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I'm considering trying to design a new campaign world for my game, as… 
12th-Mar-2006 12:02 pm
I'm considering trying to design a new campaign world for my game, as the current world I've been working on hasn't turned out to be that interesting. So my question is, how much stuff do you change when making up a campaign world?

More specificially, as both a player and a DM, what do you think of redoing the core races (dropping some, adding others, switching around abilities and so forth), maybe changing the available core classes, futzing with the combat system, and/or redoing the magic system? How much stuff has to stay the same for it to still be considered D&D? How much stuff would you want to stay constant if you were to play in this campaign? Basically, how much house-ruling goes on before it's a different game entirely? And then would you still want to play it?

Also, would people here actually care my ideas for these changes and want to discuss them sometime in the future?
12th-Mar-2006 07:09 pm (UTC)
I think that adding your ideas to the world is great! Doing so you create your own world and not using that of WOTC(umm maybe not entirely).
12th-Mar-2006 07:18 pm (UTC)
I like to respect the archetypes of races, while being realistic about the fact that cultures are diverse. African American culture is far different from Haitian culture, but they belong to the same race.

In the same sense, dwarves living in a resource rich mountain are probably completely dissimilar to a group of dwarves living in a hill side, living in constant vigilance of the nearby hill giants.

A culture adapts to their sorroundings, and in game this can translate into the rich mountain dwarves losing part of their bonus to AC vs. giants, but get a much bigger bonus to appraise chacks.

Meanwhile, the hill dwarves don't have much time to look at pretty gems and metals, but spend their entire life learning how to defend themselves against giants.

In my campaign world fracturn, I decided that elves adapt magically to where ever they're born. An elf born in the woods is a wood elf. And elf born in a city is a high elf, etc.

The disconnection from this ability for half-elves is a big part of their identity as a race.
12th-Mar-2006 07:23 pm (UTC)
In the campaign I'm in right now, there were things that stayed the same and things that were modified, so it was a mixture of both.

Classes, feats, and prestige classes directly drawn from the books are for the most parts unchanged due to balance concerns. The really major changes were: PCs can pick the Noble class (from Dragonlance, I think) rather than the Aristocrat NPC class, in addition to the Favoured Soul class and two homebrewed classes that had to do with the game's techno-magic theme; a few prestige classes were modified, such as the Arcane Archer being renamed, granting +1 to caster level every other level and losing the ability to fire magic arrows, etc...

Of course, there are homebrewed prestige classes, with some being meant mainly for NPCs. For example, there are airships, so there is a 5-level Airship Captain PrC.

Races ended up having a lot of small changes that, in the end, made them more powerful than the core races. There are also new subraces. The main effect this has had on the campaign is that picking monster races or taking templates actually ends up making you weaker than it normally does.

For example, humans have a +2 racial bonus on Diplomacy and Gather Information checks, and +2 on saves vs fear. They also have a subrace, the Highborns, who are meant to represent men and women whose blood lineage can be traced back to the greatest leaders and heroes of legends, and as a result get special abilities such as inspiring their allies in combat (+1 to hit, +1 to save vs fear) but get a +1 LA.

Overall these changes have made the campaign feel like 'high fantasy' in addition to a very distinct Warcraft-like feel.
12th-Mar-2006 08:42 pm (UTC)
I think there's a 5-level airship captain PrC in the Eberron Explorer's Handbook.
12th-Mar-2006 11:16 pm (UTC)
I'm not surprised. There's a steampunk d20 book out there with a fighter pilot PrC too. The campaign was started before anyone heard of Eberron, though.
12th-Mar-2006 11:47 pm (UTC)
d20 Past has a Pilot Ace PrC, but a fighter pilot is hardly an airship captain.
12th-Mar-2006 08:32 pm (UTC)
I'm personally not so attached to the sacred cows of D&D (elves, Vancian magic, etc.) that a little or even a lot of houseruling would scare me away. If it becomes d20 Fantasy instead of "D&D," then so be it.

What's important is that your players know what the changes are beforehand to avoid any misconceptions going into things.
12th-Mar-2006 08:47 pm (UTC)
There's nothing wrong with playing d20 Modern in a fantasy setting. d20 Past has lots of rules for lower tech eras.
12th-Mar-2006 09:22 pm (UTC)
I'm a big fan of d20 Modern. I've enjoyed every game I've played in it, regardless of setting.

I think it's the design of the base classes, and how a lot of the advanced classes really seem to have some unique and interesting traits.
12th-Mar-2006 09:25 pm (UTC)
I'm infatuated with it. Between Urban Arcana and d20 Past, you can completely recast a D&D game with d20 Modern rules.
12th-Mar-2006 09:27 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I think it's a far better system for a low magic game than any attempt to revise D&D.

