Friday, August 26, 2016

The Full Website is Here

You may have noticed, all two of you, that this website is hosted at

Have any of you tried to go to the plain old address?

Well, as of now, my website is live. It's going to be a place where I put allllllll my rules documents, nicely formatted and hyperlinked so that both the players and I can easily access them during the game. There's no easy way to keep the rules all in my computer and still actually use them.

I'll be transferring them from the plain format text I've been using to the format which my programs turn into a webpage, one by one.

I'll still post on this blog, especially when I add a big chunk of new stuff to the website, and when I have ideas that need hashing out or bouncing off of others. But the rules-as-I-use-them will live at the main website.

I'm quite excited to be doing this. The site is completely under my control, unlike the blog, so I can tweak it until it's just right. I might even end up moving the blog over to there at some point. We'll see -- that's not high priority by any means.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Closing Thoughts on Training

I tackled the subject of training non-leveled individuals a few times recently, and having gotten some feedback from Alexis, I believe I've arrived at a useable version which can serve as a good foundation for future improvement. At any rate I'm going to set them aside at the moment, and focus on another little project which I'll be posting here very soon. Stay tuned for that, and in the meantime, here are the Training and Instruction rules as I'm going to use them for now:

Training is the process by which a leveled trainer teaches an unleveled person, called a trainee. By this process, the trainee literally gains experience, and thus XP, over time. Through this XP gain, the trainee can eventually count as combat-trained, or even reach 1st level in the trainer's character class.

I will first describe the mechanics, and then discuss implications and possible expansions for these rules. Examples will be presented as we go along.

The base age for a player character in my game is 15; a random figure is added to this based on the character's class, to represent time spent in training. For fighters this additional number is 1d4 years, for mages this is 2d6 years, and other classes have other figures. We'll call this roll the "training dice."

Unleveled persons start at -1500 XP. They become combat trained at -1000 XP, and gain 1st level at 0 XP. Thus, between totally untrained, and freshly 1st level, one must earn 1500 XP. We can conceive that this XP is earned slowly, over time, through grueling effort and practice. The idea is that we are going to apply the training dice at a monthly interval in order to determine how much XP the trainee has gained from training that month. But how much XP will the roll represent? Depends on the class they are training in, since each class has a different average length of time to do training. Therefore the period over which the 1500 XP is earned may be shorter, meaning more XP/month, or longer, meaning less XP/month.

Let's do the math.

Take the maximum result on the training dice for the trainer's character class and divide 1500 by this number. For fighters, this would be 1500/4 years = 375 XP gained per year. For mages, this would be 1500/12 years = 125 XP gained per year. However, we want monthly figures, so we'll divide these results by 12, rounding as normal for counting numbers. For fighters this would be 375/12 = 31 (rounded down from 31.25). For mages this would be 125/12 = 10 (rounding down from 10.42). This final number is called the "base monthly gain."

Now we come to the training roll, the core of the process: after each month of training, the trainee rolls the training dice, MINUS the number of dice there are. (This is in order to sometimes produce a 0 result.) So trainee fighters would roll 1d4-1, and trainee mages would roll 2d6-2. The result is then multiplied by the base monthly gain, and the resulting product is the actual amount of XP the trainee earns that month.

Example 1: Frederick the trainee fighter rolls 1d4-1 after a month of training, and gets 3-1 = 2. He earns 31*2 or 62 XP for this month. Not bad!

Example 2: Molly the trainee mage rolls 2d6-2 after a month of training, and gets 2-2 = 0. She gains 0*10 = 0 XP this month. What a pity!

There must also be rules for total failure to learn, or "washing out." If any of the first 6 training rolls the trainee makes comes up with the minimum on the dice, then they must make a morale check. Failure means they have washed out: they are simply not cut out for this kind of training. A trainee who washes out keeps all the XP they've gained so far, except for the month they wash out; however, they cannot continue training in this particular character class.

A word about costs for materials and equipment: it's a placeholder, but at this time I'll simply say that training one trainee for one month requires a number of gold pieces equal to the average result of the training dice times the base monthly gain. For example, the cost to train a fighter trainee for one month is the average of 1d4-1, or 1.5, times the base monthly gain of 31 XP, for a monthly cost of 46.5 GP. One could expect the trainer to pass this cost on to the trainee as they see fit. I'm open to suggestions on this calculation, and it's absolutely not game-tested yet, nor does it fit in with my other economic calculations.

