Friday, May 29, 2009

Choices and Real World Weapons

Lately I've been learning a lot about firearms. Its really quite interesting. One of the most fascinating things about real-world weapons, however, are the multitude of actual choices to be made. When selecting a firearm there are a huge number of options, but all of the choices basically come down to tradeoffs in performance. You can gain some factors, but lose others. Just off the top of my nugget, in no particular order, you have:

- Price of weapon
- Price of ammunition in that caliber
- Effectiveness of ammunition in the caliber
- Ease of acquiring ammunition (scarcity)
- Weight of weapon
- Action type (auto, semi-auto, bolt, etc)
- Ruggedness/durability
- Ease of MX
- Accuracy
- Effective Range
- Concealment
- Legality in various jurisdictions
- Ease of use
- Rate of fire
- Number of rounds carried
And many more.

For example, a pistol caliber carbine (that is, a short rifle chambered to use a small handgun round) has inferior range compared to a rifle, inferior effectiveness of ammunition compared to a rifle, and inferior concealment to a handgun. However, they are often inexpensive, easy to use, use cheaper ammunition, and you can carry many rounds more easily.

A .22 target rifle is cheap and uses cheap, widely available ammunition but has limited effectiveness.

A handgun may be very concealable but generally lacks range and accuracy compared to a longarm.

Each weapon type has a niche that it can fill with varying tradeoffs. That's why you can ask a forum full of firearms experts "what weapon is best for personal defense?" and get many different answers.

I think weapons in an RPG which is fundamentally about combat should have similar choices. That is, Weapon A should not be strictly better than Weapon B, but it should have tradeoffs that make it an interesting choice between the two in both acquisition and tactical usage.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Planning for Online Gaming

These days I'm doing a lot of playing of online gaming. This takes two different forms:

A real-time or near real time game (NRT) using a virtual tabletop, chat, and/or VOIP, OR
a play-by-post turn based game.

Many of the concerns that are issues for real tabletop games are issues for NRT games as well. You need relatively simple rules that can be quickly processed. Its ok to have situations where back and forth between the GM and players is necessary because its happeneing over voice chat. Everyone is sitting and waiting so turns need to move quickly.

Play by post games, however, are different. Unlike a NRT game, in a PBP game the players have plenty of time to think about their turns. If someone spends 10 minutes pondering something, that's ok. What is not ok is lots of back and forth between the player and DM (each exchange may take hours or days to complete), extremly simplistic rules-lite systems that mean the player can't make a strategic choice (rolling 1d20 to hit with a weapon every round gets boring when its the only choice), or rules systems that the players cannot apply on their own without DM intervention.

For example, in 4E, skills are quite defined. Players know that if they want to jump over a pit, they roll athletics and need to hit a certain DC which is given in the PHB. This is great for online play because the players can look up the DC, weigh their chances, and then roll/post without neeing any DM intervention. It is not as good for NRT play because looking up rules in the middle of play slows things down.

Compare this to, say, an ad-hoc stunt system added on to AD&D where maybe players make a save to make the leap/perform the stunt. This works great at the table because its fast and easy to adjudicate on the fly. But its not so good for online play because the player must ask the DM first what the saving throw is (vs. PP, BW, Spell, etc), then if its modified by DEX adjustment, then if there are any situational modifiers. This back and forth might take days on play-by-post while it would be very quick in NRT play.

This is why games like chess or diplomacy make good postal or play-by-post games. Every turn the player is faced with a strategic decision, its alright (and even good) to spend plenty of time pondering each move, and the rules are clearly defined so there need be no questions for the DM. Chess rigorously defines each piece's movement and what happens in every specific case (en passant, advancing a pawn to the last rank, etc). This can slow down face-to-face play (especially among non-expert players, who may need to look up an obscure rule) but is a great aid for postal play. Same with diplomacy.

This leads me towards complicating player choices some, multiplying specific rules for at least the most common 80% of activities, while keeping underlying mechanics simple so that players can roll them themselves.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

AD&D: The Relative Efficacy of Monster Summoning I

This DF thread inspired me to conduct a quick simulation to determine the relative efficacy of MS I vice other level III spells (namely, direct damage):


01-10: Demon, manes - HD1 AC7 1-2/1-2/1-4 (+1 magic weapons to hit, undead immunities)
11-25: Goblin (Dwarf) - HD1-1 AC6 1-6 (chance for missile weapons)
26-40: Hobgoblin (Elf) - HD 1+1 AC5 1-8 (chance for missile weapons)
41-55: Kobold (Halfling) - HD 1/2 AC4 1-4 (chance for missiles)
56-70: Orc (Gnome) - HD 1 AC6 1-8
71-00: Rat, Giant - HD 1/2 AC7 1-3

This discounts the monsters for evil summoners, but they are generally superior, I think.

Thus you have:
30% - HD 1/2 AC7 1-3
15% - HD 1/2 AC4 1-4
15% - HD1-1 AC6 1-6
10% - HD1 AC7 1-2/1-2/1-4
15% - HD 1 AC6 1-8
15% - HD 1+1 AC5 1-8

So, on average, you get 5 x 1-1 HD critters, AC 6ish for 1d6 damage. Sometimes its better (hobgoblins are pretty robust), sometimes it sucks. However, the GM may "personally select" the numbers appearing if the monster is parcticularly weak, so let's assume that it balances out.

We'll consider the usefulness against three monsters: A standard low, mid, and high level threat. Our low level threat will be an orc (with a pie). The mid level threat an ogre. And high level threat a hill giant. Usefulness will be measured by how much damage can be inflicted before they are splattered, on average.
LOW: HD1 AC6 1-8
MED: HD4+1 AC5 1-10
HIGH: HD8+2 AC4 2-16


Damage sustained each round:

LOW LEVEL THREAT: 40% * 4.5 = 1.8
MED LEVEL THREAT: 60% * 5.5 = 3.3
HIGH LEVEL THREAT: 75% * 9 = 6.75

Rounds that a critter with 3.5 HP can survive:
HIGH LEVEL THREAT: 0.52 (min of 1)


Damage Inflicted on threat per round per monster:

LOW LEVEL THREAT: 35% * 3.5 = 1.225
MED LEVEL THREAT: 30% * 3.5 = 1.05
HIGH LEVEL THREAT: 25% * 3.5 = 0.875

Damage Inflicted on threat over expected lifetime of monster:
Assumes that there is a 1:1 ratio, i.e., one threat monster for each summoned monster.
LOW: 2.45
MED: 1.05
HIGH: 0.875

Total Damage Inflicted (multiply by 5 monsters, on average):
LOW: 12.25
MED: 5.25
HIGH: 4.375

Comparison to 1d6 per level save for half (as from a fireball):
LOW: 25% for 1.75 + 75% for 3.5 = 0.4375 + 2.625 = 3.0625 / level of caster
MED: 40% 1.75 + 60% 3.5 = 0.7 + 2.1 = 2.8 / level of caster
HIGH: 55% for 1.75 + 45% for 3.5 = 0.9625 + 1.575 = 2.5375 / level of caster


If you send summoned trash in to fight mano-a-mano, its not very efficient compared to nuking with a fireball. However, if the summoned trash can gang up on a single threat, extend its life expectancy (through defensive buffs or use of missile weapons, for example), or increase offensive potency (bless, prayer, haste, etc) then it will become more effective, numerically speaking.

Summoned trash also has a few other advantages. It can hold a line whether needed as a rearguard or instant bodyguards -- fireballs do not protect squishy mages or buy time for a retreat. It is a beyond visual range weapon: you can summon stuff, send it into a room, and wait for the shooting to stop in order to soften up targets; very few spells do not have line-of-sight requirements so this is big. Conjured critters take attacks that would have otherwise been aimed at PCs, thus giving the spell defensive value as well. It is also useful for problem solving, tricks & traps, etc. Finally, summoned trash is discriminate; you can use it when a large mixed melee is going on and you don't want to risk friendly fire.

Friday, May 15, 2009


Here's a brainstorm for what to do with WIS (and incidentally, clerical types).

A character can ask for 1 +/- WIS MOD miracles.

BASIC MIRACLES (i.e. anyone can do them):
- Bless: You and your allies gain +1 DP on all checks or +2 on all D20 checks.
Duration: Make a WILLPOWER check each round to sustain the effect.
- Majesty: All foes within C2 Radius must check morale.

ADVANCED MIRACLES (i.e. only those with WIS prime can do them):
- Turn/Rebuke: Any creature that is opposed to your ethos and is within your C2 radius must make a FORT check or take damage (this effect occurs only once). Additionally, such creatures must check morale at a penalty every round. This second effect lasts until the creature passes a WILLPOWER check.
- Prayer: Adjust all TNs for you and your allies down by -1 (+2 on D20 rolls) and for your foes by +1 (-3 on D20 rolls). Make a willpower check each round to sustain the effect.
- Intercession: The DM makes a secret Willpower check on your behalf. If succesful, your deity sends some aid, whether that is a vision, a sign, or a helper. Additionally, you gain the effects of a Blessing as above, although your allies do not.

You get a new Miracle after completing a milestone. All of your miracles are refreshed after completing a Quest.


