Pen and Paper RPG House Rules

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My new RPG


I am tentatively calling the rpg system Singular Roleplaying System and the first main campaign Rogues and Masterminds.

The campaign and parts of the core system are inspired by movies, rpg’s, books, and tv shows like John Wick, Sneakers, the Equalizer, Leverage, Global Frequency, Planetary, V for Vendetta, the treatises of Fiore de’i Liberi, Hustle, Shadowrun RPG, Cyberpunk by the likes of Stephenson and Gibson, World of Darkness RPG, Amber DRPG,  Grosse Point Blank, and Grifters to name a few.

Originally it was going to be Movers and Shakers a super/psi/spy world that I’ve been working on along with a connected campaign called Posthuman but I decided to scale back to making just a solid non-supernatural/SF game that can later on be built into something more complex along the lines of Donnerjack by Roger Zelazny and the works of Dan Simmons.

As a consequence I was looking to make a system that scales well from making a believable competent human to an extraordinary gentleman and later to beyond human. Too often games make mechanics in which a legendary person can be fairly commonly beaten by someone vastly less talented and skilled. Or the other issue that I see in games is that there are basically just one or two versions of a successful archetype for a PC to start with or end up with thus robbing characters of the chance to develop and become something completely unique both from a mechanics standpoint and from a story standpoint while also being successful. Few people want to play a helpless character or feel railroaded into choosing based on optimization min/maxxing. That is a tall order to make but I think I’ve come up with some interesting takes on things.

I am trying for that middle ground in complexity of mechanics to provide a scaffolding for making and growing the PCs and the campaign.

I am still in the alpha stage of development and will need art and design elements, playtesting, and a few decisions on how serious I want to be in developing this game but I think I have something cool and unique.

I will be posting shortly my plain and basic character sheet and another post about basic mechanics. I will definitely be looking at or for art, playtesters, advice on the game and campaign world, and on the business aspects. I’ve looked at places like drivethru which lets you do print on demand and pdf for far cheaper and easier than in the 90s. Still hard to make any money but maybe possible to have a nice hobby and maybe make enough for coffee and a bagel.

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D&D 5e House Rules: Familiarity vs Skill Proficiency


With this rule I am blending the Jack of All Trades Feature idea from Bards and the Background optional rule from the Dungeon Master’s Guide.

Familiarity with a Skill, or Tool grants the character a bonus equal to half their Proficiency bonus.

Familiarity with a Weapon, Armor, or Language gives the ability to communicate and comprehend basic everyday concepts or the ability to use or wear weapons and armor without the benefit of bonuses from Strength and Dexterity Ability Score Modifiers and with Stealth Disadvantage as well as a higher risk of exhaustion.

Familiarity represents a basic knowledge or ability that would be gained with an apprenticeship, training, or heavy exposure and use of a Skill. It basically represents completion of an apprenticeship within the purview of the Background.

A Bard with the Jack of All Trades feature can be regarded as having Familiarity with all skills, tools, languages, weapons, armor, and ability checks that the Bard can reasonably explain that they might have been exposed to during their journeys. A Bard would not be familiar with a gunpowder weapon if it was foreign to their travels but would quickly pickup the basics of a flintlock after seeing it in action or given a quick tutorial.

Each Background in the Player’s Handbook or created by the DM now only provides Proficiency in one Skill or Tool but instead provides Familiarity with any tasks that the Player can reasonably explain via their character’s history.

Gaining Familiarity in gameplay is relatively easy if during the game the PC is often engaged in activities surrounding the topic such as a Rogue impersonating a low ranking janitorial employee of a Fugger bank for a few seasons would pick up a lot of the jargon and concepts of the banking world just by exposure and overhearing conversations. The player just makes a good argument to the DM or other players depending on your style of play for why she should be familiar with a given process or tool.

For example:

A merchant’s daughter who accompanied her mother on her monthly journey to the Elven trading outpost at the borders of Qualinesti might reasonably have picked up proficiency in Elven customs, language, and writing system along with an understanding of appraisal, markup, accounting, paying tariffs, and general rules of trade. Maybe she played in the forest with elven children and learned a little about surviving in the forest or practiced with an elven composite shortbow enough to not embarrass herself with the other kids.

A squire to a knight who paid for his living by traveling from one tourney to the next across the many lands and city states of the Marches might be Familiar with Martial Weapons and Light, Medium, and Heavy Armors while picking up an understanding of how to gamble and place bets, analyze other warriors for strengths and weaknesses, a smidgeon of an half dozen languages and more dialects, a fairly comprehensive list of the Heraldry of prominent champions, fighting houses, martial orders or tourney hosts, and how to behave without embarrassing yourself around knights and lesser nobility.

With Armor the character with Familiarity must make a Constitution Saving Throw equal to the AC rating of the armor after every full minute of constant battle or 8 hours of wear while active.