Let's step back and plot our course a little. There ought to be ways to earn bonuses for the training roll, thereby increasing the average XP the trainee earns, and negating the possibility of getting a 0 for the month's XP gain. There are also provisions to be made for determining how many trainees a single trainer can train at once. It would certainly make sense to be able to train another in a weapon proficiency. And obviously we'll need rules and training benefits for establishing a school, whether they take the form of a monk's dojo, a fighter's barracks, or a thief's underground den (at last, a concrete reason for a thieves' or assassins' guild to actually exist!)

All of these and more are the domain of the Instruction skill. I'll let any player character train someone into their class, but those with points in Instruction will be able to do it more efficiently, more quickly, or for more people. Here are a couple of the things I'm considering for the skill of Instruction (all subject to change, of course.)

No Knowledge
The character is ignorant of methods of efficient instruction. They can only use the training rules as given above.

Multiple Trainees (20)
The instructor can train more than one person at once. They can train 1 trainee per 10 points of Instruction knowledge.

Establish School (50) (basic rules; more detailed ones will come later)
If the resources are available, the instructor can establish a school. The school must have at minimum its own living quarters and some kind of special area for instruction; depending on the type of school, this might be a sparring room, a lecture hall, or even a garden or wilderness area on a separate piece of land. Certain types of school may require additional facilities; for example, a school for training mages will require a laboratory and a library.

All trainees at a school will receive a +2 bonus on their training rolls each month. Furthermore, any instructor working at a school will enjoy a +3 bonus to the number of trainees they can personally train at one time, which of course stacks with the benefit of the Multiple Trainees knowledge.

Some types of schools can train more than one type of character class, as long as an appropriate instructor is available. For example, it's reasonable to allow an appropriately-staffed magical college to train both mages and illusionists.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Another Go at Training

Here I'll continue to talk about training non-leveled persons to 1st level, as I have been discussing these past few days. Let me remind you that when I say "training," I'm not talking about gaining levels, I'm talking about gaining actual experience (as well as the quantified version, experience points) for the purpose of becoming a 1st level character.

Alexis brings up the point that just rolling a die for the number of years necessary for training isn't enough. Training has to be less cut and dry than that, and it has to include the possibility of failure.

Today I'll try to define some potential outcomes of the training process talk about the potential outcomes of the training process. Consider the following continuum of results, arranged from worst to best:

  • Trainee fails utterly. They gain little or no XP.
  • Trainee struggles miserably for a protracted period, but ultimately fails. Some small amount of XP is gained.
  • Trainee tries hard but is simply not good enough to gain 1st level. However, they have gained enough XP to be considered combat trained, and thus could serve as a man-at-arms.
  • Trainee succeeds, but with complications. This might mean that they took longer than usual, or that the training was incomplete. Incomplete training could indicate starting with some negative XP, or with one less weapon proficiency than normal, or with -1 to the HP they gain for 1st level in their class.
  • Trainee succeeds and is a normal 1st level character.
  • Trainee is exceptionally skilled, and completes training in a relatively short time.

So we have a nice spread of outcomes, three types of failure to achieve 1st level, and three types of success, one of which has a negative side effect. For starters, let's have two little rules:

1) roll dice, specific to each class, to determine the length of time spent in training. For fighters this is 1d4 years.
2) roll 2d6 for the outcome of training, below:

2: utter failure. (d4-1)*50 XP gained.
3-4: struggle and failure. d4*100 XP gained.
5-6: not good enough for 1st level, but gains combat training; thus XP gained is a minimum of 500.
7-8: trained, with complications (roll d6: 1-2 missing a weapon proficiency, 3-4 starts with d6*50 negative XP; 5-6 starts with 1 less HP than normal)
9-11: trained normally
12: trained, and quickly: halve the result of the length-of-time die, above.

There we are. This won't win any awards, but it's a sight better than just rolling the number of years and being done with it, no?

Let's address a couple things which would influence the 2d6 roll for training outcomes.

We might have the skill of the trainer factor in. I don't have concrete numbers for the skill of training others in character class abilities, but on the basis of the other skills I'm working on, it might be roughly in the range of 10 to 100. In this case we might give a +1 bonus on the training roll for a Trainer skill above 30, and +2 for a skill above 60. Please understand I'm just tossing out figures here.

Furthermore, there is the question of the trainee's ability scores. For starters, we might award +1 on the training roll if the trainee's scores are high enough to meet the requirements for 10% bonus XP, which vary from class to class (for example, in my game Fighters get 10% bonus XP if they have a Strength of 15 or higher.)

