Stiq's Houserules and RPGDev The First (Updated Whenever)

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Stiq's Houserules and RPGDev The First (Updated Whenever)

So, thanks to events I don't intend to get into at too much length (for starters, completing my last semester at college), I'm in possession of a fair bit more personal freedom and time than I am accustomed to. This is a space where I'm going to be periodically posting some of my homebrew ideas, as well as (if this is the appropriate place), my efforts at some more radical design overhauls, in the vein of creating more of a derivative system than a simple homebrew. For now, though, I'd like to begin with the simpler things and work my way out from there.

The following should generally be compatible with both D&D 3.5 and Pathfinder, although they may have different balancing implications. I will attempt to be cognizant of the differences between these systems and make recommendations accordingly, but I am somewhat prone to write from the standpoint of Pathfinder.

Future posts will be master listed below as I get to them.

1. Level Growth Changes

2. Skill Redesign Part 1: Non-Adventurer Skills

Edited by: stiq on 05/11/2014 - 14:18
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Level Growth Changes

The following changes can be utilized to enhance some of the versatility and power of player characters, hopefully without doing too much unbalancing.

Feats: Characters receive an extra feat at first level, as well as a feat at second level. The new feat progression would follow as such:

1: Feat, Feat
2: Feat
3: Feat
4: -

and so on, according to normal progression.

The idea is that giving a character access to more early game feats enhances their power and allows for the character to be better fleshed out in the early game, without giving them access to more high power feats, as there aren't many powerful feats available in the early game. It does potentially make it easier to qualify for feats later on, however, so this should be used with caution.

According to your preference, you may want to exclude the feat at second level, as it doesn't follow the progression very natually.

Skill Point Progressions

One core mechanic of D&D is the skill point system. The presence of a skill point investment ceiling prevents any one skill from being driven to crazy heights, and so the primary benefit of a large number of skill points tends to be an improvement in versatility and non-combat viability. With this in mind, I find the way skill points are distributed between classes to be somewhat off, and for an otherwise unchanged 3.5 or Pathfinder game, I recommend using the following in place of the existing rules.

4 per level: Cleric, Druid, Sorcerer, Wizard

Primary spellcasters tend to have the highest noncombat utility and as such probably have the least amount of need for skill points. However, this nevertheless is mainly a buff for primary spellcasters, as, with the exception of the Druid, primary spellcasters are prone to falling under the 2 per level bracket under existing rules. For purposes of these changes, that bracket has been removed entirely in the interest of allowing these classes options, such as ranking up in relevant Knowledge skills, spellcraft, and so on. The wizard probably benefits the least, proportionally.

6 per level: Barbarian, Fighter, Monk, Paladin, Ranger

These classes are primarily the most physically active and tend to favor athletic skills (Jump, Climb, Ride, etc) more than other classes. Additionally, classes such as the Paladin and the Ranger tend to have obligate skills (like Ride for Paladins, Survival for Rangers, etc.) which make the classes difficult to play when skill points are at a premium. The Fighter and the Paladin benefit the most from these changes, whereas Barbarians and Monks benefit slightly, and Rangers are unchanged.

8 per level: Bard, Rogue.

The only outstanding change here is an increase in the number of skill points recieved by Bards, which is largely a matter of personal judgment. Bards also function very well in the 6 skill point bracket, with their spells and access to class features like Bardic Knowledge.

Static Defense Progressions:

Saving Throws progress at one of two speeds (discounting some strange cases amongst Prestige Classes), with the primary difference being that, over 20 levels, one progression runs from zero to six, and the other runs from 2 to 12. The result of this is that the gap between these two progressions grows dramatically as characters level up, starting at 2 and ultimately ending at 6. Additionally, the slower of these two progressions is not fast enough to keep pace with the increases in DCs for spells, monster's supernatural abilities, etc. Armor Class, furthermore, doesn't scale at all, except with increases in Dexterity and the attainment of new equipment, whereas its primary counterpart, Base Attack Bonus, grows between one half of a point and one point per level.

The proposed change is to standardize all of these statistics (including Armor Class) to grow at a rate of 1/2 per level. Additionally, "good" saves (that is, fast-progressing saving throws under standard rules) recieve a +2 untyped bonus at the beginning of the game.

It is highly recommended that if you implement this change and opt to include Armor Class, you should likely increase the pricing of magic armor bonuses by about double, to prevent particularly outrageous Armor Class scores outpacing the accuracy and damage increases of their offensive counterparts, which are by default about twice as expensive. Miscellaneous items that boost armor class can be left alone or increased in price at your discretion.

Flat-cost magical armor effects, especially those that have no direct impact on Armor Class (such as Glamour) should retain their existing price.

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Skill Redesign Part 1:  Non-Adventurer Skills

Preface: On The Subject of "Bulk"

When I refer to "Bulk" in tabletop RPGs, I am referring to the situation of having so many mutually exclusive choices for a given part of the character creation process that it begins to interfere with the viability of certain builds. I don't pretend to be able to attain "perfect" balance between choices, or even necessarily consider that outcome desirable (many who criticize 4th edition are familiar with the costs of "overbalancing"). However, I do think that there are situations where some options are simply much more efficient investments than others, to the detriment of certain common character archetypes in RPGs like D&D 3.5.

