Gamespeak 2: For DM's Eyes
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Greyhawk was the first widely-known campaign world. Flip through the PH or DMG--most of the "name" spells and magic items originated in Greyhawk. The world is essentially a general, fantasy-genre world, similar in that way to the Forgotten Realms, but with its own very distinct flavor. Since most of the modules published before the arrival of Forgotten Realms and DragonLance are actually set in Greyhawk, there is a wealth of information out there for gaming purposes. Also, TSR has begun using Greyhawk as a "default" world of sorts, so that modules that otherwise would not be set in any specific game world use Greyhawk's towns, deities, and NPCs. Additionally, all of the examples in the new PH and DMG are set in Greyhawk, and all mentions of gods and locales use Greyhawk deities and Greyhawk locations.
The world of Krynn is fairly well-known, through the series of novels and modules which started it. Gold has little or no value there, as the world is on a steel standard. Clerics are relatively unheard of, as well, because the main focus for the world is the ongoing battle between the deities Takhisis and Paladine; other "normal" deities have been pretty much forgotten. In addition, as the name might suggest, dragons are more active here than elsewhere, as they are strongly polarized on the Takhisis-Paladine battle. There are also several time periods to adventure in; the time of the War of the Lance is only one. Dragonlance: Fifth Age takes place long after the War of the Lance, and uses a completely different game system instead of AD&D.
In a nutshell, Spelljammer is *D&D in outer space, but in more of the swashbuckler pirate genre than a hard science fiction one. Many of the typical *D&D races of characters and villains are present, but many behave very differently from any you may have met before. In addition, Spelljammer may include adventuring on many of the other published game worlds, as spelljammers visit almost all of them from time to time.
Ravenloft is a world of gothic horror. It is located in the Demiplane of Dread, and fairly reeks of evil. Many who go there are corrupted and never return. Some new mechanics are fear and horror checks. A failed fear check involves running in abject terror. A failed horror check, well, lets just not talk about that right now. The mists of Ravenloft often gather up unwary travellers and take them to the demiplane, from whence half the fun is trying to find an exit which supposedly doesn't even exist.
Masque of the Red Death: This setting is based on Ravenloft, but with a twist; it is set in the equivalent of the Victorian-era--but in a world where magic has existed since the very dawn of time. There is a much higher technology level than most *D&D worlds, and like Ravenloft, terror is everywhere, now aided by the after-effects of the Industrial Revolution. Every time a character casts a spell, that character is drawn a step closer to the "Red Death," a powerful force of evil in this world. However, "Masque..." is technically a separate game from *D&D which happens to use the Ravenloft rules. Therefore it is not intended to be a place that "normal" *D&D characters visit. Not that that will stop many DM's from having them do so anyway...
Athas is a metal-poor desert world, which by itself makes life quite a challenge. Add to that the fact that almost everyone on the planet has some degree of psionic ability, and you get a pretty lethal world. Also, clerics are different from usual, in that they are either templars who are granted spells by their sorcerer-kings or clerics who gain spells by worshipping the elements around them. Mages, too, are changed; all magic is powered directly by the life force of the world around them, which tends to be a detriment to the continued existence of any plants and animals in the area.
This is basically the 2nd ed. revamp of the Manual of the Planes, but it is much more than that, as well. This setting is designed for entire campaigns run on the planes themselves, with all the interesting beings that may involve. Characters may belong to any of a number of factions, which interact in a similar way to secret societies in Paranoia. Adventures are typically set in Sigil, an enormous city in the neutral center of the planes, and involve visits to one or more of the other planes. It also comes with its own lingo, so if you hear the occasional "cutter" (someone in the know) or "berk" (someone not in the know) comments, you'll know where they're from.
Mystara is the world which used to be the setting of Basic D&D, now altered to fit the AD&D rules. Like the Realms and Greyhawk, it is a general high fantasy world with an individual flair. It is unique from the other worlds in that several of its supplements also come with audio CD's for sound effects and storytelling. The Red Steel and Savage Coast lines are also part of the world of Mystara.
Council of Wyrms:
Ever wanted to have a dragon PC? Well, now's your chance. This campaign setting is located on a remote group of islands where dragons and half-dragons reign supreme, and the other races are minor players.