Sarah the Priestess has 14 WIS (+1 MOD) and 16 CHA (+2 MOD), thus she can perform TWO miracles. Early in the day she happens across some zombies. She calls upon the power of her patron to TURN them. Every zombie within her C2 radius (4+2 CHA = 6 HEXES) must immediately make a FORT save or take damage. Each round, those zombies need to check morale at a penalty (which means they will likely flee or cower) until they can pass a WILL save.

In the next encounter, the group comes up against a fearsome Hill Giant. It is generally TN7 to deal with this creature, which makes it a very tough challenge. Sarah again calls out for divine aid and calls down a Prayer. This significantly shifts the odds in the party's favor for a few rounds. Sarah is now out of Miracles; she will be blessed with another when the group hits a major milestone, and she will be fully recharged when completing a quest.

Note that just sleeping and resting is not sufficient to restore miracles. The gods respect action, not taking naps.

This system makes WIS + CHA priests best at Turning (because of their larger C2 radaii) and Blessing/Prayers (because of their excellent WILL checks). Paladins and Monks are still pretty good at each.

Additionally, it makes Clerics very, very important for those toughest encounters, and it also makes them useful for dealing with "favored enemies." This also fits the "Fate Point" mechanic well enough, for anyone with sufficient WIS will be "lucky" in that they can ask for a Blessing occasionally.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Pentacles and alignment and humourism oh my!

When I took my anti-malarials I had another interesting brainstorm (now I see why creative people take drugs!).

What if instead of a simple linear alignment scale, or a 9-box alignment matrix (basically a pair of linear scales), we had a Pentacle of Alignment?

This is how it would work.


Everyone draws a pentacle (five sided star) on their sheet with a circle around it. If you are lawful/good/believe that the universe is generally rightly ordered as is (Gods-->Angels-->Kings-->Lions-->Oaks-->Gold etc) then draw it right side up. If you believe that things need some changing (Devils should be above Angels; orcs above humans; cobblers over kings) then you are chaotic and you draw the pentagram upside down. For now, I'll assume you're lawful.

The top point represents your character's devotion to Aether: spirit, quintessence, the heavens. The next two are Fire and Air. The bottom two are Earth and Water. The circle represents Nature, Fate, or the binding glue of the cosmos. You should label the top point with your character's highest ideal: a deity ("I serve Athena") or a principle ("I serve Justice") or a code ("I follow the Knightly Virtues"). The ideal must be considered lawful within the setting.





Next comes customizing the diagram. Put a tick mark next to each element for each of the following:

- Fluent in the associated language
- Race (put one tick in Aether/Barbari/Fate and one tick in Earth/Water/Fire/Air as appropriate; humans may pick based on a sub-race or regional affiliation, or put a second tick in Fate).
- Select one element at character creation: Represents the sign you were born under
- Put one into Aether (if your pentagram points up), Barbari (if it is inverted) or Fate (the circle -- neutral) at character creation: Represents auspices or aspect of the sign you were born under
- Completed a Quest in service of one of the principles: Roll a WILL check -- if you succeed, get a tick; if you get a 7, they get 2 ticks; if you get an 8, they get 3 ticks, etc
- Gain a tier: Place a tick anywhere you lick

For example, Arkayn the White Wizard is a human and he is fluent in Aetheris and Ignis. He decides that his air sign was blessed by the Gods. Humans are fated with destiny.

AETHER: +1 (aspect of sign), +1 (fluent in Aetheris)
FIRE: +1 (fluent in Ignis)
AIR: +1 (Air Sign)
FATE: +2 (Dwarf)

Dundi the Dwarf is fluent in only Terrae and speaks pidgin Rustica. His water sign was mixed but surely loaded with fate. Dwarves are touched by Aetheris.

AETHER: +1 (Dwarf)
EARTH: +1 (Fluent in Terrae), +1 (Dwarf)
WATER: +1 (Sign)
FATE: +1 (Aspect of Sign)

More later!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Merrow: The Water Race

I think I have fleshed out some thoughts for my water-based playable race ("Aquea+Aetheris").

The first thing to jump to mind were water-nymphs. The problem with these is that playing a nymphomaniac fey critter tied to a single spring isn't much fun. Also, male PCs are left out in the cold.

I then thought about merfolk or tritons. The two problems here are that merfolk and tritons usually have less than desirable men-folk, and they are definitively tied to the ocean (that is, they always have fish-fins instead of legs).

The next major possibility is selkies or merrow. For those unfamiliar with these more obscure mythical critters, they are shapeshifting waterfolk who sometimes can be found on land. The selkies have a seal skin that they can put on to go swimming, and the merrow have a magic cap or cape. This has a lot of logistical appeal to it for fitting into a mainstream adventuring party. The one issue I have is with their personality, which really tends strongly towards the fey (too sanguine).

So, here's my reskin of the Merrow. It is heavily inspired by the mythos of Atlantis, and one could weave Atlantis into one's campaign world for a lot of pseudo-Western European or classical flavor if desired.

Some say that they [the inhabited regions] begin at the beginning of the western ocean [the Atlantic] and beyond. For in the first days there was an island in the middle of the ocean. There were scholars there, who isolated themselves in [the pursuit of] philosophy. In their day, that was the [beginning for measuring] the longitude[s] of the inhabited world. Today, it has become [covered by the] sea, and it is ten degrees into the sea; and they reckon the beginning of longitude from the beginning of the western sea. - Ancient Hebrew Text

Patient & reclusive, depths of wisdom; heirs to a City beneath the Sea.

Average Height: 5'4-6'1
Average Weight: 120-140 lb.
Ability Scores: Favor Wisdom or Charisma
Size: Medium
Speed: 6 hexes
Vision: Normal
Languages: Lingua Acquea

Merrow are an ancient race known for their kindness, depth of spirit, and curiosity. The Merrow are said to be desecended for the people of an ancient city that sunk beneath the waves in the first days of the world. They are a shy, patient people who have seen the coming and going of many glories, and it is difficult to rouse their ire; but they make reliable and compassionate friends and capable diplomats or administrators.

Play a merrow if you want . . .
✦ to be the wise heir of an empire long lost beneath the waves.
✦ to be at home in the seas.
✦ to be a member of a race that favors the paladin, monk, priest, beguiler, or skald classes.

Physical Qualities

In the height of all these doings, what should there be dancing among the outlandish set of fishes but a beautiful young woman - as beautiful as the dawn of day. She had a cocked hat upon her head; from under it her long green hair - just the colour of the sea - fell down behind, without hinderance to her dancing. Her teeth were like rows of pearl; her lips for all the world looked like red coral; and she had an elegant gown, as white as the foam of the wave, with little rows of purple and red sea weeds settled out upon it: for you never yet saw a lady, under the water or over the water, who had not a good notion of dressing herself out. - The Wonderful Tune, Irish Tale
But what was his astonishment at beholding, just at the foot of that rock, a beautiful young creature combing her hair, which was of a sea-green colour; and now the salt water shining on it, appeared, in the morning light, like melted butter upon cabbage. - The Lady of Gollerus, Irish Tale
Merrow are a people much like comely humans that live below the waves. Physically, Merrow look much like normal humans; however, they usually have slight webbing between their fingers, and often have long green hair.

As a child, each Merrow is given a cohuleen driuth, or magic cap, which allows them to swim freely beneath the ocean as a fish. The process for making these is a closely guarded secret; some say it is an arcane secret from the first days before their city sunk into the oceans, others say the techniques for making them are handed down from the Sea-Gods. If a Merrow loses their cap, they must remain in the world of men until it can be found again.

Merrow women are about the same size as the men-folk, and women play a central role in Merrow society. It is not uncommon for a woman to be the high chief or priestess of a band of Merrow. However, these undersea people also embrace duality, so it would not be unusual for the leadership of a group to be shared between the sexes, even if the male's duties are largely symbolic.

Playing a Merrow

But at a later time there occurred portentous earthquakes and floods, and one grievous day and night befell them, when the whole body of your warriors was swallowed up by the earth, and the island of Atlantis in like manner was swallowed up by the sea and vanished; wherefore also the ocean at that spot has now become impassable and unsearchable, being blocked up by the shoal mud which the island created as it settled down. -- Critias

Merrow are heirs to an ancient legacy that has seen greatness and fallen from glory. They know that there is more to life than the surface-worlders crave, and they lead spiritual and patient existences. They are comfortable with complexity and duality and seek to understand the world through calm reflection as well as curious and open-minded questioning. As heirs to a great metropolis, Merrow maintain many traditions that allow them to be comfortable administrators and diplomats.

Outsiders criticize Merrow for being lazy, resistant to change, or unemotional. However, Merrow know that the tide will eventually wear away any wall built by man; all things, in time, will pass. Thinking the Merrow can be taken advantage of easily, however, would be a mistake. Merrow are compassionate and reliable friends. Their culture is ancient and their elders are wells of deep wisdom. While they are slow to anger, once the Merrow have set their mind to something, it will likely come to pass.

Merrow Characteristics: Calm, unemotional, self-content, kind, shy, consistent, relaxed, rational, curious, observant, reliable, and compassionate.

