.

14. Elemental Forge. The weapon gains a 1d4 bonus die for elemental damage (fire, cold, or lightning)

15. Paralyzing. Target is paralyzed for one round whenever weapon hits.

16. Slaying. When the weapon deals more than half of remaining HP in damage the targeted creature is instantly killed.

17. Reaping. Whenever the weapon deals a death blow, the wielder’s AP or allotment of actions is reset and their turn continues.

18. Keen. The weapon’s critical threat is increased by 3.

19. Brutal. The weapon’s damage threshold is raised by 3.

20. Legendary. The weapon deals double damage.

Rule Zero

First of all, I am under no delusion that there aren’t already 10,000 gaming blog posts called “Rule Zero,” and that they are generally about “The GM is always right,” or that “The GM can say no to anything,” so let’s just recognize that and move on.

Moved on? Great.

I invented something called Rule Zero.

Rule Zero is simple: You can try anything.

So, I’m a big fan of rules-as-roadmaps (RAR) instead of rules-as-written (RAW). Rules are there to guide both the player and the GM, to give action meaning, to establish strategy and consequence in the game world, and, as a last resort, to answer questions and respond to disputes at the table.

GMs should make rulings. These rulings may originate from their deep knowledge and implementation of the game mechanics, from random dice results, or simply off the top of their heads. In any of those cases it’s the GM making a ruling. That’s what they are there for.

But why are we collectively at the table? For fun!

Let me go back real quick. When I played my very first D&D campaign (as a player) once upon a time, I tried to do something. My character was on a small roadside cliff-edge above an enemy. I decided to jump down, swing my club, and allowing gravity and momentum to give me a boost to the attack. I had the high ground, and I was a larger creature than what I attacked. It seemed reasonable that this action-oriented type of attack would grant my character an advantage.

It didn’t. There was no official rule that said anything about having a bonus to one’s attack based on environmental elements or improvised action. My character didn’t have a specific “leap attack” or anything of that nature. Because the rules didn’t specify that I could do this, I was met with “You can’t do that.” I was penalized for creativity, immersing myself in the environment, and thinking outside the “this is what your class can do” box. A basic melee attack–clearly spelled out in the PHB–would have been a better choice with this GM. RAW screwed me.

This experience left a bad taste in my mouth, and eventually it helped lead to developing a system without classes. As a player, I never wanted to be limited ever again.

As a GM, I never wanted to limit my players, either.

This is where Rule Zero comes into play.

Rule Zero: You can try anything.

Failure is still a possibility, of course. Just because you can try doesn’t mean you can succeed. But the spirit of letting anyone attempt anything was built into BASE12 from the very beginning. In Shattered Empire, anyone can attempt a Skill check, even if they don’t possess that Skill; or rather, everyone has every Skill, but that Skill may be at level 0. You don’t have to be a Class to make a certain type of attack. In fact, even characters without training in a weapon or armor can still wield or wear that item. Training makes you more likely to succeed, but even a child can pick up a stick and try to hit an Ogre with it.

When I GM, one thing that I try to get across to my players is that if they can convince me that something is possible or “realistic” (relative to the environment) then they can succeed. Sometimes I’ll ask them for a Skill check without telling them which Skill. “Which Skill?” they may ask. “Whichever one will make you succeed at what you’re attempting,” I reply. Three different players may end up using a Search check, a Survival check, and an Arcana check based on individual character backstories, play styles, or critical thinking. It’s the same Skill check, but they are each rolling different Skills. Now as a GM I could have said “Everyone make a Search check to find the hidden cave entrance.” Maybe one of them has a good Search rating, and the other two are just going through the motions. Or maybe they wouldn’t: “You roll for it, my Search Skill is only 1.” It doesn’t connect the player with the character to be told what to try. Even if they suck at Search, if that’s what they choose to use for their Skill check, they’ll have a connection with their character knowing that they are struggling to do something they don’t excel at, instead of mindlessly following the GM’s instructions.

So, Rule Zero is really about experimentation, creativity, and problem solving. It’s about using the rules as a guideline, and not as a forcefield. You can try anything, and perhaps as an addendum, if you can convince me (the GM) you succeed. And, as always, it always comes back to what is the most fun.

To Explore Strange New RPGs

At one time I started working on a Star Trek RPG homebrew using the BASE12 system. I’ll probably not do anything else with it because I’m much more interested in creating my own worlds than I am in repurposing other people’s. But if you need a starting point for a Star Trek home game, here’s a Race/Class/Skills handbook and character sheet that you can use. This is literally everything I have, so you’ll have to get creative to fill in the gaps. Enjoy!

Player’s Handbook

Character Sheet

Separating Simple From Easy:  Why BASE12? 

BASE12 isn’t for everybody; no game system is. The wide spectrum of playstyles dictates the vast array of systems and variants on the market, and that’s a good thing. Imagine if you had to play every game, regardless of setting, using the same game system? Would you really want to roll a d20 to see if you successfully charted a course for your starship? How could a complex figure like a secret government agent be summed up with only three stat categories?

The gaming boom of the aughts brought a new hurdle for developers. With a flood of new gamers–or return gamers that were away from the hobby for sometimes decades–RPGs in general took an approach of “Easy and Accessible.” It was important that newcomers not be deterred by overly complicated rules and structure. “Make it broad and approachable,” the developers thought.

The early twenty-teens saw many systems go a step further: into simplicity. It seemed reasonable that in our fast-paced/low-attention-span age that gamers would want to jump right in and game. Little setup, little structure. Just quick, easy, simple mechanics and let the role-playing take over from there.