D&D House Rules:

Character Creation Backgrounds

Crafting, Magic Items, and Economics

Familiarity vs Proficiency

Character Focus

Tactics of Mistake

Counterattacking

D&D 5e House Rules: Character Focus


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.

Character Focus:

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:

Character Creation Backgrounds

Crafting, Magic Items, and Economics

Familiarity vs Proficiency

Character Focus

Tactics of Mistake

Counterattacking

D&D 5e House Rules: Half-Elf Variants


My phone and tablet broke so I haven’t been able to update this and I’ve been too tired to get on my pc for those few moments it isn’t in use. I am scrapping much of the core ideas involved with this for some new ideas. I will be back. 
When growing up most Half-Elves learn how to diffuse social problems around them and come to grips with their mixed race heritage and the problems it can cause. Another path is to simply acknowledge the difference and rather than dive into the social sea and master it these Half-Elven pursue mastery  in whatever drives their passion. From their human parent they gain drive and ambition with a focus on the short term and attention to detail with a long term view from their elven parent allowing them to excel far beyond their peers. This pursuit of excellence provides some social protection or at least gets the Half-Elf out of the mainstream and thus out of the attentions of those who might cause harm social or otherwise.
Most Half-Elven Savants come from backgrounds involving libraries, temples devoted to gods of knowledge, universities, and master craftsmen or artists. Exposure to books or people with a love in what they do touches and influences both sides of their nature turning them from studying the people around them and their differences as most Half-Elves do and towards finding that kind of love of knowledge or passion in their own lives. As a consequence they learn to disarm or avoid difficult social situations with their intelligence and excellence.
Some Half Elven Savants fall in love with languages and often end up as a diplomats or go betweens as a result of their learning rather than their charisma and social skills.
There is a small drawback for these Half-Elven which is a tendency to slip into Reverie and day dream when pondering particularly complex ideas, solving subtle puzzles or riddles, creating masterpieces of art or war, or researching a topic pushing the bounds of current knowledge. This can be inconvenient when time is an issue. It is a drawback of their elven blood and their tendency to ignore time constraints and a drawback of their human blood and their tendency for vibrant and powerful imaginations and dreams.
Half Elf Savant Traits
Your half-elf character shares some qualities with its parents and some that are unique to them whether they are Savants or other variants.
Age: Half-Elves mature at the same rate as humans do but age slower because of their elven blood sometimes approaching their second century.
Alignment: Savants tend to be of a less chaotic bent and more influenced by the human traditions if raised amongst humans or mastery of an art or form if raised amongst elves. This greater discipline and patience can be advantageous when dealing with finicky and eccentric sages, artists, and master craftsmen. They might chafe and resent rules or demands but cast that aside as unimportant while in pursuit of their passion or goals. As a result Savants are more reliable and predictable than their more common cousins.
Size: Half-Elves tend to inherit their height from their human parentage while tending to inherit the lean and wiry frame of their elven parentage. This is just a tendency though and half elves have a great range in how they express their unique ancestry both in their physicality and in their minds. Your size is medium.
Speed: Your base walking speed is 30 feet.
Darkvision: Thanks to your elven blood you gain the ability to see in dim light within 60 feet of you as if it were bright light and in darkness as if it was dim light. Color can’t be discerned in darkness only shades of gray.
Fey Ancestry: Thanks to your elven blood you gain advantage on saving throws against being charmed and magically induced sleep. The powerful dreams of the savant weaken their resistance to sleep magic.
Life Long Learning: Starting at first level the Half-Elven Savant gains proficiency and expertise in one skill or tool or starts with 5 extra languages. Whenever the Savant has an Ability Score Improvement they also gain proficiency in a new skill or tool or they can gain 3 more languages. At 11th level they can gain Expertise in a second skill or tool.
Languages: You can speak, read, and write Common, Elvish, and one extra language of your choice.
Reverie: When undergoing a task with a skill or tool they have Expertise in with a Difficulty Class of Hard (20) or greater the Savant must make a Wisdom (10 + DC greater than 20) saving throw to avoid spending twice as long on the task as strictly necessary.  A task with a DC of (25) would require a Wisdom saving throw of (15) for example. During this time the Savant can be irritable upon interruption or less perceptive to outside and extraneous details as a flaw should the player decide to roleplay this. Savants tend to enjoy dreaming and can sometimes solve difficult problems while sleeping allowing a 1d4 to be added to a task roll if the Savant takes a short rest and a nap before attempting it or after a long rest if the Savant consciously decides to focus on a problem before bed. Savants tend to sleep deeply as a consequence and are difficult to awaken and have disadvantage on any tasks rolled on their turn immediately after awakening or for being woken up.

Shadowrun Overhaul: Introduction to Initiation


After reading the Street Grimoire I had some ideas on really overhauling the initiation process. I am abandoning the term of metamagic to eliminate confusion with the core ruleset and at most it would simply be a term for magical abilities learned post-initiation that require initiation to learn.