Male Names: Evenor, Atlas, Eumelus, Gadeirus, Ampheres, Evaemon, Mneseus, Autochthon, Elasippus, Mestor, Azaes, Diaprepes

Female Names: Leucippe, Cleito

Merrow Adventures:

Leucippe is a fair maiden from beneath the waves who, as a priestess, is the spiritual bedrock for her band of adventurers. Motivated by ancient tales of her people's lost land, she is particularly interested in uncovering any clues to the location of the city below the sea. Her curiosity for lost artifacts or forgotten tomes is insastiable.

Atlas is a strapping knight from beneath the sea. His family is said to be descended from the blood of kings and his noble bearing is testament to this lineage. While not the boldest or most innovative warrior, Atlas is devoted to his friends and is always there for them when they need him most. He is slow to anger and has a great reserve of patience. Many years ago he lost his magical cap; deep inside, he secretly yearns to return to his home beneath the waves. For now, he settles for being the captain of a small sailing ship.

Mestor is an ascetic monk from the Northern oceans. In his youth, he traveled widely as a sailor and dallied with women in every port; however, as he grew older, he became disillusioned with his life. Mestor became an ascetic, giving away his possessions and hurling his cohuleen driuth into the sea. He still travels with ships as a navigator, and his depth of experience, know-how, and network of contacts is valued by many captains. Mestor knows that when the time is right and he has learned what he is to learn from the surface-world, fate will bring his cap back to him so that he can return to his people.

Useful link:

Monday, May 11, 2009

RACE: Non-Human Races and the Classical Elements

My language system started me thinking about how nicely the common non-human game races match up to them. Here's some brainstorming notes with the languages (and their common dialects) mapped to races. Note that the alignments (LAW/NEUTRAL/CHAOS) match up generally with the dialects. Not that you can't ever find a neutral dwarf, but they tend to be lawful. Ditto with giants; they tend to be chaotic, although one might rarely find a neutral one and VERY rarely find a lawful one.

The languages twinged with Aetheris obviously make great playable PC races.


+ RUSTICA DIALECT: Salamanders
+ BARBARI DIALECT: Orcs and/or Giants/Titans

+ BARBARI DIALECT: Dangerous Fey


+ AETHERIS DIALECT: Halflings (they're just that cute, and, well British)
+ NO ACCENT: Baseline "civilized" humans from The Center of the Wold (pseudo-Rome)
+ BARBARI ACCENT: Bestial crossbreeds (half-orcs, etc); certain professions; tieflings (if they exist)

I believe that covers all of our classic playable character races.

This leaves two big gaps for "playable" races (i.e., those inclined towards the "good guys"): FIRE & WATER.

Fire could be covered by "half-orcs," although I don't see them being particularly law-inclined. They should match up with the best aspects of the choleric temperment; i.e., action, ambition, energy, passion, creativity, military & political capabilities. It is possible that you could spin half-orcs as a particularly vigorous type of person that inherits the best of their human and bestial parents. You could also have half-elves be lawful fire types, again being a particularly vigorous hybrid specimen that is unlike both father and mother. Or, you could invent an altogether new race ("Dragonborn? Prometheans?"). I kind of like the Half-Elf idea, honestly.

Water is a bit tougher, as most of the "classic" races are not able to leave water (merfolk, for example) or are not well suited to being PCs (selkies). I think I found a legend from Gaelic mythos that would work quite nicely; the merrow. Merrow can't travel freely beneath the sea without a special "magical" item so that's perfect for a PC. Their mythical temperment is a bit too 'fey' for what I really want, though. I really want a people that embody the classical "phlegmatic" temperment. Merrow feel a lot like AIR + WATER to me, although less so that selkies.

A "good" phlegmatic is calm, unemotional, reserved, self-content, and kind. They are reliable and compassionate. Merrow are not reliable or self-content or even particularly kind!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

ALIGNMENT: The Theological Virtues

Recently I blogged about the Great Chain of Being and how it can tie into a LAW/NEUTRAL/CHAOS alignment system.

Here is another view of how alignment can work, tied in with the classic theological virtues.

Here's a refresher from wikipedia:
  • Faith (πίστις) - steadfastness in belief
  • Hope (ἐλπίς) - expectation of and desire of receiving; refraining from despair and capability of not giving up
  • Love or Charity (ἀγάπη) - selfless, unconditional, and voluntary loving-kindness. Helping your neighbors.

If you are lawful, you not only possess the three virtues but they are also directed to the "right" entity. Depending on campaign setting, that might reach as high as the Heavens. So, having faith, hope, and love for Yahweh, the God of Abraham, Jesus Christ, Buddha, Zeus, or whatever deities are in your setting. It might just be within the angels or sub-deities (Faith in Archangel Michael, patron deity Athena, etc). It might only extend to the realm of men (directed at your sovereign, prince, etc). This works best if the DM defines one civilization as the baseline for the world, and thus bases "right" and "wrong" off of what they think. So, if you're in Medieval Europe, then belief in the Holy Trinity is the "right" entity. To use my pentacle model, your pentacle is pointing upwards, the correct way, with the Aether/Heavens on the top point.

"The king will help us with these bandits. I have faith in him."

If you are neutral, you are lacking in some or all of the three virtues. That means, instead of Faith you have incredulity; instead of Hope, cyniciscm or despair; instead of love, there is wrath, hatred, or indifference. You may still be oriented in the correct direction, but the whole package isn't there. Your pentacle is stunted; the top point is missing or shrunked.
"The king doesn't care about our plight. He will only help us if those bandits have any loot worth confiscating."

If you are chaotic, you have oriented your faith, hope, and love in entirely the wrong direction. In medieval Western Europe, it would be chaotic to have divine love for a pagan God. It would be chaotic to hold those values for some usurper and not your own king. Your pentacle is inverted.
"The king should be deposed by the Bandit chief! If we help the bandit warlord seize the throne, we'll be richly rewarded."

Friday, May 8, 2009


With the scrapping of 9-square alignment, we lose a helpful tool for quickly defining personality. As much as alignment could be a straightjacket, it was also handy for defining NPCs in a hurry, or even for low-level PCs.

Luckily, since the time of the ancients, people have tried to evaluate personalities. The Four Humors could work. The italic text here is excerpted from Wikipedia.

Sanguine indicates the personality of an individual with the temperament of blood, Night, the season of spring (wet and hot), and the classical element of air. A person who is sanguine is generally light-hearted, funloving, a people person, loves to entertain, spontaneous,leader abilities, and confident . However they can be arrogant, cocky, and indulgent. He/She can be day-dreamy and off-task to the point of not accomplishing anything and can be impulsive, possibly acting on whims in an unpredictable fashion. This also describes the manic phase of a bipolar disorder.

Choleric corresponds to the fluid of yellow bile, the season of summer (dry and hot), and the element of fire. A person who is choleric is a doer . They have a lot of ambition, energy, and passion, and try to instill it in others. They can dominate people of other temperaments, especially phlegmatic types. Many great charismatic military and political figures were cholerics. On the negative side, they are easily angered or bad-tempered.

Melancholic is the personality of an individual characterized by black bile (hence Greek μέλας, melas, "black", + χολή, kholé, "bile"); a person who is a thoughtful ponderer has a melancholic disposition. Often very kind and considerate, melancholics can be highly creative – as in poetry and art - but also can become overly pre-occupied with the tragedy and cruelty in the world, thus becoming depressed. The temperament is associated with the season of fall/autumn (dry and cold) and the element earth. A melancholic is also often a perfectionist, being very particular about what they want and how they want it in some cases. This often results in being unsatisfied with one's own artistic or creative works and always pointing out to themselves what could and should be improved.

This temperament describes the depressed phase of a bipolar disorder.

A phlegmatic person is calm and unemotional. Phlegmatic means "pertaining to phlegm", corresponds to the season of winter (wet and cold), and connotes the element of water.

While phlegmatics are generally self-content and kind, their shy personality can often inhibit enthusiasm in others and make themselves lazy and resistant to change. They are very consistent, relaxed, rational, curious, and observant, making them good administrators and diplomats. Like the sanguine personality, the phlegmatic has many friends. However the phlegmatic is more reliable and compassionate; these characteristics typically make the phlegmatic a more dependable friend.

If the DM chooses to expand on the simple four-part system here, you can easily use a full set of astrological signs. Basically, in addition to their element (Humour), everyone gets a Quality:

* Cardinal signs (Aries, Cancer, Libra and Capricorn) are associated with initiation and creativity.
* Fixed signs (Taurus, Leo, Scorpio and Aquarius) are associated with focus, powerful concentration, individuality and determination.
* Mutable signs (Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius and Pisces) are associated with resourcefulness, holism and adaptability.

You could make astrology an important part of the campaign by tracking when the various planets are in rulership and so on.

Thus, fully defining a character with this system might be done like so:

You can either make a quick sketch on your own, or you can just hit up an astrology guide, look up Capricorn, add a dollop of respect for tradition and authority (the lawful tendencies) and call it a day.

Note that many of these concepts tie in with the classical elements (and thus my language system), with ideas in medieval alchemy, and with Greco-Roman western tradition. So there is a wealth of flavor to be mined here if you so desire.


King James:
For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: 13:4 For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.

World English Bible:
"For rulers are not a terror to the good work, but to the evil. Do you desire to have no fear of the authority? Do that which is good, and you will have praise from the same, 4 for he is a servant of God to you for good. But if you do that which is evil, be afraid, for he doesn't bear the sword in vain; for he is a servant of God, an avenger for wrath to him who does evil."