OK. These are my thoughts on the matter. I think this is an improvement over the ruminations in the last couple posts. Please enjoy.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Training an Individual

Alexis left a comment on my post about training soldiers, asking how I'd handle the party training one lone individual instead of a group of them. Here's what he had to say:

"I can see the logic here - particularly in establishing a minimum time. I find I want some sort of random roll, however, based on a person's temperament, ability, intelligence, failure to get his or her self injured, etc. The above seems a bit, well, pat for me. It works for mass armies - but supposing the players pick up a lone, non-combat trained person in their travels, who wants to become an adventurer - say, a 15 year old boy. How would the system deal with that?"

If he wants to accompany the party right now: he takes an easy swing in each fight the party is handling and therefore gets a small slice of bonus XP for himself. Do it enough to get from -1500 to 0 and he's a level 1 fighter.

If the party wants to train him all the way up to a level 1 fighter by "zooming out" for part of the session and skipping over a period of game time, then one could just roll a d4 to find the years necessary to train him.

Or... if you want to make the transition to "this many years later..." less abrupt, just roll d4 for a target of 4. If you get a 4 he's been trained after one year. If you fail you roll d4+1; success means he's trained after 2 years. If you fail again you roll d4+2; success means he's trained after three years, and if d4+2 again failed to get a 4, then it took all four years. Similar to rolling d4 for number of years, but nobody (including the DM) will know in advance how many years, which is better.

Of course, both of the above could use a d8 if you want to find the number of 6-month periods instead of the number of years, or a d16 if you want 3-month periods, and so on. In each case the target number is the maximum on the die, just like aiming for 4 on d4.

One would also be free to mix and match between training with a trainer and training by taking him along right away, although in that case I'd encourage doing whatever training you want do first and then taking him along. Otherwise he'd have some XP already when he went back to training through a trainer, and thus we'd have to figure out how much XP each time unit means. A fun rabbit hole, but it's beside the point at the moment.

Finally, all this would imply that one can hire a trainer to bring a favored NPC to first level. I'm certainly on board with that as a service players can access, because it also suggests the possibility of training skilled but not-necessarily-leveled workers. Perhaps I could generalize "combat training" at -1000 XP into a notion of "professional training," to handle these cases, since not all professions correspond as neatly to a character class as a soldier/man-at-arms corresponds to gaining fighter levels.

I wouldn't allow such outsourced training to take the NPC above first level though. Gotta earn those levels the old-fashioned way.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Alchemy for You

Lately I've been playing with rules for Alchemy, a knowledge specialty accessible to mages, and maybe druids too. I haven't decided on that. I'm still on the fence over whether classes will share any trees. Thief/assassin, druid/ranger, paladin/cleric, fighter/other fighter-types, mage/cleric: all of these pairings might conceivably share one or more skill trees.

OK, no more preamble. Here's what I have so far. None of this is written in stone of course -- tear it apart, please. I wish I had a tree-like visualization for you, but not yet.

Alchemy is the study of, extraction, and manipulation of energy from both ordinary and magical materials. It is considered a branch of magic, although it is not concerned with manipulating energy in the same way spells do. In real life, the term "alchemy" is also used to refer to hermetic, mystical, and occult practics which were considered related to what we would now recognize as proto-chemistry; however I will be treating such practices in a separate skill specialty. Here I focus only on the chemistry and pseudo-chemistry type of alchemy.

Unless otherwise stated, a period of "lab work" means that for the given duration, the character must spend a certain amount of time in the lab or there will be a chance of the progress so far being lost. The default assumption is five 4-hour workdays required per week of the duration, and that each missed day means a cumulative 2% chance of all progress and materials being ruined. Finally, the vessels and glassware used in alchemy must regularly be coated with a substance called "fat lute," a mixture of clay and oil which forms airtight seals and protects against fire damage. Each day in the lab is assumed to use up 1d3 oz of fat lute, because once applied, fat lute loses its moisture and becomes useless over time. Surplus fat lute can be stored in an airtight container until it is needed.

No Knowledge
The character is ignorant of all alchemical processes, theories, techniques, and products.

Construct Lab (10)
The character possesses the knowledge to safely set up, use, and maintain/repair alchemical equipment. Most alchemy skills require a lab; without this knowledge, the character will only be able to perform those skills if they have gained access to another alchemist's lab.