Let's take, as an example, the Acrobatics skill from the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. Derived from the rules of D&D 3.5, Acrobatics is a skill consisting of the functions that Balance, Tumble, and Jump served in D&D 3.5. There's a legitimate case to be made that Acrobatics is perhaps too efficient, but the basic principle at work is sound: it reduces the number of skill points that are necessary to invest if you desire to make an acrobatic character. The combination of multiple options into a single one creates more efficient investments of your character creation resources (in this case, skill points) and reduces "Bulk" by reducing the total number of distinct options in play without substantially limiting the player in the process.

So when I refer to "Reducing bulk", this sort of thing is my ultimate goal. You may disagree in terms of whether or not this is necessary or desirable, and I encourage you to make your criticisms freely.

With that, let's talk about Professions, and how we might be able to replicate the success of Acrobatics again.

Professions and The Game World

Many skills feature heavily underrepresented use in a great many games because of their relative impracticality to a group of adventurers; broadly speaking, an adventuring party is often unemployed outside of mercenary work and odd jobs, and they frequently have no use for skills that are necessary for the function of civilized society.

This is not to say, however, that these skills should be removed from the game. Many campaigns are unconventional by these standards, and even fairly traditional campaigns can benefit from having mechanical ways to measure the profits of a small business, such as a local blacksmith, or what have you.

As a middleground between these two distinct scenarios, I have a proposal for a boost to the usefulness of Profession skills and reduce skill bulk.

If you desire to use any of these rules, you may feel compelled to select specific Profession skills to be available in your game, and to assign them ability scores individually. I recommend this, as I feel not all professions are adequately represented by Wisdom, particularly not when using some of the following rules.

A: Professions and Crafting

Under this system, an appropriate Profession skill replaces the need for the Craft skill when attempting to produce mundane objects or items out of the appropriate raw materials. Crafting, in and of itself, is a different can of worms, in terms of mechanical problems, and this rule does not address that in and of itself, but it can provide an interesting flavor justification for why a character is able to, say, forge plate armor, and makes that skill investment more versatile.

I recommend Profession skills centered around crafting and the production of goods be based off of Intelligence or Wisdom, at your discretion.

B: Profession and Performance

The Perform skill functions very similarly to the Profession skill in practice, aside from Perform being based off of Charisma and being a staple of Bards everywhere (although, actually, not rolled very often, despite being a mandatory prerequisite for gaining access to new Bardic Music/Performance... perhaps for another time). The basic premise of this change is that certain Profession skills (such as Musician, Street Performer, Painter, or what have you) would serve both as a Profession skill, in terms of general knowledge about the topic as a way to make a living, and also serve as a Perform skill in terms of gaining money, attracting attention, and pleasing an audience.

I recommend any Profession skill designed to double as a Perform skill be based on Charisma, despite the dubious relevance Charisma has to professional knowledge.

C: Professions and Education

Of the suggestions made thus far, this is possibly the most dubious; this proposes that certain Knowledge skills can double as Profession skills in certain situations, and vice-versa. This idea works best when the classification (Knowledge skills vs. Profession skills) isn't as distinct, and the skill can simply be classified as its own thing (For instance, a skill called Nature might encompass Knowledge (Nature) and Survival, and might be relevant for certian outdoors-y professions). This is probably the most dramatic and difficult to classify of the rules proposed thus far, and may not be useful to you or your campaign.

I recommend any Profession using this rule should be based on Intelligence or Wisdom.

D: Collaborative Efforts Using Professions

The rules for Aid Another and similar collaborative efforts between multiple characters are deliberately small in scale; too many cooks spoil the broth, and all that. But what about projects of large enough scale that many different people are necessary to complete the job in any reasonable span of time, or possibly even at all? In these situations, the person with the highest Profession skill (a project manager or otherwise an expert on the subject) makes the roll, and, if successful, recieves bonuses from the numerous other people working beneath them for purposes of determining progress on the project. These workers are most likely also trained in the relevant Profession at a lower rank, and make their own rolls, as if using the Aid Another action.

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So I have a lot of stuff waiting in the wings after a development binge but I don't think it's wise to post it all at once. Here's a summary of what's to come and in the event this thread actually gets any attention, I'm open to suggestions on what to address next.

Skill Redesign Part 2: Knowledges and Professions Implemented (ft. new knowledges and professions)

New Social Skills: Banter, Command, and Streetwise

Combat Skills: An alternative to Base Attack Bonus (and the numerous rules changes necessary to implement it)

New Class Skill Lists (for all three of the above, ft. every pathfinder base class)

Warrior's Strike: A class feature for Barbarians, Fighters, Paladins, and other classes that rely on weapon damage rolls.

Spontaneous Casting Conversion: rules for converting Clerics, Wizards, and more into spontaneous counterparts (and why you might want to)

Alternate Spell Point Allotments

Miscellany and Hodgepodge