New Int'l Version:
For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. 4For he is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.

First, its a cool quote, and one that illustrates a few points I've made recently. First, it highlights the essential element of a lawful perspective: The king is the king because God says so, and that's ok, and the king's agents are fully justified in going out and punishing those who rebel against the laws. And in our old-school King James version, those who break the laws and are evil (notice how this has been toned down to "wrongdoers" in the NIV?).

Second, it highlights the power of language. What is more effective: "He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer." Or: "For he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil." To me, the former sounds like a line from a very bland textbook. The latter is a scene from an action move. Words -- and how we use them -- have a lot of power.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Alignment & Worldview

1: In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
2: And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
3: And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
4: And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.
5: And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.
6: And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.
7: And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so.
8: And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.
9: And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so.
10: And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good.
11: And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so.
12: And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good.
13: And the evening and the morning were the third day.
14: And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years:
15: And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so.
16: And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also.
17: And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth,
18: And to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness: and God saw that it was good.
19: And the evening and the morning were the fourth day.
20: And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven.
21: And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good.
22: And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth.
23: And the evening and the morning were the fifth day.
24: And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so.
25: And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good.
26: And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.
27: So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.
28: And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.
29: And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.
30: And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so.
31: And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.

Before there was earth or sea or heaven, there existed only chaos: shapeless, unorganized, lifeless matter. There was no sun, no moon, and no air. Elements existed, but they had neither form nor character. The earth was without firmness, the water without fluidity, and the sky without light.

There was opposition in all things: hot conflicted with cold, wet with dry, heavy with light, and hard with soft.

Finally a god, a natural higher force, resolved this conflict, separating earth from heaven, parting the dry land from the waters, and dividing the clear air from the clouds, thus organizing all things into a balanced union. In the highest sphere he made a heavenly vault of weightless and untainted ether. The next lower region he filled with air, light but not without substance. Then came the heavy earth, which sank down under its own weight and was encircled by the sea.

Thus did the god, whichever god it was, set order to the chaotic mass by separating it into its components, then organizing them into a harmonious whole.

Then the god shaped the earth into a great ball and caused the seas to spread in one direction and the other. He created springs, pools, and lakes, then formed rivers, causing them to flow toward the seas. He flattened out the plains, caused valleys to sink down, and pushed up mountains from the level places.

The earth he organized into five zones, the same number that exist in heaven, which is divided into two regions on the right, two on the left, and one in the center. On earth the middle zone is too hot for habitation and the two outer zones are too cold, but between these extremes the god created two temperate zones where heat and cold are balanced.

Beneath the ether and above the earth hangs the air, where the god formed mist and clouds, placing thunderbolts within the clouds. To each of the four winds he assigned limits and purpose. He caused the stars, which heretofore had been veiled in darkness, to shine forth across the sky.

The waters he filled with fishes, the earth with wild animals, and the air with birds. But none of these creatures approached the gods in intelligence; none could rightly be called master over all the others.

Then man was born. Either the god who had created this better earth made man from divine seed, or Prometheus, molded an image of the gods from a clump of earth that had been newly separated from the ether and thus still retained some divine qualities. Whoever created man, this new being was made to stand erect with his eyes directed toward heaven and the stars, unlike other animals who hang their heads and gaze toward the ground.

3. Of old was the age | when Ymir lived;
Sea nor cool waves | nor sand there were;
Earth had not been, | nor heaven above,
But a yawning gap, | and grass nowhere.

4. Then Bur's sons lifted | the level land,
Mithgarth the mighty | there they made;
The sun from the south | warmed the stones of earth,
And green was the ground | with growing leeks.

5. The sun, the sister | of the moon, from the south
Her right hand cast | over heaven's rim;
No knowledge she had | where her home should be,
The moon knew not | what might was his,
The stars knew not | where their stations were.
THE POETIC EDDA - VOLUSPO (Trans. Henry Adams Bellows)

The World has many creation myths, and the actual story of creation known to the players in S&W: OB will be highly dependent on the Game Master's campaign setting and goals. The myth will vary based on the nature of divinity; is there one true god? Is there one god with many servants or angels? Is there a polytheistic Pantheon? Are there no Gods, at least as we popularly define them?

The Great Chain of Being

Whatever the actual origins of the world (it may be appropriate to the setting to have several competing cults with different explanations!), one thing is certain. The established authorities generally like how things work now. Theologians and philosophers have created an intellectual framework to justify the racking and stacking of all creation known as the Great Chain of Being, and what a surprise -- kings are at the top! Imagine it as a ladder, with each part of creation occupying a discrete rung that is higher (closer to Heaven) or lower (further from Heaven).

In a nutshell:
Scala Naturæ:
Stars and the moon
King, prince, noble men,
lion, other animals
oak, gold, and other minerals

One can imagine the broad steps in the scale as being:
MINERALS - Add the Quality of Existence
PLANTS - Possess the Quality of Life
ANIMALS - Possess Existence, Life, and a new quality -- Appetites and Passions
MEN - Add Reason
HEAVENS - Add Divinity, with God & his Angels being above Devils (rebellious Angels)

Each step is subdivided as is suggested above; gold is more noble than coal; oaks are closer to the gods than thorn bushes; lions are the king of all animals.

Relationship to the Languages & Elements

One can view the "proper" arrangement of things, in a simple model suitable for game terms, as a Pentagram.

At the peak of the Pentagram, the Aether has been placed. This is the golden light of Heaven.

The top two points of the Pentagram are Air and Fire. Air is close to heaven; the gods literally breathed life into man, after all. And Fire has long been a symbol for intellect and reason and virtue.

The bottom two points are Earth and Water. Earth represents base, materialistic desires. Water is passive and reactive.

A circle circumscribed around the pentagram might represent nature (our "Lingua Rustica"). Nature binds together all of the elements and creatures of creation in the rightful ordering of things. Entropy is not even mentioned, as such weak passions and base desires lie outside the perfect circle of nature.

This represents the interdependence and hierarchy of the traditional medieval economic classes, leading to an authentic feel and flavor for the campaign. But it can equally well represent the balance of power in global geopolitics (north vs. south, etc) or the potency of various mythical creatures.

Enter Alignment

"The Courtier disdaineth the citizen;
The citizen the countryman;
the shoemaker the cobbler.
But unfortunate is the man who does not have anyone he can look down upon."
~ Tomas Nash, 1593

LAWFUL characters believe in the Great Chain of Being, and accept that things are generally in their proper places. The Pentagram has been drawn properly. Kings give orders to Knights, because Kings are closer to Heaven. Lions are more noble than hyenas. The Undead are a blasphemy, for they possess existence like a mineral, and appetites like an animal, but lack life. Likewise, Barbarians that attempt to usurp the legitimate authority of Rulers are perverting the natural order of things as well.

That is not to say that Law means Tyranny. To be a just king, a king must govern in accordance with the Mandate of Heaven. This is a broad Mandate, but depending on the setting and the pantheon, it may be possible for the Gods to revoke the King's Divine Right to Rule. Alternatively, while regicide is a terrible sin, some might allow rulers to be challenged in accordance with the ancient laws and traditions. Likewise, ancient tradition may even provide for a Republican form of government, or an empire. The point is that Lawful characters will support the idea that the established hierarchy is legitimate, and give superiors wide latitude within the bounds of tradition.

Also, Law doesn't mean stagnation. An illegitimate warlord can be toppled from the throne. A barbarian prince has no right to rule. Mystical creatures such as Dragons might rightfully be lumped in by civilized authorities as mere animals controlled by their passions, ensuring that there are a steady stream of external foes to conquer.

CHAOTIC characters believe that the Great Chain of Being has been somehow misordered. Orcs belong atop Humans. Devils rightfully usurp the Angels. The Giants rightfully belong in Valhalla, not those pissant Gods. Slimes, molds, and oozes should be placed above the oak. Kings have no rightful authority to rule, at least no more than any cobbler, or knight, or warlord... or, say, why can't I be the king?

To go back to our Pentagram analogy, a mild chaotic might simply desire to switch the place of Air/Fire with Water/Earth (a Dwarf might certainly agree!). One could envision a world where an alliance of creative freemen and artisans (representing traditional "Fire" interests) band together with wealthy peasant merchants and traders ("Earth" interests) to usurp "Air;" one might expect the landed nobility to be upset about this! A strong Chaotic might seek to invert the Pentagram; i.e., to eliminate Aether altogether and replace it with Barbarism or darkness.

This is not necessarily evil. After all, Liberty, Fraternity, and Equality were the goals of the French revolution. The Blood of Patriots is necessary to refresh the Tree of Liberty from time to time. However, there is a very real danger of excess in Chaos.

Chaos is disruptive because it violates the established hierarchy. Once precedent has been set, it is difficult to protect one's own position; once the Devils depose the Angels, who is to stop the Demons from deposing the Devils? Chaotic groups have difficulty maintaining cohesion. Additionally, lawful authorities see the Chaotic view as disturbing at best and heresy at worst. Many chaotic organizations are discouraged, suppressed, or ruthlessly eliminated.