And that, too, is a good thing. It’s especially good for pure role-players, and those that would rather meet and tell a collective story with friends than actually game.

But it’s not the only way.

I have always wanted a little more, and since I missed the boat on Pathfinder during my twenties I never quite found a system that let me dig in and get that math-crunch adrenaline rush that I craved. I wanted complicated.

And that’s why I made BASE12. I wanted a complicated, deep system. That doesn’t mean it’s hard to learn or slow to play; complicated can still exist beside quick and easy. It’s just that simple word that I wanted to get out of there.

So, yes, BASE12 is complicated. There are 12 Attributes for your character (compare this to 6 in D&D, or 5 in Savage Worlds.) This depth in defining your character’s attributes would allow you to create any type of character you can think of, and fit it into any genre.

Skills are tied to Attributes, so having more Attributes allows for more precision and variety in Skills.

Derived stats (Hit Points, Stamina Points, Action Points) as well as things like movement distance and initiative come from Attributes as well, giving greater control over minutiae.

Is it crunchy? For sure. It has depth enough for mathematicians, character tinkerers, and level-planners. But it’s still easy to learn, and quick to play.

Wanna try BASE12? It’s free under a Creative Commons license that even let’s you create and sell your own games designed for it.

Here’s a link: Base12 RPG System

Playtesters Wanted!

As I move into the final stage of playtesting before starting a Kickstarter campaign for Shattered Empire, I’ve decided it’s time for people to test it out and give me feedback without me sitting at the table with them.

If you are a GM that has access to a group that would like to playtest a Strategy RPG in a High Fantasy setting and are willing to give feedback on mechanics and documentation clarity, please send me a message or email me at LegendaryDropCast@gmail.com and I’ll send the penultimate draft of the game documents to you.

Looking forward to taking this thing to the next level!

(to get an idea of the crunchiness of this system, here’s what the Character Sheet looks like…)

Character Sheet

The Book Of Powers

After much writing, editing, revising, and tweaking, I’ve finally finished the Shattered Empire Book Of Powers. This booklet holds every spell, weapon ability, and special power currently in the game.  Feel free to use it in your own campaign. Works with any BASE12 game (with some very minor conversion) and could be implemented into another system (with some more time-consuming conversion).  Next up will be the Equipment Catalogue, a handbook for choosing and purchasing weapons, armor, shields, packs, and all other mundane adventuring gear.

BOOK OF POWERS

Magical Implements and Consumables {Shattered Empire}

When running a game of Shattered Empire (or any High Fantasy RPG for that matter) there seems to always be some confusion over just how magical implements and such work. What’s the difference between a spellbook and a spellscroll? How is a magic wand different from a magic staff? What the hell is a rod? (And do I want to know?)

So for clarity’s sake–and because I don’t think this information is spelled out in detail all in one collection in any of the game documents–I shall now give a full explanation of what each item is and how it differs from others of the same category.

 

Spellbooks:  These are books that hold the “recipe” for casting a certain spell, invoking a Deity, etc. They do not have intrinsic magical properties themselves (unless the owner has cast Arcane Lock or something like that on it to keep snooping eyes out.) Meaning, an untrained warrior can’t pick up a spellbook and use it to cast a spell. Someone trained in the proper spell school can study it to learn new spells, and therefore they are sought after by competing wizards and such, but otherwise they are just an interesting–if not valuable–curiosity.

Scrolls:  Scrolls are single-use magical parchments that hold a specific spell. They can either be used to cast the spell they hold, or they can be studied to learn the spell they hold. Either way, the scroll is consumed after once use. Scrolls are unique in the fact that ANYONE can use them, since most of the magic is already imbued within the parchment in a potential state, waiting for activation by the user. This usually means just reading off an activation phrase, giving anyone with literacy an opportunity to cast a magic spell.

Wands: Wands are objects of power that, like scrolls, house one spell. The major difference is that wands usually have multiple uses, and can be “recharged” in order to continue using it to cast the spell. To use a wand you do not need to know the specific spell it holds, but you do have to be trained in the general school of magic to effectively use them. Untrained users may accidentally succeed, but often times there will be devastating results in trying to manipulate a type of magic that you don’t fully understand. A spell cannot be learned from a wand.

Staffs: Staffs function very much in the same manner as wands, however staves never “run out” of magic. They need never be recharged. Additionally, staffs (or staves) can sometimes be re-enchanted with a different spell or prayer. This is something that would normally destroy a wand. A spell cannot be learned from a staff.

Orbs: Orbs do not contain magic spells, though they are charged with pure magic themselves. Orbs are used as a focus for Arcane spellcasters, giving them all kinds of potential boons and boosts to their spellcasting. Orbs are Arcane Implements.

Rods: Rods function in the same way as orbs, only for Nature-benders, such as Druids. These are Nature Implements. They boost Commune with Nature and Commune with Spirits power schools.

Holy Symbols:  Holy Symbols are Divine Implements. They are focuses for all manner of Divine prayer schools.

Psionic Focus: Psionic powers can be amplified by a Psionic Focus. These are Psionic Implements. They augment the powers of Telekinesis and Telepathy.

Bard Instruments:  In the hands of a normal person these are no more than average musical instruments. In the hands of a Bard they become Bardic Implements, augmenting or changing the power of their Bard Songs.

 

Of course there are many other items that can have spell-effects associated with them. Potions, rings, amulets–these all can hold magical properties that anyone can make use of.  Shrines and Temples may grant blessings.  A circle of trees deep in the forest may grant a boon to those that stand inside.  Exploring the world of Gildeon is the only way to discover them all.