Making our favorite games even better
Eliminate the Active Skill Astral Combat.
From a game mechanic min/maxing meta point of view the only character likely to purchase Astral Combat at an high level would be an Adept wanting to fight non-materialized spirits. Even in that case a smart spirit would take advantage of the astral environment to stay out of range of a dual natured enemy limited to just close combat. The adept would be a 2d character fighting a 3d enemy.
A magician would be better off using any Karma spent on Astral Combat on specialized spells that target astral beings from an effectiveness and efficiency perspective.
If Mystic Adepts could Astrally Project and you were making an astral combat warrior than there might be some usefulness to the skill as the mystic adept could combine ranged and close combat in the astral then but since they can’t without a house rule even that option falls flat. Otherwise the 42 Karma spent to make a solid professional Astral Combat skill could be spent on 8 spells or raising your Magic rating or Spellcasting and the character would see a much larger return on their investment.
So, why have the skill if it is just a point sink, not very effective compared to Spellcasting or Banishing, and is very rarely used even in magic heavy campaigns? You get the occasional character getting a 1 in it just for emergencies. Even then with a 1 you’re not likely to be effective in astral combat so you might as well use that Karma somewhere that provides consistent benefit in as many arenas as possible.
In the end a magically talented character is more powerful and more versatile in the Astral Realm by NOT learning Astral Combat. This kind of defeats the purpose.
An astrally projecting Mage with a weapon focus can just use her Weapon Skill or use her Unarmed Skill when attacking with her astral body just as if she was attacking an astral form with her meat body. Absolutely no need for the skill. If a PC has sunk points into the Skill give her one or both Qualities below or add the karma cost to a close combat skill. The character can even use appropriate Martial Arts Techniques against Astral opponents. Rumors of a Martial Art devoted to Astral Combat have surfaced in Hong Kong involving a variant of Wu Shu which takes advantage of the possibilities in the astral realm and uses maneuvers that would only be possible while in astral form.
A sapient creature native to the Gaiasphere may attack a materialized Spirit and substitute Charisma for Strength during a melee attack for damage purposes and bypass the Spirit’s Immunity to Normal Weapons. The creature may also be able to defend against a materialized spirit by using the Steeling the Will Interrupt Action. These actions should be powered by the story and fueled by powerful emotion and not something that a typical being would be able to tap into at will or very often. Hate, Fear, Rage or even Love of another could empower even the most physically feeble of defenders to harm the mightiest of spirits. This also brings some hope for a team should the mage get geeked as spirits are pretty much unstoppable by mundanes in many situations. I could imagine a water elemental drowning a Face and getting a little surprise. A PC can tap into this rage or will by spending a point of Edge and taking the appropriate Interrupt Action if there isn’t adequate story reasons or if they don’t have the necessary Qualities.
Positive Quality: 10 Karma (Can be learned after character creation without doubling Karma cost with an Instructor who has this Quality and takes a month of intensive training)
This Quality was originally codified by charismatic welterweight boxing champion Lee Ray McDaniel after an event in 2018 when a shadow boogeyman spirit tormenting his daughter caused her to scream in terror waking him up and he rushed into her room and lashed out with all his fear and rage into the materialized spirit with a single right hook that ‘knocked it out’ in one hit.
Decades later a squad of Red Samurai honored an elderly Lee Ray upon his induction to the Boxing and MMA Hall of Fame with a masterwork Daisho crafted by the Imperial Swordsmith saying that the reason they were able to survive the Manila Bug swarm of ’58 and save thousands of lives was because of his techniques that he freely taught to respectful members at his dad’s gym in between fights during his entire career.
A spirit brawler can in melee combat add his Charisma to his Strength to increase the DV of his attack against a spirit in the physical world or any astral being that is Materialized. The attack also counteracts the power Immunity to Normal Weapons for materialized astral forms. A dual natured spirit brawler can do the same against astral targets when in close combat.
Against an astral target a projecting spirit brawler still knows the right way to channel their rage and strike an astral form in close combat to do the most damage and thus have their DV and appropriate Limit/Accuracy raised by 1 when in astral melee combat.