The Game Master will need to decide if his world has already had an Oliver Cromwell or French Revolution, and if so, what the consequences have been. The default assumption is that such ideas are buried not so deeply below the surface; a small but growing group of wealthy middle-class freemen is rising out of the peasantry, guilds are powerful and wield increasing influence, and the "third estate" is starting to question why they must follow the edicts of the privileged elite. The established authorities will not hesitate to burn a few heretics if they step out of line too far, but a limited degree of dissent within the system might be tolerated.

NEUTRAL characters are indifferent. The concerns of angels and devils are not their affair. They don't want to be caught up in Revolution. They just go about their business; they will support the establishment if doing so seems easier, but will not be opposed to some revolution if their personal interests look like they will be protected. A neutral character might quietly agree that some rulers are despots that should step down; they might decline to actively support the institution; but they are unlikely to join in open rebellion against it, either.

Note that in this conception of alignment, there is no concept of Active Neutrality. Either you think things are basically correct, or they are not. Either Thor should be feasting in Valhalla, or the Giants should be. Trying to play the Gods against the Giants so that neither grows too powerful would be chaotic in and of itself, because it denies the Gods their "rightful" place by tradition.

This default system is strongly grounded in Western thought; informed heavily by Greco-Roman tradition as well as Judeo-Christian philosophy. However, it is flexible to adopt alternative worldviews. Reincarnation can be seen as just moving up or down the chain; the fundamental issue is whether one agrees with how things are arranged, or not.

Moving off the Chart

The DM should consider if this worldview can be rejected altogether, and if so, what the consequences of that are. What if an individual believes in Partial Equality, within broad classes; that is, all plants are equally distant from heaven, and all men of reason are equally close? What about the more radical idea of ABSOLUTE EQUALITY: that is, the idea that an oak tree is just as close to Heaven as a lion, or a King? Or, one might find a dragon cult supporting the Golden Rule (i.e., the one with the most gold makes the rules). One need not look further than a comparative religion text to find competing worldviews.

Going back to our Pentagram worldview model, this means that one wants to shatter the Pentagram altogether. Perhaps it is just a circle (nature) with all elements coexisting at equal distances from Aether. Perhaps it is a triangle, with one of the elements being destroyed utterly, creating a new balance. Maybe one wants to break the circle of Nature that binds the system together; even altruistic goals like staving off death might unintentionally break the grip of natural processes on the world, leading to an imbalance.

These worldviews could be off-limits for Player Characters. Or, they could be permissible. In any event, unless (or perhaps, especially if!) the campaign is explicitly intended to explore such themes, it may be safest to rule that such thoughts are pushed by a lunatic fringe minority seen as dangerous by both chaotic and lawful powers, and that such dangerous heretics are actively suppressed by chaotic and lawful powers. After all, our believer in Absolute Equality would no more support the Devils ruling over the firmament than the Angels; both are illegitimate in the eyes of our cosmic democrat. Likewise, the Merchants might want to bump the nobles out of their privileged place, but they don't want to see the pentagram become a triangle.

More on Language

There are seven main languages:

This chart summarizes the main languages and their associations:


AETHERIS Aether Ad Astra Angels Universities Barbari
BARBARI Chaos Ad Avernus Orcs, Demons Outsiders Aetheris
RUSTICA --- --- Dryads, Treants Commoners ---
AERIS Air East Fey, Elves, Sylphs Politics Terrae
IGNIS Fire South Titans, Salamanders Urban Mid. Class Aquae
TERRAE Earth West Dwarves, Goblins Merchants/Trade Aeris
AQUAE Water North Merfolk, Undines Monastics Ignis

The Major Tongues

The Lingua Rustica, or common tongue, is the day-to-day language of most people in the known world. It is a versatile yet simple language with a strong emphasis on vocabulary that is useful for describing common activities in a predominantly agricultural society.

Lingua Rustica is said by reputable scholars to be derived from Lingua Aetheris, also known as the High Tongue. The Lingua Aetheris is sometimes described as a language of light. With a rich and diverse vocabulary, it is the preferred language of lawful philosophers, clergy, and poets. Within the civilized world, it is often called the "True" Tongue, a Lingua Veritatis.

Lingua Barbari, or the Low Tongue, is diametrically opposed to the Lingua Aetheris; if Lingua Aetheris is a language of civilization, then the Low Tongue is a language of chaos tinged with darkness. Linguistically, it is a vulgar variant of the Lingua Rustica, mixed with foreign words from beyond the civilized realm. Foreigners from outside the civilized world often speak Barbari, and it is rumored that fell creatures perform obscene rites in this tongue. Thieves and others on the margins of civilized society are wont to use it as a sort of cant. It is a common rumor that Lingua Rustica is really derived from the Low Tongue, rather than Lingua Aetheris, but learned sages have thoroughly disproven this absurd notion.

The Minor Tongues

The other four languages are tied to the classical elements and the four corners of the world. Their origin is unclear; some say that the Gods themselves taught their chosen people these tongues as a gift, but others see it as more of a curse. Others say that they are further corruptions of Lingua Rustica; dissenting scholars argue that Lingua Aetheris is itself a derivation of one or all of the four classical languages. In the known world, these languages are spoken by peoples of distant lands and by groups of mythical creatures; they have also been adopted by certain institutions and guilds as common languages due to tradition or utility.

Lingua Terrae, the language of Earth, has a detailed vocabulary for discussing minerals, stones, and other such solid materialistic topics. It is spoken as the vernacular in the Western Wildlands. Additionally, it is used by the Stoneborn: Dwarves, Goblins, and others who dwell beneath the mountains. It is said that Terrae is the native tongue of Gnomes from the realm of primordial Earth. Finally, it is a trade tongue, the language of merchants and commerce.

Lingua Aeris, the language of Air, is as different from Terrae as can be imagined. Whereas Terrae is weighty and definitive, Aeris is flighty and flexible. Most words have multiple meanings and it is possible to interpret a simple statement in a myriad of ways. Fey creatures such as the Elves and Fairies are known to use Aeris, as are Sylphs from the realm of Elemental Air. It is the vernacular in the Far East. Not surprisingly, Aeris has become the language of choice for politics and diplomacy; nobles, ambassadors, and barristers find the flexibility of its terms to be of great use.

Lingua Aquae, the language of Water, is a tongue with many contrasting dialects and users -- it is a language as inconsistent as the sea itself. On one hand, a dialect strongly tinged with Lingua Barbari is spoken widely in the lands of the Frozen North, which are said to be overrun with wild savages. On the other hand, there is a strong tradition of monastics and gnostics who craft calm and thoughtful poetry in the language's gently flowing verses. Meanings of words tend to be deep and nuanced, and both the monastics and the barbarians believe that a good story worth telling is worth taking time to tell properly. Lingua Aquae is rumored to be spoken by the Merfolk as well as by Undines from the elemental realm of Water.

Lingua Ignis, the language of fire, is opposed to the Lingua Aquae. Whereas Lingua Aquae is flowing and has many complex shades of meaning, Lingua Ignis is direct and forceful. Poets have called it the Tongue of the Unbound, and it is rumored that the Titans who taught man the secret of Fire also shared this language. Many giants and ogres speak it today. Of course, creatures from the primordial realm of Fire such as Salamanders are known to use its lashing and aggressive cadences. Peoples of the Burning South use this tongue. It has been adopted by several Arcane Guilds as a useful tongue for clearly expressing potent magical principles; it is also used as a language of creativity by innovators and artists who complain that Lingua Aetheris is too stodgy and formal. Many of the newly rising urbanized middle class -- still considered to be upstart peasants by the entrenched nobility -- speak Lingua Ignis.


It is important to remember that each language has sub-dialects, often tinged with other influences. For example, there are reports of savages in the jungles to the south who practice human sacrifice; these savages are said to speak Lingua Ignis, heavily mixed with that of Barbari. Other reports tell of a tribe of merchant nomads who live in the deserts, also to the south; merchants report that these nomads speak a combination of Lingua Ignis and Lingua Terrae.

It is theorized that the orientation of the heavens has a significant role to play in one's language aptitude. Astrologers claim that those born under the sign of Aquarious, for example, have shown a tendency to master Lingua Aquae. These individuals, they claim, are predisposed to be of a phlegmatic temperament.

Other philosophers dispute this, and claim that the languages one speaks have no relationship to their character or personality. For example, while Barbari is often spoken by criminals and vagabonds, it is also spoken by Constables and Inquisitors who are sanctioned by civil and clerical law to root out corruption. As another example, while most traders are familiar with Lingua Terrae, fluency is not necessarily required to reach the highest ranks in most merchant's guilds. It is not necessary to be fluent in the intricacies of Aetheris to become part of the Clergy.


All player characters begin play fluent in Lingua Rustica for free. Non-player characters and monsters are fluent in whatever language is most common in their area (which may or may not be Rustica!).

HOUSE RULE: If all players in the group decide to use another language as their common bond, the DM may allow them to learn that language for free; for example, if they are all playing tribesmen from the Southern Deserts, then all might speak Lingua Ignis. This might cause problems when the players reach civilized lands...

Fluency: All characters can gain fluency with 1 +/- INT MOD additional languages. Fluency means that the character can clearly understand the speech as well as read and write it. If this value is 0 due to an INT penalty, no additional languages may be taken. If this value is -1 due to a severe INT penalty, then the character may speak "pidgin" Rustica only. Finally, if the value is -2 due to a crippling INT penalty, the character cannot read at all and has a very limited vocabulary.