I think I might look into running one myself, since nobody else in town is interested in running it.
12th-Mar-2006 09:40 pm (UTC)
My favorite part is how modular the game is, particularly with stuff from d20 Future, which I find ways to slip into my D&D game. Want magic or no, it's still a balanced game, psionics, mutants(great for D&D by the way), mecha(tricky, but still ok for D&D).
12th-Mar-2006 11:52 pm (UTC)
I'm actually deciding if I'd want to use d20 Modern as a base instead of D&D. I want to change magic around, but I think I want it to still be present and significant part of the world. Is it easy/possibile to adapt tech as magic from d20 Modern?
13th-Mar-2006 12:03 am (UTC)
It's really more of a flavor issue than a balance issue, all about dressing, really. The main point between tech and magic is that Tech is magic items, magic is more character-based. You can have surveillance gear act in the place of divinations, but that's a device, not an effect the character is creating himself. Beyond that, pneumatic boots are boots of jumping, and a laser rifle is a staff of blasting. A robot is a golem and so forth, but the d20 Modern core book doesn't really have the gear for that level of transition. D20 Future and d20 Future Tech have the out-of-this world technology that compares most closely with magic items.

Bearing that in mind, d20 Modern does include a number of actual magic items and ways to include actual magic in your games. The comparison with D&D is the level of power you'll get from magic, all casting classes are advanced classes that require a minimum 4th level to start in them, and nobody casts spells over 5th level. It's great for a game where you want magic, but in lower doses.
13th-Mar-2006 12:10 am (UTC)
I actually have to problem with making "magic" more external to the characters. I actually kind of like the idea that characters can find "magic" and use it, but can't necessarily create it themselves (or at least, not easily).

I'll definately look closer into the d20 Modern system. My only worry is my permanent group is breaking up soon (due to graduation), so I'm not sure I'll have a group of people I can really test out systems with ;p But I'll find something :)
13th-Mar-2006 12:13 am (UTC)
If you wanna go even lower magic than their "Mage" class, there's a class called the Occultist, who simly specializes in monster lore and occasionally can find a scroll that she can use. That might be handy in a game where most all the magic is found.
13th-Mar-2006 12:10 am (UTC)
err... no problem
12th-Mar-2006 08:35 pm (UTC)
I think the best way to do it is like so, and you and your players will have to remain flexable during the rewrites.

Start with the core rules as written and work your setting into that. This is a good solid base to begin even though you may feel that parts of it are not to your satisfaction.

Then, changing only one rule at a time, play though some adventurs with a ballanced party. As you agree that one rule change is acceptable then move on to the next. When doing something like this sweeping changes all at once are not going to help you much.

Prioritize by changing first the things you think are obviously broken before moving on to the stylistic changes.

And finally, there is a tone of variant rules out there, don't forget them when seeking alternatives.
12th-Mar-2006 11:58 pm (UTC)
How do you do that for stuff like changing character races? I mean, if I suddenly decide elves don't exist in this world, what happens to that elven PC?

It also seems like some things (like maybe reworking the magic system entirely) can't be done in steps--a system has to be set up all at once.

Though I've thought about doing stuff like that for the combat system to work it out (like I want to change HP to wound/vitality, then add special types of wounds; and take AC and maybe convert it to armor as DR, then figure out that stuff).

13th-Mar-2006 12:08 am (UTC)
For a drastic change like removing a race you would perhaps handle that between adventures. For a situation like this, where characters and concepts are somewhat fluid you would want to run one-shot modules. Characters that are suddenly invalid can be replaced with a new character with minimal fuss.

For things like replacing an entire system, you would problably want to handle that seperatly. Get all the specifics done on paper first before bringing the rules into play.

Fianlly, consider the flow of the new systems. If it adds much time to resulotion you may wish to consider something more streamlined. Playtesting will reveal if this is the case, but the important part is to have your change documents done and on the table before you start playing. During a game is no time to be hashing out rules, else you end up with a game of Calvinball.
13th-Mar-2006 12:14 am (UTC)
Huh. Interesting idea on the module stuff there. I usually like trying to make a big sweeping story, but I can see how for play-testing more episodic games would work better. Thanks.
13th-Mar-2006 12:20 am (UTC)
Tehre is nothing wrong with the story influencing the game mechanics, but don't get 8 sessions into a campaign focusing on some new play element only to see it isn't workable and you have to rewrite it.
12th-Mar-2006 08:44 pm (UTC)
Putting your ideas into your game sounds like a good idea to me.

Sometimes there are teething problems, but once the bumps are smoothed you usually end up with memorable games for the right reasons.
12th-Mar-2006 09:00 pm (UTC)
Changing the campaign world is one thing, changing the game is another. IMG, the entire campaign takes place at sea and on island, there are continents on either side, but the party has no reason to go there. There's an 18th century level of technology, but I still use all the core races and classes, allow nearly any PrC, and I find myself using more core material than I have in previous campaigns. You can make a radically different game without changing the content too drastically. I achieved that with just a new setting.