A spirit brawler is experienced with combat with spirits and has improved defenses to prove it. Their limit is increased by 1 when actively defending against any attack by an astral form or a materialized spirit.
Steeling the Will:
Positive Quality: 5 Karma (Can be learned after character creation without doubling Karma cost with an Instructor who has this Quality and takes a month to learn)
A newly commonly available ability by many soldiers in special or elite forces that deal with dangerous spirits on a regular basis. This Quality allows the use of a new Interrupt Action “Steeling the Will” at will. Developed separately by the Sioux and by the Wuxing Megacorporation in the sixties it has since been made available to be trained in by most of the world’s armed forces.
A trained and prepared defender with the Quality of the same name can at will take a brief moment to focus their minds and gain additional “Armor” equal to their Willpower for the rest of the Combat Turn when resisting physical attacks or damage from a physical medium that are caused by Materialized Spirits. This Interrupt Action can be spontaneously used by the untrained who are mentally very disciplined through meditation or introspection or it can be the product of a cold rage such as could be felt by a parent defending a child from a malicious spirit.
This is my first draft and there is likely to be some minor changes going forth.
The basic rules for crafting make sense when dealing with simple crafting but quickly breakdown as unrealistic when dealing with let’s say a goldsmith crafting a gold ring with a large emerald setting. At 5 g.p.’s a day the ring would take months to craft while a silver ring could take weeks or at least several days even if plain and unadorned.
So, in the rules that follow I will cover how each item has a complexity of design, a material that can modify the difficulty in successful crafting, a level of quality which can modify the value and/or functionality, and how long it takes to craft plus some basic economics on running a business or being an employee for those characters who focus on being a business owner or guildmember or master in their downtime. The more skillful the smith the less raw material is wasted or lost in the smithing process.
A common material could be a malachite stone, copper, bronze, iron, oak wood, beaver fur, cow leather, or granite. Common materials have a base minimum value of 1 g.p. a day for determining amount of work done and cost of materials though this could be modified by local conditions, prosperity of the region, and supply and demand. The base time to craft is the basic cost for the item as listed in the PHB such as 10 g.p.’s for a battle axe.
Uncommon materials could be a garnet or agate, dwarven steel, common mithril, silver, electrum, Fey-bronze, iron-oak, mink fur, wyvern leather, or marble. These have a base minimum value of 20 g.p. a day for determining amount of work done and cost of materials though depending on the material the costs can far exceed that starting value. The crafting time using most uncommon materials is twice as long as the value listed in the PHB such as 20 g.p.’s for a dwarven steel battle axe though some uncommon materials may be harder to work and have an higher multiplier.
Rare materials could be a ruby or emerald, noble mithril, admantine, gold, platinum, Ebon Ash wood, Holy Willow, fur from a Feywild Polar Bear, Shadow touched stone, and Dragon teeth or scales. They have a base minimum value of 100 g.p. a day for determining work done and cost of material. The crafting time using rare materials is usually five times that of the basic cost for the item though gold is easier and only has double the normal time when used for jewelry.
Very Rare materials could be a star ruby, royal mithril, primal gold, fur from a Primal Cave bear, a claw from an ancient dragon, marble carved from Mount Meru, and other such potent or valuable material. They have a base value of 500 g.p. a day for determining work done and cost of material. Crafting time is usually five times that of the basic cost fro the item.
Legendary materials might be a gem grown from the heart of an elder tree in the sacred grove of the first elven nation that holds an echo from that ancient time, a scale from Tiamat, iron ingots mined by undead dwarven masters in Hades and smelted by Hephaestus himself, locket of hair from the Freya, or Hide from a slain Nemean Lion.
Overhead per day of crafting is typically around 1 g.p. and covers everything from sales and property taxes, bribes, expendables such as wood or coal to burn at a smithy, and paperwork.
Labor and Lifestyle costs are based partly on the prosperity, trade, and urbanity of the locale but commonly sit at 5 s.p. a day worth of lifestyle and 1 g.p. a week for wages for apprentices and at least 1 g.p. in pay or lifestyle for a journeyman, and 5 g.p.’s a day or more for a master.