Pidgin Languages: A pidgin language is a simple form of communication oriented at getting key concepts across. A pidgin language allows for simple oral and extremely basic written communication, but no other benefits are gained. The user does not know Words of Power, does not gain any saving throw bonuses, and does not gain any other mechanical benefit. In fact, all social checks are at -1DP (-3 on a D20) when using Pidgin languages due to the crude quality of communications. One learns pidgin languages in one of several ways:

- Having an appropriate background. If the character is a demihuman or foreigner, then they may speak their native tongue with "pidgin" proficiency in addition to Lingua Rustica. For some reason the metaphysical benefits of their native language deserted them when they left the clan, forest, or other domain. For example, a dwarf with -1 INT may still speak Rustica and Pidgin Terrae, although he gains none of the benefits normally associated with Terrae.
- In the course of gameplay.
- By using a spell.
- By having an interpreter (follower, henchman, or fellow PC) who is fluent in the target language present.

Check bonus: Characters gain a +1DP (or +2 on a D20) when making saving throws against effects related to a language they are fluent in, or their language's opposed partner. For example, a priest fluent in Aetheris gains +1DP on saves against both a Demon's fearful gaze and an Angel's overwhelming radiance. This bonus only applies for fluent characters, not for those who speak Pidgin quality language only.

Words of Power: If a character has INT prime, then they are able to master and use unique Power Words from their language when weaving arcane spells.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

ABILITY SCORES: Intelligence

I've been thinking about what to do with Intelligence -- what should it modify? INT is the hallmark of Arcane characters in my hack. So it should tie into magic somehow.

Here's my brainstorm list:

LANGUAGES 4 +/- INT (Problem: An average Joe speaks four languages. Unless you make them spend an extra slot for literacy, and now we're getting complicated)
LANGUAGES 1 +/- INT (Problem: What happens when someone has a -1 MOD? I assume they are illiterate...)
NON WEAPON PROFS 4 +/- INT (Problem: Now we need a NWP system; also, it assumes that smart people are good at a wider breadth of skills than non-smart people)
POWER WORDS 1 +/- INT (I really like this idea; like Henchmen, Power Words are a bit of Arcane dabbling that you either are interested in, or you're not, so 1 +/- MOD makes a lot of sense)
LIBERAL ARTS 1 to 4 +/- INT (Allow someone to select liberal arts subjects that they have mastered, base number drives average level of education in the setting)

Here's my current idea: Combine Languages with Power Words. There are seven tongues, each of which is associated with one of the Words of Power. Each of the languages may have several dialects (for example, "Terram" is spoken differently by Dwarves, Goblins, and Gnomes, but they all understand each other well enough).

- Mythical Creatures: Tongue of the Stoneborn (Dwarves, Goblins)
- Primordial Element: Earth (Gnomes)
- Peoples: Peoples of the Western Wildlands (Pseudo-Americas)
- Institutions: Merchants and Commerce
- Opposed: By Air

- Mythical Creatures: Tongue of the Merfolk (Mermaids, Nymphs, Sahauguin)
- Primordial Element: Water (Undines)
- Peoples: Of the Frozen North (pseudo-Europe or Scandinavia)
- Institutions: Monastic Orders
- Opposed: By Fire

- Mythical Creatures: Tongue of the Unbound (Titans, many giants/ogres, many dragons, and their ilk)
- Primordial Element: Fire (Salamanders)
- Peoples: Peoples of the Burning South (pseudo-Africa and/or South America and/or Arabia)
- Institutions: Mages; creative and willful artists or inventors or innovators
- Opposed: By Water

- Mythical Creatures: Tongue of the Fey (Elves, Fairies, etc)
- Primordial Element: Air (Sylphs)
- Peoples: Peoples of the Far East (pseudo-Asia/Oceania)
- Institutions: Secular Politics
- Opposed: By Earth

- Mythical Creatures: Dryads, Treeants
- Primordial Element: Life & Plants
- Peoples: Common Lingua Franca of the Civilized and Central Regions
- Institutions: Agriculture and Daily Life
- Opposed: By Nothing; the Base Vulgar and High Words are both linguistically similar to the Old Tongue, however

- Mythical Creatures: Tongue of Darkness (Undead, Demons, Devils, Orcs)
- Primordial Element: Animals, passions
- Peoples: Outsiders to civil society, such as thieves, criminals, barbaric savages
- Institutions: Chaotic Churches of Darkness, Some Thieve's Guilds, Assassin's Guilds
- Opposed: By Aether

- Mythical Creatures: Language of Aether (Angels)
- Primordial Element: Reason & Divinity
- Peoples: Sages, intellectuals, clergy
- Institutions: Lawful Churches of Light, Universities
- Opposed: By Entropy

So, now, a Magic-User who specializes in aggressive fire magic will be able to speak with the orcs, hobgoblins, members of the Southern Jungle Tribes, and such. A hedge wizard who uses a lot of Air-based illusions will communicate easily with the Fey. A Swashbuckler who knows the language of Terra will be able to work closely with Dwarves. A Swashbuckler who knows Barbarus might be in good with the local thieve's guild.

Power Words could give a +1 to your dice pool for saving throws against effects related to (or opposed to) the element; so, even non-arcane casters get a benefit from being brainy. Are you from the Frozen North? Learn Water, so that you can get a +1DP vs. Cold (and maybe +1 vs. Fire, too). Are you an adherent of the Church of Light? Learn Aether so that you can get +1 DP vs. Entropic Undead or Demons. Plus, you can interact effectively with more monsters and denizens of the world.

Here's another neat tie in to the Great Chain of Being:
Four classical elemental tongues = Minerals (they are the building blocks of everything; the elements exist, and nothing more)
The Old Tongue = Tongue of Life (plants)
The Entropic Tongue = Tongue of Appetites (animals)
The Tongue of Aether = Tongue of Reason (man & divinity)

This implies several nice linguistic cosmologies, but there are many ways that one could interpret the true relationship of all these elements and how they came to be. In other words, it is ambiguous, and deliberately so. Ambiguity allows for conflict.

CALENDAR: Weekly time units

Keeping a campaign calendar is always a drag. I don't know about you but I always feel that it needs to be done, but its obnoxious as heck to track everything. Especially when the party goes into "dungeon time," i.e., the treadmill of sleeping for 16 hours to rest and prep spells and then kicking in a door and calling it a (15 minute) day.

Plus, when you come up with your own campaign calendar (I've used the Greyhawk one, myself) then it always has problems, namely that nobody really knows exactly what each month is called, or what the names are etc.

The quick off the cuff idea: Reduce the granularity!

At the end of each session/quest/break point, think about how many days have passed (roughly, if necessary), or how many times the party has slept to rest. Then, roll 1d6. If the number on the die is less than the number of days you think have passed, mark off a week.

Sometimes a whole week will pass in what felt like a day. A feeling of time distortion is one of the dangers in exploring strange dungeons.

I think it'd be much easier to just mark off weeks as the basic units of time for tracking operational campaigns rather than tracking each and every day.

More ponderings on units of measure

This afternoon I thought a bit more about units of measure.

I really want a system that captures the flavor and utility of customary units (maybe I'm a geek, but I think its darn handy that a league is how far you can walk in an hour, and a stone being the amount of weight you first notice). However, I also want the ease of use that comes with modern notions of measurement.

Then, I realized -- the King of England, on several occasions, changed systems of measurement by decree. As a game designer, I can do the same. You lose historical accuracy, and people will DEFINITELY not be familiar with the new system (whereas some might be familiar with pounds, ounces, etc), but you can potentially gain significantly in ease of use.

I want something that is close enough to historical values that you can approximate game figures using real world gouge. Specifically, I want a monetary system and a unit of measurement where 1 oz = 1 shilling, and X ozs = X shillings = 1 pound = 1 pound sterling.

Here's a few thoughts on Base numbers:

BASE 10 - Very easy to use, a la the metric system. Divisible by 2 and 5. The bad thing is that it feels very modern.
BASE 12 - Many customary systems use this (12" to a foot, 12 ozs to a Troy pound, 12 pennies to a shilling, etc), and for good reason: Its easily divisible by 2 (1/6), 4 (1/3), and 6 (1/2). That's perfect for measuring, which often involves grouping and splitting objects.
BASE 14 - Used for Stones. Divisible by 2 (1/7) and 7 (1/2).
BASE 15 - Used for the London Mercantile Pound for awhile. Almost as easy to use as base 10. Divisible by 3 (1/5) and 5 (1/3). It also splits the difference between Base 12 and 16 systems.
BASE 16 - Another common number in Customary systems (16 ozs to a standard pound). Likely because it is divisible by 2 (1/8), 4 (1/4), and 8 (1/2)

How would a system modeled on the defunct London Mercantile Pound look?