Animalcules (10)
A character with this knowledge can extract a foam of animalcules by dissecting a creature's genitals. The genitals must be not less than a day old. 1 oz of foam can be harvested from a creature of 250 lbs or less, plus an additional ounce for every further 250 lbs. These animalcules contain potential energy within them which can serve as the base ingredient for certain alchemical items, such as potions. If consumed as-is, 4 oz of foam will restore 1 hit point.

The process of dissection and preparation will take 1 hour per oz of foam, and for each oz of foam an Intelligence check is required for successful preparation. Foam will retain its potency as long as it is kept in an airtight container; it will become useless after an hour of exposure.

Aqua Fortis (10)
The character can produce aqua fortis (nitric acid). This requires 2 days of lab work. Producing 1 vial requires 2 pounds of copper ore (only some of which is assumed to be copper nitrate, the mineral required.)

Aqua fortis can dissolve base metals. It does not react with gold, platinum, or other noble metals; thus it can be used to test the purity of a gold alloy, by seeing how much the alloy's color changes in the presence of aqua fortis.

If used as a splash weapon, a direct hit with aqua fortis deals 3d6 damage.

Green Vitriol (10)
The character can produce green vitriol, also called copperas (iron II sulfate). This requires 1 day of lab work. Producing 1 vial requires 2 pounds of iron ore.

Apart from its alchemical uses in producing certain powerful acids, green vitriol is used in several industries to produce green or blue coloration. It can also be used to precipitate gold which has been dissolved in aqua regia.

Oil of Brick (10)
The character can produce oil of brick with 1 day of lab work. The ingredients are simple: 1 vial is produced from 1 brick and 1 pint of any cooking oil, such as olive oil.

Oil of brick is a medicine. Consuming half a vial will prevent a character from suffering the ill effects of motion sickness, migraines, or seizures for the rest of the day.

Homunculus (20) (requires Animalcules)
By carefully nurturing 12 ounces of animalcule foam, the character is able to cause it to coalesce and grow into a homunculus. The process of transforming animalcule foam to homunculus requires 3 months of lab work.

A homunculus is a lumpy, humanish figure, 18 inches tall. Its body is somewhat pliable and it will both mold itself to complete tasks, and allow itself to be molded. It has 1 Hit Die, which is worth 2 HP per level of its creator; it cannot feel pain, but will collapse into foam if these HP are depleted. A homunculus does not really have any intelligence of its own, but it is able to feed off its creator's mental energy, and respond to its master's commands. It has 3 AP and a Strength of 3 but is totally incapable of making meaningful attacks.

Spirits of Salt (20)
The character can produce spirits of salt (hydrochloric acid). Producing 1 vial takes 2 lab days, and requires 1 pound of salt and 1 vial of green vitriol.

If a vial is thrown, spirits of salt will mist out to a 5-foot radius. All creatures caught in the mist will take 3d8 damage (Poison save for half).

Oil of Vitriol (20)
The character can spend 2 days in the lab to produce 1 vial oil of vitriol (sulfuric acid). The ingredients are two vials of green vitriol.

Oil of vitriol is extremely corrosive. If thrown as a splash weapon, a direct hit deals 3d6 damage; if the splash-weapon save vs Blast fails, oil of vitriol will deal a further 2d6 damage the following round.

Aqua Regia (20)
The character can produce aqua regia, a mixture of aqua fortis and spirits of salt. Producing 1 vial requires 2 lab days. The ingredients for each vial are 1 vial aqua fortis and 3 vials spirits of salt.

Aqua regia is so called because it can dissolve the "noble" metals, including gold and and platinum.

If used as a splash weapon, aqua regia acts as aqua fortis.

Diana's Tree (30)
The character can produce Diana's Tree, a crystallized silver form which embodies alchemical properties of life. The required ingredients are 1 oz of silver, 2 oz of mercury, one vial of aqua fortis, and 20 oz of distilled water. The ingredients are mixed and then left alone for 40 days, at which point the process is complete.

Diana's Tree functions as a strong restorative. The recipient crushes the Tree and rubs the mush on their skin; healing begins the following round, restoring 6 HP per round for one minute, for a total of 30 HP.

Alternatively, as a manifestation of the life force of minerals, Diana's Tree can also be used for the construction of golems.

Brew Potion (30)
The character can create potions. For base ingredients, all potions require 4 oz of animalcule foam and 1 oz of thaumic powder. If the potion has the same effect as a particular spell, the alchemist will need to be able to cast that spell in order to create the potion, but no other ingredients are required. On the other hand, more unusual potions will require special ingredients, but will not require any particular spellcasting ability.

todo: expand Brew Potion

Miasma (40)
The character can manufacture the deadly black gas called miasma. Creating one 8-oz vial requires as base ingredients 24 oz of animalcule foam (plus what else? one of the acids? TODO), plus 4 months of lab work.