The Labor “Retail Value” equals Proficiency/Familiarity bonus + Ability Score Modifier + Tool Quality Modifier
A human Journeyman smith crafting a warhammer with iron has a Strength Modifier of +1 and a Proficiency of +2 with average “apprentice” tools that provide no bonus would do 3 g.p.’s of labor a day. This would add to the 1 g.p. in material and 1 g.p. in overhead so the total retail value of labor would be 5 g.p. a day. The smith would complete the warhammer in 3 days since the cost in the PHB is 15 g.p. There would be 6 g.p. worth of material and overhead involved and if the smith sold the warhammer to a merchant for 9 g.p. then he would have made 3 g.p. for 3 days of work if working for himself and probably less if an employee with a typical employee making a basic lifestyle for the 3 days and maybe half a gold in wages. If the smith was lucky and an adventurer commissioned the warhammer for retail price then the smith would’ve made 9 g.p. for 3 days of work or 3 g.p. a day.
A dwarven master smith crafting a dwarven warhammer made of royal mithril for his king. She has a Strength Modifier of +5 and a Proficiency of +5 with rare crafting tools providing a +3 bonus would do 13 g.p. of labor a day. Each day of labor would use 500 g.p. worth of material as royal mithril is treasured for its ability to attract legend and thus magic making it highly likely to become enchanted through use over time. The dwarven smith completes the royal warhammer in five days (65/13 = 5) using 2500 g.p. worth of material and 5 g.p. in overhead. The royal commission paid 5000 g.p. so she made close to an hefty 500 g.p. a day profit though if the GM used my optional rule requiring a DC check after completion of the item and failed then that is risk of wasting a lot of expensive materials!
Optional Rule: Crafting Failure
Each item has a DC to craft as a base item which can be modified by the type of material. Difficult to work materials place the craftsman with a Disadvantage on their roll. Easy to work materials give Advantage on their DC check. Simple products lower the DC category by one while complex products can greatly increase the DC like a master poisoner’s secret recipe of instant death or the careful and precise grinding and glasswork necessary for a quality spyglass or building a massive cathedral. Failure means the item is unusable or if the roll was close has an hidden or obvious flaw such as a sword that works fine until it gets below freezing when it becomes brittle or in the case of art just doesn’t show the emotion intended or just isn’t any good.
The base DC (common) for most weapons, most small objects of art, simple housing, is the number of days spent crafting times 5 which creates a weapon or item at the level of quality of the materials.
The base DC (uncommon) for longbows, most armor, most medium objects of art, basic housing is the number of weeks spent crafting times 5.
The base DC (rare) for advanced tailored armors, vehicles, fortifications, and most large objects of art is the number of months spent crafting times 5.
The base DC (very rare) for advanced and large sea vessels or mansions, keeps, and cathedrals is the number of seasons spent crafting times 5.
The base DC (legendary) for flying citadels, planar ships, 1000 foot bronze statues, great Pyramids, and other world class projects is the number of years spent crafting times five.
Optional Rule: Exceptional Success
When you double the base DC on your crafting roll the Quality of the item goes up by 1 category. A common item that would be limited to a common enchantment now counts as an uncommon item. If you triple the base DC than it goes up by 2 categories et cetera.
Optional Rule: Item Quality and Enchanting
A quality crafted item like all things that exhibit excellence and develop interesting stories tend to attract and collect magic. A knowledgeable and powerful character can take advantage of this and craft items with the potential to become magical over time or even weave magic into the crafting of the item at the beginning. As is often the case items with minor magics at creation can achieve Legendary status when wielded by great heroes or villains or as the case of the Moonblades of the Elves of Toril when wielded by generations of heroes.
The quality of the item must match or exceed the level of the enchantment. A Legendary Quality sword could accept any level of enchantment while a common blade would be limited to a common enchantment. A common quality blade could develop into a Legendary Artifact but wouldn’t be crafted it would be earned by the blade.
When enchanting an already crafted item or when enchanting while crafting the artificer rolls either Arcana, Alchemy (potions), Nature, or Religion depending on the type of character and the type of enchantment. Any character with a Class can enchant an item though those that require a spell require a spellcaster to make who knows and can cast the spell.