First, weights:
1 London Pound = 15 oz troy = 16 oz tower = 7200 gr ≈ 466.6 g (Slightly more than a avdp pound, which is what everyone thinks of when they think of weights; slightly more than a troy pound, which is what money is measured in)
1 Clove = 5 London Pounds (in reality, was close to 7 avdp lbs)
1 Stone = 3 Cloves (in reality, a a stone was 2 cloves / 12-16 avdp lbs, officially 14 lbs)
1 Quarter = 2 Stone
etc on up

Now, Money:
15 silver pence = 1 silver shilling
1 silver shilling = 1 oz troy
15 silver shillings = 1 Pound Sterling = 1 London Pound (this slightly inflates the value of the shilling; historically, it was 20 shillings to the pound sterling)
225 silver shillings = 15 pounds sterling = 3 cloves = 1 stone of money

Gold historically was worth about 25 times more than silver. Let's devalue it so we can stick with the Base 15.

1 Gold Sovereign = 1 Pound Sterling in value = 1 oz in weight
15 gold sovereigns = 15 pounds sterling in value = 1 London Pound in weight

I think I did all that correctly... I don't know if its any more workable, but it is interesting to think about.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

ECONOMY: More Costs for Gear

First, here's a chart that explains some medieval prices from some legit-looking sources:

I appreciate realism IF it can be made to square with rules. In a game, gameplay needs to be king. But, when things square up (as they do so nicely with the STONE enc system), I like to give a strong nod to historical flavor (dare I say accuracy?) when possible.

So, here are the makings of a fundamental game economy, grounded in real world history, but tempered by game realities.


1 TROY POUND (12 ounces of mass) OF STERLING SILVER (L) =
1 SILVER SHILLING (s) = 1/20 pound sterling value = 4/5 troy ounce weight
1 SILVER PENNY or PENCE (d) = 1/240 pound sterling value

1 GOLD NOBLE COIN = 1/3 pound sterling in value = ~1/4 troy ounce weight

1 GOLD SOVEREIGN COIN = 1 pound sterling in value = 1/2 troy ounce weight

1 GOLD BAR = 800 pounds sterling in value = 400 troy ounce weight

1 QUID = 1 pound sterling in value = negligible weight (paper money)

N.B. the variation in weights for gold coins is due to differing purities. 1 pound sterling worth of nobles weighed 3/4 oz; in Sovereigns it weighed 1/2 oz.

Thus, 1 troy pound worth of silver was worth 1 pound sterling; 1 troy pound of gold sovereign coins was worth 24 pounds sterling! And actually, gold was worth more than silver, so the sovereigns often became worth 25 pounds in actual purchasing power. Gold was thus worth about 25 times more than silver.


Coins larger than a pound sterling in value were rare. There was some commemorative bullion struck but generally was not intended for popular circulation. By the 1600s, there existed coins worth 5 pounds, but they seem to have been rare. Gold bars weigh about 2 stone (a "quarter"), so that would be one way of transporting large wealth (a 400 oz gold bar weighing two stone is worth 800 pounds sterling!). As we will see shortly, 800 pounds sterling is more than the annual budget of a well-to-do baron -- it is a fantastic sum of money. Also, gems and jewelry are compact and valuable. Magic might be valuable and portable. Also, superior equipment (fine war horses, full plate mail, etc) is very expensive.

But, in general, I do not want obscene wealth to be easily portable. Players should be encouraged to sink money into what people historically did: landed holdings, retainers, donations to worthy institutions, and so on. This is because it enhances the player's investment in the game world.


Here are some English Medieval incomes to put things in perspective (annual/daily):
Laborer - L2 / 1d
Chantry Priest - L4.5 / 3d
Skilled Laborer (weaver, carpenter, thatcher, etc) - L8 / 4d
Skilled Armorer - L16 / ~1s
Man-At-Arms - L18 / 1s
Knight - L36 / 2s
Knight Banneret - L73 / 4s
Barons - L200-500 / ~L1 (N.B.: Traditional AD&D name level characters are roughly Barons)
Earls - L400-11,000 / L1-30
The Crown - L30,000 / L82

This isn't the full story, as many laborers received some food or board (payment in-kind). However, we start to get the sense of proportions. The vast majority of people would use pence for their day-to-day transactions; a commoner might make 1-4 pence every day, and one pence has the same purchasing power of about $2.50 USD today. You might spend a pence to get a cheap meal (two chickens were the Happy Meal of 1400!) or a pint of ale. A shilling was a sizable sum of money, perhaps equivalent to $30 today. And a pound would be a large sum of cash, $600 in purchasing power. So, for an adventurer to go and drop a few shillings as a tip at the pub is like slapping down a wad of twenty dollar bills at a bar today!

Note that most people had less purchasing power in 1400 then they do today; a pound is worth about $5000 using average earnings (rather than consumer price indexes for purchasing power), so that laborer making 2 pounds/year is banking about $10K. Today we would say that someone making $10K a year in England or the US is quite poor; but life sucked back then. Here's a cool calculator for getting a sense of prices:


In England in 1181, freemen having goods worth over L6.5 were required to have a mail shirt, helm, and spear (other free men substituted quilted armor for the mail shirt). By the 13th century, anyone with income over L2-5 were required to have bows. Going with the cost of mail given below, that means that either the figures below are inflated a bit, or that enforcement of the arms & armor rule was less than 100% (very likely).


A dowry was supposed to be starting out money for a new family (among other things). It might be inherited by a son of the marriage, as well. Thus, it seems reasonable that a starting adventurer might have about as much money as a laborer's dowry. That ranges from 10-60 shillings (0.5 - 3 pounds).

What can one purchase for that sum? Likely, a shield, some poor armor (or rented high quality armor), a helm, some simple weapons, and other essentials.

What's the bottom line:
- To come close to modeling a medieval economy, Tier 0 (zero level types) folks need to make a few pennies each day. Tier 1 (level 1-4) types make 1-4 shillings/day. Tier 2 would likely be ~10 shillings/day. Tier 3 (name level) types make L1-4/day. Tier 4 (above name level; Earls) make up to L30/day. And Tier 5 (Kings of the mightiest known nations) make L100/day. A pile of 500 gold pounds is a sum equal to a Baron's annual budget! And a Dragon's hoard with thousands or tens of thousands of coins is the Crown's annual budget!
- Prices varied widely. However, if you could afford a few cows or a horse, you could likely afford a sword, too. So, high quality swords were likely a few pounds. Chain Mail was very expensive, being equal in price to a year's labor for a skilled laborer, so most soldiers just starting out had lower quality armor and would not be above either renting higher quality protection, looting the dead, or accepting service of a more powerful lord who would equip them.
- This suggests that the base unit should be a shilling. Its likely not worth tracking things in Pence, as that will just be obnoxious as all get out. For items that cost <1 style="font-weight: bold;">Here's some quotes from an above index:
Craftsman's Tabard & Tunic: 3 shilling
Leather or Quilted Armor: 5 shillings
Helm: 3-5 shillings
Shield: 20-30 shillings
Chain Mail: 5 pounds
Squire's Armor: 5-7 pounds
Full Plate Milanese Armor: 8 pounds/6 shillings
Renting armor for a campaign was possible; costs were high though, one could expect to pay 25% of the value of the armor for a single campaign.

Peasant's Sword: 6 pence (1/2 shilling)
Wood Axe: 6 pence (1/2 shilling)

Cottage (1 bay/2 stories): 2 pounds (or 5 shilling/year rent)
Craftsman's House (shop, work area, room for workers, 2-3 bays, tile roof): 10-15 pounds (20 shilling/year rent)
Stone Gatehouse 40' x 18': 30 pounds
Merchant's House: 33-66 pounds
House with Courtyard: 90+ pounds
Guild Hall: 136 pounds
Stone Church: 113 pounds
Tower for Castle: 333 pounds
Castle & College: 450 pounds/year for 13 years

University or Monastary Education: 2L/year tuition (minimum) + 5L/year board + books
1 Book: ~1L
Month of Fencing Lessons: 10s/month

Work Horse: 10-20s
High quality riding horse: 10L
Knight's 2 Horses: 10L
War Horse: 50s - 80L

CLASS: Means, Ends, and Strategies

I recently read an interesting passage in one of my books for grad school. It had a useful way of defining strategy; To briefly paraphrase, strategy is the concept that informs how one uses means to attain ends.

In light of that, here is a way of looking at my 9-class structure and how it ties in to ability scores.

ENDS: Right now, all characters have pretty much the same ends.
  • Likely, a lot of Conan-style Swords & Sorcery: Loot, experience, and a bit of acclaim.
  • Characters also want to get magic.
  • Finally, some roleplayers might support their alignment's goals or goals of an NPC or organization.
MEANS: These are the tools a character has at their disposal.
  • CON: Lots of durability and a wide variety of weapons
  • INT: Arcane magic
  • DIV: Faith and divine magic
STRATEGIES: These are the methods that a player employs his means to achieve his ends.
  • STR: Exploit superiority in melee combat; carry the right tool for the job
  • DEX: Exploit superior maneuver to gain an advantage
  • CHA: Exploit followers to gain an advantage
For example, a CHA + INT Sorcerer/Beguiler uses Arcane Magic (the means) to gather, direct, and inspire followers (whether those followers be awed peasants, enchanted thralls, summoned or conjured creatures, a familiar, etc).

A STR + CON Warrior uses his durability in combat and wide variety of arms, armor, and equipment to achieve superiority in melee. A STR + WIS paladin uses a similar strategy, but different means; instead of the phenomenal durability and wide variety of weapons of a Warrior, the paladin has his god's faith.

Lamp Oil, Torches, & Rations


Tonight, I decided to research just how long lamp oil burns.