Thaumaturgical Arts are unchanged from the core rules for Metamagics with the only rule change being their categorical name. Thaumaturgical Techniques are refinements on Thaumaturgical Arts or simply a new ability or talent that isn’t as demanding to learn as an Art.

Mystery Techniques require access to the Mystery to be able to be taught or learned and are special abilities gained by those who unravel the mysteries of their Mystery.

Path Techniques require access to a Way to be able to be taught or learned and are special abilities gained by those who follow the Way down the magical path by living, breathing, and experiencing all the Way has to offer.

 

All Thaumaturgical, Path, and Mystery Techniques cost 10 Karma to learn.

All Mystery and Path Enhancements cost 2 Karma to learn. Those that grant a Profession Knowledge gain a new Knowledge equal to their Magic Rating when the Enhancement is learned.

Minor Magics such as Parlor Tricks, Wisp Commands, Ceremonies, Charms, Trinkets, and Elixers cost 1 Karma each.

Initiation:

Upon initiation the Awakened PC can learn a Thaumaturgical Art or gain access to a Mystery or Way. Adepts can only learn one Way as a rule with the two exceptions with the first being the Way of the Fallen Burnout which allows the Adept to have both the new Way and their old Way. The second is when the Adept becomes warped and takes on a villainous Way.

Thaumaturgical Arts:

Centering, Fixation, Spellshaping, Shielding, Absorption, Quickening, Anchoring, New Power Point, Adept Centering, Masking, and Flexible Signature.

Thaumaturgical Techniques:

Advanced Alchemy, Penetrating, Efficiency (Efficient Ritual), Reflection, Hijack Spell, Appropriation, Amplify Ritual (Great Ritual), Flux, Astral Impersonation, Filtering, and Ceremonial Rites.

Mysteries:

Each Mystery has at least one Mystery Technique that can be learned once the Mystery has been opened up by the Initiate Magician or Mystic Adept. Mysteries often have special Rituals, Spells, Enchantments, minor magics, a Social Enhancement, a Profession Enhancement, and a Magic Enhancement.

Ways:

Each Way has a key or core Path Technique that can be learned once the Way has been opened up by the Initiate Adept or Mystic Adept. That Technique provides bonus Power Points that can only be spent on certain Powers appropriate to that Way. The allocation is of .5 Power Points per 2 points of their Magic Rating. Ways often have special Rituals, a Social Enhancement, a Profession Enhancement, a Synergistic Enhancement, and an Ability Enhancement.

List of Commonly Known Mysteries:

Mystery of Bones, Mystery of the Third Eye, Mystery of Dreams, Mystery of the Great Mother, Mystery of Daemons, Mystery of Cities, Mystery of Poseidon, Mystery of Blood, Mystery of the Green Thumb, Mystery of the Sky Father, Mystery of the Moon and Stars, and Mystery of Mythmaking.

List of Adept Ways:

Way of the Two Masks, Way of the Flashy Gadget, Way of the Immaculate Creation, Way of the Fierce Competitor, Way of the Untamed Beast, Way of the Fallen Burnout, Way of the Invisible Hand, Way of the Hidden Secrets, Way of the Silver Tongue, Way of the Holy Word, Way of the Deadly Blade, Way of the Analytical Mind, Way of the Black Arrow, Way of the Twisted Path, Way of the Poisoned Mother, Way of the Bleeding Mouth, Way of the Fiery Fist, Way of the Lightning Strike, Way of the Iron Titan, and Way of the Intercepting Wave.

Future Posts will illuminate each Mystery, Way and Art/Technique.

 

Shadowrun Overhaul: Magical Dueling


There are several ways that the ancient tradition of dueling as re-entered society as we go deeper into the Sixth World. Dueling pervades all strata of society and takes many forms from taking credit for an idea to get promoted over your rival at the office to a little amateur urban brawl action so your bike chummers think you’re chill to outright blazing guns and headless enemies. One of the most common forms of dueling is through proxies in which the rich and powerful pit their chosen against each other sometimes with challenges and sometimes in gladiator style combat.

The first is the basic duel in which the magicians choose a melee weapon and can use magic but nothing prepared beforehand and can only wear obvious armor if agreed to before the duel starts. This is more common for Adepts but the occasional magician or mystical adept has dueled in this way. The problem with this form of dueling is that it tends to be injurious to both duelists and possibly even deadly. Even with each duelist having a second to protect bystanders and their charges from errant magic it is just too easy for things to go wrong.

The second involves combat in the Astral realm which is evolving very rapidly as it becomes more popular. Hidden Arenas in Domains linked to the Battle metaplace have spread like wildfire in the past two years with the arrival of tempo and the rising popularity of spirit vs spirit combat. It is rumored that a cabal of free spirits has inordinate influence on the dueling scene one of whom takes the form of an older african male with wild and crazy hair.