An alternative rule is to replace the 25 gp in labor for enchanting with the ability modifier + proficiency + tools (Enchanting Lab or Zen garden or Sacred Grove or Cathedral Chapel) times 5=X g.p.
A cleric of a charismatic religion could focus his passion of his zeal to create an holy avenger while a monk could spend her day dwelling on the riddle of the wolf while raking sand and trimming bonsai trees and would use Wisdom and Nature and a druid could craft a magical staff while carving in the tranquility of the sacred grove.
If the character is crafting and artificing at the same time the total time crafting is doubled as long as the enchantment matches the material quality and the artificing. This increases the material cost spent on the item as it will take longer to craft. The artificing DC matches the crafting DC.
Crafting magical potion batches has a DC of 5 plus 5 for per level of the spell and requires common materials for a 1st level spell and one tier better for each level after that. For each level of material surpassing the requirement the DC is lowered by 5. The base cost used for how long it takes to craft the potion is the DC of the Alchemy task. Legendary ingredients allows up to 9th level potions though few would try to attempt that. Each batch has 1d6 potions of the type crafted.
If adding an enchantment to an existing item the time for artificing and the DC for artificing is the same as shown on the optional rule for Crafting Failure with the number of days, weeks, months, seasons, or years determined by the DM based on the item and what the enchantment is. A common enchantment has a DC of 5, uncommon 10, rare 15, very rare 20, and 25 for Legendary.
An elven smith Leiwand is crafting and artificing a Longbow which has a base retail price of 50 g.p. He and his adventuring party had gone deep into the Feywild and in the course of battle a treant was slain by a fire giant and some of the wood was still good so he harvested it. Using leather from a young adult red dragon he slew a few years ago for the grip and gut sinew from a fey saber tooth tiger he begins his crafting of a rare magical item. It will have a +1 to attack and damage and sets the arrows on fire as they get fired adding 2 points of fire damage to each arrow plus an extra +3d6 of damage towards Giants and Giantkin. The adjusted retail cost is 250 g.p. and the smith has a proficiency of +5 plus Expertise and a Dexterity of +4 and rare tools to provide a +3 bonus and a total of +17 and 15 days to make. This rounds up to 3 weeks which is doubled for a total of 6 weeks because of artificing. The DC for crafting is 15 and for artificing is Nature + Wisdom against a DC of 15. He rolls a 14 for a total of 31 and that doubles his craft dc so the quality goes from Rare to Very Rare. The artificer roll succeeds as well. The Quality level is Very Rare but the enchantment is Rare so the item has room to grow.
Marekanos the Barbaric’s Battle-Axe Chilldeath had been a favorite of his father and had at the time he claimed it a common enchantment but after slaying the Crimson Necromancer and the Demi-Lich of Kora it became far mightier by absorbing both the Legend and a share of the magical energies that were expelled at their destruction. After slaying and bathing in the blood of the tyrant Dragon-King Torenus who was an ancient white dragon the Battle-Axe earned its final name as it protects the wielder from the cold and cold magic while also dealing chilling and necrotic damage alongside every strike. So, a minor magical weapon became an artifact of incredible power during the century of adventuring the Half-Elven barbarian survived and continued its adventures in the hands of first his half elven daughter Tiana from an human mother as Chillend rejected the other daughters who didn’t express any elven features and after her death by her half sister the half elven Alrekanos born of an elven mother as Chillend rejected those kin who expressed only elven traits.
D&D House Rules:
The idea for this House Rule grew out of my original idea to develop Half-Elves as more of unique and variable race given their hybrid status. An Half-Elf raised among rural Humans is going to be culturally different than one raised in a cosmopolitan planar city like Sigil or raised among the Fey Lords in the Feywild or in the forests of Silvanesti. That is just the cultural differences which wouldn’t take into account variations in biology. A Liger is very different than a Tigon despite both being half lion and half tiger. I also remember a version of D&D that had a whole lot of options at character creation using a GURPS style point system. Anyway, before I digress any further here is my idea. The addition of Character Focus below is not enough to make the pc’s substantially more dangerous and can be easily countered by having important NPC’s partake as well. It is really for flavor, roleplaying, and differentiation between PC’s. Using these traits as a guide it should be fairly easy for a player and a gm to invent their own character foci too.