In this setting, the players are characters of noble birth. They must deal with intrigue, spying, wars, the occasional adventure, and succession to the throne. Special powerful magic spells whose power is drawn from the land one controls as well as the possibility of magical traits caused by royal bloodlines are also thrown into the mix. It seems to be a mix of "normal" *D&D, tabletop miniature wargaming, and Diplomacy.
This setting is based on the computer game of the same name. It is essentially a typical high fantasy world, with plenty of evil- doers to challenge the heroes, lost treasure-hoards to uncover, and the like. To this end, it has a greater-than-normal emphasis on combat and the accumulation of wealth and magic, though it also retains plenty of opportunities for character interaction.
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Damage: any magical (i.e. spell) attack, such as Fireball, Lightning Bolt, or Magic Missile, drowning, noxious gas, being buried alive, psionics, and Pick of Earth Parting. Many of these also remove layers of protection; especially notable on this regard are Magic Missile and Melf's Minute Meteors, which have the possibility of removing multiple layers of protection per spell casting.
No damage, but still affect the character with stoneskin: lasso, net, mancatcher, and bolas. Once the character is tied up, netted, or otherwise occupied, he is nowhere near as much of a problem.
Quickly remove layers: unarmed combat, burning, darts & other missile weapons with high ROF's, contact poison, acid, overbearing, multiple attackers, multiple attacks (especially creatures with more than four attacks per round), falling down a steep incline, missed attacks. Missed attacks do indeed remove layers of protection, as per the spell description's use of the words "regardless of attack rolls" instead of "successful attacks." Many people also include handfuls of thrown pebbles, with each pebble removing one layer, but this is better left up to individual DM's, as it has a good potential of getting obnoxious.
However, if the spell still seems to unbalance your campaign, there are many things you can do to tone it down a bit, any one of which should be sufficient for your purposes.
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Of course, you could just grin and bear it, or you could pull a DM fiat and have some jealous dwarven god instantly strike dead every bladesinging elf that appears and hope that the players catch your subtle hints.
If you actually go ahead and allow the Bladesinger, but later regret it, here are some tips to remember:
However, be careful in using these tips, as repeated use of these techniques may lead to anger on the part of players who feel the DM is making life harder for their characters than for the rest of the party.
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If you still think psionicists can still get too powerful, there are a couple of things you can try to attempt to prevent this.
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A) Determination of criticals
Optionally, if you rule that critical hits result in double damage, if the second roll is also a '20' then roll a third time. If the third roll was sufficient to hit the creature, then the original '20' is a critical and the damage is tripled. Continue the pattern as long as you wish.
Also optionally, for certain powerful creatures, lower the reroll number so that, for example, rolling a natural '19' or better requires a second roll. If the second roll is good enough to hit, treat as above. If you use option 1B and the second roll is, for example, a '19' or better, then the critical does triple damage, and so on.
If a natural '20' is rolled, roll again and add the new result to '19.' If the second roll is also a '20,' roll again. If the third roll is a natural '20,' then it is considered a critical hit.
Combat & Tactics optional rule: If a natural '18' or higher is rolled and the to-hit number, after any bonuses, is 5 or more than the minimum needed to hit, then it is a critical hit.
B) Resolution of criticals
In all cases that result in a critical hit or miss, they can be resolved by any of the following:
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The Combat & Tactics book of optional rules deals with this situation in a similar manner; the hand crossbow is 1d3/1d2, the light crossbow is the same as is listed here, there is no medium crossbow listed, and the heavy crossbow is the same as is listed under medium here. It also adds the pellet crossbow, which fires a pellet which does 1d4/1d4.
If you wish to change the entire way crossbows are handled, here are a few suggestions to mix and match:
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Historically speaking, coins of different denominations were of varying weights and sizes--making an accurate scale a merchant's best friend--and you may wish to introduce this detail into your campaigns, as well as naming the different denominations something other than "gold pieces" and "copper pieces", in order to add more local flavor.
