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D&D 3E
After reading the "superhero" discussion, my interest's been piqued.… 
31st-Jul-2006 03:02 am
After reading the "superhero" discussion, my interest's been piqued. I'd like to get some feedback on a few things I was planning to alter in a new campaign. Really, I've just been ambushed by some bad decisions as DM before, and chatting it up with you folks might give me a little more foresight.

First, in hopes of encouraging role-playing and adding a little realism to leveling up, I was thinking of implementing a "slot" system. When characters level up, they don't just pull new spells, feats and skills out of the air, they have to harvest them from somewhere. If a wizard gets a new "spell known", he instead gets an empty slot which he can fill from a variety of sources - either seeing it used in battle (with a skill check), learning it from someone who knows it, purchasing it from a shop, or hybridizing spells he already knows. ("Hmm. I have Flaming Sphere and Magic Missile, what if I made a flaming missile...and let's call it Fireball.")

The same thing would go for feats - learn them in battle, get tutored, or maybe you have a flash of insight in the middle of battle (DM offers). Skills would be similar, if you're increasing a skill by more than the usual 1 point, or learning a new one, you'd have to find a tutor or something. Feel free to pick this apart, I know my players will. I just like the concept a lot.

Second, have you ever simplified magical items in any of your campaigns? If so, how? Intricate magical items always seem to be the insatiable vampire of our session time, as players discuss amongst themselves what requirements and functions this or that magic item has, or trying to find a new place to stick that Quall's Feather Token that they've held on to since the beginning of the game and everyone's forgotten about. I'd love to put some new, simplifying twist on it, such as "spell storing items only" or something like that, but I don't know how much damage would be done by limiting their selection. Any ideas?

Third, I was planning to give the players a general idea of what they were up against near the end, and their job would be to develop into superheroes who are up to the challenge. I've had players before who just toss their feats and skills wherever at each new level, and this would help them with their nearsightedness, so to speak. It'd also help with the "spell slot" idea, since if they're looking for a specific feat/skill/spell, I could either make sure they come across it, or provide them with a way to quest for it. Is giving them a good glance at the future and giving them free rein to design "the perfect character" just asking for trouble, or is it a decent idea to center a plot around?

Oh, and if you happen to be in the Detroit area and you're looking for a casual group to get together with, let me know. I'd be glad to meet you. Just a little plug. :)
31st-Jul-2006 02:40 pm (UTC)
First... This sounds interesting (I certainly like the roleplaying aspect of it--you learn skills that you actually spend the effort to learn. The only thing I can think of is that characters effective "gain a level" in the middle of a level--when they learn that new feat or spell. Thus you may have to rebalance the difficulty of encounters. Also, your game needs to be flexible enough that all the characters can go learn what they want to learn at the same time. Or perhaps you could occassionally allow the standard leveling-up system, but say that the characters spent some down-time (say a few months of game time) learning that level. That is kind of how the system is intended to work, I think.

Second... Yes I have simplified magic items--namely by cutting back on their availability. Of course, the majority of magic items are pretty simple. Are you going to keep magical arms/armor? Because if not then your warriors are hit harder than your casters. Then what about potions, which basically duplicate a spell's effect? Then spell-storing items would be wands, staves, and scrolls. So that means you're getting rid of rods and woundrous items. But then how complex is it to use an Amulet of Natural Armor? Or Gloves of Dexterity +2? Yes the Feather Tokens could be awkward, so just don't give them out (I only have items around that the bad guys are using--if I don't think the bad guy would use it, then it's a damn good chance the players wouldn't either). I'm not sure if you have to outright ban a category of items. A little planning about what you give should solve any problems with over-complexity. If you do decide to ban groups of items, just remember which classes are losing out on possible magic and how that rebalances the classes (keeping only staves and wands will boost your casters and nerf everyon else).

Third... This sounds dubious to me. It sounds like you want to help your players optomise. I'd probably recommend against that. Some people don't like optomising for character reasons ("But it makes sense if my fighter has an 8 strength!"), and some don't like it because it comes off as too complicated--they'd rather get simple, if less powerful abilities because they can use them (a lot of my players get Skill Focus as a feat because it's easy to understand and remember, as opposed to something more complicated like Power Attack). Now as to giving them a foreshadowing of the game--that could work, depending on how you do it. You could just tell them off the bat what kind of game you'll be running: "This campaign you'll be exploring the underdark in a fight against the Drow." Or you could keep giving hints as to what kind of enemies they're dealing with: "That low-level guy? He's working for an evil lich-necromancer." It's pretty good story telling when the characters feel they've worked up towards something--they should know pretty much what they're dealing with near the end. But don't give away all your secrets in hopes of optomising against your BBEG. That and if the characters are built directly to combat the BBEG, it means your bad guy is going to have to be even MORE powerful to still offer a challenge (it's like if you told them they were going to fight a lich and so they go out and buy +2 Holy Undead-Bane swords).
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