More about that Planarch Codex game

(Here’s an overview of the game in question: “Wandering Through Dis”.¬†Here’s a link to my materials, including the opening “love letter”.)

My opening pitch explaining the full lineage of the game by throwing every physical book I had on the table in a stack РD&D, Dungeon World (DW), World of Dungeons (WoD), the Planarch Codex, Invisible Cities Р upon a table that was already burgeoning and over-full with dice, a noteboard, markers, dice, character sheets, and index cards. It was quite a sight.

I then explained the concept of Dis – how it was an extraplanar city consuming all planes of existence – gave them a sense that this would be rather improvisational anthropunk fantasy, and shared the letter to the freebooters (page 1 from the materials above). I emphasized about how I had no idea what most of the bolded terms meant exactly.

I decided to go with World of Dungeons, augmented with DW basic moves (but incorporating my “HR Manual of the Planes” project). The character creation process was:

1. Roll your level and stats as normal. (I offered 10 XP if they rolled their stats in order. Everyone took it.)

2. Pick your heritage, using one or more monsters as a base. I offered the one-shot list of monsters, but also offered to provide a random monster if asked from DW (hence the mammodon and nirvana wasp).

3. I told them to ignore skills, and dealt out my careers from “HR Manuals of the Planes” (page 4 of my materials). Everyone got two classes and chose 1. They then picked two of the WoD Special Abilities.

4. They went shopping and did everything else for character creation.
4a. (we had a very difficult time with hit points and hit dice and shall say no more of the matter)

In addition to the initial “love letter”, I had some pre-gen jobs from someone else’s blog, and started the players by asking which of 4 jobs did they first take to get in trouble with the Wanderers in the first place. We did some rough jump cuts through that first job (perhaps too rough? but it worked out). I think my letter was framing things too hard, because it turned out they didn’t quite have debt with the Wanderers after all, and merely in a contract with them. The subsequent job was done more or less normally, scene-to-scene, and that worked great. We didn’t end up leaving Dis unfortunately – I should push more jobs out onto the planes.

I took the “everything is a dungeon” prompt as a direction to use these pseudomorph dice to generate a map of the spaces they enter, but then this created a moment where we neated to stop and draw out any map. But that’s fine? I think there’s a good question of whether it’s better to keep things narrated, or to seize upon tokens + a drawn map. I feel like having the time wizard’s dorm be a weird cave formation was funky, but also nicely unique.

I did what I often do when MCing games like Dungeon World, which is slipping into raw improv/response instead of a pure agenda/principles/moves mode. The game’s high-improv nature was a bit exhausting. I’m interested in playing a slower-paced non-one-shot game, and perhaps getting better at leveraging the agenda/principles/moves more. (I totally need to make myself a DM Screen to put all the relevant agenda/principles/moves in one spot.)

I’m interested in “HR Manuals of the Planes” as a concept – it just makes more sense to me that there are weird careers across the planes? – and people liked the ones I handed out. I wonder how to better unify the “3 character abilities” that were part of character creation. Some ideas:

  • Perhaps these should work as simply as Heritage Moves, rather than being their own class-style moves?
  • Will having 3 moves be too many?
  • Can I reuse spell as a kind of alternate character moves?
  • Do I want to keep some common “adventurer” moves, like the ones in World of Dungeons? This implies that people have moved on from their past experiences to accommodate life as a Freebooter of Dis.

I’m also wondering if I prefer the WoD or DW part of the spectrum. There seems to be a lot of fluidity around the WoD moves and options (by design?), but I might prefer some of the abstraction and concreteness around the DW approach. If I pick one, then I can make XP be a bit more coherent.

[D&D 4e/hack] Class: Vanguard Warlord

The Vanguard Warlord is a savvy solider who leads her squad by example. Her true strentgh is not merely in the weapon she wields, but in subtle way she drivers her allies to victory.

Warlords are my favorite class, and a great new iteration of a “leader” role that’s different than the traditional cleric. One of my favorite builds is the “lazylord” (i.e. a warlord focuses on granting its allies superior attacks), but that kind of build might be intimidating or problematic for a newer player (who may still be mastering gameplay).