With the introduction of the first martial art form created for Awakened Orks and by Awakened Orks: Hez Errit’grumrutra has changed the landscape for magical duels. Masters of this new martial art have dominated the metahuman combat leagues while sparking interest in Astral Combat official competitions and the magical society Egran’den Er’rek Wejoto has profited greatly despite suffering from half a dozen deadly attacks on its Jrikrek or school building by unknown but powerful magical assailants. The Egran’den are made up of an unique blend of ex-military or mercenary Orks with extensive Awakened combat experience and street shamans with a bent towards social justice. Many of the new outer circle members are former gang toughs who are being rehabilitated with tough love from the military crowd and a little wise gentleness from the street shamans.

The third involves direct magic to magic battle extreme. There are two methods by which this duel takes place. The first involves the duelists channeling their power and essence into a centerpoint until it gels into a form and a duelists dominates it. The second option involves a Ritual which is cast by a neutral third party that has evolved into the popular collegiate game Astral Total War.

The Arcane Duel

 Traditionally the two duelists face off with their seconds watching for treachery and their thirds creating mana barriers up to prevent accidental harm to bystanders. Each bows towards each other and stand within 10 meters of each other. Now both cast the Arcane Duel spell targeting the area between them. The Force of the spell acts as a limit to most Tests between the Duelists and the spellcaster can pick whatever Force they want but they have to handle the Drain from the spell which is quite demanding so they risk gaining penalties from before the actual duel for higher potentials. The spellcasters decide whether the duel shall use Sorcery, Conjury, or Enchanting.

The two duelists continue to pour power and weave threads into the center of the dueling area which slowly takes on an appearance based on the personalities of the duelists, the Skills involved in the duel, whatever mentor spirits they might have, and their Tradition.

In battles between master conjurers the audience can watch two pseudo-elementals slug it out for their amusement while another might involve a single elemental that both conjurers are trying to control. A duel between two Chinese sorcerers may play out visually as a game of go played by two elaborately designed Shen. It was once common amongst Hermetics familiar with the Old Matrix sculpting for their duels to take on the clear lines and geometric shapes of the Old Matrix protocols but that has become rarer in the modern day.

There is a moment when the spell gels and combat can begin usually sometime after the combined total of the two spell’s Force x 3 Seconds but can happen earlier or later depending on how difficult it is for the spell to find an appropriate venue. The better duelist at Assensing tends to win first action which is a big advantage as from then on the duel goes back and forth between the duelists until the victory conditions are met.

The duelists trade blows or moves back and forth until victory is achieved. For the vindictive they prefer to deal several light to medium blows to weaken the mage before hitting them hard so as to “Scorch” their opponent and possibly cause permanent damage to a magical faculty or mental facility.

Victory conditions can be the collapse of the opponent or first blood or first to five damage boxes dealt.

Weapon Foci bonded to a duelist provide an increase in DV by the rating of the Focus. Power or Spell/Spirit/Enchanting Foci add to the Attack or Defense Totals by choice of the duelist at the beginning of combat. For a duelist with two Foci one could be applied to Attack while another to Defense or both to Attack or both to Defense.

 

Initiative: Intuition + Assensing Opposed Test (only rolled once at the beginning of the duel; after that it goes back and forth)

Attack: Logic + (Spellcasting/Summoning/Alchemy) + (Power Focus or appropriate Focus such as a Spell Focus for a Sorcery duel) [Force]

Defense: Intuition + (Counterspelling/Banishing/Disenchanting) (Power Focus or appropriate Focus) [Force]

Damage Value: Charisma + Net Hits on Attack + Weapon Focus Rating + (Ritual Spellcasting/Binding/Artificing)

Resistance: Willpower + Arcana

Boxes of damage: Magic Rating x 2 (If damages overflows and is greater than Willpower then the mage is knocked unconscious (Stun Damage) and her astral form is disrupted which can cause permanent psychological or magical problems and is called Scorching your opponent.)

Edge: The Special Attribute of Edge is replaced by the Mage’s Grade. A non-initiate has a Grade of 0 and thus would act as if they had no Edge throughout the duel. “Edge” spent on the duel has no impact on the Edge Special Attribute.

-Don’t forget Wound penalties from before and during the duel.

-Reagents can’t be spent during the duel itself to alter Limits.

Arcane Duel Technique:

This arcane technique costs no karma to learn and can be taught in an hour or two with a good instructor. The Arcane Duel doesn’t conform to the standard categorizations of spells and rituals as it involves parts of all five spell categories and some of the steps of a ritual. Both duelists must have this Quality for the Duel to work. Some of the principles of Attunement are used as well as the anchoring technique of Ritual Spellcasting. Rumor has it that this technique involves elements of ancient and foreign magics.

Both duelists must be within 10 meters of each other. Both duelists expend Reagents equal to the Force of they choose for themselves at the same time which creates a temporary magical lodge just for the purposes of this duel in a sphere surrounding the two duelists. The initial prep time can usually takes about a minute. Each attack takes a full minute after which the other duelist begins their attack which lasts a full minute.