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The hit point system works as is, if you keep a couple of things in mind when dealing with characters with hit points to spare:
However, if you decide that the system simply does not work for you as is, there are a number of options you might try:
A warning for options 1 through 5: if you use one of these options, you will most likely have to rewrite the damage dice for weapons table as well as the damage done by certain spells, such as fireball, which could then kill every character every time, regardless of whether or not a save was made.
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The chief in-game explanation is that the touch of an evil creature with such close ties to the Negative Material Plane has a profound effect on a character; in much the same way that a character in a campy horror film gets permanently white hair and stutters and shakes uncontrollably after a ghostly encounter, a *D&D fighter has his confidence shaken by feeling the touch of death and the loss of soul energy that goes with it and so can't fight quite as well, a wizard can't quite keep his thoughts straight enough to cast higher level spells, a priest has lost some confidence in his deity so that some spells just won't work, a thief's hands shake when performing certain activities, and anyone so affected is generally unable to perform at their past level of achievement, even to the point of 'unlearning' many things, due to the severing of pathways in the mind by the momentary connection to the Negative Material Plane. Also, all affected characters lose some of the vitality & energy they once enjoyed, so they don't quite move as fast or as well, are somewhat more susceptible to disease, and can't take nearly as much damage before blacking out. With time and experience, confidence and composure can be regained; however, it is not uncommon for such experiences to deeply scar a character, possibly even to the point of giving up their previous life and becoming a hermit or the town lunatic or mystic.
An alternate (or parallel) in-game explanation is that level- draining undead have strong ties to the Negative Material Plane, and are essentially negatively-charged objects, and void of life. Living beings' souls are charged with the positive power of life; gaining experience increases the positive charge. When something with a positive charge comes in contact with the undead being by being struck by the undead creature, part of the positive flows into the void of the negative, leaving the positively-charged being with a lower charge than before (fewer levels), and partially filling the void in the undead (so it can "feed" on the energy gained). Any knowledge that was gained with the energy that is drained is also lost. Further experience or magic can be employed to recharge the character and relearn abilities; otherwise, the energy level will remain at the current level. Lower-level characters have lower starting levels of positive energy, and so can be drained faster than characters with higher levels of energy.
However, many players believe that these lines of reasoning do not make sufficient sense; these people wish to find some other way of expressing the effect that strong undead should have on characters. If you are one of these people, here are some quick suggestions (note that in all cases with alternatives to level drain that Restoration automatically reverses all effects):
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To figure out the proper multiplier to use when several of them affect a single damage roll, subtract one from each multiplier, add all of the results together, and add one to the total. For example, if you are using a lance from the back of a charging horse (x2) with Spirited Charge (x2), and achieve a critical hit (x3), the result is (2-1) + (2-1) + (3-1) + 1 = x5. Another way to do the math is to take the first (or highest) multiplier as is, subtract one from all of the others, and add the results together. In the above example, this would be 2 + (2-1) + (3-1) = x5.
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For a single character doing all the work of creation, the minimum caster level necessary to create a magic item is the level required for the necessary item creation feat, or the minimum needed to cast the highest level spell listed as a prerequisite, whichever is higher. However, that's just the price for entry; the person creating the item can then set the level the item acts at as high or low as is desired and possible. Thus, a wizard creating a Wand of Magic Missile must be at least 5th level to do so, as the spell minimum is 1st and the feat minimum is 5th. However, if the wizard in question is 9th level, he can set the "caster level" of the wand at anything between 1st and 9th, with all level-dependent effects being set accordingly. If he picked 9th, to get 5 magic missiles per charge, the "Caster Level" listing of the magic item description would be 9th, even though the minimum necessary to create the item was only 5th. If he picked 1st, in order to save on costs, the "Caster Level" listing of the magic item description would be 1st, even though the minimum necessary to create the item was actually 5th.
If multiple characters are working together to create an item, then the minimums vary by which task each character does; the one who supplies the feat must meet the feat's minimum, each one who provides a spell must meet the spell's minimum, and so forth. The end result can then have any "Caster Level" within the limits of the spells involved and the level of the character who is the primary creator.
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Do you have questions, comments, or suggestions? Send them to me:
Joel Hahn / aardy @ enteract.com
Copyright © 2002 by Joel A. Hahn