With the stances (“tactics”), most gameplay should be straightforward in terms of picking a benefit and charging into the fray. The “Vanguard Command” power gives a little taste of what it’s like to command your allies, and hopefully the flexibility makes up for the complexity. (It’s also once-per-encounter complexity, so probably not a big deal.) This might be the (mechanically) lightest build for the leader role.

Vanguard Warlord (Martial Leader)
Primary/Secondary: STR/CHR

1. Basics

Build as standard warlord (including Inspiring Word). Ignore standard At-Will, Encounter and Daily attack powers.

2. Gain: Vanguard Command

Vanguard Command * Encounter * Free Action
Effect: Choose an ally than can see or hear you. They may do one of the following:

  • Take a standard action.
  • Shift as many squares as your Charmisma modifier.
  • Make a saving throw with a bonus equal to your Charmisma modifier.
  • Gain hit points equal to your Charmisma modifier.

Special: If you fall to 0 or fewer hit points, you may use this as an Immediate Reaction.

3. Pick two at-will stances

Tactic: Careful Maneuver * At-Will * Minor Action * Stance, Martial
Effect: When you hit with a basic attack, an ally adjacent to you or the target may shift 1 square.

Tactic: Swift Maneuver * At-Will * Minor Action * Stance, Martial
Effect: When you hit with a basic attack, an ally you can see may move as many squares as your Charmisma modifier.

Tactic: Coordinated Advance * At-Will * Minor Action * Stance, Martial
Effect: When you hit with a basic attack, your allies have a +2 bonus to attacks against this enemy until the start of your next turn.

Tactic: Merciless Advance * At-Will * Minor Action * Stance, Martial
Effect: When you hit with a basic attack, your allies have a +2 bonus to damage rolls against this enemy until the start of your next turn.

Tactic: Distracting Feint * At-Will * Minor Action * Stance, Martial
Effect: When you hit with a basic attack, you may choose to deal half damage; the target is instead dazed (save ends).

Tactic: Clever Feint * At-Will * Minor Action * Stance, Martial
Effect: When you miss with a basic attack, an ally you can see may make a basic attack against the target.

4. Advancement

Level 2: Utility power
Level 3: additional use of Vanguard Command
Level 6: Utility power
Level 7: additional stance
Level 10: Utility power

5. Optional feats

Warlord Training (Slayer): In addition to Vanguard stances, the character may also choose from those stances available to Slayers, but only if the stance does not refer to any Slayer-specific ability.

Warord Training (Knight): In addition to Vanguard stances, the character may also choose from those stances available to Knights, but only if the stance does not refer to any Knight-specific ability.

[D&D 4e/hack] Class: Elementalist Sorcerer

The Elementalist Sorcerer channels the elemental forces and becomes a conduit of raw power. She eschews the plodding ways of the wizard’s tower, instead seeking to prove her radical theories through hard-won experience.

This class is designed for players who want to blast their foes with flashy spells while sticking with a simple class structure. The different stances allow the player to choose from different controller powers, forging their own style.

EDIT: Check out someone else’s similar attempt at the Elementalist: http://www.northerngamers.org/files/Elementalist.htm

Elementalist Sorcerer (Arcane Controller)
Primary/Secondary: CHR/CON

1. Basics

Build as standard sorcerer. Ignore standard At-Will, Encounter and Daily attack powers. Take the “Ritual Caster” feat for free.

2. Gain: Elemental Bolt and Elemental Synthesis

Elemental Bolt * At-Will * Standard Action * Attack, Implement, Arcane
Burst 1 in Ranged 10
Target: All creatures in burst
Attack: CHR vs Fortitude
Damage: 1d6 + Charisma modifier damage
Special: You can use this as a ranged basic attack.

Elemental Synthesis * Encounter * Free Action
Trigger: You hit with Elemental Bolt.
Effect: You switch to a different stance and make another attack with Elemental Bolt.

3. Pick two at-will stances

Flame Stance * At-Will * Minor Action * Stance, Arcane

  • You gain resist 3 fire.
  • Your Elemental Bolt deals additional fire damage equal to your Constitution modifier.
  • When you hit with Elemental Bolt, the target takes ongoing 2 fire damage (save ends).