Drain is handled normally for your tradition as if casting a spell with a Drain Code of Force and Centering can be used.

 

Shadowrun Overhaul: Shielding Metamagical Qualities


Shielding Metamagical Qualities:

After character creation and the Initiate learning the Shielding Metamagic she can develop new techniques that improve her ability to Shield herself from magic or develop new enhancements to her Shielding. These Qualities can be taken together and combined for additional effect.

Mass Shielding:

This Quality costs 10 Karma after character creation. The Initiate can protect an area with her Counterspelling equal to her Magic Rating + Grade in meters or a number of individuals within LOS equal to twice her Magic Rating + her Grade. This is a popular Quality amongst military and mercenary magicians.

Absorption:

This Quality costs 10 Karma after character creation. The Initiate gains the ability to absorb magical energy directed at her and channel it into her sorcery. Whenever the magician uses her Shielding/Counterspelling she may add the net hits from that Test up to and equal to her Grade as a dice pool bonus for her Spellcasting and Drain Tests on a single spell cast within that Combat Turn or the next Combat Turn.

State of the Art Shielding:

This Quality costs 10 Karma after character creation. It allows the Initiate to apply her Grade in dice as a defense against any type of magical effect from any source.

Reflection:

This Quality costs 10 Karma after character creation. This Quality allows the magician to use her Counterspelling ability to redirect a Spell back at the original caster. The magician must be aware of the spell, be within LOS of the caster or target or be a target of the spell or within the area of the spell’s effect, and have an Arcana equal or greater than the Force of the spell in order for her to be able to comprehend the spell, unravel control of the spell, and send it back to its original caster. Attempting to Reflect a spell is an Interrupt action at -10.

The first step is to check if the magician succeeds on a Counterspelling + Grade [Magic] v Spellcasting + Magic [Force] Opposed Test (Add +3 Dice to the Counterspelling if the spell was cast recklessly). If she fails she still blunts the attack by subtracting her net hits from the Spellcaster’s net hits and goes on to take a defense test as normal. If she succeeds then the spell is sent back to the caster. The Force of the returning Spell is equal to the Grade of the Initiate with any net hits on the Reflecting Test acting as net hits for the spell. The targets completely evade the original spell and the reflected spell goes off as if it was a normal spell of whatever type the original caster cast. Area effect spells go off but do not harm any of the individuals protected by the Initiate with her Counterspelling which is a number equal to her Magic Rating.

Hermes Portal and Ars Magica


Here are pdf’s of the articles I contributed to for Hermes Portal an ezine for Ars Magica by Atlas Games.

 

Portal_US_11 Portal_US_10 Portal_US_9 Portal_US_15

 

If you’re interested in more check out Hermes Portal which has 1 through 15 issues downloadable for free.

Check out my blogroll on the right and check out Sub Rosa which is continuing the tradition of high quality Ars Magica articles.

Shadowrun Overhaul: Metamagics in Fifth Edition


With a soft cap in 5th edition on achieving high grades of Initiation because of the Grade being limited by the Initiate’s Magic Rating and because I think Metamagics should do more than just one thing I have added quite a few new and old metamagics with idea of looking at what the metamagic does directly and what it might offer access to for the Initiate’s Magical Skills to do that a regular practitioner wouldn’t be able to do. Also, I am expanding on Metamagical Qualities that are learned in gameplay that offer neat expanded abilities or enhanced abilities within the purview of a metamagic.

Adept Centering: (SR5 p 325)

Centering: (SR5 p 325)

Fixation: (SR5 p 325)

Flexible Signature: (SR5 p 325 and p 326) {Astral Impersonation Quality and rituals detecting astral traces}

Masking: (SR5 p 326) {Astral Impersonation Quality and Rituals that involve manipulating Awakened Astral Forms}

Power Point: (SR5 p 326)

Quickening: (SR5 p 326)

Spell Shaping: (SR5 p 326)

Shielding: (SR5 p326) {Absorption and Reflecting Qualities}

 

New Metamagics:

Possessing: {Requires Attunement}

This Metamagic is rare and banned by most governments and corporations. It grants access to powerful new rituals and qualities which can allow the Initiate to possess or help others possess prepared Constructs or Vessels, animals, and unwilling mundane targets. With the metamagic alone however the Initiate can only possess dual natured beings that are unconscious or willing. The most common way the possessor dominates a victim is by defeating them in astral combat using stun damage which disrupts the astral body and knocks the victim unconscious.  The victim doesn’t begin recovery of the stun damage until the possessor dismounts from the body.

The Initiate can possess a body equal to their Grade in hours but must be careful as that time counts as Astrally Projecting time for the Initiate. An Astrally Projecting magician can’t be possessed this way as they aren’t dual natured when projected or protruded unless they should be knocked unconscious while projecting.