Before I go into Focus I just wanted to highlight a character trait that should actually have a big impact on pc’s in your game.
Advantage of the Majority: This trait is free to all members of the dominant race, sex, religion, or caste in a given region. The character is more likely to blend in and not attract attention and enjoys many privileges from having easy access to foods, gear, weapons, and armor for their size and shape to having the right to vote or wield certain weapons or wear certain clothes or colors. The character’s advantages may be invisible to them and should the character go into an area in which they no longer have this background applied to them they may find things to be very strange and have a hard time adapting. In most worlds this applies to human PC’s.
Each PC gets access to one Character Focus that shows a key part of who they are and what they spend their down time doing. A Rogue who is well connected in a legal merchant guild is going to roleplay differently than a Rogue who is a Savant with thieves tools. A Paladin carrying his father’s shield blessed by Brennan the demigod of protecting children is going to have a different feel than the Paladin Weapon Specialist.
Well Connected: Based on your character’s background you have a wide range of contacts giving you an “in” and respectability within that field or organization and a constant source of general information that can be turned towards specific information at a price. A guild member will know the gossip in the guild and a secret or two and easily find themselves well ensconced in a new city and probably find a few leads on guild and adventure work. A criminal knows the major players in the shadows and recent critical events from the point of view of the underworld. A noble knows that Baron Schwine has the finest hawks in the Marches and recently decided that he would pay a fortune to the noble adventurer who brings him a griffin egg. A travelling Sage who was well connected would be welcomed upon arrival at Candlekeep. At GM discretion the PC can have advantage on certain social or investigative rolls involving their social circle and can use the group’s influence in certain social interactions with outsiders. A lowly street gang member is easier to intimidate by a made thief of the Guild than a random no name thief. It is wise for the Well Connected PC to share time, knowledge, and money on her contacts even if it is just a drink or lunch or an hunch. The more lubricated the contacts the better the gossip flows back. The difference between a well connected Noble and a Noble with just the background would be that the Noble knows the daughter of the Duke and has maybe exchanged words once or twice but can’t get invited to her party while the well connected Noble who had never met the daughter of the Duke could in an afternoon of conversation at a local Baron’s luncheon find themselves with an invitation upon arrival back home. The DM is encouraged to have random NPC’s recognize the PC and to have heard stories about them throughout the game. The PC just knows people who know people.
Wealthy: The PC starts with an additional 100 gold pieces or adventuring equipment worth an equivalent amount, or tradeable goods worth at least 250 gold pieces that would need to be sold a sizable distance away and includes an hireling and a mule and wagon for overland travel or part of a cargo hold for overseas travel. The Wealthy PC would of course be wise to hire protection on such a journey. Wealthy PC’s tend to attract wealth but need to spend it as well and don’t take well to modest lifestyles. A Wealthy PC knows how to act and dress higher status and knows the best inn in Waterdeep before she had ever been there. If the PC’s want to sell a minor magical item legally the wealthy PC might know who would be interested and who would be able to afford it. The DM is encouraged to have money flow in the direction of this PC and the PC is encouraged to spend freely and often.
Heirloom: The PC has one very expensive and valuable piece of property that they inherited and treasure. They would never sell the item or allow the item to be taken from them. It could be a mastercrafted sword or a suit of half plate worn by a famous Paladin ancestor that inspired the PC to take on the adventuring life or even a minor magical item passed on by a loved one when they died. It should be an item that would grow in power with the PC and their legend. One cannot picture Raistlin Majere without the Staff of Magius even if the only magic he could do with the staff was a light spell at 3rd level. Torvald’s father’s battleaxe soaked in the acidic blood and soul of the adult black dragon he had slain and from that day dealt acidic damage on his foes and later slew a demi-lich forming a strong antipathic resonance against the undead. The DM should find some sort of excuse or work with the player to make the heirloom scale and remain a key part of the PC as they become more legendary. Torvald after all had passed up on some pretty looking axes with heavy enchantments on them when they arrived in Sigil.