Upon release from its container, miasma will spread to a radius of 20 feet, and will thereafter drift with the wind. Any creature in the miasma will

todo: what does it do? want to make it distinct from Cloudkill and also capture the historical pseudoscientific notion of causing disease. I suppose it just gives you a short-term variation of a disease if you fail a save: maybe a random choice of influenza, cholera, or chlamydia.

Quintessence (40)
The character can manufacture a paste of quintessence, also called aether, the silvery-yellow fifth classical element. 8 oz each of mercury and sulfur, 2 oz of thaumic powder, and 4 months of lab work, are required to manufacture 1 oz of quintessence.

Quintessence embodies the alchemical principle of non-reaction, and has various effects. 1 oz will nullify any poison or potion it is placed into, transforming it into water. If half an ounce is spread on an object, the next time that object has to make a saving throw or check for breakage, it automatically succeeds. 1 oz applied to the skin will give one-time immunity to any spell which causes aging or energy drain; the immunity can be triggered up to 3 days after the quintessence is applied.

Clone (60) (requires Homunculus)
todo: write this

Orichalcum (60)
The character can manufacture the blood-red metal, orichalcum. The alchemist must employ both a coppersmith and a silversmith, and all three must work in the lab for a total of 6 months. Each pound of orichalcum requires a pound each of copper and silver, plus 4 oz of cinnabar.

TODO: what should it do?

Azoth (80)
The azoth is one manifestation of the magnum opus, the great work of alchemy. It bestows youth, returning its subject to the youthful appearance and vitality of an 18-year-old, removing any accumulated penalties for aging. It also adds 5d8 years to their lifespan, and these years will act as a buffer between the newfound youth and the penalties of aging; thus the aging penalties will not appear until after those extra 5d8 years have passed.

todo: azoth recipe

Alkahest (80)
The alkaheset, the universal solvent, is one manifestation of the magnum opus. Three drops will cause any nonliving object or creature of up to 50 lbs per level of the creator to dissolve and be utterly ruined. Objects receive no save; creatures receive a save vs. Magic at -5. A successful save by the target means the

todo: alkahest recipe
todo: tighten up the effects

True Philosopher's Stone (100)
The creation of a true philosopher's stone is divided into four parts. These are nigredo, albedo, citrinitas, and rubedo; or, blackness, whiteness, yellowing, and reddening. Correspondingly, large amounts of miasma, quintessence, and orichalcum are combined, along with much animalcule foam, in a process which takes 1 year of extremely careful work to complete, and requires the alchemist to work 8 hours per day in the lab, 6 days per week. The 7th day must be spent in prayer and contemplation. Missing or skimping on a day of work requires a d20 roll, with a -1 modifier for each day which has already been skipped or cut short. A 15-20 indicate the alchemist has successfully cut corners; 12-14 indicates a week's progress has been lost; 9-11, two weeks' progress; 7-8, three weeks' progress; 4-6 indicates a month's progress has been lost; anything lower indicates all progress has been lost.

Once created, the philosopher's stone can perform the function of either the alkahest or the azoth, at double strength (giving double the extra lifespan, or liquifying double the amount of material.) Alternatively, the true philosopher's stone may be used for its most famous function: it can transmute any base metal into any noble metal. In either case, the philosopher's stone will be used up in the process.

todo: tighten up description/effects


The point values after each talent's name is the minimum number of Alchemy knowledge points required before a character can select it at level-up. Points themselves are also gained at level-up, with the exact amount depending on which skill trees a character has selected. I'm still working on the details here. (Credit where it's due: the concept of the sage knowledge system, and the gaining of points and new abilities at level up in this particular interlinked way, are owed to Alexis Smolensk. However, all the work above is my own, as are the particular divisions of knowledge which I use.)

Note: the Clone talent represents a more general goal I'm working toward as I consider sage skills for my world. That goal is to pull certain spells out of the spell lists and turn them into ritual-like effects accessed through the skill trees. Other things this might apply to some day include Cacodemon, Spiritwrack, Gate, Astral Spell and its ilk, maybe some of the higher-level divinations; plus Protection 15' Radius will get modified into something called Magic Circle, which I'd put in the skill trees for demonology and thaumaturgy, as things currently stand.