The possessor only has access to the puppet’s physical abilities and innate magical capabilities. The victim will usually not remember anything about any activities done while possessed though they might have dreams about it. If the Initiate casts magic while possessing a target their drain is automatically physical and any mana based magic that targets the possessor effects the Initiate normally however physical damage only blemishes the host.

Research has shown that heavy use of this metamagic can be mentally destabilizing and lead to heightened ratings of the Dark Tetrad traits of Sadism, Pyschopathy, Narcissicism and Machaivellianism. There are rumors of Initiates who master this metamagic capable of transcending death and permanently inhabiting bodies though that might be equating magicians with shedim or the children of the shedim but probably involves dangerous spirit pacts or other metamagics.

Ceremonial Magic:

Ceremonial Magic allows the Initiate to use already attuned Sympathetic Links and Symbolic Links as a substitute for Material links when performing Ritual Sorcery and offers access to learning or creating many new and more powerful Rituals that work with Conjuration or Enchanting. If the leader of a ritual has this Metamagic and spends an hour training any participants in the ceremonial practices of a specific Ritual then the -2 Dice Penalty for participants having a  different Tradition is eliminated for the Teamwork Test. (For more info on Sympathetic and Symbolic Links check page 29 of Street Magic and the Attunement Metamagic.)

Attunement:

Attunement is a Metamagic that allows the Initiate to create or enhance astral connections between items, people, and locations. Sympathetic and Symbolic Links are attuned for Ritual Sorcery as a replacement for Material Links (without Ceremonial Metamagic the Initiate would be unable to personally use the Links for Ritual Sorcery purposes.) With Attunement many new and powerful Rituals become possible as well as the purchase of new Qualities. Adepts can learn some of these Qualities which involve connecting deeply with a type of animal or item or even a location (see Home Ground).

Exotic Metamagic:

Gives the Initiate access to a new unusual power including those of spirits and critters.  There has to be good reason for the magic and a source for the magic such as an hermetic mage writing their phd thesis on some new type of magic he has invented or a Dragon teaching his Drakes Dragonspeech. The GM and the player should sit down and make up the rules on how it works. It also makes for more interesting bad guys who have unique abilities not seen before. As a general rule for Critter Powers is a number of uses per day equal to the Initiate’s Magic Rating with the GM deciding if instead the number of uses should be based on Grade per day if the Critter power looks imbalancing. As a general rule for moderately powered abilities the Force is equal to the Initiate’s Magic rating and for very powerful critter powers equal to the Initiate’s Grade.

Examples: Shapeshifting, Dragonspeech for Drakes, Movement, and Walk Through Earth.

Blood Magic: 

This metamagic focuses on sacrifice, blood, life, essence, and death. Twisted magicians use this for blood rites, animal and human sacrifice, and tap into forbidden sources of magic to increase their power. Other less tainted magicians use Blood Magic to empower their own spells with parts of their own self which allows them to surpass their limitations though it is a dark road they take which leads most who walk it to the Tainted and Corrupted Paths. Blood magic by itself opens up a few magics and qualities but really begins to shine when combined with attunement and ceremonial magic in particular. With Quickening the Initiate can sacrifice a sapient life form and take its permanent Edge rating as Karma to be spent on quickening the spell. The Blood Mage who masters Invoking can summon Great Form Blood Spirits into the world. With Divining the Blood Mage can read the future in the bowels of animals and sentients as they bleed to death to give a few examples of how blood magic complements other metamagics. The most feared of the Twisted magicians master Blood Magic and Nethermancy and are capable of feats beyond the pale of most magician’s imaginations.

Self sacrificing grants 10 reagents worth of magic to a spell cast as the Blood Mage self injures themselves as a combined complex action. This does one box worth of damage that must heal naturally or the Blood Mage loses a Karma point for every sacrificed box healed with magic.

 

Divining: {Requires Attunement and Geomancy}

With Divining the Initiate learns how to access even more information through their ability to Assense mana, astral forms, and astral/emotional residue. It opens up many new spells, rituals, preparations, constructs, and qualities that involve reading past events, predicting future events, seeing far off events, or detecting specific items or signatures such as the Dowsing Quality, Psychometry Spell, Hunch Preparation, Enhanced Danger Sense/Combat Sense Adept Powers, The Third Eye Quality which lets the Diviner add to their Assensing Dice Pool their Grade, Magical Forensics Rituals, access to a superior remote viewing ritual and clairaudience/clairvoyance spells, uncontrolled visions, with Dream magic the Diviner can get glimpses, omens, and clues about events or futures through the veil of dreams, and create constructs involving divination like I Ching, runes, tarot cards and such.

Invoking: {Requires Ceremonial Magic}

This metamagic provides advanced conjuring techniques and access to new Conjuration Rituals. The most popular uses of this art is for the Ally Conjuration Ritual, Summoning and Binding Great Form Spirits Rituals, Calling the Wild Hunt or the faerie Rituals, and summoning spirits from the deep metaplanes like the shedim or insect spirits as well as helping said spirits handle evanescence and metamorphosis.