Frost Stance * At-Will * Minor Action * Stance, Arcane

  • You gain resist 3 cold.
  • Your Elemental Bolt deals additional cold damage equal to your Constitution modifier.
  • When you hit with Elemental Bolt, the target is slowed until the end of your next turn.

Gale Stance * At-Will * Minor Action * Stance, Arcane

  • You gain resist 3 thunder.
  • Your Elemental Bolt deals additional thunder damage equal to your Constitution modifier.
  • When you hit with Elemental Bolt, you slide the target 1 square.

Storm Stance * At-Will * Minor Action * Stance, Arcane

  • You gain resist 3 lightning.
  • Your Elemental Bolt deals additional lightning damage equal to your Constitution modifier.
  • When you hit with Elemental Bolt and the die roll is even, the creature is dazed until the end of your next turn.

Quake Stance * At-Will * Minor Action * Stance, Arcane

  • You gain resist 3 force.
  • Your Elemental Bolt deals additional force damage equal to your Constitution modifier.
  • When you use Elemental Bolt, you may change any terrain in the burst from difficult terrain to normal terrain or vice versa.

4. Advancement

Level 2: Utility power
Level 3: additional use of Elemental Synthesis
Level 6: Utility power
Level 7: additional stance
Level 10: Utility power

5. Possible Feats

Former Apprentice: You gain the “Magic Missile” power. (So if a player wants access to canonical wizard spell, they can have it.)

Theory of Elemental Synergy: When you switch from one stance to another, you have a +1 power bonus to attack and damage rolls on your next attack.

Theory of Elemental Might: Your Elemental Bolt power does d8 damage instead of d6.

Theory of Elemental Focus: You may use your Elemental Bolt power against a single target instead of a larger burst. The target grants combat advantage to you for this attack.

Theory of Elemental Control: When allies are targetted by your Elemental Bolt attack, you may take a -4 to that attack roll.

[D&D 4e/hack] Class: Inquisitive Cleric

The Inquisitive Cleric is a divine investigator, charged by his order to delve into dark places of the world. Unlike the warpriest, the Inquisitive Cleric prefers to lead from the back and strike foes at range, while protecting and guiding his allies.

This build is useful for a few reasons. The ability of attack and heal from range is a popular trope, and it is also an appropriate tactical choice: hold back, buff your allies, discourage your foes. It’s sometimes hard to encourage new players to take on the Leader role in a party, and we should do everything we can to make that more accessible.

Inquisitive Cleric (Divine Leader)
Primary/Secondary: WIS/CHR

1. Basics

Build as standard cleric (including uses of Healing Word).Ignore standard At-Will, Encounter and Daily attack powers.

2. Gain: Inquisitive Light, Inquisitive Judgement

Inquisitive Light * At-Will * Standard Action * Attack, Implement, Divine
Ranged 5
Target: One creature
Attack: WIS vs Will
Damage: 1d6 + Wisdom modifier radiant damage
Effect: The square is filled with bright light until the end of your turn.
Special: You can use this as a ranged basic attack.

Inquisitive Judgement * Encounter * Free Action
Trigger: You hit with a basic attack.
Effect: Target is blinded and dazed until the end of your next turn.

3. Pick two at-will stances

Enduring Grace * At-Will * Minor Action * Stance, Divine
Effect: When you hit with a basic attack, grant an ally in 5 squares your Charisma modifier in temporary hit points.

Saving Grace * At-Will * Minor Action * Stance, Divine
Effect: When you hit with a basic attack, grant an ally in 5 squares a saving throw.

Shielding Grace * At-Will * Minor Action * Stance, Divine
Effect: When you hit with a basic attack, grant an ally in 5 squares a +1 power bonus to all defenses until the end of your next turn.

Unyielding Grace * At-Will * Minor Action * Stance, Divine
Effect: Your Inquisitive Light power has Ranged 20 instead of Ranged 5. You may ignore cover and concealment when making your attack.

Sanctifying Grace * At-Will * Minor Action * Stance, Divine
Effect: When you hit an undead creature with a basic attack, it grants combat advantage to you and your allies until the end of your next turn.

4. Advancement

Level 2: Utility power
Level 3: additional use of Inquisitive Judgement
Level 6: Utility power
Level 7: additional stance
Level 10: Utility power