Weapon Specialist: The warrior has a favored weapon that they spend inordinate amounts of time mastering to the exclusion of a vast chunk of their social life. With a specific weapon type the PC has a +X added to their attack with X representing the number of normal attacks they can do in a round. At first level this would be a +1 bonus but a fifth level fighter would be +2 because they have two attacks. When the PC increases their bonus they gain an additional favored weapon.
Acrobatic Defender: +1 bonus to AC as long as the character has freedom of movement.
Shield Specialist: The character adds their Proficiency +1 to their AC when using a Shield instead of the +2 to AC a Shield normally provides. Whenever an attacker misses the Shield Specialist by more than 10 they open themselves up to a bonus action called a shield bash which is an attack that uses the shield and does 1d4 + Strength damage. A Magical Shield provides the AC bonus to the attack and damage rolls just as if the Shield was a magical weapon.
Elemental Affinity: PC is resistant to a type of energy damage like acid, fire, cold, or thunder. The PC gains a +1 bonus to Skill rolls involving the element and +1 damage when using weapons or magic involving the element. For example a PC with a fire affinity would have a talent for starting the camp fire, wielding a flaming sword, or casting a fireball. More exotic resistances are possible with DM approval and PC background such as being a Fire Priest’s acolyte or being a distant descendant of a race resistant to that type of energy.
Magical Prodigy: The PC is extremely talented with a school of magic and gains an extra cantrip and an extra level 1 spell slot for that school. For those without a spellcasting class they gain just a cantrip. Should the Prodigy ever get trained in a spellcasting class and gain a level they would then gain access to the extra level 1 spell slot.
Studious Spellcaster: The PC has worked very hard to learn how her magic works and how to stretch her capabilities. Her Spell save DC has a bonus of +1 and she learns 1 additional spell at character creation.
Battlemage: The PC is talented with combat spells and cantrips. The PC adds their Dexterity Modifier to their Spell Attack Modifer for combat magic that needs a spell attack roll.
Savant: Character is extremely proficient at the basics of a skill or tool or instrument. The Savant counts a roll of 7 or less as a 7 with any tasks involving that skill.
Attractive: The attractive PC has advantage on social rolls with someone who finds them attractive at the DM’s discretion based on the social situation at that time. The PC spends an inordinate amount of time focused on highlighting their beauty or handsomeness at least from the point of view of the Weapon Specialist. The PC might be reluctant to undertake tasks that might diminish their attractiveness like crawl around in a sewer. A troubadour, artist, or actor can really leverage their attractiveness when performing and often earn more pay than other entertainers of greater skill.
Gifted Healer: Any use of a Healer’s kit or Herbalist’s kit or magic to provide aid to an injured or otherwise hurt individual gains the injured character a bonus hit point per die rolled.
Fleet Footed: Speed increases by 10 feet. The PC spends much of their spare time running or swimming and can also run longer distances as well compared to less focused characters.
Green Thumb: The PC has a special knack with plants and has advantage with all rolls using an herbalism kit or Nature rolls involving growing or tending plants. Plants just seem to be brighter and healthier around them. Sentient and semi sentient plants react positively to the PC who has Advantage on any social rolls involving plant creatures.
Tough: Has an extra 2 Hit Points at character creation and an additional 2 HP per level afterwards.
Sentinel: +5 bonus to passive Perception rolls. Pick one sense and have advantage on all rolls using it.
Well Traveled: Familiar and comfortable with different cultures and races the PC has a very cosmopolitan view of the world. The PC is unlikely to make a faux pas when interacting with exotic beings, foreigners, nobles, and rustic folks and counts a 5 or lower as a 5 with all skills they are proficient in that involve interacting socially or involving academic knowledge of them and their traditions. Common among traveling sages who can become quite valuable to leaders and merchants hoping to begin diplomacy or trade with little known peoples. Well traveled PC’s gain an extra language and have an easier time learning new languages as they can learn without the need of an instructor if they are immersed in an area with the language and culture. Their training time is also cut in half.
Darkvision: A PC of a race that doesn’t have this trait gains Darkvision of 60′. It may be as a result of pact with infernal or fey beings or as a result of an ancestor from another race or from exposure to wild magic or even an experimental potion.
D&D House Rules:
Here are pdf’s of the articles I contributed to for Hermes Portal an ezine for Ars Magica by Atlas Games.
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