Geomancy: {Requires Attunement}

Geomancers see and manipulate the flow of mana around them. With the Arcana Skill and its new specialization Geomasonry; the Geomancer can alter mana flows by altering a landscape or designing various shapes or buildings that channel the mana. Things such as building artificial lakes, cathedrals, Wuxing skyscrapers, roads, pyramids, walls, and bridges which work with the Geomancer’s magic in manipulating mana flows and causing or preventing Sha and Shen events, mana storms, and other phenomena. Common uses of Geomancy involve the Create Domain Ritual, Harden Regional Mana Ritual, the Sensing Quality, Home Ground Quality, Filter Matrix Spell, Cleansing Ritual, Patronage Quality, Steward of the Land Ritual, Constructs which influence or cleanse mana, and the Dam the River Ritual. The Geomancer automatically detects when Assensing the Background Count of the region and the amount of Ambient Mana and degree of Aspected Mana at their locale if their Grade is equal or higher than their rating.

Shaping: [Attunement]

Shapers are master artisans and craftsmen who can create magical constructs called Objets d’art. Objets d’art can be so powerful to astral perceivers as to enthrall them and can even alter mana flows and aspect based on the theme of the art. While someone is influenced by an Objet d’art the artisan can add the rating of the piece as extra dice to any mundane or magical test involving influencing that individual as long as that influence goes with the theme of the Objet. The rating of the Objet’s aspected mana is equal to their Grade plus any net hits on an Intuition + Artisan [Lodge] Test. The range of the Aspected Mana is equal to the artisan’s Magic rating in meters though the range drops precipitously if recently moved. Shapers also can add their Grade to the rating of any Telesma or Lynchpin Art they craft for Artificing purposes.

Bardic Metamagic: {Requires Attunement}

Bards are able to use their Performance + Charisma + Grade [Magic] to cast a slow form of sorcery called Spellbinding that takes minutes x Force rather than a Complex action to cast. The bard slowly weaves mana into her performance and becomes the focus of the audience. Those who are actively unwilling to focus on the performance are able to do so with no roll. Once paying attention the target audience is distracted from paying attention to anything else and suffers a -4 penalty to Perception tests during the performance. The effect can mimic any Manipulation [Mental] or Illusion [Mana] spell and can only effect an individual or group who are actively paying attention or enthralled by the bard.  The bard handles drain just like a sorcerer would if they cast whatever spell the bard chose. The Performance has to match the desired goal of the spell such as a thrash metal ban controlling a mob to be violent with each other or a play about greed or lust encouraging that emotion or action inspired by that emotion. Adepts can learn this metamagic and in fact be amazing at it.

Nethermancy: {GM decision on Requirements though it should include Attunement, Dreaming, Masking, and Fate’s Edge}

The rarest of the known metamagics Nethermancy is an art covered in rumor and supposition. It deals with Essence, metaplanes particularly the deep metaplanes, aberrant and wild spirits, veils, pathways, and the boundary of life and death. It opens up many new magics including the highly secretive and powerful cybermantic rituals and constructs used in creating cyberzombies and the advanced magics used to handle faerie ways in Tir Nan Og.

Exorcism:

Metamagic that enhances Banishing by severing the bond of a spirit to this plane which painfully wrenches the spirit out of the Gaiasphere and back to its home metaplane or metaplace. Once Exorcized the spirit can’t return to the Gaisphere for 28 days per hit on the Exorcizing test. There are rituals, preparations, and constructs that the Exorcist can learn that can more permanently banish or destroy spirits especially should they have the spirit’s true name. The exorcist can add their Grade to Banishment Tests and can banish possessing spirits. There are rumors of an Ares Ceremonial Magic Ritual that has a chance of reversing an unfinished Metamorphosis into an Invae. The Sylvestrine Order has mastered several spells, rituals, and constructs that aid in dealing with the Shedim.

Dreaming: {Requires Attunement}

Dreamers can enter the dreams of other people for short periods of time with Dream spells that can find out information without being noticed like Mind Probe (Dream) or Mind Link (Dream) which lets you pass on information to a dreaming person to be recalled at a later time. For longer dream walking Rituals are required. Certain constructs can protect against Dream Magic.

Fate’s Edge: {Requires Attunement}

This somewhat rare metamagic allows manipulation of Edge, blessings, curses, and karma. New spells, rituals, constructs (luck charms), and preparations are opened up upon learning this art that are either more powerful than the versions known to vanilla magicians or allow the Initiate to do things that are seemingly impossible. This art is most often practiced by the gypsy clans, a sect within the Order of St. Sylvester that focuses on apotropaic blessings, magical societies that have extensive truck with free spirits as this metamagic allows rituals that can transfer karma, wiccans/hedge witches, and houngans.