Turns out that 1 pint of lamp oil burns for about 40 hours in an oil lamp (according to some survivalist groups that I found who actually burn this stuff on a regular basis). Also, oil weighs roughly 1 lb per pint. Actually, it weighs a bit less -- water is a pound per pint, so 1 pint of lamp oil weighs 0.786 lbs, according to Australia; but we're rounding, here. Let's figure that adventurer spill a bit of oil now and then, or their high-beam Adventurer Bullseye Lanterns burn a bit more than an oil lamp does, or medieval lamp oil was a bit less refined and energy packed than modern lamp oil.

1 pint = 1 lb = 40 hours
1 stone = ~15 lbs = 15 pints = ~600 hours = 25 days
1/3 stone = ~5 lbs = 5 pints = ~200 hours = 8.3 days
1/6 stone = ~2.5 lbs = 2.5 pints = ~100 hours = 4.16 days of continuous use

So, its reasonable to say that 1/6 of a stone of lamp oil (about 3 pints) might last for a week of dungeon exploration, assuming its not being burned 24/7.



A primitive light source researcher found that he could build a torch that lasted for 2 hours.


Close enough. I'd let it double as a club, because fire + hitting things... that's just cool.


Modern military MREs weigh about 12 meals/stone. They aren't the lightest field rations out there, but they have the benefit of modern technology; I'm guessing that hard tack and dried fruits and beef jerky probably were bulkier for the same calorie count. You can really get by on 1-2 MREs/day, so let's say that one stone of MREs gets you 6 days of chow.

Easy: 1 stone = 1 week of rations


That doesn't include water, which is much heavier. For survival you need 4-6 pints of water per day. If active, you need much more. So factoring in water, we get 6 pints (6 lbs) of water + 2.5 lbs of food = ~9 lbs/day.



That heavy duty rope you climbed in elementary school PE class (remember how embarrassing it was? I bet you do if you're reading this blog) weighs almost 1 lb per foot.

A modern climbing rope weighs 0.15 lb per foot.

A cheap manila rope that can hold 2380 lbs of weight (1/2" thick -- not that much when you remember that F=MA, so 200 lbs of person falling at 125 mph terminal velocity will have a lot of force!) is 0.075 lb per foot. A 1" thick rope is 0.27 lb per foot.

So, our notorious 50' of rope spool (adventuring essential) weighs in at 3.75 for the cheap manila, 7.5 lbs for the modern climbing rope, 13.5 lbs for the 1" manila, and 37.5 lbs for the old-school PE rope.

I think that if your adventurers expect climbing quality rope, it should be a STONE. In a dungeon, old school rope wouldn't hold up well. There'd be problems with rot, it'd be easily damaged from any sort of fall or sudden addition of weight (they didn't have dynamic ropes back then), it would generally kind of suck. So, making them check for degradation every time they use it is likely wise.

Silk rope would be superior rope that has an extra die or two for consumption purposes. I'd restrict super light weight "elvish rope" or somesuch (1/3 stone) to be a special, rare, perhaps even magical item. After all, even our modern nylon climbing rope weighs 1/2 a stone!


Monday, May 4, 2009

WOUNDS: Variable Weapon Damage

This is a mini-research project to see how quickly monsters die, at relatively low levels when damage output is pretty stable.

Low damage weapon: Dagger (2.5)
Mid damage weapon: Longsword (4.5/6.5)
High damage weapon: 2H Sword (5.5/10.5)

TIER 0 MONSTER: Goblin (1-1 HD - 3.5 HP)
- Survives 1.4 hits against the dagger
- Survives 0.77 hits against the longsword
- Survives 0.64 hits against the zweihander

TIER 1 MONSTER: Hobgoblin (1+1 HD - 5.5 HP)
- Survives 2.2 hits against the dagger
- Survives 1.22 hits against the longsword
- Survives 1 hits against the zweihander

TIER 2 MONSTER: Ogre (4 HD - 18 HP)
- Survives 7.2 / 9 hits against the dagger
- Survives 4 /2.77 hits against the longsword
- Survives 3.27 / 1.7 hits against the zweihander

Low damage weapon: Dagger (2.5)
Mid damage weapon: Longsword (3.5)
High damage weapon: Halberd (4.5)

TIER 0 MONSTER: Goblin (1-1 HD - 2.5 HP)
- Survives 1 hits against the dagger
- Survives 0.71 hits against the longsword
- Survives 0.55 hits against the zweihander

TIER 1 MONSTER: Hobgoblin (1+1 HD - 4.5 HP)
- Survives 1.8 hits against the dagger
- Survives 1.29 hits against the longsword
- Survives 1 hits against the zweihander

TIER 2 MONSTER: Ogre (4+1 HD - 15 HP)
- Survives 6 hits against the dagger
- Survives 4.29 hits against the longsword
- Survives 3.33 hits against the zweihander


Before you take into account the massive damage escalation from special damage vs. large critters, two handed weapons end up killing monsters almost twice as fast as low-damage light weapons. One handed weapons fill in towards the middle.

A monster of a tier lower than you can be reliably one-shotted by your weakest weapon. A monster of a tier equal to you can be reliably one-shotted by your strongest weapon. And a monster of the tier higher than you won't be one shotted at all.

That's about all I want to do right now, as I'm a bit loopy on mefloquin + sleeping pills. :)

CLASS: Weapon Proficiencies

I've been wrestling with how to hand out weapon proficiencies (or even if to call them that). I want them to be tied to Attributes/Ability Scores in some manner for the sake of consistency. But I also have a certain result I am shooting for (wizards not running around with broadswords, etc).

This is what I have right now:

Weapons are broken into three broad categories: Basic, Simple, and Martial. Note than any given weapon type may represent quite a few different actual weapons, depending on the milleu. A one-handed single-edged blade could be a machete (cutting through tropical jungles), a German messer (pseudo-medieval Europe), or a Scimitar (psuedo-Arabian Nights).

Clubs & Staves (Lt Club, 1H Staff, 2H Quarterstaff)
Single Edged Blades (Lt Daggers)
Slings (Lt Slingshot, 1H Sling, 2H Staff-Sling) - Maybe
Unarmed (1H Pummeling)

Maces (Lt Horseman's Mace, 1H Footman's Mace, 2H Heavy Mace)
Single Edged Blades (1H Machete/Scimitar/Messer, 2H Voulge/Bill/Glaive/Bardiche)
Spears (Lt Short Spear/Dart, 1H Spear/Javelin, 2H Longspear/Pilum)
Crossbows (1H Crossbow, 2H Arbalest)
Unarmed (Lt Sparring, 2H Boxing)

Hammers (Lt Throwing Hammer, 1H War Hammer, 2H Maul)
Flails (Lt Horseman's Flail, 1H Footman's Flail, 2H Dire Flail)
Swords (Lt Short Sword, 1H Long Sword, 2H Great Sword)
Axes (Lt Throwing Axe, 1H Battle Axe, 2H Danish Axe)
Picks (Lt Horseman's Pick, 1H Footman's Pick, 2H Bec-De-Corbin)
Bows (Lt Shortbow, 1H Longbow) - Requires 2H, just falls into those categories for interactions with other rules

I'm thinking about eliminating or simplifying these altogether.
Lances (1H Lance, 2H Heavy Lance) - Requires 2H mounted, considering eliminating this category and rolling it into spears
Advanced Polearms (1H Trident/Military Fork, 2H Halberd, 2H Ranseur, 2H Guisarme, 2H Pike/Partisan)
Unusual Weapons (Grab bag of misc setting specific type stuff; Sabers, hand crossbows, whips, saps, etc)

Now for the interaction with ability scores. Ready? Buckle up. You gain different proficiences based on your PRIME ability scores (you have two, remember?). You gain the benefits of whichever are LEAST restrictive.

STR = All melee and hurled weapons (basic, simple, martial)
DEX = Basic only (gain bonus with light weapons)
CHA = Basic & Simple
CON = All weapons (basic, simple, martial; melee and projectile)
INT = Basic
WIS = Simple




Martial Melee

Basic All



Simple All


Martial (Light)




Simple (Light)







Above is the interaction of these proficiencies. As you might expect, Wizards are highly limited. Fighting-men can use anything, although Swashbucklers tend towards light weapons. The main non-warrior melee characters, Eldritch Knights and Paladins, can swing swords or hammers or axes around, but they don't get bows. Archery is the exclusive province of the Fighting Man. Priests can use their traditional maces as well as spears and single edged blades, which makes building a Shaman-type quite viable, broadening the archetype some without shattering it.

This also nicely cements the place of the Crossbow as the everyman's projectile weapon. Everyone except for Wizards and Eldritch Knights can use Crossbows.

I think the number of choices will be quite reasonable. The most complicated case is the Warrior. He has five martial melee weapon choices to select from and enough STR to have a high ENC limit. He also can pick up one of several projectile weapons. After he's decided what family of weapons to obtain, he needs to select from a light, one handed, or two handed variant. So, we're looking at a three step decision process: Melee or Projectile, Family, Type. No step has more than 5 choices.

The other class archetypes have even fewer choices. I think there are enough to keep things interesting (especially once you give defining characteristics to the weapons themselves) but not so many options that players are overwhelmed or feel it difficult to make choices.