Whenever I come to a game and someone claims they've changed the magic system or combat system, I am skeptical. I have no real quarrels with the current system and I feel like the ideas of the person making these rules might not gel with the rules that are getting made. But lack of faith is my own issue, and likely has more to do with my relationship to the DM of the moment. If your rules are good then good, but the skepticism is a hump I'd have to get over as a player, and the more you'd changed the bigger the hump.
13th-Mar-2006 12:07 am (UTC)
Actually I'm thinking of making a kind of sea world--this is part of the inspiration to use different races and maybe classes so that the world actually feels somewhat different (like I want to use some of the races from Stormwrack, but don't want to have that many kinds of civilization, so want to get rid of some of the core races).

I generally want to keep mechanics the same (it's still d20). I just wish the combat system was a little more involved: I want being wounded to be more than just marking your HP as a lower number. I want a character to have to deal with the fact that he's just been stabbed in the arm! My group had a combat system like this in 2e, the only problem being that resolving attacks could often get slow (though we had a small group so it worked out). I want to try to add a level of complexity that makes battles more than just swing-damage-swing-damage. I'm not sure what I want to do about magic, but I feel like I have to do something because I don't like the feel of magic currently--it doesn't feel "magical" or special in any way. So I'm not sure how exactly to change that.

Though I do understand your skepticism. That's kinda what I'm trying to test the waters for--how big a hump can I make before people won't want to climb it.
13th-Mar-2006 04:08 am (UTC)
Not a member of the community, but I read the threads often and couldn't help but weigh in. I'm working to restore the "magic" to magic in a campaign world I'm developing, too. Unlike many D&Ders, I've always really liked the Vancian magic system, so I'm running with that to make magic more like Vance actually describes it - prevalent, but inscrutable. I think players are too familiar with the usual selection of magic spells and items, so when they cast a fireball, they feel like they're doing something completely mundane. I want everything to seem fresh and mysterious the first time they encounter it.

To that end I'm creating a custom spell list, with little to no overlap with the spells in the PHB. Players, even non-spellcasters, will get to know the names of famous or common spells, but be ignorant of the rules behind them until they encounter them. Similarly, there will be many magic items available, but most will be minor or of limited use. High magic will be all around (floating castles, etc.) but will be beyond the understanding of all but Epic characters. No custom spells until level 20 - not without an adventure for it.

I'm still working on just what to do for divine casters, but I'll probably redesign their spell lists pretty deeply too.

Hopefully I'll be able to keep the players in a state of constant wonder, while giving them just enough mundane content that they don't feel lost. We'll see how it goes once I'm done the mammoth task of renovating the whole magic system.

As to damage, I've had success with describing most of the players' HP as a kind of "fighting power" - only the last 10 points or so represent actual health. So 5 points of damage when your HP is at 50 leaves you breathing hard, while those same 5 points when you're at 5 HP leaves you passed out with a sword wound in your belly.
13th-Mar-2006 04:19 am (UTC)
How big/effective is your spell-list? Does it cover all the basic roles and abilities that available to the normal spellcaster? Or do you have some way of rebalancing that?

For damage, you're basically describing what the wound/vitality system represents, which is what I'm considering using as a basis. But I also want to distinguish between a sword in the belly and a dagger in the back and an arrow through the head--those have different effects. Actually, this partly links up with divine spellcasters, because if cure light wounds will fix most problems the PCs have, then there aren't any lasting effects from battles.

I want PCs to come away from a difficult fight hurting. I would like them to feel the need to spend days or weeks resting after the final battle in a big dungeon. I want a character to be able to take a serious, serious blow and then walk with a limp for the rest of his life--game history could actually be reflected in the characters ability!. Similarly, I want a lucky hit from that thief with a dagger to actually be painful. Someone should still be a threat even if they pull a lowly on you. Does that sound reasonable? Does it sound fun?
13th-Mar-2006 11:41 am (UTC)
"Runequest" is either out or coming out soon (Mongoose publishing). The original system had a feel somewhat like you describe, perhaps this version will too. You might also find it useful to have a look at "Lone Wolf" and "Conan" both by Mongoose too (this is not a bias towards Mongoose publishing, they just happen to be the games we've been playing in recently) as they have some interesting ideas; although neither do the hit locations type stuff.
Lone Wolf has a very different magic system to D+D but it does seem to work.
Conan has much more deadly combat, and it adds certain combat manoeveres that you can just do if you meet prerequisites rather than having to take feats, although it still has those too. Magic is a lot more feared/respected by the populace (but isn't as BIG as D+Ds)
12th-Mar-2006 11:28 pm (UTC)
As long as it's clear what the changes are ther's no problem. There are a lot of other D20 fantasy games out there that have different systems for things already, if yours works then cool.
Sounds like a good idea to put the ideas out there, there are a lot of people on here with good ideas and can probably help mold concepts to be a quality finished article; or just discuss them generally.
13th-Mar-2006 02:28 pm (UTC)
In my new game I've kept most of the core races there with minor changes. I eliminated Gnomes and Halflings (always tell people that I don't believe in them), but otherwise Elves and Dwarves are in there. Take a look at my site at www.westendforest.com for more information. You're welcome to adventure in my setting if you'd like.
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