Astral Protrusion: {Requires Astral Perception Adept Power}

This metamagic allows an Adept or Mystic Adept to manipulate their astral form and have it leave the physical body. To learn this metamagic the Adept or Mystic Adept must purchase Astral Perception as an Adept Power as a requirement. This Metamagic was developed by the Great Dragon Professor Schwartzkopf’s research team at the Charles University of Prague that has been focusing on a Grand Unifying Theory of Magic for decades and lead to the discovery by MIT&M in 2075 on how Adepts and Mystic Adepts can learn the Power of Astral Projection.

With this metamagic the Initiate can Astrally Protrude for free for the Initiate’s Grade in minutes a day and after that the character has a limit of her Magic Rating in minutes a day before her astral form starts to degrade which can lead to death or psychosis. This time doesn’t recover until the character gets a full 8 hours of rest. The Initiate’s astral form is connected to their physical body by a different colored cords or threads with at least one being silver which represents the character’s awakened gift. This astral thread can be attacked with Astral Combat or by a dual natured strike from the physical realm but since the thread has a natural sense of self preservation it gets a chance to defend itself normally though the character cannot use an interrupt defensive action. The speed of the astral form is limited to 100 meters a Combat Turn.

The Initiate uses their Physical Realm Initiative instead of the normal Astral Realm Initiative typical of a magician astrally projecting as they are so tied to the limitations and capabilities of their physical bodies that it transfers over to their astral bodies.The Adept Power Astral Projection requires this metamagic.

This metamagic also opens up more functionality with other Adept Powers in the Astral Realm.

If the Adept had Improved Strength +2 than that would also augment their Astral Form giving a +2 to their Charisma Rating to find out their Astral Strength. Traceless Walk transfers usefulness to the Astral Realm with the Adept leaving little or no traces of astral passage or trail and being undetectable to some forms of Astral Security by exerting control over her astral presence and the reaction of the astral realm’s mana to her form. Some Improved Senses work in the Astral Realm giving the Adept such as increasing visual acuity or transferring usefulness like heightened sense of smell allowing the Initiate to pick up a “smell or odor” when a particular type of spirit was in the area for example.

The Initiate can learn Astral Combat Martial Art Maneuvers and use them with their astral form.

For example the maneuver Ghost Lightning Strike allows the Adept to take advantage of the blinding speed of her astral form and strike a distant opponent with a close combat attack as long as they are within Magic Rating x 2 Meters. This strike can use Killing Hands or a Weapon Focus and the target must be an astral form or dual natured form to have any effect. This strike uses the Astral Combat Skill.

(This maneuver has the visual appearance of the Lord Marshall from the Chronicles of Riddick movie)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WPqtCfbLQug

Shadowrun Overhaul: New Metamagical Quality: Astral Impersonation


Astral Impersonation:

This is a positive Quality that costs 10 Karma after character creation and requires the Metamagic Masking and/or Flexible Signature and the ability of Astral Projection or the Adept Metamagic Astral Protrusion. With this Quality the Initiate can alter her astral form (with Masking) and/or astral signature (with Flexible Signature) to match that of another being that they have Assensed with 4 net hits or have an Material Link or an Artifact made by the target. With Ceremonial Metamagic and a Magical Lodge the Initiate can use a Sympathetic or Symbolic Link after an Assensing + Intuition [Magical Lodge] Test with 4 net hits. An Initiate with this Quality automatically succeeds in impersonation with Spirits if she knows the Spirit’s Formula or True Name.

The Initiate performs an Impersonation + Charisma  [Astral] Test with the number of hits providing the base threshold to see through the disguise of their Astral Form when the Initiate opposes an Assensing Test with their Magic + Grade.

For forging Astral Signatures add Arcana + Grade to the threshold of detecting a forged astral signature. Thus, the Forensic Magician would make an Assensing Test on a forged signature using this formula: Assensing + Magic + Grade [Astral] 3* + (Arcana/3) + Grade Test. They would see the false signature with 3* net hits and would need to match the forger’s Arcana bonus added to their Grade to see through the forged signature.

Depending on how familiar the entity is that the Initiate is trying to pretend to become there are penalties to the above total that need to be applied. A GM may rule that the Adept Power Voice Control can provide bonus dice per level to the Impersonation Test above.

Different Gender: -1 Die

Different Tradition: -1 Die

Different Species: -1 to -3 Dice. A vampire was once human so would get a -1 while a Blackberry cat would get a -2 as it is still a mammal and a Dragon would get a -3 as they are radically different than metahumanity.

Different Plane of existence: -4 to -10 Dice. A spirit close to metahumanity like a Guidance spirit might get a -4 while a Shedim would get a -10.

 

By Impersonating the Astral Form of another astral being the Initiate can bypass magical security as if they were the creator and even spoof commands to astral servitors like Watchers or Spirits that they can visibly interact with.

By Impersonating the Astral Signature of another astral being the Initiate can remove the actions of themselves or another and forge their astral signature to look like something completely different such as a spirit for example.